2000 Honda Hoot
On June 19, 2000, four riders (2 guys & 2 gals) headed for the Honda Hoot in Asheville, NC. This trip proved that you must alter the plans to meet the circumstances!
Day 1: We met at my home in central NJ under partly cloudy skies. A hint of rain brought out the rain covers, but not rain gear. Just some very light sprinkles, with sun breaking out as we headed through PA. We stopped for a late breakfast before Harrisburg, and planned on doing the trip in one day. There was a front from NC east; above it was sunshine, and it stayed that way until half way through VA. Must have been the revenge shower from the VA Tour in 99! Bucky & Paul, I know how you felt! A severe blinding storm with lightning forced us to stop in Staunton, VA at 3:45 PM. Wile under cover at a gas station, we canceled one day of our NC reservations, then headed for the Shoneys Inn at Staunton (I can detect hot tubs & grits miles away!), where we checked in, got snacks & refreshments and headed for the hot tub. Later, it was Shoneys for dinner, where we had a lively interaction with the next table of Harley riders. No one had trouble sleeping.
Day 2: Since we are already on a new schedule, the route was changed. I-77 from I-81 to Fancy Gap, where I told the group, Got a great place for lunch! BRP 99 riders; remember the Fairview Diner just off the BRP? One of the women could not finish lunch, so her plate got passed around. Thanks, Jim Beachy for stopping here before!
OK, so the fog is thick, it should clear as we ride south on the BRP, and it did, for a while. We went through sun then fog! At one point, I had the four ways on with the rest keeping the left turn signal on. The goal was to see the Lynn Cove Viaduct, which we did in total fog. After that, I led the group off the mountain to sunny valleys below over some interesting roads. We gassed up, looked at a map and thought we had it made. Good highway to I-40 to Asheville; no problem(?). Well, about 30 minutes to go and a repeat of yesterday's storm rose up to greet us. It was so bad that I lost the lane markings at one point on I-40! Good thing I recovered without incident, and we continued (slowly) on. Just before the city limits, we rode out of the storm into sunshine, then continued to our destination. Since we had such a big lunch, dinner consisted of snacks & libation .er refreshments!
Day 3: Now Wednesday, I guess that we didn't do Deals Gap on Tuesday. OK, we finally have sunshine, and it was time to pick up our registration packets & check out the vendors. Shopping, phase 1! We spent the AM checking out the goodies. After lunch, the group wanted to check out the demo rides, but I explained that by now, all would be taken. That was OK, the others had never been to this event, so I (tour guide) took the group on a tour of Asheville. We checked the demo ride area so that we could plan rides for later in the week. Then we checked out the local Honda shop. This was followed by a trip to the Taylor Ranch for the pony rides, BBQ and cross country riding demo. At the party, Charlie Keller was making the rounds, so I took the opportunity to have my picture taken with him, as I was mistaken for Charlie at my first Hoot. By now, we were rested and very well fed. After the ride to the motel, no one had trouble sleeping (so I thought).
Day 4: Deals Gap! Due to the rain delay, today was the day to ride The Gap! Now, I should tell you that the other three were on sport bikes while I was on the Gold Wing. My role as tour guide continued, as I took the quickest way to Deals Gap. When I turned off hwy 74 on hwy 28, I alerted the riders that we would enter some twisties. After arriving at the stop near Fontana Dam, I told the group, It gets tighter! and we continued to the Crossroads of Time site at the NC side of the gap.
We decided to stop for the usual T-shirts, etc., before riding. I sent the youngest rider (she just loves the twisties) first. Second was our other woman rider, who did not sleep because of the excitement. I followed third and our remaining guy trailed.
By now, rider #1 is out of sight. I'm following rider #2 and keeping up on the Wing! At the scenic overlook, our speedster stopped and we all caught up. After the pictures were taken, I explained that the end was where the road just got straight!
After pass #1, we turned around to ride back through the gap for pass #2. To protect the innocent (or guilty!) I will not mention names. Suffice it to say that Gal Rider #1 was a student of mine, and I'm wondering What have I done!. She's gone! Rider #2 (other Gal Rider), myself, and Guy Rider #4 follow. Before I can get back to the starting point, Gal Rider #1 is making pass #3! The rest of us stopped after pass #2. Gal Rider #2, who lost sleep in anticipation, has a grin from ear to ear! In fact, it took 2 days for her to get back to normal! The three of us headed back for pass #3 and found Gal Rider #1 taking a nap at the overlook while waiting for us!
We agreed that 3 was a charm, so we continued west and took the Foothills Road into the Smokies. About half way, there is a very scenic overlook, which became another Kodak moment. We continued to the highway, headed north and found a stop for gas and lunch. We continued north and headed back into the Smokies, taking a road to hwy 441, which crosses the Smokies from TN to NC. Going east, there is a complete 360 left turn, which is truly amazing. It goes through a tunnel, turns left in a complete 360 circle, going over the tunnel! The road sign is unique.
We stopped at the top of the mountains, where you can put one foot in NC and the other in TN. The views from the top are spectacular, and the weather had been favorable all day. After a bit, we continued down the mountains to the southern end of the BRP for the ride back.
At this point, Gal Rider #1 took the lead, followed by Gal Rider #2. It was agreed that we would meet up at the highest point on the BRP for photos. The guys took a more leisurely pace. We were fortunate to meet up with another rider who helped us with the photos at the summit. Then it was on to Pisgah for a gas stop, then to the motel.
An unexpected braking problem with one of the sport bikes caused us to split up. I went with the rider to the Honda shop while the others returned to get ready for a planned dinner of sport bike riders at the Outback. We arrived too late at the shop for repairs, but were told to show up very early on Friday. Seems that the front tire had a deep cut, which seemed to cause the braking problem.
We met up at the motel and headed out for the Outback. Would I be out of place with a bunch of sport bike riders? No, I passed the audition at Deals Gap. What followed was a very nice evening of conversation, dinner, and Rider #1s plate being passed around!
Great day, perfect weather, a very nice ride and a great dinner!
Day 5: Friday, sport bike ride. I'm on my own, so I rode north on the BRP to Mount Mitchell, highest mountain east of the Mississippi. Now, I've been here before, but every time the weather was overcast. Finally, nothing but sunshine! So, I made the climb to the top (for the last time!) to get photos of the area. On a clear day, you can see seven states!
Then it was back down the BRP to the vendor area to pick up some monogrammed shirts and get the bugs out of my air horns. By 4 PM, I was back at the motel to meet up with the group. Soon after, the phone rang. Seems that the sport bike with the braking problem was back at the dealer. They had done the tire before the run, but the problem happened again. Would you believe that the rotors were warped? It took some time, but the shop came through, covering the rotors under warrantee. I should give credit to M. R. Honda of Asheville, same shop that replaced my alternator 2 years ago!
The delay caused us to be a bit late for the Friday evening street fair, so we ate at a nearby Italian restaurant before the fireworks show. We finished just in time to see one of the best firework events ever. We had taken a cab to avoid traffic, and had some time to spare, so we were about to stop for a drink when the show began. The show started with a parade of various Wings with lights and a dog in a barrel mounted between a Wing & the sidecar. This was followed by the HD loud pipe demo, then squids doing burnouts. We finally had that drink, where a local guitar player was doing tunes. After a while, another group had one of their own do a tune with the guitarist, to the delight of the patrons.
At 11 PM, we headed back from another fun filled day.
Day 6: Last day of the event, we all took demo rides first thing. I opted for two Honda rides, which got me two pins and two cans of Honda Spray Polish! The others checked out rides on various sport bikes. After lunch, we went to the manufacturer rider challenge, in which the Gold Wing took first place. This was followed by the TN Gold Wing Drill Team, who delighted the crowd with precision maneuvers.
We had some time before the closing ceremonies, in which the grad prize was any Honda motorcycle of your choice. Unfortunately, none of our group held any winning tickets.
Now, the plan for the ride home was do it in one day. After the rain delays to the event, we decided to ride part way home on Saturday. We headed north through TN and into VA, stopping at Roanoke for the night. By now, the young ones are getting tired. Funny, I'm still ready to ride!
Day 7: You would think that it was all behind us now. We thought so, as the skies were sunny and clear. We even stopped at a great place for lunch, the Hi Neighbor restaurant in Strasburg, VA. Great food, all home made.
Now we were on the final leg. W. VA and MD are quick states on I-81. We were just south of PA for a gas stop when the women had to take a nap! Seems that this old guy wore out the young ones!
Knowing we needed one more gas stop to make it home, we stopped just before the I-81 & I-78 junction. After filling up, the skies had turned gray and a storm was approaching. We all agreed that rain gear was optional, as we were hot. So, just the bikes & luggage were protected, and we were off, trying to out run the rain. We did! Until I-78 construction eastbound! We had forgotten that we had seen this on the way down & were now stuck in it! The rain caught up with us, and again, severe rain followed us until we were near Allentown. By the time we crossed into NJ, the sun had returned.
We stopped at the first rest area to say our good-byes. Everyone had a superb time, despite the rain delays. What was left were the memories of a week of riding, events and scenery that time cannot erase.
Epilog: The Honda Hoot for 2001 will be in Knoxville, TN. I still need a Krispy Kreme doughnut!