Day One: On The Road
Under beautiful skies, I left home today, getting my chaps fixed along the way in Palmyra before picking up I-81 south. Sunny, warm - what was Slow Joe talking about?
Once into Virginia, I decided to take the scenic route from Front Royal to Salem, so I picked up hwy 340 through the Shenandoah Valley. I passed the Merck facility in Elkton, which is just north of the Coors brewery (any connection?), then got the Blue Ridge Parkway after Waynesboro. I stopped at the first overlook on the right to zipper up my jacket - a balmy 64 degrees! Catching up with a pack of Harleys, I rode with them for a while, but the 30 - 35 mph they were doing, along with trying to turn without leaning, made for sluggish travel. At the first passing opportunity, I left them behind, never to see their headlights again.
Finally, some altitude! The elevation went to just under 4000 feet, at which point it was 57 F! Still balmy! Still don't know what Joe was worried about; oh well, I'll find out more on Thursday on my way to Georgia. However, isn't it warmer in the south:?: Guess that flannel I brought will stay packed, along with the heavy gloves.
Day Two: Arrival On Roads Less Traveled
I rolled out around 7 AM, packed the Wing, had the first coffee and hit I-81 from Salem, VA before 8 AM. Not wanting to take Interstates all the way, I jumped off in TN to I-26 to Asheville. While technically an Interstate, this highway goes through some scenic parts of the mountains, and there are pull offs for those who want to take a longer look. Last time I went this way, parts of I-26/US 23, 25 & 19 (figure that out!) were not completed. Today, I was delighted that the construction has been completed all the way to the I-240 junction. From there, the I-240/40 West took me to the Great Smoky Mt road, US 74.
If you have never ridden US 74, you are in for a treat. Sometimes four lanes, sometimes just two, this highway goes through the scenic east side of the Smoky Mts. Plus, 74 goes right by Bryson City, so I took the opportunity to find Ridge Top Motel & Campground and make a reservation for the trip back. The hostess noticed my motorcycle and informed me that, since I am a biker, I get a **DISCOUNT**!! That's right, $45 for a room this Sunday. I read about this motel on this board, thought I'd pass along the information. I'll have more on Monday, but I hope this HOT WEATHER (where's Joe?) continues, as the pool was still open. If you do go there, beware of the steep and twisty road to get there - don't look at the GPS! If you do, you will go off the road. I saw a turn, took it and hoped that the GPS agreed. It did.
Still on US 74, after 28 cuts over to Fontana, 74 goes thru a beautiful gorge, where there are numerous spots for white water rafting. Since I was headed west, the river was on my side, and the views were spectacular.
74 joins US 129, and both are together until NC 60, where I turned for the last time in North Carolina. It becomes GA 60 spur. From here, you can just follow the sighs for Atlanta to take a bunch of roads which have up to four route numbers, change names and so forth, but I'm from Pennsylvania where that is the norm. Did I mention the heat? Over 80 degrees! I was overdressed, and very happy to finally see the I-575 merge. The comfort Inn was just ahead.
So, I checked in, settled down and (what else?) set up the computer to tell this story. All in all, the off Interstate route was rewarding, scenic and a nice break from 70 mph (or more) traffic.
While having dinner at Hooters, I ran into Bike Night and a local rider who was nice enough to chat with me, have some dinner and fill me in on the gas situation. Only a few stations have gas, and he knew where I could get gas off of exit 6. Thanks!
Day 3: Traxxion Visit - Dinner Surprise for TN Charlie
Rolled out at 7 AM and noticed that the sun had not risen! I guess I really am farther west! So, taking the gas tip, I headed first for gas and then to Traxxion for service on the suspension. Arriving early, one employee was there. Dave was nice enough to get me a small bucket, and I took the time to do a clear wash & dry of my bike to remove all the road dirt from two days travel. At 9 AM, the rebuild of the suspension started. I knew I was in for a long stay when I was shown the wear on the fork parts. Not leaving anything to chance, I had the crew replace anything worn and also had the rear shock done. The folks at the shop were nice enough to invite me to join them for lunch at a local Mexican restaurant. After lunch, Rrixx dropped in with his new Wing, and was able to have the front end done as there was a cancellation earlier. Well, I must have really ridden hard, as it took until 3 PM for my bike to be finished, but at least Rrixx and I traded stories. I took a short ride and then made my way to Hooters, where Slow Joe had set a surprise for TN Charlie. After we had dinner, Joe had arranged for the Hooters girls to sing to Charlie and generally shower him with affection. So, here's what you all want to see: The Video and the Slide Show.
Naturally, I spent the rest of the evening editing all of this, but tomorrow, its the Slow Joe ride.
Day 4: Slow Joe Ride and Traxxion BBQ
Well, the 'Slow Joe' ride lived up to the promise - no one was left behind. OK, except Wheels and Margarita Will, who were having the ride from hell, complete with rain and a trike breakdown. Joe led us on the best parts of US 129 and GA 180. There was one stop with a great view:
The Videos: US 129 GA 180
Later that same day, we enjoyed the festivities at the Traxxion BBQ, which were complete after the presentations by Slow Joe and Wheels. Notice that everyone referred to Joe as Slow Joe in the video.
Day 5: Canton, GA to Bryson City, NC
Having the service done at Traxxion, the best way to test it was to begin the trip home taking the scenic route: GA 5 north into Tennessee, where I picked up TN 68 to Tellico Plains. TN 68 becomes interesting after you clear the urban area upon entering the state. Then you are treated to a curving road through the country. Being aware of the gas situation, I filled up before heading across the Cherohala Skyway, stopping at the summit for lunch (carried in) and a phone call home. While there, I encountered a couple from England and had a very nice chat with two people from across the pond.
I followed NC 143 through Robbinsville to NC 28, then back to US 74 - the Smoky Mountain Parkway and took US 19 into Bryson City. I had made a reservation at the Ridge Top motel, as they cater to motorcyclists. Remember this spot for a future encounter, as they have a pool and outdoor facilities for deluxe parking lot parties, complete with a covered canopy area, outdoor furniture and a freestanding outdoor fireplace. I'll be back!
Day 6: Bryson City, NC to Fancy Gap, VA
I awoke to fog so thick that I could not see my hand! As riding was not possible, I spent the morning hours making the rest of the videos from the rides and presentations. When I went to load the Wing, the motel had placed old towels on my motorcycle for me! What a place. I wiped the fog from the Wing, loaded up and left for a late breakfast. As I was headed for the Blue Ridge Parkway, I needed gas and breakfast and found both together on US 441. Right next to a BP station was Peter's Pancakes, and let me tell you: Three large pancakes plus a handful of bacon was $6.29 - enough for the biggest appetite. Well, now I did not need lunch, and I was already delayed by the fog. The BRP from the southern end to Asheville goes over 6,000 feet, through several tunnels and is the curviest part of the parkway. However, there was a detour on the east side of Asheville at US 70. Now I found myself on 70 headed for I-40 to exit 68 as a detour. Seeing a gas station, I topped off, knowing that gas in North Carolina was also problematic. That turned out to be a good decision, as I had enough gas to easily get to Fancy Gap, the target for the day. The detour meant that Craggy Gardens was out, but the road back to the parkway had many switchbacks and was an interesting diversion. Back on the BRP, all was going well until I hot another detour at Boone, but at least this one was shorter. At an overlook, I met one woman who needed directions, and another guy who had trapped a raccoon for relocation - that raccoon was glad to get out of his cage. The highlight came about 10 miles south of Fancy Gap, where I encountered a bunch of wild turkeys strolling along and crossing the road! I stopped for some photos before continuing on, the turkeys seeming oblivious to my presence.
This leg of the trip included the Linn Cove Viaduct, which was built from the top down. I made a short video, and here's a link for more info.
If you are travelling the BRP, you want to plan a stay at the Fancy Gap exit on US 52. Here you have a motel, the Lake View restaurant and a gas station all adjacent! The Lake View is such a good place to eat that I try to plan a night's stay. This evening I had dinner for just under $10 with dessert! At the Mountain Top motel, I received a discount with a military ID. Gas was 3.69 for regular, and the gas problem is over for the rest of the trip.
Day 7: Fancy Gap, VA - Home!
The good news was the Blue Ridge had no detours in Virginia! Waking to sunny skies, I packed up and had breakfast at the Lake View, then hit the parkway before 9 AM. I had brilliant sunshine up to Otter Lake at around noon. The front coming in had bisected the west (cloudy) and the east (sunny) along a diagonal NE - SW line. At this point, I decided to pick up the pace. Every turn to the west was met with threatening skies, while sunshine was greeting me on the eastern side. With no more than a spritz or two, I was at the end of the parkway, headed for Waynesboro.
Now, I had a full tank of gas before getting on the parkway, and had ridden the 200 miles to the end with two clicks left on the gage, so I decided to keep it under 55 and see how far I could get until the reserve light came on. That happened at 258.5 miles near Luray, where I filled up with 5.5 gallons for 47 mpg. If I had continued on reserve, Front Royal was in reach, but I decided not to stretch it.
I continued off Interstates, taking 340 through the rest of Virginia, West Va. and into Maryland, where a large, black cloud spelled rain. As I was going more east than north and east, I caught up with the rain - a very intense but brief downpour. Now I know what Wheels was talking about, but I rode right through this to US 15 north, where the skies started to clear. By the time I went north to Thurmont, sunshine was again the order of the day.
OK, I'm in Thurmont around dinner time, so I topped off the gas tank and ate at the Mountain Gate, where you never leave hungry. This gave time for the Wing to dry. near 6:30 PM, I headed for home knowing that in 90 minutes I'd be there.
Funny thing; on my final approach about 20 minutes away, I saw lightning in the now dark sky way ahead of me. That dinner stop gave the remaining rain a chance to clear before I arrived.
Wheels & Will, next time, save a few days and follow my schedule. I had sunshine! (except for the last storm you did not clear out). A very pleasant 7 day trip with lots of time to enjoy the back roads along the way is the way to go.