Thursday, July 8, 2010

Tail of the Dragon, et al

So my long time friend and riding buddy Matt approaches my fiance while I'm at work and asks her, " I know you'll be getting married in a couple of weeks, but I'd really like to borrow Chris for a weekend." My wonderful fiance (now my wife) was very gracious to let me take a motorcycle trip with Matt and his friend for the weekend, even though it was the week after we got married. She was very supportive, and I really appreciate that.

On Thursday night, we got our bikes together and were doing some last minute alterations to Adam's bike. He rides a '78 Gold Wing. He took the letters off the tank and put DOOMONU, which is Vietnamese for "go screw yourself", with another word in place of "screw". Matt's brother is there helping out (actually doing most of the work). We try to install a horn in my bike, but just no go. No worries. We get the GPS wired up, which is the main thing. Matt rides a Kawasaki Vulcan. His pipes make me miss my old Jackpot a little bit.

The next morning we start out a little after 7 am, stop for gas, then onto the interstate. I have my Saddleman backrest bag, so I'm set. Cruise control, tunes on the radio, nice cool morning, nothin' but awesome. We stop for breakfast in a little town somewhere northeast of Little Rock at a McDonald's. We're not in a hurry, we take our time. Both Matt and Adam have to take a crap. I guess McDonald's runs right through them. My body is used to junk food, so no worries with me.

After breakfast, another fuel stop, then on again. We have to stop about every 110 to 120 miles for Adam to refuel. This a good interval for a butt break. We have great weather all the way to Memphis. We run into some traffic in Memphis, but this is expected. I follow the GPS and we get through it with no problem. As we pass through Tennessee, the scenery is great. I love the hills of Tennessee. Even the interstate is good riding.

We pull up for gas at a place past Nashville and look at the GPS. We know there is a rock slide on 129, which is the Tail, so we have to maneuver around that. A friendly lady tells us that there is a rock slide on another highway, so we have to go through Tellico Plains, TN and take the Cherohala Skyway. We were planning on riding this anyway, so no worries. I program the GPS to take us to Tellico Plains, then I'll just route to Robbinsville, NC from there.

As we're riding, the sun goes down and it starts cooling off. We turn onto the Cherohala Skyway. When I look at the GPS, it says 55 miles. 55 miles!? Wow. So we ride for a while, and it REALLY gets cold. We pull over and put on a couple of more layers. We start up again, and it is pitch black night and the road is seriously curvy. I'm leading, but I'm worried about my companions. We pull over again, see that everyone is good. I guess I'm just paranoid, they were having a good time. I find myself looking in the rear view constantly for two headlights. With all the curves, sometimes, it takes for ever for the one in the rear to pop up.

Anyway, we make it to Robbinsville. We pull into the service station to get a bite to eat at 10 til 10. They see us and shut off the lights. Jerk off's. So we go to McDonalds for a bite. We call the Two Wheel Inn because I'm confused about what my GPS is saying, but it's right and the directions that the lady at the hotel gives us are easy. We get there and the lady is at the desk. She's really nice and opens up the garage for us to park our bikes. She takes us up to the apartment, which is sweet. After a little liquor, it's bed time. We're all tired, but it was a good 700 mile day.

The next morning, we get up and head to Deals Gap and the Tail. We get there, pull in and park. Even though it's early, there are many bikes already there. Cruisers, crotch rockets, Tourers, etc. One guy comes up and says, "Is that a space ship?" So I show him the Vision, lay it down on it's tip overs, and some other guys take pictures with their phones. Pretty cool. Several other guys asked about Adam's DOOMONU. Poor Matt, no one asked him about his bike. They just need to hear it.

So we take off up the Tail with Matt in the lead, followed by Adam, then me. It was nice to take a little break from leading. The curves are great and the Vision handles great. The scenery is nice, except for the two TN trooper cars there. One of the guys we talked to before setting out got a ticket, so he gave us a warning. We weren't in a hurry anyway.

We get to the blocked off area before the rock slide, so we turn around and head back. We run into a couple of packs of crotch rockets. They go down, turn around, then get behind us. We pull over to let them buy and they fly past us. I never considered buying a crotch rocket until then. They looked like they were having a blast.

We get back to Deal's Gap and take some pictures. The Tree of Shame is a tree where bikers have donated parts of their wrecked bikes. We have a great lunch and buy some souvenirs. A BMW rider suggested that we ride down Hwy 28. So we did and he was right, it was a nice ride.

We went back into Robbinsville, then headed to the Cherohala Skyway. It was much better riding during the day. Some of the views weren't quite green yet, but some were and they were spectacular.

As we were riding, a volunteer fireman came up behind with his lights going, followed by a State Trooper. I hate seeing that, because it usually means a motorcycle wreck. Sure enough, a little later, we come upon a medevac helicopter being loaded. We ride a little further down and see a Harley Electra Glide folded up in a ditch. I hope he/she/both of them were ok.

We ride up to the highest point at 5390 feet elevation. We pull over and talk to a guy on a BMW sport tourer. He is nice enough to take our picture. We ride on a little further, and we stop so Adam can take my picture with the Vision tipped over so it looks like I'm screaming around a curve. Cool picture.

It's getting to be early evening, so we head back to Robbinsville for some Brats cooked on a $4 disposable grill. They were great.

The next morning we head out to Athens, Alabama. My GPS takes us in the wrong direction, or at least the direction we didn't want to go. We stopped at a lake to see which way we wanted to ride, then headed out. Stopped for gas at a store, and talked with several other bikers. The weather was sunny and beautiful.

We pass through this canyon with a gorgeous river flowing. Even though it was cold and the water had to be freezing, there were tons of kayakers, canoers, and rafters out. We stopped and Matt took some pictures. That was a great stop and great scenery. The area is where they held the water events for the summer Olympics one year. The flags are still up.

We headed on to Athens. I think Adam's butt was seriously hurting by the time we got to the Stenske house hold. I needed to head on home, but Michelle was cooking fajitas for dinner, so I had to stay. They were great! She wanted to take a test ride on the Vision and on Matt's bike, so we did some around the block rides. I think she wants her husband to get a bike for them, now.

I headed out after the great dinner. The GPS was trying to take me to the closest interstate, so I kept fighting it. I did ride down a little bit of the Natchez Trace Parkway, which was really nice.

When I got into Memphis, one of the big signs said that all lanes were blocked a few miles up ahead due to an accident. As I approached the stopped traffic, I took the exit and had the GPS reroute me. It worked great. Sometimes that GPS is frustrating, but this time, it routed me perfectly back to 55. Headed across the Mississippi bridge and headed home.

The stretch between Memphis and Little Rock is pretty boring, but the tunes kept me straight. I got gas in West Memphis, so I didn't expect to have to get gas until I got home. However, I had left my key on at the Stenske house, so my battery had died. After the jump start, I guess the computer had to reset, so my mileage was not very good for a while. So I had to stop one more time around Cabot.

I arrived home around midnight, tired, but not sore. The seat on the Vision was very comfortable. The back rest bag was great. I feel like I could have ridden another 500 miles without a problem. I think I'm ready for the big SS1000. We'll see how that goes.

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