I left Knoxville on the Sunday Sandy rolled into town, bringing 40 deg. temps and lots of rain.
A Ducati guy in Asheville offered to take me on some of the best roads the area had to offer and fortunately when I called him in the morning he said it was sunny and the temps were in the 60s where he was. Excellent. So I headed off for the Tail of the Dragon knowing that the further I got the warmer and drier it would be. Only it just got colder and wetter. And I kept getting lost. To make matters worse, I couldn't just pull my phone out and check how far off I was due to the rain. I'd check my phone, memorize three turns, then take off. 20 minutes later I'd check the directions again and the little blue dot indicating my location would be far away from the blue line indicating my intended route. But the trip time would remain the same, as if time was stopping just so I could enjoy the gifts mother nature showered me with. I have no idea how I kept getting so far off base, but that's the way the morning went.
The doc in NY gave me a set of winter gloves (thank god) and believe it or not I had 3M waterproofed my boots. Both kept me protected for about a half hour. The winter gloves turned out to not be waterproof (doh!) and the 3M treatment probably extended the water protection of my Doc Martins for exactly 14 seconds longer than had I not treated them. In short, I was soaked. My hands and feet were painfully cold and I still had at least an hour to go before the Tail. (Ah yes, and my Sidi 1 piece rainsuit somehow allowed water to leak into my crotch.) The one adjustment I could make, (turning up the Ohlins steering damper up to deal with all the shivering) made zero difference on my dropping core temp.
(At this point of misery I could also hear all of the ADVers who right now reading this are saying, 'uh huh--you should have taken our advice and prepared better, buddy. You're an idiot! Heated jacket doesn't sound so bad now, eh? Yeah yeah yeah.)
Leading up to the Tail of the Dragon, the roads were fantastic (other than the road being covered in water and wet leaves of course), but I could only care about 5% of the time. I crossed over into NC where my GPS was telling me was the start of the Tail...
...ad it was the start of the Tail--had I been going in the other direction. Yes, ladies and gentlemen, it was only after your pruney narrator had completed 318 curves in 11 miles that he realized what road he'd been on. C'es la vie.
I had no cell phone coverage and couldn't get a hold of the dude I was going to meet up with in Sylvan(?). I headed that direction anyways (after strongly considering heading back to a hotel in Knoxville). When I finally got a hold of him he relayed that the weather in/around Asheville had turned ugly, too, and that there's no way we could do the rides he'd planned. At this point of the journey I was envious of kids in the back of warm minivans--riding any more than I had to was not high on my list of priorities, but that the weather was only getting worse the farther east I rode was a bit crushing. I finally succumbed to the cold and pulled over so I could remove my boots/wet socks and heat my feet with the exhaust. I've been cold before, but I was seriously concerned that there could be a chance of frostbite. (70mph + 41 dec = windchill somewhere between 12-25 deg F).
I had to be very careful because my feet (and hands) were so numb I wouldn't have even felt nails being pounded into them. Sticking them directly into hot exhaust with no nerves to relay messages back on just how hot it was could have easily burned me before I knew it. The thawing process was exercise not unlike being starving, but having to eat very very slowly. But once blood was gushing again I realized no matter how bad things got in the future (today or later) that low slung exhaust could spare me physical damage. Adaptation!
When I reached the Ducati dude in Asheville I was greatly relieved--until he explained it was another half hour to his place. Gotta love it. 6 hours after I'd begun I reached my hosted home for the night.