Enjoyed the report, tho without pix. Any you apparently posted have disappeared!
Couple tips for you - not that I know it all, either...
I have "dry bags"- originally intended for canoe or water camping/travel. I carry my sleeping bag in one (and a self "inflatable" Therma Rest pillow) i typically pack this outside my saddle bags. SeaLine is a good proven brand of dry bag. I also have a duffel-sized dry bag that, if need be. will hold my tent, my Therma Rest pad, and my GF's sleeping bag. Anything you want to remain absolutely dry, pack into a dry bag! In my mind, bedding is tops on this list.
speaking of bedding...
I have a down bag that's "rated" @ 35 degrees. Any colder than that, and A: I am [probably] NOT out camping on a bike, and B: I have a much warmer bag anyway. Down's plus side: light weight, packs small, stuffs well. Negative side: if it gets wet you are fucked
. Down will NOT activate to keep you warm when wet, as it acts on trapping body heat in "pockets" of air within the feathers. Synthetic fills WILL keep you warm no matter if they are wet or dry, but you sacrifice space AND often, weight. For a sleeping pad, I have a BIG (20X72) Therma-Rest self inflating pad, I open it up (valve) and let it "self" inflate, then I blow into it to pump it. this pig inflates to two inches thick! It rolls down to ABOUT 6-7 inches X 20. I mentioned my Therma Rest pillow. I have the small sized version, It packs down to about 10 X 4, or 5 inches. I keep it in my dry bag with my sleeping bag. It ROCKS. Therma Rest makes smaller pads, such as "half" length pads that don't inflate as thick. i never once had an air mattress, but I imagine they are fail- friendly, and weigh a LOT. Why fuck around? Be certain, be comfortable. You wanna ride 500 miles and have a shitty sleep? Me neither. Fuck me man, I don't want to ride TEN miles and have a shitty sleep.
Tents: There are, literally, hundreds, maybe thousands of tent options, and if you search this, or any other forum, you'll find endless threads with endless opinions. Pick one that you think suits your needs, and use that tent. You might find that many of us own multiple tents, depending on what we are doing and with whom we are doing it (Wife, GF, SWMBO ...BOYfriend???
) In my mind, and for my money, I'll take a good tent over a cheap one every time. Again, the options and opinions are staggering. Go with what you know/want/can afford.
I also have a tarp like thing called a Parawing. I'll take it along to insure dry or shaded camp space. It's fucking HUGE and it weighs a ton- but there have been times where it really made a difference for me- like 8 days on the Isle of Man in the middle of a 25 day long rain storm... but never mind that. BUT that is most definitely a personal choice. A plain ol tarp is also good for the same purpose, IF you can rig it. That, of course, required (at the least), rope, bungees, and trees OR (at the most) all manner of poles, stakes, and hardware- as well as rope, bungees, and/or trees! The 'Wing has it all and is free standing. OK, so Parawings aren't made/sold anymore. Kelty has a similar product that is smaller/lighter... also free standing. Whatever.
I am not afraid to pack all kinds of shit on my bike- and I WILL strap stuff to the seat behind me, AND on top of my saddle bags if I need to. I have recently found ROK Straps, which are REALLY handy for this purpose.
As for the dragon, yeah, I rode it once. I had a great time, and we were there on a cloudy, rainy Tuesday in October- so there was barely anyone else there besides us. Would I ride it again? Yeah maybe some day. Why not? Except maybe that there are thousand of miles of similar roads in NC, TN, WVA, VA, & PA. None of which feature catchy names or mad quantities of idiots... And yeah I saw the Cherahola Skyway's clouds/rain/fog, too! It was still a fun ride, tho- and i DID enjoy The Dragon- that whole day was great, even if it was cold and wet. I mean, hey- I have never had a bad day on a motorcycle.
Lastly, to [perhaps over] state the REALLY obvious... when ever possible, allow MORE TIME for your trips... I know, I know- Time is the one commodity that we ALL wish we had more of. But that one itsy-bitsy thing will make SO much more difference- more than any one other thing- in ANY motorcycle trip you may take in the future. Time allows you to stay off major freeways or interstate highways, will let you explore the US highways and back roads. In turn, doing that will have you taking more pix, and meeting more interesting people, eating at better mom & pop restaurants, and finding better campgrounds and motels. Cuz the good shit ain't found along the Interstate corridors- well, not very often, anyway. I recently decided I didn't have to hurry home (to PA from NC) and wound up having a magical ride, nearly all by my self- on the BRP/Skyline Drive!
One other thing. When you finally get an iPhone (or "smart" phone- you KNOW you want one) use THAT for your pix. I use mine for darn near everything- in fact I read a RR from a guy who traveled thousands of miles using his iPhone as his only "tool"- for music, navigation, maps, & Internet. He uploaded the 50.00 Garmin APP which is stored in the phone's memory and doesn't need signal to operate. The iPhone takes reasonably decent pix (I mean YOU still have to "aim" it) and they are easily uploaded into hosting apps like photobucket- for easy peasy sharing. The above pic was taken with my phone on that November BRP run, cropped and slightly enhanced, in Instagram.
Keep the shiny side up.