ok... I think I got this thing figured out...
Hello welcome to the second installment of As the crankshaft turns.
When last we left our hero, he was about to head off into the wilds of western North Carolina and Eastern Tennessee to a magical land known to motorcyclists as Deals Gap (search Tapoco/Fontana RT129 on mapquest.com if you wish to view area). This 11-mile stretch of road consists of 318 mountain switch back turns. It has become a mecca of sorts, for bikers worldwide, and is high on my list of places to visit.
I've spoken to John Delucca at BMW of Manhattan and he has informed me that Steve Zizic (service manager) has had a very bad motorcycle accident and is in the hospital in critical condition. (This explains why he hasn't been able to respond to my attempts at contacting him) Please say a prayer for his swift and full recovery. John offers to send the replacement GPS unit but I decline and tell him I'll contact him with a mailing address as soon as I can. Jacob Meetze has, as promised, gotten me the parts I left at his place in Williamston and Ive uploaded the GPS DCA info for the next leg of the trip. Monday night I pack/prep the Beast and Tuesday morning I head for Capitol BMW to address a few last service items and take them up on their offer to utilize their high speed internet access to send you all some pics (ok, that didnt work out as well as I had hoped most of you received a pic of an old guy looking at a couple of bikes, thats George, at the ripe young age of 76. I met him at a gas station that had no gas, sitting outside selling t-shirts to raise money for a local high school. We talked a bit about his 1965 Honda 50, and snapped a few pics. Great old character.)
Jon, service manager and resident road maven, on consult, advises that I super-slab it on I40 West to Ashville (275 miles) and then hit the back roads. I agree and set off about
on the 24th. The ride on I40 is relatively uneventful, save a pullover by a N.C. Trooper that I passed on the RIGHT at 75mph. Your along way from NY, where ya heading? We gab a bit; his name is Sean (well how about that?). He checks my papers, lets me know the cushion is 9mph over the speed limit, wishes me the best and sends me on my way coooool!
I test the 8 gallon gas tank on the Beast and at 200 miles non-stop in the saddle, my butt is SCREAMING for mercy as I crest a rise and the Smokey Mountains come into view (whaddaya know! They're REALLY Smokey!) I pull over for a butt break (cig/glutei, pun intended) with 214 miles showing on the trip odometer. Just shy of Ashville, I gas up and the proprietor of the station/mini-mart shows me what the folks on the coast did not: HOW TO DRINK BEER IN THE BIBLE BELT. One giant plastic Slushy cup and all is fine and good in the world.
I catch St19 into the Smokeys, wow, truly a Gods Country area starting to finally see some bikes on the road as well. The skies are gray and this adds to the smoke effect.
, obviously a vacation oriented town (quaint hotels, mini golf, homey restaurants, taverns and scenic views), I pass a road sign that reads Wheels Through Time The Museum That Runs. All American Transportation Museum
, 1 mile ahead on right. A mile up the road there is a 60 some odd year old motorcycle next to a fountain and a one-lane bridge, the gate is open The bridge alone is enough to entice me to check this place out and I am not disappointed (Brian & Shira, you guys have got to make a run to this place!). I pull up to an airplane hanger sized building. Walking through the door I am greeted heartily by Jeff Ring, G.M., and almost immediately I see a 1942 Harley Davidson model X1000. This bike is the only opposed twin engine/shaft drive HD ever made and was built on consignment for the U.S. Army to copy the superior performance of Rommel's Desert Campaign BMW bikes. Only 1000 were produced and Jeff informs me they have a total of FIVE in the building, I'm hooked and happily hand over the $12 admission fee. I wont bore you all with details, this place has to be seen to be truly appreciated. In short, 100's of bikes spanning the entire motorized era (Flying Merkel, Ace, Indian, Pope, Harley etc), Roadsters, sidecar rigs, trikes with paddy wagons and delivery cabs on the back, classic cars (1932 Dusenberg, 60s Vettes, Model T's 50's Caddy). All, yes all, of them RUN! Many of them are set up in dioramas that show them in there original environs (hill climb bikes are on an indoor man made mountain). The museum opened 3 months ago and I am informed that many improvements are still to come. This place should be on the list for any MC or car enthusiast as a must see. For more info, write to Jeff at email@example.com
Daylight is running short and I still have a lot of backroad mountain miles to cover so I say my goodbyes and continue on 19. Twisty scenic mountain roads, I ride through Cherokee National Forest and Reservation, hmmm, quite a few casinos here, funny, never expected to see a Hilton, Holiday Inn & Embassy Suites in this area, money makes the world go around. I resist the urge to stop, take a room and blow some bucks. I press on.
Full dark now, I catch US74 to ST28 North (on full deer alert) and reach the cross roads of 28/143 about 9pm. Ok, this is a bad time and place to realize I don't have a clue where I'm going, its pitch black, the crickets are huge (about the size of a ½ a pack of cigs) and quite aggressive (one flies at my crotch and actually grabs on! You should have seen THAT dance!). And the warning sign regarding Kodiak bears that I read at my last pit stop has all sorts of crazy thoughts going through my head. In short, I'm getting a little freaked.
A Jeep Liberty with BMW K1200RS in tow pulls up out of the blackness. "You OK?"¯ a voice calls from within. I meet Mike Makarov, my latest savior. Mikes up from Florida
by way of Atlanta
and somewhere north 2300 miles in 3 days to pick up his new '03 K12 and break it in on The Dragon and I am eternally in his debt. He's heading to a BMW rally at the gap, tells me where I am, where I need to go, and as the RAIN begins to fall AGAIN, offers to share his hotel room with me so I won't have to camp! After a moments hesitation I accept and we proceed to Fontana Village
(see mapquest), check in and get settled.
The terrain around the compound is very steep, and I successfully drop my bike with the high side down while trying to negotiate a u-turn outside our lodge building. My helmet bounces down the mountain about 30 yards and I've busted my RF turn signal lens and scratched the hand guard and back of the mirror. Not bad at all considering. The engine bars did a great job. Mike says, "Good that you finally got that out of the way." I expected to camp in the rain, I end up with a dry room and a dropped bike (and a very banged up helmet, but my head wasn't in it). Like the song says, "¯You can't always get what you want, but sometimes you'll find, you get what you need."
Wednesday the 25th
Mike and I awake to tame The Dragon, open the window and you guessed it, RAIN! Pouring freaking rain! Here is a condensed version of the situation: TV out (sat dish hit by lightning) no cell service (both of us afraid to use the room phone for fear of losing our first born child to debt) the county is dry (no beer/booze) breakfast is tearing both of our colons to shreds, pouring rain and we absolutely will not brave these twisty, leaf covered roads, there is internet access in another part of the compound for $1 a minute and is connected at 2600 baud... slooooww. I'm relatively cool about the whole thing; I have a roof over my head and can't complain. Mike is pretty damn frustrated, as he hasn't even gotten to ride his new bike at all yet. We both agree, prison would be better, in prison there is television and sex (chuckle).
Our homemade entertainment center...
Mike begins to look at me strangley...
Thursday, September 26th
We wake up, more rain. I can't stay here any longer. I've got to get on the road, wet or dry. Mike and I exchange contact info, he will attempt to meet me out west at a later date. Seems my trip has him jonesing for mileage. The Beast is loaded and off I go. The plan is north (following Isadores storm track) to Knoxville
, I40 East to I81 North and if I can get some weather, onto the Blue Ridge Parkway
. if not, straight up to Reading, PA
for a visit with my sister. The only way out of this area is through the Gap (on the Dragon)
(side bar, we drove it yesterday in the Jeep. This road is SO twisty it made us nauseas)
I'm not looking forward to doing this on a bike in the rain, but the choice is out of my hands. The road is definitely treacherous, little memorials are numerous on the route signifying a lost loved one. At one point, I turn a corner and there is a man on the side of the road taking pictures. That one moments distraction causes me to lose my line and I cross the double yellow and blow the S-turn in a straight line. Whoooooaa! I thank God there wasn't a vehicle coming the opposite direction. Heart racing and knuckles white, I get back in the game, making the mental note that there is no room for mistakes here. 11 miles and I'm clear. the Dragon tamed today by the Beast! Well, ok, the Beast kind of sneaked/crawled through, but at least I can say I was there.
129N to Knoxville
, I40E to I81N the rain let up in Knoxville
, still overcast and damp. I make the Tennessee/Virginia border around
. At a gas stop I find my rear break is dragging, that plus the busted signal lens and a couple of other problems leads me to seek a BMW service center. I locate Hammersley BMW, the GPS says it's 187 miles away in Lynchburg, VA
and I make that my next destination. Continuing north on 81, the rain returns and by
I am totally wiped out. I stop in Roanoke, VA
GPS finds me a room at a Motel 6 for $39.95 completing one very long, wet, treacherous day of about 300 miles. (Eventually, I'll set up this tent and save some money.)
(by george I think he's got it)
More to come and to all, forgive my earlier failures at proper posting... learning curve you know...