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Old 07-25-2013, 08:44 PM   #1
higworld OP
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MotoTrip2013 – It’s all about the road, man!

First of all, you need to read that title with a good 70′s voice. Picture someone responding with a thoughtful “Far out, man”, and you’ll have a good idea of what was running through my mind as I traveled through Virginia, North Carolina, and Tennessee this past week.

This trip wasn’t about destinations. It was about learning to relax. Unlike most of my road trips, this one was completely unplanned. Each night I would stare at a map and decide on a specific direction for the next day, and perhaps a vague direction for the day after that. And that was it for organization. I had a tent, should hotels be hard to find. Clothes and gear strapped to the back of the bike. And I had a credit card.

Day One’s direction was southwest. I had been on the Blue Ridge Parkway before, but never for far. So I decided that my first experience of the trip would be to ride it hard and long. And that I did. I also had my first “oh yeah” moment, of which I am thankful.

For hours, I had been tooling across Virginia, and was now dutifully riding down the BRP. Trying to get into the spirit of the trip, but not making much progress. I had stopped at a turnout because … well, because I needed to stop. (Ahem). And there I met “Utah”. Dude stepped out of his car (with plates from … you guessed it) and started talking. Asked me if I had seen the falls a couple of miles back. I admitted that I had seen the sign, but didn’t stop. Well, he painted a wonderful verbal picture of waterfalls, old train tracks, and serenity. As we went our separate ways, I realized that I was still in the wrong zone. I had been so wrapped up in “Doing the BRP”, that I had forgot what this ride was all about. So I doubled back. And yes, it was as picturesque a spot as he described. I soaked my head and face in a cold mountain stream, and took in some of Mother Nature. And as I rode away, two things hit me. One was air conditioning. The cold water plus wind was the absolute best feeling I’ve experienced in a very long while. I think I actually whooped a few times. But the other was that I finally “got” what I was doing. And from that point onward, I left responsibilities and timelines alongside the road.

The rest of Day One was just soaking up peaceful miles of blacktop goodness. Made it almost to the bottom of the Commonwealth, and stayed at a B&B in Fancy Gap. I was sitting on a rocker on a second floor porch, watching the sun set and the evening fog roll in. And I could feel the shoulders lowering and the pulse slowing.

I also started putting together this story, and realized that it was going to be hard to write. There were no hard destinations. Non-bikers wouldn’t get the “open road” part. And there were just so many ways of saying I was at peace. LOL! So I started looking outside the box for little experiences I could share. Well, that night it was the fog. Deep, deep, evening mountain fog. Not the Stephen King kind of fog, where someone does something reckless and unfortunate things ensue. But this was like the aftermath of a snowstorm. It was absolutely quiet and still. There’s nothing in Fancy Gap anyway, but the mist stopped whatever noise there might have been. No stars, no sounds, nothing. I went a little walk-about, and it was like strolling in a 3D sensory deprivation tank. Really kinda cool.

OK, so here is where I broke my only rule. I didn’t plan the next day. It just kinda … happened. I stuck with what worked, and just continued down the BRP. At some point, I decided that I needed to earn some cred with my riding brethren, and I headed west towards many roads that I had heard tales of for years. Cherohala, Dragon, … they all awaited me. But they were not close. And they were not easy to get to. Why? Because Mother Nature decided to be a bitch.

Right after lunch, it poured. A serious thunderstorm was directly overhead, and truly intent on f’ing with me. I had to take shelter in a car wash (ironic, huh?) because of the wind and how close the thunder/lightning was. You know how you count the seconds between the flash and the boom? This was like (flash) On … (BOOM!). Couldn’t even get the “one” out. So, the afternoon of Day Two had me pointed west, soggy, and finally relenting after nine hours in the saddle and holing up in a warm and dry hotel.

Day Three. I had a mission. To slay the dragon. For those not in the know, it’s a little 11 mile stretch of road between NC and Tennessee. Its claim to fame is 318 curves in those 11 miles. Serious curves. Switchbacks on top of switchbacks. But first, I needed to get there. And on the way was a museum call Wheels Through Time.

It’s a serious affair with American, two-wheeled iron. Quite well done. I’m not a huge fan of “All Things Harley”, but I did enjoy the place. So an hour or more there, and it was off through the Great Smokey Mountain Forest o the Dragon! Except, that wasn’t to be. As I was leaving Maggie Valley and starting to rise up into the forest, there were sirens coming up fast behind me. It was an accident just ahead. And not a good one.

A 50 year old woman from Florida was riding her bike into town, when a car decided to cross the center line and hit her head on. She lost. I was maybe a dozen cars back from the scene, and it was a complete yard sale. Bike parts everywhere. And she died on the spot. I looked up the story later, and they are definitely filing charges against the idiot who couldn’t manage to stay in their lane.

So … my mind is now … not good. I’m trying to relax, and reality is telling me to not relax too much. For the next few hours as I detoured around the accident, I had a lot of time to reflect. I know that my hobby is dangerous. And that all the skill in the world isn’t always enough to fight stupidity in the form of ignorant cagers. But even semi-witnessing a gruesome end to someone else’s “great ride”, I knew I couldn’t ever give it up. Words can’t explain, but there is a freedom in what I do that reaches right down into your soul. I have to believe that the lady who died would understand completely, and while she probably wouldn’t have wanted her ride to end the way it did, she probably wasn’t sorry either. Some people live, and some people really live. I didn’t know her, but I’m sure she was in the latter category.

Anyway, pushing morbid thoughts aside … it was finally time to slay the beast. Well, kinda. I actually rode half the dragon … twice. A few miles over the Tennessee border, a semi decided to break down, blocking both lanes. And it was going to be hours before they cleared him. (Why they let those trucks there is beyond me. There is barely enough room for cars to traverse, the road is so narrow, twisted, and steep.) So I had to turn around and retrace my steps. So while I left a dragon half-slayed, it was still a fun ride. OK, maybe fun isn’t the right word. That road is intense. There is zero margin for error and you have to seriously concentrate. There is no way you could do hours of that. Eleven miles is enough. So took my trusty steed, ConZilla, and we decided to continue exploring all the roads we could find in western NC.

I’ll skip the endless litany of road tales and take you right to the next day (Tuesday, or Day Four). After a well-rested night at another hotel (I never did need the tent), I rode the Cherohala Skyway and then just tore up more and more pavement. I wouldn’t be exaggerating to say that there are far more twists than straights out there. I almost forgot how to ride in an unbending line. LOL! Well, the usual rains came and went, I again took refuge, in a drive up bank this time, and finally ended up in this neat little town.

I have to paint a picture for you. Up until this point, towns were spelled with a small “t”. Just rural places with unremarkable names. Well, as I was was wandering east, this quaint place suddenly opened up around me. Reminded me of neat little towns in Northern California. And I had to stop. I stayed in an 1880s inn and had a fabulous meal across the street. I also decided to drain a bottle of good red, while rocking on a second story porch, watching the town.

OK, skipping ahead … more and more riding. Back up the BRP, another hotel, and I decided to head home. I had put down 400+ miles each day for the better part of a week, and I had accomplished my goals. I rode the roads that needed riding. I had shaken off the cobwebs of work, and anything more would have been superfluous. I even stopped in the town that was used to film the Andy Griffith show. (I tried to get a haircut at Floyds, but they were closed.) So now I sit at my own desk, in my own house, trying to write something up that won’t bore all of you. I hope I succeeded.

So … I’ve actually got three more days of vacation. Hmmm, perhaps tomorrow I’ll go for a ride. :-)

The whole photo album is at by the way, should you want to see more.
Rick Higgins

"I’m lost. I’ve gone to look for myself. If I should return before I get back, please ask me to wait."
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