Originally posted in Regional Forums/Northeast, in a fragments. Posting here as a complete report. Day 1: A while ago, while reading about Deals Gap, Tennessee, I had the crazy idea of taking a really long ride down there just to see it. This winter, being an exceptionally long and snowy one, I had more time than usual to play with this notion, and what started as a silly idea slowly turned into one of those dreams that became reality. Fast forward to April. My initial plan was to take a six-day solo trip to Deals Gap and back, starting on April 17. As with any plans, and this one is no exception, changes do happen. Nevertheless, on April 16 everything was in place. Day earlier, I picked my in-laws at the airport and brought them home. I then spent the evening getting everything ready and packed. Saturday morning, after loading all the gear on to the bike, I filled the tank with fresh gas, and made sure everything worked as it is supposed to. Then, around mid-day, the weather changed and the rain did not seem to have any intention to stop. I pushed the bike in to the garage, and spent the rest of the day with the family. Sunday morning the rain continued pounding against the roof, but the forecast looked slightly brighter. Instead of leaving by seven o'clock, as I originally planned, I left the house around nine. Saying good-byes and be-carefuls took much longer than expected. By nine it hasn't rained for about 30 minutes, and while the road in front of the house was covered in puddles, there were enough holes in the clouds to see some actual sunlight. Full of excitement and not knowing what to expect, I headed away from NH s towards the Taconic Parkway. As soon as I entered the Berkshires, however, the weather changed for the worse, with heavy clouds all over the horizon and a steady rain falling. This did not improve for the next 3 hours as I drove the entire length of the Taconic and continued West on highway 84. By the way New Yorkers: I came across more cops on the Taconic than the rest of the trip combined. A little excessive police presence to say the least. By the time I reached Scranton, the weather changed for the better as the rain finally stopped. Despite riding in rain for a few hours, my gear, (Tourmaster), had kept me dry. Well, relatively dry, since my socks were soaked. I never quite figured out whether the water got in through the boots or whether it seeped under the pants and flooded the boots from the top, but as soon as I changed my socks for a dry pair, I felt better. Since my main goal was to reach Front Royal, VA in one day, I merged onto highway 81 and continued South. Pleasantly surprised with the low number of vehicles on the road, I was making a good time. Highway 81S was in a much better shape than 84W, and had it not been for the strong crosswinds slapping me from side to side every now and then, the ride would have been downright pleasant (at least as far as riding the superslab goes). Once I crossed into Maryland, the winds died down quite a bit, and so did my pace. I pulled over to stretch and to eat some lunch. Maryland welcomed me with the first real sign of spring - actual flowers. While on a break, I discovered a stowaway in my tankbag: A pink bear my kids sent with me since they could not come themselves. Well, the bear did not complain, did not tell me how to ride or where to stop, did not eat a half of my lunch, and was generally well behaved, so I happily accepted him as my sidekick for the rest of the journey. Upon entering West Virginia and subsequently Virginia, the first thing I noticed were the flowering trees along the highway. It felt almost unreal that only a few hours earlier I was stuck in a downpour in New England, where the countryside lacked any signs of spring. The second thing I noticed was the quality of the pavement, namely the fact that there were neither potholes nor frost heaves. Since the speed limit changed to 70 mph, I hit the throttle and weaved my way among the traffic. Near Winchester, VA, I left the highway and turned on to Rte 340, which took me down to Front Royal. After checking in the hotel (Super 8), I went out for a good Italian meal and called it a day. To my surprise, I was refused a beer with my dinner (apparently not allowed while driving - which is perfectly fine around here...within limits of course). This little thing, however, did not upset me, although I did find it a little strange. While around town, I noticed several signs of recent flooding, and was later told that a day earlier the downtown was pretty much completely flooded. Still, I did not see any major damage, which is always a good thing. Back at the hotel, the bear decided to take the bed closer to the window. While he rested, I parked my bike outside of the window and carried all my gear in. Then, just as the night started settling in, I went out to oil the bike chain, and had a nice, relaxing evening smoke. By eleven o'clock I was in bed, resting for what was to come next: Skyline Drive. Summary of day 1: Day 2 After a hot morning shower I turned the TV on and found some local news channel. There was much talk about tornadoes hitting the Carolinas and some pretty messed-up images as well. Finally, I understood why there were so many signs of flooding in Virginia. As luck has it, however, the weather forecast looked rather good for the next few days. I figured I should enjoy it while it lasts, and so I got all my gear back on the bike, ate a small breakfast, and hit the road. One of the reasons why I choose Super 8, was its proximity to the starting point of my ride. Within five minutes I was at the entrance to the Shenandoah National Park. The morning sun was slowly burning the fog and clouds away, and it looked like a great day ahead. The weather was just right, 54 degrees and not too humid. As I proceeded on to Skyline Drive, I passed a closed rangers station. Before my trip, I read a lot of warnings about rangers being rather ticket-happy when it comes to speeding, but since the station was closed, I figured there wouldnt be many rangers on the Drive itself either. Still, for the first few miles I stayed near the 35mph speed limit. The Drive was deserted and I had the road to myself for quite a few miles. There were plenty of pull-offs on the side of the road with some amazing views. Unfortunately, a camera cannot capture views the same way the human eye can. One thing to watch out for was the number of squirrels on the road. Instead of running away as I approached them, they would just sit there and look at me, or licked the road. I have never seen a squirrel do that, but there must be some reason behind their strange behavior. Well, once I had gotten used to distinguishing their gray fur against the gray pavement, I stopped braking and started swerving around them. Skyline Drive is a beautiful road, but can quickly become boring and monotonous, mainly due to the 35mph speed limit. The curves and twists are plentiful, but none sharp or steep enough to pose any risk at driving above the posted speed limit. Still, I was taking it easy for the first few miles, stopping here and there, and looking around. Then, on a double yellow lane, I came behind a pickup with government plates. The driver just waved me to pass him, and so I did. The same thing happened with the second pickup I came across a couple of miles down the road. Well, if the government people dont care, why not go a little faster? For the rest of the Skyline I stayed between 45-55, which made the ride that much more enjoyable. Except for some construction zones where they were fixing the stone walls alongside the road, there was hardly any traffic. When I stopped at a lodge/gift shop along the Drive to send some postcards to the kids, I discovered that I like Virginia. Last summer, I installed a pair of deer warnings on my front fender. Since then, I have not come across a single deer while riding. This was not the case on Skyline Drive, as I encountered over ten deer just standing by the side of the road, unaffected by my device, just staring blankly at me going past them. So, either the deer in Virginia are used to the traffic, or the deer warnings are a scam. The rest of the Drive was uneventful, but filled with great views. One thing that was very different from the North, was the use of Pilot Vehicles in construction zones. Instead of just letting the traffic go one way and then the next, there were pickup trucks with Pilot Vehicle, follow me signs that would turn around at each block and guide the traffic through the areas affected by construction. Personally, I didnt see the need for this as all the construction was on the sides of the road, and there was no debris on the pavement. Perhaps, after years of riding on frost-heaved roads with potholes large enough to swallow the front-end of the bike, I became numb. I was expecting to pay my $10 fee for using the Skyline Drive upon exiting, but that station was also closed. So, after crossing some traffic, I climbed a small hill to the Blue Ridge parkway visitor center, got a map of the parkway, ate a snack, and hit the road again. So far, all the people I interacted with were very friendly and polite, in a genuine way. When researching the BRP, I developed this notion that the parkway would be built on a lot of support columns on the mountainsides. I guess this is because there are a lot of pictures on the parkway featuring the handful of these that there are. The parkway, however, looks much like many of the typical New England countryside roads. There are still some great views in fact, many times more spectacular than the views of Skyline Drive. The speed limit on the parkway is 45mph, and while I tried continuing my previous pace for most of the day, there were sections where 45 would be just plain stupid dangerous. Compared to Skyline Drive, the BRP is more winding and with tighter curves. I was really enjoying the ride. Halfway through the day, I arrived near Roanoke, VA and decided to take a lunch break. I got off the parkway and headed to town. Nine years ago when we were moving out of Boston, we considered Roanoke, and Im glad we did not do it. Not that the city itself is bad, but after living in NH for nine years, just arriving in any city is enough to give you a headache and to appreciate the simplicity of the life back home. Traffic, lights, noise, pollution, people no thank you. Id rather stay in the woods. I bailed out of Roanoke shortly after I finished eating, and continued south on the BRP. Except for a handful of cars, I had the parkway pretty much to myself. Somewhere near mile 170 I came across a ranger parked by the side of the road, which was the only law enforcement I encountered all day. I had no intention to bother him and he did not bother me. The only other rider I met along the way was a guy from DC riding his 1200GS to North Carolina (another ADV nonetheless). We chatted for a few minutes, and then I bailed. If you are reading this, it was nice meeting you. My initial plan was to camp at Willvile Bike Camp in Meadows of Dan. It was around four oclock when I reached my destination for the day, but I did not feel like staying there. I had a good ride that day, the weather was super fine, and the sun was still high up in the sky. Yeah, I cant forget to mention the euphoria I felt all day. To heck with it, Ill keep going. I thought to myself. And while this decision led to an inconvenience later on, looking back at the entire trip it was the right decision. Had I not make time that day, I would have gotten stuck in bad weather later. So, after the mandatory photo op at Mabry Mill (from the Mid-Appalachia exhibit side), I kept riding south. Towards the evening, I was getting low on gas, so I punched in gas on my GPS, which then led me to a town called Galax, VA. I stopped at a gas station, pumped, and went inside to get a Red Bull. The fellow at the station was very nice, and we talked for a bit. Then, when I went out, I couldnt find my ignition key. Before rummaging through my tankbag, I had a smoke and looked over the map. Suddenly, the guy from the station comes out. Hey foreigner, he says, have you lost a key? Hes holding my key in his hand. I take it, thank him, and say something like, Oh God, I wondered where I put it. He turns and points his finger at me. Do not take the Lords name in vain! he says very seriously. Okay, alone in a small town in the middle of nowhere, I explain I didnt mean any disrespect. He then tells me that it would be good for me to stick around and visit some church in West Jefferson both to enjoy the frescoes and to raise my spirit. I thank him, get on the bike, and get the hell out of there. This is where my GPS failed me for the first time. Instead of routing me back to the BRP, I somehow ended up on the interstate. Oh crap. By the time I realized that there was no way to get back on the parkway before dark, I saw signs for Winston-Salem or for Statesville. A quick glance at the map, and I merged towards Statesville, got off the highway at the first hotel, and called it a day. So, this is the inconvenience I spoke of earlier. Instead of being on the BRP, I ended up in Red Roof Inn near the highway. Well, life goes on. I got a room with parking right in front of it, unloaded my gear, and had a shower. After dinner, I lubed my chain, checked my tires, and called devo2002 (a fellow ADVer making a similar trip). Like I, he started on Skyline and, coincidentally, was spending the night in Asheville, which is only an hour or so away from where I was. We agreed to meet on BRP the next morning and ride a few hours together. <table class="tr-caption-container" style="margin-left: auto; margin-right: auto; text-align: center;" align="center" cellpadding="0" cellspacing="0"><tbody> <tr><td style="text-align: center;"></td></tr> <tr><td class="tr-caption" style="text-align: center;">Combined total day 1 and 2</td></tr> </tbody></table> By the end of the day my left shoulder started to ache a little, and the old torn rotator cuff was acting up. But, it wasnt anything Tiger Balm couldnt take care off. Overall, it was a good days worth of riding. Day 3: Shortly after 6 oclock in the morning I got out of a shower, loaded my gear on the bike, and turned on a local weather channel. There was some talk of a snowstorm in Chicago and the cold front heading up my way. Well, the weather outside looked nothing like it mid seventies but the air was really humid and thick. Nevertheless, both the bear and I were happy. The anchor was mumbling something about potential severe weather once the cold front were to arrive, which was to be within the next day or so. After breakfast, I checked out and called Devo2002. We decided to meet just south of Asheville. I found my way to the BRP and an hour and half later I ran into Devo2002 at a pull-off. He was planning to head to Sylva, while I wanted to hit Deals Gap. We rode what was left of the BRP together. This section of the parkway had plenty of curves, ascends and descends, and was riddled with short tunnels. A very nice ride. Unlike my previous two days, we ran into quite a few other riders and some cars. After the mandatory photo stop at the highest point, we continued south. At the end of the Parkway I was running low on gas again, so I decided to cut across the Cherokee Reservation on my way to Deals Gap. Devo rode with me down the winding road, which looked like a lot of fun until we arrived in the populated area. There was just too much tourist crap down there, the traffic was pretty slow, and from the sights of it (casino and shops), it did not look any different than going to any of the Indian casino areas up north. We had a lunch at a local burger joint, checked out a Tribal Police cruiser, and then Devo left for Sylva. My shoulder was hurting pretty badly, and I needed a little break, so I parked the bike and went to get a cool drink at the casino. An hour later (and with less money), I bailed out of there and headed for Deals Gap. A few miles after the strip, the riding became more enjoyable. After I cleared the reservation and arrived near Robbinsonville, the roads were amazing. There were quite a few other bikes on the road, and at one point I passed by a squid doing at least 100mph wearing a T-shirt. I dont get these guys. Before heading to the Gap, I stopped by Wheelers bike shop I underestimated the wear on my rear tire, and I could feel it becoming unstable in the twisties. I still had some thread left, but it was pretty squared, providing less support in the turns. Wheeler had a tire I could use, but putting on a new tire just before the Gap would be rather silly. I told myself that if I was in the area the next day, I would stop by and change it, but this never materialized. Anyway, onto the Deals Gap. The entire area is filled with awesome roads. I played around rte 28 a little, some of rte 143, then headed to 129. Yes, I did stop by the store and got my Dragon sticker (had to, after all those miles). The Dragon itself was a nice ride. Very cool curves, switching back and forth. Fortunately, there wasnt much traffic, and except one supermoto I waved to pass me, there was no one behind me or in front of me. Still, the squared rear tire kept my speed in check. A few photos shot by Killboy: After that, I pulled off and enjoyed the spectacular views of the dam. I guess Im not all that excited about the Gap. Sure, it was a nice ride, and had many, many curves. Was it worth the trip? Yes, it was, and Im glad I did it. But there are many roads in the Northeast that I find more thrilling. Im fortunate to have ridden on a few amazing roads in my life, and one that I tend to compare other roads to is La Masca in the Canary Islands. That sucker was just plain amazing. <table class="tr-caption-container" style="margin-left: auto; margin-right: auto; text-align: center;" align="center" cellpadding="0" cellspacing="0"><tbody> <tr><td style="text-align: center;"></td></tr> <tr><td class="tr-caption" style="text-align: center;"> Photo courtesy of: www.amazing-world-in-free-stock-pictures-and-photos.com</td></tr> </tbody></table><table class="tr-caption-container" style="margin-left: auto; margin-right: auto; text-align: center;" align="center" cellpadding="0" cellspacing="0"><tbody> <tr><td style="text-align: center;"></td></tr> <tr><td class="tr-caption" style="text-align: center;">Photo courtesy of: http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/UserhilippN</td></tr> </tbody></table> I continued down on 129 to Maryville where I had a snack and filled up my tank. The mid afternoon air was just plain nasty sticky and around 86 degrees. The guy at the gas station suggested to take rte 321 to the Smoky Mountains. At the beginning, 321 was a nice ride. After Townsend, I took off on rte 73 for a little bit, then turned back and went on Wears Valley Rd towards Pigeon Forge. A bad mistake. While Wears Valley road had some wonderful views, this only made for a bigger shock once I hit Pigeon Forge and Gatlinburg. Can anyone spell hell? One tourist attraction after another, traffic jams, traffic lights, construction, cars all over the place. The road was called Smokey Mountains Parkway, but trust me, sitting in traffic for over an hour to clear only a few miles, with the sun beating down on me, all the while my cooling fan ran almost constantly made me quite miserable. Unfortunately, there was no easy way out of that mess, so I just suffered through it until the mess was behind me. At that point, I think I ended up on Rte 321, which was a good ride, and I started heading north/east. As the sun descended I was somewhere near Bristol, TN. I pulled into town, filled the bike up, and had a smoke. Looking around me, I did not feel all that comfortable down there. Something about the surroundings and the way people drove around triggered my spidey sense. I got on the bike again, rolled onto the highway, and drove to the next town over Abigdon, VA. I found a hotel near the highway and called it a day. <table class="tr-caption-container" style="margin-left: auto; margin-right: auto; text-align: center;" align="center" cellpadding="0" cellspacing="0"><tbody><tr><td style="text-align: center;"></td></tr> <tr><td class="tr-caption" style="text-align: center;">Total for day 1, 2, and 3</td></tr></tbody></table> Day 4: I didnt get much sleep the night before. When I first checked into the hotel, the lady at the front desk had only second floor rooms available. Well, after we chatted for a few minutes, she understood that keeping an eye on my bike was my first priority. She then offered me a handicap access room, which was right next to the lobby. On top of this, she let me roll my bike right in front of my room. So, after I checked in and all that, I stepped out of my room to lube the chain and all that. Needless to say, a bike parked in front of a room, right next to the lobby is a sure way to start a conversation. There was this one fellow from Memphis, a retired airforce pilot, and we spent almost two hours chatting by the bike. Then, when I finally got to bed, some kids down the street kept revving their rice burners until the police sirens shut them up. However, despite the fact that I was beat by the time I fell asleep, I woke up around 5 oclock. I went outside, had a smoke, and looked at the sky. The sun was rising, but the sky looked rather dismal. After a shower, I threw my gear onto the bike, and went inside to check the weather. The tri-cities station was talking about bad weather for the day thunderstorms, rain , then they went back to the news and talked about some guy being arrested for moonshining. Okay, what year is this? I tried to get some breakfast at the lobby but all they had was biscuits and gravy. At six oclock? No thank you. When I got back to the room, the TV was still on and then I heard the words I did not want to hear: Possible tornado warning! It was to be happening within the hour. Dont get me wrong, but tornadoes are the last thing I want to see while on a bike. I put my riding jacket on, slipped into the boots, checked out and hit the starter. The easiest and fastest way to get out of dodge was the highway, so I jumped onto 81 North twisted the throttle. I could see the storm in my mirror, but, except some rain, I managed to outrun it. I rode hard until Roanoke, where I pulled over to get some breakfast. While eating, I sent a text to Devo to see if he was anywhere nearby. He text me back that he was on the BRP getting blown around. Remembering the awful weather along NC coast a couple days earlier, I scratched my plan to ride home along the coast, and decided to try reaching NH iron butt style. By the time I got back on 81N, the traffic was pretty heavy. When I came down on 81 Sunday, there were but a few trucks. On Thursday, however, the trucks greatly outnumbered other vehicles. There isnt much to report here. I hit it just above the speed limit and rode as long as I could, taking only the stops I needed to, either to stretch or to get gas. Back at Wheelers near Deals Gap, I did not get the tire, and I was regretting that decision shortly before Winchester, VA at a rest stop. My rear was going pretty bald from all the slab. Trying to get a new rear tire, I pulled off the highway in Winchester and started looking for a bike shop. First stop was a Yamaha dealership, which did not have the right tire size in stock. I then tried the Harley place right across the street from there, since they had a big Buell sign and Buell bikes use similar tires. I was politely told that even if they had the right tire, they would not work on my bike as their insurance prohibits them from working on anything but HD or Buell. Whether this was just a bunch of bullshit or not, doesnt really matter. Next stop was Shenandoah Honda, where I came up empty-handed again. Last stop, the last bike shop I could find in Winchester, was a small shop off the highway 2 exits up. Again, I came out empty-handed. Looks like 130/80 17 is not a popular tire in Virginia. I hit the road again and rode, and rode, and rode. Theres nothing else to report, as thats all I did. Once I crossed MD, the shit got worse. More trucks, more crap on the road, more smog. Instead of going through 81N to Scranton to hit 84, I went towards NYC. But trust me, the closer I was to NJ, the less enthused I was about hitting the NJTP. Judging by the time, I would be arriving in NYC by around 5-6pm and that was no time to be in NYC with all its traffic. At Allentown, I bailed off 78, took 33 to Stroudsburg. I had enough of the superslab at this point, so 209 along the Delaware Water Gap looked really appealing. It was worth the extra time. The only mistake I made there was taking 209 business instead of straight 209, so I wasted about an hour to get out of town. Once out, I rode along the water to Middletown, where I took 84E. At a gas stop in Brewster, NY I noticed my hands were shaking a bit. I also had a real weird feeling once I took my helmet off not tired, but almost drunken-like. Maybe I inhaled too much of exhaust fumes that day. Anyway, I was in no shape to ride the remaining 300 miles to NH, so I booked it to Danbury, CT where I found a hotel and crashed for the night. Despite eating and drinking a ton of orange juice, that weird drunken feeling stuck with me until I went to sleep. <table class="tr-caption-container" style="margin-left: auto; margin-right: auto; text-align: center;" align="center" cellpadding="0" cellspacing="0"><tbody> <tr><td style="text-align: center;"></td></tr> <tr><td class="tr-caption" style="text-align: center;">Days 1-4 totals</td></tr> </tbody></table> Day 5: The final hours. In the morning, I called my wife that I would be home for lunch, and then I headed out of town. I must admit, it felt good to be in New England again. Not because of the people or the customs, but because of the roads. First, I took 7 from Danbury to Canaan, which was a blast! There is something about New England roads that I missed down south the ever-changing scenery. Dont get me wrong, the BRP and Skyline were beautiful, and the entire area around Fontana was even better, but a lot of those roads go on and on without much change. Here, even on the simple Rte 7, the view changes every few minutes. I even got a couple of pics with some heavy machinery. From Canaan, I continued north to Pittsfield, MA, where I got off 7 and headed for the Mohawk Trail. Well, as my luck has it, the Berkshires managed to hit me hard again. Riding south, I got wet in the Berkshires. Riding north, it started snowing. What the .! I can only recall one time when I was on the bike in the area that it neither rained nor snowed. Day earlier I was at 86 degree weather, so the change was rather strange. Since my feet and hands were freezing, I had to pull over at Dalton to put some extra layers on. After that, I rode all the way home without stopping, except for picking up a new rear tire at a local dealership. Overall, this was an amazing trip. Although I had to cut it short, I got to see parts of the country I never saw before, met some cool people I wouldnt have met otherwise, and rode some roads I only read about until then. Would I do it again? Sure, but not any time soon. Next long trip is going to be either Michigans Upper Peninsula, or Canada. Most of the people I talked to down south knew nothing about NH. They all assumed that anything north of PA is the same as MA, NYC, or CT. If only they knew. Most importantly though, you gotta love this country. The freedom to get on a bike, to ride a couple thousand miles without the need for a passport, visas, currency exchange, or a dictionary is something we all take for granted. The next time you are on the road, just remember that despite all the crap that goes on, we are still somewhat free, and this great country of ours has so much to offer. No two states are alike, the scenery, customs, and people change from region to region, so get out there and experience it. Its good for the soul.