"Not from around here, are ya?" A Yank heads south

Discussion in 'Epic Rides' started by ironeagle, Nov 1, 2013.

  1. ironeagle

    ironeagle Adventurer

    Joined:
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    Long Island, NY, USA
    Since I just finished my first report-worthy (>7 day) ride, I might as well make it ADVrider official. Stay tuned for some scary camping stories, pretty pictures featuring a not-so-pretty bike, and see which painfully obvious lessons I learned the hard way on my first ever long ride!
    #1
  2. ironeagle

    ironeagle Adventurer

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    I. Pre-ramble.

    There are tons of good reasons to hop on a motorcycle. Some are attracted to the cheap power (one Bugatti Veyron or 150 R1's: tough choice, right?). Others like the visceral experience of moving and continuously responding to both machine and terrain as opposed to driving, which a fellow rider once described as "watching 4 window-shaped TV's." I'm sure more than a few also do it primarily to pick up babes, although this trip taught me that motorcycles are excellent for attracting dudes who ride/used to ride/wish they rode, but not a whole lot else. I suppose your mileage may vary on this one, but then I ride a motorcycle whose appearance and handling earn it endearing nicknames like "pig," "mule," and "donkey.":lol3 To be honest, I kind of like the 20-minute conversations that are now part of my gas stop routine.

    I originally started riding about a year ago because I was sold on the freedom that such a simple machine could give me. I had these fantastic notions of going out alone on cool adventures to places cars couldn't reach, camping out in undiscovered wilderness, fixing my bike myself when it broke down. You know, that intoxicating combination of the "finding yourself through adventure" thing and the "will I ever get another chance?" thing that strikes somewhere between the quarter and midlife mark and sells lots of ADV bikes. That vision persisted even after repeated confrontations with reality, like the time I sold my first bike, a '73 CB350 Four, out of frustration with the carbs/electrics, and when I took my next one (an '05 KLR) to the shop so they could take my knobbies off for me and put street tires on (because I wasn't sure I could do a tire change without breaking something important).

    With all these ideas firmly entrenched in my head, I set out last month on a trip from my hometown in Long Island down to Tennessee and back. I had a buddy working down in Knoxville I hadn't seen in a while, and a bike that seemed to be running OK, so flying down wasn't really an option. Instead, I spent 12 days riding, camping, and exploring bits and pieces of America I'd never seen, ultimately adding 2,600 miles to the odometer. One night on my way back I even got to stay with fellow inmates Jeff and Karen (SoPaRider and SoPaGuider) in Pennsylvania.

    It's pretty tame riding compared to some of the RR's I read on here, especially since I was never more than 1/2 tank or so from the next gas station and only did a few brief forays into dual-sport/off-road territory. Still, it took me well outside my comfort zone. And that's kind of the whole point, right?
    #2
  3. ironeagle

    ironeagle Adventurer

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    So I got a bit loaded last night and told motorcycling how I REALLY feel...:freakyAnyway, let's get to it. Making the bike trip-ready was pretty simple. An oil change, new galfer brake lines/pads, fork brace installation and I was ready to go. I felt pretty badass putting it up on a jack stand and pulling the forks off to put the new brace/boots on. It almost felt like I knew what I was doing! At the time I didn't want to spring for panniers or racks so I just strapped a dry bag and my backpack to the back of the bike.

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    I left LI early on Friday the 18th to take a ferry to New London, CT. A bit out of the way if I ultimately wanted to end up in Tennessee, but a small price to pay for avoiding NYC I think. Here I am striking a confident pre-departure pose:

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    Honestly, I was pretty scared at that point. I'd only spent a day or two riding with the extra weight, and this was my first ride more than 40 miles or so from home. I wasn't sure the bike or I would make it, and I had this weird fear that traffic rules would change and I wouldn't be able to figure them out in time. (As it turns out, most other places use stop signs and traffic signals too.) As soon as I pulled out of the driveway, I stopped thinking about post-ride plans entirely and just focused on directions, shelter for the night, and not fucking up.

    After a quick breakfast and a few circles around New London trying to find a nice little route to take me due west, I started to find some pretty cool twisty back roads in CT (Rt. 7, 37 and 39 to name a few). Anyone from LI knows the roads there are pretty much straight and flat, so this was a good warmup for the mountains further south.

    Sometime in the afternoon, I met another rider on the road and promptly bungled a tight curve. I pulled into the shoulder to avoid lowsiding and he buzzed past, leaving me to recover from the rush of adrenaline and embarrassment. Of course, this HAD to happen with another motorcycle behind me, but I was fortunate enough to recover from most of my other "oops" moments on the trip before people saw what a n00b I was.

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    After getting lost a few more times, I ended up near Bear Mountain in NY with dusk quickly setting in. I assumed it wouldn't be too hard to find a campground nearby, but I was wrong and the local park rangers put the kibosh on any stealth camping aspirations I had (although I guess it's not really in the spirit of stealth camping to go to the ranger station and ask to camp? :lol3). Long story short, this brave adventurer ended up roughing it in a nice little motel on Rt. 9 instead and taking a hot shower in the morning.
    #3
  4. VFR

    VFR Been here awhile

    Joined:
    Sep 22, 2007
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    783
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    Sunny (sometimes) SoCal
    Well, this ought to be a good one!!! That's about how you learn--just take off.

    I'm IN....
    #4
  5. ironeagle

    ironeagle Adventurer

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    Rural PA was really something else. I'd been through the area before, but mostly between stretches of I-80. Lots of back mountain roads to check out, and not a whole lot of cell service. Not that that's always a bad thing! I checked out some game preserves, and white-knuckled my way through my first "dual sport" experience.

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    I accidentally ended up on I-380 North near Tobyhanna and it was either take the interstate back the way I came or take a hunting access trail that ran roughly parallel for 10-12 miles. A cakewalk for anything with four wheels, but the loose gravel and rocks had me slipping and sliding a bit and I nearly lost the bike a few times.

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    Between back roads and trails there were lots of depressed, nearly empty rust belt towns I couldn't really tell apart. Definitely nothing like back home!

    It was starting to cloud up and rain a bit by 4 or so, so I decided to try and find a campground before it got too dark/wet. I saw a campground near Zion Grove on my phone map (Red Ridge Lake I think it was called), but couldn't get a hold of the main office. When I got there it was pretty eerie - campers and RV's parked everywhere but not a soul in sight.

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    There were kid's toys strewn about too, and the whole place had a kind of Chernobyl feel. No other campsites nearby though, and a guy who said he knew the owner dropped by and said I could stay. Apparently the place had just closed for the season, so I'd be the only resident that night.

    I decided to head into nearby Ringtown to grab some dinner. Pulling over (when there was a shoulder) to let tailgaters by and avoiding the grease/oil streaks that seemed to be everywhere added to the "fun" of riding twisty unfamiliar mountain roads in the dark and rain.:eek1

    When I finally got there, the only place open was this little pizza joint Mama B's but the folks there were pretty nice. They let me charge my phone and gave me a little back story on the area, like which bars I should avoid in Shenandoah (6 miles or so south - pretty much all of them:rofl).

    The girl behind the counter said I should be careful because the KKK liked to meet in the woods nearby, and that there was a recent unsolved murder not too far away too. :huh Nice! Not sure how much she was pulling my leg, but she definitely gave me a lot to think about while I tried to fall asleep at my deserted campground...

    After I made it back to the campsite I noticed the one of the inactive (or so I thought) campsites next to me had a fire going. I poked around and knocked on the RV door to be friendly and introduce myself, but nobody was home. Maybe this place was haunted after all! That, the murder story and the Klan kept me a wake for a few more hours, clutching my Ka-Bar camping knife and trying to convince myself I didn't hear people sneaking around outside my tent.

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    But, the next morning I woke up alive and well. I prepped the bike as the sun rose, and set out further southwest. I probably wasn't in any real danger that night, but I'll admit I was pretty scared, being used to sleeping in the safety and security of a house.
    #5
  6. AndytheElder

    AndytheElder Adventurer

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    Sep 6, 2009
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    Connecticut
    I have the same bike and a similar story from this summer. Looking forward to hearing all the details of your adventure.
    #6
  7. England-Kev

    England-Kev Long timer

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    Location:
    England. Somewhere on the Canal.
    :lurk
    #7
  8. ironeagle

    ironeagle Adventurer

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    Nice, where'd your trip take you? I'd have spent some more time exploring but I had to get back home to work etc.
    #8
  9. AndytheElder

    AndytheElder Adventurer

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    Connecticut
    The plan was to circumnavigate Nova Scotia after using Canuman's adventure route to get across Maine (http://www.advrider.com/forums/showthread.php?t=769424). That part worked out well. Part 2 was to camp at Fundy NP for a few days and that also was great. The evening before I planned on taking the St John ferry to Digby NS I discovered the KLR had a blown countershaft seal.

    After weighing my options, I decided to head back home. Two days later, after taking 50 mph secondary roads all the way to CT, I got back. Trip lasted 7 days. Nova Scotia will have to wait 'til next year.
    #9
  10. ironeagle

    ironeagle Adventurer

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    I was lucky enough not to have any major mechanical issues, although you probably rode yours a wee bit harder on your route! Looks like a trail I should check out myself, probably not for a few months though...
    #10
  11. ironeagle

    ironeagle Adventurer

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    The next day, I set out from my PA campsite hoping to make it to Virginia/WV. I rode into Shenandoah for breakfast (like 4 bucks for the lumberjack special). Looking around, I realized it was probably a good thing I went back to the campsite instead of hit the bars. This was a pretty seedy town, and I kept walking out to my bike to check on it for peace of mind. Signs of rust belt hardship everywhere, and bitterness to boot. Although one guy I met had a pickup with a yuengling tap shifter, so I guess some folks take it in stride… :)

    I hit PA 61 south towards Reading and stuck to back roads from there until I crossed into MD. At this point I was shooting for a campground in WV a bit west of the Antietam battlefield when I learned a couple of valuable life lessons. I finally got to what I thought was the campsite after spending an hour or so lost on back roads but it turned out to be just houses. I asked some locals and they said they'd never heard of a campsite near there. Be forewarned - if you're trying to find the Nahkeeta Campsite in Kearneysville, it's not where google says it is!

    Anyway, Life Lesson One. ALWAYS have a backup campsite or place to sleep. Nothing sucks more than riding around cold, tired and hungry after dark with nowhere to stay. Also, call the campground first to make sure they exist. Common sense, right? Well, not for some folks…

    I ended up at the "Comfort Suites" near Rte. 9 later that night. Needless to say, I didn't pose for any pictures in front. I learned from some locals at a bar nearby that there's a "new" hwy 9 right next to the old one, which is probably why I got lost. In the end, it only cost me $95 and a little pride!

    Monday was Skyline day. I rode south on Route 11 through Martinsburg and past a National Guard base where they keep those big C-5's. I tried to charm the guard to let me get in there and take a couple of pictures (at least of the F-84f monument in front) but she wouldn't have any of it. Maybe one shower wasn't enough…

    Skyline had some superb views, but everything moved pretty slowly and the overlooks sometimes had these sharp turns to get in (as I learned).

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    I was able to get the bike up again after this low-speed oops (gotta be honest though - I had a tough time doing the crawl-backwards method). I flooded the carbs out, which I didn't realize until after I'd attracted a bunch of attention unsuccessfully trying to start the bike.

    To be honest, I think the BRP was even nicer (and the price was right). You could go a little faster in those sweeping turns, and you got a better view of the mountains. I think Big Spy was my favorite overlook, maybe since I got there when the light was just right, and also because I met a guy who was super interested in getting a KLR.


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    My scenic BRP sunset ride was interrupted by a blown headlight fuse. Luckily, I'd had the same problem just before the trip so I knew the problem, and had the better fuses too. Thankfully I got her back together before dark and I was back on the road, despite losing some daylight.

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    I made it to the Lynchburg NW / Blue Ridge Parkway KoA late that night. It's address is listed as "Monroe, VA" but let me tell you - you'd be hard pressed to find this Monroe, or any other town, for miles. The campsite itself was about midway between Lexington and Lynchburg.

    Once I got set up, I decided to forage for some food. I rode the 20 miles or so to Buena Vista, but everything seems so much more remote when you're taking mountain twisties one headlight distance at a time (and sharing the road with some crazy 18-wheelers). I also passed by a couple of cars pulled over by the cops. So in addition to deer, scary unfamiliar mountain roads, nighttime, fast trucks, no cell service, we have drunk drivers coming out to play. Great! Thankfully, my efforts were handsomely rewarded:

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    #11
  12. Rutabaga

    Rutabaga Been here awhile

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    Southeast Lower Carolina
    I like the ride idea and I am enjoying the journey so far. Keep at it.
    #12
  13. junkyardroad

    junkyardroad Been here awhile

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    Before long you'll be one of the few who are, as the saying goes, watching the sun set over the ocean 10,000 miles from home wondering why it took you so long to get here.....
    #13
  14. ironeagle

    ironeagle Adventurer

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    Already planning my next trip...:evil This one's gotta have some more trails though. I almost felt bad riding the KLR on roads most of the time!
    #14
  15. junkyardroad

    junkyardroad Been here awhile

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    I'm hoping to do Patagonia in a couple of years on my KLR. Getting it ready now. Might as well go big, if you're gonna go! Allison (Allison's wonderland) did 'only' 2000 miles of dirt out of 16,000 miles. Think about that...2000 miles of dirt :1drink
    #15
  16. Dr. Greg

    Dr. Greg Tryin' to get home..

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    ABQ, New Mexico
    Hey, anyone that stays w/Jeff & Karen in C'burg is OK in my book...I spent a couple nights with them during my "Civil War" trip last fall. Great folks!

    Enjoying your pics and writeup...lookin' forward to more.

    --Doc
    #16
  17. ironeagle

    ironeagle Adventurer

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    Guess I better finish this thing already! I rode back to H&H market, the local hardware store/gas station/restaurant/ammunition depot/hangout, for a nice big lumberjack special in the morning. I can't recommend this place enough if you're near hwy 501 looking for a nice breakfast.

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    It was day 5, so I decided to just eat some interstate and get to Knoxville already. I took the BRP further south towards Roanoke and tried to find I-81 from there. Per Murphy's Law, I ended up lost in a rough part of town - doubly so since I couldn't seem to escape that unfinished grooved pavement that motorcycles just LOVE. But, I did get to see this cool old ladder truck:

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    Any locals know the history on this one?

    Coming into Knoxville on I-40 late at night, exhausted with a pounding headache, was less than fun. Semi trucks whizzing by, ambulances and cop cars lit up, and last-second mergers - I thought this was supposed to be fun! :lol3 Thankfully I hit the right exit and got to my buddy Max's place without any issues. I spent the next few days exploring Knoxville with Max, and experiencing the motorcycle paradise that is the south. At least it seems that way for a northeasterner:

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    Cherohala Skyway/The Dragon (of course!)

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    My only other confirmed KLR sighting: a rental bike from a shop a few miles south of the Dragon. Such handsome steeds!:evil

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    Windrock Park: a big ATV/offroad park near Oak Ridge. pay to play, but definitely worth it! A fun afternoon spent continuously almost dumping the bike.

    Leaving Knoxville I headed east into North Carolina so I could find the BRP again and take the part I missed on the way down. It was about 25 degrees out and I only had my riding gloves, so that meant stopping every 10 miles or so and sitting on my hands.

    After a night at the KoA site in Fancy Gap, I found SoPaRider's place on the tent space thread and shot up to Chambersburg PA to meet up. Jeff's been riding dual sports since way before I was born, so I got to learn quite a bit and we shared some cool road tales. Proof that DR and KLR people can get along!:rofl I wish I could have stayed a bit longer, but I had to head on to the next campsite. Every couple miles on highway 11 there you'd see warning signs about aggressive drivers, drunk drivers, distracted drivers, and not to mention "high crash areas."

    I ended up pitching my tent near Hazelton after a short riding day and met some nice locals at a nearby watering hole.

    I got up early the next day and made the final push through PA, upstate NY and CT back to New London. I just made it in time for the last boat back to LI, and got back home safely just under the 2,600 mile mark, much to the relief of everyone worried about me. The bike ran flawlessly, save for the headlight fuse. I only added a quart of oil the whole trip, and managed to avoid any of the KLR horror stories I've read about. Not too shabby!

    Already I can't wait to get back out there and find more of these:
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    and this too:
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    #17
  18. Rutabaga

    Rutabaga Been here awhile

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    734
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    Thanks for finishing the tale. Since you are up in the area already, how 'bouts a little tour of Long Island on a clear winter day with lots of pics? You, the jet boil, a six pack of instant cocoa all on the KLR for an adventure. :clap
    #18