American Beauty: Sponsored by Uncle Sam (or, the F800GS hits the BRP)

Discussion in 'Ride Reports - Epic Rides' started by Slappy McGee, Sep 23, 2008.

  1. Slappy McGee

    Slappy McGee Fatty Fat

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    Like just about everyone on the eastern seaboard of the United States, I’ve heard about the Blue Ridge Parkway, a scenic road that winds through North Carolina and Virginia. The entire idea of the Parkway is diametrically opposed to modern motorways, most being designed to get the maximum number of people to a destination as quickly as possible. The BRP winds through the Blue Ridge Mountains, clinging to the side of rolling hills and favoring circuitous routing to provide its users with stellar views rather than a straight shot designed for rapid arrival at one’s destination, the ideal philosophy for travel by motorcycle.

    I’ve always had plans to spend some significant time on the BRP, but past rides had only afforded a five or ten mile stint on the road on the way to other destinations. When my wife left town to visit her parents and mentioned they were renting a timeshare outside Williamsburg, VA and I should head in that direction to pick her up at the end of the visit, a plan was formed. Four hours in the car was not an attractive option, especially with a week-old F800GS that I was eager to take on its first multi-day trip. Staring at a map of potential routes between Charlotte, NC, and Williamsburg, VA., roughly 300 miles to the northeast, I plotted a course that only a motorcyclist could love: due West to pick up the BRP near Ashville, NC.

    As a diehard free market, small government fan, the circumstances behind the construction of the road are a bit anathema to me. The road was one of the Civilian Conservation Corps programs launched in the 1930’s in response to the Great Depression. The CCC was a massive government program designed to create jobs by engaging in huge construction projects with little pragmatic aim. The Blue Ridge Parkway does not connect any major cities, and has a painfully low speed limit, designed to prevent people from driving over a precipice as they gawk at the mountain views. Along its 355 miles are carefully crafted stone bridges and wood fences, a reminder of the time when the United States was a land of craftsmen and appearance and integration with the local flora and fauna more important than expediency or raw technical prowess.

    Politics be dammed, there was riding to do.

    [​IMG]
    #1
  2. Slappy McGee

    Slappy McGee Fatty Fat

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    For most of my life I’ve been what the “Big and Tall” stores optimistically call “Athletic Build.” To this day I’m unsure which athletic pursuits require an overall round shape, but during the past several months I had taken up running in order to trim down a bit and reduce my carbon footprint. To that effect, my BRP trip’s departure day started off with my first 5K run, aptly termed “the Hog Jog.” I finished in a reasonable time, and could not help gloating a bit as my “athletic build” passed some dramatically less rotund folks struggling on the hills. Health improved and copious perspiration dissipated with a quick shower, I loaded up the F800GS.

    While the Blue Ridge area has wonderful camping opportunities, I had decided to motel it this trip and see how the upper crust does it. Aside from forgoing the administrative hassle of dealing with tents and other camping accoutrements, the F800 did not yet have any bags, and with my wife joining me for the third and final day as we rode home, onboard space was at a premium. I loaded the essentials into a tail bag and was ready to roll.

    [​IMG]

    A few minutes before departure, Jwalters, a local fellow ADV’er gave me a ring. We had talked about meeting up for coffee or riding together for a bit, but he mentioned he had errands to run and other obligations to society at large. I told him I was headed for the BRP and he mentioned in a noncommittal voice that he might be headed in that direction, and perhaps we could meet up. With a firm commitment of a definite maybe from Jwalters, I turned the key, watched the gauges on the bike do their pre-ignition “happy dance” and thumbed the starter.
    #2
  3. zadok

    zadok Long timer

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    Tease.:D:lurk
    #3
  4. mrbreeze

    mrbreeze I keep blowing down the road Supporter

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    Oh no, don't tell me - nothing happened. BMW's reputation takes another thrashing. Just when we thought it couldn't get any worse, now we have starting problems on the new 800 GS. :cry
    #4
  5. GB

    GB . Administrator Super Moderator Super Supporter

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    Congrats! :thumb thanks for the intro..

    let's see the 800GS on the BRP :lurk
    #5
  6. JoeyBones

    JoeyBones Encouraging Entropy

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    Subscribed. Planning the BRP run myself some day soon!
    #6
  7. jeffjbmw

    jeffjbmw Threadkiller

    Joined:
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    Magdalena, NM
    Having done the BRP end-to-end many many times, I never tire of the views, the challenge of the ride (watch for the rangers, they can give tickets...but they don't count for points on the state license...:clap) or the way the BRP chews the shit out of your tires.

    I rode on a weekend day, in the rain with my sweety on our BMW's (R1200GS, R1150RS) and had a ball. We passed along the way a bunch of oldsters riding scooters with full camping gear tied on the back!

    Watch for the deer this time of year, but it is a great place to ride........
    #7
  8. Slappy McGee

    Slappy McGee Fatty Fat

    Joined:
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    The F800GS is a bit like what I imagine George W. Bush must have been like in college. Outwardly refined and with impeccable grooming, but put the juice to either (whether said juice is 91 octane or white powder) and you end up with a cacophony of undirected sound and fury with one, and a finely tuned yet raucous motorcycle on the other.

    The Carolinas are truly God’s county when it comes to motorcycling. Before leaving the northeast I had heard all the jokes about southerners and talk of backward people from backwater towns. Tired of riding for hours to escape industrial wasteland, multi-lane highways and suburban sprawl, I ended up relocating to the Charlotte a bit over a year ago. While it’s a major city by any standard, twenty minutes outside the urban jungle one finds well-maintained one and two lane roads, both paved and unpaved and Starbucks are rapidly replaced with farmland and forest. Even on a weekend day putting a destination into the GPS and telling it to avoid highways results in empty roads save for an occasional tractor or horse.

    [​IMG]

    Following the back roads, I sped away from the Charlotte area. Most rural roads in the area have high speed limits, generally 55, so little time is lost by taking the road less traveled and sheer riding pleasure exponentially increased. I wound my way to Lake Lure, a picturesque albeit somewhat touristy town in western North Carolina where the mountains of the western part of the state begin to assert themselves.

    [​IMG]

    The area is filled with twisty roads made for motorcycling, and if one is lucky enough to find themselves free of any RV’s or other slow-moving vehicles in front of them, the riding is fantastic. Despite being Saturday, traffic was relatively light, and I was able to learn the bike over in the corners and enjoy myself. Even with the increased power, the F800 is noticeably lighter than the F650GS I owned before, and was a joy to throw around the corners.

    [​IMG]
    #8
  9. SgtMike

    SgtMike facebook.com/mikeraces

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    I'm on the north end of Charlotte, let's put the BRP on the calander!
    #9
  10. Slappy McGee

    Slappy McGee Fatty Fat

    Joined:
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    I stopped for lunch in the town of Chimney Rock, named after the nearby rock formation that looks, well, like a Chimney. The area is astoundingly beautiful, and the climatic end scene of Last of the Mohegan’s was filmed here. (I won’t spoil the movie, but it’s the one with one of the leading ladies. If you haven’t seen it, turn off Jerry Springer and rent this sucker. Easier than reading the book and one of those movies that makes shallow barflies think you’re classy when you allude to it).

    In your average large town or city, layers of concrete, neatly groomed parks and endless asphalt makes one think we have Big Mamma Nature firmly subdued. One of the most interesting parts of the town of Chimney rock, and much of the western Carolinas is the sense that man has, at best, reached a stalemate with her, although I think in many areas nature has the upper hand. Abandoned buildings are quickly overrun with plant life, and in Chimney Rock, twenty paces off the touristy main street has you smack dab in the middle of rugged environs.

    [​IMG]

    I pulled my steed into Genny’s Family Restaurant, looking forward to a feast after the morning’s run and a lack of food save for some bread and honey post-race. Genny prominently advertised several specials on her whiteboard, all of which included staples of southern cuisine like hushpuppies, okra, trout and other delights. Foregoing the air conditioned dining room, I walked out to the back deck and was rewarded with views of a high cliff and rushing stream that looked like a shot out of a movie. Pictures of the area simply could not do it justice and I would be insulting nature by posting them.

    Drawn into Genny’s by the trout special, the words “fresh local bacon” caused an immediate change in tactics. How could a carnivore (meat tastes like murder and murder taste pretty damned good) forgo such an option? A few minutes later, a bacon cheeseburger arrived, flanked by hushpuppies, coleslaw and sautéed mushrooms, the latter two options a half-hearted nod towards healthy eating.

    Stomach and eyes full, I checked my voicemail and found a message from Jwalters, saying he had left according to plan and was heading north. I checked the maps and Boone, NC looked like a decent place to spend the evening. A friend had mentioned it was a college town ripe with cheap beer and a party atmosphere, and I was as thirsty as a drunk returning from Ramadan. I conveyed this vague plan to the friendly robot who manned Jwalters voicemail and was back on the road. The twisties continued out of Chimney Rock, and I started seeing signs for Asheville, my entry to the BRP.
    #10
  11. Wildman

    Wildman Long timer

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    :lurk
    #11
  12. Ironman

    Ironman Been here awhile

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    Greenville, SC
    :lurk

    Headed up there in October!
    #12
  13. jwalters

    jwalters Farkle Proliferator

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    Dude, even I want to know what happens. Keep it coming! :D
    #13
  14. Bad Piggy

    Bad Piggy Been here awhile

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    Mint Hill NC
    Reading your post makes me want follow your tracks. It must be nice to be able to take ride in the middle of the week. How come you suck! J/K. Keep us posted:lurk
    #14
  15. Timba

    Timba Luckiest Man Alive

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    Somewhere in the Hill Country of Texas
    :lurk :lurk :lurk

    When's the next installment?
    #15
  16. Slappy McGee

    Slappy McGee Fatty Fat

    Joined:
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    I piloted the F800 up the onramp to the Blue Ridge Parkway, paying little attention to the bright orange DETOUR sign at the onramp. As I accelerated to the parkway-wide 45 mph speed limit, I saw another similar sign. Hoping that this signified that the BRP was part of a detour route for some other road, I continued onward.

    Like any good traveler, my plans for this trip were thrown together at the last minute, and of course that meant I did nothing as gauche as checking to see if any of the BRP was closed at any point. After all, it was summertime and the parkway just had to be fully open. After less than a mile, I was greeted with the sign I feared: “ROAD CLOSED AHEAD.” Again, being the mighty adventurer I continued forward with only a modicum of concern, assuming this was some kind of sign to keep the riff raff away, or that perhaps the road closure was for a downed tree to something innocuous, and I could wheelie over the obstacle doing my best Evil Kenieval impersonation. Stopping at some impressive looking gates and recalling the outcome of the forgotten 60’s signer who fought the law, I stowed my Evil Kenieval cape and retreated in the direction I had come, head hung low.

    I followed the detour signs with growing dismay as they plopped me onto Interstate 40, a road diametrically opposed to the entire concept of the BRP. Hoping for a short slab trip, my dismay increased when I saw the sign explaining that I had over 40 miles to travel for the detour. Providence only knows what terrors had conspired to close forty miles of the BRP, and bucking up I settled into 6th gear and cruised along.
    Even with my Zumo providing musical entertainment by way of its MP3 player, getting stupid songs stuck in ones’ head while droning along on the highway is one of the prime occupational hazards I’ve encountered in my motorcycling career. On today’s agenda was an endless loop of the chorus of that godforsaken James Taylor song:

    “In my mind I’m going to Carolina…”

    Between loops I recalled the countless times I’ve heard that song as it was one of the three or four cassettes my father owned, and generally ended up combined with other upbeat dance numbers from Sade, nearly killing me until Phil Collins would lighten the mood a bit.

    “I’ve seen sunny days that I thought would never end…”

    How could the generation that brought us such drug fueled classics as Riki Tiki Tavi, White Rabbit and Crimson and Clover now be reduced to:

    “I’ve seen lonely days when I could not find a friend…”

    Finally, near the town of Marion, the Orange signs reappeared, directing me to leave Mr. Taylor and the slab behind. The detour took me up to Route 226, a nice twisty mountain road that let some of the other options in the gearbox get a workout, finally depositing me back on the BRP. At the first “scenic overlook” I stopped to enjoy the quiet and dearth of 18 wheel vehicles.

    [​IMG]
    #16
  17. Gummee!

    Gummee! That's MR. Toothless

    Joined:
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    Is there a Marion, NC? Or were you in Marion, VA?

    Either way, :lurk

    M
    #17
  18. jwalters

    jwalters Farkle Proliferator

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    #18
  19. dwestly

    dwestly Refuses to Grow Up!

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    Just a note for everyone. If you're headed to western NC in the next week or so, Oct 2-5 is the Smoky Mountain bike rally, centered around the Fontana Dam/Tail of the Dragon (US 129) area. That means it will be packed with bikes during that time.
    #19
  20. OldSchoolMike

    OldSchoolMike Been here awhile

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    Grand Lake, Oklahoma
    :rofl:rofl:rofl:rofl:rofl:rofl
    #20