Apalachian Adventure

Discussion in 'Ride Reports - Epic Rides' started by nulldevice, Oct 9, 2019.

  1. nulldevice

    nulldevice Adventurer

    Dec 2, 2012
    Akron, OH
    The Eight Day Adventure

    Wadsworth OH (home) to Altoona PA to Front Royal to the Skyline Drive and Blue Ridge Parkway to Asheville NC to visit my sister and her family then on to Tellico Planes TN for the Cherohalla Sky Way – Tail of the Dragon area for a couple days then pack up and hightail it for home in one day. That was the plan, and we all know we make plans to amuse the Fickle Finger of Fate.

    Day One, home to Altoona PA

    The fickle finger sticks itself in before I even start the scooter. The lawyer’s office called and needed some papers signed and can’t wait until I return. OK, that is only about a half hour to do. HA! I stop at the ATM for some cash for the trip then head for Medina. Early in the trip to the lawyer I caught up to a heavily loaded semi – on a road that is all double yellow line, with long, steep hills. Which lead to a road closure detour in very heavy traffic, still behind the slow moving semi. I signed the papers and fired up the GPS. Since the starting point was different and it was an hour later start I abandoned the original route and told the GPS “Give me the fastest route to Altoona, PA”.

    The Interstate and turnpike traffic was intense and my attention was on the traffic, not the instrument panel. One empty tank of gas later I was sitting on the side of the Interstate in Pittsburg on a blind curve in a deep rock cut with traffic going by at high speed, with no cell service except 911. The 911 people were understanding. I put my earplugs in to muffle the traffic noise, climbed up onto the 5 foot tall retaining wall at the edge of the shoulder, laid down and waited. The safety patrol showed up about 30 minutes later with a couple gallons of gas, then I was on my way again to Altoona.

    Since it was a much longer day than anticipated with more tension while riding I found an inexpensive motel instead of finding a campground. Still no cell phone service. I emailed the wife, watched a little You Tube, and went to bed.

    Day two, Altoona PA to Matthew’s Arms Campground, Skyline Drive

    I had fun in Altoona visiting the horseshoe curve, its museum, and the railroad museum. The funicular cars to the observation park at the curve had a quirky mid to late 1800s look. I watched a couple trains go by. Let me warn you all, when you go there take your earplugs with you. The screech of the wheel flanges against the rail on the upgrade trains is amazing and painful! There is a small museum specifically about the horseshoe curve in the funicular station and well worth spending some time with the displays and especially the videos.

    The railroad museum is very well done. I left somewhat depressed because it echoed the loss of the rubber industry in Akron which vastly impacted my life. I hope to return for another visit. There were a couple people having lunch in the parking lot when I came out. We had a nice conversation about my trailer’s contents, design, building materials and towing techniques. That lightened my mood.

    The trip to and camping at the Matthew’s Arms campground was uneventful. The night sky was awesome. The light pollution is a lot less than home and the campground was well darkened. I saw the stars and their colors like I haven’t seen since sputnik was launched.

    Day 3, Matthew’s Arms to Peaks of Otter Blue Ridge Park Way

    The scenery is full-on Smokey Mountains views and traffic is very light. I got more compliments on my trailer, and even had a couple different people follow me into turn outs to see it, discuss the whys and hows of its construction, and swap motorcycle stories. Gasoline can be hard to find on the BRPW. I got a little nervous before I finally found a gas station, but no problems this time. From the amount I pumped in I must have had at least a half pint of gas left in the tank. In general just a nice, mostly stress free day of motorcycling on a good paved surface.

    No cell phone service, no Internet.

    Day 4, Peaks of Otter to Roaring Gap NC

    Got up, packed up, started the day’s ride. After a while I went hunting for a gas station. My Nuvi GPS has a what’s ahead function, so I clicked on the gas station icon and started following its directions. It took a while because the GPS pointed me down a side road called the Wert Falkner Highway. Adventure started big time at this point.

    It started out as a paved narrow two lane road, became a really narrow paved road that started down a steep grade. Then the dirt and gravel started and it was too steep, narrow, and bad footing to turn around and I was fully committed. I spent the next hour (or so it seemed) at 3 – 5 MPH with the motor off coasting down this dirt and gravel forest service road riding the brakes all the way down. Much of the time the traction was so bad the best I could do was to keep from gaining more speed. I made it to the bottom and eventually to pavement and a gas station. No, I did not try to return to the parkway on this road. It would take a four wheel drive with low range gearbox to climb this hill.

    Adventure riding indeed. I would like to hear about long decent speed control techniques. I am sure I missed something to try if there is ever a next time.

    After a rather long day that in addition included quite a bit of urban riding to bypass a closed section of parkway I decided to wimp out and stay at a motel for the night. The one I found at Roaring Gap NC was a gone to seed faux glamorous motel/restaurant from the 1950s. Seedy, yes, but it was clean, the plumbing and electricity worked, the AC worked, an inspection of the bed and bedding exposed no bed bugs, and the mattress was no lumpier than mine is back home. It was also inexpensive. The restaurant served very good food too. It felt like I had fallen into an alternate reality time warp, but all in all a nice inexpensive place to stop for the night.

    Still no cell phone service but WiFi was available. I emailed the wife to let her know all was well.

    Day 5, Roaring gap NC to my sister’s home in Asheville NC
    Yet another glorious morning as I headed out to reconnect to the Blue Ridge Park Way. After an hour or two getting thoroughly enjoyably lost I turned on the GPS and got serious about finding the Park Way and getting to Asheville.

    During the day there is the usual finding gas anxiety episode but all went well until I stopped for a picnic lunch at one of the picnic pull-offs. I was just getting ready to eat when the arrival of a thunderstorm announced its self with a bolt of lightning and thunder worthy of Jove himself. Got soaked before I could drag out and put on the rain poncho. I finished eating then realized it was starting to hail so I sought shelter under the eaves of a restroom along with a half dozen other motorcycle riders. After I put away the poncho and headed out, and ran into another thunder storm about 10 miles down the road. Eventually the heavy rain stopped and off I went. I found dry roads about 3 miles further down the road and got down to the business of getting to Sue’s place for the evening. She and I had a great time catching each other up on family news.

    Still no cell phone service, so I used their land line to call home and let my wife know all was well.

    Day 6, Asheville NC to Tellico Planes TN
    I stayed and visited until mid-afternoon and then headed out to Tellico Planes with the GPS set in get-me-there-soonest mode. This meant Interstate highways and urban traverses. The only remarkable thing was the 99 degrees on the highway through Chattanooga. It wasn’t too bad, lots of water and frequent stops for shade and water made it endurable. Things got better when I started to climb back up into the mountains in the early evening.

    I made it to Tellico Planes and the Cherohala Mountain Motorcycle Resort near sunset. By twilight I was set up and in the gloaming I made supper, then got ready for bed and read a novel for a while.

    No cell phone service, WiFi was available. Messaged the wife letting her know all was well. Went to sleep early.

    Day 7, the sky way and the dragon
    I really enjoy the Cherohalla Sky Way and Tail of the Dragon. The Sky Way has predictable sweeping curves with scenic turnouts and the Dragon has difficult technical curves you dare not remove your eyes from. Lots of fun and did the two roads both ways that day and engaged in some willful getting lost on other roads too.

    Got back to camp, made supper, gathered and packed all I could, hitched the trailer up and checked the lights, and went to bed. I was very tired.

    Day 8, Tellico Planes TN to Wadsworth OH
    I finished packing up and set the GPS to fastest-route mode and off early. Things went well until Chattanooga where I ran into one of those mysterious traffic jams which have no discernible cause. A five minute full stop followed by 20 minutes of 5 – 25 MPH bumper to bumper. Not bad at all and things went well until I approached Cincinnati. There was the inevitable 30 MPH Interstate traffic through a city at early rush hour with episodes of stopped or very slow traffic. That started to clear out when I ran into heavy-but-moving along traffic near Kings Island.

    Columbus was another matter. Full bore bumper to bumper with frequent stops and speeds in the 5 to 30 MPH range from down town to the exurbs. Just as the traffic sorted itself out there was a full stop which lasted nearly an hour while a wreck was cleared from the road. The temperature was still showing 99 on the scooter’s dashboard. I drank quite a bit of water and sloshed some on my clothes to help keep me, let is say, not-overheated.

    After that it was clear sailing home and I was filking truck driving songs and happy to get home.

    I’ve a mean motor scooter with a 400cc drive
    It gets me where I’m going and so far I’m still alive
    I just passed me a Volvo tonight
    There ain’t a red light in sight
    Eight days on the road and I’ll be seeing my life’s love tonight