Graduated, Got Divorced… I Need a Vacation – Blue Ridge Parkway

Discussion in 'Ride Reports - Day Trippin'' started by Telekinesis, Sep 25, 2019.

  1. Telekinesis

    Telekinesis Adventurer

    Joined:
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    Oddometer:
    60
    Oh, where to start… This is going to represent a lot of “firsts” for me. First time writing a ride report (woo!) so hopefully this turns out ok (happy to take suggestions, comments, and moderately snide criticisms). If anything, it’ll be practice for future reports. First real motorcycle trip (beyond weekend trips). First time motorcycle camping. And longest / farthest I have traveled on a bike.

    I’m going to try to update this as the trip progresses (and as wifi is available) mostly because I know that if I don’t, I’ll never get around to it.

    This is very much a “learn as I go” type of trip and if there’s any question, the answer is “no, I don’t have any idea what I’m doing”. My bike isn’t really where I want it to be for this type of travel, my camping gear and knowledge is best described as "lacking", and I know so little about this that according to the Dunning-Kruger curve I should consider myself an expert! Hopefully this trip will help me figure out how to prioritize my future upgrades.

    In short, I will be doing a big loop from Birmingham, AL to Charlotte, NC and back via the Blue Ridge Parkway and Highway 74.
    Miles: 974 (but let’s call it 1,000 so I feel a little more manly)
    Total riding time: 18 hours
    Total actual time: 5 days (because I’m lazy and like to see things on the way… and sleep)
    The bike: 2004 Suzuki V-Strom 1000, Silver (aren’t they all?) with a few mods here and there, but there is much left to do.



    [​IMG]
    #1
  2. Telekinesis

    Telekinesis Adventurer

    Joined:
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    The Backstory:

    (tl;dr, refer to thread title – good, scroll through poorly taken pictures, done! Back to arguing about oil viscosity)

    It all started back in 2012… when I found Colebatch’s Sibirsky Extreme 2012 ride report (has it really been 7 years?). Almost instantly I was changed from a college kid interested in sport bikes and track days to a rider who wanted to learn to ride off road and take marvelous adventures. Having previously visited Mongolia (on a non-moto trip unfortunately) to teach English to Mongolians, teach western leadership principles to Mongolian Army field grade officers and NCOs assigned to UN Peacekeeping missions, and playing around with a few U.S. Marines who we found along the way – I was already smitten with the former Soviet world, and following along on Colebatch’s trip across the less-traveled path in Eastern Europe and Russia (the Altai region especially) just spoke to me. I knew that this was what I wanted to do.

    Enough of that. Along the way I finished my undergraduate degree, got a job, got a girl, got a bike, got married, got another bike, yada yada yada… My wife shared my desire to travel and loved riding two up. We planned several motorcycle trips but never got around to taking them. Things like going from Birmingham to Canada, or shipping the bike to the UK and then riding around Europe for a month following different metal bands/festivals and such. Not quite my Siberian dream trip, but good plans none the less.

    Anyway the wife turns out to be bi-polar with suicidal tendencies and alcohol abuse. We did the full treatment with medication and twice a week therapy, but there’s not a single psych med that plays well with binge drinking. In the last year I’ve treated god-knows how many self-inflicted cuts (multiple 4-8” long cuts that really needed stitches), and the wife had two major suicide attempts.

    During all of this I was just trying to keep my head above water and pay for the vehicle my wife destroyed. I didn’t realize it at the time, but I was completely screwed up mentally. The mental gymnastics you end up doing to make sense of all of this stuff as its happening is nothing short of terrifying. The worst part is that you don’t recognize what it happening to you, and it becomes a downward spiral of action-reaction where every event sends you further into despair.

    This Spring I caught her having an affair with one of her former graduate professors. A professor of – would you believe it – old testament theology. I seem to recall something in the old testament about “Adultery... something something Stoning...” After much hand wringing and many discussions, it became clear that she didn’t see any problem with having a relationship outside of our marriage and wasn’t willing to work on our relationship. That sealed it – a marriage doesn’t work if only one person wants to keep the relationship alive.

    Anyway, during all of this I was in my last two semesters of graduate school. Between the full course load, a day job, and figuring out the whole divorce I occasionally caught myself thinking about taking a motorcycle trip. The more time I spent thinking about it, the more it seemed like it would be a great way to unwind and regain my sanity.

    It’s been a long time coming, but now that I have finished my master’s degree and the divorce is over with, I present to you the “I can kinda sorta fit this in my schedule and budget Blue Ridge Parkway Trip of self discovery”!




    And I’d like to extend a special thanks to all of you who have contributed to the various Divorce threads over the years. They were a massive help as I was going through everything.

    #2
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  3. Telekinesis

    Telekinesis Adventurer

    Joined:
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    Pre Trip Planning – or What the Hell Did I Get Myself Into?

    If you tl;dr’d our of the first post, welcome back. None of it was really important but you know, personal touch and all.

    Most of the jobs I have held since finishing undergrad have been in corporate strategy of large corporations, and I’m generally a very “logical” thinker and am a big proponent of planning. I look at all of the ride reports where people are working on their bike at the last minute and going on trips without a concrete plan and think “What IDIOTS! You should have had that planned out months ago! And your bike and gear should be tested and set well before you leave!”

    It’s only fitting that the week before I’d scheduled to be off work I had only a the vaguest idea of what I was going to do or where I was going to go. Oh, and my bike looked like this.

    [​IMG]


    See, I had decided that I needed some sort of GPS or Nav for whatever trip I was taking, so I settled on using my phone with a RAM mount. But running google maps absolutely kills your battery, so I needed to be able to charge my phone while riding. And well, if you’re adding power accessories to the bike you really need a fuse panel… So its Monday night (planning to leave Wednesday morning) and I’m running wires and switches all around the bike.

    I didn’t like the idea of cutting a large hole in my plastic, so I grabbed a piece of kydex to use as a mount. This let me drill smaller holes in the bike’s plastic and tuck the charger (mostly) out of view. It’s of course run with a waterproof switch so that I can manually turn it on and off if necessary. I also just like switches.

    [​IMG]


    Now my view looks like this (without the phone – needed it to take the picture).

    Also note the Trail Tech Striker for speed (my v strom’s speedo is horribly inaccurate at highway speeds) and battery voltage, and the Adventure Tech Dash Shelf.

    [​IMG]


    Remember that part about this being my first time camping from a motorcycle? I’ve also only camped once in the last 5 years (though did camp more often before then). All of my gear is either old, free, or completely untested. There’s nothing wrong with old and free (in fact, free is my favorite type of gear) but nobody ever gives you the cool stuff that packs really small for free. So my gear is absolutely massive. Just my sleeping bag, tent, and hammock take up an entire duffle bag.

    I also have no idea what I’m doing, so I packed spares and extras and things that I’ll probably never need. And I’m sure that I forgot things that are absolutely necessary. Do we have an over packers anonymous group here?




    The Plan

    “The Plan” was in a similar state of disarray. I knew that I wanted to see the Blue Ridge Parkway on a bike (I’ve seen some of it in a car, part of which I was lost in fog with my exwife vomiting into a trash bag which was fun) and I wanted to drive by the Ocoee river (highway 74) because its a beautiful road and my dad used to be a rafting guide on the river. Other than that, the plan was completely up in the air.

    Slowly I started learning of events happening in the area and decided to hit a few of them and meet up with some people. One of my “I’m newly single so I should go out and do something” new hobbies is trying to learn to whitewater kayak, and as luck would have it the National Whitewater Center is in Charlotte, so I’m taking a day to learn how not to die in a kayak.

    So after lots of procrastinating, I finally have a plan! A good thing too because as of this writing I’m a day into the trip.
    #3
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  4. Telekinesis

    Telekinesis Adventurer

    Joined:
    Nov 26, 2010
    Oddometer:
    60
    Day 1: Birmingham, AL to Charlotte, NC
    Wednesday September 25, 2019
    Miles: 392
    Hours: 6

    [​IMG]

    This, like many first days of trips, was comparatively dull (at least I hope this isn’t the highlight of my trip!) It was 6 hours of pure, disgusting interstate with breaks in the monotony for the chaos of Atlanta traffic and the butt-puckering indecision of eighteen-wheelers in construction traffic. I swear their inner monologue must be along the lines of

    “Let’s go 80 in a 55… oh wait, there’s a 1 degree incline, slow to 45...”
    “Look at that guy in the bright yellow jacket! I should tailgate him to get a closer look!”
    “What are those little white lines on the road? Surely they’re not to contain the GREATNESS of my massive vehicle! I will drift across them whenever it tickles my fancy”

    and so on and so forth.




    This has been the longest day (both miles and time) that I’ve been on a bike (previous record was Birmingham to Jackson, MS at 3.5-4 hours). Interestingly the first 4 hours were fine, surprising because with everything going on I’ve only been on the bike twice this year. The last two hours were a bit of a pain where I just wanted to get to the hotel and get off the bike.

    Anyway, no pictures for today. Tomorrow I’ll be at the National Whitewater Center which should result in some good pictures of other people who know what they’re doing. Stay tuned...

    [​IMG]
    Source: https://xkcd.com/303/
    #4
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  5. parallaxbill

    parallaxbill Mid-Carolina ADVR Supporter

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    This native Charlottean will be following along.
    #5
  6. Amphib

    Amphib A mind is like a parachute....

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    Following from asheville!
    #6
  7. SteveBlack

    SteveBlack Adventurer

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    I'm in !! Sometimes planning is over rated....
    #7
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  8. 72 Yamaha RD350

    72 Yamaha RD350 Been here awhile

    Joined:
    Feb 20, 2017
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    533
    If you are smart enough to earn a graduate degree from a reputable institution- you are smart enough to ride around the country without a phone or GPS in front of you 100% of the time. It’s not difficult. Give it a try. We all did it that way before 1996.
    #8
  9. 15's Pop

    15's Pop Been here awhile

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    Birmingham, AL
    i'm in. carry on.
    #9
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  10. Telekinesis

    Telekinesis Adventurer

    Joined:
    Nov 26, 2010
    Oddometer:
    60
    I’ve done an absolutely horrible job of posting in real time. It’s much harder than it looks - hat’s off to the guys who can actually post daily. I’m trying to do this from my phone, so we’ll see if the pictures come through

    Day 2: Charlotte, NC - National Whitewater Center
    Thursday September 26, 2019

    This was my “destination” day after all of the dull interstate riding the day before. The National Whitewater Center is absolutely massive and has many non whitewater activities as well including hiking and rock climbing. Highly recommended.

    0152384A-5C90-4872-B60D-7EC0A48E2422.jpeg



    Parking can be an issue, but a great part of riding a bike is free, easy parking! The V Strom (in her day trip dress) had a few friends!

    861F65AA-57A7-4525-87BB-F7323358F6BC.jpeg

    As noted earlier, I’m in the process of trying to learn how to whitewater kayak so I decided to take some lessons. One of the defining characteristics of a whitewater kayaker is the ability to roll your kayak so that if you find yourself underwater, you can get back up again. You know, air is good and all. So I spent an hour and a half purposely flipping myself underwater so that I could try to get back up again. Surprisingly I survived this stupidity and ended up tired, but with having successfully rolled in still water, moving current, and rapids.

    As promised, a few pictures of some guy who knows what he’s doing (definitely Not me).

    BAC0C7F6-66A6-4DE1-8850-38FA0FA92E9C.jpeg

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    And a few guys having issues...

    B0EAE87D-4DE3-40D9-BA22-14D8F3BADA9C.jpeg

    And to top it off, as I was finishing up at the whitewater park, I got a text from an old friend from high school / college. She and I never really dated just because when I was single she was dating someone, and vise versa (there may or may not have been a friends with benefits thing going on at times). Well afternoon coffee turned into drinks and appetizers, then into dinner. And before anyone asks, no I didn’t get any pictures :rofl
    #10
  11. borderlinebob

    borderlinebob Been here awhile

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    Location:
    CANADA-1/4 mile N of International Falls, MN
    Just an FYI to the OP.
    Not complaining so don’t get offended or sensitive. :hide

    A few of us on the forum switch our settings from the “black/dark” theme and with a white background it’s impossible to read a post with yellow or white print.
    #11
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  12. Telekinesis

    Telekinesis Adventurer

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    But how am I going to be a good millennial without my phone guiding me every step of the way?! And more importantly, how will I find the nearest Starbucks?

    Honestly, google maps kept redirecting me off the BRP so often that I just turned it off until I needed gas or to find the campground.
    #12
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  13. Telekinesis

    Telekinesis Adventurer

    Joined:
    Nov 26, 2010
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    No offense taken, I didn’t even think about the different settings. Let me try to change it back to something you can see.
    #13
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  14. Bhart89

    Bhart89 Long timer Supporter

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    Location:
    Indianapolis, IN
    Congrats. Motorcycles help everything.
    #14
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  15. GAS GUY

    GAS GUY MILE EATER

    Joined:
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    Sorry for your relationship misfortunes, but it will just make a man of your caliber stronger and wiser. Great attitude and even better reporting; fantastic writing; interesting and articulate!
    #15
  16. Telekinesis

    Telekinesis Adventurer

    Joined:
    Nov 26, 2010
    Oddometer:
    60
    Day 3: Charlotte, NC to Canton, NC via Blue Ridge Parkway
    Friday September 27, 2019
    Miles: ~221
    Hours: ~5+

    Possibly due to the self-initiated attempted drownings the day before, I got a great night’s sleep but a slow start to the day. Initially my plan was to ride about 4 hours on day 3 and 4 hours on day 4, but due to the location of the campground I needed to shift that schedule a bit. The miles and times are approximate because I made a slight navigational error... in reality I spent about 7 hours on the bike.

    I have never liked leaving gear on the bike unless it was in a locking case. Probably due to people messing with my bike while I was in college. Some people may accuse me of having trust issues, I just consider it prudent avoidance of theft. The real world implications of this are that I had to repack my bike, soft bags and all. I also forgot the cardinal rule that nothing ever repacks smaller than it started, so now my bags are nearly bursting at the seams. Hi, my name is Telekinesis, and I’m a serial overpacker...

    B7563EA3-32DE-4698-9948-B3D0C531F4D4.jpeg

    Little did I know that my discussion of adding some electrical components would be foreshadowing events to come. About 30 minutes into the ride I began to notice a familiar scent. No, not the sweet smell of BBQ with the Carolina’s disturbing trend of using vinegar instead of ketchup as a base for their sauce, but the all too familiar smell that sometimes accompanies soldering wires. The insulation on my new wiring harness was burning.

    I quickly pulled into a gas station (in retrospect not the best choice since I suspected something was on fire) but I couldn’t locate the source of the burning wire. Luckily there were no flames so I pushed on for a few more miles until I found a Walmart where I purchased electrical tape and then got to the dirty job of figuring out what was going on with my bike.

    9C76A6F2-4878-42E8-BDEB-CAFA5B4EA612.jpeg
    (Not the scene you want on your first real trip, but it is an adventure after all, and what adventure would be complete without some sort of component failure?)

    I traced every new wire I added, and every wire I even touched during the process, but found absolutely no evidence of melted wire insulation. I decided to put the bike back together and press on. If I rode fast enough, I couldn’t smell the burning :augie

    Eventually I made it to Blowing Rock, NC where I was able to join the Blue Ridge Parkway. I quickly realized that I had some, let’s call them “riding style quirks”. When I first became interested in motorcycles and began riding, I was focused on riding fun, curvy roads. Those rods were my goal, and any time I spent in traffic was just a byproduct of trying to get to those good roads.

    For the last few years however, my riding has been almost completely commuting based. Either commuting to work, or going to Jackson, MS to see the now ex wife. Both of which required direct routes and generally with high traffic. I focused on lane position in the sense of maximizing visibility, avoiding blind spots, and getting to my destination in the shortest amount of time.

    When I got on the Blue Ridge Parkway, I realized that I had forgotten how to use the whole lane for a turn and how to shift my body weight. My new mantra for the day was “kiss the inside mirror” as I slowly rediscovered my love for twisty roads.

    As you know, no discussion of the BRP is complete without a couple of pictures of mountains.

    19FED717-B1CF-4275-BD35-9312A399AA54.jpeg

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    Fast forward a few hours. I had previously read that gas stations were easily available along the BRP, usually within a mile or two of an exit. “I could use some gas, there’s what looks to be a major highway coming up, I’m sure a gas station is close by” I think to myself. Google maps kindly obliged by saying “yes, take this exit, you’ll be fine”. So I turn on to highway 80.

    First off, this is an incredible road. Lots of very tight twists and turns. If it wasn’t for the trucks with trailers who have no understanding of Lane discipline, it would be perfect. That said, the nearest gas station was 15 miles away.

    This gas station was...quaint. Separate pumps for regular and premium, pre-pay only, and no credit card readers. It’s almost as if time stood still in this little corner of North Carolina.

    45834C9B-F10E-43F2-A5D9-D95E57A4E588.jpeg

    Unfortunately, this little detour down highway 80, and the fact that I didn’t have time to backtrack meant that I missed a big section of the BRP. I guess that just means I have another reason to come back!

    Here’s a new map of my route:
    68CDC155-EC5E-4CEE-A1D7-86ACA0EF7C4A.jpeg

    Another downside to this route is that I got stuck in Asheville afternoon traffic. Not horrible, but definitely something I wanted to avoid.

    Finally I made it to the Blue Ridge Motorcycle Campground. It is a great camping spot (motorcycles only!) but with no cell service. Dinner was also excellent. I tend to be pretty harsh on my reviews of BBQ, and ribs specifically, but the ribs these guys cooked were incredible. If you stay there, get the ribs. You won’t be disappointed.

    As I’m still sorting out my camping setup, I brought both a hammock and a tent, and as the forecast did not call for rain I decided to put up the hammock. I did however add a tarp as a hedge against any rain and for a little added privacy.
    6C260ACD-090E-4507-84F7-359B85450222.jpeg

    See anything wrong with this picture? Because of the location of the grommets on the tarp, one side is shorter than the other. It worked great during the day. I had privacy on the side towards the center of the camp, and I could easily see the stream on the other. It was great up until the point when it started to rain. That whole side got wet.
    #16
  17. 72 Yamaha RD350

    72 Yamaha RD350 Been here awhile

    Joined:
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    Keep your eyes open and follow the parade of BMW R1250GS’ kitted out for the Dalton.

    Unless you are in an unfamiliar urban area, there are only a couple times a day a GPS is really useful. The rest of the time just save the batteries for when you really need navigational assistance and enjoy not knowing precisely where you are- that’s freedom.
    #17
  18. Mavilago

    Mavilago Adventurer

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    Dude, the ex wife bit is the best. Been there, done that, bought a new bike.....
    #18
  19. Vince

    Vince Been here awhile

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    Oct 1, 2006
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    932
    I run my phone GPS all the time, we have these things called Speed and Red Light cameras and soon Mobile phone cameras. It's a minefield around here. I even use it as a GPS and phone on a blue moon.
    #19
  20. borderlinebob

    borderlinebob Been here awhile

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    CANADA-1/4 mile N of International Falls, MN
    Thanks
    I can read along now no problem.

    Try your tarp using diamond shape using the opposing corners.
    Will centre it and should still be wide enuff for coverage
    #20
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