Two Dads Behind Bars - The Blue Ridge and BMW's Off Road School Epic Adventure

Discussion in 'Ride Reports - Epic Rides' started by Motopumps, Jul 22, 2019.

  1. Motopumps

    Motopumps Long timer Super Supporter

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    Heading out in a few days with a good friend to ride through the Blue Ridge with a destination of the BMW Off Road School near Spartanburg SC. Another friend from the left coast is meeting us down there to attend the school as well.

    You can read about our last epic adventure here when we tackled the MA BDR.

    We picked up Seth's bike for the trip at BMW North America's HQ last week. It is a beauty!
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    Very cool campus there. Easy to see where the $$ for these vehicles goes...
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    I will be on my much loved and traveled '15 KTM 1290 Super Adventure
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    We are heading out from Ithaca NY on Wednesday morning. Weather actually looks good for our trip down. Yeah, I know :devildogshould not have said that...

    The plan is 3 days down, secondary roads all the way, Skyline Drive, Blue Ridge Parkway, meet Doug, BMW Off Road School, 3 days ride back through the Smokeys and Blue Ridge. Twisty Roads, local food, adult beverages and some MotoEducation. What could be better?

    Stay tuned for lots of pix, random thoughts and an in-depth review of the school.

    Does that mean that a KTM 1290 SA and BMW R1250GS are officially Dad bikes??? :hmmmmm
    #1
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  2. Briar Rose

    Briar Rose Fan of Mark_O!

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    I think it means they are officially "Dude bikes" ;-)
    #2
  3. Motopumps

    Motopumps Long timer Super Supporter

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    Up early and getting ready to go. Working on packing light for this trip as I always seem to return home with some unworn clothes. Weather looks good for the trip down and the school.

    Seth and I are at opposite ends of the dad process. I have just fledged my youngest, with two others out of the nest as well, with Seth filing his nest with his first about a year ago.

    I have also been a long time Cardo user, working my way through most of their models to the current Packtalk Bold series. Seth's experience has been with the Sena line and he has kindly provided me with a 30k for this trip so I can compare and contrast that directly with the Packtalk Bold. I have long wanted to do this direct comparison! More thoughts and insights as we travel.

    I am also excited to get a bit of seat time on the new R1250GS, as I have only had one BMW in my riding career, a 2002 R1100S.

    Beautiful morning! Escaping from a hectic IT job at Cornell for a week. Lets go!
    #3
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  4. tmark1301cc

    tmark1301cc Been here awhile Supporter

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    Safe travels to you as always, and I'd be more interested in your comparison of the Katoom vs Beemer. Have a great time!!
    #4
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  5. motomrider

    motomrider Adventurer

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    Sounds like a perfect Dad'cation :)
    #5
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  6. Motopumps

    Motopumps Long timer Super Supporter

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    Picture perfect riding weather. We headed out a few minutes after 7am this morning.

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    My wife had headed out, but saw Seth coming down the road, so she doubled back to take a departure photo for us. Thanks Honey! I also got one more kiss and hug, so that was a bonus.

    Temps were in the upper 50s, which was a treat after days of 90s. We rode through ground fog for the first hour, but it didn't slow us down. Nice to be cool for a change. We swapped bikes a little way into PA and I spent about an hour on the R1250GS.

    I am impressed by how much BMW has improved the engine and transmission on the new Shift Cam bikes. Very light feeling and fast revving compared to previous boxer twins. The transmission is the best BMW trans I have felt yet, even better than the R1100S trans, which was very un-BMW like. The quick-shifter is pretty bad in the lower gears, but improves above 3rd. The bump compliance of the suspension is exceptionally good. Very plush without being wallowy. Love it. The clutch has a WIDE engagement point, too wide. Windscreen is effective and buffet free. Nice. Got 54 mpg on the first tank. 250 mile range with another 25 miles of reserve. Great mile eater.

    The KTM transmission is still way ahead of the BMW, and the 1290 motor is a monster. The 1290 feels lighter on its feet, but harder and more focused. Feels like a huge sport bike, and has the dedicated edginess of that type. Wind protections is not quite as refined. The clutch is way better and the controls generally feel lighter. Overall, they are both amazing ADV bikes, with strengths in different areas. I would love to have a R1250GS. Would I sell my KTM to get one? No, but the Africa Twin is in danger...

    We traded bikes back near Middleburg, PA.

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    Austrian and German cousins.

    We refueled in Mt Union, PA and started looking for some food.

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    We found a former Subway shop that is now local, Subz n More. Very nice folks, HUGE subs. Everything was made to order, including the meats being sliced to order in front of you.

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    Mmmmmm! Needs both hands and a few napkins.


    We continued on with a quick stop in Berkley Springs to get a drink and book our room for the night. Headed for Skyland Resort up on the Skyline Drive in the Shenandoah National Park.

    We topped off in Front Royal before getting on the Skyline Drive. It was 83 in Front Royal, but the temps dropped steadily as we gained altitude. In a few minutes it was 70 degrees. Lovely!

    Stopped at a scenic overlook to enjoy the view.

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    In no time we arrived at Skyland, checked in and rode to our room.

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    View from the balcony
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    Showered, called our sweeties and hiked up the hill to the Tap Room and Restaurant.

    Nice staff in the restaurant. I was a bit frustrated by the complete lack of draft beer in the tap room. They did have bottled beer and we chose...

    I ordered the Bison meatloaf for my entree and Seth had fried chicken. Both were quite good.
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    Yukon Gold potatoes and zucchini under there. Very nice.

    We hiked back down the hill to our room and were greeted by a lovely setting sun.
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    View from the balcony. :-)


    Time to get ready for tomorrow and get some sleep. Looking forward to playing on the ridges.
    #6
  7. JustPlainDave

    JustPlainDave ...just a monkey with features Supporter

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    Have a great time guys! I was at the BMW school last year driving cars. What a great day at a great facility.
    And..thanks to Mrs. Dave for letting me take a day of our vacation to do that.
    I even got to see a group of the new X7 SUV's in digital camo heading out for road testing prior to their release.
    I've been wanting to do the 2 day Enduro School but, classes are usually full when I can get away.
    Please give us a report on how it was.
    #7
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  8. Motopumps

    Motopumps Long timer Super Supporter

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    Will do. Looking forward to it!

    Taking a break in Roanoke right now for fuel and caffeine. Beautiful day for riding. Back onto the BRP in a few minutes.
    #8
  9. Eddy Alvarez

    Eddy Alvarez Motorcycle ADD Supporter

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    Awesome dad/son trip. You will love the PC (Performance Center, I've been several times). Are you planning on renting bikes? If you are truly challenging your limits to become a better rider, you will and SHOULD drop the bike several times during the weekend. I'd hate to see that new GS with no engine guards go down. Have fun! :thumb
    #9
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  10. Motopumps

    Motopumps Long timer Super Supporter

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    We are renting GS's at the Performance Center. They don't want the KTM on the property (showing up the Bavarian Manure Wagons) and the don't want the R1250 test bike getting dinged up. I am sure there will be drops and grunts and $#&#(&*$() picking up the bikes. Looking forward to it.
    #10
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  11. tmark1301cc

    tmark1301cc Been here awhile Supporter

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    Come on....crash the party with the KTM!
    #11
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  12. Motopumps

    Motopumps Long timer Super Supporter

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    Nice stay at the Skyland Resort. We walked up the hill to breakfast with this local resident.



    Breakfast was good, the coffee was less than that... I left the magic powder in the room. Doh!
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    We mounted up and headed south to finish off the Skyline Drive. Perfect cool, crisp, sunny morning. The weather is as good as it gets.

    Soon we were on the Blue Ridge Parkway and enjoying the variation in scenery compared to the Skyline Drive.

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    Interesting gravesite right on the side of the road.

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    Came very close to collecting two large birds in the morning. A Turkey Vulture and a Turkey. Both were narrowly avoided, but damn close. Glad that worked out for all of us. No action photos, you will have to take my word for it.

    Stopped in Floyd VA to check out the Floyd Country Store. Very active music scene there with notable acts on a regular basis. Part of the Crooked Road Music Trail.

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    Had an ice cream cone and enjoyed the atmosphere.

    Cool hotrod pulled up as we were leaving
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    Back on the Parkway and headed for Galax VA for the night.

    Staying at the Rodeway Inn in downtown Galax. The price is right... The hotel needs some attention.

    A short walk to the Smokehouse BBQ
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    A bit of cleaning and chain maintenance for me, none for Seth. That is the nice thing about a shaft drive bike...
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    The view from our room. Sleep well bikes. See you in the morning.
    #12
  13. Iron Cross Junction

    Iron Cross Junction Long timer

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    Looks to be a great trip. I headed north on the same day and am visiting the “outlaws” in Erie. As you noted, the weather is near-spooky grand for late July.

    You passed our home (and my shop, Moto Grappa) a few miles into Virginia after your overnight in Berkeley Springs.

    If ever a next time in Galax, consider staying at the Hampton Inn. Nicer than Rodeway by a significant stretch. Even better, the owner is a gearhead and encouraged me to do some unplanned maintenance — failed valve-cover gasket — under the entrance canopy.

    Best wishes on the rest of your circuit in the south.

    Bill
    #13
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  14. Motopumps

    Motopumps Long timer Super Supporter

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    Thanks Bill- Excellent info. Will have to stop in and check out Moto Grappa! Very cool.

    Having a snack in Asheville right now after visiting Eurosport Asheville. Very nice KTM and BMW dealership.

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    Moe's Original BBQ. Great stuff. We may try to stop in at 12 bones on the way north.
    #14
  15. Frenchman83

    Frenchman83 Adventurer

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    I will be through there in a few weeks. Starting in WV and meandering our way down to the Kickstand Lodge in Robbinsville, NC. Might have to check out this Eurosport Asheville.
    #15
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  16. Motopumps

    Motopumps Long timer Super Supporter

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    We had breakfast at "The Diner" in Galax. A great experience with southern hospitality.
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    Coffee, scrambled eggs, hasbrowns, toast for $6. Nice!

    We headed for Asheville along Rt 221, a great motorcycle road twisting and turning through small towns as well as bigger ones like Boone, NC. Lovely ride with a stop in Linville for gas and a snack. The weather is once again perfect and we are wearing the sides of the tires instead of the centers. The BMW and KTM are great traveling companions, very compatible in speed, fuel range and comfort.

    We stopped in at Eurosport Asheville and visited, sat on bikes and talked with the staff for a while. Great folks. Always a treat to see them.

    After filling with BBQ in Asheville and sitting on fine German and Austrian motorcycles, we continued our journey south toward South Carolina.

    We got back on the Blue Ridge Parkway and continued south to the intersection of 276. If you have not ridden the southernmost section of the BRP, you really should. Great views, lots of tunnels, elevation changes and truly entertaining curves.

    We exited at 276 and followed it south on one of my favorite roads off the BRP. Great ride. There were a few places with slow moving cars, but overall, a great ride. We are headed for Landrum SC, where Doug's Step-Mother-In-Law is putting us up at her guest house. The section of 276 between Sliding Rock and Looking Glass Falls is especially technical and fun. Great motorcycling road!

    We arrived at the guest house, up a long drive, past a stream and restored mill. Absolutely lovely property.
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    Doug had arrived a few minutes ahead of us and welcomed us as we pulled in.

    We showered and visited for a bit.
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    ...then headed out to the Southside Smokehouse in Landrum.

    Seth and I were a bit concerned about another Smokehouse experience after the one in Galax, but our worries were unfounded. The BBQ was GREAT.

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    We had a lovely evening and waddled back to the car and the guest house full and ready for a nights rest before the start of the BMW Off Road Course in the morning.
    #16
  17. JustPlainDave

    JustPlainDave ...just a monkey with features Supporter

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    You just gave me a great idea for a trip.....the southeast BBQ tour adventure.
    I took Mrs. Dave on a winery tour last year. My turn now.
    #17
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  18. Motopumps

    Motopumps Long timer Super Supporter

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    Beer and BBQ beat wine anytime! Just sayin'
    #18
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  19. Motopumps

    Motopumps Long timer Super Supporter

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    We got up early to make the ride to the BMW Performance Center, stopping at Waffle House in Greer for some breakfast.
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    Another lovely morning watching the big orange ball pop up from the eastern horizon while we rode in past ground-fog flooded fields. Really magical looking.

    After a hearty breakfast with very good coffee, we made our way to the BMW performance center about 10 minutes further down the road.
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    Impressive facility with one of the plants across the street.
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    We got signed in, had coffee and met our classmates for the next two days. A group of very nice and interesting folks. There was a smattering of IT Security folks, which was interesting for me.
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    Some BMW Performance Center SWAG.

    Our instructors:
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    Michael, Melinda and Richie. First class and lots of fun.

    Intro to the bikes and some warm-up drills with the instructors. Richie pictured.
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    For those who like 4 wheels as well, I have NEVER seen as many M vehicles in my life. Dozens and Dozens and Dozens of them.

    Getting ready for our fist drills out on the gravel pad

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    Some welcomed shade where we took breaks, rehydrated, broke down the drills.
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    We broke for lunch around noon, back at the main building where we checked in after six laps on the paved track to cool down a bit. It was fun to put on some speed as well as see the track in both directions.

    Lunch was great.
    Lovely salads, sandwiches, chips, cookies , drinks, etc.

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    It was a little hard to go back out in the afternoon heat full of lunch, but we did it!
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    We did drills on turning, emergency braking , crossing obstacles, body position, stutter bumps, camel back mounds, clutch control, front and rear brake modulation, front slides, etc. Great stuff with excellent progressive instruction. It was hot and the instructors pushed us. It was great to watch their demonstrations of the drills to see how it should be done. Impressive skills!

    We finished with a long "enduro ride" around the property putting what we had learned into practice. It was hot, my legs and knees were screaming and my hands were tired from so much clutch and brake work. Quite a workout!

    We packed up and headed back to Landrum. Seth and I stood on the bikes much of the way home to dry off as well as the fact that it felt more normal than sitting at this point.

    Time to get cleaned up, string Christmas lights through our sweat soaked gear to dry it over night and head into town for dinner.

    This was our choice.
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    We sat at the bar, had a beer and some water to try to say hydrated and ordered Golden Fried Eggrolls and our entrees. The eggrolls were an excellent start.

    I had Spicy Thai Pork Fried Rice.
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    Quite good!

    After eating as much as we could manage, we walked around town a bit to check things out. Landrum is a lovely old mill town that is now retirement and tourism driven.

    Lots of cool shops and sidewalk decorations.
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    We headed back to the guest house to get a good nights sleep because we all agreed to start the class an hour and 15 minutes earlier on Sunday to beat the heat.

    Not a bad day!
    #19
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  20. Motopumps

    Motopumps Long timer Super Supporter

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    We were up early, enjoying putting on our dry gear and heading out in the dark.
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    Leaving in the dark always makes it feel a bit like an adventure.

    Humans of habit, we did the lather rinse repeat of Waffle House. I will spare you the repeat photos as it was a groundhog day experience, albeit a good one. The coffee at Waffle House is nice and strong. Why do so many places serve crappy coffee???

    We arrived at the BMW Performance Center and met Patrick, the photog who would be taking action photos for the day for the articles to appear in Cycle World and Motorcyclist. Nice guy, easy to work with. Always fun to be a part of one of these experiences within an experience.

    We had a slow enduro ride over to the red clay flats to warm up, then did circles and figure eights as a group, getting tighter and tighter until we were all a big chaotic ball of ADV bikes.
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    The soreness in my clutch hand and legs was going away already and my knees felt better than yesterday. All good!

    Today is deep gravel, deep sand and hill ascent and descent day. Sounds and feels a bit daunting, but like everything else here, the instructors give us little bites to chew, lots of demos and skill building blocks that make it easy.

    The gravitational field around the deep gravel pit was exponentially stronger than other places on the property. Bikes and humans were getting sucked down by huge gusts of gravity. Eyes up, stay loose, weight back, steady throttle, steer with the pegs, correct with the bars and don't go any faster than the speed you are willing to crash at. All good advice and they gave us plenty of reps to work on technique.

    Next we headed over to the sand pit. The transit from one exercise to another often included an enduro ride around the property to reinforce the skills we were building. I followed Richie a few times and he is amazingly skilled and plays like a kid on every obstacle he can find, bouncing off curbs, jumping the bike, sliding, spinning, wheelies, etc. Impressive what a GS can do with a little practice and the right mental attitude.

    The sand pit seemed to have a variable gravitational field. Some riders were relatively unaffected and others could not make it across without a massive biff. They taught us how to unbury a bike, get moving again and recover. The techniques are the same as gravel (and mud) but the surface is a bit different, of course. We ended the session with Sand Drags and our very own Doug was the sand drag king, winning the contest and his very own traffic cone (mini) as a trophy to take home. Nice!

    Lunch break to cool off, recover a bit and refill our bellies.
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    Yup, lather, rinse, repeat. Good food, light enough, heavy enough to satisfy and no issues out on the course. All good. BMW really has this wired.

    Afternoon drills were hill ascent and descent. Body position, speed, braking, trials stops, then all were combined into an ascent, steep descent and trials stop and 180 degree turn in about 10 feet of space at the bottom of the hill. Miss the turn and you go off into the abyss of kudzu. It seems that the kudzu covers hazards better left undiscovered. There was a lot of gravity there too...

    Most of the rest of the group headed off for a final enduro ride while Seth, Patrick, Melinda (instructor) and I went off to do some final photography. Fun to roam the property looking for photo ops and bouncing off obstacles.

    We all headed back to the class room for closing activities.
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    Great experience with a truly nice class. Not a single jerk in the group, which one often finds at a track day or training course. No egos, just fun, support and great learning ops. This is one of the best skill building experiences I have had in all my years of riding. Nice job BMW. I think you have sold at least one bike with this experience, and probably a whole bunch over time.

    We headed home to get cleaned up and figure out dinner for the night.
    #20