Rally in the Valley
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The Annual Carolina Harley-Davidson Dealers Rally is typically held in Asheville, NC every year, but this year they chose Maggie Valley for their Fall Rally. Probably something to do with the fact that noone was coming to the Asheville rally anymore so they wanted to jumpstart it with a new location. Only about 20 miles outside of Cherokee, NC and 26 miles up the Blue Ridge Parkway from the Great Smokey Mountain National Park, Maggie Valley was a nice location for this small regional rally. The town's just one long main road, 5 lanes with stuffed grizzley bears and plastic jesus' sproutin out of all the touristy holes in the wall that line the blacktop.
Only having the one night to spare away from work, and domestic duties back home, (read: If I don't cut the friggin grass, Kim's gonna start witholding favors) I took full advantage of the time available by cranking up the bike at 4:45am - (No! I really DON'T care what the neighbors think!) - didn't even need chaps this morning being a comfortable 68 degrees outside - and headed the short hop to I-40 westbound, where I stayed at highway speeds for 4 hours, stopping only for gas and coffee. There was about 10 minutes there, as I rode through Hickory, North Carolina, where the rear view mirrors were bright orange from the newly risen sun perfectly framed in both mirrors. Once again, confirming what the hell I was doing all this for.
By 9am, I was up and over the mountain pass that guards Asheville and the lil' burg's beyond. I spotted the reserved campsite, at the edge of Maggie Valley. Stone Bridge Campground is pretty well shaded with several tent sites butt up against the little creek that runs down the center of this valley. I set up my borrowed dome tent (mine is being repaired) right next to a noisy little creek running through the trees (hoping it would drown out some of the expected noise)looked around camp for signs of life, finding only a picnic table next to me with four bottles of liquor at various levels of empty and a camoflaged tent on the other side with some noises that sounded mysteriously like farts echoing among the trees. 24 hours to go, so I went about nosing around town.
With my natural aversion for rally's and the fact that I really didn't need anything in the way of leathers or riding accessories, I spend only about an hour at the Rally Headquarters - a local honky-tonk called Thunder Ridge with a huge parking lot for parking and vendors tents. Prominantly displayed among all the useless crap was this $10,000 (hell, I dunno, I'm guessing how much some RUB would pay for this peice of shit) bike trailer made out of clear lexan fully enclosing a show bike. What a waste of plastic. Thats one of the things that really pisses me off about these rally's is how everyone is there to be seen and to show off their toys. First of all, if I'm gonna trailer my bike in an enclosed trailer to begin with, who the hell would wanna tell the world what you got in there? Likely some prissy mama's boy, who gets off on riding up and down Main Street on his $40,000 bar-to-bar bike.... look closely enough and you'll find a cup holder on the handlebars for his double-half-caf-cappucino.
I walk around for a short while...Pretty much the same 'ol stuff, though. After a quick lunch at a restaurant next to the campsite (walking distance if you're interested) called BUTTS ON THE CREEK (mostly BBQ) I find myself riding some of the little back roads around town and waste the day.
Back in camp, I was fortunate enough (sic) to be right next to some good ol' boys from Tennessee and Kentucky, whose picnic table was laden with a wide variety of scotch's, whiskey's (some of the bottles now near full) and some nasty strawberry moonshine, and the trees in their campsite festooned with blowing confederate flags. We all know the type... I thought it odd that they were all in pickup trucks and no bikes, wearing Harley T-shirts and dirty jeans (the grubby sneakers gave away their ruse though) but they did seem to enjoy the party! On the other side was a solo rider in the camo tent and shaved head, looked a little like Homer Simpson, actually, who was already drunk by noon and lost his keys to his bike padlock, so was entertaining himself in camp all weekend. No, I didn't offer to ride him 'bitch' on the back of my bike! I saw him later over at Thunder Ridge but his bike was back in camp...hehehe - musta walked, how sad!
The evening entertainment right in the campsite was a bit slack, but this was just Friday night. They set up a DJ and a 5000watt sound system on the lawn two sites away from my campsite, but they never got much in the way of an audience, eventually, they just turned it down as background music and I enjoyed the relative quiet of the camp, and creek behind me. Overnight was fairly pleasant as it only got down to 45 and this tent was toasty warm all night. I chose not to join the rebel poseurs next door - most of em were already pretty well soused and pissing on the trees behind their camp.
I woke up early, with the sound of Homer Simpson using a sledge hammer and crow bar on his padlock. The rebs on the other side were cutting wood, and there was a strange truck in my site. Turns out a friend of mine from the Internet who's been emailing me since the beginning of my Sturgis ride, packed up her bike and trailer and drove to the rally. Finding my bike in camp early in the morning, she waited for me to stir around a bit before scratching on the tent to see if I was up. It was still early but the clock was ticking - 4 hours to go - so we fired up both bikes and headed off to the Great Smokey Mountain National Park for an early sunrise ride together. Through the Blue Ridge Parkway to it's beginning near Cherokee, and up to Clingman's Dome on top of the Smokey Mountain Park, we rode through the chilly morning air, stopping to catch up on bullshit we've been talking about online.
There was something a little Xena-Warrior Princess-like about this lady, too... rode a black dresser, no frilly shit on it at all, not even pinstripes. Definately not a girly-girl weekend-rider and could ride the hell outta that scooter. At one point we crossed through a couple tunnels and I lost sight of her around a bend.... waited....waited.... uh oh! ... went on back and found her on the side of the road takin pictures... None of this whining "You wouldn't stop to take pictures" crap from her - just pulled over and did what the hell she damned well pleases!
Found out she does a lot of solo bike riding/camping herself and prefers it that way. Well, I knew a lot of this already from talking to her online. I've asked her to send in some of her rides with some pictures and I'm gonna put a link to her stuff in here in the archives when I get it...look at the bottom of this ride for the link (someday!)
On the way back to Maggie, we stopped in for breakfast at Papa Bob's II Country Ham House. Not the finest food I've tasted but the service was friendly and fast - an important factor seeing as how I was due to ride the 4 hours back home soon, so I could get home by 3pm. We drove back to camp, swapped tents - as she was gonna stay a few more days - introduced her to the rednecks next door (telling them I would be back tomorrow night to check up on her, just in case they expected to get squirrelly) - packed up the bike and headed off east.
A short ride, sure - but after almost a month off the bike after Sturgis, it felt great. I sure enjoyed meeting (Name witheld to protect the
innocent guilty.) The Interstate riding home sucked - but true to form I spoke to two different old guys in rest areas about their bike days, or the bike they have in their garage that they ought to polish up, etc.... thats all part of the game.
After I got home I got two emails from the lady I met on this ride. I told her I was gonna publish them in here and call it DEAR MUTHUH ...maybe a regular feature from her - she does a lot of rides.... Right now there are no pics along with these letters, but I will get them printed in here soon, too.
GO TO DEAR MUTHUH!
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