CLICK HERE for a portion of the trip map.
My answer to not going to the Cherokee Spring Rally was to do a portion of the Blue Ridge Parkway south of Asheville, and hang out on Hwy 276 and the Blue Ridge Parkway in the mountains. There wasn't much to do, which is what I was looking for.
Friday April 26, 2002
I was already near the foot of the Blue Ridge Mountains, staying at the Mother-in-Law's place with my wife and daughter. They were going to go visit the Biltmore house and do some horseback riding on the Estate grounds. I'm not much into that kinda stuff, so I brought the bike with me to do some mountain riding while they were doing their girl stuff.
We left the house together at 6:45am - cold crisp air, but no less than maybe 45 or so. Breakfast and coffee at the Coffee Shop one exit down the highway and we split up for our separate ways. This little town was getting set for the annual influx of people for MerleFest... a music weekend that attracts tens of thousands each year. I was glad I was heading out of town. The beginning stage of this trip took me down Hwy 18, south out of Wilkesboro, through Lenoir and onto Highway 64 to Morganton. Nice little two-lane winding roads through the hills. At Morganton, I had the option of taking Interstate 40 into Asheville or Hwy 70 through Marion, Black Mountain, Old Fort, Swannanoa, and eventually hit the Blue Ridge Parkway on the east side of Asheville. Shouldn't take a brain surgeon to figure out which I one I took.
Pic #01 is of the town square in Old Fort - they have a little Train Station / monument set up there memorializing the, uhhh, well, the Old Fort that used to be there. It took maybe twice as long to go this route, but well worth the time. Just as Hwy 70 goes past the Blue Ridge Parkway entrance, I stopped in at the Parkway Restaurant for a cup of coffee. Very convenient place - cute waitresses, too. As I got back on the parkway after a sausage, egg and cheese biscuit, planning to head south, I saw a sign for the Folk Art Museum to the north... whadahell? ... It was only about a mile up the road luckily, but I didn't actually go in. I pulled into the parking lot and ran into some riders who had just came out and gave it a so-so review.
I have this method of judging the experience of a rider by looking at his gloves. They can tell you a couple things... if they're stiff and shiny and unscuffed - beware... ( 'course they may just be a new pair, but still...beware) If they are well worn and cracked and faded, it tell's ya that they at least have some miles under their belt in cold weather... as many riders don't venture out in the cold - their long gloves aren't worn and signals someone who doesn't ride much. These guys had some really poor-looking gloves so I took their opinion on the museum to heart. After sitting in the parking lot for 15 minutes talking to them, I decided to just head on south to the sounds of Creedence Clearwater Revival's "Green River". (Click it to get in the right mood.) This might be a good time to clear the air about these rides a little bit.
I've often been asked why I do these solo rides, and why I hate rally's so much. FIrst of all I don't care for organized group rides at all. If I'm out on the road and wanna turn left, by god, that's where I'm turnin' - without having to check with everybody else's opinion. Up at dawn or sleep til 10 - thats my business. I don't object at all to going on rides with two, maybe three people... likely no more than that though. If you don't wanna go check out the sunrise coming up over Grandfather Mountain at 5:30 - just stay in bed and catch up with me later. My feelings won't be hurt. As for Rally's... it's not newbie riders at all - although you guys scare the hell outta me - I just don't care for the clutch / brake / wait / throttle / clutch / brake / neutral / wait-some-more crap that IS rally - to say nothing about the $4.00 beers and the rookie gestapo that go along with it. No, I'd take a newbie out on the backroads and go for a real bike ride anyday ... keep yer rally pins and T-shirts to yerself. Now - I do have a healthy 'to-each-his-own' attitude about it. There's all kinds bike riders out there... I just happen to be one who prefer riding as opposed to showing off on Main Street. Anybody who gets a kick out of rally is more than welcomed in my book to go and enjoy it. When and if I do a rally, you'll find me on the outskirts at non-yuppie bars watching the show parade by me. Dos Cerveza, por favor.
OK, 'nuff said.... I'm finding the parkway rather deserted this weekend - still kinda cold and the foliage still wrapped in it's winter-look. There's just a hint of budding on the trees but very little in the way of next month's azalea's, mountain laurel and rhododenron blooming. Figuring it's time to get in the right frame of mind, I pull over at the first overlook to do what I always do at the beginning of a parkway ride... uhhh.... hmmmm.... how shall I put this?... ok - I'll just say I took a leak - you figure it out. Back on the winding road - doing about 10 mph less than I was before I pulled in - I notice that the bike traffic I am seeing is nearly 75% dressers or Road Kings. I've been watching this for the past couple of years ... dressers aren't as few and far between as they used to be. The TV news this weekend about the Laughlin River Run gang-shootings showed quite a few of the guys on dressers had Hells Angels patches on their backs. Personally, I prefer the hell out of them for the kind of riding I do. For the most part the road is deserted, and to the occasional cage that got up behind me puttin' along enjoying the view I just gotta say - too fuckin' bad I got in yer way - you picked the wrong road to travel on if you're in a hurry anyway.
This weekend I picked out a long figure 8 loop to wander on. Half of it on the Parkway and half on Hwy 276 between Brevard and Waynesville, NC. I came into the center of the figure eight down the Parkway from Asheville, and headed west on 276 towards Waynesville. Coming down off the mountain was every bit as good as doing Deal's Gap, or as it's called, "The Dragon", only there were no annoying Crotch Rocketeers sniffing at my ass as I meandered around the hairpins and downhills. Somewhere near the town of Cruso I ride past a large wooden sign that reads Blue Ridge Motorcycle Camp. I've heard of it before but I'm a bit partial to Rider's Roost, so I had to turn around and go check it out.
Pics #13 - 19 give you an idea of it's layout and while it is pretty nice to look at and clean and wooded and all - the owners, both Henry, the long-time owner who was moving out that day, and Jay, one of the new owners who just bought it, gave me the impression this is a family camp only and usually only see Gold Wings and Aspencades as a rule. He mentioned he didn't wanna hear any cussin' and loud music or loud mufflers ... hmmmm. Yeah well - I think I'll pass in favor of kickin' up some shit at the Rider's Roost. I only even mentioned them and plugged the pictures for those of ya who bring yer kids out camping - it would make a good place for that if yer already in this part of the mountains.
So, I get to Waynesville, head south and pick up the Parkway again as it loops around, and headed north. A little Lynard Skynard ( "Alabama" - Click here to hear it ) is playing on the stereo really loud.... This whole stretch south of Asheville is by far the best scenics on the parkway, including about 8 tunnels. I must warn ya to pull your sunglasses down to the tip of your nose to get through these guys without getting vertigo...Pics# 22 - 25 are of another, uhh, piss break. Gotta keep comfortable ya know... Pic #26 is of Hwy 276 below me just before I get off the Parkway for the last time. From here 276 heads southeast past Sliding rock (Pic #27- this view is from the top of the rock, it really does have a steep slide to it!) where years ago I would sit my toddler kids on my lap and slide down the moss-covered waterfall/rock into the cold-water pool at the bottom of the natural slide. Even today in near 50 degree weather, there was a church bus there with kids all shivering at the top daring each other to go down... they did, too! It also goes past Looking Glass Falls and Davidson River Campground. At the end of 276 I pull up alongside a guy on a BMW with his map splayed out in front of him. I ask if I can help and he says he's just out wandering and was wondering which way to turn... I tell him left is nice - he flips down his visor, pockets his map, says thanks and turns left... I turned right - wasn't in the mood for buddy riding right now.
At Brevard I slip north on my old buddy Hwy 64 through Hendersonville where I stop at Binions Roadhouse for a steak sandwich. This good ol' country girl barmaid there was goin' on about her fabulous wedding cake where the bottom tier was a replica NASCAR track with checkered flags and race cars (Jeff Gordon's car was upside down against the guardrail she was proud to say)... only in North Carolina!... Further down the road I ride into Chimney Rock and Lake Lure. Kim and my daughter spent their day at the Biltmore House and met me here for the night. It seemed colder down here than it did on the parkway - these cold weather rides really aren't too bad if you're dressed for it - besides ya gotta put up with them or else yer riding season is just way too short. Speaking of short - the ride today, while lasting from 7am til 5pm was still too short. For me it's not where ya go - although new roads like some of these is great - its just being in the wind on two wheels. Its a lot like a rechargable battery - I seem to need a putt along the Parkway once in a while to recharge and it seems to keep me going again for another week. If you're reading this I'll have to assume you know what I'm babbling about and have a place to recharge yourself.
Stopping in for a cold beer at MargaritaGrill in Lake Lure - always a handful of bikes in this parking lot - and eventually headed to the Geneva Motel for the night - nice place, but nothing in this town is cheap. They do have a great tiki-bar out by the pool serving dinners and drinks with them little umbrellas in 'em.
These last two pics are of Hwy 286 between Lenoir and Wilkesboro - arguably one of the nicest rides in the state, but way too short. It just happens to be where Rider's Roost Biker Campgroound is, and I am headed there to shoot the shit with Uncle Roy. Basically I'm stopping in to apologize for the Book Review I did for his new book not hitting the Thunder Press's Southern Edition this month - I expect it'll be in next month. He's all right with it, cuz he thinks it came out in the West edition as he all of a sudden got a ton of orders from out west. If you are a book reader - get in touch with Roy at www.ridersroost.com and get you a copy - its a really good read. He's almost half done with the sequel, too. If you do get Thunder Press (usually free at dealerships), I got a story in it this month (April Edition) about the Fireside Bar in Daytona...there's also a pic of me on page 36 with this hot blonde drilling a hole in my ear with her tongue... yeah - I enjoyed myself in Daytona.
I'll be riding down to Myrtle Beach for a one-nighter at Bullfeathers Bar in Murrells Inlet Saturday the 11th... a little early for the real Rally crowd, but...well, we've already been through this. Also keep an eye out for the West By God Virginia ride in late May - looks like I will be riding with Hatchetman and a new reader from New York who's thinking of joining us in VA for the trip through WV.
Till next time - Ride Free.