MUTHUH's RIDES - Fall Colors '05
October 20-23, 2005
An attempt to re-create what was probably the most fun trip I took last year, the Fall Colors Ride is an alternative to Biketoberfest in Daytona. Two nights at the Iron Horse Motorcycle Campground in the Smoky Mountains of NC and one night in Lake Lure, NC
Already several people have backed out of the trip. Ditch because of a new business that is swamping him, Steph because of her work, Jen and Dave because of their work... sucks to have a real job, eh? I just tell my clients I'll be back next monday and take off...
So here we go again - the day before the trip and half the crowd is already staying home. The weather looks good, and there's a couple new couples coming along - so we'll make the best of it... I kinda like the smaller crowd anyway.
Wednesday Evening: Right around 7:15pm, just after dark, I hear the rumble of Mike and Rae pull into the open garage. I walk out with a slice of pizza in one hand and a half beer in the other and greet a road weary couple of friends from last years Smoky Colors ride. They pulled an all-day at work and hauled-ass on the Interstate to get here before dark, missing it because of traffic by half an hour.
Three hours, several beers and margaritas, and four cigars later, we're crashed for the night - gonna be a long day and everyone wants to get some sleep under the belt before three nights on the road.
Heard some stirring in the Den below our bedroom. Wasn't sure if they were repeatedly opening and closing the pull-out bed( it DOES squeak a little bit) or something else was going on down there. I gave 'em a few more minutes anyway and made lots of noice stomping down the steps just in case. The bed was still open with Rae sitting on the edge puttin on her boots, so I just smiled and said my "Good Mornin'"
After a big breakfast in my kitchen, we're out in the garage packin up, hooking up lil'mut, and waiting on Jim and Moochie. Wasn't a long wait at all - they pulled up 20 minutes early. We're gonna do this a little different this trip. Remembering the ungodly cold from last years October ride to the mountains, Kim and Rae were going to ride in the convertible to Lake Lure - 4 hours away. Moochie opted for the back seat of Jim's bike while things were still rather nice out. We hadn't met them before, so did the introductions in the garage while we did our final packing.
I won't bore you with the trip west, because it was regrettably all Interstate to Black Mountain, 200 miles west of us. We decided to just haul ass and get to the mountains quick. Kim and Rae ended up with the top down and we all found our way to Black Mountain for lunch. As we paid for lunch, the girls left early to find their way to Lake Lure about 20 more miles across the mountain, to lock up the ragtop, get on their boots and climbed on the bikes for the remaining 150 miles to the Iron Horse Motorcycle Lodge in Stecoah, near Deals Gap.
From Lake Lure, we puttered along on the back roads, following the GPS, but by necessity never too far off the secondary roads. We were already off-schedule for meeting Cuz and Sonya further up the road, and the traffic through some of the western towns was awful - we trudged on.
Somewhere on Hwy 64 short Lake Toxaway, we saw them in a gas station, their bike in plain view as agreed, and stoppped for a fill-up, introductions to Jim and Moochie (they knew us and Mike & Rae from previous trips) and paraded through the mountains, stopping in Highlands for a beer/wine stop. Stecoah is in a dry county, a lesson we learned last year, so we topped off lil'mut with snakcs and drinks, and continued up 64 towards Franklin.
On the way we stopped at Dry Falls for a butt break and took the trips' first pictures. Actually before that we stopped at that lil falls that you can drive under, maybe some of you know that one, but found the drive-under closed because a HUGE boulder fell onto the exit lane. You can still stand under the falls, but you couldn't drive through like beofre anymore. Bummer.
Pic's #01 - 08 are at Dry Falls... obviously not a dry falls by any means. Thats Kim and I in )1, Mike and Rae in 02, Jim and Moochie in 03, and unfortunately Cuz and Sonya's pic didn't turn out here. A short walk takes you down to the falls itself and under it for a great view of the water discharging over the rocks overhead. I'm thinking this would be a nice break in the heat of a summer ride. However, we were in October and it was cold enough, so the visit didn't last too long.
We got on Hwy 28 at Franklin, and after a sweet twistie road up to Steacoah, settled in at the Iron Horse Motorcycle Lodge - a destination all of you should shoot for on your next western NC ride. More pictures of the facilities later, but our first concern was getting a fire circle started... the best memories of last year's trip was the fires and the bullshit that ensued around it. Here in #09, regrettably out of order because I wasn't thinking right when I formatted these pics, is Jim - we'll actually bump into him the next day, and Kim. In reality - this was two pics, but I only had one slot open for the two pics, so I morphed 'em together. #10 is Mike and Rae. Mike was warning me not to fuckin fire off a flash again pointed in his direction or he'd kick my ass. Sonya on the far left was checkin the level of her Crown and Seven I think. Finally, there's Cuz and SOnya in #11, and JIm and Moochie - who never threatened me ONCE about the flash in #12. The iron Horse was kind enough to deliver a load of wood to the campfire pit and promised another load tomorrow.
Next morning - after breakfast in the Lodge - the four bikes and four couples rode out towards the west, stopping briefly at the FOntana Dam - the tallest verticle rise for a dam east of the Mississippi. We found a suitable parking spot for the bikes - well, actually there were closer spots to park, but I saw this sign in #13 that caused a flashback to the 60's and my rebellious days...so we parked in front of it. You can tell from the shot of a lil Island in #14 that the Corps of Engineers recently let a lot of water out of the lake. Then on to Deal's Gap, and a short stop at the General Store/campground at the eastern base.
To be honest - Deals gap is not the epitome of riding roads... maybe for crotch rockets, but ya gotta be able to say, "Oh, hell yeah, I been to Deals Gap, and ran "The Dragon" ... wasn't an unpleasant ride, but I prefer the sweepers that maintain a decent speed to the near-full stop hairpins of the dragon. (Don't gimme any shit, you young punks, I'm an old man on a fuckin touring bike.) Hell, I prefer the bonfire stories to the Dragon anyday. While there at the store, we admire a new Lotus from the Durham dealership and Mike steals a can of coke from the Man's grip.
#21 through #24 is at the scenic area at the top of the Dragon, where we didn't stay long because once again we were late to meet someone else further on.
On the other side of the dragon, we rode alongside the lake you see in #21 and eventually Tellico Lake, on our way to Hwy 411. Our rendezvous at the Countryside restaurant showed up a few minutes later, solo, and announced his wife was on deathwatch with her grandmother, some 100 years old, and his wife wouldn't be able to make it. We didn't talk long, he wanted to get back home and be there for her (like all us good husbands), and he went out to the prking lot to call her, while we all went in. Soon after, though, John came in and joined us, saying the old lady told him there's no reason to rush home... and we all enjoyed a decent lunch at this lil Restaurant. He shook hands afterwards and took off to go home, giving apologies that they wouldn't be able to join us. Once again, due to old age and impending senility, I'm sure, the four pics below are switched with the four above, because we all, less John, stopped at this lil Tavern near Tellico Plains on the western edge of the Cherahala Parkway. Actually, there was no sign as you approached and I almost missed the Budweiser sign on the side of the building as we rode past. Thankfully, there was a wide space to turn around just ahead, and as I made the U-Turn everyone behind us were either grinning from ear to ear or giving me the Thumbs-up... We stayed for a smoke break and a beer, and continued up the Cherahala to River Road, a side trip we took last year, but Cuz & Sonya and Jim & Moochie never been here. Those are the #25-#28 pics. As we posed for #26, John screached up beside us, hopped off and said his bride TOLD him to go find us and enjoy the weekend - wasn't much he could do witing for the inevitable.
Back on the Chearahala, pics # 33-36, we enjoyed what turned out to be a pretty beautiful Fall day in the mountains with less-than-peak colors, but unbelievably good riding nonetheless.
Once we got to Robbinsville, we chose to detour a little to the Nantahala Gorge, less John, again - he wanted to get to the Ironhorse Lodge to make sure he still had a room. Pic #37 and 38 are at the River Inn restaurant on the Natahala River in the middle of the gorge. #39 and 40 are of the private lodge rooms across the creek from the main lodge where a couple of us stayed. #41 and 42 show the semi-private cabin rooms a few others stayed at and #43 and 44 are of the main lodge itself where dinner and the large screen TVs are. We had another excellent campfire tonight - the owners of the place had a big load of firewood dumped and a sign at the fire pit saying "Reserved for Muthuh" ... gotte love these people (John and Charlene).
John turned out to be as entertaining as the missing "ditch" from last year... he told us about his wife's nickname (she wasn't here so we were allowed to talk about her) ... her nickname is CK... apparently she was giving somebody some shit about drinking too much (she had a bit much herslef) and told her, "You are drunk...d-r-u-n-c-k" ... after they all stopped laughing, she became known as CK ever since. John became known as Tequila John - as he brough a full bottle with him, and when damned near at the bottom was begging us to take at least a sip or two, so he could legitimately tell CK he had a lot of help drinking it... was a great campfire overall, and I am beginning to judge bike rides on the quality of the campfire as much as the ride itself.
SATURDAY: We got up and, after breakfast in the Lodge, packed up the bikes and headed over the Maggie Valley to see the "Wheels over Time" American Transportation Museum. This was my third trip, and each time I come, they've added exhibits, and enhanced what they had. It's turned into a first-class museum, mostly of motorcycles, but there are many classic examples of other modes of transportation as well.
After Maggie - we got back up on the parkway (Pics #57 and 58) and rode up to Asheville, off on Hwy 74 and down to Lake Lure. Here we stayed at the Geneva Riverside again, after dinner and drinks at Margaritagrille. You won't see any pictures after the crest of the parkway - for what reason I dunno...just never got around to it I suppose. Our last night campfire at the Geneva was another interesting one...sat through gale force winds that blew chairs all over the grounds and into the pool, and made the campfire look like a roman candle blowing it's embers all over the yard. They kept the Tiki Bar open and though we didn't sit at it much, it was a close source for cold beers.
SUNDAY: Up and out of the motel fairly early, and fed at the restaurant 100 yds away, we ride not too far out of Lake Lure, where Cuz and Sonya go straight down 74 toward home, and we peel off on some back roads on our way back up to I-40 and the long Interstate ride home. Moochie wisely elects to ride in the car this time, and we just point east and grit our teeth into the cold October morning. The only stop we make is at The Garage Motorsports Bar (Last two pics) in Burlington so the girls can get on their respective bikes and we all part ways.
I wasn't sure we could come close to topping last years Colors ride, but this one easily tied it. Good new friends, better old friends, and memories of yet another great ride into the Smoky's during the falling of the leaves. Took me a week to fully unpack and here it is Thanksgiving before I even get the ride posted on the website... obviously I am getting less and less piqued about doing this stuff online. The last chapter of the book is over 6 months old and the rides are coming farther and farther apart.
I guess it's time to let you all in on a nagging feeling I'm having, which is looking forward to next summer as a farewell ride. I've been riding motorcycles since I was 15 years old, and though it will always be in my blood, I'm hankerin' for a change. As of today, I'm planning my last ride for August of 2006, a 3 week ride out to Sturgis, Yellowstone, and points between. I've always loved Yellowstone and the Grand Tetons as the best places in this country to ride bikes, and my farewell ride will bring me back on Ol' Huck one more time.
I have a few more in me before then... going to plan one more Vision Quest ride - my annual winter camping trip to Hanging Rock in December, and likely an Outer Banks ride this Spring. Then the last one in August before I sell the scooter, and do some more trips in the convertible. I gotta say it is 90% of the same feeling with the top down. I'll miss the flying feeling of the sweeping curves, but there are convenient buttons to push when it gets cold or rainy and the sound system works wonderfully. Maybe I'll play chase van for some more rides in the future, who knows?
Til I figure out whats happening, thats the latest - hope you all had a Happy Turkey Day... on to the blatently capitalistic holidays and beyond...till then - Ride Safe.
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OTHER THAN THAT - HEY! ... HAVE A NICE DAY.