Where should I begin. (Deep breath).
Memorial Day weekend 1998 was supposed to be a great trip from Chicago through the West Virginia, Virginia, North Carolina, and Tennessee Appalacian Mountains. Five riders were slated to go: Myself (CBR1000F), Jeff (VFR750F), Rich (EX-500), Rich, a.k.a. Viragoboy (Virago 1100 Special), and Greg (YZF-600).
The five riders slated to attend all met beforehand to go over riding rules, routes, etc. It seemed like everyone was clear of what was going to happen, and how things should be handled. It became clear quickly that either some were clueless, didn't pay attention, or just didn't care. We had 2 major incidents/day, and spent almost 8 hours sitting at the side of the road during the trip. Not my idea of a good time.
Incident 1: We were approaching East Lafayette, IN when Viragoboy takes the lead and points to his gas tank - the international riding symbol for "Hey Dudes, I need gas." 30 seconds later and about 1.5 miles from the next exit, Viragoboy pounds his feet into the footpegs, and heads for the shoulder. Yup, ran out of gas. Luckily, Jeff had packed a length of plastic tubing to be used as a siphon. Viragoboy, now a.k.a. Gasoline boy, was able to siphon (and spit) gasoline from the EX-500 into his Virago. To quote Viragoboy, "I remember gasoline tasting much worse than that. It just tastes like bad vodka." At any rate, after about 20 minutes of laughing at him and watching him spit out gasoline, we got to the next town, fueled up, and ate breakfast. His explanation was this. The manual states that it has a 4.4 gallon tank. In actuality, from dead empty, it only holds 4.0 gallons - which is why he miscalculated and ran out of gas. Not a big deal.
We continued on down I-65 for a few hours until we reached Kentucky, and got off the Interstate around Frankfort. We hit some nice sweepers and country roads and stopped for a few minutes to rest and enjoy a smoke (ciagarettes for some, cigars for others).
Incident 2:Riding across the Kentucky coutryside soon found us in the middle of twistie heaven. Route 460 was incredible. Jeff and I began to pull ahead of the other riders, and Jeff caught his boot on the pavement, twisted his ankle a bit, so we pulled over to let the others catch up. Viragoboy pulled up, but nobody else. After a few minutes a passing car informed us that somebody had gone down, but was up and walking around. We turned around and about 1/2 mile up the road Greg had low-sided his YZF. We pulled his bike out of the ditch, patched it up with some duct tape, patched Greg up with the First Aid kit, and sat on the side of the road contemplating our next move. Greg was a little bruised up, and his arm was hurting him a little. Overall, he was OK - thank goodness. After convincing Greg that we were not going to let him ride home alone, we started to ride back to the previous town. About 1/2 way there, I pulled over to see if he was doing OK. He pulled over, and the bike tipped over on him again. He was not riding any further at that point. Luckily, the gas station attendant was able to tell us where a U-Haul renter was at. Jeff (on Greg's YZF) and I (on Jeff's VFR) headed off to get a truck. We rented a 17 foot U-Haul with a ramp, but when I tried to start it, the battery was dead. Great. The only other truck there was a huge ol' 24 footer. Not too many other choices, but they did give us that truck for the same price. Jeff, in the meantime, had managed to drain the bike of gas by tipping it upside down, and then running the gas out of the carbs. We laid the bike down in the truck (on the already bad side of course) and I drove the beast back to Greg and the others. I got to enjoy a few minutes of A/C too. Greg was soon on his way back to Chicago, and we pressed on.
I was a little spooked riding after that, as were the others. We took it quite easy for a while, but as the road got nicer and nicer, the pace picked up again, and we were really enjoying the countryside. We pulled away from Rich Chiuppi, again, and were forced to pull over and wait a few times (a recurring theme), but overall it was a nice ride. 625 miles ridden, we stopped at the West Virginia border for the night.
Day 1 Pictures
Incident 1: "OK guys, stay on Route 119 through Charleston in case we get split up." As Jeff and I approached Charleston, and since Chiuppi had fallen way way behind again, we pulled over to the shoulder to make sure that Rich and Rich caught up and took the right ramp to stay on 119. They did not. As I was flailing my arms in the air to try to get their attention, I thought "how the hell are we going to find them." Jeff and I rode into town, and then got back on 119 to return to the point of seperation. After about 45 minutes, we miraculously ran across them. I signaled to them to "Stay right the f*ck where you are", Jeff and I u-turned on an exit ramp, and we continued on. Needless to say, I was angry. I mean, c'mon. If you can't follow road signs, you shouldn't be on the road, IMHO.
We continued on our not so spirited pace. I say not so spirited, because we pretty much put a 65MPH straightaway speed limit into affect to try and have Chiuppi keep up. We were fast through the corners, but then slowed down in the straights to try and keep together. It did not work, and we found ourselves pulling over about every 30 minutes to wait for him. Not a good way to make time. After an afternoon of playing "Where's Chiuppi", we finally made it to the Blue Ridge Parkway at about 7:00. I pulled over right before we got on the Parkway and told Jeff "I had to get you home today." I could tell that he knew what I meant, and he proceeded south on the Parkway to be alone for a while. We rode for about 1/2 hour and then I stopped at an overlook. Viragoboy needed gas, again, and luckily there was a town not 5 minutes away. I told Rich and Rich that I would wait at the overlook until they returned from getting gas.
Incident 2: about an hour later, I hear the distinctive sound of a VFR with a TBR slip on heading my way. I had been waiting at the overlook since Rich and Rich left. I flashed my lights (it was dark already), and Jeff pulled over. I told him I had been waiting for more than an hour. We waited another 1/2 hour, and then I decided to head into town to find them. 10 minutes later, I was back at the overlook, as the road to town was closed, due to a truck accident. OK, that explains why they're not back yet. Jeff checked his pager again, and a few minutes later it went off, informing us of where to meet them. Off we went, and immediately a Park Ranger started to follow us. I pulled over to check a map, and she pulled in behind us, and started to shine her flashlight at us. I asked her if she was looking for something, and she told us that she had heard us coming for 2 miles (gotta love the TBR slip-ons), and decided to check us out since there had been reports of bikes tearing around the area. We told her what was going on, and she let us go without further hassle. About 45 minutes later, we arrived in the meeting place to find Rich Chiuppi right where he was supposed to be. "Where's Viragoboy?" I asked. "Oh, he went to look for you." Now I was pissed. Not only had I been sitting at an overlook for 2 hours, but now I had to wait again for dumbass to get back? 45 minutes later he got back. More time wasted.
Jeff and I were ready to jump back on the Blue Ridge and ride into the night for a few hours. Rich and Rich didn't want to, claiming that they were too tired. OK, that's understandable. We'd been riding for a while. We got on the Interstate and rode past Roanoke so that we could avoid any city traffic the next morning. We got to the hotel, and Jeff and I tried to go to sleep. Viragoboy went out and got food, brought it back to the hotel, and he and Rich proceeded to drink for about 2 hours. I guess they were really tired.
Day 2 Pictures:
To make things worse, it was pouring rain. We saddled up and started riding at about 8:00 CST. I made damn sure to inform and re-inform everyone of the route to the Blue Ridge Parkway, just so that there were no mixups. We picked Asheville as a meeting place if we were to get split up again, and rode through the rain, which quickly turned to dense fog.
Incident 1: As we approached the parkway, the fog was so thick that Jeff missed the entrance to the parkway. I almost missed it, but was able to pull over. Viragoboy pulled in beside me, and I told him repeatedly to "stay here." Rich Chiuppi also missed the entrance, and I rode ahead to find Jeff waiting at the side of the road about 200 yards later. We all turned around and headed back to the entrance, only to find that Viragoboy didn't stay there, rather he started riding after us. The three of us made the entrance, and headed to the first lookout to wait. Viragoboy was nowhere to be found. I went back to the entrance to try to find him with no success. I returned to the lookout and we waited for another 20 minutes for him to show up. Since we had a meeting place, we continued on.
Jeff and I set a very mild pace on the parkway - 55 MPH (it's a 45 MPH zone). Even with that speed, we lost Chiuppi faster than you can say "Man is this scenery beautiful." We rode for about an hour, and then pulled over at an overlook to wait. As we were getting suited back up to continue, Chiuppi finally showed up. We told him that we were stopping for lunch in about 50 miles, and told him we'd wait for him.
43 miles later, I caught up with Jeff. I had dropped back to try and relax, enjoy the scenery, and get a feeling of solitude. Jeff was waiting at the side of the road, and I immediately spotted the VFR and pulled over. About 5 minutes later, Chiuppi rides by, and doesn't stop. I believe the words "What the f*ck is he doing" entered my head. After a quick attempt to catch him, Jeff and I turned off and got lunch - our best meal of the trip. 2 Whoppers with cheese please.
Incident 2: Jeff and I finished lunch, fueled up, and got back on the parkway, not expecting to see Chiuppi or Viragoboy until Asheville. After 5 minutes, we see Viragoboy pulling out of an overlook on Chiuppi's EX-500. Jeff and I pull over to find that the Virago had tipped over and broken the clutch lever, rendering it unridable. OK, shit happens. No big deal. Viragoboy returned about 20 minutes later with information on where Yamaha dealers were at. He was going to ride into town, call the dealer (as my cell phone wasn't connecting), and go pick up a new lever. Here's where it get's bad. 2 hours later, Viragoboy finally returns. I could tell by his body language that he didn't get a new lever, and I was correct. Apparently both shops were closed, which he found out by riding to them, and none of the gas stations that he stopped at had one either - yeah, no shit Sherlock. After questioning how/why it took so long, I made a very simple suggestion. Let's put your luggage on my bike, you get on the back of the EX, and we'll get you to town. From there, we can get you to a phone, find a U-Haul, etc. - basically, get you off the side of the road. Wallowing in self-pity, Viragoboy refused the ride. "Oh, I can just hitchhike." Again, I repeated the offer, trying to get him to think logically. "Well, lemme just think here for a minute." At this point I completely lost it. We had been sitting there for over 2 hours waiting for him. I blew up, asked him what the hell he wanted me to do then, and walked away. Jeff, as discouraged as I was, came over the calm me down, and I was fine. Viragoboy then walked over, pointed his cigarette at us, and said "I don't need the attitudes." Completely beside myself at this point, Jeff and I decided to cut our losses. We made sure that Chiuppi had maps, knowledge of the nearest town and ranger station, etc. It was worthless to talk to Viragoboy at that point, as he was neither thinking logically or rationally. Jeff and I reluctantly took off south down the Blue Ridge - neither of us sure of exactly what happened or went wrong. Our male bonding trip resembled female bitching more than anything (no offense ladies). Rich finally convinced Viragoboy to get off his ass, and they contacted a park ranger and got setup with a U-Haul.
Jeff and I rode down the Blue Ridge for about 2 hours. It was very spirited, somewhat out of anger, but we rode in control. I even got pegs (just a quick touch) which is unusual for me. It started to get dark, and we pulled into an overlook to try to figure out what had gone wrong, talk a little, and rest. Neither one of us liked leaving them behind, but it was obvious that Viragoboy didn't want us around and didn't want our help. We felt bad about leaving Rich Chiuppi in that situation, but he assured us that he was OK. We had no idea what Viragoboy's problem was. Maybe he was still pissed from the morning, or maybe he felt stupid for dumping his bike. Either way, we were just trying to help him - hell, we sat on the side of the road for 2 hours after he told us to keep going. We did not want to leave him high and dry, but it was obvious that we weren't doing any good there.
At any rate, we decided to just head to the next town, get a room, have a nice dinner, a few beers, and crash. In a nutshell, we ended up riding for another 3-4 hours, couldn't find a hotel, ate gas station food, and slept at a rest stop. We had ridden on the Blue Ridge through Asheville, and further south on some other roads, and we found ourselves literally in the middle of nowhere. If nothing else, our spirits actually improved during this time. It was actually quite comical. Next thing we know, we're on US 64 in southern North Carolina in insane twisties in the middle of the night. Usually, US highways are on the straighter side, but this one resembled a path that someone drunk on moonshine would take home. Up and down, right and left, big - I mean HUGE - bluffs and rocks where the shoulder should have been. "What the hell kinda road was that?!?!?!" we kept asking one another, trying to keep from bursting out into laughter. After passing numerous small towns and seeing nothing but no vacancy signs, we found a rest stop on the map, and made that our destination. Good thing we brought sleeping bags with. I slept like a baby in my mummy-bag, nice and toasty warm. It had been a crappy day, friendships were tested, and I was glad it was over.
Day 3 pictures:
We made it to the Crossroads of Time after a short jaunt. It was neat to see so many bikes, and so many campgrounds with bikes as well. I took a quick look around to see if I could spot Linda Tanner or Gawain (some CBR listers that I hoped to run into down there), but they must have not been around. Jeff and I headed through Deal's Gap, and after about 3 turns, I never saw Jeff again. I was forced to take it easy because of my tire, but something tells me I wouldn't have kept up with him anyway. Deal's Gap isn't the best stomping ground for the Black Whale. The VFR is perfectly at home there, as the GOOF rider that Jeff passed can attest to. It was an incredible road, and I had fun keeping my entry speed up, not wanting to over-accelerate out of the corners.
After the gap, we plotted the shortest ride home. I/we attempted to keep our speed down to try and conserve the tire tread, as well as adjusting the suspension softer and losing some air pressure. We ended up crusing at somewhat sane speeds all the way back to Chicago without incident. After 874 miles on a bad tire the last day, I proceeded to kiss my bike in thanks after pulling into my driveway. Even though I had my HRCA card with me, I didn't want to go through the hassle. It was great to be home.
Day 4 Pictures:
This trip was a complete waste of time. While I was happy to be home after a long last day, it really didn't start to hit me how unfulfilling the trip was until I returned to work. Normally I walk around completely refreshed, today I am completely pissed. I know that bad things will happen, and I'm certainly not mad at Greg for crashing or Viragoboy for breaking his clutch lever. Those things are going to happen, and there's nothing you can do about it. It's the stupidity, lack of thinking, inability to follow instructions or directions, and rudeness that really angers me. There is so much out there and so much to see and do. If I had all the time in the world to do it, jerking around wouldn't bother me. However, I have a limited amount of time, and hate the fact that on this trip hours were wasted waiting for people, chasing people, and searching for people.
I guess I'm also upset at myself. I feel like I failed. I know what's out there, and I really tried to make a good trip that everyone could enjoy. I hoped that others would find on this trip what I tend to find, but they did not. The trip had it's moments, we enjoyed a few nice roads togehter, and saw some very nice scenery. Overall, it was crap.
I don't like to keep to up to the minute time schedules or anything like that on these trips. I/we try to plan approximate ending points for each day so that we can hit the roads we want, stop and enjoy the sites, and get to town at a reasonable hour so that we can enjoy a good dinner. I really wanted to get to Deal's Gap on Saturday so that I could hook up with some people from the CBR mailing list. There was simply too much time spent sitting on the side of the road waiting for people. That's what pisses me off about this trip the most. Accidents will happen, stupidity is avoidable.
Hey, at least I got a suntan.
NOTE: This trip is not indicitive of the trips I/we usually take. If you're interested in reading a trip report instead of a bitch session, check out my 1997 Eastern US Tour Trip Report.