a.k.a. Intro to Sport-Touring 101
After a little verbal abuse and arm-twisting, I convinced Chad Trank to load up his CBR600F (to be herein known as "The GOOF") with luggage and saddle up for a trip with me. He had no idea what he was in for, and reminded me of myself before I began taking these trips. He wanted to know where we were going, what routes we were taking, where we were staying, etc. Remembering how I felt before the first trip I took, I obliged, and we made hotel reservations, and plotted a general route (that I knew full well would be ignored, but I was humoring him all the same). Aftera few sleepless nights for Chad, we were ready to embark on this not-so-historic, yet important journey. Important, because this would help Chad decide if he was going to continue to be a weekend rider, or a sport-touring rider. It would also help him decide if the Goof was his permanent ride, or if a VFR800F was in his future. So many questions, many miles to try to answer them.
Day 1: After struggling to get out of work by 11:30, I found myself on the Elgin-O'Hare Expressway (which incidentally goes neither to Elgin nor O'Hare airport) doing well into triple digits to try to make it to Chad's by noon. A nice start to the trip for me. Chad was waiting outside, giddy as a schoolboy, with an ear-to-ear grin that told me in no uncertain terms that he was ready, willing, and able to go.
After a quick stop for gas and a gas station lunch for me, we were on our way. After a crappy ride around Chicago (read: consturction traffic) we made it to West Lafayette, Indiana, and our first of many gas stops for the trip. After I inhaled a Big King and a bacon cheeseburger, we were on our way to meet fellow CBR-Lister, Mark Finney, for a ride through the Indiana countryside. I was a little sceptical about meeting him for a ride in Indiana. I was pleasantly surprised, both by the road and by that patch of gravel that caused both Mark's and my rear tires to kick out, frankly scaring the hell out of me. It was a great ride, and I had to keep reminding myself that we're in Indiana. Many thanks to Mark for a nice side trip.
From there, Chad and I parted from Mark, and had nice ride through the night to our destination in Madison, IN that night. We went to Pizza Hut for dinner that night. As we're sitting there enjoying a few beers, the song "Gettin' Jiggy with it" comes on the jukebox. That was the phrase for the trip - Chad started it by telling me that the waitress wanted to "Get Jiggy" with me....
Pictures from Day 1:
Day 2: I hate mornings. This is no secret to anyone who's been on a trip with me. This morning was no different. After struggling to get out of bed, we loaded up the bikes, and I looked at a map and pointed out a route that I'd like to take (different from the one discussed a few nights ago). Our morning started off through a pretty thick fog, and a nice brisk (OK, it was fargin cold) temperature. We were cruising along in northern Kentucky, and I could tell that Chad wasn't into it yet. He kept disappearing in my rear view mirror. I decided to pull over and let him warm up a little, and of course, take some pictures.
Then it happened. We're riding towards our breakfast destination, I come up on a right-hander that's not marked with a speed rating, so I figure, enter it at 70-75. Someone must have stolen the sign, 'cause this was a 30 MPH turn if I ever saw one in my life. SCCRRRAAAAAAAAAAAPPPE!!!!!! "Holy cow, I'm grinding the hell out of that peg," I thought to myself during what was probably the longest 4-5 seconds of my life. "Holy Cow!!! I dragged my peg!!!! Wh-hooo!!!!!!" I had touched a peg before on a severe uphill left-hander before, but this was my first really good drag. IMHO, it's too much (i.e. riding too hard) to do on a regular basis for me right now. I usually ride at about 80% of my ability, and this was the time that I needed that extra 20%. We got to breakfast, and this time it was me who was grinning ear to ear. I was so glad that I dragged it, mostly to get my buddy Jeff off my ass about not dragging pegs yet. Take that!!! Ha!!
After a nice "Mom 'n' Pop" type breakfast, where Chad was amazed when I ordered two breakfasts, we were back on our way. I really enjoy the Kentucky countryside, and I think Chad was too. It's just a really nice place to ride. The roads were really nice, and as we approached the West Virginia border, the scenery kept improving. I could tell that Chad was really starting to get into the trip.
After a lunch stop where I enjoyed a few (OK, three) hot dogs, we decided to slab it around Charleston, WV to make up some time. We still had quite a long was to go. The slab was great, and the tunes were jammin. BTW - it's a bad idea for me to listen to 80's metal while on the bike, but it sure is fun.
After we got off the slab, we ended up by accident on the best road yet. It was hellacious, and Chad was way into it. After a quick stop at dusk, we headed through the c-c-c-cold to make it to Elkins, WV that night - and more Pizza Hut.
Day 2 Pictures:
Day 3: Day three started out the same. It was cold, and I hate mornings. The ride woke me up right away. The ride was great, and the scenery beautiful. The trees were really starting to show their color. We hit a little construction traffic, but who cares!! It gave us a chance to enjoy the scenery a little. Then, we started to head into Virginia via route 33. Holy Cow!! What a great road. 25MPH twisties as far as the eye can see!!
From there, we made our way to the beginning of Skyline Drive, and Shenandoah National Park. Wh-hoo, another National Park seen on the 1KF. Skyline was a nice ride, and I even waved to the Park Ranger as he signaled to me to slow down. heh heh heh. At the end of the park, we stopped for gas, took a few pictures by the Blue Ridge Parkway sign, and discussed the route. "OK, stay on this until you hit Boone. I'll see you up the road somewhere." Vroom.......
The Blue Ridge was more beautiful than I have ever seen it before. The leaves were in full color, the temperature was perfect, and there wasn't a cloud in the sky. Better yet, there were no cages on the road. I was really enjoying myself, and for a while I forgot that Chad was with me. It was just me and the bike. The Blue Ridge Parkway isn't the tightest road in the world, but it's clean and very smooth. I just kept it at around 60-65, and was taking nice smooth lines through the corner (shut up Jeff) and trying to take in as much scenery as I could. It was a hellova riding day.
As we approached Boone (Chad had caught up at this point), we stopped at Jefferson Mountain overlook, which overlooks the city of (dramatic pause) Jefferson. It was pitch black out, and the stars were amazing. I must have seen 5 shooting stars that night. The Milky Way was fairly visible too, and it was a great moment in time. I could have stood there for hours and done nothing but stare out into the darkness. We had a long day of riding coming up tomorrow, including the Gap and the Cherohala, so we rode the last few miles to Boone, NC, and had dinner and a few beers at the hotel bar while watching the drunk women dance with one another on the dancefloor to the disco sounds of the 70's. A good time was had by all.
Day 3 Pictures:
Day 4: Wh-hoo, it's not too cold this morning!!! Damn, there's a lot of cages out. Oh yeah, Saturday on the Blue Ridge - not a good idea.
Our first stop for the day was to be Asheville. Our first stop for the day ended up being roadside. We're riding along, and all of a sudden, I hit reserve. Uh Oh, Chad's gotta be getting low on gas. I glance into the rear view mirror, but there is no Goof to be seen. I slow down to let him catch up, as he had been putting along trying to conserve gas. I motion to him to ask "You need gas, right?" to which he shakes his head nervously. A few minutes later, I'm thinking, "He's gonna run out of gas any time now," and then I look back to see the GOOF at the side of the road at the bottom of the hill. OK, no problem. "I'll be back," A short jaunt of 8 miles into Asheville got me to a Texaco where the attendant graciously offered me a gas can. After consuming a couple of donuts (hey - I hadn't eaten breakfast yet), I rode back to Chad with the "go-go juice." After a few laughs, and pictures, we were back on our way.
From there, we decided that there were far too many cages on the Parkway, so we said our good-byes, and headed to the Smokey Mountain Expressway. On the way there, I took us down a road that had the imfamous "Trucks Not Allowed" sign at that beginning. It was really tight, but a lot of fun.
The Smokey Mountain Expressway was fine - nice scenery, and the traffic was moving at a pretty good clip. We got to Robbinsville in no time, and took route 28 North towards the Gap. 28 was a great ride. When we got to the gap, there was the usual collection of bikes there - Ducati 916, R1, 900RRs, etc. We stopped for a few minutes, browsed the T.W.O. store, and then took off North through the Gap. I kept on Chad's tail the whole way through and we had a great time. It's a hellacious road, and "if you have the means, I highly recommend" riding it. We stopped at the end near Calderwood Dam, and talked with a few other riders. Low and behold, two of them were from Chicago, and were amazed that we rode all the way down. They had trrrr.....trrrr....trraa.... - I can't say that word, let alone put my bike on one. There was another guy on a YZF1000, and we were comparing tire impressions between his Dragon GTs and my D205s. The ride back through the Gap sucked for me. I got stuck behind a group of Harleys, and they of course wouldn't pull over, so I'd pull over, wait for a few minutes, and go again. When I got back to T.W.O., Chad was waiting, and we spent a few minutes talking to some folks there. Then, we saw a few people videotaping, and we got the "let's get the hell out of Dodge" feeling, so we left.
From there, we headed to the Cherohala Skyway, aptly named as most of it is above 5000 Feet above sea level. The road was nice, fresh, clean pavement and was much tighter than the Blue Ridge. The scenery was great too, and the leaves were very colorful once again. I decided it was time to pull a "Road-Runner" on Chad. As I saw his head turn to enjoy some scenery, I downshifted twice, and blew past him at full throttle - scaring the crap out of him. heh heh heh. I don't think he was as amused as Jeff and I are when we do that to one another. Anyway, after that, it was me dropping back and taking in the scenery while Chad raced ahead. I stopped to take a picture, and while stopped, a group of about 8 Harleys and an Accord passed me by. Oh no, not again. I'd come around a corner, see something I wanted a picture of, stop and take a picture, and keep going until I caught up to the Accord and Harley's again. Stop, take another picure, and so on.
Later on up the road, I catch up with Chad who it stopped to take a picture of me. The overlook that he stopped at is fantastic, and Chad got a great shot of the road below. We're about 5000 feet, and the view is great. This was another time that we both could have just sat there for hours. The rest of the Cherohala was great, and as we approached Tellico Plains, we got stuck behind three cars for a while. The lead car was doing about 30, and as Chad and I are about to double-yellow pass, the two other cars go for it. I buzzed by (like the ass-hole that I am) the slow car in a very low gear, which equals very loud exhaust.
We rode into the darkness again to our hotel in Crossville that night. The only interesting part of that ride was the 18-wheeler double-yellow passes that Chad kept making me do. After all, I couldn't fall behind!!
Day 4 Pictures:
Day 5: Slab, slab, a little rain, and more slab. This is the part of the trip that I usually hate - the trip home. This time was different. I was so content, that I didn't really care about anything. Maybe I was just so relieved that this wasn't anything close to a repeat of Moronathon and I could have good memories of the Blue Ridge that I didn't mind the slab too much. Or, maybe it was the 80s metal in my helmet.....
At any rate, we left Crossville at 7:00 AM (I hate mornings) so that we could meet another CBR-Lister, Gawain, for breakfast at 8:30. Gawain was really nice, and the XX looked great with the Givi topcase and windscreen. Gawain admired my Corbin for a while, and I admired the XX.
After a nice breakfast at the Cracker Barrel, we headed out on the Interstate towards Nashville, hoping to find a good picture spot at the upcoming rest stop. Unfortunately, it was closed, so we pulled over for gas and a quick picture or two, and said our good-byes. It was a short encounter, but we talked about meeting next year in Arkansas for some good riding.
The rest of the way home was just slab. We hit some good rain for a while, and even stopped at a Toxic Hell for dinner, which is usually a no-no for me while on the bike. We made it home after an long day without incident. I spent a few minutes at Chad's place before heading home to the comfort, and warmth, of home.
Day 5 Pictures:
Conslusion: This wasa great trip. Not only did I get to enjoy it myself, but I got to show Chad what there is besides weekend riding. The weather couldn't have been much better, and the roads and scenery were perfect. I dragged pegs for the first time, and I was Gettin' Jiggy with it. It was the perfect week to go and see the fall colors. It was great to see Chad really enjoy himself, and decide that sport-touring was something he wanted to continue to do.
This trip was also a major redemption of the Moronathon from earlier this year. No longer do I have to remember that crappy trip. I can now look back on this one and think, "That's what it's supposed to be." This is how I will remember the Blue Ridge Parkway this winter....
If you'd like to read Chad's take on the trip, click here