October 1999 Blue Ridge Run

And sometimes The Dragon wins...

This has been one fantastic year of riding. I have been places, seen things, and done stuff that I never thought possible.  Unfortunately, the season is nearing the end, but not before we make one last run.  What better place to go than Appalacia during mid-October, where the roads are twisty and the scenery is fantastic with all the colors of the changing leaves.

In addition to the normal supporting cast of Jeff and Chad for this trip, Chad's father, Bob, who joined us for the Around the Lakes Trip in May, decided to join us again, as well as Adam, who joined us last time also.  Finally, after about 13 years of not riding, Jeff's dad, on his recently fixed-up (by Jeff and I) 77 CB750, also joined us for this.  Personally, I was very glad that Mr. Gary decided to take the trip with us.   After all, he's the one who got Jeff into riding, who got me into riding.  In fixing up his bike for him, and getting him down to the Blue Ridge Parkway, I saw this as a great way to say "thanks for showing us what riding can be" and "let us show you what we found."

Day 1: Into everyone's life a little rain must fall

I dragged myself out of bed at 5:15 AM, and did the Frankenstein walk to the coffee maker, only to find that I had forgotton to set the timer. D'oh.  After a long five more minutes, I had my first cup of coffee, and began to wake up.  I finished up my last minute things that I managed to put off until now, and went outside to enjoy the chill of the morning (I was hoping that it would help me wake up actually).  A few minutes after 6:00, the bikes started showing up.  Most everyone was in good spirits, and we were on the road shortly after 6:30.

After the "traditional" breakfast stop in West Lafayette, IN for Burger King, we were back on the road.  Until now, the skies had just been a little overcast.   As we approached Indianapolis, it began to rain.  And rain, and rain, and rain. And then it rained some more.  Then, it really started coming down.   Somewhere past Indianapolis and approaching the Kentucky border, I decided to make an early gas stop.  Nobody was upset with this, and Adam was the first one to chime out "OK, who else is soaking wet?"  I unzipped my jacket, and looked at my now dark-grey with water sweatshirt.  So much for the gear being waterproof.  It gave out after about 2 hours of downpour.

After coffee was consumed, and laughter diminished, we were back on the road again, crossing over into Kentucky.  The day was a complete wash - no pun intended.  We have taken many trips, including a two-week trip out west where we had 35 minutes of rain during that time.  This was the motorcycling gods way of reminding us that we have been very lucky.  After a few more stops to wring out and warm-up, we made it to our hotel.  Where's the beer?  What do you mean "Dry County??" That's unacceptable.  We ended up taking a taxi into town to grab some beers and chips, and enjoyed the evening drinking and talking about life.  The rest of the night was spent rotating gloves, boots, and other clothes on the room's heater/AC unit.

From the stories that the cabbie told us, I think there was a part of each of us that wanted to move down there and start driving a cab...

Day 2:  OK, I can handle a little more rain

Day two, we awoke to more rain.  After breakfast at the Waffle House (my meal: Ham & Eggs), we reluctantly put on our almost dry boots, gloves, and gear and headed out into the countryside.  We hit a hellacious road, and I kept thinking "man, I wish it were dry."  As it was, the ride was enjoyable, and it was nice to be off the superslab and seeing some of the countryside.

About mid-day, the weather started to break, and a dry-line appeared on the road from car tires.  Adam and I broke ahead of the group, and started hittin a few corners.   The day was starting to improve, and the scenery was great.  We made our way down to the Daniel Boone Parkway in southeast Kentucky, paid our $.10 to get on the parkway, and continued west.  The parkway was very pretty, and we rode as a group for most of it.  I could tell that spirits were beginning to improve, especially when I passed a sign that read "Johnny Cox Highway" and decided to let my sense of humor loose for a minute. Yeeeee-haaaaawww!!! Chad seemed amused.

As we crossed into West Virginia, the roads were now dry, and the pace was picking up.   We twisted through the countryside for a few hours, and then stopped to wait for the dads roadside in some little town.  As they approached, we got the "wait a minute" signal from Mr. T.  Seems he had a little pucker moment, and wasn't quite ready to continue on yet.  Mr Gary seemed a little shaken up just from watching.  The dads had enough of the twisty roads, and Mr Gary even commented "haven't you learned that the shortest distance between two points is a straight line?" to which I replied "Yeah, but it's not the most fun way."  I knew it was just fatigue at that point, and that once we reached the Blue Ridge, they'd be glad we took the long way.

At this point, it was starting to get late, the dads were starting to get pretty tired, and we still had a good hour or so to get to the hotel for the night.  We arrived just after dark, and the Garys and I decided to go into town and grab dinner.  I think the Tranks were asleep before they even walked into their hotel room! :-)

Stopped roadside in Kentucky

The Daniel Boone Parkway in Kentucky

Day 3: Uhh, Hello?  This is getting a little old...cool thanks.

The Tranks wanted to go off and do their own thing this morning - OK, Chad wanted to try and find his lake, and his dad went with him.  I'll let him tell his own story of this morning's adventures.  The Garys, Adam, and I headed into the heart of West Virginia....in the rain.  Again, we found ourselves on a great twisty road, but it was raining.  After a great breakfast at the Lumberjack Restaurant (my meal: Ham & Eggs) somewhere in West Virginia, we continued west.  I had mentioned that I wanted to hit part of the Highland Scenic Highway, but I wasn't sure where it was.   As we continued down the road, we came across a sign that welcomed us to the Highland Scenic Highway, and I threw my hands up in an "I dunno, I guess this is it" manner.  The highway was beautiful.  The leaves were changing, and the sun was starting to dry the roads out.

We continued on, and crossed into Virginia via a cool mountain pass road.   Virginia was suddenly very different from West Virginia.  We were at a lower altitude, and the temps were rising.  The roads were surrounded by trees that formed a tunnel-like ride for miles and miles.  The yellows were incredibly bright, and the leaves were falling in masses.  It was fun watching the lead motorcycle go through a pile of leaves, and see the leaves get thrown up into the air, only to gracefully fall again.  The smiles were starting to appear now, especially from Mr. Gary.  We stopped roadside along a little stream and watched a few baby trout swim for a few minutes.  The day was now perfect, with hardly a cloud in the sky.

After a gas stop up the road, we headed back into West Virginia via a road that someone a long time ago told me was very fun.  They were right.  I was having a blast, and my riding confidence was starting to improve, despite the tendancy for the BT57 rear tire to slide.  As we crossed the mountain pass back into West Virginia, the leaves on the trees suddenly changed from the mostly yellow leaves of Virginia back into shades of orange, red, and yellow.  It was fantastic, and we stopped roadside for a minute to admire the view.  Mr. Gary passed us at that point, and we continued down the road after him.  In true Gary fashion, he blew past the next intersection, which is where we were going to turn.  After a short high-speed pursuit, we were back on the right road, and heading north.  The ride continued to be very enjoyable, and the scenery was very nice.

Then, the first glitch of the trip happened.  Mr. Gary was having an intermittent electrical problem with his CB750.  We thought it was a loose ignition wire, and could jiggle-stuff around to get the bike started, but every time he stopped, it took us a few minutes to get her going again.  As we crossed into Virginia, we missed the turnoff for the expressway.  Unfortunately, as Mr. Gary was turning his bike around, the electrical system went out, the bike died, and he had a minor tip-over, breaking the windshield on his Vetter fairing.  It happens to everyone, but he was not very happy about it.  I think he was worried about it ruining out trip, but that was not even remotely true.  We got him back up and going, and made the final jaunt to the hotel for the night.  It was then bike maintenance time, and I was elected to make a beer run - you know, Givi bags and all.  We spent the next hour or so hot-wiring the CB750 with a toggle switch, and then enjoyed a great steak dinner in the hotel restaurant.

The Lumberjack Restaurant in West Virginia

Mr. Gary is all smiles stopped roadside in Virginia

Stopped roadside in Virginia...with the leaves falling

A great shot of the trees and the road in Virginia

Small Town, USA

The colors in West Virginia

More colors in West Virginia

Mr Gary riding the CB750 in West Virginia

Day 4:  Ahhh, now this is more like it

Day four started out perfect.  We got an early start and headed towards Skyline Drive - a great road through Shenandoah National Park.  As we approached the park, my eagle eye spotted a sign that I knew could only mean good things: DINER.  There it was - a perfect breakfast stop.  The six of us sat at the counter and ordered breakfast  (my meal: Ham & Eggs).  Classic stainless steel diner, complete with table jukeboxes.  I flipped through the selection, found what I was looking for, and dropped in my $.25.  There was a moment of wonder for what I had selected, and as soon as the first chords of "Crazy" by Patsy Cline hit, I got a smile from Adam, and I knew he understood why I played that song.  It's just the perfect diner song, and it made the mood just that much better.  Places like this are hard to find nowadays.

After breakfast, we headed to the park.  This was one of those "Go your own pace, stop as often as you like, we'll all meet up at the Blue Ridge Parkway sign" times.  This worked out great.  I pulled over at one overlook to stop for a while, and everyone passed by. When I left, there was someone at each of the next 5 overlooks, everyone just gazing out into the valley below.  This was a good time for everyone to just relax and enjoy themselves.  The park was beautiful, and after a few more stops, pictures, and a quick knee-down, I found myself at the Blue Ridge Parkway sign.  Jeff was already there.  One by one, the rest of the bikes showed up, and it was then that we leaned of the "blue-towel" incident from Mr. Trank - I hope he had a shovel.  At this time, unfortunately, Adam had to turn back.  We said our good-byes, and reminded him that the trip to Colorado in the spring is just around the corner.  It was great to have ridden with him, and you could see how his confidence had improved his riding over the past couple of days.

After a quick fill-up, started down the Blue Ridge Parkway.  Jeff and I first came to this place three years ago, and we've been back many times since.  We decided that it would just be "right" if we rode the BRP together.  Next thing we know, we're going along at a pretty good pace, dragging pegs, knees, etc.  I pulled over to the side of the road, and we waited for Chad. "Hey, ya wanna go scraping with us?" I asked.  He looked at me with an "I'm not so sure this is a good idea" look on his face, but we finally convinced him to ride with us for a while.   Unfortunately, the road opened up at that point, Jeff dropped back, and I let Chad get ahead of me.  It was a good time to just sit back and relax, and enjoy the Blue Ridge.

A little farther down the road, I catch up to Chad, who for some reason is held up by a few cars.  I didn't think that the pass-o-matic had a problem with that.  At any rate, we get around the cars, and the road tightens up again.  I'm following Chad through some tighter sections, draggin here and there, and we hit a right-hander that I nail and drag peg-feelers for a good 12 feet.  As I exit the corner, I think to myself "If he didn't get them on that corner, he never will."  Next thing I know, Chad is bouncing up and down, and throwing his arms in the air.  His first drag.  I make him pull over for inspection, and sure enough, there's a nice little flat spot.  Damn - here's you're dollar Jeff. :-)

After a quick detour, and a pucker moment for me, we catch up to the dads in Fancy Gap, our planned meeting place.  They inform us that they've had enough for today, and want to jump on the Interstate and boogie to the hotel.  Chad, Jeff, and I continue into the night on the Blue Ridge, being very careful not to run into Bambi.  Night riding, while dangerous, is really neat, and we stopped roadside at Jefferson Overlook - the same place that Chad and I stopped at last year.  After a few smokes, we made our way to the hotel, where the dads were waiting - with beer!!  Wh-hooo!!!

Day four ended just as it started...perfect.

A classic Diner in Virginia

Skyline Drive, Virginia

The CBR parked along Skyline Drive

A view from Skyline Drive

Another view from Skyline Drive

The CBR with a great view from Skyline

Pretty Maids all in a row...

The Garys at the Blue Ridge Parkway sign


Day 5: Sometimes bad things happen to good people

Is this fog ever going to go away??  Geez.  We again wake up to slight rain and fog.  After breakfast at a Shoneys (damn, no ham at the buffet), we made our way back to the Blue Ridge, and continued on through the dense fog.  At times, the fog would clear for a minute, and the views were incredible.  All the colors seemed to be that more vivid from the cleansing fog.

Everyone is riding at their own pace now. As I'm riding along, I see Chad parked roadside with a great view of the clouds.  I turn around, ride past, and start looking for another place to turn around.  I can't find an overlook to save my life, so I try to just pull a quick U-turn.  Well, I mis-judge my turning radius, and end up riding off the road - onto grass, in the wet - you see where this is going.  I'm stuck.  About 10 minutes later, thankfully, Chad shows up to help me out.   Unfortunately for him, he parked on a downhill, put his sidestand down on the wet pavement, took a few steps, and CRASH!!  His new VFR had fallen off the sidestand.   After some cussing and glove throwing, I remind him that I can't help him get his bike up before he helps me with mine (I had been standing there side-saddle for 10 minutes holding her up, and I couldn't put the sidestand down because the ground was too soft.).   We get my bike out of the ditch, and get his back on two wheels.  What a totally unfortunate situation.  Good intentions leading to bad results.  I felt really bad for him, and I feared that this one unfortunate event would ruin this trip for him altogether.

We met up with the rest of the group down the road, and started heading towards Mt. Michell.  Jeff and I got caught behind a group of 4 campers, and decided to stop for a quick roadside break.  Relieved, we conitnued on, and started heading up Mt. Mitchell with the group.  When we got to the top, what should have been a great view was fogged in.  We ended up running into another group of riders, one of them being from Des Plaines, IL - very close to where we live.  After that, we went about halfway down the mountain to the gift shop, and the view was much better there.  Chad was not in any better spirits, and just wanted to get to the hotel. The dads were more than happy to cut out the rest of the Blue Ridge and head to the hotel. Jeff and I however had a road to finish.

We split up, and Jeff and I continued on, pointing out to each other some of the spots we had stopped at in the past.  We grabbed a quick gas-station lunch, and headed to a nice overlook to enjoy our meal.  The day was now perfect, and we were both looking forward to the last part of the Blue Ridge - and the only part that either of us had yet to see.  There was no question in either of our minds whether we'd finish the Blue Ridge.  Right near the end of the BRP, I had to stop for gas.  I may have been able to make it, but I didn't want to pull a Chad (see last year's report).  So there we are in the middle of nowhere filling up with gas, when we hear some motorcycles approaching.  "Hey, there's a VFR," Jeff says. "There's an ST," I reply, "and...there's your dad! WTF??"  Either we were making really good time, or they were making really bad time.  They never saw us, and once we stopped laughing, we continued on.

The last part of the ride was really great, and we stopped at the end of the Blue Ridge so that Jeff could pick up the obligatory "sorry I went on a vacation without you" present.  We were both sad to see the Blue Ridge end, but I said to him "OK, how about next year we do that in a day."  He just smiled and nodded.   I should probably put a comment in here about how my knees got weak when the female shopkeeper spoke.......naah.

At this point, I wanted to drop by Fontana Village and see the folks from the Greatlake-Motoriders group - the same group that I took FAST racing school with earlier this year.  Jeff and I split up, and he headed to the hotel, as I headed towards Fontana.  Jenn was surprised to see me there, and as we stood outside talking, the rest of the hooligans....err, riders showed up having just completed an early evening Gap run.  We decided to meet early the next morning and go exploring in Northern Georgia.

I took off and headed towards Murphy and the hotel.  The ride there was great.   The sun went down, and as I was heading west on the backroads, the crescent moon was shining above.  It was a great moment of peace, that is until I got to the hotel and found out it was a dry county!!  Well, at least the high school girls working at the Burger King hit on me. "You have really pretty eyes." D'oh!! That's twice this year!!

The mountains breaking through the clouds on the BPR in the morning

Chad riding the VFR on the Blue Ridge

My dreamhouse, along the Blue Ridge Parkway

The dads enjoying an afternoon view

The bikes at an afternoon (cough cough) stop

A lunchtime view on the Blue Ridge Parkway

Day 6: National Scrape Your Pegs Day

I'm serious, is this fog ever going to go away?  Before they showed up, I told Jeff to expect a double-stoppie from the two 900RR riders.  The Greatlake-Motoriders showed up about 9:00ish, and right one cue, two stoppies. They were thrilled to see a Burger King next door.  I guess they were having a hard time finding good food in the area where they were staying (if you can call The King good food).  After failing to convince Jeff and Chad to join us, I took off with them into Northern Georgia.   After just a few miles, we gassed up, and I saw Jeff and Chad go by.  WTF?   I caught up with them momentarily, but had to slow to wait for the rest of the group.  We crossed paths one more time with them, as they were trying to find us so they could ride with us, but we never did end up hooking up.

We continued down route 60 towards Wolf Pen Gap, and the road tightened up.  I was in the lead, with Marcell nipping at my tail. I throw the 1000F into the first set of corners, slam the peg feeler into the pavement, and the rear end kicks out on me. Minor pucker moment ensues.  I let Marcell take the lead at this point, and god damn is he fast.  We made our way down to Wolf Pen Gap road, and then spent the afternoon exploring some of the roads around Northern Georgia.  We had a great ride, and most of the better roads were the ones we discovered by accident, but that's usually the way it is. Paul even found time to put on a little gravel show on his RR, sliding the rear wheel out and doing some gravel spins. What an entertainer. Doug was putting on a spark show for the riders behind him all day long.  FAST school sure made a huge impact on his riding ability.  After a joke filled lunch at a roadside mom & pop restaurant, we made our way back to the hotel in Murphy, and parted ways for the day.  I told them I'd meet up with them in the AM for a Deal's Gap run.

After I grabbed something to drink, I headed out to make a run across the Cherohala Skyway, a fantastic road.  Most of the road exists above 4K feet, is filled with nice lazy sweepers, and scenic overlooks that take your breath away.  The Cherohala was just as I remembered it.  There was so little traffic that it was easy to get a peaceful feeling while riding it.  I stopped at a few overlooks and enjoyed the ride very much.  When I got to the end, I decided to head up to the Gap and see what was going on.  I was there for about 15 minutes when I heard the roar of a few bikes finishing a run through - they were Doug, Marcell, and Jeff.  I was glad they got a chance to hook up and ride the Gap, and I could tell by the looks on their faces that it was a good run.  We stayed there for a while, talking, oogling over the mint condition 89 Honda Hawk that someone was riding, and making plans for the morning.   After a while, Paul and Jenn showed up, and we decided to make a run down 28 towards their hotel.  The ride was great, and eventually Jeff and I started heading back to the hotel, and had a nice run through the darkness.  The moon was a little larger than it was the night before, and the stars were out as well.  The Big Dipper just always seems to be there whenever I need it.

All the bikes at the hotel in the AM

The Greatlake-Motoriders bikes roadside in Northern Georgia

The Cherohala Skyway

A view from the Cherohala

Another view from the Cherohala

Yet another view from the Cherohala

Day 7:  ...and sometimes the Dragon Wins

We awoke to a bright sunny day - what??  Where's the fog?  After convincing Chad that he should make one last Cherohala run on his way out of town this morning (which was after we failed to convince him to join us for a run through the Gap), Jeff and I started out to meet up with the Greatlake Motoriders gang and make a Gap run.  Of course we took 28 to get to Fontana, and had a nice early morning run, although the stupid peg-feelers kept getting in the way and making the rear end squirm. Damnit.

We arrived at Fontana Village, and were soon on our way to Deal's Gap.  As a quick refresher, Deal's Gap is an 11 mile long stretch of route 129 that claims to have 318 turns during those 11 miles.  It is a hellacious road, the most technically challenging road I've ever ridden.  We had the road to ourselves that morning it seemed, as there was little sign of motorcycle life from the TWO store at the base of the Gap.  We pulled into the TWO store so that Paul could get the video camera going, and Jeff asked me if I was going to remove my peg feelers.  Scalple.  Jeff handed me his robo-grip pliers, and they were gone.  They had been getting in the way all week, and I figured that by removing them, I'd be fine.  I never expected to drag my footpegs, rather just get those things out of the way.

About 10 turns into the Gap, my right footpeg hits, and I think "what the f*ck, does this bike have zero ground clearance or what??"  I was following Paul and Marcell, both on 900RRs.  They were leading with a pretty spirited pace, and while it wasn't too difficult to keep up, throwing around the Black Whale (with the Givi bags attached) through the Gap proved to be tiresome.  I was riding really really well - they best I had ever ridden, and the confidence from the week prior certainly helped, as well as the knee-sliders.

Sidebar: I used to think that putting your knee down on the street was a bad idea.   After having taken a track day, and seen what a knee down can do for stability of the bike, I (and Jeff) sewed velcro to my riding pants for knee pucks.  I had experimented during the week hanging off, and had gotton my knee down quite a few times, mostly in order to try to combat the dragging of the footpeg feelers.  By hanging off the bike more, you don't have to lean as much, which not only keeps the pegs from scraping (sometimes), but also gives you a bigger tire contact patch on the pavement.

So anyway, I'm going along, we pass a few cars, and for some reason I see the 6 mile marker. "Damn, we've only gone six miles" I thought to myself, and realized that I was panting and breathing heavily from throwing the bike around.  I continued on, riding well within my limits, pushing it, but pushing it in a smart way.  OK, you should all know where this is going by now.  I just had to cover my ass a bit.

I find myself going along, come up to a 120 degree right hander, take it the same way I had taken the previous 225 corners, and the next thing I know, my ass is sliding on the ground. Lowside.  I don't remember the 2 seconds leading up to it, but I remember everything (I think) from the point where I made contact with the pavement.  While I probably only slid for about 5 seconds and/or 30-35 feet, I had about a 2 minute long conversation with myself during the slide.  Very strange.  I remember thinking "Hmmm, I must have lowsided.  That's strange.  I wonder why that happened.   Hey look - there's the Black Whale, and she's doing a 360 on her side.  Oops!! There goes a piece of the windscreen.  I wonder if I'm going to stop sliding anytime soon.  I'll put my hand down to help slow myself down."  Then the scariest thought came into my mind. "Oh crap, Doug is not far behind me."  As soon as I stopped sliding, I jumped up and ran back to the corner.  Just as I got there, I saw Doug approaching, and I signaled for him to slow down.  Talk about a look of confusion on someone's face! Sorry about that Doug. :-)  Doug and Jeff pulled over, and after one failed attempt to pick the bike up myself, I got Doug to help get her on her feet, and pushed her to the shoulder.  There was a great deal of interesting dialog that occurred for the next ten or fifteen minutes, and I won't bore you with all of it.   The quick synopsis is me repeating the phrase "What the hell happened??" and trying not to laugh too much.  I knew what happened, just not how it happened, and I was a little confused.  Jeff made me do a system check to make sure everything worked, and it did, so then we started looking at the bike.  Not too bad of damage, but the fork tubes twisted in the triple-clamps.  After finding a tree to bang the front wheel against to straighten it out, I was ready to keep going.  "You're not getting back on the bike for a few minutes," Jeff said in a really mature manner. "Why not?? Just because my legs are shaking uncontrollably?" I asked.  Then there was more of me walking around, laughing, and asking "What the hell happened?" to which Jeff joked to me "You ass-hole, you lowsided before I did."

A few more minutes went by, and the rest of the group arrived back at the scene. Doug had gone ahead to let them know what happened.   I was more than ready to go at this point, and felt bad because I thought I was holding them up.  I really didn't care about the bike, or the fact that it happened - I just wanted to get going again.   We finished the Gap, and stopped at a little restaurant for a late breakfast.   It was at this point that the adrenaline wore off. "Man, adrenaline is a really cool thing," I told Jeff, "right up until the point where it wears off."  A couple of Advil, and a good meal in my stomache, and I was ready to hit the slab and head towards Carbondale for the night.  Jeff and I said our good byes, and after a final gravel show from Paul on the RR, we parted ways, and Jeff and I were heading north to the Interstate.

Once we got past the construction traffic around Nashville, the rest of the ride was really quite nice.  We made great time, and just cruising along the Interstate gave me a chance to relax, think about the trip, and try to figure out what the hell happened.   I was expecting a resounding "I told you so" from the 2 dads upon arrival at the hotel, but never heard those words.  Jeff's dad was there, and once he realized what happened, and realized that I and the bike were pretty much OK, he went to work on fixing my windscreen for me.   We stood around and talked for a while, and then Mr Gary said "Oh yeah, there's a few more beers in the garbage can over there" and with that, it was an elbowing grudge match between Jeff and I to get to the beers. Aahhh beer.  Jeff and I later walked down to Garfields for some more beer and some much needed food.  They even had the white tablecloths with crayons.....I wonder what the bussboy thought when he saw a diagram of a road, with markings all over it, and one big X marks the spot.

What the hell happened?? - the corner

No, I'm serious, what the hell happened

Day 8:  Man, has this been a great trip

Man, I am getting really tired of that damn alarm clock.  What am I doing up at 6:30 AM?  After a little dilly-dallying around, and explaining the lowside story to Mr Trank and Chad, and then watching one-by-one the other three bikes take off, Jeff and I reluctantly started to get suited up - but only after another cup of coffee.  End of the trip, end of the season.  We made our way back to the Interstate, and set a good pace for about an hour.  After a fuel stop, for both us and the bikes, I decided I needed to hear some good ol' country music.  Jeff and I decided on a place to meet somewhere up the road.

I cruised along for the next two hours, no hands on the bars, country music a playin, and really enjoyed myself. I remember thinking to myself, "Man, this has been a great trip."  At the time, I couldn't for the life of me figure out exactly why I thought that.  I turned off the Interstate and started heading north on route 47, and eventually caught up with Speedy Gonzales....err, Jeff.  It had started raining again, and we continued north to Morris, IL for our final gas stop of the trip.   After some Slim Jims, cheese, and a Mt. Dew, we were ready to make the final jaunt up to Jeff's dad's place to make sure he made it and close out the trip.  As we were standing outside the gas station enjoying a mid-afternoon Dew, we noticed the name of the sports store behind us, and thought it was pretty appropriate.

The bikes at our final gas stop by the sports store

Back on the Interstate, I could tell as we got closer to the city, as the traffic was increasing. The ride was uneventful, thankfully, and we made it up to the Gary's house to talk with Jeff's mom & dad for a while.  I could tell by the look on Mr. Gary's face that he was both happy and sad that this trip was over.  Talking to him, it was evident that he had a good time, and was already looking forward to another trip.

Conclusion:  You have to take it for what it's worth

I wouldn't change a thing about this trip if I could. 

Yup, the rain sucked, but as I said, we've been incredibly lucky in avoiding rain to this point.  Moreso, it's all a part of it.  If you go into each trip expecting sunny and 70 degrees every day, you're going to be disappointed.  You have to play the cards you're dealt. Period.  You're only on the road so many days per year, that if you fold, you're going to end up regretting it on a cold January evening when you think back.  One thing that Jeff recently said to me, which also makes sense, is that the challenge of making it, while sometimes not the most fun thing in the world, certainly keeps you from ever forgetting it.

Yup, I don't like having hotel reservations each night.  However, if we hadn't made reservations, and had plans, then the two dads would not have gone with us.  I was more than willing to, and actually happy to make this sacrifice in order to share the road with them.

Yup, I lowsided.  When you ride this long and this hard, it's going to happen occasionally, and I accepted that fact a long long time ago.  Brush yourself off and move on.

Yup, I had a hard time finding the inner peace that I often find on trips.  Couple of possible reasons here.  I rode a lot of miles this year.  I have seen and been to that place of inner peace many times this year.  With the organization of this trip (reservations), it was difficult for me to achieve that sense of riding to find out where I end up, but that's OK.  The comradery between friends, and sharing the road with people you normally would't share it with more than makes up for this, and is just as great..

I wouldn't change a thing about this trip if I could.

It meant a lot to me to see Mr. Gary enjoying himself on two wheels again.  I never thought I'd see the day where he was riding side by side with Jeff and/or I.   I'm very glad that we were able to get him back on the road, and I'm glad that he enjoyed the ride.  I've never seen him smile so much before, and as the trip went on, he started to get that spiritual look in his eyes, and he just seemed genuinely relaxed.   If you can be relaxed and just enjoy yourself, that's a great way to ride. I also had a great time riding with Adam again, and equally as much fun knockin back a few and talking about life, riding, and philosophy with him and Jeff at night.  Mr Trank is always a blast to hang around with, and I love seeing the excitement in his eyes. Chad and Jeff are always a pleasure to ride with, and I was glad that, for once, the three of us got a chance to ride togther in a place like that.  There are no two other people in the world that I'd rather ride with.

Finally, I think the thing I will take from this trip the most is riding the Blue Ridge with Jeff again.  When we stopped at the beginning of the parkway, I kinda asked him off the cuff if he wanted to ride together for a while.  I don't know why I did.   It just seemed right.  We ended up riding the entire parkway to it's end.   Nether of us had ever gone to the very end of the parkway, and it was really cool to ride the final 80 or so miles of unexplored parkway with him, and during that time, I had a million thoughts going through my mind.  I remember each and every time we're ridden parts of this road together, and not all of them are good memories. The ones that I was remembering though were great, and even better was the memory that was being created..   For those last 80 miles, everything just made sense.

You have to take what a trip has to offer, and not get caught up in the things that may feel like they're missing.  If you can do that, you're guarunteed to have a good time. I was grateful to be able to spend time on the road with this group of guys, and the experiences we all shared together will live a long time in my mind.

Here are links to Mr. Trank's Trip Report and Chad's Trip Report.