a.k.a. Finding perfection in an imperfect world
As per usual, the end of the year trip appeared out of nowhere....hey, wasn't it June yesterday? The summer was gone before I knew it, and the only good part about that was the somewhat-annual Fall Color Run that was now upon us. Adam surprised Otter and I earlier in the year by proclaiming that he could join us for a third trip this calendar year. What better way to end the year then with a run down the Blue Ridge Parkway during peak foliage season.
Chad and Mr. Trank were planning on heading down a day after us and we had unbelievably vague plans to meet up with them somewhere and sometime...
For me, this was the opportunity to see what the Sprint could really do. The trip to Nova Scotia proved it's touring capability to me, and with a few twisties here and there I was able to catch a glimpse of what the bike was capable of. On my long weekend in Arkansas, I finally began to feel comfortable pushing her in the corners a little bit, but nothing can compare to riding for a week in some of the the best twisty roads this country has to offer. I was anxious, and nervous, to find out how both I and the new bike would do.
Throwing the covers off my body in the early hours of Saturday morning, I realized immediately that the bedroom was cold. That's not a good sign. If it's cold inside the house, I can't imagine what it's like outside. With a steaming cup of coffee, I walked out of the garage door onto the driveway and thought, "Man, I'm glad I have electrics." A little before 7:00AM, Otter showed up in full cold-weather gear. As excited as we both were, neither of us was really looking forward to braving the cold, and when Adam pulled up and informed us that his Hot Grips weren't working, we immediately insisted that he pull the bike into the service bay so that we could have a look. We took our time diagnosing the problem, hoping that the temperature would warm up just a bit. We found what we thought was a faulty ground wire, and despite repeated evacuations of the garage, we quickly fixed the problem and got on the road.
Heading through Chicago is one of those necessary evils, and approaching the Indiana border, the truckers were all jabbering about a 5 mile backup at the state line. After a failed attempt to talk with Otter, who's CB was not working, I took us on a detour south as to avoid the Gary, Indiana area altogether...which despite the traffic is a good thing. We made it back to I-65 and continued south towards West Lafayette where we stopped at our traditional gas station to fill up. The attendant informed us that there were many restaurants just a couple miles down the road. We enjoyed a good warm meal at Bob Evans that morning. With the cold outside still lingering, it was important this morning to "throw a log on the fire."
The ride through Indiana wasn't too bad today, and we went right through downtown Indianapolis without so much as a slowdown. We eventually got off on Route 31 and took that to route 7 which is a nice two-lane all the way down to Madison along the Ohio river. We hit a few sets of cars, and the Triumph had no issue with helping to make them disappear in it's rear view mirror. The day was going along nicely. We weren't in a hurry, we didn't feel rushed, and we had no idea where we'd end up. This was a recurring theme for the trip.
Out of Madison, we stayed on the Indiana side of the river and enjoyed the scenic ride along the Ohio River. My mind immediately began to wander and just the few instances of peace on this road completely got me in the mood for this trip. Usually it takes a couple days for this to happen, so I was surprised when it hit me so quickly. We crossed the river on the Markland Lock & Dam and stopped for a few minutes in the parking lot there - both to stop and rest, and to figure out which direction we were going to head. We picked a couple of options for camping this evening, and decided to head in that general direction and see how the day goes. I took the lead and led us through the maze of roads in northeastern Kentucky, passing cattle farms, tobacco barns, all the while offering gorgeous views of the valleys and rolling hills. I couldn't tell you exactly the route that we took (well, I could if I looked at a map) but it really didn't matter.
As the daylight began to disappear, we found ourselves near one of the camping options, and made our way to Blue Licks Battlefield State Park. We were initially discouraged by the number of campers, who had elaborate displays setup around their areas, as their lights and generators tend to be very annoying. However, we found a little spot under some trees next to another motorcyclist where we were somewhat separated from them. Anticipating the cold, we bought a few pieces of firewood, setup camp, and settled in for the night with some sandwiches and beer. As I mentioned, there was a lone motorcyclist camping next to us, so we invited him over. Kevin, a 21 year old kid with "nowhere to be until January" was just out touring the country. He was green as green could be, having never done anything like this before, but had the guts to give it a try. It seems the cold weather wasn't agreeing with him, and he spent most of the night huddled up next to the roaring fire. We exchanged stories with him and offered any advice that he sought - which was a lot. "No, don't get rid of your tent!!". We had a great conversation over a few cold beers, and there was a lot of mutual admiration. I hope that his journey is going well for him.
The Sprint roadside in Kentucky...moo!!
As we broke camp and enjoyed our camp coffee, Kevin emerged from his tent to ask a few more questions before we left this morning. We did all that we could to give him a hand and set his mind at ease from some of his concerns. We wished each other well, and we headed out in search of a place to find some breakfast. After a couple of towns, we eventually found a roadside restaurant in which to eat. I ordered the standard 1.5 breakfasts (a breakfast and a short-stack) and Adam and Otter ordered omelets. As sometimes happens, we got the other table's omelets which were these huge things stuffed with bacon, sausage, and hash browns. After finishing my breakfast, I decided to taste these killer omelets. "Hey, that's pretty good," I said, as I proceeded to finish the uneaten portion of Adam's breakfast. Burp.
Back on the road, we found the twisties continuing where they'd left off before breakfast. By chance, we ended up on the same road that our friend Greg had crashed on four years ago, and we both immediately spotted and pointed out the corner where it happened. The road was a lot of fun and the three of us were starting to wick it up just a bit and having a fun time at that. Again, the pace was very relaxed and every intersection was a game of "where do you want to go?? - I don't care." I always enjoy the ride across Kentucky and today was no exception.
We crossed into West Virginia and the relaxed ride continued for some time. There was a little more traffic and the road was a little dirty, but it was relaxing all the same. At the end of the road, we intersected with route 10, and I pulled over so that we could decide which way to go. We spotted some campgrounds south of Beckley and decided to head in that general direction and end up wherever we end up. The ride down route 10 began nicely, but soon turned unenjoyable. Traffic increased and we found ourselves having to pass all too often. The times that we didn't or couldn't pass were extremely unenjoyable. There must be something different with emissions or gasoline in that state, because the fumes from the cars was horrible and gave me a splitting headache. This was a newly explored area of West Virginia and unfortunately, it was not as nice as we had hoped. We ended up stopping quite a bit to try to escape bad traffic patterns and get a break from the horrible exhaust.
The rest of the day was more of the same for a while, although traffic did lighten up. However, by that time, the damage had been done and we were all feeling a little sick. When we arrived in Beckley, our thoughts of camping were sidelined in favor of a hotel where we could relax a bit and get a fresh start, no pun intended, tomorrow. After dinner at Applebee's, where Adam and I both had *the* worst patty-melt in history, we went back to the room and turned on the weather report. It was calling for a low of 25 degrees in Beckley tonight. Figuring we weren't going to get a really early start tomorrow morning, we stayed up late watching the replay of the US Grand Prix race from Indy...the sounds of engines screaming at 18,000 RPM was a nice background to fall asleep to.
Hmmm....which way do we go??
Day 3:...a little bit of everything...
The bikes were covered with frost this morning, and it was evident that it got really really cold last night. We decided to make our way to the local Omelet House for breakfast first thing, hoping that the sun would break and melt some of the frost off the seats, saddlebags, and most every other part of the bikes. After breakfast, it wasn't getting much warmer, so we braved the cold and headed out. This morning, we jumped on the Interstate for the first 60 miles, which usually means "making good time, but boring scenery." After the ride to the next town, we all admitted "you know, that ride on the Interstate was really nice." We usually hit the interstate by necessity, and it was strange to talk about the ride being nice. The area was wide open and the colors were starting to change. It was a great start to the day.
Heading north on a two-lane blacktop, we found ourselves back in West Virginia - but not the way we found it yesterday. The eastern half of the state is much less crowded and we didn't run into nearly the traffic that we did yesterday. We were having a great ride, again not rushed, and just enjoying the views, the smells, and the twisties when we happened upon them. We were heading through a few twisties when we came upon a blue ford pickup who held us up. No problem, we backed it down and waited for a passing lane to appear. When it did, this moron stomps on his gas pedal, sends a puff of black smoke from his mufflers, and takes off. Otter throws his hands up and gives up trying to pass. Adam wasn't going either. I did. I kicked the Sprint down a couple of gears and opened her up. I quickly caught the pickup, and my pass was delayed a bit due to that whole rev-limiter thing. Oh yeah, "clunk", next gear. The guy had to be doing about 100 MPH, because I looked down for a second and saw 125 on my speedo before I merged back into the lane in front of him. I had enough time to compose myself and slow for the upcoming 45 MPH right-hander that was rapidly approaching. The guy wasn't letting up as he was closing in on me. After two corners, I never saw the ass-hole again. This is not something that I will normally do, but I just wanted to send him a message of "hey, let us around. We're not going to hold you up." Up the road, I pulled over at the next turn to wait for Otter and Adam, expecting the blue pickup to pull over, 12 gauge in hand. Otter and Adam made it there first, having no problem passing him on the next straightaway apparently.
We turned left onto the Highland Scenic Highway, and on command with no command at all, we all separated and went our own pace as to enjoy the road as much as possible. The highway ascended up the mountain and the pre-peak colors were all around us. The air was crisp and clean, and despite the cold, I found myself riding with my faceshield up so that I could take in the scent of the forest. At the first overlook, I pulled in to find Otter waiting. I snapped a few pictures as we enjoyed the quiet view of the surrounding hills. When Adam arrived, he informed us that during his rest-stop up the road his bike had tipped over on him. Luckily, he broke most of the fall and there was no damage. We all headed out one by one. "See ya up the road." As the road descended, the peak foliage colors appeared immediately and I was surrounded by fire red trees lining the highway. It was simply spectacular, and I again rode through, faceshield open, getting smacked in the face by falling leaves, without a care in the world.
I met Otter and Adam at the end, and we plotted a path for the next few miles. With Otter in the lead, we found ourselves on a beautiful tree-lined road with great views. Unfortunately, the road was dirtier than a coal miner's underwear in January. Even at slow speeds, there were invisible patches of gravel that would reach out and bite you if you weren't careful. Luckily this only went on for a few miles, and at the next town, we stopped for a quick snack. If you see route 66 on the map, avoid it.
We looked at a map during our lunch stop, and decided to zig-zag a bit up the state, hitting a couple of our favorite roads, route 250 and route 33. We really picked up the pace on this road. The sparks were flying and the knees (well OK, knee singular) were dragging as the road twists and switches back up and down the mountain. Yee-haaw! What a great ride. It was even nicer if you'd take your eyes off the road for a minute to notice the near-peak foliage surrounding us. No time for that though!! As we passed through Monterey, Virginia, we came upon a police roadblock. Hmm, did they have helicopters patrolling route 250? No, they were just doing a routine check for driver's licenses. We continued north on 220 at a nice relaxed pace....until we hit route 33. Route 33 is one of those roads where if I'm within 100 miles of it, I'll go out of my way to hit it. Riding west to east, the entire road up the mountain is fresh pavement, often-times with a truck lane. Pick your line...any line...The Sprint was doing awesome. The fuel injected 955 triple was blasting me out of the corners, and the bike was obeying my every command. Otter was somewhere behind me, but I didn't see him much....sorry man. You told me yourself that the VFR750 just didn't have the gusto to keep up, despite the whacking you were giving her. Sounds like you need a 954....yet, I digress. Crossing back into Virginia, the downhill run began, and it was more of the same...right up until the point where I come around a corner, about to put my knee on the ground, and instead spot the front grille of an 18 wheel Peterbuilt. After a quick line correction and a check of my shorts, I slowed it up for the remainder of the run and slowed at the bottom so that Otter and Adam could catch up.
We jumped on a farmland sideroad, I think 613, to avoid the town of Harrisonburg altogether. Our thought was to head into the park and camp there for the night. Heading east on route 211, we were treated to some more nice twisties before stopping in Luray to grab some camping supplies for the night. Loaded up with food, water, and beer, we continued east on 211 into Shenandoah National Park. The road twists and bends its way up the side of the mountain, and despite the fact that I was carrying a gallon of water, I was having a hard time keeping the Sprint in check. She just wanted more..more..more...I had to satisfy her a bit. As we increased in altitude, the temperature dropped. It was about 65 degrees at the food store, and it must have dropped 25 degrees on the way up.
We reached the park ranger, and he told us that the campground to the north was closed, and we'd have to head to the campground at Big Meadows. I was still in full-on draggin mode, so I found it wise to fall back, and bring up the rear. We rode the 20 miles to the campground at a relaxed pace, taking in the sights, enjoying the views of the valleys, and seeing just how late of an apex we could take in the corners. Otter was laughing about that when we arrived at the campground..."One second you were in my left mirror, the next you were in my right..and I knew exactly what you were doing." As we approached the campground, the deer population skyrocketed. They were all over the place, and I'm not exaggerating when I say we saw 40 deer within 5 miles.
Darkness was approaching quickly, so we jettisoned as much luggage as we could and went for a firewood run. We carried back as much wood as possible and I immediately started a roaring fire. The sun went down but the light of the fire made it easy to setup camp and get settled. It was going to be c-c-c-cold tonight, and we found ourselves huddled around the fire, nice and warm. The mini-cherry pie that I picked up was warmed by the fire and made for an excellent desert....that, and a couple of cold beers. As we stood there in the dark, the owls came out and started singing. It just doesn't get any better than this.
A view stopped along the Highland Scenic Highway, WV
Another view along the Highland Scenic Highway
The Sprint and the VFR750..."Getting to know you..."
Adam riding the VFR along the Highland Scenic Highway
Cold enough for ya??
The incredible colors as the road descends out of the elevations
A lunchtime view in West Virginia
Thank god for the North Face Blue Kazoo sleeping bag I recently purchased. Despite the temperature getting down to about 28 degrees, I was toasty warm all night. The left over firewood was quickly set a blaze for some morning warmth, and the camp-coffee was delicious as usual. We broke camp pretty early and continued south on Skyline Drive. It was still cold this morning, and I took the opportunity to stop a couple of times and enjoy the view. About 10 miles down the road, I saw an outlook that Penny and I had spent some time at last year, so I pulled in for a quick break. The leaves were pretty green in this area still, and the morning view of the Shenandoah valley was incredible. It was so clear it looked like you could see forever.
Upon exiting the park, I met Otter and Adam at the gas station. Otter had just checked his voicemail, and Chad and Mr. Trank were to meet us at the first overlook between 9:00 and 10:00. It was now 9:30, so I zoomed up there to see the black ST and the red VFR sitting there with two very surprised riders looking on as I pulled into the overlook. "Hey, what are you guys doing here??" I joked. We went back to the Blue Ridge Parkway sign for the traditional Pretty Maids all in a Row picture...I still can't believe that we met up with them. The Tranks had already eaten breakfast, so we planned to meet them up the road. The three of us went to the local restaurant atop the hill and enjoyed a great breakfast before heading down the Blue Ridge Parkway.
This was what we had all been waiting for. 470 miles of no towns, no stoplights, just pure enjoyment. I set out down the parkway, anticipating what she had in store for me this time. Each trip up or down the parkway is special, and almost immediately, I was emmersed in great fall colors, very much like the first trip that Chad and I took together. I came around a corner and a vision of the Black Whale parked roadside shot into my head. I pulled the Sprint over and took a picture in that same spot, and then just stood there enjoying both the memory and the present moment. If this trip down the Blue Ridge was going to be about memories, well then bring it on.
I continued on down the road, enjoying the views, the foliage, and whatever else happened to be around the next corner. Otter has said many times, "The Blue Ridge Parkway is anything you want it to be," and today was exactly that. It didn't matter if I was putzing along at 50 or sweeping through some of the corners. It was all great, it was all perfect. I wasn't running into much traffic, that that which I did was quickly targeted, passed, and forgotten about. I was doing my best to maximize the enjoyment of every mile, and that definition changed from mile to mile. For a while, I sat in the saddle and watched the miles go by. I was just in that mood - not in a hurry, but just enjoying the surroundings so much that I didn't want to stop. When the mood hit me, I pulled into an overlook that was away from the road thinking that it would be nice and quiet, and there was Chad's VFR enjoying the view with him. We chatted for a while, tried to figure out who was behind us and who was ahead of us, and headed out to enjoy a few miles together.
I pulled over at Mabry Mill and Chad continued. Unfortunately, there's a reason it's the most photographed place along the Blue Ridge Parkway, and there were just too many people there today, so I continued down the road. I didn't have a map in front of me, nor did I need or want one. I had told Otter and Adam that Fancy Gap was "About 180 miles down the parkway" and mentioned that I'd probably fill up with gas there. 180 and 190 miles passed before I came upon the exit at Fancy Gap. Adam was already there, and had thought for sure that he had lost us, and a second later Otter pulled in. "180 miles my ass!!" he yelled. "What? I still have 40 miles until reserve," I boasted.
We all filled up and took a break before heading out for the last 40 miles to Doughton Park, where we were planning to camp that night. We met up with Chad near the gas station, and after making a run through the campsites where we had to avoid the plethora of deer, we found Mr. Trank as well. We setup camp, unloaded the bikes, and headed back to the Parkway Restaurant for dinner and for firewood. A warm meal in our stomachs, we headed back to camp loaded down with 7 bundles of firewood. Initially, the temperature dropped quite a bit, but it held there at about 35 degrees, and it was evident that it wasn't going to be as cold as last night. Despite that, we had a huge roaring fire going, especially after Mr. Trank burned me with a classic comment as the fire was burning well, but not big. "Hey, are you gonna stoke that bitch or am I gonna have to go get a jacket??" With that, another bundle of wood was ripped open and the fire was absolutely roaring. One by one, we headed to bed, anticipating the remaining 230 miles of the Blue Ridge to be seen tomorrow.
Skyline Drive through Shenandoah National Park
A view from Shenandoah, a little pre-peak foliage
Pretty Maids all in a row...
The Sprint along the Blue Ridge Parkway
The fall colors engulfing the road
A view from north part of the Blue Ridge Parkway
The Sprint at a scenic overlook along the Parkway
A colorful view
Day 5: ...and sometimes the Dragon wins...
The fire was already roaring by the time I emerged from the tent, and Adam was boiling the water for the morning coffee. We took our time breaking camp before heading back to the parkway restaurant to grab breakfast before continuing on. Otter and I headed out down the parkway last, and after about 2 corners, we saw Adam at an overlook taking pictures already. That's usually a good sign that a great day of riding is ahead. Otter and I continued on through the short detour off the Parkway due to construction, and after about 30 minutes or so, we pulled over for a break. After taking care of the necessities, I sat on the side of the hill listening to the silence and enjoying the view. Otter came over and said, "OK, where are you at?" What, was it that obvious???
A few minutes later, Adam arrived and the three of us set out down the parkway together. After a few miles, and after one somewhat ill-advised pass by yours truly, we ended up splitting up. This part of the parkway was at 100% peak time, and unfortunately, that meant more traffic as everyone and their grandmother was out enjoying the foliage. Rather than continue down the parkway passing at will, and then being afraid to pull over since you just spent all that energy passing, I found it time to stop and smell the flowers a bit. If I came upon a group of cars, I'd just pull into the next overlook for a few minutes. The area around the Linn Cove Viaduct was really crowded, and I could see why. The trees were on fire with red and orange leaves dominating the full range of the visual spectrum. I've never seen the parkway this beautiful from a foliage standpoint. It was a necessity for me to take my time through here and enjoy every moment.
After the viaduct, the parkway opened up quite a bit, and the parkway also starts to get a little twisty in some spots. The nice thing about the parkway pavement is that it's clean, and it's the perfect place to work on lines. The corners are predictable, and while it's not a great place to go flying through corners at warp speed, just 60 MPH makes the road a whole lot of fun. I was becoming more and more comfortable with the Sprint, I knew when the peg would hit, and I could time it to hit a knee and a peg at the same time. I needed a good stretch of clean road to really get a feel for the new bike, and this was it. I came upon "the spot" (see trip report from first ever BRP trip for explanation) and pulled in to find Mr. Trank enjoying the view and taking some pictures. The colors in this spot were beautiful and were at peak throughout the mountainside.
A little further down the road, I came around the corner to a view of one of the waterfalls along the Blue Ridge. Penny and I had just been here in June of 2000 but the green backdrop of then had made way for the peak foliage of today. It was an incredible view and the picture doesn't do it justice. Fog was engulfing the mountaintops in the area and there was hardly any wind at the moment. That made for a very peaceful setting and an almost surreal place as the clouds overhead blanketed me from the rest of the world.
Eventually, after about 220 miles, I stopped for gas. Sorry, I had to slip that in. I hadn't seen anyone in quite a while, but knew that I'd see them at the end of the road. I continued on, stopping here and there, taking advantage of the twisties when they appeared, and simply doing whatever I could to maximize the enjoyment of this time in this wonderful place. I love the stretch of the Parkway after Asheville, as it is seldom traveled, and it tightens up for some time. After I had sufficiently demolished my left knee slider, I pulled into an overlook about 10 miles from the end of the parkway for one last moment of peace and quiet. I sat there, feeling small as small can be, enjoying the view out into the seemingly endless mountain ranges. A few minutes later, Otter showed up and we chatted for a minute until Chad rode by. "I gotta go catch him," Otter said with a shit-eatin' grin on his face. "Have fun," I said, and Otter was off. I immediately geared up and the chase ensued. I never caught up to him, but I did receive a round of applause for only being about 20 seconds behind Otter to the Big Witch overlook. Whoops!! Sorry about that.
After everyone arrived at the lookout, we finished up the parkway and made our way through the hell-hole that is Cherokee, North Carolina. It's really a shame what a touristy piece of crap that entire town is. After a short jaunt, we arrived at the Tuskeegee Motel off route 28, which is fast becoming our hotel of choice for the area. Mr. Trank even made it without hitting reserve, having not filled up in about 260 miles or so. See, we told you that you'd make it. After we jettisoned the hard luggage, I took the lead and we set out for a nice easy run up 28 and through the Gap. We were running at about a 3 pace - we define pace on a 1-5 scale, with 5 being you're gonna die soon. I took the lead up 28 and set a non-peg scraping pace initially. The Sprint felt really good without the luggage - not that it felt bad with the luggage, but it was obvious that the bike was leaner. About 1/2 way up 28, I started putting my knee on the ground, although the pace hadn't really picked up much. I wasn't barreling blindly into corners, but then again, I wasn't braking either. The pace was very safe, and very fun.
We got to T.W.O. and took a minute to browse the store and talk to the other people there. We then headed out for a Gap run with Otter in the lead, me following, and Chad and Adam bringing up the rear. We were to take the "same pace" as we took heading up 28. There is a little disagreement here about our pace through the Gap - Otter swears it was a 3 pace, and I say it was about a 3.75 pace. Either way, it was still slow in the straights, brake into the corner, see that it's clear, and then go. It certainly was a safe pace, and it was probably just the Gap itself and the treachery of that road that made it seem faster. About 3 corners into the Gap, Adam is gone. No problem - that's a good thing. He's a smart enough rider to know his limits. About a mile into the road, Chad disappears but I occasionally catch a glimpse of his headlight in my rear-view. He never loses sight of us completely. Otter and I are having fun, pegs are going down routinely in corners and knee-pucks are a draggin. Again, it's a fun pace, but a safe pace. At mile 4, the Gap starts to tighten up a bit and there are a series of right handers that exit downhill into an uphill left-hander - you know the corner type. They are very predictable and a lot of fun. We're dragging pegs through about each one of them - these are VFRs and Sprints, not Gixxers and R1s, although sometimes we forget that. Anyway, about 4.9 miles into it, we hit the same type of corner, right hander exiting downhill to an uphill left hander. I'm about 4 bikelengths behind Otter, enjoying the sparkshow when all of a sudden it just goes wrong. The peg feeler is down and it levers the rear wheel up off the ground producing a simple rear-end lowside. The bike is heading for the ditch, spinning a bit on the pavement, and Otters feet are pointed skyward. At this point, I'm setting up for the corner, I realize that he's down, but I don't really fully realize exactly what just happened. I let off the gas to slow, his bike continues out of my path, and I make it through the corner and stop, watching the demise of the VFR the whole time. The VFR front wheel hits the ditch and the ass-end violently swings around the remaining 120 degrees and plants itself in the side of the mountain before rebounding and moving forward a foot or so. The VFR then stops moving in that direction,but the momentum causes it to flip from the left side and end up on the right side, breaking the brake lever. That's about the best I can describe it without a model motorcycle in my hand.
I park the Sprint, and run back to the scene. Otter is obviously OK, although he did tell himself to sit back down after getting up initially. By the time I get to the bike, he stands up again, replies "yeah, I'm fine" and hits the kill switch on the still-running VFR. Chad looks confused exiting the previous corner, but nowhere as confused as Doug appeared two years ago. :-) First things first, Otter is fine. We check all his limbs, and they are still in tact. We pick up the VFR, I notice the lack of a brake lever, we find neutral and roll it out of the ditch and park it roadside. The Givi rack is pretty fubar as is the tail section. There's no brake lever, but the bike does start. After a little while, we put the remaining pieces of the VFR into Adam's Ventura bag, and we limp back to the motel for the night. Over the next few hours, we go through the difference scenarios of trying to figure out what happened, and trying to figure out how to get the bike home. We decide to wait until morning, at which time we'll patch up the bike and try to find a new brake lever.
The 5 bikes at breakfast near Doughton Park
Otter riding the VFR down the BRP
A nice view during a roadside rest stop
Peak fall colors along the Blue Ridge Parkway
The Sprint at "the spot"
Another great view along the Blue Ridge
The Sprint along the BRP with a waterfall in the background
A close-up of the waterfall
The Sprint, nearing the end of the Blue Ridge Parkway
Another nice view of the mountains
The bikes at Big Witch Overlook
Another shot of the 5 bikes
Day 6: ...head 'em up and move 'em out...
The duct tape was ripping early this morning as we surveyed the damage to the VFR and tried to make a determination as to what we'd do. I got on the phone to T.W.O. in search of a front brake lever, and after a couple calls, they said they didn't have one for the VFR but had one for other Hondas. That's good enough for us - Honda is pretty good about using the same part across many bikes. I was happy to jump on the Sprint and make a run up 28 to pick up a lever...that's just the kind of guy I am. After watching the local mechanic struggle with an R1 front tyre, I had a look at the levers they had. It was slightly different, but I was sure we could make it work. I made it back to the motel just as the Tranks were getting ready to head out. The VFR was all taped up and ready to go, and we were able to make the brake lever work without a problem. There was nothing we could do about the now odd-shaped rear rim....but at least it smoothed out when traveling over 55 MPH. At slow speeds, it looked like someone had forgotton to tighten the lug nuts.
The quickest way out of town was through Deals Gap and up to the Interstate by Knoxville. I again took the lead, and this time took a true 3 pace up route 28. I didn't drag a damn thing, as the image of Otter's feet pointing skyward was still fresh in my head. We made it to T.W.O. and started into the Gap. I told Adam to follow me and I set a slow pace trying to help him out with some "lines" (if you can call winging it through the Gap "lines"). I was starting to lose concentration at this slow speed, and Adam was still struggling a bit behind me, so I picked it up and continued the run up to Calderwood, where I pulled over for a break. Adam pulled in next with Otter right behind him. "See," I said to Adam. "I told you the road gets tighter after mile 5." Adam declared the Gap the most insane road he had ever ridden. Ed Zackary. Otter then informed us that in a very Otteresque way, that in an effort to show the Dragon that she hadn't won, he had dragged a peg through a corner despite his non-round rear tyre. After we both smacked him up-side the head, we continued on. We finished the gap, without incident, and made our way to the little restaurant at the corner of 129 and route 72 where we enjoyed a big lunch before continuing up to the Interstate. During lunch, Adam used some very appropriate words to describe his first trip through the Gap, which mirrors my feelings after my first trip through the Dragon. "I am completely humbled." Hear hear. "That road scared the hell outa me." We then informed him that those feelings don't change. That road still scares the hell out of me every time I ride it.
We hit the interstate, and right on queue, my mind started to wander. Thoughts of this trip, the new bike, and all the miles I've ridden this year and in years past drifted through my mind. Nothing was decided and nothing made sense in the grand scheme of things, but all the memories were clear, as if they had just happened. Before I knew it, we were stopping for gas - already, with only 200 miles on the odometer. C'mon, I had another gallon before reserve. :-) Sorry, I can't let that one go.
After a long day in the saddle, and a bumpy one for some, we stopped somewhere in Kentucky for the night, and were pleased to find that we hadn't chosen a dry county. After a beer run, where I was a little shocked when Otter grabbed a 12-pack for the two of us (not that I haven't drank that much before and repeatedly, but we were riding the next day and I usually try to avoid a hangover), we ordered pizza and let the drinking commence. The beers were going down very well, and I believe there were 4 left in the 12-pack when Otter said something like "oh yeah, and you didn't want to get a 12-pack." I then uttered, without thinking of course, the classic line from the trip.
"Sorry," I said. "I didn't have faith in myself until I started drinking."
The view from the motel at Tuskegee
The Sprint at Deals Gap
The Sprint near Calderwood Dam
The VFR750....post lowside
Adam's VFR800 at Calderwood
We grabbed breakfast at the local Waffle House before heading out this morning, and I'm sorry to say that despite my best efforts, I did finish my breakfast, but not the waffle on the side. I think it was too early to eat and I wasn't really awake yet. We loaded up the bikes and began the ride home.
After the traditional salute to the "The People of Illinois Welcome You" sign, my mind again wandered and I found myself adrift in a sea of memories. I can't tell you what I was thinking about or what it meant, but it kept a smile on my face and the miles continued to disappear behind me.
There's not much to write about the ride through the heart of Illinois...we did jump on Route 47, a nice two-lane road to escape the Interstate for a while. Unfortunately, we had a run-in with a full-grown county mounty who obviously didn't like sportbikes, and that did put a little bit of a damper on an otherwise nice day of riding.
Merriam-Webster defines perfection as "freedom from fault or defect." By that definition alone, this trip was way less than perfect. But that's nothing new. By society's standards, the very act of a motorcycle trip in general is faulty. Why the hell wouldn't you just take a car? It's more comfortable, carries more, and keeps the rain off you. Oh gawd, where the hell is he going with this one?
Look up Perfect in the Merriam-Webster, and definition 1-b is "satisfying all requirements." Close, but no cigar. If you go into trips with too many expectations to be satisfied, you're doomed to fail. There's no way to know what a trip will offer until you've pulled back into your garage afterwards.
I prefer the third definition. 3 a: PURE, TOTAL b: lacking in no essential detail.
Purity in a trip is a big thing for me. I hate nothing more than to see a motorcycle being pulled behind a cage to a destination. That's missing the point in my opinion. You can't understand or appreciate the trip as a whole unless you experience motorcycling as a whole. From that, I can take the definition of Pure and Total and make sense of it. Lacking in no essential detail is a little too strong of a statement, since it predefines expectations, which could lead to failure, depending of course on what those expectations are. It seems the more set and detailed the expectations, the better the possibility of them not being fulfilled. So overall, in my opinion, none of these definitions is perfect in and of itself.
There's a story about Chad not looking for, and finally rediscovering a particular lake, but I'll let him tell that story.
Our goals, in no particular order, were to ride, camp, eat breakfast, not feel rushed, and enjoy our time, both alone and with a couple of friends. Oh yeah, if there were a few twisty road in there, that would be fine too. Having returned, I can look back with warm thoughts and clear memories of our time this week. I returned from this trip refreshed, with great memories in my head, having had a great time riding, camping, carrying on with the guys, and just going with the flow. To me, that's exactly what I need on a trip. The last thing I want is anything stressful, and about the most stressful thing I encountered was whether to order pancakes or french toast in the morning. Yes, Otter lowsided. Otter also picked himself up, didn't let it ruin his trip, and put some closure on the situation, not only by dragging a peg (dumbass), but by finishing what he started. I admire him in that way, not only because I would do, but because I have done the same thing, and for the same reasons. All of these things lead to memories that will keep me warm inside on a cold winter's night in Chicago. I can look back on the trip, as a whole, and say that it was perfect, even if it was not perfect by your definition.
There's no way to explain my definition of perfect to you without relying on dictionary definitions and societal examples that would therefor disprove that which I am trying to define. I can define perfect in my mind and can use this trip as part of the definition, but I can't explain it clearly to you as there are too many variables that go into that. Sure, riding a motorcycle isn't as "perfect" by definition 1 as driving a car. To say that a trip isn't perfect if it's lacking in an essential detail is a fallacy. We missed the Cherohala Skyway this trip, which is one of my favorite roads in the area. Does this somehow mean that the trip wasn't perfect? Hell no, but that also doesn't mean that it wasn't everything that it needed to be. I don't like the use of the word perfect to describe a trip as that definition is too vague and the variables by which people use to measure perfection are too widespread to come up with anything concrete. I'd rather leave the word to describe this trip as "exactly what I needed" as vague as the definition of perfection itself.
But if perfect is a word that I can use to try to help you understand a little better of what I speak, then I will say that this trip was perfect. You'll have to try to figure out what the definition of perfect means, and if you do, please let me know...
And by the way, if you read the first paragraph of this conclusion, and responded "yeah, why don't you just drive a car," I would ask that you simply close your browser window now. :-)