Seems I’ve not been very good about writing on this trip, just been too busy tearin’ shit up, I guess. Lemme think…
501 miles on Thursday, all backroads & secondary highways, mostly through WV. Found a few good new-to-me roads in there. I think next spring I might just spend a week or two in that SE OH/NE WV playground. Arrived at Big Lynn about 15 minutes too late for dinner due to a seriously close call with a long legged forest rat, checked in and asked if there was anyplace nearby to grab a quick bite. The owners are awesome and said something along the lines of “we’ve still got food, if you eat now,” so I did. After dinner, found the rest of the early Spring Ride group and had an entertaining night getting to know some damned good folks over several games of very drunken 8 ball.
Towards the end of the day on Thursday I’d noticed some “bad” noises coming from the right-rear of the bike, which turned out to be because one of the three bolts holding the sidecase rack on had pulled out. My bad, really, just before the trip I’d grabbed the wrong torque wrench when putting that bolt back in and broken it off. When I drilled out the broken bolt, I munged the threads a bit, but thought I could get away with just running a 1/4-20 tap through instead of drilling it out completely and retapping at 5/16-18. Bad call, when it pulled out it ovaled out the hole pretty badly. Some folks noticed me poking at the bike and asked what was wrong, one had noticed a welding shop a few miles up the road from the lodge. I figured if they couldn’t help me they’d at least know who could, so stopped by first thing Friday after breakfast.
Arrived, explained the problem, one of the guys came out to take a look and was coming across skeptical until I pointed at the part that wanted drilled & tapped and said “I can have this off in 5 minutes.” Took the part in, he looked at it closer and explained he’d have to drill it out to 3/8 since it was so mangled. 15 minutes later the bike was back together and he tried not to charge me. I wasn’t having any of that.
Still pretty early, so I decided to take a run up to “The Snake,” using a route Greg H. put together. The absurdity of following a guy from Canada through the South notwithstanding, it was a good route, though a couple of GPS glitches sending me over unpaved mountain roads through private property cost me a couple of hours. Lunch at the Shady Valley Country Store because I was half starving, then a full pass in each direction across “The Snake.” Meh. Much like “The Dragon,” it is a nice road, but my reaction was more-or-less “with all of these great roads around, this is the one you brag about?” At least it isn’t so heavily trafficked as 129.
According to the GPS, following the rest of Greg’s route would have me back at the lodge around 2030h, too late for dinner. I thought that was pessimistic, but decided against risking it and bought a paper map. Plotted a fast but not completely boring ride “home” for the night, and arrived back at the lodge before 1700h, 229 miles for the day.
I’m really glad I decided to take the extra day and come down on Thursday, because by Friday night most of the group had arrived and I don’t think I’d’ve been able to get to know anyone if I hadn’t met a bunch of folks the night before. Another good night of talking and too much drinking before sacking out around 0030h.
Saturday morning I’d planned to go out in search of good roadside BBQ, but was convinced to join a group ride at the last minute instead. A couple of minor glitches aside, it was a good ride, and a good day, covering about 250 miles in good company. The evening was more subdued, as most of the group was looking at long rides in the rain the following morning. I only had to go as far as Asheville, so I ended up sitting up alone on a porch with a bourbon and a book for a couple hours after everyone had gone down for the night, but it was a good book, a great bourbon, and a beautiful night, so all was good.
Got a later start than hoped for Sunday morning, then got socked in on the parkway in the worst fog I’ve ever experienced in my life. At one point I’d deliberately sandwiched myself in between two slow-moving cars just for the bumpers, and had a moment of panic when I suddenly couldn’t see either of them. I probably should have pulled off into one of the overlooks to wait out the fog, but I was looking forward to my visit in Asheville so I pushed on, even after losing my bumpers. On the approach to Mount Mitchell the fog got so thick there were times I couldn’t see my own mirrors. I spent about 20 miles at a slower than walking pace with my left turn signal on, literally riding by braille. I finally emerged from the fog bank (or was it a cloud?) shortly beyond Craggy Gardens, and arrived at my host’s place around 1230h. 80 hours in almost 4 hours. It still breaks my brain to even think about riding that slowly.
As usual, after taking some time to unwind and catch up, we headed downtown for food & drinks. This time, we started at Cúrate for some damned fine tapas, including the very best eggplant I’ve ever tasted and a fabulous postre based around a rosemary gelato. We followed that up with a walking tour of some of Asheville’s “finer” brewpubs (“good people drink good beer”), then met up with my host’s boy and he and I made some wicked pissah bison & pork tacos and a ton of new in-jokes. It isn’t every night you see a couple of hipster spinners show up with their own mattress.
Monday, expecting storms all day, we opted to visit Biltmore rather than go hiking as originally planned. It wasn’t anything I would’ve ever even thought to do on my own, but turned out to be a really good way to spend a day. After touring the house and a portion of the estate, we headed over to the winery for some samples. Shockingly, I fell a little bit in love with a limited edition Malbec they had on, and bought a few bottles even though I knew I didn’t have room for them on the bike. Those of you who will be at the Spring Fling this weekend might get to try some, if I’m not feeling too selfish.
It had been a gorgeous day up until this point, but while we were sampling a real frog strangler ran in, hard and fast. We were both hungry by this point, having skipped lunch and been on our feet walking all day, so we decided to brave the storm and run down the hill to Cedric’s Tavern for some dinner. About half-way down I realized the cardboard box I was carrying the wine in was starting to melt, and figuring I was already as wet as I could get I shifted the box into a Porter’s carry and walked the rest of the way. I’m pretty sure I’ve been less wet when swimming. Had a lovely meal, including a high-class but surprisingly honest Scotch Egg.
Stuffed and exhausted, I was ready to head “home” and crash for the night, but there were still people to do and things to see. We headed back downtown to meet up with my host’s sister and boy for a drink or two, since I’d not had a chance to hang out with them yet on this trip. I can’t say I’ve never been thrown out of a parking garage anymore; good times!
Finally made it back “home”, opened a bottle of wine and hung out on the couch for the rest of the night, playing around with maps & routes and reading. 0 miles for the day, but probably the most tiring, and definitely the wettest day of the trip so far.
Tuesday, woke up late, feeling pretty meh, decided to scrap my plans and just ride the parkway up to the end. Was doing fine, having a good ride, but the second tank kicked about 30 miles short of the mark, so I got off the parkway in search of gas. Rolled in to the BP on fumes around 1830h, and instead of the quick stop I’d meant to take ended up wasting a bunch of time searching for a place to stay the night, and didn’t get back underway until after 1910h. With light dwindling, I was faced with the classic dilemma; ride faster and chase the sun, or suck it up and play it safe.
Hi, have we met?
Yeah, there may have been a somewhat dramatic animal strike at something north of 65. I’m not at all sure how I kept the bike upright, but I am sure that (shit) 8 hours later I’m still a little shaky from it. Got the fuck off the Parkway at the first possible opportunity, which was probably a mistake given the road was faster and tighter, with even denser surrounding forest, but finally arrived in Waynesboro in the same number of pieces. Stopped at the Cracker Barrel and inhaled way too much food while looking for a place to sleep and trying to push off going all shocky as long as possible, burned through all the battery on my phone without much success.
Paid for my food and left, 95% ready to just roll around back and cowboy camp under the bushes, but fired up the laptop just for shits & giggles and found some open wifi. Quickly booked a room & rolled almost a tenth of a mile to the hotel. SSS and 2/3rds of a fifth of Henry McKenna later, I’m just now starting to think I might be able to get some sleep tonight. Somewhere around 405 miles today, almost all of them on the BRP.
I’ve no route planned for tomorrow, but I think I’ve still got the planned route files from last year’s MET heading towards home from this area that I never rode, so I’ll either follow one of those or just head vaguely north and east until I hit New York. As Locock said, “If I can’t find the next country, there’s something wrong with my navigation.” Ok, in my case it is a state, not a country, but considering New York is bigger than some of the countries he needed to “find”, I think I should be OK.