Slow day

Woke up late by local time, even later if you consider the rest of the trip is on Eastern Time. Alanya made breakfast, which was tasty, and time passed quickly. After a very relaxed/ing morning, I eventually I got my act together and got on the road around 1230h local. Crazy hot day and poor route planning eventually convinced me to detour over I-40 to get away from city traffic. After lunch, had a nice ride until I caught up to a couple of Harleys running 15-20 under through the nice twisty bit of US70, and using a lane and a half to do it, so it took a long while before I had sight lines to pass. Stopped for gas and some wake-up juice, burned about an hour just cooling down.
Back on the road, after about 15 miles the road started getting nice and twisty just as the shadows started getting deeper, and a couple of deer sightings convinced me it was time to find a room for the night and save the mountains for morning. The closest places the GPS knew about were my destination and a half-dozen motels I’d passed leaving the gas station, so I turned back. Found a suitable motel, cheap. Clean, but not fancy. They still have mechanical locks! I can’t even think of the last time I had a real key for a hotel room.

A quick half hour of riding tomorrow will get me to the really fun stuff.

Mileage: 222
States: TN
Tomorrow: Deals Gap, Cherohala Skyway, other mountain roads.
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Post RCR to Nashville

Lots of rain in the morning, eventually gave up on my planned route after a couple of long detours and got on major roads as my gloves and boots soaked through. Stopped at a Cracker Barrel for an early lunch to get out of the rain for a bit, by the time I was done the rain had mostly stopped. Kept the rain gear on for a while anyway, until the heat got too much. Did another 80 miles or so of back roads before the heat started to really make me stupid, then found big slab for the rest of the ride. My hosts surprised me with a wonderful dinner, then we spent a few hours in good conversation between getting caught up on Game of Thrones.
Mileage: 315
States: KY, TN
Tomorrow, over to Deals Gap.

RCR XX

Woke up at a reasonable hour, got cleaned up and made my way out into the common space for breakfast.  Hung out on the front porch for a while, until it started raining. Went in to read for a bit and had an unexpected nap instead. Woke up just as the rain finished, suited up and went for a short ride, stopping to walk around Natural Bridge for a bit.
Back at the lodge, had some good conversations, an excellent dinner, and if these hiccoughs are any indication, too much beer.  We just now put out the fire, and it looks like I’m last man standing, again.  I expect I’ll sack out shortly after posting this.
All in all a very good day.  Dave and Sarah found a great spot for this year, and did a fabulous job as hosts.
Mileage: 78
States: KY
Tomorrow, Nashville.

The greying of the DoD, take two

WordPress app crashed while trying to save my post, so here are the highlights instead.
First tour of the day was Wild Turkey, the most obviously modern and commercial of the distilleries I visited. The tour was a pretty thorough coverage of everything from raw grains through final product, though by this point I’m confident I could set up and run my own distillery if I needed to.  I don’t much care for Wild Turkey’s usual product, but I quite enjoyed their single barrel offering at the tasting.
After Wild Turkey it was over to Four Roses, the last stop on my Bourbon tour, and the least impressive of the tours I took.  In their defense, they were in a seasonal shut down period, so there simply wasn’t much happening to see, and I knew that going in.  They did offer the most comprehensive tasting of the tour, with generous samples of each of their domestic products.
Bourbon Trail complete, over to the RCR. I’d plotted a nice looking route, but apparently failed to account for road speed as the GPS gave an ETA after 2100h.  After an hour of riding that estimate hadn’t come below 2000h, so I edited the route to include a couple “make time” sections over Interstate, and arrived at the RCR around 1700h after what may well be the nicest motorcycling road I’ve ever ridden, KY 715.  Massachusetts residents, think Whiley Rd, with better pavement, more and tighter curves, and about ten times longer.
At the RCR, unpacked the bike and opened a bottle of Devil’s Cut to share. Dinner, drinks, tire kicking, and shit shooting with good friends, old and new, until the greying of the DoD reared its ugly head.  By 2330h there were only four left standing, and as I sat down to write this the first time ay 2350h it was just me.
Oh well, I guess not everyone can pretend to be a kid forever. I’ll do what I can to pick up the slack for the rest. Heh.
Mileage: 174
Tomorrow, whatever strikes my fancy probably low mileage and some walking in the park.
No picture tonight, since that seems to be what crashed it last time.

Bourbon, Bourbon, and more Bourbon

Woke up to a beautiful, if already quite warm, day. Quickly got ready, packed up the bike, and hit the road for Jim Beam. The tour guide was extremely personable and entertaining, and I got to try two new Bourbons, Knob Creek Single Barrel and Devil’s Cut.  I may have gone ahead and bought a bottle or two to share at the RCR.

After Jim Beam, it was over to Heaven Hill, for the “Deluxe” tour.  They have at least four different tour options, this just happened to be the one just about to start when I arrived.  The tour was a little heavy on promoting their “other” spirits, but still entertaining.  The tasting was, by far, the most structured, giving a lot of insight into the differences between the Bourbons sampled. After convincing myself I really didn’t need a $350 bottle of Bourbon that I didn’t really have space for anyway, I considered my options.

Both tours ran longer than I expected, so I only had time for one more today.  The Barton 1792 Distillery was only minutes away, and their website claims the tour offered a first hand look at the entire process, but they aren’t on the official Bourbon Trail.  The Maker’s Mark Distillery was about 40 minutes away over fun roads, and I’d get there in time to have some lunch before taking the tour.  Maker’s Mark is on the official Bourbon Trail, so ultimately I let the marketing departments make the choice for me.

Arrived at Maker’s Mark, had a tasty, if over priced, burger, then rode over to the tour start with a little over a half an hour before the last tour was scheduled to start.  As I was locking up my gear, a group of 14 couples on Harleys pulled up and went inside.  I think that many bikers in the lobby was just too much for them, because they started the 1530 tour at 1458.  The tour guide was hilarious, though I’m not sure she was necessarily trying to be.

Done with tours for the day, I pulled up a weather report.  With a greater than 50% chance of thunderstorms overnight and into the morning, I decided to break camp while all of my stuff was dry, pack up the bike and spend the night in a hotel.  Nice ride back to camp, managed (barely) to fit everything on the bike, then rode off in the direction of the distilleries I plan to visit tomorrow in search of a hotel.  After a very close call with a couple of dogs, followed by another close call with a deer two corners later, I decided it was time to stop for dinner.

Punched up food options on the GPS, which routed me over Rice Rd., which was fun right up until the unexpected water crossing.  About 20 feet from the far side I hit something invisible in the water with my front tire, sliding the back end out on the snot-slick rocks.  With a sudden surety my trip was ruined, I threw my weight to the high side of the bike and poured on the throttle in a desperate attempt to get out of the water before crashing.  Somehow made it to the far side, now sliding in the other direction, and was saved by the road camber.  Back on dry land, I spent the next several minutes thinking “this road better go through”.

Fortunately, it did, and I came upon the location of the first food option the GPS had presented, which sadly does not exist on this plane.  The next two options I picked were also not there in the real world, so when I saw a Walmart I pulled in to do some searches on my phone.  Located a suitable hotel about 10 miles up the highway, rode up, dropped my stuff in the room, and went back out in search of dinner.  By this point it was past 2130, so options were limited.  Found another Sonic, quick and cheap wins again.  Had a nice chat with a local couple there on their mid-90s Katana, who broke out laughing as soon as I said “Rice Rd”, then gave me some road suggestions for tomorrow.

Mileage: 178
States: KY
Tomorrow, Four Roses, Wild Turkey, then on to the RCR.

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Another day in Paradise

Woke up a little before 0700h to the sounds of a major airport. A minute or so later the rain started, and I realized what was going on.  Quick check of the forecast called for “isolated” thunderstorms, so I decided to wait it out. Around 0930h, I gave up on that idea and packed the bike for the day before walking up the hill for a shower.  The rain let up while I was getting dressed, but it was still pretty cold so I put my rain gear on anyway.
Finally on the road, decide to hit two of the more northern distilleries on my list, Buffalo Trace and Woodford Reserve.  As I turned out of camp, the storm hit with a vengeance.  After about 10 minutes of some of the worst conditions I’ve ever ridden in, I considered turning back, but decided I wouldn’t be any safer in a tent if I was going to be hit by lighting or a tree.
I arrived at Buffalo Trace and was directed to their motorcycle parking area just at a lull in the storm, with perfect timing to stow all of my gear (plug: PacSafe StuffSafe 80 fit my tankbag, pants, jacket, and helmet, no problem. highly recommended, though putting already wet stuff into a waterproof stuff sack is not without issues), and get inside for the tour that was about to start.  The tour was interesting, but nothing spectacular.  Our tour guide Becky was amusing and entertaining, which made up some for not really seeing any of the process.  Got to try a new-to-me Bourbon, Eagle Rare, and was intrigued by some of their experiments but didn’t get to try them.  Sadly, their gift shop only had White Dog, Buffalo Trace, and Rain (vodka) so I left without buying a bottle, but did pick up some Bourbon Brittle which I’m enjoying while I write this.  Grabbed a quick lunch in their café, then back on the bike and over to Woodford Reserve.  Happily, it had stopped raining by this point.
Woodford Reserve is a site on the official Bourbon Trail, so they gave me a “passport” to have stamped at each distillery to get a free shirt.  I was planning on going to all of them anyway, so why not?  Paid for the tour ($5! The others are free!), and spent a few minutes looking at their displays while waiting for it to start.  Surprisingly, the tour was worth the money.  Started off with a short video presentation, then over to the brewhouse where they had three batches visibly fermenting and a fourth cooking, about to go into the only empty fermenter (people actively working).  A good discussion of the process, all pretty familiar from my homebrew adventures. Next, the stills.  Two of the three were operating, the third had just been emptied, so we got to see what little there is to see of an operating copper pot still, and to see the inside of the empty one.  At the far side of this room one if their workers was barrelling the product of that empty still, which was neat to watch.  From there we walked over to one of the barrel warehouses, and then to the bottling building where one of their workers was opening those barrels deemed ready for bottling, also very cool to see.  The bottling line wasn’t running, but I can’t imagine it works all that much differently from any other.  Back up to the visitor center for sampling, though with only the one product made here it was good, but nothing new.  Wandered through the gift shop, then back to camp.
Stopped on the way for a new headlight bulb, some laundry soap, and food for dinner.  Splurged and bought a couple bacon-wrapped filets, and charcoal to cook them on, in hope of dinner before dark.
Back at camp, hang up my wet gear, light the charcoal, and throw a load of laundry in.  Spent a couple minutes enjoying the beautiful sky, which my camera completely fails to capture. Started writing this post.  Coals ready, assembled my grill and started cooking my steaks.  At the flip, they’re cooking beautifully.
Of course, my life being what it is, this is where everything goes horribly wrong.  I go into my tent to grab some Bourbon, turn back and my steaks are gone.  The velociraptor trick they tried last night didn’t work, so tonight the damned raccoons literally walked over hot coals to steal my dinner.  Furious, I walk back over to the laundry and toss my stuff from the washer into the dryer, forgetting I’d put my insoles in the wash since I’d been in wet boots all day and they were getting a little ripe.  Boiled some water and ate the second of my three emergency rations.  Cleaned up camp, chasing raccoons away every few minutes (I think it became a game for them), then retrieved my laundry and found my twisted, melted insoles.  At least the gel didn’t escape and ruin all my clothes.
It is past midnight now, and the plan is to got the four distilleries south and west of here tomorrow, so I’m going to finish my drink and sack out.
Mileage: 139
States: KY
Casualties: dinner, insoles, light-my-fire spoon/fork/knife (snapped eating yesterday’s dinner. Not recommended.)
Tomorrow, Jim Beam, Heaven Hill, Maker’s Mark, and Barton 1792 (time permitting).

Oh, fuck me, not more thunder.

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Mexican Coke, meet American Whiskey

Woke up this morning, broke camp at Shawnee and rode off to Kentucky.  A combination of extremely optimistic time estimates for the route and a very long detour to get around a road closure left me no chance of making Buffalo Trace before the last tour, so I rerouted to Taylorsville Lake instead.  Arrived at camp after the office had closed, but no worries, they’d marked my (quite nice) site for me. I would not hesitate to recommend this campground; I’ll stay here again myself next time I am in the area.
Threw up the tent, inflated the airbed, and hit the road in search of firewood and food.  Mission accomplished, I returned to camp to find a nosy raccoon investigating my stuff.  Shooed him off (several times, little bugger is persistent!), built a fire, and introduced Mexican Coke to American Whiskey.  They are getting along famously, as expected.
As I write this I’m sitting by the fire, enjoying my drink, and waiting for coals to cook my steak on.
Life is good.
Mileage: 291
States: OH, KY
Found: my favourite headlamp
Tomorrow, Bourbon Trail day 1

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Planes, trains, and OH SHIT DEER!

Ok, so there weren’t any trains today, though I did cross tracks several times.
The day started poorly.  Woke up, boiled water for tea, and found myself playing H2G2 (no tea), so breakfast was hot water and salty peanuts.  I’d already discovered the nearby showers were out of order, so I trekked over to the far side of camp to the other shower house, about a 15 minute walk.  Showered, dressed, and on my way, only about two hours later than intended.
The ride out to the museum took longer than expected, in part because of some nice roads I ended up on by mistake, and in part because of some slow traffic through what I thought would be a quick highway section. A few miles before the museum I was hungry and saw a Sonic, so I stopped for lunch. First time at Sonic for me, I can see myself doing it again; tasty, quick, and cheap works for lunch on the road.
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Got to the museum, parked in the rockstar motorcycle parking, and quickly lost myself in the early flight through WWI section. Sadly, my camera battery was dead, so not many pictures (phone camera is very slow). Got to WWII, saw the time and realized there was less than an hour to closing, and started rushing. They announced closing in fifteen minutes before I got through WWII even just skimming, so I did a really quick run through of the modern and cold war sections, glanced at the space section, and was out of time.  I really must make a point of going back with a lot more time, three or four days, at least.
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Back at the bike I was approached by a nice couple there on a trike with a trailer. We chatted for a while, then said our goodbyes and I suited up to head “home”.
On the way, I realized I wouldn’t make camp before 2000h even if I didn’t stop for supplies, so I stopped for dinner. Tasty country fried steak with biscuits, gravy, mash, and green beans, served by what may well be the world’s most attentive wait staff.  My glass was never less than half full before they refilled it.  Excellent meal, and very reasonably priced.
Around the next corner I spotted a Kroger, so stopped in for critical breakfast supplies. They had a big sign in the window advertising their new liquor store inside, so I resolved to pick something up for the night.  When inside, I quickly found what I was looking for, until it came to booze.  In the section with beer and wine, they had an assortment of booze, all 42 proof or less.  The whiskies were all marked “diluted!”  They were seriously cheap, but hell no! Giving up on that idea, I look for a bottle of water to refill my camelbak and instead found the real liquor store, off behind the pharmacy.  Excellent!
Back on the road, now into dusk, I’m running about 65 on a long hilly straight with a slight cross wind.  Something moving at the edge of the road up ahead catches my eye, then I see the deer. Full-on maximum effort rear-wheel-off-the-ground panic stop, I just manage to get a foot down before losing the bike, and realize I’ve been faked out by a deer-shaped mailbox behind a branch swaying in the breeze.
Continuing on, it starts to get dark with about an hour left to go.  I generally ride with my main beam on to be more visible in these conditions, but when I next encountered traffic and switched to the dipped beam it was so bright I became convinced my main light had gone.  It hadn’t, but compared to the new bulb it may as well have, so I’ll be stopping tomorrow to replace it, too.
Extra paranoid about deer, having seen way too many already on this trip, I keep getting faked out by fireflies in the weeds.  After the third or fourth time hauling on the brakes for fake deer, I nearly didn’t react to the real one.  Fortunately it froze with just one leg on the pavement so we passed without incident, but the rest of the ride to camp was made very slowly.
Happily, arriving at camp well after dark and dosed with adrenaline wasn’t too bad, as camp was already made and I had a full belly.  Nearly full moon,  clear night, serious shadows.  Spent some time sitting by the lake taking in the universe, until I was interrupted by a couple of very loud angry grunts that sounded like “what?” Shined a light in that direction to see some large cat like critter saunter across the field. No clue what it was, other than creepy.
Back to the campsite, burned some time starting a fire by rubbing a couple of sticks against each other, mostly to see if I still could.  Let it burn down, finished my drink then crawled into the tent.  Couldn’t sleep, so wrote this instead.
Mileage: 232
States: OH
MIA: My favourite headlamp. I’m hoping it turns up in the morning.
Tomorrow, KY and starting on the Bourbon Trail.

Great ride

Woke up rested and refreshed, without even a hint of hangover.  Showered, dressed, packed my stuff, then walked into the kitchen to find Buz had made breakfast!  I’m not worthy!
Packed and full, I fire up the laptop for a quick review of my planned route, then hit the road.
Got caught in a sudden patch of rain, but it was warm enough to just be refreshing. By the time I made it out of Pittsburgh I left the rain behind and found some beautiful riding weather.
Strung together a seemingly endless run of great roads.  When I finally got to 555 I was surprised to realize it wasn’t the highlight of the day.  Still a great road, but with roughly 200 miles of traffic and cop free twisty mountain roads behind me it was ‘just’ another great road.
By that point I was getting tired and stupid from the heat, and still had over 150 miles of planned twisties ahead of me.  My lines started going to shit, couldn’t read the roads to save my life, so I switched the GPS over to give me a direct route to camp, instantly dropping 90 minutes from my ETA.  Foolishly, I’d neglected to select ‘avoid dirt’, so the next 15 miles or so were… interesting, and very, very slow.  Corrected that setting and ended up with a mostly slab trip to camp, which suited me just fine at that point.  Arrived at Shawnee shortly after 1900h, found I’d managed to reserve one of the only 3 sites that doesn’t have on site parking, humped all my stuff up the hill and set up camp.  The area is beautiful, but I wouldn’t recommend it for tent camping, as there isn’t a flat, level tent site to be found.
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Still, I can’t complain.  I had a near perfect day of riding, arrived safely at camp with plenty of daylight left to make camp, and soon I’ll be trying out my new camp stove for the first time.
Tommorrow, USAF museum. I’ll try not to go too overboard with pictures.
 
Mileage: 343
States: PA, WV, OH
Lesson: 350 miles of fun roads is too much for one day at 30°C

Had to walk back down to the lake to find signal to post this… walking down the hill I got a great view of a field full of lighting bugs, just at dusk for perfect viewing.

ETA: Stove worked great, shame I’d forgotten to stop for groceries, but the “emergency food” was quick, easy, and tasty enough.

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Slab

Big mileage day, to make up for the late start on Friday.
Woke up early to the alarm, to a torrential downpour.  Said, “Fuck it, slab it is,” and went back to bed.  Notice the missing step?
Woke up again several hours later, quickly showered, packed the bike, and got rolling.  A couple cold, wet hours down the highway, regretting not making time for breakfast, I saw a beacon of hope in the form of a Cracker Barrel sign.  Pulled in and had a great breakfast, got back on the bike in much better spirits.
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There was a break in the rain, so I thought to mix some backroads into my slab, but it was not to be.  As soon as I got the rain gear off and found a likely road, the skies opened up again.  Back to the slab.  Stopped on the way for a replacement headlamp, after getting dinged for no headlight in a construction zone (warning, but still burned time; should’ve remembered to leave the brights on).
Arrived at Buz & Wendy’s in Pittsburgh a bit later than intended, but in good spirits.  Those spirits were quickly improved with the addition of a couple beers and a lovely dinner, followed by a tour of the city.  Back to their place after the tour, for more beer, bourbon, and conversation.
All in all, a very good day.
I’ve some really nice roads planned for tomorrow, then Monday at the NMUSAF.
Mileage: 503
Repairs: headlamp
States: NY, PA