Todd, Colin and I went on a week long trip two weeks ago. I rode my Kawasaki, Todd was on his Harley and Colin was in his Lincoln. We were a diverse pack. We covered over 2000 miles and passed through seven states. From Chicago we traveled just south of Knoxville, headed north towards DC and then back to Chicago.
Our first day was spent traveling 600 miles to Deal’s Gap. An area home to the best road in the Eastern US, the Tail of the Dragon. There are 318 curves in 11 miles. This is was what I was looking forward to all winter. We left early Sunday Morning. Colin and Todd met me at my house and I kept them waiting while I frantically checked over my belongings I packed. I check everything twice last night, but I check again, never trusting my memory. We hopped on the expressway. Only one toll was in our way before we could be making our way to Deal’s Gap. Todd and I stopped to pay and Colin…well we didn’t know where Colin went. He must have gone through the IPass lane but with a couple of expressway exits around we couldn’t be sure that he didn’t take a wrong turn. Fifteen minutes into the trip and we already got separated…awesome. Todd bitched at Colin on his cell phone and we make our way to catch up to him. I take cell phone reception for granted, but I know once he hit the mountains it won’t be easy to get in touch if we get separated.
Our first day of riding was spirited even through the boring plains of Indiana. I was exciting to ride on the Dragon. As we crossed Kentucky the landscape become more pleasing. Tennessee was even better with steeper hills and downgrades. Our pace was too relaxed and I urged us to quicken our pace so we would make it before sunset. The sun was setting behind the mountains as we drove through the Dragon to Deal’s Gap where our hotel was located. We were in the middle of Smokey Mountains now so “civilization” was sparse. Colin drove through 20 miles of winding roads in pitch dark to the nearest source of food. The occasional squealing of his tires on sharp curves heightened my anxiety of Colin’s driving skills on these roads. It reminded me of Damian on the roads in Pioneer, CA but Colin wasn’t nearly as reckless as him. I still look back on that kicking myself for not getting Damian to stop the car. Anyways, Colin got used to the roads relatively fast and I wasn’t as worried anymore. I set my alarm for 7am and fell asleep fast.
My phone died so my alarm didn’t go off. It was 9am and I lost a couple hours of riding on the Dragon. I didn’t wait for the guys and took off onto the road. I toured there last year and crashed on the Dragon. My riding confidence was always humble and my crash had only fueled me to improve my techniques. I had stopped joy riding and started concentrating on my form. So riding the Dragon was a test of all the work I had done and I was excited to see how well I would fair. I took it easy the first couple of runs. I had new Pilot Power tires so I wanted to test how well they performed. By the afternoon I was scrapping my pegs and nailing the Gravity Cavity. During the morning on the Dragon I was talking to myself in my helmet, “Look deep into the curves, weight the inside peg, leg pressure on the outside tank, get your butt off the seat.” Towards the end of the day it all came automatically and I was having a fucking awesome time on the road. For my skill level, I was kicking ass on those roads.
Todd however did not do so well. On his third time on the Dragon he took a corner too fast and lowsided off the road into some gravel. Todd had some road rash on his forearm and a sprained ankle. As for his bike, thank god for engine guards. His bike was in fine working condition after the crash. Some scrapes on his engine guards and his saddle bags were the most minor signs of damage. His windshield did not do so well though. Two of the four brackets that hold his windshield on had broken off and there were scratch marks on a 1/3 of it. Todd seemed a little shooken up by the whole experience. Him and Colin went to the nearest Harley dealer and hour and half away to get some replacement brackets for his windshield.
I wasn’t sure how Todd’s crash was going to affect the trip. This was only day two. While Todd and Colin were gone I ignored all of that and just focused on riding. NIN’s Ruiner and Pearl Jam’s Off He Goes dominated the playlist on my IPod. I didn’t ride to the music, but it seemed to accent certain moments. Half the time I didn’t hear any music because I was so focused on the next curve, but the beats would fade in an our and sync up with my movements. Tears ran down my face during certain sections of the road where there were consecutive difficult curves. I wasn’t blinking and I had to make a conscious effort to do so.
I shot a ton of video on the Dragon with all types of crazy angles. I am still going through the footage but here is my first video: Dragon Runs. At the end of the day I was pretty sore. I went on that road 12 times that day. I averaged about 15 minutes per run. We rode for over 10 hours, and 600 miles the previous day. That day on the Dragon I rode for 3 hours, and 120 miles and was so much more exhausted. Even so, apparently I was not tired enough to sleep through Todd’s snoring though.
This post is getting long so I am going to split this up. Find out what happens next week. Todd has an encounter with a goat, we get scared away from a public bathroom in DC, and I go it alone in West Virginia. What is Todd doing with a goat? What scared us away from a perfectly good public bathroom? Will I be sodomized by hillbillies? Check back for updates!