Appalachian Motorcycle Trip – Part 2

I left off at Deal’s Gap last time. At this point We are 600 miles away from Chicago and have 1600 miles left. We hit the road around 9am. I was itching to take another lap on the Dragon, and was regretful that I didn’t for the next 10 miles. I realized that I wouldn’t be able to top the way I performed the previous day though, so I let go. Shortly after, I realized that I never turned in our key to the room where we stayed. I sprinted back 10 minutes, then forward 20 to catch up with Todd and Colin. At this point Todd’s pace was still slow, so it gave me a chance to have a little more fun on the curves.

We passed through Cherokee where we were bombarded with signs spreading information about diabetes and merchants of boiled peanuts. Coincidence? I think not… It took us about an hour before we arrived at the Blue Ridge Parkway. The BRP is about 500 miles long and wraps around the Appalachian mountains, with the highest point around 6200 feet. The speed limit is 45, which was ok given that it is a scenic road I didn’t find myself opening the throttle wide too often anyways. Our goal: Julian Park. A place to camp out for the night. For the first hour or so we stopped very often. There were overlooks to take a look at the scenery. The views were pretty cool. Not great, but nice. The landscape seemed to lack distinction. Mountains were distance and felt like they blended together. Nonetheless the areas were still awe inspiring from time to time. The roads constantly swelled in height and swept back and forth over the land. It was a very relaxing ride. We stopped for a late lunch at a restaurant with an awesome mountainous view.

After lunch we were going to bust out the maps and decide on a checkpoint. Colin stopped too often to take pictures, Todd was taking more of a spirited pace, but would slow down for the curves. Where he slowed down, I would speed up, so distance would develop between us over time. I go into Colin’s car to get my maps and pop my head out and see Todd riding away. Todd was getting a head start I guess. Colin and I took our time and decided to meet at the Folk Art Center. Colin drove off, and I followed. Five minutes into the ride my suction cup mount had fallen off. This is what I used to secure my digital camera to my bike. Luckily the camera wasn’t actually attached. So I stopped for about 15 minutes and looked for it on the side of the road. I couldn’t find it anywhere. I rationalized away the cost, gave up and hopped back on my bike. I raced to the Folk Art Center to make up the time. Colin wasn’t there. I thought that he must have kept going so I raced ahead to catch up again. An hour or two passes and I finally give up on my chase. This was all an imaginary chase.

I was incredibly pissed off at this point. In my mind, Todd had ridden off and doesn’t even know where to meet us, and Colin didn’t stop at the spot we were supposed to meet. Oh, and the couple times I offered to give Todd a map he refused, so who the hell knows if he has any idea where he is. We are in the middle of the mountains with spotty reception. The rest of my gear is in Colin’s car, but I had a small bag. I rummage through it analyzing what I have left and how long I can go alone and still being comfortable with my limited change of clothes. With the limited reception we’ve had for the past two days I expected it to continue for the next two days as well. I cursed at the mountains, “Why the fuck did Todd just ride off?! Folk Art Center Colin! Fuck!” Some hope came riding down the rode. A a Harley Sportster approached and the rider had a silver half helmet. “Oh sweet, that’s Todd! I have never seen anyone else wearing that gay helmet” I thought to myself. I run out towards the road waving him down only to realize that it’s not Todd, and this strange dude pulls offs to the side. I explain my confusion and apologize. These roads were playing tricks on me now…

I finally get in touch with Colin through my cell. I guess we had more reception out here than I thought. “Where the fuck are you?” are the first words out of my mouth. He went back looking for me when I didn’t show up at the Folk Art Center. We are guessing that we passed each other in a tunnel and didn’t recognize each other. What are the odds. Colin found Todd. The reason I didn’t pass him is because he stopped off in Asheville for gas. Colin was behind me and was going to meet me at the Mineral Museum, and Todd was already there. I continued on worry free. I threw in my helmet camera and start vlogging about the whole situation and the time passes quickly. “Ok, meet at the Mineral Museum, Mineral Museum, Mineral Museum” I repeated to myself.

“Sure seems awfully far…hmm I’m running low on gas…naw I didn’t pass it…but maybe I did? …I think I passed it.” After 5 miles second guessing myself I stopped to check the maps. I passed it 10 miles ago. I could just back track right? Wait…the nearest gas station is 40 miles away, my fuel light just went on, and back tracking would add an extra 20 miles that I can’t travel without running out of gas. Awesome! I continue on towards Julian Park campground, our final destination for the day assuming that they will eventually end up there.

Julian Park was a beautiful sight, at first. I rode up to the entrance to read a sign: “CLOSED FOR WINTER.” It was May. They were closed for winter in May. WTF. Should I check alternate places down the road? No, fuck it. I stayed put and waited for Todd and Colin. I smoked and sat for 45 minutes. I checked my cellphone for reception but had none. One bar would blip every 15 seconds. I balanced on my motorcycle tank reaching for the sky for reception. A bicyclist peddled by and chuckled. Perhaps there was some reception down the road. I rode back where I came, with cell phone in hand, swerving across the road like a drunk driver checking for bars. I found none, but I did find Todd. I expected to bitch him out, but we just ended up laughing over the whole situation after we discovered the details of its cause. We waited for Colin to arrive, doing the math every 10 minutes to estimate the time he should arrive. Every time his ETA proved to be false we would recalculate, add variables, discover false assumptions.

Colin finally arrived at dusk and we traveled up the road 10 miles to the nearest town. We stopped at an Outback for dinner where Todd discovered straight up glasses of 151 for 6 bucks, and the realization that we were really in North Carolina started to sink in as I listened to the surrounding southern accents. We didn’t cover as many miles as we should have that day. Delays aside, the winding mountains roads proved to be tougher to travel through than I originally thought. The next day was sure to be tough if we were to stay on schedule. The weather channel was predicting rain throughout North Carolina and Virginia. I spent an hour trying to calculate potential points where we would hit bad weather and started formulating alternate routes and plans. I knew I would be agonizing over the same maps and forecasts the next morning with the updated data so I stopped worrying and tried to get some sleep.

This post also went longer than I thought so I am cutting it off here.

How do we fair with the rain?

What is Colin doing with that duck over there?

How did I miss the absolutely perfect statement in the world to follow with, “That’s what she said.”

Check back later.

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