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Old 06-21-2008, 03:34 AM   #1
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So I took a little ride...

...and it's about time I shared. I wanted to finish up the ride report before posting it over here, but I wrote most of it from the road as I went.

Enjoy!



Day 1
April 26

As i finished packing last night, thunder and lightning rolled into Houston and rain soaked the area. I was sure the wet weather would be gone by morning, but that was wishful thinking. By the time I rolled out onto the road it was don to a drizzle, and the weather map showed it was dry north of I10. That made the decision between slabbing east on 10 and heading northeast an easy one.

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I skirted the rain for a while, but it caught up with me as I passed into Louisiana. I almost dropped the bike for the picture - the ground was soft and the kickstand started sinking fast. Luckily, I was close enough to the bike that I caught it and got the kickstand plate down under it in time.

285577301 gyQdn O

I was reluctant to add a layer of rain gear, since it makes it feel like I'm riding in a sauna. I pulled into a gas station for a snack and decided it was the safest place to do the "rain gear dance", and not three miles down the road the sky opened up and dime-sized raindrops were pelting me.

I opted for an easy lunch at Arby's and recalculated a route that might get me closer to Chattanooga than I'd originally routed.

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The roads got straighter and more boring, although I was making good time. I decided to stop for some ice cream to load up on sugar.

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Before I knew it, I was crossing a huge bridge and sure enough, it was the mighty Mississippi. Because of the wet weather, the camera was tucked away in the tank bag and I missed the opportunity to get pics from the bridge itself. I pulled over for my sign shot:

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And turned around for a quick shot of the bridge:

285577513 jhJtS O
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Old 06-21-2008, 03:35 AM   #2
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I was in Natchez, MS and I'd been advised that the Natchez Trace was slow and boring, so I headed for US 61. As it crossed over the trace, I couldn't help but notice how green and lush it was. I turned around and hopped on it for a few miles, telling myself Id get back on 61 after a few miles and a couple of pictures.

285577551 64Bgo O

I was amazed at the beauty that was before me. Mile after mile of greenery hung over and around me, and despite the lack of sun it was exactly what I needed to get some thinking time in.

285577047 qaymy O

The speed limit was only 50mph, but this seemingly-isolated road had me so calm that I found myself going as slow as 40 at times. There were very few cars on the road, so my speed (or lack of) wasn't bothering anyone.

285577072 WGxbG O

I could stop in the roadway and snap pictures at will. I passed multiple chances to get back onto the highway, but found myself compelled to just continue on at the sedate pace I was keeping on the Trace.

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I decided to push on past dark, so I stopped in a hotel just east of Jackson, MS. I've got my camping gear loaded on the bike but I'm not intent on pushing safety just for the sake of camping, After this, I would have veered off the main lanes and onto side roads that aren't lit.

444 miles
Texas, Louisiana, Mississippi

285608090 BiKDQ O
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Old 06-21-2008, 03:36 AM   #3
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..
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Old 06-21-2008, 03:37 AM   #4
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Old 06-21-2008, 03:38 AM   #5
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dang i wish i could ride like ya man the farthest iv been is port arthur and galveston
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Old 06-21-2008, 03:38 AM   #6
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I stopped for lunch along the way. I prefer to stay away from fast food whenever possible, so finding Micki's Diner was a pleasant surprise.

p4270042sth9

Fried chicken, mashed potatoes, mac n cheese, and cole slaw. A bottomless glass of sweet tea made it the perfect southern lunch.

p4270039sdc0

I was mingled with the after-church crow and the locals could tell I wasn't from 'round these parts. A few of them stopped by my table to ask about "that big bike out there", where I was headed, and if I was riding there "all by myself". It sure makes people open their eyes wide when I tell them my eventual goal is to get to Maine. They ask me to repeat myself, as if they didn't hear it right the first time.

The GPS was telling me that at the rate I was going, finishing my planned route would put me in Chattanooga after 9. I told it to hush up and just get me there, and it corrected itself to say 5:30. That would get me into the campsite with enough daylight left to set up camp, make dinner, and get some writing done.

So I found the slab and made use of my throttle lock.

p4270051swwdeleted

As boring a highways can be, Mother Nature once again decided to throw life at me. Curveball. I swung and fouled this one off. I saw the rain up ahead and ducked under the overpass to get my rain gear back on before getting drenched.

p4270052sjy7

Within minutes it was pouring down again, and the passing trucks (polite as they were to move over a lane) were atomizing the rain as it collected on the roadway and sprayed it up at me beneath my roadway roof.

p4270054stl0
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Old 06-21-2008, 03:39 AM   #7
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I decided I didn't want or need to be on the freeway. Chattanooga wasn't going anywhere, and with the weather potentially soggy I decided I'd once again be sleeping in a hotel bed. I wandered onto 111/US11 which followed the freeway just a few hundred yards to the side but a world apart in sights, sounds, and smells. At a gas station, I met a local officer who rides a Victory cruiser. When asked if 11 would take me to Chattanooga, his reply was, "It'll take you to Canada if you want to go".

p4270058saz4

Sorry boys, this one's ladies only!

p4270061svp7

Dusk now quickly approaching, I got back on the freeway. Sure enough, the rain came back with it.

p4270086sfo1

As it started to get darker and the rain was falling more steadily, I realized I'd made the irreversible mistake of lifting my visor to scratch my nose in the rain. Seasoned riders know this is a sin - and one that only the sinner will be punished for.

Water ran down the inside of my visor, and although it didn't fog up visibility was hampered. I had been watching the road between droplets and didn't realize how quickly the state border was nearing. As I looked up and saw it from the left-center of four lanes, my heart sank. I need a picture of that sign. I'll have to turn around and go back...

But the next exit wasn't for four miles. I took it, went over the freeway, and re-entered the roadway in the opposite direction. I thought it would be funny to post a picture in the ride report of another Alabama sign - but missed that one too, confusing it for the exit sign for a tourist information area. Oh well, I'll just take the next exit and get my picture over on US11.
I was crawling along the slow-winding two lane road and motioned to the pickup behind me to pass as I creeped toward the narrow shoulder. He stayed back there, crowding me. I tried waving him past again, but he wouldn't budge. Just then the GA state line passed right by me. UGH! I pulled into the next gravel driveway so I could turn around, and discovered the reason the truck didn't want to pass me was because he was turning into a parking lot a few hundred yards up as well.

Back I go. At this point I hate Georgia. This F-ing state is doing nothing for me but causing grief.

I get to it. I park. I hop off the bike for the picture.

The sign sucks.

Georgia sucks.

p4270089shm5

They put a second sign a little ways up.

p4270092sez8

"Welcome. We're glad Georgia's on your mind"

I gave Georgia a piece of my mind for a few minutes in my helmet as I rode away.
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Old 06-21-2008, 03:40 AM   #8
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I pulled into the nearest gas station to get my bearings, a hot cup of coffee, and a Room Saver - a free brochure full of coupons for travelers. The best part is that they give you a map of each metro area with dots for each hotel that has a coupon. Find a good deal, check out their offerings (wifi, continental breakfast, pool) and then find them on the map. I picked an easy $35/night outside of town and set sail.

p4270094sle8

I could have used a sailboat. It came down in buckets. Sheets. Bathtubs full of water. I was on a freeway in the dark with poor visibility, splashing from cars and trucks, grooved pavement, and huge interchanges as I approached, traversed, and escaped the "city" of Chattanooga averaging 38-42 mph. Mind you, the rest of the freeway was still doing 65 or better.

I gave the "Welcome to Tennessee" sign the finger as I passed it.

I got to the hotel, threw my stuff in the room, and walked next door to the Waffle House for some hot food. Bacon cures everything, right?

p42700021sxv6

Oh - and it stopped raining just in time for me to walk there, eat, and walk back. Go figure. There was lightning and thunder most of the night but I never bothered to poke my head out the door to see if it was still raining.

Mississippi, Alabama, Georgia, Tennessee
432 miles

286855151 ptgjv O
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Old 06-21-2008, 03:43 AM   #9
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thats cool i like the pics
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Old 06-21-2008, 03:43 AM   #10
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Day 3
Monday, April 28

Waking up and figuring out if the clock is reading CST or EST is confusing. Either way, I'm running late getting a jump on the day. I load the bike and hit the wet roads, although the rain was all but done falling from the sky.

p4280002sqj5

The clouds loomed overhead for most of the morning. I was nervous about heading towards Deals Gap - US 129, known to riders everywhere as the Tail of the Dragon. 318 curves in 11 miles that makes motorcycling hearts go pitter patter at the thought of scrubbing tires through each winding twist and turn. For me, it's a nervous anticipation, and with the threat of wet pavement I wasn't "feeling it".

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I was also cold, and cold = tense. I stopped to add a layer of clothes, opting to include my ducky pajamas and my TWT tee.

p4280012svr8

The sky was getting brighter, but the clouds stuck around.

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After a late breakfast/early lunch break, the sun started to work its way out to dry the roads an restore my spirit.

p4280027sfg1

The first few miles before the Tail started wandered around the water and gave scenic views of the surrounding hills.

p4280039sfcdeleted

p4280047sqddeleted
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Old 06-21-2008, 03:44 AM   #11
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We'll have to wait and see what ZeeFoto and Killboy got of me out there, since my hands were NOT coming off the bars for pictures on the Dragon. I tried second gear for the twists but felt like the bike was lugging up, down, and around the turns. I dropped down to first and stayed there for most of the ride, which made input on the throttle jerky at best.

I managed to pull off for the North Carolina state line sign:

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And turned around to get the Tennessee sign since I'd missed it the day before.

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Once safely at the Crossroads of Time, I picked out a few souvenirs and scoped out the riders hanging out at the cafe.

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I got my dragon sticker! I certainly earned it.

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Heading out. One dragon slayed, a thousand miles left to tackle (give or take)

288174917 Zv3WR O
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Old 06-21-2008, 03:44 AM   #12
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US 28 was still twisty, but not nearly as much as the previous 11 miles had been. I started to relax, and the curves started getting smoother and I was able to flow from one to the next.

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Lots of riders out on the road, but not in overwhelming numbers.

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By early afternoon, Mother Nature had provided an amazing backdrop.

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Fontana Dam and recreation area

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One of the locks at the dam

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More twists and turns. Lots of pics from the saddle.

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The sun and the trees made mosaics that lay before me

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Towns, fields, farms, and barns. It's what this country is made of.

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Old 06-21-2008, 03:45 AM   #13
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Once out on the highway, I thought I would be bored with straight, flat, traffic-filled main lanes - but I was pleasantly surprised by the winding ribbon of pavement that presented itself. I'd stumbled onto the Great Smoky Mountain Expressway. This is what I call a road!

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I finally made my way towards Fletcher, just south of Asheville. I was near the airport but tucked away on a back road. I had to get a smoking room in order to get a first floor with outside access.

288175040 tvN9w O

After seeing folks of all shapes and sizes come and go while I unpacked the bike, I decided I wasn't all that sure about the safety and security of my beloved Strom.

I did the only thing I could think to ensure his safety.

288175062 Nsrcr O

Yup, I popped the panniers off and powered it up over the curb and straight into the room. It was a close fit at the bars, but a little wiggle got it in without having to remove the bar ends.

I walked over to the Mexican restaurant for dinner to go. It was the only thing within walking distance, but the desolation inside the restaurant wasn't saying much for their popularity.

288175061 y6nUG O

The food was good though. I was surprised to find decent Tex Mex this far from the Rio Grande.

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I tried to settle in and get caught up on the ride report, but the internet access wasn't cooperating and I couldn't manage to get pictures uploaded. Oh well, it can wait.

Tennessee, North Carolina
219 miles

288174768 wGhQv O
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Old 06-21-2008, 03:45 AM   #14
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your ride stories are ALWAYS welcomed here , I LOVE EM!


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Old 06-21-2008, 03:48 AM   #15
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Day 4
Tuesday April 29

I left my mark on the carpet in the room. Oops. Nobody said the Strom was light.

288293047 pKSFP O

Packing the bike back up is getting just a little quicker and easier. Or maybe I've just learned to not unpack as much overnight so there's less to do in the a.m.

288293046 zcTSy O

First thing's first - head south to "tag" South Carolina, then motor my way northeast.

288293042 mEoWs O

The plan is to get a good push on mileage so I'll have an easier day getting up to New Jersey to see my family. As much as I'm enjoying the solitude of the trip, I'm social by nature and the casual conversations with strangers while on the road just aren't cutting it for me.

I've not wrapped my arms around my sister for a hug in nearly a year. I'm overdue.
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Old 06-21-2008, 03:49 AM   #16
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It was chilly, but the miles went by quickly out on the interstate.

288293080 QHFGm O

At the state line, there was a truck loaded with cement blocks parked next to the sign. Maybe the driver was a wanted man in SC and afraid to enter? I don't really care what his reasoning was - it made for a sucky picture.

288293088 Vqxsw O

So I headed up towards the Blue Ridge Parkway. After reporting how enjoyable the Natchez Trace was, RocketBunny advised I'd enjoy the BRP.

288293104 v4HnA O

I made it 10 or 15 miles in when orange signs blared the announcement that the Parkway was closed up ahead. I followed the detour signs down to I40 - "Parkway North Detour Exit 86".

I just got on at exit 55. This is one heck of a detour.

288293113 shG4B O

Um... did Robin need help finding it?

288293085 fvXAg O

A few exits from my intermediate goal, I decided the restrooms at the Chamber of Commerce were calling me.

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I stopped in, bought some post cards and a map of the Parkway for $1, and learned some local knowledge about the BRP around these parts. The woman at the desk advised I head up Route 80 as an alternate to the scheduled detour, then backtrack south to Mount Mitchell to see the highest point east of the Mississippi River.
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Old 06-21-2008, 03:49 AM   #17
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As I made my way up 80, I realized this was going to be as twisty as the Dragon, or at least a close second. What had I gotten myself into? There wasn't even a sticker to be earned for this one!

288293135 c2oDK O

I wasn't going to be able to take pictures along the way, and I needed proof that I tackled this one - so I rigged the camera on my left mirror stalk using my mini tripod and set it to take video. (I don't have video editing software with me, so that will have to wait until I get back home.)

It was nerve wracking. I did most of it in first and second gear, and there were two switchbacks that really had me regretting the decision to head up the side of a mountain. Making it even worse were the locals that would come flying at me using almost half of my lane.

Once atop the Parkway, I headed south but it wasn't long before the beautiful scenery was overshadowed by the sheer drop-offs, lack of guard rails, and overall altitude intensity.

Acrophobia sucks. It turns what should be a beautiful ride on a curvy road into a terrorizing event that seems to go on forever.

288293150 tRyH3 O

The more miles I'd backtracked, the closer I was to the goal of Mt. Mitchell. I couldn't turn back now - I had to do it. I had to prove to myself that I could. This was NOT going to be another "Coronado Trail incident".

288293137 uriMa O

The overlook area was large and flat enough for me to safely park the bike and decide my next move.

288293156 TooGq O

288293155 dRUG9 O
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'98 XR400R "Templeton"
"Forget not that the Earth delights to feel your bare feet and the winds long to play with your hair." -Kahlil Gibran
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Old 06-21-2008, 03:50 AM   #18
Squeaky
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We were so high up, there was still snow on the ground within the shade of the pine trees. Not one to pass up an opportunity, Spank tried to make a snowman. There wasn't enough, so he made do with a snowball.

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What you can't see here is that Spank is giving the construction sign the finger.

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We decided that we were cold and hungry, but there was no telling how much longer it would be before we'd reach anything resembling a town. Out came the Jetboil and some camp food for a mountain-top picnic.

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We decided to head back, but the cold was overpowering my ability to stay relaxed through the curves and elevation. I needed to head back down off the ridge, but there was no way I'd take 80 again. Instead, I opted for the scheduled detour back down to Marion.

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Which was just as bad as the ride up! 10 and 15 mph switchbacks, warning signs for trucks and RVs, and lots of blind turns. After a while I got tired of holding the clutch in, so I put it in neutral and coasted down feathering the brakes.

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Rebecca
'03 VStrom 1k "Wilbur"
'98 XR400R "Templeton"
"Forget not that the Earth delights to feel your bare feet and the winds long to play with your hair." -Kahlil Gibran
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Old 06-21-2008, 03:51 AM   #19
Squeaky
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..
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Rebecca
'03 VStrom 1k "Wilbur"
'98 XR400R "Templeton"
"Forget not that the Earth delights to feel your bare feet and the winds long to play with your hair." -Kahlil Gibran
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Old 06-21-2008, 03:53 AM   #20
Squeaky
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Join Date: Jul 2006
Location: SW Houston
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Posts: 2,737

Experience: 4 years
Trackdays: 6

Bike(s):
DL1000K3
XR400R



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Quote:
Originally Posted by carlos flores View Post
dang i wish i could ride like ya man the farthest iv been is port arthur and galveston
Well, just wait 'till you see where I end up!

Quote:
Originally Posted by Solracer View Post
your ride stories are ALWAYS welcomed here , I LOVE EM!

When we gonna ride again?
You want to run out next Saturday with us for lunch? Should only be about 600 miles or so...
__________________
Rebecca
'03 VStrom 1k "Wilbur"
'98 XR400R "Templeton"
"Forget not that the Earth delights to feel your bare feet and the winds long to play with your hair." -Kahlil Gibran
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