A Last Minute Fall Ride

 

Where has the riding season gone? Here it was, mid October, and I didn’t want to think about the riding season winding down. It never really ends for me, but living in Ohio, you realize the good riding weather is about to dwindle away. I really had the urge to get in another decent ride, and all I could think about is the Blue Ridge Parkway in the fall. As a group of us from Chapter X2 were sitting in a house planning rides for the 05 season I asked Steve James if he wanted to go for a little ride for about three days. Well, considering he was about out of vacation days, and looking at a pretty heavy work load, he said, “sure, why not?” Steve got off work about 12:00 on Tuesday October 19, and by 1:30 we were on our way south. We decided to ride all back roads to get the most out of this short ride. Steve led us from Lebanon Ohio to Maysville Kentucky taking 123 to 68 to 52, then across the Ohio River in to Maysville where we picked up 11. Steve said, “hey, this is your trip, so you lead”. Steve is a map & route guru so we kind of had an idea where we were going before we left, and decided to take 11 all the way through Kentucky. Wow! Was that the right decision! I found 11 to be a wonderful 2-lane road chocked full of the curves you love to ride on a motorcycle, mixed in with a wealth of spectacular fall colors. I soon realized this was going to be the “norm” for this trip. We followed 11 until just before the Daniel Boone Parkway (DBP) where we picked up 66. We followed 66 for a while, and since it was about to turn dark we thought we better start looking for a hotel. We figured our best bet would be to hop on the DBP and take that in to Hazard Kentucky, where we got us a hotel room, and a belly full of food. As we got in to our room after dinner we started to watch the Red Socks play the Yankees in the ALCS. It was getting interesting. Could the Sox’s finally break the jinx, and beat the Yankees to the World Series? Well, we couldn’t stay awake long enough, but found out the next day the won game 6. Wow, 1 more win to go, and they will have done it.

 

Hey, this is a motorcycle story, not a sports log, so let’s move on. Day 2 we hit the road about 7:30 AM and got on 80 and took that to 421 south. Wow! Another great road. We followed 421 in to Virginia to Alt. 58. We wanted to take route 70 since it looked like it was loaded with curves on the map, and were we ever right. Alt 58 will take you to 58 where you go east on 58 to pick up 70 in Jonesville Virginia. You have to be careful here because they don’t have any street a sign marking where 58 intersects with alt. 58. Thank goodness I was watching the GPS. (yeah, just trying to justify the toy) Off we went on down 70, and that route was one of the highlights of the trip. Not only was 70 full of great curves and switchbacks, the scenery was unbelievable. Beautiful landscapes, rolling hills, fall colors, with mountains in the background. We stopped for a couple of pictures because this was a view I wanted to save. It was also a place to eat a protein bar as we were more in to riding than making stops for food. 70 takes you on in to Asheville North Carolina, even though it’s called 208 for a while, then it follows 25. We turned off just before we got in to Asheville on Reems Creek Rd. Now, if you’re going to take this route you’ll see where 70/25 comes in with 19/23 and turns in to an interstate. Don’t take the interstate. Instead, keep going straight which will then become Weaver Blvd., then turn right on Main Street in Weaverville. Take Main Street, then turn left of Reems Creek Road, then look for the Blue Ridge Parkway sign (BRP) at Ox Creek Road, and turn right. That will take you on up to the BRP by Bull Gap right around milepost 570.

One of the sights I wanted to see was Linn Cove Viaduct at milepost 504, but discovered the Parkway was closed going northeast due to parts of the roads being washed out from the hurricane Frances rains. Those heavy rains were quit damaging in the Asheville area. There was a way to get around the closure, but since that would entail going in to the city, and picking up the interstate, we decided to head for Cherokee. The plan then became take the BRP to Cherokee and pick up 19. Wow, the weather finally worked for me as we had clear sunny weather to ride the Parkway. About 100 miles later, we got off on 19 and decided to head to 129. That’s right, 129! We were off to slay the dragon at Deals Gap. As we road along 19 I decided to take 28 to 143 in to Robbinsville. We thought about getting a hotel room in Robbinsville as it was starting to get late in the day, but first we had to go slay the dragon. In case you’re reading this wonder what I mean by “slaying the dragon”, Deals Gap is a well know motorcycle road/challenge where there are 318 curves in 11 miles. These aren’t your normal curves, they are very tight switchbacks, and very challenging. I’ve been through there 4 times already, and thought “why not”. Usually it is loaded with motorcycle traffic pushing one another (with the occasional 4-wheeler feeling out of place, and pressured), and even passing some at times, and can be very stressful for the novice rider, and potentially fatal. You got to be focused on everything, as you should anyway while riding.

Before we sleighed the dragon, we stopped in the Motorcycle Resort, right at the beginning, to look around and pick up a t-shirt. They have added a grill since the last time I was there so we had a bite to eat for diner as well. It’s rapidly approaching dusk, so we had better get on it while we still had daylight. We thought we would get a room there at the resort too. I was very pleased to see there were only a few bikes, so traffic would be very light as we road the Gap. Off we went. Man, it was great. We were really getting on it, making sparks fly. Dragging the pegs as you should. We got to the overlook portion of Deals Gap and decided to pull over as we were also trying to call our wives for our evening check in to let them know we were okay as we do each night. There was no cell phone signal at the resort and no signal at the overlook either. Hmmm, what to do, what to do? Well, it wasn’t an option to not “check in” with our understanding wives, so we pressed on down 129 to a little diner at route 72. With no cell signal there either and no pay phone in sight, we went on inside the diner to see if they had a pay phone. No pay phone, but since I had a calling card, the lady’s at the diner were happy to let us use their phone so we could call our wives. They were very nice people, and we chatted for a bit, only to find by the time we went back outside it was pitch-black dark out. I don’t mine riding at night, but in that area, you really have to watch out for the deer. We sat in the parking lot for a few minutes discussing our next move. After tossing around a few ideas, we decided since we had to be home by the next evening we would press on, and head in to Knoxville to find a hotel. Well, we took 129 on in to Knoxville, and in a round about way ended up at a hotel on 321 in between I-75, and I-40. It was about 9 PM by the time we got settled in the room, and after 13 hours of hard riding, we were whipped. We broke out the maps and plotted our next day’s route, then turned on the TV. Hey, the baseball playoffs are on again. Woo-hoo, the Red Sox won last night so that means this was game 7. The final game to determine who was going to the World Series. Well, here it is about the 5th inning, the Sox were up 8-1, and that’s all I remember. As soon as my body became horizontal on the bed, I was out. A good night sleep was most definitely in order.

 

By 7:30 AM we were on the road again with some heavy fog. We headed north on 321 on up to 95, then to 62 west. As we got around the poor folks headed for working we were immediately enjoying nice curvy roads, and commented on the CB, “I don’t think there ARE any bad roads around here”. We followed 62 to 27 north, and stopped for some fuel and our first good breakfast of the trip. With the fog still hanging over our heads we continued on up 27 with the occasional light drizzle, and a chilly 61 degrees.

We stopped at the Wolf Creek Dam at Lake Cumberland, and took a few pictures. By the time we got to I-64, the weather hadn’t changed any, so we decided it was time to just go on home. So with our last fill-up of the trip, on the super slab we went, and we stayed on it until we got home. I parted company with Steve at his exit in Monroe Ohio, and I motored on up to my exit in Miamisburg. I pulled in the garage about 4PM, somewhat chilled to the bone (because I didn’t want to stop to add my liner) and thought back of our 2 ½ days of wonderful roads, scenery, and company. I thoroughly enjoyed that trip. All 1075 miles of it. Thanks to you Steve for making this and enjoyable trip. It was nice to have your company. Oh yea, one more thing. Steve, you better buy the talking GPS!

-Greg Hayden

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