Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Our Five-Day Motorcycle Trip with Shane & Andrea

Chris and I returned from a five-day motorcycle trip on Monday.  Here is my ride report for that adventure! 

Day One – Let’s start at the very beginning…a very good place to start!

Chris and I always travel in October on or around our anniversary, which is October 12th. This year, we decided to travel with our friends, Shane and Andrea, on a five-day motorcycle trip. Because of a previously planned business trip, I wound up doing the two trips back-to-back. I landed at 9:30 PM on Wednesday, October 5th, went home to do a load of laundry, grabbed a few hours of sleep, and woke up on Thursday morning ready to embark on our adventure.

After bidding my parents farewell (my mom traveled with me to Halifax for my conference), we put on the sidebags and our new Givi E55 top case, left a note for the dog sitter, kissed the pooch goodbye, and hit the road at 8:55 AM. We were due to meet Shane and Andrea at 12 noon at the Subway in Moorefield, WV, so we opted for the direct route via I-99, US 220, US 50, and back to US 220/WV 28. We arrived at 11:40, procured some seats, ordered our lunch, and had just sat down to eat when Shane and Andrea pulled in. Once we were done with lunch, we gassed up at the nearby Sheetz and began the fun riding!

Parked outside of the Subway:

Gassing up at Sheetz:

Our route took us down WV 28 to Smoke Hole Road. Chris and I ran Smoke Hole back in June on his birthday weekend trip for the first time together; I pretty much loved it. This time we ran it about 10 mph faster than the first time and I definitely loved it!

Heading south on WV 28:

The first of five beautiful days with gorgeous scenery:

Oh, hello Smoke Hole Road…long time, no ride!

After a quick stretch and beverage break, we headed down US 220 to WV 39. We wound up between two interesting motorcycles – a Goldwing trike and a motorcycle towing a trailer. We made our way through Marlinton and onto the Highland Scenic Highway.

Once we got off the Highland Scenic Highway, we headed down US 219 to Lewisburg, WV – our destination for the evening.

There’s a couple of happy Smokers behind us!

Once we got checked into the Quality Inn in Lewisburg (home of the ST.N National Meet in 2010), we took about an hour to get cleaned up before walking to the nearby Ruby Tuesdays for dinner, drinks, and dessert. We were back to our rooms around 9:30 PM and it was lights-out at 10 for the Chris and me.

Day Two – We charmed the Snake and then got Happy!

Friday morning, we met for the complimentary breakfast at the hotel at 7 AM, where I was unjustly ridiculed for eating dry frosted mini wheats by Shane and Chris. (FTR, they’re delicious with or without milk.) In the parking lot, Chris' earphones went tits up; fortunately, there was a Wal-Mart next door. After a quick trip inside for earphones and a sunscreen stick, we were on our way to “The Snake.”

It was a little foggy Friday morning. OK, OK…it was a lot foggy Friday morning!

We found the sunshine and warm in Tazewell…as well as some petrol.

From Tazewell, we took VA 16 (BF Buchanan Highway) through Hungry Mother State Park, Marion, and Sugar Grove to US 58 (Highlands Parkway/JEB Stuart Highway) to VA/TN 91 into Mountain City where we lunched at Burger King...which took a while. “We did order food, right?” (Chris) “I thought we ordered fast food.” (Shane)

Driving through Marion, we passed “Happy’s” so naturally, I had to take a picture since we’d be seeing Sara later in the day!

Along the way, Andrea snapped this great picture of Chris and me:

After lunch at BK, we hopped onto US 421 in Tennessee – more commonly known as “The Snake.” We rode “The Snake” for the first time last year at ESTN…in the rain. I’m not sure why, but I actually liked “The Snake” in the rain better. In bright, beautiful sunshine it just wasn’t the same. It wasn’t long enough or something. The Shady Valley Country Store came into view and I thought, “that’s it?!?” Still…it’s a great road! I bought a new “I survived The Snake” sticker since my last one went with the Givi top case we recently sold. I also bought a bottle of Diet Cheerwine because it’s delicious and I bought one at the store last year. I’m making it a tradition!

At the Country Store, Chris called Sara to let her know where we were. It was decided we would meet at the Burger King in Johnson City, TN and that Sara would show us some more twisty Tennessee goodness (as well as a traffic-less – or less trafficked – route into Gatlinburg which was our destination for the night). We took TN 91 to US 321 into Johnson City and found Sara and her super blue Wee Strom waiting for us.

There’s Sara…and look! She’s not flipping anyone off!

I’m kind of fuzzy on the exact route we took from Johnson City to Gatlinburg, but I know we took US 23 out of town to TN 352/212 to US 70/25…and that’s where I start to draw a blank. Never the matter, it was a great route!

We arrived in Gatlinburg and found our hotel – the Kingwood Inn – which was about two blocks up and one block over from the main drag in Gatlinburg. We (Chris & I and Shane & Andrea) had reservations; Sara was able to get a room as a walk-in. We decided on 45 minutes to get cleaned up and ready for dinner. We walked into town and had dinner at the Mountain’s Edge Grill.

Arriving in Gatlinburg:

Three blue bikes:

Effeminate “welcome” bear says, “Haaaayyyyyy!”

After dinner, we hung out in the parking lot for a bit chatting (in typical ST.N fashion). I snapped a few nighttime shots before we retired to our rooms for the night.

Day Three – I’m not very observant, but I think the egg came first.

Saturday morning, we grabbed a quick breakfast at the hotel before Shane, Andrea, Chris, and I hit the road. Sara was going to hang out in Gatlinburg for the morning to wait for “The Happy Shack” to open in the hopes that they had stickers or other “happy” paraphernalia she could purchase. She would then head home, do some stuff around the house for the day, and we would call her that night when we arrived in Asheville. The plan was that she would meet us the next morning in Asheville and do a little more riding with us on Sunday.

We fueled up in Gatlinburg on another foggy morning. Poor Chris had to wear his glasses down the bridge of his nose to keep them from fogging up too badly while he pumped gas.

Out of Gatlinburg, we took Old Scenic TN 73 through Great Smoky Mountains National Park. We stopped very briefly so I could run into the GSMNP visitor’s center to get a hiking stick plaque (I collect them from National Parks) and two postcards for the parental units and my brother & SIL. Old Scenic 73 (Little River Road) was a sweet little road through the park; not surprisingly, it paralleled a river.

From Little River Road, we hopped onto the Foothills Parkway, which was another lovely road. The fall foliage in Tennessee was amazing.

There’s Shane and Andrea!

After the Foothills Parkway, we rode the Cherohala Skyway. We stopped briefly after the Cherohala Skyway for a stretch, a drink, some sunscreen, and some Advil before we put on our suits of armor and prepared to slay “The Dragon.” Yeah, yeah…“slay the dragon”…it’s a cliché. I don’t care. It was my first time and I was stoked!!!

Nerds in Honda Fits…“If you think you’ve had fun so far, JUST WAIT until you see ‘The Dragon.’” (Said the nerd in the last car. You had to be there.)

I didn’t take any pictures on our run down “The Dragon” but I did take pictures at the overlook and then on our way back up to the store.

My handsome hubby!

Chris and me:

The Smokers:

All four of us:

Another of Chris and me:

While we were at the overlook, a hot guy on a Gixxer* took off and did an epic wheelie. (*It has been my observation that guys who ride Gixxers are hot. I’ve yet to see someone who dispels this theory.) When we took off from the overlook, Shane popped a wheelie of his own! Unfortunately, I didn’t capture it.

We wound up in quite the little pack of bikes, so we found a pull off and let them get ahead of us.

There was a bit of a parade headed the other direction:

I tried to take some pictures on our run up to the store; admittedly, they’re not the best because photographing from the back of the bike while riding “The Dragon” is a bit of a challenge.

We stopped at the Tail of the Dragon store for gas and the requisite stickers. The place was crawling with people and bikes and loud pipes and we couldn’t wait to get out of there. We headed out TN 28 to US 441 through Cherokee on our way to the Blue Ridge Parkway. We stopped at a diner along 28 for a late lunch. We made a pit stop in Cherokee for a hot dog that wasn’t sitting right with one of us (where “one of us” = me). Digestive fail.

We hopped on the Blue Ridge Parkway and pointed the bikes north. Somewhere along the BRP, amid all of the cool tunnels and fantastic scenery, the hot dog from hell began to wreak havoc again. We stopped at the highest point on the BRP to take some pictures, but I quickly told Chris we needed to get moving. In our search for the next restroom on the BRP (which I swear was 40 miles north!), we had a FANTASTIC run…very little traffic…a nice pace…it was awesome. I mentioned this to Chris and his reply was, “I didn’t want to say anything, but yeah…this is a great run!”

We stopped at Mt. Pisgah to “rest” and stretch one last time before we made our way into Asheville, NC for the night. We found our hotel (the Downtown Inn and Suites), checked in, found parking spaces for the motorcycles, got cleaned up, and called Sara to make arrangements for the following morning. It turns out she realized she needed to do more work around her house, so she wasn’t going to meet us the next morning (major bummer).

After that, we set off in search of dinner. Originally, I’d hoped we could dine at the Tupelo Honey Café. It’s pretty famous there in Asheville and Miss EVOO herself – Rachel Ray – has been there. Unfortunately, there was a 1.5 – 2 hour wait for our party of four; fortunately, this meant we went in search of another restaurant and found The Marketplace Restaurant on Wall Street. We had a magnificent meal there! Everything about it was wonderful – the ambiance, the music, the food, and most importantly the company! We had a lovely, leisurely meal of duck breast (me), pepper-crusted tuna (Chris), wild mushroom ravioli (Andrea), and spring rolls and the local cheese plate (Shane). At some point in our conversations, I was telling everyone about – a great place for funny, nerdy, and/or snarky t-shirts. My favorite one is this:

It was definitely a “you had to be there” conversation, but trust me when I say, we had quite a few laughs over this and a few other t-shirt designs I told them about. That and, well, we realized just how not-observant Shane can be…and how Chris' short-term memory sucks. Andrea and I are such lucky girls!

We walked back to our shady hotel (more on that in Day Four) and agreed to sleep in a little on Sunday morning before meeting for breakfast at 7:30.

Day Four – We summited that bitch!

When we woke up Sunday morning and walked out of our rooms, we were greeted by this:

So…ok…that’s where the hippies sleep in Asheville?!? Oh wait…it was just another occupation:

That made us feel better. OK, not really. Despite good reviews on TripAdvisor, the Downtown Inn and Suites just had a “sketchy” feel to it. Parking was almost a concern until Chris and Shane found a space to squeeze the two bikes into once the sidebags were removed. The hotel has a strict “no local guests” policy and takes a scan of your driver’s license. But in the end, the room was clean and it was a place to sleep…which is really all that mattered.

The night before, Chris joked that it would take us an hour to get out of Asheville in the morning. Truer words were never spoken. We found a great route out of town – a twisty road that wound through the ritzier neighborhoods of Asheville; alas, there were no gas stations along that route. So we had to double back the way we came, find a gas station, and wound up tracing our steps from Saturday evening back to the BRP. 58 minutes after we left the hotel, we were out of Asheville for good.

We decided to drive up to Mount Mitchell off the BRP. Mt. Mitchell is the highest peak east of the Mississippi River. It was absolutely frigid at the top of the mountain. The thermometer on the Concours indicated an air temperature of 39 degrees, but with the wind whipping, it felt infinitely colder! That did not deter us from summiting the mountain and having our pictures taken!

With tropical weather approaching from Florida, the skies were not as clear as the past few days, but it was still wonderful riding weather…and honestly, the clouds added to the beauty of the scenery!

More than once, we got stuck behind our FAVORITE vehicle…the Prius.

We got off the BRP at Grandfather Mountain (what a clusterf*ck of traffic coming the other direction all headed to the mountain!) and went in search of lunch and petrol. We stopped at a Subway to eat fresh, and then gassed up at a nearby Shell station where we put vampire gas in the Concours.

I don’t know this Emily chick (and quite frankly, she sounds made up), but if she’s cute, I’ll love her, too:

Sunday was an all-BRP day. Somewhere between Boone and Grandfather Mountain, we apparently passed our friend Doug and his wife in her fly new convertible. Being peak leaf peeper season, the Parkway was pretty crowded on a Sunday afternoon. We made the best of the traffic, plucking off slow pokes when we could and enjoying the scenery when the Priuses (Priusi?!?) were an impediment. On two separate occasions, southbound motorcyclists alerted us to the presence of an NPS officer and we managed to do the whole trip without a performance award. We paid it forward by relaying the information once we passed the LEOs.

We stopped at Mabry Mill for a bathroom, stretch, and snack break (Junior Mints and almonds for everyone!). While we were there, an NPSO had someone stopped just outside the entrance to the mill. We failed to notice which way he went once his stop was completed. We found him eventually; needless to say, he curtailed our progress north.

We managed to ditch the LEO and continued north to Roanoke, where we exited the BRP and made our way to our final hotel for the evening – the Colony House Motor Lodge. Sara recommended this motel to Jeremy, Chris, and me last year on our return trip from ESTN 2010. The friendly gentleman behind the counter kindly offered to move us to first floor rooms and even upgraded us to king suites! Meanwhile, Chris pretended to be a Rasta:

Once we got checked in and cleaned up, we met outside of our rooms to decide on dinner. Our within-walking-distance options were Chaba Thai, Sonic, and Red Lobster. As soon as I mentioned Red Lobster, Shane’s eyes glazed over at the thought of cheddar bay biscuits (can you blame him?!?) and we knew where we were headed! We had another great dinner with our amazing friends – we toasted the trip, the weather, and our friendship! We had a good laugh because there was a tall ship model in the restaurant and our thoughts immediately went to the Top Gear episode in Vietnam. Remember this?

We were SO tempted!!!

On our walk back to our rooms, we decided to meet for breakfast at 6:15 and get on the road around 7 AM. It was lights-out at 10 PM for us with a 5:45 AM double alarm of crickets and ducks (iPod alarms rule!).

Day Five – Is it really over? Do we really have to go home?!?

Our final day started before sunrise with a light continental breakfast at the motel and a gas stop before we returned to the BRP.

We left the Blue Ridge Parkway and began our meandering through some great backcountry roads of Virginia and West Virginia heading back to Moorefield, WV.

Along the way – somewhere in the middle of nowhere – I was overcome with the need to get off the bike and stretch. Plus, that morning’s OJ was working on me (and apparently I wasn’t the only one). With no real options (gas station/convenience store) for stopping nearby, I asked Chris to pull into a church parking lot. As luck would have it, the church doors were open and we were all able to make use of the facilities. Thank you, Woodland Union Church! We are grateful for your hospitality!!!

After our rest stop, we continued along the beautiful back roads of West Virginia bound for Moorefield.

We arrived back in Moorefield, WV at the Subway where our trip had started five days earlier.

We enjoyed one last lunch together before the Smokers headed off toward WV 55 bound for I-81 and home. Goodbye, Shane and Andrea…we had a great time!

We continued north on WV 28/US 220 and took the same route home that we’d taken Thursday morning. Chris decided to save the more scenic route for the Region 6 Campout in two weeks.

We arrived home shortly before 4 PM on Monday afternoon having logged 1,700 miles through six states in five days with our two incredible friends.

Final thoughts – just like Jerry Springer!

We couldn’t have asked for better weather and traveling companions on this trip! Chris and I talked about it on the ride home – how perfect the weather was, how beautiful the fall foliage was, and how much fun with had sharing the road, meals, and laughs with Shane and Andrea.

So thank you, Shane and Andrea! Shane, you said on Facebook that it was the most fun week you guys have had this year. Likewise, friend…likewise!!!

Some random observations:

• Deer are crazy. (Like you didn’t know that.) We had one VERY CLOSE encounter with a small doe along the road – she wanted to run with the best and she tried. She tried so hard, in fact, that I probably could have reached out and petted her…that’s how close she was running next to our Concours. We also came upon a four-point buck in the middle of the road, and had to keep our eyes on three deer running in a field, getting closer and closer to running out into the road in front of us. Silly forest rats.

• Turkeys are like honey badgers; they just don’t give a shit. We came upon a few flocks of turkeys in our travels, including a pair in the middle of the road who couldn’t be bothered with moving as we passed them.

• Squirrels are schizo and Shane hates them.

• Two beers makes one of us a little slow on the uptake:

At the risk of sounding like a raging narcissist, I’m giving myself the “Trooper of the Trip” Award. I did the entire thing IN MESH GEAR!!! (Because that’s all I have currently.) 39 degrees and gusty winds on Mt. Mitchell? In my Airglide 2 jacket and pants. 60 MPH in 50 degree weather for hours on end? Yup…in my Airglide 2 jacket and pants. Chris had his cold weather gear and the Smokers – those lucky ducks – they had heated gear! Cold weather and heated gear are in my future, but I rocked the whole trip in mesh and I’m giving myself a gold star for it!

Finally, thank you to Chris for a fantastic trip! It’s been an amazing 16 months riding with you. Even when I’m grumpy, trust me when I say I’m still having an awesome time riding together.

Thanks for reading everyone! Thoughts, comments, concerns, emotional outbursts, and the like are always welcome and appreciated!

1 comment:

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