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Day One... and so it begins

After not much planning but plenty of e-mailing, the plan was set to go see the south. The lose concept was to leave Uxbridge MA around 11:00 or so Monday, October 30th and head west into the wilds of Pennsylvania. A perfect jumping off point for Virginia's Skyline Drive, and the beginning of our tour of the south.

Andrei arrived at casa Smurf first, I got there shortly after, and Neil showed up a few minutes after me. We hung around for a while to see if Kevin would arrive, and I asked Joe "hey did Kevin say he was coming for sure?". Joe said last he heard "Kevin was a definite maybe". Hmmm... sounds like Kevin. Call his cell... no answer (he never answers the damn thing anyway). Oh well, off to get gas. We head down the road to get gas & I leave my cell on in the window of my tank bag just in case. Gassed up, no call, I figure maybe work has decided Kevin can't go, so we're off. Joe leads us on a nice back-road stint out towards rt 44. The sun is shining, it's fairly warm, life is good. A few miles into the ride I see "missed call, new voicemail". You know it's Kevin. I stop on the side of 44, flip my phone to speaker & call and leave him a message. We get to the Vanilla Bean in CT and stop. I explain to Joe that our wayward Brit is somewhere behind us & go grab a coffee. After a few calls we hear the distinctive song of a triple coming up rt 44. Kevin has arrived. We sort ourselves out and set off for the west. A pretty uneventful trip west (244 to 44 to I-84) is ticking along nicely. We stop for gas & Neil suggests rt 6 will save us some miles. I misunderstood where we needed to get off on rt 6 (it crosses I-84 every two miles it seems) so got off at the first rt 6 exit... nope, wrong one, back on I-84. Hammer along for a while and "this must be it". As it turns out, wrong again, but not that bad. We crossed the Hudson on rt 6 below West Point. Somehow I got us turned more south, onto the Palisades Parkway, which was nice but... it's Monday, nearing rush hour. Big shitty traffic! We saw a lot of the "Washington / Rochambeau" trail, but could have done without that. I-287 looms nearby, so after gas we decide to hit the slab again. More stop & go. People do this everyday? Where are all these people going???? We take I-78 west, and in Clinton NJ, we decide to pack it in. It is Monday after all and the Pats are playing MNF!! We find a liquor store, grab some Ouzo and some beers, and go in search of a hotel. The Garmin claims there's a Hampton Inn on the service road, but it's not where it thinks it is. After a couple of passes I double back & find the place. We get checked in & then it's dinner at the Cracker Barrel :p Andrei can't believe they don't serve beers! The Patriots win huge, the Ouzo is gone, the beers gone, it's time to call it a night.

Day one done, only 246 miles behind us.
Day Two

After an OK Hampton Inn breakfast we get saddled up ready to head west (and south).




We decide on the slab to make up for time lost the day before the weather is perfect, traffic is light, and we're making good time. Crossing the Delaware from NJ to PA we have to stop for tolls. Neil has an EZ pass, so he's through without even skipping a beat. I have to pay, as does Kevin and Andrei. I pull up, pay and see Kev pull in behind me. Andrei uses the next booth over, and Joe fiddles with his EZ pass a few lanes further left. After paying, I leave the booth, Andrei does the same, and Joe, thinking everyone is gone leaves as well. After a few miles Joe pulls up & motions me to pull off. I take the next exit to see what he wants "where's Kevin?" he says... of course now we're off the highway, and Kevin who pulled over to put his glove on, is sailing past not seeing us. great.. we've lost him again. Luckily Kevin went to around 100 miles from last gas and stopped, turned on his phone, and called. We meet up at a Sunoco 15 minutes up the road :)

The slab turns from 78 to 81 and our heading is finally more south. We cross into (and out of) MD and WV in the blink of an eye. Finally "welcome to Virginia"... we're getting close.

It's $10 to ride Sky Line Drive, but it's worth it. The park ranger at the gate told us to watch out for deer! We'd seen so many dead Bambi's on the way down we took her warning seriously and set off up the hill. Sky Line is pretty nice, great views, sweepers, not super-technical. The speed limit is 45, but the lack of traffic (and PD) allowed us to expand on that number slightly. We stopped a couple of times along the way & snapped pics. Met a nice fellow from ADV Rider on a 1200 GS and chatted for a while. He has a cabin nearby and is considering setting up a m/c bed and breakfast. Apparently there is good kayaking in the rivers too. Vacation paradise. We say our goodbyes & hit the road south. Our plan is to catch up with former New Englander Joe Snyder. He's joining us for the rest of the trip & promises to have plenty of beer and food for us when we arrive!



Joe meets us at the exit off I 64 to his house & we follow him into the night. Great food, great company, a great ride! What could be better?

Day two is done, a bit better in the mileage department, a little over 400 miles for the day.
 

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Day Three

After checking out the new house Joe Snyder is building we head back to the Blue Ridge Parkway. More Sunshine & blue skies. I wonder what the working people are doing today?



The BRP south of Sky Line is "a lot more of the same", which in this case isn't a bad thing. Hardly any traffic, long sweepers, great views. It goes on and on. Bit chillier today, and more wind, but nothing to complain about at all.

We stop occasionally to warm up (that wind is really blowing hard) and check out the views. Near Mabry Mill it's starting to get dark, and remembering the warning about deer, we start thinking of getting a place to stay. The Garmin saves the day, and points us towards Hillsville. We find a cheap place with a Chinese Buffet next door. "me rikey chineee buffeee" says Kevin. We get checked in & head over to chow down. Sadly they don't serve beer... No problem, the Citgo next door does and they don't mind if we get a 12 pack or two to drink with dinner.

All is right with the world!

Day three is done, and there is 250 more twisty miles behind us.

Day Four

Well fed, beered & rested we set of south again. It rained overnight, and is cloudy, but dry as we head out. We jump on the slab a few miles to meet up with the BRP at Fancy Gap and get back into the rhythm of the sweepers. The weather starts to clear as we head south, but the breeze is back with a vengeance. Parts of the BRP are closed near Blowing Rock and the detour takes us down US 221, which is every bit as good a road, except there's more traffic. Oh well, no one is complaining... until the detour just quits making sense near Marion. We end up going east so we can get the slab back west. Stupid detour.

We hammer down I 40 until just outside Asheville where we join back up with the BRP. Now so far the first hundred miles of the BRP (or Sky Line Drive for that matter) have been pretty much the same as the next hundred. That's all about to change now.

We start a much higher, harder climb. It's colder, but not as windy, and the altitude indicators look more like a trip to real mountains.... closing in on 6,000 feet! Pretty graphic warning signs too! Clear blue skies, no traffic, and amazing views at every corner. We decide to head for Maggie Valley for the night. Joe Snyder has just the place in mind, so we follow him into town.

The fourth day is done, another 260+ miles in the book.

Day Five

Damn! it was cold last night. That clear sky & no wind gave us radiational cooling like you read about. There's a hard frost on all the bikes, but the sun's out and it looks like it'll be a great day. Heading into Cherokee the Smurf spots a car show so we have to stop. He didn't buy anything... but I think he came close. Smurf loves hot rods like Kevin loves Chinese buffet. We head up into the Great Smoky Mountain National Park and there's still frost on the roads in the shadows. That'll give you a moment! Traffic is moderate, probably the most we've seen. Neil warned us there might be, but we went anyway. I missed the planned turn at Little River Rd, so we carried on into a place called Pigeon Forge. Traffic was gridlocked! WTF??? We couldn't figure it out until... yup, that's right, Pigeon Forge is the home of Dolly-Wood. I don't need to go there again.

After chugging along stop & go for what seemed like hours, we finally looped south-west on 321 and finally... Nirvana.... the road... US 129 was in front of us. It starts off mellow enough, following the river, nicely paved, and then before you know it you're on the Dragon. Lots and LOTS of curves! It was getting later in the day, so the sun glare was a bit of a problem, but it's so nicely paved it just calls to you. There wasn't tons of traffic maybe because it was later in the day. No cops that I saw either. We got to the general store and stopped for some photos and a snack. Joe went back for another run, the rest of us just chilled. After Joe got back with a big grin on his face, we headed off to our hotel for the night, the Two Wheel Inn. This place is pretty cool, designed for riders, with a two bike garage between each room. They also have a fire pit and bar-b-q area, but it was too chilly for us. One thing to remember, it's a dry county, so no beers! Andrei volunteered to go to the next county and get supplies. Good man Andrei! After he got back we headed into town for pizza buffet, and then came back to swill beer & watch TV.




End of day five...only 150 miles, but a serious number of curves!

Saturday morning Kevin & I will head back towards home, Joe, Andrei, Neil & the Smurf are staying on.



the rest of the pictures are: here
the maps & story are: here
 
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