I have returned, after just over 500 miles on a variety of roads. This is the longest motorcycle trip I’ve ever taken.
Friday morning had me waking up earlier than I expected, amazingly not with a chicken house call. I confiscated a small backpack The Boy had once used for a bookbag — Daughter Dearest offered me hers, but it had a blown-out zipper — and stuffed it with a weekend’s worth of clothes, important stuff from the bathroom (toothbrush, meds, shaver, deodorant), pen & paper, and the iPod. After a little breakfast, I suited up, loaded the backpack on my shoulders, and buzzed away.
Since the summer place is about 4 hours away, and I had all day to get there, I decided to do things a little differently: take my time, stop when and where I felt like it, and (especially since I was on a motorcycle) avoid freeways as much as possible. So at mile 63-ish, I stopped at Tallulah Gorge and got this picture. 20 miles later, I (for the first time) crossed a state line on a motorcycle and rolled on into North Carolina. By this time, the backpack was starting to weigh on my shoulders, and the hard seat was wearing on my butt… but there wasn’t much I could do about it.
I had to stop in Sylva for lunch and gas, but with WCU opening up and the fall quarter starting Monday, things were a little crowded. I planned to eat in a local restaurant in town, but the person in front of me pulled into the last parking spot on the street. Rats! I continued on through the thick traffic, finding a Burger King that had a veggie burger waiting for me. The guy behind me in line (and it was fairly long) had rode in on a scooter, so we got to talking and eventually sat together. He was local, and maybe a little “tetched” as they used to say, but we had a good time — I took my time to give my butt and shoulders a break — and then I moved on. (It was in Sylva that I also learned that in stop&go traffic, the DRZ gives no warning at all when it’s time to go on reserve.)
I made my first traveling misstep (there’s a name for a bluegrass band… the Traveling Missteps) by going to US74 instead of staying on US23. This cost me an extra 10 miles or so of I-40… but with the speed limit posted at 60, it wasn’t nearly as scary as I expected (I didn’t have to go more than 75, and the bike seemed quite happy to wail along at 3/4 of its maximum RPM). I jumped off at the first exit that gave me a "to US70" sign. US70 east of Asheville is 5 lanes (4 + left turn lane) and the interstate parallels it for a good long while. I made my second misstep looking for Old US70, which Google Maps shows as winding over Black Mountain. After a couple of attempts, I gave up and got back on I-40. Fortunately, it was only a few miles to the Old Fort exit, and I said good-bye to I-40 for good. US70 west to US221 north, and one more gas stop 9 miles from my destination, and I was there just after 4pm.
The weekend was mostly relaxing — even the parts helping Wicked Stepfather with new cabinets for the basement (some assembly required). We went to a local store/BBQ joint for lunch, and wound up with the table right next to the bluegrass band when they got going. I enjoy most live music — even The Boy’s stuff — if there’s no lyrics. These guys had a stack of CDs for sale, but I’ve forgotten their name.
For the trip home, I decided to give the Blue Ridge Parkway a try. It crosses US221 a few miles south of the summer place; I figured if there were too many slowpokes on the way, I could jump off at US70 and go back the way I came. However, the first half hour or so I was the only southbound traffic I ever saw. The posted speed limit is 45, and the road is curvy enough to enforce it without a lot of help from the parkway police, so I settled into a rhythm (and tried to ignore the backpack and seat). Although the scenic route, plus going past the exit I should have taken, cost me a fair amount of extra time, the ride was well worth it. If you have a motorcycle, you really should ride the parkway, no matter where you’re from. It’s just freeking beautiful. The highest elevations are south of Asheville, and climbs to 6000 feet. Once you get above 5000 feet, the wind gets chilly — even in the middle of August. I appreciated it even more once I got down to US441 and returned to the land of mid-90° weather. The foliage was subtly different in the higher elevations, probably more alpine.
Hot weather, hurting shoulders, hurting butt, all encouraged me to ride at speeds similar to those on I-40. I got home (empty house), called Mom, put on shorts, and took an Advil. Just think, I get to jump on the bike tomorrow morning to ride to work. Fortunately, sans backpack.