Day 5
October 14th, 2005
Blue Ridge Motorcycle Campground
In the Blue Ridge Mountains,
Cruso, North Carolina

The day started before the sun.  We planned a 7am ride anticipating a 300+ mile day.  In these hills and hollers, an all day ride.

It took time for me to fall asleep, but once there, I slept well.   It had been awhile from my last campout, and I had to adjust.

I was walking to the rest rooms when someone told me Uncle was out for the day with a swollen elbow.  I immediately went over to check things out, thinking it might be an exaggeration.   I saw him squatting on the cabin steps, elbow wrapped.  He was fresh off surgery, the area was inflamed from the riding of the past several days.  It was no exaggeration, his was down, unable to fully extend his throttle arm.

"are you sure you can't ride?'

"yeah, I can't ride these hills with one arm, I'm gonna ice it down enough to get back to Nashville."

"why don't ya just rest it today, and head back tomorrow?"

"nah I ain't sitting around here all day."

I was disappointed Uncle Phil was leaving, but nothing I could do.  It wasn't going to be the same.

With Uncle Phil scratched we had to find a new ride captain.  Once again, we called on Andray Hubble,  He came off the bench last year when work duties prevented Uncle Phil from attending. 

"Look here bro, Uncle Phil is down, we need someone that knows the area to lead us on a ride.  Just pick some routes and we'll follow."  Andray knows the area well, he rides here several times a year.

"Ok, when do y'all wanna head out?"

"30 mintues"

Peter Menard tracked a tire down in Robbinsville, and was leaving early to make his appointment.  He advised he would try to hook back up later.  We would use cell phones to arrange the rendezvous.

I briefed everyone on the situation, and we left the campground shortly after daylight, first stop; the Jukebox for breakfast.  I felt good about the upcoming ride.  The weather was perfect, and everyone was in a good mood.

Jay Richardson arrived in the campground yesterday, and was riding with us.  When we quizzed him as to why he did not come back for us, he said he stopped and waited for someone, but no one ever came.  He was unable to charge his cell phone because he forgot the charger, why he had no voice mail.

The Jukebox was a little slow on this morning.  One server had to take care of 9 of us, and she was overwhelmed.  I didn't mind, because I wasn't in a hurry.  Andray spoke with me on the intended routes- The Parkway, Wayah Road, SR 28 and a few I didn't know.  "Looks good brother, it will be a good ride."

We left breakfast and went back on US 276 in the shadows of Cold Mountain for the Parkway.  The route is tricky and curvy up the mountains, but soon we are on that dreamy piece of asphalt we all love.

I've been on the Blue Ridge Parkway many times, but never have I seen it more beautiful.  This time of year it is normally cold and windy, but on this day we had a warm sun, blue sky, and little traffic.  It was awesome.

I kept the RT's pre load on the 1 rider with luggage position.  I liked the extra firmness, and with the dampening set on sport, the bike felt very responsive.  On the RT you feel the feedback from the road.  The bike begs you to lean it.   It is so light in the steering, it feels like my Trek.  When I ride the 1300 after riding the RT, it is the first thing I notice.  It feels as if the 1300 has a flat front tire.  The Michelins were beginning to show their age, and I wondered how good it could be with new skin.

The long following curves of the Parkway are some of the best in the country.  It was my most my aggressive ride ever on this road.  I still managed to slow down and take in the green patchwork of the mountains.  

Andray led us into a overlook for some pictures.  Clouds were hanging in the valleys around the Blue Ridge, like a thick soup.  I'd never seen that before.  We were high above looking down on them.  A little further south we stopped at Mount Balsam, for the traditional picture.  Highest point in the Blue Ridge.
​The view was like looking out a airplane window at a 
thick cloud cover.  

From Balsam we started the long descent down to Cherokee.  It was great riding on a special day.  A spectacular 60 mile ride from the campground.  We pulled to a con store in Cherokee for a break.  I was missing Uncle Phil and PeterM.  I had a muffin and a diet Dew.  I spoke to Mike Miller, he advised he was planning a longer tour, but wasn't sure when he was going to pull it off.
​Mike Miller and his ST 1100
Our group joked and stood around and generally had a good time hanging out.  It was fun.  One of the things I like most about group riding is the interaction.

We were using the drop and sweep and it worked well getting us out of Cherokee.  A typical tourist trap city in the Smokies.

From Cherokee we went SR 28 (I think).  More great leaning.  This road is one of my favorites and I like to ride it each time I come to the Blue Ridge.   A few times we were bogged down by slower traffic, but we managed to slip around.  Leaves drifted down on us, and I could tell fall was not far off.  Bright sun splotches poked through the trees.

We made another stop just before Wayah Road, the same store we always pull to.  I had diet Coke and stood around with Jim Menard and Jaybird.

Wayah Road was in better condition than last year, when heavy rains washed over it and littered the surface with debris.  On this day it was much better, and a fun ride.
​Relaxing near Wayah Road.
'm not sure how we did it, but we made it back to Robbinsville where we had lunch at a downtown diner called Lynn's.  I was pulling into a front parking space, and dipped in, then out, to back the rear tire to the curb, a car had appeared behind me and I didn't see it, almost pulling out in front of her.  She tapped the horn and said something.  I reprimanded myself for being careless.

Tired of chicken, I splurged for a hamburger.  When I return home I'll begin another long buildup to a half marathon run in February, and I'll have to be more strict about my diet, but for now I'm in the Blue Ridge.

After lunch we topped off the tanks and checked out of Robbinsville on SR 28 to Stecoach.  The route took us to US 74 toward Waynesville.  Our formation was good and everyone had the hang of drop and sweep by now. 
It was late afternoon when we left 74 for a north bound run on the Parkway and home.  It was another great ride, and it was good to run the Parkway north, something I haven't done in several years.  The sun was slipping away as we chased shadows across the Blue Ridge.

Our group pulled in at Looking Glass Rock for a photo op.  We took pictures, chatted, and relived the day.  It was nice.
​Looking Glass Rock, as seen from the Blue Ridge Parkway
At US 276 we came down off the Parkway for the campground.  The few miles from here to the campground can be tricky, lots of curves as you descend.  Road surface is not all that good, and trash was gathered in several spots, but everyone made it ok.

Andray returned us to the campground after a 235 mile day.  No one crashed or got lost.  A successful ride. 
I found Ron Epperly (he skipped the morning ride) "Uncle Phil leave?"

"yeah, I rode out with him a few miles"

"I knew he would, I wasn't able to talk him into staying"

His absence did not feel right, I know he looked forward to this ride for a long time.  He was missed.

"We're gonna try that Mexican place tonight," Charlie called out.  "Aliright I'm down for it."  If I'm going to break training, going to do it up right.

Mark Morris had arrived on the scene.  Mark is from Raliegh-Durham area and makes the gathering almost every year.  A great guy and a excellent rider.

I ran into Peter Menard.  I was never able to hook up with him today because my cell phone battery was dead.  "Have a good ride today?" I asked.  "Man I got in so much leaning today, I had a great time."

It was near dark when we formed up for the 10 mile ride down to the valley.  Now this is what the Blue Ridge Gathering is about.  A late ride back across the valley for something to eat, on a cool evening.  

The food and service were excellent, I'm sure we'll return here in the future.

I looked around while supper was going on and noticed 3-4 conversations were going on at once.  We were like a bunch of teen age girls.
​Nothing like some good Mexican food after a great ride.
When supper was over I went across the street to fill the gas tank for tomorrow's ride, then went inside for a few snacks around the campfire.  I picked up some fat free candy and a diet Dew.  The group left, but I hung around and waited for Jaybird to finish a few phone calls ( phone charged up) so he wouldn't have to ride alone back to the campground.

Jay and I had a good return ride.  It was a dark ride, but fun.  

We had a nice group by the campfire that night.  The campfire is one of the things I enjoy most about the fall gathering, the air was cool and it felt like fall.  I hung around Ron Epperly and Peter Menard and a few others.  I stayed as long as I could then went for a shower, to avoid the morning rush.  On the way back to the tent I said good night everyone.  

I never recall my tent being more comfortable.   It was cool, but not cold, I was just right in my sleeping bag.  I pulled my cover to my chin and passed out.