Day 4
October 14th, 2006
Blue Ridge Motorcycle Campground                      
Cruso, North Carolina  


Another cold night settled in on the campground, but my sleeping bag with the extra blanket was nice and warm.  I slept well, as I usually do in my tent and on my Therm a rest.  Not as good as a real bed, but not bad.
Over the years I've seen motels go from 25 bucks to over 50 for Motel 6.  You can still find deals, but some of those places are really sleazy. I feel I'm much better off in my tent at a secured KOA or park.   If I had all the good cards I'd sleep in Holiday Inns every night, but on a 2-3 week road trip that's big money for a guy on a fixed income.

Part of the allure of the Fall Gathering is the campground, I like sleeping out on a cool night at the foot of Cold Mountain, and hanging out with guys.  Unless you ride, you probably can't understand.

I did a check on my tires.  The front tire I thought would last another 2k was toast.  It was gone.  Slick, with no lines on the Z6.  "Man, this ain't good, I'm gonna have to cut this tour off and head for home tomorrow.  I need a tire and tomorrow is Sunday, and the next Monday, so not gonna find a dealer till Tuesday, and I can guarantee he ain't gonna have a tire for a ST on the rack."  I had enough tire to get home, but nothing else.  I had to pray it didn't rain, if it did, I didn't see how I'd be able to hold the front tire on the ground.

Today was a low key day.  I decided I wanted a smaller group, with less miles.  Gene suggested a 130 mile loop of his, and it was just what the doctor ordered.  I met up with Sal, Chris, Cajun, and Mike who expressed a desire for a similar ride.  "Look bros this is a 4 hour ride at most, but by the time I'm through its gonna take 8.  I'm gonna ride enough to lean and have fun, but I'm gonna stop for pics, drink Mt Dew, have a long lunch, and back at the campground to kick around before a steak supper in Waynesville.  You're welcome to come, but that's MY plan and I ain't changing.  I've never seen the mountains more beautiful and I wanna enjoy the day."
Not riding far, we didn't have to form up till almost 10am.  Uncle Phil took a leisurely ride back to Nashville with Ron Epperly following, and Peter was up before the sun.  "Man, that joker was up early in these cold temps, I dunno how he does it."

I had Gene's routes on my sleeve and announced the bus was leaving.  A few minutes later we were riding back to the Junction to pick up SR 215.  I hadn't been on the road in several years, but recalled it as a excellent ride.
Due to the late start the temps had warmed from the 30's into the mid 40s.  The sun was bright and shiny with a crisp blue sky for a partner.  It was nothing short of  perfect fall weather.

Heading toward the Junction, I was knifing through cold, brisk air, amid a canvas of trees in fall color, I thought back to my time in the desert last summer.  Folks in the Southwest live without seasons.  Temps change but nothing else.  A rock is going to look the same in October as it does in May.   When I am out there I start to miss green after a few days.

We left U.S. 276 for SR 215 to begin a event filled ride across the Parkway to SR 178.  Leaf color was outstanding, but a bright morning sun complicated things.  From tree and hill shadows, our eyes were constantly dilating.  Dark to light, and back again, played havoc reading the road surface.  Leaf piles bordered the shoulder, thankfully, they were dry, and didn't pose a problem.

In the number one spot a guy has to be a little more diligent.  I have to pick my own line, and pay extra attention the road surface.  I rode conservatively, because this was not going to be that kind of ride.

Not long after splitting off from 276 we stopped at a mountain lake for pictures and conversation.  The blue water of the lake contrasted sharply with the bright leaves.  It was gorgeous.  "Man, what a great ride this is." I could hear the Cajun (real name Toby) remark.  Living in the bayous of Louisiana the area is quite a contrast of what he is use to. 

We hung around taking pictures and jibbing each other, like teenage boys in a shopping center parking lot on a Friday night.  "Hey, lemme get y'alls pic near the water, those girls at the Jukebox Junction like seeing the pics after each day's ride,"  I shouted out.
​On SR 215
Splitting through beautiful fall foliage, I guided the small line of Hondas across the North Carolina Hills.  It really is beautiful here this time of year.  I glanced back to my mirrors and can see the STs flowing along behind me, as if they were tethered behind me by a liquid rope.  It was good riding. 

Nearing the Parkway the curves grew tricky as we peaked in elevation.  They were much tighter, and the surface not the best.  I was bounced off line more than a few times.  Riding these hills aggressively would just be asking for trouble, but many just have to do it.

We crossed under the Parkway, and pulled in for a photo op in the Looking Glass Rock area.   We were up in elevation and the panorama out before us was too much to pass up.  A large granite wall stood behind us and made for a good picture background.
​From Left-Chris Parker, Sal Landa, Mike Purpura
The morning was warming up nicely.  It would be another perfect day for riding.  Not too hot, not too cold.
After the photo op, I encouraged Sal Landa to take the lead for awhile.  The road flowed downhill from here to US 64. 
I was in the number 2 spot, following Sal, as we worked downhill in a series of tight curves, many bending left AND downhill.  Leaf piles were thick on the shoulder.  We were not riding fast.

Sal leaned into a long left hander and I followed, he started the curve low, near the shoulder.  I saw him reach the exit point, and looked for him to break back to the middle but he stayed low.  His bike began to drift to the right, " LEAN! LEAN! GET AWAY FROM THE SHOULDER!  STAY ON THAT LINE AND YOU'RE GONG OFF BRO!"
I saw his 1300 run off the road and immediately go down.  I flew through the leaves and dirt left by his exit, and could plainly see him rolling down with the bike, and struggling to get out from under it in the process.  I estimate our speed about 25 mph in the long left hand curve.  I  got on the brakes, but the curve was not a good place to stop, so continued a short distance downhill.

When I found a good spot I turned around and pointed my bike uphill.  I sent one of the others further down to warn oncoming vehicles.  Last thing we needed was another accident.

I ran back to Sal to find Chris Parker and Mike already there.  They had stopped further uphill.  Sal was up walking around, and ok.  He went down soft.  Moist wet dirt, lots of leaves.  His new 06 1300, down in a small low spot.  "Dang bro."  "Yeah, I know I just fixated on the shoulder and the leaves and next thing you know I'm going down."  

We up righted the bike, and looked to see how to get it back on the pavement.  Damage was minimal.  Some scratches and a broke left mirror.  I've seen much worse on tip overs, like I said, he went down in a good spot.  The bike hit the soft dirt and leaves and came to a easy stop.   Our slow speed also helped.  Speed always complicates things.  

Sal got back on the bike and it fired right up.  We pushed him out of the low spot and he rode back to the pavement.  Everyone mounted back up and away we went.  No worse for the wear.

Been a long time since I actually witnessed a guy go down.  The next 10 miles were kind of cloudy, as I replayed what happened, but it was pretty simple.  Sometimes you must misjudge things.  You find yourself in a curve and doing everything wrong.  

I recall riding SR 16 in West Virginia a few years ago and almost getting in trouble.  I was not riding fast at all, but my mind drifted off after leaning hundreds of curves over the last 50 miles.  I don't even recall what I was thinking about, but it certainly wasn't the downhill run to a long left hander coming at me, I wasn't in the curve all that fast, but because my mind was elsewhere, I was set up all wrong.  I came to, stood the bike up, got off some speed and leaned hard, and made it around.  I saw the curve coming but just forgot about it, my best guess as to what happened.  Even with all my years, and miles of experience, a guy can still go brain dead.  
Because I was riding so slow, I thought it ok to take my mind elsewhere.  That is not a good idea on WVA 16, and I've never made that mistake again.

We continued on US 64 where we made a short dog leg to SR 178.  We pulled to a con store in Rosman to regroup.   We carried out another survey of Sal's bike.  I said, "dang bro, that coulda been a lot worse."  We planned on eating lunch here, but the only cafe we found was going to close at 12:30 for water line repairs, or so the note on the door said.  Chris said he knew a Mexican place in Brevard, so we jetted back to 64 and followed him to town.  The city is a short ride  by way of US 64.

Brevard was a busy little city on this Saturday morning.  Fall is a very active time in the Blue Ridge, especially on the weekends.  Chris found the cantina and soon we were all seated enjoying some good food and service.
After a long lunch it was time to get back on the road.  We had to double back to Rosman if we were going to ride 178.  Not a problem.  We were working back out of the city, when a light cut Mark and I off from the group.
We sped down 64 to catch the others, we had cleared the congestion of the city and was up to 75 mph when Mark (just slightly ahead of me) blew past him.  I saw him but it was too late.   A deputy was hidden in a driveway.  "Man this sucks, we're toast."  I didn't have time to hit my brakes.  I looked down at the speedo and I was over 70.

The deputy pulled out and lit us up.  We went to the side.  He had both of us.

"Man, y'all were flyin!  Do you know the speed limit is 55 and I can get your license in NC for 15 over?"

I said, " I'll be honest, I knew it was 55, we were trying to catch those boys ahead of us, all I can say, and I didn't know about the 15 over rule."

"yeah, I saw them they were about 2 min ahead of y'all.  Look, lemme see y'alls license and be on your way, just slow down k?"


I don't know why we got this get out of jail free card.  Just lucky.  If you check, I'm stopped about every 30-40k miles, and I was about due.  My last 3 stops have been verbals.  I'm sure my luck will run out one day, but I'm way ahead in the debit column.

Back on the road we caught up with the others in a parking lot and related the story.

Finally we were on SR 178 and leaning hard with Chris Parker in the lead.  A very technical road.  We breezed along quietly, leaning the Honda's when we had to, and when we could, taking a glimpse of the scenery.  Past farm houses, pastures and timberland we rode. It was nice.  My slick tire on the front seemed to cause the Honda to drift off too much, so I had to adjust.
​A sample of the riding on SR 178
We stayed on SR 178 and went in South Carolina where we went to SR 11 and stopped at Table Rock.   The vista point was busy, but we fought our way and got our pictures.  It was nice.  I'd been here before, but it had been a few years.
​The scene from Table Rock State Park
We left the park with Chris in the lead.  He knew the way back.  Back in Brevard we stopped for gas, and to sort things out.  

We ran into a significant amount of traffic on US 276 south of the Parkway.  We were choked down behind 2-3 cars on the long, twisty, uphill run in the late afternoon light.  After crossing the road, the traffic disappeared and we had one last good run downhill on 276 to the campground.  That stretch of road is just plain fun.  
Back through the trees we shot, and soon were crossing the bridge and in the campground done for the day with 131 miles on the trip meter.  A great ride.

We loitered around telling war stories and trying to decide where to eat supper.  Andy Purmals and Charlie K were in for Mexican but we had that for lunch, and I wasn't up for a double header.  We wanted steak, and decided to try Bogarts in Waynesville.

I went back to my tent to square some stuff away before leaving.  I wanted to call home but no signal.  Cingular has never had a signal here, but a couple guys managed to get 1 bar a few times.

We had about 10 guys line up for the ride to Waynesville and supper.  The ride across the valley into the city was good.  I took a place in the middle and just enjoyed the ride.  I was glad to see us continue the tradition of supper in Waynesville the last night of the rally.

The sun was going down behind the mountains and the air was starting to get really cool.  It was Saturday night, and the locals were going to and fro.   Many were heading to Waynesville for the Fall Festival that was currently in progress.  I guess we're not the only ones that time peak leaf season with a rally.

We found Boarts Steakhouse in Waynesville with little trouble, but the place was jammed, and they gave us a 90 minute wait.  Noway, so we abandoned that idea and went to our old reliable-The Sagebrush.   Nothing spectacular but good enough, and the service is quick.

Our line of bikes made it to the other side of the city without much problem.  Waynesville was really decked out for the season.  The cool temps and leaf color rivaled anything I had seen in New England.  I recall a church with a tree in glowing red leaves with hundreds of pumpkins on the steps and sidewalk.

At the Sagebrush our group was given a 30 minute wait time.  We spent the time eating peanuts and chatting motorcycles.  

The place was really busy, but somehow they found a place for the 10 us and everyone's food came back without one slip up. 

I had the steak tips and baked potato, and a good time with friends who know what its like to ride a fine machine in beautiful country.  

I called Debbie and announced I would be on the way home in the morning.  "Coming home?  I thought you were going to be out a few more days?"  "Long story but the short version is no tires and no money till Wed." 

"Do what?"

Halfway through the meal my thoughts turned to this being the last long ride for a while, and the last time I'm going to see some of these guys till next spring or fall.  When I return home my thoughts will turn to running, the holidays, and the Seaside Half Marathon in March.

After supper we went to the con store across the street to top off the tanks, then we formed back up for the run back to the campground.  It was dark and cold.

The fall festival had pulled up, and the business district was reopened to traffic.  Waynesville is a bustling mountain city.  It has changed so much in the 6 years I've been coming here.

Back across the valley our line rode in the dark night, I mean it was pitch black.  I took the lead because I had PIAAs to help light the way.  I thought about Jerrol who installed my lights, and wished him a speedy recovery from the wound he suffered in Iraq.

Cold night air was getting in the Roadcrafter, I only had a sweatshirt underneath.  Temp was in the low 40s and dropping quickly.

We made it back to the campground without incident.  I went to the campfire and passed the time in deep conversation.  

I was standing on the camp fire rim when I stepped off in a hurry and cracked my left knee on a large true stump.  I hit the ground in pain.  "Dam that hurt."  It was dark and the stump was low, noway I could see it.  I didn't think much of it, but a few minutes later it was stiff and sore.  I told everyone good night and left the scene.

I limped back to the tent, gathered my stuff and went for a hot shower.  The hot water really felt good and I didn't want to get out.

In the tent I secured a few items to streamline things in the morning.  It was going to be COLD tonight with temps in the high 20s.  My knee was ok, as long as I didn't move it or bend it.  "Dang this thing is gonna really be sore in the morning."

It had been a busy day.  First Sal's crash, and the incident with the deputy, but I don't look as those items as bad luck.  Sal's wreck could have been much, much, worse, and Mark and I both could have received paying tickets.  Both of those incidents had good outcomes.

Despite the fact I was cold and sore I had a good time in the Blue Ridge.  I was disappointed about cutting the tour short, but one thing about being retired, if you don't get it in this time, always the next.