Day 5
October 15th, 2006
Blue Ridge Motorcycle Campground
Cruso, North Carolina

I recorded another good nights sleep, but I was awake before the watch sounded off.  I remained in my sleeping bag for as long as I could, dreading what was coming next.  Stuff like donning the cold infested Roadcrafter, and striking camp in the freeze box air.

By 7am I had no choice if I was going to make it home at a decent hour.  My knee was just as I predicted, sore and stiff.  "Not gonna be able to run today, but I might try the Trek."

After getting dressed I popped out of the tent and hit the switch on the ST for a temp check.  28 degrees.  "Now that sucks, gonna be cold the first 60 miles or so this morning."  I've had many cold morning starts in the Blue Ridge but this one is the champ.  "I'm gettin outta these mountains and headin south."

Breaking down my tent was like chiseling an igloo.  My fingers were numb, and the Eureka had a light dusting of frost on the rain flap.  First time I've ever seen THAT, but I don't camp in the winter, so I shouldn't have been surprised.

By 7:30am I was loaded and ready.  Charlie and Andy came over to tell me bye as well as a few other guys.  I knew the way home, but checked the atlas and made a few notes anyway.

I fired the Honda up to let it warm up, while I stashed the blanket I borrowed back to the pavilion.  I decked out in full winter gear.  My Gerbrings were having controller problems so left them at home.  I had on the insulated liner, sweatshirt and sleeves, with thick winter gloves, to combat the 28 degree temp.

I flicked on the heated grips, and was cussing the Honda for not having a heated seat like the RT.  That item works very well, and I would sorely miss it on this day.

My sore knee made it hard to mount the Honda.  I couldn't even use it to steady the bike at traffic lights.  I'm a left footed guy, but not today.  Moving it suddenly really hurt.  

I toed the 1300 down into first and even that hurt, but I was on my way home.

The cold killed all my batteries.  Phone, and both cameras were dead.  That was unfortunate because I wanted to take a few shots in Waynesville, which was really looking good all decked out for Fall, but not to be.

It was time to head home, back over the same route as always.  Perhaps next year I will change, but somehow I feel that might bring me bad karma.  This ride home from the Blue Ridge each year marks the calendar.  From now till next spring I concentrate on the other things I enjoy in my life. Like spending time with Debbie at the beach and in the mountains on our annual trips.  I also love the Holidays and all that they bring, my training kicks up a gear in preparation for a spring race, writing and maintaining my web site, and of course planning trips for next season.  I also use the time to re evaluate the season just completed, to see what I can do better, or what equipment needs to be upgraded, or replaced.  I have a nice wish list of items I want to get done or purchase.

On US 276 I emerged from the shadows of Cold Mountain and sped across the valley to Waynesville.  It was a bone chilling ride into town.  The gauge on the Honda doesn't lie, it didn't budged off the indicated 28 degrees. The city was still asleep and it only took me a few minutes to find US 74, and turn west.  The sun was out bright, but it was having little effect on the frosty temps.

I had to pass several good photo ops because I had no power.  Bummer.

Past experience has taught me the temps won't get better till I clear the gorge and leave the mountains, near Murphy, 100 miles away.  The highway is basically a long down hill run to Nantahala Gorge.  A place I've really come to dislike over the years because of its congestion and traffic choking raft busses.

The ride to the gorge was uneventful and cold.  The heated grips did the best they could, but I couldn't feel them.  It might have been the thick winter gloves, but they are not near as effective as the extra hot BMW units.
Through the gorge the road turns 2 lane, but luckily traffic was light on this day.  "Too cold for anyone to even think about getting in a raft today."  Temp was still below 30 in the shadows.  The run through Nantahala is 20 miles, but it feels much longer.  It always has.

I passed an empty raft bus, and a few cars, and was able to make the run at 50 mph with no backups.  After cresting a few hills I emerged out of the gorge back into the bright sun, and out of the mountains.  "From here it will warm up quickly, " I said.  Sure enough by the time I made it into Murphy the temp was 41 degrees.  I felt better but was still chilled.

In Murphy I went to Spur 60 and turned south into Georgia.  The house I check each year for changes showed nothing new.  I made a mental note of that and kept going.

The miles ticked off as I rode through the Georgia countryside.  I knew the route by memory so I didn't have to check my notes in Mineral Bluff when I went to SR 2.  I was going to take my first break of the day at the Elljay BP station.

By the time I got to Elljay the temp was 50 degrees, but I was still cold.  I went in the BP for a Mountain Dew and muffin.

I was standing outside in the sun when a mid 30ish lady, in a Accord, pulled in and asked in a sweet southern accent, "excuse me sweetie, can you check that front tire?  Does it look low?"  "Sure baby, but it looks ok, lemme put my gauge on it."  "Oh you're sweet."  I pulled the gauge from my fairing pocket and said,  "down about 5 lbs, I'll top it off for ya." "That would so nice."  She was all smiles when she left.  Highlight of the day.

Another Apple Festival was taking place in the Elljay, all these places have some kind of fall festival.  One last chance to get your money I guess.

Standing in the warm sun, I felt better, but still had the chills.  My feet and hands were beginning to thaw out.   It had been a cold morning, but now I was riding south into warmer air. 
I ran SR 5 south out of Elljay to SR 53.  Over the years I've noticed this road as a local hangout for bikers.  The route has a few curves, but nothing I'd call challenging.  The front tire was really bald now and I had no traction.  The bike didn't want to have anything to with leaning, but I forced it to anyway.

A couple of cruiser guys, with floorboards grinding were in front of me, and gave me no room to pass.  I had to do it the hard way, and use the other lane when I found room.

I don't know what the big deal is about that.  I'm often passed by guys on true sport bikes.  I move to the right and wave them around, it doesn't hurt my ego.  I KNOW they are faster then me, so what?

In Fairmont I turned south on US 411.  The temps were soaring now and it felt good, and by the time I made it to Cartersville it was in the 70s.  The chill had finally left me.  "Now this IS riding."

Cartersville is always busy, and I got bogged down in church traffic.

I went to SR 61 and kept moving south through the Georgia countryside.  Atlanta has made inroads into this area, and houses are going up like ant hills.  I saw several signs.  "Plantation Estates homes starting in the 200's"  "Well heck, that sounds like a real steal"  That price buys ALOT house in this part of the country.

Through the old south town of Dallas I pushed on.  This area has really changed in the 6 years I've been passing through here.  Construction, shopping centers, and large development tracts, making what was once a nice rural ride into a mess.  I'll have to do something different next year.

I thought about lunch, but wasn't hungry so skipped it.  I noticed my gas gauge.  I was going to need gas in Carrollton.  "That's strange, in years past I've made it all the way to La Grange, before the reserve light any flashed."  Not today, I went on reserve well north of the Carrollton.  I don't know if I failed to top it off all the way, or the fact I ran with the screen up for the first 200 miles was the culprit, but I was going to need gas way sooner then ever before.

I topped of the tank at a Chevron station con store.  I replied to a text from Chris and got back on the road.
For a college town, Carrollton is kind of low key.  The route takes a guy right by the courthouse and through downtown.  

I picked up US 27 and started the last miles to La Grange and I-85.  Most of the route is 4 lane divided through farm country.  It was mid afternoon and temps were in the 80s, and after all those cold mountain mornings it felt better than good.

Signs in La Grange take a guy in what appears to be the roundabout way to get to I-85.  My instinct tells me something is up.  I was tempted to keep straight instead of following the I-85 sign pointing traffic to go left.  I chickened out and went as instructed.

After all the stop and go the last 300 miles I was ready to put some miles down and get home.  I came down the ramp, checked my position, and merged in the flow of traffic shooting south on the interstate.

Traffic was whizzing by at 85+ and that was ok with me as I stuck the big Honda on 90.  The quiet, smooth motor, laughs at such speeds.  The ST 1300 with its willing engine, good wind management, will run 100 mph just as long as you want.

Around 2pm I crossed the Chattahoochee and was back in Alabama.  I noticed north bound GLs, they have some kind of rally in the south every year on this weekend. 

I made quick work of East Alabama and was soon back in Montgomery and only a few miles from home.  It had been a good touring season, and despite having to cut this tour off short, I had one of my best times in the Blue Ridge.

Traffic coming through Montgomery was kind of busy for a Sunday, but I stayed true to the course and took I-65 north out of the city.

I took the 179 exit into Prattville East.  This area of town is out of control with growth.  I can't keep up with the stuff being built here.  Something new every week or or 2.

I wheeled off Memorial Drive into my neighborhood, about 3:30pm.  The garage door was up as instructed and Debbie was waiting for me.  She came out to greet me when she heard the Honda enter the garage.  A few minutes later she was helping me bring my stuff inside.

We usually eat out when I return from a trip, but this time the 2 of us enjoyed a low key home cooked meal in front of the big screen.  We're young to be empty nesters, but we like it that way.

"Nice trip?"  "Yeah it was baby, good riding and good friends, now you're stuck with me the next 7 months."
After 3 cold nights in my tent, it felt good to be back in our warm bed.


The next few days were quiet.  I edited video and worked on this story, that took me longer than usual to complete.  Fall is short lived here, and I spent most of my free time riding.  I was only typing on the rainy days.
The tires on the Honda are toast, but still riding them.  I'm going to put that off till first of the year.  I'm just not riding it far.

The BMW also has to go in for 6k check.  I really need to learn to do that myself, but its so easy.  I've been using it on all the long rides the last few weeks.  Including  300 and 400 mile day trips on consecutive days.

I did wash and clean the Honda.  The bike now has over 50k miles, and outside of few road chips not a scratch on the bike.  I take pride of ownership on both bikes.

Sal Landa rubbed out the scratches on his bike, and had his mirror replaced.  Cost him about 100 bucks.  Everyone returned from the ride safely.

Because of my knee I was unable to run for almost a week, and when I did return I was not 100%.  I'm fully recovered, having run 10 miles this morning pain free.

Debbie and I leave for the beach on Nov 10. (Accord)

I hope everyone has a good winter, and stay in touch with the site, as I plan to update a few things.

Nov 4, 2006