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​Day 3
​October 11, 2013
Moonshine Campground

​Balsam, North Carolina

I didn't sleep all that well.  My tent site was on a slight slope and I had trouble staying on my pad.  I sleep in the fetal position and when I tried laying on my right shoulder I just kept rolling on over.  It was quite annoying.

The sound of other riders stirring about motivated me to get moving.  I'm not a morning person, but I do ok once I get out of the bed, but the first step is the hardest.  Weather was mild, a stark contrast to many of my mornings in the Blue Ridge.  Uncle Phil advised the "train" was leaving Clyde's Diner at 8:30 for the group ride.

Peter Menard was on the scene, our plan was to eat breakfast, ride the train to Cherokee, and than split off on our own.  "Better get headin that way," so I wiped off a vast amount of morning dew from the Honda.  It was if it had rained the night before, I hung my towel out to dry on the rail fence near my tent.

The short ride back into Waynesville to the diner was good, I filled the tank at the large con store on the corner near Clydes to get ready for the morning ride.

I had no plans of eating breakfast, so by the time I pulled in, the group was moving back to the bike area for the morning briefing.  Judging by the parking lot, the train was going to have about 25 bikes.  Uncle Phil advised/reminded all the riders to ride their own ride, obey the rules, and leave your ego here in the parking lot.

Employing the drop and sweep, we rode back out of Waynesville to the Blue Ridge Parkway, and went south to Cherokee.  I've done this ride many times, and never tire of it.  Picking up the Parkway on U.S. 74 in this direction puts a rider south of the highest elevation, and is mostly a 25 mile downhill run to the city.
  
After marking a turn, I returned to the line in the back.  That was ok, the slick, cupped tires would not allow me to ride or lean in anything but the most basic of manner.  I've said before, the Blue Ridge Parkway is a national treasure.  The foresight of those before us, that dreamed of, then cut this road, can never be thanked enough.  The road was built in a time when Americans thought they could do anything.  "You know what?  We're gonna dam THE Colorado River, and create a vast network of aqueducts, and make fertile the Southwest deserts and California basins."  And that's exactly what they did.  And they did it in just a few years.  Same with the parkway, a 400 mile road, along the spine of the Appalachian Mountains.  Can't happen today.  Too many environmental impacts to clear, too much redtape, and way too expensive.  I'm forever thankful to that generation of Americans.

With the morning mist burning off I carved the 1300 down the roadway, mostly following the lines of the bike in front,  I didn't know the rider, but he was laying some good lines, and I saw no need to reinvent the wheel.  As often happens in the area, fog rolled down the mountains into the valleys, and from the  peaks, it felt like being in clouds.  It was great riding.  I enjoy watching a line of bikes moving through the curves and hills, and I had a good seat from my spot in the rear of the train.

Leaf color was a few days from peak, but still good.   Because I was on the train I had to pass on several good photo ops, thus not many pics today.
The ride south to Cherokee is downhill from Balsam and all too quickly we were coming off the parkway into the congestion of the tourist trap.  Using the drop and sweep we moved our line efficiently through the town, marking the turns with a rider so everyone knew where to go.  I was sitting out a traffic light when the rider behind me pulled next to me.  "Man you got cord showing on your rear tire."  I was not surprised, so calmly pulled to the parking lot of the nearby CVS pharmacy.  I bent down and spun the tire.  It was a endless line all the way around.

Peter pulled in behind me.  "Man this sucks," he said.  "Yeah I know, I was looking forward to some ride time with ya.  Look no need to mess your day up, I'll catch ya later at the campground."  A gorgeous day was brewing and I saw no need in him wasting it away with me on a tire sojourn.
I went to my Iphone and looked up the bike shop I knew to be in Robbinsville called Wheelers.  I recalled Peter Menard (among other ST riders) bought a tire here a few years ago.  I dialed in, 

"Y'all gotta a front tire for a ST 1300?"  

"Yeah several brands, what's your flavor?" 

 "Metzller?" 

 "Yeah 2 or 3 on the rack." 

 "How long to put it on?"  Not that I really cared, I was just curious.  "Couple of hours."

I put the address in the GPS and headed that way.  It was very disappointing, but I rolled the dice on this tire and missed it by 500 miles.
It was a 30 minute ride from Cherokee to Robbinsville.  I took it easy on the tire but wasn't overly concerned about it.  Not that I recommend it, but a guy can go a long way with chord showing.  Uncle Phil once did about 300 miles to home on a last day run in from the West coast.  I did over 100 a few years ago in Kansas.

When I arrived at the shop 3 guys from the ST rally were already in line.  They were led by "The Lanman," a local stalwart on a cherry red 1300.  Lanny is one of the leaders of the ST community, he had a GL and Connie 14 with him.  I was number 4 in the queue.  "Dang I can't get a tire for all y'all up in here," as I took off my Arai.

"Well, what can we say?"

"NONE of y'all started a long ride with a tire that could go the distance?"

"Look who's talkin"

"point taken" I laughed.

"Look here, y'all hold my place in line, I'm gonna run into town and get a snack, so I don't hafta stop when I get fixed"

"Ok"

I shot back into Robbinsville to the McDonalds and had a cheeseburger and made a few phone calls.  "Running gonna be so hard when I get back after a week of cheeseburgers."  I thought.

After killing off a hour I rode back to the shop where the last of the 3 was going on the rack.  It was the GL  The mechanic said it was one of the harder bikes to get a tire on.  The young mechanic was a guy named Casey.  He was having a busy morning.  I passed the time chatting with the other riders.

Before long Lanny and his crew were set to go, and I pulled the ST up to the bay.  I had several tire choices.  The shop had a Korean tire I forget the name of.  Casey advised he sells alot of them.  "They're gonna be half the price of the Metzller Z8s."  "Yeah and half the miles,"  "true, but some just wanna get home."  "That ain't me, if I'm gonna pay the labor, which I'm gonna guess is the same rate no matter which tire, I'm gonna get the best."  "YES sir!"

""Look here, it's lunch time if you wanna grab a sandwich before putting mine up. I got no place to be."  No, its no problem, I don't mind."

"You sure?"

"Yeah, STs are one of the easier bikes for a rear tire, I don't mind, I can eat when I get you back on the road."

"thank you"

Casey made quick work of the task at hand.



























 
           " Installing new tire.  Wheelers, Robbinsville, North Carolina."


I found Wheelers to be a friendly, knowledgeable place.  I stayed out of Casey's way while he installed the tire.  Nothing is worse than having some joker stand over you while you work.  I can recommend this shop if ever in need of something while in the area.  They can do tires, and solve minor mechanical issues.  But most importantly he's going to have a tire for all but the most exotic of bikes.  Most Honda shops do not rack rubber for a ST, but Wheeler not only has the size, but several brands to choose from.

By early afternoon I was back on the road, trying to capture what was left of a beautiful day.  "Too nice a day to mail it in, I"m gonna ride somewhere."

Not wanting to do anything fancy, I went basic, and that means taking in NC 28 to Franklin.  The new rear tire gave the 1300 immediately relief in the handling department.  It was handling like a different bike now.  It was far more stable and held lines with greater ease.  The front tire was still slick and cupped but, things were at least manageable again.

Traffic in the Robbinsville area was thick with bikes working over to "The Dragon," but I was riding out counter to most of it.
I cruised up the Appalachian Highway and turned right on SR 28 at the famous store located at the junction, and had a brilliant run into Franklin.  The road is truly one of the best in the area with it's tight, snaky, curves.  The 1300 felt good, but with the slick front tire I kept things well under control, but I no longer ride "aggressive" much anyway.  No, this was a ride to just enjoy the day, the bike, and the scenery.  I kept just enough speed to lean the bike and let it go at that.

I didn't take any pics, the narrow, no shoulder road afforded no safe place to do so.  Leaf color was in the very early stages of turning.  The road can be very tricky, and the shadows to so sunlight added another dimension to the fun.  Traffic was nil and I had a clear run to Franklin where I ran into a ant farm of activity.

"From here I'm gonna ride to Brevard, pick up 215 and home across the valley to Waynesville."  To do that I took U.S. 64.  Big mistake.  All my years of riding the area never been on this highway as Uncle Phil avoids it.  The road itself is good, but way too much traffic to do anything with it.  I spent most of the ride on this excellent road in a long line of cars.  "Now I know why I've never been on this road."

I thought I was never going to get to Brevard.  It was much further than I thought from Franklin, and at 35 miles per hour; well you do the math.  Fall colors was, as I thought it would be, much more pronounced on this side of the mountains.
By the time I arrived in Brevard I was feeling kind of haggard.  I followed the zumo through the busy city.  Fall is a hectic time to be in the Blue Ridge.  Look, its a beautiful, timeless place of mountains, colors, and friendly towns.  I still plan to bring Debbie here at least once in one of the cars to experience this special time.

Calmness returned when I went right on U.S. 215 to start the ride back to Waynesville.  Past the BBQ place where many of my fellow riders like to eat, and up towards the Parkway I rode.  Traffic was not as bad as expected and the Honda and I had a good run on a road I've had the pleasure of many times, and even though it didn't seem like it, my time away from here felt longer than just 1 year.

U.S. 215 steadily rises in elevation as a rider makes his way to the Blue Ridge Parkway, where you cross over and then descend into Brevard, or across the valley to Waynesville, depending on your direction.  It was great riding for me as I worked up the hills.  Leaf color was close to peak, and leaves drifted all over the road like snow fall.

I went across the Parkway and started downhill.  On this side of the mountain, the road bends more intensely, and a guy has to fight a tough sun if the afternoon is late, as it was for me on this day.  The glares made it hard to read the road surface or even see a safe distance down the road.  Just use caution and common sense, and you'll be ok if you find yourself in this situation.

Now at the foot of Cold Mountain, I was back to the roots of my long riding days.  In 1981 I rode with Uncle Phil to what is now a defunct ST rally called Eaststoc, that was held in Cruso.  I used that little ride as a shakedown cruise to get ready for my first cross country ride to follow 3 weeks later.  It was there I learned how to camp, and plan routes.  I first met Ron Epperly, Sal Landa, and Gene Fabizenger that year.  I'll always remember that rally.

The warm afternoon was slipping away as the road flattened out coming out of the thick forest that surrounds Cold Mountain.  I've always loved the ride across the valley to Waynesville.  I went by the Blue Ridge Campground thinking about all the good times we had camping there.  The gathering was moved from the BRC to Moonshine a few years ago for reasons I won't get into here, but I still fondly remember our time there.  The ride from here to Waynesville was just as I remembered it.  The homes, golf course, and Jukebox Junction all in place.  My memories were thick as I quietly guided the ST back to Moonshine.

The city of Waynesville was setting up for their Fall Festival, which happens to fall same weekend as the Gathering each year.  We are use to each other; long riders and shoppers coexisting without issue.  We obey all the traffic laws, and they turnout for us if we come from behind while in the hills.

I sliced through the congestion in the business district and went to U.S. 74 for a quick ride back to the campground.

The turn to Moonshine Campground is tricky, you find it on a downhill slope in a curve, and today is even more so.  A tough setting sun is in your face after you cross under the Parkway.  Traffic is busy, and I said, "the guy behind is not gonna see my left signal, or brake light in this glare."  I took the safe option, and went by the turn to find a another in the shade, and then doubled back and made a RIGHT turn to the campground.
Foliage on the approach to the campground seemed to be better than this morning, it was nice.  I found a parking spot in the crowded tent site and dismounted after a 249 mile day.  It was more than I had planned on but what the heck.  Uncle Phil came in with the train about 30 minutes later.

I got up with Ron and we decided to eat supper back in Waynesville.  "What do you want to eat?"  I asked.  "Lets do BBQ."  Ron can eat BBQ 6 days a week if you let him.   After checking some email on the store wifi with my Ipad and milling around, we loaded back up and made the short ride to town.

It was Friday night in Fall, and everything was busy.  We went to a BBQ place located in a strip mall, and promptly given a number for a 20 minute wait, but that was ok, we had nothing else to do, and it was good to catch up with a old friend I've not seen in 2 years.
Food was pretty good, and the town folks cordial.  The evening was warm for this time of year, so we had a nice ride back when we finished.
We had a big camp fire that night and life was good.  I spent time meeting new friends and checking in with old, before turning back to Ron, "I'm heading to the shower old friend, than bed."

It was late when I made it back to the tent, but not that late.  I pulled out my Ipad.  I had downloaded a couple of TV shows from my TIVO before leaving, so I put my Bose headphones on and watched "Person of Interest."  Pretty good day, but my front tire is still slick, so the plan for Saturday is a easy day.




Next- Great ride on familiar roads