Day 10
October 18th, 2003
Blue Ridge Motorcycle Campground
In the Blue Ridge Mountains
Near Cruso, North Carolina

Morning came early, but I was up ready to go.  The air was brisk, but warmer than the previous 2 daybreaks.  I was crawling OUT of my tent at 6:30am and gearing up.  We are hitting the road early and riding the Parkway to Cherokee for breakfast.

We formed up at the entrance for a day of riding the east's grandest motorcycling roads. 
US 276 from the campground to the Parkway is a awesome road in itself.  It banks and leans as it crawls up the hills to the Parkway.  I took my place in the rear, 2nd to last.  We rode in this order pretty much most of the day: Uncle Phil, Alex, Black Knight, Peter Menard, Jim Menard, Ron, the Kawasaki ( I forgot that jokers name) Andray, me, and Shakin Jake.  The guys in the first 4-5 sometimes switched around, and interchanged. 

It was beautiful, crisp morning.  I already KNEW the ride down the Parkway would be a gold medal winner. 
​Fog rolls across the Blue Ridge.
We paused briefly at the entrance to make sure we had everyone and took off south.   Right away the pack disappeared from me, but that was ok.  The scenery was great and like years past I was in no mood to watch the backs of the guys in front for 60 miles.  Riding at a brisk pace on these roads demands close attention, the strain of picking lines in curves and at the same time watching the guy in front, takes some of the fun out of it for me.  I liked the open space in front of me, and letting mind my wonder to other things than tail lights.  Nothing wrong with the former, in fact I plan to do a little of it myself later on, but for now give me the Blue Ridge Parkway on a beautiful morning.  Give me the quiet peace of a long ride without red lights, stop signs, or shopping centers.  Let me see the hills and valleys in the distance, and how the fog gathers around them.  Let me see the falling leaves colored in reds, yellows, and oranges.  Yellow flowers bordered the smooth road, and escorted me.  

I stopped and took a few pictures, and watched a fog bank move over the mountains.  I could see it sweep over the top of Looking Glass, and like a tidal wave wash down the hills, filling every crevice, hole, and cave with a thick soup.  I'd never seen anything like it.  It reminded of the movie, "Ten Commandants," when the thick low fog, came through the village taking the first born.  The pack was long gone, but I was glad I stopped. 

The cold air up here hit me hard.  I had on the cool gloves, and my hands were cold. 

I stayed on my slow pace when I got back on the Parkway.  

A few miles later I found the group at Balsam Rock.  The highest point in the Blue Ridge.  Everyone was taking pictures so I followed suit.  The wind was blowing and it was very cold.  I had my camera out taking pictures and I thought my hands would break before I could get my gloves back on.   

I went to thick winter gloves for the balance of the Parkway. 

After Balsam the Parkway begins a slow, but steady descent down to Cherokee.  Jake and I continued in the rear, stopping for pictures and riding conservative.  It was just too nice a morning to pass up.  

The road passes through several tunnels on the way to Cherokee.  The bright morning sun made it difficult to see in the dark tunnels.  The first few seconds in the tunnel I was blind, as my eyes tried to adjust.  Two of the tunnels bend, and if you are too fast, it's very easy to run smack into the wall.

The morning ride on the Parkway was one of the all time best.

The Blue Ridge Parkway makes a peaceful end/beginning in Cherokee.  Jake and I come down to the traffic light but we don't see anyone.  Where did they go?  Left? Right?  And which way do we go at the next intersection?  Jake and I pull off and talk things over.   "I know we are eating here, the town is not that big, we'll just ride around till we find them."

After a little stumbling around we find them walking in a breakfast buffet place for something to eat. 

A long line greets us when we walk in.  Dang.  "You boys follow me," a hosts says as she pulls us out of the line.  Everyone looked pissed as we shot by them.   "We have a table for large groups, and y'all are just in time."

We fattened up on a huge breakfast, then got rolling again.  We picked up SR 28 out of the city and proceeded south to Franklin.  The road becomes extremely twisting and dangerous.  Many, many short changing radius curves, almost all practically blind, and a few even have DOUBLE apexes.
I saw nothing unusual when I came through, and nobody else did either.  Seven miles north of Franklin, near New West Road, Andray Hubble, the friendly man from Guntersville was forced wide in a tight right hander, left the road, and went down a embankment.  

I moved up to the number 3 or 4 spot, but when I found out what it was I  returned to the 7 or 8 position.  
Franklin was in Saturday in America mode.  Folks were crowding in Wal Mart, dads were at Auto Zone looking for alternators, and tourists were packing in the fast food places.  The shops downtown were doing a brisk business.
​Every state has a Bridal Veil Falls.  North Carolina's can be found on SR 28 south of Franklin.
Every state has a Bridal Veil Falls.  North Carolina's can be found on SR 28 south of Franklin.  When we came to it, we stopped and milled around.  A clean cut SUV family pulled up and got out.  All were friendly except for the teenaged son.  He wore his hair funny, and sported body piercings and tatoos.  His pants were way down below his hips.  I guess he was, "expressing himself."

A conversation took place, but not one I was in.  

"hey where's Andray?"

" I think he went back to the campground after breakfast."

"did he say that?"

I missed the conversation, and I still didn't know we had a rider missing.  I knew the 2 guys behind me were accounted for, and I never saw anything on the way through.

Uncle Phil decided to skip Highlands, because the traffic was so bad.  It was peak leaf season and EVERYONE was in the hills.
We finished up at the waterfalls and rode back into Franklin, reversing our leans from the previous south bound ride.  Traffic was picking up and it slowed us.

Out of Franklin we took Wayah Road.  A local road not in my atlas.  It took us by a few farms, but it was mostly curvy and twisting.  I moved up in the pack and rode in the front the next 15-20 miles.  This road was a little more to my liking, more sweepers with good sight lines.

Break time came at a small local store.  I bought something to eat and a bag of  popcorn.  It was then I noticed Andray missing.
"hey y'all seen Andray?"

"not since breakfast.  He went back to the campground."

"how ya know?"

"He was in front of you wasn't he?"

"most of the time"

"see anything?

"well, no, but they were times I was up near the front"

Jake said, "I've been last all day, and ain't seen anything."

​  Andray Hubble on the Blue Ridge Parkway
We made a mistake at this moment.  We continued our ride without making sure.  We should have doubled back to the last known place we saw him.  All because no one saw anything didn't mean he was ok.  There were gaps in our line almost all the time.  I made the mistake of just worrying about the 2 behind me, and when I saw them, I didn't think too much about anyone in front.

On a group ride such as this it is vitally important to know the guy behind you made it the rally point.  That way if you reach the checkpoint, and fail to see him, then you know something is wrong.  I KNOW the guys I've ridden so many miles with would NEVER leave without telling the group, but Andray was new to the clan, and we didn't know that for sure he would tell us if he left.  If I don't see PeterM or Ron at a checkpoint, after a reasonable amount of time, I KNOW to go back and look. 

At this moment Andray Hubble is down in a ditch with a broke femur or being loaded up.

I can continue to write about my ride, but I wouldn't feel good doing so.   We went on to Deal's Gap, then to Waynesville for steaks at the Sagebrush, all the while thinking Andray is at the campground. 

Our ritual is a steak dinner to close the riding season.  One last social event before winter shuts a lot of folks down.  In that respect it was a successful encounter.  I joked and laughed, and basked in the glory of great fall tour and riding season.  Ed Apellian from the RT site also joined us for supper. 

​Closing out the riding season at the Sagebrush Steakhouse. 
I used the 15 mile ride back the tent, to reflect on the riding year just completed.  It was a good one, and I enjoyed seeing my friends again.  This years return ride was just like those of years past, dark and a little cool. 
The campground entrance came into view, and a row of yellow amber turn signals lit up ahead of me.  We formed up to cross the bridge, and I wheeled around to my tent.  I set the stand and squared away my things and checked my bed out for the night.  While we were waiting at the Sagebrush I went across the street and bought a new pillow from Belks.  I was looking forward to trying it out tonight.

I was walking to the fire when Uncle Phil found me.

"well, Andray crashed today, he's in the hospital in Franklin.  Broken leg, all the details we have so far."
"Are you certain?"


I was dumbfounded.  One by one I saw each face grow long as they were told.  Not knowing what to do we stood around in a circle, going over and over on what could have happened and why we failed to find him.   The simple reason was we failed go back and look.  I knew there was nothing I, or anyone else could have done about the accident, it was the aftermath where we dropped the ball.

We were all very sad. 

Uncle Phil begins gearing up and announces he's going back to Franklin.  We tried to talk him out of it-"Uncle lets at least call, and make sure he is there, and able to take visitors." "Ain't going to matter, I need to go to make sure." 

I told the guys-"you ain't gonna change Uncle Phil's mind, when he gets it in his mind, he's gonna do it."  I thought back to the Parkway in 2001.  We were strapped in white out fog, after 40 miles or so, I gave up and went back to surface roads.  Uncle Phi continued despite all my pleas not do. 

"Look, Uncle Phil needs someone to ride with him, if I confirm he's there I'll go".

My phone failed to get a signal, but if he stood just right RonE could lock one on his.  Information found us the number we needed, and soon we had Andray on the phone.  He capped what happened, and told me his FEMUR (thigh) was broke.  The femur is as big as your forearm, breaking it is a major condition, especially for a man Andray's age.   He seemed in good spirits.

I was talking on the phone when I saw Uncle Phil going over the bridge and on the way back to Franklin.   It was going to be a tough ride.  I thought about trying to catch him, but he grew up around these hills, I'd never be able to do it.

I sat around the campfire a few minutes, then hit the showers. I was in shower when the Black Knight hollered through the steam, "hey brother going to bed, Alex and I are outta here before the sun."  I wished him a good ride, and appreciate his company on the many miles of northeast expresways.  After my shower I was too upset to be much company, I withdrew to my tent. 

We rode 315 miles today. 

My new pillow was much better then the old system.  I went to sleep with a troubled mind. 

Update-  Andray Hubble spent 4 days in the hospital, and has a metal rod in his leg.  He is in good spirits and recovering at home in Guntersville.  He will have a long rehabilitation.  He looks forward to riding again.  You can email him jandrayhubble@mindspring.com, I'm sure he would appreciate any words of encouragement you might offer.  I will update his condition as needed.

Many thanks to Uncle Phil for helping recall the routes and happenings of the day.

Update 2-14-04  I received the following email from Andray this date-

Hey Guys,
  Just a note;  The wrecked ST still runs......Martha wanted to know if it
would start and went outside and started it up!  Next week will be four
months on the 18th.
AND, I just ordered the parts today to put her back together.   Yeah!
  Can now walk without any support, no crutch or cane, but I list to
starboard badly.  A cane helps keep me straight.  Getting better every two
days, that's because I can't tell any improvment daily.
  Still haven't ridden ST#2.  She fell on the trailor just after I bought
her.  (Never been down before.)  Got her back together and the painting is
finished to the damaged parts.
  Looking forward to riding with you guys this year.
  Ride safe,

Update 4-1-04  Received the following Email today:
Hey Guys!
  Just a note to let you know I put in a 208 mile ride Sunday.  Made the
trip to Lynchburg, TN.
  Hip and knee complained, but it sure was good to be riding again.
  Look forward to riding with you soon.
  Take care and RIDE SAFE!