Day 11
October 19th, 2003
In the Blue Ridge Mountains
Near Cruso, North Carolina

I could hear the Black Knight fire up his ST in the wee hours. He and Alex were riding out early, aiming to make it home in one shot. I took solace mine was an easy ride today.

By 630 I was up and rolling my tent.  I slept ok, but was still upset about Andray’s incident.  For the first time in 3 years the weather will be good for my ride out of the Blue Ridge.  I loaded my bike, and was ready to head out by 7:15am.

The morning was cold, when I said my good byes.  The Menard brothers were close to leaving, Uncle Phil was going to church on his way out.  He attends a small Baptist church north of the campground; he stops by so often they know him by name.  Ron E was up and about and wished me a safe ride.
​The Menard brothers, Peter and Jim about to depart for home
 I gloved up and climbed on aboard the ST to start the final long ride for 2003.  It was a good day for a long ride.  My routes today, will be the exact same as the previous 3 return rides from here, so I’m not expecting anything profound to leap out at me as I make the ride. The routes are probably not the quickest, but certainly the most interesting.

Over the bridge, through the woods I go back to the highway.  I take 276 north to Waynesville, and stop to take a picture in the same spot as last year.  I started this ride last year with dark skies waiting for me in the distance.  I hit rain near Waynesville and slogged it out as best I could.  What a difference a year makes.
​What a difference a year makes.
Riding across the valley, my mind was Andray, I’m sure he will miss mornings such as this, while on the mend.
In Waynesville I go to US 19 west, and put the miles down. Traffic is light, and I make good time.  I have the routes on my sleeve but pretty much know the way home by memory.  I don’t know each route number, but I know the road when I see it.

I’m chilled in the cold mountain air but take comfort things will warm up quickly. One, I’m turning south in a few miles, and two, I’m dropping out of the hills.

I’ve come to loathe the 20 mile stretch of US 19 along the Nantahala River.  It is narrow and crowded with kayakers and busses.  Motels and restaurants are laid out shoulder to shoulder.  The entire area is nothing but congestion.  If it’s this bad early on Sunday, can you imagine a Saturday afternoon?  It is always a great relief to emerge out of the canyon into the valley, where 19 returns to 4 lane riding.

This part of the ride home takes me past a string of Smoky Mountain foothill towns.  Places such as Topton, Andrews, and Marble.  They were all listless when I powered through.

Florida plated RVs were busy making their way home. I am passing them in the double digits.  Many had cars tethered to the rear.

In Georgia, I turned south for SR 60, and shifted around on the saddle to prepare for the long ride south through the Georgia countryside.  After being so far north on this trip, it felt kind of good to know all the local customs, because Georgia is not much different than Alabama culturally.

I connected a string of Georgia highways for my ride south.  SR 60, SR 2, SR 5, SR 53 to US 411.  I stopped for a Wendy’s lunch at the intersection of SR 5 and SR 53. I munched down on single without cheese, just mustard and ketchup. After, lunch I called my wife and announced my ETA-

"ok, I’ll be looking for ya"

Now it came time to vent out the Roadcrafter for the first time since I don’t know when.  The air temp was a balmy 80 degrees with temps in Alabama to settle at 85.  I went to summer gloves and stuck the Arai back on.  I know from past experience I will need gas in LaGrange.

Riding along SR 53 my mind drifted to the future. Here I am, putting the finishing touches on another long tour and riding season, already thinking about next years rides.  Visions of Alaska keep coming to me, but I can’t make up my mind.  Campfire talk a few nights ago kind of frightened me off.  I don’t care about the miles, but the 40 mile stretches of road construction is not my cup of tea.  I can’t afford to beat my bike down on such a road.  I’m pretty sure I will do western Canada.  I’ve never been, and that’s all the excuse I need to go.  It will be hard not to shoot for Alaska though when I get that close.  But Western Canada and the Seattle area are pretty much definite.

Other rides I’m contemplating are the North Carolina Outer Banks, and northern Minnesota, sometime in the spring.  Rumor has it the Black Knight is going to host an event in New England come September of 04, I was thinking about all that, and the fact this could be the last long tour for my venerable 1100.  Right now it’s 75-25 I'm bringing home a new 1300 in the spring.  If I do, I plan to retain the 1100.  I know it sounds crazy, but I’m too close to this bike to ever sell it.  The instant I throw my leg over this little machine, images from a thousand different places go through my mind like a slide show.

SR 53 must be one of the better roads for local riders.  I saw lots of bikes, almost all waved at me.  The road has a few curves, but after riding West Virginia routes for 300 miles it’s kind of hard to get excited.

I went to SR 61 and managed to stay on course when I came through Cartersville.  I went the wrong way out of town the first time I came through here a few years ago.  They still haven’t fixed the sign, but it didn’t matter, I knew where to go.

The Georgia sun was getting hot, so I stretched out my left arm causing a billowing effect, while moving air through the Roadcrafter.

I kept a eye on my fuel light, every year it comes on in the same spot, and just like clock work it fires off north of LaGrange on US 27.

In LaGrange, I found a Chevron station and filled up for the last time.  I gulped down some fancy water, and got back on the road.  The ride from here will be non stop.

I went to I-85 south and fell in the melee.  The pace is always FAST between Atlanta and Montgomery, and today is no exception.  I scanned for northbound Gold Wings.   I knew from previous years, they would be out, and I wasm't disappointed.  They began to appear near the state line.  I still don’t know why they gather on this highway, on this weekend, every year, but I assume some for kind of rally.

The sun is always tough this time of year if you are south bound on I-85.  It sits above the trees and road in many places.  Avoid it if you can.

At 3:51pm I crossed the Chattahoochee River back into Alabama and home.  No matter where I may travel, Alabama will always be home.  I cranked the ST up to 90, and zoomed for Prattville.  The last 100 miles were uneventful and routine.

In Montgomery I went to I-65 North, and 10 miles later I was taking the Prattville exit.

I thought this may well prove to be the last time I go on tour, and have to worry about getting back to work.  This was really  great ride and I had a blast, looking forward to the next one.

The east side of town was quiet and all the fire trucks and ambulances were in the station when I came by.  I could see my wife out washing the car when I rounded the curve from 6th Street.  I bleeped the throttle a couple of times when I saw her and she looked up to watch my final approach.  I slipped by the Accord, into the garage, and set the stand, after 412 miles for the day, and 4,114 for the trip.  She came in to greet me, then escorted me inside.

A great trip to end my touring season.

Footnotes- The Menard brothers returned home the long way aftert touching VA 16.  They had a safe ride.
Uncle Phil safely returned from Franklin and had a safe ride home to Nashville. 
The Black Knight, and Alex were on the road early.  They iron butted home with no problems in a about 17-18 hrs.  

Ron Epperly returned home without incident, after logging over 7,000 miles for his fall trip.
As far as I know, all the ST riders, made it home without incident.