Retirement Ride II
The V-Strom, all loaded and ready to go.
Oil and filter changed (Amsoil 10-40 Motorcycle Synthetic Oil and Suzuki filter).
Chain oiled and adjusted. Tire pressures OK. Coolant OK.
Planning for the RR-II began
back in the cold rainy season we call winter here in southwest
When a minister friend of
mine retired in
My original plan had me leaving IL on Monday and traveling to far eastern TN. Getting up early Tuesday, I would explore the Cherohala Skyway and the Deals Gap area, then continue on to SC. After a days rest/visiting there, it would be north to WV. But as you are about to see, plans change for the dumbest reasons.
One other thing I would like to mention about my trip is that I tried to stay within a very strict budget. Being a substitute teacher and church organist doesn’t exactly put me in a high tax bracket, if you know what I mean. I believe you do not need to buy the most expensive new bike, the most expensive new riding gear, and the most expensive luggage and accessories to have an enjoyable ride. For example, I bought my bike (a 2005 Suzuki V-Strom 1000) used with 4K miles. The original owner upset it in his garage and scratched up the right side somewhat. I got the bike for slightly more than half the cost of a new one. Another example: I looked at motorcycle rain suits for $50 - $200 at the bike shops and found a comparable one at the local farm supply store for $17. It kept me perfectly dry through 300 miles of hard downpour, except for my socks and pant cuffs. Moral of the story – If I can do it, almost anyone can.
Well, enough talk – let’s start the trip!
Day 1 -
Those of you who know me know that I am a notorious early riser. Even on the weekends, I am awake by 6:00 am. It should come as no surprise that I was awake for this trip at 3:00 am, and drove out of the driveway at 3:45 am. Three reasons I do this: 1) 20 degrees cooler than daytime temps, 2) far less traffic, and 3) I love watching the sun come up and night turn to day.
Originally, I had
planned to make a loop going through
Since I had 630 miles to
go, I decided to hit the interstate all day.
I will have lots of opportunities for back roads in the coming
week. I don’t even need a map
today. I-64 East to
I-64 in western
I love mornings!!!
It was unusually cool when I left, just in the mid 50’s. I debated about wearing my lightweight long johns, and was glad I decided to go ahead with them. It was none too warm at 75 mph with jeans. I kept them on until about 8:00 am. It wouldn’t be the last time I had them on.
I had clear weather and no
winds for the first 450 miles, which I made before lunch (even with losing an
hour at the Eastern Time Zone change.
However, at the
Soaked on the first day in
Lucky I wrapped everything in Zip-Lock 2-gallon bags.
I continued on to
I made it home by 4:00 and emptied a half-liter of water out of each boot. My $17 rain suit from the farm supply store worked great, except I didn’t bring boot covers. Oh well. It’s just water.
Mom was ready with a great meal. A warm (and dry!) bed awaited. A great day, even with the rain.
Today is new rear-tire day
for the Strom! Since it was raining, I
would not be doing much riding, so it was a good day for this. Leeson's Motors,
the Suzuki dealer in
If you ever need service or a new bike, check out Leeson’s Motors.
On the way to get my new rear tire.
Check out the $17 rain suit!! Hey, it works. (Wish I had brought boot covers, though.)
Days 3: Exploring
The Weather Channel showed Wednesday to be sunny and clear until late afternoon thunderstorms, so I decided to head for the mountains. I could see quite a bit and still be back home by 3:00. As usual, I was awake early, and started out at 6:00 am.
Rather than go straight to
Seneca Rocks by my familiar route (
I took Rt
50 East out of
Rt. 76 near Flemington
After reaching the end of Rt 76 at Berryburg Junction, I
took Rt 219 south to
Inside the Covered Bridge.
Past Nestorville and before St George, Rt 38 provides a nice twisty ride.
At St George, I followed Rt 72 south to Parsons.
After leaving Parsons on Rt 219/72 for about 3
miles, the road splits. I took Rt 72 on through Hendricks towards Red Creek and
After just a few miles past Hendricks on Rt 7, this sign told me of good times to come.
The sign was right! The road does narrow to about 1 and 1/10 lane
wide. This is rural
back roads at it’s finest! One of the many roadside waterfalls along Rt 72 east of Hendricks.
Rt 72 about 10 miles east of Hendricks.
Motorcycle heaven! Watch out for gravel, though.
A secluded cabin along Rt 72 near Red Creek.
Nearing the East end of Rt 72 near
Before heading across the mountains to Seneca Rocks, I usually stop at the Exxon station in Harmon. Most bikers continue on to Seneca Rocks to the gas station there and hang out in groups. I guess I like to avoid the crowds. It’s a nice quiet place to stop for gas and a soda.
After a refreshing stop at Harmon, it's east on Rt 33 over the mountains.
(Yes, I turned around facing west for this picture - it's more photogenic)
This area has many fond memories of Sunday afternoon picnics with my grandparents. They used to love to come up here and watch the climbers through binoculars. I have it in my will that my ashes be spread from the top of Seneca Rocks, where I have climbed (via the footpath, not straight up the side!) with my wife and son.
When I retired from the
Air Force last year, I was asked where I wanted my retirement flag to be
flown. State capital?
After spending some time
reminiscing at Seneca Rocks, it was time to head back to
After making it to Belington
(via Elkins and Rt 33/250 through Junior), I detoured
My last stop before
heading home was
Well, that was an enjoyable ride! Lots of old memories for me.
Hope you enjoyed it too.
Day 5: More Exploring
390 Miles – All Backroads
The Weather Channel
forecasted Friday to be clear and sunny all day – no rain until Saturday
morning! I wanted to take advantage of
every minute, so I was on the road by 6:00 am (again!). Since I rode most of the roads between
Approachin Elkins in the early morning haze.
Rt 33 eastbound out of Elkins. If you have to be on a 4-lane, this is it!
It does change back to twisty 2-lane after about 6 - 8 miles. What a view!
I took the same picture with my Honda Nighthawk last year on my Retirement Ride I.
One of the limestone caves on Rt 33 east of Elkins.
Approaching Onego on Rt33/55 eastbound. Motorcycle heaven!!
I was in Seneca Rocks by
8:00 am (I stopped to take pictures).
Turning left on Rt 55/28 towards
North entrance to
Scenic Smoke Hole road.
More Smoke Hole scenery.
Our farm is just over those mountains about 10 miles.
Yes, more Smoke Hole scenery.
The general store, about 5 miles from the south entrance.
Smoke Hole cave to the left. Sorry the cave is dark, but I
didn't want to wait several hours for the afternoon light.
Near the south end, the
road runs along the South Branch of the
A fisherman was trying his luck by Eagle Rock.
South Branch of the
The south entrance of Smoke Hole road, at the Junction of Rt 220.
This sign is posted at the south end of the road. The other legend is that the moonshiners’ stills left a lot of smoke hanging in the air back during prohibition. You can decide which story you like better.
After this, I was planning
to ride up Rt 220 past our farm and into
I stopped in
First, I headed south out
Our farm as seen from Rt 220, south of
My grandparents' old farmhouse.
I used to sit on the front porch with my grandparents and listen to the
bullfrogs and crickets singing their songs on hot summer evenings.
Grandma would sit in the rocker, and grandpa and I would sit on the glider.
After leaving the farm, I headed north on Rt 220 about 4 miles and
turned east on CR 220-4, also
This narrow road meanders through old farmland and comes out 5 miles later at Dorcas.
After reaching Dorcas (home of the Spring Run Fish Hatchery), I headed south on
CR 9 and CR 1 to Mozer, Kline, and Upper Tract.
After coming out on Rt 220 at Upper Tract, I headed south to
Rt 33 for the
Climbing Rt 33 eastbound up to the
(Yes, they really are two separate states!)
This used to be a very narrow, winding road up the mountain, but now it's "improved".
I prefer the old road, but this one is still great.
Some fellow bikers enjoying Rt 33 near the WV/VA border.
At the top of the mountain is the WV/VA border. As I turned around and headed back into WV,
I laughed at the first sign after the border: 9% Grade and 25 MPH Curves. YES!!
After turning around at the VA border, I headed back down Rt 33 into Oak Flat WV.
At Oak Flat, I turned north off of Rt 33 onto CR 3
that runs 35 miles
I have driven past this road a hundred times but never had the time to explore.
CR 3 about 5 or 10 miles north of Ft Seybert WV.
Watch out for deer!! I saw one in or by the road about every mile.
After reaching Moorefield,
I headed west on Rt 28/55
Strommin’ at Seneca Rocks. I wish I could take it up the trail to the summit.
After Seneca Rocks, it was
over the mountains to Harmon for gas, then quickly
It was a GREAT day. God was good in giving me the nice weather to ride most of the roads I wanted to explore on this trip. I enjoyed every one of the 390 miles today. The V-Strom is a great bike -- powerful, comfortable, and easy to handle.
Hope you enjoyed the ride too.
Day 6 - Hanging out
After yesterday’s great
ride, I was ready to rest a little and visit folks before riding to
After assuring her it would not tip over, my mom posed for a picture on the bike.
She has a heavy foot and doesn’t like to waste time when driving. I wonder what she would say if she felt the acceleration of the bike from 0-60 mph? (Would you believe she's 74?)
My dad was also interested in the bike, but preferred not to sit on it.
(I think he’s a Harley guy? ! ? ! ? ! ?)
Today, I also had a nice visit with Olga Hardman, my choir teacher at school from 7th grade to 11th grade. She gave me the opportunity to serve as the pianist for the choirs, which gave me the experience I needed to develop into a professional performing musician. She has a very interesting website at: http://www.olgaswritings.com/
When I got home that evening, my Mom asked me what I wanted to do with the beer I had in the basement. Huh?? She took me down and I found an old time capsule (OK, a cheap cardboard box) with about 25 cans of Billy Beer and J.R. Ewing Beer from the '70s.
Day 8 -
Which way is up?
609 Miles (should have been 500)
I had two options
for the return ride. Option 1 was to
take the northern route and visit a great-uncle in
The Weather Channel was
calling for severe storms from where I was in
Once again, I was up early and on the road by 6:00am.
I love traveling the back roads as the sun comes up. Only me and the deer.
Rt 57 between
After filling up with gas
in Elkins, it was south to
then east on Rt 250/92 over the mountains (picture).
The view from
eastbound coming into
Nice curves, but rough pavement. If they ever repave Rt 250, it will be a great ride.
Up ahead on the right, it's a Crown Vic police interceptor, waiting for speeders. Not me.
is my grandparents' farm. It's still hazy at 8:30am.
After miles of nice
farmland on Rt 220 south, I was surprised to come
around a corner and find this --
The last leg of Rt 220 south before reaching
Am I at Deal’s Gap already?
OK, this is where
it gets weird. Here’s a quiz. I’m going eastbound. I come up to the
I figured out north from south. Nice view, though.
After getting off
Day 8 - Visiting and eating.
A hot day in
The 77-degrees inside felt mighty good!
I spent Sunday
evening and Monday visiting Rev. Edsil Bragg and his
wife Lovern in Lexington, SC, just on the western
edge of Columbia. They were at our
We drove over to
A WWII era truck, nicely restored.
Barracks life from WWII.
Ah, yes, Sad Sack peeling potatoes.
(Did I spell that right, Mr. Quayle?)
Ft Jackson is a training base, and here is a picture of a
Drill Sgt "encouraging" a recruit to do better.
A very solemn room --
for their country and who awarded the Medal of Honor for extraordinary acts of bravery.
Later, we attended a great fireworks display on the base (even though it was July 3rd).
On the way back to the Bragg's house that night, we passed this interesting tunnel.
What is cool is that it is painted on the side of a building.
Day 9 -
I was up early,
but not as early as usual, had a bowl of cereal with Edsil
Bragg and was on the road by 6:30 am. It
was a beautiful morning, and the Weather Channel said just a slight chance of
afternoon thunderstorms up in western
Leaving in the morning also had another advantage. Instead of the 100-degree temperatures from the previous afternoon, it was a more-manageable 70 degrees.
I wanted to get to the mountains as soon as possible,
so I jumped right on
I-26 and headed northwest through
Rt 178 northbound approaching the border of NC.
Great road!!! Getting warmed up for Deals Gap.
I was at the
and I was looking forward to riding Deals Gap that afternoon.
Want to see a motorcyclist drool?
NC Rt 28 near Stecoah. The scenery and the roads are getting more interesting.
The Ironhorse Lodge. This is where I stayed July 4th.
All of the weekend guests have gone home, though, so I just about had the place to myself.
The restaurant and registration office are behind me as I took this picture.
I had a bed reserved in
the bunk house. This building has
several rooms that have 4 folding beds, complete with a stack of sheets,
blanket, towels, and pillow.
More information: http://www.ironhorsenc.com/
My room. Although there were a few other guests, they put each of us in separate rooms rather
than sticking us all in one room. Very nice of them, eh? Plain, but VERY clean!
After dropping off my luggage and resting my eyes for about 30 minutes,
it was off to Deals Gap, about 15 miles away.
Deals Gap Motorcycle Resort. The popular bike hangout.
It wasn’t as crowded as I expected since most bikers
had gone home after the long weekend.
The “Tree of Shame”.
This is where people who wreck their bikes on Deals Gap put a piece of their bike.
It’s layered with bent and broken pieces off every brand bike you can think of.
I did not contribute, thank you!
So what is this Deals Gap? How about 318 curves in 11 miles?
It is Rt
129 across the border from
and has earned the nickname “Tail of the Dragon”.
I know places in
It was very twisty and went up and down the steep mountain, but
I think some of it is marketing hype. There are plenty of other great roads.
This one just has a lot of advertising. Still, it was fun.
Been there, done that, bought the T-Shirt.
More information: http://www.tailofthedragon.com/
Nice view above a lake on
OK, twisty, but so was Rt 220 above
Coming back into
I tamed the Dragon, and left no pieces for the Tree of Shame.
Before heading back to the lodge, I went out Rt 129 towards Robbinsville. Just a short time
down the road from the Deals Gap Resort, I passed the Cheoah Dam. This is the dam
Harrison Ford did the Peter Pan dive off of in the movie “The Fugitive”.
About 15 minutes after I got back to the Ironhorse Lodge, a large storm passed through,
with high winds and rain. Glad I was back from the ride.
I sat on the porch by my room and watched the storm for a while, then headed to bed.
Tomorrow is a long ride
A great day riding!!! God is VERY good!!!
Day 10 - Deals
Awake at 5:15 am, I packed my gear and headed
out of the Iron Horse Lodge at 5:45, as slowly and quietly as possible. I was apparently the only one stirring at
that hour. A light drizzle left over
from last night’s storm convinced me to put on the rain suit. I headed down the road to Robbinsville for an
Egg McMuffin (one of God’s greatest gifts to
mankind!). After eating and filling up
with gas (two separate events, folks), I headed out of Robbinsville on Rt 143 east, which turns into the Cherohala
Skyway about 10 miles later. The skyway
is a 40-mile section of scenic road that runs along the top of the ridges
A drizzly morning. NC Rt 143 out of Robbinsville.
Start of the Cherohala Skyway westbound.
I didn’t see another person for the next 30 miles.
For more information on the Cherohala Skyway, click here:
Cherohala Skyway – NC.
Cherohala Skyway. Ever wonder why they're called the Great Smoky Mts.?
Another Cherohala Skyway overlook.
More of the
After passing through
Tellico Plains, I headed northwest up Rt 68 to get on
I-40 near Crossville, then head west to
Pouring rain on I-44
It would rain hard like this for about 300 miles. At least it was very warm.
When I reached
I arrived home at about 6:00 pm tired but very happy.
The V-Strom performed flawlessly. Even when pushed hard, I averaged just over 40 MPG, even with me and about 75 pounds of luggage. It was comfortable, and I had plenty of room to stretch my legs and good luggage provisions. All in all, it’s an excellent bike for all types of roads.
Final mileage: 10807
Start mileage: 8071
Not bad considering I was only on the bike 6 out of 10 days.
Now, where should I go next year?