Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Connie has Harley Envy

The joke used to be that HD’s were like drip coffee makers. Front fork oil drips, engine drips, transmissions drips, but alas no coolant drips. This past week I completed a 3200 loop with my friend Steve, who has a 2002 Road King. He has tastefully applied the obligatory chrome in strategic spots, has made some parts and adapted others for a truly one of kind HD. Here's a pic of Steve's Road King.
Well every time we stopped, someone come over to compliment what a nice looking bike he has and questions him where he got a particular part or piece of chrome. Of course Steve puffs up his chest up and lists out exactly how or where to get the stuff. My poor 2006 Kawi Concours listens to the people eww and ahhh about Steve’s RK. From time to time I say to them, but what about this bike, isn’t it nice. The people would look up and say "sure sure" and go back to drooling over Steve’s bike.

Right around the 4th day into our trip, it was a cool crisp morning in Tellico Plains, TN. This town is where the Cherohala Skyway begins. I decided it would be good to give the Connie a good warm up, so I insert the key, pull the choke back, and it roars to life. First idling around 700 rpm and in about 30 secs kicks into a full 3000 rpm rant. I pull the choke back a bit to slow it down to a 1100 rpm purr. I go about my business putting stuff in the rear trunk, repacking some clothes and other such pre ride stuff.

The bike is warmed up enough and the owner at the Hog Pit comes out to talk, so I shut the Connie down. A few minutes later the Connie is dripping some fluid from the bottom. Hey wait a minute it has a greenish hue to it, hey hey hey it’s coolant. Sigh, shit, where’s my RVRoadHelp card, and I wonder where the nearest Kawi dealer is. I lie down on the ground, looking thru the various opening in the fairing to see, if I can spot a leak someplace. Nada.

Pull a screwdriver and remove the 10 screws that hold the bottom fairing panel off. Nothing. Start the Connie up and lie under the bike to see if I can spot anything. Steve thinks we are gonna have to remove the next layer of fairing. He just loves to take things apart by the way. Bike is running and nothing. Shut the bike off and all is ok. Go figa.

The Connie has been listening to this ewwing and ahhing for almost a week now. Who has been running 75 mph and just purring along with the RK bearly (slight literary exaggeration) keeping up on the hill climbs. I could hear this little voice saying, “Geeeez RK, you have to downshift to make it up this little hill. Hey Willie, give it a little twist, I want to spew some exhaust on the King. Of course I comply and we quickly pull away from the RK. I can just see the Connie grinning with a chesire type smirk.

At one of our stops a passer by notices there appears to be oil all over the back of the rear rim. Of course I have to lie down to see it. It appears the rear end is leaking that stinky 80/90W hypoid gear oil. Another sigh and I turn to Steve and say, let’s find an auto part store. We are just getting ready to jump onto the Blue Ridge Parkway for a nice afternoon spin to Front Royal. I have to buy an adjustable wrench to check the rear fluid. Up on the center stand, we spin the cover off and Steve spins the wheel. “Looks like there is plenty of juice in here”, he says. Steve really likes to do this stuff . I said, “Well just to be on the safe side I will buy some oil and we will check it”. Get the stuff, cut the top off with the knife I bought 2 years ago and never used until now and Steve bends down and shoots some juice in. One small squirt and the stuff is flowing out the side. It is full. Back into the store to get a bunch of plastic bags to pack the 99.97% unused portion of the hypoid stuff.

About 9pm we decide to get off Skyline Drive and ride the rest of the way to Front Royal on regular roads. We have seen 5 deer and 3 bears on the BRP and SD and it is dark out.

Fast forward to Sunday morning. Crisp morning, re do the start up sequence ala Hog Pit morning. Yup small coolant droppings, the rear rim is still got oil on it, with a fresh drip on the side of the tire, and now it decides to leave some regular oil on the ground. This is the first time for the regular oil thing. Not much, just enough to make you give a sigh. Check the oil and it is ok. Geez, I just got this bike in September of 2007 and it only has 14,500 miles on it at this point. Thank god for 4 year warranties.

I really think the Connie had Harley envy and wanted to be complimented just like Steve’s bike. So for the rest of the trip every time we stopped I pleaded with the people to say hello to the Connie and tell it how nice it was. No drips for the rest of the trips. Go figa.! OH BTW This is my Connie.

Friday, May 23, 2008

Hobnobbing with the Hatfield’s and McCoy’s

It’s Friday and the week is over the hump unfortunately. Rolling into La Follet late last night, we found Sharps Motel. Now this isn’t really that much different than most other cheap motels, other than in addition to renting out rooms they have a breading pool for mosquitoes, frogs and whatever else is on the bottom of this thing.

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We are headed for Cumberland Gap, KY, Bramwell Depot in WV and New River Gorge, WV as our stops for the day. Cumberland Gap was the Gateway to the West and all early travelers passed thru here on their way westward. Pinnacle Overlook is very reminiscent of riding up Mt Greylock in MA. You can see KY, TN and WV from up here.



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Back on the road to that motorcycle nirvana called West Virginia. Like the NC, I don’t think there are any bad roads in WV. Bramwell Depot is a turn of the century coal mining town. At one time Bramwell boasted the highest per capita millionaires in the US. Rumor has it the bank’s janitor used to use a wheel barrow to transport bags of money from the bank to the depot.



The Bramwell Café is owned by a couple from California. For 9.99 I had one very outstanding meal and when the opportunity knocks I will go back for seconds.


One amusing event (it wasn’t at the time); we stayed in this house on top of a mountain. We were this older couple’s first guest in a house that is located on their property. He met us at the bottom of the mountain and he said, “You guys don’t mind traveling on a dirt road do you?” We said no problem. What he failed to tell us there was about 100 feet of freshly laid crushed stone that was about a foot deep. Let me say it was a challenge to traverse this and we actually crossed this POS 4 times. The last time on the way out, I got about ½ ways thru and the front wheel just decides to hang a right. We with this I had to stop and I felt the bike going over. I managed to hold the bike up at about 22 degree angle and the time yelling back at Steve to come help me. After what seemed like 5 minutes he casually gets off his bike and comes over and says, “You got a problem”. To this day I don’t know how I held the bike up. No pictures to memorialize the event.

We stopped at the Beckley Mine for my stamp, but found more interest in the local Bombardier Can Am dealer

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New River is one of the oldest rivers on the continent. This bridge reduced the travel from one side to other from 45 minutes to 45 seconds. This phote really doesn't due justice to the enormity of the bridge.



The end goal for the day is to make it to Front Royal, VA and stay there for the night. On the way out of Beckley we headed for the Blue Ridge Parkway, which then runs into the Skyline Drive to Front Royal. On the BRP, I saw my first bear in a non-caged environment and then there were some more and even more of them. The deer are very arrogant along both of these roads. I came around one bend and there stood a deer right on the turn and it just looked at me. I really think it wanted to put its leg out and trip me. About half up the Skyline; we exited because it had grown to dark to be on this road with the critters all over the place. The road we took to Front Royal wasn’t much different. We arrived in Front Royal around 9pm and found a room at the Blue Ridge Motel.




Starved we headed for this place. Now these guys made one of the best pizzas I have ever had and if you are down this way it is a must eat.


Click here to watch "Hatfields-and-McCoys"

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Two Strokin Smokin Smokies

Today is going to be a leisurely type day. We have only one scheduled stop in Robbinsville today at Junaluska Memorial, which I have already published a word or two on. (See Junaluska's Revenge. ) The day is bright and sunny. Steve and I are loading up the bikes, and I decide to start the bike up and warm it up a bit. Well I wrote about this, as well. (See Connie Envy ). So after the beginning of day tribulations, we are off to the fill up at the gas station about mile from Hogs Heaven. The fill up is done and I hang a right out of the parking lot and head for the Cherohala Skyway. I got the GPS and I see Steve heading off in the wrong direction. I see him slow down and pull into the parking lot across the street. I figured he figured out he was heading the wrong way. Then I see him get off his bike. A bit exasperated, I head over the parking lot as well. As I pull into the lot I see a Tellico Plains cop. Hmmm. Well Steve pulled into to see this thing. We ended up speaking to the guy for about ½ hour or so.

Finally back on track for the Skyway. North Carolina has some of the nicest roads for riding that I have ever been on, and the vistas you see from the saddle are unbelievable.

Click here to watch "Cherohala-Skyway-99"

Onto US 129 which takes us into Robbinsville at around 1pm. I have just gotten over my little ordeal with Junaluska and it was time for lunch. Across the street is Snider’s Store. Inside the store, it was like stepping back in time and if you find yourself at the Dragon, this is good place to visit while you are stretching your legs. Don’t forget to read the handwritten signs around the store.

Click here to watch "Snider-Dept-Store"

The road to the Dragon is every bit as good as the Dragon itself. Of course one most stop to see Harrison Ford leaping from the top of Fontana Dam. Fontana Dam is the highest dam east of the Rockies.

You can tell you are in motorcycle country when you see stuff like this.

Finally at the Dragon resort and low and behold there is a 2 stroke getaway 4 day weekend going on. There were some really nice classic bikes there. We ended talking to a bunch of the guys as they were repairing each other bikes. You know riders are really friendly type people.

Well it was time to ride the Dragon. There was a large group of rockets, so we let them go ahead of us. The last time I was here I just cruised down the road, not riding it fast but not slow either. This time I was on the Connie and this bike just ebbed and flowed from turn to turn. As I was riding along, I started to watch the other riders. Some of them were crossing the yellow, which irked me a bit. You really cannot look thru the turns on the Dragon and know exactly where the road goes approaching the apex. The line of vision is simply blocked. Then it dawned on me one of these yoko’s could be coming the other direction and plow right into you. Not a great feeling. About 8 miles into the Dragon is an overlook which everyone seems to stop at. We were no exception. I still can't figure out why there are balls on the electrical wires.

Click here to watch "Dragon-89"

From here we high tailed it thru Knoxville and called it a day in La Follette, TN

Miles traveled around 162 miles

Junaluska's Revenge

In Robbinsville, NC lies Cherokee Chief Junaluska and his wife Nicie. Junaluska, befriended Andrew Jackson, saving his life at the Battle of Horseshoe Bend with the Creeks. The battle with the Creeks was one of the fiercest battles between the white man and the native Indians. Junaluska was instrumental in winning this battle with his Cherokee braves against the Creeks. Andrew Jackson was quoted as saying,

"As long as the sun shines and the grass grows, there shall be friendship between us, and the feet of the Cherokee shall be toward the east."

After the defeat of the British in New Orleans and Andrew Jackson became President, he ordered the Cherokee to be moved from the TN and GA area to the West. This became what is know as the Trail of Tears and not particularily a high point in our early American History.

Junaluska was purportedly quoted as saying,

"If I had known Jackson would drive us from our homes, I would have killed him that day at the Horseshoe."

Junaluska was driven to the West with his people. He escaped during the drive of the Cherokee and other Indian tribes to the west and returned to the area of Robbinsville, NC to die. The Trail of Tears commerates the hardships and suffering our native Indians have endured by our country.

So how does this fit into my trip. Well at the Junaluska site is a museum that has INK. I visited his grave, took some pictures and as I was coming down the very very steep driveway to the grave which turned into the museum, all of a sudden I found myself lying on the ground with all of stuff from my tank bank spewed all over the driveway.

It is my guess the Chief threw me off my bike as payback to what Andrew Jackson did to his family and the folks of the Cherokee tribe. He spared my bike and my body, just made sure my ego was bruised and shook up. Sure glad I was wearing my riding jacket at the time and the tip over bars have proven to be a worthy farkle.

Chief may you and your wife rest in peace and I apologize for Andrew's misguided decisions.
And on the Trail of Tears

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Lookout for Clay and Caves

I woke up to a glorious sun filled day. Steve is trying to sleeping in, but that will come to an end, we have places to go. Today will be a relatively easy riding day, but we will still cover 3 states, Tennessee, Georgia and Alabama.

First Stop is Red Clay Historical Park for the Trail of Tears ink. When we arrived there was one pickup truck in the parking lot, the gates were open, the lights were on in the visitor center, but the doors were locked. We are out in the middle of nowhere, well it appeared that way. Since it was just past 8 (when the park is supposed to open) we decided to hang a bit. About ½ hour later 3 cars pull in and unload. It was the park personnel. My guess someone has a really easy job that no one ever checks up on and they were all home doing something else and someone called them and told them they better get their asses in gear and get down to the park.

On our way to Chickamauga and Chattanooga National Military Park we stopped at one of two Harley dealers in Dalton, GA. This place had a ton of bikes; there must have been over 100 bikes

Chickamauga and Chattanooga National Military Park is a Civil War site. The battles here were considered the key to the railway center to the heart of the Confederacy. Lookout Mountain is also part of this military park, know as Point Park.

Steve was sick of getting his boots soaked when it rained and like the pull over I had for my boots, so we stopped at the Kawasaki dealer in Chatanooga. Harley dealers would never have the Tourmaster boot covers. Now it you read my "Beginnings" we just happened to run into one of the these. I still get a rise when I see one of these.

In New Hampshire we have firework stores, so I assume once you purchase them you have to set them off in the parking lot. In my travels I have seen plenty of these stores, but none this big. Can't you see this place being a scene from a movie like American Graffiti or Bueller's Day Off.

Two roads lead to Russell Cave National Park. Of course I took the hard one. Well Garmin picked this one, remember I simply follow the purple line. This road was one of those roads that goes deeper and deeper into the woods and just gets a little worse after every ½ mile or so, steeper grade, tar turns to gravel with patches of grass and narrows as you go. You know the kind of road I am talking about. After traveling this road down the side of a mountain, I just knew we were gonna get to the end and there was going to be a gate with the park right on the other side of the gate and no way to get there. I am sure glad I am wrong most of the time. One of the grounds keeper asked if we came from down the mountain, which we said yes, and he simply chuckled. I guess we are not the first to come here that way

Russell Cave was home to prehistoric people and is the most complete archeological site in the Southeast. This is a NP worthwhile visiting. The following is a 1 minute slide show of Russell Cave.

Click here to watch "Russell-Cave"

Russell Cave was the last scheduled stop of the day, so we had time to stop into Thunder Creek Harley. Now this place is owned by the same folks who own the Dalton dealership and has about the same amount of bikes on the floor. According to the people behind the counter, this is the better of the 2 dealerships. What say you Dalton, GA ???

Remainder of the day found us wondering thru the hills of Tennessee until around 9pm finding the Hog Heaven Resort. This place is in Tellico Plains and is owned by a couple from Florida, who is catering to the motorcycle community. They have 3 cabins built and plan to build about 15 or more as the years move by. The accommodations are very nice and comfortable. Price wise they are on the high side but not off the wall. Oh they have food on-site and it is pretty darn good and cheap.

Map of the Day >