Saturday, July 22, 2006

The Gap

A few months ago, Kari and I took a trip to the mountains of North Carolina. Mom and Ken live in Asheville and have been bragging about the roads around where they live and how great they are for riding motorcycles. So we decided to take them up on their offer and loaded up the FZ1 in the back of the truck to tag along on a weekend of riding.

Kari, Chaco, and I all stuffed in the front of our truck and drove the 5 hours to the Smokies and the best roads within 1000 miles. We left on a Friday and spent that evening cooking out on the
back deck and relaxing, talking about bikes and what had been going on in our life.

On Saturday, we woke up early and put our Yamaha FZ1 and their Honda Magna in a trailer and took the hour long trip to an area of the North Carolina Mountains called Deals Gap. There is a road in this area of the country that has 318 curves in 11 miles with no joining roads. It is called the tail of the dragon. We parked the truck and began our day of riding around 10:00 or so.

It was beautiful! Wonderful roads and great views. There were so many motorcycles! Hundreds and hundreds of them. Kari and I have a communication system on our motorcycle, so we can talk while we are riding. So we just rode back and forth through the curves, talking and enjoying each other's company. When we made it to the tail of the dragon, I was a little nervous, because there are no roads where I live that are this curvy. After a the first few curves I got used to it though and settled in to a rhythm. There were lots of cruisers just taking their time on the road, but then there were many sport bikes who were using the road for a race track and passing on the right hand side of the road. Very dangerous!, but I do have to say that it was amusing. We rode for a couple of hours and then found a fast food joint to eat lunch.
After lunch we got gas and started back up the mountain. Ken was letting me lead, so I decided to pick up the pace a little bit. The curves were very long and sweeping, much different from the tight switchbacks the tail of the dragon has. I lead for a bit and decided to stop at an overlook that was up ahead, just before we got to the Cherohala Skyway.

After the stop, we jumped on the skyway. It runs along the top of the mountain range and is filled with beautiful views and overlooks. It is fast paced and many riders ride it like a race track. Not too far from our last stop we came upon a bit of a traffic jam (motorcycles only) and we quickly found out why. There were a group of men in leather racing suits gathered around a guy lying on the ground. His helmet was on the ground and he was moving around, but he deffinitley had a hard accident. His bike was no where to be found, so I am guessing it went over the edge of the road and down the hill. We made it through the slow down and began making it down the road again, only we weren't talking and enjoying the ride. The rest of the trip down to the next stop was a little somber. We stopped at an overlook not too far from the accident scene and had a snack. That helped us cool down a bit. I read an update online that no one was killed the weekend we were there. That was good.
We decided to head on down the mountain and go to a nature area for a few minutes. Then it was back on the bikes and to the souvenier store for some T-Shirts and stickers to commemorate the great day of riding. We then went and ate bar-b-que in a little town called Robbinsville. Another gas stop and back up the mountain to the Deals Gap meeting area. Hundreds of motorcycles gathered at one place, just talking about the days ride. There is a tree at this stop that is covered in motorcycle parts from bikes that have wrecked on the tail of the dragon. All of the parts have notes and signatures from the riders. Some were funny, some serious.
After that, it was time for our ride home. I decided to lead at this point and it was a very nice ride. One of my favorite parts of the trip. The air was cool and the sunlight was beginning to hide behind the trees. I sort of felt like a kid who had been at an amusement park or summer camp all day, and now I had to leave. I wanted to stay for another day, or days.
The next day we went for another short ride near where my parents live and then spent the evening resting our tired rear ends. Monday Kari and I made our way back home and joined back in with the daily hum and drum of life. Since then we have ridden the roads around our house, but it is just not the same as being at Deals Gap. So, I guess my parents had every right to brag about riding those roads (and they still do!). Hopefully soon we will make our way back there to join in the fun again.

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