Day 8
October 6th, 2010
Motel 6
Norfolk, Virginia

I loaded the ST 1300 in early morning sunlight looking forward to the ride to the Blue Ridge of North Carolina.  The ride will be nothing spectacular, (the fact I took no pictures today proves it) just a 400+ mile slab ride, but at least its riding, and that makes it a good day.  I've been to the Blue Ridge every Fall since 2001, it is a special place, at a special time of year.

Riders would be converging in those beautiful hills for next couple of days.  I was anxious to get there.

"I'll charge the Iphone the first few hours of the day, that will make it good till tomorrow."  The only really negative thing I can say about a Iphone is its tendency to drain a charge quickly.  You're ok if you just talk and text, but on the internet?  Better keep a charger handy.

The GPS pointed me out of the hotel to I-464, the connect into downtown.  It was only later I learned it was not the best route. The better way would have been I-64, but the GPS was only seeing miles, and this method was probably a few miles shorter, but in terms of time if was longer because it put me in the middle of the morning commute into downtown.

A few miles from the center of downtown I was stuck in a traffic jam for 15 minutes, but I made it, and went over the James River using the Portsmouth Bridge.  I recall going over it often when we lived here.

In Portsmouth I went U.S. 58 West a freeway like slab to Suffolk where I promptly stopped for gas.  I had to leave the highway and follow the road into the city, along the way I was slowed by 2 school buses.

It was going to be a perfect day for a ride.  Not a cloud in the sky, temps in the mid 70s all the way to my destination, as a huge high pressure system settled over the south.  We get them often, why they call it the 'sunny south'.

Gas prices were down a little and I filled the ST for 17 dollars and something at a Kangaroo con store near the city limits.  "Now I'm ready," as I merged the 1300 back into the traffic flow of 58.

Back on the road I thought back to late 1973, I was 17 years old and a senior in high school.  My family took our new Caprice Classic to Norfolk for a visit.  On our last night there, my dad decided to leave around 10 pm and "get as far as we can back south" before calling it a night.  "Dad I can do this, I ride my motorcycle all over the place," so he let me drive.  We left my uncle's house with me at the wheel, and within 50 miles everyone was asleep, when they woke up we were in Charlotte, North Carolina.  My dad  rubbed his eyes in the dawn light, "where we at?" 



Because tire tread on rear was questionable, I stopped at a service station in Emporia to check the PSI.  I feared the plug would fail on the evaporating tire.  "If I can just get to the Blue Ridge I'll have options, if I need to replace it, I know the area."  PSI was a respectable 40.  "It ain't leakin." so I geared back up and rode west.

One of the things I noticed different about 58 it now by passes the paper mill city of Franklin.  In the old days it took you right through the city.  Prattville has the sister mill of Franklin's, both run by the same company, but Franklin is a much bigger operation.  Back home those at the Prattville mill refer to it as the "Promised Land."

West out of Franklin 58 turns more rural, but continues 4 lane divided, rising up and down with the rolling hills.   Riding blind in uncharted lands, in a state that loves to write speeding tickets, I kept the ST at a pedestrian 58 mph.  I was passed by many cars, and that never happens, but it wasn't enough to entice me to go faster.

All that paid off when a east bound trooper doubled back for a west bound pick up truck, that shot by me earlier doing over 70 mph.  "He should know better being a local and all."  I guess he was in a hurry on this morning.

Leaves were not close to changing colors.  The warm, dry weather the last few weeks  had delayed the color change.  The trade off is great riding weather.  I've had some very cold mornings in those hills over the years, but that won't be a problem this year.

U.S. 58 meets I-85 at a place called South Hill, the last Virginia city before crossing into North Carolina.  I'd been on the road a couple of hours and thought now would be a good time to take a break.  I had a lot options at the exit, but the only one I needed was the Mickey D, because it had  WIFI and a place to sit.  Rare commodities in a con store.

I put my order in for a hash brown patty and drink, which means you get a cup, and went to a booth.  I remember the day when any refill at McDonald's (most anywhere else also) had to be paid for.  Now they have a drink bar and just help yourself.  I ordered the regular size drink glass, no need to pay extra for a large when its all you can drink, but some folks not figured that out yet.

I was at a booth when a Kawasaki cruiser, loaded for long riding, pulled near the Honda. The rider took a seat across the dining room from me.  I went back to my phone and caught up on the morning headlines, then called home and sent my son a text.

After 30 minutes it was time to get back on the road.  I was leaving the parking lot heading for the highway when I noticed the Voyager rider wave at me.  I returned the gesture and moved out.  Just a acknowledgement each knew what the other was doing.

Out of South Hill I took I-85 South and headed to the mountains.  The warm sun felt good, and the light rays bounced off the cockpit display.  "I'm riding south to the fuel light comes on or I get hungry, whichever comes first."

After crossing into North Carolina and I picked up the pace.  There is nothing really to write about other then the Honda and I were both doing what we loved.  I picked my way around slower moving traffic, and maneuvered between big trucks.  No one could challenge me.

The speed was quick as I belted down the miles to the U.S. 64 connector to I-40.  North Carolina is bigger than you think, and the interstate system  is not layed out in a straight north-south/east-west manner.  You ride lateral awhile, then parallel, so it takes more miles then it should, to get somewhere.

Coming through Durham I fell behind a Harley Road King.  He seemed to know what he was doing so I got on his 6, "two will be easier to see, and that's a good thing knifing down a city freeway."

I matched the rider move for move while sifted through the traffic.  I was content in the rear and we rode in formation for about 20 miles, where he took one of the exits on the west side of the city.  He saluted as he peeled off.

I was down to 3 bars on the gas gauge, so decided to consolidate a lunch and gas stop.  I brought the Honda over to the right lane and took the Kernersville exit.  I was in the mood for grilled KFC chicken.  Not much was found at the exit so I continued to the city more then I would have liked.  "Man I wanted this to be a quick gas and go, but not gonna work out that way."  Unable to find a KFC, I compromised with a "Bojangles" chicken establishment, where I had the sinful "fried" chicken.  It was 11:30am, my regular lunch window, it was good to be on schedule.

Lunch was quick.  I sometimes dally reading the news or talking on the phone, but not this time.  I ate, then fired off a text to my son, "in NC, when you talk to your mother tell her I'll call tonight, don't have time right now, gotta get going."  I knew if we got on the phone I'd get tied up in a conversation.  She doesn't do text messages, so I had my son do the dirty work.

Tummy was full so I got back on the 13 and went down the road for gas.  First place I stopped the pumps were bagged off, ALL 10 of them, so had to reluctantly go across the street.  I say that because I don't like crossing a 4 lane highway without a traffic light, but I had to get to the other side.  I shot across unscathed and found a empty pump at the busy station.

 I swiped my card, reset the GPS fuel gauge, and noted meter B.  A touring bike with only 1 trip meter is unfortunate.

Gas tank full, I charged back onto I-40 and took off.  "Next stop somewhere near Asheville," about 150 miles west.

Next obstacle was Winston-Salem.  I went in and out without a back up, that kind of surprised me.  The 1300 was running as well as ever, and I held her steady on I-40.  I don't ride with music, so I was left to my own devices to pass the time.  On my bikes I have never had a problem doing that.  I got in a lot of good mental exercise on this long slab day.

The warm Fall sun bore down on me as I knocked down the miles.  Because I'm from south Alabama, I appreciate a place where Autumn is vivid.  In my homeland October temps can still be in the 90s.  Our average first frost does not come till late November.

The 1300 swallowed up languishing cars and trucks in huge chunks on the long hills into Asheville.  I wanted to arrive at the campground around 4 to set up camp in time to make a supper run back into Waynesville.

I created this route in the software, because I wasn't sure of  the campground location.  Rumor on the ST boards if you used the address, it wiould take you to the wrong place.  Instead, I dropped the waypoint at a spot near the campground turnoff.  "If I make it that far, I can find it."
I sped through Asheville facing a tough afternoon sun, it glared in my face through my Arai.  The GPS tracked me to the U.S. 19 exit near Waynesville, where I slid off the interstate for the last few miles.  The checkered flag came up, informing me I was at my stopping point.  "ok, now look for the turnoff, just past the parkway."  I found the turn with no problem and proceeded on the winding local road.  A large sign pointed me toward the campground and I found it with no problem.

This year's Blue Ridge Gathering had a change of venue from years past, for reasons I won't get into here.  The new campground is a place called Moonshine, located near the Parkway.  I traversed a narrow mountain road, that took me deep into the woods, a sign directed me to make a left turn, and a few feet later I was on the scene after a 464 mile day.

I spotted several STs in the tent area on my way to the office to pay my fees.  I went in and a nice lady greeted me, "you're with the ST rally?"  "yes m'am"  "Ok sign here."  The camping fee was 32 dollars for 4 nights, a bargain.

With fees paid, I set out to find a spot near the creek.  "That's Big Ron's tent, wonder where that joker is?"  His bike was gone.  The Gathering doesn't officially start till Thursday, but at least 10 riders were already here.

I set up camp and just as I finished Big Ron came in from a day of riding.  We had a nice greeting.  "Let's go for supper in a little while" I said, "pass the word to the others."  The campground is long and narrow because it is nestled between two mountains and a creek.  It was clean and neat, and the owners were glad to have us.  I even had a cell signal, something I never had in Cruso.

I knew Uncle Phil to be on the way, the only reason he wasn't already here was he was taking the long way.  I was really excited about the next few days.  Our group gathered up for the supper run, I told a few staying behind, "if y'all see Uncle Phil tell him were eating supper at Clydes."
Waynesville has become one of my favorite towns.  It has everything you need, in a beautiful location.  Problem is, I'm not the only guy finding that out.  The city was a small village when I started coming here 10 years ago, but not any longer.

I led the group back to US 74 into town, it was still warm, and we found Clyde's easily enough.  The food and service were good, and when it was over, we returned in the afternoon dusk.

Uncle Phil arrived a few minutes later leading a line of 5-6 bikes.  The Chipster was in his group.  Chip is from Prattville but I only see him in the Blue Ridge, go figure.

We had another big reunion, and soon after we had a nice fire going.  Lots of great conversation.   Couple hours later I made the walk to the showers, then back to my tent to get some rest.  The plan for tomorrow is to follow Uncle Phil on a few routes, he wanted to do some advance recon before taking the "train" out tomorrow.

Next-in the hills with Uncle Phil

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