Day 4
October 12th, 2013
Moonshine Campground
Balsam, North Carolina

I slept in this morning by design.  Because of my front tire, my plan today is a short ride.  The tire is gone, but I was pretty sure I could get home, if I took it easy.  "I'm gonna do something under 100 today, return to the campground early, and just hang out till supper time."

I poked out of the tent and stretched.  The morning was warm, and sunny.  I found Ron, he was going to be low key also, so we joined up.  "Lets just ride up the Parkway to 215, take pictures, eat lunch at the Jukebox Junction, and back home early."  "Sounds good," he responded.

I told Ron, Pete Menard had decided to return home this morning.  I was saddened we didn't get to ride much this trip.

Walking back to the store I ran into a man getting out of his truck.  He had just pulled his RV out of his site.  I called out to him, "heading home?"

"Yeah, don't want to, but the campground is full."  He was a retired Secret Service agent from South Carolina.  I could tell he wasn't ready to leave.

"next year by gawd I'm stay the whole month of October."


"Yeah, already made the reservation."


We got loaded up and slipped out of the campground about 9am for a ride we have done so many times, I've lost count.  We turned north on the Parkway and headed to the Balsam Overlook.  A famous spot in Honda ST lore and legend, and one of my favorite in the country.

Leaf color was changing by the hour, it was noticeably more full than the day before.  I passed many good photo ops, for no other reason than I already had albums of pics of this particular ride.  "No need for a pic there, already have 3."

A south bound deer met us in full trot in the southbound lane.  It was like he was out for a morning jog.   I saw him and slowed down to 20 mph, but he made no move to change his line.

The wretched tire on the ST kept me busy.  No line was stable when the bike was leaned.  I had to counter push the the handlebars to keep a line.  It was hard work.  Thankfully the curves on the Parkway are predictable, most of them have a very even flow to them, and very few change radius.  Two major exceptions are near the Balsam Overlook, where 2 tricky curves wait on the inexperienced.  One is north, the other south of the turnout.  On my first ride on the Parkway, way back in 2001, I noticed a wrecked  HD on the north curve.  It was not badly damaged, but the gear shifter was sticking straight up.  The rider was nowhere to be found.  "I'm guessin he caught a ride back to his base and planning his next move, which is a trailer,"  was my thought back then when I rode past.  Now, when I pass the spot, I think about that joker.

We crested the top of Balsam and pulled into the turnout for the obligatory pictures.  The ride must be documented for future generations, as if 1500 years from now, someone will find this website on a dusty DVD in a old apartment about to razed.  One guy says to other, "Look here, they use to ride these things called motorcycles all over the country.  No auto pilots or nothing, you piloted the machine by your own wits.  You could go wherever you wanted, fast or slow as you wanted.  You were out in the elements, dangers lurked everywhere from other machines, animals, and weather.  It had to be living on the edge.  This guy documented all of that on this old media."

"You know Homer, I'm jealous.  They'd never let a guy get on a combustible nowdays, using fossil fuel, without all the safety protocols found in today's hovers, no auto sounds risky." 

I'm thinking those guys might submit a pre plan, and the controllers automatically take you where you need to go.  You have no control of the route, as the system takes you best route currently available.

Way things are going, they're never going to stand for motorcycles in the future.

A thick fog raced across the summits over the Blue Ridge Mountains.  The valleys were covered with a thick curtain.  It is common and not the first time I've experienced this phenomena at the Balsam Overlook.  It was downright cold with the stiff wind.  I got out my Bronson watch cap, and was glad to have it.

​​   A foggy, wind swept Mt. Balsam in 2013.

Riders and bikes of all kinds rode past in a steady stream, many were pulling in.  Coming from South Florida, Ron is especially fond of the Blue Ridge.  As far as I know, he now holds the title of most consecutive Gathering attendance.  My absence last year broke my string of 12.  By my numbers, Ron is on 14. 

Ron advised the batteries in his camera was kaput so I took the pic below for him and emailed it.

​   Ron Epperly and his 2001 ST 1100.  The ultimate Blue Ridge rider.

It was nice to be with my good friend at one of my favorite locales in all the country.  Of all the miles, roads and places on my resume, the Balsam overlook still draws me like few others.

After 15 minutes the wind and cold finally chased us off.  We saddled back up and continued north.  The road now descends, as it rolls past scenic vistas, a few waterfalls, and changing trees.  We saw none of the park rangers who notoriously patrol this meandering road.

A few miles later we left the parkway for our old friend; SR 215.  The Fall color on this side of the mountains was nearing peak.  For whatever reasons, it changes ahead of everywhere else.  SR 215 is one of the all time best motorcycle roads, nice curves, good pavement, great scenes and foliage.  My years absence only made me appreciate the area even more.

I overcame the front tire just long enough to get in some good leans on 215.  A man was taking pictures with a tripod of the great leaf color.  I pulled off and waved for him to take my pic.  He obliged and I wonder how it might have turned out.

Peter Menard has some rally great Fall pictures of 215 from past years.

 Ron Epperly on SR 215

 The ride was quiet and peaceful.  The old farm houses remain the same from my last ride here.  Time mostly stands still in the Blue Ridge.  I was in the lead most of the ride, Ron didn't seem to mind my worn out tire.  Leafs drifted down on us like snow as wemade our way to the Junction.  We skirted by the lake, which tells me not much further to go.  After all these years I still don't know the name of this lake in the woods.  I have several pictures of the lake, but that was years ago.
In this picture I was trying to capture the hillside scene more than the

"Better get back to the campground and square a few things away, and get ready for the annual steak supper at Sagebrush."  The Saturday night steak is a Blue Ridge tradition.   A way to be with your friends and honor the ride season that is about to close for many.
​Fall Festsival, Waynesville
All to soon we were emptied out at "the Junction," so named for the fact 215 intersects here with US 276.  A local diner operates close and over the years has become a ST favorite.  The food is ok, but nothing special, but the location and atmosphere make up for it.

Ron and I parked our Hondas where we always do and went on inside where we were directed to a window booth.  The place was busy with locals, many with kids on their way home from a soccer game.  They are use to having long riders around and pay us no mind.

My right Alpinestar boot now like my front tire-disintegrating.  The sole has separated from the top and flaps when I walk.  It was annoying and embarrassing.  "That joker riding the country and can't afford shoes?"  I hear them thinking.

I had a so so hamburger but mostly chatted with Ron.  My last trip here I didn't visit the Jukebox Junction, so I was glad to be back.  I had missed it.

After a relaxing lunch Ron said he needed batteries for his camera so we went next door to a Dollar General.  "This wasn't here last time I was here."  It looked just like the other 10,000 Dollar Generals in America.  When we finished Ron went back up to the Parkway to grab some pictures now that he had his camera back in operation.  "Alright bro, I'm gonna head back to the campground through Waynesville."

The ride into Waynesville went quickly.  The business district is pedestrian only during the festival.  I parked the 1300 and took a stroll down the street.  A bluegrass band was in full swing entertaining the folks as they shopped the sidewalk vendors.  It was a great atmosphere.  Friendly people in a friendly town, enjoying a beautiful day.  Doesn't get any better.

    I found these pumpkins near the festival.
Back at the campground I edited pics, made a few phone calls, and just relaxed.  My ragged boot was getting worse by the step.  I spoke to a few riders and swapped war stories.

I took my Ipad back to the store porch to get on WIFI.  That worked pretty well till someone bumped me off.  It seems the network can only handle 5 at a time.   When number 6 signs on he bumps 1 off.  I wanted to check the latest football scores, but could not get signed back on after getting shoved off.

Uncle Phil pulled in with the train.  "How'd it go today," I asked.  "Good, nice ride and no wrecks."  The Gathering has been haunted the last few years with get offs, so that news was welcomed.

The steakhouse was confirmed for 6pm and at 5:30 Ron and I started that way.  The steakhouse is a 10 minute ride at most from the campground.

The parking lot already had a gaggle of STs glimmering in the parking lot when we arrived.  Management escorted us to our place in the banquet room.  I had a small sirloin with a heavy dose of conversation and fellowship.  It had been a good Gathering, and we celebrated with tons of grins and talk.

The TV in the corner advised Alabama had won easily, so all was right with the world.

Too soon it was time to get back to the campground.  It was dark now, but still warm for this time of year.  "Had some chilly rides from here to Cruso over the years, but tonight won't be one of them," as I threw my leg over.
In keeping with years past, I rode over to Shell station to top off the tank for the ride home on the "morrow."  The ST took in about 4 gallons.

The ride back was dark, and after leaving the highway the high beams and PIAAs lit up the old road to the campground.  Parking was easier on this night as many guys checked out today.  Still had a good crowd at the campfire.  I have always liked the evening fire at the Gathering.

"Better get some sleep, early day tomorrow."  As in years past my plan is to attend church over in Maggie Valley at 8am. which means 7am Alabama time.  I took a shower and finished that headed back to my tent.  I put my headphons on and turned on the Ipad.  I listened to Sirius XM for about 30 and then went to sleep.