Vita Rara: A Life Uncommon

Delivery is Tough Work

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I posted the following on the website in August of 2004. Enjoy!

Last week was pretty amazing. Actually the past month has been pretty amazing. I offered my friend Sylva a ride on the RT at the beginning of July, and it went very well. As a friend of mine said, "motorcycle magic."

Anyway, Sylva did so well on her first ride on July 3rd that I asked her if she'd like to ride to TN with me to deliver my friends GL1100 Goldwing to their new home. Happily Sylva accepted. She's a true trooper.

Here's our mighty steed sitting next to the RT in the garage:

I have wanted to be able to share this experience of traveling on the bike with someone special for a long time. Basically since I got the travel bug. I'm very lucky that Sylva has the adventurous spirit she has, to set out for a five day, 1,300 mile motorcycle trip, for her second ride on a bike, with a guy she's been dating for three weeks. We're nuts, but hey we're having fun.

So, after a few weeks of frantic preparation and ordering of riding gear, helmet, gloves, etc. for Sylva we were ready to depart. The plan was 500 or so miles of highways to get to the northern end of the Blue Ridge Parkway, then ride the parkway to Cherokee, NC in three days. Then one day from Cherokee to Nashville, TN.

We sort of stuck to the plan. Wish we had completely stuck to it. Things only got hairy when we varied from it. First lesson, stick to the plan.

Saturday, our first day was uneventful other then construction in PA, The Construction State. One hour, eight miles. Uggh. Anyway, 520 miles down and Sylva was in great shape. (Her first ride on a bike was 150 miles and she was beat after we were done. Today, her second ride, she did 520 miles and was in great shape. She's awesome.)

Syl got pretty comfortable. She fell asleep a few times on me. I threatened to bungy cord her to me. I was just so happy that she was comfortable, and relaxed for the duration of the ride. We didn't have intercoms so it was a pretty lonely day of looking at the back of a plain white helmet.

Sunday brought us to the BRP, the reason we were here. We ascended into the clouds and departed the rushed and busy world for a place of tranquility and natural beauty.

The prediction was for rain. We didn't get any all day! We skipped between storm clouds and road on some wet pavement, but never got rained on. As the day progressed the skies opened more and the sun shined. There was a lot of haze though. The Blue Ridge is well known for this, hey it's how it got its name.

The highlight of the day was a stop at Otter Creek. This place holds a special place in my heart. It where I conceived of my Way Point Zulu on my Return to Sanity Tour last year. Sylva immediately connected with its special character.

A view north from the overlook:


Sylva contemplating an amazing place:


Traffic was very light on the Parkway. Just the way I like and remember it. One thing that is really nice about riding this road is that if you stop at the overlooks you get to meet people, and you'll see the same people all day long. It is such a special place.

Some riders:

The weather was a bit overcast so landscape photography wasn't really at its best. So I had to settle for photos like this:

From about this point out Sylva took charge of the Digital Rebel. I had to settle for my poor 17 year old Canon EOS 620 with slide film. (Film isn't developed yet, so pretty much the rest of the pictures from this point on are Syl's. She really took to the camera like a natural.)

A wild flower:

We stayed overnight at Rocky Knob Cabins just a short ride off of the Parkway. We met a riding couple, David and Donna, during dinner at Mabry Mills. Turns out we were in opposite sections of a duplex cabin. David made a camp fire and we stayed up talking about life, riding, friends, and the universe. As the evening ended fog rolled in and wrapped us in its hold. The night was quiet and tranquil as only a country night can be. Light rain on a cabin roof, what sweet sounds.

Day three was great! Our planned ride was from Rocky Knob to Linville Falls. We thought about doing Grandfather Mountain, but time didn't allow. It will have to wait for another day.

We met David and Donna on the road.

I was really starting to get comfortable on the Wing now. We'd learned that we needed to check the air suspension to be sure it had proper pressure in it. There was a bit more traffic on the Parkway today. We came upon a line of three GL1500's pulling trailers really dogging it. So, I decided it was time to work the line. I frequently hesitate about passing bikes, but these guys were just riding too slow and really had nasty lines through the curves. The first two were easy work, but the last guy decided that he wanted to ride my ride. I really don't like it when people do that. He finally gave up and let me pass. I think he finally realized that although he had the bigger engine we were just faster overall.

It's interesting how the character of the road, and the environs change when you cross into NC. We crossed the border today and I breathed deeply. I really love NC. Sylva reminded me that this is the sixth time I've been in NC in the past 12 months.

We stopped at Raven Rocks Overlook. If you're on the Parkway it's well worth a stop:

Sylva's a real crafter, so we stopped at the craft center along the parkway near Blowing Rock. Here she is on the porch of the center:

Our fourth day brought rain. We started out from Linville Falls with a light sprinkle and road through scattered showers most of the day.

We climbed Mount Mitchell. It was pretty well fogged in. Someday I'll get up there on a blue sky day.

We got off the Parkway in Asheville to get some yarn for Sylva. (She's working on an afghan.) Due to the rain we decided to take Route 74 west and head straight to Cherokee. *BZZZTT* First mistake. The highway system on the west side of Asheville is not a cluster *&^% it's a Right Cluster *&^%. It had mostly cleared up, and we should have headed back to the Parkway. Lesson number two: Stay away from cities. If you have to enter them, enter and leave quickly, and return whence you came.

We finally got back on the Parkway off of Route 74. We both breathed a great sigh of relief. We were back in our element. The weather was clearing when we got to the Thunder Struck Ride overlook. We must have sat there for 30 to 45 minutes drinking it in as the clouds moved past, the sun streamed in, and the weather evolved before us.

Then we stopped at Big Witch overlook which faces north toward the Great Smoky Mountain National Park.

Day five was tough. It started real good. We headed from Cherokee up to Deals Gap. We didn't have time to run the Dragon, but we're going to come back on the RT and remedy that!

Some pictures from the overlook on NC-28 west of the NC-28/US-129 intersection:

The obligatory pics at Deals Gap:

They've made a lot of changes at Deals Gap since I've been there. They added on a restaurant, enlarged the parking lot and added an unloading ramp. Nice improvements overall, unless you're camping. There's definitely less isolation from the parking lot for campers now.

From Deals Gap we headed for the Cherohala Skyway. I love this road. Syl loves it too. It's just an amazing ride. The views aren't the best I've experienced. It was pretty hazy and cloudy when we were up there.

Here we are at the mile high overlook:

Here's a picture of one of the locals:

From Tellico Plains we headed west on TN-39 to TN-30. David clued us in to these roads. Thanks David, they are great great roads. TN-30 was especially fun. We were really getting comfy on the Wing at that point dragging the center stand though several of the curves.

Now our mistake on this day was not listening to Mr. Baker. David advised that once we reached US-70S we should head north on back roads. It was the end of a long five day ride for both of us, my first two up trip, and Syl's second ride on a bike. So, stupid me thinks, "let's stick to main roads. They'll be easier." *BZZZTT*

I disregarded David's advice and got too close to Nashville before turning north towards our destination in Portland, TN. We got caught in stop and go traffic and heat. We were both tired and ready to end our day. Finally we broke out of the congestion and arrived in the rolling hills of northern TN. It's too bad we were too tired to appreciate it.

We arrived safely at my friends place in TN, approximately 1,350 miles. The Wing only slightly worse for the ride. (We told Amy we'd customized the center stand for them.)

Sylva did amazingly well. She's hooked. This really was a special ride for me. As I said I've wanted someone to share this experience with. A kindred spirit. A fellow adventurer. Life is good. Sylva you rock. Thanks so much.


How fun!! I never got to see the pictures of your journey before. You may have ridden that bike more in a week than Ray has in 3 years. But - we keep pluggin' along. I am always torn between the horses and the bike!
Site looks great - So glad we were able to change the default (nightmare) password. No problems so far...

Ride a draft - it will make your butt look smaller.