Vita Rara: A Life Uncommon

Part II: Woe! Curves!

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Friday, August 15, 2003: The Long Haul

I'm not a real morning person. So, in planning the riding day either I had to leave real early to miss rush hour in Harrisburg, PA, or sleep in a little and sail through after the rush. Sleep in. That was easy. This is going to be my big day. By calculation on Yahoo! Maps it is 885 miles portal to portal. I have 250 under my belt, so I think maybe I can complete the ride this day. I've never really run this hard before, so I'll take it as it comes. Well 500 miles or so of slab later I'm in Bristol, VA, about five miles from the TN border.

Today marks my arrival in the south. As I crossed into MD from PA there were the typical welcome signs, then a bit further down the road were the signs for the Mason Dixon line. I find it interesting the symbolism that attaches itself to this line. My real introduction to the south though was the delightful waitress at the restaurant in Bristol. Southerners really know hospitality. Did I mention that I love The South?

Saturday, August 16, 2003: Arrival in Franklin, NC

I head south on I-81 again, missed the exit I wanted to take. So, I take the next exit, check the map, and I head east on TN-81 to Erwin, TN. Hmm... maybe a GPS would have been a good idea. This is my first experience on back roads in The South. The first thing I notice is that signage is different then in NY. In NY it seems like every curve has an advisory speed. Things aren't like this in TN, and as I was to find out, NC. Getting used to this takes some doing. I'm so used to being able to trust the signs and go at a very brisk pace, knowing that if I need to slow there will be a warning sign.

All during the ride down I-81 I saw mountains at a distance, but never got into them. It was quite hazy both on Thursday and Friday, but I was getting clues as to what was in store. At Erwin, TN I get on I-26 South. This is a beautiful interstate highway, great surface, incredible views. All in all an amazing road. This is what I'd come to the mountains for, but there was so much more in store.

I arrive in Franklin, NC, about 950 miles from home. The longest ride I've ever done. One milestone down, longest ride.

A Spin Around the Block

After settling in I decide I need to check out the neighborhood. I head out around 5:00 PM or so. I head up NC-28 toward Deals Gap. Maybe I'll go take a look. NC-28 is a great road, and gave me hints of what was to come. Just north of Franklin it's a fairly moderate road with moderate curves. I'm still getting used to the lack of caution signs and I'm coming up on a curve when I realized it's a hard 90 degree left hander. I slow and lean into the first of many miles of twisties and hairpin curves. Wow! So, this is what people speak of when they write about twisties. Damn! We don't have roads like this in NY. At least not that I've found. Second gear... rear brake... slow... lean... throttle... repeat for miles. This is what mountain riding is all about. This road is testing my abilities beyond anything I've imagined. My legs are burning. I'm working up a sweat. Damn these are tight. Hmm... have I gotten myself in too deep? I thought I had some clue about what twisties were, boy was I wrong. This is the most intense riding I've ever done.

Having had enough of the real tight stuff for my first day I turn south at the NC-28 US-19 intersection and took US-19 south through the Nantahala Gorge. There was a bit of traffic on this road, but nothing that was too onerous. I understand that the traffic here can be pretty bad. This area is just amazingly beautiful. The road runs right along the river meandering back and forth. The vegetation is so lush. I've spent a lot of time in the Adirondacks in NY, and they are also beautiful, but the difference for me is where the beauty lies.

I wound my way back to Franklin on NC-141 South to US-64 East. My spin around the block had turned into a 100 mile ride. This just seems to happen since I've gotten the RT.