It’s that time of year again, the time when all the leaves start changing colors and the Blue Ridge Mountains start looking like an impressionistic painting with dots of color all over the hillside. They are beautiful to look at, but there is one sinister thing that makes leaf peeping on a motorcycle maddening, leaf peepers in cages (cars). It never fails, just as you come out of the straight flat roads and the curves are starting to meander around the mountain you can see them up ahead. You try to hurry and get around them, but just when you get within passing distance you are trapped! Now instead or ripping the twisty roads on your adrenaline fueled ride you get to go 15 mph behind a Ford Festiva with a license tag that reads “SLO4MPG” (True Story, just a different ride). This can happen any time of year, but in the fall when the leaves are changing the hills are rife with slow moving cages. My riding buddy, Stretch, and I decided to do a little leaf peeping adventure style.
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Stretch and I took back roads and gravel roads to get to our destination. After we crossed hwy 64 near Brevard, NC we took a left onto Cathey’s Creek Road. This road is only paved a short way before it turns to gravel. Just before we hit gravel, a cager backs out in front of us. They could clearly see two bikes on an otherwise unoccupied road and decided to back out anyway. It wasn't a close call or anything, but we would have had to come to a complete stop in the middle of the road to let this guy go in front of us. If you think cages are bad in front of you on a paved twisty road, you should try riding behind a dust creating monster on a twisty gravel road. Today was not the day to follow a car. Since we have our trusty dual sport bikes with knobby tires we quickly go around the back bumper of the car into the grass on onward to great unencumbered speed on our curvy gravel road! The cager slowly faded into our roost as we pulled away.
The last time we rode on Cathey’s Creek it was dark and we were coming back home. This road is much more enjoyable during the day. We rode some nice gravel roads for a while until we came to Hwy 215. We headed north for some really nice paved curves. We took a few turns and then we ended up at some more gravel.
We are really out in the country now. It’s been a while since we have seen a car. There are sections on these gravel roads that are completely covered with the golden brown of fallen leaves. You can’t even see what you are riding on; you just have to assume that the gravel is smooth underneath. After a few miles we decide to take a break and air our tires down a bit. We pulled over in this little turn off that was clearly a trail the forest service wanted people to stop riding. There were a couple of big rocks set in the middle and then just behind the rocks were three deep gullies dug to prevent you from getting around it. Stretch and I stood there looking at it for several minutes. I am pretty sure he was thinking what I was thinking….I wonder if we could get around it. We both threw out some ideas on lines, but ultimately determined that we could probably get in, but would not be able to get out. Oh well, onward to other more accessible and less illegal roads.
We saddled back up and continued on until we found a nice little turn off to the left. It looked like a promising jeep trail so we took it! This trail was a good way to start the offroad riding. There were medium size stones, mud, and grass. I did have a sketchy section through here. I normally use a crampbuster while riding and today was no different. The difference, was today I had a jacket on and that crampbuster got caught in my jacket sleeve and goosed the throttle! When you are riding trails on the side of a mountain the last thing you need is an unexpected dose of go juice. The next turn we made I took a second to remove that crampbuster while we were riding trails. I do not need to see if I can haul my bike up the side of a mountain.
When we got to the bottom there was a small table built out of lumber and a nearby clearing with trees burned pretty high up. We figured it was somebody’s hunting shack that caught fire. After poking around for a few minutes, and imagining what it once was, we headed back out of there to find another trail to ride. We came across a great vantage point for a little leaf peeping.
We rode a little more gravel and we came upon another trail. We rode down it only to find that it was a dead end. Stretch was turning around and when I tried to stop in the grass my front wheel went sliding and BAM! Down I go. Out of all the trail riding we did that day I managed to keep it upright. In the simple flat grassy turnaround, I dump it. Would have otherwise been a flawless riding day. You can see this fall in the video.
Our next trail was the toughest of all! It started off as a jeep trail, then it turned into an ATV trail, then the trail nearly disappeared as we neared the top. We had rocks hidden in the grass, deep erosion, and large stones to navigate, but when we got to the top it was a great view!
We are pretty far into our day now and Stretch has a lot
smaller tank than me. He forgot to get cash and I never have cash. The only gas
station we passed was a cash only gas station. That meant he needed to conserve
fuel whenever possible. When we came back down this trail we both just put the
bikes in neutral and coasted it until we ran out of downward hill. You can also
see this stealthy ninja like descent on the video.
Our next stop would be the highlight of the trip! At the end of this road there is a great waterfall. It cascades down the mountain, across the road, and down through a moss covered forest. It really looked like stuff from a movie. We took a break and snapped a bunch of pictures. We parked our bikes right in the creek to take some of them.
The afternoon was quickly approaching and I told my wife I would be home for dinner so we saddled back up and took the gravel back to pavement. Shortly after getting back on pavement we found a place to pull over and air our tires back up for the ride home. We have also not had any lunch. Riding offroad really takes a lot of energy and I think we were both starting to feel it. By the time I got home I was actually feeling pretty dizzy.
We took some very nice twisty pavement back towards home and the traffic was not heavy either. Shortly after we split up my bike started surging again. I cannot find what is causing this. It keeps me from going over 3500-4000 RPM and my speed stays maxed out around 50 mph. I nurse my bike back home and slide off exhausted, but feeling great!
What I Learned:
- I have been riding off road too fast for my current skills. I slowed down a little and had much better results staying vertical.
- Higher handlebars make a huge difference while standing.
Phillipians 3:13-14 KJV “Brethren, I count not myself to have apprehended: but this one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are before, I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus.”
After my gravel “get-off” when we were riding the Gorges my off road confidence had taken a hit. This ride actually helped me gain some of my confidence back. We traversed some difficult terrain and I was able to keep it upright! I used what I learned from the Gorges ride and moved closer to my goal of being a good offroad rider. Constant improvement is the name of the game.
In life it is easy to just give up and accept defeat. Sometimes our goals may seem overwhelming or unattainable. It’s easy to get discouraged when we face obstacles and the temptation will always be there to take another path or settle for something less, something safer, something more ordinary. We cannot grow without adversity. Iron is forged in flame and plants push up through the ground. Through adversity we blossom into the people God wants us to be. We could easily turn away from adversity and abandon our goals, but that is not living. That is running from life. What kind of challenges have you faced while pushing towards a goal? If you chose to conquer those challenges, how did it change you?