Day 2 of our Mancation started out great! The plan was to get up at 8:00 AM, eat at 8:30 AM, then load the bike up and roll out by 9:00 AM. What actually happened is we skipped breakfast and rolled out around 9:45 AM. We needed to get rolling early because we had about 400 miles to cover and we needed to be in Bryson City, NC by late afternoon to avoid the coming rain. More on that later!
Day 2 will take us through Virginia, West Virginia, Kentucky, Tennessee, and North Carolina. Here’s our route.
A couple of miles from the hotel we got our first twisty
roads. This section of road is called “The Back of the Dragon” and it runs
from Marion, VA to Tazewell, VA. The sun was out, mild temperature, great pavement and a very twisty road. What
a great way to start day 2! There is a nice mix of sweepers and tight turns on
the Back of the Dragon. The trees are just starting to get leaves and there was
a little rain the night before. The scenery was great. Neon green from new
leaves contrasted to the very dark brown of wet bark. The foliage looked electric!
This is one of the best times to ride in the mountains. We twisted through the hills
and rode through several valleys. The valleys were full of farm land and the whole
area is very rural. If you get the chance you definitely need to check out this
stretch of road. You can see the first part of the Back of the Dragon in the video below. The full ride can be viewed on the YouTube Playlist.
We continued through a lot of mountain country. The next
interesting sites we had on our trip was some of the coal mining operations. I
had never seen this kind of stuff before. The roads around these mines were
terrible. The big trucks had created waves in the asphalt so you really had to
slow down a good bit through these sections. They make the mountain look really
gnarly, but I suppose that is one of the costs of energy for our country.
Riding through these little coal towns was actually very
nice. The traffic was low and the speeds were reasonable. I don’t think a lot
of them are used to outside traffic. There were times where you felt like an
event with everyone watching our group go by. Of course, in these backwoods
towns you see some great sites. We saw one guy with an excellent implementation
of a “Skullet” and of course the guy in his homemade Harley Davidson muscle shirt adjusting
his rebel flag on his mailbox. It’s the local flavor that makes a motorcycle
trip great. You have to take in the culture or you just haven’t visited there. Some
of my best stories involve motorcycles and random strangers you run into.
Since we skipped breakfast we were on the lookout for something to eat. As we came through Welch, WV we found a Wendy’s and we also ran into the “Siren’s of West Virginia” or at least that’s what we nicknamed them! There were about 4 or 5 teenage girls, and when I say teenage I mean barely teenage, hanging out at the entrance of the shopping center where the Wendy’s was. I was wearing a full face helmet with ear plugs, our communications headsets running, the noise of four motorcycles running in close proximity, and I could hear these girls like they were standing next to me. “Get yer car washed, get yer bikes washed” they bellowed as we turned in. We parked over by the Wendy’s and they were still yelling at us, “Get yer bikes washed”. Then when they figured out we weren't interested they started saying stuff like “Look at those cute guys on the bikes, they sure are sexy”. Of course, Jeff and I immediately gave Jimmy and David a hard time about that because they were the young guys! Then we heard one of the proud Mom’s holler out across the parking lot “Ashley, I’m gon get the packin’ tape if you don’t be quiet”. By this time we are all grinning pretty big. We’re just taking in the culture.
After lunch we walk back out and we are gearing up to ride. A couple of the “sirens” are sitting on the steps right outside the Wendy’s and they are talking in a very loud voice how sexy several guys they know are. I hope I am wrong, but I am pretty sure some of those kids will be having kids long before they are prepared for it.
Our next stop was Fishtrap Lake State Park. This place was really cool! They had a baseball field in the valley behind the earthen dam and a lake on the other side complete with house boats. This was a great place to take a break and we got some cool pictures.
As we hit the road again we are starting to realize that we
are very behind schedule. We have made too many rest stops and we started too
late so we are coming to grips with the reality that we are going to be riding
at night and possibly the rain. The night is no big deal, but the rain was not
Somewhere just outside Newport, TN it started to rain a little so we stopped and put our rain gear on. Jeff was in good shape and I brought an extra pair of rain pants to share with Jimmy or David, but they turned them down, so I used them. The sun was starting to go down, the temperature was starting to drop, and the rain was increasing as we moved towards Bryson City, NC.
We made it as far as downtown Newport, TN before we were soaked through, cold, and exhausted from riding for about 11 hours. We pulled over in a gas station to take another break. The sky is almost completely dark so we know that we are about to get into the mountains again with no light to drive by except our headlights. It doesn't sound bad, but there are a lot of blind curves in the mountains. You end up driving into darkness on challenging roads.
After riding about 30 more minutes we get back into the hills.
Jimmy and I only have dark smoke visors on our helmets so riding with the visor
down is not an option. We raised the visor and drove with rain in our face just
to be able to see. I ended up having to take my glasses off because they were
too fogged up to see the road. If you
look between pushpin J and K on the map you can see the road we were on at this
point. I think it is the tightest mountain road I have ever traversed. There
has been a storm so there are limbs, leaves, and gravel covering the pavement.
Did I also mention that it was cold, raining, and pitch black? Half way down this
road Jimmy and David lost communications with us. Their battery died so now it
was just me and Jeff. I was leading and Jeff was in the back. We carefully went back and forth through this
road and after 11 miles it turned to gravel! We couldn't believe it. In these
conditions and now we have four street bikes on a gravel road. We pulled over
and took a consensus of turning back or pushing forward. Everyone decided to
push forward. The GPS said we had .9 miles before getting back to I-40 so we
went for it.
Having ridden a few dual sport rides I have seen how quickly gravel can turn to muddy ruts. With all this rain I was hoping and praying that the road would hold up. As it turns out this road was draining well so we made it out on the other side!
Our next challenge is to ride about 35 miles down I-40 in these conditions. This road was a bit sketchy. I couldn't see anything through my shield and I couldn't drive down I-40 with it up. It felt like getting hit in the eye with BB’s over and over. I was strictly driving by the reflectors and a faint white line. I couldn't see what was in the road in front of me at all. I could only maintain a speed of about 45 mph so cars are whipping by since it is a 65 mph road and I am leading 3 of my friends through this. I definitely felt a little pressure to say the least. We finally made it to the Waynesville exit and we pulled into a gas station to collect ourselves.
Jimmy and David are the worst off. All they had on was jeans. They could not have been any wetter than they were and the temperature was about 45 degrees or so. We still had 35 miles to go to get to Bryson City. We took another consensus and decided to find the next available hotel and just eat the cost of Bryson City reservations. The gas station attendant sent us a couple of miles up the road and we landed at Laurel Park Inn in Maggie Valley, NC.
Since it was dark and we went right by the hotel and when we turned around three of us almost ended up in an accident together while turning around. My tires went sliding around and when Jimmy turned around he almost ran into to me and David almost hit Jimmy, but luckily we pulled it off with no incident. It was around 11:15 when we pulled into Laurel Park Inn. The No Vacancy sign was lit up and just as we were getting ready to go across the street to another hotel the owner came out and said he had a couple of rooms. He gave us a fair rate even when he could have clearly taken advantage. He gave us coupons for Papa John’s so we could get food delivered and even made sure the heat was turned up in our rooms as we unloaded our bikes.
We ordered some pizza and changed to dry clothes. We hung our gear out hoping it would dry out in time for tomorrow’s ride home. After eating and getting warm everybody’s spirits were back up and we sat around recounting the day’s adventure. I think we settled down for bed around 1:30 AM after a few cigars and some much deserved relaxation time.
What I learned:
- It’s amazing what you can pull off when you have to.
- Good friends will stick together during the tough times and the reward is an even stronger friendship.
Joshua 1:9 NIV “Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.”
At any point Saturday night any one of us could have just decided to stop. Any one of us could have decided they were not able to continue and give up on the challenge that was ahead of us, but we did not allow fear to sneak into our minds. We stayed strong and looked out for each other. We pushed through the rough conditions and we all learned a little bit more about what we are capable of. We should all take this verse to heart and never let fear or anxiety limit our accomplishments.
Click here for Mancation 2013 – Day 1 Ready to Roll!
Click here for Mancation 2013 - Day 3 A Dirty Diaper at 60 Miles Per Hour
Click here for How to Beat Fear