It has been several weeks since Stretch and I have gone out on a long adventure ride and we both had the luxury of a full day so we decided to head up to Cherokee, NC. Last time we rode to Cherokee we found a lot of trails we wanted to ride, but we were running out of daylight. Since the summer days are long now we went in search of some good trails to explore.
I know I normally include a route, but I was not recording my tracks and I honestly have no idea where we went. I do know that we took about a 50/50 mix of some great twisty pavement and fun gravel roads. This is my best guess.
The great thing about the gravel roads is we never see anybody and you can really appreciate the nature as you go. We get to see views very few people will get to experience. One of the most memorable aspects of this trip was the honeysuckles. They were in full bloom and there were times where the smell was so strong it would last for minutes at a time going down the road. It smells great at first, but eventually it gets to be like hanging out in a smelly lady store like Bath and Body Works.
We made it to the Blue Ridge Parkway and cut over towards Cherokee from there. The highest point on the Blue Ridge Parkway is Richland Balsam. The day was pretty warm elsewhere, but it was cold up there! I managed to keep it under a shiver, but just barely. It is also common to start seeing rain up this way and sure enough the dark clouds were gathering. We pulled over at an overlook for a snack and to put on some rain gear. We ended up only getting a small amount of rain, but enough that rain gear was a very good thing to have.
We took some gravel into Cherokee and by the time we got there it was getting pretty hungry in our saddles so we opted for a quick lunch at Hardee’s so we could get back out there. After lunch we got back to the gravel roads and started looking for trails. It didn't take us long to find an interesting trail cutting up the mountain and it looked pretty technical so we went for it.
About 100 yards in, the trail had a tree laid across it, but we were in luck! There is just enough clearance to ride around. We guided our big adventure bikes carefully between the trees and picked up the trail again. It was full of challenges. We had roots, rocks, mud, and very steep hills to negotiate. In fact, as it turns out the trails got a bit too tough for us. Stretch made it to the top of the mountain and started back down. I had a bit of a struggle making it to the top and I thought I was never going to get started again. I finally made it up the hill and halfway back down the mountain Stretch was there to tell me to turn around.
Stretch went a bit further down and then it got into straight up dirt bike territory with a banked burm and everything. I parked my KLR to walk down and see what the trail had become and to help Stretch get turned around. We used the back tire spinning to get the DR headed back up hill and then I walked back up to the KLR to find it taking a dirt nap. The kickstand just mashed right into that soft ground and down she went.
We had to take a short break to catch our breath before starting that technical hill climb. It was so steep and we had to make these “S” turns in between trees as we are going. This was absolutely stretching my skill set. I got stalled out half way up and continued to stall trying to get started. Stretch offered to ride it out, and I almost let him, but at the last minute I decided to go for it and I am glad I did. It wasn't a perfect hill climb. In fact, it was so steep my front wheel was just bobbing up and down and right when I needed to go right to dodge a tree, my wheel popped up and smack! I hit a tree pretty hard. It bent my fairing stay back and my handlebars couldn’t turn. I busted up my cowling, ripped my new radiator shroud off, and bent the foot pegs on my engine guard. Stretch said he heard it hit way down the mountain and he came to help me.
We got everything bent back out enough to ride it out and I made it to the top! I pushed through and I made it! Stretch had a great hill climb, but then again he is really tall and has these outrigger legs to keep him upright.
It was late in the afternoon so we started heading back out of the woods to head home and about the time we made it back to the road I heard a weird buzzing sound. It was more damage from the tree crash. The fan collar on the radiator was bent a little bit and the fan blades were hitting it, so we bent that back into shape and I rode my cockeyed KLR back home. We had a great time and we both got to expand our skillset and stretch our comfort zones. There is nothing like a good adventure to make you feel alive and help you realize how capable you are when you have to be.
What I Learned:
- If you ride offroad, hand guards should be a high priority. When I hit that tree the hand guards took the impact instead of my fingers.
- I found out that the KLR can smack a tree pretty hard and ride away!
Ecclesiastes 4:9-10 ESV “Two are better than one, because they have a good reward for their toil. For if they fall, one will lift up his fellow. But woe to him who is alone when he falls and has not another to lift him up!
I know this verse really has a much deeper meaning, but it applied literally on this ride. When I hit that tree I was really glad that Stretch was there to help me. I was stuck against the tree with handlebars that couldn’t turn because the fairing stay was all bent up. Thank goodness for our riding buddies that are always there to lend a hand when we need it.
It would be awesome if you would share one of your own stories in the comments when you either needed a hand or helped a friend.