This is just an aimless story, no real punchline just wanted to give a rundown about my weekend to those that may care.
Saturday I worked from 9 until 5... at 5:30 I decided I was going for a ride on my bike. The destination wasn't determined, I was just going for a ride... if I got far from home I'd get a hotel, if I came home early that was fine too. All I knew was that I wanted to head west and the rear tire on my 636 had somewhere between 500-1000 miles left in it. No problem, I'll find one on Craigslist or something if needed, I was in one of those moods. I packed up some tools and my gps. I left at about 6pm and headed west on "side roads" trying to mirror highway 40's route.
About 45 minutes in, I just said "fuck it" and that's when it became a Tail of the Dragon trip. I feel like this is a good time to say, I have lived in NC my whole life... I've been through
the mountains once when I was 12 or so, and never vacationed there or visited otherwise... you will see where this is going. I call a female friend of mine who lives here in Wilmington, but is staying with her Dad for a month or so in the mountains of Boone, NC. We mutually decide that I will travel there for the night and stay with her, then depart for the Gap the next morning. I decide this is a pretty good idea, after all the mountains are the mountains so the two locations must be close right?
I jumped onto highway 40, and the rest of the trip that night was somewhat uneventful, I was making routine pee/gas breaks anywhere from 40-60 miles at a time, taking my time and enjoying the trip as much as possible on the straight highway. The further I went the more I got a sense of elevation change, hills and such, but the dark night really kept me from seeing my surroundings.
A sign at one of the rest stops:
I met the girl at 1am at a bar in downtown Boone, grabbed a beer, then went to her house. After some entertainment I was pretty much settled in ready for sleep at 2:30 or so.
I don't know if it was the excitement for the trip or what, but I literally slept 2 hours tops, and at 6:30 basically just gave up on the idea of sleeping anymore and decided to head out. I walked out the front door and was instantly amazed... holy shit mountain. Everywhere. I live at sea level, it is flat, I've never really seen or paid much attention to mountains like this. It was damn cool for me.
I crudely attached my gps to my triple (thank God for my ziptie tool kit
) and punched in the coordinates for one of the stores at the Gap... 3 hours and 150 miles. Shit. The first hour of riding or so was actually pretty nice, 2 lane road, plenty of scenery, and some sweeping turns... nothing worth sticking a knee out for, but nice none the less.
Here's a pic I took on my iPhone. Stopping in the middle of the road ftw:
About an hour in I stopped at a place called Louise's Rock House, based solely off the fact that "this place looks like it has french toast"... I was right. I ate my french toast and rolled on for the remaining 2 hours of my ride to the Gap.
I got into the town there at US129 at about 10:30, grabbed some gas and just checked the bike over while I mentally prepared myself for my first time ever on the Dragon. Not dieing was a high priority, and I sometimes make that easier said than done. It was at this point I noticed my tire life... still safe to ride on but no way in hell I was getting home on this thing. Screw it, press on. About 5 miles in I came up on a small shop called Wheeler's Garage. In the parking lot they had racks upon racks of tires, and the doors were open, on Sunday. Praise be to Jesus. I passed them by and continued on my journey up the mountain.
The first time up, I got behind a cruiser and a BMW Sunday driver so it was a bit on the slow side at first, but once they were out of my way I was able to set my own pace and really get a feel for the road... it wasn't what I expected in some ways (not really bad or good) but it was very fun.
I got to the lookout and there was quite a large group of bikes up there, mostly VFR800's, V-Stroms, and Katanas. What those bikes have in common beats me, but there were a lot of them.
Here's a pic I snagged of the "view":
At that point I decided I better go buy my tires before getting too tied up and loosing out on buying any at all that day. I got to the shop and talked to the one guy working (not Wheeler apparently). He was very kind and knowledgeable... asked what sizes I need, asked for brand preference, and told me to bring the bike back in an hour and he'd mount them. So I head to lunch thinking "Christ, how bad am I about to get bent over on this deal"... Tourist spot AND buying tires on Sunday AND getting them mounted. To my surprise my Pilot Power front and 2CT rear (couldn't get a matched set of either) only ran $250 plus $30 each for mount and balance... that's cheaper than I could get them here in Wilmington.
A pic of my bike at Wheeler's:
While waiting for the tires it rained again, but I decided when I finished I would make one more trip up and down before leaving. It was half wet/half dry, but still fun and the new tires felt sooooo much better compared to what I did have. I grabbed some gas at the bottom of the hill and started my journey home at 4:30pm or so.
The trip back was torture, no 2 ways about it. The first 1-2 hours were rain... I don't even own rain gear, much less have anything to put on to make rain more tolerable. Every stop for gas was a fight to continue and I really considered a hotel room to wait out the evening many times. Work at 9am the next day is a bit of a motivator to continue though unfortunately. I checked my GPS constantly, and I distinctly remember that about 3 hours in I checked it and still had over 300 miles to go. I have never felt so broken in spirit before... 5 hours to go and I'm literally already about to die from exhaustion. From then on I decided to take the bare minimum of stops... basically only stop when the fuel light came on. I ticked off quite a few miles, but with every stop the urge to sleep was getting worse and worse. With about 150 miles to go I decided my life was worth more than the $40 it would cost me to get a hotel and recharge my batteries some, so I started looking for "cheap" hotels.
With about 100 miles to go, after midnight Sunday night, I stopped at a Budget Inn and got a room for about $33. I think I overpaid. It was the dirtiest, sketchiest hotel room I've ever been in. Not even joking here, I checked all the closets for dead bodies before getting in bed. When I say in bed I mean on bed. I used my jacket for a blanket because I didn't want to know what was under the covers.
... And then my alarm went off. 5:45 and time to roll again. The story gets even more boring (if that's possible) from there. I rode straight home and arrived home at 7:30... just in time to take a shower and go straight to work.
Bottom line: I made a dumb decision to make this trip, flew by the seat of my pants the whole way, and went 1100 miles in about 36 hours on MAYBE 6 hours of sleep (still haven't slept yet
). I'm beat, but all I can think of is how proud I am of myself... In my opinion you only live once and that's one more thing I can cross of my list. I want to go again, just next time in the comfort of a truck with friends and with another couple of days to have fun.
Thanks for reading.