Thursday, November 16, 2017

Winter is coming!

Winter may be coming, but GOT is a year+ away!  Anyway, I digress ...

Quiet few months riding wise for us.  We have managed a minimum of 1 ride per week EVERY week so far, but the temps are dropping colder, and the dark is coming on faster.  3 weeks ago, we finally went more than 60 miles!  Our default ride seems to be 55-70 miles.  We headed west and went through the Big South Fork Rec area, then up into KY for a little.  Dropped back down into TN by way of I-75 and got stuck in HELLISH traffic :( 

We headed out towards Oakridge and went steadily North towards the KY/TN border.  The Big South Fork area is soooo beautiful!  It's a haven for hikers and kayakers, and for motorcyclists! 

I love that ride because it's more country side type riding vs. mountain riding or straightaways.  It's nice, easy curvy roads with not too much elevation.  There are a few wicked turns and twists, and the road was every bit as challenging as I remember it being, but where as I was a little bit intimidated last time, now I felt light years more confident!

Khaleesi is such an amazing machine.  As she has broken in, I love her every bit as much now as I did that first time I sat on her in the church parking lot.  Turns are effortless, the ergonomics are perfect, and there is power to spare.

Surprisingly, we were a few weeks away from peak color; it started out as a brisk morning, but the day warmed up beautifully.  We got a bit of a late start because I wanted to dart into Cycle Gear to get some warmer gloves (which I didn't even need ... my hands started to SWEAT in them).  Normally, we're on the road by 7/8:00.  Today, it was more like 10:00. 

KY was different to ride in ... the particular area we were in actually wasn't that special.  It just happened to be the area we ended up in on David's chosen route, but I still really enjoyed myself.  Not a whole lot of particularly challenging roads; no Snake, or Dragon, or Rattler ... we did hit one or two roads that at the end, we pulled up beside each other and laughed with joy.  To me, that's a perfect ride!

I no longer critique my every move.  Khaleesi and I move as one most of the time.  I don't stall her, I don't have issues or problems turning left or right, and my tight right hand switchbacks?  No longer an issue :)  My back does get tired after about 200 miles; I feel like I'd really like reduced reach handlebars.  My upgrades wish list is floorboards, highway bars, Daymaker headlight, light bar with baby Daymakers, upgraded pipes, a custom seat, and reduced reach handlebars.  Not the kitchen sink!  My total mileage is around 7500 miles ... my goal is 10K+ in my first year.  I've got until April to make that goal!

After about 200ish miles, we were both starting to fade a little.  It was getting late, it was Sunday which means no "day of rest", and even though our track was fun, I knew what was to come, and it was about 3 more hours. That was when we decided to jump on I-75 S ... and hit total roadblock!  I lasted about 20 minutes of sitting there in 2-5 mph traffic, and I was DYING.  Khaleesi was blowing out leg blistering heat, and my left hand was cramping so badly I was reaching over to hold the clutch with my right hand.  I told David I HAD to get off that damn interstate. 

We finally did, found a back road that was decently fun, wound our way back to the interstate, and blasted back home.  I went through my least favorite spaghetti interchange of I-40 through Knoxville, and we pulled into the garage about ... 7:15.  It was a gorgeous day ... cool start, but ended up low 70's.  300 miles total, felt SOOOO good! 

2 60 miler rides, then 100 miles to be detailed soon!

Saturday, September 9, 2017

Life on two wheels; rollercoaster edition

4 bikes in the garage can only mean 1 thing ...

Today was our first time on a group ride of more than 7 or 8 bikes.  We had a LONG ride planned from Gatlinburg, over almost to Asheville, then back.  We were invited on the ride by a facebook friend I hadn't actually MET yet.  She lives in NC, and when she found out her group was going to be close, she invited us!  The MIL and FIL tagged along as well; they decided to visit us this weekend here in the motherland :D

Ever been so layered up you feel like the Stay Puft Marshmallow man??

We rose at O'Dark 30 per usual and indulged in our riding breakfast fare at the Cracker Barrel.  Drove to the meeting spot in Walland and waited for all to arrive.  A mixture of bikes pulled in, including an Indian Springfield and my friend's white Scout twin :)  We spoke to each other and introduced ourselves officially, then it was time to hit Foothills to the Tail of the Dragon.  Um ... 3/4 of the group decided to leave out before the leader led them ... and they turned the wrong way!  Ooops.  Luckily, my friend had stayed w/ us; we waited a few minutes, and when it became apparent they weren't coming back, we went on (per the ride leader.  Apparently this is not uncommon, lol).

My awesome FIL. My steel horse obsession is all HIS fault!

Foothills was its usual beautiful road.  For some reason, I was getting pelted with pea gravel.  Very annoying!  I tried to stay offset from David, but I still felt the sting once in awhile. We turned down the road that has the gnarly hills (but not the SCARY road through the Top of the World neighborhood) so we could avoid the rest of the FH traffic.
10+ times down the Dragon safe and sound!

I tried to "warm up" in prep for the Dragon.  I just never know how it's going to feel.  I always do fine, but sometimes the curves just feel jerky or hard.  David actually cranked down on my clutch cable and tightened it up; my shifting now felt smoother, but my handle is tighter!  I also had to relearn my friction zone b/c it engages further out now.  I did well though, didn't stall her or anything :)  I shook my head, loosened up my shoulders, and opened and closed my hands a few times as we rolled our way down the mountain and to the start of the 319 curves in 11 miles.


We pulled off to check phones for signals/text msgs since there still was no sign of the other 8 or so bikes.  After a few minutes, we did a bit of a shoulder shrug and went on since everyone knew we'd be stopping at Deal's Gap.  David was behind my friend on her white Scout with me behind him on MY white Scout.  The ride down into NC was absolutely picture perfect.  It was one of the best Dragon traverses I've done; today made time 10 or 11 I've ridden it in the 4 months I've been riding motorcycles.  It could also be a case of practice makes perfect?  Lol, I don't know, but Khaleesi rolled through the curves and the dips on the perfectly banked and well paved road without a single hiccup or botched line.  I didn't touch either of the painted lines, and it seemed super quick that it was all of a sudden over :(

Girl Scout and Khaleesi

We were parked for about 3 or 4 minutes, and we saw the rest of the group motor down the hill and into the parking lot, yay!   After shopping at the Killboy store like normal, we hit Moonshiner 28 and took "the long way" to Robbinsville.  We were at the back of the pack since our little group was the new comers, so the ride was a bit slower than we were accustomed to.  It wasn't a bad ride by any means, just different.  The group had split off again; the front half going on with cars getting in between.  We found a gas station once we got to Robbinsville and figured out the restaurant to eat at.  It took a while for all of us to get our food, and by the time WE got ours, most everyone else was finished.  The ride leader decided to shorten the ride since their group had a LONG ride the day before; just to hit 129 from where we were and go back the way they came, up the Dragon.  We decided to veer off on our own; I LOVE the Cherohala, and wanted to ride it.

All of us female Dragon Slayers today!

We'd shed a few layers by the time we started up the 15 mph switchbacks.  As the road climbed in elevation, we began to get chilly!  Pulled off to add a layer back on, then we got in the rhythm.  I literally felt like I was on a rollercoaster!  Khaleesi felt smooth, rhythmic, and took every curve beautifully.  I was doing a great job turning my head and looking through my turns, and the bike was just following.  I'm also doing better with the whole pat my head/rub my stomach!  ie; downshifting and applying brakes without just holding in the clutch the whole time!  With David back in the lead, he rolled nice and hard coming out of the curves, and I stayed right there with him.  By the time the 20+ breathtaking miles were completed, we were back down into lower elevations and now warm again.  Re-lost our layers, then hit 411 back home.

The Cherohala Sky Coaster!

We had tentative plans to hit the Mystery Dinner ride for this month, but David was suffering from a sinus attack, and the wind was just killing us.  We decided to cash in our poker chips and call it a day.

Our entire crew at lunch time!  3 Indians, 3 Kawasakis, a Spyder, a Harley, 3 Hondas, and 2 Yamahas

GREAT ride with zero issues.  No awkward turns or curves or herky-jerky maneuvers.  In laws stayed up with us, and they had a great ride too.  Thankful a "virtual" friend reached out to become an "actual" friend.  I'll definitely call her next time we're up in her area!  Her bike, Girl Scout, treats her just as well as Khaleesi treats me :)  We love our Indians!

This baby can't WAIT to ride on his first ride!

Not sure what this week holds.  Hurricane Irma is bearing down on FL, GA, and even TN!  So most likely it will be a week of a Parked Motorcycle.  My prayers are with all my friends and family over the next few days!

Monday, September 4, 2017

How you KNOW you've married your soulmate!

Tennessee, Kentucky, North Carolina, Virginia, Georgia, Alabama ... in ONE week!  I know that's nothing compared to these hard core peeps that decide to do cross country trips on their motorcycles, but for us that have only been owners since February/April, that's something to write home about!

David's master plan worked beautifully; the rain held off last weekend for our VA trip, and we rode ALL weekend; it was so beautiful!  Monday, we rode to get some lunch here in town, then hit the Alcoa Hwy to visit IMOK to see their Scout Bobber.  Sadly, the bike was already sold, but they did have a Springfield Darkhorse.  Meh ... I'm just not a fan of a blacked out bike.  In fact, when we were shopping for what I thought was going to be "our" bike vs. David's bike, my only requirement is that it was NOT to be black lol.  So the Darkhorse line really doesn't interest or excite me.

Upon leaving IMOK, David found a decent back way to come home, so we did get an hour or 2 of riding time in.  Tuesday was "nothing" for me, and Wednesday we took a little trip down 411 to Athens.  Athens is a cute little town; there's a road that runs through there that I have GOT to get a picture of some day; it's this crazy huge mansion type house with silos built in to it.  Very unique!  Fun road through farm land!  Didn't seem quite as curvy in full daylight ;)

Thursday was laze at home and watch Netflix day, then Friday we strapped the bikes down nice and tight, then hauled them down to GA where we stayed for a few days with the in-laws.  As soon as we pulled in the driveway, we unloaded the bikes, changed our clothes, and jumped on!  Destination was a BBQ house in Lithia Springs that has the BEST brunswick stew ever.  The in laws jumped on their bikes as well and we caravanned there.  Heck, we ended up riding about 130 miles!  We didn't really detour, just took every back road we could.  Parked them for a few hours, then rode again to dinner.

Saturday morning dawned PERFECT.  Kody was able to join us as my lovely SIL was roped into  offered to watch the baby.  We powered down 55 MPH roads into Alabama, hoping to find some curvy roads, but alas ... not to be found!  Veered back into GA, in the general area of where we lived for 11 years (Cartersville) and re-visited some of our old stomping grounds.  Managed to find one or two more curvy roads, then back home.  Ended up being around 180 miles or so.  Rode again to Rockmart for dinner, then came home the "long" way across a hilly back road; there were a few curves to be had, but nothing like what we're used to!

Sunday it was driving back home to the MotherLand; didn't get home until around 9 pm, so no motorcycles then!  Today, I put the baby down for his nap, went straight into my room to change, then came to harass the hubs to GO FOR A RIDE!  I said I don't care, it's just a beautiful, perfect day and if you don't feel like riding, I'll just hit Foothills to 129.  He glared at me out of the corner of his eye, and out we went!

The ride began with a somewhat familiar route that I take every morning to the babysitter's house ... and then he turned down a road I did NOT know.  A mere 7 or so miles from home, and the curves were already more in abundance than over the entire weekend, lol!  Just proof that the riding is better in the mountains!  Khaleesi and I felt smooth as glass and we moved as one entity through the undulations and twists of the back roads.  We ended up in the nearby town of Farragut where we wandered through the used movie/book store and made a stop by the CLOSED Costco.  We picked our way back towards home using the same, but different back roads, and it was confirmed that David is most certainly my soulmate.  We were in the city square of Friendsville, and came up and over this AWESOME stomach in your throat hill.  As we braked to a stop at the stop sign, both of us were laughing our heads off.  We looked at each other with complete understanding, and he made left hand turns to come BACK to the hill TWICE more.  We finally grew up and headed on home, but our short little 80ish mile ride today was awesome and fantastic.

Only 4 work days this week, and a tentative plan to ride with a facebook friend on Saturday.  The route is one we've done and involves the Dragon, Moonshiner 28, and lunch in North Carolina.  Should be fun!  I actually have no plans to ride to work this week; going to TRY and go for a run every morning instead (haha!).

Monday, August 28, 2017

Day 2; in which we earn more stickers and I learn a game changing trick!

Morning once again dawned way too early!  We headed out in search of a Cracker Barrel since we knew it was going to be an epic day.  The cool weather had me adding an additional jacket under my leather one, and off we went.

After stuffing our faces with way too much food, we began the trek to Mountain City and The Snake (Hwy 421).  As we were motoring towards our destination, it took me by surprise when all of a sudden the well paved road broke out into curves and twists.  WAY more technical than BOD; in fact, my concentration was off kilter because I wasn't expecting it.  I shook off the cobwebs and hunkered down and managed to smooth out my turns.  Soon enough, we pulled into a store, and David said that was the Snake.  OH, duh, lol.  It came up way faster than I was expecting!  Like I said, very technical.

After a brief stop to pick out a sticker from the store, we continued on down towards Mountain City, VA.  There were still plenty of curves and hills to be had, My brain was in a better place, and I happily twisted the throttle on the exit and making a beeline towards the next entrance.  At our next gas stop, I randomly make mention of my trouble yesterday and my difficulty with deciding whether to use front brake or rear brake when sitting on a hill.  David looked at me funny and said he'd TOLD me what I need to do ***CUE LIFE CHANGING TIP NOW***  When you're sitting there, before you pull out, let your clutch out a little.  Get it RIGHT in that sweet spot of engagement; the bike won't move.  I mean, yes, he'd told me that once before.  It did NOT, however, register what he'd said.  I thought he'd meant to hold front brake and apply throttle (cue laughing like crazy enoticon here).

We rode much less exciting roads to Blowing Rock, NC and the beginning for us of the Blue Ridge Parkway.  We've driven on it once, but never on a motorcycle.  As we turned on it, we vowed not to stop at every pull off and overlook because we KNOW it's beautiful, but we'll never make it if we keep stopping!

It had been so long since we'd driven it, I forgot how it's almost identical to Foothills Parkway.  And there was a lot of driving traffic.  Even though the road has breathtaking views, it began to get a tad monotonous.  The cars were driving under the speed limit, yet stomped on the gas the instant a passing lane came available (cue rolley eyes emoticon here).  The turns all began to feel the same and I got SLEEPY.  I finally began to see signs for Asheville, which was sort of our daily destination; we were heading to a BBQ restaurant we'd seen featured on the Travel Channel.  Finally, our exit came up.

As we drove through the streets of Asheville and entered the restaurant, David and I discussed how much we DON'T fit in with all the hipster millenials that seem to own the place, lol!  That place is probably so far left it would be in California if it could.  The BBQ, however, was outstanding.

We hit good 'ol Hwy 321 and picked a path towards Maggie Valley.  From 321, we veered off onto Hwy 63 ... to my knowledge, 63 is not any sort of a "named" road, but that baby all of a sudden broke into the mountainous, curvy belly dance!  I was smiling under my helmet as I aggressively pulled my right elbow into my ribs, chasing my husband into the curves.  He tends to pull away and leave my behind; after analyzing in my head, I had determined he leaves me during the "roll" part of the curve.  So, I began "rolling" a little extra hard so I could keep his cute rear in my sights ;)  

Soon enough, that road ended and much to my delight, it ended into my favorite; Hwy 209!  The Rattler is THRILLING where the Tail of the Dragon is nerve wracking.  Even though I always do just fine on it, the dragon causes a flood of adrenaline that always leaves me struggling for perfection.  All I could hear was the rise and fall of our exhaust as we accelerated and braked our way to the end of the Rattler.  As we dismounted to FINALLY get our sticker, I couldn't stop my excited chatter.

The rest of the ride is a story you've already heard.  We made a beeline to Maggie Valley, which is really beautiful.  Took the small roads over to Cherokee, then hit the National Park roads in a small rain shower to Gatlinburg.  The last time we went that way, we'd left the Mystery Dinner Ride and did our epic stargazing night ride.  This time we had daylight, but it was dreary and rainy.  Stopped so I could add another layer, then tackled the twisty national park roads one handed and with my legs straight out in front of me.  My back and knees were killing me, and I had a headache from the pressure and weight of my helmet pressing down on my neck.  Like I said, Iron Butt I have no desire to do!

It's a DAMN good ride when you can say the WORST thing that happened all weekend was you choked your bike twice in a row.  We got home around 7 yesterday evening, and today we got on again (after washing them) to go up to IMOK to see the Scout Bobber (it was already sold:( )  That was really just an excuse to ride anyway, so we bobbed and weaved through traffic back home.  Felt great, no sore butt whatsoever!  Yay for sheepskin!  I'm definitely a convert :D  I also tested out David's life changing tip.  We were at an uphill light; one steep enough I would have been waffling about front brake or rear brake??  I let out the clutch a few inches, took my hand off the brake so I could twist the throttle and Khaleesi did NOT MOVE.  There was no trying to get in the friction zone, it simply was locked in place.  Kerplow!  (picture brain blowing up)  Upcoming weekend will see us hauling the bikes down to GA and hopefully getting in a good ride.  Preliminary forecast is calling for rain, so we'll see.

Can you spot the new swag??

Day 1: What goes up, must come down!

It has been a most amazing and unreal weekend!  David and I are off for the next week for vacation.  After waffling back and forth about a weekend in Nashville, or a weekend in Virginia, we decided to brave the weather forecast and ride the bikes to Marion, VA.  Marion is up in southwest VA, not far from Bristol.  We've been dying to ride the Back of the Dragon up in that area, but it's just a hair too far to do as a day trip (unless we wanted to iron butt it, and frankly, we're just not that hard core!)

We've never done an overnight on a motorcycle, so we were happy and excited to be doing something new.  In preparation, I decided to take one of Tiki's old sheepskin saddle pads to cushion my hiney.   I barely used the pad on him, as I think it really was too thick under his saddle.  I cut off the billet straps, sewed them to the center edge of the top of the pad, and stitched a piece of grippy drawer liner just under the wither cutout.  Flipped it over so that the seat of my bike just slid through the straps and sat on the bottom of it.  Oh.  My.  Gosh.  It worked absolutely perfectly.  I didn't get those seat bone "hot spots" at all, but the extra thickness of the pad did create a little bit of pressure on my knees.  Overall, it was totally worth it!  And it REALLY does keep your seat warmer in cooler weather, and cooler in warmer weather; crazy!

5:00 am came way too quickly, especially since we didn't get in bed until midnight!  Strapped the duffel to David's sissy bar, loaded up the saddlebags, and North we headed!  Stayed off the interstate and took Hwy 33 to 25E to Cumberland Gap.  Cumberland Gap is right at the state lines of KY, VA, and TN.  It is some of the most breathtaking, beautiful scenery I've laid eyes on in the south.

We headed up the mountain to the Pinnacle Overlook.  Um, we just kept climbing up and up!  Much to my delight, most of the tighter switchback turns were to the right, which meant that coming back DOWN, they'd be on the left!  Relief, lol.  I have thought about how I approach the tighty righties; I get WAY to the left, look way over my shoulder, shift my hips to the left, and think more about pushing forward with my left arm vs. pushing down with my right one.  It's working pretty well because I had not one bad right turn this weekend :D

It was peaceful and quiet on top of the mountain.  Only one other family was up at the overlook and they were friendly.  We gawked and took pics, went to the restroom and hiked up a small hill where we saw some deer, and then it was time to go back down the mountain.  DAAAAAANG!  It wasn't quite McCloud Mountain, but it was close!

Yes, this is a real sign at the bottom of McCloud Mountain resort!!

Rolled down in mostly 1st gear so I didn't have to burn up my brakes, and headed to our next destination; Tazewell, VA and the start of the Back of the Dragon.  There was this one road.  I had 2 ... um, incidents.  We had turned onto this small, country backroad, and my tripodometer was at 130 miles.  I've never gone beyond 150 miles on a tank of gas, and of COURSE, we had no cell signal.  We'd gotten part ways down the road, and David got nervous that we'd get too far gone and no gas stations.  He decided to cut back over to the main road, get gas, then go back to the back road.  He had his GPS ... that LOVES gravel roads!  The driveway we picked to turn around at was a freaking booger.  It had a sharp drop down with a gravel bottom.  I normally don't have any problems with starting out on a hill, but it rolled back on me so bad since I was at such an angle I almost choked it.  Rolled back more and snatched the brake; foot slipped and almost went over on my right side.  Saved it, breathed deep, held the rear brake with my foot so I could concentrate on coordinating the throttle and clutch to get in the friction zone, and pulled out very drunkenly and awkwardly back onto the road.

Made a right hand turn on the 'cutover' road, and it was GRAVEL!  And this gravel road was NOT the nice, hard packed gravel road leaving Cade's Cove.  THIS gravel road was rutted, washed out, and poured over with what seemed like a recent load of gravel (cue grimace face emoticon here).  Hit 1 or 2 bone jarring pot holes, and made it UP and over the MOUNTAIN, then as we were coming back down hill and we could SEE the main highway, I hit this rut that nearly yanked the handlebars right out of my hands.  I have never been that close to falling down, but I was able to save it, and we got back down to pavement.  Holy Smokes, I was so glad I lived!!

We throttled our way through the curves to the Back of the Dragon store in Marion.  There was a huge group of bikers parked outside.  Much to our surprise, we hardly passed any motorcycles.  Yes, the morning started out cool.  Yes, the clouds were threatening at TIMES, but for the most part it was a beautiful day.  Saw 2 lady riders with that group.  Not sure if they'd already ridden the road or not.  Went inside and was taken aback by how TINY it was, lol!  About 4 racks of shirts, then stickers by the register.

Turned opposite the BOD to head into downtown Tazewell and parked with another group of bikes.  As we walked into the swanky restaurant, the gentleman were standing outside and asked us how we liked all those curves.  Told them we hadn't ridden yet, and they just said to be careful.  Enjoyed a crazy humongous club sandwich, then off we went!

As our tires began the coveted journey up the Back of the Dragon, I was actually surprised.  The road was NOT that challenging!  We pulled over to grab a picture or 2, and I had another ... incident :o  I choked Khaleesi TWICE!  And I've never choked her.  Again, I sort of internally panicked and thought something was wrong.  There was.  I was in 2nd gear (cue rolley eyes emoticon here).  Kicked her down into first, pulled out with no further issues, and continued our journey down the 32 miles into Marion.

My assessment of the BOD is that it is fun.  It's beautiful.  It reminds me very much of the series of roads we rode about a month ago called the Copperhead.  There were a few curves, but to my recollection, not anything under a recommended 20 mph curve.  Definitely no Tail of the Dragon.  Definitely no Devil's Triangle.  Harder than Foothills Parkway, but certainly rideable for all levels.

Our hotel in Marion was fabulous. It's called the Francis Marion and I HIGHLY recommend if you're ever in the area.  It's a charming old hotel decorated to keep the decor of the 1920's.  Rooms have actual keys.  No hideous carpet.  Hardwood floors in the rooms, and tile floors in the bathrooms.  Every room is different.  We crashed on the bed for a few minutes, changed clothes, then walked the streets looking for dinner.  Ended up choosing a pizzeria called 27 Lions and highly recommend that place too!  VERY good pizza and VERY reasonable prices.

You've reached the end of Novel #1, congrats!  Even though we were missing our boys, we also were enjoying the company of just. us.  It's been YEARS since we have had more than 24 hours completely and utterly alone.  I've said it before and I'll say it again.  I'm SO happy and excited and blessed that David and I have discovered riding motorcycles together.  It's an activity that really brings us together and it's something we totally enjoy separately as well.  Riding TOGETHER is the best, and it has enriched our lives in countless ways.  

In part 2, I reveal what is a GAME CHANGING tip that David taught me this weekend.  Tune in!