Interstates only serve two purposes as far as I'm concerned when it comes to motorcycle travel. If you have to go far or you have to go fast. Otherwise, I prefer to avoid them for the more character rich backroads that pass through small towns, follow flowing rivers and winding around ragged mountain peaks. I had to break that rule on day 2. Well, I suppose the word “had” is a bit extreme. I chose to break the rule. I was looking forward to a nice ride down through Southern Virginia,Tennessee and into North Carolina along the ever climbing Blue Ridge roads, passing through such places as Blowing Rock and Boone. There is a coffee roaster in Boone, Bald Guy Brew, that I would have liked to visit. He has a 25lb San Franciscan roaster I have lust in my heart for.
But, alas, I woke to a steady, pouring rain. One of those rains that says, “I'm here for the duration, get used to it.” As I've said, I don't mind riding in the rain. In fact, there are times that I actually enjoy the solitude it brings on the road. My gear is essentially waterproof…gloves, boots, suit. Well, the Klim jacket I normally wear, being Goretex, is indeed waterproof. But on this trip, I'm riding in my 6+ year old Aerostich Roadcrafter, the suit of choice by long distance travelers. You slip the suit over your street clothes and, with full length zippers, you can get in and out of it as quickly as putting on a jacket. It is not exactly attractive; more like a pair of ill fitting coveralls. No fashion statement to be made here except, “I have no fashion.” They are highly protective, one of the only non-leather riding suits that can be worn on the track. And they are waterproof…sort of…if you treat them right and you don't count the leaking crotch! Nothing like riding all day in the cold rain, stopping off at a local diner for a cup of joe and some hot soup to warm you bones, only to realize it appears you have wet yourself! Makes for interesting looks and fun conversation! Did I mention pride and concern for appearances goes out the window on a motorcycle trip?
While I could have taken my original route to Asheville, wisdom told me that riding in a downpour on the type of twisty roads I had planned would be an exercise in stress control. These roads require 100% concentration on a perfect day, let alone a wet one. Add to that the fact that I don't have a lot of faith in the stock tires on the Vstrom, and I felt the smart thing to do was travel the highway. Not exciting, but at least it had elevation changes and turns. With the rain coming and going, it was somehow a soothing ride. Except for the Virginia State Troopers, who were lining the Interstate thicker than dead deer on the Bluegrass Parkway. Seriously, if I saw one, I saw thrity troopers in a 20 mile span. Really? Nothing better to do? Sometimes when riding you get in a zone. And without cruise control that zone can mean an extra twist of the throttle. As I whipped out around some semi trucks and grabbed the throttle, I found myself staring directly into the windshield of a Trooper parked alongside the road. Fortunately I was only doing 80 and he had bigger offenders to catch, so he let me pass. Thank you sir!
As I approached Asheville, a funny thing happened. The sun came out. Seriously. The only sun I had seen so far, at the town that had the lousiest weather forecast. Sunshine, warm, perfect. It was like the Asheville gods knew I was coming, pushed back the clouds and said, “Welcome home Jamie!” Too much? Yeah. Dumb luck I guess but I'll take it.
The next thing that happened wasn't so funny. My card was declined at the gas station. My card is from a local, Louisville bank, one that is not open on a Saturday afternoon. They shut my card off. Oops! Not good. I had to use another source to secure my hotel room, otherwise this might have been the shortest trip in history! It will be Monday before I can prove to them that I am actually traveling in North Carolina and am not an identity theif in Sri Lanka.
After getting the bike unpacked, I headed to Juicy Lucy for a burger and a beer. I was able to sample 4 local beers, including a Catawba Valley White Zombie Ale, a nice, light, refreshing drink.
After lunch, I rolled onto the Blue Ridge Parkway for a relaxing ride. I rode as far as I dared. Another thousand feet in elevation and I would have been riding in rain and fog. I came off the Parkway and headed to the newest Thirsty Monk for a local beer. There are 4 of them in town now. My friend from Louisville, Amine was passing through and we tried to meet up for a drink, but we got our wires crossed on the location.
All in all, a great day to be alive.