10 June 2010

Trip Report: FZ1OA Rally Riding Day 2

5 Jun 2010:  Cherohala Redux
Total Miles: 188

We hoped to get to the meeting place, the Deals Gap Resort, as early as possible in the hopes of getting breakfast and an extra run up the Dragon before KSU at 9 a.m.  I'm not sure why that didn't happen but we didn't arrive until very close to 9.

Cruzman and Teddy following me on Hwy 28 going toward Deals Gap:

The 10 or so miles from the campground to Deals Gap were very fun, maybe even more so than the Dragon because there were no cops at all on that stretch.  It was nice and curvy with great views of the river.  Usually in the morning and evenings there was "smoke" rising off of the river sometimes toward the road that made each trip a new experience.

This morning though, the skies were kind of gray and we couldn't tell if there would be rain or not.  We were calling on the Motorcycle Patron Saint to put in a good word so that the rain held off and the weather would be kind.
Rain, rain, go away...

A bad picture of the "smoke" rising from the river on our way to Deals Gap:

pokihokie was waiting for us when we arrived and decided to do a Dragon run while we ate breakfast and waited for CrazyBiker and FZ1_ARAO to arrive.  By the time we finished breakfast they still weren't there and we were uncertain what to do.  pokihokie and I were thinking about just getting started with a Dragon run, my first, and then checking to see if they were there yet.  If not, we'd go on with the planned ride.

Before we could get suited up, the guys arrived with FZ1_ARAO's girlfriend, Seena, following in their SUV.  I thought they were still on Dallas time, but it turned out they were on India Standard Time.  IST is a lot worse the Colored People time I usually run on, but not nearly as bad as Jamaican Standard Time.  I had Indian friends in high school and college and had completely forgotten about the time difference until Seena reminded me.  Normally it wouldn't've been a big deal but Cruzman was supposed to be back at FZ1 Rally HQ to cook by 5.

Since Seena was only going to ride the Dragon with us.  Cruzman and I discussed the possibility of her meeting us at the Hooper Bald Overlook on the Cherohala Skyway so she could ride into Tellico Plains and have Lunch with us.

Cruzman is thoughtful like that because it never really occurred to me.  After a little more discussion, Teddy, CrazyBiker, FZ1_ARAO, pokihokie, and I decided to ride the Dragon while Cruzman ran back to camp to get his extra 2-way radio so Seena could communicate with us.

Fortunately, CrazyBiker was running his GoPro Hero Wide camera on the ride up because my camera was poorly aimed and the battery was still not lasting the promised hour and half.  Heck, I was barely getting 13 minutes of video at a time since I switched to the 8 gb card.  Here's our Dragon run, Go Pro style:

Once at the overlook, we rested and talked crap about the ride up.  Then FZ1_ARAO wanted to take some pics and ride all the way to the end.  I stayed at the overlook while they rode the extra mile or so down the road (and took more pics).  I fully expected to see Cruzman riding up since we were there so long.  I'd post some of the pics but I don't have a link to them yet.

Teddy took off while Crazy and FZ were gone then when they got back, I let pokihokie and them get a little lead on me before heading down myself.  I wanted to have good pictures for the photogs and knew it would be better if I went through their zones solo rather than in a group.

That strategy seemed to turn out okay:
On the way up (courtesy Moonshine):
poki is disappearing out of sight, I'm in the middle, and CrazyBiker is videoing from the rear.  FZ and Teddy were farther back.

Me and CrazyBiker (Courtesy US129 photos):

On the way down (courtesy Killboy):

Courtesy US129 Photos:

After a quick break at the Resort, the whole group headed towards Robbinsville, NC.  During the break, FZ decided Seena could ride the whole way instead of taking the car and meeting at the overlook.  Cruzman's dash back to camp was futile.

On the way to Robbinsville, I took the sweep position behind Teddy so I was able to get a few pics while on the move:

On US129 not too far from the Resort:

It seemed our Rain Rain go away chants were answered as the skies had cleared.

It didn't take long for us to gas up and hit the Skyway around Noon.  We left Teddy to wait for his friends with thoughts that we might be able to catch up to each other in Tellico Plains.  Any ideas I had of extending our ride by taking 68 and 64 and letting Cruzman head back to HQ along were gone.

Once on Hwy 143 after the turn to the Skyway, I made my way to the front like we'd discussed at the gas stop.  We were still going to stop at Hooper Bald even though Seena was already with us.  pokihokie had other ideas and went zooming by when I wasn't paying attention.  Just a lucky glimpse in the left side mirror revealed his stealth approach giving me a nanosecond to move aside.

Maybe being passed by a girl was a little damaging to his ego because he took off once he cleared me as if to prove a point.  poki rides the newer Gen II FZ1 so I knew I had to represent all of the Gen I owners or never hear the end of it on the forum.  I took off in hot pursuit.  The scenery became a fast blur and all I saw was the double yellow to my left, poki in front, and the white line on the right.

There was little traffic and no cross streets to worry about so I felt more comfortable narrowing my vision to the road only.  The Skyway has sweeping curves that invite high speed riding and a few tight ones to keep you honest.  It is protected by a guard rail to keep you from riding off of the mountain to your death.  It is a less forgiving road for accidents than the Dragon because of the rails and the precarious drop.

None of those thoughts were in my mind as I pursued poki across the Skyway.  I can't be certain how fast we were going but I do know it was pretty darned quick.  I even got the chance to see how the small changes Cruzman and I made to Baby the day before affected the bike when poki was pulling away from me on a uphill straight after I'd checked my mirrors to see if anyone was with us.

I was so concentrated on catching up to him, I didn't even consider the curve coming up.  I knew it was a sharp one that required me to slow down but instead of slowing like I should have, I shifted up another gear and closed the last distance between us before getting on the brakes hard and diving into the curve.  Not the way to ride on the street, I thought as I applied a little bit of throttle and remembered in all the braking, I forgot to shift down.  No problem.  The transition was a smooth one and I even gained on poki through the curve.

The song of the exhaust was beginning to wail as we passed an overlook with stunned bikers staring at us as we zipped by.  I wonder how fast we were really going?  Meh, I don't think I want to know.  It was at that point I decided to concentrate on the damned road and let poki be poki.  Well, I managed to stay closer to poki by not thinking about him than I did when I was trying to "keep up".  You should always ride your own ride.

poki's pace wasn't anything I wasn't comfortable with but because I was as focused on what he was doing as I was on where we were going, I still wasn't riding my ride.  I corrected that after the little scare and managed to stay with him easily often gaining in the curves and letting him pull away a little in the straights.

poki slowed as we neared the overlook in short order and waited at the bottom for the others to catch up while proceeded to the parking lot having long forgot about them in my focus on the hunt.  He said he'd been looking forward to the Skyway for a year and boy did he prove it with his riding.  I decided he needed to lead the rest of the way across and I would lead us into Tellico Plains to our lunch destination.

Once we were gathered at the overlook, poki oiled his chain while FZ and Seena took pics.  I was beginning to think they weren't just Indian but maybe a bit Japanese Tourist too.  We posed to take pics and watched them take a ton of them.

Here's a pic of FZ discussing where to take a pic while poki is still amazed I eFn kept up with him:
That yellow bike belongs to Wyn who did an awesome R1 to FZ1 conversion by taking a limited anniversary edition R1 and putting the FZ1 fairing on it among other things.  I wish I got a chance to really look at it.  Also notice the clouds.  Wyn said it was dry that way despite what our eyes was telling us.

Seena posing just before getting us to make a "beefcake" pose.  This must be cupcake:

I'd put a pic of the beefcake pose here if I had a link to that picture.  Just imagine me in the middle of all the guys doing my best Ah-nold pose...

Here's the pic I took while she was taking a pic:

While we were taking some more pics, some guys in a van pulled in and told us it was raining going towards Tellico.  I didn't hear it, but later it was repeated.

We decided to get a move on because it was getting near lunch time.  Okay it was past it but I was just getting hungry.  I don't think we were more than 2 miles from the lookout when the fog started rolling across the road.  It was spectacular to see the fog rolling up hill over the guard rail and above our heads until a little later on we were in the fog and couldn't see anything.

There were bicyclists, a moving road hazard in the best of conditions, stopped on the side of the road shrouded by fog and cars parked in pullouts with their headlights making the fog appear denser.

Soon though, we were out of the fog...and into the rain.  So the rain rain didn't work.  No need to worry about how fast I was going here.  Just needed to avoid the streams that were crossing the road and wish I had my clear shield on.  As we descended in elevation, the rained lightened up and eventually stopped all together.  The roads were even drying out when we got closer to Tellico in the horrible humidity.

The sky however was still as dark as it had been when we left the overlook in the direction we were going:
Where we've been:  pokihokie, CrazyBiker and FZ are back there:
I wasn't even aware that we'd lost Cruzman and the FJR guy that joined us sometime during the rain shower.

Cruzman'd stopped to look for his sunglass clip and put his rain cover on his tank bag.  He didn't find the clip, probably because it was still on his glasses.

More pics coming into Tellico Plains:

I'm getting good at that bike in the rear view mirror shot:

The dark skies are to the right of this picture and the wind was blowing it our way.

For the first time on a ride, I was with the lead group standing alongside the road waiting for the stragglers.  It took about 5 minutes for Cruzman to pull up and another 10 or so for the FJR Guy (sorry, I don't remember your name) to arrive.  I was about ready to send out a search party for him when he finally rounded the bend.

He'd stopped for gas when they got separated.  All's well that ends well.  We got a table in the little home cooking style restaurant with the front porch after staring at the darkening skies in the distance.  We were fortunate enough to have the whole upstairs to ourselves.  I discovered it when I returned from using the cleanest bathroom I'd seen since I last cleaned my bathroom.

When we are riding, we really don't get a chance to know each other.  It is at the meals that motorcyclists become acquainted.  FZ started out by asking about deviled eggs and our waitress was kind enough to bring us some to sample, which made him change his side order to deviled eggs.  He probably knows the answer to his question about the evil chicken by now.

Conversation was great among this motley group of motorcyclists and the food was even better.  Just as the food arrived, the rains came too.  I had to make a mad dash to retrieve my jacket, tank bag, and helmet.  I saw Cruzman had left his and grabbed that too.  I missed the gloves though and he had to get those.

It was still raining by the time we got done so I asked about their desserts.  I really wanted cheesecake, Cruzman promised to buy me a piece for my birthday on Thursday evening but the grill at the Village was out.  I made the mistake of mentioning it and got a free brownie and the gang sung happy birthday to me.

Again, I'd post pics that FZ and Seena took but I don't have the links yet.  You'll have to imagine me regretting saying anything and them singing loud enough so that when I went downstairs everyone was asking who'd birthday it was.

We lingered a little longer on the front porch, taking advantage of the facilities and hoping to let the roads dry out because the rain had stopped.  pokihokie and the FJR guy decided to go straight back to FZ1 Rally headquarters while Cruzman, CrazyBiker, FZ1_ARAO with Seena, and I went to the Motorcycle Outfitters in town.

They had very expensive stuff, including the Alpinestars Alloy gloves I'd seen at the Resort for around $20 more.  I decided then I'd go ahead and get them at the end of the weekend if I had the cash left over.  Crazy and Seena both said I could get them online for $20 cheaper than at the Resort.  I left thinking I might wait but after I slept on it, I decided to go ahead and get them.  Good thing I did, my internet searches didn't find a cheaper price with shipping than what they cost at the Resort.

From the Outfitters, we headed back to Robbinsville.
Cruzman was leading.

The roads were still a bit wet and our slower speeds reflected it.  We made a stop at the same overlook and FZ wanted to get some action shots.  He dropped Seena off at one of the overlooks and we made a couple of passes so she could get shots of us moving.  Then we picked her up and made our way back to Robbinsville.

We got stopped when Rescue had to take some guy on a Cruiser to the hospital.  We got stuck behind the Ambulance the rest of the way to Robbinsville.  While the road was closed, the cruisers we'd passed were able to catch up to us.  The first thing they said was "Was that y'all that passed us a while ago?"  "Yep."  I said with a big smile.  They were pretty nice even if they didn't show motorcycle courtesy by moving over to let us get by.

Cruzman left us in Robbinsville and we made our way back to the Resort after gassing up.  Those Gen II's really have no gas range!  Of course on the way back to the Resort, we had to stop to take pictures!!  I'm certain now FZ is part Japanese!

Here's Baby in front of the Cheoha Dam:

If you look in the background, you can see CrazyBiker doing his "Slumdog Millionaire" Pose.

When I was walking back to the bike from taking my own posed picture, I noticed the wall across the road and had to get a pic:

View of the very top:

Of course Japanese FZ wanted to get a group pic there too.

And one more with feeling....it's on FZ's camera so I don't have a link to it.  It doesn't matter, it looks just like that one.  Here's a pic Seena took of Baby and me:

We were soon back at the resort where we separated for the day so we could freshen up before meeting back at FZ1 Rally HQ for dinner.  I got into a very interesting conversation with a Harley guy named Bobby and didn't have time to freshen up.  I was in picture mode though, so on the way back to the Campground, I took some pics.  I guess I'm Japanese now!

Cruzman and Teddy's back should be in this pic.  We'd said we were going to stop here to take a pic the first time we went by on Thursday but that never happened.

Smoke on the water:

Accidental picture taken while trying to stop:

I rushed to change and freshen up so I could get to Rally HQ before the others started to worry about me since I spent so much time talking to Bobby the Harley Guy who was also a Trucker.  Just as I was about to leave, Cruzman pulled in looking for me.  I took the time to take some pics while he changed clothes:

Fontana Dam:

Our camp, the Cruzman Hotel:

River across from the campsite:

We ended another great day looking at many pictures (many many pictures) and a few videos at Rally HQ before returning to Camp to see our own videos and planning to get up early so Cruzman could chase the cop up the Dragon since he didn't get to ride it with us.  He also said he wanted to sync my carbs but since I planned on getting the jetting done the next weekend, I thought he should run the Dragon as often as he wanted before we needed to check out.

I'd run the rubber off my tires and was saving what little I had to get home.

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