13 July 2013

Trip Report: FZ1OA Rally Day 1

7 Jun 2013: The PreRide: A new way to go.

Cruzman teased me the night before about not being able to get up early enough to go for an early morning run up the Dragon so I was determined to prove him wrong.  That was probably just what he wanted but I'm not too proud to say it worked.  Well sort of.

After not riding as much as I wanted to this year, I was actually looking forward to getting up early to ride the Dragon.  It ain't my favorite road but it is a good one as long as there's not a lot of traffic and early enough means no traffic but maybe damp roads.  Not to mention my gloves were still wet from the rain we rode through getting there (see Cruzman's comments on previous post) and I was looking forward to getting a new pair of Alpinestars Alloy Gloves from the Dragon Store.

The skies were a little gray when we woke up but the clouds were moving.  It made me believe that we might have a dry morning after all.  I was ready to leave slightly before Cruzman for once when iluvmyfz1 pulled into the campground as planned.  The three of us took off for the Cross Roads of Time (CROT) with barely a morning greeting.  Actually, there may have been one but I was so focused on being ready for Cruzman I may have rushed through it.

A few miles from CROT, the rain started pelting us between the trees.  After a few minutes, I decided I'd let the guys do a Dragon Run while I hung out at the store.  That was before we pulled into the parking lot to see raindrops splashing in the puddles.  We decided to get breakfast instead, once the place opened.  It was around 7:30 something when we got there.

We chatted a bit and took photos while we waited for the store to open.

Cruzman was a little more dedicated than me to get this photo in the rain.  I think they turned the sign on as soon as he took the pic because right after that we went into the store:  me to get my gloves and iluvmyfz1 to get go juice for Xena.  Only one of us got what we wanted.  The Dragon store no longer sells the Alloy gloves.  In fact, all they had were padded cruiser styled gloves with thinsulate.  They've had those gloves for as long as I've been going to that store so I guess it was time for them to change but I wish they'd waited another year (I was going to get them last year but needed the Frogg Toggs instead).

I was going to have wet hands for the rest of the rally since I forgot to pack a second pair of gloves.  We ate breakfast then decided to take the back way back to the Village in case the bridge was blocked.  They were working on it when we left earlier and we weren't sure if they were going to shut it down.

The guys put on their rain gear while I wished the rain away.  It'd stopped while we were eating so unless it was pouring down, my gear would remain in the tail case.  I don't know what other people who wear leathers on the street do to avoid the rain but I need to find out.  Southern Heat, Leathers, and Frogg Toggs are not a good combination.

Enough about that, the back way to Fontana's is apparently newly paved or wasn't paved for a long time.  It was a beautiful detour on a rough, dirty, wet road that inspired caution rather than confidence.  We got back with enough time for iluvmyfz1 to get his wife and meet up with the others at the Fontana Gas Station.

Many of the usual suspects (for me) were there:  Wlfman (the day's ride leader), FastnFurious, 82packer and sloth (but neither were riding with us), the guy with the retro gen2 who's name I should know but still do not, RocknFZRoll, and  HokeyPoki.  New was the legend, RavenRider.  I couldn't wait to meet and listen to him talk.  Some of the others hadn't shown up yet since the "official" arrival day was Friday.

I barely had time to say hellos when I was blindsided by mrsiluvmyfz1's pants.  They were the ones I wanted and now were on closeout at a price my wallet would appreciate.  I was also trying to be mindful of group riding and tried to stay in a state of constant ready which made me a little less social than I would be anyway.

Next thing I knew, we were leaving. I mean Wlfman told us the plan and we all went to our bikes to get ready to get ready to go.  FastnFurious lit out and others went after him thinking he was leading the ride.  I slotted in behind RavenRider as the thought "Watch out for those old gray haired dudes in leathers, they'll lead you right into a tree if you try to keep up."  The thought was still in my but it had not worked it's way into my body parts yet as I tore up the road in his tracks.  If this was going to be the pace, we'd be back in an hour!

Cruzman and iluvmyfz1 were behind me.  I'm accustomed to seeing their headlights in my mirrors as I setup for the next curve or coming out of one.  No.  Not this time.  I kept the group's pace cause it was on the part of the road I knew.  Once pass that though I let the boys go and waited for my guys.  I had every confidence the sanity would come back and they'd be waiting for us up ahead somewhere.

It was the first time that Rally-rage had reared it's ugly head and likely wouldn't be the last time either.  Contrary to what people say on the internet about the FZ1 (either gen) it is definitely a sport bike.  I thought about this as we (me, iluvmyfz1, cruzman, and RocknFZ1Roll) rode to catch up with them.  We all knew were we were going so it's not a big deal.  It could be if there are people there who don't know the roads or are riding at speeds they don't normally do just to keep up with the group.

How can that guy on a bike that looks exactly like mine do that on his bike, I can't do that on my bike can I?  Rally Rage begins!  We found them waiting for us in the Ingles parking lot.  It turns out there was a mistake made.  FastnFurious had to go to the hardware store and was going to ride ahead to run his errand while the group followed Wlfman then we'd all get together again.

It brought about a few chuckles as everyone used the stop as an opportunity to check in with loved ones and to make sure we knew who was leading the ride.  We were stopped a little longer than I anticipated and that was when I realized how bad my helmet smelled.  I guess it was still wet too.  At that moment, there was nothing I could do about it but put on my wet helmet and wet gloves and ride.

From the Ingles, we went through town to 143 towards the Cherohala.  I don't know if the pace was influenced by the Warp Speed ride down Hwy 28 and Hwy 143 into Robbinsville, but we were going at a pretty good clip.  It was fine with me, actually it felt great.  I was trying not to be disappointed about not getting my upgraded cams ready in time for the rally when I saw the long line ahead of me.  Cruzman, iluvmyfz1, and RocknFZRoll were back a little bit taking a more leisurely pace.

It seemed we were at the Hooper Bald pullout way too soon.  As we reached the straight, I could see the guys up front turning in so I slowed up hoping to wait for the slower riders.  I'd last paid attention to them when I realized they were riding slower than I wanted to and decided to ride my own pace which was pretty close to the pace being set by Wlfman.  I turned in, grateful that we stopped because I really needed to use the bathroom.

I was more than disappointed to see the bathroom was out of order and a little shocked that iluvmyfz1 and RocknFZRoll hadn't caught up to us.  Wlfman, Cruzman, and RavenRider rode back looking for them while I waited and listened.  I've been riding with Cruzman and iluvmyfz1 so much that I know their bikes by sound and I can usually hear them before I see them.  After about 5 mins, I decided to go back as well hoping there wasn't a problem and that one of the pullouts we passed had a working bathroom.

The info map said there was one about two stops back but I read the map wrong.  I passed Cruzman, RavenRider, and Wlfman on my quest for them and the bathroom.  They hadn't found any signs of them so I let them know I was going to ride ahead to go to the bathroom.

To my surprise, they had photogs on the Cherohala!

As I was walking back to the bike the others went roaring by

After I got back on the road, I noticed that my right (throttle hand) shoulder was hurting/aching and made a conscious effort to lean forward to be sure I wasn't locking my arms.  Had I been doing that for the last day and a half or was theWolf trying to find more ways to keep me off of my bike?  I cursed at him aloud in my now dry and no longer smelly helmet before turning my full concentration on the road.  I had a Legend behind me and I didn't want to make a bad impression.

RavenRider is the guy (along with VARider) who developed RR's Carb Stuff that allowed me to jet my bike on my budget.  Following his carb advice has me convinced this is a permanent solution rather than temp until I could afford Dale's/Ivan's kit.  It transformed my bike from a twitchy wild machine into a smooth rideable one.  I would join his cult (I think I already have) if he started one and couldn't wait until lunch so I could sit at his table and listen to whatever he had to say.

I'm pretty sure we weren't that far behind the lead group.  I maintained the comfortable pace we were riding all day and only slowed when there was traffic we couldn't pass.  There wasn't much but combined with a citing of the LEO as we entered Tellico Plains we rode sanely into town to find the others waiting at the Cherohala Market.

There still was no sign of iluvmyfz1 or RocknFZRoll and Wlfman was certain they'd be waiting where we were stopping for lunch at the Hardee's in Vonore, TN.  Since I hadn't seen any bits of debris as we continued on and knew that Cruzman had gone all the way back to the beginning without seeing it, it was the next logical solution.  Apparently no one had cell reception so there would be no calling or texting to find out.  I love how close yet remote these places are!   At least this year, I won't have to borrow Cruzman's phone to check in with my family because I switched to MetroPCS in February.

I didn't gas up there either because Wlfman said there was a better place ahead and I had plenty of gas to get there.  So away we went, turning right onto 360 and again hauling ass through the countryside.  There hadn't been a hint of the rain we'd seen earlier so I'd forgotten about it until I felt water from the sky falling on my finally dry gloves.  It was humid enough so I knew to expect it but there were blue skies above without the kinds of clouds that send you scurrying for shelter to put the sauna gear on that keeps you dry.  Fortunately it was over before it really started so there was no need for panic.

Even though we were riding a pretty good pace, I didn't think we were being a menace to the local population.  That's why it was a surprise to see a local really close to some bumpers while we were stuck behind a local that had a healthy respect for the speed limits on a winding road.  The usual way to deal with aggressive drivers is to use your machines abilities and get the heck away from them.

The first two bikes were able to pass the cautious driver easily.  A curve or two later, the rest of us got by.  Just as I was about to symbolically wipe my brow, I noticed the aggressive driver had passed the cautious car too and was keeping up with us.  He stayed on our tails until we got to Hardee's and he, thankfully, went the other way.

We talked about it for a minute, then dismissed the incident as it has happened before and will again.  It just doesn't happen that often.  While we were in the parking lot, Cruzman told us that he got a call from iluvmyfz1 informing him they were in Tellico at Hardee's.  No one had thought to check there and it was a relief to know for certain they were okay.  They were on their way and would likely get there by the time we finished eating.

Slowly, everyone finished their calls then went inside to place their orders.  I fully expected us to be at one table by the time I got there but there were many.  I chose to sit with RavenRider and listened as we talked about riding, weather, and bikes.  Hardee's food was Hardee's food and the apple turnover was excellent.

I went outside early because I needed to dig through my bag to find the Aleve for the ache in my shoulder.  A day and a half of riding wrong wasn't just going to go away after a couple of hours making sure I wasn't locking the arms again.  By the time I did that, iluvmyfz1 and RocknFZRoll arrived as the others were filtering out of the restaurant.

Even though I knew they were okay, it was a relief to see their smiling faces.  I downed the pills, praying they would work, then went over to the gas station to fill up like the others.  I was instantly grateful for the cash card I bought the day before so I wouldn't have to slow the group down more by going inside to pay.

Then we were back on the road.  A quick blast up 411 until we made a right onto 72.  72 is a nice wide road with very long straights and a few sweepers.  It was no surprise to see the guys in front opening it up a bit letting their exhaust notes fill the air.  I grabbed a handful too so I could add Baby's note to the FZ1 symphony.  Then I saw a bag cover fly by and made sure they weren't slowing up in front of me.

They seemed to be going faster, so I did too.  I could see Cruzman turn around to retrieve the rain cover and the others didn't seem to want to add their bike's notes to the others.  It was over before it started it seemed and when I glanced down at my Multiguage, I noticed I'd hit a new top speed for me!  A couple minutes later, Cruzman arrived at the stop sign telling us that he'd gone back for the cover.  The other guys made the right turn onto 129 and a moment or two later, the rest of us did too.

My shoulder was really complaining about still being on the motorcycle no matter what I did.  I could see a trip into town to get something to rub on it in my near future.  There were a few cars between our group and the other group that were easily passed and soon we were all one big group again.  Perfect, we'd just crossed the bridge that meant we were at the Tail of the Dragon.  There were some slower bikes in front of our group but when Wlfman saw PJ at the overlook he pulled in.  I think the slower riders did too because RavenRider honked his horn, pointed down the road and took off.

I'd been debating whether or not I wanted to stop at the crowded place or get down the Dragon while my shoulder wasn't hurting as bad.  When I saw RavenRider wasn't stopping, I decided to keep going too and pulled back onto the road.  My guys followed me, including RocknFZRoll who I ended up waving by after the next few curves.  I didn't know what my pace was going to be but I didn't think it'd be all that fast.

A couple of corner's later, PJ was already behind me.
Once through those curves, I moved over so he could catch up to the others.  He can ride that road like the guys ride the TT: at a speed no mortal person would consider.  I only got to see one corner's worth of it, then he was gone.

I stayed mostly at the speed limit until the border when I caught up to a Harley 2-up with the distinct smell of oil in it's wake.  Then, instead of pulling into the DGR store, I pulled into the other one across the street that has the BBQ pit in front.  They usually have better looking stickers and I picked up a Cherohala one to add to the top case.

We split up from here so that Cruzman and I could go back to camp to wait for MrsCruzman and CruzBoy.  It was a short wait because they were already there when we pulled in.  We...er...they wasted no time getting Casa Cruzman setup

Casa Cruzman and theWolfTamer's Den
After that, we went to the Firepit to see what the plan was for the evening.  It started to rain as soon as I parked the bike.  We were greeted warmly and after introductions decided that we should go to the Wildwood to fellowship. I "borrowed" many of the pics below...

We had other Legends at the rally too:  Devilsyam and the Bristol Banger

A good time was had by all!  We had a meet place designated for the morning and while there was a break in the rain, we headed back to camp.  Cruzman and I also decided to try another morning Dragon run before meeting the others for the group ride.

Back at camp I was nice and dry inside the Den but the other Campers were a little nosier this year than they had been years past.  In fact, I think we were the only FZ people there.  Across the road, we had a snoring and farting neighbor along with odd lights and clinking chains made getting to sleep a little difficult.  It quieted down after a bit or I fell asleep and no longer heard it!

It was a great day and I was thrilled to be back with my FZfamily.

Thanks for reading,
patrice, theWolfTamer

Preview of firepit festivities from the next night:
Do I look buzzed?

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