"Jacket, gloves, tank bag... seems like I'm forgetting something"
There are two unusual aspects about this ride, first foremost and most importantly I went by myself. Normally I just won't ride without Julie. This whole on-road riding thing is something that we got into together and that we share as a couple. It's so much more fun to go on these rides together so that we have each other to share them with. The other unusual thing is that it happened on a Monday. Over the years we have left on a trip over a week-end and been on our way back on a Monday, but for as long as I can remember this was the first time the bike left the house on Monday.
Using a silly phrase from work, "What had happened was..." The weather over the week-end was a little less that cooperative being a little chilly (comparatively speaking) and a little damp. Julie was flying out on business Monday and needed to prepare for her trip, so that along with the weather being what it was determined for us that a ride was not in the forecast so to speak.
Easy to see why they're called the Smokey Mountains
On the other hand... Monday was gorgeous! And though I had been in very similar situations prior to this and decided to leave the bike parked since Julie couldn't be with me, that black cherry colored wonderfulishious piece of motorcycle engineering and well, art; our new FJR, was calling my name. Man I wanted to ride sooo bad!
At first I resisted. "Nope FJR", I told it as I stood beside it admiring it's sleek lines, "we have to wait." It sat there looking all smug and confident as if to say "C'mon, you know you want to..." So I turned off the lights to the shop and closed the door.
Looking toward Sparta, NC from the Blue Ridge Parkway
Then I remembered that I needed something in the shop (what was it... I don't seem to remember now) and went in. The FJR just seemed to be begging to go stretch it;s legs. Once again I resisted and ran out, slamming the door behind me. "NO!" I screamed at the door, "not with out Julie!" and ran up stairs.
But by noon the sun was out big time, it was a warm and beautiful day, and well, I'm weak. What can I say? I swear Julie I thought about you alllll day!
At 1:00 pm I pulled out of the gate with the intentions of just doing some local riding, a nice little short 100 miler or so on some country back roads. Like I said, those were my intentions... It didn't quite work out that way.
Stopped along the BRP
Heading out on US 64 west I rode into Mocksville and the took US 158 north, all still fairly local roads. When I got to SR 801 I decided I'd rather go that way instead of into Winston, so a simple left turn and I'm headed back into the country again. This took me out past the Farmington drag strip and in just a very short while I was at the intersection of SR 601. Turning left and going south would have taken me right back toward Mocksville and I really wasn't ready to 'head back' just yet, so north bound I went and on toward Yadkinville.
The bike was running, riding and handling flawlessly. The weather was good and it was still...fairly early in the day when I got to Yadkinville and US 421. I thought about going on north, which would have taken me to Mt Airy, but then I'd probably just take US 52 home, and I still wasn't ready for that, so just for giggles I turned north on 421 and put the FJR in the wind. At 80 mph it doesn't take long to get anywhere, and it wasn't long before I found myself where SR 21 crosses and well, the sun was still high in the sky and I was feeling good, so why not ride it up to Jonesville and then back around? Zoom. Gone.
NC Hwy 18 overpass on the BRP
21 is a fun road and all to quick I was in Jonesville. Then I remembered that there were some pretty fun curves and switchbacks on 21 north of Elkin as it climbed the mountain... *sigh* Why not?
Yep. They were a hoot, the FJR just loves that kind of stuff. The thing is once on top of the mountain on 21 it's only a couple of miles to the Blue Ridge Parkway so, well, you know.
Now it's no secret that Julie is bored with the BRP and that I can't get enough of it, and well I was there and had come this far soooo... Why not ride it north for a bit and then when the mood strikes me find one of those great roads off the mountain and then head home?
Ain't it purdy?
There was almost no one on the parkway. I rode for miles before I met another bike and he looked as surprised to see me as I was to see him! This lack of traffic made me feel a bit... confident? Inspired? Foolish? So I found myself scooting along at or near 60 mph, which is big no no on the BRP. None the less, the FJR was wanting it, and I was happy to oblige. While technically speeding I think most that have ridden the parkway on a motorcycle will agree that it is far from dangerous given the right circumstances and actually the road flows real well at that speed. Enough excuses, it was just plain fun too.
No traffic on the road also meant that there was no one at the pull offs either, so more than once I would zip in, take a peak, then head back out. I also stopped a time or two just to look around, stretch my legs, and take a picture or two.
Just off the BRP at Hwy 58
In no time at all I found myself at the Virgina state line and a little while after that in Fancy Gap. From there it would be a fun ride down old 52 then on to the house, but I was still not ready to head back. The miles were effortlessly rolling under the FJR's tires and time just didn't seem to matter. So I didn't even stop at Fancy Gap and kept getting it.
The closer I got to Meadows of Dan the more I began to notice the sun was starting to get low on the horizon. It wasn't really late, but now it was getting time to start thinking about heading back. US 58 is a fun ride, especially around Lovers Leap and that would take me in the right direction so I had a plan. As I exited off the parkway I noticed what I thought would be a good photo op and I was ready for a break anyway so I found a place to get off the road and sit a while.
Hwy 58 going into Meadows of Dan, Virginia
Satisfied with the pictures, stretched and ready to go I mounted up and headed east on 58. For a moment I thought about stopping for fuel, I wasn't out, or really low, but I wasn't sure if I had enough to make it back or not. I hadn't really pushed the bike far on fuel yet and decided that I might as well do it now, just so that I would know what kind of miles I could get on a tank.
58 is one of those roads that just begs to be ridden, so I did. No, I wasn't really hauling the mail, but I was maintaining a steady pace. All the while remembering that Bryan had mentioned several times that he would like to plan a trip around just US 58 and thinking we really should do that one day.
The intersection of Hwy 58, the BRP and Squirrel Spur Road
Reaching the town of Stewart and Hwy 8 the FJR and I turned south headed back toward North Carolina. 8 is another one of our favorite roads and one I'm familiar with as the sun and my fuel gage were both getting low I settled in for the ride home. I didn't want to stop at all, but knew I could do a splash and go if need be as there would be plenty of places to get fuel if I needed it along the way.
There are several sections of road from Stewart to the other side of Danbury, North Carolina that are a blast to ride, and I enjoyed every one of them. Danbury was one of my options for fuel but at that point the gage was still showing around an eighth of a tank so I headed on to Winston.
When I got to the intersection of US 52 and Hwy 8 which is just north of Winston it wasn't dark, but it wasn't far from it. My reserve fuel indicator still wasn't on as I merged onto 52 south, which honestly surprised me and I began to wonder if it worked! I got my answer south of Winston as the last 'bar' on the fuel gage began to blink, I was now on reserve. By my calculations I should have at least 40 miles of fuel left depending upon how low in the tank the fuel pick ups were positioned, which should get me home. At this point I had ridden more than 225 miles on one tank of fuel!
Once a hotel and boarding house, this is now an antique shop
By the time I got to Welcome it was most definitely oh-dark-thirty and there was getting to be a little nip in the air. The bike had not hiccuped once and was still running strong so I kept going but was getting a tad bit concerned. See, if it ran out I wouldn't be far from fuel, but it would still be a fairly long push or hike.
But in the end I made it. The trip odometer read 262 miles, the bike was still running and it had been a great ride that would have only been made better if Julie had been with me.