It’s On The Way!

Roo and I paid a visit to our Honda dealer on Saturday, dropping off the beaST to get a horn relay replaced for my Stebel Air Horn. Jason, the general manager saw us and pulled us aside. “Spoke with the boys in Japan, and two new NC700X DCT’s are shipped and on the way. They said they will arrive here in April.” Just like Honda doesn’t divulge horsepower numbers on their bikes, it seems they don’t like to be tied down to definitive shipping dates either. So, sometime in April (hopefully), this will be in our garage:

2017 Honda NC700X DCT ABS

Many of Honda’s 2017 models were delayed being shipped due to significant damage to the Honda factory in last year’s earthquake that rocked Japan. But finally, the ships are crossing the Pacific. Just waiting for the slow boat from…………Japan.

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Practicing What I Preach: Turning to The Light Side – Finally

Great post by Paul Pitchfork here. I am still in transition to the Light Side, first with Honda’s NC700X, and now toying with dropping further to Honda’s CB500X! Stay tuned, but do read this excellent post.

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Back in 2014, after a year and a half riding my Tenere through South America, I wrote a blogpost entitled, “Turning to The Light Side – The Argument for Lightweight Overloading.”  After losing count of the times I had to pick up my 230kg loaded Tenere, the concept of travelling on small and lightweight machine became a mild obsession, which never went away.  I became a vocal advocate.  Finally, I am now practicing what I have so enthusiastically preached.

Moving to Mexico was the catalyst.  My Tenere is garaged in Wiltshire, UK and I am not minded to ship it once again across the Atlantic.  Furthermore, Mexico and indeed the United States a few hundred miles north offer amazing opportunities to explore on two wheels.  After briefly flirting with a long-time admiree, KTM’s 990 Adventure, I settled upon the other end of the spectrum and opted for 250cc –…

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Ahh! The Wind in our Hair!

A usual reply when asked why we ride motorcycles: “To be free; to feel the wind in my hair.” But not if you are ATGATT (All The Gear All The Time), as we are. A helmet kind of precludes any wind blowing through one’s hair.

Until now. This post is to introduce our sister site, Drop Top Cruisin’, a travel blog that headlines our adventures in our Mazda MX-5 Roadster, where, when we drop the top, the wind really does blow through our hair!

Many motorcycle enthusiasts are sports car enthusiasts as well, and so are we! If you enjoy reading of our moto travels here, please continue to do so. Our motorcycle journeys are far from over. We invite you to join us on our sports car meanderings as well in Drop Top Cruisin’ here. And please drop us a line and let us know what you think of our sister site. Thanks for reading!

Still in the garage…………….

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Still waiting for delivery…………….

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My New Ride

Now, before we get all moto excited here, I must be up front with y’all. It’s not a motorcycle, BUT, it is the next best thing. Rest assured, there is motorcycle content in this post.

This year I decided I wanted another convertible roadster as my daily driver. Way back in time I had a Triumph Spitfire, a British roadster that I just loved. In 2016, the roadster bug bit again. I scoured the on-line sites for six months until I found this beauty in my price range with super low mileage and a body to die for. She is in perfect shape for a 14 year old car.

Since Zed14 showcased his new automobile on his awesome moto blog a few months ago, I felt that a precedent had been set. Since it is winter here in South Carolina, two wheeling has taken a significant downturn, so I needed some fresh blog material. Well, here she is, goofy grin and all, my new as-close-to-motorcycling-as-she-gets ride:

2003 Mazda Miata MX5

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Roo has named her Guinness, due to her tan and black interior, but I’m not sold on the name yet. We both love her. She’s no speed sled, but power to weight ratio is pretty impressive. Fun? What a blast! Top down, curvy mountain roads that she takes like she’s on a monorail. Wow! Mazda got it right. As one fellow Miata owner said to me: “Mazda built a modern day British Roadster with technology, reliability, and power.”

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 The MX5 resurrects the classic small British roadsters of the 1960’s: Triumph Spitfire and the TR series, and the MGA’s and MGB’s as well as others. My MX5 is the NB series, or second generation built between 1998 and 2005. I like the lines of the NB series. It is truer to the look of the old Brit roadsters of the 60’s than the new MX5’s today.

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This is no luxury, pseudo sports car. This is the real deal. The MX5 is tight: stiff suspension, super responsive steering, low and wide for superb handling. Not to say that the ride is torturous, it is actually quite comfortable. But, in a sports car, you want feedback from the road, just like on a motorcycle, and the MX5 gives it to you.

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Shifting through the five speed gearbox is quick and easy with the short throw shifter. Redline is 7000 RPM, but the MX5 is built for low to mid-range torque, so you hit highway speeds well in advance of the envelope.

Guinness

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I really can’t believe the condition of this car considering it’s age. Of course, from the outside, she looks tiny, and really is. But once seated in the cabin, it seems like she morphs into a larger car. Ample leg and head room, plenty of space for my shifting arm without slamming my elbow into the passengers ribs, as in my previous car.

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With the top down, the fun factor continues. I had forgotten how much fun driving a convertible is. Christmas Day turned unseasonably warm, and so I dropped the top and Roo and I went on a short drive on some local curves, laughing and hooting all the way.

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Christmas eve day had me attending a regular car (mostly) and motorcycle (a little) event called Cars & Coffee, held the fourth Saturday of each month at the Michelin headquarters here in Greenville, South Carolina. Everyone brings their own ride, and the scope of cars that show up is breathtaking! From Chevy Belairs and VW Beetles (original), to 2016 Corvettes and Camaros, plus everything in between. Even the Batmobile from the 1960’s TV show came rolling in! The sound, the horsepower, and the aesthetic beauty presented here was astounding! About 150 cars showed up, and, because of the holiday weekend, was a much lower number than usual!

Cars & Coffee

Honda S2000

Honda S2000

Dodge Viper

Dodge Viper

This is one bad-ass looking car!

2016 Chevrolet Corvette

2016 Chevrolet Corvette

2016 Fiat 124 Spyder Abbarth

Designed by Fiat (you can see the Italian styling), built by Mazda. A great looking and performing Roadster, but all the car mag reviews still give the performance edge to the Miata MX5.

Everyone knows what this is. “Super cute” says Roo.

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When this came rolling in, the whole crowd moved as one to it’s parking space

The Batmobile (from the 1960’s TV show)

I’ve seen it all, after that Bang! Pow! Zap! Batman nostalgia display. I can go home now. NOT! One more stop, to view a thing of beauty that crossed my line of vision. Something I had never seen or heard of or read about before. And, it was perched on two wheels.

1982 Honda CBX1000 (web photo)

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The owner of this beautiful machine was there, and I struck up a conversation with him. He had purchased this bike from a dealer only two months prior. A long time motorcycle and sports car enthusiast, he has owned a bike in almost every marque made. He currently rides a late model BMW (besides the Honda), and his daily driver is a Porsche 911.

1982 H0nda CBX1000 (Cars & Coffee photo)

He said the only thing he had to do to this bike was change out the fluids and replace a burnt out headlamp bulb! What you see in the photos is exactly how he bought it! Wow! What a find! I’d never heard of this Honda before, and sure am glad I got to see one firsthand.

Behind the Honda was a old Harley, 1950’s I believe the owner said. You can barely see it in the Honda photo to the left. The owner is in the photo to the right getting ready to fire it up. Three kicks on the kickstarter and he was on his way.

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That’s a damn good looking motorbike for it’s age, kind of like my MX5! Vintage gets sweeter with time!

I posted about this before, but 2017 will see me astride a new motorbike. My wonderful Honda ST1300 will be retired, along with the little Suzuki TU250. The plan is to have this happen in February. In their place will be another Honda, the NC700X DCT. Smaller, lighter, actually flickable, and Honda’s Dual Clutch Transmission that I have fallen head over heals for.

2016 Honda NC700X DCT (web photo)

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Riding the NC700X in Vermont this past July (MSTA event photo)

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And so, I am very happy with my MX5. Looking forward to some great driving this spring, top down, wind in the hair, with Roo and a beagle or two if we can swing it. To quote another MX5 owner: “Mazda made the British sports car the Brits wish they had made.” To all my U.K. friends..nothing personal.

The torch has been passed (but I’d love to have that TR6)

I may have to create another blog site for the drop top. I’ll think about that.

 

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Three National Parks, One Great Road Trip, Celebrating America’s Best Idea – Final

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1916-2016

Looking Into North Carolina

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I awake in Sparta, North Carolina, to another picture perfect day. It is in stark contrast to the ominous weather that hurricane Matthew is presenting to the Florida coast, as it whirls it’s way up to my home state of South Carolina and beyond. I am heading west, deeper into western North Carolina and hundreds of miles from the coast. By the time Matthew breeches the Carolina’s, I will be safely tucked away at home. No worries though. I live in the western part of the state, in the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains, over two hundred miles from the coastline.

As mentioned in an earlier post, the Blue Ridge Parkway was begun in 1935, yet was not completed until fifty-one years later in 1987. The final piece of the puzzle, so to speak, was put into place at Grandfather Mountain, here in North Carolina. The two halves of the Parkway met here, from Great Smoky Mountains National Park at the southern terminus, and from Shenandoah National Park, at the northern terminus.

In order to preserve the environmental integrity of Grandfather Mountain, which is now a Unesco Biosphere, engineers decided to build around the mountain, rather than blast the Parkway through it. Thus was born the Linn Cove Viaduct, an engineering marvel that minimized the impact of construction on Grandfather Mountain.

Linn Cove Viaduct

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There is a visitor center at the south end of the viaduct which shows a short video of how the bridge was constructed. Very interesting! Outside, there is a short trail that leads under the viaduct where you can see the construction of the pilings and the bridge hugging the side of Grandfather Mountain.

Amazing!

I’m in very familiar surroundings now, riding the section of the Parkway that I ride all the time, even as a day trip! Lucky me! Tonight is a camping night, at Blue Ridge Motorcycle Campground, a mere ninety miles from my home. I won’t go into any camping details here. You have read plenty about this campground in previous posts (it is one of our favorites). However, I will always write or post pics of our canine bretheren:

What’s a campground without a camp mascot? This is Sadie. She is one sweet dog.

The next morning, I awoke to the one wet day of the entire trip. The dew point was high, and a heavy drizzle had fallen all night. Outdoor gear was getting packed away wet today. Clouds were hanging low over the campground, and Cold Mountain, the “hill” I have to climb to get back to the Parkway, was totally obscured. But, it was absolutely beautiful.

The ride up Cold Mountain was slow going. At times all I could see was my front wheel as I climbed through the low cloud cover. Finally reaching the ridge and pulling onto the Parkway, I pull over to take in the beauty:

From here, the Parkway ascends to it’s highest point. Virginia boast’s the lowest point on the Parkway, while North Carolina boast’s the highest:

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Though beautiful, the eeriness of the fog doesn’t escape me

Ghost Riders?

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A group of Can-Am riders at the Highest Point

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From here, the Parkway begins it’s long, gradual descent to Great Smoky Mountains National Park. I ride down out of the clouds into beautiful mountain scenery.

Twenty or so miles later, my journey ends at MM469. The Blue Ridge Parkway ends at a T junction with US Highway 441. Four days of blissful riding on Skyline Drive and the BRP abruptly ends. Traffic, people, noise, gridlock, aarrrrrggghhh! Welcome to Great Smoky Mountains National Park!

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Great Smoky Mountains National Park

Established June 15, 1934

Size: 522,427 acres (800 square-miles)

Great Smoky Mountains National Park is the most visited park in the park system. Nine million visitors per year come to this park. That’s twice the amount of folks who visit Grand Canyon National Park at four plus million. I circled the Oconaluftee Visitor Center parking lot three times before a space opened up.

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The only road through Great Smoky Mountains National Park is US 441. Today, Friday, traffic is heavy, but moving. As popular as this park is, the 800 square miles of rugged land between North Carolina and Tennessee are some of the wildest areas east of the Mississippi River. Finding solitude here in the Smokies isn’t hard, but you are going to have to work for it, battling traffic on weekends to get to any of the trailheads in this park. The symbol of the Smokies, The American Black Bear, serves as an example of this parks remoteness once away from cars and people. With over 1500 bears roaming the park’s interior, Great Smoky Mountains National Park is the largest protected bear habitat in the East.

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I pulled into the open parking space so fast I almost dropped the beaST! I took a stroll into the Visitor Center, feeling awkward in this throng of people, having not seen crowds in over a week.

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This Visitor Center has a Mountain Farm Museum, again, depicting farm life in Appalachia in the 19th and early 20th centuries.

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Ha! Kidding! Here’s the house mentioned:

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More farm scenes

After taking these few pictures, the crowds started closing in. People everywhere! I carefully backed out of the parking space and made my way through the traffic. Oh! To be back in Shenandoah just starting out, just me, my ST, and the peacefulness and beauty of the surrounding landscapes.

I am, however, satisfied with my personal celebration of the 100th anniversary of our National Park Service. It was one great trip. Now I head deeper into Western North Carolina to mingle with the world travelers of Horizon’s Unlimited, for the weekend, at Ironhorse Motorcycle Lodge. But that’s another story.

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