A Vintage Bikes & Brunch in North Carolina

I don’t know who came up with it first, the car guys or the biker dudes. All I know is we heard of the car guys Cars & Coffee gatherings first, then, just recently, we came across the bikers Bikes & Breakfast get togethers. We don’t have any Bikes & Breakfast gatherings locally, so Roo and I decided to come up with our own private version in conjunction with this years Meltdown Vintage Motorcycle Show. We have dubbed it Bikes & Brunch.

We anticipate this show all year long. It’s such a grass roots, low key, run what ya brung, family oriented affair that makes you so happy to be there, not just for the bikes, but for the atmosphere as well. Young, middle aged, old timers, dogs, kids, riders, non-riders, they’re all here and loving it! And, of course, the most beautiful vintage motorcycles on display. This is no trailer queen Concours event. As mentioned earlier, these are run what ya brung machines.

The Meltdown starts at noon, in Hendersonville, North Carolina. Roo and I left home with enough time to have our Brunch, arriving at Pop’s Diner in Hendersonville around 11:00 AM. Vintage bikes were everywhere, making their way to the Meltdown venue at Appalachian Brewery, just two blocks away. It was awesome seeing and hearing these beautiful and historic machines on the road.

Yes, we drove our four wheeled sport bike (we had our reason).

After parking the Miata, we strolled down Vintage Motorcycle Alley, three blocks of nothing but vintage bikes lining both sides of the street and overflowing into the parking lots. Heaven! Enjoy the pictorial!

An enthusiastic crowd admires moto history

 

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We all know how much dogs enjoy motorcycles.

This just looks stinkin’ fast……

Leave it to Ford to bring a car (and a possum) to a bike show

Bring on the badges

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What a great vintage show. Even looking at the modern bikes that people rode in was fantastic. A live oldies band (complete with band members pompadour’s) was playing in the courtyard of Appalachian Brewery, along with food trucks serving up all kinds of delicious munchies. No sooner did we leave, we were already anticipating next years show! If you are in the Western North Carolina area the third weekend in April, check it out. If you love vintage moto’s, you won’t be disappointed.

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Staying Safe in the Mountains of North Georgia & Western North Carolina

 

Is that The Stig** next to my motorbike?

ATGATT (All The Gear All The Time) , situational awareness, conspicuity, skill level. No, this is not a soap box diatribe on motorcycle safety, although I completely espouse the aforementioned safety attributes. Rather, this post is a recap and mini-review of a most excellent street oriented motorcycle safety weekend tour put on by a company called Stayin’ Safe Advanced Rider Training.

Those of you not residing in the USA may not have heard of Stayin’ Safe, those here in the States probably have. Started in the late ’80’s or early ’90’s (?) by Larry Grodsky, a witty and sarcastic (I love it!) moto safety guru and author, the program is a on street, real world, real speed, training course to help motorcyclists become more proficient, and thus safer, dealing with riding environments we encounter every time we straddle a saddle. Upon Larry’s untimely death, Eric Trow, lead instructor at the time, took over the company and expanded it to what it is today.

Friday

My gear is packed in my tank bag and drybag, I’m ready and chomping at the bit to get on the road, put miles on my tires, and fully immerse myself in the Stayin’ Safe Training Tour. It’s been a hell of a long winter. My ride today is about 130 miles to the town of Cornelia, Georgia. The tour actually starts just six miles from Cornelia in Clarkesville, a beautiful small North Georgia town that Roo and I visit often. The Super 8 hotel I am staying in is ……………..well, it’s a Super 8, what more is there to say.

Saturday

It’s six AM as my alarm goes off. I jump out of bed anticipating the rigorous riding schedule that Ryan, our instructor for this tour, has on tap for us. I pack up my gear, eat a small breakfast and caffeine up. It’s going to be a long, tough day riding the twisty roads of the North Georgia and Western North Carolina mountains. My Honda NC700XD parallel twin has been warming up and is ready to go. Six miles away is Java Joe’s coffee shop in Clarkesville, where our group will meet up and begin our training tour. It’s 43 degrees at 7:30 AM, but I’m so excited I don’t even feel the cold.

The Group

Surprisingly, everyone in the group starts rolling into Java Joe’s parking lot at the same time. We have five total in this group; four participants and one instructor. Stayin’ Safe Tours are intentionally kept small. Everyone in the group was a “seasoned” rider. At 22 years of riding experience, I was the novice. All the others had started riding before they could walk, rode dirt bikes at Baja when they were five, have owned sixty bikes over the last 10 years, blah, blah, blah. You know the story..

L to R: Joe, Skip, Ryan our instructor was the “baby” at 36, Steve. That’s Skips Yamaha FZ09 they are gathered round.

We came from all over; Joe & Skip trailered their bikes down from New York, Ryan is from Dahlonega, GA., Steve from Atlanta, and myself from South Carolina. A diverse group with the common goal of learning to become better, safer motorcycle riders and have fun doing so. And, as I had hoped, we all got along really well and enjoyed each others company throughout the weekend.

What’s it like?

In a nutshell, Stayin’ Safe Advanced Rider Training is motorcycle safety training in real time at real speeds on everyday roads. Riders receive instruction and feedback via one-way radio from the instructor. Training is broken up into lessons that are “taught” at roadside stops throughout the two day tour, each lesson building on the other. As the tour goes on, every rider gets to lead the group while the instructor gives instruction, tips and positive feedback to the rider in the lead.
A roadside lesson stop

As we warm up in Java Joe’s, eating breakfast (number two for me), and drinking Java, introductions are made, forms are filled out, tour packets are passed around, and Ryan lays out the plan for the next two days. “Be prepared to work, be more prepared to have fun!” he says.

By 9:30 we are on the bikes and heading to a community college parking lot for some slow speed drills and warming up of tires (and bodies). Then it’s off to the mountainous terrain of North Georgia we go. I haven’t ridden in the mountains since last year, so I knew I was going to be a tired puppy tonight.

Ryan started us out easy for the morning session, on nice sweepers as we climbed upward, with Ryan in the lead on his BMW GS1200, followed by Steve on his Indian Springfield, myself on my Honda NC700XD, Skip on his Yamaha FZ09, and Joe bringing up the rear on his Triumph Speed Triple. By lunch time, we had crossed the state line into North Carolina. Lunch was a welcome respite. Information processing and putting that information into practice on mountain roads was beginning to take it’s toll.

Ah! Lunch! Everyone say beagle! (Can’t say beagle without smiling)

Our lunch stop is a very popular moto destination!

 

Look at that smile! This pup was having a field day! Treats from everyone!

After lunch, it’s back on the bikes for the afternoon session. Ryan kept it easy for a little while, letting lunch digest a bit until blood flow gets back to the brain. He coaches us to get our “motorcycle minds” in gear, as we start working on the skills to negotiate the much more technical mountain roads in North Carolina.

Lessons in the afternoon session focus on being aware of potential hazard areas and how to spot them when they are hidden and finding the proper line for optimum sight distance in the many blind curves of these North Carolina mountains.

I am very familiar with the roads here, as this is part of my moto playground on any weekend day. But, Ryan took us down some roads that I never knew existed, or be able to find by myself, except perhaps,from making a wrong turn. And these roads were sick! One and one-half lane roads with no center line and no shoulders makes you stick to an optimum line for maximum sight distance, or you could become a hood ornament. Trial by fire!

By early evening we arrive at our destination for the night, The Oak Park Inn in Waynesville, North Carolina. We’re all tired from a long, just shy of 200 mile day, negotiating mountainous terrain. Park the bikes, clean up, we all pop a beer and hang for a while talking about the day before walking to the Sweet Onion restaurant for a most excellent dinner, compliments of Stayin’ Safe.

Oak Park Inn 

Sunday

Sunday was an early start. Where’s the coffee? Two hard boiled eggs and a Hammer Nutrition bar, then I’m off to Ryan’s room to meet the other guys for a 7:30 AM rider’s meeting and video review of yesterdays lessons. We all had questions and suggestions and ideas about the topics we were discussing. Ryan guided us with questions and scenarios as to why our strategies may or may not be best in a given situation. Like riding, it was a dynamic exchange, ever changing with no hard and fast rules.

After the riders meeting, we suited up, bid farewell to the Oak Park Inn, and headed to a vacant parking lot for some smooth braking practice, and learning how to “push the bike down” as Ryan put it, to execute tight, slow speed turns. It’s counter intuitive, and a bit scary, but once you get the hang of it, it’s really lots of fun and effective!

Back on the road, we headed to Clydes restaurant in downtown Waynesville, for brunch, again, compliments of Stayin’ Safe. Clouds were rolling in, as rain was forecast for this afternoon. The afternoon session was similar to yesterday, albeit shorter, putting into practice what we had learned, but on even more technical roads. By 3 PM we were done. Everyone received a certificate of completion, a patch, decal and pin. E-mails and phone numbers were exchanged as we all said our goodbyes and headed home or to hotels.

Clouds were heavy as I headed south. Looking up at Cold Mountain I could see the summit was enveloped in cloud. As I climbed to the Blue Ridge Parkway, visibility decreased to about 10 feet. I did stay ahead of, and sometimes behind, the rain, but it was very wet and misty going through the clouds. Up and over the top, about one quarter mile down the other side, I burst through the cloud cover. From then on it was clear sailing into South Carolina, practicing the new techniques I learned all the way home.

Thoughts

This is a very well designed on-street safety course that I encourage everyone to take, regardless of how many years riding experience one has. You will be surprised at what you will learn, and what you may have forgotten. This is a thinking riders course, using dynamic mental strategies to safely ride a motorcycle in what can be described as a ever changing hostile environment. It can definitely make your moto riding safer, build your own self confidence, and increase the fun factor to your motorcycle riding.

For more info: Stayin’ Safe Advanced Rider Training:

** The Stig. BBC TV series Top Gear, The Stig is their track car tester and race driver. Nobody knows who he really is (except the producers).

Motorbikes at EuroFest Greenville, South Carolina

 

EuroFest is a European car, judged show. But before you blow off this post because of the word “car”, let it be known they had some pretty sharp motorcycles at this premier auto event as well.

Roo and I, two moto and auto enthusiasts in our Mazda Miata, and another couple in their Porsche, drove to the Euro Auto Festival venue, the Verdae Greens golf course, on a gorgeous Saturday morning. Honestly, I did not know there were going to be motorbikes here, so imagine our delight when we came upon the sign shown above. Not a whole lot of bikes showcased, but hey, it is a “car” show.

There were a number of marques represented here: Aprilia, Ducati, Triumph, BSA, Norton, even a Greeves! BMW Touring Sport, our local BMW, Triumph and Ducati dealer, had a vendor tent set up and a Zero motorcycle (electric) whirring around the golf course all day! Awesome! Enough words. Enjoy the show!

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Next year, the featured automobiles will be Italian marques. Maybe more Italian motorbikes also? We will definitely be there. Viva Italia!

Travelling Round The World ………. Vicariously.

I am not a world traveler. Never was, never will be. I live on a continent that is more than large enough to satisfy my moto travel desires. Here in the USA, I have traveled the Eastern Seaboard from Key West to Vermont and the Canadian border; from the Atlantic coastline to the Mississippi River, and many places in between. I still have half a country to explore!  Would I like to travel to Europe and moto tour through different countries and cultures? Yes, no, well maybe. But not enough to deal with airline travel (not a fan), bike rentals, customs, border crossings, language barriers,etc. All part of the charm, I’m sure, just not charming to me.

I love to read travel essays, especially overland travel by motorcycle, written by folks who do travel to far away, sometimes exotic, sometimes not, places on this globe. The really gifted writers give me a real sense of traveling there with them. I also enjoy actually talking with people who travel round the world (RTW), and marveling at the machines they use to do so. To that end, every autumn for the past three years I have traveled to Ironhorse Motorcycle Resort in North Carolina for the Horizons Unlimited Travellers Meeting.

Horizons Unlimited is a global organization that holds these Travellers meetings all over the world, throughout the year. Their website holds a plethora of information and travel how-to, whether a first time traveller going on a two week journey, or a seasoned traveller stepping up to going RTW. You can check out their website here.

These meetings are interesting, in that they hold seminars and workshops on pertinent topics, as well as presentations of trips having been taken, that are at times inspiring, humorous, and exciting. These meetings are an enjoyable way for me to travel RTW, vicariously!

Below are some pics of, and comments on, the meeting, the travellers and their bikes, the venue, and the surrounding area.

 On the way to IronHorse: The Blue Ridge Parkway in North Carolina

Arriving at IronHorse Motorcycle Resort, and my NC700XD safely tucked away

The campground at IronHorse

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This guy has been everywhere, man……….

This fellow has traveled extensively, all over, on his beat to hell Yamaha Tenere. He outfitted the bike so he could travel with his dog, whose name is Little Dog. He’s not little. This guy is a hoot. Home base now is North Carolina, but he originally hails from New Jersey, and has the colorful speech pattern one would expect. I thoroughly enjoyed speaking with him, and his take no prisoners vernacular. Having been born and raised in New York, I know about deez f@#%in’ tings, ya know?

Little Dog

Little Dog fits in this crate. He jumps on the bike himself, walks into the crate, turns around and lays down.

Little Dog

People rode in on all kinds of bikes with which they travel near and far. This sidecar rig is absolutely amazing. Every kind of electronic comfort and safety bell and whistle has been integrated into this machines electronic system. It even has an electronic lift for the sidecar that will compensate for “flying the chair” during left turns! I’d hate to be in the middle of nowhere with this bike when an electrical gremlin decides to come along for the ride.

The riding in the surrounding area is without parallel. Of course, there is the over-marketed and hyped up Tail of the Dragon, 318 curves in 11 miles.  Moonshiner 28, Cherohala Skyway and Wayah Road round out the named routes. Throw in the many hidden backroads in this former Prohibition alcohol hideaway, and you’re going to work up quite an appetite. Ready to service that hunger, 11 miles from IronHorse, is Bryson City, a gem of a mountain town and home to the Great Smokey Mountain RR excursion train.

Downtown Bryson City

My go to lunch stop each time I visit  is Mountain Perks Coffee House and Cafe. Good coffee with espresso drinks, and fabulous sandwiches. For coffee and baked goods snacks, La Dolce Vita can’t be beat. Both have outdoor cafe seating for some great people watching, and Mountain Perks sits right across from the railroad depot, so you get to see the tourist trains coming and going.

Bryson City

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During a break in Horizons Unlimited program on Saturday, I hopped on the Honda and headed downhill to the Nantahala Gorge and a favorite lunch stop: Rivers End restaurant in the Nantahala Outdoor Center.

The Nantahala Outdoor Center (NOC) is everything about whitewater paddling. Situated on the Nantahala River, rated at Class I – IV whitewater, NOC offers instruction and rentals of whitewater kayaks, canoes and rubber duckies. They also do whitewater rafting trips. I took a week long whitewater instruction course here back in the last century, and it paid dividends when I moved to Florida and took up surf kayaking. They also have a huge outfitters store packed with paddling, backpacking, camping, and cycling gear. You are sure to find something here for the camping motorcyclist.

Down on the river

Before heading back to IronHorse for the Horizons afternoon sessions, I had just enough time to do a few miles out and back through the Nantahala Gorge. The road is sinewy, and tree shaded the entire way with patches of sunlight coming through at mid-day. The name  Nantahala is from the Cherokee language roughly translated as ” land of the noon-day sun.” In the Gorge, that is the only time sunlight peaks though.

A beautiful road beside a beautiful river: The Nantahala Gorge

Back at IronHorse, an afternoon and evening of workshops, seminars, and conversation with other travellers, has me exhausted by 10 PM. Tomorrow I’m homeward bound with a renewed enthusiasm for the travelling that I do, and a new respect for those that travel way farther than I ever will, by motorcycle.