What a gorgeous day! Finally a weekend with enough decent weather to pack up the motorbike with camping gear and head to the mountains. Memorial Day weekend turned out to have just two delightful riding days, as a storm front was heading for us here in South Carolina that put the brakes on a two night trip. So, a one nighter it would be for the first camp outing of the riding season.
I was traveling solo, as Roo had things to do and wanted to stay home with the beagles since the trip was only an overnight. My first campground of choice was Two Wheels of Suches in Suches, GA. Heading southwest, that would have put me right in the upcoming storms path, which was heading north east. So, caution being the better part of valor, or whatever, I headed directly north from our house to Cruso, NC and the Blue Ridge Motorcycle Campground 90 miles away. The weather report showed beautiful clear skies for Saturday and most of Sunday, with highs in the mid 70’s and lows in the low 50’s. Fantastic! Being only 90 miles from home, I could get lot’s of mountain riding in and still beat the storm front bearing down on South Carolina Sunday afternoon.
Kissing the beagles and Roo goodbye (in that order), I mounted the ST, which was idling impatiently to get going, notched in first gear, and headed north. My route would take me up and over the Blue Ridge escarpment on super twisty Hwy. 276 into Brevard, NC. What a fun road, leaning the beaST left and right through posted 20 mile per hour curves. Blasting the Blue Ridges had begun, as the big Honda’s tires were now sufficiently warmed up to continue the twisty theme through Pisgah National Forest, up and over Cold Mountain through Wagon Road Gap and down the other side to BRMC. But first, I had to cruise through Brevard. As I entered this great little mountain town, little did I know the cluster-fuck I was about to be confronted with.
As expected, Brevard was having a festival this Memorial Day weekend, as most of the mountain towns in the region do. What I didn’t expect was the shitty traffic management that went along with this big downtown celebration. Traffic was at a standstill with detours that just didn’t make sense and not a single traffic cop to be found to untangle this vehicular macrame. After sitting in traffic with tempers starting to flare and horns honking, I decided to do something I would never dream of doing otherwise; lane split. Surveying the situation and with really no room for cars to make any bonehead maneuvers into me (it was literally gridlock), I pulled out of my lane and went right up the middle of the road to the next side street, about eight to ten car lengths. Turning onto it, there were yet more residential side streets blocked off with no detour signs directing traffic anywhere! WTF! It literally took me a full 15 minutes to finally get the hell out of Brevard and pop out to a major artery that I was familiar with.
I was now on the complete opposite end of town than planned. But no worries. Screw Brevard today, I decided to keep heading west rather than fight that crap all over again, and grab NC Hwy 215 north up to the Blue Ridge Parkway. Always have a plan B. Hwy 215 is another great twisty piece of tarmac that will test your bike handling skills.
Having a blast blasting up the 215, I round a curve and see a black man in biker gear waving traffic to slow down. Oh shit, I thought. A sure sign a biker went down. Quickly downshifting with the ST’s binders hauling her down to 20 MPH, I round the curve to see about 15-20 sportbikes ridden by black guys lined up along the side of the road. Some were standing around, some on their cell phones, some laughing. No bike on it’s side, no body on the ground, no emergency vehicles. Cruising by, the only “carnage” I saw was a car with it’s left front fender smashed and a few of the bikers looking it over. Huh? Very strange.
Getting past the mystery, I tached up the ST for the final leg to the BRP, through Wagon Road Gap and down the other side of Cold Mountain, finally reaching my destination for the night.
A great ride with a bit of frustration, but hey, it’s all part of the adventure. Enjoy some slides of this beautiful campground, a favorite of Roo & I:
After setting up camp and having a sammich snack, it was time to continue Blasting the Blue Ridges. I once again geared up, fired up the beaST, and off we went on our three road journey loop: NC Hwy 276 (Wagon Road), NC Hwy 215 (through Pisgah National Forest), and the Blue Ridge Parkway (National Park). Only 45 miles in length, but the most beautiful 45 miles you will ride in this area. Hwy 276 from BRMC to it’s junction with Hwy 215 is laid back and easy going with mountains all around you. The road follows the Pigeon River as you ride through beautiful farmland and horse ranches.
Turning onto NC Hwy 215 is where the “laid back” disappears and the “intense focus” takes it’s place. The 215 starts out with beautiful sweepers through bucolic farm land and is the perfect point in which to get your head in gear for what is to come. A left turn takes me and MyST through a series of short, fast “S” curves, then rounding a steep downhill right to this:
Lake Logan. Is this beautiful or what? Hwy 215 is behind the trees to the right where I just twisted my way down to that sharp downhill right hander which put me on the bridge that crosses the lake. This is where I took this beautiful shot. Lake Logan sits at the edge of Pisgah National Forest, just a couple of miles down the road. I ease the beaST back onto the road and crack a smile in my helmet as I pat the ST’s fuel tank and say “let’s have some fun!” The gentle sweepers now disappear as I pass the “Welcome to Pisgah National Forest” sign and the road begins to tilt upward. All semblance of human habitation are gone as I am now surounded by raw, natural beauty. The curves get more numerous and tighter as the 215 snakes it’s way up to the Blue Ridge Parkway. The higher we go, the tighter the curves become, until the big V4 is growling in only second and third gears.
With no shoulders on this road I can’t even safely pull over to take photos without fear of getting whacked by a vehicle from behind. Even though traffic was virtually non-existent, it only takes one to ruin your day. All too soon I am up on the Blue Ridge Parkway in bright sunshine and negotiating gentle sweepers for the next 12 miles on this gorgeous road. If you have been reading this blog, you know of my affinity for the BRP, so I won’t go into it here. Suffice to say, it is my favorite motorcycling road, and being in my own backyard doesn’t hurt either! Before heading back down to camp, I stop at The Pisgah Inn on the Parkway. A great spot where motorcyclists, sports car enthusiasts, hikers, cyclists and everyone else stop to eat, drink, soak in the views, and even stay the night. I pull into the parking lot and join the line of motorbikes parked by the convenience store.
After chatting with other bikers and having a drink, it’s time to head back down to my camp in the valley. NC Hwy 276 heading down is a blast! Tight, very tight, switchbacks has the beaST in second gear all the way. Not a straight piece of tarmac until you hit bottom. Very exhilerating, and the perfect ending to the riding day. Pulling into BRMC, I bed down the beaST for the night, shower, eat in the lodge, then gather around the fire pit with other motorcyclists to chat about our day on the road while drinking adult beverages. The fire spewed out warmth as the temperature outside it’s sphere of influence dropped.
I made a camping rookie mistake by not taking the appropriate sleeping attire for the temperature. I don’t know why or how I screwed up, but suffice to say I froze my ass off this night. Fuck, it was cold. I think someone said it got down to 49 degrees! That’s cold for this Mediterranean blood boy! No sleep this night.
By first light I was up and out of my tent packing things up. BRMC is surrounded by mountains on all sides, so the sun doesn’t hit the campground until about 10 AM. It was slow going warming up. I cooked up a great breakfast on the camp stove, finished packing up and loading the ST, then hung around a bit talking with folks while infusing caffeine. Coffee is essential in the AM when leaving BRMC. To get out you have to go up the same way you came down; twisty, 20 MPH Hwy 276. One better be awake, a bit hyper, and on one’s game to negotiate this road first thing. No room for error.
I took Hwy 276 all the way home to Greenville. It’s such a beautiful ride through Pisgah National Forest. Lot’s of cyclists were out getting early training rides in. These men and women are serious cyclists. One has to be to ride this road with it’s significant elevation changes. I tagged one cyclist as we approached a posted 20 MPH curve. I pulled over to let him get farther ahead (so I could have my fun blasting through the curve), and took this photo:
Finally down off the mountain, I head into South Carolina and home. Not long after stowing the ST and my gear, thunder started rolling and lightning flashing; then the skies opened up. Perfect timing, and, I don’t have to water the garden tonight! Good to be home, for now. A fantastic weekend Blasting the Blue Ridges!