Wandering the Bigger Latitudes

 

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Jeez, it’s hotter than hell, and has been for weeks now, here in South Carolina. Temps and humidity in those numbers that begin with a 9, every day. Roo and I are looking for relief, and so early on a Friday morning, late in July, we packed up the ST and headed for the bigger latitudes.

It so happens that our moto club, the Motorcycle Sport Touring Association (MSTA), is hosting a regional club gathering in Little Switzerland, North Carolina. Even the name, Switzerland, evokes images of snow capped mountains and cool, fresh, mountain air. We do this event every year, riding the beautiful Blue Ridge Parkway to our destination. Along the way, we always stop for lunch at a favorite place, especially looking forward to not only the meal, but more so to the precipitous drop in temperature. Mt. Mitchell State Park in North Carolina sits right off the Blue Ridge Parkway, and has a great restaurant that serves up really good road food. As we turn onto the state park road, we begin the sinuous climb up Mt. Mitchell, watching the ST’s on board air temperature gauge reading steadily decline. At 6,684 ft., Mt. Mitchell is the highest peak in the U.S. east of the Mississippi River. You won’t see a snow capped peak here (in summer), but oh my god the relief from the heat was fantastic, reading a wonderful 72 degrees.

Views from Mt. Mitchell

Always a good sign!

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The grounds around the restaurant are beautiful with wildflowers, bees, birds, and Roo too!

After lunch we’re back on the Blue Ridge Parkway enjoying our ride to Little Switzerland. At 3200 ft. elevation, Little Switzerland is a jewel of a village with some of the best motorcycling roads around. By late afternoon, we pull off the Parkway and roll into our accommodations for the weekend: The Big Lynn Lodge.

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The road that the Big Lynn Lodge sits on is NC 226A. Prior to the construction of the Blue Ridge Parkway in the 1930’s, this two lane, carriage road was the main thoroughfare connecting the villages of Spruce Pine and Little Switzerland, North Carolina. It was also a toll road, and right in front of the Big Lynn Lodge stand the two toll gate columns from almost a century ago.

Toll gate columns dating from the 1920’s.

After checking in, we unpacked the beaST for the weekend, popped a couple of beers and sat on the porch of our room and enjoyed a most gorgeous view we never tire of.

Our rooms

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The view from the porch

Time to wander around and meet up with old friends and make new friends before dinner and the evenings entertainment. One high profile personality was here, or at least his machine was. We never actually saw him or his sidekick.

Who are you? …….. “I’m Batman

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Some bikes, some bikers, all surrounded by natural beauty

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After dinner, we had live entertainment from a blues band whose members are also members of the MSTA. Hailing from Morganton, North Carolina, they call themselves The Alligators Blues Band, and they can belt out the blues like nobody’s business!

Barbara (left) and Barbara & Roo (right) with a ringside seat. The Alligators are playing in the background.

The Alligator Blues Band

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Later that night, as the band was winding down and packing up, someone pointed to the sky and said, “Look! It’s a Blood Moon!” Everyone looked, and sure enough, there was a beautiful orange/red moon hanging in the sky. Unfortunately, my little Canon wouldn’t pick it up, so here is a pic off the web pretty close to what we saw:

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It wasn’t a “true” blood moon, as they only happen when there are four lunar eclipses in a row, or what is called a lunar tetrad. My guess is the moon looked red to us because of atmospheric conditions beyond my comprehension. It was beautiful though.

The next morning, Saturday, Roo awoke with a bad backache, and didn’t want to chance making it worse riding pillion. So, she opted to stay behind and relax in the beautiful surroundings of Big Lynn Lodge.

When we come to this gathering, I have only one ride in mind: riding the Blue Ridge Parkway northbound as far as time will allow. I love this road. There are twistier roads, and there are faster roads. But, to me, The BRP epitomizes motorcycling at it’s best. And so, off I went, spending a fantastic day on the Parkway, with a side stop at a wonderful Italian restaurant that serves up authentic Italian cuisine, a rare find here in the South.

Views from the Blue Ridge Parkway

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A full day of fantastic riding on the BRP under my belt, I roll the ST to our room. Tonight is our final night here, and after dinner the event coordinator gives out door prizes, all moto related of course.

The swag table. Roo won the large Nelson Rigg Dry Bag in the photo to the left

Calling out the numbers for door prizes

The main dining hall, where everything happens!

Apres door prize giveaways, everyone mingled, drank adult beverages, some started packing up their motorbikes to leave really early in the AM. Roo and I hung out with friends before retiring for the night.

Barb & Roo (right) in the library. Barb rides a Yamaha FZ-09

Sunday morning, we said our goodbyes and pointed the ST downhill and into the oppressive heat. But for two days we cooled off, chilled out, and caught up with motorcycling friends. Just doesn’t get any better!

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