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