About Bob

Beagles & Bikes, two of my favorite things. Beagles are cool (we have two). Snoopy is the coolest beagle, and Joe Cool is the Steve McQueen of beagles. He just exudes cool. But my passion - traveling locally, regionally and anywhere in the country by motorbike, takes the cake. There is no better way to see the sights, smell the smells, and immerse oneself in the ways of life of the different areas you travel through. People approach you out of genuine curiosity: Where are you from? Where are you going? How long have you been traveling? Why a motorbike? By motorbike, people open up, invite you into their lives. Sports cars, particularly convertible Roadsters, generate the same kind of curiosity. And if The Beagles come along in their own sidecar, or convertible sports car, tails wagging and goggles and scarves billowing in the breeze,what conversations do you think would ensue........?

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!

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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.

 

Drifting Back In Time to WWII at Camp Toccoa, Georgia

 

The WWII era has always held a fascination for me. I don’t know why. Maybe because as a kid growing up in the 1960’s, television was inundated with WWII movies, the Hollywood, romanticized, John Wayne (nothing against The Duke), rah! rah! do good flicks of the time. Maybe it’s because my dad is a WWII vet, though, as a kid, that didn’t influence my interest. Besides, as with many veterans, the war wasn’t spoken of in the home. Or maybe, the 1940’s post-war era in particular, with the Golden Age of New York and the entire country now in full swing, caught my fancy. Can’t really pin it on any one thing.

Motorcycling to North Georgia countless times over the past twenty years, I don’t know how often we have stopped for a break in a filling station (there’s an old term for you) right at the base of Currahee Mountain, and not have a clue as to what took place there seventy-five years ago. Then, in 1999, an HBO movie was produced and hit the theaters in 2000, starring Tom Hanks and Matt Damon ; Band of Brothers. Roo and I didn’t see it for a few years until it came out on Netflix. All of a sudden, Camp Toccoa and WWII was again brought into our, and the country’s conscience. We researched it on-line and realized it was the same Currahee Mountain we had been gazing at on our moto breaks for twenty years!

Then Roo found an old photo of her Dad in full army parachute jump gear during WWII. Could he have trained at Camp Toccoa, so close, and we not having known all these years? The quest was on to find out. And so, this past Labor Day had us motoring to Toccoa, Georgia and the Camp Toccoa Parachute Infantry Regiment training site.

ROO’s DAD. WAS HE AT CAMP TOCCOA?

Four Parachute Infantry Regiments (P.I.R.) trained at Camp Toccoa: the 501st, 506th, 511th, and 517th. All but one regiment dropped in Europe. The 511th dropped in the Pacific Theater. So far, we are guessing that Roo’s dad was in the 511th, as he dropped and fought in the Pacific.

The 511th P.I.R. had the most drops of the four regiments.

Restoration of the camp is underway, including replica’s of the camp buildings, educational exhibits, and a WWII C47 cargo plane, currently under restoration, will be displayed here. Only one building has survived the past 75 years.

Inside the camp gate: The original road and one original building; the camp mess hall (white building)

The road that the troops ran “three miles up and three miles down” in training, as made famous in Band of Brothers, is right outside the gate to the left of the mess hall. It is the same dirt/gravel road today, as it was in the 1942 photo below:

“Three miles up and three miles down”

Today, the same run is held up and down Currahee Mountain, on the same gravel road  for the public every June during Camp Toccoa Military Days.

 Camp Toccoa in 1942

After visiting the camp site, Roo and I headed back to Toccoa to visit the Currahee Military Museum. There we were able to see WWII memorabilia from the four regiments stationed here. We also were able to look at records of the men who trained here, scouring the names to see if Roo’s dad was in the books. The woman helping us stated that the museum relies solely on the families to supply them with information, and as such, if a soldiers name wasn’t listed, it did not mean he wasn’t here. Roo’s dad’s name did not show up. She asked for a copy of a photo and his discharge papers if available. We do have them. She then said to contact the VA (Veterans Administration) and get his military record. If he trained at Camp Toccoa, it will be there. She pleaded with us to send her copies of everything if records show he was here. As she said; “we want to find and house all our Toccoa men right here.” So, that is our next step on this journey.

Currahee Military Museum (Toccoa Rail Depot)

It was a fascinating day, not only searching out something very personal to us, especially Roo, but a wonderful learning experience of something that went on here 75 years ago, in an area that we frequent by motorbike. We will definitely be doing that run up Currahee Mountain next June, and if it is found that Roo’s dad did train here, we will be shouting CURRAHEE! as we run in his honor.

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Georgia’s Been on my Mind………………….

…………… so I went.

Destination: Two Wheels of Suches, as in Suches, Georgia in the beautiful North Georgia Mountains. It has been two years since we last rode through North Georgia, a very favorite area of mine and Roo’s. This trip however, was to be a solo journey, a one nighter, hastily put together so I could “get out of Dodge” and clear my head of life’s nasties. Roo chose to stay home, chillin’ and snugglin’ with The Beagles.

“All my bags are packed, I’m ready to go ……………”

North Georgia has always been a favorite riding destination. The journey is wonderful as well, not so much for road curvature (very little), but for the beautiful scenery and the serenity we experience as we cross the state line from South Carolina into Georgia.

My first rest stop is at 110 miles, in an old mill town; Toccoa, Georgia. The city fathers here are now making an effort to restore the downtown area after many years. Late starters I guess. Besides being an old mill town, Toccoa is noted for two significant historical facts. First, the city is the birthplace of Paul Anderson, U.S. Olympic Weightlifting Champion from the 1950’s. How do I know this? Used to be a gym rat and weightlifting history buff way back.

Taking a break in Toccoa. I feel insignificant……..

Second, and on a more personal note, just outside Toccoa stands Currahee Mountain, made famous in the HBO mini-series Band of Brothers. At the base of Currahee Mountain  (Cherokee for “stands alone”) was Camp Toccoa, a WWII U.S. Army Paratrooper training site.

Currahee Mountain: Toccoa, Georgia

The 506th Parachute Infantry Regiment, Company E, was formed at Camp Toccoa. They adopted the Currahee name as their battle cry and namesake. As made famous in Band of Brothers, part of their rigorous daily training was to run “3 miles up and 3 miles down” on the steep mountain slopes. Six thousand paratroopers trained here. Current members of the 506th still refer to themselves as the Currahees, and the name is emblazoned on their patches as well.

The personal note? As far as we know, at least in 1942, Camp Toccoa was the only paratrooper training site on the east coast. Roo’s dad, long sinced passed, was a paratrooper in WWII. Since Camp Toccoa was the only training site for paratroopers at that time, it stand’s to reason that her dad trained there. A pilgrimage is planned over this Labor Day weekend to Toccoa, to visit the site and begin scouring records to see if her dad did indeed train there. Downtown Toccoa also houses the Currahee Military Museum in the old railroad depot. We will begin our fact finding mission there.

Currahee Military Museum

Toccoa sits at the base of the North Georgia Mountains. As you leave town, the grade begins a long, steady, climb to the quaint city of Clarkesville. The road levels out, passing through the town of Cleveland amid beautiful rural landscapes and horse ranches. Twenty miles of straight, flat road turns into roller coaster, twisty tarmac, with an uphill finish in the city of Dahlonega, home of the first, but lesser known, gold rush in the U.S.

In 1828, gold was discovered outside Dahlonega, Georgia, and quickly became known as the North Georgia Gold Rush. By the early 1840’s, the gold petered out, and prospectors started heading west. The shiny rock was then discovered lying about in the Sierra Nevada mountain range in 1848, and the much more famous and romanticized California Gold Rush had begun.

Prospecting for gold in Dahlonega

Today the Dahlonega Gold Museum and Visitor Center sits right in the heart of the Town Square, and gives a great history of the North Georgia gold Rush Days.

Downtown Dahlonega, Georgia

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Sweet little town. Roo’s and my favorite place to eat is the Crimson Moon Cafe. Good food, good coffee, good beer. Recommended.

Well, lookey here what I found!

Damn, that’s gorgeous! I know, this is a motorcycle blog, but hey, I’m a car guy too (motorcycle first though). Besides, really, that is a stunning machine!

Leaving Dahlonega, Georgia Highway 60 heads north to the unincorporated spot in the road called Suches. The road becomes very twisty, with tight switchbacks as I come through Woody Gap. Just before cresting the Gap, the Appalachian Trail crosses the road. Need to be careful here, as it sometimes gets crowded with AT day hikers parking and milling about on the road. The Tour de Georgia bicycle race used to come through here (no longer) on it’s way south to Dahlonega. In years past, I have actually seen bicyclists drafting motorcycles coming down the mountain! What a rush!

Heading down into the valley, my destination is in sight, and thankfully, just last year, they paved their formerly gravel downward sloping drive and parking area. Sweet!

Two Wheels of Suches Motorcycle Campground

The Lodge

This is a great destination moto campground. The grounds are beautiful. Tent sites and cabins are available. Restaurant is on site, which is very convenient, as the nearest decent choice of eateries is fifteen miles back down the hill to Dahlonega. If you enjoy an adult beverage or two with dinner, riding back from Dahlonega is a very risky proposition!

The riding here in this area is superb. Wolfpen Gap Road, which is right across the street, is the infamous stretch of Georgia Highway 180. Numerous bikes & cars have been pulled out of the woods for drivers not heeding the 10 MPH signs on the switchbacks here. But if you ride smooth with moderate speed, this is a super fun road!

Georgia Highway 60 is fun, twisty, tarmac that will take you to the towns of Blue Ridge and the Ellijays, close to the Tennessee state line. All the roads here are a blast that can take you to numerous state parks, historical sites and small towns.

Creekside Camping

Scenes from the front porch

A couple of older Hondas: a CX500 and a CX 650 Turbo!

Honda CX500

Honda CX650 Turbo

Dinner in the lodge, a few glasses of wine bought from the store across the street, meeting other motorcyclists and checking out bikes. Just what I needed for my thirty hour chill-out. Can’t wait to be back here for a few nights stay.

 

 

These Guys Have Brass Ones!

THE WALL OF DEATH

I have read about it. I have seen photos of it. I have seen you tube videos of it. But I have never seen it live. Until now. Inside this rickety, wooden structure, men on vintage motorcycles flip the bird to bodily injury and death as they race their motorbikes on vertical wooden planks, inches from the crowd of spectators.

PRE-EVENT WARMUPS

The Wall of Death has been around at motorcycle rallies since the early 20th century. Not much has changed: man, motorcycle, speed, wood and centrifugal force. Get one of the components wrong and you’re toast.

The spectators climb the stairs into the “dome” and circle the outer perimeter of the wall. I was right up against the wall, right where the motorcycles would be inches from my face.

Looking down at the moto gladiators and their machines

The bottom row of planks are banked in order to get the motorbike up onto the vertical planks. When the bike has attained sufficient speed and centrifugal force takes over, the rider nudges the bike onto the vertical planks!

Wally, a native South Carolinian, is the oldest Wall of Death participant in the U.S. at 68 years old!

 How about two at a time? Like a bicycle pursuit race, they start at opposite ends of the “wall” and pass each other! Sick, huh?

Even a go cart has a go at it. Up the banking ……..

……… and onto the wall!

The whole structure rocked back and forth as the vehicles circled the wall. It was kind of unnerving, but exciting as well.

What a great experience, up close and personal. The bikes and riders were literally inches from us as they climbed to the very top of the wall! If you ever get the chance to see this, do it. It’s nothing short of fantastic!