POO

Poo. Poo is Nirvana. Poo is satisfying. When you arrive at that “ahhhh” moment, everything slips away as you feel your body completely relax. No matter how you felt pre-Poo; exhilerated, anxious, or just plain focused on the task at hand, your arrival at Poo is nothing short of elation. And Poo is beautiful and pleasing to the eye. There is nothing distasteful about Poo.

 Peaks of Otter. Poo. Located approximately ten miles north of Bedford, Virginia. The Peaks of Otter are three moutains in the Blue Ridge Mountain chain; Sharp Top, Flat Top, and Harkening Hill. The Lodge is situated right on the Blue Ridge Parkway, MP 85. This is our third trip to the lodge; twice by motorbike and once, this trip, in our MX-5.

SHARP TOP

After a spirited drive up and down the Back of the Dragon (see previous post), we headed east and took the back roads and the Blue Ridge Parkway to the Peaks of Otter Lodge. This area of Virginia is stunningly beautiful, and the lodge property is as well. It was here, way back in 2006, that we had a magical bear encounter with a female bear and her two cubs. A photo hanging in our living room that Roo took at the time showing momma bear and her cubs looking right at us with no fear or aggression at twenty feet away reminds us of that magical experience.

The grounds here at the lodge are gorgeous, invoking a sense of calm and peace the moment one arrives. We parked the MX-5 and didn’t drive for two days, electing instead to chill and hike the many trails both on the property and the surrounding area.

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The restaurant on site serves wonderful cuisine in a rustic mountain atmosphere. A fiddler is playing in the lounge, and the music filters through to the dining room as Roo and I enjoy a bottle of wine from a local vineyard. A perfect ending to a great day of driving as we walk the trail around Lake Abbott in the moonlight.

The next morning we awake to a gorgeous Virginia morning, and prepare to hike to the summit of Sharp Top mountain. Sharp Top peaks to just under 4000 ft. in elevation. A 1.5 mile trail takes us to the summit. That doesn’t seem like a very long trail, and it isn’t, as the crow flies, but this is 1.5 miles with a lot of vertical.

Another View Of Sharp Top

The views from the summit are breathtaking! We could see for miles. And it was very, very, cool and breezy. I was dressed for seventy-five degree temps in a fifty-five degree atmosphere with a wind chill of another five to eight degrees. Brrrr.

I reached into my pants pocket to retrieve my camera to take photos of the beautiful surroundings, and came up empty handed! I left the camera in the room. Below are a couple of web photos of the summit of Sharp Top:

There is also a cabin at the summit, built in the 1880’s, that was used as an overnight rest stop for hikers and travelers of that era. The National Park Service had just finished restoring the cabin this year.

Another historical structure on the Poo property is Polly’s Ordinary. An “ordinary” was the term used in the 18th and 19th centuries for overnight accommodations for travelers in the area. Nothing fancy, just a place to drop your bedroll and get a simple meal. This was a popular area for travel and recreation even back then.

A full day of hiking, beautiful weather, another wonderful meal in the on-site restaurant and one last evening walk around Lake Abbott, left us pleasantly tired. Tomorrow we begin our journey back to Wytheville and the Trinkle House B&B for an overnight stay, via the Blue Ridge Parkway and some of Virginia’s best twisty roads. Then its back home to South Carolina and the anxiously awaiting Beagles.

Another satisfying Poo experience. If you ever want to make a trip to Poo, check the area out on the Blue Ridge Parkway, MP 85, Bedford, VA, and have your own wonderful Poo experience. You won’t be disappointed.

Climbing on the Dragon’s Back in The Commonwealth

Back of the Dragon. VA16, Marion to Tazewell, Virginia. Thirty-two miles, one way. Three mountain ascents and descents. Untold number of sweepers and tight hairpin curves. Beautiful vistas. The tag line is a snub at the Tail of the Dragon in North Carolina/Tennessee: “Eleven……Try thirty-two.” This is one freakin’ fantastic road!

This is a sports car enthusiasts paradise. The county here is trying to market this road similar to the Tail of the Dragon, to increase tourism in this rural section of Virginia. Marion is a small town, Tazewell even smaller. The nearest town of any size is Wytheville, a 20 minute hop on I-81, and it is small. The surrounding countryside is absolutely gorgeous.

 Roo and I took this trip in our Mazda Miata MX-5, and this post is appropriate to appreciate what this road can offer to motorcyclists. My Honda NC700XD will get its crack at the Back next year.

Now thats one happy MX-5!

Vistas from the Back

The Road

This road has everything to keep the sports car enthusiast entertained: sweepers, tight hairpins, offset camber curves, three mountains to traverse, oh, and a nice little coffee shop in Tazewell to caffeine up for the return thirty-two miles to Marion.

Tazewell, VA

 The views are beautiful………

and the road is fantastic

It was raining on and off, so a drop top drive was not in the cards today. Exhilarating none the less.

Our base for the Dragon Drive was the Trinkle House in Wytheville. A beautiful B&B that sported very reasonable rates in a restored house built in the 1880’s. A truly relaxing place to chill with a glass of wine on the veranda after dueling the Dragon beast. A short walk to downtown Wytheville brought us to dinner, then a walk around downtown had us seemingly in a time warp in small town 1950’s. Back to the Future re-visited.

THE TRINKLE HOUSE 

 Tail of The Dragon vs. Back of the Dragon. A comparo: 

Both of these roads have their appeal. The Tail of The Dragon in North Carolina/Tennessee is a technical road by virtue of the continuous curves thrown at you, many of them blind and off-camber. At eleven miles, it is short, so multiple runs over a day or weekend are a must for maximum enjoyment of time spent. This, of course, decreases the challenge during each run as one becomes proficient at “learning” the road (depending on speed and other road users).

The Back of the Dragon in Virginia is challenging due to it’s varied and undulating terrain. Significant elevation change, off-camber curves, sweepers and switchbacks thrown at you in random fashion. At thirty-two miles, it’s a long road. An up and back run is sixty-four miles. That’s two hours at a reasonable speed. Do a double run, and you’ve spent half a day with a grin on your face. One really doesn’t “learn” this road unless you live on a nearby farm and drive it everyday. Lucky you.

I love them both. However, the nod goes to the Back of the Dragon as the preferred of the two. The surrounding Virginia countryside is gorgeous. The road’s varied terrain is appealing and challenging, forcing the driver to make use of all his/her mountain driving skills. And after just a single run of sixty-four miles, you feel satisfied and pleasantly tired.

Do try to get to VA16 and The Back of the Dragon before it becomes another marketing success, if that happens at all. This is a very remote, rural section of Virginia, so what if it doesn’t happen. That’s better for those of us who found it and can enjoy it without the crowds.

Expanding The Motoring Horizons

Change is constant, we are told,and although it doesn’t seem like it on this blog, the reality is our adventures have modified a bit. Periodically, those of you who follow this blog see a post thrown in with our Mazda Miata MX-5 Roadster as the main character. We have had the little four wheeled sport bike going on two years now, ever since Roo has not been able to ride a motorbike due to back surgery. The MX-5 has become her “motorcycle.”

This change coincided with the motorbike downsize from my Honda ST1300 to now, my Honda NC700XD, which I ride solo. Even though the method of conveyance changes from time to time, the intent is the same: to have fun blasting back roads and touring on two wheels or four, seeing interesting places our readers might like to visit, and reporting on motoring events we attend.

 

So, we decided to combine our passions of touring by motorcycle and sports car into one blog site. Many motorcyclists are sports car enthusiasts and vice versa. Content will continue as mentioned above, but beginning with the next post, the site will be            re-named Motoring Adventures. Categories will also change to make it easier to find specific motorcycle or sports car content.

We invite you to continue to follow us on our adventures, and although some trips will be driven in the MX-5, the roads taken will all be motorcycling roads!

“Everything will change, then will change again”

-Tom Petty

 

Git Yer Sticker

 

US129, Deals Gap,Tail of the Dragon.Three hundred and eighteen curves in eleven miles. Every motorcyclist and sports car enthusiast knows the name, both here in the States and abroad. If you don’t, you’re not getting out enough, or not reading enough. It has been marketed in every motorcycle and sports car magazine ad nauseam since the early 2000’s. It is a huge tourist dollar generator for the section of western North Carolina and east Tennessee in which the tarmac resides. And depending on the day of the week, your mountain riding skill, and the skill level of other users, it has the potential to ruin your day.

It has been a tradition of mine to run the Gap with every new motorbike I purchase, a rite of passage for the bike, if you will. And so, a perfect weekend unfolded for my Honda NC700XD to run with the big dogs and skinny up those chicken strips a bit, and have her proudly wear the sticker shown above. Every motorcyclist and sports car driver who has “tamed” The Dragon recognizes that symbol and what it stands for.

Don’ be this guy. The dragon tail will bite you if you’re not on your “A” game

On a beautiful July Friday morning I jumped on the NC and headed to the Blue Ridge Parkway and Ironhorse Motorcycle Resort in Stecoah, North Carolina. Situated right off Highway 28, a fantastic moto road in and of itself, Ironhorse is my favorite “upscale” moto campground. No primitive camping here.

Scenes from the Blue Ridge Parkway

Ironhorse Motorcycle Resort. If you want to camp in style, this is the place.

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Saturday morning was beautiful. I awoke early to get a head start towards Deals Gap. Weekend traffic on The Dragon can be daunting, with most riders and drivers making US129 their personal racetrack. But if you get their early enough, usually anytime before 10 AM, traffic is less, and the squids haven’t recovered from the night before. I ate breakfast, and with a double espresso for that AM caffeine bbbooooosssstttt, I had wheels rolling north on Hwy 28 by eight-thirty.

Hwy 28, also known as The Hellbender, is a fantastic motorcycle road that T-intersects at US129 where The Dragon begins. A Hellbender is a salamander found only in Appalachia, and grows to over two and-a-half feet long. When it swims, it twists and squirms through the water, just like this ribbon of tarmac does on land.

My one photo stop on Hwy 28 is the Fontana Dam, from the bottom. Fontana Lake was formed when the dam was built, submerging the homes and town of the folks that populated the valley.

Fontana Dam

Arriving at the Gap and the start of The Dragon about 9:45 AM, I noticed that there was a surprising low volume of motorbikes and sports cars in the parking lot, and no one waiting to start their run. I might have some of this road to myself! Without hesitation, I made a right turn onto US129 North and the start of The Dragon.

The scenery on this road is beautiful, but you don’t dare take your eyes off the road. There is one scenic pullout on this eleven mile stretch, and I stopped to take a photo of the Fontana Dam and Fontana Lake, this time, from above.

Fontana Dam & Lake

It has been 12 years since I ran The Dragon, and that was two up with Roo on our Honda ST1300. A fantastic photo (taken by Killboy; more on that later) hanging in our living room shows us leaned over carving a right hand curve with a Shelby Cobra right behind us. Awesome!

This day, I was flying solo on my NC. What a blast! Every vehicle imaginable was out there: bikes, trikes, sports cars, sedans. I even saw a Cadillac coming in the opposite direction around a curve at speed with his engine howling! Amazing!

Polaris Slingshots are getting more popular, and were out in force this day

Out and back, that 22 miles went quick. But it was getting close to 11:30, and everyone and their mother was coming out to play. Time to head into the parking lot, get my sticker, and people watch.

When I finished my run, The Dragon Store parking lot was filling up

Pretty much everyone obeyed this sign, at least while I was there

Killboy is the premier photo taking company on The Dragon. They set up in multiple places along the 11 mile stretch, on both sides of the road, and take photos of every vehicle that passes, in both directions. They are then uploaded onto their website where you can log on and purchase your photo(s). And yes I did. They now have their own store located right across the street from The Dragon store.

Killboy

Dragon Yard Art at Killboy

Dragon Yard Art at The Dragon Store (photo op)

The Tree of Shame (Stupidity)

The Tree of Shame (official name) is where bits of bikes come to rest after the rider crashes on The Dragon. Contrary to what the name describes, many riders where this as a badge of honor, as if not having the skill set to control your motorcycle in curvy mountain terrain is something to be proud of. I’ll stick with Tree of Stupidity and leave it at that.

After motorbike and sports car shopping for a while it was time to play on some of the other mountain roads in this mecca of motorcycling. Roo and I have ridden many roads that are more technical than The Dragon, but none have been marketed so heavily and so successfully as US129. A must do if you are in the area, multiple runs if you can, but do get here early!

The Era of the Downsize

Isn’t that beautiful? Took that shot on a recent motocamp in Suches, Georgia. Nothing to do with downsizing though.

The era of the downsize. For me especially, but, the moto world in general is showing us lots of smaller motorbikes coming on the market, even here in the “bigger is better” and “no replacement for displacement” USA.

Many of you know that last year I retired The BeaST, my 2003 Honda ST1300. She served me extremely well with 150,000 miles on the odo and never a hiccup in all our travels. A bit long in the tooth, and seemingly getting more portly every year (the ST, not me), it was time to go smaller and lighter. And so I did. Dropping close to 50% engine displacement and over 200 Lbs. in weight. I never looked back.

My 2016 Honda NC700XD

This year, I did it again. I’m on a minimalist kick. When Roo and I would camp, we used a great 3 person tent: Eureka Scenic Pass 3. Dual doors and vestibules, easy setup, and able to stow all our gear inside with plenty of room for us. Packing on The BeaST was no problem.

Now that I camp solo, I questioned the need of such a large dwelling for one person. Plus, I now have a much smaller motorbike. Being on this minimalist kick, I pack the NC700 with only a drybag and tank bag. The tent is strapped on the drybag which sits on the pillion. Not a problem at all, except, it just doesn’t look right. It’s a large tent. It makes the bike look smaller. It made my brains aesthetic sensibilities turn cartwheels.

And so the thought of downsizing my tent was placed in my head. Well, Memorial Day weekend came about, and being horrible weather for riding the bike, I thought I would stop by REI Outfitters and see what goodies they had going for their Memorial Day Sale. I didn’t need anything. I didn’t even really want anything. Hah! As soon as I walked in the door, there staring at me was the open door of the REI Passage 1 tent. I crawled inside. Mistake or Fate? Perfect. Minimalist. I envisioned plenty of room (later I would be surprised by just how much room this tent has). I crawled out and looked at the price; $139.00 regular price on sale for 30% off. A quality tent for $79.00 out the door. Hell, I’d buy it even if I never used it for that price! Packing size? Small. Looks great on the NC700 too!

REI Passage 1 Tent

Gear storage is fantastic. This tent has more room than appears at first glance. It really should be named Passage 1 Plus! Setup is a breeze. Take the tent poles out of their storage sack, hold the poles (four, connected) at their junction point, give a little shake, and the folded poles unfold and fit together by themselves. It’s magic! Fit the poles to the tent, hook the tent to the poles, fit the rain fly, and bang, bam, boom, five minutes and your tent is up and running. No joke.

Inside I fit my helmet, riding suit, clothing, and assorted sundries. The tent has storage  compartments for small stuff. In the vestibule on one side I keep my boots and the tent stuff sack. On the other side is placed the now empty drybag and tank bag. Voila! Even with my riding gear in the tent with me, I never feel like I am being pushed out the door. So, if you are in the market (or, like me, not) for a quality one person tent, check out the Passage 1. I think you will be pleasantly pleased.

Some camp photos from Two Wheels of Suches in Suches, Georgia

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If you find yourself riding in the beautiful mountains of North Georgia, this is the place to be.