Hiking, Paddling & Trail Running in the Blue Ridges. Oh yeah,and Motorcycling!

The Blue Ridges

Quiet. Peaceful. Haunting. Beautiful. These adjectives are an apt description of the Blue Ridge Mountains in North Carolina. The beautiful blue shade one sees in the early mornings is a spectacle worth getting up early for, a result of the sun rising above the horizon and it’s rays bouncing off the clouds that have settled overnight. Hence, the name.

Quiet. An adjective that one cannot use to describe many places anymore. Except here, in the Blue Ridges. You can hear birds singing, the wind rustling the leaves of the trees, a farm dog barking way off in the distance, a cow mooing from a pasture. And you can hear nothing, absolutely nothing, in between. No cars, no phones ringing, no music blaring, no construction noises and none of those damn leaf blowers. This is what Roo and I came here for this weekend: to escape to peace and quiet in an idyllic setting.

Except for one particular sound. The bark of motorcycle exhausts. What, what? The third weekend in July is our moto club’s annual rally in Little Switzerland, North Carolina. Our wonderful mom & pop motel is the Big Lynn Lodge, and it sits right by two of the best motorcycle roads in the East: The Blue Ridge Parkway (BRP), and North Carolina 226A; The Diamondback Motorcycle & Sports Car Route.

Friday: Chasing the bigger latitudes

This year we took a different approach to this rally. Roo’s back was acting up, as such she didn’t think it wise to be perched on the pillion seat of a motorcycle. So she drove her car while I straddled my NC700XD and rode to the Big Lynn Lodge. As we were heading to the Blue Ridges, there was only one road appropriate to take us to our destination: The Blue Ridge Parkway. I had a blast negotiating the curves of the BRP while setting the NC’s transmission in auto mode, Sport Level 3 (highest). A stop for lunch at Mount Mitchell State Park, home of the highest mountain peak east of the Mississippi River, then onward as we rode to bigger latitudes and cooler temps. Five hours later, we pull into the Big Lynn parking lot amid motorcycles and our people.

If I did dirt, this would be the bike I’d do it on……. 

After unpacking the car and parking the NC in front of our room, we cleaned up and went out to say hello to friends we hadn’t seen since last year’s rally.

Roo (right) greeting her moto-buddy, Barbara. Barb rides a Yamaha FZ-09

Three members of our club are accomplished Blues musicians, and on the first night of the rally each year they donate their talents to entertain their fellow motorcyclists.

The Alligator Blues Band

They always put on a fantastic show playing and singing classic blues and jazz with a bit of rockabilly thrown in. Awesome!

Saturday: Peace and quiet with Ma Nature

This is the day Roo and I would really decompress. It has been an emotionally and physically fatiguing past few months. The chill out started with the ride up to Little Switzerland on the BRP yesterday. We all know the therapeutic value of riding a motorbike. Seeing old friends, catching up, and a couple of adult beverages got us in the chill groove. Today, Mother Nature would take over.

After a communal breakfast in the lodge, everyone geared up, fired up their bikes, and went out on their respective routes for the day. Except me and Roo. We hopped in Roo’s Nissan Versa and turned onto the BRP. It was 9:00 AM. A beautiful, crisp morning. We drove about ten miles, the only vehicle on the road. We pulled off to an overlook and shut the engine. We heard ………………. nothing. Nothing but the breeze rustling the leaves and birds chirping. It was heaven.

Our first stop was to Linville Falls. Beautiful and breathtaking. We would hike out to the falls overlook, then hike down into Linville Gorge.

On the way out to view the falls, we came upon this very, very old pine tree. The trunk of this pine was tremendous, as you can see below:

Roo the tree hugger

We could hear the rushing water of the falls as we got closer and closer. Just the sound of rushing water is enough to make me relax. Don’t even have to see it. We did, and it was gorgeous.

Linville Falls

That’s a long way down into the gorge, and that’s where we’re headed next. We are a few hundred feet above the falls, and the falls drop another few hundred feet into the gorge. It’s going to be quite the hike, especially climbing back out!

Linville Gorge

Our descent started on this staircase, the only man made steps into the gorge.

It continued on rooted and rock strewn singletrack through rock tunnels like this:

Halfway down, I looked up along side the wall of the gorge and took this photo. The tree gives some perspective of the depth of this gorge, and we were only about half-way to the bottom! Looking up while going down!

Getting closer, we can now see the Linville River, below the falls. We’re almost at the bottom of the gorge!

Finally! We break through some dense foliage and climb around a couple of huge boulders, and we hit bottom! Standing on the banks of the Linville River at the bottom of the Falls.

Some folks were here already swimming in the river.

This photo of Linville Falls was taken from the banks of the Linville River at the bottom of the gorge.

We pulled up some rock and relaxed, just taking in the astounding beauty of this place. After a while, we started the climb back up. Wasn’t as bad as we thought it might be. It pays to be in good physical condition!

Back in the car and onto the Blue Ridge Parkway for our next adventure. Paddling and trail running at Ray Price Lake, right on the BRP. In a very unusual role reversal, Roo wanted to trail run, and I wanted to do the chill thing and paddle on the lake. She changed into running gear and quickly took off down the trail. I rented a canoe and serenely paddled out onto the lake.

Ray Price Lake

What a gorgeous lake. Paddling here in a canoe had me seeing flashbacks to Boy Scout camp as a kid, paddling lakes in Upstate New York.

I came across this beaver dam in a backwater section of the lake. How cool!

Interesting flower.

Photos from amidships

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What a wonderfully decompressing day. Outdoors all day long, a wonderful lunch in a fantastic Italian restaurant in the town of North Wilkesboro, North Carolina, and driving the Blue Ridge Parkway for hours. The sun is setting, it’s getting darker on the Parkway, and it’s supper time for critters moving about, as we head back to our motel and our moto buddies.

Sunday: “One more cup of coffee before I go, to the heat in the valley below.” (Bob Dylan paraphrase).

Yes. Heat. Lots of it is forecast for back home in South Carolina. Triple digits worth, topping out at 101 degrees F. But right now, early morning in the Blue Ridges, it is wonderfully cool. Roo and I pack up her car, then head into the lodge for breakfast. Everyone is geared up and wanting to get on the road early. Some have hundreds of miles to travel. We, too, are anxious to get an early start., so I can minimize time spent in the heat and humidity. As soon as the NC’s headlight is tilting downslope, the temps begin their upswing.

Hugs, handshakes, goodbyes, and everyone is heading out. The sound of motorbikes is everywhere. It’s not quiet, but that therapeutic sound is a fitting end to another great rally.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Moto-Touring in the Land of the Green Mountain Boys-Finale

 

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Mr. Happy crashed the party. Big time, and he was a big hit. Not familiar with Mr. Happy? Prepare to enrich your life:

Mr. Happy loves attention. How can you resist his charm?

He loves to travel; by motorbike of course!

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 He is a big RTE (ride to eat) kind of guy. So watch your food! He rode all the way from Rhode Island to partake of the STAR banquet. And partake he did, jumping from table setting to table setting, satisfying his voracious appetite. Hey! It’s hard work piloting that VFR 1200 for such a little guy.

Sitting politely at the banquet table waiting to be served

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 All bets are off! Salad, soup, bread & beer! Yum!

Mr. Happy is a product of Aerostitch Riders Warehouse, purveyors of everything motorcycle for the LD, touring, and commuting motorcyclist.

Wednesday evening

The banquet hall was packed with MSTA motorcyclists, all hungry from a days riding, and awaiting the introduction of this years guest speaker.

Our table: L-R Mark & Quint (from Ohio), Roo

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 Duane, from Pennsylvania, also at our table. Is that not a super cool handlebar moustache? 

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Food! Very tasty too!

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Finally, dinner having been served and eaten, it was time for the introduction of this years guest speaker. He is an avid motorcyclist and a renowned  comedian. He has, I believe, two television shows, and has been on numerous late night talk shows, especially with Jay Leno.

For us motorcyclists, he is particularly well known for his appearance in the exceptional motorcycling DVD, Why We Ride. I apologize in advance for the lousy photos, my camera having decided it didn’t want to snap indoor photos very well.

Alonzo Bodden

In Why We Ride, while footage was being shown of Moto GP riders dragging both knees and elbows on the track, Alonzo Bodden is best remembered for his quip, as only he can say it (paraphrase), “If I’m dragging an elbow on the track, it’s part of the crash!” He had us in tears for about twenty minutes. Very funny man. We were lucky to get him to attend STAR!

If you haven’t seen Why We Ride, do purchase it for your moto video library. It is excellent. If you are a non-motorcyclist reading this blog, do watch this video. It will give you fresh insight into why we ride motorcycles and may inspire you to do the same.

Every year at STAR, a brand new motorcycle is raffled off. This year, some lucky MSTA member is going to walk away with a brand new, 2016 BMW F800GT! It wasn’t me or Roo, boo hoo.

2016 BMW F800GT

BMW

 

Thursday

2016 STAR is now history. This morning, everyone says goodbye until the next event, pack up the bikes, and head out in numerous directions. Today is our final day spent on the RT, which is due back at MotoVermont in Burlington by the end of the day. We take the opportunity to travel 140 miles of the Scenic 100 Byway, Stratton Mountain to Burlington, taking in all the natural beauty along the way, and once again, traveling back in time. Jon and Mr. Happy leave with us, then wave goodbye as we turn north on VT 100 and Jon heads east to Rhode Island. Hopefully it won’t be another five years until we meet again.

Our stop on this day is the town of Rochester. Another quintessential Vermont town, we would arrive in time for a bite to eat. Of course, we parked the RT by the Town Green.

Rochester, Vermont Town Green gazebo…..

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and American Civil War memorial

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I have quite a wingspan, and my arms only encircle half this tree! Just how old is it, I wonder?

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Rochester Town Green

Roo relaxing on the Town Green

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Lunch beckons, so off we go in search of coffee and food. I ate here in town on my way south from Burlington at a great coffee house and cafe, so I suggested to Roo we eat here.

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Good food and coffee, but as we walked along, we spotted another cafe that looked inviting. Something different, why not?

What a great place! Books, coffee and sandwiches, as well as baked goods! The ambience was wonderful, again, very laid back & hippie-ish. Just what you would expect in Vermont.

As we ate and drank, a familiar sound came closer and closer, right up to where we were sitting:

This beautiful old Triumph Thunderbird added to the magic of this place.

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The owner was just as intriguing. Probably in his early 40’s, long hair, old, beat, well worn brown leather moto jacket, white scarf, goggles. He fit the bike perfectly. That Vermont magic working again.

Time for the final leg of our journey. Burlington beckons. Within two hours, we were back at MotoVermont handing over the keys to the RT. Roo’s sister was waiting for us to bring us back to her place. Later that evening, the three of us had a night out on the town in super-cool downtown Burlington, then back to her place for our last night in Vermont. In the AM, it’s back in the aluminum tube for the journey home to South Carolina and the beagles.

It was a wonderful trip. As our club tag line states; “Great Bikes, Great Roads, Great People!” Vermont gave us all three in spades!