This is a repost originally from an older version of the site.
North Carolina 2005
So I decided it was time for a trip up to North Carolina to see my friend of 5 years. Was I going to drive? Of course not; it was time for a motorcycle road trip! On top of that, I decided to extend my trip into a tour of the Blue Ridge Parkway and the mountains and hills thereabouts. What follows is a recollection of what happened on the trip, along with a few photos. I was still single at the time, so there was no 2up riding.
Bike: 2004 Yamaha FZ6 w/ brand new Michelin Pilot Power tires front and back. I also had a Throttlemeister Heavy cruise kit installed, and Grip Puppies.
Eureka Apex 2xt Tent
Thermarest Pro Sleeping Pad
Cortech Sport Saddlebags
Cortech Expandable tankbag
2 small boxes of matches
First Aid Kit
Snacks consisting of Teddy Grahams and Ritz Bits
Magellan Explorist 170 GPS (My Quest burned up 2 days prior to the trip – under warranty thankfully)
Aerostich ultralight bike cover
Alarmed cable lock (from Aerostich)
Swiss Army Knife
Roll of twine
Stock tool kit w/a few extra screwdrivers and wrenches
Spare taillight bulb and headlight bulb
Heavy plastic sheet (groundcloth)
Thermarest stuff pillow
2 packs of AA batteries (for GPS and camera)
Princeton LED light (headstrap)
Brinkman LCD flashlight 4″
Various straps and bungees
Coleman vacuum bags (for clothing and sleeping bag – saves TONS of space)
Slumberjack lightweight sleeping bag
Small can of Maxima Chain Wax
Small can of Plexus Plastic Cleaner
Small can of Motorcycle Fix-a-flat
Microfiber cloth – for cleaning visor
Camp towel, large – camp bath towel (kinda like a chamois)
Aerostich Roadcrafter one piece suit w/backpad
Nitro rain jacket (for walking around camp)
2 pair shorts (sweatshorts for wearing in suit, cargo shorts for camp)
Various t-shirts and underwear
1 pair jeans
1 pair of longjohns (in case of very cold weather)
2 pair of riding gloves – 1 full leather and 1 leather/mesh combo
Ziplok bag full of foam earplugs
Kodak digital camera
1 Book on the Smoky Mountains
1 road atlas (ended up tearing out sheets to put in tankbag window)
1 pair tennis shoes
1 pair flipflops
Oxtar Goretex/leather riding boots
AAA RV Plus and AMA Motow cards
Cutter’s insect wipes
Digital and Analog tire pressure gauge
Various spare fuses (specific to the amperages on the bike)
Day One – July 31, 2005 Sunday
I worked on Saturday, so Sunday turned out to be my starting day; I got a late start. I finally had the bike packed up and ready to go by around 11am. In the photo below, you’ll see the sidebags, duffel, stuffsack, and the tentbag. The stuffsack held my rainjacket and spare trashbags. The duffel held all my clothing (in a Coleman vacuum bag), my toiletries, and spare bungees/straps, along with my flip flops and shoes (which changed bags throughout the trip). The tent bag is fairly obvious…the tent, but I also crammed the heavy groundcloth into the bag also. The saddlebags were packed with weight balance in mind; between the two bags, they held my camp axe, down 45 deg sleeping bag (in a Coleman vacuum bag), bike cover/lock, spare headlight bulb, cans of lube, fix-a-flat, and polish, first aid kit, snacks, twine, and extra screwdrivers/wreches. I think on my next trip, I’ll be looking to have hard luggage cases on the side…most likely Givi’s.
I headed out from Pinellas Park and made a brief stop at my mother’s house before finally hitting I-75 up to just north of Ocalla, where I then hit US 301. On 301, I hit the first rain of the trip and discovered how worthless the saddlebag rain covers were, lol. Thankfully, I’d anticipated such an event and had everything important inside plastic trashbags. 301 was a decent ride, although I had to stop for about 30 minutes because the rain got so bad that I couldn’t see (HUGE drops) – my Aerostich kept me dry. During my stop, ran into a fellow rider who had to stop for the same reason…except he had no rain gear on. After a half hour, the rain let up a bit and we bid ado; I continued my run northward. Thanks to the rain and the rain cover on my tankbag, I sorta missed a turn on 301 and ended up crossing under I-95…a bit east of where I had intended to go (was going to run 301 all the way up). Decided to eat at the McDonald’s there and then just run up I-95 as far as I could since it was beginning to creep into the evening hours.
Running up I-95 and feeling comfortable, I figured I’d better find a campground before it got too dark; the rain had stopped a bit early and things were drying out. Arriving in the southern part of Savannah, Georgia, I found several campgrounds that looked like RV only places…I kept rolling a bit and eventually found a KOA, which looked pretty nice. At this point, the office had long since closed and the sun had already set, so I submitted my fee in the slot and found a nice spot near the back of the campground. Within about 20 minutes, my tent was pitched and I was preparing myself for a nice, hot shower. I should point out that my campsite was literally among several hundred birds, lol. All over the place birds were sitting, walking, and flying..it was pretty cool to watch them. It rained a little bit during the night, but not so much that it bothered anything.
My campsite at the South Savannah KOA, the next morning:
Day Two – August 1, 2005 Monday
Woke up somewhat early, but still didn’t manage to roll out until around 10am or so; I wasn’t really on a schedule, but I did want to reach Rocky Mount today. I slabbed it up I-95, taking heaps of rest breaks on the way (the interstate is too boring, lol). I know there’s a ton of good sights to see throughout South Carolina and Eastern North Carolina, but those would wait until another trip. I made it to Rocky Mount around 5 in the afternoon, meeting my friend and his family and deciding to stay over for two nights. My friend’s house is out in the country, surrounded by beautiful country roads and picturesque houses…very nice.
My friend, Britt, and myself on the day I left Rocky Mount, North Carolina (we run the website on the plate, lol):
Day Four – August 3, 2005 Wednesday
I struck out from Rocky Mount, headed for the Smokies. US64 looked like the best choice to escape the area and I ended up taking US64 pretty much all the way over until I reached Mocksville, NC. The road was super nice, but resembled the Interstate for most of it’s run until around Asheboro. That being said, it ran through some really beautiful country. At Mocksville, I took NC 901 through the hilly farmland up to NC 115. This stretch of road was dotted with small houses and farms, quite nice. I hit US 421 in Wilkesboro and decided to have a late lunch there before taking 421 over to US 221 into Boone, NC. The trip from Rocky Mount to Boone really didn’t take that long, only a few hours.
Boone, NC…our family vacationed in this once sleepy little town when I was a child. It’s now a town literally bursting at the seams since Appalachia State University is there now…the traffic getting into town was INCREDIBLE. There’s simply no room anymore; the traffic moved at a snail’s pace, snaking over the hilly terrain through the village. It was the late afternoon, so I decided to get out of town and go a bit southeast to Blowing Rock. Along the way, I turned off on some local roads that were INCREDIBLY hilly and twisty…it was kinda like a Disneyland for bikes, lol. Unfortunately, much of the local traffic seems to have a hard time keeping their cars on the road as many of the corners had gravel in the middle of them from people running off the side of the road. Despite that, I still found a great number of cool little roads that I’d be hard pressed to name now, lol.
One of the roads around Blowing Rock, NC – the curve in the background was pretty much the blueprint for all the roads:
From Blowing Rock, I decided to hit the Blue Ridge Parkway for the first time on my trip, heading back up to Boone. I was last on this road as a child and it’s still pretty much as I remember it….beautiful:
By now, it was beginning to get long in the day, so I decided to find a campground in Boone. I pretty much followed the first billboard advertising a campground and, as luck would have it, found a campground that we had stayed at as a family 25-30 years ago – the Flintlock Campground, just a touch north of Boone on NC105. I’m fairly certain that my tent was setup on a spot we had put up a tent as a family years ago…it was a rather weird feeling moment. Anyway, I had a nice little spot by the creek. The weather was decent (it had just rained) and the air was nice and cool. I got myself registered and had the tent setup with 15-20 minutes: I considered hitting the Daniel Boone Inn for some grub, but after talking to the campground proprietor (and reminscing about the old man that used to run the place and knew our family), I decided that it’d probably be too much of a hassle threading myself back into Boone’s traffic and then standing in a line to get into the Inn (apparently, it’s a hot spot and always has a line). I putted around the outskirts of Boone and found an Arby’s (I love their roast beef sandwiches). I returned to the campsite after dinner and, after taking a shower, settled in for the night.
Day Five – August 4, 2005 Thursday
I left the Flintlock Campground around 10 or 11 in the morning and hit the Blue Ridge Parkway for the day. Anyone that’s ever been on the Parkway knows there’s really no other way to describe it, but as beautiful. It was a nice ride with a lot of curves and spectacular views. The speed limit on the Parkway is mostly 45mph, but there are some stretches that are lower. It’s probably a good thing, there’s so many great vistas to see.
One of the MANY turnouts on the BRP:
Me, enjoying the views from the BRP:
During the day’s leg, I took a few offshoot roads just to explore and found some really nice roads, but I always turned back to the BRP to continue my generally southwest track. I’d love to be able to relate the names of those roads, but my notekeeping just isn’t that detailed, lol. I just love to ride. At one point, around Linville if I recall (I could be mistaken), the BRP was closed for maintenance or something and they detoured you off the BRP for around 25 miles. The detour was actually a bit interesting as it led me around some nice twisty little roads with little traffic. Eventually, I was routed back onto the BRP, wondering what I had missed in the closed section.
A view from the road:
It was around mid-afternoon when I passed southwest of Asheville, NC on the Parkway, rolling over Mt. Pisgah and passing the Mt. Pisgah campground. For whatever reason, I decided to turn around and knock off early for the day at the campground – I had no real schedule to follow anyway, lol. The campground on top of the mountain was semi-primitive and quite nice. A small camp store accompanied an inn upslope of the camground. I picked up some firewood and a package of hotdogs (they were out of buns, lol) and had a nice little weenie roast for dinner. I tried to get a cell phone signal up here, but to no avail. It was rather funny because I was not alone in seeking out a cell signal…many people were walking around the inn’s parking lot (the very top of the ridge) looking for a signal, lol. Apparently, there’s a spot at the bottom of a set of stairs there that works for many people, but it didn’t work for me…oh well, lol.
The campground was moderately packed with all sorts. All the RV’ers were kept up near the front entrance, far from everyone else because of the massive amount of noise those things generate. Everyone else had their pick of a couple different loops of sites, all tightly closed in by trees. I saw a few people camping out of their truck/car….I don’t know how they could do that among all this beautiful country…get a tent, heh heh. To each his own I suppose.
At the Mt. Pisgah NFS campground:
Day Six – August 5, 2005 Friday
I woke up fairly early and hit the road at around 9:30am, continuing my run down the parkway. The weather was clear and the air was somewhat brisk…a refreshing break from the heat of the lowlands. Here’s a view back towards the Mt. Pisgah area (the tower over my shoulder was just a few peaks down from the campground):
Not too long down the road, I had to get off the Parkway to find some fuel. I exited the Parkway at US 276 and headed for Brevard, NC. WOW, what an awesome strip of road! It was about a 15 mile run through the forest, with many nice twist and turns. The best thing was that traffic was light, so I could proceed through the curves and twists at a motorcycle’s pace. 😀 Along the way, I found a waterfall…can’t remember the name, but it’s just off the road at a turnout. There were a few people down there basking in the falls, lol:
I got my gas in Brevard and headed right back up 276, once again enjoying the awesome piece of road and somehow missing most of the traffic. Got back onto the BRP and continued southward. Along this portion of the BRP, I believe you reach some of its highest points, with a crapload of tight turns and tunnels….just a huge amount of fun on a bike. 😀
I saw an unfortunate incident at Waterrock Knob…a LARGE family pulled up in an out of state GMC Yukon to take a bathroom break and to take in the views. When they returned to their Yukon and tried to leave, they discovered their transmission had failed…it just made a whirring noise when the dad was trying to reverse out of the parking spot. This would have to qualify as a family vacation nightmare…stuck on top of a mountain, middle of nowhere, no cell service, a bunch of kids. Need I say more. I felt bad for them, but there was nothing I could do, so I moved on.
I continued on the BRP until I hit US 19, around Cherokee, NC. I had planned to hit the Skyway down here; however, the rain that started up kinda made me change my mind and head for the one place I had been looking forward to the whole trip – Two Wheels Only Resort in Suches, Georgia. I ran 19 south, which was REALLY nice outside of the towns. It travels along the river and, as a result, has some super nice curves in it. The traffic was somewhat harsh in areas, especially where the river rafting companies ran their buses. I kept running, across the NC/GA stateline and into the Chattahoochee National Forest, finally entering Blairsville. You have to pay attention to the signs in Blairsville if you want to stay on route…as I found out, lol. There’s a roundabout that US19 follows in Blairsville and I ended up making the full run around- a large truck blocked the sign pointing the direction I should have gone, lol. I continued down 19 finally, rolling through the hills, past farms, villages, and nice older homes. Finally, I found GA180 and turned right, heading to Suches. It was at this point, I got a grin on my face that I couldn’t get rid of…GA 180 was a HELLUVA LOT OF FUN…what a road! The pavement was perfect and the curves were even better. It held some steep climbs with switchbacks and some short little straights here or there. That put me through a pretty hard workout, but damn it was fun! I had yet to realize it, but the ENTIRE area around Suches was like this…every single road in/out of the place…YEA!
I arrived in Suches and quickly found Two Wheels Only, being “welcomed home” by the staff- that was cool! What a place; if you EVER run a bike through the Georgia/NC mountains, you MUST stop here- I can’t stress it enough. I stayed at TWO for two nights and enjoyed every moment of it. I meet some really wonderful folks, riding all sorts of bikes. On top of that, the food was AWESOME (steak on Friday, ribs on Saturday)! I really felt at home there and had a hard time pulling myself out of the rockers and lounge chairs on the front porch…it was just too relaxing, lol.
At TWO (on my fun ride Saturday):
Day Seven – August 6, 2005 Saturday at Two Wheels Only
On the Richard Russel Scenic Byway, not too far from TWO:
TWO is a rider’s dream, no kidding! Every single road was just perfect and without a lot of traffic. Doing “The Loop” from TWO is a favorite pasttime of riders there- GA 60 from TWO to Stone Pile Gap, left on US 19/GA 9, left at Turner’s Corner on US19/129, up to GA180 and back to Suches/TWO. I did “The Loop” to the point where I literally wore myself out, lol. My Michelin Pilot Powers never complained as they lost every bit of “chicken strip” they had…just from running hard and legal. 😀
Unfortunately, since I got caught up running all the roads around TWO, I never pulled myself away long enough to run Deal’s Gap or the Cherohala (spelling?) Skyway…I was really having a blast running for hours within a 30-40 mile radius of TWO. At least I have my reason for going back to TWO soon, lol.
Later in the evening, back at TWO, we got hit with a pretty sizeable rain storm which made a mess of my newly-made friend’s campsite (cruiser bike folks) where we’d been roasting marshmallows. As it turns out, they decided to pack up and leave that night since their tents weren’t doing anything to keep the water out. They left at around 11pm with heavy rain pouring down and nothing but mountain roads and deer to deal with on the way out- I hope they made it safely back home 3 hours away. On the upside, they left their beer and other drinks behind (no room) for all of us on the front porch to enjoy- we all got buzzed and told stories until about 1am before knocking it off, lol.
Day Eight – August 7, 2005
I woke up to a torrential downpour at TWO, but my tent held up and only leaked a couple drops in the corners. I rolled around for an hour or so then finally got up and out to the bathhouse for a hot shower and then some hot breakfast in the lodge (again, GREAT food). Needing to leave for Tampa today, I had intended to leave early, but that didn’t happen, lol. With the heavy rain and a ton of sloppy, wet gear, I packed up and finally said my goodbyes at 11:30am. I headed out on GA60 and hit the mountains one last time on the way out, surrounded by rain and fog. I took my time and rode pretty carefully back to US19 and ran that south, all the way to Atlanta (rain all the way). From Atlanta, I took to the slab again, and ran I-75 back to Tampa, with rain accompanying me most of the way through Georgia and parts of Florida. I finally arrived home late Sunday night/Monday morning.
Total miles logged on trip: 2120
I really enjoyed the trip and would do it again in a heartbeat. There’s nothing quite like motocycle camping with no set schedule or route and I highly recommend trying it. I suppose I could have taken more time and done more things, but heck, I had a helluva lot of fun as it was. My setup didn’t really allow for me to take off on extended hiking trips, so most of my views and experiences were from the road; I can’t complain a bit either. 😀
As for the equipment I used, I would prefer to use hard luggage on my bike the next time as opposed to the softbags I had for this trip. The lack of watertightness and security are probably the biggest reasons, with the former being the biggest gripe- I don’t think I ever really sweated my bike’s security at any of the places I stayed. After having done this trip, I can see the clear advantages of hard luggage.
My bike performed flawlessly in all conditions and altitudes (fuel injected) and my Michelin Pilot Powers lived up to all the recommendations I’d heard about them before buying them- never did they slip in the wet or in the depths of a curve, leaned over to the absolute edge. I tested myself and the bike and we both came out of the trip without any damage, although I think my Aerostich suit slightly scratched the tank on one side where the inner thigh zipper runs- no biggie.
Speaking of the Aerostich suit, it was awesome! It kept the majority of the rain out (it did leak in the crotch area after about an hour of steady downpour) and I managed to stay comfortably cool/warm thoughout the trip. It was an oven when stopped in hot places, but that’s to be expected in any suit when stopped. The suit feels like a second skin now, throughly broken in.
My Thermarest pad developed a small leak in it on about the 4th night…I could have snagged it somewhere, I’m not sure. Luckily, it has a lifetime warranty on it, so that’s all good. My electrical tape fixed the leak for the remainder of the trip, lol.
To sum it up, what a blast! Probably the most enjoyable part of the trip, apart from meeting my longtime friend in Rocky Mount and his family, was Two Wheels Only Resort in Suches, GA. I really can’t recommend that place enough- it’s truly a biker’s paradise nestled in some of the best riding to be found anywhere and pretty soon, they’ll be open year round for 4 seaon riding. Thanks to all the people I met on the road and at the camps; they made the trip worthwhile and fun.
See all the photos from my trip here: NC 2005 Trip
Link: Two Wheels Only Resort, Suches, Georgia http://www.twowheelsonly.com/
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