Fontana 1997 (Unfinished...)
It started out simply enough, Karl Rosenbaum contacted me and asked if I would like to pick up a few National Park stamps on the way down to the Blue Ridge Blitz to Fontana. Well, getting me to stamp hunt is like asking if I would like to have a cigar - within a few e-mails we had decided to get Appomattox Courthouse, Red Hill and if we had time, Booker T. Washington. Karl planned a route and by Friday we had the Wednesday entirely planned.
Then things got complicated.
A trip to the orthopedic surgeon on Monday yielded a diagnosis of a neck spasm/pinched nerve, and by Monday night I had a handful of drugs each of which sternly warned to take with milk, avoid driving heavy machinery and by all means to NOT take with alcohol.
Well, I decided that the Motorcycle was in fact a light vehicle so I was OK there, I bought a few pints of milk so that was covered, and then there was the alcohol thing. I decided to buy twice as many cigars and just deal with drinking caffeine-free 7-Up.
Wednesday rolled around and I sent the e-mail reminding everyone I was leaving at lunch today on a 10 minute delay so I could clear out of the office before the "last-minute'ers" had a chance to sink in their claws (and it was a good thing judging from the yellow-stickies on my computer monitors I saw Monday morning :) I ran home, once again had the bike packed in minutes, and before I knew any better was heading at break-neck speed down I-95 to meet Karl Rosenbaum and Jerry Cook at the rest stop in Dale City, Virginia. Of course I missed the exit and saw Karl and Jerry from the highway leaning up against their bikes looking pissed I was late. I hung a quick U-turn at the next exit, then another at the next exit northbound. As I was entering the highway I noticed there was a State Policemen behind me. I then noticed his light were on. I pulled right over and started to pull off my helmet when the officer suddenly pulled out from behind me and tore off speeding down I-95. A good sign, though it sure wasn't the first time I would have a policeman behind me on this trip!
Karl and Jerry were quite nice about my being 30 minutes late and we were immediately off at a nice 15-over heading south to Appomattox Courthouse, where General Robert E. Lee surrendered the Army of Northern Virginia to General U. S. Grant. We arrived at the site after riding some very nice roads that meandered through the Virginia countryside. You can always tell old roads from new ones as the older ones seem to wander aimlessly in the general direction of your destination whereas the new ones are straight (and boring.) I always take old roads when I can, there is always so much more to see.
"Old" Appomattox is incredibly well preserved, with fence-lined lanes and green cleanly cut lawns. The surrender took place in the McLean house. Poor Mr. McLean moved from near Mannassas after the first battle of Bull Run trying to get his family as far from the war as he could. Too bad he didn't know at the time that the war would end in his front parlor. Unfortunately, some idiot decided to tear down the McLean house and move it to Washington DC. Of course funding was cut and by the time someone got around to trying to put the house back together vandals and souvenir hunters had taken much of it. Using photographs and blueprints the Park Service rebuilt the house to as closely to original as possible, and had I not been told of the reconstruction I never would have known.
Karl and I of course forgot our Golden Eagle passes on the bikes and for only the second time in my stamp hunting career a ranger didn't believe that we had passes and made us go back to the bikes for them. We got the stamps, looked around for a bit then once again hit some delicious Virginia farm roads on the way to Red Hill, Patrick Henry's final resting-place. We arrived just before they closed and after paying two dollars for a stamp (an entrance fee ..) were told we had enough time to drive around the house on our motorcycles before the gate was locked.
After some even more deliciously curvy and rolling two-laners (Rt. 600 is Incredible!) we found ourselves in the parking lot of the Skyline Motel with a whole group of Presidents and more arriving every few minutes. As we had completely sold out the Skyline, we sent people down to the Apple Valley (which is a much nicer motel IMHO :) After a big filling meal at the Outback Steakhouse I took a quick spin around the Roanoke campground to say hello to a few fellow Presidents then back to the Motel for a nice deep sleep.
Thursday Morning and we were up, bikes packed and on the Blue Ridge Parkway before 8am. There was a slight mist on the road which quickly burned off and left us with the road to oursleves all the way to breakfast at Mabry Mills. Mabry Mills is a popular place for good reason (and let me tell you it is not because of their quick service :) We filled up and were back on the Parkway by 10am. With the singular exception of almost flattening a huge tom turkey and running over the tip of a chipmunk's tail (he made it off the road intact :) the trip was simply a nice curvy ride with little traffic. The only time we were held up was a fellow in an old GoldWing that took up the whole road, sprinted in the straights and rode his brakes through every corner, and simply would not let us past. We finally took him on a dashed yellow after a few miles of this insanity.
I arrived at the Rally site around 4:30 pm to find a key to my cabin awaiting and a whole gaggle of Presidents milling around outside. As more showed up I gave up hopes of making it to the cabin anytime soon and instead hung out at registration talking with old friends and making new ones.
Friday Karl and I left before 8am to stmp hunt. We took Deal's Gap on the way out and stopped at the reseviour lookout for a photo when we ran into Rooz. After some good laughs we decided to continue on but were stopped on our way to the bikes by a rider who asked if we had a cell phone as there had just been an accident. Believe it or not someone riding a Bimmer had hit a deer at the bottom of the Gap! He was apparently awake and aware but needed an ambulance so I took out my cell phone and from the resevoir managed to reach an operator in ..Kentucky!?! She put me through to the Tennessee highway patrol who I guess dispatched someone to the scene. We waited a while longer at the resevoir overlook to let things clear up and as we passed the accident the rider had been transported but bike was still on its side and the deer was in a ditch quite dead.
The agenda included Chicamagua Battlefield in Georgia, Lookout Mountain in Tennessee, and Russell Cave in Alabama.
From Chattanooga we decided to return by way of Tellico Plains and the Cherohala Skyway. Up to this point we had not really had any problems with the police so we were quite surprised to see a police officer sprint for his car as we drove past. He follwed us for a while (partway with all lights off) but it was obvious we knew he was there so I think he got tired of going 25mph and went back to the Amoco parking lot. As we started the long ascent into the Cherohala we had to maintain the painstakingly slow 30 mph as we had heard of the heavy police presence and zero tolerance for Motorcyclists on Thursday. 30mph is SLOW, so slow I felt as if I could have hopped off the bike and run alongside it!
As we hit the NC/TN border, I noticed that the speed limit went from 30mph in Tennessee to 45mph in North Carolina. At the border there was a small parking lot, in which there were three police cars, obviously waiting to pounce on those unfortunate enough not to see the 30mph sign for the Tennessee portion of the parkway. 45 is not a bad speed, especially at night (especially figuring in the bear that Karl saw at the edge of the road.) At the North Carolina base of the Cherohala we saw three more police cars in a parking lot, and as we covered the 12 miles to Robbinnsville we saw two more, then another pulled out from the Stanly plant and stealthily followed us into the center of town where yet another was awaiting behind a roadside sign. As we approached the entrance to Fontana we were stopped at a police roadblock and asked for our licenses. I asked the police officer why I was detained and he remarked we could go look for an answer in the back of his cruiser so I let the matter go ..All the legal training in the world won't save you from being arrested for anything the officer wants to invent and in his courtroom and in front of his Judge it would be difficult to have my word taken over his.
I was beat tired so after a little socializing I hit the sack :)
Breakfast with Larry.
Hung out at the gap in the morning - Scott Adam's mirror took a tumble but we managed to recover it.
Mike Cornett and I did Cherohala at night - this one I remember well. Mike and I and several others were sitting around a campfire when the discussion of riding at night came up. Everyone but Mike and I hated it, so of course a plot was hatched. We would ride the Cherohala under a beautiful star-lit sky then head into Robbinsville for hot pie and coffee. And that's exactly what Mike and I did.
by way of the Cumberland Gap (LONG day in the saddle!)