Fuzz and I just got back from a trip down to Deal’s Gap, The Biltmore Mansion, and Fallingwater in PA. Our triplog:
DAY 1: NY, PA, Fallingwater, WV
We are supposed to leave at 5a – but I wake at 4 and see that Fuzz is already awake too We meet up at 4:30 and start our journey on a chilly Sunday morning. As soon as we hit the highway, the sky opens up 5 Minutes later, we pull off to suit up or Gordon’s Fisherman rain gear, and away we go.
The rain just seems to be a running gag in our trips. Not that I mind it so much as it is pretty much to be expected whenever you take a trip for any number of days, but, we weren’t even gone 5 minutes this time! So we head off of the Island across the Belt parkway which I think should be evaporated from the Earth, and head to the NJ Tpk and on to the PA Tpk. When we come around the blind entrance ramp turn from the Outerbridge Crossing to the NJTpk we come upon a taxi precariously balanced half over the guard rail, half on the hiway to the right,and a car parked in the far left lane with the driver picking up his bumper, we scoot right up the middle. So far, we’ve got rain, a mountainous bump and general Belt Pkwy construction that has rendered me unable to have future children, and prior accident strewn roadways. So far so good.
In case you are wondering why we are slabbing it to PA – we are taking the highways for our first leg – we need to get thru PA quickly so that we can spend the next few days working down to Tennessee and North Carolina and have time to explore.
Once we got into the middle of New Jersey, the rain stopped but it stayed cloudy and chilly for a while. Into PA, the skies cleared up and it’s started to warm up. We were making excellent time – probably because everyone, I mean EVERYONE was doing 90mph on the PA turnpike. Old ladies, kids on skateboards, all FLYING. We made it to Fallingwater in 7 hours. It was hot. HOT.
I just ducked in behind another car and *tried* to keep up with them. I can’t believe how fast everyone was steadily driving.
The PA Tpk has some cool tunnels thru the mountainside to provide momentary distraction. We stopped off to shed our rain gear and after almost 10 years without incident, I knocked my helmet off the bike and crack the venting. Time for a new one.
When we got to exit 91, it was like an inferno.
We stopped in a town called Normalville. If they have to sell you on the idea of it being normal, chances are… it isn’t.
Fallingwater is a house designed by Frank Lloyd Wright for the Kaufman Family (Kaufman’s Dept Store) in the 1930s. It has an amazing cantilevered design which hangs over a waterfall. The house is slowly falling due to loss of structural integrity and they are constantly coming up with ways to preserve it by anchoring part of the structure, etc, to keep it intact. Really an amazing place.
The plan was to stay over in the area, and start fresh the next morning – but when do we actually follow a plan? We decide to push on and off we went towards West Virginia.
Heading down route 381 Fuzz almost gets sliced up by, the only way I could describe it is, a trailer made up of 100 deli slicers. It’s some farm-grade lawn cutter, tiller, or something being towed by a truck down a small rural 1 lane road. The trailer extended halfway into our lane! Any car would have taken this thing out. There was just no room. Fuzz crests a hill as this thing comes barreling over it and immediately has to swerve hard to keep from making herself chopped meat. I follow her, clean my shorts, and we press on.
Rt 26 to 72 to 219 – awesome awesome roads. Great sweepers, some tight turns, you get it all- the quality of the road is awesome as well. We quickly realize that WV might be the best road state ever. You WV folks are lucky. I loved it.
As we pulled on to 72, over the crest of a hill comes a convoy of military vehicles. It was late in the afternoon and the sun peeking through the trees provided a surreal light as a backdrop for the guys in full face paint who sat on top of the trucks with their guns. It was sort of eerie.
We pull into the Marliton Motor Inn and called it a day. If you are travelling thru the area and need a place to stay it’s not a 5star hotel, but it’s a a nice clean place.
DAY 2: WV, New River Gorge Bridge, TN, Cherokee NC
We are ahead of schedule, so we do a quick route change and decide to go check out the New River Gorge Bridge on the way down. Head up 39/150 to Route 19 and over to the bridge. It looks fake. Like, what you are seeing can’t possibly be real. Amazing.
Such a beautiful area, I really really love WV. Nice people, beautiful country, great roads. Remind me to buy a summer estate here when I win the lottery.
We continue thru WV, VA, NC and eventually decide to stay over in Cherokee. We take the last 25 miles of the Blue Ridge Parkway down, and I’ll tell you, that road is great.
The section we took had quite a few tighter turns, around the face of the mountains, with no guardrails or dividers stopping you from flying down a cliff if you ever lost it. Some of those decreasing radius turns at speed could really make for a bad day for someone not ready for them. I wondered if this was how the whole BRP was heading north, if it was going to be as dynamic. Great riding though, the views were awesome and the road was just great.
WVA was great. The roads were well paved and mostly free of debris and one of the most striking things I began to notice from this point down was that there are so few people around. There were times when we’d go 40 miles without another car in front of us.
When we rolled out of Marlinton down 219 and in to Monongahela Forest, there was NO ONE ELSE on the road. No one. Just the 2 of us cutting thru the cool morning air.
We stopped off for breakfast in a 1 horse town and it’s clear to everyone in the coffee shop that we’re out of towners. I wonder what gave us away?
We headed down thru WVA, VA and into NC. We find our way down to Asheville and hop on the Blue Ridge towards Cherokee.
As we enter the parkway, we had no idea what is coming or what to expect from it. What we got was a joy. A well paved, no traffic, snake that winds along the ridge of a mountain range. This is so alien from anything we have ever experienced in our local riding. Freakin’ fantastic. A seemingly endless, paved ribbon of tunnels and esses. The parkway is filled with all sorts of turns, decresing radius, sweepers, cliff-hangers, literally! There are some areas that have no guard rail on this section of the parkway. One false move could send you careening down a drop off never to be seen again. It got pretty chilly at elevation. We actually saw a snow patch on the roadside.
Yeah, those tunnels were awesome – thru the mountain, with no lights inside – just reflectors on the walls and pavement – feels like you are in a spaceship or something.
We probably covered about 450 miles this day.
We head in to the town of Cherokee on the Cherokee Reservation and find a room. Nothing fancy, just a clean place to spend the night.
DAY 3: Cherokee NC, Deal’s Gap, The Dragon, Chocodile Skyway, Ashville NC and The Biltmore Mansion
Up and at ’em. Today we head for the Gap. This is the day. THE day. The day I get to see the road that everyone talks about. I don’t know what to expect. What will it be like?
As we head away from the motel, we are surrounded by these great, smoky, mountains. Which is kind of ironic, since we’re in Great Smoky Mountains.
We stopped off to grab some water and stuff for our tank bags. I notice that they use their old cars to make the banks of the river.
The Gap. Rt 129. What will it be like?
We take 129 from its southern most end all the way up and thru. I saw a house proudly displaying the rebel flag. I guess we’re not in Kansas anymore.
There was the store, so I guess we’re gonna be hitting the dragon now…I immediately tensed up and felt intimidated before I even see the first corner.
When you think of a tight, twisty road, you never really conceive of this. Think tight, and twisty, then pinch the tightness and twistiness in a little more, couple it with elevation changes, blind curves, and off camber lovelies. For 11 miles. 11 miles doesn’t sound like much, but man, it really is.
I got half way thru and wondered how it could possibly go on any further. It was so extreme. The bowls on some of the turns sink you down in to your seat and just suck your around them. Two guys came flying thru in the opposite direction and scared the piss out of me. I didn’t see or hear them coming until they were right next to me. I poked thru the road like a gramma. I was totally intimidated, which was probably a good thing. There is no room for error.
Let me first say, to anyone who hasn’t been to the gap yet – it is NO JOKE! Tight tight corners, no guardrails protecting cliffs and ledges, bowl turns, fast switchbacks, the works. It’s like a racetrack on crack. I can imagine how this road eats up many riders, you can’t let your gaze or mind slip for an instant.
It was pretty quiet up there, no real traffic, a few other bikes (maybe 4 or 5 in total) – a couple of guys hit the inside apex as I take the outside, go tearing past in the other direction, really f’n moving. We hit the end, and head back.
If you can imagine, there is a point when you just want the turns to stop Like, I just want a slight straight to regroup – but, it’s relentless. Miles and miles of tight switchbacks, it’s really pretty amazing.
Kenny and I doubled back and head back thru the road again. This time he’s behind me, all the while I am thinking, “damn, i’m holding him up” but I can’t bare to go any faster, so he’ll have to suffer. We pull off at the overlook on the TN side and snap a photo of two. There are some other folks there chit chatting. I see 2 guys with killboy.com stickers on their bikes and wait for them to head out before I go so I don’t hold them
We finish up the TN to NC way and stop off at the store. I’ve got to pee like nobodies business and to my surprise, they’ve got a nice restroom
We stopped off at the store at the base and met a few people who are in the area and visited the tree. Lots of panels from 2004 on there. A few “RIPs”. A few “my first run on the Dragon” panels too – who would tear-ass up that road first-shot is beyond me, you need to get an idea about what you are getting into before you try to take that road real fast.
At the bottom, Fuzz comments to me about all of the skid marks, grinds, etc in the corners – and just how many people must crash hard on that road. Crazy stuff.
So that was it. The famous Dragon. I found it to be kind scary as I really started to think about it. When you are riding the road you are reminded of its dangers by some very ominous skid marks that seemingly go off in to nowhere. It’s clear that many people must go there and think that they are Johnny Racer and head off tearing in to the hills, only to hurt themselves or others.
I hadn’t really contemplated it until after we’d gone thru a 3rd time that with all of the blind turns that while you might make it thru okay on your own, that double yellow is a minor technicality for some people. It made me wonder how many people are taken out by other people out of control. Scary stuff.
No cars or police anywhere in sight the entire day.
All in all, I am certainly glad I went and glad I got to experience the road, but it is not my favorite type of riding. I think everyone should experience it. It is really a curiosity and I would go again.
After lunch we hit the Cherahola Skyway, which I loved. Again, no cars, no traffic, no debris. Good stuff. This was more my cup of tea. Sweepers and more loose turns and elevation changes.
Someone did a really cute smiley burnout at the Santeelah overlook
I could ride this road over and over and be happy. I think its about 50ish miles long. That’s another thing that is so alien to me, roads that are that long, with no light poles, traffic lights or other cars on them! I love it!
Cherahola! AWESOME AWESOME ROAD! Freakin great. Great sweepers, awesome conditions, no cops. Just, awesome. We decide to head back down the Dragon from TN-NC, then shoot over to Ashville to stay at the Inn at the Biltmore Estate for the evening.
We barely avoided the rain and start off thru the gap as its slowly getting dark. As we pass thru, I notice all of the skids/grinds Fuzz was talking about, and man, there are a TON. Even since the morning, there are clearly fresh skid marks from cars/bikes that weren’t there before. Crazy!
We got to the Biltmore, wow is all I can say. Beautiful place, pampering, just awesome. The bikes will stay outside tonite, poor things. However, we aren’t too worried that they will be tampered with here.
DAY 4: The Inn at the Biltmore
Stuck around The Biltmore for the day – checked out the house, toured the grounds, had dinner out on the terrace and relaxed.
Nice to have another nite in a nice hotel. People still looking at us like we are part of a thug gang. Yes, we put on leather suits and helmets, and all of a sudden we are there to wreck the hotel?
Ahh. Breakfast ($52 for 2 of us!) to my door, a fluffy robe and a day of leisure.
DAY 5: The Blue Ridge Parkway, Ashville to Waynesboro
Decided to take the Blue Ridge Parkway back up from Asheville NC to the end up in Waynesboro, Virginia. The
morning started out ok, but 5 miles into it we hit a thick fog that at points was so thick you could barely see 10 feet in front of you. It was pretty damned cool actually.
We stopped off at an overlook about 15 miles up, and spoke to a guy who had headed down from about 30 miles away in the same thick soup. We continue on and stopped in Little Switzerland for the greatest banana-chocolate-chip cake ever.
Onward we move and eventually slip out of the soup about 20 miles later. The blue ridge opened up to some fantastic riding, with very little traffic, no police to be seen, beautiful sweepers traversing through farmland and forest. Really an amazing comfortable ride up thru the states.
We eventually decide to stop off in Waynesboro at the end of the BRP to look for some lodging . We found a dump.
That place sucked. Horrible. There was mold on the bathroom ceiling and a rip in my bedsheet.
DAY 6: Waynesboro, Skyline Drive, Maryland, NJ, NY and Home
After waiting 17 hours for breakfast, we head up skyline drive in Virginia. We pay our 5-bucks-a-bike and ride into the park.
Some nice sweepers, good road conditions and similar run as the BRP. We aren’t going very fast thru the park, maybe 55-60 or so. We come around a corner, and see the familiar look of a police blazer heading in the opposite direction. We slow down, he’s already made the u-turn, and heading back at us. He pulls us over.
“Do you have any idea how fast you were going?”
To which i repled, “Thirtysix…?”
“50! You were going 50 miles per hour thru that curve!”
He said 50 like it was 200 mph. Granted the speed limit on Skyline drive, is 35, but its actually nearly impossible to ride 35 mph. He let us off with a written warning. Kenny’s butt was pretty sore, but it was worth not getting a ticket.
You know, after having such a great time, coming back to Long Island was total crap. Right as we hit the exit for the Outterbridge to head back over the Verrazano, the fog settled and rendered everything a soupy mess. The traffic was crawling of course, along the Belt. As we neared the exit for home, my poor ass began to feel like it was goign to burst in to flames. The stock seat on my 6r is not very comfortable for touring.
All in all, the trip was simply awesome. I can say that we touched on some areas I would like to explore further.
So true, the return home always sucks when it’s back to LI. We actually stopped off at a rest area in Delaware to waste some time before venturing thru NY traffic on a Friday night. Had some din at Bob’s Big Boy, and, of course, I checked to see if he, in fact, had a Big Boy. He didn’t. We were promptly asked to leave.
6 days, 2500 miles later, we were home.