50th Birthday Solo Ride Part 2 – The Tail of the Dragon

This is the second of a two part post about my 50th Birthday Solo Motorcycle Ride (2010).  All pictures were taken with my old point and shoot camera.  Part 1 can be found here:

https://lifeonthebikeandotherfabthings.wordpress.com/2013/01/08/50th-birthday-solo-ride-the-blue-ridge-parkway-part-1/

Day 3 – The End of the BRP and the Folks Along the Way

Hello from Bryson City, NC, located at the southern end of the BRP.

I rode the last 78 miles of parkway today and it took me a long time because I kept stopping to stare at the beautiful mountains!  The section between milepost 400 and 425 is stunning with the elevation between 4500 and 5500 ft and the highest point of the BRP at 6053 ft. I have taken so many pictures, always thinking “THIS is the best one”.

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I had hoped to be able to say I was writing from the Gearhead Motel outside Bryson City as recommended by a couple bikers I met, BUT when I went to check it out, it just didn’t feel right – no one was there and it seemed deserted. So, I headed on down the road and checked into the Sleep Inn instead.  Later that evening, I rode back by The Gearhead and it was full of bikes and people and it looked like fun!  I’d made a mistake by passing on it earlier.

The lively folks outside the motel reminded me that I haven’t said anything about the great people I have been meeting along the way. I met two bikers from Indiana (the ones who recommended the Gearhead) who used brute strength to adjust my highway pegs (which got out of position when I dropped the bike yesterday – yeah, I didn’t tell you that, did I?).

I also loved the folks, about my parents age, who said “if you were my daughter I’d kill you for riding alone”, to which I replied “why do you think I haven’t told my parents?”

I met a guy who hauled his bike from Missouri so that he could ride the BRP while his wife went shopping in Asheville.  Smart man!

There have been lots of other fun people along the way … and I’m grateful that some have been willing to take a few pictures of me along the ride.

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After checking into the hotel, I rode back down to town and had a great taco salad and a couple micro brews at a local dive bar (located in a 70 year old WWII quonset hut with no A/C).  I followed that with a quick dip in the hotel pool and am now so ready for sleep.

Across the Tracks Bar and Restaurant Bryson City, NC

Across The Tracks Bar and Restaurant, Bryson City, NC

I’ve ridden about 500 miles so far … not much compared to my friends who ride cross country but I’m proud and happy.

Tomorrow … The Dragon.

Day 4 – Curves

If you’ve been following along so far, you know that I’ve written about some of the fun curves and elevation changes that I’ve experienced during this trip.  Those curves were nothing like the ones I have ridden all day today!!

The Tail of the Dragon is known world wide for its 318 curves in 11 miles.  You get to put a sticker on your helmet and your bike if you finish (you have to ride it both ways), but your broken bike parts go on the Tree of Shame if you don’t.

120The Tree of Shame

Well, I am proud to say I have a sticker on both the bike and the helmet!!  Woo hoo!!  So proud! And just like when you raft a river, there are professional photographers posted along the way taking your picture.

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The road is a blast to ride – even though I went at granny pace- 30 miles/hr – but the route to get to The Dragon was fun, too.  Rt 28 is just as curvy and I loved riding through the lush, green Nantahala National Forest.

I rode by signs like this all day long.

 One of many signs like this along Rt 58 in VA

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After 8 hours on the bike, I checked into the Iron Horse Station in Hot Springs, NC.  The road to get to Hot Springs (Rt 209) was just as curvy as the Dragon and runs for 30 miles, a lot of it through the Pisgah National Forest.  Beautiful!  I was often entirely alone on that road, and I am grateful I had no problems.

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The Iron Horse Station Inn and Restaurant, Hot Springs, NC

http://www.theironhorsestation.com/

Hot Springs is a cool little (very little) historic train town.  I am staying in a restored train depot and my room is perfect!  The “tourists” are an interesting mix of bikers, river runners, AT hikers and those seeking a getaway from as far away as Atlanta, Knoxville and Asheville.  As always I had a cold beer and a shower, and after that, I enjoyed a wonderful glass of red wine with some delicious white bean & chicken chili.  Yum!!  I am soooo content.  How perfect that the train came through as a fitting end to a wonderful evening.

Almost 700 miles so far!  I’m supposed to hit the road for home tomorrow … I am really not ready for that!

Day 5 – What a Ride!!

A huge storm woke me during the night and I wondered how wet my bike would be.  The sun was shining brightly this morning though and I thought all was well.  I am not sure why I didn’t think about all the water that the seat had absorbed during the storm – I rode with a wet ass all day!   Lessons learned!  🙂

I truly enjoyed my stay in Hot Springs.  I loved the fact that every single person wished me a good morning as I walked to the Smokey Mountain Diner for breakfast.  I passed several buses loaded down with rafts and tubes and I kind of wish I had stayed and spent some time floating the French BroadRiver.

But … it was time to ride on.

I rode 275 miles today (a record for me) and I spent almost all of it on back roads.  I rode through parts of the Cherokee National Forest, the Jefferson National Forest and the Mt Rogers Recreation Area.  I rode on a long stretch of road that passed through multiple “no stop light” towns  in Tennessee.  I loved the names – Minneapolis, Cranberry, Plumtree (which had flower boxes on the bridge through town), and one place called Lick Log.  Really?  Who names a town Lick Log?

Plumtree, NC along Rt 19

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I’ve been really lucky in terms of weather on this trip, but today was the best day yet!  An “Idaho sky” for sure!  I have loved these past 5 days – no plan and the freedom to spontaneously pick my route.  Today I literally went from one town to the next, choosing the roads as I went along. The folks I met, who helped to guide me, were wonderful.

I often hear bikers talk about the wind in the face and the freedom of the road … I feel like I finally get it!

It has been such an amazing trip and I really was not ready to come home.   Even still, I was glad to cross over the New River for the first time in 5 days.  Thanks to Fred and Cindy for welcoming me back home with a glass of wine, and to Amy for sharing my traditional end of the day beer with me.

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What a ride!! 925 miles over 5 days and 3 states. What a great way to celebrate my 50th Birthday!!

17 thoughts on “50th Birthday Solo Ride Part 2 – The Tail of the Dragon

  1. What a great story. I have been on this ride many times and each time I see more than before.Your picks are great and tell a beautiful story. Now waiting for Part 3

    • Thanks for the birthday wishes – although this trip was taken when I turned 50 and that was 2 1/2 years ago (I wasn’t blogging then). How did that much time go by already???? And as for my folks … they still aren’t happy about me riding the bike, but they are proud of me none the less! I’m a lucky gal!!

  2. I think you kind of have to take the trip again so we can get a real time blog. Its a good excuse to go back. I am a bit jealous b/c that is one of my Dream rides. One of these days.

    • I hope you get to do it! I hope to go back this summer … I made the ride into 5 days since it was my first time solo, but it is really an easy weekend trip. Your comment about real time is right on … one of the reasons I started the blog was to provide updates for family and friends when I ride. I used to send an email home from the Blackberry (and I’ve done that on the two trips since this one – the Outer Banks in 2011 and Tennessee in 2012). It’ll be much more fun to send updates and pics by blog). Thanks for reading!

  3. The Blue Ridge Parkway scared the crap out of Todd and I when we were on it in NC somewhere near Ashville. It was in the winter and there was a bit of snow and ice. I just knew we were going to plummet to a firey death. 🙂 And you did it on a bike? Wow.

  4. Pingback: Thunder Ridge | Life on the Bike and other Fab Things

  5. Pingback: The Perfect Recipe | Life on the Bike and other Fab Things

Because Boomdee dared me: Lay a little sugar on me :-)

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