Ross-Tech / Hex Microsystems
Tour of the Appalachians
Day -2 Saturday
We had planned this
little ride for a while:
We had hoped to depart
on this day, but unfortunately a plumbing problem came up and my wife
did not take kindly to the idea of me calling someone to come fix it in my
absence. So the only place we went was Lowes and
Home Depot. By the time we got the problem fixed
(2nd try, bit of a kludge) it was too late to hit the road, so we decided
to depart the next day:
Day -1 Sunday June 3:
A quick check of the weather revealed
Riding in the rain when you have no other choice is one
thing, but departing on a vacation trip into the remains of a tropical
storm would reduce the fun factor quite a bit -- perhaps to a negative number.
So we decided to depart the next day:
0 Monday June 4:
Which happened to be my
48th birthday. :-) Weather was looking good.
This was always going to be a short transit day, about 215 miles from Lansdale PA to Front
PA Route 23 between East Pikeland and Blue Ball is
reasonably scenic. Other than that, nothing remarkable.
We didn't leave until after lunch and ended up in the afternoon rush-hour
traffic around York PA which was obviously a drag. At Front Royal, we checked into the Super 8 and ate
at a Chinese restaurant a block away.
1 Tuesday June 5:
Here's where the ride
really started. About 233 miles from Front Royal VA to
Since Eric and I each
have an Annual National Park Pass from
last summer, it cost
us nothing to get on
Stephan had to pony up $10 to ride through.
As expected the views from Skyline drive were lovely:
Skyline drive itself was
just OK. The 35 mph speed limit is way too low.
We had to try pretty hard not to exceed 50 where the pavement was good.
Then again, there were three sections where it was easy to stay slow --
they had recently been
chip-sealed and still had quite a bit of loose gravel still.
The worst part about that kind of a surface is you can't tell visually
where or whether it's loose or not.
We had lunch at an
unremarkable place in Waynesboro VA. After that we hit
the start of the
Blue Ridge Parkway. Here the speed limit was a bit more
realistic at 45 mph, and we generally tried to limit ourselves to 60,
which was still difficult at times. After a while,
we looked for
chicken strips which while still existing were smaller than we'd ever
seen them on our bikes.
The end the day found us
at a Quality Inn outside Roanoke. Next door was a Steak place.
2 Wednesday June 6:
About 267 miles from
Roanoke VA to Asheville NC
Left-to-right: Uwe, Eric and Stephan
This was a
spectacular day weather-wise and the scenery along the BRP was (IMO)
better than on the Skyline drive.
ended at a Quality Inn on the east side of Ashville. We did
ride into Ashville proper for dinner.
3 Thursday June 7:
About 288 miles from
Asheville NC to Hiawassee GA
The say started with
what was left of the BRP which was again fantastic:
Then continued through
Cherokee, which seemed to be nothing but a tourist-trap so we didn't stop
A bit further
along we diverted to see the
After a late lunch at
Fontana Village, we headed for the
This was a terrific road
with very little traffic -- and far more bikes than cars. The
only problem with it: At roughly 40 miles, it's too damn
short. It's easy to get spoiled by the BRP.
Exactly one mile high on
Eric, Stephan, Uwe
From Tellico Plains we
headed down towards Hiawassee GA where the day ended at the Holiday Inn
Express. Nice place, reasonable price, and a cool
restaurant/bar next door.
4 Friday June 8:
About 222 miles from
Hiawassee GA to Newport TN
We found this rather
interesting creation in the back of a pickup parked in front of our hotel:
If it was an airplane,
it would surely need an "Experimental" placard.
A bit later, my new
Garmin Zumo inexplicably insisted we should take this road:
Stephan on the V-Strom
was more than willing, but Eric and I were reluctant. Needless
to say we ignored the Zumo and proceeded on the paved road, which took us
where we want to go anyway:
The Foothills Parkway
was just OK. Again, it's easy to get spoiled after having done
the whole BRP.
This weather got pretty
hot as we approached Gatlinburg. We got natural air
conditioning thanks to a 5 minute cloudburst.
Pigeon Forge area is a tourist trap in the extreme with very heavy
traffic and should be avoided if at all possible. I had intended to
Little River Road (Old TN 73) through the park instead but seem to
have missed the turn, perhaps in the rain, and ended up staying on US 321.
In fact, I can't say anything nice about US 321 at all.
As we pulled into the
Motel 6 in Newport, the sky looked rather unfriendly:
5 Saturday June 9:
About 317 miles from
Newport TN to Lewisburg WV
Interesting mix of
roads. What's not obvious from the above map is that we
started in Tennessee, cut through a bit of North Carolina, crossed western
Virginia, and ended up in West Virginia. Four states in
one day. Not bad.
Virginia Route 42 from Route 16 to Bland was very scenic and had
essentially zero traffic:
We had planned to depart
Route 42 at Sharon Springs and head up to Route 61 via Route 623 through
Burkes Garden like this:
Imagine our surprise
when we found Route 623 at Sharon Springs looking like this:
That's Eric muttering
something like "Not Ninja Approved"..:-)
Another piece of road we
liked very much was
Route 61 between Rocky Gap and Narrows.
We at dinner at a
Chinese Buffet in Lewisburg. Along with the bill, they
gave us the traditional fortune cookies. This one brought
tears of laughter:
After dinner, Stephan
and I decided some beer would taste mighty good, but we didn't think there
was anywhere within walking distance of our hotel to procure some.
Save-A-Lot didn't have any, but K-Mart did. Now I wouldn't
normally post a picture of a strip mall, but I just love the colors in the
sky in this one.
And it is where we found
We spent the night at
the Econo Lodge in Lewisburg. It is a bit of a dump.
Would have been OK for $40 or $50 per room, but they charged us ~$85.
6 Sunday June 10:
About 317 miles from
Lewisburg WV to Frederick MD
The famed US 219 through
WV was a mixed bag. It seems WV does not believe in paved
shoulders and the good old boys can't keep the inside rear wheel of their
trucks on the pavement. This meant loose gravel in most of the
curves, especially the righter right-handers. It usually
wasn't enough to be a real problem but when I see any gravel at all in a
turn, I get paranoid.
Further north, it got
I let Stephan try the
FJR for a fcouple of hours that morning. If you look
carefully, you can see the grin on his face. When I got on the
'Strom after having just gotten off the FJR, my reaction was:
Man this bike needs the throttle bodies synched or something.
But after a few miles, I realized: Nope, that's just the way the
After lunch in somewhere
in the vicinity of Romney on US 50, I got back on the FJR. Smooth as
glass compare to the 'Strom.
Couldn't resist snapping
this, a West Virginia Swimming Pool ;-)
I think this was still
on route 219. A wind farm. Unfortunately, it's in an
area that looks almost like a strip-mine and this is the most appealing
picture of several that we took:
When we arrived at our
hotel in Frederick MD we noticed that Eric's back tire was showing signs
of being done. Seemed almost like a case of
5000 miles ago (in
Duango, CO) the tire looked like
Needless to say, Eric was not pleased that he only got 5000 miles out of
it. The worst part is that he needed a new front
tire to pass PA State Inspection a month earlier and ordered a new rear at
the same (same type) time to get free shipping.
7 Monday June 11:
About 163 miles from
Frederick MD to Lansdale PA
PA 340 from East Lampeter to PA 82 is nice and takes you through the
Amish-country towns of Bird-In-Hand and Intercourse.
Who says the Amish don't have a sense of humor?
Yes, we just had to get a picture of Stephan in front of an Intercourse
We arrived at home early
in the afternoon.
It was a nice trip, but
too short -- only a week and only 2100 miles. After last
year's meal, this felt like a light snack.
Stephan claimed to have
enjoyed the trip despite the fact that we stuck purely to paved roads.
He did mention something to the effect that days 1 through 6 had more
twists and turns on pavement than he's ever seen. A Good Thing
in my mind.
Afterthoughts on June
Personally I enjoyed the
Blue Ridge Parkway more than any other road. I can't
quite explain it, but after a few hours, the BRP became my friend.
Sure it's a bit narrow and lacks shoulders but the road surface was clean
and if you ride it in a sane fashion, it's like a meeting a big dog who's
wagging his tail -- you know he's not going to bite you.
I didn't develop that level of trust with any of the other roads we were
on. (The reader should keep in mind none of us had ever been on any of
these roads before and somehow I ended up leading for most of the ride).
Besides, where else on this planet can you find single stretch of road 469
miles (755 km) long with virtually no traffic on it, no towns, no traffic
signals; nothing but endless twists and turns and non-stop scenery.
I will ride it again -- quite possibly in both directions on the
same trip. In fact, I'm now dreaming about the ideal
vacation home -- it should have a spectacular view and be somewhere close
to the half-way overlooking the BRP..;-)
My two bikes:
I rode the FJR for most of the trip. Since all his bikes are
dual-sports, Stephan (visiting from South Africa) got the V-Strom.
But as mentioned above, I did let Stephan try the FJR for a bit.
Except when I first test-rode the FJR, I had never jumped back and forth
between the two on the same day. Doing so really makes you notice
the differences. The V-Strom has a more comfortable riding position
and a suspension that makes bumps on paved roads practically unnoticeable.
But the V-Strom's engine feels like it belongs on a farm implement as
compared to the FJR. It's impossible to tax the limits
of either bike on a public road if you ride in a sane fashion, i.e. able
to stop within your sightlines and at speeds which won't get you cited as
"reckless", so there's never a question whether one can keep up with the
other. Another interesting point: The FJR
consistently used 10-15% less fuel that the V-Strom. This is
real-world, amount of fuel put in at the same pump every time. Hard
to explain given the FJR's displacement, cylinder count, and supposedly
inefficient shaft drive. Anyway, if I was taking this
trip again and had to choose between the two, I would choose the FJR.
But I wouldn't think twice about going if the V-Strom were the only bike I