Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Tail of the Dragon - 2016

Okay, here is your chance to experience (virtually) the "Tail of the Dragon" from our perspective! My friend Luc set up a GoPro Camera on the crash bar of his 2016 Harley Davidson Street Glide and recorded all 318 curves during the 11 mile ride! You may want to sit down when you are watching this! What an incredible ride!

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Summer Ride 2016

I recently arrived home from an 9 day, 5400 KM ride that took me through parts of 12 US States! The word that I keep using to describe this year's ride is "EPIC"!  The reason I use the word "EPIC" is due to two things, the distance and the amazing roads that my friend Luc and I had the opportunity to ride!

Blue Ridge Parkway

Luc, my travelling partner was excited about his first long ride on his new 2016 Harley Davidson Street Glide.  We had spoke a couple of times about destinations and we decided on riding to Virginia to the Skyline Parkway and the Blue Ride Parkway.  Our plan was to log heavy miles as it would take us a few days to get to VA and that is exactly what we did!

Day 1 - Fredericton, NB to Nashua, NH (704 KM)

Our first day on the road consisted of riding the I-95 through Maine and into New Hampshire.  Our good friend Jeff, lives just outside Nashua and we decided that we would visit with him and his wife Steph.  We had the opportunity to go out for a great dinner and an evening of friendship!  It was really good to see Jeff and Steph as it has been almost a year since we last had the chance to get together. 

Day 2 - Nashua, NH to Wilkes- Barre, PA (528 KM)

We took our time getting ready on day 2 and hit the road.  We really had no set destination for day 2 except to get closer to VA.  At 7:00 am, it was already 28C, so we knew that it was going to be a warm day.

Nashua, NH

Like day 1, the day consisted of highway and Interstate riding.  We did have a funny incident happen in Worcester, MA.  We stopped for a minute in the parking lot at a local University/Pharmacy School to check our maps as we took a wrong exit.  While stopped, a security guard came running out of the building to tell Luc that his bike was burning!  In reality, the case for his glasses had fallen off the seat of his Street Glide and landed on the hot exhaust..that was the end of the glasses case! The security guard was kind enough to give us directions to the I-84.

Burnt Glases

We made a second stop in Danbury, CT.  Luc was experiencing a loud knocking sound at idle and was concerned about it and wanted to have it looked at.  Fortunately for us, Harley Davidson of Danbury is right off the I-84.  We stopped there and the Service Manager immediately took a look at Luc's Street Glide and took it into the shop.  We didn't mind the stop as it was extremely hot and the air conditioning at the dealership was a welcome break!  I have to mention the professionalism of the service staff at Harley Davidson of Danbury; the service they provided was outstanding.  The diagnosis, the knock was not mechanical in nature and that it was coming from a motor mount.  The mount was re-torqued and after an hour or so, we were on our way!  Oh ya, I also ended up purchasing a pair of waterproof riding gloves that I would need later in the trip!

From Danbury to Wilkes-Barre, it was an uneventful ride. Again, Interstate riding to get from point A to point B.  We decided to stop as it was approaching 6:00 pm and the heat was getting to us! We stayed at the Holiday Inn and after a Pizza dinner, we were done for the day!

Day 3 - Wilkes-Barre, PA to Staunton, VA via the Skyline Parkway (589 KM)

We were very excited for the start of day 3 as we knew it would take us to the Skyline Parkway in Virginia.  We hit the road early and made the 386 KM ride to Front Royal, VA, the North entrance to Shenandoah Park and the start of the Skyline Parkway.  We stopped at an information center to find out more about the Skyline and to book a hotel for the eve.

Skyline Parkway, VA

The staff at the information center was very helpful and informed us that it would take 4.5 hours to ride through the Skyline Parkway as the speed limit is 35 mph/ 55 kmh.

Skyline Parkway, VA

The ride through the Skyline was spectacular!  The roads are amazing with lots of twisties and amazing views!

Skyline Parkway, VA

Skyline Parkway, VA

The weather was beautiful at the start of the ride, but that changed very quickly!  Out of nowhere, dark black clouds started to roll in and we had to prep for rain.

Skyline Parkway, VA

Skyline Parkway, VA

Skyline Parkway, VA

For about 40 minutes, we rode through heavy rain and a bit of hail and as quick as the rain came in, it left!  With the rain moving out, we were left with even more spectacular views of the mountains! 

Skyline Parkway, VA

Skyline Parkway, VA

Skyline Parkway, VA

Skyline Parkway, VA

Skyline Parkway, VA

Again, the ride was amazing!  You do have to watch for wildlife though, we saw a bear cub, multiple deer and lots of wild turkeys!   Luc summed it up nicely with the flash of the #1 sign near the end of the Parkway!

Skyline Parkway, VA

After a great day of riding, we settled in at the Best Western in Staunton, VA.  After unloading our bikes, we went to the Texas Steakhouse & Salon for dinner!  Great food and a good way to end an excellent day of motorcycle riding!

Day 4 - Staunton, VA to Boone, NC via the Blue Ridge Parkway (508 KM)

Another early morning start and we were ready for the Blue Ridge Parkway.  The Blue Ridge Parkway is much longer than the Skyline, spanning a distance of  755 KM. The speed limit through the Blue Ridge is higher than the Skyline at 45 mph/ 70 kmh.  Our plan was to take our time and to ride half of the Blue Ridge Parkway.

Blue Ridge Parkway

Once again, great views and incredible roads!

Blue Ridge Parkway

Blue Ridge Parkway

Blue Ridge Parkway

Blue Ridge Parkway

Blue Ridge Parkway

Blue Ridge Parkway

Blue Ridge Parkway

Blue Ridge Parkway

Blue Ridge PArkway

It was getting close to the end of our ride for the day and we had evening reservations in Abingdon, VA.  We stopped for one final look out over the mountains and while reading the sign, there was a reference to North Carolina.  I asked Luc to read the sign and I said, I think we are in North Carolina and that we overshot our destination in Virginia...this happens when you are having too much fun!

We took out the maps and about that time, another Harley rider and his wife pulled into the same lookout spot.  We struck up a conversation and asked if we were in North Carolina and indeed we were!  We overshot our destination by about 100 KM.  Rather than backtrack, we asked if there was a good place to stay nearby.  The Harley rider - Doug, was a retired police officer and he recommended that we ride to Boone, North Carolina and stay there for the eve! I pulled out my phone to cancel the reservation in Abingdon, VA only to find out that I did not have any cell reception.  Luc tried and the same thing...darn Canadian cell phone packages!  Doug was kind enough to let us use his cell phone to cancel the reservation, once again proving that bikers are good people! Doug also recommended that we stop to eat at the Lost Province Brewing Company and that is exactly what we did.  We bid our farewell to Doug and his wife and made the 50 KM ride to Boone, NC. 

With the Blue Ridge Mountains as a backdrop, Boone, NC is a beautiful town!  Once we checked in to a hotel, we made our way to the Lost Province Brewing Company.  At the brewery, we opted to try local food and had a feed of deep fried catfish. Like I said previously, another great day of riding!

Day 5 - Boone, NC to Bryson City, NC via the Blue Ridge Parkway (370 KM)

Another early morning start and it was back to the Blue Ridge Parkway for the next leg of the ride. Again, nothing but great roads and scenery!

Blue Ridge PArkway

Blue Ridge PArkway

Blue Ridge PArkway

Blue Ridge PArkway

Blue Ridge PArkway

We opted to make a side trip to the top of Mount Mitchell as it was along the Parkway.  Mount Mitchell is the highest peak east of the Mississippi River at 6684 ft.  The views were not great due to cloud cover, but it was worth the stop.

Blue Ridge Parkway

Blue Ridge PArkway

Blue Ridge PArkway

Blue Ridge PArkway

After a short break at Mount Mitchell, we were back on the Blue Ridge Parkway.  Once again, the weather turned very quickly and it was back to the rain gear!

Blue Ridge Parkway

Blue Ridge Parkway

The rain was only temporary as the storm rolled away as quick as it rolled in.  I guess that is typical mountain weather!

Blue Ridge Parkway

The last leg of the Blue Ridge was as good as the first leg with excellent roads and great views.  We finished the Parkway close to Cherokee, NC. A quick stop at the information center and on recommendation from an employee, we made our way to Bryson City, NC.  Bryson City is not a city at all, it is a small town of about 1500 people.  We found accommodations and inquired about a good place to eat...the recommendation, a local restaurant called Jimmy Mac's - http://www.jimmymacsrestaurant.com.  The receptionist at the hotel said you have to try the mountain trout and that is exactly what we did...it was excellent!

We made our way back to the hotel and made our plans for day 6, "The Tail of the Dragon"!

Day 6 (Part 1) Bryson City, NC to Deal's Gap, NC (70 KM)

Both Luc and I had been online reading about the ride to Deal's Gap and the Tail of the Dragon.  It was suggested that early morning was a good time as there would be less traffic/congestion. The ride from Bryson City to Deal's Gap along routes 74 and 28 was good.  The roads are great and fun to ride, especially as you get towards the Fontana Dam area on the 28!

Blue Ridge Parkway

We arrived at Deal's Gap shortly after 8:00 am.  There were a few other bikes, but not a huge crowd at all.  We went into the Deal's Gap Store, purchased a few souvenirs and t-shirts.

Deals Gap, NC

Deals Gap, NC

The Tail of the Dragon was up next, 318 curves in 11 miles! While we were getting ready for the ride, another Harley rider asked if I could take a few pictures of him and his wife.  After the pictures, he asked if we had ridden the Dragon before, we responded saying we were first timers.  He gave us some great advice about riding the curves, momentum and speed...I was actually very grateful for the advice!  Once he departed, we mounted our Street Glides and were off to slay a Dragon!

You are into the hard curves as soon as you start the Dragon and oh, what fun it is! We had no one in front of us and no one behind us...it was perfect!  For the next 11 miles, it was twists and turns, like I said, 318 of them!   There are professional photographers setup along the Dragon and they make images available to people who do the Dragon (for a cost).  Here are some shots of me conquering the Tail of the Dragon!

Tail of the Dragon

Tail of the Dragon

Tail of the Dragon

Tail of the Dragon
Photos by Killboy.Com

We were pretty excited after we finished the Tail of the Dragon!  At the end of the Dragon, we made a quick stop at Smoky Mountain Harley Davidson for a few more souvenirs. 

Smokey Mountain HD

Smokey Mountain HD

Smokey Mountain HD

We bid farewell to the Dragon and started our trek North and the journey home.

Smokey Mountain HD

Day 6 (Part 2) - Chilhowee, TN to Salem, VA (485 KM)

We made our way through Tennessee on Routes 129 and 321.  We stopped in Maryville, TN for a coffee and made our plan for the rest of the day. Several locals provided directions and we were off again.  Along the 321, we stopped at a local produce stand to try boiled peanuts, they were good! While at the stand, the owner Jack said, "you have to try out the Moonshine place next door", so not to be rude, we had no choice but to oblige!

Tennessee XXX Moonshine

Tennessee XXX Moonshine

Once we were inside the distillery, the owner was very pleased to offer us a tour of the operation and to talk about the process of making Moonshine!

Tennessee XXX Moonshine

Tennessee XXX Moonshine

Tennessee XXX Moonshine

Tennessee XXX Moonshine

Tennessee XXX Moonshine

We each tried a very small sample of "shine" and were on our way.  We ventured to Pigeon Forge, TN and made a quick stop at the Harley dealer.  We did not realize that Pigeon Forge, TN is a huge tourist destination, it is a very busy place and if I am in the area again, I will probably try to avoid.  

Next destination, Salem, VA.  The next 4 hours consisted of highway driving on the I-81.  This road is a busy one and the truck traffic is unbelievable!  Luc and I set our cruise controls and for the next several hours weaved in and out of the traffic until we reached the Holiday Inn in Salem.

For dinner in Salem, we checked out Billy's Barn.  It was a rather interesting place!  The food was good and we did not stick around very long.  Tired from the heat, we retired for the day and made our plans for the next day.

Day 7 - Salem, VA to Montgomery, NY (800 KM)

This was our toughest day of the trip, straight Interstate riding for 497 miles/ 800 KM.  There was nothing exciting about this "iron butt" day at least not until the end of the day! It is a good thing that we have the Scala Communicators to entertain each other!

We arrived at the Holiday Inn in Montgomery, NY about 6:00 pm and checked into our rooms. For some reason, Montgomery, NY sounded very familiar to me, but I could not figure out why! A quick Google search brought back my memory...Orange County Choppers! I checked on Google Maps and OCC was 6 miles from the Holiday Inn.  We thought we were done riding for the day, but quickly we were back on the bikes and off to Orange County Choppers.

Orange County Choppers

Orange County Choppers

Orange County Choppers

Orange County Choppers

Orange County Choppers

We relaxed at the OCC Cafe with a cold beverage and then made our way back to the hotel...long day!

Day 8 - Montgomery, NY to North Conway, NH (552 KM)

Another highway day, at least until Troy, NY.  The I-91 to Albany was a pleasant drive and traffic was light.  A quick stop at the Harley dealer in Troy and we were off to Vermont and into New Hampshire via routes 9 and 202.  At Concord, we caught the I-93 North and made our way to North Conway via the White Mountains and the Kancamagus Highway (Route 112).  Once in Conway, we stopped at Whitehorse Gear.  This an excellent place to buy motorcycle gear.  The staff is very friendly and knowledgeable.  Luc purchased a few items and one of the employees demoed his new Vance and Hines Eliminator slipon exhaust for us.  He had them installed on his 2015 Road Glide and they sounded good!

When in North Conway, we always stay at the Colonial Inn.  Four years ago, during a massive rain storm, the owner had a room for us and cleared out his carport so that we would not have to leave our bikes in the rain.  We return the kind gesture by staying there every time we pass through.

Dinner was at the Chef's Bistro in North Conway and it was excellent!  By far, this was the best meal of the entire trip and I highly recommend this as a place to eat!

Day 9 - North Conway, NH to Fredericton, NB (708 KM)

The ride home was a bit longer than it should have been. Again, an early morning start on Route 302 through the White Mountains.  We were enjoying the scenery so much that we completely missed our turn off for Route 16 to Gorham, NH.  We ended up riding West to Littleton, NH.  Once we realized our mistake, we laughed, re-adjusted and made our way to Gorham, NH...I would guess this put us behind about 45 minutes.  

In Gorham, we caught Route 2 into Maine.  In Mexico, ME we made another error that cost us some time.  We were going through a rotary and Luc and I took different routes, we spent the better part of an hour trying to find each other along the Androscoggin River...we laugh about it now!  A quick stop for coffee in Skowhegan, ME and we were on our way to the I-95.  A late lunch in Bangor, ME and on to the Canadian border.

The weather looked like rain, so we stopped to put on rain gear just outside of Houlton, ME.  I was 100% sure that we were in for one heck of a storm, but nothing!  After a quick stop at the Duty Free Store and Canadian Customs, we were on our way for the last 100 KM of our trip.  We saw lots of lightning and dark clouds on the way home.  So much so, that we geared up again at King's Landing. We came across wet roads, but again dodged the rain!

I think back to the word "EPIC" as this was perhaps the best road trip yet.  The Skyline and Blue Ridge Parkways, excellent! The Tail of the Dragon, an experience! The hard ride to and from was worth every single mile.  And I would be amiss if I did not mention my travelling partner and fellow biker friend, Luc.  We have been on many road trips and I think that he would concur with the use of the work "EPIC" to describe this most recent trip!

Blue Ridge PArkway

I have a GoPro video of the Tail of the Dragon ride that I need to edit, I hope to get that done soon! A great ride and I look forward to future rides!