Day Four: Horse Cove Campground to New Orleans

August 31st miles
Miles 920-1600

I forgot how cold it can get in the mountains! Had to put on extra gear this morning when I set out to stay warm. Other than the cold though, it was a nice ride with plenty of windy roads left through the mountains especially nice as the fog hadn’t lifted yet.

One of the things I really like about these kinds of rides across the U.S. is that you get to see how the terrain changes. Today I went through Tennessee, North Carolina, Alabama, Mississippi, and Louisiana. So in one day there were the big mountains in Tennessee and North Carolina which started to flatten out in Alabama until I dropped down into the Pearl River delta with wetlands and eventually the Gulf Coast.

Since this is my first time to New Orleans, tomorrow I’m going to take the day off. Staying in a hostel now (that took forever to find! Something was seriously wrong with google maps and the labeling of streets in this city) and tomorrow going to wander around and see the sites. Also going to be meeting up with a friend I haven’t seen in years that just happens to be going to school in Baton Rouge.


Day Three: Time to Hit the Tail! But the Victory is Bitter Sweet

Day 3 miles 600-920

Bad news, today it turns out I had to part ways with my travel companions. I took Brent to the dealership this morning to see what could be done. They said they’d take a look as soon as possible and even guessed that the problem might not be as bad as we guessed (just some dirty carbs). I had figured that if we could get out by 1 or 2 and the repairs wouldn’t be too expensive, then we could all make it to the tail of the dragon. Unfortunately, by 12 they had not yet gotten to his bike. So, because of time and financial constraints on all sides, and after a sad farewell, I decided to push on. We thought that if the bike turned out to be done early enough, they should give me a call and I’d wait up down the road, but I didn’t end up hearing from them.

For the rest of the day for me, I knew I had to put some miles behind me because of the late start, and I at least wanted to hit the beginning of the Tail by the end of the day. So after high tailing it to Knocksville, I made it to rt. 129 which would lead me into the mountains and straight to the tail of the dragon.

The beginning of rt. 129 is pretty boring as you go through towns, but then it starts to get so scenic and the roads so windy that I didn’t even notice when I had started on the Tail. Of course, once you start to see that there is no more straight aways and you’re making 180 degree turns, it’s hard not to notice. The driving though was fantastic. As with skyline drive, the weather was perfect and the road was packed with bikes (much fewer cars this time though). However, with around 318 turns in 11 miles, this ride was slightly more challenging. A drive like that can really show you what your shortcomings are as a driver. Needless to say, I didn’t set any time records navigating it, but I made it all the way through (though I think I’ve scraped my footpegs more times in the past 3 days then in my full 3 years since I started riding).

The end at Deels Gap is quite a site. There’s a nice big biker tavern/motel right off the side with plenty of signs advertising the Tail, plus souvenirs inside (I got a T-shirt). Most notable though has got to be the tree of shame, which has parts of some of the bikes the Tail has claimed (on a more somber note, throughout the route there are little memorials set up for the lives that it has claimed).

Once I got through, it was around 6 and so only a couple of hours of daylight left. Even though I was done the more dangerous part, I was still in the park and didn’t want to get caught driving after dark. So after about an hour of navigating through the park, and taking a few side roads, I managed to find a nice spot right off the road and next to a lake. So I set up my tent for the first time of the trip, collected some wood for a fire, and cooked up some Mac and cheese. I was having some trouble lighting the fire for a while and so out of desperation I thought I’d try something. I had brought with me some Chinese liquor called baijiu, which is 56% alcohol and in all honesty tastes like lighter fluid, so, I thought, why not give it a shot! And whadya know, after soaking some cardboard in the stuff, it lit right away. So bottoms up and “ganbei,” this ones for Brent and Pam! Hope everything gets sorted out, drive safe, and it was great riding with you for the time we had, miss you guys already!

Day Two: Roanoke; Disaster Strikes

Bad news today when we head out this morning. We had another pretty big day, including the Tail of the Dragon in Tennessee. We left the hotel at about 8 or 8:30 and as we were pulling out onto the interstate, all of a sudden Brent and Pam pulled off onto the shoulder. He said that as he went into 5th gear the engine started cutting out.

After looking the bike over Brent tried to run it again and we noticed some smoke coming out of a drainage pipe in the front. So Brent took off the air filter and we saw smoke coming off the carbs and oil dripping out.

We thought that if he was burning oil, it would be bad to try and ride it anymore in case the oil ran out and the engine seized. So I went off to find a repair shop that could tow the bike. Unfortunately, it being Sunday and being in a small town, everything was closed. So finally after about an hour and a half, Pam and Brent sitting in the sun on the side of the road the whole time, I managed to get a tow truck to come out. For a pretty hefty price, we then took the bike to the nearby Kawasaki dealership where we parked it til someone could look at it on Monday.

The rest of the day was just spent sorting things out back in the hotel. Most of the planning couldn’t be figured out until we knew more about the bike, particularly how long and how expensive the repairs would be. The bad news is though that it doesn’t look like Pam and Brent will be able to continue on to New Orleans.

Day One: New York City to Roanoke, VA

What a great way to start off the trip. In all we went through 6 states, starting off in New York City then New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Maryland, West Virginia, and then Virginia. It was a total of about 550 miles over about 12 hours. Certainly the hardest part but also the highlight was Skyline Drive through the Shanandoah Mountains in Virginia. After 300 miles of interstate on I-78 and I-81 it was nice to get to the winding mountain roads. It was about 110 miles, which took us over three hours, but the driving was fun, the views were incredible, and we could not have asked for better weather. When we finally rolled into our hotel in Roanoke it was all we could do to drag ourselves and our packs to our room… only to find out that we were accidentally assigned the same room as the guests that signed in before us! Thankfully though it was all sorted quickly enough. Tomorrow some more scenic mountain roads when we enter the Great Smokey Mountains and attempt the Tail of the Dragon.

A side note for the day: I have finally named my new motorcycle: Eowyn, after the Lord of the Rings character. It came to me while listening to my iPod at the beginning of the day. Led Zeppelin came on on shuffle and I thought how appropriate considering that they have a few Lord of the Rings themed sings , particularly “Ramble On,” which is all about Aragorn. It seemed to fit nicely (at least the wandering part) and then the name of the bad ass Rohan princess who kills the king of the ring wraiths popped into my head. A little nerdy? Definitely. But still, I think, the perfect name.

The first official post of the trip: Prep time!

The Dyna waiting for me

As I was scrambling to start getting everything ready today, I realized that even though the trip hadn’t officially started yet this was definitely a big part of it. Even though my work was done in China (for the time being) I was still busy as ever. Not to mention, the preparation for a trip certainly has a lot of bearing on the trip itself. So here’s what’s been keeping me busy:

Step One: Since I was going to be arriving in New York from China less than a week before departure day, I was slightly concerned about jet lag, especially since there was so much to get ready once I got back. It all worked out quite well since I had going away festivities friday night, then was packing until 4am the night before take off. So with less than 8 hours of sleep over two days, it was a easy to fall asleep on the plane, afternoon in Beijing and night in New York.

Step Two: I got a somewhat intimidating e-mail from the friends of mine that I would be hiking with when I reach Oregon a couple of days before leaving Beijing. It was reinforced that they would be hiking 25-30 miles by the time we met up, so I had better be in shape. That was probably going to be hard given that the two weeks preceding I’d be on a motorcycle the whole time. The other thing is that being in shape for hiking is very different from normal fitness. What I like about hiking is that in the end it doesn’t really matter how fit you are success largely depends on your will power and determination. Hiking is a great equalizer. When I was hiking on the Appalachian Trail the range of people that finished was impressive, from 10 years old to 70, from hikers with years of experience to none at all, plus both sexes, all races, and all backgrounds. So if you’re willing to push yourself you can usually do it. The only problem is that the constant beating your body takes on takes some getting used to. At the end of your first 20 mile day (or even 10+) your knees hurt, your muscles tighten up, your feet swell up, and you’ve burned many more calories and protein than you can probably take in. None of this really changes, your body just gets used to it.

View from the 59th Street Bridge

So, I decided that though doing exercises would help and I would start working out, I needed to walk as much as possible while in New York. As a result, at every opportunity while running my errands I’ve walked around the great city of New York, which is quite enjoyable in and of itself. So far I clocked about 5 miles from Queens to the upper west side on day one, and today i managed to put in around 13. Right now I’m exhuasted and all told that’s not even a full single day of what I need to be doing. Oh well, step by step.

Step Three: Found out on my first full day back that I had left my drivers license in China… could be important, so walk to the DMV it is!

Step Four: All the equipment necessary for blogging and other media. First was seeing if I could pick up an iPhone 4, and luckily enough I managed to get the last one in stock at the Best Buy on the upper west side. I also needed a camera charger.

Step Five: Camping equipment! I was still short on a few things here. After less than 5 miles my feet were starting to feel as if they were blistering from my relatively worn trail runners. So went to paragon for shoes and the other equipment that I would need. A thing to keep in mind that I’ve found is that hiking clothing can really come in handy for motorcycle riding, particularly winter riding. The thermals, strategy of layering, and all other warm clothing. Also you have to make sure that you can still stay warm and comfortable even if you end up getting wet. So this was some important gear.

Step Six: There’s still a lot left to do and the countdown is certainly on! Tomorrow night Brent and Pam will be arriving in New York, which technically starts the trip, with NY being the first stop. I still have to do all my packing, both for hiking and the bike and make sure I have everything. Work still needs to be done on the website for tracking the trip plus all arrangements for things that I won’t be able to do as easily on the road particularly my meeting point in Oregon with my friends.

It’s all coming together though, piece by piece. Either way it’s going to have to because it’s only a few days until we set out from New York, and for Brent and Pam, the trip has already started!

Friday the 13th – Port Dover

Submitted by Bruce Lessard

Still on vacation after returning from the Tail of the Dragon, I mapped a trip to Port Dover from Toronto (113 kilometres) – QEW to 403 Hamilton and then Hwy 6 south to Port Dover.

Nice little drive from Toronto to Lake Erie (never been but heard about the friday the 13th ride). Arriving at sunset I must have passed a couple hundred bikes leavin town. Camping was not a problem and thats where the partys at – as well as downtown.

Kinsmen Park provided camping for hundreds of bikers providing all you need: full bar, music and lots of good food.

Lots of washroom portables with hand washing stations and even shower facilities.

Waking up to country music at 7:30 it became quickly apparent that it was all about friday – half the campsite was already empty and nothin but signs of people packin up and leavin town.

But I can assure you, a good time was had by all.

Definitely recommend the trip and I’m sure I’ll be back next Friday the 13th.

Great party.

Toronto to New Orleans and Back – Route Planned!

After many changes and much Google Maps finnicking (is that a word?) we’ve locked in the planned route to New Orleans from Toronto.

On August 25th Brent and Pam will leave Toronto on ‘Nora’ (Brent’s Kawasaki Vulcan Classic) to meet Buck (recently returned from China for a short visit and monster trip through the U.S.A. before returning to China indefinitely) in New York City.

After tearing up the town for a couple days, the group will leave NYC en route to Roanoke, Virginia via Skyline Drive through Shenandoah National Park and Blue Ridge Parkway in George Washington National Forest for a total of 847 km’s (526 miles).

Day 2 takes us through Cherokee National Forest and the Great Smoky Mountains and Chattahoochee National Forest with potential stops at ‘Mountain City’ in Cherokee National Forest and ‘Hot Springs’ in the Great Smoky Mountains, with our final destination in Calhoun, Georgia, for a total of 742 kms (461 miles).

The third day of the trip has us arriving in New Orleans after crossing through Birmingham, Alabama, and De Soto National Forest and across Interstate 10 bridge in to New Orleans! A 842 km day (523 miles). We’ll be staying on Bourbon Street in the French Quarter of New Orleans for three days.

After a three day stay in New Orleans we’re heading up the Mississippi River in to Memphis, Tennessee, where the group will spend one last night together before parting ways – Buck to continue his trip around the U.S.A. and Brent and Pam back to Toronto, Canada, to prepare for their trip to the West Coast of Canada.

The entire time we will be posting on Twitter, Facebook and posting videos to our YouTube page. If you haven’t already, follow us on twitter, join the Facebook page, and subscribe to our YouTube channel!