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3800 Km, 7 days, 250cc = Success! Part 2

by on Jun.11, 2014, under Motorcycle, Personal, Travel

Day 4: I awoke today ready to tackle the Dragon! I had originally planned on getting there the night before but I wasn’t too far behind and had many days planned for the area. Taking it easy I passed a speed trap on the straights (no ticket, I’m too slow) before hitting the twisties. This place is AMAZING. Luckily I was early enough in the season that it wasn’t that busy and on my first pass I didn’t catch up to anyone but I was passed by some very experienced street bike riders who left me in their dust. Slowly my confidence grew and eventually a way laying the bike right over in the corners scraping my pegs along the way. Arriving in Deals gap I bought my souvenir t-shirt and sticker and fueFontana Damled up before exploring the area. I found a set of power lines near by and explored a good place to camp for the night before continuing on to Fontana dam. The dam is part of the Appalachian trail and there were people doing trail magic handing out water and treats for passing hikers. I stopped and talked to some hikers and gave them some water to help them out before hoping back on my bike. There are tonnes of back roads and I ended up making a big loop back to Deals Gap where I filled back up with gas. Then back to the twisties!!! I rode up and down the Tail of the Dragon again before stopping for some food, filling my tank again and taking a brake. I checked out some of the bikes parked in the lot and chatted with some other riders. Then it was off to do laundry. Near where I had selected my camp site for the night there was a public boat launch and dock. I pulled out all my smelly clothes and rinsed them off in the lake. I got weird looks from some fishermen while I was standing in my underwear washing my clothes in freezing cold water. I then threw everything back on my bike and headed to my campsite to setup for the night.

 

Day 5: RAIN. Noooooooo! Today was supposed to be my full day of riding The Tail of the Dragon. I was going to stash my luggage in the woods and do it unloaded but I’m not really feeling like tearing through wet corners. Since the rain started just as was waking up I managed to get dressed, packed and loaded before it got heavy. Then looking at the GPS I decided if I headed due East I might be able to get ahead of the rain. I tore out of my powerline campground and headed towards Ashville. As I went the rain got lighter and lighter and eventually stopped. I knew it was right behind me but I had bought some time in the day where I was dry. I stopped into REI to grab some Vermont Darn Tough Socks and some underwear but they were all out of my size for the underwear. I grabbed 3 pairs of socks and got 10% off, then used my REI dividends to lower the price even more. From there I hopped on the Blue Ridge Parkway for a bit, then off to detour around some construction, then back on for a bit more. I was heading North at this point planning on trying to do The Snake again on my way home but as I got close the rain started back up. I quickly turned East and hopped on Hwy-58 in Tennessee which becomes the 211 and took that for a really long time. It was an amazing road and I really enjoyed myself.  Eventually the rain caught me and my gas tank was getting low. I pulled into some random town and decided to eat at Bojangles where I had a piece of deep fried chicken on a biscuit. Honestly I was not impressed, it was white on white, and they didn’t even have the courtesy to put a piece of lettuce on there. Just breaded chicken on a biscuit that probably had half a bar of butter in it. The other bad part was that they didn’t even have wi-fi so I had to sit there for over an hour waiting for the rain to die off just twiddling my thumbs waiting for the abomination of a meal to transform into an emergency trip to the washroom. Finally the rain died down, I gassed up and headed back out. The rest of that day was amazing. I cruised along the BRP standing on my pegs enjoying some amazing views and empty roads. Now since I had gotten some rain, and ridden with a lot of road spray, and waited way too late to start looking for a site, I grabbed a cheap hotel for the night. Really I made quite a scene stomping in there in soaking wet riding gear then lugging dirty road spray covered luggage in to dry off in my room. I grabbed a beer across the street at the gas station and relaxed in my room until I eventually passed out.

 

Day 6: Despite my best efforts all of my clothes managed to dry out except my boots. I put on some of my fresh new Darn Tough socks and headed out for a new day. Today I finished up the BRP and stopped in a few motorcycle stores to see if I could replace my failing Cardo Scala Rider G4 headset. One earphone had stopped working then the second one. No music sucks! Unfortunately all of the stores I stopped at didn’t have just the base of the headset in stock. My final stop was at Dual Sport Armory where I had a nice chat with the owner and got my photo on their facebook page! I stopped again to put on some fresh socks as the ones I had on were wet from the wet boots. It felt like putting my feet into little ovens until they too eventually got wet. I was making good progress north at this point.  I hopped on the interstate for a bit to get some miles in before the sun set. I was planning on camping out at the same site as I had camped the first night but as I was going the temperature started falling fast. I had my handy-dandy Garmin Tempe sensor on my bike and as it dropped below 10C I started shivering and I knew that camping that night was going to be out of the question. I stopped near a cheap hotel but it was still fairly early in the evening so I decided to push it a bit. Probably not the best idea. The next few towns either had no hotels or really expensive ones. I tried a few that were full and the sun was starting to set. Eventually I came across a Best Western that gave me a decent price and I gladly accepted. I was too tired so it was Burger King next door for dinner followed by passing out for the night.

Day 7: My last day of the trip. Nothing too interesting to report along this stretch. I took it easy rolling through Syracuse. I stopped at a Gander Mountain and a Bass Pro to see what they had in stock but I didn’t have much money and I really didn’t have any room to bring home anything sizable but it was still neat to see what they stocked in their stores. I stopped near Watertown for some Cracker Barrel where I only managed to eat half of the food they served me before heading to the border in Ogdensburg. The border agent had no interest in me and a crossed quickly and zipped up the 416 to Kemptville then took back roads home. Finally home I unpacked and laid all my gear out to dry before passing out in my own bed. Zzzzz. ~3800Km over 7 days. All on my Trusty Yamaha WR250X! Now it’s time for an oil change!

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3800Km, 250cc, 7days = Success !

by on May.02, 2014, under Camping, Motorcycle, Personal, Travel

So I’ve done it. 7 days on the bike covering roughly 3800 Km. I made it to the Tail of the Dragon, rode it several times and enjoyed myself every step of the way. Here’s my trip, day by day.

Day 1: Started off a bit later than I had originally planned but I figured the extra sleep was needed and after looking at the temperature outside I wasn’t keen on leaving when it was only 3 degrees out. Burrr. I eventually hopped on my bike around 10:30 and rolled out. A few back roads later I was waiting in line to cross the border. Normally a quick crossing at Ogdensburg NY, was much slower because of the Easter traffic backing up halfway across the bridge. Another hour or so to get through and I was on my way.

I decided to take back roads as much as I could and headed to the shores of Lake Ontario where I could inspect the first few of the potential campsites I had pre-scouted from Google maps. I was impressed at how good they would have been but it was way to early to stop for the day so I hopped back on the road.

This is where I had my first small routing glitch, instead of cruising down among the finger lakes my GPS (Garmin Monterra) decided to route me as quickly as possible back to the interstate. Oh no! I looked but it was going to be very out of my way to get back to the route I wanted so interstate it was. This probably worked out for the best because of my late start and delays at the border I needed to put in some distance before I looked for a place to camp. Also, the further south I made it the warmer my night would be.

As luck would have it, about 45 minutes before sunset I passed under some powe rlines with what looked like a nice service road just as I was about to get to an exit. I hopped off the interstate and scouted the surrounding area before I jumped the ditch. 30 seconds later I was up over a rise and out of site of any roads, houses or businesses. My Hennessey Hammock was setup up, dinner was cooked, and I settled in for a somewhat chilly night in my hammock.

 

Day 2: I awoke with the sun but it was way too cold to get out of my sleeping bag so I rolled over and as the sun warmed my hammock I got an extra hour or two of sleep. Around 9am I finally decided it was warm enough out to ride a bike so I packed up and readied myself for another day. Leaving the campsite you could not even tell that someone had slept the night and I popped back out on the road without anyone seeing me. I then hopped back on the interstate for a quick blast before I could see the sights for the day. Day 2 took me to Hershey Pennsylvania’s Chocolate World. If I had had the time, money and a place to lock my stuff I would have been tempted to ride the roller coasters for a day but instead I snapped some photos and kept moving. From there I rode a bit of Skyline drive before getting off to make some distance on the Interstate for the day. I tried to stop by some motorcycle stores but everything closed at 2pm on Saturday. As the sun started to set I went looking for a place to sleep. I was a bit behind schedule and the sun set as I was heading back into the mountains to get near the Blue Ridge Parkway. I had a few placed picked out via Google maps but had to drive the most insane switchback road up there in the dark. A tad spooky. Unfortunately one place I had picked was too close to the road and the other was gated. Defeated I headed back towards the BRP and town but just as I was about to get to the parkway ramp I saw a small dirt trail heading up a hill. What did I have to loose? So I zipped up this road, through a few switchbacks, until I came to a downed tree. Perfect! No one would be coming down if this tree was down and probably no one coming up either. The road looked like it hadn’t been used in ages. Probably the only downside was it was steep but that is no issue in a hammock! Trying as best as I could to not use my flashlight I strung up my hammock and called it a night.

 

Day 3: The night wasn’t as cold as the previous night but it wasn’t as warm as it could have been seeing as I was camping over 3000 ft. I took my time getting ready and packed up the bike for another day. I couldn’t see the BRP through the trees but I could hear cars as they used it. I got my bike turned around and headed out. After an hour of riding on the parkway I pulled over at a stop with a picnic table and boiled some water for a breakfast of  freeze dried bacon and eggs. The view was spectacular but while I was eating another inmate from the ADVrider.com website stopped by and introduced himself (ADVRidgeRunner) and we chatted about bikes, local riding and my trip. He wished me luck and was on his way. I also enjoyed the fact that I was basically sitting on the Appalachian trail, a trail that I will hopefully be able to hike one day.  From there I enjoyed the BRP until I exited in search of the Appalachian trail museum and half way point. Taking a break I browsed their displays, chatted with the staff and signed the register before heading back to the road. Some of these back twisty roads where amazing, lined with old cabins that really define the area. I finally had a chance to hit up my first motorcycling road “The Snake”. This road isn’t as popular as the Dragon but a good warm up none the less. It was fairly quiet and I really worked my loaded bike in the corners before I eventually caught up to a car. I took a small break and let them get ahead before finishing up and stopping in at the gift shop. There were several bikes in the parking lot and I enjoyed the atmosphere and shopped for a souvenir before moving on. Eventually I hopped back on the interstate for a quick blast before the end of the day. I was slightly behind my original schedule of making it to the Tail of the Dragon this night but I would end up only 200km short. Not having anywhere nearby to camp and with the sun quickly setting I slipped into a Holiday Inn Express but was shocked at their price ($100+tax) for a room and decided to look elsewhere. Just behind the hotel were some large advertising signs along the interstate and they had a service road. A bit of exploring later I ended up down a dirt road with a clearing on the side and setup for the night, my hammock stretched across the trail. I took a hobo shower, spraying myself with bottles of water and soaping up before heading to bed. At least this far south the nights were warm enough and slept really well.

 

Stay tuned for part 2!

 

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Packing Light For Motorcycle Travel

by on Apr.01, 2014, under Motorcycle, Travel

Packing for motorcyclesOne of the hardest parts of packing for a motorcycle trip is choosing what to leave behind. Sometimes to keep my motorcycle extra light for offroad travel I even leave my tent at home.

But where you do you sleep if not in a hotel? Under a tarp!

Since I ride a small 250cc motorcycle I need to be selective about what I bring camping. I don’t have the luxury of a trunk and to keep my bike from tipping over backwards I need to keep the weight down. There are some essentials that are needed such as tools and a spare tubes. I still need a sleeping bag to keep warm and some sort of shelter to keep the rain off but instead of a tent I opt for a camping hammock or a bivy bag and a tarp.

My clothes are worn for several days, the only person who can smell me is me, and I wash them in the sink when possible. I have my phone for a camera, the kindle app to read book with, a folding tooth brush and a mini tube of tooth paste. Other than that I have my passport and wallet and not much else. Any food I need I can buy on the way and I’ll end up eating more than my share of granola bars.

In the end things are simpler this way. Less to go wrong, and less weight on the bike. I still sleep warm and toasty at night and the bike gets better fuel economy from the lack of weight and wind resistance.

Keep it light and enjoy the ride.

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Dead Ends and Forest Roads

by on Mar.31, 2014, under Motorcycle, Travel

Tail Of the Dragon Map

Surprisingly there isn’t much open in the way of camping facilities before the May long weekend so calling ahead, making reservation, or even planning on where you are going to sleep in a given night is difficult. I want to do this trip on the cheap so renting hotels is out for sure (unless I’m soaked or frozen), and even paying to stay at a camp ground is more than I really want to be paying. So what does that leave me? Not much. Basically, I’m on the hunt, with the help of Google Maps, for dead end roads, forest roads, BLM land, and small clearing where I may be able to pull off the road enough to setup my tent and go unnoticed. I don’t need much, no roaring camp fire, no access to a lake. Just enough clear flat land to be able to setup my tent and sleep for the night.

I have read of other motorcycle travelers take this approach with great success and in order to share in their success I am doing everything I can to plan ahead. All the potential points I find online are getting mapped and programmed into my GPS, that way I can just search for the nearest pre-scouted campsite and head there to check it out. In order to keep my probably of remaining undiscovered high I’ll probably have to pre-scout a site then return after dinner as the sun is setting to setup my tent and sleep for the night. Once it’s dark I’m all but invisible. Then in the morning get up with the sun, pack, and hit the road!

While I always have the backup plan of sleeping in a motel I’ve been looking at www.airbnb.com for interesting places in small towns where I could rent a bed for the night. Either way I have lots of redundancy for my sleeping needs.

And if the weather is nice I can always cowboy camp under the stars!

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Trip Planning

by on Mar.28, 2014, under Motorcycle, Travel

The gears are turning in my head as plans are made and vacation is booked. Georgia may seem like a long way to go and a strange destination for travel but it’s not necessarily about the destination and more about the journey.

Along my route I have several things to look forward to including The Blue Ride Parkway, The Snake, and The Tail of the Dragon. There will also be many interesting lands to travel through with their own sights and sounds and I’ll also need to find somewhere to camp every night in order to do this trip on a budget.

While this isn’t an around the world trip this will be the farthest I’ve been from home on my motorcycle so there is some excitement and some nerves. I’m doing my best to load my GPS full of interesting waypoints, quiet roads, campgrounds that are open early in the season and anything else that my be of interest or aid along my route.

In a way the rain outside today is good as it’s the first real signs of spring that we’ve had after this winter of polar vortexes and weeks of bone chilling cold. I need the snow to melt and the temperatures to warm if I have any chance of pulling off this trip. It may be warm down south but if there’s still Ice on the roads here the trip will be a no-go.

In addition to the usual planning and research I need to get some general maintenance done on my motorcycle. It needs some new tires to be installed and balanced as well as an oil change and a general once over after a long winter of snoozing in a heated garage. I tested it out the other day and the bike started fine and seems as eager as I am to get out there and explore the world around us.

Wish me luck!

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