View from a Blue Ridge Parkway Overlook
Sunday, the 8th of September, I arrived home from a four day trip to the Smoky Mountains and the Wheels Through Time Museum in Maggie Valley. I rode my 1968 CB350, and admit I feel a bit guilty. I am one to usually take pride on “riding the distance,” but my friend Pete, a fellow board member with VJMC (Vintage Japanese Motorcycle Club), wanted someone to drive with him. So, I rode from Lake Wales in Central Florida to Panama City, where I loaded the bike onto his trailer, next to his CB1100, for the remainder of the trip up. Google maps showed the ride up to Panama City as 385 miles, but due to an unplanned detour (aka getting lost, but Bayport was nice) I ended up riding 400.
The ride was pretty along the Gulf Coast beaches of the Big Bend area of Florida on US 98, which led me directly into Panama City. The road usually was less than a hundred yards from the shore and passed through a lot of quaint small towns.
Stopped on US 98 on the Gulf Coast
I had planned to leave at 2 am in order to arrive in Panama City by noon. When I woke in the night, I had not heard my alarm, so I took a quick look at the clock by the bed. “3:37??!! Crap!” I jumped out of bed, then into my riding clothes, and out onto the bike and into the Florida night air. I was riding in the dark for what seemed like forever and didn't see the sun brighten the sky until Perry, Florida. I found that odd. After rolling along the coast, I pulled into our meeting place and looked at my watch—9:30am?! I must have read the bedside clock incorrectly and had not heard the alarm because it had not sounded yet. My best guess was I had left about 12:30 am. Good thing, it turned out, as Pete had some errands to do and we did not get out of Panama City until after one pm. We didn't arrive in Maggie Valley until around 11 pm.
This trip was originally to be a exploratory meetup in Maggie Valley with fellow VJMC board members to discuss with Dale at the Wheels Through Time Museum the possibility and options for doing some future events there. While planning this trip we announced to the membership that we would be there in case anyone wanted to meet up for some riding. We ended up with about twenty-five other members eventually meeting us in Maggie Valley.
We were to meet Dale on Saturday morning, and the morning after our arrival was Friday, so we had some time to ride and explore. I led a ride first thing after breakfast the first morning from the junction of US 19 (Soco Road) and the Blue Ridge Parkway, then south and east to NC 215, which we took back north to complete our loop, passing through Waynesville.
Of course, we had to take the obligatory photo at the highest point overlook.
We stopped early on the BRP to check on pace and to regroup and decided we faster riders would move ahead, with the slower cruisers following. The lead riders would stop at overlooks, and especially our turning points, and wait for all to regroup before moving on. This worked well and gave each rider a chance to enjoy the ride in the way they best saw fit. 215 north from the BRP proved to be twisty and great fun with a touchdown of my peg on one corner. In the afternoon, we ran part of the route again for the newcomers who had arrived in mid-day.
Photos at the BRP Overlook
Pete's new CB1100. What a great bike!
I would love to own one of these. A Honda Transalp, only available in the US for two years. The owner could ride! All I could do is lag behind when he was leading.
The next morning was spent at the museum with the VJMC board members talking to Dale and Matt Walksler, recently famous for their new Velocity Channel show "What's in the Barn?" The meeting was productive and they were helpful, giving us suggestions for promoting the club. They even took one of the bikes (a Honda S90) of a local rider in our group to display in his lobby with info on the club.
Then it was outside for pizza and talk.
Dale came by on his Cannonball Race bike, a 1915 Harley-Davidson he had ridden coast to coast.
Dale stopped and chatted with the VJMC club members for a while. My brother had ridden his Star Stratoliner up from Inman, SC, to ride with us. He is on the right with the sunglasses perched on his head.
In spite of the museum exclusively featuring American bikes like Harley-Davidsons, Indians, Pierce Arrows, and Excaliburs, the club ended up with seven new members as a result of our presence at Wheels Through Time that singleday. As Dale had said, although his expertise is with American bikes, he loves all motorcycles, and apparently many riders of American iron do, too. We are making plans for more events and riding opportunities in the future out of the museum.
Here's some of the VJMC gang.
After touring the museum, the last ride took us to Hot Springs, north-northwest of Asheville, on NC 209, with more peg scraping en route. This ride, known as “Shiner's Run,” is also called "The Rattlesnake," and it doesn't take much imagination after riding it to guess why. The three rides added probably over 200 mile to members' odometers.
Most headed out that Saturday evening, loaded with more great memories from another VJMC event, but Pete, his brother, and I headed over to Cherokee to check out the casino and grab a bite. Back at the hotel we called it an early night, with the bikes already on the trailer, ready to go in the morning.
We got up before light, grabbed coffee and a snack, and headed back south. Pete unloaded my bike in Thomasville, Georgia, and I rode on home alone while he headed southwest to Panama City. This saved me a lot of miles from riding back from Panama City, and I figured it was a run of about 300 miles or so.
All went well on the way back and I was making good time until I started hearing a strange sound passing through Groveland, at the north end of the Green Swamp. I pulled into an empty lot and found my chain was bouncing against the center stand. I drug out the greasy tools from the CB's tool box and tensioned the chain in just a few minutes and soon was back on the road.
I rode on as the sky darkened, and as I pulled onto US 27, off Deen Still Road, a driver at a stoplight let me know my tail light was out. US 27 is not the road to be riding in the dark with no rear light, even if it is as feeble as the one on the CB, so I pulled into a Racetrac gas station and removed the lens, only to discover that bulb was the only one for which I did not have a spare. Luckily, Racetrac had them on the shelf and soon I was rolling south and heading home in familiar territory for the last twenty-five miles or so to Lake Wales.
Total mileage was 400 to PC, 300 in the Smokies, and 300 home, for a total of 1,000 miles on my butt-bustin' 350.
"Ride Your Own Ride"