Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Mt. Mitchell - "I Can't See Shit!"

September 29th, 2012

Earlier in the week, Mike Brown informed me of a small group ride to the Pisgah Inn outside of Asheville, NC for lunch on the 29th. .  I hadn’t rode all that much since my return from CT, so I was itching to get out and put some miles on the Vstrom.  I called my other partner in crime, Joey, to inform him of the ride and invite him along.  He was off that day so he met me at the house just before 5am that Saturday morning and by 6am we were pulling up to the “Hammerdown Ranch” for breakfast.

After breakfast, Mike, his better half Joanne, Joey and me headed down I-85 to a small gas station to meet up with a few of Mike’s GWRRA chapter members.  The weather was rather poor that morning, so only one guy showed up for the ride.  After giving the other members ample time to show up we began making our way to Asheville via I85 and highway 74.

Joey was able to get a good shot of me that morning.  You should have seen us passing the camera from bike to bike at highway speed.  

Hammer Down, his better half and the possum.

One of Mike's fellow GWRRA members.  (Sorry, I forgot your name)
Joey and the vampire killer. I have antenna envy...

The weather was hit and miss as we made our way into Asheville that day.  Spots of sunshine broke through the heavy cloud cover and the occasional sprinkle, but for the most part the heavy cloud cover dominated the sky. 

We arrived at the Inn for lunch after making a quick stop for fresh apples just outside of Hendersonville. It was prime apple season, so a trip to the mountains would not be complete without coming home with a few in the saddlebags.  As we parked the bikes the clouds decided to open up and the rain began to fall pretty heavy.

The view along the BRP heading to lunch.

Covering up the gear in the rain.
Wine on draft.... cool.
Enjoying lunch at the Pisgah Inn.
I could enjoy this view for a long time.
Here comes the rain....
The lunch was outstanding! The food was a bit pricey for a lunch menu but the food more than made up for the price tag. After lunch we made our way around the gift shop and chatted a bit in hopes that the rain would eventually let up.  30 minutes later it was apparent the rain was there to stay, so we grabbed our jackets and headed out to the bikes.  At that time I was lacking a few Waffle Houses in the area so I talked the group into following me north to Weaverville and Mars Hill for the tags.  As soon as we dropped off the mountain the rain let up and the sun came out, it was a beautiful day for a ride! 

One of our planned stops for this ride was the peak of Mt. Mitchell.  However, when we were in Mars Hill we could see that the peak of Mitchell was still covered by the clouds and there wasn’t a chance in hell of seeing anything if we went to the top.   Mike, Joanne and the GWRRA guy decided to call it a day and headed on back to the house.  Joey and I were still itchin’ for a few miles and decided that the poor visibility wasn’t enough of an excuse to go home, and to be honest, I wanted a Mt. Mitchell sticker for my bike.

After a few moments of GPS work, Joey and I eventually loaded the same route to the peak of Mt. Mitchell and we set off.  All was going well until we found ourselves on secondary road that didn’t look to put us back on the main road anytime soon.  The asphalt was in decent condition and the corners were clean, so I wasn’t looking to turn around until it dead ended.  After a few miles Joey came over the radio, “I believe we are about to run out of asphalt and meet the gravel.” His GPS was showing him something that mine wasn’t. I asked if he wanted to turn around and in true Joey fashion, “Nah, let’s just see what happens.” Sure enough, a mile or so later we reached the end of the asphalt.  We stopped right where it ended; I looked over at Joey and said, “It’s your call.  I don’t mind riding gravel with this tank.” He kicked the ST in gear and took off down the gravel road. 

Joey, like me, has an extensive back ground in racing off road motorcycles.  Granted his ST isn’t the XR600 he used to race in the GNCC’s but it has 2 wheels, a motor and the same physics apply. A gravel road was nothing more than speed limiter to Joey or me. 

Following Joey up a dirt road around Mt Mitchell.  He even stood up and roosted me at one point.
Well, it looks twisty...

The road was in great shape, in gravel road terms, minor wash boarding in a few of the corners and the occasional rain rut here and there.   We met some oncoming traffic which made us feel better that we weren’t heading into no-man’s land, so we continued on.  At one point we came across a really nice water fall just in time for a pee break. 

My GPS was in and out of signal a significant amount of the time we were on the dirt road.  I do not know exactly how long this road was but I would estimate that it was good 5-6 miles. Eventually we saw the light and the end of the tunnel and made it back onto a paved road surface, the BRP.  We hit a few more buttons and realized we were just shy of Mt. Mitchell’s base.

Out of it's element a bit, but it did a fine job! Rally machine!
At home, sorta'. Joey could hear me behind him having a little fun with the reduced traction. :)
Found a nice waterfall to explore that day.
"Hey Joey!"
The light at the end of the tunnel
 The visibility on the way to the summit was minimal to say the least.  In fact I couldn’t see shit.

At the top of the mountain we ran into a few guys on Harleys that were competing in a rally at the time and the summit was a bonus location for them.  We chatted with them for a bit before heading into the gift shop to find my beloved sticker.  It turned out the sticker I was looking for was sold in the restaurant at the base of the mountain. So back down the mountain we went.  Did I mention we couldn’t see a thing?

The vampire killer in action.  Joey's headlights looked like a UFO coming through the fog.  We had a great deal of fun getting photos of this on the parkway.
The view on the mountain was great....
Fellow rally rider atop Mt Mitchell
Unique set up
Well, it it works in tanks I guess it will work on the road
One of those roads noted was our dirt road

With my sticker purchased, Joey and I set a path for home.  I was headed to Elon for the night to see Taylor and Joey was headed back to Asheboro.  It was a solid day of riding with a majority of it in the rain and the fog but a wet day of riding beats a dry day in the office.  

BRP view in the rain.
Probably one of my top photographs.

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