Archive for the ‘riding’ Category

Why and how I started riding a scooter

I think my situation is a little unique. Growing up, my brother and I were not allowed to own a motorcycle. A family member had died in a bike accident, so we were highly discouraged. We weren’t discouraged from motorized adventure though, we raced boats and cars (drag and circle tracks) and loved speed and thrills. My total motorcycle experience was a few rides on friends bikes. In the early 1980’s I was a service member stationed in Germany. I was in a rural area, so I did not see a lot of it, but I did notice that scooters (not motorcycles) were a big part of the transportation system. Over the past couple of years I have vacationed in London, Paris and Berlin. I was amazed at the efficiency of the transportation systems in those cities. At the same time debate rages on about 280, I-65, and the transportation problems in Birmingham (Atlanta, Nashville …). In the major European cities public transportation and scooters dominate travel. Cars are limited to the very rich or commercial travel. The laws favor scooters and encourage two wheelers (filtering city law makers!) to solve congestion and parking problems while maintaining some individual freedom.
So although my travel and pocket expense were not prohibitive to me here in Alabama, I started looking at what I would do if gas prices started to climb. I looked at bus routes to see if I could drive to the closest station and bus back and forth to work. It might be feasible if you work 8 to 5 in the city center, but I work 7 to 7 in Hoover. With Birmingham’s pathetic bus schedule it was not possible.
Next was riding a motorcycle or scooter. I was 51 years old and had never ridden. I had seen middle age guys find the romance in a bike, go out and buy a Goldwing, get scared the first time they pulled up the kick stand and never ride again. I decided to start small. In September 2013 I bought a Roketa 150 (Chinese scooter) that needed work for $400. I played around with it, learned to ride, played with performance parts and had some fun. However, it topped out at 52 mph by GPS. Anywhere I travel requires riding on Interstate or 2 lane roads with 55 mph speed limits. There was always someone on my rear fender. Travel time to work was 1 1/2 hours by the roads I had to take (45 minutes by Interstate in my truck). I did learn about scooters and found that I enjoyed the ride. It was worth the money spent for the experience and education.

I started looking for a 250. While searching I came across a Kymco People 200S. It was a great deal on a low mileage clean scooter, but it wasn’t running right. I little wire work and carb cleaner (a $5 investment and a few hours) and I had a great running bike. Now I really enjoyed the ride. It topped out at 62 mph (by GPS) so the 55 mph roads were no problem. The ride to work was down to a little over an hour and more places were available to ride. From mid November 2013 to Mid February 2014 I put 1000 miles on her, even though weather was not very cooperative! Since it was not fast enough to safely drive on the Interstate, Also, I was pushing the 164cc so hard that my gas mileage was only in the low to mid 50’s mpg. it would not help me achieve my goal of averaging riding to work 2 days a week. I started looking for a 250 (Reflex, Rebel) or larger again.

I came across a nice deal on a Suzuki Burgman 400. I have had it less than two weeks and have put 500 miles on it. There would be a few hundred more if it would stop raining! Interstate speeds are no problem. Back roads are fun. It is comfortable in a 1 hour ride. My commute to work is 454 minutes if I want it to be, a little longer if I want to have some fun or feel more safe on the back roads. My gas mileage is in the mid 50’s.

I am new at this, so only time will tell if I get bored commuting on it and go to just enjoying weekend rides. So far, riding the scooter has been adventurous and fun.

For those inexperienced or first time older riders, I highly recommend starting small and light, having a CVT helps a lot too, so that your first two wheel experiences are something you can grow with!

Is rain stopping you from riding?

For quite a few years I have listened to many owners about the conditions they face when making decisions about when and if they ride.  I always find it amusing when they talk about percentages and chances of rain, like it is fact, or determined that 30% means you are gonna get wet. Just keep the bike in the garage.  I try hard to be objective when making judgements about how others act.  So I did some research, for ojectivity’s sake.

What I found was that between 100-117 days a year in Alabama, there is measurable rainfall.  That means, most likely there was a percentage of rainfall for those days also.  The bigger number is 1/3.  One third of of the days had some rainfall, on average in Alabama.  That means, if you are afraid of getting wet, you may only be able to ride 2/3 of the year.  And if you only ride in summer, maybe even less than that?

So what is the answer?

buy motorcycle rain gearMy suggestion is that you adjust the way you think about weather, and specifically rain.  If you must prepare to ride in the rain, summer riding is simple.  Many folks do not even carry rain gear, other than possibly a ziploc or two for phone, your wallet, or other sensitive items.  A step further would be some light,  storable (on the bike) nylon rain-gear.  This is a nice addition to make the trip more comfortable if you do get caught in the weather.  But keep in mind, you may only see a sprinkle all day long.  In winter, or colder fall and spring day, your prep may need to be more involved to prevent hypothermia, or discomfort from being cold AND wet.  You will learn what is appropriate quickly, but find something that works.  The fact that you are missing some of the most amazing riding days simply because of some fear that you might get wet is like missing out on sex because you think there might be an awkward moment.  There WILL be an awkward moment, but dammit, it is SEX!!  Ride your motorcycle, don’t worry about the awkward moment of getting wet – you will dry off.

The Road Speaks

This may be a new concept to you, but for me the road has been speaking to me for a few years.  The main thing that I started really paying attention to a few years back is markers.  You know, you see them, crosses on the side of the road.  Many time they are in turns, and the crosses and flower are mounted to guard rails, but you also see many in ditches, bridge railings, and intersections.  you can really tell a LOT about death on the road by paying attention to where these markers are.  If you could plot a map of the markers,

My guess is absolutely.  I think it might even be very disturbing.  Questions arise like – “Why are there no warning signs?”  or”  Why is there not a caution light, or stop sign?”

  But I have always heard that the state uses statistics to determine where the trouble areas are.  But is that really true?  Where would they be?  If you could do a statistical study of death on the road, plot those points on a map, could you see a pattern?

So it might be something we can do, plot out all the road markers left by loved ones.  We know someone died close by.  Put them on a map, look for patterns.  I wonder what they would turn up?

Certainly we could show that tricky turns and blind intersections are dangerous.  Twisty roads that have very small margins for error, or lacking guardrails would be at the top of the list.  I always look for the chevrons – directional arrows, yellow and black.  They are there for a reason, typically folks have run off the road, found themselves in a ditch or worse.  Those seem to me to be the most important markers – put there by the state – a “watch out, this is dangerous”.  Many times there are crosses nearby.  It always makes me wonder, what was this guys story.  I wish they could speak.  Tell me what happened, and what to look out for.  Maybe we could all learn something from the crash?

Crooked roads, creeks, cliffs, and Cricket’s

So the big goal for this Saturday was to ride, then finish the day at Cricket’s, which may, in my opinion be the best wings in Alabama, and perhaps the southeast.  Since the eating part was taken care of,  riding was the only real choice – and there looked to be a couple option.  Dual sport the Wheeler Wildlife Area, or street ride north Alabama.  Since

I had never ridden the WWA, I assumed it to be swampy and muddy, and the big bike does not like mud, so I opted to meet Beck at 2pm.  When I showed up, there was no Beck, so I took an opportunity to do some exploring, looking for crooked roads, creeks and cliffs.  Luckily, I found a few.

First, I went looking for a cave and a spring, at Cave Spring.  There is a Cave Spring Church, and I traveled down Cave Spring Road, but no luck.  Next I headed north toward the mountains.   I found a private RR crossing, and a cliff with a stop sign – lucky for me that sign was there, because I NEVER pay attention to no trespassing signs like the one behind it.  Of course the road to get there was awesome, lots of twists and descents, and a few places to gasp at the awesome views.



Finally, I would up riding towards Paint Rock Valley and I knew the roads were crooked, had a creek (river) and some decent dirt roads, so I took the turn.  Turns out, Beck was riding out there too – weird?  So I took my time, and stopped to take a peek and some places along the river I had never looked closely at, but had been curious about.  For instance – is it possible to cross this river here?  Not sure I really want to find out today without ropes and pulleys, and a rescue team.

Next stop, Tennessee – since I was this close, might as well.  I climbed the mountain and found an interesting dirt road to explore.  I was stopped not too far up the road, as it turned into a jagged, big rock trail, with only a few options – most looked painful.  About that time Johnny Robinson finally texted me that he was headed to Cricket’s.  Since the sun would be down soon, I decided it was time to turn around and head that way too.

When I arrived, there was a table outside, giggling at the Yeti as I squeezed the bike into the pile in the parking slot.  The waitress walked over to the bike as I was ungearing, and took my beer order.  I LOVE Cricket’s.  Not long after, I was eating wings and yucking it up with the gang.  Great day to ride, and a wonderful way to end it, chomping and laughing with friends.


Yep, I really did run someone over with a motorcycle.

As some of you know, I was sort-of a police officer for a few years (15+ actually). I was a precocious little snot in my career…a surprise to some of you, I know. I wrecked 7 police cars and 1 police motorcycle…totaling 2 of the cars and the motor. One time, I managed to put the lights out in a fair-sized city, total a police car, total another car, AND set a building on fire all in about 5 seconds. One year, I nearly snatched an Alabama Army National Guard helicopter out of the sky during a marihuana eradication program, causing hundreds of thousands of dollars in damage to the bird and nearly got the program summarily cancelled nationwide…and those are just the beginnings of the highlight reels.

It wouldn’t be unfair to say that I was rather assertive in my policing style and I was used as a counter-balance to the overly ‘Officer Friendly’ types. The trick was figuring out the balance and knowing when Officer Friendly was the right officer to send, or when it was time to send in the cavalry on a slash-n-burn campaign when the bad guys didn’t get the message or thought they had figured-out the system. It was one of the latter assignments were I really did run-over a guy with a motorcycle.


In the late 1980s, some of our citizens thought it a grand idea to shoot ‘craps’ against the curbs in the street-side parking bays within one of our many government-assisted housing ‘projects’. We Officers knew these were nickel, dime and quarter games…solidly in no-harm/no-foul territory and as long as the folk showed enough respect to at least get off their knee as we patrolled by, we would conspicuously ignore them and go about our business so they could get back to theirs.

Unfortunately, our least civilized project straddled one of the major streets that all of the self-declared Pretty-People who lived up on “the Mountain” used as a short-cut going to-n-fro between their homes and downtown. Being ‘Pretty People’ they didn’t understand that a casual game of pick-up craps was not the final sign of the Apocalypse, and even if it was, we had it under control. One thing they DID know was that we had NO problem arresting them and their kids for any of numerous violations ranging from DUI to pederasty, and …well…that just wasn’t ‘fair’ in their view of things so they complained to the Powers.

In any conflict between the Pretty People and the Little Folk, the Powers always align themselves with who they believe themselves to be…the Pretty People. Sure enough, it weren’t long before orders came down from the Powers to their resident “fixer”: ‘Sgt Nessler, make it stop.’. One of the qualities of being a good ‘fixer’ is being able to discern the true intent of the Powers without having to ask inconvenient questions. I knew that I wasn’t being told to make the Little Folk stop shooting craps against the curbs…that would be potentially inconvenient should the Little Folk complain to, say, the ACLU, NAACP, or the wrong Justice Department. What I WAS being told was to make the Pretty People stop complaining to the Powers about the Little People shooting craps against the curbs. That is a subtle but significant difference and being able to discern that difference is what made me such a good ‘Fixer of Inconvenient Things’.

My plan was simple, get a couple of my trusted tac team members in on the act and gently nudge the games off the main street and onto the side-streets where the Pretty People would NEVER go (unless they were picking up a ‘friend’ for a ‘date’ based on a to-be-negotiated cash transaction or they were craving their favorite illicit narcotic du’jour). Our negative reinforcement for the relocation program was simply seizing the money in the pot, which we would immediately and gleefully redistribute to the kids in the area. That way, we were achieving the goal, making lots of new friends, plus even the players knew we weren’t pocketing their meager amounts of money (which they would have believed if we went ‘by the book’ and turned the ‘abandoned property’ into the property room).

Two or three times a day, if I wasn’t already on one of our PD motors I’d go get one and meet my teammates near the targeted project. We were on some of the first mid-80‘s Honda Gold Wing Police-specific bikes. They were naked, except for a clear plexi-windshield, A MONSTER round headlight, and we hacked some of the saddlebags off of our old H-Ds onto them to hold our crap when we rode them. We were offered the opportunity to run the bikes for a couple of years as a test PD and jumped at the chance. We didn’t even have enough stickers, logos, and radios to befarkle all of them and the one I usually used was, basically, an unmarked bike and I could roll right up on just about anyone. We usually called it the ‘sneaker bike’, and it was good for just that.

On the day of all days, I had gone to get the sneaker bike, met my partners, rolled into the projects and sure enough, there was a game right where it didn’t need to be. I eased along, knowing that in just a few moments they’d figure out what I was up to, run, and I’d just roll-up get the money and hand it out to the kids who’d always gather around (they knew how it worked and were always close by when we grabbed a pot).

Except, they were REALLY focused on the game and weren’t looking around…

As I rolled closer, I could see that there was something odd about the pot…there were bills in it and I had NEVER seen that before! Closer yet and I still hadn’t been seen so I double-clicked my lapel-mic, the signal for my back-up to come-on-in. Closer…still not seen…LOTS of bills on the ground…lots of folk in the game…interesting…

I picked my opening and slowly turned off the road just as the player rolls the dice. As everyone in the game focuses on the numbers, I slip my front wheel between two gamers and stop with the pot trapped under my front wheel…and all hell breaks loose when someone screams ‘FIVE OH!-FIVE OH!-FIVE OH!”

Those that are already standing run-off in different directions, those on their knees scramble to get on their feet, grabbing and pulling on each other to get moving. In the scrimmage, a couple of them end up rolling-around on the ground trying to figure-out which way to go, and I see the guy that had rolled the dice grab them and run off-toward my left, which was in the direction I was facing.

For some reason he’s looking back at me and I’m looking right at his face so I can ID and grab him later when we both notice the $20 bill falling out of the sky like a leaf between us. First, I was awestruck…I didn’t know there was a $20 bill anywhere in those projects…but here it was! Everyone else had run away but Dice Guy and he had stopped, watching the $20 fall to the ground. When it hit the ground, I looked back up to see where he was, only then realizing he had stopped running away. Then I saw that smile spread across his face…

He had realized what I already knew…I was stuck on the motorcycle and he could make a grab at the pot and go before I could even flinch…and that is EXACTLY what the SOB did!

WHOOSH! he reached down and WHOOSH! He was headed away again and all I saw was a HUGE wad of bills in his hand as he ran off laughing…right up the sidewalk…in the direction I was already pointed.

‘F’k that, You F’king, F’ker’ I remember thinking as I eased-out the clutch, bumped the curb, and headed down the sidewalk after him. He had a little distance on me, but the way was clear between us so I gassed it a little. I knew my back-up was rolling in behind me and would follow me to the fun but I wanted one of them to stay with the pot…there was still plenty of cash in it…and I reached for my mic clipped to my uniform.

Police lapel-mics are not meant for use on a moving motorcycle and you have to get your mouth as close as you can to the mic to be heard. To do that, you develop a habit of turning your head to toward the mic (for me that was to my right) and leaning down toward the mic as far as you can while you pull the mic as far up as you can.  Well, when I did that, the little sunshade on the half-helmets we wore would block my peripheral vision to the front. In 99 & 44/100ths percent of the time, not a problem…but this wasn’t one of those times.

Unbeknownst to me, Dice Guy had realized the futility of his actions and he decided to surrender…which he did by stopping, turning to face me, and standing spread-eagle in the middle of the sidewalk.

Unfortunately, I did not know he had done that soonly enough…

Something caught my eye to the front and I looked-up just in time to see my front wheel passing between his spread legs…and….it…..all……slowed…….way……..way………down.

Somehow I got my left hand off my mic, back on the bar, and clamped-down on the bars and with my knees against the tank just as that monster headlight hit him right in the belly. The momentum of the bike drove his midsection backward while his legs and arms extended straight toward the back of the bike along each side of the shield as the air just blasted out of him in a loud ‘HUUUUuuuuuuhhhhhh’.

I saw that his face had planted hard against the center of the plexi-windscreen and was turned to my left side. His mouth was open and something pink had spritzed across the screen…then there was his eye…

It was plastered flat against the upper part of the screen…right in the center…looking like a big, flat fish-eye…and it was staring right at me! I’m here to tell you…that freaked me out a little!

I grabbed the brakes and he began to peel-off the front of the bike…almost like he was sitting on the front fender and was slowly falling over backwards…but the bike began to wiggle a little (I didn’t know it at the time, but I was on some sand that was on the sidewalk, probably from rain run-off). I could see that he was still peeling-off the front of the bike, falling away faster than I was going, but I instinctively released the brakes to regain control of the bike.

Just as I let go of the brakes, he landed on the sidewalk…HARD! It seemed like I could feel his head hit the concrete and he skidded a little ways before he stopped.

Then it got bad…

He was still spread-eagle, lying on his back on the sidewalk, the wide end of the “V” of his legs toward me with his head away from me.

By that point it had devolved into the surreal and I was just along for the ride…

The bike was still moving forward at a fair speed and from the wiggles, it was slightly leaning and turning to the left as it rolled between his legs again. The front tire rolled up the inside of his right leg, forcing the front of the bike to the right. The front tire rolled across the top of his right thigh, tracked to the right of his crotch, across his abdomen from his right-to-left, to where it dropped off his left shoulder about halfway between his head and point of his shoulder.

The rear tire rolled up high on the inside of his left thigh, bursting his thigh with a loud “POP!”, then it tracked across his hips, abdomen and chest angled slightly from his left-to-right. His face was turned to his right and the rear tire tracked across the left side of his face, leaving an imprint of the tire tread in the skin on his forehead (that lasted for several days) before it dropped off his head back onto the sidewalk.

Once back on solid ground, I was able to get the bike stopped pretty quickly and all I could do was sit there trying to figure-out what had just happened. In no time, the screech of tires, people running, kids screaming, high-pitched radio calls for the fire medics snapped me back to reality.

Yeah…it really happened…I had just run over a man with a motorcycle…and the world saw me do it.

The medics were there in just a few moments and they were working on him furiously. I knew there was a lot of concern about his left thigh. From prior training and a previous incident I was involved in, I knew there were a large artery and vein in there and that if either of those were ruptured it’d be difficult for him to survive.

I’d worked on him a little before the medics arrived and believed that both were intact…I kept trying to tell the medics if they’d just look they were right there and they could see they were fine (I was being more wishful than knowing, but I could tell from the amount of blood on the ground that as bad as it looked, he still had plenty in him). They finally bundled him up and got him on the road to the ER just in as my command staff started arriving.

In the whirlwind of Very Important People Trying to Appear Important, I ended up stuffed in the rear seat of a marked unit and unceremoniously sent-off to the hospital for the blood alcohol and drug screenings I had requested. I ended-up in the station next to the Dice Guy…both fortunately and unfortunately. Fortunately because I learned that, other than the thigh, he was remarkably uninjured and the thigh, while gruesome looking, was still pretty intact and could probably be repaired with minimal risk of extended impairment. Unfortunate because it was rather disheartening to hear people say how truly and sincerely screwed I was…as in, please tell me something I DIDN’T know already!

…and that, as weaving and drifting a story as it is, is how I ran-over someone with a motorcycle to the best of my recollection and memory.

When I share this story, people usually have two basic questions: “What happened to him?” and “What happened to you?”

He recovered fine. Last I knew he is alive & well, and STILL living in the same projects but that has been many years ago. He has some nasty-looking scarring on the inside of his thigh but suffered no particular impairment despite being run-over by a solid half-ton of motorcycle and me. While he could have easily sued for a gabazillion dollars and certainly have received some substantial money, he never did. After the statutory period to initiate a suit passed we spoke about it and he said that he realized that he was wrong and he knew I would never have done anything like that on purpose.

I was both in a predicament and was A predicament for the City.

Yeah, accidents happen and people that don’t deserve to get hurt, do…but the ‘optics’ of it were bad for me (if it hasn’t been accurately inferred, he was black and I am obviously not), Crack cocaine was really hammering the black community in our city hard and we…as a PD and as a Tac Team I was the Commander of…were pounding the dealers harder. Sometimes our tactics were harsh and I was one of the ‘faces’ of those tactics. I was honestly concerned that I’d be sold for scrap just as an example. Fortunately, I discovered I had some very surprising friends within the black community and the few people that barked were silenced pretty quickly from within.

From the City’s perspective, there was always the innate motivation to ‘do something’ when the optics are as they were, but their predicament was whatever they did would, for all intents and purposes, be seen as admitting culpability and risk opening-up the city treasury to the victim’s cash vacuum (in a cost-saving measure, the City had self-insured and would be completely exposed in case of a lawsuit). So, as many large organizations are prone to, they found themselves with a self-inflicted case of ‘analysis induced paralysis’ until it was too late to act against me without appearing to be acting in an unnecessarily retaliatory manner, thereby handing ME the cash vacuum (and they KNEW very well what I’d do with it).

I worked for that PD a few more years and I’d see the Dice Guy regularly. The standing joke between us when he’d show his ass while drinking was that I’d tell him to go inside or I’d run him over again…and in he’d go without another peep. I will admit that he got special consideration from me and there were many, many times he may should have gone to jail for Public Intoxication. Instead, he and I walked back to his place, me carrying him more than him walking, and his family would come-out to get him and they were always gracious and thankful.  I just figured he had earned that privilege the hard way.

Michael J. Nessler

How to Invest 5 Days You’ll Never Regret – Tellico Plains Dual Sport Ride

A few months back I decided it was time to plan a trip. And so I did.

Well, actually “we” planned a trip. I called Mulley and bounced my idea off him. I think it was the next day I made a phone call and everything was planned. From then on it was just a matter of waiting.


This trip would be a little different. Play hard during the day then relax in the evenings. A nice rental house was reserved in Tellico Plains. Complete with hot tub and pool table and a nice view from the deck out front. Yes. This was going to be fun…..

Thursday morning the 24th finally rolled around. I loaded my bike in the truck the night before then went by Mulley’s house Thursday morning to load up his bike, his stuff and his self. We dropped Rex off at the boarding place on the way out of Moody and from there it was to the truck stop at Steele to meet up with the others who would be making the trip.

After we all bought gas and coffee and whatever else it was that everyone bought, we hit the road for Tellico Plains.

The drive up was uneventful.

We stopped at Hardees upon arriving in Tellico Plains and before we all got our of our trucks, 3 guys on Dual Sport bikes pulled up. Within a few minutes we learned they were in town from near Orlando and had burned a day without much success when it comes to DS riding adventures. They asked and we said “Yes”. We would meet them back at Hardees the next morning and they could tag along with us for the day. You never know exactly what to expect in situations like this and that is pretty much how we felt that evening at the house when we talked about it. We had no idea what we had agreed to. While we didn’t want to be butt nuggets about the matter, we didn’t want to have to hand-hold some guys we didn’t know all day if they turned out to be slow pokes who fell over a lot. More on these guys when the report unfolds.

I drove over to the rental office and got the key. The folks there were VERY nice. When the nice lady behind the c

ounter learned our group was one of motorcycle riders, she kindly provided me a plastic bag full of rags for cleaning and keeping our motorcycles all spiffy looking. “For Our Motorcycle Guest” read the little note stuck to the bag. I took the bag knowing it would never get opened and chuckled a little to myself. “Some guys ride. Some guys polish.”

We were about to ride. A lot. And there would be no polishing.

Mill and I went to get carry out pizza for dinner. We made a call on-the-spot and it turned out to be a good one. They had a pizza made with chicken and Ranch dressing and peppers and stuff. It was good. real good. Better than you might think. Try it if you are ever in Tellico Plains. The pzza place near the grocery store.
Good folks and good food.

With full bellies we soon all found our way to bed. Day 1 of riding was just around the corner.

Friday morning dawned clear and pretty cold. I generally don’t have a problem sleeping while traveling, or the night before an event, etc. But, I had not slept much at all Thursday night. It was frustrating because I figured I’d be tired and sleepy Friday morning. Fortunately such was not the case.

I am an early riser by nature and mine was the first set of feet to hit the floor. I was happy to be where I was and looking forward to Friday and the following 4 days of riding. The others began to stir and soon enough everybody was awake and getting ready.

A quick shower and I was feeling primed and ready to roll. If I was going to be tired or sleepy, it didn’t look like it was going to be Friday! The sky was crystal clear blue and the temps were in the upper 20s. Frost was everywhere. It was a fantastic morning.

A fantastic morning but one that presented a few challenges. Mulley’s battery was dead but the DRZ came to life after a few kicks. Mark’s Lithium battery was cold and resisted waking up, but a few bumps on the starter warmed it enough to bring his bike to life. Poor Dan. The big XR was the definition of ornery. It simply didn’t want to wake up and get going. After repeated attempts, which included Mulley towing him down the blacktop in an effort to bump start it, Dan loaded the bike in the truck and he and John set off in search of a big hill. A few minutes later the XR rolled up the driveway with the truck right behind it. All the bikes were running, the frost had been wiped from the seats, everybody was geared up and ready to roll and we were off to Hardees.

It was just a mile or so to Hardees, but it was a pretty cold mile. My nose and lips were cold and I loved it. It just makes you feel more alive when it is cold and the sky is clear blue. Everything just seems crisp and sharp and ready to snap to life. Yes. I loved it.

We had our breakfast and one of the riders from the group yesterday showed up. We learned one of the others awoke to a flat tire and was changing a tube and the rest would be along shortly. Shortly turned into longly and about the time we started to get impatient, the other 2 rolled up. There was a 4th in their group, but he had decided to skip the ride Friday. The way I figured it, it was to be his loss.

The guys were older fellas. Around my age I reckon. David, the one who was sort of the group leader, turned out to be an accomplished Hare Scrambles racer and if I understood it correctly, a Florida Senior Champion for a year or two. The other two guys turned out to be plenty capable and would present essentially nothing in the way of hassles as the day unfolded. With breakfast and coffee in our bellies, the 10 of us got our bikes running and rolled out onto highway 64 for a short 3 mile ride to our first turn to fun.

Witt Road.

It is a fun road. Gravel and some dirt. 6 or 7 water crossings. I was there in March with similar temps and one of the guys in our small group fell over in the water first thing. 10 minutes into the ride and he was taking a swim.

This time nobody fell in the drink but there was one minor “Uh Oh” that lead to one of the guys in the Florida group getting wet up to his knees or so. But, the sun was out in force and the temp was rising. While nowhere near warm, the sharp edge of the upper 20s had given way to perfet riding temps. Probably low 40s which was perfect for the conditions. Cool enough to keep you from getting hot, but not cold enough to be anywhere near uncomfortable.

All the water crossings are early on and from then on it was ride as fast as you felt like riding. It was a load of fun!

At the end of Witt Road we all stopped to take a break. I was glad to see smiles. Especially on the faces of the Florida guys. I was glad we had met them. Glad they had asked. And glad we had said “OK. Come join us.”  They were good guys, really good, nice guys. And good riders. I was happy knowing they were happy. They had stumbled into us and even though the day was less than an hour old, seemed to be thoroughly pleased with the hand fortune had dealt them.
I had spent time before the trip getting all the GPS routing down so each day had a preplanned route. All were subject to change and adjustments based on whatever we felt like. And it seemed like everybody felt like doing but one thing: Having fun.
It was going to be a good day!

A true dualsport ride covers all the bases.

Or at least as many of them as is possible given the location and circumstances. I had tried to plan routes that would do just that. The goal being that by the end of the 5 days, we would have ridden some of pretty much everything available to ride.

The end of Witt Road meant a ride on narrow backroads. Some asphalt. Some tar and gravel. And then onto just dirt with gravel Forest Service roads. The tie in for this would be Trails 81 and 82.

81 and 82 are the only true single track trails I know of in the National Forest that are open to motorcycle riding. They are very much fun. If you have ridden them, you already know……

Some sections of both are very narrow and hug the edge of steep slopes. A mess up here could lead to some serious bike recovery issues. It appeared the trails had not seen much recent use. Leaves covered most of the narrow sections along the drop-off areas, making the trail seem even narrower. It can be like walking down a 2 X 12 board laid flat. Put it on the ground and you could walk it 100 yards without a waver. Suspend that same dimension 100 feet in the air and the mind will mess with you. What was plenty wide with no risk gets narrow when the stakes are raised. It was cool to be reminded that some risk is often what makes it more fun and exciting. While no real life or death risks were involved, the risk of a bad glancing turn off a rock or root would mean a major hassle of bike recovery and that was enough to keep you relaxed and flowing. One rider, who will remain unnamed, had a minor slide off the trail which amounted to nothing really. All-in-all 81 and 82 lived up to the billing. Everyone seemed to enjoy it.

We stopped for breaks and to chat and laugh. We stopped to ENJOY IT. To enjoy being where we were and doing what we were doing. And when we were finished enjoying it all while being stopped, we’d go enjoy it some more while we were riding.

With the fun of the single track behind us, it was time for a little more riding on improved roads. Improved meaning mostly gravel.
Lots of gravel.
Mankind has produced untold quantities of gravel over the years and a lot of of it has found its way to many of the forest service roads in the Cherokee and the Nantahala National Forests. But, this being a dualsport bike ride, the gravel made for some fun. Occasionally there would be a little too much piled up in turns which lead to some slight alteration of the intended line through the turn. Otherwise it was fun doing a little drifting and practicing various techniques for dealing with it the best you could.

The next stop was the odd structure seen in Mark’s pic above. I/we “discovered’ this back in March and I wanted to visit it again. It’s pretty cool and not like the normal stuff you encounter on a day-to-day basis.

I have done some poking and searching around the interweb and think I have an understanding of what it is (was) and how it was used.

The Apalachia Dam was built in the early 1940s to provide electricity to support the production of the massive amounts of Aluminium needed to fight WW II. An interesting tid-bit of info I have learned in the last year or so involves how the dam systems operate along the Ocoee and Hiawassee rivers. The power house is typically located a few miles below the dam to take advantage of the higher pressures provided by the increased drop below the actual base of the dam. The water is diverted from the lake, through a big pipe to the point dowmstream where the big pipe feeds the water to the generators.

In the case of the Apalachia dam, the big pipe goes through a big tunnel. A big tunnel, just over 8 miles long, that was cut through the rocks (mostly granite I think) to get the water far downstream to the powerhouse.

The structure above is located near a strange sloped, concrete face with a steel door at the base. If you open the steel door you see a block-off plate to the big steel pipe (12′ diameter) that is carrying water downstream.

As best I can understand it, the sloped concrete wall seals up what was once an opening in the tunnel. The opening is above the grade on which the concrete pillared structure sits. (It’s all on the side of a big hill) Seems there was an elevated rail that ran from the opening in the tunnel to the top of the structure. Rock from the tunnel was moved out of the opening and loaded into a ferry car that then moved out to the top of the structure where it dumped its load into another rail car below. This car sat on rails that ran level along the side of the hill. The second car then moved down the rails and dumped its load of waste rock down the steep slope of the hill.

We left the big structure after a bit and went down to ride along the base of the hill. There is tons and tons and tons of waste rock covering the lower portion of the hill. Largely infiltrated with trees and other growth now, but clearly visible when viewed from below.

So with the odd bit of history behind us, it was time to head back to Tellico Plains and get some dinner. After clearing the forest we hit the highway for the ride back to town. It was getting late and the temp had started to drop. It was still a crystal clear blue sky. A great first day was winding down. But there were 4 more to come.

We settled on BBQ for dinner. The Florida guys joined us.
It was good. The BBQ restaurant is a small place near the grocery store. A small place that served manly sized portions. You definitely get your money’s worth.

After dinner we said our good byes to the Florida guys and headed back to the house.
The hot tub and pool room were taken advantage of and a good time was had by all.

With the experiences of the cold first morning still fresh in our memory, Mark, Dan and I built a makeshift “warming room” for their two bikes. A rubber backed rug, some towels and a lamp would hopefully ward off some of the bite of the cold temps expected again Friday night.

Day 2 was just around the corner. It was going to be a fun day. We didn’t know it, but we’d run into the Florida guys again and this time the tables would be turned. They would take us to a “road” we knew nothing about.

I woke up just before daybreak Saturday.


I can’t remember for certain now, but I think Mark was awake about the same time. I walked out on the deck as the sky started to show the first signs of the coming day. It was another cold morning. Maybe a degree or two colder than the previous night. The frost sure seemed heavier. After a minute or so I went in to make a pot of coffee. The rest of the crew would be stirring soon and a pot of coffee would be welcomed.

When everyone was up and going I learned that Will had taken sick during the night. Apparently some stomach bug. He had thrown up and was not feeling too well. He made the call to load up and head home.

With everyone ready to go, we all got our bikes running and soon headed out. The frost was heavier this morning. The cold air and clear blue sky made me grin just as big as it had the previous morning. It was a cold morning and a fun day was about to snap to life.

Breakfast was to be something other than Hardees today. We rolled to a stop at Tellico Grains, peeled off our gear and went inside. It’s a really cool little bakery/eatery. Really nice folks, nice inviting atmosphere and some awesome baked goods. We all had our fill and sat there for a few minutes talking. There were a few books lying here and there for customers to look at. I picked up one on the history of Tellico Plains and started looking at old photos and reading history. I was really intersting stuff. Sort of made me want to buy the book, but I didn’t. I figure maybe I’ll go back someday and read some more while enjoying a cup of coffee.

Tellico Motorcycle Outfitters was just across the road. They had opened while we ate breakfast so we went over there and poked around a few minutes. I looked at a jacket that cost nearly 1/2 as much as I paid for my motorcycle. I decided to stick with my flannel lined Carhart for the day.

It was time to ride! We geared up, stopped to fill the bikes with gas and then hit the asphalt.

A few miles up The Cherohala Skyway we took the right onto Bald River Road. Not too much traffic. It was pretty cool in the shade, rolling along side the Bald River. First stop of the day was Bald River Falls. Took a few pics, John did wheelies across the bridge and we took some pics of him showing us how it’s done. There was what looked to be a mom and dad with their daughter there. They stood along side the road at the end of the bridge and took some pics of John riding wheelies. (John can ride wheelies a l o n g way) They seemed to enjoy it and had smiles on their faces. That was cool. They liked it! Tells me they were generally, all around cool people.

Mill and I had ridden in the Tellico Plains area back in August and had spent some time just riding around exploring. Some of the stuff planned for Saturday was revisiting some of what Mill and I found and enjoyed when we were there. Next stop “Fire Tower Road”.

I know the road is not actually named Fire Tower Road. It has a proper name but I forget it. I just call it Fire Tower Road because that is pretty much what it is.
I commented to Mulley later on that I guess the fire tower is gone because all I have seen is what looks like a radio tower. He told me that fire towers now use infrared detectors and are monitored remotely. Well now, that makes perfect sense and made me feel kinda dim witted for not having figured that out on my own.

So it was back on the gravel for a fun ride to the INFRARED Fire Tower Road. The road to the top is fun. It is rougher than the maintained FS roads and has no gravel. It is pretty much just a service road for accessing the tower. We all had fun riding to the top and took a break there to survey the surroundings and take some photos. The sky was clear and the view very nice. After a few minutes we headed back down to the main FS road we had turned off.
About half way down we met the Florida guys on their way up! We stopped briefly to say hello and then both groups continued on their way. This was not to be our only chance encounter with the Florida guys that day.

Mill and I found it back in August. Miller Cemetery.

It’s at the end of a fun road through the woods. There’s less gravel on this road. More dirt and leaves. It seems less traveled so you get more of the satisfaction that comes with being “in the woods”.

All indications are Miller Cemetery has not been abandoned. Even though it is off in the woods, miles off the beaten path, it appears to be maintained. The Millers must have been an important family in the area. There’s lots of “Miller” stuff all around.
Miller Cemetery
Miller Road
Miller Creek
I’ll but there’s a Miller Mountain and probably more Miller stuff I just haven’t run across.

I took some time to look at the grave markers/tombstones. There were maybe 50 – 60 plots and many of them were young children. Some were babies who didn’t live more than a day or two. Some were children who lived a few years. I saw one family who lost a baby within a day or two of being born and then about 12 months later lost another baby within the first day or two of life. I have to imagine life in those mountain 80 – 100 years ago was a fairly tough, unforgiving life.

I had been having a problem with my bike starting. I’d have to fiddle with the start button while working the clutch lever. Clearly a problem with the clutch switch. While I was off poking around the grave sites, Mulley and John and Mill had pulled out the tool bag and done me the favor of eliminating the clutch switch. I genuinely appreciated it. I had planned to do it that night, when we got back to the house, but they took it on their own to do it for me.

Nice guys.

We did some more exploring in the area then headed off for the next leg of our Saturday ride.

We would soon find out this “leg” was broken. Our plans would change and some fun would be had.


Sometimes the best laid plans go astray.


As a general rule I figure an open gate on a gravel road means “Come ride me”. Not so.

Me and Mulley and Mill were the first 3 in line. John and Dan and Mark behind us. We peeled off BR Road, following the route I had planned out and loaded on mine and Mulley’s and John’s Garmin units. Open gate = Gas it. The 3 of us got no more than 100 yards when I noticed the others were no longer behind us.


We waited a few minutes and nothing. So we turned around and went back. John had seen what we had missed and they had stopped because of it. Small signs (seriously they were small signs) on the side posts, with the gate open. Pretty much : NO motorized traffic here. Do it and get caught and pay $5000.00

Well now. That won’t work.

We were very near the Trout hatchery so we rolled over there to ask. The guy was real nice. He was a Tennesse Dept of Conservation and Natural Resources guy and not a Federal fella. He said the Feds won’t even let him drive on the road a 1/4 mile or so in to visit the point where water is taken from the river to feed the hatchery. He has to walk it.

Stupid rules.
Stupid fines.

We had to change plans….

I had rejetted my bike a few weeks before the trip and had not ridden it enough any distance to have known ahead of time that it was consuming fuel at an alarmingly rapid rate. So much so that it was a limiting factor now. We could take an alternate route, way around, to pick up our route on the other side, but I’d run out of gas. We studied on it a few minutes when I had an idea. Go back to Tellico Plains (closest gas), fill up, and I know of a fun road not 10 miles or so from TP. We could go do that! So off we went.

We pulled into the gas stop and within a few minutes, guess who rolled in? The Florida boys.
Dave, the leader guy, pulled off his helmet and was grinning ear to ear. They had just returned from riding a section of trail/road that he said was the best they had seen or heard of. They were going back to do it again.
Scratch my idea. We were going with them! And so we did.

About 10 miles down the Skyway there was a little trail, right next to a guardrail. Ridden past it a hundred times and never noticed it. We follwed them onto the trail and then into the woods for some REALLY fun riding. It was not much more than a rough Jeep/4×4 trail. Some big rocky areas with a few step-up ledges. It was, without a doubt the “roughest” and therefore the “best” riding we had seen. It was only a few miles long. At the other end the Florida guys were to take the road we had just dead-end into and continue on to their cabin. We turned around and rode the Jeep trail back to the Skyway and back to TP for dinner.
It had been a great day topped off with some REAL DS riding.


The day was over but there is still a lot of story to unfold.


Before I move on to dinner and the events that followed, I want to go back and revisit Tellico Motorcycle Outfitters.
Figuratively speaking that is. I don’t mean I want to get up right now and go back to Tellico Plains before I add any more to the ride report. I want to tell more about our visit to TMO on Saturday morning. And tie that in with some learning experiences (for me).

TMO sells nice stuff. Some really nice stuff. Some of it very pricey – at least in my book.

I joke with Mulley. I call him a “Gear Snob”. He does, for the most part, invest a reasonable amount to get good quality gear. Mostly outer wear. Pants and jerseys and jackets and gloves and helmets. Well, now that I think about it, he has pretty good gear all the way, not just outer wear. He and John had on some good stuff. Mill too. I don’t think any of it is extreme high dollar (not sure about John’s jacket) but it is all a lot nicer than what I wear.
I tend to be more of a “bargin rider”. I tend to find moderately priced stuff that serves me sufficiently and go with that. Hence the lined Carhart canvas jacket. I love it for DS riding. It is comfortable, warm and resists abrasion very well. But it does have its negatives – mostly not waterproof and few pockets. I have a pair of street riding camo pants from Cycle Gear that I really like for DS riding. They have good Kevlar in important places and built in knee armor, plus they have lots of pockets. For the money, I have been very happy with them for DS riding. But, like the jacket, they are not waterproof. Not a big deal unless it is on the cool side. Riding wet and warm is fine with me. Wet and cold doesn’t work out so well.

So I opened my eyes and ears to the options of some nicer stuff. I looked at a few items and have to agree, it would be nice to have. There is a potential “big trip” to Colorado next July/Aug being mulled over. If that happens then I will be sporting nice gear.

I always carry tools and tire irons, a tube patch kit and a pump, and a few other items, just in case. The events to come on Sunday helped me learn how I was reasonably well equipped, but one particular item I do not carry (but will from now on) could have left me stranded in a bad way, a long way from anywhere.

Anyway, back to TMO…….

Not sure who noticed it first but Dan is the spitting image of the guy who models Olympia riding gear. We all got a laugh out of it and took a pic. The guy running the shop even gave Dan a copy of last year’s catalog. “He” is on the front cover.

So now, I’ll jump back to the events of the evening. Dinner and the events that followed.

Dinner was at the Crab Trap. Certainly a name that is open to being joked about but it was a pretty good place to relax, have a beer and some food. The menu offered a variety and the food was pretty good.

There had been a fund raiser planned that was to have been outside. Since the weather was cold (not really, but it was fairly cool that night) the event had been moved inside at the Crab Trap. There were 3 different guys playing guitar and singing. They sang individually, not together. Two of them were pretty good. It was mostly country stuff. I liked it, but I don’t think it was exactly what some of the others would have preferred.

Somewhere in the course of the evening a few of the guys went outside. It was there they learned from one of the locals there was a party that would be going on later that night and we were invited.

After some time listening to the music we got our gear on and headed back to the house.

Back at the house I decided to act on my frustrations with the carb jetting on my bike. So I did.

I found myself sitting at the table with the slide and needle in my hand, while most of the others were preparing to head off to the party.

A minute or so after they walked out I could hear a truck trying to go somewhere but clearly not having any degree of success, then I could hear guys laughing.
The house was in the woods, with a gravel driveway that pretty much qualified as a dualsport ride when getting from the blacktop to the house. It was long, and steep near the house, and was all loose gravel. Somehow, in the dark, Dan had managed to get the rear differential atop a cross tie which meant he was going nowhere.

During that time I was dealing with my carb issue. About the only thing I could do was move clip on the needle in hopes of leaning it out some. Despite my efforts to avoid it happening, when I went to snap the clip back on the needle, it popped off and was never to be seen again. Oh I looked. I looked and looked and looked, but never found it. I kinda’ think it must have shot out the door and landed a mile or two away. It was gone. And I was in a bad spot. Mill came in and I explained what had just happened. He got his tool bag out and found he had some very small washers. One looked like it would work, so I got a pair of side cutters and began to work on the washer. 10 minutes later my needle had a clip and I was back in business.
(Side note –  It turned out to have made very little to no difference. The bike ran WAY too rich the entire time. Just yesterday I pulled the carb off and took it apart to find the reason. I should have had a 150 or 155 main. Somehow I had wound up with a 165 main in it. It now has a 155 main and hopefully I will get better mileage than a school bus)

The others had pulled out a jack or two and managed to get the truck back in contact with terra firma (actually terra loosa) and were off to the party.

Mark stayed at the house and I kept busy getting the carb back together and insuring the bike would at least start and run.

Once that was complete, I spent some time looking at routes for the next few days.

The guys weren’t gone too long. Apparently the party was not all that and a bag of chips.

It was time to hit the sack. Sunday morning was just around the corner. It would start with a discovery before we ever left the driveway: An aluminum sprocket that already has a good bit of wear on it will wear out much faster than you think and leave you in a bind.

We had been at 7 when we started. Will had left due to stomach bug putting it at 6. Dan and John would be leaving Sunday to get back home for work.
That would leave 4 of us: Me, Mulley, Mill and Mark.

Dan and John loaded up and the rest of us prepared for the day’s ride. I was looking forward to it. It was to be an area I had never ridden and would include what appeard to be, based on Garmin maps and Google maps, some really nice twisty roads.

As we were getting ready I happened to look at Mulley’s rear sprocket. I had noticed it was a little worn back at his house when we laooaded up to head out. It was now way past a little worn. It was on its last leg. So much so that the prospects of any riding past Sunday were not good, and riding Sunday would only happen if we adjusted the chain tension to take up the slack and (hopefuuly) get him through the day without the chain jumping teeth.

We tightened the chain as tight as we dared then sat about the process of trying to find a new sprocket and chain. It was Sunday morning and options were limited.
Local options left us empty handed.
I called friends over in the Robbinsville/Maryville area but no luck.
Last hope: Try my friend Francois. He and his wife Megan own Dual Sport Touring in Friendsville, about a mile outside of Maryville. I called him on his cell phone and explained our predicament. He said he wasn’t sure but he thought he might have a chain and rear sprocket at his store but it would be a few hours before he could get to the store to check.

We all loaded up and headed to Tellico Plains to eat an early lunch. Dan and John joined us before they headed home.

After lunch we had some time to burn. The Tellico Plains Community Center was adjacent to the parking lot of the restaurant so we moved over there and sat on benchs under a shed roof and whittled.
We whittled.
Apparently this was a whittling hang-out as there was wood there for whittling and the evidence of lots of prior whittling. So we whittled while we waited.
I called Francois again to check and he said ther had been a delay and it would be late afternoon before he could get to the store. He would send me a text message when he got there to let me know if he had what we needed.

With that, we decided it was time to ride. All indications were Mulley would be OK for the day, but not any more than that.


We got our gear on and hit the road.


We took the Skyway up to Indian Boundry and took a left there.

It was pretty cloudy Sunday and a little cool but so long as we were riding DS stuff and not just cruising down the blacktop, it was comfortable.

We rode miles of gravel and dirt. It was pretty good gravel when it was gravel. Just enough to make it fun. For the most part less gravel than the other roads so we were able to ride faster and worry less with sliding out in a turn and crashing.
Well, I was able to so I’m guessing it was the same for the others. It sure appeared to be.

I don’t like leading all the time. Mulley had the routes so he was in the lead. I like being behind others, chasing them and watching them have fun. He set a good pace.

The scenery was really nice. The terrain was not as steep as the other stuff we had ridden and we spent some time in low lying areas, riding along streams and in big trees with little under growth.


Real nice stuff

As the afternoon wore on we hit some asphalt and tar/gravel roads. It was GREAT!

The road was like a roller coaster. Up and down and turns, and up and down and more turns. One after another. We were riding at a pretty brisk clip and having a blast. I think it might be the best Dualsport sport riding road I have ever ridden. Too rough for a sportbike but perfect for a DS bike. The rough broken patches were soaked up by the suspension and we were able to ride surprisingly fast.

My goal of riding some of everything available was working out nicely.

We took a break from the fun to stop along side the lake.

If you are familiar with Deals Gap area, it is the lake on the left side of the road after you come off the hill, and cross Tabcat Bridge. The road winds along side the lake and eventually passes the dam just before you get to the HD convenience store/hangout.

Mulley was looking good for the rest of the day in the chain/sprocket dept. We sat there a while talking and taking some pics. I was throwing rocks in the lake when we heard a sportbike riding down the road on the opposite side of the lake. Mark said “That sounds just like Nicole’s bike.”
I looked across the lake to see two bikes, with the lead bike being black with the rider in all black leathers. I told the others and we all realized at the same time. That WAS Nicole’s bike. She and Mike N. had spent the day riding Deals Gap and The Cherohala Skyway and were headed back to the truck to load up and head home. We just happened to be stopped at the same time they passed by.
Their truck/trailer was just a mile or so down the lake from where we were sitting. We later learned that they had heard us across the lake when we started up and took off. They didn’t know it was us at the time, but Nicole said (in a post in the thread on their ride) she had heard us when we left out.


We finished out the loop and headed back to TP for dinner. We rode straight to the pizza joint and had our fill of pizza.
Yes. Mill and I got another chicken/Ranch Dressing pizza. A large one. And we ate it all.

Sunday had been a great day. The kind of day that was fast and fun, but relaxing at the same time. I think the super fun fast road and the break on the bank of the lake made it a memorable day for me.

Not sure why really. But I guess it doesn’t matter why.

It just was.

The text message had come. Francois had a 520 chain and a 47 tooth sprocket!
He told me where he would hide it outside his shop and we were free to come get it and pay him later.

*Shameless plug*  If you are ever in the area and need something, or just want to stop by and say “Hello”, please do so. He and Megan are great folks and he literally save the trip for us/Mulley. About a mile outside Maryville on Lamar Alexander Parkway. Dual Sport Touring.

Back at the house we changed clothes and Mulley and I jumped in the truck for the hour drive to Francois’s shop. We found the stuff right where he said it would be and we headed back to the house.

Driving down the highway I noticed a sign on the side of the road. I moved to the turn lane, made a left into a parking lot, then went back to the sign. ANother photo op. This time it would be Mulley.
In case you don’t know, Mulley has been doing Cross Fit since early this year. He has lost a lot of weight and has really improved his endurance and overall physical prowess.
Beast mode comes more easily for Mulley now.

We got back to the house and decided we’d deal with the chain and sprocket the next morning when it was daylight.

The days were winding down but we weren’t through yet. There was still a lot of fun to be had.

Monday we would see the most miles of any day.
And ride in the clouds.
And get rained on in the clouds.
And have fun.

Lots of fun.

Monday. Day 4. One more to go.

I was already dreading having to leave…..

The ailing DRZ was on the deck and ready for some new running gear. Mulley attacked the chain and sprocket and had everything all back together and ready to go in short order. Like really short order.
Mulley don’t play.

Monday morning breakfast was at a little restaurant near TMO and Tellico Grains. It was an old place. Old and small. The kind of old restaurant you find in small, rural towns. The food was good. I seem to remember the floor squeeked when you walked across.

I liked it.

We finished breakfast and hit the road. Today’s ride was planned to get us to the other end of The Cherohala Skyway via dirt and gravel. It was another cloudy, cool day. Good riding weather. But when you are on vacation, having fun with friends, pretty much most any weather is good weather. Absent storms and pouring rain, it’s all good I reckon.

A short ride down Bald River Road and soon enough we turned off onto a Forest Service road and would not see asphalt again until we hit the other end of the Skyway.

We were south of the Skyway on some nice gravel roads. Back in some steeper elevations. The scenery was really good the entire ride. I think we hit the leaves at their very peak. You could even notice a substantial change over the few days we were there. I guess the frost of Thursday night and Friday night slapped the leaves into submission and they all started spewing out their brightest colors, going out in grand style before turning brown and dropping off to be added to the compost heap at the bottom of the trees.

The riding was good. We were within a mile or so of the Skyway when we stopped to take a break. A fella pulled up in a pickup truck, stopped, and got out to walk over to us. He was a hunter. Nice guy. Friendly and very talkative. He told us all about his hunting experiences, current and past.
He said he wants to hunt in Alabama. He asked us several questions about various WMAs and what not. Yep. He was friendly.
And talkative. Very talkative.

We managed to find a pause in the conversation and got our helmets on and headed out.
We crossed under the Skyway and stopped to take a picture or two.

The next segment was an in-and-out ride. We would ride the roads, do a little exploring and then head back out of that area to hit another gravel road to the other end of the Skyway.

This area didn’t disappoint. Much more dirt roads with no gravel. Just natural. Rock and dirt.
And at least one non-natural object. An 8 penny nail.

Riding on a nice road, down off the top of a hill, Mill and I noticed Mulley’s rear tire was going flat. We caught him and made sure he knew about it. He pulled over about the time it was fully flat.

We worked a big rock into the road and got the rear end up in the air and Mulley went to work. He had a new tube installed and he was ready to go, once again, in short order.
Mulley don’t play.

Side note – this is where I learned about one aspect of my planning and gear that could leave me stranded. The valve stem on the tube pulled off and the tube was ruined. I carry a patch kit and have patched many tubes, with success, over the years. But, I don’t think I could patch a valve stem that pulled out of the tube.
A 21 inch tube can be used in a 21 in tire, an 18 inch tire and I figure if I had to push it enough, I could use it in the 17 inch rear on the DR 650.
A 21 inch tube will be with me on future DS rides.

Back in business now, we finished up in that area and hit the FS road to take us to the end of the Skyway. Along the way we came across what appeared to be a 4X4 trail into the woods. Well, you just can’t pass that up without seeing where it goes.

About 25 yards off the road we hit mud. Serious, deep, black, fun mud. The trail/road didn’t go very far but it sure was fun.
We all turned around and rolled back out onto the gravel with our bikes covered in mud. We stopped and laughed.
We were having so much fun.

The next stop was the little information booth at the NC end of the Cherohala Skyway. Pics were taken, then we headed into Robbinsville for a late lunch. Riding into Robbinsville we got behind a pickup truck with a hunting dog in the back. I fished out my camera and took some pics.

We ate at El Pacifico in Robbinsville, gassed up at the Shell station, then hit the Skyway to head back to Robbinsville.

It was getting late in the afternoon when we finished lunch and buying gas to head back to Tellico Plains. I think it was around 4:30 when we hit the road.

The ride back to TP would be all via the Cherohala Skyway. It was cloudy and cool when we headed out and it was going to get more cloudy and more cool as we went on.

I really like riding in the mountains when it is clear and sunny. I also like it when it is cool and cloudy. Both offer rewards in their own way.

The rewards Monday would come as we rode into higher elevations.

You could see the mountain tops ahead disappear in the clouds. I gave a fist pump as we headed into the murky mess. The temptation is to call it fog, but it really was the clouds. Once we got above 4800 feet or so, we were in the clouds. Visibility at times was waayy low. It was misting rain and the view through wet goggles was not the best. Reduced speeds helped keep it between the white lines and helped to reduce the effects of the sharply lower temps.  I wanted to stop at Hooper Bald overlook and figured, even though I had slowed down and knew about where it was, that I would ride right past it.

I did.

We turned around and went back to take a break. The clouds made it impossible to see anything outside the area right there in the parking lot but we stood around and talked a few minutes anyway.There were two hunting dogs hanging around. They had their radio collars on so I figure they would be back home sooner rather than later.

Back on the road we continued our ride through the clouds. It began to drizzle more heavily and I’m pretty sure it was sleeting too.
Drizzle or sleet, it stung my cold nose and cold cheeks.

After a while we started to drop in elevation and left the clouds above us. The drizzle stopped and we had a nice, brisk ride on into Tellico Plains.

It was nearing dark when we got back to the house. Mill loaded up to head home. He had to work the next day.

That left Me, Mark and Mulley. We hit the convenience store for snacks and Hardees for chicken fingers and hamburgers. We sat down in front of the TV to watch Tombstone. Mulley fell asleep soon. When the movie was over we roused him from his sleep and we all hit the sack.

One more day to go. Just one more day.

I fought the urge to let that fact ruin the last 24 hours.

Tuesday.  Our last day.

It was just the three of us and we had a good, fairly long day ahead of us.

We were headed down to the Ocoee River, to ride an area on the other side of the river. An area none of us had ever been in. We decided to make our way to Ducktown by revisiting Witt Road then Trails 81 and 82 again. It was fun. Again.

I think riding a motorcycle is a lot like golf or baseball or any other athletic activity. Some days you are on and some days you are off. I went through an hour or two period when I was off. I darn near lost it in one of the really narrow, more challenging sections of 81 or 82 (don’t remember which) then fell over and got stuck. When I fell over, my foot was still down at the peg and the bike and I were leaned over about 45 degrees, resting against the steep bank to the right of the trail. Basically it looked like I sat there on this steep hill, with a steep bank to the right, put my feet on the pegs and just fell over against the bank. No harm except I was stuck. My foot was way down there, I couldn’t get a good angle on the hill to lift the bike and I couldn’t pull my foot out. I flopped around a bit, as much as you can flop around when you are stuck under your motorcycle, and thought “Dang. I’m going to have to get Mark and Mulley to come back down the hill and get my bike off me so I can stand up.”

But eventually I was able to wiggle my foot free and get the bike up. This was one of those times when I LOVED having the magic button. It would have been a real pain to try and kickstart a bike in the pickle I was in. But a push of the button, some spinning of the rear tire, and I was at the top of the hill with Mulley and Mark.

Whenever it was we were about to enter Trail 82, we stopped to take a short break. When we went to leave, Mulley’s bike was as dead as a hammer. Nothing. No lights, no horn. Nothing. He pulled the side cover off and found the main fuse was blown. He replaced it and never had another problem. Ran just fine. Turned it off. Went to leave and the fuse was blown. (Note to self – insure I have several spare fuses on my bike.)

We ventured off down a gravel road at one time. A road I had not been down. I am glad we did. We followed the road a bit and ran into that great big pipe that we had visited a few days earlier at the big concrete structure. This time the pipe wasn’t in a tunnel in a hill, it came out of the hill, crossed a river, then went back into the hill on the other side.

It was really interesting to stand there and study the thing from an engineering point of view. Really impressive work considering it was done in the early 40′s. We looked close to see how they had allowed for movement between the two opposing sections of tunnel embedded in the mountains. Pretty simple and obviously effective. At least to this point in time.

I am always reminded whenever I see things built back then (and before), people were a lot smarter and a lot more capable than I tend to give them credit for. At least that’s the case until I see and learn of something like this big 12′ pipe in a tunnel in a mountain.

With this area of dirt and gravel behind us, we hit the blacktop for a short ride into Ducktown. Lunch was at a little pizza and sub place. The guy working there was very friendly. Good service and good food.

I bought a bag of Cheese Curls to go with my sub sandwich. I never buy Cheese Curls. I like them a lot, I just never buy them. I was glad I bought them. They were good, and left a little of that orange colored stuff on my fingertips.

We finished lunch and filled up with gas then knocked out the 10 minute ride to our turn to go over the bridge to the other side of the Ocoee. The first 1/2 hour or so was not so good. Nothing much special to see and the road was rough as a washboard. We contemplated turning around and looking for another area to ride, but decided to go on.

It worked out good. Somewhere the roads in real life didn’t really match the route I had planned on the Garmin map. We wound up on a mighty fine, very fun road. Big Frog loop Road I think it was. I guess it was a loop and at some point in time somebody had seen a big frog on the road so they named it Big Frog Loop Road. I guess it’s a good thing that person didn’t see a big pile of dog poop.
Big Pile of Dog Poop Road just wouldn’t sound right.

BFL Road was gravel free. It was a few miles of dirt and rocks and generally pretty rough stuff. The kind of stuff that begs to give you a pinch flat. I had gotten my mojo back and was having a blast. Mulley was in the lead and I could tell by the way he was riding, (hard and fast) he was having some serious fun. I was right behind him, ringing the DR’s neck. It was one of the few times I really beat on the DR 650. I rode it like it was my XR250. I have come to believe it pretty much doesn’t matter how hard you ride them. So long as you do good maintenance and don’t crash, you pretty much can’t hurt them. We wound up having a pretty good time, given the less than stellar initial impressions after we got a mile or two in after crossing the bridge.

The shadows were starting to get long and it was time to head back. We stopped for gas again in Ducktown then hit Highway 68 for the ride back to Tellico Plains. It was near dark when we made it back.

The last day was over.

We packed up most of our stuff and cleaned up the house so we’d have less to deal with Wednesday morning when we headed out.

Everything was loaded. Mark was in his truck and Mulley and I in mine. We bounced down the rough gravel driveway, out onto the blacktop and into Tellico Plains to drop the key in the black mailbox on our way out of town.

One of the last things I had done before I closed the door behind me on the way out of the house for the last time was to sit the bag of rags, “For our motorcycle guests”, on the mantle.

It had never been opened.

Why My First Charity Ride Will Be My Last


Back in September I decided to take part in a charity ride. It was my first and though I have been told never to say never, it will likely be my last. I had listened to several folks tell of their issues on rides like this and they gently cautioned me against participation. Looking back, I really wish I had listened.

I am no stranger to riding in groups. My BuRP group has been riding together for over 10 years now. At our peak year, we h


ad close to 50 bikes in our pack. The crowd at this charity ride easily dwarfed our group when I arrived and there were still tons of bikes to come. I’ve learned over the years that I prefer smaller groups and this solidified my feelings on group riding: less is more. This was way more that I cared to ride with but I had hoped my apprehension would ease once we got moving.

Now, I am not saying that I am the best rider out there. My limitations are clear to me and I ride within my ability. There were a lot of riders in this group who had no business on a ride of this size. I saw people who did not understand staggering, pace, safe distance, etc. Frankly, there were several moments on this ride that were downright scary. Constantly looking out behind and in front of me, I quickly got nervous and it effected my enjoyment.

This is where things get really interesting and honestly, there are a couple ways to interpret what happened. In retrospect I cou


ld have handled the situation differently and as I am not familiar with protocol for group rides like this, I may be completely in the wrong. At one point in the ride, I realized the route would be going right through my neighborhood. I pulled off to text my wife so she could bring our kids to see all the bikes. Once I was done, I looked for an opening and pulled back into the pack.

Half a mile up the road another rider pulled up next to me and told me I wasn’t part of this ride and I needed to get out of the pack. Certain he was joking and trying to figure out how I knew him, I asked if he was serious. He assured me that he was and told me again to pull off. I explained I had left from the dealership and I was going to continue the ride. He then admonished me for jeopardizing the safety of other riders by pulling back into the pack like I did.


A little taken aback and angry, I kept my cool and told him I thought he was making a mountain out of mole hill. He assured me he wasn’t and sped up to get in front of me. I was not happy with how it had played out so I pulled up to him again. Do not worry, the fact that all of this is more dangerous than my original transgression is not lost on me but I digress. I asked him if he really wanted to talk about this which opened the can of worms. He shouted, with nodding approval from his wife, that I was a dangerous rider and inconsiderate and had jeopardized the lives of everyone on the ride. Going on, he explained that the group was in formation and I had made everyone shift. My response was that this was normal on a group ride and I had to do it all the time to which he disagreed.

At this point, I felt like I might be dealing with an individual who had ulterior motives of some sort so I just let him get in front of me and didn’t think about it again. Pulling in to park at the halfway point, he rode up to me again and explained that he saw my registration wrist band and I had a right to be on the ride but he still thought my actions were reckless. I told him at this point, seeing that trying to talk while trying to park in a group of hundreds of bikes was a bad idea, that I would come find him once I stopped.

As I approached he immediately started in on me, in a much calmer and less accusatory tone, about all the things he had previously stated. Before it got too far, I stopped him and introduced myself and shook his hand. He continued on and I let him without interruption. My rebuttal was simply to state that I disagreed with his position and that my intention was to have fun and and a good ride and not to hurt anyone. I apologized if my actions upset him and we parted ways.

I’ve talked to several people about this incident. I have a general consensus about what most folks seem to think but I’ll let you form you own opinion. What do you think? Leave a comment below, I’d like to hear all the takes on it I can. Regardless, it is enough for me not to throw myself into another obscenely large ride with a group of complete strangers. I am certain I would feel this way even if not for this incident but if ever there was something that drove a point home, it was this.

Back on the bikes, I found the route and the pace to be boring. It just wasn’t the type of riding I enjoy. Being in an big, escorted group kept us from really opening up or being able to set the pace faster and therefore more enjoyable. If I were organizing the ride, I would have considered having different groups based on riding style, experience level, etc. The route was mostly through parts of the city and though we did hit some rural areas and great views, I felt like it could have been more interesting. The organizers mentioned construction kept them from using other, more scenic routes. I still feel like there were better options. Again, I’ve never done a ride like this much less organized one myself so perhaps the voices of experience dictated a lot of why these things did or did not happen.

If you are considering doing a ride like this, be ready to stop and go a lot. Don’t expect to be killing it in terms of speed. The slinky effect is even more present in groups of this size so you need to be on your toes. Stay focused on the group in front of you and keep an eye on your rear view. While my ideas on my enjoyment of big group rides were confirmed, do not let me me discourage you if you are interested in doing one. There are tons of ways to ride and a multitude of bikes to ride on. Just because it was not for me doesn’t mean you might not enjoy it.

Thoughts on Road Trippin’

In my time as a motorcyclist, I have taken a handful of cross country trips. I am not an expert by any means but I am completely comfortable packing a bag and leaving out for over a week or more with no reservations. On my last trip, as I didn’t organize or plan it, things were done differently. The stark contrast between the two styles of trip was something I felt would be worth talking about. It is something I will have to consider when planning my next trip.


On my first couple adventures I camped most of the way only occasionally getting a hotel room. I never made any strict plans on where I would camp either. Basically, I would look at the atlas each morning and pick a camp site that I thought I would be able to make it to and a backup site just in case I failed to reach the farther one. This worked really well most of the time. The times it did not…well, that might have to be a topic for a later post.


As there were few rigidly planned stops, I rarely researched the attractions in any of the areas I was going through. Truth is, I likely missed out on a lot of cool things to see while I was on the road. Traditionally, my goal was to keep moving and move I did. So much so, that I didn’t take the time to smell the proverbial roses. Though there is not much I would change about my trips, this is one area where I feel I shortchanged myself. Next time I have the general idea of where I am going, I will research things along the route. Also, a smartphone will be an asset once on the road. Once I get the daily plan laid out I can do a quick search for points of interest along the way.


When there were places I planned stop on the road, all of my gear was strapped to the bike. This made it really hard to see some of the attractions in the places I did stop because I was afraid to leave my gear. While not a concern in some of the more rural areas I went through, I certainly would not leave my stuff unattended in touristy spots or city streets. For example, my traveling partner and I took turns walking around New York City because the minute we stopped we could feel the eyes on us and our packs. If you have locking bags, this doesn’t effect you but with a backpack strapped to a sissy bar, my gear was an easy target.


The last trip I went on was put together by a friend and thus, I was following his lead. His road trip style is a stark contrast to mine. He planned to the letter and knew where we were going every day and where we were staying every night. There were also a ton of landmarks and things to see that he researched, read about and knew whether or not were worth seeing.


As his planning included lodging in KOA cabins in most of the cities we stayed in, we had a place to stow our gear. This meant that nobody had to stay with the bikes and we could walk around worry free. It sounds so simple but this was vastly different than what I was used to. Honestly, it was liberating. Which brings me to the next point: we actually took time to explore and see the places we were riding through. I’m not saying I saw every cool things in every city but I saw more than I had previously by a long shot.


Different is good. In some cases, like this one, it can be great. Though I wont say that I will make every trip from now on a tour of each place I go through, I will certainly do a little more homework. In terms of lodging, there will still be nights I go without reservations but if I am passing through a place I really want to see, I’ll get a cabin at the KOA or a room at a cheap hotel so I can wander without worry. It really boils down to what you want out of your trip: saddle time or site seeing. I think going forward, my trips will be a hybrid of both.

The Double-Yellow Lesson

After riding last week with some new guys, and watching some common mistakes witnessed on some of the tight, twisty roads we were enjoying, I started wondering – Why are these guys making the same mistakes, over and over? – The answer seemed clear after some thought, and I wished I would have had the chance to share my thoughts with them.  Sadly, I only knew one of the group, and the first day of riding was not that bad, the pace was brisk and the mistakes were few.  Day two allowed me to witness guys in front and in back of me running wide in turns, crossing double-yellows, and in one instance, the rider behind me not only crossed WAY over into the oncoming lane several times, but he missed the turn so bad once he almost left the road.
It came to the point where I almost did not even want to look in my mirrors anymore, terrified of what I might see.  Not sure if any of the other riders addressed the issue, as I am sure at least one of the other riders was following, just not sure what he witnessed.  The next stop is where I said my goodbyes, and headed away from the group – back home.  Now I regret not saying what I should have said then to this rider, and a few others……….

If you are crossing the double-yellow, you are riding beyond your skill level.

You should slow down, or even pull over and assess what is going, what happened, why you misjudged the turn, and what could have happened had you met oncoming traffic.  The most shocking thing was not that this rider made a mistake, we all make them.  Small mistakes where we have lots of margin for error (we are half the size of a car, or smaller, after all) are forgivable on occasion.  Bad lines in the curves, braking too late or too soon, bad throttle control, not paying attention etc., we can all get away with for awhile.  We all make mistakes that hopefully we adjust from, but this one guy was consistently making the same mistake, and seemed like he had no idea how bad his skills, judgment, assessment and everything was that day.  I knew it, and probably should have pulled over, and had a discussion with him about it.  But why did he continue?  Running over the line in ever 3rd or 4th turn?  It was just hard to believe.
On the way home it hit me – there were no consequences – I don’t remember passing a single car coming the other way on 209 – all the way to Hot Springs.  So there was nothing to worry about, we had 2 lanes all to ourselves.  But these roads were SOOoo.. curvy – how could you possibly know if anyone was coming?  He did not – evidence the time he almost left the road completely.  Well the thoughts never left my head, and I was determined to share my story, not to be hollier-than-thou-look-what-a-better-rider-I-am – but to share a bit of insight I should have shared then.

If you cannot keep your vehicle in your lane, you should pull over and think about WHY – before you hurt someone or yourself.

It is a really easy thing to keep in mind, in fact, if my tires even hit paint, sirens go off in my head, I just wonder why they do not go off in other heads?

So I hope this experience helps turn your sirens on when your tires hit the paint – slow down, or pull over and re-assess, figure out why you are riding over your head.

Before you wind up like this guy, who is about to ruin the nice couple’s day:




Ride to Davis Ferry – a motorcycle ferry tale, or How to Service a Battery

David Haynes (WRBS) has been talking about the Davis Ferry since the first time I met him over a year ago.  From the first time we talked about it, I expressed an interest – I always enjoy unique and interesting rides and destinations.  I believe there are only 3 ferries left operating in Alabama.  The stars aligned and we set out early on Wednesday morning, headed down south for our first stop in Thomaston – at the Alabama Rural Heritage Center .  David had set up an interview with a board member to discuss the Center and the upcoming Pepper Jelly Festival for an upcoming article in Alabama Living.  After sitting in on the interview, we had a quick visit to the gift shop at the center, where they displayed a wall of pepper jelly, and rows of folk art from Alabama artisans, a few of which David had met and interviewed.  After awarding us with some pepper jelly, we were on our way south to the ferry.

Arriving at the end of the pavement, we encountered what looked like a controlled-burn of the woods, as we entered the dirt section leading to the Alabama River and Davis Ferry.  At the end of the road, a family had setup a fishing spot in front of our bikes, but reported no bites “due to wind”.  We munched on “lunch” and waited for the ferrymen to get back from their lunch break.  We saw Bart (Bartab) roll up on the other side, as we noticed some activity and the other side of the river spring to life.  A few minutes later, the ferry cranked up, and a plume of water came up on the side of the craft – they were under way.  They more than half way across when I realized the water-plume was formed from a paddle-wheel, just like the steam boats.  One, thinly-constructed paddle-wheel was moving that large craft across the swift Alabama River.  It was worth the trip just to see that antique in operation, a bonus to get to ride across.

As the craft landed, Bart rode his Triumph Tiger onto the ramp like a Marine landing on the beach on D-Day.  He was the only traveler, and quickly turned around to board the craft again with us.  On board, we hardly felt movement, but the craft moved us to the other side quite quickly, maybe 200 yards across.  Upon landing on the other side, the operators hustled us off, and we wandered through the park that ran along the side of the river.

This is where our trouble began.


Bart had explained why his engine was running the whole time we were crossing – he was having issues with his motorcycle battery .  He commented he had another battery just in case, but did not want to fool with it if he did not have to.  So we rolled to the end of the park, and as we were leaving Bart stalled the bike.  No big deal, he has another battery, right?  He quickly installs the battery, hits the start button and we hear the whine starter, but no engine spinning.


So after 45 minutes of troubleshooting, an attempt to pull the engine case loose, and more bump-starting-by-tow-rope, we decide to pull it to the top of the hill.  Well that turned into let’s-tow-it-30-miles to the first mechanic we can find, or sign of civilization, or whichever comes first.  Pretty hairy stuff pulling any bike, with a bike.  Hairy for the puller AND the skier, pulling uphill, on a dirt road, then almost 30 more miles up and down hills and twisty roads, we were experts by the time we arrived at M&S Auto in Camden.

Bart strolled in, asked if we could simply leave the bike inside his shop until tomorrow.  Certainly no hayseed from Camden would know anything about a sophisticated European adventure machine.  How could he know anything more than 5 grown men, probably with a combined 100+ years of riding and mechanical skills, that were unable to diagnose a complex electrical problem?  He insisted he might be able to solve the problem, and have us back on the road.  So instead of insulting the hayseed, Bart removed seat, and pointed towards the battery.  In less than 2 minutes, the hayseed expert mechanic pointed out the problem – the battery was spun around and the terminals were crossed.  Within 15 minutes, the hayseed engine surgeon had changed the fuse, charged the battery, and had the bike running again, with all of our tails between our legs – how did we miss that?  How did the starter turn (albeit backwards)?  Lights came on?

Glad we got it back running, I should have tipped the guy – it was worth $20 not to have Bart riding BITCH all the way back to Hoover.