Road Trip to Laconia
June in Key West. One word describes it: HOT!
And on to Vegas
I've been in Key West, Florida, since Christmas, 2009. I had sailed Galena, my Westsail 32, south from the Chesapeake Bay with the intention of just stopping here for the big New Year's Eve party. After six weeks of sailing down the East Coast the Boca Chica Naval Air Station marina looked to be a nice place to pause for a bit and catch my breath. My intention had been to sail further south; perhaps to Panama.
But one thing didn't lead to another and I found myself deciding, more by default than anything else, to just spend the summer here in Key West. I went north and picked up my Harley just to have some wheels while here. My brother, Tom, was watching my car for me. He has a big garage and a big barn. Plenty of room, he said.
In early May a few things happened. First, I became aware of the big Bike Week rally in Laconia, New Hampshire. I had been to Sturgis Bike Week (South Dakota) last summer, and Daytona Bike Week (Florida) earlier this year. Laconia is touted as being the oldest rally in America. It would be a shame to miss it.
Second, my brother, Tom, let me know that I had to get my car out of his barn. "Taking up too much room," he said. He had wheeled it out into the yard. Out in the yard is no place for my 1999 Corvette Hard Top; especially in northern Ohio. Fortunately my sister, Tammy had just moved to Las Vegas, Nevada, and had a three-car garage. "Plenty of room for your ‘Vette," she said. "As long as I can drive it. Just to keep the fluids flowing, of course."
Finally, my good friend, Hammer, had been talking to me about "The Tail of the Dragon." It's a short stretch of highway 129 on the Tennessee-North Carolina boarder. "318-turns in 11-miles," they say. Sounded like fun.
So it was time for a road trip. My last road trip was to Stugis, SD, back in August of 2009. You can read all about it here: http://www.sv-galena.com/Sturgis09/index.html. This would be a composite of bike, car, plane, and bike again. It would look like this:
This is the whole trip as it finally panned out.
Blue is Bike, Red is Car, Yellow is Plane
As I planned my route friends made numerous suggestions of places to see, things to do: Sailing friends in St Augustine wanted to see me; old hometown friends from Sheffield Lake, Ohio, wanted to re-connect; Facebook acquaintances wanted to meet me; my daughter in Kansas City was due for a visit.
I'm a cruising sailor. As such when it comes to ‘planning' I only loosely associate being at a particular place at a particular time. I use the ‘big-hand, little-map' method. I just wave my hand around a section of the map and say, "I'll be sometime in June." That's as planned as my adventures can be.
About this time my old Army buddy, Jim, came by for a visit. Jim was my driver when I was a company commander back at Ft Lewis, WA. I hadn't seen him for several years even though he just lives a few hours up the coast. He stayed on Galena with me and we just hung out for a few days.
Jim left on the 27th of May. I packed up and departed on the 28th. That might have been a poor choice since it was Memorial Day Weekend and traffic was pretty heavy.
My bike, a 1999 Harley-Davidson Road King, was loaded down as I had done before for these trips: Heavy backpack on the sissy bar, sleeping bag and spare helmet (for that good-looking babe just around the next bend wanting to go for a motorcycle ride) on the passenger seat, tent tied on over the starboard saddle bag and ground pad over the port bag. In the saddle bags were tools (it is, after all, a Harley), foul weather jacket, extra gloves, and other essentials.
The weather was sunny and hot for most of the first day. After I got onto Florida's mainland the skies clouded up and I hit light rain off and on until I called it a day near Titusville, FL. While I was planning on camping out most nights to save money this first night I headed for a little motel just off the highway.
There was a new girl working the desk. I knew she was new because the manager was doing all the work and explaining everything to her. She was a nice looking and friendly lady so we chatted while the manager did most of the checking-in. Somewhere in the confusion of his teaching and my flirting everyone forgot to actually run my credit card.
After I unloaded my bike I went down to have dinner. I stopped by the desk to make sure everything was OK. She said, "Yep, you're all set." She then went on to compliment me on my ear ring and I complemented her on her smile and sweet disposition. I wasn't going to insist on paying for the room.
The morning of the 30th of May found me riding in sunshine. I got an early start as I planned on making Charlotte, NC, by nightfall.
Facebook had brought me together with a lady who had grown up directly across the street from me in Sheffield Lake, OH. She was a few years younger than me so, of course, I didn't know she existed. But she remembered me as "the boy across the street." ( I think she sort of had a crush on me, but she still won't admit to that.) Anyway, Barbara was living in Charlotte with her little sister, Liz. Charlotte was sort-of on my way to the Tail of the Dragon so I stopped for a night. She took me out to see Liz's ex-boyfriend, Mike Hagar, play at a local bar. Mike plays guitar. Well, that doesn't quite say enough. Mike plays guitar better than anyone I've ever heard. Just amazing! Barbara and I had a fun night out on the town and got along just great. We reminisced about our hometown and some of the people we both knew.
Mike Hager playing at a local venue near Charlotte, NC, with some NASCAR guys listening
The next morning I headed over to western North Carolina to tackle the ‘Tail.' Hammer had told me about a campground that caters to bikers. It's called, appropriately enough, the "Iron Horse" campground. The Iron Horse is best found by plugging in grid coordinates on your gps; and I did that. I had turned off the main highway and was riding down a very narrow, twisty, one-and-a-half-lane-wide road for over a mile. I was about to give up when I found the place. I turned into the drive and was greeted by a very nicely laid out campground. This was a really nice place nestled in a valley with a small stream running through it and high wooded hills all around. A tent site was only $15 (military discount, too) and they served breakfast and dinner from their kitchen. They had a great-room with comfy sofa's and dining tables and a little store where one can buy the obligatory T-shirt.
The main lodge at the Iron Horse Motorcycle Campground
My bike and my tent at the Iron Horse
The Iron Horse's only drawback is that it's about 30-miles from the south end of the Dragon. But I found that the ride up Rt 28 was a good warm-up for the actual Dragon. OK, there's one other drawback: It's in a ‘dry county.' I didn't know we still had such things. But you can't get a drink anywhere in the county. If you want a beer, you have to bring it with you.
Rain was the order of the day when I arrived. I pitched my tent between down-pours. The next day wasn't much better. After a hearty ‘Biker's Breakfast' at the lodge I headed out in search of that dragon.
With the wet roads I had a ready-made excuse for taking it easy. I rode steady and rather slowly, even for a Harley-Davidson Road King.
I found the southern end of the Dragon right where it was supposed to be: at 35-27' 55" N, 83-55'11" W, or about 12-miles NW of Robinsville, NC. US-129 runs south out of Tennessee through Deal's Gap where it connects with US-28. There you will find the Deal's Gap Motorcycle Resort; a good place to stop and take a breath before tacking the actual Dragon. They have a snack bar, gas station, and the obligatory T-Shirt shop.
A year or so ago a rockslide closed US-29. They've opened the southern 12-miles of the road. But the center is still under construction. All you can do is ride north for 12-miles, stop, turn around, and head back down. The good thing about that is there is no through traffic on The Dragon right now. Just enthusiasts making runs. That and the Tennessee State Troopers who patrol the road keeping things at least a little sane. If you go Google the Tail of the Dragon you can find lots of pictures of tractor trailers falling off the road on the sharp switchbacks that make the road so much fun for us. But none of that noise was a factor for my runs.
The southern end ("bottom") of the Dragon
The rain had stopped and the road was beginning to dry. Time to make my run. I had my gps on and the twisty trail of bread-crumbs I made still amazes me. Looking at the time-hacks on the gps track I see that my first runs took all of 22-minutes. That's a very slow run but, hey the road was wet and I'm on a big ol' Harley. I was able to get that down to 20-minutes, flat. But that's still nothing to be crowing about.
My track up the Tail of the Dragon, Deal's Gap.
After the ride back down I took another break at the snack bar and then went exploring.
Billy and the Lillies at a scenic overlook near the Iron Horse
I rode over to Robinsville and back to the campground. I then spent the day just hanging out and talking with other bikers. I had the very good fortune of meeting Debbie and Chris. Debbie insisted that we become facebook friends immediately. So using the complementary computer in the lodge we did just that.
Debbie on her bike
Debbie is one of the sweetest biker-chicks I've had the pleasure of meeting. We had a grand time talking about everything under the sun over dinner at the lodge. Oh, and did I mention that she is drop-dead-gorgeous? Well, she is, of course.
Chris and Debbie took off in the middle of a small downpour. Sad to see them go, especiall in all that rain.
Chris and Debbie leaving the Iron Horse Campground
I stayed at the Iron Horse Campground until June 2nd. Even though the roads were mostly wet and a bit slick riding these tree-lined, hilly, twisty roads is a blast. I spent several days just wandering around exploring the roads in and around the Smokey Mountain National Park.
Barbara was still on my mind so I headed back to Charlotte to see her again. She was kind enough to show me the town and we had a marvelous time just hanging out. Several days went by before I knew it. But then it was time to head north again. I had Laconia waiting for me!
On June 5th I was riding north from Charlotte through Mt Airy. Many of you may already know that My Airy, NC, is the hometown of Andy Griffith and is the model for Mayberry of TV fame. In the center of town is the Andy Griffith theater and just north of town I crossed over Mayberry Creek.
After Mayberry I turned north-east onto the Blue Ridge Parkway. This is a very nice, rolling, scenic bit of highway. Not exciting like the roads through the Smoky Mountain Park, but still a beautiful ride. Highly recommended if you're traveling anywhere near it. Even by car it would be fun; I guess.
By evening I was crossing the Chesapeake Bay at Annapolis, MD. Just ahead was my old home, Mears Point Marina at Kent Narrows. I had lived there for about 5-years. At least during the summers. It was my base of operations for cruising the Bay during the summer and a launching point for my winter trips to the Bahamas. I still had many good friends in the marina so I was looking forward to getting reacquainted.
I first stopped at Red Eyes Dock Bar where I was surprised and flattered to find that Jackie, my favorite bartender, remembered my name. So did her boyfriend, John.
Then I dropped in on my O-Dock buddies. I had a great time catching up with them. I spent the night on s/v Katz Meow.
Maria even stopped by to be tormented just a bit.
Jane (m/v Bliss) was going up to Atlantic City for business and I tagged along to enjoy the casinos for an evening. Penny let me drop all my "luggage" on s/v Zufrieden and when I got back I slept there. The ride back from Atlantic City was one of the coldest rides I'd had in a long time.
Capt Ron was coming back to Mears Point Marina on Monday so I stayed around. My friend, Ron, had on several occasions welcomed me back from my trips to the Bahamas with Champagne and a friendly, "Welcome Home." I returned the favor. Of course, it was all Susan's idea (s/v Cloud 9), but I took the credit for it.
After the weekend in the marina I headed north again. I figured I could make it to Philly. My friend Barbie (s/v Narrow Escape) lived there and invited me to spend the night. On June 8th I did just that. The weather was beautiful all the way. Just a bit windy, but at least there was no rain.
The 9th of June found me riding through New York and Connecticut. The weather had turned very cold. The skies were low and overcast. I had the feeling that I would encounter snow any moment. In fact I did hit some light rain. Almost enough to cause me to put on my rain gear…. Almost.
At dusk I rode through Laconia, NH and found my way to Chocorua KAO campground. It was 30-miles north of town but it was the closest campground that wasn't charging an arm and a leg during bike week. All night a light rain fell. My tent leaked and everything was just a bit beyond damp by morning.
My bike and my campsite at the 'Chocorua' KOA campground just north of Laconia
As soon as I noted a break in the rain I saddled up and headed into town. Well, the Rally isn't really in town. It's at Weir Beach, just north of Laconia. The weather stayed cold (54) and wet. And I was there a day before the opening of Bike Week. Still I had a good time riding around this part of New Hampshire. The scenery was beautiful in spite of the rain and clouds.
I was amused by the signs indicating "Moose Crossing" until I had to suddenly break for a monster moose that came ambling out from the woods at the side of the road. Just a couple miles later I had to slow for a bear loping across the road. I don't mean a small, cuddly little bear. I mean a big-as-a-VW BEAR!! And I'm living in a tent out here???!! Am I crazy?
The main drag at laconia's Bike Week the day before opening cerimonies
There isn't much to Laconia's Bike Week. Sure, this is the oldest annual Bike Week Rally in the country. This was number 87. Sturgis and Dayton were only on number 69. But there's really not much to this event. There's a short(quarter-mile?) road of store fronts that become a line or T-Shirt shops. There's a couple of pretty good bars. And a lot across the street that fills with tents of parts venders.
There's one big reason this rally will not have the wild and crazy reputation of others. It's codified in this sign:
No Public drinking??? How can you have a bike week rally where you can't walk down the street with a beer in your hand?
One thing I was surprised to see was the number of Hell's Angels in attendance. There were even tents set up selling Hell's Angels and "81"paraphernalia. It seems that if you're not in the MC you can't have anything that actually says "Hell's Angels" so the prob's and wanna-be's wear "81" (eigth letter-"H" and first letter- "A"). Strange, but it's their thing.
Since the official Bike Week didn't kick off till Saturday I headed over to the Broken Spoke Saloon to have a beer. I had been at the Broken Spoke in Sturgis and the one in Daytona Beach so I had to have a beer or three in this one, too. Just up the street is the local Harley Davidson dealership. It's a pretty big establishment for where it is. They were setting up for Bike Week, too.
The forecast was for rain all weekend the city decided to get an early start and Bike Week started on Friday. To me that just meant that the price of a small cup of beer went from $3 to $5 a day early.
I did find a couple of friendly bars in town. And one or two very lovely bartenders. This charming lady was one of my favorites.
Lovelest bartender in Laconia
And that lovely lady's back
I bought the required half-dozen T-shirts and drank my share of beer. I noticed that almost all of the Booth Babes were Russian. After talking with a few of the guys I found that a ‘company' brings in a plane-load of them, both girls and boys, and then rents them out the vendors for the weekend. Also of interest was that most of the venders were from Daytona, FL. I mean that was their home town. Bottom line: if you do Daytona, don't bother with Laconia.
There's a few nice rides in the area. This is my track over most of them:
My tracks in the Loconia area
An unexpected and quite pleasant surprise was a call from Pam. We had met at the marina on Boca Chica. She remembered that I had said I may be in NH for bike week and she was just checking. She and her friends were in Laconia for an annual Girl's Weekend Out. I was invited to join them for a dinner cruise on the Mt Washington; a dinner/dance cruise boat. I happily accepted.
I drank way too much while dancing with Linda, Andrea, Lynn, Pam, Sandra, wait, there was one more lady there, I think. We all went back to Lynn's cabin. They said they had a spare bed for me as this cabin had a smaller back-cabin along side it. We drank and partied most of the night. At dawn I was standing on the dock looking out over the lake behind the cabin. It looked just like the scene from "On Golden Pond." The more I looked the more familiar it seemed. Right down to that bunch of rocks about a quarter mile out into the lake. You know the rocks the Henry Fonda smashed the boat into? Anyway, I later Googled the movie and, yep, I was on Swarm Lake, AKA: Golden Pond. Wow. How cool is that?
Lynn's cabin on Golden Pond
By June 13th I'm about ready to leave New Hampshire. A couple more beers at the Broken Spoke Saloon and I was done. The Broken Spoke Saloon is touted as being the largest biker bar in the country. I'm not sure how they come to that.
The back lot for overflow parking at the Laconia Broken Spoke Saloon
Next stop was to do a real, face to face meeting with a Facebook acquaintance of several years. She lives near Harvard in Cambridge. We did the tourist thing and took in the sights. Stopped at a couple of her favorite bars and then back to her place for dinner. It's nice actually meeting people you've known on-line for years.
The ride to my brother's house is just too long for one day but I did it anyway. On the ride I had the misfortune of having a bee fly up my sleeve while riding down the highway at about 80-mph. Talk about distracting! First thing I felt was a sharp sting at the inside of my elbow. Then another. Then another. I'm on the breaks and heading for the shoulder. I get stopped and rip my leather jacket off. As I'm assessing my arm a bee walks out of the jacket sleeve and flies away.
I get to my brother's house in Amherst, OH, well after dark on the 15th of June. He has pushed my car back into the barn. It seems that since he hasn't started it in months, the battery is dead. He has it on a charger.
The next morning, the car is still dead. I buy a new battery and, after washing the car and putting my bike out of the way in the corner of his barn I'm ready to go. But it's late and I want to get some miles in on the first day. So I crash there for another day.
My destination now is my daughter's house in Olathe, Kansas. That's a suburb of KC. It takes two days to get there mostly because I'm just cruising along on some back roads enjoying my car. I have not driven it since I dropped it off back in November of 2009. I don't care what you drive, when you slip down into the seat of a Corvette (and I DO mean down) you find yourself in another world. I mean this is not just a powerful machine, it's a fun car to drive. It's also surprisingly comfortable to sit in. After hours in the saddle I climb out feeling just as refreshed as when I climbed in. I really love my car.
My 1999 Corvette Hard Top on the road to Kansas City
By June 19th I'm relaxing at my daughter's house. She has a belly dancing thing happening at a local Greek restaurant and I hang around to attend that. We had a blast. Her instructor is wonderful and her friends, and her friends' husbands, are just too much fun. We drank Ouzo till we couldn't walk. We washed it down with beer. Yeah, I had a good time.
Billy and the Belly Dancer
I also got to dance with my daughter. Fun for me; not sure for her. I might have been a bit embarrassing. But if you can't embarrass your kids, who can you?
My daughter, Michelle, and I cutting a rug
Next stop was to visit my old high school buddy, Chris Ackerman. He lives near Oakland, CA. I haven't seen him for about 20 years or so. And in the old days he was my best friend. So I was headed in that direction. I was running down the old National Road, AKA: US-50. Much better than the sterile interstate. And certainly more fun for a guy in a Vette.
Along the drive across the big country of ours I took way too many pictures. The landscape changes so dramatically as you go from East to West Coast.
Here are just a few of the many snapshots:
Just a shot from my car running down the road
While driving along a river through a picturesque gorge I stopped just to take a photo of the river rapids. To my surprise a bunch of rafts came rolling through just as I was about to take a picture. I was also surprised to see a sign saying this was part of a national park and I had to pay $5 just to stop here. I didn't.
Along the way somewhere I talked with Chris and he was finding himself tied up for a day or so. New plan: I should meet him at his cabin in the woods, but not till Thursday afternoon. That gives me a couple more days to kill. I check the map and find that I'm pretty close to Vegas. So I diverted south with the intent of hitting Vegas a couple of days early. Vegas to Chris' cabin is only long day's drive.
June 23rd found me and Tammy sitting in the sand at Lake Mead just up from Hoover Dam (or is it Boulder Dam?) She drove me in my car. I was trying to not critical of her driving. But I felt I had to say something when it became obvious that she had forgotten there were six gears available to her.
On the 24th I headed north to Chester, CA, to a little bar where I would meet Chris. From there were would go up into the hills to his cabin. I had left Vegas early in the morning and by 8 AM I was well on my way. Traffic was just about non-existent on US 95 as I headed for Reno.
All of a sudden a black Mercedes flies past me like I'm sitting still. But I wasn't sitting still. I was going about 83 in a 75-mph zone. I thought that was reasonable. Then I looked around and thought, "What the hell? There's no one around. This road is straight as an arrow and I can see forever." More importantly, my radar detector can see forever. So I pressed the pedal to the metal. My Vette is pretty stock, I've just opened the intake and exhaust a bit. Still, she jumped and I watched the needle start to wind up.
The top speed on this particular model is listed as 152 mph. I've never had her above about 110. As she passed 120 I was impressed that she still felt solid. No sway; no squirrelly feel to the wheel; no wandering about the road; no lift of the nose. Just a steady acceleration.
As the needle swept past 130 (quickly, I might add) she was still pulling hard. The rpm's were well below redline. And she was accelerating just as quickly as she had at 90!
When we passed 140 I became aware of the marked increase in wind noise. I thought that the inflow of air might be pushing the windows out of their seals so I closed the vent intake. Didn't make any difference. I'll just have to put up with the noise.
I was gaining on the Mercedes.
At 147 mph I suddenly thought, "If one of any of a hundred parts decides to fail, right now, both the car and I will be nothing but a cloud of dust." That thought was followed quickly by, "What the hell are you doing, Bill?" I backed off and let her slow to 110.
At 110 I set the cruise control… just because I could! I drove on cruise control at 110 for a few miles and it actually felt a little slow.
I dropped my speed back to a reasonable 85 or so till I had to stop for fuel.
Oh, fuel. There's a law/sign that says one has to run with headlights on on this stretch of road. Makes sense. With the heat waves and mirages it's hard to see an on-coming car even with the lights on. My Vette has pop-up head lights. At 85mph, when I put up my lights my mileage drops by 2 mpg. Now my car usually gets great mileage. At normal highway speeds (less than 80) she gets an honest 34 mpg. In town she gets anything from 25 to about 4 mpg, depending on how much fun I'm having. On this drip across country I was averaging 32 mpg. When I was cruising at 110, I was still getting 22 mpg (lights off)! Is that cool or what?
My radar detector is a pretty good one: Valentine One. Shows what kind, what direction, what strength, and, (this is good for Virginia where they are illegal) it even has a radar detector detector. If it senses a detector detector is bleeps and shuts down. I've seen it do this… very cool.
So when it sounded a gentle little bleep I figured there was someone out there over the next hill or so. A few seconds later it sounded another bleep. This one a little stronger and still ahead of me; but still just a bleep. Two cars were coming toward me. I had slowed to about 85 (in a 75 zone) (well I was going a bit faster) so I wasn't too concerned. Suddenly the thing blared at me with a full, in-your-face, hit-the-breaks-you-fool, oh-my-god-he's-right-on-top-of-you signal.
Yep, the second car of the two coming toward me was a Nevada State Trooper. Instant-on radar sucks.
I looked in my side rear-view mirror to see first his break lights come on and then the overhead lights came sparkling to life. He was swerving toward the shoulder to turn around. Shit! I was already on the breaks so I just pulled over and waited for him to come around. And he did.
As he walked up to the car he said, "Thank you , sir, for not making me chase you."
I said something to the effect that when I saw his lights come on I figured we were going to have a conversation. He chuckled.
I handed him my license and registration (why do we still have to do that when they have computers in their cars that verify the owner instantly???). He looked at it said, "Boca Chica? Isn't there an air station there?" I explained that I did, in fact, live on the Naval Air Station, on my boat at the marina.
"Yeah," he says, "that's down by that bar, what's it called?"
"The Navigator," I say.
"Yeah, that's it. Hey does that blonde bartender still work there?"
"You mean Lindsey?"
"That's her name," says he.
I tell him, yes, she's still there. He explains that he just got out of the Navy and he had been on Detachment there a few times and remembered going to the bar for lunch and beers.
So he steps back a little and looks at my car. He says, "Sir, you have a nice car. But you really should slow it down a bit. Have a nice day." And hands be back my license and walks away. Holy shit! How lucky can a guy get??? When I got back and told Lindsay the story she suggested that I owe her at least a drink.
About 2PM I arrived at the bar in Chester, CA. The bartender knew Chris and said he had just left but said I would be there and to tell me he'd be right back. So I sat and chatted with her for about an hour. Chris showed up at 3 just as he promised. We had a beer and then I followed him up into the woods.
Now, my car has about 3" of ground clearance. I'm following Chris who is bouncing along in his pickup truck. When we turned off the paved road I was a bit concerned. A mile later the dirt road changed into a couple of ruts. Finally I saw a group of cabins ahead. Although it was difficult considering all the dust from his truck. We pulled up to one and I met Chris' wife, Mary. We sat around talking and get acquainted.
Chris' cabin is in the National Forest at the foot of Mt Lassen.
View of Mt Lassen from Chester, CA
Lassen is an ‘active' volcano that last erupted in about 1915. Like Mt Reiner in Washington State, it looks like someone just air-brushed it onto the sky. Really a pretty site. The cabins were all built in the 20's and 30's and are little more than plywood shacks. But they cost a fortune and they sit on government land. And the place is one of the most peaceful locations I've ever experienced.
Me and Chris in the woods at his cabin near Mt Lassen in CA
Me and Chris as we looked back to 1967. You can see that I had to decency to get old and fat, Chris hasn't changed a bit, except for getting a little bit older.
Now, as I said, Chris is from down near Oakland. And most of his friends live around Berkley. Needless to say (although I will) Chris is not just a liberal, he's a socialist with no apologies. We are on extreme opposites o the political spectrum. During the next few days we have more than a couple of rather heated discussions. But maybe because he's also one of the most intelligent people I know, we were always able to come to an amicable end to each argument.
Chris loves to fish. The first morning he pulled in a couple of brown trout for breakfast. He just walks down to the river and wets a line. We went around in his truck to all his favorite spots but didn't get too lucky with the fishing.
Chris Ackerman ready to do battle with the trout
Chris at his favorite fishing hole, just a short walk from his cabin
Two days of the cold and the dust and I was ready to head back to Vegas. I headed out of the woods on the 26th of June. My car was so dusty that I had to pull into a car wash in Chester. If anyone saw me they would strip me of my membership in the "Pretty Black Corvette Club."
My car is way out of it's element in these woods. And it's dirty, too.
Then I had the long ride back to Tammy's house. But as usual, the trip back never seems as long as the trip out.
A Nevada State Trooper surprised me again and as he went by he just flipped his overhead lights on for a second; sort of a, "Hey, slow it down a bit." But I wasn't being foolish on the way back. But as I rode through one of the many small towns on US-95 between Reno and Vegas, I had gotten right into the middle of town; the speed limit was down from 75 to 25 at this point. A local cop is coming the other way and rolls down his window giving me the old hand signal for, "Slow it down." And I'm only doing 28 in a 25 zone! That's a bit much, don't you think? I know my car looks fast just sitting still, but my radar detector said he was painting me all the way through town. 28 in a 25? Well, he did just give me a hand signal; he didn't write me up. So I guess I shouldn't complain.
On the 28th I had a nice dinner with Tammy and her husband, Mike, my older sister, Nancy, and her husband, Jim, and her daughter, my niece, Kim. Nancy has lived in Vegas a long time. Whenever I came out here I'd stay with her. Now that tammy's here, too, I have a choice of sisters to freeload off of. Not to mention my niece.
And Nancy's place as a very nice pool in the back yard.
Me in Nancy's pool having a drink and talking on the phone. Yeah, Vegas baby!
Kim (Or, Toots, as we call her. She hates that. I guess it was cute when she was little. But she's a young 40-something now and it's losing some of its cuteness to her. ) took me out to a grand opening of a British pub that some friends of hers are involved with. I had a great time as I always do with her. This is a girl who really knows how to party and she knows some really great people, too. All of her friends are either interesting, fun, beautiful, or all three. It's hard not to have a good time with Kim.
While reviewing this entry I noticed that I had included pictures of all my sibling except my older sister, Nancy. So here she is.
Tooty and Nancy (did I mention she was my OLDER sister?)
Remember that the whole point of this car-trip out to Vegas was to relocate my car to Tammy's house cause my brother didn't want it in his barn anymore? I had a flight scheduled for 30 June to get me back to Cleveland, OH. Before I left I had to hand over the keys to my baby to Tammy. It was a tramatic moment for me.
Another of my sisters, Sally lives in Lorain and said she'd pick me up at the airport. Tom bailed out and said he might be out of town (vacation or something). So Sally and her husband Rudy (affectionately referred to as "that big fuckin' Indian" by my late father) picked me up. Since my flight was an overnighter they let me sleep a few hours. Then we went down to a local watering hole and had a few drinks. Well, more than a few. But I was having a blast with Rudy. And, of course the bartender was sweet. My other sister (this is the last of them, promise), Jinx, showed up to take me out to Tom's house since she was staying with him at the time. But she stayed for a beer or two, too.
Sister Jinx, Me, Sister Sally, Bro-in-Law Rudy
By the time we got to Tom's house we were feeling no pain what-so-ever. Well, Tom and Judy were home. And they were not all that happy with a couple of intoxicated sibling bursting in at about 11 pm. They got up and sort of let Jinx and I know that. They left me passed out on one of the recliners.
My little brother, Tom, and I at his house
The next morning I loaded up my bike and hit the trail. I had been gone a long time and I wanted to get home. But first there was some more of the mountains in Tennessee and Carolinas that I had not explored. Also, Barbara of Charlotte was out of town for a few days and I wanted to see her again before I headed back to Key West.
Some of my tracks in and around the Smoky Mountain National Park and the Tail of the Dragon
A Professional shot of me taking on the Dragon
So I went back to the Iron Horse Campground and explored the Smoky Mountains for a few more days. While there I met Diane. She had come down on her bike from New Jersey. Over dinner in the lodge she said se wanted to ride the Dragon and a few other notorious roads in the area. But she was not sure where any of them were. Anyone have good maps or anything. Well, "yes," I say, "we all have good maps, but, hey, babe, you can just hang out with me tomorrow and I'll show you around." Smile, Smile, wink, wink.
Diane at the top of the Dragon
So that's what she did. We spent the day riding and enjoying the scenery. The next day she rode back to New Jersey.
I rode most of the better-known twisty roads in and around the Smoky Mountain National Park. Including the Cherohala Trail, which is sort of a high speed (50 mph) longer (50 miles) version of the Dragon, and the northern end of Rt 129 down to the Foothills Parkway.
At the northern end of the Cherohala you'll find a Harley-Davidson dealer.
And at the north end of the Dragon, where it's closed, you'll find another HD dealer.
I headed over to Charlotte to see Barbara again. Barbara and I spent a few days riding around the Charlotte area. We rode, north, west, and east. She likes to ride almost as much as I do.
My favorite lady, Barbara, ready to go for another ride.
When we were tired of riding, We went to a local community college's play downtown. I was having more and more fun with her.
Barbara in downtown Charlotte, NC
We went down to Kings Mountain where the colonial malitia kicked the British Redcoats' butts back in 1780. See http://www.tngenweb.org/revwar/kingsmountain.html for details of this historic battle.
Anyway, Barbara and I had a good time walking the mountain, even though it was over a hundred degrees in the shade. Fortunately, we found some shade.
Finally, though, it was time to head home.
One more stop. My dear boating friends Dennis and Bettye (s/v Son of a Sailor) lived in St Augustine, FL. I hadn't seen them for ages so that was one last place to stop on the way home. I spent two days there, just hanging out and helping Dennis do some chores on his boat.
Bettye and Dennis and I having lunch and the World Famous... something or another.
Finally, on July 14th, after almost two months of running around the width and breadth of this fine country, I was home onboard Galena in Key West.
Now, I have two weeks till I load up the Harley again and head out for Sturgis, SD.