"Facere tempus ut veho"
Near as I can tell that means Make time to ride.
I'm a Pennsylvanian born and raised, and have forever enjoyed just riding around and looking at stuff. Cars, trucks, busses, motorcycles, to no place in particular. For me the fun is the surprise. I enjoy seeing a rusty Rambler sitting on its side just as wholly as a rapidly descending mountain stream cutting through a valley. Thinking about what treasures may be hidden behind the next log pile or over the next ridge is it's own type of intoxication, so I try to travel on roads where I can hope to be surprised more often than not. I understand the appeal of high strung engines but they have never been my preference. I'm drawn more to the heavy flywheel, double-clutching type of motive power. This helps explain my Royal Enfield.
I bought my Enfield from a dealer who was no longer selling them, he had kept it and used it himself for a few rides, so I bought it with just over 300 miles on the clock..... not even broken in. When it went over 15000 miles late last year I thought I'd celebrate that with a trip somewhere, and this spring I decided that since I'd never been there, somewhere would be Alabama.
Google maps showed 800 and some miles to the town I'd picked at random, so I knew this would take me a few days. I figured the first week of summer has the longest days so that would be when I'd go. I invited my wife along but she declined when I mentioned tenting. My brother-in-law said he would go if I wanted to leave a week later, as he already had vacation scheduled, so we started to plan.
D (my brother-in-law) thought that I should have a destination in mind other than "random town", and asked if there was anywhere in Alabama that I'd like to go? I'd like to see the Barber museum......and I am going to Alabama......OK, I'll take another day off work and we'll try to get there.
Around this time my Daddy-in-law (Jack) says what the heck, he'll come too. Now the planning starts in earnest. I have my wife pick me up some paper maps from the AAA, then with highlighter in hand I spend a couple evenings crawling around on the floor highlighting routes across 7 states. I see that we'll be sorta in the area so we may as well hit the dragon too.
With the time off scheduled and the planning completed I turn my attention to preparing my Enfield. Change the oil, adjust the chain, lube the cables, pack some extra tools and a few spares and the bike is ready. I do a dry run packing tent, bedroll, camp stool, etc. and after some adjustments declare myself ready, and I had a day and a half yet before time to leave.
Our plan was to leave on a Tuesday after I got home from work. I thought we could get a 3 hour head start and make it part ways through West Virginia before nightfall. When quitting time Tuesday finally got here my wife had supper ready, and we ate quickly while listening to a thunderstorm brewing outside. The rain finally broke through just after D headed up the driveway. It stopped pretty quickly though, so we all said our so-longs and we were on our way, Alabama bound!
We had traveled maybe 25 miles from home when the leaden clouds decided to begin to lighten their load. It started out light but got progressively heavier. Pulling a slight grade my bike started to sput-sput-sputter and my first thought was "when did I last get fuel?". I flipped to reserve and the sputtering became less frequent, then went away. I made a slight re-route to head for a gas station and we all pulled in and topped up. I thought it strange that I only needed about 1 gallon.
I went inside to avail myself of the facilities and when I returned outside I see my companions talking with a very wet, younger fellow who was holding a small plastic gas can. He said he'd been in some pretty heavy rain since Pittsburgh, and then started telling us about his troubles. He was riding an older Honda VLX from California to Baltimore to start a new job and had run out of cash and out of gas and was hoping for a handout. I went ahead and bought him a fill-up and told him "good luck, that should get you to Baltimore" Hopefully he wasn't just pullin' a fast one!
We continued south into Maryland, hit some detour before West Virginia and became a little crossed-up. After getting back on track it was starting to get dark, and we finally made Petersburg about 10pm. We got gas again and headed south on highway 28, towards Seneca Rocks. A few miles outside of town I spot a small brown campground sign and make the turn to follow it. Up up up we go, twisting and turning on a tight unmarked macadam road. I figured we were on the top of the mountain when the road finally flattened out, then when it started to pitch back downward I stopped and we had a little powwow. Seems as though none of us had seen the campground, so we decided to abort and head back towards Petersburg and one of the hotels we had passed.
At the first hotel we found an open office door, behind which was a counter that had a sign reading "try the bell, if nobody comes dial this number" on the house phone. So I try the bell..... and try again..... then the phone.... and the phone again..... then we gave up. There was another hotel up the road a bit, but they're closed. No bell or phone even. We decide to backtrack into Petersburg and ask at a convenience store for someplace to stay. A helpful employee directs us to The Hermitage in town. She says "the office will be closed, but they have a number you call to get in", I'm thinking this line sounds familiar but we're kind of short on options, so off we go to The Hermitage. We pull in the parking lot and by the time I pull off my helmet and walk to the door the manager was opening it up. She said she heard us pull up :clap. 12am we finally get a room!
Day 1, Home to Petersburg WV
6 1/2 hours 159 miles
Next morning we were up at 6, had the bikes packed and were on the road by 7.
Down highway 28 we stopped at Seneca Rocks for a stretch and some pics.
It was smooth sailing through the beautiful countryside, Almost every town we rolled through had me wanting to stop for a bit and explore (there was one town with an older fellow walking down the sidewalk wearing a sundress and clutching a handbag that I'd just as soon remove from memory) we even got to watch a mature bald eagle being harassed by a couple of crows. The national radio observatory looked like a good spot for another time.
We ran back into rain just north of the Virginia line. My bike started sputtering again once the rain got heavy, then it finally shut off completely and I coasted off the road into a parking lot. http://i972.photobucket.com/albums/a...ps6afcc662.jpg
It fired right back up and idled fine. I was thinking I might be getting some water inside the points cover, but didn't want to open it up in the rain just to see. With the rain slowed down it would rev normally, so we just continued on our way. We were in rain all through Virginia, then after getting lost and finding our way again we stopped for fuel in Abingdon, that's where I noticed I'd sprung a leaky fork seal.
We travel on, out of the rain at last, and made our way to a Tennessee Waffle House for some health food. With our bellies filled we finally found a campground in Mooresburg. When we pulled up to the gate the owner told us that he had no spots, then when I was about to ask directions to any other places to stay he said "I do have one spot you could probably put your tent, follow me and see what you think" The sight was on a grade but had a level enough spot for the tent, so we were happy to get it. It was getting dark as we set up the tent. We got a good hot shower and spent the evening meeting all the campground locals. Made for a nice night.
Day 2 totals: Petersburg, Wv to Mooresburg, Tn 7am-9pm, 373miles
Day three begins with more clouds. I snapped a few shots of our campsite and the lake just after crawling from the tent.
A few minutes after I took this picture you could barely see the lake through the fog. The campground owner had told us of a gas station a few miles down the road where we could get a quick breakfast, so we headed there to fill up before heading towards Knoxville. I had a sausage biscuit and coffee health food.
We ran into and out of rain again as we headed into Knoxville, where we were planning to try and find the local Harley store. We detoured around some road construction in downtown Knoxville and got a bit spun around again. We ended up stopping at a place called Tim's garage and got surprisingly good directions to Harley of Knoxville. We were only a few miles away.... but I don't think we'd have just blundered into it.
D's bike was running pretty rich at low speed and he was hoping a new air filter would make it better, and I guess he was running low on laundry 'cause he picked up some t-shirts too!
After the parking lot tune up we headed out of town towards US 129, the "Tail of the dragon".
Looking forward to more! What year's your RE?
Thanks Beezer Josh. My RE is a 2000 Bullet 500.
Traveling south from Knoxville US129 eventually splits off by itself and this is when you know it's going to get better.
I was really enjoying myself now. My bottom didn't hurt, my bike was happily thumping along, it wasn't presently raining, and we were heading to one of the nations' premier motorcycle destinations. I noticed a Harley sign ahead and turned in to their parking lot. This was a converted gas station that a dealership is using to peddle mostly dragon themed Harley t shirts. I wandered through their air conditioning for a bit and then sat on a porch rocker while D picked out some more shirts.
Next stop was the Dragon Pitt for an early lunch. I went in for the pulled pork with a sweet tea.
Up to this point I was feeling like we had really gone somewhere, until I noticed the plates from such varied and exotic lands as Minnesota, Utah, and Quebec! Although I enjoyed the pulled pork, I don't think I'd come all the way from Utah for another! It was nice to sit in the shade for awhile and watch the traffic go by. They even have shady parking for the bikes!
I'll call this the "sweet tea effect".
NOW we get to the twisty bits! I knew there were cameras along the road to snap pics as you traveled along, so you could purchase them at a later time, what I wasn't expecting were the easy-up tents on the berm of the road with cameramen imbedded inside. I suppose it doesn't matter how they got them, the important thing is I've got photographic proof that I was dragging my peg... while looking through the corner and staying in my lane :clap.
We stopped on the North Carolina side to fuel up and mill about. I talked to a younger guy who had traveled from Oregon. He said he was heading north for a while then working his way to Sturgis for the rally before heading home. Made me jealous of his vacation time!
We were told we hit a good time of the week as it wasn't so busy. I guess it gets crazy here on the weekends.
I bought a couple stickers and a shirt for my son at the Killboy stand, then we scribbled on their wall.
It was time to say our goodbyes to The Dragon, we wanted to try to make it into Alabama before nightfall. Crossing into Georgia we stopped to fuel up and have a snack. The tattooed peach at the register directed me to the men's room where I found this sign.
Standing outside we could see the rain bearing down on us, so we stretched our legs back into our rainsuits and headed off. The country was starting to flatten out now so we could see more than just trees. I noticed a couple of jacked-up pickup trucks wearing tractor tires... looked like swamp buggies. It's nice to see older vehicles driving around that haven't been ravaged by road salt.
Somewhere south of Fairmount GA. I realized that I hadn't seen any signs for the route I thought I was following for a while. When I realized we were getting closer and closer to Atlanta I decided to stop and get a better look at my map. Turns out I missed a turn back in Fairmount and we needed to make some adjustments. We had map symbols for campgrounds in Rome, GA and another across the line in Alabama, so we jumped north a few miles to catch US20 and started heading towards Rome. It was dark (and still raining) by now and I decided I'm heading for the first hotel I find. Luckily we were out of rain again by the time the Best Western loomed ahead, and we were even treated to what was fast becoming our favorite restaurant just next door!
I skipped the steak this time and enjoyed bacon & eggs with grits. I did get to help Jack out with his waffle though.
We enjoyed our conversation with our waitress "Red". She didn't understand why we would want to travel all the way to Alabama just because we hadn't been there before. She was fun to talk to and we all had a few laughs. With our bellies full we headed back to the hotel room sometime after 11:00pm.
Day 3 totals: Mooresburg, Tn to Rome, Ga 7:30am-10:30pm 285mi
Day 4 begins with a lovely continental breakfast.
Just kidding. I had a bagel and took the apple to go. We were a bit on the lazy side today as we didn't get on the road 'till 8:00.
I was having some new issues with the Enfield. The tach dancing was pretty erratic at some speeds, and although it was idling fine, when I tried to come off idle it would occasionally "pop" through the carb as if the timing was off. This was making red lights exciting due to the fact that I know from experience (with this bike) that if it pops through the carb and stalls, it generally takes 3-6 kicks to restart. Not fun in the middle of an intersection with traffic lined up behind you. It still wasn't enough of an issue that I felt I needed to tear into it, so we kept keeping on.
We were dang near into Alabama now. The culmination of days of planning and preparations would soon bear fruit in the simple crossing of this imaginary line somewhere in the boonies on this 2-lane road. And then there we were!
I was so excited I didn't even shut the Enfield off, It just sat on the stand and thumped away while we took some pictures. The whole way from home I was worried that some unforeseen mechanical malady would put the Enfield out of commission and turn my trip into a failure. Now that we were in Alabama I could relax and have fun. D wanted to go to the Heart of Dixie Harley store just south of Birmingham so that was our next destination.
We made it into Birmingham's suburbs without issue, then the route we were on turned into a truck route, crossed over some railroad tracks, and ended abruptly. There was a grocery store handy so we accosted the locals and received some directions.
They had one of the new Street 500's on display so I got to look over that for a bit. D bought some more shirts and found out he had no more room to carry them, so he had to stuff them into Jack's bike.
Heart of Dixie H-D was the southern terminus for our trip, from now on we're heading home.
We backtracked towards Barbers.
I hadn't been there but had studied pictures of the display on the internet, so I knew what to expect. I can only say that I was overwhelmed once I finally got to take it all in personally. The grounds themselves are virtually worthy of a trip. Writing this I can understand someone trying to describe the grand canyon.... you just need to go see it. I spent a good chunk of the day in the museum and could honestly have spent 2 more days absorbing it!
I played with a plastic version of this as a child.
It's tough to convey the scale of this museum through photos. And most everything is placed so you can look closely without the hindrance of fencing designed to keep the unwashed masses at bay. Too soon we had to head out and carry on our way.
My Enfield is broken. Sort-of. Along with the blown fork seal, dancing tachometer and carb popping off idle I've noticed that when I go to start it and bring the piston to TDC the ammeter doesn't deflect as it should. It has also developed an oil leak from the exhaust side rocker cover.
This all may have been a good thing. While the guys were suiting up to leave Barber's I was taking the time to top off my oil. As I was pouring the oil in I noticed a man walk by who worked there and thought to myself "I hope he doesn't yell at me for topping up right here". After I had stashed my quart and funnel this man walks over and starts talking to us, he asked how we liked the museum and what we thought of the place in general, then commented on how far we had come to see it, how many miles are we going each day, etc, etc. Then he sticks out his hand and says "I'm George Barber" I stammered "your the man?" he chuckles and says "I'm the man, hey do you guys have a few more minutes, you've made such a big trip I hate to think you missed out on something, let me bring my van around and I'll give you a tour of the grounds." YES SIR, we've got time!
Mr. Barber walked away to get his van while we yanked our helmets and jackets back off. He pulled up in a Honda minivan with the center seat removed and we piled in, Jack in the front and D and I in the rear. He drove us around the 800 and some acres and told us all about the plants, flowers, sculptures, and their collaboration with Porche. We toured the ongoing construction and he showed the best spots you can sit to watch all the races. When we went down to the paddock area he stopped and asked one of the Porche guys "anyone on the track?" "No sir, just 1 guy picking up the cones" So out we go onto the track. He was naming all the corners as we went around (at a pretty good clip) and then we exited the track back into the paddock area. He drove us back around to the bikes and we all shook hands again. We thanked him profusely but he was just as thankful that we had come down to see him!
We saddled back up and left. I was in a daze. We fueled up near the track then headed back towards Georgia. My bike popped and stalled at a light, then restarted on the 3rd kick so it wasn't that bad. I had been seeing Jacks restaurants and wanted to stop and try one, so that was our supper stop. Here's Jack at Jacks.
We decided to try a campground we had passed on the way down, and we found it without issue, Cedar Point campground. Nice owners who chatted with us a bit. We got lakeside accommodations set up before dark.
We sat around and relived our day. We were all floored with Mr. Barber. That he would make the time to take us around like that still seems amazing. This was also the first day on our trip where we had NO RAIN! Also our shortest for riding time.
Day 4 totals, Rome GA to Birmingham Al back to Leesburg Al: 8 am- 8pm 180 miles
My first ever Alabama morning. Looks like rain.
I should mention that I had made no route plans for coming home. We had discussed going to a few different southern towns if time would allow, so rather than making up a bunch of possible itineraries I thought it would be easier to wing it. Once we subtracted the time we had used from the time we had remaining it became readily apparent that we wouldn't be doing much more traipsing. We spread some maps on our lakeside picnic table and had a planning session, notice that D figured out how to set the timer on his camera!
Our plan for today is to try and make southern Virginia tonight by way of the Blue Ridge Parkway. We only have to get back out of Alabama, through Georgia, cattycorner up North Carolina and we're there. So just past 7am we're on the road.
I want to thank D for these "in the wind"esque shots. He wanted pictures of us traveling in Alabama.
It isn't raining yet and I still wanted to get a look inside my points cover, so when we got back over the Georgia line we stopped for gas and a Moon Pie, and then I broke out the tools.
I found nothing. No moisture, things look fine, so I put it back together and we're off again. I'm thinking if I had a spare set of points I'd throw them in just because, but I don't, and I doubt they stock them at Auto Zone either. I'm still running fine as long as we don't hit any heavy rain.
We made our way back north-east through Georgia traveling on the route we had planned to use when we came south-west... before the missed turn in Fairmount, remember Fairmount? When we hit the intersection we missed coming south I stopped and sat there waiting for a chance to pull out. It seems that's a pretty busy stretch of road on a weekend morning. I finally pick a slot, then pull over to wait for the other guys to get out. Once we're all moving we make it to the far side of town and start down a bit of a grade, well I do anyways. I realized I'm all by myself so I stop and wait. A few cars go by but no sign of my crew, so I make a U-turn and head back up the hill. At the top I see Jack and D pulled off at a side street so I turn in to see what's up. D hands me my camera case and says "Dad saw this fly off your bike". I look down and see my right toolbox hanging open.
Good fortune I don't carry much in there, usually just a spare sparkplug and my owners card/ insurance papers. I was stashing the camera case with spare batteries for this trip, wonder where my paperwork is?
Now I'm backtracking slowly, standing on the pegs so I can see into the ditch, all the way back to the intersection that we couldn't pull out from. No paperwork. All the way back to Jack and D. No paperwork. I tell D "I'll run down the hill to where I turned around, If I don't find it, oh well." Part ways down the hill I see a familiar looking zip-lock in the grass of the berm. The Enfield rocks to a stop about 10 feet past it, and I try to back the bike nearer so I can pick it up, but my feet simply slide on the asphalt. Dangit! I look over my shoulder and can't see the other guys, I'm too far down the hill. The road is busy enough that it wouldn't be safe to set the bike on the stand, the white line is literally 6" from the grass that quickly slopes into the ditch. I can't even get off the road! I look ahead and...Huh? Here's a pedestrian. She's maybe 20yds ahead on the opposite side of the road heading my way. I give the horn a friendly toot and wave to her, and she gets this big grin and starts jiggling her way across the street. At about 10 feet her smile gives way to a more crestfallen visage as she notices the load on my bike.
"Good morning, could you hand me that baggie please?"
And I made another U-turn back to D and Jack. We fixed up my toolbox so it wouldn't open again.
And continued on our way.
As we headed south I noticed a billboard for Big-uns' Barbeque. Now we're heading back north and it's near enough to lunchtime, so I pull into the lot.
I'd never tried it, so I ordered the brisket with a baked potato and sweet tea.
Jack & D had the Big Mess, or some such. We didn't leave hungry! I even picked up 2 jars of preserves for my wife. Scuppernong and Muscadine. I had to re-pack some stuff on the bike to make the jelly fit, and while I was at it I used some parachute cord to tie my other toolbox shut too. I'd been worrying about the chance of that one breaking ever since Fairmount.
So far the rain hadn't begun, but our chances of not running into it were looking bleak. At least we're used to it.
Georgia smoothly passed beneath our wheels, we only got crossed-up 1 time when the route we were on stopped at the stairs of a courthouse. Seriously. We just made a left then a right into a side street and stopped for a pow-wow. I was about to go up to a policeman who was parked nearbye, but he hit the rollers and tore off after somebody who must've been even more lost than we were. so we were left to find our own way.
Shortly thereafter we crossed back into North Carolina, and a Ronnie Milsap song.
Things weren't looking especially good for a bike that doesn't want heavy rain. All the black clouds I'd been watching all day seemed to be converging directly above the hills we were about to be riding through. We suited up and headed out into the thick of it.
The first downpour we got to had me sputtering away and slowing down, then the rain sputtered and slowed and I sped back up. We were heading into a valley and ran into an especially heavy downpour and my bike almost shut off again, so when I noticed some shelter I headed for it.
We got there just before choir practice, so we chatted with the preacher a bit, and waited for the heavy rain to pass.
Between showers I tore a sparkplug box apart and used the dry paper to burnish my points, but that didn't help. I decided that in this weather my bike isn't safe to run, so I'm going to have to get somewhere to tear it down a bit. I'm thinking now that I've got a cracked or rubbed through wire somewhere that's shorting out when it gets wet. Points are staying dry even in the big wet ones, so I'll look somewhere else.
The rain had tapered off so we left the church and continued on our way. I saw a shopping plaza ahead and turned in to the lot. D wasn't with us. Jack said that he had pulled out when we did, then he lost track of him. As we were talking we saw him drive by, luckily he was looking around and noticed us, so we only had to wait while he went up the road to find a turn-around. I noticed a Lowes ahead and came up with a plan. When D pulled in I told him I was going up to the Lowes to tear my bike apart. My plan was to park in the lot near the display of sheds for sale, that way if it started raining again at least I'd have a roof.
I pulled into the Lowes and noticed that somebody must've fixed their bike there before, because the sheds were all 30ft or more into the grass, after you went over a large curb. Thusly foiled, I pulled next to some van trailers with the idea that I could string a tarp up simply enough if the weather turned again.
I had to remove my bedroll and tent, then off came the seat and airbox. I was looking all around for a bad wire, hoping it was something I could see easily and not a broken wire buried in the far reaches of the wiring harness.
A bit of background... Indian Enfields don't suffer the same ridged quality controls that a lot of other vehicles do, so the components and or the assemblage of said components can be somewhat suspect, I knew of these quirks when I bought this bike, so one of the first things I did was to pull every connection on the bike's wiring, visually inspect it, and reassemble with dielectric grease. Years later, in a Lowes parking lot somewhere in North Carolina, I found one that I missed.
In a bundle of bullet connectors down near the top of the transmission one of the wires that run from the alternator to the regulator had a corroded connection. A bit of scraping with my pocketknife and a piece of wire fixed that back up, I reassembled and rode around the parking lot a couple of times and everything was back to normal. :D Hopefull that the next heavy rain didn't prove me wrong we set off again.
We missed the entrance for the Blue Ridge parkway. Well, we didn't really miss it, the signage was a bit confusing and we rode right bye, not realizing we were past until it was too late. Now we were on the highway heading towards Asheville, and it was raining again, raining hard, and my bike was running fine. We stopped at a rest stop to study the map, and talked to a group of riders from Texas. Nice bunch. We realized we weren't going to make Virginia before nightfall, so we decided to just stay on the highway to Asheville and get a room.
The rain slowed and then stopped just outside of Asheville, so we weren't dripping when the first hotel turned us away, or the second. When the third try was a bust I was getting worried that we might have to make Virginia to get a room. But the next try was successful, if not economical.
None of us felt up to looking for a place to eat, so we called out for pizza.
Day 5 totals: Leesburg, Al to Asheville, NC. 7am-9pm, 316miles
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