A rather bland update for day 6 & 7. Admittedly, I've been quite lazy, and enjoying not having to be anywhere, or do anything at a particular time.
I decided to stay two more nights at the Deals Gap Resort. At 12$ a night, I feel thats a fair price for hot water, and a good show of bikes to keep my interest. I broke my back while stunt riding when I was 17, and a hot shower first thing in the morning is nearly priceless to me.
I spent most of the morning in the lodge occupying a table and trying to get my money's worth of my 2$ cup for orange juice. I must have drank a gallon of it while I cut and tapped and rolled three 4 states worth of TAT rollcharts. By about state 3 I must have had 5 people come over and ask me what just what in the hell I was doing. I must have looked a bit out of place doing something that looks akin to a mixture of paper mache` and arts and crafts. In between the tatted up harley guys, their leathered women, and the sportbike guys walking around like hunchbacks with their one-piece leathers with speedhumps I worked away, cutting and taping, cutting and taping.
Around noon I decided to make another run up the Dragon. I am, afterall, here for a reason. Even on knobbies, it can still be fun. Out of curiosity, I set the GPS, and went for it. Leaving the resort, and getting to the TN line, hopping off to check the tire, and then an all out sprint back to the lodge, I made an average time of 43.1mph. I have no idea if that's slow (or rather, how slow it when compared to anything). All I know is I had my hands full, with the knobbies slipping and sliding under me.
When cold, the Kenda Trakmaster front tire is pretty predictable. As it gets overheated, it becomes greasy, and you can feel the individual knobs bite and then lose traction as you ask more and more of them under heavy braking. The rear is alot more predictable: hot or cold, expect to slide. It likes to step out under heavy decel, and if you're leaned over when rolling back into it, point a knee, and stay steady on the throttle. It'll kick out, but it's as predictable as can be, and will hang out there just fine.
You haven't experience butt-puckery until you are plunging down the side of a mountain (hill?), into a decreasing radius turn, only to experience something I questioned was even possible, especially on knobbies: Brake fade on a 280mm rotor. It's kinda like grabbing a fist full of over-ripe bananas, and has about the same affect. You know what should happen. You know what you expected. And you know what is happening is probably not a good thing. I won't say it was skill, because it was anything but that. However, a two wheel drift on dry pavement on a motorcycle is probably the most bizzare feeling I have experienced. For a few turns after that, I begin questioning what kind of fool brings an enduro to the Dragon.
I ran into town. Admittedly, I was having a bit of electronic withdrawals. I am, afterall, from a generation where most of my relationships with others are connected, one way or another, through technology of one sort. I plop down in the local Mickey D's, and waste an hour or three.
It begins to rain, light at first, and then an all out downpour. I wait, and wait, hoping it'll lighten up. Finally it does, to a drizzle and I decide to make a run for it. When I open my pannier I learn two things. They are infact, waterproof. Secondly, if you are a buffoon, and do not roll them properly, they are waterproof, from the inside out. Great, now i have two inches of water to put my netbook in. I guess my drybag will get a test.
I nearly make it to the Resort, and it begins pouring again. I make a run for it, and begin passing cars and bikes alike, on any straightaway I can. I don't know what happened, or where all the dang water came from, but about 250yards from the resort, something shifted in my gear. It felt as though someone had just dumped a 5 gallon jug of icewater onto my lap. Refreshing may not be the correct word. Attention-grabbing is more like it.
I also learned my First Gear Kilimanjaro jacket is also not waterproof. Oh, and neither are my Alpinestars. Fantastic.
Screw it, I'm already soaked, lets make this a real sh*t show. I click down a gear and roll into it, passing the resort, and head on out on the Dragon. I kick the heated grips on high. When I say heated grips, I should say heated GRIP. I skimped here to stay on budget. Went with a no-name brand from RMATV, and what I ended up with is a right side grip that will blister your hand, and a left side grip that is slightly warmer than absolute zero. Anyway, at least the throttle hand is toasty.
The Dragon is a blast in the rain! I find the bike slides MUCH easier, as to be expected. I've completely abandoned the leg-out technique. The knee-out approach works better for me. It takes alot more energy to get my butt off the seat, and move side to side, but it makes the slides alot more predictable. I'm enjoying this run more than the ones in the dry. I begin passing pirate ships left and right, and a few 4 wheeled vehicles as well. I come upon a group of 5 or 6 sportbikes, and make short work of them, which puts a smile on my face. Maybe it's the competitive jerk in me, but I will never tire of running down sportbikes, especially those in full-leathers, on an enduro.
Anyway, I slide through the rest of the corners, turn around and make my way back toward the NC side. Coming out of one uphill corner, the slide suddenly hooks traction, and lofts the front end skyward. I lean to the inside of the turn to keep the bike on track, and down the hill comes the group of sportbike riders. Halfway through the group, I notice something. They aren't waving. Those are a barrage of middle fingers!
I'm not sure whether I upset them by passing them (on a straight...or the closest thing to a straight that the Dragon offers), or the fact that an enduro got the best of them. Either way, it put a smile on my face.
Making my way back to the Resort, I find little traffic, and enjoy the freedom the rain has provided. The forest has a different feel too. In between the growls of the XRR, it's a pure silence. No birds, no insects, no frogs. Serenity that I felt honored to disrupt with the barks of the Pro-Circuit exhaust.
As I pulled into camp, I got the "Look at this crazed yahoo" stare from a dozen of my drier counterparts. I putt over to the pumps and fill up. Beating on the bike, full out, down the Dragon I managed 36mpg. I'm very happy with that.
Onward to the tent I go. Now the question of what to do with all my wet gear. I decide not to leave it in the rain. My Kelty Tempest II has a vestibule, but it is very small. The ground is very muddy in the camping area, so I've got limited options. I decide to put my REI chair under the vestibule, and stack all my gear and wet clothes on it. It isn't the best option, but it's the only option I have, other than out in the rain.
I take a quick shower, where, as I'm brushing my teeth with Dr. Bronners soap (an odd product, to say the least), I am suddenly attacked by a hornet. I'm not sure if there was anyone else in the bathrooms at the time, but if there were, it must have sounded like a small child or puppy was being abused. Finally, I managed to knock it to the shower floor and drown the crazed assassin.
I head on down to the parking lot, and find that there is Fiddy races about to happen. Fiddys are decked out Honda XR/CRF50's or their chinese knockoffs, setup for adults to cause a ruckus on. These guys (and girls), take it seriously around here, and there were some impressively fast bikes.
Now I've owned my fair share of fiddy's over the years, and I'll have to say they are the most fun you can have, for the price. But don't let the size fool you. They bite just as hard, if not harder than a big bike. Over-confidence is an easy mistake to make on these 10" wheeled death machines.
The races are neat, but unfortunately the track layout caused most of the passes to happen on the straights. This is rather unexciting to watch, so I stumble off to my tent to read, and fall asleep, all the while, races are going on not 100feet from my tent. Somehow in the night, I awake and noticed my Exped mat is now feeling very similar to a lumpy grassy field. Turns out, it is a lumpy grassy field. The mat has sprung a leak in the middle of the night. I'm unable to locate the culprit. I make a quick patch job, re-inflate, and move to the other side of the oh-so-spacious tent.
I spend a few hours in the morning reading. I am reading two books, both at the request of others. First is Walden. Second is Zen and The Art of Motorcycle Maintenance. I find the first to be a difficult read. Perhaps it's the old language, or the subjects he talks about, but I find myself struggling to make it through. The second is an easier read, and I click off the first 100 pages this morning.
For lunch, I decide to make a dehydrated meal, throw it in the pannier, and head on up the Dragon, gearless other than my helmet which is a necessity in my book, soaking wet or not. I cruise on up, find a nice corner, and stake out a claim to watch the rest of the crazies do their best to throw themselves at the pavement. After an hour, I make it into town to make a phonecall to Mom. (None of ya'll forgot to do the same today...did you? Did you?!)
Afterwards, I gave in, and ordered a full meal from McDonalds. It's hard to shell out 6 and a half bucks, but I just didn't feel like doing much else. Plus, their WiFi is nice.
So that's where I am now. I'll likely head back to camp, and get a shower, do some shower-laundry, and read some more. Tomorrow I'll probably head over to Tellico Plains, in prep for the TAT. I hear Hunt's Lodge is nice. My rear tire is smoked, and I'm contemplating changing it. The other half of me wants to see just how far I can make it go.
Some other riders brought a projector, and put on a movie-show on the side of the motel. Brownie points if you can make out what is playing, in this oh-so high-quality picture.
An enjoyable fire to watch the movie by, as riders share stories of Dragon bites, and near-misses.
Running 129 in the dark, it looks as though it was snowing...until it got so thick I began to taste it...
Fiddys tearing it up
Papa Smurf himself made an appearance
The rich prefer a meal near the ocean, or perhaps near a fancy ballroom. Personally I'll take it with the smell of hot engines, the views of the Smokey Mountains, and the sounds of sky-high rpms and dragging knee pucks.
No shortage of 'tards
Or pirate ships
I used to check out exotic sport bikes. Now I take a second glance at anything with panniers and ground clearance.
The Pro's doing what they do.
Until next time... A quote from Walden.
"When he was refreshed with food and sleep, he contemplated his journey again. He dwelt, as it were, in a tent in this world, and was either threading the valleys, or crossing the plains, or climbing the mountain-tops."