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Old 05-06-2011, 12:50 PM   #1
jaredyates OP
Joined: Jun 2008
Location: Hickory, NC
Oddometer: 54
Huntsville AL to Hickory NC with my new 1993 DR250

Or perhaps more appropriately titled,

Post-Apocalyptic Air-Conditioned Springtime Epic Motorcycle Adventure

I have been in the market for a small dual sport for years now, and a recent fleet consolidation yielded some free cash. Fortunately, klaviator was selling his 1993 DR250 at about the same time. I was really excited about the bike, since it has all sorts of modern amenities that I don't find on my Hondas from the 1970s, like suspension travel and dampening, highway speed capability, reliable operation, etc. I had a few days off from work so I flew out to Huntsville on the first flight on Thursday Morning to complete the transaction and ride the bike home. Unfortunately, on Wednesday evening there were lots of strong storms that came through. While I was on the way to Huntsville I also found out that my Dad's house (where I had grown up) was damaged pretty seriously too.
When I got to the airport, I tried to call Win (klaviatior) to tell him that I had arrived. With all of the power outages and storm damage, cell phones were intermittent at best. I finally got through and we were at his place by 10:00 am or so. The bike was as advertised (as I knew it would be) so after a brief visit and an exchange of funds, I put on my fancy riding gear and set out for central North Carolina. What could possibly go wrong with setting out on a 400-mile trip on a bike that I didn't have any personal knowledge of?

Riding out of Huntsville felt like some kind of escape from the apocalypse. Since the power outages were so widespread, none of the traffic lights were working. For most drivers, these inoperative stoplights were 4-way stops. For some, they were like the intersection of a figure 8 track race. The traffic light issue wasn't too serious (just a little bit of a slow-down), but none of the gas stations were pumping gas, and that was starting to get serious. The little DR has its original tank, which is good for about 100 miles until reserve. I rode out of town on US72 towards Chattanooga with hopes that I would find a station with power. I saw lots of cars at an Exxon station near Scottsboro, AL, but it turns out that they were just learning one at a time that the gas pumps weren't working. People would pull up to the pumps, try to get gas, realize it wasn't going to happen, then leave. But while they were doing that, folks on the road would think that the others were getting gas, so they would stop and repeat the process. A little old lady who was coming from the other direction told me that there were long lines down the road at a few working stations, so I decided to press on until I got to the reserve fuel, and then wait at the next town for either power or a spot at the pump. I almost made it to Stevenson, AL before that happened.

I rode into town on reserve fuel and was delighted to see working traffic lights. I wasn't so delighted to see the long lines of folks waiting for gas, but one of the stations had a tanker truck parked in the lot, so I settled in and waited for a chance to dispense my 1.5 gallons of fuel. Fortunately I was able to push the bike up as the line advanced, not having to start it up and shut it down repeatedly. In the picture below, the gas station is on the right and the line I'm in is only going to three of the pumps.

After almost two hours, I was able to top of the tank and get back on the road. My chances of making it home on the same day were diminishing, but the sweet smells of blooming spring weeds and the cool temperatures were fantastic. It was as though the air conditioning was on in North Alabama. I rode east to I-24, then took I-75 North to Cleveland, TN and then to US64. The next few hours were fairly uneventful, other than the occasional patch of broken trees and power outages. I was hungry and ready to find some lunch/dinner, but most of the restaurants along the way were closed. I stopped in Cleveland to get more gas and to try to eat at the McDonalds that was open. They were only running the drive thru, and after about 15 minutes of waiting for them to take the order of the car in front of me, I gave up and continued east. I found a Hardees that was open in Ducktown, TN at about 6:00pm. The picture below is the bike in the Hardees parking lot- I took it while I was chowing down on a big burger.

As I started east again I crossed the NC state line and got into somewhat familiar territory. US74 and US64 are both options for getting across western NC, but 74 is much straighter and faster. When I got to the 74/64 split I knew that it was late in the day and that I should probably take the more direct route, but I opted for 64 instead. How could I pass up a chance to ride my new favorite motorcycle on one of the best riding roads in NC? Before it got dark, I had a great time zipping around on the curves. The little DR had spent most of the day on straight divided highways, so getting back to the mountain roads was fantastic.

Before too many of those mountain roads it started to get darker and colder. Then, it got really dark and really cold. In the curvy sections, I had to slow down quite a bit because my headlight wasn't showing me where the road was. At one point I was behind a big truck and I was able to go much faster since I could see where he was going. I made it into Asheville at around 10:00PM and was able to stay with my friends there. If I had been carrying camping gear, I would have probably stopped much sooner.

On the next morning I got some riding tips from little Theo (recent prison escapee and riding instructor) and was on my way. I had to stop by a store near the mall in Asheville, which is right were US70 comes into the east side of town. I took 70 to Black Mountain, then I-40 through the mountain pass to Old Fort. One of these days I'd like to ride on 64 from Hendersonville to Old Fort through Bat Cave, but this wasn't that day. The 64 option is the only way that I know of to get across the Eastern Continental Divide from my house without getting on 40 at all.

I was glad to be out of the post-apocalyptic zone and into normal electrical power, if for no other reason than that there were much better restaurants to choose from. I stopped at a little diner near Marion for a quick lunch, then made it home at around 1:00. It took about 2.5 hours of road time to get from Asheville to Hickory on that routing. The total mileage was 410, and I'm glad to have made it without any real trouble! My primary lessons from the trip were to not underestimate power outages, and to stay out of mountain roads at night. I can't wait to get the bike registered, serviced, and out on the road for adventures that are more story-worthy than this one!
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Old 05-06-2011, 01:18 PM   #2
Beastly Adventurer
klaviator's Avatar
Joined: May 2008
Location: Huntsville, AL
Oddometer: 6,730
Had I known that all power would be out, I would have topped off the tank and you could have gone an additional 10-20 miles before stopping. Glad you made it OK.

How did you like the Travelcade gel seat?

Just in case you are interested, I did go out yesterday and check out some of the apacolypse area. It was not pretty. Here's the link:
I ride, Therefore I Am.

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Old 05-07-2011, 10:26 PM   #3
jaredyates OP
Joined: Jun 2008
Location: Hickory, NC
Oddometer: 54
I like that seat for sure. I haven't ridden on the stock seat for long, and after that many miles I was ready to get off of that one, but for a dual sport I think it's rather comfy. I wasn't thinking about the seat at all for the first two tanks of fuel or so.
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Old 05-13-2011, 08:24 AM   #4
Liberia's Avatar
Joined: Mar 2010
Location: Murfreesboro, TN
Oddometer: 561
Hwy 64

I rode up from Tate, GA to Cashiers, NC with a good bit of the ride on HWY 64 on the Friday afternoon/evening following your trip. It's truly a beautiful highway but I fell into the same trap of letting dark catch me and became incredibly cold. It was painful.

Glad you made it back okay. Prayers for all the people in Alabama.
"You can get everything in life you want if you'll just help enough other people get what they want." Zig Ziglar

Join our 54 Tennessee State Parks Ride Collaborative! [My Ride Reports here.]
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