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Old 08-09-2011, 09:23 AM   #1
Skippii OP
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Laugh A Cat Herder goes to the Dragon (Ninja 250 Rally Ride Report)

After years of reading about it and looking at photographs, it was finally time for me to make the trip myself. The famous Route 129: the "Tail of the Dragon," featuring 318 curves in 11 miles, as counted by someone with a very liberal definition of "curve." A congested tourist trap of a road, with a 30 mph speed limit heavily enforced by police with "4 radar speed traps in 11 miles," one wouldn't be out of line to wonder why I'd make the 1,200 mile round trip for that one short stretch of road. But it's a beautiful ride down there, and you can take the Blue Ridge Parkway almost the entire way--and any excuse to take off work and go riding is enough motivation for me. So when ninja250forum.com organized a rally of Kawasaki Ninja 250 at the dragon, I decided to join in.

My trip began in true Cat Herder fashion: no definite decisions about when or where to meet others until just a few hours before. (For those who don't know, the Cat Herders are a Dual Sport group here on Adv in Virginia, known for their disorganization and inability to commit to anything. Someone once commented that getting together for a group ride was like herding cats.)

My bike had been running terribly recently, getting just 37 miles per gallon on the highway--about half what it should be getting. So the night before I left, I washed out and re-oiled the K&N air filter pods, and hoped that was the sole reason for it's poor economy. Oil level was topped up and other preride checks were performed. The front tire was looking a little old, but really hadn't changed condition at all since last year when I'd first thought about replacing it. Just weather damage, but still had great grip and plenty of tread. I figured this would be a good last run to make on the tire before changing it out.

While fighting off a bad cough and an annoying earache I hoped wasn't an infection, I'd managed to get about 7 hours sleep combined in the last two days, which is actually much better than I normally do before big rides. Got up early, packed everything up, and got ready to ride out the first leg of the trip...a short 60 mile interstate bit to meet up with fellow forumites Scorch and Novarosky.

This would also be my first real test of the charging system I'd made in an effort to avoid needing 3 different cables to charge my phone, MP3 player, and GPS.


I'd tested it in my bedroom before,



But not on the bike. I'm happy to say it worked perfectly the entire trip.



Just 19.7 miles out, my speedometer cable fell off from my speedometer and began to drag along the ground. Kind of an odd thing to come loose, but it was relatively easily reattached by the side of the road, and I was back on the bike 10 minutes later. I'm glad that happened though, because while I was reattaching it, I noticed something about my front tire. For the last 10,000 miles, it's had some weather checking on the tread, but it's never gotten any worse, and I've never had to worry about it. Three days before, I'd even talked about it with another motorcyclist, and neither of us were worried. But now, the tire had started to split apart on the sidewall. That hadn't been there a few days ago. The split was surprisingly deep and about 6 inches long. This picture doesn't really show it.


On one hand, I figured this tire, which I'd put on (used) a year and 10,000 miles ago, had never shown any change in wear or anything, and seemed to be about the most durable tire in the world, so a little split hardly seemed like anything to worry about, on the other hand was common sense, saying that a split that deep that develops in 3 days probably shouldn't be riden very hard for the next 3 days. I continued on the next 40 miles to meet up with Scorch and Novarosky. We all got there earlier than expected, something I don't think I've ever experienced before. I was going to suggest they continue on down the Parkway while I got the tire swapped out and took the Interstate down and meet them again in a few hours, while they suggested we just drop the bike off and get lunch together. Wayne Cycle shop was only a few miles down the road, and said they had one tire in stock that fit my bike and would be able to do it soon, so we dropped off the bike, checked out the other bikes in the shop (including the new CBR 250--the first bike in years to give the Ninja 250 any sales competition), then went out to eat. Nova took some of his bags off his bike and left them at the shop to make room for a passenger, and once we were all geared up, informed me that he'd never ever ridden with a passenger before, didn't wish to start now, and handed his keys over to me. That was actually my first time riding a New Generation Ninja. I don't really feel justified to make too many comparisons, though, as a passenger and sidebags probably change the handling more than a little.

Scorch led us to a nice little Mediterranean restaurant, where I had some very nice Ravioli.


I'd ridden with Scorch once before, years ago, but had never met Novarosky before. It was nice getting to know them. Funny to discover all of us were immigrants: Scorch from Portugal, myself from England, and Novarosky from Puerto Rico.

We returned to the shop, and my bike was ready. In all, it took longer for me to wait at the counter for the service tech to get off the phone and take my credit card (half a hour) than it did for them to change the tire.

From Waynesboro, we got gas and then it was only 2 or 3 miles to the Blue Ridge Parkway, where we headed south down the long, very winding road through the Appalachian mountains. We stopped a few times at the scenic overlooks, but mostly just rode at a moderately slow pace, enjoying the scenery. For me at least, this was the main reason for the vacation.




A gas stop. My 2005 in front, Novarosky's blue one in the middle, and Scorch's red one behind.

I'm happy to say that my motorcycle got up to 58mpg during the trip--much better than the 37 I'd gotten last week!

We also took a few detours on the parkway, hitting the top of Roanoke Mountain, as well as some others, including this overlook:


I have no idea what Scorch is doing there.


Novarosky:

That night we stayed at a Marriott Fairfield. Normally we'd all be camping, but with my discount, splitting a room three ways came to $13 each...hard to resist. In the morning, we continued on the parkway to Ashville, NC. Refuelling there, we decided to hop on I-40 to make up some time and avoid the Ashville traffic before taking US-19 west. Or so I thought. There may have been some miscommunication there. Scorch's GPS told us to turn left out of the gas station, while mine said to turn right. We all turned right, and I led to the interstate. While Scorch and Nova fell back behind some semi trucks, I pulled over to wait for them just before the exit to rt 19. After 10 minutes, I realized they weren't coming, so I turned back to make sure they were okay, and hadn't broken down or anything. I rode all the way back to Ashville, but never saw them. I took a short break, tried calling Nova's phone a few times, and then headed on, realizing they must have just taken an earlier exit.

I took rt 19 to rt 28, getting about 2 or 3 minutes of a refreshing sprinkle of rain on the way. Despite what was forecast, this was the only rain of the entire trip--and I was the only one to experience it.

I arrived at Deal's Gap motorcycle resort at 4:28pm, where I parked and spent a few minutes examining the area. The whole idea of the place is fascinating. As far as I can tell, some guy happened to notice that there were a huge number of car crashes along one stretch of an extremely twisty US highway, and decided there was money to be made from that. So he builds a small motel/restaurant/souvenir shop/gas station at the bottom of the road, and starts marketing it as the best road for motorcycling in the country. Some time after that, another guy has an idea, and starts spending all day, every day, just sitting in one of the tightest turns, and taking photographs of every single vehicle that passes. He then sells the photographs to the drivers/riders/truckers/bicyclists at $7.00 each. Thinking about how incredibly successful these two businesses have become, compared to all the incredible inventions and technical concepts that have failed miserably really makes you question your own career decisions. The motel is sold out months in advance, and there are now often between 6 and 8 different photographers on that stretch of road.
Anyway, before I set off to ride the dragon, I decided to take a break and relax. After all, it's not like any of the surrounding roads that lead to the Gap are much less twisty.

After a while of checking out the gift shop and other bikes, I met ESRtech, another forumite on a beautiful white New Gen 250. We went to the restaurant, where I, disappointed that they didn't serve milkshakes, settled for a slice of deep-fried cheesecake. I'm not entirely sure what to make of it...it looked like an egg roll served with whipped cream:


But sure enough, there was cheesecake inside:


As I was eating, Scorch and Nova showed up. They had indeed taken an earlier exit, and had just set up camp nearby. They left to ride the Dragon, while I finished my cheesecake, and also set off on my first dragon run. Initial impressions: That's a hell of a lot of turns. The most amazing part, though, is the amazing skill level of the other riders. I'm not a slow rider myself, but watching the others leaves me in awe. As I'm doing my best just to stay in my lane at a decent clip, some oncoming guy on a GSXR overtakes an SUV midturn at 90mph, knee dragging on the ground, hanging off the bike with one hand, simultaneously tapping his helmet with the other hand to warn me that there's a cop running radar a few turns ahead.
After I returned back to the resort, we met up with Oroboros and DaBlue1. We chatted for a bit over dinner, for which I had the worst cheeseburger I've ever had in my life, and then we rode up the dragon together. The others then rode back, while Oroboris and I continued up the Foothills Parkway, as I went to my hotel and he went home.

The hotel was a very nice one, but I still wasn't able to sleep well. My throat infection had returned, giving me frequent coughing fits whenever I tried to sleep.
Finally I did fall asleep a few hours before I got my 6:30am wakeup call, when I discovered, with great annoyance, that my left eye was now swollen shut. Waking up from a position where that eye had been against the pillow into which I'd spend the last few hours coughing, it wasn't hard to conclude that I'd most likely managed to give myself viral conjunctivitis from my bronchitis (as much as I'd like to blame it on that terrible cheeseburger, I'm glad that I did in fact suffer no ill aftereffects from it). After several minutes of washing out the pus, I was able to open my left eye to a squint, giving me enough depth perception to feel confident riding the motorcycle.

Oroboros and I met up around 7:15 at the parkway, and continued on through the dragon to the resort, where as I worked to seal off the vents on my helmet (as the wind flow was severely irritating it) he kindly gave me a bottle of Visine. As we waited and had some food, other people from Ninja250forum, Ninjette, and the NewNinja forums slowly trickled in.
Twelve of us in all on Ninja 250s finally grouped up and prepared to go for a ride.




Oroboris led us on a wonderful ride across the Cherohola Skyway, and....lots of other places.





Later that evening, we met up again for a short ride to watch the sun set from a weather station or something at the top of a mountain. I'd left my camera attached to Scorch's bike, so other's will have much better pictures than these from my phone:




After the sunset, I had a very dissapointing milkshake at the Sonic next to my house, and went to bed, hoping get enough rest to be able to fully open my eye. It took me a while to fall asleep, but I finally did, and it felt so good that I decided to skip the morning ride and continue sleeping. When I finally had to check out, my eye was swollen shut again, but less painful than the previous day and with lots of washing and Visine soon opened up and allowed me to see without too much blurring.

I road back down the Dragon to grab breakfast at the resort, and get some pictures.

Me:


So what if every single other person there hates them? That resort is still the only place to eat for half an hour in any direction.


I had some good chats with fellow bike riders:



These guys did about 4 Dragon runs every hour for 4 guys. You could always hear them leaving with that dry clutch...





Wait...what's that behind the Buell....?
Is someone showing up late to the 250 rally?


Yep, a hot 250 riding redhead! I talked to her a bit about the forum and the rally...she'd never heard of any of the forums and had no idea about the rally, and didn't seem particularly interested in any of them...at least until I said "you should check them out, since your picture will be posted on them tomorrow."


I then continued on and rode 129 south, rode the Skyway again, and then rode up 28 again, before doing the dragon one final time.

Originally, I'd thought about riding Parson's Branch, an off-road trail that empties out onto the dragon, so after that longish ride I just did, I stopped by the resort to ask about it. The guy said it was a nice ride, but it was about an hour ride just to the entrance to the forest, then another hour or so to the trail head, and then another 1 or 2 hours of the trail--not exactly the quick run I'd expected! I still would have done it, had he not pointed out that it would probably be dark before I finished. After thinking about it for a while, I finally decided to eat dinner and head home instead.

The ride home was not very exciting. I took the highway almost the entire time, stopping only for gas and milkshakes:

as well as to pour Visine in my eye:


It really does seem to *help, as the redness in that picture is MUCH less than it was before. I know it's not actually helping the infection, but it does temporarily help my vision, which is good for riding in the dark.
This was the first time I think I'd ever ridden my bike nonstop for a full tank of gas, about 192 miles, which is about 3 hours. Takes some creative sitting positions to avoid getting cramps, but otherwise really wasn't bad. Not something I'd do if I hadn't gotten a good night's sleep before, but since I was feeling alert and comfortable, I didn't really feel a need to stop otherwise. I was getting between 45 and 50mpg on the highway, maintaining about 73mph the whole way (3 over...I've gone this far without a ticket, no need to get one now). I'm pretty sure it's just my gearing and that giant topcase killing my gas mileage, since maintaining 50mph got me 58 mpg with the same conditions and luggage.

I finally pulled into my driveway at 3:39am, took a shower, uploaded my photos, and them went to bed and most likely woke up my roommates with coughing fits while I slept and dreamt of the wonderful time I had during the Ninja 250 Rally and ride. *

Arriving home:

Final trip stats:
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Old 08-09-2011, 11:21 AM   #2
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Laugh dragon tamer

Sounds like a great ride. I was on the dragon in late May. NO police apart from the car at the very bottom and the 'officer; was asleep.
8.30am and with slightly wet roads, it was a blast. Average 65 mph on the straight bits. That seems slow but I was on a fully loaded gold wing, and as you know, there ain't many straights in 11 miles.

A month later I was on highway 101 and Highway 1.... similar road at 7pm.... spooky on my own..

Did you take al look at your pics on the pro picture site???? $1 a pic for downloads.
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Old 08-09-2011, 04:14 PM   #3
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rode parson's branch before,cool road.
it's one way,starts in cade's cove,comes out on the dragon.
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Old 08-09-2011, 04:18 PM   #4
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It looks like you had a great trip Skippii, thanks for shareing. I have to got to get down there one day.
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Old 08-09-2011, 04:26 PM   #5
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Nice one Skippii. I especially enjoyed the ATGATT outfit of the young lady on the 250 ninja you came across.
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Old 08-09-2011, 06:27 PM   #6
Skippii OP
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Road2Manchester View Post

Did you take al look at your pics on the pro picture site???? $1 a pic for downloads.
$1???
Killboy, 129slayer, and US129photos are $7/each, Moonshinephoto is $6/pic.

here are a few of them.










I love how in this pic, I'm clearly enjoying my ride, taking it easy, while Paul(?), just a few yards behind, is clearly in the mood for a more spirited ride!



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Old 08-09-2011, 06:28 PM   #7
Skippii OP
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Nice one Skippii. I especially enjoyed the ATGATT outfit of the young lady on the 250 ninja you came across.
Yeah, I thought about asking her if her jeans looked like that when she started the ride...
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Old 08-10-2011, 05:49 AM   #8
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Skippi,

Nice read over my morning coffee. I was going to say how I enjoy your unique vision on things but it seems in poor taste now.
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Old 08-10-2011, 03:04 PM   #9
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Skippi,

Nice read over my morning coffee. I was going to say how I enjoy your unique vision on things but it seems in poor taste now.
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Old 08-10-2011, 05:44 PM   #10
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Nice report Skippii :)
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Old 08-12-2011, 09:00 AM   #11
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Enjoyed. Thanks Skippii
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Old 08-12-2011, 10:59 AM   #12
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Nice ride skipii ,no breakdowns amazing!! I had an eye thing like that a little while back the special drops that cleared them up were 160 bucks! I have the rest left over if you need some.
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Old 08-12-2011, 01:54 PM   #13
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Happy you enjoyed the ride.
It's the kind of place I would avoid like the plague!
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Old 08-12-2011, 02:02 PM   #14
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Happy you enjoyed the ride.
It's the kind of place I would avoid like the plague!
Lyle
His motorcycle or 129?
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Old 08-13-2011, 05:33 PM   #15
Skippii OP
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Nice ride skipii ,no breakdowns amazing!! I had an eye thing like that a little while back the special drops that cleared them up were 160 bucks! I have the rest left over if you need some.
Several years ago I had a similar thing, and went to a doctor. Had a wonderful conversation with him:

Me: I think I have conjunctivitis
Doc: Yeah, looks like it. I'll give you a perscription for antibiotic eyedrops.
Me: Okay. Thanks. [pause] Isn't conjunctivitis usually viral?
Doc: Yeah, often.
Me: So...what if it it is viral?
Doc: Then the eyedrops won't work.

At first, I thought this was kinda strange, but further reseach revealed that the antibiotics eyedrops don't really do anything for bacterial conjunctivitis, either. Viral and bacterial Conjuctivitis clears up in 4 days on its own. With anitbiotic eyedrops, bacterial clears up in 3.5 days.
This is why I no longer go to doctors. I'll go to hospitals for life-threatening things, but otherwise I won't go, and haven't in years.
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