Corporate Sponsored GS’s Ride the Appalachians

By Ray Crampton | Raleigh, NC

[Ed: Under the handle, “rcrampton”, Ray posted this ride report to the “Day Trippin’” section of the AdvRider.com Forum on 3/24/2015. It has been edited for publication. All photos by the author unless stated otherwise.]

The planning was made easy by this book Deep gave me last Christmas.
The planning was made easy by this book Deep gave me last Christmas.

A friend/coworker (Pradeep, AKA Deep) and I are going through a strange turn of events at work while transitioning out of our current jobs. For the next couple of weeks we have only 1-2 hours per day of work and it can be taken care of remotely. The obvious idea jumped out: “let’s do a ride!”

A couple of hours of planning, a couple of hours to pack, and we’re on our way!

flmay201501The Route:

  • Ride from Raleigh to Cherokee on I40. Blah, but not bad when you’re still on the payroll!
  • Ride the Blue Ridge Parkway south to north
  • Skip up to Winchester and ride south to Monterey which should be gorgeous.
  • Loop around the Greenbrier area, through Cass, etc.
  • Loop around the Staunton area
  • Ride south to the Marion/Abingdon area
  • Find a route home

For the visually inclined, like me, check the map…

We left in the afternoon, stopping for dinner of decent burgers at The Trailhead in Black Mountain, NC:
We left in the afternoon, stopping for dinner of decent burgers at The Trailhead in Black Mountain, NC:

Day 2

With a special thanks to our corporate sponsors, we worked… 30 minutes each today and rode over 8 hours. If only this could go on for more than a few weeks…

Sorting out why the heated gloves aren’t working. We will be riding down into the 30’s.
Sorting out why the heated gloves aren’t working. We will be riding down into the 30’s.

After arriving at the hotel late last night, 11:45pm, we got a full night’s sleep. Regardless, it wasn’t easy pulling me out of bed, even at 9am.

The weather app said it was in the mid 40’s so we took our time at breakfast, giving flmay201505the world a chance to warm up. As you can see, this Microtel had motorcycle parking. Lucky for us it was in the sun so the bikes were warmed up and ready to go. We departed on the late side, 11am. The flmay201506camera’s autofocus seemed to put a priority on the motorcycles, so I think I bought the right camera for these trips.

The first mile marker at the southern terminus of the BRP is as good as it gets for the start of a full day of riding!

You can see why they call these “Smoky Mountains”.
You can see why they call these “Smoky Mountains”.

Not long after this overlook we came to the Devil’s Courthouse section, where the BRP was closed, around mile marker 423. We had to take a fairly long detour around this section, and another short section that

Along the way we passed this cool bridge which reminds me of the crazy things people ride across on round-the-world trips, so I had to ride it.
Along the way we passed this cool bridge which reminds me of the crazy things people ride across on round-the-world trips, so I had to ride it.

was closed, so we had it our way at Burger King: quick.

We got back on the parkway at 4pm. So far we had ridden a whopping 46 miles of the BRP and it felt like the day was over. We kicked it up and rode almost nonstop until 7:15pm, when we got off at

Still a sunny day when we crossed the highest elevation of the BRP just before noon.
Still a sunny day when we crossed the highest elevation of the BRP just before noon.

MM248, hoping to stay at Iron Horse Station to get a large dinner and crash for the night. No dice, it’s not open for the season yet. We had to exit there anyway to take the next and final detour around a closed section. An hour later we ended flmay201510up at the Best Western in Elkin with dinner at the Cracker Barrel across the street.

We started the day pretty rough on the sweeping turns but got things smoothed out and feeling great by the time we signed off. Tomorrow looks like rain and mid-40s temperature-wise. We will hope to at least stay dry on the inside. I’m trying a new rain gear setup that is as yet untested.

Day 3

We really enjoyed some of the green scenery.
We really enjoyed some of the green scenery.

Another thank-you to our most awesome corporate sponsors. I got a voice mail from my boss that essentially said, “Sorry we haven’t talked in a while, if you need anything you know where to find me.” I called and

The parkway has a number of tunnels and bridges, but this one was especially nice. The old wooden fences lining the road, the perspective of the curved road passing through, was all perfect.
The parkway has a number of tunnels and bridges, but this one was especially nice. The old wooden fences lining the road, the perspective of the curved road passing through, was all perfect.

fortunately went to voice mail, “Hey, thanks for the call. Everything is going great on my end.” Deep put in a solid 45 minutes. Another great day on the clock!

Today was truly amazing. Had you told us what the flmay201513weather would be like, we’d never have guessed that this would be one of the best riding days of our lives.

  • Cold – check, 30’s to 40’s
  • Heated gear
    A nice pic of Deep relaxing on a break. 15 minute break, no cars.
    A nice pic of Deep relaxing on a break. 15 minute break, no cars.

    problems – check, one of Deep’s gloves was working at 50%, the other not at all

  • Fog  – check, came in late and stayed until 2pm, then came in again before dusk
  • Rain – check
  • Rain suit problems
    This rather odd house/church/sniper tower caught our eye. 
    This rather odd house/church/sniper tower caught our eye.

    – check, the zipper in the top of my Frog Toggs went out last June, after only a dozen trips; the zipper in the bottoms was flaking out today, only a few uses later.

flmay201516
Some trees, without leaves, let you see an incredible amount of detail that would be overlooked as soon as leaves sprout in April. These two in particular caught my eye.

But, even with those working against us we had some truly awesome scenery. There is stillness at the transition from winter to spring, when it is cold and wet outside, the trees haven’t yet come back to life, and nature is still buttoned down. We had the parkway to ourselves, measuring single digit cars/hour while we rode. Road conditions were excellent, even if wet. I won’t try to ineloquently put it into words. Hopefully the pics below do the day some justice.

We got an earlier start today, leaving about 10:15. The ride to the flmay201518parkway was 30 minutes then we were hauling butt, really digging the twisties. It was chilly but visibility was great, the road was great and we were having the time of our lives.

We took the short detour to Mill Mountain to check out the Roanoke Star. It’s a little cheesy, but I grew up in Roanoke and it was nice to see it again.
We took the short detour to Mill Mountain to check out the Roanoke Star. It’s a little cheesy, but I grew up in Roanoke and it was nice to see it again.
flmay201519
The road is perfectly clean but there are leaves covering the ground on each side, creating a texture to the ground that reminds us of fall but with a contrast of feeling like a cold, wet, winter day yet we know spring is almost upon us.

About 10am a heavy fog set in. It’s unusual to see it set in this late and it stayed around until about 2pm. We ran into fog patches off and on all day, keeping our speed in check quite often but providing some truly awesome scenery. Seriously, the fog was a blessing, not a curse. 35mph was about as fast as we could roll through this.

We stopped for lunch around MM200 at highway 52. There’s an awesome diner there, be sure to check it out. The hash flmay201520 flmay201521 flmay201522browns were NOT out of a bag in the freezer. We’re talking fresh grated potatoes. The rest of the meal was just as good.

Late in the afternoon we passed through this grove of trees. The sun was peeking out of the clouds, coming down at an angle that lit up one side of all of the trees. I stopped as quickly as I could but the sun was already diffused by clouds again. Still, this is a nice view.

We revisited the route plan at dinner today; it was Cracker Barrel again! Deep wants to be back to Raleigh Saturday night for the Cricket World Cup. I will probably keep riding. So, we decided to work in some variety in the ride tomorrow and will skip Skyline Drive and instead head to the Staunton – Monterey – Cass – Covington kind of area.

hope everyone enjoys reading as much as we’ve enjoyed writing and sharing.

Sticky side down, one day at a time

Day 4

There is a ton of pasture, dairy farms, beef, sheep, horses, goats.... A lot like this.
There is a ton of pasture, dairy farms, beef, sheep, horses, goats…. A lot like this.

Special thanks to our corporate sponsors, I worked 15 minutes; Deep worked 90 minutes. We had 8 hours in the saddle. Great VM from my manager today: “Ray, I got your message, thanks. It doesn’t sound like you need anything from me so I

Some rolling hills near that valley.
Some rolling hills near that valley.

was just letting you know I got your message.” Really nice guy, and cool that we only talk monthly.

Deep was up at 7am today. What’s up with that? We got a slightly earlier start, getting on the road

A nice valley on the WV side.
A nice valley on the WV side.

before 10am, going towards Staunton. There’s a really cool historic area down there. We didn’t stop to take pics but if you go by, ride through, rather than around Staunton.

We rode some sweet,

We were very surprised to run into a lot of patches of snow throughout the day. It would be over 60 degrees outside, warm and sunny yet a patch of snow on the hill nearby. They got hammered a few weeks ago and some still remains.
We were very surprised to run into a lot of patches of snow throughout the day. It would be over 60 degrees outside, warm and sunny yet a patch of snow on the hill nearby. They got hammered a few weeks ago and some still remains.

rolling hills with gentle curves all over VA and WV in this area today. The VA side tended to be more rolling meadows, the WV side more rugged and rocky. We did more riding and less picture taking today but here are a few to share. Lighting was

A lot of the roads we followed ran parallel to creeks. So, much of the day we had nice views of creeks with good flow. This one was one of the wider ones for sure, most were several feet across.
A lot of the roads we followed ran parallel to creeks. So, much of the day we had nice views of creeks with good flow. This one was one of the wider ones for sure, most were several feet across.

generally not that good when I took pics, but it was a sweet day of riding.

The route on my map above is awesome. All of it. Enjoy it if you want a pavement ride out there.

We had a few sprinkles of rain here

Most were more like this.
Most were more like this.

and there throughout the day. I put my rain gear on to be safe but never really needed it. We hit Franklin, WV around lunch time and, after running through town, nothing really jumped out at us. We chose the Fox’s Pizza Den on the north end of Main St. The food was good; the owner Pamela was a riot. She made us feel like we had been locals for our entire lives. If you’re ever in town, stop in and chat her up; you’ll be glad you did.

flmay201529We came across Green Bank, which has a radio astronomy tour, exhibit and of course telescopes. The precision with which they have to tackle engineering problems is

This baby has a 2.3 acre mirror that is made up of 2,000 individual mirrors with precision alignment motors on each. Cool stuff (and lots of tax money.
This baby has a 2.3 acre mirror that is made up of 2,000 individual mirrors with precision alignment motors on each. Cool stuff (and lots of tax money.
flmay201531
Nearby is Cass, WV. This whole area is a haven for motorcyclists with Cass being a central point. Cass was founded in 1900 with the primary productivity being lumber at a local mill which you can see the ruins of in this photo:

impressive. Deep is a materials science engineer by training, me an electrical engineer. We can really appreciate the technical accomplishments. That said, we have to scratch our heads on why it’s so imperative to tax us and spend it on this stuff. Better save this topic for another thread…

In its heyday in the early 1900’s and later, it employed ~150 people, ran two shifts of 11 hours each and produced 100,000 ft of lumber

A benefit of being there outside of tourist season is that we could get a picture of an old iron horse next to our newer steeds.
A benefit of being there outside of tourist season is that we could get a picture of an old iron horse next to our newer steeds.

per day. Impressive. The mill was powered by a steam engine of its own. The railroad, which is what Cass is primarily known for, was to transport the lumber out. They still run a steam locomotive up and down the track during tourist season, later this year.

Coming into Hot Springs, VA, we passed the Omni Homestead Resort. Impressive!
Coming into Hot Springs, VA, we passed the Omni Homestead Resort. Impressive!

We got on down the road towards Hot Springs and noticed that an 18-wheeler pulling a large tanker was right on our tail. We were on a curvy road and hitting the corners pretty hard. 55mph on a corner marked 30mph kind of speeds. Certainly

I’m more of a nature guy than a country club guy these days, so I found the steam coming out of the ground in town to be more interesting:
I’m more of a nature guy than a country club guy these days, so I found the steam coming out of the ground in town to be more interesting:

not at our limit, but we were pushing much faster than we thought an 18-wheeler could ever possibly run. This guy stuck with us for maybe 10 miles until we parted ways. I wanted to buy that dude a drink, maybe another day. Maybe I’ll run into him at an autocross event where he’s rockin’ his truck, tanker and all.

We boogied out of there and made our way down 220 towards Covington. I pushed a passing zone a bit hard and came way too close to sending myself into a guard rail. I’m amazed, and thankful at the stopping power of these Tourances in the rain. My wife and mom (different people, thank you) may be reading this, so I’ll leave out the rest of the details. We ended up rolling all the way to Daleville, VA, to my parent’s house for tonight. We hit pretty consistent rain on the way down. My glasses and visor were wet and foggy, the road was wet, and visibility was terrible. Between the near hit of a guard rail at Mach 2 and issues due to visibility, we both agreed today had more serious risk issues than we’ve maybe ever had in a day before. We took note for the future; we should have parked the bikes and chilled at a hotel instead. Bad decision but we were lucky, a few times.

Deep decided to keep on back home to Raleigh to take care of some things tomorrow. Thanks for the ride, partner. We will do it again before you move to CA. If you can swing the trip to Alaska, I’m in. Just let me know when we leave.

I’m doing some fix-ups for my parents tonight and tomorrow and will hit the road again tomorrow or Saturday. Depending on the weather and my mood I’ll maybe go across VA to the coast, maybe back over to WV, maybe Blacksburg, not sure.

The ride will continue, thanks for reading y’all!

Day 5

Homebase today has some nice views; I snapped one pic looking out in the front.
Homebase today has some nice views; I snapped one pic looking out in the front.

Thanks to my corporate sponsor, I did 15 solid minutes of work on this, my last formal day in corporate America. It’s been an awesome career, I’ve loved it. Truly. I turned in my notice several weeks ago with plans to spend the next few

The sun came out of the clouds and really lit up the wet, green pastures and freshly washed and glistening graveyard below. Hard to capture on film, but here goes.
The sun came out of the clouds and really lit up the wet, green pastures and freshly washed and glistening graveyard below. Hard to capture on film, but here goes.

years enjoying life. I’m planning the TAT this fall, starting late August on my XR650L, and maybe Alaska between now and then on my 1150GS. I’ve got a few more months of pay coming from this sponsor. I’m gonna get a couple of weeks of paddling in British

did a double take on this, a tree growing out of the top of this... this, whatever it is. I grew up here and probably drove by this 100 times and never saw this in its younger days of growth.
did a double take on this, a tree growing out of the top of this… this, whatever it is. I grew up here and probably drove by this 100 times and never saw this in its younger days of growth.

Columbia, more motorcycling, a week of human-powered cycling, and am producing a podcast on literature, “In the Margins”, with a good friend. Couldn’t be better!

flmay201538
Further down the road this chimney caught my eye. Every angle had nice lighting and shadow effects. Here’s one picture I liked.

Due to a lot of weather alerts and a threatening forecast, I decided to crash with my parents for today. As you’ll see later, while it rained all morning, it turned out to be a nice day, partly sunny even. After sleeping in, I started working on my stack of Rider magazines. The

Another half hour down the road in Catawba, there was a gorgeous view of a stream going through a valley. Again, hard to capture this on camera, but it was a nice scene.
Another half hour down the road in Catawba, there was a gorgeous view of a stream going through a valley. Again, hard to capture this on camera, but it was a nice scene.

Honda NM4 looks like a cool concept and a good strategic move in terms of having a motorcycle that is an easy transition for the newer generation of drivers that have never used a manual transmission. These pansy city boys need

Finally, this log cabin caught my wife’s eye, and mine when we drove by once. We plan to build a log home of our own one day, but aren’t sure when we feel like taking that one on.
Finally, this log cabin caught my wife’s eye, and mine when we drove by once. We plan to build a log home of our own one day, but aren’t sure when we feel like taking that one on.

it easy or they won’t try. Once they come over, we can MAN THEM THE @$!& UP.

My mom and I went to the BBQ Grill and Sauce Company for lunch, over in Vinton, VA. The guy who owns this place helped me buy my first motorcycle, a 1994 Ninja 600, which I bought in 1995. He went to pick it up and rode it home for me. It’s been downhill since.  He bought this BBQ house last September and I was glad to finally eat there today and see Ryan. It’s been probably 15 years since we last talked in person. If you go through Roanoke, consider dropping in. The BBQ is great and be sure to chat up Ryan, the owner; he can talk motorcycles for hours and is a rider at the core.

I helped mom with a few other odds and ends: wireless printer setup, some smartphone debug, carrying heavy stuff around the house, some plumbing help, etc.

I did manage a couple of hours of riding late in the afternoon, coming home just after dark set in. It rained all morning, but the sun was out after about 1pm and I was really jonesing to get back on the bike. I snapped a few pics of things that jumped out at me, but mostly I just rode the road.

At this point I’m planning to ride out tomorrow, in 30-degree but hopefully sunny weather, and head across Virginia and maybe back home tomorrow night.

For now I’m going to enjoy some of Mom’s homemade, from scratch pizza, to finish off an awesome food day. Nothing against Cracker Barrel, but this was REAL food!!!

Final Day

For the final day, it was pretty cold. My heated jacket was working intermittently. Either the connection to the battery is intermittent, or, more likely the battery or jacket side of the plug is intermittent. It would run for a while, and then stop. When I got cold, I knew it was time to fiddle with it again. My right heated glove was also intermittent so I alternated between comfy enough versus numb all day.

I do have 20 years as an electrical engineer. I guess I’ll figure this one out pronto so I can keep riding in comfort.

So, I kept the speeds down and enjoyed the scenery as I wandered east across VA and then around the hills and countryside around Danville, South Boston, and other areas in the region. There’s a lot of nice riding in these here parts.

I managed to meander home about o’ dark thirty with my wife waiting anxiously to get in the hot tub and hear about the trip.

I didn’t take any pics today since I mostly had no feeling or dexterity in my fingers. Also, it was a day where I just felt like riding and, given I’ve ridden these areas more times than I can count; nothing was jumping out at me.

Final tallies:

  • Duration: 6 days
  • Distance: just over 1,600 miles
  • Nicest section: Blue Ridge Parkway to ourselves, rounded the rear tire back off
  • Camera: Sony DSC-RX100 iii — I can’t say enough good about this beast. What an upgrade over my 10 year old DSLR.
  • Best part: getting one more ride in with my riding buddy, Deep, before he moves off to the Bay area. It was fun man!

Looking forward:

  • Planning my TAT trip in August, though it doesn’t look like you need to plan much.
  • Looking at when to schedule in an Alaska trip
  • Thinking about TDF. I’m not sure I want to do a trip that long but it seems like the kind of trip I’d like to do at some point in my life.
  • Looking at when to do a trip around the west from here.

Thanks to those who have read and followed along, I hope you’ve enjoyed it and I look forward to reading about your trips.

 

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