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Mark Menard (Vita Rara)

Delivery is Tough Work or Mark and Sylva's Big Adventure (Lots of Pics)

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Mark Menard (Vita Rara)

Last week was pretty amazing. Actually the past month has been pretty amazing. I offered my friend Sylva a ride on the RT at the beginning of July, and it went very well. As a friend of mine said, "motorcycle magic."

 

Anyway, Sylva did so well on her first ride on July 3rd that I asked her if she'd like to ride to TN with me to deliver my friends GL1100 Goldwing to their new home. Happily Sylva accepted. She's a true trooper.

 

Here's our mighty stead sitting next to the RT in the garage:

 

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I have wanted to be able to share this experience of traveling on the bike with someone special for a long time. Basically since I got the travel bug. I'm very lucky that Sylva has the adventurous spirit she has, to set out for a five day, 1,300 mile motorcycle trip, for her second ride on a bike, with a guy she's been dating for three weeks. We're nuts, but hey we're having fun.

 

So, after a few weeks of frantic preparation and ordering of riding gear, helmet, gloves, etc. for Sylva we were ready to depart. The plan was 500 or so miles of highways to get to the northern end of the Blue Ridge Parkway, then ride the parkway to Cherokee, NC in three days. Then one day from Cherokee to Nashville, TN.

 

We sort of stuck to the plan. Wish we had completely stuck to it. Things only got hairy when we varied from it. First lesson, stick to the plan.

 

Saturday, our first day was uneventful other then construction in PA, The Construction State. One hour, eight miles. Uggh. Anyway, 520 miles down and Sylva was in great shape. (Her first ride on a bike was 150 miles and she was beat after we were done. Today, her second ride, she did 520 miles and was in great shape. She's awesome.)

 

Syl got pretty comfortable. She fell asleep a few times on me. I threatened to bungy cord her to me. wink.gif I was just so happy that she was comfortable, and relaxed for the duration of the ride. We didn't have intercoms so it was a pretty lonely day of looking at the back of a plain white helmet.

 

Sunday brought us to the BRP, the reason we were here. We ascended into the clouds and departed the rushed and busy world for a place of tranquility and natural beauty.

 

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The prediction was for rain. We didn't get any all day! We skipped between storm clouds and road on some wet pavement, but never got rained on. As the day progressed the skies opened more and the sun shined. There was a lot of haze though. The Blue Ridge is well known for this, hey it's how it got its name.

 

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The highlight of the day was a stop at Otter Creek. This place holds a special place in my heart. It where I conceived of my Way Point Zulu on my Return to Sanity Tour (I II III IV V VI VII VIII IX X XI XII XIII ) last year. Sylva immediately connected with its special character.

 

A view north from the overlook:

 

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Sylva:

 

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Sylva contemplating an amazing place:

 

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Me:

 

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Traffic was very light on the Parkway. Just the way I like and remember it. One thing that is really nice about riding this road is that if you stop at the overlooks you get to meet people, and you'll see the same people all day long. It is such a special place.

 

Some riders:

 

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The weather was a bit overcast so landscape photography wasn't really at its best. So I had to settle wink.gif for photos like this:

 

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From about this point out Sylva took charge of the Digital Rebel. I had to settle for my poor 17 year old Canon EOS 620 with slide film. (Film isn't developed yet, so pretty much the rest of the pictures from this point on are Syl's. She really took to the camera like a natural.)

 

A wild flower:

 

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We stayed overnight at Rocky Knob Cabins just a short ride off of the Parkway. We met a riding couple, David and Donna, during dinner at Mabry Mills. Turns out we were in opposite sections of a duplex cabin. David made a camp fire and we stayed up talking about life, riding, friends, and the universe. As the evening ended fog rolled in and wrapped us in its hold. The night was quiet and tranquil as only a country night can be. Light rain on a cabin roof, what sweet sounds.

 

Day three was great! Our planned ride was from Rocky Knob to Linville Falls. We thought about doing Grandfather Mountain, but time didn't allow. It will have to wait for another day.

 

We met David and Donna on the road.

 

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I was really starting to get comfortable on the Wing now. We'd learned that we needed to check the air suspension to be sure it had proper pressure in it. There was a bit more traffic on the Parkway today. We came upon a line of three GL1500's pulling trailers really dogging it. So, I decided it was time to work the line. I frequently hesitate about passing bikes, but these guys were just riding too slow and really had nasty lines through the curves. The first two were easy work, but the last guy decided that he wanted to ride my ride. I really don't like it when people do that. He finally gave up and let me pass. I think he finally realized that although he had the bigger engine we were just faster overall.

 

It's interesting how the character of the road, and the environs change when you cross into NC. We crossed the border today and I breathed deeply. I really love NC. Sylva reminded me that this is the sixth time I've been in NC in the past 12 months.

 

We stopped at Raven Rocks Overlook. If you're on the Parkway it's well worth a stop:

 

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Sylva's a real crafter, so we stopped at the craft center along the parkway near Blowing Rock. Here she is on the porch of the center:

 

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Our fourth day brought rain. We started out from Linville Falls with a light sprinkle and road through scattered showers most of the day.

 

We climbed Mount Mitchell. It was pretty well fogged in. Someday I'll get up there on a blue sky day.

 

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We got off the Parkway in Asheville to get some yarn for Sylva. (She's working on an afghan.) Due to the rain we decided to take Route 74 west and head straight to Cherokee. *BZZZTT* First mistake. The highway system on the west side of Asheville is not a cluster *&^% it's a Right Cluster *&^%. It had mostly cleared up, and we should have headed back to the Parkway. Lesson number two: Stay away from cities. If you have to enter them, enter and leave quickly, and return whence you came.

 

We finally got back on the Parkway off of Route 74. We both breathed a great sigh of relief. We were back in our element. The weather was clearing when we got to the Thunder Struck Ride overlook. We must have sat there for 30 to 45 minutes drinking it in as the clouds moved past, the sun streamed in, and the weather evolved before us.

 

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Then we stopped at Big Witch overlook which faces north toward the Great Smoky Mountain National Park.

 

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Day five was tough. It started real good. We headed from Cherokee up to Deals Gap. We didn't have time to run the Dragon, but we're going to come back on the RT and remedy that! smile.gif

 

Some pictures from the overlook on NC-28 west of the NC-28/US-129 intersection:

 

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The obligatory pics at Deals Gap:

 

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They've made a lot of changes at Deals Gap since I've been there. They added on a restaurant, enlarged the parking lot and added an unloading ramp. Nice improvements overall, unless you're camping. There's definitely less isolation from the parking lot for campers now.

 

From Deals Gap we headed for the Cherohala Skyway. I love this road. Syl loves it too. It's just an amazing ride. The views aren't the best I've experienced. It was pretty hazy and cloudy when we were up there.

 

Here we are at the mile high overlook:

 

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Here's a picture of one of the locals:

 

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From Tellico Plains we headed west on TN-39 to TN-30. David clued us in to these roads. Thanks David, they are great great roads. TN-30 was especially fun. We were really getting comfy on the Wing at that point dragging the center stand though several of the curves.

 

Now our mistake on this day was not listening to Mr. Baker. David advised that once we reached US-70S we should head north on back roads. It was the end of a long five day ride for both of us, my first two up trip, and Syl's second ride on a bike. So, stupid me thinks, "let's stick to main roads. They'll be easier." *BZZZTT* dopeslap.gif

 

I disregarded David's advice and got too close to Nashville before turning north towards our destination in Portland, TN. We got caught in stop and go traffic and heat. We were both tired and ready to end our day. Finally we broke out of the congestion and arrived in the rolling hills of northern TN. It's too bad we were too tired to appreciate it.

 

We arrived safely at my friends place in TN, approximately 1,350 miles. The Wing only slightly worse for the ride. (We told Amy we'd customized the center stand for them.)

 

Sylva did amazingly well. She's hooked. This really was a special ride for me. As I said I've wanted someone to share this experience with. A kindred spirit. A fellow adventurer. Life is good. Sylva you rock. Thanks so much.

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StretchMark

That's great Mark! It's a very special thing to be able to share the adventure with someone (especially on a motorcycle on those awesome roads thumbsup.gif).

 

Sorry we could not meet you up there. Next time!

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Ron_B

Great roads, a motorcycle, a camera and love.

 

Thats what I call a Ride Tale!

 

Thanks for sharing. cool.gif

 

 

btw, awesome pics! thumbsup.gif

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Berkley

Hello folks - I'm Sylva. I have already been introduced to many of you in photos or stories =)

welcome.gif

 

What a month. I’ve been waiting for a couple years to go riding...my parents both used to ride (my mom a BMW!), and my grandparents STILL ride, on an 1100 Valkyrie. I knew it was something I wanted to do – but never had the opportunity. So when I realized that I could, I jumped. Never dreamed that a month later I’d be riding a 5-day, 1300-mile trip with Mark!! (and to one of my favorite places no less – the Blue Ridge Pkwy and NC!)

 

It was a challenge, and also straightforward. Funny how easy it was for me to get used to riding...even after 520 miles that first day, I just needed some food and was ready for more. It was pretty amazing that we got through our trip in such good shape...well, except for the last afternoon :coughcough: wink.gif

 

That, and I need to find out more about what sort of underwear women recommend, because that much pressure and sweat day in and day out left me not-so-comfortable! But I figured out how to keep my hair back, and stayed relatively cool in mesh. And I drink gallons of water, so that camelback kept me sane....

 

And yes, I did fall asleep. Poor Mark didn’t like that during curves...Mark says that maybe at some point a Goldwing with armrests will be in order! But I’m threatening to learn to ride a bike of my own...any suggestions for a woman of 5’2 stature??

 

I had a blast with the camera, and just wish we’d gotten a chance to get some shots from our last day in TN, the amazing roads and views of Rtes-39 and 30.

 

Now, I’ve come home with a newfound appreciation of bikes, and curves...

I loved riding out by Deal’s Gap (I can’t wait to take the RT down there and actually ride the Dragon!) and TN’s Rte 30. And now I'm very aware of all the bikes on the road. Hayabusa, BMW, Honda, Harley...sportbikes, touring, cruising...

 

I think I’m cursed with something…and I am looking forward to my next ride. What a trip. I'm pretty amazed Mark and I trusted enough to take this ride, but I’m so glad. And thanks to you, Mark, for reassuring me when I was so nervous the night before. One day on the road, and I knew it was good.

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Laney

I think I’m cursed with something…

 

Nah, you are blessed with something! grin.gif

 

Great story and pictures! I hope we see you both in Torrey in the fall. smile.gif

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Mark Menard (Vita Rara)
I think I’m cursed with something…

 

Nah, you are blessed with something! grin.gif

 

You never know she might be talking about me. blush.gifwink.gif Anyway I was thinking the same thing either way. smile.gif

 

Great story and pictures! I hope we see you both in Torrey in the fall. smile.gif

 

Thanks Laney. Hopefully we will see you in Torrey in the fall. It all depends on schedules and calendars. Mine got a bit more complicated in the past month. smile.gif

 

Mark

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David

thumbsup.gifthumbsup.gif

 

Sounds like fun. I'm glad we had a chance to string a few roads together for you. Next time, listen to your elders! smile.gif

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Mark Menard (Vita Rara)
Next time, listen to your elders! smile.gif

 

Oh I will next time. I will. And we'll both be looking at the map.

 

Mark

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1st Shirt

Great to hear that you both had a good time. It's funny, but riding is all about sharing.

 

When I ride alone I am sharing with the bike, my surroundings, the elements, all of it. And when riding with Sun-joo I have all of that and MORE! thumbsup.gifthumbsup.gifthumbsup.gif

 

Yeah - she's cursed. But who said that's not a good thing? wink.gif

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AdventurePoser

Mark,

 

I agree, there is nothing like sharing a ride with a special person! And, the pix rock!

 

Steve in So Cal

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Tool

Hey, Sylva! Welcome to your New World!! welcome.gif

 

 

I’ve been waiting for a couple years to go riding...my parents both used to ride (my mom a BMW!), and my grandparents STILL ride, on an 1100 Valkyrie. I knew it was something I wanted to do – but never had the opportunity.

 

Sounds like you have it in your genes, lady. How fortunate that you hooked up with VR here to help introduce you to some of the finer riding areas near you.

 

Thanks to you both for the photos and the smiles. Hope to see you on the road.

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dhb

Great story and nice photos of country I haven't gotten to yet. Thanks for sharing it with us.

Dave

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Marty Hill

Mark,

Thanks for the pics and story. Hope you have many more. thumbsup.gif

 

 

Dave,

Get your bike down here and base at my dump. grin.gif You will love these roads.

Edited by Marty Hill

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ChrisNYC

Congratulations you two, on a great road trip! Looks like you crammed a lot into your vacation. We'll be awaiting the news of Sylva's first riding lessons wink.gif ....

------------------

Chris (aka Tender Vittles )

Little '77 KZ400 in the Big Apple

Black '99 RT for Everywhere Else, such as ...

310287-mar2004.gif

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Berkley
I think I’m cursed with something…

 

Nah, you are blessed with something! grin.gif

 

Great story and pictures! I hope we see you both in Torrey in the fall. smile.gif

 

oh, who says that curses are all bad? i'm loving this one...

(as far as Torrey, all i know is that i have lots of school and have to fit working in too....Mark wasn't kidding when he said his life got more complicated in the last month wink.gif ...mine did too.)

 

~s

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Mark Menard (Vita Rara)
Great to hear that you both had a good time. It's funny, but riding is all about sharing.

 

Bob,

 

You're so right about the sharing thing. I also need to give you a very large thanks. (I PM'ed Bob for advice about two up touring before departing on our adventure.) Your advice helped me a lot. A whole lot. Particularly your advice about photos. I don't think I'd have taken two camera bodies with us had I not gotten your advice. I'm so glad I did.

 

We took no pictures the first day while on the highway. The second day the cameras came out and she used the Digital Rebel for the balance of the trip. I think I'd have driven her nuts if we'd only brought one camera body.

 

The other benefit is that I shot Velvia 50 speed slide film in the film camera and the picutres are amazing! I'm now seriously kicking myself for not getting them scanned at the lab, but it was going to be over $200.00 to get them all scanned. frown.gif And I had never shot slide film before so I wasn't sure what percentage were even going to be properly exposed, let alone be a good picture. Then I get them and there are some absolutely amazing shots in there. Arrggg!!!

 

Anyway, thanks so much for your advice it made the trip much much better.

 

Mark

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Tasker
Last week was pretty amazing.

 

Yeah, I'd say! grin.gif

 

You both looked like you were having a great time! thumbsup.gif

 

Mark, congrats on happier times! clap.gifclap.gifclap.gif

 

Tasker

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