Rolled out of the house on Friday around 10:30am and began the ride towards Asheville, NC. As I left the commercial business and the metro expressways, the scenery quickly changed to farmland, horses, chicken houses and the like. I could feel myself relaxing the further I rode as the scenery seemed really familiar and comfortable to me. Just outside of Gainesville, GA I could smell the wonderful aroma of honeysuckle. I instantly remembered when I had 11-acres in South Georgia, and the honeysuckle would grow on the fence line and how I could smell it from the bedroom of the house. The weather was gorgeous, sunny but not too hot. And, yes, I remembered to apply sunscreen to my face before I took out this time!
The further north I travelled the more beautiful the landscape as the North Georgia Mountains came into view. My travel path took me thru Dillard, Georgia. Every time I ride through Dillard, I remark about how beautiful the area is. If you are ever through the area, be sure to try out the Dillard House Restaurant. I did not stop there this trip, but can tell you from past trips that they serve mouth watering southern cooking. I stopped to get a coke and top of the fuel and another bike pulled in on the other side of the pump. The rider glanced over and said “Don’t you feel sorry for all of the poor saps out there having to ride on four wheels?” Yes, yes I do. I bet they have to pinch themselves every ten minutes to stay away in their boring minivans!
Kudos to the State of North Carolina, I had never noticed it before, but at the state line, North Carolina has a welcome center/rest stop, and it is not the run of the mill hum-drum welcome center. This one looks like a log home with a big front porch. It was gorgeous from the outside. The scenery in Western North Carolina was a splendor of natural beauty. The winding highway through the mountains revealed a myriad of the rock walls and lush green trees.
I arrived at Ridgecrest Conference Center before I was ready to get off the bike, but I managed to pry myself out of the saddle. The Conference Center staff was extremely helpful and welcoming. In fact an older gentleman volunteer was sitting out front in a rocker and welcoming everyone with a handshake when they rode up. After checking in, I found my room was in the same building as the registration desk. So, as I made two trips out to unload my bike and carry in my belongings, the greeter welcomed me two more times. The view from the conference center across I-40 is a clear panoramic view of the Blue Ridge Mountains and worthy of several extended glances. The team hosting the conference was quite hospitable and helpful. I visited with several riders in the hospitality room prepared for us.
Dinner in the dining hall was another typical dining hall grade meal. No complaints but nothing to write home about. Unfortunately, my riding buddy that had originally recommended this rally was unable to attend as he had a son graduating high school this same weekend, so I was going it alone. The majority of the other riders were members of riding clubs within the Baptist Church. They arrive in groups of 8 or more and hung out tightly together. I made my way through the chow line and set down at an empty table and wound up eating by myself which pulled a vacuum.
When things kicked off Friday night, they announced that there were around 350 people attending this year. I took a quick inventory of the various parking lots walking over to the auditorium and from the plethora of motorcycles. I would venture to guess that 350 was accurate.
Saturday started on a better note. I shared a table with several couples for breakfast and enjoyed visiting with them over a meal. I attended a session by Ed Obaugh, an 18 year veteran of the Hillsborough County, Florida Sheriff’s Office Motorcycle Squad, called “Ride to Protect Your Hide”. The session was a good reminder continuing to Search, Evaluate, and Execute when riding, and Ed drove home a lot of good points on proper Motorcycle Safety.
I participated in one of the numerous guided rides on Saturday morning. I elected to take the 188 mile trip to Boone, NC and Blowing Rock which included approximately 38 miles on the Blue Ridge Parkway. I have always wanted to ride the Blue Ridge Parkway from end to end on a motorcycle. The trip Saturday did not come close to that goal, but it did provide a wonderful and scenic ride. When we pulled out, we had around 12 bikes in formation. After about 10 miles we began to encounter wet pavement, a pretty good wind, and ominous looking skies. The ride captain pulled the group over and quickly arranged for a second leader to guide those who wanted to abandon the trip to return to camp. Four bikes remained (including the Ride Captain) to continue the ride. We all donned our rain gear and mounted up. The other three bikes in the group were couples, and I enjoyed getting to know them. We were quite fortunate that it we never got rained on the whole time we were out. After carefully maneuvering through a good many twisties and switchbacks on the rain soaked roads, we turned onto the Blue Ridge Parkway. As we made the turn, there was a good amount of fog, but it soon lifted and we were driving on dry pavement.
The Parkway is a scenic route thru the Blue Ridge Mountains and is laid out on top of ridges allowing for a wealth of viewpoints. The turns are all long sweepers making it very enjoyable to ride. With a smaller group, we were able to make several stops at overlooks and take pictures and visit.
We pulled off the Parkway long enough to grab a bite to eat at the famous Louise’s Rock House Restaurant at the intersection of State Highways 221 and 183 in Linville Falls, North Carolina just one mile off of the Blue Ridge Parkway. The restaurant sits on top of the intersection of three counties: Burke, McDowell, and Avery. I wonder if they have to pay sales tax to a particular county based on where the patrons sit. A little research taught me that the food is cooked in Avery county, the waitresses pick up the food in Burke county, and it is served in either Avery or McDowell counties. The restaurant is owned and operated by Ms. Louise Henson and her daughter, Ms. Shirley Jennings. The fried chicken was off the hook. They specialize in country cooking, homemade pies and jellies and the remarkable part is that it is relatively inexpensive. This place needs to go on your list of places to eat.
Once we completed lunch we returned to the Parkway and rode until we came to a closure barricade. A part of the Parkway was closed due to a massive rock slide that had damaged the roadway prior to the weekend. We then picked up NC 226 and winded our way down the mountain and back to Ridgecrest. All told we logged around 7 ½ hours on the ride. I am confident I picked the right ride and was glad I made the decision to stick with it when the others bailed out. With the riding group down to four bikes and seven people, we had a lot of opportunity to get to know each other and some great friendships were made. During Saturday night’s worship service, Johnny, one of the men in my riding group for the afternoon, made a decision to accept Christ as his Savior, so I would have to say the day was a big success.
Sunday morning, all of those participating in the weekend took part in a Memorial Day Weekend motorcycle parade to a memorial service at Western Carolina State Veterans Cemetery at Black Mountain, North Carolina to honor those who have given the last full measure of devotion to our country to provide the freedom that we enjoy.
Despite the schedule for the rally continued through Monday morning, I elected to pack up and head out after the memorial service so that I could spend some time with my bride before having to head out on the road to work another project.
The ride back was enjoyable with light traffic allowing me to once again enjoy the mountains and landscape of Western North Carolina and North Georgia. I always have enjoyed riding through the mountains in the fall when the leaves have changed and looking at the contrasts of colors that fall present. But this trip made me realize just how beautiful the mountains are in spring. The endless sea of rolling green and the aroma of all of the wildflowers in bloom are just as beautiful and worth a long steady gaze.
As I rolled into the garage at home, I took a glance at the trip odometer. Total mileage for the weekend: 550.1 miles. Gas prices were hovering around $4 a gallon. $3.89 at some stops and $4.09 at others, but the fuel prices were minimal compared to the enjoyment payback.
(*No cell phone photos were used in this post)