Road trip, St. Louis, MO to Nags Head, NC
Well, I made it here, and my first motorcycle trip over 300 miles went by almost without a hitch. There was only one major screwup, but there was some of the most beautiful riding I've ever done.
Wednesday, 8 August, 2007
I was so excited on Wednesday that I had a hard time getting to sleep. I kept trying to think of things that I had forgotten or something else that needed to be done before I left in the morning. Eventually I made it to sleep and slept well...
Thursday, 9 August, 2007
I woke up early, wanting to get out of St. Louis before traffic hit, and get some miles under my belt before it got really hot. This whole heat wave thing wasn't thrilling to me. I had packed everything onto my bike the night before, so I woke up, took a couple of preventative Excedrine (didn't want the coffee "effect" an hour into my ride), ate some toast and a granola bar, got ATGATT'ed up, and hit the road. It was fairly cool out, and still a little dark. I snapped a couple pics of my bike all geared up, and hit the road. Going through St. Louis on I-70 wasn't bad, no traffic to speak of. I got lucky because there was a big accident on the other side of the road, and even pre-rush hour traffic was awful. All three lanes were closed, and one car at a time could sneak by on the shoulder.
I got onto I-64 and stayed there through Mt. Vernon, IL and then headed south on I-57. Nothing really interesting to see, although the humidity and haze made for an awesome sunrise. The temperature stayed quite nice until about 9:30am, and then it shot up quickly. Around Goreville, IL, I got on I-24. I was making good time, and feeling good about the trip. Even with the Airhawk seat, my butt lasted about a tank of gas before needing a stretch, so that was convenient.
I finally make it into Nashville, and here's where I made my mistake. I got into a conversation with a Harley rider. Ok, ok, there were probably more contributing factors than that, but it's nice to have something other than myself to place blame onto. So I need some gas, and it's about lunchtime, so I pull off at a gas stop and refuel, rehydrate, and eat a sandwich. After this, I'm gearing up again, and a Harley rider comes over and strikes up a conversation with me. He was asking where I was going, and I told him, and he said that he was going to meet some people in Chattanooga, then head up to Maggie Valley the next day. I (as some of you know) was planning on heading to Cherahola Skyway, Tail of the Dragon, and end up in Cherokee, NC for the night. The second problem was that my list of directions were probably listed a little close together, so after I hit the road again, I glanced down, looked at the wrong line that said to go on I-24, and since I had just talked to this guy about Chattanooga, heading on I-24 didn't feel "wrong". That combined with probably being a little dehydrated and not thinking completely clearly lead to me taking I-24 instead of I-40 to Knoxville. Anyway, so I didn't actually identify my mistake until I was almost to Chattanooga, realized I wasn't seening the towns that I expected to see, and then saw a sign that said X miles to Georgia border. My heart sank, and I pulled over to see what kind of damage I had done to my trip. I saw that I could head north on I-75 and pick up my trip from just before the Cherahola Skyway. I didn't know what kind of impact that had on my time schedule, so I just went for it.
The Cherahola Skyway was at that point the most beautiful road I had been on to that point. There was light traffic, but fortunately I cleared that before it started getting twisty. I had a beautiful ride along this gorgeous landscape in cool mountain air that felt awesome after baking for hours in full gear. I wasn't really going full bore into the twisties, because of all the gear I had on my bike, and I was pretty tired. I came around one corner into a long straightaway, and there was a black bear ambling across the road. That was pretty cool, I've never seen one before in the wild. It was slightly unnerving as I realized I no longer had my "cage" to protect me. Unfortunately, since I was feeling the time crunch, I didn't pull over at all to take any pictures of the beautiful scenery.
Where 143 met with 129, I had to make a decision. Due to my side trip to southern TN, I was about 1.5 hours behind where I wanted to be. It was almost 7pm, and I estimated about 90 or so more miles to the Tail, back down, then over to Cherokee. I had now gotten behind traffic, so I was guessing that with the traffic, and the slower speeds that I'd have to run on the Tail, that it would be at least 2 hours before I would get to Cherokee. I didn't really know the area, and I really didn't relish the idea of trying to find my way to the hotel in the dark, when I can't see my maps, so regretfully, I headed south on 129 instead of north, and went straight to my hotel in Cherokee. I was pretty bummed that I came all that way to miss the Tail, but still was happy to ride the best roads I've ever ridden, have no problems other than a little out of the way trip, and be safe in my hotel room. I grabbed a bite to eat, rinsed out my clothes, drank about a gallon of water, and went to bed. Even though I had been consistently hydrating all day, I couldn't get enough to drink...pretty amazing how much you can sweat off.
Left Missouri: 6:00 Central time. About 650 miles later, arrived at my destination at about 8pm, Eastern time. Average speed (including stops) of about 60 mph.
My goal is simple. It is a complete understanding of the universe, why it is as it is and why it exists at all.
- Stephen Hawking