Saddlesore !000 FTW to MJ

by MJ

Preface:
I want to thank everyone who has helped to put this
trip together, especially Bill (Evil) King for asking
for a companion for his trip to Florida; my kids for
taking responsibility for taking care of themselves
and the house while I was away; John Ryan, for
supporting me in this quest with great advise and
contacts and being there at the end of the ride to
bring me in from the cold and be my witness for the
IBA.

This experience started as a dream when I first
started riding. The Blue Ridge Parkway and Skyline
Drive were magical places made for motorcycles and
just out of reach to me. When I heard Bill talk about
his annual trip to his winter home in Florida, and
riding those paths I promised that one day I would
make that trip. So this year when Maureen begged Bill
not to ride the ride alone and he asked if any of us,
MotoMaggots, would escort him, I and my strong
headedness jumped at the opportunity. I didn’t know
that the trip would be done during the week when I
have responsibilities at work and home, but I was
prepared to go no matter what. As it turned out the
office in Memphis, TN was the perfect excuse for a
ride and my kids are just old enough to take care of
themselves for a few days. Dom and Laurie put in the
final piece by scheduling a Citibeemer BBQ weekend at
Laurie’s house in the Poconos. I had initially
declined the event because I was going to be traveling
back to New York. It was Dom who suggested an Ironbutt
ride to the party.

Day 1
Bill and I started out early Tuesday morning in the
middle of rush hour and went North to the Tappen Zee
bridge to get to New Jersey to catch I78 to I81 South
to get around NYC traffic. It was sunny and warming up
nicely. Bill rides a souped up Speed Triple with a
small gas tank so we had to stop every 100 miles or so
to fill up, at one spot in PA, Bill lost power and had
to take the bike apart to tighten the battery
connectors. Bill’s son AJ, had just worked on the
bike, so we think that AJ purposely loosened the
connection just to keep Dad on his toes. The country
side in Western NJ and beautiful and we chat with
people at every rest stop. We ate lunch just off the
interstate in Virginia, then left the interstate at
Front Royal to catch Skyline Drive. Fall was just
starting to creep in and the leaves were still on the
trees. We had about 3 hours of day light left and 170
miles of Skyline to drive. The $10 fee is put to good
use, the road bed is perfect, clean, sticky, well
maintained, as is the scenery. We met up with some
deer crossing the road, and 3 more on the side of the
road at different places to remind us to slow down,
especially around blind corners. The wild turkey fly
awefully close overhead. And at one point I frightened
a teenaged black bear crossing the road. Black Bears.
Yep, there are black bears on the road. We met up with
some interesting folks at the overlooks, mostly older
people bumming their way around the country, got a
picture of a couple from Missouri posing on my bike.
They have a picture with us “bikers”. Bill took a
little nap in the late afternoon sun to get the
stiffness out of his joints. Bill, the speed triple is
not make for distance riding, even with special
dirtbike handles that let you sit a little more
upright. Just before it got dark, we pulled off the
parkway and headed back to I81 to speed down to
Troutsville for the night. The front desk clerks eyes
nearly popped out when Bill asked for the AARP
discount.

Day 2
Wednesday was Blue Ridge Parkway day. We got on at
Troutsville, and road that thing for 392 miles until
it ended at the Cherokee Indian reservation in TN.
Magnificant parkway. It felt good to round out my
tires, curves, hill climbs, steep down hills ending in
more curves. We leaned all day. We stopped at
overlooks that got more and more colorful the higher
we climbed. At Craggy Gardens Peak, the clouds
descended on us. It was cold, low 40 degrees?, and the
view was gone. I thought that was the highest peak,
nope, that was the next one. Mount Peter, I think,
6,000 feet above sea level. Hey, I pulled the
parachute cord at that altitude just a few weeks ago.
When it started to get dark I gave the lead over to
Bill. He is older and if he hits the deer, I will have
time to stop. We laughed about it later. We pulled
into the reservation after dark and settled into the
Holiday Inn Express across the street from the casino.
Dinner, the only meal of the day, was ribs, of course.
We tried our hands at digital blackjack, we both
doubled our money in 15 minutes. I felt a little like
a pirate, “take everything, give nothing back.” The
Reservation is in a dry county, which means no booze.
We could have been arrested just for carrying. As we
left the casino I looked around at all the people
sitting around and I found it hard to believe that all
those people are sitting there losing money while
sober. I just can’t fathom it. Bill and I went back to
our room to finish whatever booze we had left, and
enjoyed our new found money.

Day 3
The clouds were thick and wet in the mountains. Bill
and I said our goodbyes and he went south as I went
west to Memphis. I was thinking of doing The Dragon,
but with the clouds thick and low, I thought I would
save it for another visit. I40 took me through the
mighty Smoky Mountains where the posted speed limit
was 55 and 50 for trucks because of the curves and the
steeps. Motorcycles are except for such limits, of
course. I heard somewhere that motorcycles don’t pass
other motorcycles, but that person was never behind a
pack of cruisers with loud pipes. I did wave as I
passed. The gods must have been watching me because I
pulled into a gas station just as it started to rain
and pulled out as the sun came out. People in the
south sure like to talk to people at the gas stations.
I pulled into Memphis at about 7pm. Memphis is the
home of the Blues. I love Blues!!! But I also needed
sleep, so instead of heading downtown, I headed for
the hotel and another ribs dinner and bed.

Day 4
Office day, not alot to say, except that after work
one of the girls and I headed down to Beale Street
where we had dinner, ribs, and Blues!! Yippee!!
Elvis was also everywhere. But man, they have Blues
amplified in the street and it felt like New Year Eve.
I reluctantly turned in early as the next day was THE
BIG RIDE.

Day 5- The Saddle Sore 1000
Jumped out of bed a 4am, made coffee, jumped on the
bike to meet up with BJ and Stan, my start of ride
witnesses, aka angels, and President and VP or the
Memphis Tour Riders. Who would get out of bed at 4 am
to meet a motorcyclist for an Iron butt attempt?
Retired truckers. Nuff said. We chatted, took
pictures, filled out the paperwork, filled the tank,
hugged, and I was off, tearing through the night east
on I40. The day was a blur, but here are some biker
observations:

  • The night IS darkest just before the dawn; but the stars are also brightest.
  • The mist is thick through the park and it feels like you are the only person on the earth.
  • The Sun is HUGE when it rises on the horizon, and I thought a full moon rising was magnificant.
  • Farmland smells funny.
  • The peak of Fall color is somewhere.
  • The Mountains really ARE Purple, especailly when the setting sun hits them.
  • Cows dot the countryside along the road, just like the holiday cards show them.
  • People in the south smoke too much, and everyone is talking on their cell phones while driving.

16 hours later, I got a last mile escort from John
Ryan to Laurie’s house in the Poconos woods and a good
thing because I would never have found it alone. Talk
about a celebration. The house was perfect, hot tub,
wine, lots of great people. I was so pumped up, I had
trouble coming back down. Peperwork was filled out,
and tales of the journey were shared. Good ride, would
do it again.