Day 3 miles 600-920
Bad news, today it turns out I had to part ways with my travel companions. I took Brent to the dealership this morning to see what could be done. They said they’d take a look as soon as possible and even guessed that the problem might not be as bad as we guessed (just some dirty carbs). I had figured that if we could get out by 1 or 2 and the repairs wouldn’t be too expensive, then we could all make it to the tail of the dragon. Unfortunately, by 12 they had not yet gotten to his bike. So, because of time and financial constraints on all sides, and after a sad farewell, I decided to push on. We thought that if the bike turned out to be done early enough, they should give me a call and I’d wait up down the road, but I didn’t end up hearing from them.
For the rest of the day for me, I knew I had to put some miles behind me because of the late start, and I at least wanted to hit the beginning of the Tail by the end of the day. So after high tailing it to Knocksville, I made it to rt. 129 which would lead me into the mountains and straight to the tail of the dragon.
The beginning of rt. 129 is pretty boring as you go through towns, but then it starts to get so scenic and the roads so windy that I didn’t even notice when I had started on the Tail. Of course, once you start to see that there is no more straight aways and you’re making 180 degree turns, it’s hard not to notice. The driving though was fantastic. As with skyline drive, the weather was perfect and the road was packed with bikes (much fewer cars this time though). However, with around 318 turns in 11 miles, this ride was slightly more challenging. A drive like that can really show you what your shortcomings are as a driver. Needless to say, I didn’t set any time records navigating it, but I made it all the way through (though I think I’ve scraped my footpegs more times in the past 3 days then in my full 3 years since I started riding).
The end at Deels Gap is quite a site. There’s a nice big biker tavern/motel right off the side with plenty of signs advertising the Tail, plus souvenirs inside (I got a T-shirt). Most notable though has got to be the tree of shame, which has parts of some of the bikes the Tail has claimed (on a more somber note, throughout the route there are little memorials set up for the lives that it has claimed).
Once I got through, it was around 6 and so only a couple of hours of daylight left. Even though I was done the more dangerous part, I was still in the park and didn’t want to get caught driving after dark. So after about an hour of navigating through the park, and taking a few side roads, I managed to find a nice spot right off the road and next to a lake. So I set up my tent for the first time of the trip, collected some wood for a fire, and cooked up some Mac and cheese. I was having some trouble lighting the fire for a while and so out of desperation I thought I’d try something. I had brought with me some Chinese liquor called baijiu, which is 56% alcohol and in all honesty tastes like lighter fluid, so, I thought, why not give it a shot! And whadya know, after soaking some cardboard in the stuff, it lit right away. So bottoms up and “ganbei,” this ones for Brent and Pam! Hope everything gets sorted out, drive safe, and it was great riding with you for the time we had, miss you guys already!