North Carolina - June 2002

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2002 Harley Fatboy

  Renting the HD Fat Boy - I've got the directions and the women was very nice over the phone so this is looking good.  She says she has 3 bikes available.  It's right off the highway in a new strip mall north of Asheville, NC in a place called Forks of Ivy.
  It turns out that Anita and her husband have just opened this Harley-only rental business, FreeBird Motorcycles just 4 weeks ago.  Five bikes.  One room store front. No store fixtures.  No decorations.  No merchandise for sale.  Just carpeting, a counter, and a table and chairs.   But I can rent a new Harley Fat Boy for $149 for 24 hours.  I fill out the paperwork and talk about my bikes and riding experience.  Anita says I have to take a 'road test' which consists of one lap around the small parking lot in front of the store.  I joke with her that this test is too easy and since this is North Carolina, she should toss a dead possum out in front of me.  I'm having a good time kidding around.  I'll have 24 hours to cruise around and this bike is a big honker and fun to ride and very similar to my Royal Star.

  John gets caught up my enthusiasm and despite having made some negative comments to Anita about Harleys, jumps in at the last minute and rents the Sportster.  We'll just leave the car here, ride off on the bikes and pick it up tomorrow.


John's ride - 2002 Harley Hugger 883 with less than 300 miles.
  On the ride back to the museum, John and I get separated when I try to dodge a thunderstorm and he goes somwhere to eat, buy long pants and get out of the rain instead of just following me.  The traffic is heavy on I-40 but this bike makes some nice sounds so I don't mind. 

  Instead of going for a ride when we meet back at the motel, we get treated to dinner with Dale and his dad at one of the nicest places in town.  It's dusk when we get out.

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  Blue Ridge Parkway 8:15 Friday night.
Sat - It looks like the weather is going to be cooperative.  That's good since there have been occasional showers every day so far.  My plan is to ride to Waynesville and take rt. 276 up to the Parkway and go east and north around Asheville from there.  John and I had driven another piece of the parkway nearer to Maggie Valley on Thurs. in the car.  I'm riding the Sportster now (there's a bigger story behind that) and I have to return it by about 3 pm.  I've got a decent map and the route will include some parkway riding, avoiding Asheville, and I plan to get the bike back without being rushed.  Then I'll drive back to Maggie Valley, pick up John and we'll head home.
  I ride east to Waynesville over roads I've driven a few times already.  There is some slow going through the old downtown area.   Then, I head out on the lightly traveled 276.   It's a gradual transition from open fields to a more winding road through a valley with the hills closing in ahead.  I get overtaken by an older, big-bore Suzuki that I would have stayed with on my ZX11, but not today riding the Sportster. 

  Beyond Cruso, I pass a sign for a 'motorcycle friendly campground', across the creek running alongside the road.

  I'm not particularly enjoying the ride on the Sporty despite the scenery and the great riding weather.  It seems short on low-rev power, requiring downshifting and it's not that smooth a ride either. The bars and riding position don't help the handling either.

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  From here on, there are few houses and the road narrows with more turns.  The last few miles of the climb up to the parkway require my full attention.  Second, and first gear in the corners.   Sand and switchbacks with occasional opposing traffic and no way to pass the pickup truck in front of me.  Limited visibility, no shoulders with trees and boulders at the road's edge.  It's not quite fun, and a difficult ride.  I'm too anxious to enjoy this.  I wonder how the Fat Boy would have fared here since it's tough enough to get the Sportster around the turns on a good line. 
  At the junction with the parkway I take a quick break.  The parkway crosses over the road I'm on and there's some open space to warm up in the sun.  I see plenty of bikes going by on the parkway.  I go south about a mile to an overlook for this picture (right).  Just over the edge is a fifty foot cliff.  Then it's back north for the long cruise on the parkway.   This is the ride I'd wanted to do all along on a bike.

  This section is at over 4,000 feet elevation twisting along the ridgetop with alternating views to each side.  The road is smooth with little traffic and nearly half the vehicles coming the other way are bikes out to enjoy the experience.  But, I'm being cautious and can't quite get into what should be a great ride.  There are dropoffs and cliffs everywhere.  There are long curving tunnels that plunge me into darkness with standing water and hard to read road surfaces and I'm still hunting for the right groove for the Sportster and for myself.

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  As the Blue Ridge Parkway swings around Asheville, the road starts descending and the weather warms noticeably.  It gets overall less twisty with fewer reminders of last night's adventure.  After crossing the French Broad River, I-26 and finally I-40, it seems nearly like a suburban by-pass.  One stop to calculate where to get off the parkway and to rest and I soon catch the secondary road I'm looking for just as expected.
  It's not quite a the same type road that I took climbing up to the parkway, but a twisty downhill none-the-less.   I make one wrong turn and head up a valley in the wrong direction but reverse quickly and I'm soon driving around suburban roads somewhere near Weaverville.  While I'm sort of lost I know I'll come to the right highway headed north soon enough.  I should fill the tank before returning the bike.

  At a gas station right off 19/23, a local guy wants to talk about the Sportster.  I tell him it's a 2002 and suggest that he rent it himself for just the $99 a day that it cost John.  That way he can try it out for himself if he's interested in buying one like it.  The bike gets a wash at the truck stop across the road and it's delivered back to Anita right on time.


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