8 Days, 7 Nights, 5 States, 2 Wheels...Priceless!
To be perfectly honest, I wasn't even sure I was going to make it this year. After some thinking, on my porch, an oil change on the bike, and about 5 Bud Lights, I decided to call my buddy Chopper Ed from the Birmingham area Wednesday afternoon.
Conversation went something like this:
"Hey Ed, you going to BMR?"
"Yeah, I gotta pick my bike up at a brother's shop in the a.m. and I'm headin' out."
"You ridin' solo?
"Appears that way, you wanna go? Come crash over here, we'll get my bike and head out."
"Shit man, sounds cool, let me holler at the OL, see what's up and I'll call you back. If you don't hear from me in an hour or two, I'm probably on my way so if you call and I don't answer, I'll call you from the first gas stop." Phone click!
Well after a delicate conversation with my loving wife and a quick packing of the bike, I was Eastbound and Down with a bright orange sun blazing in my rear view. Sure enough, first gas stop at the edge of Tuscaloosa before jumping on the Interstate, Ed had called. Call back: "Yo Ed, I'm in T-Town, be there shortly." "Hell Yeah, can't wait and the porch light is on, later."
Above is the photo of night one. Thanks for the couch brother.
(This year I focused more on enjoying myself, my ride, and not being a drunken point and shoot photographer, so pictures of BMR are sparse.)
As Thursday morning ensued, Ed and I took our time, prepared a southern breakfast fit for kings, went by Ricky Lewis' shop and shot the bull, and then on to pick up Ed's bike just down the road. A mutual decision was made that we would travel via Atlas and on roads that neither have traveled before. This proved to be an enlightening experience for both of us. Ed's taught me a lot in the short time I have known him but I think he was appreciative of me passing on the MFQ heritage. (Quarts behind the store- you decipher the MF acronym.) This aids in settling the nerves of being lost on back roads for an entire day with a "H.O.G. Atlas."
We finally made it to Reliance to the old store and got more beer before taking the back roads through the mountain into Tellico Plains and to BMR. Damn it if we didn't get lost again, it got dark, and part of the 12 pack on my handlebars exploded in my face after finally spotting some mile munching 2 wheeled chopper jockeys on the mountain highway to follow. Good times indeed. I pull over, drink beer, re strap, Ed continues on the follow and hunt, Ed returns and with directions to the campsite.
This bike rules and especially the fact that it is abused by a 60 year old gentleman who only needs a tarp and a bedroll to camp with.
Friday morning rolled around and the sun sprayed powerful UV rays onto my one man tent turning it into a makeshift sweat lodge. A peace pipe and a circle of Indians would have completed the hazy delirium which could have quickly succumbed to a hallucinogenic soul searching experience. I wasn't having it though. I snaked my way out of the small crevice, exited the sweat lodge, and jumped on my scooter. I had mountains to terrorize, Indians and Hillbillies be damned. A short jaunt down some curvy asphalt into Tellico for a phone call to the OL, an air conditioned morning constitution, and a whore bath, and I was ready...but alone. I decided to go back and locate Ed because when I left he was asleep on a large wire spool under a Circus Tent.
(Above: photo courtesy of Brian W. one of Ed's brothers son. Super cool fella.
He met up with us on Fri. night. This pic is actually from Fri. night. You can see the wire spool in the background though.)
Inquiries were made of my plan's for the day and as usual my only response was the truth. It was as follows. "Man, it's hotter than hell, I'm in the mountains, don't know when I'm coming back, so I'm going to go ride the shit out of my motorcycle all day, wanna go?"
"Sure, (and with his newly acquired new age lingo) I'm down like four flat tires," replied Ed.
We departed the campsite at about 10:30 a.m., rode the Cherahola Skyway, helped a down biker for about 3 hours, listened to stories about killing animals just to watch 'em die, rode the Tail of the Dragon, listened to a Hillbilly talk about killing people just to watch 'em die, found a local biker bar with awesome food on the cheap, talked to more hillbillies out back who smoke cigarettes on a porcelain commode that goes nowhere, listened to a guy who ran his stock Sporty into the back of completely stopped semi tell me how my bike would be a lot cooler if I added "draaaaaagggggg piiiiiiiiiippes" and "fuuurrrrrrwwwuuurrrddd cuuuntruls" which all made for some interesting moments and delightful memories / stories to reflect on.
Ridin' motorcycles in mountains rules even more!
(Above: courtesy of Brian W.)
I think this was the burnout alarm that shook me from slumber and made me grin real big as I was gently seduced by the thoughts of peace pipe smokin' dancin' Indians and Hillbillies back into my sleep deprived, ear plugged, road weary coma.
(Above: courtesy of Brian W.)
I think Ed and I were discussing how to turn an approximate 2 hour drive to Chattanooga into an all day adventure. Or it could have been why popping wheelies and doing burnouts on gravel roads with massive potholes makes your throttle cable jump out and your handlebars fall down by your gas tank. Whichever it was, I succeeded at both and Brian captured the moment for posterity's sake.
During everything that took place, I managed to communicate some logistics with my wife and meet her in Chattanooga for some family time for two nights. Ed and Brian split with me and we went by the old Hiwasee Outfitters location and Brian grabbed the above photo. The ride to Chattanooga ended up being a back road affair and the fellas decided to roll all the way with me. Upon arrival, I coerced them into letting me buy them a pitcher of Margaritas before their departure. It was going to be a beer at a brewery, but we literally got run out of the back door like some stinkin' road whore biker trash.
Current photo of Brian's sweet ride.
(Above: courtesy of Brian W.)
Once in Chattanooga, it was game on for some family time with my two little ones and the wife. We stayed at the Chattanooga Choo Choo which was a neat hotel centralized and themed around a massive old train depot. We did some exploring, went through the aquarium, and took a sunset boat ride on the river.
Above: It was a glass bridge probably 50 feet above the street below. I thought it was awesome and jumped on it all the way across. Me and the kids thought it was fun, my wife....well not so much.
Little man giving the hound a high paw!
There was a lot of neat sculptures and various pieces of art around the city. I've never spent anytime in Chattanooga, but was thoroughly impressed with the cleanliness and pedal bike friendly atmosphere.
Sunset from the speed boat we took a ride on.
As we stepped off the boat the minor league team was playing directly across the lawn and began to shoot fireworks. It was an awesome display, so I laid down in the grass and reflected on Memorial Day. OL snapped some pics.
After all day in the concrete jungle, the wife and I discussed during our second night at the Choo Choo about blasting back up to the Smokies and spending some time with the kids in the mountains and clearing our hearts and minds with some fresh mountain air and free flowing clear creek water.
A phone call later, we located a $50 a night cabin right at the mouth of the Cherahola, in...yep...you guessed it...Tellico Plains.
A little tropical storm blew in from the East so we rode back up to the highest point on the Cherahola we could find facing West and watched the sunset spray color all over the mountains. Then we rode it all the way down in the family car, down the Dragon, saw a Black Bear, a bunch of wild boar, and the kids got "I survived the Dragon" stickers. They were stoked. Good Times!
Self-timed photography at it's finest! All smiles!
Spent all the next day, sightseeing, swimming, playing, and just getting right with everything that we are so blessed to have in our lives.
Packin' up and heading home with the family following in the car.
My 10 year old little girl was having fun snapping photos of daddy going down the highway. Enjoy.
Once I set up my back rest with a blanket and pulled the bars back, it was a comfortable knees in the breeze ride the whole way back to SIP.
Storm blew in pretty strong once I hit Tuscaloosa which is about an hour away from home. Got sketchy for a minute with some 50-60 mile per hour wind gusts, but it soon settled and made for this incredibly beautiful sunset to ride West into as I approached home. It really couldn't have been any better.
Rewind for a moment here: When I was in Tellico with the family I stopped at an old grey beard's shop and bought a used $20 helmet which included a cold beer and a sit down conversation. During this conversation we discussed riding into storms. As we sat in Tuscaloosa at a gas station with the most ominous black clouds overhead and wind blowing debris everywhere, my wife asked me if I wanted to continue on or wait it out. All I could think about was the grey beard telling me during our conversation "Hell, I remember when I was younger we would see a storm coming and that was the direction we rode. That's when you get to see awesome shit." It is something I have done before, but it certainly helped weigh my decision and in conclusion, he really couldn't have said it better. "Just ride into the storm and you'll see some awesome shit!"
Fist pumping joy at the sign that says I'm home!
All those miles and days I put on the bike that week and nothing major went wrong with the exception of some floppy handlebars and a ferule on the throttle cable that jumped ship for a moment. Get 10 miles from home, do a burnout on the wet road out of pure joy and my motor mount bolts flop out and hit my foot. My daughter got a shot of dad "Pickin' up the Pieces."
All in all, I did what I set out to do, clear my head, abuse my bike in the mountains, make new friends and memories, and spend time with my family. I succeeded at all of it. End of story!