2004 Alternative Rally Trip Report

July 8 - 11

By: Mike LaBar

I met up with the Longs and the Thoerners in Richwood Thursday morning to get a head start to our Alternative Rally in Cruso, NC. We slabbed to Knoxville and got down there before noon. I had planned to unslab around Corbin and find some state parks or funny towns, but following is so much easier. Besides, Cherohala Skyway was in the plan and that's always a good plan. But first we stop for lunch at Tellico Plains at the Bistro by the River that overlooks the Tellico River. We had a nice relaxing lunch before we really started our leaning exercises.

The Cherohala Skyway seemed different to me. Maybe it was the direction we traveled as I've only gone the other way or maybe it was the rust that has appeared on the surface of the road. After realizing the rust wasn't loose and traction was good things got better. But still, I seem to recall seeing through curves and better all around visibility. That was because the only other times I've ridden the Skyway was in early May when the foliage wasn't as lush. Oh well, it's still a great road to ride.

At Robinsville we catch 129 south and follow Talulah Creek then we catch 19 north which follows the Nantahala River. Rafting is huge along this stretch as we pass hundreds of rafters riding the white water as we ride the blacktop rapids. As we near Cheroke the traffic gets more congested. Harrah's Casino contributes to the congestion. It just seems so out of place. we soon are off 19 and on the Blue Ridge Parkway. I have been on the BRP twice and both times it was socked in with fog. This time no fog and I found myself looking to the right and left more that the road in front of me. We finally stop at one of the many scenic pull-offs to rest and take in the beautiful landscape.

Most riders would put on rain gear if stopped and the dark clouds loom overhead. Not us. We're only 20 - 30 miles from Cruso so we leave our mesh riding gear on and proceed. After just a few minutes we are all soaked to the bone. No sense in stopping now. We arrive at the Blue Ridge Motorcycle Campground already showered and dripping wet Thursday afternoon.

I was totally impressed with the campground. Everything was so well manicured and lush, plus having a mini-cabin by the creek was awesome. After showering and happy hour we sat down to a very nice dinner prepared by the campground staff. Sleep came very easy next to the babbling brook and the next morning I had a wake up visit by Chris. "Get up Mike we're riding soon." is all it took to get me outa bed and geared up. After a nice breakfast sandwich and visit to the boys room we were off for a day-long ride. Jeff Lehmkul joined our group for the ride as he too arrived Thursday. We headed back on the BRP westbound. At a stopping point Steve and I swap bikes and I am now riding Steve's Ducati MultiStrada. It's quite a departure from my RT but I get acclimated quickly and try to follow Steve on my RT. What a fun bike! All the power you want in a lightweight flickable bike without being all leaned over. What better place than the BRP to get to test a Ducati. Thanks Steve... sorry if I drooled. After the BRP we ride the Foothills Parkway to 129 and the legendary Tail of the Dragon. Traffic was light enough to make it fun. We arrive at Deal's Gap and stop in for a souvenir t-shirt and to re-hydrate as it was pretty warm. Not 5 minutes from the time we park our bikes and are shopping when someone comes in and says, "Who owns the blue RT?" I knew right then Jeff's bike had gone horizontal on him. Fortunately, the mirror popped off without breaking and since he didn't have his side bags on, the bag mount was in tact. Just a few scrapes.

I too was running toward the fallen Beemer but stopped to get this shot when I saw all the assitance. Even though we were in the shade, new blacktop is always soft. Thanks for parking behind me and not beside me Jeff. Shortly after a parade of high-end Porsche's came rolling in. They came for the same reasons we come to the area. The great roads and all the curves. 300 or so miles later we arrive back at the campground. A great day riding great roads. A few more members have arrived but not Bill Berry's group yet. After showering, happy hour and a great Chicken Pasta Milano dinner plus a delectable croissant bread pudding w/ whiskey sauce to die for, the rain began. It came down harder than I've ever seen rain come down, and the lightning/thunder show was spectacular. Bret stripped down and made a mad dash for beers left in the cooler while Steve offered Captain Morgan to a few of us stuck in the cafeteria shelter. Finally Bill's group appeared... wet... but safe. Lightning had taken out the power until later that evening, so we all hung out in the shelter playing cards by flashlight and telling lies and drinking beers & Captain Morgan.

The next morning (Saturday) it was clear and our group headed out for more. We took 276 to 64 east to Chimney Rock. We rode up to Chimney Rock and turned around when they wanted $16 per person to ride to the very top. Next stop lunch. Chris lead us to the McDonalds in Marion. You just can't go wrong with McDonalds. Restrooms, air conditioning, plenty of water, and greasy burger and fries were just what we needed and it helped us appreciating the fine dinner that was being prepared back at camp. From Marion we take rt 80 to the BRP. It's afternoon on the BRP so that means rain can happen at any moment. This time, I take the bullet and pull over to don my rain gear. After just a slight sprinkle and 20 miles I stop to take off my hot pink Frogg Toggs. The group becomes scattered for a bit, but John Fischer and I eventually catch up with Steve, Bret, and Jen Thoerner at a rest stop. It's now Saturday afternoon and the BRP is getting more crowded. Passing cars, motorhomes, and slower cruiser types becomes the challenge. I wisely refrain from trying to pass the 4 bikes and 3 cars ahead after Steve and Bret make their big pass. Ten minutes later I spot 2 cops with their lights on coming out of the woods. At first I thought I was busted, but I was still behind the 4 cruisers. Ah... I know who they were after. A few miles later I spot Steve and Bret conversing with the federal authorities. John tries to snap a shot as he rides by but the shot didn't turn out. We return to the campground to hear of everyone's adventures. More folks have arrived. Most importantly, Lynn has arrived with our rally t-shirts.

I tried to get a count on GCBMWC members and I tried to get a group shot... both unsuccessful, but there had to be 30 or more members in attendance.

After our social hour I ate home made meatloaf with all the fixin's. Yummm!

Even though we didn't hold an official meeting Saturday night, it was generally agreed on that we would make this an annual pilgrimage.

Sunday morning our group was outa there by 9:00 am and heading for home. What a great weekend!

Thanks to Phil & Leslie Johnson and their staff for making us feel so at home and welcomed.

Here are just a few shots I took.

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