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Ride Report: T7 Group Tour (Fall, 2017)
On September 30th, the fall edition of our "Trip Sevens" group riding tour (seven riders, seven states, seven days) began with three motorcycles on a trailer headed for West Harrison, Indiana. The first of many updated conveniences, we now coordinate with Eleven Motorsports to provide vehicle and trailer parking for the trip's duration. Said business is right between our start and finish points, making for some nice pre/post-transport cruising.
“Memories made and routes perfected, this year's group riding tours were a big success!”
When I say first of "many", I'm referring to the numerous arrangements we'll be securing for the majority of our future travel tours. Thanks to Spring's at-cost inaugural launch, an array of noteworthy "might wanna" remedies were documented. I'll touch on those individually throughout this writeup. Heck, I'll even mark 'em with an asterisk(*) to keep your readership flowin'.
For example, our first restroom break is at the 30* min/mile mark, 60 thereafter.
Even with better organization, I continue to note not only my own observations but those of my fellow riders all while enjoying new, memorable experiences. Those notes are in here, too. I've marked them with a double-asterisk (Woooah! Double? Craziness!)
Of course the riding was great. We'll skip the in-transit grandeur. Sign up yourself for proof!
After all that Indiana's SR-450/150 combination has to offer, our Eastward trek across Kentucky was met with a happy and playful junior stallion running it's fence line along side my Bandit. All of us were in awe as it seemed so pleased by us that the owner caught the event on her smartphone. We've yet to find that video anywhere online, though.
The very same Eastward leg of the route put the sun in our eyes early on. For this reason, we're considering reversing the entire route (clockwise**) so that the sun is always to our back. This adjustment would give riders the option to conquer Deals Gap early in the day (while their senses are fresh) or visit the Wheels Through Time museum which would otherwise be closed.
Kentucky plays host to free running pigs ... maybe wild? They act a lot like dogs, pompously crossing rural roads in defiance of all that's bacon. The one we saw appeared as if it had just won an opinionated debate with the neighboring dog.
The bluegrass state is also a Trojan horse in terms of technicality. We noted a 10 MPH turn sign just outside of Manchester** that initially felt like a 45 MPH sweeper! The apex decreased so tightly and unexpectedly that, had we not heeded the oversized and brightly reflective warning, one of us might have experienced an off.
Remembering a similar event from our first go of this route only reinforces why, on the first night, after introductions and small talk, I "dictate" a basic philosophy in an effort to keep everyone's head in the game. Never enter a turn using imagination, assumption or presumption. If a rider can't see where the road points next, take precautions as if there is no road ahead.
Between Joppa Mountain (look for the "Welcome to Washburn" sign, then turn right**) and the option to slay the dragon, we found a pleasant lunch stop, namely The Little Dipper. These eats have new permanence** on our T7 agenda. Having gotten a late start on this particular day, I'll admit the importance of having multiple** lunch options to balance any schedule fluctuations.
Sidebar: before the dragon, there's an in-route, corner gas stop with an attached cafe.**
The next morning (in Maggie Valley, North Carolina), I had personal tasks to deal with and sent the group on their way to the next destination. My route to Mom's via SR-276 was so intensely fun that it's been made a static part of the T7 route! Yeah, I visited mom ;)
This marks an important change to our travel format. Gone are the days of "side stands up at 8am". If you want to ride with the lead, each start time will be discussed the night before.**
After my visit, we picked up the Blue Ridge Parkway like everyone else, only to be mesmerized by ...
... elk, released back into the wild this season, seemingly un-phased by observers!
Arriving at the quaint Woodberry Inn, new owners welcomed us with pride, serving adult beverages unique to their menu. Having been there before, I noticed they put us in rooms that made offload easier than any of the others. All the same, I've considered requesting numbers 101-106** as they face the pond directly (beautiful scenery but mind the *huge* snapping turtle).
Also problematic is that their main office doesn't open until 8am and they don't provide coffee makers in the rooms. This is perfectly fine (now that we know). We like this location and will bring instant** with us for next time.
The next morning, we enjoyed the Blue Ridge Parkway in full group fashion. Mixed but positive opinions about the BRP gave me an idea. Expanding on the two routes we provide, namely the tour itself and a beeline escape*, we'll develop two alternative options, one that's shorter for sightseers and another that's longer for twistier technicality.
We may even develop dirt/gravel alternates for the ADV enthusiasts.
As for the BRP, one last gas stop became a decisive crossroads. Instead of following it's final miles to Skyline Drive, SR-56 returned us to the technically challenging good times we were ready for more of. This continued until we reached the elegant Warm Springs Inn, where a farm-to-table dinner and good night's rest were waiting.
The next morning meant unknown territory. My pre-tour alterations to this leg aim to stretch each rider's grin from one ear to the next ... and does NOT disappoint! The two Virginias boast quite a menu when it comes to twisty motorcycle travel and, short of one gas stop being an abandoned building**, every mile challenged Kentucky's equally intense quality.
Sweep rider Margaret Dean and I did face one hiccup along our way. Our plotted route insisted that we turn down WV "11/3" (what the?) which was chunky gravel. Continuing along Sand Fork road eventually put us back on track and was a lot of fun to boot.
Eventually we found rest in Parkersburg, riding the Triple Nickel the next morning and concluding the entire event at the most excellent French Quarter Inn of Maysville, Kentucky. Dinner at Chandler's might've been hot browns had they not run out. Low and behold, their steak was better ... better than any I've had in Chicago!
Ready to head home, first we'd need to get to our truck and trailer. It rained the entire day, sometimes sideways. My phone, already water proof(ish) but also enclosed in an Otterbox, caught just enough moisture to detect false screen actions in bulk.
In short, my S7 went haywire and I experienced my first mental blowout. Now home, I've created a new (hidden) backup mounting location under the windscreen where it will remain dry. Fortunately, I had installed a dedicated Garmin that's not only waterproof but pressure sensitive rather than merely touchscreen.
That about covers it! It was, yet again, a life event to remember as will be the next and the one after that. Our group motorcycle tours are developing for the better each time and we invite you to signup and come along for the ride!
What Long Distance Riding Have You Done?
There are a lot of great long distance riding routes out there. Which ones have you travelled? What were some of your favorite moments and why? Your input is invited. Leave a comment!