29 June 2013

At Cranberry

Another transport day to Cranberry Township, Pennsylvania. 
It wasn't going to be a long day so I picked a couple of points out along the Ohio River to make it a bit more scenic.

First off a short fast run up I77 until we reached the river then followed it through Weeling, West Virginia. Yep, sang the song in my head.
And yep the Olivia Newton-John song about the Banks of the Ohio also circulated my brain.
First crossing

Lots of industry along the river
 We got caught in a heavy rainstorm at one stage, our wet weather gear proving to be very good.  Only got wet gloves and a bit down the neck.  Not bad for the torrential downpour that it was.  The poor little bike did a lot of splashing through puddles.   It was quite narrow and no place to pull over.  Thankfully, the car in front switched on his four-way flashers so we could see which way the road went.

There were power stations

And the coal barges to feed them

Some small towns had very rough streets

Even three-to-a-bike transport

Eventually we made our way to Cranberry Township which is just north of Pittsburgh.  Cranberry is a huge place itself, sprawling over the hills.  All quite modern.
Settled in to our digs, we went over to the meeting place for the IBR to find our aussie mates.
We spent the rest of the afternoon looking at the bikes, catching up and dodging storms.
Happy to be here and raring to go
Only 193 miles for the day.

More IBR stuff tomorrow.

28 June 2013

A Five State Day

Today was mostly just a transport day.  We are working our way north to Cranberry, Pennsylvania to meet up with a few friends and be there for the start of the Iron Butt Rally

Rather than slabbing it, we opted for more gentle roads.  Slabbing is quick, but can be quite stressful as everyone is only on the road for one reason - to get to their destination as quickly as possible.  There is law enforcement but it seems to be outweighed by sheer numbers.  So the average pace on the Interstates is Fast.  With the capital F.

So we did have to do a bit of I26 but it turned out to be a lot quieter than others.  There had been a large storm go through and the weather was just clearing, with wispy clouds still in the mountains.  Nice.
We crossed from North Carolina to Tennessee

Climbing into the hills, we stopped at an overlook

Looking more closely we could see enforcement at work.

Fairly quiet roads

Clearing skies

Welcome to Tennessee
Further along my selected "quieter" roads we struck fog and a bit of traffic.  The interstate petered out and we were on state highways.  Still four lanes mind you, but as they weren't Interstate freeways, there was the occasional set of lights.  Lots of warning though.
Foggy Four-lane

The road climbed several mountains and went through some as well.  Cuttings were deep, but the mountains were high.  It resulted in a huge roller-coaster ride which we shared with a couple of unladen semi-trailer dump trucks.  They went a reasonable speed up hills, but we could outpace them.  However, when it came to downhill, it was a good idea to keep out of their way.  They'd thunder past us in excess of 80mph.
That's one of them there
 After a while we took a short break and detoured through a town.  Out the other side we got held up by a rock fall being cleared.  The tractor was comical.
Can you see the "face"?
 Next couple of photos gives an idea of the cuttings.  The roads through this district were put through beginning in the 1960's under the Appalachian Development Highway System which is still ongoing.  It was designed to open corridors through these mountains to give access to everyone, rather than rickety mountain tracks.

One giant downhill run (after we lost the trucks) took us through a series of fast sweeping curves for many miles.  Most enjoyable riding after all the straight flat roads to the west.

We also came across a few coal mines - most likely the cargo of those trucks - set in to the hills.

We were crossing borders fairly frequently now.  Virginia, Kentucky and finally West Virginia where we finished up for the day in Charlston WV.

Only a short run of 289 miles and our "quiet back roads" turned out to be four-lane all the way, but nevertheless a pleasant and scenic ride.

27 June 2013

A Few Dragon Runs

Today was for one of my favourite rides.  The Dragon.  This is Hwy US129 and runs through the Great Smokey Mountains National Park and Deals Gap.
In an area where there are many twisty roads, this one is the most compact. 318 curves in 11 miles is their claim to fame.
Motorcycle riders are well catered for.

Lots of Calliandra alongside the roads

Then it is in to the corners

and more

The Dragon mascot.  The bottom part is modeled on the road
I must mention that the Yamaha handled the road very well.  It is, after all, a fairly large motorcycle and well loaded up with the two of us and all our luggage.
But it tipped in and pulled out of all those corners quite easily and a lot quicker than most of the motorcycles there today. (Of course, most of them were Harleys so that may diminish the accolades a little.)
But all in all I was quite happy with its performance.
Little Black Feejer is now an official DragonSlayer

Lonely little black Feejer amongst a lot of Harleys

Great Dragon sculpture.  Note the handlebars.

They really milk the theme.
After three runs of the road, the day was starting to get away so we headed out for Cherokee and the start of the Blue Ridge Parkway.
This is a road we have travelled before (as is The Dragon) and is a parkway that follows the ridgetops for 600 miles.  We probably won't do it all as we want to be up near Pittsburgh by Friday, but a run along the high southern section can be a lot of fun.
Starting at around 2000 feet at Cherokee, the road winds up and down the hills, soon reaching peaks of 5000+ then 6000+ feet in a series of ranges.
Mist over the lake

Daisy plantings in the median strip

Cherokee has several of these painted bears in the streets

It starts here

Southern section has a lot of tunnels.
The day finished near Asherville, North Carolina after a relatively short 194 miles. But they were fun miles.

One small problem with travelling on The Dragon

26 June 2013

Finish Trace to a Dragon

Today was to complete our journey on the Natchez Trace.  North east towards Nashville.
The morning was lovely and fine and after we cleared the Tupelo area, the traffic dropped away to almost nothing.
The Trace is a lovely way to get from A to B.  Smooth road and green grass and trees.  Quite relaxing.

Overpass under construction

This bridge is over the TenTom Waterway - a 234 mile navigable  man-made channel that joins two river systems.

Little Black Feejer posing beside the water
Believe it or not, this is named the red-winged blackbird.

More posing

Bridge over Tennessee River at Colbert park

Final resting place of Merryweather Lewis (of Lewis & Clark fame)

The last few miles of the Trace get a bit curvy.  Nice. 

Double Arch bridge over Hwy 96

End of the Natchez Trace
 After 442 miles of the trace it was back in to the real road world.  We headed east.  Our next item on the agenda is to visit the Tail of the Dragon.  So it was jump on I40 east and join the mad throng.  Many of the locals here have little regard for speed limits.   Makes it a lot of fun.

We spied this Fisker Karma - a hybrid - complete with solar panels on the roof.
Ended up at Alcoa for the night, at one end of Hwy 129.  Tomorrow should be good.
396 miles for the day

25 June 2013

Barber and Back to Tupelo

Won't be a big story today.  We simply rode to Birmingham, Alabama, spent all day in the Barber Museum, then rode back to Tupelo.
The ride there was 140 miles on all superslab - took about two hours.
The ride back was 140 miles on all superslab - took about two hours.
The museum is really worth seeing - hundreds of motorcycles and quite a few cars from all ages.  An excellent array of machinery.
So here's a few photos - only a small sample of all we took, but we don't want to bore you.

American style breakfast. Eggs, sausage, biscuit and gravy.

140 miles of this

Statues outside the Barber Motorsport Museum

We was there

My all time favourite Lotus.  The Europa.

The excess bikes are stacked in shelves

Or displayed as trees

Some are just difficult to fathom

Others just beautiful in their ostentation

And some just strange

View of the race track from up high in the museum.
Tomorrow we'll be back on the Trace.