|July 2009||Louisiana MSTA Newsletter||Page 1|
I have been wasting a lot of time watching le Tour De France instead of working on this newsletter. For some reason I am fascinated by it and I am not even into bicycles. Think they are silly, what with no motors and uncomfortable seats and skinny tires. But I keep watching those climbs and thinking wouldn't it be great to ride the whole tour on a motorcycle! Seriously, I am blown away by the endurance of these racers, especially Lance Armstrong. He should change his name to "Legstrong". Anyway, blame the lateness of this newsletter on Le Tour... and burnout.
Martha and I had a wonderful vacation at STAR 09. This was my 16th. Martha says it was the greatest, and it certainly ranks high on my list. But I can't recall any that I did not enjoy tremendously. In this issue you can read my account of STAR 2009 with pictures of the event as well as the beautiful Shenandoah Valley and Blue Ridge Mountains. Our favorite female squid Lea Nangle returns with her column this month as well. [DISCLAIMER: The views contained therein do not necessarily represent the views of management, in fact we think she's full of it ]
Glyn Best and Henry Pretus: I do not have valid email addresses for you please email me, see address at bottom.
Stacie and I had looked forward to STAR 09 for months. Stacie had attended STARs in 99, 2000, 02, 04 and 06 but had missed 07 and 08 due to her real estate work. She really loves STAR and was excited about being able to go again. But alas, it was not to be; she got the flu! I could have switched to Plan B and ridden to Staunton with my LA MSTA buddies and saved some $ but since I had gone to much trouble to include three very romantic stops along our route to and from STAR and it was too late to cancel some of the reservations, I decided to stick to my itinerary and bring my friend Martha instead. Martha is not half the passenger Stacie is but would do in a pinch, and she's a lighter packer.
|Day one, Thursday, began around 8:15 am on some local back roads up to Fayette, MS where we accessed the Natchez Trace Parkway. Traffic was light on the Trace but we encountered several other friendly bikers heading both ways and the ride was extremely pleasant. We stopped for lunch at a BBQ place just north of Jackson. The place was called the Pig Shak, it looked good on the Internet but the food turned out to be only average. Back on the Trace after lunch it was hot, around; 98 degrees! So by the time we got to Tupelo we were more than ready to stop for the night and cool off, although we had covered only about 320 miles.|
We were disappointed to find no swimming pool at the motel but elected to stay put at the Comfort Inn as it was walking distance from a promising restaurant. Papa Vannelli has been serving Greek and Italian for 30 years, according to the menu and confirmed by Hattie, our waitress, a Tupelo native, who has been employed
| at Vanneli's since the beginning. I enjoyed a great Greek sampler plate with several items I won't even try to spell but Martha, who is picky, did not like the sauce on her Shrimp Scampi. But I sure did!
Friday morning we packed up and checked out and stopped by Vernon Presley's place just down the road, childhood home of the King Of Rock and Roll. Elvis had bought the place and some surrounding land while he was rich and famous and it is now nice museum. We stopped and had a look around, marvelling at the tiny shack where Elvis had grown up.
Our 360 mile Day 2 route took us through Huntsville, AL; a brief dip across the line into GA then Chattanooga, TN; and ending with a ride on US129, the famous Dragon. Our destination, selected by Dave Dickson & Dennis Hedrick of our NOLA subchapter, was the Deals Gap Motorcycle Resort at the bottom of the Dragon near Tapoco, NC. Also present were Kevin Yeats of Hahnville and father/son team Tim & Caleb Smith of Simsboro. We also visited with Chuck Davis, Star Review Editor who was staying there with some riding buddies also on their way to STAR. The weather was almost cool and we had a great time hanging out and bs'ing at the groovy place formerly known as the Crossroads of Time. We all ganged up at the restaurant for supper and then sat out on the stoops drinking beer until bedtime. Martha and I noted that these riders who like to hit the roads at the crack of dawn go to bed awfully early. Party Poopers! Martha is a night person.
Saturday was our shortest day, less than 200 miles. The plan was to ride NC 28, one of my favorites, and then ride through Smoky Mountain National Park stopping whenever Martha felt like seeing some sights. But I missed a turnoff and ended up on another road alongside a beautiful river and just kept going. When we turned into the park the traffic was really heavy and slow and we just never felt like stopping. On the north side of the park things were even worse. At least while in the park the scenery was nice. Neither of us had been to Gatlinburg or Pigeon Forge in about 15 years and we soon remembered why. Nightmarish!
Once past Sevierville the ride became pleasant again and we enjoyed some nice roads and scenery on the way to Cumberland Gap, TN, although we caught the only rain of the whole trip just as we hit town. So we did not explore the Cumberland Gap National Historic Park as planned but instead enjoyed some cocktails on the balcony of our motel room which overlooked a bubbling brook. When the rain stopped we took a walk around the quaint old town: "Cumberland Gap is kinda like walking into a Norman Rockwell Painting..." quotes the town's website. Later we dined at Webb's Country Kitchen, one of two eateries in town, and listened to some live music. The food was good old country cooking and was excellent. It rained again during the night stopping just in time for our departure but the roads were wet as we made a careful exit, heading straight for Staunton. We had planned to hook up with Dan Thomas and Don Clark who were riding in from the West Coast, and meeting up with new Louisiana member Rod Fors in nearby Morristown TN, and ride into Staunton with them. However I had learned from Chuck Davis at Deals Gap that Dan's ST had broken down and he and Don were flying in instead. Considering the wet weather I plotted a direct route to Staunton. I put my RD away as we entered Virginia as they are illegal there and I had heard the VA state police used "detector detectors". Rather than risk an expensive ticket or confiscation of my detector I just resolved to slow down a bit.
We arrived at the Stonewall Jackson around 3:00 pm and immediately began spotting friends. One of the first was old friend Jim Girton who unfortunately was on crutches. He had taken a spill on his Concours 14 while riding on Saturday. Jimmy has had some bad luck riding at STARS! Other familiar faces, from every corner of the USA, included Don Clark and Dan Thomas, Carol and Roger Prince, Lee and Sam Ulbing, Chris and Don Laderer, Todd Nunnally, Kent and Evie Treas, Andray Hubble and many, many more. We also met several new faces as well, including Mac, all the way from the south of England! We had a great time catching up and swapping lies.
The Stonewall Jackson proved to be a great venue for a STAR with all the key ingredients. A nice lobby for socializing just steps away from the entrance area on a not-to-busy street with ample space for temporary bike parking for assembling ride groups; a good restaurant and a small but well stocked bar; and covered parking not far from the rooms. The only thing lacking was enough rooms for all the attendees but the shuttle to the overflow motels seemed to make that a non-issue. The event was very well organized, registration was a breeze and the hotel staff was very accommodating.
For Sunday evening's meal the Louisiana group took up the Florida group's invitation to join them at one of the fine restaurants on Beverly Street just around the corner from the Stonewall Jackson. The resultant group was almost too large to handle but the staff managed to push enough tables together to accommodate all 18 of us!
First thing Monday morning I had to attend to an equipment problem. Upon arrival at the hotel Sunday afternoon my Concours 14 began making a loud screeching noise whenever I applied the brakes. Loud and nasty sounding enough to make me concerned about metal to metal contact. With help from NC member John Watts I pulled a set of pads and discovered they were pretty well used up. No metal on metal contact yet but only the faintest of lines to suggest a where the wear groove should have been; probably not enough pad to get us home. I called Valley Kawasaki in Harrisonburg, VA only about 25 miles away. They did not have pads but would overnight them and they promised they would be there by 11:00 am Tuesday. Mondays riding was therefore limited to a timid-paced 60 mile jaunt out Hwy 250 and back. This road has some fine twisties that had me realizing how much I rely on good brakes for corner carving and wishing I had some! Monday evening the Louisiana crowd enjoyed another excellent meal at the Mills St. Grill, again just a short walk from the hotel. The food was outstanding and the place seemed to be full of happy MSTAers.
Tuesday morning Louisiana member Tim Cundiff kindly offered to ride with me to the Kawasaki dealership so after some breakfast and a bit of a wait to let the parts truck arrive we headed out for Harrisonburg. The plan was to get the pads on and make the lunch ride if possible. We got to the shop at 10:30 after a pleasant ride and the pads were waiting. I had intended to swap pads myself in the parking lot and was prepared with a can of brake clean and a roll of paper towels but when the shop offered to do the job for $15 with no delay I told them to go ahead. We were back on the road in 20 minutes. We were on schedule but a little off course and my GPS for once did not seem intent on choosing the fastest route. Most of the MSTA crowd was gone by the time we arrived at the lunch spot and the serving line had already shut down but the restaurant staff was kind enough to accommodate a pair of hungry riders. The ride back was less hurried and more enjoyable, especially with my confidence restored in my brakes.
Tuesday evening we decided to take advantage of the hotel's "cookout" and save a few bucks. After several nights in a row of restaurant dining the cookout was a perfect change of pace. You can't go wrong with hotdogs and hamburgers on an open grill!
|On Wednesday I rode one of the routes provided by STAR organizers in our registration packets as well as on the MSTA website in GPS digital format. Louisiana member Tim Cundiff and my old friend Fanny Haine from Florida joined me. It seems the rest of the Florida group was taking the day off from riding. Tim was on his||Honda Shadow and Fannie was on her new, custom painted (lime green and pink) BMW. We no doubt made an interesting trio. We had a very enjoyable ride on the Blue Ridge Parkway and|
through some beautiful Virginia farmland. We had lunch at a truck stop that had the most amazing knife collection I have ever seen as well as a few classic motorcycles on display!
Wednesday evening was the banquet and bike raffle drawing which always generates much excitement. The year the prize was a Triumph Sprint ST. Most of the LA chapter plus honorary chapter members Chris & Don Laderer and Jim Girton gathered at one long table. The meal service was efficient and the food was excellent. Following the meal various riding and Dan Clark safety program awards were announced and the venerable Moose Parish, this year's guest speaker, reminded all us old timers how much fun we have been having over the years. Great Job, Moose! Finally Tom McKiernan, the raffle guy, tortured us with suspense as the bike winner was finally announced. The winner was present and although I was really counting on that Sprint to implement my personal stimulus package it was great to see the jubilant reaction of the winning member.
The rest of the evening was spent back in the room trying to figure out how we had managed to fit all our stuff in the bike luggage. I had to jettison some socks and underwear but hey, they had holes in them anyway.
Thursday morning Stacie and I departed at about 7:30 with Tony Crowell. Most of the LA gang were "iron butting" it straight home. Martha and I don't care for those long days in the saddle and had a three day route planned. We had plans to ride more of the BRP and had reservations at the Pisgah Inn, which "located at the Peak of the Blue Ridge Parkway provides breath-taking views, fine dining in a casual atmosphere, comfortable accommodations, unique area crafts and gifts and an incomparable escape into the mountains of Western North Carolina." The Inn would live up to the hype!
Tony was not quite ready to head home either so he planned to ride with us for a while before some exploring in NC and TN. After a quick blast down I-81 to Roanoke we got on the BRP. Traffic was light and the riding great on the parkway. We stopped at Meadows of Dan, VA for brunch and then went separate ways, Martha and I continuing on the parkway while Tony headed for US 421, AKA the "Snake".
We had a great time on the parkway, seeing mostly only other bikes. At one point there was another highway, US 221, paralleling the parkway for several miles and only a 80 yards or so off to the side, only partially visible through the foliage. There were bikes traveling this road as well and the effect was quite surreal! During afternoon we encountered two separate detours around parkway closures but fortunately the detours were good roads and traffic was not too heavy. The second detour brought us to the base of Mt. Pisgah and NC 151. The last 6 miles of 151 was full of 10 MPH switchbacks and perhaps as steep a climb as I have ever encountered! It was a challenging climb with the slightly damp and dirty road surface but we were delighted at what awaited us at the top. Located right on the BRP, each of the Inn's buildings has a great view of the mountains and each room has a private "back porch" with rocking chairs. The main building has a terrific restaurant with tables also offering beautiful panoramic views. I enjoyed one of the best steaks I have had in years! We spent the rest of the evening enjoying ourselves on our balcony and soaking in the mountain air and gazing at the star filled sky. This was a great way to spend our final night in the mountains!
The next morning we were back on the BRP as far as Clark, NC where we turned onto the Great Smoky Mountain Parkway for a few miles, then US 23 to Franklin, US 64 to Murphy and 74 to Cleveland, TN. We used the Interstate only to get through Chattanooga, abandoning I-59 at Trenton in favor of TN 301 and AL 75. We turned west on US 278 to Cullman where we stopped for gas. Somewhere between Cullman and Jasper my low tire pressure alarm went off. I immediately turned around and headed back to the last service station we had passed, fortunately only about 2 miles back. I could not find a nail but the helpful store manager mixed up a soap solution in a spray bottle for me and I quickly located a cut. 10 minutes later we were back on the road with a plug in the tire and our fingers crossed. Situations like this one is where the tire pressure monitoring system is a really appreciated! Not only did the system alert me to the problem in timely fashion, I was also able to ride with peace of mind knowing my repair was holding tight.
We arrived in Jasper and checked into a Days Inn and obtained some refreshments and relaxed by the pool. Later we discovered the Brangus Steakhouse across the street had excellent steaks. Another fine meal on the final evening of our trip was just what I needed to complete a 5 pound weight gain. Doh!
Martha and I dreaded the final day of our trip as neither of us were ready for home, but reality called. I expected the last leg to be dull but to my surprise the back road route out of Jasper to Jackson MS included some nice scenic and fairly twisty roads, AL 102 and 96 MS 25. I managed to avoid the Jackson traffic by getting on I-20 in Brandon and then I-59 south only as long as necessary, exiting at Hazelhurst onto MS 28. I was now back in my own familiar backroad stomping grounds and my only concern was to keep an eye on the tire pressure monitor. We got home about 3:15 pm. 10 wonderful days on the road!
Next year: TAOS, NM - SEE YOU THERE!
WHERE: MEET IN BATON ROUGE AT STARBUCKS.
WHEN: 9:00 AM RIDE at 9:30
DESTINATION: Nyla's Burger Basket, Osyka, MS
We will plan on a relatively short ride to avoid the worst of the afternoon heat and rain showers. Nyla's Burger Basket, Britney Spears favorite gourmet eatery is our planned lunchspot.
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by Lea Nangle
Well, another STAR has come and gone and I feel unfulfilled. Yeah, I was there in Staunton, you may not have seen me, but I saw you. And who the heck decided that Staunton needed a "U" in it? Shouldn't it be pronounced "Staunton" ? My Louisiana buddies have no issue with the pronunciation, we got guys who spell their name W-H-I-T-E and pronounce it LeBlanc. New Name....Same old club. I think most of the old regulars are very proud that the new name has not made for a new association. As an outsider, and an observer I have some things to say about your Rendezvous in VA, and before anyone gets too bent over what I might say...let me say that my comments are for entertainment value only, and do not reflect those of anybody I have talked to about STAR. I am speaking my own mind, and only if Bob wants to print what I write, will you be reading this right now. So back to Staunton ( with a "U") As far as location, it was superb. VA and WVA have some great gnarly roads to ride, and the area is absolutely beautiful. It is after we establish that, that it starts to fall apart for me. I will start with the Hotel....excuse me, make that " Hotel - and motels " I heard some guys talking who said they registered for Star in January, but didn't get to stay in the Stonewall Jackson, but rather in the Beautiful and charming, rail station/Best Western Motel. Located 200 yards from I-81 and 14 ft. from the rail line serving Western VA.
|The westbound freight comes through around 2 AM. ( eastbound, around 5:30) Not having everyone at the same resort ( or in walking distance) was a huge downer for these guys, they didn't feel like they were part of the party. At least for the second class, or steerage, as we called them on the Titanic, the BW had a common parking lot where all of the bikes were proudly parked together for viewing, admiring, and discussing. Over at the Stonewall, you had to check out 5 levels of the parking garage to get a look (sort -of, it is pretty dark in there) at all the different bikes at STAR. It wasn't much fun. Then there was the big banquet meeting on Wednesday where you give out awards, have a guest speaker, and then give away the bike. I have to tell you, giving away the bike every year is one thing that is exceptional about HSTA ( now MSTA) It s always exciting, and this year the winner was actually at STAR...that was refreshing. Now I know there are some very hardworking volunteers that put their heart and soul into making STAR happen and they can't be thanked enough, so my ranting is not aimed at their efforts. In fact more hard workers like these very STAR organizers is what you guys need more of. OK, back to the banquet....people mean well, but for the first STAR in the age of MSTA, I have to say, what I saw was a whole lot of looking back, and very little looking forward. Everyone loves Moose, and his talk was funny and entertaining. It would have been perfect for a separate meeting celebrating the history of the HSTA and reliving old times. For the newer, younger members who were at there first or second or third STAR, it was a yawner of a speech about people and things they didn't know anything about. And as far as the awards, you should just set aside a whole night next year for Don Clark and let everyone who wants to talk to him and take his picture, have all they want. And even as he has complained for at least three years about receiving yet another award, I think he got two or three again this year. No one is suggesting he should not be honored or mentioned, but in a year when the club should be looking forward, it seemed like you talked about Don and the old days for a couple of hours. And as if to put the exclamation on the whole evening, the oldest- member- in- attendance award was once again given to Don ( who didn't want it) while the award for the youngest riders, male and female, was eliminated altogether. By now, I would have thought you guys would figure it out... you don't have to give Don an award to make him want to attend.... Maybe somebody, anybody, will figure it out next year that you really ought to be trying to get young riders involved. For good reason, nobody asked me to give a report on STAR, and I am not even a member of MSTA, so what I think doesn't matter, and my criticisms are just for you to think about. I know you go to STAR to ride, but maybe, just maybe, next year you could make it more of a party....you are motorcycle hoodlums after all. How about some music, and live entertainment? How about some games and competitions? ( like who can be the ONLY rider with GPS who didn't get lost this year) and there should always be a place at a motorcycle rally for more beer and nudity.( on second thought, wait till you get some younger members before you do that) So you either liven this thing up or I may not go to another one, and then who would there be to tell it like it is ( Godspeed WALTER !) I still Love you MSTA, Lea|
Hope you all enjoyed the newsletter. I try to produce something worth your time but after all these years it is getting hard. Anyone out there want to take a shot at it, even if just for a few months? For the future I have plans to develop an online system to allow for a collaborative effort similar to how the national newsletter and website are produced but that will take some time. If anyone is interested email me.
That's all for now.
Keep riding & smiling
Bob Chappuis, State Director and Editor