|May & June 2009||Louisiana MSTA Newsletter||P.1|
Late again. I had intended to publish this before leaving for STAR but that did not happen. Our planned May North Louisiana Lunch Ride fizzled out due to several of our usual participants being out of state or otherwise committed. Instead Stacie and I set out alone on the Concours 14 headed for Joe Dreyfus only to be turned back at the Mississippi by rain. We instead rode in the other direction toward blue sky and had a nice lunch at South of the Border on US 61 at the state line. Next after preparing the SV650 and loading the van for a May 17 Tiger Track, I took ill and had to pass. Things did get better toward the end of May and in early June with a 250 miler two-up to the Bar-B-Q Station in Independence with a Rocket Madness crowd and then on to Mandeville for a birthday visit on May 30 and a solo ride the following weekend to Pass Christian, MS. The weather for both rides was near perfect. In fact the weather has been good enough that the van has not even been started for two weeks straight and my daily work commute has been downright enjoyable! But enough about me, our NOLA gang has been active and we have two ride reports to prove it. I am just back from STAR 09 as I write this and you will get a full report next month!
We welcome aboard new member Rod Fors of Destrehand. Rod attended Cajun Christmas last December.
Dennis doesn’t go to the races.
By Dave Dickson and comments by Larry Crow in italics
Sick as a road-kill-eating dog-sick, Dennis had the dog flu. Fever, sudden loss of weight, loss of the will to live etc., he had it all. I think he did it in retaliation because Debbie had it first. Debbie and Dennis do a lot of things together.
The AMA Superbike races at Barber Motorsports in Birmingham were approaching for the May 1, 2, 3 weekend.
Eric Babcock and I went on a mission on Friday, May 1st to pick up my son-in-law’s surprise gift from my daughter. Bogart’s Triumph, Ducati, BMW and KTM dealership in Birmingham had one of the last available Triumph Bonneville 50th Anniversary models left in the entire south. Of the 650 made, I was told, only 120 came to the United States, and many of those were snapped up before being uncrated. Eric was trooper for accompanying me on this trip, thanks, Eric.
We loaded up Steve’s ’09 orange and baby blue bike in my truck and tied it down. I got the keys and owner’s manual. While we were there we bought 3 day passes to the AMA races and pit passes at Bogart’s. Then we went over to nearby Barber Motorsports track and sold our Friday passes. The three day ticket was $60; a one day ticket was $40. We came out okay. Pit passes were $15 for the weekend. We toured the track grounds and I could see that Eric was getting excited about riding back up on Saturday. We had planned on camping but the weekend camp tickets were $75 each!
Arriving back in New Orleans at sundown, we unloaded the new Triumph and tried to start it. Bogart’s gave us the wrong set of keys. It seems that they had two and Barber Motorsports Museum bought the other one. We had their keys and I got that straightened out later that weekend. Steve was speechless as this was a complete surprise. Oh yeah, the owner’s manual was totally in Japanese, I had never looked. A new owner’s manual is on the boat from England along with John Bloor’s signed certificate of authenticity.
Early Saturday morning, Eric, on his midnight blue metallic Kawasaki ZZR 1200, and I met Larry Crow, riding his new black Suzuki SV 1000, in Slidell and we all rode up to Birmingham.
(Larry Crow comments…) I have bad ears. Usually I do not hear what other people say. Sometimes they do not hear what I say. Seems to me if I can hear it as bad as my ears are they can too. Sensible? Not this time. That comes later though. I will not repeat what Dave wrote unless my part was different. This SV 1000S is a very sweet ride. Handles well and accelerates very well. I have just turned 3,000 miles though and am still adapting to the differences between it and my Guzzi. (Larry’s other motorcycle is a MotoGuzzi Breva 750) Less torque on demand but much more in just a rev or three. I also do not like wet roads. Just a personal preference. So we met in Slidell and rode through fog to Hattisburg. Breakfast and gas in Meridian. Dave and I are very close on mileage with his K1200R Sport and the SV. Every gas stop was a tenth less for me or a tenth less for him. A good match truly.
We made the usual breakfast stop in Hattiesburg at the Waffle House. “Ride to eat…”
We parked in the grass opposite the Barber Museum, near the campground, and walked over to where a Alabama father and his grown son had set up this shady dry 10’ x 10’ large awning.
We chatted our way into some shade as we watched the practice laps and the races after some delays due to a wet track. The rain had preceded us and was over by the time we got there. It was a sunburn, squinty bright day after the rain. From our perspective on the side of the hill near turn #2 and 3, we could see the end of the first turn after the front straight and the two subsequent turns. When the actual race ran, we couldn’t tell who was who or where they ranked, but two very attractive women did peel down to catch some rays while their boyfriends sat in folding camp chairs and drank beer. From “Cool Hand Luke”, “takin’ off boss, wiping boss”, as I passed my 10 x 50 binoculars around.
Birmingham and the Barber track were the next stop and the practice was underway as we parked. The sun came out and the track was dried with assistance and races were on. I like races but really do not pay a lot of attention. I like better the culture of the track and race goers.
After the races, we did a pit crawl and that was more my style. The trucks and tire stacks that go with the races were very interesting to me. I discovered that the used tires were sold to Kevin Schwantz Suzuki for his track classes. Good use for that refuse of the race. The night was Holiday Inn at the airport and more bad weather.
After the races, we hustled up a room at the Holiday Inn. Three guys, one room and some of them had too much luggage. Tony and Bob had taught Dennis and me the art of packing light in our Great Trip of 2008 in May-June 2008.
Sunday morning weather channel news showed us a thick line of fast moving squalls, heavy rain and possible tornados that would be approaching by 1 PM into the Birmingham area.
We rode to 29 Dreams for breakfast. The trip included a nice curvy road with a switchback to stoke up the appetite. They have a great big tasty breakfast buffet. Food seems to be a big part of my stories. Highway 25 is typical of northern Alabama, twisty, good pavement, surrounded by green forests and farms and just right for sport touring bikes.
The road to 29 Dreams was great. We are not in South Louisiana any more Toto!
We hurried to the track, visited the pits, were awed by the racer’s big rigs, dug our fingernails into various spent soft sticky tires already piled high near one of the big trackside trailers, picked up free stickers and ogled the umbrella girls with their painted-on spandex attire.
Right after the Supersport race, they had a podium awards ceremony and champagne spray. I walked up and congratulated one of the winners, told him how exciting it was and asked for his ball cap. He blinked, thoroughly surprised by the request, said, “Sure”. Dennis had his first souvenir, a non-adjustable pre-sweated Team M4 Suzuki hat from another small head sized motorcyclist, Colombian Martin Cardenas (No. 36 GSX-R600).
We rode around to the vender area and parked in the motorcycles-only lot near the Museum right in front of the chicanes. I collected a bag of free stuff for the emaciated dog flu victim back home. We watched the races from there and we had the advantage of being able to see the leader board. We were close enough to the track to see them sweat. It is a sweet sound to hear an in-line four screaming past you at 6 rpms below the blow-up the engine redline. Intermittently the Buell and Ducati twins flashed by, sounding like biplanes in a dogfight.
This was the 2nd round Supersport race that had just finished which was only the first of two races. The bad weather was coming and light rain was starting. The 2nd round of the AMA Superbike race was postponed. With the information I had from the weather channel, I thought it would be a total rain-out.
We were already packed, so we cruised back past 29 Dreams and down highway 25 until it intersected I-65. We hurried south down to Montgomery before the weather front caught up to us. Suddenly our bikes were shoved and slapped by the invisible hand of strong and gusty side winds. Dust and sand whipped up blew clouds of orange and the gray black clouds of severe weather racing toward the east intimidated traffic into a massive slow down. We were well heeled over just to stay in our lanes. The weather channel later said that some cows and deer were lifted off their feet by the winds. These very high winds blowing from the west separated us. Larry stopped under an underpass to gear up. Eric not seeing him, pulled off at the next exit and I was still hurrying to beat the weather. When they both vanished from my mirrors, I slowed down. That’s when the very intense rains caught up to me. I followed a semi trailer closely as visibility dropped to 100 feet. At this time we were going about 20 mph. I couldn’t stop because, with the terrible visibility, I was sure that someone would run over me. So truck friend and I soldiered on. Orange highway barrels were blown over, racing across all six lanes and one even came between me and the truck. The base was solidly in my path. My glasses and face shield we wet and fogged on the inside and outside twice. I felt the base about the same time it registered. BUMP bump!! As truck friend and I reached the southern end of the rain and sanity was restored, I got a chance to pull over where I could watch for my lost buddies. About an hour later, using cell phones, we were all re-united.
The Weather Channel in the hotel was pessimistic. The sky at the track was confirmation. Time to leave while we can ride dry. Back down Hwy 25 South past 29 Dreams and all the way to I-65. At a gas stop at the I-65 junction we met people telling us of the great storm coming our way. They said it was moving north and we were going south. Seemed like a good bet. Before we left the station I said "if it starts raining I am going under the first overpass for the rain suit in the tank bag." This is the part where no one heard me. I had ear plugs in maybe that was the problem. Off we went into Dorothy's storm. I did not see any cows or deer flying but I did see a construction porta potty tumble across the interstate.
That was hazard enough. As Dave said we became separated and met at a rest area south of Montgomery. We also met a friend from work and spent a short time catching up with him and his wife. The rest of the trip was just grunt work. planning gas stops and riding the distance. The bars on the SV are not up to those of my Guzzi. It may be a better performing bike but it is not better to ride. There is much room for improvement. A late night return home with only light rain for the last 50 miles ended the trip for me.
Soggy and late we arrived in New Orleans, well after dark. Later we learned the weather held up the races only a relatively short time and we could have stayed, taken the short way home and been home at the same time, but then we would have missed the flying cows.
Dave Dickson Photos by Eric Babcock
“Hey, let’s go get some Dragon stickers”, I called out on a warm afternoon to my friends and riding buddies, Dennis Hedrick and Eric Babcock. This was following the trip to Barber Motorsports a couple of weeks earlier. Dennis had recovered from the dog flu and was actually able to smile again. Dennis’ wine red BMW R1200RT and Eric’s navy metallic Kawasaki ZZR 1200 were Dragon virgins and it was time to end that. The next step was a reservation; the Deal’s Gap Motel is on my speed dial. Luckily, we got the last room on a Friday night. Ironically, it was the same room Dennis and I had two years earlier, #12. The room has a queen and two bunk beds. So, on Friday May 15th, we all left New Orleans at 0530. Generally that is too early for Dennis by about two hours, but he bucked up, and later he admitted that he doesn’t sleep all that well before a trip anyway. Eric was eager.
First gas and breakfast was in Meridian, Mississippi. Conveniently, there is a Waffle House next to a gas station. Three over medium, pattie sausage, grits, orange juice and coffee was exactly what I needed. A tank of premium for my baby and we’re good to go.
I-59, I-24 and I-75, by 2 PM we were off the Interstate just north of Chattanooga exit 20. At Cleveland, Tennessee, we stopped at a Subway and had a double meat, double cheese, oven roasted Italian BMT on the seven grain Honey Oat bread. We gassed up for the third time. We took Tennessee highway 74 east to 411 north. Highway 411 north then 311/39 east and right on 68 to Tellico Plains was pleasant and a welcome change from the Interstate. Tellico Plains is the western end of the Cherohala Skyway, Tennessee highway 165. The eastern end is North Carolina Highway 143 (same highway, it just changes numbers as it crosses the state line) in Robbinsville, North Carolina. It ends at U.S. Highway 129, the Holy Grail.
North on U.S. 129 leads to the Deal’s Gap / Cross Roads of Time Motel. We checked in, ate and walked around a little. Eric and I wanted to call home to let them know we weren’t consumed by the flaming Angel of Death. There is no cell phone reception in the valley, none, not a whisper. The pay phone was a bust as none of us had a phone card. So Eric and I suited back up and rode to the Calderwood Dam overlook, 9 or so miles north on the heart of the Dragon to try for a signal. I could see Eric was anxious to ride it, too. He was like an impatient kid waiting for Christmas morning to open presents. So, we opened one early.
It was Eric’s first time at the Dragon on a motorcycle. I advised him; always ride your own pace, stay in the middle of the lane and let faster bikes by. He said laughing, “A friend of mine told me that his head went over the double yellow”. I replied to Eric, “Your head will be too”.
In the late afternoon sun, the old familiar curves came and flowed over me like returning to the first warm swim of summer. I was laughing in my helmet. My ’07 BMW K1200R Sport and I are well acquainted after 28,000 miles together. My BMW is now a trusted, familiar friend with sticky Pirelli Diablos adhering to the tight undulating curves. The air was clear and cool. As I waited a short time for Eric, I tried out the cell phone. Smoke signals would have been more promising. Nada. Nothing. Bupkis. Eric and I enjoyed the view and chatted for a couple of minutes. I asked innocently, raising my eyebrows “Did your head cross the double yellow”? He said sheepishly, “Probably”.
Before long, the urge to enjoy the Gap again was too over powering to resist. We planned to get up early and challenge the Gap first thing, then stop for breakfast. After the last ride on the first day, we walked over to the “Tree of Shame” and Eric had to take the pictures, because my camera was dead.
After a 640 mile day, we hit the sack early and woke refreshed and eager. We left early before any one else from the motel was up. Eric rode better on the Dragon than Dennis or me the first time we rode it.
Dennis and I, pacing each other, warmed up our tires for a few miles, as we progressively turned up the wick. We waited at the overlook to make sure Eric was okay. We changed our electronic suspensions settings to Sport and then we returned to the motel/gas station.
I had to gas up, then we were off for another lap. This time Dennis rode past the overlook to the Tabcat Bridge, the official beginning of the north end of the Dragon. He rode a little further and I mentioned that the relatively straights of going further north on 129 were the hunting grounds of the THP, so we headed back south. On the return trip, Dennis touched down a foot peg. That is saying a lot on a BMW R1200RT. At the motel, we packed up and saw how many people were beginning to show up. We said, “One more time before breakfast”. We were off. The photographers were up by now and traffic increased considerably. On this round trip, Dennis and I scraped pegs on both sides of our BMWs on the way north and again many times on the way back south.
It was that kind of day. Everything fell into place, the finesse of the braking, anticipating the curves and leaning with abandon with complete and mortal faith in our tires. It was all there. I have whooped while skiing when it worked like this. I whooped today.
At breakfast, we were buzzing and ate light as we planned the day. I had a Mad Map of the area and I said I had never ridden in northern Georgia.
“We could work our way back south and make a shorter day of Sunday”.
“Good idea”, said Dennis, “That first day was too long”.
We planned a trip back over the Cherohala, then south on 68 and into the heart of north western Georgia. After breakfast, I plotted the route into my GPS. I started out with the current location and the final destination for the day, then I selected enough waypoints to lay the route on top of our choice from the Mad Map. I stored it on a SD chip and put it into Eric’s GPS. That was the last thing that went right for the next two days.
From the foot of the Dragon to the Cherohala is about 16 miles. There are two turns if you take the shortcut. We bogeyed along the Cherohala for about 20 miles still on the top of our game, grazing foot peg feelers, until we pulled over in a scenic overlook to wait for Eric to catch up. No Eric and no phone reception. We waited about 15 minutes, then fearing the unspeakable, we headed back looking for freshly scraped guardrails or weeds knocked down. We made it back to the intersection where we lost Eric and there was no Eric. But we were greatly relieved that there had been no accident.
What had happened, Eric had his GPS on shortest route, mine was set to quickest route. The waypoints doomed him to be sent off on a direct route while we were headed another. There is a nice newly paved short cut from 129 back to 143 (the North Carolina name for the Cherohala Skyway). Turn right at the south end of the Chevron station at the “T” intersection and you will be on this tree canopied, curvy, country lane. Eric was with us. At the next intersection turn right for Cherohala or left and you will go back to 129, which as it turned out was the shortest route to the next waypoint, but not the quickest. Dennis and I had passed a pick up and a car. Eric is more sensible and reluctant to pass double yellow. So we were two vehicles up and after the right turn onto the Cherohala, we looked back over our right shoulders and saw Eric. BUT he didn’t see us. He looked down at his GPS, immediately turned left and then turned right (south) on 129. We were relieved but we still felt guilty. We didn’t wait and make sure he had seen us. Never again, Eric.
So Dennis and I not knowing where he went, but where he was logically headed (the final destination), we headed back up the Cherohala to Tellico Plains then south etc according to the plan. At lunch, we got in touch with Eric, the new lost boy. (Dennis, Larry and I got lost in southern Tennessee in 2004 going to the Honda Hoot. I labeled that trip the “Lost Boys”).
We figured out an interim meeting place but a rain front spoiled the plans, and with cell phone reception, came an intrusion. I was being called to go offshore. I had to leave midnight Sunday night to drive to Cameron. We finally got together in the north western Georgia town of Summerville. We then rode south west on I-59 to exit 141 near Birmingham. We stayed a Holiday Inn Express Saturday night figuring that we needed to recharge our boneheaded brains. Eric couldn’t have been nicer about the whole deal.
I had to be back early as possible to wrap up details before heading offshore so I planned on a 0530 departure. The guys would ride back together later.
Sunday 0530, I was dressed and on my bike. I had taped the directions home onto Dennis’ tank, “Take exit 137, which is I-459 south to I-59”. Surely, it couldn’t have been simpler.
In the early Sunday morning darkness I encountered a little fog and a misty rain which was the lightest rain I would see for the next four hours. I suited up in my raingear and continued on the Slidell. Larry had taken my bomber jacket to be sewn at Jandy Leathers in Slidell. From Picayune to Slidell, I had been in the dry. So I took off my rain gear, put my brown leather A-2 bomber jacket under a cargo net behind me on the seat and left for New Orleans. The rain started in earnest just after the marble sized hail had stopped. When I got home, my Joe Rocket weighed 25 pounds.
Meanwhile, back at the Holiday Inn Express… Eric led the way home with his GPS, after they had a leisurely breakfast at the Holiday Inn Express. Good so far, they took exit 137 and went down I-459. Then Eric took I-65 south. He was repeating the route from two weeks earlier when we tried (in vain) to out run the rain. So Dennis and Eric went to Montgomery and Mobile and Pascagoula and Biloxi. But the gods were smiling on them, because of Eric’s routing, they had a completely dry trip back.
So all in all, we had done Cherohala four times and the Dragon four times. So let’s see, 11miles x 4 times x 2 each way = 88 miles; 318 turns x 8 = 2,544 turns.
Oh, I almost forgot, the most important thing, they both got well earned Dragon stickers on their bikes.
I am off so I am thinking about joining the group ride announced on www.rocketmadness.com. The ride is to Red Bluff with lunch in Monticello or McComb. Departing from the Hobby Lobby in Hammond at 9:00 am. If anybody want to join me shoot me an email: Chappuis AT hughes DOT net. I have ridden with a bunch of these squids and they are only slightly insane, mostly. So lets go show em how to ride .
That's all for now.
Keep riding & smiling
Bob Chappuis, State Director and Editor