|July 2011||Louisiana MSTA Newsletter||Page 1|
|Photo by Kevin Yeats|
STAR 2011 is history and a huge success. I believe the final attendence count was 495, a near record. The Louisiana Chapter had another fine turnout this year with 12 or 13 of our members attending, more than half of our membership. And I do believe each and every one had a great time, I know Stacie and I did! The STAR planners and organizers did an outstanding job and clearly went above and beyond to make the event a success. My only complaint is the ommision of an event pin which of course is no big deal.
I don't really like to compare STARS because there are so many different factors involved in the overall enjoyment of an event but this one certainly scored high in most categories. The Holiday Inn was convenient, functional and comfortable. Johnson City and its sister cities, Bristol and Kingston seem like nice friendly places to live in or visit. The food was good and the weather was mostly great. But for me what stands out about STAR 2011 is THE ROADS! It seemed that in any direction you went, you found yourself on awesome roads within minutes (even if you were "off route" due to GPS recalculation). I thought the lunch ride route was one of the most exciting ever! I rode great roads with different groups each day. It doesn't get much better! A big thanks to Jim Randle and Doug Pippen who did a great job compiling the routes and making the GPS files available.
This month's newletter features the first of Tony Crowell's two-part STAR 11 report. Enjoy and THANKS, Tony!
As STAR locations go, it would be hard to beat Johnson City, TN. So last June when they announced JC for STAR 2011, I knew I had to try to be there. As usual I started planning the route in my head, even while riding home from Taos.
Work schedules and weather often determine blast off times and this year's were no different. Kevin Yeats and I had planned to meet in Kentwood, LA at 7:00 a.m. on Thursday before STAR. After a month with no rain, the rain decided to show up on the very day we had decided to depart. Kevin sent me a text about 3 AM and asked if could meet earlier. I quickly scanned the radar and saw that if we did indeed leave within the next 40 minutes there was a good possibility that we could avoid the rain that was lingering along the coast and head for a dry sanctuary in Mississippi.
I quickly loaded my gear, unplugged all the electrical goodies in my apt and walked out the door at 4 a.m. While walking to my garage I noticed nature's cruel joke. Rain drops falling on my head. Yes, multiple radar sites had lied to me and I rode in the rain all the way to Kentwood on my previously spotless, and new, Triumph Tiger 1050. I had only purchased the bike a month earlier and it still had that new bike smell. By the time I reached our meeting point it had a decidedly "wet junkyard, alley-cat smell".
After gassing up in Kentwood, Kevin and me motored North on I-55 in order to escape the rain. By McComb, MS the skies began to clear. We made it through the Jackson rush hour and stopped for gas near the Natchez Trace Parkway. It was here that the almighty GPS would try to get us lost for the first, (but not the last) time. After fueling the bikes we decided to fuel ourselves. Kevin punched up restaurants on the magical GPS and found a Waffle House nearby. Great! We set off in the direction of the WH. About half way there Kevin pulled over. As soon as he did I knew what was wrong. It's a look that I see every time I ride with people who depend on GPS. It was telling him to make a U-turn. When we first found the Waffle House back at the gas station, I made a mental note of where it was and knew that we headed the right way, but the know-it-all GPS was telling Kevin otherwise. I told Kevin to disregard the ranting of the infernal machine and follow me. The WH was exactly where we thought it was.
After breakfast, it was on to the Natchez Trace Parkway. It was a little muggy, but, not too bad for MS in the summertime. We had a pleasent ride (as usual) on the PKWY with very little traffic and no Park Rangers to set off our Escort solo 2's. Kevin had planned a route that turned east, off the PKWY, near Van Vleet and would take us across northeastern MS and northern Alabama to our destination of Guntersville, AL. The highlight of this section was a county road called Hayley-Detriot Road. Very curvy and scenic… for MS.
We checked into a slightly run-down Super 8 motel in G'ville and began the hunt for food. We normally don't like to re-mount the bikes after an arrival so we looked for a place within walking distance. We both un-enthusiastically decided on Pizza Hut next door. That turned out to be the worst meal of the entire trip for both of us. After the lackluster fare at Pizza Hut, we walked across the busy US 431 to a grocery store for dessert. On our little walk we noticed about 4 other places to eat that would have all been better that the Pizza Hut. Oh well…
The next morning we struck camp and headed for Tellico Plains, TN. We were supposed to met Lee Helton there and ride the Cherohala and Dragon. Between Guntersville and Chattanooga we saw lots of devastation from recent tornados; in fact, we had seen some tree damage in MS and quite a bit of destruction in Cullman, AL the day before.
Kevin wanted to stop by Southern Powersports Honda in Chattanooga. He had bought his VFR there and as always, wanted to pay his respects to Mother Honda. BTW; most people don't know this but Kevin sleeps in Genuine Honda ™ footy pajamas!
It is a huge dealership that deals in volume. They had a crapload of Gold-Wings there and a large selection of accessories. The salesman I talked to actually knew something about motorcycles and was not just your typical "sells washing machines one day and motorcycles the next" kind of guy that you typically find at the big 4 dealerships.
After a pleasant stop there, we were off to the hills. We quickly left Chattanooga in our mirrors and made our way to US 64 and the Ocoee River. We had both ridden 64 to Ducktown and then TN 68 to Tellico numerous times so we decided to take TN 30 and 315 northeast to Tellico. A wise decision. Both were very twisty and scenic roads that bypass the heavy traffic of US 64.
When we arrived at TP, Lee and his CBR 1000RR were already there at the motorcycle-friendly Exxon station. The skies were turning darker so we grabbed a quick bite made a short stop by Tellico Motorcycle Outfitters and hit the Skyway.
Once on the Skyway, Lee took off as if it were the last race of the season and he was down by one point. I tried keeping up for a while, but the Tiger handles quite differently from my VFR so I plodded along, and tried to get used to the new bike and track, uh…I mean road. We finally caught up with Lee when he rode into the clouds that dropped both visibility and speed way down.
The clouds continued to get heavier as we exited the Skyway and headed for the Dragon. It was during a light rain that I got behind several Harleys and a Jeep Cherokee on US 129. After following them for a seemingly interminable amount of time I had to pull the trigger on Tigger and pass. As you all know a decent motorbike can pass in a ¼ of the space needed by a typical passenger car. So… as soon as I found a safe spot, I twisted the go-lever and quickly and safely dispatched the offending vehicles.
Everything was lovely until I checked my mirrors and saw that the Jeep Cherokee had multiple blue lights flashing…uh oh. Insert upside down smiley face here! Turns out that the local Sheriff in NC uses unmarked vehicles and since my detector failed to go off, I was not paying the proper amount of attention and failed to see all the pretty lights in the rear window when I passed the deputy… over a double -yellow line!
Luckily for me; after a heartfelt apology for passing him, he gave me a stern admonishment and sent me on my way...Whew!
After kicking tires and a little shopping at the Gap, we convened to try and determine if the weather was getting worse or better. It was hard to tell as we could see a couple of small patches of blue sky through the spitting rain, but the consensus was that the weather would clear. A decision we would later regret.
You see, there is NO cell service at the Gap. If I could have checked one of my 5 weather radar sites on my iPhone I would have been able to see the very large cluster of thunderstorms inching its way toward the Gap. We could have then wisely out-run the storms back to the east toward our cozy hotel room in Robbinsville, NC. But… we didn't.
We loaded up and rode at slow speed behind the endless parade of Harley-Fergusons inching their way along the Dragon toward the overlook. Lee took off and was not to be seen again. I caught up with Kevin at the overlook. As soon as I arrived the proverbial bottom fell out. The wind kicked up and the rain came down in torrents. I struggled to get my rain-gear on but didnt take the time to cover my electrics as I thought I would run out of the storm soon. Bad mistake! Kevin took off again ahead of me as I was suiting up; I gave chase but did not see him again until reaching the parking lot of the Microtel in Robbinsville.
The water was very deep in some spots on US 129. By the time I arrived at the hotel my boots were full of water and I was soaked. I must say the Tiger handles very, very well in the rain. Kevin also reported that his new Michelin PR3's are the best handling rain tires he has used. BTW, I was using the grandfather of the PR3's the original Pilots.
Once in the hotel the drying process was begun with a borrowed hair dryer from the front desk. Unfortunately for me, most of my electronic stuff was toast. Radar detector…dead. Ipod…dead! Iphone… critical condition. Kevin and I did some laundry and got some vittles while lamenting the earlier riding decision. While at the laundra-mat, Dennis called and said that he and Eric had made it the hotel.
The storms passed and the next morning we awoke to fairly dry roads and cool temps. The four of us departed R'ville and headed back to the Dragon mainly to get some photos taken by professionals. The road was in good condition but the Harley bunch continued to impede our progress. We made it to the overlook and back to the Gap for more tire kicking. Afterwards, we took off on NC 28 for Cherokee, US 19, and the Blue Ridge Parkway. Uneventful except for an episode in Cherokee with a car driver. We were stopped at a red-light behind some girl yapping on the phone. There was no traffic moving our way, yet the brain-dead chick sat there for about 2 minutes when she could have easily and legally turned right on red and we would have all been happy. After several honks from our pitiful horns she awoke and made the turn. After following her for several blocks at 25 mph Kevin, who was leading, raised his hand in anger in order to give the girl a quick driving lesson. This is VERY uncharacteristic behaviour for Kevin, who someday will inherit the earth (if you know what I mean). I didn't see what the girl had done to him but; I figured if it angered mild-mannered Kevin so much, she must have really done something awful to him. So… as she turned left I gave her the finger just to put an exclamation point on our disappointment with her lack of driving etiquette and to defend my buddy's honor.
By now the day had progressed nicely and it had started to warm up in the valleys. We stopped just before entering the BRP and shed some clothes which was not very wise. After about two miles I realized we were going to be crossing the highest elevation on the Parkway and it would quickly get cool again. Luckily, Kevin had to stop again once we reached the Parkway, so I put my cool weather gear back on. A wise move as it did indeed get much cooler. We were now riding along the backbone of the BRP and the day was absolutely beautiful.
Our plan was to stop at the "highest point on BRP sign" and take a group photo. We arrived at the place to see that the site where the sign once stood was heavily damaged and just small remnants of the sign could be seen. It is highly unlikely that vandals would have destroyed the sign as it is very large. After a few minutes of studying the situation I looked at the side of the mountain directly across from the sign and observed that there had been a fairly recent rock-slide. I'm guessing the sign was taken out by a large portion of North Carolina dirt and rocks. Very puzzling.
We took a few photos and waited for Eric who was stuck behind some Harleys and RV's. After what seemed like an eternity Kevin began to worry. He said" we've got to go back and find Eric" He thought the worst. I told him that his GPS probably sent him down the wrong road.
I have ridden for years now with most of my riding buddies using GPS, which I believe stands for Gets People Side-tracked. I'm not enough of a technical guru to know how to fix the problem, but I do know this: I NEVER get lost using my maps unless the state fails to put up a road sign. Unfortunately I find this happening more often these days as states cut back on their budgets; so one day I too will probably join the ranks of people who trust the GPS when they shouldn't. Rant Over.
Anyway, we backtracked a few miles and found Eric headed our way safe and sound. Guess what? The GPS told him to make a u-turn and take a dirt road. Hmm. Who would have thunk it? ME that's who! Oops didn't I say rant over?
The BRP for the most part was paved in a most excellent fashion. We continued north until taking the cow-path-like US 276 down the side of the mountain. A rough,gnarly twisty, supermoto-type road. When we stopped for gas in the valley I asked one of the locals for advice on a good place to eat. As usual the locals came through with a good recommendation. We found a little BBQ place about 1 mile down the road that was very good.
Tape-worms satisfied, we headed for NC 209 a very twisty, almost deserted road that eventually spit us out near I-26 in TN. Once on the freeway it was only a few miles up the road to Johnson City and the Holiday Inn. We arrived a day early on Saturday and found other early birds to STAR already there. It seemed to me and others that we might just have a great turn-out for this STAR. We will answer this and other burning questions in part two of this story… to be continued!
Dear Riders I AM BURNT OUT! I have held the Louisiana state director job, on and off, since the year after the club was founded in 1982 and for 9 of the last 10 years. And that was in addition to publishing the newsletter and website. Like any other endeavor it has had its ups and downs but for the most part it has been a fun and rewarding job. But I just can't do it anymore. At least I can't do it well. Our membership has aged and dwindled as our older members have gradually become less active, moved away or quit riding. The club needs new, younger blood and younger leadership to recruit and grow the chapter. Now that I am retired and no longer commuting daily to the city I am pretty much out of the loop anyway.
So here's your chance. It is not really hard, the mandatory job duties are minimal, you can really mold the position to suit your own circumstances and style. Take a look at the by-laws in the latest issue of STAReview (Vol 30 No. 5): STATE DIRECTORS "are responsible for serving as points of contact, information and assistance for members and for assisting members in publicizing/promoting the Association within their particular state". For a great example of how one SD operates take a look at page 12 of the same issue: a profile of South Carolina SD Matt Thornton. Your club needs you. If you are hesitant to take it on alone talk a buddy into being co-director with you!
So please consider stepping up. I will always be just a phone call or an email away if you need help or advice.>
Bob Chappuis, State Director and Editor