Friday, October 4, 2013

Right Great Ride Routes to Remember


Back in the middle of August, I was riding around one Saturday, and stopped at the Holly Springs Country Store for a little rest, and to wet my whistle.  As I turned into the driveway, I spotted a young man dribbling motor oil from well above the filler opening, trying to get some to go into the crankcase of his Yamaha V-Star metric cruiser. 

I stopped nearby, took off my gloves and helmet, then walked over to see if I could help him.  He had no funnel, and he was getting more oil on the pavement than into the gizzard of his bike.  I held the bike up straight for him so he could pour more accurately. 

He finished his pouring, and thanked me for helping, then introduced himself as Jay.  As we were talking, I noticed that his license tag was from Florida, and he had some luggage on the tail of the bike. I asked him about his ride today and how long he had been riding. 

He was a talkative guy, and explained the details of how he came to own a motorcycle, and why he was there today.  He said he had become interested in riding some months ago, traded his old car even for the bike, and only then took a class to learn how to ride it.  He said it sat in the garage until he took that class.  That seems smart to me.  That's what I did back in 2007.  Now carless, he rides the scooter wherever he goes if he can't walk there.  He says he has ridden about 4000 miles so far, and had never been on roads that were not flat before this trip.

He related that he had just come down from Sassafras Mountain, the highest point in South Carolina, about 12 miles from the store.  It is a place I have visited many times before, at Pushpin B (Pushpin A is where the store is located):   

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He said that Sassafras was the last of the highest points in seven states he had visited over a period of a week.  He didn’t have much with him -- a tent, a sleeping bag, and a small clothes bag strapped onto the bike, and he said that he had spent all of $90 on lodging for the week.  

Interesting.  I wondered where these seven peaks are.  

I looked up the Seven Summits Tour on the Internet, but came up with something a lot different: Many people, extreme adventurers, think of climbing to the highest points on the seven continents when they hear about Seven Summits. 

  • North America’s Denali,
  • South America’s Aconcagua,
  • Asia’s Mount Everest,
  • Europe’s Mount Elbrus,
  • Africa’s Kilimanjaro,
  • Australia ‘s Mount Kosciuszko, and
  • Antarctica’s Vinson Massif.
For those who are less adventuresome ‑‑ and who have shallower pockets ‑‑ the seven might instead be the highest points in seven southeastern states, listed here with their elevations above sea level: 

All of these high points have roads to or nearly to their tops, so you don't have to turn up your pacemaker to get to any of them, and you can leave your hiking boots behind.  For someone who has only previously ridden on flat roads, he has certainly gotten a dose of twisties by now, traveling to these places and in between.  

I have visited Sassafras Mountain many times, and Mount Mitchell is easily accessible from the Blue Ridge Parkway. I have been there twice on the bike. 

This route might be a good way to get to these seven high points in the most expedient way.  

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I calculate about 1450 miles going this way, avoiding most major four-lane highways.  

Anyway, back to talking with Jay. 

I also noticed that his jacket had an embroidered logo, “Florida Free Rides,” so I asked him what that was, thinking maybe it was a biker group.  He explained that he owns a company by that name in Clearwater Beach Florida.  They have a fleet of electric carts that ferry people from hotels to attractions and back for free.  He says he makes his money by selling the advertising space on the sides of the vehicles, and his drivers make theirs through tips from happy riders. 

That is Jay at the back of the cart pictured here:

Jay continued the conversation, recounting some of the places he had been so far on his trip, that he had had trouble finding some of the high points, and his adventure of riding the Tail of the Dragon.  On the latter, he said that he had no trouble going the speed limit there, but others were much faster than he. 

He observed that, "In Florida, you get a ticket if you speed, but in the mountains, your penalty is a trip off the edge of a mountain."  

True enough.  I reminded him that we do use the sides of our tires here in the mountains, contrary to those riders in, say, Florida.  He thought about that for a moment, looked down to examine his tires, and said that he now realized that very fact. 

Here is another, shorter route that takes in the highest point in Kentucky, Black Mountain (4,145 ft), but skips Florida (its high point is only a relative pimple, you know), Alabama, and Mississippi:

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This route is about 628 miles. 

And if you skip Kentucky, Florida, Alabama, and Mississippi, and leave just South Carolina, North Carolina, Tennessee, and Georgia, you get this route:

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420 miles: A long day, but doable for many.

Maybe I could try it some time, or split it into two days to include some signtseeing along the way.

What do you think?  Do you have a Right Great Ride Route to Remember?

Other Info of Interest:


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