States crossed: 3
Highest elevation: 3670 feet/1118 meters
It’s 05:30; it’s dark, gloomy and is raining. I only slept a few hours in anticipation of this tour, destination: Asheville, NC. I’m standing at the local petrol station topping off the 250. The odometer reads .5 miles, I feel dishearten, .5 of 479 miles/ 766 km. However, I’ve experienced this feeling before, this is a critical time when one must overcome complacency and regain one’s bearing. There is a goal in mind, it is time to set out and achieve it.
I have two options: return home and wonder, what if? Or let it roll, I chose the latter. The first 75 miles are tough as usual, the 250 is always in the zone but the Surfer must endure a brief period of uncertainty. It’s foggy and wet; I’m unable to see the road signs. I took an unplanned turn, I must refocus, pause, breathe, at last clarity. I recalled my surfing soundtrack and rolled the throttle full speed ahead.
Shortly, thereafter I spotted two fellow tourers, one on a new Triumph Tiger the other I was unable to identified, we exchanged “road greetings” (a peace sign) I feel reenergized and committed to the Ride. Any previous doubts evaporated and I welcome the uncertainty of the road, today I will surf. I’ve been riding for a few hours; I’m now 40 miles/ 64 km from Asheville. I’m surfing I 26 South bound at the foothill of the Smokey Mountains preparing to climb the mountain, the ride is smooth, I know my destination is near just a few dozen miles… until it all decelerates.
It’s a two-lane expressway, to the left there is a retaining cable, to the right a speeding cage, suddenly a wooden block is bouncing on the road, and it splinters as it hits the ground. There is only one way to go, forward. I see the driver trying to maneuver away from the flying deadly object, somehow he notices me on the left, neither one of us has a favorable out… I can see the block slowly bounce on and off the road, but I’m not afraid. My consciousness heightened I decelerate and observed… the block rolled under the cage, as the driver hit the brakes, this is it! My chance to roll out and I accelerated. I will ride another day.
I finally reached my destination
After a long day on the saddle, it's time to relax
Home for the evening
It’s now 15:00 and I finally made it to my destination, I’m elated. I checked into the local Hostel, drop off my bags and make my way to the local watering hole, I have a reason to celebrate. The next day I woke up assuming that I was ready to ride the Tail of the Dragon, except I’m fatigued from the previous ride, and earlier that day I’ve received news that someone from my inner circle had departed this world, my mind wanders. I took another unplanned turn and traveled 25 miles in the opposite direction of the Dragon. I decided that I must heed this sign and turned back.
The Dragon will have to wait, with over 300 turns in ten miles; the odds are clearly against me. I must defer. I intended on spending three days in Asheville, except the temperature is dropping fast and the forecast calls for near freezing weather and that excludes the wind chill factor. It becomes clear now what I must do, another marathon run northbound before the cold front engulfs my chosen path. I enjoyed my brief stay, and just like that I’m back on the road, and once again I was greeted by the morning fog and cold weather.
There is only one favorable decision, embrace it. I slowly begun the climb to Sam’s gap, elevation 3670 feet. It is a beautiful climb and exceedingly intoxicating descend, that day I surfed down a mountain. On the other side of the mountain the sky was clear the air was cool, the leaf colors vibrant enough to remind you that you are alive. The descend is steep, the margin for error on a moto cannot be quantified, blink excessively and you will kiss the tarmac.
I’m now heading northbound in I 81. I’m surfing at nearly full throttle; it is an extremely windy, cloudy, cool day. At my first stop, as I top off the tank I realized that I can’t stop shivering and I don’t have any more warm weather gear! But I can’t stop, I won’t stop, I’m coming home. This is a test of fortitude, Semper Fi.
The cages are setting an unforgiving, unrelenting pace exceeding 70 mph/ 112 kph, and the ferocious wind conspires to sweep me off the tarmac. I’m not worry anymore, the view from my helmet may be limited but my outlook is serene, I tell myself Don’t Panic (Coldplay). I settled into a rhythm, I can see beyond, beyond myself. At 70mph I can see every detail, every imperfection and anticipate the discomfort of the road, except I don’t feel anything. I can see the vibrant leaf colors as they announced fall’s arrival, and rejoiced in a shower of leaves. I can sense the presence of metal cages, and anticipate their lack of judgment.
The moment that is so elusive, the time is now. In the middle of the highway, away from all that is familiar moto-bliss reveals itself. A reminder that all that matters is the present. The last mile is gone, the next mile may never come, but the road, the feeling I enjoy right now is undeniably axiomatic. To other motorist I may look like a Simple Man (LS) riding a diminutive moto on a convoluted highway, but right now I am a happy, free man. This is reality, exponentially beautiful reality.
It’s now 18:00 and after 497.5 miles/796 km I finally crossed the last traffic light on this trip and triumphantly raised my left arm, and smiled. You may wonder and ask why ride such distance on such ill-suited steed? I’m a Tarmac Surfer, it’s what inspires me. What are you waiting for? Get out there, exist with a purpose and don't wait for me because I’m Already Gone (Eagles). Laugh. Live. Ride.
Along the way I picked up a couple of more touring badges, TN & NC, the evolution continues.
RL may you find your way home.