Day two: Rain, Fog, The Dragon, Cherohala Skyway, and good company.
Wake up at 7:30 and Iím feeling pretty stiff from yesterdayís ride. I attempt to quietly slip out of the room as Rick and George are still out to the world. I go down stairs and grab some coffee and burn a couple of butts. Iím starting feel a little better. I head back up stairs. Rick and George are starting to wake up.
At 10:00 A.M. Mark pulls up and we do the introduction thing and discuss the days plans. After some conversation, we get going at around 10:30. We have to take the long way to the Dragon because the bridge on 28 is out. Mark takes us on a couple of twisty roads, I suspect to check out our riding skills before we hit the Dragon. Iím starting to get pumped. I just really want to go man. What Rick doesnít know is I grew up riding both bicycles and motorcycles on Californiaís mountain twisties and when it comes to speed I am a bit of an adrenaline junkie.
We arrive at Dealís Gap Motorcycle Resort at around 11:30. We meet up with Doug and do the introduction thing. I really want to get video of the ride so I am busy trying to find a camera mount and get it mounted. Now mind you I realize I am holding everybody up from riding and the sky is starting to look grey. I finally settle on best effort, which involves half my console showing as well as bug on the windshield in the first video attempt. Donít worry, the video gets better as time goes on.
Anyhow we get ready to go and I tell Rick I want to follow Mark. Now Mark is a real serious rider if you havenít figured it out yet. Mark starts the ride at a leisurely pace because he is concerned about wrecking anybody. He has had two riders wreck trying to keep up with him in the last year. Well he does seem to notice that I am keeping up with him without any problem so as our pass on the Dragon progresses he starts stepping it up. After a couple of miles we are going at it pretty hard. Well maybe too hard, it starts raining, Mark is still on the throttle, and Iím thinking well he is holding the road so Iíll do the same. I just followed his line. Anyhow, here is some video of it (sorry about the quality):
We pull over about half way through the run because it is raining pretty hard and to put on our rain suits. The rest of the guys all arrive in four or five minutes. We finish the Dragon at a safe speed and head down to the 129 Motorcycle Pit Stop. We are supposed to meet Glori but are quite late because of my screwing around with the camera. She had taken off because the Manx has no top and the windshield wipers are human powered - as in lean over the windshield with a squeegee and wipe the thing off.
The Pit Stop is closed but the owners stop by for something or other so after standing in the rain for a while discussing where to get lunch the owners of the Pit Stop suggest Punkin Center as a place just up the road. We head on over.
By the time we get there it is pouring and looking at the radar on Markís bike (Yes he has live radar on his GPS unit, I WANT ONE hint, hint honey Ė I know youíre reading this) it looks like it is going to be a while before we can ride. So we settle into lunch over a few beers and good conversation. Everybody seems to hit it off well and we BS about the military, sports, and riding. Now the owner of Punkin Center is quite a character and can tell a good yarn, so if you stop by prepare to sit a spell. We finish lunch after a couple of hours and the sky looks like it letting up. Doug has to get going so we say our goodbyes and snap a few pictures.
After a bit of discussion we head off to the Cherohala Skyway. Now everybody has his or her limits or at least conditions they do not like while riding. This ride was mine. As we are climbing the mountain fog starts setting in, really we are in the clouds. As we move on the fog is getting thicker and thicker and I cannot see Mark. He is only 25 feet or so in front of me and I only periodically catch a glimpse of his tail lights. Iím white knuckling it and looking for the reflectors on the center line hoping I donít run into him.
After a break and snapping a few pictures of the view (LOL), we head on. Mark decides to turn on his flashers Ė thank God now I can see him. I do the same and so does Rick and George. Well sort of, George turns on his turn signal because he does not know how to operate the flashers on his Ultra. I show him how at the end of the ride. We blink our way down the mountain and everybody can see where everyone else is. Near the bottom while still in the fog Mark and I hit gravel in the road. The front tire on both our bikes slid a little. Man was I glad that turned out alright. My hand is still numb from gripping the handle bars so hard. Quite the adventure driving a mountain road without being able to see where you are going or what is in front of you.
Well after that hair raising ride Mark asks if we would like to see a water fall and well of course we are up to it. Now this is where a local guy playing the role of guide gets good because you get to see things you would never think about touring on your own. So off we goÖ We take a leisurely ride to the falls.
Now I expect that we are done with Mark and he has done his good deed showing around the out of town guys, but no, he asks what we want to do tomorrow. I must say I was pretty jazzed he wanted to ride with us again. He and Rick discuss tomorrowís plans.
We arrive back at the hotel at around 11:00 PM and down a couple of beers while discussing the days ride and looking at pictures and that bad video I shot. Rick has a good laugh watching me sway back and forth while I am watching the video. Well you all have seen George by now in a few pictures and he looks like a pretty mild fellow. Let me tell you that guy has some serious ink under those clothes. All Iíll say is the top part is a dragon and the bottom is a nude woman. It runs from under his arm all the way down his leg. And so we end day two.