A Ride Report – Wheaton’s Fall RTE – October 2023

Disclaimer – I wrote this during and after the ride, but life being what it has been, I realized that I never posted it – so this one falls in the “better (I hope) late than never” bucket…


A Ride Report – Wheaton’s Fall RTE – October 2023

Preamble Ramblings…


The arrival of October brings change; the air is crisper, the trees transform with vibrant shades of reds,yellows and orange.  For some, it signals the end of another riding season.  Back in January, with the bike apart for the routine checks and preventatives, I took a picture of the odometer and thought – rolling 100,000 miles this year would be cool. I was able to join in on the 1911/Duane memorial ride in April – a run to South Carolina followed up a few weeks later with the Southeast Ohio Ramble – those two events accumulated significant mileage in a relatively short time frame.  That 100k milestone seemed within reach.  Then life does what it does – horse shows proceeded to consume much of our recreational time budget this year.  The spring and summer evaporated and we were staring at September.  That 100k milestone seemed unreachable.


A single post on the forum sparked an idea.  Wheaton and his Misses would host a “Ride-to-Eat” event in Traveler’s Rest, South Carolina.  A few quality minutes with google maps was enough for a rough plan to seek kitchen pass approvals – which were granted.  The FJR sat on half used tires and a fairly fresh oil change – it was willing and more than able.  Yes, Winter is coming, but it is not here yet…


The plan was originally drafted as a 5 day sortie.  Departing Michigan Thursday for day of slab, landing in Athens, Tennessee.  That would set up the next day’s ride as one spent in “the good stuff” – Cherohala Skyway, NC28, maybe the Dragon, the BRP, NC215 and SC176 on down into South Carolina.  


Mother Nature decided to toss in a weather curveball.  Departure was delayed until Friday.  An early AM departure would allow for consuming most of those enjoyable roads.  If I could clear Knoxville before 2pm, some time in the twisty stuff would be possible.


Odometer on January 2nd, 2023:

Friday, October 20th – 4:45AM.

The garage door opened to the wet concrete of our driveway; the pitter-padder of rain drops falling were muted by my ear plugs and the fast idle of the FJR coming up to temperature.  At this point, mother nature can suck it, we’re riding today.  This time of year – just before Daylight Savings ends – means that sunrise arrives later and sunset happens earlier.  These are things that all conspire against us when we have big mileage days planned on two wheels.  I was through Detroit and Toledo and nearly to Dayton, Ohio before daylight.  There were stretches of rain during the morning that made that half of the day not horrible.  I had a weather radar app running on my phone to keep tabs on the rain cells.  Slowing the pace slightly at one point to let one cell slide across in front of me worked well, and putting off a gas / rest stop another time paid off as well.  Temps hovered in the lower 50’s all morning, so the heated liner stayed lit until I was south of Knoxville.


The weather radar image looked favorable at 4am.

Rolled 99,000 miles on the odometer just south of Detroit…
First fuel stop - it was still dark, damp, and cool out…

I had 2 route files built and loaded into my Garmin GPS.  One labeled “slab door to door” – you could nickname that one, “not fun”.  The other was labeled, “thejwilly”.  In order to swap to the jwilly route, I’d need to hit Knoxville before 2pm.  


I made it to Knoxville around 1:15p Friday afternoon.  I swapped to the alternate map file and followed I-75 south towards Sweetwater, TN.  Within a few miles of making that turn I found myself boots down in traffic – not ideal to say the least.  I finally exited I-75 at Sweetwater, Tennessee, filled the FJR up and put some fuel in my tank as well.

Sweetwater, TN - heated gear stowed, blue skies in view…

TN68 is the connector to Tellico Plains and the Cherohala Skyway.  For those of you who know, the Skyway is a spectacular motorcycle road – it  climbs to 5,300’ elevation on the North Carolina side after leaving the Tellico River as you head east towards Robbinsville.  For the majority of it’s length, it’s one sweeper connected to another – you can let the FJR sing the song of its people on this road.  So that’s what we did. There was some moist sections as there were still some pop up showers moving through the area.  I stopped at the Red Barn Hollow Store on NC28 for a quick break and victory pie.  The pie was for Festus.  

Turkey Creek Overlook on the Cherohala Skyway - IYKYK.
East end of the Skyway.
East End of Cherohala Skyway.
East end of the Skyway.
Victory Pie - Road edition...


I hustled down NC28 onto US74 and followed that to the BRP on ramp.  I did make the stop at Richland Balsam. IYKYK.  By the time I was rolling again, the sun was about to drop out of the clouds and fall below the horizon.  I hit the next pull out – it was packed with onlookers – and found a spot to park.  The next 90 seconds was nothing short of spectacular.  

Richland Balsam - Highest point on the Blue Ridge Parkway, and another IYKYK spot…
Sunset on the BRP should be on everyone’s bucket list…

Saturday, October 21st.


Wheaton’s Group Ride was KSU at 9am with NO PLANNED REST STOPS.  He failed to mention that he’d be peddling his special dark roast caffeine water like a Starbucks Barrista…  We ended up with a group of 8 – Zoom and Iris, FJRPittsburgh, rbentnail, DanH600, Tommy848, myself and Sir Wheaton.  The sky was clear blue and not to chilly temperature made it the perfect conditions for a nice stroll up SC178 / NC215 to the Blue Ridge Parkway.  Traffic was light and easily dispatched.


The view from Richland Balsam was spectacular, but the 30+ mph winds made it a challenge to enjoy.  We left our gear on to deal with how cold it was – and if you’re wondering, there are no bathrooms there either.  We headed back down the BRP with a sense of urgency – because there would be fried chicken and pie waiting for us!

Richland Balsam Scenic turnout on the Blue Ridge Parkway.

Mrs Wheaton deserves a medal for this one – she went above and beyond to acquire said Fried Chicken.  I was so distracted by the sight and smell of it, I forgot to take any pictures.  We devoured the buffet like a swarm of lotus and enjoyed good conversation.  Marilee joined us as well and it was great to see her.

We even fit in a quick mini tech day – FJRPittsburgh shared that his current ‘13 was difficult to shift.  We cleaned up the clutch pivot point and bleed the clutch (Shout out and thank you to Tommy848 for running to get some tubing and fluid for us).  A quick test run around the block resulted in a “It’s like a new bike” from FJRPittsburgh.

Another round of applause for Mrs. Wheaton – hopefully she’ll allow the hooligans and riff-raff to gather again soon at the double wide!!

Sunday, October 22nd.


This would be a special day for me.  The garage door opened to clear blue skies and moderate temperatures again.  It would be a morning spent chasing Wheaton down the road with good conversation mixed in.  We would work our way north towards Roan Mountain and eventually to Shady Valley.  When we departed the doublewide, the odometer was sitting at 99,940 miles.  I realize there are plenty of 100K plus FJR’s out there, and many more riders who have breached this threshold multiple times.  For me, it was a milestone I thought out of reach.  Between living where there is a “riding season” and the bike being parked 4-5 months during the winter and then how busy family commitments make the spring & summer months – The FJR hasn’t gotten the love it deserves.  But there we were, under sunny skies and near perfect riding conditions charging up NC80 just south of the Blue Ridge Parkway.  That stretch of road is one of tight curves winding their way up the mountain towards the BRP.   It’s an epic ballet of throttle and braking – the kind of run this FJR thrives in.  Looking back through the gopro footage, the odometer flipped to 100,000 while cranked over exiting a right hander spinning somewhere north of 5,000 rpm.  It just does not get any better than that.  Or does it?  Our climb up Roan Mountain was just as enjoyable – listening to the orchestra of two FJR’s on boil climbing through the sweepers of NC261.  It was an epic few hours of riding in my book.

The video footage of this is corrupted or classified so as it may not be used as evidence in any future prosecution…

We remembered to text Mr. Lumberg to say good morning and that we missed him.
We paused on the way up NC80 to snap this shot - My trusty steed at 100,000 miles.
And a beauty shot at the intersection of NC80 and BRP.
WheatonFJR and I on Roan Mountain at an overlook; this picture is for our friend 1911…
My selfie picture skills are weak - thankfully this polite young woman took pity on me - she took that previous picture of Wheatie and I.

Once we hit Shady Valley, Wheaton hit the “go home” button and I pressed north.  VA16 is still an awesome section of pavement, in case anyone was wondering 😉  Once I hit Bluefield, VA it was time to light the afterburners and make tracks north.  A wise man I know once said,”Ride hard, eat steak and drink whiskey”.  I grabbed a room in Marietta, Ohio, ordered a meal to-go from Applebee’s and fueled the bike for tomorrow.  This was a good day.


Dinner to-go in Marietta, Ohio
A wise man I know once said,”Ride hard, eat steak and drink whiskey”.

Monday, October 23th

Departure was delayed somewhat on Monday morning – there was fog in the air and ice on the seat with temps just above freezing.  It was time to get home.  I followed OH-250 through Amish country before making the last sprint on the slab from Toledo to Detroit.  I rolled into the garage around 2pm.  This will be a little out of character for me, but the bike got a bath right after I got home.  

Just under 1,800 miles traveled in 4 days.  I could not ask for more from this bike – it’s been a willing dance partner thus far and I’m sure it has many more miles in it.  I look forward to everyone one of them being an adventure.

Crispy morning in Marietta, Ohio
100K bath!
Ready for another 100k!

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