Slab Sammich – a Ride report

The slab sammich – a ride report.

Prologue and Planning.

When Wheaton posted his, “Y’all come eat” thread here, I thought to myself, “Self – a nice leisurely ride to SC in October would be a great last long ride of the season”. I checked vacation balance and family commitments calendar and sure enough, there was plenty of time and a green light kitchen pass from Co-Pilot. The original plan was to head south on Thursday, take in some favorite twisties on Friday landing at LZ DW (double wide), tag along on the Saturday ride and eat some food (Pie), then wander home over Sunday and Monday. Great plan, right?

Upon second review of family commitments calendar, I realized that our 4H Horse program awards banquet was Sunday. Me being on the committee means I need to be there. The fact that Harleigh would be recognized for her stellar year in the program. Missing the banquet was not an option. Co-Pilot was insistent I get out for a ride. Between work and everything else this year, I really needed the break and time on two wheels to mend the mind, body and soul.

The adjusted plan would be to head north from Wheaton’s double wide by 4pm Saturday, ride until I fell asleep and then finish the ride home. I needed to be at the house by 11am Sunday. Google called it 699 miles. The half way point fell between Lexington, KY and Cincinnati – so the goal would be to land somewhere near Cincinnati Saturday night and finish the run home Sunday morning.

Thursday – October 20th – Southbound, hammer down.

Thursday morning arrived with less-than-optimal conditions in the forecast. 41 degrees and an ugly mix of rain or sleet moving in mid-day. I buttoned up a few open items with work and set my out of office; I was rolling by 9:30 that morning – the later departure allowed time for the morning rush hour traffic going into Detroit to subside. The temperature hovered at 41 degrees for hours. Co-Pilot called to check in on me around 3pm – it had started raining at the house about a half hour after I departed, and had not stopped since. I encountered none of that, but my heated liner was cranked up until just north of Knoxville. The temp crested at 58 degrees and slowly declined as I cleared Knoxville on my way to a hotel near Athens, TN.

595 miles and about 9 hours put me in Athens for the night. The nearly 600 miles of slab was uneventful. Between my RD and the Waze app running on my phone, no performance awards were earned. Spinning a few rounds of preload out of the rear Ohlins provided a cushy ride, and the FJR spun happily between 4,500 and 5k rpms all day. I unloaded the bike, grabbed some chow at a quaint little Mexican place adjacent to the hotel and called it a night. Tomorrow would be a different type of ride, one that would make this day’s slog worthwhile.

Thursday Pictures:

Thursday Flight Plan

Balmy temps most of the day.

Balmy temps most of the day.

Sunshine just before it disappeared…

Settled in for the evening, I grabbed dinner at a local quaint little Mexican place next to the hotel…

And a dirty girl picture just for D-Eagle!

Friday – October 21st – This is why we do what we do As good as it gets…

Landing in Athens, TN Thursday evening put me well west of LZ Doublewide. This meant no expressway, no slab. I’d be forced to ride such roads as TN143, US129, NC28, BRP and NC215. No one should be subjected to such torture, so I’ll take this one for the team. I was up and loaded the bike before 7 a.m – ready to Sunrise was not until just before 8 a.m. The temperature made me realize that breakfast at Waffle House would be a fantastic idea. I enjoyed some coffee and eggs, letting that burning ball of fire do it’s thing.

From Athens, I set course for Tellico Plains and the west entrance of the Cherohala Skyway. This would be the only law enforcement professional I’d see this day. There was minimal traffic on the skyway. I made a stop at the Turkey Creek Overlook to check in with JWilly. The view there is exceptional – a fitting view . I pressed on, running east towards Robbinsville. I made a second stop about 2/3 of the way across; I had noticed there was not much wind disturbing the trees, so I took the opportunity to put my drone in the air to get some pictures and footage. This is something you don’t really get the chance to do while traveling with others – it takes time and can be pretty boring to stand around and watch someone else play with their “toy”. I did manage to get a couple of neat pictures that captured multiple slices of the road as it winds it way over and down the ridge line.

I shed the electric liner and pressed on. In Robbinsville, I turned onto US129 and followed it to Deals Gap. Instead of running across the Dragon and back, I made the right hand turn onto NC28 towards Fontana. I’ve always enjoyed NC28 – from Deals Gap all the way south to Walhalla, SC – it’s one heck of an enjoyable road. I stopped at Fontana for some photos. I was hunting for calendar worthy fodder since the calendar contest submission deadline is fast approaching.

From Fontana, I ran the super sweet section of NC28 that just flows so nicely – long sweeping corners all the way to the intersection of NC143. I was low on fuel at this point, so I diverted back to Robbinsville to fill up. From there, I ran south to NC74; a quick jog north put me on Wayah Road southbound towards Franklin, NC. When we lived in SC, we frequented this area on weekend rides often. On one of those rides, I attempted to ride to the Wayah Bald overlook. They had just put down fresh fist sized gravel. Needless to say, the group I was leading was not on board with this side adventure and we turned back after about 300 yards! I was on my Harley Softail at the time – an even less off road worthy bike than the FJR. This time, no group or pillion to question me, so we proceeded to traverse the 5 miles of gravel road that leads to the overlook. It was well worth the bumpy & dusty ride up (and back). If our motorcycles could talk, I’m certain Vader was saying something along the lines of, “WTF, I AM NOT A DUAL SPORT MUTHER FOCKER!”.

I put the drone up for a few minutes, but it got difficult to focus because there were 2 curious bystanders. The first one was truly interested in learning about it and was amazed at the capabilities packed into such a small device. The second started out with, “you can’t fly that here”. Now, I am pretty confident there were no restrictions for flying where I was – it was not a national park, state park, no signs preventing drone flight, etc. But I was having too good of day to let one karen ruin it. I told him I’d be done shortly and went back to talking to the first gentleman and his wife. They were retired and traveling – I’m pretty sure our conversation pushed him over the edge for getting a drone.

Once back to pavement, I continued into Franklin. In Franklin, I found NC28 northbound and ran that section back to NC74. Garmin was putting up some pretty irrational arrival estimates at this point, so decided to avoid Cherokee and catch the BRP A little further east. Even late in the day, there was minimal traffic on the BRP. I rolled into the Richland Balsam Overlook around 4:30 Friday afternoon. I spent a moment checking in with JWilly and he suggested I get to it if I was going to make to the double wide in time for dinner. I’ve been called many things, but never, “late for dinner”. So we got to it. The 8 miles between the overlook and NC215 flashed by. Once headed down 215, any traffic I encountered coincided with reasonable passing situations. That is such a spectacular section of pavement. Papa Smurf had been monitoring my status most of the day. The garage was open when I rolled up to the double wide, so I rolled on in and parked. Mark mumbled something about me getting there sooner than he expected. He didn’t remember the “fat kid has to eat” element…

Looking back, the entire day was beyond spectacular. The weather was near perfect and the roads were even better. I could not have had a better dance partner for the day. At 13 years and 92,000 miles, this motorcycle continues to amaze and perform exceedingly well.

Dinner was awesome – Texas style bbq with our most gracious hosts for the weekend and DanH600. Once back from dinner, we talked a bit and I retired for the evening. Saturday would be an even better day…

Friday Pictures:

Friday flight plan.

It was a tad bit chilly Friday morning.

Letting that bright orange ball do it’s thing…

Fun patrol hampering progress just slightly leaving Athens, TN.

Turkey Creek Overlook – IYKYK.

The Cherohala Skyway – the FJR1300 was made for roads like this…

Fontana Dam.

Wayah Bald Overlook.

Lunch on Wayah Bald.

2nd IYKYK stop of the day.

Saturday – October 22nd, 2022.

Blind Squirrel was the first to arrive. Apparently, it was a brisk morning and ride in according to him. Others arrived so after – Tidrick, Tommy848, Griff, and Lumberg. We were “KSU” just before 9 a.m. as planned with WheatonFJR leading us out through the country club. Site note – it’s very important to remember the position of your side stand while sitting on your motorcycle. We rolled together out of Traveler’s Rest and towards SC-176. Once past the Holly Springs Country store and onto 176, everyone settled into their pace for the climb up 176 and onto 215. We regrouped at the BRP on ramp. From there, Wheaton mumbled something inaudible from behind his closed helmet. I thought he said, “you lead to the overlook”. So we took off and I spent the next 7 miles trying to get around him. I will say that although I’ve never had aftermarket exhaust cans on an FJR, one cannot dispute the sounds emitted from such an equipped FJR serenade the soul like no other symphony can.

We gathered at the Richland Balsam Overlook – the highest point on the Blue Ridge Parkway and one of the places our friend JWilly frequented often. He is there with us on this day, looking down and smiling and cracking some sarcastic comment about something. We each had our moment and there was a group photo as well.

There was something else special about this moment for me. Friday evening, I received a message from a friend – he and 2 others I knew were in the area. Charlie, some may remember, was with Annette and I on the day we had our accident in 2008. His efforts that day are why we both survived. Charlie, Brian and Brian were in the area enjoying the exceptional riding conditions and met us at the overlook. I haven’t see Charlie in some time – it was great to see and catch up!

WheatonFJR had abandoned us. So we made our way back to NC215 with Tommy848 leading, me riding sweep. It was a very enjoyable ride back to casa de ducewide. We made a quick stop for fuel in Rosman on the way. When we arrived, lunch fixings were already in motion and 1911 arrived with special cargo – Marilee’s famous apple pie! There was a toast and heartfelt words by our host. The food was exceptional, the company present fantastic – SWP, Mrs Griff, and even princess broken wing and Jim! I wish I could have stayed the rest of the afternoon, but the road was calling and there was an event back home I could not miss Sunday.

I suited up and headed north. Nothing exciting, just miles. After clearing some mild congestion outside Asheville, we dialed up the fun’o’meter on the section of I-40 between Asheville and Knoxville. Fuel stop in Knoxville and more slab. Another gas stop somewhere in Kentucky with an Arby’s and more slab. I landed in Monroe, Ohio for the night (between Cincinnati and Dayton), which set up a short run home Sunday morning.

Saturday Pictures.

Tight parking out front of the double wide.

We’re headed that direction…

Lumberg laying down some smooth lines…

Someone Else laying down equally smooth lines.

It looks like we’re practically standing still, right?

Arrival at the apex.

The ride up and back was fantastic – these guys rock!

Late dinner at a truck stop somewhere in northern Kentucky.

Sunday – October 23rd, 2022

It was still dark when I hit the road Sunday morning. There’s something about rolling through a sunrise on two wheels. It’s not the same as connecting turn after turn on a twisty section of two lane road, but it can be just as soul soothing and refreshing for some. Final fuel stop south of Toledo, along with some Mt Dew and chocolate donuts – breakfast of champions!!

I rolled into the garage just after 10:00 a.m, let papa smurf and gang know I had arrived safely and swapped out my riding boots for my 4H boots. Our 4H Horse program awards banquet went off without a hiccup, my daughter was recognized for her accomplishments this past season (2nd overall in show points being one of them). She’s really found her place with this horse stuff – I continue to be proud beyond words.

Sunday Pictures.

Ready to roll – that orange burning ball of fire wouldn’t join us for a bit.

Breakfast of champions. Because Red Bull is just water.

Final fuel stop, 120 miles from the garage.

Home in time to swap clothes and boots for these…

Vader 2.Oh sits in the garage now waiting for a well-deserved bath. Over the three and a half days, we covered 1783 miles. The books ends were just miles slogged out on the slab running south and then again north to get home. The meat of that slab sandwich consisted of what I’d consider some of the absolute premium USDA prime Grade A tarmac. At just shy of 93k miles, there was not a hiccup or a point in time where this motorcycle was nothing less than superb. From humming along on the slab spinning 4500 rpm hour after hour to banging the rev limiter as we punched through an ABS induced rear wheel hop and front end chatter to make the second entrance to the Richland Balsam Overlook and everything imaginable in between – simply superb. Thank you my loyal friend – until we dance again…


Drone Footage from the Skyway.

Drone Footage from Wayah Bald.

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