Ride Report: Another rip into the Smoky's | GTAMotorcycle.com

Ride Report: Another rip into the Smoky's


Curry - so nice it burns you twice
Site Supporter
I know lots of folks have been down to Deals Gap before, but like all good long rides - here's a ride report.

Last time I had a chance to go down to Deals Gap was in 2015. That was a fun trip with a couple folks off this forum, but it rained almost every single day for that trip and I also had a clutch failure on that long weekend, which ended up costing me an extra $2k to get my bike home by Uhaul. I haven't had a chance to be able to ride those same routes again, so this was it. 9 days in total - 3 days down, 3 days there, 3 days back. Stayed in motels or cabins instead of camping, which was nice to not have to lug my extra gear. My bike is a 2011 V-Strom 650 with just over 150,000km on it.

Day 1: Mississauga to Fairmont WV - 8hrs/700km: Mississauga to Fairmont

Normally I ride long days, so this trip had much shorter routes each day. This was the only day of almost all highway, because I wanted to get to West Virginia and start the nice twisty stuff the next morning. I checked the forecast and in West Virginia it was calling for very heavy thunderstorms starting around 3pm. I left home around 6am and figured this would give me an extra hour to play with for the border crossing and breaks.

As luck would have it, I arrived at the border and after studying my options, I carefully picked the fastest moving border crossing lane, except that it was the slowest moving lane. I was stopped for about 15 minutes while I watched cars pull up in all the lanes beside me and vanish into the US while someone in front of me had to bend over. This happened over and over to cars in front of me and when it was my turn, I could see why. The dude was as crusty as they come, but I had all my stuff in order and I was on my way in a minute or two.

I struggle with the long days on the highway. After the first 4 hours, I was taking a break every 45 minutes or so, to keep from falling asleep. Scenic backroads, I can ride all day without breaks, but highway is not for me.

Once I got off the highway and got onto WV250 headed into Fairmont it became clear that my riding skills sucked. I was amazed at how bad everything about my skills were. Timing was off, entry speeds were off, braking was either too hard or too light, body positioning was poor and so on. Commuting every day on the 401 takes it's own kind of skill to stay safe, but it's very different from curvy, scenic roads.

I managed to pull into the Super 8 motel as dark clouds were quickly approaching. I checked in and as soon as I dropped my gear, I looked outside at my bike and it was a torrential downpour that lasted for over an hour. It was pretty intense and super glad I was not riding in it:

Day 2: Fairmont WV to Boone NC - 11hrs/750km: 2206 Pleasant Valley Rd to Boone
This was the start of the really good riding areas. All backroads from here on out with some nice technical stuff. It was supposed to be the only longer day of the trip so I started out at 6am, expecting to ride until at least 6pm, maybe longer. I also resolved to work on my crappy riding skills one skill at a time until I fixed it to the way it should be.

The US219 for about the 40km leading into Marlinton WV is absolutely awesome. The pavement quality is really nice and the road has a nice rhythm to it. On this road I started to work on my entry speeds, starting out a little slower than normal and focusing on smooth braking and downshifting for corner entry. I started to realize that riding on Sunday mornings in the US is a great thing to do, because everyone is at church so the roads are almost totally empty.

From here I moved my way over to the VA311 south of White Sulphur Springs, which is basically a mountain pass with flawless pavement, very little traffic and is much better to experience than judge it based on how it looks on a map. This is another gem and since it's starting to get a bit tighter and more technical, I started working on my body position for this whole road. I was thinking that all great roads have a name like The Tail of the Dragon or the Snake etc... As I was riding I kept seeing these big birds flying above me, and then I realized they were vultures waiting for me to make a mistake so they could feast on me. So now I call this road The Vulture!

The elevations are starting to increase the further south I go:

After this I decided to try out a different road called Wolf Creek Hwy (VA61) to get me over to VA16. Wolf Creek Hwy changes names in to Clear Fork Road, but is still VA61. The Wolf Creek Hwy was a really nice twisty road that followed a big creek with the typical flawless pavement and amazing scenery of the Virginia's. There was zero traffic, so I could open it up pretty good. It had tighter sweepers with not too much elevation gain, so it was a great road to practice my turn-in spots and holding my lines smoothly. Highly recommended! Later on my trip home, some folks from Virginia I met up with also told me the road just south of it - the VA614, is very nice to ride.

I hit up the Back of The Dragon which is a road I have done many times before, but seldom on dry pavement or during the day. Love it and could do this one over and over. As I passed Hungry Mother State Park, the beach was packed - seemed like a thousand people there. There is also a store at the northern end of the VA16, in a small town called Thompson Valley - get your stickers and t-shirts here.

I continued down the VA16 all the way to Volney, VA which is the where the best portion of the US58 (Jeb Stuart Highway) is. This road doesn't have too much in the way of major elevation changes, but it has some very fast tight sweepers and remarkable pavement. I found it very nice for practicing my vision and looking deep into the corners, something I was not doing as well as I have in the past. The section of this road between Volney and Damascus is another bit I could ride over and over.

From here I made my way over to US421 The Snake. There is a nice souvenir shop located in the middle of it, in a small town called Shady Valley. Stop in there to get some gas, maybe a bite to eat and grab a t-shirt or sticker. They also sell fuel with no ethanol added which therefore makes it snake venom:

If you should go inside this store, they have a really good map inside a glass case at the counter. It has tons of roads and spots marked out and I asked for a copy but they were out. She was hoping to have more soon. Ask for one if you are there, because this would make a for a great resource to explore a ton of amazing roads throughout Tennessee and more. The Snake is located in the very top left of this picture:

I arrived in Boone NC around 5pm, which made no sense to me, because I should have taken much longer to get there. But I had downloaded a bunch of ninja movies onto my iPad, so I was all good. It was a very intense day of riding with so many twisties packed in one day. My riding had improved by leaps and bounds so I felt much better about what was still to come.

Day 3: Boone NC to Robbinsville NC - 11hrs/700km: Boone to Robbinsville

I ended up doing more than the route above, because some stuff looked interesting and worth trying out.
Left the motel around 6:30am and off I go for an even more technical day on the bike. I like the motels that serve the breakfast in the morning, even though it's usually not very good.

First order of business is to hit up the US221 - The Linville Falls Hwy. It gets up there in elevation and parallels the Blue Ridge Parkway for a good stretch. What makes it so nice is the many waterfalls along this particular stretch. The turns are very tight, the mountain scenery is very lush and there are some great rock formations exposed along this route:

From here I made my up to the top of Roan Mountain to ride the TN143 which turns into the NC265. I had been on this road once before in 2014, but in a torrential downpour and always wanted to go back and check it out on a dry day. It did not disappoint.

From here whipped down the NC226 to the NC226A (aka The Diamondback) and rode it a few times since it's a short loop, but well worth doing more than once. By the time you are in this area, the views start to get pretty breathtaking. On my first trip down here I had to stop at what felt like every single lookout and take a picture, which caused me to end up riding pretty late into the night far too often. Now I take this picture just for you:

I sped over to the southern portion of the NC80 which is known as The Devils Whip. I've always wanted to ride the section north of the Blue Ridge as well, so I rode the whole stretch of the NC80 from the top down. That section has a lot of homes along the roadside, so it's not as fast the southern section, but it's still a ton of fun and very tight and twisty.

I made my way over to the NC197, because in addition to it being a tight twisty mountain road, it has a section of 4 hairpin turns all back to back. The only caveat to this is that there is about 8km of twisty gravel on this road, north of Barnardsville. Still worth it, so I do it anyways.

I headed on over to good old Hot Springs and rode the NC209 (aka The Rattler). This one never disappoints! Always a good amount of bikes on this road too, but it's easy to pass them when they are slow.

One of my favourite tandems of roads in this whole area is the NC215 and NC281. I was planning on riding them a few more times during the week, but thought it best to check them out now since I was in the neighbourhood. The NC215 has simply amazing pavement with beautiful rhythmic corners. An absolute must ride if you are down there. The NC281 has a stretch that for me is one of my all time fav's. It has a left turn followed by a right turn at pretty much the same lean angle and speed and back to a left turn, then right, over and over again for what feels like miles of smiles.

Last of all I took Tilley Creek Road, which turns into Elijay Road. These start out in the east as a hilly road with houses and driveways all over it, but then changes over into a really narrow, twisty forest road moving west. It doesn't have too much for elevation changes, but there is plenty on this road to keep you occupied. Nice pavement and beautiful scenery with very little traffic.

From here I made it over to my destination in Robbinsville NC for the next 4 nights. A place called Simple Life Mountain Retreat. It was a pretty chill place that had about 4 tent spots and about 10 cabins of varying sizes. The cabins were pretty rustic, which is perfect for someone like me who only needs wifi, a clean shower and decent bed, since I'm there to ride, not hang out in my cabin. Another amazing day on the bike of relentless twisties with a perfect spot for me to end it off:
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Curry - so nice it burns you twice
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I should also add that since I arrived ahead of schedule on my first night there, I thought the best way to spend my time would be to dump my luggage and go ride on the Dragon since it was already around 7pm and the people from Florida should be off the roads. So I ripped along the Fontana 28 to the edge of the Dragon and back to Robbinsville the same way. It's like 100km of twisty madness round trip, where the Fontana 28 preps you for the Dragon and then afterward is a nice way to wind down after pushing it hard on the Dragon. It's also nice to take 50lbs off the bike and then go riding.

Another thing worth mentioning is that when I got back to Simple Life on Monday night after my Dragon run, the weirdest thing happened. I was their only guest at that time. They were expecting two other riders to come in sometime later that evening and more later during the week. It's now around 9pm and the light is fading and as I'm talking to the owner Alan, we see these two bikes start to pull up the main driveway. I comment to him that it looks like there is another V-Strom coming here because I can recognize the style of headlight approaching. The bikes pull right up to us and this guy gets off the front bike and says 'Shane is that you?'

I wait for him to take his helmet off and lo and behold, it's a guy (Steve) whom I know from north of Wiarton! I've bought parts off him around 10 years ago and we also took the the first offering of the Lee Parks Total Control course together when it was first offered in Mississauga. I hadn't seen him since we took that course back in 2012 or 2013. It was his first time coming down to Deals Gap and it turns out that unbeknownst to each other, we would both travel over 1000 miles at the same time, to stay in the same place, for the same length of time. Crazy!

Since Steve was there with his wife, we didn't ride together at all. They deserved a proper experience together without some yahoo like me, who always wants to go faster or ride longer.

Day 4: Smoky Loop 1 - Cherohala, Dragon, Foothills, TN32, NC276, Wayah, Fontana 28, Dragon - 11hrs/700km: Smoky Loop 1

I started my morning off bright and early and wanted to see if I could get up on the Cherohala Skyway while it was still really foggy out and maybe catch the sun rising while I was at the highest points:

I left around 6am and the ride over to Tellico Plains was incredible. Riding in the fog and clouds for most of the way there and riding back with the sun in my eyes blinding me through most corners. The Cherohala has such nice fast sweepers and I didn't see another vehicle on the entire stretch between Robbinsville to Tellico Plains. The speeds you get to on it can get so fast that if you make a mistake and go over the edge, there a high chance no one will find you for a long time. The Cherohala Skyway has signage to let you know this is a high crash area for motorcyclists. If you have never been on these types of roads before, many of them have signage posted to warn riders and trucks about the steep hills and tight curves, so on my way back I stopped to take this picture for you.

Right after leaving Tellico Plains and making my way back to Robbinsville, I passed a bike who was riding nicely on a straightaway, on what seemed like a modern Ducati or Triumph standard of some sort. I waved and thought see you later sucker! The curves started up and I'm moving pretty nice and I look in my mirrors and he's right behind me, curve after curve after curve. Try as I might to lose him, he just kept on coming. Sometimes I wish I had a nicer bike like a Ducati.

After the Cherohala Skyway, I made my way over to the Dragon. I stopped off at the Tail of the Dragon resort and there were some other riders from Ontario from GTAM like BrianP and Aens. The locals I talked to often said they were amazed at how many Ontario and Quebec riders come down there, and I told them it was because their pavement is much better than ours and we also have money. In fact one guy who moved from Massachusetts over to the Dragon area told me that he sold his house in Massachusetts and had enough money to retire at the Dragon by buying himself a nice 3bdrm house on 10acres for $89k!! He had enough money to buy himself 6 bikes, a winter property in Florida, and money to live off. He told me land and houses were generally cheap because of the lack of well paying work. He said a lot of people who have low paying jobs or live off social security would just buy a cheap plot of land, dump a tailer on it for a few grand and that's it. I told him that a 700sqft condo in Toronto can easily be worth $500k and that rent for the same 1bdrm is now well over $2k/month. I was seriously thinking about buying a cabin there and just leaving some bikes.

Anyways, one thing he suggested to me was to ride the new section of the Foothills Parkway, since it was finished last year. The pavement is flawless and the views are just as good as the old section. It's more of a scenic ride at nice elevations, so don't expect anything technical, but it's a really nice ride with beautiful lookouts. From there I must have missed an exit or something, because I wanted to run the Little River Road, but I was routed through Pigeon Forge and Gatlinburg instead. Many people have told me to avoid these places at all costs and now I know why. It's like Lundy's Lane meet's Las Vegas meets Hollywood meets not for me.

I was now off to one of my personal favourite roads - TN32. It is a road that leads from near Cosby, TN to the US40 interstate and has almost no traffic ever. There is about 1 mile of really easy gravel at the end of it, which is probably why so few bikes go on there.

I then swung down the NC276 to Brevard, back up the NC281 as I did yesterday and then scooted across Wayah Rd, where I kept seeing these buses go by with massive wood platforms on top with rafts stacked up high and packed with people. Then I passed by a big parking lot, where they were dropping off all the white water rafters to their start near the western edge of Wayah Rd. This seems like pretty fun thing to do!

It's also worth mentioning that off Wayah Road are some interesting forest roads which I have taken in the past. Some are amazing dirt/gravel roads like Otter Creek Rd/Tellico Rd and some are paved. Forest Rd711 is paved but rarely used, so the vegetation is not cut back on the side of the road and there was a ton of leaf and forest debris on the road. It's very remote, so don't push it unless you are with others. Once I got to the top, I thought I would practice some more of my skills:

I ended up finishing this ride early again, so I ate some food and headed back over to the Dragon via the Fontana 28 again for some more twisty madness. I was getting smoother and smoother on the Fontana 28 and Dragon. Having the opportunity to ride these roads each morning and night during mid week was a treat. Most runs along the either of these roads in the early morning or late evening can be done without being slowed down by cruisers from Florida.

Day 5: Smoky Loop 2 - North Georgia Loop - Cherohala, TN68, GA 60, 180, 348, 197, 106, NC215, NC 281, Wayah Rd -11hrs/700km Smoky Loop 2

I rode out along the Cherohala again this morning. It's just that amazing I can ride it every day while down there. I headed south along TN68 which is a windy hilly road leading towards Georgia with some incredibly fun corners. Some of the nice roads in the North Georgia mountains include the GA60, GA180, GA348, GA197 and GA106. I think it was somewhere along the GA180, I may have been moving slightly faster than the posted limit in the corners and I actually caught up to a poorly marked police vehicle before I realized what I had just done. He lowered his window and waved for me to go by him. I thought this was a trap! So I just continued behind him for a bit and he waved for me to pass him again! So I did and he let me go off. I started out slowly and after a couple of corners I quickly got back up to my former speeds and all was good. I can say that has never happened to me before and was pretty cool.

For some reason my GPS took me down a tight twisty gravel road called Helton Creek Rd. I don't mind this stuff and it was really nice until I got to a small creek crossing. I didn't feel like picking up my bike if I dropped it in the water and by now it was around 10am and I was still riding without having had any sort of break or food. It looked like my GPS was indicating this dirt road was around another 20 or so miles long, possibly with many more water crossings, so I turned back and rode the twisty dirt the 20 or so minutes it took me to get to the creek. Turns out I was kinda disoriented from being so hungry and if I had just crossed the creek, I would have been on a paved road in about 2 minutes instead of backtracking and wasting about an hour.

From here I was done what I wanted to ride in the North Georgia Mountains, but it was only around 12pm. I stopped and ate some food and now I felt like I needed to get some extra twisty riding in, so I made my way back to the NC215 and NC281 to ride those again. Then I hit up Wayah Rd again and took this picture for you because the scenery is so nice as it follows along the water for quite a long stretch:

Amazingly I still had some daylight hours left, so I went back and did a few more runs along the Fontana 28 and Dragon. By now I was starting to get really comfortable on these roads and becoming one with the bike. This is the way it should be when riding the mountains.

Day 6 - 1/2 day loop - Cherohala, Dragon and Fontana 28
The forecast was calling for pretty serious thunderstorms today, starting around 2pm, so I decided to make this a 1/2 day ride only. Also Alan who owned the Simple Life Mountain Retreat had heard that I used to teach motorcycle classes for beginners. He asked me if I would teach his son to ride who was 9 years old. He had bought him a 50cc KTM pit bike and tried to teach the kid, but the kid wasn't getting it and he hoped someone who had proper experience teaching could get the kid feeling more comfortable. We couldn't get the pit bike to start, but since he had bought it from the local moto garage Wheelers up the road, we went over there and they got it started. While we were at Wheelers there were a bunch of guys there getting their bikes tuned. Alan knew them because they had stayed with him in years past and some were staying with him again. He told me that last year of the 10 bikes that were with this group 6 of them crashed!! All in separate incidents. WTF! He also told me that on a few different occasions he has had his guests leave in the morning to go out for a ride and not return. Those were very difficult calls for him to make to their family and then help them deal with everything over the following weeks,.

Anyways, we went over to a local Baptist church parking lot on the 129 and I showed this kid the ways of dark side. I could see the force was strong in this one:

We did this for about 90 minutes and he went from not being able to ride at all to doing tight figure 8's and slaloms. It was pretty awesome and I see a future squid in the making right here.

After this we went back to the cabins and then the heavens opened up from the blasphemy we conducted on the church parking lot. I watched two pretty cool martial arts movies - a South Korean flick called "Revenger" and an Indonesian flick called "The Night Will Come For Us".

It was a pretty good way to spend my last day there. Tomorrow starts 3 days of intense twisty backroads home.
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Curry - so nice it burns you twice
Site Supporter
Day 7: Robbinsville, NC to Meadows of Dan, VA - Blue Ridge Parkway, NC 80, NC226A, US421, US58 - 8hrs/600km: Robbinsville to Willville Bike Camp

I had originally planned a longer day than this, with a morning Dragon run and other twisties, but on my way down I didn't buy a t-shirt for my wife from the Shady Valley store along US421 The Snake, because I had so much stuff packed in my top box and I couldn't squeeze any more stuff in there. I figured I would eat some of my food during the trip and make a little room for this on my way home. So in order to stop there on my way home, I had to cut out a bunch of the start of the Blue Ridge Parkway from Cherokee - also meant I would need to detour over and ride the Snake again to reach the store there. If she only knew the immense sacrifices I make for her!

On that note, being able to use something like Facetime over wifi is awesome. I could talk to her every night at length and see her - without getting gouged by my cell provider. That makes it a lot easier to do these kinds of rides away from home.

Anyways, one of the things I like about the Blue Ridge Parkway is the tunnels. There a bunch of them and this one is actually two tunnels really close together. In this first pic you can see my bike between the tunnels and the second pic shows a different view while hoping no people from Florida hit me.

You can see in the picture above that the speed limit is 35mph. I read in another thread on here that someone thought the speed limits down there were too low and I said I thought they were fine. I take that comment back, because there are some roads down there with stupidly low speed limits. Here, 35mph is 58km/hr, which some cyclists move quicker on there. In these situations the speed limits are probably just meant as guidelines, so I ride according to the road conditions and the music I'm listening to.

It's pretty much time to say goodbye to the higher elevations and the amazing views that roads like the Blue Ridge Parkway offer.

Another thing I like about the Blue Ridge Parkway and many of the mountain roads down in that whole area is the massive rhododendrons that line the roads. Previously I had only ever been down there in the fall, but I have always wanted to go down earlier to see them in bloom, which is apparently now. They can get incredibly huge there and make for massive hedges along the roads in some spots:

After getting off the Blue Ridge I planned on hitting up a bunch of the roads I did on the way down, including the Devils Whip NC80, The Diamondback NC226A and The Snake US421. After stopping off at the store and grabbing the t-shirts, I took a nice road I hadn't been on before. It's the 133 between Shady Valley and Damascus. It's got nice pavement and fast sweepers with a couple tighter turns. One thing I really liked about it was this cool stone arch:

Usually when I travel by myself, I like to keep the lunches light and quick, so I typically just go to Subway and get a sub. Eat 6" now and eat the other half later. I was on my way to a Subway - I think it was in Independence VA, when I rode past an Italian Pizza, Pasta and Sandwiches place where the parking lot was really full. I thought this should be a place to check out, so I went there instead. I'm not a foodie and don't usually take pictures of food, but this Calzone I got was enormous and it was a "small". The large could probably feed me for a week. It was delicious and I saved the other half for dinner:

I arrived at Willville Bike Camp around 4pm. It has a few cabins and a large secluded area for tent camping. I stayed there back in 2010 and Will is a nice guy who also owns a V-Strom. We chatted for a bit and he asked to see my bike. He's owned over 30 bikes of all kinds and said that his V-Strom 650 is his all time favourite bike for it's versatility - his has over 100,000 miles on it. He knows much more about bikes and maintenance than I ever will and was giving my bike the once over. He asked me if I minded that I was missing my rear caliper bolt. I looked there and sure enough, I was missing a bolt, so my rear brake was attached by only one bolt and clearly not stable. He dug though his garage and found the right sized bolt and voila - I'm all good. I would like to come back here and spend a few days, because there are a ton of awesome roads in the area. The cabins he has are pretty sweet - wifi, fridge, microwave, recliner, tv, and a good enough bed for $35/night. Covered parking for the bike too if you want it.

Will was relaxing with a bunch of other riders who are frequent guests there and asked where I was coming from. I told him Deals Gap and he said it was a waste of time because they have roads just as good in Virginia. I said I'm not really interested in the fast sweepers, but rather the tight, twisty technical stuff and would appreciate a couple of tips from them hillbilly locals. This guy named Bob walks up and Will tells him that I want to ride some really twisty roads, so Bob offered to take me out on a ride. He's from from Florida and has been staying at Willville in his summers for 18 years and knows the roads pretty well. I think he was on an older model Aprilia Tuono with all this fancy stuff on it compared to my bike. We suit up and head out. I have my GPS with me so I can tell where we are going and the where the really twisty bits are. The first twisty bit is closed due to construction. The second twisty bit, we get stuck behind a pick-up truck pulling a long open trailer. The third twisty bit we get stuck behind a slow moving RV. Time and time again we get caught behind these slow moving vehicles. I usually don't wait behind them - just go around first chance I get, but some people (from Florida) like to wait for the dotted lines and then maybe pass. If I'm not leading it's not my place to pass, so I ride behind cursing in my helmet. If I was on a Tuono or leading, there's no telling what I would do, but I'd be long gone that's for sure. He lost me a few times on the open straights, but I caught back up to him in the corners.

There also happened to be a Ural bike rally with all these sidecars staying there that night. They are a bunch of weirdo's I tell you. Interesting bikes to look at, but they were a strange lot (although very kind).

Day 8: Meadows of Dan, VA to Somerset, PA - VA311, US220, WV250, 33, 39 72, 50 & Smoke Hole - 13hrs/920km: Willville to Somerset, PA

So now it's morning and I'm just about ready to leave. I decide to do one walk around the camping area and take a few of these pictures of the Urals. As I'm walking by, I see one of these Ural hillbilly's sitting on a picnic table. It's around 6:30am and I'm the only one awake except for him. I stop and say good morning and that it's such a nice morning out. He tells me sure, but you gotta keep moving to stay warm. What?!? Instead of bringing a tent or sleeping in a cabin, he just sat on the picnic table all night shivering:

This was going to be a pretty intense day. It was my second last day of twisty roads and I wanted to hit up some nice stuff in West Virginia.
Knowing today was going to be a pretty long day, I didn't stop too much for breaks or photo's. As I rode the VA311 The Vulture one last time, I stopped in New Castle, VA on this tiny, twisty stretch of the VA42. It had a really nice view of the mountains in the distance:

And from the same spot, the looking the other way, a glimpse into the sweet road this view was situated on:

I decided that my next stop would be the canyon of Smoke Hole, WV. To get there I rode some of the more popular and nicer WV roads. After hitting up some of these stretches, I can safely say that I like the rhythm of the mountain roads in North Carolina and Tennessee much better. They are certainly different, in that the gearing and timing of how to corner the WV roads is less predictable, and therefore tougher for me to get into a really good groove. Maybe it's just because I had left the Deals Gap area and this felt quite different. Maybe I just need to spend a few days riding around WV and then maybe I'll be singing a different tune.

Anyways, I zigged and zagged my way over to Smoke Hole Road. It's got some pretty tight corners, but it's not the type of road I go that fast on. It can be pretty narrow in many spots, and I've seen a lot of pick-up trucks towing RV's and big trailers, that run the corners wide and into my lane. There is a campground there called Big Bend and one day I'd like to stay there and use it as a base for riding the WV mountains. One of the reasons I like going over here to Smoke Hole is that the canyon is a neat sight to see and ride along, especially with the river on one side:

After this I wanted to ride the WV72 between Parsons and Red Creek. I had read that it was kinda rough and not worth doing, but looking on a map, it looked pretty twisty and like it was worth checking out and seeing for myself. And sometimes taking these lesser travelled roads is when you get to see some pretty cool stuff, so I'm usually willing to try them out, at least for a bit. Well it turns out the road was pretty rough for a long stretch. Probably the most twisty bits on the map were the roughest pavement. Kinda like Southwood Rd 13 near in Muskoka, but rougher and twistier. That said, I was riding along a short straight section with woods on either side of me when I look up the road and lucky me, I got to see a super cute little bear on the road. It was just stopped there and looking at me approaching. It stared for a bit and then as I got closer, it scampered into the woods. It was small enough that I thought momma is around here somewhere, so I'm not going to stick around. So even though the road kinda sucked, the sight of that little bear was probably the highlight of my day.

From here I rode some more twisty bits and made my way up to Somerset, PA where I was staying the in the Econo Lodge. I checked in and dropped my gear and needed to put some chain lube on. As I went to do this, I noticed that my rear tire had seriously lost it's tread. The tire was a Pilot Rd 4 and only had about 6,000km on it at that point. I thought it would get more, but it turns out that riding the tighter mountain roads a little harder does this to tires. You can see I'm easily into the wear bars now, and I've never rode a tire this deep into the tread:

I decided to wait til the morning to make up my mind what I was going to do for tomorrow's ride. There was some UFC on tonight, so might as well enjoy my last night and chill out.

Day 9 - Somerset PA to Mississauga - US219, PA 144 - 8hrs/650km: Last Day!

I had a decision to make now. I was planning on doing a nice ride on my last day through the backroads of Pennsylvania, since I was already here. But then I thought about just getting home as safely and quickly as possible to make sure I did get home and wasn't stranded or doing something stupid. After giving it some thought and looking at the weather forecast, I realized I was over reacting. The tires have quite a bit more meat, even thought they might be bald and without tread. So as long as the roads were dry, the remaining 650km home should be a piece of cake.

On a side note, I noticed that the right side of my tire had a little more tread than the left side, and I think this is from being able to see deeper into the left hand corners on the twisty roads and therefore it's easier to push it a little harder while still staying in control. Taking right hand corners on the twisty roads often have a very limited fields of view and going too fast (even though you know you can navigate the corner and easily stay in your lane) might leave you with no room for altering your line or sudden braking when some tool coming in the opposite direction is in your lane. This happened to me a few times and usually does on these longer trips. On one occasion, a pick-up truck on the US421 The Snake was fully in my lane as I came around a right turn and I was going maybe a bit too quick and to avoid hitting the truck I chose to ride onto the soft grassy shoulder. When I was on the Smoke Hole Rd, a pick-up truck towing a long open boat trailer came around a corner and it was just too long a vehicle for the tight corner and had to be at least 1/2way in my lane. I was going a safe speed and easily went around it with no issue.

Anyways, off I went. I rode along the 219 for a bit and up here there seem to be quite a bit of deer. Along the 219 this morning, I had 4 encounters with deer. They were pretty small and often saw me from a good distance and took off well before I would get nearby. I made my way over to where some of the better roads are in PA, which is in the Sproul and Elk State Forests. I like the PA144 and wanted to ride it from bottom to top. It's one of the better roads in PA and if you have never been on it, check it out, because it's surrounded by some other good roads and not that far from the GTA. It has very nice, smooth pavement, wide lanes and for some weird reason it is really wavy in a lot of parts. It also goes up and down two smaller mountains, so there are some nice elevation changes with some pretty nice corners and sweet views here and there.

Now I'm riding along and being pretty vigilant about the deer. By the time I got to where the Kettle Creek area is (roughly half way up the road) I had 7 deer encounters. Nothing too exciting and they usually aren't that big a problem if you keep your eyes on the road and don't go too fast during their most active times. There's one point where I may have been exceeding the speed limit and I glance down at my GPS to see how many more miles of smiles I have on this road. The glance couldn't have been more than 1/2 second long. I look up and the biggest deer I have ever seen is jumping out of the woods from my left and bounding across the road right on a collision course with my bike!!!

Now I have practiced my threshold or emergency braking a lot on this bike in parking lots and when doing work on my brakes and testing them out afterward. All that practice came back instinctively, because I immediately grabbed the most amount of brakes I have ever done in my life and braced for impact. I thought about how this was easily going to completely destroy the front end of my bike and what a drag it was going to be to get my bike home, because I was more than the 200kms free tow offered by CAA. But I also thought that the insurance payout might finally get me that Multistrada. It's interesting how many thoughts we can have in such a short time. Eyes straight ahead and try to keep as centered on the bike as possible. The sheer rapid loss of speed meant that all my weight went forward and at the last millisecond, to avoid hitting the deer, I tried to steer a little to the left. I'm not sure it did anything to steer the bike, but it caused my whole helmet to basically go between the windscreen and the right mirror. What was super cool about this is that I missed the deer(!!), but with my face so far forward, I could see that I missed the big ass of this beast by about an inch or two. I was so close I could have counted the hairs on it's tail. It was one of the most amazing things of sheer adrenaline I have ever got to experience on the bike. Off the deer went and onward I kept going. I thought about stopping and taking a few deep breaths and blah blah blah, but then I realized that it's all good, just keep riding and enjoy the rest of the road and get home.

When I got to the border, I could see the amount of traffic coming in to the US. The traffic was beyond insane - maybe a few kms of practically stopped traffic with only a few border booths open. When I came up to the Canadian side, there were at least ten booths open, with only about 7 cars in each. The lines moved quickly, my border guard was smiling and a nice guy - we had a few good laughs about the suckers going in to the US and I was on my way. When I got home I took another look at my tire. Looks like I still have some tread on the right side to hit the Lawrence ramps!

Actually while I was in in Somerset PA, I bought this and looking forward to putting it on tomorrow:

Ride safe everyone!
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Keep them coming...I miss the BRP and the smoky mountains. Should make a journey up there soon. Have fun and safe ride.


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Great write up Shane...keep em coming
Wheres, that spot with the big rock?


Curry - so nice it burns you twice
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Great write up Shane...keep em coming
Wheres, that spot with the big rock?
That spot is along the US221 in North Carolina, I'd say around halfway between Blowing Rock and Linville. There's a bunch of really nice rock formations to see. If you ride along there during the rains like we did in 2015, then you can see some nice waterfalls at several points along this stretch.

and heres thatsame rock taken from the other side on a rainy foggy day:


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Thanks for posting your trip details Shane. My wife has family in Flat Rock south of Hendersonville. I’ve always wanted to get down there and ride. You’ve definitely inspired me to plan a trip sooner rather than later.
Safe travels back home.

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Brian P

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That looks familiar. We hit torrential rain a couple of times last Thursday and Friday, just not at the gap itself. Good to chat a couple of times, Shane.


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Should have gone with you Shane, you had the better weather lol

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Curry - so nice it burns you twice
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Haha nice find Matthew. Look at that - riding with highway pegs on the Dragon - blasphemy!

I spent the week strangely dodging rainstorms while other people were getting pretty wet. That pic was my very last Dragon run. I knew the storms were coming, so I thought I would hit it up one last time and maybe get lucky. I made it across about 3/4 of the way of the Dragon, and then the rains started coming down, so I turned around and rode back along it and the Fontana28. I was lucky and managed to get ahead of the storm, so while it looks like I was getting pretty wet there, it was only for a few minutes. That day it was so hot, that by the time I escaped that storm and made it back to my cabin, I was totally dry.


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Thanks for the excellent ride report. See not all us Duc owners are posers :)


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we did one run at the Gap when I was there in June and was hopeful of getting a decent photo on my new bike to update the ones I have from 2015 .

It was so quiet on a Tuesday in mid that the photographers missed me or had terrible shots due to my quiet bike.


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Excellent posts Shane.


Curry - so nice it burns you twice
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we did one run at the Gap when I was there in June and was hopeful of getting a decent photo on my new bike to update the ones I have from 2015 .

It was so quiet on a Tuesday in mid that the photographers missed me or had terrible shots due to my quiet bike.
After Matthew posted that earlier pic and I read your post, I went onto Killboy to look and there a few nice shots, so I bought some. Thanks Guys!

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