Sharing the experience

(October 22, 2015) Last weekend I rode to Hendersonville and spent some time with my daughter and her husband. My daughter, Meg, wanted to ride to Maggie Valley and I came up with a route plan almost immediately. As I've already written about, we'd take one of my favorite scenic byways: US 64 to US 276 through the Pisgah National Forest. We'd ride that beautiful twisting road across the Blue Ridge Parkway (BRP) northwest into Waynesville and then onto Maggie Valley.

I rode out to Hendersonville Friday evening. The weather was clear and cool and the traffic was heavy, which actually turned out to be a blessing as all of those headlights illuminated the otherwise dark highway.

After a good night's sleep and a tasty breakfast at Joey's New York Bagels, we were on the road by 11:00 a.m. on Saturday. Just as planned, we rode through the Pisgah and into Waynesville. As the weather was great--sunny and in the upper fifties--the Apple Harvest Festival in Waynesville had the downtown area packed with people. That slowed us a bit as we worked some alternate routes through town. The navigation system on my new Harley proved very useful as it allowed me to consult a map without having to get off the bike.

When we got to Maggie Valley, it looked like there was a bike rally in progress. There wasn't, but it became clear very quickly that Maggie Valley, NC (and Cherokee, NC) are very popular with bikers. Motorcycles almost outnumbered cages in both towns that afternoon.

The Wheels Through Time Museum is in Maggie Valley and I decided on this trip that that is someplace I need to see, soon.

Since we were in Maggie Valley, I suggested to Meg that we ride US 19 southwest into Cherokee and she agreed. It helped that I told her it's a beautiful ride into the Cherokee Nation (Eastern Cherokee Reservation).

We took a much-needed butt break in Cherokee. I enjoyed a stogie and Meg ate a banana, and we both got some essential water into our systems. After a great daddy-daughter conversation, I suggested to her that we get on the Blue Ridge Parkway, as it starts in Cherokee. She had never been on this lower section, so we headed over to US 441 and the start of the Parkway.

As we crossed the Oconaluftee River, we encountered a large crowd on the bridge. As we were on the bike and could see over the walls of the bridge, we were able to see what the fuss was about: a family of elk was enjoying the river. There was a male, female, and two young. Given the size of the crowd, we chose to not stop for pictures and worked our way slowly through the humanity and onto the Parkway.

It was remarkable how quickly the temperature dropped as we climbed the Blue Ridge Parkway and lost the sunshine behind the trees and mountains. Soon we had to pull over to bundle up a bit. The temperature was down into the upper 40s to low 50s. I was certainly enjoying my heated grips.

Meg came prepared but also benefitted from a high-tech balaclava I brought. After that stop, we were both comfortable once again. However, Meg slowly lost body heat as we worked our way toward Asheville and by the time we exited the Parkway at NC 191 (at the French Broad River and I-26), Meg was quite chilled and ready for some indoor heat. We were back to her place by 5:30, making it about a 6-hour ride, if you subtract our stop in Cherokee.

Sharing this ride with my daughter made all the difference in how memorable and enjoyable it was for me...and her. I do a lot of solo rides, but it's when I get to share the experience with friends or family that I realize just how precious these times are. Seeing the joy on the others' faces serves as a reflection at how I much I appreciate the ride too.

Flat Rock Wood Room

Before I conclude, I feel the need to comment on the dinner we had that night, after we returned from our ride. We ate at what I fondly refer to as the meat palace. It's the Flat Rock Wood Room restaurant on NC 225 in Flat Rock, NC. I wrote about it last year. The 45-minute wait was well worth it. The food was awesome and plentiful. That picture of Memphis-style ribs I've included is what was left after I had eaten as many as I could off my plate. Next time, I'm ordering only a half rack!

Keep the shiny side and pray for a short winter!

-The Long Rider

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