Here we are, the day before I head out, 24 hours, to be exact. The bags are packed and the money spent. All that has to happen is to get on the bike and ride. I will be staying at Black Bear Resort in Hampton, TN from Wednesday night until Sunday morning. The ride in and out will be nearly 8 hours, 340+ miles, each way. While I am a bit nervous about the long trip solo, I am more excited. Raven is checked up and ready to go, so I need to make myself ready as well.
I guess some background is needed for this one. From ADVRider forums:
“The Eastern Rendezvous is the oldest annual ADV rally, and the only one in the south east. It started in 2002 as a small traveling gathering, and Rick aka Party Boss turned it into an annual event known as the Eastern Rendezvous. Sadly we lost Rick in 2012. Nobody will ever be able to be such a great and inviting host like he was, but we will keep his rally alive in honor of what he started.”
Day 1 – Wednesday:
I had spent time planning the route so I could miss the major traffic along the larger routes and stick to some of the more curvy roads and see more of rural Kentucky. Most of the route is going to be ridden on US421. If you click on the map, you will be able to see. I realize the flags are in the way but they need to be there to keep my route to the roads I wish to take. It actually takes me through some of Daniel Boon Forest and Natural Bridge area (which I was just in the other weekend.) From there, on south through Harlin (check out the show “Justified” for some interesting watching.) and into Tennessee through Cumberland Gap. So I left the house at 8:00 AM and stopped for some water and a couple other smaller items on the way out of town.
Well, planning is one thing, but when the route started, it had me going all over the place, routing the “optimum” route between each flag. I had no problem with that, considering some of the views and roads I was able to hit. Running through Harlan, KY was, well, interesting. I ended up going through a gravel quarry on the side of the mountain just before entering Virginia. Yep, somehow Virginia was on the list to hit before Tennessee. It was a beautiful day to ride, with temps not even making 75 and not a cloud in the sky the whole way. I did end up leaving at 8:00 am, and I pulled into the
resort campground at 4:45 pm. By 5:30 I was checked in and campsite set up. By 5:45 I had the first mug of beer!
Day 2 – Thursday:
Too much beer. Started the day with a gallon of water and handful of aspirin (not really a handful). There were a number of scheduled rides, but I went ahead and chose one that seemed a bit easier, and left out at 10:00 (or so). The guy leading it was great. He had few “rules” with the main one being keep a look-out for the rider directly behind you and slow down until they catch up. I was usually the tail end, as I was the slowest. However wherever we were going to make a turn off a road, the rest would be there when I would pull up and a thumbs up would come back and off we would go again. The roads were narrow, twisty and beautiful. We would end up going all over the area from Tennessee to North Carolina to Virginia. It was great to add a couple new states to my ride map. We had great weather yet again, and while there were threats of rain, nothing ever came down. We had lunch at a local BBQ shop and took a short ride around and back into camp. Once back, got relaxed, fed and watered. More and more people were pulling into the campground and it was really starting to fill up with multiple rows of tents in some places. The night progressed, drank more, talked about the day’s rides and other stuff, generally centering around motorcycles and camping. Finally, at some point as the fire was going down, I went off to sleep and get ready for the next day’s ride, which would leave promptly at some time around 10 am.
Day 3 – Friday:
As I had planned a little better overnight for this morning, I work up and only needed a bit of water and single aspirin. We left out at about the same time as the day before, same rules. We crept out and hit the gravel pretty quick and ended up coming out a different spot. However, there were a few sprinkles, and with my rain gear back in the campground, I knew if it rained at all I was gonna get wet. And, we got a good downpour for about 20 minutes as we were on one side of the mountain. So, if we are keeping score, I have now ridden in gravel for over 40 miles, ridden in the rain on both pavement and gravel, and with the visor so fogged it is raining inside the helmet. And yes, I got soaked. But only the upper body. My legs were nice and dry due to the awesome riding pants I have. My chest and arms were soaked to the bone. But, after 20 minutes or so, the rain stopped. I dried off pretty quick after that, and when we hit the next bit of gravel, it was quickly apparent there was no rain on that side of the mountain… Wet jacket + gravel dust + 6 riders ahead of me = covered in concrete… It was all good, and great experience.
After a good lunch at a tiny greasy spoon we headed back around and made it back into camp. Before then, a few of us went up to the next town for a couple needed items (cigars and tiny hex wrench.) Once back at camp, even more bikes had shown up and it was a veritable obstacle course to get to my tent and get swapped out of the riding gear into the beer drinking gear. The food, drink and conversation were amazing. The pork was smoked all day long and there were 3 big-wheels for the races all ready to go… Yes, big-wheels. Recommended ages: 3-7 up to 65#. There were a number of races down the hill with and without beer, and in one case, without clothing (don’t worry, I kept my clothes on)… After a very late night again, I dropped in for the sleep to recharge for the next day.
Day 4 – Saturday:
This was the big day. It started off like the rest – slow and steady in getting ready to ride out some time around 10. Love that leave time. We headed out a slightly different way. We rode all over the place again, finding new roads and retracing on roads we had ridden on already. We started off with 6 people and after lunch gained 4 more. We went for a brief stop at a local winery, some of us took a taste and when we left, a few of the riders took their own way. I was finally getting more comfortable with the gravel, and with the curvy roads. At the end of the ride, we had a few minutes of rain, so we stopped and put on the rain gear (I had it today) and finished the ride with a nice steep (for me, at least) hill climb with mostly dirt/mud. Now, it didn’t rain enough to make it a swamp, but it was slippery. Raven took it like a champ and was up and over the hill with no issues. The main pucker factor for me (over the course of the week) was the gravel on the pavement… I was really able to learn through experience and after 3 days of hard riding on both pavement and gravel. At the end of this day’s ride, I was able to say I never dropped my bike. There were a few “oh shit” moments, but the bike stayed rubber side down.
Saturday night was something special… First there was a raffle for some gear and gift certificates. I won $20 from one store, and 50% off a suspension kit for Raven. After that, it was time for some awesome jambalaya and more good beer and conversation. There was then the “de-noobing” ritual. All first-timers had to get “dressed-up” to the nines and parade around the dining hall and introduce ourselves. I was rocking the leopard-print. I know there are pictures somewhere – just didn’t look hard… There were 20+ of us doing this, and not a sober person in attendance. Then, there was more drinking, night racing on the big-wheels (how they survived, I have no idea). We were up for all hours talking and drinking and racing. I don’t remember when I hit the sack, but I slept hard and good.
Day 5 – Sunday:
I was up early (for me, especially) at about 6:30 or so. I think it was because I knew I needed to get packed up and on the road early so I could try and escape the storms that were forecast nearly my whole way home. I did get up and get things packed up on the bike (evenly!) and said my good-byes to the people nearest around my campsite, the rest I waved to as I rode by. Most were in some state of waking up to packing up. I got down to the camp store in the lower lot at 8:00 am and did a final inspection on Raven before hitting the road. I decided to allow the GPS a little more freedom to route a more direct route. I was tired and ready to get home and relax. As I headed west and north, and was routed through the Cumberland Gap and its tunnel. That was a cool experience on the bike. The first part of the morning I had to wear the rain gear as it rained when I left out of Elizabethton, TN. By the time I was just south of Cumberland Gap, I was able to take it off again. I finally ended up getting home, somewhat damp (it rained again as I was turning into my neighborhood) at about 3:15 in the afternoon. There were a few stretches of interstate I took to shave off some miles and time, but overall, spent most of the time on 2 lane roads with a bit of 4 lane state highway. I dropped the gear off Raven, unpacked everything and got it in the wash, or stretched out to dry and took a nap until it was bed time.
It is hard to tell in the photos, but Raven is caked in dust and mud and dirt. I will try and get one before I wash her to show the state of her after a good run in the dust and rain. It is a good color on her, but this week will be a good wash and some cleaning and oiling of the chain for good measure. I didn’t get a lot of photos this time because we didn’t stop often, but I did get some good ones.
To Sum Up:
This is my first real motorcycle rally and camp out. It was one helluva experience. Good people, good times and lots of learning. To give an idea, it was the cheapest 5 days I have spent anywhere on vacation. $100 covered the whole experience. Food (breakfast and dinner on Thursday, Friday and Saturday), lodging, all you can drink beer. ALL YOU CAN DRINK BEER!!! This is a rally I will be doing next year, and every year I am able to do it. I have a better idea of what I need to take and leave home and where to make some adjustments in packing.
Here are the pics from the trip: