Saturday, October 11, 2008

Long Weekend at Ocracoke, NC

Ocracoke is Debbie's favorite destination, period.  You have to stay in Ocracoke to appreciate all it has to offer.  Just a ride through, which takes 5 minutes or less, doesn't let you in on all the little secrets it has to offer.

DSCF8605 My birthday was on October 7th and that was the one that caused me to turn 50. 
My birthday present was to spend a long weekend at Ocracoke and make that excursion on two wheels.

Originally we were to have Debbie and me along with three other couples to spend the weekend at the Beach House Bed and Breakfast and see what the area had to offer.  Things changed a few weeks out and not even Chad and Lynn were able to join us.  So it was Mike, Holli, Debbie and me.
Mike and Holli left Wilmington on an Electra Glide Classic late  imageThursday afternoon and rode to New Bern.  We met up at 7:30 Friday morning so we could gas up and head to Cedar Island to catch the 10:30 ferry to Ocracoke.  It started out at 48 degrees and by the time we hit the Intracoastal Waterway bridge on Hwy 101it was time to stop for a brief warm up.

image To those of you not familiar with the area, a ride in the Real Down East can be an interesting experience.  Hwy 70 ends just before Cedar Island and you begin to ride Hwy 12. The ferry route is actually a continuation of Hwy 12.  The area is large, open and sporadically populated with small communities along a winding two lane road and quite a wonderful area for a two wheel day trip.

DSCF8571 The temperature had warmed to the upper 60's by 9:30 when we reached the ferry landing.  There was a light fog over the Pamlico Sound and the water was as calm as a bath tub.


With the bikes secure we settled back for the two hour ride to Ocracoke.


One of the many ferries that cross Pamlico Sound several times a day.


Around 1:00 we arrive at the
Beach House.

We stayed here before and we'll stay here again.  Carol and Warren are great and have wonderful insight into what to see and where to eat.  They always let us park the bikes next to the house, away from the road and the breakfast is always good. Breakfast is usually at 8:30 but Warren is always ready with coffee at 8:00.  It's a good time to catch up and find out what we have missed.  Between the two of them there is always a great story.


We take off on foot to check out the sites. A trip to Ocrackoke without grabbing a burger a Smacnalley's would be lacking.  So we grabbed something to eat and the girls decided that we wanted to rent scooters next door.
Yep I said scooters.  You can rent 'em at Wheely Fun which happens to be adjacent to Smacnalley's which is all part of the Anchorage Inn and Marina .

So here I am listening to the recitation of how to operate this 50cc power house while wearing a Harley shirt and holding a "cute" flame theme helmet.  That aside, we really had a lot of fun and after about an hour had seen about all of the paved area in Ocracoke. 

The populated area of Ocracoke is geographically small and the whole place is all about being laid back and relaxing.  The Beach House is almost at the east end of town but it's still convenient to walk most everywhere.

Relaxing on the front porch is what it's all about.  Looks like Mike may be in agreement.

Naturally if one is in Ocracoke for any amount of time then it is recommended to visit Howard's Pub.  It is conveniently located about 100 yards from the Beach House.  They were quite busy at 7:30 Friday night.
DSC00481 Saturday morning we head to the Hatteras Ferry to begin our journey to the Elizabethan Gardens and Aquarium in Manteo.  One thing you need to remember while in Ocracoke is that all that you do will depend on the ferries and their schedules.


We met a couple of BMW riders on the way to a rally in Virginia and one of the guys offered to take our group picture.

Electra Glide in Blue with Mike and Holli just outside of Manteo.

We stopped for lunch at Basnight's Lone Cedar Cafe. We had some really great food and I highly recommend the She Crab Soup.

DSCF8658 Elizabethan Gardens


Statue of Virginia Dare

Her Royal Majesty Queen Elizabeth

Aquarium at Roanoke Island

To go from Ocracoke to Manteo and back with a couple of stops along the way will take most of your day.  It's only about 80 miles one way but the speed limit is under 50 mph for a good portion of the ride.  There is some very good scenery as you navigate the sliver of land that's called the Outer Banks or OBX.

With the days ride behind us we decide to have pizza at Jason's which is right across the street.  We all agreed we chose a good spot.   Jason's Restaurant

DSCF8758 Due to lack of planning, and I'll never let that happen again, (meaning no reservation) the ferry is full at 10:30 on Sunday.  After some discussion (we actually discovered this Friday in Ocracoke) we decide on the 7:00 AM ferry which means we have to get up at 5:15 or so to be in line at 6:30.  Debbie was not impressed even after I told her we would see the sunrise.  We had tried our best to be quiet going up and down the stairs when we were loading the bikes. About 20 after 6:00 we cranked the Harleys. I'm afraid we woke up all the guests. We missed the 8:30 breakfast but Carol had thoughtfully prepared some lemon/poppy seed muffins for the trip.  7:00 and we bid a fond farewell to our weekend getaway.  We arrived in New Bern about 12:00 after a breakfast stop in Morehead.  The rest of the gang made it to Wilmington about 1:30 or so.

Once again we had a great time.  The weather could not have been better if we had ordered it so.  Sunny with highs near 75 and lows at 65 made for perfect riding and sightseeing and we added 400 miles to the Ultra.  The mosquitos were a bit active in places on Ocracoke  and Cedar Island due to the recent wet weather but with a little bug spray it was minimal aggravation.


Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Maggie Valley and the Tail of the Dragon


Pull up a chair and let me tell you a tale of the tail of the dragon. Or at least I will in a few moments.
We planned this trip for quite some time and went to quite a bit of effort to make sure that things went smoothly. Chad modified my Lowe's trailer to safely haul the Ultra and did a great job. I got Jack to drop by and give me his input of the best way to tie down an Ultra since he also owns one. I purchased the appropriate ratchet straps and soft ties and felt good about trailering our bike. I used the frame tubing just forward of the gas tank so the straps cleared the lowers and the passenger footboard brackets for the rear.

DSCF0716After loading everything we owned on Wednesday evening we hitched up to the Yukon and pulled out at 7:30 Thursday morning, time to grab a quick breakfast at the drive through and meet at the Mall parking lot by 8:00.

A little after 8:00 and we were under way with Jack and Cookie with their Ultra, John and Jeanie with their Gold Wing and Herb and Sarah with their newly acquired Classic.  A small caravan of trailers from the coast in route to the  mountains of North Carolina.  Chad and Lynn had gotten restless in the wee hours and were about an hour ahead of us.  Ray and Pat were already in the mountains as they had ridden their bikes up a few days earlier.

We had a fairly uneventful trip and we were approaching Waynesville about mid afternoon. Uneventful except for the Yukon's appetite for fuel.  

I've been to this area several times in the past year but the view kind of sneaks up on you and I always think, WOW what a view.  Maybe it's because I'm from the flat lands of Carolina and I'm impressed by the dune at Kill Devil Hills or maybe because it actually is a striking view.

It's 5:30, the bikes are covered and we are ready for a cold beverage!

Looks like the girls are ahead of us.

With this stream just 25 feet from the back porch of the cabin it made for a very appealing back yard.

Pat and Ray made it to the cabin just before dark.  Ray had a serious issue with a back tire that had covered only a few hundred miles:  the steel cords were showing. That was going to require a trip to Ghost Town Harley.  They also received the news that their youngest son had just undergone surgery for appendicitis. Since he rides and knew they were on bikes a good distance away he waited until the surgery was over to call.  He was in good spirits and the surgery went well.  Needless to say there was quite a bit of airtime used in telephone calls back and forth.

Since we had such great surroundings we decided hot dogs and the fire would complement each other quite well.  After the journey from New Bern, all the excitement and a tasty meal it was getting late.
The next morning we get an early start and head down to Maggie Valley.
DSC00176We stopped at the HOG rally that was in the Valley.  To be truthful, there wasn't much to it.  Almost everyone was disappointed especially since it was $10.00 a head.  The local shops were much more interesting.

But the Wheels Through Time museum, that was another story....
By the time we had made the rounds, eaten lunch and been rejoined by Pat and Ray there was just enough time for a quick ride on the Blue Ridge Parkway.
The Parkway was great.  We got off the Parkway at Lake Logan Road (Hwy 215) and headed north toward Waynesville.  Lake Logan Road is impressive in its own right, it's an out of the way road, with quite a few impressive curves. We stopped in Waynesville to buy some steaks for the big birthday dinner for Chad and Lynn.
Chad was the outdoor Chef for the evening and had three charcoal grills going so all the steaks would be cooked and ready at about the same time. 

Here Chad samples the special steak marinade.
It seems that myself, Jeannie, Jack, Lynn, Chad and Linda all had birthdays within a few weeks of each other. 

Pretty cool cake.
DSC00307There was plenty of food with steaks, twice baked potatoes and salad and of course a few after dinner drinks.

Tomorrow we ride the Dragon!

We meet in the Valley and gas up for the all day ride we have planned.  There was quite a group of our friends from New Bern.

We did one stop on the way to Deals Gap.


Here's Jeff waiting to get moving.

The ride to Deals Gap was enjoyable but I must admit there are some interesting turns on Hwy 28.

This was our first view of the Resort at Deals Gap.  Intersection of 129 and 28.
Yes there was quite a crowd.  Everything from sportbikes to Cobras and everything in between.

Well let's see, 318 curves in 11 miles with a speed limit of 30 mph so we should run it in about 30 minutes.
You do have to be alert for bikes and cars crossing the double yellow lines.  If you ride too slow you will get passed.

DSC00365 We don't have many pictures of the Dragon since Debbie videoed most of the ride.  I don't believe I would want a camera to my eye while on the back of the Ultra on this road.
DSC00372 I had been concentrating on the road and not noticing much else.  Debbie noted the total absence of guard rails on the shoulder and it's a hell of a long way down on some of the turns.  Could be a while until you're found.
And it's over as suddenly as it started, from crazy curves to a beautiful straight stretch along side of Fontana Lake.

My honest opinion?  If I never do it again it will be too soon.  It may just be that I had an off day.  You know, one of those days when your balance and fluidity is just not at 100 %.  I guess my main concern was the fact that on some curves you can't see 35 feet into the turn so if someone's down or stopped...  And I was a little unnerved about cars and bikes suddenly appearing around curves and not always in their lane.  Adding to that we were 2 up on a Ultra Classic and the Ultra just ain't a Sportster.  We polished the kickstand on several turns but that was about it. 

Lynn astride her Sporster had a blast as did Chad on the Street Bob.

There was one accident on the Dragon we passed, as the rider was pushing his Street Bob up to the road and one at the Lake end which required an ambulance.  As I told Lynn "I slayed the Dragon so the bitch is dead and I'll never have to do it again."

Been there, done that and yes I bought a shirt.

But you know there will be another day.....
We had lunch and gassed up at the new Tallassee Store located on US 129 just 6.5 miles north of the Dragon and 3 miles north of the Foothills Parkway. 
Bike group shot!

I wonder if it would help if we put a Harley sticker on John's Gold Wing?
We then rode on the Foothills Parkway toward Gatlinburg and the Smoky Mountains Parkway.
Along the way we broke off from the group to take a break and some pictures.

Jeff met up with us shortly and we made our way down the Parkway into Cherokee and then back to Maggie Valley.


I was ready for a beer after this day so instead of going to the cabin and firing up the Yukon we made do with a cargo net.  All bags were full but we still managed two six packs and a bag of ice.

You might be a redneck...
That was quite a day trip and  we had a great lasagna supper planned.  After a lot of discussion about the day's events and reviews of the pictures and videos we loaded the bikes on the trailers and decided to call it a day.  We all knew we had to pack up and head east in the morning.  It was a great evening that ended a great long weekend in the mountains.
We all left around 9:00 or so in a light drizzle.  Pat and Ray left shortly thereafter on their bikes and luckily the weather improved quickly as they rode east.  Debbie and I dropped off the keys at the real estate office and picked up some local apples.  About two hours into our return to New Bern Lynn calls and says the Land Cruiser has a problem.  About twenty minutes later we pull up behind them on I40.  Chad has determined that there has been a complete transmission failure.  Jack had stopped behind us and between the two of us loaded the gear that Chad and Lynn had in the truck.  After the bikes have been taken off the trailer, the Land Cruiser and trailer loaded on a wrecker, Lynn and Chad head to New Bern on their bikes.   By the way, sitting on 40 is a pretty scary thing.  75 mph is faster than you think .  Other than that is was a casual but lengthy drive back to New Bern. 

We rode quite a few miles, racked up quite a few smiles and added a lot of memories to the digital scrapbook.  The scenery was diverse and fantastic and the best part was sharing the experiences with good friends on two wheels.  I could go back tomorrow.