Asheville – North Carolina Part 3


We were just south of Asheville at a place called Taylor Ranch. It was my second time there for Overland Expo East. I’d been to the West version more often, this was only the second year for East, and I was slated to present a lot over the long weekend. It was a different experience than Horizons Unlimited events, which are smaller and definitely motorcycle-orientated. Overland is more about the trucks and 4x4s, but they allow us two wheelers in. What they don’t let in is RVs. They are allowed at OX West, and I hadn’t even checked about whether they were okay at the East event, so when I got an email making sure I knew Cliff wouldn’t be allowed it was a bit of a surprise and left us scrambling a little. But then I got another email saying they would put Cliff in some overflow parking. It wouldn’t be ideal, but at least I wouldn’t have to wake up as early as I would if I was off site.

We had agreed to pick up and overloading friend of mine named Michelle at the airport on the way to the venue. It was raining when we got to the airport, and the rain kept up all the way to Taylor Ranch. We were directed to where we were supposed to be setting up, and after a U-turn got the the entrance to the proper field. It was at the base of a steep hill, not the best location in the rain but we didn’t really have a choice. The gate was narrow and since it was a left turn with no shoulder I didn’t get a chance to walk the ground and work out the best angle. So I got the angle wrong. We didn’t get stuck, but we weren’t likely to get into where we were supposed to be without causing some damage to the grounds – something I knew they didn’t want. So, I messaged back to the Overland Expo staff to find out what they wanted us to do – try to get in or move somewhere else. It was raining and somewhat high stress. Sue was frustrated that we didn’t know what to do, while I knew all we had to do was wait and we would get help. Guess I am just more used to failures than she is – and the way that failure brings aid.

Roseann Hansen called. She is pretty much the face of Overland Expo, and I hadn’t been expecting to hear from her. She clarified that I wasn’t stuck. I wasn’t. She said help would be on the way, and mentioned there was a hurricane coming. I checked the radar and there was a large patch of red bearing down on us. I assumed this was her “hurricane,” and told Sue that people were on the way. With help, we got Cliff back on the street, facing the other way, then back to main area of the ranch. This wasn’t a camping area, but they were going to let us set up there. The rain had stopped, but we put out the awning and unloaded the bikes. It started to rain again, and I sat outside listening to the rain on the awning. It wasn’t a tent, but I liked it.

There was a hurricane coming. A real hurricane named Joaquin. We hadn’t heard a thing about it, and the rain we just had wasn’t even part of it. The next day, Thursday, was supposed to be nice in the morning but the rain would be back in the afternoon and last for days. Constant rain on ground that was already saturated. It was going to be a long weekend.

So, in the morning we decided to ride the motorcycles into Asheville for the day.

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We found parking and paid for the meter through an iPhone app, which was cool, and locked up our gear to go for a walk.

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We didn’t have a plan, just wanted to walk around. There was a monument that caught my attention, and a few other things.

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Then we found the tourist information center who gave us a walking tour of art around downtown. This at least gave us a map, which we hadn’t had before.

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We wanted to eat in town before go back to the ranch, and since the girls didn’t have rain gear we had to beat the rain, so we cut the walking tour short. We didn’t really know where to go, we’d been given a lot of suggestions at the tourist center, but none of them really excited us. Then we saw this place –

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They just started serving burgers, but we got the pizza. It was a pizza place after all. With ambiance.

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It was raining when we were done eating, but there was going to be a window we could ride in, so we got back to the bikes and started back in a light drizzle that soon stopped. Back at Taylor ranch, we were parked and off the bikes for ten minutes before the rain was back, so it worked out as well as it could have, and Sue and I decided it was time to get the girls the rest of their riding gear.

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North Carolina Part 2 – Big, Big Houses


While we were going places to talk about my travel, and still starting to travel together, Sue does have an extensive travel history of her own. She’s just much more shy about sharing it all. She had been in the southeast before, long before she met me (and not on a motorcycle), and there had been somewhere she had passed on visiting then and regretted it later. Since we are done with regrets, once Sue shared this story with me it was added to the made-up-as-we-go itinerary.

I’ve heard of Biltmore – anyone who likes watching the History Channel will have – but have never been, much for the same reason Sue had passed on it when she was younger – It’s expensive! Well, we were gonna go, so found a campground nearby, that also sold tickets, and planned to go. For a while we thought it would be good to ride the motorcycles in, but we were a day late and wanted to be at the Expo venue that night. We also had agreed to pick up a friend at the airport who was flying in, and give her a lift. Since that meant Cliff was going to have to move, we decided just to bring the whole thing in.

We already had our tickets, but didn’t really know what to do once we got there so we ended up where you went to get tickets. Thankfully, we didn’t wait in line was soon where rolling again. Biltmore is on a massive estate – there are smaller national parks – and the road in was carefully sculpted by Frederick Law Olmstead. He was a landscape architect Sue was familiar with (and I’d never heard of). She was a fan, and I had to admit it was a nice road in, once I knew he’d planned it, and the rest of the grounds, from scratch. And I really mean from scratch, they redid everything for the 4 mile drive into the grounds.

We didn’t get to see the house right away. Since Cliff, with the trailer, is larger than the average car so they sent us to the bus lot. The bus lot was another ten minute drive, but we followed the shuttle bus which collected us and brought us back to the front door.

There was rain in the forecast, so we decided to walk around the grounds first. The grounds are huge. It’s really hard to get a sense of the size of the place but there are four or five separate gardens. That doesn’t count the hike to the stocked lake for fishing. We didn’t have time to hike there, limiting ourselves to some of the gardens (yeah, these aren’t small gardens either) before heading into the house.

After a while, the gardens started to blend together. The green house (that large building above) was interesting all by itself.

Sue found a happy place for herself too –

Everyone was getting a bit tired and hungry. The maps and guide said there was a cafe in the greenhouse (okay, it was actually called the preservatory, but everyone knows what a greenhouse is) but it was closed. We had to walk back to the house for lunch, and we were just about as far away as we could be without starting the hike to the lake. We started walking back. It took a while and when we got there we were faced with a couple of food choices. I forced us inside, since I didn’t want to leave Sue out in the sun (there are reasons) while we had a sandwich. The wait in the restaurant was about as long as everyone needed to go to the bathroom and wash up.

We were hungry and most of the food was gone before I remembered to take a picture. This was Sue’s first exposure to the vinegar BBQ they have in NC, and while she had said she didn’t think she would like it, she changed her opinion almost immediately. I also got some sweet tea.

Not as good as the stuff in Georgia, sweet tea in the South East is as regional as the BBQ and I’ve had my favorite picked out for years.

After lunch we headed into the building itself. They don’t allow pictures inside, and we spoke about hitting the gift shop on the way out for the book. I had the walking tour guidebook, and read for us as we went from room to room. Most of the house is still closed off, and I wondered if people live there. The house is still privately held after all, though no longer by the Vanderbilts (It is a relation, though), and we saw only a small part of it. It’s a very big house, more than 500 rooms, and the 50 or so on the tour was more a sample than anything. It was a good sample, and their staff was everywhere to answer questions and make sure no one was taking pictures. One even complimented me on my reading.

Kaylei, Sue’s oldest, called us out on time. We were in the servants area, being impressed with the kitchen, when she asked what time it was. It was, in fact, just after the time we’d planned to leave to make it to the airport. We decided to finish out the tour and be late to the airport, something that would come back to haunt us later.

The drive out was just as long as the drive in, but it did go past the house. Sue got out to get a quick picture –

As you might notice, there was some weather coming in. We hadn’t been following the news or weather, and were about to hear about Joaquin.

 

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On the Road Again – North Carolina


This was going to be different – not completely different but something, I have to admit, I was still learning how to cope with. Overland Expo East is an huge overlander event – trucks and motorcycles – just south of Asheville in October. Due to some lucky scheduling Horizons Unlimited’s North Carolina event was the following weekend. It was too good to pass, and I offered to teach some classes at both events. In fact, at Overland I offered to teach a lot of classes, because Sue had agreed to come with. So, with her to help, I figured on or two hours off a day would be fine.

The, a couple weeks before I we were going to leave, she said she didn’t think she could go anymore. There were issues with some rentals, issues with new schools, and she thought it would be better to just stay home. This was a bit of a problem, but it did mean I would get to ride Cuiosity instead of chauvering it. 

Then, the Monday before I planned to leave (on Friday), Sue annouced she had changed her mind and was coming. This resulted in a flurry of sudden, frantic activity as teachers were contacted for homework assignments, her bike was made ready, and Cliff the RV was taken out of storage and made ready. I will admit, I like riding the motorcycle. Prefer it, if I am completely honest, but it would be nice to have Sue along with.

It did mean we wouldn’t be able to leave on Friday – there was just too much to do – so Saturday morning after the RV was packed I went to move it up so the trailer could be attached (with it’s new motorcycle wheel holder-things), and it wouldn’t start. It was, in fact, completely dead. I started taking things apart andd doing research. Fuzes were fine, but someone on one of the forums mentioned something called a fuzeable link. I had never heard of such a thing and still wonder why they don’t just use a fuze. In anycase, this left me searching for these things I had never seen in real life through the chassis and wiring. Luckily, a member of Sue’s family had some experiance with old RVs, and came over to find the problem in about 5 minutes. These 5 minutes were, however, on Sunday morning, so we left a day later than planned – or two depending on how you counted.

Since the girls were coming with, and they had some stuff they needed to do for school, Sue and I wanted to make sure were saw some educational things along the way. I really like learning things, and despite passing it repeatedly I had never stopped at Abraham Lincoln’s birthplace. I assumed it was just a small museum, some information, perhaps a movie.

I was wrong

 

There was a museum, free, which covered Lincolns early, early live at a place called Sinking Springs – where the monument is today. Lincoln moved from here when he was 3 (maybe) to a different bit of land not far away, where he grew up. This property was involved in a legal battle over ownership, not uncommon in those days, and eventually the Lincolns lost and they had to move further west.

I have to admit the place felt more like shrine than museum, Lincoln as a figure of the things he would eventually become rather than a boy growing up. Perhaps what he did become was so incredible nothing of his earlier years was able to survive.

One thing that really did surprise me – well one of a couple things – was Lincoln’s mom. There was a lot of information on his father and grandfather, and family in general, but nothing at all about his mother. In fact, while there was a sketch based on a discription, no one even really knows what she looked it. It was kinda of a surprise given all the detail that had been added up for everthing else.

There were other odd things too. Inside the shrine was a log cabin – not the Lincoln’s cabin but one that might have been kind of like it, expect the one in the shrine was smaller. Despite all the “humble beginnings” that surround Lincoln growing up, at this point in his life his family was definitely upper middle class. How much of that affluence managed to follow him would have to be covered in another museum.

We got bacck on the road and the rain started. We’d hoped to park somewhere and ride motorcycle to Cumberland Gap, but there just wasn’t time if we were going to get to Asheville early enough to see anything there, so we continued South and East, and found something on Sue’s bucket list to do next instead.

 

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Adding to the Pose


In 2013 I met a wonderful woman named Sue. She rode motorcycles, loved travel, and we connected at once. After some test road trips we discovered, not really a surprise to her but it was to me, that we enjoyed being on the road together, and we planned a lot of adventures together for 2014.

Then, in early 2014, she was diagnosed with breast cancer. Her 2014 was a different sort of adventure, and I went along as best as I good. When she was done kicking cancer’s ass, she trained for a triathilon, and we got ready for shared adventures again.

There were some things we wanted to do first. She had a motorcycle, a Suzuki cruiser which was small, for a cruiser, but huge next to Curiosity. One one trip together, we ended up riding in some mud and she struggled some, resolving afterwards to get something similar to mine. In the end, it was another SR250, which she loved riding at once and really enjoyed tinkering with in the garage, every chance she could get.

Sue also had two girls, 9 and 11 in 2015, and any long trip would mean they had to come along. It would be easier than trying to get their dad involved anyway. Sue also wanted to learn how to ride off road, so we all signed up for an off road training class. I’d never had any real off road training, just fell off a lot and tried to pay attention why, and how to fall off less. We went to Off Road Adventures, an MSF class in Wisconsin. It was just far enough away we decided to camp to make the trip easier.

 

In the morning, we headed over the course, met the instructor, and got to know the bikes. Sue and I were already familier with all the basic controls, but the girls had to be shown.

 

With that out of the way we headed out into a field, kitted up, and got on the bikes. Kaylei, Sue’s older daughter, had to be moved up to a larger model, with clutch and kick start only. This would turn into an issue, but in the beginning it was all smiles.

It started out much as a street class does. We power walked a few times, and then started around a large oval. The oval was Kaylei’s downfall. Slowing for the corners she struggled with clutch and throttle, and stalled again and again. Even warmed up, the bike didn’t want to kick back to life, after after a few more tries she gave up and decided to watch the rest of the class and take some pictures.

Alyssa, her younger daughter, had a completely different experiance. With an automatic transmission all she had to do was twist the throttle and go, and she did a lot of going. After we all got a sense of standing on pegs and turning, some rocks, and generally comfortable, the instructor took Alyssa out on a trail ride.

Sue and I could see them occasionally off in the woods When they had done a couple laps, they were back and it was Sue and my turn. We got a rougher trail, no loop but a nice tour of part of the property. There was a two foot log to jump over, but we weren’t given the chance to try it. That might have been a good move on the instrutor’s part.

Alyssa loved having her own bike, though she is seven years from street legal. Kaylei annouced she would be just fine as a passenger, even when I told her it meant she would have to walk when the roads were bad and I didn’t want her weight on the back.

I had to head back to Milwaukee after the class, while Sue and the girls stayed another night at the campground. Everyone felt better on the bikes, and it was time for new aventures.

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