The second tour of the coming season will be down memory lane.
When I was a boy, my parents used to take us down to Cape Hatteras on the Outer Banks of North Carolina for our family vacations. I was the physical barrier separating my two older sisters in the backseat of our Pontiac Strato-Chief. My dad had installed seat belts in our favourite colours according to this arrangement: red, blue, green. Or was it green, blue, red? I can’t remember, but I remember quite a lot about those vacations. They were among my happiest memories growing up, despite the backseat shenanigans.
We went with another family, and apparently those vacations left an impression on them too, for one of the children named her future child after me. En route, we camped at Shenandoah National Park in the Blue Ridge Mountains. I still remember the nature hikes led by a ranger (who taught us to recognize a particular birdsong by its resemblance to “Drink your teeeeeea!”), the nighttime slide shows at the amphitheatre, walking back to our campsite afterwards, the fog so low you could bounce your flashlight off the underside of a cloud, and the rainstorms. The rainstorms! To this day, I love a good rainstorm from inside a good tent.
We would drive much of the Blue Ridge Parkway before spending a day in Williamsburg, then head over to the coast and camp along the Outer Banks. The campground was so close to the ocean you only had to walk along a boardwalk over the dunes to the beach. I wasn’t a strong swimmer and the sea always frightened me, but I enjoyed playing along the shoreline. One year, we went to The Wright Brothers Memorial at Kitty Hawk, and I think my first ever book was a staple-bound biography of The Wright Brothers I purchased from the gift shop there with the few dollars we were given for “spending money.” That seed of interest later sprouted into a dream of being a pilot when I grew up, and although my career ultimately went in a different direction, it has combined with another interest of mine—poetry—to produce a collection of poems that explores the theme of flight. I might not be a pilot, but I can imagine being one; the opening section is in the voice of Wilbur Wright.
The last time I went down there I was 14. My sisters by this point were already doing their own thing and didn’t go, so I had the backseat all to myself and Supertramp playing on my cassette recorder. During one rest stop on the Blue Ridge Parkway, we came out just in time to watch three motorcyclists start up their bikes and roar off down the parkway. One was a woman on a BMW. I’d never heard of that manufacturer but my dad clearly had. “Did you see that young woman take off on that BMW?” he remarked to my mom.
Perhaps another seed was planted on that holiday because, since getting my licence in 2016, I’ve wanted to return and ride the Blue Ridge Parkway, and this summer I finally will on my Triumph Tiger 800 named Jet.
The trip so far is pretty sketchy, but that’s generally how I like to tour when I’m on my own. In the earlier trip planned for this coming summer, my wife and I are going to visit Newfoundland, and much of that trip has been scheduled. For this one, however, all I know so far is that I’ll ride The Blue Ridge Parkway and Skyline Drive at some point, camping at Shenandoah National Park. I also know that I’ll ride some dirt in the MABDR and NEBDR (Mid-Atlantic and North East Backcountry Discovery Routes respectively). The MABDR and Blue Ridge Parkway plus Skyline Drive cover similar geography, so it makes sense to do one down and one back. One is asphalt, the other primarily dirt.
I’m thinking I’d also like to get out to the Outer Banks and ride them too if I have the time. They are less than a day’s ride from the Blue Ridge Mountains. Lea of Got2Go recently rode them and titled her YouTube video “The BEST road trip of the USA East Coast?”
At the time of this writing, there are lots of unknowns. Will I be touring solo or with a few friends? I’m good either way, but it would be nice to ride the technical sections of at least the NEBDR with a few buddies, and I’ve put a few feelers out. If I get some takers, will they do the whole tour with me or only one or both of the BDRs? If they can only do the dirt with me, I might change the order of things and ride the BDRs down and the asphalt back, to accommodate them.
I also don’t have a precise route mapped out yet from the Canadian border to the top of Skyline Drive. I’ve got Google Maps, Kurviger, and Rever open in separate tabs of my browser with the “Avoid Highways” option selected and am studying their suggested routes. Depending on which router I’m looking at, it’s between 1000 and 1100 kilometres from my house to where the scenic drives begin. This is prime Civil War geography through Pennsylvania and I’ll be tempted to stop often at historic landmarks.
Will I ride Tail of the Dragon while I’m down there? I’ve heard from several people that it’s not worth it and, in fact, is a little dangerous with superbike and sports car idiots treating it like a track instead of a public road. There are apparently many roads in that area just as good or better and less populated. Do you have any suggestions? Let me know.
So there’s a lot still to decide about this one but one thing I do know is that I’ll be leaving sometime in the fourth week of July and will have a little under three weeks before I have to be back for work mid-August. That’s not a lot of time but my parents did it in three weeks, if memory serves me well, and they had three kids in tow.
I know a lot will have changed and I can’t expect everything to be as I nostalgically remember it. You can’t go back in time or relive your childhood, nor would I want to. But I suspect the mountains and the ocean won’t have changed much since I saw them last, and that’s what I’m going there to see. And this time, instead of being stuck between two sisters in the back seat of a car, I’ll be riding my Tiger 800XC, putting it through the full range of its abilities as I carve new memories through the Appalachian, Blue Ridge, and Great Smokey Mountain ranges.
3 thoughts on “2023 NE USA Tour: Preliminary Plans”
I would definitely recommend the Cherohala Skyway.
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Thanks. I’ll definitely check it out.
Oh, and the Outer Banks are really neat, especially Ocrakoke. I haven’t ridden it, but I did drive that stretch years ago and spent a night in Ocrakoke. Really groovy, hippy type place with a great vibe.