November 1st, 2009:
I was excited when I woke up this am...Had arranged a few days ago to meet Randy (Htheater), DYL, and Loggiebone by DYL's place for a ride across the Cherohala Skyway. Predicted weather was a record 80 degrees, sunshine, and fun. Could be the last perfect day of the year.. Before I had finished breakfast things were already going all to hell. I turn on Fox news and the first thing I see is Nancy Pelosi with that big scary, surgically enhanced, abomination of a smile proclaiming victory in the House on the health care bill... My god. The quintessential *post turtle. I turn off the TV as I can't watch this.. I try to put this out of my mind.. Positive attitude.
Meeting time was a planned 11:30 so I left here at 9:30 thinking I'd get there 15-20 early. At 14 minutes from our meeting spot DYL calls to tell me Randy and Doug ran into a problem and would be late.. Apparently.. Randy had an "incident" in his driveway. My first thought was he dropped his bike, but later learned that someone (he wouldn't name names) set an oil drainage pan full of used oil out in the drive.. He rolled his bike out of the garage, put it on it's stand, turned to walk away, took two steps and went down.. One of the two steps either landed in the pan or on the oil pan and he went flying onto his back with the nasty oil enveloping him, his riding gear, and the driveway.. Took him about 45 to clean up the mess, get into alternative riding gear, then leave with Doug for our rendezvous near Robbinsville. They arrived 45 minutes late .. around 12:15... Guess it coulda been worse.
As they are arriving, I'm leaning against my SUV talking to Jim's wife Kim. When I look up I see Doug roll to a stop then for no apparent reason... his beautiful K1200S goes down. Happened in 2 seconds. I watch the event like it's a dream.. For some reason that perhaps only a therapist could understand I hear Howard Cosell screaming .. "Down goes Frazier.. Down goes Frazer".. I am so shocked that I don't even grab my camera. Jim runs over helps him pick it up and it's not pretty. Zero mph drop... Hundreds of dollars damage. And all in front of your friends. *Priceless*. To say Doug isn't happy would be an understatement, but he seems to shrug it off. Guess it coulda been worse. After this second "incident" we're all looking at each other like... what next? The day is starting out bad...and yes.. it'll get worse. At this point.. I'm hungry and we're late for a lunch date with Fast Eddie and Karen on the backside of the Cherohala so we head out. In spite the fact that it's a sunny day. We all leave with an unseen dark cloud hanging over us.
I lead and about 40 miles out and deep into the Cherohala my bike starts doing some weird shit. I'm having to counter steer hard to get in and out of turns.. My back end starts squirming around.. My first thought is that my ball joints are going bad again, but quickly realize that I may have a flat. .. I immediately pull over and confirm.. it's a rear flat. Geez. Only my 3rd in 36 years and almost half a million miles of riding. As fate would have it.. DYL has a patch kit and Randy has a pump. What luck!! We inflate it in 15 minutes.. it seems to be holding air.. I tell the gang that my day is done and that they should all proceed to the dinner date without me and I'd head back to the trailer, Randy' loans me his pump just in case I start to lose air. I bid them adieu and head back to base camp thinking I dodged a bullet...
I don't make it 3 miles before my tire is flat again.. Geez. I pull into a rest area, get out the electric pump, plugged it into my accessory port and it doesn't work. Nothing. Dead as Jimmy Hoffa. I try everything I can think of including facing east and praying to Allah (blessed be his holy name) but to no avail. I learn later that the fuse for the accessory socket has blown. OK.. I'm stranded on the Cherohala on a Sunday and all my buds are headed in the opposite direction. I pull out my phone even though I know I won't have a signal. Not only can it NOT find service but letters scroll across the tiny screen saying.. "You are so fucked." Must be a new information feature Sprint offers. How helpful.
I sit by the side of the road for over an hour hoping that perhaps one of the legions of cops I see every time I ride up here might come to my aid. Not one drives by. Must be "donut appreciation day" down in Tellico Plaines. I quickly discover that this rest stop must be ground zero for North Carolina's lady bug population breeding grounds as they are relentless. All over me... my bike.. the ground.. Guess it could have been worse. At least they don't sting. I ask passers by if they could give me a ride into town. All decline as if I have Ebola. One sympathetic 300lb Harley rider tells me he'd double me the 40 miles back to town. I decline. At around 2:30 I'm getting painfully hungry. I have no energy bars with me. I check my jacket and there's no snacks there. I gave my last 2 pieces of gum to Randy and Jim. Just when I'm wondering what Lady bugs taste like.. George pulls into the parking area. George is a tourist up from Florida. He's never driven in the mountains. He doesn't like the curves. He's about 60 years old.. His car is about 40 years old and worth about $500. I can smell his smoking brake pads. The inside looks like an entire family of Aborigines have at one time or another called it home. He asks where the nearest cheap motel is. He's low on cash. I tell him I'll show him a cheap motel in Robbinsville if I can ride along and offer him $20 if he'll take me to my trailer which is about 5 miles further. He agrees. I chat with him a few minutes to ascertain whether he might be a serial killer. He looks harmless enough so I'm good to go. While on the surface one would think my luck had changed.. In hindsight I should have never gotten into the car with George as it turned out to be the ride from hell.
I lock up my bike, stow my gear, and we're off. I quickly realize that George drives too fast for the mountains. He probably drives too fast on straight roads. He's actually squealing his tires on curves.. and not on purpose. I notice we're closing on one of the Cherohala's few decreasing radius turns and tell George he should slow down.. I tell him I've seen many wrecks on this curve and mention that a few have actually died on it. He doesn't slow.. I say.. "Decreasing radius".. a little louder I say.. "George.. decreasing radius".. the car is not slowing... then I yell.."Decreasing radius!.. Slow down!" At the last second he's all over his overheated brakes and the car squeals all the way around the turn and 2 tires go off the road.. I'm as anxious as Cary Grant in that scene in "To Catch a Thief " where Grace Kelly is driving too fast on the curvy roads in Monaco.. I'm sweating with fear. The brakes on my side of the car aren't working. I see a signpost up ahead - it says.. your next stop, the Twilight Zone! We make it through the turn.. he pulls over, opens his door, gets out, and spews chunks over the guard rail. He apologizes and tells me that driving on curves makes him nauseas. Great. For the rest of the 35+ miles back to my trailer he has to stop about every 5 miles to sell Buicks or dry heave. No idea why I didn't get sick myself. I dutifully sit in the car while we slowly make it down the mountain and back into town. Other than the fact that he can't drive and has nearly ended my life.. he seems like a really nice guy.
We make it back to my trailer and I give George the aforementioned $20. We exchange cards. I grab a quick burger in Robbinsville then drive the 40+ miles back up to my bike where I see DYL and Kim have arrived and are guarding it against predators. Thankfully it hasn't been stripped. Very kind of them. We load it up as the sun is waning in the sky. I make it back home at almost 8pm. What a waste of a day. Guess it coulda been worse. It could have been raining.. and at least I didn't drop my bike or take a bath in used motor oil. Doh!
* Post turtle: "When you're driving down a country road and you come across a fence post with a turtle balanced on top, that's a post turtle.You know he didn't get there by himself, he doesn't belong there, he doesn't know what to do while he's up there, and you just want to help the dumb ass get down."