Start: Murfreesboro TN (33739)
End: near Tallassee TN (33930)
It's Sunday, and getaway day from the RSBS Annual. Some are heading home. Others (like me) are starting the touring legs of their summer vacations. Murfreesboro has been the big stopping point between the first third and second third of my trip. I am looking forward to getting on the road again. I especially look forward to riding solo, and I'll be doing that for most of the way to Boise, but today I have one more day of riding with Rumble Sisters. Hoot will be leading a largish group to Fall Creek Falls, a fantastic road and scenic state park in eastern Tennessee. We'll have a lunch stop there. Then, Roxanne has graciously invited a bunch of us to stay at her bed & breakfast right next to the Tail Of The Dragon. Six of us take her up on the offer. We'll get up early tomorrow, ride the Dragon, and finally scatter to the winds from there.
Ears, the big softie, is crying in the hotel parking lot as various groups of sisters saddle up, wave goodbye, and gun their engines down the road. :)
It's about two dozen riders going to Fall Creek Falls. Yeesh, I don't know what's wrong with me sometimes, but I just DID NOT feel like riding in a group that large. The thought of riding through traffic ... trying to keep everyone together through stoplights ... it sets my teeth on edge, so, no thanks. I manage to negotiate a deal with leader Hoot, I'll set out on my own & meet up at the next gas stop once we get out of heavy traffic. It takes some doing to persuade her but I am insistent, and she gives me directions. She also tries to talk me into swapping bikes; she wants me to try out her VTX which is for sale, and she thinks it would be a fantastic bike for me. She's right, and a VTX 1300 will probably be my next bike. But I'm not going to ride hers, on unfamiliar roads, on a day that I am not feeling 100% comfortable. Some other time, I would have taken her up on the offer. But not today.
I really have picked up a lot of bad habits over the winter & now am feeling quite squirrelly about my riding skills. I need to work on improving them, and blasting down interstates is not the way to do it (anyone can point a bike in a direction and twist the throttle ... it's the slow-speed & curvy stuff that separates the skilled from the wannabes.) Here, at the RSBS Annual, I've had the pleasure of meeting and riding with a LOT of very good riders. It is, after all, kind of a self-selecting group. The down side to this, however, is that feelings of inadequacy now gnaw on the edge of my mind.
Well, when you're feeling like you're not a good enough rider, the solution is to work on getting better, which is what I do today. Once I've rejoined the group forty minutes outside of Murfreesboro, we split into a fast group and slow group. I volunteer to ride tailgunner on the fast group, knowing that I will be slower than all of them, and they'll lose me and I'll essentially have a solo ride to work on my twisties. Then we ride into the Tennessee hills, climbing up into fantasic forest scenery for many miles until reaching our destination at the Falls. Predictably, I end up well behind the fast riders, and I am just not feeling the flow today, which is kinda frustrating. We stop for one final photo, a little time to ooh and ahh at the falls themselves (the tallest east of the Mississippi), and have a good Southern-cooking lunch at the park's cafeteria. From there, it's side-of-the-road goodbyes and well wishes, cheerful to have met with so many fabulous Rumble Sisters.
Now, it's Roxanne, Della, Bud, Scorch, Jo eh?, CherryLady and me who head east toward the North Carolina border. Rox leads us on a back-highway route to her place, and it'll take us most of the rest of the day to get there. It's hot and humid, better than rain but the kind of weather that just wears you down. At one point, I am fairly sure we've missed a turn and am wondering if I should somehow pass the information up to the front of the pack (I am riding in the middle, following Jo) when I see something strange flutter past me. What the heck was that? Are Jo's tires kicking up some paper road trash? About when I whiz past the third whatever-it-is flickering in the air, my brain finally registers ... it's green ... it's money. Jo's wallet has fallen out of her pocket, it's now hanging on its chain and dumping its contents on the road. I pull over to the shoulder just as others following me do the same; they've figured it out pretty much the same time I have. Now we have seven bikes scattered over a half-mile of shoulder & we start walking up and down looking for the bills that have gone flying. I don't find any. Regrouping, Bud and Scorch walk up each holding up six fingers ... I hope/guess they're saying they've recovered $66, but alas, it's only $6 they found. Poor Jo! Most of it is gone. Complete bummer. The good news it, since we've stopped, we get ourselves turned around and back on the right road.
We stop for dinner about an hour later at a Mexican restaurant (and let me tell you, there's a reason that Tennessee isn't reknowned for Mexican cooking. It was entirely ordinary.) I dig a ten out of my wallet and toss it on the table, saying it's a small contribution to the Replace Jo's Vacation Fund. She says, don't do that, I have lots of money. (I say, then you give me ten dollars, dude! LOL) Turns out she's entirely smart and didn't have all her money in one place. She figures she lost about forty dollars total. Coulda been a lot worse.
After dinner, it's a straight shot to Rox's place, and it's getting dusky by the time we leave the restaurant. Roxanne warns us that the driveway at her house it quite challenging, steep and twisty, and tells us that we need to stagger ourselves and go up it one at a time. Going through small towns in the twilight, we see fireworks vendors setting off samples of their wares, which makes me smile. We turn off the main highway onto secondary roads, twisting and turning our way into remote hill country. Darkness is falling and we are miles from the nearest streetlight, and the dusky indigo sky peeking through the dark canopy of arching trees is a pleasure to see, though the deepening blackness beyond the reach of our headlamps does intimidate me a little bit. And then ... I SEE IT. It looks like a little spark in the darkness, and my brain can't figure out what it is. A dust mote lit by Jo's headlamp? Another. Another. Another and that one was clearly not in Jo's beam. They are FIREFLYS. More and more and more of them wink in the darkness, until they seem to be hanging thick in the air around us. I have never seen fireflys before this, and I am entirely charmed by them. I can't stop smiling, feeling like I am flying through a magic forest filled with enchanted little lanterns. I have to remind myself to watch the road, not them.
It is entirely dark by the time we pass through one final little town, make a left & travel along a lakeshore road, and then turn left for the steep climb up Roxanne's driveway. I bet you can guess what happened next. Of course we had forgotten her admonition to stagger ourselves going up, and we all putt steadily up in first gear. Rox, in the lead, pulls all the way up through the flat cement pad up top. Della, following her, pulls in behind her on flat ground. Jo, following Della, pulls in behind her on flat ground. I'm following Jo, and I pull up behind her, run out of momentum and have to stop when Jo stops, and I'm the one that isn't on the flat part. Annnnnd ... down she goes. I drop the bike for the first time in a long time, a slow-speed tip that at first I think I'm gonna be able to save and then realise there's nothing I can do to keep it up. I sorta lay the bike gently down on her left side, and end up standing and straddling the beast, and make a big circus bow to mock myself and let everyone know I am alright. That's when I realise that no one is looking at me, because CherryLady, who was following me, had to veer off onto the grass to the right when I came to a standstill, and has dumped HER bike as well, and she's cursing up a storm. (Bud and Scorch, following this mess, correctly chose to avoid it ALL and found the flat parking pad on the right side of the driveway, and have come to a safe landing.)
Well, this is f'ed up. I am exhausted-tired and not thinking entirely straight so I try to pick up my bike using all muscle and no technique, which is never gonna work on a sidehill, and can't do it. Eventually Della and Jo come over and help me lift it, and we get her out of the way. She's undamaged, thankfully. CherryLady is not so lucky. She has broken off the left front turnsignal, the engine won't start, and as we're picking it up and fiddling with it, the headlamp suddenly clicks off. Of course it does this when I am touching it. I am feeling like the kiss of death now. I am torn between wanting to help & really needing to back off, because CherryLady is really pretty mad and she's got every right to be mad at ME. We figure it's probably a fuse that blew as I was monkeying with the bulb ... now we're looking for the fusebox, which is notoriously hard to get to on this kind of Harley. CherryLady is pretty worked up, still angry and cursing, and she has her guy on the phone now and he's apparently being Mr Unhelpful Guy, and we're trying to get her to calm down and maybe try to replace the fuse in the morning when it's light and we're not all tired and punchy, but she needs to do this and get it fired up and I just decide to get entirely out of the way and go be miserable over here by myself and whaddaya gonna do? Engineer Scorch eventally figures out & replaces the fuse, CherryLady gets the motor started, and we all calm down after a while. Well, THAT'S something I don't want to do again anytime soon. Lord, I am so sorry all that happened. I feel perfectly awful. It's my fault, I did the totally wrong thing at the top of the driveway and started this chain of events, even though everyone in the group had a little piece to play in the drama. We'll figure out how to make CherryLady's bike roadworthy again tomorrow. She has to get it back to Minnesota, ya know.
We get our sleeping arrangements all sorted out, and take a little unwind time. We eventually all end up in Della and Jo's room, looking at maps, and talking about DA MAP. This is a Delphi forum thing, where a lot of people have taken a World66.com state map that you can color in states where you have visited, and put it in their signatures. Della is planning her day tomorrow to maximize the number of states she can color on her map. It's the insidious call of DA MAP! We all laugh because we know it's true. DA MAP has a hold on most of us. I finally figure out that I am REALLY tired and I oughtta go to bed, but I find it hysterically funny that we're staying up WAY late like teenage girls at a slumber party, talking about motorcycles and maps as if we hadn't been doing exactly that for the past four days!
Next: Day Nine