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By: Golden "Bub" Carper, of TheCarolinaRider.com
It's a cold February morning, but Christy Henderson, (meteorologist for Channel 7 Spartanburg,) promises the sun will shine and it will be warmer in the afternoon. We're counting on you Christy. Mickey shows up at 9am on his Yamaha FZ1, I tell Margie "later," plug in my heated jacket and gloves, fire up my FZ1 and we're off. The plan is to get on NC 80 where it begins at Marion NC, to NC 226 near Bakersville NC where it ends. Then go south on 226 to US 19E at Spruce Pine NC, connect to NC 194 over to NC 181 and be at Christa's for lunch. Christa's is a general store/restaurant at Pineola, NC popular with cycle riders of all kinds. Located where NC 181 crosses the Blue Ridge just south of Linville, NC. I'm sure many of you reading this have been there.
The temp gage on my bike says it's 32 and my heated gear is just keeping up as we leave my home between Gaffney SC and Boiling Springs NC. Up SC 150 to Boiling Springs and keep going straight where 150 turns toward Shelby, cross US 74 and into Lattimore NC, where we consider many of our rides to begin and end. Out of Lattimore on New House Rd, left on Jack Moore Mountain Rd and turn right onto Duncan's Creek Rd. Excellent motorcycle roads, curvy with very little traffic. Duncan's Creek dead ends into Bostic Sunshine Highway and we turn right for a short run to 226 where we turn left toward Marion. 226 is a super road for bikes, but, beware: keep your radar detector on as the local LEOs know this also. My temp gage shows it is now 40 and the heated gear is doing a fine job. We turn on NC 70 at Marion and run the few miles to the start of 80. Mickey says on our bike-to-bike intercom that we should probably be a little careful as it's still early and there may be some black ice. I agree and slow down going around the corners that are out of the sunshine So with a much more leisurely pace than we generally ride, we proceed up the mountain.
After a little while I'm thinking this isn't so bad - I'm seeing things I never had time to look at before....
That little stream I'd glanced at before is really quite nice as it winds among the rocks and trees. And that rock wall that is generally a blur has really got some character. With the trees bare it is possible to see into the woods and it is surprising what is in there. Huge boulders and gullys cut into the hillsides. Really nice. We top out at the Blue Ridge Parkway and see that it is closed over to Mt Mitchell, but no matter as we plan to continue on 80. It winds north down the mountain, nice curves but not as tight as the previous section from Marion to the Blue Ridge. But be careful as several miles past the golf course the road curves gently to the right around a rock wall and then, !!! -- the radius sharply increases almost 90 degrees. Even at our modest speed I have a hard time keeping the bike on the right side of the mustard (yellow center stripes.) This curve has got to me several times and I've been lucky that there was no oncoming traffic.
We're in the valley now and the road is clear and dry so we can wick it up a little. 80 Ts into 19E, where it turns right to run with 19E for a little bit and then turns left to head up to NC 226. If you think the stretch of 80 from Marion to the Blue Ridge is tight, --you ain't seen nothin yet! But this time of year and especially after the region had several snow falls, you better go slow. We run across lots of wet places from snow melt and you never know if it's water or black ice. Once Mickey hit a black ice patch and slid a little, then a couple of miles further on, I hit a patch. Talk about your pucker factor!! But you know, as I mentioned earlier, it was kinda nice running slow and taking in all the scenery. Even in the bareness of winter the mountains are beautiful. And the quaint communities we ride through are interesting, there is BoonFord, Bandana and my favorite, - Loafer's Glory. We reach 226 and the end of 80, turn right and head east to Bakersville where 226 turns south toward Spruce Pine. After riding in the rural mountain areas as we've been, coming into Spruce Pine is like the outskirts of Charlotte! Turn east on 19E to Ingallis and NC 194 which joins up with US 221. Stay on 221/194 and go through Crossnore and we turn right on NC 181 and a few miles later we're at Christa's where the temp is 36. What a nice ride we've had so far and now we can enjoy some of Christa's barbeque and for dessert have a "made right there" cinnamon bun topped with creamy butter. Christa tells us that we are the first bike riders of 2013.
After our long lunch break, we hop on our trusty steeds - Well maybe not hop on after all that food! - and ride down the mountain on 181 toward Morganton. And for most of you , I don't have to tell you about 181! Near the bottom we turn onto Fish Hatchery Rd, which is very curvy, and the temp has risen to 52 and we can turn down the heat on our jackets. Fish Hatchery ends at NC 126 where we go left to Power Dam Rd. We stopped at the intersection of 126 and Power Dam for fuel at the convenience store there. This is the only gas station since Jonas Ridge on 181 and I knew our FZ1's couldn't make it home without a stop. Power Dam Rd, besides being twisty, has some outstanding views as it follows the shore line of Lake James. It dead ends at NC 70 where we turn east for a short run and then right onto Dysartsville road which runs into NC 226 and we're on our way home. Home finds us with a run of just over 200 miles for the day and feeling good about our Feb. ice run.
Mostly, we really enjoy the fast runs on the mountain roads, but once in a while it's nice to ride slower, relax and really look at the scenery we're riding through. Enjoy our mountains, we're very lucky to be where we are as bike riders!