2009 North Carolina Dual Sport Adventure

When this adventure was hatched, I was pretty excited. Bill, Andy, Dave, Ralph, Zack and I were going to North Carolina and ride some of the very cool roads around Cherokee, near the Blue Ridge Parkway and Hayesville and Andrews in North Carolina. The area is familiar to me and Bill as we have ridden our sport bikes in the area many times over the years. What made this trip exciting, were the roads; dirt and fire roads. The roads would crisscross the mountains that I am so familiar with, while avoiding as much pavement as possible! For the icing on the cake, we'd ride the "Gravel Dragon" and the "Dirt Cherohala"!

Friday, May 22nd 2009

The first night would take us to the Williams' cabin in Hayesville. The Williams are friends of Andy and Dave. I'm not 100% sure of the relationships of the owners of the cabin (the williams) and who's child married into the cabin deal- Dave or Andy's. Regardless, Bill and I are were grateful for being invited on this adventure! The cabin was wonderful!

Bill and I got to the cabin early and waited to unload the trailer. Since neither of us had been to the cabin or had seen pictures of it, there was a possibility we were at the wrong place. Cautiously, we walked around the property. Neighbors are Neighbors and *someone* noticed me walking around and phoned the owners saying "Some woman was walking around the place". Somewhere, the roster of adventurers did not get updated and they weren't expecting a woman to be there. We learned of this observation later that evening as Andy and Dave called and checked in with the Williams. This was also the first adventure with our 2009 Nissan Armada. The Armada was only a few weeks old and we were pretty excited to have all that power to tow our bikes through the mountains. It looks like our 2000 Xterra is going into semi-retirement. Little did we know how valuable the Armada was to be during several portions of the trip.


We arrived about an hour early and Bill took a nap while I walked around taking pictures. The house had a little pond and a cool little mountain stream in the back.

Finally the gang showed up, and we unloaded the bikes and all our gear. Someone said "Hey, we've got enough light for a little shakedown ride" and we scrambled to get ready for our first ride of the weekend

I was going to ride my Kawasaki KLX250, Bill was going to be on his Suzuki DR650. The other bikes were: Zack on his Kawasaki Sherpa, Dave on his Suzuki DRZ400, Andy on his Suzuki DR250, Ralph on his Yamaha TW200.

Andy is working with Zack and his Sherpa because they are having an electrical issue.

Ralph checking on his TW200 after the long trek from Gainesville - how nice and shiny those tires are!!!

Hey Bill!

After getting Ralph's TW off the back of the Toyota, it was time to get ready for our little afternoon ride! Andy, Ralph and Dave laugh a little after getting it down without a scratch!

After getting into our gear, we are ready for our little Friday afternoon shakedown! Bill, Ralph and I are ready - Andy, Dave, Zack- not quite.

We did some really cool dirt roads behind the William's house. We even had a few little stream crossings. In normal fashion, Andy and I got carried away and we ended up missing the turn back to the cabin. We almost rode down into Hayesville!

Actually, I didn't miss the turn, but someone had to go and chase Andy down!

After the little Friday ride, and a shower, we got into the Armada and headed into Hayesville to get some Mexican food. During Dinner, we started to talk about where we were going on Saturday. It was getting late, but we were intense on picking the best routes. The conversation continued back at the Cabin. I wanted to make sure that we stayed off as much pavement as possible since I'd ridden the paved roads in the area before. Dave, Andy and I looked over maps while Bill sat in an easy chair. Bill decided to get in on the conversation and stood up. As Bill started to move to the table where the maps were, he had a terrible muscle cramp. After a leg-cramp-induced-checker-table-mishap  and some Orange juice to make things better, it was decided that Bill and Andy would head over with the Armada and Dave's trailer as a safety vehicle and leave it at The Ridge Top Motel  in Bryson City (where we were to sleep Saturday and Sunday). Once the trailer and Armada were at the Motel, Andy and Bill would bike over and meet us in Robbinsville for lunch. After lunch, we'd all ride the Dirt Cherohala together. For the first part of Saturday, Me, Dave, Zack were together.

Saturday May 23rd, 2009

Zack on the trail.

After heading up over several mountain ranges between Hayesville and Andrews, Dave tell us we are going to do the "Gravel Dragon"

Wow! Freak'n amazing. One of the best twisty roads I have ever ridden! The road is fairly dangerous in that it's used by the locals and has two way traffic. Every so often a truck appears around a corner! It's one switch-back after another. During the ride into Robbinsville, I wonder; if someone were to get hurt in the mountains, in the valleys and canyons, it could be very bad, especially if they were alone. Our riding was not for beginners; I was already hurting by lunchtime!!!

From the Gravel Dragon!

Dave on his DRZ400

Ralph on his TW200

The view is amazing!

We are riding along. Dave leads us. We come to bridge over a stream. Dave stops mid bridge. Not expecting Dave to stop, I go to put my feet down. I realize the outer bridge rails are at least 2" higher than the cross beams on the narrow bridge. I have to come to a stop on one of the rails and make sure that my balance is perfect. Otherwise, I will dab, skip, lean the bike too far and swim/fall into the river below!!! Thankfully I am able to pull it off and take a few pictures while I balance everything. I assume we stopped because we are waiting for Ralph. Ralph who happened to already be there, as I continued to take pictures while everyone waited until I realized that Ralph was already there! Doh!

At lunch, we meet up with everyone at Lynn's Place in Robbinsville.

After lunch we head out to the "Dirt Cherohala". Some amazing streams and views!

This one makes you want to drink Zephyrhills water!!!

We get to the end of the Dirt Cherohala and link up with Dave and Zack. Ralph has asked me several times to get into a picture. Here is one of the few you will EVER see of me riding my Dual Sport. Ugh! No makeup, bad hair, beady-eyes!

From left to right - Zack, Me, Dave, Bill, Andy. Ralph is taking the picture!

Bill looking sharp!

After the Cherohala, we make a bee line for the Ridge Top Motel in Bryson City. It's a typical rural motel, where everyone sits on the balcony and watches people come and go.

The Bikes ready for sleep after a long day!

The view from the Motel

After the ride on Saturday, once again, we piled into the Armada for dinner. I can't explain how happy I was to have the Armada there with a trailer for emergencies. After a long day in the saddle the last thing I wanted to do was get on the bike to get something to eat. Saturday night we pretty much felt like we had been beaten with a bat we were so sore and tired. After dinner and some laundry, I got back to our room and passed-the-f*ck-out. During the night I dreamt of streams and adventure and while sleeping, I was still aware of how much pain I was in all over my body - especially how much my ears hurt!  What an awesome day!

Sunday May 24th, 2009

Sunday we awoke to rain and it was supposed to rain the entire day. It didn't matter. We had rain gear and were heading into the woods where the rain and mud would be natural anyway. Here we are getting ready to head out into the drizzle.

As it turned out, the rain stayed away for most of the day and we had an amazing day of the adventure! We found several new roads that no one had been on before. We crisscrossed the Blue Ridge Parkway and wove in and out of Cherokee several times.

As we climbed higher into the Blue Ridge Parkway, we could see the rain clouds and mist through the mountains.

Where should we head next?

A Tunnel here and there!

One of the highlights of the adventure was Heintooga Road! A "Narrow Winding Unimproved Mountain Road, Next 14 miles" - and ONE WAY!! What's not to like!?!?


Bill is ready!

At the end of the most-excellent road!

The fun didn't stop there. We continued to explore some roads that paralleled the Blue Ridge. In some places we were directly above the Blue Ridge Parkway!

After exploring the Blue Ridge and fording a stream or two, we headed back to the Motel only to get the single real dowsing of the day!

With all the riding we had done, I was incredibly tired and sore...I couldn't wait until Monday!

Monday May 25th, 2009.

Since this was going to be our last day of riding, I felt bad for Bill in that he was slated to take the Armada and Dave's trailer back to Hayesville. Once again, we'd meet up at lunch and do some riding as a complete group. I volunteered to take the trailer back and let him get more of a ride in and he said no. Bill said he was happy to take the Armada back to Hayesville. Zack decided to go with Bill and Andy, so Monday morning would be Me, Dave and Ralph.

When Dave stopped at the first gas stop, we realized that his seat pad was soaked.

We headed out of Bryson City and headed down 28 to Tellico road. Heading down 28 on a non-sport bike is tough for me as I don't have the same lean angle capabilities of my sport bikes.

Once down Tellico Road, we came across beautiful farms and houses.

What I didn't expect was the awesome climb toward the top of Tellico Rd.. I thought we were riding in Bolivia! The road snaked and twisted up and up until it crossed the Appalachian Trail.

Somehow, through Dave's navigation, we managed to link up with a road that took us to another road called Winding Stairs. We came upon a lake where we stopped to take some pictures.

If Ralph mistakes the throttle and brakes, he'll end up in the water with the tree!

The tree in the water

The end of Winding Stairs over the Nantahala River.

A Kayaker passed under us.

We needed to get to Andrews and link up with Bill, Andy and Zack. We followed the river and made some time along the paved roads into Andrews.

We met at Mikes Motorcycles in Andrews NC and went up the road to have lunch at the Huddle House. Back together again, we talked about the routes for the afternoon and how we'd work our way back to Hayesville. Dave had a pretty cool route planned. We'd head north, up through the Trail of Tears, check out the Radio Towers on Top of the Mountain, then head back over to Winding Stairs so that Bill, Andy and Zack could experience the cool roads we took to lunch.

Bill said he was excited to be riding, as the roads to the lunch stop were paved, and he was excited to get on the dirt.

Since I had already done Trail of Tears the day before, I floated the idea of taking the Gravel/Dirt Dragon again and splitting into two groups. Bill said that wouldn't be the greatest idea to split everyone up like that, and I agreed. I'd just have to come back and do it again. We left lunch and headed up to the top of the Mountain.

The views from the top were fantastic!

Once at the top, Andy took off down the mountain as did Zack, with me right behind. I waved Dave past me, with Bill and Ralph coming down behind me. They seemed to be taking it easy. When I arrived at the bottom. I pulled over to wait with the others. Then we heard a beeping motorcycle horn coming down the mountain. It was Ralph. We all knew what the beeping meant if Ralph was doing the beeping; Bill was down. Ralph was calling out over the roar of the motorcycle "Bill went down! Bill went down!"

Within a second, I turned my bike around and was racing up the Mountain to get to Bill. I know how these things go. I imagined I'd find Bill in a bad way. Bill has gone down before on his dual sport, and he goes down HARD. The DR650 has always been a challenge to control, but Bill had been riding wonderfully and the road we were on was pretty tame considering what we'd ridded up to that point.

Bill went down at N 35°15'32.4" and W 083°49'16.2"

He was laying there, with the bike's headlight and ignition still on. Gas was running out of the tank. He waved (so I wouldn't run over him) as I was the first to arrive back on the scene. Bill's helmet was off, as were his gloves.

I jumped off my bike (making sure it would not fall over) and came to his side. I stood there without touching him and assessed his condition. He was already joking, but he knew he was hurt. I could see he was pale. I didn't want to touch him initially as he held out his hand for me. I barely touched it, so that he wouldn't grab me. I wanted to make sure that he was not so broken up that anything to disturb him would make things worse. I was very serious and focused when I stood there. The others came up shortly and started to whir about. Talking about what to do next and what not to do.

Bill was coherent and talking. He said that he had landed face down, pointing down the trail and that he had taken his helmet off and had turned himself around. He had placed his jacket underneath him and he was in the position you see in the picture below.

As soon as other folks got to the scene, I had Zack help me pick Bill's bike up as I turned off the ignition. There were some forest service guys doing some logging in the area and they called 911. Within minutes, there were people on the scene along with EMT and the local police. When the EMT got there, they took over and took off Bill's right boot and told him they were getting ready to do the same for his left leg. Bill assured them his leg was broken. I needed to stay focused on the situation. I needed to make clear what I understood and what I didn't. When I realized that the EMTs were getting ready to take off Bill's left boot, I bent down and held Bill's hand very tight.

If the leg was broken, the removal of the boot was going to send Bill into horrible pain. I fully expected him to pass out. If a leg cramp could cause Bill to fall over the day before, a broken leg would surely be "lights-out". I gripped tightly as the EMTs took the boot off. When the left boot came off, it didn't look that bad. It looked like things were just bruised. Bill insisted that his leg was broken and made sure the EMTs understood that.

In the pictures below, Bill is already down the Mountain getting ready for his helicopter flight. I had to stay at the scene since NC State Troopers were on their way and I had all of Bill's info. When I heard that Bill was going via helicopter, I pushed back and asked why? I said that during the memorial day weekend, if they used the helicopter for something less severe as this, then the helicopter would not be available for someone who might *really* need it.

The EMT pulled me aside and explained to me that it was in Bill's best interest to get the helicopter flight since the Hospital was close as the crow flew, but not if the crow drove. Driving to any of the area trauma centers is a multi hour twisty affair. The EMT also said that there could be some really severe breaks in there and maybe some internal bleeding after the crash. Deadly things could prop up in the hours it would take to get to a hospital by ambulance; I agreed to the flight.

Bottom line - If you get hurt in the mountains of North GA/Tenn/Western NC, you are going to get a helicopter flight!!!

Here are some pics of the scene.

At this moment, the Adventure in the mountains was semi - over. One of the EMT's who lived down the mountain, William Rogers, offered to take Bill's bike back to Hayesville. He offered to take it over the mountain in the direction we had come. He really did an amazing thing as our options at that moment were very fluid and limited. The weather in the mountains was changing. Bill was supposed to be flown to Asheville, but at the last moment, he was diverted to the University of Tennessee in Knoxville. I had to stay and give information to the NC trooper, get Bill's license and information back, see the bike loaded properly and get back to Hayesville, load everything up and get to Knoxville.

I wanted to see Bill fly off from the EMT base, but that was not to be.

We stood there, waiting and talking about the options and my course of action over the next few hours.

One of the options to get to Knoxville was to go over the Dragon. The Dragon (US129) with a trailer, in the dark, with thunderstorms, while geographically shorter, presents a greater danger. I decided I would take the longer route via I-75.

When everything was in order and I was cleared to leave the scene, I made haste to get to Bill.

We had a plan on getting the bike back to Hayesville and me on my way. Dave would lead William Rogers and myself back along the pavement to Hayesville. Andy, Zack and Ralph would make a route up over the mountains.

As William Rogers made the slow crawl over the mountain and down the other side to the pavement with Bill's bike in a trailer, I had plenty of time to think about what happened and realize that a new adventure was starting.

With a quick shower and the Armada loaded with our trailer and bikes, I was gone.

The aftermath

I got Bill's bike loaded and hitched to the Armada in Hayesville in record time. I thanked William Rogers in the best way I could at the time. I gave everyone a hug and made the drive to The University of Tennessee in Knoxville. It was a lonely ride in the dark. I gave consent for the procedure to repair Bill's leg in the car on the outskirts of Knoxville driving along I-40. I was lucky to make it to the Hospital just as they were taking Bill to the Operating Room. I hugged and kissed him as he was being wheeled past me to the OR.

Finally, I could turn off. I started to cry alone in the dimly lit waiting room. What an amazing weekend riding in the mountains. Right until Bill's crash, it was one of the best times ever on a motorcycle. Now I was in Knoxville with my husband being operated on after a motorcycle accident in the mountains. Talk about feeling guilty. Talk about feeling horrible. Time to pull myself together!

Sure, it was a terrible way for our adventure to end, but if the worst *had* happened up on that mountain, it would be magnitudes worse. It would have been something we've talked about since we first fell in love with our two wheeled passion and something that is always *out-there*. We do everything we can to mitigate situations like this, but shit happens. It's never easy for someone you love to go through pain like this, but if people stay inside, away from things that can hurt (or kill) what kind of life is that anyway? Bill and I believe in doing things like this; sometimes, payment comes due.

So the bright side... Bill's gloves/helmet/goggles and his boots did their job and things weren't even worse.

Bottom line? Bill had a great time and so did I. Andy, Dave, Ralph, Zak...THANK YOU SO MUCH!!!

So onto the medical pics.

Dressing change before we head home

The Hospital

The Armada, because of it's ability to make the front passenger seat flat, made the ride home for Bill very easy.

Now on to a 6-8 week recovery and more adventures!!!

Lauren 5/28/2009