05-23-13 I left my Dad’s on Thursday and was headed to Scottsboro, AL to see some new friends, Sue and James. I met them via a friend and member of ULRB, David Roe. Along the way I needed lunch and stopped at a Mexican place (can’t remember the town now). I sat at the bar and chatted with Monica my server. After about 15 minutes a little girl, maybe 11 or 12 came in after school and as I gathered, her Mom was the owner and/or operator. Now I had already told Monica my story and given her my sticker. When it came time for me to leave, I was at the bike putting ice in my water bottle and meandering around on my phone. The mom came out towards me with the little girl in tow (I belive the girls name was Lily; please forgive if I am mistaken.) The mom asked if the girl could take a picture with me and naturally I said, “Of course”. Monica was with them as well. They took several pictures of me and me with the Lily. I asked them to like The BROAD on FB and share the picture, but I haven’t seen it yet. I gave Lily a hug and told her to do well in school and to always remember that girls can be tough too and she can do anything she wants in this world. With that, I was off.
James had suggested I take 35 into Scottsboro and I did. There was one point when I came around a curve and out-loud to myself, I just said, “Oh my Gosh.” There was a perfect opening in the trees where I could see down into the valley. I could see the river, the mountains, and the bridge off in the distance. This was just the beginning of a boat load of breath taking moments here lately. Now I had met James in person just briefly at the Leesburg Bike Fest but Sue was off having fun and was not with him at that moment.
I stopped at the memorial park in Ft. Payne, AL, hometown of the country band Alabama. I took a few pictures and continued my ride.
I arrived at the home of James and Sue and I absolutely loved the place. Very pretty home set in the mountain with a huge piece of property. Sue greeted me with a huge hug as if she’d known me forever. (FB can be a good thing if you let it… hehehe). We sat on the porch and chatted for a bit before James returned home from work. We spent the evening discussing chickens, cocks, eggs, and country living (Sue is a little bored but loves her animals). We had some awesome steaks and asparagus as well as a few big kid drinks. During the evening, James had not heard from friends that were thinking of visiting for the weekend and so they both decided they would join me on the trip to TN to visit my ULRB friends for some riding and good times.
05-24-13 In the morning on Friday, we loaded up all 3 bikes and took off. It was a beautiful day and I had great company. We arrived at the condo booked for us by S&S Motorcycle Tours, owned by my friends and ULRB members, Scott Graening and Stephanie Walter. My friend Mike left separately from ULRB and other rides so he arrived about 6:30; just when the 3 of us were starting to starve. We went to a Mexican place that Scott’s Dad had suggested. Only, he told us it was BYOB and we forgot; so Mike was nice enough to run out for beer and we placed our order when he returned. By the time dinner was over the 4 of us were fairly well done for the day. The rest of the group was maybe an hour away.
Mike and I stayed up to wait for them and the cool thing is that were we stayed was not so much up in a mountain but far enough up that you could hear the reverb of motorcycle pipes coming from quite a ways – and I have great hearing. I was immediately excited when I heard bikes in the background. Like a child awaiting Christmas morning I went outside to watch them all pull in. I barely gave them time to steady their legs or remove helmets before I grabbed each of my friends for a big huge hug. What I didn’t expect was the overwhelming burst of crying that ensued. I don’t mean a tear or two, I mean a blubbering fool. I was excited to see friend in Daytona but at that point I had only been gone 2 or so weeks. When these kids pulled up, I was on the 4 month mark from being away from home, my son, my friends, my grand daughter, everything I had known for 20 years.
Scott, Stephanie, Taco, and Wayne were like a gift (and tomorrow Melissa will join us). Scott and I had discussed this ride/meeting many months before I left and I knew I’d love to see them. I just didn’t realize just how much I miss the site of such unique and loving people; each with their own stories which I have heard and maybe even helped. These are just a few of the amazing people that have come into my life via ULRB and have ultimately become life-long friends. Though we may now and may in the future be hundreds or thousands of miles from each other, the chance to get together, to ride, and to share our life’s stories is a moment in time that is now and always will be cherished. I LOVE YOU GUYS and all the ones that couldn’t join us too!!
05-25-13 Scott’s folks have retired to TN and he’s been riding these mountains a long time. He and Stephanie began S&S Motorcycle Tours in the past several months. We were his guinea pig group to tour us around. He handled the lodging, we had breakfast at his folk’s, and he took us on some awesome ride routes. Needless to say, I was in my glory being with “MY” friends out here on the road. We did the Tail of the Dragon US129, Cherahola Skyway, and a few other back roads that Scott knew. Now none of us there had ever lodged together. The one thing I learned is that you must get in the shower before Taco. I have never ever seen a man take so damn long in the bathroom. It became a joke that we didn’t want to know what he was doing in there. But he always emerged with great hair and smelling good. There’s one in every group that you’re always waiting on… Taco is our man.
Saturday evening Scott and Stephanie took us to Gatlinburg for dinner and drinks. I had opted to ride in the car with Stephanie for two reasons; one is that I wanted more than one big girl drink and two, I ride nearly every day of my life so to be chauffeured from time to time is a treat. We had 4 people in the car and the rest were on their bikes as we followed. On the ride there I somewhat regretted not riding because that road too was just amazing. However, I believe that some things happen for a reason. We ate at the Smokey Mountain Brewery and most of us got the personal size pizza. It was definitely very good, but I would say that 1 tea, 2 big girl drinks, a small salad and personal size pizza should not have cost me $35 + tip. That’s just this cheap ole BROAD’s opinion, but again the food was great and the service was very good also. Following dinner we walked to Hogg’s and Honey’s Saloon. *Note to self, after so many months of being a biker, don’t try to be a girl and wear heels in Gatlinburg.* Hogg’s and Honey’s was a neat bar and we went to the rooftop area so we could watch the night life on the street.
As we’ve learned over time and have shared many tales, every ride has “A Story”. Well ours is no different. We were mostly all gathered around our two tables and a couple of the boys were playing pool. This whole evening we had been waiting for another ULRB member to arrive. Melissa has family all over TN so she had a different ride schedule but was meeting for drinks. She had arrived nearly the same time as us and hugs went all around. We had just ordered our first round of drinks, those of us that chose to drink that is, when suddenly one of our ladies went limp, fell into Mike, and slid to the ground. We all jumped up to her aid and realized she was seizing. For a moment or so it was chaotic but I was immediately dialing 911. An employee turned her on her side as she appeared to be foaming at the mouth and possibly about to vomit. A doctor in the bar came over as well. All this time 911 dispatch was giving me instructions and I in turn shared that to those helping. Everybody else gave her room for the thrashing and cleared the tables and chairs away from her. It was an extremely intense 10-15 minutes. When the paramedics had arrived, most of us stepped away to give them room to work. Stephanie is a friend of hers and went with her to the hospital and thankfully at that point I had only had the two beverages from earlier at dinner, because now I was driving everybody back to the condo. So you see, it was good I didn’t ride my bike. It was a long day and night for all of us, but for Scott and Stephanie it was even longer as they were up until all hours of the morning trying to manage and help Angie as best they could.
05-26-13 Sunday was a day that started late. We woke to rain and of course Scott and Stephanie needed a bit of rest. We ate a late breakfast at Scott’s parent’s again and sat around for a while relaxing and chatting. I got the chance to talk with Scott’s parents and his brother; I shared my story with them and they offered me a room when the rest of the kids left, prior to my next stop in Asheville, NC. We finally found our gumption to get out and ride after the rain cleared. And yep, another beautiful day of riding in TN. We enjoyed Bald River Falls and some cool mountain road I don’t recall. During one of our stops on that road, I asked Scott if I could lead out so I could GoPro video the road. He said sure. On the way back down we stopped at a little convenience store and got cold waters and pops. In talking, we decided to stop at the grocery store and get steaks to grill back at Dad’s so that it was a peaceful relaxing evening for everybody. After all, the Illinois folks had a long ride home the next day.
Side Note: During all the twisty curvy riding, my speedo cable popped and now I cannot get a speeding ticket because obviously I’m not moving. HeHeHe – But seriously, I download a speedometer app for iPhone and naturally, I mean naturally, it was just too convenient considering my Rider’s Claw holds my phone in clear site. So not only do I have my GPS, music, and weather, but also MY SPEEDO.
05-27-13 Well, it had been a wonderful weekend but as is the case most of the time for me, when sleeping with or around other people, I didn’t sleep well at all that weekend. I was really dragging on Monday morning when everybody had to get up and leave. They took off at the butt crack of dawn and I went to lay back down. Scott’s Dad came over about 10:30 to collect the leftover drinks and help me get my bag to his house without me loading it. In my haste and sleepiness, I failed to grab one of my favorite little travel items: my thrift store treasure that is a netted bag which holds my shampoo, conditioner, razors, and face scrubber. I called later but it had been tossed my housekeeping and all the products were nearly brand new… probably about $20 down the drain. ARGH!!
Once I got to the Graening house I settled in and decided to take a short cruise to somewhere. It was a beautiful day not to be wasted sitting around whining about being tired. The Graenings had previously said that they don’t do a great deal of cooking in the house and since I love to cook, I offered my services as such for the next three days as a gesture of thanks and personally… I couldn’t wait to cook and feed people. I road through Sweetwater and the surrounding areas. There were some pretty curvy roads but I opted to let the tendonitis and neck rest so I didn’t do any of the twisties. I did enjoy a little site seeing in Sweetheart and got an ice cream cone at the Lost Sea Adventure. I didn’t pay for the tour but enjoyed the visitors area and a short hike in the woods. I hit the grocery on my way back and by 5:00 I was cooking. We had a delightful stir fry using the leftover steaks from the night before. Considering everybody had more than one helping, I’d say it went over well.
05-28-13 The holiday weekend was over and it was time to get back to work. I sat at the Graening house all day Tuesday. I worked for a couple of my clients, did some personal online stuff, and sadly I didn’t finish in time to jump in the pool with them. But I did cook another pretty good meal. Still working off the steak leftovers, we had custom omelettes, with hash browns. This night I slept like a ROCK. Much needed.
05-29-13 Wednesday I decided to take another ride after I did a little work. This time I spent almost 6 hours out on the bike. Total: 175-180 miles, but I stop for a lot of pictures and while touring through Cade’s Cove, it was traffic. It’s a magnificently beautiful place to loop around and see the mountains and valleys, but being such a great place means there are a lot of cars and bikes going about 10-12 mph for 11 miles. During this ride I hid a ULRB patch in the rocks before the tunnel towards Cade’s Cove. It’s part of a Chocolate Milk Challenge we started lately. If you place an icon outside your home state and somebody finds it, you owe them a chocolate milk. The chocolate milk part of this started because I cannot begin a day without it (not coffee, ONLY chocolate milk). This evening I made my Red Rice and Sausage. It was good but not as awesome as I would have liked. I didn’t have all the spices and hot sauce I typically use, but it filled the void and all had seconds.
05-30-13 As is always the case, I hate to leave when I’m surrounded by good people and I have a comfy bed. But so it goes on The BROAD journey. I packed up the bike in the morning and was headed to Asheville to meet my wife Meg. (That’s an inside joke, you’ll have to wait for the book.) I bid farewell to my new friends and generous hosts. I may very well be back with the Graening family in the fall. I can’t imagine how beautiful the riding will be then. For now, they follow my journey on FB and Jason is actually going to be doing some subcontracting work for me. Out of sight perhaps, but not out of heart.
I owe a big huge hug and thank you not only to Scott and Stephanie of ULRB and owners of S&S Motorcycle Tours, but to my friends that came down, even if for their own fun, it meant a great deal to me.
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