Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Superbike Races @ VIR

This past weekend I rode my Ninja to southern Virginia for some camping and the AMA Superbike races at VIR. I rode up on Saturday and got to the track about half an hour before the first of two races; I set up on the outside of turns 5/5a, in front of the lodge, as I didn't feel like messing with the infield traffic nor leaving my bike with all my camping gear unattended. Though it wasn't a prime viewing point, it was pretty good; I was actually downhill from the track, which made for a unique view looking up at the bikes coming around the turn. After the races I headed out toward Occoneechee State Park, about 50 miles east of the track, where I camped Saturday and Sunday nights. I got a spot facing west on the lake, so I got to enjoy two spectacular sunsets. It was a bit hot for sleeping outdoors, but I lived.

View from the shore

My tent as viewed from the shore

Sunday morning I headed back to the track, where I met up with two fellow N250RC members, James and James. :-) We parked infield and watched the action from turns 3-5, a great viewing area. We had a great time watching the racing and checking out the vendor booths. I got to chatting with a girl who it turned out was from Biloxi and is a fellow Mississippi State graduate! Small world.

Mat Mladin was back on his game, as he won both Superbike races. It was good to see Aaron Yates finish second in the second race. Jamie Hacking won the Supersport race as well as the championship series; he did a burnout right in front of us, then hopped off his bike and ran down the fence giving us all high fives. The day finished with Jason Britton, host of SpeedTV's Super Bikes program, demonstrating his stunting skills, doing wheelies and stoppies and all sorts of similar squidly stuff. :-)

Ben Spies, leading, before getting passed by Mat Mladin

Tommy chasing Roger

Jamie Hacking

Jamie Hacking

Jason Britton Stunting

Guzzi with beautiful paint

Benelli - Drooooool!

Interesting contraption - reminds me of the Munsters' car!

Irish Racing Team

Race bike with interesting graphics

Infield bike parking

The three of us then rode into Danville where we had dinner at Ham's, a chain similar to Ruby Tuesday or Applebee's. Upon departing, James and James headed homeward, and I headed back to Occoneechee for one more night. I still had a bit of daylight when I got back, so I embarked upon a mile hike through the woods, where an owl flew overhead, which was quite neat; it had a huge wingspan! I came upon a chimney that remains from a home that was built around 1800 and burned down in the 1890's. I made it back to camp just in time to watch the sunset from the lakeside. Absolutely beautiful.

Chimney of house burned down in 1890's

Monday morning I packed up and headed out on Highway 58 west to the Blue Ridge Parkway, one of my absolute favorite roads, which I rode for about 210 miles (and saw four deer and half a dozen turkeys along the way) down to Asheville, NC, where I picked up I-26 and headed home. The weekend was exactly, and I mean exactly, 1000 miles. Super weekend!

View from the Blue Ridge Parkway

Me, stopped at a post office; Imagine that! :-)

Thursday, August 10, 2006

Mid-Ohio Superbike Races

This past weekend I rode my VFR 1700 miles round-trip to Ohio to attend the Mid-Ohio Superbike Races. On Thursday I rode to my friend Daryl's house in Cincinnati, where I stayed the night with him. This ride was the innaugural run of my Camelbak hydration system. Man, this thing is incredible! I'd thought of buying just a bladder and keeping it in my tank bag, but I'm glad I opted to get a regular backpack style system; I wore it on my back underneath my riding jacket and barely knew it was there. It was very easy to use while riding and was quite refreshing and kept me good and hydrated and alert, even riding in 100 degree temps with the heat index around 110. I was surprised to find that cold water I put in it stayed quite cold, especially with ice in the mixture. The ride up was good, even with the four storms I encountered; they were actually nice in that they gave a temporary relief to the heat. I stopped through Lexington, KY and explored downtown and the campus of the University of Kentucky, where I saw their band outside taking a break from practicing. I got to Cincinnati a little after dark, and it was quite incredible crossing the river into OH, cresting the hill, and seeing the city all lit up.

Friday morning Daryl and I embarked on a long, roundabout journey toward the Columbus area, where our hotel and the track is. Daryl is always good at finding scenic twisty roads, so we had a very enjoyable day of riding. We got to the hotel around 5:00, then our friend Bob Primeau from MI showed up shortly thereafter. We headed over to a local steakhouse for dinner, and just as we were finishing up our friend Pat and his son Tony from KY made it into town.

Saturday morning after a hearty breakfast we headed to the track. Most of the day was qualifying, but there were superbike and formula extreme races at the end of the day. We strolled through the massive setup of manufacturers and vendors and wandered through the paddock area. It's pretty amazing all the different bikes that folks ride to the races. Of course you see a ton of *yawn* Hayabusas and GSX-R's, but a lot of neat old vintage bikes abound as well. I saw several old VFR's, which was quite neat. We concluded the day with a another fine meal at Steve's Dakota Grill; since I'd had steak the previous night, I opted for shrimp this evening. Quite tasty, indeed.

Sunday morning we arose to find that Adam Bailey and his girlfriend Margaret had made it in from NY in the wee hours of the night. They were groggy but made it out with us to breakfast where they slowly came to life. We got over to the track just as things were getting going. We spent a bit more time wandering around all the displays and the paddock, and I got to meet superbike rider Aaron Yates and MotoGP rider Nicky Hayden! MotoGP is on their summer break, so he was in town in support of his brothers Tommy and Roger. Sunday featured three races: Superstock, Supersport, and a second Superbike (both featured the same three top finishers: Spies, Mladin, Duhamel.)

Sunday night we all headed off toward home, and I went with Daryl back to his place for the night. I departed Monday morning after a nice, hearty breakfast that he and his wife Sheila fixed. I took a detour that Daryl recommended off the interstate that took me through the infamous Awasaki Pass, a nasty curve that has caused at least three Kawasakis to go off the road, and in the process, destroying a 'K' on each bike, leaving it an "Awasaki." Weird, eh? Sorta like the Twilight Zone. I was glad I was on my Honda instead of my Kawasaki! :-) The ride was going pretty smoothly until about halfway through KY when I saw a highway sign indicating that the interstate was closed four miles ahead and to take an alternate route. I took the next exit, and as I was crossing over the interstate I saw that traffic was backed all the way up to that exit. I'm so glad I saw and heeded the sign! I found a road that paralleled the interstate, so I got on it, but so had everyone else, so it was creeping, and I was baking (the Camelbak really proved its worth here.) I found some other roads that took me even further out of the way, but at least I was moving, and they turned out to be nice curvy scenic roads. I wound my way down to Cumberland Gap National Park and spent a bit of time in their visitor's center and rode up to the 2440ft Pinnacle Overlook, which offered some really tight switchbacks on the way up. The view from up there was pretty amazing, and I saw an inverted rock formation that reminded me of Peachtree Rock here at home.

I stopped for dinner and coffee at a Hardee's a bit north of Knoxville, where I encountered a young fellow riding a banged-up GSX-R that he'd dubbed the "Speed Cripple." He was very nice and knowledgable (he even recognized my bike, which most folks don't), and claimed he'd worked with a fellow at a bike shop in Gainesville, FL, who is now working as Mat Mladin's data acquisition specialist. Had a good ride from there, and made it home a little before midnight. Had a great weekend!

Entrance to UK

Our bikes outside our breakfast restaurant

One of Michael Jordan's team's superbikes

Tommy Hayden

Spectator bikes

Custom Hayabusa (there was a tent full of them - tons of time involved in creating them!)

Hayabusa converted into a quad

Nicky Hayden

Me and Nicky

View from Cumberland Gap Pinnacle Overlook

Inverted rock at Cumberland Gap

My bike on road to Pinnacle Overlook

Overlook near Clinch Mountain in TN on my way home