Wednesday, August 27, 2008

HSTA Rally in Marietta, OH

The weekend of August 22-24 I attended the Mail Pouch Fly By, an annual HSTA (Honda Sport Touring Association) rally in Marietta, OH. This was my first time to attend this rally, as in years past I have instead gone up for the Mid-Ohio Superbike races which take place nearby a couple of weeks before the rally, but this year I decided to pass on the races and attend the rally instead. It was about 470 miles straight up I-77; interstates are often straight and dull, but I-77 through Virgina and West Virginia is scenic and curvy and enjoyable to ride. Had a great lunch at Backyward Burgers at exit 82 in NC; I used to enjoy eating there when I was in college but have not seen one in a long time. Enjoyed it so much I stopped there again on the way home on Sunday. :-)

It is a well-run rally with a long history and strong attendance (about 150 people attended this year.) I had a great time visiting with several old friends and many new ones. A local caterer provided some excellent barbecue on Friday night and roast beef on Saturday night. The hotel was very accommodating, giving us pretty much free reign of the western end of the grounds for parking our bikes and visiting and eating. The HSTA is made up of some really great, respectful people, so we didn't abuse that hospitality and make a nuisance of ourselves like some other biker groups would surely do (no burnouts in the parking lot :-) )

The organizers provided three recommended routes that showcase the awesome roads that southeast Ohio and northern West Virginia have to offer. Daryl Cassada, Bob Primeau, and I elected to ride a route almost exclusively in West Virginia, with a few variations on the recommended route. We covered about 250 miles of awesome, twisty roads and were treated to some beautiful landscapes in the process. We had a great lunch at a little local restaurant in the middle of nowhere at a 'Y' where two highways split, named fittingly enough, the Y Restaurant. :-) Later in the afternoon we stopped at the Hills Covered Bridge, built in 1878.

We also stopped at one of the many Mail Pouch barns in the region; they're similar to the "See Rock City" barns around Lookout Mountain.

On the way home I stopped at an overlook in West Virginia and took these two photos:

Further along the route home I visited the campus of Concord University in Athens, WV, which features a carillon with 48 bells. I was hoping to hear it and hung around until the half hour in hopes that I may get a small sampling, but so such luck. It's difficult to see into the tower, so I'll have to take their word for it that they have 48 bells stuffed in there:

An extra bit of significance about this journey is that I passed the 100,000 mile mark of 2-wheeled miles.

Monday, August 04, 2008

HSTA Rally in Erwin, TN

The weekend of August 1-3 I attended the Nolichucky Valley Rally HSTA event in Erwin, TN. I left home Friday morning and rode I-26 to Hendersonville, NC and then took US64 E to Chimney Rock and then Highway 9 N to Black Mountain. US64 offers some really nice sweepers, and Highway 9 offers some nice tight twisties. I enjoyed some fine barbecue at Phil's Barbecue Pit in Black Mountain before completing the journey to Erwin. Very good food and very friendly staff. It's on the east side of Highway 9, just south of I-40.

At an overlook just south of Erwin:

I camped at the Nolichucky Gorge Campground right on the Nolichucky River. It's only a couple of miles from the host hotel and was just $9 per night - much more attractive than $80 per night at the hotel, and the weather was perfect for camping (Erwin is much cooler than Columbia.) I went there and set up my tent upon arriving in Erwin, and then I headed over to the hotel to hang out with the fellow attendees for the afternoon/evening.

Nolichucky River at the campground:
A few shots at the host hotel.

Dedicated motorcycle washing area ... sweet!

155,000 miles isn't too uncommon for a car, but it's very rare to see a motorcycle with this many miles.

Couple of shots behind the hotel; it'd be really sweet to live in the house up the hill.

Three generations of VFRs: 6th generation 2007 25th anniversary edition; my 5th generation 1998; a tricked-out Ducati; a 4th generation 1994.

About 65 folks ended up making it. Friday evening we had a catered meal of barbecue; I'd had that earlier in the day at Phil's, but I can certainly handle barbecue twice in one day! :-) Headed back to camp after hanging around visiting for a while and called it a night. I awoke the next morning (a bit chilly, actually) to find two more motorcycles and tents near me; a couple of rally attendees had arrived in the wee hours of the night. One was Steve from Indianapolis; he has ridden over 1,000,000 2-wheeled miles in 20 years:

We headed over to the hotel for a bit of breakfast and to break off into riding groups. There were six recommended routes, so everyone sort of picked a route and formed small groups. Mine was comprised of Steve and Dave, my fellow campers, as well as Warren, Randy, and Andray. We rode a counterclockwise loop northwest of Erwin up to Sneedville, TN. Had a great day of riding and camaraderie at our stops. We covered about 250 miles for the day (which is about what I rode on Friday getting there and Sunday going home, making for around 750 miles for the weekend.)

We enjoyed a pleasant afternoon of tire-kicking and visiting, leading up to another great catered dinner - this time roast beef and chicken, mashed potatoes, vegetable medley, and peach cobbler. We then had a conclusion meeting to thank everyone and to draw for door prizes. Some really nice stuff was given out as well as a lot of little trinkets, so most folks ended up with something; I got an HSTA can coozie.

Shortly thereafter we three campers headed back to camp, where we got a fire cranked up and sat around and visited for a couple of hours while enjoying some well-hopped beer that Dave had picked up at the Blue Ridge Brewery on his way down.

Sunday morning we packed up camp and stopped by the hotel for a bit of breakfast and to say our farewells. I rode a portion of another of the six routes to start my journey home; it, too, was tasty, though the roads had a lot of gravel in the corners, so I had to take it easy, but it was still fun and scenic.

It was a bit foggy Sunday morning as we headed home.

Couple of shots along the way home.