~1,500 miles, 8 days of riding, 5 campsites, 1 motel.
- Misty Mountain Camping, Virginia
- Fairy Stone State Park, Virginia
- Asheville East KOA, North Carolina
- Tsali Campground, North Carolina
- Key West Inn, Georgia
- Davis Lake Campground, Mississippi
- Monroe, Louisiana
- Red Oak, Texas
Initially this journey was planned as an A to B trip, which should only take about 5 days max to complete. However once I hit the road I quickly realized that I had nowhere to be. By that, I mean that for the first time in my adult life I no longer had a schedule to follow or a timeline requiring me to be anywhere by a particular time. What a wonderful and liberating feeling, to just go wherever one desires. I decided my pace was to only be determined by how I feel, what looks interesting on the map, and how well Kitiana would hold up in the sidecar.
The first morning started out hectic as I needed to gear up the bike, sign my closing documents for my condo, and take a phone call from Amanda from The Washingtonian (which was arranged the day prior). While I hoped this would all be done early in the morning, I wasn’t able to hit the road until about 1130. My first destination was an hour east of DC to meet an old work friend for lunch and to say goodbye. Naturally we had a wonderful lunch and conversation, one of those reminders of the friends and lifestyle that I am leaving behind. Without being too rushed, I said goodbye and set our destination towards the Shenandoah’s.
While I would prefer to do wild camping, it really isn’t that easy to do on a sidecar with a dog. So my camping destinations would always be actual campgrounds, which some campgrounds are really more along the line of glamping (glamor camping). Darn dog has me spoiled now as our first campsite was Misty Mountain Camping, which had wifi throughout the campground. Really roughing it on my first day. Unfortunately the first night dropped down to 32 degrees and my feet were frozen. Such a shame that Kiti doesn’t share her warmth with me.
Downhill next to a stream with a dead battery
In the morning I decided to take my time in order for the day to warm up some more. It was very cold and the windchill on a bike would have been really rough. Playing with my camera, I saw an opportunity for a really nice staged shot of Kiti and I on the bike. So I rolled my sidecar down the hill to stage it right next to a nice stream with trees in the background. It took several attempts to get the pup to focus, but eventually I captured the image that I wanted. I left everything in place and went to take a hot shower to thaw out just a little more. It did the trick and I was ready to ride into the windchill. I got everything loaded up and we were ready to hit the road. *Click*…*Click*… That terrible sound a bike makes when it doesn’t have enough juice in the battery for it to start. Well damn. I am down a hill next to a stream and the only way out is back the way I came. I got myself in this position by leaving my bike on the night before for a few minutes. Which must have been enough to drain the battery below the required voltage.
Being stubborn as I am, I hate to ask for help and even more so when I put myself into an unfortunate situation by my own doing. So for the next 30 minutes I would unload the bike and try multiple times to get the bike back up that hill. Huskies are meant to pull things, perhaps I could hook Kiti up and have her pull it up. Nope, dumb idea. What if I push the bike through the stream and try to start it there. Looks a little deep and I would most likely end up with a bike stuck in the water. Another dumb idea. This physical and mental struggle apparently got the attention of some fellow campers. They decided to walk over and ask if I needed help. I was extremely embarrassed to admit that I needed help as I am sure they had seen me staging the shot and taking pictures. I felt like a fake camper and a helpless person. Goodbye pride points for the day. I am thankful for their help though, because I would not have gotten out without it. Needless to say, I quickly geared up the bike and left that embarrassing environment. No one will ever know outside of those few campers.
Internet fanbase and struggle
Heavy rain, 60mph wind gusts
Most of day two and day three were spent riding South West in some general direction towards Deals Gap (Fun motorcycle road called ‘Tail of the Dragon’). I saw countless beautiful roads, overlooks, and countryside. We took the Blue Ridge Parkway for most of the trip as it is always empty during the workweek and it lead to some great views. The one thing I didn’t consider was the elevation changes brining much colder air, but that was something we could manage. Day three you could tell there was a storm coming as we got caught in multiple little rain showers throughout the Appalachians. They were manageable, but it did leave me concerned for what was ahead. As we continued, we accidentally found ourselves at the highest, drivable, point of the Blue Ridge Parkway at 6,053ft. It was a beautiful view and a fun place to run around with the pup to stretch. Better yet, that also meant that it was all down hill from there so I would be seeing warmer temperatures.
Getting further south, the presence of the inbound storm became more prominent. The sky darkened and the random rain showers became more frequent. Around 5PM I found myself at a gas station east of Asheville, NC and started to ask the locals what the weather forecast was saying. Heavy rain, high winds, and nothing fun. While I could camp in this environment, it would be very difficult to manage with the dog. So I used her as an excuse to get a hard cabin campsite at the East Asheville KOA. We got hit by the storm a little on the way to the campsite, which forced me to cover up Kitiana finally. She can handle light rain, but downpour is miserable for her. So when that happens she will lay down and hide under the rain cover. This cabin had a bed, electricity, and wifi. Not how I intended my camping trip to be so far, with me sleeping on a “bed” on day three. But it did allow me to catch up on my many internet notifications as well as post a little blog update. It wasn’t until late into the night that the storm hit and I must say that I was happy to not be in a tent for all of that mess. It was rough and nasty, I will have plenty of those moments to “enjoy” when I go on my real adventure.
Day 4 starts with a flat and ends with a baby
Overall it wasn’t until 1PM that I was finally able to hit the road. I couldn’t make it as far as I wanted, so I found a nice little green patch on the map and set my sights on the Tsali Campground. I arrived fairly early into the evening, which allowed me to set up camp and even head back into Bryson City for some local BBQ that smelled so good as I rode past. My timing was perfect as it was the first day the campground had opened for the season, so I was allowed to stay for free. With a nice camp fire going, I had a lot of downtime and finally had some cell signal. I am fairly close to my first sister-in-law and throughout the day I had gotten a text from her about a 3rd baby on the way, which was the other reason for them moving to Texas. I was excited to finally have a moment to call and talk about it. We spoke for a good 30 minutes about everything but she ended up having to go as they were doing a goodbye party with their kids friends. Sounded pretty hectic compared to my stream side campground, so good luck to her! Fast forward a few days, I get a text from her stating that it is April 4th. The next day, it is April 5th. What does that mean!? I called Matt and it was quickly revealed that they were not having another baby and that it was all an April Fools joke. I didn’t even realize it was April Fools day. Its hard to keep track of that stuff when you no longer have a schedule. She got me I guess, dang it. If only my bike could have said April Fools and filled up the rear tire.
Bluegrass stole my campsite(s)
The only goal of this cross country trip, other than getting to Texas, was to hit Tail of the Dragon. It was finally the morning to ride it and we were ready. Pulling into Deal’s Gap just before the road brought a lot of attention to ourselves. I wasn’t just some other biker, but rather a guy with his dog in the sidecar. I went through the routine and answered many questions and had Kiti pose for pictures. I didn’t let this go on for long though as I was ready to hit the road and get on with my day. The Tail of the Dragon is a popular 11-mile stretch of Route 129, connecting Tennessee to North Carolina. On this stretch travelers must navigate 318 turns, some of which are sudden and sharp. It really is a paradise for motorcyclists. Does this hold true for sidecars? No. It does not. It was so exhausting as sidecars require a lot of upper body and shoulder work to control. I was sweating pretty well by mile 8. Don’t get me wrong, it was a lot of fun but I would much rather have tackled it on two wheels rather than three. By the time I had finished it all, Kiti and I were both exhausted. We found a nice lake to relax next to and recover for about an hour. She really was a champ at mastering all of those turns. There was only one moment where she almost fell out, but I watch her constantly and was able to adjust.
Still exhausted, we hit the road and headed south into Georgia. I became complacent in my turns due to exhaustion, which allowed for the sidecar to lift off the ground during a turn. It was a great moment. As I noticed the sidecar lifting, I watched as Kitiana sat there and leaned perfectly into the lift. She was a total badass. I got too excited and started to cheer and applaud her. Finally, I can lift the sidecar without her freaking out. It only took the Tail of the Dragon to get her comfortable enough. Needless to say, I lifted the sidecar several times after that. She is such an awesome dog.
If it hasn’t been noticed yet, I have not made any reservations for campgrounds as it is early in the season and plenty are available. Well I was burnt out and needed to rest, so I started my hunt for a campground. Every place I called was booked. 30 miles away, booked. It turns out that there was a weekend long bluegrass festival going on in the town I decided to get tired in, which saw all the campgrounds and most hotels to be booked solid. The only place I could find was an Inn for cheap. Again, I was annoyed to not be camping on my camping trip and spending more money than I wanted on a hotel. But it really was nice to have after such an exhausting day. It even had a bathtub that my tall frame could fit in! I slept great that night.
Flatland home stretch
While the Appalachians were exhausting and slow to traverse, the scenery was quite beautiful even if it was redundant. Now west of the range, everything was just flat. Flat and straight winds. Thus began our sprint home on the straight flat roads. I miss you Appalachians. We order for hours straight and would only stop for a quick break or if anything different caught our eye. At one point I came across a sign advertising the largest natural bridge east of the Rockies. It was a pretty place to stop and view, but I am not too sure on their claim to fame. I also came across an airport to the right of me and happened to see the plane take off towing a glider. It looked so much fun, so we pulled in and waited for the next one to take off. After 30 minutes of waiting we decided to just continue on our way without seeing another take off or the landing of the first glider.
Late into the evening we pulled into the Davis Lake Campground in Mississippi. I found a good site between a few RV’s and started to break fallen branches for firewood. Then one of my RV neighbors came out to talk and was very generous to supply me with as much wood as I desired. I had a roaring campfire that night! I missed the start of the sunrise, but fortunately I was up in time to witness the sun glimmer through the rising fog over the lake. It was so still and beautiful. A great way to start my last day.
The further I got into North East Louisiana, the more roads I found flooded and at times some homes were under water too. The storms apparently overfilled the rivers and bayous which caused an extensive amount of damage to LA. Very unfortunate, and a quick slap to my face for thinking it was some farming trick. These outages slowed us down a little, but I made it to my Grandma’s before dinner. It was so nice to spend time with her for the next two days. I hardly get to see her with all my travels and now I am about to be on the road for a year or so.
Typically the trip from Texas to Louisiana takes about 4 hours in the car. On a motorcycle is about 5. On a sidecar taking back roads is apparently 12. I was determined to get home without camping one last night as I really just wanted Kiti to be in a place for a long time already. The road trip and move had been stressful on her and she needed some more consistency. We could have taken the straight shot on the highway, but that is never enjoyable for the dog. So I opted for backroads, which should be slow enough for her to enjoy. I have been gone from Texas for quite a bit, so I must have forgotten that nearly every road in Texas has a minimum rating of 70. Wow. I wanted to go a max of 55, like most side roads, but not here. So without going too slow to impede traffic, we rode the long way back to home. When Kiti would get tired and lay down, I would open the throttle up and go just above the speed limit. When she would peek up, I would slow back down for her. It was a back and forth thing, but I don’t want her to be miserable. It must have been around 11PM when we rolled in, but alas we had completed an 8-day 1500 mile trip from DC to Texas.
A few observations
During the trip there were a few things I noticed as I continued south. I don’t mean to come off rude, but I always have culture shock exploring America and seeing the hardships we still suffer and the lack of care that is shown to some areas.
- Religions become more dense the further south you go.
- Waist lines expand the further south you go.
- Small towns suffer in lack of education.
- “Trike” motorcycles are becoming more of a thing with the old early riders.
- Triumph motorcycles attract older males who reminisce on their old Triumph.