Winter camping on a motorcycle has a few extra considerations to take into account or your time in the elements can be uncomfortable at best and flat out dangerous at worst. Motorcycle camping in any season tends to take a great deal of gear but adding the cold element add to the load. The potential for snow, short days, damp wood, bitter winds and more all are set to put a cramp in your camping style.
Fair weather camping sets you up for certain conveniences that allow you to skimp on gear or ignore it entirely. Winter camping can be far more brutal should you find yourself lacking in critical items. In the warmer months if you have less quality gear it might be uncomfortable but it certainly isn't going to be dangerous. Consider these as must haves for a comfortable winter camp.
1. 4 season tent. Most tents are not made for 4 seasons. Even when they say they are. If you find a tent that is comfortable in the winter most often that means you will burn up in the heat of the summer. My snugpak Scorpion 3 tent was an example of such a tent. It was comfortable in Fall, Winter, and Spring but there was simply no way to get enough ventilation to keep from getting hot in the summer. I upgraded last fall to the Hilleberg Nammatj 3GT and of course had to test it in cold camping as soon as possible. After camping in low 20's on the crest of a mountain with relatively high wind I can say this tent fit the bill for what I was looking for. The front of the tent has a large vestibule allowing me to store my gear and even due to the wind and cold and lack of decent firewood get in from the elements while still having the ability to cook hot tea and food. (precautions much be taken when cooking inside a tent but out of the scope of this article). Again motorcycle camping lends you to having more equipment especially in the winter so having a dry place to store your suit, helmet and other gear without having to crawl around it is welcomed.
I had the pleasure to meet up with Simon and Lisa along with Candida Louis and stay at a beautiful Bed & Breakfast at Penmerryl Farm right after Overland Expo East. Spending time with amazing people like this as well as Laura Pittkin (one of the owners and fellow rider) who joined us for the evening is truly what travel is all about.
This farm is tucked away in the Shenandoah Valley and has one of the most exquisite breakfasts I've had at a Bed and Breakfast. The owners love motorcycles and ride themselves. The area is only a few miles away from the Blue Ridge Parkway. Travelers coming either direction on the Blue Ridge can find rest at this wonderful location. It is surrounded by great rides and curvy roads are literally everywhere. You can stay comfortably and cozy in a cabin complete with a full kitchen or stay in one of the lodge rooms that is setup more like a typical hotel room.. Well, except for the amazing breakfast in the morning.
The property is complete with horses and donkeys as well as a lake in the back where a tall tree hosts a nest of bald eagles that if you are lucky will be in view. They don't provide rental horses but they do allow you to bring your own and enjoy the trails in the area. You can even choose to stay in your horse trailer if it is so equipped for a lesser amount.
They also have a tavern on the property complete with pool table and bar although the bar isn't in action just yet. They are working on it though so stay tuned.
I would say IF you get the opportunity to stay here you should, but it is more appropriate to say WHEN you FIND the opportunity because it really is worth the drive.
I look forward to spending time up this direction again. Beautiful roads and the nicest people, what more can you ask for? Click here and find out more information regarding this jewel located on the Blue Ridge.
Until next time, ride safe, ride far, ride on.
- David Mays
The next generation is almost always held with some level of distaste by the generation that currently has buying power. The “in my day” and “when I was young” almost certainly leads to some explanation of how it was then vs how it is now. And to a level many of those generalities can be linked back to some level of truth, somewhere.
The challenge is when we assume the entire lot is of a certain belief, mindset, or generally not ready to have the torch passed to it. I believe that growing up takes longer now. Several reasons for this: labor laws, helicopter parents, professional lawn care services lol, you name it, they all have changed the way our kids grow up. In many ways not for the better.
The Millennial generation along with those coming after it are the first to grow up with devices and internet at their constant disposal. You no longer have to go somewhere to learn something, you simply need to google it. This alone is not an issue. It’s very powerful to have the world literally at your fingertips. With great power comes great responsibility it would seem. We have all found ourselves more buried into our tech than we would like at one time or another. Device addiction doesn’t just hit Millennials but all of us in one way or another.
Happy Birthday wishes are flooding in from close and far friends from about every electronic platform I subscribe to. I'm grateful to all of those and feel loved by having so many reach out. It's become easier to wish someone a birthday wish than in the past, now its just a small slice of time but even then with so many things tugging at our focus, even that is something to be cherished.
As I wake up to the realization of being on this planet for 47 years I recognize I'm not the typical "party hard" for my birthday but I tend to go down more of a reflective course. Where am I with my life, who have I surrounded myself with, what connections have I made, where have I been, where am I going. Thoughts that could lead one down a path of self deprecation or perhaps a path of hope in the future. I choose hope. I have determined one never gets everything done they want either in a day or a decade or a life time. I find myself passionate about a lot of things, from filmmaking to photography to health to adventure in all forms. I also realize time is real and it continues to move no matter our best intentions of ignoring it.
What we do with the time we are given on this planet matters. Or at least it should. Who do we matter to, whose lives have we touched. Were we a positive or negative to that life. When it is all said and done, why were we here in the first place and would we be missed. What legacy do we leave behind. I just returned from an event where many of those I call close friends are literally 1/2 my age. Seeing life through their lenses is an interesting experiment and one that can invoke youth back in ones own thinking. I highly recommend it. Having the courage of youth with the wisdom of age is likely the best takeaway I could make to my real life character I am portraying.
In the book, The ONE Thing, it speaks of the path of mastery. "When you can see mastery as a path you go down instead of a destination you arrive at, it starts to feel accessible and attainable." At 47 I realize there is no destination per se but rather a journey that continues to blossom along the way. Wisdom comes from applied experience. Experience is typically what you get when you are not getting what you want. And there is the rub. If we don't fail, we can't succeed. Fear of failure can paralyze some while catapulting others. The beauty is, it's always our choice. The book also speaks of mastery coming from doing the one thing for 10,000 hours. The 1993 psychologist K. Anders Ericsson published "The role of deliberate Practice" stating that the 10k hours is a rule, not a guideline. Consistent effort over time trumps natural talent every time. Golf legend Jack Nicholas spoke of his body shape not being ideal but that his practice couldn't be beat. He practiced himself to greatness. His stubby fingers and stocky build be damned.
I find myself passionate about so many different things it is easy to feel overwhelmed on whether I will ever master any of them but instead be the Jack of many trades. I've never liked the term btw. But I press on and follow those passions and incorporate as many as I can into my life as long as they give me growth and enjoyment. Stretching oneself is likely the best way to never grow old. Once we believe (inaccurately) that we have arrived... We have lost. Once we believe we can no longer make a difference. We have failed. Once we believe that who we are is all we can be, we are forgotten.
I truly believe that anyone can achieve what they set out to be, do, become. It takes time, consistent effort, and a passion within to find what moves your soul. As I enjoy my 47th I hope to all of you who read this to enjoy your day as well and realize there will never be another day like today. Take it, love it, absorb it, record it however you must. But above all remember it. And take each day to grow just a little bit. And when you are 47 or whatever that number is for you, you will look back on all those days and discover how they were all responsible for making you who you are today. Hopefully someone you can be happy with knowing.
I am happy with who I am, where I have been (good and bad) and where I am going and especially who I have become in the process. I look forward to the next 10 years or even 20. Life is a mystery and our thoughts ultimately give definition to that mystery. The wave becomes the particle. (a topic perhaps for another time).
So, here's to 47! Cheers!!
I have been riding motorcycles since 1995 when I bought a used 1984 Honda Nighthawk. My wife at the time and I rode that bike with lame soft bags, t-shirts, shorts and tennis shoes all the way to Florida from Kentucky primarily for the economy of it. Needless to say I was unaware then of the concept of ATGATT (All The Gear, All The Time). Years and many bikes passed by including a 82' Honda Silverwing, 97' BMW R1100RT, and a 00' BMW R1200RS, 09' BMW R1150RT. No accidents other than a dump drop here and there. Little to no damage. Nothing I would consider "OH MY GOD, these things are dangerous" type accident.
In 2014 I watched a TV series that changed many lives called "The Long Way Round" by Ewan McGregor and Charlie Boorman and the idea of traveling off road and buying a BMW R1200GSA was born. What better bike than one that claims to be capable off road but still have comforts of long road riding. The concept of off road motorcycling captivated my imagination as a kid and I remember my Dad and I going to the Honda shop and collecting brochures of dirt bikes, for years. Dad never owned a dirt bike. Dad was always fiscally responsible and so dirt bikes just never made the list. Ok, to be fair, Mom probably played a role. Like a "not on your life" type role lol.. His dream never died and neither did mine. It wasn't 6 months after I bought that Nighthawk that Dad bought a bike, too. Ultimately he ended up with a Goldwing and now at 83 he still has his Goldwing but polishes it and thinks about it more than rides it. He started late living his dream. I swore I wouldn't wait to live mine.
My dream of travel was first realized in 2015 on the GSA where I took a 5000 mile trip off/on road west, then north then back home camping most of the way. It changed me from then on and I knew my desire to learn and experience would only grow from there. Motorcycling, I have discovered, is the outward expression of an inward desire to experience life.
There is something unique about a motorcycle. The openness, the freedom, the fluidity it creates in travel. Want to stop and take a picture? Its a 30 sec stop if you want. You smell the flowers, the fields, the streams, you are part of the environment rather than watching it on a TV screen (known as a windshield). Everything that happens in the environment you feel, smell, even taste (for better or worse). People who ride get it.. Those who don't, can't. For some it is a matter of overcoming fear. For others it is mastering a skill that sets them apart from most. For others it is simply a way to belong. Oddly, motorcycling is considered a solo sport because no matter how many people are with you, you are still alone with yourself in your head. That was at least true until the proliferation of wireless communications. For me I enjoy both, although solo is still my favorite. It allows me to center, to find ME again. When its been a while since I've ridden I can feel it - that need to just watch some miles go by.
That's part of what made this year difficult for me. Over all the years of motorcycling, through all the bikes and well over 150k miles, I never had a wreck outside of tumbles off road (which are kind of expected). And then this year happened. I had just upgraded from my beloved 2014 BMW GSA to the BMW Triple Black 2018 R1200GSA. What a beauty. Bought it in late Oct 2017 and had a couple thousand miles on it when a friend and I were riding off-road in January and I was following him. Between a taillight covered in mud, a missed turn recognized late and stopping to turn back, combined with sun blazing at my 10 o'clock, the year of accidents began. How could this happen? Literally it was seconds and poof, I'm flying and bike is going one way and me the other. How could I be so stupid to actually hit him?
Fast forward, bike is fixed, good as new, friend's bike is fixed as well and we are back in business little to no injury thank goodness for either of us. I take the repaired bike out west for the Overland Expo West event putting the accident mentally behind me as one of those crazy things that can happen to anyone but that certainly won't happen again. At least not soon and not in that way. Always assume the person in front of you is stopping.. Lesson learned. Heading back from Arizona through New Mexico I'm stunned at the scenery and dying to take some pictures of the landscape, so I'm consciously looking left to see any legal road, dirt or otherwise, that would lead me up into the desert for some quality images. Finally. A dirt county road heading up to a crest of a nice size hill that should give a great view both ways for different shot options. Perfect. I traveled about 2 miles up the dirt road after crossing at least one cattle gate and coming to another expecting it to be the same. Cattle gates are everywhere and expected. I assume this gate will be like the others. I goose the bike a bit to take the load off the front wheel due to some wash out in front of the gate. Suddenly I'm flying through the air and landing in front of the bike. Wait.. What? How could this happen? What did I even hit? I'm alone for God's sake. How could I be so stupid? Wait a second.. This wasn't on me this time. It turns out a rancher, unhappy with the reality that a county road went through his land, decided to place a guide wire across the cattle gate and lock it to a post on the other side. No signage, No warning. No nothing. Thankfully the wire caught my front forks rather than higher which could have decapitated me. It body slammed my 25mph 700+ lb motorcycle picking the rear end up and slamming it in front of the bike while at the same time ripping the post out of the ground and whipping it around over my head to the other side of the bike. Yeah, it could have been worse.
I'm getting up off the ground and seeing parts of the bike laying around me and an internal rage began to flow. But then a second reality. No cell service. But no injuries. Well, can't use the SOS button. Just embrace the suck. Then reality sets in.. yeah, the bike had issues but, could it be ok? Sure enough. Still works. This is why I ultimately bought another one. These things can take a beating and keep on ticking. After taking lots of pictures I righted the bike and rode the bike out. Found an officer, filed a report in hopes the rancher could be charged. The fence was illegal by county ordinance. In short, because of no injuries, insurance didn't pursue further.
Rode the bike all the way home only to find the damage sustained totaled the bike. Wow, 2 accidents and one bike down. Surely this is the end of my bad luck streak, right? This is when the loving non-motorcycle riding friends started to say... "Um.. perhaps you should take up a less dangerous sport?" I get it. I love you too, but it doesn't work that way for me. Let's just get another bike, shall we?
Enter 2018 BMW Triple Black GSA #2. 200 miles on the clock and I'm loving the new bike I'm feeling confident again (having to ride the GSA 1 1600 miles home did a lot of curbing the "nervous feelings" of throwing a leg over after an accident). My wife Holly and I plan a trip to a cabin a few hundred miles away as a belated anniversary get away combined with a work trip and as a break-in for her getting to ride on the new bike. 30 minutes from arrival at the cabin and a blue truck waiting to turning left across my path whom I made eye contact with, yet he decided to make a go of it anyway. Traveling about 45 mph I slammed on the brakes and just before slamming into the side of the truck told Holly in a probably too calm of voice, "We're going to hit". She had already slammed into me from my braking, so upon impact we both went simultaneously off the bike and toward the truck. I hit the side of the truck and she bounced off of me and back onto the ground. Thankfully, I learned a few lessons from the years ago "shorts, short sleeves, carefree riding style" on the Nighthawk. All three accidents this year I was dawning top level Klim gear and Adventure boots and Holly equally equipped with BMW gear. We both sustained injuries but compared to what it could have been we were fortunate.
8 weeks of therapy (Kudos to Dr. Corey Idrogo at Centerpointe Health and Wellness) and healing from a knee injury and Holly with bruised ribs and other bruises gave us some time to think. Do we get another bike? Are we mitigating risk as much as possible? Is it worth it? What about our 15 yr old son? Is it selfish to do this activity knowing that at any point something like this could happen and have long lasting results?
And then I thought, what would I teach him by giving it up? Yes, I love it but, better not do it because there is risk? What in life can you do and not have risk? Can you really eliminate all risk, and if you could, would you want to? Isn't the risk part of what drives us forward? To press ahead aware of the possible negative outcome but hopeful for the prize? Overcome the challenge?
The motorcycle industry has been shrinking over the years and all the manufacturers are still scratching their heads trying to figure out exactly why. The adventure market is the only segment that has remained steady and you are seeing manufacturers such as Harley Davidson enter the market in hopes of reviving their own market share and take on the younger generation of riders. Many look at stagnant wages, job uncertainty, or perhaps the reality of far more distracted drivers on the road today (hello cell phones) as being the culprit. While all of these certainly are factors I believe there is a fundamental shift that is happening in the US and perhaps the world that I see to be far more devastating not only to motorcycling but life in general. We, as a people, are losing the ability to dream. To shoot for the stars. To do something not because it makes a buck but because you just need to do it. In the world of warning labels on everything from straws to vehicles we are programmed by the media to fear everything. I still believe all things are possible and I believe that everything has risk and I would rather do what I love and mitigate the risk as much as possible than to live to a ripe old age thinking about all the things I chose not to do because I was scared of what "might" happen. Fear is a matter of perspective. The same thing that gives a person sweaty palms, fast heart-rate, dilated pupils and is explained as terrified is the same physical response described by a person who is excited and ready to take on the next challenge.
So which is it for you? What do you want to do? How do you want to live? Do you choose the stars or are you satisfied with setting your sights lower. I choose the stars.. I also chose to get 2018 BMW R1200GSA 3. I may miss the stars but if I do it will be a beautiful view on the way down. This life isn't a practice session. It's the real deal. You either make it what you want or you don't. Choose wisely!
Anniversaries are something to be cherished and celebrated although for some reason Holly and I seem to have something scheduled on top of our anniversary every year. So each year we promise to take a little time away specific to the celebration but many times, if not most times, it never quite happens and another year slips away.
This year would be different we said. Although we missed again celebrating on April 25 we had plans to do something special that was just for us. Deanna Naddie, a friend of ours through dōTERRA (how we earn our living) reached out prior stating she had a cabin for rent that had openings during the six week blueberry season. I love blueberries and love staying in a quaint cabin where internet and even cell phone service can't pierce the tranquility. However, this time we would find that lack of communications was not freeing at all on this trip. Regardless, we were in. Although it was a couple months after our actual date, Holly and I were excited to be actually celebrating 17 years of marriage, and although not a "special number" 17 is a lot of years together.
We made all the necessary arrangements to have our son stay with his cousin, get the cats taken care of, and all the typical running around you do prior to leaving even for a few days. I'm reminded how complex life can be even when you fill it with good things. Things still require attention. A thought to ponder at another time perhaps.
We successfully dropped off Nicholas and were off on our Anniversary adventure. A note about adventures, they are never guaranteed to be what you want, only they are guaranteed to be...an adventure. We were hungry and decided to head to Pandora's Motorsports on the way out of town as they had a hotdog stand there for the day and I thought it would be fun to see everyone before we left town. After all, this was our first voyage on the new replacement BMW from the total not long ago. We limit our intake of Hotdogs as you might imagine given our healthy lifestyle but as we tell those we consult with, live the 90/10 rule where 90% of what you do is healthy and the other 10% is what keeps you human.
From there we were checking the weather as there was a line of storms coming through and it was pretty nasty so we decided to make haste and attempt to reach downtown Chattanooga where we could enjoy the downtown while waiting for the storm to pass. We were so close.. But didn't make it before the bottom fell out and we had to seek shelter under an overpass. Met a fellow bicyclist while waiting. The storm passed quickly and we were on our way.
We said our goodbyes to Bill and headed west toward our secluded cabin. Outside of the hotdog we ate hours ago, we hadn't had anything to eat that day and were finding ourselves very prepared to eat. It is about that point when the thought of hunger hit me that everything started to go a bit wrong. While only 30 minutes away from our cabin traveling west bound on Hwy 50 nearing an intersection to the on/off ramp for I65 an east bound pickup truck decided to turn left in front of us. I slammed on the brakes and truly thought I would be able to stop up until about 15 ft away where I said through my coms to Holly, "we are going to hit". It was at that point where my brand new 2018 BMW GSA with around 516 miles on the ODO struck the right rear quarter panel of a blue GMS Sierra pick up truck. Luckily most speed had been bled off and the strike likely was around 20-25mph but enough to cause significant damage to the bike and to find us separated from it. Some recall is a bit blurry and we have had to stitch the memory back together based on bruises and other memories that came in pieces.
What we did know, is our trip had significantly changed. So many things goes through your mind prior to an accident assuming you have time to calculate it and this time was no different. Denial I have to admit was the first thing that hit my head. Surely, this isn't about to happen again, to me, on this bike. You see, this bike was a replacement bike that I had just got loaded up with my extras and lights and top case etc. The vinyl wrap was scheduled to occur the week after we got back home. This replacement bike was due to an identical bike that was totaled in New Mexico as a result of traveling on an open county road where a rancher, whose land the country road traversed, wasn't keen on travelers being on the road and decided to solve the "problem" by placing a taunt thin/yet strong steel cable (like you see as guide wires for telephone poles) across the cattle gate without signs warnings or otherwise. I hit it and luckily it caught the bike under the fender and yanked the bike much like the bit does to a horse except without releasing. The result landed me on the ground and my bike suffering like an animal that had been put down. Luckily I walked away from that incident unscathed and rode the bike home only to find due to the damages the cable and the result "landing" had caused the bike to be totaled. And so here I was again, finding myself once again without a bike, but alive. More than I can say for many who have totaled bikes. The gear you were CAN save your life and at the minimum minimize your injuries.
This time was different. This time, my wife was with me. It is one thing for me to have an accident and feel as though I am in control (although if one thing I have learned we are never in control) and realize that if an accident occurs I'm willing to deal with those decisions and the resulting pain and suffering that can come with it. But when my wife, who trusts me to protect her and take care of her as I promised to do 17 years ago, is part of the accident and resulting chaos I feel the responsibility on a far different plane. She would of course have a different opinion as she would say she knows the risks and happily accepted them. Regrettably that doesn't lighten the emotional load.
After the impact and once we came back to the accident mentally we started taking inventory of body parts, aches, pains, moving toes, legs etc. Amazing how little you feel directly after an accident, even the next day. It is as though your body shuts it off and says, not yet, deal with your surroundings and make sure you are safe, you can hurt later. The second interesting fact is the sheer amount of information that comes in during an accident and the processing limitation you have for that amount of information. The brain generally takes in 2000 bits of information per second and when things move really fast the issue of tunnel vision reduces the number of the 2000 bits recorded to be what the brain at that moment believes is the most important for that point in time. This is why eye witnesses can have drastically different recollections because in a traumatic event it is your focus that determines what you actually record. As a result, Holly and I didn't have clear memories of how we actually got off the bike. While we were at the accident neither of us thought we hit the ground or even left the bike. But neither of us could remember how we got off. From bruises and injuries it was later pieced together that Holly did in fact hit the ground although we are not sure how or where, and I don't think I hit the ground but rather hung onto the truck after impact. Our injuries seem to support that conclusion.
Moments after the accident I was found staring at my "dead horse" in both shock and anger and Holly was quickly on her feet with her helmet off so I knew she was ok to a level but unsure what injuries she may have had. While standing staring and likely yelling sweet nothings at anyone who would listen the driver of the truck was kind enough to request that I sit down. Come to find he was a paramedic, what are the chances. He was very apologetic and was very helpful in calming me to the point where I started feeling pain again. My shin took a hit and my knee was starting to hurt. On a side note, the paramedic, my accident dance partner, was wanting to take a look at my leg and the only option I had was take my riding pants off. Without hesitation I did only to realize I was left wearing nothing but my MotoSkiviz. Yes, likely would have been a great advertisement for them had anyone taken a picture. Considering I ended up limping around the accident for several minutes until the EMS finally told me to get on the stretcher it's likely I'm somewhere on someone's facebook in my undies. Oh well.. Ambulance finally arrived and I ultimately ended up for a ride of a different sort. Holly was also injured but she fell into the "take care of everyone else mode" and didn't realize how bad her ribs were till much later. If you have had cracked or even bruised ribs you know that every breath is a reminder of your injury. She had that to look forward to once the adrenaline as well as the pain patch they provided at the hospital wore off.
Both of us in gowns and placed in facing ER rooms we were realizing this would likely be an anniversary celebration we would never forget. The hospital verified what we had hoped that there were no broken bones but that I had a possible knee strain if not a tear. More testing would be required to know. Holly had bruised ribs although not broken but follow up would also be needed to be certain. Not how I intended to spend our time. But it is what it is.. The hospital provided a brace and crutches for my leg and they stated I needed to have it looked at further to determine if there was soft tissue damage. Having had tendon damage in my shoulder in the past I was not looking forward to any prognosis especially with my legs because that limits just about everything I like to do from hiking to photography to camping much less motorcycling. Hoping for the best on that one.
Now the reality of an accident while on the road away from home on a motorcycle sets in. Luckily Deanna was not far away and was kind enough to come get us and after a much needed dinner took us back to the cabin so we could figure out what we do next.
The cabin was exactly as described. Quaint, quite, and away from technology of all sorts. A place for introspection, reading, writing, and all in all recharging our natural batteries. Well, assuming you haven't just been in an accident. Since our plans had changed the recharging would once again have to wait as Insurance was calling our dead phones and emails were needing to be sent from non-internet and reality was we were going to have to get "life" back in order before relaxing any time soon.
We spent the majority of our time at Deanna's house where we did have internet and our cell phones were able to make calls through her wifi in order to get all the necessary calls and emails and pictures sent so Insurance could get moving on what had happened. I learned the hard way when I was in New Mexico that not taking care of a claim and all questions prior to leaving the area could leave you in a poor position to charge the appropriate party with the claim. Because I left New Mexico I was unable to get the local police to properly investigate the property where the steel cable was placed making it not possible or perhaps feasible for my insurance to go after the rancher for the violation of an improper gate. So the claim became a no fault rather than an at fault by other party. So I didn't want to make that same mistake again especially since this was another claim so close to the last one. Luckily in both cases we took lots of photos which told the story and backed us up in everything we were saying.
Day 1 1/2 of our 2 1/2 day adventure was now complete after spending a wonderful evening with Deanna and having an amazing lamb chop dinner late into the evening. Spending time with people is truly where I find the most adventure. Hearing stories by connecting with friends new or old and sharing our lives with each other is how we truly seat memories into our brain for later recall. Everything else, the travel, the adventure, the enriching of our experiences is just getting us to the point of either having a story to tell or listening to one being told. I find I relish in this sharing experience more and more the older I get.
The next day we were able to read a bit and even relax some. Since our original intention was to use the cabin as a base and go and ride around the area on the bike we actually weren't prepared to have our plans this altered. I also wanted to see the Blueberry farm and Deanna was kind enough to take us on a tour. There are 14 varieties of blueberries grown on this land and it is amazing just how different they can taste. From smoky to sweet the massive blueberries by all accounts did not disappoint in their flavor and fresh taste.
Grown without pesticides or toxic sprays it was comforting to pick the berries straight from the bush and eat them immediately to taste the different flavors as Deanna took us through the different rows on the golf cart. I've never had a blueberry with more taste or juice as these did. Amazing. If you are around this area during blueberry season it's worth the drive to purchase these beautiful berries where you can have them picked or pick them yourself. Unlike blackberries, blueberries are almost a pleasure to pick as the bushes are quite tall and there are literally clusters of them easily within grasp. Had we not just been in an accident it would have been fun to pick our own. We ended our evening exhausted from dealing with a peg leg or the inability to breathe deep but still managed to open a bottle of champagne I brought from Chattanooga in order to make mimosas that we shared that evening bringing back memories of the same we had on our wedding day years ago. We watched a movie which I had downloaded prior to losing internet and finished the evening exhausted but happy to be together.
The next day it was back to the issue at hand. We still had insurance issues to deal with, had to figure out a way to get home and still needed to deal with the bike. So we took Deanna's car to the body shop that hosted the bike to give it a look one more time and take a ton of pictures and take things from the bike like a garage door opener, phone charger etc. We had been instructed to leave anything that was part of the bike on the bike. I was careful to take pictures of all the add-ons I had done to the bike in hopes that I will once again get all that stuff for yet another new bike. Sadly we left the bike and went back to determine the fate of a rental car.
Rental cars in that area were not exactly dropping from trees. Enterprise was out of cars, U-Save had no one-way rentals so we went to a Hertz in town. Crutches and leg brace installed and hoping for some pity we came to the counter and explained we had been in an accident and needed a vehicle to travel back home. Regrettably, he stated they had no vehicles available at this time. Apparently a neck brace would have been required for true sympathy. Disappointed but not without resolve we thanked him and left to eat and figure out plan...D? During lunch we went to Expedia and discovered we could rent a car from Hertz and they had 6 cars available. Recognizing how little the attendant seemed to really care of our demise I questioned when we left if what he was telling us was accurate so we pushed the button and secured the car. Voila, email came and with reservation in hand we went back to the same attendant and with a chip in his step he was all but happy to help us and explained he would have a car right out to us. It was as if we were a different couple than who we were merely 30 minutes prior. I looked at Holly with likely blades piercing from my eyes and hoping she would bring sanity to my next move. In full self control and with key in hand (in order for him to not change his mind) I simply had to ask the obvious question. "So, when we came in 30 minutes ago asking for a car and none were available, how did that actually work since we were able to get one of 6 listed online. He gave a lame answer about not having real time inventory and that you could actually rent a car that they don't even have etc.. Um.... Ok... And we left. I didn't share that I counted the cars in his lot and miraculously the total came to six counting the one we drove off in. Regardless, I simply didn't have the energy to explain just how little that made sense and wrote it off as just another paragraph in a story.
Right leg in brace, I'm unable to drive so Holly takes the controls of our fashionable Nissan Versa and we are back at the cabin loading up our things now in grocery bags since the hard bags we originally packed in are still mounted on the downed bike. So we are off, feeling somewhat accomplished to having survived a collision and it would seem we will be back to normal within a few hours. We stop by once again to see Deanna and her beautiful blueberry farm and thank her once again for all the help she gave during our unique trip away.
It wasn't long before rain started and became quite fierce in different stages. This is when it would have been incredible to have a camera at the ready. Around 5pm, we had made it back to i24 from 840, the most direct route home, meaning we were on the road with mostly people who were tired from a long days work and were already mentally sitting at home ready to enjoy their evening. About that time I looked left and saw a vehicle who had been traveling to close to the car in front of him slam on the brakes and enter into a full on skid due to the lead car having to mash the brakes. The skidding vehicle stayed calm however still encroaching on the slowing vehicle to the point where I thought he would clip the vehicle in the left rear. This of course would have sent the nose of the vehicle into our lane and once again I would be making a call to our embattled insurance company. Luckily the car, while continuing to skid, gently moved to the left and into the median and came to a safe although "wrecker required" stop. Holly and I looked at each other and decided if we can just get home we might just stay there for a while.
We made it home without further incident and spent the better part of the day working to insure everything is being handled as it is supposed to with regard to our vehicles and medical etc.. That process we would find is not anywhere close to being over. I have discovered there is never a winner in an accident no matter whose fault it is. So much time required to deal with all the factors.
Even though this adventure did not go as planned we still made the best of it and above all did it together and we were able to come home together, for the most part, in good health all considering. To that we are both blessed and grateful.
Until our next adventure!!
So let's be honest.. We love to travel and get in hard to get to locations but at the same time we are dreadfully stressed over taking our gear into these same locations. It would seem through all the bag purchases that I have made no one bag ever fits my exact needs and so... I look for the "next" bag in hopes it will fill my needs. Then I have non-photography bags that fit certain needs for the function they were made such as hiking or climbing but not photography needs so I find myself moving my gear from one bag to the next in hopes of some compromise only to find some of my needed hiking/climbing/adventuring gear got scuttled in lieu of camera gear. The process is frustrating to say the least.
I may have found the ultimate solution and in doing so added security for my camera and gear while keeping the flexibility of different purposes whether it is on the bike, in a backpack, overnight hike, whatever. Flexibility along with padded protection for the sensitive gear is something we all look for but typically give up one or the other just to get the job done.
Enter Tenba.. I first discovered Tenba while I was staying with Simon and Lisa Thomas with 2ridetheworld.com in North Carolina when they were traveling through on their way to Mexico. They have the same issues any traveling photographer has except with the added complexity of limited space and potential vibration/jarring issues. They want to protect their gear in the smallest amount of room possible while still having reasonably quick access to their gear when they need it. Traveling on two motorcycles certainly adds to the challenge.
They carry the Fuji X-T2 Cropped frame camera system along with a host of fantastic lens (more than mine by far) so keeping all of that protected in as small a space as possible was critical. Once I saw their gear, I knew it was only a matter of time before I had chosen from the Tenba line what I would use myself. I settled, for now, on a couple different items. One to hold the camera and a few lenses and the other to hold flashes and accessories. I admit, I'll likely need to get one more small bag in order to round out my storage needs however, with these two bags I'm able to pretty much carry everything I need short of reflectors, tripods, etc that would never fit in a bag anyway. Being modular I can continue to add bags as my equipment investment grows.
So, what does all this look like? In two small bags I have now not only replaced my old bag but also split the weight load of my camera gear into two smaller bags that now can fit in whatever bag that I am using for the task at hand. Off for a hike, ride, etc? I can now stuff my minuscule camera bag in a day backpack, an overnight backpack, a tank bag, pannier, whatever best fits my needs for what and where I'm trying to go. The flexibility as well as the weight reduction is amazing! Plus, the benefit of protection.
The first bag which was the most difficult to select was the bag to hold the camera itself along with my primary lenses I tend to carry. I settled on the Tenba BYOB 9 Slim Backpack Insert. If you have a standard DSLR this bag will likely not be large enough to house the camera base much less with an attached lens. They make a standard size for that type of camera. One of the reasons I chose the Sony A7II was due to its size in comparison to standard DSLR's. This is one of the benefits of the mirrorless systems is their size advantage. Size matters and in this case, smaller is better. The other reason I chose mirrorless was for fewer moving parts which for a motorcycle photographer is critical considering it's impossible to eliminate all vibration and jarring.
In the BYOB 9 Slim bag I have housed the camera body attached to a 24-240mm full frame lens, 85mm full frame lens, and a 15mm full frame lens. In addition, I was also able to place a polarizing filter, a memory container and my tripod base along with lens cloths and some batteries. Those with a cropped body could potentially fit even more due to their diminutive lens sizes as compared to full frame. All snug which that alone tends to protect as well.
But wait, there's more! As any photographer would agree, much like motorcycles, when it comes to camera gear, you only need...one more. So in reality, having my base and lenses while being primary, isn't all of my needed gear depending on what I'm shooting. Accessories can be just as important such as flash, remotes, triggers, etc. This is where my second purchase filled the need. Enter the Tenba Toolbox 8. My goal for this bag was to secure my two primary flashes, remote trigger, and typical needed accessories. Mission accomplished. If I don't need flashes, I can leave the bag separate, if I do, it's an easy add-on bag to toss in. The bag comes with multiple configurable space organizers allowing you to configure the bag how you want or need for your purpose. I am a fan of speed lighting and specifically 2 flash photography so having both accessible was important for me. They have smaller toolbox options for those not needing the same amount of room. Fantastic.
The overall build of both cases is sturdy including quality padding, quality zippers with easy pull straps, and finally well thought out design such as clear top for the accessories and the custom designed zipper arrangement in the BYOB for flip down quick camera access. If you are looking for quality functional camera carrying solutions look no further than Tenba. You won't be disappointed.
Until next time.. Click!
Tennessee has a landscape that is simply hard not to like and it covers a large swath of the Eastern US through some of the most interesting landscape found including the Appalachian Mountains. While it is easy to relate to the East side of the state to being chocked full of beautiful scenery from water falls to mountains its necessary not to under estimate just how beautiful the Middle TN Southern region can be. I caught a glimpse of this as I took the TN TAT back a few years ago and was surprised then just how beautiful the area was. Creeks throughout, Amish country with large beautiful horses, and dirt roads that went on endlessly, this place really has it all. And, its only about 1-2 hours south of one of the largest cities in Tennessee, Nashville.
Casey Hampton, fellow rider and ambassador for KTM, put this event on and has done so for several years perhaps since its start. Casey did a great job having several ride options available, fantastic routes, and multiple groups so the 160+ riders weren't running all over each other. While this ride was designed for both big bikes and small bikes alike, the overwhelming majority of bikes here were small bikes.. In fact, my BMW GSA, to my knowledge was the only one there. LOTS of KTM's, many Africa Twins, smaller BMW's, KLR's everywhere, and Super Tenere's rounded out the stable found at the ride. No matter what you rode however, you were welcome.
Honestly, as cold as it was when we all got there, I doubt we would have had any brand rivalry anyway as just huddling closer together be it in the restaurant or the 1 propane fire pit made us all instant friends. Let's just say it was uncommonly cool for April. For those who tent camped, the heat from coffee and gloves on hot engines were common sites and needs. Many of us were in RV's or motorhomes but there were also a large number who were tent camping. No matter what our sleeping arrangements, our desire to ride was the same. After all, the forecast didn't magically change right before we arrived so we knew what we were getting into.
It was raining when we got there on Friday and the temp was frigid hitting around 34 that evening maybe lower and as low as 29 Saturday night. The off and on rain most of Friday made riding difficult but for many not impossible. Casey had a night ride planned for Friday that would have been cool but the wet combined with the cold temps caused most of us to choose fireside chats as opposed to night riding.
Saturday, however, was a different story. Still cold and damp for sure with a bit of drizzle up into the morning but the excitement from a bunch of guys and gals ready to rip it up was overpowering the weather. We had about 5 groups head out at staggered times based on expected travel times to keep the 160+ bikes from cramping all over each other. For the most part it worked out very well.
There is one thing I can say as a big bike rider that the small bike riders love to ride fast! I can understand the excitement when beneath you is about 2-300 lbs vs 600 and power to weight ratio is off the chart.. But still running with these guys was a blast.. The sounds of the 10-15 engines all "Brapp-ing" (technical term) at once or going through creek crossings, facing different types of surfaces all led to be a spirited ride with lots of excitement along the way and at least in our group, no one dumped.
Probably the highlight of the ride at least that we got to take a picture of was the waterfall toward the end of the route. The whole area looked like you could see Frodo heading toward Mordor at any turn. It was a bit surreal. I wished that someone had been able to take a picture or better yet video of us all going through the creek for about 100yds as well as the crossing that just about swallowed my bike due to being loose gravel. It's clear I'm going to have to hook up my go pros again for future rides as i miss not having a way to record epic areas like that. Being out in touch with nature is really what adventuring is all about. At least part of it anyway.
After a long day of riding it was great to get back and enjoy a hot dinner from Fall Hollow Campground restaurant. I had the BBQ Ribs and they were amazing but many were eating the smoked meatloaf which I heard was fantastic as well.
Sunday ended up being short for me and likely a better riding day than Saturday was but I had to leave to go to another event where I was speaking in the afternoon. I'm told the Sunday route was great as well. To Casey Hampton and all the volunteers who made the spring rally possible, I thank you as I'm sure all the other attendees do as well. I look forward to seeing you at the fall rally!
Until then, ride on!
Every year off-road motorcycle enthusiasts from small cc dirt bikes to large big bore adventure bikes descend on a small town in East Tn named Telico Plains. This event has become known as the mother of dirt bike rallies as March Moto Madness is now a common theme in other cities and event countries around the world. Bottom line is, if you want to experience some of the best dirt, gravel, single track, off road experience around; March Moto is the place for you. Plan ahead however as there is no cell service in the area so you will find guys in really weird places from side of the road to the grocery store trying to check in when needed :).
This was my first experience at March Moto but I went with Tracy Henshaw who was a veteran MMM participant and even chose to participate in the infamous Trials event held on Saturday. This event is a difficult event but was made more so with the deluge of rain that came overnight prior and the light rain blessing the event during the trials. To say it was slippery is an understatement. While taking photos of the event I was slipping in my boots which said a lot for the guys running the course.
This is a first come first serve event where everyone comes with whatever resources they have as there aren't a ton provided although the updated instant heat showers were a welcomed site for the many who decided to tent camp while there. Others as well as myself brought our facilities with us in the form of motorhomes and fifth wheels. Did I mentioned it rained? Yep.. There was a certain amount of off-road mudding that some motorhomes and fifth wheels got to experience as well. Some faired well, others.. well, there were tractors available.
The evenings still crisp in East TN created a fantastic riding environment especially in the higher elevations. Off-road riding can work up a sweat so while it was chilly none of us were complaining. Thursday Tracy, Donovan, Mike, and myself set off for a ride after we got setup at camp and really got to get ourselves ready for the weekend ahead. Tracy was riding his Oil head GS (yep, the same one I crashed into about a month ago, now repaired), and Mike and Donovan were on their small bikes. We had a great time taking in about 50/50 dirt to pavement. We even took time to take in a few great sites including some brave kayakers (ice water, seriously!) as well as the beautiful Bald River Falls. Ended up on more pavement than we had hoped but it was a beautiful ride regardless.
Friday they were riding small bikes so I decided to join a big bike ride unknowing it was set for "easy". 35 bikes showed up making for nothing short of a complicated ride then adding off road and varying skill levels it was going to be an interesting day.. Well, not far into the trip a good friend Evandre also on a GSA was bopping to the left passing people in the line (I was stuck somewhere in the middle of the pack). This was news to me that passing was "ok" so I jumped behind him and followed suit. Didn't take long before he veered off and stopped. I pulled over to see what was wrong and he stated his throttle body was still acting up. He ultimately had to turn back. Drew, the sweeper (rider in back), came up along with Jason Hill and all the other bikes in the long train had long ago passed me while were were pulled over.. Drew, who works for Knoxville BMW and whom I met in Denver, CO in 2015 at the BMW dealer there (we didn't figure this out till the last day lol) said, let's head on and we will catch them..
The ride was on.. The three of us were good riders and so were moving at a pretty quick clip.. We continued this and I kept thinking, surely we are going to catch the gang any minute. Well, we never did. We didn't find out till we got back as to why. Apparently Drew's GPS was set for curvy roads (seems appropriate) although following a track so we missed where they were all sitting and waiting for us.. So, while thinking they were ahead of us or perhaps chose a different track, they were actually now behind us... Way behind..
The original track took us up to the Cherohola skyway via dirt/gravel road which has an elevation of around 4000 ft give or take. This led to some decision making by many because snow and ice was still all over the roads on the top area of this track. It was crisp and beautiful and I loved it. We helped a fellow GS who had a dead battery get going again and by the time we decided to head up the hill the ice was worsening. Some were turning around others were heading forward. I decided to push ahead as well. So glad I did!
At the top of this hill I accidentally joined up with those who decided to take the Cherokee Challenge led by Matt Kelly (GS Trophy qualifier and great rider to follow - smooth is fast). What a great route. We ultimately went all the way to Deals Gap, enjoy a ton of off road as well as on road and my odo for the day ended up around 200mi... Great day of riding. The guys on the Cherokee Challenge were all great and they kept a great spirited pace. We took the pictures as required to get the sticker to show you completed the challenge (remember I accidentally ended up on the challenge so although I took the pictures I never went back to get the sticker, oops). Regardless, it was a great day of riding and I met some new friends as well.
My hat's off to Hugomoto.com for producing an off-road capable Harley Motorcycle. The most impressive rider up the hill in my opinion was a GS rider who except for the final run made it up the hill I believe without ever taking his foot off the pegs. That was pretty impressive to watch. Regrettably I didn't have photos of either of those riders but I'm sure they are readily available in the typical circles.
Needless to say, the whole event was a success and I'm already looking forward to coming next year! Now? Well, now I'm getting ready for next weekend where I'll be at the Tennessee Dual Sport Southern Discovery which is shaping up to be a fantastic weekend as well. Hopefully will see you there! Until then, ride safe and ride often!
I was excited about the opportunity to meet up with some very good friends of mine, Simon and Lisa Thomas with www.2ridetheworld.com, to do a little work together and play in the beautiful Yucatan Peninsula. The goal was to get some videos made and take a few photographs as well. Mission accomplished.
Simon and Lisa were gracious enough to pick me up at the airport and take me south where they were staying. Now keep in mind, all they have are motorcycles which created a few additional things I needed to consider. 1. I needed a helmet and 2. my travel gear had to be motorcycle mount capable. No fancy suitcases on this run. So, I loaded up my Mosko Moto Back Country 40L (features hidden backpack straps that came in very handy), all my camera gear, an old helmet and motorcycle jacket and off I went.
Arriving in Cancun was without a hitch. I loaded my gear on Lisa's bike and myself on the back of Simon's.. I can't say I enjoy being a passenger as much as the rider and pretty sure Simon wasn't a fan of me being there either but we got the job done and soon were in X-Puha for the next few days of sun and fun and, ok, a bit of work.
Adventurist at heart, David Mays looks to inspire others to live their life with focus and purpose. Experience and expansion is why we are here.