Friday, August 20, 2010

Carolina on my mind

This will undoubtedly be my longest post to date. I have let a lot of time pass since my last blog post so I have much to talk about.
I have returned to visit my "roots". Well, some of them anyway ;)
I grew up in Asheville, NC and by "growing up", I am referring to my teen age years and a few more beyond that. As you can imagine North Carolina has a place in my heart and many of my closest friends and relatives live in the state.

So, after leaving my oldest sister, Beth, and her daughters in Florida, I made a "B" line for Asheville. My destination would be the home of Ivan and Melissa. Interestingly enough, I met them in Michigan and not in NC :) But they live there now and kindly offered me a nice comfy room to live in while I visited the area. I was interested to see the improvements that they had made to their home since i left Asheville in 2003, and to see Ivan's new motorcycle service shop, Motorrad Unlimited. My Multistrada was due for a major service from all of the miles accrued during my adventure and I hoped that I could convince him to help me get it taken care of. Turns out, he was happy to help and we knocked it out together. What at first seemed like a daunting job turned out to be pretty easy and actually fun!

Before arriving in Asheville, I realized that money was getting tight. When I left Oregon I had determined that I would need to cut and run if my baking account was reduced to a certain level. It was very close now. I needed to make a decision of trying to find some work or calling it quits and heading home... more on that later.

Ivan's shop was really cool! It is very well organized and set up similarly to how I would do it if I were in the position of owning an independent moto shop. I ended up spending a lot of time there. Mostly due to the fact that I begged Ivan to let me work for him in exchange for a few dollars ;) Many of my friends came to visit there since it is located in a central part of the city. Even my other sister, Aimee, came by.
Eventually, we tore into my motorcycle, replacing Ducati specified parts and checked valve clearances and stuff. I was glad to have Ivan's experience in doing the technical "stuff". There is no way that I would have done that on my own. In the end the bike was more snappy and running like a top.

After "working" during the day, nighttime was playtime and I got to hang out with lots of my old buddies! YAY!
Shelby and I were pretty tight in high school, well actually, more so after high school but the past is a little blurry... ;) Interestingly enough, our 20 year class reunion took place one weekend while I was in town. So naturally Shelby and I went together. It was cool seeing people that I hadn't in very long time.
Dave was the person responsible for helping me take my interest in motorcycles to the next level.
And although he doesn't live in Asheville, Brad was one of the "boys" back in the day. Definitely worth driving to Winston-Salem to see him. Good times!

Kenny is another important person from my past. He is from North Carolina but we didn't meet there. Kenny and I met in Atlanta back in the late '90s and those were some damn good times! He has done well for himself, both in career and in love. I truly respect this man. I drove to Apex, NC to visit him and his family and even though I only stayed with him for one night, it was great to catch up.

As I spent more and more time in Asheville I began to get comfortable with it. I mean, much has changed but a lot has not. It was easy to slip into a grove. I enjoyed going to work with Ivan every day. We started a pattern of getting up early, going to the shop, dealing with "stuff", going to lunch and then when the day was done... beer-thirty :)
I know it sounds great, right? Well, something was missing... I really wanted to pedal. Then one day a miracle happened! One of Ivan's customers came in and Ivan asked him if he had any loaner bikes at his workplace... It turns out that this guy is the owner of Cane Creek Bicycling Components!!! :D and yes, he did have a mountain bike that he was willing to let me borrow. Ivan and I drove out to his office at the Cane Creek facility, which just happens to be right around the corner from the house that I grew up in (SWEET!!!) but it's brown now instead of blue. Brad, the Cane Creek owner, ended up loaning me his personal bike. That thing was fricking AWESOME!!! We started riding just about every day. Man, it was great to be out there again. I didn't realize how much I needed it :) Happy Days.

So.., now for the confession...
My Ducati peeps are gona flip over this! Remember me saying that cash was getting low? And that I had to service my Multistrada?
Well.., when I went to the dealership to pick up parts for my Ducati, another motorcycle caught my eye. Doh! And it was a BMW. It seemed like it would be a good runner for this trip but low enough in value where I could come out with some cash in my pocket.
...and I did just that :)
Ryan and Scott at Touring Sport BMW/Ducati were a pleasure to deal with and got me on the road with my new toy. If you live in the South and are thinking of buying a new bike, I'd go see them!
I'm now the owner of a '96 BMW 1100GS. It is waaaaaayyyyy different from the Multistrada but seems to be perfect for what I'm doing. Being that it is an "older" model, Ivan and I thought it best to go through the whole bike and also give it a major servicing before I left Asheville.

Now it's ready to go!!!

I rode out to Eastern NC to visit my sister and some relatives. This was the maiden voyage and all went well :)
It was good to see my family!

Sunday, July 25, 2010


New Orleans was fun but it was time to move on and I had some more family to check in with! I was now on my way to Florida and hoped to make it all the way to Orlando in one day. I chose to stick to the highways and pin the throttle...
It was amazingly hot and humid in the Southern states. I passed through Mississippi and Alabama on my way and it seemed to just get hotter and hotter the further I rode.
It rained many times and not just light rain but big booming thunderstorms that drenched me. Lightening flashed all around making me want to ride faster to get it over with. I was thankful for cooler temperatures but these conditions were certainly less than ideal.
I made it to my sister's house around 9 or 10pm. I was definitely ready to get off the bike after more than twelve hours.

I ended up spending a couple of days with my sister, Beth and my two nieces, Kelsie and Hannah. I enjoyed seeing them again. As usual I was the goofy uncle that kept them laughing.

Florida was fun but hot, which seemed to be the constant. My next stop will be my hometown of Asheville, NC and I'm hoping for some cooler weather. At this point I decided not to visit friends in Atlanta in fear of more dreadful weather. Asheville is in the Smokey Mountains and maybe I'll find some relief there :)

Sunday, July 18, 2010

New Orleans, Day 2...

After some shut-eye on Max's couch it was time to get up and see more of the city. Max hooked me up with a SWEET ride! Yes, they are the local Vespa dealers as well. Check the seat :)

Breakfast is my most favorite meal of the day. There is nothing better than starting off on the right foot. I was given a great suggestion and had a superb bananas foster french toast breakie. After that I went to the World War II museum, another excellent suggestion from Max, and spent a few hours looking through the exhibits. Scary times. I can't imagine being part of that piece of history.

There were many interesting things to see in the Big Easy...

After all of the walking around and sight seeing I went back to check in with the guys at Ducati New Orleans. Zach was hosting a Bike Night get together for his shop staff, customers and friends. The meet up was a really nice restaurant owned by some of his friends. We spent most of the night there talking bikes and life... ;) Many drinks were toasted.
All in all, my visit to New Orleans was definitely worth the stop. I can't give enough thanks to Zach and Max for their hospitality. If you are ever in New Orleans stop by The Transportation Revolution and tell them that Ray sent ya!

New Orleans!!!

I left Texas early in the morning and hit the "slab". I decided that since I would be passing so closely to New Orleans, I would certainly need to stop. I crossed a really long bridge, Basin Bridge, over miles of swamp.

I intended to make my first stop at The Transportation Revolution - the local Ducati dealership to check it out and to see the owners, brothers Zach and Max Materne. I arrived at their shop just before closing and walked into a celebration of sorts... It was the anniversary of the dealership as well as the birthdays of the owners' Mother and lead Technician, Guy! They were planning a few activities for the evening and I was invited :)

Actually, Zach wouldn't be joining because he had plans to take his wife to a concert for the evening. We went to the French Quarter for dinner and drinks. I had the best $3 Margaritas with mini lime slices at "felipe's", a great spot.

While we were hanging out at felipe's I was introduced to a guy, and fellow motorcyclist... who I found out later is a famous trumpet player, Irvin Mayfield. As the night went on, Max and I did a little bar hopping and sight seeing through the Quarter. It was great to be in such a famous place and have a local take me to his haunts!

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

These things were crawling all over miles of HWY 87 in Texas today. In fact they moved so fast that I was able to notice that most of the hundreds that I saw were headed from left to right, or in a Southernish direction... Weird! I only counted five going the other way. Hmmm... Texas is HOT by the way and I haven't even received the added benefit of humidity yet :(

I continued on through Texas with some road advice from good friends. This time advice came from Ivan and "Sprinkle" - Dave. I traveled Southeast in a general direction towards Austin. I had recently been to that city with work and certainly wouldn't mind seeing it again. Sprinkle had suggested a specific road, HWY 16, which ended up being the best ride in Texas during my trip. I had planned to camp again somewhere around Austin but it was too hot! I ended up sleeping at a hotel about 100 miles West of Houston. I planned to get up early and make a run for New Orleans.

Monday, July 12, 2010

"Heat Lightning" near campground in Big Spring, TX

I found a UFO crash site!