It was a simple plan. Bruce would arrive on Friday. We would pack the bikes and then get up early on Saturday to collect Duncan. We would hit the road by 9AM intending to take a leisurely 550 mile ride to Deal's Gap. We would meet Josh somewhere on route 81 and then arrive at the Gap sometime in the middle of the day on Sunday so we could do a few runs.

Well, that was the plan.

Unfortunately, I've been having intermittent boughts of insomnia. I had been unable to sleep much either Wednesday or Thursday night and by Friday I was having trouble staying awake. So tired. I headed up to BWI to pick up Bruce who was flying in from Los Alamos to ride the guest bike. I understand the Innuit have something like 200 words for snow. I have a similar set for fatigue and pain. At this point, I was already stupid tired. Stupid tired, as the name implies, is when you're so tired that you're just stupid. Mixing being stupid tired and 550 miles on a motorcycle is a recipe for disaster.

We had dinner at the Outback, as is customary for a Friday, and then headed back to my house to pack the bikes and get everything ready. Because I had been so stupid tired the past few days I failed to get everything quite up to the standard I usually achieve. I wasn't able to wash the bikes or get the luggage set up, but Bruce took it all in stride. All in all everything went smoothly and we had the bikes packed pretty quickly.

I was convinced I'd be able to sleep given how stupid tired I was. It was not to be. After packing the bikes and getting everything ready we called it a night at midnight. By 2:30AM, I was still fully awake with a racing heart. I realized I wasn't going to fall asleep any time soon. There was just no way I was going to be safe on the road the next day so I made a command decision and sent out text messages to everyone to postpone the departure time to 12:30PM.

I finally managed to fall asleep around 5AM. Bruce didn't get the message and dutifully woke me up at 7:30 but I was able to fall back asleep fairly quickly. No harm no foul. I woke up again around 11. I was really tired but not in a dangerous way. We had intended to go to a diner for breakfast but it was crazy busy so we opted to head over to Duncan's house sans breakfast.

Duncan to his credit was pretty much ready to go. The weather forecast had changed. Exhibiting an abundance of experienced realism, Bruce put on his rainsuit but refused to do the mandatory Monkey Dance. I tried to catch it on video but it was not to be. He was entirely too dignified. Foiled once again!

I, of course, having my beloved Toxic Suit on, had no need to do the Monkey Dance and just watched. Shortly thereafter Duncan rolled out his packed bike and we were ready to leave. The sky threatened but we were unconcerned.

We asked a group who were out walking to take a quick photo of the three of us.

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Last year's Deal's Gap trip was the first time the three of us had ridden together in nearly two decades. Crazy. Both Bruce and Duncan are great guys and they are like brothers to me. Family. They are the two biggest reasons I am still standing. They were there through everything; through every last step of the nightmare from the beginning all the way to the end 17 years later. No matter what happened or how bad it got, they never faltered. They were always there. I shudder at the thought of what my life might have become had I not met these two guys. No one has friends as good as I do.

That they would take time out of their lives and away from their significant responsibilities to family and jobs to go on some crazy adventure with me is a privilege I do not take lightly. That their wives would cover for them to take care of kids and households on their own is something I also do not take lightly at all.

I remember last year Bruce saying early on, "This is a lot of fun. Maybe I can swing a trip like this again in 5 years". Later that week it was "well, maybe in two years". By the end of the trip he was saying, "I'll be back next year!".

Duncan's progression was similar. Tragically Duncan broke his wrist in a fall a few months ago and it had not been clear that he would be able to go until the very last moment. His wrist still hurt but it was healed. We agreed that if it bothered him we would take extra breaks or potentially even stop the trip if it got too bad.

He needed to be back on Saturday before noon. No problem. Plans updated. We would leave on Friday for the return trip to arrive home on Saturday before noon. Of course our track record with plans ...

So around 12:30 we texted Josh to say we were underway, stopped at a gas station and then headed out. We rode about 100 miles in the first sitting. Traffic wasn't too bad. And because we are hard core, we stopped at a starbucks near Front Royal.

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I was really tired and not feeling well at all. I texted Josh to let him know about our progress. Duncan did his mandatory silly stretches. You've heard of the Ministry of Silly Walks? Well, Duncan could be the Minister of Silly Stretches. We hung out at Starbucks for a bit pondering the changing weather forecast and headed on to Staunton where we had agreed to meet Josh.

Duncan and I met Josh last year prior to the last Deal's Gap trip at the Total Control course we took. After returning from Deadhorse, Josh and I took a short run down to the Gap in October. The original plan had been for a bunch of people to join us on this current trip. Unfortunately, things fell apart and almost everyone bailed. Doing a trip like this is a big deal and I can understand how life can get in the way.

After last years trips, we all agreed we needed more time down there. Unfortunately, Josh could only go for three days and needed to head back Wednesday.

We met Josh at a Shoney's. Josh rides a Yamaha FJR, a very big bike. It's his first. Josh has only been riding for two years and his riding is already on par with guys like us who have been riding for decades. Nuts. When mixing people who have never met one has to be careful. I'm very cautious about who I travel with. Styles matter. But I was convinced everyone would get along on this trip and as it turned out everyone got along wonderfully.

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I was hungry having not had any breakfast. So I ordered myself an omelette times 2. They had a list of ingredients you could add. Not wanting to think I just asked them to add it all. Epic Omelette!

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The cook came out to confirm that this is actually what I wanted. "Ain't never made an omelette that big before". The waittress, who was kind of cute, started teasing me about how there was no way I could finish it. "You do not know this man", Duncan told her. A few minutes later the omelette was gone and I was no longer quite as hungry.

At some point we started discussing what we were going to do, joking about the late start I had caused.

"So if we had a plan, what would it be?" Bruce asked. This became a refrain for the remainder of the trip. "Not that I suggest we should have a plan, but, you know, if we had one, what might it be?" Josh would joke.

We talked to the waittress for a while and listened to her tell stories involving too much alcohol and her ability to drink guys many times her weight under the table. It was all pretty funny. Eventually we decided the time had come to be gone.

"Do you think I should put on my rainsuit?" Josh asked.

"Yes", I replied.

A couple hours later when the rain started pouring down we stopped under a bridge for the rainsuit Monkey Dance.

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I like this photo.

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We rode for some hours well into the night. I had targeted Wytheville as a place to get a hotel. At a stop sometime before Wytheville Josh asked, "Do you think I can do without the electric vest?".

"No. I think you should put it on now." I replied.

A few hours later when it got cold, just pulled ahead and stopped at a gas station which was only something like 30 miles from Wytheville.

"I'm freezing. I'm going to put on the vest." he stated as if having discovered a new truth in the universe.

"Do you think we should get gas now?" Bruce asked.

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So we got gas and Josh donned his electric vest and we were on our way to Wytheville. The rain was really coming down pretty hard in places. It had been a nasty ride. The intent was to find a hotel with a hottub which we found but we arrived too late. The hotel staff was really nice and let us park our bikes in the handicapped spot partially under the awning.

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There was an Applebees about a quarter mile away so we decided to stroll over there. I was exhausted and feeling worse but the walk did me some good. The service there was terrible and it took forever. It was the same Applebees that Ian and I had eaten at some years earlier on a previous Deal's Gap trip.

I actually managed to sleep but only fitfully. The phone rang far too early. It was Josh telling me I had 50 minutes to get up and out before checkout time. We packed up our gear and rolled the bikes over to a Waffle House where I had the customary omelette and terrible coffee. We still had several hours of riding to go and things take a lot longer with a group of 4 than it does with 3 or 2. It's just the nature of motorcycle travel.

We rode south along 81. At one point we came across a swath of incredible devastation. A huge tornado had cut through trees and shattered buildings. I've seen images of this kind of damage before but never seen it up close like this to this degree. If I had been on my own I would have done a panic stop on the side of the road to take photos but with three guys following there was just no way. Route 81 has a huge amount of traffic on it and there's no way to make a stop like that safely. So I passed it up. Awesome devastation. Trees snapped halfway up like twigs. One house completely smashed, the one right next to it unphased. Frightening.

We came upon Knoxville and took the exit for 129. It had been some years since I had ridden out this way and I had forgotten what kind of establishments were along the road. I had thought there were a bunch of restaurants but didn't see any after more miles than I remembered. Josh and I both attempted to use our lying GPS's to find a place to eat and that then turned into an hour plus wild goose chase, our bitch GPS's lying to us repeatedly. Eventually, we found our way back to downtown Knoxville and found a grill where we could sit outside. We got parking a ways down the street just out of visual range. I pull my tank bag, grabbed my helmet and walked over to the restaurant to secure a table.

It was a surprisingly nice restaurant with a view down the street to the bikes.

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The waiter was nice enough to take a photo of the four of us.

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As we sat there we pondered how far South we were. What kind of people inhabit these parts? Are there perhaps any warning signs around us that we should pay attention to? Then Josh pointed out a disturbing sign:

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No lunch is complete without a trip to starbucks. We headed to one to get our last cup of good coffee for a while.

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This was a recurring theme. "I don't think it'll rain." Duncan would say. Josh would ask, "Do you think I should put on my rainsuit?". Bruce, ready to go helment and rainsuit on would sit patiently. I had given up attempting to give sage advice and merely looked in their direction and then at the sky. Josh got the hint and started putting his rainsuit on. Duncan followed suit with a few issues having to do with the order of things. You put the earplugs in first, then put on the helment then the gloves. It's amazing how many permutations and combinations of these three steps result in "Dangit! I forgot to ...".

Bruce waited patiently. I declared that I was revoking the democracy and it would now be a dictatorship with me as dictator. "King", one of them replied.

Route 129 out to Deal's Gap is a wonderful road. Sharp corners across a very lush and green countryside punctuated by stands of trees followed by open fields. It's a beautiful road, that is once you get to the two lane portion. The four lane portion sucks and the left hand where route 411 and 129 diverge sneaks up on you.

"If you're going to be King, Yermo, we require two things", Josh stated. "You must navigate without missing major turns, like let's say, the road we have ridden all this way to ride". I have forgotten what the second condition was.

It is good to be King.

The sun was setting as we headed into Deal's Gap, also known as the Dragon. Despite not feeling well, fatigue from not sleeping and a fully loaded bike, running the Gap was fun. The new suspension I have set up on my Blue Bike makes it a different beast. They said it would be better. They failed to tell me that it would completely change the bike. That was fun.

We arrived just after 7PM and got to our "apartment" suite, #2. The neighbors were friendly.

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They were pulling our chain about riding BMW's. There was some comment about electric vests. "You should see his espresso maker." one of my crew replied. That got a good laugh.

We unpacked the bikes and got settled into our apartment suite. The Deal's Gap Motorcycle Resort is basically a motel with a gas station, fast food grill, campground and souvenier shop. Everything is geared towards motorcyclists. You park your bikes right in front of the room. There are benches outside so you can watch the mayhem unfolding in the parking lot. It has the added benefit that you immediately get to know your neighbors. They call it a resort because of the liquor laws in that county. A resort has to have a tennis court or swimming pool and then it's allowed to serve alcohol. So the Deals' Gap Motorcycle Resort has two unused tennis courts hidden somewhere.

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Despite being wet, tired, and ill, I got on my machine and ran through the 11 miles out and 11 miles back through 636 challenging turns. Awesome. When I got back, Bruce handed me a shot of scotch and we stayed up fairly late talking. The rain had started again so there would be no fire in the firepit that evening. The accommodations are spartan but I like them. Cinderblock walls, cots, metal racks. What's not to like? It does kind of resemble what I imagine prison is like.

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I couldn't sleep again and spent the evening in significant pain. Something I had eaten the previous day really disagreed with me. Monday is largely a blur to me. I was worthless tired. Bruce, Duncan and Josh headed out for a ride to Maryville. Given how I was feeling I opted to stay behind. It started raining in earnest again just after they left. I got a few cups of coffee and sat on the bench and watched the rain for most of the day.

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In the background is the Tree of Shame. "No Gain and a lot of Pain". The tradition is to take any parts that have broken off your bike when you wreck and put them up on the tree. Everyone commented on how much it had expanded since the last time we were here.

I started feeling much worse. I was grateful for having a bathroom at my disposal. Unpleasant times. But it always seems like I suffer when I travel.

I decided to walk around for a while thinking that maybe it would help me feel better. I snapped a few photos and I strolled around. This is what the resort looks like. The beginning on the Deal's Gap Run is on the left and leads up the hill.

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Motorcycle Mecca. It doesn't matter. Right is very good. Left isn't bad either.

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I walked back and sat on the bench watching the goings on. After a while I noticed a sight I had not seen before. Another BMW K100RS rolled down the hill. I looked over and decided to be social. The rider's name was Joel.

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Joel had been travelling with his dad, John, on a multi-week tour down the East Coast. Both of them rode 8V K100RS's. Awesome. As luck would have it they were staying in the room next to ours. I talked to them for a while about the modest improvements I've made to my bike. They were both particularly interested in the laminar lip I had installed on the fairing which significantly reduces buffeting. On my bike, BMW really did not do a very good job engineering the fairing. We affectionately call it the "turbulence generator". The buffeting is so bad that before finding out about the laminar lip, thanks to Duncan, I was considering getting rid of the bike.

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We talked about suspensions and the Total Control course. We talked about the Gap and how to ride it safely. What impressed me about Joel was his interest in learning. He was cautious and interested and fundamentally not reckless. His dad would disagree but seemed really pleased that someone was there willing to take some time with his son. Personally, I got a real kick out of sharing what little I know with him. He really seemed to gain from it and it turned what had been a miserable day for me into one I'll remember in a positive light for a long time.

After some discussion, Joel asked if I could lead him through the Gap. He wanted to follow my lines. I touched base with his dad assuring him that I would not push his son in any way to ride beyond his ability. The Dragon, as Deals' Gap is called, can be a very dangerous road if not approached in the right way. There are 318 corners many of which decreasing radius multi-axis turns. Often, turns are hidden and seem to appear out of nowhere. You think you're doing a 30mph turn when suddenly it arcs sharply to the right and up a hill turning into a 10mph corner. To some degree to have to memorize the road. You also want to be very careful who you ride with. A very common way to crash on the Gap is trying to keep up with someone who is a better rider. It's easy to get caught up in appearances. If that old BMW guy riding that ancient machine can do it, I should be able to do it on my modern sport bike. Not necessarily. More importantly, it's not a given that another bike of the same make and model will be able to run the Dragon the same way. There's always that chance that there are hidden modifications. Joel rides an older K100RS. It has skinnier tires and his suspension was in dire need of some upgrades. My bike had fresh sticky tires and a completely redone suspension and brake system. Given comparable riders, my bike will run circles around the old K100.

So when you lead someone through the Dragon you need to assess their riding skill and comfort and adjust accordingly. Similarly if you follow someone and they are going faster than you feel comfortable with you slow down. Don't try to keep up. My group is really good about this. There's no ego involved. We're all here to learn, improve our riding and have some fun while doing it.

In many ways when you lead someone through the Dragon or even if you have a passenger on your bike, at that moment you are no longer riding for yourself. You're riding for the other person. In the case of a passenger it's very similar. There's some skill involved in being a good passenger. The bike leans and the body position of the passenger affects cornering. There's a ramp up time for someone who's never been on a bike before to get comfortable. I always try to introduce people gradually and carefully. Be cautious about getting on a bike with someone who doesn't take you into account. More often than not, especially for women, some guy will try to scare them. I hate that.

So I started out very slowly trying to get a feel for how Joel rode. As it turned out, he was a much more tentative rider than I expected. Almost too cautious. So we went through the entire gap mostly well under the speed limit. I had never run through the gap that slowly before and I found it quite tiring to keep looking in my rear view to make certain he was ok. I would stop every so many corners and touch base with him to see how he was doing. I'd give him pointers and critique his riding. He listened and attempted to apply everything I suggested. It was impressive how much he improved just running out and back again once. Interestingly, I found going through the gap like that beneficial as well. I found myself thinking about what an acquaintance had said she had been told. "Riding a bike is like playing an instrument. First you make sure you can play each note. Then you focus on putting them together, playing them faster and making music". Taking each corner slowly and focusing on my line, mostly to demonstrate how to enter the exit the corner to Joel, was great practice. I think it contributed to why I can run the Dragon much faster now. I'll do that again the next time I'm down there.

Bruce, Duncan and Josh returned. It had been pouring rain. They had run out to Maryville, about an hour away, gotten something to eat and bought some critical supplies.

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The rains continued and we put an end to riding. It let us slightly later in the evening so I put some effort into building, what I considered at the time given the conditions, an impressive fire in the firepit. Hanging out around the firepit at night represent some of my best memories at the Gap. There are almost always interesting people to talk to from a variety of backgrounds.

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Duncan had met Chad, on the left, who was in the other apartment room and rode an Aprilla. The running joke was, "Hey Chad, want to ride an R1100S? I could follow you on the Aprilla". Yea, he didn't buy it either. I didn't get a good photo of Josh's Dad, John. He's sitting on my left. I thought it was really impressive that he spent so much time with his son on a trip like this. He had recently gotten back into riding after a long hiatus. A good guy. I liked him.

We shared some of our booze with them. They said they were going to leave the next day. We tried our best to get them to stay and even offered to let them join us in the "Apartment Suite".

Bruce lost his "hoody", whatever that is, and was relegated to wearing his silly hat. I have gotten to spend far too little time with Bruce these last many years. Since Duncan's gotten his new job I don't seem him much either. It was very good to spend this time with my friends. My life is much better with my friends.

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I've told many that my friends are virtually as polite as I am. Even when we're on our own and no one is there to listen, we so very rarely tell any off color joke or make any off color comments on any topic, especially when it comes to women. No one believes this, but it's true.

However, adding Josh into the mix added a "refreshing" level of wrongness, sometimes extreme wrongness that would get me to cringe.

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Why is it that everyone enjoys buggin me so much?

Of course, we soon realized someone, Bruce, was taking pictures so we had to put on a serious front to keep up appearances.

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When Josh is there topics go in directions that they don't normally. I think Bruce and Duncan have both long since given up on me in terms of relationships. They've seen first hand how miserable every single relationship I've been in has made me. I get too caught up in obligation, I guess. Then again I haven't been in a relationship "post-nightmare". Maybe things would be different. But they seem to understand that it's probably better this way. As is my lot in life, those precious few women that I could probably be happy with I can't be with for one reason or another. As Zathras from the Babylon 5 series said, "Is very sad life, will probably have very sad death, but at least there is symetry."

It's funny. I had always thought I would get all kinds of pressure from women, but it's actually been my male friends who are far more concerned that I'm single. Come to think of it, I get more comments from my male friends than I do even from my mom. Every now and then I'll get the "It's your own stupid fault you're alone." to which I respond, "You didn't do so well with son-in-laws. You sure you want a daughter-in-law?". That pretty much ends that discussion.

I think at some level it really bothers Josh that I'm single. I think it bothers him even more than I turn down so many offers. It seems to offend him at some existential level. So of course, he has all kinds of "constructive" advice. Add a little alcohol in the mix and they all started ganging up on me. It was all very funny in a cringing sort of way. Luckily for me, there are mercifully few women at the Deal's Gap resort and the few that are there are married.

The next day, Tuesday, the rain let us a bit and the Dragon started drying out. I offered to take Joel through again and shoot from video of his riding with the GoPro Hero cam I have. The Dragon is one hell of a twisty challenging road.

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Joel said that me leading helped him judge his entry and exit points since he did not know the road all that well yet. He continued to improve. John thought it was really cool that I got video of him. I offered to do the same for him but he said he wanted me to spend time with his son. "He's getting a lot out of it and I would just detract from that." he said. Instead, he headed off to run some errands.

It turned out that Joel's dream bike is the BMW R1100S. Coincidentally, that happens to be, as we all know, the guest bike. I checked with Bruce and then offered to let Joel give it a try. Since he was a relatively new and tentative rider, I asked him to ride it up and back in the parking lot first so he could get somewhat of a feel for the bike.

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I then led him through the gap.

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He was even more tentative on the 'S than he was on his bike. The 'S can run circles around the K100RS, even mine. It's a beast. It took me a bit to realize what the issue was. "Are you concerned about dropping the bike?" I asked. He confirmed my suspicion. "Listen, the intent is for you to have some fun. If you are over-cautious it's even more dangerous. You won't drop it, but if you do it's my responsibility. I'm the one letting you ride the bike. If you drop it I'll fix it. No worries. ok?". He started having a bit more fun on it after that.

I spent a couple hours with Joel going out and back. It was fun but I was starting to feel the need to push it a little bit. Josh's riding has really come along. He offered to mount his camera to his bike. He picked up his own GoPro. I followed him through the Gap at a decent clip. The video never looks as impressive as it feels but I did manage to put up a few in this forum thread.

The most challenging thing about riding a motorcycle is cornering. The bike leans. The suspension and drive train get all squirrelly. There's a lack of confidence in tire traction. You feel like you're going so much faster than you actually are. You feel like you're so much closer to the limits of traction than you are. There's a careful dance between body position, throttle position, braking, counter steering, picking an appropriate entry and exit points. Negotiating the corner apex. A very common accident is to come into a corner too fast and then panic. Either you hit the rear brake which does next to nothing, or you grab the front brake and crash, or you go wide and run out of the corner when the correct answer is to just lean the bike over more and take the corner harder. If you haven't practiced this time and time again, chances are in a panic situation you'll screw up. Deal's Gap presents an opportunity to practice worst case cornering over and over and over again. It's an awesome education and any rider who approaches this road seriously and applies some cornering discipline will become a much better safer rider as a result.

It completely changed me as a motorcyclist. As a matter of fact I have a few friends and acquaintances who are talking about getting into riding. I hope to talk them into going to Deal's Gap after they have some mileage under their collective belts and after they've taken Total Control.

For some reason I didn't take many photos Tuesday. We went down to Fontana Resort for dinner. It's a wonderful 11 mile ride down route 28, known as HellBender. We saw Josh's piglet on the side of the road again.

Since the rain had stopped I had planned on building another good fire but by the time we got back one had been built.

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I was a little intimidated by the wastefulness of this awesome fire. They had /filled/ the pit with wood and created a fire so intense we had to stand outside the outer ring. It was drizzling but the water wasn't making it to the ground anywhere near the fire. That evening I met James, the Mississipi push boat captain. We got to talking about the gap. I think he saw me ride and had asked if he could follow me. "I want to see your lines." he said. This was strange since he rode a Super Motard which is basically a dirt bike with street tires and suspension. They are the fastest bikes through the Gap.

"Ok, but just pass me if I go too slow." I replied.

Very late that evening we retired to our "suite". This is what stupid tired looks like.

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I managed to sleep. I slept really well. Finally.

Unfortunately, it was the end of Joshs trip. He got up at 6AM and headed out. We were all sorry to see him go.

When I woke I felt better than I had in weeks. The healing effects of motorcycle travel, I tell you what. I did a run out to the overlook early. While there I saw an Suzuki SV650 and a Bandit take off. The SV650 is a very competent bike and should be able to run the Gap pretty well. I wanted to follow someone fast so I got on my bike and chased them.

Unfortunately, the Bandit rider was a noob. Interestingly, I found following him for a while really educational. After a while, to realize what you're doing right you should watch someone do it wrong. His lines were all wrong as was where he was looking and how his body was positioned. He didn't let me pass but eventually I found an opening and went for it. After a bit I caught up to the SV650 rider who was much faster and was leaning off well. The faster corners he was taking correctly but to my surprise the short sharp corners he was slowing down way too much. I followed him for a while but was starting to get distracted by the fact that on the short corners I kept getting too close to his rear tire. This happens when you look through a corner ahead of the rider in front of you.

So I decided to pass him. After I hit my horn he let me by. Off I went. He stayed behind me for most of the Gap except in the tight corners. I don't run the straight sections that quickly preferring the more technical cornering sections. Old man needs his rest, after all.

I rolled up to the suite and he followed me. His name was Tyler.

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"Damn", he said or something similar. James the pushboat captain showed up on his motard shortly afterwards and we went through the Gap again. "Can I tag along?" Tyler asked. "Sure." I replied. So we went through and by the time we got back the compliments started flying.

"You know, we used to rag on you old guys on your Beemers. I tell you what, not any more. Damn, you can lean that thing over. You could have dragged knee in places if you wanted to." James exclaimed.

I mentioned this all, jokingly, to Josh at some point some after the trip. "I didn't think I'd keep up with a Motard". We got into a discussion about brands and posuers. These guys weren't. They were relatively new riders but they took it seriously. Nothing Poseur about them. But in many cases down there you see the guys dressed in full race leathers on the super sport bikes that can't ride worth a damn. They buy bikes and gear inappropriate for their skill level.

When I started futzing with my suspension I went through some similar thoughts. It this just BS? Sure the suspension is beat but maybe I should just rebuild it to "stock" instead of trying to improve it. I've always believed in buying less competent equipment and then outgrowing it. It's much more difficult to ride a BMW K100RS through Dragon than a Super Motard or a sport bike. But I learn alot doing it. I have to be much smoother. I have to pay so much more attention. It's difficult.

But I had not considered that improving my equipment might actually allow me to learn something new. I would not have imagined that I would learn to become a better rider by improving my suspension. But I have. Even Duncan, Bruce and Josh commented on it. And I'm having significantly more fun as a result.

Joel and John left. We were unable to convince them to stay. They ended up riding the Blue Ridge. I heard from Joel recently. He said his time with me gave him the tools and confidence to really enjoy the Blue Ridge with alot less tension. I took it as a huge compliment.

Ego so huge now ... intolerable really.

For Ian's benefit, I figured I'd comment on the couple of old guys who took the room next to us who had Ducatis.

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We decided to spent the day hanging out at the most challenging corner on the Dragon, the Gravity Cavity. James the pushboat captain showed up and offered to take some photos. So Bruce and I decided to see if we could improve our negotiation of this corner by repeatedly going through it. It's actually a beautiful spot.

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And so we gave it a try.

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Bruce on Duncan's K1300S.

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Duncan shot some video of us using his Flip Camera. I'll have to do something with the video at some point but don't yet actually know anything about video editing.

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That evening there was another fire. A guy was playing "Ring of Fire" on his harley stereo at the time when a huge flame fired out of the pit. Gasoline. Unfortunately the wood was so wet it could hardly burn. I worked on it for some time and slowly got the wood dried out. The guys once again said anything less than overkill was not enough so the pickup truck got loaded up with firewood and the pit was once again filled.

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Eventually it caught and we had another good fire.

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The next day the weather was beautiful. We met Doug who was travelling across country from California. He was a video effects designer for major motion pictures. The last one he worked on was an animated film for Disney called Mothers for Mars or some such. Duncan and Bruce wanted to ride the Skyway. Doug joined us. He's a good guy and very disciplined rider who has clearly done a lot of miles.

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Bruce had been talking about R1200GS's for some time but had never ridden one. "Hey Doug, how would you like to ride an R1100S up here?" I asked with a wry smile on my face. "Sure!" he replied.

So Bruce got to ride Doug's R1200GS.

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And he liked it. We joked about getting him one.

The skyway is beautiful with incredible vistas.

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Because of the nice weather it seemed like every bike was at the Gap. It was just too busy.

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We went back to the Gravity Cavity to watch the mayhem.

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And then to the overlook.

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There's a reservoir. For the first time we saw a boat.

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In motorcycling there's this concept of a "wanker strip". It's the strip of unused traction surface on the side of your tires. The larger the "wanker" or "chicken" strip, the less you lean the bike over. I regularly have leaned my bike so that there's virtually no wanker strip on the back tire. But I have never, in all the years I've been riding, had that happen to the front.

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At this point I've spent most of my day writing and I'm running out of time. There are too many other stories and events to describe. There were the guys who had disassembled a bike with a broken frame.

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"What was it?" I asked. "A CR500", the guy replied. "What will it be?" I asked. "A CR500 before I go to bed. The frame had broken. He was replacing the frame. I didn't believe he could get it done.

I was mistaken. Impressive.

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The details are fading. The stories dissipating. It's now Tuesday. We got back late Friday night. We did the whole run from Deal's Gap back to Duncan's house in one day. 550 miles. Because we took breaks and didn't push ourselves too hard it was surprisingly easy.

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Here's to next year. I'll have the bikes ready.

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