Last weekend I had the pleasure of announcing the AMA Vintage National Dirt Track Championship at Ashland, Ohio. This race is round 9 of the 13 round series and is an annual event as part of the AMA Vintage Days celebration at Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course. It is amazing to see and hear beautiful vintage motorcycles flat track racing on the beautiful pea gravel half mile race track at Ashland. The racing is great and the crowd is even greater! Having spent many years announcing motorcycle road racing and flat track on public address and television, I must say that I have never experienced a crowd as vibrant as the one at Ashland. This was my 5th time to announce that race on invitation of the American Motorcyclist Association. The bikes ranged from the 40’s, 50’s, 60’s, 70’s and 80’s. Hearing a Ducati 250 single cylinder ripping around that pea gravel track is amazing. There are many great riders and motorcycles and if you have an occasion to attend a Vintage National Dirt Track event do it!
The Road Less Traveled
Time constraints required that the ride from my home in Daytona Beach to Ashland, Ohio was an Interstate highway system affair. The NC700X was more than capable to handle the 75 to 80 miles per hour speeds and delivered 68 miles per gallon while doing it. The Corbin seat definitely was an improvement over the too soft stock seat. The windshield arrangement is a combination of the Puig (pooge) aftermarket NC specific shield and my garage made extension at the top. That setup worked better than I thought it might. 50% of the 2300 miles of this trip was ridden in the rain. The shield did an exceptional job for what it is but the quest for aerodynamic nirvana is still on. Cal Si and Parabellum are both possibilities as potential upgrades. More on that later.
During the Interstate ride to the North there were many temptations. Crossing the Blue Ridge Parkway and several other exits were tempting but time required I press on. On the return ride home those landmarks were screaming and I had to indulge. We were late completing the event Saturday evening at Ashland. It was 1:30am Sunday when I returned to the hotel in Mansfield. I took my time enjoying coffee and breakfast before departing about 10:30am for home. It was raining heavily when I pointed the NC700X Eastbound on Ohio 30 to join up with I-77 South. The rain was nice and I actually enjoyed the light to medium precipitation It was hot and humid so the moisture was very nice indeed. I have never had a problem riding in the rain. When I bought the bike three weeks ago the odometer was showing 7,100 miles. When I departed for Ashland the odo read 9,600 and the bike still had the original Bridgestone front tire and a Michelin Pilot Road 3 replacement on the rear. The front was showing it’s age. The new Dunlop Roadsmart 2’s had not arrived when I left so a worn front tire was the order of business on this journey. This stetch of road on Highway 30 is through the heart if the Amish country of Ohio. The rolling hillsides dotted with ultra neat and orderly farms and businesses owned by the Amish and Menonites. If this world has a more orderly people I don’t know where you would find them. I admire their simple approach to life. Their building construction principles as well as farm and gardening skills are admirable to say the least.
If you look down the driveway you can see four or five of the horse drawn buggies. Those guys could really use some Clearwater lights!
I left for Ashland on Thursday morning having spent much of the day Wednesday at V8R Performance in Daytona having a set of Clearwater Erica driving lamps installed. They were definitely worth their weight in gold on this trip.
Just Do It!
Sunday was an Interstate day. Traffic was light and the 700cc twin was humming along nicely with a nice tailwind for the first half of the day. Fuel economy was consistently in the 70mph range at 80 mph average. Spectacular by any standards for an upright adventure touring motorcycle with ample power to accomplish any task. When I pulled out of my hotel Monday morning the idea of Interstate touring did not have enough appeal to keep my off the two lanes. It had to be done! The entire day was enjoyed in the Appalachian Mountains! There are two highways that I wish to share with you in hopes that when you find yourself in that area you will enjoy them too.
Charleston, West Virginia is the capital of the state. It resides peacefully along the Ohio River and the Capital building is a must see. From Charleston East to White Sulpher Springs on Highway 60 is one of the two roads I wish to share with you. It is a ribbon of highway that follows along the river and railroad tracks all the way. The radius of the turns is absolute perfection with many first and second gear corners as well as some higher speed short stretches. This sweet stretch of roads rises and falls while twisting left and right with numerous switchbacks that feel as if they were made for the NC700X. The only issue to be dealt with was the well worn front Bridgestone. It worked surprisingly well but had to show some restraint in the twisties during the intermittent rain showers. Never did it show a tendency to push but I certainly did restrain myself on corner entrances because of the well worn rain sipes. That only made me more excited to get back home and have the Dunlop Roadsmart 2’s installed. Dunlops extensive Superbike experience pays dividends. They utilize many types of tire technologies developed on the racetrack with these tires. Without a doubt they are my favorite sport touring tires. The profile makes initial turn in easy as well as mid-corner changes that are sometimes required with gravel on the inside of the corners plus rocks and the occasional oncoming vehicle who got in a little hot and were slightly over the center line. Sportbike tire technology combined with the long wearing compound make them ideal for the conditions I was in but I will have to enjoy the delayed gratification and take a run back back to the mountains after they are installed. There are many beautiful parts to this stretch of highway with river views and the natural mountain terrain. If the situation warrants, feel free to check out the Hawks Nest Lodge State Park for an overnight stay. Every room has an amazing view of the river that has to be seen to be fully appreciated and the average room rate is about $40 per night even during peak season!
Upon arrival in White Sulphur Springs I had a decision to make regarding my path of travel South. Highway 311 runs North/South and was calling my name. It was late in the day and the sun was getting low in the sky so I was aware that riding a two lane road that has two mountain passes in darkness is not the best idea. So…I did it anyway. The first mountain pass was in low light but it was fading fast. In the cooler temps of the higher elevations I was less concerned about the deer population but still keeping a watchful eye never the less. Dropping down from the first pass into the warmer temps was a different story. If there are lots of deer, they are almost always in the lower elevations that time of day. Sure enough as I topped a fairly fast rise in the road Mom and baby were standing on the double yellow. It was not a panic stop but a nice little quick stop as they walked off the highway. Time for the Clearwater Erica driving lamps to earn their keep!
Instant daylight! During the next 10 or 12 miles of highway in the lower country there were many deer. They were grazing alongside in the ditch banks and on occasion running across the road. As the elevation began to rise I saw no more deer but it was full on darkness now and the road ahead was unbelievably illuminated by the Erica’s. I’m so grateful for them. They do not have a pattern but rather are a huge round light beam covering both sides of the road and the trees above the highway. 311 is a racetrack especially in the darkness. Living in Florida takes it’s toll on a rider because of the limited amount of turns and switchbacks so I am a slightly out of practice but it returns quickly. Slow in fast out and hitting the proper marks quickly developed into a rhythm. I am seriously glad that I chose this route. Arriving at I-81 I observed a sign near the on ramp that arrowed West to Salem, Virginia. From studying the map I knew it was only a few miles so Westbound on I-81 it is! A few miles later and an exit appeared marked with numerous hotels on the sign and as it was about 9:30 it was time for a shower, some dinner and a glass of red wine to reflect on the weekend and especially the day. As I pulled in and parked under the canopy at the hotel a bolt of lightning flashed and it was close. Checking the radar on my phone it was obvious the storm was upon me. Crazy thing is I had no idea there was any weather in the area. After checking in it was determined there was no food in the hotel so a quick trip up the street for some take out was in order. As soon as I parked for the night under the portico the skies opened up and the storm was full on. Nice. Tuesday would be an Interstate day to Daytona Beach and thats cool. Today was a great day on two wheels.
The Honda NC700X will not replace our Harley-Davidson Electra Glide Classic. (gotta love the name of that bike right?). It will definitely be parked alongside in the garage, however, for some time to come. The Harley would have actually been a good choice on this trip especially with all the Interstate miles and even in the twisties they are big fun if you respect that it is 851 pounds. They are a big girl that knows how to dance! 🙂
While I was at Ashland I met Paul Pellend. He is an Iron Butt competitor who has been diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis. Today his quest is to ride a million miles and document the miles while speaking to various groups about long distance riding and living with MS. He has raised over $60,000 for the MS cause along the way. You can read all about his quest at http://www.longhaulpaul.com. I invited him to come on my radio show to share his stories from the road and he accepted. We did this show this past Wednesday night and for me it was entertaining, informative and enlightening. Please take an hour to listen to his stories. I feel sure you will learn much and be inspired. We are giving away a FREE set of Dunlop tires every month via Talking Motorcycles with Barry Boone radio show and entering is easy by design. In this episode I tell you how to enter!
Till next time.