By day six, I estimate that most folks, having been at the lodge since Sunday night, had probably hit the majority of their favorite destinations. Having already checked two items off my moto bucket list, and having nabbed low angle video of the Dragon, I myself, was good for just about anything by Saturday. After breakfast, my buddies Thom and Tom snagged me for a “cruiser pace” ride to… “somewhere”. If I recall Tom’s initial statement, I think he said he “had a few ideas” of where to go, if nothing else, I knew it would be entertaining.
Sun shining, we departed from the lodge headed down North Carolina 28 toward Franklin, similar to Thursday’s ride. That suited me just fine, considering that the road conditions on 28 were pretty sketchy Thursday, I hoped to do a better job keeping up on dry pavement. Passing through Franklin, we stayed on NC-28/US-64 headed toward Highlands, NC. I can’t say it enough, 28 is truly an underrated road down this way, the sharp curves cut into the mountain side, combined with the views along the Cullasaja River were truly stunning. Just short of Highlands we stopped at Bridal Veil Falls for a break and a few photos. I’ve seen photos of Bridal Veil Falls from past Dragon Raids on Facebook and whatnot, but seeing it in person is worth the stop. While I don’t think Bridal Veil is quite as scenic as Looking Glass Falls, it is another convenient waterfall destination is you’re looking for destinations on several of the “waterfall loops” down this way.
From Bridal Veil Falls we continued along US-64 into Cashiers for lunch at Carolina Smokehouse. Delicately putting the side-stand down in the gravel parking lot, looking over the restaurant’s rural exterior, I realized that I was on the verge of landing some delicious Carolina soul food. Reading the menu, I realized that the Carolina Smokehouse was featured on “Feasting on Asphalt” on the Food Network; another great example that you shouldn’t judge food potential by the looks of the building. At any rate, sitting on the deck, still in my riding jacket after the cold mountain air;
famished, I ordered the lunch portion of barbecue pork ribs. When the food arrived, I was in such haste for lunch that I, again, forgot to take a photo of the food. Thinking back on it now, I’m rapidly realizing that when things go “unplanned” I’m typically so busy enjoying the moment that I forget to snap a few photos (I’ll work on that…). In any case, the pork ribs, slathered in Carolina “Hot” barbecue sauce, were falling off the bone; just how I like it. The ribs also came with a thick, well buttered, piece of Texas toast and a side of coleslaw. Despite my love of barbecue, I’m still not a big fan of coleslaw, but I admit, I did at least try it. Considering the quality of the ribs, the Carolina Smokehouse is another worthy barbecue spot; however if you’re looking to try it, I recommend you act fast, it looks like they’re moving.
After some discussion around the table about other destinations, when asked, I offered my two cents about the conditions of Wayah Road; considering that the pavement would likely be dry, I too was interested in another run across that wiry mountain road. From Cashiers, we backtracked along US-64/NC-28 back into Franklin to pick up Wayah Road. For the most part, the pavement was pretty dry, but after traversing a few of the twisty curves, it was evident that the past day’s rain had washed considerable amounts of grass clippings and gravel into the roadway. Gravel is my mortal enemy on two wheels. For whatever reason, it really spooks me when the rear wheel skips sideways over a stone when riding on asphalt. That being said, I cut my pace pretty good after seeing a few shady patches of gravel, mid-apex, in a few of the turns. That aside, Wayah road still made for a good ride, and definitely solidified my need for mid-controls and an adventure bike (what better way to face your fear?).
Coming back across US-74 and NC-28 to the lodge, we came in a little early for the big Dragon Raid Saturday night party. As folks start rolling in on Saturday, they park their bikes in front of the main lodge building so we can get a big group photo. As previously mentioned, Killboy.com is an event sponsor; for the past two years, along with their cameras, Killboy has brought out their drone to take video of the lodge along with the big group photos. After the sun goes down, folks enjoy a big steak dinner from the lodge “Chuck Wagon Grill” (included in Dragon Raid registration fee); after which, a truck load of door prizes and raffle items are given away. Once T-shirts, riding jackets, helmets, Bluetooth communicators, and gift certificates (and more…) are raffled off, it was time for the main event, selecting the winner of the Raffle bike, this year was a 2007 Triumph Bonneville. The attending RAT pack crew has been sufficiently generous in past years that the Raffle Bike tradition has been able to live on year after year. Riding North Carolina’s finest roads keeps me coming back, but the thought of taking home a new bike is undoubtedly icing on the cake. Sadly, I didn’t win a new bike, but one lucky guy from Michigan did.
In the end, all of the money raised from raffle sales goes back to funding the next year’s Dragon Raid; including the purchase of more raffle items, the free adult beverages served on Friday and Saturday night, and a new raffle bike. Once the winning ticket was announced, closing statements were made about safety and thanks to all the sponsors and attendees; afterword folks partied on for their last night at the Raid. Headed back up the hill to my bunk, the task at hand was packing all my stuff for the long ride home the next morning.
0 Winning Raffle Bike Tickets
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