2016 Triumph Dragon Raid: Round Trip to Deal’s Gap

Normally I’d say that the trip down and trip back to the Dragon Raid are distinct events, however this year’s commute to and from the Raid was one of the most challenging motorcycle trips I’ve taken.DCIM114GOPRO Obviously this was no excursion to Alaska or the Mohave Desert; however it seems reasonable to say that I encountered several of the top “what if’s” that folks should plan for on a motorcycle vacation. Obviously I’ve made this trip before, however this time it was on a bike I was less familiar with, and with a different group of riders. The Scrambler in its current form offered a bit less long distance comfort than its Speedmaster brethren; also, unbeknownst to me, the obviously small headlight of the Scrambler was impressively less effective than that of the Speedmaster, as I discovered at (nearly) the worst time.

 

Aside from having a freshly melted hole in my Firstgear pants (damn those high pipes… but I still love them), I was dressed for the weather, and despite the colder morning air, we were making good time down to the river for the first stop.motoadvr_ky36roadside US-68 doesn’t possess a significant amount of curves until the last few miles toward Ripley (OH), so I admit I was actually getting chilly and a bit bored on the first leg. Fortunately, once across the river, and after a beverage, we were finally getting into the hills of Kentucky where the landscape better suits my taste. Headed down KY-36 (just like last year), not three miles south of I-64 one of the gentlemen who was tagging along, unintentionally left the roadway. Fortunately, he was uninjured, however his entire clutch lever snapped clean off the bars during the ordeal. There we were, on the roadside in rural Kentucky, with no spare parts, waiting on a tow truck… for three hours…

 

While I do pride myself on having a decent tool kit, this lesson certainly taught me a few things:

  • Always remember that most (Non-Harley) motorcycle shops are closed on Sunday.
  • I need to add a good set of needle-nose vice grips to the tool kit (even though they wouldn’t have helped in this case).
  • Having a contingency for a truck and/or trailer less than 150 miles from home is priceless.
  • I packed a surprisingly small amount of food and water for this day trip.
  • Maybe a spare clutch lever isn’t out of the question?
  • Eating Subway with good friends on the roadside of rural America is actually really awesome.

 

Back on the road, only two hours behind after eating  (literally) on the roadside (that saved an hour), we finally got into the fun stuff as we approached Red River Gorge.DCIM114GOPRO Having been there the week prior, I was glad I knew the general road conditions considering very recent events. That said, once inside the gorge it was actually “yours truly” that was on deck for a mishap. Crossing the bridge over the Red River on KY-77 we began passing a string of cars headed the other direction. As I approached a blind, low speed, left hander, I was suddenly confronted with an out of control car that was barreling around the corner and literally screeching into my lane. Practicing some emergency braking maneuvers I narrowly escaped a collision; one of my riding mates said that had there been saddle bags involved, it would have been a different story.

 

We stopped for gas just through the gorge, and after my blood pressure descended to a reasonable level, we were finally on to what I expected to be the quietest leg of the journey. Naturally just as I assumed we were going to make up time in the rural southern sections of KY-11, we inadvertently found ourselves stuck behind a parade of motorcycles being held up by a trike. This occurrence actually foreshadowed similar events later in the week.

 

DCIM114GOPRO

From KY-11 is was onto US-25E where things picked up some as the roadway opened to four lanes. From 25E we were on to I-40 through the gorge, and then on to the Appalachian Highway (US-74) just as the sun was setting. As I mentioned, the headlight on the Speedmaster was a little lacking, the Scrambler’s lamp is absolutely helpless. After 50 minutes of searching to find the lanes in the dark through the hills of North Carolina, we finally arrived unscathed at the Iron Horse.

 

 

While the return trip was not nearly as eventful as the trip down, we received a healthy dowsing from Mother Nature for good measure.DCIM116GOPRO On an overcast morning we started back north on the same route, only to be met with rain showers near Tazewell (TN) on US-25E. For about four hours we pushed through the deluge until just south of Red River Gorge where the roadway finally began to dry out. After making up time on dry roadways, there were a few more pop up showers waiting for us between the river and Dayton. Finally, just as I reached the south Dayton suburbs, the last bit of light faded in the sky and I finished the last twenty miles or so in the dark.

 

Despite having treated my Firstgear kit with Nikwax prior to the trip, enough “frog stranglers” wrestled their way through gaps to the point where I was sufficiently wetter than I expected. I’m not sure if it was the seating position change on the Scrambler, or if I’ve finally started to wear out the waterproof properties of the gear, needless to say as I’m writing this now, I’m looking into getting this corrected.

In the end, it was still a fantastic trip, but the long commutes were definitely a good lesson in proper planning, the right gear, a healthy tool kit, and it always pays off to get an early start.

Back to the 2016 Triumph Dragon Raid

 

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11 Responses to 2016 Triumph Dragon Raid: Round Trip to Deal’s Gap

  1. Pingback: Triumph Dragon Raid 2016: Preview | Moto Adventurer

  2. Those are some hairy times, a vehicle over the double yellow. I can’t believe you were in Tazewell and you didn’t do back of the Dragon: https://canadianinvasion.wordpress.com/2015/08/11/day-2-trifecta/

    • MotoADVR says:

      A whole week at Deal’s Gap, multiple runs across the Cherohala, the Hellbender, etc. and most vehicles were behaving themselves, but on the trip down, on a road I ride frequently some fool nearly takes me out. What are the odds? Anywho, yeah there are so many more roads on the way there I want to do, but it’s all about time. Next year I may leave early so I can take the longer long way there. Cheers!

  3. curvyroads says:

    Wow, glad you’re OK after that close call! You were in my neighborhood at the Ironhorse…we’ll, within a lunch run for sure!

    And FYI to the first commenter, though there is great riding around Tazewell, TN also, the Back of the Dragon runs from Marion to Tazewell, Virginia. We were in both Tazewells back in June and enjoyed fabulous roads. No, I haven’t blogged about it, yet. 🙂

    • MotoADVR says:

      Thanks, there were some trying moments on those travel days but it was still a great trip.
      I’m also looking forward to some riding in and around the Virginia Appalachian areas!

  4. Stephanie Smith says:

    Wow seems like most of the adventure was getting there and back! Didn’t realize it was so…uh, action packed? And here I thought a 30 minute stop on the hit hit highway on the way down was rough 🙂 Love the pics!

    • Stephanie Smith says:

      Hot hot, not hit.

    • MotoADVR says:

      LOL yeah. It was a very out of character experience. Usually the to and from is a leisurely trip, especially down. Not this year, and that set the pace for the whole week. Nothing went as planned. It was good seeing you and your husband again!

      • Stephanie Smith says:

        Yes it was good seeing you too! We have a buddy that just got a Street Triple R… so now there are 3 of us. We’ll have to get the other two down to the Dragon raid next year. Enjoy this awesome fall weather! I’m hoping to ride as long as I can this year!

      • MotoADVR says:

        New mods to the Scrambler forthcoming… a longer season indeed!

  5. Pingback: Triumph Scrambler Project: Stage 1 Upgrades | Moto Adventurer

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