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Road Trippin' to DC

Written by  May 31, 2015

Back in March, my good friend Stan contacted me to let me know that he and his long time ridding buddy Jeff were planning a motorcycle trip out to Washington, DC, down the Blue Ridge Parkway to the Tail of the Dragon, and back through Nashville and Memphis. Since they would be riding through Kansas City, I invited him and Jeff to stay with us like they did last year, when heading they were heading to the Natchez Trace Parkway.

Last year, Stan invited me to ride with them, but unfortunately I was unable to get away. He asked if I wanted to ride with them this year, and after checking my calendar, I was surprised that I didn’t have anything pressing, so I thought “What the hell!” Although I had little to no desire to ever visit Washington, DC, the lure of the Blue Ridge Parkway and riding the Tail of the Dragon was too much to pass up. I’d never been to Nashville; however, I’ve always loved partying on Beale Street in Memphis, and the BBQ at Rendezvous was something I’d never pass up. Needless to say, I jumped at the chance. In retrospect, I have to admit that visiting all the sights in DC was very cool.

Early Thursday morning, May 14, Stan headed east from Fredrick, Colorado, and later that afternoon, Jeff headed north from Hollister, Missouri. Stripe, my good friend and riding buddy was at our place to help go through and pick out the photos from our June 2015 cover shoot, and before long, Jeff arrived. Around 5 p.m., Stan pulled into our driveway after a long and boring 576 mile ride across Kansas. After unloading their bikes and cleaning the road grime off, we all piled into the Suburban and headed to Jack Stack BBQ – Freight House, which is Stan and Jeff’s favorite BBQ place in Kansas City. We were met there by Danny and Amanda, and Miles and Lauri, who are also good friends and riding buddies. After a wonderful meal, we waddled to the car and drove home to get a good night’s sleep.

On Friday morning, May 15, we fired up the bikes and hit I-70 east about 7:30 a.m. After stopping for breakfast in Columbia, Missouri, we rode on to St. Louis. Stan had never visited the St. Louis Arch, so we had lunch downtown and did our best to make our way to the arch; however, to our dismay, all the streets to the Arch were closed due to construction, so we hit the highway and continued east.

Soon after crossing into Illinois, road construction brought us to a screeching halt. As it turns out, the morons in charge of the Illinois Highway Department thought it would be a good idea to shut down both the east and westbound lanes at the same time, and try to funnel everyone through one lane almost the entire width of the state. After turning our bikes off and sitting for what seemed like a couple hours, we practically walked our bikes through the entire state. We knew the liberal communist state of Illinois sucked, due to their ridiculous laws, but we had no idea they were also illiterate in highway construction. The only good thing about Illinois is they have no helmet law, so thankfully I was able to remove my skid lid as we idled through their pathetic state.

After finally making our way through that mess, we rode on through Indiana, and after 495 miles we pulled into Jerry Baker’s driveway in Ludlow Falls, Ohio, which is a small town just northwest of Dayton. Stan had been introduced to Jerry on Facebook through a mutual friend, so this was the first time they had actually met in person. My only wish was that Jerry wasn’t a serial killer, and as it turns out, he’s a fellow biker, and is one of the nicest guys you could ever meet. Jerry welcomed us into his home, gave us a place to sleep, and even drove us to dinner at his favorite hangout; Skipper’s Tavern, which is owned by Skip Corello. We found an open table, and Jerry introduced us to Traci Bragg, who manages the place. I ordered the buffalo wings, which were great, and Jerry suggested we try one of their Peach Long Island Ice Teas. I’ve never been particularly fond of Long Island Ice Tea, because I usually wake up the next morning with no memory of what took place the night before, but I figured, “What the hell!” I have to tell you, this was one of the best drinks I’ve ever had, and after three or four of them, I decided this was my new drink for this summer. After an awesome dinner and drinks, we piled back into Jerry’s car and made our way back to his house to get some rest.

I woke up early Saturday morning, May 16, and couldn’t remember anything from the previous night (just kidding). After packing up the bikes, we headed out, and were almost immediately hit by a light rain. Great! After making our way back to I-70, we continued on east. While making our way through Pennsylvania, Jeff noticed my headlight was out. As it turns out, my high beam was out, but my low beam was still working. Since we had another thousand plus miles to ride, I figured I’d probably better stop at the next Harley-Davidson dealership to get a new headlight. Highland Harley-Davidson in Somerset, Pennsylvania was the closest dealership, and they were able to get me in an out in less than 30 minutes. Thanks guys!

After grabbing a coffee at Starbucks (I hate Starbucks and their overpriced coffee) to help warm us up from the cold rain (I accidentlly ordered a frappuccino off the menu, which made shiver even more...damn you Starbucks!), we got back on I-70 and continued east. After a brief detour through the liberal communist state of Maryland so Stan could check that state off his motorcycle travel checklist, and it was then on to Lorton, Virginia. Jeff’s sister-in-law Laurel and brother-in-law Billy had invited us to stay with them while we were in the DC area, and welcomed us into their home like family. Technically, I guess Jeff is family, but they also made Stan and I feel right at home.

On Sunday morning, May 17, Billy, Laurel, and their son Andy gave us a short tour of Fort Belvoir where Billy is stationed, and then drove us on into DC to check out all the sights. After finding a place to park in an underground parking lot in a somewhat highly secure building near the monuments (they actually opened the back door of the SUV and looked through our cooler...or maybe they were just thirsty), we found a place to park in what felt like a subbasement. We went up the elevator and walked a few blocks to the Washington Monument, which was quite impressive. From there, we walked to the National WWII Memorial, and then on to the Korean War Veterans Memorial, which was also very cool. From there, we visited the Lincoln Memorial, Vietnam Veterans Memorial, and made our way to the back of the White House. By this time my feet were killing me because I’d chosen to wear a pair of flip-flops, which turned out to be a horrible choice of footwear. Stan really wanted to see the front of the Whitehouse, so I sucked it up and hobbled a few more blocks to the front, which is the view you always see on TV. I have to admit, it was pretty cool seeing the White House, and it would be even cooler if we could somehow fumigate it and get Obama and all the other Liberal cockroaches out of there. Sorry…I had to throw that in there…LOL.

No sooner had we finished gawking at the big white building with tall fences and high security, all the tourists were asked to immediately vacate the area. We’re still not sure why, but one of the security guards told us “Just move along…there’s nothing to see here!” This obviously means, there’s definitely something to see there, but we moved along like all the other sheep. About half way back to the car it started raining, so as it turns out, our timing was perfect! After hobbling a few more blocks (I was ready to start crawling), we arrive back at the building where we’d parked our car. That’s when the fun really began, as we found out we had to go through a metal detector in the lobby in order to reenter the building so we could take the elevator down to our car. As it turns out, Jeff had a small pocket knife on him, so the security guards wouldn’t let him enter. So while the rest of us passed through the metal detector like the good little unarmed bikers that we are, suspected terrorist Jeff had to exit the building and walk a couple blocks to the garage exit so we could pick our criminal buddy up outside. I mean if someone want's to be a threat, all they have to do is climb over the fence like everyone else, and run right on into the White House while all the secret service members are busy chasing hookers. Although this was completely ridiculous and quite frustrating for Jeff, it did earn him a new nickname, “Blade.” So for the remainder of the trip, Jeff was respectrfully referred to as Blade. From there, we drove to dinner at Virtue Feed & Grain in Alexandria, Virginia. It was a really neat place, but their food and service was mediocre. We then drove home for a good night’s rest.

On Monday morning, May 18, we said our goodbyes to our wonderful hosts, and headed south, where after paying a $15 entry fee, we hopped on Skyline Drive, which is a scenic 109-mile road that runs the entire length of the National Park Service's Shenandoah National Park in the Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia. After stopping for lunch at Skyland Lodge in Luray, Virginia, we continued down Skyline Drive, which turns into the Blue Ridge Parkway. After riding a few hours, it started getting late, when we came upon a place called Peaks of Otter Lodge in Bedford, Virginia. Stan and I both laughed, because our good riding buddies Kevin and Bonnie are big otter fans. We figured it must be destiny, as we booked a room and unloaded the bikes. After eating dinner in the lodge, we hung out in the bar for a while, and I borrowed a deck of cards from the front desk. After a few games of 31, and giving all my money to Stan and Blade, we went back to our room to get some shuteye.

On Tuesday morning, May 19, we got up, packed our bikes, and continued on down the Blue Ridge Parkway. We stopped for lunch at Mabry Mill Restaurant in Meadows of Dan, Virginia (not sure who Dan was, but he must have been a pretty memorable guy with a nice meadow). From there we made our way on down the parkway to Big Lynn Lodge in Spruce Pine, North Carolina where we rented a couple cabins for the night. After grabbing dinner in the restaurant, we grabbed a couple beers and decided to play some 31 in the lounge area. Around 8:30 p.m., the owner came over, introduced himself, and said he had an event he needed to attend, and that we were welcome to stay if we’d be kind enough to turn off all the lights before leaving. It was really cool how nice he was to trust his place to three bikers, so after a few more games of cards (I finally won a couple games), we turned off the lights and walked back to our cabins for a good night’s rest.  

On Wednesday morning, May 20, we had breakfast at the lodge, checked out, and continued on down the parkway. After stopping for lunch at Maggie Valley Restaurant, we finally arrived at Deal’s Gap, which is the starting point of the Tail of the Dragon. As many of you already know, the Tail of the Dragon is a known for having “318 curves in 11 miles.” I’d heard a lot about this place, have published articles about it from some of our photojournalists, but I’d never been there before. After checking out the Tree of Shame, which is a large tree in the parking lot with lots of motorcycle parts hanging from it that were recovered from the hundreds of riders who apparently hadn’t survived the dragon. Although I feel that I’m a good rider, it does make you a bit apprehensive looking at all the parts, and knowing there are several people killed each year on this stretch of road.

After swallowing the lump in my throat, we climbed onto our bikes and headed up the dragon. I was too busy braking, leaning and counter steering to count; however, l’m confident we rode through at least 318 curves as advertised. Throughout the entire route, I continuously dragged my pipes when leaning to the right, and dragged my footboard when leaning to the left. It’s a pretty scary noise; however, I’ve done it enough over the years while riding through the mountains in Sturgis, that it really doesn’t bother me that much anymore. After “slaying the dragon,” we pulled into US 129 Harley-Davison in Tallassee, Tennessee, where I purchased a quart of oil and bought a couple souvenirs for Nichole and Skylar. In retrospect, I thought the "Dragon" was actually pretty tame. I mean the turns weren't near as sharp as I'd expected, and to be honest, the curves on Needle's Highway in the Black Hills are much more challenging, but it was still fun! We then made our way back to the main highway and rode the remainder of the day to a Hampton Inn in Crossville, Tennessee. No sooner did we check in that it started raining. What timing! After unloading the bikes, we walked a couple hundred yards through the rain to the Cancun Mexican Restaurant, where we had a nice dinner and a couple well deserved pitchers of margaritas. We then staggered (just kidding...kind of) our way back through the rain to our hotel for the night, but not before playing a few more games of 31 and giving even more of my hard-earned money to these bastards I thought were my friends. LOL.

On Thursday morning, May 21, we woke up, took advantage of the continental breakfast in the lobby, and before we could get our bikes loaded, it started to rain. Crap! We weren’t thrilled about taking off in the rain; however, we fueled up, put on our raingear, and hit the road. I immdiately realized that I'd selected the wrong pair of gloves for the ride. I had a nice heavy pair of gauntlet gloves in my T-Bag, but once you're rolling, you just have to stick it out. Brrrr!!! The temperature was in the 50s, so we froze our asses off as we made our way to Nashville, where we stopped for lunch at a place called Puckett’s Restaurant, which Stan and “Blade” had eaten at before. After filling our tummies and warming up with some coffee (not frappuccino), we got back on the highway and made our way to Memphis. We pulled into the Courtyard Marriott, where Stan and Blade have stayed before, and parked near the valet parking area. Blade tipped the valet guy to let us leave our bikes there overnight, and we hauled all our crap into the elevator and made our way up to our rooms. After cleaning up a bit, we walked to Charlie Vergos' Rendezvous, which in my opinion is one of the best BBQ places in the world. I’ve been to Memphis several times, and always make it a point to eat there when I’m in town. From there, we walked over to Beale Street, which is the hub and nightlife part of Memphis. While walking past the Peabody Hotel, we noticed a big sign inviting people to their Thursday Rooftop Party. We thought, “What the hell,” so we got in the elevator and rode her to the top of the hotel. It just so happened that a great 80s band called “The Molly Ringwalds” was playing that night. As it turns out, they were from Sheffield, England, and put on an amazing show! And what made it even more entertaining is that the all the band members were dressed up as famous celebrities. The lead singer looked like Pee Wee Herman, the guitar players were dressed up like Devo and Dee Snyder from Twisted Sister, the drummer was dressed up like the karate kid, and the keyboard player resembled Adam Ant. Each member of the band took turns singing and they also took turns playing all the different instruments. Needless to say, we decided that we’d found our hangout for the night. When the band took a break, we left the hotel and made our way to Beale Street, which was really dead. I’m sure it was because it was a week night, because ever other time I’d been there, you could barely walk down the street. We checked out BB Kings, the Rum Boogie Café, and stopped for photos at the Blues City Band Box, which had a marquee over the front door that read “RIP BB King You Will Be Missed.” As you know, BB King, the King of Blues, died in Las Vegas on May 14 at the age of 89. We then made our way back to the rooftop of the Peabody Hotel, and after listening to the band’s last set, we made our way back to the hotel for the night, but not after losing more money to the gambling bastards.

On Friday morning, May 22, we left Memphis, and headed northwest through Arkansas. We eventually made our way to Springfield, Missouri, where we stopped at Bass Pro Shops to eat lunch at Hemmingway’s Restaurant, and so Stan could do some shopping. After lunch, we said our goodbyes, and Blade headed south toward Branson, while Stan and I headed north. We made our way through Clinton, Harrisonville, Warrensburg, and Lee’s Summit, and arrived at my house around 6 p.m. According the my odometer, I’d racked up 2,781 miles on our 8 day trip. After unwinding a bit, we got in my Suburban and drove to our favorite Mexican restaurant for dinner. We then drove back to the house and passed out.

On Saturday morning, May 23, Stan and I got up early so he could pack his bike for the long and boring trip back across Kansas. I whipped up some eggs and bacon, and after breakfast, we said our goodbyes as Stan headed off down the street. Stan kept checking in with me as he made his way across the flattest state in the country, and ran into some nasty weather as he got to western Kansas. After battling the rain, he’d finally had enough, and decided to spend the night in Stratton, Colorado, wherever, the hell that is.

On Sunday morning, May 24, Stan continued on west, and arrived home around 1 p.m. that afternoon after logging 4,152 miles on his 11 journey.

What a ride!

Photos by Mike Schweder, Stan, and Blade.

Mike Schweder

Editor-in-Chief - Kansas City, MO

Mike is the original founder of Cycle Connections Online Motorcycle Magazine and an avid motorcycle enthusiast. He has been riding for over 40 years, belongs to several local and national motorcycle organizations and travels to numerous rallies and events throughout the US each year. Mike has been a writer and editor for many years and has a passion for sharing his motorcycling experiences and stories with you. Contact Mike at