Unrally 2011

Each year, the some dedicated members of the BMW SportTouring.com web forum organize a gathering known as The Unrally. Previous Unrally locations have included Topaz Lake in Gardnerville, Nevada (2010), Lancaster, NH (2009) John Day, Oregon (2008), Fayetteville, West Virginia (2007), and more. The 2011 Unrally , aka Unrally X, was held at the Little Switzerland Inn in Little Switzerland, North Carolina on August 8-11, 2011.

Months ahead of time, I had made plans to attend and stay with fellow CCBMW Riders Club member Paul Winter. Unfortunately, due to a personal commitment, I was unable to join Paul at the Unrally until Tuesday, August 9th. I left around 7 a.m. and used my usual route up Highway 74 west, then taking a back road at Polkton that allows me to avoid the normal traffic backups in Monroe. After clearing Charlotte and reaching Shelby, I headed northwest on back roads to Marion, stopping there for lunch shortly after 12 noon. I managed to reached the Little Switzerland Inn shortly after 1 p.m. 

The Unrally's location on the Blue Ridge Parkway afforded some cooler, less humid weather compared to what we had recently been experiencing at the North Carolina coast. After checking in at the Switzerland Inn shortly after lunch, I decided to ride south approximately 20 miles on the Blue Ridge Parkway to Mount Mitchell.  After all, I needed my park picture for our BMW motorcycle club's NC State Parks Challenge Ride.

The temperatures at the mountain peak were a wonderful 68 degrees (compared to the 90 degree temperatures back in Wilmington that day), it was a clear day, and the views were fantastic.

Paul Winter and I finally met at the Switzerland Inn later that afternoon and attended the "free beer social" held before dinner time. (I missed the ice cream social held the prior evening.)

In advance of the Unrally, BMWSportTouring.com member Ken Insley prepared a GPS file and PDF document with a collection of suggested ride routes for the area. However, on Wednesday, rather than using the pre-arranged routes, Paul and I headed out on our own to explore some of the local road north and east of the Switzerland Inn area. We had a great day's ride, including a stop for lunch in Blowing Rock. Our ride included several great back roads. Unfortunately, I subsequently learned about a quirk of my Garmin Zumo that caused it to not record a track for the route we followed. Due to the size of the latest Garmin map sets,  my Zumo had almost no free memory left to store track files. A painful lesson to learn – especially since those roads were so much fun to ride!

That evening, CCBMW club members Jerry and Barb Dockery arrived and were able to join Paul and I for the big Unrally dinner.  There was barbecue, chicken, and all the fixings.

After dinner, it was time to sit back and watch the moon rise over the Smokey Mountains.

On Thursday, the Unrally ended and everyone began their trips home – some as far north as Canada and others west to Texas and beyond. Paul and I decided to extend our mountain stay a little longer. We headed south on the BRP down, made a quick run to the top of Mount Mitchell where we met and talked with the owner of a classic Honda CBX.

After Mount Mitchell, we headed south on the BRP through Asheville and the Pisgah National Forest area. In Sylva, we stopped for lunch at a great restaurant, Lulu's on the Main Cafe, before starting to ride back eastward. If you are passing through Sylva, I recommend you stop at Lulu's!

We then rode to Lake Toxaway, Old Hendersonville, Bat Cave and Lake Lure, and eventually stopped in Gastonia for the evening. We finished our trip home the following morning, stopping for breakfast in Whiteville.

All told, it was a great Unrally. Plans for the 2012 Unrally are already underway, so be sure to monitor the Unrally XI discussion on BMWSportTouring.com.

Spring 2011 Blue Ridge Rendezvous

From April 28th until May 1st, I attended the Blue Ridge Rendezvous with my friend and fellow BMW rider, Dick Williams. For the past few years, every Spring and Fall, several dedicated members of the BMWSportTouring.com web forum (Shawn and Matt) have organized a series events, known as the Blue Ridge Rendezvous or BRR, for of BMW motorcycle sport-touring enthusiasts. These BRRs have been held at hotels in various locations in the Blue Ridge Mountains. Some previous BRR locations have included Maggie Valley and Dillsboro, North Carolina and Cumberland Gap, Tennessee. These BRRs are the successor to another great event series also organized by the BMWSportTouring.com community, which were known by the name El Paseo.

The Spring 2011 BRR (aka BRR7) was held in a new location– the Holiday Inn Express in Pikeville, Kentucky. Pikeville was a great location for BRR7, and provided the participants with many new roads to ride and explore in southeastern Kentucky, western Virginia, northeastern Tennessee, and northwestern North Carolina. There appeared to be at least fifty participants for BRR7, including fellow Coastal Carolina BMW Riders Club members Becky Hucks and Paul Winter, who also attended.

Dick Williams and I rode from Wilmington to Pikeville, KY on Thursday (April 28th). The weather forecast for our trip was not good – rain was predicted.

Fortunately, Dick and I timed our departure from Wilmington well and were able to dodge the bands of showers moving through the central part of North Carolina. We avoided two different rain bands and only had to contend with a lot of road spray once we reached the Greensboro area, where we decided to stop for fuel.

By the time we reached Winston-Salem, the roads were drying and conditions began improving for the rest of the trip. While travelling northwest on US52, we stopped briefly to visit Pilot Mountain State Park.

As part of the trip to Pikeville, Dick Williams and I had made plans to visit the Burke's Garden area in Virginia. Dick Williams had previously seen this delightful location and really wanted me to see it also. Burke's Garden is a plateau valley that is completely surrounded by Garden Mountain. Surveyed in 1750, it became known for after James Burke  buried potato peelings which were discovered later by another group camping at the same site.

We rode through Burke's Garden until the road turned from paved to gravel. At that point, we decided to head out using the same way we came in. We pushed on toward Pikeville and arrived at the BRR7 host hotel around 5:15 p.m., concluding a great day's ride.

On Friday (April 29th), Becky Hucks, Paul Winter, Dick Williams, and I decided to head out together on a recommended ride known as the "BRR7 Loop 2." This was a 195 mile ride that explored the area west of Pikeville.

The loop included everything from tight, technical sections to open sweeping roads. Our ride stopped in Salyersville, Kentucky for lunch at the Kozy Korner diner, located directly across from the county courthouse.


Becky Hucks' BRR adventures started early -- she lost her BMW R1100S's muffler during the trip to Pikeville. When the muffler detached, it destroyed the license bracket plate on her bike. Everyone was teasing her throughout the weekend about her straight-piped BMW without a license plate. When we spotted the Kozy Korner café, we had to make a U-turn to park in spaces across from the front of the county courthouse. As Becky waited for traffic to allow her to U-turn, a sheriff's car pulled up behind her. Then the blue lights came on. Dick Williams and I were watching all this transpire in front of us and assumed the officer was preparing to pull her over for questioning about her missing license plate. To our amazement, he started his blue lights only to allow her to safely U-turn!

We enjoyed a good meal at the Kozy Korner and finished our trip back to Pikeville.

Along the way, we stopped briefly to visit the Middle Creek National Battlefield, site of the largest battle in Kentucky during the Civil War.

On Saturday (April 30th), Dick Williams and I headed out separately to ride what was known as "BRR7 Loop 7" – a 255 mile ride, while Paul and Becky struck out on their own to explore areas between Pikeville and the West Virginia border.

BRR7 Loop 7 included even more of the same kind of riding we enjoyed the day prior – numerous sections of sweeping high-speed bends combined with some tighter, technical sections ‑ plus a three mile of so stretch of "road" that became the subject of much discussion during the Saturday evening BBQ dinner. For the "road bikes" like R12RTs and K12GTs, this three mile section of the route was an opportunity to explore the GS-side of riding. This was an adventurous section of poorly paved country road which quickly turned into dirt and gravel. Fortunately, all the BRR riders who encountered this section of the loop reportedly were successfully in riding through this section without a dropped bike.

Saturday evening, we enjoyed a BRR tradition – the catered barbecue dinner with all the fixings. Beforehand, many of the BRR participants gathered in the parking lot to swap tales and talk with old friends.

At the end of the Saturday evening dinner, the current organizers, Matt and Shawn, announced they will no longer be organizing these events, but that another BMWSportTouring.com member, Ken Insley (aka Kinsley), has offered to step in and organize a new event starting Spring 2012. Many of us are looking forward to whatever Ken Insley has planned for us next year. Ken lives in the Atlanta, GA area and has an encyclopedic-like knowledge of the back roads throughout the Appalachian Mountain area.

Sunday morning (May 1st), Dick Williams and I decided to make an early departure for the trip home, hoping to avoid rain that was expected to move into the area that morning. Many others were trying to do the same. After a quick gas stop, we began the trip (and encountered some rain, of course). Other than some rain during the leg on I-81, the rest of the trip home was enjoyable and the weather improved throughout the day. By the time we arrived in Wilmington, around 4 p.m., the temperature was about 80 degrees.

All told, BRR7 was great finale to this event series. I will be anxiously watching the BMWSportTouring.com forums for the announcement of the successor to these BRR events. I know Ken Insley will provide us an outstanding replacement.

More photos from my trip to the Blue Ridge Rendezvous are posted to my Picasa BRR7 web album.