Beyond the Corn

After being on the road for five days and having done close to 1500 miles, this long-distance- overnight-tour-rookie felt quite relieved arriving in Asheville Sunday late afternoon. “The National at last. This is it, this is what it’s all been about; riding, tech sessions, meeting people, having fun and some more sleep than in the past 5 days.” All but the sleep came true: I had a ‘nice’ ride, I did do a tech session, I met a lot of people (each one nicer than the other) and I had a lot of fun which didn’t give me the amount of sleep I thought I’d get.

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Enjoying a break somewhere on the Blue Ridge Parkway

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The ‘Brad Pack’ welcomed by OtP slave laborer Ted Adcock  

I’ve never been to a bike event like this before and didn’t know what to expect except for the riding, tech session and banquet. The first impression when entering the atrium was overwhelming “this is big”. Hey I’m from the
Netherlands we’re a small country with small hotels, so for me the atrium was big. It got even better when signing in; a nice red shirted crew gave us all the information available which made me dazzle; lot’s of riding, the tech sessions, rafting, exploring the countryside and more. 

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Plenty of things to see and do  

I concentrated on getting a shower, eating a proper meal and making it to our rooms. My first action of the national would be to join the lot at the dealer’s for coffee and donuts and get me a water pump for the bike the next morning.  

That Monday morning became almost a full Monday at the dealer’s. No sweat, the whole Brad-pack - the group Hans and I joined a couple of days ago to ride down the BRP with from CT to
Asheville - went to see if we could get to the Biltmore estate. Bummer, you had to pay even to get to the house and because it was already late we settled for local Biltmore, had a nice lunch and planned the rest of the week. That plan was quite simple but pleasant, Tuesday the Dragon, Wednesday the Biltmore Estate and the banquet and some more riding on Thursday. Later that afternoon we picked up the bike (water pump fixed, she ran wonderful again) and prepared ourselves to next day’s meeting with the Dragon.  

Boy you Americans love an early start. Not that I’m not used to start early (being a father of three I know a lot about rise and shine at six am), but here I was stuck with people who wanted to leave the parking lot at seven thirty sharp. Nevertheless I still got in (too) late and rushed myself down to get a decent breakfast at Waffle House, because I wouldn’t get to eat anything until eleven or twelve – European metabolism is somewhat different than the American I have found. It took some time to adjust, but by then I could manage.  

Jim Clark from NY led the Brad-pack plus Scott (also from NY and who, by the way, rides a beautiful A1 painted in two tone dark blue/silver) off the parking lot to Deals Gap. We had a beautiful ride up the mountains where we got caught in a fog so dense we left the back road and took the highway so as not to loose too much time – after the Dragon we also wanted to do the Cherohala parkway. Again after again a beautiful ride we came to Deals Gap.

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On the road to the Dragon  

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After the ride…  

Hans and myself were given the honour to lead the first ride up the Dragon. Well, what can I say than that it’s something else. It went fine until halfway up where I had to brake before a curve and braked too much and I went down. It was my maiden crash so to speak and I was pretty much shaken up afterwards. I can only say that the group I was riding with was the best that ever happened to me. After the group made sure I was OK, all but Hans and Jim went to the next stop to avoid more accidents. Jim put me at ease and warned oncoming bikes to slow down. Hans made sure I took my time to come to my senses and I was deeply touched by the way he calmed me, assured me, ‘picked me up’ and rode me down the Gap. Much more happened that day; we rode the Dragon twice, found unexpected wildlife in the bike and did the Cherohala parkway, but it all went by in a haze and I was glad to arrive safely at the hotel.

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Even mice love a Connie  

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Along the Cherohala highway

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Bodo Wolters and Hans Dresler at work  

Wednesday morning we had a change of plans. No Biltmore estate for Hans and me, but working on the bikes instead. After the crash my bike ran bad, mostly on three cylinders. Hans’s bike didn’t run well too and we thought a carb clean was necessary. We didn’t mind at all, this promised to be an easy relaxing day. And luckily that’s how it turned out. We fixed my bike and with the help of Bodo Wolters did our own tech session.

  Bodo was going to do an extra session on changing clutch and brake fluid but was so kind to alter that in to a ‘carb clean’ session. So I got my tech session after all, and boy I enjoyed it – we had lots of laughs and even found more proof of wildlife, this time in Hans’s bike.

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Daan trying to get credits for Russel Flemings hard work  

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COG National 2003 ‘Mountain Do’ attendees  

We were ready just in time for the rally picture and if you look close enough you may see our dirty hands. After that it was time for a shower and the banquet.

Those who have been there know how that went. For those who weren’t: things were going pretty smooth with all the awards and door prizes until Guy Young came and did his thing. It started out oh so kind until he reached in a towel he brought with him and took out ‘The Corn’. The crowd went ‘aaahhhh’ and ‘ohhhhh’ and cheered so by then I knew something was going terribly wrong and we were about to suffer big time. Guy called us to the stage where he gently put us at ease with two beautiful shirts from Murph’s and just when I thought, “this is going OK”; enter ‘The Corn’. Guy already explained it was made to an old family recipe which among other things involved distilling it three times – ohhhh no. He took a sip and passed the jar from which we were supposed to take a sip too. Now, I must admit I couldn’t resist the temptation of showing off at that point – we ain’t no whimps down in Euroland, y’see – and gulped instead of sipped.

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Guy offering the Corn  

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Daan taking a ‘sip’  

To my astonishment and fright, Hans gulped even more, but I couldn’t believe my eyes when Ted emptied the jar. I thought, “he’s going down, he has to be carried out”, but I didn’t count on his Texan spirit. So he stood and remained standing… unbelievable. After that, well after that I did a speech and had a wonderful time until early in the morning with good Kentucky Bourbon and a nice cigar talking to a lot of the nicest people from the nicest club I know.  

Needless to say morning came a bit early for me that Thursday. Nevertheless, Hans Ted and I had the honour to be given a Tour d’Asheville by no other than Calvin and Linda Underwood. It was quite unexpected but I wouldn’t want to have missed it.
Asheville is a nice town in a wonderful area, with beautiful buildings from the beginning of the previous century. Thanks to the clean air, forests, mountains and scenery, it has always been the place where the rich and famous have come to relax or recover. This has left its marks like the Biltmore Estate, the Grove Park Inn and the Grove Building downtown. All in all we had a wonderful afternoon – we even found time to do a successful souvenir hunt - a perfect ending to a wonderful stay at the ‘Mountain Do’.

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Shopping street in downtown Asheville  

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Grove building (front) and home for the elderly (background)  

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The Grove Park Inn

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Famous for it’s guests, now and in the roaring twenties and…  

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…it’s beautiful interior from the nineteen twenties  

All this of course could never have happened without the help and work of a great number of people. Soon you will find here a report on the whole trip Hans and I did and you will get to know all those wonderful people we have met along the way. At this point I would like to thank Hans Ove Görtz for this wonderful initiative, Ted Adcock and Spencer Farrow for their ‘slave labor’, Calvin and Linda Underwood for organizing a wonderful event, Tony Shelver and Dave Roman for loaning their bikes to two complete strangers and all the people we have met and who have given us the hospitality of their homes, help in times of trouble, their company, laughter and above all, everlasting friendship.