'Hey guys, tomorrow something exciting is going to happen,' remarks 'Tiger' Christian at dinner, putting on a smug smile like a Cheshire cat sitting in front of its Christmas turkey. It doesn't matter that it is only October. Somehow, everyday is Christmas in the USA.
Sometimes things turn out differently than you expect. For example: You sing the September song while preparing for the end of the season, packing away the leathers and helmet and explaining to your throttle hand that it will have a break for five to six months. And then suddenly excitement breaks out, because things have changed. You've got an invitation to go motorcycling. You pack the suitcase with your gear and take off for the airport saying adieu to the gray, cloudy European fall rain.
Ten hours later: Winston-Salem, North Carolina, 85° Fahrenheit at 6 p.m. A day later, a bright yellow Triumph Sprint ST is standing in front of the door. For real, and with a US license plate (from the Triumph importer in Atlanta, Georgia) and a speedometer in miles!
And so, we take off west towards the Appalachian Mountains. The beginning of the tour took us on an endlessly long highway, at a maximum speed of 75 mph, and with the eyes of the law just everywhere, either with blinking lights or secret radar. You know how it is.
The nine-person group of Austrian, German, Swiss, Belgian and Dutch are tossed together for the next 10 days. They are preparing themselves mentally for a long cruise. Matthias and Coen (with Corry) make themselves comfortable on their K1200 LT's (cruise-control is a fine thing). Peter and Chris goof around on their R1100 RTs like they're on a school bench. Toni and Harald settle themselves comfortably on their R1150 GS. Christian plays around on his good old Tiger, and I practice riding economically on the Sprint RS - sixth gear in and then straight ahead. It's a fun game trying to keep the speed at a constant (still tolerated) 85 mph without a cruise-control device, and that for an hour.
The warm-up phase then gets serious - tight curves, wide turns, slow and then fast curves - and who has time to look at the speedometer, at the picturesque cliffs, or deep into the forests? Full from the first barbecue sandwiches, coke and weak coffee when the fun really starts, especially up on the first ridge of our southern states tour. There is an unexpected construction site, but a very friendly policewoman escorts us through. She considerately didn't stick to the 25 mph speed limit, probably because we previously had explained that we Europeans are spoiled driving on curvy roads. But her colleague on Grandfather Mountain didn't show quite the same tolerance. He had something against Matthias standing up on his bike while crossing the parking lot, and threatened to get the handcuffs immediately.
That's how it went the first two days. Then we discover that there is the 800-mile long Blue Ridge Parkway, and that is the meeting place for cyclists on the east coast, at least between New Jersey and Florida. The road is very inviting - great curve radius, excellent asphalt, most desirable for any racetrack, and wide enough for the biggest pickup truck. What more could you desire? No speed limits, no police. It seems that the whole bunch of American crotch-rocket riders could care less. The knee sliders whizz by us in a swarm. From the sportbike category almost every bike is represented. In between, the heavy metal bikes and Gold Wings leisurely cruise along.