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Good day from your ever-lovable Grey Beard Biker! We are rapidly approaching my favorite time of year – autumn. This time of year, the days are getting shorter, the temperatures are dropping, and the leaves will soon be shining in their full splendor. With the heat we have had this summer, it will be pleasant to ride in a sweatshirt, chaps and my leather jacket. One benefit of riding while bundled up is that it is much easier to conceal your pistol. The caveat being that it is also much more difficult and time consuming to get access to said pistol. But I am getting ahead of myself. Because your bearded biker loves you, he would like to share a true story with his faithful blog readers.

Dress for the Slide – Not the Ride

About three weeks ago, we got tangled up with another bike and went down. It was by no means a bad accident. I was leading a group of three bikes and slowed down quickly to turn into a business parking lot. We were doing everything a biker is supposed to do – including riding staggered. The bike staggered behind me came up between me and the parking lot, and I did not see him. I literally turned into his bike when pulling into the parking lot.

It was an accident – pure and simple. And I shared a big chunk of the blame as I should have been watching my mirrors more closely or simply went past the business and turned around. Accidents do happen. The other bike did not go down and sustained very minor damage. Our bike did go down and suffered approximately $9,300 damage – all of which was cosmetic (stupid CVOs). You know what they say, “You have either gone down – or you will go down eventually.” There has never been a truer statement – unless of course your motorcycle is only used as a garage ornament.

The bike is a machine. It can be replaced. In fact, it already has been. We bought a 2020 FLHTKSE CVO Limited. She is a real beauty.

Grey Beard Biker’s 2020 FLHTKSE CVO Limited

Besides bruising my pride, we both had some fairly minor injuries. Tracy had a small amount of road rash, a sore back and a sprained ankle. I broke my right index finger (which is still sore) and had road rash on my right elbow shoulder and back. But by far, the most painful injury for me was my right hip. It had a very nice contusion from landing on my pistol. The pistol and holster both got a small amount of road rash too, but totally cosmetic.

Having concealed carried for the past eight years or so, I almost always ride with a handgun strapped to my belt. It is second nature for me to do so. Hell, sometimes I carry a pistol on my side when I am in the house, because I forget it’s on my side. This is something a biker must consider when he is riding on his/her scooter. Many of my friends always take their pistol off their body and put it in a saddlebag or the top box. Doing so, makes it less accessible, but might save you a lot of pain if you go down – especially at a speed higher than that which you would use to turn into a parking lot. I am a bit undecided on this. As mentioned in my opening paragraph, it is getting to be the time of year when I can bundle up over my pistol. This would certainly help reduce the shock of having your pistol slam into your side in the unlikely event of going down. But, around here, you wear a heavy biker jacket less that a ¼ of the year. For now, I will probably continue to carry my pistol like I always have – in my belt holster.

Thoughts on Safety Gear

Dress for the slide, not the ride. This is very true. On the day we had our accident, I was in a tank top, blue jeans and of course, my helmet. Even at the slow speed we were traveling, we both had some serious road rash. If we had been wearing our vented riding jackets, we might have walked away without a scratch. If I had been wearing my riding gloves, I might not have dislocated and broken my finger. Maybe. If we had been moving along at highway speed, our road rash would have been exponentially worse. Those vented riding jackets – especially if they include riding armor – would have helped a whole lot! You should really consider your safety gear and dress for the slide.

The Grey Beard Biker
@GreyBeard_Biker on the Twitter

This past Thursday we celebrated the 243rd birthday of the United States of America. Your every lovable Grey Beard Biker, and Miss Tracy, were camping with friends on the 4th of July which is why there have not been any new posts published. Riding back home this morning gave me time to think about our great country and what it means to call the USA home.

Riding motorcycles is very similar to celebrating our country’s freedom -especially when the motorcycle you ride is a Harley-Davidson Electraglide. The freedom of the road, especially when on two wheels, is something which a non-rider could never understand. This is very similar to how people living in other countries do not understand what it means to be an American. Many people dream about riding, just as many people dream of becoming a citizen of the United States.

The Grey Beard Biker & Miss Tracy

Freedom Isn’t Free

Since the Revolutionary War we have paid for our Freedom in blood. Twice, we fought the British here in the United States. Once we fought ourselves to rid our country of slavery and bring Freedom to all Americans. We have fought two World Wars to wipe out fascism. Now we continue to fight against terrorism and radical fundamentalists. Sometimes it is hard to understand why we find ourselves embroiled in a conflict, but we must remember that Freedom is the very bedrock of our country – and our Freedom can be destroyed from the outside – or from the inside.

But, in the Grey Beard Biker’s opinion our country is losing its way. Growing up in the 1960s and 1970s, we were taught to take responsibility for our actions. We started working at a young age to pay for the things we wanted. We were taught to respect our elders. We might debate those with differing opinions, but we respected everyone.

Things are not this way today – especially with younger generations. Personal responsibility has not been taught to so many young people. While there are some enterprising millennials, there are a great deal of the youngest adult generation who expect things to be given to them. They do not want to do what us Baby Boomers did – work hard for the things you want and need. Intolerance has replaced respect. Today, you see this manifested in the group, Antifa.

Anitfa – a homegrown terrorist group?

Antifa Protest in Portland, Oregon

Antifa, who’s motto is Anti-Fascist Action/Smash Fascism/Abolish Capitalism, has become ever more violent in their protests. While they are a loosely organized group, they are united in their hatred of the Freedoms we enjoy here in the United States. They have demonstrated through their very actions that some of the basic freedoms provided in our Bill of Rights’ First Amendment: Freedom of Speech, Freedom of Association and Freedom to Assemble only apply to those who believe in the same things they do. This intolerance in itself is a fascist tenet. Stifling the Freedoms of others you do not agree with is part of this group’s playbook. While the group is not directly endorsed by either political party, the left has quietly embraced many of the same beliefs – illegal immigration, free college tuition, access to abortion up to the point of birth and reparations. This cannot be allowed to continue. Antifa needs to be categorized as what it is: a domestic terrorist organization. They are getting more violent with each passing riot, they wear masks over their faces and they confront other groups they do not agree with – some even recently throwing “cement milkshakes” at the groups they oppose. This behavior is not even remotely American.

Let Freedom Ring

We must protect the values of our great country. The United States has always been considered the Shining City upon the Hill. Today, we have thousands of illegal immigrants trying to subvert our immigration laws. The reason these people are willing to risk their lives to get here is because of our freedoms. But without laws, law enforcement and proper judicial adjudication, we will continue to spiral towards anarchy. Unfortunately, our Democratically led U.S. Congress cannot get out of its own way. The only thing they are united on is impeding President Trump. Things we used expect our legislators to come together on – illegal immigration, freedom of speech and protecting our citizens – are part of a bygone era. There is currently a race by the Democrat presidential candidates to give away the most things for free. What ever happened to working to better yourself? What ever happened to personal responsibility? We can no longer accept what these politicians want to do to our great Republic. We must demand that these people do the people’s work. Reach out to your elected officials and demand that they do what they were elected to do – get things done for their constituents.

Grey Beard Biker

This whiskery Grey Beard Biker always gets a chuckle from people’s reactions to us bikers. We are cut from a different cloth, molded from a different piece of clay. We don’t always fit neatly into a specific box. We are all different, but we are all alike. Some of us have beards, some of us don’t. Some of us have tattoos, some of us don’t. Some of us have long hair, some of us, like yours truly, have none – preferring a nice shaved head (bald is, after all, beautiful!). Some of us ride metric crotch rockets, some of us don’t. Some of us wear leather vests, some of us don’t. But our love for being on two wheels unites us.

The Brotherhood

What the non-riders, who look quizzically at us, do not understand is the brotherhood nearly all bikers share with each other. While we are not all members of a motorcycle club (M/C), we are all members of the same club. That member of a 1% motorcycle club, riding along a highway on his stripped down bobber, will pull over to help a fellow rider on a BMW adventure bike. He will not leave him/her stranded. That’s the way bikers act.

Biker Handshake

Yours truly can go into any biker bar, anywhere in the country, walk up to another biker, shake hands, embrace in a man-hug, slap him on the back and enjoy a beer with him. Even though we have never met before, we know each other. We may well come from different socio-economic backgrounds, but the differences between us don’t push us into different corners of the same room. Instead, we will belly-up to the same bar, swap stories from the road, talk about our children and grandchildren, customizations we have done to our bikes, where we rode the previous weekend and where we plan to ride next weekend. We may swap phone numbers so we can enjoy a future ride together. The chance encounter may well lead to a long-lasting friendship. But even if it doesn’t, every time we see each other while out riding, we will call each other brothers.

First Impressions Can be Deceiving

This Grey Beard, bald headed, tattooed biker cannot easily be defined by someone making a cursory glance at his exterior. He doesn’t dress the way he does to make an impression – or to be someone he is not. A stranger may well think I am a construction worker who toils all day in the sun and associates with “less than desirable” people by night. And while their “less desirable” people may well be who I choose to hang out with, I am not a construction worker.

What a quick cursory glance at me cannot tell an outsider is that like many other bikers, I am a business professional. I have been in the software industry for nearly 30 years. Since the mid-1990s I have flown all over North America for work. During this time, I have logged nearly 3 million miles on American Airlines and another 1 million on Delta Airlines. I cover my tattoos with a long-sleeved dress shirt, put on a suit and tie, go into a boardroom and present complex business solutions to a group of executives who inevitably have no idea what my true passion is: riding Harley-Davidson motorcycles and hanging out with my brothers and sisters. But your Grey Beard Biker is not unlike other bikers. His fellow bikers come from a wide variety of professions: lawyers, media executives, business owners, firefighters, cops, bankers, teachers, company presidents, soldiers, farmers, truck drivers, builders, bar owners, mechanics and yes – construction workers. But at the end of the day, what defines us is not our profession, but rather our brotherhood.

Bringing Together Different People

Brotherhood in Action – Hill Country of Texas

Without my love of riding, there are a lot of people I would never have come to know. This reminds me of a time, in July 2017, when your Grey Beard Biker, and Miss Tracy, were coming back from a ride along Lake Superior, the north woods and the Upper Peninsula of Michigan. We were on our last couple days of a 10-day vacation, and had taken the high speed ferry across Lake Michigan. Tracy had never been to the Harley-Davidson Museum, so we were going to make a visit there, see my aging aunt and head back to Tennessee the next day. After going through the museum, we decided to grab lunch at the on-site restaurant. Sitting at the bar, enjoying a barley-pop, I noticed a fellow rider next to us with Night Stalker patches on his vest. Being that we live in Clarksville, the home of the 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment (S.O.A.R./Night Stalkers) we struck up a conversation with Bulldog. It turns out that Bulldog knew our next door neighbor, Monk, and had served with him. We swapped numbers with Bulldog and added each other on Facebook. This has turned into a truly wonderful friendship – brotherhood. Coincidental timing and our mutual love of riding brought us together.

This past April, somewhat at Bulldog’s urging, but in truth because Tracy and I wanted to see Bulldog again, we scheduled a weeklong vacation to ride the Twisted Sisters in the Hill Country of Texas – Bulldog’s stomping grounds. All told, eight bikes and nine riders left Clarksville and made the journey to Kerrville, Texas – our home base for riding the Hill Country.

One of the riders on our trip had been a long time friend of Grey Beard on Facebook. We had only met a couple times in person – and to say our political views were not aligned would be a major understatement. I am sure my unnamed friend was a little apprehensive about riding with a group of bikers for a week, with very divergent views. All of us, enjoyed our time together and while we did talk politics, there was a mutual respect for each other’s views and beliefs. I later read that my unnamed friend expressed a bit of anxiety about the ride – but that he believed stepping outside his comfort zone would be good. I am sure he would agree that it was a great experience and he would do it all over again. This is what brotherhood is all about!

I will share one more coincidental meeting we had on this trip. The day after arriving in Kerrville, Bulldog had arranged a meeting with a fellow Night Stalker who was going to ride with us that week. Sam, as a retired Night Stalker, also knew my next door neighbor and served at Fort Campbell. We struck up a conversation at a biker bar the first day and it turns out that he lives 25 miles west of us and had made the same journey to Texas we did. We traveled over 1,000 miles for a coincidental meeting and live in adjacent counties! Two more bikers had just become brothers and friends. All of this, would never have happened without a mutual love for Harley-Davidson motorcycles.

Final Thoughts

Grey Beard Biker has many brothers and sisters. He has met them during journeys all around the United States. These friendships will be enduring and will cause us to ride far and wide for “brotherhood reunions” – where we will meet new brothers and sisters. So I urge all people who look apprehensively at us bikers to do so with an open mind. We would inevitably help you out of a bind, we are perhaps the most generous single group of people with regards to charitable causes and when we are dressed in our business suits we are a lot more like you, than you would ever imagine – less, of course, the brotherhood.

Grey Beard Biker

#NightStalkers #Brotherhood #NSNQ

Your lovable old Grey Beard Biker has always been happy to just throw his leg over his scoot and ride in whatever direction the bike points. No map, no plan, no place specific to be and the only noise is the sound of exhaust, wind and of course – rock and roll music! This is the way so many of us started riding. It certainly still holds true today as it did decades ago.

But on many weekend rides, vacations and trips to bike rallies, Tracy and I will ride with a group of friends. Most of the time these groups are small, with four of five couples, but sometimes we might have 20+ bikes riding in staggered formation through the twisting turns of Middle Tennessee. These rides have always been special to us.

Today, we returned from another ride to the Gatlinburg area. We had not planned on making this trip, but a week ago we decided to ride with the eleven bikes headed east, mainly because we wanted to hang out with some awesome friends who would be going. Even heavy rain being forecast for the weekend did not dissuade us from going. And rain, it did. Our nearly 300 mile ride to Gatlinburg on Friday was basically a wash out. We pointed our bikes straight east on Interstate 40 and we all just pushed hard. This was group riding at its toughest. On a dry sunny day, it is not difficult to stay in formation. When sheets of rain are hammering you incessantly for 50 miles at a time it is much more difficult to maintain formation. The dynamics of a ride like this, where you are relying on the bikes around you to have your back, is always interesting. You feel very connected to the other riders. Fortunately, our group was all experienced and we made it to Gatlinburg safely, albeit soaking wet.

The Perfect Group Ride – June 8, 2019

Yesterday, the Grey Beard Biker led a ride with only four other bikes. It ended up being the perfect group ride. Great friends just riding through remote sections of the mountains. None of us were in a hurry. We enjoyed each other’s company, shared laughs, hugs, adult beverages, stories from the road and lunch. While only riding around 100 miles during the day, it was amazing to enjoy brotherhood/sisterhood with some awesome people.

Today, the group split up with us riding back with only three other bikes. And it rained, rained and rained some more. Riding in terrible weather like today, makes you glad to be safely home with the memories of a successful trip with great people. These memories, like the other memories we accumulate on the seat of our Harley-Davidson, are priceless and will be forever cherished.

Below, is a video from our group ride yesterday on Grey Beard’s not-so-secret road.

The Grey Beard Biker

The Foothills Parkway has always been one of the best rides in the Great Smoky Mountains. Your lovable Grey Beard Biker rarely misses a chance to ride the Parkway when he and Miss Tracy are in East Tennessee. It is both a destination and part of the journey. It is a beautiful ride, one where a biker can set his cruise control and just run the speed limit the entire length, and rarely, if ever, touch your brakes. Connecting Gatlinburg, Pigeon Forge and Sevierville to rides like the Tail of the Dragon and Cherohala Skyway, it is a staple of the Smoky Mountains. Until recently, you would have to traverse Wears Valley and Townsend to get to the entrance of Foothills Parkway, near Walland, Tennessee.

In November 2018, the final section of the 16 mile extension of the Parkway opened, which now connects Wears Valley to the original section at Walland. This makes it easier to reach Chilowee, Tennessee, from Gatlinburg, Sevierville and Pigeon Forge.

Construction of this section of the Parkway started in 1966 and was delayed while the 1.65 mile “Missing Link” was completed. This small section of the Parkway required modern construction techniques, not available in the 1960s, to build nine bridges which literally seem to hang off the side of the mountains – but are actually all freestanding.

During our visit last fall to Pigeon Forge, we were unable to ride this new section, as we were there one week before the official opening. Needless to say, Old Grey Beard was a bit disappointed as we were there during the peak of fall colors.

But the wait proved to be very worthwhile as we were have been able to ride it twice, from both directions, this spring. To say the views of Wears Valley are amazing might well be the biggest understatement your Grey Beard has ever made. Riding east along the Foothills Parkway to the “Missing Link,” gives the impression you are riding into heaven. You can see the bridge curve around the mountain, with nothing to the south but the spread out, open valley and the sky to the east, directly in front of you. My only complaint is that the National Park Service has set the speed limit about 10 MPH too slow, but it is understandable as the views are so overpowering that people would never be able to stay in their lane through the curves.

If you are planning a trip to the Gatlinburg area, make sure to take time to ride this beautiful road. Traffic is manageable and there are plenty of spots to pull over and take pictures. Check out the GoPro video, below, to experience this stunning ride.

Grey Beard Biker

The Tail of the Dragon is a marketing genius. Deal’s Gap Resort, US 129 Photos and Killboy have made a killing selling t-shirts, hats, stickers, pins, motel rooms and pictures. Before the road was promoted to gear heads, there was almost nothing at Deal’s Gap. That has changed big time over the last decade or two.

There is no doubt, that the road is fun to ride. But in the Grey Beard Biker’s opinion, it is a total tourist trap. While the road is somewhat technical in nature, there are actually more difficult rides much closer to home – and all over the Smoky Mountains.

Nevertheless, we ride it most trips to Eastern Tennessee because it is included on the route to other great rides. This picture was from our last ride there on May 24. We were definitely dragging the right floorboard here – as we do throughout the Dragon. I ended up buying this picture from US 129 photos as it is a unique view that they had not captured of us before. The pictures are one of the things which make the Dragon a must-do in my opinion.

The Grey Beard Biker

Deal’s Gap Motorcycle Resort

I have often said that unless your ride has a propellor, it does not need to be trailered. For the most part, I still believe that today. The reason you own a bike in the first place is to enjoy the journey – not necessarily the destination. Half the fun is in getting to where you are going – whether riding in a group – or by yourself.

There are certain advantages to trailering your bike, which over the past couple of years, the Grey Beard has come to appreciate:

  • You arrive at your destination refreshed and ready to ride
  • Since we usually are with another couple in the truck, we can easily talk all the way to the destination
  • You can definitely pack more clothes and gear
  • There is less wear and tear on your scoot
  • Air conditioning is your friend when it is hot

To trailer, or not to trailer, your bike is the question. I am still a bit torn about this. I am more accepting of it than I once was. It certainly does have its place. If we are going with our friends and can trailer our bike, the Grey Beard will certainly consider trailering. But then I am reminded of my last trip to Sturgis, many years ago. The ride there is across the plains and would be extremely boring in a vehicle. But on the bike, blasting across the “Big Sky” states, there is an unusual beauty to the vast openness which you cannot enjoy while in a cage.

What do you think?

The Grey Beard Biker

Memorial Day Weekend means hotdogs, parades and flying the beautiful Stars & Stripes. Your favorite Grey Beard Biker likes doing all of that. But additionally, Memorial Day Weekend means riding with Miss Tracy and our friends in the Great Smoky Mountains.

The mountains of East Tennessee, North Carolina and Georgia offer plenty of your more notable roads like the Tail of the Dragon, Blue Ridge Parkway, Newfound Gap and the Foothills Parkway. But it’s the lesser known roads, which are less traveled, that excites the hell out of me. One of those is the Moonshiner 28.

Moonshiner 28 runs for around 100 miles – southeast through North Carolina, Georgia and South Carolina. We always get to it by taking US Hwy 74 west from Bryson City, NC towards Wesser, turning left on North Carolina Hwy 28. Once you get on 28, hold onto your hat because the shit gets hairy as hell really quick. You will find switchbacks, big looping curves, steep hills, waterfalls and one of my favorite little stops – Highlands, NC. If you find yourself going through Highlands at lunch, dinner or adult beverage time, make sure to stop in The Ugly Dog Public House – a Grey Beard Biker approved establishment!

In closing, do not miss the chance to ride Moonshiner 28 when you are in the mountains of East Tennessee, North Carolina or Georgia. Check out the following video for a taste of the Moonshiner:

Ride often,
Grey Beard Biker

Tennessee Highway 32 – The Secret Road

Living in Tennessee provides many opportunities to ride wonderful motorcycle roads. At least twice a year, your ever lovable Grey Beard Biker heads to The Great Smoky Mountains to ride some of the most challenging roads found anywhere in the United States.

One of those roads is a little known piece of asphalt which is off the beaten path – and is infrequently travelled by the throngs of nature gawkers most of the National Park roads present those of us on two wheels. If you were to travel east of Gatlinburg on US Hwy 321 you would eventually find yourself approaching Cosby, Tennessee. There you will find TN Route 32 – lovingly known, by those in the know, as “The Secret Road” or “The Road To Nowhere.”

The Secret Road is not for everyone. It may well be one of the most technical motorcycle roads east of the Mississippi River. Running approximately 10 miles east from Cosby, it eventually reaches I-40, after turning to gravel. I call it the Road to Nowhere because it does not connect Cosby to anything but the Appalachian Trail and the aforementioned interstate highway.

When you first start riding from Cosby, the road seems fairly tame. But you will quickly find yourself in the midst of a monster! Unlike the area’s most popular road, The Tail of the Dragon, you will find yourself hitting switchback after switchback, with a couple of curves thrown in to provide a short respite. To my knowledge, no one has counted how many curves are on this road, but I would suggest it’s equal in count to the Tail.

If you decide to ride this road, take it easy on your first couple of passes. You will find that there are very few guardrails to keep you on the road if you high-side a curve or switchback. There are also very few motorists or other bikers who will be able to provide assistance. Making things worse, your cell phone will not work in the remote hills surrounding this road. Lastly, if you were to get hurt, you can expect to wait 45 minutes for an ambulance, and an hour to get to the nearest hospital. But if you are up to the challenge, you will wear a grin from ear-to-ear

The Secret Road will not disappoint!