The leather bag and the camping rain gear, get strapped to the back of the Triumph. There are probably many more comfortable ways for a long journey, like high tech panniers or other saddle bags of the sort. For me, there is something visually appealing, almost romantic when you bundle and strap gear and leather bags like old fishing nets pressing into lobster crates. The supple hide gets stretched and the bungee cords strangle a small mountain of traveling beauty.
This Tiger, an older Triumph motorcycle that I picked up years earlier from a man who never rode it, has never seen many miles in one stretch. Since she has been with me, she has been on dirt, through rocks, on sand and definitely sideways and on the floor. We have done several thousand tarmac miles but this would be her first long road trip.
I call Anthony, and let him know I am taking off. The plan – meet him an hour west and head towards the Smokey Mountains. It's not a short way from Jersey City to Tennessee, I have been on longer trips, but not with this Tiger. I still have a hunch she will purr just fine.
Anthony is an old pal, a friendly man that looks younger than his age. I would like to take the credit that Anthony started riding motorcycles again because of me, but the truth is that it has always been inside of him, maybe I was just the spark. He is a laid-back guy, good heart, and a great traveling companion with ease to break into laughter. Several years ago, we trekked the Inca Trail for fours days to Machu Piccu in his native Peru. I still remember his struggle going up the mountains, and me making fun of it all, but I also remember how he would leave me in the dust when dancing salsa with the friendly locals in the dance clubs of Lima. Anthony rides a BMW.
We reach Carlisle, Pennsylvania several hours later. We left late, and the rain had already started. We pull in to the road hotel of one of the resting areas completely drenched. After checking in, we head to a nearby diner and treat ourselves to a steak dinner. It wasn’t a hard drive that deserved a hearty meal or a reward, but sometimes, it is everything 'else' that is the hard long drive. Life stuff. Once you are on the road, everything is appreciated as a reward.
Back at the hotel, to our sweet surprise there was a bar on the second floor. More like a small room with a high table, four stools and friendly hotel clerk that was not much of a bartender. We still found it precious. After our second aged rum cocktail, Marsha and her friend walked in. I say friend, because I can’t recall her name, but I remember her perfume, laughter, sexy long legs and boozy charm. The two ladies where visiting from not sure where for not sure what. They had definitely traveled more 'life' miles than Anthony and myself. Their big, lush, blonde manes reminisced of past grandiose rock eras. Marsha and friend were beautiful ladies, funny and engaging.
Rum shots followed by fire ball ones, pictures of sons, daughters, motorcycles, stories of back home, divorces and a bartender calling the last call. It was a fun first night of the trip. The morning awaited, and once the hangover and shower were checked off, we would be off to the Blue Ridge Parkway for hundreds of miles of turns, scenic views, majestic mountains, infinite trees and a grandiose Cherokee nation. We were heading to the Tail of the Dragon in North Carolina and beyond, wherever each day would take us.
This Tiger is in for a trip.