Go, No-Go, for Launch…
Unless you live under a rock, you’ve heard about how awesome the Hot Bike tour is. I’ve wanted to go since I heard of the first one, but it just never worked out. This year I put a lot of prep into making sure I got to go. It was the night before I planned to leave. I just finished getting my Dyna dialed in and was about to pull back in the shop to bolt the saddlebags on, when I heard a noise. It was that tell-tale sound of a blown head gasket. My heart sunk. I had invested a good bit of time and money getting the bike ready for the tour. New S&S Super E with everything needed to make it right, the brand new 490 shocks from Progressive suspension, new Dunlop American Elites, new rotors and pads, and so much more had just been done to make my old faithful a little more fun in the mountains. I knew I couldn’t get parts since it was 9:00 pm on a Friday and I planned to leave at day break.
Reluctantly, I looked at the Roadking I had picked up 5 days earlier and said, “Well, here goes nothing.” I knew I couldn’t make the trip with the bars that were on it, so I grabbed a set I had that would be more comfortable on my back and shoulders for the long haul. It looked like they would work, but the brake line just wouldn’t make it. I dug around through some take off bars and found a set that look like they may have been off of a Roadglide. I didn’t like them, but they were better than what I had. I threw them on and was ready to go. I started to leave and my headlight went out. Back to the takeoff pile. I grabbed the ugliest LED headlight I had ever seen and put it in. I was back in business. For a few hours I was contemplating skipping the tour, but this year was going to be my year one way or another. While I was doing the bars a guy called from Atlanta and made a cash offer on my truck. We struck a deal. Delivering the truck in Atlanta would knock 850 miles off my ride and let me see my son for the Labor Day weekend. Things were looking up. I loaded the RoadKing, now known as the TacoGlide, in the truck and headed east.
The Tour Begins
After my holiday in Atlanta, I hopped on the TacoGlide and headed to Asheville, North Carolina. It was a quick ride through some beautiful, and at times sketchy, country.
I got to Ashville and saw a bike that was made to look like a dragon. I decided to follow it and, as suspected, wound up where I wanted to be; the first stop of Hot Bike Tour 2016.
It was great to show up back in the Southeast knowing I was about to attack some world renowned roads with some of the biggest and best in my industry alongside a great bunch known as the Longriders. I got signed in, grabbed a chili cheese dog, and relaxed in the shade of a tree as bikes were rolling in. People were showing up from everywhere. Guys from New York, California, and even Mexico City were in Asheville, NC getting ready for the next 5 days of awesome.
As the day progressed, the show got bigger. The invited builders displayed their latest creations. I was impressed with the level of creativity put into the bikes.
I saw many familiar faces in the crowd and knew that this was the beginning of a great few days of riding. I met up with the crew of S&S Performance during the day and we all met up that evening for dinner and to check out the town. Asheville night life was a little weird. After a few drinks to end the day, we walked back to our hotels to get ready for the next morning.
A hot shower, a Mountain Dew, and a pack of crackers later, and I was ready to hit the road again. We all met up where the stage was previously set up for a riders meeting. They let everyone know the ride wasn’t one of those crazy lines of 200 bikes, but instead was up to us to group up with who we felt comfortable riding with. There were a few different routes to get to Maggie Valley, which was our next stop. We could choose the quick and easy expressway route, or several twisty mountain road routes. I got up with Patrick, Mike, and Savannah from S&S, along with Sean from Burly and Tyler from Pirelli. We planned a fun route full of twists and turns. After a quick gas stop we took off for the Blue Ridge Parkway to get the ride started. Of course we made a wrong turn and went about 12 miles out of our way, but it was ok, because I bought a sticker for my tour pack at our turnaround spot, which was completely worth the miles.
This was a good ride and we all got used to each other’s riding style. I rode at the back since I wanted to get good riding video. We got back on the right track and headed towards Maggie Valley. The ride was beautiful. There was a little feeling of despair upon entering the tunnels as there were no lights and it was difficult to see the lay of the road, but otherwise an amazing ride.
We had decided to take NC 151 as it looked to have an insane amount of turns for a few miles. At this point I passed Savannah from S&S on her Sportster to take advantage of every bit of performance my beat down TacoGlide had. I was sorely missing my Dyna, but managed to have some fun dragging floorboards and frame anyway. At some point down the mountain the Flat Tracker Patrick was on boiled the brake fluid. No front brake put a lot of heat on the rear. After a little time at a picnic area, the brakes were cool and we were back on the road. A little less aggressive, but on the road. I fell back to the rear and watched the others wind down the roads the rest of the way to our destination. Wheels Through Time is where the road took us, and it did not disappoint.
For years I had heard of the museum and several times planned to go, but never made it happen until this time. I ventured inside to see every bike imaginable on display. Board trackers, hill climbers, choppers, bobbers, Knuckles, Pans, Flatties, Indians, and so much more were all shown and most were ready to ride.
After the museum, I took a stroll outside to see the Invited builders all set up along with some good looking bikes in the ride-in show. Hot Bike had really done a good job on the tour so far. I walked over to the stage and watched the band, along with listening to the musings of Dumptruck (the emcee of the event), followed by the bike show awards.
It had been a good day and was time for some food. We rode to the hotel and dropped off our bikes. There was a little tavern nearby, so we hoofed it there. A few drinks and some good grub and it was time to rack out.
After a brief riders meeting and another look around Wheels Through Time, I got together with the same crew as the day before, but we added Mailman and Cheryl. Our pack was a little bigger, but still manageable. We fueled up and headed out of Maggie Valley. Today was the day many had been waiting for. We would be ending up in Marysville, TN, but today’s route included the famed Hwy 129, including the Tail of the Dragon. I started out in the rear of the pack, but after leaving our lunch spot at Deals Gap I decided I wanted to ride a little harder. I threw the TacoGlide into curves that 20 year old stock front air suspension should not be thrown into, but came out fine. I was actually surprised at how well it did. Patrick, Mike, and Tyler pulled away a good bit, but considering the difference in our bikes, I was happy to even see them. If you’ve never done the Dragon, I suggest you make plans to do so. It lives up to the hype.
After the Dragon we rode into Marysville, TN, home of Smoky Mountain Harley Davidson, where the tour would be stationed for the next two days. All the vendors were setting up, and I believe they were glad to have a two day stop to let them relax after the show instead of tearing down. The guys from Grim Company showed up and put on one hell of a stunt show. I have to say, TJ McCaffrey is one of the most talented stunters out there. Troy Hoff, AKA “Hoffy” joined in the show killing it while repping Scorpion.
There was great BBQ offered by the Shed, which is a pretty rad place on the premises. They have a nice bar, as well as places to sit and cool off in the AC while you eat. Live music was playing on stage under the large covered pavilion area with the occasional interruption from Dumptruck telling you about the bike shows, Geico, and what not.
As soon as the awards were over I headed to the room. I got some food at the hotel and decided to do nothing more than sleep.
Since the show was at the same location, day 4 was all about riding. This time the group was a little different. Patrick, Mike, and Tyler were still riding, but this time Dumptruck came along with us with Savannah literally strapped to his bike to get some good riding shots. We did the Tail of the Dragon again, but going the other direction.
The ride was great, and so were the riders. I am happy to call this group my friends.
We tore through the Dragon and went on to the Cherohala Skyway. The TacoGlide loved the Skyway. It had long sweeping turns, which the old bike was better at handling.
We stopped in to a little sandwich shop sitting on a beautiful river for lunch with a scenic bonus. After some pretty damn good sandwiches, we went out and took a selfie chain. I haven’t contacted Guinness yet, but it may be a world record.
We got back on the bikes and headed back to Smoky Mountain HD. I scored a shirt and hat from DeadBeat Customs. I had more BBQ and watched more music performed, then checked out more local bikes in the ride-in bike show as well as checking out more performances from Grim Company and Hoffy.
The locals were all excited to see the invited builders as well as their machines. The sky turned dark; a storm was a brewing. The vendors packed up, and I got on my bike in time to get hammered with what felt like golf ball size rain drops. I went back to the hotel to dry off, get some food, and take an Uber to a bar in nearby Knoxville to chill out on what ended up being a nice Saturday night. We were accompanied by the infamous Brad Gregory and some locals I knew who came out for a couple of drinks. After a few rounds to wind down the day, we were going to do another Uber back to the hotel, but my friends insisted that it was a waste of money. Instead, Mike, Brad, Savannah, and I joined in on the southern tradition of riding in the back of a pickup truck. It took me back to my childhood when the world wasn’t so afraid and kids could enjoy things like that. That free feeling may be why I almost only ride a motorcycle instead of driving a car. We got back to the hotel, said goodbye to our local friends, and went inside to pack up and get ready for the last day of Hot Bike Tour.
The Finale A.K.A. Day 5
After more than a week on the road, it was hard to get up Sunday morning. I drug myself down to the lobby and met up with the crew to head to the dealership, gather the rest of our gear from the trailer, and ride out to Chattanooga. While loading up, a couple of local Dyna hooligans came up to ask about the route. After some chit chat and a couple of wheelies it was decided they would just ride with us.
The great thing about the Hot Bike Tour is meeting new people and riding. We left Smoky Mountain HD, gassed up, and decided to take the direct route this time. Other than getting passed by a big group of the invited builders, it was an uneventful and calming ride. Chattanooga was by far my favorite stop on the tour. Being set up in front of Coker Tires and Honest Charley Speed Shop made this an awesome spot for the show.
Tons of bikes showed up and lined the streets. A few friends from Atlanta rode up for the day, so seeing familiar faces made it even better. The one thing I had been missing on this trip was good street tacos. We spotted a place that looked pretty authentic on the way in and decided to give it a try. Looks were not deceiving. The tacos were great, even if I had no idea anything that was said to me there. After a splendid taco experience, I walked around taking pictures and checking out the rad bikes from all over the southeast.
Someone mentioned the museum that was part of Coker/Honest Charley, and I had to check it out. Being that I love hot rods, VW’s and motorcycles, it was right up my alley.
After drooling through the museum I ventured back out for the Longrider presentation, as well as all the awards. The show was over. All that was left was to pack up and ride home. Hot Bike Tour 2016 was amazing.
Until Next Year…
After all of the wonderful roads and scenic views during the tour, I opted to take the quickest 850 mile course back to Ft. Worth. I loaded the TacoGlide with all my gear, had one egg and a couple strips of bacon, and headed west.
As I type this, I just got back from picking up the parts to fix the Dyna. Next year I hope to do it all again, but on a much more purpose built machine. Hot Bike Tour is the epitome of motorcycle culture. It’s an event where the ride is as, if not more important, than the destination.
I want to thank a few people for the good times we shared:
Patrick Garvin, Mike Dolega, Tyler Porter, Sean Delshadi, Savannah Rose, Mailman and Cheryl Obrien, Miguel from Lane Splitters Garage, Dumptruck, Brad Gregory, all of the invited builders and Longriders, and of course Jeff G. Holt