Biker and I stopped for gas just past Sylva on US 74. We had to come out westbound and then flip over to the Eastbound side at the Sylva exit. After reaching I-40, we continued east towards Asheville. There was an unscheduled stop at Canton to remove a plastic garbage bag that Biker had run over and was stuck to his Vulcan.
Following I-26 around Asheville, we took Exit 33 to NC 194. Just before we got to the Parkway entrance, it started to spit rain again. I hoped that as we headed southwest, we would get out from under it. We did from time to time, but it dogged us all the way. I took it easy on the wet sections and everyone kept up quite well. I wasn't riding in the zone today, possibly because I was worrying about everyone else. The rain was coming down a bit harder when I pulled off at the Pisgah Inn, but stopped when we did.
At the Inn, we met three Harley riders from Welland who were riding the length of the Parkway. They needed fuel and would be heading down US 276 to Waynesville. They asked about food and I suggested Bogart's.
We continued on, running through patches of wet and sections of dry road. The next stop was at the highest point on the Parkway, where we got a group photo. I had planned to ride the Parkway all the way to Soco Gap and run down US 19 through Cherokee to the Lodge, but changed plans here due to the damp conditions. I informed everyone that we would exit at Balsam Gap and take US 74 the rest of the way.
Not long after we pulled out for the last stretch, I saw a change in the sky. I stopped at another pullout and suggested that anyone who wanted to suit up should do so now because things were about to be serious. Some appeared skeptical but some donned their gear. I put my wallet, phone and camera in the trunk but didn't put my own suit on. Not a mile from there, the downpour started. It continued all the way down to Balsam Gap, with me leading at about 25 MPH and barely able to see where I was going. As we exited to US 74, it stopped and the sun came out.
The rest of the ride was uneventful. We arrived at the lodge at 4:30, not long after the direct group. They had stopped a few times. It had rained here but was looking quite pleasant by the time we got in. People got checked in and some of us hit the pool. The last to arrive were Don and Tina, who had left Sudbury Sunday morning towing their bike.
The issue of supper came up. Many restaurants close on Mondays here. Blaine said the Iron Skillet in Bryson City was closed but that Jimmy Mac's was open. Rob and a few headed off first and we got there last. Jimmy's was, in fact, closed. But the Iron Skillet was open and Rob got us set up in the back room there. One server took care of all of us. She did well, all things considered.
While we waited for our food, we discussed tomorrow. The communal eating would be difficult so we decided that people would look after their own breakfast and get fuel. Fed and gassed, the group ride would leave the motel at 9:00 AM tomorrow. Sharp. I finally had my chicken fried steak with mashed potatoes, green beans and coleslaw. It was good and only cost $8.95.
Back at the motel, people sat out for a while and then slowly filtered off to bed. The last to leave the pavilion were Rob, Paul, Blaine & Kathy (our hosts) and me. It was all of 10:45.
Today's Route (232 motorcycle miles):