I had a great time at the 10th Annual Women's Sportbike Rally at Deals Gap two weeks ago. Between doing a track day and getting sick, I'm just getting around to finally sharing my trip.
The Women's Sportbike Rally East has been going on for 10 years now, and this year was the inaugural West Coast event which had a great turnout! I had heard of this event a few years ago but could never take the time off work to make it to Deals Gap. It would have been a daunting trip from California as well.
Riding from Philly made this the longest trip I'd ever ridden solo as well; 6 days and 2,000 miles! Definitely the longest trip on Goldie as well. I decided to take Skyline Drive to the Blueridge Parkway on the way down.
The Rally took place Friday Sept 9th to Sunday Sept 11th. But riding in from Philly was going to take more than a day so I left on Wednesday the 7th and came home the following Tuesday the 13th.
The Rally took place Friday, September 9th to Sunday, September 11th. But riding from Philly was going to take more than a day so I left on Wednesday the 7th and came home the following Tuesday the 13th.
I mapped out an ambitious route taking my time to get down there so I could hit some of the famous roads before getting to the Gap.
Riding from PA to VA took a bit longer than I expected. I decided to take 95 South to 301 into Annapolis. My friend followed me for a bit, and we stopped for gas and decided to grab a bite to eat (301 Plaza, 920 Middletown Warwick Rd, Middletown, DE 19709) since there wasn’t going to be anything for another hour or so. I really really wanted to get to VA as quickly as possible so I didn’t do any sightseeing in Annapolis, just stopped for some water and got back on the highway heading 66 West towards Front Royal, VA. (I really don't recommend this route, only because it was a little boring. In the future I will either slab it down 95 or take the Westernly route through Western Pennsylvania instead.)
Did I mention it was 90+F that day? It was HOT, hot hot. And yes, I’m wearing my full Gore-Tex suit! I’d like to go off on a tangent here and just share the joys of wearing Gore-Tex. If you ask my husband, he’ll tell you that I can be a fussy rider sometimes. (Only sometimes!) I get uncomfortable fairly quickly. This suit greatly helps me stay comfortable enough to get through the ups and downs of quick changes in temperatures without having to pull over and change layers. Baselayering is REALLY crucial here, as it can change the comfort underneath your riding gear (even while wearing mesh textiles!). An inexpensive option is going to Target and buying a basic tech shirt like this one. It’s $20, and it will let you sweat, sweat, sweat, but still keep you comfortable. I know I keep saying comfortable, but it’s all you can really do in extreme heat because it’s going to be hot!
As far as my gloves, I knew that it was going to be a really wet trip the next day through VA and WVA, and then a cooler trip the rest of the way into NC. I could’ve easily grabbed a lighter pair to wear before the wet weather but I frankly forgot. It worked out well, these Rukka Apollo Gore-Tex X-Trafit gloves are different in that they are not insulated or fleece lined for extreme cold. They only offer the Gore-Tex membrane to keep you dry. But the reason they’re called X-Trafit is because they bond the membrane to the leather so when my hands were hot and sweaty I could easily get them on and off without a problem. There is only 1 women’s specific pair like this, offered by Rukka called the Vilma. Unfortunately my palms were too wide to wear the size 6 (I have small, wide hands) and my fingers too short to wear the 7 so the men’s Apollo in 6 was perfect!
Ok, back to this trip.
Somehow I spent 6 hours to get from Philly to Annapolis. By the time I left and crossed Washington DC via 66 West, I didn’t get to Skyline Drive until ~2pm. Skyline was perfectly paved with very very little traffic. I really didn’t get stuck behind anyone, but there are so many turnoffs to take pictures it didn’t matter. And no, I didn't get any tickets, and I didn't get pulled over. :-)
As always, my trusty Kriega Packs were perfect for a week's worth of riding.
With the slower speeds (35mph), it took me awhile to get down just 40 miles. I was starving so I decided to find food and grabbed a bite at Burgers N Things in Sperryville, VA. By that time it was 4:30pm! Ack, where did the time go?
It started raining as soon as I found my late lunch, so I sat under the tiki table. Since it was raining I didn’t pull over for more photos, just kept going to make it to the motel before sunset. I hate riding at night in the rain! By the end of Day 1 I clocked in about 340 miles.
I stayed the night in the Super 8, 2045 Rosser Ave., Waynesboro, VA. It was nothing special, super cheap, clean and easy to stay. The next morning, it was a quick breakfast at Waffle House! Have I mentioned how much I love Waffle House when I'm on long trips?
And then onward to continue down Blueridge Parkway. After Roanoke I jumped off the Blueridge onto 221 South and hopped on and off a bit without any real plans. I pulled over on the parkway and grabbed a few pics along the way :-) One of the best parts of traveling on your motorcycle!
Skyline Drive was lovely, but for me, it was a very scenic ride and not very technical. I've spent a lot of time riding scenic roads in PA and was itching for something technical.
Then I stayed the night at Holiday Inn Express in Blowing Rock, NC. Somehow Day 2 was a bit shorter, just 275 miles.
One of my goals for Friday was to ride Little Switzerland! A slice of heaven in the NC mountains. One of many, really. Looking at Google Maps there were a ton of roads I wanted to ride. But I was trying to avoid riding at night so I wasn’t able to get on all the roads I wanted. But I did make time for this little gem.
For me, riding in the Smoky Mountains and all around the Blueridge Parkway is exactly what I miss the most about California. This little piece of heaven took me about 40 minutes to finish. I didn’t stop anywhere in the circle, I just headed up the right side of 226 and rode it counter clockwise back to 221 South. There were a couple restaurants and inns inside the circle and they looked really cute.
After that I rode rather quickly to get into Deals Gap before dinnertime but managed to stay off the freeway. The rally was a mix of socializing, riding and more socializing. I met a lot of cool women and made some fabulous new friends. I just wish they lived closer so we could go riding together more often! :-(
Saturday was so much fun. I went riding with some new friends. The route started at Deals Gap, heading South towards Bridal Veil Falls in Highland, NC. We followed 28 South into Franklin, NC and stopped for lunch at Caff’e Rel, a tasty Italian restaurant behind a gas station.
I took another 2 nights to get home, stopping in Wytheville, VA and then Winchester, VA at the Country Inn & Suites (my favorite hotel chain). By the end I was a bit drained, and ready to get home.
I left rather early Sunday morning and was able to finally make the Killboy.com hall of fame with my photo. This was the only time I rode the infamous Dragon. It was fun, but for me just a shorter version of the wonderful roads I had been riding previously in Northern California (3, 36, 49, 84, etc.). As a California girl, it's really hard for me to be impressed by this road. It's nice and all but the roads South of 129 and in and around North Carolina are even better, in my opinion.
My ride home was pretty uneventful, as I decided not to head north into Kentucky to ride some of their delicious roads. I didn’t want to do any night riding so I made an effort to get into my hotel by 6pm at the latest each night. Each day was about 300 miles, so nothing too painful.
By just focusing on my riding technique and getting back to basics, so to speak, it really made me feel better about my riding skills. Before this trip I’d felt like I had to start all over again. I think I was a little hesitant to ride the more technical roads, so I mainly stayed on the lightly curvy ones. Which for many people would still be too curvy, but I really longed for the technical twisties; decreasing radiuses, hairpins! I thought I was ready to attack them all at once, but I decided to ease up a bit.
I do feel at the end of this trip, it healed me in many ways. I’m far less nervous or anxious than I used to be. One thing that has totally changed the way I feel is that I put on new tires as soon as I got back.
I really wish I had them installed before I left. I used these on my first SV for about 25,000 miles. They’re the most comfortable tire I’ve used so far, super sticky and a really wide contact patch. It just feels like the tires are glued to the pavement when I’m cornering. My bike did come with a really nice sport tire, the Diablo Corsas. They’re a really good tire and have great reviews. But for some reason they just didn’t feel good to me. Even when I lowered my tire pressure a bit to 32front/36rear (Triumph recommends 40psi in the front and rear, ridiculous) the tires felt hard, as if they weren’t sticking to the pavement. I know they were but I had zero confidence in them.
For me, and I think for many riders as well, trusting your bike is the only way you can really push yourself to try new things. Or simply having enough trust to lean, to push the handlebars, to counterweight; to really do anything! I’ve always thought of motorcycling as a true relationship.
The enjoyment and learning experience you gain from riding a motorcycle is wholly dependent on the choices you make with it. It should make you happy, help you boost your self confidence and become a partner in the learning process.
At this point, I feel much better about my riding. I’m still cautious when I see what appears to be water on the roads, in case it isn’t. I’m looking forward to early Spring so I can ride back to Deals Gap but this time with my favorite riding buddy, my husband.
To find out more about the Women's Sportbike Rally, East and West, check out their website.