Saturday Nov 26, 2011 kicks off the season of Toy Rides with the annual Saluda Toy Ride, in Saluda, NC. The Toy Ride line up started at noon, with ride\parade leaving the Saluda Fire Station at 2pm. It is only a couple hours from Charlotte, but leaving at 9am gave me plenty of time to ride back roads. A little chilly starting out at 45 degress, with promises to warm up by noon. Warm Wider gloves, and fleece lined jeans under riding pants, and fleece helmet liner kept me toasted as I started my ride. My BMW R1200RT has enough storage to carry lighter riding gloves and to peel off couple of shirts as day warms up.
First stop is GAFFNEY, SC, for $295 gas! How can you not love a day of riding when it begins with gas for under $3. In Gaffney I picked up Hyw 11. Riding by Cowpens National Battlefield I turned off my radio for a silent ride by.
Next stop is breakfast at Strawberry Hill in Fingerville, SC. Yes, Fingerville, no I’m making this up, really. Okay, maybe not exactly breakfast, it was 10am after all, but good coffee and homemade jelly biscuit made for a nice break. From here I picked up Hwy 9 towards Lake Lure\Chimney Rock area, a Mecca for motorcycle rides. About 30 minutes south of Lake Lure in the town of Mill Springs the fun begins.
From Mill Springs you can continue north on Hwy 9 to Lake Lure, or turn down the road that says “no trucks”, Silver Creek Rd. A few miles further down you can pick 2 great roads, Green River Cove Road, or Holbert Cove Rd. Both of these reconnect at US 74\I-26 just outside Saluda, NC. These are both great motorcycle roads. As the road sweeps along the Green River you’ll encounter many small pullouts where bicyclist and kayakers are loading, unloading, or just enjoying peaceful waters.
If you take on Green River Cove road you’ll need to be on top of your game, as you can see in the pictures, as this road climbs to meet I-26 it is steep and hairpin, I mean STEEP and HAIRPIN. At each turn I would hear an ear-splitting squeal and the inside tire of pickup truck behind me would lift off the road and spin. On new roads I would rather power climb then engine brake down. I took on this road riding North to South, climbing over the mountain into Saluda. Pucker factor of solid 8 with 9 going reverse direction.
Survived a new road, now on to the Toy Ride in Saluda, NC. I got there about 12:30pm, registered eat free BBQ lunch then sat by watching all the bikes arrive. By the 2pm start time 480 bikes, couple of dogs, 1 cockatoo, and 1 pig showed up for the ride. No the pig didn’t have his own bike, he road in a trailer.
We left Saluda down gentle curves of hwy 176 through cities of Tryon and Landrum, ending up in Columbus, NC. In each town and along the road 100s of people waived. Some gathered in large groups with lawn chairs and coolers. Once in a while we’d pass by an elderly couple standing at the end of a quiet road waving as 500 motorcycles road by. I counted at least 10 “thanks for toys” signs along the way.
My favorite town was Tryon, NC. This Christmas lined main street was filled with many small stores to shops, coffee shop, and local hangouts to get a bite to eat. I’m going to make this town a must-see stopover when traveling I-26\US74.
This wonderful ride wasn’t without some tragedy. After the ride a motorcycle traveling north on I-26 hit the center guard rail at 70mph. I must have ridden by 5 minutes after the accident. Before me lay only twisted metal like some sculpture in a museum of modern art. This was someone, 1 hour earlier joined me on a ride to share with others, now in the blink of an eye gone. This was a horrific reminder to constantly keep eye out for trouble and always ride fully geared, all the time, just in case trouble comes knocking.
Chris Skor (Skorlinski)