Big Mountain Run 3: I Survived
By: Jack Shit
Photos By: Geno Stull, Joann Bortels, Chris Callen
Originally Published In The August 2011 Issue Of Cycle Source Magazine
Since watching the wipeout video from last year‘s Tramp Triathlon, all I could think of was, I can’t wait to get to this event. I had made big plans to ride cross country and as life these days goes, those plans were crushed! I watched announcements on FaceBook, of all places, and when I realized it was less than two weeks away, I was disgusted that I hadn’t gotten that FXRS up and road trip worthy. More and more posts came along with emails saying: “See you at BMR,” and I found myself sick to death that I wasn’t going to make it. I posted that I could not attend and that was when I was made well aware that brotherhood is still alive and well within this group. Offers were flying in of bikes to use, places to stay and airport pick-ups from Milwaukee to Atlanta so I decided to take one of them. Brother Mailman from Atlanta offered me a ‘75 Shovel to ride and it was spectacular; I could not resist. I had absolutely no idea of what to expect but I knew from friends that this was my kind of event. There are so many phrases that truly do have a place and a time for their use. Some of these phrases, that while they serve to make a point, have become so abused and overused that they have lost the impact and luster that they once carried with them. For example: I SURVIVED! I survived Ira Finklestein’s Bah Mitzvah or I survived dating Bean’re; do they really carry the weight or pack a punch like they use to? I saw the BMR 3 t-shirts and across the bottom it said, “I survived.” Since this was the first time I have ever attended the Big Mountain Run I really had no idea what to expect. Honestly, I thought to myself, I survived, c’mon? I am the kind of guy who virtually never buys a t-shirt at an event unless of course it was stellar. This event went from Thursday to Sunday morning respectively. By Friday, I woke up and thought, I better get one of those shirts before they are all gone! For once, something actually lived up to the hype and in hindsight, I SURVIVED is the only thing that could have been printed across that shirt. I am proud to say that I made it; I survived BMR 3!
I survived the insane roads that only this area of the country could offer. The Skyway, the Tail of the Dragon and the simple, barely marked secondary roads that have taken so many good riders down and out far too often. I am not the best rider out there but I would say my skills are above average and there were times while on this ride that I had what I call “moments of mortality!” I actually had to take a deep breath, wait for the chills to subside, and yes, wait for my balls to drop back down from my abdomen in to their sack because I had gotten shaken so badly that I truly thought I would not recover from a few sweeping, endless right turns. I have always called those yellow signs on the roadway “suggested retail speed” and have more or less proven that you can do at the very least double if not triple what those signs say. Well not in this case. When that sign ahead looks like an x-ray of Evil Kneivel’s spine and it says 20 mph, it means 20 mph and you better damn well heed its warning! I flew in to Atlanta where my buddy Mailman was kind enough to allow me the honor of riding his old Shovel for the week and I will be forever grateful. The warm and wonderful south was a balmy 41 degrees when I awoke after 3 hours of sleep. I came from Arizona, and only as I walked out the door did I decide to grab a leather. Oh what the hell, I thought, it can’t hurt. As I put on two pair of socks to match my two pair of jeans, three t-shirts, one hoodie, one fleece neck warmer, two pair of gloves, and tucked a bandana or as I call it, the “balldana,” down the front of my pants, I was ready to ride. Well that is until it came time to try and get my leg over the saddle; that was another battle I had to survive. We jammed side by side through the twisties along fast moving rivers and gorgeous lakes; it was spectacular. As I rolled in to the campground and crossed under the ancient railroad trestle, I knew that I had hit pay dirt and the trip was already worth the effort to get there. I had rolled on in to paradise!
I could feel the stress that had built up on my shoulders since Sturgis last August begin to fall away with each passing moment at the campground. I had even toyed with the idea of not riding to Wheels Through Time and just staking my claim there and saying to hell with it all, I’m going in the river. No way! I just knew that this event was going to be epic. I was there to ride and hang with exceptional people and that is just what I did. I hopped on that old Shovel and we took off across some of the most insane roads I have ever seen. As we made our last left turn on to the freeway to head towards Maggie Valley, our brothers and sisters and hopefully gallons of good ol’ shine, I jammed through the gears. That old Shovel I was riding was badass and had a 6 speed in her. I jumped her up in to 6th and as I approached the first of a great many hills, I kicked her back down into 5th when I felt something strange. As I held her wide open and reached for 6th again, something was missing. You guessed it, the shifter! I had broken the mounting plate that held it all together. The sun was setting and I knew we were doomed. Five bikes on a two foot wide shoulder in a blind curve, someone was going to be run down for sure. I had no idea where I was going, but I knew that I had to hold that throttle wide open for as long as I could. I must have ridden 45 miles, teeth clenched, left foot holding what was left of the linkage and controls to the bike and jamming past the pack to make it to the peak of each hill. After a few harrowing near mishaps, one red light, one oncoming car and the longest quarter mile I have ever ridden, I rolled her on up to the gas pump just as she was running out of fuel. We made it all the way to exit 98 and Maggie Valley was exit 102; damn, so very close! Two cable ties, one pair of needle nose vice grips, one length of hemp rope, one cup of hot chocolate and a few minutes waiting for our buddy to buy long underwear and we were back on the road. The only question was would we make it? The answer: Shit yeah! We rolled in to W.T.T. and although I was beat down, broke and abused, I felt like a king!
I walked through the crowd that was gathered around the fire; they were all chowing down on a huge stack of pizzas that Chris Callen had graciously picked up the tab for. The fire was blazing, mason jars were being sipped and passed, and in every single direction there was another king who had fought his own battle and survived to make it this far! I awoke, lit a smoke, s l a m m e d down two Red Bulls and I was ready to ride! I rolled in to the W.T.T.’s parking lot to see zombies who had partied far too hard only hours before. Everyone lined up for the group shot and warnings were given to those who had not ridden the roads we were about to travel: This shit is no joke folks; ride at your own pace and we’ll see you in Reliance! The Gypsy Tour was about to unleash on the south, a bunch of chopper jockeys, speed demons and maniacs the likes it has never before seen; an evil grin crossed my lips.
Crossing under that old railroad trestle that formed the entrance to the BMR was like stepping back in time. More so, it was as if time seemed to stop existing at all. Each day I found myself asking someone on more than one occasion: ‘What day is it?’ Reality took the weekend off and everything became a blur from that moment on. The best way to describe the Big Mountain Run would be the difference between going to the zoo to see wild animals and going on a safari and seeing wild animals in their natural habitat. A place where there are no zoo keepers to control the animals but the random visitor with a camera capturing these natural images. There were no phones, no texting and no Internet to steal your attention away from partying with your brothers and riding. You are forced to slow down and enjoy the very thing that brings us all together: brotherhood and bikes. That is what the Big Mountain Run is and nothing more. It was a no holds barred festival of mayhem in the truest sense of the word. The event was burnouts, random, massive explosions, an occasional rainbow trout, and stage diving off of cabin roofs. That was all backed up by an unreal mix of live music, real deal, good old-fashioned bike games and a magnificent bike show which culminated each night with hardcore partying around campfires that burned well past sunset. This was an event that was watched over and secured by the very people who attended it. There were no police watching to make sure you put your feet down for three seconds at the stop sign. People would awake and crawl from their tents only to find the random drunken maniac passed out in the middle of a dirt road. Each morning the conversations would be nothing but the storytelling of the previous night’s debauchery. Stories of who caught fire, who fell off of their bikes and who got t-bagged while laying drunk on the ground by yet another shit faced lunatic! Ah yes, these are the memories that last a lifetime! The Big Mountain Run was as they say, “all in good fun!” It was about a coming together of like-minded individuals who are passionate about the life we have chosen to live. It was about partying at night until you could hardly make it back to your tent and then rising in the morning from the ashes and getting on your bike and riding some of the most spectacular roads that exist in this great country and then returning to the event grounds and repeating it all over again and again! I missed the first two and will never again miss another! I SURVIVED THE BIG MOUNTAIN RUN AND I AM DAMN PROUD OF IT!