Article By: Ryan Augustine and J.J. Phipps
Photos By: Kerri Schindler, Ryan, Poncho, Darren McKeag, Bean’re And Chris Callen
Originally Published In The September 2012 Issue Of Cycle Source Magazine
I almost love to hear other people’s stories about the BMR more than the ones I have collected myself. This year however, there were two stories that were sent in for consideration: one from a rider taking his first big road trip and the other was attending his first BMR. Each one provided unique perspectives of our annual event so we have decided to let you have them both. In closing, thanks to Mickey Fouts, the owner of the Tellico Biker Rally, for our new digs and for putting up with our crazy asses, all our staff, all the builders and Wicked Willy’s Choppers for hosting the kick-off party. Of course we have to thank our friends at Wheels Through Time; the BMR wouldn’t be the same without our scheduled sleep over at your joint.
The New Guy’s Standpoint
By: Ryan Augustine
It was about two weeks prior to this event that I was first told about the Big Mountain Run. I had no idea what to expect out of this experience, but I knew that it was something that could live on with me forever. It would be my first trip on my motorcycle out of my home state of Pennsylvania. What I was in for I could only guess, but what I got out of this was more than I could ever have imagined. It was Monday, May 21st when our small group of about six riders and a chase truck were getting ready to start heading south. The weather was perfect, and the vibe of this group was only positive and full of optimism. As we cruised down the interstate, I could not help but think of what was ahead of me. We crossed the West Virginia line and met up with roughly thirty more riders. It was at that point that the setbacks of this adventure would begin. We realized that one of the bike’s primary chain and adjuster was done for and would need immediate attention if we wanted to continue on. Well, with this group of people that seemed to be no problem at all. We headed about five miles down the road to a local bike shop called The Twisted Spoke. This is when I first realized that I was not just on a ride with these people, but we were on a ride together and we would work as a family. With the bike now up and running, thanks to the hospitality of the folks at The Twisted Spoke, we all got together and eagerly jumped on the bikes to continue on. About fifty miles later, we found out that our luck had run short when the chase truck’s transmission went. That was enough for the day and we made a group decision to rest up for the night in Summersville, WV.
Tuesday morning finally came around, and with rain in the forecast, we were all ready to get on the road to try and avoid it. A new chase truck was now following the group. After all of the drama of the prior day, we could only hope for the best. We rode on all day with no major problems, almost as if the motorcycle gods knew that we weren’t in the mood to put up with anymore setbacks. Just as we rolled in to Wicked Willy’s Choppers in Taylorsville, North Carolina, the rain began to pour out of the sky like all hell. At that point it didn’t matter though because we had all made it to our destination for the day, and most importantly, we had all made it there safely. The tents were set up and the party for the night kicked off. Free beer and food was offered to everyone. I can’t thank all the guys at Wicked Willy’s enough for their hospitality. Wednesday rolled around and just as things started to go smoothly, Mother Nature decided she would be the one to screw us all over. With Chris’ chopper down for the count on the back of the chase truck, and the rain pouring down from the sky, I knew that I was in for an interesting day. As we all threw on our rain gear and set out to ride, I could tell that everyone was let down by the terrible weather. Our scenic ride through the mountains would have to be cut short. We all made the decision to head towards Maggie Valley, North Carolina on the highway route. Just as night was about to fall, we rolled in to our destination, The Wheels Through Time Museum. This place is home to the premier collection of American vintage motorcycles. It houses over 300 of America’s rarest motorcycles, and what make this place even better is they all are running machines. I was astonished with how much living history was right in front of my own two eyes. After checking everything out for a while, we settled down for the night next to a warm bonfire, and watched classic movies on the projector. It was exactly what everyone needed after the long day, not to mention that the people of the museum managed to get Chris’ ‘49 up and running. The next morning we would be on our way to Tellico Plains, Tennessee. With thoughts of excitement racing through my mind, I tried to get myself some sleep and prepare for what was in store the rest of the week.
Thursday was finally here. All I could think about was getting to our final stop, the new spot for the BMR. The weather was perfect; the sun was shining and the temperature was in the high eighties. My cousin Robbie and I decided that we were going to separate from the group and get to Tennessee ahead of the rest of them. We rode through some of the most amazing scenery I have ever seen in my life. Then we finally arrived at The Dragon, an eleven mile stretch with 318 bends across some of the most breathtaking views a person could ever get the chance to see. As we cruised throughout the winding bends, I realized that time wasn’t important to me anymore. I was exactly where I wanted to be, and for one of the first times in my life, I felt completely free. Later that day, we arrived at the Big Mountain Run. With a smile from ear to ear, I prepared myself for one hell of a good time.
On Friday morning, I awoke to the sound of rumbling motors from people arriving for this event from all over the country. It was the best sound I think someone could possibly wake up to. The temperature was an intense ninety-two degrees, and the sweat began to pour. With everyone just rolling in, I decided to go around and meet as many people as I could so I could get their stories on how they ended up at the BMR. Well let me tell you, there was not one person I met down there that did not treat me like they wanted to be treated. The hospitability was flowing through the atmosphere, and I knew that it was going to be a great weekend. With everyone just getting situated, the darkness soon fell, and the party for the night would begin. Feeling a little under the weather Saturday morning, due to a long night of music and beer with my new friends, we all decided to head out to a local swimming hole. When we arrived, it was one of the most eye catching places I have ever been to. With a waterfall to ride down and a couple cliffs to jump off of, we spent hours enjoying the sun and the nice cool water. It was exactly what we all needed after spending a couple days in the hot sun. When I got back to the location, more people had arrived to join in on the party. The bike games would soon start with events including, the slow race, the keg race and something about catching a hot dog in your mouth while on the back of someone else’s bike. After being disqualified from the slow race, I enjoyed watching everyone else compete in some of the funniest entertainment of the weekend. This was followed by a night of drinking, friends, and some great live music. The Big Mountain Run was coming to an end, but I knew that this would be a lifelong memory for me.
When my eyes opened on Sunday morning I knew that my time in Tennessee had run out, and it was time to head to Pittsburgh. A small group of us decided that in true gypsy fashion we would take the slow, but scenic route home. We started out on the Cherohala Skyway, riding up mountains that make you feel like an ant traveling through such a big world. The part that really topped it off for me though was the Blue Ridge Parkway. Winding around all the beautiful mountain tops is something that I truly will have in my memory until the day that my ride ends. We didn’t make it very far that day, but we had nowhere to be, and that was the greatest feeling in the world. Monday morning had come, and for the first time on the trip I was anxious to get home. We rode all day, even making a stop to swim under the New River Gorge. For anyone who has never gone to the bottom, I would highly recommend taking the trip. At last we had all made it home safely to Pittsburgh around 1:30 a.m. As I closed my eyes that night, I looked back on everything that had happened over the past seven days. At that point, I knew this wasn’t just a memory, it was a new part of my life. I would personally like to thank everyone who attended the Big Mountain Run this year and for making this one of the most fun times of my life. You can count on seeing me down there in 2013. Hope to see you all there!
The Big Mountain Run Through The Eyes Of A Newbie
By: J.J. Phipps
I have wanted to attend the Big Mountain Run for a couple of years now, but circumstances out of my control have prevented me from doing so. However, this year the stars aligned for me to finally be able to attend my first BMR. I asked my wife, Ashleigh, if she would like to go too and she said yes. I am very fortunate that my wife is also my best friend. She enjoys riding as much as I do and enjoys doing a lot of the same things as well. Ashleigh asked me where we would be staying and I told her the “Hoka Hey Motel,” a.k.a. my tent, that I slept in for 12 days while doing the Hoka Hey Motorcycle Challenge in 2010. I explained to her that it had the same plush accommodations as a hotel such as…well, it has a place to lie down. Did I mention this would be her first time camping? That Friday I fired up the Night Train and she her new Fat Boy Lo and we were BMR bound. Some of the lures of the BMR are the great riding roads in the Tennessee Mountains as well as getting away from civilization for a few days. When we arrived, I could see the, oh shit, where the hell have you brought me, look on her face. Now mind you, Ashleigh has been to motorcycle rallies before even doing Sturgis in 2006, but this was her first one where there was no civilization of any kind. I could see she felt out of her element in a major way, but not one time did she say anything or complain.
After setting up our residence for the next couple of days, we walked around the grounds to check things out and see everyone’s ride. What I admired most about the bikes of the BMR is that you could tell that they were ridden on a regular basis and that they were not there just to be looked at. What really stood out to me though was the paint. Almost every bike there had a really kickass metal flake and/or retro paint job that were out of this world! As darkness fell, we headed over to the bar to check out the band. When you are at a venue in which you feel somewhat out of place there comes a moment that makes you realize that either: a) you are going to have a great time or b) this is going to suck and I need to get the hell out of here. It was at the bar that this moment happened for Ashleigh when Roadside Marty, Bean’re, and a few others decided to form the “I’m going to set my armpit hair on fire” club. After recording the barbecued pits (literally) on her phone, she and Bean’re made friends and it was game-on the rest of the weekend.
The next morning, we had one of the best breakfasts we have ever eaten at a little store in the middle of nowhere recommended to us by some new friends we met that morning. The food tasted just like what grandma would make and that’s because grandma was the one in the back making it while her grandkids were waiting tables. Needless to say, the place was overrun by the BMR crew; the grandkids should have some good stories to tell their friends. When we got back to the campsite, we decided we should shower. Being BMR first timers, our shower time was poorly chosen, as in no hot water. We had no excuse for having to take a cold shower as we were warned by some of the BMR veterans that hot water was currently unavailable. We spent the rest of the day hanging out with some more new found friends at the waterfall off of the Cherohala Skyway. We were going to ride The Dragon but it was so hot the lure of hanging out in some nice cool water was too strong to resist. It was a very relaxing day. We even jumped off the waterfall to prove we were brave, but only after we watched a twelveyear- old jump first. Another thing that happened that day that was of personal importance to me was being able to meet two of my Hoka Hey brothers face-to-face in Chris Callen and Rob Keller.
When we got back to the BMR site, Chris was announcing that the biker games were about to start which I thought would be fun to watch. Ashleigh had other plans however and said, “You should sign up.” I said, ‘No.’ She said, “Yes!” I said, ‘No!’ She said, “Yes!!” I signed up. Being my first biker games, I had no idea what to expect and when I saw the weenie bite, I went and warned her about it. A little background on why this is significant: Ashleigh hates hot dogs with a passion. When our kids and I have them at home, they have to be cooked outside and eaten outside. She can’t even handle the smell of them. So when she agreed to do it, I could not believe it. Damned if she did not tie for first! One of the most fun things about the biker games was listening to Roadside Marty m/c. I have heard and read about his crazy mad m/c skills, but it’s kind of like seeing Mount Rushmore. You can’t really appreciate the magnificence of Mount Rushmore unless you see it in person, and you can’t really appreciate Marty’s m/ cing unless you hear him in person. Special thanks to Chris for getting Ashleigh a trophy and Roadside Marty for getting her a shirt. After the games, I went inside the bar to wait for my name to be called for the Evil Engineering belt drive that was being given away. When my name was not called, I waited patiently for an explanation as to why I did not win since I was sure I was going to. It seemed like I waited for an eternity for an explanation that I never got. I know I sat there for at least 5 or 6 minutes before finally giving up. I then decided to go and see what my wife was up to. I found her out behind the bar arm wrestling both women and men. Sadly, one of the guys from the Haints had the misfortune of feeling her wrath. We wrapped up our evening with a few more matches and a nice walk around the grounds before turning in.
The best thing to us about the BMR was the simplicity of the event and the common bond everyone seemed to share. Everyone showed up with and slept in tents and the Haints definitely had the coolest setup. There were no high dollar motor homes there with all of their bells and whistles. Everyone took the same cold showers and used the same port-a-crappers. There was no big, fancy, flat screen T.V. for people to bury their face in. No one was hypnotized by a laptop computer engulfed in some B.S. social network and no one sat around playing video games. With the exception of the great music we had during the evening, the only entertainment we had was each other. Interacting with one another, making new friends, and going for a good ride was all the entertainment anyone needed. The Tennessee Mountains provided us with beautiful scenery, great riding roads, and a place to have a good time without anyone bothering us. When we needed a place to cool off from the heat, the river provided that for us as well. What else could anyone ask for? The BMR gets back to the basics of what a rally is about: people and bikes. We had a blast. While we were packing up and getting ready to head for home, my wife said the words that were music to my ears: “We are definitely coming back next year.” See you in 2013.