Article And Photos By: Panhead Jim
If you ride about 10 miles past the middle of nowhere, you’ll come to the town of Crumpler, NC. Tucked away in the Blue Ridge Mountains, it is one of the least likely places you would expect to find hundreds of choppers roaring around the countryside. Still, each fall just before the leaves change an event known as the Twin Rivers Chopper Campout turns this sleepy little town into a two-wheel Mecca. Hosted for the last three years by Zak Gibbons, TRCC brings motorcycle mayhem to western Carolina with a laidback Southern attitude and plenty of cold beer for one memorable weekend. Whether you are a first-timer or a veteran attendee, the biggest challenge is always reaching the campground. It is located about 2 miles from the nearest paved road, and the closer you get to the campground, the quicker the road deteriorates into a rockstrewn single lane track bordered on one side by a rocky cliff and on the other by the New River. While nobody has admitted to dumping their motorcycle on the way into camp, the look of relief on each rider’s face is obvious as they put down their kickstand and breathe a sigh of relief when they finally arrive. The campground itself is made up of a narrow stretch of land that follows the banks of the river as it makes a horseshoe bend around a generously wooded property. Every campsite has a spectacular view of the river, so even if you arrived late and had to pitch your tent next to the portajohns, the scenery and the sounds of the water flowing over the rocks are almost enough to make you forget the smell. Right in the center of the camp is a massive rock outcropping, which has become known as the “Rave Cave” and serves as the backdrop for the weekend’s events with music, food, and vendors all set up in its shadow.
Although the event officially started on Friday, a lot of folks began pulling in on Thursday to secure prime camping spots before the crowds arrived. A steady flow of motorcycles rolled through all day on Friday with the sounds of two-piston exhaust notes echoing through the campground until well past dark. By Friday night, the campground was a menagerie of tents, hammocks, vans, and choppers. There were campfires blazing up and down the river and music blasting from the Rave Cave. While most people managed to pack the essentials on their motorcycles, Zak made sure that there was plenty of extra beer available for those who managed to “forget” theirs at home, along with a couple of handles of whiskey to get everyone in the right mood. Friday night soon turned into Saturday m o r n i n g as people w a n d e r e d from campfire to campfire, sharing stories, downing beers and checking out motorcycles under a full moon. For those looking for a little more action, the Rave Cave did not disappoint with dice games, music, and a blazing bonfire lighting up the heart of camp as people danced or just stumbled the night away. The only thing that stopped the party was a gas hungry generator, which finally sputtered out around 3 AM. Once the music died, everyone managed to find their tents (or least a reasonably dry patch of ground) and curled up for a little shut-eye before the sun was rising back over the river bringing on another day.
There was a lot of groaning and cursing when the sun came up on Saturday morning, but after a good cup of hot coffee and a plate of biscuits and gravy, most people were rejuvenated enough to start moving around. While there were many brands of motorcycles heading out for impromptu rides around the countryside, Jody Goodwill put together a group for the inaugural Twin Rivers Skate Jam. Escorting the group was Jody’s wife Carly in their badass 1959 Chevy El Camino, which lead the pack on a spirited ride through the mountains before reaching the small town of Sparta, NC. The group drew quite a few stares as the line of choppers with skateboards strapped to their sissybars rocketed through the dilapidated downtown on their way to the skate park. As the afternoon wore on, the various group rides made their way back to the campground, and everyone started getting stoked about the upcoming charity raffle. Unlike your typical raffle that mostly consists of stickers and odd-sized t-shirts, TRCC pulled in a group of sponsors that provided some seriously good prizes. The emphasis was clearly on motorcycle parts with the top prizes being a Lowbrow Customs weld-on Sportster hardtail, a custom 11 over springer front end, a set of rabbit ear handlebars, and a jockey shifter from Prism Supply. There was also artwork from Devil Chicken Designs, Anthony Hicks, and Lee Bullock alongside custom helmets from Custom Destruction and Paints by Rusty. Of course, there were plenty of t-shirts, stickers, sunglasses, leathers, and shop banners to be raffled too, which meant a lot of people had new stuff to pack on their motorcycles for the ride home.
Once the raffle concluded, the bonfire was stoked up, and everyone got back to having a good time. It didn’t take long for that cooler of spare beer to empty, and with rock and roll echoing out of the Rave Cave, the party carried on until the early hours of Sunday morning. Unlike Saturday, when the sun came up on Sunday, everyone was up and packing. By 10:00, the last sleeping bag had been strapped down, and the campground was just a collection of smoldering fire pits and empty beer cans. What separates the Twin River Chopper Campout from your typical motorcycle event is the camaraderie you witness among its participants. No one is a stranger even if it is their first time attending, and as you walk from campfire to campfire, you are greeted with hearty handshakes, offers of warm food, a cold drink, or just a place to sit and talk about everyone’s favorite subject, motorcycles. Bad attitudes are left back at home, and everyone is just focused on having a good time before the end of riding season. If you’ve attended a lot of motorcycle events, you should realize that this is definitely not always the case, and Zak Gibbons should be proud of the kind of event he has created out in rural NC. If this type of event sounds like something you’d like to experience, then make sure to follow @twinriverschoppercampout on Instagram to stay in the loop for next year’s event. It is guaranteed to be a good time.