>FROM WICKED WILLY’S CHOPPER SHOP TO THE WHEELS THROUGH TIME: CYCLE SOURCE’S GYPSY TOUR POURS ON THE MILES, SMILES AND FUN!
>May 18th, 2010. Rolling out of bed, it’s hard not to notice the steely gray of the clouds blocking out the sun. The dips in the pavement are filled with water from last night’s rain. Although the party isn’t until six PM tonight, I’m anxious to strap the bags to the fender and be gone. I decided a couple of weeks ago, I will be at Wicked Willy’s Pre-Gypsy Ride Party. It is the first biker party of the year for me. In fact it’s been several years since I had attended a party. I’m a wet blanket for the most part at parties…so I just don’t normally go. But this party held the promise of something else, something different. I wanted to go.
I was on my packed bike heading east into North Carolina, looking for roads that I hadn’t been on, to take me to Taylorsville, NC. OK, that’s almost impossible to do. While I hadn’t ever been to Taylorsville, the general direction to get there forced me to partake of several roads I had traveled on last year. All the same, I managed to leave the state of Tennessee without getting very wet. Once I got over the mountain and into North Carolina the clouds were basically stopped or slowed to a crawl by the low mountain peaks.
I meandered through North Carolina, slipping down this roadway and turning around when it ended in someone’s driveway: turning around to find another small two lane country road heading in a similar direction as me. I found the adventure stimulating. Its fun to explore, and I didn’t have to be anywhere for several hours. Eventually I found my way into the driveway of Wicked Willy’s Choppers. I was the 1st to arrive even though I had done my best to get lost and found.
Wayne (the proprietor of Wicked Willy’s), was working on a chopper when I arrived. I walked into the shop and introduced myself to the guys gathered about a chopper on a lift. It turns out; this party is also the un-veiling celebration for this very good looking Yamaha Chopper. I learned Chris from Cycle Source was coming to photograph it for a layout in his magazine. I have some really great photos of this bike, but I can’t show them until the bike premiers in Cycle Source. I promised….
I’ve set my tent up in the yard where suggested. It was dry and under a tree. I was in front of the band stand by about half a football field. It was perfect. How strange though, to be standing in a chopper shop and many of the people who came to visit, to party, and to congratulate the builder rode all different models and brands of motorcycles. Everyone was comfortable at Wicked Willy’s!
This is the next “long distance” bike to come in. I fell in love with it. Classic. The owner (Wes) rode in from Missouri. I walked around it taking pictures, I really liked this EVO.
Before long the parking lot was filling up with locals, all there to help celebrate with Wayne his newest Chopper.
There were many bikes there either built by Wayne, or was on the road because of Wayne’s help. For instance, there is this trike that Wayne put together for a buddy. I wonder why I only got this much of the bike? Kick my ass sometimes.
As the sun was setting, the grill was lit, the band fired up and the party was in full swing. Chris and Michael Lichner arrived, and very soon everyone was eating, drinking, and having fun. Did I mention the police blocked off the road? It was a true block party. We had the full co-operation of the town and the police. The Bar-B-Q was so damn good. Amazing how hamburgers and hot dogs can be so tasty after a long ride, and good company with fantastic conversation. I was lying on my air mattress, cozy under my sleeping bag by midnight. I slept like a dead one. I needed the rest. Ah man it felt good.
The next morning found many of the guests rousing from sleeping under the stars. We stirred about the shop, rubbing sleep from our eyes, packing our tents and bags, preparing for the ride to TillEy’s Harley Davidson. It’s my understanding it is only 30 miles from Taylorsville. How come we traveled 90 miles? HA! And we were late on arrival to Tilly’s too! It’s all good, I’m just glad my 2 gallon gas tank didn’t leave me high and dry before we arrived at Tilly’s. I fueled up, the tank took 1.8 gallons. Whew! So glad I got my carb fixed last year!
When we pulled into Tilley’s we had a contingent of about 30 riders. Pulling into the parking lot, there were somewhere around 45 or 50 more riders waiting for us! After a brief layover at Tilly’s, Michael Lichner gave us the lowdown on what he expected from us as we traveled with him and his cameras. I couldn’t believe I was getting the opportunity to watch Michael Lichner, the great photographer at work. I am an idol worshiper.
As I’m walking into the dealership for the “rest facilities” I lock eyes with a woman who appears to recognize me. I had to go…but when I came back out, JoAnne Bortles came up and introduced herself to me. I was so happy to meet her at last. JoAnne is the owner of Crazy Horse Paint Shop. The fantastic painter of all things cool, beautiful or artistic on your tins and fenders!
Before we leave Tilley’s parking lot, JoAnne is inducted to lead the motley group of about 90 bikes through hills and dales, over mountains and through townies. She did a very good job. The group was so large; many broke up into splinter groups. We were able to catch up with each other at gas stops. Chris loaded Michael facing backward on the bagger he was riding, and the two of them rode the inside lane, photographing the line as we charged up next to Chris and the bagger, following the hand signals given us by Michael (move forward, slip back, come closer left, move further right.)
How do I explain how comfortable it was to ride beside the Rock of Gibraltar of motorcycle operators? This man was dead steady through every turn keeping his line true and predictable as we rode wheel to wheel: the bagger’s rear wheel equal with our front wheels. It was, and still is an experience unequal to any other I’ve experienced. Riding like this on two lane mountain twisty roads rushing along between 30 and 55 miles an hour was an exploit that gave me the big time grins. These roads, these speeds, these people with whom I was privileged to share the roads with, still make me smile with pure pleasure. Almost better than sex, oh hell, who am I kidding, I think its right up there with sex, and it lasts longer too.
Eventually, as the sun was sitting low on the horizon our group pulled into The Wheels Through Time Museum. In the parking lot of WTT was a medium sized contingent of riders. I figure about 60 riders were waiting for us as we pulled in. Our group arrived finding a great strip of grass next to a babbling creek. Those of us who planned to camp unloaded our tents and equipment and set about our task of making a home for the evening.
We soon learned Matt and Dale Walksler, had ordered a HUGE amount of pizzas to feed the horde. There were a few of us who were looking for something a bit… meatier. We were advised of a nice restaurant a bit down the road. It was serving rib eye…potatoes…and…ahhh it was so good at $10.00 a plate. Some had so much meat on their plates they couldn’t eat it all. OOOOO….decadent stuff.
Upon our return to Wheels Through Time, the party was in full swing. The Walksler’s had decided to keep the museum open all night. Upstairs, in the lounge area movies of pioneering bikers was flickering on the TV. Outside, shadows of men and women were dancing against the ground and the walls of the outdoor fireplace pavilion.
Further from the building was a larger open fire pit where many more men and women were singing to a lone guitar player accompanied by someone on mini conga drums. The guys and gals were singing, imbibing and enjoying the camaraderie of their brothers and sisters. I slept like a baby once more this night. Those of us who had left out of Slick Willy’s to travel the Gypsy Tour had almost 300 miles under our belts this day.
Here are a few of the bikes you will find inside the Wheels Through Time Museum. You’ve got to stop in here when you come to Maggie Valley!
Friends, this story is getting long. We still have to get up in the morning, get our group together and ride onto “THE DRAGON” at Deals Gap then further up into the mountains riding the Cherohala Skyway from Robbinsville NC to Tellico Plains, TN. A mile high amazing route over the Smokey Mountain passes. This road offers spectacular views and a technical ride from North Carolina to Tennessee. Stay tuned for part II, where “THE GYPSY RIDE” MEETS BIG MOUNTAIN RUN IN TELLICO PLAINS, TENNESSEE!