Busa Bash - April 2006
 

Well, for those of you that don't know, I own a motorcycle.  Not just any motorcycle, but a Hayabusa.  A Suzuki Hayabusa to be exact.  Hayabusa is Japanese for "Strong and Fast".  It's also the name of the Peregrine Falcon which is the fastest animal on the planet.  This bike is currently the fastest production bike on the planet.

Why did I buy it?  Well, being a large guy, I need a bigger bike (it's 1300cc/80 cu. in.).  The bike also has a very distinctive look.  It has a huge power band, tons of torque, and oh yeah, did I mention that it's fast?

Anyway, I've been a member of an online Hayabusa Board.  This Board has a bunch of nice people that help each other out with expertise in all facets of motorcycling from track racing, drag racing, performance, etc.  Overall, a great bunch of people. 

A couple of times of year for the past two years, they have a Busa Bash, and I decided that I wanted to go.  Heidi was nice enough to give me some time away from her and the kids (and the Honey Do List).  The Bash is held in a place called Deals Gap, North Carolina.  There are some of the best motorcycling roads around, but the big draw is called The Dragon.  Technically, it's part of Route 129 that goes from western North Carolina into Tennessee.  It's 11 miles with 318 turns.  Yeah, that's a lot of turns.

Deals Gap is either the start or the end of The Dragon.  It's a great place to get gas, food, and air up.

Deals Gap - Start of The Dragon

Here's a map of The Dragon.  I started at the top (11 on the map), and worked my way down.

318 Turns in 11 miles

 

I paid NASA to take a shot of me while I was riding.  If you look REAL close, you can just barely make me out.  (It's a large picture.)

Very nice pic taken from 10,000 feet.

I won't go into the details, but getting ready for this trip was a HUGE pain.  I didn't have my normal travel agent (Heidi), so I booked everything myself.  It worked out in the end (don't even ask about the motorcycle trailer), but at least when Heidi arranges the trips, I have someone to blame when things don't go as planned.  Just kidding Hon!

So Thursday, April 27th, I packed up the car with the bike in tow, and headed up to the mountains.  I was actually fairly close to Asheville.  If that sounds familiar, the Wagoners took a trip there last year.  The motel (yes motel) I stayed in was pretty basic.  AAA rates the Phillips at .001 stars, which is pretty much the lowest rating you can have, unless you're staying in a cardboard box.  But it was just a place for me to crash (figuratively), plus most of the Board's activities (BBQ, raffle, etc.) were going to be held there.  The bathroom sink was (cup both hands together) that big.  No lie.  The shower was 2 ft. by 2 ft.  I dropped my shampoo bottle, and had to open the door so that I could bend over and pick it up.  The bed was pretty awful too.

Don't stay in room 119 - the bed sucks!

OK, enough about the hotel.  Once I got up there, got unpacked, and the bike unloaded, I took a quick spin around the area.  Very small town, but the roads were fantastic.  Beautifully paved, and banked properly as well.  After my quick little spin to check things out, I headed back to meet some of the others that were already there.

Now for those who don't participate in a web board or forum, you can spend a lot of time "talking" to people.  Actually, you type a lot.  Someone may post something, and then others respond, and after awhile, you get to "know" people.  I've been a member for a few years, and ridden with a guy I met on the board (named zukracer).  So it was a bit weird meeting people, because not only would you ask their real name, but you would also ask their "handle".  Mine is Juggler.  So that's how I would introduce myself.  Here's my avatar that I use on the board:

It's not me, but it could be...

Thursday evening was very low key.  I met a few guys from Georgia, and zukracer (Brian) showed up as well.  It was good just talking about the plans, and the various things to do in the area.  After a few hours, I was bushed, so I decided to call it an evening.  A few of us were going to do a group ride the next morning, and I wanted to be well-rested.  As it turns out, I didn't sleep that well.  The bed was lousy, and I was very anxious about riding with a big group of people.  I normally don't ride with others because some people just don't ride very well.  If you don't ride, it's hard to explain, but it's nice to be able to trust people that you ride with.  Brian was the only person that I had ridden with, and I knew he was a good rider.

Friday

Friday morning, everyone (except Brian) was up and ready to go.  Brian's roommate Jennifer also came along.  She's a fairly new rider, and she rides a Harley.  Once Brian got up and around, we were finally off.  We headed up 129 to the "start" of the Dragon.  We ate breakfast, which consisted of two of the tallest, fluffiest pancakes I'd ever eaten.  I was so keyed up that I didn't eat them all, and was anxious to get started.

I'm ready to go ride! Tom (tpbio) took this pic for me.

Me in my new leathers

I've done a bit of riding with Brian (zukracer) locally in Apex, and I also did a lot of riding with him on this trip. Brian is the one pointing, Steve is the one in red just behind him.  Jennifer is behind Brian, and Jeremy is in the blue leathers.  They called Jeremy and me Power Rangers since we looked like, well, Power Rangers.

Pre-ride discussion

Once we got started (around 10:30), it was Tom (tpbio), Steve, Jennifer, Brian, and myself.  I told everyone that I was going to take it easy, and not go too fast, and besides, Brian was a bit concerned about Jennifer, so I said I'd keep an eye on things.  Tom wanted to go slow too, so it was a good match.  We decided to take it easy, and we went down Route 28.  Talk about a great road!  The scenery was beautiful as well, but to be honest, I was focusing on my riding.  When we did stop, the views were breath-taking.  At one point, there was a sheer rock wall that was overgrown with moss, and there was water streaming down the rock face.

Around 3PM, we decided to get some lunch.  We were in the middle of nowhere, so we decided to get a "snack" at some gas station/restaurant place.  You know, fine dining.  Two corndogs, a 3 Musketeers, and water later, we decided to get started again.  I was getting a bit sore, but the lunch made me feel a lot better.

When we started again, we went on a road called the Foothill Parkway.  Another fantastic ride.  Normally Brian was at the front of the pack, and I was at the rear, but at one point, he decided to hang with Jennifer.  Steve was in the lead followed by Jennifer, then me, then Tom and Brian.  When Brian fell back, Jennifer waved me on to pass her, and then Steve and I took off.  What a great feeling of just nailing the throttle.  It wasn't racing so much as very spirited riding.  I took the lead, then let Steve take the lead.  When we got to the end of the Parkway, we waited for the others to catch up.  First Tom showed up, then a little while later, Jennifer and Brian.

I mentioned that I definitely wanted to ride The Dragon, so we went to the Overlook which is on one end of The Dragon (the other end is Deals Gap where we started in the morning).  We waited around, and ran into (figuratively speaking) some other Busa owners, and after awhile I wanted to get moving, so I decided to head out alone.  I was told to take it easy on my first ride as there had been a number of wrecks.  I didn't want to spoil my trip, so taking it easy was definitely part of my game plan.

Normally, there's a lot of riders on The Dragon.  That means that slower people (like me) normally get passed.  Sometimes safely, sometimes not-so-safely, so I was very aware of my surroundings.  About a quarter of the way in (remember it's 11 miles), there was a bike stopped, and it looked like some rider had ridden their bike off the road and down the hill.  I saw a rider, but no bike.  I didn't stop as there as another rider there, and I didn't want to be in the middle of the road just hanging around.  The Dragon has some very deceptive turns and switchbacks.  You think you have the corner figured out when all of a sudden there's a direction/elevation change.  Needless to say that I was very cautious, and didn't go too fast.

About halfway in, I round a corner, and I see an oncoming motorcyclist waving at me to slow down.  I start slowing down, and around another corner, yet another rider doing the same thing:  waving at me to slow down.  Have you ever been in one of those situations where you think, "Another 5 seconds, and I could have been a goner!" ?  I had one of those.  Shortly after the second rider motioned at me, a semi comes around the corner.  Taking up his lane and most of my lane.  Another 5 seconds, and I would have been at that point in the road, and would have either been run off the road, or run over.  Kinda scary.  Actually, very scary.

No sense dwelling on it, but I maintained my high level of caution and continued on.  It was over surprisingly fast.  It was a great road, but with so many blind turns, crazy drivers (cars and otherwise), it's not my kind of riding.  If it was one-way, then it would be more fun.  When I got down to the bottom, a guy came over to me, and asked me about the semi.  I told him where I met it, and that it was probably through The Dragon.  He and a buddy raced off.  I heard later that one of the Ford Cobras (there was a Cobra get-together the same time the Busa Bash was going on) demolished his car.

Here are some pics of me taming The Dragon (taken by Killboy):

Once off the bike, I decided to get a "I tamed The Dragon" t-shirt.  I couldn't really get one BEFORE I tamed it, right?  After that, it was back to the hotel for a quick shower and to get ready for the barbeque. 

Being Friday night, more people started arriving.  Someone had brought enough Bratwurst Burgers to feed an army, so I had a few, and started chatting with people.  Some people I knew from the board, others I didn't, but everyone was so mellow that it was nice just talking about the day's ride.  After the food was consumed, we all moved to a bigger picnic area where there were Busa Bash T-shirts were being held.  There was also a raffle, and while I didn't win what I wanted, I did win something, so that was kinda cool.

Around 10:30, I decided to call it a night because I was pooped.  I'm not used to riding as much as we did.  We did about 250 miles which is a lot if you're not used to it.

Saturday

Saturday morning was the day that we were going to be doing a group shot.  Nobody knew for sure how many people were at The Busa Bash, but there were a lot of Busas.

This is fstbusa (I don't know his real name) taking a pic.  His bike is the copper bike which is turbo-charged.  Hearing his turbo spool up is a very nice sound.  Mine is the 3rd one in from the right.

This is fstbusa taking a low shot

One of the nice things the organizers did was to hire one of the local professional photographers to take some shots of us.  "Killboy" is one of the best at capturing riders in motion.  He camped out at a corner on Route 28, and snapped pictures of us as we rode by.  I did 6-8 passes, so I'm hoping he got some good ones.  I don't have them yet, but will post an update as soon as I get them.

After we did the "Action Shots", we rode to a local damn, and lined up all the bikes.

Tom was nice enough to take another picture of me on the bike.

I don't, repeat DON'T, look like a Power Ranger!

And lastly, here's one of the best shots.  All told there are 45 Hayabusas in this pic.  There are some other bikes, but mostly Busas.

Sweeeet!

After the group picture, I decided to take off by myself. I couldn't tell you were I rode; I just rode.  In the afternoon, I decided to take the bike into a local shop and have it worked on.  "CPU Hacker" told me that the guy at Wheeler's Garage had done some work, and he was very pleased with the results.

I decided to do it.  Now I've been having some problems with my bike, namely that it runs rich.  I've taken it to a couple of dealers, but nobody has been able to fix it.  Well, guess what?  I think Ken (pictured below) fixed it!  For $90, he did several dyno runs (I'm at about 155HP/95 ft-lbs torque), and did some work that greatly improved the throttle response.  Very nice!

When I got back to the hotel around 4, I was wiped.  I decided to take a "quick" nap, and 90 minutes later woke up.  I got some chow, and came back to the hotel.  Now the plan was to get up very early on Sunday, load the car up, and hit the road.  The problem was that I didn't want another night on that lousy bed, and since there were no plans to ride on Sunday anyway, I toyed with the idea of leaving Saturday night.

I called Heidi and told her, and she thought it was a good plan.  So I packed everything up, loaded the bike on the trailer, and took off.  I got home around 1AM, unloaded the bike, and returned the trailer to U-Haul.  I came home, and was out cold.  I woke up next morning to a couple of cute kids, and a tired-but-happy-to-see-me wife.  It was a good trip, and I may attend the next Bash in September/October.

I've also scheduled a Track Day in July that I'm looking forward to.  Basically, you bring your bike, and are provided instruction.  You also get around 90 minutes of track time.  No cars, kids, animals, or cops to worry about.  You get to focus on technique and speed.  Stay tuned!

--Alan (aka Juggler)