Guzzis in the Blue Ridge, August 6-8, 1999

The annual Guzzis in the Blue Ridge rally, held near the beginning of August each year at the Blue Ridge Motorcycle Campground, in Cruso, NC, was the first Guzzi rally I ever attended, and helped get me hooked on Guzzis and the people they attract. This year was no different. The setting, the people, the machines, all contribute to making the time fly by way too fast, and I am always torn between riding and socializing with folks I only get to see one or two times a year. This year riding won out.

By some quirk of fate, or serendipity, no matter how hot and disgusting the summer has been, Mark Tenney and Barbara Nowell always seem to get a break just in time for the rally. Sure, it’s hot during the day, especially if you’re stuck in Asheville traffic, but the nights in Cruso cool off just right, bringing out the long-sleeves for dinner and post-meal bull sessions.

We arrived Friday night, too late for dinner, but my friend Dave Vendola had a cooler full of yummy Italian cold cuts and other sandwich fixings, so we didn’t go hungry. Kim’s Ducati was down, so for the first time my wife arrived at a Guzzi rally the proper way, on a Guzzi. It was getting dark already, but we managed to find a few friendly faces in the gloom and yacked the night away.

GinBRbreakfastline 1.jpg (29690 bytes)Saturday we had a lovely full breakfast at the camp kitchen (one of the major pluses to staying at the Blue Ridge Motorcycle Campground) and then saddled up for the lunch ride to Hot Springs, NC. Ken Pitts, on a bone-stock Ambassador, promised to show those willing a detour after lunch on some of the local skinny roads. The trip to Hot Springs followed Highway 209, as usual, but as usual, it was far from boring. The group was a bit large this year, and when we stopped for a group photo, some of the riders were still strung out behind. As everyone parked and walked around, we heard a Guzzi being pushed hard coming up the mountain. Into view flew Ken Pitts on that Ambassador, crossed up and leaned over like Eddie Lawson. Who says loop-frame Guzzis are just cruisers? He saw the assembled multitude and quickly slowed down and stopped for the photo op.

A while further towards Hot Springs we had the first of four mishaps on this particular lunch ride. Gary from D.C., a rider just returning to biking after a long remission, overcooked a corner and low-sided on the shoulder. His new Centauro was slightly scuffed, as was his pride, but both rider and bike were able to continue. The fun-filled ride continued until we all eventually ended up in downtown Hot Springs, where we filled the parking lot of the only restaurant with Italian machinery. As usual, our group overwhelmed the staff, and it took a while for everyone to get their orders.

GinBRkenpitts 1.jpg (80098 bytes)After lunch, we split up, one group headed back to the campground, and the other agreed to follow Ken on some local roads he had scouted prior to the rally. Several times during the ride Ken told us "If I am going too slow, just come on past me whenever you want." Yeah right, sure Ken. No one went by, at least not while we were on those backroads. Drum brakes or not, Ken can ride the wheels off that Ambassador. We went for a ride on some of the gnarliest, twistiest, decreasing-radius switchback roads I have ever been on. Several times we crossed into Tennessee, back into North Carolina, and back into Tennessee again.

In one sharp right-hander, some gravel and sand had been washed into the road, and Bill Voltaggio hit it just right with the back wheel of his Triumph. Down he went in a hard low-side, right in front of me, and slid right towards a pickup truck full of locals in the oncoming lane. Bill came to rest on the pavement, looking up at the rusty bumper of a mid-70s Chevy truck. As I parked and ran back to see what had happened, the passengers in the bed of the pickup were yelling "Did we hit him, did we hit him?" We got Bill and his bike up, and both were mostly OK. Bill suffered a badly scuffed knee, right through his leathers, and the Triumph had a broken peg, a dented tank, a smashed turnsignal, and a scratched headlight rim. After a minute or two to collect himself, he remounted and we motored off, albeit a bit slower.billvolt.jpg (66222 bytes)

We headed back to the campground, and lost Bill along the way. Some of us went back to find him, and we waited a good while for him to appear. Finally we went back to Cruso, and he had beaten us there and was relaxing in his shorts when we arrived. I later found out that Gary had dropped his Centauro a second time, and another of our party had dropped his Eldorado in a gravel lot. In total, we had four "incidents", involving three riders, on one ride. Oh well, anything you can walk away from….

By the time we made it back to the campground, it was dinnertime, and the place was packed! Attendance broke 200, the largest ever for Mark and Barbara’s rally. After an Italian meal from Dee’s kitchen, it was time for door prizes and awards.

GinBRawardwinners 1.jpg (54494 bytes)

Some of the award highlights were:

Long Distance Guzzi Female: Pat Wolfe, 572 miles from Daytona, FL on her '84 V65C

Long Distance Guzzi Male: Ken Bunch, 988 miles from Tulsa, OK on his '96 1100i Cali

Open Touring Guzzi Award: Created especially for Ian Jenkins from England who traveled 4,900 miles through the US on his '84 Cal III before getting to our rally.

Long Distance Guzzi Two-up: Derek Bird and son, 634 mile from Parma, OH on his '97 Centauro

Oldest Guzzi Rider: Robert Curry who rode 500 miles from Fairmont, WV on his '96 Cali

Long Distance Open Class: Joseph Boguslawski, 709 miles from Freehold, NJ on a '88 Harley FLHTC

People's Choice:

Old Frame: Ed Flanagan's '74 Eldo-LAPD

Tonti Sport: Ed Dorr's 76 Lemans I

Tonti Cruiser: Bruce Gower's '97 Blue/Cream California

Spine Frame: Glenn Bewley's '95 1100 Sport

A special "Open Touring Guzzi" award was given to Ian Jenkins, who had come from England in early March, purchased a California, and toured the US for 4900-plus miles until August. At the time of the Guzzis in the Blue Ridge, he had but a week or so to go before he (and his Guzzi) returned home to the Emerald Isle. I met Ian during bike week, in Deland for the vintage bike swap meet and show. I was amazed to see the change in him, from pasty, fresh-off-the-boat Brit to sun- and weather-beaten road warrior. He was so tan I could hardly see his tattoos. "Ay, that’s a West Coast tan!", he proudly told me.

 After the awards, we mingled and talked, and walked around the campground to look at the wonderful bikes and see who was still up. Something in the North Carolina hills brings out the most interesting old iron, both from Mandello and elsewhere. As usual, Glenn Bewley and his crew back in the trees were some of the last folks awake, but Bobby Pearson, Dave Vendola and I stayed up a bit longer at the community fire. We said our goodnights and headed off to bed.

Sunday morning promised another rain-free day, and we had another great breakfast, packed our stuff and said our good-byes to old friends and some new ones. The people that attend this rally are truly some of the best. I’d like to give a special thank you to Henry and Dee, owners of Blue Ridge Motorcycle Campground, for making us all welcome. If you can’t make the rally, it’s still worth the trip.

Pictures:

kim at blue ridge.jpg (58410 bytes) Kim at Blue Ridge. Finally Kim shows up on a Guzzi.
ron'sSPIII.jpg (32385 bytes) Ron’s SPIII. Ron Komoroski, MGNOC Virginia rep’s new SPIII. Bill Doll’s people’s choice LeMans I is in the background.
redsport.jpg (52096 bytes) Red Sport. Just a nice red carb Sporty
1000S.jpg (54186 bytes) 1000S. A nice green-framed 1000S with a café fairing. Is that Willi Johnk in the background? Ron Komoroski’s right arm is so sexy.
billvolt_small.jpg (4005 bytes) Bill Voltaggio in a Bactine moment.

Other Pictures (different Photographers)

GinBRsettingupcamp 1.jpg (58889 bytes) Setting up camp at Blue Ride Motorcycle Camp Ground.
GinBRbreakfastline 1.jpg (29690 bytes) Waiting in line for Breakfast.
GinBRkenpitts 1.jpg (80098 bytes) Ken Pitts, in search of twisties tour guide,  with his Ambassador.
GinBRdoorprizes2 1.jpg (35588 bytes) Door Prize Drawing.
GinBRDeeskitchen 1.jpg (31358 bytes) Dee and Henry working hard in the kitchen to serve up the fine Italian dinner Saturday night.
GinBRemilyhelpsinkitchen 1.jpg (23968 bytes) Emily Banks (the red-head), V.P of Operations for MGNA, volunteered to help out in the kitchen since Dee was short of help.
GinBRdinner2 1.jpg (31757 bytes) Enjoying the Italian dinner Saturday night.
GinBRdinner 1.jpg (29670 bytes)
GinBRawardwinners 1.jpg (54494 bytes) Group shot of award winners.
GinBRawardwinners2 1.jpg (25252 bytes) Pat Wolfe, long distance female and Robert Curry, oldest rider.
GinBRed_dorr 1.jpg (44713 bytes) Ed Dorr and his award winning LeMans I.
GinBRGlenBewley 1.jpg (48938 bytes) Glenn Bewley and his award winning Sport 1100.
GinBRTomandCathy 1.jpg (42695 bytes) Tom threatening the camera person with a toothbrush Sunday morning.
GinBRdavewilson 1.jpg (41581 bytes) Dave Wilson, NC MSF instructor,  with his California.
GinBRFredandKimLeaving 1.jpg (42256 bytes) Fred and Kim head off to Knoxville.
GinBRwallyzink 1.jpg (34187 bytes) Wally Zink waves goodbye from his Centauro.