Saturday, 22 October 2016

The Week After New Years: Take 2

If it's a seven grand proposition to get over to California and rent a bike to ride the Pacific Coast Highway, how cheaply could I do something else?

As if by magic, this popped up across the road from work this week.  If they're asking between five and six grand, it would be a straight trade for the commuter car I drive to work in the winter. This type of motorcycle transportation system has a cargo carrying capacity of over 3000lbs, so it would comfortably carry a bike or two.  
Tiger to scale
in that van.

The Tiger, a fairly substantial adventure bike, is about 89 inches long, 34 inches wide at the handlebars and 55 inches tall.  The cargo area in this kind of van is 124 inches long, 53 inches wide at the narrowest point of the rear wheel arches and about 53 inches tall.  With the windshield removed, even two tall adventure bikes would fit in the back of this thing with only a bit of handlebar overlap.  Two six hundred pound bikes would barely dent half the load capacity of the van.  It would barely feel a single bike at all.

With the Tiger (and maybe a Super Tenere) loaded in the back, we could make the great escape south on the week after New Years.

It's an all day trip to Knoxville.

If we left on New Year's day we could be in Pigeon Forge on the edge of the Smokey mountains that night.

Monday morning we could hit one of a number of local motorcycle friendly routes.  There are so many choices that other than a freak snow storm, we'd be on excellent riding roads, making miles in January.

Best Western Toni has a sale!
Pigeon Forge is nestled right in the middle of it all and their winter temperatures feel downright spring-like compared to what we have up here - hovering around 9°C on average.  It's cool, but no cooler than riding in the mountains around Phoenix was last New Years.  On warm days we might get right up into the high teens Celsius.  It's a bit of a chance, but the reward would be getting some beautiful winter rides in while the north is under a blanket of snow.

Compared to the Californian coast, you can get fantastic hotel deals down Knoxville way.  The Best Western in Pigeon Forge has a $74 Canadian a night deal on, and it's a 4+ star reviewed place with indoor pools and hot tubs and included breakfast; the perfect launching point for a series of rides.

Lots of pretty roads around Pigeon Forge
Being a regular winter work week for most people, the roads would be empty.  The Tail of the Dragon is only 54 twisty miles down the 321 from Pigeon Forge, and at that time of the year it'll be anything but packed.  The Dragon is just one of many excellent motorcycling roads in the Great Smokey Mountains area.

After exploring the Smokey Mountains from Monday to Thursday, we'd get a good night's sleep and make the drive back back north into the frozen darkness on Friday (giving us a spare day or two in case of weather).  The costs aren't anything like trying to get out to California.  With no airfare or motorcycle rental, the most expensive bits aren't there.  On top of that I'd get to ride a bike I love instead of getting on a rental I'm ambivalent about.

Compared to the seven grand California week, this one comes out to about sixteen hundred bucks depending on how getting my hands on a cargo van goes.  There is more of a chance of weather getting in the way but if it holds out it's a dramatically cheaper way to ride some fantastic roads in the middle of winter.

Maybe I could get Enterprise Rent-a-van to sponsor the trip...

Cost breakdown:
- swapping out the Mazda2 for a van, I think I can about break even there.  I only use the Mazda for the 10 minute commute to work in the winter - the van could easily do the same thing for not much more in gas because the commute is so short.
- gas down and back (assuming 15mpg) ~1500 miles = 100 gallons of gas ~380 litres @ $1 a litre = ~$400Cdn in gas for the van (gas is cheaper in the States).
- Food & toll costs on the commute, say $100 each way: $200US ($250Cdn)
- Hotel for the week (Sunday night to Friday morning) in Pigeon Forge: $411Cdn
- Daily bike gas & food costs: say $100US ($150Cdn) per day, so for Mon, Tue, Wed, Thu it'd be about $600Cdn

All totalled up, that's 2 days of travel and four days on two wheels in Tennessee for about $1600 Canadian dollars.  That's $5400 cheaper than the same amount of time away in California, and with six less airports.