This entry is part 5 of 30 in the series AusMotorcyclist Issue#25

“On the old highway maps of America, the main routes were red and the back roads blue. READERS’ TRAVELS Now even the colors are changing. But in those brevities just before dawn and a little after dusk – times neither day nor night – the old roads return to the sky some of its color. Then, in truth, they carry a mysterious cast of blue, and that’s the time when the pull of the blue highway is strongest, when the open road is a beckoning, a strangeness, a place where a man can lose himself.” William Least-Heat Moon

Navigating I-85 north on 9/11 anniversary, heavy sky threatens rain, clouds swollen, ready to burst. Mist shrouds the air, veiling the roads toward Indianapolis, lending the landscape an air of solemnity.

Hand painted signs of commemoration punctuate the dull, colorless countryside. The ground is saturated to the point of overflow from the last day’s rain. Shielded by my V-Strom’s fairing, with Bill Kniegge leading, melancholy seeps into my soul. Small towns seem lost and lonely in the fog, and splashing along the cold, wet road, I couldn’t feel further from Mr. Least-Heat Moon’s magical highways.

As Falston becomes Casar and the landscape shifts to Marion, the weather changes subtly, brightening the atmosphere of these mountain towns. The heavy clouds disperse, allowing sunlight to filter through and energize us. Thoughts of the upcoming Indianapolis Moto GP event clear my mind, while Bill accelerates confidently on the drying roads. The countryside unfolds before us: verdant fields stretch towards distant wooden barns, where farm animals graze peacefully. The inviting ribbon of road leads us through Middle America’s picturesque landscape of rolling hills and valleys, promising countless adventures ahead.

Kniegge’s a lifer. A lifelong rider, he’s immersed in two wheels from childhood, starting with his uncle’s BMW to leading tours in North Carolina. With a vision to conduct luxury tours in the beautiful state of North Carolina he has adopted as home, his Indy Moto GP tour is a natural extension of this dream.


A short hop west on Interstate 40 that pulls us up through the Pisgah Forest, over Black Mountain and down into Asheville, leads us to the two-lane that finds us in the mountain town of Marshall for lunch. Here, Bill has an added treat for us as we are joined by ex AMA Superbike Champion Jamie James. Living not far from Marshall, who better to sit and chat with about the upcoming Moto GP as we eat? With the historic town of Marshall enjoying some warm sunshine after our cold, wet start, it also gives us an opportunity to stretch our legs a little after lunch and enjoy this curious town.

Full bellies and mountain charm could have easily sabotaged our afternoon ride if Bill hadn’t saddled us up and led us north into Tennessee and on to Virginia on the most challenging of roads. Following every contour and curve of the landscape, it gives our small team a chance to find a pace we are comfortable with. Riding with father and son team, Mike and Tim Ogles from California, and North Carolina resident Rich Lubbers, our group moves easily together. Passing through small towns, it is evident the economic hardships that are becoming more common these days have hit the country first, with a lot of small businesses closed, working limited hours, or up for sale.

The Lonesome Pine Trading Post has fallen victim to the times, and we miss our chance to go Frog Giggin, one of the many activities and curiosities that had once been offered along this route.

By now we are closing in on the Cumberland Gap, and Bill heads us west toward Kentucky. Deep in the Appalachian Mountains, we work our way through Daniel Boone country as we pass Rogersville, Enterprise and Jonesville and finally Cumberland Gap Village that boasts a population of 204. No time to stop as we cross I 75, take a quick, deep breath to celebrate not being stuck with the commuting herds, and dive into the next set of divine bends running through Bald Rock, Dykes and Mount Victory.

Finally calling a halt in Somerset with close to 400 miles on the odometer, we easily find the Doolin House, our accommodation for the night, and head in for a drink. A totally rebuilt Manor House modeled on an 1850s home, it’s owned and operated by professional chefs Charles and Allison Sobrieck. They’re responsible for tightening a few sets of riding pants with their fabulous cuisine, and we enjoy a private dinner on site, with more of the same for breakfast.

Fueled by strong coffee and a sun filled morning’s enthusiasm, we pick up the Daniel Boone Parkway west, before hopping onto some more curvy, lightly trafficked state roads. The sky is growing heavier with clouds as we pass tobacco barns and corn silos before approaching the Ohio River.

Taking a quick break before crossing the old metal bridge that takes us to our next state, the countryside has flattened significantly and all signs of blue sky have abandoned us. With the rain holding off, we skirt Elizabethtown and continue into Indiana and the small historic town of Corydon for lunch. Bill has done his homework, and we are soon inhaling the most delicious white bean chili at Magdalena’s as the grand tour continues. Strolling for a while after lunch, the historic town center makes for a perfect break and a chance to meet a few of the locals, who seem very interested in the small group of motorcycle travelers passing through.

Working north, it’s all corn and tobacco for as far as the eye can see.

The road runs straight through the middle of farmland for the next few hours as we detour around Palmyra, before passing Beck’s Mill and Salem.

After pausing for a time at the longest covered bridge in America at Medora, it’s time to pick up the pace some as we ride into the great Indiana Hill country of Brown County. It throws long series of challenging curves at us, and we positively fl y by the cornfields enjoying the chance to put the V Stroms through their paces for a while. Tight, nimble machines, their upright riding position has comfortably carried us to here.

The wide bars provide outstanding maneuverability as we perform our own Indy GP for a time. Pausing to make a turn in the one horse town of Story, a chance look left from Bill spots the Story Inn, and the spirit of curiosity leads us to an unscheduled stop.

Finding the rusted building packed to the gunwales with memorabilia, and a staff willing to tell us the building’s and town’s fascinating history, we have a cold drink while we listen. This prompts Bill to do some investigating: he is going to add in a night here on his trip this year as it is just too interesting a place to ride by. It’s not on our agenda though, so we saddle up and make our last miles to the Mecca of Motorsports through Stonehead, Gnawbone and more as Indy calls. Thankfully, the rain holds off as the first part of our pilgrimage ends at the beautifully restored Hampton Inn and base camp for our Moto GP weekend operations.

Always moving at a relaxed pace, we meet Mr. Kniegge and his lovely wife Debbie in the lobby for transport to Dunaway’s Palazzo. This fantastic five star restaurant in the restored Indiana Oxygen building is an old haunt of Bill’s, and we do a little celebrity spotting over our fabulous cuisine. It’s owned and operated by well-known Chef Jeff Dunaway, and we re-ride our route over dinner as the excitements builds for the spectacle awaiting us at the racetrack.

Awakening to bustling motorcycle-filled streets, we feel the friendly vibe as we hop on the Red Bull bus to Speedway. With credentials in hand, we breeze through town to the track, where a full day of activities awaits. Private track museum tour precedes lunch at Red Bull energy station, just fifty feet from practicing Moto GP bikes. Surrounded by the scent of race fuel, clutching a cold Red Bull, we feel close to our racing heroes, exhilarated.

Under clear skies, American riders impress as 250cc bikes tackle turns at insane speeds, leaving us in awe. Nothing beats the sound of big four strokes off throttle, then lighting up rear tires as gas returns.

At Claddagh Irish Pub for an early dinner, we pause as night approaches, catching our breath. Quickly re-energized we follow Bill out to the Fairgrounds for dirt track racing at the world famous Indy Mile. Prime seating inside turn one offers a close, thrilling view as gladiators race inches from barriers and each other. Late-night V-twins roar while the crowd cheers, leaving us hoarse from excitement.

No coffee is needed to get us moving onto the Red Bull bus the morning of the race.
Ignoring gloomy forecasts, we enjoy a lightning ride through crowds with a police escort on race day.

Back at the energy station, the race begins under threatening skies. Despite the challenging conditions, Nicky Hayden fights fiercely, but it’s Valentino Rossi who ultimately clinches victory. As the wind and rain intensify, we retreat to the bus. At PF Changs’, we mingle with race teams, cherishing memories of a day etched into our motorcycle souls.

Home is calling as we saddle up into a clear but cool morning. Rain threatens as we head south of the Ohio River; yesterday’s storm damage reminds us of our luck today. Oldenburg becomes Peppertown before Batesville and Hubble’s Corner disappear in our mirrors. Authentic Mexican food fuels us as we head south, reaching Cumberland Gap Village by afternoon. Sun sets low over US 421, casting golden hues on hillsides and farm buildings amidst the mountains.

Highway light transitions to blue as we settle into the historic Old Mill Inn for the night.
On the V Strom with newfound friends, Bill Kniegge brings Mr. Least Heat Moon’s words to life on our tour.


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Australian Motorcyclist Magazine is Australia's leading motorcycle travel magazine.

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