2009 R1/R6 Forum East Coast Convention
Do you take this Yamaha to be your lawfully wedded ride?
For this year’s Yamaha R1/R6 East Coast Convention my cabin sat adjacent the Fontana Community Church on the grounds of Fontana Village Resort. Other than acknowledging its presence, I never gave any thought to actually attending service at the modest chapel. Guess I didn’t hear the nuptial bells ringing.
One reason long-time Forum member Mike Coakely proposed to Lana Luppinetti must be her congenial temperament. Any woman who can stand at the altar and laugh each time the minister addresses her by the wrong name has to possess an easy-going disposition. That she agreed to be married during the 2009 Yamaha R1/R6 East Coast Convention in front of a congregation of bikers in varying degrees of dress—including one-piece racing leathers—further proves her mettle.
After mistakenly saying Ivanna several times her husband-to-be leaned over and corrected the minister who didn’t miss a beat and continued the ceremony using the name Lana. Laughter struck again, however, at Lana’s expense when after announcing her vows of love and devotion slid the wedding band on the right ring finger of her betrothed. Realizing her mistake and quickly exchanging it for the left ring finger, they were pronounced husband and wife.
The Saturday morning moto-marriage undoubtedly added a new twist to this year’s event and helped raise the spirits of those who spent the earlier part of the morning attending a memorial to Chad “Gawarrior” Clifton. Clifton was a McCoy Motorsports employee and an integral Forum member who suffered a back injury while dirt biking prior to last year’s event, and due to complications following his surgery tragically passed away a few days following the event’s conclusion. Owners of the Crossroads were kind enough to allow Shane McCoy, of McCoy Motorsports and organizer of the event, to hang a tribute to his fallen friend on the wall of the restaurant.
The rest of Saturday was spent riding the Tail of Dragon and other area roadways, snapping the annual group photo and attending the annual Saturday night banquet sponsored by Yamaha.
For anyone unfamiliar with U.S. 129, better known as the Tail of the Dragon at Deals Gap, the road winds across the North Carolina and Tennessee borders, and is renowned for scrunching 318 curves into 11 short miles. Like the Big Sur section of Highway 1 on the West Coast, U.S. 129 is a road any motorcycle enthusiast desires to ride in this area of the country and add to his or her repertoire of incredible twisties. But it’s not the only road. In the immediate area resides Cherohala Skyway, a scenic byway ascending from Robbinsville, NC, up to 5,400 ft. and back down to Tellico Plains, Tenn. The BlueRidge Parkway isn’t far away and neither are Highways 19, 23, 28 and 64.
Fontana Village Resort has hosted the Yamaha R1/R6 Forum East Coast Convention for several years and for good reason—it’s the largest resort in the region and conveniently located in close proximity to all these roads. Guests can stay either at the Lodge or in a private cabin, and if riding a motorcycle through the seemingly endless ribbons of pavement ever becomes tiring (who am I kidding) the Lodge offers plenty of non-motorcycle activities. In fact, many Forum members bring their non-riding wives and children who hike, raft, fish, put-put golf or swim in the Resort pool.
This year’s event was only short about 20 Forum members compared to 2008. “Considering the economy, I’m surprised it went off as well as it did,” says Shane McCoy. Making up for the loss of a few regulars was the addition of 10 to 15 new attendees including Ofer Cohen, who flew from Israel to the state of Washington, rented a Yamaha FJR1300 and rode cross-country to attend. Other members traveled from as far away as California and Oregon, but Cohen earned this year’s IronButt award. He says he’s coming back next year and bringing the family with him.
The weeklong Yamaha R1/R6 East Coast Convention features activities such as the annual sushi run on Wednesday night and the annual boat party on Thursday night. Besides the motorcycling, the boat party is something for which to arrive early and is not be missed. Due to the rain there was no reason to throw people into the lake this year but that didn’t stop anyone from falling in. Sometime in the early morning hours of Friday, the person henceforth referred to only as “Lochness” was baptized in the waters of Fontana Lake by his or her own effort.
The annual Saturday night banquet is a Christmas-in-June ending to the weeklong event. Not only does Yamaha foot the bill for dinner, but also supplies a host of freebie giveaways for members to take home. Both Joe Rocket and Icon stepped up this year with parting gifts, Icon going so far as to give away a full head-to-toe riding ensemble for one male and one female Forum member. Redline Engineering kicked in a bike stand and the Crossroads provided a two-night stay at the Deal’s Gap hotel next to the restaurant.
The dinner was briefly interrupted when first year attendee, Robert Johnson, entered with his arm in a sling from an unpleasant encounter with a cruiser rider who was navigating the same corner as Johnson, albeit in the opposite direction and on the wrong side of the double yellows. Johnson expressed his appreciation to Krista Benninger of Icon for the protection afforded him by his Icon helmet. Benninger awarded him an Icon purple heart for his survivor story, which will be posted on the Icon web site.
In years past McCoy Motorsports, builders of exotic custom Yamaha sportbikes, have unveiled new models for Forum member to ogle but there just wasn’t a completed machine ready to go this year. According to Shane McCoy, Forum members and their families arrived early and staying through the entire week this year, which helped promote a lot of riding activities and group rides.
Shane McCoy is working on possibly having local dealer rides at next year’s event so stay tuned and check out updated information on the 2010 Yamaha R1/R6 East Coast Convention at http://www.r1-forum.com/ or http://www.r6-forum.com/.
2008 R1/R6 Forum East Coast Convention