In his latest blog, IM's Todd Vallee asked readers to write in with stories of their own two-wheeled adventures. Sarah Gamm, took him up on his offer and provided this look back at her the on the Tail of the Dragon. - Ed.
I grew up in a family of bikers, so it was in my blood growing up. My mom (Karen Gamm) and dad both rode, as well as both of my uncles. It was only a matter of time before I was on two-wheels myself. My parents had ridden the Tail of the Dragon on US129, on the border of Tennessee and North Carolina, in the Blue Ridge Mountains. It was the furthest my mom had ridden and she really enjoyed the trip.
In a conversation with my mom years after the trip, and years before she got sick, somehow the topic of “what do you want to happen when you die?” came up. She told us that she wanted to be cremated and have her ashes spread in several locations. One of them was at Welland County Speedway, one was off the back of a bike and one was at the Tail of the Dragon. Little did we know, we would be looking at fulfilling these wishes a lot sooner than we ever imagined.
My mom passed away from a short battle with lung cancer on July 4th 2010. On the 5th year anniversary of her passing, we granted one of her wishes and spread her ashes at Welland County Speedway. The second wish of having her ashes blown off the back of a bike would be easy to fulfill; we have yet to do it because we just needed to find the right time. But we didn’t know when we would get down to the Dragon to fulfill the last wish.
Not knowing when, or if, we’d ever make it back to the Dragon, my dad and step-mom spread her ashes at the other end of the Blue Ridge Mountains. We figured if we couldn’t get her to the Dragon, the mountains would be the closest we could do.
Last fall, my work sent me to South Carolina for a month, and while looking up things to do, I discovered that the Tail of the Dragon was only about 3 hours away from where I’d be. Realizing that this may be the only opportunity that we had, I rented myself a Harley for the day and was set to fulfill her wish. My sister was unable to join me because of work, and the thought of doing it without my sister or other family with me was heartbreaking, but I knew I couldn’t pass up on the opportunity. I planned to video call my sister so she could be there with me, but the mountains don’t have reception. I resorted to recording it on my phone. Little did I know, there would be a stranger there to support me when no one else could be.
I propped my phone up against my back pack. With the mountains in the background and the buzz of bikes riding by, I spread her ashes in the place she loved, at the beautiful lookout along the 11 mile stretch. I was visibly upset and a gentleman, whose name I don’t know, stepped in and gave me the hug I needed so badly. Although it felt like I hugged him for several minutes, it probably only lasted 10 seconds. It was exactly what I needed. This man had never met me before, but was there when I needed someone the most. I saw him and his wife back at the lodge and I thanked him for being there. When I got home, I posted the touching video. The common thought from friends and family was “your mom put that man there for you”. Although my family couldn’t be there, my biker family was.