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Riding Lidless at Fall Cherokee Rally, September 8-10, 2006

Photos and article by FastFred Ruddock

Riding lidless to Cherokee was cool but cruising into town on US19 and US441 past the fair grounds with all the law enforcement present was a rush. I even heard Jerry Grindle give a holler near the Ponderosa Steak House as I rode into Cherokee Friday evening just before dark. Saturday morning I decided to cruise the main drag one more time before taking a trip to Big Cove and Mingo Falls; the main drag was out of the way to reach Mingo Falls. I passed three state troopers near the Cherokee Veterans Park less than one mile from the Thunderbird Motel. Two state troopers on new BMW motorcycles followed closely by a third state trooper in a cruiser who took notice.

FastFred riding without a helmet in Maggie Valley, NC

As I passed the third state trooper he applied the brakes so hard the nose of his car dived violently. He still got hung up behind several cars despite his best efforts so I waited near the corner of US441 and US19 so he could find me. Upon pulling into the parking lot the young state trooper asked where my helmet was; I suspect he had doubt if I even had one. I told him I might have one in a saddlebag and asked if he wanted to see it. He said no and then changed the subject and asked if I had any weapons while patted one of the pockets of my vest. I gave him all of my paperwork and he went to his car to create a citation. He failed to match the tag numbers correctly and wrote up my other motorcycle that was left in Charleston.

Upon his return he informed me the ticket was $25 plus $75 in court costs for failure to wear a helmet on a US Highway. The state trooper continued to state that the citation carried no points against my license or insurance and I did not have to appear in court. I smiled widely and thanked officer T M Crisp for the ticket; he appeared a little confused and got in his car as quickly as possible and drove away. I got the strange feeling he did not wish to see me ride away without a helmet. I walked into a nearby restaurant and enjoyed a modest breakfast while I read my citation.

I initially noticed four problems with the citation. First the ticket listed the wrong motorcycle; I was riding my 2003 FLHT not my 1989 FXR. Seems if the officer lacked this attention to detail other mistakes may have been made. Second I was on a Federal Indian Reservation thus I am not sure state law even applies; there is no Federal law requiring helmet usage on US Highways. Third I was wearing a hat as required by North Carolina state law; the burden of proof lies with the state to produce a list to prove my hat is not an approved type of safety helmet. DOT does not approve safety helmets and DOT is not mentioned in the North Carolina Helmet law. Fourth all states through reciprocity of highway laws may not ticket a motor vehicle for equipment safety violations provided the vehicle is legal in its home state of registration. My motorcycle and I had all the safety equipment as required in South Carolina my state of registration. I was not ticketed for failure to obtain a North Carolina inspection sticker for example.

North Carolina state law code 20-140.4 (a) (2): "No person shall operate a motorcycle or moped upon a highway or public vehicular area unless the operator and all passengers thereon wear safety helmets of a type approved by the Commissioner of Motor Vehicles."

I visited the Cherokee Rally half on a dare from a few friends that said I would get a ticket there. A couple of my friends also offered places to crash in Cherokee for this purpose; thanks Roger and Jamie. The ticket came as no surprise as cops are known to push the limit writing questionable tickets at motorcycle rallies; this was not my first rodeo. However Roger Williams and Jamie Hancock also rode lidless throughout the weekend and neither was stopped or ticketed. It required several passes down the main drag to obtain my helmet ticket. The odds of being stopped riding lidless seem to be greatest at rallies early in the day when cops are not busy busting drunk or reckless riders. Toward the evening and after dark you see many fools at rallies pressing their luck in more than one way drawing unwanted attention from law enforcement if not endangering their lives.

Roger Williams riding lidless through Maggie Valley

Far from being deterred or intimidated I felt real lucky after earning my well deserved helmet ticket. I decided climb right back on my horse without a helmet and ride to Robbinsville, the Cherohala Skyway, and the Dragon. I though I might get a Tennessee helmet ticket while I was on a roll. I did encounter an unmarked patrol car that seemed to show interest in stopping me as I left Robbinsville for the Cherohala Skyway on NC143. Apparently the officer and his car got stuck behind slow cars in the twisting curves and lost sight of my motorcycle along the way to the Skyway. I took a side trip on the Tennessee end of Cherohala Skyway down FR210 to the Bald River Falls; I recommend these roadside falls to anyone in the area.

FastFred riding lidless on US129 Dragon's Tail to TN

I enjoyed a nice ride back up the Cherohala Skyway toward US129 and the Dragon; the skies were overcast and the weather was quite cool at 6,000 feet. I encountered a traffic accident on NC143 near US129 while there were many safety officials present there was only one county cop and he seemed to busy to bother me with another helmet ticket. I was greeted with fresh payment and paint as I turned left on to US129 and rode to the Dragon. It seems North Carolina is rolling out the welcome mat to all the riders who flock to the Dragon. I enjoyed an uneventful but pleasant ride on the Dragon to the overlook on the Tennessee side where I met Jody of the Punkin Center Motorcycle Resort; he told me about an upcoming rally. I saw photographers working for and along the dragon who snapped photos as I rode by them.

FastFred riding lidless on Dragon back to NC

The sun was getting low in the sky and I decided to return to Cherokee to visit with my friends in the Buncombe County Chapter of CBA/ABATE of NC at the Thunderbird Motel. I made a pit stop at the Deal’s Gap Motorcycle Resort to enjoy a nice sandwich at their Dragon's Den Grill. Back on the road I made good time back towards Cherokee. Just before reaching Cherokee I encountered what appeared to be a roadblock but turned out to be just an accident and a lot of cops blocking one lane and directing traffic. They either did not care I was lidless or were too busy to be bothered. The rest of the ride through Cherokee past the fair grounds and the many law enforcement officials was uneventful.

Once back at the Thunderbird Motel in Cherokee I parked my bike and started drinking the remainder of my stash of Samuel Adams. I stayed up late enjoying the company of friends like Larry and Tammy Blankenship. The morning and 10 AM check out came early but we all enjoyed a fine breakfast near the Big Cove. I had finished packing prior to breakfast so I took a short trip down Big Cove Rd to visit Mingo Falls. I returned via US441 through Cherokee shortly after 11 AM and traffic was thick as everyone was checking out of town. I passed a lot of cops but none bothered to stop me again for not wearing a lid as I rode out of Cherokee and through Maggie Valley. I think took a photo of me near Soco.

Traffic was stop and go on I-40 and I-26; I suppose all the trailers the W.H.O.R.E.s tow snarled the traffic. I took the Hendersonville / Bat Cave US64 exit and followed US64 to Lake Lure. I was greeted by James Abel at Margaritagrille. James tried to tell me I had to wear a helmet. I informed him I did not have to wear a helmet but he did not understand so I explained the only think we have to do in this life is die and that takes care of itself. I also explained I was aware of the North Carolina Helmet law and still choose not wear a helmet and had a ticket to proof it. By this time I was handing out some of my remaining copies of the ABATE of SC newsletter to curious bikers; James asked for some newsletters to take back to his business Heavenly Hoggs. When you visit Lake Lure consider dropping by Heavenly Hoggs at 374 Main St in Chimney Rock to get a newsletter and say hi to James.

I after handing out newsletters I enjoyed one cold Samuel Adams and chatting with a few bikers before taking NC9 and SC9 to the Lake Bowen County Club. I rode past a few speed traps in Rutherford and Polk Counties on my way to the border but none of the city or county cops seemed interested in the fact I was riding without a helmet. I dropped off my remaining ABATE of SC newsletters at the Lake Bowen Country Club and drank about half of my Fosters when Bad Bob called asking me to drop by Lake Murray on my way home. I enjoyed the additional stop and chance to meet some of the members of ABATE of SC’s Lake Murray Chapter.

During this adventure I rode over 900 miles without a donning a helmet between September 8 and 10. I rode over 500 lidless miles in North Carolina and Tennessee and it only cost me $100 which is less than 20 cents per mile; granted I have ridden several thousand miles without a helmet this summer in North Carolina, Tennessee, Virginia, and West Virginia which works out to a penny or two per mile for the pleasure of doing it lidless. However I may beat this ticket yet in court.

I intend to appear in court in Bryson City North Carolina on November 17, 2006. The cost of going to court and traveling over five hours and 300 miles will exceed the cost of the ticket. Due to the 9:30 AM court appearance time and mid November court date I will need to rent a room near Bryson City the night prior to my trial. As a result of these additional expenses I am asking readers who have enjoyed the articles and coverage of the lidless rides to consider making a donation to help fund this battle against the helmet law. You may make a straight donation or purchase products to help the cause; shipping charges have been suspended thus extending a 10% break to supporters. Additionally I am seeking information form others who have fought helmet tickets or who are willing to help my team do research to help beat this ticket. Motions and briefs developed in this fight will be made available to other bikers on this site.

As always your support is appreciated.

Thunderbird Motel/Buncombe CBA

Parker's General Store

$100 NC Helmet Ticket

Bike and scene of the ticket

This is a FLHT not a FXR

On my way to Robbinsville Lidless

Bald River Falls

FF near Bald River Falls on FR210

US129 overlook at the dragon's tail

Jody of the Punkin Center Motorcycle Resort

Pres. Larry Blankenship

Thunderbird Motel Sunday morning

This was a happening place...

Mingo Falls in Big Cove

Lake Lure North Carolina

Lake Bowen Country Club

Lake Murray chapter member

Ray's near Lake Murray, SC

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