Southern Tour 2009
Southern tour 2009
Every year since 1994, a group of 3 or 4 of us Vermonters has taken a motorcycle ride to Southern climes starting around the first of May to ride on roads not encumbered with frost heaves, pot holes and piles of sand. It's a great way to welcome Spring to our world and every trip brings a different set of experiences. This year's tour was no exception. In attendance were myself, and the two Johns, JA and JVD. The following is a report of the trip.
The bandits 3 met at my house for breakfast at 8:00 AM, or at least 2 of us did. JA was 18 mins late with some weak excuse that blamed it all on someone else. I will accede to the fact that lateness is not one of JA's normal contributions, so we other two were a little surprised. He arrived complete with an ample supply ( about 3 dozen) of chocolate dipped macaroons from friend Meg who provides them every year for the trip.
Eggs, facon (ie turkey bacon) homes and toast. We have all spent time working on our respective machines preparing them for this excursion, so they should all be OK, at least to start. As a point of interest, JA has the oldest bike, a 1985 BMWK100 with 200,000 miles on it. Mine comes next, a BMW R100RS with 150.000 mi and JVD has an Aprillia Futura which is new to him this year. I think the milage is about 17,000.
By 8:45, we said goodbye to my wife, CB, and we were away. We took Rte. 89 to the Bethel exit and headed to Pittsford VT, just north of Rutland on Rte. 7 to give Bud, BMW mechanic and owner of the Nickwackett Garage, one last chance to join the fray. Didn't think we would have any luck, and was right.
Inside the Nickwackett
The car is a 1938 Graham. Shop owner Bud Provin's grandfather was a Graham dealer and the car is a leftover from those days.
Back on Rte. 7 south all the way to Pittsford MA. We have never gone this way South before and it was vastly better than interstate all the way through NY and into PA. (JA is a great navigator, but I'll never admit to saying it.)
We stopped for gas and JVD and I agreed, or so we thought, with JA's idea to ride for another hour and find a place for lunch. Got rid of a couple of macaroons in the process.
We headed for the Taconic Parkway which we followed to the Saw Mill Parkway and the Tappan Zee Bridge . The Taconic was a great and virtually deserted road winding gracefully through northern NY farmland, until the Saw Mill, which was a little more crowded with other traffic. Once we were over the bridge, it was huge trucks many cars and busses and smelly exhaust. No real 4 wheeled mistakes yet, although no trip so far has been completely devoid of such. People often just don't look for bikes, or see them if they do. Bikes have to be particularly careful of cars making lane changes.
We went about 190 mi to gas up again ( way way longer than 1 hour). JA consecutively blames the lack of lunch on:
1) Us, JVD and I, for not being forceful enough;
2) Couldn't find a place, like the diner with a 40' high DINER sign on the roof;
3) and, No place good enough to survive our discriminating tastes.
I think we must have gone by half the fork and knife signs in the state of NY, but who am I?
We made it to our first night's stay in Pine Forge PA by about 6:00 PM and were happy to be there. It is the house of a good friend of JA and, indeed all of us, and is a really beautiful place. The original house was built in 1760, with an addition put on by the current owner about 5-7 years ago. It's almost impossible to distinguish the original house from the new addition.
The House. The original house is the two left hand gables, one in front of the other. The connector, right hand gable and garage are the addition
Had supper at the Krazy Crab - Crab cakes, fries, etc. Much needed and appreciated.
Spent the evening playing misc tunes on the axe while JA and JVD played cribbage and complained about my not joining in on the card fun yet again. There is a string "tail" which anyone who looses a cribbage game via a skunk must wear on their bike until it happens to someone else. JA has had it for a couple years and seems anxious to give it away, but I reply that someone has to create music for the event and I'm the only one who plays. Besides, I'm not going to carry a guitar with me for all this way and not use it, am I?
When we left this AM, it was 41 deg. F. In PA, it was 71. Tomorrow's weather calls for more coolness in the AM. It was good to get into a bed with tired hands and butt and all.
Today's ride will take us from Pine Forge to Peaks of Otter, a hotel in Bedford VA on the Blue Ridge Parkway. As promised, it's cool and cloudy, a perfect day to ride the slab ( interstate). Rte 81 is the road of choice for this leg, and there are parts that are actually pretty nice today. Riding on this road is usually in 90 deg heat and nearly unbearable, so the cool temp. is a welcome change.
There is the usual large quantity of large trucks though. 18 wheels and 2 wheels don't really mix all that well, the larger number having a distinct advantage. Motorcycles pretty much have to go faster than trucks in order to survive. The amount of wind disturbance behind a truck will blow a bike around in pretty good shape and the only way to avoid this is to stay in front, or the far left lane where trucks are less common. I sometimes feel like a bee trying to fly in a hurricane when there are trucks around.
But, for the last 25 miles or so, we are on the Blue Ridge Parkway, and all things change. No Trucks allowed, beautiful smooth road and expansive views of the VA mountains and Shenandoah Valley.
Taking a "We need parts for the Aprilla (nearest bike) break. JA seems happy to be here.
Boston Knob, seen in the background above the sign, from the BLP.
JVD seems happy to be here! We all were.
Everyone takes pics.
We got to Peaks of Otter Lodge at about 6:00 PM. This is a hotel that was completed in 1964 and there is no TV, in room phones or cell phone coverage. This is the 3rd year we have stayed there, and we wouldn't miss it. Located on the shores of Abbott Lake, it commands a wonderful view of the lake and the Peaks of Otter mountains. There is a restaurant on site in the main lodge where I enjoyed a chicken pie with a puff pastry crust, a black and tan Yuengling beer and a piece of pecan pie, all accompanied by a great view of the setting through huge windows overlooking the lake. (More info at http://www.peaksofotter.com/)
Abbott Lake from our room patio with one of the three Peaks of Otter in the background.
The hotel rooms and main lodge in the background
Another View of the lake
The happy and tired campers, JA and JVD
A comfortable bed was again appreciated tonight, after the cribbage and music hour. Tomorrow's weather is a prediction of rain and cool weather.
Stay Tuned - More to follow.
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Up at 6:30 AM. For some reason, early rising is the standard on bike trips. We packed up and had breakfast in the Peaks of Otter lodge dining room. Two eggs over easy with bacon and toast and grits. Standard fare and just what's needed for the day ahead.
We leave wearing wet weather coats. It was blowing pretty hard and was at times very foggy up on the BRP. Can't see too well in the fog on a bike - or car for that matter. There was a lot of helmet face shield wiping to try and keep things semi clear. Sometimes, JA who is riding in front of me actually disappeared in the mist. But we pressed on and the BLP is just such a nice road.
When we got to Boone NC, we called JA's cousin, Harvard and arranged to eat lunch together at a BBQ joint where there was excellent pulled pork. It was all smoky and moist - a big pile of it on my plate. I didn't really need to eat it all, but whaddya do when there is no room to bring it with? I felt pretty stuffy after, but it was my own fault.
The afternoon ride was much drier and warmer. We traveled a total of about 300 miles, all on the BLP, till we got to the Rte 80 intersection. Then down from the mountain tops to Rte 64 and on to Etowah NC, where Carl and Janice live, our next stop and sleeping point on the tour. There are beautiful views everywhere on the BRP and, it was a wonderful riding day with no interstate or trucks.
These were taken while riding on the BRP. Digital cameras are great - so small and easy to use. It's all possible when there is no one else on the road.
Springtime in Southern Appalachia, where green rules.
We were warmly welcomed by J&C when we arrived. They are old friends and - have known them for about 32 years - and I'm always happy to see them again. They have a really nice house on the top of a high hill at the end of the road. The view from their living room is magnificent and because the house is built into a steep hillside, the living quarters are at tree top level. You can sit on the screen porch and watch birds and squirrels build nests.
The view from the livingroom.
A few pics of the bi level front door deck. (Janice is an avid gardner )
The front door
As is often the case, or rather always, by the time we get to Etowah, there is maintenance to be done on bikes. Mine is age 21, JA's is 24, and JVD's is Italian, with a chain drive, and thus in need of fairly constant tinkering. It is interesting how the bikes reflect the personality of the countries in which they are made. The german bikes are solid, not very flashy, and quite reliable. The Italian bike is a little more flashy, very fast and slightly temperamental.
But I digress.
This morning we sat around the kitchen and tried to figure out our next move over bowls of cereal. Trips to the local BMW dealer for a rear brake light switch on JA's bike, and to the Harley dealer for Carl's Harley, were in order. JA didn't buy his switch fast enough, giving me time to fall for a new Gerbings electric heated jacket liner. It was 25% off though, so it was an excellent deal. At least that's what I'm telling myself. It will be a much appreciated accessory in the cool VT air later on.
On to the Harley shop where Carl spent his money, and where there was an open house with a DJ, burgers, dogs, sales, etc going on. The Shriners were there with a horse. They drew a grid of numbered squares with chalk in the parking lot and sold the numbers to unsuspecting lookers on. When they are all sold, the horse is let loose.
Eventually, the horse obliges the remaining onlookers by pooping, and the numbered square in which the business is done is the winner of the contest. We didn't buy a square, nor did we hang around to witness the event. Being from VT, we have seen horses do their business before, so there was really no big deal for us. The Shriners were sure getting a chuckle out of it though.
The burgers and dogs were not yet ready yet at the open house, so we ate lunch next door at a Quaker State restaurant where there was lots of 1950's stuff and motorcycles hanging from the ceiling. After lunch, we ran into rain and headed home. JVD put in new brake pads and painted his brake master cylinder cover, which was a little tarnished from exposure to non Italian elements, with black Krylon.
I did a check and adjustment of valve clearances and also made a giant strawberry shortcake for supper. Played a little music while cribbage happened and thoroughly enjoyed the evening. We all looked at the weather future on the TV and hoped fervently that the rain would go away.
Sorry that I forgot to take pics of all this, but at least I didn't write a thousand words---
Join Date: Aug 2004
Location: Saskatchewan, Canada
Loving this report so far! Looks like a really scenic trip, and certainly good company - and good food is always a bonus.
That is some deck on that house!
I was in PA in March and there was still snow patches around, it looks a lot nicer with more green- but it is a beautiful state regardless. I love that home and you are right, they did a great job with the addition.
An electric coat liner! Spoiled!
It rained most of the night, and it looks to continue doing so today. No one was particularly interested in rising at the usual 6:30 hour to ride in the rain, so we all managed to sleep late. I arose at about 7:45 - almost noon by my usual standards, and had a breakfast of Eggs, Bacon, homes and toast. Sound familiar? One would think we were in some sort of rut if they didn't know us better.
Carl has decided that he needs a better air mattress for camping. The one he has is too narrow and he keeps falling off it, not that the drop is all that far; but, it's cold sleeping on bare ground. So, off we go to a couple of sporting goods stores, namely REI and The Frugal Backpacker.
I went whole hog and bought a tent stake to replace one I lost last year, and a small spray bottle of sunscreen. When I'm riding, there is a gap between my gloves and my leather jacket. My wrists are always sunburned after about a week of riding and, not surprisingly, this can become pretty bothersome. I don't need the distraction when I'm 40 deg. over in a hard turn traveling lost down some future unknown back road and the sunscreen should solve the problem. The final extravagance is a small Nalgene bottle for shampoo. Yes! Bikers shower on rare occasion!!
Mexican lunch was an excellent fish taco. Although not as good as those I've had in Playa del Carmen, it was way better than passable and it brought memories of sun and sand to mind. A good thing on a cool rainy day.
A few more bike maintenance items were performed in the afternoon on JA's bike. I played for a couple hours to pass the time, but none of this was as good as riding. Rain Rain go away----
Supper was grilled salmon fillet, grilled asparagus and wild rice with Banana splits for dessert. The latter were, of course, desperately needed. For those of you who are food pic addicts, I present the following:
The Fab 5
Our table buddies, Hear, Speak and See No Evil.
All in all a filling, if inactive, day. Tomorrow, we ride rain or shine, or come hell or high water, whatever works.
Today was our annual U turn day, wherein we get lost and make many U turns while trying to find ourselves. Finding oneself in this manner is a kind of self fulfilling therapy. When the finding actually occurs, one always feels so good to have survived the experience.
But, I'm getting ahead of myself (an act which in itself can be a primary cause for U turn day).
Breakfast was, (Surprise!), Buckwheat Pancakes covered liberally with trip syrup. I should explain. JA has a small sugar house and arch where he and his family partake of the annual spring ritual, sugaring. This was a good year - I think he said they boiled 24 gallons. That is a sizable supply. Every year, we all carry pints of syrup to distribute to the gentle hoards who provide us with kind accommodations. One of these cans is designated as the trip syrup, to be used at breakfast, or any other meal, in whatever restaurant or eating establishment we visit. So, today the pancakes were accompanied by trip syrup, and leftover strawberries from last night's shortcakes. This was an excellent day's beginning by any standard.
And, it was NOT raining. Praise Mother Nature for her insight. We decided to start the day with a visit to one of the local Harley shops, R&P cycle. Here, there was an eclectic variety of old Harleys and old cars, hot rods, bikes in trees etc. It was pretty wild.
Not wanting to ignore the three BMWs on the ride, we also stopped at Acme Cycles to say hello and ogle.
Lunch was at a salad bar pizza buffet place. I've lived a sheltered life I guess; never seen a pizza buffet before.
A few road pics.
One lane tunnel entrance.
Inside - not a good place for tractor trailors.
JA gets leid
We then proceeded to Cycles Recycled, a business owned by Fred Rowland in Morganton NC. Fred buys old and wrecked Beemers, spends his time dissecting them, and sells the pieces for about 1/2 of what they would cost retail. He has piles of half disassembled bikes in three barns with a unique inventory system. He knows what each pile started out as and simply leaves all the unsold parts on the bike remains where they would normally belong. When someone wants something, he goes to the appropriate pile and takes the part off the bike frame. Its a really simple and accurate filing system. We have all bought parts from Fred in the past and will likely do so in the future.
Fred's clever card
And clever mailbox
We decided black with red accents made this a pimp bike.
Shooting the breeze outside the rather informal place of business.
While we were getting ready to go, I got a picture of this guy hovering in the air trying to figure out what the hell we were doing and why we were bothering him and his nest. Carpenter bees in the South drill 1/2 inch holes in bare wood for nests and can be incredibly destructive in the endeavor. From the internet: "Carpenter bees are large (1 inch) yellow and black bees which become active in early spring. They resemble bumble bees but do not live in colonies, have fewer hairs and no pollen sacs on the hind legs. They appear around homes and are a nuisance. Although it is rare to be stung by one, their sheer size is scary and people generally stay clear of them. Their nest is much more of a concern. These nests, if left untreated, will result in extensive structural damage and will result in costly repairs within a few years." The nesting females have stingers but the hovering and scary males do not.
We left Fred's and headed via Mt Pisgah to the BRP and toward Asheville NC. There were some wonderful views of imposing skies and mountains, but soon the rain splats began to spatter again.
The Appalachian Spring green from floor to ceiling always blows me away.
The Altapass Orchard and restaurant.
Got off the BRP for coffee at the cafe in Little Switzerland, which was closed, so we procured chocolate bars at the general store instead. Not an altogether bad substitute.
The Little Switzerland Book Exchange version of a headlight.
It was when we stopped back on the BRP to put on rain gear that I realized that I didn't have mine. This is the first time in 20 years that it has not been with me. What a dope! Carl offered to lend me his rain jacket as he was convinced we would quickly ride out of the wet, but I didn't want to impose. He didn't wear it, and neither did I. What a DOPE! For the next 15 miles, it rained harder and harder, and I was thoroughly soaked. Carl, behind a larger windshield, was slightly damp. The next time we stopped I accepted the offer and thereafter it was only my bottom half getting wet. There's nothing like cold wet butt to excite an otherwise bland ride.
Carl said that he knew of some back roads that would circumvent both the interstate and traffic. It turned out that there were more roads than either he or his GPS knew about.
Why isn't this road on my GPS???
Thus began U turn day. We passed one woman bicyclist 5-6 times trying to find ourselves and pretty much felt that we knew her quite well before finding a road that actually went somewhere. I think she was getting a little nervous until we started waving every time we went by.
Anyway, the somewhere we went turned out to be lost. Eventually, after riding some really fine, albeit wet, roads several times and in both directions, the scenery began to look familiar and we did finally find ourselves.
We got home to Janice cooking up clam sauce and fettuccine with garlic bread for supper. A good deal for us. After, played whilst J&J battled at the cribbage board again. All in all, a great day.
Join Date: Apr 2007
Location: Trappe, PA
I can't believe it! Pine Forge is less than a half hour from my home! It's cool when a peep is in the hood. Next time you travel you should tell us before hand, than if you are going to be near someone, you could set up a little meet.
Very cool trip. Sounds like great guy time.
We have decided on one more night at L'Hotel C&J. Totally unpredictable weather and what would be a very late start for a ride anywhere were the factors. J does volunteer work with developmentally disabled "kids" by helping them to associate with and ride horses. She has an equestrian event tomorrow with Pumpkin, the horse, and one of her charges and won't be done until 3:30 or so. So, we'll take them both out to supper and leave tomorrow AM for Suches GA.
In the AM, we lounged around reading, playing etc. Got Carl's rear wheel and new tire back from the Harley shop and installed them on the bike.
Road King, police version
The Shop of C
Kibitzing fixing and trying to figure the whole thing out
Janice got home at the appointed hour and we left for Asheville. First stop was at Elwood's house to look at a bike trailer. No one knows Elwood, at least in our group, and we find him surrounded by a large number of large toys. 3-4 bikes, 3-4 boats, a 5th wheel travel trailer and a garage,or 2, filled with many playthings. The trailer is in pretty rough shape and C&J don't appear to be impressed. They will, however, need something to put all their stuff in when traveling on 2 wheels.
We left for supper in Asheville, but first went for beers at the Grove Park Inn. This place is as unusual, unique and amazing as any I've seen. The original building, now flanked by 2 huge additions, is built of stone and was inspired by some of the lodges and inns in the far west circa 1890. The European style rolled edge roof allows rain to fall gently from the edge and away from the building, eliminating the need for gutters. It was built by Dr Grove in the late 1800's, early 1900's. The good Dr saw and fell in love with the Inn idea in the far west and decided to replicate one in Asheville. He purchased the entire valley to do this, although much of his original holdings have now been developed in other ways.
Walking to the main entrance
The lentils over the windows must weigh 5,000 lbs each
Looking up past the waterfall to the back side.
Enjoying a beer
The spa is underground below this mound and these skylights, and Dr Grove once owned about everything you can see.
The lobby has a huge fireplace at each end, both of which could swallow up an entire tree with little trouble. Each has a boulder facade all the way to the 20' ceiling, with boulders weighing 10,000 to 15,000 lbs from top to bottom.
A true walk in fireplace.
The opposing fireplace housed a birdhouse contest
Apres beer, we walked all over downtown Asheville trying to figure out where to eat and getting hungrier and hungrier by the minute.
The Grove Arcade shopping mall. During WWII, this building was taken over by the Feds and has only recently been returned to its Arcade status. There is a very interesting and short history here:
Grove Arcade - History
Walking to eat.
We finally settled on a local pub where I ordered Guiness Stew (Make you strong like Toucan) It was very good and filling.
JA making a call through the pub door
How does this thing work anyway?
Me with the ever present iced tea.
Stopped at an Ingles on the way home for tomorrow's breakfast eggs and JVD grabbed a carrot cake for dessert. JA picked a chocolate mousse, of which he gave me half. It was surprisingly good.
Tomorrow Am we're outta here. Riding needs to be done.
We finally rode again today. Got up at the usual 6:30 hour, showered and had the usual egg breakfast. Someone turned on the weather channel which spent it's time forecasting doom, gloom, tornadoes, rain - everything bad and ill thought of by the intrepid motorcycle gang. After several hours ignoring my pleas to get the hell out of here, Carl convinced the Js (mainly JA) to ride to the TWO campground in Suches GA. TWO stands for Two Wheels Only; pretty clever, huh?
But, before we go, C needs a haircut. J is happy to oblige and being caught up in the spirit of the moment, JA decids on one too. Not to be outdone, JVD and I get them too so that all the men will be properly groomed for the ride to GA
JVD was the only one who has so much hair he needed to make a hair bucket from the apron.
Of course this all takes so long, including all the packing and arranging, that it's noon before we are ready to leave. So - we eat lunch first and then call ahead and reserve two rooms in the TWO main lodge to avoid the tornadoes- blowing-our-tents-away syndrome
We started out on Rte 64. It was a little drizzely, but it never rained hard all day. It is a very pleasant ride to Suches from Etowah on all secondary roads that wind endlessly around and over the mountains. Our route took us through Helen GA, a town in which all the buildings are made to look like a small town in Bavaria. It's a real surprise to be riding through northern GA mountains and suddenly be in Bavaria. All the buildings in town are the same style, both new and old. I got these pics from a web site as we did not actually stop in town. I will the next time I go as it is quite interesting.
By the time we got to TWO, it was warm, partly cloudy and dry, an almost perfect riding day after all.
TWO main lodge
Inside - no clutter here, just one of everything.
Outside - no clutter, just one of everything they couldn't fit inside
The upstairs common room
We unpacked and JA, JVD and I went on a beer run to Dahlonega, the nearest wet town to dry Suches at about 15 miles. We had stopped at an Ingles in Cleveland for supper, but Cleveland was dry also. Of course, one doesn't simply go straight down the 15 mile path when in this mountainous country, so the ride turned into a 70 mile dash through the twisties of North GA. At one point, there was a sign, Dahlonega 14 miles. Thinking we were heading in the correct direction, we were surprised by the next instruction which said 20 miles. We were then followed for the last 10 miles or so by a local sheriff, but we got the beer (at a Walmart no less) with cheese and crackers, and rode back to TWO - in a light rain!!
There is another couple staying here who rode in on a canary yellow Honda Gold Wing. It turns out they are Ret Col. Duane "Digger" Carey and his wife Cheryl. Digger, an astronaut, was the Columbia pilot on the 4th Hubble Telescope repair mission. We spent a very interesting evening listning to his stories of an astronouts life in NASA and in space. (Apparently, the $250,000 toilet really does work!) He and Cheryl now travel to different schools all over the world giving inspirational talks to underprivileged children. I think we were the happy recipients of their talk. Fearing a negative newsworthy event, Digger rides his bike strictly at the speed limit. So, the new trip byword is "Just a little faster than an astronout."
Even though we passed one of the biggest ATT cell installations I've seen on our ride to beer, I have no cell service here so I can't call CB1 tonight.
Had the TWO scramble for breakfast this AM - eggs with various additions. It was pretty good.
Today's plan is to ride to somewhere around the Cherohala Skyway. This is a wonderful mountain top road that goes from Tellico Plains, TN to Robbinsville NC, or visa versa. It's a $100,000,000 road that was completed in 1996 and it's a must for anyone in car, on bike or on bicycle who is touring the area. More info at:
Cherohala Skyway Robbinsville NC - Tellico Plains TN
The morning ride was simply another day of winding roads and, again, a stretch of nice weather. We left just after the Careys and soon caught up with them going in the same direction. I can testify that Digger was going the speed limit. Adding an honesty element to our new byword, we soon waved goodbye and went our separate ways.
We stopped for a minute across from a realtors office:
to check out the view .
I'm looking at my tires and I realize they need to be replaced. They only lasted about 4,000 mi. Nowhere near long enough. Rats!
JVD had the same problem, so the day suddenly became finding tires and getting them on bikes day, another annual event, it seems. In Knoxville, there is an Aprillia/Suzuki/Victory dealer and a BMW dealer. This means we have to go to two shops, on 2 days, according to their schedules - But NO. They are owned by the same entity. And, the Aprilla dealer can do it sooner. Good timing for us. It means we don't have to take more than an afternoon for this.
It takes about 3 hours, and the rubber is fresh. They used JA's tools on his bike though. Woulda thought they'd have their own.
but first, lunch was had at the
Specializing in deep fried homestyle food, which was actually quite good if not totally healthy.
The pawn shop next door had a sign: "Have a JOB get a car HERE. All I could think of was "Cash for Gold.com".
Since half of us are attached by electric umbilical to the cyber world, we found a place called Hunt's Lodge, a motorcycle only cabins and campground about a mile from the beginning of the CS. We had the place to ourselves, and the cabins had sheltered parking. Considering the rain luck on this trip, it was an easy decision.
The party hall with firepit.
We stayed up late, midnight or so, playing, talking.
The tires cost $281, a fair price for two mounted and balanced tires. We'll see if the Metzlers last longer than the Bridgestone Battlax
Woke up, packed up and rode to breakfast at the Tellico Grains bakery in Tellico Ctr. If you are ever in this area and you don't stop there, you will be missing a good one. We have eaten there before, and it just gets better. Luscious pastries with fresh fruit and quiche that's a full meal. I was bad. Sticky Bun, Strawberry cheese danish with fresh berries and cheese and bacon quiche with other stuff. Way too many calories - nothing fits!
The 1 1/2 mile ride to breakfast took all of 3 mins. No time to even warm up the engine. After breakfast, we walked over to the Motorcycle Outfitter shop for a look around. While we were there, it started to rain again, which rain turned into a real downpour. Two hours later, after free coffee from the MO guy, we were on our way to the skyway, to be followed by Deal's Gap.
It was raining in every direction we looked, except one, so that's the way we went. The long way. Ja was leading and at one point, after one false turn, we started down a promising road which suddenly (is there any other way?) changed to dirt. No problem - an escape road to the left, half the size of the one we were on, was still paved. Off left we went. It was 1 1/2 cars wide, very twisty and switchback riddled, steep up and down, and covered with potentially slippery, wet, dead vegetation from the many trees hanging over. We went about 10 miles into this when, from around a corner and over a rise, appeared a gate across our way. It was an optical illusion as the road turned to the right before the gate, but there was a collective "Oh NO!" first. However, just when I began to think it was too far to turn back, the road turned to dirt. Good dirt though -pretty hard and not too much washboard. It got smaller and smaller, becoming tire tracks in places. We had almost reached the "beware ye who enter here" point when around a corner appeared the mailman. Didn't know if he came from the other side or had turned around, so we pressed on. Gradually the road became more civilized and finally it broke out of the woods at a power dam.
We stood around for a few minutes laughing at each other and the souvenir C's bike picked up:
C insisted that his GPS knew where we were, so off we followed. The surroundings began to look strangely familiar, and I soon realized we were at the beginning of the same road. Sure enough, the mailman suddenly appeared at the infamous left hand escape road, waving his hands and hollering. We turned around and found another way out, laughing all the way. 1 1/2 hours later and having traveled 50 miles to go 2 we stopped at the snack bar at the beginning of the Cherohala for lunch. Burger, O rings, small chocolate creemee. C&J went back to town to pee and ate there.
A couple CS views.
The mountains here are much sharper and steeper than at home. The glaciers didn't have the same opportunity to smooth them off that they did in VT. Depending on sun angles and cloud cover, the contrasts of shadow and light can be stunning.
The long sweeping curves are really fun and less work that hard twisties. It's nice after this AM's adventure, although both options have their good points.
At the end, we headed to Deal's Gap, aka The Dragon's Tail, 318 switchback turns in 11 miles. These two roads are well known in the motorcycling world. It is an impressive segment of pavement. About half way through, we came around a corner to meet with a sheriff coming very slowly the other way waving us down. We start thinking "Oh Shit", but he wasn't concerned about all our hard cornering - he and his partner in another car were leading, and following, an 18 wheeler through at about 2 mph with lights and sirens to slow down the mass of motorcycles heading East. I have no idea how that truck made it through corners that were narrower than the length of the vehicle, nor why the driver would want to try it. The lane down was clear, but the lane up was clogged for a mile and then large groups of bikes were parked waiting for things to clear up. I'm glad I wasn't there for the 2 wheeled mob scene that surely followed.
We rode through Gatlenburg TN, a very busy tourist trap, had supper at a Thai restaurant and bunked down at a Motel 6 for the night. They let us keep our bikes under the entrance canopy, always a nice gesture when tornado warnings are in effect.
Join Date: Apr 2001
Location: Playa del Carmen
I LOVE this photo:
Join Date: Jan 2007
Location: Vancouver BC Canada
What a great trip. Very nice pictures and stories. I don't ride but I really like the idea of these long road trips. I'm currently readin "Long Way Down", the story of Ewan McGregor and Charley Boorman's trip from Scotland to Cape Town South Africa. Thanks for sharing your trip.