#133 Smoky Mountain Ride

Fleeter Log #133
Smoky Mountain Ride!
2008 September 17- 22

"Rough Road Ride Party Crashing" could also serve as a name for this Log. The MTF group has scheduled a Rough Road Ride to attack some back roads of the Smoky Mountains. Even though this is designated as a "rough road" activity and the official participants will be carousing around the dirt and gravel roads of the area, I thought it would be fun to go ride some twisty paved roads and join the group in the evening for supper.
Day 1, Wednesday
September 17, 2008
235 miles


With the goal of visiting some VA Grand Tour locations and then arriving in Athens, TN in time for supper on Thursday, I pull out at 2:40pm and head south. I manage to stay focused on making the miles and getting down the road until I reach the Roanoke area about 4 hours later. I take exit 141 off I81 and head NW to Catawba where I turn left onto Blacksburg Road.

Blacksburg Road takes me through the small community of McDonalds Mill to find this Methodist Church, a location on the VA Tour.

The sun sinks low as I ride through the farmland toward Blacksburg making my way back to the Interstate.

At Christiansburg I have a burger for supper in Hokie territory (the home of Virginia Tech) and jump back up on I81 for the last 14 miles to Dublin where I will bunk for the night. I arrive at the Sleep Inn just after dark about 8pm.

Day 2, Thursday
September 18, 2008
333 miles


Two more VA Tour locations are on the schedule today before leaving the borders of Virginia. I wander along US221 through Galax then onto smaller roads through the center of Mount Rogers National Recreation Area joining US58 as I ride into Damascus. By noon I'm making my way back across I81 again, this time at Abingdon, and start zigzagging around the kind of back roads that makes me glad that I have a GPS to guide me. It was 150 miles into my day when I found myself on an interestingly named road . . . Barnrock Road. I wondered how it came to be called Barnrock rather than Rock Barn Road. The answer is shown to me a few miles later.

A few miles down the road I see this scene that makes me feel that I should be on the lookout for moonshiners or the like.

I had heard of The Carter Family Fold, but didn't realize that I was right down the road from this hallowed ground of Old Time Country Music until I stumbled upon it near Hiltons, VA.

My 6pm arrival at the Days Inn in Athens, TN left me time to get checked in and join the group for supper and socializing.

Day 3, Friday
September 19, 2008
261 miles

Iron Horse Lodge

Turns out that I wasn't the only one to show up to crash the Rough Riders* party. Most of us crashers weren't from the area so Don Norwood forwent playing on the dirt roads to lead a group of six Flower Sniffers* through some of the best paved twisty roads in the area. Don Norwood splits his home time between Tennessee and Alabama with a fair share of time also spent in North Carolina. To say that he knows his way around this area is an understatement!

* The MTF has three different categories of type of rides/riders.
1. Long Distance (IBA type rides, 1000+ mile days)
2. Rough Road (dirt and gravel road riding usually requiring a dirt bike or dual sport bike)
3. Flower Sniffing (slow paced pavement rides with a lot of sight-seeing along the way)

Often the lines get blurred and you end up with rides like Power Sniffing where one puts in over 500 or so miles while sightseeing along the way.
Here, Don leads a merry troupe of Flower Sniffers into the Smoky Mountains to carve some twisties.

Bald River Falls is east of Tellico Plains, NC on River Road and is one of the first local gems that Don shares with us.

Bald River Falls

Our tires' sidewalls got a workout this weekend!

That's Gerald from Arkansas on his red Wing and Rick from Pennsylvania on his gold LT in front of me leaning into the turn.

Don made special arrangements for lunch to be served to our group at the Iron Horse Lodge. They normally don't open the kitchen on weekdays, but Don is a sweet talker! http://www.ironhorsenc.com/

We spent all day putting in 261 miles while riding some of the best twisty roads to be found in the area, including the Cherohala Skyway. It got to be 5pm while we were still spinning our wheels so rather than going back to the motel, we rode directly to the Jones Street Cafe in Decatur, TN to meet the rough road riders for supper. It was 9:00pm by the time we headed back to Athens to the motel.

 Day 4, Saturday
September 20, 2008
250 miles


Word got out what a fun time we were having following Don through the Smoky Mountains and the next day our group grew to eleven. The fog lingers adding to the Smoky Mountain effect as our flower sniffin' troupe starts out on our Smoky Tour of the day.

We decided that we wanted to get a photo taken of the group before the day was over. Don knew just the place. This old building on hwy 30 near Reliance, TN provides our setting. A cluster of yellow flowers growing nearby provides our props.

And here's the Flower Sniffers posing on the steps with their flowers! I set the timer on the camera and propped it on the topcase of my bike. Then I ran down the hill to join the group for the photo.
Everyone else is saddling up while I'm still taking photos. No worry though  . . .  Just Bill always waits for me so I never fear of being left behind all by my lonely.
Out flower sniffin' troupe continues along US64 on our way to Ducktown, NC.

We stop for lunch at T.W.O. (Two Wheels Only), the popular motorcycle campground and cafe in Suches, GA. It being a nice Saturday, the place is busy.

Mike "Grizz" Newton and I pose with another Grizz.

We make it back to the motel about 5:30pm. I had the nice surprise of seeing that Pat & Greg Blewett from Kentucky rode in to join us just for supper and an evening of socializing. They couldn't make it for the flower sniffin' during the past two days, but didn't want to be completely left out of the party! It was another highlight to a day full of highs!
Both days we stopped in Tellico Plains for ice cream and a visit to the Tellico Motorcycle Outfitters across from the ice cream shop. Put this 2-fer stop on your list if you are ever in the area. http://skur.net/tellico/home.html

 Day 5, Sunday
September 21, 2008
293 miles

Deals Gap & Bridal Veil Falls
The party's over and Sunday morning everyone punches in the route on their GPS to take them home. Mine of course, isn't a direct route! My first stop is to collect an ink stamp from Fort Loudoun State Historical Area near Vonore, TN. http://www.fortloudoun.com/
Deals Gap is a very popular place among motorcyclists. Riders come from across the US to test their skill against the a particularly challenging section of road found here. Some even manage to prove that their skill isn't up to the task. I was through here a couple years ago on the Vstar, but haven't ridden The Tail on the RT yet. So in the spirit of "Been there, done that" I find myself testing my and the RT's abilities on the 318 curves found in the 11 mile stretch of US129 known as The Tail of the Dragon. The RT ate up those curves up and asked for more.

Commercial photographers strategically place themselves along the 11 miles to shoot photos of the riders as they go by.
Here is a link to a series of me on the RT.

I leave the Dragon behind with plenty more curvy roads in front of me . . . even though they don't offer you the chance to buy a t-shirt at the end.

The expressway was one of the few roads in the area where they've ironed out many of the small twisties and left only big sweepers. Still fun. After so many tights turns, it's nice to be able to reach into the higher gears for awhile.

Before I reach Franklin, NC on highway 28, I come across this old bridge on a side road. Can't pass up the photo opportunity.

On the other side of Franklin, I take US64 to Highlands, NC.

This section of US64 is known for the many water falls visible from the road.

This road is just as fun as The Tail of the Dragon, even though there's no t-shirt available at the end to say that you've "been there, done that, and saw the falls." But the flip side of that is the roads with no t-shirts are usually a lot less crowded.

Bridal Veil Falls is so close to the road that there is a pullout that allows you to actually ride under/behind the falling water. Some photo-ops are too complicated to pull off with the 10 second timer feature. I entrusted my camera to a tourist/photographer and asked if he'd take my photo as I pulled through. I picked someone that had a rather expensive looking camera hanging on his neck for two reasons: 1) Hopefully he knew something about how to take photos and 2) My little camera would not likely evoke thoughts of running off with it when a thousand dollars worth of camera was hanging off his neck.
I end the day in Morgantown, NC about 7pm that night.

Day 6, Monday
September 22, 2008
435 miles
Checking the RT over this morning as I get packed up for my last day on the road, I find that one of the two headlight bulbs has burned out. Nothing much to worry about since I should be home before the sun sets. Besides, I still have one bulb burning and my MotoLights are still throwing light.
Making my way along the back roads of North Carolina, I come to Lenoir. I recognize the city as a setting in the novel Dear John by Nicholas Sparks. My fleetering has taken me into several of the locations I've read about in his novels. My first fleetering trip crossing a state line was in April 2006 when I crossed into North Carolina on my way to Texas. That trip took me through New Bern, NC and to Brices Creek Road -- the inspiration for A Bend In The Road by Nicolas Sparks.

Read how I ended up on that particular road in Fleeter Log #16.

Lenoir, NC post office.
Scotts, NC is a very small community just southeast of Stony Point on the old US64/NC90 that follows close to the railroad.

I haven't filled up with gas since back on the Smoky Mountain Expressway over 250 miles ago. I start keeping an eye on prices and am happy to see prices lower than back in the mountains, but . . . many places are affected by the fuel outages resulting from Hurricane Ike hitting the Texas coast. No fuel to be found here. I may be settling for a lower grade by the time I find a station with fuel to sell.
Anytime I pass near a county courthouse, I feel compelled to take a photo. Similar to the urge I feel when passing post offices.

Not a twisty in sight as I close in on the Virginia state line.

The Cardinal (state bird of Virginia) welcomes me back home once again.
The sun draws a low angle as I pass through Beaver Dam. This depot was a strategic spot during the Civil War and was burned down several times by the Union forces with the last time being in 1864. The existing depot was rebuilt in 1866.
The sun has set and I can tell that I have less driving light to get me home. Turns out that the other headlight bulb is also out. Glad I have the MotoLights providing backup driving lights for me as I come in at dark thirty. It's 7:30pm when I pull in at home at Fredericksburg.

Smoky Mountain Ride Summary
Distance: 1,830 miles
States fleetered in this trip: 4
Time on Road: 5 ½ days

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