Just got back tonight from 5 days of riding on the Motorcycle Mecca that is the the Great Smokey Mountains area.
We stayed in Kyle (Brad)’s Uncle’s kick-butt Cabin in the middle of the forest off of route 28 south of 74, which in and of itself maybe one of the greatest roads in the area to ride.
There were no YouTube moments, at least none that we have footage for. Though Kyle’s buddy Chris did wreck pretty hard on his way home on Sunday. For the record, (I) had nothing to do it with it. He was on his own. He is fine and will be OK. (ATGATT = All the gear all the time).
Here’s the breakdown of the trip.
Wednesday (Day 01)
We all met up early like 6:30am early in Sharonville, to get through Cincy before morning rush hour. We stopped at the Cracker Barrel in KY for breakfast (the first of many great meals).
This would also be the last time I’d get to use the iPhone, as where we were headed was technology challenged (No or very limited, Cell Service).
In attendance for the long haul to the cabin were; Dad, Kyle, Joe and myself. We’d meet up with Kyle’s buddy on Thursday.
Shortly after Cracker Barrel, I was really hating my bike. I’d done a ton of maintenance recently and felt like the steering was too tight. Alas, this was something I didn’t have tools with me to fix. About 6 miles down the road I checked tire pressures, and my rear was almost 15lbs too low. I added air, and things were much, much better. However, this tire had two plugs in it and had them since the MD2020. I had put proper air pressure in the tire the night before so this wasn’t a good sign. It would be in the back of my mind from this point on.
Somewhere before the GAP I checked my tires, they were down almost 2 lbs. So I picked up another set of patches planning to re-plug the tire with thicker sticky strings that evening.
We traveled on down I-75 through Deals Gap where we tamed the Dragon and stopped for lunch.
If you’re not familiar with the Dragon, google it. It’s route 129 in TN, and NC. 318 turns in 11 miles.
Of course we needed to visit the tree of shame:
If you crash at the Dragon (and a lot of people do), you’re supposed to leave something behind on the tree of shame.
From the dragon we continued on down to RT 28 below 74 to the awesome accommodations at ‘le Cabin’. An A-Frame owned my Kyle’s Uncle.
The cabin is up in the mountains at approx 3000 feet, so it was 10 degrees cooler up there. No AC, no cell coverage or internet. No cable TV either but still a great place, including a super sweet garage to park our bikes in.
But before you could enjoy this peaceful place you first had to cheat the ‘Driveway of Death’. Part Gravel, part pavement, probably a 20% grade for a few hundred yards. The first attempt didn’t go so well for Joe. We had to stop half way up to unlock the gate. His bike was in a precarious situation and he dropped it. No blood, no harm no foul. By the end of this trip his fear of gravel will be conquered.
We unloaded our bikes and headed off the the grocery store (30 miles away) to get the weekends provisions.
Man food mostly:
Beer, eggs, butter, bacon, wheat bread, beer, pop, salad, and beer.
We did score 3 rotisserie chickens for dinner the first night.
So our first dinner was Chicken, salad with beer, followed by Cigars, scotch and beer.
It was a nice relaxing evening. I patched my tire and all was well.
Thursday (Day 02)
We got up at a reasonable time and had breakfast. Eggs and BACON.
Bacon would fuel us this weekend!
Our route today was supposed to be rather peaceful, yet exciting. We were to run a route that would take us over Teleco mountain, over to Telico Plains, across the Skyway, etc. About 45 minutes into the router we realized that Teleco road leads us to Otter Creak road, which was gravel, and getting worse by the mile. We also discovered about half way up this gravel road that my tire was indeed FLAT. One of the new plugs from the night before had come out. We patched my tire in the hollers and headed back toward Franklin.
(Fixing my flat down in the holler)
We had a 1pm meet time with Chris and couldn’t complete our intended route.
Along the way we passed ‘Cycle Crazy’ on route 28. As we drove by, I thought to myself; “What are the chances that they’ll have a tire to fit my bike?”
We stopped for gas and talked it over. We all agreed I should replace my tire if I could. We used the power of Goog-411 to contact Cycle Crazy. They did indeed have a tire. So dad and I turned back while Kyle and Joe when off to meet up with Chris.
These guys get mad props for hooking me up. They stopped what they were doing to mount my tire. They charged a fair price and didn’t try to ‘screw’ a traveler. I highly recommend them and will give them what ever business I can.
I pulled my rear wheel so they wouldn’t have to clear a lift, they mounted the tire and dad and I hung out talking to these guys while we waited for the others to ride by.
We finally met up with the rest of the gang and decided to make the best of what was left of the day.
We headed out Route 28 through Franklin, up 64 through Highlands, a very cool little town.
Then to Pine mountain to take in a view. The view was a 5 mile hike (maybe more). Kyle and Chris hiked to the top. Dad, Joe and I apparently made it about 1/2 way and gave up. ‘Never trust a man who walked 300+ miles on the Appalachian trail if he tells you that something isn’t ‘that far’. His view of ‘not that far’ is not the same as the rest of us. A 5 mile up hill hike is one thing, a 5 mile up hill hike in riding boots and riding best work boots and pants is another.
After that little escapade we did what we do best. We went to eat.
After another 75 or so miles we headed back to the Cabin and called it a day.
It rained nearly every evening, but our days were great. Having bikes in the garage was even better!
Friday (Day 03)
Our goal was to get up early and head to the BMW MOA rally. (one of our prime objectives for this trip). By now Kyle had figured out that he too needed tires in the worst way. What better place to get them at then at the Rally? Generally speaking they have decent prices at these things.
We stayed up far too late the night before and got a rather late start to the day. We made it to the rally in Johnson City around noon. A really pleasant 150 mile ride. (we wanted to be there at 10 am but it just didn’t work out).
We did what we do second best, shop for motorcycle stuff. After registration we hit up the vendors. I didn’t have much on my list. Some Rev-IT socks, maybe a new pump since my portable tire pump died. Sadly I didn’t find any of these things.
The ONLY tire vendor at the show was Metzler. While I like my Metzler Z6’s that came on my bike, I didn’t like the way they don’t have tread in the middle. They look fine, then 100 miles later you have cords showing. But Kyle needed tires, at least a rear. Unfortunately the booth was booked until Sunday. They couldn’t mount tires for him.
We wandered around some more, hoping to find Michelin or Bridgestone at the rally. Sadly again, neither was there. We bumped into the owner of Cycle Crazy and he didn’t have a tire in a size to fit Kyle’s bike but gladly agreed to mount it for us on Sunday if we found a tire at the rally. So we headed back to the Metzler booth.
I’m going to blast Metzler in another specific post. But the bottom line is they wouldn’t sell us just a tire or even a set of tires if they couldn’t mount it at the show. Not a good thing.
So we called around using the power of 1-800-Goog-411 and found a set of tires at Wheelers, at the south end of Deals Gap. We’d head there first thing in the morning and get Kyle hooked up.
I didn’t have my camera at the rally so there aren’t any pictures of that day.
After much shopping in the vendor area, we headed to the beer garden for a couple frosty beverages and a little relaxation before heading back.
The ride back was fairly uneventful. We did stop and have a nice home cooked meal at a little hole in the wall diner in the middle of no-where TN.
Back at the Cabin for another late night of Scotch/Bourbon, Beer, Cigars, and stories. Oh, and we watched probably the worst Motorcycle movie ever. Hell Ride a Tarantino flick. Think Pulp Fiction on Motorcycles only not that good. It was really stupid. IMDB is extremely generous giving it 5.3 stars out of 10.
Saturday (Day 04)
Again, we didn’t get up an out on the road as early as we would have liked. Normally when you go on these types of trips it’s kickstands up at 7:30a or 8:00a and you ride all day. We were a little slow moving because we were staying up so late.
First stop of the day… Wheelers at the tail of the Dragon so Kyle could get some new shoes…
Wheelers is a one man show. We were there when he opened though so we were first in line. This turned out to be a good thing. He was diligent, but somewhat slow, mostly driven by the other riders that wouldn’t leave him alone to do his work.
This is where we met Larry or Barry. A guy on a K1200 sport bike who needed to have his tire patched. What a tool, for 60 minutes he didn’t shut up. It was very clear to us why he was riding alone. I don’t think anyone could stand to be with him for more than 60 minutes. I know we couldn’t.
After the tires we ran up to the peak of the Cherohala Skyway. About 1/3rd of the way. Chris had a term paper due for his online-MBA so he stayed at the Cabin to get that done. We’d ride for a bit then meet up with him so he could upload his paper.
The weather was perfect. On the way up we came across a rider that had gone down. Hitting some grass on the road left over from the crews mowing the sides of the Skyway. He was OK, but bike was broken pretty badly.
There were quite a few police on the Skyway running radar, but it was still a fun ride.
We met up with Chris at McDonalds in Bryson City. We enjoyed a Mc Mocha the best we could while he uploaded his paper. Still the worst $3.00 coffee on the planet but it was there and had caffeine).
We then set off for the good end of the Blue Ridge Parkway.
It was a beautiful day. A tad chilly at altitude but a great day none-the-less.
I had intended to take us up to the top of Mount Mitchell but with the late start (2pm) there was no way we would make it. We cut the ride short and headed into Cruso for fuel, then back down 276 to the looking glass waterfall. Which was a Zoo on a Saturday.
Then into Brevard for a somewhat suspect Steak Dinner. Our first and only of the trip. I had ribs and pulled pork. It was good but not special. Chris’s steak looked really bad and I was glad I didn’t go with steak. They did however give us a bag of peanuts for the road. Moral of the story is never trust a steak place that advertises a $7.00 steak.
Up parkway road back to the Blue Ridge with an opportunity to watch a sunset.
After our meal we beat feet for the cabin, made a quick beer stop to restock and headed home for another night of laughing.
I think we heard the Big Earl story that night.
Sunday (Day 05)
Sunday would be Chris’s last day with us. He packed up his stuff, we’d ride till lunch and he’d head on home to Atlanta. We were told by Kyle’s Uncle that we could get a good burger at a place on lake Aquone. Which was perfect because Wayah road was on our do-not miss list. We stopped at the burger joint, Lakes End Grill. It was good, with very bad service (slow) and ugly waitresses to boot (a contradiction to the description that was given prior).
After lunch we said our goodbye’s with Chris. He headed south, we headed north (probably a mistake to split up then).
We weren’t sure which way to head, so we looked at what routes we hadn’t run yet and decided to run to Telico and run the length of the Cherohala this time from the TN side. We traveled down 129 to the John Brown Highway. Calling it a highway is a stretch. We followed it around lake Hiwassee and took a gravel road for about 4 miles to get to 68 then up to Telico across the Cherohala and back home.
Our trip was uneventful. Just a nice peaceful ride. We were already somewhat exhausted from all the previous activities. We were thinking Pizza but couldn’t find a place on the way so we stopped at Subway. Clearly the healthier choice.
Later that evening we learned that Chris had crashed about 5 minutes after he left us. He wanted to be home by 3pm and was on schedule until that meal at the Lakes end took forever. I’m sure he was rushing to get home, blue a corner and over into a ravine. He was fine because he had all the gear on. His bike was able to be ridden home. I haven’t seen photos yet. We should have ridden with him till he got to a straighter road.
To bed early on Sunday since Monday was ride home day. We needed to get up early and clean the cabin. Leave it like you found it or better.
Monday (Day 06)
Up and at-em around 8am. The plan was to be out by 8am, which didn’t happen but we weren’t far behind. I was sleeping with ear plugs cause everyone of us can snore like a chainsaw. Apparently that made me harder to wake up.
We swept through the cabin, hung the towels, put fresh sheets one the beds, vacuumed, swept out the garage and what not.
One last ride through the dragon.
Then headed straight for home. We didn’t waste much time. We had to stop and buy some DOT 4 brake fluid as it appeared I was leaking but that turned out not to be accurate. Just super-slabbed it all the way home. One stop in Jellico for Gas and Arby’s, then another fuel stop just south of Lexington to top off so we can make it home from there in one shot.
More photos and maybe even movies coming as I get them.
High res full photos here: http://picasaweb.google.com/mdisher/2009ManCampRidinInTheSmokies#