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Fogged In

September 15, 2012

Nothing worse than having a big day of riding ahead, being up early and ready to go, opening the curtains and finding you’re socked in in fog, in podunk Tennessee no less. Nothing to do but pace, lay around, and wait.

We finally got on the road about 2 hours later than planned. I was a little discouraged because I knew how far we needed to go. To this point, the weather has been spectacular. Unfortunately, we’re about to get more than just showers over the next few days. I shouldn’t complain but at this point, it’s a huge factor being here in the Smokeys.

So as I said, we got on the road and it was freezing. Time to break out the leather and layers. We rode interstate to try and make some time and s-o-b if we didn’t ride out of the fog and cold in about 5miles. It was like some one playing a trick on us. We turned off on to country roads and immediately, my thoughts turn to gas. A typical Tennessee country road, long lazy s turns, cows and farms and goats and the mountains in the distance. The day warmed up fast.

As per usually the case in such situations, we ride up on a small local gas stop. It’s a co op that all the farmers belong to. We roll up and sheepishly go inside begging for gas. The attendant was a nice young man who gladly came out to swipe a special card to open the pumps for us. The farmers all just roll in and swipe their own cards. They all want to strike a conversation about where we’re from, where we’re going, what we’ve been doing. And I can’t be sure if it’s that I’m going a little bit deaf or they garble their words but on more than one occasion I was forced to smile and nod my head, like I was in a foreign country. We stripped down, off with the leather, and got back on the road heading for the main event of the day……. The Dragon!

SOP, quick stop for unauthorized opening of the saddle bags in the middle of a 4 lane road….and off again. We finally hit the beginning of US 129 and I was giggling, just beside myself. Then we pass 3 strack looking motorcycle cops. They were adjusting their tight little motorcycle cop uniforms on top of their white tricked out Road Kings chomping at the bit to bust themselves some crotch rockets.

I’ve done this road before and can remember how I felt unsure, and not knowing what to expect, the first time around. It’s legendary in the motorcycle world….318 curves in 11 miles. Its beautiful. It runs along a river between Tennessee and North Carolina and consists of a lot of mountain switchbacks.

It’s also deadly. Mostly do to inexperience, too much testosterone and stupidity. As i said, the cops were ready for action! A lot of the problem comes from the crotch rockets. They just love this road because it gives them exactly what their bikes were built to do, race fast around tight curves. Unfortunately, it’s a public road, with cars, other bikes, campers, trailers and the rest. Makes for a bad combination.

So my philosophy remains that kids like that never get up early. ie, the earlier you go, less crotch rockets. I would never want to be at the Dragon on Saturday at noon. So we get to the Dragon on Saturday at noon……..remember the fog? We stop at the Harley dealer at the head of the Dagon to make final adjustments, get a drink, snap some pictures, etc. that’s when I noticed the big white “x” painted in the parking lot….you know, for life flight.

Helmets on….. Find a break in the traffic, and we’re off. Right behind a big white panel truck. I’m thinking oh, great this is going to suck! In a straight section, traffic comes to a halt. What’s up? Looks like one of our cops has his first prize and pulls a “u” right in the middle of traffic. Good job officer!

Back in motion and we hit the first curve. I couldn’t help but wonder what Dorothy was thinking. The little biker church ladies have a tent set up at the Harley place and they are quite friendly, not pushy but they ask where you’re from etc. I think they’re there in case you’re looking for God or need a prayer before you go. They gave Dorothy all kinds of advice. “Ride your ride” “Don’t let anyone push you.”. Let me emphasize here, the road isn’t that bad.

The panel truck was amazingly agile and got a little ahead of us. About 3 miles into the road there is a scenic overlook. We pulled over, it was crowded, snapped some pictures and viewed a memorial for a dead crotch rocket rider. Sad. Our timing was perfect, as we pulled out, we were all alone. No one in front, no one behind. Just the fun of the road, lots and lots of peg scraping. I got over so far in one turn, my peg popped up and knocked my foot off, I’m sure there were sparks on that one! Dorothy said over and over how amazed she was by these machines.

There’s nothing more fun than diving down into a deep, sharp right handed turn that immediately rises to a steep climb followed by a sharp left curve at the top. The engine doesn’t drag you up that hill, it pulls you. Power never waivers and then slings you around the next turn. Fun, fun, fun.

And then you hear it, like a swarm of buzzing bees……crotch rockets! First you here them, then you see them in your mirror. Damn noon on Saturday! They just flutter behind you zigging and zagging looking for a chance to pass….in the blind curves. This aggravates me to some extent and normally I would do what I could to foil their every move but it takes the fun out of it for me and I didn’t want it to spoil Dorothy’s fun so I show her were to pull aside and in a flash of colored head to toe leather, they’re gone.

We got to the end of the road at Deals Gap where there’s a little bike resort, gas, restaurant etc. plus plenty of bikes. It’s where everybody walks around slapping each other on the back for making it over the Dragon in one piece, recounting stories, lots of smiling and laugh. Everyone is in a good mood. We go inside for lunch and watch as a guy misjudged a turn and ends up with his bike on top of him. About 15 guys run over and pick it up off of him…..non the worse for wear but a little embarrassing.

At lunch we try to plan our next move based on weather…..unfortunately, we find ourselves without cell/internet service. I’m not even sure if these posts are publishing. We’re flying blind and decide to head to Cherokee, NC where we had planned to go horseback riding. We know we won’t make it in time but at least we can go in the morning. Beautiful ride there…..stop for gas at a valley station and Dorothy gets to play with mommy Sadie and puppy King…..half coyote. Very adorable. Bikes all over the place as we hit Cherokee. We drove along a river for a long time, places offering camping and cabin rentals, tubes for floating and towels.

On a whim, I call the riding stable. We made the 4:00 ride and couldn’t have been happier. I told them I needed a big horse with thick, sturdy legs…..they gave me a huge, jet black horse named Rambo. I was color coordinated. Dorothy got a beautiful chestnut named Roguer. Just three of us on the ride and I was happy to be at the tail end. They were all chatting away and I was happy to finally be in the forest. It was a shirtsleeve afternoon with plenty of cover in the woods. We crossed a good sized creek into a tunnel then into the woods.

Wildflowers are still blooming here and they dotted our trail. Up into the mountain. I’m not sure why, but Rambo had a propensity to walk on the very, very edge of the path. Now I know he’s sure of foot but I wasn’t sure how sturdy the rocky, mountain path was. Dorothy’s horse seemed a little drunk. He would stumble and stop. She said she thought he was near sighted because he would bend his head way down to look at a rock and then he would step over it. He almost tossed her in the creek on the way back.

We had a great time and agreed we would come back for another ride. Headed back into town we were a bit worried about getting a room but we booked at the first spot we stopped at. A motel type place right on the river. We have a balcony with rockers.

It’s funny how what started out as such a bummer turned into one of the best days of the trip.

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Co Op gas station, TN

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Tail of the Dragon Harley

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Sadie

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Coyote pup King

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Roguer

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Rambo

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From our balcony

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Tourist trap were you can pan for gold.

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2 Comments leave one →
  1. Dutch permalink
    September 16, 2012 1:23 pm

    Just got caught up on the trip this weekend. Looks like a great trip so far. Dad showed me the faux picture with the swamp people, still pretty cool. Can’t believe you did not see any gators. When I was in Florida, every time I stepped into a lake to fish, one would pop up. Too bad you did not catch up with any spirits or did you? Hope the weather clears so you can get rolling. I you happen to be passing by Vien Mountain in NC snap one of the gold camp for me. Take is easy and enjoy.

    • September 18, 2012 8:46 am

      I couldn’t find Vien on the map but if you look at Fogged In again I posted a picture of a touris trap across the street from our hotel where they had the people gathered all around a big trough panning like crazy.

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