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Soloman & Scratch in the Smokies

Joined
Jul 2, 2005
Messages
289
Location
Charlotte, NC
Well this year for Easter, Scratch joined me for three day ride around the Smokey Mountains in NC, TN, and VA. I was hoping the weather would be nice like it was for this ride last year, however after watching the weather for a week I succumbed to the fact it would be a bit chilly. So I put the mesh gear away and dug out my winter gear. We were planning on traveling to and from on Friday and Tuesday (today) and riding for the three days in the middle.

Well, the last Thursday evening I heard one weather man talk about the possibility of snow on Friday night and the temps would be lows in the 20's and highs in the 40's. Well after many months of thinking about this trip, Friday finally came (ironically it was Good Friday) and before heading out of town I stopped by my local BMW shop to pickup a pair of Gerbing heated socks to go along with my gloves and jacket. Since Scratch was trailing up and would be in until around 8:00 I didn't leave until 1:30 from Charlotte. I planned on a good mix of slab and mountain roads to Alcoa, TN where we would meet. This was my first trip back through Franklin since I was there with the TWT 2 years ago. As I pulled into Franklin for some gas the temps were dropping so I put on my rain jacket for more wind protection and changed to my heated gloves as I only had about 1.5 hours of daylight left. I made it over NC 28 and to the Dragon just as the sun was setting. I got to ride the Dragon all alone in my direction and saw 2 ZX-14's and 2 Busas riding together coming the other way. It was really wild so see their headlights dashing through the trees. I finally made it to the hotel 350 miles and 7 hours later around 8:30 pm and Paul wasn't there yet. However it was really cold and windy. Paul did arrive around 10:00 and we quickly reviewed the planned routes and went to bed.

Saturday morning arrived and I don't know exactly but it was in the 20's by the time we left a little before 9:00.
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The plan was to go south out of Alcoa to the head of the head of the Cherahola Skyway in Tellico Plains and then ride some nice dirt and gravel roads for a bit. Here's Scratch installing some heating pads into his gloves, because his hands were cold.
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Speaking of gear, I was wearing the following:

Bottom Half - thin wool socks, heated socks, Bohn armor pants, long underwear, polartec 300 pants, joe rocket over pants

Top Half - tee shirt, long underwear, heated jacket, joe rocket jacket, rain jacket, wind proof gloves, heated gloves, and balaclava

In total it was probably around 10+ pounds of gear. In any case back to the ride. After meandering along a nice paved road we finally hit some dirt.
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We probably rode about 30 miles of really nice hard packed dirt and gravel roads. Along this section were a several camp sites and numerous nice fishing spots (season started 1 Apr). One campsite in particular was a bit odd; way back in the woods there was maybe 15-20 people at this particular site and they had no less than 10 confederate flags waving in the wind and appeared to a rough looking bunch. To say the least, we didn't stop to chat.
We finally ended our dirt run for the day and came out 14 miles from the start of the Skyway. We headed back to the start and stopped for a break so Scratch could warm up with some coffee. While stopped we chatted for a bit with an EMT from Robbinsville who works most of the accidents on the Dragon. He also informed us of the snow on the other side of the mountain and the fact when he crossed the skyway at 9:00 it was a tropical 10°.

After a bit we got back going for our trek across the skyway to the dragon. As usual, the Skyway as a quick ride, until we reached the higher elevations and the snow. Yes, that's right, snow on the side of the road, blowing in the air, and at times on the road.
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We stopped at the state line for quick break and to take in the scene.
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The ride down to 129 was a bit hairy at times but very manageable. We stopped once more on the way down and discovered we had snow accumulating under our front fenders and my water had frozen.
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Upon reaching 129 there were a few classic cars (2 Ferrari's and a race prepped MG stopped for lunch by the dam. Since we were at the head of the dragon, we had to stop for lunch and a bit of gas. Since the weather wasn't that great, there wasn't the usual huge crowd, but rather a group of good folks. Several were rather intrigued by Scratch's Speed Triple and stuck up a conversation. One of them told us to watch out for a bunch of Civics driving like idiots on the dragon. I forgot about it and took off a few layers so we could go inside and enjoy a nice heated environment and oh yeah lunch. I had the special, chili and cornbread with a side of onion rings, while Scratch ordered a cheeseburger, and received a bacon cheeseburger.

Finally the time had come for Scratch's maiden voyage across the dragon. All in all it was a rather tame ride and we only had a few slow moving vehicles which required us to use the other side of the road. We did see those pesky civics and they seemed to be minding their manners. After the dragon we were supposed to meander our way along the back side of the Smokey Mtn Park and make our way into the center, but I choose the back way in and after climbing a steep and narrow road it turned into a one way road and we were going the wrong way, so we turned around and headed for 441 to make our way to Maggie Valley for the night. Well the stretch of 441 we rode was the rather crowded and really slow. We were hoping for a side trip up to Clingmans Dome, which was supposed to open 1 Apr, but it was still closed. After discovering that I was hoping for a nice jaunt down the BRP, but it too was closed so we took the long way into town. Since our bikes were covered in salt, and dust from the dirt road, we decided to find a car wash. See more in next post
 

Tourmeister

Keeper of the Asylum
Admin
Joined
Feb 28, 2003
Messages
45,700
Location
Huntsville
Scratch really needs to just admit that he wants a DS bike and get it over with... you too!! :lol2:
 
Joined
Jul 2, 2005
Messages
289
Location
Charlotte, NC
All was well until we got back to the hotel after a quick ride to dry the remaining water on our bikes and Scratch discovered his key was frozen in the ignition. A quick trip inside to the coffee maker to get some hot water solved this little dilemma. Well that's enough for day 1.

Day 2

Again another sub freezing start to day.
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Again we started the day off nice selection of unpaved roads. However this time I'd ridden most of these roads. This selection took us up the NE edge of the Great Smokey Mtn park to one of my favorite roads. This was a long slow set of roads as we traveled just under 40 miles in 2-2.5 hours. At one point as I came around a bend I saw two park rangers at the top of the hill so I stopped for a bit to chat and would you believe the first words from his mouth were "I didn't expect to see a sport bike up here." Can't say I blame him since this was a nice back country road covered snow in places. Oh well for me it's all about what's at the end of this road, and that's a stretch of road roughly 10 miles long which rivals the dragon but is known by very few people. I felt this would be a nice road to get some action shots, so here you go:

Soloman
Me slowly riding out to turn around (need to give scratch time to get in position)
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Scratch
First run where I wasn't ready for him.
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After this fun little road we made our way over to I-40 for a 26 mile jaunt on one of most exciting stretches of interstate around. I kind of lost Scratch as he got stuck behind someone. I came up behind a yellow S2000 who kept accelerating from 70 on up to around 100 and who am I not to oblige. I eventually go in front of him we finally go though the twisty part and the road was nearly wide open so I though it was a good time to clean out my injectors. I gave the bike a nice run just short of a buck fifty, and when I let off and moved into the right lane the S2000 went flying by me.

After that bit of fun we had a nice ride down 209 to our lunch stop in Hot Springs. We got to enjoy our easter lunch at a nice little restaurant with a handful of rather amusing AT thru hikers. After ordering our lunch I noticed a pie menu also on our table, so in true TWT fashion we had to order some pie. I had a piece of strawberry rhubarb, while Scratch had a more mundane pie of apple pie a la mode. As the day wore on, it became apparent we wouldn't finish the original planned route so some creative planning on fly allowed to arrive into Bristol, VA at a reasonable hour just before dark. At our hotel that night was an interesting vehicle; if anyone ever wondered how Garmin and TomTom get their maps made, here you go:
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On to day 3
 
Joined
Jul 2, 2005
Messages
289
Location
Charlotte, NC
Day 3

The only reason we stayed in Bristol was because I wanted to ride US-58 again. This is a very fun road which snakes it's way through parts of the George Washington National Forest and goes by the highest point in VA; Mount Rogers. After finishing up this nearly 80 mile loop we worked our way to Boone and onto Blowing Rock for lunch, where we stopped at my favorite place, The Speckled Trout Cafe. We had lovely waitress who tried to tell us she could make it from Boone to Charleston, SC in four hours. Since this is a 300 mile trip, this raised the question; just how fast do you drive, and she said oh anywhere from 70-100 and typically around 100. Even with all this high speed driving, somehow she's managed to get only one speeding ticket. If I was only so lucky, oh well. After lunch we took a nice ride down 221 in hopes of riding about 90 miles on the BRP and then onto another run on the dragon. Well it turned out the BRP was closed at Little Switzerland, so we just had to take 226A down the mountain. After riding 226A, than a good portion of NC-80, and an awesome stretch of 19W, Scratch just might believe there are many roads just as good if not better than the heralded dragon in NC. As I figured, this was turning into a very long day and we decided to run a bit of slab so we could get back to the hotel in time to load Scratch's bike with a bit of daylight left. On our roughly 80 miles of slab, we were past by vehicles all driven by girls and all going well over 90, then once we turned off onto 129 in Knoxville some moron decided to tailgate Scratch and nearly clipped him as we turned into our hotel.

Overall we had a great trip even with the frigid temperatures (ask Scratch if he has the feeling back under his chin yet), we rode 1070 miles over three days and I rode just under 1700 miles in five days.
 
Joined
Jul 2, 2005
Messages
289
Location
Charlotte, NC
Scratch really needs to just admit that he wants a DS bike and get it over with... you too!! :lol2:
Well my friend, that time just might be coming very soon. There are far to many unpaved roads I'd like to explore and riding my SV off road isn't he safest or most comfortable thing. On top of that I need to find a more comfortable bike. On the way home today I made a little detour near the end to a large bike shop in SC to hopefully have a look at the KTM 640 adventure. Unfortunately as soon as it came in it was sold and they don't expect another. However they do have a 450exc, KLR, and XR650L on the floor. I'm not sure I want to buy a new one nor if I want to have two bikes.
 

scratch

Inactive Member
Joined
Mar 6, 2003
Messages
4,676
Location
Houston
Nice write-up, Jason. :thumb:

I can't think of too much to add to your description other than to say that you did a truly outstanding job of route-planning. Had I only ridden the Dragon, that would have been the high-point of the trip, but every day you led us down new roads every bit as entertaining as that one. The road out of SMNP where we took the sequential shots was, IMHO, even more fun because the turns were a little more open and flowing. FWIW, the new rear tire I mounted for this trip is already down to the wear bars - yet it's not squared-off. 8-)

Obviously, the weather was beyond our control but it didn't diminish the fun, it just added an interesting dimension to the experience. My winter gear was mostly adequate (biggest oversight: should have brought my balaclava) and I didn't suffer too badly from the cold. It was my first time to ride in snow and ice conditions, but it was the pea gravel the road crews spread in some of the turns that gave me the most pucker-moments. As Jason pointed out, that sort of thing forces you to hold a tight line in the corners. ;-)

I'll post up a couple of pictures later.
 
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scratch

Inactive Member
Joined
Mar 6, 2003
Messages
4,676
Location
Houston
Scratch really needs to just admit that he wants a DS bike and get it over with... you too!! :lol2:
I'm thinking the new Tiger w/ a set of Dunlop D616 tires mounted would have been nigh-on perfect for the kind of conditions we tackled. :trust:
 

scratch

Inactive Member
Joined
Mar 6, 2003
Messages
4,676
Location
Houston
A few images ---

Jason coming around a bend in the road somewhere in Smokey Mtns NP -


The trusty Speed Triple at the same spot -


Photo-op somewhere on the Cherohala Skyway -


Icey conditions!


The Appalachian Trail leading out into the woods -
 
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