This was supposed to be snow

We had such dire predictions for snow today. The roads are all brined, my vehicles are salted – thanks to the brine. But it missed us.

Not only did it miss us but we got some nice weather. When Nat called and told me she needed a couple of documents I jumped on the bike to deliver.

I did a little bit of touring on my way home. I wanted to get a look at the progress on the new bridge at Dandridge. It’s moving along kinda slowly. That seems to be the way these go around here. Maybe the concrete needs to set up for a while before they continue…

Checking on the progress on the new Dandridge bridge.

I also hit a couple of roads off 25/70 on the way home that took me into some cool areas I had never seen before. I’ll have to go back again when taking pictures is easier.

ADVer Tom from Brooklyn

Tom from Brooklyn took advantage of my posting on the ADV Tentspace Thread. Tom messaged me that he’d like to come down and ride around the Smokies. I said okay and the adventure was on. Tom came down mid-week and caught some rain coming in. We ate some dinner then talked some about what he had in mind. What he described was going to be a lot of riding. I tried to give him a route but honestly I’m not sure about all of it. That night I wasn’t really feeling like I wanted to spend the next day riding. We went to bed not too late and the next morning seemed like a pretty nice day for riding. I decided I’d at least get him started then I could let him go his own way later.

map with highlighted route
Loop from my house, out through the Dragon, back down the Cherohala Skyway, and home

As we were setting off for the day’s ride Tom grabbed a picture or two of our view of the lake and mountains. I don’t think there’s anything in Brooklyn, NY that looks like this.

Tom and his bike. Tom is getting pictures of our view.
Tom and his bike. Tom is getting pictures of our view.

Every motorcycle ride in the world seems to be aware of the “Dragon” which is a tortuously twisted road that folks like to test. It eats unaware drivers and riders. It’s famous for that. Tom wanted to do the dragon too so we headed that way first. I took a warm up route down highway 92 from Dandridge across the lake. I wanted to get out to route 411 which heads towards the mountains. Along the way we passed Blowing Cave road and I knew of an old mill out there I wanted to check in on. We detoured.

Mill on Blowing Cave Rd
Mill on Blowing Cave Rd

After we left the cave we continued on route 411 until we got to Veterans Blvd which would take us out to Pigeon Forge. I thought it would be fun for Tom to see the tourist mecca that that place is. Parkway in Pigeon Forge didn’t disappoint. After some gawking along Parkway we turned up Wears Valley road. Tom waved me into an auto parts store to get himself some chain lube. Wears Valley road runs close to a friend’s house. It’s through him I knew of some of the nice roads I was going to take so we stopped in to see him. He hasn’t been able to ride for a while as he fought cancer. He’s got it beat now but hasn’t quite gotten back on his bike.

Kurt posing behind my and Tom's bikes with Tom alongside
Kurt posing behind my and Tom’s bikes with Tom alongside

Kurt took a little needling well and kept his smile. Off again we wanted to cut through part of the GSMNP. We continued out Wears Valley and turned onto Lyon Springs road. That took us in a little used entrance. We eventually emerged after some very scenic riding in Townsend. We were back on Wears Valley Rd. Riding a little farther we came to Foothills Parkway. That makes a nice connection to route 129 which becomes the Dragon.

We checked out some of the overlooks as we rode.

Balcony style overlook on Foothills Parkway
Balcony style overlook on Foothills Parkway

I have lots of pictures of the overlooks somewhere so I didn’t bother taking many shots. Tom got lots of pictures.

Before long we dropped out onto Tellico Lake on route 129. Tom had talked about wanting to take several runs at the Dragon so my plan was to go with him up into NC and wait at the store at the top. We got caught mostly behind the parade of much slower bikes aka Harleys. I rode much of it with my left hand resting in my lap as we rarely even got up to the speed limit. Once at the top we opted to grab a burger before Tom took more runs at it. Pretty soon he admitted his knees were still quaking and he would take more runs another time. We continued on. I prefer to bear left on route 28 along Cheoah Lake and down around the power plant at Fontana Dam. It’s a nice road with sweepers instead of hairpin turns and you can get into a rhythm if you know what you’re doing.

As we rode down I noticed a mist clinging to the top of the lake.

Smoke on the water. Mists at Fontana
Smoke on the water. Mists at Fontana
Mists at Fontana
Mists at Fontana
Fontana generators
Fontana generators

Shortly after we crossed the lake on rte 28 the immense humidity began condensing into rain. I thought we might escape it soon so I delayed putting on rain gear. Alas it continued to rain and I didn’t dare press on at my limits leading a young rider so we stopped under some trees to dress for the rain. We followed my GPS towards Robbinsville which is the NC terminus of the Cherohala Skyway. When we got to the bustle of Robbinsville I was dreaming of a frosty treat at McDonalds. Of course there was one and I got my Mocha Frappe. mmm. I thought I’d never get Tom out of the dry air conditioned comfort there. We took our time as I finished my treat and both got dried out.

We spoke with another rider who had just come off the Skyway. He told us it was raining hard at the highest section. Hm. Not good news but I decided I’d risk riding without rain gear. If it started raining on us I could just put it on again. In the meantime I’d be a lot more comfortable.

Soon enough we were greeted by a park sign welcoming us to the Skyway.

park sign
Welcome sign describing the Cherohala Skyway

The skyway is full of good overlooks.

My 2007 R1200 RT at Santeetlah Gap
My 2007 R1200 RT at Santeetlah Gap
My bike at the Big Junction overlook on the Cherohala Skyway
My bike at the Big Junction overlook on the Cherohala Skyway
Tom and his bike at an overlook on the Cherohala Skyway
Tom and his bike at an overlook on the Cherohala Skyway

As we neared Tellico Plains I remembered I wanted to see the Bald River Falls once before but misinterpreted a sign. I followed it correctly this time around.

picture of waterfall
Bald River Falls on August 8, 2013

It was starting to be a long day for both of us. Tom especially had ridden down from New York the day before all this. He wanted to go into Knoxville for some evening adventures and to launch from the next day. I led him down that way and just as we were getting into Knoxville we got separated. Tom followed some distance behind me regularly and I decided he wanted to take a different route but didn’t have a way to signal me. I continued on home and soon enough had a text from Tom indicating he was fine.

At the end of the day I had done 300 miles. I enjoyed the whole ride and was glad Tom had given me the incentive to get out and ride. Since this was August 8th it was also the anniversary of my father passing and made for a nice celebration of his life in my mind.