Trip days: 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5 | 6 | 7 | 8-9 | 10-12 | 13 | 14 | 15 | 16 | 17 | 18 | 19 | 20
I checked out of my hotel in Crossville and went east on highway 70 which runs roughly parallel to I-40. The closer I get to the Great Smokies the more exciting and challenging the roads are becoming. Tenessee has really caught me off guard. It's always been a place that I've thought of as part of the midwest infested with slow moving people with southern drawls. When in actuality it is very much a part of the east coast with it's deciduous forests, european type road design, and town layouts. Let's call it east coast with a country twist. I really like the state and could see spending a fair amount of time here in the future, exploring all the nooks and crannys.
All the rainfall that I've luckily missed over the past few days has left it's mark on eastern Tennessee. I'm continuously suprised that Tennessee can survive the extreme flood conditions. There are so many places where rivers or lakes are way over their banks but are being held back from drowning towns, schools, roadways, et al by raised roadways that act as dikes. I'm sure the weak points in the state were flooded hundreds of years ago and people realized what had to be done to prevent it in the future. It's still amazing to see a lake almost at road level on your right and a school a hundred feet down on your left.
I turned south on Highway 58 from Kingston and then went east on highway 72 to Vonom. I can't say enough how enjoyable the eastern Tennessee countryside is to ride. Each road seems better than the next with better scenery, more friendly waves, and more challenging riding. From Vonom I briefly headed north on highway 411 and then east again on 72 to highway 129. The road the leads into North Carolina and is home to the famous Deal's Gap. I felt a tingle run down my spine as I juiced the throttle in eager anticipation of what was to come. I had my doubts about the "Dragon" as it's called. Can it really be as good as everyone says? I dont' know... I've ridden some really good roads in the Alps and on the California coast.
In any case, I slowly scrubbed in the tires which hadn't been worked since I had them mounted in Shreveport, Louisiana and got them up to their full sticky potential as I neared the Gap. Highway 129 starts out calmly in Tennessee with fast sweepers around a large lake that very much mirrors riding around Crescent Lake on the north end of the olympic peninsula in Washington state. As the lake disappeared behind me the road started to tie itself in knots. With irregular decreasing radius turns, some banked and some not, very tight hairpins, and lots of elevation change the road definitely was challenging. At first it was hard to get into any sort of rhythm, but after "figuring" out the road I could almost see what was coming up. It was mostly a second gear run as it never really opened up at all. It was really big single supermoto territory. Torque was the name of the game, and luckily I had plenty but I could have done without all my baggage slowing me down and making the brakes work harder to pull down to manageable hairpin speeds. I really began cooking towards the last half of the 11 mile run and wished I had some race buddy to dice it up with. Well how did the gap compare your may ask? It was fun and is definitely a must ride in this area, but in my opinion it doesn't hold a candle to the roads of the california coast and those of the alps region of western europe. It was too short and sweet. Only 11 miles?! Shoot, I'm just getting warmed up at 11 miles. In the alps I travelled on roads just like the Gap but they went on all day long and for hundreds of miles. So much so that I was almost tired of riding fast on them... almost.
The Deal's Gap run ends at the North Carolina border and the motorcycle mayhem of Cruso, North Carolina appeared too. Cruso consists of a motorcycle only campground, a small restaurant, some gas pumps, and a motorcycle superstore. It's whole existence is to serve the motorcycle community from the surrounding cities. The store featured everything from "I rode Deal's Gap and survived" t-shirts to motorcycle handle bar risers and bike accessories. There was roughly 50 motorcycles in the lot out front split down the middle, sport bikes on one side and cruisers on the other. It is pretty cool having a real motorcycle hangout spot, especially at the start of a wicked police free run through the curves.
After applying a couple "Dragon" stickers to my saddle bags to illustrate to other bikers my defeat of Deal's Gap, I rocketed off down highway 28 to Fortuna and then north east to Bryson City and the Cherokee Indian Reservation. Due to a number of mud slides I had to bypass the start of the Blue Ridge Parkway and took highway 74 east to Asheville. Just east of Asheville I jogged onto the famous Blue Ridge Parkway. The BRP is basically a 300 mile long park that runs from North Carolina all the way up to Washington D.C. Whoever thought it up was eating their Wheaties. The BRP features magnificent views of the Appalachians and surrounding foothills at every turn. No stop signs, no gas stations, no mini-marts, no nothing. Just a supremely paved two lane road that winds its way along the top crests and around the peaks of the appalachian range. At one of the outlooks I met a BMW K1200RS rider from Ottowa, Ontario. We yakked for a bit about places to go, places been, and motorcycling. To use an age old advertising campaign, "You meet the nicest people on BMW motorcycles." After continuing on the BRP for a few hours I turned off at Boone, the home of Appalachia State University.
Boone is a really nice little town. It has a sort of Jackson Hole feel to it. Kind of hoity-toity but with a lot of character, lovely surroundings, and a hopping college student atmosphere. I'm sure it probably costs an arm and a leg or two to attend univeristy there, but I was thinking to myself that it would have been a much better choice than Western Washington University no matter what the actual education is like. The surroundings of the appalachians alone would warrant attending school there.
Needing to make up some ground I went east on highway 421 to Winston-Salem and eventually I-40 to Greensboro. I stopped in Lewisville to get gas and call a BMW friend in D.C. to try and arrange my weekend schedule of relaxing, riding, eating, relaxing, riding, eating, etc. As I was preparing to get back on the road some guy pulled up and began babbling at me in some foriegn tongue. After a minute or two of nodding and smiling I began to discern english words in his speech. Finally my ear tuned in to the dialect of his home planet, wherever that may be, and I listened to him blather about how he landed in Seattle and met his aunt somewhere in Idaho at this little church that is now on the cover of Country magazines church calendar 2003 and that he'd heard BMWs were the bikes of choice for touring and, and, and. Seriously, 10 minutes later I finally got a word in edge-wise and asked him if there was a campground around. He told me directions to a nearby camping area not once, not twice, not three, but four times in repetition. I finally was able to pry myself away with the "I need to set up camp and it's getting dark" ploy. A quick handshake and smile and I was heading to the Tanglewood campground just west of Winston-Salem.
It was dark as I pulled into the park. I looked for camping information but didn't see any so I delved deeper into the grounds and was stopped by the flashing lights of a park ranger.
Ranger: "Son, you gotta' get out of here."
What kind of freaking park doesn't allow motorcycles in it? How are they any different than cars as far as a park goes? Whatever. I don't think I like this county.
With no campgrounds in sight or near on my map I resorted to finding a hotel for the night... again. Oh well, a shower will do me good anyways.
Total Mileage for Day: 471
©2003 John Meloy <email@example.com>