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Thursday, August 11, 2011

On the Road Again

On the road again...I think that's a great line, and Willy Nelson, you done good writin' it. And if he really didn't write it, please don't comment and ruin it for me.....

When I left Wednesday morning, I felt like I was escaping, and maybe on some level that's true. Once I got out of the Washington, DC snarl of traffic, and hills and trees began replacing concrete and glass, I started feeling the weight lift a little. I doubt if the stress will melt away as fast this time because I'm driving instead of riding, but I've got a stack of CDs loaded in the player and Lynyrd Skynyrd, Kenny Chesney, and the Allman Brothers are keeping me company. With that crew, plenty of Twizzlers and Gatorade Cool Blue on tap, I'm set. Well, maybe a little company wouldn't be bad either, but I don't want to think about that too much.......

I reluctantly took I81 to start the trip, figuring that was the fastest way to get some distance between me and DC, but got off 81 onto 26 South, rolling through some beautiful country including Sam's Gap, Tennessee (pics below) before rolling into Asheville, NC. Scenery like this is what makes a road trip worth doing. You miss all of it when flying here and there, and I, for one, forget how absolutely stunning the United States is. Tear up those plane tickets and hit the road!

Hunger set in, triggered in part by passing, of all things, a Hooters maintenance truck. Now who the Hell knew they even existed!

So I set off on a mission to find food, and not just any food, but Hooters food. The power of suggestions strong, and when it comes to Hooters, I'm weak. I set my trusty GPS to Hooters in Johnson City, TN, only to find out it was no longer in business. I quickly set out for Hooters in the next big city, Asheville, North Carolina, discovering that location had gone out of business too! WTF? Obviously there are no serious customers down here like me or Fred. I munched on more Twizzlers, deciding to wait out dinner until I checked into my hotel in Maggie Valley, North Carolina.

Maggie Valley may not appear on the list of travel Hot Spots, but someone might want to at least get it in the Top 20. It's off the beaten path, but lots of lodging options and close to attractions like the Wheels Through Time museum of American transportation, with a focus on motorcycles. It's also pretty close to one of the US's top motorcycle roads, Tail of the Dragon. Finally, it's near many of the very best whitewater kayaking locations like the Green River, Nantahala, French Broad, Tuckaseegee, Little Tennessee, Chenoa, etc., and I've paddled all of them EXCEPT the Green, which is why I'm still alive and writing this article. That river is way over my ability....downright nasty.

You'll notice that many Maggie Valley and other area hotels have biker parking, biker this, and biker that. VERY motorcycle friendly, and while there's really nothing special going on right now, many hotels lots are full of bikes, and this is just another Thursday.

I tried sleeping in this morning, but I'm still in work mode, which I hope goes away soon. Fuck, I even had a "work dream" last night, and I hope that goes away too. But I got a pretty early start and rode over to the area where Tail of the Dragon starts. Basically you turn up 28 off Rt 19, and run through some pretty country along Fontana Lake and several miles into it, the road changes character and you find yourself on Hell Bender, which is a good Dragon warmup.

10 miles further and you hit Deals Gap Motrocycle Resort and the beginning of a seriously challenging set of curves. 312 curves in 11 miles to be exact, and the switchbacks will get your attention, with no room for error if you're pushing it. I blew past a few riders (and one blew past me) over the next 11 miles, and anything that could scrape on the Joker was scraping. I almost dropped a front tire over the edge on one corner and was literally holding my breath, but damn was that run a blast. On the top side of the Dragon, there's the Rt 129 Harley Shop which sells two things I needed bad. Gas and a Dragon T-Shirt! Got 'em.

Then I ran it in the opposite direction, which is like an entirely different road. Everything is backwards, but at least you sorta know the tougher spots and can get ready for them. I stopped at Deals Gap Resort again, this time for lunch. The resort is pretty cool. There's a motel there that is full of nothing but bikers, so if you wanted to stay right on the Dragon, that's an option to put on top of the list. It was packed, on a Thursday, so I reckon weekends are jammed. Call ahead.

Here's a few "Dragon" pictures....Joker and Cowboy having a fucking blast!

After that, I did Hell Bender again, and then the Cherohala (sp?) Skyway which was actually a little boring, but got me further west so I could double back and stop at Nantahala Outdoor Center where I took whitewater kayaking lessons a couple years ago. Nice place, and fun to visit.

And then through the Cherokee reservation, with a stop at Cherokee Harley Davidson, and back to Maggie Valley. Dinner in Legends Sports Bar, a place always full of bikes and fun peeps inside, and then back here. Legends, by the way, had a Joker Burger on the menu which had peanut butter as a topping. In spite of a made-for-me name, I passed on it. Peanut butter on/in a burger? Really?

Rolling to Memphis tomorrow, so I gotta get up early, load the bike, make a mandatory stop at Wheels Through Time museum and then get my ass on the road. Beale Street is calling... about 3 days worth.

Maybe by the end of Beale Street, Memphis, I'll stop having work dreams, and will begin forgetting what day it is....It happened last year, and hands down, was the best therapy imaginable. Zero stress level. I've got my fingers crossed.