The Ride from Stressville

Adventure Story

Road Trip Background

I was working some long hours and doing a lot of traveling for IBM in the Spring of 2008. The Agnesian account was about to come live and I was aching for a break. Some how I managed to take a week off in the mist of everything and got in a weeks worth of nomadic riding if for no other reason than to relieve some of that work stress. This is a journal of that trip.

Day 1 – Saturday – April 5’ 2008

As soon as the engine starts up there’s an immediate calming of my spirit. As I roll out the driveway and on to the road there is a hungry anticipation of what is to come. The road is a special place to me. It’s not so much that it takes me some place but that it puts me in my place. I’m in totally control. How often can we say that in our busy lives today? Well, I can say that today as I head out from Dover, Tennessee to spend the next 5 days on my 2004 Black Honda Goldwing. I’ve had this bike for 4 years now and I’ve accumulated over 120,000 smiles on it so far and expect to put another 2,000 on it during this trip. Don’t have a specific destination, don’t have a specific time to be there (or anywhere for that matter) and most importantly I don’t have anyone telling me what to do or when to do it. Yes, not even my wife. She was not able to make this trip but was kind of enough to give me the time off as well. I’ve always felt that time spent by yourself is always insightful and time well spent.

Heavy storms have just moved east through the Tennessee valleys and the land is drenched with water and the roads were damp but drying as I left and the sun was beginning to poke through in spots. I live about 20 miles from the border of Kentucky and decided to head north first and get into Kentucky before heading east. Unfortunately little did I know that would be the only time I would see the sun the entire day. As I headed east I was looking for highway 100 that runs east to west along the southern border of Kentucky. I had researched it before I left and knew it was a highly rated road for motorcyclist. I hit it just pass Russelville and took it to Waterview. You’ll have to look pretty hard on a map to find it but I was glad I did. While the skies stayed overcast I winded my way through twisty farm roads with varying elevations lined with trees just beginning to dress out in leaves. Temps only made it up to about 52 degrees all day but with the heated vest I was wearing I was plenty comfortable.

As the day progressed I soon realized that I was catching the storm front I thought was well ahead of me. Of course that meant the weather was getting worse and worse and finally I decided to swing back South into Tennessee in hopes of finding warmer temps and slow my progress toward the departing storm front to the East. Unfortunately, the rain found me since the air behind the front was unstable it was enough to fire up some pretty good rain as I approached the Knoxville area. I was hoping for a sunny afternoon/evening and to continue riding down to Deal Gap and pay homage to the Dragon which I always do whenever I’m out this way. If you’re a motorcyclist you know why … if you’re not check it out at the link below.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Deals_Gap,_North_Carolina

Since the rain looked pretty solid I pulled in to a motel and dried my clothes out.
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Hope to have some more interesting pictures tomorrow. On the road even on a day like today was still extremely enjoyable and relaxing. In fact the only time I even thought of work was when I heard a song on the XM radio by the Hooters called “All you Zombies”. Funny how that made me think of work. Guess it’s probably because until you step out of what you’re doing 24 x 7 it’s only then you can see what a zombie you were. Out here no such creature exists. Your mind is constantly focused on making that next turn at the exact speed and angle that gets your blood boiling and hopefully not spilling. Tomorrow is supposed to be sunny and warm …of course that’s what they said about today . Only got in about 400 miles today. Tomorrow may be less since I’ll head straight to the Dragon’s tail and then head up the Blue Ridge parkway until I can’t stand the 35 MPH speed limit any more. Best message I saw on a sign if front of a church today said “Eternity – Smoking or Non Smoking?” … thought that was funny.

Day – 2 – Sunday, April 06, 2008

Up early expecting the weather promised yesterday would arrive today. Found my way to coffee and breakfast and was soon on my way to the Dragons lair which only laid about 30 miles from my current location. Was early and the roads were still wet and the fog was settled over the water below Fontana Lake.

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I made my way along Highway 129 until it intersected with Highway 28 which is where there’s a motorcycle motel/resort. Wow had this place change a lot since my last visit. It used to be just a shack and run down old motel but it has now been revitalize I guess because of the popularity of the Deals Gap area and the Dragon’s tail becoming such a popular destination for motorcyclist’s enthusiast. I asked the girl at the desk how long it would take to get a room and she said that they were booked all the way through 2009 … unbelievable. 11 miles and 318 curves can cause a lot of pain for a lot of riders and in the parking lot of the hotel is the “Tree of Shame” for all those unlucky soles that have taken a spill on the Dragon’s Tail and there are many. There almost seems to be a perverse pleasure in being able to say you took a spill and have some remnant of your bike attached to the tree in the parking lot.
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I moved on from there traveling up through Bryson City and up to Maggie Valley where there is a Motorcycle Museum called “Wheels Through Time”. This was an amazing place if you love Motorcycles or the history of motorcycles. They have everything you could possibly imagine. I had always seen the sign for this place on previous trips but never seemed to have the time but on this trip I decided to make it a point to take the tour.
Check it out …
http://wheelsthroughtime.com/
This bike sets out front on the way in. Who rides this thing?
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This brief stop would also serve the dual purpose of allowing the roads to dry out on the Blue Ridge Parkway so I could really enjoy them later in the day. After I left the museum it was on to the BlueRidge Parkway toward Asheville, North Carolina. This was everything I could want…wonderful weather and road conditions. Actually the speed limit on the parkway is 45 MPH versus the 35 MPH I mentioned before but it’ still way to slow for motorcyclist to enjoy. That didn’t seem to stop too many from what I could tell and I was no exception. Fortunately no signs of highway patrol were evident so it made for an enjoyable run all the way in to Asheville, North Carolina. Pulling over a various spots yield several nice pictures.
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Once I was close to Ashville the hunger pains were just too great to ignore anymore and I had to pull in to find some food. It’s kind of like when you’re a kid and your Mom is calling you in for dinner but you don’t want to go …you just want to keep playing. That’s how I felt but I tore myself away from the parkway log enough to grab a sandwich and some snacks at a deli and then I was back on the parkway for lunch at one of the many scenic stops. I was going to continue north on the parkway but a detour off the parkway made me reconsider. Because of that I decided to head back down the same way I came back into the Smoke Mountain State Park and eventually over the Gatlinburg Tennessee which is where I’m resting tonight. Talk about your tourist town this is it. All is well and the weather forecast is for plenty of sun and warm temps so looking forward to that although may catch rain on the way home on Wednesday.

Day 3 – Monday, April 07, 2008

I hate Mondays don’t you? Seems like the world never stops ticking. As I arose today and looked around it was pretty obvious that as evident by the Fed Ex truck in front of the motel dropping off a package that the world was already in full swing. I smiled inside knowing that this Monday was different least for me. Instead of fretting over the next email that entered my inbox I was instead mulling over where I should eat breakfast. However, given the fresh air, sun and the road I decided to settle only for a cup of coffee and take off heading west out of Gatlinburg. I was going to head back south around the other side of the Smokey Mountain State Park and area I had not explored before. Just past the Sugerlands Visitors Center was a road called “Little River Road” that headed over to Cades Cove which sounded enticing enough. The road ran right along the river and it was very serene and peaceful. It was also extremely busy.
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Not shown in the picture above was a steady stream of cars winding there way along the route. It almost felt like a parade of cars running along the road all desperately trying to enjoy the beautiful scenery. Now don’t get me wrong I love my fellow vacationers as much as the next guy but I couldn’t help but wonder why aren’t these people at work for crying out loud … it is Monday after all. Seems like as many of us aren’t working these days as those of us that are any more. I found my self often pulling over just to let a heard of them continue ahead and wait for a gap where I could enter back on to the road and at least pretend I was alone in the wildness for a brief moment. This actually works pretty well if you can manage to pull over and pause for about 60 second without another car coming along and then re-enter. This makes for a much more enjoyable experience rather than racing along with everyone else. I finally arrive at Cades Cove and it was a beautiful valley nestled in the foothills and had an 11 mile scenic loop that contained very old log cabins and churches from 1800’s.
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It was another beautiful day and the temps even warmer than the previous day reaching into the low 70’s by afternoon. I found lunch at the Little River Bar-B-Que pit in Townsend with a porch that overlooked the river flowing by. I found some fellow bikers in the parking lot and asked how the food was. They said it was great so that was good enough for me. Always good to have first hand information. After lunch I was ready to hit the Dragon Tail again as I headed south out of the region. The day earlier the roads had been wet and I couldn’t really open her up but today was much better conditions and much more enjoyable. After stopping at Deals Gap again and talking to some of the bikers someone mentioned a parkway south of there called Cherohala Parkway that was supposed to be a pretty good ride. It would take me a little further south but was a good way to exit and begin my journey back towards the West. I hit it around 4:00 p.m. and it was great. State highway 143 and 165 comprise the parkway and it was similar to the Blue Ridge parkway but totally void of traffic. This made for some good speedy riding. Turns were much more sweeping than those on the Blue Ridge Parkway and there were the same type of pullouts to get pictures of the valley below.
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Some of the elevation went up to around 5,000 feet in places but not quite as high as the Blue Ridge Parkways which I believe topped out just over 6,000 feet. I continued on west and ended up in Athens, Tennessee where I’m resting tonight. The weather has been great for the last couple of days but tomorrow may be the last of it as yet another storm systems moves into the Midwest for Wednesday. That means tomorrow may be my last day on the road if I want to get back home before the next storm and rains hits. It’s easy to forget about the rain when you haven’t experienced it in a while but it goes hand in hand with being on the road. I’ll see where my compass points me tomorrow. Thinking about heading back up to Kentucky and that would allow me to take the long way home which is always the preferred choice when traveling on two wheels.

Day 4 – Tuesday, April 08, 2008

Well, a quick check of The Weather Channel when I arose today told me the sad news and that was that it was time to head home unless I wanted to spend the next few days riding around in the rain. Storms were in the Midwest again and marching east towards my location. Normally rain wouldn’t make much difference while on a road trip but his one was unique in that if I didn’t have to ride in the rain I was going to choose not too. As it turned out the day was pretty nice and even though I was only about 200 miles from home I took the 400 mile round about way to get there. I actually started the day by heading back northeast away from home just to get into Kentucky and then head west. Around mid day I had crossed the Kentucky border and had started to head west. It was then I could see the rain moving in on my radar from the West. It was all I could do to get home prior to it arriving and I just barely made it arriving home at around 5:00 p.m. No pictures are stories to relay today only the somber hum of the engine as I winded my way closer to home. As I pulled into the drive way I had only covered about 1,400 smiles during the 4 day period but it was a lot of fun but all too short. Nothing broke, no close calls and most importantly no speeding tickets. Not quite sure how I managed that cause I’m way over due.

I always think the same thing when I return and that is when can I do this again? That will probably be in July when I take another Road Trip this time to California covering over two weeks on the road. If I do a diary then I will share if not it’s been fun sharing this abbreviated trip with you and I hope it provided a small diversion from you daily dose of email or your normal routine. Next week I’ll be back at work wishing someone was sending me one … or more likely wishing I was still on the road.

Take Care,

Donnie

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