Smoky Mountain Ride In (SMRI - Bryson City, NC)
June 2015 (Goldwing Road Trip)
Pack of 5

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Road Trip Background …

Finally! … Time to hit the Smokies Mountains roads again. Those crooked boys have been begging for a beating. Pack of 5 Goldwingers, Bob, Gene, Paul, Craig and I are going to ride over there and dish it out for a week. Bob rides over from Arkansas to Dover, TN on Sunday and spends the night. Gene and Paul will fall in coming down from Missouri and Indiana as we all meet up in Clarksville, Tn at 8 a.m. Monday morning. From there it's a dash across the state and pick up Craig in the afternoon in Sweetwater, Tn. A jump down to Tellico Plains and then we inhale the Cherohala Parkway on the way over to Bryson City, NC arriving Monday evening for a 5 day event that is the Smokey Mountain Ride in …here's the web site with the details of the event —>
Great roads to ride and plenty of time to renew old friendships and create new ones all the while supporting an excellent cause with the proceeds going to help underprivileged kids in the area there locally.

Will try and post nightly updates to my blog here along with some pictures sprinkled in … you're welcome to follow along.

Sunday - June 21' 2015

Bob start his journey out of Morrilton, Ar this day by heading east over to Tennessee. He gets the first taste of the heat and arrives in Dover, Tn safely around 2:00 p.m.

Monday - June 22' 2015

Bob and I hooked up early this morning in Dover, Tn and headed to Clarksville to rendezvous with Paul and Gene. Everyone was were they were supposed to be when they were supposed to be there and we smoothly rolled out about 8:30 a.m. heading east with plans to meet up with Craig in Sweetwater, TN around mid afternoon. Once we were all together we boggied on down to Tellico Plains and grabbed some lunch at Tellico Beach Drive In next to the Tellico River.
Left to Right … Gene, Paul. Craig, Me and Bob

After cooling down some and filling up on some nourishment we were ready to tackle the Cherohala Parkway. Some rain in the area but we managed to miss it. With the Traxxion suspension being new to both Gene and I this was one of our first opportunities to try it out on some serious roads. It did not disappoint. We had no traffic or slow moving cages to deal with the entire way as we crossed over and it seemed like we zipped through it so effortlessly. Gene and I both felt that with the improved suspension it requires so much less effort to navigate the twisties. Here are some shots from one of the overlooks
It was hot and humid with temps in the low 90's and with the heat index it was probably pushing 100 degrees. We all stayed hydrated and stopped often for breaks.
That's Bob up ahead
I reached out my hand and filed my finger nails down some on this turn ;-)

One more stop for a break at Thunder Mountain General Store
If you look closely at this picture you'll notice Bob has an Ice Cream cone in his hand. Ops normal :-)

We made it into Gracy Manor in Bryson City, NC around 5:30 p.m. and checked in. Not many Winger here yet but they are starting to trickle in. Haven't got a route planned out for tomorrow yet but I know there aren't any bad roads around here so we really can't go wrong no matter which way we head.

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Tuesday - June 23' 2015

Waiting for the fog to lift we had breakfast and got on the road about 8:30 a.m. or so. I was leading today and had a general idea of what we wanted to do based on our discussion last night. We figured a stop at Dillard's House in Georgia for lunch today was a must and highway 28 is always a winner so we headed south on 28. As we approached Franklin on highway 28 I was keeping an eye out for a short cut to by pass downtown Franklin all together. I had been told about this short cut from a previous excursion over this way by another Winger.
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Picture of the short-cut above …. So, if you're heading south on Highway 28 and are looking for a shortcut to by-pass the congestion around Franklin, NC take this road above … Sanderstown Road … it connects highway 28 with 441 just north of town. Once on 441 you can go south and hit 28 South again without having to go through Franklin at all. Nice road too.
Dry Falls (which you can actually walk behind) south of Franklin, NC on highway 28. We stopped there for our first break in the morning and a few of us walked down to the falls for some pictures.

Next up was WarWoman Road which is in Georgia. Another great road that took us out to Clayton, Georgia. Since it was still early for lunch I was able to find a neat little loop that turned out quite nice that started in the town of Tiger near Clayton. No highway number but if you look at a map closely around Tiger you'll see Bridge Creek Road which turns in to Seed Lake Road which turns in to Lake Rabun Road which eventually loops you back around back to Highway 441. Some tight turns but very pretty, curvy and ran right next to the Lake. By the time we got done with that we had worked up a sufficient enough appetite to head on up to Dillard House restaurant for Lunch.
Dillard House Restaurant
Pricy but oh so good … they bring you your own personal buffet which turns out to be more than any human being should be allowed to eat in one sitting. We accepted the challenge.
Tummies full and ready for more riding.

Wayah Road was next on our list as we headed back North after lunch. Very nice road that runs right by Lake Nantahala. At this point we dropped down to 3 as Gene and Craig pealed off for some browsing at a local store they saw and we agreed to meet them back at the motel later.
Wayah Road and Lake Nantahala

Finally we just winded our way a little further north before heading back to the motel and calling it a day.
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Today's Route - about 210 miles

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Wednesday - June 24' 2015

Rise and shine … another day in paradise.

Tuckasegee River that runs through Bryson City, NC

How great it is to see this view every morning as we make our way back and forth for breakfast at Everett's Street Dinner. One should never take for granted any day and truly appreciate what a blessing it is to just be alive, healthy and able to savory each and every moment given to us. Take absolutely NOTHING for granted in your life and always be thankful!

Speaking of savoring … time to savor some curvy roads. Bob and I worked on a route last night that would take us all the way down into South Carolina. Plan was to ride down and have lunch at Aunt Sue's Country Store on Highway 11 near Sunset, South Carolina. There certainly aren't any shortage of curvy roads down there or on the way back and the Fab 5 pulled out of Gracy Manor around 8:30 a.m.

If we could give out awards today for the best roads we had the pleasure to lay tread on the top spot would go to Highway 215 with Highway 281 coming in a close second and Highway 178 would win honorable mention. What a joy these roads were to ride and we did our best to show them a good time. Oh yeah … the scenery was pretty spectacular on the way down as well when every I could tear my eyes away from the road and grab a shot :-)
This was the view looking North from Highway 11 at Table Rock State Park in South Carolina

We pulled into Aunt Sue's around 11:00 a.m.
Aunt Sue's Country Store

Since it was early and a weekday we pretty much had the place to ourselves and the food and service were good with plenty of places to park our beloved Wings in the shade. Always a plus.

After lunch the temps were starting to rise so we headed back north figuring for the hot afternoon we would get up in elevation on the Blue Ridge Parkway and be able to cool down some. This proved true and as we enter the Blue Ridge Parkway the temps had dropped from about almost 90 degrees down to around 77 degrees. I even had to turn down the Air Conditioning on my Wing by closing off the two Baker Air Wings under the mirrors. Bet you didn't know my Goldwing had A/C. We'll, kinda … the Baker Air Wings at least direct the wind around the faring some and in towards the rider. The view from the Parkway was … well I'll let the pictures speak for themselves ….
Here's a shot of the CLEANEST Wing of the 5 at the Highest Elevation on the Blue Ridge Parkway
This is without a doubt my most favorite picture of this road trip so far. I jumped on my drone and hovered about 10 feet off the ground to get this elevated shot ;-)
Cruising down the Blue Ridge Park way. Lean Left … Lean Right … Repeat. Be advised that the objects in the picture above are actually moving along at the official Blue Ridge Park Way speed limit of only 45 mph. The appearance they are traveling faster is an illusion :-) Least that's our story.
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Today's Route - about 190 miles

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Thursday - June 25' 2015

Today we decided to just kick back and take it easy and stay at the motel all day long and lounge around the pool and not do any riding at all. Maybe even take in some shopping. Well, if you believe that you don't know me too well as I do my best work on the road riding. While sitting around the pool and shopping all day may appeal to some folks we decided instead to beat the heat and stay on the Blue Ridge Parkway all day riding which is what really happened today.

With the heat still on staying on the Blue Ridge Mountain Parkway seemed like a good call. We rode the BRP all the way up to Mt. Michell had lunch at the lodge there and then did the return trip going back down the BRP to the motel. Slow moving traffic is always a concern on the parkway but we figured we'd risk it if it meant staying just a little cooler throughout the day. As it turned out it was a great decision as traffic was tolerable (barely) and the temps up on Mt. Michael were in the mid 70's. Here are a few shots from today's ride along the ridge and at the top of Mt. Mitchell.
We turned off the Parkway and on to Mt. Michell Road (NC Highway 128) to ride the last 4 miles up to the Lodge and the peak around 12:30 p.m. The ascent was a pretty good winding grade as you can see from the picture below
The view as we climbed up
The view from the top of Mt. Michael is spectacular. It's the highest point east of the Mississippi in the eastern U.S. Elevation - 6,699 feet.

After grabbing lunch at the lodge and riding up to the peak it was time to head back down the parkway back to the motel. As everyone knows it's easier going down hill rather than going up hill so we manage a pretty brisk pace on the way back down. However, we always observed the 45 mph speed limit … OK … that's a lie too. For the record I didn't but everyone else behaved. I was leading and I just had to test out my Traxxion suspension on a quality road and see what it could really do. At the risk of getting yet another performance award I decided to take the risk and really cranked her up some at various stretches on the way back down the Parkway. I tell ya … I'm so impressed with the Traxxion suspension on my Wing now. It handled Phenomenally!!! I could kick myself for not doing this suspension upgrade 10 years ago on my previous Wing. I have so much more confidence now taking curves it's almost scary smooth. My biggest concern now is not to step out of my "new" comfort zone to far which has been completely redefined to a new level. I'm a big fan of riding within your ability. Clint Eastwood was right "a man's got to know his limitations" and I like to think I know and stay within mine. The good news is that despite my little experiment today I managed to avoid a performance award. Deserved but not today.

In other Traxxion news Paul Bihm (Midwest Custom Cycle Work) earned another customer today as it seems Craig has now been convert having tried out riding both Paul's and Gene's bike a little the last couple of days to feel the difference Traxxion can make on a Wing. Paul will be Traxxion his Wing within the next couple of months :-)

Back to the motel it was time for the SMRI Parking Lot party.
Smoking …. some great eats
Relaxing in the Shade
Gene, Craig and Paul chowing down…
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Today's Route - about 280 miles

Another Great day with just a couple of more left :-(

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Friday - June 26' 2015

With rain moving in possibly late today we decided to just stay close to home base (Bryson City) and spend some time on the Cherohala Parkway and cruise by the Deals Gap Motorcycle Resort. We picked up another Winger that joined us on our ride today (Robeth on the Gl1800 Forum). His first name is Bob so we had to find a way to distinguish between the two Bob's in our group. Since Robeth has a Blue Goldwing and our other Bob has a Red Goldwing of course we have BlueBob and RedBob to avoid confusion.

Rolling out from the motel we now have a group of 6 but it would soon drop back down to 5. Paul had decided to head back home early due to some business commitments coming up this weekend so while he was with us all the way to Deal's Gap from there he planned to say his goodbyes there and start the trek home to Evansville, Indiana. As I write this I'm happy to report he made it safely despite some heavy rain at the very end of his journey home.
Deals Gap Motorcycle Resort … Da Dragon
Left to right Craig, Gene, Blue Bob, Donnie and Red Bob

After we said our goodbye's to Paul we mustered up and headed south to get down to the Cherohala Parkway. Blue Bob fit right in where Paul had left off and proved to be an excellent rider. We ran hard through the Parkway and only encountered very light traffic. We stopped for lunch at Tellico Kats Deli just east of Tellico Plains, Tn on the Cherohala Parkway. Great place to grab a quick sandwiches and get back on the road which is exactly what we did. If you're in the area give them a try.

Of course one good run through the Cherohala Parkway deserves another so we mounted up and ran the parkway in the other direction. Gene and Craig decided to head on back to the motel while Blue Bob, Red Bob and me explored a few more roads before heading back to the motel to enjoy the evening SMRI Bar-B- Que.

Tomorrow may be a wash out for riding as rain chances are at about 90 percent but we'll have to wait and see for sure. We all know how inaccurate the rain forecast can be at times.

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Saturday - June 27' 2015

With rain moving in to the area today we had prepared ourselves for a day of cooling our heels around the motel and the local area. Turns out it actually gave everyone a chance to discuss a variety of maintenance issues and share tips with each other in the parking lot.
Left to Right - Ron, Gene, Craig and Mike

None of us were complaining to much though as we had been blessed with 4 straight days of great riding weather. We just hung around on the porch of the motel in front of our rooms reflecting back on the great week of riding we had just experienced.

When lunch time arrived we decided to eat responsibly and headed straight downtown Bryson City to get some ice cream. Ok, so we figured since we had all been eating irresponsibility for the last week anyway why should we change now. There would be plenty of time to eat better once we all got home and checked the scales :-(
We tried to convince Gene this cone was only for decoration but he wanted to make sure.

After our healthy lunch we headed back to the motel to watch this off and on all afternoon.
Think I've finally found a hat that will offer protection from the sun

Sadly as evening approached we readied ourselves for the final get together at Ryan's Steak House for dinner.
Had a great dinner and it was announced that the SMRI event raised $ 3,600 dollars for the underprivileged kids in the Bryson City area. That was awesome!!! Both Gary and Steve and all the volunteers did an outstanding job of putting on this event and it was much appreciated by those that attended.

After we finished off dinner Bob was hankering to head to the dessert bar for a treat. Since we had already had Ice Cream for lunch I was kind of in awe until I saw what he brought back to the table …
For the record … this is the smallest dessert I have ever seen. Knowing Bob I may never see this kind of restraint ever again. He was even having difficulty getting a spoon in there to eat it.

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Sunday - June 28' 2015

All over but the crying and we were all crying about having to close up and leave our temporary home here at Gracy Manor in Bryson City, NC after the SMRI and begin our trek home.
And then there was one … Looked like I was the last Winger out of Gracy Manor this morning. All packed up and headed for home. Gene, Craig and Bob had left a little earlier since they had a few more miles to cover.

The ride home was pretty uneventful, thankfully. The weather had all moved out and temps were at least 10 degrees cooler than in days past. I made the obligatory ride through Deals Gap and the Dragon again but I was in no hurry. It was nice to ride at a leisurely pace for a change and just savor and reflect on the last few days of spirited riding with some of the best friends and riders a guy could every ask for.

Once home … I had at toast and salute to Paul, (Red) Bob, (Blue) Bob, Gene, Craig.
My newly acquired shot glass from Deal's Gap

Those guys are some of the finest people you will ever have the pleasure of meeting and riding with. I had an absolutely great time this pass week not only riding but just visiting and talking with these guys. We shared not only riding tips but a little part of each other lives and that's what builds lasting relationships. I would be their Wing man any day!

A few shots taken on my way home …
Even the road home looks awesome.
Caney Fork River along Highway 70 east of Smithville, TN
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The Route Home …

Everyone else arrived home safely yesterday as well but Craig made and additional stop but should be home this morning.

Final Thoughts …

1,646 miles in 7 days. My latests Wing is just shy of being two years old and it's up to 50,000 miles already. One of the most important riding lessons I learned from this road trip is the need to work harder to limit distractions while on the bike. I'm notorious for not always doing that and in addition I need to learn how to be more patient with slow moving cages. It's always a learning experience whenever I take a road trip and I hope some of the good techniques and good behaviors of my fellow Wingers will continue to rub off on me. Lords knows I need that to happen.

Take Care and let's be careful out there … Hope to see and meet you on the open road one day.

Words of Mine, Voices in Time.