Today's route took us out US 74 west through the Nantahala Gorge. Part way through, we got behind a local pickup truck who slowed us through the pleasant sweeping turns along the river. At the end of the gorge, he turned right on US 129 towards Robbinsville, as did we. Right after, we passed him and an even slower Avalanche with Florida plates.
A road crew was cutting back the overgrown grass on the side of 129 and pushing the clods onto the pavement where a machine was picking them up and dumping them in a truck. A sweeper was standing by to finish up. What this meant to us was that we had to wait for our turn at the single remaining lane.
We saw some Ontario bikes at the Microtel in Robbinsville. From the two yellow ones and the BMW GS bikes, I figured it must be Mark Faulkner, creator of The Ballad Of The Gap, and his crew from Toronto. When we stopped for gas and then a special road map at The Hub, they rode by heading for The Tail Of The Dragon.
I tried to keep up but was not feeling good in the big sweepers, so I waved Biker on ahead. Don stayed with me and Biker waited for us at the Tapoco Bridge. Together, we rode the Mini-Tail up to Deal's Gap Resort where we found Mark's crew. It was nice to finally meet him face to helmet. We also met a couple on a white touring Spyder from Woodstock.
There was no one ahead of us through the eleven miles of The Dragon and we only got passed by one very fast mover. Sandy said the ride seemed milder than before but I think she is just getting used to it.
Our time through was just after 11:00 AM if anyone wants to check it out for themselves.
At the end of the run, we stayed on US 129 looking for the Foothills Parkway. It was a right turn but there was another just before it that turned out to go nowhere. Realizing my error, I turned in the only available driveway. Gary turned after me, giving the pit bull and puppies time to come over and check us out. Nobody actually got seriously bitten but I still had to apologize a lot.
Again, there was no one ahead of us over the Foothills Parkway to US 321, although there were a huge number of bikes going the other way. It spit rain on us a little bit as we turned right on 321 and rode a few miles to Smokin Joes BBQ in Townsend, Tennessee.
Theresa served us excellent barbecue. She remembered our large group from two years ago when they had just put in the new cash system and we almost couldn't pay. She was extremely friendly and got a decent tip.
There was no rain at all when we came out. The sun was shining and the temperature readout said 29C. That's about 85F for the metrically challenged folks. There were three police cars on the road with lights flashing. Looking around, we saw two detainees sporting clothes with orange and stripes picking up trash. The first cop was a blond girl who gave us a big smile and a wave.
When 321 turned towards Gatlinburg, we kept going on what, at the Cade's Cove intersection, turned into Little River Road. We caught up to two slower pickup trucks but they both pulled over to let us by. The speed limit along here is only 30 MPH and we didn't exceed it by a whole lot.
At the end of the road, we turned right and headed south on The Great Smoky Mountain Parkway, US 441 towards Cherokee. Soon, we were stopped for a few moments where road construction had us down to one lane. Moving again, I noted a sign that said "Slow vehicles use pullouts to permit passing". The problem is that some people don't know they are slow, including the person driving the crossover ahead of the Tahoe we were following. The higher we got, the slower it went. Then we caught a bus, but it pulled over and then, just short of Newfound Gap, the crossover did to.
By the time we did get to Newfound Gap, the GoldWing temperature gauge was in the red and the Harley clutch lever wasn't working any more. We waited at the gap for everything to cool down.
In Cherokee, we stopped at the Dairy Queen for ice cream. Three of us had Blizzards and one had something different.
From the DQ, I led Don right to the Cherokee Harley Davidson shop. It wasn't really a shop, it was a boutique. No actual motorcycles were sold or repaired. But it was a nice little place if you like that sort of thing.
Soon after we got back to Three Rivers, Cheap B and Wanda pulled in. They were in Wanda's very nice high performance Volkswagen. Soon after, Southern Draw and Charm arrived and we decided to go to Cherokee to Granny's Kitchen for supper.
Granny's has a buffet with fried chicken, schnitzel-like pork and roast beef along with many sides. I actually enjoyed the deep fried okra. The food and company were great. All to soon, it was time to go back to the motel.
Today's Route (153 motorcycle miles):