I had said I was going to Townsend, Tennessee for BBQ at Smokin' Joe's. Several said they wanted to go along but a rumble about potential heavy traffic on US 441 (The Great Smoky Mountain Parkway) caused them to reconsider. Someone said they would be approaching Townsend by a different route, so I thought I would go with them but there seemed to be a lot of confusion. Finally, I went back to my original plan and left with Bass Man, followed by Linda and Billy Bob in the Subaru. Sandy joined them in the car. We hit the road about 9:30 AM.
We rode up to Soco Gap and then took the Blue Ridge Parkway, unobstructed, to 441. Climbing to the state line at Newfound Gap, we passed a couple of cars. After that, we had no one ahead of us to the gap.
The ride down the Tennessee side moved quickly. When we turned west on Old Highway 73 (Little River Road) at Sugarland, we were behind some cars for a while. Eventually we passed them, led by a European dual sport that was packed like he was never going home. We lost him when we turned onto the Lamar Alexander Parkway towards Townsend.
Smokin' Joe's wasn't busy when we arrived at 11:55. I was disappointed to see that they had changed the menu. They used to have a Little Joe and a Big Joe pulled pork sandwich. Now they just had the Big Joe but it was the size of the Little Joe. The Big Beef was the size of the former Little Beef and the brisket was now very finely chopped and largely tasteless. These changes have caused me to remove this establishment from my favourites list, although the hushpuppies remain excellent. We will continue to do this loop in the future but will check out some different food stops.
After lunch, the Subaru Squad headed back towards Gatlinburg while Bass Man and I continued on the loop. We saw almost no one on the Foothills Parkway, but I had to stop at an overlook for a few minutes because I was felling dizzy. The vertigo was still an issue. We continued to US 129 and followed it down through the Tail Of The Dragon, aka Deal's Gap. There was no one ahead of or behind us all the way through, although Killboy and Slayer photos later showed that we were lucky to have avoided a lot of four wheel traffic.
We did not stop at the Crossroads of Time. Instead, we continued on down NC 28, aka The Hellbender, to the Fontana Dam. I had intended to go to the dam and say hello to whoever was volunteering at the Visitor Center, but the road had been reduced to chips with no tar. Thus ended that idea.
We followed 28 to 74 to Bryson City and then took US 19 back over the ridge to Maggie Valley. We caught up to two slow vehicles while climbing 19 but that was right before the first passing lane so we put them behind us. We were back at the motel by 3:30. All told, we had an almost traffic free ride. The other crew ended up having to return to MV via 441 south later in the day. They got horribly bogged down in the traffic they sought to avoid. Best laid plans and all that.
Linda and Billy Bob, along with Sandy, got back just after we did. I don't have the captions for Sandy's photos but I know they went to Gatlinburg, checked out the burned areas from the massive fire last year and took the road up to the Clingman's Dome parking lot.
There were more arrivals while we were out on the ride. Willie Wonka and The Lovely Carlene were here, as was organizer Jax and many others. The motel was now ours alone.
While others planned on Mexican for supper, Willie and Carlene jumped into the Equinox with us and we went to Ammon's, an odd little hamburger place down by the US 276 intersection that we frequent every year. Hamburgers, fries, milkshakes and similar fare satiated our hunger.
Sandy and I are not much for late nights any more. We were back in the room by 11:00 PM. Once again, Sandy was in bed while I sorted and posted photos. Still no stories, though. Sooner or later, I will have a lot of work to do to catch up.
Today's Route (173 motorcycle miles):