Saturday, July 11, 2009

Dragon Day

The skies were mostly blue with a few clouds over the mountains. We'd be staying another night in Maggie Valley so the Uni-Go trailers got unhooked and parked on the porch. I spoke to Flip down in Greenville, South Carolina yesterday and he was headed our way to ride with us today. I figured he would probably be in about 9:00 AM.

We walked down to Country Vittles, a place you can have an 'all you can eat country style' breakfast. This is like a breakfast buffet that they bring to you. We decided to order a la carte instead. We were just finishing as Flip arrived, wondering why northerners walk to breakfast. Flip only moved down from Michigan last year, so he knows all about 'northerners'.

We got away from Maggie at 10:25, heading over US 19 to Cherokee which consists of miles of downhill curves. The cars ahead of us were doing better than usual but I could still smell scorched brake pads. Cherokee was surprisingly quiet for a Saturday.

Sandy gets another kudzu picture

We continued on 19 to Bryson City and then took US 74 and SR 28 to Kickstand Lodge, where we found Mo and met Bobby. We checked out the new plumbing facilities by the office building (Yea) and showed everyone the place. TJ even, just by luck, stopped by with his brother.

Mo Flip and Ron relax at KSL

From KSL, we headed up NC 28, also known as The Hellbender. From Stecoah to Fontana Dam, this consists of consistent sweeping curves up and down the ridges and is a pleasure to ride because of the rhythm you get into. Flip rode ahead and we followed. I caught two Harleys from Florida who were struggling. Unknown to them, I wasn't in a big rush to pass since we were taking it easy. Still, one pulled over at an overlook to let us pass. We took the side road down to the dam as a cloud threatened.

The Fontana Dam is a regular stop on this loop. I talked to the volunteers manning the information desk and then met a man visiting from Colombia who rode Harleys down there.

View from Fontana Dam

We left the dam and rode back to 28. Showing how local things can be, the pavement on 28 from the stop sign where we turned in was soaked. The obviously heavy rain missed us by a quarter mile and, if we hadn't stopped at the dam, would have caught us square on. We have incredible luck. The last part of 28 climbing to Deal's Gap Resort is a little more challenging with some 20 MPH corners but the Dragon novices did well. Traffic on the road was surprisingly light. Arriving at the Resort, there were more bikes than I have ever seen in the parking lot.

Deal's Gap Resort Parking Ron at the Tree of Shame Group Dragon Photo

After getting some water and (fore the newbies) buying some shirts, it was time to slay The Dragon. Flip went first, carving the corners with the car tire on the back of his Nomad. We followed at a more sedate pace. I remember the fear and trepidation I had the first time I headed up the hill into the gap. I still get butterflies but in a good way. Ron admitted feeling the same thing because of the reputation the place has. We took it easy and they did just fine. We were passed by three serious sport bikes to show how it is done.

We stopped at the overlook where I turn around and took a break before heading back. It was very hot at this point. Starting back, I had a fluke happen in one left hand curve. My boot dragged and forced my toe up cause an accidental shift into third mid-corner. I have to keep my feet up on these roads. Part way back, we got stuck behind a line of cars following a car from Tennessee who though 17 MPH was the right speed. Amazingly, this person pulled into the Deal's Gap Resort and a whole line of bikes who had their run ruined pulled in behind him.

The Overlook on The Dragon Dog Day Afternoon Line of slow cars

We didn't stop but continued on down US 129, known as the Mini-Tail to the bottom where we turned left across what Flip called the Fugitive Bridge and saw the Cheoah Dam, made famous in the movie The Fugitive with Harrison Ford.

Cheoah Dam

From here, 129 becomes a series of sweepers along a river and then sweeping turns over some mild hills as it leads into Robbinsville a vast change from what we just came off. I had planned to take a ride through the Joyce Kilmer Forest and up the Cherohala Skyway a ways but we were behind schedule and the heat and humidity were brutal for us northern folk. Instead, we rode 129 almost to Robbinsville and stopped at the Skyway gas station for a pit stop, fluids and snacks.

Flip riding 129 along the river The Skyway gas station

From here, we decided to run straight back to Maggie so we went into Robbinsville and took 143 over to 28. At the turn, an older man in a car didn't bother to stop for a red as I was turning and almost occupied the same space I did. I stopped and, suddenly, so did he.

On SR 28 just before US 74 be got stopped in a licence check run by Sheriff's deputies and State Troopers. The pretty deputy who checked my licence was surprised to find an Ontario driver. Ron ever heard her go back to her partner and say "I just got one from Ontario". It made me think of all the times I had stopped and checked snowmobiles the same way.

Scrutinizing my driver's licence

As we rode up four lane 74, black clouds loomed on the horizon. Rather than taking the chance of getting caught in traffic and rain on US 19, I stuck to 74 all the way to Waynesville before we stopped for fuel and swung back up to Maggie valley. Flip left us at the gas station and headed back to South Carolina. It was great riding with you again, brother. Thanks for coming up to see us.

Flip ready to head home

We stayed dry but Flip got dumped on on his return trip. So far, we have led a charmed life with the weather. Back at the motel, we got changed and walked to Arf's Restaurant for supper.
I had two margaritas which rendered me unfit for doing any blog or bill work.

Sandy attacks a strawberry daiquiri at Arf's

Back at the motel, we met a couple, Kelly and Debra, from Macon Georgia. Debra was a real live wire and told us about how she liked to fry food. Kelly was her new husband but she was a grandmother (you'd never know it) with more twins in her family than we have. We talked routes, bikes, food and family. It was a pleasant evening. We all turned in before too late because we'd be heading out tomorrow.

Today's Route

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