I rode a Triumph Speed Triple from Phoenix to the Tail of the Dragon (TN/NC border) in 2.5 days last June. I had about 10 days total and wanted to spend the most time I could in the Smokies and the least time on the road to and from. I did two consecutive 750 mile days and then an "easy" 450 mile day to close out the trip each direction. Here's a few tips I can offer:
- August is going to suck. I took I-40 and the +100°F heat in AZ, NM, TX and even OK was a bit trying but nothing like the heat AND humidity that ate me alive in AR and TN. I used a wet vest along with a large freezer bag to soak in about a litre of water every fuel stop (~150 miles for me) and it worked well in dry heat. But I suffered like a dog in the humidity. There was a bit of a heat wave with temps in the upper 90's in AR and TN so maybe you'll get to avoid this.
I think I have a high heat tolerance and excellent endurance. I'm young and a competitive cyclist. The heat still sucked the life out of me by about 400 miles into each humid day. I drank at least 1L of water per stop (6L per day, typically.) I was still way under hydrated. 750 miles was the most I could manage each day mentally and physically.
- Plan your fuel stops ahead of time. It gives a sure waypoint to look forward to and keeps from having to think about what to do about fuel. You don't think well when you're hot and dehydrated. There's not many stops for fuel out west...
- Hotels are a great reprieve from the heat. They cost money but you'll be begging for someone to take your $100 at the end of a 750 mile day in +100°F.
- Subdivide your crap within your luggage into zip-lock freezer and sandwich bags. Keeps you organized and keeps stuff clean if something goes pear-shaped like a bottle of synthetic oil opening itself over the expansion joints in Eastern Oklahama and not realizing it until Memphis.
- To make the time that you'll need to make, you're stuck on the interstate. It's not terrible but try to pick a route East of the Mississippi that will at least rub a bit off the side of your tires. The PA turnpike is a good example. Fast and also a bit entertaining (at least compared to I-40 through NM and TX!)
- I completely lost my appetite on the big mileage days. This goes to show that putting in bigger mileage in trying conditions isn't a walk in the park. Do manageable, reasonable mileage and don't try to be a hero.
In Elk City, OK: