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Old 05-05-2004, 08:31 PM   #20
MikeO OP
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Joined: Jul 2002
Location: Scarning, Norfolk, today...
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23rd February

Woke after a crap night’s sleep and, declining the complimentary ‘Continental Breakfast’ (a selection of dodgy looking doughnuts), I’m on the road for 1000. As I leave Bristol, I ride past the massive Bristol Raceway – an oval NASCAR circuit (think Tom Cruise in Days of Thunder) …



and join the US23 which wends its way South West towards the Smoky Mountains. It’s without doubt the most picturesque divided highway I’ve ridden yet. The road surface is excellent and the views spectacular.



The temperature today is much better – 43 deg as I left Bristol – and I’m wearing summer gloves. I soon re-enter North Carolina and see a sign saying ‘Inmates at Work’. Yep, it’s Cool Hand Luke for real, there are road-gang convicts working on the edge of the road…(excuse the picture quality, over the shoulder at 70 )



I pull into a State Welcome Station – I was told to visit these places by Buddy – they have free maps! The whole set-up is excellent, with helpful staff and all manner of free leaflets. The lady behind the desk gives me a photo-copied map of Deal’s Gap.



I meet Gunther (on the left, in the above picture), who moved from Germany to Texas 30 years ago and then, last year, moved to Tennessee. He’s feeling the cold and doesn’t envy me being on a bike today. He used to ride a BMW R60, many years ago, but decided that, as his riding style was offensive, rather than defensive, he’d better give it up . We chat for a few minutes and he examines the Adventure and makes all the right noises. As we talk, the Department of Corrections buses turn up in the car park…



I rejoin the highway and we’re going downhill. Every mile or so are some serious runaway lanes for trucks with brake failure. The speed limit (55mph) here is, the lady told me at the Welcome Centre, rigidly enforced. Having no wish to join the road gang (using my laptop here boss?), I stooge along at 55…



Soon I’m turning off into the Smoky Mountains National Park. I follow US19 into, quite literally, Indian country…



It seems that the ‘noble savage’ has little dignity left as an image :( …



I ride through some spectacular scenery, although the winter is probably not the best time to see the forests…



I push on towards Deal’s Gap. The approach road, Highway 28, is a fantastic road to ride – excellent surface and long sweeping bends through beautiful scenery. It’s so nice, I’m almost disappointed to arrive at Deal’s Gap.



I ride the ‘Dragon’s Tail’. It’s twisty – every bit as ‘technical’ as I’ve been warned. The road surface is absolutely superb and I’m following a large (is there another kind?) SUV, who’s driving quite slowly. Eventually, I reach the end (Cheoah Dam) and pull over.



I tie the camera to the left hand mirror, using cable-ties, in order to try to get some pictures on the way back. I recognise it’s impossible to describe the road here, you need to ride it, but here’s a pic to whet your appetite (taken one handed )…



I get back to the campground (closed until 1st March) and meet Mike, a Guzzi rider from Maine (he’s trailered the bike down, on his way to Daytona).



He’s about to ride the Gap and asks me lots of questions about it. At the campsite is a tree which has become a totem pole to misery – it’s strewn with parts of bikes which have met their maker on the Dragon’s Tail…



It’s getting towards dusk, so I make my way back to Bryson City and find a cheap motel for the night. Tomorrow (weather permitting) I’ll return and ride the Cherohala Skyway – another spectacular road – it’ll give me an excuse to ride 28 again… Trouble is, the forecast is for rain…:(
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MikeO screwed with this post 02-12-2006 at 04:24 AM
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