Allright, here we go. Class the words for the day are: Pavement Ends.
Got up this morning at about O' dark:30, saw the girlfriend as she went to her new job, bite to eat, and of course had to check ADVrider. Still hadn't figured out where to go. Wound up a person was asking questions about gravel roads in the area over in the Regional sections.
Gravel? What's that you say? Why yes, I happen to have acquired the knowledge of which you seek. But since I couldn't tell him any mileages I thought of no better excuse than to go ride the roads again. And so I did.
Coming down 19E out of Bluff City and after about 5 miles catch a left onto Holston Mountain Road. Stay on this road, eventually it'll turn into gravel, and gravel shall it remain for the next 28 miles. Except for a 2 mile stretch. Very odd, indeed.
So I'm jamming down the gravel road at ~30 mph on a 500 lbs. wannabe dirtbike with luggage, powersliding through the turns (riding dirtbikes for 19 years and having a dad that is an ex-harescramble/enduro racer helps), all the while skirting around the northern edge of the Iron Mountains. There was too much foliage to take a good picture but when the leaves are gone it rivals parts of the BRP. All of a sudden......
WTF? Who lays down 2 miles of perfectly good blacktop 8 miles from the previous thing that could remotely be called pavement?
This is Big Creek Road and the Forestry Service is widening the road. I'd seen the road construction signs but let's face it, road construction out here meant Jim Bob and a chainsaw, or so I thought. Riding around a corner I see a backhoe heading the same way I am with a driver and passenger hanging off the side. I follow them for about a mile until the driver sees me in his mirror and turns around with a shocked expression on his face.
Clearly he's never seen a motorcycle, least that's what his facial expression said. Though he could pop a mean wheelie with that backhoe.
I pass and proceed to do my best to put about a mile between us just in case I want to stop and take pictures. Looking down the trail I see this:
Seeing as how there was a however-many ton backhoe headed his way I did the neighborly thing:
And continued upon my way...
Big Creek Road intersects with Flatwoods Road in a huge 4-way intersection. Every way takes you back to a highway of some kind. I turned right onto this and except for the odd pothole, my speed increased dramatically.
A few miles up the road and there's a triangle with a sign announcing the way to Little Creek Recreation area. Camping, RV dumpsites, the works are available here. The view was nice...
(Note: Those go from right to left. Don't have a stitch program on my Mac.)
Yet the day was but young.
Tearing down Flatwoods Road all of a sudden I catch the smell of water, as in river water. Sure enough I find this within about 20 yards.
Looking back the way I'd come.
Few more miles down the road and Oh look, another one.
Just about to the end of the road and find another turtle! He was pissed though.
Something about jumping his cousin last time I rode dirtbikes. Hey, least I managed to dodge him. He wasn't having any of it though and I placed him in the grass off the road.
Get back to the intersection of Camp Tom Howard Road (Flatwoods changed into this when it turned to pavement again) and 421, trying to decide where to go, and realize I've never been down Denton Valley Road before. Needless to say that was the direction I went. After about a mile or two the road splits and upon hanging a left I find the remains of an old road bed. Really strange, ran straight into the water, and was built using stackstone turned on end. Looked like a giant tower had fallen but everything remained in place. Oh yeah, and it was pretty.
Head back to Denton Valley Road, turn north, riding along at a nice OH YOU'VE GOT TO BE KIDDING ME...
Aside: I've been riding up here for about 5 years now and have never seen a turtle in the road. Come to think of it I've got a degree in Biology and when my Ecology class went on hikes I never saw a turtle either. What are the odds of three turtles in an hour? But I digress...
Needless to say, he too was placed safely on the edge of the road.
Wound up at the sign in the first picture but not having researched it I decided to hold off for now. Plus I was hungry and the Shady Valley Country Store with their Shady Dogs was only a few miles of incredibly twisty tarmac away.
Warp Factor 6, Mr. Sulu.
Replenished with the aforementioned hot dogs I headed over into Mountain City. Turned onto 167 and rode it for about 10 or so miles. The valley I was in was incredible as it was full of corn fields and was probably about 1000 yards wide at the widest. Hit Lakeview Drive off 167, then Dry Hill Road, Buntontown Road, then finally 321. This took me around Watauga Lake and the road was empty, essentially tar and chip.
From 321 I went back to Little Stoney Creek in the first post and ran it all the way across to Walnut Ridge Road near Roan Mountain, 23 miles total. Over on the Roan Mountain side you began to see more and more landscape that was common to the area, namely...
I swear there are more Christmas tree farms in this area than anywhere in the world. You could throw an ornament from one farm to another and it'd never land in anything but pine.
Got to 19E, turned left to run up to the North Carolina border just to make sure they hadn't moved it on me (you never know about these things) then turned back and hooked a left on 143 towards Carver's Gap. This is where I took the group at the Eastern Rendezvous and while it was still May there weren't any leaves on the trees at that high of an elevation. There were plenty today.
(Panorama L to R)
I FOUND PACMAN! GO PACMAN GO!!!
Carver's Gap is at 5512' a.s.l. and the Appalachian Trail runs on top of it. I hiked to the top once. It sucked. Damn thin air. I can run an 8 minute mile at will but no, a mile and change of elevation wants me to do it with half the oxygen. Anyway, have some landscape pictures from last time.
Yeah, those tiny things in the parking lot are cars about 600 vertical feet below me. Find the red car, follow the guardrail to the right, and that black thing before you get to the next car is my bike.
This time I rode up the other side to the Rhododendron Gardens. Each fall this puppies bloom each fall and people go nuts over them. Wikipedia says the honey makes you hallucinate. That and the thin air probably makes people really, really happy.
It was about that time and the weather kept reminding me of it. I'd dodged it all day but now it was about to rain and I didn't feel like swimming home.
Beat the rain home, uploaded the pictures, ate dinner, and now you have Day #2's report.
Miles ridden: ~200
Shady dogs eaten: 2
Turtles rescued: 3