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Old 04-19-2009, 07:13 PM   #1
Gaston Gagne OP
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Tazewell-mania

OK here goes. I had a week off for spring break. I knocked out a bunch of work around the house and then got my permission slip signed. I met Dlrides at Fun Cycles on Tuesday. He gave me some invaluable beta on my intended target, and I had done considerable map reconnaissance.





Thursday morning I was loaded and gassed up.




I'm still exploring the area between the Watauga River and State Line Ridge. So far, everything has been good. This time I went over Laurel Ridge Road. Nice view to the north.





There is only one way out of this corner of the state: Beaverdam/Bullfrog Road. Tennessee doesn't welcome you that way. Sorry for the repetitive pictures.





From the end of Bullfrog Road, it is a short trip into Mountain City, where you can pick up US 421 to the north. Also known as "The Snake" it is a pretty special stretch of tarmac.




I fell in behind these two guys with Ontario plates. The fellow in back had a Superhawk and put his hand on the ground in one of the turns. Nice trick.





They continued on 421, and I made a left and did this Flat Woods/Big Creek Road, that basically doubles back. It is almost 30 miles of gravel along Holston Lake.





There's a short section of pavement in the middle of this run. Fun, roller coaster type stuff.




Time out for a little flower sniffing.




This run brings you out at Elizabethton, TN, which is the end of a road I found over the winter. First, a litttle bit of gate recon. My girlfriend at the Watauga Ranger District office was a bit confused when I asked about this gate, so I needed some "boots on the ground."

Ka-ching! "Holston Hilton" here we come.







The run up TN 91 brings you back to Shady Valley, TN and US 421. OK, I'll do the second half of the Snake again. This time I took a right instead of a left. If you're out this way, Denton Valley Road is awesome, and it has fresh pavement. Wyatt Hollow Road is more gravel and then on through Abingdon Gap and crossing the Appalachian Trail.





This brings you down to TN 133, which takes you down to Backbone Rock and then on into Damascus, VA.

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Old 04-19-2009, 07:37 PM   #2
GB
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Vous roulez très bien!

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Old 04-20-2009, 05:32 AM   #3
zadok
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Wow, what a great ride.
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Old 04-20-2009, 06:44 AM   #4
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That's a good start. We used to go climbing at Backbone Rock when I was a student at Emory & Henry College. Looking forward to the rest of this RR.
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Old 04-20-2009, 07:34 AM   #5
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Very nice! I love that area. There's just no end to the roads that need riding up there!
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Old 04-20-2009, 08:57 AM   #6
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Good sutff!

Nice little report! Explored some of the same roads when my parents lived in Abingdon Va. 58 east of Damascus is fun as well. When I was on "The Snake" I was a guy on the back of a pick up using a blower to clean the road? Not a big deal for me cause I was on the KTM but I remember Shady Valley was very nice - funny to see a biker hang out that did not sell beer? Harleys on one side and sport bike on the other. Thanks for the pix - they just had some snow up there 2 weeks ago.
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Old 04-20-2009, 09:02 AM   #7
Gaston Gagne OP
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Where was I? From Damascus, I took VA 91 north. Given the great roads I had done already, it wasn't that remarkable. The map showed it as a broken line at one point, and sure enough as I progressed northward, it turned from a full highway with shoulders to a narrow highway with no shoulders. The climb over Clinch Mountain is paved.




Delicious dual sport possibilities abound in this area. I must return with Clifford ASAP.




This is also the point where VA 91 turns to a "Virginia All Weather Road," which is VDOTspeak for mad gravel. DeLorme's shows a road to the top of that knob in the background, which I believe is Morrison Knob. Set the controls for the top.





I asked these friendly fellows if they knew where the road was that went to the top of the knob. They told me that I would have to ask permission, which I did. Landownder granted permission, but balding BT020s denied it. OK, on to Tazewell for fuel and a phone call to the house. Have I mentioned that there has been essentially no traffic anywhere except for the towns?


In Tazewell, the possibilities are perplexing. There is this overwhelming urge to jump on VA 16, but there are so many other tracks. What to do??? I jumped on 16 south, where I finally got pinched in traffic. Cattle trucks to be specific, but they pulled into a farm before I had an aneurism.

This brings up an issue of livestock provincialism. Tennessee is for horses. Virginia is for cows. North Carolina is for goats.


At the top of Clinch Mountain, I took a left on a road that looked good on the map and was corroborated by dlrides. This is a long gravel run to Ceres although there are other ways to go and MORE roads that need less bike.




I made it out of there.




This is VA 42, and the little side road that goes to the Big Walker Lookout is not to be missed. US 52 down toward Wytheville is a perfect encore and leads to a sweeeeet campground. There are plenty of services nearby, and you get good cell reception right at the campsite.




B double E double R U N, beer run. In all honesty, you have to go to the Kangaroo across the street for amber nutrition fluid.





When I got back I discovered that I hadn't suffiiciently tightened down the lid on a Nalgene in sleeping bag bag, and now I had a wet sleeping bag. Luckily the washroom had a blow dryer and my day was saved.


In the morning, my tent was carefully preserved by getting encased in ice.




Attention!




How I broke my fast.




Planning period over. More later.
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Old 04-20-2009, 09:25 AM   #8
bbooker
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Nice ride

Gaston -

Nice report and great pictures. Looks like a fun ride. A few questions for you:

1) How did your Versys do on the gravel roads? What type of conditions did you encounter?

2) Your tires - it looks like they are road-oriented tires. Am I right about that?

3) What type of tank bag do you have? How do you like it?
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Old 04-20-2009, 02:34 PM   #9
Gaston Gagne OP
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Quote:
Originally Posted by bbooker
Gaston -

Nice report and great pictures. Looks like a fun ride. A few questions for you:

1) How did your Versys do on the gravel roads? What type of conditions did you encounter?

2) Your tires - it looks like they are road-oriented tires. Am I right about that?

3) What type of tank bag do you have? How do you like it?

The Versys does pretty well on gravel roads. Well enough that I seek them out. We have a dirt road around here in NC we refer to as the "Dirt Dragon," and I can go almost as fast on the Versys as I can on my XR 650L. When there's loose gravel, it gets a tad squirrelly, but it still feels pretty good. When the going gets rough, I have bottomed out the front suspension fairly easily, so I back off significantly. On this trip, the roughest stuff I got into would be doable in a passenger car but you might scrape here and there.

They are Bridgestone BT 020s. They are sport touring tires, and I will get another pair. I like them a lot. I've thought about some Pirelli supermoto tires, but I'm afraid they won't last.


That's a Nelson Rigg magnetic tank bag. It's a very nice product. I can put my lunch and water and a bunch of maps in there. If I had it to do over again, I might get the strap mount. I had to make a Z fold in the front magnet arms and sew them together to reduce the width of the footprint. Those plastic shrouds are in the way. I thought about dremeling a gap into them like on the V Strom. Then they could go down between the shrouds and the steel tank.
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Gaston Gagne screwed with this post 04-20-2009 at 08:13 PM
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Old 04-20-2009, 09:23 PM   #10
knybanjo
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Love it up in that neck of the woods!

I'll be back up there this weekend with "the old guys from work" so we won't be seeking out any dirt...just some sweet twisties!
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Old 04-21-2009, 06:53 AM   #11
bbooker
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Gaston Gagne
The Versys does pretty well on gravel roads. Well enough that I seek them out. We have a dirt road around here in NC we refer to as the "Dirt Dragon," and I can go almost as fast on the Versys as I can on my XR 650L. When there's loose gravel, it gets a tad squirrelly, but it still feels pretty good. When the going gets rough, I have bottomed out the front suspension fairly easily, so I back off significantly. On this trip, the roughest stuff I got into would be doable in a passenger car but you might scrape here and there.

They are Bridgestone BT 020s. They are sport touring tires, and I will get another pair. I like them a lot. I've thought about some Pirelli supermoto tires, but I'm afraid they won't last.


That's a Nelson Rigg magnetic tank bag. It's a very nice product. I can put my lunch and water and a bunch of maps in there. If I had it to do over again, I might get the strap mount. I had to make a Z fold in the front magnet arms and sew them together to reduce the width of the footprint. Those plastic shrouds are in the way. I thought about dremeling a gap into them like on the V Strom. Then they could go down between the shrouds and the steel tank.
Cool! Thanks for the info.
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Old 04-21-2009, 08:55 AM   #12
Gaston Gagne OP
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Fueled up on coffee and eggs, it was time to hit the saddle again. I was off by 8:30 and got things started with another run up 52. The lookout doesn't open until 10. Maybe next time. It would have been nice because the atmosphere was very clear.




The next ridge to the north is the Appalachian Trail. I planned to follow it toward home, but oops, I need to turn around.




The run along the top of the ridge is in pretty good shape, so I could use my eyes to take in the really nice scenery. The road then drops into the valley to some legitimate 50 mph gravel bliss. You end up in Suiter, VA and do a dogleg onto Burke's Garden road. There is no bad way in or out of Burke's Garden. This one is a bit rougher than the others.






The paved road out of Burke's Garden is great fun, and then I ran down VA 61 into Tazewell. OK, I have just enough time to do a quick loop north of town to say I made it to West Virginia. 651 from Witten to 643 to VA 16 and then down to Bishop and the state line. All of it was super fun, tight, narrow pavement that should be in a Versys advertisement.





Snack and chain oil and then it was time to get busy. I ran VA 16 all the way down to US 58. I saw 2 or 3 cars going the other way and maybe 2 or 3 motorcycles. Basically I had the road to myself. I turned off of 58 to hit NC 194.





From now on, I'm avoiding West Jefferson, or I have to find some way around it. The run on 194 into Boone is also a good one, but the traffic increases substantially.

Winkler's Creek is a fun run up to US 221 and the Parkway out of Boone. I had a clear run of 221.





Thus ends the two wheeled portion of the fun. I turned it around and went to the Cheoah early the next morning. The things I have to do to keep Layla happy. Sheesh.

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Old 04-21-2009, 11:40 PM   #13
PistonPants
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Appalachian Spring! Looks tasty. I have to come visit you for spring break next year. serious...
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Old 04-26-2009, 11:37 AM   #14
MarkNC
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Great Report! I really miss it up that way. I grew up in Tazewell Co. and used to do a lot of hunting and fishing in that area along with a lot of riding. I try to get up that way on the KLR when I can. I go out 421 quite often to get to my father in laws at Cherokee lake I will deff have to check out the left and right you took off of 421 near S. Holston those look like my kind of roads.
Thanks for all the great ride ideas.

mark
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Old 04-26-2009, 12:10 PM   #15
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Looked good
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