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Old 07-14-2009, 01:00 PM   #1
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Tom Witt
 
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Location: Southwestern Ohio
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Triumphs & Dragons & Bears, Oh My.

My first ride report on ADVrider. Posting it due to peer pressure from a few friends.

The last full week in June was the Triumph Dragon Raid, the unofficial 2009 Triumph Rally.



I departed SW Ohio early afternoon on Tuesday. It was my plan to take it easy going down and once past Knoxville, I'd explore some areas that I'd not seen in years past. I was on a quest to find an alternative Northern entry route into Cades Cove inside the Great Smoky Mountain National Park. I had found a couple roads with my GPS software. I knew the Northern route existed, but when I tried to confirm the Western route with Google Maps satellite imagery, it appeared that it might possibly not go all the way through. I decided it would be best to commit to the Northern route on the way down and scout out the Western route at a later day.



I encountered this sign on my route. Unwilling to turn around at this point (which would have delayed me a couple hours), I continued on.



I eventually reached the Northern border, at which point the road turned to gravel/dirt.



Further down the road inside the park, is a "Do Not Enter" sign. My alternative route turned out to be a ONE WAY primitive road leading OUT of Cades Cove. I refused to give up and ignored the sign.



Abandoned Ranger Station.



About 5 miles into this primitive mountain road (going the wrong way), I came around a bend to see a spectacular view overlooking Cades Coves from about 1000 feet up.



Instead of taking photos of the view however, I was shocked by THIS. I turned my engine off and grabbed my camera. I start taking photos from about 50 feet away. He walks around for several minutes, looking for something to eat.

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Old 07-14-2009, 01:02 PM   #2
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For a brief moment, I caught myself stepping off my bike to get a better shot, but then remember that this is a BEAR. It's not a pretty flower on this side of the road, it's a BEAR. I squeeze the clutch, and quietly roll forward. At about 20 feet away, my front brakes make a groan noise and it gets the bears attention.



He then decides that I would make a nice snack, and charges me. I nearly sh!t myself and instinctively jumped up from my bike with intent to run (not a smart thing to do), but he viewed my cowardly actions as aggression, and he retreats.



I'm pretty sure the red eyes in this photo means that this is an EVIL BEAR and he plans to eat me.



He walks over to a tree, stands up, takes a swipe at the vine and flings it in my direction. I interpret this to mean that I've been here too long. I start my bike, he steps off the road, and I leave (without taking any photos of the overlook).



7 miles down the road, I enter into Cades Cove and discover that this is "Rich Mountain" that I have travelled.



This is what I saw as I exited Rich Mountain and intercepted the Cades Cove Loop Road. Two deer were walking around the historic church and causing a traffic jam (very common inside Cades Cove).



After being stuck in tourist traffic for a very long time (and the Triumph on the verge of overheating), I finally reached Parsons Branch. I have travelled this road a couple times before.

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Old 07-14-2009, 01:04 PM   #3
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Although "Primitive", unpaved, and rough in areas, I have found it to be a fairly manageable route.



The road is usually very dry and hard packed, but today it is a bit wet and somewhat slick.



It is a beautiful road though with plenty to see and commonly deserted.



Today however, I found it difficult to manage. I later found out that the area had some rough storms the day before, and much of the road had been washed out. Areas had been filled in with very loose/soft gravel. I couldn't take a photo of the bad spots because my hands were busy keeping the bike upright.



There are several creek crossing. I call them "Cheater" creek crossings, because they have concrete slabs poured across them. They are easier to cross than the road itself.



The creek crossings make for good spots to stop and take photos.



End of the line for Parsons Branch, which exits onto the Tail of the Dragon.


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Old 07-14-2009, 01:05 PM   #4
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The view further down the road on 28 is spectacular.



It's getting late in the day, the Sun is going down, and the fog is rolling across the Lake.







I get to the Iron Horse Campgrounds at about 8:30pm with just enough light left to setup camp.



I've stayed at the Iron Horse multiple times over the years, and almost always in this spot (or thereabouts). It's an awesome motorcycle-oriented campground in the Smoky Mountains SW of Cherokee, near all the great roads and places to see. If you've not been there, you need to see it for yourself.



DAY TWO.
I've been recruited to lead five adventurous types through Parsons Branch. A couple friends from Dayton Ohio, and a family of 3 from the UK. I'm not eager to do Parsons Branch AGAIN so soon, but I'm happy to show a few friends something new. I refuse to sit through Cades Cove tourist traffic for 1/2-day however just to get to Parsons, so I lead them out in search of that Western entrance. I wasn't sure if the Western route was accessible, but wanted to find out. Worst case, we'd have to turn around and backtrack.



We set out for the mystery route, crossing over The Tail of the Dragon to get there. I zipped up ahead and tried to take some decent photos of my crew as they came through. This is Tom, a young laddy from the UK, on his Triumph Speed Triple. He is a very good rider.



Then along came Chris (Tom's father) riding two-up with his 14yr/old daughter Hannah on a Triumph Tiger 1050. They ride faster two-up than most riders do solo. I think the Brits are just born with motorcycle skills.

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Old 07-14-2009, 01:05 PM   #5
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We found the Abrams Creek Park and Ranger Station, which has a primitive road leading into Cades Cove. I took this photo of all the non-damaged bikes, as I was confident someone was gonna drop their bike along the way. Less than a mile into the park, we discover that the Abrams access road is closed due to aggressive bear activity.



With the Abrams access road being closed, I had no choice but to lead them North to Rich Mountain, the one-way primitive road leading out of Cades Cove. All of them were willing to go the wrong way. About half way through, Brian (far left) wanted to stop to make sure all the riders were doing ok and talk about how excited he was to be on this road.



We came to the overlook where I saw the bear the day before. It was a good photo op and everyone took their shots. I now know that this is one of those spectacular views that you just can't photograph (you have to be there).



After taking photos and looking for bears, we finish up with the Rich Mountain access road, wade through the hot and miserable tourist traffic inside Cades Cove, and make our way onto Parsons Branch (one way, leading out).



As it turns out, Parsons Branch has been GRATED since my since the day before and is in much better shape. I'm no longer worried about the other riders. Again, I zip off ahead to take photos of the group as they came through. They're all having a blast.



They come through one of the many cheater creek crossings. Most of my action photos sucked due to the low light. Most of Parsons is shaded, and a relatively cool ride by comparison.



Brian is still giggling like a little girl and taking photos of his own. He had seen my trip reports from previous crossings on Parsons Branch and has been eager to see it for himself.



The group takes a break at the end of Parsons Branch. You might notice that Chris' family is rather tall (his 14yr/old daughter is over 6ft). Again, I'm impressed with all of them and it was a pleasure riding with them.



As we were taking a break at the end of Parsons Branch, Daryl rides by on the Dragon. He turns around and comes back. Daryl is a fellow LocalRiders member (Scrambled) from Southern Ohio in Adams County, East of Cincinnati. He rides a Rocket-III. As you can see in the photo, Brian is still talking about his ride through Parson Branch.



Traditional photo of the cliff side on 28, South of the Fontana Dam. This is the only time I used my full-size tripod the entire trip. I had hoped to use it for some videos on Parsons Branch, but it just didn't happen. I regret dragging it along with me the entire time.

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Old 07-14-2009, 01:06 PM   #6
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It may not be a landscape or overlook, but still a thing of beauty to a moto junkie like myself. Most of my Triumph friends from Ohio were staying in vacation cabins.



DAY THREE.
I'm riding with a new group, most of which are from Dayton Ohio and I know them fairly well. All paved roads today. Bud (3rd from left) takes us to a good restaurant for breakfast. He met a hot young waitress here the day before that flirted with him (I think she was probably 60yrs/old). Bud, Greg (far right) and I split off as they want me to lead them to Bald River falls on the Western side of the Cherohala Skyway. Neither had seen it prior.



This is Greg with his Triumph Speed Triple on the Cherohala Skyway. Greg is a good friend and a very good rider from SW Ohio. He's also a fellow scooterist. I think he sometimes lurks here on LR and will occasionally make a post. I enjoy riding with Greg very much, because he is predictable and like-minded. I think just hanging out with him makes me a better rider. The Cherohala Skyway is probably my favorite of any road in the area (both paved and unpaved) and I rode it three times this past week.



I have about a thousand photos of Bald River Falls, but it still needs to be photographed when you're there. Hehe...



I arranged to take individual photos of Bud and Greg in front of the falls with their bikes on the way out, but Bud must have forgotten and rode right on by (I think he was still thinking about the hot young waitress back in town).



Bud and Greg led the way out down the 7-mile rural (paved) road back to the Western end of the Cherohala Skyway. It's a very enjoyable ride along side the rocky (and very refreshing) creek.

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Old 07-14-2009, 01:07 PM   #7
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DAY FOUR.
Groups are gathering and making plans. I hook up with a new group comprised of new and old friends. We intend to ride South in some notoriously good roads in Northern Georgia.



I used to take lots of photos from the saddle, but it's difficult to do with my almost-DSLR Kodak. I should have used my wife's handheld pocket camera for these shots, but never got it out. This is Derick on the orange Triumph Tiger 1050, another very good rider.



The group rides into Northern Georgia on some fantastic roads. We stop at Blood Mountain.



John Graves on the right. A Georgia local. He was the group leader and a very aggressive rider. He had a different type of personality and ran very tight ship. I think a few of the others may have had some issues with it, but I typically found it humorous.



The view at Blood Mountain is spectacular.



Sign in the Blood Mountain parking area.



More bear notices.



Blood Mountain historical marker.



We stop for lunch at T.W.O. (Two Wheels Only) in Dahlonega, GA.
www.twowheelsonly.com



Sign posted at TWO.



We stop at Moto-400, a Triumph dealership in Dawsonville, GA (about 50 miles North of Atlanta). We made a another stop a while later. Derick (orange Triumph Tiger) broke off from the pack to find his own way back to camp. I did the same.

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Old 07-14-2009, 01:08 PM   #8
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When I broke off from the pack, I told John Graves that I would be swinging around to the South of the Cherohala Skyway and picking it up on the Western side. He said "there aren't any roads over there", to which I replied "I see one on my atlas". He tells me that it's not paved, and I say that's fine with me. Sure enough. It's not paved.



I find myself on the "Joe Brown Highway". Highway???



The beginning of the gravel.



It's basically a service road used by the power company to service the grid. It's fairly smooth, but VERY loose gravel, and winds through the mountains for 10 miles. There were times, particularly when descending, that I found myself not enjoying the ride too much. But I just kept telling myself that it's good training for roads North of the Arctic.



I took this photo at the end of the gravel to mark how long I spent on that 10 mile section (28 minutes).



As I came back into "Civilization", I stopped for a moment to make sure I knew where I was and where I was going.



I stopped for this photo because.... well, because I don't have any photos of my bike in front of a giant iron skillet.



One of the first overlooks on the Western side of the Cherohala Skyway.



A totally sweet Triumph Trident back at camp. You don't see many of these. Owned by Al from Toledo.



Micheal from Montreal Canada, riding his Rocket-III with custom trailer.



I've done somewhere around 400 miles this day, but I don't know exactly.

DAY FIVE.
Late morning and EVERYONE in the camp is still sleeping or staggering around with bad hangovers. It was a helluva party the night before with an open bar provided by the Kentucky RATs with all the name brand liquors as well as home brew Moonshine (damn that stuff was good). They also had two kegs, Stella and Arrogant Bastard provided by a local Triumph dealership who wants to remain nameless. I'm moving kinda slow myself, but I'm up and ready to go. I can't get anyone going. Since I know that many of the riders plan to be back at the camp early for prime rib, I do the math and realize that there will be very little riding today. So I decide to break camp and head for home a day early.



I decide to ride the Cherohala one more time, from East to West, then catch I-75 in Sweetwater TN. Coming into the Skyway, I find myself with a group of exotic cars. I decide to stick with them because if anyone gets a ticket, it'll be the bright green Lotus in the front.

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Old 07-14-2009, 01:09 PM   #9
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A few miles in, I was getting the "Cop" sign from several motorcyclists going the other way. The cars didn't slow down. I backed off, and allowed a Mini to pass me (which from my perspective, appeared to be faster than the others). Then the cop signs stopped. I knew why.



The lead Lotus got pulled over. It was a sad sight.



The other cars kept going and I followed. I snapped a few photos as I quietly passed by.



The rest of the cars pulled off at the very next opportunity.



The second car in line, a Lotus Elise. Check out the plate.



Lotus Esprit. I spoke with the Elise owner for a short bit, informed him of the motorcycle hand signs for "cop", and continued on my way.



I stopped at an overlook a few miles up, and at a higher elevation (cooler temps) to take some time to repack my load. Hanging with the exotic cars for a bit left me a bit uncomfortable with the way that I had everything packed.



The group of exotics eventually came by, but without the green Lotus Elise. I guess they gave up on him. I was guessing he got hauled in, but he eventually came around as well (at a much slower speed).



I took a long break at the overlook, waiting for some of the "Earlybirds" from camp to catch up with me, which they finally did. I caught up with them later, filtered through, and rode on up ahead to get photos of them as they came by. Unfortunately all my photos sucked, except for this one.



I caught up with them again at this motorcycle shop in Tellico Plains. I had lunch at the ice cream shop across the street, then I made my way home.



Final mileage, 62062. Unfortunately, I don't know what my start mileage was. I'm guessing I rode about 1600 miles round trip. I've been to Deals Gap about 20 times in the past 7 years. I've had some good trips down there, and I've had some less than ideal trips. I think this was probably the best time I've ever had there.



The most fuel I've ever put into the Trophy that I can recall (it has a 6.6gal tank).

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Old 07-14-2009, 02:21 PM   #10
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Great stuff, Witttom- love the Trophy and your off-road adventures. I took a trip through that area last September on my '01 Speed Triple...saw two bears at the Cheoah Dam as well. I'm in the midst of a related ride report now...
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Old 07-18-2009, 07:56 PM   #11
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Very nice trip. My wife and I just got back today from the same area.
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