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Old 08-08-2012, 05:45 PM   #1
Mike M OP
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Smoky Mountains, Cherohala Skyway, The Dragon and Blue Ridge Parkway

I've finally finished putting together my first RR. My trip from Palm Beach Florida to Blue Ridge, Georgia---the entrance to Georgia Mountain country, through parts of Tennessee, the Cherohala Skyway, to Deals Gap and The Dragon and about 425 of the roughly 500 miles entirety of the Blue Ridge Parkway.

Living so far south in Florida, I decided not to slab it, eat up my tires almost 7 hours just to get out of Florida----and a total of 10.5 hours to get to the good stuff. Plus, late July heat index was at 105 degrees the day I left. Once I unloaded the trailer in Blue Ridge (about an hour and a half northeast of Atlanta), I was in the good stuff!

An Epic Ride...

Day 1

I woke up in Florida leisurely about 7am to get the GSA loaded in the enclosed trailer. I'm hoping it's not a bad omen that I banged my head (hard!) when I opened the trailer ramp and walked in! This is my first time trailering and I figured the bump on the head was a sign from the BMW rider "Gods"! I decided to trailer because I didn't want to beat myself up slabbing 10.5 hours (6.5 hours just to get out of Florida). As it turned out, I was very happy I did because it was 95 degrees (heat index 105) and traffic was congested with weekend travelers.





I arrived at Blue Ridge, Georgia---about 50 miles northeast of Atlanta and a good starting point in Georgia mountain country. A crazy spot because its 15 miles from The Tennessee state line and 20 from North Carolina. I'm staying at the Comfort Inn Blue Ridge, reasonable and a nice clean place. They're letting me park my SUV and trailer there while I take my riding tour. When I return in a few days, I'll stay here again the last night before trailering back to S. FL. I found that Blue Ridge is pretty much shut down on Sunday night---and a no liquor-sale law on Sunday! I found an Arby's that was open and had a roast beef sandwich and curly fries.....no one can say I don't know how to live!

I'm figuring that I'll get to bed early and be up at dawn to unload the GSA and on my way north on State Road 5 up to the Cherohala Skyway, Deals Gap and the Dragon. Then on to Cherokee, NC and the Blue Ridge Parkway into Asheville for the night. Tomorrow should be an epic 300 mile day!



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Old 08-08-2012, 05:59 PM   #2
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Day 2

Not a great nights sleep and woke up around 6am to heavy fog in the Georgia mountains. I heard this is pretty common---no biggie because I'll use the time to unload the bike from the trailer and get my gear organized for the next few days ride. Instead of my plan to hurry out, I guess I'll eat the Comfort Inn free breakfast and take my time. The Weather Channel says rapidly warming temps (it's about 65 degrees at 7am) and clearing skies on it's way up to the mid-80's. Chance of rain: 30%.





I'm hoping it will be clear enough for a 9am departure. Interestingly, I map out my start in Georgia heading north from Blue Ridge and into Tennessee. So it will be Tennessee for awhile before I jump on the Cherohala Skyway heading east entering into N. Carolina. 3 states inside my first few hours on the GSA. It's still foggy but much less than the pea soup at 7am. Headed north on 5 up to 68 and into Tennessee. Wow, what a road! Arguably the best part of my trip is on 68 to Tellico Plains and to the start of the Cherohala Skyway. The Cherohala was everything I expected and more. Wonderful twists and turns up and down like a rollercoaster ride.





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Old 08-08-2012, 06:13 PM   #3
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At the Cherohala Skyway's terminus, I pull in and have lunch at Deals Gap Motorcycle Resort just north of Robbinsville on 129---pretty cool seeing all the riders and bikes. Mostly HD's but still a worthwhile stop.







After the very average lunch, I hit The Dragon and despite all the opinions----I rate it One Helluva Ride! I'm glad I rode it---and checked it off my bucket list. Overall, I found myself very surprised at the incredible ride quality in the Smoky Mountain region. As a prior, longtime Denver Colorado resident I never thought any mountain area could compare to the Rocky Mountains. Several years ago I rode from Denver to the Black Hills in S. Dakota and came away very unimpressed compared to the RM's. Not the case here in the mountain country in Georgia, Tennessee and NC. Spectacular riding! I love the dedicated riding (and sport driving) roads. As sporting as you can get going 45 mph (at least sometimes).







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Old 08-08-2012, 06:18 PM   #4
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After the Dragon, I weave my way through Smoky Mountain National Park (a trip I'll avoid in the future--very crowded and slow), and down 441 almost to Cherokee where I pick up the southernmost point of the BRP and head northbound. More terrific sweeping and tight turns that pull you into a smooth rhythm of lefts and rights. The word I said in my helmet is delightful. Not a word I use much but it describes my feelings perfectly. I push past the highest point on the Parkway then descend down to Asheville and the Best Western Asheville Biltmore East.










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Old 08-08-2012, 06:25 PM   #5
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Day 3

Woke up today with a full blown, nasty cold that really started to get going yesterday. Not good of course---I just have to deal with it. Its 6:30am and given my hacking cough and runny nose, I'm taking my time----yesterday it worked out with my 9am departure so I'll go that way again today. Hopefully, I'll feel a little better by then!

I liked the Best Western because its a motel where you pull the bike right up outside your door. My route this morning is to jump on the BRP (about a mile or so from the Best Western's front door) and head on a northern route----actually a northeast passage into Virginia.

"Sleep" last night isn't really the right word for it. I slept for an hour, woke up, slept another hour and a half, woke up, slept 20 minutes....you get the picture. Every time I woke, I had to blow my nose and hack up some really nasty shit. Thanks to an extended stretch from 4:00 to 6:30am when I woke for the day, I was at least operational. I walked over to the lobby to enjoy the free breakfast provided by the Best Western. The eggs were microwaved egg "discs".....and the sausage patties were dry, miniature leather hockey pucks. Still half asleep, I actually put them on my plate, cut them and began to eat this crap. Then, like I've seen my wife do, I spit the partially chewed eggs and sausage into a napkin and acted like everything was fine. I went back and filled up on Cheerios and a couple of mini poppy-seed muffins. Figured they couldn't fuck that up.

So I cleaned the bugs off the GSA, packed up, fueled up and jumped on the BRP heading north. Very light traffic so I really was in a groove and after about 20 miles, I decided to make a quick stop at the BRP Visitor Center I came upon along the route. Inside I began making small talk with a particularly vanilla NPS gal behind the counter. I picked up my free BRP map (nice, make sure you get one), a sticker and a Cliff Bar when I realized I didn't have my credit card! Yes----I left it at Buffalo Wild Wings in Asheville last night. So now I'm wrestling with what to do. It's 9:45am, I'm 20 miles in and not in the mood to backtrack. I tried calling Buffalo Wild Wings but I didn't have AT&T cell service there. Not wanting to turn back, I'm thinking I have other credit cards on me---I'll just call the Bank and cancel the card. Or, I can ride the 20 miles back and take the chance they'll be open at 10am (and not 11am). I knew it would take me 30-35 minutes to get back there and at worst---I'd wait until it opened at 11am. What's your guess on how I handled this fuck up?







If you guessed I went back, you're right. Actually it worked out well, when I got there they were closed until 11 but had the phone number on the front door. I called and the manager was inside and sent someone right out with the card! Only 10:45 now so I really only lost an hour. I'm pretty happy with myself on my decision to return and now I don't have to fuck around with Bank of America to request a replacement card!
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Old 08-08-2012, 06:29 PM   #6
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I rock my way north on the BRP having a great time in the tight curves north of Asheville. Day 2 and I'm really enjoying it. True to what I had heard, the tight turns straighten out a bit about 25 miles north of Asheville. Not too long and i arrive at Little Switzerland---and a stop I planned. I pulled into the restaurant and General Store there among 15-20 Cruiser riders going out on the Diamondback Loop ride. Back on the road after a quick water break and watching the Cruiser group prepare for their ride.





Another hour or so riding and I'm ready for lunch so I exit at Boone and take the 8 mile ride to town. I down a club sandwich at a Chili's Restaurant and I'm back on the GSA, getting back onto the BRP and now rolling through the wide, sweeping turns. Still fun to ride but what can I say, not as fun as the tight stuff. Plus, the tight turns help to keep my speed in check, now I'm looking down and I'm regularly doing 60-65 mph---dangerous given the 45mph speed limit on the BRP. As it turned out I have just one brief scare---a LEO passes me coming the opposite way and waved! Right then my Valentine 1 went crazy and when I looked, I was doing 65. I was sure he'd turn around and pull me over but never did. Lucky.
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Old 08-08-2012, 06:34 PM   #7
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My day is approaching 400 miles and my ass is starting to ache---Peaks of Otter Lodge finally appears at mile marker 85 and I pull in for the night. POO (as some refer to it) is an interesting albeit, somewhat dull lodge. Pretty typical NPS lodge fare. Rooms are basic and rustic, the restaurant closes at 8:30--the bar at 9. The POO offers no cell service, no phones, no wifi and no TV. So after a disappointing warmed-up dinner at the restaurant, I jump on my bike and ride a few miles down the Parkway watching my iPhone until it shows a couple bars of signal. I pull over and call the wife and kids to check in. As I'm riding back I realize its dusk and I'm seeing several deer around so I reduce speed to a crawl back to POO. Truth is, I debate packing back up and riding to another hotel---I wasn't sure I could fall asleep without putting on a movie or Sportscenter on TV. As it turns out I decide to stay and end up getting my best nights sleep of the trip at Peaks of Otter. Go figure.



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Old 08-08-2012, 06:41 PM   #8
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Day 4

I wake relatively early at 6:30, get cleaned up, packed up and on the road at 7am. I head south on the BRP for only a few miles to State Road 43 heading towards Buchanan, VA. Some exciting tight twisties for about 25 miles before I get to Buchanan. Its a much more interesting town than I expected. I'm a huge Andy Griffith Show fan and I think Buchanan looks like Mayberry would look today!

Because I plan to return to Blue Ridge, GA today (about a 500 mile day), I intend to jump on I-81at Buchanan and head south to bite off a 125 mile chunk of those miles so I can pull into Blue Ridge at a reasonable time. Of course, the Interstate is not nearly as much fun as 2 lane riding but it does save time. I blow past Roanoke VA and about 75 miles into my trek south on 81, I jump off at the Pulaski exit and to a very busy McDonalds for breakfast and to make a call home. I have a relaxing 45 minutes at Mickey-D's and enjoy talking with the fam on the phone. Afterwards, I feel rejuvenated and ready to further my way southwest.



I continue down 81 for another 40-50 miles. Well---that is, after a 30 minute fuck-up when I decided to get off 81 and onto a 2 lane that runs parallel. I end up getting caught in town traffic and stoplights so I decide to get back on 81. Only, I get confused and get on going the wrong way---I realize it right away but its a 25 mile ride cursing myself before there's an exit and I finally get turned around and back southbound on 81. Not too long afterwards I'm exiting 81 at Bristol, TN. There, I head southwest on 19W through downtown Bristol when I come upon the Raceway----only a casual NASCAR fan, I never put the two together. After a brief look at the impressive facility, I continue south with the goal of connecting back on the BRP near Little Switzerland.

As I weave my way towards the BRP, the skies open up. Entering into high country and gaining altitude, the sky overhead turned black and threatening but I could see some breaking blue skies in the distance indicating storms were scattered. I pullover and put on my rain gear (the first time all trip) but after about 20 minutes of hard rain, it slows to a minor shower then to a "sprinkle". I wrestle myself out of my damp rain gear and shortly afterward, I come upon the entrance to the BRP. I find myself elated to get back on it!

As I expected, the entrance was right outside Little Switzerland. About 20-30 more minutes of rhythmic, smooth twists and turns before it begins to rain again----and this time it comes down for the next several hours. I pull over and put my rain gear back on at a pull out. Its pouring now with heavy fog when I come upon the same Visitor Center that I stopped at the day before and I realized I forgot my credit card. Today, there's 30 or more cruiser riders stopped there waiting out the storm. I push on and as I guessed, over the next 10-15 miles dropping down in elevation into the Asheville area the fog clears and rain lets up.

Gaining altitude again, it's only drizzling for the next 50 miles or so and I stop off at the Mount Pisgah area and the General Store for a water and a snack. The gal at the desk laughs at my blue Aerostich rubber gloves I'm wearing over my riding gloves and when I look at them myself, I can't help but laugh too. Bright blue, I realize they look like Playtex dishwashing gloves---what the hell, they worked!

Back on the BRP and now that the rain has mostly stopped, I'm back riding the tight curves with more aggressiveness but not abandon because the pavement is still very wet. I'm pleased with the Continental Trail Attack tires I had installed a couple thousand miles ago---they handle wet roads well.



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Old 08-08-2012, 06:43 PM   #9
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Another hour or so and I reach the southern terminus of the BRP near Cherokee, NC. I feel a little sad knowing my ride on the BRP is over but I still have a ways to go to the Comfort Inn where my SUV and trailer are parked. I get a little confused because I go from North Carolina to Tennessee and am unsure how to get to Blue Ridge in Georgia. I know I'm close but am disjointed after a long riding day. I pull over at a gas station, fill up and ask where the road that heads to Blue Ridge. It turns out to be literally 1 block away and before long and 15 miles later I'm pulling in to the hotel parking lot. There, my SUV and trailer are still parked where I left them (thank goodness).

I park the GSA right outside the Comfort Inn's front door, check in and bring my gear to the room. I'm not in the mood for a sit-down dinner so I ride across the street and first pick up a 6 pack of Miller Lite, then a Whopper and fries from Burger King. After scarfing down the grub, I get a cold beer and cigar, head out side and enjoy the sunset. A few more iced beers and watching a ballgame in the room--- life is good.





Day 5

In the morning, I load up the GSA into the trailer (much easier today and I didn't bust my head open this time). A mere 10.5 hours trailering and I'm back home in SE Florida.

Another epic ride, and a good one to check off my Bucket List!
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Old 08-08-2012, 06:49 PM   #10
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Some favorite "enhanced" pics from my trip ....









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Old 08-08-2012, 06:50 PM   #11
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Enjoying your RR. I stayed at the same lodge this spring. We are such a plugged in society these day, I thought the same thing "what am I going to do" but just like you its nice to unplug for a while and get a good nights rest.
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Old 08-08-2012, 06:59 PM   #12
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Nice pics Mike. I enjoyed reading your report.
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Old 08-09-2012, 01:26 PM   #13
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Enjoyed your report, brought back memories from my trip there in July. Also a native of Colorado, I was impressed with the riding along the BRP but not so much with it although it is pretty..... If you are interested, check my RR at www.wtrrtw.net/BRP/html. I don't take many pictures......
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Old 08-13-2012, 07:07 AM   #14
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Great RR! I try to do that trip once every year. Love the BRP and N. Georgia!
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Old 08-13-2012, 10:29 AM   #15
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Nice report. The great thing about the Smokies and that area is that you can literally pick any road from point A to point B and it'll be good.
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