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Old 05-22-2013, 05:34 PM   #46
8gv OP
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Joined: Nov 2009
Location: North central CT
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My frustration with having to de-gear and re-gear every time I wanted to do anything off the bike was really annoying me. It was more likely that I was going through iced tea and chocolate withdrawal. Sometimes it's just hard to get your "proper" nutrition on these trips.

While Garth bought out the gift shop I took the time get my mind right for the task ahead.



I doubt there are many reading this who don't know but just in case...
The Tail of the Dragon is a stretch of road running north from the NC border into TN. It is 11 miles long and has 318 turns. Near as we could tell, it has zero speed enforcement. The Dragon seems to have "right of passage" status for many in the motorcycle community.

I was thinking "Ya but it's paved, not dirt. There are no washouts, rocks, ruts, roots, logs, streams, branches or sand traps. What's the big deal?"

8gv screwed with this post 05-22-2013 at 05:39 PM
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Old 05-22-2013, 05:37 PM   #47
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I have no pictures of our stellar performance on the Dragon. All I can say is we were the fastest 250cc dual sports, loaded with gear, to ride the Dragon, that hour. No bragging, just fact!

There were several photographer tents along the way that will sell you a picture of your epic cornering skills. You need only to go to their website, find your picture and order it.

I looked at mine and reasoned that it's best not to let wifey see how I took the the mighty KLR250 to the ragged edge of a low side / high side aerial departure off the side of the mountain (and it was $15).

There is no scenery on the Dragon, only curves and bikes and a few stray four wheel vehicles.

There is no pulling over to take a break or watch the riders.

There are only curves, more curves and even more curves.

We were passed by a pair of sumo riders. I could hear them coming with their loud pipes. They picked a good spot to pass, we moved over and they were gone. Coming towards us, three KTM sumos blasted by with only a few feet separating them. They cleared the turn nearly dragging their pegs, quickly flipped over to a hard lean on the other side and then were gone down the hill. They have skills and guts for sure and it makes more sense to me to let her rip on the Dragon than in a neighborhood.

At our speed it was good fun. At their speed...HFS!

To validate our relative suckage, we had a pickup truck on our tail for the last mile or so.

Oh well at least we did it.

8gv screwed with this post 05-22-2013 at 07:36 PM
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Old 05-22-2013, 06:37 PM   #48
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Once the Dragon was slayed we hit the Foot Hills Parkway northbound. Another fantastic ride! There are really no boring roads in this area. I think if you just rode around, not even trying to hit the best ones you would be amazed.

Then we found ourselves here:

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Old 05-22-2013, 06:49 PM   #49
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While its hard to see in the picture, there was almost no space for Garth to turn his bike around. He planned on riding around the sign but when that didn't work he kind of got stuck. Backing around was leading into a deep drainage ditch.

I could tell he was getting frustrated and I started to dismount so I could help. There was no need though as Garth did his best Superman imitation by lifting the whole back of the bike into the air and pivoting it around on the front end. It was an impressive feat!

My family and I had visited the GSMNP just two weeks prior to our bike trip. It was getting late so a place for camping and chow were starting to matter to us. We hustled through the park to the Elkmont campground where you self pay $14 via envelope and box. Ready for a peaceful night's sleep next to yet another roaring stream!


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Old 05-22-2013, 07:04 PM   #50
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About the campgrounds we visited...

A few years back I coined a term:

"pee-qualibrium"
is defined as the period of time during which your need to get up and go pee is equal to your desire to stay in your comfortable sleeping bag.

This trip inspired new term:

"pee-ability"
a measurement of the quality of a campsite, high pee-ability is awarded to those sites that have one or both of these attributes:
very close restrooms
enough privacy to allow one to take a few steps away from the tent (one step if it's raining) and water a tree

The Elkmont site had very low pee-ability.

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Old 05-22-2013, 07:09 PM   #51
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We had only 7 miles to ride to get some BBQ in Gatlinburg. It was getting dark so we tempered our BBQ urgency with deer vigilance. We saw a few but they seemed to be content to stay off the road.

This place is pretty good:

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Old 05-22-2013, 07:21 PM   #52
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The ride back was very dark. I prefer not to ride at night.

You hear the bike so much better when it's dark. Some of the sounds start me wondering about nonexistent mechanical issues.

The bugs on the visor seem bigger and more obstructive of my vision. Raising the visor invites unwelcome intruders.

The less polite among the deer can be a problem and up north, it can be moose as well.

Seven miles were enough on this night.
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Old 05-22-2013, 08:03 PM   #53
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Nice ride report Rich. I see tourism on the TET increasing 300% this season.
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Old 05-22-2013, 08:09 PM   #54
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Great RR

Rich,

Enjoying your RR.

You write so well! Precise, funny, and matter-of-fact style of writing. I read every word and enjoyed the pictures. 'Just want to ride for adventure, enjoy, don't really care where I am going' attitude is great!

Southerners are a nice bunch! I went to Ole Miss!

Be safe!
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Old 05-23-2013, 12:38 PM   #55
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Thursday morning I was up and out of my tent before Garth. That never happens. He's an early riser and I am not. It gave me a rare chance to call him a slacker.

Breaking camp was slow on this day possibly to due to BBQ induced abdominal engorgement. We also took time to plan out the last two days of our trip. It was decided that we would take a meandering route back up to Hot Springs and make more decisions when we got there.

Don't I look like sunshine in the morning?



The way out of GSMNP was through Gatlinburg. As we puttered down the Disneyesque main drag Garth spotted a Harley shop. Garth seems to have adopted an alter ego of late, one of a pirate. I did my best to keep him in the fold but somehow chrome has lured him down the wayward path of Harley ownership.

He wanted to get a Gatlinburg Harley poker chip and I had noticed a Dunkin Donuts a block or two back. We agreed to rejoin just outside the Harley shop and I headed back for some much needed iced pee.

Gatlinburg is set up for pedestrians. The streets are lined with shops and restaurants and you need to leave your car at the hotel. For those passing through, the only parking is in paid garages. It didn't take long to figure out that my iced pee was going to cost me $8. As much as I was jonesin' my cheapness won out and I passed on the D+D. I returned to the redezvous spot and waited. Shortly thereafter, Garth appeared and soon we were heading up route 321.

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Old 05-23-2013, 12:59 PM   #56
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As we departed G-burg, I noticed a sign declaring that the road was closed ahead. Not knowing if this mattered to us, we kept going. Waaaay down the road we came to a construction project. I asked one of the guys if the bridge was passable but the answer was no. When asked about crossing the river he just shook his head no. Our only recourse was an 18 mile detour.

There was too much pavement on this day. My bike was emitting an acrid, course drone that offended my ears. It seemed that every mile on the way to Hot Springs had me running at just the right combination of rpm's and throttle to produce the noise. I suppose a repack of my muffler is in order or earplugs and an attitude adjustment as well.

I can endure countless hours of flogging my bike on dirt but the steady speeds of pavement start my throttle hand hurting. The WalMart ATV seat pad with its stadium foam seat enhancement were no longer getting the job done. Seeing him standing for miles, I could tell Garth was becoming equally annoyed.

By the time we got to Hot Springs we were ready for a change.

Too many words. Here's a random picture of someplace we saw:
(look carefully and you'll see some switchbacks)


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Old 05-23-2013, 01:44 PM   #57
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As we pulled into the Hot Springs Resort we saw a new looking KLR650 outside the office. Its rider soon appeared and he was in good spirits after soaking a while. He told us he started in New Orleans and was heading to Ontario Canada.

Clearly his machine was more suitable for pavement than ours. As he thumped away I considered that our annoyance wasn't really due to the poor street manners of our bikes but the inappropriate road surfaces of late.

We had reached our limit and it was decided. We were going to trailer back up to Douthat SP.

Hot Springs was alive with activity. There was some sort of festival happening that weekend and many of the participants were arriving. Even if we had decided to camp that night, thare was no room for us. There was a long line of hippies (some equipped with hippie vans!) leading to the campground guardhouse where we needed to retrieve our car. Having no patience left, we just cut through the lawn behind the guard and started loading up.

Another gratuitous view from somewhere we'd been:


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Old 05-23-2013, 01:59 PM   #58
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Garth drove and I iPaded as we whispered down the highway. It takes a week of riding 250's to make my 2000 CRV seem quiet. Besides our need for a break, we really had to get back north to reduce the hours required to drive home on Saturday.

Friday was to be our last day of riding and we needed to make the most out of it. Garth suggested that we ride TET section 7 south of Douthat. It has a great hero section with views on both sides. Our spirits were also lifted by the promise of a non-Kroger steak dinner cooked over our campfire. Then it hit me...we could leave all the camping gear etc. back at Douthat and ride unladen bikes! Things were looking up!

Six hours later we arrived back at the same lakeside site at Douthat with groceries in hand.



Ok, so it wasn't quite THAT view but good nonetheless:


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Old 05-23-2013, 02:07 PM   #59
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I started to achieve my goal of corrupting Garth's diet:


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Old 05-23-2013, 02:18 PM   #60
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Our campsite at Douthat was big on views but had low pee-ability. At least I had a pet to visit:



That guy was at the entrance to the men's room each of the three nights we spent at the park. I suppose the lights brought him his dinner.

It was a cool night for ex-stream camping...our first night in several with no running water sounds. The peepers were plenty loud though. After some non-diet marshmallows, Garth piled on the remaining firewood and we hit the sack.
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