Day 11
October 11th, 2009
Blue Ridge Motorcycle Campground
Cruso, North Carolina

One of things I'm finding out on this tour is I'm not sleeping as well on the therm a rest as years past.  Perhaps because I'm older now, and more finicky.  I was doing ok, but was tossing and turning too much, and not getting comfortable.  "I'm gonna study the situation this winter, and see what my options are."   This morning was just like most of the others this tour, kind of stiff when I woke up.

I was rubbing the sleep out of my eyes when I saw Peter about to leave out.  He was packed and ready to go.  "I'll see ya whenever, have a good winter," I told him as he was getting on his 1300.  "Yeah you too, stay in touch."  "I will."

The morning was too warm for this time of year, and the air was clamy and damp.  "This feels more like late April, but not complaining, I've had some cold buck rides out of these hills."

A few more guys came over to wish me well as I was striking camp, I kept at it while they spoke to me.  
I lost one of the big 4 last night-my glasses, not my new Oakleys but my regular specs.  I had them when I went to the shower, and when I noticed them missing, I went on a frantic search.  I had no idea where I layed them down.  I retraced my steps but it was no dice.  With nothing left to do I had to go to my back up pair.  "I'll only need them if it gets dark, before that I have the Oakleys."  They're a older prescription, and a little weak, but they'll work."

I plan all  my tours as best I can; the route, people, places and events I'd like to experience.  I find a well planned tour makes for a nice ride, but all the while you must remember flexibility.  If I'm on schedule I tend to follow the itinerary.  My pre tour research told me a Catholic Church was in Maggie Valley, Mass times posted on their web site.  I put the address in the Zumo a long time ago, and put the Mass schedule in the Iphone notebook.  Services were at 8am, and Maggie is a 30 minute ride, so I didn't dally long around the campground.
When I finished loading the 1200, I strolled to the office to get on the WIFI to check the weather radar.  Cloudy but no rain anywhere.  My return ride is same as last years; over the Smokies, I-75 to Chattanooga then home.  A much better ride than old route through West Georgia.

By 7:35 I had finished all my good byes.  The Blue Ridge Gathering was huge this year, over 60 bikes, and I met a lot of new faces.  It was great, but now it was time to head home and put this abbreviated touring season in the books.  I always leave the Blue Ridge with mixed emotions; glad to have had a successful year, but sad no long rides for several months.  I still ride most everyday, but a Long Rider is somewhat limited when most of the country is locked in snow and cold, and cold is something I've grown to really dislike.  In past years, I could do it if I had to, but presently I'm most likely to sit home if the day is cold.

I rode across the campground bridge to U.S. 276 and set out across the valley to Waynesville.  It was a quiet, reflective morning.  Waynesville is beginning to look more and more like a college town these days.  Coffee and specialty shops in the business district, and fast food near the access highways.  The city always looks nice this time of year; colorful trees, decorated houses, and clean streets.  I'd say it's a great place to live.  The Gathering shares the weekend with the Apple Festival or something, but we manage to stay out of each other's way.
I gassed the RT last night on the way back from supper and was able to dispense with that chore this morning.
Out of Waynesville I went to U.S. 19 to Maggie Valley, and a short while later the GPS deposited me at the front door of Saint Margaret Queen of Scotland Catholic Church.  It would have been difficult to find without a GPS, the church is situated on a hill, surrounded by trees. 
St. Margaret, Queen of Scotland Catholic Church, Maggie Valley.  As you can see, I was still having trouble with the lens fogging.
God does not ask for much from me, but he does expect me to give one a hour a week a back.  I know he likes it when you have to do a little extra to attend church.  I was always taught you better have a dang good excuse to miss Mass, and just being out of town is NOT one of them.

Like last week in Arizona, I placed my helmet and coat in the back and grabbed a pew in the rear.  St. Margaret's is a simple yet beautiful church, the west wall is mostly glass, and the sanctuary is also, it was like sitting outside, because the view was so nice.

My guess half of the attendees did not live in the area, just on vacation.  I shook a few hands on the way out when the service was over (9:00am) and went to the RT.  A custom route would take me across the Smokies to I-75, along the way I planned to stop in Cades Cove. (which proved to be a horrible mistake)  I was looking forward to a great ride home.

I left town on U.S. 19 and rode into Cherokee to find U.S. 441.  The morning was still cloudy and cool.  "Probably cool up on Newfound Gap," so I kept the vents closed on the Roadcrafter.
​This scene is from the entrance road to the Parkway near Maggie Valley.
I had to wait a few minutes for the lens to clear to get my shot.

Traffic into Gatlinburg on 441 was heavy, even more then last year, but church had set me back a hour later.   And like last year, leaf color in the Smokies was 2-3 weeks behind the Blue Ridge, but still good.

The ride over the mountains was slow, it was ok on the ascent, but I was jammed up behind a long line of cars for most of the descent.  A constant flow of all vehicle types were coming at me from Tennessee side; RVs, pick ups, SUVs, and many bikes, most of them Harley's.  Tourists were up and going, and many of them were heading over to Cherokee to gamble in the casino.

I changed the screen view on the GPS, just to monitor the elevation, I'm impressed at how accurate it is.  A GPS offers a lot of feedback for a Long Rider, and the more miles I use it, the more dependent I become.  The only problem is their reliability when equipped on a motorcycle.

The overlook at Newfound Gap was bloated out just like year.  "I have that picture, so no need to stop and get in that chaos."  So over I went and started the long ride back down.  The highway is good, but too much traffic to do anything with it.

Near Gatlinburg I peeled off the main road for the dog leg into Cade's Cove.  What a huge mistake.  It was bumper to bumper all the way.  I crawled the 12 miles or so at 30 mph.  This is a hugely busy weekend in the Smokies, and I was later in the morning  then usual, and that wasn't helping.

Cades Cove when not crowded is a interesting place, and just as the name describes; a quiet cut out in the mountains of several square miles.  Pioneers settled in the valley many years ago, but were forced to leave when the Feds took it over.  They left behind historical signs of their presence.  I was last here in 1985 on a hot summer day with my brother, and we were on our crotch rockets.  

The front gate marks the start of a 10 mile loop around the cove.  It was a log jam of cars at 5 mph.  "This ain't gonna work, at this rate it will take 2 hours to ride the cove and one fried clutch."  But the loop is a one way counter clockwise run.  I got lucky when I found "Sparkman's Lane," a quick half mile cut off road to the other side.  When I saw it, I hit the left flasher and bolted out of the line.  The lane was dirt but hard packed and good.  It was quiet ride through the woods.  When I came to the other side, I had to get back in the line of cars that had been on the loop the last 2 hours.  I'm not kidding, I could walk faster then that line was moving.
Sparkman's Lane, Cade's Cove.  A quiet ride through tranquil woods.
The SUV was parked,  the occupants taking pictures at a nearby creek.

I looked for a break in the line of cars but saw none.  I was going to have to make one, by jumping in line quick, I pulled it off with not much trouble.  Traffic out of Cade's Cove was much better and the last few miles were nice.  It was still cloudy and a little cool, but at least it wasn't raining like last spring when I came through the Smokies.
​Looking across the meadows of Cade's Cove.
U.S. 321 would take me to I-75.  I don't need a gps or a map to get back home from here, but I kept the GPS on just for the fun of it, and for the feedback it offered, like mph, elevation, and arrival time.

Most of the Maryville was in church, and it was 11am.  "I better find a place before church dismisses, and everything gets crowded.  I saw a Pizza Hut near the highway and went there.

I sat myself at a window booth, and ordered my usual; pepperoni and garlic bread.  I made a few phone calls and put the morning notes in the Iphone.  Once again the AC was on and I had to go back out to the RT for a sweatshirt.  "Are you cold?"  My young waitress asked, "baby unless it's July and I'm in Alabama, I'm cold."  "You flatlanders are so thin blooded," she said chidingly.

"I better get goin, I need to be home at decent hour."  So I settled my bill and got back on the RT.  I continued on 321 to I-75, where I came down the ramp, found a opening, and placed the RT on 80.

I shot south at a quick pace, easing up to 85, somehow I sensed all the troopers were eating lunch.  I've been this way home many times, but I still enjoy the ride, and now that the construction in Chattanooga is almost finished, it is even better.

The mild road manners of the RT once again were on display as I comfortably put down the miles.  The quiet cockpit seemed even more so then usual on this windless day.

The only construction I noticed was on the north side of the city and not of any consequence.  It took a long time to get here.  The system had been under construction since I became a Long Rider in 2001.

I pushed into Chattanooga fending off crazy motorists, while making 2 route changes.  The epic looking Lookout Mountain standing guard over the city as it always has.  I took I-24 to I-59 South and the mayhem quieted down.  The fuel light came on.  "Gas in Rising Fawn, my usual place."  A large Pilot Truck Stop is there and it has everything a Long Rider needs.

The Rising Fawn exit is 200 miles from home, and they had 93 even if it was a ethanol swirl.  I filled up then went inside to take a break.  Not that I needed one, but my plan was to ride the 200 miles home non stop.
In the store a long line of patrons were buying lotto tickets making it hard to check out.  A tall, slope shouldered man behind me, with something stuck on his lower lip said, "You'd think all these Alabama folks could find somewhere else to buy their lotto tickets."  There is no lottery in Alabama.  "Yeah I know, but you how folks from Alabama are."  "Yeah they don't know much about reason," he commented back.  

I took a seat and called home.

"yeah I'm in Rising Fawn, home in a few hours"

"You want to eat here, or go out?"

"Lets eat at home, been eating out last 2 weeks, and the Sunday night game is on."

I checked the latest scores from the Iphone and sent my niece in law a text message. "tell my nephew I'll be home tonight."

I-59 to Gadsden is good, it is a rural, quiet interstate with little traffic, and borders the last fringes of the Appalachian Mountains.  I had been in many mountain ranges this tour.  The RT had handled this 5,000 mile tour exceptionally well, outside the blown low beam.  While it may not be the fastest out there, it is certainly the most versatile.  Lightweight, comfortable, amenities, and powerful, it does many things well.

I thought about stopping to see my sister in Gadsden, but I knew I wouldn't be able to get away, so kept going.  "I'll ride back this way soon and stop in."

At Springhill I saw a wrecked RV.  It looked like he missed judged the ramp speed and  over shot the roadbed.
Traffic increased as I neared Birmingham where I left 59 for 459 to connect with I-65 for the final 60 miles home.  At the interchange I was cut off by a 18 wheeler and almost missed my exit.

It was late afternoon when I picked up I-65 at Hoover, "only thing now is ride on in."  I reminded myself to ride safe, and not get lackadaisical because I was almost home.

The ride south on 65 was quick, especially when I entered Autauga County, where I pushed the RT near 90 chasing a rabbit in a Passat.  In what seemed like minutes the last 60 miles were over and I was on U.S. 31 in the last few miles.  It had been a great tour, and all the things I was looking for out of the ride I had found.  I nice peace came over me as I turned into my neighborhood.

The garage door was up and I parked beside the ST, after a 458 mile day, and 5,015 miles for the tour.  "I said it would be 5,000 miles.

The GPS said it had been 196 miles from Rising Fawn, and trip meter A on the RT put it at 195.8.  Although the BMW has a wacky ambient temp gauge, the odometer is pretty darn accurate.  "I wonder how they did so good on the odo and messed up the ambient temp gauge?"  It reads 5-6 to the low side.

I left my things on the RT, "I'll take care of that stuff tomorrow, for now I'm gonna sit on my butt."  Inside Debbie gave me a big hug, and I told her about the Blue Ridge.

"Yeah it was really nice up there this year, I need to take you there soon."
Supper was homemade spaghetti.  It was good.

It was a nice quiet evening, and I was glad to be home.

I left my stuff on the RT for several days.  I stored my gear away in the usual places for easy deployment next year.  I also made a list of the things I wanted to replace or upgrade before my next long ride.

Both bikes were really dirty and I finally got around to washing them 2 weeks later.

The low beam is still out on the RT.

Peter Menard and Uncle Phil had uneventful and safe rides home.

I did not see a single deer the entire 5000 miles.

My glasses were never found, I assume they are on the campground somewhere.

If you have any questions or comments about this tour, negative or other, let me know.   firfytr@aol.com