Day 8
October 14th, 2004
Lorton, Virginia

The pre dawn hours found me searching for my glasses.  My Oakleys were accounted for, but my wire frames had virtually evaporated.  I had rummaged for them the night before, but it was no dice.  I went to bed confident they would show up when I had a fresh start.  I was right, I found them on the floor in the study.

Today was a day I had to get serious.  I'd been taking life easy the last several days- riding a few hundred miles, getting off the road early, napping, running, sleeping late, watching TV, then move on to the next city and repeat.  But today I needed to make my way to the Blue Ridge, 450-500 miles away, depending on the route.  My plan is my usual ride from Lorton to Gatlinburg-520 miles.  That's a pretty good day, considering the last 200 miles or so will be in the hills.

I logged on to check the weather radar.  Rain is still west, but should remain north of where I'm heading, but there will be no sun.  Thick clouds cover the entire southeast.  Temps will be on the cool side, mid 40s to start, but warming to the 60s down south.

David was dressed and ready, and like a good husband was taking out the garbage.  " I have duties to take care off unlike some people I know," he said sarcastically.  I replied "Man, now you know how stressed out my life is, heck, I bet my blood pressure hits 100 today."  He wished me a safe ride and I thanked him once again for his warm hospitality.  "We'll see ya next time through."  Before backing the 13 down the drive I said, " Don't work to hard today".

The sun was not yet up, my goal of an early start was realized.  If all goes well I'll be in the Smokies by 4 pm.
The intense lighting of the 1300 blazed the neighborhood houses as I made my to the Fairfax County Expressway, a hell of a road, because it allows a Long Rider to hook up with I-66 WITHOUT going back into the District and fooling with the beltway.

My gas situation was still good, so I decided to ride as far south as I could before stopping, with a full tank that would be Roanoke, but I'm down a couple of gallons, so I look to stop a hundred miles earlier.

At 6:30 am commute traffic was already beginning to build on the expressway. The 1300 and I slide past the lines as the dawn brought into focus the clouds overhead.

It was a short ride to I-66 West, and I heeled the 13 on the long sweeping entrance ramp that leads from the expressway to the interstate.   I know to avoid leaning hard on such things so take my time, but it was awful tempting to gather a little more speed and go lower.

Eastbound traffic into the District was already backing up, but on the west bound side it was just me and the state troopers, they were everywhere.  I was chilly in the 45 degree temps and brought the screen up for protection, but under such scrutiny I had no intention of riding beyond 8 over.

I've come to dislike the long ride on I-81 to SR 91, found south of Marion.  I know the way points- 250 miles to Salem, where I'll stop for lunch at Faviollis, then another hundreds miles to Marion.  The stretch to Salem seems to be the worst, no matter how fast I go, it appears to take longer then the last time.  Today will be my 5th time in 3 years to employ this route south.

The ride turns fun, and goes quickly once I leave 81 for SR 91, but first I have to get there.

South of Manassas I feel like I am in the south again, I've left the hustle and bustle of the crowded northeast, for the more relaxed atmosphere of my homeland.  Less traffic, less cement, and more open spaces.   The landscape returns to timberland and farms, as the 1300 floats over the pavement at 75 mph.  I took a glance around at the farms and pastures, and turn the collar of Roadcrafter to ward off a draft.  At this speed the 13 makes it feel like we're moving at 30 mph.

Eventually 66 merges with 81, and I jockeyed for a position with the vehicles coming out of Pennsylvania and Maryland.  Why so many trucks come this way I'll never know, but it is always packed with them.   
With Blue Angel precision I slipped by the merging trucks and cars, and found a place.  I had nothing left to do now but watch the miles tick off on the trip meters.  When I passed the "Roanoke 175 Miles" sign, I reset trip meter B to start the count up.  I was definitely feeling chilled and looked forward to getting warmer, but that won't happen till I get into south Georgia in a few days, in the meantime I'll just have to layer better.  Right now I just wanted the temp to climb to the 50s.
Like I've said, I don't have the patience for interstate riding.  Whenever I ride one time seems to stand still along with the trip meter.  They make 20 miles feel like 200.

I rolled south in the cool temps lost in thought.  I stayed occupied thinking about the great rides ahead in the hills.  Derelict barns abandoned by farmers years ago dotted the the Virginia fields.  This area is rich in history, I thought about Stonewall Jackson and General Lee befuddling the Union army for years in these hills before sheer numbers prevailed.  Stonewall traveled up and down the valley, with a confidence and defiance that only southerners understand.  I kind of felt that way on this day.  Instead of a horse I was riding a state of the art motorcycle that has covered the reaches of America and Canada.  I ride it confidently anywhere I see fit to go, and swagger into places like I own it, while shamelessly trying to exude southern charm on local waitresses just to see what happens.

Instead, I had to swagger into New Market for gas.  I was pumping gas when a car pulled to the next pump with 2 mountain bikes on top.  It made me wish I was going to ride my Trek when I stopped for the day.  I was really missing it.  

When I finished at the Exxon I went across the street for a baked apple pie at Mickey D's.   I checked the nutrition poster posted at most McDonalds.  The baked desert was going to cost me 250 calories, but I was hungry and perhaps the digestion process would knock some of the chill off.  I called home and spoke to Debbie, and once again reassured her the beach trip was on.  I was looking forward to it also.  Its kind of traditional to spend a few days at the beach relaxing after a good riding season.  It helps me wind down, and most of all, I don't worry about it being cold.

While I ate I browsed a tourist pamphlet on the nearby New Market Battlefield.  Perhaps on another day I will visit, I would also enjoy stopping by VMI to see where Stonewall taught.

I got back on the road, but was having trouble with my ear plugs and had to exit to resolve the problems.  I stopped at a still closed antique shop kind of thing to straighten out.   I took the picture below.


​  Outside a still closed antique store
Near Lexington a red Vette blew by at 100+.  The zoom startled me, I never saw him approaching in my mirrors.  One minute nothing but slow trucks, next thing I know-whoosh.

The miles were very tedious from New Market to Salem, but at last the exit for Favillos came up and I peeled off for some early lunch.  Before checking in to eat, I made a brief visit to Wal Mart.  I picked up a few cliff bars, some liquid soap and the DVD "Day After Tomorrow."  

I rode back down the street and checked in for some good spaghetti.  After this, I was probably going to be done eating for the day.  The pasta and meatballs were excellent.  I mulled things over as I ate lunch, I was not looking forward to the next 100 miles to Marion.  I wanted to be done with I-81.

As I was leaving the parking lot a red ST 1100 went by.  I didn't think much about it, only that is was the first 1100 I'd seen on the trip.  After getting on the street I was a few cars behind him.  I moved over to make a right turn for 81 while he was stopped at a light.  "Hey that joker has a blue darien coat like Ron Epperly."  When I got closer I could see a Florida tag!  He noticed me when I came by and did a double take.  "HEY THAT'S RON EPPERLY!!  WHAT THE HELL!! TALK ABOUT SMALL WORLDS!"

I dove off in a parking lot and he doubled back to me.  I dismounted and grabbed his hand when he pulled in.  "Dayum brother talk about good timing and small worlds, what the hell are YOU doing in Salem?"  "My dad lives near here, I spent the night with him, and was moving on to the Blue Ridge."  Ron is a close friend, and we are veterans of many miles together.  I first met Ron in 2001 at a Fall Stoc rally.  "I'm heading for Gatlinburg, I know a good ride, but first we gotta do 100 miles on 81."
​I found Ron Epperly in Salem.  Small world.
Bumping into Ron is one of the strangest and luckiest things I've experienced on a tour. 

We left Salem in tandem, and charged down 81.  We rose up in elevation and the temps grew nippy.  I cried out loud, "WILL IT EVER GET WARM AGAIN.?"  The temp dropped into the mid 40s.

Riding south we saw a crashed tanker truck in the north bound lane.  Only one lane was open.  Traffic was backed up almost 20 miles.  Man was I glad to be gong south.  I could feel the stares of desperate northbound motorists.  I knew they were doing the same thing I'd be doing if the situation was reversed.  Cussing the guys moving fast on the other side.  Traffic over there was at a virtual standstill.

At last we made the Damascus exit and picked up SR 91.  I figured now wwould be a good time to top off the tanks.   Ron said, "Dam it was cold back there."  "Dang sure was, I wonder what the deal was?"  It was then I noticed Ron had nothing on but a t shirt under the Darien and the vents were open.  No wonder he was cold.  He put a new layer on and zipped up.  

Ron followed me south on SR 91 to Damascus.  The riding was much better now as we leaned the Hondas in the curves leading to town.  Now, that I know where the turnoff  for Tennessee is located, I had no trouble finding it.  First time through here I missed it, and went 50 miles out of the way.

Out of Damascus we took local route 133, a great little road that follows a creek through the Cherokee National Forest.  Road surface is typical Tennessee, meaning it was excellent.  The curves were mostly sweepers, they were fun.  It was good to have someone to ride with.

We finished off 133 and took SR 91.  A very intense road.  It climbs over 2 peaks, and is crowded with S curves, that are tight with changing radius lines.  The surface was covered with wet leaves, we were not able to do any leaning.  I was disappointed because 91 is such a good road.

Ninety one took us to 11E at Elizabethon.  We rode on through the college town of Johnson City, and took a break at a gas mart.  It gave us a good opportunity to chat and catch up on things.  Ron tells me, "Yeah I went down not long after coming back from California last year.  It slid out from me on a interstate ramp in Orlando."  " Dayum brother, you're too experienced for that, what the hell happened?"  "Look I live in Florida, hard not to resist, only curves we have, besides I'd been around that ramp a thousand times, its on the way to work."  Ron's bike been through a lot, it was stolen, recovered, and now this.

When we were leaving the store, I stopped to chat with 2 young boys walking down the street with a white bucket and fishing poles.  " So watch'all been dewin?'  "We were fishin in that creek over yonder."  The creek was nothing more than a ditch to me.  He held up the bucket for me to check out.  Looks like they had a couple of crawdads and some minnows, but nothing I'd call a fish.

We took US 321 south from Johnson City.  This portion of the ride is not all that fun, but infinitely better then I-81.  I knew things would pick up south of Greeneville.

Out of the city 321 begins to live up to its claim as a Tennessee byway.  I've already described this road on 2 previous occasions, (click here for that story) so won't waste time doing it again.  Lets just say the road is scenic and twisty.  I passed 4 cars on one shot as we rode south.  It was a awesome display of power.

We left Newport in the late afternoon and were now on the fringes of Smoky Mountain National Park.  The nations busiest.  The countryside rose and fell in majestic undulations, full of creeping thickets of laurel, rhododendron and palmetto.  Breaks in the mountains revealed hazy views of the Smoky Mountains.  It was good riding.

The approach into Gatlinburg is filled with campgrounds, scraggly motels, junkyards and repair shops, some perched on the edge of a glittering stream in a cleft of mountains.  It must have been beautiful once, with the dark mountains squeezing in on both sides, but now it was just an eyesore. 

It was late afternoon and soon the deer would be moving, it was good we were almost there.

Gatlinburg is near the biggest Indian Reservation in the East.  Signs barked at us as we knocked down the last few miles.  MOCCASINS! TOMAHAWKS! JEWELRY! AND OTHER CRAPPY STUFF! ALL FOR YOU!  Thanks but no thanks, we blew right on by.

Gatlinburg, Tennessee is basically a mile long, crowded Main Street, that can take 30 minutes to clear.  A tourist town if there ever was one. It is full of tacky T shirt shops, candy stores, junk food stalls, ice cream parlors, and gift shops that sell those Wanted posters, WITH YOUR NAME HERE.  I love it here.  This was the kind of place I never got to spend time in when I was a kid.  My dad took very little time off from work, and when he did, we didn't have the money for such frivolity. 

Ron followed me into a parking lot and I told him, "lets cruise up and back Main Street, then ride over to Pigeon Forge, I know a cheap place there to spend the night."

We cruised the Hondas up Main Street past such places as the Ripley's Believe It or Not.  Debbie and I honeymooned here in 1976, and took the tour, I can remember seeing the story about the guy who could put 3 billiard balls in his mouth.  I need to bring her back her one day.

If tacky tourist stuff is not your thing, then stay away from Gatlinburg, otherwise stop and indulge yourself in some innocent fun.

It was almost dark when we completed the Main Street thing, but it only took a few minutes to make the run over to Pigeon Forge.

I found the motel I stayed at last spring, and checked us in a 39.95 room.  The room reeked of smoking, but it was too late to change, we managed.

After showering we took a short walk down the street to a BBQ place.  For the first time this trip I blew my diet on ribs and chicken.  I'll survive.  The food was good.  When we got back to the motel a young man that said he rode sport bikes was checking out the bikes.  We chatted for a few minutes, before I went inside to make a few phone calls.  I picked up a voice mail from Sal that advised he was at the Iron Horse but had no cell signal.  I wanted to make contact with him so he could ride to meet us somewhere tomorrow for the ride in. 
The next day is a easy day.  Only about 50 miles from the Iron Horse Campground in Steoach, North Carolina.  Our usual gathering place in the Blue Ridge was washed away in all the hurricanes and is closed.  The Iron Horse came highly recommended.

After watching a little TV we turned the lights off and went to sleep.