I Cha-Cha-Cha'd outta Cha-Cha-Chattanooga about 9 after some parking lot conversations with a couple of Harley riders on their way southward for a rally. The temperature was in the high 60s and felt fantastic after so much summer sweat in Texas.
The road took me towards Tellico Plains and eventually Deals Gap where I hoped to say hello to my travel bud Ward before riding the Dragon northward. The night before, I realized I’d left my cold weather gloves in Dallas, as well as my off-bike shoes. Suddenly I could hear the slow swishing sound of a giant Karmaic hammer coming my way for giving Ward crap about wearing plastic bags, because I'll probably be wearing plastic shopping bags over my gloves when it gets cold and wet... and potentially a plastic rain suit made entirely of roadside litter and duct tape...
If I don't find a Ross or DSW on the way north, I'll probably have to make a set of shoes out of leftover whale blubber and fish skin when I get to Newfoundland, since I'm sure it'll be all over the island and free for the taking. But enough of that.
The day was beautiful and in short order I overtook a sportbike with its racing-leathers-clad rider, slowly following a KLR with its rider in a hoodie and jeans, waving as I passed. They exited behind me and caught up at a stop sign where the Klar rider shouted and asked where I was headed. He gave a thumbs up upon my answer and we all took off together. Immediately the sport bike rider screamed the engine and shot past me before grabbing the brakes hard and falling back into line behind his partner. I chuckled at the display.
They soon disappeared behind me as I made my way to the little town of Tellico Plains and onto the Cherohala Skyway. It was a pretty and placid ride alongside a river before winding its way higher and higher. It was a good motorcycle road and I missed a couple of overlooks from being focused on riding hard and fast-ish, enjoying the ride after a summer of Dallas highways.
I detoured slightly to Robbinsville, NC for a butt break and coffee, and to see if Ward had responded on WhatsApp confirming he'd arrived in Deals Gap. There was no answer from him but I assumed he had no cell service there in the mountains.
A loose conglomeration of riders were gathered at the combination gas station/McDonald's, with bikes ranging from Goldwings to Ducati Monsters. Riders sipped coffee or scarfed down burgers before heading off towards the Dragon. I followed suit and enjoyed the scenery to my destination, the Deals Gap Motorcycle Resort, a few miles away.
The Deals Gap store / motel had a bunch of bikes there, but not as slammed as I expected. I parked the bike and wandered towards the camp area where I spotted Ward about to don his helmet. He and a couple of buddies were about to head out for the day. We chatted a bit and had a couple of laughs before they took off on their KTM supermotos. Ward's F800GS is still in South America, having gone through several subsequent adventure riders since his leaving.
The weather was spectacular and I sat and watched the bikes come and go, conversing with some other riders. A girl in her late twenties with her boyfriend wandered over to my bike. I overheard them discussing whether the Patagonia stickers were because the rider had actually ridden there or if they were just decoration. The girl said she suspected whoever owned the bike probably had ridden there, otherwise he'd look like an idiot... So, like an idiot I piped up that they were indeed souvenirs, which opened up an hour long conversation between the girl and I. She was from Alaska, and had recently ridden her Harley to Newfoundland a few months back. After that experience she decided she needed a different bike and had just purchased a BMW F650GS twin. She had a lot of questions about long-term travel and heading for South America, so it was a fun conversation.
Wearing my older Nolan X-Lite X-551 hemmet this trip - and glad I did. Light, aerodynamic and zero peak vibration.
After building up an appetite purchasing a couple of stickers, a 1/4 lb hot dog hit the spot (I told you this report would be 1st world boring)
The beautiful day and the relaxing atmosphere caused me to hang a bit longer than planned. I wanted to at least make Knoxville that night, so I finally took off and rode the Dragon's Tail. The road was a lot of fun and it's easy to understand its popularity, being somewhat similar to the roads off highway 101 on the Pacific coast and the Mil Cumbres or Espinosa Del Diablo in Mexico.
There were a couple of state troopers parked along the roadside to keep speeds down, but I passed a couple of sport bikes and several Harleys, whose riders were substantially older than me. It felt good to feel like a squid. It was an enjoyable ride and ended a little too soon, but I continued on northward to Knoxville for the evening.
It was a good day, with spectacular weather and a chance to meet up with a friend. As well, I've now got a Dragon sticker for my cases, which after all is the most important thing right? Tomorrow is Kentucky, and I'm bummed to see that most of the distilleries are back to the west now that I detoured to Deals Gap. Oh well, onwards.