Our second big camping trip together on the "Beast" - my 2008 BMW R1200GS.
This time south to the Skyline Drive, The Blue Ridge Parkway, the Smokies, and Deal's Gap - "The Tail of the Dragon!"
This time south to the Skyline Drive, The Blue Ridge Parkway, the Smokies, and Deal's Gap - "The Tail of the Dragon!"
Now with 66,000 miles on the clock! But yes, we STILL like our bicycles best!
Day One - Friday - June 22nd - 350 miles
We started the trip south with an errand. I had earlier purchased a pair of summer mesh gloves at the bike shop in Arkport (small town south of Dansville NY) after trying on both medium and large sizes. I took the medium and I still don't know why since I ALWAYS need large size gloves. After using them for only a few hours, I knew I made a stupid mistake, so we went to Arkport first to pick up the LARGE size.
(Anyone need a pair of MEDIUM size HD branded mesh summer gloves? Call me!)
Heading south, we stopped for lunch in poor little Addison NY at a newly opened little diner called "My Place" on the main drag. Food was good, owner was a nice guy, and I REALLY hope he can make it! Stop there if you get a chance! Thanks!
We pulled out onto Rt15, headed for Williamsport PA (one of my many childhood homes) and enjoyed the mountains ... until we GOT to Williamsport. From there till Harrisburg, Route 15 is a madhouse of towns, shopping, fast food joints and general mayhem. Such a change from when I grew up as a kid along the river towns of the Susquehanna River. Note to self ... never EVER again take RT15 south of Williamsport ... no way, no how ... not even to visit Clyde's Reptileland. (Been there, done that ... t-shirt doesn't fit anymore.)
Late in the day in Maryland, we started searching for our first bivvy, and found Catoctin Mountain National Park. It was a sweet twisty road up to a very quiet campground and a wonderful nights sleep after a nice hot/cool shower!
We flirted with a few threatening clouds and a few wet roads over the course of the day, but never actually got caught in any rain. It got muggy toward the end of the day with temps hitting the mid 80's.
Day Two - Saturday - June 23rd - 170 miles
On the road early (got Karen up and broke camp quickly ... amazing!) and had a nice ride to Harper's Ferry WV. Karen got confused about which state we were in, understandably since we passed from Maryland to Virginia to West Virginia in less than 15 minutes! (Weird borders!) We had quickly passed thru Harpers Ferry back in 2001 after attending a tandem (bicycle) rally in Frederick MD and swore we would return. This time through, we had breakfast at a nice family diner, then spent nearly half the day exploring the historic town that was essentially, the start of the Civil War. It's a very old and beautiful village at the confluence of the Potomac and Shenandoah Rivers and is roughly the half-way point for hikers on the Appalachian Trail. If we didn't have plans to BE somewhere later, I suspect we would have spent a great deal of time there.
On to the Skyline Drive! We arrived later at Front Royal VA. and entered the park. I LOVED the fact that the speed limit was only 35MPH which allowed ME to enjoy some scenery while driving. We stopped at one of the visitor's center and chatted with some bicyclists but we also met and chatted with Jack and Cheryl ... riders on a BMW RT1150 who were also headed south toward Deal's Gap.
Imagine the surprise when we pulled into the Loft Mountain campground later that afternoon to find Jack standing by the roadside as we pulled in and offering to share his campsite with us! We pulled in and had a great time chatting that evening.
Got a bit warmer today but it was cooler up on the Skyline. Nice sleeping weather for camping.
Day Three - Sunday - June 24th - 207 miles
Loft Mountain campground is toward the southern end of the Skyline Drive, so we were off the drive and into Waynesboro VA by 9:30am for breakfast. As we were parking the bike at a food stop (that I shall not name), we were approached by a gentleman with a scooter and loads of stories about his motorcycling history and praise for our safety-oriented neon yellow riding gear. After showing us his kevlar riding gear (which he started using after dumping his bike FOUR times), we got away, had a quick breakfast and charged back up the pass to hop on the Blue Ridge Parkway.
This was "a Moment" for me. We had arrived at this spot, Rockfish Gap, back in 2004 on our Trans-America bicycle tour, when we exited the Parkway enroute down the hill to Afton VA where June Curry, "The Cookie Lady" lived. (It's a bicycle thing ... you wouldn't understand.)
Post note: On July 16th, June Curry passed away at the age of 91. Thousands of bicycle tourists from around the world, Karen and I included, mourn her passing. Tailwinds June!
So on we go, south on the Blue Ridge. Fabulous! The twists aren't as tight as one the Skyline so the speed limit kicks up to 40MPH ... or 45MPH ... who can remember, and who really cares? We did a short detour off-route for "old-times sake" I guess. We veered OFF the Parkway down the hill to Vesuvius, the home of "Gerties" country store where we stopped on our Trans-Am to eat before climbing UP the 4 mile hill to the parkway. Going down, and back UP the steep and twisty Vesuvius hill on the motorcycle gave me a new appreciation for what we accomplished on our Trans-Am bike tour.
After lunch at the "Peaks of Otter", we pulled off the Parkway and headed down through Roanoke to catch the Catawba Road to Blacksburg VA. We've done this road before on our Trans-Am, and love it! We arrived at our buddy's house around 4:30pm, Linda grilled chicken for dinner, and we had a fun evening with Linda and friends Kathy, Ann and Ian. Good seeing them again!
Getting hotter now!
Day Four - Monday - June 25th - 223 miles
Super foggy start from Linda's this morning, but it cleared up well before Christiansburg where we stopped and I got a Red-Eye at the coffee shop and Karen did email! From there, we had cool twisty roads to get back up onto the Blue Ridge, and it was clear crusin' from there on to Little Switzerland, a tiny resort town just off the parkway. HEY! It's June 25th ... our anniversary! Let's stay at a nice place tonight!
Nice Place Indeed! The Switzerland Inn also runs the "Diamondback" Motorcycle Lodge with decent rooms for a low price, covered parking for motorcycles, and even rags for cleaning your bike. (Important if you have a lot of chrome, I guess. Not us!) Yup ... we're in! And we enjoyed sitting on the rocking chairs on the front porch while chatting with other bikers who were very generous with tips about the areas we are headed for. Great laughs too!
Day Five - Tuesday - June 26th - 176 miles
Why was the lodge named "Diamondback"? Because "The Diamondback" is the famous motorcycle route right outside the door of the lodge! NC Route 226A is a loop that drops off the mountain to the valley below and climbs back up via the damn tightest, twistiest piece of pavement you've ever seen! So, of course, we try it!
Wow! OK, the downed tree on the OTHER inside lane while heading downhill (us outside) was a surprise but didn't affect MY ride. I played it cool and puttered the whole thing at predictable speeds and all was well. But those steep switchbacks at ANY speed faster than getting off and walking are ... uh ... intimidating!
Back on the Blue Ridge!
Next stop was Mt. Mitchell. At 6,684' elevation, it's the highest point east of the Mississippi River. We've been here before, back in '95 when we attended a bicycle rally in Asheville and rode our tandem to the summit and back. And before that, I was on a mountain bike vacation in '86 and climbed it from a campground down below in the Pisgah National Forest. This time on the motorbike wasn't effortless, but certainly much less challenging. We stopped for a leisurely breakfast at the park's restaurant before going up to the summit where we met a young couple who bicycled up while on a loop tour through the mountains. We exchanged bicycling stories for a bit before wishing them well, while perhaps secretly wishing we were riding with them. Maybe another bicycling "Assault" on the mountain someday.
Ended the day pulling into Cherokee NC and finding the biggest, most developed KOA campground I've ever seen. Decent price, all the facilities, and surprisingly quiet for it's size, even though the night lights from the nearby restrooms and showers kept Karen awake.
Day Six - Wednesday - June 27th - 117 miles
OK ... this is it! We headed west out of Cherokee and around the southern border of the Smokies, finally coming to a road marked NC28 with a sign on it warning of miles of twisty roads and prohibiting large trucks. I think we've arrived at our destination. This was puzzling though ... for quite a while, the road was a four-lane highway before reverting to a two lane road just before the hamlet of Stecoah. Just as we pulled into Stecoah, Karen saw the sign for the IronHorse Motorcycle Lodge. Hey, we heard of that! People have said it's nice, so we checked it out and yes ... it's perfect! We checked in for two nights, set up camp, and guess who pulls in as we're setting up but Jack and Cheryl! Chatted a bit about "small world" ... again ... and planned to meet up later at night.
We then lightened our load, and headed back out, westbound on NC28. Almost immediately after leaving Stecoah, the road changed from a simple cruise to a snarling whiplash through the hills south of Fontana Reservoir. What a shock! We first found a road leading to the Fontana Dam visitor's center and discovered that at 480' tall, it's the tallest dam in the East! We were particularly impressed with the construction of the spillways, which I thought would make the world's wildest water slides.
We continued on west to find a road leading to the bottom of the dam where the power station is located and had a look, but quickly turned west because I was getting excited. We were close to "The Gap". After a bit more twisting road along the river, we finally arrived at Deal's Gap, and what a sight! There were, honestly, hundreds of motorcycles parked at the two businesses located at the intersection of NC28 and US129. Hundreds!
OK ... I'm thinking I may be in over my head.
We pulled in, parked, and wandered around a bit just kinda soaking in the sights, and sounds, of the place. There's a business on one side of the road ... "Tail of the Dragon" ... with it's own website and an interesting 10 foot high model of a dragon tail out front that appears to have ensnarled a motorcycle. This place claims to be "the original" and advertises an affiliation with "Killboy.com", a professional photographer (also, the "original") who plants himself in strategic locations on the route ahead. This place sells t-shirts and stickers and other memorabilia and there's a very good bar-b-que trailer in the lot that we very happily patronized.
On the other side of the road is the "Deal's Gap Motorcycle Resort", with a motel, restaurant, gas station, a shop selling t-shirts and memorabilia, and highlighting it's affiliation with another pro photo business on the route called "US129Photos.com". On this side of the road, the primary photo-op is the "Tree of Shame", a tree in the courtyard with thousands of (disembodied) motorcycle parts hanging from it's branches. Supposedly, if you make a mistake on the Dragon, you get to leave parts behind on the tree. Badge of Honor, or just plain stupid? I'm not sure. It's not quite like the shoe-tree in Middlegate Nevada. I mean, that's supposed to be unique too, but it doesn't seem outright morbid like this one.
So, we're sitting here after having a short lunch, watching the coming and going of motorcycles, sportscars, and a few trucks that don't seem to belong here. And, I'm watching a trashed bike getting loaded onto a flatbed for hauling away, and wondering what just happened, where's the owner, and is he OK?
OK ... Now I'm REALLY feeling in over my head.
Maybe we should come back tomorrow. Early morning before people get up and crowd the place. Maybe I can just putter through the Dragon real slow and easy then. Maybe we can just watch for a lull in the traffic and sneak out inbetween the waves. Nope ... no way of knowing when anyone is coming the opposite way.
Finally, it seems that Karen actually convinces me that there will be NO BEST TIME to do the Tail of the Dragon.
It's time to go. We climb on, fired up the cameras, and head out.
And it was beautiful!
We followed a pickup truck for a short piece but he pulled over at a pull-off to let us pass. We had a few cars and bikes behind us, so we did the same, and from there on in, we had the road to ourselves. I was able to ride my own ride, shocked myself a few times at how sticky my tires are when leaned over way more than I've ever been before, and actually rode it just a bit faster than I did the DiamondBack. It was Spectacular. And when we got to the turnaround (complete with hundreds of burnouts all over it), we too turned around and went BACK to the Gap and the resort!
Happy to say, I did NOT have any parts to hang on the tree!
Back to the IronHorse, had dinner, a beer and chat around the campfire with Jack, Cheryl, and several others, and a wonderful night's sleep!
Day Seven - Thursday - June 28th - 257 miles
It was a cool and comfortable night sleeping, but it looks like that was the end of it. By this time, we're hearing of reports on not only huge fires out west, but a blistering heat wave taking over in the east. We're still in the mountains at the moment and it's not bad this morning, but that's about to change. Taking the advice of Tom at Country Rode Motowerks, we head out to see the Cherohala Skyway betwen Robbinsville NC and Tellico Plains TN. Glad we did! It's a beautiful route with the high point around 5400' elevation, and for around 40 miles or so, it just winds through the woods and peaks with nothing out there but "vistas" for Karen and "twistas" for me!
I should mention that by this time it's clear to us that even though we are riding the same bike, Karen and I are having two very different vacations. Her's is all about wonderful scenery! Mine is all about developing my motorcycling skill set!
We got a hot tip that at the Tennessee end of the Skyway, we could pull off onto a road by a creek and find a waterfall. By the time we got down to the lower altitudes, that sounded really great, so we went exploring and did find the waterfall, just perfect for dipping feet (very cold!) and soaking my t-shirt!
On to Tellico Plains and a lunch at a small diner before heading out to our next conquest ... the Ocowee Loop. This loop heads south almost to the Tennessee / Georgia border and among it's notable highlights beyond the endless quiet twisty roads is the Ocowee Whitewater Center ... site of the whitewater sports component of the Atlanta Olympic Games. It was getting hot enough at this point that I seriously considered taking up a new, and more refreshing sport, but we were many miles away from camp and didn't have time to goof around there. We continued on and safely completed the loop back to Tellico Plains and had to take a break. It's now over 100 degrees with not a cloud in the sky and we are in full armor! The word "roasting" has taken on a whole new meaning and we are thrilled with the idea of returning to camp via the hi-altitude Cherohala Skyway! Getting to the top of the Skyway, we enjoyed temps a good 30 degrees lower than in Tellico Plains (elevation 850') but that only lasted a while as we headed down toward Robbinsville and took a turn back toward Deals Gap.
Hey, I earned my T-Shirt ... That's why!
After a short shopping spee for T-shirts and stickers at Deal's Gap, we headed back to the IronHorse on NC28 (aka the "Moonshiner") and had another great evening meal and a walk around the property after SHOWERS. Mine was a long COLD shower. Intentionally.
Day Eight - Friday - June 29th - 215 miles
It's getting a bit uncomfortable now. The heat wave moving across the east has hit the south full force and we decide it's time to get the hell outta here! Problem is, we just aren't quite done with the area and we think if we can stay at higher altitudes, maybe we can avoid some of the heat. Great idea! Let's ride up into the Smokies!
So we reluctantly leave the IronHorse and head to Deal's Gap for One Last Run before heading north. This time, we do the 11 miles and 318 turns of the Tail of the Dragon with the full load of camping gear! And ya know what? I feel pretty good about it! No problems, and even deeper leans in the turns than before and the bike handled it no sweat. We stopped at the "Burn-out" lot to witness a trooper ticketing a biker, probably for speeding on the Dragon. After the biker left, I approached the cop and gave him my thanks for being there, explaining that I likely would NOT have come to Deal's Gap if I knew the Dragon was unpatrolled. He thanked ME, saying he never hears anyone thanking him for being there. Except for the guys who WANT to take home a speeding ticket as a souvenier from Deal's Gap!
Imagine ... a job where you DON'T get thanked for saving lives.
We headed north along the Foothills Parkway and entered the Great Smokey Mountains National Park near Townsend Tennessee. Again, at the suggestion of others, we rode up into Cades Cove. Beautiful place, but crazy busy with the July 4th holiday weekend. We only got half-way around the loop before deciding to shortcut it, take the dirt road across the middle of the valley and head out via Rich Mountain Road ... a primitive, seasonal dirt road that goes up OVER the north mountain ridge and back out to Townsend. THIS WAS COOL! It's a narrow winding double-track with gravel, rocks, erosion, serious steep switchbacks, and even a couple oncoming vehicles! With riding two-up and a full load, it was first and second gear the whole way up and the bike's temp was getting waaaaay too hot for my tastes. We paused at the top and had this novel idea: Let's give the bike a break in the heat and COAST down the other side! And that's what we did ... for miles ... engine OFF! By the time we got to the bottom, the engine was cool and so were we!
Back through Townsend and into the Park, but this time, we head along the Little River Road, to the main road across the park, and up to Clingman's Dome ... the SECOND highest peak east of the Mississippi but the highest in the Smokies. From there, we head back to Cherokee NC and the same KOA campground (with SHOWERS) we stayed at before. (If it ain't broke, don't fix it!)
Figuring out our plans for the following day, we chatted with a guy (motorcyclist) in camp who told us that there would be no problem if we wanted to leave the next day by going the wrong way on a one way dirt road over Balsam Mountain and back to the Blue Ridge Parkway.
Day Nine - Saturday - June 30th - 130 miles
And that's what we did. Because it would have been a lot of doubling back of the route otherwise, we decided to trust "local knowledge" and go up the wrong way over Balsam Mountain Road. What we discovered was that local knowledge has it's challenges. The road from Cherokee up over Balsam Mountain is really narrow, very steep in places, the switchbacks are totally unnerving and jeeps DO come the "right" way on the road. We had four vehicles to pass by and it was tight. Particularly since unimproved roads don't waste money on guardrails where you really wish you had something, ANYTHING, to save you from tactical errors. Not here ... forget it ... you BETTER get it right the first time, EVERY time. We were fortunate. No unmanagable hazards.
After what seemed like an endless challenge designed specifically to test my limits of mental and physical endurance, we popped out at the Balsam Mountain campground and the 2-way access road to the Blue Ridge Parkway. Bone chilling paved switchbacks and dark tunnels seem strangely boring now.
Starving for food, and wondering what the buzz was all about, we dropped of the Parkway into Maggie Valley. Dropped off, literally! Cute touristy town tucked way down in a deep valley off the Parkway. The road down would be a fantastic tandem bike ride, but the return would, of course, take quite a while. We had lunch at a "bike-friendly" diner and went to visit a vintage car and bike museum everybody raves about. Strange ... as we pulled in, the lot was full of motorcycles and they were piping music by Yanni out into the parking lot. Quite a contrast, I thought. We went in and after finding out there was a pricey entrance fee to the museum, we decided we weren't THAT interested in antiques.
From here, we climbed back up up and headed north on the Parkway (ALTITUDE!) before getting to Asheville around midday. We stopped for gas, but then stopped for the day at the Moonshiner Motel because they had a POOL! Which we USED! We walked over to Red Lobster for dinner and went BACK to the pool after. Short day, but it was 100 degrees in Asheville!
Day Ten - Sunday - July 1st - 113 miles
We were playing real tourists today. We left Asheville and headed to Chimney Rock State Park. It wasn't far from Asheville, but the road to get there was just as twisty fun as any other we've done on the trip so far. We arrived early enough to be only the 3rd vehicle to enter the park upon opening, but in no time, the place had plenty of visitors. It's a very popular park with a cute village at it's entrance. We got up to the trail leading to the rock and hiked the final bits. Great views of the valley and lake below from the top of the rock, and even better views from a point higher up on the trail. Had a nice chat with a guy playing some kind of traditional harp-like instrument, but had a tough time getting away from him and his stories. We later tried to find something to eat in town but it was Sunday and nothing was open (or serving lunch) till 11am. OK, we're outta here ... and just before getting back to the Parkway, we spot a Subway! Aaaah! Food!
Back up the Parkway, we swung by Mt. Mitchell and considered camping there (no luck ... it was full) and soon got to Little Switzerland again. We had to stop there because I wanted my sticker for doing the DiamondBack, which we failed to pick up when we passed through on the way down. With the holiday, we expected the Switzerland Inn to be full, but just upon checking ... it wasn't! This time, we stayed in a regular room for a super-good price, toured the little shops, bought a t-shirt, and quickly headed for the pool! Dinner followed, and we got to bed, but only to be awakened several times during the night by "The Storm" that went through and knocked out power several times.
Day Eleven - Monday - July 2nd - 157 miles
Last night's storm was pretty severe. There were trees down and debris all over the Parkway. We didn't realize the extent of the damage till later but soon realized we were happy we did NOT find any available campsites at Mount Mitchell. Today's ride was to Grandfather Mountain near Linville NC. We pulled off the Parkway onto some back roads due to a navigational mistake, but had a GREAT time as the roads were again wild and twisty! We finally found our way to the Park and had a blast getting up the road and over the swinging bridge to the rock outcroppings with spectacular views.
Leaving there, we were headed to Damascus VA for no particular reason other than it's simply a really cool town. We've been there TWICE before. Once while passing through on the Trans-America Bicycle Trail in 2004, and again shortly after when we rode to the top of the mountain nearby to ride back down to Damascus on the Creeper Trail. So, to get there, we had to find our way through back-country roads, including construction detours that sent us REALLY backroad (aka - super twisty), but eventually found our way to Mountain City Tennessee. We pit-stopped at a McDonalds, and were approached by a guy who saw our bike, our New York plate, and introduced himself as a former New Yorker who moved here after riding his bike in the area.
(Haven't we seen this scenario before ... like in Alaska?)
He asked where we were headed and said, ya know ... the road right here going to Bristol is "The Snake"! Really ... we totally stumbled upon one of the wildest rides in the southeast without even planning on it. So, we followed the good man's directions and had a GREAT ride to Shady Valley (got the T-shirt AND the sticker!) and on to Bristol. Awesome!
From there, we hot-footed to Damascus, went looking for food, and shared dinner with a young couple hiking the Appalachian Trail who met us as we were parking outside a restaurant. They tried to convince us that the manager of "The Place" (a hostel for AT hikers and Trans-Am bikers) would probably let us stay the night, but we decided to move on and find camping. We did, at the Bear Tree National Forest campground just a few miles up the road (also the Trans-Am trail) from Damascus. Ahhh ... hot showers ... if you're patient! I slept like a baby!
Day Twelve - Tuesday - July 3rd - 228 miles
We got an early start (I LOVE that about camping) and really loved the ride up Laurel Valley Road past Mt. Rogers and on to Troutdale, but it broke my heart to see that the store in Troutdale was closed (Trans-Am memories) even though it's to be expected that little places like that come and go all the time. It just seemed like "The Place" in town where the locals went for stuff. On to Sugar Grove and finally breakfast at a diner in Marion VA. Nice breakfast, and we'll be back! Real Soon. Like within a couple hours! Because after leaving there, and crossing the first mountain range on the way to Burke's Garden, and ALMOST getting there (some 35 miles away!), we realized that we left the camelback with the camera in it back at the restaurant!!!! Back we go, and our luck was good ... the waitress found it and held it for us. Try this again ... on to Burke's Garden!
We made it to the dirt road back entrance to Burke's Garden Virginia. We ... eventually ... managed to climb up the (steep and twisty) back road over the mountain and down into the valley (highest such valley in Virginia at 3000') after taking a break at the summit where the AT (Appalachian Trail) crosses the road. We found that the only store IN the valley had closed up as well, so we couldn't get a coke, or anything, till we got outside the valley ... after yet another cool twisty road.
We ended the day with a series of back-country roads leading to Blacksburg VA where we returned to stay overnight again with our buddy Linda.
And Linda, you are the greatest! We can't thank you enough ... not just for sharing your home with us ... and so many times ... but for just being such a great friend!
Day Thirteen - Wednesday - July 4th - 122 miles
Today was a short day. We headed out the "MOM" route (Mountains of Misery - a 100 mile bike ride - you might not understand this either) to New Castle and over to Paint Bank where we HAD to stop. Just had to. Todd (aka "The Sherpa") will understand. From there, we buzzed past Sweet Springs (again ... where we saw a tree down in the park), to White Sulpher Springs, and up RT92 eventually up to Marlinton. THIS TIME, we got lucky and scored a room at the Old Clark Inn, a "two-wheel friendly" hostel. Got my Red-Eye at the "DirtBean", had a pulled pork at the American Legion food trailer, wandered around at the flea market, scored dinner at the Snak Shack, and had a great time chatting with other (motorcyclist) guests and drinking beer and wine on the front porch of the hostel till the wee hours.
Day Fourteen - Thursday - July 5th - 42 miles
First, a short but super-twisty ride on the "Back Mountain Road" between Marlinton and Cass. We didn't know about this stretch of road last summer because we were bicycling on the Greenbriar River Trail southbound from Cass to Marlinton. We got to Cass plenty early enough to have a bite and get tickets before catching the noon train to the top of Bald Mountain. Karen has wanted to ride the Cass Scenic Railroad, so we took the opportunity since we had plenty of time. Great time going up and it was neat seeing the top again. We rode the Fisher tandem up there in '95 by taking the mountain bike trails from Snowshoe Mountain ski resort, on the other side of the mountain from Cass. You could see over the top of ridge to the east of Cass and spot the telescopes at the Green Bank Radio Observatory.
Back down the mountain, we stopped for ice cream at the Cass Company Store, and hit the road for Durbin ... going northbound (backwards?) and repeating last year's run of the north part of Back Mountain Road we cruised with our buddy Todd. As predicted, it was a terrific ride, but like the south section, so twisty and narrow that I think it's really much more fun on NON-motorized cycles.
Arriving in Durbin, we got a campsite next to the creek, and right across the tracks from the grocery store we stocked up at last year. Showers, dinner, and the diner's wireless, which was knocked out due to "The Storm", was just restored as we sat there! Very handy! We checked the weather and sure enough, it was going to stay super hot for a bit longer. I calculated the distance to get home in order to figure out if it would be one day, or two, to get home from there.
One long hard day, or two easier ones. Tough decisions. And Karen was starting to develop real trouble with a sore throat by now.
Day Fifteen - Friday - July 6th - 450 miles
We had not decided anything yet but had "options" in mind for today. One of which included getting as far as Galeton Pennsylvania and calling ahead to the Susquehannock Lodge to see if they had any rooms available on short notice.
Weaving through the mountains in West Virginia, we had to go a distance before we found a place to eat, and even a longer distance to find a place to fill up the tank. Stopped by Seneca Rocks on the way north. I know a HUGE part of the spires had crashed to the ground since the last time I was there (and hiked to the top) but it's been long enough that I couldn't tell the difference looking up.
We finally hit Pennsylvania, and you could say I was starting to smell the barn, but it was hours and hours away yet. After a bit of unexpected freeway around Altoona, we pulled off and found the "direct" route northward to avoid weaving east to Williamsport. Direct doesn't mean straight, however. We latched onto PA144 in Moshannon and took a wild beautiful ride through the forested mountains and stopped for a break (getting REALLY HOT NOW) in the town park in Renovo. This is one of those old, out of the way towns with houses parked close like sardines in can, down in a narrow valley and with seemingly few people around, and no sign whatsover of what people DO there. There's a railroad track going right along the length of the town, but that's about it for any sign of commerce other than the grocery store and a bar. I suspect we don't SEE anything because this is Pennsylvania coal country. I think any activity is below us and that's why a train track goes through ... to take, and leave.
PA144 get's even better north of Renovo as it enters the very familiar Susquehannock State Forest and Potter County. It was slow going most of the way to Carter Camp on the Ole Bull Road, and on to Germania and Galeton. There we stopped to decide. Call the Lodge? Or buzz on home? Karen tells me now that she's getting sick, and even though she's so tired she even started to nod off (in THAT country?), she just wanted to tough it out and get home.
OK ... we got onto route 449 and the rest of the roads we've driven a gazillion times between the Lodge and home, and we hammered home by 7:30pm in 2 hours. Although not a record for me, but 450 miles in 12 hours is certainly a hard tough day for Karen. She was glad to be off the bike, glad to see the kitties, and glad to be home.
The Memorable Roads:
Catoctin Mountain Park, MD.
The Skyline Drive
The Blue Ridge Parkway
Vesuvius Hill VA.
NC226A - "The Diamondback"
US129 - "The Tail of the Dragon" at Deal's Gap
"The Cherohala Skyway"
"The Moonshiner 28"
"The Ocowee Loop"
The Foothills Parkway - The Smokies
Hyatt Lane (dirt) - across Cades Cove in the Smokies
Rich Mountain Road (dirt) - Cades Cove to Townsend in the Smokies
Balsam Mountain Road (dirt, and the WRONG way, on a ONE way) in the Smokies
US74 and the park road to Chimney Rock
US421 - "The Snake" from Mountain City to Shady Valley and Bristol TN.
Jeb Stuart / Laurel Valley Roads - Damascus to Troutdale VA.
SR623 (dirt) into Burkes Garden VA.
Back Mountain Road - Marlinton to Cass to Durbin WV.
PA144 - Moshannon to Renovo to Galeton PA.
Fifteen Days - 2957 miles No flats, no mechanicals, no crashes. A Million Smiles.