2009 East 50 motorcycle trip
Day 7

September 10

I woke up a little early this morning. I moved to another part of the bed and just enjoyed being lazy. I'm sure one day I'd get tired of being in the cabin...but I'm sure it would take awhile.

When I finally got up and moving around I looked outside and it was very foggy. The mountain was buried in a cloud bank. Visibility was probably 30 feet. So cool!

Today we plan to do some riding. The main plan is to head south, ride US64 to Bridal Veil Falls, then loop around the east side of the Smoky Mountain Park back to Pigeon Forge.

We were a little slow and lazy this morning, and it was after 9:30 before we took off. Even after we were down off the mountain we were barely below the clouds.

Walden Creek, NC. 9:43, mileage 37,661 - This is the station I normally get gas at when I stay on Bluff Mountain. This morning I got a water and 2-pack of creme-filled Krispy Creme's for later.

For breakfast, and Mike's coffee, we stopped at Hardees on the south end of the strip in Pigeon Forge. Even though it was only Thursday there were a lot of hotrods and spectators beginning to line the strip and the parking lots were getting crowded. Traffic on the strip had been stop-and-go all the way from US321. It took us over six minutes to go a mile. Hardees was pretty busy, too, and a lot of the people in there were talking hotrods. I had a country steak with gravy biscuit. I had to try a different hedonistic sandwich today.

By the time we left Hardees at 10:25 the sky was clear and the temperature perfect. We headed south on US441 out of Pigeon Forge, around Gatlinburg via the bypass, and into the Smoky Mountain National Park. This will be the first time I've ridden a motorcycle south over the mountains on US441.

Motorcycle friendly signs on US441.

We hadn't gotten too far into the park and had just started our ascent up the mountains when we got behind a slow vehicle.

We followed him for several miles at agonizingly slow speeds. Our convoy included a couple Goldwing trikes directly behind Mike. Eventually the slowpoke pulled over at a pulloff. It was a gray car (dark SILVER?) with Florida plates.

Now unencumbered, traffic began to move at a brisker pace through the tunnels and scenic vistas that make this road so enjoyable.

As we crested the mountains low clouds were again upon us...along with a noticeable drop in temperature. A quick check...yes...Mike is still behind me.

It was smooth sailing down the mountain until we came upon some brush cutting. This bunched up the traffic.

When we cleared the brush cutting section we found ourselves behind a land yacht...a SILVER land yacht.

We followed him for awhile before coming upon some repaving. Traffic was stalled for several minutes so the northbound traffic could pass. The motorhome turned off shortly after we started moving again...to no one's disappointment. The rest of the descent into Cherokee was uneventful...pretty much coasting downhill in 5th gear. We passed the Blue Ridge Parkway and I thought about the journey we'd just made down it a few days before.

Cherokee was a little busy and congested. I thought it would be worse due to the upcoming motorcycle rally this weekend. The fairgrounds were being setup for the event. A lot of the businesses and motels had "Welcome Bikers" signs and there were bikes parked at many of the motels.

Once we were through Cherokee we turned south on US441. US441 was 4-lane for the 33 miles to Franklin, TN...which I wasn't expecting. It was an enjoyable ride. No worries about slowpokes, and there is one awesome view after another as the road snakes through the mountains.

When we turned onto US64 at Franklin this sign beckoned us. Yeah baby!

We pulled over a few miles east of Franklin to stretch and use the facilities. I ate one of my Krispy Kremes and drank my water. I took some pictures. While moving my camera around sadness struck. I dropped my camera. The lens had been sticking out and it was the part that hit the pavement. It apparently broke some part of the motor mechanism. The lens wouldn't retract or extend properly and it kept giving errors on the screen. My faithful camera had been mortally wounded.

We'd passed a Walmart back in Franklin. There were a lot of potential pictures to take before we got back to Pigeon Forge, so we headed to the Walmart to check out the cameras. After looking at their cameras I bought a Canon Powershot A460. It's pretty simple as digital cameras go. I liked that. Less knobs and buttons, but all the features I wanted and required (AA batteries, standard memory card, USB download port, optical viewfinder). An added positive is that it is narrower and easy to hold one-handed. We went to the parking lot and swapped things to the new camera.

With my new camera deployed we headed back down US64. US64 is a nice road. Lots of turns. Not switchbacky like the Dragon, but nice and tight. Plenty of dropoffs and nice views and pulloffs. In the picture above a dump truck is creeping around a curve.

All too soon we got behind another slowpoke. This time a white Saturn with Florida plates. Hmmmmmm...the second pokey Floridian today. This person was a timid driver. At every hill crest...brakelight. Every curve...brakelight. Every time they met someone...brakelight. The only thing they wouldn't brake for was a pulloff.

We rounded a curve and came upon Bridal Veil Falls and pulled in. Goodbye pokey Saturn. I took Mike's picture and he took mine. By the time we'd finished some more bikes were lined up to do the same.

Highland, NC. 14:30, mileage 37,765 - Leaving the falls we were pokey-free all the way to Highland. I got a nice picture of a dam just outside town. Highland seemed very neat/clean and had tons of little shops...not a sleepy little town like a map would lead you to believe. Seemed to be geared towards tourism.

US64 becomes less curvy and more of a 'running the mountains' type of road with great views.

By the time we'd reached Cashiers the cheapo batteries that came with the camera were already dying. It was also chilly and we'd gotten a few sprinkles so I pulled over for batteries and possible equipment changes.

With fresh batteries we continued eastward through Sapphire, Oakland, Quebec, Rosman, and Brevard. At Brevard we leave US64 and take US276 northward.

Turning onto US276 we were greeted by this sign. Yeah baby!

At first US276 seems mild. Just a road meandering through the country. Eventually it becomes more windy. We rode this road in 2005 when we left the Blue Ridge Parkway. Back then it seemed like the wildest road we'd ridden. Four years later it seems pretty tame compared to the memories I had.

As we got further up the mountain the road was enveloped by a wet fog. This added to the thrill of the windy curves. The fog continued after we passed under the parkway and down the other side.

When we got to the bottom of the mountain US276 reverted to a sweeping country road going from town to town. We followed the truck and motorcycles for over ten miles until the bikes pulled over in Bethel.

A few miles northwest of Bethel we saw the above view. Unfortunately the haze wasn't fog. A few minutes later the rain started falling so we pulled over at a closed shop and put on the rain gear. We'd get to use the rain gloves we bought at Mr. Motorcycle in Asheville. As is often the case it almost takes longer to put on the rain gear than the time you spend riding in the rain. By the time we reached Waynesville it was down to a sprinkle and mist.

The roads were pretty damp and we made our way through Waynesville and northward towards I-40.

The interstate was my least favorite part of the ride due to the ever present semis. Soon we were back in Tennessee.

We passed a nice looking rest area.

Click for a larger view.

30 miles of interstate later we turned at exit 443 onto the easternmost part of the Foothills Parkway. We found a pulloff to dispense of the rain gear as the weather was now nice. I was feeling a little deja vu looking at the view. Here is the reason why.

The Foothills Parkway deadends at US321 near Cosby. From here it's an easy cruise back to Gatlinburg on the mostly straight road.

We followed another land yacht for awhile. Traffic was pretty light in town and all the way back to Pigeon Forge.

Pigeon Forge was another story. We crept along until we reached Shoneys. I was afraid it would be busy, but fortunately it wasn't. We were ready for some good buffet. Our waitress had a Russian accent and her English verbage was cute. I pigged out then in a moment of masochistic debauchery ordered a piece of strawberry pie to go. When we left the restaurant I tried a new back road route. I think it would have been just as fast to take Teaster Lane given the traffic crossings required and all the stop signs. It would be better for going southward.

Back at the cabin the hottub repairman had come and gone. The hottub was now fully operational, so Mike took advantage of it. I did my normal computer stuff and ate my strawberry pie. Oooooooo...I was so full. I called my girlfriend and talked to her for a long time, which was nice. We've texted a lot throughout the trip but it was nice to hear her voice. She's ready for me to come back home. I wish she were here. Later I tried out the hottub. I love sitting in the hottub and watching the lights of the city twinkle in the distance.

Tomorrow isn't planned to be as much riding...just scoping out Gatlinburg and the hotrods.

Day 7 pictures

261 miles.

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