Pigeon Forge trip June 2009

After a great two week motorcycle trip to South Dakota I was still basking in its afterglow. Some of the bike guys at work were talking about a weekend excursion through Illinois and beyond to follow Route 66. The trip sounded kind of interesting, but it was supposed to be stinking hot and they were planning to camp. My girlfriend had been 'in a mood', and I just felt like getting away for awhile.

I started thinking about Pigeon Forge. Not too far away. Nice roads. Stay in a cabin. Hmmmmm. I checked on a couple cabins I was familiar with. Due to the short notice they were all already booked. I found cabins that were available, found one I liked, found a 50% discount coupon, and booked it. Things were a go. I invited the guys from work to go and Mike decided to go.

June 26

Bedford, IN. 6:59, initial mileage is 32232 - Mike lives in Linton so we met at Jim Day's station near Bedford at 7am.

The plan is to take mostly 2-lane highways to Pigeon Forge. A storm moved through several hours earlier and the weather is cool...nice and cool. There is some dampness on the roads in spots but nothing bad. According to the radar we'll be following behind a storm about halfway into Kentucky.

The first leg will be SR37 to US150 and take it all the way to Bardstown. This is the same route I took on a trip to Somerset back in 2006. The ride down was nice. Scenic country. Small towns. In a few places the roads were pretty damp which seemed odd since the heavy clouds seemed a hundred miles away. We took I-64 through Louisville and found our way back onto US150.

Bardstown, KY. 9:15, mileage 32350 - Traffic was pretty brisk all the way to Bardstown where we stopped for fuel and a small breakfast. I had a ham & egg biscuit. In 2006 our normal bike gang had vacationed here. I was waiting at a traffic light behind a truck and I noticed in the reflection my right headlight was out. That sucks.

We stood around for about 30 minutes eating our breakfast, enjoying the nice weather, and taking in that 'start of a vacation' feeling. Bikes and bellies full we headed south on US150. Almost immediately after leaving Bardstown we got in a line of traffic following some sort of farm machinery. It took forever for the guy to finally pull over. That's the downside to 2-lanes.

When we got to Springfield, KY, my GPS started asking me to turn around and go funny places. Seems they've upgraded US150 but the map company hasn't updated their maps. For several miles the GPS showed us 'off roading'. The small towns came and went...Pottsville, Perryville, Danville. At Stanford we left US150 and headed south on US27, which we will take until deep into Tennessee.

In 2006 a lot of US27 was under construction. I was happy to see the construction was finished and most of US27 was 4-lane. As I travel I am pleasantly surprised to see how much of the USxx highways have been upgraded to 4-lane. I generally associate them with 2-lane. 32 miles later we were in Somerset. It took forever to get through the million stoplights. I didn't remember this many from 2006. While sitting at a stoplight a tailgate reflection revealed another surprise...my other headlight had burned out. Switch to highbeams.

Whitley City, KY. 12:11, mileage 32469 - We went through a couple more towns before pulling over in Whitley City for gas and a stretch. I had a lemonade. This is about as far I had come in 2006 so soon I will be traveling new roads.

Several miles and a few towns later we were in Tennessee. The roads started getting curvy. Enjoyably curvy. The hills turned into mountains and the scenery was beautiful. Eventually the road straightened out and at Wartburg we turned on TN62 and rode into Oak Ridge.

From past experience I know Patriot Getaways won't divulge the cabin's security code until 3:30 pm at the earliest. The GPS showed an ETA of 3:04 so we had some time to kill.

We pulled into a Walmart in Oak Ridge. I bought some new lightbulbs and we bought snacks and drinks for the cabin. By now the temperature had risen into the 80's and it was feeling hot. We lingered in the shade for a few minutes until the GPS announced an ETA of 4:00 pm.

We took TN162 through Oak Ridge. TN162 turned into I-140 which dumped us out on US129 which led into Marysville. From Marysville we rode US321 to Pigeon Forge and our cabin. US321 is a nice mixture of straights, sweepers, and tight turns...as well as some beautiful scenery. There are plenty of roadside shops if you're into that sort of thing.

The cabin.

After driving around for a few minutes and checking directions we arrived at the cabin at 4:12 pm. I got the security code and we were in. Ahhhhh...air conditioning. We unloaded the bikes and checked out the cabin. It's near town but quiet. There are a bunch of similar cabins clustered together but it is still private. People are friendly. There is a community pool. Cabin location

It was now time to eat. Mike didn't care where, so I chose Shoney's. It's been good to me in the past. I was not disappointed. The buffet was excellent. The waitress was a tiny little thing with a charming southern accent. When we left the Pigeon Forge traffic was earning its reputation. It was packed. I made a vain attempt to find Teaster Road from memory but just got lost, so we crept through traffic. We made our way to the gas station at the Wears Valley turnoff for fuel and pop. Next we went to Advance Auto where I purchased a small LED flashlight in preparation for my light bulb changing session.

We headed back to the cabin. Mike explored the pool while I changed my headlight bulbs. It took awhile to remember how to access them. (Tip: turn the handlebars to the side and you can reach in and change them fairly easily.) 30 minutes later and I had low beams again. The SilverStars had died within hours of each other. I put regular bulbs back in. We retired to our bedrooms to watch TV and sleep. It had been a great day. I need to hit the lottery and do this every day. Tomorrow we ride...

June 27

Both Mike and I have ridden the Tail of the Dragon before, but not on our Goldwings. Today we will. We got up when we got up this morning...no schedule. At 8:44 we were off. Mike only had one request. He needed his morning coffee. We rode down the strip to Hardees. 24:06 later (per GPS) we were headed east on US321. We turned north at Townsend. Six miles later we turned west onto the Foothills Parkway. A sheriff's deputy pulled onto the parkway in front of us, and another passed us on the parkway, so we knew to watch our speed. At the southwest end of the parkway we turned east and headed toward Deals Gap. Chihowee Lake wraps through the valley next to the road and is beautiful.

25 minutes, 11 miles, and 318 curves later we were parked at Deal's Gap. We browsed the store and checked the other bikes in the lot. Mike posed with some monkey butt powder (inside joke).

Note: Since the last time I rode the Dragon the Tennessee DOT has added a bunch of paved pulloffs. Excellent work!

Satisfied we'd seen all we could see we headed south on US129. The road is still very curvy for a few more miles until you reach the Cheoah dam. If this dam looks familiar it's because some of the scenes for "The Fugitive" were shot here. After the dam the road is straighter, but still has plenty of sweepers.

14 or so miles later we turned west onto TN-143 which leads to the Cherohala Skyway. This road appears to have been repaved since I was here in 2007, and is in much nicer shape. The ride to and down the Skyway was peaceful. There were a group of sports cars out and one of them was pulled over by the sheriff's department. At a couple points we literally drove through the clouds. The temperature at the higher elevations was in the low 70's.

We stopped at the western side of the skyway for a break and a stretch. There were a lot of bikes out.

We reversed our route eastward and I took some moving photos. Here is Mike behind me.

Cherohala Skyway pictures

About two-thirds of the way through the skyway we got behind this car from Florida poking down the road going 15-20 miles below the speed limit. I realize the roads belong to everyone, but it's a common courtesy, especially in this area, to pull over if you're impeding traffic. We had to follow these people all the way back to Robbinsville. By chance, they pulled into the same gas station we did. I expected to see an 80 year-old lady behind the wheel but it was a group of 30-something females. Jeesh.

Once back in Robbinsville we gassed up and ate at a Subway attached to the gas station. After a nice sub and a cold drink (it was hot outside) we headed north on TN-143 to TN-28 to US74 to US19 through Bryson City and Cherokee. There we picked up US441 over the Smoky Mountains. In 2007 we had ridden this road in the pouring rain and it sucked. Today the weather is clear. We made good time up the mountains as traffic was moving along nicely. Near the top there were a few traffic jams as cars tried to park at pulloffs and impeded traffic, but going down things were good.

A few hundred yards before reaching the Gatlinburg Bypass a black bear ran across the road. Cool! We pulled off on a scenic overlook of Gatlinburg to stretch. After several minutes of taking in the view we headed towards Pigeon Forge.

I had visited a shop in 2007 that had leather bags and such. I wanted to go to that store and see if I could find a larger bag to carry on my rack. I could remember the store in my mind but couldn't remember the name. We stopped at a strip mall with a red roof, but none of the stores were the one I was thinking of. Next door was Lid'l Dolly's Factory Store. That was the one! Their selection of leather bags was smaller than in the past but I found one that would do. Apparently, what I was looking for is called a 'tote'...something more square and boxy.

It was still fairly early (5:00 pm) and traffic wasn't horrible so we decided to cruise the strip as Mike had never been to Pigeon Forge. I knew there was a large "As Seen on TV" store on the north side of Pigeon Forge and I wanted to see if I could find my girlfriend some HD Vision bifocal sunglasses I had seen on TV. The traffic headed north was light but the southbound traffic was jam packed. We found the store but the glasses I wanted weren't out yet.

Not wanting to fight the southbound traffic we headed west on US441 to White School Road, which leads into Goose Gap Road. Goose Gap Road leads all the way down to US321, and I've taken this road on previous trips to our cabins. Roads spur off this one that lead into various points in Pigeon Forge and is a great way to avoid the main drag. Goose Gap is also nice and curvy. We stopped at the gas station near US321 for fuel and to see if they had anything good to eat. They didn't...their deli section was closed for the day. A little strip mall had popped up across the road since I was here last year.

We rode back to the cabin, unloaded our purchases, and soaked up the air conditioning for about 45 minutes. It was almost 7:30 pm, so we decided to go get something to eat before it got too late. Something nice sounded good for our last supper in Pigeon Forge. Mike said he liked steak, so steak it would be. We rode south on the strip looking for steak houses.

The Alamo Steakhouse looked interesting so we went there. They had motorcycle parking right up front. There was a 15 minute wait but since there was only two of us we were seated immediately. I ordered prime rib. I had asked the waitress if I could have mushrooms on it, and she just shook her head 'no'. We laughed about it. Mike kept lusting over her. The food was excellent and we both waddled out. Good thing we have touring bikes that can handle the load. This time I knew how to get to Teaster Road and we avoided the stop and go traffic back to the cabin.

It had been a great day of riding.

June 28

Pigeon Forge, TN. 6:57, mileage 32887 - Sadly, our short, impromptu weekend was reaching its end. Today we head back to Indiana. Here the bikes are being packed and warmed up. We sadly rode away from our cabin. The route today will be back up Goose Gap Road to US441 to avoid traffic, then linking up with the interstate at Knoxville. We stopped in Newell Station at a McDonalds for breakfast and Mike's coffee.

Traffic through Knoxville was light on this Sunday morning and we hit most of the lights on green. Soon we were on I-75 headed north. I set the cruise on 73 mph and off we went. We got passed by a group of Ultra Classics being led by a Goldwing and we followed them for quite a ways before they drifted out of sight.

I took this picture north of Jellico, TN, as the clouds were drifting through the mountains. The Kentucky state line sign is visible.

Mount Vernon, KY. 9:38, mileage 33036 - We pulled off for gas at the intersection of our old friend, US150. The temperatures were getting warmer so we stopped just east of Louisville so Mike could ditch his jacket.

Galena, IN. 11:54, mileage 33179 - Our last fuel stop was in Galena, IN. When we get to Paoli Mike will continue down US150 and I'll head north on SR37.

Eureka, IN. 13:24, mileage 33240 - 1008 miles later I pulled the bike into my garage. The trip is over. Time to start dreaming of another one!

Pictures from the trip

See You On the Highway

Other trip reports

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