Wednesday, October 29, 2014

The Smoky Mountains: Franklin, North Carolina to Chattanooga Tennessee

The day after riding the Tail of the Dragon it was time to head back to Chattanooga.  We had gotten a late start on this trip due to the weather, but it was worth the wait.   We watched the suns rise  as we got ready to leave Franklin North Carolina.  In the Mountains it seems like it would be a wonderful place to live and ride a motorcycle on a daily basis.  We finished breakfast as the sun broke over the mountain tops, we were then off again for another adventure.

US Highway 64 snakes over the mountains towards the west, leading us back to the great state of Tennessee.  As we ascend the divide we see a wall of Fog from a distance.  It looks like we are about to ride off the mountain as the fog approaches.  When we enter the fog it feels like a portal to another time.  We must slow down in the mist that is all enveloping.   We ride through the fog with confidence that this is going to be a good day.  As we summit we drop out of the fog in the decent for lunch in Murphy North Carolina.  Highway 64 is a motorcycle road one of the best.

After some burritos and tacos at a local mexican restaurant we leave Murphy for the ride along the Ocoee River and back into Tennessee. This is the most enjoyable ride of the trip.  With long  sweeping turns with the mountains and river in the foreground it was a awesome ride.  Much better than the tight congested turns of Highway 129 the Tail of the Dragon.

As the Ocoee River turns into the Ocoee lake the views and the turns get more spectacular.  We cross into Tennessee after Ocoee Lake it is a short ride to Cleveland Tennessee.   We jump on I 75 for the short blast to Chattanooga in time for a early dinner.  The ride being a success we dream of more time in this part of the Smokies.

There are a lot of undiscovered motorcycle roads in this area of the country.  The next day on the ride back to Clarksville we dream of riding 4 states in 1 day; Tennessee, Georgia, North and South Carolina.  It will be in 2015.   We will be back.

Monday, October 27, 2014

The Smoky Mountains: Riding the Tail of the Dragon

Leaving Chattanooga on a cool, clear, and crisp late fall morning is exhilarating.  It is a hour ride to the base of the Smoky Mountains.  We ride thru Cleveland Tennessee on US Highway 64 and stop for lunch in the small town of Ocoee, Tennessee.  Its a great lunch of Fried Catfish and Green Shrimp at Bears Den Barbeque.    I really don't know what fried green shrimp are but they sure are good.

It is then off to the Dragon.  It is a short ride up Highway 411 to US Highway 129; the start of the Tail of the Dragon.   This road has 310 sharp curves over a 11 mile stretch that crosses the Smoky Mountains into North Carolina. We are riding the Dragon from the west to east which will put us in the heart of the Smokies.  We stop at the Harley apparel shop before the start of the Dragon and of course buy the T-shirt.

The ride is incredible with the fall colors in the trees.  We make short work of the 11 miles and stop to get our bearings in Robbinsville, NC to get a soda. We marvel at the fact that we have ridden the Dragon the most crooked road in the United States.  It is a beautiful thing.  For anyone that rides a motorcycle it is a badge of honor.  It is closing in on 5 PM we have a long way to go to get to our destination of Franklin North Carolina.

So we turn down North Carolina Moonshiner 28 off of US Highway 74 as it starts to get dark.   We are taking this winding road slowly because it is prime deer season time on a motorcycle.  So in the next 10 miles before Franklin we have 3 Whitetails cross the road in front of us.  It pays to take our time and ride slow not exceeding 25 MPH during this danger time.

With a deep breath we pull into Franklin North Carolina to get gas at a quick stop.  A UPS driver who was following us came up to discuss the deer.  That's good ride'n he says, you could have reached out and had some venison too!!!  

It is our lucky night we get the last hotel room at the Franklin Comfort Inn.

Friday, October 17, 2014

Nashville to Chattanooga: The Caney Fork and Sequatchie River Valley

The ride on Highway 70 and Highway 111 from Nashville to Chattanooga  is one for the most scenic roads in the Southeast. The ride thru Appalachia is always awe inspiring.  Appalachia the area from the eastern slop of the Smokey Mountains to the western slope of the Cumberland Plateau  is uniquely American.  A complete culture all it's own.  Once you've done it you know you have to do it again.  This place can keep a person alive both mentally and spiritually.

Riding out of Nashville headed east it is a long climb up to the top of the plateau.   The hardwood forest and view of the Buffalo Valley dominate the landscape.   The Cumberland Plateau is about 50 miles wide, it is a different world of hunting, fishing, moonshine, meth, and old time religion.   As you arrive to the top of the plateau you cross the Caney Fork River as it meanders west down the plateau to join the Cumberland River near Nashville.

We stop for lunch in Sparta Tennessee next to the Calf Killer River.   Yep that's right the Calf Killer River, I wonder how it got that name?  From Sparta Tennessee on Highway 111 you drop off the Plateau into the Sequatchie River Valley to the little burg of Dunlap.  Its time to stop for coffee and warm up for the final push over Signal Mountain.  It is 10 degrees warmer in the Valley and the warmer 61 degree air feels good.

It is hard to imagine this trip on horseback, back in the day would be a week or more. While making the decent into Chattanooga the sun arrives and it feels good. We arrive in North Chattanooga at the base of Signal Mountain on the Tennessee River our adopted second home.