Thursday, May 22, 2008

Pre-TAT Trip #4

This trip was purely for fun. High on the dual-sporting drug and being extended an invitation from the HARDCORE group to ride again, landed me in Robbinsville, NC this past weekend. The HARDCORE boys got up there last Thursday and rode all day Friday while I was still working (no vacation days to spend since I'm saving every last one for the TAT trip). So, off I go Friday night to make the 4 hour trek to Western NC to meet up with HARDCORE at the Ironhorse Motorcyle lodge. I don't know these guys too well, but from what I gathered on our last trip, I was pretty sure they'd be in pretty "poor" shape at 10pm on a Friday night.

And right I was. A couple-three beers later we're joking around like we've always known each other, watch some great motorcycle videos in Bob's badass toy hauler and hit the sack. I got some practice setting up my bivy/air mattress/sleeping bag combo and I think I've got a pretty good rhythm now. Here's the scence as I saw it when I woke up:

Notice the yellow bivy behind the trunk, that's where I slept. The other "HARDCORE" boys slept in the dry and heated toy hauler. So, after we all get geared up it's determined that we'll go see "The Road to Nowhere". For some reason, this sounded like a good idea. But apparently I'm too optomistic. This road goes exactly where it says... nowhere. But, there was a cool tunnel at the end that extended about a quarter mile:

Be sure to check out the video here. Being so dark, there could have been a 100 foot deep hole in there and we would have dropped right in. Thankfully no hooligans have devised such a plan yet.

Now officially in "Nowhere" it was decided to ride to some dirt roads near Cades Cove. Not wanting to head back into the same direction we just came from, it was decided that we'd truck northward, deep into the Smokies, to reach our destination. Well, I made the mistake of trying to lead with my GPS and got the other HARDCORE boys feeling a little lost with my short-cuts. So, we get seperated for about and hour or two, but luckily we all come up with the same plan and that was to continue our route to Cade's Cove. Here is what I saw along the way:

Yes, that's a 360 degree right hand turn... I don't know why, but yes, that's our federal tax dollars at work.

I make my way into Cade's Cove where I planned to wait for the rest to show up. I find Bob and SalsaBoy in the park and we continue on our trip like we never got seperated. However, at this point, we are still missing Kevin and Kevin.

We end up going thru the scenic route. This is a one way road thru the Smokies that is designed somewhat like those big aqauriums that you walk through at the Zoo, except this is for cars and it's outdoors. It's pretty cool to be able to look all around for miles and see basically untouched and natural terrain. We pull off to the side and for a snack break and talk about how many cagers were out. It was like rush hour traffic going through this "scenic" route, pretty disappointing. It's determined that the Smoky Mountain National forest serves two type of citizens: 1. Car tourists 2. Day hikers. And that's about it for all of that federal land. Thanks Uncle Sam.

As we're munching on our snacks, Kevin and Kevin roll up and we're all reunited again, which was pretty amazing considering the time and distance since we were last together (and we all had to make our own detour around a closed road):

(I think SalsaBoy was giving me the "where the $#@! did you go!?" look here...)

Shortly afterward, and you'll have to trust me on this, but we did see an approximately 500lb black bear at about 500 yards away. This was a first for me... and hopefully the last out in the open wilderness. Traffic was stopped behind me, so I didn't take the time to take a picture, so I just enjoyed the moment while it lasted.

After several miles of putting around with the car zombies along this scenic trail we finally reach pay dirt:

This one-way gravel road was really fast and fun for me. Especially after 100 miles of pavement. It seems it was built to give people a sense of riding off-road. There were several creek crossings, but they were all re-enforced with concrete floors so any car that had a license plate could make it thru. Nothing adventurous, but fast and fun for the KTM. Here's a shot from the woods looking down on a creek crossing, it's kind of hard to see the concrete, but it's there and this is what the whole 8-9 miles looked like:

And, to top it off, this road dumps you off at "The Dragon". The mecca for car/motorcycle enthusiasts who like twisties:

With knobby tires and all, there was only one way out of here, and that was to slay the dragon. And fun it was. I should have realized that something was up when I drove about 5 miles of the dragon and never had one vehicle approach me from the opposite direction. I was having too much fun I supose. Well, apparently there was a few wrecks in further up the dragon and the local police had shut the whole section of road down until the mess was cleared up. The cop wouldn't let me turn around to go find my group, so I decided to keep on trucking up the road to find another route back to the campsite since it was getting dark. Apparently these guys:

...had told the rest of the group about the situation before we slayed the dragon. But, I got antsy and wasn't paying attention and left to slay the dragon without the information. My group got some good riding in, but all I found was rural Tennesse and decided to turn around after many miles of nothing and come back the way I came. I ended up back in camp right before sunset for a total of 250 miles on the day. Of which, about 230 were pavement. So, hard on the KTM and hard on my ass, but all in all a good day.

As for my TAT trip preperation, I think I'm going to give my Orangutan alot of rest from here on out. The road mileage isn't good for her and I need new tire anyway. So, all my baby is going to see until blast-off is new tires and mucho maintenance checks before we trek to the Pacific coast.

I do, however, plan to make another overnight trip off a motorcycle (my other baby, Scarlet, the SV650) and maybe a hiking trip before blast-off. Most of my motorcycle stuff is taken care of, so I'm practicing the whole camping, getting in shape thing now. More to come...

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