Wednesday, July 30, 2008

(Day 2) East Tennessee

Saturday, July 05, 2008
Day 2
Franklin, NC to Sparta, TN

I’m alive. Apparently the bear didn’t come back to eat me during the night and after some instant oatmeal:

…it was time to pack up and move out.

A good night’s rest will do wonders. Last night I had no idea how I was going to solve the bag burning issue. This morning, it was obvious… leave the rear bag behind and only use one bag, problem solved. I accidentally packed an extra can of air filter cleaner and oil, so this made things easier. I could now actually use the bungee net I had bought as a last minute item. The dry pack that I was using to store clothes in should do just fine under the net and on top of the other bag:

Steve even shipped my extra bag and air filter oil back home for me. Let’s roll!

Steve had his XR650 ready to rock and would ride with me to Tellico Plains, TN (with the possibility of a few other inmates). I had a northwesterly route laid out, but the forecast showed rain in that area. Steve knew of a more southerly route that would keep us drier according to the radar. He was right. At 7:45am we headed out to the meeting spot and met up with ADV inmate, NC HILLBILLY.

Unfortunately, family matters had him heading eastward, so it was just me and Steve…westward we goes:

Unbeknownst to me, there’s another KTM dealership in North Carolina, awesome:

This is Smith Powersports in Hayesville, NC. They’re not listed under KTM’s website, so I’m not sure how we’re supposed to find them, but it’s great to see we have more Orange options.

One thing that would be common on this trip is the lack of “Welcome to [whatever state I was entering]” signs. We were getting into the gravel road groove and Steve asked me why we were stopping. I said, “We’re in Tennessee man!”, “Oh yeah”:

We didn’t go down this single track, but it’s now on my To Do: list along with Cowpens Nat. Battlefield. It seems like this trail runs down the border, I’m sure some of you on advrider are more familiar with this track.

Somewhere along the way, Steve got in front of me. Not wanting to get my air filter too dirty, I decided to pull back for clean air. But, Steve would wait for me and take off again when I caught up, thus keeping the dust in my air filter… it was time to race for the lead position!!! Passing ol’ Steve wasn’t easy, he’s pretty quick on the gravel and I wasn’t too fond of my Kenda 270 front tire on this particular road. I’m sure Steve had the WTF look on under his helmet when I was getting beside him, but I think he let me move ahead to avoid a wreck, we were getting at it pretty hard. We made it to Tellico Plains, TN and said our goodbyes (LOL):

We talked a bit about both of our futures, ate some granola bars and split. Steve back to the comforts of home and me a few hundred more miles away from home. The first day was pretty normal because I had already made that trip before and wasn’t too far away from home. This morning I had a riding partner while venturing into the unknown. But now, it was just me into the great unknown. Definitely a different mood, the one I’ve been expecting to have, but now it was definitely real.

Interstate 75? Pshh, never heard of that one, didn’t matter though… I didn’t need it :) And, don’t let the clouds fool you, they were all bark and no bite:

A lot of pavement, but at least the sky is clearing up:

I liked this sign, but it would be much more effective without the answer:

And then, bam!, I’m on the TAT:

First TAT gravel:

This is the first place that I recognized from other TAT reports. It looked very similar to what I had envisioned:

Pssh, I’m sure it’s nothing the EXC can’t handle:

Well maybe it is:

I’ve seen this one before too, I was thoroughly warned, but never got around to marking the location on my GPS, oh well, my first re-route, not too bad.

Eventually, after many missed turns and a lot of pavement, I reach Rock Island State Park at around 4pm. There was a sign at the park office that read, “Welcome Campers. Our office is closed. We have NO VACANT sites for the 4th of July weekend.” DOH! Luckily there was someone there and she said that I might be able to find a spot. Luckily I did:

I nearly began tying my tarp to this tree:

But my newly found sense of caution prevented disaster (I’m very allergic to poison ivy).

Now that camp was set up, it was time of an oil change. Both engine and gear oil this time:

Having all night to complete the job, I only missed a few drops and caught the rest in these Gatorade bottles. I recycled them at an auto parts store the next day. No big deal finding resources out here on the east coast!

I did, however, forget to pick up dinner. But that’s why I brought all of this:

At this point, everything’s going great, getting the oil changed, finding campsites, “cooking” food and feeling well. I could get used to this. But then I take a big bite out of my Mexican Chicken, Rice and Beans and almost gag. Man, this stuff is gross! Doh, forgot to remove the oxygen absorber:

I had a strange sense that a tide had turned on me, but wasn’t able to completely pick up on the feeling. Normally I would let this type of thing ruin my whole day, but this is where I learn to adjust my attitude and deal with the changing tide. I had another bag of food on me, made sure I removed the oxygen absorber and ate that instead. It was pretty good.

This was also my first experience dealing with the crooked looks from others. Everyone there had some combination of RV, pop-up camper, coolers, chairs and too much food and drink (one particular site really had too much drink). The armor-wearing dirt bike guy eating out of a bag with a spork and sleeping in a bivy sack under a tarp didn’t quite fit in. The whole “it’s not nice to stare at people” theory didn’t apply to me. Some of the things I hear directly and indirectly:

--Soccer mom: “Oh my God, the mothers (4 or 5 campsites down was a family reunion, barely within viewing distance) can’t believe you’re eating out of a bag! We have gourmet pizza if you would like to join us.” (Uh, well, that would have been nice to know before I started cooking) “Thanks, but I’ve already eaten”.

--13 year old know-it-all: “You’re wearing a black shirt, that’s not too smart is it”

--7 year old girl: “I don’t think that’s a tent”

One guy directly across from my site watched my every move from the time I rolled into camp to the time I wiggled into my bivy sack. He had no shame and no guilt.

Anyway, nighttime arrives, the family reunion shuts down and 1 campsite starts drinking. I listen to all the drunkenness (if you can’t beat it, might as well enjoy it) to about 1 am when they finally pass out. It started to rain and I remembered my laptop charging on the electrical post. Doh, I’m still wading against that negative tide. Luckily, I had it in the big Ziploc bag somewhat. So, halfway asleep (and in my underwear) I fumbled my way out of the bivy and out into the rain. Put the laptop back into my backpack and back under the tarp. All of this happens within a matter of seconds. I will test the laptop’s operability tomorrow, I’m too sleepy-headed to really get mad at myself at this point. Crawling back into my sack all wet didn’t really bother me either; I was just trying not to wake up too much so I could get back to sleep quicker, which I was able to do.

Tomorrow’s plan is to knock out as much of Tennessee and it’s paved roads as possible and then find a campsite or motel around 3pm. I tried to contact Garmin and ask them about the routes being all goofy, but its Saturday, so I will have to wait 2 days before I can reach them. I will just have to stick to following the zig-zag pattern for the next few days.

Total mileage: 468
Daily mileage: 216
Wildlife observed: 2 deer
Favorite Sight: Open campsite with water and electricity
Favorite Scent: Either the cow manure reminding me of hometown Appomattox or the fresh cut wood in the logging area
Favorite Sound: 13 year old kid: “Oh software development, yeah, if you land one of those jobs, you sit around and do nothing all day and get paid for it”
Favorite Taste: Granola bar at lunch hit the spot
Favorite Feel: Hot shower
Ailments: Monkey butt, bruised calf from boot, some blisters on throttle hand, still a little itchy on my back…

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