Fred and Jan's Excellent Adventure 2008 travel blog

We've made it as far as the Smoky Mountains in Eastern TN now. Well, Rochelle and Chris, we finally rode the Tail of the Dragon, and can understand why you like to come here to ride it every year. We started the morning riding on the Foothills Parkway, which winds around right at the edge of one part of Smoky Mt. National Park. That was the ‘warm up’ part of our “riding workout” today. The road has lots of sweeping turns and enough S curves to be very enjoyable, plus the views at the many turnouts are so beautiful that we decided we’d have to come back and stop more often before leaving town. The ‘primary workout’ part of our ride was the Tail of the Dragon at Deal’s Gap, part of highway 129; this serpentine piece of asphalt also skirts along the edge of another part of the national park, but has an incredible 318 curves in only 11 miles. Curves with names like Crud Corner, Gravity Cavity, Guard Rail Cliff, and Brake or Bust Bend let riders know what a great road this is to ride! When we arrived at Deal’s Gap, we of course had to purchase the obligatory patches to say we had ridden the Tail, plus Fred bought a T shirt as well. We stopped in a small town to purchase subs to take on the “cool down” part of our ride – the Cherohala Skyway, a 40 mile national scenic highway crossing through the Cherokee and Nantahala National Forests, connecting Robbinsville, North Carolina to Tellico Plains in southeast TN. This road also has many S curves and switchback turns, but not in as short a distance as the Tail of the Dragon, of course. We spent over two hours on this beautiful Skyway, and given the gorgeous views at each turnout, we undoubtedly would still be there today if we had not shown some restraint in how often we stopped! Almost at the end of the Skyway, we turned onto a forest service road and followed its also serpentine path to a beautiful waterfall at the end of a craggy, rock filled river. Fred thoroughly enjoyed using his camera to capture the 100 foot drop on the Bald River Falls. Tony, you’d like the Tellico River that is also near the end of the Skyway, because when the water is up, it boasts class III, IV, and V rapids. Right now there isn’t enough water for rafting, but we did see many people trout fishing in the river. We visited with riders from Louisiana, Wisconsin, Florida, Delaware, and Kentucky at turnouts along the road, which is always fun since we can find out more about where to ride. The Kentucky group was very knowledgeable about the area; they come every couple of months to ride the great twists and turns, so they recommended yet another road to ride before heading home. Rt. 360 is a rural road winding through tidy hay fields and cattle pastures, with plenty more twists and turns to enjoy before it ends near the village of Vonore. There we stepped into the past for a look at the Cherokee history of this region and to learn about Sequoyah, the Cherokee who invented an entire alphabet and brought literacy to his people. This Native American has always been a favorite of mine, but now I have seen where he was born and know more about why he is so revered. We were tired after ten hours out on the road, but relaxed and stopped a few times to view the majestic Smoky Mountain views on the Foothills Parkway on our return to the RV Park. More riding the next day – this time to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. We found that, like the other roads we have traveled in this area, the roads follow the contour of the land, and so almost all have lots of curves and turns. We enjoyed a visit along the 11 mile loop of Cade’s Cove, and since we went on a weekday morning, there wasn’t as much traffic as there often is on weekends. We were not lucky enough to see the many black bears that inhabit the region; in fact, the only wildlife we saw was a single wild turkey walking around in a large open field. However, we did see lots of tiny blue butterflies, also some small yellow ones, two different varieties of rhododendrons peeking out from the hardwoods in the forested areas along the roadways, and many thousands of cicadas – so many are in the cove at this time of year that there is a constant whine created by their clicking. The old grist mill in the cove is not as old as the one in Sandwich, but is operated in a similar way with an overshot wheel, although it uses a sluice to get the water power rather than water from a pond; the curator there sells fresh cornmeal to tourists just as is done in my home town. There are several log homes and outbuildings that remain in the cove, now maintained by the Park service as reminders of those who inhabited the cove before it became a national park. After lunch at the RV, we rode into Knoxville to get Fred’s new sunglasses, collected a few more ABC photographs, visited the Smoky Mt. Harley shop in Maryville, and then talked with some of the riders who are in town for the Tennessee state HOG rally this week. We weren’t quite totally exhausted yet, so our last event for the day was to ride back out about half way through the Foothills Parkway where we hiked a half mile up to Look Rock Observatory and I climbed the tower to get a great view of the Smoky Mts. Another great day of riding and touring in Tennessee.

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