Ride Report Spring ’14 – Saturday (Lake Toxaway, NC to HOME!)

The last day is upon us! As I mentioned in the last post, our stay in the lovely 8-room Mount Toxaway Inn left us a little bit further from home than I had planned. We covered 360 miles on Saturday. It was a long, good day of riding, but we made it home just before sunset.

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We decided to head north to pick up the Blue Ridge Parkway. Neither of us had ever been on two wheels on the parkway, and that would set us up to go through Cherokee and the Great Smokey Mountains, and give us a decent route home.

Mount Toxaway Inn. Despite the feelings of murder, it turned out pretty nice!

Mount Toxaway Inn. Despite the feelings of murder, it turned out pretty nice!

So we load up the bikes in the morning and hit the road. John saved me a little bit of hot water. I couldn’t complain. It was more than we would have had on the side of the road with the bears!

The climb out was great. There was almost no traffic. These were ideal motorcycle roads far enough off the beaten path that we could really enjoy them. Tons of ascents and descents kept things interesting. Lots of road-side creeks and bluffs. I hope I can live near a place like this at some point in my life!

The morning was uneventful. We made good time to the Parkway.

By the way, in case you’re curious about the pictures… Most of them came from my GoPro Hero2. I tried something new this trip. I mounted it to my left auxiliary driving light. That gave it a pretty close shot at the road. For most of the run, I had it set to take a still photo every 10 seconds. The battery seems to last longer this way, and honestly it’s easier to sort through 4,000 stills than it is to watch 4 hours of video to see the good moments.

2014-04-12 10.17.29We stopped at the Cowee Mountains Overlook, elevation 5,950 feet. (Does that make the Strom a member of the mile-high club?)

A nice couple in a BMW convertible was there and told us which overlooks to make sure we stopped in. He said this was his favorite, but that everybody s topped at the highest point on the road, which was the next overlook on the left. So of course, we had to head up there and document the process, right? Pics or it didn’t happen!

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We stopped for a few minutes at the peak and then got back on the road. After all, there’s still a long way to Nashville!

This was one of my favorite parts of the trip. The combination of being well-rested and comfortable from three days of riding just made everything “click.” The Parkway has a low speed limit (45mph through here). That, combined with gentle curves and high quality road made it a really “zen” ride.

The road did throw one curve-ball at us. We were zipping along pretty good and came up on a sign that said “TUNNEL” — and before we knew it, we were in it. It wouldn’t have been a problem if it was one that you could see through to the other side, or if I wasn’t wearing sunglasses, or if I didn’t have my sun visor down…

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In hindsight, I should have stood on the brakes to get my sunglasses off! Once I got inside, I couldn’t see anything except the yellow line right in front of the bike. I remembered really, really hoping that there weren’t any bicycles or critters in there. That wouldn’t have ended well.

I can see the light at the end of the tunnel! It's not a train!!

I can see the light at the end of the tunnel! It’s not a train!!

When we got out of the tunnel, John asked me if I could see anything, because the only thing he could see was my taillight! Insert something about “the blind leading the blind” right here…

I don’t remember where exactly we were, but there was one great spot where as we were coming around the mountains, you could look over the gap to your left and see a waterfall off in the distance. I think, based on the shape of the road, that we had to have passed over it (or very close) at some point, but I never saw it again. Absolutely gorgeous!

We exited the Parkway onto US-19 through Cherokee. This was good road, but very busy. We got stuck behind slow trucks several times.

Cherokee is a neat town to drive through. It’s such a strange place since they added the casinos. Some places look really, really rich.  Other places look really, really poor.

Fattening Food Foto

Fattening Food Foto

We stopped for lunch at Paul’s Diner. We ate outside near a little creek that ran down under the road and to the river across the street. John and I each tried a variation of Indian Fry-Bread. It was basically a biscuit, deep-fried. John had a taco on it, I had a burger. It was pretty good, but I’m pretty sure my arteries are now 4% more blocked than they were the day before.

We continued from here to US-441 through the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. We were excited and dreading this section of the trip. We knew the park would be busy because it was really one of the first beautiful Saturdays of the year. It was busy, but not too bad.

2014-04-12 13.21.53TN-73 was our next turn, towards Cade’s Cove. We had been on the road a couple of miles when we saw the traffic jam up ahead of us. THERE WAS A BEAR! Trip = made.

He/she was a lot closer when we passed–down by the fallen tree that’s horizontal in the picture. By the time we got off the bikes and got the camera, it was already heading back up the hill. The park ranger said it was probably a 1-year old who had just recently been kicked out of the den.

The rest of the ride through the park was uneventful, eventually dumping us out in Maryville. From there we continued on to Lenoir City where we picked up US-70 and started the long direct trip back home.

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Considering I live just off US-70, a long way west of here, I was expecting this part of the ride to be a little bit dull, but it really came through. Ozone Falls was beautiful just beside the road. The farming country around Crossville and Sparta was nice.

We enjoyed not being on the interstate so much that we decided to stay on 70 all the way to Nashville. We bailed once we hit Briley Parkway, took the interstate across Nashville, stopped for a quick bite to eat, and then took 70 the rest of the way home.

I didn’t have my camera on for this stretch, after all, I’ve seen 70 between Nashville and White Bluff literally a thousand times. (That, and my memory card was full!) But it was a beautiful welcome home. Middle Tennessee was just a little bit further into spring than anywhere else we had been, so the Harpeth river on our left, the bluffs on our right, and the sunset straight ahead was hard to beat.

In total, we covered 842 miles, give or take. The bikes performed perfectly, and the riders were good enough. The weather was perfect. You couldn’t ask for a better ride. We made it home safely. It just has me wondering….where to next?

Thanks for reading!