John and I got together for a quick 3-day road trip a couple of weekends ago. I thought I’d share some of the good stuff from the trip. We covered 842 miles in 3 days. John was on a 93 Vulcan 500 (my old bike). I was on my 04 V-Strom 1000. This was my first ‘long tour’ on the bike, so I was excited to see how she did for multiple days…
Thursday: 269 Miles: White Bluff, TN to Benton, TN
We got a pretty good start on Thursday morning. Had an unexpected change of plans for the babysitter, so I was a little bit late getting on the road. I met John in Burns, we fueled, and then headed to I-40 and TN-840.
We took 840 to try to get some distance knocked out quickly. There wasn’t tons of traffic, but the wind was awful. This was the first time I had ridden the Strom fully-configured (with all the hard bags) in wind, and I hadn’t anticipated just how much it would catch. It was the sort of gusty wind that causes you to change lanes without planning on it. By the time we had gone twenty miles, we already had a lady on a phone in an SUV try to take me out. I was beginning to wonder if this was a good plan or not! The bikes were loaded, so we kept on going!
We took TN-840 to I-24 towards Murfreesboro. We picked up US-70S towards McMinnville, and stopped there for lunch at a Mexican place–La Cazona. It didn’t look like much, but they had some of the best chips I’ve had in a long time.
We picked up TN-80 towards Athens via Pikeville and Dayton. If you haven’t ridden through here, it’s good stuff–some switchbacks, and great views. A few logging trucks got in the way, but nothing major. We made it to Athens and then took TN-39 to Englewood to stop and see where my grandparents used to live.
After a quick photo stop, we took US-411 to the Hiwasee/Ocoee Scenic River State Park. (Talk about a park that needs a better name. Descriptive? Yes. Memorable? No). We camped for the night. The campground was almost empty. I think there were more rangers than campers. The rangers were super helpful. One delivered wood to our site and gave us tips about what roads to hit. Everything was beautiful and green, nice and in bloom.
The ranger’s tips were great, but unfortunately, John and I didn’t remember the details of which roads to go on exactly, so we just sort of explored and meandered it worked out great–mostly.
We left the park and headed south on US-411, picked up TN-30. We drove alongside the Hiwasee down through Reliance and Chilhowee at US-74/US-64. John saw a sign for the Chilhowee Overlook and we decided to give it a shot. This was one of the best decisions of the trip:
We stopped here and made some phone calls to gloat about how pretty it was. After a while, it was getting pretty close to sunset, and we still needed to hit a grocery store if we were going to eat tonight, so I asked the GPS what the quickest way back to Benton was. Low and behold, this nice, paved, twisty, overlook road connects back very close to 411. “Let’s try it,” I said!
We did well, until we got to this turn…
The Strom is set up pretty well for this…not so the Vulcan! But John and I decided to give it a whirl. After all, the GPS said it was only .6 miles until the next turn.
That was all well and good until we got to the next turn…
Turning around didn’t seem like a viable option, and the Vulcan was hanging on great, so we decided to keep going. I didn’t feel the need to tell John that the GPS now said it was 7 miles until the next turn, leading me to think that this would be the norm for several more miles. Fortunately for his rear tire, which is totally a sport/touring tire with 10% tread left, the GPS lied. We only had about 2 more miles of gravel, but it was good!
We finally made our way to the Family Dollar in Benton and back to the campsite. We had a gourmet three-course dinner: gas-station style ice cream cones, Ramen noodles, and a chicken/corn/carrot hobo dinner. The hammocks were up and ready to go. Day one was a success!