I was reminded by someone yesterday that this adventure is a bikers dream. Monday was nothing short of that reminder. From the time I woke up, until the moment I finally calmed down and digested my incredible day and fell asleep.
It was an early morning, which is not unusual. Answered some emails, cup of coffee and two pieces of toast from the complimentary breakfast bar in the motel. Constructed a new music playlist and packed up my panniers. I gassed up and rode the 10 minutes to Ritchie Powersports for their 8 o’clock opening. After a great chat with both the sales and service guys, the Tiger was in the service bay and a new set of Pirelli tyres to be installed. Two hours later I walked out to my bike to inspect the new rubber and discovered a new t-shirt folded on the seat. Great start to my day which I was really concerned about the previous night.
The easy 50 mile ride to the entrance of Highway 72 East was perfect for scrubbing in the new tyres. I rode down 72 and the turns started. Hills rolling up and down and passing by Chilhowee Lake. Fall colors and sun shinning through broken puffy white clouds. Music selection perfectly suited and my excitement was growing. I have to admit as I entered Highway 129, ‘Tail of the Dragon’, I was a little apprehensive. The legendary road has a reputation for mayhem. 318 twists on an elevated ridge run in 11 miles. Crashes and rock slides are the tame stories that are part of this rides history. That all disappeared quickly. Focusing on the pavement in front of you is all you can manage.
My first run, yes I turned around twice more, was paced but I still passed two vehicles. What an unbelievable ride! I really can not describe what a two wheel roller coaster feels like. The turns do not stop. Back to back to back s turns, hairpins, dips, rolls. Flipping through gears, little front break pumps and right up on the pegs. There is a camera man located about a mile from the lookout at the top of the ridge, snapping pictures of riders on one of the more wide open corners. I wish I had a mounted video camera. This is the only way to document the feel of this thrill. YouTube has plenty to choose from.
The 11 miles ends by crossing over from Tennessee into North Carolina. Deals Gap is a campsite, motel, bar and souvenir shop just over the state line. Bikes are lined up in front of the shop and two gas pumps have Super Premium Fuel for sale. I have not seen Super Premium before? This is motorcycle heaven. Guys chatting and reviewing the last run with each other as bike after bike roar past.
I managed three of my own runs before I realized it was one o’clock and I had not eaten since 6 that morning. With a little remorse I headed down 129 further and stopped for lunch in Robbinsville. My remorse disappeared very quickly after I realized that gap is another word for mountain pass. The Smoky Mountains are full of gaps and the highways twist all over this place. 108 turns down Highway 28. 68 turns down Highway 143. This place is crazy! If it were not for rain coming in over the next few days I would stay here for a week.
What an incredible day! I am watching the weather and trying to wait it out until Wednesday. Rain and cooler weather towards Thanksgiving and the weekend. I am just going to let things unfold as they should…