October 9, 2008 - October 12, 2008

A Ride in The Mountains

October 9, 2008

Between working pretty steady on our church building and trying to get Frost ready for this ride, I've not been out much since I returned from the Alps. So I am looking forward to getting back on the road again for at least a little break. I'm supposed to meet Andy Derryberry (yep, same last name, way distant cousins) out on I24 at the Cracker Barrel parking lot. Andy and I have been riding together since bicycle days and I took him to get his first motorcycle, a Honda 550, on my 73 Triumph Trident. He's in the process of getting 'Chinasized' right out of his job, so this will be a good break for him. I packed Frost the night before, so I've got to do is get up, get myself ready and go. As usual, I'm early and I grab a banana and a glass of milk to tide me over until our later breakfast at Medley's in McMinnville. Then it's out to the garage to suit up and away we go.

  I figure it should take no more than 30 minutes or so to get there, so I leave an hour a head of time. I have always hated for folks to have to wait on me, so I prefer to be way early than a little bit late. Besides, Andy might think the same thing and we can get away even earlier. I pull into the Cracker Barrel parking lot and pick a place that I can keep an eye out and easily be seen.

This will be my first of many road trips on Frost, so I check out some of the modifications that I have made while I wait. I also check my strapping to make sure the river bag will stay put. Before long I see a single headlight headed my way and I know it's Andy. So I mount up and turn Frost around, ready to roll. I tell him -

"We'll just hop on I24 down to Beech Grove then roll across 280 and come into McMinnville the back way."

Then we're off for a great day of fun and riding. We have so many years of history together that there's not many folks that I'd rather ride with. The route I've picked we could both probably run with our eyes closed but it's a good one. Once we leave the slab, we just roll along through the quiet back country then skirt around McMinnville on the bypass. Soon we pull into one of my favorite places for breakfast - Medley's Classic Diner - where a feller can get enough cholesterol on a plate to clog an artery in one helping. And it just happens to be real close to one of my all time favorite roads - highway 30.


As usual, the food is great and the lady waiting on us does a bang up job. We talk about his coming unemployment, but he's planned well and he'll get through it just like he has the challenges he's faced in the past. He plays lead guitar in his brother's band and has to be back for a gig on Saturday in our hometown of Lewisburg. Seems that they are having the annual Goat Festival and they are on tap to provide some entertainment. So he will be spending tonight at the campground then heading back for a leisurely run home. I remember to tell him -

"There's a feller we're supposed to meet on our way through Athens on an ST1300. His name is Chip but I've never met him before. I reckon that will be a good gas stop and place to take a break anyway. So we'll wait a little bit on him and see if he shows up."

We finish up our grub, then we head up toward the plateau and highway 30. As we get closer, the weather looks a little rough, but we figure we'll just motor on and play the hand that's dealt us.

  If you always worry about the weather as a motorcyclist, you'll spend most of your time inside instead of on the road. All you can do is prepare for the worst and hope for the best. The weather holds off and we have highway 30 all to ourselves this morning. It is a undulating ribbon of mighty fine asphalt that ascends and descends through the Sequatchie Valley. It has plenty of twists and turns and is always a joy for us to ride. We blast through Pikeville, then Dayton (home of the Scopes Trial), then on to Athens. Sadly, some sections of the road have been 'improved' since I first started riding, but there's still plenty to enjoy at this point. I told Chip would would be at the first gas station on the right just after the interstate, so that's where we stop. Andy and I gas up and enjoy a light snack while we wait. Before long I hear the sewing machine sound of an ST1300 and figure that it is Chip. He sees us late and passes on the next station for gas. With that out of the way, he works his way back to us.

He got off to a late start, but made some really good time, coming from Prattville, Alabama. We talk about the route we'll be taking and he asks us -

"Where do you want me to ride?"

"Hmm, don't really matter to me" I tell him. "Why don't you take the rear, and Andy will be in the middle."

With that sorted, we mount up and head toward Tellico Plains and the Cherohala Skyway. Highway 39 out of Athens is a good little run to get to Tellico Plains and we make short work of it. Before long we are enjoying the great pavement and sweepers of the Skyway.

  There used to be a good 'Welcome to North Carolina' sign on the Skyway, but I guess budget constraints got it tossed. Now all it says is 'North Carolina State Line' which will never do for my state line quest. It's got to say 'Welcome' to count, so I just keep rolling instead of stopping. I do manage to get a good in motion shot to the rear. I've not perfected taking shots that way yet, but I am getting better at it.
  At the junction of 129 and 143, both turns will take you into Robbinsville. I decide to take the back way in which drops past Phillips Motel, a great place to stay. We stop in town to gas up, which should get us pretty close to the campground. We mount up, take 143 to 28 then on to 19 to Cherokee.
  It is sad to see the toll that the economy and the high gas prices has taken on this town as we ride through it. Many places are boarded up and for sale and are in the usual state of disrepair. It appears that most folks chose to stay at home rather visit such places as Cherokee. I make a mental note that our usual breakfast place is closed and know I'll have to come up with something else if we come this way. Soon we are out of the light traffic and at the southern entrance of the Blue Ridge Parkway.
  We'll be on the Parkway for about 50 miles before we get off on highway 276. Once again we have some really nice sweepers as we climb up to 5,000+ feet of elevation. The colors are just starting to come out and have the makings for a really pretty fall display.

I have already warned Chip and Andy that I'm back on my stateline quest for the new bike, Frost. I plan on taking highway 276 to the South Carolina line to get that one and they are more than welcome to head straight the other direction to camp if they like. But being the troopers that they are, they come on with me. As we come into Brevard, I am as confused as Hogan's Goat cause I don't remember going through a town to get the South Carolina sign. I pull off at a parking lot so I can tell Andy and Chip -

"I'm confused fellers. I just don't remember this town on the way. Let me check the map before we go any further."

I check, and we are going the right way, so we motor on through and get south of Brevard. When I finally reach the sign, it hits me - I was on highway 215 last time - not highway 276. They run sort of parallel to the border and I was just having a brain cramp. I shoot the South Carolina sign - glad to check another state off the list.

  As an extra bonus, there's an 'easy pickings' North Carolina sign, so I get it while I'm at it.

Someone might ask me why I do this and I do not have a rational answer - nor do I need one. It's something that I started with my first ST, Redbird, continued with it for my second ST, SweetTreat. So it just doesn't seem fair not to do it for Frost. Maybe if I live long enough to be put into a nursing home, I can remember all the places I've been by the pictures of the signs I've taken. We head back into Brevard and gas up there. The lady behind the counter tells us -

"You probably will only find regular around here. Not much premium anywhere in the area."

Since Chip needs premium, I see a bottle of octane booster and go outside and tell him. He picks up a bottle for good measure, though it ain't cheap. After a short break, we mount up and head back up 276 to the Blue Ridge Motorcycle Campground. We are a little later arriving than I had hoped for, so we set up camp quickly in the fast closing dark, thanks to Mac and some other friends that are already there. The camp kitchen is closed, so I tell Andy and Chip -

"Guy and the gang will either be at the Mexican place or Juke Box Junction. If they're both closed, we can wander on into Waynesville."

We strike out and as we pass El Pobre, I notice it is still open. When we get to the Juke Box Junction, they have already closed the kitchen. That's where Guy and the group went to, so we say our hellos and head back to El Pobre. Ron, a long time riding friend, comes over to join us for a coke while we enjoy great food. Soon it's back to camp and a good night's sleep beside the rushing stream outside my tent's door.

October 10, 2008
Unlike previous years, the campground kitchen is open to us, so everybody that likes breakfast is eating in at the campground. I've made a rule for myself when I'm at this campground that if I get up in the middle of the night to go visit the 'necessary' room, that I will go ahead and take my shower and do my clean up then. This avoids dealing with the morning sink rush and allows me a little extra time to get the rides set up.

The route for today I can run in my head I've done it so often, but it's a good one and one that especially new folks seem to enjoy. We'll be taking the Parkway all the way to Cherokee, then 19 to highway 28 that takes us down to Franklin. We will stop at the highest point for folks that want to take a photo op. If the timing is right, we'll stop in Franklin at the Western Sizzlin for lunch and definitely for gas. Then it's back up Wayah Road to 19, 19 back on the Parkway to the campground. I pull Frost up to the gate a little early so the rest of the herd knows they should be getting ready. I am shooting for an 8 AM departure - sort of.

  Looks like after our final head count there will be 18 riders on this trip. I gather the group as best as I can and explain to them the 'drop and sweep' method that we use on these rides. Peter Menard has offered to be the 'sweep' and he has done that before so that helps a lot. It is a simple method that I learned in the UK - the leader never changes, the sweep never changes. When the leader comes to a turn or decision point, he marks the spot for the rider directly behind him to pull off and mark the point. The 'marker', or 'breadcrumb' as I like to call them, stays put until the sweep comes up from behind and lets the 'breadcrumb' back in. That way no one has to worry about keeping up with the rider in front of them or the rider behind them or studying the GPS. You just ride straight until you see a 'breadcrumb'. The one change that I make because of the various riding skills usually present is that I do allow passing in a safe manner. You make sure the rider in front of you knows you are back there and signals that it is okay for you to pass. With this housekeeping done, we take off up the hill on 276 to head south on the Parkway. There's a little fog this morning but not too bad and folks seem to understand the process since there were two drops right at the first. Our first stop is at the highest elevation on the Parkway and I put my bike right out the edge of the road so everybody can see it. I get a 'knuckle and noggin' count and it seems that we are all here. While I'm at it, I snap a picture of Frost at the sign.
  The panorama from this spot makes it easy to understand why this area is called the 'Smoky' Mountains.
  The clouds are so thick that it looks like you could almost walk right on them as they blanket the surrounding peaks.

But as with all groups, we've got to keep moving, so I pull Frost over to the entrance and shout as best I can -

"All right, let's gather the chickens up and be going."

It's a great group and we are mounted up and on our way in short order.

  We wind our parade through Cherokee and Bryson City where another feature of the 'drop and sweep' comes into play. Because the decision points are marked, we do not have to stay together through all of the traffic lights so we can keep the train rolling. I decide that we will make a hydraulic and fuel break at a little store at the corner of 19/74 and 28 so folks can rest before we get into some really technical stuff. I want to get some feedback and let them know that we will be stopping in Franklin for fuel and food. Peter tells me that Mac is going to head on to the Gap so he can 'Gaperize' his KLR so I wave to him as he blows by.  

Highway 28 south into Franklin is a real ride but it will bite you if you are not paying attention. It is a unforgiving piece of pavement that a little mistake on it can cost you dearly. On a group ride down this same stretch we lost a rider out of the middle of the pack and he ended up in a Franklin hospital with a destroyed ST and a broken leg. It's a long story and I'll not include it here but it figures in my mind as I warn the other riders of what lies ahead. Shortly after we are headed down highway 28, I come upon a dually diesel flat bed hauling what looks like a welder, obviously a local feller. Seeing an narrow window of opportunity to pass, I signal and start around. About the time I am even with his door, he decides that the race is on and speeds up. Fortunately I manage to squeeze around him before the hard left-hander comes up. He is determined to demonstrate his outstanding ability and soon is swinging way wide in the tight curves and burning lots of diesel. I have my hands full as four wheels can slide around curves that 2 wheels cannot. But I carefully and slowly widen the gap between us, realizing that this feller must have a sizable ego and would probably try to pass me back if he gets the chance. When highway 28 loosens up a bit, I gain a nice comfortable lead all the way into Franklin. Somedays, I just don't get what people like that think they have to prove. There's at least 16 motorcycles behind just out for a ride and several cars coming from the other direction and yet he thinks it is more important to prove a point and put other folks in danger than to just pull over and let folks have a good ride. This is not the first time that I have encountered this sort of behavior in the mountains so guess it must be something to do with watching too much NASCAR or something. Fortunately we all arrive together and in one piece and it seems folks really enjoyed the road - and the entertainment I unwittingly and unwillingly provided. As we head to a gas station I know that has lots of pumps, I scan the area for the Western Sizzlin sign. But it is nowhere to be seen, which is something I was concerned about. In the current economy, lots of places that were open last year have fallen by the wayside. When I go in to get something to drink, I ask the lady behind the counter -

"Is the Western Sizzlin closed?"

"Yep, closed about a year ago" she tells me.

"Any good place to eat around here?" I ask.

"Right next door. They've got all kinds of good stuff" she says.

I thank her and tell the group what the plan is. We move the bikes around back to the place, but when we look inside it is jam packed and not very many tables. I figure it will take us about 3 days so we look for other options. Cody's is up the street but we're not sure they are open for lunch. But it's worth a shot, so the herd heads out, mostly on foot to find out. I decide I'll just ride up the back street since I'm sort of lazy anyway.


As it turns out, it's open and Mark G. who is with us, knows it well. And it just happens to be in the old Western Sizzlin building which explains why I didn't see one. His son is kitchen manager there so that's kind of neat in itself. They have a big table for us in the back and it looks like it will work for us. As I tell the folks -

'Sometimes I'd rather be lucky than good."


They serve soups, sandwiches and salads for lunch, and they are all good. The table talk about the roads we've just covered is animated and enjoyable. This is just one of the fun parts of a group ride - the lively discussion and sharing after a great section of road over a great meal. But soon we've got to hit the road so we can get back to the campground before dark. I warn the group that Wayah road that we are about to go on is pretty twisty and there does tend to be trash in the corners, so be extra careful. It is a delightful ride that takes us from the outskirts of Franklin back up to highway 19/74. I decide instead of winding back through the traffic of Bryson City and Cherokee on 19, we'll just run 74 to 441 which will drop us right back at the entrance of the Parkway. Figuring it's about time for another hydraulic and gas break, I pull into a station with lots of pumps and a McDonalds. One thing you can be sure of - McDonalds usually has decent restrooms!


I've got a couple of roads I want to check out before tomorrow's ride, so I mention to Ron and Chip -

"I want to check out a little route for tomorrow. Y'all are welcome to come along if you like. Probably be about 50 extra miles or so."

They are in for it, so after the needs are met, I give the rest of the group some new instructions -

"441 will take you right back to the entrance of the Parkway. Because some folks want to stop and take some pictures, we'll just let everybody wander back on their own from here. Just follow the signs and once you're on the Parkway, it's a straight shot to 276. Just remember when you get to the end of the ramp at 276, turn back under the Parkway and you'll be headed straight to the campground."

I take off so I can be at the Parkway entrance to count the bikes as they pass. I sure don't want to leave any folks behind this close to home. When I reach the entrance, I pull over and motion the rest of the riders to go on. With all the chickens in the coop, I play catch up to Ron and Chip. We blast on ahead until we come to highway 151 off the Parkway. It's a great run down the mountainside to a little place call Hominy. What I am looking for is Dogwood Road that would keep us out of coming back into Canton traffic to get on Newfound Road. It connects to Hooker's Gap road but I have a hunch there will be no signs. Fortunately, at the intersection a local rider that followed us down the mountain stops at the gas station where we stopped. I ask him -

"I'm looking for Hooker's Gap road that should connect to this road. Has it got a sign?"

"Sure don't. You'll go down a little hill across a small bridge at the bottom. Look to the right and you'll see a corn field. The road forks and you'll want to take the right fork" he tells me.

I thank him, knowing I would have probably missed it at least once without his help. Ron, Chip and I mount up and it plays out just like he says. It's a great little road and it dumps us right onto what I think is Newfound Road. I ask Chip -

"Can you check and see if your GPS says this is Newfound Road?"

He does and it does and I'm set in my head for tomorrow. I tell them -

"Since it's a little late, we'll just head straight for the Mexican restaurant. Those guys will wait on us about 5 minutes back at camp - just like hogs waiting on another hog."

So we ride back through Canton, down highway 215 straight to El Pobre. Surprisingly, the other riders are not there. So I, feeling a bit guilty, tell Ron and Chip -

"I guess I judged them too harshly. Y'all stay here and I'll head back to camp to get them."

I head back toward the campground and don't make it but about 2 miles down the road until what do I see but a string of STs headed my way. Peter radios me on the CB and I tell him

"Ron and Chip are already there. I'll just turn around and be there in a minute."

The restaurant manages to squeeze us into one table that includes a head banging hanging light that Chip and others make ample use of. The food is good and we have stories to tell and yarns to swap. With the last chips and salsa eaten, we make our individual ways back to camp for a little more time around the campfire. I turn in a little early, since I've got to depend on my internal GPS to get us to Hot Springs and back tomorrow.

October 11, 2008

Once again we avail ourselves of breakfast at the campground. This morning is extra special for me because they are having biscuits and gravy in addition to henfruit and hog meat. I was raised on sweet milk gravy and really enjoy it when I can get it. The real deal puts the Cracker Barrel 'flour and water' imitation to shame and this version is pretty tasty. But knowing if we are ever going to get out of here anytime soon, I polish off the last bite then go suit up so I can pull the Frost up to the starting point. This morning, Jay, whose ST1300 is in the shop, has offered to be sweep for us in his MR2 sports car. I tell him -

"We did that once on the Triple P, only it was a green Miata. It actually worked pretty well. I appreciate you being willing to do it."

I give the short version of 'drop and sweep' this morning since most of the folks rode with us yesterday. Looks like there's about 14 this morning so we get lined up and ready to roll.


As we make our way up the hill to the Parkway, the fog becomes thicker and thicker. Once we are headed north, you can't see ten feet in front of you. I find the best solution is to focus on the yellow center lines and try to stay to the right of them. I know it will clear up when we head down highway 151, but there will be some big time pucker factor behind me I'm sure. My biggest concern is watching for wildlife moving under the cover of the fog and finding the 151 turnoff sign in the fog. It is really a good thing that Jay is bringing up the rear in a car cause that at least gives us some protection from a low flying nut taking us out in a car from behind. I finally arrive at the turnoff, and when the 'breadcrumb' arrives, he pulls a little too far down. I say to myself,

"I sure hope folks don't miss him in the fog."

So I stop for just a little bit, to make sure the first ones make the turn. Then I roll on, knowing the rest of the group will be glad to get out of the peasoup and into the daylight. Highway 151 is a real delight to ride coming down the mountains with lots of tight turns and elevation drops but then it sort of straightens out in the flats. But before we can get to the flats, Ron who is now ahead of me radios back -

"There's a bus coming up the hill."

I figure it's just one of those little 10 passenger deals, nothing to worry to much about - that is until I meet it in one of the downhill hairpins. It's a full size tour bus, blazing white, blazing wide under a full head of steam. I manage to squeeze by it and then I radio back -

"It's a full size tour bus fellers. Watch out!"

Immediately I am wondering how Jay in his MR2 is going to squeeze by this monster when I had a hard time on my ST1100. I later learn that it got quite interesting with some riders having to bob, weave and duck to get by. I still don't quite know how Jay got by in the car. Once I'm past this little 'challenge', my mind goes back to thinking about the last 'breadcrumb's' position. I pull over into a church parking lot in the flat so I can count the bikes coming by. I wave to the rest of them to go on and breathe a sigh of relief when I see the 'sweep' moving right along and the count is right - that means everybody made it out of the fog and past the bus. I always say that there is more to leading than being in front, so I want to make sure that everybody it still upright and moving along. We stop at the same gas station that Ron, Chip and I stopped at yesterday, figuring everybody could probably do with a break after that. Some also take advantage of the available gas while we are here.

Some folks were questioning their sanity back in the fog, but everybody is back to their usual state of insanity now. We head over the Hoover Gap Road and it is a nice ride. Before long we're on Newfound Road on the way to Leicester. I have found that the locals pronounce it 'Lester', not the proper English way.
At Leicester, we turn on highway 63 that will take us to highway 209 and Hot Springs. If my 'wetware' computer is working right, we should be in Hot Springs just about the right time for lunch. The upper end of 63 and most of 209 are some great riding with numerous elevation changes, tight turns, sweepers and beautiful views. As the lead, I get find out where all of the walnuts, large rocks, and other such riding 'challenges' are buried beneath the leaves. More than once the rear wheel of Frost 'steps out' and gives me a little heart flutter. But that is not near as bad when the front wheel does the same - that will really tighten up your innards. After a spirited ride, we all arrive safe and sound at the Smoky Mountain Grill in Hot Springs, a great place for good grub. Everybody seems to be able to find something they like and they grow quiet as the sound of 'hardware' flies into action.
There's some friendly banter between Guy and the lady waiting on us, and she promises to be mean to everybody else that comes in from Alabama just because of Guy. We get paid up, and wander back outside to get ready for the ride home.

I tell the folks -

"We'll be headed back down 209 with a turn onto Crabtree Mountain Road. There's a great view where we'll stop for a photo-op."

Three of the riders decide to head back on their own, so I wish them well and mentally adjust the count. As we get ready to hit the road, Jay the sweep radios me -

"Are we going back the same way we came?"

I respond "Kind of sorta" not thinking about it much.

I just assume he'll follow the 'breadcrumbs' as he has been doing. It's a straight shot down 209 to the Crabtree Mountain turnoff, so I figure this one should be easy enough. Well, this ball of twine slowly begins to unravel unbeknownst to me. Jay figures we are going back the way we came, so he turns back down highway 63. Once the rest of the group arrives at the top of the mountain, we get some great shots of the surrounding area.



I decide to do a quick count and realize we are missing two riders and Jay. It seems that the 'breadcrumb' I left at the Crabtree Mountain turnoff decided to leave his post too soon. Oh well, this ain't my first rodeo, so I tell the folks -

"If you want to go on, just follow the road into Canton, then take 110 or 215 back to 276 then to the campground. I'm gonna go back and see if I can find any of them."


I head out back the way we came, keeping my eyes open. I chase a road or two that they could have possibly come down but with no success. As I turn around, lo and behold behind me is a local constabulary running radar, so I have to cool my heels and obey all posted signs. I finally make it back to 209 and run it a little bit both ways, but no sign of anybody. Since Chip is one of the 'lost breadcrumbs' I feel a little better because I know he has a GPS on board. With my 'escort' turning off, I beat a hasty retreat back to the top of the mountain. As I tell them -

"Well, no signs of anybody so I guess at this point we just head on back to camp."

On the rest of the way in, the 'breadcrumbs' stay planted, so we all make it back together. We do manage to pass Jay coming in the opposite direction that we are going, so I give him a big wave. All bodies eventually show up, so it is a good ending to two large groups rides - nobody crashed and everybody seems to have had a good time. And for this I am very thankful having been on rides where this was not the end result. It's sort of an 'annual' tradition to go to Waynesville to the Sagebrush Steakhouse, so a group of us head that way. But I tell them with a grin -

"I have hung up my leader helmet, fellers. You are on your own to get there."

And everybody seems to make it just fine without my help at all!


For the first time, they put us back in our own little room - probably cause we looked pretty rough. But it's a great time of hashing and rehashing the events of the last few days. The food is excellent and the lady serving us works really hard to keep the group happy. But most of the folks will be leaving early in the morning, so slowly the group breaks up to head back to camp. What we will find out later is Dan, on an ST1300, centerpunches a deer and manages to stay upright. It was the only 'crash' of the weekend to my knowledge. When I turn on the Frost, Ron tells me -

"Phil, do you know you don't have a taillight?"

"Hmm, that ain't real good" I tell him.

He offers to follow me back to camp, so we strike out together since it's already dark. When I get back, I pull Frost under the porch lights of the office and pull the bodywork to get to the fuse. Ron has an extra fuse, but as soon as I put it in, it blows. I tell him -

"Well, that sure changes things some. Don't guess I'll be going to Robbinsville to church after all."

I figure my best bet will be to wait until good daylight, then slab home before it gets dark. I tell him -

"I reckon cars don't have to have taillights during the day so I should be okay if I stay out of all of the Barney Fifes' little towns."

A long time ago I determined not to do 'major' investigations or repairs on the road unless I absolutely have no choice. I've still got brake lights, so I should be fine during the daylight hours. But I sure am disappointed that I will not be able to attend that church. They are a sweet group of mountain folks and real blessing to me whenever I can stop by. Fortunately, I have the entire spoken Bible on my MP3 player, so I decide I will have the Apostle Paul preach to me on the way home. I load in some of my favorite hymns and most of the Scripture that he penned and I am ready for 'Church on the Road'. At least I should be back to my church in time for the evening service so I take consolation in that. Since I am really tired and my belly is full, I don't spend much time around the campfire tonight. I bid good-byes to most of the folks and turn in to get some rest for the evening.

October 12, 2008
As soon as the first light of day begins to show over the mountains, I break camp and pack up my gear. I've got a routine over the years, that I pack my way out of the tent as I come. I get my camping gear back into the yellow river bag pretty quickly, then gather up the rest of the stuff. I try to be quiet about it as there are plenty of folks still sleeping. Having learned some painful lessons about packing a ST on the sidestand and having it fall over, I move Frost over to the hardpack and put her up on the centerstand. Soon she's all loaded and ready to go and all I need is a little more daylight. Before long it comes, and I make my way quietly onto highway 276 once more and head for Waynesville and I40. The town is still asleep when I arrive so I can get through it really quick like.
North of Waynesville as I head through Maggie Valley, I can't help but notice these beautiful red bushes filling in the highway median. I do believe this is going to be one of the prettiest falls we have seen in a long time.

Soon I'm on I40 rolling toward the Holler. It's sometime hard for me to believe that I've traveled this same interstate from one end to the other and have several pictures of the western end of it. This particular part can be troublesome to the motorcyclist if there is a lot of truck traffic. At least one rider was killed when a semi trailer wandered over the line and smacked him into the concrete divider. Fortunately I'm out early enough that the traffic is light and I can keep on moving.

As I ride, I do the mental calculations to see if by any chance I can make it back to Nashville in time for the morning service. Even if I skip breakfast, there's just too many miles and not enough time to do it safely. So I decide I'll stop somewhere along the way at a Cracker Barrel or Bob Evans and get some 'safe' food. I can always count on those two chains have grub that's reasonably priced and pretty tasty. Cracker Barrel wins my business first so in I pull into a crowded parking lot.

Much to my surprise, the wait is not long at all and I am quickly seated, They are running a breakfast 'special' today, so I decide I'll go for that instead of my usual omelet. It's good and fills and empty spot quite well. Since I can't be home for the morning service, I decide I might as well take a 'slight' detour over to I24 and pick up a couple more stateline signs. Besides I'd really rather come into Nashville on I24 than I40 anyway - it's just a personal preference not based on reason. The Georgia sign comes up just before the junction of I24 and I59 outside of Chattanooga. It's an easy one and only takes a minute or two.

  With the Georgia sign out of the way, Alabama is next on the agenda. It requires an exit at South Pittsburg and a little 9 mile ride round-trip on highway 72.
  There's an easy turnaround, so I decide I'll top off my gas back at the interstate and take a break before I hit the final leg.

I can tell the young lady minding the store really wishes she was somewhere else. She looks longingly at my bike and knows there's more to life that standing behind a store counter. We talk a little bit about traveling and such and I see that familiar faraway look in her eyes that I have seen often before. I consider myself very fortunate to have been able to travel and experience all that I have. As I start to walk out the door, I smile and tell her -

"Well, it's back to Nashville for me. At least it beats having to work."

She smiles and we have a last laugh together then I'm back on the road again. But today I can't seem to keep my eyes open and I hate that. I guess I just didn't get as much sleep as I thought I did but being sleepy and riding can get a feller killed really quick. I decide I've got to pull off at the next stop before I end up being a statistic. There's a store handy so I go and get some sweetening to try to 'boost' my way home. I tell the lady behind the counter -

"I just can't seem to keep my eyes open, so I figure I'll load up on some sugar and see if that helps."

She tells me -

"I don't know about that."

But I know a good dose of chocolate milk and a chocolate cake will give me about the 30 minutes I need to get home before I fall off the sugar high, so I partake.


It does the trick and I don't yawn again until I'm pretty close to the Holler. It's a welcome relief to pull into the garage, walk into the house and stretch out in the recliner. With a little quiet, I can get a good nap before the evening church service begins.