BLUE RIDGE GATHERING 2017
 
 

Riding With Old Friend And New Friends

 
 
October 11, 2017
 
   
 
It's been a tough year physically, mentally and spiritually this year so I am past ready to get my head in the wind. Looks like it will just be me and Andy so we decide to meet at the Cracker Barrel on his side of town for breakfast.
 
 
 

Service is good and breakfast comes quick as we discuss the madness of our present day world. It seems people are more intent on keeping their face stuck to a mobile phone than they are talking directly to people. I tell him -

"Just the other day I saw a family of four out for dinner and all of them were sitting at a table with their eyes glued to their phones. I wonder why they even went out - they could have stayed at the house and done that. I really think the new millionaires will be the hand surgeons who can fix folks thumbs!"

We both laugh and then make short work of our meals. I have us wandering a bit on backroads for the day so we finish up and get after it.

 
 

Soon we are on my old friend, Highway 269, the 'right angle' road. Along it's route that we take are numerous right angle curves, sometimes one right after another one.

 
  When we get to the other side of McMinnville, we stop for a fuel/defuel break for man and mechanical beast.
 
  Soon we are at one of my favorite roads in all of Tennessee - Highway 30.
 
  It starts out pretty straight ....
 
  but not for long.
 
  It is one long series of curves after curves as the road follows the ridges and valleys of the Cumberland Escarpment.
 
  After we drop off in to Dayton, the home of the original "Scope's Monkey Trial" ...
 
  we cross over the bridge across Chickamauga Lake, an impoundment of the Tennessee River. I can remember when the only way to get across this body of water was on a ferry as the bridge is of 'recent' construction.
 
  Some of Highway 30 has been 'improved' to a four lane, but I have a 'cure' for that discovered on another ride.
 
  When we get to Tellico Plains, we take another stop before we head up to the Cherohala Skyway.  
   
  The Skyway is a lovely run, very similar to the Blue Ridge Parkway a little further east.  
   
  Soon we drop off the Skyway down through Robbinsville, then over to Balsam to the Moonshine Creek Campground where we will spend the next few days.  
   
  Jim, one of the owners, has already got the firewood set up for us in the group camp area which is really nice. I go up to the office and settle up for my camping fees and the firewood. Knowing I need to check out some roads this afternoon, I get my tent set up quickly with some help of friends. Then it's off like a dirty shirt to the Blue Ridge Parkway and highway 151.  
   
  I'm making great time in an effort to beat the sun coming down. All of a sudden I hear really strange sound and I know I've lost something off the bike. It takes me a minute to realize that the front half of the fender has literally blown off. Fortunately I am able to recover it and put it up front until I can get to a safe pull off place.  
   
  I've got some straps with me, so I carefully strap it to the back seat and continue on my mission. But I'm losing my race with the sun so after it turns dark, I head back to camp.
 
  The temps are near perfect for sleeping and I'm tired from the long day. So it does not take me long to drift into a perfect storm of slumber.  
   
 
October 12, 2017
 
   
 

It's been my 'tradition' for years to use Thursday as a scouting day to check out the roads in the area. Sometimes it is to see the condition of roads that I generally use and sometimes it is to see roads that I've not been on before or in years. There are a group of riders that know that I do this and always like to ride with me. My standard warning is -

"This is a checkout ride. Don't be surprised at gravel roads and U-turns."

We always start at Clyde's Restaurant in West Waynesville for breakfast. They serve excellent food at reasonable prices and they are used to dealing with us. As I see the usual 'suspects', I warn them -

"Well, the motorcycle trash is back again. And there'll be a lot more of us in the next two days."

We all laugh and get busy ordering our favorite breakfast staples.

 
   
  But we need to get after it, so we settle up and head out for parts known and unknown.  
   
  I've got several routes and roads I want to check out and a new restaurant I want to try. Once we get up on the Parkway, we are above the clouds and it is a real visual treat.  
   
  It looks like you could just walk right off the ridge and onto the cloud carpet stretched out before us.  
   
  Since there are usually 30 to 50 motorcycles following me on Friday and Saturday, I need to be sure there will be no 'U-turns' and the restaurant is both good and able to handle a crowd. In reality, any restaurant that is not a buffet will have it's kitchen overrun when over 30 people show up in one party. But I try to at least warn them about it the day before if they need the warning. The poor victim today is the Motor Company Grill , and old car dealership that has been converted into a neat restaurant.  
   
  As strange as it sounds, I go for the Cheeseburger Salad, which is a great salad with a cheeseburger sans bun laid on top. A little ranch dressing helps forward the affliction quite well.  
   
  It sounds a little strange, but it don't taste strange and soon it is vanquished!  
   
  But all good things must come to an end, so soon we are back exploring. I am particularly interested in a new 'cut through' off Highway 28 north of Franklin. It would drop us right near the campground which would be nice. The road headed that way is lovely with old house along the way. Unfortunately, it turns into a narrow forest road with rough gravel so we have to do a U-turn and head back to camp the longer way.  
   
  Once we get back to camp, I have some more roads to check out up north. Ron, a long time riding friend, decides that he will run with me. So we both head northward to do some more exploring. These roads proved all to be paved and take in some great twists and turns and scenery, like the Courthouse at Marshall.  
   
  And along the way we see another old abandoned house.  
   
 

Once we pop out on the main highway, I tell Ron -

"Let's head south and slab it back to camp so we can get back before it gets too dark."

By the time we get back to camp, the number of tents has grown from seven to more than I can count. After the big breakfast and lunch, I skip supper and just sit around for a while around the campfire that they have already started. One thing I have learned is that if you want to ride these roads with all of your faculties, you need to get to bed and get plenty of sleep. So I follow my own advice and fold up like a nickel card table and head for my lovely 4 inch air mattress and 5 degree sleeping bag.

 
   
 
October 13, 2017
 
   
  Today is Friday the Thirteenth, but the Thirteenth has always been a good day for me. I was born on the Thirteenth, I had the first date with my wife on the Thirteenth, and we got married on Friday the Thirteenth. So I am not in the least bit superstitious about today as I head back to Clyde's for another scrumptious breakfast. Today there are a bunch of other riders on my heels with the same idea.  
   
 

I always make a point before we ride to have a rider's meeting. I explain the "Drop And Sweep" method of group riding that we use. And I caution everyone to watch what they are doing as this is not the place to ride with no brains. And the one quote that I always try to add is -

"There is a wire that runs from your ego down to your right hand. If you cut that wire you will probably stay off the ground. If you don't you probably won't."

With my limited knowledge dispensed, we pack 'em up and roll 'em out.

 
   
  It's a good run up and over highway 215, but there are plenty of wet and slick leaves in the shadows. As I make my way along, I keep praying that no one will crash because they got caught out on the wet leaves. When I get down the other side to a little market I know, I pull over to regather the chickens and give folks a chance to clear out their coffee and anything else that might have occurred when they came through those wet leaves.  
   
  After our break, we're off again on some roads that most folks - including some locals - have not been on before. I try to add some 'new' roads along with the perennial favorites just to keep things interesting.  
   
  We make it to the Motor Company Grill in Franklin around 11:30 AM and they are packed. But they put us in a side room that manages to keep us from corrupting their regular customers. As I suspected, we overrun the kitchen a bit but there are worse things than sitting around talking to folks you like to spend time with. When the food comes, it's good and tasty. I end up ordering the same thing I had yesterday - the cheese burger salad.  
   
  After lunch we head for Wayah Road, a local favorite, and then a peaceful run back to camp along 19/23/74. It's been a good day as everybody seems to have had a great ride. Before long, the 'caveman TV' (campfire for those who don't know) is turned on and the stories begin to flow.  
   
  Once again, I quietly slip away in the darkness and settle in for as much sleep as I can get. Tomorrow will be an extremely long day, as I plan on heading back to Nashville right after our usual supper at the Sagebrush Steakhouse in Waynesville.  
   
 
October 14, 2017
 
   
  I'm up early as I want to be there when Clyde's opens. This is usually their busiest day and when the most riders from our group show up for breakfast. I figure I'll get mine and get out of the way.  
   
As I eat, I warn the servers that once again there's a bunch of motorcycle trash coming to descend on this place.  
 

Today we are going to run up Highway 276 to the Blue Ridge Parkway and down highway 151, a very technical piece of asphalt. When we have this group riders meeting I tell them of the route and add -

"There'll be a little surprise along the way on highway 151"

and leave it at that. I always smile when I see this sign alongside highway 276.

 
 
The scenery from the Parkway is gorgeous again as we ride above the clouds headed for highway 151.  
 
The little 'surprise' route I had off of 151 is pretty good and everybody seems to enjoy it. It takes us away from our 'usual' stopping place on this route, but I know of another one that will work.  
 
Once we're back on the road, we head for Madison where I checked out the route earlier. I manager to get a closer shot of lovely courthouse today.  
 
As we move along some more lovely pieces of twisty asphalt, the scenery is lovely to go along with it.  
 
Soon we arrive at one of my favorite restaurants in the area, the Smoky Mountain Diner in Hot Springs.  
 
They always do a good job of handling the crowd as they have a really nice back patio to keep all the motorcycle trash on so they don't hurt their regular customers. Everyone gets their food and no one starves to death, so I figure we did all right. Our next run is down highway 209, another local favorite, then a run up Crabtree Mountain road.  
 
From the sharp top are some absolutely incredible views both ways off the mountain top. Looking from the way we came ...  
 
and looking out toward Canton.  
 
From here it is a short run back to camp and we all make it in one piece. I packed up most of my stuff early this morning so all I would have to do is knock down the tent and stuff it all in my bag. That way I can leave from the Sagebrush right after super which is located on highway 276 which runs straight to I40. This is one of the few 'official' things we do at the BRG - the supper at the Sagebrush. The manager has reserved us a big room in the back so we are good to go. I get the attention of the group so I can ask the blessing on the food and our travel back to our respective homes. It's a great evening with old friends and new but I've got miles to go before I sleep. So as it starts to wind down, I excuse myself and head for SweetTreat.  
 
The ride home is a struggle as I expected it to be between wanting to sleep and dodging the tractor trailers. I resort to all sorts of shouting and such to stay awake until my 'halfway' stop. I finally give in and intake a little sugar to boost me enough to get back to the Holler. I know it will only work for a while but all I need is a while. Finally around the stroke of midnight I pull into by beloved Holler, tired but happy that another BRG is in the books. It's been another great year of making memories with my friends. That is important because at some point you realize that's all you get to take with you when you pass from this life.  
 
 

 

THE END