Day 26: Cleveland to Asheville

It would appear Red Roof Inn doesn’t entirely trust their guest’s grasp of common household items.  Of course then again, at this point maybe I looked like an individual who hadn’t seen a cup in awhile.  Maybe they Sharpied it on while I was checking in in an effort to provide a higher level of service.  One can never truly know the answer to such things…

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I ended up on the phone catching up with some friends for a while, so I got a bit of a late start.  That was ok though; initially I’d hoped to get a large portion of the day’s ride completed in the morning. The weather the night before was calling for rain at 1:00 but that had since been updated to 10:00 am. It appeared that I was going to ride through the rain regardless.

The weather report was already wrong.  I started to pack the bike and it was quite nice out.  The Doctor was packed and ready to go just after 11:00 am!

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Actually, the weather wasn’t just nice, it was perfect.  The general plan was to ride up the West side of Cherokee National Forest to Tellico Plains, then over past Fontana Dam, through Bryson City and Cherokee and eventually to northeast to Asheville via the Blue Ridge Parkway.  Every TAT rider is almost required to buzz through Tellico Plains; even if you’re like me and didn’t really care to stop.

I headed down past Ocoee Lake, snapped a few pictures then headed up toward Tellico.

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Tellico Plains sign; proof of arrival:

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Tellico River:

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I headed east on NC Route 165; about 25 miles down the road I ran into this:

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It appeared as though there must be some tricky roads ahead…

I ran through the first three wide radius hairpins at about 45 mph on my worn out knobbies.  I wasn’t sure which turns they were talking about.

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I made a turn off the NC Route 165 onto a dirt track in search of these elusive turns…

Nope.

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Nope…

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Nope again…

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I was about to give up but then:

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Taken at 23 mph.  Success.

I rode out the last few miles of the off-road section and came out on a road.  I was headed toward the Tail of the Dragon when I hit a nice little 20 minute stand still.

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I’d decided against making a run on the The Dragon.  Granted, it’s a fun road; but it really doesn’t seem to be when you’re riding this kind of bike.  On top of that, it’s a pretty high stress ride; the people coming the other direction always look completely out of control.  They always look like they’re going to cross the double yellow line.

I made the turn at Deal’s Gap Motorcycle Resort and onto NC Route 28.  When I did I split up a group of 3 sport bike riders.  The first guy kind of pulled out without looking and cut me off; a move that I was sort of anticipating so no harm no foul.  I slowed down to let the 2 other riders in the group past but they all waved me by.  I didn’t see the point in this really, since no more than 2 turns later I could see the 3 riders dragging knees through the turn in my mirror.  I pulled over and waved them by.

It was cool to watch though; they were keeping the 45 mph speed limit in the straights and only taking the turns fast.  This meant I was able to catch up to them in the straights and watch them drag knee through the turns.

I got to the road that lead to the base of Fontana Dam.  I’d planned on going all the way up the road to take a picture from the bottom of the dam but there was a sign that said the gate was closed ahead. Instead I took this cool pic:

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I moved on and somehow ended up missing my turn.  I ended up in a boat storage area that was behind a dock on Fontana Lake.

Maybe I’ll give up this motorcycle crap and buy a boat… sail around the world?

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I rode out another 15 miles or so and stopped into the Almond boat dock to snap some pictures for my Dad.  That was the starting point of one of his adventures when he was my age.

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The weather was still holding up fairly well as I made my way through Bryson City and Cherokee.

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It was a pretty long run up to the Blue Ridge Parkway and when I got on the parkway I was now about 80 miles away from Asheville.  The sign by the Almond boat dock said 65 miles to Asheville…

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The weather had held up nicely to that point, however there was a big cloud just hanging out over the mountain I was heading toward and soon I was in it.

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It would sprinkle on and off for the next half hour until the clouds decided open up.  I pulled over at the next pull off to throw on my rain pants; which turned out to be the highest point on the Parkway.

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I rode through the rain for the next hour until it decided to take a little break.  It had gotten cold out and I wanted to throw another shirt on under my jacket.

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I had also mastered riding and picture taking.

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I snapped a few more pictures but the rain was starting up again and a heavy fog set in.  The camera went away for a little.  It was easy to miss the turn offs in the fog so I wasn’t able to stop to get any shots of it.  The rain and fog lasted for miles; it had been some of the most complicated riding I’d done.  The Parkway has many sharp turns; I had to depend on my GPS to at least get a vague idea of what was coming up ahead. On top of this, I was sandwiched between 4 cars; 2 ahead, 2 behind.

Once it cleared I snapped a few more pics.  A motorcycle really allows you to just pull off anywhere without blocking the road.  I was able to take pictures that I wasn’t previously able to take when I’d driven the Parkway in my car.

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I was about 11 miles from where I planned get off the Parkway in Asheville when a cop car with it’s lights on was blocking the bridge across the French Broad River.  All traffic had to get off the Parkway and find another way across.  I was just south of Asheville and it was about 5:00 pm; I had to detour through rush hour traffic to find my way across the river and back to the parkway.  Not much fun.

I finally got back to the Parkway and finished up the last few miles to the motel.  I was pretty dry but a little cold. I checked into the motel and got back on the bike to pull it down to where my room was when it started to downpour.  It wouldn’t stop until the next morning.  I had the good fortune of unpacking the bike in the downpour; by the time I was finish I was soaked.

The lesson is that every motel heater can be re-purposed…

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Mileage: 275

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