Day 17
September 20th, 2005
Smoky Mountain Motel
Gatlinburg, Tennessee

I loaded the RT in the pre dawn light, not that I was in a big hurry, but I wanted to arrive home with plenty of time to run and bicycle.  I had missed my Trek, and despite the fact I'd  been able to run many days, I was feeling out of shape and fat, not being able to work my entire fitness routine.

A brief walk followed to the office to drop the key off.

Construction crews, working on a new motel and convention center, were busy loading ice coolers.  Packing them down with ice and drinks.  When they finished they took a short walk to the construction site to begin their day.

I brought the RT to life and went back to the east side of town to quiet down the reserve light, that had been waving at me for 25 miles or so.  At last I was ready to go and went back through town to SR 73.  One of my favorite rides.

Early morning is a good time to ride 73.  By the afternoons it is strangled in RVs and other vehicles.  But in the early mornings it is quiet and serene.  The road follows Little Pigeon River for several miles, and for the most part stays in the troughs of the Smoky Mountains.  The leaning is excellent.
​SR 73 cuts through the early morning mist 
It takes a while for the morning sun to clear the mountains and light up the road, but there are sections that never see direct sunlight.  The Smokies have a large number of plants that are unique only to this part of the land.

I stopped at a vista to capture the morning rays clearing the mountains.  It was peaceful and I counted myself fortunate to be able to enjoy it.
Early morning in the Smoky Mountains
In many places 73 shows no mercy for the southbound rider.  If you over shoot the curve you go several feet into the rocky stream, there is no buffer.  With that thought in mind, I made sure to keep things light.
​Overshoot this curve...................
I came out of the mountains on U.S. 321 and headed for Maryville.  A campground with a nice fall display caught my attention so I stopped for a picture.  I've always loved fall and can't wait till next months ride to the Blue Ridge.
​.................and wind up down here.  
Maryville seemed less busy than years pass, and I noted the place where I witnessed a accident in 2003 or was it 2004?  So many rides, so many miles, clouds my memory.

On through Maryville and across the dam at Lenoir City, and I soon find myself getting  on I-75 South.  The fun was over, time to get on home.
The RT enjoyed this fall display
I went through the routine of putting the RT in cruise mode and settled in.  Traffic was light, and I was glad to be south of Knoxville.

Because I ride this way often I know all the good exits, if you keep note of such things, put Athens on the register of the "need anything find it here."  I had my choice of several con stores but I stuck with what I knew, and stayed on the west side of 75, stopping at the store I always stop.  I had a Mountain Dew and PB and J sandwich.  I called Debbie to tell her I would be home in a few hours.

I got back on the road and headed south, and psyched up for Chattanooga.  I'm sorry, but that place just seems to go on and on forever.  A scenic city, but you have little time to appreciate it.  The city is a major hub, with 3 interstates cramming their way in.  The construction north of the city has been going on for ages, I know for at least 4 years, and it looks like nothing ever changes.  

The weather was good on this day and I made it through ok, and escaped into Georgia on I-59.  I decided to stop and see my sister in Gadsden, 100 miles away.

I put the RT's cruise control on 80 mph and got comfortable.  Believe it or not, I was able to ride within a few miles of Gadsden before coming off cruise.  No traffic, no construction, no cops, no anything.  Just nice riding and good scenery.  A great segment.

I veered off on the Rainbow Drive exit and made my way along surface streets to Janice's house.  I pulled in the driveway with dogs barking.  I quieted them down and went inside. 

"Hey, what's up?" 

"So how'd your trip go?" 

"Awesome, helluva ride, good scenery.  Prince Edward was really nice."

Two muffins and a diet coke later I was gearing back up.  "I gotta get back to Prattville, stuff to do."  "Ok call me later and lemme know how mama is doin."  "Sure."

After debating back roads or I-59 to I-65, I chose the interstates.  

Back on I-59, I was unable to set the cruise because of the traffic.  I eased along at 80 mph.  

I saw 2 bikes approaching in my mirror.  It took them awhile to catch me.  When they came around I saw 2 Kawasaki LTDs, a cruiser kind of bike, about 1000cc.  I think these bikes are mid 90 vintage?  "What the hell, thats twice I've been passed by cruiser bikes."  I brought the RT up to keep pace with them.  One bike had New York Plates, another had Washington.  How they came together I don't know.  Perhaps they are friends united by a LTD forum, kind of like the STs crowd.

Whatever, I admired their spunk.  No wind screens, banana like seats, and relative small gas tanks, but they were going somewhere in a hurry.  I rode in the number 3 spot.  It also came to me they might be brothers, and the Washington guy shipped his bike east, to ride south to Florida with his kin.  Sounded plausible to me.
I stayed with them all the way to Trussville where I had to exit for gas.  I pulled to large Chevron con store with 10 pumps on each side.  I filled the tank and went inside for the rest room.  Helmet still on.  I had to get the key, the room was located on a side building.  A balding male clerk, in a foul mood scolded me.  "NEXT, time take ya helmet off!"  "So ya really think I'd pay for gas with my debit card, tags in full view of your cameras, and come in HERE and rob ya?"  I really didn't like his tone.  "Never KNOW."  I guess it is a dangerous job, so I let it go at that.

On through Birmingham and I-459.  I went by the BMW dealer but didn't stop.  I was going for lunch at the Waffle House at exit 246.  Traffic was good and in short order I was on I-65 south and the last 60 miles home.
The Waffle House was busy when I came in for lunch.  When I reach here, the trip is over. 

"Gimme the grilled chicken breast baby."

  I texted Chris waiting for my food.  I over heard a regular asking about a waitress named Tammy. 

"Tammy?  She got fired."  I wondered how you get fired from a Waffle House job.  "They said she was taking from the register." 

"That's how," I noted.

From Pelham I joined the flow south.  Past the cotton fields, creeks, and forests to Central Alabama and home.  Back in my home county, I put the RT on 95, and took care of business.  Clicking off the last 30 miles rather

The last few miles of a long tour are always a good feeling.  I reflected back on the tour and all the great experience.  It was fun.  I took the Pine Level exit and started the last 5 miles home.  The temp was 90 degrees, it felt good to be home.

I went by the Mr. Powell's cotton fields and farm, and back into my neighborhood.  My block was quiet on this Tuesday afternoon.  My driveway was empty as I brought the RT in, the garage door was down, so I had to dismount with the RT idling to open the door. I got back on, and set the RT down next to the Honda, finishing off a 362 mile day, and 5,079 for the tour.  I said a prayer for my safe return.
​Home.  The cotton fields of Alabama and Autauga County
tell me the tour is over. 

Inside I hung the Roadcrafter in the laundry room.  I called Debbie and told her I was home, and looked forward to going out later.  I felt good so didn't delay the unpacking process.  Thirty minutes later I was in my study going over a mountain of mail.  

I checked my weight and was astonished to see I'd gained FIVE pounds.  "Dayum, I ate better than I thought."  I resolved to go back to work in just a few hours, and start getting back in shape.

That afternoon I ran 4 and biked 20.  Following past customs, I took Debbie out to eat for supper to celebrate my return and another great tour. 

It was good to be home.


The next day I took the ST out for a 100 mile ride.  I had missed it and was anxious to get back on it. It felt odd after 5000 miles on the RT.  The RT does a number of things better, but the 1300 is still a Honda, that means it reigns in a number of other areas. I'll detail more later in the motorcycle section.

I gave the RT a good washing a few days after my return.

It took 7 days to train the 5 lbs back off.  I didn't have to change my diet, because I was able to return to a full training load.  It felt good.

After my return, I had to turn my attention right away to my fall trip.  More about that later.