Day 8
October 12th, 2008
In the Blue Ridge Mountains                                   
Cruso, North Carolina

It was the last morning of a great tour.  I was up at first light.  I needed to break camp, and get on the road by 8am to make Mass in Cherokee by 9am.  My guess it will take me 45 minutes to get down there.
Uncle Phil had already departed, I heard his 1100 leaving the campground about 7am, but most everybody else was still milling about.

My route today is a break from my usual ride home from Cruso.  Past mornings have been really cold, and I wanted to get out of the mountains to warm temps, so I went south into Georgia quick as I could.  But that ride is no longer fun.  Too much traffic now days, not like it was in 2001 when I first created that ride.  But today, the weather is mild, and I was in the mood to ride the Smokies.  My plan is U.S. 441 over Newfound Gap into the Gatlinburg area, and then home my usual route from there.

This time of year I know Gatlinburg is a busy place, but that's ok, I have a early start, and I was guessing the traffic would be counter my direction. (I was right).  I've not been over Newfound Gap since Debbie and I did it in our 77 Monte Carlo, way back before Chris was even born.

I finished loading my 1300 and said my goodbyes.  I was one of the first on the road.  Peter had a couple of easy days to get back to State College so he was in no hurry.  Without my GPS, I guessed about a 500 mile ride home.  Coming home through Chattanooga was going to add miles to the ride, but I didn't care.

I was looking forward to the ride home, but not at the prospect of ending the tour.  I was sad about that.  I half thought about taking a extra couple of days, and going somewhere else.  I hadn't spent hardly any money for being on the road 8 days, so I was way under budget.  My biggest expense of the tour by far was gas.
After saying good bye to old and new friends, I got on the road.  I took U.S. 276 back into Waynesville.  It was cloudy and even a little humid.  "It will clear up when I get to the other side of the mountains."

I quickly noticed the ST felt way too heavy in the steering.  "Must be the fact I've been riding unloaded the last few days, and have to readjust to the touring load."  I took it slow and enjoyed the ride through the fall colors near Cold Mountain.

I noticed a bike behind me and he came up to me at the Junction.  It was MotorMac.  "You're rear tire is awful low."  "Dang, NOT another flat."  I pulled into a con store parking lot, and dismounted.

It was indeed low.  I set the bike on the center stand and inspected the tire, expecting find a nail, but found nothing.  I rechecked it.  "Dang noting but low."  I figured the cooler weather as opposed to Alabama had something to do with it.

"I'll make it to Waynesville and air up."  It seemed simple enough.

Waynesville was still asleep, and the quiet running 1300 didn't disturb the locals.  Colorful trees dotted the roadways, and Halloween decorated houses welcomed me.
 ​This prominent Waynesville Church had its own pumpkin

I stopped for a few pictures and proceeded on down to the busy U.S. 19 intersection, where I knew a lot of con stores and gas stations could be found.  I went in the first I saw for air and got what I expected.  The wrong type of air nozzle.  I need the kind with the 45 degree angle, I can't get the straight on my valve.  I went to 3 more places same story.  I went to a Jiffy Lube but they were closed.  I have a compressor, but I didn't want to get it out unless I had to.  I'd have to plug it to a car anyway for power.  The plugs on my Honda are the BMW type for my heated gear, and I just never got around to buying the adapter.  The wisdom of that decision on painful display right now.
​"Colorful trees dotted the roadways, and Halloween decorated 
houses welcomed me."

"Look I'll just ride on to Cherokee, I'll have more options there.  In Maggie Valley I left 19 to keep looking.  The first 2 places I stopped was no dice.  But I noticed a 3rd down the road with a older looking air station.  "Now that place has possibility."  I pulled in and to my joy it had the correct nozzle and the air was free!  I put the ST on the stand and checked, I had about 28 psi.  "Dang that's low."  Still I could find no reason for the air loss.  I aired up to 45 psi and got back on the road.  Right away I could tell the difference.  "Much better."

With my tire situation corrected I was good to go, but all that fumbling around meant I was not going to make church in Cherokee.  "Well, the Lord knows I wanted to go and intended to be there, so maybe He won't be too upset."

The sun was out out now and the temps were warm.

I peeled of 19 for U.S. 441 and went into Cherokee.  I didn't look forward to going into the city, but I had no choice.  The city was already busy this early in the morning, with tourists about to start their day.  Fortunately most are hunting for something to eat.  "Lemme get on the mountain while they're still diving out."

I needed a picture of the park entrance sign, but a family of 4 had the same idea.  They took picture after picture.  "How many shots of this do they need?"  Finally the father came over to me and asked my assistance for a group shot.  He asked where in Alabama I was from.  "Prattville."  "Oh y'all have those good football teams, we're from Luverne, know where that is?"  "Yes, go through there all the time."
​Cherokee Entrance
Finally I got my picture and got on the road.  Traffic was light.  My strategy to get here early was paying off.  
U.S. 441 starts off simply but as the elevation increases, so do the turns.  Fall color here was at least 2 weeks behind the Blue Ridge, but there were still pockets of great color in the high areas.
​U.S. 441 through Smoky Mountain National Park
The Honda felt sluggish in the many turns now that I had burdened it with my touring load.  All the traffic was Cherokee bound as a steady stream of vehicles came at me.

Newfound Gap marks the Tennessee-North Carolina state lines, elevation over 5,000 feet.  You'll find a very scenic overlook there.  It was a busy place, as a parking lot full of tourists wanted a picture of U.S. 441 snaking across the mountains.  I don't blame them, I got mine and quickly left.

​  U.S. 441 as seen from Newfound Gap
Knowing a parking lot full of coming and going rubber necking tourists, fighting his kids and wife, is not a safe place for a Long Rider, I was extra cautious trying to get out of the busy parking lot.  It paid off when a family in a rental car, (you can always spot rental cars) trying to see the views, tried to run over me on their way out.  I had the right of way because I was in the exit lane, but this guy came out from the lot without checking up and cut me off.  He still hasn't seen me.  

The long descent into Tennessee was good.  I leaned the Honda well, but kept my speed down.  Too many cars coming the other way.  

About 10 miles from Gatlinburg I ran into traffic and the pace slowed.  I was behind a long line of cars.  "No need to pass, it will just be more of the same."  So I practiced being patient.  Fortunately I was leaving 441 for SR 73.  My usual way out when I'm in this area.  

I went left at the Park station and headed for Marysville.  This is a road I've been on many times.  It follows the Pigeon River through the hills.  The forests is thick, and splashed in lemons, and reds.  It was very nice.  I already have many pictures and video from this road, but none in Fall color so I took advantage of it.
​This road follows the Pigeon River out of the Park.  It was
great riding, under Fall colors.

All too quick I came out of the Park onto U.S. 321.  "Well the fun is over, just get on home now."  I followed the highway into Marysville, where for some reason I made a wrong turn. The city was hunkered down in church traffic, one I went by had a traffic jam.  As many times as I've come through here going to I-75 I still  messed up.  I ride to so many places I guess I just got confused.  I was suppose to go straight when I went left.  I was leaving the city on 411.  I stopped in the parking lot of a Wendys, and got out the atlas for the upteen time this trip.  "man this is gettn old, I'm gonna write Garmin a letter."

"Well I'm not going to ride back through Maryville, I'll just go south on 411 and cut over to 75 on SR 68."  When all said and done, it was not a big deal.

I rode south to SR 68 and turned west for the interstate.  It was a pleasant ride, and I was glad I made a wrong turn back in Maryville.  This route furthered my goal of going south and at the same time spared that many miles on I-75.  The state road took me by a few hills and farms, and the warm sun felt good.  "What a good day to be on a ride."

At I-75 and 68 I found a KFC and for the second time this tour went inside.  This time I had chicken strips and mashed potatoes.  The dining area was full of locals just out of church.  After lunch I called my son.  I knew the Packers had a big game with Tampa Bay today.

"Look here, what are you doin today?"

"Nothing, where ya at?"

"just north of Chattanooga, I'll stop and see ya when I come through."

"I'll prolly be at Wild Wings watching the ballgame"

"Good I'll just stop there and eat supper and watch the game with ya"

"Sounds good"

I called Debbie and advised her I was going to be late because I was stopping to eat supper with Chris.
When lunch was over I went out to load up and noticed my Arai on the ground.  It fell off my bike and broke the piece that holds the shield in place.  "Dang that sucks, now my shield is going to be hanging off."  The piece was broke, nothing I could do to fix it.  I snapped it back in place, but without the cover it would surely come out.  I was pretty ticked at breaking a 400 dollar helmet, but I didn't realize it was that windy.  I guess I should've used the helmet lock if I wasn't going to bring it in.  So add the helmet to the 3 out of service lights.
Feeling a bit ticked at myself, I got on I-75 South and headed home.  "I'll stop for gas in Rising Fawn at my usual place."

The shield on the Arai flapped around but it wasn't as bad I thought it was going to be.

The pace was quick into Chattanooga and soon I find myself in the never ending construction of I-75.  They have it almost completed, but the last few miles seem to be taking a long time.  I was nervous on the freeway about not having a break light, and kept a constant surveillance to my rear.

I made it through and switched over to I-59 and went into Georgia.  "Almost home."

The reserve light had been flashing for a while when I arrived at the Pilot station in Rising Fawn.  I always stop here.  The 91 pumps were bagged off, and once again I had to settle for mid grade or less.  This was the 4th or 5th tank in a row, but outside of a decrease in mpg, the 13 was responding ok to it.  The fill up set me back 22 dollars.  Gas had dropped  a few cents in the last week.

As far as interstates go I-59 is one of the better ones, as it takes out of the mountains proper.  The hills along I-59 are the most southern points of the Appalachians.  I stuck the 1300 near 80 and motored on home under beautiful skies.  It had been a great trip.  I was already looking forward to next spring.  "I guess I need to see where I wanna ride to next, but I have all winter to sort it out."

The bike was running very smooth and I had a nice tailwind.  The 80 miles to Gadsden passed quickly.  I didn't see any law enforcement of any kind.

I didn't think about stopping to see my sister in Gadsden, I wanted to meet Chris for the ballgame and it was going to be close if I was going to get there by kickoff.

North of Birmingham I passed a line of Gold Wings.  They looked to be locals out for a Sunday ride.
I took I-459 and fell in a busy freeway of cars and trucks.  It was late afternoon and having been this way a thousand times, I knew how far it was to the U.S. 280 exit to meet Chris. " Not gonna make kickoff, but I won't miss it by much."

The U.S. 280 exit in Mountain Brook is the epitome of urban sprawl.  Anything and everything is on 280.  It is choked with high end businesses, restaurants, and shopping.  My son's office is located just off the ramps.
I exited, then made the long twisting ramp that bent back around to the top, and onto 280.  I knew where Wild Wings was, so that was not a problem.  I set the stand in the parking lot of the restaurant about 4:30pm, right next to my son's truck.

Inside I saw him waving me over.  The game had just started.  

"Hey now, did you have a good trip?"

"yes I did, great ride, good to see ya son"

I called Debbie and told her I made it safely to Birmingham, and to make sure the garage door was up.
We ordered a bunch of wings and some home chips and had a good time, even though the Packers lost.  It was great to just hang out a few hours with him. When the game was over he followed me back out to my bike.
"I'm heading home, I'll talk to you tomorrow ok?"

"Ok be careful, call me when you get in."

The last  80 miles south on I-65 were routine.  I kept my spend down in the rural areas because I was fearful of dear, especially after what happened to Dan.  I passed the Peach Tower in Clanton and knew I was almost home.  The lights of the the nearby homes shined through the trees, making me wonder what was going on inside them.  Then I thought;  "Hunting season is not far off, it will make a lot folks happy."

About 9pm I turned on my street and made my way safely back in my garage.  I said a quick prayer for my safe return, and set the stand, and by then Debbie came out to greet me.  I left my bags on the bike.  "I'll get to that tomorrow."

I finished the day with 482 miles, about 60 more then my usual route home from the Blue Ridge.  Total miles for the trip was 2,866.

I took my camera, phone, and PDA out of my Roadcrafter and hung it up in its usual spot, all the while fielding questions from Debbie about my trip.  "Great trip, but I'm glad to be home."

After a nice long shower, I watched the Sunday night game but grew sleepy quickly.  I went on to bed, and was going to watch the game from there, but fell asleep.  It was good to be in my own bed again.


I didn't get the bike unloaded for 2 days.  I spent my first day at home sorting pictures and working on this story.

Before storing my tent and sleeping bag, I put the tent up and sat it out in the sun to air out and dry.  I did the same to my sleeping bag.  I wanted fresh air to flow through it and give it a clean scent.  Then I packed everything away till next spring.

My brake light is still out, and I do have a slow leak in the rear tire.  I have to air it up at least once a week.  Not sure when I'm going to replace the tire.  Going to try to get a few more miles out of it.

I washed and waxed the bike about a week later.

The Zumo 550 GPS was waiting for me when I returned.  All fixed and good to go.

Still working on the brake light, and the new PIAA.

I'll be looking at upgrading some equipment this year and I'll spend the winter getting ready for next year.  I ride year round, I just don't go very far.  I'm shooting for a ride next April.

Looking forward to the Holidays.  Stay in touch with the web site, because I do plan to update things.