Day 8
April 7th, 2004
Lorton, Virginia

I was at the Enterprise office as soon as they opened. "Here, take this THING off my hands," I told the clerk.  I settled my fees and the company gave me a ride back home.

The weather was cool and sunny, a virtual heat wave after the last 2 days.  I strapped my gear down, and secured the house while the 13 warmed up.  It felt GOOD to be back in the Roadcrafter.  When I mounted the bike all the frustration of the last couple of days disappeared.  The sensation of riding again was almost overwhelming.

Spend 48 hours in a KIA and you will appreciate ANYTHING with 2 wheels.

At last I was back on the road.  It seemed like ages since I rode in on that dark cold afternoon.  Now, the sun was out and I was riding south.  It was 55 degrees and would only get warmer every mile I went, a good feeling.  I topped off the tank at nearby a Exxon station.  It is my intention to ride the 250 miles to Salem and lunch, non stop-and that is what I did.

The Fairfax County Parkway took me to I-66, I brought the screen up and got comfortable. This was going to be a long ride, and I was looking forward to it.

South of Manassas a Long Rider finally escapes the clutches of the big cities of the Northeast.  Traffic thins out and the scenery turns into rural countryside with rolling hills.  I’ve made this ride many times, but I don’t ever recall being this excited about it. The 13 felt velvet smooth (because it is) and swallowed I-66 like an aspirin.
I watched a slide show of barns and houses as I put down the miles. Virginia is Gestapo like when it comes to speed limit enforcement, trooper cars where everywhere enforcing the 65 mph speed limit, in unmarked cars and cruisers. 

I-66 connected me with I-81 south and as usual the truck traffic picked up. Always does on 81.
The interstate miles bored me, and I sang every song I knew. I shifted around on the saddle to get the best position.  Rabbits would come and go, and I made use of them when I could, but no tactic could make the miles go by faster on 81.

It seemed like a long ride to Salem and it was, but I was on schedule.  Being the creature of habit I am, I took the Salem exit and went to the same Favollis I always stop, 255 miles after leaving Lorton.

After leaving the 13 in a safe place I went inside for lunch.  I was washing my hands in the rest room when I noticed they had a 4 step illustrated guide for hand washing hanging on the wall.  What kind of employees do the hire they need a picture guide on how to wash their hands?  How hard could it be?

Lunch was a BIG plate of spaghetti and meatballs.  After eating I made a few phone calls.

I had passed through the jet stream and it was a blissful 72 degrees.  I was never so glad to be warm again.  I removed the sweatshirt and went with just a T shirt under the Roadcrafter, and for the first time this trip I put the mesh JR gloves on.

I went back to 81 south but did not go far when I had to stop for gas.  The mpg thing was screaming at me 40 MILES TO EMPTY.  I gassed up a Citgo station and pushed on, I still had 80 miles to do before leaving I-81.

Finally the exit for SR 91 came into view.  I brought the 13 down from highway speed and coasted to the stop sign at the end of the ramp.  At last I was free of the interstates.  I’d been on them since leaving Norfolk, about 500 loooong miles ago.
​"At last I was free of the interstates."
On SR 91 north I brought the screen down and began to enjoy the ride. The route grew twisty just as I knew it would on the way into Damascus.  It felt good to be leaning again.  The curves were smooth and the 13 heeled over very well.  I went around a few slow moving cars, and slipped past green valleys, with emerald hills.
When I entered Damascus I was determined not to miss my route like last summer.  I came in looking for SR 133 but couldn't find it, and had to freelance it out. Today, I see 3 men chatting at a store parking lot and go over for directions.

"Excuse me, I’m looking for the way to Shady Valley," many locals don’t know route numbers, but they do know how to get to the next town.  How many of y'all can recall numbers in the town you live?  You know them by such names as Elm Street, Main Avenue or West Boulevard.
"Go down 1 block and turn left."

​​"Excuse me, I’m looking for the way to Shady Valley," 
Now I know why I missed it last summer.  The route does not become 133 till you get into Tennessee.  In Damascus it is an obscure county road.

SR 133 is great road.  Lots of curves with good scenery, it borders a creek as it carves its way between the hills.  The ride was inspiring.  Trees were beginning to green up and the sun filtered through the bare branches.
The store at the crossroads of SR 133 and US 421 had several sport bikes in the parking lot.  A good sign the road ahead is good.  I was correct, as SR 91 bended me up and over a series a hills.  The curves were especially dangerous, they were tight and a few had a sprinkling of sand and rocks.  

The temp at the top was in the low 60s, significantly cooler than the valley.  I could feel the difference.  I even saw snow from a storm a few days ago in shady spots.  Back down the hill I came, picking my lines and riding cautiously.  I'm sure the local riders lean this road at a good clip, and if any come up behind me, I will wave them around me.
​The fun and challenge of SR 91.  Note the snow on far 
shoulder, as the road bends right.  Awesome riding.

Elizabethton is a busy foothills city.  I came in tired from all the leaning, and needed a break.  There were many gas marts to choose from, so I let the ease of returning to the highway be the deciding factor.  I was going to buy fancy water but when I saw cokes in real bottles, I changed my mind.

I took my drink outside and settled against the wall.  Very few gas marts have chairs or benches outside.  You only find them at country stores.  I was sitting on the ground when I saw a mouse darting along the wall.  I let him go about his business, then I realized I had the sleeve of the Roadcrafter in his path, and jumped up.  Suddenly, I had a fear of him hiding in my sleeve and making mischief while I was leaning in some tight corner down the road.  I shook the Roadcrafter, and assumed he went somewhere else, but I was still a little nervous.
I skipped checking messages and got on the road.

US 321 took me to Johnson City and just like last year, it took awhile to get past the pawn shops and check cashing places.  The college there looks like a nice place to go to school.

Out of Johnson City 321 is 4 lane and the miles go by quickly.  It was here last year where I began to hit rain, but today the sky is perfect.  The Smokys appear in the distance, and I know I'm not far from my final goal for the day.  What a great ride this has been.

In Greenville I was reminded how hard it rained last year by the section of road that went under water, and I how to bolted through a parking lot to go around it.

South of Greenville 321 becomes really nice.  The road twists its way through peaceful Tennessee countryside.  The sun is slipping behind the hills and the light has a softer tint.  The area is very green as I pass brick homes with immaculate green lawns.  I was riding along when I thought about the scene around me.  In Tennessee this area is considered middle class, despite the large brick homes on big lots.  Only in the richness of America would a person call such living middle class.  In Tennessee they have NO state income tax, and the resulting prosperity is evident as I rode south to Gatlinburg.

I know I'm selfish for wanting to keep all that I earn, but not really, I just want to decide who I help, not the government.

Stereotype images of the Tennessee hillbilly comes to mind.  People making fun of marrying their cousins etc,  but I will submit the life of those in the house below, to that of a family in some big city, or mega suburb.  The thing is, Tennessee has much more of the latter than the former, don't let them kid y'all.  Ask Uncle Phil.
 The good life among the hills of Tennessee, and all that 
  riding at your door.
The road carved its way through the countryside and I felt I wasn't really piloting the 13, but that it had a mind of its own, and I was just along for the ride.  It leaned effortlessly and purred quietly.  The 13 can be a docile machine at times.  I met a few north bound riders, guys who had just got off work, out enjoying the day before going home.  

It was the week before Easter, and the rural churches along the route were preparing in earnest.  I went by a red bricked church and smelled hamburgers on the grill, parishioners worked in the yard sprucing things up, and when they were finished it was going to be time to eat. Yum.

The zen of this particular day, on this particular road, will be unforgettable.  I was closing down a 500 plus mile day, and everything was perfect.  The weather, the bike, the road, and my mood.   Brothers it was just a great zone ride, what more can I say?
​Images like these will be forever captured in my mind of
a late afternoon spring ride to Gatlinburg.

As I neared Gatlinburg the campgrounds became more numerous, and the traffic increased.  I arrived in the city just before dark and cruised through town.  My plan was to overnight in Pigeon Forge, but if I saw a good motel at a reasonable rate, I was open to changing that idea.

The city was busy, but not as busy as last summer.  I checked things out, then dove into a motel parking lot to change glasses.  It was too hard to see in the fading light with the dark Oakleys.

It even crossed my mind about making a dash for home.  I could be there in about 7 hours, but that would be NO fun.  I would miss the great ride I have planned for tomorrow.  I like my tours to end on a positive note, and not just a ride to get home, they are NEVER any fun.  Too many brothers fall captive to that, and spoil a good trip.  Maybe they do it because they miss home, perhaps the garage needs to be cleaned out, or the grass cut, or maybe something from work needs their attention.  But I suspect for many the trip has been all slab, and they just want the torture to end. I only had to do it once, and I HATED that day.  My son landed a job, and I needed to be home to celebrate, so I rode 990 miles of slab for no other reason then I needed to be home. Ugh.

It is rare when I choose miles over a nice ride, but they do happen.  Sometimes I just need a extra long ride, and after I do one, the feelings linger for a long time, but today is not one of those days.

I took 411 out of the city and headed for Pigeon Forge.  Camping was an option, there were lots of places, but I was sure I could land a motel room in PF for about the same cost.

I was correct when my cash negotiated a clean (on the surface) room near Dollywood for 23 dollars.  It wasn't bad at all.  It was dark when I signed in, and I took my stuff to a upstairs room.  My luck had run out, and up the stairs I went.

The 13 finished the day with 528 miles showing.

If ever in the area, take advantage of the competition in PF, thousands of motels.  On a bike you can make a quick run to Gatlinburg without much problem to see anything  you need to.  You can save money in PF if you are concerned about big credit card bills.

After my shower and bath I had to decide where to eat.  This was my last night on the road, and it has become custom to eat steak, so I went across the street to a Golden Corral but the door was locked, I had just missed the 9pm closing time.

A few blocks down there was an IHOP, so I went there and ordered a T bone from a timid, but helpful exchange student waiter.  He seemed intimidated by me for some reason.  While I waited for my meal I made notes on the Dell, and edited the many pictures I captured today.

Back at the room I cleaned the screen of the 13 and my Arai.  I called home and advised Debbie I would be home in the mid afternoon.   I was looking forward to another great ride.  

I watched a little TV then went to bed.