EAST TN, NC, AND SOUTH VA - 06/29/2007 - 07/04/2007


A group of riders from the Stromtroopers Forum met at the Cherohala Motorcycle Resort and Hunts Lodge Motorcycle Campground in Tellico Plains, TN on June 29 and June 30, 2007.  It was truly great to finally put faces to names on a computer screen and to meet some of the nicest guys in the world.  "World" literally since there was one man there from British Columbia, Canada and another from Hungary.  Stromtroopers is truly an International group of riders and I'm proud to be one of them.

After the group split up on Monday I headed east through the Great Smoky Mountains and up the Blue Ridge Parkway.  Below are many photographs of my trip and some comments pertaining to each day.  Note that all of the images below are links to larger photos.  To view a larger photo just click the desired image.

Friday June 29, 2007
I met a friend in McMinnville, TN at 8:30 for breakfast and then we headed east to Tellico Plains.  Naturally we did not take the "Straight and Narrow" route but instead took Highway 30 through Spencer, TN and Athens, TN.  This road was made for motorcycles and is a truly great ride.

The weather forecast for Friday called for a 60% chance of rain and thunderstorms becoming more numerous in the afternoon so we left about 8:30am and got to Tellico Plains about 1:00pm (including an hour time change from CDT to EDT).  We beat the rain but a few hours after we got there it came down in buckets.  The photos below will verify that!

There are several photographs below of a small dog.  His name is Punky and he has more miles on a motorcycle than most people do.  Punky rides with his owner Lew and they have traveled all over both North and South America, Canada, and Alaska.  Here Is A Photo of Punky and Lew riding their KLR650.  Note the goggles to protect Punky!  Here Is A Link to the originating page for the previous photo that tells a lot about their travels and experiences.  Ride on Punky!  It was a pleasure meeting both of you!


A few of the V-Stroms Friday afternoon

Cherohala Motorcycle Resort

My cabin right before the bottom fell out!


The campground AFTER the bottom fell out!

Punky

Punky Again!
Saturday, June 30, 2007
Saturday's dawn was not very bright.  As can be seen in the first photo below it was really foggy.  The V-Strom guys broke up into two groups.  One group took an Adventure Ride through some off-road areas.  The rest of us headed over the Cherohala Skyway to Deal's Gap and rode The Dragon.

I guess everyone in this part of the country has heard of The Dragon at Deal's Gap and I'm no exception.  The Dragon is part of Tennessee Highway 129 and is 11 miles long.  In that 11 miles a rider will find 318 curves ranging from mild sweepers to complete 180° reversals.  It is a somewhat intense section of highway and each year it claims its share of bikes and riders.  We made it through without incident the first time, however on the second pass (I wasn't there for this one) one of our riders went down.  No serious damage to bike or rider other than some scrapes and bruised pride.

I've wanted to try it for the past year and Saturday was my chance.  From what I understand it was pretty much a typical summer weekend at The Gap, and there were motorcycles everywhere.  Every type, make, and description imaginable and every one of them trying to "Tame The Dragon."  My goal was to get through in one piece, enjoy the ride, and pay attention to what was going on.  I succeeded in that and had a lot of fun doing it.

I didn't get any photographs while actually riding The Dragon because I was somewhat busy at the time.  If you want to see plenty of photos of what goes on there check out the Killboy Web Site since they are there every weekend taking photographs.  Killboy.Com did get some photos of me as I went through and they are on the last row below.


Saturday Morning

Finishing breakfast, getting ready to ride.

Santeetlah on the Cherohala Skyway


Santeetlah on the Cherohala Skyway

Santeetlah on the Cherohala Skyway

Santeetlah on the Cherohala Skyway


Santeetlah on the Cherohala Skyway

Deal's Gap Motorcycle Resort

Deal's Gap Motorcycle Resort


Deal's Gap Motorcycle Resort

Deal's Gap Motorcycle Resort

The far end of The Dragon after our first run


Photography by Killboy.Com

Photography by Killboy.Com

Photography by Killboy.Com

After we rode The Dragon we split up.  I wanted to go to Cades Cove in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park in search of a National Park Passport Stamp.  A couple of the other guys were going with me and the rest were taking off to go somewhere else.  Somehow my group managed to get separated.  I was following my GPS and looked around and there was nobody else with me.  Lucky for them!  My GPS had tried to route me to the Cades Cove Visitors Center via a road that didn't exist (actually it does exist as a path through the mountains but as a "Road" it has been closed for "Reconstruction" and is not passable).  I took another route across the Foothills Parkway and it was a gorgeous ride.

I finally did get to the Cades Cove Visitors Center but I was ready to spit nails when I did!  The Visitor's Center is located in the middle of an 11 mile long one-way loop.  The loop is a "Scenic Trail" and even though there are signs every few hundred feet telling drivers "Do Not Stop In The Road - Use The Pulloffs" people tended to ignore them.  If they saw something of interest the idiots would just stop in the middle of the damn road, presumably under the assumption that the dozen or so cars behind them wanted to stop and look as well.  To those people I offer this observation: Not everyone wants to stop just because you do!  Use the damn pulloffs like you are supposed to!  If everyone would keep moving it would have been easy, but since so many people apparently can't read worth a damn the Park Service has put up even more signs warning that the loop takes 2 to 3 hours to complete.  They weren't kidding either!  It took me three hours to go around that 11 mile loop, and about 15 minutes to get the stamp and get gone.  Oh well, I got the stamp and it was a pretty area.  I also managed to get another Passport Stamp that I didn't expect at the Townsend Visitor's Center so all in all it was a good trip.


Foothills Parkway

Foothills Parkway

Foothills Parkway


Foothills Parkway

Foothills Parkway

Great Smoky Mountains National Park
Sunday, July 1, 2007
Sunday many of the Stromtroopers were headed home but I stayed at Cherohala Motorcycle Resort Sunday night.  On Sunday I went in search of yet more National Park Passport Stamps around the Great Smoky Mountain National Park.  I rode up through Maryville, TN and came down Highway 321 through Townsend, TN to the entrance to the park.  I had gotten the stamp at the Townsend Visitors Center on Saturday but I stopped and took a couple of photographs of the facility today.

I then headed through the park to the Sugarlands Visitors Center for a stamp, and from there to the Gatlinburg Visitors Center.  Let me give you a word of advice: Never, never, never, not for any reason whatsoever go through Gatlinburg or Pigeon Forge, TN on a Sunday in the middle of the summer.  Those two towns are apparently a tourist mecca and it was absolutely wall to wall people.  At one point it took me over 30 minutes to go less than 2 miles.


Cherokee National Forest

Cherokee National Forest

Cherokee National Forest


Townsend, TN Visitors Center

Townsend, TN Visitors Center

Little River Road - Great Smoky Mountains NP


Little River Road - Great Smoky Mountains NP

Little River Road - Great Smoky Mountains NP

Sugarlands VC - Great Smoky Mountains NP


Gatlinburg, TN Visitors Center

Gatlinburg, TN Visitors Center

Great Smoky Mountains Heritage Center


Great Smoky Mountains Heritage Center

Great Smoky Mountains Heritage Center
 

When I got back to the Cherohala Motorcycle Resort I grabbed a Coke and sat down on the "Porch" of my cabin.  I was just relaxing when I turned my head and saw something green out of the corner of my eye.  I looked to the left, came unglued from the chair and jumped about halfway to the main building.  This big, green bug was also relaxing but he had picked a spot right by my left ear on the corner of the door.


Big Green Critter

Big Green Critter

Big Green Critter

It must have been a night for big bugs or something.  There was a decorative lantern hanging from the corner of my cabin, and I noticed that a spider had made its home inside the globe.  Smart spider!  He (she?) was one of the few bugs that didn't get wet Friday night!


Smart Spider!

Smart Spider!
 
Monday, July 2, 2007
Monday I left Cherohala Motorcycle Resort and headed farther east.  My goal was to pick up National Park Passport Stamps at the Oconluftee (Great Smoky Mountains NP at the southern end of the Blue Ridge Parkway) and Waterrock Knob (Blue Ridge Parkway) Visitors Centers and then head for Flat Rock, NC to pick up another stamp at the home of Carl Sandburg.  After that I was going to head for South Carolina and pick up stamps at Cowpens National Battlefield and Kings Mountain National Military Park.

Plans were meant to be broken though, and in this case it was because of weather.  I got the stamps at Oconaluftee and Waterrock Knob, as well as the one at the home of Carl Sandburg.  About mid morning the rain that had been threatning decided to start up and I spent a good part of the day riding in it.  When I left Carl Sandburg's home at mid-afternoon it was about 50 miles to Cowpens, 30 more to Kings Mountain, and then another 100 back to Asheville, NC where I planned to stop for the night.  At the time I was only 30 miles from Asheville and really didn't have 180 miles left in me so I decided to skip South Carolina this time by.  It's not going anywhere and I'll get back there at some point.

One good thing about the rain is that my rain gear actually felt good!  The west side of the mountains was sweltering with temperatures in the 90's and humidity to match.  I had spent the last few days on the west side of the mountains with a mesh jacket and gloves and every time I got off my bike the first thing I did was come out of them.  I could not believe the change when I crossed to the east side.  It was much cooler and I was glad for my rain gear.

To get from the Oconaluftee Visitors Center to the Waterrock Knob Visitors Center I rode over a portion of the Blue Ridge Parkway.  That road is absolutely magnificent.  Unforunately on this particular day the low-hanging clouds and fog made for an interesting ride to say the least!  Take a look at the fourth row of photographs below.  The "North Carolina Horizon" sign shows what can be seen from that vantage point, but if you'll notice there is nothing but cloud.  The photograph on the right shows my motorcycle and if you look closely through the gloom behind it you can sort of make out the flag pole and visitors center, but you have to look closely.  As can be seen visibility was about 100' which makes for an interesting ride along a mountain road!

After I decided to skip heading for South Carolina, which is where the bulk of the rain was coming from, I headed to Asheville, NC and made a stop at the Folk Art Visitors Center of the Blue Ridge Parkway to pick up a stamp.  I had planned to get this stamp the first thing Tuesday morning but since I cut out the South Carolina trip I went ahead and got it this afternoon.  Since all of the visitors centers open at 9:00am this would allow me to get a little bit ahead and be at the Craggy Gardens VC at 9:00am tomorrow, or about 30 minutes earlier than planned.  Tuesday was to be my "Big Day" on the Blue Ridge Parkway.


Nantahala National Forest

Nantahala National Forest

Nantahala National Forest


Nantahala National Forest

Oconaluftee Visitors Center

Oconaluftee Visitors Center


Oconaluftee Visitors Center

Blue Ridge Parkway overlook

Blue Ridge Parkway overlook


Waterrock Knob Visitors Center

Waterrock Knob Visitors Center

Waterrock Knob Visitors Center


Blue Ridge Parkway

Blue Ridge Parkway

Blue Ridge Parkway


Blue Ridge Parkway

Blue Ridge Parkway

Blue Ridge Parkway


Carl Sandburg's Home (in the distance)

Folk Art Center - Blue Ridge Parkway

Folk Art Center - Blue Ridge Parkway


Motel in Asheville, NC

Motel in Asheville, NC
 
Tuesday, July 3, 2007
Tuesday was my big day on the Blue Ridge Parkway.  I rode from the southern end at the Oconaluftee Visitors Center to the Folk Art Center at Asheville, NC (mile 382.0) on Monday.  Today I was picking up at the Folk Art Center again and heading north all the way to the Rocky Knob Visitors Center at mile 169 in Virginia.  Since the speed limit on the Blue Ridge Parkway is 45 mph that 213 mile trip alone accounts for nearly 5 hours of "Seat Time".  Add to that stops at 7 visitors centers for National Park Passport Stamps as well as numerous stops for photographs and it made for a rather long day.

The cool weather is continuing, and I'm certainly glad for that.  The forecast high temperature for Asheville, NC today was 79° and I've been accustomed to the mid 90's.  Luckily I brought the liner from my winter-weight First Gear Kilimanjaro coat as well as some winter-weight gloves.  These really felt good in the higher altitides of the Blue Ridge Parkway all day.

It may have been a rather long day but it was certainly an enjoyable one.  The Blue Ridge Parkway is a magnificent place to ride and is pretty much a never-ending sequence of mountain vistas.  Every mile offers fantastic scenery and fairly screams for one to stop and take a photograph or just enjoy the view.  If I had stopped every time I wanted to I'd still be up there riding.

I had planned stops at 7 visitors centers for Passport Stamps.  They were Craggy Gardens, The Museum of North Carolina Minerals, Linville Falls, Linn Cove Viaduct, Moses Cone Memorial Park, The Blue Ridge Music Center, and Rocky Knob.  The first stop at Craggy Gardens was scheduled for 9:00am when the center opened but somehow I managed to get there a bit early so I spent the time checking my bike over and taking a bunch of photographs.

The entire back wall of the Visitors Center at Craggy Gardens is windowed, and it looks out over a vast panorama of the mountains.  It was a magnificent view in July and I can only try to imagine what it would look like in the fall when the trees are in color or in winter when there is snow.  The lady who was in charge of the VC said that it was a waste of my time because there is no way to imagine what it looks like, you just have to see it to appreciate it.

The last stop for the day was at the Rocky Knob Visitors Center in Virginia.  After that I backtracked about 30 miles to Fancy Gap, VA where I spent the night.  On the way up I noticed an interesting spot that needed some photographs taken but I wanted to make sure I got to the VC before it closed so I decided to pick them up on the way back.  Probably a good thing to since I only had about 30 minutes to spare when I got to the VC.  I did stop on the way back and get some good photographs of an old mill named Mabry Mill.

After this trip I have effectively covered the Blue Ridge Parkway from the southern end at mile 469 where it enters the Great Smoky Mountain National Park at the Oconaluftee Visitors Center to Rocky Knob at mile 169 in Virginia.  300 miles total and I enjoyed every one of them.  This is an absolutely beautiful place to ride and visit and I highly recommend it to anyone traveling that part of the country.

I did receive one AGirl-style comment along the way though.  When I stopped at the Blue Ridge Music Center there was a couple there on a Honda Gold Wing that I talked to for a few minutes.  They asked how I enjoyed the ride up and I said that it was fantastic but I was pretty worn out from it.  They asked where I started that morning and when I said Asheville, NC they commented, "Gee, that is a pretty long ride.  We left Asheville two days ago!"

Here are the photos!  Enjoy them even though they do not do the area justice.  Oh, and the photograph of the license plate in the 5th row was taken because the slogan on top reminded me so much of a close friend.  Her mantra is "Seize The Journey" and this was so similar I just couldn't resist a photograph of it.


Blue Ridge Parkway Entrance

Craggy Gardens VC - Blue Ridge Parkway

Craggy Gardens VC - Blue Ridge Parkway


Craggy Gardens VC - Blue Ridge Parkway

Craggy Gardens VC - Blue Ridge Parkway

Craggy Gardens VC - Blue Ridge Parkway


Craggy Gardens VC - Blue Ridge Parkway

Craggy Gardens VC - Blue Ridge Parkway

Craggy Gardens VC - Blue Ridge Parkway


Craggy Gardens VC - Blue Ridge Parkway

Craggy Gardens VC - Blue Ridge Parkway

Craggy Gardens VC - Blue Ridge Parkway


Craggy Gardens VC - Blue Ridge Parkway

Craggy Gardens VC - Blue Ridge Parkway

Craggy Gardens VC - Blue Ridge Parkway


Museum of NC Minerals - Blue Ridge Parkway

Museum of NC Minerals - Blue Ridge Parkway

Blue Ridge Parkway Overlook


Blue Ridge Parkway Overlook

Blue Ridge Parkway Overlook

Linville Falls VC - Blue Ridge Parkway


Linville Falls VC - Blue Ridge Parkway

Linn Cove Viaduct VC - Blue Ridge Parkway

Linn Cove Viaduct VC - Blue Ridge Parkway


Linn Cove Viaduct VC - Blue Ridge Parkway

Linn Cove Viaduct VC - Blue Ridge Parkway

Linn Cove Viaduct VC - Blue Ridge Parkway


Blue Ridge Music Center - Blue Ridge Parkway

Blue Ridge Music Center - Blue Ridge Parkway

Blue Ridge Music Center - Blue Ridge Parkway


Rocky Knob VC - Blue Ridge Parkway

Rocky Knob VC - Blue Ridge Parkway

Rocky Knob VC - Blue Ridge Parkway


Mabry Mill - Blue Ridge Parkway

Mabry Mill - Blue Ridge Parkway

Mabry Mill - Blue Ridge Parkway
Wednesday, July 4, 2007
I had planned to hit the Andrew Johnson Tailor Shop in Greeneville, TN today and then head for Sevierville, TN to visit the Tennessee Museum of Aviation and I accomplished both of those.  I had also planned to head north to the Cumberland Gap National Park in Kentucky for a Passport Stamp and then spend the night in Morristown, TN before heading home on Thursday.  After leaving the aviation museum I paused to consider my options.  I decided I really didn't want to ride all the way to Kentucky for a stamp and spend another night in a motel so I headed west for home.  It shortened my trip by one day but it sure felt good to sleep in my own bed again.  Cumberland Gap isn't that far away and I'll grab that stamp on a "Day Trip" in the next couple of months.

The cool weather I've been enjoying for the past couple of days on the east side of the Smoky Mountains came to a screaming halt today to.  Coming down the interstate from Fancy Gap, VA it was cool enough that I had to turn on my grip heaters to keep my hands warm.  I was wearing the liner from my winter-weight First Gear Kilimanjaro jacket under my mesh jacket as well as my winter-weight gloves but was still pretty chilly.  It warmed up as I rode and by the time I got to Bristol, TN it was actually quite comfortable.  When I stopped in Greeneville, TN I got off my bike and remember saying to myself, "Hmm ... it isn't quite as cool here.  In fact it's getting damn HOT again!"  It must have warmed up at least 15° between Bristol, TN and Greenville, TN and gone from "Cool and Comfortable" to "Hot and Humid!".

It will come as no surprise to many that there are more photographs at the Tennessee Museum of Aviation than anywhere else.  I've been an aviation nut since I knew what an airplane was.  Both my parents were pilots and I learned to fly as well many years ago.  Airplanes are one thing that I am always willing to make a trip to see.

Funny thing about the Tennessee Aviation Museum .... I was at the airport here a couple of years ago and picked up a brochure for the museum.  At the time I didn't even know there was an aviation museum in Tennessee so I was interested in it.  I looked over it while waiting for a meeting to start, and it had a photograph of an old F-86 that caught my eye.  For a couple of hours afterwards I kept thinking back to that F-86 and something about it kept bothering me.  It finally dawned on me, and I grabbed the brochure again to be sure.  Sure enough, it wasn't an F-86!  It was a MiG-17 with US markings on it.  I had just automatically seen a jet from the Korean war with US markings and assumed F-86.  I sent the museum an email and asked if they really had a MiG with US markings and got an answer that said they really do.  I have been wanting to visit the museum to see that ever since and this was my chance.  Photographs of the plane are included below.

In fact the museum has two MiG-17s as well as a MiG-21 on display.  Russian aircraft have always interested me simply because they are frequently such capable aircraft.  They are usually quite large when compared to comparable western aircraft and they do not have the "Bells and Whistles" of their western counterparts, but they do what they were designed to do: Fly well and shoot down the enemy.

Their designs have always been very simplistic and rugged when compared to western aircraft as well.  The MiG-21 is a good example.  The photographs below show the Mk R37F engine from a MiG-21.  The aircraft was designed so that the engine could be replaced in the field with simple tools and manpower.  Keep in mind that in many cases Russian airfields did not have the luxury of enclosed hangar space all the time, and repairs had to be carried out in bitter cold with simple hand tools.  The MiG-21 engine could be pulled from the fuselage, replaced with a new one, and the old one shipped back to the depot for complete overhaul in only a few hours.  From what I understand actual engine repairs were limited to very minor repairs since it was easier to replace the engine than repair it.  It also meant that the personnel who maintained the aircraft did not have to have a complete understanding of the engine, only how to remove it and install a new one.  The trained engine repair specialists were assigned to depot maintenance.


Andrew Johnson Tailor Shop VC

Tennessee Museum of Aviation

Pratt and Whitney R2800 Engine


Pratt and Whitney R4360 Engine

Pratt and Whitney R4360 Engine

Old Movie Camera


B-25 Cockpit

B-25 Cockpit

B-25 Cockpit


F-86 Sabre

F-86 Sabre

F-86 Sabre


F-86 Sabre

F-86 Sabre

P-51D Mustang


UH-34G

UH-34G

UH-34G Engine


Halftrack and Maxson Gun Mount

Halftrack and Maxson Gun Mount

Halftrack and Maxson Gun Mount


TDR Mk R37F Jet Engine from MiG21

TDR Mk R37F Jet Engine from MiG21

TDR Mk R37F Jet Engine from MiG21


MiG21 Sparka (Trainer)

MiG21 Sparka (Trainer)

MiG17 Fresco


MiG17 Fresco

MiG17 Fresco

MiG17 Fresco


MiG17 Fresco

MiG17 Fresco (note US markings)

MiG17 Fresco (note US markings)


A-4 Skyhawk Cockpit

A-4 Skyhawk Cockpit

A-4 Skyhawk Cockpit


T-33 Shooting Star

T-33 Shooting Star

T-33 Shooting Star


T-33 Shooting Star

T-33 Shooting Star

Rolls-Royce Viper Jet Engine


Rolls-Royce Viper Jet Engine

Orenda 10 Jet Engine

Orenda 10 Jet Engine


P-47 Cockpit Wreckage

P-47 Cockpit Wreckage

P-47 Cockpit Wreckage


Republic P-47D Thunderbolt

Republic P-47D Thunderbolt

Republic P-47D Thunderbolt


Republic P-47D Thunderbolt

Republic P-47D Thunderbolt

North American AT-6 Texan


North American AT-6 Texan

Andy Reid's Biplane

Andy Reid's Biplane


TBF/TBM Avenger

TBF/TBM Avenger

TBF/TBM Avenger


VK-1A Jet Engine

VK-1A Jet Engine

Wright R-1820 Piston Engine


Wright R-1820 Piston Engine

LOM M337B Engine

LOM M337B Engine


Rolls-Royce Merlin Engine

Rolls-Royce Merlin Engine

Rolls-Royce Merlin Engine


Wright R-1820-86A Engine

Wright R-1820-86A Engine

Wright R-1820-86A Engine


Pratt and Whitney 985 Wasp Junior Engine

Pratt and Whitney 985 Wasp Junior Engine

Old Gasoline Generator


Norden Bombsight

Norden Bombsight

Norden Bombsight


Norden Bombsight
   
Trip Summary
I left Nashville on my motorcycle on Friday, June 29, 2007 and returned on Wednesday, July 4, 2007.  During that time I traveled 1,546 miles per my GPS, spent 34 hours actually riding my bike, and covered parts of three states.  I met people whom I had only known previously through an internet forum.  I rode across the Cherohala Skyway, I rode The Dragon, and traveled 300 miles of the Blue Ridge Parkway.  I stopped at 14 visitors centers in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, the Blue Ridge Parkway, and several other standalone National Monuments where I collected 18 new National Park Passport Stamps for my collection.  I visited the Tennessee Museum of Aviation and Deal's Gap, both of which have been on my "Must Visit" list for over a year.  I don't know when I'll get to do something like this again so I made the best of it that I could.  I saw absolutely awe-inspiring mountain vistas and waterways.  I saw numerous White Tailed Deer, Black Bears, Squirrels, Chipmunks, Wild Turkeys, and one Ground Hog.  I had an absolute blast and would do it again in a heartbeat.  It wasn't a coast-to-coast trip or a 4-Corners tour but by my standards it was a long trip that I truly enjoyed.

A GPS Track Log is included below however it looks somewhat "Busy" because it covers a good bit of area.




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