The Great Adventure – October 2006
YUP – here we go again! YUP – back to the mountains!!!! The mountains and the Dragon have come to dominate our vacation thoughts – and very often, I drift away mentally and find myself riding the twisties and napping at the chalet…only to awake to Tampa traffic and noise. I DO love where I live! But, if you gave me a choice I would be moved to the mountains in less than a week – maybe someday.
We headed out Tuesday evening about 8:30 and after a dinner at the Cracker Barrell in Brooksville; we started our climb toward our happy hideaway! Both excited for the adventure to come – excited to see Charlie again – and relieved to escape! Ready for a mental meltdown! We started looking for a room to crash in Valdosta and after checking 20 -30 motels through Tifton and several other South Georgia towns – we found a “dive” in Cordele about 2:30 AM – UGH!!!! We checked for roaches and bed-bugs, sprayed away some of the mildew smell and settled in for 3 hours of rest.
Wed morn – note to self: NEVER, I mean NEVER order the meatloaf from Cracker Barrell!!!!!!!!!! It DOES NOT like me and made for a miserable morning! We stopped for some tummy medicine and had breakfast just south of Atlanta and it worked out perfect – when we got back on I-75 after breakfast, the traffic had thinned dramatically and we flew through Atlanta about 10:30. As we marveled at the beautiful colors of the changing leaves our regular lives melted away and we grew in anticipation for the getaway!
We headed northeast toward Mayville and continued in our “enjoy the journey” mode and we “ooed and awed” our way though North Georgia into Tennessee – such different sights than we are used to. We must have seen 10,000 photo ops!!! Always promising to remember for on-the-way-back or next trip! Buildings, signs, flowers, cars, tractors, silo and on – all part of this specific area – awesome!
The colors once again left me incapable of adequately describing its beauty…. What a neat marvel of nature! Linda gathered leaves where we stopped and place them on the dash for later photos – each leaf was unique in color and design! Too cool! Stopped at Ingles in Madisonville and got some groceries and rolled into the chalet at 2:30 – as gorgeous as we remembered! ONLY – there were thousands of swarming Lady Bugs! The heat had brought them out and they were looking for a place to “winter”. They lay down at sunset and you can sweep them off – too much! A cold front coming through tomorrow will run them off – I hope…
We unloaded the Explorer and the Road King and tucked the trailer away. The drive had worn us out and we were soon looking for our favorite places to relax….Into Alcoa to Applebees for dinner – after watching the sunset – and we ran the 20 miles of turns back to the cabin. The fog along the river made for a wild site especially where it blended in with the lights from the dam. Talked to Charlie while we were at dinner and he will drive over tomorrow mid-day!
THURSDAY morning was cool and crisp with that clean air smell and lack of sounds that I have come to cherish and look forward to. I tried to capture some of the beauty of the trees and noticed that a rainbow was still showing from the night before – I hope it shows in the pictures! LOTS of photos to come today! We traveled across the Foothills Parkway and stopped repeatedly to take pictures. I kept experimenting with settings and adjustments and ended up with some decent shots – what a learning process…The colors seemed brighter than yesterday and they still need a couple good cold days to make them POP! The rain was starting to fall and the temperature starting to fall – the cold front was coming across Tennessee. We checked with Charlie and he decided to try tomorrow for better weather to drive across the state. Good idea! We headed into Maryville for breakfast – at noon – as it should be… After eating and a stop at Office Depot, we headed for Smoky Mountain Harley Davidson – awesome dealership! Linda found some leather pants for half price – and you know the rest of that story! She did look GREAT in them! She also found a new shirt with the “tattoo” sleeves that makes it look like she has tattoos all the way up her arm – more photo opps! The place was hopping – even at mid week! We left in the rain and cruised back toward the chalet – stopping at several places along 321 to check the country stuff and some warmer clothing. We headed back across the Foothills Parkway and found the short cut to the other end of Happy Valley Drive – WOW!!!!!! What a road! The turns were often and severe, it was a mini-Dragon – absolutely incredible. Lots of neat places tucked back in the woods along the way. Another new path in this great adventure. Back at the chalet, we played and laughed and napped. I hopped in the truck about 6:45 and headed for the Overlook on the Dragon to try to shoot some sunset shots. The very second I passed the bridge to head up, the excitement came back – I LOVE THIS ROAD!!!! It was raining and semi-dark but it was still the same fun and challenge! The Overlook is 2.9 miles from the beginning and it was raining and dark, so the pictures were very few…. Oh, well – here we go back down! I could do this about 8 times a day! Back home, Linda had fixed dinner and I ate as I downloaded all the shots I had taken that day. We built a fire, watched some TV and crashed……
FRIDAY found me up early again – hoping for good weather to get our boy over here! Whatever the day brings – I’m ready! I open the back door and you hear the water in the brook running and feel the coo, crisp air – AHHHHHHHHHH………….Once again, I must apologize because I just don’t know the proper words the describe the beauty and peacefulness of this place.
We had told Mike & Cathy Cline that we would come see their place near Franklin this morning - BUT, it was cold and damp and we were waiting to see if Charlie would show up or we might get a message…. By eleven, we took off and after running down Happy Valley, we looked at 129 and Linda said “go for it” – not so good. The run along the river was fine, though cold – BRRRR. As we turned up the hill past the bridge – where the Dragon begins - we could see the road was still real wet and had lots of leaves all over. Not one to turn back, I turned the throttle and off we went! It was a long – (did I tell you it was long?) – and COLD ride. The Dragon was far more challenging than normal… We probably saw less than 10 other bikes the whole 11 miles – unbelievable!! When we got to Deals Gap, Linda bolted for the warm building! I took a few pictures and went inside for the warmth as well. I found the Lady Linda in the Dragon’s Den Café with her jacket over her knees and almost shivering. We got some candy bars and stayed until she felt warm enough to ride back to the chalet – she had quickly scratched the ride to Franklin in this cold – good call Linda. It had warmed slightly and the motorcycle resort was HOPPING! Along with all the motorcycles, there must have 20 -25 corvettes and a handful of mini coopers – awesome! We leathered up and headed back north on the Dragon… The road was better and I quickly found my pace and rhythm and was thoroughly enjoying the challenge. It was still COLD…….. The cold did not interfere with my total infatuation and fascination with the Dragon! Each turn is becoming part of my memory bank and I still “come alive” when riding this special road – more than ANYWHERE else I have ridden – I guess that’s what keeps bringing me back! We stopped at the overlook, took pics and warmer slightly before running the last 1.9 miles. Have I mentioned that it was COLD??? We warmed up back at the cabin, made coffee and relaxed for a few moments… We hopped in the Explorer, ran 12 miles down 129 to the closest gas station and were able to get cell phone signal there! Charlie had been delayed after 1 of his soldiers attempted suicide and was have to deal with the reports, family, etc. So we called the Clines and took off. Linda usually doesn’t like the Dragon in a car, but was OK this time. We headed down 28 from Deals Gap and though we would be there in 30 – 45 minutes. After a thousand or more twisties and almost 2 hours we got there! The Clines have an incredibly beautiful home with views to die for!!! 3 story, 5 bedroom, 3-1/2 bath – too awesome for words – check out some of the photos….We stayed til almost sunset and took a long ride home, stopping for chili in Robbinsville. Back at the chalet we settled in for some needed rest. Coming back over the Dragon at night had given me an adrenaline rush, but had made Linda a little woozy…..Hey – it’s still COLD too!
SATURDAY – early AM and here I am – pecking on the laptop while Linda sleeps away. It’s far too cold to even go outside and sniff the air! Today will unfold soon enough and I eagerly await the beauty and excitement it will bring! Tonight we will go to a concert at the Smokey Mountain Harley Davidson dealership featuring Nick Moss and the Flip Flops – they are a Chicago style blues band – TOO COOL! Downloaded the photos from yesterday and have some gooduns….. After breakfast at Linda’s Mountain Café (our kitchen), we showered and played and were still waiting on Charlie… We drove up on the Foothills Parkway where we could get cell phone service and left him another message – it wasn’t to be for this trip… Charlie had to handle details on one of soldiers that had attempted suicide and he was stuck at Ft Campbell. We were bummed that he was coming and quickly shifted gears and figured out what we wanted to do with the rest of our day. After yesterday being so cold, Linda did not want to get on the bike and freeze again. I DID NOT care! I had my destiny – another solo meeting with the Dragon! The Lord had smiled on this day in these mountains and the sun was bright and roads were dry – OH YEAH! We had some lunch, took a little customary nap and I jumped up and said – “it’s time – see ya later”. I hopped on the Road King and headed down Happy Valley Drive full of anticipation and excitement – it never ceases to amaze me how much this little stretch of road amps me up. The ride along the river was absolutely incredible – the sun reflecting off the water and lighting of the changing color of the leaves all over the mountains – it is almost overwhelming. As I draw closer, I get the feeling similar to pre-game in football or karate matches – I actually start to tingle! I love the fact that this just me controlling myself and my machine against this formidable road – the road is there and unyielding – the rest is up to me… It’s Saturday and I see tons of bike coming off and am hoping I can have a good run without getting behind a car or slow bikers. The road is beautiful and the sunlight splashing through the trees make it surreal! I quickly find my rhythm and am running through about 10 – 15 miles per hour faster than yesterday with Linda on the back. As I start there is a V-rod and another Harley behind me – I lost them in the 1st minute and never saw them again. It’s always everything I anticipate! I just can’t come up with words to describe the total contentment I find riding through this exciting 11 miles! There was an accident about 2 miles from Deals Gap – a new Harley had crossed the road, ran off and hit a tree… it did NOT look good. You shake your head and concentrate just that much more. A few minutes more I pulled into an extremely crowded Deals Gap Motorcycle Resort. I had never been on the Dragon or at Deals Gap on Saturday and it was BIZERK! Hundreds of bikes, vetttes, mini-Coopers – they were everywhere – it was a beautiful fall day and many others that obviously share my passion were all here. It’s great to know there is a lot of “nut-cases” like me out there. I hit the bathroom, bought Dennis a T-shirt and went out to photograph the madness. I got back on my bike and headed back over – 318 more twisties!!!!! Unfortunately, a car pulled out ahead of me and never got out of the way, so I had a rather slow trip back over – but it is still 30 miles past awesome driving your motorcycle at any speed on this mountain! I came off the north end and had that same feeling of satisfaction and accomplishment – total satisfaction – total peace. Once again, you ride along the river and just don’t know if it could ever get better than this! If I died right then, they would never get the smile off my face! I flew down Happy Valley Drive at 60 – 70 MPH and was screaming the whole way – I MUST MOVE HERE!!!!!!!! Linda heard me scream as I got off the bike in the garage and knew that her “old kid” had a great playtime! We laughed and I shared my most recent Dragon happenings like a little child. I had seen Gene, my nephew at Deals Gap as I was about to pull out and he was with some buddies on his green Ninja. I didn’t talk with him, but was happy for him that he had gotten over here – I’m sure he loved every curve. I saw him right after I came here the 1st time and had told him it was a MUST for him and his bike! Ride safe my young friend!
We headed into Maryville for a concert at the Smokey Mountain Harley Davidson dealership and some dinner. The concert was awesome! They have a shelter beside the store that they call – The Shed – and they have concerts there almost every weekend. This week was Nick Moss and the Flip Flops – a Chicago style blues band and they were the real deal – TOO FREAKIN COOL! They had 2 big fire pits that people gathered around to keep warm and there were multiple HOT biker ladies!!!! The band was awesome times three and all the people were real friendly. I got out the camera and tried to take some pictures in the dark – we will see how they turn out…..What a GREAT night. 2 gorgeous young girls came up and ask who I was shooting pictures for and I told them CycleShot out of Florida and they ask if they could have their picture in my CycleShot – absolutely!!! Besides being knockouts, they had that southern drawl that makes them even cuter… Don’t worry; Linda is only 40 feet away watching it all. It was getting colder. So Linda and I headed off for dinner and back to our last night at the chalet….
Sunday saw clouds and a little drizzle as I started checking tires and getting the truck and trailer ready for the journey back to Florida. The drizzle didn’t last long and we went about the melancholy part of our trip. We ate breakfast, started preparing the vehicles and gathering up our toys and clothes. The “load up” went pretty quick. I took a few more pictures and we went upstairs to spend a few last moments on our porch…We had tried to get away early, but here was noon already and I know I would be driving past midnight, so off we went. We both dearly love this place and this part of the country and have talked many, many times about how we would like to live here. Maybe someday! Until, then we have these GREAT memories of the beautiful sites and times.
It was a long drive home with the usual stops (including making our coffee at a Georgia rest stop) and all went well – getting home a little after 1 AM. Our pups were certainly glad to see us!
Until we return, not a day will pass without me thinking of this area and each turn on my favorite playground…. See you soon Dragon!