August 01, 2005 GMT
A Gathering Storm

A Gathering Storm
OK, so itís a little melodramatic. But it ties in with the gathering of the personnel and equipment, and the clouds that we ran intoÖ.

Our actual departure date from Bowling Green isnít until Tuesday the 2nd. But after my last day of work on Friday I couldnít just sit around until Tuesday, now could I? So I fully packed the bike for a trial run down to meet Dad on his way up from GA. This way I could get some riding in, check how well I packed, etc.

I took off early Saturday past Barren River lake.
barren river lake.jpg

Then I took 90 out of Glasgow and picked up 92 in Monticello. The section of 92 from Monticello to Pine Knot, KY through the Daniel Boone National forest is a really nice curvy road with good views and nice clean new(ish) pavement.

Which brings the question - how many ways can you describe a road and get the point across? Twisty, sweepers, curvyÖ..I found myself trying to think of a better classification/description system. All I could come up with was: Technical and Artistic. How hard the road is to ride, and how pretty the road and views are. The problem is, technical level depends on how you approach the ride - you can putz around on the Tail of the Dragon, which is a very technical road, and conversely, you can ride balls out on your average country lane. A better method might be to describe them as musical genres:
heavy metal - choppy, hard, aggressive
Jazz - smooth, flowing
Country - country roads, what else?
Still, the riderís experience of a given road depends on their approach to that road., their attitude, their riding ability, and the equipment theyíre on.

After further thought, the concept of music as a metaphor for riding made more sense. There is the piece of music - the road itself, with itís technical challenges, flow, and beauty; the instrument - the motorcycle being used, with itís particular capabilities, or lack thereof; and the rider themselves, as musician, using their skills and equipment to interpret and put their stamp on the piece of music or pavement.

Deep thoughts for a Monday. Too much time in the saddle talking to myself.

When I stopped for gas, I had to ask the full service gas pump attendant (who knew that they still existed?!) where I wasÖ.all I knew was 92, and somewhere it would hit 25E, which would take me through Newport, TN, and into Hot Springs, NC, my eventual destination for the day.

I rode the big tunnel through the Cumberland Gap and made my way into Hot Springs, after a brief detour to Asheville. Found my favorite bar tender working at the only pub in town and made a night of it.

the pub.jpg

The musical entertainment in the pub that evening was, umm, remarkable. Remarkable in how much it reminded me of the bad lounge singer skit from old Saturday Night Live episodes. They had the drum machine and keyboard programmed with all the latest sounds of the eighties-era equipment they were using. The bongo playerís bongos werenít miked up, which was a good thing, since he wouldnít have known what rhythm was if you hit him with a drum stick. The singer/saxophone player was talented, even if he/she couldnít decide exactly which side of the male / female fence to stand on. However, as the night wore on, the liquid lubrication of the libations seemed to loosen up the band and the crowd. In other words, the more you drank, the better they sounded, and by the end of the night everyone was dancing.

209 out of Hot Springs south to I40 is a wonderful piece of road. Switchbacks, steep sections, a very technical piece of road. The only down points are occasional gravel washouts in the road and rough sections of pavement. It doesnít seem to be heavily trafficked at any time, and it definitely wasnít this early Sunday morning. It does display one of the universal signs of a wonderful motorcycling road.

the sign.jpg

After a day of beautiful weather on Saturday, Sunday didnít start out so well. By the time I got to Franklin, NC, our designated meeting spot, the rain gear was on. Funny how appropriate what I was reading turned out to be.

the book.jpg

We were in and out of the rain gear all day, because wearing non-breathable rain gear in 95 degree super humid heat is no fun.

Dad showed up and we compared tattoos. His only tattoo is the inspiration for my latest piece.


We then rode 28 from Franklin to 143 into Robbinsville. Again, 28 is amazing. Tight switchbacks up and down the hillsides. Outside of Robbinsville we picked up the Cherohala Skyway, that connects the Cherokee National Forest and the Nantahala National Forest. 45 miles, no services, great wide open sweepers, smooth pavement, and not too many tourists due to the fact that it doesnít particularly go anywhere except up, down, and from Robbinsville to Tellico Plains.

running cherohala.jpg

68 out of Tellico Plains leads you past the Watts Bar Nuclear plant. Hopefully we didnít pick up any new mutations on the way by.

watts bar plant.jpg

It was a fairly mundane trip the rest of the way home via I-40, 25 through Carthage and Hartsville to 231 the rest of the way. We took ourselves out for a kickoff dinner at a nice steak place. Monday we wrap up some loose ends and prepare to hit the trail hard on Tuesday. Weíre going to try to make Kansas City by the end of the day, some 500 miles away, and Grand Junction, CO by Thursday, so we have some long days of interstate pounding lined up for the next leg.

For Black Betty, the last two days were 820 miles at 46.2 mpg. Looks like Iíve packed everything necessary and not too much superfluous stuff. Iíve got the quick change rain gear routine down pat now. If I can avoid picking up souveneirs I should be alright.

Posted by Chuck Skarsaune at August 01, 2005 03:16 PM GMT

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