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Old 07-10-2014, 12:38 PM   #1
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Dragon Trippin'

I'm from Maine, but my in-laws live in north eastern TN and my family tries to get down to visit them once a year or so. Last year I rode my KLR down on the road, in the rain. Not much of an adventure. So, this year I thought I'd bring a bike with me and do day trips from their home.

We left on the 4th and made the trip in one day. Once we settled in, the first trip I took was to a local OHV riding area called Buffalo Mountain.

I wasn't sure what to expect, as the trail description said it was intermediate with some steep climbs. Well, that's probably accurate. None of it was particularly tough, but the trail was constantly straight up or down. Our trails back home are nothing like this! There were a few rock ledges, but other than that and the steepness it was pretty tame. Don't get me wrong it was a total blast! I only took a couple of pics that day. The first is one of the rock formations I had to ride over. It doesn't look like anything in the pic, but there's a ledge you have to pop over and then it drops down on the other side. I had to walk it a few times and pick the line both ways, as the trail is out-and-back, so you ride everything both ways.

This shot is overlooking Erwin, TN.

The next day I took a ride over Unaka Mountain. I planned a route down into NC on Rts 197 and 226 with some possible dirt roads in the middle. Some parts of my route turned out good...

Some, not so good...

Unaka Mtn road itself is gravel. I would be getting used to these gravel switchbacks the next few days

And the view from the top:

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Old 07-10-2014, 01:22 PM   #2
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So I named this "Dragon Trippin'" because I've wanted to ride the Tail of the Dragon for years now. Yes, I know it's overhyped and potentially dangerous and there are better, faster, safer, etc twisty roads in the area, but I wanted to be able to say I rode the Dragon. Also, I read about the "dirt Dragon" and since I'm on a dirt bike, I had to do that too.

So, I packed some spare clothes and a toothbrush and set off for a few days.

I made my route from the TET-S gpx files I got from Chip "IntoTheNew". These are a wealth of dirt road and back road tracks from Florida to Massachusetts. For this trip, I was using the TET-05 and TET-06 tracks. I modified them to skip Unaka Mtn since I rode that the day before, and added in Hurricane Creek Road, which goes between I-40 and Rt 209 in NC. I also included the Tellico extensions which are basically Tatham Gap and a route over Little Snowbird Mountain. Those are the "dirt dragons". So named because of the number of switchbacks on the dirt roads.

My wife got a pic of me taking off:

My trip started off on the slab and then found my way over to Rt 212. I stopped for a break by a river (not sure of the name).

Pretty soon I saw a sign for Max Patch road. I had researched this, but hadn't added it to my tracks. I decided to take a detour and go up and over. It was worth it!

Pretty soon I hit Hurricane Creek. I was a little apprehensive about this one, as I've read some dire descriptions of the condition of this road and the creek crossings. The last thing I wanted to do was drown my bike a thousand miles from home, out of cell phone range and on some decrepit road that sees almost no traffic. I actually got off to false start as there are two roads right next to each other. I was looking at the GPS and the road just didn't line up with the track. I knew this could be the case as I had drawn the track in Basecamp and who knows how accurate that is, but it seemed like I was above the road I really wanted to be on. So, I turned back and sure enough, there was a road a little lower down. Once I was on that road, it followed the track perfectly.

A shot from Hurricane Creek Rd:

It turned out to be a really fun road and nothing to be concerned about. I can see if that if the water crossings were deeper, I was on a bigger bike and headed the other direction, it would be more difficult. But nothing to worry about on the mighty 525!

Hurricane Creek dumps out right onto I-40, a divided highway with no on ramp or anything. Again, I was happy to be on the 525 and I had no trouble punching it up to highway speed.

I got off at the next exit and my destination was Buzzard's Roost, a point overlooking I-40 from a thousand feet above. I knew it was on the road somewhere after this bridge:

And there was a rope tied to a tree as the only marker. So, it took it pretty slow, looking for the rope. I finally found it...

After that I took off again and continued following the TET track.

I came across this reminder of how hooning around these dirt roads is really fun until it's not.

I'm guessing it had something to do with the empty beer cans on the dashboard. The missing wheel, no plates and a broken tow strap all alluded to an interesting story, I'm sure.

At this point I started feeling like I didn't want to ride anymore. That means I need food. I stopped at this bridge and had a Clif bar and talked to a guy headed out to fish for trout. He confirmed that it had been very dry lately, as I guessed from the lack of water on Hurricane Creek Rd. I don't think he was as happy as I was about the lack of water.

I came across this sign shortly. I thought it was funny, as I'd been riding single lane roads with blind curves all day.

I don't remember exactly where this waterfall was, but it was somewhere on this leg of the trip.

I'm pretty sure this is exactly the road I want, thank you very much

After going over Cataloochee, I popped out in Maggie Valley, my destination for the day. I had a room reserved at the Holiday Motel.

I still hadn't had lunch yet, so I stopped into the Holiday Diner next door. I had this fantastic BLT with fried egg sandwich. I had never heard of a fried egg on a BLT, but now that I've had one, that's the only way to eat a BLT.

It was still pretty early, so I walked over to the Wheels Through Time Museum, but they were closed

I spent the rest of the day hanging out and just relaxing.

cjbiker screwed with this post 07-10-2014 at 05:22 PM
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Old 07-10-2014, 01:46 PM   #3
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I got a slow start the next day. I wanted to get breakfast at the Holiday Diner since I had such a great lunch there the day before. I waited around until 8 when they opened, only to find out that they are closed on Wednesdays. I was so mad at wasting a couple of hours, since it was supposed to rain, but hadn't started yet. Oh well. I had my obligatory eggs and bacon at Joey's Pancake house up the road. It was ok, but not photo-worthy.

My goal for the day was to hit the dragon. It had rained overnight and I got great views all morning of why these are called the Smoky Mountains.

The TET tracks took me over some more gravel switchbacks and along a river with a huge pipeline on the other side of the road. I didn't get any pics as that road felt like a dirt superhighway after all the twisties. I'm sure if I had looked down at the speedometer I would have seen numbers reserved for professional riders on closed courses. After a bit, I rode into Andrews, NC and was actually thinking about skipping the Little Snowbird route. I mean, I had been riding gravel switchbacks for days now, what's one more? I'm so glad I didn't skip it. It was unreal. I'm not sure what the difference was, maybe that it was less maintained, more dirt and less gravel, more and tighter turns or what, but I left a continuous trail of roost all the way up the mountain and down over the other side. No pics, as I was having way too much fun. This dumped me out above Robbinsville, and I started seeing more riders, all dressed in rain gear. I guess I somehow missed the rain. No complaints there.

It seemed like a long ride from Robbinsville up to the actual Dragon. I got there and decided to run the length of it, turn around come back, and then see the sights.

I did stop and get a shot of the dam.

I tried to look cool for all the photographers. I'm sure I "failed"

Overall I enjoyed it, it was a great experience and I'm glad I can say I've done it. I did enjoy the "dirt dragon" a thousand times more though

I stopped at the resort and got some pics and some mediocre barbeque from the food truck there.

I headed back down to Robbinsville and the Phillips Motel for the night. It's a really, really old motel with a strange innkeeper, but it was clean enough and had covered parking for bikes.

I had a burning desire for pizza, but the best Robbinsville had to offer was a chain. It was OK, and would be breakfast the next day, too. I took a walk and had an ice cream cone at "Scoops" in town. That made up for the pizza.

I found this note written on the back of the card with the TV channels.

That's day 2 in the books. I was headed back to the barn the next day.

cjbiker screwed with this post 07-10-2014 at 05:10 PM
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Old 07-10-2014, 02:01 PM   #4
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Again, it rained overnight, but cleared up by morning. My plan was to slab it back, but I still hadn't ridden Tatham Gap, so I headed north again from Robbinsville. A couple of guys on sport bikes passed me, and I had to give chase. It was a stupid idea, as I missed a turn and ended up following the track from the day before. I realized my mistake and turned around after wasting a half hour or so. Things didn't go much better when I hit Tatham Gap as the road was closed. Oh well, I tried.

After failing to complete Tatham Gap, I felt the need to run Hurricane Creek road the other way. It was so bizarre coming up I-40 and then just turning off into this tiny gap in the trees onto an unmaintained dirt road. It must have messed with my head more than I thought, as I clipped a rock and almost went down. I stopped to open the vents on my jacket and get my head straight. I thought I had read somewhere that you should plan some ridiculous number of hours for Hurricane Creek road. So, I noted the time when I started and am happy to say it took me 27 minutes. That included taking a wrong turn and backtracking and stopping to get a bug out of my helmet. I'm sure a real dirt rider could do it in under 15 minutes. Not that it's a race or anything.

I did pass a couple of guys on KTMs going the other way. I was on a mission, and it looked like they were too, so we didn't stop to chat. If you're reading this, hi guys!

The rest of the ride back was pretty much uneventful slab. I only stopped to get a picture of this barn covered in license plates.

I'm not sure where my next trip will take me. We've got some family stuff planned, but I should be able to get out for a few more rides. I'm thinking more dirt.

cjbiker screwed with this post 07-10-2014 at 02:11 PM
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Old 07-10-2014, 03:31 PM   #5
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Great report CJ . My kind of in-law visit !
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Old 07-10-2014, 09:56 PM   #6
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Great ride report! Its a bummer but they fixed the Hurracaine creek road last summer. It used to be a fun road but now you could proboly drive a car thru there.
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Old 07-11-2014, 03:54 AM   #7
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Looks like a Fabulous ride CJ. You still suck!

When I was young I hoped to be Rich and good looking. At this point, I think that having great stories of many adventures is a much better plan

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Old 07-11-2014, 04:39 AM   #8
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Looks like you had a Blast, CJ!!

But I agree with Greg, you still suck !

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Old 07-11-2014, 06:08 AM   #9
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Thanks guys!

They may have fixed Hurricane Creek Rd, but you're still not going to drive a car down it. Perfect for dual sport riding, IMO.
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Old 07-11-2014, 06:34 AM   #10
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Old 07-12-2014, 01:06 PM   #11
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I took yesterday off from riding to just relax and hang out with my family. I changed the oil in the bike and looked everything over to make sure it was good. The tires are getting a little mangy but I expect them to be done by the time this trip is over.

Today, I decided to hit Doe Mountain. It's an OHV park about an hour from where I'm staying. I've had just about enough pavement for a while, so I put the bike in the truck and headed over there this morning.

There were a few quads unloading when I got there, but the place was pretty empty. Doe Mountain is a fairly new OHV park and most of the "trails" are old logging and mining roads like this:

Most of the trails are very rocky. Not the good kind of rocks, but the roll out from under your tires, kicking you side to side, beat up your bike and body for no good reason rocks.

And most of the trails dead end. Some dead end with signs, and some dead end with other obstacles.

Trail 24 looked to be the jewel of the park, it's motorcycles only and pretty rock free. Other than the rhododendrons trying to rip my head off, it was great until I got to this:

The trail may have continued after this, as the map showed, but there was no way I was getting through. Trying to turn around, this happened.

Crap, time to dead-lift the bike. The picture doesn't show it of course, but this was on a really steep, off-camber turn.

I headed back on trail 21, which kind of makes a loop with trail 1. After a few hours, I had enough stupid rocks and dead end trails, so I loaded up to head back.

On the way back in the truck, I followed these folks for a bit. I'm not sure if this is TOA or WTF. Looks like a family on DRZ400s. At least they had helmets, but they look to me like candidates for the first full-family skin graft recipients.

cjbiker screwed with this post 07-12-2014 at 05:01 PM
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Old 07-13-2014, 08:01 AM   #12
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Great report! Awesome area to ride!
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