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Old 07-01-2014, 06:44 PM   #1
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"...I Hear Banjos..."

or, The Trips Ride The Smoky Mountain 500....

In early June Mrs. Trip and I drove down to the Smoky Mountains in the Rhodyroamer with our bikes in the trailer. It took us a couple of days to mosey our way to Tennessee, with a night spent at our favorite in transit campsite:


The second evening, we made it to Townsend, TN and a real campground.
The next day rode up into Cades Cove in the National Park. Its a beautiful place:


but I'd been warned to expect a bit of traffic...



A parking lot is more like it...you gotta be kidding me!



We finally made it to Parson Branch Rd, and left the crowds behind:



Parson Branch was a good ride, with a few steep loose uphills, a few mildly rutted descents,


and 9 water crossings in its 8 mile length. All of the crossings were on what we know as "topes" from our time in Mexico...a concrete bed for the water to run over:






Parson Branch Rd let us out on Rt129, the "Tail of the Dragon" about halfway through. We headed east to Deals Gap to grab some lunch...
Mmmm...BBQ!
Then west again, through all 318 curves...even got our photos taken, compliments of Killboy:






From the Dragon, we took Happy Valley Rd up and over the ridge, and back to Townsend for the night. Next day, we headed into Knoxville to find a replacement water pump for the camper...took all day, but we got it installed, and headed for Stecoah, North Carolina and the Ironhorse Motorcycle Resort.


The Ironhorse is the start point for the Smoky Mountain 500. It soon filled up with cruisers parked under the front eaves, all wiped down and shiny in the evening cool. Its a nice place with friendly folks...we missed reserving dinner, but had a good breakfast in the morning. We went out for a ride around, and then spent the afternoon getting the bikes and ourselves ready for tomorrow's ride.
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Old 07-01-2014, 06:56 PM   #2
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"What," you might well ask, "is the Smoky Mountain 500?" "It sounds like a Nascar event?"
But you would be mistaken. The Smoky Mountain 500 is a loop through the mountains of North Carolina, Tenessee, and Georgia. Andy29847 put the ride together after who knows how many days of research. Its about 70% dirt, with the rest scenic backroads. I found his thread and was able to download the tracks...
Here's the link: http://advrider.com/forums/showthread.php?t=926507
Although we'd done some hiking and backpacking in the Smokies, we'd never ridden there before. What would tomorrow hold?
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Old 07-03-2014, 07:34 AM   #3
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Old 07-04-2014, 08:49 AM   #4
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Thumb Logo on white bike...

Not quite a Vee Dub logo...but what is it?
Nice pics, looks like a fun ride.
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Old 07-04-2014, 09:03 AM   #5
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if ya just posted the pic of the traffic i'd a thought ya went to yellowstone.
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Old 07-04-2014, 09:05 AM   #6
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Rhode trip, what is the windscreen behind the front number plate ?
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Old 07-04-2014, 10:00 AM   #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by rgp332 View Post
Rhode trip, what is the windscreen behind the front number plate ?
Its a Jimbo shield made by a TW200 forum member
http://tw200forum.com/forum/tw200-cl...ield-info.html
Probably the best designed farkle I ever owned.

Quote:
Originally Posted by 2 SPOT View Post
if ya just posted the pic of the traffic i'd a thought ya went to yellowstone.
...just crossed off my list...

Quote:
Originally Posted by tscot View Post
Not quite a Vee Dub logo...but what is it?
Nice pics, looks like a fun ride.
It's a Tee Dub logo!

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Old 07-04-2014, 11:30 AM   #8
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Saturday, June 7

Up around the crack of 8am or so, we headed into the main building for breakfast. We were parked out front in the RV area, where this picture was shot.


There were cabins just behind that building, and tent sites scattered around and off towards the hill in back. The food was served in through the main entrance, and there are showers and washrooms in the right side. They don't serve food everyday, but breakfast on Saturday was eggs, hashbrowns, bacon, toast and coffee. Not bad and sure was convenient. We picked the Ironhorse because it was convenient to leave the camper there as well.

After breakfast we were off. The SM500 starts off on paved roads, heading from Stecoah towards Santeetlah Dam. Nice sweepers on what I think was Rt129 before it becomes the dragon. Nice views...we pulled over to let a bunch of sport bikes blow by...


Santeetlah Dam is the first gas stop of the ride...we filled them up...next stop 129 miles. We also were able to grab a couple of sandwiches at the general store up the hill. The route led past, through a residential neighborhood, and then started the first series of switchbacks of the ride. Climbed up to the top of a ridge, then back down again...paved, but nice.
Came out under the big leaky pipe:


This is TVA country...who knows what the heck it is but the guberment built it.

Soon, we followed the route into the Joyce Kilmer Wilderness Area. Interesting fact number 1: Joyce is a man. Interesting fact number 2: He is the poet who penned the line "I think that I will never see,
a poem lovely as a tree."
Even more interesting: The route turned to gravel and dirt in earnest.




Man, I'm digging it. The first few miles set the style for the next 4 days. Twisty forest roads making tight switchbacks up, then down, then snaking along a clear mountain stream through a narrow ravine.


We kept climbing steadily, and a little steeply in spots. The clouds ahead were threatening...I thought we'd get rained on as we climbed up and over about 5-6,000ft.


Then all of a sudden, we got spit back out on pavement...The Cherohala Skyway, with a few wide sweepers...and more photographers! Say Cheese!






Only a mile or 2, and then the route veered back into the woods.


This section curved north and south, east and west in a figure eight shape, up the switchbacks...they're steeper than they look!...and down them,...whoa!... sliding through the loose gravel corners. I normally have an excellent sense of direction...by this point, I have no clue what's where. I'm blindly following the gps track...a skinny green line on a tiny little screen. I'm normally a map guy, but even though I keep dragging out my Delorme Gazeteer, I'm having trouble keeping located...
Some of the roads are just groomed gravel:


And some are forest duff



Back across the paved highway, and down into a narrow valley...I think its River road...past a waterfall:


Then another, and another... the road followed the river as it fell and tumbled over a series of small waterfalls...at one point, I crossed a bridge and looked upstream and you could see a half a dozen small cascades...I
wanted to turn around for a photo, but didn't...and regret it now.

The route then turned away from the river, and started climbing again


High again, with just a glimpse through the trees...that's Tenessee now!


I think the Volunteer state prefers a coarser grade of gravel...billiard balls instead of ping pong...
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Old 07-04-2014, 11:54 AM   #9
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It's late afternoon as we approached Tellico Plains. You come in from the southeast, and the route leads to Witt Rd. I've heard of it...its the first road of the TAT...the Trans America Trail...that starts its way west from Tellico Plains. But this ride approaches it backwards...first up, is the infamous number four water crossing;


This ain't my first rodeo...so I walk it first. Looks tempting over there on the right...but it's got a big hole, hiding there in plain sight. Better over here on the left...diagonal rock ridges that are looking to twist a tire.
Mrs Trip drops the front into a groove...and paddles it across:


Not bad...and then Witt rd served up crossings numbers 3,2,and 1...not bad at all




Just a few miles of pavement, and we made it to Cherohala Trails campground. We met the friendly folks that run it. They warned us that all their cabins were rented by "Wingnut & Friends" a band of pirates from Mississippi. "They might get a little loud...just by the pavilion...not too bad at all" We opted to set up camp farther towards the back of the field, close to the stream that would lull us to sleep overnight.


Then we took a ride back into Tellico Plains, and had an excellent supper...more BBQ!!
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Old 07-04-2014, 12:46 PM   #10
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Night was coming on...all peaceful at the campground. "What happened to Wingnut?" "Oh, those guys are running late...didn't get going until after noon time today" They rolled in and circled the bikes around the pavilion. Fired up the grills, turned on some tunes, and were having a fine time.

I thought, "not bad at all" as I drifted off to sleep... Wham...somebody hit me upside the head with a 2x4. No, it's Wingnut & Co, 12:30 am... deciding to relive the disco hits of the 70's at ear splitting volume. Mrs Trip...always the sound sleeper, springs upright..."what the f...?? is that?"
They're 'doing the hustle' and 'jive talkin' and 'stayin alive'... shakin their booties until about 3 am when the heavens let loose with a downpour. Thank you, Jesus.

Except now, the guys not too far away are awake in their tent and decide to chit chat about who knows what. Next thing I know, birds are chirping and the sun is coming up. Decidedly not the most restful night I ever had while camping...my ass will be dragging tomorrow!
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Old 07-05-2014, 09:39 AM   #11
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As another T-Dub owner...I enjoyed your Ride report and photos. I plan on riding the 500 this Fall. Thanks for sharing.
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Old 07-06-2014, 06:10 PM   #12
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Quote:
Originally Posted by ADVCoot View Post
As another T-Dub owner...I enjoyed your Ride report and photos. I plan on riding the 500 this Fall. Thanks for sharing.
You are gonna have a blast. I'd love to ride the 500 in the Fall. When is the peak Fall riding in the Smoky's?
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Old 07-06-2014, 06:34 PM   #13
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Good report!

2nd and 3rd weeks of October are when the leaves are the prettiest and the crowds are the biggest. I prefer mid- September. The woods are still green, it's not too cold, and it is not crowded.

Ride planned for SEP:

http://www.mctourer.com/rides/2014/F...sFeast/RRR.htm
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Old 07-06-2014, 07:22 PM   #14
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Sunday, June 8th

Tellico Wayne, the inmate that owns Cherohala Mountain Trails Campground
http://www.cycleresort.com/ ,looked about as good as I felt. One eye open, he set us up with coffee and Danish on the house. We packed up our kit and started the bikes...well, tried to. Mine was dead. I pushed it up to the top of the hill, turned down, and pushed off. Dropped it into second, popped the clutch, and it sputtered to life. Rode it back to the campsite, clicked into neutral, and hopped off. Cough, cough, and dead. I'm an idiot, should have let it warm up first. Started pushing uphill again...another rider took pity on me, and helped push it up the hill. This time I stayed on it...figured we'd ride for a while, let it recharge...must have left an accessory on last night.
We headed south, into the Cherokee National Forest:


Stopped a couple of times to check...the battery is not holding a charge. Finally, I stopped and got out the tools. Its a pain to remove the seat and check the battery, but when I did I found it was dry. Oops! Laziness strikes again. I was able to fill the battery from my hydration pack...almost immediately, I'm back in business.

Around noon time, we got to Ducktown, TN. Stopped at a gas station to top off and grab a sandwich.

People are so friendly in these parts...any time we were around folks someone would be striking up a conversation. As I said, I usually work off a map. This time, its strictly GPS. Folks would say, "Where you headed?" and I'd be, like, "I'm not really sure...I'm mainly just following this little green line..." So, they'd look at me like I was crazy, and then try to help the poor lost, disoriented Yankee out. The guy in Ducktown was really persistent. I told him the whole story, we're riding mostly dirt, wandering all over the place, following a route. "Well, where you going?" "Suches" I said, it was the only town name I remembered. "well you're heading the wrong way. You need to head that way."
"I'm just following the route. Looks like I turn left in a mile or 2"
"No, no, there's nothing there. You want to go this way, General whatever Rd, you'll love it on those bikes"
"Well" I said, "Andy hasn't let me down yet. I think we'll give this way a shot."
"That's nothing but highway" he said. "You gotta go that way" He crossed his arms like that's it, I'm going to stand here and make sure you go the right way! Finally, he gives me an out. "If you don't belive me, ask them in the store. General whatever rd. You're going to love it."
"Thanks" I headed into the store and stayed there until he drove away. Phew!
We followed Andy's route. A couple of miles of double lane highway, and then a left that I missed and we had to double back for. It took us over a dam where people were kayaking the rapids


Past what looked like a power plant substation



This road put us into the Cohutta Wilderness, a really beautiful and remote area. Mud and lilies:


We met a couple in a pickup with an ATV in the bed. "This road go through?" I asked. The woman answered, "get's pretty rough...but I haven't done it in years..." it got less travelled, but we never found it too rough.


Pretty coarse gravel in spots, though. Probably recently regraded. The views opened up, too, in more spots:


Kept up a pretty steady climb


Finally reached the top in the Chattahoochee National Forest


The intrepid Mrs Trip:


The mulitos (little mules) getting a breather at the top of the hill


Another awesome vista from a high point


Did I mention that some of these switchbacks are steep? The photos never accurately show how rough or how steep something actually is...but here's an attempt:
Mrs Trip starts into a curve:


Its a sharp radius, and then she's below me


Like, straight down!


We came out of the Chattahoochee NF and headed into Ellijay, GA. Still about 40 miles to Suches, but we'd had a good day riding. We like to stop and see the sights, and there's a lot of sights to see. We found a room at the Ellijay Budget Inn and called it a day.


Justa short walk to a cajun theme restaurant, where we had a nice dinner, and then luxuriated in the air conditioned motel room. What a day!!
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Old 07-06-2014, 07:40 PM   #15
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Great report! Makes me want to pack my bags and leave in the morning! :)
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