Cherohala Skyway in March – A virgin adventurer no more

Discussion in 'Ride Reports - Day Trippin'' started by Broken Record, Mar 29, 2011.

  1. Broken Record

    Broken Record Biscuit Eater

    Joined:
    Mar 21, 2011
    Oddometer:
    26
    Location:
    At the end of the tail of the dragon
    Just a little bit of background. I live in Knoxville, TN. I’ve been riding a Burgman 400 for a few years, but a few months ago bought a 2007 Yamaha FZ1. Weekend before last, I decided to take the Yamaha up the Tail of the Dragon to Deal’s Gap. While hanging out up there, I met Klaviator and talked to him a bit about this forum. I went home and started checking it out. You could say I got bit by the adventure bug and you’d be right. I immediately started planning my first trip. I’m no pro photographer, I’m no pro rider, I’m no pro anything, but I do have one trip under my belt now and am planning my second one for a couple of weeks from now.

    As soon as I made up my mind and got permission from my boss (the wife) to try it out, I started making a checklist of things I would need. I also started checking out luggage options. The FZ1 is seriously lacking in that department. I don’t think it even has a place to store your gloves (at least not one that I’ve found).

    Due to budget constraints, I decided I’d go with a $15 duffel bag, an $8 bungee net and a few more bungee cords I had in the garage. I’m surprised this worked as well as it did. I was able to fit my bivy sack tent, a 40 degree sleeping bag, camp pad mattress, battery powered lantern, and a tripod camp stool in the duffel bag.

    I packed a change of clothes, a book to read, camera, mp3 player and some high-class rations (beef jerky, sunflower seeds, and a mountain dew) in the backpack.

    I planned to leave out around lunch time on Thursday. I strapped the duffel bag down to the passenger seat on the FZ1, suited up and strapped on the backpack. I noticed two things very quickly.

    1. Bringing your leg over a duffel bag isn’t as easy as it might seem.
    2. A backpack is a terrible idea.

    I stopped and gassed up a few miles from home. The backpack just wasn’t going to work out the way I had hoped. The duffel pushed against the backpack pushed against me pushed against the gas tank was no way to ride. I took the backpack off and used some bungee cords to strap it to the top of the duffel bag. This felt much better, but I was concerned a little bit about how stable it would be. I adjusted the mirrors so I could see the cargo and kept a close eye on it for about 15 miles until I felt ok with my strap down abilities.

    Satisfied that everything was cool, I cleared my mind and got into the excitement of having 24 hours of me time.

    My plan was to ride from Maryville, TN (just south of Knoxville) down highway 411, then get off on highway 360 in Vonore and take it to the beginning of the Cherohala Skyway. From there, on to Robbinsville, NC and down to a place called Topton, NC on Highway 74/19 where I had found a small campground on the interwebz.

    [​IMG]
    #1
  2. aldntn

    aldntn Vgo

    Joined:
    Feb 10, 2009
    Oddometer:
    281
    Location:
    Nashville TN
    that never gets old.
    #2
  3. Broken Record

    Broken Record Biscuit Eater

    Joined:
    Mar 21, 2011
    Oddometer:
    26
    Location:
    At the end of the tail of the dragon
    The weather was cloudy and cool, but the mid-late afternoon was supposed to bring some sunshine and a little warmth... this never happened.

    Highway 360 from Vonore to the beginning of the Skyway was a great rural residential road with some nice farm land and sweeping curves. I didn't stop to take any pictures because it was really cold and gray.

    I found a place to pull off and put on my rain gear for a little extra warmth. I pulled over a few times on the Cherohala to check out the views, but again, didn't take any pictures due to the weather and some low visibility.

    As I approached Robbinsville, NC I decided I'd stop and get something to eat. I ate at a joint called Lynn's Place where the food was delicious. Robbinsville knows how to cook southern style. :D

    After filling up on a tuna melt and some macaroni salad, I headed off to Topton, NC. It is about 15 minutes out of Robbinsville on US Hwy 74.

    There I set up camp at Brookside Campground.

    Here is the brook that is its namesake.

    [​IMG]

    The place is set up to cater to rafters. It's a little early in the season for that, so I had the whole campground to myself.

    After buying some firewood at the camp store, I unloaded and set up my tent.

    [​IMG]
    #3
  4. Broken Record

    Broken Record Biscuit Eater

    Joined:
    Mar 21, 2011
    Oddometer:
    26
    Location:
    At the end of the tail of the dragon
    Ain't that the truth. I'll be back often.
    #4
  5. Broken Record

    Broken Record Biscuit Eater

    Joined:
    Mar 21, 2011
    Oddometer:
    26
    Location:
    At the end of the tail of the dragon
    Thought I'd give a quick review of the campground here in case anyone is thinking of heading that way. It is owned/run by a husband and wife. I just met the wife and she was extremely nice. The sites are a little close together for my taste, but since I was the only one there it was no problem. Later in the spring and through the summer it would likely feel a little crowded. The other drawback is that it is right on Highway 74 which apparently gets 18 wheeler traffic all night long.

    If you're just looking for a place to bed down, though, the price is certainly right at $14. I'd stay here again, but will probably avoid it during rafting season.
    #5
  6. Broken Record

    Broken Record Biscuit Eater

    Joined:
    Mar 21, 2011
    Oddometer:
    26
    Location:
    At the end of the tail of the dragon
    It got down to 30 degrees and I woke up around 4 in the morning freezing. I got up and built another fire, goofed around for a couple of hours, then went back to sleep and slept in until 10am. With two kids at home, I can't remember the last time I slept all morning! I could get used to this.

    Sunrise at Brookside.

    [​IMG]

    I packed up my gear, loaded up the bike and decided to run down to a small town called Andrews, NC. This was a short ride down 74. Andrews is a wonderful little town with an old style main street.

    Main Street in Andrews, NC

    [​IMG]
    #6
  7. Broken Record

    Broken Record Biscuit Eater

    Joined:
    Mar 21, 2011
    Oddometer:
    26
    Location:
    At the end of the tail of the dragon
    Since I skipped breakfast, I was starting to get a mean case of the hungries. I saw some signs for a place called The Burger Basket and decided to give it a try for lunch.

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    I was not disappointed. Look at this mess of fried up goodness.

    [​IMG]
    #7
  8. (none)

    (none) poser

    Joined:
    Jan 25, 2007
    Oddometer:
    2,661
    Location:
    Middle of nowhere Georgia
    Awesome. Great looking FZ1. I did the Skyway ride last week. Mid march, on a Wednesday morning, pure heaven. Only had to pass one car (a Mercedes) and i got pass him twice (i stopped at an overlook to eat breakfast, he caught up. Empty roads, clear skies, great views, can't ask for much more than that!
    #8
  9. Broken Record

    Broken Record Biscuit Eater

    Joined:
    Mar 21, 2011
    Oddometer:
    26
    Location:
    At the end of the tail of the dragon
    With a full belly and a good disposition, I decided to investigate downtown Andrews for a bit.

    [​IMG]

    Dean's CD store caught my attention immediately.

    [​IMG]

    Dean's is a great store full of used and new CDs, antique radios, old movies and all kinds of local art. Dean is an artist himself. I spent about an hour chewing the fat with him and learning about the area. It was an excellent conversation, plus I ended up buying a CD from NRBQ for $3. Souvenir shopping complete!

    One of Dean's pieces of art. I have found that western NC is full of interesting people.

    [​IMG]
    #9
  10. Broken Record

    Broken Record Biscuit Eater

    Joined:
    Mar 21, 2011
    Oddometer:
    26
    Location:
    At the end of the tail of the dragon
    Thanks! Wednesday was a perfect day! I wish I had been up there then instead of Thursday/Friday, but I'm not complaining. Just one more excuse to go back.
    #10
  11. Broken Record

    Broken Record Biscuit Eater

    Joined:
    Mar 21, 2011
    Oddometer:
    26
    Location:
    At the end of the tail of the dragon
    It was getting on into the afternoon and I decided to start making my way back towards Knoxville... slowly. I stopped in Robbinsville for gas and they had the Kurt Busch car parked at a Shell there.

    [​IMG]

    Kurt don't like nobody leanin' on nor smokin' round his ride, so I politely took some pics and headed out.

    [​IMG]
    #11
  12. Broken Record

    Broken Record Biscuit Eater

    Joined:
    Mar 21, 2011
    Oddometer:
    26
    Location:
    At the end of the tail of the dragon
    I made a move back to the Cherohala and my beautiful weather vanished. It clouded up again and got cold!

    [​IMG]

    Just as I had the day before, I pulled out the rain gear and layered back up. At this elevation it wasn't too bad... yet.

    [​IMG]

    Sign at the NC end of the Skyway.

    [​IMG]
    #12
  13. Broken Record

    Broken Record Biscuit Eater

    Joined:
    Mar 21, 2011
    Oddometer:
    26
    Location:
    At the end of the tail of the dragon
    The higher up I got, the darker and colder it got.

    [​IMG]

    I'm not sure if you can tell or not, but it was actually sleeting here so I pulled off to stretch my legs under a shelter and smoke a cigar.

    [​IMG]
    #13
  14. Broken Record

    Broken Record Biscuit Eater

    Joined:
    Mar 21, 2011
    Oddometer:
    26
    Location:
    At the end of the tail of the dragon
    After resting and warming up a bit, I decided to man up and head back down the mountain.

    [​IMG]

    I did pretty well and enjoyed the big sweepers and lack of traffic. I was up there all alone that day. I didn't stop again until No Name Gap.

    [​IMG]

    There was an incredible view there, but it was still cloudy. My camera isn't great for this kind of stuff, but here are a couple of shots.

    No Name Gap

    [​IMG]

    Another shot at No Name Gap

    [​IMG]
    #14
  15. Laconic

    Laconic Hapless Rube

    Joined:
    Sep 28, 2007
    Oddometer:
    20,947
    Location:
    Moran Nation, NC
    :thumb


    :lurk
    #15
  16. Broken Record

    Broken Record Biscuit Eater

    Joined:
    Mar 21, 2011
    Oddometer:
    26
    Location:
    At the end of the tail of the dragon
    As I got back to highway 360 it really started to rain. I just put my head down and tried to get it over with as quickly as possible. When I got back to Vonore. i stopped at Hardees for one of those big ol' Frisco burgers and dried out.

    I live about 30 minutes north of there, so I relaxed for a while until the rain started to slack a little and headed on to the house.

    The weather didn't cooperate 100% and I learned a few things that will make my next trip easier. Bottom line is that my next trip is coming soon and I'm already getting excited.

    I've had a lot of hobbies over the years, but this is one that is definitely going to stick.

    Looking forward to reading and learning more from the rest of y'all. Happy motoring!
    #16
  17. spagthorpe

    spagthorpe Long timer

    Joined:
    Aug 9, 2002
    Oddometer:
    15,109
    Location:
    San Diego
    Really is one of the nicest roads in this country.
    #17
  18. Broken Record

    Broken Record Biscuit Eater

    Joined:
    Mar 21, 2011
    Oddometer:
    26
    Location:
    At the end of the tail of the dragon
    It is my favorite around here for sure. The length is about right for my taste and the curves are just my flavor. I've been over it in a car before, but this was my first time on two wheels. I'm looking forward to doing it again soon on a clear day so I can get some better pics and not have to wear so many layers!
    #18
  19. klaviator

    klaviator Long timer

    Joined:
    May 28, 2008
    Oddometer:
    7,442
    Location:
    Huntsville, AL
    Yeah, it certainly is addictive. I hope your wife never discovers that I pointed you towards this site:D

    Great report. It sounds like you had a good trip, too bad the weather wasn't better.

    Some suggestions for camping on future trips. Crawford's campground near Murphy is only $5 per night and is owned by a motorcyclist. The only way to get there is via really twisty roads.

    The motorcycle campgrounds are a great place to meet other riders as well as camp. Some examples: Iron Horse Lodge, Kickstand lodge, and Blue Ridge Cycle Camp. There are others.

    I have based a few rides out of Andrews, it's a neat little town.

    Thanks for taking the time to put together this report.

    The only thing missing is an action shot of you riding so here's the one I took last week at Deals Gap.

    [​IMG]
    #19
  20. snowbilly

    snowbilly Been here awhile

    Joined:
    Feb 24, 2007
    Oddometer:
    246
    Location:
    Western NC
    Hey, thanks for this RR! My wife and I will be moving soon to NC and we're really excited about the area. Thanks for sharing this vignette of riding the area.

    rw
    #20