Appalachia Frankenstein Track

Discussion in 'Ride Reports - Epic Rides' started by PittsDriver, Aug 1, 2017.

  1. PittsDriver

    PittsDriver Fuse lit.... Supporter

    Joined:
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    I go off on a big ride every year with 3 other guys and call ourselves The Road Hawgs – a name stemming from when we started our annual epic adventure ride in 2011. We rented Ultra Classics in Seattle and rode the PCH to LA and over to Las Vegas. We’ve done a ride every year since and it’s usually been a one to two week+ ride ranging from 3K to 7K miles. Two years ago we switched our plan from epic road trips to tackling the TAT and that trip is chronicled here:

    http://advrider.com/index.php?threads/my-first-adventure-ride-the-tat.1077645/

    Having an interest in recreating that great experience on the TAT, but wanting to do it more inexpensively and in less time, I posed the idea of stitching together tracks from various sources to create our own Appalachian Adventure. I started out with the goal to plan a TAT-like ride that would take us from Maggie Valley NC to Maine. We wanted to ride the Appalachians starting in the Smoky Mountains and Pisgah Forests in North Carolina; up through the Jefferson and George Washington national forests up through the Shenandoah in Virginia; get some trail riding done in the Seven Mountains area near State College PA; and onward as far as we could make it toward Maine in about 8 - 9 days. The notion was to stay off the pavement as much as possible but if some excellent twisty roads were needed to connect trails or some interesting stops came along, we'd enjoy those as well. We’d managed to average about 250 miles a day on the TAT so on the surface, reaching Maine seemed a stretch but remotely possible if we had 11 days to get there and get back home (Annapolis and Atlanta).

    I started boring down on all the GPS & Nav threads and ride reports on here and other forums and repositories for anything that might be useful – hence the name Frankenstein. The track we rode was stitched together from body parts of anything I could dig up that looked useful. One of the first found was the excellent Maine Adventure Trail created by BoatAnchor with GPS tracks from Jellico TN to the northern most tip of Maine. Others include the NY leg of the TAT tracks; the Trans PA Trail; inmate tonyjuliano added some local knowledge in VA; and some track routing of my own to hit up a few places we wanted to see along the way. Some of the tracks were well tested and ridden and some not so much but hey, it just adds to the adventure, right? Our planned route is turned out like this:

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    The GPX file for the actual track that we rode can be found here:

    https://www.dropbox.com/s/nhspy8kn7t92a6k/Appalachia Track.GPX?dl=0

    (I'm not sure that I've shared that dropbox link properly. If anyone can advise me on how to do that so that anyone can fetch it, that would be dandy)

    We’d head up the center route on the map and hustle home on the road shown on the eastern side of the map. However, to paraphrase a quote about life and offer a bit of foreshadowing, the adventure happens while you’re on planning on something else. We only made it up to NY and came back down the western leg shown on the map.

    We all rode new KLRs we prepped for the TAT and the other three guys were committed to riding that faithful steed again this year. I stepped off the Road Hawg reservation and decided this year to bring my ’16 R1200GS. I bought that bike to take on the personal challenge of taking it anywhere I’d go on the KLR and from the moment I informed my buds, the concern was evident. They were all convinced that I’d wreck the trip by bringing the GS and they’d spend a week and a half picking my quarter ton+ up off the ground. It didn’t help my case that shortly after I got the GS, I took it off on some easy single tracks in PA and it kicked my ass to the tune of 3 shattered ribs and a collapsed lung. The fact that I was fully healed AND had gone off to the two-day BMW off-road school did not temper the taunts I was getting but ultimately they resolved themselves with a reminder of our Road Hawg rule #1: anyone that can’t continue for any reason gets relieved of their water, gas, and tools and left for dead while the rest continue. By the way, that rule is immediately followed by rule #2: what happens on the trail, stays on the trail – unless there’s photos or video and then it’s posted the moment there’s an internet connection. So what happens is anytime one of us takes a dirt nap, there must be photos, laughing, and considering whether this justifies invoking rule #1 and only when that’s settled is help rendered.

    Enough about all that. Let’s ride. My actual adventure began a couple of days before the other three guys in that I had to get myself from Annapolis MD down to Murphy NC – about 650 miles. Bike packed:

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    I launched in the evening from home for a short 2 hour leg out to Strasburg VA putting the DC traffic behind for the start of the ride south. This slab ride the next day down to Murphy is where the big GS is really in it’s element. Cruise control on, feet kicked up on the crash bars, and I’m easy ridin’ while making good enough time that I didn’t get passed by anyone in about 500 miles making my way down to Murphy by dinner time.

    I have a friend in Murphy that runs a very brisk tire changing business out of his home fronted by the website www.RideWNC.com. We met there to shoe the KLRs with new threads before the TAT and Mike was great in getting us all the new tires we wanted to start this adventure.

    After a breakfast at my favorite place in Maggie Valley, The Buttered Biscuit, it was time to head off up into the hills.

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    #1
  2. PittsDriver

    PittsDriver Fuse lit.... Supporter

    Joined:
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    From Maggie Valley, we headed straight on up into the hills on a twisty gravel road picked up about 10 miles out of town. We almost immediately came across this guy thus proving that Big Foot is not a myth and is living in the Smokys:

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    Up, up, and up onto the roof of the Smokys:

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    And by the way, I know it looks funny but there's a bunch of people on here spelling the name of this place wrong. It's not the Smokeys. It's spelled Smoky Mountains. Geez, and they say us southern folk can't spell no good :)

    We rambled around all day long going up through the Smoky Mountain National Forest and into the Pisgah:

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    #2
    Suncoaster likes this.
  3. akaDigger

    akaDigger Amateur Adventurer

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    :lurk
    #3
  4. BuiltnotBought

    BuiltnotBought Perpetual Project

    Joined:
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    Ontario
    I like it...
    #4
  5. i4bikes

    i4bikes Been here awhile

    Joined:
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    621
    In, it looks like something I would like to do.
    #5
  6. PittsDriver

    PittsDriver Fuse lit.... Supporter

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    The ride through the Smokys and the Pisgah was a nice an ADV ride as you'd ever want. Great forest roads with good traction to make time until we ran in to this stretch of pavement:

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    This was 209 up into Hot Springs NC and is definitely going on my list of roads I'll revisit on the hooligan bike someday. It was an amazing, twisty bit of nearly perfect asphalt with no traffic that led us straight into our lunch stop where a waitress whipped me with a switch.

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    I'm sitting there minding my own damn business enjoying my salad when my "friends" decided to tell the sour mean looking women masquerading as waitresses in this dive called the Smoky Mtn Diner that it was my birthday. "Go get the switch and let's whip him!" said the one holding the switch behind me. I've been around enough women in my life that I should be able to recognize one that hates men but in the spirit of the birthday moment, I missed it. I got up from the table and while I was joking with my buddies she laid into me with that switch hard enough to sting through my Klim Badlands Pro pants. I should have known it was going to be something special when all the other waitresses came around to watch - and it wasn't to sing "Happy Birthday." They all got a big cackle and I got a few welts on my ass that left me wondering what kind of transgression led this karma back to me. I didn't even get cake. Never let it be said that I won't leverage an embarrassing moment for ride report points.
    #6
  7. PittsDriver

    PittsDriver Fuse lit.... Supporter

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    After lunch, we continued on the NE TAT track until we bailed off to Bristol TN to find a place to eat and sleep. Our thought was that there was probably a campground somewhere near the NASCAR track in Bristol:

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    We rode around the place, which was wide open, for a while looking for a place to pop some tents when a security guard ran us off. Apparently they were in preparation for hosting a college football game there between Virginia Tech and somebody and we must have looked like we would be in the way. We ended up just a few miles up the road at the Shadrack Campground where pulled out our luxury camping gear and made a dinner.

    The first day of the Appalachian Frankenstein ADV ride was in the books
    - 243 miles
    - Mostly NY TAT tracks (red route through Smokys)
    - dirt naps: 2 (both mine when I tried unsuccessfully to climb a muddy rutted up side trail hill on my bikapotomus GS)
    #7
  8. drdubb

    drdubb OFWG Supporter

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    I'm in...did you use any TET tracks?
    #8
  9. PittsDriver

    PittsDriver Fuse lit.... Supporter

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    Nope. I had them but it worked best for us to use the NY TAT tracks through the Smokys up to Marion VA. We wanted to ride up the Back of the Dragon and the MAT1 track crosses rt 16 near the top of it. Stay tuned for the next installment - things got real on the MAT1 tracks.

    We are leaving in less than a month to do the SEAT (TET-S redo) loop around Georgia and will probably add on the Smoky Mtn 1000 loop north from there.
    #9
  10. PittsDriver

    PittsDriver Fuse lit.... Supporter

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    When we're camping we like to rise just as there's enough light to get packed up. We had a good night at the Bristol camp and found a great breakfast spot at the Lighthouse Diner - a brother and sister owned place with great food and service. Then it was off up the expressway for a few miles to Marion VA where is found the bottom end of the Back of the Dragon, Rt 16. We rode on past Hungry Mother State Park (where we would have camped had it not been full) and near the top of this twisty road is were we first intercepted the MAT1 track. You kinda know what to expect when you're riding Sam's or Kevin's tracks so this was a bit of the unknown. I couldn't find much evidence on ADVrider that the MAT tracks had been ridden over the past few years but it just added a bit to the spirit of adventure of it all.

    This turned out to be a really scenic and great ride through the woods and some open Virginia farm country in the hills.
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    These easy, well groomed roads and nice meandering pavement made it seem like this MAT1 track was going to be pretty tame - more or less like the TAT tracks through part of the country. We did run in to one dead end - a property owner plastered the road over a small mountain with no trespassing signs and a formidable metal gate that looked new. The track I posted in the first post already has this work-around in it so if you ride it you'll ride past this gate and onward.

    It took a few minutes but we figured out a nice route around for it on the pavement and brought us back to the trail at the southern end of Hogback Ridge Rd. Now, I kinda figured this "road" was going to be something a bit special when just climbing the 100 yards or so hill off the pavement took my full attention. I also remembered a few other people on here warning me about it that it was a more challenging two track. It started out not too bad with the biggest challenge being the huge mud holes in the road - some we could go around but most of the time I'd just churn my way through it followed by the KLR boys.

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    This is pretty much as easy as it got right here in this photo - hence the rest stop. Just a nice ride up the spine of Hogback Mtn punctuated by big sloppy mud holes, steep rock garden ascents and descents, and bashing through the brush that had grown out sometimes mostly obscuring the tracks.
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    It's only about 11 miles but it took us the better part of 2 hours to get over it to the end. Fun times, it was worth the memorializing the moment:

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    We rambled around on BoatAnchor's Mat1 track for the rest of the day until it passed near Pearisburg. We were tired, muddy, and hungry and it looked like food and a cheap hotel could be had there. We tried to clean ourselves off but we probably left our booth at the Mexican restaurant in need of a good cleaning when we left. There was a really cheap hotel right across the street - bed bugs and fleas no charge - but they did conveniently have a hose laying right there in front of the office.

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    We made a huge mess of the parking lot but the front desk manager came out and seemed to enjoy talking with us while we made it so I guess no harm no foul. We hosed down the bikes and each other, did our chain and filter maintenance and crashed for our 2nd night on the ride.

    200 Mile day
    A few KLR drops on Hogback Ridge - nothing damaged but egos.
    #10
  11. PittsDriver

    PittsDriver Fuse lit.... Supporter

    Joined:
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    Just when I think what you're doing is something epic the universe reminds me that I'm just going through the motions. We woke to another incredible day (we had really good weather for almost this entire adventure):

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    And while we were standing in the parking lot a couple of elderly ladies stepped out of the room near where we had the bikes parked. They were both loaded with large hiking packs and had this biggest brightest smiles on their faces. They told us they were through hiking the Appalachian Trail; had hiked up into Virginia from the beginning; and though they were too late to make it all the way, planned to go as far as the weather allowed. These ladies had at least 10 - 15 years on us and we're not exactly young flat bellies ourselves.

    Just a few miles back down the road and we're on the MAT1 track again on our way to a few stops today. Along the way on Potts Rd, Dawg went down pretty hard on some speedy rutted up road. He got himself and his ego bruised up pretty good but the bike was fine and we didn't have to invoke our rule #1 on him. One of our stops on this day would be The Homestead, a very upscale but cool resort that's been in the hills here for over 100 years.

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    We were a little early for high tea so we meandered off down the road just a couple of miles to the Jefferson Pools. This is the oldest spa in the America and was established here over a natural hot spring back in the 1700s. I'd been to the Homestead for a winter break a few years ago and and "taken the waters" of the natural hot spring spa so I knew what this was all about - my buddies did not.

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    You see, for a few hours a day the two large covered pools become unisex, clothing optional. It just so happened that we arrived as that window opened. We all donned our bathing suits for a dip but we were the only fellows in that men's pool that did. You pay by the hour for soaking in the 100 degree mineral waters. Dawg, sporting his trail bruises, especially appreciated the dip and once we were fully relaxed and restored in the healing waters, we rode off down the road just a few miles to the very nice Hidden Valley Camp - that was covered in fire ants. We eventually found some ground that was safe. Coach and Dawg stayed at the camp while Indi and I ran off back down to Warm Springs to grab some provisions and a cell phone signal for some calls home.

    3rd day on the route:
    MAT1 Track
    187 miles
    1 hard dirt nap
    #11
  12. PittsDriver

    PittsDriver Fuse lit.... Supporter

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    Our 4th day on the route went though some of the most beautiful country in America - the Jefferson and George Washington National Forests up through the Shenandoah Valley. The track alternated between nice forest road with great views and challenging rumbles up and down the hills over softball to football sized rocks. After averaging about 1 dirt nap a day from someone in the group, it was surprising that on this pretty challenging section that no bikes hit the ground. I'll just let the photos tell the story:

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    Typical forest road across the spine of the hills:
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    Dawg and Indi:
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    Dawg, Indi, Coach, and me (l-r):
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    Easy water crossing:
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    which made for a nice shady place for a break in the ride:
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    The kind of forest road where really good time could be made:
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    We had lunch at a great place in Harrisonburg, The Artful Dodger, and road up to the Lost River Grill and B&B for the night.

    MAT1 tracks
    212 miles
    no dirt naps (sorry, no photos of the gnarly stuff - too busy trying to not bust my ass)
    #12