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Discussion in 'Ride Reports - Epic Rides' started by ruffntuff, Oct 2, 2012.
So, your next trip is going to Teara Del Fuago?
First of all I would like her to come home from Alaska
I know... the title says ".....and back on an '86 Yamaha Radian"
Anna, you go girl, Radian too! Many are still here, and following!
A truly remarkable read... stirring, inspirational, laugh out loud funny, the cause of a glazed eye every now and again... superb... a great few days worth of reading.
Part 3- Day 10
Chattanooga, TN – Pisgah Campground, NC: 354 miles
September 22, 2012
I got up early to see Amy off to work before packing up the bike and planning my route to the Tail of the Dragon. The first time I heard of the Dragon was when I was hiking the AT.
I hiked across Fontana Dam and stopped at a crusty gas station for treats and ice cream. There were some dusty T-shirts hanging behind the counter that said, “Ride the Dragon,” with a picture of route 129 mapped out. When I inquired about the T-shirt and learned this was a local legendary motorcycling route, I bought it and sent it home to Dan. If it wasn’t a thing he already knew about, I knew he would love it.
I don’t know if Dan ever rode the Dragon, but I knew it would be a “must ride” section of my journey home. I left Chattanooga on highway 74, a beautiful road that winds along the Ocoee River in the Cherokee National Forest reminding me of many past backpacking adventures. Then, I followed a small quiet road up to Tellico Plains where I got on the Cherohala Skyway.
Although the Dragon gets all the hype for being one of the twistiest motorcycle roads in the world, its sister road, the Cherohala Skyway, knocks it out of the park when it comes to scenic splendor. Cherohala may not have 318 turns in 11 miles, but this tarmac has more than enough entertainment for any motorcycle enthusiast in addition to spectacular views of the Blue Ridge. Unfortunately, like all things that are stunning and grand, both roads tend to attract mass numbers of tourists that clog every apex, every overlook, and every pit stop.
It was a beautiful clear day which made the traffic that much heavier. Mostly, there were large herds of 20-30 Harley riders at a time farting along at 25 miles an hour to avoid scraping their flashy chrome on each turn. Passing was unthinkable.
I slowed down and kept my distance trying to enjoy the gorgeous weather and gorgeous views. “Be in the moment,” I kept telling myself. But every opportunity to stop was cluttered with sunburns, tacky leather, cigarette smoke, bad tattoos, and loud classic rock. To say it was a distraction from the serenity of the environment would be an understatement.
My energy started to build like a caged bird seeing the grandeur on the other side. Magnificence was just out of reach, untouchable and taunting. By the time Cherohala dumped me onto the Dragon, I was buzzing. I was crouched and ready to pounce looking to escape the crowds at first chance.
But the Dragon would yield no such glory. I’d dart around one group stopping for their cigarette break only to be delayed moments later by another herd of riders farting in the wind. It was a recipe for disaster. The anxiety burned. White knuckled on the throttle I resisted temptation to make a bad decision.
“Don’t be impatient Anna.” “Don’t try to pass them Anna.” “Enjoy the moment.” “Fuck this moment!”
At least the Dragon was only 11 miles. So, before I was truly motivated to do something dumb it was over and I was headed towards Gatlinburg. But my contempt for traffic and crowds was not over. Somewhere after Townshend I took a wrong turn and ended up at Cades Cove, the one-way road from hell.
I think my brain finally was “in the moment” when I had some peaceful quiet road to enjoy after the Dragon, hence the wrong turn. I didn’t even realize I had gone ten miles in the wrong direction until it was too late. Before I realized it, I was stuck bumper to bumper on a one-way 10 mile “scenic” drive. It took me two hours to get out.
This may have been one of my lowest points on the entire journey. It was 80 degrees and the Radian was overheating rolling along at 5 miles an hour just so the mini-vans and RVs with children screaming ahead could stop and take a picture of the deer in the meadows.
I thought the moments earlier were bad enough. But this one was the killer. The one that broke me. This moment fucked me right up the ass and before long I was crying and sweating and all emotions were dumping out of me. I was having a panic attack.
I tried to convince myself there was a purpose for this moment stripping me from any joy.
“What are you learning right now?” “What are you thankful for?” “Just breathe.” “This too shall pass.”
If you’ve never had a panic attack, it’s one of the more exhausting emotional experiences you can go through. It sucks every bit of energy, uses up all your reserves left to fight, and leaves you feeling depleted as if you just ran from a hungry tiger for miles.
By the time I got out of “Hells Cove,” I was a soggy mess, weak and limp like a half-drowned ship-wrecked survivor. Shattered and beaten I made it to Gatlinburg by late afternoon just as it started to drizzle and cool things off. I bought a couple tall boys, shoved them in my tank case, and kept moving toward the Blue Ridge Parkway.
As I rode up Newfound Gap a light breeze hit me and I remembered when I hiked through on the AT.
It was November and 24 inches of snow had fallen. It slowed me down so much I had to ration my food before getting to the gap. When I got there the parking lot was iced over and the road down the mountain was closed. The only way for me to resupply was to hike down the road. About halfway down I came across a cross-country skier whose truck was just another mile down. He took me into Gatlinburg and bought me a warm meal at a steak-house and hotel room for the night. He was one of those trail angels that keep the hikers going.
When I got to the Parkway it was five PM and the traffic had disappeared. I finally felt alone and calm. The quiet forest smelled of pine and spruce and the light blue and purple mountains layered in the distance looked like home. I rode with a peaceful mind until the sun started to burn the horizon. I stopped at Pisgah Campground for the night. It was my last night on this journey and I was on the last road to take me home. I drank my tall boys and slept like a log.
Thank you, ANNA
Another great one.
Always worth waiting for and the only Adv thread I've ever set a notification on. Sure gonna miss the journey episodes when the destination arrives.
I remember when Parson's Branch was still open (it was at the time of your crossing here back in 2012). I used to rip up the wrong way onto the Cades Cove loop via local backroads and jump out the back via Parson's Branch to hit 129 on the dual sport. Then the park shutdown happened during the government coffee break...I loaned Bowman my CRF...you know the rest of that story.
You thought it was bad back then. We dare not go anywhere near that area these days unless you just like masochism...
Excellent post. A few years ago a buddy and I naively rode there. They should probably put a sign at the entrance outlining why it's a bad idea on a bike.
Great read. I’ve been lucky on my trips through the Dragon. I go very early.
I’d never heard of the Trail Angels. Pretty neat right there. I hope your final day of the trip was a bit more pleasant.
Anna, I know it's been wrote many times before in this thread but you have an amazing talent for writing. I'm not sure if you've wrote any books yet but you really should. I for one of many would love to read any books you would write.
Thank you for sharing your amazing journey with us. Let us know when you write a book in this thread and I'll bet you it will be a success.
Thanks Anna. Continuing this story you started so many years ago (can it really be 8??) is a wonderful thing. A gift to the inmates, and, I hope a positive for you as well. Each life, I think, is made up of journeys of one kind or another. Thank you again for sharing this journey of yours with all of us.
I love that the story continues. This is easily my favorite active thread.
Thank you Anna.
The last night?! No, I don't want your writing to end!
The four hours I just spent reading this from start to pg 58 was exceptional. Keep it up Anna, you’re a gifted writer and adventurer.
A friend recently posted photos of his ride on the dragon reminding me of Killboy, the photographers posted at nearly every turn whom you can buy your photos from online. Sure enough I found mine, eight years later, and spent a pretty penny to post them here.
That's bloody awesome.
How did your panniers not get burnt?
They did, some, haha. But they were just far enough it never became a problem. They were ridiculously large and unnecessary in the end. I consolidated my shit so much that most of it was in the tail case.
It's always interesting that people who ride serious miles always seem to consolidate. The key is to put on so many miles that you can figure out what was extraneous. It's probably different for every rider.