I packed up and headed to Walmart for some aspirin and a bike cover, having forgotten to pack either of the two I already own. With meds on board, but no cover joy, I headed back towards rt 81S.
Again I was pleasantly surprised by the light traffic and smooth air, so settled in for another big day of slabbing. An unremarkable 200-and-something miles later, I pulled off for a reset just across the VA border at the TN welcome center. Welcome centers have free maps.
I awed a bit at having ridden a 650cc motorcycle 500-something miles in about 24 hours, having touched five States and arriving at a welcome center where everyone was friendly and had a funny accent.
The woman working the welcome center actually said, "welcome to Tin-iss-ee!" as tho it were her job. Learning that I was on a bike, she supplied me with a handful of moto-specific maps and brochures. I told her I'd never felt so welcomed to Tennessee before and headed out.
Some more locals outside tried to talk me into the dinner theatre in Pigeon Forge. Dollywood was something I actually had a certain morbid curiosity about, but I knew there was no dinner theatre in my near future.
Welcome woman had directed me to "the Snake" - rt 421 - which is northern TN's answer to "the tail of the dragon." It being one exit away and only about lunchtime, I figured this was exactly the sort of thing I was here to do and laid in a course. I planned to turn south on rt 91 on the strength of her reporting that some previous biker had told her that road was terrifying and he thought he would "fall off the mountain."
I snaked my loaded bike across rt 421 to Mountain City before pulling over to figure out where I was. The diversion had eaten up some day, so I gave rt 91 a miss and took rt 67 S towards Pigeon Forge/ Gatlinburg/ a high density of campsite POI's. Some portion of this leg overlayed rush hour, a food stop at a Hardee's, and some emergency vehicle detours. More miles had me racing rain and darkness, finally rolling into Gatlinburg near dark and just as it started raining. I pulled off at the first motel that had vacant covered parking and went in to inquire.
The guy at the counter was a biker and told me he'd just taken his sporty on the Dragon earlier that week. He hooked me up with a room for $59. As I was completing payment, a Goldwing pilot entered in full gear and asked me if they had a "biker discount." I told him that they did, but that they also had a "handsome penalty" and that it had canceled out any savings. I added with genuine good-nature: "well, that probably won't affect you, though." He seemed confused, so I quickly retreated and found my parking spot between a pair of Goldwings before he figured it out. Several other 'wings were present and I chatted with a few of the owners who were gearing up to go out to eat. I hauled luggage in and marveled that $59 with no reservation will buy you a balcony which overlooks one of the half-dozen or so streams which land in the town, covered parking, and a huge room.
I Cliffed for dinner and dug thru the stuff from the Welcome Center. A plan was formed: