The Breakfast Camp sells the hillbilly thing with mason jar salt and pepper shakers and glasses. One omelette later, I checked out, loaded up and headed for Bryson City to make camp via rt 441 thru the park.
Almost immediately into the park, wild turkeys lined the road. A deer crossed in front of me. I wondered just how dense the wildlife was. Traffic was very light - I felt I had the road to myself, climbing slowly up into the Smokies, thru some intermittent tunnels, and everywhere fantastic overlooks. The gray/ cloudy day was putting the "smoky" in "Smokies."
The TN/ NC State line is formed by the ridge. On top of 'ol Smoky:
Views, views, views. Pictures... justice... had to be there.
30-something miles later, the park road dumps you out in Cherokee, NC, which has a "sense of place," even if that sense is a little "natives desperately trying to make Cherokee a tourist destination." On to Bryson City, and the Great Smoky Mountain National Park Deep Creek campsite. I was happy to be the only person in the tent section, so picked a spot close to the bathroom. I deployed the North Face mansion, and in so doing was able to shed ~50 lbs of luggage from the bike, freeing me up for riding.
Soon I mounted up and headed out up the hill on rt 129. Minutes later it became obvious that I had in fact found "the dragon." The road turns into a slalom of tight, blind, corners so close together they feel more like gymkhana than road riding. A few hard corners seem to have a "kink" in them, and there's a fair amount of elevation change all the while, too. If that doesn't get you unsettled, there's an endless parade of bikes and cars popping out from behind blind corners, which - thanks to a thread on ADVrider.com - I beleive have about a 50% chance of being in my lane when they do. This really blew my concentration... and even though I figured Killboy would be in at least one of the pull-outs, there's no way of knowing which one it will be. Having a parked car, tent, and guy pointing a camera at you pop out from behind a blind corner is distracting. Oh wait, and the locals who have the road memorized are crawling up behind you - decorum requires keeping your eyes open for and using pull-outs... all on a road you've never seen before and know routinely wrecks and kills riders.
All in all, it was far more "stressful" than "fun" but 11 miles later, it was over and I can now add to my "BTDT" list.
Feeling somewhat moto-humbled, I discovered I was only a few miles from one of my POI's, "Dual Sport Touring," on rt 321 near Maryville - so a plotted a course for it.
Upon arrival, I was promptly offered a cold soda which I thankfully took, and was delighted to meet the owner's dogs who were hanging out in the shop. DST is a friendly, comfortable, familiar-feeling place if you are into dual sports and/or touring. A small selection of top-notch gear was on display and I got to see, touch, and try on stuff I could only otherwise do via a painful process of mail order purchase.
Soon my pants were literally off being fitted with new 3DO armor. Before long my jacket got a 3DO back pad upgrade trimmed to fit, too. It feels weird describing what I received there as "service:" it was more like "the royal treatment." What a nice pair of peeps - I wish them every success. I left after quite a while slathered in armor, stories, and goodwill.
GPS was performing well so far on this trip, so I let it guide me back to camp. "Avoidances" set for "shortest route" and "avoid highways" seems to conjure a nice mix of back roads... at least in the Smokies. A route full of local flavor brought me back to camp in the evening, where I was surprised to find a few other mid-week campers had showed up during the day. I did some chores and was surprised to find cell service in the tent, so I bantered with command central for a while before falling to sleep.