Thursday, September 25, 2014

TOTD, Day 3

An early start on a gray morning delivered me to "Crockett's Breakfast Camp," where the waitress reminded me of Diane... scarily, creepily, so.  I told her she had a twin sister in Pennsylvania.  She told me she was adopted, and her bio father "got around."  I wondered if they really WERE related.

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.

Camp was set by around lunch, then I headed out to run my planned loop of the Cherohala Skyway and the Tail of the Dragon.  Rt 129 appears to have a terminus at rt 19 / 74 so catching it there would allow running the whole length of road.  As a tourist, I'm not really sure what the "good part" is.   Soon I was heading up it, tho, and enjoying it well enough.   Suddenly, a place I recognize from photos pops into view, so I pull in for some obligatory pics.

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 - 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.  

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