I woke up to find that it had rained heavily the night before. I walked out to put my gear on the motorcycle and there were two towels sitting on it for me to dry the bike off. I dried the toweled it off, brought the towels in, and said to a woman behind the desk that someone had left them on my bike. "Oh, that was me. I thought you might want a dry motorcycle for your ride today." Best, most thoughtful, service I have EVER received from a hotel. EconoLodge for the win! Oh, and they had a continental breakfast, so I hit that too, then headed south toward the Tail of the Dragon.
I started out early and found a sweet, winding road to take me to my destination.
I was up early enough that I still caught a little of the sunrise while I was out there.
There is so much water in central and eastern Tennessese. Rivers, lakes, and dams. Throughout this region, the roads hug the shoreline and offer spectacular views.
Aside from winding back and forth, the roads in this area also rise and fall dramatically, the hills and mountains offering their own contour and character. At the bottom, the roads skirt the water, at the top they offer incredible views. It really is a non-stop, extravagant festival of nature's finest.
I jumped into a "scenic view" view pull-off. In this spot, the clouds were actually being blown up the mountain, and crossing over the road. People were passing where I had stopped, and driving through the clouds. Then, it was my turn to get on the bike and do it - So cool!
I had to stop and take a selfie!
Some more maginificent (I am going to run out of superlatives talking abou this region) riding, and then I was at the Dragon. The Tail of the Dragon is an 11 mile stretch of road that features 318 curves, switching back and forth through a mountainous area. It is a "must-do" for motorcyclists, and I was finally here, five years after getting started in the sport.
I rode without getting a piece of my bike nailed to the Tree of Shame, a memorial for people who crash on the Dragon and thereafter attach a piece of the wreckage to the Tree. The best piece of advice I got was "Ride your ride" (this applies to all areas of riding, not just The Dragon) and I wasn't super aggressive on the road. Incredibly, I was there on a Monday morning, and had arrived early enough that I had the entire road to myself. I rode down, switching back and forth, in second gear almost the whole time, rolling on and off the throttle into and out of turns, feeling the rhythm of the road. I felt like I was just getting the true feel for it when I reached the end.
I pulled into the Deals Gap Motorcycle Resort store at the end of the Dragon. I had promised myself one memento of my time there. I ended up buying something that would remind me of the expreience for a long time - a pair of Alpine Star gloves. I was going to head south from here, but the roads were closed due to a lot of recent storms, so I went north, right back up the Dragon. So nice, I rode it twice!
The mimosa trees were in bloom, too. I love riding beside water. It's just magical.
I rode a lot of great roads, including wandering (that's code for: I got lost and wound up in...) into Hot Springs, North Carolina. This is another great area for riding and, from the looks of it, fly fishing as well. I pulled into a gas station, fueled up and started talking with a hiker who was doing the through-hike on the Appalachian Trail. He told me about Max Patch, a bald mountain top in the area with spectacular views, but advised against it today because of lightning. I will add it to my list of things for next time I am here.
I had just finished fueling up when the first drops began. Looking up, Saauron's cloud that previously hung over Mordor had found its way to this little patch of North Carolina. I glanced aroud quickly and there was a restaurant next door, where I did a mad dash just before Heaven opened up. I had a semi-average salad and waited for the storm to pass, the cloudburst delivering pint-sized drops of rain, pummeling the tin roof of the place. Then, just as quickly, it had passed. Summer storms are crazy-wild, and I don't think I realized how much so until this trip. Being IN them, rather than just an observer OF them, changes one's perspective mightily.
Leaving Hot Springs, I got lost again because there was no cell phone coverage and I missed a turn. It served as a reminder that a tank bag and an actual map is a good thing to have. I rode north into Virginia...
...where I eventually got hemmed in by storms in Wytheville, Virginia, and had to stop for the day.
I was shooting for Pittsburgh but, between storms and my previous getting lost, it just wasn't going to happen. I stopped and found a place that offered LAUNDRY (no EconoLodge in this area)! I was so grateful to be rid of the dead-body stench coming frm my trunk everytime I opened it. And, one day from home, so I wouldn't have to do laundry when I got through the door, was a huge bonus. I had dinner at a steakhouse, and continue to wonder why it is so difficult to find a decent meal on the road.