Monday, July 14, 2008

The Road Goes On Forever...

At the end of our last installment, the intrepid motorcyclists were in Virginia, having braved the glorious and terrifying Blue Ridge Parkway in both rain and sunshine. Finding themselves in Virginia, and needing to be in Texas, Thalassa and Rose hie themselves home. Again, you can't really ride a straight line anywhere here. So we pointed ourselves in the general direction of Great Smoky Mountains National Park and wriggled on down to its delightfully tortuous bounding road, the Tail of the Dragon. We had planned this quite carefully, actually, so that we could do it on a weekday. I don't know if there are any humans who actually enjoy densely packed, crowded situations, but for some reason we all tend to jam ourselves into attractive places together on weekends. I can't imagine a more miserable riding experience than one in which I was being hampered from the front by a slow bike while crowded from behind by a fast bike on a road that doesn't even try to lend itself to safe passing zones. Weekends are reported to be crowded out there, so Friday was our preferred approach. Even with the Honda Hoot motorcycle rally in nearby Knoxville, TN we had a fairly clear road to ride. We didn't see any accidents or even any really silly behavior. Generally, everyone was polite and responsible - which is bad for my writing, but good for my health. I include this fact only because some of you readers actually know me in real life and care whether I get off the bike with the same number of limbs I had when I clambered on it.

We ordered our ride pictures from Killboy as I promised. All the other photography (except as noted) is Rose's because she's good at it, and I'm not. The road was really a blast! It IS all it's cracked up to be... I can't begin to imagine what riding it was like back when the speed limit was 55 mph. These days the limit is 30, and while I recognize that's artificially low in honor of the road's notoriety and the crowds there, I still felt like 30 was awfully fast in some of the corners -- maybe I'm just a nervous nelly. Then again, if you look at the chicken strips on my Valk, they're damn narrow. I know I've never been out to the edge of the tire, but I'm certainly not riding it upright through those mountains, either. Whichever, once we'd ridden the Tail of the Dragon, bought our t-shirts and tchotchkes, jawed with some bikers and gawked at some of the bikes in the parking area, we rolled on down to our next destination road, the Cherohala Skyway. It was actually prettier and more fun to ride this one than Tail of the Dragon, simply because it's a much more open road and has some nice passing zones built right into the mix! (as the old Duncan Hines commercials would say) Rose reports that it is her FAVORITE ROAD EVAR!eleventy!

We leaned and wriggled and swerved our way on down to the end of the Cherohala Skyway and pulled over to powwow about dinner. There at the scenic overlook, with a background babble from the beautiful mountain river that I swear was a wee stream just a few miles up the hill, we met a delightful guy who was just the picture of every "retired Jewish Yankee winters in Florida" joke you've ever heard. I swear, visiting with him was like talking to a cartoon or a sitcom character. He had the accent, the attitude, the face... Ultimately, of course, he was a real person with questions about how two girls could pack for two weeks in those tiny saddlebags and what was the fastest way back to Knoxville, and whether we'd really ridden all the way from Texas by ourselves, and whether he'd make it back in time for dinner. We used our GPS to give him some directions and we rolled off to meet up with some old friends in Athens, TN.

Have you ever wondered what your preacher was like before he was a preacher? I've often wondered that, myself. Unless you get a chance to sit down with said preacher's mother, though, you don't usually get the answer to that question. Well, in this case, our old friend has just become a preacher. I've only known him a couple of years, but Rose and he were coworkers back in the day. Apparently, the two of them were running buddies in their misspent youth. Of course, they've both matured and taken on responsibility as it's come careering at them, but every once in a while you see that glint in their eyes... you know they could still go back to being hellions, if only for a weekend. We had a wonderful dinner and tour of the new house and new church that our friend is going to be leading, and then we settled in for a good night's rest while visions of hairpin turns and sweet sweeping mountain vistas danced in our heads. (These two shots are from Moonshine Photo)

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