27 September 2010

Trip Report: Camping with Cruzman Day 2

Saturday 18 Sep 2010:  The Ambitious Ride
Sometime in the middle of the night, I woke myself with my own snoring then couldn't go back to sleep because I thought I heard a bear in the camp.  It wasn't a bear, the noise to was too regular for that!  No, it was just Cruzman making a noise that resonated off the trees or something making it sound like he wasn't where I thought he was.  It was too early to get up, so eventually I fell asleep again.

I was up before the alarm went off.  It was too dark for the meet time we arranged with kyfa25 up at CROT around 7.  I sent him a quick text to delay by about 30 minutes hoping there'd be enough light for him to get up there safely.  Not long after, he replied back with a warning of heavy fog followed by the park ranger telling us the same thing.  We couldn't see much fog from where we were, but by the time we got to the main road and passed the lake, there was some.  We still managed to be a little late, around 7:45 a.m.

I had an ambitious route planned for the day, close to 400 miles and I knew we needed to get moving as soon as possible.  Cruzman and kyfa25 wanted to do a quick Dragon run before breakfast, that in retrospect we either should have skipped breakfast or the run.  At the top, we paused at the Overlook to give the newb a chance to soak in the scenery.  These things were not taken into account when I planned the route.

We got a guy to take our picture at the top.  You can barely tell who we are.  It probably didn't help our plans that we lingered up here so long before we headed back down the road for breakfast, only to return that way for our Ambitious Ride.  It was a slow start to a day that needed a fast start.  In an effort to recover some time, I only mounted one camera and counted on Cruzman's for another view.  Unfortunately, he didn't get any usable video.

As we left, the gps was confused telling me to make a right turn I knew wasn't there.  Instead of soldiering on, I opted to turn around to reload the route.  Finally, we headed off on our ambitious route around 10:30.  As we left, I was thinking we may have to cut some of it.

It was a slow run up the Dragon because of all the LEOs we'd seen earlier but we were on our way!  It was the first time I'd been past Tabcat Bridge.  Somewhere along there, Cruzman chimed over the radio that I'd missed a turn.  My GPS didn't show that turn and the road name looked familiar but in my haste to recover time, I chose not to turn around again.  That was a mistake.  I was going along wishing I had my mp3 player or at the very least the pda would let me play mp3s and run the gps software when I get a squawk from Cruzman.  Something was wrong but I didn't get what was until I glanced in my mirror and saw kyfa25 jumping off his bike.  Something was stinging him!!  He managed to get it out of his jacket and about an hour later, we ended up in Marysville, TN where we stopped for gas in a known place rather than going on to a place where I wasn't sure if there would be gas.

Walmart Gas Station in Marysville, TN
This is where the lack of gas mileage I noticed on my way up was even more prevalent.  I was getting about 30 mpg, at least 10 less than I experienced before jetting.  Not good.  A sniff of our exhausts revealed Baby was very rich and explained why I was getting bad gas mileage.  I knew it wasn't that way before the K&N air filter.  Cruzman said we might need another tech day to address that issue.  Ugh, I didn't want to spend another day pulling carbs!

From there, we continued on, our next destination, Little River RD in Gatlinburg.  I remembered there was supposed to be some big event near there with classic cars and some Tennessee fans reminded us of that before we left the gas station.  The traffic getting there proved that I hadn't routed us around the area as I thought I had.

Along Little River RD

The scenery was stunning

We were stuck behind a long line of cars, and I was relieved when the gps told me to turn right.  Relieved until we got stuck behind another long line of cars!

When this spit us out where we made our turn, I decided we should just get lunch and started thinking about how to salvage the day.  Lunch was okay at the restaurant whose name I can't remember.  Service was terrible and we were there for a mighty long time.

Outside in the parking lot

kyfa25 with his pink lemonade.

It wasn't a cheap meal and all the aspects of the food weren't spectacular.  But by the end of the meal, I thought I'd found a way to still enjoy the day.  As we left, Cruzman said he thought we could go back the way we came and instead of making the left that led us back to Little River RD, make a right that should take us over to the main highway.  I did that, but that's not where we ended up.  We ended up on Cades Cove Loop Rd, a scenic drive that I read about but decided to save for another trip.

I was getting pretty hot after the slow ride, but when I saw this spot I thought it was time to get a group shot in this scenic place.  I thought we'd only be there for a second before re-joining the parade, but that wasn't the case.

The Guy who took our picture

I didn't take any of my gear off because I hoped we get right back on the road.  By the time I knew we wouldn't it was too late to even bother with it.  No sooner than we were back on the loop, we saw...

What is that?

A deer!  We saw one earlier bounding across a field.
After the horses and the deer, I was hoping for a bear sighting too!  After this, I was fully into the Loop Ride. I knew we wouldn't be going anywhere near where we wanted to so might as well make the best of where we were.

Then the gps said turn right...down a long dirt road that led off into the trees.  Yea, I don't think so.  So we continued on, knowing the loop would eventually end.  As soon as we got to some shade, I decided we needed to take a break so I could peel out of the perforated leather jacket and cool off.

They did it 4 times and I only got 2 pic, this was the best one.

Cruzman's butt got hot!
The loop road was nearing it's end and thankfully we were dumped back where we started on Cades Cove RD.  This is when I asked and got wheelie instructions and managed to pull my first bunny hop, clutching it up.  Then later I did one, throttle only!!  I think it may have been easier without the K&N though.

From here, we headed back the way we came, this time taking Foothills Parkway over to US 129.  I don't know what came over Cruzman, maybe it was the last few hours spent in traffic but he really opened Stella up.  He was hauling the mail over the mountain on the slightly winding road.  Baby just wasn't up to keeping up, neither was I really.  All that slow speed riding was pretty tiring.  He only stopped at the overlook:

By the time we got here, my back was aching.  I'd put the lowered seat on the bike so I could use the soft tail bag.  The lowered seat forces me into the tank and I find myself trying to push back by arching my butt away from the tank.  This means sore lower back.  I've been thinking about doing something about the normal seat that has the seat case on it now I know I need to do something about both.  The different seat and the K&N filter added to making my riding experience a lot less fun than usual.

Both affected my riding in negative ways that preoccupied my mind more than they should have.  At some point during the day, I considered taking the knife to the seat right then and maybe ride the bike without the filter just to get some of the performance back.  I resisted both urges because I knew I'd be home soon and could easily remedy both problems.  With all that on my mind, I fought hard not to complain.  I don't think I did at all.

While we were there, we met four or five guys who wanted to know which way the Dragon was.  All were on sport bikes and none of them were wearing any type of gear.  Typical SQUID riders.  Cruzman and kyfa25 told them how to get there and they left.  I thought for sure they'd gear up before riding the Dragon, but I was wrong!

Cruzman was still leading a brisk pace once we left the overlook.  After a few miles and gradually steeper curves, kyfa25 fell back a little.  I was already falling back because of Baby's lackluster performance and achy back but caught up to kyfa25 with little effort.  As we crested a hill, we saw a cop coming out of the upcoming curve.  As soon as he passed us, he lit his blue lights!  Uh-oh.

kyfa25 barely slowed down, but I did because I couldn't ride forward due to checking my mirrors to see if he would turn around.  About a mile or so later, we ran up on Cruzman, riding with his signal on and hugging the white line.  We figured if the LEO hadn't caught up to us by then, he wasn't gonna but that took the "spirit" out of the ride.  Instead of riding along at double or triple the posted speed, we opted for a more sane 10 or 20 mph over the rest of the way to US129.

On the ride down the Dragon, we got stuck behind an SUV who wouldn't use the pullouts despite honking and waving from the car driver behind her.  Eventually she did pull over, but that ride down would be foreshadowing for the Sunday Morning Dragon run.  We made it back to CROT around 8 ish with dinner on our minds.  We thought about eating at Fontana's but kyfa25's need for gas led us back to Robbinsville where we ended up eating at the Mexican Restaurant.

It was a good thing food was not the priority on this trip.  Everything we ate was mediocre at best.  I got carne asada that was so tough the knife refused to cut it.  I "accidentally" dropped my knife but the second one was no better.  I was hoping they had dull knives but my teeth agreed with the knife, that meat was tough!

We did get to look at the video on my laptop thanks to the restaurant's electricity, I really need to replace the battery, and the table next to us got a chance to view our day with us.  They were also talking about needing a camp fire which reminded me of Cruzman's promise to make a fire at our camp.  What's camping without a fire?  We didn't have one the night before because he needed to patch his tire and install his sliders.

We left kyfa25 and headed back to our campground for much needed showers, after which Cruzman promised to make a fire.  I'd brought my magnesium fire starter in the hopes of figuring out how to use it.  The night before I managed to make sparks on the picnic table so I was really looking forward to the fire this night.

The showers at the campsite had two shower heads, a high one and a low one.  I put both to good use, the lower one helped ease the ache in my lower back.  However the humidity at lakeside had me sweating so much I thought I might need another shower before going to bed.  I was getting a little whiney and tired of myself by the time we actually settled into camp.  I told Cruzman not to bother with the fire knowing the activity would probably have him sweating like I was and not wanting him to be as miserable as I was.

I tried to organize my tank bag to take my mind off my misery while Cruzman stubbornly set about making a fire.  The light from the flashlight was attracting the daddy long legs spiders so I retreated to my tent with the hopes of not having un-needed spider help and to stop sweating.  I didn't stop sweating, but I did manage to get my stuff sorted without further help from the spiders.

The next thing I knew, we had fire!!!  I was so happy I instantly forgot my misery and stopped sweating.  Man I loved that fire!

I happily went to bed with the sound of crickets and crackling fire.  I even put my earplugs in so I wouldn't wake myself up with my snoring or the bear sounds that had begun to permeate the camp site a few minutes after Cruzman entered his tent.

It was a great day, despite all the obstacles.  We had so much fun, we decided to pay for an extra day at the site so we could leave our stuff there and ride Hwy 28 and the dragon without loaded bikes.

Up next:  Dragon Torture and Hwy 28 Bliss

Thanks for reading,
patrice, theWolfTamer

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