06 August 2015

Trip Report: Once in a Blue Moon

31 July 2015:  Dragon Slaying Under A Blue Moon.

As with any trip, it never starts on the day of the trip.  This one began at the end of the last trip as I admired Booger's wife when she pulled out of the parking on an inky dark night near the last quarter of the moon to ride the Dragon alone.  She said she was going for the peacefullness of it.  It was clear that she was way more badass than me.

At the time, I could not imagine a scenario where I rode the dragon seeking solace at night.  It wasn't until then that I realized my normal group of riders where hard assed!  We SPORT-tour.  The emphasis on sport is for a reason.  We seek out roads that take us to amazing places not to see them but to enjoy the road.  400 mile day?  That's nothing to us.

My newest friend, Smitty, suggested that riding the Dragon under a full moon might be the best time to do a night run.  Well what he actually said was that it'd be the only time he would consider it and I agreed.  A few days later, he told me that the next full moon was in two weeks and that it'd be a blue moon.  Hmm, I think that was consider running out of the house.

We had a tentative plan.  Meet at the resort, ride the dragon under the blue moon, take photos and videos to commemorate the moment.  As usual, I thought to camp.  Smitty was asking about rooms in the area and wanted to reserve something.  I was certain there'd be something available without the need to reserve anything; if not at Deals Gap Resort then most certainly at Fontana's.

I invited the other two amigos, Cruzman and iluvmyfz1, and considered posting on the forum about the event.  My lazieness over the next couple of weeks prevented me from doing that along with a few other things like changing my tires and replacing my chain.

Right after the rally, I was inspired to finally mount the USGI storage cases I had.  Getting drenched on the way in with nothing dry to change into was a profound motivator.  I was ready to buy racks if I had too but Cruzman said he could help so I rode over to his house to fab something up.

It took us all day just to mount the cases with a few pieces of metal.  I need to order some fasteners to be able to remove the cases but for now they are on there to stay.  I considered removing them for this ride but again didn't do anything.  Part of the reason was I knew the whole trip might not be more than 700 miles.  The chain, bags, and tires all had that in them so I didn't feel any urgency like I do now, some 700 miles later.

I left about 2 hours later than I wanted to despite waking up early, ready to ride.  Compelled would be a more accurate description.  Once I'd gathered my stuff, I wanted to be on the road.  Loading the cases was a simple affair of opening the cases and dropping in the shopping bag I'd stuffed my things into because I still can't find my traveling duffle bag and my back pack is a pissy ruin.

It was hot once I finally pulled out of the garage.  The day was so bright with very few clouds and the usual Georgia humidity.  It took nearly 45 minutes to reach the interstate, with an extra 30 minutes at Wal-Mart to get a cheap bag.  I wasn't particuarly looking forward to the interstate since it's usually much hotter than surface streets.

This time, despite the traffic, it was cooler.  Baby seemed to be as happy as I was to be on the road.  He kept passing cars left and right putting the mild congestion behind us as we climbed in elevation toward Clayton, GA.  I wanted to get to the Resort as soon as I could so I would be waiting for Smitty.

He had at least a 10 hour ride just to get there and I didn't want him to arrive wondering if I would keep my word.  I only slowed for the anticipated LEO sitings once I reached Clayton.  I could have taken Warwoman RD to 28 there but instead I stayed on the Georgia Road through Clayton, Dillard, and Mountain Rest wondering where I should stop but stopping no where.  I wanted shade and didn't see any.

Before long, I was in North Carolina thinking about something cool like a hot fudge sundae with nuts on the bottom and the top from Dairy Queen.  Maybe it was the milkshakes the passengers in the car that kept passing me that inspired it.  The Dairy Queen billboard cinched where I would stop.

I found the only patch of shade in the parking lot, nearly parking in the bushes to take advantage of it.  Once inside, I thought better of the dairy and ordered an Artic Blast.  The only good thing about it was that it was cold and a slushie.  It wasn't good at all.

I touched base with Smitty and Cruzman in what I expected to be the last place where I'd have a signal.  I also contacted PJ to let him know I was about 90 minutes from DGR and to get his address since that was where we'd be staying.  Then I got back on the road, getting on Hwy 28 after riding through the less than scenic little city of Franklin.

Riding on Hwy 28 with the sun in my eyes, I realized the front tire felt a lot different than it had during the rally.  Maybe the hot ride up had removed the odd feeling but for the first time since I put it on it felt okay.  Not great like the sport front tires that preceded it but okay.

After a while, it felt like I was the only one on the road.  I passed by the usual gas stop even though I knew I should stop.  I just didn't want to.  The air was finally cool but not quite perfect.  It was still too warm to be perfect but it wasn't stifling like it was when I first started out.

I got to the crossroads maybe 20 minutes before Cruzman, who pulled up as I was leaving the store with a bottle of water and a snickers.  I figured he'd need refreshment as badly as I did so I went back inside and got something for him to save him the few steps.  He met me just as I rounded the corner to look for him.

We talked for a bit before deciding to do a “recon” run up the Dragon.  I was sure Smitty would be at least an hour more before he arrived.  The last message I had from him said he was getting on 74.  I didn't know what his route would be to get there but I hadn't expected 74.  If I had, I would have suggested meeting him there rather than the store.

Not long after we got to the overlook, a car pulled over as a red mustang zoomed by giving him a honk and a wave.  The driver who'd pulled over immediately raised his hood, “I couldn't let him pass.”  There was smoke coming from his rotors too and I wonder at what cost?

As usual, Cruzman struck up a conversation with the others around us while I watched the people.  There was a large guy on a red FZ09 (I think) leading three other sport bikes.  I hope it was the 09 and not the 7.  He swallowed the bike!  I watched him back into a large hole as they went southbound back towards the store and made a mental note to check around the bike before I left.

A while later other riders or maybe drivers came up mentioning a group of sport bikes hugging the yellow lines and a near miss of an accident.  I could guess it was that group.  Since Cruzman is usally faster than me, I decided to head back to the store to wait for Smitty.

He was there when I pulled in but it didn't look like he'd been there long despite him telling me he'd been waiting all day for me.  Okay.  When Cruzman arrived we took the usual tourist photo shots of Smitty in front of the tree before heading to the Tapico Lodge for dinner.

Smitty couldn't get a signal so we went into Robbinsville and ate at the Mexican place.  Cruzman and Smitty checked their phones to see exactly where in the sky the moon would be.  We'd all been speculating thoughout dinner about what to expect.  Cruzman regalled us with tales about following iluvmyfz1 up the Dragon more than a month before and how bright the stars were at the overlook.

With my new hard cases, I can't use my top case yet.  I realized that I didn't have any of my camera mounts.  That plus my “good” camera is in a tree with my quadcopter meant I wouldn't get any onboard video of the night ride.  I planned to compensate with pictures.  I'd been practicing the previous few nights with all of my cameras:  Cell Phone, Fujifilm J10, and GE x500.  It was how I lost the quad in the tree.

The first thing I saw when I walked out of the restaurant was the Blue Moon over Robbinsville.

Smitty has the coolest lights on his 2008 Concours.

It's the first time I've seen tasteful LEDs on a motorcycle in person.  Baby may get blue LEDs to show off the engine someday, in the meantime I'll stick to the Aux Lights on the front.  Another thing I didn't do before this trip was mount my new lights.  For the first time in years I'm aux lightless and I can tell the difference by the way drivers no longer react to me.

Cruzman disappeared into the darkness long before Smitty got his groove on the dark unfamilliar road.  His lights shone on the trees over head as well as creating an avatar effect on the road.  We ended up following some local up his driveway when Smitty mistook him for Cruzman.  I won't say that the fellow was riding a little scooter.

It took me a bit to get turned around in the gravel yard but once I did, Smitty told me to ride ahead and he'd be fine.  He'd been on the road for over 12 hours and I kept an eye out for him once I got a non blinding distance from his lights.

I slowed as we reached the Cheoh Dam then parked on the bridge when I saw the moon over the dam.

We were there so long, Cruzman came back to look for us.

We gathered at the store again to discuss the plan.  I decided I'd ride up ahead and pick a spot to video the boys as they rode by.  It was so peaceful on the side of the road with the crickets and cicadas providng the soundtrack as the moon light filtered through the trees.  The peace was occasionally broken by the sound of engines echoing in the distance as cars, SUVs, Pick up trucks, and motorcycles passed by.

 Then the silence again for a few moments before I heard Stella riding toward me.  She has her Akrapovic back and it sounded like she was happy about it.
Stella and Cruzman under the Blue Moon.

Then a little bit later I saw Smitty's lights dancing between the trees and missed his first pass!  I got the next ones though and a few pics when the boys pulled in.
Smitty and His Connie under the Blue Moon.

Cruzman continued to lead us up the Dragon pulling over in the clear spots to soak up the moonshine and so Smitty and I could take pics.

We hung out at the overlook for not long enough before heading to Pjs.  I was a little disappointed when PJ and Cori decided not to join us for the Blue Moon ride because I knew we'd have to leave before we really wanted to so we wouldn't keep them up.

The moon was too bright for any star gazing but now that the shine is off, this will not be the last time I ride the Dragon at night.  Maybe the next new moon so I can see the stars!

I was shocked when we got there and Smitty said he was too geeked up to stop.  He decided to ride home that night!  I wanted to talk him out of it.  I tried maybe half heartedly because I could tell by the look on his face there was no talking him out of it.

I hadn't been certain how much time he had anyway but hoped it'd be enough to show him the Cherohala.  It doesn't seem right to me to ride the Dragon and not the Skyway too.  Heck, I'll ride the Skyway and not feel bad about leaving the Dragon to those seeking to take it off of their bucket list.

1 Aug 2015.

I was excited about the prospect of riding with PJ and seeing the 50cc races that day.  PJ is kind of a Dragon celebrity and definitely an FZ1 Legend.  They recently purchased a Ducati Monstor 620 that Cori took to the post office before PJ rode it to the store for our brunch.  We people watched and Cruzman and I ate burgers and onion rings.  Cori had wings but no buffalo sauce.  I didn't see what PJ ate.

Cori and PJ mentioned how tired they were and were looking forward to a lazy day at home.  Cruzman and I decided on a lazy day on Hwy 28 so we went our separate ways after eating excellent onion rings at the Deals Gap Resort.  The burger wasn't really mentionable but most of the time their food isn't anyway.  It's usually good because it's about the only choice there.

We lounged on the front porch of a motorcycle shop on Hwy 28 just before Franklin, still full of resort food to consider Caffe Rel.  I tried not to think about that and was happy that we didn't ride all the way into Franklin so I wouldn't be tempted to stuff myself anyway.  PJ told us about a bbq place there so maybe next time we'll try that.

On the way back, we stopped at the Fontana Dam.  It was the second time I'd been up there and only the first where I actually stopped to see the dam.  The history of the area is fascinating.  Fontana is apart of the depression area effort by Roosevelt to boost the economy through public works.  It's construction brought in nearly 70,000 people to the area and took about 3 years to complete.

Instead of the Fiddy races, PJ and Cori took us to Knoxville for a sushi dinner at Nama Sushi Bar.  It was pretty dark inside but the food was very good.  They showed us around town before dinner and it reminded me of a mixture of Savannah and Augusta.  Actually every medium sized southern city.  I even saw a place to buy the drift trike I've been threatening my niece and nephew I wanted to build.  We plan to use my Akita to tow us back up the hill but I'm not sure Lexxi is on board with that idea

It was an awesome weekend so far.  To think that morning I would have been content to take Hwy 28 home!

2 Aug 2015.
Cruzman had to leave early to meet MrsCruzman at their cabin.  Before I left, I got a text saying they'd be in Tellico Plains so I told them I'd meet them there.  I was going to the Bald River Falls on the way home this time.  I considered taking the Dragon, the Skyway, 68, 60, Wolf Pen Gap, and Blood Mountain to get home but my back tire suggested it'd be better to skip all that.

Instead I took 70-something into Vonore then 360 to Tellico Plains were I met Cruzman, MrsCruzman, and the Goat(?) at the Cherohala Market.  From there we rode the 5 or so miles to the turn that took us to Bald River Falls.

We stayed there for a while.  I even climbed down the path and got in the super cold water.  It was spectacular!

There are two more falls on the road so we decided to ride up to see them.  We passed one, Baby Falls I think, looking for the other that we never saw.  We decided to follow the road until the pavement ended or we hit a major highway.  The pavement ended.

It's was well worth it.  The tree lined road followed the river or stream bed most of the way.  There were awesome sites along it that I couldn't help stopping at to fake a picture.

At the end of the road I understood why I wanted a small adv bike.  Now that I know why, I'll try to get one for next year.

We ended our day together after bbq in Tellico.  I couldn't resist taking Blood Mountain on the way home either.  My tires and chain held up just fine.

Thanks to PJ and Cori for hosting us, Smitty for lighting up the night, and Cruzman for saving my bacon!

Thanks for reading,
patrice, theWolfTamer

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