Sunday, June 19, 2011

Day 10 – Sunday, June 19, 2011 - Nixa, MO to Kansas City, Mo (aka Home)

Final milage of Tail of the Dragon
road trip (cell phone pic)
We arose on Sunday morning to some of the same that occurred on Saturday. The smell of coffee, watching dogs chase birds and squirrels, and ate some breakfast. This time, breakfast consisted of eggs, bacon, biscuits and gravy, and other regular fare. We knew this was the final day of our trek, but ready to hit the road and get home. On our way through Springfield, we went past a dozen or so golden arches – but we didn’t stop. Huh? Odd!

Oh well, as we headed up MO-13, we exited near Humansville to hop over to ma and pa Kenny’s. After all, it was Father’s Day, and Kathy wanted to wish her father a happy day. We got there around 10:15 AM, greeted with hugs and kisses, and a bloody mary. I see a trend beginning here… We briefly recapped some highlights of our trip, and headed north.

Right before hitting Clinton Missouri, Ronnie chattered over the CB stating something about a diet coke and some golden arches. Ah, all was right with the world - now that Theresa got her diet coke! We continued north on to Kansas City.

As we got on northbound 71 hwy, we looked across the road to look for Ronnie’s missing engine cover. At 70 mph, it is pretty tough looking across the road for a chrome plastic cover. Needless to say, we did not locate it.

As we arrived to downtown Kansas City, I called on the CB stating that Kathy and I were headed to Chipshots Bar and Grill in North Kansas City for a tenderloin sandwich. Ronnie and Theresa were ready to get home, and politely declined the initial invitation. We said our goodbyes over the radio and planned to forge on. However, after a brief moment of silence, Ronnie said, “Hey, their tenderloins are pretty good, we will follow you there.” So we landed at Chipshots to split two tenderloin sandwiches four ways and a celebratory beer each.

While at our final landing spot before getting home, we talked about how great a trip it was and didn’t talk much about what we would change. We all agreed it was near perfect, except for the obvious stuff mentioned before. All in all, the 2011 Tail of the Dragon trip from Kansas City was a great road trip and will not soon be forgotten.

Some revelations for this tenth leg of the road trip:
  • A bloody mary a day might not keep the doctor away, but damn they taste good.
  • Chipshots tenderloins are the bombdiggity!
  • There’s no place like home.
  • I completely checked out of work last week. Crap, now what do I do?
  • Note to self: Get oil changed, 2 weeks after getting the last one, and check out the service guy’s expression when I arrive and have him write the service ticket.
  • Get a new back tire.
  • 230 miles this day - give or take – click here our general route.

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Day 9 – Saturday, June 18, 2011 - Poolside in Nixa, MO

We arose on Saturday morning to the smell of coffee. We watched the Brittany’s chase birds and squirrels away from the seed the Steve had strategically placed on the ground just a few hours prior. What a hoot. As we sat at the dining room table, sipping our coffee, we ate some fruit, danishes, and such, and just took it all in. Saturday was set up to be a day of rest and relaxation. We had a couple of bloody marys and headed for the pool. Swimming attire was donned all day long for all of us. We snacked for lunch between our beers and frequent dips in the pool. Steve smoked some ribs for our dinner, which were wonderful. We ended the night by the pool, sipping on our drinks of choice and recalling events of the week behind us. Bed came early once again, since it is early to bed and early to rise around that house!

Ronnie diving
Theresa Diving
Rubber duckys are
so fun, Rubber ducky,
youre the one...

Some revelations for this ninth leg of the road trip:
  • Ronnie knows how to dive, very well.
  • Theresa knows how to dive, not as well as Ronnie.
  • Steve used to teach diving lessons.
  • Kathy lost her top while diving (or at least I think Steve wanted her to).
  • I still don’t know how to dive, nor trust myself to do it.
  • Chilling out for the day was a good plan.
  • My Harley was more quiet than the Goldwing this day. (he rode to town, I didn’t)
  • 0 miles this day - give or take. (easy riders)

Friday, June 17, 2011

Day 8 – Friday, June 17, 2011 Memphis, TN to Nixa, MO

Before checking out of The Hampton Inn hotel, we ate the complimentary breakfast, which consisted the typical continental fare (juices, cereal, fruit, bagels, etc), as well as biscuits, sliced ham, and fake eggs. Most everything was good, but our crew voted the eggs to be inedible. After breakfast, Ronnie and I headed to the get the bikes and load them at our hotel. Along the way to get said bikes, Ronnie discovered that he didn’t have his keys on him. “Hmmm, where could they be?” he asked. We walked back towards our hotel again and he got he extra set from Theresa. We headed back once again to the bikes, where we found the bikes in tact as well as Ronnie’s other set of keys in the lock on a compartment. Safe and sound, they stayed there all night. We packed the covers away and Ronnie counted his blessings then headed to get the bags… and the ladies (bags and ladies being separate, that is). We loaded the bikes once again, but before we took off, Ronnie felt the urge to check his wallet. He found that his credit card was missing… oh boy! We went through the normal questioning of “when was the last time you used it?” and “Theresa, do you have it?” Theresa hopped on the phone to call the credit card bank and report a lost card, when all of a sudden, it appeared out of thin air (aka Theresa’s shorts pocket from the prior night). We were 2 for 2 for the morning, hoping not for any other near miss, we headed out, saying, “see ya next time, Memphis” as we headed west in to Arkansas.

We gassed up in West Memphis Arkansas, then headed up 55 to catch 63 west through The People Rule state towards Ronnie’s sister and brother in-laws house in Nixa Missouri, our destination for the night. What is up with that motto anyway? Kind of boring… We made it to Portia before getting a drink of water at the local grocery store/gas station. Yes, two for one there. Anyway, after looking at scowls on everyone’s faces for a couple minutes (I would have one too if I had to live in that state), we were headed west again. We landed in West Plains for gas and lunch. Colston’s was our lunch stop, where everyone had salads except for me. I had the Southwest Chipotle Tips, which was chicken chunks over wild rice, with fresh veggies, which was quite good. The crew was quiet, since I believe their salads were good as well. Beers and waters accompanied lunch in this small Missouri town. We headed a little north to catch 60 hwy west on to the Springfield area and south to Nixa. We landed around 4:00 PM to wagging tails of the Brittany’s and a warm greeting from Marsha, Ronnie’s sister. Steve was tending to one of the Brittany’s, since the neighbors German Shepard had attacked it. Around 32 stitches all told, but “Babe” would be ok. Once Steve got back, we drank some beers near the pool and listened to some music as we recapped our trip to our new hosts. The night came quickly and we headed in a little earlier than normal for this trip.

Some revelations for this eighth leg of the road trip:
  • Ronnie is showing signs of aging. Seriously… he lost two things nearly at the same time, and on the same day. (kidding Ronnie, we’ve all done it)
  • Harleys are typically louder than Goldwings.
  • Our room had a lot of trash in it, which I think someone snuck in and placed in there. It couldn’t have been us!
  • Pools are cool.
  • Brittany’s run fast. Squirrels do to, sometimes.
  • Its ok to go to bed early, says Steve and Marsha (and Ronnie, of course).
  • 310 miles this day - give or take – click here our general route.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Day 7 – Thursday, June 16, 2011 - Muscle Shoals, AL to Memphis, TN

On this fine Thursday, three of us slept in, and one of us did not. Any guesses? You got it, Ronnie already went to the golden arches and got a diet coke for Theresa, again. We woke up some time after that happened, each enjoyed a bloody mary, and cleaned our bikes. Once ready, we headed across the street, gassed up, and got on to westbound 72 hwy and pointed towards Memphis. We were on the road a bit before I saw a Radio Shack. Ronnie had been wanting to find one of these electronic store to get some contact cleaner for his controls. I also purchased a 1-to-2 dc plug, so that I could charge a phone and use the GPS at the same time. We made our respective purchases then hopped across the street for a breakfast snack at Jacks.

We were getting a little thirsty, so we stopped at a gas station for a bottle of water in Memphis Tennessee. Lets just say, there were bars on the windows, so not a favorable part of town. Regardless, we were thirsty, so we chugged and left. Upon getting out of the drive of the gas station, I hit a pretty good bump, slowed down a little too much, and slowly unwillingly let the bike rest upon its engine guard. Though I was embarrassed, to say the least, I motioned for Ronnie to help me lift the bike up, since Kathy was still rolling on the ground a little (she was ok, laughing a little, cussing a little, and trying to get up to help a little). Needless to say, when going over the bumps, remember to gas it and let the butt take the lump instead of lowering your bike to the engine guard. There was also a little traffic coming our way, which led to some of my anxiety to get the bike back up on its two tires. Shiny side up, right? Live and learn.

As I licked my wounds, apologized to Kathy over the intercom, thanked Ronnie over the CB, we motored towards Graceland. It was hot, and we were ready for a cool beverage on Beale Street, but we had to do a Graceland Drive by. As we snapped a couple of photos, we headed on up to Union Street in order to get to our resting spot.

Beale Street
Thompson Square / Frankie Ballard
Tour Bus Line

The warning at our hotel

We found a local parking spot near the Westin, which is just one block off of Beale. We wondered down the street of blues to Wet Willies for a cool refreshing drink. We pondered staying on Beale vs heading out. After the frozen concoctions at Wet Willies, our senses had us headed over to The Hampton Inn to see what a room would cost. The girls approached the counter as I checked rates at The Westin. The Westin was less expensive, but we decided to splurge on a King Suite on the 5th floor, since there was a country concert at WC Handy Park right next to the hotel. Thompson Square and Frankie Ballard were both going to be performing on Thursday evening for the Kix 106 “Kix on Beale” event. None of us really knew either of the performing bands, but after asking a few people locally as well as on facebook, we found Thompson Square to be somewhat famous, albeit a one hit wonder, for their song, “Are You Gonna Kiss Me Or Not.”
Thompson Square and Frankie Ballard
Concert at WC Handy Park

Once the room was procured, reserved, and everything else, we wandered back to the parking garage to get our bags, gear, and everything else. We covered the bikes, even though they were already covered in a garage. It’s that added piece of mind of being somewhat secure. We unpacked a little, freshened up, and headed to Beale for a Big Ass Beer somewhere. If you haven’t been to Beale yet, once you get there, you will notice every establishment has a salesperson out front baiting you to come in their place. Most of the pricing is the same, the blue can be the same, but the food is what typically sets the places apart. We ended up landing at The Superior Bar. Shawna, our server, served us a big ass beer for $5 and informed us that the music would start at 5:00 PM. We waited for a while and encountered Guy Venable. This was the same musician who I happened across at the 2010 International Blues Challenge and dug enough to shoot some photos of.
Mr "Sales" at
Blues Street Cafe

Theresa and Ronnie ready for Dyers
We hung out at the Superior for our beer, and then met Ronnie’s cousin, Cindy, out on Beale and then ventured over to Blues City Café, where you can put some “South In Your Mouth!” They have some awesome gumbo, too! Once done with dinner, we ventured back to the room to watch the Thompson Square and Frankie Ballard concert. It was delayed a little due to the storms that ran through town, but once it kicked off, it was quite the spectacle. The rain didn’t scare many of the youngsters in attendance and we stayed out on our covered balcony to watch the scurrying in and out of the park area. That was kind of fun to watch. Anyway, about 2/3 through the concert, the natives were getting restless and needing food. Dyers Burgers was the next stop on our informal restaurant list. Yes, they deep-fry their burgers in near-100 year old grease. The menu is full of choices, but most come for the Dyers signature single, double-double, or even a triple-triple. Add a vanilla or chocolate shake and you have a midnight snack that will rival even the best greasy spoon near you. We wandered back to our 5th floor retreat for the night, had a night-cap, and went to bed.

Some revelations for this seventh leg of the road trip:
Getting ready for
deep fried cheeseburgers
  • A bloody mary a day might not keep the doctor away, but damn they taste good.
  • Ultra Classics are heavy, especially when hot, tired, and going slow over bumps.
  • Goldwings are still quiet, even when started.
  • Graceland is a tourist trap.
  • Beale Street is a tourist trap, but I like it.
  • I will stay at The Hampton Inn near Beale again. Great service and excellent hotel.
  • Even if you are a guy, Wet Willies slush drinks are the bomb, especially when one is hot and needing cooled down.
  • Dyers is to die for – literally.
  • Deep Fried "Triple Triple"
    Cheeseburger - Burp!
  • 165 miles this day - give or take – click here our general route.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Day 6 – Wednesday, June 15, 2011 - Headed West: From The Tail of The Dragon to Muscle Shoals, AL

Bloody Mary Morning
This day consisted of waking up, getting ready, packing, mixing a bloody mary, and watching the weather forecast, since it was our last day at the retreat and we were headed west. The rain appeared imminent and it appeared like we were going to get wet, but with excellent meteorology skills and supreme intuition, we avoided it - for the most part. We went to Deals Gap Motorcycle Resort, yet again, but this time for some last minute souvenirs as well as a bit of breakfast. If you are ever in the area, their biscuits are excellent!

Cheoah Dam (The Fugitive)
Once getting our bags even more filled, we directed the bikes towards the Cheoah Dam, which is the location where Harrison Ford was filmed jumping from in the movie, "The Fugitive." Matter of fact, there were a few spots in the area we visited that the directors used for that movie as well. The day was bittersweet. On one hand, we planned to leave the mountains. On the other hand, to get out, we were forced to take the Cherohola Skyway towards Tellico Plains, Tennessee. That was the most scenic, however not yet travelled, route to Chattanooga. We chose the path for a couple of reasons... First being a different route than how we arrived. Second, all the heavy rainstorms appeared to be around the Nashville area and headed to Knoxville. So, south it was. Highway 64 out of Chattanooga Tennessee looked attractive, from a motorcyclist’s point of view. However, the storms crept along that route, so we opted for a more southern route. After hitting it pretty hard, in order to get to the south side of a west-to-east storm, we found a good stopping point named Bar B Q Corral in Ringgold Georgia. It was time for lunch anyway. There isn’t anything like going to Georgia for lunch, right?

We covered the bikes up and went inside. Kathy was tired of BBQ, so she opted for a BLT sandwich. It has the same amount of letters as BBQ, but vastly different to the pallet. The rest of us chose a BBQ sandwich of some type. They come with slaw on the sandwich, but I got mine to the side. We noticed a break in the storm system rolling through, so we headed back in to Tennessee (for about the 6th time this day) and over to Alabama via 72 hwy. We didn't make it far into the "Yelowhammer" state before the rain showed up again. Since we needed gas, we pulled off near Bridgeport at a BP station. This place was a mini Bass Pro or Cabela’s-like store. They were a gas station, convenience store, and outfitter all in one. They even had stuffed animals there, which included a coyote, deer, and even a lion. We waited there for around 20 minutes, then made our way to Huntsville.

Budweiser friends
at The Furniture Factory
It started getting pretty warm, so Huntsville was an agreed stop to wet our whistles. After traipsing through the great city, we landed near a bar that Kathy picked out via GPS, called Partners. It didn't open until 5:00 PM, so we chose to go next door to The Furniture Factory Bar and Grill. What a score! But before I completely gave up on Partners, I felt compelled to find out a little bit more about it... after a quick Google search, we found Partners to be an alternate lifestyle establishment. The owners, both obvious women, who plainly enjoy an occasional softball game and heavy man bashing, informed us of the opening time. We politely left and didn't turn back. Now don’t get me wrong. I am a diverse and very accepting white male who happens to be heterosexual. I don’t look at being gay as a choice, but as what is born in to a person. Like most heterosexual men, I even sometimes think about… wait, that is enough, back to The Furniture Factory...

As it turned out, there were 7 or so Budweiser reps buying rounds of Budweiser for willing patrons. Coincidence had it, they were buying and we were willing! After just a couple Budweisers, we headed westward towards the Muscle Shoals and Florence area to find a landing spot for the night. Kathy and I wanted to try and make Memphis, since Wednesday nights are bike nights. However, it wasn't meant to be, since that was roughly another three hours away and we were done for the day. Ronnie was a little disheartened too, since he wasn't going to be able to show off his bluish-purple Honda Goldwing, but he got over it. We found a landing spot at Days Inn in Muscle Shoals. Since rain and severe storms were imminent, yet again, the manager even offered to let us house our bikes under the entryway to the check in office. We humbly accepted.

Once we unpacked for the night, we asked the manager for a good location to eat within walking distance. She suggested a mexican restaurant "just up tha streeeet a ways" called Rancho Viejo. In the rain, 1/2 mile is longer than "just up tha streeeet a ways." Especially when you have to walk back, stuffed. We thought about a taxi and even asked our severely hispanic sever. She did not understand english much and it was obvious she had no idea what a taxi was, so we walked. All was good on this day as well. We headed in for the night, not needing Lysol or any other cleaning agent to ready our room with.

Some revelations for this sixth leg of the road trip:
  • Budweiser is partnering with Folds of Honor and providing $0.05 per case of their signature lager (only Budweiser heavy) sold this summer to go to the FHF. Nice.
  • What did people ever do without cell phones with weather radar ability? Got wet, that’s what they did!
  • Getting around Chattanooga with a heavy storm barreling down at 60 mph towards you makes for some interesting scenery and lunch somewhere other than Tennessee.
  • American breakfast in North Carolina + BBQ lunch in Georgia + Mexican dinner in Alabama = awesome day for food. Yeah food!
  • 350 miles this day - give or take – click here our general route.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Day 5 – Tuesday, June 14, 2011 - Staying at The Tail of The Dragon

Waking up around these parts at 5:45 AM has its benefits, some days. Tuesday, June 14, 2011 was one of those days. The sunrise was poised to be awesome, since the fog was minimal and the sky was clear. As the minutes clicked away, the sky brightened with an orange and pink glow against just one single cloud in the sky. I was like a kid on Christmas morning. I woke everyone up and said, "Come look! Come look! It’s going to be a great sunrise!" There were moans, and groans, but everyone arose to see the sun rise over the mountains.

5:45 AM EST Sunrise
6:05 AM EST Sunrise

6:30 AM EST Sunrise
7:15 AM EST Sunrise
6:45 AM EST Sunrise
The fog started shifting over the Cheoah Lake just down the pass from our cabin. As the shifting continued, the fog suddenly nearly covered the entire gap and headed towards our deck. Christmas time was over for the crew, but I still found enjoyment in getting some dramatic photos of our view. As we sipped our morning coffee, it was apparent that our morning sunrise was not going to happen to our liking. However, as fast as the fog took up the horizon, it shifted again and then dissolved. It was somewhat eerie, but probably more surreal than anything. The fog toyed with our expectations a total of three times before making up its mind. All in all, it made for a great reason to be up so early.

8XL Tshirt - Big Stuff
MC Tshirts All Over
Tree of Shame

The Four of us at
Deals Gap
Motorcycle Resort
Tree of Shame
Little Tennessee River

As the morning progressed, we discussed the day’s plans, which included staying a little closer to home. Our plans included heading out on 28 Hwy to Fontana Dam, then up towards Gatlinburg, TN, Pigeon Forge, TN, and the Foothills Parkway in order to ride through the Tail of the Dragon one last time. 

Ronnie was antsy ready, so he headed to get something easy for breakfast for all of us, while the rest of us got ready. He got down the hill to Deals Gap Motorcycle Resort, but they weren't quite open for breakfast yet. Once he returned, we were pretty much ready. We directed the bikes to Deals Gap Motorcycle Resort for our grub then off to the Fontana Dam area. There were a few photo opportunities on the way, which we chose to succumb to (since I was leading and had a camera). The views were breathtaking. Still water against mountains, with cedars, pines, and various other green things, made for a great optical treasure. The photography speaks loudly. They say around a thousand words... The photos did not do this place justice, even through my eyes and experience as a photographer – though I still consider myself an amateur.
Fontana Dam
Fontana Da
Once we were done at Fontana Dam, we rolled up to Cherokee North Carolina. That place looked like a great landing spot for the next time we visit, though it did not have quite the view we had at our place. Once we passed through Cherokee, we came upon the outskirts of town and entered into the Great Smokey Mountain National Park. The winding road was around 33 miles, but it took well over an hour due to being a slower speed limit and pretty heavy traffic. This was an obvious tourist area, but tolerable. There was also some road construction near the top, where retaining walls were being rebuilt.

We made it in to Gatlinburg Tennessee, which we all fund to have way to much traffic and resembling of a tourist trap. So we headed in to Pigeon Forge Tennessee, which was very similar to main street Branson Missouri, another tourist trap. We were a little hungry and pretty thirsty, so we pulled up at Iron Boar Saloon, which was connected to a mexican restaurant called No Way Jose's Cantina. I found this establishment pretty interesting, since it was right across the street from Pigeon Forge Smoky Mountain Harley Davidson dealership. We ate some pretty good bar food and sipped on a couple beers, then headed across the street. Well what did you think? Of course, we had to stop at the HD dealership, because there were t-shirts and shot glasses to purchase! Spending money at a Harley Davidson store is pretty easy.

They saying is HD stands for hundred dollars, cause that is what you’re going to spend if you shop there. After we spent our hard-earned money, I went back to the service area to see about getting Kathy's footboards raised up a bit. They accommodated me by handing me an allen wrench and some words of encouragement. All in all, it was a nice visit to Pigeon Forge.

We then headed towards Townsend Tennessee. We stopped for some water at a rest stop picnic-like area. We found this stop pretty interesting, since it was right next to a creek and there were bear-proof trashcans lined up near the picnic area. I was on the lookout for bears, but it turned out not to be fruitful. This had to be a short stop, since we were still a few miles away from the next stop, another HD store, at the foot of The Tail of the Dragon. They closed at 6:00 PM. To get there, we motored through the Foothills Parkway, which was very similar to Blue Ridge Parkway. It was a windy rode with a 45 mph speed limit and restricted commercial traffic, which made things very nice. We made it to the Harley Davidson store within 10 minutes of closing, which provided us enough time to spend more hard-earned money. We took another spin through The Tail of The Dragon, in order to get to our mountainside retreat for the evening.

Deals Gap Motorcycle Resort, where we stopped at for breakfast, provided us a logical stop for some dinner as well. It was a good thing we didn't wait much longer, since they called last call for the grill right as we arrived. We got our order to go and motored up the hill to our retreat, where we watched the sun kiss the mountain tops from behind our house again, as we sipped on a celebratory beer (and Ronnie sipped on his special 101-proof “tea").

We wrapped up the night by discussing the rides we had just been on compared to other rides back home. There is no comparison between the two... It was our last night in the area, and since there wasn't much room in our motorcycle packs for additional cans or bottles, we had to deplete our stock of food and beverages. Let me just say, we all did a pretty nice job ridding of our beverages.

Some revelations for this fifth leg of the road trip:
  • Don’t turn your back on the sunrise due to fog. The fog will shift.
  • If it walks like a duck, talks like a duck, it’s a duck (i.e. tourist trap).
  • Fontana Village might house us next time
  • Cherokee would be a nice place to land next time as well.
  • They say not all HD stores are created equal, however Smoky Mountain HD shops are nearly all the same, where you can buy the same shirts and other items at each store. Oh well, they are still nice people – go see em!
  • Eating at Deals Gap Motorcycle Resort twice in one day is ok, providing you have no other choices. No, really, they do have great self-service food.
  • Not sure if I mentioned it or not, but Kathy scored us a nice place to stay – this view is really freakin awesome!
  • 170 miles this day - give or take – click here our general route.

Day 4 – Monday, June 13, 2011 - Staying at The Tail of The Dragon

Day 4 – Monday, June 13, 2011
Staying at The Tail of The Dragon

Fried Bologna and Egg Breakfast
Sandwich at Carolina Kitchen (cell phone pic)
Well, I woke up at 5:00 AM for no real reason, again. As I laid in bed, I thought about our day ahead. Around 5:45 AM, a rooster started to crow. I did not recall seeing any farm animals in the area, but was quick to realize that it was Kathy's phone, doing the rooster alarm. The phone was downstairs. She got up, went to retrieve the offending phone, and giggled all the way. Ronnie and Theresa heard it and thought there were roosters outside as well. Ha! Sunrise was to be at 6:14 AM this morning, but due to fog, we did not see the sun until around 7:30 AM. We found breakfast at Carolina Kitchen in Robbinsville, North Carolina. The menu was full of choices. Ronnie and Kathy opted for the country breakfast with everything on the plate. Theresa chose oatmeal and a side of fruit. I chose a NC favorite, the fried bologna and egg sandwich. Our server was exceptionally nice and the food was pretty good. One thing our server did was cut up a fresh peach for Theresa and placed it in a stemmed goblet. You know, the kind of goblet that your grandmother used to use for slices of fresh fruit like peaches or strawberries, which were then doused in half and half and sprinkled with sugar... Well, at least that is what it reminded me of. Since my gramdma Anderson used to have the same exact goblet and tender loving care in preparing me a sweet, yet not exactly a healthy (sugar and half and half) snack.

Kathy and Rob
at Nantahala
Theresa and Ronnie
at Nantahala
Kids playing
at Nantahala
Blue Ridge Parkway

After breakfast, we headed towards the Nantahala River Gorge, where the white water rafters and kayakers are prevalent. We stopped in a small village like setting to take it all in. It included shops, places to eat, and a nice bridge over the river. There was even an Olympic training course for competition kayakers. The Great Smoky Mountain Expressway was calling our name. Ultimately, we were hoping to find the Blue Ridge Parkway. We found the parkway, however I thought it was headed back towards the Robbinsville area. That is the wrong way that we wanted to go. The GPS even convinced me of it being the wrong way. Now, hindsight being 20/20, I shouldn't have listed to the GPS. I should have listened to instinct and/or Kathy... Both were right. We toured the metropolis of Balsam North Carolina, which shot us backwards around 5 miles. We stopped frequently to ensure we were not lost, which ended up costing us around 30 minutes.
Blue Ridge Parkway

Upon arriving at the already witnessed entrance to the Blue Ridge Parkway, we hopped on and headed to Asheville North Carolina. The rode does not allow commercial traffic, which is nice to motorcyclists. There were a lot of pull offs to view the mountains and valleys that make up the Great Smoky Mountains. We chose a couple stops during our ~30 mile ride on the parkway to take it all in and snap some photos.

Theresa and Ronnie outside
'Jus One More' in Asheville NC (cell phone pic)
Our goal was to hit The Biltmore Estate on our fourth day. After turning off the parkway on to Hwy 151, which was a heavy downhill road, which warmed my back brakes up to non-operational conditions, we headed towards Asheville. Once we entered town, we came across a bar and grill named Jus One More, which seemed right up our alley. We asked the bartender about finding a liquor store in order to solve Ronnie’s urge for "ice tea" - the 101 proof version. She advised us of a store “up the road” and provided seemingly adequate directions. However, they were either bad directions or we just could not see our desired stop. The thing is… NC apparently has stringent liquor laws, at least to us Missourians. The deal is, the state controls liquor sales. The stores are called ABC Liquor, and they only sell bottles of liquor. No beer. No pop. Nothing else. Beer is sold in convenience stores, which the state mandates be separate from liquor. See? Weird! We looked everywhere for ABC in Asheville, but no such luck. We then took to the second stop in Asheville, the Biltmore Estate. Supposedly, the Biltmore is the largest private house in America. It's gated and they will not even let you do a drive by unless a $69 toll is paid, each. No thanks – maybe next time. Theresa got a (free) brochure out of the ticket house, brought it out to us and showed us the house. After minimal ooh's and ahh's, we headed back towards home, but in search of food.

A Little Bit of Everything
Kathy Trying All the BBQ Sauces

Ronnie and Theresa
Hiding From The Camera
The food agenda consisted of finding a BBQ joint, which we found in Waynesville, NC. The establishment, called Big Mountain BBQ, was just off 74/23 at exit 100. I was surprised to see that it was a former house, pretty much in a residential district. Past experience tells me that it should be some good food. It was! My plate consisted of home cut fries, slaw, baked beans, and a huge BBQ brisket sandwich on Texas toast. They home cook everything there, from the smoked meats to a Vidalia onion side dish that is out of this world (that means good). There were 5 different sauces provided on the table from hot to sweet and even a NC favorite vinegar based concoction. All were great! I highly recommend a stop at this place if ever in the area!
The Regular Brisket Sandwich,
with Beans, Slaw, and Fries.

Since we failed at the ABC store in Asheville, we thought we would give it one more go in Waynesville. Again, we asked the server, and she gave us directions. Again, like the other server, she advised us of a store “up the road” and provided seemingly adequate directions. However, they were either bad directions or we just could not see our desired stop. However, on the good side, we did get to see the downtown district of the small town, which was very quaint. We hopped back on the road after a failed attempt at GPS'ing 'ABC' since the one Kathy pulled up the ABC Control Board (does that make it the ABCCB?) office. Ha! I thought were even on the direction score, but she didn’t.

We hopped back on the road and attempted yet another town, called Sylva. After looking downtown, which was quaint as well, we found nothing. A quick stop at a convenience store (which sells beer mind you), I was given directions, yet again. Bingo, The elusive ABC was not hiding any longer. Turns out, the signs are hidden and impossible to see from the street. Nonetheless, we meandered in (cause that is what you do in these parts) and scored a bottle of 101-proof tea (wink). Once Ronnie’s purchase was made, and Kathy and I scored a bottle of 80-proof water (i.e. Sky Vodka) and some bloody mary mix, which contained +/- 1% alcohol by volume (so they could sell it at ABC) we got back on our route for home.

Some revelations for this fourth leg of the road trip:
  • GPS – don’t trust it, all the time. Unless of course you want to check out the metropolis of Balsam, NC.
  • Buy Biltmore Estate tickets at least 7 days prior and it’s only $49 (really?!?!)
  • Bootlegging tea in to NC would have been easier than finding an ABC store, and probably worth the risk.
  • Don’t turn away at the thought of the vinegar-based sauce while in NC. It is good!
  • Kathy scored us a nice place to stay – this view is freakin awesome!
  • 270 miles this day - give or take – click here our general route.