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.

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