When you are riding the long swooping curves of the Cherohala Skyway it feels like floating through an endless 360. They are interminably graceful spirals that are just tight enough to keep you engaged, taut and on high alert. On any other day, this ride is an exhilarating thrill, but today, I was riding it after two days playing in the Tennessee mountains and on the Tail of the Dragon. Those big ol’ curves felt lighter and easier than they would have three days ago. They were just lazy enough to allow me take in the big sweeping views and to let my mind into relax into a feeling akin to flying.
Despite a mega-hurricane turned tropical storm working it’s way northwesterly toward Tennessee, the morning promised a day of perfect riding weather. We rolled out of the Farmhouse Inn in crisp cool air that left condensation overnight. It was a great day for a ride.
Tellico Plains, Tennessee, which served the best fried chicken I had in Tennessee at the Tellicafe, anchors the of the highway and Robbinsville, North Carolina is at the other end. After 90-minutes of swishing through the mountains, entering Robbinsville is a bit of a shock to the senses. Unfortunately, my senses didn’t respond this morning. My husband finds it impossible to take verbal directions from Google maps (don’t get me started), so we missed the turn onto Junaluka Road.
As soon as I looked along the detour on Morphew Road, I knew I was in trouble. If you recall, I have problems stopping on a steep inclined with my bike fully loaded.
Well, Morphew was a narrow road with a temporary speed bump in the middle – probably meant to discourage the detouring cars and riders from speeding along. It was capped with a steep ramp that ended abruptly onto the tee-ed into the busier roadway where I needed to turn left. It wasn’t a big hill, or a ridiculously steep one. In fact, most people wouldn’t consider it all that tough. But for those who’ve driven a clutch with some play, you know the delicate balance of brake, throttle, clutch and catch to get forward momentum from a stop on a hill. Not to mention, the rear end was loaded up leaving little traction in this inclined position under the front wheel.
I would have liked to gun it, stop sign be damned, and launch myself into the cross street hoping for a nicely times break in traffic as I took a left into the roadway.. Good thing my brain’s self-preservation instinct didn’t quit. My husband was ahead of me and was able to land his front wheel on the intersection shoulder giving him view of road and a bit of positional advantage.
Me? I stopped mid-hill behind him. Not a great view of the road and not a great position for traction. Before I knew it, I was stranded in the incline, engine stalled, all the luggage making my bike ass heavy and my brain stuck in an “Oh shit” stutter.
Right hand does what? Oh shit. Left hand, huh? Oh shit. Is the engine on? Oh shit. What gear? Oh shit. Brake? Oh shit. Other brake? Oh shit. Foot, no, other foot. Oh shit. Fuck. Oh shit. Fuck it. Oh Shit. I am abandoning ship. Oh shit…leg…hand…oh shit…foot…oh shit…oh shit…oh shit….Help.
Yes, my inner dialog cusses that much…maybe more…likely more. I probably show some restraint out loud than my inner dialog.
That brain chatter roughly translated into my husband watching me spasm through some motions, cursing into the intercom and then slowly, sadly, laying the bike down with my leg stuck on my luggage mid swing in ejecting. Unfortunately, this graceful spasm did not go unwitnessed. Fortunately, the two fine residents of Robbinsville knew this scene well. I was not the first motorcycle to miss the turn and I was not the only one of them to drop a bike there and, thankfully, I was not one of those who ran it into the ditch, or hit the barrier or actually launched into the street and traffic. Four of us pushed the bike across the street to a safely flat spot.
After some deep yogic belly breaths and mental mantras, we were on our way again. I am glad I am writing this down and remembering how awesome the Cherahala Highway was since it sorta got lost in my memory of the drop. Despite my luggage being the culprit for bringing me down on hills, it also keeps my bike from damage when I go down. Chicken or egg?
After the Cherohala Highway, there’s a slight reprieve from those dreamy, swooping swirls to fill the gap before reaching the Cherokee, NC, the gateway to the Blue Ridge Parkway. Our quick lunch in Cherokee, NC found us among Hurricane Irma refugees from Florida.
We had no time and no desire to contemplate the fast we we’re riding into the aftermath of Irma ourselves. The ride ahead was too promising and the rain ahead of us was ahead of us and there was no point in worrying about what’s a day or more ahead when the Blue Ridge was there, now, today. So, we headed to Asheville, NC via the a roadway that was only slightly less amazing than our morning ride. Or maybe it’s more amazing. No, matter, it was all amazing.
Yeah, it was a tough day of riding across two of the most scenic and fun roadways in the country.
Happy cooking and happy amazing!