Tag Archives: tail of the dragon

Day 18: Telico Plains to Asheville – Cherohala Skyway

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!

Day 16: Nashville to Maryville – Meeting in the Middle

In 16 days, I’ve ridden it over 3000 miles through 11 states. I took 4 layover days to rest, relax, take it all in and see friends, family and sights. Each day of riding was between 250 and 350 miles. Most miles were off highways on country roads and smaller highways. I was on the road for 5 to 8 hours each day. In just two days, my husband rode 1050 miles on highways starting in substandard weather to meet me in Maryville on this day.

If you’ve been reading along since July 23, you know I conceived of this crazy journey because things in my life were going so well – my mother died, my career change wasn’t on track and my marriage was having problems. When I took off to California, I needed some distance, perspective and to think. And in an epic fuck it all fashion, I planned this motorcycle trip heading back to my last permanent address, but not knowing what was in store at the end of this journey.

No, I didn’t find Javier Bardem (a cultural reference I only know enough about to Google it and put it in here). I met my husband in the middle in Maryville on a motorcycle. Motorcycling did what several counselors couldn’t; broke the silence and let go of the comfort zone.

Of course, it didn’t hurt that Maryville was also the gateway to the Tail of the Dragon. For those of you unaware of what that is, it is a legendary 11-mile motorcycle ride from Blount County, Tennessee to Deals Gap, North Carolina. There are 318 curves in just 11 miles. There are motorcycles everywhere.

Let’s face it, he didn’t ride to the plains of Kansas, but he did put in 1050 miles in two days to meet me in the middle near one of the greatest motorcycle riding regions in the country. Yes, “meeting is the middle” is no accidentally chosen phrase. The metaphor is intended, please imply because I don’t plan to elaborate.

It’s a good thing. Returning to Massachusetts no longer feels like a long march toward a dark and uncertain abyss. And that is about all I am going to reveal about that.

As for the riding, it was epic. So epic, we rode the Tail twice in each direction. I may have put over 3000 miles on me in 16 days and another 3000 before that, but nothing prepared me for the Tail more than that one 8 hour class I took in California with 2WheelSafety training.

I wasn’t fast. I definitely got passed by some zooming race bikes and a little Grom and some dirt bikes and some dual sports, but no cruisers, to my recollection. I held my own at my own pace and made it out with the rubber side down, which is epic. Remember, I only got licensed in May, folks.

That’s pretty epic.

As they say, I slayed the Dragon. I am sure there’s some other psychological metaphor you can imply here. Have at it.

Happy cooking and slaying.