I started planning this trip back in January without anything more than a destination of Austin in mind. It was pretty easy to see that I’d spend some time in the Smokies revisiting a few places I’d enjoyed before, but after that I didn’t have much to build an agenda with. A friend (who has inspired me to write this blog and do more trips) did the Iron Butt National Park Tour Challenge last year and I realized looking for National Parks and Monuments to check out would be a good way to find some stuff to see in places I’d normally never go. In the end I only ended up with one National Monument stop, but it helped inform the rest of the trip and gave me a lot to think about.
Confirming the adage that “stuff expands to fill available space” I grabbed my drone at the last minute because I had the room (sort of). I don’t use it much, and traveling with it on the bike is kind of a pain in the ass. But if I only use it on this trip to get these shots it’ll have been worth it.
The Smokies are amazing and photos from the ground never do the views justice. I think these do, however.
While I was exploring Bryson City last night I saw a sign for “Road to Nowhere”. When I asked the host of the hostel about it, she told me it was a twisty road up into the national park that dead ends at an abandoned tunnel, with lots of great hikes around it. Right up my alley. A little more digging turned up that it was supposed to be part of a road that provided the residents of the county access to their ancestors’ burial grounds after Fontana Dam was started in 1943. But there was an “environmental problem” that couldn’t be solved, so the road was never completed. (And the US Government didn’t hold up their end of the bargain to the residents, obviously).
As promised the ride up was fantastic (there’s not a bad road in the region) with some amazing views. At the end there’s a barrier just a few hundred feet from the tunnel. Hikers and horse riders use the tunnel to access trails, but it was dark af and I didn’t feel comfortable going in there without a flash light: I didn’t want to be eaten by a grue.
I hit the road this morning, almost on schedule, leaving just a little after 6am. Morning rides through the country are one of my favorite things. The smells are much more noticeable in the cool, damp air. And there’s (generally) less traffic. 221 from Lynchburg to Roanoke looked pretty good on the map, but it was really just divided highway; south of Roanoke, however, it got fun and interesting: no longer divided, some really twisty sections (like shockingly twisty), and nice views. I stayed with it until lunch beckoned and I ran south to Fancy Gap 🎩 where I had an excellent reuben at The Gap Deli. From there I took the Blue Ridge Parkway until I got bored with the traffic and the speed limit (which doesn’t take long on Memorial Day weekend…) and split off toward Glade Valley for gas. At that point I was starting to feel the heat (upper 80s) and I’d already been in the saddle for the better part of 7 hours, so I opted for interstates to get to Asheville. That only sort of worked: it took less time than back roads, but at the expense of frequent stop-n-go traffic and higher temperatures at the lower elevations. I saw 100° for a while, and it was above 90° for most of the afternoon.
I’m staying at the Smokey Mountains Hostel in Bryson City. Clean, friendly folks, and walking distance from a brewery with a taco truck and around the corner from an ice cream shoppe. Could be worse.
The glass map panels on the Pulse stations seem to be fragile. I drove past this one a couple of days ago when the afternoon sun was behind it and it looked awesome. I just couldn’t capture it in a photo.
After a day and a half walking around Philadelphia, the fake Irish celebrating St Patrick’s Day are spilling out into the streets. From the woman at the front desk of our hotel:
This is what we do in America: we take other countries’ holidays and we wreck them. You should see what we do to Cinco de Mayo.
🎆 America! 🎇
The forecast is calling for snow, but the yard is calling for spring.
Less than a month ago — almost 2 weeks before the official start of winter — Richmond got a foot of snow. Today was the first 🏍 & ☕️ of 2019: it was nearly 60° and 50+ bikes showed up for coffee and waffles. It’s weird, but I’ll take it!
A beautiful day in the 60s at the end of December demands an all-day motorcycle ride to the mountains. It’s some kinda law.
Unlike other parts of the country, late November is still quite pleasant around Richmond. 😉