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Old December 27th, 2014   #21
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Default Re: Redfish and Pop ride Kentucky

This is the point that comes along in every ride, the point where you know you better point the bike back in the general direction of home. I had maps of West Virginia and Virginia, I had hopes of seeing something of both of those states. Sadly, those plans are on the shelf for now.

Still, things were going really well. Pop was relaxed, happy, comfortable and confident. He was enjoying his FJR more than ever and was not tired and grouchy at the end of the day.

I sat down with my maps and plotted a route toward Gatlinburg Tennessee. I decided that since I love the Smokies and the Cherohala Skyway and since all that just happened to be between me and home... Well, why not pass through there?

So, Pop went to bed happy and satisfied with his wonderful day. I went to bed a bit miserable because there was just not enough time to see it all.

Day 5, Wednesday Sept. 6th

On our way to breakfast we ran across Chris and Jerry. Jerry was the guy on the borrowed BMW and Chris owned both bikes. He was curious about our FJR/ST1300 comparison. He was under the impression that the ST1300 was by far the better bike and the more comfortable one also. Where do these folks get this information?

After a very good breakfast we worked our way back out to Hwy 23 and pointed our noses South. Pop was rolling along completely happy but I was sick to my stomach over not getting to ride all those wonderful roads. As we rolled along and chatted about the road, the ride, the high points, and how much we had enjoyed it, I began to feel better. Pop pointed out two very important things.

1. The trip is NOT over until we get home and the roads between here and there are going to be great.
2. That just leaves more fun roads for next time.

Hwy 23 took us across the border into Virginia and was actually a very pleasant ride. Sometimes a wide open 4 lane that allows you to see the country around you while still offering long high speed sweepers is a good thing. This was one of those times. Pop seemed so happy back there that I could not help but enjoy myself also.

As we sped South on Hwy 23 through VA I noticed a sign for "Natural Tunnel State Park". I remembered that from a Ride Report a friend of mine (hppants) posted on the FJR forum last year and decided it was time for a short break anyway. We decided to check it out.

I hate hppants. I hate him and hate anybody that does not hate him. That sorry #$%@ is probably still laughing over the misery that he put us through.

It is about 12 miles down the side of that gully and then it is 112 miles back to the top. Really.

1. Pop as we started down the hill:
2. Really? What was I thinking?
3. The Natural Tunnel with the RR Tracks.
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Old December 27th, 2014   #22
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Default Re: Redfish and Pop ride Kentucky

About this point is where Pop began to remind me that he was almost 70 years old. I reminded him that he was 11 and a half months away from 70, he still had a ways to go. He bitched and threatened and fussed and... Finally, we made it to the bottom.

We had almost decided it was worth the trip. But we still had to climb the 3,672 miles back up! The really sad thing was that there is a cable car system that will carry you both up and down the gully. But it only runs on weekends...

Pop and I were both huffing and puffing by the time we got to the top. I told him that we had to do it all one more time but this time we had to run the whole way. He told me I had better start running if I wanted to live...

Pop did admit that it was worth the effort. I reminded him that there are plenty of folks much younger than him that did not have the stamina to make a climb like that. He responded that he was not ready for the nursing home just yet. Good. That is how I want him to think.

We crossed another border and found ourselves in Tennessee. I kept us pointed West by South West and the miles were clicking off pretty good. I began to feel pretty good about my routing and realized we would easily make Gatlinburg that evening. I could hear the happiness in Pop's voice as we rode along and he was seeing all sorts of new things. The good thing about happiness is that it is contagious. I was feeling pretty happy myself.
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Old December 27th, 2014   #23
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Default Re: Redfish and Pop ride Kentucky

We took Hwy 11W out of Kingsport TN then Hwy 32 South. We turned onto Hwy 321 heading South West and we were rapidly approaching Gatlinburg. We took a brief break from following slow Harleys and took a run up the Foothills Parkway (The one on the East side of Gatlinburg). A pretty little parkway that allowed us to lean the bikes and clean the dirt off our side treads.

I took this time to stop, arrange for a hotel in Gatlinburg and plan the rest of the day. Since it was so early and we were not ready to go sit in the hotel room, we decided to ride into Great Smokies National Park. I figured we would ride down to the border, turn up the road to Clingman's Dome and take that ride. I had never ridden that road on a motorcycle although I have wanted to for some time. Driving it in the truck is not as much fun.

Traffic in the park sucks. The park attracts and holds Stupid. Lots of stupid. The air is filled with the sweet smell of overheated brakes. Lots of stupid. Lots of inconsiderate.

So, we get stuck behind a Maxima that is stuck behind a white Dodge pickup. There are signs everywhere telling SLOW traffic to use the pulloffs. Nobody ever reads those signs or else they don't give a shit. The Dodge driver obviously did not care or could not read. I am fussing and Pop reminds me we are supposed to be having fun.

When we took the complete circle turn where the road runs under itself we actually had some corner speed going. Headed South this is a decreasing radius left hander and both of us were leaned over pretty far and laughing about it. The traffic coming at us is bumper to bumper and not moving very fast. Then, I hear tires squealing and I can't figure where it is coming from. Before I had time to react, one of the oncoming cars starts crossing the center line. I could see the front wheels are turned and sliding, and I could see it was brown, and I could see it was getting into my lane. I barely had time to twitch the bars and it was behind me. In my left mirror where just seconds before I could see the FJR all I could see was brown paint and red brake lights. So where the Hell was Pop? He was in that space and he could not have had time to evade... But wait, there was a flicker of movement in the right mirror! I saw a flash of the fork mounted LED and then sparks from the foot peg area. Pop's voice was still in my headset but I honestly cannot remember what was said on either side. I still don't know how Pop had room to make his little maneuver.

It was over and done in seconds but I got scared. I had almost lost Pop to some dumbass who should never have been driving in the mountains. Pop was still laughing and was completely calm, I was badly shaken. I still could not see how he was able to pick the bike up and then lean it back over far enough to make the turn.

His answer was, "Well I was running out of room. I leaned it back over until the peg stopped folding up and I was grinding shit that did not move. I just held it steady there and hoped the curve would end before I ran out of road. No need to get upset now, it's over."

When we made the turn to Clingman's Dome, the Maxima went straight but the white Dodge turned up the road I wanted to take. At the exact instant that I decided to make an illegal pass I heard the deep roar of the FJR behind me and Pop's one word command, "GO!" Riding a big bore Sport Tourer has its advantages. We enjoyed that road about as much as anyone ever did.

As we approached the summit parking lot the clouds closed in and there was nothing to see except gray fog. I was pretty sure Pop did not want to make the half mile walk up to the summit anyway. I sure was not going to do it if I could not see anything. I made it to the gift shop to buy a coffee mug for Mrs. Redfish and we headed back to Gatlinburg.

Of course, we got behind a slow car. A little white compact nothing car that could not stay in its lane and could not do the speed limit and could not pull over to let us pass. Soon enough we all got behind a PT Cruiser convertible that immediately pulled over to let us pass. I figured that would be a lesson for the doofus in front of me but some folks are just too stupid to learn. We got stuck behind an ever longer parade of slowness and crawled through the park so slowly I thought I would have to drag my feet.

1. and 2. Pop on the Foothills Parkway (East of Gatlinburg)
3. Pop in the Clingman's Dome parking lot fog.
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Old December 27th, 2014   #24
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Default Re: Redfish and Pop ride Kentucky

When we got back to the hotel and Pop put down the kickstand I could clearly see what parts were dragging. I was a little unhappy about it but Pop just laughed it off like it was nothing. He said that if it had been his mistake, it would have bothered him. Since he felt confident in what he did and how he did it, he was not upset at all. He said he expected Stupidity on that road and he would have been disappointed if everybody had acted normal.

Pop said, "Besides this will give you something else to add to your Ride Report for that forum." I loved that line so I had to share it with "That Forum".

I took a cell phone pic, I have no idea why I did not get it on the camera.

A surprisingly good Denny's hamburger for supper and some much needed time at the hotel guest laundry and we called it a night. We were in good spirits and looking forward to our final day in the mountains.

I mentioned how filthy the bikes were and that I wished I could give them a decent cleaning. Pop said that he found it was less stressful to just ride the damned thing and not worry about whether or not it got dirty. I found myself agreeing with him.

Besides, the forecast for tomorrow was very wet...

Pop's kickstand with a little road grinding:
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Old December 27th, 2014   #25
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Default Re: Redfish and Pop ride Kentucky

Day 6, Thursday Sept 11th

We had a decent breakfast at Denny's (It was practically part of the hotel and easy walking distance) and we headed South on Hwy 441 into the North Entrance of Great Smoky Mountains National Park. We did not have to travel far and we were fairly early so things went well.

We turned right (West) at the Visitor's Center and took Little River Road towards Cade's Cove. We had no intention of riding through Cade's Cove but the road went that way and it was a fun, beautiful and twisty little road. We were caught behind a Toyota Tundra whose driver was too self-important to pull over but we were not in a hurry anyway. The scenery and the setting are gloriously beautiful and I was taking it all in. I love the beauty of the Smoky Mountains.

We turned North before Cade's Cove and hit Hwy 321. We followed that a few miles and hit The Foothills Parkway. (There are at least two different sections, one East and one West of Gatlinburg) We were headed West and found this road to be almost as beautiful and enjoyable as any other road in this area. We were surprised twice when the vehicle in front of us pulled over to let us pass and we returned the favor for a couple of faster motorcyclists.

Of course, it was raining.
So, as usual, we rode an excellent road in the rain. At least I had not wasted time cleaning the bikes the night before.

The Foothills Parkway ends on Hwy 129 just a few miles North of the point where that road gets VERY twisty. You are all familiar with this little stretch of road they call The Tail of the Dragon. I had hoped to get some excellent Killboy photos of us leaning way over, possibly throwing sparks... But it was raining. I had wanted to mount the GoPro on my new SHAD top box and shoot pics of Dear Old Dad on the Dragon. But it was raining.

So, we rode the Dragon in the rain. Pop was not really happy about it and started to fuss. I was not happy either and really did not want him fussing at me. It was not my fault it rained after all. I finally told him to just enjoy the ride and quit fussing. I asked him how many of the Big Time Dragon Slayers back home had ridden that road in the rain. I pointed out that we were doing something special and he should be enjoying the moment, not chewing my ass. He got the message and we started laughing about it the further we rode it. When I told him truthfully that we were riding the Dragon faster in the rain than we did in the dry 6 years ago the first time we both started laughing.

We only had one bad moment and it was not a serious one but it embarrassed us both. When we passed the first photographers (129 photos) the tent on the side of the road and the camera flashes caught Pop off guard. He was so startled that he pulled the bike to the left and crossed the center line. As we talked about it I wondered how many folks who get hammered for that same mistake actually do it in reaction to the camera crew. Pop was embarrassed and pissed off at the same time. I made him promise to lean over far enough to throw sparks when we got to the Killboy tent to atone for his mistake.

For the record, all of our photos sucked. We were slow in the rain and it showed. But, we only pulled over one time to let a faster rider pass and there was never anyone else close to us. And we made it through without any serious incident so I call that a win.

We stopped to fuel up and get a sip of water at the corner of Hwy 129 and Hwy 143 just north of Robbinsville NC. A few bikes passed back and forth but none of them were in a big hurry in the rain. A very nice looking Triumph Thruxton pulled in. After he got his fuel, the rider removed his boots and poured the water from each one. That looked just a bit unpleasant to me.

These pics are from Little River Road just South of Gatlinburg. This is the road that will take you into Cade's Cove.
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Old December 27th, 2014   #26
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Default Re: Redfish and Pop ride Kentucky

We turned West on Hwy 143 which becomes The Cherohala Skyway. Normally this is my favorite road in the whole world for its combination of beauty, good pavement, sparse traffic and loooong smooth sweepers. I like long sweepers.

But, it was raining.

As we worked our way toward the beginning of The Skyway, the road is very twisty and wonderful. Of the 10 or so times I have ridden it Pop has always fussed at me and told me to slow down. He was not saying anything this time. Then, I hit one set of tight turns a bit hard and Pop touched his left peg. I saw it happen and then...

"Goddammit son! I drug my peg! Don't you think you are going a little fast?"

I had to point out that he was supposed to be regulating his own speed and that I was sure his Michelin PR3s did not have enough traction to allow a bike that heavy to lean that far in the rain. He did some grumbling and griping while I grinned inside my helmet. I just love agitating him sometimes.

We realized that the clouds were obscuring the tops of the mountains and that we were going to get caught in the "fog". We were not worried, we have played this game many times. Fog on the bikes, fog in the boats, it is all the same thing and we are very used to it.

Or so we thought.
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Old December 27th, 2014   #27
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Default Re: Redfish and Pop ride Kentucky

Pop and I were just a bit sorry because we had really looked forward to wearing our tires on the sides in those long sweepers. We were still looking forward to the beautiful scenery along the Cherohala and that was in abundance.

When we entered the clouds we were shocked. The fog/cloud was so thick, it was unlike anything I had ever experienced on a motorcycle. All that "experience" was suddenly useless, this was terrible. I was immediately lost and my entire world was shrunk to the 15 or so feet directly in front of the bike and the Garmin Zumo that had suddenly become my most valuable possession. I was forced to navigate almost entirely by the Garmin. I could not see far enough in front of me to have any idea what to do. In those rare moments that the center line was a series of dashes for a passing zone all I could see was two of them. Sometimes I could barely see two dashes.

I told Pop that I was not having as much fun as I had hoped. He remained cheerful and encouraging, telling me that this was just another "Adventure". I was concentrating with every bit of brain power I had on seeing. I could not force my vision to penetrate the fog no matter how hard I tried.

The fog had become an enemy, I had to fight it. As we would pass the pulloff/overlooks I could barely see clusters of headlights and brakelights, other motorcyclists gathered together waiting for the fog to burn off. Were they smarter? Were they more experienced? Or were we just that much better and braver?

Pop's voice came through as if he were reading my thoughts, "They don't have that GPS screen front and center and they don't have your boat experience navigating by electronics. Just keep cool, don't get overconfident. This is a dangerous game you are playing."

I have no idea how far we went in that fog. We crossed the border and were back in Tennessee and I knew that because the GPS showed it. The Tennessee welcome sign was just a blurry dark shape on my right, there was no way to read it.

Pop's voice came into my headset again, "You are losing your sense of balance. You are starting to wobble because you have lost your reference points and don't know which way is up. Force yourself to watch the road and not stare at the GPS until you get it back together." He sounded so calm and steady back there, always solid and reliable when things went bad. I never questioned him, I just followed orders and concentrated on getting through that fog.

Finally, the fog/cloud thinned. Then and only then did I find us an overlook to park the bikes for a rest. I told Pop that I felt kind of stupid because a smart man would have stopped to wait out the fog, not stopped once he was out the other side.

"That's not your fault son. I never taught you how to quit."

I have never, ever concentrated harder on anything than I did that morning on that road.

Of course our Lafitte Skiff had a 24 mile Furuno radar that made navigating in the fog a lot easier.

After the fog thinned:
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Old December 27th, 2014   #28
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Default Re: Redfish and Pop ride Kentucky

On the Cherohala, once you are on the Tennessee side it is really all downhill, literally. As we dropped in elevation, we gained in sunlight. By the time we reached the river the road was almost dry and I tried to make up for lost time. I was pushing Ole Blue/Dances with Rain pretty hard and Pop was right on my tail. We were still on vacation so I took the turn North to Bald River Falls. I have seen it several times but I had never been able to get the picture I really wanted.

As we were parking, I noticed a couple about my age watching us. I am a naturally suspicious person so I mentioned it to Pop. They did not look like a threat and the woman was very attractive and was filling out a gray Harley T-shirt just the way it should be done, but still I don't like being watched. I really wanted to climb the trail to the top of the falls because I had never done it and now looked like a good time, but I did not want to leave the bikes alone and did not want to leave Pop either.

"Go ahead, I will be here when you get back," Pop said and I believed him.

I also took a quick video on my phone and hustled back down the trail. I stopped long enough to joke with a group of ladies who were struggling to make the climb and then ran the rest of the way down.

Pop was next to our bikes and staring at a Gray SUV. "Your curvy woman got in that thing and they have been sitting there watching you climb that trail. I cannot figure them out."

On cue, they idled over to us with the windows down. Turns out they were really nice folks, they were just looking at our bikes. They had ridden to that area on their Harley but because of the weather they had rented the SUV. They were regretting their choice when they saw me climbing to the top. The lovely lady asked me if it was worth the climb to see the top of the falls.

Without a thought I passed her my iPhone and told her to hit the play arrow. She watched my little video and handed the phone back to me. She thanked me graciously and then turned to her husband. "Let's go back and get the bike." He broke out in that happy smile that all motorcyclists know, shook my hand and thanked me. Somehow, at that moment we understood each other like old friends. I hope they had a good ride. Pop and I sure did.

On the way to Tellico Kats for lunch Pop made a few comments about "other men's wives". I just ignored him.

As always the sandwiches at Tellico Kats were excellent. We ate at the same table we always get, on the back porch, over the river. The food tastes better like that.

In Tellico Plains we took Hwy 68 South. I have never ridden it all the way out, we usually turn off to see The Field of the Woods. We skipped that experience today and rode that twisty jewel all the way into Georgia. We weaved and bobbed our way all the way to Rome Georgia where we decided to call it a night.

While I went in to get our room Pop was chatting with a gentleman about my age who was sitting on a bench under the front overhang. When I returned, Pop was the center of a group of 7 or 8 guys who were asking him questions one after the other. Turns out they worked for Georgia Pacific, the company Pop was retired from. Even though they worked at a completely different plant in a completely different state, they knew who he was.

The first guy came over and told me, "That is one happy man right now. He told us that nobody can pick a route for a motorcycle like you can. He's having a great time." He paused and said, "Riding like this with your Dad has got to be awesome."

He looked at the FJR while I was unstrapping Pop's duffle bag and I could see he was puzzled. "That is kind of a bad ass looking bike. Is it as fast as it looks?"

"You cannot even imagine", I told him. "And yes, that old man rides the hell out of it."

He patted me on the shoulder and laughed. "Y'all have a good ride. I already know you are going to take good care of your Dad."

I made a McDonald's run while Dad showered, neither of us felt like going out for supper. The window view of the hotel parking lot made us miss Kentucky.

I spent over an hour in the hotel's "Business Center" fighting with Google Maps. I had to revise my route because the rain was going to make my previous choice of Very Twisty roads a bad idea.
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Old December 27th, 2014   #29
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Day 7, Friday Sept 12th

We woke to a light rain and the radar showed more in our chosen path. We had the FCB at the hotel and were the only folks in the room, I guess because it was early. The usual check, check and double check of everything, and getting the bikes loaded had become second nature. Our road routine was now comfortable habit.

Because I had plans for just back roads and had no idea how far we would get that day, there was a full page and a half of turn by turn directions in my tank bag. We set out in the rain snug and dry in our rain suits.

Within the first half hour we had crossed into Alabama and for the most part that state was a joy to ride. We were seeing new sights and riding new roads, the bikes were purring along and all was well. We were able to discard the rain suits after the second hour.

We were running roughly parallel to I-59 but just a few miles east of the interstate. Our roads were always changing, sometimes 4 lane 65 mph freeways, other times narrow 2 lane 35 mph country roads. We were really enjoying it.

I had figured on spending that night close to the Alabama/Mississippi border, we had no real plans and I was not in a hurry to get anywhere. Pop and I had discussed it and had agreed that we would not jump on the Interstate and head home and that we would not push on to get home if we saw ourselves getting close. We were going to take it easy and enjoy our last day and a half or so of this great trip.

The best laid plans of mice and men... Without much effort at all we were closing in on the Mississippi border and it was only 3:00pm. I knew that was going to present an issue. 4:00 pm found me stuck in traffic in Hattiesburg MS. Since you folks don't know this, that is about 2 interstate hours from Dad's house.

I asked The Old Man if he wasn't about ready for a room. Wasn't he getting tired? No, he said he had at least another 2 hours in him. Then, he asked me where we were. Oh boy.

"Hattiesburg Mississippi?! I am going to the house!"

I went through the "Now Pop we agreed" speech and told him I really did not want to get on the interstate.

"Son, we have cut across the entire state of Alabama corner to corner all on back roads. We have had a hell of a good day. Are you gonna tell me you can't get me home from here?"

Uh, no. I wasn't about to tell him that. I did point out that we were going to be well after dark getting to his house.

"You know they actually put lights on the front of these things. In fact, you even added some lights so we should be fine."

About 45 minutes from Mom's house we stopped so I could call and to ask them to please cook some supper. Pop was needing a break, his knees were feeling a bit cramped and he needed to walk around a bit anyway. My ST1300 has slightly more legroom and I knew a bike switch might ease a few aches in both of us, so we swapped bikes for the final 45 minutes to his house.

We arrived in the rain. I unloaded Pop's bike and he immediately rode it around to park it in his shop. I made some sarcastic comment about a bike that dirty needing to be left in the rain and Pop surprised me with his reply. "I started to leave it and hope some of the grime and bugs washed off. But I don't want my new seat sitting out in the rain overnight. I love that Laam Seat."

Mom fed us an excellent supper, Pop was in an extremely good mood and I still had another 20 or so minutes to my house.

Pop said to me, "You hate to see a trip this good end don't you? You know there will never be another one just like it." He paused and told me I had done a wonderful job.

I rode home in the rain, in the dark, and just a little bit sad over ending this fantastic trip. But, as always the excitement of seeing Mrs. Redfish and Redfish Jr. was creating a lump in my throat that made it hard to swallow. When the big Honda idled up the driveway my 10 year old son was standing under the carport watching for me. He opened the door and yelled to his mother, "Daddy's Home!"

And, I was.
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Old December 27th, 2014   #30
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Default Re: Redfish and Pop ride Kentucky

Awesome, Red. Glad you got it posted. Be sure and give the wife and Jr. a hug for me.
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