We got a late start today, Paul had a meeting and I had to work on some stuff with Singapore. Got started riding around 9:30am.
The big story of the day... "Who went down first".
It was raining... we were chatting with each other through comms and just riding along. I went first across the bridge at 35.6466750, -83.0751417 (Cataloochee Creek Rd, Waynesville, NC). I usually line myself up pretty good on things like this bridge, but didn't think to tell Paul about it... as soon as he came around the corner, the bike did a 180 and he was laying on the bridge. I didn't get that picture because he was already picking it up. I did tell him that I will memorialize the bridge for him - from this day forth, the wooden Bridge on Cataloochee Creek Rd shall be named in honor of Paul. He posed for the picture post spill..
IT RAINED MOST OF THE DAY!!!
We started out with 45 miles of pavement... I thought, good, we can make up the mileage we lost working. Then... nope. More switchbacks :) I tested out Rally Mode on the KTM 790 Adventure R on the switchbacks. More on this later.
We are now 1,270 miles into the trip and completed 194 miles today (though, we did take a detour off of the TAT a little...)
Hurricane Creek Rd. Not Just No... Awww Hell NO!! For posterity's sake, we took a picture of the attempt. We made it no further. We decided to "walk a little bit of the road" to make a more informed decision. Should've known it wasn't going to turn out well. practically got stuck just turning onto this damn "road" (can it be called that??).
Experience... Paul has had his motorcycle license for just over a year. He did some riding in India and started riding the KTM when he got back to the States. We went on a week long off-road trip in May to the Smoky Mountains (We ran the "Smokey" Mountains 500 and some other trails). As for me, I took the motorcycle class by Harley Davidson in 2010. Rented some Harleys. Bought a Harley in May 2012. Put about 50k miles on it. Bought a KLR back in 2013 - rode TN, MS, and Arkansas TAT routes. That was my first experience in off-roading. I've completed a couple other trips - I would by no means call myself an expert. So... there you have it. We're novice riders off-road, on the road, I can hang with most anyone. Off-road, I'm relegated to the "kiddie pool".
"Smokey" (Smoky) Mountains - I love the Smoky Mountains. Been here many times - one of my favorite places to visit was the Buckberry Creek Lodge in Gatlinburg - until someone took the name "Smoky Mountains" a little too far and burned most of it down (and Buckberry with it). Now I'll explain the "Smokey". We all remember Smokey The Bear (Smokey used as a name/noun, not an adjective) and of course, the correct adjective for things that are smoky is "smoky". So, it kinda drives me nuts to see people call the Smoky Mountains, the Smokey Mountains. Just a pet peeve I guess. But, it is done all too often. Anyways, sorry for the diatribe on Smoky.
We were surprised to realize after riding for hours that we were in fact in the Smoky Mountains!
RALLY MODE!!! So... I'm not that experienced on dirt bikes. This I've admitted. But this bike has some great electronic settings that really change the dynamics of the bike:
1. "Rain Mode" - Very smart mode, keeps things completely under control and manages any possible wheel spin. Very weak. Like driving a Yugo.
2. Road Mode - I was always under the impression this was pretty powerful stuff - it handles traction control and you still have good power (or so I thought)
3. Off Road Mode - I thought this was GREAT. I can spin my rear tire, but it is still smart enough to help me through some 'sliding' and stuff. Because you know... I'm not that experienced.
4. and then... there is Rally Mode. Upon entering Rally Mode today, I quickly realize that Road Mode and Off Road mode are severely handicapped versions of an off-road motorcycle. Rally Mode was made for true off road motorcycling!!
I was testing going over pot holes, blip right before the pot hole in Rally and the front end never dips, just hops over that little / big hole like it didn't exist. go into a corner, come out blazing and ripping up some gravel/dirt to look "cool" - damn, this bike is amazing.
Then, after a while of this, we get into the switchbacks again - so I'm headed into a left hand turn and there is washboard on the left, wet dirt on the right and a pretty decent sized pot hole down the middle. I say, show a little skill, hop the pot hole and get through this like the master of rally that you are. I hop the hole, but this throttle is touchy, so all the sudden I'm going too fast and headed towards the side that could literally throw me off a cliff. I'm not sure what I did, but I am saying "oh shit oh shit oh shit" on the comms and I lean the bike hard and slide the rear wheel out and blip the throttle / slide through the whole corner. I was impressed... Paul saw the whole thing, he was impressed. I told him that was some pro level shit. then I said, and I never want to do it again cause I was scared for my life. Then... I turned Rally Mode OFF. (though I will admit, I did in fact turn it on again later on some less crazy dirt roads)
Gatlinburg - it was decided during our very late lunch that we still needed more mileage and that it was going to rain so we wanted more structure out of our shelter than a tent would provide. So... I started searching and realized that Gatlinburg wasn't that far off. I started calling around to find a cabin for the night. With the procurement of the cabin complete, we finished lunch and routed towards Gatlinburg. (More Blueridge Parkway and US 441... both great great roads for motorcycles) As we are turning off of the blue ridge parkway and onto US 441... we see a full grown elk standing on the side of the road! I quickly shoot across the road to the median to get a closer look, by the time I got there, the Elk decided to go around a tree and masticate the leaves. I wanted a picture... best I got was his big ol' butt. He wasn't going to cooperate, he was more interested in the leaves of that tree. However... moments later, in the road was a baby elk and her mom was not far behind. Ahh.... my love for the NC/TN mountains never fails me.
<rant>Covid / Customer Service / Cabin Rental - However, the rental process almost failed me. I'll try and keep it short. Remember... we booked our cabin around 2:30 or 3 - so yeah, it is late in the day. But I told the lady that we would be there in about 2 hours. I asked for the address so I could route myself directly to the cabin. She wouldn't give it to me directly, said it would be emailed to me after cleaning. (uh, ok... what time was checkout??). We arrive in Gatlinburg at the office address of the cabin rental company. Only, the door is locked and the Covid sign says "no one here. virtual checkin." So I call them because I have no emails about the address or how to check in. Guy on phone says, well, you aren't checked in. I just paid two hours ago, you knew I was coming, what do you mean checkin? While on the phone with this guy, I had to go to their website and upload a picture of my driver's license. on the motorcycle, outside in the heat, no where to go. I complete the task and ask about the address. Sorry, you'll have to wait until it is clean. I lightly complain because it is now going on 5pm... then say ok, I'll go to the grocery store and the wine store. He tells me to have a "blessed day". Ok, you too. After the grocery store and the wine store, I call again because, still no email. it is now 6pm... lady tells me same story, well, you know, you checked in late, they gotta clean. I complain more heavily this time. She tells me to have a blessed day. Paul and I ride over to a shady spot by a river we had seen earlier. Sat on the river bank and waited. 7pm rolls around, I call again, still no email. long conversation, ask for refund. not possible. um. eventually she says something that was very much disagreeable to me and I ask her if she knows who the better business bureau is. Then I ask her about typical checkin time and if I could speak with her manager. Things changed at this point. They gave me the address over the phone and the code to get in. By the way, at the end of the conversation with this lady (her name was heather), she told me to have a blessed day too. I'm pretty sure that "have a blessed day" means "screw you" in Tennessee speak. I could be wrong...</rant>
Bee in helmet (yesterday - Day 5) - Forgot to mention this, but it was a moment of terror. We went to lunch and I left my helmet out in the sun to hopefully bake off some of the stench. (that didn't work by the way) While we were inside enjoying the air conditioning and eating some scrumptious / voluptuous burgers, a bee of some sort kindly decided to fly into my helmet. He must've been extremely content with the smell inside my helmet as he nestled inside. Unaware that he was resting in my sweat, I donned my helmet and prepared to ride away. About three minutes later, I'm taking a turn onto another road with "mountain" in the name and I say to Paul, I feel something crawling on my head. Then BAM. and BAM again. Two subsequent stings and I don't think he quit (again, not sure what kind of bee/yellow jacket/flying insect he was). I swerve right off the road into the shoulder, slam the brakes and somehow shut off my bike. all this while yelling about the stinging (poor Paul). I struggle to get the helmet off because I swear that damn insect wouldn't stop stinging me. Finally, get the helmet off and that little bastard flew out. He just wanted out... maybe he had had enough of my stench. I've got a nice couple helps on my head due to his visit.
Wine for the day - not great choices at the Beer & Liquor Store (name says it all). But we did manage to get some good treats. (Nice Job Paul!!)
Technical Issues for the Day.
Screen Blackout?? Riding along and my information/speedometer screen blacked out. I could see turn signal indicators and my cruise control indicator.. but nothing else. Pulled over, shut down the bike, started it back up and the screen was back. I am certain this little "bug" (feature, as Paul typically calls them) will be back.
Hot Tub. As advertised, the cabin comes with a hot tub. as soon as we get in the cabin we were looking forward to wine, cheese, meats, and hot tub. Go on the porch, hot tub cover is on, open it up... um... 65 degrees? Ok, no problem... turn it on. Nope, heater error code. Guess I'll be having a longer conversation tomorrow during checkout.
Tomorrow... plan is hit some TAT. but we gotta take the KTM's over to the Dragon. Paul needs a sticker... and I need more RALLY TIME!!!
Oh, one more thing. My HEAD does not like being this dirty and sweaty because I'm having a small breakout and spiders/bees keep biting and stinging me on my head.
Paul in a rainstorm... in his underwear!