Just Ride

Just Ride

Thursday, July 23, 2020

2020 TAT - Day 9

182 miles today - 1,610 for the trip so far..

182 Miles is not representative of what we completed on the TAT... today was grueling. TN-9 / TN-10 and maybe others worked us - we're novices at best. I'm older than Paul by a 'few' years and he is in much better shape and both of us were wore out. Bald River Rd was the start of the agony. There is so much tree debris on this road, paired with the rocks / boulders and the ups and downs, this was a challenge! We didn't get out of 1st gear very often... In fact, Nick, Paul, and I all caught up later in the day and had a good laugh together about the excruciating ride called "Bald River Rd"

Here is a picture of Nick, Paul, and I having a good laugh about the toughest ride so far... speaking of Nick, he is from Upstate NY and is an experienced dirt bike rider. 

Witt Rd - Four creek crossings, all successfully negotiated! Which is great for Paul, because John, Paul, and I all ran Witt Rd back in April 2020 and both John and Paul went down in this same spot! This time, Paul took the right side and ran it with no problem. For me, this is my third crossing and every time, I take the left side. All three successful. :)

And here is the video for Witt Rd Creek Crossings!

Back to low mileage (and no, we aren't worried about it, just more of commentary for those that want to do the TAT in the future) - Rain was a major factor in the low mileage. On top of all the work negotiating rocks, downed trees, forestry service trucks (pretty sure Paul ran into one of them that blocked the whole road), switchbacks, slick clay, and a myriad of other obstacles, rain hit all over the forest. We couldn't see because the heat and the hard cold rain. We kept on keeping on, but slowly.

Speaking of, two more crazy obstacles - one created by my GPS and the other is simply riding technique on forest roads that are not well traveled.

1. Circling around (twice) - two separate times, I missed a turn and because the colors of the upcoming and last track segments were the same, I unfortunately backtracked and ended up running the same area twice. UGH!!! Switchbacks all look the same, so it is really bad when it is the SAME!

2. Vehicles coming at you - when you don't know it. Many of my friends (especially Matt D. - due mostly to his job) will never understand riding these forest roads. But, there is a tendency to take a left turn switchback that has a cliff on the right side, closer to the left side. Especially for me - I have a fear of heights to begin with AND any rock/slide/incorrect blip of "RALLY MODE" could send you hurling over the cliff. So anyways, I usually take left-hand-blind-switchback turns slowly and tight inside - I've been trying to do better and stay to the right... but it is tough for me due to the fear of the EDGE. So today, I come around one of these turns and I'm looking at a small Toyota tercel. ON A FOREST ROAD. skinny tires and all. They were going slow, I was going slow enough that I hit my rear brake and pulled in the clutch to avoid riding over them. I slid to a stop just in front of them... I'm pretty sure over comms I said "Oh shit...". 

Lake Ocoee Inn & Marina Our accommodations for the night - nice spot, probably been here a long time... I would like to research this lake as I can tell they dammed up the Ocoee river to create this lake. Might be an interesting read... I'll look it up later.

Also, I got a video uploaded... it isn't anything special. Check it out:

Paul and I working and writing the blog...

To keep up the tradition, we're drinking Josh Cabernet Sauvignon Reserve tonight.

Accommodations, we got a suite for the night. Two Beds Per Room... one for my junk. one for me.

This Picture went to a prospective client - U. 
Hopefully soon, they'll sign the deal... :)

2020 TAT - Day 8

Day 8 was July 22nd, we didn't have internet/phone service that night, so this is being published a day late...

2020 TAT - Day 8

Back in April 2020 (seems like forever ago), Paul, John, and I (all business partners) went on a motorcycle trip and stayed mostly in the Tellico Plains area. While riding the “Smoky Mountain 500” (they call it the Smokey Mountain 500), we came across the Lodge at Green Cove. Rustic little place with very basic amenities - but, it had an outdoor fireplace, an outdoor grill, and all the wood you want to burn. So we decided to spend the night here. Great night, just the three of us - we cooked steaks and potatoes over the fire. Sat around the campfire for a while… just overall a great night.

Today, Paul and I were riding on TN-02, just zooming along because most of it was straight and then all the sudden come around the corner and I see some cabins that I immediately recognized. I said to Paul over comms, “Do you know where we are??” He had no idea, I told him to wait one minute and he’d know… at which point we pulled in to Green Cove again. We both agreed immediately that we’d stay here this evening. @John, we wish you were here… 

Total Mileage since the beach in NC, 1,428. Today, we only managed to complete 152 miles. We’re not upset about it… in fact, we sat around the campfire this evening and did some math. We’ll be in Tulsa when we’ve planned and we should be on the beach in Oregon as we’ve planned. 

By the way, more rain today… however, something cool did happen. We stopped to get gas at the Shell Station in Andrews, NC. Sitting there at one of the pumps was obviously another Tatter. I pull up on the other side of the pump to fill up, but to also chat with the fellow rider. I ask if he is riding the TAT, he confirms. He introduces himself as Nick and we have some small talk. We say our goodbyes and Paul and I head out to the switchbacks. (TN-01)

During our ride on TN-01, I get a text message from John, so I stop to call him. As we’re sitting there chatting, Nick rolls on by and waves. I wave back and he keeps rolling. After we get started again, I am paying attention to the ‘tracks’ that Nick has laid down in the dirt/gravel. I can pretty much tell that he has ridden dirt bikes his whole life. Anyways, we keep on rolling and come to a section that is more straight, so I kick up the speed in hopes that I can catch up with Nick. Eventually, I see him and close in. As soon as we hit pavement, the rain starts and I flash my brights to get his attention. We all pull over and discuss the upcoming section and get a little more background on Nick. He’s from NY, he has ridden dirt bikes forever. He’s riding a KLR 650 for the TAT - running knobbies… we’re currently running 50/50’s. So we decide to roll out together… we completed TN-01 and it wasn’t until we came across Green Cove on TN-02 that we decided to part ways. He wanted to get some more miles in and us old people (ok me, not Paul) can’t hang with the young bucks. We said our goodbyes and will likely run into each other again. If not, Nick, it was a pleasure… stay safe out there!

I wanted to get that important stuff out of the way, but we do need to step back to the start of the day. We were in Gatlinburg… We kinda blazed our own path to the Tail of the Dragon in the Robbinsville area. Rode the Foothills Parkway for the first time - almost got beheaded by a tractor driving backwards with some sort of crazy arm/mower attachment. Mind you, the Foothills parkway is mostly long sweeping curves and the speed limit is around 45 mph most of the way. I usually ride pretty fast on a long sweeping curvy road… no details here… sorry. So, I come around a corner and there is a tractor in my lane in reverse with the arm of death looking straight at me. I dive for the oncoming lane once I’ve confirmed it is empty. Then my next immediate thought is … PAUL!! He is a less experienced rider than me and this arm of death could in fact eat him. So I turn around on the parkway and head back towards him (yes, he is behind considerably due to my need to consume long sweeping curves). He survives the pending doom of the Arm of Death.

Foothills Parkway brought us right into the northern part of US 129/ Tail of the Dragon. Great Ride on the Parkway - really enjoyed it. But now… it is time to test the KTM 790 Adventure R on the Tail. Paul and I stop at the ‘scenic overlook’ for a quick “we were here picture” and then I told Paul that I’d see him at Deal’s Gap. I told him to ride safe and don’t ride beyond your capabilities. Then I took off… I was so excited that as I was speeding off, my front tire literally came off the ground… Traffic on the Tail was light - though there were some people driving in their boxes. They typically got out of my way or maybe I passed them (legally?? Maybe.)

(I bought this, just can't get it yet... so you get the proof for now)

(I bought this, just can't get it yet... so you get the proof for now)

That 11 miles was fun. I was working the KTM hard… I think my right and left toes of my boots touched the ground at least a half dozen times. Maybe more… I was really getting into it. By the time I pull into Deal’s Gap, I check my tires to see how much of the tire I exposed to asphalt. Yep, All of it. Everything. From Edge to Edge. I was satisfied with the run. I waited for a while… and eventually Paul pulled up next to me. Him being a novice rider, he really did great out there - he even said that he enjoyed it. (He initially only rode the tail because I wanted to). We got our stickers and went on our way. The KTM’s have been christened!!

Dinner this evening at Green Cove was um… Ramen Noodles again :) We even bought some hot dogs and through them in with the Ramen noodles. While eating, we discussed the fact that we need to start preparing ourselves a little better for when we don’t have a store around and it is time to retire for the evening. We’ve promised ourselves that we would put some food somewhere on our bikes. During dinner, I also built a fire… then we played some cards (cribbage and poker) - i’ve never played cribbage, pretty complex game and Paul has played it since he was a kid. I had no chance. The scoring alone is a problem. Poker was more fun. Then we just sat around the campfire and bullshitted and listened to music. Really a great evening - especially because all of this happened right in front of the Tellico River.

For the wine fans - we had no wine this evening. Just isn’t any out here… 

This was written on Wednesday, July 22nd at 9:39pm - unfortunately, way out here in the woods, we have no Internet. We may not have internet tomorrow either. We plan on camping… so more than likely we won’t get this posted for a few days.

Life Is Good.

Here are the rest of the pictures:

US 129!

I used EVERY bit of that tire on the Tail of the Dragon!!

Neither of us contribute to the Tree of Shame

(I bought this, just don't have it yet)

Needed Firewood...

Tuesday, July 21, 2020

2020 TAT - Day 7 - Day Off

And just like that... day 7 complete!! Work prevails today... animal is going to rest today. 

Didn't they say that even God rested on the seventh day??

(There was wine today)

Working hard:

Monday, July 20, 2020

2020 TAT - Day 6

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..


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!

The Stats.

Sunday, July 19, 2020

2020 TAT - Day 5

Day 5... Well.. let's get started.

We only completed 171 miles today. Both Paul and I had some work to do, so we took an early exit and got a hotel tonight. All-in, we've completed 1,076 miles of the TAT (approximately 1/6 [16.666%] of the way complete! the optimist and data-focus in me likes thinking in those terms)

Breakfast - Horrible place in Boone - I won't give their name.. but literally the worst biscuits and gravy ever. Also, they were keeping the front door locked. I'm sometimes passive aggressive... so I made multiple comments about the fact that locking the front door is actually illegal. But Covid.

The morning was spent mostly off-road - one or two of the legs through NC was quite a long ride... I swear maybe two hours or more straight of mountain/gravel/dirt roads. We enjoyed it. We even commented on how we started feeling a sense of rhythm to the road. I turned on the GoPro and recorded a small five minute section - but I can't upload yet... wifi in this hotel sucks.

Hotel / Camping Ratio - 3 Hotels, 2 Camping nights. I'll try and keep up with this ratio - not sure I'll be able to remember. Keep me honest. The wine drinking nights will be easier for me to count :)

Later in the afternoon, we ran into Josh Harrington on tablerock mountain. Stopped right there in the middle of the forest on a "high traffic area" (more on that later) to chat - it was great. He said he lived within 45 minutes of the area we were riding and that he didn't know that the road we were on was part of the "TAT" - I of course explained that it is within Sam's routes - I don't know about GPS Kevin's. Josh wished us well on our travels and he parted ways - great chatting with him. The camaraderie on a dirt road is classic. Josh - if you read this, pleasure meeting you sir! (dammit, should've gotten a picture of the three of us together.)

Traffic on forest roads - I surmised early in the day that we'd see heavy traffic off-road today. It was a Sunday. People need to get out and covid is a bummer on the summer (don't quote me, but doesn't Lana del ray sing a song about that??) [some of my friends will understand]

Traffic on Forest Roads today consisted of the following:
Dirt Bikes
Dog Walkers
Golf Carts
and most importantly, The Rule Breakers,The Risk Takers, PAUL AND ME! (or is that Paul and I... dammit, Mrs. Ellis would be very unhappy with me right now - I'll blame the fact that it is 10:15pm and I'm exhausted)

(I swear this will all make sense...maybe)

Road Closed - Pisgah National Forest - Black Mountain Campground: 
35° 45’ 3.378” N
82° 13’ 15.030” W

There were many onlookers and some naysayers (old people in golf carts on a forest road???) as Paul and I pulled up to the sign - bunch a lookey-loos providing useless banter to the likes of Paul and I, the rule breakers, the risk takers, the... um... well, we-crossed-the-line-and-hoped-we-didn't-find-anything-that-would-make-us-turn-around guys. men of steel. or um, of steel, rubber, and gasoline? um... anyways.

The good news, there is nothing on this road that keeps an adventure motorcyclist from continuing beyond the "road closed sign". As I passed what appeared to be a 'damaged power line' - possibly downed power line, I said to Paul: "that is probably the reason for the road closure". So there you have it. KEEP GOING!!! Despite the negative-nannies standing around or sitting on the golf carts. You show them you're the man/woman and that you don't color in the lines. you make your own lines! :)

and at the exit of this closed road for the win! (the exit was a little risky - pole, ledge, tree. we owned it)

Animal Sightings - Practically none - too much traffic on the forest roads. Animals probably knew it was Sunday and everyone was out having covid-free fun with built-in social distancing.

Not too many pictures, mostly because we kept a good pace and didn't stop much, despite the low miles.

Lunch was pretty good @ Famous Louise's Rock House in Newland (near linville falls) - my arteries were satisfied with the grease level from my bacon cheeseburger.

Dinner was regretful - It is Sunday, things are closed. Hotels are 50% capacity. So I booked a hotel while we were sitting at lunch. Didn't know the town, but it near/outside of Asheville, so I figured it couldn't be that bad. Got here to the Mars Hills area / checked in. Got the lay of the land related to dinner options. Decided we wanted either Mexican or Japanese. The burrito joint was closed due to Sunday and/or Covid. The Japanese restaurant was open. WOOHOO! or so we thought. pull up, lady immediately comes outside and asks if we're picking up. um...no. I'd like to come inside and eat like a normal human being. Um... Covid, so no. "We've decided to close our restaurant seating until Covid disappears" (or something like that was said to me). Yeah, good luck with that. Anyways, we order dinner BY PHONE (she wouldn't take our order in person), we pay in the parking lot, and eventually we somehow stack/tie down our dinner to our motorcycles (should win awards for this) and then we went back to the hotel room to eat.

More pictures
Blue Ridge Parkway

We are the little green motorcycle... 
(men of steel, rubber, and gasoline)