Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Tail of the Dragon Travelog

E-mail blogging didn't work out how I had hoped because we were riding soo much, so here's the big trip post. Click on any of the photos to go to the photostream with more pics.

If you had any doubts previously, this should reassure you that the south is a little different. Only in Kentucky can you find the following:

MDK-20090424-0611, originally uploaded by monkeydoc.

Bottled, with love, care, and lots of astroglide in Climax, KY.

The trip down on Friday was all superslab. It was kind of tricky to keep a group of 4 bikes all together, but we made it to Pigeon Forge without incident.

The cabin that Kreg picked out was pretty nice, although we all agreed that we wouldn't want to own it because the construction was just plain crappy. Pool table, hot tub, two bigscreens (neither of which were turned on during our stay). The location was a perfect home base for our motorcycling adventures.

On Saturday, we stopped by the Bald River Falls before riding the Cherohala skyway. For those of you who don't know, it's a road that is cut along the ridges of the Cherokee and Natahala national forests. It's filled with tight switchbacks and grand sweeping turns, punctuated with breathtaking vistas over the forest.

MDK-20090424-0614, originally uploaded by monkeydoc.

MDK-20090424-0634, originally uploaded by monkeydoc.

We capped off the day with a ride through the Tail of the Dragon - which was even better than I had remembered. It's quite an amazing road - 318 curves in 11 miles with 3000 feet of elevation change. Every corner is banked, and graded perfectly with high-quality asphalt. This year, people had painted SLO on the road for the really tight corners, which was a big improvement and lead to much more enjoyment and far fewer surprises. We rode back to Pigeon Forge on a beautiful parkway and sealed the evening with a great dinner, better beer, and unbeatable company.

On Sunday we had two memorable food experiences - Grandmothers Kitchen in Wears Valley, TN - featuring 'cathead golden biscuits' and Early Girl Eatery in Ashville, NC. Both were excellent, but on completely opposite ends of the spectrum.

MDK-20090424-0643, originally uploaded by monkeydoc.

Grandmothers Kitchen, apparently a kitchen for grandmothers, rather than grandmother's actual kitchen, was a hole-in-the-wall breakfast place. The kind that has chocolate bars and gum for sale with fake magazine cover of grandma on the back cover of the menu. The decor consisted of several sayings about Jesus, quite a few country black teddy bears ($8/ea or $15 for 2), as well as several odd taxidermy animals.

MDK-20090424-0649, originally uploaded by monkeydoc.

If you're astute, you may be picking up that I didn't have high hopes for Grandma, but she definitely came through. The biscuits were fantastic and my eggs were quite good as well. Everyone really enjoyed their meals, and for me it ranked #2 for the trip. After the meal, I was wondering what a makes a 'cathead' biscuit and was told by a seeminly authority with less than a full compliment of teeth that it's an Old-Tymey [sic] word for the size of a biscuit.

After breakfast, we headed off to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, and rode along the little river road, and then across the park on the main road to Cherokee, NC. The first section was along a river with small rapids that the sun glistened off of beautifully. On the main road, things were going swimmingly until some tool in a Dodge stratus decided to intoxicate everyone by riding his brakes down the whole mountain. We eventually pulled off to avoid the stench.

We then headed over to the Blue Ridge Parkway, which turned out to be one of the great finds of the trip. The parkway stretches from North Carolina to Virginia and is a twisty, 2 lane road with modest shoulders through the mountains. There were overlooks or turnouts with stunning views at least every 5 miles. There are no billboards, gas stations, or shops along the entire road. The abscence of which was not appreciated until we exited the parkway. We ended up running 80 miles from Cherokee, NC to Asheville, NC. The speed limit was 45 mph and it was so twisty we never made it much faster.

In Asheville, NC we ate at the Early Girl Eatery. It was definitely the best meal out of the entire trip. It's situated on Wall Street in downtown Asheville. Wall Street is a throwback to the era of horse-drawn buggies with a few of what appeared to be the original bricks from the street surrounding some trees. There were several other cute shops in the area as well. When you first walk into the Early girl, all you can see is the kitchen - no seating areas, but a few steps in and the narrow corridor opens up into a beautiful dining area lined with tall windows. The food focuses on local ingredients, with something for everyone including vegeterians. The local brats and the coconut cream pie were the hits for the day.

We had decided to take the easy way out and take the interstate home. Little did we know that I-40 between Sieverville and Asheville is just a high-speed version of the Blue Ridge Parkway. It was one of the most stunning stretches of interstate that I've ever driven. Fun on a bike, but not the laid-back relaxing ride home we were looking for after the parkway.

Monday was 400 miles of ballin' on the interstate to get home to our ladies, and also went through without a hitch.

Many plans were discussed for the next adventure, so stay tuned.

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