We awoke to day seven of our motorcycle vacation with both excitement and a bit of sadness. This day had a lot of great riding on the schedule but was also the last day riding with the Harley Owner’s Group “History in the Hills” national rally and the last day with our new friends.
After a quick breakfast, loading the bike and performing the motorcycle safety checks we were kickstands up and on the “Moonshiners 28”! 28 has some awesome sections of twisty roads interspaced by small towns and great scenic vistas. The first stop on this ride was Bridal Veil Falls which was a bit underwhelming as there had not been much rain in the area but it is very easy to see how if got its name.
Still on the moonshiner our next destination was Fontana Dam. This dam was built as part of the Tennessee Valley Authority electrification effort but also as the primary electrical supply of Oak Ridge National Laboratory and the race to build the atomic bomb. As far as dam’s go it was pretty spectacular and you can still ride across the top a pleasant surprise in this day and age of high security.
On the way to Fontana Dam I kept wanting to really run the turns and twisties. I would get a mile maybe two of fun and then I would get behind a slower bike or car, after getting around that person I would get another mile or two and end up behind an even slower vehicle! This went on until I was riding up an ascending right hand turn behind a fellow biker in 1st gear. At that point I leaned back and told Debbie that God must be trying to tell me to slow down and enjoy the view … which we did.
Literally, less than five minutes later I said that we happened upon a crash! Another participant of the History in the Hills ride, riding in a small group, was on the ground. It was not a multi vehicle accident or a rider exceeding their ability but a true ACT OF GOD! A very large tree limb broke and fell upon them as they past under causing them to wreak. The passenger took the brunt of the falling limb and suffered, we found out later, a broken collar bone, mild concussion, and a multitude of cuts and abrasions. The rider fared better but did have some minor injuries while the bike appeared to have a bunch of cosmetic damage. This was the only serious injury of the entire HOG event.
After stopping at the Dam we were back on the road towards Deals Gap and the start of the Tail of the Dragon. Debbie and I have ridden the Tail of the Dragon in the past and boy is it a lot of fun. Before hitting the road we had a snack of onion rings at the Deal’s Gap dinner and of course the mandatory swag from the gift shop. As much as I enjoy the Tail of the Dragon I do have to point out that there are many similar places in my home state of West Virginia just without the hype.
Eleven miles and 318 turns later we bested the Tail of the Dragon again and onto our next stop, lunch at Knoxville Harley Davidson West. The dealership served ups BBQ sandwiches with all the fix’ns. But because it was hot we wanted to do the last few mile to our hotel in Oak Ridge so we left fairly quickly.
It is at this point I have to point out and highly commend the organizers of this rally. The Harley Owners Group had chosen RUSH LLC to develop, promote, lead and run this event and they did a fabulous job. This job well done was top with a giant cherry ….. an actual visit to the grounds of the national lab and to the nuclear reactor that help create the nuclear/atomic age.
This was a really big thing, I had a job working a contract at the lab a few years ago they just do not let regular people in very often. The RUSH folks said it took about seven months to do all the coordination and get the individual badges issued and I fully believe it. Awesome job RUSH.
The reactor was the one where all the materials to create the two bombs that ended WWII and was in operation until 1967. After the war better reactors were created and this one used to help develop and support nuclear medicine. Nearly everything in the medical field that you use today that has a nuclear component can, most likely, trace it origin to the Oak Ridge National Lab and this reactor. A very cool way to end this trip.
The buses then took us to our farewell diner. This was a fun but bittersweet event. We shared our table with the same folks that we shared the table during the opening diner. Two of the other couples and Debbie and I had become friends during the event and the other guys (Moe, Larry, and Curly) were great guys and good sports that we happened upon almost daily.
As this was our first, but highly unlikely last, trip with the HOG rolling rally and RUSH crew.