Posts Tagged ‘motorcycle riding in tennessee’

We rode for about 7 hours on Monday from our home to the rally. This ride was all interstate and really reminded me why one should avoid Interstate 81, south or north, it is a terrible experience in the best of times.  Thousands of tractor trailers and stupid car drivers weaving to get “the fastest” spot while hold a phone to their face.  SIGH.

As we approached the hosting hotel, the “Airport” Hilton, the GPS lady was telling us to ride the motorcycle to the arrivals and departures section of the airport. Of course, we thought that the crazy GPS lady was once again full of “stuff”, so I stopped and reselected the location.  Turns out the hotel is literally a few steps from the arrivals and departures doors of the airport.  Imagine that!

Day One of the Great Smokey Mountains HOG Rally

Rally registration was at the hotel and sign in for the pre-registered, like Debbie and me, was quick and easy.  We each received a SWAG bag that contain pertinent rally materials a t-shirt, patches, pins, and a HOG water bottle.

We were also showed how to download the routes from by scanning a Q-code from their routes posters and how to load those routes into the motorcycle. Snip/snap and we had multi-routes installed on our Harley Davidson. 

Ok not quite snip/snap.  The problem is the that the Harley Davidson Boom GTS radio/navigation system does not come with a paper owner’s manual but with a little coaching I was able to get the routes set up.  I mentioned to the National HOG representative that they should hold a few classes on using the Boom GTS at each rally, I think it would be one of the more popular aspects of future events.

After registration we rode to Smokey Mountain Harley Davidson. SMHD is the host dealership of the rally, and their facilities are among the best that I have ever experienced. A large dealership with an inviting exterior and expansive interior they have very large inventory of motorcycles (and sold 2 while I was there), accessories, and clothing.  But that is just the start, Smokey Mountain HD also has a BBQ restaurant and a concert venue. I have never seen a dealership like this before.  A little more on the concert venue below.

As we were looking around the dealership and the vendor, Debbie spotted a Custom Dynamics Rear Finder Tip Light which would be SO much brighter than the existing OEM light.  She bought the light and wanted it installed while we were there, I did not argue. With the large number of drivers, she saw holding phones on the ride down another run/brake light will never hurt.  I will do a separate post on this light and my thoughts on Custom Dynamics soon.

As we were looking around the dealership and the vendor, Debbie spotted a Custom Dynamics Rear Finder Tip Light which would be SO much brighter than the existing OEM light.  She bought the light and wanted it installed while we were there, I did not argue. With the large number of drivers, she saw holding phones on the ride down another run/brake light will never hurt.  I will do a separate post on this light and my thoughts on Custom Dynamics soon.

After the part was installed, we decided to ride through Wears Valley, TN.  The twisty ride up and over a mountain was a lot of fun and the ride through the valley was quite beautiful. The route we took dropped us in Pigeon Forge, TN near the Rocky Top Harley Davidson Dealership.  If you have followed IJustWant2Ride on Facebook or Twitter you will know I collect dealer pins which means I had to get a Rock Top pin!

We had a snack at the Iron Boar bar and Mexican Grill right across the street from the dealership … along with 30 new friends, all from the HOG rally! After we had fueled ourselves, we headed back to SMHD for the opening ceremony and the first concert of the rally.

Still watching you Hurricane Ian!

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One of our goals of this motorcycle vacation was to ride the entire length of the Natchez Trace Parkway.  For those that may not be familiar with the Natchez Trace it is a National Parkway similar to the Blue Ridge Parkway or Skyline Drive.  But as it runs 444 miles between Natchez, MS and just south of Nashville, TN there are few mountainous sections or twisties involved. Yet this parkway is a SPECTATULAR substitute for any interstate trip if you are headed in the general direction of those two cities.

What you miss in twists and turns is made up in miles of wonderful cruising with no large trucks (prohibited) or traffic snarls around metro areas.  If you are a history buff there are dozens and dozens of roadside stops to check out.

In our case we started at the southern end of the Trace, knowing we would not Ijustwant2ride.commake the entire length in a single day (hey, we started south of New Orleans).  We checked out the visitors center grabbed a quick bite and hit the trail.  It did not take long to settle in; with next to no traffic we were free to enjoy the views and the ride.  We stopped at the historical sites that were of interest to us and just had a lovely time.

In 2011 a series of tornados ran nearly parallel to the parkway for nearly eight miles. The amount a damage still remaining to the forest on both sides of the road is amazing.

ijustwant2ride.comAs we were passing Tupelo, MS we decided to head off the Trace to have lunch at Johnnies Drive In.  This is the little dinner that Elvis Presley frequented as a child and young adult. The food was excellent and if you have time the Elvis Presley childhood home park is nearby (we did not stop).  Turns out we sat in the “Elvis” booth, the one he nearly always used.  We did not know that until others were turning down seats in order to wait for use to leave. LOL, we did not take our time, but we did not rush either.

Back on the parkway we continued to make good time even though we stopped at multiple historic sites and a visitor’s center.  Near the end of the parkway was the historic site called “She Boss”.  The story behind this stop was that widow who owned a small lodge along the trace remarried a local Indian who spoke little English.  As visitors approached he would point to his wife and say “She boss”!

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We rolled of the Trace in the late afternoon and, thanks to friends we made on the HOG Rolling Rally, knew to stop at the Loveless Café for dinner.  Wow, were they right about stopping for a meal at this restaurant. This was some awesome down home cooking.

There are a few things you need to know about the Trace 1) keep an eye on your fuel you have to leave the parkway to top off  and 2) there are a lot of animals out and about (we saw squirrels, rabbits, turkey, deer and a mule).

I also recommended that you take a few minutes before you ride the trace to look at all the possible stops and pick out the ones that gain your interest.  It would take four days of riding to stop and investigate each and every historic stop along the way.

If you can’t tell, I really enjoyed our ride on the Natchez Trace Parkway.  If you are not pressed for time I highly recommend the Trace to the interstate highways.

ijustwant2ride.comWe 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 Ijustwant2ride.comchecks 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.

ijustwant2ride.comOn 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 theijustwant2ride.com 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 thatijustwant2ride.com 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.

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Waking early for our 630AM kickstands up we rolled out of bed and got dressed for the day.  Our first stop was the Mast General Store in Valle Crucis, NC.  The store is a great example of the old time general store and has been in operation since 1882.  It is still the local store, post office and community gathering place.  This was a very cool stop, make sure to ask about the “chicken chute” when you visit to see how people bartered for goods “back in the day”.

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Mike got a lot of mileage from these simple wax lips!

We also swung by the Mast Candy Store.  The store focused on old school candy like wax bottles and lips, Bit’O Honey, caramel chews and pretty much any type of candy from your childhood.  Of course we had to buy back some of our childhood, one of our new friends (Mike) bought some glossy red wax lips and proceeded to scare and delight riders the rest of the day.

Rolling out of Valle Crucis we hit the Diamond Back! Our route took us about 2/3rd of the length of this snake.  This 38 mile diamond shaped loop includes NC 226A, US 221, Toms Creek Road, NC 80 and the Blue Ridge Parkway.  Riding through Little Switzerland on our way to the Mountain Gateway Museum (and lunch) was one of the highlights of the day.  One of the low lights of the day was zipper of my Kevlar pants blowing out (as well as a pocket).  The rest of the day the crew we were riding with (Mike, Dale, Stacey, Tori and Don) would occasionally call me McFly….sad day indeed!

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1 of 30+ machines

The next stop was the Mountain Gateway Museum where I found out there was a Spanish Fort in this area well before any English or French outposts, very interesting.  After lunch at the museum we rode to Asheville to check out the Pinball Museum. If you are into classic to modern pinball games or 1980s video games that are fully playable this is your place.  I had a lot of fun playing a vintage 1978 KISS pinball machine then jumping over to an 2015s KISS machine was completely awesome!  I could have spent hours in there…sad that I don’t but glad I don’t live in Asheville I would spend a lot of money at the pinball museum.

Back on the bike we rode a little more than an hour to the Wheels Through Time motorcycle museum. Debbie and I visited Wheels Through Time last year when on vacation.  It is an awesome facility that every motorcycle enthusiast must have on their list of sites to visit.  This time, because we were part of the HOG rally, we got to spend more time with the owner Dale as he told us stories about how he acquired several of the very rare bikes in the collection.

This time we also got to hear the story of the Traub motorcycle, a one of kind bike found sealed behind the wall of an apartment building.  I will write a separate post on this story.

After Wheels Through Time we rode on to our hotel in Hendersonville, NC.  We met our new friends for drinks and laughs and then off to bed.  Day 7 brings the Dragon.

To see what happened on day one check out that post!