I forgot to mention this curious milestone while riding across Texas. When crossing certain parts of the country there really are times when there is not much to see or do, there is just time to think and ride. I knew the sixes were going to be rounding the odometer soon so I planned this shot. To ham it up a little I went the perfect speed.
Now on to Tennessee. Actually this is me crossing the Tennessee River in Alabama. The Natchez Trace Parkway cuts across the Northwestern portion of Alabama. Tennessee is still a few miles from here.
I was finally riding peacefully along the parkway when I see a Park Ranger standing in the middle of the road waving me down. He said I had to exit. I’ve dealt with detours before on the Blue Ridge Parkway. This one was a little different in that there were no directions. Just a “You must exit here.” I asked, “Then what?” He says he doesn’t know. I asked when can I get back on. He said he doesn’t know. Another Ranger pulls up. He asked her how long before I could get back on. She says, “I don’t know, but it’s a long way!” Really? That’s the answer? What is this the Keystone Cops of the Natchez Trace? I exit and ride blindly along. The sun is setting so I know where West is. I try to continue in the right direction. After about 40 minutes on the road I found an entrance to the Parkway. I figured there would be a ranger directing people coming South to exit the parkway. There was no one. Nothing. People were riding in both directions as if there was never an issue. Weird.
As a result of this silly excursion I ended up at a campsite after dark again. It’s always something. I must say though, the campsites along the Natchez Trace are great because they are free! This place was especially dark. With the light of my headlamp, I set up the tent and prepared for rain. It rained a little. I had no signal here to check radar. I had to be prepared for anything. A raccoon showed up during the night and made off with a gift I got for Jillian. A raccoon is not discerning. If they see a bag, they will grab it and run. They can then check for food later. They are not dumb creatures like deer. Fortunately I immediately chased after this sucker and he dropped the bag half way down a hill.
I was prepared for that coon. I was not however prepared for this giant spider. This sucker was fast. He was about 4 inches leg to leg and hopped side to side like a freaking bunny. I have heard so much about the Brown Recluse Spider and it’s bite. I knew I did not want one. I thought this guy might be one of those Recluse suckers adding to my anxiety. I looked him up since. He ain’t Brown Recluse, just a speedy freak of a brown furry arachnoid.
This next stop was an appropriate destination for this trip. On my way west I visited the supposed gravesite of Sacagawea, the guide Lewis and Clark used on their westward adventure. Now here in Tennessee was the final resting place of Meriwether Lewis, the man Thomas Jefferson chose to lead the famous journey to explore the newly acquired Louisiana territories. They were attempting to find a waterway to the Pacific and I have visited many locations from their incredible trip.
This stone foundation is all that remains of the Inn where Meriwether Lewis’s was at the time of his death. There is mystery surrounding Meriwether Lewis’s death. Some say he took his own life, others say he may have been murdered. Either way it’s sad. He was only 35 years old.
Below is the Gordon House. It is one of the few remaining houses associated with the old Natchez Trace Trail. This house dates back to 1818. The Gordon family operated a trading post and ferry crossing from here. The ferry crossed here for 90 years until a bridge was built in 1896.
This is a rare moment without my jacket on this trip. I wore my jacket nearly the entire summer. Not just for protection, I was cold.
A little Dukes of Hazard action in a local town.
I was now headed east and off to the Blue Ridge Parkway.
I had two choices as I approached the Blue Ridge Parkway. I could take either the Cherohala Skyway across the mountains (probably the wiser choice), or I could ride the Dragon. The Tail of the Dragon is Route 129. It takes you through 318 curves in 11 miles. It has become a right of passage for many bikers. It has also been the last ride for many bikers.
Fully loaded and having a bolt as a foot peg left me weary about riding this road. Not to mention it was getting dark (a constant battle I keep facing). I’ve ridden it before. I know what I’m up against.
Moving east on 129 there is a pull over where many bikers riding the Dragon stop for a rest. From here it is hairy as you serpentine through unreal twists cutting the thick forested mountain.
I made it through unscathed. It can scare the shit out of you if you push it. And you have to push it!
Those who don’t make it are memorialized in the Tree of Shame.
There were a lot of custom vintage bikes here at Deals Gap. The Dragon leaves you here in Deals Gap, NC if you ride it west to east. I figured I would camp out here, but I had no food and the Deals Gap store and gas station were closed.
So I rode 12 miles to the Fontana Resort for supplies, then I would go back to Deals Gap and have some biker fun!
As I approached Fontana the fog was accumulating on the river and spilling out to the road at eye level. They had a campsite at Fontana Dam so I figured I had better not ride back to Deals Gap in the dark and fog.
That night the storms came down with a vengeance. I had to get up at dawn a cut a quick trench with my tomahawk to drain the water that was pooling outside my tent.
The Fontana Dam is the highest dam west of the Rockies. That’s what I was told by a local fisherman. My tent is just to the right of those trees.
Gunter Cabin is on the Fontana Resort property.
My stuff got pretty wet. I decided to stay another night because more rain was predicted, besides I was pretty beat up from a month on the road. I could use some rest. This night I would build extra flashing around my tent to protect my stuff from the rain.
When I finally left I rode to the top of that dam. The patch of grass along the river is the campsite where I stayed. Other than that it is a deep forest.
After two solid days of rain I figured I was safe to have a leisurely ride home on the Blue Ridge Parkway.
Those hopes for a leisurely ride were obscured by a wicked fog. It got so bad that not only did that vehicle in front of me disappear, I could no longer see that yellow stripe in the road. On top of that it began raining again as it had periodically throughout the day.
I had to get a hotel. It was too dangerous to continue.
The next day I would go visit a good friend from college whom I hadn’t seen in at least 15 years. The fog hadn’t lifted so I was not about to take the Blue Ridge. I can’t say whether I made the right decision or not. I got clobbered by rain and fog all the way to Floyd, VA where my friend Pete lived.
After more hours of riding through the twisty mountains in the rain and trekking up a 3 mile wet dirt road, I showed up at Pete’s . The twisties have lost their thrill. I was soaked and exhausted!
Pete was bragging about the views that are normally there. He said this fog was like nothing he had ever seen. There should be multiple mountain ranges seen from this vantage point. On this day it would be more fog.
With a short break from the rain Pete showed me around his 17 acre property. It was good to see Pete.
I had to stay 3 nights to see how it looked in the sunlight. It is really a great place in a pristine location. Many a tree house could be built here.
It’s a beautiful home designed to get sunlight all day in all seasons.
Up the mountain is the guest house. Even further up the mountain is a gazebo where you can get a 360 degree view.
Deer were regularly grazing on the lawn here.
Me and Pete, 30 years after college.
It was great hanging with Pete and his housemate Bob. Bob once had quite the cross country adventure himself. He and his brother created something called the Freedom Train. It was an old steam engine they owned that pulled a rolling museum throughout the 48 states over 2 years to celebrate the United States Bicentennial.
This old service station is along the dirt road that leads to Pete’s.
Knowing that it was finally going to be a sunny day, I popped off my bubble shield and gave these goggles a try. They are made to work with this helmet but I am not sure I like them. They are really large and block a lot of my peripheral vision, but I hadn’t had my face exposed to the elements for this entire trip, so that felt good.
I stayed the night with my brother and his wife. We stayed up late even though they had to work the next day. I probably should have stayed longer but I was eager to get back home. In the morning some of the neighborhood kids helped me wash and pack up the bike. The kids loved the goggles and helmet. They said it was like wearing riot gear.
From Maryland I rode back to NYC and hopped a ride out to Fire Island to see Jillian.
Coast to Coast 2014 complete! Thanks for following along!