Day 2 (July 13th):
 <- PREVIOUS DAY Predicted Dist. & Time:  170 mi. / 4:30  -------------------------  Actual Dist. & Time:  161 mi. / 4:15 NEXT DAY ->

Click n' Return:

Trip Kickoff Page

Week One Page

Main Intro Page


Day Two started out most pleasantly enough; a solid night's sleep (first ever tent overnight spent outside of my backyard!) was followed by a pre-alarm awakening, early enough to prevent me from having to bash that clock into many little pieces. And the weather was gorgeous, so I fired up the camp stove -- somehow, without a hitch -- and made breakfast. The oatmeal was rather good, but there were minor Tea Issues: to wit, since I had to use that powdered creamer (not being able to rely on a steady source of ice with which to cool milk), the tea stayed really hot for the first several minutes, then began (via the concept of either entropy or enthalpy, I cannot quite recall) to cool off with a quickness.

The overly rapid cooling of tea was not to be the biggest of my worries this morning, however. It had become rather apparent that the trailer had been bottoming out on its suspension over big bumps or dips in the road, and the tires had been rubbing a-gaynst the fenders in the proh-cess. It was to the point that the wear was easily visible. What to do? Remove the fenders, what else? So here on Day Two, before departing, The Chief (tm) was to carry out what would hopefully be the first and only semi-major repair of the entire trip.

Thanks to shrewd inclusion of certain tools amongst the cargo -- and generous application of both smarts and muscle -- said semi-major repair was completed in under an hour. The rig was ready to roll! Not quite so fast, though: the packing process seemed to come from an Operations Management 201 flow chart, rather than a mere sustained effort to randomly throw everything and anything into the trailer. Why? Because certain things had to be done before certain other things. For instance, I didn’t want to put on my riding clothes before breaking down the tent, or I would probably perspire inside of them before even starting to ride. But if I took down the tent, then I’d most likely need to change in the shower room, not back at the campsite. So I’d have to bring my clothes with me to the shower room after having taken down the tent. So I had to pull out my clothes for the day, then take down the tent, then put the tent in the bottom of the trailer, then put the clothing bag on top of that, then shower and dress, and put the overnight clothes and toiletries bag into the trailer on top of the tent and clothes bag. See how crazy this was becoming here on, um, Day Two?

FAST FORWARD: trailer is repaired, tent is taken down, The Chief (tm) is showered and contact-lensed, and everything is packed away and ready to go. Labor to move the bike backwards against the slight incline, on gravel, so as to be able to easily hook up the trailer in the direction of travel. Do all that, fire up the bike, pull out of the campground, and ninety seconds later the skies open up like only Noah knows about.

OK, on the one hand, not the end of the world: rain gear is packed in the right-hand saddlebag. On the other hand, I need to find a place to pull over to put it on, and the road is super-twisty with no pull-off areas on my side, and traffic is coming in the other direction, and because I’m not going very fast the raindrops are pelting me in the face rather than being deflected by the airflow over the windshield. I can barely see, the curvy road is awash with flowing water, and it’s getting ugly.

Now, while not necessarily being a pessimist, The Chief (tm) is also not necessarily your dyed-in-the-wool “silver lining in the dark cloud” kind of guy. Nevertheless, the first thought here was, “what if all that had happened while I was breaking down camp?” What would I have done? Stood there in the rain with the tent amassing all the water? Seriously, setting up camp at 9:30 PM was bad enough, but how ridiculous would this have been, all for the matter of two minutes or so?

Eventually I find a spot to pull over, and not easily, for it is on the other side of the road, so I have to time it just right, then not wipe out in the soft, wet soil. Half-dressed people are running to their cars from their suntanning spots on the riverbed, so I’m not the only idiot who was caught completely off-guard by the monsoon. Rain gear on, best part is that it is now keeping all the moisture from the wet clothes in, and you know it’s usually just a matter of minutes before the sun comes out again. In the event, it stayed mostly cloudy and cool for quite some time, so I didn’t start baking nor even care about having the gear on until much later, well after the bike passed not only a major milestone but a road sign for the Eastern Continental Divide, elevation 2,600 ft. or so.

My chosen route to Knoxville was to take me through Great Smoky Mountains National Park. The gateway to the Park is the town of Cherokee, NC, within the Cherokee Indian Reservation. I learned three years ago that the town will let you smoke all you want, but God forbid you try to enjoy alcohol with your dinner or at the casino. Back then, at the motel check-in desk it had somehow come up that the casino -- a rather large Harrah’s destination-style place -- did not offer alcohol. Even with the restaurants selling high-end steaks and seafood, I asked? OK, so where can I buy some beer and/or wine to bring in with me? Ixnay on that -- you can’t even bring it in. Incredible! So I drove ten miles anyway to buy two (?) six packs of Budweiser, bought a family pack of Kentucky Fried Chicken from a very obviously homosexual teen-ager (which I would imagine was not always easy for him, here in the middle of nowhere) and an ancient, if very pleasant older person who I first made for a man, but was in fact a woman. Given that there was no booze and that the casino only had video blackjack -- even more of a license to steal than normal -- I had taken the chik-chak back to the motel to eat and watch part of a James Bond movie marathon on TBS. I was only able to force down four beers, so I packed away the other two for later use, and left the untouched six pack in the bed of somebody's pickup (festooned with Univ. of Tennesse stickers), along with a note saying to enjoy it courtesy of the wacko on the bike (as this had been in late November).

That was three years ago.

This time around I knew to ignore the endless string of “Authentic Indian Crafts” stores (perhaps except this one) and all-you-can-eat buffet joints and head straight into the Park via NC/TN 441. Handicapped only briefly by a Buick traveling at literally 21 MPH -- and braking for even the slightest hint of movement either on the road or along its sides -- I eventually began heading for the road towards Clingman’s Dome, the 6,600+ ft. elevation peak that is actually only second-highest within the park to NC’s Mount Mitchell. There is a walkway and a tower from which one can see five or six states, depending on visibility. Last time I was through there it was snowing, so the road was closed, and I never got to see it. This time, it was uber-foggy on the left (“west”?) side of the slope, but sunny on the right, so I sacrificed fifteen miles and thirty minutes to give it a shot. Foiled by Clingman’s Dome again! Nothing but pea-soup fog at the top, so I bailed on the walk to the tower and drank iced tea and had some trail mix.

The ride back down towards Tennessee drops drastically in elevation, though this time it was a picnic compared to when there was snow on the road and ice on the sides. Even so, there is a point where the road curves back under itself, and I borrowed this picture from the web and superimposed a hastily-drawn version of the advisory sign that precedes it. Don’t see THAT one all that often...

Later I made a decision to select one particular route to Knoxville instead of another because it looked like it would be shorter and faster. Also, I had already once taken that other route, so I figured I'd catch some different sights this time. I was disappointed that there was a scenic area turn-off that came up so fast, I barely had time to even see it, but it was the town of Gatlinburg, which looked to be a lovely little area nestled within a narrow valley with buildings built into the hillsides and a tramway leading to a lookout point atop the nearest peak. Compare that with the next town, Pigeon Forge…

If this website can accomplish one thing, may it be this: do not drive through Pigeon Forge unless it is your destination, because it will frustrate the h-e-double hockey sticks out of you. Trust me on this one.

Finally back on the interstate towards Knoxville, I endured another intense, yet brief rain shower, because naturally I had removed the rain gear by then. Wasn’t as bad this time around because I was still wearing the full-face helmet I had earlier swapped into from the open-face one, so the raindrops weren’t hitting me directly in the grill. There was some major re-routing of the interstate due to construction, and despite the rather contradictory temporary signage I managed to negotiate my way towards the downtown area. At the off-ramp a guy in the next lane gave me the heads-up that my trailer lights weren’t working. I thanked him and checked it out, and wouldn’t you know it? I hadn’t plugged them in when I left the campground earlier in the day. YIKES…

Safely reached the Crowne Plaza and secured a room, shortly after which I was forced to explain to the bellman why I needed to bring five bags up to the room for a one-night stay. He thoughtfully let me off the hook and said he’d seen worse performances. Something had made me think to include my umbrella in the stash, and perhaps more amazingly I even thought to take it with me when I went out. I was bringing a bottle of good wine with me to dinner, carrying it in the bottom half of a tubular cooler sleeve about the length and thickness of a baseball bat, with a strap so one can sling it over a shoulder. Wine bottle in the bottom half, auto-opening umbrella in the top half. I walked around the nice little downtown area, checking out HQ of the Tennessee Valley Authority; an energetic, if sparsely-attended “Shakespeare on the Square” performance; and several state government buildings that I hadn’t actually identified. The big marquee at the Tennessee Theatre was not yet illuminated, but I figured I’d catch that later at night (sadly, it still hadn’t been lit when I left). And when another brief monsoon hit the downtown area, no problem: The Chief (tm) one-handedly draws and arms the umbrella in a single overhead motion and is fully prepared.

File under “Knoxville Does It Again”: last time I was there, I was well into my fifth pint of microbrew at the Downtown Grill & Brewery when the bartender finally elected to tell me that they were something like 7.5 or 8% alcohol. So, what, was that like I had drank ten pints instead of five, alcohol-wise? Next morning I was hung over like crazy and didn’t get out of town for many more hours, forcing me to ride at night through the upper Appalachians in early December -- very annoying and more than cold enough.

This time I around cannot blame the DG&B, for everything there was roses, as Tony Montana once put it. Just an excellent execution on all facets of an affordably-priced sirloin dinner, and the second-highest-end cabernet that Robert Mondavi makes had stored and traveled well. I returned to the crib at a reasonable hour (10 PM?) and noticed that there was no one in the lobby bar. What could the hurt be?

Famous last words.

“Actual”, the impact on the noggin the next morning was nothing like the previous time. Nevertheless the risk had been there, considering the aggressive mix of diverse beverages to accompany conversations with three different parties who had moseyed on in after I had, and not to mention the generosity of the bartender with his pouring. Finally got out of there to hit the sack.

Good night!

Coleman Dual Fuel


Fender Removal


Chief Henry's

ST1100 in snow

Clingman's Dome

Loopy Road


Shakespeare on the Square

Tennessee Theatre

State Gummint Building

Downtown Grill & Brewery