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Voodoo

1,900 Miles, 2.5 Days, and the Best Roads in the Smokies:

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Voodoo

This silly little adventure started with me thinking that there actually might be some way for me to make it down to Nashville for David Baker's 4T extravaganza. I had been working on the SO for about a month preparing her for the possibility of the trip (necessary prep work when you’ve got a 3 yr and a 3.5 month old at home). The prep work finally led to a disgruntled “maybe” which is all I need for an O.K.! Well, things didn’t exactly go as planned since DCB ended up canceling the 4T. Oh well. I dropped him a note saying, rightfully so in my mind, “Where the hell do you get off canceling this thing when I’ve finally managed to cajole and fatigue my SO into a maybe?!?!?”

 

DCB quickly understood the severity of the situation and insisted that if I could still make it down, he would put together a few days of riding that would make it worth my while. I wasn’t completely convinced, but who was I not to call his bluff? So…the cajoling and whining continued as I packed the bike for a scheduled early departure from Westchester, NY on Wednesday, Nov. 19th, which would get me down to Nashville that night, give us Thursday and Friday to ride and then I could leave late Friday for a Saturday, late afternoon return. Sounded like a good plan, except…

 

A company that I’ve been interviewing with (unemployment has its benefits as well as disadvantages) called and insisted that I needed to come back in for another interview on Wednesday. “Alright, as long as it’s first thing on Wednesday!” Quick modification to the plan – departure on Wednesday around 1pm gets me just north of the Smokies (Bristol, VA area) by that night. We could then met up Thursday morning a few hours south (Maryville, TN) and start from there. No problem.

 

Someone forgot to tell Mother Nature that I had a short freakin’ window for this little trip and she better keep her little storm to herself. Well, she decided not to care about my plans, so I decided not to care about her little storm. Mutual disrespect has always worked well for me in the past. So, I got home from my meeting in NYC around noon, finished packing up the bike and headed out in the pouring rain and wind around 1:30 thinking that if I head west first instead of south first, that maybe I could cut through the storm in fairly short order and then have some decent weather. Wrong again. After circumnavigating the NYC area and picking up Rt. 78 West, the rain still hadn’t let up, but it wasn’t that bad either. It wasn’t until I got a little west of Allentown that the wind really started to get bad as well. It whipped up pretty good as evidenced by the strip of wear two-thirds of the way up the left side of my front tire from leaning the bike to the left for hours on end. At least the weather forced many drivers to get off the road, so it was really just me and the Truckers – not that bad – betters my odds.

 

After catching Rt. 81 South and going straight for about forever, I pulled into a McDonald’s around 7:30 pm in Woodstock, VA to grab a bite and give DCB a call to let him know that the rain still hadn’t stopped, so we may have to move our 9:30 a.m. meet time back a bit since I wasn’t so sure I was going to be able to make it all the way down to Bristol before calling it a day – I had already reached my détente with Mother Nature figuring that if I had made it this far, she couldn’t call it a win. The score so far was even in my book since I had endured about seven hours of riding in the pouring rain and wind.

 

A short side note, my gear held up great and I've posted a little review here.

 

I guess she started to feel the same, since as soon as I left the McD’s to head south again, the rain stopped and the stars came out. Beautiful night! I managed to make it to Wytheville, VA, before hitting a Motel 6 for the night. Not quite my goal, but acceptable as far as meeting DCB in the a.m. Total for the afternoon, a tick over 600 miles, most of it in the pouring rain. I slept well.

 

As soon as I put my head down for the night, the alarm went off for my 6:00a.m.wake up and 7:00 departure. I had approx. 3 hours of riding to get down to Maryville for our newly scheduled 10:30 meeting time. The weather was beautiful, but cold…a nice crisp morning where you could clearly see every exhale, but each inhale felt fresh and energizing. Layered to the max and electrics on full tilt, I headed south once again. The scenery this morning and the anticipation of getting to finally ride the Smokies kept me up and charging – that and the 70 mph speed limit in TN, yeah, TN! As I exited Rt. 81 in Knoxville, I realized that I had ridden approximately 800 miles or so since yesterday afternoon and hadn’t once turned the bike! O.K., note to self, at some point today, you might actually have to lean the bike into a corner instead of just against the wind on the highway. smirk.gif

 

I rolled into the meet point at 10:30 on the nose and there, waiting for me, was DCB on his Ducati, Dave Bearden (GTR) on his R1150 RT, and Bill Hawkins (K2R) on his R1150GS. They slabbed out from Nashville that morning to meet me and had just arrived as well. It was nice to meet Dave and Bill in person after exchanging ideas and banter for so long on the DB and DCB apologized to them for having to show a New Yorker around the Smokies for a few days and hoped they wouldn’t have to wait for me too much. wink.gif

 

Here’s where the riding starts.

 

We head south on Rt. 129 a bit through some real pretty country and I re-familiarize myself with the concept of cornering. Feeling pretty good, the chatter on the FRS is entertaining as they’ve obviously all taken it upon themselves to make sure I know as much detail about the area as they do – which was very much appreciated. About 20 minutes to a half-hour into it, DCB announces over the FRS, “Well Voodoo, here’s the official start of Deal's Gap .” And I think he keyed off there, but I swore I heard him say, “see you later!” Well, maybe someone can ask Monty Python what the average road-speed velocity of a fully-laden Bavarian RT is over the tight switchbacks of Deals’ Gap? ‘Cause I sure as hell know now that it’s not even close to that of a well-ridden Ducati ST4s!

 

272309-Deal%5C%27s%20Sign.jpg

O.K. I know I forgot my gold chains and all, but I was hot...

 

Alright, forget DCB and focus on the corners. I hope I’m not holding up Dave and Bill! Don’t forget the corners! Wow, this thing just keeps on going! I’m really having a blast – aside from the fact that my stock shocks decided they’d had enough about a year ago, so my center stand is putting on a nice spark show for Dave and Bill behind me. Can’t really describe that road except to say that I don’t seem to recall being able to think about anything except the next corner (side note: this seemed to end up being the theme of the next day and a half) or getting out of second gear for the whole ride. They told me it was eleven miles of uninterrupted switchbacks, but I guess it just went by in a flash since I remember thinking, “O.K. I’m warmed up now, let’s get into it!” just as I got to the end. I guess my mind and my body were in two different places for a bit however because as I got down to the gas station/restaurant/cycle shop at the end of the ride, and noticed DCB finishing up his Latte as he waited for us wink.gif I realized that I had about sweated through all of my layers. Nice warm up!

 

272310-DCB%20Waiting.jpg

 

We continued south east on Rt. 28, another beautiful road w/ a nice mix of tight turns and faster sweepers until we got to Franklin, NC (I think – correct me if I’m wrong) and stopped for lunch. DCB can go into more details on the roads here, as I was just following and enjoying the scenery, but I couldn’t help notice that the roads were in amazing condition (especially by NY standards) and there were so many consistently great turns. Up in the North East, you ride all afternoon for “just a few” great corners. Down here, they were ALL great corners AND great views.

 

272311-Waterfall.jpg

 

Lunch was nice and relaxing as I reviewed the morning ride mentally. I had ridden all day in the rain the day before, and all of a sudden, it was all worth it. I couldn’t keep the smile off my face and I think the nice Southern waitress was starting to get a bit worried about me. After a great bbq sandwich for lunch topped of with some coconut cream pie for dessert, I felt nice a light and ready for the rest of the day. wink.gif

 

From there, Dave Bearden took the lead and we headed out Rt. 64, hung a left on Rt 215 North. It’s just great watching someone ride an RT as smoothly and swiftly as Dave. No commotion, just fluid speed. Brilliant. At Rt. 215, Bill took the lead and I slotted in behind him. Bill had been complaining of a leg cramp so I figured I could relax a bit and enjoy the scenery up 215. Here’s a little hint – never play poker w/ Bill Hawkins! His little, “oh my leg’s buggin’ me” crap was one of the best bluffs I’d ever heard . He takes off and I hear DCB over the FRS, “Dave, I think Bill’s coming alive?!” He wasn’t kidding. Bill takes off on the GS and starts flicking that thing from side to side like Trinity running the Key Maker up the highway on the wrong side of the road in Matrix Reloaded.

 

Our original plan was to ride 215 all the way up to 276 and then loop back down to the Blue Ridge Parkway, but based on our heavy breathing and darkening skies due to our later start time, we wanted to get to Maggie Valley – our stop over for the night - before it got too dark. So, we hung a left on the BRP half way up 215, and pulled into a turn out so Bill could do a little adjusting for his sore leg – (my ass!).

 

I followed DCB out from the turn out. The road was spectacular and the mood was right (I think Barry White was playing on the iPod), and we went hard. Where Deal’s Gap was tight, 2nd gear switchbacks, the BRP was fast 3rd and 4th gear sweepers. I was thoroughly warmed up, in the groove. Gator liked the BRP a lot since it was nice and smooth and didn’t demand a hell of a lot from her rear shock. My goal this time was to keep the tail lights of the ST4s in view. DCB took off and Gator was in hot pursuit. Talk about a flow! This was the best ride I’d had in years. Turn in w/ the power on and Gator was real happy, and back to full throttle by the apex. My job was to hang off enough that her center stand didn’t touch down and make sure I was looking where we had to go and her job was to get us there ten minutes ago. Stay loose on the bars and the world just flowed by my knees and elbows, smoothly and quickly. Tighten up and she’d smack me in the face with an exit point wake up call. We made peace with each other pretty quickly, hung out at the redline of third and fourth for about twenty minutes and stayed as close to the Duc as we could. We grabbed another turn out about halfway through, caught our breath and relaxed the rest of the way up the BRP since the sun had now started setting directly in our eyes.

 

272308-BRP%20View.jpg

 

We hung a right on Rt. 19 and headed into Maggie Valley for a great dinner and passed out.

 

Schedule change # whatever. It seems my originally modified plan to return home on Saturday afternoon once again needed to be changed since the SO had decided that that just wouldn’t do. So, a return time of Friday night was offered and accepted under duress. That meant an early departure on Friday a.m. from Maggie Valley so I could still run the Cherohala before heading north again.

 

The 6 a.m. departure from Maggie Valley was COLD. Temps in the low 30’s meant, once again, everything I owned was on w/ Gerbings on high. I think we headed South West on Rt. 19 (we were off the planned route at this point due to the time modifications and I was jut following) and into Robbinsville for breakfast - another great meal, except for the fact that DCB kept trying to take all of our grits. I had been having a bit of trouble with my side stand switch, but I think the cold made it worse for some reason. After fueling before breakfast, I really had to slam that side stand around a few times to get the bike to start. It warmed a bit after breakfast and we headed over to the Cherohala for a morning blast through the mountains.

 

Whoever decided to build roads like this should have a national holiday named after them! If you’ve never experienced this road, according the website, it’s on of NC’c most expensive highways and it goes absolutely nowhere! Here’s the snippet:

 

WARNING: THE CHEROHALA, WITH ITS SWEEPING CURVES, WILL TEMP YOU TO RIDE FASTER. THEN YOU WILL BE IN ONE OF THE TIGHTER CURVES WITH TOO MUCH SPEED. DEATH AND SERIOUS INJURY CAN RESULT. PLEASE SLOW DOWN

 

Well, we managed to avoid the death and serious injury part and truly had a fantastic ride. I really can’t describe how perfect a riding road this is. You’ll just have to go ride it yourself. Very similar to the BRP in speed and style, it just winds across the tops of the mountains with great sight lines and a fantastic mix of corners. Just a great “morning ride!”

 

From Tellico Plains, we headed north on Rt 360, to Rt 411 and back into Maryville, TN by 10:30 a.m., where we had met the morning before at the same time. I got off Gator and bowed several times a la Wayne's World and not being worthy of enjoying such tremendous riding over 24 hours.

 

I bid adieu to Dave, Dave and Bill and headed north forever. Just under 800 miles to go from there. The weather for the ride back was world’s better than the ride down and the ride started in a fairly uneventful fashion. I was on schedule for a 9pm return to Armonk, NY. However, around 6:30 p.m., somewhere just south of Harrisburg, PA, on Rt 81 N, a trucker decided that it would be a good idea to flip his rig over onto a small vehicle carrying several occupants. They closed Rt. 81 down and it caused a 17 mile backup. I split up the lanes for a bit before realizing that I was really just delaying the inevitable and finally re-routed through some back roads that ended up setting me back about an hour and a half or so – not really what I wanted to be dealing with after being in the saddle since 6 a.m.

 

In addition, my side stand really started acting up and almost stranded me in the middle of VA. I heard the banjos playing wink.gif and thrashed that mutha until I got the bike started again. So, that meant that I didn’t dare turn the bike off for the last two fill ups. Hop off in neutral, pop it up onto the center stand, fuel and go. Worked for me.

 

All in all, I managed to roll in around 11pm with just over another 1,900 miles on the odo and two and a half days of riding. The beginning of the trip was not the most enjoyable ride I’d ever done, but spending the next day and half in some of the best roads in the country with three other riders who rode like the wind was one of the best times I’ve ever had on a bike. Now I gotta go peal some Tupperware of Gator and see If I still have any of my center stand left.

 

I'm sure I've left out a bunch of details, but I'll leave that to DCB, Dave and Bill to fill in.

 

I've attached copies of the originally planned routes. We didn't ride these exactly due to time constraints that I mentioned above, however anyone who has time to head down there, should hold onto these.

272314-Smokies.zip

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Marty Hill

Way to go voodoo. What a story and great pics. Sorry you couldn't stay longer.

 

The waterfall that you were under...my cabin was about 1 block above it. Highlands is really beautiful coming in on 64 from the west. grin.gif

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Biff Motor Works

Sounds like a great ride grin.gifgrin.gif Good thing the FRS went off in the curves, I like to hear myself and the bike while on roads like that wink.gif

Biff...

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StretchMark

Great tale Voodoo! It's really fun to hear people's first impressions of these roads. Sounds like you hit many of the fantastic roads we hit during El Paseo II.

 

We (Christine (Hoontang), Andy Raye(DuluthRooster), Chris Kinney (ChrisK) and Randy Como)) got a little greedy and tried to sneak in one more Cherohala run this year only to find it covered in ice way before we got to the summit.

 

Start working on the SO for El Paseo in April:)

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Mark Menard (Vita Rara)

Dave,

 

Great write up! You make me want to pack the bike and head south. It really is some of the best riding to be had. They just don't make roads like that in New York.

 

Funny thing I also aim for Bristol, VA on day one when I head down there. We should hook up and ride down to El Paseo in the spring.

 

Mark

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ChrisNYC

Great ride and writeup, voodoo ... you packed quite a bit of great riding into that short time away from home. Thanks for sharing it with your internet lovers 158745-wink.gif ...

 

 

------------------

Chris (aka Tender Vittles),

Little '77 KZ400 in the Big Apple

Black '99 RT for Everywhere Else, such as my Unrally Loop...

253257-unrally03.gif

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Jake

Nice tale, VV. What a wonderful area that is.

 

I made the same mistake as you and got caught up in The Tennessee Vortex a time or two. Baker in the Gap, then later it was Hawkins and Baker in N. Georgia. I should have put out the warning flags for others not to follow. Sorry, my bad! Fortunately I didn't get the F3 treatment which would have involved Bearden, and likely, my maker.

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JungleJim

Nice report and glad you made it home safe and almost sound.

 

Man, those roads are not to be believed to us up in the Northeast and other parts of the great USA. The local governments there should charge extra sin-taxes to all those owning bikes down there. It's a sin to live so close and be able to ride those nice roads. I can't wait to get down there again.

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Mjames

I realized that I had ridden approximately 800 miles or so since yesterday afternoon and hadn’t once turned the bike!

 

I wasn't jealous until I read that part. Nice report.

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Kathy R

I realized that I had ridden approximately 800 miles or so since yesterday afternoon and hadn’t once turned the bike!

 

I wasn't jealous until I read that part. Nice report.

 

I was jealous from the moment I read the title of the thread. I'm so glad you got that ride David. Now, you have all winter to savor it. Sweet!

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BPeterson

Nice report David - glad you were able to make it away for a few days, I still don't know what you say to your wife that she lets you go away with a 3yr and 3.5 month old at home!!

 

Glad you're home safe - and good luck w/the job search. smile.gif

 

 

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David

Voodoo, I'm so glad this worked out. On our end, we put in just under 800 miles in a day and a half. On the way back, after we parted ways, I said to Hawkins and Bearden: "you know, we ought to do this more often--it's not that hard to find a day and a half in a schedule."

 

There is ice in them thar hills, as Mark mentioned, but our winters are seldom obnoxious and there's always some opportunity to ride.

 

I remember my very first ride over there. I was by myself, having just purchased the RT. I didn't know another soul who rode. Went over in a t-shirt and jeans, froze my ass off, and had a great time. I found a little hotel in Townsend and just sat outside my room looking east toward the mountains.

 

When you called to move our meeting time to an hour later than originally planned, I was actually glad. That meant that we could leave at 6a instead of 5a, and it was pretty cold. Not quite as cold as that morning in Maggie Valley, though. I didn't bring a bike cover and had to scrape thick frost off my seat. smile.gif Maybe that's why we didn't see any other bikes that morning.

 

I was having fun on Deal's Gap, I think because I'd been preparing for it mentally. Bill and I tried to pass that old airhead during El Paseo, and got our learner's permits handed back to us with a tsk tsk. So, with no traffic and a clear road, I felt "in the groove" and was able to concentrate. That might have been my best run through there. I honestly don't enjoy it during the busy weekends, because it's more about "you against the bikes" vs. our trip, where it's more like "you against the road."

 

I never know what it's going to be like to ride with someone in the Smokies. It's some of the most technical riding you can find. I'd ridden with (er, behind) you at Laguna Seca, so I actually wasn't worried about it. But Bearden and Hawkins and I have ridden so much together (as you can tell from the frequent radio nonsense) that we kind of take it for granted. But you are just a great rider, and I still can't believe how you adapted a style to those challenging roads. You were doing some great work with a mix of firm control, smooth inputs, safe passes, appropriate speeds for the surface, etc. It's a hoot to see someone hanging off an RT.

 

You did leave out one part that I still laugh about whenever I think about it. You may remember when Hawkins was leading up 215. He'd stretched out quite a bit ahead of us (part of what we do is ride at our own pace--sometimes an individual is fast, and sometimes he's not, and that's okay), so much so that the FRS was a little scratchy. He was announcing changing road conditions, and came across gravel.

 

And here's what we hear from Bill: "Gravel in the right hander. MORE GRAVEL in the road! WATCH THE GRAV..." [then silence].

 

For a nanosecond I thought he'd quit transmitting for a reason I didn't want to find out about, but then when he came back on the radio, I laughed so hard I cried.

 

We also had a wonderful dinner that first night at the Salty Dog's. Though we could have split two orders of that fish instead of getting one for each of us.

 

And finally, it was fun to swap bikes on 360. I kept up with you all, but I sure was working harder! It actually inspired me to get back on the RT this weekend. Only difference is that I have good shocks and you, well, you just don't! smile.gif

 

Thanks again for coming. I had a wonderful time, too. There's just nothing like riding with friends.

 

As Rita Vara said, plan on joining us for El Paseo in April.

 

Mark Davis: thanks for the invite this weekend. Let me know when you try again and I'll be there if I can make it.

 

Jake: Let's do it again, eh?

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itchybro

David,

You mentioned the guy on the old airhead. How this for a bizarre sighting:

 

While standing at the "Crossroads of Time" looking up toward the Tennessee side last weekend (that last curve you can see from there) I saw a red blur whip around at an amazing speed. It turned out to a VFR800 pulling a uni-go!

 

He pulled in and greeted us politely while unhooking all his electric gear and proceeded to begin hauling cookies and Krispy Kremes from the uni-go. Apparently he works there!

 

I'd hate to try and keep up with that Doughnut hauler.

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1st Shirt

Really nice trip report and great pictures. I too am glad that all worked out and that your home safe and sound. (LOT'S of responsibility with those two young "riders to be" at home) It's really nice that this late in the season you had the chance to get out and enjoy. (but then it's 74 here today, headed for SanDiego tomorrow tongue.gif)

 

I also like David's thought - It's not that hard to get one and a half days in to ride. I'm going to print that out and start "cajoling" the SO right away grin.gif

 

Thanks for the great report!

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Art..

Nice report dood. I am very jealous.

 

 

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AdventurePoser

Voodoo,

 

Great story and pix. YOU are the man!

 

Steve

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Tom02RT

Dave ...

 

Great tale and nice pictures. For some reason living in the midwest I've never thought of heading to the southeast for great rides. I've always been inclined to head west from Omaha. Now I have another place on my list of "places to ride".

 

Thanks for sharing.

 

(PS ... did you do all that typing in the little box? Or did you copy and paste?)

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Voodoo
I should have put out the warning flags for others not to follow. Fortunately I didn't get the F3 treatment which would have involved Bearden, and likely, my maker.

 

Jake, you're right on there. Concentration was the name of the game but it was worth it.

 

You did leave out one part that I still laugh about whenever I think about it: And here's what we hear from Bill: "Gravel in the right hander. MORE GRAVEL in the road! WATCH THE GRAV..." [then silence].

 

I did forget about that - but that was easily the funniest part of the trip! I also remember that he was soo far ahead at the time, I'm sitting there thinking, "which freakin' corner is he even talking about?!?!" Sore leg...right.

 

It turned out to a VFR800 pulling a uni-go!

 

Phil, that's funny 'cause we ran into him at the Crossroads as well. Nice guy.

 

(PS ... did you do all that typing in the little box? Or did you copy and paste?)

 

Tom...copy and paste my friend. wink.gif

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Fla.Mike

Great story VooDoo. Yer right, a maybe is as good as a yes in my house. Sounds like a great trip. Just remember this, if it had been nice and sunny the whole trip it wouldn't make as good a story. I sure you wasn't thinking that as you was gettin rained on!

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BMWGreenRT

Nice report Voodoo...so I see how this is going to be....you come all the way down here and don't even let me know about it...gee...guess you forgot my email address wink.gif , just wait til you want to come and stay for awhile, I may be tempted to give your room to marty or Brian instead grin.gif

Wait til I get back up there later this month, you will be catching hell from me if we meet up cool.gif

 

Glad you had a good time though!

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