2002 Fall Adventure Ride

       Well last year, the same 4 of us did the "Fall 650 Adventure Ride" to Arkansas at this same time of year and we were all on 650's. But one guy went and bought one of those "Big Dogs" so I can't call it the 650 ride this year. But maybe next year----as after this ride the "Tic" got one too---so we are taking over, one more Big Dog and we can call it the "Big Dog" ride-----with apologizes to the famous Colorado ride.

    So what's the criteria-----9 days of backroad adventure touring in the Appalachian mountains---trying not to ride on any roads that we have been on before---avoiding tourist traps (Gatlinburg, Cherokee, Nascar Race Tracks :), Large Towns, Medium Towns, Blue Ridge Parkway etc.---sorry people--yes, I added it to my ever growing tourist trap list years ago YMMV) ----ending up in Potosi, Missouri at our favorite BMW rally, the "Falling Leaf Rally".



      We were all excited about this trip and were up and on our way before the sun came up. Kenny Gibbons (DR650)---it is so modified I don't even think it could be called a Suzuki anymore :). Mark Sampson (R1150GS--"Big Dog"). Rodney King "The Tic" (BMW 650 Dakar). Jay Grafton (BMW650)-----Jay is not pictured as he was too busy fixing Harleys at Dales Harley Davidson where he is the service manager. I'm not going to go into why he works at a Harley shop and owns 2 BMW's----not for a minute---not for a second--no--not---nadda----nine--nope--un-huh-----you figure it out!! He met up with us in Burkesville, Kentucky after he got off work.

      We headed Southeast out of Mt. Vernon, Illinois and crossed into Kentucky on this bridge in Old Shawneetown, Illinois. This is a very historic and old river town that has been flooded out by the Ohio river more times than people want to remember. The old town remains, but they moved the town officially many miles West out of the flood plain. The old town has been known for all my life as a good place to have a beer----no---have many beers--no--have way too many beers--get drunk--get into a fight----and have you juggler vein adjusted----all after you told your wife you went fishing !!!!   
       This is the old bank in Old Shawneetown and has been under constant restoration. It has been slow as money for the project constantly runs out I'm told.

      I also have been told that some ontrapanuurss (hell, I ain't even going to try to spell that one) from up North borrowed money to finance what is presently known as "Chicago". 

     There are a few other really neat old buildings in this town, but you better hurry, cause they are falling down as we speak !!!! I suppose we are illegally parked in this picture---but I am famous for illegal procedures.

       We are heading for Burkesville, Kentucky and have really gotten off the touristy beaten path as you can see. No---we didn't go thru this creek---we went over the new bridge as it was way to deep. The adventure begins !!!



        We found some really great little traveled backroads. This one wound along the Cumberland river. It was a beautiful ride----we eventually dipped down into Tennessee.
       This is an old abandoned bridge that is about 5- 600 ft. across and is still in fine condition for adventure touring----however it has been closed for traffic for many years. We had to maneuver around a big concrete barricade to get to it. And it has its history too I'm sure---one thing---The opening scene of the movie "The Green Mile" with Tom Hanks was shot on this bridge not too many years ago. I have a fettish---it you want to call it that for these old bridges. I love each and every one of them as some day they will be all gone---however I guess I will be gone before some of them I suppose.  It is located off of Stonewall Club Springs Road over the Caney Fork river about 3.2 miles straight West of Buffalo Valley Tennessee. Good luck finding it--as it is unmarked and you must find an obscure turnoff down a steep embankment to get to it. I have GPS coordinates for everywhere I go if somebody wants them.
      After about 385 miles of fun we end up in Burkesville Kentucky, home of the European BMW rally every spring. We went to the top of the nearest mountain and stayed in the Alpine Lodge you see hear which overlooked Burkesville. We asked for a room for 4 (we would regret later having all 4 of us in the same room)--and were treated to a 4,000 square ft. house which used to be the home of the original owners of this lodge, which was built in the 50's I think. I couldn't take a picture of it as it was hanging off the side of the mountain and the front yard was a 1,000 ft. sheer cliff--well they didn't have to mow the yard did they !!
       Life is so tuff on the adventurous roads we traveled. The water in this hot tub was way too hot for me and I had to bail out very quickly. Bitch, bitch, bitch !! Most people that know me (on the left), would say the bubbles in this picture were caused by something other than the hot tub water pump. More on that later.

       Such a neat place for our first night out-----it had many bedrooms and several bathrooms, one of which was about half as big as my house. The big one was Jays bathroom by his bedroom and I went in there and done my duty and went back to my bedroom----take that boys !!!!! It had a huge big screen TV--we hid the remote control from "Nascar Rodney" but he found it !!!! It also had a huge stone fireplace. About $120 a night--pretty nice.


     After a nice breakfast at "The Corner Pool" restaurant in Burkesville ( I think it used to be a pool hall) we headed West toward the highest mountain in Kentucky. None of us had ever been there. Here we are on a beautiful mountain road and found this neat rock with a spring below it. It was a nice cool day so far.

         Oh yeah--------it's digital image time.
      Just West of Black Mountain (the highest point in Kentucky) on route 179, I had intended to ride Black Mountain Ridge Road up to the peak. When we found it it turned out to be a rough jeep road with some mud-----after looking at it it was decided that the "Big Dog" (or as some call it "The Big Pig") might get in over its head. So me and Jay went around and met Rodney and Kenny at the peak. Turned out----Kenny said it wasn't that bad and "Big Dog" could have made it thru. Here is Kenny on that road------a pretty sight.
     We then headed South on route 160 thru Appalacia, then West on 68 along Pigeon Creek, thru Rawhide on county road 606-----then South over Pennington Gap and down into the town of Pennington Gap where we unloaded our tents again into room 129----ooohhhh--a number to remember on this ride.

    We got 2 rooms that night as the snoring was getting to be intolerable.


         Ok------how can a pack of Harleys catch up to 4 experienced adventure travelers.

        We blew by a bunch of them a few miles back up the road but they caught us here.

   We headed South on 70 from Pennington Gap toward Greeneville on this lonely mountain road.

     It was trying to rain on us----but just managed a mist and fog. But---it was so beautiful as the low clouds were just hanging around down in the lush green valleys.

       I suppose some people would stay home on a day like this but we were enjoying the different view and it was a nice 75. Here is Kenny's famous "Morphadite" bike!!!  Parts from near and far have been bolted to this bike. It made a 3,500 miles jaunt from Mexico, Missouri to Kansas, South Dakota, Montana, Colorado, New Mexico, Texas, and Arkansas this summer----with a lot of trail riding thrown in after lowering his gearing. Not to mention his conquering the famous "Grand Canyon or Bust" ride from Moab, Utah to the North Rim----sheeeeshhh Kenny--give us a break--we can't keep up !!!!
        About 14 miles West of Greeneville, Tennessee on route 348 there is this poor little covered bridge spanning the Little Chucky creek. I say poor because this little guy can't be long for the world if somebody doesn't help him out. You can't see it in this picture, but the other end of it has sagged about 2 feet. and it is seriously bowed in the middle. There are very few covered bridges in Tennessee left and this ones days are numbered.

      Another thing you can't tell in this picture is that it is pouring down rain.

     About 30 miles Southwest of the above covered bridge we found this one. It was in superb shape and here is "Big Dog" with his 570 watts of blinding lights all turned on----arghhhh--arghhhh--argghh---(Tim Alan Grunt).

      This one is called the Harrisburg covered bridge and is located on Tennessee hwy. 416 about 1.1 miles Southeast of hwy. 411 and spans the East Fork of the Little Pigeon Creek and was built in 1875. I owe all my findings of covered bridges to a fine fellow in Indiana who has a website with nothing but covered bridges and old barns on it-----and guess what---he has all the GPS coordinates for them right there for me. Thank you Dale Travis. There are over 100 covered bridges in Indiana--all of which I hope to see someday. I've seen about 40 of them already.

    We then headed South and East and skirted the edge of the Smoky Mountain National Park. We road on this mountain road in the mist and fog for many miles over, Ivy Gap, Double Gap on by Hazel Top Mountain still going south. We immensely enjoyed this road as we only encountered one or two vehicles the whole time on this mountain road. It looked a little slick and we took our time and enjoyed the ride. This was one of my favorite rides on this trip.
     We finally ended the day at "The Blue Ridge Motorcycle Campground" just North of the Blue Ridge Parkway in Cruso, North Carolina where we unloaded our tents "again" into our nice little cozy camping cabins. Our tents our taking a beating--loading--unloading ....

    I guess you can tell Rodney is having a good time after looking at the grin on his face. We met a bunch of motorcycle travelers here and had a great time talking with them. The people that owned this campground rousted us up a fine dinner before we retired to our bunks.

     We heard they were loading up speeding motorcycles in dump trucks up on the Blue ridge. Had a full load I bet.



     Alright Jay get up-----the sun is gonna be up any minute and we will be burning daylight----you can sleep all you want when your dead !!!!!

      I tried to get a picture of Jay as Rodney pulled the covers off of him in his boxer shorts---but he was on to us.

        We are heading South on route 215 just North of the Blue Ridge Parkway. There was a beautiful waterfall coming down the mountain to my left which ran under this road.
      Just East of Maggie Valley North Carolina we were forced on to the Blue Ridge Parkway for a few short miles to catch the Heintooga Round Bottom Road. This road starts North right up into the Smoky National Park and is East of the crowded highway 441. Rodney looks like a ghost in the background. This is a one-way gravel road over the mountains---there is no room for passing anywhere on this road. There are views of all the Appalachains highest peaks on this road----while traffic jams of people are viewing the same thing on crowded hwy. 441.
        Here we are at "Clingmans Dome"-------the highest peak in Tennessee. We couldn't see anything for the clouds up here. After this we are going to try to find "Parson's Branch Road" straight West of here on a lonely one-way gravel road that takes you back in time by many old log cabins.
      I think everybody on this trip agreed this was our favorite road. We went across about a dozen of these low water crossings---now this is a beautiful ride. There weren't any motor homes on this road. Rodney was blasting his way down this road on his Dakar and went off and left us----Jay was having a hoot too and almost lost it as he tried to get a little air exiting a low water crossing. Funny thing----we came upon an older couple (boy they had to be old to be older than me) on a really pretty shiny full dress Harley. It was a surprise to all of us to see him out there. I stopped to chat with him and they both had a great big grin on their faces and were having a ball---although he admitted he had overloaded himself a little on this road. There was a nice article on this road in AMA magazine is how I found about this road.
      The Parson's Branch road exits right in the middle of the famous 11 twisty miles and 318 turns of Deals gap road. Deals gap----population 6---and one "Big Dog".
        Several riders each year are killed on this road---one crashed while we were staying there at the motel ( I know we haven't camped yet---but were going to). Here is the "Tree of Shame" ---littered with body parts of wrecked motorcycles that didn't survive Deals Gap. There is a gas station, Motel, campground and Motorcycle parts and gear store at Deals Gap. I'm not going to say there is any food there---as there was only some old very bad hotdogs.
        Can you hear the snoring going on in here???? I woke up in the middle of the night and it was like a 3 stooges movie-----I started laughing----some didn't get any sleep they said. We vowed never to do this again.
        I think we rode Deals Gap about 3 times before we left. Here is a beautiful overlook above a huge dam at the North end of Deals Gap road. Kenny was definitely the hot dog on this road on his DR916SS Supersport. He could've passed any of us at anytime. In fact he passed Jay and then stopped so Jay could go by and he could pass him again, essentially humiliating this MSF instructor. We all unloaded our bikes for this race--I mean ride, but we were no match for Kenny.


        From Deals Gap we took 28 East thru Almond--at hwy 74 we headed West and ran along the Natahala river and had a great breakfast overlooking the river. This rive is famous for rafting and kayaking. There are some serious rapids on parts of the river. Jay kayaked on this river once and said he went down a 4ft. drop just West of this bridge. We went and looked at it and it looked like a lot of fun. I would love to come down and do this someday. We spent some time in a good outdoor store here and spent a few hard earned bucks.

     We backtracked a little bit and went South thru Maple springs and rode on a little gravel road on the West side of the Little Tennessee river. We came across this long suspended walking bridge right beside the road and had to walk across it. Look at the river----it is solid rock on the bottom--I never have seen anything like it before. Rodney got to jumping up and down on this thing and damn near thru me over the edge !!! It was like riding a horse. I was coming down and it was going up.
We turned West on another gravel road (1365) which was very narrow and we went around switch back after switchback up and down the mountains over Tellico Gap----this roughly followed Tellico creek. We finally hit hwy. 74 North of Beechertown and crossed this narrow one lane double bridge which spanned the Natahala river.
        I spied this couple coming down the river and hollered that we were from ESPN filming on location and they gave us a big wave. This water is moving very fast and they disappeared quickly down the river. I've got to go down this river. This isn't a lazy river like some I've been on in Missouri.
      We continued for miles along the Natahala River and went passed Natahala Lake and hit some really high speed curvy stuff------I let "Big Dog" loose and was off----I thought I was hot----but here comes Kenny on the DR916 !!!!  We stopped at this waterfall and you can see Rodney trying to get wet. Anything for a picture. Then it was East on 1310--West on 64--South at Chatuge Lake--Somewhere around the lake I think we had barbecue at "The Pitz". What a hoot and what great food. The menu was written in Southern Georgia slang and after commenting to the waitress (who was a lot of fun) that you people in Geooorrrgia didn't know how to spell----she straightened me out without a smile and told me that "while you'all are in Geooorrgia--you will do as we do--and spell as we spell" !!  Yes-----maam .
     My next goal was Brasstown Bald--the highest point in Georgia. But--I wasn't wanting to get there like every one else did. I found a little dirt road heading up the North side of the mountain that nobody seemed to know anything about. We hunted hard for it and came to a locked gate and had to turn back !!!!! So we headed South on Track Rock Road along the West side of the peak. We got to the peak--it was pretty foggy again and we didn't want to hike the mile straight up the mountain to the top so we made a beeline for TWO (two wheels only) campground you see here in Suches, Georgia. I told you we were going to camp didn't I !!!

Rodney and Jay are trying to ignore the fact that I just cut a big fart.

Did he fart again ?????

Oh man, that is disgusting !!!!

Run----he's gonna blow !!!!!


         Inside the lodge at TWO for dinner. We met another adventure traveler at our campsite and he joined us for dinner (at end of table). They brought this huge plate of food out that we could hardly finish---what a great place to kick back and enjoy the end of the day.

        It's kinda weird how they do things at TWO---as long as you stay you just keep running up your tab---don't try to pay-----not until you leave anyway. I think this is probably the oldest running motorcycle only campground and probably the most well know.


         We left TWO early the next morning in the rain and went West on some great mountain roads. Just South of Ellijay, Georgia Rodneys bike quit. In about 5 minutes we found this broken off battery post--it was unrepairable. Too make a long story short---two hours later Rodney had a new battery and was headed for home on the interstate-----home to his lovely new bride which he left to go on this ride 2 weeks after they got married.

      Rodney doesn't have this bike anymore---got the "Big Dog"----Adventure. He's the "Biggest Dog" now !!

       We rode in the rain all day. Not a bad day--just had to go a little slow. We did what I said I'd never do again--------we rode in the rain in the dark for about 3 hours. Visibility wasn't that bad really----but when it started raining very hard, the rain finally soaked thru all of our riding gear and we hit a Motel in Lawrenceburg, Tennessee. Our wet riding gear was drying all over the room. We flipped a coin for who was to sleep on the roll-away------ahh, I got a bed. We had pizza delivered and Jay stayed up and watched an old movie in which Michelle Phifer was suppose to be naked in it when she was very young--- I was tired---"wake me up when she gets naked Jay". He missed it and watched it again---missed it again. Better luck next time----go rent the movie Jay.


      The next morning we headed North toward the Natchez Trace Parkway and found an old gravel and dirt part of the original parkway. When Kenny had a call to nature when stumbled on to this waterfall. I was getting a little wet here---although it looks like I'm getting very wet.

       Jay had left us as he was making a beeline for the BMW rally in Potosi, Missouri.


       We crossed the Mississippi river into Missouri on the Hickman Ferry near Hickman, Kentucky. This ferry isn't that far from my house but I had never heard of it and found out about it right as we left for this trip. It was a very long ferry ride across the Mississippi---much longer than other ferry's I have ridden across this river.
          And when we got to the rally----here is our buddy Roger Hayes doing what he loves----rallying !!!

        Roger doesn't spend all his time in that chair---he has accumulated about 145,000 miles on his Kawasaki Concourse since he bought it new.

         "Big Dog" at the rally. We ate, camped, rode, rallied, rode, drank and ate some more at the rally. It was a beautiful weekend.

All good things must come to an end.

      Tic had went home---Kenny headed North to his home in Mexico, Missouri--Roger was still asleep---Jay was gonna burn up the road straight home---so this lone rider is on this lonely road slowly heading East across the big Mississippi once again ---to my loving wife Debi and my dog JoJo---really Debi's dog but he likes me best :)

Thanks to my friends for putting up with me again !!