Into the Mountains

Since last post I have travelled northeast, through Georgia, and into Tennessee. There has not been too much to write about until recently, when I hit the Great Smoky mountains. Here is my current location.

One last inspirational religious sign from Alabama:

In Georgia I was on a small back road when there was a sign, “ROAD CLOSED–HIGH WATER”. A bit apprehensive, I continued on to check it out. The road just disappeared into a stream about 20 yards wide:

What now?

But the water was only about knee high, and not too cold or fast, so I simply ferried my things over in about 3 trips.

Success!

I spent one night in Chattanooga, TN to get some spare parts for my bike and some maps. It is a nice town. There is a good bike lane which Google maps found for me. Leaving town I hardly saw a car for about 2 hours. Here is part of the bike trail on an elevated bridge.

The Smoky Mountains

I found what I thought would be a nice but somewhat challenging ride through the Great Smoky Mountains in eastern Tennessee. I ended up on what is called the tail of the dragon, said to be the most popular motorcycle road in the country. It boasts 318 turns in 11 miles.

It was a tough climb–4 miles up hill, but the downhill was great. At the top a photographer was taking pics. Here is one he took of me struggling uphill.

I left the dragon’s tail to ascend up on a rough gravel road that was, in fact, gated closed. Well, closed to vehicles. When a road sign says closed I take that as a personal challenge. Being somewhat subversive, I relish the chance to thumb my nose at authority. Don’t tell me where I can go. Nine out of ten times, I can get though. But between the dragon tail and this gravel road, the day was the most strenuous one so far on this trip. I ascended 1300 feet in about six hours. The road was definely impassable for vehicles due to many trees fallen across the road:

But one way or another I managed to get over, under or around the trees.

A couple times I had to portage all my things around a bunch of fallen trees.

I also had to ford several streams. Not too bad, but there is always some uncertainty.

By the end of the day I was totally beat:

Total elevation gain for the day must have been over 2000 feet and distance was 27 miles. I camped out that night and could barely stand up due to exhaustion. Maybe I should get a motorcycle.

The next day a storm came in and it got extremely windy. Sustained winds of 50 mph with gusts up to 90 mph. I zoomed downhill for 7 miles, dodging branches, fallen trees, leaves and debris at 35 mph, while trying not to get blown off my bike. It was crazy but great.

But things got worse. After about an hour several park Rangers drove past and made me stop. They said up the hill there were about 25 trees blown over the road and no one was allowed up there. There were about a dozen cars behind them. I attempted to argue but they would have none of it. I dreaded they thought of riding all the way back to my previous campspot. But then they gave me a left in their pickup truck to a nearby town. It was dangerous–very windy, with trees across the road, rain and cold weather coming. I decided not to fight mother nature. I got a hotel to let it blow over. Sometimes the authorities win.

The plan for the next week is to head mostly east and link up to the Blue Ridge Parkway in North Carolina. It’s been slow so I need to pick up the pace. But these creaky old bones just don’t move like they used to.

3 Responses to “Into the Mountains”

  1. Katrina Szyszkoski says:

    What a beautiful forested area. Hope the bugs weren’t bad. Would be misery with that exhaustion and then have to smack yourself on top of that! You’re looking good Kev! Let’s Skype soon.

  2. steve says:

    I hate to even bring it up but after I read your very first post, I thought “he’s going to wish he brought a power saw”.

    I only walked about 600 feet today (20 feet vertically). Reading your blog helps me feel like I am getting healthier. Consequently, if your knees hold up, I should be feeling great by the time you get here.

    Nice photos and videos, Thanks. Watch out for hoop snakes!

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