#HOGWild18: Day 4 – Knoxville to Pigeon Forge, Gatlinburg, Tennessee & Asheville, North Carolina

Leave Me Alone

Day 4 was scheduled to be a low-key day of travel through the Smokey Mountains with only about 120 miles of biking. Leah hadn’t slept well since we’d left, so she said sleeping late was her goal. By late, I assumed she meant about 9:00am. I was incorrect.

I was up at 8:00am and gave her my usual morning rally cry, “Let’s roll.”

Unfazed, and with covers, pillows and an arm covering her face, she replied as usual, “Leave me alone.”

So around 11:00am, I tried again. It worked. Kinda. But we did beat the 1:00pm checkout. But not by much. To be fair, she said a Charlie horse had slowed her down. Honestly, I don’t recall hearing any screams associated with a cramp.

Sweet Surprise

The moment we pulled into Pigeon Forge, we felt the positive energy. Neither of us had ever been to this area, but have heard from so many friends how wonderful it is. They weren’t kidding. The streets were full of motorcycles, Jeeps and families loaded down with camping and recreation equipment.

I’m not sure where my mind was, but it never dawned on me that Dollywood was located here. We saw the sign for Dollywood Boulevard, and like a lightening bolt, I realized we were close. And just like that, there it was in all of its glory; Dollywood.

Now I’m not a big Dolly Parton fan, but you have to appreciate all that she has accomplished and the Americana of it all. I guess Dollywood has found its place in our cultural lore, so it was a nice surprise to see it.

We drove through Pigeon Forge looking for the Rocky Top Harley Davidson shop. The main street was lined with multi-level go-kart race tracks, putt putt golf and tons of family fun activities. We can’t wait to bring the kids here for a vacation.

Of course, Leah and I are crazy competitive. Last summer we spent about $500 bucks racing each other around a 3-story wooden go-kart race track. It wasn’t pretty, and the kids were starving by the time we stopped. But it was a great opportunity for them to learn patience. And sometimes that we talk smack to each other. I won every race that day.

Great Recommendation

Leah had asked on Facebook about places to eat lunch. Several very wise sages recommended the Old Mill restaurant. We found a great parking spot and hustled over to be seated immediately. I’d like to think Dolly was in the kitchen making us some fixin’s.

It drives my bride crazy that no matter where we eat, about 95% of the time, I order grilled chicken. Well, she wanted to show me, so she ordered the chicken too. The special southern fried chicken. I don’t know if it was good, but from the look on her face, I really do think Dolly had magically prepared that meal with her own sweet fingers.

Down The Road

After a stop at the Harley shop, we headed down the road to Gatlinburg. Like Pigeon Forge, it had a very unique vibe, but very different from where we just were. The traffic along the quaint downtown street was jam-packed with bikers and pedestrians.

Balancing a big bike with a full load, and two adults in super slow, two-way traffic with people darting back and forth is a challenge. I mean a real challenge. My poor clutch and patience were worn out by the time I squeaked through a red light to get a little space from the rest.

Of course we had to stop at the Hill Billy Harley Davidson before heading out-of-town. Last year we bought t-shirts from every town’s Harley shop as is a tradition. This year, we smartly only bought the plastic poker chips with the shop’s name.

The Big Climb

Heading into the Great Smokey Mountains, there was a gentle sweeping of roads that allowed brilliant glimpses of massive vistas. We climbed the Rockies last summer, and there is a definite difference between the two majestic ranges. Today seemed more graceful and lush. It was so beautiful, that I completely lost track of how high or how far we’d travelled.

When Both Are Mediums

Once we coasted off the mountain, we came into a very cool town called, Cherokee, North Carolina. As we prepared to re-enter another stretch of curved mountain roadway, Leah “claimed” to have felt a rain drop. A trick I’ve learned to check for driving into rain, is to watch the vehicles coming toward you from that direction. If their vehicles are wet, it’s raining up the road. If their windshield wipers are on, it’s raining very close and we’re about to get wet.

Leah’s miracle rain drop was the only atmospheric moisture in the tri-state area. Of course, that meant we had to skid to a stop so she could slip on her impermeable rain suit. I handed her the pants, but they didn’t meet her standard, so I  I handed her another pair of medium rain pants. How could they both be a size medium?

I shoved my hand back in the designated rain-suit bag, and there were no more options. Oddly enough, both of her rain suits were packed, and zero of mine. As if I wasn’t about to lose it, she assured me it was okay because she only needed the one pair. I think bears fainted at my mountainous roar.

Beloved Asheville

Leah and I stumbled across this city a few years back by complete accident. We fell in love and stayed a few more days. We’ve agreed that we’ll buy a home here one day as a vacation / retirement property. Every time we mention Asheville to others, they respond with as much enthusiasm about it as we share.

I think I scare people in this gentle city, but Leah helps balance the effect. Of course the staff at the Village Wayside were very cool and helped us enjoy a super supper after a wonderful day. My biker beard has slipped over to the other side and is in a zone I like to think of as in desperate need of a shave. But, I committed to the effort because actually, I have no idea.

It’s nice to have gotten a few hours to do nothing tonight, but lay in bed. Tomorrow is another day in the mountains. We’re starting on the Blue Ridge Parkway and possibly heading to Boone, North Carolina. I did a bicycle race there called Blood, Sweat & Gears – a 100 mile race through the mountains, and Samaritan’s Purse is headquartered there. It’s the home of Franklin & Billy Graham ministries.

We appreciate you keeping us in your prayers,

Scott & Leah  

#HOGWild18: Day 3 – Memphis to Knoxville, Tennessee

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The alarm went off this morning at 8:30. I pretended I didn’t hear it. I was exhausted after our day-long ride the previous day, plus all of the anniversary-ing. Scott really knows how to party.

I was dreading today’s ride because I knew it was going to be a long one. And the temperature was just shy of Satan’s armpit. Needless to say, we spent a little extra time in prayer this morning before heading out. You can see from the picture below that it helped immensely.

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That’s Scott’s, “How do I get out of this?” face. Don’t worry. He figured it out, and we loaded up the bike and prepared to make the long trip to Knoxville. We made this video. I still wasn’t quite awake.

 

As I’m prone to do, I like to have a plan for the day. Before we were struck down with contractors and sickness, I had the most beautiful schedule ever created. I had routes mapped and hotels booked. I was still able to use some of my hard work, but I’ve had to make a plan on the fly the last few days.

The first leg of the journey took us to Shiloh Battlefield National Park. Once we got off the highway and into the park area, there was a nice breeze and ample cloud cover. I said a lot of, “Thank you, Jesus,” when those clouds came over. Because it was hot.

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We made our way toward the visitor’s center so I could reprogram the GPS to take us to our next destination. When we got off the bike, I noticed the cemetery just across the way from us. I decided it was worth a picture since we’re sharing our adventures with you. Scott told me he wasn’t waiting.

So of course I walked across the parking lot and down a little slope to take this picture.

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It took less than two minutes, but when I returned to the parking lot, the sound of the motorcycle was already in the distance. One of us thought that was hilarious. I was not the one.

Because I’m not a dummy, I went into the air conditioned Visitor’s Center and waited for Scott’s return. You’ll be glad to know he did return, but what he didn’t realize was that he’d re-started the GPS I’d programmed for our next destination.

An hour-and-a-half later, I realized that something wasn’t quite right with our location, but by then it was too late to turn around and make it to our next stop. I’ll confess I was aggravated, hot, and hangry (because it was after 2:00 and we’d not had anything but water all day).

Fortunately, Scott read the signals very clearly and found a McDonald’s stat.

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This is a picture of Scott AFTER we ate. We were both in much better moods.

We made an executive decision to just get to Knoxville as quickly as we could, and abandon any and all backroads and scenery the rest of the way. So we set out on the remaining four-and-a-half hour trip.

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(After I had my Big-Mac the clouds came again and the temperatures cooled, so the smile came a little easier).

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It was a gorgeous ride, but there was nothing better than finally seeing the Knoxville skyline. We’ve both been to Knoxville before, but I somehow missed the fact that they have a mini Reunion Tower. (For those of you who aren’t from Dallas, it’s the big ball in the Dallas Skyline)

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We checked into the hotel, showered, and went down to the restaurant to grab a bite to eat (and have dessert). Scott took a picture of both of us together in the elevator, but I didn’t look good in it, so I vetoed posting it for this blog.

The next couple of days we’ve got some more laid back mountain rides ahead of us as we head into Asheville, North Carolina. The important thing is we get to sleep late in the morning, so don’t text us early, okay?

Until Tomorrow,

Leah and Scott

 

#HOGWild18: Day 2 – El Dorado, Arkansas to Memphis, Tennessee

We spent our honeymoon a few years ago bicycling from San Fransisco through Sonoma County wine country and along the PCH until we reached Healdsburg, California.

As a long time road cyclist, I loved it. Leah, who was not a fan of cycling, actually passed out on the first day’s first serious climb. But, she did survive to go on and finish the tour.

I later asked her why in the world would she book a trip like that if she hated cycling, and had spent about the sum total of zero hours training for it. She said, “Because you love it and I love you.” Okay, point made.

Fast forward to today, and we spent our anniversary on a motorcycle during sun-soaked hours while cruising along the scenic highway toward El Dorado, Arkansas to Memphis, Tennessee. Good news is, although Leah is sunburned, she didn’t pass out; yet.

Oh, and before you get too worried, we did find a Cracker Barrel in Arkadelphia by lunch.

The ride to Memphis was a mixture of winding back roads and 18-wheeler in left and right lanes interstates. It got brutal for a few hours, but the goal was Beale Street and BBQ by night.

Memphis is a very cool, but confusing city. There’s a giant, Egyptian pyramid in the downtown area. It’s a Bass Pro Shop. Now, I’m not complaining, but it’s a Bass Pro Shop!!! 

Okay, back to the run up to the Bass Pro Shop. Traveling cross-country is incredible because you never know what you’ll find. One turn reveals a lake and old train tracks, while another offers sweeping vistas or ancient swamps peaking from the thicket of trees and foliage.

A quick turn Downtown, USA and charming southern homes stand guard over historical buildings and long-ago signage weathered by time and progress.

It’s America, and it’s breathtaking.

Well, it had to happen eventually. Tennessee is a helmet law state, so we swept into a parking lot before the state line to don our new summer bonnets. I was glad because it was a break from the sun bouncing off my noggin. Sure, it was coated with high SPF sunscreen, but it’s still sun.

These are the thinnest, lightest official DOT helmets made. Oddly enough the brand name is Badass Helmets. They also come with a big sticker that reads the same for your helmet. Leah tried to sneak it on mine, but I caught her. She’s tricky, but not that tricky.

Looking at this picture, I realize that my biker beard is ridiculously out of control. But I committed to it, so that rug is staying put until we get home. If you’ll look close at Leah’s eyewear, they are big, bug glasses I bought her in Biloxi for one dollar. They look cute on her.

Folks, I’m going to get serious with you for a moment. if there are kids in the room, you might want to send them away.

Now y’all know it was our wedding anniversary, so I promised my bride I’d take her anywhere she wanted to eat. As long as it was within walking distance, and I wasn’t wearing pants. Shorts yes, more pants, no. Also, we’re a block off Beale Street, so there are lots of options.

We returned to our favorite spot called Rendezvous BBQ. If you’ve ever eaten here, you know how weird it is to walk down an alley, squeeze past the giant dumpster, and walk into a basement. I know, if we were giving directions to our kids, they’d think we hated them. But this place is worth the odd obstacles.

I had chicken breast. My carnivore had meat.

After this amazing experience, she stopped to mug in front of the iconic Peabody, and then onto Beale Street for a quick walk before zipping back to our room to “type” this up!!

Sorry, we missed the march of the ducks at the Peabody.

Ha! I just saw the guy taking our pic as I was taking this. Or he was taking a selfie. Who knows.  So we headed back to the room to rest up for day 3. It’s about a 600 mile day, and while we’ve regularly knocked those out, still recouping from a virus and the extreme heat, might have better sense cutting the day off in Nashville instead of our goal of Knoxville.

And off course, what’s a trip to Memphis without running into the King.

Do Good,

Scott & Leah