Wednesday, December 14, 2016

Day Four: The Devil's Triangle

Day Four: The Devil’s Triangle
Al had heard that the roads for The Devil’s Triangle (http://devilstriangletn.com/) weren’t so great and we had taken it off of our ride list. No sense in doing a route that the roads suck. But, after talking more, he heard that they redid them. And, while we were on our ride on Saturday, someone told us do definitely do the Devil’s Triangle and the roads are great – just watch out for the gravel right past the prison.



With Mike and Susan not getting to Knoxville until about noon, we head out to do this ride. Up 140, turns into 162, which turns into 62 in Oak Ridge over to Oliver Springs. And then we needed to get on 61, but missed that turn. My map didn’t make it clear that there was an extra turn. Then right onto XX to do the Devil’s Triangle (we’re doing it clockwise on this ride). Stopped at a gas station on the way (they sell t-shirts there and if you need gas, get it because it’s over 40 miles to the next gas station). Stop at the Brushy Mountain State Prison (it’s closed and the gates were closed so we didn’t really get to see much – they say that is where James Earl Ray, the man who assassinated Martin Luther King Jr., stayed. He escaped in 1977, but they got him back a couple of days later).







The Devil’s Triangle is a lot of fun. It has really interesting turns and “rolls” and switchbacks. A lot more elevation than Tail of the Dragon. It’s not as well marked with yellow signs as Tail, but pretty good. They tend to put one sign and then not follow up with others in a section. There also are very few guardrails. Like Al had heard, sometimes we’re riding through “Deliverance” home areas and farmland, with their Confederate flags flying. There isn’t a lot of traffic on the road, which is nice with all of the turns and twists.

Note: my camera memory was full, having been trying to video a lot of this. Why there are limited photos here.

On the map is a section titled “Triple Switchback.” Yep, that’s exactly what it is. And no guardrails. Probably not my favorite part of the ride, since they were also downhill (I like uphill more than downhill – probably because I’m not a big fan of heights). At the end of the Triple Switchbacks, there’s a store, Al’s Market. Unfortunately, it’s closed. This is the “haunted” section of the ride, according to my map. We stop at the store. A group of bikers stop afterwards and we chat with them. Jealous because when they pulled up to the prison, someone came and unlocked the gate and let them in. They say it’s going to be turned into a tourist attraction with a bar and restaurant. That’d be cool.

The Devil's Triangle ride is complete. We find that Mike and Susan are at the house and we could meet them somewhere for lunch and do a little more riding. We decide on Golden Girls (wow, they don’t have a website), a southern cuisine place. Chicken fried steak all around, except for me (chicken tenders).


After Mike and Susan catch up and eat, we decide to check out Norris Dam in Lake City, Tennessee. Pretty nice ride, again, nice roads. And, we were able to cross over the dam. We then circle back and to the part of the Devil's Triangle that would have completed the circle (but technically not part of the dam). This part of the ride was definitely pretty simple, but nice. 

Back to the house to get ready for our ride on Monday for Labor Day. 

Day Three: Ride the Tail of the Dragon


Al & Eileen haven’t done the Tail of the Dragon (http://tailofthedragon.com/)  yet. They’ve only had their trike a little bit and have been getting used to it. They’ve put “disco lights” on it. Cup holders. New pipes. New windshield. Etc., etc. More in a month than we’ve even thought of with ours!
We picked a ride that include Tail, plus 28, back up to 129 (there is a part of this that we haven’t done – that includes the dam from the Fugitive – Tony and I like seeing moving sites) then back down 129 over to the Cherohala Parkway (we can’t pronounce it and Tony calls it Chernobyl, and I call it Cheerios) and then back up to home. That’s the game plan. We gas up, grab a bite at McDonalds and off we go, stopping at the Harley Davidson dealership (http://harleydragon.com/ ) right outside the Tail for a pee break.





The Tail of the Dragon is much more enjoyable the second time. We don’t have crutches, we don’t have a chair, and we aren’t loaded up with everything we need for Ashville cabins. Tony and I head out first, then Al and Eileen. Want to make sure they go as fast, or as slow, as they want. 318 turns in 11 miles is a lot. Tony goes a lot fast this time since he’s more comfortable and there isn’t as much weight on the bike. It’s really not that “big of a deal” now that we’ve done it. And, as I read on a blog earlier, getting the Tail done before 11 am is key (we started out around 9 am) before the traffic picks up in both directions.

And then I hear “I think we lost a bell.” (we have two bells on our bike – one that Al & Eileen got us and one that Mike got us when Tony lost his other bell – you aren’t supposed to buy your own). That’s not a good thing since your bell is supposed to protect you from bad things. [Note to self: read up on the bell story.]

And then not a minute later, I hear, “I think we lost our back brakes.”

Tony slowed down for the rest of the Dragon. While there isn’t a lot of elevation, there are a lot of curves. And around the curves there aren’t many guard rails. No back brakes, lots of curves, no guard rails – not good.

We get down to the end of the Dragon without incident to Deal’s Gap (doesn’t have a repair place, but you can buy t-shirts and stuff). Al & Eileen made it down shortly after us. New game plan: there is a repair shop on 129, Wheelers (http://www.wheelersperformance.com/ ), and we can take it there. Means bypassing some of the route, but avoids us having to redo Tail of the Dragon with bad brakes.






Off we go. The Cheoah dam is more impressive in the movie “The Fugitive” with Harrison Ford than in person. Tony thinks that his brakes are feeling better and may have just overheated (something to that affect since I don’t know car/motorcycle terminology) and we don’t really need to stop. We pull over anyway to tell Al & Eileen at Wheelers (gets a lot of business we think – and may have been a really long wait, and possibly expensive).

Off we head to the Cherohala Parkway, it’s about a 50-mile ride and has plenty of curves and elevation. And, it’s chilly. The first stop is only 2000+ in elevation, but it’s going to get to over 5000+. We read about the flying squirrel posts on a sign at our first stop. They can’t fly across the parkway, so they’ve installed these telephone pole looking things so they can fly from one pole to the next (no, we didn’t see any squirrels, but we saw the posts). Nature note: flying squirrels only live at high elevations, which is why they live here.
See those telephone-looking poles. Those are for the flying squirrels.



The North Carolina roads on this ride are in better condition than the Tennessee side, but all in all, pretty nice and smooth ride. Al & Eileen are getting the hang of all of these curves and keeping up (kinda). On my map (yes, the paper kind) shows a deli towards the end of the road, in Tellico Plains, Kat’s Deli (http://tellicokats.com/). We stop there for lunch. It’s nothing special, really small, and the service is pretty slow. But, if you’re not packing a lunch, that’s pretty much it. We enjoy it sitting alongside of a creek.

When it's sunny, always good to have a towel to keep your seat cool.

And then we gas up at the Shell, after getting stuck behind some sort of “Amish” parade (horses and carriages) and head towards Smokey Mountain Harley – we’re going to see if they can look at the brakes and get them fixed late on Friday, so that we don’t have to worry about them on the rest of the trip. The ride to the dealer is relaxing. Weird that you’re riding in hills, then come across lakes with people jet skiing next to farmland.




We get to the dealer and they take us! Have a couple of beers. They are getting set up for a concert that evening. We’re supposed to go, but being at the dealership for a couple of hours, we sent Al & Eileen home while we waited. And then when we got home, bailed on the concert. It was a long day. But, we found out that we only burned out the brake oil and a flush job fixed it. No new pads needed. We’re good to go (and they accidentally did the front brakes as well so we’re even better).

Day Two: Road to Knoxville (continued)


In the morning, we head out to find a Home Depot in Trussville to “rig the trailer lights” back. Found a Lowe’s first and bought wire and reflector tape. Tony and I (I played helper) rewired the one remaining fender in the parking lot. Success. While we only have one light, it works. And the reflector tape helps as well. Hopefully if we get pulled over, the cop will take pity on us. Besides, we see lots of trailers on the road without any working lights. Note: if you have to work on a bike in a parking lot, a Lowe’s isn’t a bad place. Lots of helpful people, and nice people. One even told us that the Harley dealership was right down the road from us if we needed more help.

Back on the road. Up through Tuscaloosa, then Chattanooga, then Al & Eileen’s house. We make it. Unpack. Tony and I have “reserved” the basement bedroom, right next to the bar. Perfect!
Kat and Molly meet and it’s pretty uneventful.

Unload our bike. And then head for a quick ride for a late lunch/dinner and to Smokey Mountain Harley Davidson (http://www.smh-d.com/ ) so that Al can put a new windshield on his bike. This Harley dealer is pretty impressive and big (I didn’t go last trip since I was on crutches). They have a bar/restaurant called The Shed, with good pulled pork sandwiches. Mac ‘n cheese and macaroni salad not bad either. This trip will definitely warrant a diet when we return!

Mike and Susan don’t get to Knoxville until Sunday, so Saturday we’re going to do our own trip with Al & Eileen – it’ll include a return to the Tail of the Dragon.

NOTE: It is December and I'm sitting in my hotel room in Phoenix finally looking to publish this trip. This write up was done back in September. Since this trip, we found that at Home Depot we could have purchased a trailer light kit and it would have made this much easier. They are in a weird aisle, but wanted to make that note (http://www.homedepot.com).

Day One: Road to Knoxville

Thursday morning, we got loaded up (including Kat, who we decided would make the trip with us. Al and Eileen have Molly, a rather crazy/shy dog. Figured they may, or may not, get along) and on the road. This time, heading 20 through Louisiana, Mississippi, then up through Alabama to Knoxville. It will be a good route, or one we regret.

First stop was quick and at Buc-ee’s in Terrell (https://www.buc-ees.com/index.php ) to see what the deal was with this “truckstop, but for cars only.” It’s HUGE. They sell everything from candy to crawfish boilers. To beef jerky and all kinds of stuff that you don’t need. We bought breakfast tacos (not that great) and on we went.

It’s really a pretty easy start to the drive.

Until we got to Shreveport. Interstate 20 through Shreveport is AWFUL. Bumpy, bumpy. More bumps (you get it). We’re rounding a corner and HUGE bump. I happen to be looking through the mirror and … there goes the right fender off the trailer. Straight off and up in the air. Bye-bye. We exit (at a not very good place to exit) and pull into an alley-like road to check things out. Yep, it’s gone. No getting it back.

So, off we go, stopping outside of Monroe to grab lunch on the go (Burger King – forgot that their burgers are drippier to eat in the truck). In Birmingham, we decide to stop and gas up before moving on. At this point, we’re not making great time. It seems that every stop loses us 30 minutes and we’re not terribly efficient with our stops. And, we had some rain that slowed things down for a bit.
That’s when Tony checks the trailer and bikes (Note: Yet again, we’re not in a very good place to exit. There’s a lot of iffy characters – one kept pulling his shirt up and peed on their truck). Well, fender number two (the one with the license plate) is completely lose and just sitting on the tire -- big surprise it’s still there. It’s getting dark. This is not good. We look up hotels that are pet friendly in Birmingham (not near this exit because I don’t want to stay anywhere near here). We’re going to have to stay the night. Driving a trailer without any lights – not a smart thing. We’ll figure something out in the morning.

Holiday Inn Express (we stayed at the one in Birmingham-Irondale, on top of a steep hill with a view of Sam’s Club) it is. Not bad. Not great. I hate that they charge an extra $35 for a dog, but can’t do anything about it. Kat’s better this time in a hotel room because we brought her bed. The remote in the room doesn’t work and they can’t find a replacement (don’t stay in room 203 in case they haven’t fixed it).  The woman at the front desk was very helpful and apologetic and we tried new batteries, but no luck.

Hope for the best in the morning. Tony and I have definitely had our adventures to and from trips with this trailer.