The Harley-Davidson Owner’s Group (H.O.G.) encourages members to submit their “$100 Ride” stories for inclusion in H.O.G. Magazine, a five-times per year publication targeted at Harley owners. Being someone who likes to write about riding, I’d be tickled if something I wrote was published to an audience the size of H.O.G.’s membership base. But, then again, given how many submissions there are vying for those 5 printings what are the odds of seeing my manuscript in print? Slim to none would be my guess.
Therefore, consider this my never-to-be submitted $100 Ride Challenge report without the 750 word limit, a shot at the $100 Harley-Davidson gift card, or 1,000,000+ readers sitting on commodes.
As this past weekend approached the lovely Miss Debbie and I knew we “needed” to get out and ride something: one of the tandems or our Harley-Davidson Road King CVO “Blue II”. We didn’t know when or where we’d ride, but we were determined to get some wind therapy.
At some point during our Friday evening out having dinner with friends a rather ambitious group motorcycle ride into north Georgia and western North Carolina was proposed. I can’t fully recall if it was Miss Debbie or me who said “sure, count us in” but we were definitely all-in to give it a shot.
Mind you, when I say ambitious the route as proposed would cover about 360 miles and we weren’t heading out until 11:00 AM. Therefore, and given about 130 miles of our ride between Andrews, North Carolina and Tellico Plains, Tennessee, would be on mountain roads with a natural speed limit of about 45 mph, you can do the math and figure we’d be getting home well after dark.
After getting up and looking at the very favorable weather forecast I was mindful of how less than accurate our forecasts had been of late. Therefore, I opted to over-prepare for potential pop-up storms while we were in the mountains and what would be a cool, evening ride back home and packed our rain gear and also put on the large touring bag so I could take our full-face helmets along.
It was about 10:00 am when we hopped on our Road King CVO “Blue II” and headed over to QuikTrip in Woodstock where we met up with Ryan on his Road Glide Ultra CVO (with gal pal Patti riding pillion), Jeanette on her Road Glide Special, David & Deb on their Road Glide Ultra and Cowboy on his Street Glide. then headed north on I-575 to Blue Ridge, doing a rolling pick-up of Bobby on his Ultra Limited & Carrie Ann on her Street Glide. I-575 is never what I’d call an enjoyable ride but it sure takes you to some great roads that are. For us, that would be the aforementioned 130 miles of twisting, hilly roads between Andrews, North Carolina and Tellico Plains Tennessee.
We made a stop at Cherokee County Cycles in Andrews for a short rest stop and while we were there I paid the obligatory “rest room tax” by doing a little business. However, instead of being a token purchase of a soft drink, etc., I found something I needed: a nice pair of soft, unlined black deerskin gloves. It was a need only because I’d left my Harley-Davidson textile gloves at home and gloves were a must for the long ride, lest I end up with sunburned and calloused hands.
Our next stop was lunch at the River’s End Restaurant in the Nantahala Recreational Center (NOC). We descended into NOC on the picturesque Highway 19 that parallels the Nantahala River and arrived at the restaurant around 1:30. Our timing was impeccable as we were quickly seated at a table for 6 and another right along side for 4 minutes ahead of what appeared to be rush hour: the entrance was quickly stacked 15 deep with hungry guests. Our friend Tom had left from Georgia about an hour after we did and with our stop at Cherokee County Cycles, caught up and joined us for lunch not more than 10 minutes after we were seated at our tables. We had an excellent waiter, a delicious meal and a great time with our friends while watching folks paddle around in the river.
After lunch we headed out of NOC on Highway 19 east to Route 28 which includes the Hellbender 28: a very nice 22-mile long section of twisty two-lane road that parallels the narrow Cheoah Lake and merges with Route 129 at Deal’s Gap. Deal’s Gap and the Deal’s Gap Store sit at the western end of The Tail of the Dragon.
As we hit the twisty sections of Route 28 Tom took the lead with Carrie Ann right on his wheel, followed by Ryan & Patti, then Jeanette and then Debbie and Me all in a pretty tight staggered pack. David & Deb were behind us but stayed a bit further back. We’d pretty much ride in that configuration for the rest of the time up and until we came off the Cherohala Skyway in Tellico Plains. The Hellbender 28 was an excellent ride; nice tree-covered, meandering roads with beautiful views along the way. As we pulled in Deal’s Gap Motorcycle Resort we found Ken & Candy waiting for us to arrive: they live up in Sevierville, TN, about a 90-minute ride from the Deals Gap. Ken & Candy were introduced to our friends a few weeks back when their Harley’s electrical system crapped-out and left them stranded on the Cherohala Skyway and, in essence, rescued off the mountain. They’d be joining our group for the ride from Deal’s Gap to Tellico Plains and then head back home to Sevierville. We were also joined by Matt who rode up from Woodstock.
After relaxing in the Deal’s Gap Resort restaurant for a while we all saddled-up and headed south on US129 on what is part of the Tennessee Legend route to Robbinsville where we’d jump on the Cherohala Skyway. Again, riding tight along some beautiful roads through the North Carolina mountains was a joy. We stopped to top off gas tanks in Robbinsville and took a few minutes to enjoy some nice tunes as our group now with 10 motorcycles took turns fueling up at the pumps.
It looked like there had been some rain earlier in the day, but we enjoyed partly cloudy skies, warm temps and lovely scenery all the way across the Skyway. We had a pretty enjoyable stop on one of the overlooks and Carrie Ann orchestrated a nice group photo:
Ken & Candy took the lead when we left our rest stop and they wanted to take us off the Skyway to the Bald River Falls just a few miles out from Tellico Plains. Debbie and I had last visited the falls back in 2012, but instead of riding there on a motorcycle we’d ridden over from Fort Loudoun on our triplet with several other teams for an 80-mile round trip with a fair amount of climbing. Something of a different experience when you ride up under your own power instead of being powered along by a motorcycle. But, either way, the falls is definitely worth taking the extra time to see.
Daylight was beginning to leave us as we made the final descent off the Skyway into Tellico Plains and pulled into Buckets & Brews for dinner. I’ve got to say, we’ve been to the same building before, but it wasn’t a good experience. However, Buckets & Brews just took over the property and opened up in late June and the entire dining experience was fantastic! They were very accommodating of our party of 14 and everyone there was as attentive and friendly as could be. The menu had a lot of really interesting things, not what you’d expect for a “joint” in the middle of a small town in Tennessee and the quality of the food was excellent. We’ll definitely be headed back there on future trips that take us through Tellico Plains.
Given that it was well after sundown when we finished dinner and headed home, I suggested that we pass on taking what is usually a great ride — the 35-mile stretch of Route 68 between Tellico Plains and Ducktown — as those lovely, twisty mountain roads are surrounded by wildlife that tends to be nocturnal. Instead, and although it’s about as boring as a strip of asphalt can be, the 90-mile stretch of Route 411 from Etowah, TN, to Cartersville, GA, is a pretty safe bet since it is pretty much dead flat and runs through fields instead of the mountains. Checking the Tennessee DOT website, there also wasn’t any construction or back-ups being reported so it SHOULD have been an easy, boring 2 hour ride home. We bid a fond-farewell to Ken & Candy as they’d be making an 1.5 hour ride back home to Sevierville, and donned our rain jackets for warmth and swapped out our 1/2 helmets for the full-face ones as a hedge against taking bugs in the face.
The ride out of Tellico Plains on Route 39 and 310 gave us our last taste of meandering foothill roads before hitting the ruler-strait Route 411. We lost a couple of bikes at a stop light going through Delano. As we throttled back our speed to let them catch up we suddenly saw a huge cloud of dust being kicked up by our bike in the rear view mirror: what the heck? Sadly, the TDOT website neglected to note that about a 2-mile section of 411 was covered with loose gravel and dust which made riding downright hazardous and put all of the motorcycle’s finish, lights and windscreens at risk of being damaged by bouncing gravel. Unbelievable that they’d leave a road like that and not report on that condition. Anyway, after getting past that hazard the only remaining challenge was staying awake, as it had been a long day.
We shed-off Tom, Bobby & Carrie Ann as we approached Cartersville and saw Ryan & Jeanette jump on I-75 South as we and David/Deb headed to a gas station for a nature break. Matt & Cowboy passed us as they continued on towards Cartersville so everyone was accounted for. It was a 30-minute ride back home on I-75 for us, waving goodbye to David & Deb as we exited I-75 at Red Top Mountain.
So, it was indeed ambitious day that had out riding almost until midnight. But, the riding and companionship was as good as it could get so we’d do it all over again in a heartbeat.
In terms of being that $100 r, here’s the tale of the tape: $84.17
- Lunch at NOC River’s End: $40.69
- Dinner at Buckets & Brews: $17.00
- Soft Drink & Candy Bar at Deal’s Gap: $2.32
- Gasoline $24.16