Atlanta Motorcycle Schools
Adventure TourOctober 15, 2006
|Yogi Berras famous quote notwithstanding,
I try not to overuse the term deja vue.
But here we were, on a beautiful fall morning, the same group
on the same motorcycles leaving the same n.e. GA restaurant
behind the same leader (that would be me). Will we never learn?
Apparently not. Our plan was to link as many gravel roads together
as possible (connecting by means of narrow twisty paved roads where
necessary) to where we had reservations in the Nantahala Gorge between
Bryson City and Robbinsville, NC.
Again, just like last year.
I hoped to sufficiently confuse the route
by choosing alternate roads so it wouldnt seem like
the same old same old. Unfortunately, there are only so many
roads left in their original gravel state which actually go
anywhere; most have been blacktopped to get county commissioners
re-elected. Im relieved when during the morning break
JoAnna asks if any of these roads should seem familiar. Heh;
so far, so good. Were at Low Gap, just south of the
Seed Lake dam on the Tallulah River. Not a speck of blacktop
mars the view.
|Since were breaking, it would be a good time to introduce
the group. Aboard a Honda Transalp like myself is Laura, a lady with
years of unpaved roads in her mirrors. Following her come Don and
Esther on a BMW R100GS. Last years tour was Dons first
off-road foray. His adventuresome spirit and above-average height
allow him to handle that big bike just fine, in spite of his being
the only rider with a passenger (who Im to discover later is
a delight on pillion). Bookends for the group are Ken and JoAnna,
straddling a Suzuki DR650 and BMW F650GS, respectively. The only member
missing from last years intrepid band is my ladyfriend Donnie
on her Honda NX250, who has other fish to fry this weekend.
Breaktime over, were off on a tangent. If youre going
to get anywhere, you cant spend the day running rabbits down
side trails, but we are close to one of the most beautiful rivers
in the world, accessible by, yup, a nice gravel spur. The dead-end
road to Tate City (population 32, plus or minus) follows the Tallulah
River toward its origins in the wilderness that separates Georgia
from North Carolina. A pristine trout habitat, the river is so clear
that you can see to the bottom of its deepest pool. We are drawn
to it like the Millennium
|Falcon trapped in Darth Vadars tractor beam.
More than a pretty face, the river also features a challenging
water crossing where a branching Forest Service road fords across.
Not too deep, not too many greasy bowling-ball rocks to dodge,
but still worthy of careful attention. Don sheds his passenger
and attempts it (successfully) while Ken takes a few digital
hero shots for the website. Then, were off through a maze
of narrow twisty back roads which continually change names,
but eventually deliver us to a main highway west of Franklin,
Tallulah River Crossing
Immediately, however, were tracking another trout stream
on another Forest Service road -- a stream so private and heavily
patrolled youre almost forbidden to look. Harumph; so much
for rich folk and gated property! Were having so much fun
playing leapfrog from one gravel road to the next, we wouldnt
stop to fish if they begged us. Finally, after following yet another
riverside bit of dirt, we end up in the Nantahala Gorge, where its
a crooked shot to the yurts.
Ever stay in a yurt? Originated by nomadic folk in the vast plains
of Mongolia, this primitive but ingenious tent is a simple round
affair with a self-supporting roof. Our particular yurts are far
from primitive, each having hardwood flooring, a queen bed, refrigerator,
..and a path to the nearby central bathhouse
(also quite comfortable). We return from a mile sprint to dinner
to enjoy a campfire, chuckling that we conveniently run out of firewood
and energy simultaneously, and retire to our accommodations.
Frost on the saddle greets us the next morning, and were
thankful to gulp down Waffle House coffee after a chilly 25-mile
run to breakfast. Were in Anderson, just a stones throw
from a well-maintained gravel segment of the infamous Trail of Tears.
Originally built by the Army to get rid of Native Americans (one
of our less-proud historic moments), today it shamefully facilitates
the disposal of unused appliances and worn out couches as it winds
its way across Tatham Gap to Robbinsville. Ignoring the eyesore
of discarded items,
Tatham GapTrail of Tears
we climb to the roads beautiful crest
at the gap but find the road barricaded shortly beyond. Peculiar;
it was open two weeks earlier when I scouted this route. My
curiosity is satisfied by a group of bear hunters, camped
higher up a side branch, who relate the occurrence of a landslide
a day after my previous visit. They arent optimistic
about our trespassing beyond the barrier to pick our way through
the rubble, which leaves us no choice but to return downhill
First to return to pavement, Im quickly anxious as to why
the group didnt arrive soon behind me. Trouble? Well, yes;
sort of. Don, smelling burning rubber, had stopped to discover he
had thrown up a stone which defied all odds by lodging between his
shaftdrive housing and rear tire. While the tire still held pressure,
the sidewall was grooved somewhat, and it was impossible to know
what actual structural damage might have occurred. Don was comfortable
continuing the ride, but, to be on the safe side, we decided Esther
should transfer to my bike.
There are passengers and there are passengers, and some are a whole
lot better at it than others. Esther sat light as a feather, swelled
my ego saying my riding was smooth like buttah, and our helmets
never turtle-kissed once. (Dons tire made it just fine the
remainder of the trip) So, were now backtracked to Andrews,
and running a little behind schedule, which had us following the
gravel alternative to the Cherohala Skyway into Tennessee. We weenied
out on the TN portion of that tasty gravel, enjoying the panoramas
and quicker pace of the Skyway itself, and soon were caught up once
again enjoying lunch in Tellico Plains. One final treat remained.
|The groups farewell took place atop a bald,
a totally treeless mountain top, some miles south of Tellico.
Under a perfect blue sky, the weather crisp and clear, the uninterrupted
360-degree view was as good as it gets. Northeast of where we
stood was the southern rump of the Smokey Mountain National
Park; to our south the haze of Atlanta; to our west Tennessee.
It was easy to imagine the early settlers contemplating such
a vista, wondering what hardships and danger lay ahead as they
forged ever westward, seeking fortune and adventure.
Victory danceBuck Bald
I personally was happy to be heading home to familiar and comfortable
surroundings, thankful for good friends with whom to share some
of my favorite places.
View all photos from this tour.
Tour write-up courtesy of Pete
Tamblynour wonderful Tour Guide!