A late spring tour in the southern mountains often brings rainstorms along for the ride. On the way to Bristol, the dark and ominous clouds chase us wherever we go. Then, finally, in Jefferson, the rain gets a hold of us and doesn’t let go until we get back to Bristol.
This late May trip combines many objectives. Spend time with my mum, Christa, and my girlfriend, Sarah, scout the area for the 2010 Touring Weekend, celebrate my birthday, and test out Midland Radio’s BT2 communication system. Will all this prove to be too much for a first journalism assignment? Perhaps, but I’m more worried about riding in thunderstorms and using a communication system with Sarah for the entire trip. All three of us were supposed to be connected, but I put my foot down arguing that one woman in my helmet was more than enough! Christa is riding the 2009 Honda VFR800, and Sarah and I are on the 2010 Triumph Tiger — great motorcycles for this part of the country.
Day 1 – North Carolina/Tennessee Loop
We start out with a hearty breakfast buffet at the Holiday Inn before mounting our steeds to head out on the first loop. The first day is always filled with anticipation. You can’t wait for the trip to start, but also you don’t want it to end, even though you haven’t left the parking lot yet.
We ride along the border of the Cherokee National Forest to Bluff City and Elizabethton, before we dive right into the fun on US Hwy 321. The road snakes its way around the south side of Lake Watauga on smooth asphalt. The trees stand very close to each other making it seem almost impossible to walk through. As this is so close to our home, we travel these roads quite frequently, and this part of the state is always on top of the weekend getaway list. To avoid the “hustle and bustle” of Boone, we make a big 180 towards Banner Elk. On the way, we encounter a real gem: Road 194 is an extremely tight and technical road that requires serious concentration and smoothness on the rider’s part. On top of that, the road surface is in bad shape from rough winters and DOT neglect, but no problem for the Tiger or the VFR. The road climbs the side of a mountain, circling some homes in steep uphill turns, and sometimes even offers a breathtaking view of a farm or an untouched valley, through the trees.