We awoke to the sound of rain this morning and there was still light rain as we left Roanoke. The cloud was still low on the mountains and the rain was forecast to last until about 11:00am. Last night I prepared three options for travel today. The first was to ride a section of the Blue Ridge then cross back to the highway down the western side. With a 45 minute ride to get back onto the Blue Ridge Parkway and the same to return if the cloud and rain was too heavy, we decided to give that option a miss. It now gives us a reason to come back as there is some lovely country around here that deserves more time.
A quick run down the interstate, although boring riding, was worth the effort as the tree lined highway provides a nice backdrop. Traffic was OK most of the way. I always love looking around and thinking about what road signs say, or don't say. An interesting one we have encountered over the last couple of days is one that says that trucks and vehicles with trailers must use the right lane, (the equivalent of out left lane,) if travelling below 70mph. Why interesting, where this sigh appears the speed limit is 70mph.
Riding past Abingdon, it was interesting to see tobacco being harvested. 20 years ago this was a big crop for this area, but not so now.
Ever onward to Bristol where we refueled and found a couple of small tables for our coffee break then it was back on the road and over another state border from Virginia to Tennessee. I realise that I haven't been keeping you up to date with the state changes and will have to change that. With no clear evidence that we have changed states, it makes it a bit harder to think of it when I write this up at night. Usually only some speed limit changes mark the crossing.
Just before we turned back east toward the mountains, by which time there was no rain but still threatening cloud, we dropped into a rest area for a leg stretch. This is the best rest area I've every been in. Very clean, big brick building housing an office for janitor and for the State Police when they are there, and the grounds were extremely well maintained with trim lawns and well presented gardens. We actually spent 20 mins with the gardener as he called to us and offered us each a bottle of water and this developed into a discussion on the way we we going, as that was where he lived. Very helpful.
Off the interstate into Sevierville and then Pigeon Forge. This is Dolly Parton country. In Pigeon Forge are at least three of Dolly's attractions, Lumberjack Adventure, Dixie Stampede and also Dollyworld, but we must have missed the sign to where that was. Apparently she frequently sings at the Dixie Stampede. I've included some photos of the town, talk about catering to tourists. So many attractions just driving through town, mostly movie/TV related themes.
From there we headed into Gatlinburg which also has some interesting buildings as well as having a halloween themed display at the entrance to town. Those orange pumpkins for Halloween lanterns are everywhere, either for sale at roadside stalls or moving about by the trailer load.
Into the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. This was never on our plan until a few days ago when I decided to shorten up our time on the parkway to cross the mountains through the National Park. This came about from our discussions with Richard about a week ago. I never thought we would miss the whole parkway but this ride would at least make up for some of that loss. Really nice relaxing ride through the trees with the Fall colour just starting to come out. Earlier in the day, we had been thinking about the lack of motorcycles compared to the north but we found plenty doing the run across the park. As we climbed, the cloud layer got closer until we were into it at around 4600ft until the summit at around 5000ft and crossed another State border into North Carolina. Over the top and the skies cleared and left a great run down the range and into Cherokee where we are staying tonight.
Hoping for the forecast fine weather tomorrow for the ride across Deals Gap and a section known as the Tail of the Dragon.
538 klms today, total to date 8,696 klms.