Started the morning at a cool 10 degrees C and headed south out of Cherokee then started west toward the mountains to re-cross back to Tennessee. The first part of the ride climbs up into the range with some great views of Fontana Lake formed by the Fontana Dam. The road then drops down and eventually follows the Little Tennessee River until we climb back up into the mountain and peaks just past Deals Gap.
Deals Gap is the top end of the section of road known as the Tail of the Dragon, so called because of the 318 twists and turns you take in 11 miles, 18 kilometres, to reach the bottom. This section of road is well known to American riders and they come from far and wide to ride it. It can bite, just like a dragon. More often than not, I understand that the bite can come from those coming from the opposite direction of travel and unable to remain on their side of the road. With a fully loaded Goldwing, I had no intention of testing my rate of descent. The Tree of Shame at Deals Gap is testament to those who tried and failed in their endeavours.
The road has a number of companies that establish a position on strategic corners and photograph every vehicle going past in the hope of selling the rider/driver a photo of their action. It takes around 20 minutes to descend depending on your risk level.
Back in Tennessee we headed through Sweetwater, where we found a little park for smoko, then on to the interstate for the run to Chattanooga to refuel. With the intention of viewing the Barber Vintage Motorsports Museum this afternoon we kept moving. After another 90 minutes of running we were looking for a rest area that I said yesterday we should find, as they were displayed on a map. I was feeling more than ready for a break and we had been avoiding taking any off-ramps as that meant then heading off track in the hope of finding something. In the end, we took an off ramp with the words "I'll bet if we kept going we'll find one in the next few miles". A short break for a stretch and walk around while parked on the edge of the on-ramp refreshed us for the last hour to Birmingham. Back on the road and sure enough, no more than a 3 miles down the road, here is a great rest area. Never one to look a gift horse in the mouth, back in again for a coffee then on to just outside of Birmingham for the night.
A time zone change meant we gained and hour, so that left me a couple of hours to look through the museum. I had seen pictures of this place and was aware of what it was but nothing can prepare you for the reality. Claiming to be the largest collection of motorcycles in the world, the presentation and quality of this place is incredible. I really enjoyed looking at the motorcycles many of which I had never seen or heard of and many others that I had seen before or was at least aware of. Quite a few photos of them but not possible to do it justice, that's why seeing it is so different to photos I guess.
We're half-way round the ride now and the bike is booked in for an oil change in the morning. I was lucky to find a Goldwing dealer and one that does servicing on Saturday and happy to do it at short notice if I'm there at opening time. He's on the other side of town, so it means an early pack up and start.
Catch you from Nashville tomorrow night.
552 klms today, total to date 9,248 klms.