A friend from Tennessee invited me for a weekend of fire-roading in the Smokies, and as a new Ohlin ‘Adventure’ shock had just been added to the Tiger, off I went. The 800xc is dirt-able with Anakee 3 tires and the Ohlin, however, I have been reluctant to test the sugar-sand trails in Florida. The hard dirt and gravel of both Cherokee and Nantahala National Forest roads should be great. Plus, there were experienced locals leading; I could just relax and ride.
It was over 500 miles to get to The Lodge At Tellico Plains and I split it up by one long day most of the way and the second day riding the Dragon and the Cherohala Skyway
before meeting at The Lodge. I’ve been to the Dragon three times prior and we might not be riding to the Dragon part of the Smokies if we are trail riding, so I figured stop in on the way and get a sticker and some North Carolina BBQ (pork with a layer of finely chopped cole slaw). It was cool as I rose in altitude into the Smokeys and sure enough I was riding through fog from 8 in the morning until about 10. I stopped at the Dragon for a snack and a few photographs, and there were only maybe 20 riders hanging out.
They hit 96°F yesterday in Georgia, and more is in store. Also, a storm is headed up from the Atlantic.
The Lodge At Tellico Plains is real nice, with optional indoor bike parking for $5 and modern cabins. After a terrific 200 miles, I checked in as the record heat rolled in.
We were on the road by 9 and heading up the mountain. A couple of miles into the Cherohala Skyway we took a right onto Cherokee National Forest road 210, a canopy shaded paved road that ran along a creek for quite some time. Eventually, we broke off onto some very slushy gravel with lots of elevation and hairpin turns. It was also a two-way road so we really couldn’t hug the cliff wall the way we wanted to because of oncoming traffic, and there were oncoming cars, motorcycles, and side by side ATVs. The experienced group with the proper bikes and training were blasting through this at about 50 miles an hour while I drifted around in the back in first and second gear.
I survived however, and we returned to the pavement, which they tore up as well, and I was always about a mile behind them. We stopped for several snacks around the mountains and had a spectacular day riding.
We were able to criss cross in and out of North Carolina and Tennessee including both the Nantahala and Cherokee Forests.