GRMA Day 1: A Good Beginning

Click here for the link to GPS Tracking Map. (Good for 7 days)  Zoom in to see more specific locations.  Click on any of the reference points for more information.  Remember that the GPS only records where I was every 10 minutes; it may not follow roads exactly.  I’m not sure what happened in the one section that seems to backtrack across the mountains.

Mile “0.” At the end of the GRMA, more than 10,000 miles?

Ready to get “On the Road Again!”

Finding a better send-off than the one I had in Maggie Valley this morning would be difficult.  Friends and neighbors at Raven Ridge stood on their porches and waved and shouted best wishes as I made a “parade lap” around our neighborhood with “On the Road Again” blaring from my bike’s speakers.  It was a great way to begin a six-week adventure and I appreciated the sincere gesture of friendship. Today’s ride began in the Appalachian Mountains of Western North Carolina, a mountain range considerably older than my ultimate destination out west.  At least six times older, in fact.   The Appalachians were formed nearly 500 million years ago, while the Rockies are geologic upstarts at only 50-85 million years old.  And the Appalachians were once as tall as the Rockies at more than 20,000 feet, but now rise only about 4,000-6,000 feet, the result of hundreds of millions of years of erosion.

This Harley is ready to slay the Dragon.

Rolling south on the modern Smoky Mountain Expressway and carving through the shady curves on NC 28 along Fontana Lake was a good first-hour warm-up for the riding highlight of the day:  The Tail of the Dragon.  US highway 129.   318 curves in 11 miles.  The “Dragon” is always crowded and today was no exception.  But I waited until three slow Harleys in front of me had a four-minute head start before I took off on my dragon-slaying adventure and had the road to myself.   I promised I’d behave and a three-bike, double-yellow-line pass would probably not have met the expectations of the Maggie Valley-bound holder of my promissory note, so I held back.  I kept the bike “near” the speed limit for the entire run and only scraped my floorboards a half-dozen times.  Still, it was a good run and an exhilarating way to start the GRMA.

The ridges of the Cumberland Plateau are smaller and less numerous than the Appalachian Mountains in NC, but they still possess a striking beauty.

I covered 360 miles today and could have made the trip to my current location in Dickson, Tennessee, in about 5 1/2 hours if I had taken the Interstate.  But the purpose of this ride (and all rides) is to enjoy the adventure, and riding the Interstate is definitely not enjoyable.  Instead, I took back roads across Tennessee, avoiding all the big cities (Chattanooga, Knoxville and Nashville) and reveling in the gorgeous scenery that defines the soft beauty of the Cumberland Plateau.  While not technically part of the Appalachian Mountains, the Cumberland Plateau is largely made up of sandstone that eroded from the once massive Appalachian Mountains and settled as sedimentary rock in a large inland sea in North America about 350 million years ago. About 50 miles east of Nashville, the Cumberland Plateau ends and the flat lands of middle and west Tennessee begin.  And so did the heat.  Temperatures went from a comfortable low 80s to a decidedly less comfortable low 90s.  But by the time I got to Murfreesboro where I once attended college and later taught at MTSU, I had less than two hours left on today’s ride and the rolling middle Tennessee countryside, dotted with working farms and “gentleman” farms, made for a pleasant finish to the day.

A perfect lunch.

No Great Adventure ride is complete without a (nearly) daily dose of pie.  So, today’s selection was Coconut Cream at “Sweet Thang’s Cafe” in Spring City, TN.  I asked the portly proprietor who “Sweet Thang” was and he responded that it was himself and his wife in the kitchen who baked my pie.  “I’m sweet,” he said, “and she’s a thang.”  Tomorrow I head through the flat land of west Tennessee and east Arkansas, bisected by the mighty Mississippi River.  The bridge over the river will be the lowest elevation I’ll see this trip. Thanks to everyone who’s left messages, comments, emails and texts and also to those who have signed up to receive e-mail notifications when I post.

Note: I’m having trouble loading the full size images and you’re liable to see an error message.   I’m going to work on this over the next couple of days.  Sorry for the glitch. Two more pictures I like today:

A reminder of bygone days on the Cumberland Plateau.

Chilhowee Lake is at the Tennessee end of the Dragon.


10 responses to “GRMA Day 1: A Good Beginning”

  1. Kent Frobish says :

    Dennis, so glad to see you have a reason to get up every morning. I’m looking forward to following along on this year’s trip. Too bad we don’t have any mountains in Nebraska; if we did you might come through our way again. The GPS tracker is cool. Interesting how it can determine your speed – is Big Brother watching? Keep it upright!

  2. Ski says :

    Hi Doc, Very nice beginning. Looking fwd to see all your blogs.I can’t get into the GPS route Map. Probably me as usual. Any suggestions? Take it easy on those floor boards. They will have last you at least 9,000 miles. Ride safe my good friend.

  3. Gatorrichard says :

    Hey Dennis you looked so happy on that first loop around Raven Ridge, I know we are gonna enjoy your ride as well as you, stay safe.

  4. nuke53 says :

    Great start to your latest adventure! Looking forward to each day! Ride safe, Mark


    Sent from Yahoo Ma

  6. Ski says :

    Finally got the GPS tracking to work.

  7. Brad Dykes says :

    Dennis, Enjoying the trip virtually already and love the part of TN you rode through, my parents grew up 40 miles east of Murfreesboro. Have a Great Ride through the Rockies!!

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