Intro & Getting Ready For the Trip To Tennessee
Regular readers may recall that Debbie’s employer shuts down for a week at Christmas and around the 4th of July as a way of managing production workforce efficiency during what would normally be weeks with low productivity due to personal leaves of absence for holiday vacations. Last year we did a vacation at home for ½ of this same week and then headed down to Key West for the last four days.
This year we split the week three ways with 3 days spent visiting my folks in Pennsylvania, then two days back at home and the final four days dedicated to a motorcycle trip to Tennessee for some down time and tandem cycling with friends at “Club Fred”… aka, a freeloader weekend!
The visit to Pennsylvania was a bit of a whirlwind trip in that we made the 11-hour / 772-mile drive up on Saturday and arrived around 5:00pm then headed back home at 6:30pm on Monday, arriving back home after an “all-nighter” around 5:30am. I got about 3 hours of sleep before diving into the post trip chores on Tuesday. Wednesday was a busy day in that I needed to have a new rear tire installed on our Harley-Davidson Road King, aka, “Blue” along with getting in a tandem ride, doing some yard work and packing for the trip to Tennessee.
The packing was made a bit more interesting in that we’d taking our take-apart tandem with us in our Bushtec motorcycle trailer. Hauling the tandem around with the motorcycle was an idea that came to me during our drive over to Cullman, Alabama for last year’s Southern Tandem Rally in September and it was the primary motivation for finding the used Bushtec trailer. However, up and until this trip, the Bushtec had only been pressed into service for non-cycling trips to Daytona, Panama City Beach and Nashville, Tennessee.
With a fresh rear tire on ‘Blue’ and our tandem ride completed, I quickly knocked down the Calfee into a semi-compact state for transporting in the trailer.
The level of disassembly is far less than is needed for putting it into suitcases for air travel:
- the wheels come off and go into two separate wheel bags;
- the timing chain comes off and goes into a small storage bag (no mess with wax lube);
- the stoker’s section top and bottom tubes are removed with the S&S couplings to create two major frame sections and those two tubes along with the frame pump go in a special bag that I made out of marine vinyl;
- the rear section goes into a large protective marine vinyl bag that I made with everything else still attached, e.g., cranks, pedals, stoker’s saddle with tool bag & rear tail light still in place; and
- the captain’s saddle and stoker bars come off, but the rest of the front section goes into another large protective bag without any further disassembly.
- That’s it… about 5 minutes to take apart another 5 minutes to pack in the protective bags and then into the trailer it all goes, along with duffle bags that hold our cycling clothing, street clothes and other personal items.
Thursday, July 3rd and the ride up
We rolled out of the driveway around 9:30am on a beautiful day with mild temperatures and mostly sunny skies and arrived at our first stop in Tellico Plains, Tennessee about 1 hour and 20 minutes later. That first stop was Kat’s deli which, IMHO, is one of the best places to eat in Tellico Plains. Our friend and host for the weekend in Tennessee, Tim, was already there eating lunch and waiting for us to arrive as he was going to join us for the scenic drive over the Cherohala Skyway to Robbinsville, North Carolina where we’d turn North and head into Maryville, Tennessee via US 129, aka. The Dragon’s Tail.
Words can’t really do these rides justice so I’ve decided to simply include a link to the composite video that I made during the scenic ride over the Skyway and through the Dragon.
We arrived at Tim & Sharon’s home nestled in a cove on the Tennessee River around 3:30pm where we found our friends Eric & Linda from Atlanta and Denny & Stephanie from Chattanooga had already arrived and settled-in for a leisurely afternoon. Shortly after we arrived our friend & frequent guest stoker on our triplet, Lisa, arrived: she’d be riding with Tim on Friday, Saturday & Sunday. I had the trailer unpacked and the tandem built back up in about 30 minutes after we arrived, after which we got into some serious relaxing ahead of a wonderful homemade dinner (shrimp etoufee ) on their deck that lasted well into the evening.
Friday, July 4th
Friday began with breakfast out on the patio, everyone pretty much munching on whatever they decided to bring along for breakfast.
The target mileage for Friday was around 30 as none of us had been getting in any serious cycling miles; a far cry from previous years when these get-togethers and tandem rallies were suffer-fests where we were all hammering each other into the ground. The moderate mileage goal allowed us all to sleep in a bit before the appointed departure time of 9:00am.
Friday’s ride was very nice, even a bit cool at the start. We rode the 30 miles without a stop and covered a lot of familiar roads from previous year’s visits and the Tennessee Tandem Rallies that Tim & Sharon hosted for 10 years.
We were back at the house before noon and had lunch by the pool while being entertained by Kylie, Tim & Sharon’s new Australia Shepherd puppy. We spent the better part of the afternoon out on Tim & Sharon’s very luxurious pontoon boat exploring the shores of the Tennessee River and seeing how the 1% lived: many of the homes, boat houses and boats that adorn the lakeside lots are eye watering, to say the least.
We enjoyed cocktails and another homemade dinner (chicken & steak tacos with chorizo quesadillas) out on the patio and deck next to the pool at Tim & Sharon’s home and then headed back out to the lake on the pontoon boat to watch fireworks being shot-off from homes along the lake and local communities. There were a couple of very impressive lakeside home shows, but not so much from the surrounding communities that were visible from the lake.
We retired back to the house and pretty much everyone retired for the night before 11:00pm.
Saturday, July 5th
Saturday began like Friday with breakfast out on the patio. Today’s ride would be something closer to 40 miles and once again we targeted 9:00am for our departure so that we’d be off the road before the hottest part of the day and back at the house around lunch time.
For Saturday’s ride I elected to capture some video from two of our three GoPro cameras, with one mounted on my handlebars facing forward and another on my helmet facing backwards. Again, if a picture’s worth a thousand words, then this video should cover most of the important ride details, i.e., good times with great friends spent cycling in some of the most beautiful countryside you’ll find.
Unfortunately, I was unsuccessful in my attempt to clear the SD cards on the two cameras that I took with us on Saturday, so the SD cards filled-up before we finished the ride, hence the unusual ending shot. The same had been true on Thursday’s motorcycle ride where the batteries died ½ way through the Tail of the Dragon. I still had more than enough video, but the closing shot was a bit contrived. In other words, I’m still learning more about these little cameras and clearly have a lot to learn.
After left-over shrimp etoufee and tacos for lunch we headed back out on the pontoon boat to explore parts of the Tennessee River that we hadn’t covered on Friday’s tour. Some of the homes and homesites we saw on Saturday were actually in the realm of “moderately affordable” for upper middle class types. Again, still too rich for our blood short of a lottery win, but good to see nonetheless… not that I’m a boat person, as I’m not. I love to sail, but lake sailing is too frustrating and power boats make even our very expensive Harley-Davidson motorcycles seem like chump change by comparison, never mind the cost of boat houses, fuel and maintenance associated with ownership.
Saturday evening had us back on the patio and deck for another lovely home-made dinner, this time featuring beef tenderloin wrapped with bacon and other yummy stuff followed by an awesome New York cheesecake made by Sharon. I was chased away from the dinner table by mosquitoes and the nagging desire to finish editing and publishing my video composite from the morning ride and that’s how I finished the evening. No kidding, I’ve really got to either figure out how to monetize the time I spend doing on-line “stuff” and blogging or simply knock it off. I spend way too much time looking at computers and writing for really no good reason.
Oh, and lest I forget to mention it, we were treated to the most amazing fireworks display we’d ever seen when Mariner’s Village launched into what seemed like a 10-minute long show with hundreds of air bursts going off around 9:45pm that we could see just over the tree line.
Sunday, July 6th and the ride home
I think everyone slept in a little longer on Sunday than the previous two days, but the day’s ride was only going to be about 18-miles. So, a short ride allowed for a slightly later start at 9:30. Once again, just a delightful route and good company: sadly, Denny & Stephanie had to leave on Saturday night so it was just us along with Tim & Lisa and Eric & Linda.
The plan for lunch was actually a plan for brunch which would entail a fairly-long boat ride over to the Lakeside Tavern in Knoxville. We thought out joining our friends, but ultimately decided that it would put us back home far too late in the early evening to work with our pre-Monday to-do list. So, we let it be known that we’d be heading home as they headed off to the Lakeside Tavern before we started our ride.
Once we returned from the ride I had the tandem broken down and packed in about 20 minutes. It took another 30 minutes or so to shower and pack up the rest of our things in the trailer before heading off for home on ‘Blue’ around 11:00am.
We had a lovely ride home on a new route for us: Tennessee Route 68 through the Chattahoochee National Forest. It added a good 30 minutes to our drive time but was so much more scenic than the more direct route home on US Route 411. It also allowed us to stop for lunch at Harvest on Main in Blue Ridge which was also a nice treat. In the interest of time I did elect to skip the more scenic but also much longer trip over Yukon Road to Jones & Burnt Mountains that would have kept us off of the 70 mph, semi-freeway known as Route 515 for 20 miles. But, after being away from home for four days and with over 150 miles of twisty mountain roads under our belt, faster seemed to be the right choice.
We arrived back at home around 4:00pm and immediately started back with several loads of laundry while washing road grime off of ‘Blue’ and the trailer. Debbie also had a number of phone calls to make and we finally had enough of our chores done by 7:30pm that we were able to take a break for a quick dinner at Loco Willy’s. We split a burger, had a couple margaritas and just enjoyed the moment before heading back home to get ready for the return to work in the morning.
It was truly a great weekend and being able to combine motorcycling with tandem cycling made for a very special vacation experience that we’d like to repeat in the future.