Much Ado About Nothing

by bj max

It was last spring, right after the Honda Hoot I think, and we were headquarted in Gatlinburg at the Greystone Lodge. We being Charley, Darnel, Catfish Floyd, Dorothy and my wife and I. Being chronically addicted to the pre-dawn hours I am up early and by 5:30 I had showered and shaved and was perched on the balcony with my laptop working on my latest masterpiece for this here magazine. What a great place to write. Its cool and overcast, the birds are singing, the Little River is roaring by below and with a fresh cup of steaming coffee warming my hands I am content. ‘Chance of rain this morning but hey, we’re in the Mountains and that’s to be expected.

Our schedule today is to ride to Dawsonville, Georgia and hook up with long time sidekick and certified clown, David Elston (a.k.a. Hillbilly) at the Dawsonville Pool Room. The Dawsonville Pool Room, for you non NASCAR fans if there’s still any of you left out there, and its hamburgers, were made famous back in the mid-eighties when the local hero, Bill Elliott, re-wrote the NASCAR record books. Our route will take us up and over Newfound Gap via 441, through Cherokee and down into Georgia where we will head west to Dawsonville. That was the plan but you know what they say, if you wanna’ make the Old Master smile, tell him about your plans.

After an excellent continental breakfast at the Greystone, we saddled up in a drizzling rain and rode south out of town with expectations of a quick trip but just past the city limit sign we were stopped dead in our tracks. A rare crime, murder of all things, had taken place overnight at the Smokemont picnic area and the police had US 441 barricaded for the day. 441, in case you didn’t know, is the main drag through the park and thousands of tourist’s travel this road every day. This was going to create major problems.

After pulling up the “detour” feature on my GPS and punching a few buttons, we were quickly re-routed through Townsend. Following electronic instructions beamed from 22,000 miles overhead, we banked right onto Little River Road and headed North. At a gas stop, we phoned Hillbilly to let him know that we were gonna’ be a little bit late, but it wasn’t easy. Making a cell phone call in these mountains is like trying to communicate with two tomato cans and a piece of string. But despite the static and breaks I managed to get the message across that Hillbilly should call us back at exactly 10:30 at which time we would decide on a rendezvous.

Our new route would take us across the Foothills Parkway which was just a few miles the other side of Townsend. But, as unbelievable as it seemed, we were stopped again. Seems the Park Service had determined that a lot of dead pine trees were becoming a hazard to motorists and had shut the parkway down for removal of said trees. In a childish fit of frustration I snapped the handlebars hard right and roared into a nearby pullout, leaving my puzzled friends scratching their heads wondering what had suddenly come over me. After sliding to a stop, I flicked down the kickstand, slammed the bike over and jumped off, ripping my headset cord from its socket as I stomped away flinging my arms and cussing a blue streak. Now what? Another detour will add at least twenty five more miles to our trip and we’re already behind schedule. Like the bickering Tuttleheads on American Chopper, we were now up against the clock. Good Grief. Our ride is turning into one of those phoney reality shows. And the GPS was startin’ to smoke too as it worked overtime recalculating yet another route. This time Hwy 411 via Marysville. Our troubles didn’t seem to kindle any sympathy with the rain gods either because it continued to pour.

And, as if all this weren’t enough, somewhere on the road to Marysville Dorothy’s face shield blew off and the wind driven rain began stripping her nose and lips from her face not to mention her makeup so as we rode we kept our eyes peeled for a motorcycle shop. We found one in Madinsonville, pulled in and while Catfish Floyd was replacing Dorothy’s shield, the first few bars of Dixie alerted me that I had an incoming phone call. I looked at my watch, 10:30. It had to be Hillbilly and it was. He was calling from Blue Ridge, Georgia and was northbound on Hwy 68. By a remarkable coincidence, the road closures had forced us onto Hwy 68 too and we had been closing with Hillbilly at a hundred miles an hour. What a piece of luck. And it was luck. If you don’t think so, get out a map and look at the north Georgia highway system. Looks like a fishing worm convention. We agreed to meet in Tellico Plains at the Cherohala Market, a biker friendly convenience store just off the Cheohala Skyway Scenic Highway.

The proprietor of the Cherohala Market is either a motorcyclist, a shrewd businessman or both. The thirty mile long Cherohala Skyway Scenic Highway dumps dozens of motorcyclists at his front door every day and he has taken advantage of this situation by proclaiming the market to be a biker friendly establishment. He backed up this proclamation by constructing the “Bike Shed”, a covered shelter for motorcycles that will accommodate a dozen or more bikes and there are a cupla’ picnic tables as well, a welcome respite for the weary motorcyclist.

Hillbilly’s ride was a bit further than ours and when he rolled into the Cheohala Market he found us waiting patiently at the “Bike Shed”. After some conversation and handshaking we strolled inside and seated ourselves at one of several tables in the sit-down deli and ordered the blue plate special. Turkey and dressing I believe it was and it was very good. Sometime during lunch, the rain ended and later, as we rolled out of the parking lot and onto the Skyway, the sun popped out. It was going to be a fine afternoon.

Just outside Tellico Plains we took a side trip to Bald River Falls for a photo-op, then back onto the Skyway and off to Deal’s Gap where we met four riders from Minnesota, none of whom had ever tamed the Dragon. They were a bit intimidated by the Trash Tree and all the photos inside of crashed bikes, but we assured them that as long as they didn’t ride over their head and attempt to set any records, Deal’s Gap was just another nice ride. They made it as we knew they would and we joined them for a De-Briefing at the pullout. Hey, it was nice to meet you guys even if you did talk funny..

Arriving back in Gatlinburg around seven, we had dinner at Bennet’s Bar-B-Q then cruised the main drag down to the Greystone, got Hillbilly checked in and settled down for the evening. After scrubbing up good, everybody gathered out on the balcony with a full pound of kettle fresh chocolate fudge and a giant economy size bottle of Salmon Harbor California Chardonnay. We consumed everything then declared life to be good, especially to us and all agreed that what started out as a bad day worked out just fine. You see, a ride to the Cheohala Market and Bald River Falls was actually planned for tomorrow anyway. It was on our list of things to do. So we accidently killed two birds with one stone…If you give things a little time they usually work themselves out, don’t they? If only I could remember that lesson. But I won’t and the next time some little something goes wrong, just as sure as the sun comes up tomorrow, I’ll blow my cork again. Just my nature I guess.



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