Deal's Gap (6/11/21 - 6/13/21)

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Deal's Gap (6/11/21 - 6/13/21)

Post by DesignFlaw06 »

I usually plan a rally for the guys over at Nighthawk-Forums.com. It's a forum I helped start and still run. It's been plenty of years since I've owned a Nighthawk, but much like this forum, I've met some great people that I still enjoy hanging out with. The first rally we did was back in 2010. It was time to revisit the area.

The dates didn't work out for any of the NHF people unfortunately, but I have collected some local riding friends that joined us this time. We had 3 of us and then Nick had 4 bikes in his trailer. Those 4 live over near the Detroit area.

The West Michigan crew all loaded up. Nobody can get anything bigger.
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We picked up a hitch hiker. Pretty sure that's not how Tweety wanted to go out.
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We stayed at a cabin inside the Fontana Village. I don't think I would stay there again. The lodge is probably a pretty nice place, but the cabins were not great. They were poorly constructed and that led to insects and mice being able to get in. The cabins were clean, but those kinds of things made it feel dirty. There was no WiFi, no cell service, or even a phone to call the lodge or other cabins. However, the location was decent.

Friday morning was the time to run the Tail of the Dragon. Only 2 of us had done it before and that was 11 years ago. I bought a few of the photos taken by the photographers camped out.

3 FJRs in a row
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Not an aggressive run, but I'm not an aggressive rider.
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I will say that I remembered the Dragon being a lot more tedious and a lot more work. I didn't mind it this time. It still isn't my favorite road and there are way better places to ride in that area. But maybe I'm a better rider than I was 11 years ago. Or the bike is setup better for me now than it was back then. Or bad memory. It's probably a combination of all 3.
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We stopped at the scenic overlook that is about 9 miles into US129. This was as far as we could go the last time we were here. A rock slide had closed the remaining portion of it so we had to turn around and go back. This time we were able to complete the entire run.
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There were 7 of us in total. My '06 FJR, Gary's '14 FJR, Guy's '05 FJR, Scott's '18 MT-07, Tom's '09 VMax, Rob's older Harley something, and Nick's '08 Triumph Sprint ST.
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We took 129 to the Foothills Parkway. I don't remember doing this road before, but it was fantastic. As is usual for my trips though, the clouds did start rolling in.
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We made our way to US441. There is an overlook called Clingman's Dome. It looked like a neat place to stop so that was our destination. It was a 1/2 mile hike, but there wasn't an indication of just how steep that 1/2 mile was. We all got a taste of how out of shape we are. Some of us made it to the overlook. Others were smart enough not to bother.
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Like I said, it was a cool structure, but this was our view from it.
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The walk down wasn't much easier than the walk up. The skies let loose on us and it poured on us the entire walk back to the bikes. The parking lot had a flash flood going through it. Nick's DSLR camera drowned and failed to turn back on again. By the time we got back on the bikes, it had let up considerably. Anyone who has traveled with me knows I bring wet weather with so that box was checked. The rest of the ride home was uneventful, but we all threw our gear into the dryers when we got back to the cabins.

Saturday's adventure was the Cherohola Skyway. We missed the Tree of Shame the day before, so we made a quick stop to take a photo there.
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We also wanted to stop at the Killboy store to see what kind of merchandise was there.
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We had the girl in the shop take a group photo.
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Just to the south of the stores is the Cheoah Dam. It was used as a filming location for the movie The Fugitive starring Harrison Ford.
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The scene
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4sjEAX4iymo

Nick and I had ventured off the Cherohala Skyway when we were there 11 years ago to find Bald River Falls. It made for a great photo op so we took the group there again.
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It was a bit busier than I remember it. We had to patient to get this shot of all the bikes together.
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After the Cherohala, our route took us south. Along the way, we spotted a sign for Fields of the Wood. We had no idea what it was, but decided to stop. Turns out it is an attraction with a lot of religious landscape done.
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I'm not a religious person, but I can appreciate the effort that went in to these displays.
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Is this Mount Sinai?
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Here is proof that it doesn't always rain on my rides.
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We had no more planned stops the rest of the day so we made a push back towards the cabin. We made it back to the Fontana Village around 6PM. Nick and I had discussed running The Dragon again. Guy was done and just went back to the cabin. I told him the rest of us would be back in about an hour and off we went. This time I wasn't going to try to keep the group together. The plan was to meet at the scenic overlook we had stopped at the day before. Everyone knew where it was. I let Nick lead since he is primarily stuck in the back as sweep during these trips. Here was a chance for him to have some fun.

There were some vehicles that had split the group up along the way, but we all knew the plan. Those of us in the front were a bit more aggressive this time around. As we approached mile marker 4, we started getting the signal to slow down from other riders. We thought it was another police officer like we had seen the day before, but we came around the corner to a wreck in the road.

The accident had to have happened just a few minutes before we got there. There was someone already directing traffic. We saw the rider involved sitting up and someone was giving him water and first aid attention. While waiting our turn to pass through the accident, I looked over to my right to see a helmet and then the lifeless body of a young kid. He had clearly been thrown from his bike into the wall of rock and killed on impact. He was a local rider from Maryville, TN that was only 18 years old. One of the riders involved crossed the center line to cause the crash. There were conflicting reports on who was actually at fault, but it doesn't change the outcome. It was tragic to say the least.

We stuck to the plan once we got through the accident. Nick and I waited at the overlook for the rest of our group. We were some of the first people to get to the overlook, but it got busy in a hurry. Everyone was trying to piece together what happened. Some exaggerating more than others. Some in our group clearly wanted to be off their bike. I told them that any minute now there will be EMS here to shut the road down. It happens anytime there is a fatality on any road. You could hear the sirens coming and it wasn't long before police and ambulances were flying down the road.

The alternatives for getting back to camp were not good. We were looking at another 170 miles and 2 1/2 hours of ride time. Tacking that on to a 275 mile day already wasn't an option for some. We decided that it was better to wait it out and only have 20 miles to go instead. Once the first set of EMS vehicles went by, we were paying attention to other vehicles headed that way and expecting to see them come back. We never did so we thought maybe there was a chance they were still letting people through.

We were wrong.
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As expected, things were shut down. We still figured the right decision was to wait it out. The line behind us continued to get longer.
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It took 3 1/2 hours to clear the scene before things got moving again. It was still the right call. I'm not a fan of riding at night, but it was neat riding in essentially a parade through the remainder of the Dragon. Just a steady stream of headlights and brake lights through the switchbacks. Everyone was just glad to be moving again.

It was near 11 PM when we got back. We had missed dinner so I offered to go to the lodge and get snacks and such from the vending machines while everyone else went back to the cabin. As I walked towards the door, I saw Guy nervously pacing in the lobby. After an hour and a half had passed, he was growing concerned. The only WiFi signal was in the lodge so he figured if there was any chance of someone contacting him, it would be there. Or we would go there for dinner once we got back. Of course he overhears about the fatality on The Dragon. I had tried sending him a text the entire time we were waiting, but couldn't get a bar of service to get a single text through. Nothing that anyone can do, but it had to have been gut wrenching waiting that long to see if your friends are OK.

We were looking for a better day on Sunday. We hopped on the Blue Ridge Parkway just north of Cherokee, NC. There were going to be some great scenic spots to see.
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We hopped off the BRP and took a detour to the Wheels Through Time Museum. It's an interesting collection of old motorcycles and cars and well worth the stop. I believe they said every vehicle on display runs.
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The Mt. Garfield Hill Climb is widely known event in my hometown. I just wasn't sure how widely known. It's put on by the Muskegon Motorcycle Club every year. Tom's dad was a national hill climb champion in the late 60's. Most of the things on display were older than that, but Tom added to the experience by narrating a lot about the competition. I'm glad he got to see it.
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After the Wheels Through Time, we hopped back onto the BRP. Rob wasn't feeling great and decided to head back to the cabin to rest. The Yamahas congregated together in this photo while the Triumph just wanted to feel included.
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Great road with plenty of scenic overlooks.
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We left the Blue Ridge Parkway to make our way to Looking Glass Falls. This was the only navigational mishap during the trip. A Jeep Cherokee ran a stop sign while we were exiting the BRP. It is a weird intersection there, but had I not seen the Jeep and taken the left I intended to, I would have been his new hood ornament. Hopefully the driver saw and learned from the gravity of his mistake, but I suspect he didn't and thought it was our fault instead.

Looking Glass Falls is a great view, but it is an absolute zoo as far as crowds and traffic. We were able to park and get some photos, but we didn't stay there long.
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Scenic views in North Carolina are spectacular.
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The last stop on Sunday was Bridal Veil Falls. You used to be able to drive behind the falls, but the path is blocked off now. The ground under the road is being eroded away over time so eventually that will be unsafe for vehicles. Probably could have got the bikes in there still, but there was a steady stream of people coming and going. It would have been difficult to get a good photo. Plus it was getting late and we still had to load the bikes up for an early departure the next morning.
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Apart from the events on Saturday night, it really was a good trip. I'm sure we'll make it back that way again.
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Re: Deal's Gap (6/11/21 - 6/13/21)

Post by Deagle10 »

Excellent, excellent ride report. Loved the pics. Loved the narrative.
Deals Gap always scares me. So many people cross the center line. So many fun roads down there I try to avoid that one if I can. Just too well known and too busy.
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Re: Deal's Gap (6/11/21 - 6/13/21)

Post by FastPappy »

Thanks for churning up the memories. Been 10 years or so since my trip down there. Hopefully can do it again someday. ;)
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Re: Deal's Gap (6/11/21 - 6/13/21)

Post by LKLD »

Thanks, that was an enjoyable RR. 👍
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Re: Deal's Gap (6/11/21 - 6/13/21)

Post by wheatonFJR »

Deagle10 wrote: Wed Jun 30, 2021 3:14 pm Excellent, excellent ride report. Loved the pics. Loved the narrative.
Deals Gap always scares me. So many people cross the center line. So many fun roads down there I try to avoid that one if I can. Just too well known and too busy.
Its awesome on Black Friday.
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Re: Deal's Gap (6/11/21 - 6/13/21)

Post by Festus »

Great ride report! Sounds like you all had a great time, with the exception of having to see the horror of that accident.

I see videos online of people riding Tail of the Dragon like they are on a racetrack. The time we went, at the store, they said specifically that the police have been known to write tickets for 1 over the speed limit. I'm not comfortable hearing that and then riding double the speed limit.

If you ever get back to Wheels Through Time, take the time to ask the staff some specific questions about bikes. That's where the real value of that place comes from. I think I was looking at a Henderson and they guy went into great detail about the company, how it got started, the things on the motorcycle that were unique at the time, and then what caused them to go out of business. There was a lot of story to go with one bike and that place is full of bikes, and stories. Don't be afraid to ask the staff to tell you more about something.

It's a fascinating place full of the history of early motorcycles.
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Re: Deal's Gap (6/11/21 - 6/13/21)

Post by extrememarine »

Great report, thanks for sharing! I was bummed to miss out on this - but the fact is if I was there, it would have rained at the 'epic' level because that what happens when I go for a ride with you!

Which photo stock site did you poach that picture from?
DesignFlaw06 wrote: Wed Jun 30, 2021 2:15 pm Here is proof that it doesn't always rain on my rides.
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Re: Deal's Gap (6/11/21 - 6/13/21)

Post by Blueridgerider »

I really enjoyed reading about your trip along with the fantastic photos. I have been going there over the last almost 30 years and it never gets old. Seems like there is also something I have never done or seen as well and after reading this realize I have never been to Bald River Falls. You just gave me a great reason to pack the bags and head out! Looks like a place worth seeing.

Just terrible that you had to not only see the unfortunate fatality but to also wait for that amount of time. I was there last year staying at the Tapocco. Most of us know its 3 miles from the Gap right by the dam where you got the picture of where The Fugitive was filmed. For those that don't know you come down the road and across this bridge with the dam to the left and into Tapocco Lodge. So after riding all day and really ready for a many cold beers and dinner we come to the dreaded line of bikes like you did. We were fortunate that by the time we got there we had to wait for about 30 minutes for the Medivac to head out. I believe many bikes turned around and went back to Rt28 rather than wait so we were right at the scene . Dreadful watching all this and not knowing the riders fate. Takes the wind out of your enthusiasm to make another Gap run after seeing that.

When we had dinner that night on the water at Tapocco and our waitress said she witnessed the accident. Seems the rider took his eyes off the road looking at the lodge, hit the guardrail etc. We heard later it was not a fatality. Great news but still his injuries required a flight out instead of an ambulance ride. Since then I have been looking at Medivac insurance. To make a terrible day worse those flights can cost $25,000 or more and most often insurance does not cover it. Seems if your old enough for Medicare like me they cover it if medically necessary to save your life but there's still a lot of gray areas with that. You can buy that insurance which is really not a bad idea if your up riding in the mountains often miles from a hospital but of course it ain't cheap. If anyone has purchased this insurance it would be great to hear your experience etc. Thanks for sharing the story of your trip, really enjoyed it! I will be heading there soon and this time will check out Bald River Falls!

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Re: Deal's Gap (6/11/21 - 6/13/21)

Post by Hppants »

Great report, Tim. As you know, I attended the first 4 or 5 Nighthawk rallies, all at Deals Gap. We had some wonderful times, I seeing your report brings back very fond memories.
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