2004 Smokey Mountains Rough Road Ride

(changed from dirt to rough :o )

Report by: Andy Simons, Ride Coordinator
Pictures By: Andy Simons, Ruben Pastian & Gregg Burger

*** Click on any picture to view full size ***

The first Motorcycle Tourer's Forum Rough Road Ride just happened to fall on the weekend that also found Hurricane Ivan visiting the mountains.

More than 20 riders had committed to coming to Bryson City, but the weather made it all but impossible for many of them to travel to North Carolina. As it turned out, five riders made the trip (Charlie Hoback, Tim Yow, Greg Burger, Ruben Pastian, Joe Harris). joegregrubentimandy.jpg

Thursday: I left for Bryson City Thursday morning thinking that I would probably not get any chance to ride during the weekend. A friend of mine, Charlie Hoback, was already at the Ridge Top Motel, thucharlie.jpg
and we planned to pre-ride some of the roads that afternoon. We rode in the rain all day, but we were able to complete the first day’s route (except for Winding Stairs Road - road had already been closed by the forest service because of the storm). When I got back to the motel, I learned that the forecast for the night called for 10"-15" of rain and 60nph winds. Tim Yow (of Illinois) arrived at the Ridge Top around 800P and quickly told me he was ready to ride, even if he had to wait for the hurricane to pass through the area. thufs711overlook.jpg

Thursday night: Tons of rain and high winds. The wind blew some of the shingles off of the roof of the motel. I watched the weather until the cable TV went down. Through the night, I heard several loud pops that I identified as transformers blowing. It was a night much like I remembered from my Hurricane Hugo experience.

Friday Morning: Charlie, his wife Brenda, Tim, and I went down into Bryson City for breakfast. It wasn't as bad as I expected. Most of the town had power and our restaurant was open ;o). frilittletnrivflood.jpg
The big problem in Bryson City was flooding. The Tuskasegee River was already out of its banks and was expected to continue to rise until 200P. The power of the water (the river) was awesome to see and local authorities soon closed 2 of 3 bridges in the town. frinantahalariver.jpg
We begin to hear of other damages including news that I-40 was closed between Asheville and Knoxville. Many of the homes and businesses in the town were already flooded and sandbags were being used to try to soften the blow. Charlie and Brenda had already planned to head for home (while there were still some roads open) but Tim still said, "I came here to ride." We went back to the motel to wait for the announced 1230P start even though I did not expect anybody else to show up. I was surprised. First, Greg Burger (New Jersey) pulls into the lot and then Ruben Pastian (Florida) shows up.

I got excited by the attitude and determination of Tim, Greg, and Ruben and started thinking about a bad weather route.

Friday Afternoon: We left the Ridge Top just before 100P. We rode down US74 and NC28 to get to the first rough road, Tellico (Gap) Road. There was much evidence of the storm. Telephone and power lines were down all along the way and limbs and leaves covered the road in several spots. friunderthetree.jpg
Tellico Road going up the mountain wasn't so bad. There were some rough spots where water had washed over the road, and a couple of trees had fallen over the road. One tree blocked the road. I was thinking we would have to turn around when Greg reached into one of the bags of his R1150GS and pulled out a trenching tool with a saw attachment. friroadblock.jpg
Greg was really prepared for adventure ;o). It took the four of us 20 minutes to saw through the tree and clear the road. After that, the ride to the top was easy. However, the ride down the mountain turned out to be the hardest 2 miles of the weekend. Water overflow out of creeks and drainage ditches and cut numerous ditches across the road. The ditches were mostly about a foot deep, still full of running water, and crossed the road at a 45 degree angle to our travel. Throw in softball size rocks along the way and riding was really hard. friunderthetree.jpg
It took us 30 minutes to cover the remaining 2 miles of gravel road. After that experience, we decide to stick to paved roads. We tried FS711 but were soon stopped by mudslides and had to turn around.
We decided to ride the length of Wayah Road (AKA Thunder Road). We found a lot of high fast water. Wayah Road was down to one lane in several spots because of the roadbed being washed out. Near Franklin, NC we went though 2 spots where there had been huge mudslides (dirt and trees from 1000" above the road). We ended up riding 130 miles in 6 hours. It was a real adventure - we called it our Hurricane Ride. frimudslide.jpg
However, it was very sad to see the damage to the homes and roads in the area and imagine the hardship that local residents were experiencing. Friday night, another rider, Joe Harris (South Carolina) checked in at the Ridge Top, ready for Saturday’s ride. We planed to ride over to the Cherohala Skyway to see if the roads in that area were as bad as the area around the Nantahala River. friunderthetree.jpg

Saturday: It was perfect.

satalmostreadytoride.jpg satfirstam.jpg
We went by the Fontana Dam first and got some great pics. The flood gates were open (first time I have seen that) and it was breathtaking to look down the big hole (100'at the gates into 30' tunnels that are 1/4 mile long - the water reaches speeds of 95mph going down to the bottom) where the water was being dumped and at the outlet where the overflow went into the river.

Saturday Lunch stop for the Crew.

After that, we rode and rode and rode. All of the rough roads were in great condition. We didn't get back to the motel until 700P and did 260 miles. Highlights included Bald River Falls and the Tellico Cafe (lunch).
Joe on the road
Tim Stewart cabin
Bald River Falls

The 650s (mine-BMW, Tim-Kawasaki, Joe-Suzuki) were perfect for the ride. Greg proved to be a great rider and hossed his BMW R1150GS right along with the crowd. Ruben suffered a little with his V-Strom since it was new and it was his first time on dirt since the 70s. Still, Ruben and the bike proved very capable and he rode all of the sections until a spill sent him looking for a shift lever. He did have the only dirt bike with a satellite radio ;o). I can't wait till the next ride. Maybe we can pick a weekend without a hurricane.

*** For more pictures click here ***

*** For pictures of Week two's ride click here ***