Saturday, April 30, 2011

A MOTORCYCLE RIDE WITH AN OLD FRIEND & MORE TORNADO DAMAGE

CLICK PHOTOS TO ENLARGE
An old friend and I finally hooked up by telephone last week and scheduled a motorcycle ride for today.  We met at the end of the Foothills Parkway where it meets Route 129.  From there we would ride 129 South, (the infamous Dragon), to Joyce Kilmer Memorial Forest and on to the Chirohala Skyway to Robinsville, North Carolina where we would grab a bite to eat at some unique restaurant.  As I waited for Bob I thought to myself, again, how much we take for granted living here in this beautiful area.  The most famous motorcycle riding in the entire country is in our back yards.  Yet, at times, I just jump on the bike and ride to the Dragon, or to the Chirohala Skyway and, sometimes I ride up on the Blue Ridge Parkway through the mountains.  Then there is the Great Smoky Mountains National Park and on and on.  People come from all over the United States and even Europe for the opportunity to ride these mountains.  We live right here in the middle of God's gift to the motorcycle community.  How great is that?!
I had heard that the tornado's of two days ago split and one came through the Chilhowee Lake area.  I decided to investigate.  I was  fifteen or twenty minutes ahead of Bob so, I slowly rode up the road looking for any damage.  I went only a hundred feet and the damage was evident.  Notice the steel power line tower below.  That's how they are supposed to look.

These towers carry the weight of miles of heavy cable that span the width of the lake from one mountain side to the other.  Look below what the tornado did to one of these incredibly strong towers.  Look to the right side of the photo.
The succeeding shots are of the downed tower. 
If you look closely you can see the power line coming out of the water.  It is still attached to the top of the tower which lies in a crumpled mess.
I only had the small DL990 Elph camera with me today so I couldn't zoom in for close shots very well.  Those towers stood there in place since 1948. 
That's not all.  Look closely at the mountain side on the other side of the lake.  It looks as though it were logged off.  Not so.  That mountain side was covered with a dense forest.  The tornado came over that mountain and into and up the center of Lake Chilhowee, took out the tower and made a left turn and crossed route 129 and followed the Abrams Creek Channel up into the Smoky's.  Glad I wasn't camped along any of those waterways.  That's the territory I usually can be found in though. 
Is that not amazing?  The winds broke off huge trees like toothpicks.  The monster either entered the area above the mountain and then touched down on the slope or, was in the lake moving up stream and almost exited the lake on the mountain and became diverted back to the lake.  It's hard to tell.
I continued up the road to where I put my canoe in the water at Abrams Creek channel.  I guess I won't be launching here for awhile.
Trees were broken off on both sides of the road, Route 129 for about a mile.  The winds must have been outrageous!
I was curious what, if any, damage existed up along the Abrams Creek channel.  A canoe paddle trip may be in order.   It was time to hook up with Bob and get on over the mountain.  We wanted to stop at the little store at the end of the Dragon at Deals Gap and have breakfast, which we did.  I wanted to stop at Calderwood Lake to see if there were any developments as far as new construction at the lake.  I saw a load of steel on the ground the last time I visited.  Bob had never been to Calderwood so he was interested in stopping also.  We found a new load of steel unloaded beside the first one.  What is going on here?

I hate to see this.  Steel parts equal progress and progress is not what I want to see at Calderwood Lake.  Progress brings people and people have enough water to screw up as it is without including this beautiful wilderness lake in their list of choices.
We pulled up to the edge of the boat ramp and parked to take a breather.  By the way;  Bob's bike is a Ducati.  It is pure Italian through and through.  In the world of motorcycles the Ducati is a thoroughbred through and through.
Ducati's have beautiful lattice frames that are the strongest in the industry.  The lines of the machine are elegant and, well, sexy. 
The old timer, I mean, gentleman fiddling with something on the seat is Bob.  He's an old time rider I've known for years.  He used to be a customer of mine when I owned a BMW Motorcycle dealership back in Pennsylvania.
You're probably already familiar with my KLR Kawasaki.  I'm beginning to call her "the mule."  She'll carry quite a pay load and is a delight to be on while meandering through the tight mountain roads.  And, she'll go almost anywhere on or off pavement.
Up to this point in time neither of us has travelled faster today than 45 miles per hour.  We are just enjoying the ride and using speeds that do not require any particular, special skills.  It's a day to look around and be thankful we're healthy enough to enjoy what we love to do.
I saw a lady putting items into a canoe and just had to pass a little time talking canoe talk.  Well;  that's my passion.
Her husband came over and we all made some small talk about how wonderful and pristine Calderwood Lake was.  They drive up here weekly from Franklin NC, I think he said.  Through our conversation I soon discovered that we had many similar likes and appreciations, especially where canoe's are concerned.  I liked them both and sincerely hope our paths cross again.  Oh;  she loves photography also.  Anyway;  great people!  I watched them paddle away down the lake until they almost disappeared from view.  For a moment I wanted to be in my canoe. 

I didn't get their names but then, names aren't important.  The quality of the person is.  These were folks I know I could paddle with and enjoy their company all the way.  That's saying allot coming from me.  I'm the guy who does it all alone and usually shuns human company.  There are very few people I can tolerate, especially when I'm in the wilderness.   The golden dog is my true companion.  He's always there for me...
I snapped a picture of Cheoah Dam on the way out to route 129. Remember the movie The Fugitive? This is the dam the water scenes were shot at. Cheoah Dam is the oldest dam in the state of Tennessee.

The waters from Cheoah Dam flow into and make Calderwood Lake.
We continued down 129 South following Meadow Run on our right.  Meadow Run is a gorgeous stream with fast flows that roll over and around boulders that have created many, many waterfalls both large and small.

The views and scenes are like this for miles and miles.  Douglas would love to play in this water.  However, it is too close to the road and I would constantly worry about him.  The motorcycles travel very fast on this road on the way to the Dragon.  Tiny little toy cars scream by, the driver of each a wannabe race car driver heading for the Dragon to prove his prowess.  Gimme a break!
"Bob;  no, don't do it.  No, no..  It can't be that bad.  It's not all over yet.  We still have time.  It's called aging.  Don't end it here!"
We made the turn to Joyce Kilmer Memorial Forest, a place I love to visit.  Bob had not been back there before this.  The road to the memorial forest skirts along Santeelah Lake an is a sweet ride.  As we turned into the parking lot I discovered I could not shift the bike.  I pushed down on the shift lever and could not lift it up.  It would move down until finally it went into first gear located at the lowest shifter position.  But, I could not lift the shift lever.  I drove to the park area in first gear with a sinking heart.  I was broken!  As I stopped the bike and tried to shift again;  I looked down at the lever and a one inch stick was wedged between the lever and the frame.  Bob extricated it and all was fixed.  I put a big smile on my face as I thanked him for fixing my motorcycle.  We had a drink of cold water and was on our way to the Chirohala Skyway and Robinsville.  Our destination was Franklin.  We stopped at a cool restaurant last year in Franklin that served the best egg salad sandwich I ever ate.  However, they closed as we pulled up to the curb.  What luck!   A few questions were asked about where else was unique to eat at and we ended up at the place below:
The food wasn't all that unique but it was super!  We then left for home;  the long way.  The Joe Brown Highway was found that would lead us to Apalacia Lake.  Douglas and I took the Gheenoe to Apalacia Lake last year.   By the way Apalacia is spelled correctly.  That's how it is spelled for this lake.  That entry is in the archives of this blog.  We stopped at the same put in that I used then.  A drink of water was called for and a few pictures.  A group of butterflies was congregated on a spot the size of a softball.  They were nowhere else to be found.  They had to all cluster on this on spot.  They were beautiful.
I wonder what the attraction was that caused them to gravitate to this one particular spot?
Look closely at the next two pictures.  Yep;  mom and dad.
Seeing those babies makes me think of the goose whose nest is on the rock face back in the crag down on the Little Tennessee.  Surely she has babies by now.  If I can get up early enough tomorrow morning I shall take the Gheenoe down river to check on them.  Of course I have to pass the eagle nest also.
We had a long ride ahead of us to get back home so we had better saddle up and hit it.  Today has been a special day.  I rode with an old friend and thoroughly enjoyed every minute of the ride with him.  We need to do this more often.
I'm going to pull my hair out if I don't get into a canoe soon.  I'm dying for it.  Douglas and I will do a canoe camp this week, maybe Wednesday and Thursday if the weather cooperates.  Hope you found something in today's ride that interested you.  Until next time;  please brake for ducks and geese.  They have young now.