Day 5: Waking up on this last morning of our vacation, brought with it a feeling of disappointment that our fun in the Smokeys, has reached it's conclusion. I lifted my head up off the pillow and looked around the hotel room and thought, "Good grief!" It looked like we had two weeks worth of laundry scattered around the place. I closed my eyes again, prolonging the dreaded task of re-rolling all our crap so we can get it all packed on the motorcycles. It's funny how each morning prior to this, I was up like a jack in the box, ready for the new days adventure. This morning I was dragging! I guess because today, I know I go back to reality.
After a couple of hours, we all were repacked and ready to head toward home. Our plan was to take Hwy 28 south to Franklin, then connect to Hwy 441 and take that all the way to I-85 just north of Atlanta. We mounted up, pointed our Harleys south, and fell into line with each other as we made our way along the scenic path that would take us away from our bikers playground. We were still in the Nantahala National Forest, so we were able to enjoy the thrill of riding the twisting pavement one last time. It was almost as if the road was bidding us a final farewell. As we got further south, away from the forest, the road slowly straightened back out and was producing fewer curves. We understood that the thrills and chills of riding were behind us now, but we gained some great memories and experiences that will stay with us always.
We pulled into this little diner in Otto, NC so we could enjoy one more meal together. The only reason I even mention this place is because it was probably one of the best restaurants we ate in while on this trip. It was around 11:30 and they were serving breakfast and lunch, and they also had a buffet set up. We all got a little of everything and it was delicious! I ordered a club sandwich and got a Flinstone sized serving! Holy cow! Three people could have dined sufficiently on this masterpiece. They were very friendly folks too! I highly recommend this Country Cafe if you ever find yourself traveling through Otto, NC. You won't be disappointed.
Getting back on the motorcycles from this point really went somewhat uneventful, until we got close to Atlanta. We were on I-85 south, approaching the city of Atlanta and somehow we missed the warning signs that said "Paving...down to three lanes". We should have taken I-285 around Atlanta, but we didn't. We rode head on into the mother of all traffic jams. From what I understand though, this is normal and usual for Atlanta, even though we did not encounter this the other day when we came through here. This was my second dose of reality that vacation was coming to an end.
For about 20 minutes, I didn't get out of first gear once. We would creep forward about 10 or 15 yards at a time, then stop. I noticed my oil light kept coming on. I mentioned this to Harley, and he told me to keep my RPM's up, or cut it off if I get to a place that will let me coast a little. It's a good thing I have a talent for multi-tasking, because I felt like I was trying to do ten things at once. Here I am balancing..., creeping..., clutch in..., reving..., turn it off..., coasting..., turn it on..., creep again..., clutch in..., reving..., still balancing..., turn it off again! Another 1o minutes go by and we are still snailing across the heat intensive asphalt. My left hand is feeling spent right about now. Reving some more..., coasting some more! WTF! My big beautiful girl (dare I say the oldest) was hot, hot, hot! She was starving for the cool air she most desperately needed!
By this time, the heat of the asphalt combined with the intense heat our bikes were producing, were making us feel like pieces of bacon, sizzling and popping, in a hot skillet! Did I mention what a beautiful bright sunny day we were having? While I was totally consumed with coordinating my actions, trying to not fall over, and keeping my girl from getting to her boiling point, I noticed a nice looking woman next to me in her car, watching me. She gave me a wave and a smile, so I smiled back and nodded my head, as my hands were busy clutching and reving. I noticed her windows were rolled up tight and her shoulder length hair was actually blowing around, apparently from her air conditioner vent blowing full blast. I had only one thought at that moment. BITCH! I couldn't help myself. I was dying here and all I could think of was how cool her car must feel! "Snap out of it", I chastised myself. Being a biker, you can't always control the elements, so I've got to take the bad with the good. This may have been my third dose of reality today!
Since, it didn't look like we were making much progress, we pulled off on the left side of the road under a shady overpass. There were two closed lanes between us and the creeping traffic, so we felt we were not in any harms way while we sat and let our bikes cool off. Within five minutes, a big lime green rescue unit came up to us and pulled over. Since it was my bike that forced us to take this break, I went over to explain to the man and his partner why we were stopped. Thinking they would be relieved to know they didn't have to work on someone, I was quite surprised when this nice gentleman proceeded to scold us and tell us we can't be here. His quote was,"We are a distraction to an already congested area." Huh? I almost pulled a B. B. here, and responded with a smart ass remark like, "What do you mean, we're not showing titties or anything?" I didn't understand why he said we were a distraction when all we were doing was standing by our bikes, letting them get cool. We told him we would be gone within 15 minutes. They relaxed a little bit and asked us if we needed anything. After they kindly gave us some cold bottles of water, because we looked like we needed it, they pulled out to go see if there were any other rebellious motorists that needed correction.
We kept our promise and within 15 minutes, we were mounted back on the bikes and merging into the moving parking lot of vehicles. Fortunately, we were only creeping along for about 10 minutes, when things started moving a little more steadily. Apparently, we had pulled off where the five lanes had completely merged into three, so once we started moving, the pace picked up dramatically. Within moments, Atlanta was in our rear view mirrors and we were once again cruising southwest toward the Alabama state line. We were relieved to be in the wind again.
Our buddies, the Lone Ranger and the Beav would be peeling off, a few mile up the road, just past Newnan, GA, to head south toward Panama City. As we approached their exit, Harley and I moved up along side of them to bid them farewell.
Waving goodbye to our friends was a little bittersweet, as it means the end of our wonderful journey together. I know there will be more great adventures in the future, but for now I'll just have be content with the memories we've made while on this trip together. This experience will feed my soul for days to come, as this was absolutely the best vacation I've had in a long time! The Smokey Mountains should be on the "Top 1o" list of beautiful places to take a motorcycle trip. I can assure you, won't be disappointed!
As I bring my vacation post to a close, I also want to thank you all for letting me relive my 5 wonderful days of motorcycle bliss one more time! Sometimes, we do everything we can to prolong the fact that we're... back to reality!