A Motorcycle Weekend in the Smoky Mountains
Ian Etheridge, Technical Editor.
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I recently took a 640 mile trip, on Big Red over an extended weekend. I rode from Aiken, South Carolina  through to the mountains of North Carolina and Georgia.

 

    

   

It all began when Bob Couvillion, a friend and fellow member of the Aiken Chapter of The Goldwing Road Riders Association (GWRRA), planned a weekend campout at The Blue Ridge Motorcycle Campground (BRMC). The Campground is located in the Smokey Mountains, just off of the Blue Ridge Parkway, in Cruso, North Carolina.

   
I did a lot of camping on Staten Island as a teenager, along with other teenage buddies including Glen Mehalick, THS'60 and Warren Schmauch, THS'60. We did a lot of camping out on weekends in those days.

I can still remember that one year we camped out at least one night, and sometimes two nights every weekend, for an entire year without missing a single weekend. We use to camp in "Fairyland" which was between Great Kills and Eltingville, bounded (more or less) by Giffords Lane, Wilson Avenue, and Arthur Kill Road.

While I have fond memories of those campouts, I have no desire now to sleep in a tent on the ground, air mattress or not. So even with the motorcycling aspect and the fact that there would be people going that I knew, like Bob Couvillion, his wife Shirley, and their son Mathew, I did not plan to go on this weekend campout.

   
However, that all changed when I found out that there were cabins at the Blue Ridge Motorcycle Campground that could be rented on a nightly basis. Unfortunately, I found this out too late to get a cabin for the entire weekend, but I was able to rent a cabin for Friday night. So early Friday morning Big Red and I set off for the Campground.

It was a great day for a motorcycle ride to the mountains. Though the sky was overcast, it did not rain, and it was comfortably cool, without being too cold.

  
I had a nice, but very small cabin whose front porch overlooked a stream that forked into a brook, less than twenty feet from my cabin porch.

The stream also serves as a sort of moat, which can be crossed by a small wooden bridge. The bridge is for motorcycles only and serves as the entrance to the campground. Vehicles other than motorcycles cannot cross the bridge; they must park in the parking lot outside the campground.

   

There were already motorcyclists there from several states, and more continued to arrive throughout the day; a few even came after it was already dark.

They camped in tents, pop-up campers, ( yes, they have pop-up campers that can be towed behind a motorcycle) and, some like me, in the other 17 cabins.

  
    

After unpacking, and getting settled into my cabin, I walked around looking at my fellow campers "rides." I talked with almost everyone there. The conversations were mostly about motorcycles, though just about everyone asks, "Where are you from?"

 

  
The motorcycles I saw were as varied as the people riding them. All of the major makes of motorcycles and quite a few of the lesser known makes, were there.

That evening a lot of my fellow riders and I sat around a campfire and discussed good roads to ride, places to go and things to see, and the pros and cons of the various motorcycle makes, and models.

   

These discussions went on late into the night. I finally went to my cabin, and fell asleep to the sound of the brook babbling, and slept like a log. I had heard of a "babbling brook" before, but now I know exactly what a babbling brook sounds like.

   
Since I could only get the cabin at the Blue Ridge Motorcycle Campground for Friday night, I had made a reservation for Saturday night at the "World Famous" Deal's Gap Motorcycle Resort. Well OK, maybe it is only "World Famous" to motorcyclists.

After Bob made breakfast of scrambled eggs and bacon on his portable propane stove, Bob, Shirley, and Mathew decided that they would ride over to Deal's Gap with me. So with Bob and Shirley on their Honda GL1800 Goldwing, and Mathew on his Honda PC800 Pacific Coast, Big Red and I set the Garmin Street Pilot III GPS for Deal's Gap and we were off. 

Big Red and I would be spending the night there; the others were just going for the ride and would return later in the day to the Blue Ridge Motorcycle Campground.

   
Deal's Gap is located just south of the Tennessee border, on US 129, in Tapoco, NC. It is the start, or end, depending on your direction of travel, on US 129 of "The Dragon."

It is called the Dragon because US 129 between the Deal's Gap Motorcycle Resort and Tennessee contains 318 curves including many hairpin and "switchback" turns, all in just an 11 mile stretch of US 129, so that the road resembles the tail of a dragon.

    
  

Motorcyclists come from every state in the union, and many foreign countries to challenge the Dragon. Most riders survive their challenge, but not all go unscathed, and regrettably some who have underestimated their speed, and/or overestimated their ability, do not survive.

The would-be Dragon slayers who, though battered and bruised, do survive their challenge, but whose mounts do not survive, hang a piece of their mount on The Tree of Shame.

At Deal's Gap Motorcycle Resort, as at the Blue Ridge Motorcycle Campground, there were motorcycles of just about every make and model, though in even greater numbers.

   
After checking into my motel room, I sat outside and watched the hundreds of bikes and bikers of all different sizes and shapes come and go. For the most part motorcyclists are a friendly bunch of people. Once again I spoke with many different bikers.

What did surprise me a little, was the number of women riders, who rode their own bikes. Of course, there were also many who rode on their husbands or significant others bikes.

    
That evening I rode down off the mountain to Robbinsville, North Carolina, which is the nearest town of any size, for something to eat. The Deal's Gap Motorcycle Resort does not have a restaurant, though one is under construction. They do sell snacks and such, including hot dogs. They did sell a B-B-Q sandwich, with baked beans, and cold slaw, from noon until around 5:00 PM.
   
When I returned from Robbinsville after a nice meal at The Sweet Magnolia restaurant, I gave Big Red a quick clean before covering him up for the night. I then walked around looking at the many and various motorcycles, and chatted with their owners.

Some of the owners of the motorcycles were like myself, spending the night there in one of the dozen or so motel rooms at Deal's Gap Motorcycle Resort. I sat and chatted with several of them until 1:00 AM.

Most of the conversations I had were about motorcycles, trips taken, rallies attended, and of course, the ever popular discussions on the pros and cons of certain makes and models of motorcycles.

I did have a couple of non-motorcycle conversations. One was with a fellow from Oklahoma, on the merits of being single versus being married. Another conversation was with a fellow from Alabama, on the state of politics in Alabama and the United States.

   
   

Since I had only made a motel reservation for one night at the Deal's Gap Motorcycle Resort, Big Red and I headed out on Sunday morning for the Two Wheels Only Motorcycle Resort, in Suches, Georgia.

Once again it was a nice, cool but not cold ride. It is about a 100 miles from Deal's Gap to TWO. 

   
   

The last 10 miles were over a road cut into the side of a mountain, very much like a milder version of the Dragon, with many curves and S-turns, including a curve that did a 180 U-turn.

I spent about two hours at TWO chatting with other riders, and I toured the campground.

   
   

The swimming pool looked very inviting but unfortunately, its use is restricted to registered guests. 

Big Red and I then headed to Dahlonega, in the north Georgia mountains, where I had a reservation at the Super 8 Motel.

   
   

   

This was the first time I had stayed at a Super 8 Motel.

I was pleasantly surprised to find a refrigerator and microwave in my larger than usual motel room.

   

The Super 8 also had a nice swimming pool, so I was able to get the swim I could not get at TWO.

I had planned to return home to Aiken, South Carolina the next day, but due to very bad weather I stayed an extra day at Super 8. I used this unexpected down time to write this article.

   
Upon arriving home I found an email from Bob and Shirley that said in part, "Yesterday about 6:00 PM we were about 1 mile from the camp ground and my bike slid out on a turn while traveling about 30-35 mph. I think that the bike hit a patch of oil or something similar. We took a very bad fall and are both extremely sore tonight. We did have on our Full Face helmets, full fingered gloves, boots, and mesh riding jackets."
   
While all of the campgrounds mentioned here are motorcycle oriented, you could camp at any of them if you wished, even if you did not arrive by motorcycle. However, you would not be allowed to bring your vehicle into the camping area, but would have to leave it in the parking lot.
  
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