Having checked the Dragon and Cherohala off the list for 2016, I was chomping at the bit for the Moonshiner (NC-28 into Franklin) come Wednesday morning. The morning was the usual routine, leisurely (but delicious) breakfast at the Iron Horse, getting my bike packed the way I like it for the day, and figuring out if “the boys” wanted to get on 28 and figure it out from there.
Obviously I’ve covered a bit on NC-28 from last year; this year was more of the same, save for the fact that I was, yet again, not terrified of the dreaded downhill twisties. This year was also another reminder that you should never underestimate a pickup truck with local plates. Headed south into Franklin, just as 28 started to get spirited, we found ourselves behind a beat-up Chevy (I think, couldn’t see past the primer). As soon as the driver realized he was being tailed, he put the pedal on the floor and tried to hold on. That guy deserves some credit, he was really cooking for a few, but eventually he just waved us by.
Once out of the stop-and-go around Franklin, we continued down to Bridal Veil Falls for the mandatory “group photo”. That idea was somewhat “abridged” as the access road was technically closed, expecting another boulder to break loose any moment. From Bridal Veil we were looking to get up onto NC-281, but somewhere in Highlands we found ourselves turned around and continued south on NC-28… which rapidly became Georgia. I’m not going to lie, I had no idea Georgia had such awesome roads. I don’t have a whole lot of “lost on a motorcycle stories”, but I can definitely say, if there’s gas in the tank and the roads are twisty… I’m not lost; 28 in GA was exactly that.
Back-tracking up 28 and across US-64 we finally found our way up NC-107 to NC-281 as planned. Similar to the ride on Monday, the plan was to take NC-281 over to NC-215 and back across the Blue Ridge Parkway. My buddy up front saw a sign for NC-215 “this way” and hung a left on a side-road. Apparently we were batting a thousand for “lost” on awesome roads, because as it turns out, Charley’s Creek Road is every bit as technical as NC-215 in places, including several downhill, decreasing radius turns, followed by a couple sharp ninety degree curves at the bottom.
Once up on the Parkway we enjoyed a bit of the view, and took another mandatory photo at the “Highest Point”. From there my buddy Tom led us over toward the “Mile High Camp Ground” for a short stint of off-roading on a few of the Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) Roads. Having been up and down the BRP a few times, I had no idea there were any intersections that weren’t access ramps. As it turns out, there are several forest service and BIA roads near the south end near Cherokee. NC. This was my first real “off-road” experience on the Scrambler beyond a short stint on Anthony Road back home. After a little gravel exploring, we continued down Heintooga Ridge Road (paved) to Heintooga Round Bottom Road (very much un-paved). The following twenty plus miles of unimproved gravel and dirt road was a good taste for what the Scrambler could and a little of what it probably shouldn’t do. Undoubtedly the “retro-road-faring-throwback-cruiser” could handle some gravel, but there were definitely times I was abundantly aware of my suspension limitations. That said, on both stretches of gravel road, the Scram was a tractor, and it was… awesome…
Finally at the bottom of Heintooga Round Bottom Road, we took the last bit of hardball into Cherokee, and then burned out way back to the Iron Horse before dark. Sitting here, writing this now, several weeks later, I’m really impressed at all the miles we covered that day, and still got back in before sundown, especially with all the gravel thrown in. That said, it was actually so much fun on this particular Wednesday we hit the replay button on Thursday and did several sections of 281 and Charley’s Creek Road again.
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