A while back a close friend of mine moved down to Chattanooga to take a new job. He and I served together in the sandbox back in ’04; obviously we don’t get to talk as much as we used to, but I figured considering how close I was going to be during the raid, there was no sense in not meeting for lunch one day; I’d even get a ride out of the deal.
My GPS told me that it was going to be just over two hours from the Iron Horse over to “Aubrey’s” Restaurant in Cleveland, TN. If I sacrificed an extra twenty minutes or so I could skip the boredom of US-74 and take the Skyway over to Tellico Plains and then down.
Twenty minutes… Challenge. Accepted.
Considering I was taking another destination ride, and my buddy Paul had finally arrived at the Lodge the day before, I recruited a few guys to join me on the first leg of the journey. Paul had bought his shiny new Thruxton 1200 just a few weeks prior, so what better way to open a long weekend at Deal’s gap than a “break-in” ride across the Cherohala? This time around we managed to dodge any construction traffic stops, and had I not stopped to run my trap in Tellico Plains, I would have made up almost that entire twenty minutes; traffic was… “Exceptionally light” if I recall…
Breaking off in Tellico, I took TN-39 over to US-411; 39 started out pretty entertaining, but rapidly descended into otherwise flat country roads. That said, I did get a few good views of the foothills off in the distance, that wasn’t so bad, despite not being the spirited twisty ride I typically lust after. There’s something to be said riding solo; while I do enjoy sharing the riding experience with friends of similar taste, at the same time, I equally enjoy my solo adventures.
Lunch at “Aubrey’s” was good. I regret I didn’t take photos or catalog the menu, but needless to say my buddy and I covered a lot of topics (military, philosophy, kids… military philosophy…) and I rapidly lost track of time. I remember that the food was good, I would undoubtedly eat there again if I found myself in Cleveland (TN), and would therefore recommend trying it out, but that’s all I have to go on at the moment.
From Lunch it was a lone trek back across the Skyway and on to the Iron Horse. Again I enjoyed the two-wheeled solitude through the mountains. Obviously I’m not the first person to say it, but there’s a certain solace I feel when alone on a desolate roadway. From Tellico Plains all the way back to the Iron Horse I never saw a set of headlights creep up in my rear-view, and I sparsely remember crossing paths with motorists elsewhere. The reason for which I would discover posthaste.
As I neared the end of the Skyway, I decided I wanted to get a photo of the “Fugitive Dam” (Cheoah Dam) at the bottom of US-129. Not long before turning on to 129 I realized that I was about to get a good dousing from the man upstairs. I hustled across the south end of 129 to snap a photo, after which I battened down the hatches on my trusty Firstgear kit in preparation for the incoming weather. As I reached “The Gap” the heavens opened up. Dressed for battle, I jammed to Johnny Cash on my Bluetooth, and took the rain in stride. I really wanted to maintain my tradition of riding the Dragon in the rain, but unfortunately, due to the hour, I decided otherwise. I didn’t think it was advisable to traverse the Hellbender (NC-28) in the dark and in the rain with the otherwise helpless Scrambler headlight. With the new Anakee up front and the Trail Attack in the rear, despite the downpour, Rosie held the line flawlessly.
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