Sep 21, 2007

taming the dragon...

took a ride to the tail of the dragon in july... but this was more than just a trip to ride the dragon - it was about riding with family and friends, the brotherhood of biking and fulfilling a dream.

it started two years ago when i gave my father-in-law a ride... as mentioned, he's been riding most of his life. that was until he was in an accident. thankfully he wasn't seriously injured, but his bike didn't make out so well. he'd been threatening over the years to put the bike back together and start riding again. either that or just outright buy a new bike. i would gently prod him, offering to help rebuild the bike or riding him out to a dealership to buy a bike. he finally came through in may and purchased a new bike... and this trip would be our first ride together...

we figured a three day trip to the dragon; a day to travel out there, a day of riding around and day back home. all timed to be able to meet up with my brother and the rest of the crew - as well as get back in time friday night to meet a previous commitment.

we headed out wednesday morning after topping off the tanks...



it was great riding weather - clear skies, nice temps. we decided to stop every hundred miles or so. this would give us a chance to stretch our legs and top off the tanks. it would also give me a chance to determine if we needed to stop longer or stop for the night if the trip was getting a little long for my father-in-law. while he rides really well, i wasn't sure how he'd handle a longer trip like this. especially on the interstate - i know he hates riding on the interstate. but we decided to take this route to get to maryville as quickly as we reasonably could.

along the way we made a couple stops for gas...


after this stop, we head out - using the gps to help get us to our destination. i'm usually pretty good with getting in and out of place and heading in the right direction. as i get back onto the interstate, the gps is telling me to turn around. i could swear i'm heading in the right direction. i decide to follow the gps and turn around. riding a couple miles in the other direction, i realize the gps has recalculated the route - not really the route we wanted to take. even worse, it's back tracking us about fifteen miles!! decision time... do i turn around yet again and confirm to the father-in-law that i really don't know what i'm doing?? or do we just keep riding?? i decide to keep riding...

our first gas stop in tennessee... the signs posted next to the big open field make you wonder what kind of problems they may have... forget the open field - if i didn't want to walk into the gas station that was less than a hundred yards away, i would have taken care of business down near the tree-lined creek that was ten yards away...





gearing up for the last leg of our journey, i look off into the direction we're heading - it's looking kind of iffy - rain gear or not?? we decide to chance it.

as we pull onto the highway, it starts raining. we pull over to the first rest area, less than two miles down the road. by the time we get there, the rain stops. looking ahead, the sky is clear. we're already wet, so we decide to head on without rain gear.

a couple miles down the road, the clouds roll in and open up on us... luckily our exit was just a few more miles down the road. we exit and find the first gas station so we can slip into our rain gear. even better, the gas station has a car wash to pull into so we don't have to take up space under the awning by the pumps.

note to self: don't ever pull into a car wash, especially when it's raining - it's slippery as hell!!!

after getting our rain gear on, we head the rest of the way to our destination - the princess motel...



not the greatest place in the world, but the price was right. and what do you really need when you're traveling?? a place to throw your clothes and lay your head at night. and this fit the bill...

after a day of riding, we decided to grab something to eat, relax at the motel and plan the next day's riding.

not really much to plan, though. we'd ride the tail of the dragon. as much as we wanted. and when we got tired of that, we'd ride some of the other roads in the area. and when we were done, we'd head back to the motel.

we got up thursday, grabbed a bite to eat and headed to the tail of the dragon.



i told my father-in-law that there would probably be riders that would pass us - not to be startled when it happened. in addition, we'd have to watch out for tractor trailers on the road. if we saw any, we'd just pull over somewhere and wait - yeah, like there's a lot of room to pull over!!! we agreed that we would ride our own ride and ride as slow as we needed.

we rode the dragon several times, enjoying the scenery and meeting new friends...




our new friends... sort of... the guy with the mv agusta was a little serious about his ride and got offended when father-in-law called it a honda.




father-in-law leading the pack... truth be told, when we took off, no one was behind us. by the time we made the eleven miles, several riders caught up to him and were kind enough not to pass...







the tree of shame... a living memorial to those the push the limits and don't quite make it...




after spending the day riding, we headed over to smoky mountain harley davidson. huge store and super nice people.



after that, we headed back to the hotel to meet up with my bro and the crew... grabbed a bite to eat and sat around the hotel all night telling lies...





i had to be back in town late afternoon on friday. i wanted to be pulling out of the parking lot no later than eight in the morning. father-in-law was up for leaving a little earlier since he wanted to take make longer and more frequent stops on the way home. not a problem with me.

since he's an early riser, he would be our alarm clock. when he got out of the shower, he'd get me up, we'd pack up and head out. with that, lights went out and we went to sleep.

next thing i know, i hear him in the shower. i might as well get up and start packing some of my stuff. it wasn't until i got out of the shower that i realized it was only two thirty in the morning. what the @$*%*^$@!! what was he doing up so early??

it was too late, i was awake, showered and pretty much packed. might as well head out... we would certainly be able to take our time getting home.

the ride home was long and cold. hard to believe it was july.

on the journey back, i had time to reflect back on our trip. i was finally able to take a ride, a real ride with my father-in-law. two years earlier i got my bike and started dreaming about the day i would be able to ride with him. this was it - here we were...

more importantly though, i think he was fulfilling his own dream of riding again. maybe the fear or memories of his earlier mishap had subconsciously prevented him from rebuilding his bike. but here he was, putting those fears, those dragons, aside and riding again.

this was easily one of the best trips i've ever taken... i look forward to riding with him again.

check out the 2007 ride map, this one in light blue.

a more detailed map of our laps in and around the dragon...