We spent the week of May 14th on vacation in Virginia and North Carolina. I have been uploading blog posts about our vacation since May 29th. This blog post is about our fifth day of vacation.
I awakened at 6:15 am on Thursday, May 18, and was showered and dressed for the day by 6:50 am.
At 7:30 am we went to breakfast at Pop’s Grits & Eggs, which is located next door to A Holiday Motel. This was our second breakfast at Pop’s in as many days. As we entered the restaurant two of our VROC friends, Lonnie and Rick, saw Bob and me and invited us to join them at their table. Bob and I ordered Western Omelets for breakfast. The food and conversation was great. As we were leaving the restaurant three more VROC friends — Jim, Tim and Paul, came in for breakfast. We chatted briefly, before exiting the restaurant.
Bob and I made plans the previous night to join “Skid” in a group ride.
We departed A Holiday Motel around 9:30 am en route Townsend TN. The ride that we left on is referred to as “the Townsend Loop”. The Townsend Loop ride originates in Maggie Valley NC and travels via Newfound Gap Road (U.S. Route 441), Old TN-73 and Lamar Alexander Parkway to Townsend. Townsend is a lunch stop. Then the ride continues to (and on) the Tail of the Dragon and back to Maggie Valley. When we attended SEVROC in 2015, Bob and I went on this ride. More than 20 people participated in the ride in 2015. This year our group ride consisted of only five people: “Skid” and Sandy, “Bass Man”, and Bob and I. “Skid” and “Bass Man” rode their motorcycles, with “Skid” in the lead. Sandy rode in the car with Bob and me. I drove; Bob sat in the backseat.
Our first stop was at Newfound Gap, on the North Carolina-Tennessee border.
Our second stop was at Smokin’ Joe’s Bar-B-Que in Townsend TN. We arrived at the restaurant shortly before noon. The restaurant wasn’t busy. We were seated immediately and lunch orders taken. I remembered how good the hush puppies were from lunch 2 years ago, so we asked for a large order of hush puppies. Bob ordered a salad with some kind of meat BBQ. I ordered a pulled pork sandwich. Our main lunch entrees were OK; the hush puppies were just as good as I remembered them.
After lunch Bob, Sandy and I parted ways with “Skid” and “Bass Man”. The motorcyclists left to ride The Tail of the Dragon, before returning to Maggie Valley. Bob, Sandy and I went to Gatlinburg and then returned to Maggie Valley via U.S. Route 441. If we had spotted somewhere to park in Gatlinburg, we would have stopped and walked around a bit. We didn’t see any parking, so we didn’t stop. As we drove through the city, we did see some damage from the November 2016 wildfires. We saw more fire damage from U.S. Route 441.
According to the Nashville Public Radio website article , the November 2016 wildfires started November 23 in the Chimney Tops area and turned deadly five days later. Fourteen people were killed; more than 175 people were injured; and at least 2,400 structures were damaged. Two juveniles were charged with aggravated arson in connection with the wildfires.
We made one additional stop before returning to Maggie Valley. Less than 1/2 mile south of Newfound Gap, we turned off U.S. Route 441 onto Clingmans Dome Road. We followed Clingmans Dome Road to a parking lot.
We were not willing to climb the steep half-mile walk to the observation tower shown on the informational sign. I did take a picture, though, that looked like Bob and Sandy were on their way up the trail to the observation tower. I took this photograph to tease “Skid”, to let him think that Sandy climbed that trail. “Skid” wasn’t fooled.
We didn’t have to climb that steep trail, though, to enjoy scenic vistas.
Bob, Sandy and I made it back to A Holiday Motel (home base for the Southeast Vulcan Riders and Owners (SEVROC) motorcycle rally) shortly after “Skid” and “Bass Man” made it back from their ride on the Tail of the Dragon.
Rather than go out, Bob and I ate leftovers for dinner. Later in the evening we socialized with our VROC friends, before calling it a night. I called it a night much sooner than Bob did!