2019 Tour of Honor – Ride 11 (Cherokee, NC)

Ride to Cherokee

We have had some work around the house being done and I needed to be home for a few days. The landscapers have been on a vacation and need to get a large project done before they start on our yard. I had postponed a ride since they were expected, but now I am getting depressed because I need to ride. My wonderful bride can sense this and tells me that I don’t have any obligations for two days. She asks where I would go. I think for a bit then remember that I “need” to visit Cherokee to complete North Carolina. I start looking at a few ideas.

I decide to put a few sites in the planner and see how it wants to take me. I don’t hide that I don’t like interstates, but I decide to see how I-565 is during the day. I leave home about 8:00 am and head to Decatur where the road become I-565. The GPS suddenly shows delays ahead. I pass an exit and all traffic stops. I can’t turn around. I am at the next exit, but it is also blocked. There are several police cars blocking all traffic on the exit ramp and on I-565. Everyone has turned off their engines and now we all wait. The guy behind me comes over and we chat for a bit. Seems that there is an 18-wheeler that took the exit ramp a little too fast and has tipped over on the overpass. The police have stopped all traffic while the wrecker company rights the truck back on its wheels, just in case the truck flips over and crashes onto the interstate below.

After about 30 minutes, the traffic is set free. The GPS is now telling me that there is more delays ahead. I-565 becomes US-72 heading east from Huntsville. The GPS indicates that the delays will be on I-24 going into Chattanooga. As I get to I-24, the GPS continues to warn of delays ahead, but the interstate looks okay. I decide to take a chance on the interstate.

I see warning signs on the highway that there is construction a head. I need fuel, so I pull over. I ask the clerk about options to continue east without getting back on the interstate. She gives me some quick directions and I take off with a full tank of fuel.

I follow the girl’s instructions and soon see “DETOUR” signs. The road is parallel to the interstate, which is stopped! The GPS has adjusted the route and tells me that I should turn back onto the interstate in a few miles. I continue and can see that the construction delay ends before the ramp where I will rejoin I-24. A quick ride back on the interstate and I am ready to exit to head to the first target for the day, A Huey at Collegedale. I follow the directions from the GPS and end up at a ball field. I see flags on the other side of the tree line. I head back out and try my luck coming from the other side. As I return to the main road, I pass a strip mall and see a memorial park in the field behind the shops. I ride behind the shops, looking for a trail to the memorials. Only access is a gravel access road with a sign “AUTHORIZED VEHICLES ONLY.” I see some landscapers parked at the end of the road, so I take my chances and take off down the gravel road. I pull up and ride over to a spot to get a good picture. I wave at the workers as I leave.

Between the extra time to find the first Huey and the time spent in traffic, I decide to abandon the ride to Blue Ridge, GA. MY next sit is Murphy, NC. I head east on familiar roads, US-64. I have ridden this stretch a few times and enjoy it so much. US-64 merges with US-129 and I head on into Murphy. The research on this site indicates that it is an amateur run, outside museum. I ride through town and follow the instructions of the GPS. I see the museum/display ahead and make the turn onto the side road. I park and take a walk around the area. I get a picture of the bike at the park, then head to the Huey for a close-up. I notice that there is also a “Doughboy” here. There is only one problem, the Dougboy is the name of the World War I truck on display. The display also includes a chapel, store, and a small house. There are many other vehicles and memorabilia on display. I take a few more pictures and enjoy a rest for a few minutes

Back on the road, US-129 has merged with US-19/US-74, I soon see the turn where US-129 branches off toward Robbinsville. I know that road too. How I wish I had the time to take a side trip there. That would send to to the Tail of the Dragon. Alas, I am on a mission and no time for even a short side trip, much less one that I know will take a couple of hours. I Stay on track and head on to Waynesville. This site was the most memorable of my visits last year. I had been given a history lesson on this particular Huey from a Vietnam War pilot. I come at the site from the opposite end of town from last year. As I approach, I see that there is a maintenance truck that is parked, blocking the entire side of the Huey from the parking lot I park the bike behind the Huey and get my picture from the opposite side.

I now have a short trip, backtracking most of the way, to Cherokee. I think about checking into the hotel before going to the memorial in Cherokee (NC-2), but decide to head straight to the memorial. I find the memorial and park beside it. There are some other people enjoying the memorial, I get a few pictures once they leave.

I ride back to the hotel and decide to call it a night. I check in and ask about a place to eat within walking distance. Their definition of walking distance and mine are different. After riding all day, a mile to mile and a half walk is not walking distance. The gas station next to the hotel has a convenience store, so I get some snacks and drinks, then head back to the hotel for the night. I find that I have guests on my balcony that want to be fed. I run them off. The ducklings seem to be more understanding than the goose, who hissed at me before waddling off.

Ride back home

I am up early, ready for a ride home. I have set my route and going to try my luck going into Knoxville during the weekday. My original plan was to leave at 8:00 am. I have breakfast in the hotel, gas up the bike next door, and hit the road. It is in the mid 60’s as I leave Cherokee, heading toward Gatlinburg on US-441

I pass the Blue Ridge Parkway Visitor Center. Temps are soon at 60 degrees. Cars are stopped ahead, people are outside the cars and taking pictures. A group of deer are crossing the road and people letting them pass. A mile up the road, I see an elk doe grazing on the left. That reminds me of my introduction of group of elk on a ride in 2017 with Tim. We had rounded a curve and found a group of elk in the field on the left. Only problem was that there was a single elk fawn on my right. “Momma” was keeping an eye on us in case the fawn was in danger. The fawn crossed and everyone was happy. Tim and I didn’t stick around, we got out of the area!

During the ride to Gatlinburg, I pass more elk and deer. The temps have now dropped to 55 degrees. A bit chilly, but a relief from the heat yesterday. I love the twisties on US-441, especially with the well maintained roads. Early morning through Gatlinburg during the week finds the road with no traffic. A few trucks scattered about making deliveries, and only a few tourists walking in town. Traffic picks up as I pass through Pigeon Forge and Sevierville. As I turn onto I-40, traffic is light and speeds are at posted speeds. My exit in Knoxville is at a confusing interchange. I follow the directions of the GPS as best I can, making circles and turns, back tracking, and eventually finding my way to the Doughboy. The street is deserted, I park on the side of the street, walk across the street and get my pictures.

I loop the block and head to the University of Tennessee Veterinary Hospital. This is a repeat visit as I stopped here last year. I park for the picture and then walk to get a close-up of just the K-9. As I am walking around, an Irish Wolfhound comes to have me pet it. His human comments to the him “the nice man might not like dogs.” I laugh and explain if I didn’t like dogs, would I be taking pictures of a K-9 memorial? I pet the dog, let him sniff me, then he is ready to go finish his “business” before going into the hospital. I hop back on the bike and ready for my next stop.

I quick turn on Neyland Road, make a loop onto Alcoa Highway. I head toward the airport. I know my next target is behind the airport, but the maps don’t seem to agree on the best route. I turn onto Airbase Road and follow it around to the National Guard gate. I pull up and tell the guard I am looking for a display of a Cobra helicopter. He tells me that Airbase Road will turn left just past the gate and to follow it around to Hobbs Road. I make the u-turn at the gate and follow his directions.

I ride around the outside of the National Guard base, finding my way to the VFW. As I pull into the parking lot and find an angle that will give me the right angle for a picture. There is a car in the lot, with the owner and his dog walking around the Cobra. I manage to get pictures of the bike and Cobra. I talk with the guy for a while about motorcycles, traveling, and retirement, all while petting his pit bull. He talks about his father’s ’74 Harley that he has been restoring and planning to buy a houseboat when he retires in two years. We shake hands and part ways.

I head back north on Alcoa Highway to I-140, then I-40 to US-27. My time on interstates have come to an end on this trip. Though I may have some divided four lane roads, no more interstate. I ride US-27 south to Soddy-Daisy. Another site where I visited last year. I pull into the park, get the required pictures and head to Dunlap.

Leaving Soddy-Daisy, I backtrack on US-27 until I get to TN-111. I side track off TN-111 on US-127 and TN-28 through Dunlap. I find the Veterans Park and pull into the small parking lot. I get the photo I need for the tour, then explore other parts of the park. I take a more pictures and a video.

I have stopped at the sites I had planned for today. Familiar back roads for the rest of my trip home. I retrace my route back to TN-111, then continue on TN-111 to TN-399 and TN-108 into Gruetli-Laager. I stop for lunch at one of my favorite stops, Brown’s Dairy Bar. As I approach, I don’t see the “OPEN” sign lit. As I pass, I see that the signs on the other side are lit, it IS open! I had passed a couple times in the past few months and it never seemed to be open, I was afraid that it had closed for good. This place makes the BEST milkshakes. Not just the regular flavors, but custom flavors and mixed flavors.

After lunch, I continue on TN-108. I make the left turn on TN-50, which eventually merges with US-64. I ride through Winchester, pass the turn off to Lynchburg, through Fayetteville and Pulaski. I call my bride to let her know I am an hour from home I make the left turn onto TN-11, through Minor Hill. Once I cross into Alabama, the road changes to AL-207, I make the right turn onto AL-64. I am on auto-pilot as I cross US-43 then make the left onto CR-47. I am home in a matter of minutes.

This has been a short ride in comparison to my other rides of late. Tally count:

  • 1 Tour of Honor site (NC-2, Cherokee)
  • 1 K-9/War Dog Memorial
  • 1 Doughboy
  • 6 Hueys
  • and 789 miles of wind therapy