A quick trip to Tellico Plains, Tennessee, November 18-20, 2006


Steve is a local rider that I met on the Adventure Rider forum.  When we found out that we lived in the same town, we got together and became friends.  He was riding a KLR 650 at the time, but had been thinking about a V-Strom for a while.  He rode mine and several others, made the decision, and found a good deal on a lightly used 2006.




Shortly after his purchase, on a Tuesday, we were talking about getting together for a Saturday breakfast ride, and he sent me this email


Brian is planning a trip to the Bruce Cafe on Saturday if your interested. I was trying to take a run up to Tellico Plains this weekend to visit the Cherohala MC resort before the close. If I don't go north, I'll make the Bruce run.


On Thursday, I followed up to see what was going on.


So what's up for the weekend?  You going to the mountains, or to



He responded:


Still not sure. I emailed the Cherohala resort about a cabin, but got no reply. So I figured they were closed.


I just called and they said although they are "officially" closed they did have a cabin and at least one other guy from Florida was coming up. They did say that the water to the bathroom was freezing up in the AM's.


I am undecided.

You feel like taking a run up there with me on the Stroms?

If I go I was going to leave early on Saturday & try to get there by 5:00 PM. Head over to my buddies place in Tallassee on Sunday. Stay back at the resort Sunday night, leave Monday when it warms a bit and stop around 5:00 PM somewhere on the trip back if I don't make it all the way home.


I just didn’t see any way I could go, so I said no.  But a trip to the mountains, even a short one, is SOOOOO tempting.  I looked over my schedule and decided that I could make it after all.


By the time I got up with him, Steve was having second thoughts.  The forecast was sketchy…cold, cloudy, with a chance of snow.  It sounded like the trip was off.


I did a little surfing on some weather sites, and found that the chance of precip was only about 30%.  It was sure to be cold, but probably dry.  So I emailed:


Just a thought...

We could trailer the bikes up.  We would make better time (only one

gas stop, eat in the truck) and could get more "quality" riding in. 

We could ride half the day Monday, then load up and come home in the

dark.  Hell, we could ride till sundown Monday and be home by 1AM

Tuesday morning.


Steve wrote back:


You had to come up with this.

I was leaning this AM towards bailing on this idea due to the weather forecast, but this opens it back up again. Mondays weather is looking pretty lousy though, chance of snow. I wish I was prepared, we could even leave tonight and get some time in on Saturday.


I had thought of leaving that night (Friday), but we already had dinner plans with the neighbors, so I wouldn’t be able to get away until after 10PM.  No good.  An early Saturday departure was the ticket.


By 11AM, we had a plan. 


That evening when the neighbors came over for dinner, the bike was on the trailer, hooked up to the truck, and I was packed.  So the next morning when I rose at 2:45 AM, all I had to do was get a shower, brew some coffee, and hit the road. 



As I drove to Steve’s, I looked at the thermometer on the truck, and was shocked to see that it read 29 degrees!  If it was this cold in Florida, what would it be like in the mountains of Tennessee?


I was at Steve’s at 4 AM, and we were headed north at 4:45.


The trip was uneventful, and the day was bright and sunny…and cold.  The outside air temp never rose above 45.


Breakfast in Headland, Alabama 



We arrived at the Cherohala Motorcycle Resort with a few hours of daylight left.  Our hosts, Mark and Renee, showed us around, and we were very impressed with the facility.  They had only been open for two seasons, and everything was brand new.  Our cabin was clean and roomy, and came with towels, linens, and a little ceramic heater to keep the chill off.  We were the only guests at the campground that night.








The resort has seven cabins, a guest laundry, a communal kitchen, 4 roomy bathrooms, satellite TV, a grill, a covered bike wash, and plenty of open ground to tent camp.  The cabin was $35 a night.


Mark suggested a route for us, so we rode this loop, which took us on some very nice roads, and ran by the stretch of the Ocoee where the 1996 Olympic whitewater events had been held. 




We came back to the resort and took the truck back into town for dinner at the TelliCafe.  We both had trout, and the food was excellent, as always.


When we got back to the campground, we found that Mark had built a campfire for us.  What a host! 


The morning of the 19th dawned cold and gray.  Mary had coffee ready for us, and had even run by Hardees and grabbed us a few biscuits for breakfast!  We were really liking this place!




We were on the road around 9.  We really wanted to get off the pavement and see how the V-Stroms handled the gravel roads that crisscross this area.  We rode up the road to Bald River Falls, a wonderful little strip of unlined asphalt running along the Tellico River. 





After the falls, a gravel road (North River Road) turned left, and the GPS showed it running all the way to the top of the ridge, joining the Cherohala Skyway.  This is what we had come here for.





Lots of campgrounds along the way, mostly empty.  Just a few hunters and hikers braving the cold.


The roads were beautiful.  Most of the fall color was gone, and the woods were cold and stark.


We climbed and climbed, getting colder as we went up.  Finally we reached the clouds.



We stopped a few minutes after this picture was taken, and a light sleet was falling.  The temperature was about 35, and Steve’s glasses were fogging so bad that he could barely see.



At an intersection, we chatted.  A right took us downhill for several more miles of gravel, a left took us uphill for maybe another mile, to the pavement of the Skyway.  It was sleeting steadily now, visibility in the fog was maybe 50 feet, and there were patches of snow on the ground.  We decided to keep going up.


We came to the Skyway, where we expected to just roll onto the pavement.  WRONG.  What we found was a bridge…we were under it, and there was no road to the top!



We zoomed in on the GPS and found that we could go a little further, and double back to pavement.




Then we crawled down the Skyway in pea-soup fog, sleet and snow.


Note the ice on the windscreen.


The weather cleared as we dropped altitude (we got on the pavement at about 4300 feet), and by 2500 feet we were out of the fog and the ice sluffed off of our windscreens.


It was time for a cup of coffee, which evolved into lunch.





As we got ready to leave the diner, six guys rolled up on dual-sports.  They were from Ohio and Illinois, and were out riding the forest service roads like we were.  They had come all the way over the Cherohala in the weather, and were headed back that way.  Tougher than us!



After lunch, we decided to head up to Indian Boundary, where there were some gravel roads headed to the north that stayed at lower elevations, out of the fog.  We just made up the route as we went along, and finally found ourselves back on blacktop on 360, and headed back to Tellico Plains for gas.




As I gassed up, an older man drove up in a Miata and came over to talk.  Seems that he owned a V-Strom and several BMW’s, and was quite a character.  He invited us in for coffee, which we declined, wanting to get in some more riding.  He gave us his name and phone number and said he had a shop full of tools if we had any trouble.  He even invited me to take his Miata for a test drive!  Cool old guy.


Full of fuel, we headed back up Bald River Falls Road, but to keep going straight where we had turned before.  But before we got that far up the road, we passed a bridge across the river the led to a promising-looking dirt road to Miller’s Cemetery.  Plans abandoned, we turned, crossed the bridge, and had a ball.



After 126 crossed the ridge, it got fairly narrow and rough, with lots of rocks and mud.




With the day getting on, we found ourselves back on pavement at Bald River Falls Road.  We rode it until it turned to gravel and headed back up to the ridgeline.  We wanted to push on, but it was only an hour or two before sundown, so we called it a day.  On the way back we saw some kayakers in the river.



As we made these shots, one of them called up “Isn’t it a little cold to be on a motorcycle?”


Back at the campground, we hit the showers and chatted with Ken, a firefighter from Orlando that had trailered up an ST1100 to do some riding.  Then we jumped in the truck to find some dinner.  The diner where we had eaten lunch was closed, but we found a little pizza joint in a strip mall.  As we ate a guy walked in and started talking to the girls at the counter.  I glanced up and just about dropped my food…the guy was carrying a rifle!  He had come to the pizza place to pick it up for a hunter friend. 


Back at the campground, I tried to get a fire going.  The wood was a little wet, so I doused it with some kerosene that Mark had left us.  The kerosene burned off and the fire went out.  I got some motor oil out of the truck and tried that.  Note to self; synthetic oil does not burn well.  So I gathered up some twigs and reeds and tried that.  Not much better, and it began to rain.  Ken was back by this time, so we retired to the pavilion and chatted there as the rain and sleet came down.


I called Lana for a weather report.  30% today and tomorrow.  Maybe this bit of precipitation would blow out and we could ride tomorrow.


It was not to be.  The morning was overcast, and soon we had rain mixed with snow.  We went into town and bought gifts, hoping the weather would clear, but it didn’t.  So we packed up and headed south.  I was home by 8 PM.



Snow flurries


It was a short trip, 900 miles on the truck for about 300 miles on the bikes.  But it was worth it.  We rode some great gravel roads and got a chance to test the bikes in some rough conditions.  They worked great.  And Mark and Renee at Cherohala Motorcycle Resort were a joy.  Great place to stay.


I should also add that for years I have kidded people about trailering bikes.  Sissies, wannabees, scared to ride.  Well, I guess I am a sissy now, because it sure was nice to have the truck along on this trip!  Those 300 bike miles were all quality riding, while the truck miles were on boring roads, with some miles at night in deer infested territory.  For a quick trip on a tight schedule, a trailer really comes in handy.