Tennessee Ride – Day 7

Today was another down day, running errands and finishing off some more family stuff. After that we headed over to Gatlinburg to visit the Ole Smoky Moonshine distillery. They’re the first legal moonshine distillery in Tennessee. They’ve got a walk-by tour of the distillery, where you can see everything from the mashing to the stills. After that, we popped in to the gift store to look around. I snagged a shirt and a glass before heading over to the tasting room. We tried just about everything they offered, some of them were great, others not so much. I ended up buying a mason jar of the original white lightning as well as one of the apple pie flavored ones. From there, we went to dinner and then back to the hotel to pack for the ride home.

Tennessee Ride – Day 5

I got a little earlier of a start today, thanks to not having any more work to do on the bike. I headed down 411, topped the tank off, hydrated, and then continued on to the Cherohala Skyway visitors center. They’ve really improved things since the last time I was here, and this visitors center complex is nice. There are a couple museums and some gift shops to hopefully encourage you to leave some of your cash behind. I picked up some free maps of the area and a not free t-shirt before putting the GoPro on and heading up the skyway.

The ride was great, with really nice views and light traffic. The slower vehicles got out of the way when needed, so that the rest of us could cruise along at whatever speed we wanted. If’s a long-ish ride, a little over 40 miles long, dropping you off in Robbinsville, NC. From there, I continued up US-129 back to the Deals Gap Motorcycle Resort where I downloaded the raw video from the camera and recharged it while I had some lunch. After finishing that and a little more shopping, I got back on the bike for a run up The Dragon.

This run was better than my last ones, moving a little faster, and turning a little sharper. I got passed a few times, pulled off once to let much faster traffic by, and continued on at my own pace. At the northern end, I pulled off and shut down and removed the camera before heading back to the hotel to get cleaned up for dinner. While working on the videos, I came to the realization that the MacBook Air just doesn’t have enough storage to do the job. I’m going to have to wait until I get home to do the editing and posting, so just hang tight…

Tennessee Ride – Day 4

Today started off with us grabbing some brunch, then I headed over to David’s shop to do the last of the work on the bike. I had to change the transmission and final drive fluid as well as topping off the oil. Once that was done, I headed out to ride The Dragon and the Cherohala Skyway. I started with a north-to-south run down The Dragon, which was a nice wakeup for me and the bike. I stopped at the Deal’s Gap Motorcycle Resort to rehydrate and pick up some swag before heading down US-129 to Robbinsville, NC to ride the Cherohala Skyway. Unfortunately, that wasn’t meant to be because I took NC-143 east instead of west. Yep, I got myself lost, but it worked out in the end because I found NC-28 and took it north, ending up back at Deal’s Gap. I stopped again, rehydrated again, did a little ogling of the bikes, and then did a south-to-north run of The Dragon. I really do prefer that direction for some reason. After that, I headed back to the hotel to get cleaned up and changed before going to dinner.

We went to Flaherty’s Irish Pub for dinner and really weren’t disappointed. Heather had the lamb shepherd’s pie and I had the fish and chips and a tasty red ale. From there, we went back to the hotel to rest up for tomorrow. I put the mount for the GoPro on my helmet, charged everything up, and wrote down the directions to get to the Skyway.

Tennessee Ride – Day 3

Today’s a down day, for the most part. The only thing I had planned was heading over to Willis Cycle Works to get my rear tire mounted. I’ve been riding on one that is well past its born on date. It’s fine for highway riding, but I’m going to be playing on The Dragon tomorrow, and it’s not even remotely fine for that. They were open today and got my tire mounted and balanced in no time flat. The bike’s a lot happier now, with much improved steering response.

After that I went back to the hotel, then headed up to Sandy and David’s for their Memorial Day picnic. Much food was consumed, as well as much alcohol, and a good time was had by all. We headed back in to town at around midnight…

Tennessee Ride – Day 2

The day started out with a Waffle House breakfast, then a straight cruise down I-40 to around Knoxville. It was pretty uneventful and a little warmer than yesterday. I stopped in Nashville to meet up with Michael for lunch, had a great time chatting with him, and things are afoot that might get us all back together in July. After that I topped the tank off and got on the last leg of the ride out. The elevation’s changed, and the roads aren’t as straight as they were, which are good signs. I pulled in to the hotel at around 5:00 local time, met up with Heather, then got the bike unpacked and changed up for dinner.

We went to the Smoky Mountain Brewery‘s Maryville location, had some great ribs and some tasty brews. The town’s getting a little crowded with bikes, and it turns out that it’s because the Tennessee state HOG rally is this coming week. I hope the Dragon’s not too crowded…

Tennessee Ride – Day 1

After dropping Heather off at the airport, I came back home and loaded the last few things on the bike, had a little breakfast, then hit the road. The new helmet is doing well, it’s nice having music in my ears without being tethered. The weather was a little cooler than I’d expected, but not uncomfortable. I’d planned for today to be a little longer of a ride, hoping to get to at least Memphis. The route took me up 121 to 380, then over to Greenville where I picked up I-30 and headed east. I grabbed a little lunch in Texarkana, gassed up, and headed in to Arkansas. They’ve cleaned up the roads quite a bit, and I had no problems getting through to Memphis. That’s when the fun started, because thanks to the holiday weekend and the Grizzlies game, finding a room for the night was more difficult than I’d thought. I did eventually find one, and got the bike unpacked before dinner time. Tomorrow should be an easy ride, with a stop in Nashville to meet up with one of Heather’s friends for lunch.

Dave Matthews Band

Heather and I went down to the Starplex (yeah, I know, it’s changed names a few times since then, but it’s just easier) to catch her favorite band. We stopped to check out a new restaurant we’d seen, because we wanted to have dinner before getting down to the mess that is the area around Fair Park. The FM Smoke House is in the building that housed the Bennigan’s in Las Colinas. It’s a small Texas chain, featuring good barbecue, lots of Texas beers on tap, and a huge selection of whiskies. The food was excellent, the service was great, and if we weren’t going to a concert I might have had a few more beers.

After dinner we got down to the venue, snagged our section of the lawn, and waited for the show to start. The opening act was Mariachi El Bronx, playing a sort of cross between mariachi music and American urban folk, if that makes any sense. Just follow the link and listen. They were fun, interacting well with the crowd, and played some damn good music. Dave even popped on stage to introduce them at the beginning of their set.

Once they were done there was the usual teardown and setup between acts, then Dave and the band took the stage. I’m deferring to Heather here, because I don’t know their catalog well at all, but she says that they dug deep into their catalog for the sets. Even playing some stuff that isn’t on any studio or live albums that she has, and she’s got all of their studio albums. The show was great, Dave was as goofy as ever, fussing at the crowd to not “catch a chill” due to how cold it was (being in the high 80s at that point). The crowd was pretty good too, with only one example of drunken stupidity that stood out. Before the opening act even took the stage some drunk dude tumbled off the lawn area and bounced his head off the concrete wall loud enough for us to hear it a good 15m – 20m away. He was carted off on a wheel chair pretty quickly, and I’m betting that he’s regretting his actions by now. Other than that, it was a great show, and one that you shouldn’t miss if you ever get a chance to go see.

The Devil Makes Three

Heather and I headed out to Dallas to grab some dinner and go see The Devil Makes Three tonight. We’d seen them before, as an opening act for Flogging Molly, but this time they were headlining. They’re a lot of fun, and definitely shouldn’t be missed if they’re in your area.

The first stop, after getting a great parking spot thanks to the early arrival, was to get dinner. We decided to check out The West End Pub, and were pleasantly surprised. The service was great, the food was really good, they had local beers on tap, and the atmosphere was definitely on the “neighborhood pub” side of the spectrum. They’re only a short walk from the House of Blues which means we’ll probably be going back there before concerts.

Then we made our way back to the House of Blues to catch the show. Again, we were early, and got one of the couches. After a little wait, the opening act took the stage. He’s an old fashioned country singer named Jonny Fritz. Definitely not PG13 lyrics, but a heck of a lot of fun, and after his set he wandered around the crowd signing things and talking. I think we’ll catch him again if he comes through.

And then The Devil Makes Three took the stage. They played a lot of stuff from their new album, along with some of their older stuff. It’s a nice mix of country, bluegrass, rockabilly, and even some punk influences. The audience was thoroughly enjoying the show, and we were amused by the amount of bass coming through the floor from the George Clinton show downstairs. Like I said before, don’t miss them if they’re near you. You won’t be disappointed. And don’t skip the opening acts when you go to concerts! That’s how we found them in the first place, thanks to Flogging Molly…