Friday, June 19, 2009

Cherohala Skyway & The Smokies

A good night's rest can make a big difference in your travels, as can a comfortable place to 'explode' when you get in for the night. This is some of my 'exploding' that I do when I land.
We quickly packed up and bolted out of Anderson, headed north. First part of the trip thru the mountains was the 28, which was a lot more technical than I thought it'd be.

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Pretty tight curves, and the loaded up bike wasn't the best machine for that bit of tarmac. But it was amazingly fun and totally beautiful. I had a close call when a loaded up dump truck crossed into my lane in a downhill chicane with both sets of rear tires locked up smoking. That gets the blood moving.

We stopped at a visitors center to grab a map or two. Jason noticed that he had a warning light on, indicating his brake light was out. He quickly located a local auto store, headed over there and got a new bulb. Despite the dummy behind the desk telling us it wasn't in stock (while we stared at it on the shelf). Jason quickly replaced it in the parking lot.
We headed out from there and did the rest of the 28 to get to Robbinsville, SC. That town is connected to Telico Plains, TN by the Cherohala Skyway, our destination for the day and an absolutely amazing bit of road.

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That road was completed in 1996, it took 35 years and cost 100 million to complete. I checked it out at the opening, it's more grown up and the road isn't a perfect blacktop anymore, but it's still a really awesome road. This was near the first portions of the road.

We stopped at the highest point off the Cherohala Skyway, at 5300 feet. There was a path into the woods up to the top so we parked the bikes for a bit to take a walk up.
This area is so alive, creatures everywhere.
I think this picture sums up the ride on the Cherohala Skyway pretty well.
I had donned the helmet cam, here are a few neat action shots from the road. Make sure to click on them and zoom in.
Check the other bikers waving. Florida motorcyclists, take note how you're *supposed* to act. ;-)
Look at the view off the road to the right.
And look at this off to the left.

After we made it off the skyway and down into Telico Plains, Jason had to split for Nashville to travel home to his family. My path was heading to Knoxville to see my brother. Jason spent his entire 2 week vacation this year on this trip and 10 days of it with me. I was sad to see him go, it was nice to have someone to ride with.
Me and Jason
It was getting dark on the way into Knoxivllle. I took all the backroads I could, through Lenore City and a few other small towns. The sunset was so awesome, I had to stop and take a pic.
I made it to my little brother's house about 9:30PM or so.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Georgia and South Carolina

Jason and I arose early after a crappy night's sleep at a Super 8 motel. I will never stay at one of those again, sheesh. The water smelled like sulfur or something horrible. Anyway, we hit the road, did a little bit of the I-95 highway. We grabbed lunch in Hardeville, SC. Fried chicken, collard greens, baked beans, cornbread and sweet tea. Mmmm.

South Carolina had swamp on both sides of the road. I kept wondering if I was to somehow go off the road, would I drown or be eaten by crocs first. This shot was taken off the 125 in SC, near the SC/GA border.
After a bit of the swamp, it opened up into some nice forest. This was Sumter National Forest, just north of Augusta.
I really enjoyed the small towns we were passing thru. This one was particularly neat, with a stop light or two, train tracks and a state route crossroads.
Alternating small towns and farmland continued thru SC. This farm was beautiful.
Our destination that night was Anderson, SC. As we got into the area, we saw a big storm approaching. We put on our rain gear but after looking at a wall of water moving our way that resembled a tornado, I bailed out and we drove around the storm. We ended up staying in a decent hotel that night and went to bed early so we could get good sleep for our ride thru the smokies.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

On the Road Again...

After the disappointing scrub of the shuttle launch early this morning, it was time to hit the road. Jason's Aunt took great care of us in Titusville, and I hated to leave. However, 5 days of waiting on NASA to push the big red launch button had us both jonesin to ride. We hit the road in the late afternoon, headed north. Had dinner in Jacksonville, FL and when it started raining on us later in the night, stopped in Brunswick at a motel. Unfortunately I chose a crappy motel (with smelly water), but it will get us thru the night and we can hopefully make great tracks tomorrow towards the east side of the Smokies.

On the topic of the shuttle: NASA postponed the launch till July 11th, maybe I'll come back down for it then, who knows. I bought the t-shirt and the commemorative pin so I am committed to see it now. hehe. I also had to skip the FL Keys due to time constraints, hopefully I can do them another time.

And hopefully tomorrow I'll remember to take some pictures. :)

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Dang Weather!

Jason and I are both in here on our laptops checking out live weather and NASA TV, anxious for the launch to happen. The weather at the cape is turning this into a nail biter. Come on NASA, I know you guys can squeeze more time out of the launch schedule. Just don't botch the fueling!

Monday, June 15, 2009

Day 15 & 16: Waiting to launch

Monday, we didn't do much. I worked on my gracious host's pool, took Jason to the doc for a prescription refill and installed Linux on the hard drive of my laptop (vs running off an SD card, which was slow).

Tuesday, we decided to get up early and go back to the Kennedy Space Center to do the bus tour and pick up a few things from the gift shop. The bus tour is pretty cool. We got to see the Vehicle Assembly Building (VAB), which is the 3rd largest building in the world.

Visited the Saturn V rocket display, which was pretty neat.

We did a 'simulated Apollo launch' in simulated NASA control room. The windows actually shook when it launched. With some creativity I could imagined the launch I hope to see tomorrow morning.
We also checked out the Astronaut Hall of Fame. It's basically a museum about the astronauts and their history.
This helmet lineup was particularly cool.

We saw a manatee, some large birds and a bald eagle's nest on the NASA property, which is right in the middle of the Merrit Island Wildlife Preserve. Even with the alligators, signs like this make me want to climb over the fence.

Wrapped up the day with a steak and an early bedtime (in prep for the launch). It goes up at 5:40AM EST tonight/tomorrow morn. I need to be at the VIP pickup at 3:00AM which means I get up at 1:45AM. No sleep for me. :)

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Day 14: Bumming around Cocoa Beach

Today we had planned on visiting the KSC again and doing the bus tour, since tickets are good for 2 days. Instead we decided to go to the beachfront, get some lunch and do a little shopping. We'd seen signs for Ron Jon Surf Shop all thru Florida, so we decided to pay it a visit. It's huge!
I bought a new hat! I always wanted a cool fedora, now I look like I'm on vacation!
New Hat
We also checked out Cocoa beach. It was packed! My pics didn't do it justice but I think this is the most populated beach I've ever seen. It was a great day for it so I can see why everybody turned out.
Jason's Aunt has a lot of lizards living around her place. Which is good because they eat the mosquitoes!
We watched the 5:30PM NASA press conference to figure out more info about the launch. They were vague like Jason's Aunt predicted, but offered plan A and plan B. A: Shuttle launch on 17th, LRO on 19,20. B: LRO on 17th, Shuttle on 20th. I am hoping for plan A so I can get on with my trip...I'm still not sure about a journey to they Keys yet (2 days drive from here), but I am hoping it can work out.

Right now as I type this, it's POURING the rain outside. I miss the warm summer rains, we don't get them like this very often out in Southern California. Reminds me of summer nights as a kid in Tennessee. Wunderground reports 40% chance of thunderstorms thru Wednesday (launch day). I hope the weather cooperates.