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Wanted to test my final drive with full load. Fortunately, I live 25 miles from the Dragon. Handy! Also wanted to visit a friend at Smoky Mountain HD new store, wasn't sure which one he was at. EXCUSE TO RIDE.

I needed to have full load, so I contacted a young friendly friend of tall stature. Between the two of us and the gear on the bike we're right at or just barely over the GVWR.

2003 VL800, all stock, Kenda Kruz tires at 36/40 per Kenda recommendations, pressure set at 800 ft elevation.

Wandered over to Waffle House for breakfast, met up with M. Happy to see me and likewise. Scrambled eggs a little dry, coffee good. M clearly needed coffee!!! Think it was around 10 when we got M rigged up, hopped on, and took off into the countryside.

Did cross country little roads over to Loudon, feeling out the bike & tires, getting the tires up to temp. Then on to 72 heading for the mountains. Left on 411, stopped at Shell for gas. Final drive pretty warm, but not hot, tires warm to touch, not hot. I like.

Hopped onto 360 towards Tellico Plains. If you're in the area, be sure to run this delightful road. Great views. Saw a nice campsite. Beautiful mountains behind Tellico Lake, and in the foreground, a blue tarp, old camper, beer belly hitting it early, naked kids, and a skinny blond in a slipping bikini, muddy feet, heading for the water. Great living in East TN!

Watched rain clouds ahead. Thinking we'd make Tellico Plains and shelter. Ended up getting some spitting rain. Slowed way down. Made it to the gas station cover in Tellico Plains as it started raining more. Sat on a bench w/M for a while. Saw a Honda ST1300 rental bike. Wow. I really shouldn't be allowed to ride anything like that!

Really, the bike handles reasonably well with 2. I have a more difficult time getting smooth entry into corners. Feel a bit clunky compared to solo. But it's 1000 lbs on two little tires! So probably I do OK. No troubles.

Rain died off, waited a bit for it to blow up into the mountains, then onto wet roads and the short trip up 143 to the new Smoky Mountain HD store. My friend wasn't there. Turned out he was over at Tallassee on 129. Store was mostly T shirts. I really don't know how one can make it selling T shirts in an expensive storefront. We'll see. We'd probably seen 50 bikes total by this time, a few groups. Heard about a wreck the day before.

Now here's an aside. I see groups all the time running tight. 1 second offset, or 1/2 second in line. Crisp or sloppy, this just isn't safe. So Sat at 4 up on the Skyway, FL rider on CBR1000 heading W had a problem. Possibly tired, or brain fade, or not used to descents in the mountains. I know the turn. He drifted left over the line on a R turn right before the nice concrete bridge. Went into a tight pack of 3. Clipped no. 1, side swiped no. 2, head on no. 3. Then some reports indicate he went into the guard rail, lost arm & leg, dead on scene. The other 3 evac'd. From my observations on my ride, doubt the cruiser crew was dressed out in gear. So probably abrasions at the very least. I imagine the 3 were close. Reset this with a 2 second spacing. Might have left room for the sport biker to dodge, or at the very least only clip one. These groups of guys close just look like a wall. And they tend to let the apex move earlier & earlier. The last guys are much more likely to be in MY LANE. Scares me every time, have some guy on an ultraglide 2 ft into my lane with BIG EYES and stiff as a board in terror. Just a word to the wise - space those cruisers out in the twisties, and don't scare me any more.

Regardless, enough ranting. Continued up damp River Road up to Bald River Falls. Do take the excursion - this was really nice to see. The tattoo Harley bunch wouldn't talk to us. Too much gear on us, I suppose. One was even on a metric. Weird. Look at the falls, great ride, plenty of idiots so go slow & presume moron in truck around corner. People stop in weird spots and the like.

Back to 143, right turn, over the rollers & twists to Indian Boundary camp. Nice place to stay, thinking of doing a relaxed trip up there, take the mountain bike. There's a little camp store, only a few snacks, but has drinks & ice cream. Got my girl an ice cream (she does seem like a girl sometimes - over 30 years my junior)!

Onto the hill. No trouble climbing, but clearly a load. Stunning scenery. Bike liked doing 30 to 45 just fine. Had a couple of sport bike groups go by very politely. I got to the R, slowed, did the "go around" circle with left arm and they slid by. Glad to see more polite showing up. I'm not in a hurry.

Stopped at a couple of overlooks. Was 69 degrees! Fog rolling over the road, alternating with clear air and super fine views. One of the best roads I've been on for curves, scenery, and the like. If you go, some of the turns are decreasing radius and routinely take out riders & sports cars. Loaf along and enjoy, pushing it isn't a good idea.

Descended towards Robbinsville. Carefully. I actually take the descent faster on my bicycle, scary as that seems! Bicycle handles better. It's a very good bicycle. Could feel the air thicken & warm. Wandered along the edge of Santeelah Lake ("Nell" filmed there) into Robbinsville. Ate a snack at Wendys, talked to some dirty dual sport fellows. Gassed up and headed out on 129. Lots of bikes, but not too too many. Probably almost 4 by this time. Rolled by Cheaoh Dam, used in "The Fugitive." Pretty. And along Cheoh Lake. That's a risky stretch - some people relax after the Dragon and screw up along the lake. Presume someone in your lane, and keep relatively soft escape routes in mind. I've had some nasty surprises on it.

The gap store had about 1/4 load - looked like a late day crowd, so I was OK with that. The climb after the store - well. What is that? 13% at times? It's awfully steep. Bike gave no trouble, pulled us both up very well and was very stable. I leaned back a bit against female. Lots of female contact. I need leather chair like that at home!! Went over the top at the state line on the white line, my usual Dragon road position. Presuming out of state yahoos will be all over the place. Waved to the LEO waiting there (figured they'd be crawling everywhere). Just loafed along the 318 curves. Had the hang of full load and enjoyed it. Slow enough we could yell to each other, which was fun. Went through a couple of photo shoots. I'll post links later, if I can find myself.

Stopped at the overlook, almost empty. Final drive just warm, tires quite warm, but not really hot. Both the same temp, so the pressure must about right. Brakes were "OK." I do need a braided line & better pads. Rear brake is pretty dang strong - impressive. But I get concerned about rear tire wear using too much engine & rear brake. Going up puts enough load on the poor thing. Saw a tattoo'd pirate taking a picture for a middle aged civilian couple. Funny! A Triumph Bonneville stopped. Looked great! And a couple of sport bikers in excellent gear.

Again, not one touring or cruiser rider in anti-abrasion gear. I've gone down on bicycles at speed (see, e.g., the Tour de France wrecks). I'll wear the gear. I have funny tan if one looks closely!! No thanks, I'll wear lots of leather & cordura with armor. Been there, done that.

I think the hardest curves are downhill from the overlook. Hard zig zags. I've seen many riders blow those and go into oncoming uphill traffic. Have to be careful. Lots of push from gravity. I run up on the center line, slow, then kick into the turn loosening the front brake, light rear brake, rolling on a little throttle. Very smooth and I've got both brakes and throttle ready.

No oddness on the way down, rolled along the lakeshore at the speed limit of 45 - right by 2 LEO. Past the repaired rock slide & then the dam. Stopped to visit my friend at the SMHD Tallassee store for too long. Another T shirt shop - odd. Liked the last store better, but 129 being closed killed it.

Then a steady run back to Lenoir City to drop off M. At the end of that, the tires and final drive were hot - hot coffee hot. 140 or 150 degrees F. The final drive was previously up at maybe 180 degrees, so the Amsoil is pretty clearly helping. More research suggests these drives just run a bit warm at highway speed!

Probably 180 miles, 2 up, full load, tough terrain, no glitches at all. I'm thinking I could use a valve adjust, carb clean, new fuel lines, and the brake work. Will see what I get to. Have to do that loop solo - see how that feels!

If you hit the area, drop me a line, there are other nice loops . . . .

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we'll be in your neck of the woods the first week of Aug. :)
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