The Last Ride … For Now. The Great Smoky Mountains!

October 18th dawned clear and cloudy with temperatures in the 40s.  Not one to typically wear leathers, I’d borrowed my friend Martha’s chaps in anticipation of a cold ride.  I pulled out of my driveway at 8am, excited about my 4 day ride on the bike.  The plan was to spend alot of time with my camera and also with friends along the way.

Little did I know when I posted to my blog that morning, that the trip would end the way it did.

The ride from my home to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park (GSMNP) typically takes about 4 to 5 hours.  I rode the interstate for the first three hours and had to pull over 3 times just to warm my hands and feet.  By 10am though, the fog was gone, the sun was shining, and I was much more comfortable.

My first glimpse of the Smoky Mountains was so exciting and of course, I just had to pull over.  The tops of the mountains were hidden by the clouds and I couldn’t wait to get there!

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Before entering the park, the main drag through the City of Galtinburg has to be conquered. I wish I had a photo to share, but I was not about to try to find a place to park just to photograph the crowds of people walking and driving up and down the street.

Clearly, I had not done my homework.  I would be entering the most visited National Park in the United States during the most visited weekend of the year – “peak weekend” for fall leaf color.

Oh my …

I successfully navigated Gatlinburg and entered the GSMNP.  It was a beautiful day, and I prepared myself for a fairly crowded, bumper to bumper ride.

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My first stop was the Sugarlands Visitors Center for the purchase of a helmet sticker.

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I love to sticker up my helmet. It serves as a fun record of many of the places that I’ve visited on the bike.

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Then, it was off to enjoy the ride.

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I overheard someone complaining that the colors weren’t as pretty as in the past.  Really?  I was just so happy to be riding through these gorgeous mountains.

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I kept stopping along the road and would laugh out loud with the pure happiness of being there.  You’ve seen my photos of the park in B&W, but the landscape was stunning in color, too.

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Despite the crowds, I thoroughly enjoyed the ride.

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For those who are planning a visit, know that most of the crowd action is between Gatlinburg and Newfound Gap.  It seems that most people drive up from the city, and then turn around and go back down.  Once over the Gap, I kept on going, and I felt as if I had the road to myself.  The sweeping curves made for wonderful riding and I was oh, so happy.  Of course, I still continued to stop.

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The ride over the mountain from Gatlinburg, TN to Cherokee, NC is only 35 miles, but it took me a few hours because of the many stops that I made.  One day allows you to see just a tiny fraction of the park.  My friends, Sheila and John, have been hiking the trails in the park, over many visits and several years. This visit, for me, was just a small introduction.

An hour and a half later, I was in Weaverville, NC with my friends Delores and Gary, enjoying a delicious dinner after watching a lovely sunset.  It was an amazing 350 mile day!

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The next morning I hit the road to visit with more friends, this time in Flat Rock, NC.  Gary took the last picture of me on my beloved 2013 Softail Slim.  6500 miles, no drops, no pipe burns … just one big wreck.

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Donna, Joanne, Janet, and I enjoyed a wonderful lunch in Hendersonville, NC and after several laughter filled minutes of getting me back into my borrowed chaps, we posed for a photo … the last photo of my original smile.  I rode along some beautiful roads, intending to meet up with my friend Christine and her family in Boone, NC.

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Who knew that just 3 hours later, I would be in a bike wreck, hit while riding through an intersection.  Thank goodness for DOT approved helmets, good fortune, amazing family, and wonderful friends!  The bike is totaled, but I am not.  I am healing from my injuries and hope to return to work in a week. I have much to process emotionally, and the wreck has caused pain, tears, time away from my patients and several life changes, but for now …

I am grateful to be alive.

And I will ride again.

71 thoughts on “The Last Ride … For Now. The Great Smoky Mountains!

    • Thanks Mae. As you well know, there could are alot worse things than surviving a bike wreck, but I’ve been surprised with the emotional challenges, and the injuries that have come because of it. Time will heal, and I’m grateful to have been giving the opportunity.
      You would love the Smoky Mountains. Once away from the touristy areas and into the park, it is just gorgeous. Next time … I’ll get off the bike and off the road for a closer look at nature.

  1. Looks like it was a glorious ride before hand, how beautiful, our natural parks do not look like that in Autumn. They stay the same colour pretty much all year, I wish ours looked the same. So beautiful.

  2. It seems to me a big step to write about that day, and you do it eloquently and with feeling. You are passionate and you will ride again! Oh, and I love your pictures.

    • Thank you, Jim. Coming from a writer like you, that means so much! I’ve been keeping notes about the fall out from the wreck that are much less optimistic than this post … maybe later I’ll share it or maybe it’ll just be there to help me process.
      Glad you enjoyed th photos!

    • Jim! Guess what came in the mail today? Your book!! I would have posted a picture for you to see but I don’t know how to create a hyperlink 🙂
      I’ve got a couple books ahead of yours in the stack to read, but … it’s here!

  3. Laurie, I love reading your blog…..I am so thankful that you are here to write it! You are a brave woman and very strong. The pictures you take and the words you write with them are beautiful. Stay strong and I hope I’m a part of your “first” ride with your new bike…… Speedy recovery!

    One question….How are your boots??????? 🙂

    Love,
    Monica

    • Monica, those boots, I swear, saved my foot and leg. No kidding and I’ve said that many times!! Thanks for your wonderful comments. They mean much to me!

    • Sadly, the helmet has to be retired. It kind of breaks my heart, too, as I love that helmet and the memories that go with it. Once compromised though, it can no longer be used.

    • Yes indeed … thankfully. I’ve been surprised by the emotional impact … and while I’ve hated to be out of work because of injury, I’ve been grateful to be home to try to process everything. Maybe I need some rose tea (or that Fizzy stuff 🙂 )

  4. I’m sure you’ve relived that day over and over again, so thanks for sharing it here too Laurie. You live in such a beautiful part of America. One thing we noticed when we were down, was that the roadways just seem to wind thru the forest and the trees are allowed to be close to the roads. It’s like you’re on quaint pathway thru the trees more than a highway. I wish they were like that here.

    Enjoyed all your photo’s too. With the reflections in the water, moss and leaves, I can almost smell it. I love the smell of the woods. I’ve always been attracted to your spirit and independence LB. I’m not surprised that you are destined to ride again. Until then, be comforted in knowing we’re all so relieved you can. Take good care.

    • Thanks so much for being here with me … your words always make me smile and feel comforted.
      I, too, like the sense of a pathway through the woods. Even though the photos show the traffic, the beauty still shines through!

  5. awesome ride…the photos make me feel as though I was along for the ride! yes…healing then riding again, that is the way it has to be…I’ve no doubt in my mind that we will be riding along with you on your “maiden” ride on your new bike! It is good to know you are looking forward to returning to work…be well Laurie, shed tears if you have to…you are alive that is the main thing!!!

  6. Wow. What a story. Thanks so much for sharing. Your pictures and recollection is amazing. And yes… you are a very lucky girl, with a beautiful smile. Be well, my friend. xoxoxo

  7. I love you photos. I feel like I’m right there traveling with you. What a shame such a glorious ride had to end that way, but I know you will ride again, and as someone else mentioned, what a great spirit you have. It’s a pleasure reading about your adventures.

  8. The pictures are spectacular – loved the one of the leaves on the water – just beautiful. So sorry to hear about your wreck – hope you’re up and riding again really soon!

  9. Thanks again for the wonderful trip.
    You are brave enough to overcome this situation.
    Rather sooner than later you’ll be riding again, Santa Claus will be arriving shortly, and cause you have been a good girl he’ll bring you a special gift. 🙂
    Cheers!

    • Crystal, thank you. The past week has been tougher emotionally because I had not gone back to revisit. I still have some things to process for sure. On the other hand, it was fun to look through the photos!!

  10. Thanks for being the spirit you are and the passion you bring to all endeavors. It was always an honor to serve with you and work toward positive outcomes on several initiatives. Continue to heal and write

  11. Your photos are beautiful! Thank you for sharing your trip with us. I’ll have to put that one on my bucket list. Keep healing!

    • Oh you would love this park, especially as much as you love hiking. There are hundreds of miles of trails to hike. Of course, it’s a great place to ride through as well. See? You have to go! 🙂

  12. Dark stupid motorcycle accident! Thank you for keeping such a positive attitude and sharing your photos and story with us. Anyone of us can be in the same situation tomorrow. So I wish you well with your first week back to work! Keep getting stronger and better. May I vote for a nice Yamaha FRJ for your next cycle. Its a bit different from your Harley but who knows, you just may like it!!!!

    • Thank you so much for your comment and well wishes! I’ll hate not riding through the winter (we do occasionally have some mild winter days in Virginia), but I’ll be ready in the spring!!

  13. Laurie, I imagine it will take a lot of time to work through all these emotions and that each ‘revisit’ will bring up new things. Writing is a wonderful release. So glad you had this blog in place before your accident. It’s been a great place for us to share your words and pictures and for you to put them out there as you see fit.

    That photos of the leaves on the mossy log took my breath away. I could see that printed as a note card!

    I’m glad you had extra layers to protect you that day. Though you can’t wear the helmet again, you will always have it as a way to remember how well it did it’s job. xox

    • Laurie, you are so right … this awful bike wreck has given me opportunity to spend time with friends and family (even if I don’t always remember it 🙂 ) Thank you!!

  14. What a stunning looking place to drive and stop. How awful about your accident, although you were not too badly damaged physically you have looked your mortality square in the face. Incidents like this can take some time to recover from emotionally. Be patient and kind with yourself 🙂

    • You have perfectly said what I was struggling with yesterday. The outside looks okay (well except for the broken / missing teeth) but the inside is struggling a bit. Thank you for getting it!

  15. Wow what a fantastic series of photo LB! I’m so sorry to hear about the accident. I’m sure it hurts in many ways, but you have a great spirit to help the healing. Ride on!

    • I have been trying to post the following to you but was unsure how you would receive it. It probably would be better sent in an email? Dunno, but lacking an email to send it to, I’m posting it anyway… and you are free to hit the delete button. Right? 🙂

      You know, your bravery in sharing your accident and your decision to ride again had me wondering how you could do it. I have been thinking about it for a while and was unable to understand your desire to ride again, but like I said, I have been thinking about it a lot…

      My dad and his wife were in a bad one (she went over the roof of the car that pulled out in front of them and he was broken and pinned under his bike and the side of the station wagon he hit at 50 mph). Know what bothered him most about the accident? The creep that came over and asked him if he was going to get up because he was blocking traffic… My dad continued to ride. Me? No motorcycles aren’t for me, but I did get kicked in the head by a horse losing consciousness due to a concussion, and yes, I rode again too. (I still have a dent in my skull from that one)

      When we love a thing that much I guess nothing can hold us back from the desire to do it again. I understand now. ~L

      • Lynda, I absolutely love that you took the time to express your concern and wonder about the decision. Believe me, many of my friends and family are not real thrilled either and rather than make me angry or want to hit delete :-), it reminds me how fortunate I am to be loved.
        Your example of riding horses is perfect. I keep sharing the story about when I got in a horrible car accident 17 years ago … it was expected that I would drive again. Those who get into bicycle wrecks and equestian accidents usually ride again. But the motorcycle? It is always assumed that the riding days are over. I do understand that. The risks are great. On the other hand … I rode 20,000 miles over almost 5 years with no injury.
        I guess we just never know where life (or not) will take us.
        Thank you so much for you thoughts and concern

  16. Wow, I had ni idea… what a trip you made, in two senses! Wish you all the best and a quick recovery and I hope that you’ll soon be back in the saddle again. Thanks for sharing and amazing photos 🙂

    • Thanks so much for reading this post … it’s a favorite of mine. Thanks also for your good wishes. I am back at work full time now and am hoping my normal unlimited energy returns soon, too 🙂

  17. Best of luck for the recovery, I know how much emotional and psychological trauma can result from a bike crash from my own experience. Far deeper and more severe than the physical damage (hopefully). Good for you that you’re getting back on! I always say to non-riders when questioned that getting back on after a severe crash, that it just goes to show how good it feels to ride a bike. You seem like a strong person, and I’m sure you will make a good recovery.
    All the best, I feel for you, really.

    • The whole physical / emotional thing was a surprise. I’m generally not one to think of emotional side effects for myself – my patients, yes – but not me. Those times of anxiety have not been frequent thankfully, but they have been there.
      I’m so glad that YOU are well, too. Scary, scary times BUT you are right … there’s nothing like riding!!

  18. thanks for stopping by my blog.. the hike over the weekend was great, and we are sitting here with a 2 hour delay ( we are teachers) , wondering if the whole day will be called off – maybe another hike today!

    your pics are beautiful – my brother lives down in that area, and we have enjoyed some trips around the park there. But there is so much more to explore!

    So sorry to hear of your accident. I ride a small honda 450 – sometimes my wife joins me, but we don’t get out all that often. Best wishes for a full recovery – clearly, your attitude is in the right place.. take care!

    • Thank you for your well wishes! Maybe you got another hike 🙂
      I’m actually in Southwest Virginia but that trip to the Smoky Mountains was awesome! It’s an amazing park!
      I’ll look forward to more of your posts, soon!

  19. First off I stumbled across your blog by accident – but will return. Gorgeous scenery and great travel writing. I do hope you heal well and that your recovery time and return to two wheels is ‘miraculous’. Take care – ride safe – travel well. The road needs more ‘wind sisters’.

    • I’m so glad you found my blog and in return I look forward to visiting yours! It’s been 4 months since the wreck (I was hit in an intersection) and while I’ve made great progress, I still have a ways to go. I do hope to be test riding my next bike in April (the one that was totaled was my third bike, but my first new one, built just for me). YAY!

  20. Pingback: Gratitude II | Life on the Bike and other Fab Things

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