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!
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.
My first stop was the Sugarlands Visitors Center for the purchase of a helmet sticker.
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.
Then, it was off to enjoy the ride.
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.
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.
Despite the crowds, I thoroughly enjoyed the ride.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.