June 25, 2010
I find comfort and slay the 'Dragon'.
Last night after my meal that most likely could supply most third world countries with food for a week at The Dillard House - a big shout out to Alison, who is a wonderful server, I rolled over to Wal-Mart. I was looking for foam, any foam. Actually, a dark frothy foam from a local microbrewery crossed my mind but I needed just regular foam tonight.
The plan I had was to get some foam. I pictured a slab of tan foam approximately 12 inches high 32 inches wide by 40 inches long and weighing about 3 ounces.
Kind of like you would use in a chair for your grandmother who is a bit frail, keeps forgetting to put in her teeth and keeps calling you 'Pap' even though you've gone by the name Sven since that accident you had with the toothbrush when she was supposed to be watching you while your parents were in Mexico to 'renew' their relationship. The fall back was going to be one of those big sheets of 'egg crate' type foam mattresses that you put over your mattress when it's wore out and your too cheap to go to Mattress Giant and spend $98 on a replacement mattress even though your wife, girlfriend, significant other, life partner and/or roommate from the Vocational School your just 2 credits shy of graduating from who stopped by last winter and has never left won't even sleep on it. Yeah, that kind of foam.
At dinner I pictured me carrying back a few slabs of this foam, some scissors and duct tape. I was going to fashion an addition to my seat. I was in the seat business.
So I was going to take this foam, carve it up into the approximate shape of the seat, tape it together and sit on it. I was hoping that this would take some pressure, pain, heat away so that I could at least make it to WV where I'm going to hang for a few days to heal.
My rear end hurts. It hurts so bad I was hoping I had a slip and fall in the shower before dinner last night and I broke my arm just to take my attention away from the pain.
I'm not sure that I have a rear end anymore because I don't feel anything when I reach back where I used to feel something. It's been this way since about Daytona Beach. Every time I sit down on that scooter seat it would be cooler if I was in a kayak on the SURFACE OF THE SUN!
I'm really afraid to take a look at it in the mirror. I'm afraid I might pass out. I spent 13 years as a Paramedic and usually when we came across a patient with this intense amount of pain we had a protocol in place to start IV Morphine and transport to the closest ER. That, sadly, will not happen here.
So I went to Wal-Mart with my grand plan and walked around for some time thinking that I would see a display of foam for do-it-your-selfers. No go. I stopped in Paints and talked to Pete for awhile but he swore that WM didn't sell that kind of foam. He was right.
However, in my travels through the aisles I came across memory foam. You know the kind that always has a picture of a handprint pressed into the foam on the package?
I hadn't thought of memory foam. I first looked at the big sheets that you would use on your mattress that no one but you would sleep on. Pricey. Over $120 for one sheet. But they have pillows. Amazingly, I never thought about sitting on a pillow. Ok, bring it on; inflatable hemorrhoid rings, surgical supports, walkers, canes, those big 5 gallon buckets you poop in, etc. I can take it.
So I got one pillow for just under $15. I headed back to the hotel with my science experiment stuffed under the scooter seat.
I wanted to cut and shape it but in a stroke of genius folded it in half and taped it together. Simple and I didn't have to do any measuring. I tested it and it felt so sweet sitting on it. I sat on it on the floor, the chair, the bed. I was tempted to take it to the lobby and try it out on the hardwood floors there but it was still early and there were kids running around and I didn't want to scare them.
So this morning after I packed everything up I took my new seat out, put it on the scooter and sat on it. Sheer nirvana and I'm not talking about that group with all the plaid clothes.
It was so sweet. And it has a memory! If you get up from it and then sit right back down it remembers the shape of your rear end. It's sitting there waiting for you to sit back down. No, really, I tried it at least 6 times.
So I was ready to ride to the Dragon. The problem was I couldn't remember where it was. I looked it up the night before but didn't write down the name of the closet town. I have been in the area several times with a car and I've even driven the Dragon with a car but it's been awhile. Deals Gap doesn't show up on my Garmin GPS so I needed the name of the closest town.
My laptop was packed deep in my luggage so I headed off to the lobby to use the computer there. It was occupied by some 60+ YO who from the looks of things was updating his Facebook page. Or someone's Facebook page that looked like him.
Back to the room to sit around for a few minutes. Back to the lobby. Facebook guy is still at work. Come on! It's 0800 in the morning! Is this necessary? Back to the room. Some thumb twiddling, seeing how much shampoos I can snag, watch the weather report on TV. Back to the lobby. Facebook guy is now doing a video chat with someone who looks older than him and they are yammering about that they're both alive to see something like this, wouldn't Mildred, who passed away 5 years ago, like to have seen something like this, shouting into the microphones about all the recent updates to their Facebook page and encouraging each other to check their respective updates.
I roll out without an answer sitting on a pillow headed for the NOC in Wesser, NC. Nantahala Outdoor Center has got to be one of the most awesome setups for outdoor sports anywhere.
They do it all there; kayaking, rafting, biking - a must see is the Tsali Recreation Area. I've spent many days at the NOC. I've done the week long kayak class, Swift Water Rescue class and White Water Raft Guide program. And just hanging out at a really cool place. Located in Wesser, NC they have several buildings right on the Nantahala River. The Appalachian Trail even runs through the complex crossing the Nantahala on the foot bridge there.
I knew that from NOC I could find the Dragon. Sure enough, I was able to get directions from the guys in the outfitters store. Great place and some really great food.
The city is Robbinsville on 129 and that shows up on a GPS. I had two choices on going to it and luckily I chose the right one as they have blocked off one end of the Dragon. I followed the Nanty' north which is 19 towards Murphy and turned off on 129. Bingo, there was Deals Gap.
Ok, what did I expect? Not sure but I expected some enthusiasm, some excitement, some camaraderie. I just didn't get it.
A bunch of over chromed bikes lined up for a show that was never going to start. A few people standing around adjusting their do-rags, vests, chaps and logo fanny packs every 5 minutes. Disappointment has a name and its name is Deals Gap.
I did see a few BMWs and a Spyder or two that were interesting. As I rolled in and lined up with the other bikes I'd like to think I was probably the highlight of the day. People stopped adjusting their doo rags to stare as I rolled past. Before I could get my helmet off I had a few people come by for photographs.
The store, a t-shirt shop, has about 50 different configurations of the same 'Ride the Dragon' theme. The only saving grace was that they sell alcohol in an area that is pretty much dry. I saw lots of trailers parked on the upper lot so many of these 'Bad Boys' were not ridden in.
I just don't get it. Maybe if you came with a group of friends you could have some fun but I didn't really see anybody having a great time. Travelling across the country or from another country just to experience this? No.
So I took off and rode the Dragon. The speed limit is 30 mph. And they enforce it. I didn't realize it until I got to the end that it was blocked off and that you had to turn around. By the time I got to the end I was ready to keep on rolling north.
So back to Deals Gap. The only stop along the way is of some dam that's NOT Fontana - now that's a dam! And to be honest when you ride out you see it and now you see it riding back. Did I mention the speed limit is 30 mph? I know people have lost their lives on this road because of speed and I'm sure the county is tired of all the issues with speed but, 30 mph?
I followed a few Harleys back in. It turns out that this was the second time today that this group had gone out and back on the Dragon.
I hung out for awhile and wandered around checking out the bikes and the smallish crowd. No doubt with a special event planned this place is probably packed, loud and the general spirits of the crowd is much lighter. It just wasn't on the day I was there.
However, I was struck by the women that were there. It was unreal. It was like my Harley Goggles had fallen off and I could see now. I've been to a lot of motorcycle events and have never been impressed with 'Harley Women' until today. There were a ton of attractive women there! Did they trailer them in as well? Are they doing a video shoot? Is the Discovery Channel doing a special on supermodels who ride Harleys? Am I dehydrated?
That was my highlight of Deals Gap, the women. Amelia, Carol; call me. Please.
On from the Dragon I rolled. Rather than go through Knoxville I went back past Bryson City and then on to 441 through the Smokies towards Pigeon Forge.
I drove up Clingsman Dome as a quick side trip. I've been there in a car before but never on a bike/scooter. The road was great as they had just paved/repaired sections of it. The parking lot was crowded at the top. Because of the time I didn't hike up to the observation deck. The AT passes besides the parking lot there.
The whole ride through the Smokies is great. It made up for the disappointment of Deals Gap. I got caught on some rain late in the ride. I pulled over, struggled into the rain gear and then rode for about 5 minutes before the road was dry again. Stop, repeat steps above in reverse.
Pigeon Forge; crowded, hot, noisy, busy and overpowering come to mind. At least with Gatlinburg you get to look at the mountains when you're stuck in traffic. Here you get to look at bumpers and asphalt. That strip is so long I'd swear if you sight down from the first tattoo parlor on the right as you enter town from the Smokies towards the All-You-Can-Eat-Flapjacks for $5 Emporium you can see the curvature of the Earth. It's that long.
Traffic was slow, lots of crowds and a greasy falafel haze in the air. But I have to admit with all the crowds I'm seeing and lots of road construction I have to think that the economy is on the upswing.
I stopped at 5 Brothers for a hamburger. I've never been to one. I used to walk by them all the time in DC but never stopped in. It was very good, I was impressed. It shook me a little when I opened the bag that my order came in. The hamburger looked like a meat softball but I was able to eat it anyway.
In the parking lot of 5 Brothers I got stopped by a family that somehow didn't understand the concept of wheel lock and unlock for stopping and parking. They thought, even though I walked them through it slowly, that the scooter would right itself if it fell over. I gave up after 15 minutes of embarrassment and left.
I ended up on 40 E which turns into 81 N. I tried to stop in the Bristol area for the night but all the hotels were full. I didn't ask but I suspect that maybe something was going on at the speedway. A bit down the road I did pull off for one hotel that it looked like a converted chicken coop. And there were no lights on.
Eventually I found a hotel in Atkins, VA.
Oh, the pillow is a keeper.
Mileage today: 378 Trip total: 1766
Avg. miles/day: 441
Fuel expenses: $15.19 Trip total: $98.13
Food/drink: $15.24 Trip total: $109.93
Fuel avg.: 59.3 mpg Trip avg.: 55.6 mpg
Cruising through Deals Gap (The Dragon) and the Smokies really increased the mileage.
Misc. $ Trip total: $26.48
Beer: $7.70 Trip total: $21.95
Ready to 'Slay the Dragon'
Something doesn't fit in.
The AT runs right through NOC.
Outfitters store at NOC.
You want bikes? NOC has them.
At Clingmans Dome.