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Leaving Kentucky for me is a sad event. However, if you do have to leave, Robbinsville is probably the best place to head for. at least if you ride. And ride we did. The route we took is below
The day felt cool as we left Slade, cool enough to put liners in. A stop for breakfast at the nearby lodge however made us remove them immediately. The breakfast was hearty indeed and if you're riding all day, it's well worth a stop.
The entire days riding was about as good as it gets. Down some of East Kentuckys finest roads before hitting route 66 and winding our way through Daniel Boone National Forest. The roads were mostly devoid of traffic, aside from some yahoo in a pickup truck on the wrong side of the road, but it was safe enough and progress was made. Gas stops were regular and each time we stopped it was hotter and hotter. Sure, the day was progressing, but each valley forged added at least a degree to the mercury.
As you'd expect the scenery was nothing less than spectacular and it's hard to concentrate when you're admiring the view. Luckily, small towns with the odd confederate flag took your mind off of the trees and back to the road.
The 66 gives was to Tennessee and literally as you pass through the tunnel, you are in a different place. The land seems more open, less wild. Hill tops give way to wonderful vistas, however and it would be rude not to stop and stare and chew the fat with some locals. Most seem impressed we've come this far from Toronto. Guess it's not too common and everyone is incredibly friendly, offering many options as to where we go to and what to see.
But we press on.
We stopped in Maryville for a late lunch and met John and his wife, riding a big Yamaha cruiser. He's given up sportbikes for it, but seems no less fast as a result. He kindly offers to show us a back way into the 129. The traditional route is scenic parkway. We head up over the mountain and down the other side on roads that wouldn't be out of place in the alps. The roads are starting to get more challenging and I know Marina is starting to get nervous. She's not looking forward to the 129...
Parting company with John (thanks for the tip, BTW) we head South. Marina takes deals gap slowly, but incredibly well. She says it's that I taught her well, but it's more likely the thought of the hot tub that's driving her on.
A brief stop at the motel allows us time to meet some fellow Ontarians who come here once a year. I can see why, but it's starting to get late and so we press on. The GPS is guiding us now and it sends us down a back lane, just North of Robbinsville. I assume it's a shortcut, but it's a long, winding road and the light is failing. Everyone is antsy now. It's accident hour. We're tired and the roads are unknown and challenging but we take our time. Finally, we hit the Cherohala and we're just about there. Finally.
Our lodgings for the night (indeed, next three) are a revelation. The views of the smokys are hidden from us by the night, but the room is huge. The hot tub is indeed hot and the shower even has a sauna system in it. The food is part of the price and while the menu isn't expansive, it is truly good and gourmet eating. Last time we were here, it was po'boy sandwiches and fries. This time it was tea-marinated tenderloin, amazing gumbo and the best grits I've ever had.
After dinner, the range of bourbon our host has is impeccable (even better, it's within an otherwise dry county) and I retire to my room with some of Kentucky's finest amber nectar. A long soak in the hot tub listening to cicadas later and I'm ready to sleep. I'm only just getting started here...