Damon and I got up, had our oatmeal, and got on the road without much excitement. Just a couple of minutes outside the campground was the city of Cumberland Gap. We drove through but didn’t really explore. I’m sure there is some cool stuff to see. Next we headed through a tunnel through the mountain which was pretty cool. We ended up in Kentucky, driving past some coal mining operations and ended up climbing this mountain on a freshly paved road. It was some of the best motorcycle riding I’ve ever experienced, sweeping in and out of curves, with no traffic in our lane and smooth pavement with no gravel to worry about. Going down the other side, the pavement was nearly as nice because there were no coal mining trucks going that way to justify the maintenance, so it wasn’t as fun going down. We finished up the rest of the segment and made it to Jellico, TN. It seemed a little early for gas, so we pressed on. We made it to some little town in TN, I can’t remember the name, but we’re driving down the street looking for something to eat and they have a Chinese buffet. We were both starving so the idea of an all you can eat buffet sounded appealing. I had three plates, so I think I got my money’s worth. I talked to the woman there about how I’d been to China last year, and she seemed impressed, I’m sure most of the locals have never left the county. It also wouldn’t surprise me if her, her husband, and her two children were the only Chinese people within 50 miles of there. Kind of a weird place to have a Chinese buffet, but I was hungry so I went along with it. We still had a lot of ground to cover before the end of the segment in Rockwood, TN, so we got back on the road. We found ourselves on some Tennessee wildlife management area property, going down a gravel road. The gps tracks called for us to take a dirt road, which we did. It immediately turned into a pretty rough road over rock outcroppings. Next we turn and I see this huge puddle in the middle of the road, about 15 ft long. The areas on the sides of the road are thick with trees and bushes, so you have to go right through the middle. I give it a go, but don’t really get enough of a start, and before I know my rear wheel has slipped and I’m on my side. My first drop of the ride. I’m sure they’ll be many more. I try to heave the bike back upright, but the mud at the bottom of the puddle is slick as snot and I almost fall in trying to move the thing. Finally I get some sure footing and get it up, then restart the bike and walk it out while fanning the clutch. My bike weighs 370 pounds, and that’s not counting the weight of all the extra gas I’m carrying plus the numerous supplies. It’s heavy, probably closer to 500 pounds. Damon looks at me and says he’s not going that way. He’s got at least 100 more pounds of bike than I do, probably more than that. I say well let’s see what’s up ahead if we can just get past this stupid muddy area. He walks up around the corner and there is an even bigger mud hole there, about 40 ft long and who knows how deep. So I turn around and make it back through the puddle in one piece and we retreat and get back on the gravel road. Before people say man this guy sucks, a puddle scared him away, well this is a huge puddle, but more importantly is the mud not the puddle. It’s some kind of clay mud or something and it is super slick like being on ice. With big heavy bikes like we have, if the thing starts leaning you’re going down because you can’t get good footing to hold it up in this slippery stuff. Once we’re back on the gravel, it’s smooth sailing. We make it to Rockwood, TN and stop at a gas station to fill up and rest. Damon gets a power aid and an ice cream and we sit outside, while numerous customers ask us what the heck we’re doing. One family sees my Texas plates and ask me if I’m from Texas which they can’t believe. Damon later told me they approached him and said “Did your friend really ride that bike all the way from Texas?!” Hilarious. Yes, yes I did. Some fella comes up and starts talking to us and is one of those guys who never met a stranger. He’s got a sleeveless cutoff t-shirt and cutoff jean shorts and is telling us all kind of nonsense about anything and everything. He eventually tips us off to KOA campground nearby, which sounds better to Damon than the state park we were planning to go to since they have a laundry facility. So we headed to the KOA (http://koa.com/campgrounds/crossville). The KOA is nice, but not very secluded. The bathrooms are some of the nicest I’ve encountered. I really planned on roughing it more, but after days like today a shower sounds amazing. I tried washing a few clothes by hand last night and drying them off by tying them to my bag as we drove today, but they got covered in mud, so that plan didn’t work. As a bonus, this KOA campground has three domesticated rabbits that just hop around, so that’s fun. I feel really tired after today, so I think I’ll sleep well.
(fyi, my phone that’s functioning as my GPS unit was having some charging issues and powered down at the last part of the ride to the KOA campground, so there is a little loss of fidelity in the map at the end, but you can see where we ended up)