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+ Week Have a SEAT and Let Me Take You With Me to the Smokey Mountain 500 and Back!


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Feb 12, 2022
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10 Days.
2000 miles.
1400 miles on the trail.
600 miles getting there and back.

One fat kid going through a mid-life crisis.

And a Monkey hanging out for the ride.

It's finally warmed up just enough to think about making my way into the Appalachian mountains for another adventure, but where to go and what to see? Decided on part of the SEAT from the old site, swapped out a chunk for the Smokey Mountain 500, and threw the Dragon in for giggles. The only hard part will be getting to and from Tidewater, VA... You can read me blather on about the planning over in that part of the forum if you'd like. SEAT Planning

final map.jpg

But that's not what we're here, in the Ride Reports section, for though, is it? No sir, I'm here to write down how good it is only being 34-35 years old and (nearly) indestructible so that when I'm in my 60's I'll have some notes when I tell the whipper-snappers how it used to be in the good-ol-days. You, on the other hand, are probably here to live vicariously through my exploits... cheer for my successes, laugh at my failures, and provide witty commentary after I fail to do so myself. I highly encourage the laughing part.

With that, here's the report from Day Zero-neg-One: The Shake Down


Successfully found dirt, mud and water in the middle of civilization. Also found gas, but had to sell my first-born to fill up a measly 2.5 gallons. That's OK, she cost too much to feed anyways.

Positives: All my crap stayed in place and the merino base layer may negate the need for my suit's liner. We'll see.

Tomorrow morning is supposed to start off a balmy 60-something degrees, getting warmer and colder as thunderstorms pop in and out on my way to Roanoke.

My riding partner, MotoMonkey, seems to be enjoying himself so far.


Next up - Day Zero: Omelets, The Slab, Missed Connections, and a Bunkhouse
10 Days.
2000 miles.
1400 miles on the trail.
600 miles getting there and back.

One fat kid going through a mid-life crisis.

And a Monkey hanging out for the ride.

It's finally warmed up just enough to think about making my way into the Appalachian mountains for another adventure, but where to go and what to see? Decided on part of the SEAT from the old site, swapped out a chunk for the Smokey Mountain 500, and threw the Dragon in for giggles. The only hard part will be getting to and from Tidewater, VA... You can read me blather on about the planning over in that part of the forum if you'd like. SEAT Planning

final map.jpg

But that's not what we're here, in the Ride Reports section, for though, is it? No sir, I'm here to write down how good it is only being 34-35 years old and (nearly) indestructible so that when I'm in my 60's I'll have some notes when I tell the whipper-snappers how it used to be in the good-ol-days. You, on the other hand, are probably here to live vicariously through my exploits... cheer for my successes, laugh at my failures, and provide witty commentary after I fail to do so myself. I highly encourage the laughing part.

With that, here's the report from Day Zero-neg-One: The Shake Down


Successfully found dirt, mud and water in the middle of civilization. Also found gas, but had to sell my first-born to fill up a measly 2.5 gallons. That's OK, she cost too much to feed anyways.

Positives: All my crap stayed in place and the merino base layer may negate the need for my suit's liner. We'll see.

Tomorrow morning is supposed to start off a balmy 60-something degrees, getting warmer and colder as thunderstorms pop in and out on my way to Roanoke.

My riding partner, MotoMonkey, seems to be enjoying himself so far.


Next up - Day Zero: Omelets, The Slab, Missed Connections, and a Bunkhouse

Sounds like a good time.
The Smokey 500 is a great ride. I've done it several times. The SEAT is pretty nice as well. I've rode it from Damascus down into NC
If BBQ is of interest you will be near an old, very highly regarded place. Ridgewood BBQ. Old Elizabethton road near Bluff City. On the SW end of Holston Mtn.
Day One - Outhouses, sunrise, coffee & grub, the red sections really are hard, snow, banjos, & a burger, single track shenanigans, bedding down, dinner

Made it through all of SEAT 01 + the alternate red section, as well as a small part of SEAT 02. This is the first night of camping on this trip. Did some gnarley riding, talked to hikers, found some ADV riders, had a decent burger cooked by some Amish girls, bought some cider, fouled out on my planned location for camping, found an elusive motorcycle trail in VA, found a camp site, had dinner, had cider, and checked tonight's weather without cell phone service... As Bender would say:


Part 1 - Outhouses, coffee, sunrise, and grub

Didn't sleep terribly well last night. I'm chalking it up to not being used to some of the through-hiker idiosyncrasies, close quarters in a strange place, and going to bed in a 20* bag wearing long pants, warm socks, a fleece and a wool beenie while still being in-doors-ish. Just way too damn hot.

Managed to wake up before my 0600 alarm and started getting ready for breakfast and hitting the trail. Phone says cold and wet all day. Great.

First stop: the shitter. Normally, Woods Hole has a shower house with real toilets and running water for the bunkhouse guests. Still too cold right now though, so off to the outhouse I went. I will say, as far as outhouses go, this one wasn't bad. Must be the lime they have handy.


After that it was all about packing it up while I waited for the hosts and other guests to get going. This meant walking over to the bike past the main house which set the dogs to barking. Coffee was ready shortly after that.

Not sure if me setting the dogs off got the ball rolling there, probably not.

Another neat feature of Woods Hole is that it is in the back of a hollow which frames sunrises perfectly. Couldn't have asked for a better view with my Joe. But, like the schmuck I am, I didn't get a picture. Oh well. Better late than never.


Breakfast was solid... Peach crisp, scrambled eggs with peppers (telling you, omelettes in the wild are rare), fresh bread, pineapple, and OJ. Great start to the day. Before we started breakfast, there was another circle moment where everyone said what they are thankful for. I said merino base layers.


After that, everyone said their goodbyes, and headed for whichever trail they wanted.

MotoMonkey - So, you just poop in the hole?

Me - Yup.

MM - And it just sits there?

Me - Yup.

MM - Everyone's poop. In one place.

Me - You got it.

MM - People are weird.

Part 2 - The Red Sections Really Are Hard

In planning I said to my self, "Self, you've been dirt biking since you were seven. Surely you can handle 'hard' option. Pshhh."

Well, I was technically right, but hooooo boy. This is another time I was glad that I wasn't on my GS. Even the 690 felt like a pig going through parts of the red section. I'm also glad I have knobbies.

There's a nagging voice in my head saying I probably packed too much crap. I ignore it mostly, because I don't like being told I'm wrong.

TLDR: take a small bike with big knobbies 'cause the red sections really are hard.




MotoMonkey - They said the red section was hard, right?

Me - Yup.

MotoMonkey - And you went down it anyway?

Me - Yup.

MotoMonkey - Are you suicidal or just dumb?

Part 3 - snow, banjos, & a burger

Next up on my list was sorting out lunch. The goal was Mattie's place in Burke's Garden. I also knew that the SEAT goes-inta for BG was closed at the end of the forest... But I still wanted to check out the part that was open...


MotoMonkey - Again? Another dead end road!?

Me - Yup

MotoMonkey - Let me guess... You meant to do this too.

Me - Yup

MotoMonkey - I don't know why I hang out with you.

That being accomplished, I worked my way over to where the SEAT has the goes-outta and started making my way to lunch. I found snow. I put in my winter gloves (shows how much that nagging voice knows about packing! Hah!), And decided I really was thankful for that merino base layer.


Headed in I saw three ADV bikes parked out front of what was not Mattie's Place... But I couldn't pass up other riders on my solo trip.


Continued in next post...
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Since I was there and behind schedule anyways, I decided to eat. The Amish folk running the place were nice, but the three townies at the table definitely had that deliverance feel to them. I partook of the heater, ate my burger, and managed to overhear something about motorcycle guys coming in from the big cities...



Moto Monkey - Screw those jerks.

Me - Calm down man, they'll hear you

Moto Monkey - So! You can take 'em!

Me - There's three of them and one of me...

Moto Monkey - But I...

Me - Don't even start, you'd just run away.

Part 4 - Single track shenanigans

Lunch being had, it was time to find fuel and mosey on down to the end of SEAT 01 to find a place to camp.

Upside: Ended up with a four-pack of local cider from the gas station... Score!

Downside: my internet scouted camping area didn't pan out

Oh well, keep going till you find something good, right? And find something good we certainly did... One of the elusive motorcycle single tracks in VA! To say these are rare as hen's teeth is understating the abundance of hen's teeth.


Moto Monkey - Whoa! It was all up, and the down! Then left, and right, and there wasn't any room...

Me - Pretty challenging stuff huh?

Moto Monkey - Challenging? Looked easy to me.

Me - That's cause you just ride. Try driving sometime.

Part 5 - Bedding down

It was getting late, so my requirements for a good camp site were getting less stringent. Notably, I gave up on staying along a dead end road to avoid passers-by. Found this gem and got settled in for the night.

Then a downhill mountain bike zoomed by.



Moto Monkey - are we there yet?

Me - I swear to God... I'll turn around...

Part 6 - Dinner

That leaves one last discussion item... Camp dinners. I didn't feel like paying $8/meal to get super lightweight backpacker food... I've got this mechanical horse that'll carry whatever I want, right? (There's that nagging voice again...). So, tonight I had heat and eat Spanish rice with 'bold' buffalo pouch chicken.

It was actually really tasty.

But the cider stole the show.



MotoMonkey - Hey... Man... Hiccup I... I love you man.

Me - Go to bed, you're drunk.


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Now that I finally made it to Johnson City, TN for lunch a Watauga Brewing... It occurs to me that I skipped the day 0 write up... Must have been the delusional hobo at the Damascus gas station.

Day Zero: Omelets, The Slab, Missed Connections, Improvising, and a Bunkhouse

Part 1: The Omelet

What can I say? Despite being little more than a pretentious scrambled egg dish that went to college and got it's life together, (unlike it's cousin, the breakfast scramble) I do enjoy a good omelette before a trip.

But, for ADV riding it has a second meaning for me. You see, I first found out about this wild community when someone pointed me to daBum's writeup, 'Riding to Alaska for breakfast on a dirt bike' on the old site. Spoiler: he didn't get his omelette in the end. Anywho, now I make a point of eating the omelette first. Call it good luck. This time it was cheddar, bell peppers, onions, bacon, and Valentina hot sauce. Good times.


MotoMonkey - So, this five-dollar omelette... Does it come with a shot of bourbon?

Me - What? Five Dollar Omelette?

MotoMonkey - Do you put bourbon in it or something?

Me - What are you talking about?

MotoMonkey - SAY WHAT AGAIN!!!!

Me - Look dude, do you want an omelette or not?

MotoMonkey - sigh Yes... But can I get some cheese?

Me - what does this look like? A restaurant?


Part 2: The slab

Getting to good rides from the Tidewater area is always a chore. Sure, I could have jumped over and caught the Atlantic Spur of the TAT and go up... But it takes longer and I did it last year. Nope, just gonna sacrifice for this 5 hour endeavor.


At least there was a burger and a beer waiting for me in Roanoke.


MotoMonkey - Hey dude, you know it's raining, right?

Me - Sure, what about it?

MotoMonkey - Well, some of us don't have fancy waterproof clothes. Why don't you stop for lunch?

Good Plan.

Part 3: Missed Connections

Last year when I was running south on MABDR Section 2, I didn't make it all the way down Tub Run Road because of a downed tree. Turns out it was a good thing because it helped me realize that my wallet and my battery pack jumped ship and I needed to backtrack. Ended up missing all the rest of Section 2 because I was out of time after managing to find everything.

So why not go ahead and get it done then?

Well... Dummy, Tub Run is seasonal and opens on April 1st. You'll be there March 31st.


Moto Monkey - Great planning dude

Me - Shut it, I planned on this.

Moto Monkey - Ok, I'll bite... Why would you intentionally go to a closed road?

Me - There's this web forum... And one of the threads is a...

Moto Monkey - A what? You mean like Facebook?

Me - No... It's better. Hear me out; there's this photo tag thread, someone says to get a certain kind of picture, and if you do it, you get to set the rules for the next picture!

Moto Monkey - Uh huh, OK, Boomer.

Part 4: Improvising

So, at this point I'm intentionally going off track, so I might as well go really off track, right? It's not good enough to just take the next road north and jumper over Tub Run. Nope, that little road on the map there looks interesting...


My first clue should have been the assorted jeep parts scattered along the trail. The second clue should have been that most of the big mud holes had been diverted around. But those two clues were not enough for me.

Ended up burying the rear end in mud up to the luggage rack. So deep the bike stood on its own. Guess it's time for a little self-recovery... Let's get these heavy ass bags off the bike...



Moto Monkey - Dude. What the hell?

Me - What's the matter?

Moto Monkey - Look at me! I'm covered in this shit!

Me - So? You love to swim.

Part 5: A Bunkhouse

Since I'm calling this day zero, I wanted to sleep under a roof and eat real food at the start of the trail. I also didn't want to pay for a hotel... Call me cheap, cause I am. When's the last time you priced out the miracle oil KTM calls for? I gotta pinch those pennies

Anywho, Woods Hole B&B and Hostel fit the bill - cheap, on the trail, has food. Of note, it is a dry hostel... Don't bring any beer. Ended up staying in the bunkhouse with a few AT hikers. Definitely have their own culture...


Moto Monkey - Did she just say what I think she said?

Me - Yup... Pretty sure she did...

Moto Monkey - I don't think that's how it works...

Me - You mean you've never used a razor and bleach to get rid of chiggers?

On a technical note: The KTM has claimed the life of my cell phone's main camera... The selfie side still works, but is harder to use.

I will be using this as an excuse for my poor photography skills from here on out.
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Day 2: Restless sleep, unexpected closures, another "supposedly" rare find, closed on the other end (and associated shenanigans), 'The Hobo', Mad Dash to the end (but coming up short)

Part 1 - Restless Sleep

Remember how I couldn't sleep because I was too hot at the hostel? Not the case last night. In fact, I learned my lesson about advertised temperature ratings on sleeping bags.

You see, I've got a North Face synthetic 20° mummy bag and a bag liner with me on this trip. Local temperatures were hovering around 30°. So, 20° from the bag + another 10° because of the liner, right? Should be easy-peasy no problem. Especially if I sleep in my base layer.

Turns out, I was wrong. You see, all of those advertised temperature ratings are for 'survival'. At 30° outside temps I was shivering my ass off and ended up adding my fleece to the mix, making the mummy bag +liner somewhat claustrophobic.

But I'm here writing to you all... So I didn't die. I checked the tag on the bag... All of this was there, in the fine print.

At least I could add boiling water to my granola and powdered milk breakfast... Nido powdered milk is best powdered milk.


MotoMonkey - bet you wish you had fur.

Me - Shut up

Part 2 - Unexpected Closures

At this point I was in SEAT Section 2. Section 2 has an optional 'hard' path as well. Not to be detured from future adventure by past struggles, I planned to hit it up. The forest service, however, had other plans this season and installed shiny new 'no motorized vehicles' signs.

I at least paid attention to this hint.


MotoMonkey - Lemme guess, you 'planned' this one too.

Me - Nope. Not this time

Part 3 - Another 'supposedly' Rare Find, & closed on the other end

Since I didn't get my planned 'hard' alternate in, I was a bit bummed. I mean, how was I going to made a silly mistake now?

I might as well have said 'hold my beer'.

Outside of Damascus, VA is Beech Grove Motorcycle Trail (Forest Road 4552). GaiaGPS shows it in purple.

I took it. I almost had to hit the magic 'oh shit' button on my Garmin. Fun was had by all.


Moto Monkey - When are you going to learn?

Good news is that I made it to the top of the motorcycle section, eventually, into the normal Beech Grove forest road. That should dump me out north of Damascus unless something else went wrong.

Something else went wrong.


Ended up dragging the bike on it's side underneath a fallen tree. Couldn't go around, and had no desire to go back the way I came.

MotoMonkey - When are you gonna...

Me - Shut it.

Part 4 - The Hobo

In the end, I made it to Damascus without turning around. I wasn't proud of myself... I mean, I intentionally put the bike on it's side (another plug for middle-weight bikes)... But I got there. Bought gas, Gatorade, and a couple gallons of water for my packs, then proceeded outside to post Day 1's report.

I mentioned being distracted and forgetting the Day 0 report ... well here's why.

There I am, exhausted, slamming full-octane Gatorade for the calories, and trying to get a post in while I have service. Up walks a typical looking older AT hiker (trail worn cup hanging off his pack). Maybe a bit eccentric.

Then he starts making hand and arm gestures at people putting gas in their cars, going on about how the Bible tells us to walk with Jesus, not buy a car and drive ...

And he sets up right next to me.


Finished my business a safe distance away.

Moto Monkey - That guy's a lunatic!

Me - Takes one to know one.

Part 5 - Coming up short

My shenanigans the other day put me several hours behind plan... So I started booking it south to try and hit my planned lunch at Watauga Brewing. Great burger. Good beer.


Started booking it to my planned camp area. Didn't make it.

Set up camp, gave myself a wet wipe bath, had dinner (knorr side + lemon pepper pouch chicken), and fell promptly asleep.


MotoMonkey - zzzzzzzzzzzzzz


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Day 3: Scouting Ahead, Making Miles on 209 'the rattler', missing my turn, research stations and why I didn't want to stay there anyways.

Part 1 - Scouting ahead

I'll start off by saying that the temperature was great last night. Slept like a rock. Woke up to the alarm clock instead of before it even.


Got packed up and left shortly after sunrise, making sure to send my promised 'starting the day' inReach message out.

I didn't hit my planned campsite yesterday, and I was planning on reusing what I found on the return trip. Figured the smart move would be to make sure there actually was somewhere to camp there and not just locked gates. It's right next to the Rich Mountain Lookout fire tower. Got down there, found a real winner of a campsite, then headed back for a view from the tower.


MotoMonkey - I can see for miles and miles and miles and...

Me - Don't quit your day job bud.

Part 2 - Making miles on 209 'the rattler'

I mentioned I was behind... By the looks of things I was about two hours behind. No time to take the SEAT 02c red alternate, and willing to take the time-saving SEAT 03a.

Turns out that's some kind of minor motorcycling destination ride touted as an alternate to the dragon. It didn't quite say that on the tourist trap signs, but I knew what they meant. Saw a few other riders of various sorts. Waved at the ones on two wheels. Did not wave at the Polaris slingshot. Those are just cars pretending to be motorcycles.


Ended up feeling like I had made up the whole two hours of being behind as I saw a marked food location in Maggie Valley, NC... Bear Waters Brewing Creekside. Got there, looked closed. Tried to get service to see their hours and, in the process, realized I had tagged them for the return trip...


Nantahala Brewing was still an hour away.

MotoMonkey - Navigation really isn't your strong suit is it?

Me - Shaddup.

Part 3 - Missing My Turn

Did some one mention that I suck at navigating? I disagree with them on principle, but reality seems to be telling a different tale...

So I started onward to my lunch brewery for this leg. As I made my way towards the town of Cherokee I saw a marker set and figured I was there.

I was not. Nantahala is in Bryson City.

Looking again at my maps, I resolved to follow the SEAT to it's nearest point to Bryson City. I want to get as many of my planned miles done as possible.

Turns out, I was zoomed in to far on the maps (I really like the 500' zoom), and missed my turn.

I didn't realize my error until I was nearly to Franklin, NC. Oh well, surely there's a brew pub in Franklin... Lazy Hiker Brewing you say? More like Lazy Biker today!

(That was two rhymes in on sentence, in case you missed it. No need for applause.)

Decent burger from the semi-permanent, not really part of the brewery, but called basically the same thing, food trailer. Had curly fries again... Haven't seen this much curly fry availability in a long time. Must be an Appalachian thing.

Beers were all fantastic. I ordered a flight to try as many as I could.


Spent a little longer here than I should have... Had to write and post Day 2 while I had internet... So I made a short cut to my planned camping. Don't worry, I'll still hit everything at least one direction.


MotoMonkey - This slab riding is killing me, will you please just stick to the plan?

Me - Sorry buddy, on a schedule you know

MotoMonkey - should have thought about that yesterday before you went rogue on the motorcycle trail

Part 4 - Research stations, and why I didn't want to stay there anyways.

You see all those crossed circles in the map above? Those are places I thought, from scouting on maps, would be possible camp sites.

Turns out they are all in a hydrological research area. No camping. No fires. Lots of locked gates and sensors everywhere. No fun at all.

Decided the best course was to head up the portions of the trail that I bypassed. I was rewarded with the best campsite of the trip so far.

Plenty of space, trees in the right spots, and even a path down to the creek so MotoMonkey could get a long-overdue bath.


(That's another rhyme, in case you missed it).

Used the InReach weather forecast feature, since there was no cell service at this campsite. Severe clear all through the next day. Man, I love this sat-com thing.


With camp set up, I settled in with some brewskis, let my feet air out near the fire, cooked some dinner, and drafted this report. After that, bedtime.

MotoMonkey - What do you mean we can't catch some fish?

Me - We don't have a license, bait, or even a pole.

MotoMonkey - Look, I'll hang off this stick... You just dunk me in and I'll grab em.

Me - That's not going to ...

MotoMonkey - C'mon, just try!

Me - ... work. It's not catfish noodling, and remember, we don't have a fishing licence anyways.

MotoMonkey - You're no fun.
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Day 4: Sunrises, water crossings, lunch on top of the world, a reminder to ride right, back on the slab, midway night

Part 1 - Sunrises.

I'm a sucker for sunrise. Don't get me wrong, sunsets are pretty too, but sunrise signifies the beginning of things... Which is where I was, at the beginning of my SM 500 section.

The previous night was forcast to be in the 40's with no wind (inReach wx reports are awesome when you have no cell service), why not go without the fly on my tent and sans the bag liner so things can breathe a bit better?

[UWSL]Because at 4 am you are going to wake up cold and grumpy, dummy. That's why. Oh well, just means everything was packed up before first light. Had to make some miles today anyways.[/UWSL]

That stupid decision set me up for this:



MotoMonkey - yaaaawn yeah, I see it, can I go back to sleep now?

Part 2: Water Crossings and Lunch on Top of the World

SEAT 04 and SM500 Red were amazing trails with plenty of opportunity to run off and choose your own adventure. I stuck to the plan and bounced back and forth between the two depending on what looked most interesting on the map.

The water crossings on SM500 Red look a bit intimidating at first, but if you take your time to look at them you can find a good path through that isn't too deep. Or, if you get over confident from the first one of the day, you can accidentally find a bad path that is way too deep.

I did both. I recommend the former over the latter.



MotoMonkey - You almost drowned me. Again.

Me - But did you die?

MotoMonkey - That's not the point...

Me - You needed another bath anyways.

Eventually I decided to stop for lunch on top of the world and ran across this sternly worded message...


Me - No.

MotoMonkey - C'mon, how will they know!?

Me - I said no, damnit.

MotoMonkey - You're no fun.

Me - How about a beer with lunch?


MotoMonkey - Fiiiine

Part 3 - A reminder to ride right

If you take SM500 Green or SEAT 04d, you'll find yourself riding past the Army ranger training school.


Those guys really have to pack on the calories to do what they do. That means eating a lot of food. Also, as it turns out, that means tractor trailers navigating the windy forest road to deliver said food.

Tractor trailers have a hard time getting around those blind corners. The blind corners are also blind enough to hide an approaching tractor trailer.

By the time he stopped and I skidded to a halt leaning up against the mountain, I was able to see that it was a SYSCO truck... And that trailer tires are big. Really big.

Oh well, no harm no foul, right? No, that's not true. I might have yelled and used some foul language at the driver before I went off. What the ... was he doing with that thing up here?

I felt bad about yelling at him after I put all the pieces together.

MotoMonkey - But did you die?

Me - That's not th...

MotoMonkey - HAH! See how it feels!

Part 4 - Back on the Slab and Midway Night

I found out why the Appalachian Trail doesn't extend down through Georgia... this section of the world is not nearly as interesting as the stuff further north. By the way, if you want to pass by the start of the AT on your SEAT/SM500 adventure, go north and skip the ranger training school.


Still, boring as it was (I had plenty of time to contemplate how my tires were getting noiser through the trip), it was the path to Midway Night at my friend's place in Chattanooga, TN. Real food, drinks, conversation, coffee that didn't come from a powder... Yup, good times.

Did I mention laundry? Or showers? Those are great too.


MotoMonkey - So, this is the company you keep?

Me - What's wrong with Nick!?

MotoMonkey - Well, first, he hangs out with you...
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Day 5: Rain, IFR Conditions, The Day the Trees Died, Any Port in a Storm

Part 1 - Rain

It was a late start to the day... Not because of a hangover (thank God) but because Nick's daughter wanted to say goodbye before she went to school. This worked out because I had neglected to switch the last bit of my laundry to the drier the night prior. A winning coincidence all the way around. So, about 8:15 my friend I set off for breakfast.

I was told this was a sandwich. The requirement for a knife and fork proved that to be a lie.


Thoroughly stuffed, I steeled myself to set off on the SM500 Green section in the rain. It was only supposed to rain in the morning, temperatures were supposed to be in the mid 60's, and this was supposed to be a short day anyways.


In not so surprising news, I was soaked in short order. So was my phone, which is handling primary navigation duties. I had no issues continuing, but the phone threw a fit and refused to continue charging.

What a jerk.

Stopped off at a game check station to cook up some coffee, switch to the Garmin navigation mount, and try to get the phone to charge. Having no luck charging the phone from either my bike or battery pack, it went into battery saver mode so I could still have jams.

My Garmin 66i was loaded with the correct courses and had no issues with the rain. Good news from a navigation standpoint, bad news from a "I've fallen off the bike and need to hit the escape button" standpoint.


MotoMonkey - You know, some people take an off day when it rains.

Me - Wimp. A little rain won't kill you.

Part 2 - IFR Conditions

Today was the day that the Smokey Mountains lived up to their name for me. Rolling through the mountains you could go from unlimited visibility to 5 feet by simply rounding a corner. Very spooky, very cool, and a good reason to go nice and slow.


But it made for gorgeous views from the highway overlooks


Me - So, was it worth riding in the rain?

MotoMonkey - I look and smell like a wet dog. You know, it would be just as fun, maybe more fun, if it was warm and sunny.

Me - that's because you are looking backwards. I'm happy there's no bugs.

Part 3 - The Day the Trees Died

The Green section of the SM500 (and, by extension SE20 & SE21 of the SEAT) had been hit with pretty high winds before my trip. As a result there was a whole lot of downed trees. Most had been cleared already, a few could be navigated around.

One required trimming with my handy Leatherman saw to get to where I could walk the bike around.


MotoMonkey - Hey! Check it out! Mosquitos!

Me - grumble

One, only a couple miles from my intended search area for camping, proved to be too much for both my Leatherman and the "commando saw" I threw in on a whim. Then again, a popsicle stick would have overcome the gimmicky commando saw... At least I didn't pay anything for it.



Me - Khaaaaaaaaaaan!

MotoMonkey - The tree has a name?

Part 4 - Any Port in a Storm

A combination of all the days events meant that it was 6pm, I was soked, I was on backup nav, and I couldn't find a suitable camping spot.

Luckily, it was a short detour to Cherohala Mountain Trails Campground. Even more luckily, something called March Moto Madness had ended the week prior and there was plenty of cabins available 30 minutes before their office closed at 7pm.

The accomodations are pretty sparse in the cabins... But they have boot/glove warmers in each one.

Don't let the name fool you, they work for jackets and pants too.


MotoMonkey - wait, you mean most people stay inside for these things? You don't have to live in the woods!?!?

Me - If you call that living...
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Day 6: A Fresh Start, Water Water Everywhere, A Small Problem or Two, the Dragon, No Where to Call Home, Thunder and Lightning Very Very Frigtening

Part 1 - A Fresh Start

After a long day of riding in the rain and working around fallen trees, having slept in a real bed in a warm room really left me feeling like a million bucks.

Putting on dry boots, dry gloves, and a dry suit sure helped too.

After gnoshing on some granola and downing some coffee, it was time to tackle the yellow section of SM500.

Part 2 - Water, Water Everywhere

Since I was running reverse on the SM500 tracks, it didn't take long for me to revert back to being wet. Almost immediately I came to a water crossing.

Taking my lesson from Red a couple days before, I stopped, surveyed the situation, set up my phone to record, and boldly went where I hadn't been before... Once across to grab the video, once back to get my phone, and one final time to be on my way.



MotoMonkey - Boss, we just got dry.

Me - Don't worry, the sun's out. You'll be dry again soon enough.

There were a couple more fun crossings on yellow that morning after that as well, just didn't want to have to do all of them three times.

Part 3 - A Small Problem or Two

The rest of the yellow section went pretty smoothly with some fun technical climbs and desents and some fun twisty asphalt sections as well...

I was on one of those sections north of the Cheoah Reservoir when the turns started to feel squishy... and I managed to drag the foot of the center stand (which will be coming off before the next dirt adventure... Only useful with SuMo wheels). Pulled off on the shoulder to see what was going on.



Pulled my bags off to start putting in my emergency tube (sized for the front, to be used in a pinch for the rear), and decided to try airing up the tire to see if it held at all.

In a stroke of luck, it did.

In another stroke of luck, I had enough cell service to search for a moto shop nearby to see if they had the right size tube. Wheeler's Performance was not more than 6 miles away. Tried to call, three times, but either the service wasn't good enough or my phone was still grumpy with the prior day's rain... They answered, but couldn't hear me.


Time to hit the 'I believe' button and hope they had one...


Good news: they did. Even better news: they didn't have anything going on at the moment and could put it in for me right then. With a tire machine.

No short spoons for me!

In the end, I was out 30 minutes of my plan and a few doll hairs, but I was off to give the Dragon a go with the right tube installed. Also turns out I had two nails...

MotoMonkey - Some people might say you're not a real motorcyclist because you paid them to do it.

Me - Who cares what they think.

MotoMonkey - Pansy.

Me - Want to walk?

Part 4 - The Dragon

Maybe an overloaded Enduro bike with worn down knobbies isn't the best bike to take on the Dragon, but it's the bike I had. I also wasn't planning on bringing my Ducati back east again anytime soon (it is semi-retired in northwest NM).

Got a few good frames. Cut inside the white line once. Fun was had by all.

I'll come back and edit in the good ones after I pay for a couple.


MotoMonkey - You we're kinda slow, weren't you?

Me - Fastest dirt-bike out today though!

MotoMonkey - That's because no one else is stupid enough to bring a dirt bike to the dragon.

Part 5 - No Where to Call Home

Done with the Dragon, I headed on along my planned route to finish up the SM500, eat dinner, and find a campsite.

Planned restaurant was closed, and I was unsuccessful in finding a camp spot in the planned location.

No worries. Still had plenty of food in my tucker bag, just needed to keep moving along my route till I found a suitable spot. Right?

Turns out the section of SEAT 03 I skipped a couple days ago is pretty spooky: a paved forest road that has decayed to grass growing in pavement cracks... where the pavement hadn't been broken out in chunks that is. The sign that says "Broken Pavement" was a severe understatement. And places to camp in that section of forest? Every single spot I saw had "you'll be murdered in your sleep" written all over it.


MotoMonkey - We can't stop here... This is bat country!

Part 6 - Thunder and Lightning, Very Very Frigtening

Ended up putting in a lot more miles and riding in the dark... Cursed a small water crossing... Found a suitable enough spot... Checked the weather, then rushed to set up camp before the rain started... and the lightening. Did not eat dinner.

No pictures. But I obviously survived. There were some real big booms overhead for a while though.
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I was down in the same area on April 4-7.
Rode in the rain Tuesday and came home Thursday because of the crappy weather.
We rode the Dragon, Little Snowbird, Citico Creek, FS81 and a few other areas.
Wheelers is great. They have saved many motorcycle trips changing tires and fixing flats.
We base camped out of Ironhorse in Stecoah. It's a great place in bad weather since they have a lodge and small grill.

Day 7 - Breakfast Adventure, Bridges, Dams, and Detours, Knowing Where You're Going to Stay and Putting in Early

Part 1 - Breakfast Adventure

When I woke up at 5 AM, it was still raining. I was few hours ahead of schedule thanks to having a hard time finding a spot the night before, so I elected to go back to sleep until the rain stopped.

At 7 AM, I got up, packed, and decided that, since I had missed my planned restaurant dinner the night before, I'd hit up breakfast in town.

Around 9:30 I ended up at Joey's Pancake House in Maggie Valley, NC. Suspiciously, it was across the street from my planned lunch stop. Made my way inside, and got on the wait list for a table. While I was waiting, the hostess and I had a great conversation about her son who is also an ADV biker and had been to Alaska twice (once solo) and had run the TAT. Great conversation, fantastic lady. Lanell is a god-damned national treasure.


I ate. A lot. Pancakes, eggs, sausage, biscuits and gravy, and probably two pots worth of coffee.

For only $17. And it was fantastic.



MotoMonkey - I need a nap after that!

Me - No rest for the wicked buddy.

Part 2 - Bridges, Dams, and Detours

Today's goal was to hit up the section of SEAT 03 that I missed coming down when I took the easy/fast detour on 'the rattler'. I'm really glad I made it back through to see it because this was an absolutely gorgeous ride. Only issue I ran into was a detour on I-40 for construction.




Me - Oh, dam.

MotoMonkey - What's wrong?

Me - Nothing.

MotoMonkey - Then why are you swearing?

Me - I'm not. Now shut up while I take a dam picture.

Part 3 - Knowing Where You're Going to Stay and Putting in Early

I had already scouted out the campsite for the return trip when I visited the fire tower. It was going to make for a short day, but I was OK with that. Only thing that could go wrong would be if someone else was there.

In the meantime, I took a detour to have lunch at another brewery nearby. Added 20 miles or so to the day. Good beer, good pizza, WiFi so I could post some ride reports.

Once I got to the campsite, I was relieved to find that no one else was there. It was nice not scrambling to find a home for the night.

Pro-tip: paracord is great for everything from shelter to making a clothes line so your stinky base layer can air out.




Me - Do ya know what we need, man? Some paracord.

MotoMonkey - What are ya, insane?

Me - No I ain't. Bear Grylls's always got Paracord.

MotoMonkey - You've lost it, haven't ya?

Me - No, I'm serious.

MotoMonkey - Me too. That's stupid. Name one thing you gonna need paracord for.

Me - You don't fuckin' know what you're gonna need it for. You just always need it.
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Day 8 - Weather Reports and Decisions, the Slab Part Duex, Homecoming

Part 1 - Weather Reports and Decisions

Waking up at today's campsite was unremarkable.... That is to say that nothing went wrong, I was warm and comfortable, and the weather was pleasant.

Weather in my destination for the day, however, did not support my plan. The forecast called for snow accumulation up to 1" in Damascus, VA, and upwards of 4 in the mountains where I'd be camping. I had already been cold without snow while camping... Ad[UWSL]d in the marginal amount of tread remaining on my tires, and it simply wasn't a good idea to spend another night camping.[/UWSL]


I decided that the best course of action would be to hit up the hard alternate of SEAT 02 that I missed on the way down, then make my way to my planned lunch stop at Lost Province Brewing in Boone, NC. As it turns out, the hard section of SEAT 02c is one climb and one descent over the ridge. I think the main route was better overall.


Part 2 - The Slab Part Duex

That left about 350 miles on the interstates and highways to get home. The only exciting parts were when people decided that their phones were more interesting than the world outside and had to be reminded that I existed and didn't want to die.

I really hate the slab.

Part 3 - Homecoming

I ended up making it. I was happy. The family was happy...

I did not sleep in snow.




Great trip overall, even if a bit shortened.
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Final Map.jpg

Total mileage: 2278


Tusk D-Sport tires: ~2500 miles

So, what worked?

Tires - The Tusk D-Sport, for being 90/10 dirt/street held up great. I'll probably be putting another set on these wheels (since I've got a set of SuMo wheels for in-between adventures).

Mapping - Gaia GPS premium is awesome. I like having the private layer on so I know when being a hooligan is obnoxious to folks who allow right-of-ways as well as to help make sure I don't camp where I shouldn't. It's also easier to transition to optional tracks or the next track than the Garmin solution.

Garmin GPSMAP 66i with InReach - Definitely a more rugged mapping solution. Really glad I had it as a backup. Also glad I had the 2-way satellite messaging. Kept She Who Must Be Obeyed happy.

Tourmaster Gear - This is probably year 5 of owning a relatively budget jacket and pants set. Still mostly waterproof, but the pants finally gave up their stitching on the inside of the left knee.

Meal Planning - The heat and eat rice plus pouch chicken was great. The Knorr sides plus pouch chicken was good, but took longer. I'll probably lean more towards the heat and eat rice... and only carry a couple days worth at a time, since I'm stopping in town pretty regular anways. The real winner was the Nido powdered milk and granola in vacuum bags... instant cereal with disposable bowl (cut open the bag and eat it from there) that tasted great. Honestly, the food was better and cheaper than the Mountain House adventure meals

Klim Krios Pro - Nice, light helmet. PinLock is awesome. The peak was just right to keep the sun at bay.

What Mostly Worked?

Spare Fuel - Used my fuel bottles a couple times when I got nervous, the size was right to get me an extra ~20 miles. The child safety caps have got to go though. Screw those.

Google Pixel 4a - It held up, other than the camera. It's tempermental nature regarding water in the USB port is a killer though.

ThermaRest Luxury Lite backpacking cot and tent - It was comfortable to sleep on, sure. It kept out rain and bugs, sure. But for the weather I experienced (low 30's to low 40's), it's design did not block airflow enough to keep me warm.... part of that was it being used in combination with my sleeping bag. Would be great in warmer temperatures.

North Face 20* mummy bag - It kept me alive (with base layer, fleece, and bag liner). But it turns out that it is designed with less fill on the back side with the assumption that you'll be on an inflatable or foam pad. If you have airflow below you (like with the cot tent), the bag is not gonna work below about 35*.

Nelson Rigg Rigg Gear luggage - Sierra Roll top panniers are solid. The small hurricane tank bag is solid. The Hurricane backpack / tailbag... apparently started letting water in. Plus, I don't really need the backpack feature and the shoulder straps were in the way. I will think about new bags.

What didn't work?

Ram phone mount - The x-grip mount is annoying. Have to use the rubber band to hold the phone in place for ADV riding. Rubber band partially broke. Rigid mount transferred vibrations to phone and killed camera. Gonna find a new solution.

Would I do it again?

Yup! I could run the SM500 again, no problem. I will also get around to a S-N MABDR someday. I'm not sure how much good riding I'm missing out on further south along the SEAT though. The northern Georgia section was very meh.
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