Friday, September 22, 2017

Devil's Triangle and Little Vols Diner

My brother and I do an annual "Bro Ride" which you can see if you look at my other posts.  We decided to go back to Deal's Gap this year and hit some highlights that we missed the last time we went to that area.  One of the rides my brother wanted to do was the Devil's Triangle.   He said it had some challenging switchbacks and was enthusiastic about it.  I, on the other hand, was not so sure.  If it has "devil" in the name I'm thinking it has to be bad, maybe "badder" than what I can handle.  I read up on it and the word "challenging" kept jumping out at me, translate that "beyond my proficiency."  I read a bunch of articles and watched some videos and I was willing to ride this triangle from a bad place, if push came to shove, but I wasn't going to jump up and down and beg to go.
After riding the Dragon twice, the Parkway, the Skyway, and a bunch of other curvy roads day after day we headed for home, and the thought of going to the Devil's Triangle had gone way down on our list of priorities.  Lightning forced us off the slab at Rocky Top, Tennessee and we stayed at The Blue Haven, just our, um, kind of place. 
Where to eat breakfast?  We got a recommendation to go to Little Vols Diner.  Granted, from the road it would be very easy to miss, but we were looking for it.  When we saw how small the diner was we had our doubts, but, hey, good things come in small packages.  We sat at the counter and the fun began. The waitress was quick, helpful, witty and fun.  The cook was proficient, judging by the taste of my breakfast, but while the breakfast was excellent, and the décor was rabidly in favor of Tennessee with a great bit capital T, that's not the story.
The waitress started in on us telling us that we ought to do the Devil's Triangle because we were practically right in it.  She had been on the Triangle the day before.  Then the cook came out and chimed in because he is a rider and he told us we had to go for it.
They talked us in to probably the best ride of the trip.  It ended up being a motorcycle proficiency test for me.  It had rained the night before so we had some wet pavement.  The leaves were falling so we had some wet leaves on some of the curves.  There were three or so places with gravel on the pavement that had come from some driveways.  Two of the switchbacks were just plain mean-spirited, in my opinion, but there was a church on one switchback so little old ladies probably drive that switchback every Sunday.  What am I complaining about?  The first two switchbacks kicked my butt but I didn't lay anything down and eventually I got the hang of them so I gave myself a D-.
What I liked the best was while you're riding this challenging road you are treated to a look at southern life.  At one point the road zigzagged between a row of telephone poles (my favorite part), and later a black dog stood in the middle of the road and watched us approach.
Some of the articles I read advised starting at the Brush Mountain State Pen.  I say, "No way."  Start at Little Vols.  Get a great breakfast or lunch at Little Vols and go for one of the best rides in Tennessee. 

Bro Ride 2017

Another successful Bro Ride is on the books and this one served to be just as cool as the others except we saw more wildlife--not wild life.  We took another trip to the Tail of the Dragon and Deal's Gap but we threw in the Cherohala Skyway, the Fugitive Dam, Gatlinburg, Blue Ride Parkway, Foothills Parkway, Cherokee, Tellico Plains, Bald River Falls, Devil's Triangle, and Cumberland Falls.  We saw a monster elk with his harem of 30 or so females, deer, wild turkey, and wild hogs but we didn't see Bigfoot.
Staying in old rundown motels is always a fun part of how we travel.  Yes, we could stay at nice places but crummy motels make for better stories.  We want to stay in the old style travel lodges where they let us put our bikes under the awning. 
On the way down we stayed at the Alcoa Inn which is right across the road from the airport in Alcoa, Tennessee.  You haven't lived until you have airplanes landing right over your head in the middle of the night,  We only found one bug so that wasn't too bad.  We spent the next night in the historic Tapoco Lodge, which was way nicer than where we usually spend the night.  Tapoco is an excellent place to stay, and the setting is gorgeous, but make reservations ahead of time.  We were lucky to get one of their last rooms.    
On the way back home a lightning storm chased us off the slab at Rocky Top, Tennessee.  We pulled in the first place we saw which was The Blue Haven.  We were told by locals that that is where the methheads live because it is so cheap but we didn't have any problems and the people we met were friendly. The décor was hilarious but I'm sure it looked good to whoever picked it out. It was cheap and there were no bedbugs which is what matters to us.
I recommend the Beach Burger at Tellico Beach in Tellico Plains but the best restaurant we ate at was Little Vols in Rocky Top.  Little Vols deserves a post all by itself because of the restaurant, the food, and the friendly people. 
This may be my last trip to Deal's Gap because there are so many good places to ride in the U.S. but this was a memorable 4 day, 1400 mile trip.  Next post will be about the Devil's Triangle and Little Vols.  Now enjoy some pics.


Monday, August 29, 2016

Bro Ride 2016 Mississippi Headwaters

It is with a Bro Ride report that I will begin to write more on my blog.  My brother TJH and I took off this year for the Mississippi Headwaters.  We debated about going to Canada or to the Headwaters and I'm glad we didn't go to Canada.  The main reason is that it would have taken longer to get to Canada and we were pushing it to get home as it was with the slightly shorter trip.
I left home at 7:18 am, met Tom in Lily Lake, Illinois and we headed due West on State Highway 64 to Savanna, Illinois.  We arrived at Poopy's in Savanna at around 3 pm for lunch.  Poopy's is a great place to eat with good reasonably priced food, but reading the menu might turn your stomach.  Unfortunately they stay with the poopy theme and take it a bit too far.  Anyway, they have good service, great food and if you are interested in buying a biker hangout, it's for sale.
We pushed on and rode the Great River Road through the beautiful Iowa countryside all the way up to Dubuque, IA.  If you love beautiful rolling hills, pristine dairy and grain farms this is a ride you won't want to miss.
We crossed over the Mississippi River at Dubuque and then rode up the Wisconsin side all the way to Onalaska, Wisconsin.  All states probably mark the Great River Road to some degree but I Wisconsin does the best of the northern states.  They left no doubt in your mind which way the Great River Road was heading.  I appreciate that since I have a tendency to stop watching for signs due to the distractions of great scenery. 
The farther we went North the more interesting the terrain became.  We saw some amazing rocky hills that supposedly used to be islands many years ago.  Now they stand towering above the road like fortresses.  We didn't stop much, only for gas and we didn't even stop at the Dickeyville Grotto, a place our family has visited for years.  I honked and waved on our way past but not even the new Holy Spirit Park could coax me or my brother off the road. 
After about 12 or 13 hours on the road we stopped for the night.  Dairy Queen got the honors of the evening meal and we crashed at the Onalaska Motel.  It was clean, the lady at the front desk was like a mother hen for travelers.  She let us park our bikes underneath the awning just to keep any rain or dew off of them.
Next morning we were off early to the Headwaters.  I was leading the way and while I got turned around a bit in the construction around Minneapolis/St. Paul, and having to stop and put on our rain gear, we finally made it to Lake Itasca where the Mississippi River has its beginnings.  It was not a disappointment even though it is a low key attraction. One of the best parts was they have a live camera feed at the headwaters so you can share your vacation moment with your favorite people back home.  TJH called my wife, MKH, and we talked to her and waved while she watched us on her computer.  We laughed and laughed at this novelty. 
It's funny how on the way through Minnesota I kept noticing all these quaint little ma and pa motor lodges that would be nice to stay at for the night.  On our way back, we didn't see any such thing.  They all disappeared or turned their lights out and we kept riding and riding until about 9:30 pm.  That's later than we like to ride.  I kept thinking I was going to run into the back of my brother because we both were scanning the roadside looking for a motel.  We finally stopped at a Comfort Inn and Suites.  Ha.  That was way too nice and expensive for the kind of place we usually stay.  We were however able to talk down the price some and the girl at the front desk finally gave in and let us park our bikes under the big drive through awning for the night.  It was a good thing too because it rained and actually we had to set out in the rain.  Continued in Part 2.


Thursday, February 04, 2016

Does this thing still work?

It's been a long time since I've blogged.  People stopped reading and I stopped writing.  Here I am again. 
I am here posting one of my favorite pictures of last year just to see if this thing still works.  This was taken in Venice as we were going back to our cruiseliner.  We had been caught in the rain earlier, and after the storm ended the sun came out and we were bathed in the most glorious light.  Here is a shot from the back of the ferry.

Sunday, September 22, 2013

The Poopy, Crapo, Bro Ride 2013

Yes, this year the Bro Ride was a Poopy Crapo, ride but that doesn't mean what you might think.  We decided to ride part of the Great River Road (GRR) which for us began in Quincy, IL on the eastern side of the Mighty Mississippi.   Back and forth we went from Illinois to Iowa and back again, then on to Wisconsin and Iowa and back to Wisconsin and Iowa and Illinois again.  Altogether we crossed 7 bridges over the Mississippi and even floated down river for 15 minutes or so....on a ferry, of course.
The plan was to meet in Havana, IL to see mom and dad and then head on out for this year's ride.  My brother had a few destinations in mind and they seemed good to me so off we went.
First on the list was Poopy's Bar and Restaurant in Savannah, IL but before we got there we had to go through Crapo Park. TJH was in the lead and I was happily following behind when we pulled into a park and my brother stopped and looked at his phone and said that we were in Crapo Park.  I looked around and saw trees and bushes and grass, a perfectly nice little park.  What do you mean Crapo Park?  He said we apparently had to go through Crapo Park.  I said, "Crapo Park?"  And he said, "That's the name of the park, Crapo Park." I believed him but I had to see it for myself and take a picture.  Sure enough there it was, and here's the picture.
We never made it to Poopy's that night because a thunder storm, complete with lightning and rain stood right in our way with about 45 minutes of riding daylight left.  Bummer.  So instead of eating at Poopy's we holed up at a Comfort Motel in Fulton, IL and ordered in pizza and tacos from Manny's.  I don't know what Manny's does with their tacos but they were outstandingly greasy and delicious.
The storm blew over that night and the next morning we took off on the GRR.  The timing wasn't right to go to Poopy's now so we figured we'd catch it on the way back.  Our main destination that day was the Grotto at the Holy Ghost Park in Dickeyville, Wisconsin.

I remember the grotto from my childhood days 40 or 50 years ago.  It hasn't changed a bit.  As a child I was somewhat of a rock hound and I can remember that I always wanted to break off some of the grotto and take it home.
After the Grotto we decided to go looking for a Macho Man hamburger at New Diggings Saloon.

This is a great burger made from cattle sired by the bull named Macho Man.  Tasty.  Their apple pie with ice cream was good too.  I would tell you how to get to New Diggings, but I can't. You just have to wander around the Wisconsin countryside until you find it.  The best I can do is say that you should follow Highway 11 east, which should turn into W, or maybe it's the other way around.  It's a very friendly place.  We got there at noon on Friday and we were the only customers there.  The New Diggings General Store would be another place to visit but it didn't open until 3 pm  .... really....3 pm.
Now we were bent on getting to the ferry, mainly because I've never been on a ferry with a bike before and I thought it would be fun.   We crossed over the Mississippi at Dubuque and rode along some of the best scenic roads that we found in Iowa.
We finally saw a little sign that said "Cassville Ferry" by a dirt road.  I didn't think there was any way that could be the road for the ferry.  It was.  We crept down this dirt and gravel road on the river bottom land, sort of a backwater looking place, for about a mile.  I expected to hear banjo music at any moment.  Finally we came to the riverbank, an outhouse and an electrical box. This seemed like a great place to be ambushed, but we pushed the button to call the ferry and within 5 minutes the ferry came around the bend.  We loaded up the bikes, enjoyed the view, and saw two bald eagles sitting on a branch over the river.  It was worth the $8 for the trip.

By now we realized that we'd better head back toward Savannah or we would never make it to Poopy's for dinner that night.  We rolled in to Poopy's and I'll admit I was a tiny bit apprehensive.
Poopy's is known as a biker bar and restaurant.  I ride a motorcycle but I don't consider myself to be a biker, per se.  I didn't know if people would be crushing beer cans on their head or breaking things or what.  We walked in and the first sight we saw was about 50 senior citizens who had apparently turned out for the Friday night fish special.  There was a younger group at the bar.  We had the chicken striips, coffee, clam chowder and a baked potato for $11 each.  The chicken strips dipped in the "Poopy Sauce" was the best meal we had on the trip.  Funny thing was, the place was very crowded but when we walked out to the parking lot my brother pointed out that ours were the only two bikes.  The rest were all "cages".
It got dark on us so we made a bee line for my brother's place back in Dekalb, IL, and I took the long way home the next day through Streator, IL.  I had a great breakfast at Chippers Grill, saw some dear friends, visited a buddy's shop,
ate lunch at The Good Table Restaurant in Kentland, IN
and made it back to Indy in time to take my wife out for dinner.
I traveled a total of 1,127 miles, didn't eat at any chain restaurants and only indulged my sweet tooth in one ice cream shop.

 We have another great Bro Ride under out belt and are dreaming about next year.  The best part of the trip was seeing our parents, two of God's greatest
masterpieces.  We are very fortunate to have had such good parents who love Jesus and serve Him faithfully every day.  They are great examples to us and their love never runs dry.

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Friday, September 06, 2013

Steer Inn Diner 2013

All year I have been trying to get over to the Steer Inn Diner on the east side of Indy for their Vintage Bike Night.  I always like to show off my vintage 75 GL1000 but there have been problems...real and imagined.  There were weather problems, too hot or too cold, too rainy, too much like a tornado on the way.  Then there were problem with logistics such as we were having company or we were out of town.  After all since this event is held every month I could always put off going until next month.  Finally the day came when the Goldilocks Effect was in full force...everything was "just right." 

So MKH and I hopped on my 75 Honda Goldwing and made the trip to the East side.  I think I hit every pothole and manhole cover on Washington Street and believe me there were a lot of them.  My eyes must need to be checked because I would be squinting to try to read the street signs and then I'd hit a pothole.  There were a couple of them that I thought were going to bend the rims on my bike.

It was rewarding to pull into the parking lot and see about 100 bikes with their proud owners filling up all the available space in this little diner which was featured in an episode of Dives, Diners and Drive-Ins.

My wife and I both had the Steer Burger, which was a half a pound of beef on a bun.  MKH had the fries and I had the onion rings.  The onion rings were a little too done but the burger more than made up for it.

We saw a dozen or so from the Taco Tuesday crowd that meets in Brownsburg, IN every Tuesday night.  They had some of the nicest bikes there.  I had a chance to snap these pictures before they all took off in a puff of smoke.  I hope to make it back to the Steer Inn Diner in October.  Besides checking out the bikes I think I'll sample their meatloaf dinner.

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Sunday, August 11, 2013

Pop Dreyer Ride 2013 Indianapolis

For the past several years I've been hearing about the Pop Dreyer Ride which is organized by Dreyer Honda in Indianapolis.  This year was the first year the planets aligned, rain stayed away, schedules permitted, etc. so that I could attend.  I paid my $20 plus three cans of food for a local food pantry and got more than my money's worth.

I rode my 1975 Honda GL1000 figuring it would be somewhat of an insult to show up on my 2012 Harley Street Bob to a ride sponsored by a Honda dealership.  Not so. There were all kinds of bikes and the day was more a celebration of motorcycles and riders than brand name loyalty.  

The pulled pork lunch with lots of sides was outstanding.  Combine that with some generous little touches such as checking and airing up the tires on all the bikes, a free tire gauge and kickstand plate.  Then throw in a police escorted ride through Indy and you have a great day. It's always fun to run all the stoplights and stop signs in town.  But that's not all.  Nosing around Dreyer's shop and warehouse was rewarded with seeing some of the old bikes tucked away in spots where customers don't usually have access. Dreyer's is the oldest Honda dealership in the country.

Oh, yeah, and then there was this other little perk thrown in.  The police escort led us to the world famous Indianapolis Motor Speedway. We watched for ten minutes or so while the pros were practicing for the Moto GP which will take place in a few days.  Once they got the track cleared off we all had a chance to take a lap around the track.  Wow, what a cool experience to see the track while riding on the track instead of sitting in the bleachers.  Coming down the straightaway with the grandstands on both sides I was struck with a very strong sense of place that no picture could capture.

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Sunday, July 21, 2013

naked bike luggage

If you've read very many of my posts you know I have a preference for naked bikes.  My Harley Strreet Bob and vintage 75 GL1000 are naked most of the time but sometimes there's just no getting around it, you have to carry something.  Maybe it's your lunch that you're taking to work, or maybe it's a couple of things the significant other needs from the grocery store, or parts from the dealership.  What do you use to carry stuff and still keep the sleek naked look?

When my only bike was my Honda I got by for a long time just putting things in the shelter.  The shelter is a small space inside the faux gas tank.  It is handy for a lunch, a few papers or odds and ends.  When I started going on long trips with my brother, I bought a small Tourmaster bag with built in bungee cords that would attach to the back half of the seat.  I would go for 4 days or so and if it didn't fit in that bag it didn't go.  The nice thing about that little bag is at the end of the day I would just unhook the bungee cords in 10 seconds and carry it into the motel.

I travel light when I'm on the motorcycle.  I also pack clothes to wear that are mostly worn out so at the end of the day I just throw them away.

The Harley Street Bob was a different story.  There was no faux tank to stash my stuff in the Harley.  I rode it for quite awhile before I finally gave in and bought and installed a luggage rack to my Harley.  It's small.  It's black.  It isn't very noticeable, and it works pretty well.  I bought another Tourmaster bag that had a profile that fit the Harley better than the bag I use with my GL1000.  Even though this bag is small it still holds enough for a 4 day trip.  If I really need to I can stack the two bags on top of each other and the bungee cords hold nicely.  They both have a rain cover that work perfectly.

I have a third bag that I use quite a bit with the Harley.  It's a tank bag with magnets that hold securely.  This fits nicely on the tank and it even has a clear plastic compartment that allows me to write out a list of the highways I want to take on my trips and I can stay on course with a quick glance to see what junction is coming up next. More often though I use the tank bag on my daily commute.  Its magnets hold tight to the luggage rack in back and is just the right size for my lunch and a few papers or a book.
You have to carry things from time to time but the best thing about these bags is that when you don't want them cluttering up the look of the bike you can just take them off and you have a naked bike again.

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