This post is the second in a series. If you missed the previous post, it can be found here. We hope you'll come along for the ride.
Every trip has some limitations. This one was no different. We had two that turned out to be far more significant that we originally anticipated:
- We would be trailering the bikes from Indiana to Tennessee rather than riding them.
- We had four days to work with: a long weekend from Friday through Monday at the end of October.
From a planning perspective, trailers were a challenge. Matt has a heavy two-place trailer that he has towed with his ancient Dodge van for years. However, the Dodge was out of commission with transmission issues and Matt had just purchased a new Nissan NV200 as a replacement. While the NV200 is a work van, it’s still a front-wheel drive mini-van with far less towing capacity than the old Dodge. As a result, Matt was reluctant to tow his heavy trailer with the NV200. My Hemi-powered Grand Cherokee has no lack of towing capacity, but I don’t own a motorcycle trailer. No matter how we approached this, at best, we had 50% of the needed capacity.
We live in the RV Capital of the World. You can throw a stone in just about any direction and hit a trailer manufacturer. We would certainly be able to rent or borrow a 2-place or 4-place trailer, wouldn’t we? Apparently, not so much. Of course U-Haul has a motorcycle trailer, but it will hold one, and only one bike. Anything else in their inventory would require drilling holes and Jerry-rigging. I wasn’t able to locate anyone else who had a motorcycle trailer for rent. Well, there were a couple of places in Grand Rapids. What’s an additional 4-hour round trip on both ends of the weekend?! Perhaps there is a business opportunity there.
In the end, a good friend of Matt’s loaned him a lightweight 2-place trailer that was perfect for him to tow behind his NV200. As a bonus, it was configured so that the two widest bikes could be loaded on it with plenty of room to spare. We tested this on a sunny Saturday a week or so before our departure. As for me, my Jeep would have no trouble with Matt’s old, heavy 2-place trailer. Well, other than gas mileage, but one doesn’t expect much in the way of fuel economy from the 5.7 liter Hemi. It’s a bit of a thirsty beast. After far too much time and far too many phone calls, we had the trailers under control.
We targeted the last weekend in October with Friday and Monday being travel days while Saturday and Sunday would be riding days. There is no way to see more than a tiny highlight of this area in two days. There are countless roads, sights and attractions to see and experience. What should we see and what should we save for “next time”?
Matt had a list of places that he wanted to visit. It included Cades Cove in the Smoky Mountain National Park, the Tail of The Dragon and the Cherohala Skyway. I began reviewing maps and places of interest immediately with the goal of assembling a loop for each of the two days that included as many highlights as possible.
I learned about a web site called Furkot.com that focuses on trip planning. The ability to share a trip with others and then collaborate in building and editing the routes and details sounded like just the thing. In addition, the finished routes can be exported to various devices including my Garmin unit as well as smartphone apps that Al and Justin could use. After several iterations, we settled on two loops that included our highlights and filled the two days.
While the weather was glorious in early and middle parts of October, it was impossible to predict if it would hold or take a turn as often happens in the fall. We didn’t have much flexibility with our dates and would have to adapt to the weather that nature gave us. Odds of rain seemed reasonably low. Unfortunately, temperatures also had the possibility of being low. With the fact in mind that road speed can create a wind chill of up to 20 degrees, I packed as much cold weather gear as I could find.
The bikes, tow vehicles and trailers all received their dose of maintenance in preparation for the trip. Oil was changed, tires were replaced where needed, bearings were repacked with fresh grease.
Tools and riding gear was packed along with some clothes for when we weren’t riding. I packed far too much camera gear with the goal of capturing stills and video of the trip. This included a full-frame DSLR and assorted lenses as well as a new GoPro and it’s associated plethora of accessories.
Everything seemed to be coming together nicely as our departure date approached. Everything, that is, except the weather forecast. Roughly a week before we were to leave a large system of rain and cold came into view for the chosen weekend. Because forecasts seem to be wrong more often than not, we waited and hoped for a change. As the final few days passed, the forecast jelled to predict perfect weather for Friday, significant rain on Saturday, very cold temps on Sunday with a chance of more rain and clearing skies and warming temperatures on Monday.
Since we were already committed to our dates with vacation requests and non-refundable lodging reservations, we decided to roll with the punches and make a slight adjustment to our departure time in an effort to get some riding in on Friday before the front arrived. We loaded the bikes on Thursday evening and made our final preparations for a 5:30 am departure on Friday morning.
Until next time,