After packing up the bike I headed over to Stewart Haas Racing in Kannapolis, about a ten minute drive from the hotel. Holy fucking cool.
I’ve been a Tony Stewart fan since his rookie year in 1999, the same year my driver at the time Ernie Ervan announced his retirement. Getting to see the shop and store was very cool to say the least.
The ride from Kannapolis to Maggie Valley NC was mostly uneventful until I made it to the foothills of the Smokey Mountains. Then the rain started. Again. This time, with lightening. I had four days of good weather prior so I guess I was due. Back on with the rain gear and the full face helmet, and off I went to Maggie Valley.
The Wheels through Time museum was unlike anything I have ever experienced and not what I expected at all when Mike at Colonial HD gave me the heads up about the place.
When you hear the word museum you get an image of polished surfaces, bright lights, and well, shiny stuff. Not so much in Maggie valley.
A lot of what is on display has been donated from people who have found things buried, covered, and hidden in basements, storage spaces and barns, the latter of which led to the creation of the TV show “What’s in the barn”.
In spite the darkness (often a photographer’s foe) the ambiance of the place was warming, and rust, debris, and seemingly haphazard manner in which stuff was placed, the museum takes on an aura of its own, almost like a massive sculpture that is spread over thousands of square feet and two stories.
A lot of the images I captured turned out less optimal than I would have preferred due to lighting, space, object location, and lens options, but after sitting and editing them I realize they are a true representation of the Wheels through Time experience.
If you’re planning a trip anywhere remotely close to Maggie Valley, take the time to go to the Wheels through Time museum. It’s an experience you won’t want to miss.
After an hour or so at the museum I fueled up and headed out for the last segment of the day, through the foothills of the Smokey Mountains to Maryville TN. Five minutes after heading out the rain and thunder started; this time I was smart enough to keep the rain gear on. And I mis-navigated once more, ending up in Wilton Springs, not anywhere I had planned to be.
The Foothills Parkway
After refueling and reviewing my location on a wall map at the gas station and having a chat with an old guy also on a fuel stop (who pointed out I’m not the only person who ends up here asking for directions because signage is poor) re-planned my route and headed for Gatlinburg.
The ride from Wilton Springs to Gatlinburg took me onto one of the finished sections of the Foothills Parkway, a really scenic drive with a canopy of tree branches overhead, and smooth twisting blacktop surrounded by forest.
Over the course of next three days I would ride other sections of the Foothills Parkway and if they ever finish it from one end to the other, it will be another to do ride for bikers coming to the area.
Rte 321 W junctions with Rte 441 S at the Eastern boundaries of Gatlinburg and after riding from one end of town to the other, I stopped at a garage to ask if there was a Motel 6 or Super 8 nearby. The hillbilly behind the register must have thought I was speaking in Korean because he just looked at his friend with a Huh? kind of look, so I repeated my question in a reformatted and much simpler manner and asked for the nearest cheap motel. Pretty much the same response except this time with what sounded like “I unt no”, so I thanked them for their kind hospitality and for being so helpful, turned Max around and drove 100 feet to the Days Inn and
Days Inn Gatlinburg isn’t much different than many Days Inns I’ve been in, and it served its purpose well as a base of operations for the next couple of days.
Riding makes me hungry. And thirsty. Thankfully, Gatlinburg has everything a biker needs in as many flavours as your little heart desires, so after quenching my thirst while unloading Max and hanging my gear up to dry I headed on foot to see what there was to see in Gatlinburg and find myself a decent gluten free meal. And I found it at Howard’s steakhouse, but only after I stumbled across Sugarlands Distillery.
When I made the plan for the trip I had hoped to find myself at a Moonshine distillery so I could legally sample some shine. I didn’t however think I would find it on the main street in the middle of downtown Gatlinburg and across the road from Ripley’s Believe it or Not.
Bordered on one side by the entrance to Gatlinburg’s most booming industry – paid parking lots and the Skylift on the other, Sugarlands is a moonshine distillery clothing and merchandise store in combination with hourly entertainment in the form of an hourly moonshine tasting event.
So when the young man standing behind the octagon bar asked who in the crowd wanted to sample some moonshine I volunteered, and over the next 45 minutes or so, he proceeded to tell the crowd about each one of the NINE different types of moonshine Sugarlands had to offer, and proceeded to pour each of us a 1/3 shot of each that we all tossed back as a group after his story of its medicinal benefits and uses in recipes from all meals including breakfast pancakes and as a bacon marinade to an after dessert aperitif.
It was a ton of fun and highly entertaining, however it is apparent from the feeling of my head the next day, Moonshine gives me a headache. One that lasts all damn day.
During my three nights in Galtlinburg I ate all three suppers at Howard’s Steaks. The ribs were fantastic, the rum was delicious, and the tales from the staff about life in Tennessee, the major heroin and meth problems of the region, employees who just walk out before their shift is over, and others who come back to give a hand in the aftermath despite having plans made the Howard’s experience worth repeating. The steaks are great and the ribs are fantastic. The prices were reasonable unlike some of the other menus I read along the street.
I slept well that night knowing the next day I’d be slaying the Dragon, weather permitting.