I like riding through the Smokey Mountain National Park (Or Sugerlands, or whatever the bits and peices are called). The road is in good condition, the views are nice, and while there is traffic it’s nothing compared to other national parks I’ve visited (though I understand people complain anyway).
As a reminder, I was traveling with a medium format film camera and my iphone. Black and white images are from film, and the color ones are off the phone.
Once through the park, it’s small, winding roads to get near Robbinsville, and then to Iron Horse Motorcycle Lodge – the official home of HU NC for, well, ever I think. I really do think it’s always been held there. Anyway, it’s the only place I’ve ever gone to it. I had a reservation (always a good idea), and went off to set up my hammock for the weekend. Yes, hammock. I like hammocks, they’re comfortable.
Once I was done with the business of arriving and checking in, I set about finding old friends and seeing if I could make any new ones. I have to admit, while I do often give a lot of talks at HU events and occasionally pick up some local fame, it’s nice when no one knows who I am. They talk more freely about what they’ve done and dream to do, without the need to impress me or look for advice. I know I’m supposed to be there to help, and I try to make sure I do, but being able to just chat to people about travel and trips without them knowing I was there to present or sell books or do anything other than hang out is nice.
Mike, who runs the HU NC event, keeps it lower key than other events, at least the ones in North America that I’ve been to. Schedules for the day are written out on a dry-erase board, appearing around breakfast so people have an idea of what is going on that day. There are three presentation locations, two large ones (inside and outside) and a small room used for check in early in the event. All the inside rooms have incredibly comfortable seats, which is almost a problem for some of the drier presentations.
Once things are rolling the weekend usually flies past entirely too quickly. There are good presentations and panels, and always things to learn or re-learn. This year there was also a walkabout to look at camping setups, which was made even more interesting when a gorilla showed up. The gorilla then got a ride in a sidecar, off to tame the dragon which isn’t far away.
If there is a problem with the Iron Horse location, it’s that there is so much good riding in the area (the Dragon isn’t my favorite, by the way. Honestly, I’d say it was only an average road for the area, but all the traffic on it sucks). I usually try to discourage people attending HU events from going on rides instead of attending the talks – the roads will be there later – but I understand the draw.
All of the sudden it was Sunday morning and time to pack up and start the road north again. Goodbyes were said, contact information shared, radar and weather checked, then everyone was off until the next time.