Start Time: 8:30 AM EDT
Stop Time: 4:44 – 11:30 PM CDT
Start Location: Stecoah, NC
Stop Location: Smyrna, TN
Lodging: Home Sweet Home
Breakfast: Campsite (cereal with almond milk)
Lunch: Deal’s Gap (Bar-B-Q sandwich, cole slaw)
Dinner: Side of Interstate (apple, chocolate bar, cherry)
Miles Traveled Today: 231
Weather: 61-83, sunny and clear until lunch time, overcast with multiple showers after lunch
Route:NC-28, US-129, US-74, US-64, I-75, I-24, Tow Truck.
Apparently ole Sluefoot did not like that I have been having such a good time worshiping and communicating with my Lord and Savior on this tour. Today’s challenges topped all the other 37 days challenges combined.
Less than 10 miles after leaving our awesome campground, I lost my good friend Lynn Ray’s GoPro (great way to start the day).
Everyday that I used the GoPro with the exception of the first day, I had the camera tethered to the bike. Over the last couple weeks I had been contemplating mounting the tripod to the cooler on the trailer, then mounting the GoPro to the tripod.
I was thinking this perspective would be awesome, with the camera on the trailer you would actually be able to see the amount of bike lean required to negotiate the turns of the Tail of the Dragon.
It worked flawlessly for about 10 miles of NC-28, I could see what the GoPro was filming on my iPhone as I rode, and it was pretty darn cool, until it wasn’t. When we stopped at a stop sign, I glanced down and saw the iPhone screen was blank, and immediately looked back to see that the GoPro was gone.
When I put the whole contraption together, my biggest concern was that the whole tripod would come off, but the way I had the camera mounted to the tripod seemed bullet proof to me. Unfortunately, the arrangement I concocted procluded the camera using any of its varied mounts, it was just in its case, so there was nothing to attach a tether to.
Well, that ole 20/20 hindsight tells me that that was a really bad idea. Sven and I spent more than an hour scouring about a quarter mile of the road shoulder on both sides, but to no avail. GoPro was now a NoPro, which makes me very sad.
Not one to cry over spilled milk (and wasted money) too terribly long, we headed off for Deal’s Gap. After a brief stop at the Deal’s Gap store, we were ready to Tame that Dragon.
Rode hard to the dam, took the obligatory photo, then had to ride another couple miles that I usually skip because there were so many bikes at the Dam that I could not turn my 18′ rig around.
Then it was time for Sven and I to say our goodbyes, as he was heading over to the Natahala area to see about a rafting trip for he and his niece, and I was heading over to ride Cherohala Skyway, and then on home.
So, in the words of that great prophet and sage, Forrest Gump, “I’m a little tired now, I think I’ll go home”.
As soon as I pulled out of the parking lot of Deal’s Gap, I knew something was not right, but could not put my finger on exactly what it was.
So I rode on to the gas station in Robbinsville to top off before hitting Cherohala, and as I pulled in I could barely steer the bike. It felt like the front forks were locking up.
As soon as I got off the bike, I knew Satan was up to no good, trying to suck the joy out of me (like all those toll booths up north). The front tire was obviously way low, but not quite flat.
I went ahead and filled my tank, and then pulled over to the side of the gas station to pump it up. Yep, as you might expect, it started to rain at that precise moment.
I pulled out my handy dandy mini compressor to pump the tire up to see if I could determine the source of the leak. After I got the tire about half pumped up, a truck backed out of one of the parking spots on the side of the store and lo and behold there was not only a compressed air station, but a free compressed air station.
So not wanting to waste any more time than absolutely necessary, I decided to put the mini compressor up and use the free compressed air station, but, as you could probably guess (keeping in mind that it is now raining cats and coyotes), the mini compressor had run my battery down (note to self, always run the engine while using a mini compressor).
What to do? I had a generator in the trailer, I even had two extension cords and my Battery Tender in the trailer. Being a man of action, I decided to go sit at the picnic table and just do nothing for a few minutes, other than rebuke Satan and all his minions to the pit, and plead the blood of Jesus, the faith of Jesus and the cross of Jesus over my heart mind body and soul.
With that task completed, went back to the bike, gave it another try, and she fired right up. Pulled her over to the compressed air station, pumped the tire up to 42 pounds, and waited a few minutes. When I checked it about 10 minutes later, it was down to 32 pounds, and I could hear the leak from the valve stem while I was trying to check the tire pressure.
I remembered passing a little cycle repair shop less than a mile back, so I pumped the tire up to 42 pounds again and headed to the cycle shop.
Right at an hour later, I had a new valve stem and was on my way, in the rain. I decided that since I had lost an hour and half, I better just take the most direct route home and forego riding Cherohala Skyway today.
My consolation prize was the GPS said highway 64 was the quickest way home, and I love the portion of that road that follows along the Ocoee River. Great ride all the way to Cleveland (other than the on again, off again rain).
Well, guess what time I got to Chattanooga, yep, that’s right, rush hour. Guess what else, God cleared a path for me, I breezed right through Chattanooga (in the rain) at lightning speed on a Friday afternoon at rush hour.
Then I saw this familiar sign (even though I had come in and out of Tennessee a couple times already, this was the Welcome sign I needed to see).
I’m not a statistician, but I’m thinking the odds of having another flat tire on the same day are pretty out there, and even more amazing is the cause was the same. The back tire valve stem gave up the ghost, and here I was stranded a mere 90 miles from home with almost 13,000 miles behind me. So close and yet so far.
For the past three years, I have been a member of the GWRRA (Gold Wing Road Riders Association), and one of the options with that membership is a $35 roadside assistance plan.
Want to guess how far they will tow your motorcycle? Well if you guessed 25 or 50 miles, you get the big wrong buzzer, cause these guys will tow it, wait for it, 100 miles (how far from home was I when my flat occurred? Answer: 90 miles). Praise God, for once in my life I was 10 miles under the limit instead of 10 miles over it.
Just for a frame of reference, it was approximately 4:30 PM CDT when I had my flat rear tire. At 4:44, I made the call to the 800 number on my GWRRA card.
One other relevant fact that might be beneficial is that right before I left on this trip, I had gotten a notice from the GWRRA Roadside Assistance program that my plan had expired. Thank the Lord above that I handed that notice to Debbie the day before we left for Florida to start this journey, and told her to pay the bill just in case I had trouble on this trip (that $35.00 expense saved me a $400.00 tow bill, money I can use to replace Lynn Ray’s GoPro).
Now, to add a little spice to the story, as you might imagine, being stranded on the side of a busy interstate will require one to use their cell phone, and I had all the bars, even LTE service, but guess what, when I attempted to pump the front tire up with the mini compressor earlier in the day, I unplugged my phone charger to plug the compressor in, and neglected to plug the phone back it, so when I made my first call, I was at 23% battery life left.
The nice agent asked a bazillion questions, and said I should receive a text with the info about the service provider within 30 minutes. After that phone call (keeping in mind that he asked a bazillion questions), I was down to 16% battery life.
About 10 minutes later, I get a call from the nice agent man, asking another round of questions about the trailer. Now I’m down to 12% battery life.
An hour after I made the initial call, he called back and said the tow company had declined the order, and we were back at square 1. He then asked if I had anywhere closer than Smyrna that they could tow me to, which is when I lost my presence of mind and asked him why on God’s green earth would I want a tow truck to take me somewhere other than home (at that point I was not using my inside voice).
I then let him know that not only were we back at square one, but that I didn’t have enough battery life to just make my own arrangements and send them the bill.
He never lost his cool, he promised me he would find somebody to get me home, and ultimately he did what he said he would do, it just took longer than anyone could imagine.
At 6:10 PM, I got a text that a towing service had accepted the order, and would be there within 60 minutes. About 30 minutes later, the tow truck driver called, and said he was 30 minutes away from me, and asked me to please be patient, that he would get there as soon as he could.
At 7:30, I decided it was time to call and check the status, and the driver said he was still on another call, and would get to me as soon as possible. In retrospect, as a point of recommendation to anyone else that finds themselves on the side of the road, ask the question “what is your estimated time of arrival at my location?”, not, are you coming?
I began to worry about it getting dark before the tow truck arrived, but the sunset turned out to be just as beautiful as all the others I had experienced.
By this time, a lot of people were reaching out and offering help in every way they could. Lynn Ray was gnawing his leg off wanting to get in his truck and come help in any way he could. Richard Sorey was offering to bring a car trailer and take me home. I’m fairly certain none of the people that wanted to help could be convinced that I was actually in a very safe place, even though I was sitting on the side of the Interstate (I’m pretty sure both were aware that I had a gun in my pocket though).
If you look at the sunset photo, you will see that the shoulder was unusually wide, there was a turn lane for the exit ahead that served as a buffer between the bike and the traffic passing by. There was also a guardrail at the edge of the shoulder, which is where I spent most of my time (on the other side of the guardrail from the bike and traffic).
And remember my concern about it getting dark before the tow truck arrived, well those concerns were completely unfounded, as this massive light pole, which had served as my sitting stool for the past 3 hours added enough light to be almost comparable to daylight.
You might also take note of the cloud coverage, and despite that, not one raindrop fell the entire time I was on the side of the road. If you can’t see God’s provisions in this experience, you’re not paying attention.
By this time, my phone was just about dead, maybe 3% left, so I decided to start the bike and put the phone in Airplane mode and see just how long it would take to get a little juice into the phone. The result was a 25% charge in a mere 20 minutes.
At 8:19, I called the tow truck driver, and again I asked the wrong question, are you coming? He said he had just finished his last call, was at the Rossville exit, and as soon as he got fuel, he would be heading my way.
Shortly after that, a biker by the name of Joshua stopped to see if everything was OK (four hours after I pulled off because of a flat tire, the first person stopped to check on me). I was thankful, and told him so, and told him what the tow truck driver had told me, and he said that based on the fact that he was at the Rossville exit, and still had to get fuel, not to expect him for an hour and fifteen minutes.
At 9:30, Lynn Ray called and said he was leaving to head my way, and to call him if the tow truck showed up, but as I was trying to convince him that he did not need to come, I saw the tow truck flashing lights approaching.
Praise God for those beautiful lights, even if they did arrive almost 5 hours after I pulled over because of a flat tire.
In preparation for his arrival, I kept pumping up the rear tire because I knew that it would be the only way I could drive the bike up on the roll back, which turned out to be a good decision. I drove her right up on the roll back with the Aspen Camper attached. The driver strapped her down, and we were off for Smyrna a full 5 hours after I stopped.
Although this is not the way I envisioned my homecoming, it was so sweet to be home after 5 weeks of riding an average of 384 miles a day.
So there you have it, a day like no other. What Satan meant for evil just provided me with 5 hours of solitude on the side of the road with a nearly dead phone, forcing me to reflect on all that God did and provided on this nearly 13,000 mile tour, and how in every single challenge, he provided the cure and kept me safe. Jesus is Lord indeed.
Well, that pretty well wraps up this tour, but I will make one last post that provides all the data about the trip. Trip cost breakdown and any recommendations and regrets, or things I would do differently.
Thanks for following my progress, I hope you got a little enjoyment out of my Four Corners Tour.
Make sure your valve stems are replaced every time you have new tires installed.
The Stop & Go mini compressor should always be onboard of every bike owner. I give it a 5 stars out of 5 stars review. The built in gauge is a necessity, as well as the built-in light. It just works like you need it to work.