Prologue:

In the summer of 1999, my good friend Bill and I decided to take a motorcycle ride. Our destination was the east coast of James Bay (part of the Hudson Bay) in Ontario, Canada. We wanted to ride the James Bay Road, The Blue Ridge Parkway, and the Deals Gap Highway. The James Bay highway is owned by La Municipalite' de la Baie James, the largest municipality in the world. It was constructed for the sole purpose of providing access for the construction and operation of the Quebec Hydro dams, but they allow tourists to use it if you sign in at the information center on the south end. It's about 600 kilometers long and has one gas station. The highway goes from Matagami on the south end, to Radisson, which is as far north as you can go in Ontario by road. There are no towns between Matagami and Radisson, and from Matagami to the gas station is 381 km, or 235 miles. The Blue Ridge Parkway runs through the mountains of Virginia and North Carolina and is about 470 miles long. We also road the Skyline Drive in Virginia, which tacks on another hundred miles of scenic mountain road to the north end of the Parkway.  I would recommend the James Bay Highway and the Blue Ridge Parkway to anyone looking for a great place to ride and camp. Deals Gap is also fun, it's one of those "been there, done that, got the T-shirt" kind of things.

Bill lives in Florida and I live in Nebraska, so we met in Toledo, Ohio and traveled north from there. Bill was riding his 1986 Honda GoldWing Aspencade and I was riding a 1997 Honda Valkyrie. I learned that the best accessory to have when touring on a motorcycle is a friend with a GoldWing, because Bill was able to carry almost all of the camping gear, including cook stove, tent, lantern, dry food, etc. in or on his motorcycle. We camped about half the time, and stayed in motels the rest of the time. All together I traveled about 5,525 miles in 15 days through 17 of the United States and 2 Canadian provinces.

During the trip I kept a written journal, the narrative below is closely based on that journal, with a few few additional words to explain some of the pictures. Quite often the journal entries were written when I had a spare moment in a restaurant or gas station, or in the evening before the sun went down in the campgrounds, so it is not always written in complete sentences. In some cases I corrected the grammar, and in some cases I did not.

Since the we toured a huge Quebec Hydro dam at the north end of our journey, and we ended up amongst the TVA dams on the south end, we decided to refer to our little adventure as:

Bill and Kevin's Big Dam Tour

Click on the pictures to enlarge them.

July 9, 1999
    The odometer on the Valk rolled over 12,000 miles just before Adair, IA. That means it must have read about 11,911 when I started. I left work at about 5:00pm, an hour later than I'd hoped, but I got all the loose ends wrapped up at work, so that felt good. The Kids are safe at Grandma's house, the house is closed up, McGee is at the Kennel, and there is nothing to worry about.
    I ran at about 85mph out to Adair, IA and the mileage was only about 29mpg. I tried a leg at 75mph and that increased it to about 34mpg. I may have to keep it down below 80 on the Quebec Hydro road, so I can make it between gas stops. I have a 2 gallon & 12 oz. gas can strapped on the back. I thought it was a good find, bigger than 2 gallons, but not so bulky as a 5 gallon can. Should be just enough for that 253 mile run between gas stops in Quebec. It seemed worth the trouble to buy it at home and haul it with me all the way to Canada, just for that reason. Then, I looked in the little gas station next to the hotel - they had one just like it. I probably could have just waited and bought one in Canada.
    Stayed at the Presidential Motor Lodge somewhere between Iowa City and the Quad Cities. Called Mary Jo (Bill's Wife) and got the number where Bill is staying. He is only ~200 miles from Cincinnati, in Corbin Kentucky. He made great time from Florida today. We decided to meet in Toledo, OH rather than Cincinnati as planned.

July 10, 1999
    Presidential Motor Lodge, Somewhere on I-80 between Iowa City and Davenport. Odometer: 12,178. Checked out at ~9:00am. Bought maps - MD breakfast - on the road at ~10:00am. Finally got to sleep late.

    Princeton, IL, 11:35 pm. 4.77 gallons in 108 miles. Strong left quartering headwind. 85 - 90 mph.
    Windy and cool today. Just right for a jacket. Heavy traffic - where is everyone going? All the restaurants, including "Myrtles Greasy Spoon" are packed, except for KFC. I guess they don't have the hot toy this week. There is a picture of a fat ugly toad-like creature on my lemonade cup. Shared my lunch with one very persistent fly.
    Gas mileage was very poor on this leg; 23.5mpg. I went on reserve at 104 miles. I hope it's just the headwind.
    Taking about a dozen aspirins a day to control the arthritis. So far it hasn't been too bad.

    East of Joliet, IL. Odometer: 12,384.7 miles.
    98.9 mile leg, 3.67 gallons of gas, 75mph

    Three Oaks, Indiana. Odometer: 12461.9 miles.
    77.1 mile leg, 2.3 gallons of gas.

    Had to stop. Brain turned to mush from Chicago smog. Got off the interstate to avoid construction. Got into one of those neighborhoods that you can not get out of. Spaced off a red traffic light - almost died - had to stop for coffee. Took me almost 2.5 hours to go 80 miles; construction, traffic, toll booths, construction, idiot drivers (it must be catching; even I've got it).
    Note to self: Avoid Chicago in the future.

    I-80/90, 110 miles west of Toledo. Odometer: 12,563.3 miles.
    101.4 mile leg, 2.9 gallons of gas.

    Interesting day; got lost twice, got spit on from an overpass, and almost died. Passed an Ohio State Patrol at 80 in a 65, and he didn't come after me. Probably because I support his local economy (Honda Valkyries are made in Ohio). Got into Toledo late, Bill was ready with Jack Daniel's and cigars, all was well. Spent 4 hours in the Chicago area today - lost and fighting traffic.

July 11, 1999
    Toledo. Odometer: 12,668 miles.
    104.6 mile leg (yesterday), 3.65 gallons of gas.

    North of Detroit. Odometer: 12,862.9 miles.
    113.9 mile leg, 2.88 gallons of gas.

    Forest, Ontario. Odometer: 12862.9 miles.
    80.6 mile leg, 8.72 litres of gas.

Got out of Toledo at about 10:00am. Rode north through Detroit. Detroit sucked. Severe pot-holes, dense and rude traffic, dead cars along the road. Got on a ferry at Algonac, crossed to Walpole island, Canada, and took a bridge to the Canadian mainland. followed 21 north the rest of the day. Pretty country. Lots of old brick and stone houses. Camping at MacGregor point - in the figurative shadow of Bruce Nuclear Power Station.

July 12, 1999, in the Morning

Camped last night at MacGregor Point. It was good to lay in the hammock and smoke a cigar and drink beer & brandy. Clear and cool, the stars were out, not a mosquito in sight. The kids at the neighboring campsite were noisy, but I didn't let it bother me. Made a point to be noisy early in the a.m. to get even. Made the mistake of doing a load of laundry this morning - the dryer kept tripping off so it took over 2 hours. The machine only took "Loonies" (Loonies are the Canadian dollar coin with a picture of a Loon on it) and I only one. I had to go beg some from the pretty girls at the ranger station in exchange for a "two-ny" (two dollar coin) and some quarters. That was the only good part of the whole laundry evolution. We got a late start because of it. We're only planning ~240 mile (400km) today, so it shouldn't matter. Planning to end up a North Bay. We'll see.

    Owen's Sound. Odometer: 13,007.0 miles
    144.0 mile leg, 14.04 litres of gas.

    South of Perry Sound, New Hamer Bay. Odometer: 13,136.8 miles.
    110.7 mile leg, 10.19 litres of gas.

July 12, 1999, in the evening

Continued North on 21 today, with the bay to our left. The Queens 21cuts across the Bruce Peninsula and ties into highway 26 at Owen Sound. Still keeping the water on our left, we proceed counterclockwise around Georgian Bay on 26, and then 400 North. Was surprised to see ski slopes between Collingwood and Wasaga Beach. I think it was called Blue Mountain, and it's right on the shore of the bay. Some interesting names there; "Go Home Lake," "Moon River," "Hamer Bay." We cut east on 518. It was in poor shape and under construction most of the way. My rear end kept bottoming out. So did the motorcycle's. I found out later that I still had the shock preload set on the lowest setting (one) from when I had changed the tires before the trip. I usually set them on "four," even with no luggage.

Highway 518 took us to 11 North, and all the way to North Bay. The four-lane seemed cold and stark after winding through the little tourist villages on the bay shore. Camped for the night on Lake Nipissing. Finally found the mosquitoes.
 
 
 

July 13,1999
    New Liskeard, Quebec. Odometer: 13,354.5 miles
    107.0 mile leg, 20.04 litres of gas.

    Highway 11 North all the way from North Bay to New Liskeard. Very, very nice ride in spite of some construction and traffic. The construction was handled very well. Still a lot of traffic - I'm surprised. Saw a few bikes today, but not as many as before. The weather is PERFECT. Passed a patrolman (going the other way) at 110 kph in a 80 kph zone. No problem. The predominant vegetation has changed from Maple to Spruce. Long sweeping curves in the road to avoid no obstacles.

    Rouyn-Noranda (no idea how to pronounce that), Quebec. Odometer: 13,436.5 miles.
    79.1 mile leg, 7.78 litres of gas.

    Amos, Quebec. Odometer: 13,500 miles.
    64.0 mile leg, 5.93 litres of gas.

    In Ontario the signs had english and French on them. When we crossed into Quebec, the english disappeared. In Quebec we ride rural road through grazing land, mostly. The smell of cut hay and manure. It's like Iowa with trees. All day - two lane, soft shouldered asphalt.

    North of Amos, the road gets better and better the further north you go. Nobody is on it but us and a few trucks. The trucks are hauling ASS, as well as logs. Long, sweeping curves. You can go any speed you want (but why hurry). It's like brand-new asphalt. The trip was worth it, just for this leg.

    Hydro Quebec: 1-800-291-8486 to arrange free tours of the La Grande dams. We arrange a tour of LG-2 (Robert Bourassa Dam) at 2:00pm on Thursday. Meet in the Community Center in Radisson in front of the grocery.

July 14,1999, in the morning
    Matagami (pronounced sort of like monogamy), Quebec. Odometer: 13,621.6 miles.
    120.8 mile leg, 13.00 litres.

    Observation: the French girls in Quebec are pretty, but the appear to grow up to be large Canadian women. Must be the diet or the long winters or something.

This is the James Bay Highway. It is owned by La Municipalite' de la Baie James, the largest municipality in the world. It was constructed for the sole purpose of providing access for the construction and operation of the Quebec Hydro dams. It's about 600 kilometers long and has one gas station. The highway goes from Matagami on the south end, to Radisson on the north end. There are no towns between Matagami and Radisson. From Matagami to the gas station (relais routier on the map) is 381 km, or 235 miles. My motorcycle has a range of about 200 miles or so.

I think this is called the Evans river. It carries run-off from Reservoir Evans to Baie James.
 
 
 

167.3 miles from Matagami - went on reserve (yes, I am nursing it. I usually go on reserve at 135 miles). 210.3 miles from Matagami I ran out of gas. I poured in the contents of the 2 gal, 12 oz can that was strapped to my luggage rack.
 
 

    relais routier on the James Bay Highway. Odometer: 13,856.3 miles.
    234.7 miles leg. 15.9 litres at $0.83 per litre!
    Downed a burger and onion rings ($9.60 canadian) at the cafeteria. Pretty reasonable for a place as remote as this.

    Observation: there are many Native North Americans (Cree) in addition to the French. Some roadsigns use Cree symbols/words (their written language doesn't use our alphabet).

    In the first 100 miles of the James Bay Road, the traffic consisted of 6 trucks, 2 campers, 3 pick-ups, 4 cars, and us. That was by far the busy end of the highway. We stopped to help a French couple who's car had failed. They had already sent someone to call for help. There are emergency phones about every 50km or so. The southern end of the highway was a little bumpy, it get better as you go north. We are cruising at 60 - 70 mph. The trees along the road look burnt or sickly. Note: I found out later that the trees are small because the sandy soil isn't very deep. It is rock underneath. They look burnt because there is a black moss that grows on them.

The Eastmain River.
 
 
 

July 14, 1999, in the evening
    Radisson, Quebec. Odometer: 14,005 miles.
    148.3 mile leg. 20.4 litres of gas.

    The ride to Radisson was worth the time invested in getting here. Nice asphalt road. Rolling hills. Long, sweeping curves. NO traffic. Remote.

    Had dinner in the Radisson Radison. They have a nice French restaurant. The meal was good, very civilized and well presented. We began with the salmon crepes, then proceeded to the pea soup, and caribou wellington for the entree'. The finale was a chocolate cake with white mousse and quantro. Tre' bo. The only single disappointment was that the decafe was Sanka. Bill thought the caribou had a bit of a liver flavor to it, but I didn't taste that. It wasn't as gamey as I expected, a little tougher than Omaha Steaks, but all in all it was a good meal. We sprang for a room tonight, the flies were too bad at the campground. It looks like rain, but hasn't yet. After dinner we retired to the room for scotch and stogies.

    The Valk rolled over 14k miles coming into Radisson. Bill's 'Wing clicked over 50k miles earlier today.

July 15, 1999

    Add Radison to the list of places that I've been where the locals say "you are on vacation and you come here? why?" They don't unerstand; it's the journey, not the destination.

We rode out to James Bay today. A good ride - the last 10 miles was gravel, though. When we came to mile marker "0," we were certain that we had arrived.
 
 
 

We spent about 1/2 or 3/4 of an hour looking around and taking pix. I shot all of my film but 2 frames.
 
 
 

Then, on the way back, after we got back to the asphalt, we realized that we had taken the wrong road to the bay, and had actually ended up at a river that flows to the bay. That would explain why we could see the other side of the "bay" after the fog lifted. Nothing to do but turn around and try again. Another 10 miles of gravel, but it's what we came here to do.
 
 

I shot my lazy two frames of film and put my foot in the bay.
 
 
 
 
 

Fortunately, Bill had film.
 
 
 
 

Then, of course, I had to show off. I hopped between some rocks to get out on the point. Bill took this picture about 15 seconds before I slipped and fell in the bay.
 
 
 

The water was cold, I had to get out of my wet jeans and change into my rain gear.
 
 
 
 

Bill, the boats, and the bay.
 
 
 
 

On the way back to Radisson, we took a detour through the Cree town of Chisasibi. This is an example of the symbols that the Cree folks use to represent their language in written form. I understand that written language is a relatively recent development for them.
 
 

We also toured LaGrande 2 dam today. they have 16 turbine-generator units producing 333 megawatts each. That's over 5,000 megawatts capacity. There was only one guy on duty in the plant. It was impressive. Everything was big. This picture was taken from the center of the turbine hall in the power plant. The brown boxes you see are the exciters for 8 of the generators. The vertical shaft generators are beneath this floor, each under it's respective exciter, and the turbines that drive the generators are beneath that.
 

These are a couple of views from the top of the dam. On the left is the river on the downstream side of the dam, looking towards James Bay. The other picture is Bill and I on top of the dam, Bill is on the left and I am on the right.
 
 
 

Here are some pictures of the spillway of LG-2 dam. It is carved from the solid rock that most of this part of Ontario sits on. It's hard to get an idea of the size from these pictures, but the walls are about 80 feet high and the photo at the right was taken from 2 kilometers away. We were told that the spillway gates have only been opened once, for show when Robert Bourassa himself visited the site. Otherwise, they like to keep the the spillway gates closed so that all of the water from Reservoir Robert Bourassa passes through the LG-2 turbines to generate electricity. Notice that the spillway is designed with "steps" to slow the water down before it reaches the river.

July 16, 1999
    It seems funny that, since the time that the young waitress in New Liskeard corrected my pronunciation of "Matagami" (it should rhyme with monogamy), I have heard several french speaking people mispronounce it, when they switch to english, by pronouncing it sort of like "Matahari" the same as I did.

We came around a curve, southbound on the James Bay road, to find ourselves face to face with a black bear standing in the breeze on the highway. We stopped the bikes, giving him plenty of space, and dismounted. As I scrambled for the camera, the bear trundled towards us on the asphalt and then down into the trees where he started leisurely eating berries, all the while moving in our general direction. Every time I clicked the shutter it seems like the bear managed to duck into the dense foliage. I thought I got a one clear shot of it with the camera, and it started to get uncomfortably close, so we got on the motorcycles and continued on. As it turns out, this is the best picture I got. If you look real close at the left side of the photo you can see the fur of his rump. You should have seen the one that got away. We also saw marmot and foxes.

    James Bay Road, km 381. Odometer: 14,308.5 miles.
    147.6 mile leg, 17.4 litres of gas. Went on reserve at 144 miles.

    On our way south we ate again in the cafeteria at km 381. I was talking to a Cree man about the black bear that we saw. He said that black bears are a very strong symbol in their culture and they were upset because one climbed a Hydro Quebec power pole, and the power company had not yet gotten it down because the line workers were on strike. Apparently only the managers were working and they didn't know how to retrieve bears from power poles. It was not clear to me whether the bear was still alive. There was also a French couple on a Harley Davidson in the cafeteria. They looked like they had been on the road a while (I'm sure they thought the same of us). The conversation with them was short because there english was almost as bad as my french, if that is possible.

    Matagami, Quebec. Odometer: 14543.0 miles.
    234.5 mile leg, 18.89 litres + 2 gal, 12 oz of gas. Went on reserve at 149.0 miles.

     Amos, Quebec. Odometer: 14,654.5 miles.
    111.5 mile leg, 11.94 litres of gas.

   When we got to Matagami, we decided to carry on to Amos, Quebec. The rain had stopped, but gusty winds persisted. We decided to find a motel because of the potential for storms during the night. It was a good choice; the storms came and the rain fell hard. We hope to be able to camp tomorrow. The people of Amos are very French, and not very friendly. They made me uncomfortable in the hotel bar.

July 17, 1999

    Once again we find ourselves amoung the orange roofed houses of central Quebec. Very few english speaking people here. In the north, the Cree mostly spoke english and thier native language and many of the others spoke english in addition to french.
    Yesterday's ride down the James Bay Highway was pleasant in spite of the rain and constantly varying temperature. I think we had to change into and out of our rain gear at least four times. The wind was strong in our faces, gusting to 50 knots according to to man at the information center on the south end of the highway. It affected our gas mileage, but we were still able to make the km 381 to Matagami leg, me with my gas can and Bill with just what was in his tank. When we arrived at Matagami I gave my gas can to the man at the James Bay Road information center, with instructions to give it to some crazy fool on a motorcycle (la moto) that didn't know he would need one to make it to Raddison. I didn't get the man's name, but he had been helpful and entertaining with his stories about having been a bush pilot in a DeHavilland Otter on floats.

    Louvicourt, Quebec. Odometer: 14,720.2 miles.
    65.6 mile leg, 7.73 litres of gas.

    Short ride today from Amos down to Lac de la Vielle in the Reserve Faunique La Verendrye. About 190 miles; shortest day yet. There were a lot of motorcycles in the reserve. I can understand why - the roads are great - all except about 10 miles of construction. They have an interesting strategy for repairing the roads; they tear out all of the good road, and then start to think about building a new one.

The campground at Lac de la Vielle is a good one. We had the whole corner of the park to ourselves with a view of the lake from our hammocks. A good breeze, not to many insects, and another great meal by Chef Bill. Dinty Moore, yum!
 
 
 

  A hammocks-eye view of Lac de la Vielle.
 
 
 

The Canadian countryside is beautiful.
 
 
 
 

July 18, 1999
    Woke to the sound of the loons on the lake, and some insect that made a sound like my beeper.

    Grand Remous, Quebec. Odometer: 14,862 miles.
    136.1 mile leg, 8.14 litres of gas + about 2 gallons from Bills gas can.

    Kemptville, Ontario. Odometer: 15,010.6 miles.
    148.3 mile leg, 14.15 litres of gas.

    Somewhere just north of Syracuse, NY, USA. Odometer: 15,136.5 miles.
    125.8 mile leg, 3.67 gallons of gas.

July 19, 1999
    Spent the night in Sampson State Park on Seneca Lake, in the Finger Lakes region of New York. The park is built on a retired Naval training center. It was OK, but it took some looking to find a campsite with trees to support the hammocks. Woke up to a gentle rain.
    Yesterday morning's ride started great. Perfect weather, perfect road. Sad to leave Canada though. Crossed into the USA at Ogdensburg, NY. The afternoon was full of small town stoplights and detours. And being lost in Ottawa. And it was hot.

    Watkin's Glen, NY. Odometer: 15,273.9 miles.
    137.4 mile leg, 3.87 gallons of gas.

    Shamokin, PA. Odometer: 15,414.3 miles.
    140.3 mile leg, 3.48 gallons of gas.

    Haggerstown, Maryland. Odometer: 15,559.7 miles.
    145.3 mile leg, 3.76 gallons of gas.

    The first part of highway 30 was a hoot. Switchbacks, steep grades. Rainy in the a.m. and hot in the p.m. We covered 402.1 miles today and it took us 11 hours. Those two lane highways are scenic and fun to ride but it's slow progress. Too tired to set up camp tonight, so we checked into the Super 8 in Front Royal, Virginia. We touched five states today; NY, PA, MD, WV, and VA. Celebrating by doing laundry. Might even wash the bike later for the first time since the trip began.

July 20, 1999

    Front Royal, VA.
    77.0 mile leg, 2.0 gallons of gas.

    Front Royal, VA again.
    143 mile leg, 4.0 gallons of gas.

July 21, 1999

    Montebello, VA. Odometer: 15,919.2 miles.
    138.6 mile leg, 3.7 gallons of gas.

    It seems that sometimes on these long trips it's good to take a vacation from the vacation. That's what yesterday was. We decided to keep the room at Front Royal and ride to Washington DC to see the Smithsonian Air & Space Museum. After it was all done, it was good to see the museum, but I think I would rather ride 500 miles in the rain than endure that traffic again. It started 40 miles from the city and was zero to 35 mph from there on. Once we got to the city we ditched the bikes in a hotel parking garage and traveled by taxi.
    Today we rode the entire Skyline Drive (~100 miles) and about the northern 100 miles of the Blue Ridge Parkway. The roads are magnificent, and the Skyline Drive was loaded with deer, but it get tedious and a bit tiring after a while. The speed is 35 to 45 mph all the time, and you always have to be on the lookout for deer and idiot tourists stopped in the middle of the road. Tomorrow will be more of the same.
    We elected to camp tonight at Otter Peak campground. I think is about mile 90 of the Parkway. We had a fancy meal at the lodge up the road and saved the last tins of Dinty Moore for another day.
    Had lunch at one of those tourist information centers. Our waitress was from Bogata, Columbia. i told her about my trip to South America about 3 years ago and we talked about Buena Ventura, Columbia, were I visited. She had been to Buena Ventura on her way to Gordo Island, where she took a boat out to see the whales in their breeding area. I explained that Paul (Paul is the person I was traveling with in South America) and I had seen them from the airplane. As Bill and I were leaving Maria asked if we were staying there and, sadly, I had to tell her that we were just passing through.

July 22, 1999

    We were chased out of the hammocks by a hard rain last night, forcing us to retire early. I didn't sleep well, the wet weather brought on my arthritis.
    After two weeks on the road, I notice that getting on the bike and riding makes me feel "clean." On one level, it is impossible for mosquitoes, other parasites, or your own odor to bother you when you are up in the wind. On another level, it is kind of a metaphor. Clearly, when you are riding, the place you are leaving is behind you, and there is no longer anything you can do to affect it. You cannot change what is behind you anymore than you can change the past. The feeling of knowing that the little cares and concerns of home can't reach you while you're on the move, nor can you directly deal with them, is the basic appeal of a trip like this, or, I think, any vacation.
 

The Blue Ridge Parkway. When the fog lifts the view is spectacular.
 
 
 

    Roanoke, VA. Odometer: 16,020.5 miles.
    101.2 mile leg, 2.60 gallons of gas.

    Somewhere on the Parkway (Doughton Park). Odometer: 16,140.5 miles.
    119.9 mile leg, 3.1 gallons of gas.

    The riding went a little faster today, I actually used high gear a couple of times. The curves were not as tight. A lot of dear and fawns, and we saw a flock of wild turkeys. There were a lot of motor cycles on the Parkway.

This is the preferred method of hauling firewood. We are camping at Crabtree Meadows campground. We managed to locte a spot with suitable trees for the hammocks (always a priority), and there was even a store nearby, so we have cold beer to go with our cigars.
 
 
 

July 23, 1999

    Asheville, North Carolina. Odometer: 16295.6 miles.
    154.9 mile leg, 4.06 gallons of gas.

    Cherokee, NC. Odometer: 16382.9 miles.
    87.2 mile leg, 2.1 gallons of gas.

Finished off the Parkway today, and cut over one corner of the Smokies. The Southern end of the Parkway was even better than the north end. The middle 200 miles or so wasn't as good as either end. Got great gas mileage coming down out of the mountains.
 
 
 

We rode up Mount Mitchell this morning, hoping to get some breakfast at the restaurant on top. It was closed. We did hike up from the parking lot to the tower, where Professor Mitchell is buried. Apparently he was the first to prove that this is the highest point in the USA east of the Mississippi, at 6,684 feet.
 

This road up to Mt. Mitchell is typical of the roads in the area. You can see how the Smokey Mountains got their name.
 
 
 

After Mount Mitchell we headed directly to the infamous Deals Gap road, rode it, and got the T-shirt. With 318 curves in 11 miles, Deals Gap is "Mecca" to Sport Bikers. The road was good, but not the toughest road I've ever run. There was a lady camping here with a souped up V-max and everyone says she is embarrassing the sport bikers by dusting them off the road.
 

The motel at Deals Gap was cheap so we checked in. They only allow motorcycle riders to stay there. I think they Call it the Crossroads of Time Motel.
 
 
 

This tree is in front of the motel, adorned with parts of the bikes that got bit by the "dragon."
 
 
 
 
 

We ran into a large motorcycle club at the top of the Gap, so we rode with them down the mountain.
 
 
 
 

We had dinner at the Tapaco Lodge, which was built in 1930 bt Alcoa. The trout was fresh and cooked to perfection. It was after passing this dam, which is part of the Tennessee Valley Authority, that we decided to call our trip "Bill and Kevin's big Dam Tour."
 
 

July 24, 1999

    Deal's Gap, NC. Odometer: 16,470.4 miles.
    86.2 mile leg, 2.7 gallons of gas.

    near Harrimon, TN. Odometer: 16,574.5 miles.
    104.0 mile leg. RAIN!

    Nashville TN. Odometer: 16700.5 miles.
    125.6 mile leg, 4.0 gallons of gas.

    Bill and I went our separate ways at Deal's Gap, him for Florida, me for Nebraska. I went through three thunderstorms before reaching Nashville. As I approached Harrimon, it was raining so hard that all I could see was the white line on the right side of the road and the cars that had pulled off on the shoulder, so I took an exit ramp hoping it would lead me to a gas station. It did. As I pulled under the canopy a small white car wheeled up next to me. The driver rolled his window down and shouted to me, "My wife kept telling me to pull over, but I told her that as long as you can go, I can go!"

    Paducah, KY. Odometer: 16,817.8 miles.
    117.3 mile leg, 3.96 gallons of gas.
    Went through another Thunderstorm.

    Richview, IL. Odometer: 16,947.3 miles.
    129.4 mile leg, 4.52 gallons of gas.

    Wentzville, MO (west of St. Louis). Odometer: 17,040.2 miles.
    92.9 mile leg. 2.49 gallons of gas.

    Of the ~4000 miles that Bill and I rode together, only about 125 miles were interstate, the rest were two-lane. Right now I am just sticking to the interstate and hauling butt for home. Tonight, I was wet, tired, and just wanted to get west of St. Louis. I got there at about midnight, fought construction for an hour (someone was making some OT) and started to look for a place to stay. I don't know what was going on, but every motel west of St. Louis was full. At one point I got off the highway and there was some kind of Harley Davidson rally going on. Three people yelled "Get a Harley!" before I even got to the motel parking lot. I decided I shouldn't leave my Honda in that lot for the night, so I got back on the highway. Finally found safe refuge in Wentzville.

July 25, 1999

    Somewhere on I-70. Odometer: 17,166.6 miles.
    126.4 mile leg, 4.79 gallons of gas.

    Kansas City, MO. Odometer: 17,274.0 miles.
    107.4 mile leg, 3.54 gallons of gas (OK, so I'm hurrying a little).

    Nebraska City, NE. Odometer: 17,394.2 miles.
    120.1 mile leg, 3.83 gallons.

    Home. Odometer: 17,436.7 miles.