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This year, our annual Spring trip took us back to Maggie Valley, NC. We have been here many times, including just two years ago when we arranged to meet a group of MOW HOG folks for a few days of mountain riding and everything that goes along with it. This year we arrived right after some strange weather in Maggie that saw damaging winds, storms and snow. We had excellent weather our entire time in the mountains, as well as the three day ride north. Our return ride to the south was a bit hot and occasionally wet.

Saturday, May 6th - We will begin our journey to Maggie Valley with breakfast at the Cracker Barrel in Oldsmar at Oh-Seven-Thirty ayem. From there, we will head for Georgia. Even if you're not going to NC with us, please join in for breakfast or a day ride to lunch with us. Or, just ride along until you know you really have to turn back to take care of those chores on the to-do list. UPDATE: We squoze a dozen folks around the table at the Cracker Barrel this morning. Two were just there to make sure we really left town, and we did. The ride through Hillsborough County allowed us to sit and ponder the day ahead at every red light along the route. Even Pasco County lights made sure we didn't get to the hotel before check-in time. We stopped in Waldo at El Molino Mexican restaurant for lunch. Where else can you get lunch for two for ten bucks?  After lunch, we managed to find ten or fifteen miles of smoke. Not good for the allergies and asthma, but we got through it. Our Waycross hotel is a Hampton. The desk clerk recommended a BBQ joint a short walk away. We discovered it is a walk in, order at the counter and take a seat kind of place, but the food was actually good. Next time you pass through Waycross, consider the Hog n Bones. After dinner it was a saunter back to the Hampton where we watched some Fixer Upper and Property Brothers before calling it a night. Good Night.

Sunday, May 7th - We head north a bit more, with South Carolina as our destination for the day.  UPDATE:  Unfortunately, Lloyd had to throw in the towel today due to an injury. After that it was a very uneventful day. US1 was wide open, no traffic to speak of in either direction. When we turned onto US221, it got even less eventful. If you ever find yourself on that road, stop whenever you see gas, food or whatever you may need because you may not see it again for a long time. Because of the lack of opportunities, we had lunch at a Circle K that had a Blimpie's inside. Yes, we violated the "no chain restaurant" rule. We will again at dinnertime because there are so few choices within walking distance of the hotel. The day began around 60 and rose to 70 just before we got to Greenwood. Great day on the road.

Monday, May 8th - Happy Birthday, Spring. We take the final leg of the journey to Maggie today, with a goal of a mid-day arrival so we have time to visit Wheels Through Time before we check into the hotel.  UPDATE: We left the hotel at 8:30 in hopes of a noon arrival in Maggie. I wasn't planning on 100 zillion red lights, road destruction and stupid traffic. We were parked at a red light, waiting for a turn arrow when some distracted driver drove his truck through an SUV. Fortunately, we were two lanes away from the carnage. We also survived the low 60s, a lot of stupid drivers along the way, a pile of tires that were on fire, a zillion emergency vehicles and a radar trap. When we got to Maggie Valley, we had lunch at the Maggie Valley Restaurant, then headed for Wheels Through Time. Tony joined the group there. We were able to chat with Dale for a while, as well as get a group photo with him. Next it was off to the hotel and check-in. After recovering from saddle time, it was off to Snappy's for dinner - by car for most of us.  It's a really good Italian restaurant. Fran and Kyle chose to ride since the cars wouldn't hold all ten of us. It was yet another good day on the road with friends.

Tuesday, May 9th - Today we ride the Cherohala Skyway east to west, have lunch, then ride it west to east back to Maggie.  UPDATE:  It looked really gloomy this morning in Maggie, but we headed toward Cherokee as the clock struck 8:05. I found a road in NC that I really like - NC 143 before it becomes The Cherohala. It doesn't have the scenic overlooks or the new pavement, but it has twists and elevation changes like crazy. Although it was in the low 60s when we left Maggie, we did find the low to mid 50s as we approached the TN - NC border. Yes, it was after a few riders removed their warmer gear, but it was temporary - it was warm in Tellico Plains. It was also very closed in Tellico, the places I had planned to use for lunch were closed, so we went to the Tellicafe. Fortunately we got there and ordered before 28 Miata drivers and passengers descended on the place. Oh - a highlight of the ride to Tellico - A Sheriff's cruiser stopped next to us, responding to a complaint that bikers parked in the handicapped space. He came up and chatted with Steve who showed the handicap plate to them. I pointed out the other handicap plate and they apologized for bothering us.  The ride back to the hotel had nothing interesting like that, just seemingly twice as many turns and elevation changes as the ride west. Picking dinner became a challenge - about half of the town is still closed.We wound up back at the Maggie Valley Restaurant. Even the ice cream store closed early.

Wednesday, May 10th - It's over the top day. We will take US441 over the Smokey National Park to Pigeon Forge for lunch at the Old Mill. The return trip will also top the park because the option requires 30 miles of I-40, a road I really hate.  UPDATE:  Since it was a short ride over the mountain, we scheduled KSU at 9:00 ayem. This allowed several of us to have breakfast at Joey's Pancake House on the west end of town. Better than the stuff downstairs. The weather has warmed, so going over the Smokies was not a thermal issue - pleasant the whole way. A couple stops on the way for pictures and comfort gotus in to town just before 11:30. We found parking quickly and got seated at the Old Mill even quicker. After lots of good southern food, we wandered about the local shops, including the new distillery close to the restaurant. The bourbon was good, but pricey. Even a sample was $2. Pottery was bought, Ice Cream consumed and the return route begun. Northbound, we went through Gatlinburg, on the southbound journey we took the bypass route. We were amazed by the damage from the recent fires on both sides of the bypass. The fire got REAL close to town. We also stopped at the visitor center at the south entrance to the park. There we talked with a local who said the trees were down in the park (Lots of trees) because of a storm last week that had very high winds and left 6" of snow. Glad that was last week. The only animal sightings today were woodchucks and turkeys. We did see a nice crash in the park where someone's door got ripped open by a car headed the opposite way in a turn. Dinner at the Moonshine cafe was slow because it was first night for the new season. Ask Cathy about her beer bath.

Thursday, May 11th - Over toward Asheville for a stop at the Folk Art Center on the BRP, then a short ride on the BRP back to the Pisgah Inn for lunch. After lunch, we BRP it back to Maggie.  UPDATE:  Riding through Asheville wasn't a lot of fun, especially with the Zumo having a mind of its own. The Folk Art Center had some really nice stuff on display and/or for sale. There were a couple artisans working at their crafts, one weaving fabric, one making baskets. After a few purchases, we were back onto the BRP and headed toward the Pisgah Inn for lunch. The restaurant was crowded - full of Red Hat Ladies and other Q-tips. We had to break into three groups to avoid a long wait. After lunch, we were Back on the BRP and headed to Maggie Valley. Today we saw no crashes, wild critters or an unusual amount of emergency vehicles. Dinner is at J. Arthur's steak house. This could be their first night, too. Let's hope for the best. We never found out if they had just opened, but this was probably the best meal of the trip, The house specialty is steak and they got them right. The servers were attentive, the glasses filled. Yes, it was a good day today.

Friday, May 12th - We depart Maggie today, headed into Georgia. UPDATE:  When we left Maggie, it was mostly down hill all the way to Georgia. When we stopped for gas, my math came to over 53mpg - best of the trip.  As we approached Tallulah Falls, my GPS went haywire and routed us into the boonies. I still haven't figured out how to force it back on track, but while trying, I managed to miss the falls, so we motored right past. At lunch time, we found a little place run by orientals on the outskirts of Elberton. It wasn't Asian food, it was plain southern stuff, burgers, sandwiches and wings. All was good, and cheap. It was also slow, so the break was good. It was getting warm, but fortunately we avoided any rain. It had rained in Maggie overnight, but nothing followed us south. It wasn't a terribly long day, but the heat and humidity convinced us to have dinner delivered. Cathy found an Italian place that delivers. It was all good, and reasonable.. I can call this another good day on the road (GPS notwithstanding).

Saturday, May 13th - Georgia to Florida day, but only as far south as Lake City. The forecast isn't good.  UPDATE: When we departed Thomson, it looked bad everywhere but south. Everywhere but that one giant cloud we rode under for 3 to 5 minutes. Fortunately, we were able to dry off before we reached the Flying Cowboy, our lunch stop. After lunch, the radar showed it was clear south to Lake City. Well, that changed. Just before the Florida line, we found another mean black cloud mixed in with the grey clouds. I must have been at the front edge of the nastiest, because Fran and Kyle reported really bad rain and wind - they lagged behind us a bit while Kyle suited up. Again, we were able to mostly dry off before the next stop - the Hampton Inn Lake City. The Hampton is not convenient to a walking distance restaurant, so takee-outee is the plan tonight.

Sunday, May 14th - Mothers Day and the trip from Lake City to home. UPDATE:  When we left Lake City, the radar was mostly clear to the south - one small line by Ocala.  We made it by that area successfully, but approaching  Floral City was a different story. We got pretty wet almost to Brooksville. Once we cleared that, we were able to dry off.  We managed to get home safely close to 1:00.  Yes, it was a good day with friends and a great week.

We traveled almost 2000 miles in 9 days, saw temps in the 40s all the way to upper 80s, started at sea level, posed for a picture above 6000', saw natural beauty and the remnants of the destruction of that beauty. We saw lots of animals sleeping on the roads and along the shoulders. We saw a deer, turkeys, groundhogs and lots of wake-up birds. We dined in places that were questionable, we dined in nice places, we had meals delivered to the hotel. We had seven perfectly dry days, we got drenched three times on those other two. We saw crashes, radar traps, emergency vehicles, two lane scenic roads and Interstates (we used on on/off ramp). We saw some pretty sunsets, maybe someone saw a sunrise(?).  We saw waterfalls, rivers, streams and lots of red lights.  We even met someone from the Lexington area that knows Wheelie. (Sorry, didn't get a name)  Put it all together, we obviously had a great time.