The L and I have just completed a long weekend near Gatlinburg, Tennessee. The rest was well needed, and the time away from work while exploring a new place was worth every penny.
For those of you unfamiliar with Gatlinburg, it’s a sortof redneck Vegas without the strippers, gambling and opulent hotels. So, it’s very much not like Vegas. It’s much more like Niagara Falls.
I could go into great detail about the morbidly (and fantastically captivating) obesity we saw waddling down the street. NASCAR jokes are far too easy to insert here. Comments on missing dentistry or inbreeding are just as appropriate.
The Redneck Riviera, however, is epitomized by a single venue: The Salt and Pepper Shaker Museum. Ripley’s has several outlets here. Candied apples, funnel cakes, and all the usual trappings of tourism abound. But the S&PSM stands alone as a beacon of idiocy and commerce in an illogical and just plain old stupid town.
We were in town for a wedding, and some of the other guests spent time white water rafting, which would have been great if I’d brought anything but long pants. The setting for the wedding, high atop a mountain, and only reached via a nightmarish single lane road, was perfect. Beautiful vistas of the great smokeys, verdant surroundings and an historic log cabin the size of a hall made it all quite idyllic. It was a bit toasty at times, but that seemed to add to the organic aesthetic- which is quite something for me to say, as I was wearing a suit! (And my cowboy boots fit right in!)
Welll, our visit coincided with Hog Rally, or Hog Week, or Porcine Passover, meaning that there was some sort of get-together of Harley owners and to a lesser extent, owners of what were regarded as inferior brands of motorcycle. This event seemed to not attract the Harley riders one usually sees: accountants and lawyers who only wear their dry-cleaned leathers on weekends, cultivating a rebellious goatee for the weekend alone. No, these people were not there. And largely absent was the hard core bike gang member, although a few of these were around. The primary constituency was the-fool-who-mortgaged-his-doublewide crowd. People who do wear their riding gear every day, but that’s because they ride in soiled wranglers and filthy t shirts. That’s fine by me. Really, my sartorial characteristics leave me in no position to judge.
These are HDs bread and butter customers. These are people who define themselves by owning a Harley. The perception is that by being like every other one of the 5 million Harley owners, you become unique.
Like most popular things, you become part of a special, albeit large (in so many ways!) community. And that, more than anything, is the great thing about bikers of all types: the unregulated community. That’s always a good thing. Well, that’s usually a good thing.
Anyway, being stuck in Gatlinburg for five days means that four and a half days will be spent with nothing to do. Evenings were filled with group events, and the wedding would take a great part of Saturday, but
The L and I were largely at a loose end. We walked the street once to sniff candles and peruse scrimshaw. I had my obligatory stop in a local watering hole for a tallboy of PBR. And that was it. There was
no way we were going to Dollywood and I couldn’t bring any fireworks home despite the prevalence off fireworks superstores. And the visit to the knife museum and world’s larget knife store were fun for only
So, when in Rome, eat pizza. And when in Gatlinburg, rent a Harley. We’d heard that there were lots of rental places in the area but we couldn’t find them. So we asked the local dealer, who would only
recommend a place 35 miles away and also a dealer. A quick visit to the local Visitor’s Bureau and the good old Yellow Pages (the internet was no help and I’d forgotten about this magical tome) found
Eaglerider, a chain of Harley rental franchises.
After much debate we finally settled on the mother of all Harleys, a brand-new (1600 miles) Harley Davidson Electraglide. This 1500cc air cooled monster comes complete with armrests for the passenger, a cd player nd cruise control. And, to my disgust, automatic turn signals which shut off after a turn.
It was like riding a La-Z-Boy.
Riding the VFR can be exhausting. The position is more comfortable than some sport bikes, but less comfortable than sitting on an airplane. And the spunky VFR can be hard work to harness in the
twisties at high spped. That’s all part of the fun. But this big beauty was never trouble when she was moving. It could not have been any easier and riding her actually increased my energy levels as opposed to the typical fatigue
Well, The L and I climbed those mountains like crazy. We blared Buffett and LedZep and Halen. We rode to klingerman’s dome, headed out to the foothills parkway (home of The Dragon and Deal’s Gap, which are world famous to motorcyclists) and we loved it. Kids complimented us on our sweet ride. Inbreds said things like ‘that puppy’s brand new, ain’t she?’
I beamed with pride. “You betcha, and she sure is a pleasure on these hills”
It was great. At one point, tucked away in her big cozy backseat, I think The L dozed off. I might be wrong, but with cruise control I easily could have.
No, I have no plans to buy a Harley. I don’t have the room and $25k for a bike is just stupid. I could rent one for two weeks a year for the.next ten years and still save money versus dropping that kind of
corn. I might look out for a used Honda Goldwing just for fun. But I’m not sure where I’d store it.
Anyway, it was a great trip. Aside from the tack in town, it really is a beautiful part of the world, and I can easily imagine bringing kids there for an inexpensive yet wholesome (hiking, camping, swimming) time which would also seem like fantasy when in town, except perhaps for the Salt and Pepper Shaker Museum.