Honda Hoot 2002


OK, I’ve gotten older, want to ride more, want to get to events in comfort, would rather ride back roads than interstates; you get the picture.  So, I decided to get to the 2002 Honda Hoot using my SUV and trailer in one day, ride as many roads as I could, then reverse the process for going home.  This had the decided advantage of being able to buy stuff at the vendor area, and to bring along cleaning supplies for the Wing.  All was packed with room to spare.  Weeks before the event.  There is just something about that third week in June….

I must have been somewhat disorganized this year, as I’ve achieved my Independence Day.  That’s the time when the children have completed college, the big expenses in life are behind you, and your second childhood is just beginning.  So it was the Sunday I headed for Knoxville, TN.

The trip down was uneventful.  Arriving at the motel, I unloaded, got my room set up for the event, had a leisurely dinner and called it a night.  I was set for a few days where the most difficult decision would be which shirt to wear.

The next day, I woke early, dug out the cleaning supplies and gave my Wing a good wash, rinse & dry.  As the other riders walked by, the comments were about how clean my bike was!  Well, a clean bike runs better!  I headed out around the area just to do a pre ride to find out how to get around the area, and how to get downtown.  I had Asheville memorized; now it was time to do the same thing for Knoxville.

That evening, I met up with a friends for dinner.  Our first night out was the Texas Roadhouse on I-640, exit 8.  A place where you throw the peanut shells on the floor has to be good.  Our selections included chili, steaks and baked stuffed potatoes.  Result:  three stuffed people!

On Tuesday, I rode with another couple from PA, taking in the Cherahola Skyway and Deal’s Gap.  The Skyway is a miniature version of the Blue Ridge Parkway, with many pull offs for viewing and photo opportunities.  Stretching between Tellico Plains, TN and Robbinsville, NC, it is one of the most scenic rides in the area.  The Gap was still in the process of being paved.  I made a note to return later in the week.  My companions only wanted one pass through the gap; a second reason to return.

Exiting on 129 west, we rode the Foothills Parkway on the southwest side of the Smokies.  There is one area which has a beautiful view of the mountains and the valley and may be one of the most photographed areas in the park.

From the Foothills, we turned north, riding through the park along a stream with panoramic views until we arrives at the main road crossing the mountains.  From here, it was time to head back for preregistration.  When we arrived in Knoxville, the party was in full swing!

( OK, but which way do you turn? )

There were only two minor problems at the Tuesday registration; my friends had forgotten to register, and the lines were as long as the ones for the demo rides of the GL1800 last year!  After some time and playing pick the sorter line to your side, I had my things and was on my way.

Wednesday:  Vendor day!  This is just too easy when they take Visa!  I ended up with new helmets, floor mats for the Wing, other accessories, and so forth.  Let me take time out to complement Crusierworks for replacing my boots at no charge ahead of time, and the new folks at Boogey for fixing my SES exhaust system, again under warrantee.  SES, the device that makes your Gold Wing bilingual.  Normal, it’s a Wing; open, talks to Harleys.

That evening, gourmet adventure #2 was Cozy Mels, a Mexican restaurant just west of town.  Would you believe seafood enchiladas?  Plus those tortilla chips and dipping sauce were endless?  Another bueno dinner.

Thursday, my friends slept in, so I went back to the Skyway and the Gap,  You see, another Winger told me about a buffet in Robinsville, so I had to verify the account!  True to form, Philips in Robbinsville was easy to find, as several bikes were parked in front.  I can personally verify that the buffet and the menu lacked for nothing.  Responses solicited from other riders were very positive.  Note to self:  Put on list for next year, and remember to have a very light breakfast!

Arriving at Deal’s Gap, the paving was done for now.  I had several trips through, but I kept catching GL1800’s and BMW KT1200’s.  I almost kept pace with the sport bikes.  Could it be that Progressive suspension and Avon Venom X tires make the Wing faster?  Maybe it’s the color; white!

If you end up on the North Carolina side of the Gap, highway 28 provides some interesting twisties around the east side of the Smokies.  The idea was to ride around to Cherokee, the over the mountains back to Knoxville.  Just south of Cherokee, the sky darkened and the wind bent over trees; you could see it coming!  Luck was with me, as I found an overhang just before the skies let loose with blinding rain, then hail!  Half hour later, it was all over and I continued on my way.

If you’ve never ridden the main road over the Smokies, there are two neat things to see.  The first is at the summit.  After the panoramic views, check out the Appalachian trail and the boundary marker for NC – TN.  Then, on the Tennessee side, there is a road sign for a turn that makes a complete 360!  Going down, it is a right turn which goes through a tunnel, over which you just rode.  Going up, it is a left turn through a tunnel then over the tunnel you just went through.  So much fun, I had to do this several times and take pictures.

Thoughts turned to dinner.  Arriving back near the motel, I remembered that a Chinese buffet, The Golden Wok, had just opened.  Now this buffet will take several plates to complete!  Judging by the amount of bikes, many returning from Bristol, this was the ticket.  Met up with some of the others staying at the same motel, everyone enjoying the food.  OK, dinners were 3 for 3!

Friday was dubbed the great eat and ride event.  It began at the pancake breakfast downtown.  To avoid the rush, I must arrive earlier next year.  I hope the turn out was big, as this event helped the local fire department.  Maybe we can include flipping and catching the pancakes next time!

From pancakes to the poker run.  Only one problem; I had no passenger to hold the directions.  Easy solution; look for riders 2 up with passenger holding directions; follow behind and hope they hit all the turns!  This worked very well, as I ended up at the right place for lunch, and took many scenic pictures along the way.  Another great ride to benefit charity.

Fit in a brief respite after the ride, then headed out for the Appalachian Museum hoe down and BBQ.  Now here’s an interesting twist to do this event.  I took the interstates to get to the event around 4 PM.  Took the tour, seeing the village, displays and listen to the music.  This allowed me to eat in the first shift, then ride the back roads ‘in reverse’ back to town after dinner.  Being in the western end of the eastern time zone, there was plenty of daylight left.  This also eliminated the construction problems in Knoxville.  Hey, I left New Jersey to avoid construction, but it followed me to Knoxville!  I thought orange barrels were the NJ state landmarks.

Saturday’s events started with a breakfast among an internet discussion group (WOTI) loosely constructed around Gold Wings.  Afterwards, I took a ride with a friend from Crossville to see the back roads west of town.  We parted at noon, and I headed back to town.  I had saved one of the best restaurants for last; Calhoun’s on the river.

OK, it took three tries to get to that river road and not miss the entrance!  Looking over the menu, there it was:  prime rib.  With a salad.  Stuffed potato beyond belief!  Key lime pie for dessert.  I came, I saw, I ate!  Would y’all excuse me while I waddle out the door?  Do I adjust the suspension for the added weight?

All good things must end, and so it was that I loaded up the Wing and headed out for the closing ceremonies.  Didn’t win anything this year, but it made no difference.  Made new friends, had a great time, can’t wait for next year to try other events.  I wonder if the guy who won the new GL1800 has calmed down yet?

What can you say about a class event?  The ultimate motorcycle vacation?  Vendors, rides, restaurants, planned events, unplanned events, restaurants, great roads, so much to do; did I mention restaurants?  Maybe a restaurant recap is in order, so here’s the ones I’ve done in two years:  Ruby Tuesdays, Cracker Barrel, Texas Roadhouse, Cozy Mels, Philips, Golden Wok, Calhoun’s.  Breakfasts at Shoneys has an unlimited buffet.  So many restaurants, so little time.

After coming home, I tried to remember how many Hoots I’ve attended,  I believe it is three in Asheville and two in Knoxville.  Honda took some heat moving to Knoxville, but I believe it was the right thing to do.  Unlike other events, I never felt crowded and never had to wait more than a few minutes for a table for dinner.  I’m already planning for next year.  Is it the 10th one?  Whatever, it will be superb!