The forecast for Santeetlah, North Carolina was ominous, "thunderstorms, some severe, likely for the afternoon", causing us (Jim, Frank, Steve, Dennis, Tad, and the two Bobs) to flip over our planned itinerary and get to the mountains as quickly as possible and save the Ocoee excursion for the way home, if weather permitted.
We took the two lane back-way to Blue Ridge, a far more scenic way than the slab, with many interesting side attractions, that on this trip included a seven-bike passing of a smoking diesel and a young deer reacting like a squirrel to the passing thunder.
After a pit stop at Copperhill's Hardee we cruised up Tn 68 (nice road) to Tellico Plains where we made a stop at the Cherohala Skyway Visitor Center for maps and T shirts. So far we were in luck. Clouds were forming but the (hot) sun prevailed.