Tad once again wins the title for hardcore biker. In spite of his missing both of our later-than-planned starts, he somehow caught up to us, on his Silver Wing, before we reached Blue Ridge. Not saying how (he took the 5th) but to our delight he joined us.
Nine of us, on eight bikes, made our way through Murphy and Andrews, North Carolina, to the cool gorge of the Nantahala River, arriving a little after 11 a.m. We worked our way to a parking spot near the Lesser Wesser Class 3 drop to see the action. But there was little action. The "man' had spoiled our plans. It seems that even though the TVA releases water early in the day, the raft concessions are not allowed to move to the put-ins until 10 a.m., meaning the river folks wouldn't make it down to our lookout until well after noon. We took it in stride though, and headed up river a ways to have a barbecue lunch, riverside. Very nice.
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.