Day 1: September 13, 2010
Old Iron on the Skyway
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Though I'm calling this the official start of the trip, I had a very enjoyable drive getting here. I left home early Sunday morning and followed the expressway to the Tennessee line. There, at Jellico, I slipped onto US-25W and smiled through one of my favorite stretches of two lane. The section between Jellico and La Follette is both great to look at and fun to drive. I drove it north bound just a couple of weeks ago on the way home from the Blue Grass Parkway and I'll drive it again at the next opportunity. I switched to US-11 in Knoxville and that took me to Athens, Tennessee, where I spent the night.

My plan was to drive the Cherohala Skyway eastbound and pick out some nice spots for photographing Motorcycle Cannonball participants as they rode it westbound.

With, I thought, time to spare, I decided now was a good time to take that little side trip to Bald River Falls. It's about a six mile drive which would be worthwhile by itself. The road that follows the Tellico River is narrow but nicely paved. For most of the drive to the falls, the river is on the right. A bridge crossing moves it to the left when the falls is just about a mile ahead. The next bridge crosses Bald Creek and forms something of a viewing platform for the falls.

Maybe not all ranger stations are worth a stop but the Tellico station is. It is about three fourths of a mile off the Skyway; On the same road that leads to Bald River Falls. What makes it special is the fact that it occupies a building of Tennessee's first CCC camp. The mountain view is from an overlook back on the Skyway.

I was surprised when I saw an extremely old car approach and managed to get a picture of only its bottom half. I had guessed that the old motorcycles would reach the Skyway around noon. The car was my first clue that I was way wrong. I didn't know that it was part of the caravan but I suspected it. It wasn't long until I saw an ancient motorcycle and it became obvious that the show had started. I think I passed about half a dozen of the old two-wheelers before reaching a pull-off and parking.

I caught quite a few of the motorcycles as they passed. These pictures are of Steve Barber on his 1915 Harley Davidson, Erik Dunk on his 1915 Harley Davidson Model J, German husband and wife team Dieter Eckel & Katrin Boehner on their 1913 BSA & 1907 JAP, Dale Walksler on his 1915 Harley Davidson, and Mike Vils on his 1913 Excelsior. Katrin's JAP (British, J.A.Prestwich) is the oldest machine in the competition. Dale Walksler owns the Wheels Through Time museum where the caravan stopped last night.

Mine was the only four-wheeled vehicle in the pull-off I shared with a Ducati, a Honda, and a group of late model Triumphs. Other then the big three-cylinder model, I believe all the Triumphs were Bonnevilles.

Earlier in the day, I had chatted with a father and daughter from England at one of the overlooks. They knew nothing of the caravan but, after learning of it, were looking forward to seeing some of the old bikes. They pulled in and spent some time chatting and watching the parade before pulling out to finish the Skyway.

The sweep vehicles are classic sidecars. I headed out after they had passed and spent quite a while following them. There are few passing zones on the Skyway and the sidecar equipped bikes essentially fill a lane. After getting around them, I came up behind the German couple on their Class I (single cylinder, single speed) rides. I found them much easier to pass.

The schedule called for the motorcycles to be on display starting at 4:30 at Coker Tire in Chattanooga. Corky Coker had originally planned in riding in the Cannonball but his schedule just got too hectic. I checked into my motel and reached the Coker lot about 5:00. Most, but not all, of the riders had already arrived and I was able to get a picture of the entire car I had clipped off earlier in the day. It's a 1911 Velie built in Moline, Illinois, and owned & driven by New Yorkers.

Bikes continued to arrive for the next hour or so. The 1915 Harley-Davidson in the second picture is ridden by Cris Sommer-Simmons. She not only rides, she writes and, among many other things, co-founded the magazine Harley Women. She and Katrin Boehner are the only women riders in the Cannonball.

With all that old machinery around, there is camera food everywhere. This panel is just a collection of stuff I saw. This is an amazing adventure that is honoring as well as making history.

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