Once again, we're doing a Sunset run on the Cherohala skyway. This is a pretty nice evening out that involves a run over the Cherohala Skyway at dusk, a stop to watch the sun set over the mountains and then a run down into Tellico Plains for dinner at the Tellico Beach Drive-In
Important things to note:
- The overlook is about 1 hour 15 minutes from Fontana. The Beach Drive In is another 45 minutes beyond that. Keep that in mind if you're staying terribly far away so you don't get caught unawares at nearly midnight with an roughly 2 hour drive just to get back to Fontana if your hotel is farther out (cough Bryson City cough)
- This won't be super-spirited (but we ARE driving Miatas). Non-Miatas are welcome as well.
- The Tellico Beach Drive-In, for those of you who go all the way across, is cash only, so hit the ATM before we leave.
- Fill your tanks. There is no place to stop for fuel once we leave until you reach Tellico Plains. Depending on the route we end up with, there MAY be a stop on 129 for fuel before turning up into Joyce Kilmer, but maybe not. So please fill your tanks before we leave.
- Previously, we attempted to run two groups, one from Fontana and one from Robbinsville. That was a bit of a Charlie Foxtrot, especially when the two groups met up, so like last year, we are only running one group leaving from Fontana.
- Bring a jacket, blanket or something to keep warm with. It will get chilly up there, especially once the sun sets.
- This happens Rain or Shine. Two years ago all we got was a lot of heavy fog and cloud cover and rain and dampness and cold, but it was an adventure none the less.
- Be aware of road debris, we went up once just after the state had mowed and thoughtfully left giant (1 - 2 feet tall) mounds of wet grass in the middle of the road.
The number one rule above all others is STAY SAFE and do not drive outside your own limitations. I can't tell you how much to push it, only you know that.
Once last thing... ALL updates will be to this post. I won't add updates in subsequent comments, so please refer to this post for all the officially unofficial information.
NOTE: Details are evolving and will change or be fleshed out as we get closer to Dragon Season.
Anyway, on with the details.
First rule of Miata Club. You do not drive beyond your ability.
Second Rule of Miata Club. You do NOT drive beyond your ability.
Third Rule of Miata Club. Keep it between the lines.
If you can't drive like you've got some sense, please find another run. I hate sounding harsh, but the roads can be quite treacherous, especially after dark and I want you ALL to make it out and back safely without needing to wait for a tow-truck on the Cherohala like someone did previously. Have fun, but don't let it get away from you.
Assume there will be wild animals jumping out in front of you just shy of ever apex, especially once it's dark. Because it's entirely likely that could happen. Be observant, be safe, and have fun.
Each driver will be responsible for the driver immediately behind him or her. (Great advice, by the way!). That means when you come to a turn, you signal and wait for the person immediately behind you to appear, then you make the turn when they have seen you. This way, no one gets lost, no one gets left behind.
Again, do not drive beyond your ability. If you wreck, remember, the tow-truck is likely 2 - 4 hours away. Ambulances will take at least 45 minutes to reach you, and the closest hospital is likely 45 minutes AFTER they get you. If it's bad enough that they have to call in the helicopter, expect to pay as much for the ride to the trauma center as you did for your Miata.
What to bring:
- You, Friends, Camera, Miata.
- You may wish to bring along a sweater or jacket as it will get chilly up there after dark.
- Raincoat, if we go in the rain.
- Cash if you plan on going on for dinner as the burger stand doesn't take plastic.
- Gas. You'll want a full tank of gas as there won't be any gas stations between Fontana and Tellico Plains.
- FRS/GMRS Radio for communications, it may help, especially if there are several spread out in the group and people relay messages
8:45 PM in Tellico Plains according to the Internets http://sunrisesunset.com/.
Which means we'll want to be at the overlook by 8:40 PM at the latest. I'm trying to shoot for between 8:20 PM and 8:30 PM so there's some time to hang out and socialize before the sun drops.
A couple years ago I tried organizing two groups and that was a bit of a nightmare, not to mention the mess that ensued when we all tried to squeeze onto the Cherohala from two directions at Santeetlah Gap, so I'm doing one official group from Fontana Village. Those of you who don't want to drive over to Fontana (staying in Robbinsville), please feel free to set up a second group from the school across from the Phillips motel.
Given that it's Thursday night, we should be ok to stage in the area next to the General Store where the vendors will be set up. If that's crowded, we can shoot for the lot next to the Gunter Cabin up the hill near the Wildwood Grill.
Please be in the staging area by 7:00PM. At 7:10 PM I'll do a quick briefing and then we're off.
IMPORTANT: If the restrooms are open when I do the drive-through prior to Thursday, I may amend this on the fly and have us leave earlier.
We'll depart the lot no later than 7:15PM. The Great and Mighty Google says it is 1 hour 5 minutes from Fontana to the Overlook. So that should put us there in plenty of time, with a buffer for late start. Traditionally, we've run up to Hooper's Bald and stopped for a bit to socialize, but to that place is a PITA to get everyone into and get turned around. In years past, we were lined up from the entrance all the way in and back down again and basically blocked the whole thing off... and to beat that, the bathrooms were closed anyway.
Once we depart, we'll head up Rhymers Ferry to Meadow Branch which comes out on US129 just below Tapoco Lodge. We'll head from there to Joyce Kilmer National Forest and onto the Cherohala, and on to the Santeetlah overlook.
NOTE: This is subject to change based on a trial run earlier in the week.
I'm shooting to head straight on to the Santeetlah overlook instead, get there a bit early and do some socializing and such there and then watch a gorgeous Carolina/Tennessee Sunset. Seems like a better idea that trying to squeeze up to 60 cars into one overlook only to move them all to a second one just a mile up the road. That said, if enough people WANT to stop at Hooper Bald for the restrooms, I'll amend this to accommodate that stop. As mentioned above, I'll check them out earlier in the week.
Here's a link to El Map De Google: https://goo.gl/tbC83K
Extra BONUS (Burgers and Ice Cream):
At this point, you're free to head back, or if you want to continue with the group, several of us usually head on down into Tellico Plains for burgers and/or ice cream at a shack down by the river. From there, we head back and usually stop at another overlook to star gaze and hang out, and... stuff.
Super Extended Happy Fun Bonus Map!: https://goo.gl/iECnUE" onclick="window.open(this.href);return false;
This starts at the end of the Sunset stop and goes to the Tellico Beach Drive-In down in Tellico Plains. It's about another 45 minutes from Santeetlah overlook. If you need gas, you can go on up the road a couple miles or so and there are a couple gas stations on that side of Tellico Plains. After some eating and hanging out by the river in the dark, we all head back. Some of us stop again up on the Cherohala, as I said, for star gazing, hanging out or whatever, some go on to get back to their cabin, tent, motel room, or wherever they're staying.
FRS/GMRS channel 05
CB channel 35 (If anyone actually has a CB, I'll probably leave mine alone)
Ham Radio Simplex (2m)146.55MHz
Yes, this is probably a little overthought, but I'm a software engineer, and I tend to be somewhat detail oriented or OCD
I'll have a 2m/440 Ham Radio and an FRS radio as well. We'll try to stick to the times as much as possible, but I don't want anyone left behind if we can help it. The pace will not be insane. I'm in a '91 BRG with a non-FI 1.6L. I won't be flying but it may be just a little spirited Just remember to NOT drive faster than your comfort zone. The beauty of Miatas is that even though every NA left the factory the same way, just about every one is different somehow, each perform a little differently (or a lot) and everyone drives with different levels of skill and comfort. Besides, we're out to enjoy a beautiful sunset, weather permitting, not win the "Who can get the best speeding ticket" contest.
Speaking of weather, I'm going, probably even if it's raining. The weather in the area can vary drastically at times, so it may be pouring down at Fontana but fairly nice up on the Cherohala. Or it could be awful the whole way... that's part of the fun.
Times may change depending on how the route actually drives out, so I'll keep this updated up to Wednesday the 2nd. If the whiteboard is posted in the General Store, I'll put updates there as well.
See you there!