04/23/2022 – Chapter Ride – Fort Loudon Historic Site

Date: 4/23/2022
Time: 9:30 KSU
Location: TC’S Grill.  2514 Old Niles Ferry Rd, Maryville, TN 37801

Members in the saddle:  (8)Gregory Stelly, Bryan Merriman, Tonya Merriman, Nick Johnson, Jared Robson, Mike Johnson, Rick Clark, Tommy Hudson,

Special thanks to Danny Jenkins, Billy Farnsworth, Debra Farnsworth & DJ Farnsworth for sharing breakfast with us and seeing us off.

The ride got off as scheduled with KSU from TC’s immediately after breakfast.  Our road captain had a quick safety training session with those not in attendance at the last membership meeting concerning group rides.  Then the ride itself was reviewed, followed by prayer and devotion courtesy of Tonya Merriman.

The first stop, the Fort Loudon Historic Site.  While the live fire cannon demonstration was the main draw for this stop, our first encounter was with a ‘reenactment’ historical figure.  He was looking out of a window in the first building, watching the entrance to the fort.  He engaged with us immediately, and intrigued by his good humor, we entered the ‘infirmary’ at our host’s invitation.  The man was portraying a historical British doctor that served at the fort.  In real life, he was a veteran of Desert Storm.  My humble apologies, but both his real name, and the name of the character he portrayed escape me.  It’s a real shame, as he regaled us with period information, the use of a wide variety of medical instruments, and the state of health ministrations in use at that time in history.  Given that many of the displayed devices looked like they were spawned from the Spanish Inquisition, many chapter members asked for demonstrations of some of the more horrific tools, and procedures, and volunteered the road captain as a subject.

While this was all in good fun, the road captain did not want to miss the artillery demonstration, and fearing personal harm, thought it would be best to just go stand in front of the cannon.  Fearfully, steathily, and in great haste, our road captain escaped the confines of the infirmary for open air.

As for missing the cannon demonstration, not to worry.  It seems our previous host was actually the artillery commander, so we could have remained with him the entire time, except for the abject fear instilled in our road captain for his own personal safety.  It turns out that this was a new gun crew, today was their first time working together as a unit.  As a result, the artillery officer took things very slowly, and there was a dry run without firing the cannon.  Confident that no mistakes needed to be addressed in the practice routine, the team continued onward to the first live fire of the cannon. 


A rather diminutive cannon produces a sizable boom.  When the ooohs & aaaahs eventually calmed down, our previous host, and current artillery commander gave us an explanation as to the smaller size of the cannon.  Fort Loudon was in a remote location, and their support & supply chain was in fact, on the other side of the mountain.  As a result, transported items were limited to the back of a single horse, and could not weigh more than 150#.  (this limit was imposed by the rough terrain.)  The cannon demonstrated weighed 300#, and was left on the east side of the mountains.  Subsequently, Fort Loudon was overrun.  This fort was the first time a British fort in a colony was lost.  The British returned to re-occupy the fort, but this time a strategy was employed to carry the 300# cannons, in tandem, over the backs of two horses.  I say all this to state that this was the largest cannon the British could successfully transport to the remote fort.

While this little history lesson was going on, preparations were underway to demonstrate a second weapon.  Forgive me for not recalling the name, but it was a very long flintlock requiring two men, or one man and a rigid post.  (the weapon displayed had a yoke descending from the forearm of the rifle to ‘straddle’ a fence, thus providing vertical stability, as well as a means of absorbing recoil)  This weapon was surprisingly louder than the cannon, but had a different pitch to it.  It lacked the lower bass boom of the cannon.  After this, a second demonstration of the cannon, followed by a full explanation of each of the soldiers duties, and the safety reasons behind that duty.

With our first objective accomplished, we left the Fort Loudon site bound for lunch in Tellico Plains.  Mike Thompson took the opportunity to exit the group ride, and head home.  Bryan, Tonya, and Rick came as far as Tellico Plains with us, but opted out of lunch, and said their goodbyes at a quick stop.

Greg, Jared, Nick and Tommy settled down to lunch @ the Iron Works Grille.  Great fellowship and an enjoyable meal blessed our day.

Digesting our food in the shade of the parking lot, as bikers are prone to do, we admired the array of motorcycles in the parking lot.  Eventually, we were all drawn to a breathtaking two-tone blue/purple paint job on a customized Harley.  (is customized Harley redundant?  aren’t ALL Harley’s customized?)  In no time at all, another biker approached, presumably to admire the same ride we were admiring.  Wrong!  It was the owner.  We raved about his bike, and he opened up immediately.  (true bikers open up when their bike is the center of the conversation)  In short order, Ira accepted and received a bike blessing from the four of us.  A blessing that included his wife who was not present, as well as his safe return to her.
On to the Cherahola Skwy.  The quicker pace of a smaller group was a welcome change, as it no longer felt like a ‘group ride’, as much as just a couple friends out to chew up some asphalt.  A quick stop @ Bald River Falls prompted the most adventurous one of our gropu to go wading in the water, laughing, splashing, and much stone skipping.  Under no pressure to meet a schedule, we stayed until the youngster had enough.  With the single exception of a slower group of 4 ahead of us, we rolled through the Skwy unfettered by any worldly concerns.  Rolling into the Robbinsville area, our road captain elected to detour through the Joyce Kilmer National Forest Recreation Area.  At the one, and only decision point, the road captain recognized the correct right hand turn a little late to make it gracefully, and elected to go straight through the intersection to make a quick visit to an overlook ahead.  The sign reading “NO OUTLET” did not diminish his resolve as he knew there was a parking lot ahead with plenty of room to make a U-turn.  Unbeknownst to him, following a gentle left hand sweeper, we encountered a tree that had fallen completely across the road.  Not to be intimidated, our captain boldly led four motorcycles to a u-turn on a two-lane highway by utilizing as much of the right hand shoulder as was needed.

Our next stop was @ Deal’s Gap/Crossroads of Time.  Rest, refreshment, and more fellowship, we continued on 129 to take on the Dragon.  With a smaller group, our road captain was confident in setting the pace as the three trailing bikes were always visible.  As the following distances shrunk, our captain gradually increased our pace to a graceful, rhythmic ride to everyone’s enjoyment.

Our road captain left us turning left to ride through Happy Valley, while we continued on 129 to a final separation.

What a GREAT RIDE!To all that missed it, we MISSED YOU!
Until next time!


Ride Info:

Continue down US129.  Turn right on US72, then left on US411.  Toru fort & witness live fire cannon demonstration.  Down US360 for lunch in Tellico Plains.  Out the Cherohola Skyway to Moonshine 28, then through Deals Gap to return to Maryville. 

4-1/2 hours saddle time, 168 miles.

Fort Loudon & then some