It’s Sunday night in Townsend, Tennessee and rain is pouring in a heavy, constant stream from the blanket of grey clouds slowly drifting toward the east. It’s the final day of the inaugural Smoky Mountain Crawl, a Honda Ruckus and Grom rally/ride presented by MNNTHBX, and this is the first sustained bout of inclement weather the region’s seen all weekend. As thunder shakes the walls of our room here at the Tremont Lodge, we can’t help but think that the heavens are laboring to fill a gap left by the absence of the collective cadence of hundreds of aftermarket exhausts at full scream. The deep, resounding din in question created by our group of riders with throttles pinned to the stop, nearly reaching, and some just exceeding, the posted 45 mph speed limit on this stretch of Highway 321.
The Smoky Mountain Crawl is the brainchild of Greg Hatcher at MNNTBX, specialists in custom Ruckus parts and accessories, and his band of cohorts. Intended to be a gathering of like-minded deviants, the SMC appeals to the dedicated Ruckus Nation and growing Grom contingent, providing an avenue for comradery and fantastic riding during the weekend of June 19-21. And by nearly all accounts it was a resounding success.
Now, we’ve been to events where those hundreds of roaring exhausts jut off the back of Harley-Davidsons as they rumble down Main Street and have stood just feet away from MotoGP riders picking it up out of full lean and getting hard on the throttle. Each experience was unique and made all the more memorable for the noise permeating the air. But the roaring Ruckuses made an equally unforgettable impression. Sound is an indelible part of the spiritual portion of the riding experience and is one of the things we will remember forever about the Smoky Mountain Crawl. The way the combined exhaust notes started to pulse when all the riders around you were at max throttle sent an invisible wave through the air that beat a mechanical rhythm into your body, focused your mind, facilitated an escape.
We got our first taste of that rumble as folks started trickling in during the mid-afternoon hours as sponsors put up their tents, laying out parts and t-shirts, stickers and other two-wheeled paraphernalia. During those preparatory hours we learned that companies were in from as far as California (Steady Garage), Canada (Mini Moto Lab) and New York (Makoa). More local companies like Composimo (North Carolina), K-Town Speed Shop and Honda of Knoxville were also in attendance. The supporting players also included the likes of Ruck House, Rucksters, ICON, Total Ruckus, FLP and Dorby Works among others, helping to provide MNNTHBX a cache of raffle swag that took a full trailer to transport to the Lodge.
Individuals cleared plenty of miles getting to east Tennessee as well but one guy named Lucky from Florida earned the respect of just about everyone he met at the rally, having come from his home on a Zuma 125 over the course of about two and a half days. When I talked to Lucky he was extremely humble about his journey, saying he never expected to get such a warm reception for his efforts. As you’d expect, the going was confined mainly to backroads and the pace was modest. He explained that he rode for 12 hours on the first day and a little less the second before arriving in the region. It was a big accomplishment for him and he was thrilled to have had the time on the road, infinitely thankful to his wife for letting him pursue the trip and completely ready to do it again next year. I caught up with Lucky at Deal’s Gap the next day and he was even more stoked than the day before, electrified by the 318 turns that he’d just completed.
Another guy brought in a Big Ruckus which he’d tricked out for full touring duty, and a look at the odometer (more than 30,000 miles) supported his assertion that he rode the bike absolutely everywhere.
Most everyone we spoke with shared a similar enthusiasm for the small-bore machines they brought along. Friday night was the chance for everyone to admire one another’s hard work and share the stories of their labors in getting the bikes dialed and looking sharp. This was supplemented by fantastic smoked chicken nachos (and other similar fare, I remember a brisket burger on the menu as well) from a local food truck and cold beer courtesy of Bluetick Brewery, a growing craft brewer from the nearby town of Maryville.
But, being in east Tennessee, as we learned, means that the weather can turn in the blink of an eye. In the span of about half an hour, we went from partly cloudy skies to a thick, torrential downpour. People scrambled to find shelter under the various vendors’ tents, under the awnings of the lodge or wherever else they and their machines could wait out the storm. After another half hour or so, the rain had passed and the sun returned, and people continued to roll in.
- The Rucati.
- A bit of rain passed through on Friday, but attendees rode it out and continued the party once the skies cleared.
- Clean custom Ruckus.
- Plenty of small bore machines at Deals Gap during the Smoky Mountain Crawl.
Once the field was nearly filled and the sun beginning to disappear over the horizon of the Great Smokys, Greg, MNNTHBX co-owner Kevin and the Scooter Man himself, Mark, got on stage to pull raffle tickets, unloading plenty of product on the crowd, from Ruckus and Grom parts to ICON helmets and lots of t-shirts, hurled by a makeshift t-shirt cannon named Brandon.
Perhaps it was aided by a few red Solo cups of Bluetick Cantaloupe Kolsch, but by the end of the night people that were perfect strangers just a few hours before were greeting one another as friends. People that had only ever known one another through model specific forums were sharing laughs and plans to ride the wheels off their bikes during the next two days.