It was the middle of nowhere yet it was the center of everything. I’d stumbled upon the birthplace of Tennessee.
I had low expectations. My research told me most of the roads I’d be riding today would hold little interest to the typical motorcycle rider who had come to ride The Dragon at Deals Gap and the Cherohala Skyway. None of the roads I’d ride on my 450+ mile travels would come anywhere close to those legends. Still, the morning held a surprise I never expected and made the efforts worthwhile.
Arriving in Tellico Plains, Tennessee, after an early morning motorcycle ride where I’d had the whole of the Cherohala Skyway to myself, I pointed my wheel north onto TN 360 and my workday began. Within a few miles I’d reach the point where I’d previously abandoned my search for great motorcycle rides and the explorations would resume. Rounding a curve a green street sign flashed past with a name I recognized and I clamped on the brakes to swing around.
I could rule this road out as soon as I saw it, it was doubtful it would be of any interest. Consulting my map, I saw it connected to another I wanted to investigate, so I snicked into first gear determined to make quick work of White Plains Road and move on.
It met Smoky Branch Road in a few miles where they both intersected Citico Road. I’d eventually loop back through Smoky Branch Road, also of little interest. Obviously Citico Road was the daddy in this area, the main thoroughfare of better quality, decent pavement, and sporting a faded double yellow line, a proper road.
I expected it would quickly peter out, but after several miles it continued to wind and snake through the mostly bland countryside and I started to wonder if it actually went somewhere in the big empty white space on the map. Curiosity aroused, I couldn’t resist investigating the Tanasi Memorial Site when the sign appeared.
Never heard of it. Turning the motorcycle onto Bacon Ferry Road I ventured out into the nothingness on the barely paved bumpy and potholed single lane that led out onto a low finger of land surrounded by Tellico Lake. I rode past the pull-off, but a quick glance towards the lake had me circling back when I saw the shoreside monument.
Capital of the Cherokee Nation
Origin of the Name for the State of Tennessee
The site of the former town of Tanasi, now underwater, is located about 300 yards west of this marker. Tanasi attained political prominence in 1721 when its civil chief was elected the first “Emperor of the Cherokee Nation”. About the same time, the town name was also applied to the river on which it was located. During the mid 18th century, Tansi became overshadowed and eventually absorbed by the adjacent town of Chota, which was to the immediate north. The first recorded spelling of Tennessee as it is today occured on Henry Timberlakes map of 1762. In 1796, the name Tennessee was selected from among several as most appropriate for the nation’s 16th state. Therfore, symbolized by this monument, those who reside in this beautiful state are forever linked to its Cherokee heritage.
I don’t much adhere to theories of “vortexes” or spirituality, but there’s something about this site that is powerful enough to make it worth a visit, it will be on the new map. It’s worth the ride out to it. See it if you have the chance.