On a gray and misty Saturday morning, three riders (BobK, Larry and Mike) met in Ball Ground for a trip across the incomparable Cherohala Skyway connecting Tellico Plains (far SE TN) with Robbinsville (far W NC).
The Cherohala was built to promote tourism in the area and the name combines the two national forests it passes through – the Cherokee and the Nantahala. The term “Skyway” applies because the road traverses the upper ridge lines of the southern Appalachians (elevation 3000’ – 5400’) and offers gorgeous vistas on both sides. Different than the Blue Ridge Parkway, the Skyway curves aren’t as tight and the road is paved wider and with numerous scenic turnouts, resulting in a better flowing, spectacular roadway perfect for motorcycles.
We left Ball Ground and took the fast lane to Blue Ridge, in rain gear mostly for the extra warmth it provided against the cooler-than-forecasted start of the day. After a coffee stop in Blue Ridge, we shed the rain pants, but still needed something over our summer mesh jackets. From there it was beautiful TN 68 to Tellico. We thoroughly enjoyed our trip across the Skyway and at the eastern end had a decision to make… backtrack the Skyway, then lunch in Tellico and home… or a quicker lunch in Robbinsville, then loop SW toward home. Food wins!
We found a lunch spot perfect for Bikers – The Hub – with BBQ and upscale American diner menu served on their large and casual covered patio. We’ll be back.
After lunch we finally felt the forecasted warmth and shed the extra gear. From Robbinsville, we traveled S to Topton (where the Nantahala Gorge begins), then took the fast lane down thru Andrews and Murphy to Blue Ridge, then 515 / 575 home to Cherokee. A 300 mile day of good riding and good company. What more can you ask for? Join us next time.
Is there a better time than fall for riding and camping in the north Georgia mountains? - No! Friday afternoon 5 riders (BobK, Dave, Larry, Mel, and Scott) sneaked away from work and met for an overnight ride to Suches. Beautiful sunny weather and a forecasted cool down awaited us. We traveled old favorite backroads like Grandview and 136 though the Burnt Mountain area and then Sunrise and Doublehead Gap around the west side of the forest to a well-deserved break at Van Zandt’s in Dial. Although we were seeing more clouds than sun, surely it wouldn’t rain on our camping parade?
At Dial, Dave, Larry and Mel split off to take forest service roads to Suches while BobK and Scott traveled “twisty 60” to our overnight destination, Two Wheels Only of Suches, or TWO. Since Bob and Scott made better time, they arrived first, picked a nice grassy area next to the creek and set up their tents – just before the skies opened up! Oh well, typical for Suches in the summer (elevation 3000’ – there’s a reason everything is so green). Dave/Larry/Mel were just exiting the forest when it started raining and made a mad dash to TWO’s porch and rockers to wait out the shower before setting up tents, staying (mostly) dry.
TWO had a nice crowd of riders from all surrounding states as well as a good contingent of locals. Steaks were great and the fellowship even better. The cool evening was perfect for a hot fire and cold beverages.
In the morning we enjoyed TWO’s hot breakfast, then broke camp. With no Saturday day-trippers joining us, we headed out early for an entirely traffic-free trip (!!) across Wolf Pen Gap toward Brasstown Bald. We rode the twisty spur up and back, but didn’t take in the overlook since prime leaf-peeping was still several weeks out. We also enjoyed light traffic to 75, then S to Helen where we “touristed it up” at King Ludgwig’s Biergarten for lunch and people watching – we weren’t disappointed, with either.
Here's are video clips from the ride
After lunch, Mel departed toward home in Athens while the rest of us partook the Richard Russell Scenic Highway northward, then 19 southward to a break at Neel’s Gap (on the AT) then on to Dahlonega. From there it was backroads to Dawson, then East Cherokee and home. Mileage was 235 for the two days and home by 3 PM. It was a great time and I doubt I can wait another year for another camp-n-ride opportunity. Join us next time.
Rust – a strange theme, but… Despite the long string of rainy weather, we lucked into the only “below 50%” day in what seemed like weeks for our August ride. Eight riders met Saturday morning for a run to the Foxfire Museum and Appalachian Heritage Center in far NE Ga (Larry, Dave, Garrett, Richard, Dennis, Bob K, Mike, and Dan). It was great to ride with a few who hadn’t joined us in some time.
( l to r) Garrett, Mike, Bob K, Dennis, Dave, Richard, Larry
We plowed thru 90% tropical humidity as we worked our way toward Cleveland where we met our 9th rider, Mel. Thankfully we didn’t stop long or the oppressive humidity would have rusted us in place. We continued on back roads thru Clarkesville, Tallulah Falls, then up 441 through Clayton. After a handful of missed turns (I’m rusty with my GPS!), we had to shake the rust off our off-camber stops and turns on tight mountain roads as we worked our way to the heritage center in Mountain City.
t was interesting envisioning Appalachian life as we toured the old log cabins and viewed the rusty farm relics so vital to them. As I was learning about “hog scalding”, I was amazed to hear stories from two of our riders who grew up helping their families with that activity around the holidays. Although we thoroughly enjoyed the chapel UP the hill, the humidity was taking its toll – time to roll.
We headed back south to Clayton for lunch at The Rusty Bike Café, a new stop for everyone. Food and service were excellent and we’ll certainly be back (maybe in Nov when we visit Tallulah Gorge for the water release?) My plan was to head SW by 1 PM to avoid the certain afternoon storms, but… As we left a little late, we could see the clouds building and begin to smell rain.
Rather than taking the busier 76 hwy toward the N end of Lake Burton, we tried a new route thru Tiger which took us on some gorgeous, lightly-traveled, curvy country roads skirting Lake Rabun and Lake Burton. Very pleasant and I’m sure we’ll add those to our redo list as well. One minute we were headed toward a dark storm, then we’d curve toward beautiful skies, only to curve toward rain again – both beautiful and nerve-wracking at the same time! After Lake Burton, Mel peeled off toward his home in Athens (and taking a dousing in the process). The rest of us managed to skirt all the storms as we worked our way to a well-earned ice cream break in Dahlonega. By this point we’d passed the most active storms and enjoyed a clear (and warm!) trip home via the back roads.
Here are a few clips from Dave's video:https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3lZm_vfA3H4
Mileage was 220. Join us next time.
Five of us took advantage of the first sunny day in a while to ride up to Two Wheels of Suches (aka TWO) for a day of their 2-Stroke and Vintage Weekend. Dan, Dave, Larry and Bob S. rode up from Hickory Flat via Clay Creek and Black Mountain while Mel rode in from Athens.
TWO's parking area was loaded with motorcycles of every description, many that were true classics of the seventies and eighties, others rare pristine models many of us have read about but never saw up close. Rather than try to describe bikes the turbocharged six cylinder Honda or the three cylinder 2-stroke Yamaha I'll let the videos tell the story.https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=w_gIT4SvG0w
All week long we watched the weather forecast for the Cloudland Canyon area for signs that the prediction for dawn-to-dusk thunder storms on Saturday would improve. It didn't. So the Friday before Saturday's ride out there, we decided to call in off and instead stick closer to home and manage around the afternoon storms called for here.
Thus the Consolation Ride (as in second place)
Our plan was to ride up to Dial in the early morning, assess the weather and if okay take the twisty sixty up to Suches and T.W.O and when there see the whereto next.
The ride up to Dial was enjoyable, as it usually is. We planned to take a rest stop at Van Zandt's Store, a remote, peaceful place where you could get a cup of coffee, sit on the porch on the rocker, and look over the fields and hills across the road. No more! When we arrived the parking area was filled with cars, trucks and raft carrying trailers. We shoe horned our bikes in to any available space and went inside: wall-to-wall folks waiting for breakfast or the restroom. Definitely not like it used to be. On the positive side the new owners may be able to keep the place open, Prior operators never seemed to last too long and the place was often locked up for extended periods.
Well the threatened thunderstorms never materialized. We had sunshine all day, and added a run over Wolf Pen Gap and down the Richard Russell to the route. Not a drop of rain fell on us.
Speaking of dropping, on the way home Bob's V-Strom,that has a family history of narcolepsy, succumbed to the heat and humidity and decided to lay down and rest under the Adair's Mill stop sign. Not unusual or a big deal, but it did manage to snap off the right peg. With a helping hand from the other riders (Dave, Mark, Garrett and Larry) a make-do peg was fashioned from a pillion peg and attached via bent wires and numerous zip ties. It did the trick and got us home.
While it was disappointing that we had to cancel the Cloudland Canyon ride the Consolation Ride turned out pretty good.