After a brief meeting at McDonalds, Larry, Tad and Bob S. headed west on Knox Bridge Road to get on Stamp Creek Road headed for White. It was windy and cold but no rain was expected. The new intersection at Ga 108 is open and White Road access no longer complicates the situation as it is now up 108 a short distance.
The ride west on Stamp Creek is always a delight and this day was no exception. After passing through White the three headed north on US 411 a few miles then took East Valley Road over and up to US 140 and then back to US 411 by way of Knucklesville Road.
A short hop up US 411 took them to Johnson Mountain Road. Heading in to the open country at the base of the mountain has the feel of ranch country in Wyoming. To complete that picture it looked as if a cattle auction was in progress on the ranch grounds.
At the top of Johnson Mountain Road they they picked up Townsend Teague Road and others to reach Ga 53 and a westerly ride to Fairmount for some coffee and "hot" boiled peanuts. (Riders should note that Irwin Mill Road was closed as a brush fire was in progress).
After the break the riders headed south to Salacoa Road that took that over to Jerusalem Road and a ride up to Henderson Mountain that sports new pavement but retains the steep hills that have always been fun.
The riders then headed over to Jasper for lunch at 61 Main.The town parking lot had some space but they were all reserved for this and that so we borrowed a few spots in the bank's parking area (the bank was closed).
After lunch we sought out the Old Burnt Mountain Road as a shortcut over to Ga 136. The last mile of our shortcut is gravel, but Tad, on his Silver Wing had no trouble on it at all. Ga 136 never disappoints. The air was clear (and windy) affording great views, especially now that many leaves are down.
Here's a video of some of the scenes: https://vimeo.com/192450782
After a break at the Foothills Chevron they headed home by way of Sperin Road, Conn's Creek and Ga 372. Total mileage was around 150 miles.
It was a great, color-filled ride on roads often overlooked.
Early Friday afternoon (off from work!), six riders met in Ball Ground to begin the Fall Camp-n-Ride-n-Fly (Larry, Dennis, Scott, Dave, Richard, and Mel who came over from his now-home, Athens). Though the week produced three record-warm days, an unusually brisk north wind told us that wasn't in our cards. Our goal was to ride to Suches and tent camp at Two Wheels Only and enjoy a Carbon Cub Fly-in held at nearby High Valley (Ga's highest airstrip).
Dave, Larry, Richard, Mel, Scott, Dennis
We began our leisurely ride toward Suches by way of Grandview road east of Jasper and the always-enjoyable Sunrise Ridge north toward Amicalola, adding layers as the temps slid downward. At Nimbelwill Church (off 52), Mel, Larry and Dave split off and took forest service roads to top of the mountain (3200') and then enjoyed fast, well-groomed gravel all the way to Suches. Scott, Dennis and Richard proceeded on 52 to Dahlonega, then enjoyed the "twisty 60" up to Suches.
We arrived with plenty of daylight left to set up tents by the brook, but our "brisk breeze" had grown to "one red flag - gale force" wind - extra tent stakes required! - and no sign of any Carbon Cubs in the air. The lodge at TWO was warm and we enjoyed meeting other riders like a couple of upstate New Yorkers in the middle of a 12 day ride around the southeast. Dinner was good and very busy as the Suches locals have claimed TWO as their new Friday night meet spot. After dinner, the high winds made campfires difficult as we continually shifted to avoid the smoke and embers. It was an early night for all.
At breakfast we marveled at surviving the night's 40 MPH wind gusts - and it was looking doubtful we'd see any flying Cubs today. Tad rode up from Duluth and Bob S, Steve D, and Garrett rode up from Woodstock and met us at High Valley. We enjoyed looking over the 10 or so planes at the fly-in and learning about their capabilities from their affable pilots. Then, one salty old pilot dared to hit the skies. He asked a few of our riders to hold down his plane while he un-tethered the wings (Carbon Cubs only need 31 mph to lift!). It was a thrill to watch him battle the winds as he flew out of High Valley.
Tad, Bob S., Scott, Larry, Brave Pilot
The group then remounted their bikes and headed for Wolf Pen Gap, one of the more challenging roads in the area. Negotiating the twists and turns while remaining cognizant of on-coming vehicles of all types, and possible debris or gravel on the roadway, requires a rider's full attention. Still unseen hazards can take a rider down. This happened to one of our most skilled riders, Tad, as he rounded one of the last downhill curves. When the bike went down it slid across the road and apparently dented an oncoming car. Fortunately Tad appeared to not have any broken bones, but his Aprilia took a hit on the right side and headlight nacelle.
After dealing with the Union County Sheriff, the group, including Tad, got going again heading for lunch, not in Helen as originally planned (too crowded with "Oktoberfest" celebrants), but further south in Cleveland at the Creekside Deli.
At lunch we did the math and figured we had enough time to continue the ride as planned so the group soon retraced their path back north and got on one of their favorite rides, the Richard Russell Scenic Parkway. From the top of the RR they rode over to US 129 and up past Blood Mountain and down to Turners Corner, then bypassed Dahlonega heading home.
https://vimeo.com/190620157 for a video recap
In spite of the cold, wind, disappointments, mishaps and unusually crowded roads a good time was had by all.
Dave, Steve D., and Bob S. hoped the weather forecast on their smart phones was correct, though the sky said otherwise, as they headed north at 8:30. When they got past Jasper they got their first glimpse of the mountains, shrouded in dark clouds. Even closer-by Sharptop's peak was in a cloud.
Not to worry. They continued north heading over Sassafras and down to Cartecay to pick up rural Rackley Road over to Roy Road with its abrupt, ninety degree turns, that never fail to take you by surprise. Then they continued north passing the forest road heading up to Springer Mountain, the southern terminus of the Appalachian Trail.
Soon they were on Aska Road and took a break at a breakfast restaurant in Blue Ridge. By this time the blue-sky patches outnumbered the clouds and rain seamed off the agenda for a while.
After passing over the dam that impounds the Toccoa River to form Lake Blue Ridge, they followed Old 76, aka Veteran's Memorial Parkway, and reached Ga 60 near Morganton. Ga 60, from Morganton to Suches, is a favorite motorcycle path, having numerous sweeps and turns interspersed with open pastoral vistas. However, this day, for the first time, forward motion was often impeded by cages that freaked out on every turn. with no recognition of the line of vehicle tailing behind them. It was the first, but not the last moving road blocks encountered.
Entering Suches they headed for TW of Suches, aka TWO, for lunch. They were not alone. Every seat on the wrap-around porch was occupied with riders and the parking lot was full of motorcycles of every description and purpose. Surprisingly the restaurant was only sparsely occupied and the line for lunch, short.
After lunch they headed east on Wolf Pen Gap Road, renowned as Georgia's Tail of the Dragon. The dragon was tame this day as once again cars, and to a lesser extent bicycles, kept passage slowed through much of the ride over to Vogel State Park. Perhaps this was a good thing, as the Georgia State Patrol was sitting off the road, out of sight, on the straight stretch along the park's lake. You've got to believe a lot of riders pour it on at that point, after coming out of the gap's twisties. LEO's were on many of the roads this Saturday, really discouraging any quick double yellow passes,
Unfortunately this road hogging repeated coming down from Blood Mountain, in spite of numerous designated "Slow Vehicle Turn Out" areas all the way down, almost to Turner's Corner.
After a pass through Dahlonega, and a break at the local Chevron, they headed down Auraria and River Roads, skirting Dawsonville, and soon arrived home.
A great ride in spite of the occasional crowding on the road. In total a little over 200 miles, with lots of clouds but not a drop of rain fell on them.
Our route plan would have had us taking back roads up to Blue Ridge, then up to Tennessee. However we decided to take the express way (575/515) to allow more time in the mountains before the promised 90+ degree temperatures prevailed. So, the six of us (Dennis,Steve D.,Larry, Tad, Mike and Bob S.) hopped on the Interstate , made our way past the ubiquitous traffic lights in the Jasper area, to arrive for breakfast at the ever crowded McD at the turn off for Ga 5.
Steve, Larry, Bob, Tad, Mike, Dennis
After our stop we headed up Ga 5 to McCaysville and crossed over the Toccoa River into Tennessee. A quick ride up Tn 68 brought us to US 64/74 and a turn west heading for the Ocoee River gorge. This is a beautiful area with the highway positioned between vertical cliffs and the river. We were not alone enjoying the area. Kayaks, canoes and rafts dotted the waterway, with many running the rapids past the power station dam.
Around the point where the river settles down to a lake we turned on to a forest service road (77) and started the curvy climb up to the Chilhowee Overlook. The view from the overlook was good but soften a bit by summer haze. We all made note that a Winter ride here should be in our plans
Further up FS77, on our way to the Recreation Area we came across a group of pick-ups and folks with dogs, radio receivers sporting antennas. We had come across a scene like this on a previous ride on the Cherohala Skyway. In that case the people were keeping track of dogs that were hunting bears. Although the bear hunting with dogs season was still a few weeks off we guess these folks were "warming up'.
The trip down the mountain offered two alternatives: one, the way we came up, the other a unknown-to-us dirt/gravel road that would be a short cut to our path along the west side of the mountain. Three of us were riding dual sport bikes, the other three street-only bikes. We opted to send Larry on his KLR down the dirt/gravel road (Benton Springs Road) to scout it for future use, while the rest of us went back down the way we came up, planning to meet Larry at the foot of his descent.
The meet-up with Larry went smoothly and we all headed north to pick up Tn 30 going east toward Reliance. Our route plan would have had us turn north onto Tn 315 and head for Tellico Plains but instead we stayed on Tn 30 and headed south back to the Ocoee.
The ride east along the river had us all wishing we could beat the heat and cool off in the river, but instead we road through and stopped at a Hardees for lunch and a lot of talk about the events of the day. After lunch and a fuel fill we backtracked through Copperhill and McCaysville and on to the four lane for the trip home.
Video of Ride: https://youtu.be/8oJ1bqqIUcE
It was a good ride, even in the heat. My round trip mileage from home was 235 miles.
During the week we kept our eyes on the weather report for Saturday the 16th and watched it change daily from lots of thunderstorm activity to, a clear day, then back again to thunderstorms. By Friday we stopped looking and decided come-what-may we were taking off early Saturday, unless we were in the midst of a gully-washer.
As it turned out Saturday morning was clear and a little cooler than it had been. Ten of us (Garrett, Dave, Larry, Steve D., Mel, Bob K., John, Scott, Tad and Bob S.) headed north on "secret" backroads aiming for Silver City, and Ga 9. After a stop at the Chevron outside Dahlonega we headed north to Stone Pile Gap and then, rather than follow our usual route to Suches, we rode over toward Helen to pick up the Richard Russell Scenic Byway at its foot at Ga 75a.
The newish pavement on this southwest side of the RR was a delight, making the curves up to the summit fast and enjoyable. Past the summit however only one lane of the road was repaved, leaving our side, going down, littered with just enough gravel in the curves to make the going "interesting" at times.
Before reaching the end of the RR at Ga 180 three of the V-Stromers and Larry on his KLR decided to short cut over to US 129 by way of Helton Creek Falls. A short cut it wasn't, as a short way in one of the Stroms and its rider took a dunk in the creek. No significant damage but lots of water-filled boots from getting the bike upright in moving water.
About the time the "pavement" riders were about to turn onto Wolf Pen Gap Road at Vogel they realized they were one rider short, Mel. Bob K. and Scott backtracked onto the RR to see if Mel had any trouble, but came back without seeing him. We tried cellphone but had inadequate signal strength. After waiting a while we decided to go ahead through Wolf Pen Gap to Suches hoping the off-roaders and Mel, knowing we were stopping at TWO for lunch, would catch up there; they did.
At lunch Tad, who was running low on fuel, walked back a short way to the see if the station/store on the corner had gasoline. No luck, their pump handles were bagged (or missing altogether). Rather than head down Ga 60 directly to Dahlonega for the nearest gas, Tad figured he had enough fuel to take the R-Ranch-Clay Creek way down to Ga 9 with rest of us, and gas up there at the Chevron we stopped at in the morning. About 3/4 of the way there it looked as if he was going dry, so we pulled into a Baptist Church's parking lot to siphon some gas from Larry's KLR (aka the Exxon Valdez) but found Garrett had a liter fuel bottle that was used instead. That done, we continued on toward Clay Creek Falls only to discover a country store with gas pumps a short way down the road. Tad and others filled up there and we headed for the Foothills area south of Big Canoe.
After pulling into the Foothill's Chevron the clouds that had been gathering unloaded and bikes, but not riders, got a good wash down. After perhaps fifteen minutes or so the downpour slowed and we were on our way home on what soon turned into dry roads and sunshine.
For a short video (go full screen HD) https://youtu.be/pTkJ8a33xlQ
Total mileage was less than 200, probably close to the 184 the H-D Planner calculated.