Well we had it all, sun, clouds, cold, wind, rain, and snow...but we had a blast.
No sooner than the five of us (Richard, Al, Jarrod, Garrett and yours truly) headed north from Hickory Flat we could see dark clouds forming far to the north. Probably we thought, that's the rain they forecasted for late afternoon.
Our plan was to ride over to Silver City then up Ga 9 and cross country to catch Ga 115 near Garland on our way to Cleveland's McD to meet Tad and Mel coming up from more eastern areas. But you know about plans. Soon after we got to Silver City we came upon warning signs about a road closure. Sure enough Ga 9 was closed north of Dawson Forest. We changed plans and crossed Ga 400 onto Ga 136 and after negotiating cross country, picked up Ga 115 and headed to Cleveland as planned. In Cleveland we got to study the workings of the McD franchise and interview locals in the parking lot, while Mel and Tad scouted a new route to Cleveland via Tallulah Falls.
Once the seven of us were together we rode toward Helen but wisely turned east at the Indian Mound and again north at Sautee Nacoochee. Soon we were on Smuggler's Road passing Lake Burton and Moccasin Creek State Park, on the way to Lookout Mountain Scenic Parkway (aka US 76). Turning west onto US 76 we rode over to Hiawassee for lunch (Ga Mountain Restaurant) and talk about what we would find riding up Bell Mountain. Would the grade and hairpin turns be a hazard if jeeps were on the "trail"? Would the three scooters, without engine braking to speak of, overheat their brakes on the way down? These and other concerns were put to rest by Jarrod, who had been up the mountain on his dual sport before, and some of the locals who reassured us as well.
Right they were. Yes it was a steep slope and the switch backs were tight and often close together, but unless you met head on with a four wheeler with a nervous driver, it was very doable, even pleasant. On top the view was fantastic, and if you climbed the new stairs to the very top, a 360 degree view was afforded
(l-r) Garrett, Mel, Al, Bob, Jarrod, Richard, Tad
From on top we could see snow beginning to form on some distant mountains in North Carolina. By the time we headed down Bell, snow flurries were frequent and, and at the lower elevations rain showers started off and on.
Here's a video of the trip: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9kDRFVJl8To
The ride home was down Ga 75, again bypassing Helen. After a stop in Dahlonega at the top of Ga 400 we were back in Hickory Flat within an hour.
It seems everyone enjoyed the adventure. Total mileage was around 210 (more if you came via Tallulah Falls LOL)
Well we didn't get the high 60's Mellish promised but we settled for what could be considered a very mild February day. Six of us headed out from Ball Ground at 10:20 taking little used backroads. The back road sights, sounds and smells make a ride interesting and at least to some riders much preferred over the much faster, and boring Interstates. Damascus Road and Henderson Mountain get a thumbs up, as does Jerusalem Church Road.
Soon however we had to make time going west so we hopped on Ga 136 for a fast ride over to Ga 225, aka Chieftains Trail, purported to be the route of part of the Trail Of Tears. There's nothing much to see on Ga 136 west of US 411 but lots of chicken houses, sometimes whole villages of them.
Ga 225 took us south toward Calhoun but soon after crossing the Coosawattee we turned into the grounds of the New Echota Historic Site, the capital of the Cherokee Nation abandoned as part of the Indian Removal of the 1830's.
This was not the peak tourist time for New Echota. There were few visitors and only two rangers on duty, one of whom was on lunch break when we arrived. Only a few of the less interesting buildings were open but one of the rangers caught up with us on the grounds and opened up the print shop. The ranger spent a good deal of time with us, not only describing the printing history but also filling us in on a wide range of subjects relative to the Cherokees of yesterday and today.
From New Echota we headed into Calhoun for lunch following a simple route.. 225 to 3 to Ga 53. What should have been a fifteen minute ride turned into a lengthy, and comical tour of the hills of Calhoun, as road signs marking the way were either confusing or nonexistent. It took two GPS' and some dumb luck to finally get on track.
We stopped for lunch at the "Classic Kitchen", a place none of us had been to before, but had good reviews. We worried a bit when we sat down in an empty room, but when the food was served all was well.
After lunch we rode Ga 53 over to Fairmount then got back on backroads to Ball Ground. In spite of the overcast coolish day all riders seemed to enjoy the ride.
Here's a link to a short video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-27el-Br_nI
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.
They finally got to ride most of the route planned for mid-December, and were lucky; no ice, no snow and Spring like temperatures
Seven riders (Dave, Steve D.,Dennis, Garrett, Richard, Tad and Bob S.) took off from Hickory Flat heading, in a round about way, to Amicalola Falls State Park and lunch at the lodge. The route there passed through areas of near forgotten names such as Holbrook, Ducktown, Heardville and Hightower, then onto Kelly Bridge Road and Lovelady over to the Foothills junction near Big Canoe.
After a brief stop at the Chevron the group rode east to take in the scenery in the Sweetwater-Juno countryside. Soon they made their way to the Bailey Waters intersection with Ga 52 and from there over to Amicalola Falls State Park.
In past years motorcycles entering the park for lunch at the lodge were waived through the park's entrance without paying any fee. While still a free entry the attendant insisted on filling out a temporary permit for each motorcycle. The cars behind were not pleased.
The steep ride up to the lodge showed signs of heavy sanding of ice from last weeks ice-snow storm. Its doubtful if any guests made it up (or down) for a day or two. Lunch was being served when they arrived. They were lucky to find a table for seven near the massive windows overlooking the forest. During weekends there is no lunch menu but rather a well stocked food bar. No one complained about the food but the price was a surprise. In past year's the tab was somewhere under $10 but now it's somewhere around $17 unless one takes advantage of the various discounts (senior, annual park pass, veteran) that bring the tab back to were it used to be.
After lunch the group was hooted out of the lodge by a very vocal owl that was part of the Raptor Show put on by the Park Rangers. Back in the parking area a few of the guys looked over the new zip-line facility. It doesn't appear to be as extensive as the zip-lines they previously enjoyed over in Lula but it may be a nice addition to a future ride to the park.
After leaving the park the group rode over to Ga 136 then over the mountain to Grandview (the lake is almost empty) then Ga 53 past the marble buildings in Tate to pick up Fincher Road going south toward Waleska. Before entering Waleska they turned onto Pleasant Valley Road and rode to its end at Salacoa Road. A quick mile east on Ga 140 brought them to the twisty Little Refuge Road adjacent to Lake Arrowhead, that ended back on Fincher. They headed south, but before reaching Ga 20 they took a slow and respectful ride through the Veteran's Cemetery. This is nicely done, a credit to the builders and the Canton man who donated the hundreds of acres necessary for its construction.
Here's short video of highlights https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=StS3Xy-1VlI&feature=youtu.be
From there it was a short ride home (except for Tad) and the close of a great day on two wheels.
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.