Summer in the Mountains 2005+
Thursday June 23, 2005
It is nice to hit the road in the early morning when the sun has yet to fill the morning sky. The eastern sky slowly gives up its darkness as the sun slowly rises. By the time it is full light, I am passing the rest area just north of Cordele.
I have a mission today. First I need to survey the area around Michele’s lake house and find a spot to park the bus. We are going to visit with her on July 4th weekend. I stop in Perry to get a little breakfast at Chick-fil-a. A quick biscuit and coke, and away I go again.
As I near the lake area, I start looking at the GPS searching for a campground in the area. Ideally, we would park on the street near Michelle’s house and just run the generator when we need power. A ride down her street makes it very obvious that there would be no bringing the bus in here. There is just too much bus and too little road.
I head for Madison, where the GPS tells me that there is a campground just south on highway 129. I pull up to the campground and see that there are plenty of pull through sites, which will make it easy to get the bus in and out. I go to the office and talk to Judy who tells me there should be no reason to make a reservation, just come on up.
One mission down and one to go. Now, I am going to look at property in Clayton, Georgia. I am hoping to find a place to park the bus and leave it so that we can go to the mountains and have a place to stay.
I call Howard Silverman and set up a time to meet him.
I stop in Commerce for a quick lunch at Chick-fil-a. After I eat, I stop at a gas station and fill up. I decided to borrow their bathroom, and I discover that there is no one there. The gas pumps are on and working so I fill up and head off again.
I meet Howard and look at three pieces of property, but just can’t find something to suit me. Maybe we will look at some more later.
I have made reservations at the Hampton Inn in Franklin North Carolina, which is just up the road from Clayton. I go to Hampton Inn for the points and air miles. I shopped around the area that I was going to be in, and found Franklin the cheapest. I think I paid around $80.00 a night. This gets me a room, and breakfast.
I decide to get something to eat, and remember a restaurant that Elaine and I stopped at on one of our trips. The Sagebrush is located about 30 miles away, but that is just a nice little evening ride. I tried their trout, which turned out to be very tasty.
On the ride back, I had to put on a light jacket. Boy this is a refreshing difference from the heat of South Georgia. I get back just as it is getting dark. It is time to go to the room, answer my e-mails and work on my e-bay items. That is the other thing I like about Hampton Inn, high speed internet connections. I work for about an hour and then off to bed. I like to get up early and be on the road at the crack of dawn.
Friday June 24, 2005
I have finished breakfast and started loading my bike for the day. Ice for the ice chest, GPS, maps, and etc. There is a group of guys riding mostly Harley’s that are staying at the same motel. It seems they gather every year to ride together. I talk with Ron Blanton, a corporate pilot from New Jersey. It seems he has a GL1800 also, but is riding his Harley Ultra Classic with a side car. He tells me that his group is from all around. The places I remember are South Carolina, New York, Texas, and Florida. I am sure I have left out some of the places. They are headed to Deals Gap and the Cherahola Skyway.
I have found a little road that leaves Franklin going north, highway 28. It looks like a small back country road on the map. I have decided to ride as many small roads as I can find today. Highway 28 is a good road. There are a few curves and lots of great scenery. I consider it good scenery when you get to see the family farms and how real people live in the area.
I had thought about going to Maggie Valley and to the Wheels through Time museum, but changed my mind when I remembered that this was one of the stops for the Honda Hoot crowd. I figure I will go there when it isn’t so crowded. I had forgotten the Honda Hoot was this weekend in Knoxville until one of the Harley riders I met last night at the motel asked me if I was here for the Hoot. I looked it up on the internet and actually thought about riding over there, but my distaste for crowds and the fact I did not have a lot of time, made me decide not to go.
The other road I had spied on the map was highway 209 which is just east of Great Smoky Mountains Park and off of I-40. It runs from Crabtree to Hot Springs. But as I neared GSMP I just couldn’t resist the urge to ride through the park. Also I wanted to go to Clingman’s Dome to say I have been to the highest point in Tennessee. I took the side road and rode to the top. While I was stopped there, a Harley guy and his wife stopped right next to me. I did not write his name down, so I cannot tell you who he was, but he came from Oklahoma. They are heading for the Parkway and then north.
Well, I have been to the top of Clingman’s Dome so off I go again. I finish riding the park and now I am heading for highway 209. To get there, I have to go through Gatlinburg. Wow is this town ever crowded. Traffic is almost at a standstill. It seems to take forever to get through town. I am looking for highway 321 which will take me to I-40 which will take me to 209.
Highway 209 is just what I expected. This is a great road among roads. There is a lot to look at and good road to ride. As I am coming into Hot Springs, I decide it is time to find food. My Hampton Inn breakfast is wearing off.
I stop at a local Bar-b-que restaurant. I stopped there because the place was surrounded by motorcycles. I figure this many bikers can’t be wrong. I was surprised to find that there is no air conditioning at this establishment. I found a table on the screen porch and ordered a Miller Lite and bar-b-que sandwich.
As I am eating, I notice that there is a Blue GL1800 just like mine in the parking lot. I make a comment to the owner that I like the color of his bike. He made a comment back to me that he liked it also. He said he traded a 2003 bike in on this one. Let’s see, why would anyone, in their right mind, trade in a 2003 for a 2001. I found out that his bike is actually a 2005 and this is the new blue color. It looks so close to the 2001 blue, that it is hard to tell the difference. He was riding with a group of sports bikes. He started suiting up in what looked to me to be a heavy long sleeve suit and pants. I asked him if that wasn’t hot, after all it probably 90 degrees outside. He said it wasn’t hot and that you have to “dress to go down”. I don’t know about the rest of y’all, but I am not going to burn up in a suit like that. After all, I am not going to “dress to go down”.
After he left the restaurant he stood in the hot sun for at least 15 minutes talking before they left. You can’t tell me that a guy standing around in one of those black suits in the hot sun is not sopping wet underneath. Maybe that’s why it’s not too hot, because of all of the moisture underneath.
There were a group of Goldwing riders who left shortly after the crotch rocket group. As they were loading up, a couple walked across the street and were standing around a jeep just in front of the Goldwings. I could hear the women in the group giving a good natured ribbing to the girl that was standing beside the jeep leaning in. I did not know what was going on until the Goldwings backed up and we were given an unobstructed view of the girl’s backside with both cheeks of her ass showing as plain as day. I believe every male in the place moved closer to the screen to get a better look, me included.
She actually had on what looked like a bathing suit with a verrrry short little skirt. She either had on a thong bikini, or nothing, under that. While she and her boyfriend walked back across the street, we were all given a very fine view of her backside. The guy standing beside me gave off a little whistle under his breath, and said “WOW”. I tend to agree. Now I know why they call it Hot Springs.
While I finished my meal, I had my atlas out and finally made the decision to ride up Mount Mitchell. I will go up over the north side, and then down to the Parkway and ride the Parkway to Mount Mitchell. This was all fine and good until I started to get on the Parkway and the road is closed. It appears that the repair work from the hurricanes in the fall of 2004 has not been finished. If I want to go to Mount Mitchell, I will have to go to Asheville and get on the Parkway and ride north 30 miles. I decide to forgo the trip to Mount Mitchell this trip.
I get on the Parkway just north of Asheville and head south. I take a leisurely pace (what other pace can you take) as I head south. I work my way back to Franklin enjoying the ride.
When I get back, the Harley guys have pulled out their chairs and coolers full of beer and are recounting their day’s journey. They look to be having a great time. I talk with them for a while and then head to my room. I catch up on my e-mail and auctions on e-bay and then decide to walk down the hill to the Bar-b-que place just below the motel. When I get there, I find out it is closed.
Now, the walk down the hill isn’t too bad, but the walk back up the hill has my heart pounding in my chest and I am out of breath. I had to stop part of the way up to catch my breath. I opt to take the bike and ride to KFC for a few chicken strips and fries.
Saturday June 25, 2005
I am up at the crack of dawn again this morning. I got an early breakfast and talked with the fellow who is working there. He is from Albany and has moved up to Franklin. He told me about his family still in the Albany area.
I got everything loaded onto the bike and into the trailer and I’m ready to pull out. I talk with Ron Blanton again and he tells me about his plans to build a house in Arizona. He is in the process of getting estimates now. He also straightens me out about sidecars. I always thought that if you turned left, the sidecar would have a tendency to lift off the ground. He explained that it is in a right turn that this is the case.
As I hit the road, I make up my mind to “chase the mountains”. By this I mean I will turn on a side road and head toward the higher mountains. The first road I turned on went about a mile before it came to a dead end. It can be a little tough to turn the bike around on a narrow road with the trailer attached. The second road I tried was a success. About four miles outside of Franklin on highway 64, I turned onto Patton Road. About ¼ mile I came to a sign that pointed left and said detour. This was Wayah Road and boy did I hit pay dirt on this one. This turned out to be one of those roads that really are a good ride. The road was about 28 miles long. It went up to the top of a mountain and back down the other side and then skirted Aquone Lake for a ways. It finally came out on highway 74 near the intersection with highway 129 (Deal’s Gap Road).
I stopped and watched a couple of guys blowing up rafts on the back of a truck, getting ready for the rafters who would be hitting the river that day.
Somehow I have convinced myself that I need to visit or get as close to the highest points in each state. I have been to Florida, and Tennessee, but missed getting to North Carolina (Mount Mitchell), but decided to go for Brasstown Bald, the highest point in Georgia.
I work my way around the mountains and head to Hiawassee. Brasstown Bald is on highway 180 (The Curviest Road in Georgia). I find the entrance and head to the top.
It is probably about 6 miles straight up to get to the park at the top. There is a fee for parking if you want to hike the rest of the way to the top. I figure if I get as far as I can ride, I am close enough for me. As I head down, I pass three bicycles heading to the top. They were pedaling hard.
When I got back to the bottom, I stopped at the entrance to get a drink of water. While I was stopped a guy came over to talk. His bicycle is leaning against a post. He asked me if I saw some people on bikes. I told him they were about 2/3 the way up when I passed them. He was from Tallahassee, Florida. He told me he was gonna catch hell when his buddies came back down. He said he just couldn’t ride to the top of Brasstown Bald.
It appears they are riding the passes. Which passes I don’t know. He just kept telling me that his buddies were going to ride him about not going with them.
I rode the entire length of 180. It is a very nice riding road. Two crotch rockets passed me and disappeared down the road. When I finally caught up with them, they, along with a car, were stuck behind a 38 foot motor home that was trying to negotiate the turns. He finally moved over and let the other traffic go by. I don’t think he knew what he was getting into when he got on this road. A lot of motorcycles ride this road and it really concerned me that all of the motorcycles I kept passing would meet this guy in a turn where he was taking up more than 2/3 of the road. Lots of these motorcycles like to push it hard in the curves.
At the end of 180 where it meets highway 60 is a place called TWO (Two Wheels Only). It is a campground and store that is for motorcycles only. When I pulled away from the stop sign, the two crotch rockets were in front of me. I was intently staring at TWO and not paying attention to what was going on in front of me. The two crotch rockets had stopped and were turning into TWO. I looked up just in time to lock my brakes down. My ABS brakes should have kept me from sliding a tire, but my front tire locked up and began to slide. I was just about to take out the second rider when he looked back and saw me coming at him. He stopped his turn and I just managed to slide to halt just inches away.
Make Note: Bike needs to go to Honda Shop and get the brakes fixed.
The rest of the trip was uneventful. I stopped at Wildman’s Bar-b-que somewhere along US19.