Sunday, March 16, 2014

Family vacation in north Georgia

What a crazy series of weeks I’ve had. First I accepted a position at a new company, which meant a departure from my current company and from a lot of people I very much enjoy working with. As the sole network administrator at the company this left them in a difficult situation. I managed to negotiate some extra time for my start date in order to assist with this transition. We ended up finally hiring a guy to start with only four days left in my notice, so I spent that time trying to cram all the details of my job into his head before I had to leave.

All that said, I timed everything perfectly. We had a long planned vacation for Spring Break that I did not want to miss out on. My sister recently moved her and her family to Dahlonega Georgia. My parents and her husbands family were all coming up for a big family vacation.
Wait a second. You opened this to read a ride report, not a family vacation!
Just wait, one thing my family has learned over the years, when we go to a place that is a motorcycling destination, my bike goes with me. This time on my newly acquired Kendon fold up trailer.
Here she is, one big fat trailer queen.

Day 1 - Saturday

Drove from Texas to Alabama. Two things are sure at the end of the day.
1. My five year old son is tired of being in the car.
2. Me and my wife are tired of being in the car with our five year old son.

Day 2 - Sunday

One broken strap required a quick trip to Home Depot. I really knew these straps needed replacing so this is my bust here. Thankfully I run the rule of using more straps than is necessary.
We arrived at our very rustic cabin. We’d only spend the first day here and the nights, otherwise we’d be at my sisters place hanging out.

It only has the very very basics, but that’ll do and the price is definitely right and you can’t beat the view from the front porch.

My sister and her family are actually enroute from Florida this day because of a funeral they had to attend on Saturday so we had some time to kill as we’d arrived several hours ahead of them. I introduced my son to the time honored tradition of throwing rocks into a body of water. We also hiked around and explored the area.

Evidently he’s got a mind of his own that greatly differs from his dad.

No real riding today.

Day 3 - Monday

Rode the bike over to my sisters house. The 10 miles between the cabin and their house is pretty amazing, especially for a Texas boy used to flat straight roads.

Approximate route, with actual addresses left out.

One tradition we have, is that when we have these big family get togethers, each night someone cooks for the group. It’s fun and saves money on restaurants. My night is Tuesday night, but I’m making my always successful Ree Drummon’s Dr Pepper Pulled Pork. To do pull this off properly, it requires slow cooking the pork for 6 hours the day before, turning the pork every two hours. I’m doing up two pork butts, one spicy and one for the wimps.

After getting the pork in the oven, I turn to google maps and start looking around. Now that I’m here and have a bit of a lay of the land, I can figure these maps out. I plot me out a loop that’ll take about an hour to an hour and a half, depending on how shaky I am on these twisty roads and if I stop and sightsee much. I get this laid out in the time it takes to get to the first turn, then I suit up and head out.

This was a good run, out 19 a little bit and then up 60. I was pretty much in love with 60 at this point. Very twisty, along the side of a mountain with very little traffic, good views, and a crossing of the Appalachian Trail.

I turned east on 180 and found zero traffic on a tight technical road. At this point I thought this road was pretty amazing. My opinion will change in a few days though.
Finally I turned back toward home on 19. This portion of 19 is more heavily traveled, and as evidenced by the uphill passing lanes, is a truck route. Most of this part of the loop is downhill for me but I can see those extra lanes over on the other side. Good pavement, and still not a whole lot of traffic. I didn’t get held up at all today on this road.

I ran back to the house and finished the pork so it’ll be ready for the crock pot for tomorrow.

Day 4 - Tuesday

Today is dad’s day. Of the four full days we’ll actually be here, the weather report is only nice for Monday and Tuesday. Temps in the 60’s and sunny, before the storms move in. That’s why I chose today to be dad’s day.

So, I’ve taken the parentals for rides a few times over the years. Both have decided that they’d rather not ride on a motorcycle. My dad’s last ride he said scared him to death, not so much because he didn’t trust me, but mostly the lack of control thing. I understand this because while I trust my wife to drive the car, I’m much more nervous if I’m not in the drivers seat.

Recently dad has had some medical scares though, and he’s re-evaluated himself. He’s realized he’s going to miss out on some fun things in life because he’s been scared to do them and is tired of being scared. For this reason, I’ve been taking him on a bunch of roller coasters lately, and he loves them.
So, when he found out I was bringing the bike, he asked if I’d take him for a ride in the mountains. I rounded up a helmet in his size and wrangled up a jacket. I then hit up “Georgia Roller” from the FJRForum to send me a nice easy route that wasn’t too long in the saddle. He shot me over a nice loop out of Dahlonega to hit up the Amicalola Falls halfway through. We decided we’d take the bike and the car so my wife, mom, and son could enjoy the falls as well.

Well, wouldn’t you know it, I ran out of the house with the wrong route in my tank bag map pocket. I knew the return route was pretty much the direct route to the falls, so I punch up the falls on the GPS and let it take us there.

Dad getting suited up.

Dad and son by the bike.

Apparently we were quite the sight at the gas station there getting ready to ride.

Dad and son at the park after the first ride. He’s smiling, he had a blast!

And dad proudly hanging out next to the bike.

Amicalola Falls is pretty spectacular. It’s a bit of a hike to get to the actual base of the falls, and those of us who are out of shape are in awe of those who run the steps for fitness.

Only two of us made it to the base of the falls. Let’s just say one of us was exhausted and out of breath, and the other one was five years old.

The route there.

I asked dad if he wanted to ride back or if he was done. He surprised me by saying that not only did he want to ride back, but he was disappointed that the road wasn’t twistier. I offered to take him all the way back to the cabin since we needed to get the other car, and he already knew those roads. He had a blast and hasn’t stopped talking about it since.

A good day on the bike, and what looked to be like my last day due to the weather rolling in. Rain and cold were in store for us over the next few days.

Day 5 - Wednesday

Storms rolled in about 2am. Raining and cold with a high wind advisory. Not a good day for riding, especially enjoyable riding. We pack up the car and head over to my sisters house to just hang out and let the kids play.

Oddly, the storms roll through by lunchtime and by about 1pm it’s sunny, but still in the forties and windy. I notice that the roads are drying up, so I decide, eff it, and run and grab the bike. I don’t have good cold weather gear, so I have to deal with just the quilted liners in my airglides and just be chilly.
I start off by running by the motorcycle dealership “Riders Hill” that I’ve heard so much about with the intention of buying a Riders Hill T-Shirt.

Yea, it’s a little dead in the middle of the week. I go inside and there’s another rider milling around looking at stuff. He leaves shortly after I walk in. I wander around, nice place, try on some gear, look at stuff and find their T-shirts. Meh, it’s just a Suzuki T-shirt with the huge Suzuki logo in the middle with a small “at Riders Hill” silk screened under it. Nothing too special. I’m mildly interested, but seeing as I’ve been in the shop 10 minutes and not ONE employee has bothered to poke their head out of the back offices, I figure they don’t want my money and walk out.

Having had no time to plan today’s ride, I run the same route as Monday, but I run it in reverse this time. The run up 19 is amazing with the extra lane. There’s very little traffic and I start to get really comfortable with this mountain riding stuff on the FJR. I had an amazing time running up this road.

I make my turn onto 180. With a few days of riding under my belt up here now, my opinion of this road has changed. Many sections are too tight for the FJR to enjoy it, the road surface is sketchy, and there’s some rain troughs in a few of the corners. This road would be a blast on a supermoto, but not so much the FJR. I’m quite happy to finish this road and turn south onto 60. Running downhill on 60 I’m having a great time and getting my groove on, when I get a subtle reminder to turn it down a notch, especially with the blind corners.

Thank goodness I wasn’t running a few seconds faster!

I make my way back to the cabin and park the bike having had a good ride on a day when I wasn’t supposed to ride at all. Let’s see how tomorrow works out. Day 6 - Thursday
We head over to my sisters house and I watch the temps come back up into the 40’s again. It’s sunny and the wind is gone. I’ve been perusing maps and come up with a good loop for today. I’m DEFINITELY going out!

My run up 19 is shaping up better than yesterday. I’m in the groove, feeling good, having an amazing time, until. Blah, pass one car just before the passing lane ends, and end up behind an SUV, which is behind another car, behind a slow moving semi truck.

We plod along up the hill, and I can tell the car right behind the semi truck is really antsy and impatient. He’s swerving to look around the truck at every opportunity. We’ll call him “Douchey” from here on out.

Finally, we get our passing lane back. SUV in front of me makes no move to go around, but Douchey in front of him peels off the formation and floors it. Finally! Someone is going to drive well in the mountains. I’m interested to see an enthusiast drive up here, so I pin it and tail along behind him to watch. We hit the first set of curves and he starts using up every inch of pavement on our side of the road, both lanes, to hit his apexes. He’s running outside inside outside to maximize his speed through the curves. This is why I call him Douchey, at least he’s not using the oncoming lane any, but it’s much more fun to just stay in your own lane and ride, which is what I’m doing.

And then I notice, for all his posturing running outside inside outside, I’m sitting in my lane and being held up. WTF? Ok, time to leave Douchey behind. I set it up, rip up the passing lane and zip past him all while staying in my own lane. Once I’m by, he continues his driving of using both lanes, and I easily walk away from him never hanging off or crossing the lane lines. Yea, I’ve got a huge grin inside my helmet.

I get a gentle reminder of my poor form and how far I’m leaning over when I drag my toe slider. I pull my toe in and start sliding a cheek off the seat and all is well from then on out.

Video of me passing Douchey and a little bit afterwards.

Once on up on the mountain I catch up to a Jetta. This guy is driving very well and I have no passing lane anyway, so I settle in behind him and we have a good time going down the hill. He’d totally kick Douchey’s butt anyway.

I pass my normal turn for 180 and keep going a few more miles to where 180 kicks off to the right and I take that. It’s a short run down 180 to 348 which is a part of the Russell–Brasstown Scenic Byway. At first I’m not so sure what is so scenic about this road, but continuing on, I climb up in altitude and am pleased with some nice views.

Snagged this one after a non-scenic pullout.

I head up and just around the corner I come upon this.

Yea, that gives a good idea of how cold it has been up here recently and how cold it is today. Bike says 40F on the nose. I take a selfie as well just because.

A little further on up is this scenic pullout. I wish it were greener but still, a very nice view.

I’ve been taking it easy because there is still gravel all over the road from the recent weather that hasn’t been cleared up. However, pretty much beyond this pullout, it’s extremely fresh smooth clean pavement all the way down and I’m having a blast again. I have seen almost zero cars on this road and it’s all mine. The sun is low and shining through the bare trees which creates a strobe effect on my vision and stripes on the road. I get a reminder again as I hit a stick or something in the road while leaned over. In the video it doesn’t look like much, but you know how that kind of thing feels when you are on the bike, felt like a tank slapper, but in fact was a slight wobble. Just enough to remind me to keep things in check and not ride the limits.

At the end of the road I stop for a quick chicken strip check. Yep, still there, but not too bad for a flatlander on cold roads.

I turn around and see this.

Hrm, I don’t recall seeing that sign on the other side of the mountain. Good thing there wasn’t any!
All that remains now is the ride back to my sister’s place. My last bit of ride is stifled behind a slow driving pickup truck following a UHaul through the last twisty bits.

I park the bike for the final time knowing I had an amazing riding day. I’ll load the trailer up here in a little bit and get the car packed for the trip home.

Day 7 - Friday

Up early, we head out. We aren’t heading directly toward Dallas though. We head up to Tennessee and across to Memphis. My wife want’s to put some flowers on the graves of her great grandparents for her grandmother and grandfather who can’t make it up this way anymore. Jakob takes a ride on the bike.

Actually, mom walked along next to the trailer while I drove slowly around the parking lot. He had a blast.

Then this happened. Oh yea, it happened!

For those not familiar, this was the location of my SS1K turnaround point. It’s been open since the 1920’s and was where my wife’s grandmother used to eat at as a kid. We can’t run through the Memphis area without stopping in Mason for some Bozo’s, and to bring some home to her grandmother.

Yes sir, two helpings of those beans please!

Cleaned my plates. Yum!

We run into the outskirts of Memphis where we have a reservation at the Best Western on why 64, east of Memphis. I just thought I’d add, if you are traveling through the area on a bike and need a place to stay, it’s a nice place, reasonably priced, and they have three or four designated motorcycle parking spaces on each side of the lobby entrance. Nice! Too bad mine is on a trailer, but they have good parking for that as well.

Day 8 - Saturday

Drive home. Through rain. Boring day. Nothing to report.

Started my new job on Monday, learning a ton! That’s why it took so long for this report to come out. Very wordy for a fairly uneventful week but I had fun and hope you enjoyed it.

And a boring video of some of the riding I experienced throughout the week.