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Old 06-08-2012, 03:14 PM   #1
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5th Anniversary Motocation to the Georgia Mountains

I'd intended to do this report as the trip progressed, making posts each evening from my phone, but I found that I was just too tired at the end of the day and our data reception on our phones sucked big time at the campground. At any rate, here's a quick (or not!) report on the trip my wife and I just made to the mountains of North Georgia and the surrounding area.

This year we decided to schedule the trip so we left on a Sunday morning allowing us the full day Saturday to pack and take care of any last-minute items. It was a good thing too, because it too the majority of the day to get all the necessary clothing items cleaned, stuff packed and secured on the bikes, and take care of a few 'gotchas' that came up along the way. In fact, it wasn't until 11pm that night that I strapped the last item to the bike. Sunday morning we got up bright and early (about 6am) with intentions to be on the road no later than 7:30. However, neither of us like to be rushed when we're on vacation so we lolly-gagged a bit and didn't actually throw a leg over the bikes until closer to 8am.

Sittin' on "G", waitin' on "O"!


We had them loaded down, but thanks to my new-to-me Ventura bags and rack, there wasn't nearly as much camping gear strapped to the outside of everything as we've had on past trips.


The route for this day actually wouldn't take us all the way to our ultimate destination, Unicoi State Park just outside Helen, GA. Rather, we would cut it a bit short and spend the night with some family in Calhoun, GA.

Day #1 route in bright green (495 miles):


Unfortunately, despite the fact that I'd just received a freshly refurbished GPS from Garmin a couple weeks prior to the trip, we were doing this trip on one Zumo since the night before mine cut on for about 5 seconds after placing it in the cradle on my bike only to immediately cut off and never power on again. That really wasn't a huge deal, but Katie's Zumo seemed a little confused at times during our trip. Sometimes it would prompt you to "keep right on highway whatever" every 1/2 mile simply because you were going straight through an intersection and other times it would totally fail to tell you that you should have taken that road on the left back there ... yeah, the one you just passed. It did that a time or two as we tried to weave our way out of Mississippi, but we were able to navigate back to the pink line each time to continue our route. By 10:00 we'd reached our first stop (these weren't scheduled but rather we just found a place to get gas or each any time the trip meter ticked over 100 miles or we just got ready for a break) which was just outside Bay Springs, MS. It was getting HOT already. Ugh!

The view as we sat on the ground trying to cool off a bit after filling the tanks:




There really wasn't a whole lot to speak of the rest of the trip other than increasing temps and several gas stops in tiny towns. This was several hours later (around 5pm) somewhere in AL and somewhere north of 90 degrees and 90% humidity. We rested next to the pumps here for several minutes before continuing on.


I didn't get any more pictures that day and since I recently swapped to a perforated leather summer glove (which I LOVE) I wasn't able to remove the gloves and snap pictures while we were in motion as I'd done on other trips. But anyway, we made it to Calhoun safe and sound ... and exhausted ... about 8pm local time. Some good old Taco Bell and we were off to bed - our last night to sleep in a real bed and air conditioning for the rest of the week!
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Old 06-08-2012, 03:18 PM   #2
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Day #2 was a much shorter route. This worked out well since we knew we'd be a little saddle-sore from the nearly 500 miles the day before and we suspected traffic might be heavier given it was Memorial Day. It also allowed us more time to visit with family before we left (around 1pm I believe) for the campground. Today's route is highlighted in dark purple (121 miles):


It was another toasty day, but not nearly as bad with the much lower humidity as we entered the foothills of the Smokies. I knew one of my uncles would be in the area this week with a Kawasaki ZRX rally, but was pretty surprised when we neared Suches and some crazy guy came racing up beside me waving! Wouldn't have expected to see him simply by chance, but pretty cool nonetheless! The roads definitely got better this day. The day before we hit a couple decent highways once we got into GA, but we were both surprised at how (relatively) straight all the roads we'd taken through AL the day before were. The shorter ~120mi route combined with more entertaining roads made for a quick trip to Unicoi and before we knew it, we were unpacking and setting up camp!




Katie was doing fine ...


But the pigtails on her helmet were looking a bit wind-blown. :)


That night we ate some pretty tasty pizza at a place in Helen called Nacoochie Village Tavern. If you're ever in the area, check em out! http://nacoocheevillage.com/tavern.html The funny thing was (though not so funny at the time) we'd decided the sky looked pretty safe when we headed to supper, but by the time we were sitting in the middle of tourist traffic in Helen - just a few miles from Unicoi - the skies ahead began to look ominously dark. We continued on anyway. Normally this wouldn't have been a big deal since, while I don't ENJOY being wet or riding in the rain, I really don't mind it as long as it's warm outside. Of course our earlier assessment of the situation had led us to leave the rainfly on the tent unzipped so it would be a bit cooler when we got back and were ready for bed. Shortly after being seated and ordering our pizza, Sir Murphy showed up and it began to rain. We decided it best for me to make a mad dash back to the campground ... in my jeans and unlined mesh jacket ... to zip up the tent. I did. And when I got there some kind neighbor had already zipped it up for us. Awesome! I just wish they'd psychicallly deduced my phone number and sent me a text before I rode back for nothing. Did I mention that the rain had pretty much quit by this time too? Needless to say, by the time I got back to the restaurant there wasn't a stitch of clothing on me that was still dry. Luckily the waitresses were really nice and insisted that I sit down and eat inside - leaving a large puddle of water under my chair - since they have tubers that come in wet all the time anyway.

And later than evening began one of the more entertaining threads from our stay at Unicoi. Around 11pm a couple vehicles pulled into the site next to us and began setting up shop. Quiet time starts at 10pm and we were tired, so we were already in the tent trying to get to sleep. Well, they weren't exactly quiet, nor were they very quick at setting up the ginormous tent they brought, extra small tent, and tarp-covered cooking area. So by the time they got done setting all this up, they decided it was the perfect time to cook some burgers ... at 3am. :o Thankfully, the food shut them up so we got some better sleep the remainder of the night.
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Old 06-08-2012, 03:25 PM   #3
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The following day was our first planned route actually in area we planned to explore over the next several days. Unfortunately, the weather man also said it might be a wet one. After taking a look at the forecast and radar, we checked each of our routes to see which might give us the greatest chance of avoiding the wet stuff. It turned out that the one we'd scheduled for that day was the best bet after all. Dang I'm smart!

We would end up making a loop up into TN and along the Ocoee River before making our way back down. The route included several great roads in GA as well including Wolf Pen Gap Rd. in the Suches area. We got caught in 1 mild shower early and another much later in the day, but those were the only times we actually had to ride in the rain that day. We did spend a good bit of time riding roads where patches of scattered showers had just come through, but thankfully avoided the rain itself for the most part.

Route for the day in red (231 miles):


We had some excellent burgers for lunch at The Porter House ( http://www.phsteakhouse.com/ ) in a neat little town called Dahlonega:


I even tried to get artsy-fartsy taking pictures of my helmet while we waited for the food:




One of the first pretty overlooks we encountered:


Katie gave me the blue mowhawk on my helmet to match the blue pigtails I'd given her. I still think those pigtails are priceless though!


When we reached the Ocoee that afternoon, we found that they weren't rafting at the time so the majority of the water was being diverted for electricity generation (the rafting companies actually pay to have water run in the main part of the river since the rest of the time it's used keep the lights on!). Since pretty much every other time I'd been to the Ocoee it was to raft, I'd never seen it so low!


Lots of rocks to hit when there's no water!


I don't remember what we did that evening, but I do remember that around bed-time it rained cats and dogs at the campground. Thankfully the rain kept out neighbors I mentioned earlier (the 3am burger-cookers) quiet.
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Old 06-08-2012, 03:30 PM   #4
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The next morning the rain was gone and the sun was out again! Yay! And today we planned to do one of the must-ride routes for this trip ... a loop up to the infamous Tail of the Dragon at Deal's Gap. We rode Deal's Gap (several times) a few years ago when we came to the area with some friends, so this wasn't our first trip. We also knew that the road was fun, but really no "better" than many other roads in TN, NC, and GA. But it is cool destination to get some pics, we wanted t-shirts, AND we wanted to get a shirt for the third member of this trip ... I haven't mentioned this yet, but the week of our trip Katie was 19 weeks pregnant with our first child! Oh, and did I mention it's a fun road?

Here's how we got there, and how we got back ... highlighted in light blue (199 miles):


Proof we were there (argh, the nice guy that took the pic cut off my bike!):




A charity to which we did NOT want to make a donation...


It was a little warm so we were just in the jackets rather than the Aerostich suits this day.


But otherwise it was a beautiful day.


When we went a few years ago I'd sworn up and down to Katie that she was sure to make Killboy's highlights since she stood out thanks to the pigtails, she was a "chickonabike" (a term Killboy often used in his highlights), and she even rode a black and yellow bike ... one of his favorite color combinations. Naturally I was proven wrong. :( In my defense though, he later said that she probably would have if he'd gotten the highlight pictures together for that week, but he'd been busy and his wife had done them instead that time. Doh! BUT ... I was redeemed on this trip (even though I made no such promises this time around haha) and she made the highlights! Here --> https://www.facebook.com/photo.php?f...0253139&type=3

The pic from the highlights for anyone that can't see it at the FB link above:


That night we got to bed at a decent time but were awakened around 1am by two women yelling in the site next to. Ten seconds in and it was obvious that the woman who was mother to at least one of the teenagers with them (and who also looked like she'd done more meth in her relatively short lifetime than most police precincts had ever seen) was having a lovers' spat with her girlfriend. The dispute lasted for a good 30-40 minutes and included enough expletives to make Samuel L. Jackson blush. And all this at a volume that ensure everyone withing 100yds could hear every word. I felt sorry for the poor people next to us that had small children. Obviously hard drugs make it more difficult to judge the sound-dampening qualities (or lack thereof) of mosquito netting. Eventually one of them got mad and left. The other fumed about for a bit and decided she was going to just pack up their stuff and leave. Despite the fact that it meant we were looking at at least an hour or two of them taking down stuff in the middle of the night, I shed no tears to hear they were leaving. Aaaaaaand then she called the other one and told her to come back. The had a couple more choice words for each other and finally went to bed.
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Old 06-08-2012, 03:35 PM   #5
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The next day would be one of our longest daily routes, but we'd get to ride (part of) a road we'd really enjoyed on our last trip to the area ... the Blue Ridge Parkway. Route highlighted in dark blue (254 miles):


Much of the day was overcast and that combined with the higher altitudes on the Parkway meant it was actually a little chilly! Glad we wore the suits!


If you've never been on the BRP, you should really go ... even if it's in a car. The views are amazing!




And you definitely gain some altitude along the way.




Lot's of pretty places to pull off and either snap pics or just sit back and enjoy the air and view.


The downside to this day was that after taking pictures in front of the "Highest Point" sign, I pulled the bikes over out of the way next to the curb where we were sitting and relaxing. When we got ready to leave, I climbed on my bike and watched as Katie climbed on hers. It only took a second for me to realize that I'd parked the bike on a slight hill (sloping away from the kickstand side). Since she's fairly short and her bike fairly tall, it only took that couple extra inches of air under her right foot to let the bike get tipped too far to catch it before it hit the curb. :o She was able to ease it down ... just didn't have the horsepower to muscle it back up after it had tipped too far. This resulted in a few little scratches in the decal on the side of the bike and something else that would come back to haunt us later.

We spent several more miles on the Parkway before finally turning off to head back to camp. The road we turn off onto, NC 276, was actually one of the only roads we hit the whole time we were there that I can honestly say had crappy pavement. And it was definitely CRAPPY! Between the miles on poor pavement, the frustration of dropping the bike, and just general fatigue from the miles we'd put in so far, by the time we got back into GA we were both pretty well whipped. It was on Warwoman Rd. near Clayton, GA that we both said something I didn't think would come out of our mouths ... "I'm tired of these turns. Just give me some straight road to get us back!" Tight twisties is definitely not where you want to find yourself on the motorcycle when you're mentally exhausted. :( We made it back though, and for the second night in a row ate at a really good Mexican restaurant on 441 in Clayton called La Cabana. Good stuff!
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Old 06-08-2012, 03:37 PM   #6
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Our last full day was destined to be a wet one. There were no routes to get us around all the rain, we were pooped from the day before (and missing sleep the night before that listening to what sounded like a live taping of the Maury Povich show), and knew we had a really long day ahead of us the next day. So we decided to skip out on the riding that day to rest up for the trip home.

The route we would have done went up to the Cherohala Skyway.


We had a few heavy rain showers come through that morning, but it cleared up by the afternoon. So we decided to get out and actually explore the park a little. There was a loop trail that went around the gorgeous Unicoi Lake so hiked it.




The have these strange looking "cabins" at Unicoi that look like giant barrels.


After the hike we went back to Nacoochie for some more pizza and packed as much as we could to aid in getting an early start home the next morning. The other thing we did Friday that I failed to mention was I removed the lower plastics on Katie's GSXR to examine the radiator and coolant resevoir. The day before on the ride home from the BRP she'd noticed that her bike was running a little hotter than usual (thankful for a wife that actually thinks to check these things!). It was still within the "normal" operating range, but it was running at a level that she was only used to seeing when we're sitting in traffic on a 100 degree day in MS ... not moving at a decent pace through 75 degree mountain air. The radiator looked OK, but for the life of me I couldn't get the cap off to check the coolant level actually IN the radiator. There was coolant in the resevoir and it was a tad low, so I topped it off and put everything back together. But only after running it long enough to get it up to temp and see that the cap no longer sealed and allowed steam to escape. That explained the residue on the side of the bike. :(
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Old 06-08-2012, 03:39 PM   #7
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Saturday was here and the long trip home loomed ahead of us even as we got up around 6am for an early start on packing everything up. There would be no stop at a relative's house this time so while the planned route was more direct, it was also longer. Highlighted below in gray (548 miles) - *Note: we didn't actually take much of this route as you'll see below.


Thankfully it was pretty cool again this day, but despite the lower temps it didn't take long to realize we were in for a long day and long fight keeping the GSXR cool. As long as we were moving along at probably 60mph or more, everything was fine ... meaning the temps were high-ish, but not in the danger zone. However, if we had to slow down for traffic, a red light, go through a town, etc ... the temps quickly began to rise. For the most part we were able to quickly get back up to speed and cool things back down before they got too high, but that only lasted til around 1 that afternoon near Lineville, AL. We stopped for gas and to let her bike cool again so we sat there a good 30 minutes. Even after waiting that long, since we were in the town still, the temps immediately began shooting up. This time though, even when we hit the open road they didn't come back down. So the instant the warning light came on, we pulled into a gravel parking lot and shut her down. We'd been keeping an eye on the coolant level (the only level we could see anyway) and it had remained pretty constant so I thought perhaps it was just the thermostat sticking. Well, after pulling the plastics off again to reexamine, it became more apparent that the drop on the BRP the day before had actually bent the mouth of the radiator where the cap screws on. Normally the bike would have fallen on it's side and the frame-slider would have caught it with no drama and no damage, but since I'd parked next to a curb, the corner of the curb "caught" the bike rather than the slider. And of course the radiator was in just the right place for this.

Here I am starting to pull it all apart again.


At this point I said, "screw it" and basically ripped the cap off which left it in pieces. We'd already called some family to come and get us with a truck and trailer so I wasn't worried about the damage. After removing the cap I saw why it had been so difficult to get off the radiator. While the cap was still round, the neck it screws onto was a nice oval shape. I borrowed a pair of channel-locks from a nice man at a nearby store and straightened it the best I could. The radiator had steamed away pretty much all the coolant so I filled it back up with water and crossed my fingers that straightened piece and now removed thermostat would allow water to flow and cooling to occur. It did ... kinda. The cap still didn't seal so any time we reached 212 we got boiling water. The good news was that unless the bike was just sitting still running, it ran MUCH cooler so it never got anywhere near 212. We made the 30 or mile trek to the next nearest town and called the rescue squad to tell them to sit tight for the time as it looked like we'd be able to make it home after all. Since we knew we had to keep moving to keep things cool, we decided to just tell the GPS to take us home rather than follow the planned route as we knew it would take us on major roads (i.e. interstate) instead. So we were routed up to I-459 in Birmingham and slabbed it the rest of the way home. Had to top off with water once or twice after getting stuck at redlights too long, but other than that we made it OK. We did get a little worried about my rear tire though. We got new rubber for Katie before we left, but I felt like mine would be fine until we got home. Unfortunately the extra straight-line riding we did due to our revised route home didn't help. So by the time we got done, my tire looked like this: :o


In total we did 2017.4 miles on the trip!


We had a great time, a great adventure, and gained some more good stories!
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Old 06-08-2012, 03:41 PM   #8
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There's actually a post that falls between the Ocoee route and the Blue Ridge Parkway route, but I think I had too many pictures in it so it had to be approved by a moderator first. Hopefully it'll show up soon. Anyway, thanks for reading!
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Old 06-08-2012, 07:51 PM   #9
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I have enjoying reading your Ride Report and viewing your photos. Thanks for sharing with us.
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Old 06-09-2012, 06:24 AM   #10
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Nice report. You were in my normal riding area.

You mentioned early in the report that you couldn't take pics on the fly with gloves on. I take pics while riding with gloves, even winter gloves, all the time. Give it a try.....it isn't that hard.
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Old 06-09-2012, 07:35 AM   #11
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Thanks y'all! And klaviator, that's your normal riding area? I hate you just a little. Haha! There are seriously good roads EVERYWHERE in that area. We thought we might have to strap a car seat to the back for the baby and come back next year! Maybe not, but we will definitely be back as soon as we can.

I may have to give the gloved-picture-taking a try, but the main reason I didn't was because I'd been taking them with our DSLR and it was even a new one this time. Did not want to risk dropping it and having 10 truckloads of pregnant wrath come down on me. ;)
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Old 06-09-2012, 11:36 AM   #12
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Quote:
Originally Posted by jarod725 View Post
Thanks y'all! And klaviator, that's your normal riding area? I hate you just a little. Haha! There are seriously good roads EVERYWHERE in that area. We thought we might have to strap a car seat to the back for the baby and come back next year! Maybe not, but we will definitely be back as soon as we can.

I may have to give the gloved-picture-taking a try, but the main reason I didn't was because I'd been taking them with our DSLR and it was even a new one this time. Did not want to risk dropping it and having 10 truckloads of pregnant wrath come down on me. ;)
I normally ride with a camera hanging around my neck so that if I see some thing interesting I can just turn it on and snap a pic with my left hand. If I need to I can just drop the camera and it won't go anywhere. Of course it's a small point and shoot, not a DLSR.

Here's a pic I took chasing some bikes on GA 180:



Yes, there are seriously great roads in the area and you just scratched the surface. I used to have a long ride to get to that area. I would ride from Florida, Michigan, Maryland, and Maine. Then I wised up by moving got a little closer by moving to first to AL then GA.
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