23 February 2010

Ride Report: Cheaha AL

21 Feb 2010
After weeks of cold, rain, snow, rain, cold, and rain I was ready for a ride.  In December David, Cruzman from FZ1oa forum, suggested we ride together again but because of the weather and theWolf the ride got delayed until now.  The plan was to meet him at the Home Depot on Thornton Road in Lithia Springs, GA, about an hour away from me, at around 9 a.m.  I was getting excited about the idea of being able to get out for a long ride for the first time since Christmas Eve.  David chose Cheaha Mountain and Alabama's Highest Point for our destination.

I'd spent the weeks between rides pondering whether or not I needed a new rear tire before my next ride and surfing the internet and finding all kinds of closeout deals on motorcycle apparel I just couldn't ignore.  Here's a pic of my tire before the ride.  I believed it had one good ride left:


More tread on the side than the rear.  It was my learning tire, I hope it's forgive-able.

At the end of January I got a new textile jacket and Tuesday before this ride my new helmet and riding boots arrived.  It never got warmer than the low 40s but I couldn't resist taking the new gear for a spin.

You can't see the boots in this pic.  But here they are with the helmet fresh out of the box.

I noticed the helmet was loud and the jacket felt different around the neck but it was warm (when I closed the vents!).  It made me anticipate Sunday's ride even more because it was so cold I thought I'd freeze.  On the shakedown ride, my left heated glove liner got disconnected so I had to resolder the connection before my ride.  I also replaced the fan controller since I fried it trying to see how well everything worked.  While I was at it, I got a smaller container than the Radio Shack Project Box.  I didn't customize it to fit the controller because I am still seeking a better solution.

The week leading up to the ride, I got a call from Bobby, eFnJustRide on FJR Riders Forum, telling me that our normal ride group and forum was being disbanded but he still wanted to ride with me and Tony (TopWop on FJR Riders Forum).  Later he said Rich would probably join us as well.  He talked about going for a ride but it wasn't until our second conversation that it occurred to me that maybe I should ask him to join David and me on the weekend since they didn't know where they wanted to go.

He agreed quickly and after setting up a date with Tony to check my front suspension, plans were confirmed.  They would be meeting me at Starbucks around 8, then we would take the interstate to meet David at 9.  Sunday couldn't get here fast enough.

Sunday morning arrived cold with pale blue skies dotted with thin clouds promising a beautiful day.  The weather forecasters promised warming temperatures so I dressed so I'd be able to peel layers as the temps climbed.  I decided not to wear any thermals, depending on the liners in the jacket and pants to keep me warm.  They did their jobs very well.

I met Bobby, Teresa (his wife), and Tony at Starbucks.  With a quick hello, we didn't linger long and were soon riding towards the dreaded interstate.  Unfortunately, about three minutes after leaving Starbucks, I discovered my heated gloves were not heating.  I kept hoping to get stuck at a light so I could check to make sure the power was connected, but as it goes when you want a red light, you don't get one.  We had to stop just before we got on I-20 west so I could plug in the gloves.

I was thrilled to see the blue lights in the box because by that time my hands were so cold, I was considering going home!!  Apparently theWolf doesn't like the cold very much.  It would have been a shame to abandon a ride I'd invited others to join.

No problems on the highway as we made good time getting to Home Depot.  David turned into the parking lot as we waiting for the light to change for us to go into the parking lot.  After quick introductions, we went to the gas station for coffee, gas, and conversation.  David and the others seemed to get along right away as I'd expected and after an hour (I can't believe we were there that long), we finally began the long awaited Cheaha ride.

Normally, I track the route with my gps but this time I had power troubles again as its plugs wouldn't stay in the y-adapter.  I guess I need to get a different one.  The new controller works better than the old one and I had to turn the gloves on and off as they got very warm.  Too bad I didn't have easy access to the knobs so I could adjust them.

We took Thornton RD to US 78 to Hill Rd where David popped a wheelie as we went over a rise.  I was certain that Tony would like him then.  A few roads later, on Braswell Mountain RD, there was a long downhill straight-away followed by a long uphill straight-away, David cracked the throttle and I followed shortly after reaching nearly 11k on the tach before shifting.  The burst in acceleration after the shift as I climbed the remainder of the hill was exhilarating.  I knew then, he would be Bobby's new BFF.

We rode on a tree lined road through rural areas populated with signs that warned of farm equipment on the road and a few places with red dirt tire marks that proved it.  The road was decently paved with the exception of a lot of potholes that could end your motorcycle's life if you weren't careful.  At one point, I stayed close to the center line to avoid the plethora of potholes that must have been created by farm equipment in the right part of the lane that was my spot in the staggered formation.

After passing over the potholed portion of the road, we rounded a curve and were greeted by an "Entering the City Limits of Braswell" sign.  I can't remember even seeing the city.  No courthouse, no church, no fire station, or post office.  I looked for it too!  Later, David said he saw something that hinted at a town, but I only saw more trees.  The road curved again and we left the trees and entered farmland and the wonderful smell of cows.  The smell was a promise of welcome warmer temperatures.

Soon after the farmland, we returned to US-278 via Knox Mountain RD.  David took a wrong turn that led us to a little church where we took a short break while he consulted his gps and we discussed when to stop for lunch.  From there it was back on 278 to Cedar Town Hwy to West Ave.  The next town was closer than we thought, so we decided to ride into Piedmont, Alabama where we ate lunch at a little place called "The Fishing Hole."

It was all you can eat for the reasonable price of $7.99.  The people were very nice and the food was really good.  It is definitely a place to re-visit.  During lunch I realized I hadn't taken one picture.  It's hard to take pictures while riding wearing bulky winter gloves.  I was glad to see the temps had reached the 70s so I could change into my thinner riding gloves and maybe take a few pictures.

From lunch, we took Dugger Mountain Scenic Hwy (AL Hwy 9) toward Cheaha State Park in the Talledega National Forest.  As we approached the area, we could smell and see smoke rising in the northwest.  The closer we got, the more smoke it was and I had a distant memory of the SoCal forest fire that landed soot at my doorstep some 50 miles away in 2003 or 2004 when I lived in Long Beach, CA.  I thought maybe our destination might be in jeopardy, but we put the rising plume behind us some 5 to 10 minutes before I saw the first sign saying we were closer to the park.

A left turn took us off of smooth pavement onto what looked like a gravel strewn surface of 78e.  When my rear tire slipped, I was convinced it was and waived Tony and Bobby by so I wouldn't hold them up.  Less than half a mile later we turned onto Cheaha RD then almost immediately David turned into the scenic overlook where I couldn't resist riding up onto the side walk.  I had the idea of getting my bike in the scenic picture, but broken glass on the side walk changed my mind.

You can see the smoke from the fire we passed:

Bobby's back and the view:

Another pitiful stitch attempt:
(In my defense, it was so sunny, I couldn't see the screen very well.  I left the visor for it at home.)

Group Pic:
From left to right, behind Tony's VFR is Tony, Bobby, Teresa, Me, and David with my bike on the side walk.  Bobby's FJR is on the far left and David's FZ1 is behind us.

When I initially smelled the smoke, I thought, "Somebody's burning trash."  Then I saw the smoke covering the road and thought, "That's a lot of trash."  Next I saw the huge plume of smoke rising skyward and hoped it wasn't something terrible.  Smokey sky view:

Shortly after I took this picture, a red helicopter flew towards the smoke.  We guess it was the fire chopper with water to douse the flames.

Our transportation:
Baby is on the sidewalk with Stella to his right, Tony's VFR is behind Stella and Bobby's FJR is to its right.  I don't know if Bobby and Tony have names for their bikes, I've only heard them refer to them by model name.

From there, it was onward on Cheaha RD (I think).  The quality of the road made me discover my inner cruiser rider as I carefully picked my way.  I turned on the video when we left the overlook.  You can see Tony and Bobby impatiently following.  I stayed behind David because I wasn't sure where we were going other than towards the campground until I saw a sign that said it was 11 miles away.  I passed him so he could get in the video too.

Then Tony passed me and I made Bobby wait so I could get him on video right behind me.

Because he's impatient, I didn't get much of him!

Then the quality of the road got smoother and the real fun began!!

I was very pleased with how well Baby was handling the road.  On the Christmas Eve ride, I noticed the front end felt "tight" to use NASCAR terms.  Tony diagnosed the problem:  he found a loose bolt on Saturday when I went over to get his help with dialing in my suspension.  And to think, I was blaming the tire for this instability.  Sorry tire.

The last little bit of the ride:

My last pictures of the day on the good roads...Cresting a hill on McElderry RD after some satisfying twisty goodness.

The end of the ride is near:

It was a great day that ended far too soon.  Once we reached the end of the road, it was already 3 something eastern time.  We decided to take the quickest way home so we wouldn't be forced to add layers later.   That meant skipping the rest of the ride to see the tower and the highest point in Alabama.  Bobby killed a good ride with bad interstate home.  I would have a picture but when I was taking out the camera, the battery door was open and I dropped a battery on the interstate.

I look forward to visiting the Cheaha area again so we can get in the rest of the ride.  Maybe next time, David can ride with us up to the North Georgia Moutains.  Maybe hit Wolf Pen Gap or something.

Here's a pic of my tire right after the ride.  I'm pretty sure that was it's last one.  I hope to order a replacement next week.


  1. Good report very complete lots of details....
    Cruzman (Atlanta, Ga)

  2. I couldn't've done it without your road list. Thanks for getting it for me.


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