26 May 2011

Trip Report: BRP Trip Day 1

19 May 2011:  Half Day.  184 miles

When my Mom got sick around Mother's day, I knew I would have to postpone my planned trip to Washington to visit my old High School Friend and her family.  I've been looking forward to the long trip for about six months now and even though I didn't feel like I was as prepared as I wanted to be I was still going to leave around the 13th of May.  Mom getting sick changed all that and as the stress mounted, I was longing for a trip of any length!  Enter Cruzman, the super Moto-hubby.  His planned BRP trip was postponed twice, once for Mother's Day and again because of weather/possible flooding.  I told him I was going to take a moto-camping trip within the next two weeks and he proposed we do a pre-run of his BRP trip.  Good deal, a departure date was set and all I had to do was wait and take care of Mom.

The whole time, I pondered taking her back to the ER or to the Doctor while my brother kept seeing minute signs of improvement and telling me to wait until his next off day.  Since he's older and therefore wiser, I deferred to him and waited while searching hard to see the minute signs he saw.   Baby was patiently waiting in the garage for the Big trip because I didn't have the heart to tell him that it wouldn't be when we planned it would be.  In the meantime, I went to Bass Pro Shops and got a couple of their tripod chairs.  The last time I camped with Cruzman, the only seat was the hard picnic table benches and I didn't want to have to sit on one of those after a long day in the saddle.

Wednesday night, I added a thin piece of memory foam to the top of my OEM seat hoping it would be as soft as the one with the case on it that I shaved a bit so it wouldn't push me into the tank.  I didn't shave the oem seat because I didn't want to make the same mistake of shaving off too much foam.  At the end of the day, I was thinking I'd made a mistake by not trying!  Then the EXUP 7k error returned when I went out to make sure that the newly re-installed heated grips worked.  Fixed those things thing packed up and was out of the door by 10:30 to meet Cruzman at his office for lunch before leaving.

The plan was to camp at the Cheoah Pt Campground where we'd camped at the beginning of last fall.  The route called for us to leave his office and take HWY 9 though Dahlonega, ride up Blood Mountain (US 129) then 64 over to 294/123 then taking 68 and over the Cherohala Skyway, finally taking the back way through the Joyce Kilmer Memorial Forest to the Campground.

The morning was brisk and clear and my ride over to his office was very comfortable.  It wasn't brisk enough to need the heated grips or wish that I'd actually brought the heated gear that I changed my mind about bringing while packing the night before.  I was wearing my new Firstgear Mesh Tex jacket that I purchased from someone on advrider.com.  I ended up with a Men's medium that fit pretty well since I was looking more for a bargain than I was worried about getting the ladies labeled jacket.  There really isn't that much difference between the two anyway.  I had that liner on with a fleece sweatshirt and I was warm enough.

Cruzman had his heated gloves and a few more layers of clothes than I had because he'd ridden to work in the cold morning temps of low 40s.  With our new radios paired together and music piping through the speakers, we merged into Thursday late lunch traffic on GA 400.  Baby didn't seem to mind all of the stuff I had loaded on him and after I loosened the cables, the EXUP error code had yet to make an appearance.  We reached cruising speed just as quickly as if we were out on a regular weekend ride.

We decided to gas up in Dahlonega before switching back to our music and the cruise to there was rather un eventful, just the way I like it.  My only complaint was the squiggly rear end on Baby because I'd turned the shock adjustment the wrong way.  We were going to stop at Rider's Hill to see if they had a wrench so I could get it right before we got on really twisty roads without needing to access the tool kit under the fully loaded seat.
I remembered my bike cover (the silver bag) but David forgot his.
We were stopped a lot longer than I anticipated and rider's hill didn't have the right size wrench.  Somebody offered a punch and a hammer but the problem was only a nuisance so we declined.  As we were getting ready to leave Rider's Hill, a guy on an R1 let another biker and us in front of him.  The other bike turned right toward Dahlonega while the three of us went left toward Blairsville.

He stayed with us through the first few sweepers but as the road began to really curve he accepted our wave by and disappeared.  I don't know if Cruzman was trying to keep up with him or not but I did notice a bit of a faster pace than what we were doing before he passed.  If you've seen any of my Blood Mountain Videos, you know the roads I'm writing about.  The R1 guy was only slowed by a black Porsche when we finally caught up to him.

At the turn onto 129, the Porshe waved us by and the R1 guy disappeared again.  We only caught up to him because he was taking it easy on the straights.  The acceleration of his bike compared to ours was visual.  When he got on the throttle his bike was gone!  Ours kind of builds up to sonic speeds whereas the R1 it is derived from launches.  It was a thrilling show.  By the time we got into the curve he was leaving it and had slowed drastically on the straights.  This chain of events repeated itself all the way up the mountain until he pulled into the hiker's store and Cruzman said he wanted to talk to him.

In one of the curves I noticed my right boot was scraping the ground but before I could process the reason, I hit a bump or some other inclusion in the road that forced me into a different line.  It was a real pucker moment that didn't last until the adrenaline began as I accelerated out of the curve.  I guess we should have taken the offer of the hammer and punch after all!  Needless to say I was much more careful after that.

His name is Frank and he owns three R1s, including the "heavily modded" 08 he was riding, all in various stages of race tune.  He regaled us with stories of catching various fast bikes on the back stretch at Road Atlanta before we went our separate ways, him back down the mountain (I think) and us onwards to Blairsville and points beyond.

Me giving the salute with "Fast" Frank
Once past Wolf Pen Gap RD, 129 stops being so curvy as it climbs into Blairsville.  It doesn't take long for you to leave the wonderful state of Georgia into the wonderful state of North Carolina once you leave the town (city?) of Blairsville.  You ride though farmland and their various smells, especially the stench of the chicken coops.  Every time I pass them I think "I'll only eat free range chicken from now on!"

Our next stop was along 294/123 at some for sale property with a spectacular view.  We both said that once we won the lottery we'd buy the land and build a house with the side facing the mountains made of glass so you couldn't miss any of the view!

Going uphill on gravel is not a big deal, it's going down that really gets your attention.  Moreso for me since I don't ride on dirt at all, beyond the odd gravel road here and there.  I constantly had to remind myself not to try to ride the same speed as Cruzman who was used to long gravel driveways.  I made it down without incident despite all of the terrible scenarios I had to fight to keep out of my mind.

It was around 5 when we got back on 294/123 going towards Tellico Plains, TN.  The weather had pleasantly warmed up into the mid 60s and I think we were both more comfortable with our loaded bikes after hours of riding.  As we neared our turn, we got stuck behind a pickup truck and a mini van slowing our progress.  Cruzman stayed behind them a lot longer than I expected and as soon as the road revealed the passing line, he initiated his pass.  Just as he was approaching the rear bumper of the Mini Van, she decided to initiate her pass too.

The only problem was she didn't have enough grunt to really get on it.  Cruzman was on his brakes and I'm sure yelling at the moving road block as she made her pass taking up all of the legal passing zone.  The truck driver must have been paying attention because he finally pulled over and let us pass but the momentum from the pass kept the mini van far enough ahead that it took a while for us to reach her bumper again.  By the time we did, less than two miles from the pass, the mini van slowed to turn into a dirt driveway!  Why make a pass when you know you will be turning soon anyway?

I was relieved to have the clear road ahead of us once again.  It didn't take long after that for us to reach 68 and make our turn.  I love 68 and its gentle undulations, sweepers, and surprise curves.  The tree lined road usually has cooler temps too which is nice on the hotter days I'm usually up there but this day wasn't even necessary.  Especially since I discovered that only one of my grips was heating!  I'll have to fix that once I get home.

Just was we were getting into the groove, there was a guy in the middle of the road waving us to slow down, Cruzman said he was yelling too.  Emergency vehicles were already on the scene and we saw a couple of bikers alongside the road.  One guy was laying about 100 yards off of the road and being attended to by emergency workers.  I could see the neck brace but little else as we creeped passed.  Cruzman said he saw blood and suspected the guy went off of the road and hit a tree!

I did my usual prayer for the rider as we continued to our destination, a little spooked by the sight.  We paused in Tellico Plains long enough to put on warmer clothes for the expected temperature drop on top of the Cherohala.  I've decided that riding the Cherohala when you are tired from a long day is not nearly the joy of crossing it when you are fresh and ready for it.  The road seems to get longer and it takes for ever to cross the 50 or so miles from Tellico to Robbinsville and we weren't going the whole way!

After what seemed like forever, we reached the turn off that took us through the Memorial forest and over to 129 where the Cheoha Point Campground is.  We secured our site and got the tent and stuff of of the bikes before going into Robbinsville around sunset for dinner at Wendy's.  Cruzman was a little surprised it took us so long to get there and I was too.  How had we wasted so much time?  I doesn't usually take that long to get from Dahlonega to Robbinsville does it?  Why yes, Virginia it does!

Keep looking for the other three days of this trip.  Thanks for reading,
patrice, theWolfTamer


  1. Met you at the Horse Cove campground across from Joyce Kilmer. Your story is amazing and you make me proud to be a woman. I hope I did not offend you in any way with the topic I brought up---seeing you camping AND on a motorcycle just really made me wish the girls I work with could have seen you. I am still getting grief from people over doing my camping trip with just my dog. Go figure--right? I had a marvelous time. Stay safe. keep riding.
    Yvette--a fan in Memphis

  2. Hey Yvette! No offense at all. I understood exactly where you're coming from. You can imagine the grief I get from my family. They think I'm crazy too but as long as I'm enjoying my life I don't care. I loved your dawg, made me not want to wait until the end of the year to get another Akita.

    I hope you continue to have safe travels with your pup!


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