02 August 2011

Ride Report: Rain or Shine!

24 July 2011:  The Skyway, Hellbender, Dams, Lakes, and Waterfalls.
425 Tire eating miles

A few days after our last ride, I got a one line email from Cruzman:  We're going to ride on the 24th.  Or something like that.  Later he said something about the Skyway and Hwy 28 then we were talking possible routes.  After a long conversation we had the basics of the ride decided and he was going to email me the final route.

Planned Route
I took a quick glance at it while we discussed what he said he wanted to do but I didn't really concentrate on the exact route because I wouldn't be leading.  I didn't even put it in my gps because from past experience we've both learned it's best to follow when you're supposed to be following!  The only thing I knew for sure was that it was going to be another long day, the Route was 300 miles not including getting to and leaving it!  We set our meet time based on sunrise so I'd be leaving the house at the buttcrack of dawn.

Since the last ride I received a new lens and more memory cards for my mini dv cameras.  I was looking forward to getting video from all the cams for all the parts I wanted to video unlike the last ride when I forgot I had a 2gb card in one of the cams.

We met at our usual Cumming gas station around 6:30 and this time FZ1_Vadar would be joining us.  I left the house a little before 5 after searching for my other cell phone and not finding it.  Cruzman was already there, next door at the Waffle House getting breakfast and FZ1_Vadar pulled in as I was gassing up.  We got a quick breakfast and talked bikes, tires, and life before getting ready to leave.  We all checked out each other's tires.  FZ1_Vadar had new Michelin PR3s that he was raving about, Cruzman was on well used Michelin PR2s, and I had my Bridgestone BT-23s.

The guys on the forum rave about the PRs so much that I've been tempted to give them a try.  I've ridden Cruzman's bike and each time I think they aren't any better than the ones I use.  My problem is I expect leaps and bounds difference not a little bit better.  Anyway, Cruzman agreed with my assessment that my Stones should last until September when I'd likely need to replace them for the Arkansas Fall Ride I plan to attend.

Once that was decided and our comms mated, we were on the road.  Cruzman said that he was making an on the fly change for us to ride up 400 to Hwy 52 instead of taking the meandering HWY 9 into Dahlonega (it ain't on the map!).  With that decided, we were finally on the road.

Cruzman mentioned seeing LEOs on his way to meet us and I got tagged by laser on my way so our speed was on the conservative side.  There weren't many bikes out that early under a sky that was brightening to reveal a beautiful morning.  It was so nice I was wondering where the rain part came in.

Cruzman was kind enough to let us pull off to stop and start our recording devices on this ride.  I don't think it took too much extra time over the whole ride and it made it much easier when I was editing videos this week!  Thanks.  One thing I noticed on the last ride but did not fix before this ride is my D005 cam "adapter" for the shock mount is a bouncy.  Also for this ride, I decided to add the pipe clamps to the high mount because I noticed how loose it was on the last ride.  I have another solution that may be better in the works but the parts arrived after this ride.

I like that little stretch of 52.  It's like a nice warm up for a day of twisties.  We paused long enough to stop the cams before continuing on 60.  I don't know if I've mentioned this before but once you get out of the "city", pass the lake, and climb the hill it starts with these sweeping high speed curves that lull you into a sense of security.  Then it happens, what I call Surprise corner.  There's a slight downhill change in elevation and you can see it ahead.  You think it's just like the others but as you get closer you realize you're going too fast because this ain't no sweeping curve!  It's hard on the brakes to scrub off the speed before leaning right and hoping you're in the right gear.

It happens to me every single time.  I've been up there enough to know it's there and it still gets me.  It got me (and Cruzman) again this time.  No incidents though and surprisingly there are no skid marks on the road where someone messed that curve up and ended in the trees!  Once you've made it through that complex of curves, your heart starts pounding in your chest because the adrenaline has kicked in.

I was uber focused after Surprise curve, as usual, and looked forward to Blood Mountain.  I've got tons of video on that road so there was no need to pause at Turner's Corner to turn on the cams, just stop for the stop sign and hope when you look left there's nothing in front of you.  There wasn't.  It must have been the hour.  I was looking for the bicyclists because I kept seeing cars with bikes onboard on my way up there.

It must have been that preoccupation that caused it.  It happened during the first series of tight curves.  I blew them badly.  So bad that I wanted to turn around and do them again.  After the success of handling Surprise corner yet again, this was difficult to swallow.  I told Cruzman we needed to turn around but he wasn't convinced.  He'd navigated them fine and I suppose didn't see the importance of me getting it right.  I had to accept that he wouldn't turn around and managed not to blow any more curves no matter how tempted I was to turn around and then catch up the them later on that long boring stretch into Blairsville.

It didn't seem to bother FZ1_Vadar though, he went flying by a little later because our pace wasn't to his liking.  At least that's what I thought at the time.  As I watched him go by, I couldn't help but remember our first rides together and was amazed at the difference a year makes.

I only scraped my boots a couple of times on Blood Mountain (if that many) on the tighter curves that came and went almost without notice.  The next thing I knew, we were already past 180 and beginning the straighter stretch between the farms and riverside business.  I did notice there's a new "motorcycle" friendly place up there where before there was a sign that I interpreted as "ABSOLUTELY No Motorcycles." posted at the entrance to the big gravel parking lot.

We stopped for a nature and water break at the intersection of 129 and 64 where I informed Cruzman that I wanted to stop at the corner of 68 and 123 so I could turn the cams on.  I thought there was an old store there but it looks more like a barn.  No matter, he knew where I meant and we did stop.

I love 68 for it's ups and downs, scenery, and surprise curves. Riding through on a Sunday morning I kept expecting to hit a traffic jam because of the number of churches but everyone was either already there or so late we'd passed them along the way.

I thought we were making good time when we pulled into the Cherohala Market around 10 something to gas up before hitting the Skyway.
Cruzman in his new jacket.  I want one just like it.  That model was on my short list when I got my mesh earlier in the year.  It lost because I found mine for $50.
The Skyway was beautiful the time of day that we went across and as usual we paused at the highest point.  Actually what was going to be a pause turned into a full on stop.  We met a reporter from Raliegh who was comparing the Skyway to BRP.  We gave him a motorcyclists point of view about the differences.  He said he was going to quote us and took the time to scribble our names and hometowns.  Unfortunately I can't remember where he said the article would be!

Not long after we left the stop, it started to rain.  I guess Rain or Shine was more truth than jest.  I didn't have the vents on the helmet right and had to crack my shield so it didn't fog up so it got wet on the inside.  I was relieved when Cruzman said he wanted to stop to clean his shield once the rain stopped before we got to 129.

After the ride, Cruzman mentioned he would love to see an overlay of our speed on a map of the Skyway after seeing a chart I posted on the FZ1OA when eflyguy asked where we went.  I was able to make one from the track I recorded during the ride and used gpsvisualizer.com to produce what I thought he wanted:
A view of our speed along the Skyway.
Of course, a few miles after drying our shields it started to rain again.  It was a brief shower and the ground was dry as we approached the Dam and what I think is the beginning of the "Tail of the Dragon", the Dragon's Tip?  Before the rain we decided to stop at the resort to ogle bikes and eat lunch.  I was glad that we did because I was soaked and had no desire to continue on very shortly after stopping.

We stayed long enough to eat and to get mostly dry before taking HWY 28 towards Franklin.  I was being extra cautious because of the rain and past experience with rocks falling on that stretch after rain.  Maybe too cautious because FZ1_Vadar filled my mirrors every time I checked to be sure he was there.  I started to wave him around but there's really no good place for him to pass so we stuck with the status quo.  It was a good thing because there were a few times when cars awaited us with at least two tires over the double yellow.

We took advantage of the portion of hwy 28 that opens up into four lanes to finish drying out and made it to the gas station where we normally stop to fill up for the run on 28 south into Franklin.  Since I failed to get video of that stretch at the rally, I made sure I had the cams on before we left the gas station.

Just like on the Skyway, the rain started when we were a little over half way to Tellico RD where I wanted to stop to turn off the cams.  Up to this point, the BT23s were handling the rain very well.  So much that I hadn't really given the wet roads more than a passing thought as has become my habit with these tires and especially when Cruzman is leading.  I did remember MarkByrd's words though and tried not to be too slow as to make myself unsteady going into the curves.  Looking at the video, I think I succeeded.

Now the bad news.  After watching FZ1_Vadar's vid before I mixed the footage, I'm thinking I need higher quality video stuff.  Not so high that I pay gopro hd prices but I may give in and get an HD keychain cam.  I'll keep looking before I do because I've read they're looking at putting that tech in a different format, maybe like the d001.

Back on topic.  When we started HWY 28, I was a little disappointed we would ride Wayah RD like I suggested but after the rains came I was relieved.  That road is notorious for bad conditions, no need to add rain to the mix!

Just as we neared Franklin, right after Cruzman's and FZ1_Vadar's comms quit, I saw lightening!  After the second one I told Cruzman we needed to stop to check the weather.  I didn't want to ride in lightening.  This was rain or shine not thunderstorm or shine!  We stopped at the Hot Spot in Franklin where shortly after I took off my helmet a commotion was being made near the water drain.

What the!

It's a baby eastern diamond back snake.  I guess he crawled out of the drain.  A more helpful guy came along and commenced baby snake rescue!  He removed his flip flop and pinned its head against the concrete before he picked it up.

Right after he picked it up, A deputy sheriff exited the store.  He let him know he wasn't going to kill it but was taking it to the nearby woods.

Good man but he probably ruined that snakes snack shopping for the day.

After a few more lightening flashes and determining that the storm was just in that area, we got back on the bikes and continued on 28 into Highlands.  I let FZ1_Vadar get in front and was immediately distracted by the height of the rooster tail the rain made off his fenderless bike.  It was alot higher than Cruzman's and I can only guess that's because his new PR3s move more rain than Cruzman's old PR2s.  

Hwy 28 to Highlands is already a treacherous bit of road once you pass the sign warning the trucks off of the road because of cars crossing the double yellows just to be able to make some of the corners but add rain and the road is slippery in places.  I felt the rear give a little a couple of times but we kept pressing on.  We knew we'd be out of the rain soon however by the time we reached 107, it wasn't looking promising.

It could have been my wet and foggy visor.  For once, I didn't mind the cars ahead of us and tried to keep in their tire tracks as we made our way back to Georgia.  Before long the rain began to slack then eased completely before we finally rode onto dry road surface for the first time in a few hours.

We took the short jaunt down 441 into Clayton before taking 76 to 197.  FZ1_Vadar was awed by the tornado damage the same way I had been when I rode through there on the way home from the rally.  We got stuck behind an F150 with large intertubes in the back that blocked the forward view of the road.  Cruzman and FZ1_Vadar managed to get by quickly but I didn't. 

Our Actual Route
When I moved closer and attempted to peer around to see if the way was clear, the driver signaled a left turn and hit her brakes.  I backed off anticipating the turn but she never turned.  I decided to settle back and accept my fate.  I knew there was a straight away coming up with a clear line of sight that with any luck would be clear for me to take her there. I did, making sure Baby was in full song to let her know what I thought of her braking tactics.

I hustled through the next few curves to put distance between her and me but mostly to catch up to Cruzman and FZ1_Vadar only to find them slowed ahead waiting for me or gawking at the tornado damage.  I'll believe they were waiting for me even though I never asked.  A little bit later we were near the marina when Cruzman suddenly pulled in causing FZ1_Vadar to fly by and needing to make a U-turn to join us in their parking lot.

Cruzman thought it'd be nice to eat dinner there instead of in Cleveland but I mentioned the last time I was there I remembered it being on the spendy side.  I was hoping not to spend a lot on dinner.  He checked the menu and said he saw some inexpensive options and the decision was made.

Once inside, after FZ1_Vadar changed into some dry clothes, we discovered what I knew.  The place was spendy however I wasn't willing to suit up and head out again since we were already seated and drinking watered tea.  I stared at the menu for a long time before deciding on the Shrimp Alfredo.  Cruzman got the Sashimi Tuna that I might have gotten any other time and FZ1_Vadar got the fish and chips.

The food looked good enough that I wanted to take a picture but I'd left that stuff on the bike so no pics of it.  It was very very good!  Cruzman let me have a piece of his sashimi  tuna and it was very very good!  The only thing that didn't look very very good was FZ1_Vadar's fish and chips but that might be because I'm not a huge fan of fish and chips.

Route Elevation Profile
After dinner, as we made our way toward Cleveland, Cruzman had an annoying rattle in his bike and pulled over to investigate.  That's when FZ1_Vadar told me how difficult it was to see my brake lights.  I knew I had a light out but the new 2w LEDs were pretty bright and even with one should have been easy to see.  A quick tap on the rear brake revealed I had no brake lights!

I'd been riding like that all day with no idea.  I'd checked the morning before I left and I had lights now none.  I quickly took the seat off and checked the fuses but they were all intact.  I'm not sure what the heck happened but later in the week I got the idea to change the LEDs with halogens and the brake lights work fine.  It must be the LEDs and my bike's wiring that has issues.  I'll likely have to take Baby to the bike doctor to have it checked out.

In the meantime I had to be real careful on the way home.  After gasing up in Cleveland we parted ways, Cruzman and FZ1_Vadar heading towards Cumming and me towards Buford.  I managed to get home right at 9 without any incident because I didn't have any brake lights.

Even with the rain I had a great time.  It was good to see and ride with FZ1_Vadar again after so long.  I told him we shouldn't wait so long to ride together.  When I got home I had a closer look at my tires.  There's no way they'll make it much past 5k and it may be time to admit that's all the life I'm going to get out my tires no matter what.

I checked with Cruzman and later in the week he ordered a new tire so I guess his tire got consumed by the ride too.  Maybe it was the change in temps between the wet and dry roads.  Maybe it was because the roads were rough.  We didn't know only that the route ate the tread off'n our tires!

Thanks for reading,
patrice, theWolfTamer

There's a new baby in the family.  Meet Prince
He was so excited to see me get home, I felt bad for leaving!

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