31 December 2011

Ride Report: Last Ride of 2011

28 Dec 2011

A month or so ago, Cruzman said he had some days off after Christmas and hoped the weather would be nice enough to get in a ride.  I hoped that I could contain my spending and still have money left for a ride!  As the days grew closer, we learned we would be able to ride after Christmas it was just a matter of which day.

The weather was nice leading up to Christmas, raining on Christmas and the two days after.  Wednesday was the first day forecast for cloudless skies and the day we chose to ride.  We had a trip planning call where I reminded him of the sunrise/sunset times and my wish not to be on twisty roads after sunset.  He modified his route accordingly and I set our meet time:  6:30ish a.m. with KSU up around 7:40 a.m.  We left from our normal meeting spot.

After I fixed the glove I'd broken during my Christmas Ride and made sure I could hear gps instructions, I was all set but still left a few minutes later than I wanted and encountered traffic that I wasn't expecting.  I guess people still work to earn their money even during the week between Christmas and New Years.

It was fairly cold when I left the house.  With the humidity still in the air from the previous days rain, it felt even colder however with my heated gear and Freeze-Out Face Mask, I was comfortable.  As I got closer to Cumming, I did wish my motor would throw out a little more heat for my toes though.

I was riding on fumes but since I have the digital fuel reading thanks to the Multiguage, I decided I'd push it until it read .5g remaining.  I thought I could make it to very close to our meet spot but I didn't want to get gas there because it's always higher than any place around.  I stopped at the Kroger down the street from the Waffle House and filled up taking advantage of the $0.10 off of gas.

Cruzman called me just as I was about to get going again wondering where I was.  I was about 10 minutes later than the 6:30ish meeting time and 5 minutes away.  It didn't really matter though.  We were able to eat breakfast at Waffle House and still be ksu around 7:50.  The sun was rising in a pinkish sky to our right as we went North on GA 400 to Hwy 60.  We'd decided to take the interstate like 400 in the early dawn hours rather than the meandering Hwy 9 into Dahlonega.

By the time we got there, I was losing the feeling in my toes and asked that we stop at Wal-Mart to get some foot warmers.  Cruzman said thank you and about 20 minutes later we were back on the road with hand warmers stuffed in our boots.  They didn't have the foot warmers.  They seemed to be working though because I had the feeling back in my toes.  I've stopped by Cycle Gear several times to get the Boot Liners for them never to be in stock.

I'm really reluctant to get "winter" boots because I really only need to use them for less than 20% of my riding.  I can't justify paying full price for that when I can just as easily make some electric warmers if I need too however I'm still not ready to say I need electric foot warmers either.

We haven't ridden 60 much this year, I think maybe a couple of times.  With the rain the days before I wasn't sure what to expect.  I knew there'd be tar snakes to start out but beyond that was a mystery.  Once we left there was only one other car in front of us driving "car" speed up the twisty road.  For once, I didn't mind it because no sooner than we'd started to climb, a truck came around the corner with two tires on the double yellow line!  Needless to say, I was a little jumpy.

I found some comfort when I saw the GDOT truck coming down the mountain.  I hoped that meant any icy areas would be clear.  Cruzman looked like he might want to pass but I just hung back, making sure I took a good look through the curves and paid close attention to the immediate road conditions.  As we reached the spot where the Applachian Trail crosses 60, the immediate road conditions changed.  The pavement got darker, meaning it was wet.  Along the side of the road, there was a dusting of snow clinging to the dead leaves.  Then gravel!  That's what that damned GDOT truck was doing.

We both slowed more being extra careful as we picked our lines to avoid the icy gravel that collects along the car tire tracks:  basically the middle of the road and either side of where car tires are.  None of them good places for a motorcyclist.  The condition was like that for less than a mile though before we rounded the corner to reveal the lake that lets me know we're near Suches and HWY 180.  It also usually means pretty clean pavement.  Today was no exception.

The track from our Last Ride of 2011
Riding by TWO was depressing.  It's been an icon in the area for so long and was always a welcome sight, whether you stop or not.  Now it just looks abandoned.  The gas station at the corner of 60 and 180 is still open though.  The last time we were here, it was for sale and had been for a while.

There were new signs advertising that places were motorcycle friendly.  I guess they're hoping to take advantage of TWO closing and get the motorcyclist business.  The sun was fully up now (had been for a while) and I was glad to see a truly clear sky.  The winter Georgia kind that fools you into thinking it's nice outside when it's cold as sin!

Fortunately, all my heated stuff was working and the bike was keeping the battery charged so there was no real cold issues.  Especially if I remembered to wiggle my toes every now and then to keep the "toe" warmers working.  I expected the road conditions to get really bad once we got past the little gas station in the bend near Cooper Creek.  The road didn't disappoint, as usual, and presented the added challenge of gravel on the road.  I've ridden it when it was worse though so this wasn't too bad.

Before long, we reached Morganton and decided to stop at the HWY 60/US 76 Marathon for a quickish break.  Cruzman took the chance to check in with my sister-wife while I used the facilities and removed the video camera mounts.  It wasn't warming up as much as I thought and I didn't expect the cams to perform in whatever the temps + wind chill were.

We were making great time.  The next leg of the ride ends in Tellico Plains, TN.  McCaysville, GA/Copper Hill, TN is just down the road.  Coming out of Copper Hill heading towards Ducktown, I was harassed by a propane truck in the "slow" lane.

He was driving fast but not fast enough to get the f*@$ away from us.  The situation was aggravated by a cell phone talking driver in the "fast" lane that had me hemmed in behind them with the propane truck a little too close for comfort on my right side.  With no real escape route, I waited for Cruzman to pass the car but when it became obvious he was taking it easy on the straight stretch, I powered past all of them!  Let Cruzman fight the truck, I thought as the song from my GPR muffler brought on a huge smile.

It wasn't too long before the 4-lane road narrowed to 2-lane and Cruzman finally passed the cell phone car with the Propane truck on his heels.  We managed to clear the traffic and have empty road ahead while the propane truck had to settle for being behind the cell phone talker.  Served him right.

We didn't have clear road for long however as we quickly caught up to about 4 or 5 cars working their way up the road.  That part of 64 (?) isn't too bad so I don't know why they were moving so slowly.  One car pulled over but still there were 3 or more in front with little opportunity to pass.  A couple of miles down the road two cars and us beared left onto TN 68 and a few miles later we passed them in the passing zone.  Clear road ahead again!

With the winter terrain, I noticed all the other things that along that road and decided I needed to come back for more than just the road.  Maybe a picnic and hike to the falls or something.  There was no hint of snow or ice here so it was really easy to get in the groove.  That all came to a screeching halt about 7 miles outside of Tellico Plains when we caught up to a super long line of cars creeping along--under the speed limit.  Must be TP Rush Hour.  I was going to suggest we pull over in next gas station to let the line of cars get ahead until I looked behind me and saw an equally long line.  Might as well suffer.

We rounded the corner out of the valley just about the time you see the Welcome to Tellico Plains sign to the view of ice capped mountain on the top of the Cherohala Skyway.  Cruzman was joking earlier about scrapping the rest of the route and taking it but I knew better.  I didn't have studded tires or ice riding skillz to even consider it.  I preferred to let it loom in the distance all frosty and foreboding.

We rode though town just to see what we could see because it was barely 11:30.  Since it was a Wednesday, and TP is a small town in the south, a lot of the shops were closed.  It was still nice to take the time to see the place.  We went back toward 68 searching for a place to have lunch.  Initially, we thought a quick lunch at Subway but with a morning in cold temps, we both wanted something warm for lunch.  After riding to the other end of town, we settled on what was billed as "Tellico Plains best restaurant" since the our first choice was closed for our quick lunch.

I dawdled outside a bit before going in because I noticed my gps was cutting on and off.  I made sure all the connections were snug before going in to find Cruzman already seated and with a drink in front of him.  The place wasn't too full but not completely empty either.  After a while, the waitress came to take my drink order.  They don't serve Coke, no Pepsi will not do.  They don't have Dr. Pepper on the same line because they're a small restaurant.  I guess Crush will be fine.

After another long while, the Crush arrived but the first sip revealed it wasn't fine.  I still had some Cherry Coke left that I bought when we stopped in Morganton and was considering going to the bike to get it.  What's the restaruant etiquette on b.y.o.d.?  I contemplated that until the waitress finally showed up to take our order.  I changed the Crush for a sweet tea (forgetting to ask if it was brewed tea) and asked for the Mountain Fried Steak.  They didn't have that so I got chopped sirloin with taters, gravy, and the Normandy Mix.

The tea was terrible!  The food was good.  I asked for water and continued eating and talking with Cruzman.  The water was a long time coming and I was ready to forego any etiquette and get my Cherry Coke when the waitress returned with the water.  It was good.

We still had many miles to ride and daylight was burning.  We talked for a bit more before the check finally arrived.  The service there kind of reminds me of the service in Mexico where they give you all the time in the world to talk.  I was eager to be back on the road and rushed outside once the bill was paid to get ready.

A guy in a pick-up drove by then turned around to ask if we were planning to ride the Skyway.  I smiled and told him no, "It looks cold up there!"

He laughed and confirmed it.  He also said that since the border ran the middle of the road, a couple of miles on both sides still had a lot of ice on top.  The DOT trucks would only go so far and then it was to scrape the ice off the road.  The result is an ice free treacherous road for cars/pickup trucks let alone motorcycles!  He said he saw two bikers headed up earlier and wondered if it was us.  I assured him we had more sense than that and he gave me the usual stay safe and have a good day before leaving.

Cruzman was walking out about the time he was leaving so he decided to turn around and have the same conversation with him.  Man, I love living in the South!  Everybody looks out for you most of the time.

Before long, we were back on the road but didn't get too far before I remembered I forgot to plug in my jacket liner.  The new plug works great.  It comes un done as soon as I get off the bike but it doesn't re do itself when I get back on the bike.  Maybe I should have gotten the remote controller?

The next leg was new to us roads getting back to 64 and ultimately into Chatsworth, GA.  With a full stomach and cold weather, I'll admit to being a bit sluggish.  Combined with knowing ice was in the area made me just plain slow.  At one point, I was certain Cruzman thought Daddy was riding with him instead of me as he disappeared off into the distance.  Farther off than I normally allow because I was really concentrating on the new to me road and it's conditions.

It was awesome!  When we crossed a bridge, I stopped mid bridge to take photos.

This was near Reliant, TN.  The new road from TP to here was great, the rest of the new roads to HWY 64 were spectacular!  I love riding new roads.  I like the old favorites too but there's nothing like sprinkling in something new with the old.  This area reminded me a lot of the area around Cruso, NC.  Everything looked new and scrubbed clean.  I imagine when it's warm and the water is right, it's kind of busy up through there.  But it was nice and quiet as we went through.

We got to TN 64 in good time and I noticed the road to the left was closed.  Good thing we weren't going that way.  Instead we headed back to Georgia.

It was a little warmer but still cold while riding.  It was about here that I remembered in my haste to leave I forgot to go to the bathroom.  With my freeze-out mask, it's hard to talk on the comms and be understood so I prefer to just listen to my music.  I notice when I try to talk I'm contorting my face to get it away from the mask only for my voice to get collected in the material right in front of my lips.  I can't understand me and I know what I'm saying.  No telling what Cruzman hears!  It was too frustrating to deal with so I preferred to run radio silent for most of the day.

This probably wasn't the best idea when we were on 411 going into Chatsworth as I found myself falling asleep!  I opened the comms then to tell Cruzman I was sleepy and we needed a longer stop than just for gas.  I don't think he heard all of that though.  At the gas stop, he did say he wanted to try to get a real snow pic this year.  We'd failed on our attempts early in the year and this would be our last chance for 2011.

After gassing up, Cruzman changing his comm, and me waking up, we started our next leg: Woody Glenn Hwy into Ellijay.  Again Cruzman played the Hare to my Tortoise and before long was out of sight.  So much so that I started scanning the woods for his yellow helmet!  The road wasn't as bad as I expected it to be but I still was riding like it was.

Cruzman slowed to wait for me near the pullout where we stop to take videos.  Once pass that we saw a dusting of snow again.  My radio died.  I thought it would but I noticed the radio I was going to change to was on.  I didn't know how long it'd been on so I plugged in the charger cable and hoped it'd be charged enough to get me home once we reached Ellijay.  Without comms, I had to watch Cruzman carefully to see when he would pull over.  Surprisingly, he never did.

The snow dusting really looked like our first ice pic so I can understand why he didn't bother.  Once in Ellijay, I changed radios.  It took forever for my stuff to re-sync and Cruzman took advantage by getting a snack and warming up inside.  At this point, I was cool but comfortable and didn't really want to warm up just to feel cold again so I did my work outside.

Cruzman said we were taking 52 back to 400 but my gps route showed 136.  Either way, I knew they were good roads so we were off again after about 30 mins.  It was around 4 something with sunset in an hour and a half.  The gps showed we'd be back in Cumming by then so Cruzman's route was looking more and more perfect for the day.

I also thought we'd left snow and ice behind and picked up my pace a little.  I was still being diligent just a little faster.  I was wrong!  We got stuck behind a mini van and just was we decided to pass hit the gravel GDOT puts down to make the ice passable.  No ice but inch high piles of gravel that we both hit when we pulled out to pass.  Weee!  Only a little weee but it was good not to be behind the gravel throwing mini van.

Not long after we passed the van, we saw real snow in the woods.  It looked an inch or so deep and completely hid the dead leaves.  After giving up on our snow photo, we were presented with the perfect chance!

My shorter front end makes me leery each time I put the bike on the side stand.  With the slope coming into me, time I opted to stay on the bike and let Cruzman run back and forth across the road to get the perfect pic.

When I see myself in these winter photos I think I look fat.  I got on the scale the other day and I've lost a few pounds so it must be the gear.  Either way, we got our snow pic.  The sun was setting fast and once we got out of this area we were able to pick up the speed a bit.

We saw some nice houses along the lake and took a side road to get a closer look.  My gps recalculated so rather than turn around I suggested we go straight.  A few moments later, the paved road gave way to gravel but it was only a mile to the highway so we continued on past ruts and water filled holes.  My new suspension did what it's supposed to do so I had little trouble negotiating the obstacles.

Once back on paved road, we were back up to speed.  We got caught behind a semi as the sun was beginning to set.  It was nearing 5 when we got back to 400.  I had time to think about the foot liners and maybe trying the balaclava and cutting it so I could turn my head while we rolled down 400 in moderate traffic.

Instead of stopping for our usual end of ride debrief, I opted to continue on so I could stop at Cycle Gear to see if they had the stuff I wanted in.  They didn't but this time I ordered it so now I'm just waiting on a phone call.

The last ride of the year was spectacular and about 330 miles of cold fun.  We got some new roads in that we should add to the summer rotation too.

Thanks for reading,
patrice, theWolfTamer

Our previous snow pic from Richard Russell in February

1 comment:

  1. Was a really fun ride. I am a little disapointed in my toes getting so cold, but other than that I had no complaints.

    Now the whole passing the mini van thing towards the end. One minute I am on good clean road. Then I pass the van and as soon as I pull back over the double yellow I catch a 2-1/2" - 3" pile of gravel. I didn't slip or spin, but it kicked my butt off the seat. For a second there I thought I was on the dirt bike. I got lucky that was all that it did. Be careful out there. There is a lot more than cars trying to mess you up.


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