04 January 2013

Ride Report: 3 Ninjas Attack Mountains

23 Dec 2012:  The world didn't end, let's go for a ride!

We had a simple plan that took us all week to develop:  Meet in Cumming at 8 and bring iluvmyfz1's liner since he's coming too.  I layered up and headed out right about when I wanted to on Sunday morning.  The sky was pre-dawn purple and seemed pretty clear.  Before I even got out of the neighborhood, I could feel the icy air blasting into my jacket right where I'd forgotten to snap the top buttons.

I didn't get too far before I needed to pull over and address that problem.  It was about a 5 minute delay that caused me to be 5 minutes late after topping up the gas tank.  This was the first time I'd ridden at temps near freezing since my Firstgear TPS jacket got replaced with a newer model after the wreck.  There are places on that jacket that let the air in no matter how well you zip/button up.  By the time I got to Waffle House, I was c-c-cold!  I didn't bother taking my helmet off because I was so eager to get inside.

iluvmyfz1 showed up about 5 minutes after I did and naturally Cruzman was already waiting in a booth.  Over breakfast, we chatted about gear, bikes, and everything but where we wanted to ride that day.  We didn't get to that until we were walking outside and gearing up while iluvmyfz1 went across the street to top off his tank.  Cruzman wanted to rely on my memory of the route from ride with the FJRs.  Alright fine but I wasn't going to take 400 because it was still below 40.

By the time we decided all that, talked to a fellow about how Baby was the best looking bike there (he arrived about the same time I did), and got to the gas station, iluvmyfz1 was topped off.  My initial hopes that the day would dawn clear, proved to be true as we headed north on Hwy 9 through Cumming toward Dahlonega:  there were only a few puffy clouds and hardly no wind compared to the previous days.  Just outside of Dahlonega, we decided not to stop at Rider's Hill.  A few minutes later, my left glove liner decided it was the perfect time to break the wires.  The old standbys finally gave up the ghost.  I knew sewing and soldering would be in my near future.

I tried to be a good girl and soldier on but by the time we got near Dahlonega, my left had was aching from the cold.  I was reminded how my old Heine Gericke winter gloves were never good at keeping my hands warm without the heated liners.  We pulled over at the car wash where I quickly switched to my new Bilt Gloves hoping they'd be warm as I remembered from the first time I used them and we were underway again.

The first test of my memory came on the road next to the gas station before Rider's Hill (Cavendar Creek RD).  I remembered making two lefts, the first on a road that went immediately uphill after we turned.  Cruzman and I discussed which road it could be as we rolled along.  We also talked about speed, which seemed to be a recurring theme this year, remembering how the FJRs disappeared away from us along the road we were looking for.

After about 2 miles, we turned onto Porter Springs Rd.  I realized I was finally warming up a little as the sun climbed higher in the sky.  It wasn't that the temp rose a lot but it was noticeable by the lack of icy air penetrating the Firstgear jacket.  Cruzman mentioned similar complaints about his replacement jacket.  I missed the second left as I reveled in the perfect weather and how good it felt to be riding.  It didn't matter because Porter Springs Rd winds around to Hwy 19 anyway.

Once there, we took a right towards Turner's Corner and later a left onto US 129.  There wasn't too much traffic, hardly any other bikes except for the odd cruiser, so it seemed we reached every turn a lot quicker than I remembered.  I certainly wasn't riding a faster pace than the last time.

Our Blood Mtn Runs
I realized I was applying the things I'd read in Sport Riding Techniques by Nick Ienatsch as a matter of habit with a lot less thinking.  It just feels natural--like a progression I would have made myself after a lot more riding--so it's easy to implement.  I could keep Baby exactly where I wanted to go without making the tiny corrections I've been doing during previous rides after getting the R1 forks.  For the first time, I wasn't anticipating what the bike used to do and feeling what it was doing.  After a particular section of switchbacks into a long right curve, I let loose the maniacal laugh and told Cruzman that Baby thinks we need to turn around and do it again.

Cruzman said that Stella agreed and said it appeared as if iluvmyfz1 and Xena might be willing to turn around too.  Once we got to the store, I discovered Stella and Cruzman were prophets but I needed to adjust my hooded head so rather than simply turning around, we had a quick stop before heading back down Blood Mountain again.

On the way back down Blood Mountain

iluvmyfz1 and Xena

We rode up and back a few times (3 according to the gps track for about 30 miles and an hour of fun) before continuing on to Hwy 180 where my memory of the route we were supposed to take faltered a bit.  I forgot all about Richard Russell.  Actually, I didn't forget.  After seeing the ice on the side of Blood Mountain, I decided not to even think about Richard Russell.  Ice on the side of the road is one thing, ice in the road another.  Once we reached 17, I was certain we'd taken Richard Russell the last time.

We turned towards Hiawassee then took US 76 towards Clayton searching for the elusive left turn that I only remembered by the medical center landmark.  I didn't know if that was at the end or the beginning.  Cruzman wasn't sure until after we passed the beginning .  I continued on believing it'd be better to make the turn I was certain of.  At least I knew either way we'd be back on 76 when it was all said and done.

We ended up turning on Germany Rd and riding it in the reverse direction than we had before.  One thing I didn't remember was how populated the area was:  Houses, churches, etc.  I don't know how I didn't notice that the first time but it could have been a side effect of blitzing it on the first ride through.  Even where I thought there had been no driveways was full of them, all leading to invisible places up the hillside.

We were taking a leisurely pace that slowed dramatically when we caught up to a white SUV that I could only guess was leaving church to do some late Christmas shopping.  By the time we got back to 76, it was a little too early to go straight to Clayton for lunch but I remembered that we'd passed Charlie Mountain RD and thought the long way to our lunch spot would make up for me missing the turn.

Earlier in the week, we'd had rain and strong winds.  The evidence of that, other than the ice in the rocks on Blood Mtn, was spots that were littered with debris from downed trees and a few places were gravel driveways had drained into the street.  The Tri-lakes (Burton, Seed, and Raburn Lake RD) road was the dirtiest of all the roads we'd ridden so far.  The road surface was a still breaking apart in some areas and had some places with tree debris.  Add to that the new houses being built or just finished.  The area around Lake Burton promises to be much more populated in the future and likely only good for late fall/winter riding from now on.  Despite all of that, I still thought the roads were pure bliss.

I felt smoother than I have in a year or so.  It seemed most of my other rides I was intent on noticing how some change I made affected the overall quality of the ride (either how the bike felt or how I felt about the new thing).  This one, I wasn't really thinking about anything but putting my understanding of the words in Sport Techniques into action.

Countersteering, looking, throttle/brake control.  I wanted all those things to feel natural rather than needing to think about each thing.  I'd worked on that going up and down Blood Mountain so that by the time we got to 76/Germany/Tri-lakes roads I was reacting rather than thinking through each step.

Earlier, Cruzman remarked about how much he enjoyed riding with FZ1 Vader because they didn't stop a lot.  Our last stop had been some 90 minutes earlier when Cruzman interupted my music asking, "Are we there yet?"  I told him it'd be 20 minutes but I thought that might be optimistic.  At the end of the Tri-lakes Rds, we took Old 441 towards Clayton, mainly to avoid the "interstate"-like 441, partly because I was curious about how close we could get to Clayton taking it.

We did fine until we got behind about 5 or 6 cars, all driving about 10 mph or more below the posted limit.  With too many cars to pass and Cruzman needing a break, I decided to take the first street that looked like it'd get us to 441.  That happened around Tiger, GA putting us a lot closer to Clayton than I expected.  Within two or three minutes we were at our lunch destination:  Peking Gourmet.  Yep, Mongolian BBQ!

3 Ninjas?
We had a nice long lunch before deciding to take 197 from Us 76 all the way into Clarkesville.  On the way back to 197, we got behind a Goldwing that I decided not to pass so I could imagine my brother was riding ahead of us.  That illusion was quickly erased after about the second or third curve when the Goldwing rider nearly ran off the road exiting a curve.  He handled the big bike well but I think he suffered from "O shit there are bikes behind me" -itis, which instantly causes your riding skill to leave as you keep glancing in the mirror to see what they're going to do.  I tried to give him more space but when I did, it seemed he tried to ride faster.

I didn't want to be the reason he parked the smoke colored wing in the trees, my brother would never forgive me, so I passed him at the first legal opportunity.  No, really, I did.  I had to wait though the first one because of oncoming traffic but I downshifted in preparation for the next one (since I was lugging the engine).  It was a downhill spot that lead into a left turning curve and the perfect chance to see how much of my newly learned technique was becoming habit.  Most of it.  I didn't even think about it until I was pulling out of the curve heading uphill and glancing to see if the boys had made it.

I saw them passing and had time to do the same thing for the next right turning curve.  I call them turning curves because they're pretty sharp.  I didn't really need to look because both made it easily.  Before long, we were passing Lake Burton (this time from the other side than on Charlie Mountain RD) and barreling toward Batesville.  Okay, maybe not barreling, but at moving along at a fun pace.

I wasn't going superfast.  Even after lunch, the traffic hadn't increased so we pretty much had the road to ourselves.  Goldwing-guy was keeping up a lot better from behind though I couldn't tell if he was taking risks to do so.  At the fork, we bared left towards Clarkesville and Goldwing-guy went right towards Helen/Cleveland.  We were still unimpeded by traffic.  I guess the wind and rain from earlier in the week kept the wildlife away from the roads because I didn't see any of that either.

There was the odd dawg earlier that iluvmyfz1 and Cruzman said bounded out of the yard behind me giving chase until he realized I was riding with a pack before turning tail and retreating for the safety of the front porch.  I wish I could have seen it.  From the fork, 197 is more sweepers than turning curves like around the lake.  The view was excellent but my knee was starting to complain about the cold and being in the same position for 6 or 8 hours.  I got a chance to stretch it while we waited for a funeral procession to turn into the cemetary but I knew once we got into Clarkesville a stop was in order for some pain meds.

Pinter indicates the road iluvmyfz1 and I should have taken
At the Dollar General, Baby got more compliments proving once and for all that the Blue on Black (Bruise) Gen 1 FZ1 is the best FZ1 of all!  We also decided we'd split up in Cleveland so Cruzman could take all the backroads home, iluvmyfz1 could do an errand, and I could get home before it got too cold again.

Not too long after we got back on the road, we passed a sign for Hwy 254 that I thought might take iluvmyfz1 and I where we wanted to go but I wasn't sure.  Since he and I don't have communication, I decided to just take the road I knew but when that turned into a straight, boring, highly traveled road I regretted the decision.  According to the GPS map, Hwy 254 had some kinks in it.  Lesson learned.

In Cleveland, we waved good bye to Cruzman and took 129 to 283 then 52 towards Lula and Cornelia Hwy (that turns into I-985).  The whole time, I was trying to figure out how to get home without going by a mall.  Every way I could think of passed a mall or shopping area so I just went the way I always went and hoped it wouldn't be too bad.  iluvmyfz1 got off of 985 an exit before me so I'd be fighting that traffic all by myself.

My hopes were dashed by a sea of red lights that started around the car lots and seemed to go on forever.  Christmas Gridlock.  I thought about taking the back away around the mall but I was in the wrong lane and didn't even consider counting on anyone's Christmas Spirit, thinking it was all in the Mall's cash registers.  Instead, I crept along with everyone else until I got stuck under a yellow light.  I didn't want to be in the middle of the intersection so I moved to my right intending to take advantage of the shorter lane.

Instead, I saw a clear lane between the cars and my California mind kicked in.  Even though I'd only been in the traffic for 5 or so minutes, no one seemed to still have their ace driving skillz.  It seemed much safer to use that wide open lane between the cars than it did sitting at the back of a line waiting on somebody turning left from the mall to rear end me.  Try as I might, I couldn't (didn't) stop.  Next thing I knew, I was creeping alongside the gridlocked cars riding the white line (lane-splitting).  I figured I'd just stop at the front of the line.

Just as I approached the line, the light turned green and I heard Baby accelerating.  Yea, there was no room to try to squeeze in as all the cars saw me coming and had filled the gaps in front of them.  I had to keep going.  Oddly enough, people kept blocking the legal spots for me so I just kept creeping until some smart SUV driver decided to block my clear lane.

No problem, I slipped left behind him and took the clear lane on the other side that I knew he couldn't block.  By then I was committed.  I had no more intentions of sitting in gridlocked traffic and fully expected to see blue lights ahead waiting on me (there's a well known speed trap just pass the mall) but there were none.  Once pass the mall, the traffic went back to normal Sunday evening traffic and I quit breaking the law.

I got through the speed zone and made it all the way home without getting pulled over too! I was pretty pleased to still have my lanesplitting skillz and made it through that gridlock in about 10 minutes (including waiting on lights) instead of however long it would have taken. I tracked about 301 miles on our "The World Didn't End" ride @ 40-something mpg.  It was a great early Christmas present!

Thank you Cruzman and iluvmyfz1 for breakfast and lunch.  I had leftover steak and gravy for dinner (which I had to share with the dawgs).

Track from the day
Thanks for reading,
patrice, theWolfTamer

What happens when the camera slips?  Quick, run so we don't waste a picture!


  1. Ah yes the last long ride of 2012. That was a pretty good year. So where to in 2013?

    1. First ride? Little River Canyon--it's closer than I thought.


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