07 August 2013

Ride Report: Sunset and beyond.

4 August 2013:  All I wanted was a rain free ride.  My last ride ended just as the leading edge of the tropical storm blew in.  Yes I knew it was going to rain that day but I thought it would be much later in the afternoon.  It took me a week to get Baby clean again.

About a week after that ride Cruzman suggested one of our notorious Sunrise to Sunset and beyond rides.  it usually means around 400 miles and getting home near 11 p.m.  We hadn't had a long day like that all year long and it was overdue.  I told him I had the perfect route and he set the date for two Sundays from our conversation.

I won't mention that the week before I thought the ride was for the following week.  I spent the week getting the final items I needed so that I could perform some overdue maintenance.  The day Cruzman texted to ask if I was ready for Sunday, I was contemplating whether or not to bring Baby in the house so I could do the maintenance without bugs and in the air conditioning.

It's a good thing I couldn't decide where to put it or how to get it in the house (none of the doors are really wide enough) or I would have been reluctant to go.  Even still, I just got new iridium spark plugs and wanted them in the bike before the ride.  I didn't do it because I also need to check the valve clearance and want to remove the AIS while I'm at it.  Changing the spark plugs will be easier without the AIS but to do it without doing the other stuff was senseless.

This time, I posted about our ride on the FZ1OA forum believing no one in their right mind would want to join us.  I promised at least 400 miles, warning that it would take all day long.  The best part was to do that it means leaving the house at the buttcrack of dawn so we can meet at dawn then be KSU about 30 minutes later.

I really like riding that early even though I hate getting up that early.  Riding is about the only thing that will get me up like that.  There's something to be said about leaving the house under an ink black sky then riding into the sunrise.  The sky goes through several shades of blue before evenually becoming the daytime sky blue we cherish.  On Sunday mornings there isn't much traffic so you also get to see the town waking up and a preview of what the rest of the day will be like.

To my surprise, two people decided to join us.  I arrived at our usual meeting spot to find three bikes waiting on me.  I wasn't as late as I normally am, only a few minutes because I chose to top up the tank before going to the meet spot.

Baby, Stella, and VBHINGAR's Grey Gen 2.

Fitty's FJR
They weren't waiting inside so I knew I wasn't late enough.  I think Cruzman has adjusted my cp clock because I was early the last time we met.  I'm going to have to get that thing re-calibrated!

I don't know who I greeted first, I'm really not much of a morning person so I let Cruzman do all the talking.  I did meet vbhingar first because I had never met him off of the internet like I had Fitty (a minor legend on the FZ1OA board) and Cruzman (he's still seeking legendary status on the board but he is already a legend to me).

The sky was just getting into it's preferred blue as we went inside to have waffle house food!  No ride is a ride where you don't have waffle house hash browns and grease swimming in your stomach before hand.

I was a little remiss on giving the safety speak before we got all geared up.  You know, ride your own ride no matter what the fool in front of you is doing.  Try to ride in the staggered formation as much as possible.  I'll only be going about 10 over the posted speed and will occasionly pass the moving chicanes the non motorcycle riding public create.  On a side note:  Why do you Floridians insist on driving to the mountains when you know you've never seen them before.  Stay at the motel and beg a local to drive you around!

We were KSU at 7:25 but I wanted to wait the five minutes in case some other fo--um rider wanted to join us.  The closest that came to happening was the guy how'd just parked his cruiser a few spots away from us.  I waved, pretty confident he didn't want to ride with us.  I'm pretty imposing in my leathers now.  I look like I'm about to do something with my motorcycle to make that pirate call me a squid.

It would have been nice to fire out of that lot on one wheel while giving the ADVRider salute.  I ain't that hard core yet.  I chose to leave the way I always do that early in the morning...as quietly as possible.

The route included a concession to Cruzman's distaste for interstate styled roads so rather than hotfooting it directly to the first curvy road, we meandered on backroads towards Clarkesville and in the general direction of the first curvy road.  This allowed us to see more of the countryside than the interstate styled roads would have.

My GPS made some changes to the route that I'd created on my computer using routeconverter.  The changes meant more turns than I remembered but it also meant taking new roads and seeing new things.  Some of them, I'd wondered where they went when I passed them on previous roads.

The day was meeting the promise from the predawn ride.  It was all blue skies  filled with the right kind of clouds:  puffy and white.  The temperature was perfect, especially since we were heading into the mountains and could avoid the higher temps at the lower elevations.  Just before Clarkesville, we pulled in to a gas station for a nature break.  Waffle House can do that to you!

We weren't there too long.  I knew we were getting closer to the "beginning" of the route and I was excited to be there.  We rode through Clarkesville then picked up Old 411 for a few miles before getting on 411 proper.  When the GPS told me to make the turn, I was half tempted to keep going on the 2-laned road but resisted because I was ready to be on the route.

Some of it was because I really wanted to take more pictures during the ride.  I didn't have my smaller camera so I couldn't really do it on the move.  That meant stopping to get pics.  I don't mind that but I do mind turning around so I can get a picture and sometimes the best place is the first one you see.

Less than half an hour after our nature break, we were at the beginning of the route.  Rather than take Warwoman Road, I chose another one that I had never ridden.  The scenery around it looked a lot like what you see on Warwoman but better.  Unfortunately, we rounded a curve and the pavement ended!  Smooth pavement was replaced by gravel with big rocks.

I paused and checked with the others as to whether or not to continue.  It was only 3.6 miles to the next turn that I was certain would be paved.  I got the thumbs up so I continued forward, albeit more cautiously.  The road followed Stekoa Creek, one of the main tributaries to the Chatooga River.  I had to stop to get a picture!

The mosquitos were terrible and a good reason not to linger much longer.  I'm not comfortable enough on gravel roads to ride at a fast pace, but I did leave as quickly as I could.  Fortunately, the gravel didn't last the 3.6 miles to our next turn.  About a half a mile later we were back on good pavement.  A few seconds after that, Cruzman told me that vbhingar was waving frantically trying to get Fitty's attention.  I pulled over at the first available spot.

Fitty said it felt like his rear tire was getting flat.  He also wanted to know how I knew we needed to stop.  Cruzman told me, gotta love having Comms.  I really wish the bluetooth protocol included ways to pair with different makes of headset but it doesn't.  One of the named brand makers has a solution that they have priced as if they are extremely proud of it.  At some point, I may have to bite the bullet to get one.

It allows you to add walkie talkie into the mix which means you can include more people or increase the range of the headset.  As long as it's mainly Cruzman and I riding together, it isn't a priority right now but lately MrsCruzman has been coming on the rides and it'd be nice to be able to communicate with her without using odd handsignals.

It took all four of us to find the leak in Fitty's nearly new rear tire.  We had to air it up first, then vbhingar heard the leak and I found it.  I put my finger over it so Fitty could see it.  He'd already decided to patch the thing and had is kits out.  It took us (yes us) forever to find the little hole.  We only found it because Fitty put air in the tire.

Once it was all done, I was fully prepared to head to the gas station but Fitty said it felt fine so we continued on.  We finally made it to US 76 then a few miles later turned onto Chatooga Ridge RD.  This was the first time I'd ridden it in that direction.  Cruzman didn't remember riding it at all.

Chatooga Ridge took us to Hwy 28, were I promptly turned the wrong way because I'd put the waypoint too far down on the road.  We went all the way to 107 just so the GPS could say, "You have reached your waypoint on the right hand side of the road."

I'm not sure what part of Hwy 28 I like the most--north from Franklin or south of Highlands.There were a few tar snakes so I had to pick my line carefully.  Also there were slow cars that pulled off without any warning.  I almost rear-ended the red Subaru as he hurried off of the road!  Thanks fella but a little warning wouldn't've hurt.

Once in Franklin, we stopped at Citgo for gas, nature breaks, rehydration, and so Fitty could check his tire.  The mushroom plug wasn't holding so Fitty put two string plugs and about half his tube of rubber cement in it.  That held and $2 worth of air later, we were back on the road.

I have been looking forward to riding this route for about a year now.  There are a few roads off of the main roads we ride that I was curious about.  This route was designed to satisfy that curiosity.  Let's just say I love being satisfied.

The first road we took was off of 64/28:  Walnut Creek RD.

It was fantastic!  The road surface was a little rough and in some places rutted.  That's a part of the journey though.  Not all roads will be freshly paved and super clean.  I missed the turn for the next road but Walnut Creek kept twisting and winding so I didn't look too hard for a place for us to turn around.

I finally did though.  I didn't miss Cullowhee Mountain RD the second time around.  It's a road that is not to be missed!

The only thing I regretted was not having the second cam mounted so I could video the guys following me.  I put the wrong card in it so it wasn't even available to be used.  I actually could have turned around and rode both of those roads again but the others were getting hungry.  Once we reached 107, I turned toward Sylva, NC hoping to find food soon.

A little longer than I hoped, we did.  We ate at an Hibachi restaruant while Fitty opted for a Burger King Salad.  To be honest, I've had better Hibachi in a similar styled restaurant but the Squid salad is worth going back for.  I guessed their sushi was better than the Hibachi.

Fitty decided to take the quick way home from lunch.  An afternoon of riding the big FJR on such technical roads plus being worried about his rear tire had taken it's toll.  It was getting close to 3 with close to 200 miles of route left to ride.  We bid Fitty a safe trip home then got back on 107 heading toward Blue Ridge Parkway.

We weren't going to ride the parkway, but a couple of the many roads off of it that I was curious about. One of them was what I think of as the higher road between 107 and 215.  I've ridden the lower road before and it's great.  The only problem is the degraded state of the pavement.  I didn't expect the higher road to be much different.  We weren't disappointed.

The road wound though more farm land and took us higher in elevation.  The temps remained as pleasant as the views.  Just like the early part of the day, the traffic wasn't too bad.  Some of the time we could pass easily others we were relegated to enjoying the scenery because the road was so winding it limited views of on coming traffic.

I think it was the first time that I didn't mind the traffic so much.  By this time I was giddy!  I had managed to put together a route full of unfamilliar roads with only a couple of miles of gravel on it.  Plus it was getting better and betterer!

After the photo respite, it was time to find a bathroom.  If I keep making routes like this I'll have to get a she-pee.  Standing next to the rustling waters did little to help me not look longingly at the trees.  The drop off beyond the guard rail was too steep to climb down while the other side of the road was too steep to climb up.

We took 215 into Cruso (or Canton), NC where we stopped for my nature break and to rehydrate.  We weren't that far from a great campground that I've been wanting to show Cruzman since I camped there a few years ago.

From there we headed to Hwy 178 via 276 and 64.  It felt like the sun would never go down and the roads would never straighten out.  I knew both would happen sooner than I wanted.  We were all enjoying the great weather and roads way too much.  Especially when the quality of the road surface picked up.

We reached 178 only to see a flashing road closed sign indicating the road was only open to locals.  We were forced to take the detour.  It was just terrible having to ride on such twisty and winding roads with sketchy pavement.  I definitely have to go back and do it again.

The detour must have deterred cars because once we got back to 178, there weren't any around.  I took the opportunity to increase the pace a little and show off some of my newly learned cornering skills.  Unfortunately, the video camera didn't get that part.

Hwy 178 took us to the Foothills Scenic Highway which isn't that scenic and way too straight.  It meant that the really good roads were behind us and we'd be meandering our way back to were we met that morning.  We gassed up at the intersection before heading into the sunset.

I suspect I could have taken some of the straight out of that part of the route but I also had a few more twisty roads on the route that I hoped we could reach before the sun was gone. Unfortunately it didn't work out that way.  We got to 441 moments before the sunset.  I knew I had to make some sacrifices in the name of safety.

Then I turned the wrong way onto 441.  We were heading away from where we needed to go so I pulled over to consult the GPS and maybe add some waypoints that would get us heading the right way without having to backtrack too much.  Cruzman didn't want to be doing that on the side of the road.

We wasted the last few moments of sunlight backtracking to a gas station.  Not exactly backtracking on the same road but definitely in the same direction that took us farther away from our destination.  For some reason, that irritated me.  Later I looked it up and discovered that if I'd had another minute or so, I could have gotten us on track without going backwards.

The guys gassed up but I decided not to.  I knew I was close enough to home to get there without more gas.  I want to do some mantenance and I don't want to have a nearly full tank of gas when I do it.  The rest of the way home was the mindless slog down 356/I-985 that we avoided that morning.

Actually, it turned out not to be a bad thing because my knees were aching and needed stretching so I scooted close to the tank to be able to keep me feet on the frame sliders while we rode the speed limit back home.

I got home after around 466 miles and nearly 18 hours on the bike.  The girlz were very glad to see me as they had some business to tend to and no thumbs to open the doors to be able to do it.

My akita talked to me for a good 5 minutes about needing to do that business making it a little hard to get the leash on her so that she could do that business.

Thanks for reading,
patrice, theWolfTamer

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