04 October 2014

Ride Report: About Damned Time

28 September 2014:  "I'm following you."

I didn't realize how long it had been since I'd been on a weekend ride until I got about halfway to the regular meet spot in Cumming GA and realized I'd left all my cameras at home.  It was too late to turn back, not that I would have anyway.  I have to be thinking about videoing a ride before I can actually pull it off.  For this ride, I had one request:  Ride Ft. Mountain.

My love or interest in motorcycles hasn't waned in the least, despite my not farkeling, riding, or posting much this year.  My budget has left me at home more often than not flying (or fixing) the quadcopters I bought because I didn't have the money for weekend excursions.

After the most stressful month I've had in a while, I needed to ride as soon as possible.  I was willing to forego food just to get out on the bike.  Fortunately, I've been eating every day so that was okay.  I called Cruzman early in the week and asked how soon could he ride because I finally had money to do so.  Weather permitting, I was going to ride on the weekend.

The last ride I was on was the 2014 FZ1OA Rally in June (that I didn't write about) but I have been riding about town a little more than normal.  Baby finally went over 50k miles and I was anxious to get started on the next 10k.  During a midweek discussion, we decided we'd ride west but by the weekend it was clear the weather wasn't going to cooperate.

I'm not sure when it happened, maybe on the way home in a tropical storm, but I've been very reluctant to ride when I know for sure there will be rain.  Before, I'd go out and plan to dodge any weather that came up but the last few months I haven't been willing to do that.

We met in our usual spot and ate breakfast while we discussed where we'd ride.  I listened and mostly agreed while Cruzman laid out a plan to ride east then west toward Ft. Mountain.  His proposed route would put us there very close to sunset if not after dark but I was optimistic.  We set off to meet iluvmyfz1 at Rider's Hill in Dahlonega, taking hwy 369 instead of the normal Hwy 9.

Oddly enough, despite my not wanting to ride in the rain, when I left the house at the buttcrack of dawn it was sprinkling heavily almost to a full on light rain.  It stopped about the time I realized I'd left the cameras at home and was nearly forgotten as we took off under blue skies that showed no hint of rain showers.

It was a pleasant morning making the almost hour long ride to Rider's Hill seem a lot shorter than it is when it's really cold.
At Rider's Hill
The first thing I saw when I walked through the doors at Rider's Hill was the new EBRs.
EBR 1190RX
I don't quite understand what makes his bikes appeal to me but they always have.  Not enough to own one yet, but maybe someday.  This one just jumped to my attention and the more I looked, the more I liked.  I even like the naked version.

EBR 1190SX
I have a love/hate relationship with Rider's Hill and their showroom.  I love seeing the bikes they have on display:  Aprilia, MV Agusta, and now EBRs.  I hate that I can't have one the moment I see them.  I don't know if I actually want an Aprilia or MV Agusta but just damn!

MV Agusta Brutale 800 Dragster
When I pointed out the new Caponord it sent Cruzman searching for the sales guy.

While they were discussing the bike, iluvmyfz1 walked in wearing his normal big smile.  He said there was some sort of bike race going on but despite that, we agreed to ride over Blood Mountain and Richard Russell Scenic Hwy to Helen.

Cruzman had never seen this helmet before.
During my last ride, I almost took my right foot off in a curve when my toe dragged then was ripped off of the foot peg.  Both Cruzman and iluvmyfz1 have aftermarket rearsets so I spent most of the day drooling over them.  I've pretty much decided to just go ahead and get some because there is hardly a ride now where I'm not scraping my toes on both sides.  Cruzman got the DanMoto ones after I sent him the link and they were really cheap.  I don't remember which ones iluvmyfz1 has but I do know they aren't adjustable.

Important lesson learned:  One is never done farkeling, no matter how done they think they are.

From Rider's Hill, we took the backway over to Hwy 19 and Turner's Corner.  This time, I insisted on riding in the back and managed to keep up much better than I've been doing so far this year.  I don't know what the difference was versus other rides but it looked pretty neat to see the guys riding in unison and knowing I was too.  We needed a quadcopter flying above to video it!

Once we got to Turner's Corner, I saw yellow signs that said 3 Gap/6 Gap.  It was the first indication that there may be a bike ride ahead like iluvmyfz1 said.  What I didn't know at the time was that "some sort of bike race" meant:

Coming on September 28, 2014 and taking place in Georgia's Premier Cycling Venue, the Six Gap Century & Three Gap Fifty boasts many of the same roads and mountain climbs as the elite Tour de Georgia. Come ride the Ride of the Pros! The Six Gap Century’s ultra challenging route takes you up and down six of the steepest climbs in the North Georgia Mountains. Test your stamina with more than 11,200 feet of vertical climbing over the 104 mile course. Elevations for the six gaps in this ride range from 1,400 feet to 3,460 feet. The toughest climb, Hogpen Gap, will test even the strongest riders, averaging a 7% grade for seven miles, with sections as steep as 15%.
The Three Gap Fifty’s alternative route offers half the gaps and half the distance, but is nevertheless a demanding and challenging course at 58 miles. Elevations range from 1,400 feet to 3,364 feet.
We are also pleased to announce the 7th Annual "Valley Route" Bike Ride. This 35-mile valley option is a great introduction to the infamous Six Gap Century and boasts some of the most scenic mountainside in the Southeast. This new route will cast a special spotlight onto Yahoola Valley, Turner's Corner, and R-Ranch in the Mountains.
100 miles. 11,200 vertical feet. 3,000 friends.
Source:  Six Gap Century 
As we made the turn onto US 129, I got an idea that this was no small thing.  There were more people pedaling away from Turner's Corner North towards Neels Gap than I'd ever seen in person.  This was a legitimate bike race with a peloton!  The nature of US 129 from Turner's Corner to Neels Gap means the bike riders were spread out all along the way, most of them pedaling a lot but seeming to be going no where.

Before we even got halfway to Neels Gap, I started to think we'd made a mistake.  The only problem was from Rider's Hill, there was no real way to avoid the race.  No matter how much I cursed inside my helmet at the traffic and the bicyclists, it didn't do anything to lessen the tide.  After a very brief pause in the very crowded parking lot at the Mountain Crossings Store, we continued on US 129 to Hwy 180 then onto Hwy 348 (Richard B Russell Scenic Hwy) where the bicyclists seem to be growing in numbers.

So many were coming in the opposite direction, they were clogging the road.  I stopped cursing in my helmet because our side of the road was relatively clear in comparison.  Yes we still passed hundreds of bikers, just not 4 and 5 abreast in groups of 50 or more like were struggling on the other side of the road.

At the end of Hwy 348, we took the left onto Alt 75 into Helen.  Part of me wanted to ride Hwy 17 but when I saw bikers coming from that direction, I didn't even bother to try to figure out which button on the headset would connect me to Cruzman.  I was a little relieved when we bypassed Hwy 356 to ride through Helen because I was almost certain he would stop so we could answer nature's call.  He didn't, instead turn onto Hwy 255.

I contemplated just turning around after spending the ride through Helen pushing every button on my headset only to realize that I was not connected to Cruzman at all.  I'd had to go when we pulled into Mountain Crossings but the masses there made me hold on until we got away from the bicycle throngs.  Once on Hwy 255, something snapped.  I didn't want to ride uncomfortable if I didn't need to and I didn't think I needed to.

After arguing with myself about the best thing to do, I finally decided to pass both iluvmyfz1 then Cruzman so I could finally get his attention.  I didn't understand why we bothered to ride through Helen if we weren't going to stop in Helen.  It wasn't the time of day to simply ride through because you could.  I got us turned around and back to the first gas station I saw once we got into Helen.

We took pics for a lady who asked (told) us to stand next to our bikes and were only there long enough for me to answer nature's call and take a pain pill to forestall anymore discomfort that I began to feel.  Better then than later when I was actually hurting.  We decided to eat lunch at Lake Burton.
Time to get my dreads touched up!

I may need to stop telling Cruzman when I want to eat cheap because every time I do, we end up at that place that is not cheap.  This time we all had the bison bacon burger.  I can't tell the difference between bison and beef.  My burger was dry and slightly scorched but I'm not sure if that was because it was bison or simply not cooked well.  The only other time I've had bison was on an Indian reservation when I was living in California and then it was in a stew.  That (and the fry bread) was delicious!  The Chophouse Bison Burger was mediocre to poor but the awesome company more than made up for any culinary deficiencies.

After lunch, iluvmyfz1 left us to finish his two day "afternoon" ride while Cruzman and I headed towards Ft. Mountain.  As we approached Hiawassee on US 76, there was an ominous cloud looming over Brasstown Bald.  I had comms with Cruzman and we were talking as we rode along.  I mentioned the cloud and since he's been in Blarisville a lot, he said he'd seen the mountain looking like that before and it never rained.  I was skeptical but we kept riding towards it.

We rode around the lake (on Hwy 288) before stopping to gas up then a little while later to feed my craving for a snickers.  It was clear then that we wouldn't make it to Ft. Mountain unless we wanted to be home around midnight so we scrapped the idea in favor of riding Hwy 60 from Morganton towards Dahlonega.  Once we reached Blairsville, we got off of US 76 and took the Blue Ridge Hwy/Old 76 to Hwy 60.

As I saw yet another horse, I realized I'd seen more horses than I've ever noticed.  At least as many as cows until we passed a large ranch on Old 76.  Cruzman proved to be almost right.  As we got closer to Morganton, it started to sprinkle but never a real rain.  Once on 60, the road was wet enough to suggest we missed the real shower but the farther south we progressed, the roads dried and skies cleared.  We'd already decided we weren't going to Ft. Mountain so we were riding at a leisurely pace (for us).

Cruzman was talking about a huge house we wanted to see so we took a right onto Gaddistown RD hoping it was the correct road and that it stayed paved.  I didn't mind that it was the wrong road.  It was winding with decent scenery and pavement.  After a while, Cruzman said he didn't remember this part or that part and then the pavement abruptly ended.  I found myself having to back up all the bs I'd been talking about riding on gravel roads.

I was fulling willing until I heard Cruzman say the road was rutted from cars.  A few moments later, I understood exactly what that meant:  This was the kind of gravel I was not prepared to ride.  This
stuff was scary!  The ruts were on an uphill curve that made riding over them worse.  My FZ1 is not an adventure bike nor am I an adventure rider.

Baby has never felt heavier since I've owned him.  I was relieved when Cruzman suggested we turn around.  Once we got to the spot, I readily handed Baby over to him rather than risking another drop on gravel.  The turn around was on a slope that ended with Baby pointing downhill over the sketchy gravel we'd just ridden over.

I tried to go slow while Cruzman coached me to get me down the hill while I stayed upright.  Thanks to liberal use of the the rear brake and divine intervention, I made it safely back to the pavement.  Getting back on it was almost like jumping a curb but I was so eager, I did that without hesitation.  That'll be the last time I talk BS about riding gravel for a while!

I'm certain there's a way to ride from 60 westward without hitting gravelled roads, that just wasn't the way to do it.  I may take the time to figure it out because knowing how might have meant making it to Ft. Mountain.

Everything after Gaddistwon RD's grave was dead easy.  We made it back to Hwy 60 and pretty much booked it to Dahlonega after deciding not to ride Wolf Pen Gap RD.  It was nearing deer thirty and time to be out of the curvy stuff and forests.  Once in Dahlonega, we stopped for a break and ended up having dinner at Pueblos Mexican Cuisine.  Dinner was fabulous and a place we definitely should remember.

We left as the sun was setting, making it to GA 400 just as it got dark via Hwy 52 and Dawsonville.  Our day together ended where it started in Cumming at our gas station.  It was perfect and I'm looking forward to doing it again.  Next ride will be a lot sooner than three months from now.

Thanks for reading,
patrice, theWolfTamer

I finally got the plastic tube out of my tank after riding with it the last 6 months.

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