19 March 2015

Ride Report: End of Winter Blairsville Rally

15-17 March 2015: Inaugural Blairsville End of Winter Rally.

As soon as I got home from my hour long test ride after installing the Danmoto.com rearsets, I told Cruzman I needed a much longer test to truly get a feel for them. I suggested an overnighter instead of the day ride we had scheduled. Before the weekend, he was asking where we were staying, when we were meeting, what roads we'd be riding.

Usually when I suggest something like that I know exactly where, when, and what. This time I only knew I wanted to ride from an hour after can barely see in the morning until Deer o'clock in the evening then get up the next day and do it again. By the next day, he had a plan. Come to the cabin, we can go from there.

All right, we have a plan, is it Sunday yet? No? Well, what about now? Yes it was a long week. Fortunately, I was able to ride up on Saturday evening so that shortened the wait a little. The rain that came to town midweek added to the torture. Would it clear out in time for a dry ride Saturday?

Saturday 14 March

I left about an hour later than I wanted because of an unfinished brake repair to the car. The night before I swapped out my worn front sport tire to a well used sport touring tire that I believed had about 1,000 or so miles left on it. I have a very good sport tire for the front but I'm saving that for next month.

The rain ended early enough for me to leave around 3 (actually 4 because Baby's clock wasn't sprung forward.) I let the gps do most of the routing so I could test my new GPS case. My gps is functional again! I can forgive the routing mistake that took me out of the way with a dirt section thrown in for good measure.

We went out to eat at Monte Albans Mexican restaurant then stopped by Dollar General where I bought a $6 pair of house shoes before returning to the cabin and discussing the plan for the next day. Cruzman said he was sleeping in so we wouldn't be leaving until it warmed up a little.

This was beginning to feel a lot like a rally and not just some ordinary overnighter.

Sunday 15 March

It rained that night but stopped a few hours before sunrise.
A little fog covering Blairsville
After homemade muffins and coffee we hit the road with Stella a few miles short of 50k.  The videos will tell you that I forgot all of my camera mounts but one:  the handlebar tripod mount.
We met up with MrsCruzman (Cruzwoman sounds dumb to me) after she ran a quick errand and headed South on US 129 towards Cleveland to take Wolf Pen Gap Rd. WPG has been repaved since I last rode it. Since we've been having rain and ice, I expected it to be a dirty ride. It was but not nearly as bad as I expected.

The bicyclists, on the other hand, are much worse than I remembered. Both in density and rudeness. They may be saying the same thing about me. After going into a curve and discovering bicycles 3 of 4 abreast across the lane, I may have lost patience and made close passes on the next group I saw. The first sign you might be at a rally is when you start riding like an ass for no apparent reason. Check.

By the time we got to Hwy 60, I was certain that my shifter was too low. My ankle and knee were beginning to ache because I was holding them funny just so I could shift. But so far there was no toe scraping, even in the deepest curves. The bicyclists may get the credit for that because I was paranoid after meeting too many in the wrong spot.

60 to Stonepile Gap was cyclist free, the road was drying and the sky a brilliant bright blue with few clouds. Plus it was getting warm, just as forecasted. I was already thinking about shedding the liners from my winter gear and anticipating the run up Blood Mountain.

We were stuck behind a truck most of the way to 129 so another wasted chance to really shake off the cob webs. After I installed the Danmoto rearsets, I re-read the chapter of Sport Riding Techniques on turning the bike to correct the errors I've been making since I installed the R1 forks. So far, I was getting my lines right but it was hard to be sure because our pace was way down due to the cyclists and the truck.

It pulled off at the Turner's Corner store about half a mile from the intersection with 129. The run up Blood Mountain was pretty good. As always there was traffic but with two or three passing zones it doesn't become a nuisance like on some other roads. MrsCruzman had fallen back and before long a group of sport bikes were on my tail.

Their arrival coincided with the opening of the passing lane, so I let them go before making my pass and settling into a comfortable pace. That pace wasn't much slower than the sport bike group as I was able to ride nearly side by side with the last two bikes; the last a female rider on a Ducati of some kind.

She was doing the full track rider transition from curve to curve but not hanging off as much. As the passing lane ended, we came on three cars in both lanes. It would take some bold and aggressive moves to clear them before we ran out of lanes so I slowed a little so I could slip in behind her while she made those moves.

She didn't. I tried to pass her then make the moves but time and distance were against me. We were stuck behind the three cars until the next passing area. I was behind the Ducati and the cars eagerly anticipating the next passing area. She must have been too because as soon as it appeared, she was passing them with me in her wake.

Once clear of the cars, I didn't bother to give her the chance to get back over and instead took the #2 lane that put me on the outside of the next sweeping curve and inside for the tight uphill one that followed. She and I were pretty much side by side the rest of the way to the store and I allowed her to take the lead once the passing area was done.

Another sign that you might be at a rally is when as simple afternoon ride turns in to a competition to see who is the quicker/smoother rider. Check. And for confirmation, while I was having my battles as the rear of the field, Cruzman was holding his own with the boys at the front.

He drew the line at the Suzuki Bandit and put him in his place at every curve when it was safe to do so.  The Bandit rider fought back by dragging him in the straights.  I didn't see any of this but I know Cruzman rarely rides the straights hard and if he had he likely would have left the Bandit rider in his wake.  We both adhere to the words of FastFrank from a couple of years ago when he said it is better to go fast in the corners and take it easy on the straights when riding Blood Mountain.

It didn't take long to reach the Hiker's store where we planned to turn around. After a brief break, it was back down the mountain to Rider's Hill.

Corned Beef and Cabbage with roasted red potatoes at Shenanigans.
At Rider's Hill, we did the usual: drool on bikes and talk to others about their rides. It was lunch time when we left so we headed into Dahlonega to Shenanigans. By then the sun was high and the temp very warm. It was time to take the jacket liner out and stow the heated glove liners.

After lunch, we made our way toward Ellijay via Hwy 9 and 136 with a gas stop, I thought, on the other side of Dawsonville. MrsCruzman warned me about trusting Cruzman's gas stop advice since she knew we hadn't gassed up that morning. I had around 3 gallons when we started and was certain I could make it to Dawsonville with no issues so I put the warning aside.

That is until we rode right by the gas station where I thought we were going to stop. Less than a half mile past that station, my low gas indicator decided to glow. It's set to light at 1.1g or about 40 miles before it's truly empty. We passed a sign that said the next community was only 20 or so miles away. Baby proved how smart he his by turning off the low gas light.

The day was perfect to be out and about with clear blue skies, smelly chicken farms, amidst an awakening landscape. Little buds were appearing on most of the trees. The end of Winter was certain as we rode through the country side. There was also a heat wave happening in my pants as the quilted liner did it's best to keep me warm.

On a warm day it wasn't what I wanted. By now, Baby couldn't help but letting the gas light glow as the multiguage was displaying .9g left. From past experience, I know not to get it to much lower than that because it'll read .8g the whole while studdering toward shutting off. I was right at 190 miles since my last fill up so I knew I had at most 30 miles before damned empty.

Fortunately, over the next rise a gas station appeared and we pulled in. I'd forgotten about that one. I filled up and then went inside to shed the pant liner. It took a little longer than I wanted but after more than a decent amount of time we were back on the road. Cruzman had said he'd make the correct turn this time compared to our January ride. So far it seemed the same to me except it was much warmer.

Maybe he did remember the turn because we did ride Hwy 136 and I don't remember that from January. The sweeping curves and views are stunning! Before this weekend, I mentioned to Cruzman I wanted to take more video and pics. Of course I didn't really think of it until then. I'd been taking video throughout the day from my lone mount that was on my handle bars. I didn't expect the view to be great (it isn't) but it is video. I think I'll save the different angles for my next ride to test out my new boots.

Once by the great views, I finally remembered to turn the cam on as we were making the turn toward Ellijay and Hwy 52. We didn't sync comms so I had no way to tell Cruzman when he left his turn signals on.

As usual with me, by the afternoon I was riding much better. One thing I'd noticed throughout the day was taking much better lines in the curves. No more correcting lines mid curve. Maybe the refresher I got from re-reading chapter 4 in that book or maybe the new rearsets, but more likely a combination of both, was working. At no point during the day had I scraped anything--not a boot or a slider.
I was ready for the challenge of Fort Mountain. Right up until I hit the gravel just as I was about to lean in for a right hander. Up until then the road surface was dry and basically clean with little sign of the previous weeks weather. It was even clean on Hwy 136 where they go gravel crazy.

Cruzman had stuck out a foot indicating it was there. I saw it, slowed for it, chose a line I thought avoided but still got the squiggles that sent my heart racing into my mouth. It was another mile before it slowed but I already had. Then as soon as it appeared, it was gone. Just past Ft Mountain State Park the road was back to being clean dry pavement in time for a romp down. I was still being careful, just in case. My mind and instinct was beginning to come together. I wasn't fighting the bike like I have been for the last while.

Another sign you might be at a rally is when you behave like an ass hat for the sake of being an ass. On the way into Chatsworth we encountered 2 wheeled rolling road blocks out cruising along enjoying the scenery and the road. With Cruzman leading, he got all the good passing chances leaving me with sloppy seconds. I don't know why I get irritated because others don't want to ride my pace or won't get out of the way so that I can ride my pace.

Don't they know I have stuff to work out? Do they get the delicacies of maintenance throttle, weighting pegs, pushing and pulling that gets you smoothly through the curves? Why would they want to mess that up? I passed in a low gear at high rpms that lifted the wonderful sound of motor to my ears. Yep, this must be a two bike one car rally.

I felt bad for MrsCruzman that she couldn't get by the cruiser and had to suffer though his riding the rest of the way down the mountain. We pulled off at the gas station at the end, hydrated and said our goodbyes to MrsCruzman as she had to return to the real world.

Cruzman and I would continue our hooligan ways back to Blairsville going back through Ellijay and taking some mysterious back way. Before we did, we rode up the Chatsworth side then turned around and rode back toward Chatsworth again. Again I had my ass hat on, but I wasn't alone in this ass hattery. First Cruzman, then me, and finally a white triumph something or other that we picked up on our way down. He had a white sports car following him, the new Scion Coupe FRS. We dispatched the slow moving car (Cruzman got the best passing chance again) and hooliganed our way back to the gas station where we turned around and finally headed home.

It was around 3 or 4 by then. A well planned ride had given me a decent appreciation for the rearsets. I knew for sure I needed to adjust the shifter a little higher and was developing an idea for what may be more comfortable than where they were because of the kick stand.

A final sign you know your at a rally is when you want to stop but don't because the guy in front is still riding. The way back took us from Blue Ridge through the small town of Aska.  We rode through some wonderful scenery that I scarcely noticed looking for a place to stop and stretch while hoping that Cruzman would. After we reached Skeenah Gap RD I knew we were close to Blairsville and stopping no longer made sense. It was more suffering until we got there and decided to have Subway for dinner.

The day turned out to be a lot better than I imagined, even with that torturous last leg. All I had in mind was riding up and down blood mountain then getting up and doing it again, maybe including Richard B Russell, the next day without the 2 hour 100+ mile commute to and from. As the sun went down, we were riding up Cruzman's driveway with 250+ miles ridden and an even better plan for Monday.  Hmm...just like a rally where you kind of ease into the tough stuff.

Thanks for reading,
patrice, theWolfTamer

I hope the bad videos make up for the lack of pics.  I forgot the camera mounts and to clear the micro sd cards.

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