29 June 2015

Ride Report: Sweet Home Alabama redux

26 April 2015:  Alabama Beauty

Cruzman texted me early in the week asking if I wanted to
ride on Sunday.  I said heck yeah since I was already considering a solo ride for the weekend.  Earlier in the week I installed a power port for just for the gps.  A couple of weeks ago, I finally put the crash bars and rider pegs on.  They're not pretty but they work well.

I was eager to ride with my new farkles to see if they were worth it.  Cruzman mentioned Little River and Cloudland Canyon in Alabama.  It's been a couple of years since I went that way but I remembered that the roads around Cloudland Canyon are not sport bike roads.  If I had a cruiser, I'd've rolled it out for this ride.

Even around Little River Canyon, the roads have long sweeping curves or are just plain straight.  When you look for motorcycle rides in that region, those always come up.  I didn't really want a technical ride this week anyway.  Highway pegs can't be tested on tight curves anyway.  Even so that didn't mean I wanted to go to a place that was so far away.

Cruzman said we needed a short (for us) day so I thought Little River Canyon and maybe Desoto falls would be better than Cloudland.  We agreed to meet near Town Center Mall around 9 on Sunday morning.  There was only one thing:  I forgot to change my front tire.

I had a replacement it just wasn't on a rim.  For the first time since 2012, I thought maybe it was time to try the tire changer again.  The last time was a total disaster that ended with me calling Cruzman and us using it as more a stand than a changer.  Since I had a Michelin sport tire and have been listening to Cruzman say how easy they are to mount, I figured I should be able to do it myself.

I haven't had issues getting the old tire off of the rim.  I didn't this time either.  What I had problems with was getting the rim tight in the changer.  I've done it before but this time no joy.  With the mods I made to the changer, the slipping rim didn't get damaged.  That was good but it didn't stop me from getting frustrated.

There was no way I could use the changer as more than a stand with the rim basically spinning every time I tried to put pressure laterally.  I managed to get the first side on without much difficulty despite not having any lubrication.  Are you noticing a theme?  If anyone has tips on how to get the boys to put the tools back when they use them I'm all ears.

I did have my tire irons though so I used them to get the second side nearly half on before I remembered my yellow thing.  The yellow thing is useless when you try to slide it along the rim to get the bead on with the rim spinning in the changer.  If I ever make a video of the process, it will start with putting the damned rim in the changer!

There was a demo ride at the Yamaha dealer so I thought that I'd do that instead of join Cruzman on the Sunday ride.  I watched my nephew cut grass and stared at the half mounted tire while I exchanged texts with Cruzman.  Then I remembered to try it from the other side.

With the yellow thing keeping the bead on, I managed to get the side that kept coming up to get on the rim.  Using brute strength and the tire changer as a stand I was able to mount my very first tire alone.  Truth is if Cruzman lived closer I may
have given up and taken my half mounted tire to him.  It's a good thing he didn't because I may never have understood how to get the darned thing on the rim otherwise.  At some point, I will figure out how to use the changer as a changer too!  Once I do, I'll start my own tire changing service.

I was elated that I got the tire on the rim but all of that went away when I couldn't find the floor jack.  My nephew said that it was in the car but why would you keep a floor jack in the car and leave the bottle jack in the garage?  Anyway, I made him hold the bike while I swapped the front rim.  With my new tire on, I would be going to Alabama after all.

I arrived an hour early because I thought it took longer to get to Town Center from my house.  That gave me time to eat breakfast and ride though car lots.  Cruzman and MrsCruzman were already at the gas station after all my farting around.  We didn't waste any time on greeting before heading out.

I only put a few way points into the GPS when I planned the route so we didn't take the most interesting way to Little River Canyon.  I'm not sure there is an interesting way to Little River Canyon.  We went through or near Rome, GA stopping about 90 minutes after we got started at Sonic for some refreshments.

As we crossed the state line, the clouds started to burn off giving the first hint that it might become a beautiful day.  I noticed some kind of historic site just across the border but didn't stop. Gotta save something for the next time.

If I'd realized how close we were to Little River Canyon, I might have stopped.  Most of the time when we ride it seems like we're going for the road.  I felt that way when riding in California too.  I saw lots of stuff that I thought it would be nice to stop and see but we never did.  I guess some times it's better to stop and see things.

Next time I will remember to enjoy the area because that's really all there is to do.  I've decided there are some rides that are about the area while others are about the road.  I always enjoy riding the Little River Canyon Road no matter the conditions.  After the previous day's rain, the road was still damp and more than a little dirty.  The trees were all in hues of early spring green.

I hadn't planned for us to ride the full road so we could get back at a decent time.  Later I read it was closed because of a sinkhole.  I would have liked to spend more time exploring the area.  Little River Canyon, called the Grand Canyon of the east, was created by falls of the Little River like the ones seen from the scenic overlook.  It is 12 miles long and 600 feet deep in some places.

Native Americans settled the area and had their first European contact when Hernando De Soto travelled through the area in 1540 searching for gold and the Mobile Bay where his supply ships were harbored.  Twenty years later, Tristan de Luna came through the same area and found it still recovering from DeSoto's devastation.

We decided to get lunch in nearby Fort Payne.  Riding through, I could easily imagine the extinct eastern bison making the foundations for the roads we were riding.  It seemed to be more a possibility here than in the North Georgia mountains where I read they lived.

The descent into Fort Payne is unforgettable.  One moment you are winding along a tree lined road with few glimpses of the valley below, the next you round a fairly deep curve into a neighborhood.  Our approach took us past a park and the museum for the band Alabama.  Fort Payne lies in the Cumberland Plateau immediately west of Lookout Mountain on Big Wills Creek.

It was nearing the time for church to let out so the streets were relatively quiet, only lined with parked cars of the pious.  Sunday mornings on motorcycle seem the best way to heal the spirit and fellowship to me.  MrsCruzman declared we could eat anything but Mexican however every restaurant in that part of town was Mexican.  We had to go almost to the interstate before we found anything that wasn't Mexican.

We settled on Arby's but it was the worst Arby's I've ever had.  Over lunch we speculated about Fort Payne and why it was there.  Was it a military town?  Not now.  It's recent history was as a manufacturing town where almost 3/4th of the socks Americans wore were made until NAFTA was passed in the 90s.  It was born as a stockade for the Cherokee Indians in the spring of 1838 for the Cherokee/Creek removal.  The internment camp was closed by October of the same year and settlers moved in using the Indians fields to form a settlement.

Before becoming an internment camp, it was the site of a Cherokee village named Willstown for the chief that settled it in the 18th century.  Willstown was the home of Sequoyah the famous Cherokee who created the only written Indian language.

During lunch, we decided to go to Cloudland Canyon anyway.  At lunch it always seems like we have time to add another location.  I should have known better but I'm getting ahead of myself.

After lunch we backtracked a little to get to Desoto Falls.  I remembered the place to be constantly crowded with beautiful falls.  I expected it to be crowded but if I'd been paying attention to the lack of traffic for such a beautiful day I should have known better.  Instead I was having fun.  My motorcycle is awesome and being able to ride it and enjoy fantastic days like the one we were experiencing is even more awesome.  So far, the crash bars and highway pegs didn't have me thinking about when we should stop next.  The seat on the other hand...

Cloudland Canyon is an eroded gorge on the western edge of Lookout Mountain with slopes dropping 1,000 feet to the valley.  It is in Dade County, GA in the northwestern corner of the state.  There are 164 caves in the area thanks to the limestone geology.

We rode along Sunset RD to look at the houses and get a look at the valley below.  Amazing views but for me the constant wind takes something away.  The Lookout Mountain Parkway takes you to Chattanooga and another view of the valley via the glider launch place, a wind park, that was our destination.

While we were there, four peole took off.  It was the first time I got to see that.  Watchinng them glide, I was surprised to see that they were basically using the same thermals the birds use to stay aloft.  I'd just assumed they landed in the valley below but after watching them I had to re think it.  Maybe they come back to the place they took off.  Several of them were just gliding around overhead.

It was about 5 when we left.  Western rides always do that to me, I stay too long and lose the abililty to meander home like I think I will when planning the ride.  One day I'll get it right but not for this ride.  I took the interstate to meet Cruzman and Cruzwoman that morning and I did the same thing to get home.

The best part was stoppng and Krispy Kreme before heading our separate ways.  I rode about 420 miles and got home around 10:30.  It was an awesome day!

Thanks for reading!
patrice, theWolfTamer

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