Sunday, January 10, 2016
Sunday, January 03, 2016
1/2/16 was the last of 17 straight days off. I thought I should get a few hours of riding in before the long ride home. I put the down jacket I should have had the prior day under my riding jacket and headed for the Blood Mt Wilderness.
A great map loaned by my campsite neighbor is apparenlty available at the Turner Store. The "good" roads are all listed.
A depressingly short way down this road, I was confronted with a water crossing. I stopped to survey and couldn't see a path that would put me in less than 12" of water. Not wanting wet feet first thing, or to capsize a cherry Super Tenere in a rocky stream, I chickened out and turned back. I would love to attempt this very tame, do-able crossing... not at 40 degrees wearing down.
With limited time, I figured "go with what you know," and headed back to Duncan Ridge Rd. off rt180 west of Vogel SP. In a fit of confidence, I road up a faint two-track to a campsite on a bluff near the spot I'd stopped at two days ago to air down. Rooty/ rocky, hard to turn around on, but the bike doesn't care as long as it's moving.
The furnace kicked on overnight - it was COLD when I woke up. With a full day of riding in front of me, I thought the thing to do would be to ride the Dragon on the first day of the year - via the Cherohala Skyway, of course. Put a light coat on under my riding jacket and plotted a course to Tellico Plains.
GPS dinked me around a little and eventually dumped me on rt68, which crosses the Hiwassee River and follows it for a few miles. The river was in flood stage.
Rt68 heads twists to Tellico Plains, and early on New Year's Day, I had it all to myself. By the time I got there I was so cold I couldn't feel my hands. I stopped at the Hardee's for breakfast and a hot coffee, and to warm up. I'd lost some time; they were serving lunch already. The cold and my unpreparedness for it had me wondering if I should turn around. After a meal, a coffee, and 1/2 hour of climate control, my confidence returned.
I headed thru "old" Tellico Plains and climbed up the Skyway. Traffic was light, but a few passes put them behind me. It seemed to be warming up, and I was enjoying the fast sweepers, passing into and out of clouds, and capturing it on GoPro. I reached an overlook above the clouds and stopped for the obligatory pics. A retired woman was there with a girl in her early 20's. For reasons unclear, they seem compelled to share a lot of their life story, which was largely punctuated sadness. It wasn't obvious how they were related.
Super T above the clouds.
On the NC side heading towards Robbinsville (now rt 143) a sign at a pull-out seems more "promise" than "warning." I ponder how much elevation change this road has... and how surprisingly warm it was.
Eventually I twist my way past the Thunder Mtn gas station - which seemed to be closed for the holiday - and onto rt 129. The Cheoah Dam reflected the high water seen earlier on the Hiwasee - heavy rains had fallen for several days before my trip. The dam had several gates open and the discharge was impressive - there was whitewater all the way to the 129 bridge, and climbing 129 to the top of the dam covered me in spray. I wish I'd stopped for pics but I was beginning to feel a time crunch. I did NOT want to get stuck in the cold/ dark a long way from camp.
There were a few bikes at the General Store. I pulled in just to re-set the GoPro and headed right up to the TOTD. The cold had started to grip me again and I was riding distracted. At one point I used a pull-out to let what turned out to be a trio of Victories pass me. I was surprised at their speed, but they were crossing the double yellow. My run down was less scary than my first pass on the VStrom had been, but I was going slow and shivering. At the lookout, I pulled off and was having trouble figuring out if/how to deploy my side stand. The cold was starting to affect my judgement, so I stopped to warm up. I warmed my hands on the idling engine and let the radiator fan blow hot air into my gloves. After a few minutes, I turned around and headed back up.
A few bikes passed me coming down, all giving the police "head tap", so I stuck to the speed limit. The speed limit isn't such a bad thing on this road. Near the top the Sheriff passed me coming back down. I pulled into the General Store for a pic and to use the facilities. A Goldwing rider came in after me, took a pic in exactly the same spot, and left as quickly as I had.
It being a fairly long slog home, I battened down and rode straight for camp, with one fuel/coffee/warm up stop in Blairsville. I reached camp at dusk.
A day of changing tires, and another day of swapping hydraulic lines and adding 2" bar risers leaves the last few days of the epic Xmas shutdown/ vacay with "warm" weather forecast for north GA. Five hundred miles later, I arrive at the Cleveland, GA, Walmart at 11:30PM and turn in. It's not a camping trip until you've been to Walmart, so I headed in first thing for some groceries.
After some phone tagging, I wind up with an appointment to meet the work-camper (Craig) at Jenny's Creek at 9AM.
Deploy bike, deploy trailer, back into site, hook up shore services, and I'm ready to roll.
My only plans for the day were to stay close to camp and try the knobbies off pavement. Rt 129N to Turner's Corner to Rt60, on the way to Suches. I shot some GoPro video, and detoured off to Lake Dockery on gravel. I'd skipped this detour last time I was here due to time and tires.
Looping rt180 around to Vogel SP, I went to the spot where I'd taken my water reflecting foliage photos a few months back. "The" shot, in winter:
And a "then" vs. "now" shot, Fall vs. Winter:
Leaving Vogel, another feature alien to Floridians: a waterfall. Note the viewing deck in the center right of the pic:
Leaving Vogel, I went back up rt180 to the turn-out for the WMA at 34.763963, -83.952219.
After a quick climb, I was on a summit. The maps suggested a network of un-pavement ahead, so I aired down and rotated the bars. I spent awhile at this spot, taking it in, being restored.
I followed the trail up, down, around, and thru the WMA. I encountered a pair of bikes and chatted for a minute with the riders before winding up at another "charging station", where I spent another long while trying to become one with nature.
I followed the trail until it ended near Blairsville, GA. I stopped to eat and manage fluids and doubled back over all the gravel back to the camper, timing the daylight nearly perfectly. The camper is so luxurious it's ridiculous. I cooked a hot meal on a stove, fired up the furnace, threw a DVD in, and drifted off.