Cabin fever finally got the best of me, so I took off down to northern Georgia Friday morning. It's not a long ride - only 175 miles to Blue Ridge, where I spent the night. Temps were in the 20s when I left home. I've got a pretty good setup for cold riding, with the exception of my hands. If I hadn't had the WeeStrom handguards, I would not have been able to do the trip, but they do a terrific job. Still though, when it's in the 20s, with 45 mph wind gusts added to the usual wind from riding, the digits get pretty cold.
I dropped off the mountain out of NC on Hwy. 25 and rode a short distance on Hwy. 11, then turned back north on Hwy. 276 to cut down through the Table Rock community. I wanted to get some shots of Table Rock State Park and the big cliffs that overlook Hwy. 11.
After rambling the back roads through the Table Rock area, I followed Hwy. 11 on down to the Pickens Hwy. (#178). I turned north towards the state line again for a ways there to get some photos of a biker hangout up on the mountain. That's a beautiful loop that passes through the Estatoe community near Lake Jocassee and Lake Keowee, and one that I really enjoy. I've got some pix that I want to post when I get time - the biker hangout is something else...
Once again, I got back on Hwy. 11 and followed it down to the Whitewater turnoff. I prefer going that way, cutting up into the mountains above Lake Jocassee, rather than staying on the busier route through Walhalla. There are some killer twisties once you hit Hwy. 107 that runs between Highlands, NC and Wahalla, SC. I didn't pass a single car between turning onto the Whitewater Road and turning again onto Hwy. 107 at the top of the mountain. It got seriously cold while running the ridgeline in the shade, but it was worth it. Man, that's an exciting road!
I turned north again after hitting the bottom of the mountain on 107, heading up alongside the Chattooga River to Warwoman Road. Warwoman was still covered in sand, gravel and salt, making for some real 'pucker' moments in a few of the turns. Remembering my close call last week ( http://www.kawasakiversys.com/forums...ead.php?t=6975
), I kept the speed down all the way into Clayton, even waving to the two patrolmen that I passed on the way into town. By then, the temps were dropping pretty fast, even though it was only mid-afternoon. I picked up the pace a bit leaving Clayton on Hwy. 76, trying to get to Blue Ridge before the sun dropped below the ridges. I stopped several times along the way to warm the fingers up - gotta get those Gerbings before next winter.
Blue Ridge is a beautiful town, but it sure has changed in the 30 something years since I last passed through. I checked into the Days Inn - nice! - and set out to find something to eat. There is a Mex restaurant next door to the Inn, so it was my first choice. I walked in, and the host told me that they didn't have any booths available, even though there were clearly about 6 or 7 empty booths in sight. I didn't care to sit at one of the little tables by the door, so I passed on the fajitas and settled for a pizza from Dominos instead. It went good with a couple of beers and some Jim Beam - I probably enjoyed it better than I would have the fajitas anyway.
I piled out the next morning, wanting to get an early start. It was 23 degrees when I first went out to start loading up the bike and I was hoping that it would warm up fast - no such luck. When I headed south towards Suches on Hwy. 60, it had warmed up to about 27 degrees, but it was sunny and the wind had dropped a lot from that on Friday. Hwy. 60 was a real treat - twisty, no traffic, and as beautiful as any road that I've ridden in the southern mountains. I wish that I'd had more time to explore the side roads, but I'll be back as soon as the weather warms up. I hit Hwy. 180 through Wolf Pen Gap out of Suches. Lots of gravel again, with ice on the north side of the mountain. One thing that I remember about that stretch was the amazing number of raptors that I saw - 8 red-tailed hawks, and two barred owls. Must be a lot prey in the area. Now I know why mountainrider loves that area so much - it's prime riding, better by far than the better known Dragon. Lots more variety - it reminds me of the roads in the Pisgah region near home. Good, good riding, and I can't wait to go back. Come on springtime!!!
I had planned on riding on over to Tellico Plains that day, but ended up in Murphy instead. I wanted to ride the Wayah Road out of the Nantahala Gorge, and decided to cut the ride short by a day. Riding during mid-day was lots of fun, but by about 4 p.m., it was cold enough to stiffen the fingers. I wish that I'd bought the Gerbings while at the motorcycle show in Greenville a few weeks ago. Everything else stayed toasty and warm, even at speed when the temps were in the 20s.
Wayah Road was a slip'n'slide of gravel and ice, especially on the Franklin side of the gap. A beautiful ride, but making speed of any kind was out of the question. From Franklin, I picked up Hwy. 64 back through Highlands and Cashiers to home. The temps had dropped below freezing by the time I left Cashiers and the fingers were getting pretty painful by the time I pulled into the garage at home.
I'll get some pix in sometime this week, but right now I'm focused on getting ready for the next trip. Warm weather has got to be out there somewhere...
A little over 400 miles of superb mountain riding in, crowned by the great roads of the north Georgia mountains. Much more of that, and I'll be putting a Go Bulldawgs! sticker on my Vee.