Don’t let The Tail Of The Dragon get you!
Yesterday, here in the U.S. it was Father’s Day. My friend Sean and I (the two fathers) wanted to go for a ride. We didn’t want a short ride like a few weeks ago where we rode to lunch and then a short ride back home. We wanted a real ride! Sean planned a ride that would ultimately take us to Deal’s Gap and it’s 11 mile stretch of road known as The Tail Of The Dragon. Sean’s wife, Christine had never been there so that was the reason for our destination. We also wanted to ride some of the other roads in the area too. Sean planned out a route that would take us from home in Georgia on up into Tennessee and into North Carolina (the 3 states) before returning home. We met at Sean & Christine’s house early that morning for a hearty breakfast before the four of us (Donna & me and Sean & Christine) got on the road. Sean’s route took us from Woodstock, Georgia on up the road to exotic places like Blue Ridge, Copperhill, Duck Town and then a stop in Tellico Plains where The Cherohala Skyway begins. While at our stop in Tellico Plains we met a couple who was on a beautiful orange Harley Davidson Road Glide. He asked me how to get to the Cherohala Skyway and I told him “Just turn right out of the parking lot.” He asked “And then what?” I pointed to the brown sign right up the road and told him the Skyway began right there. We had a good laugh and we all looked at each other’s motorcycles and asked questions. We got back on our motorcycles and headed for the brown sign but instead of taking the Skyway we made a left onto TN HWY 360 and headed for Vonore, TN and from there US 129 and The Tail Of The Dragon (sounds scary, doesn’t it?). If you’re not familiar with that stretch of road, it boasts 318 curves in 11 miles. Quite a number of the curves are sharp, hairpins and switchbacks. You have to really pay attention on this road. The road is not dangerous if you stick to the speed limit and stay in your lane. The problem is that many riders go up there and treat the road like it’s their personal racetrack and then get upset when people get in their way. The trick to riding it on a motorcycle like our BMW K1200LT is lower gears and high revs so you can really lean into the curves. Now let me vent a bit. If this kind of road scares you then stay off it. We were part of a parade of motorcycles that was behind 2 cars with Illinois plates who were driving at the speed limit and often well below it. When they’d come up to the roadside photographers they’d nearly stop! They passed nearly every paved pull-off without using them until nearly the end of the road. But I guess if I had my choice I’d rather have them being cautious and staying in their own lane than exceeding their abilities and crossing over into oncoming traffic, which is a common occurence up there. I’d also prefer them at the speed limit instead of the speeding sport bikes using the public roadway as a private raceway. Vent over.
Once we rode The Tail Of The Dragon, we stopped in at the Deal’s Gap Resort/Store/Cafe to look around, mainly at the people show and motorcycles. Up in the cafe it look like a casting call for extras for the Sons of Anarchy! We looked around and took some pictures before we got back on the motorcycles and headed for Robbinsville, NC using NC HWY 28 instead of US 129. I will have to say that on this day, NC 28 was the much better ride than The Tail Of The Dragon. There was very little traffic on it’s up and down twists and curves. It was very fun. In fact there were a number of times that I not only scraped the side stand and center stand but went even further and scraped my foot pegs! WOOHOO! When we made it to Robbinsville Christine said that even in front of us she heard the scraping! We headed onto into Robbinsville for a late lunch at a Mexican restaurant the Donna and I have eaten at a few times. We pulled into the lot and saw the orange Road Glide from Tellico Plains in the lot! They had come across the Cherohala Skyway and found the same place to eat. We chatted with them a bit inside and then outside again as we all left after eating lunch. Our Day was now getting late so it was time to tell the GPS to find the quickest way home which took us through Andrews and Murphy North Carolina and then into north Georgia for home.
Our little ride took us 331 miles from Sean and Christine’s house (for us add the 12 miles from our house to theirs) and into 3 states. Most of our riding was on two lane state highways and a few 4 lane state and U.S. highways. It was a really good day to be out riding and I slept real good that night!
I tried out a new picture layout. If you point at the picture you’ll see the caption for it. If you click on the picture it will open it up to full size.
North of Copperhill, TN headed for Tellico Plains, TN.
The Magic Carpet and The Road Runner at Deal’s Gap.
Part of the parking lot at Deal’s Gap.
Sean, Christine, Chris & Donna (L-R) at Deal’s Gap.
Our GPS track for the day.
Around Andrews, NC while headed home.
That’s right you saw “guns” in the title!
This morning was the 3rd annual Ride n Shoot put on by my Blue Knights Chapter as a friendly competition for our members. The rules are simple: You meet for breakfast (eating breakfast is optional), then ride your motorcycle to the pistol range, and then shoot the Georgia Double Action Pistol Course. The member with the highest score on the course wins. If a member doesn’t ride their motorcycle over they can still shoot, but they’re not eligible to win unless they ride your motorcycle from the restaurant. Remember, it is a motorcycle club after all. I ate and rode but I didn’t win. I did however as expected shoot a passing score in order to complete the paperwork to continue to carry a pistol nationwide, should I choose, as a retired law enforcement officer.
It was a gorgeous day to ride too. In fact it so nice that a smaller group of us decided to ride back towards Canton, GA on the back roads and have lunch at the Corner Café in the Lathemtown community before all riding home. Hence the title of the article.
It was a good, fun day to spend with friends. Now I just have to work on hitting center mass better from back at the 25 yard line.
Members of my Blue Knights Chapter arriving at Sharp Shooters Firing Range.
Tags: blue knights
That’s right, this post has nothing at all to do with motorcycles. But it’s cool and is nature related. Yesterday Donna told me “Chris look out in the front yard!” There was a pretty big doe grazing in the yard without a care in the world. That’s right, deer. You see, we don’t live in a very urbanized area. In fact our back yard is the property line for Lake Allatoona and the Army Corps of Engineers so it’s a pretty wooded area. In one of the videos here, our neighbor had backed her car out of her driveway and then drove right past the deer. The deer didn’t even flinch! Ok, maybe I fibbed about not being motorcycle related. When another neighbor came up the street on his motorcycle and did a double take to look at the deer, she took off but only went next door!
If the video pauses and then starts in the middle, just let it play, then simply “replay” it. The longest of the two is only 15 seconds long.
Donna and I went on our first two-up ride in well over a month today. With everything that’s been going on and trips to Florida we needed to just get out and ride for fun. My Blue Knights Chapter was going to ride and go to lunch at Bigun’s Barbeque in Talking Rock, GA. But they were meeting over near Cumming, GA. Sean, who lives much closer to us wanted to meet somewhere closer to home and we’d ride up on our own and meet the rest of the Chapter at the restaurant.
Donna remembered how to climb onto the back of the motorcycle and off we went. It was good having her back there again. Sean led us on a nice ride up to the restaurant. Our ride took us all the way up East Cherokee DR. A nice curvy portion had just been paved (the equipment was still parked off the road) so it had that nice new, smooth and “grippy” asphalt. It was fun! We did meet the rest of the group when they arrived at the restaurant behind us. The barbeque wasn’t all that impressive but it was more about being with friends. Man, we needed that ride!
The Magic Carpet and its often riding partner The Roadrunner at Bigun’s Barbeque.
I’m back home from the earlier solo ride down to Florida this week. We’ll both be going back down again next week, this time for Mom’s memorial service. But, we’ll probably take the car as “nice” clothes travel better in a car.
In the post earlier this week I said that I took a different route this time. I used I-75 from metro Atlanta to I-475 (to go around Macon, GA) and then I-75 again all the way down to Ocala, Florida. Once in Ocala, I took Florida HWY 40 across to Ormond Beach and then took I-95 for a few miles to my destination. The GPS said that this route was 477 miles, took 7 hours and 35 minutes of time in motion and a total of 8 hours and 13 minutes that the GPS was on. The GPS comes on with the motorcycle and turns off 30 seconds after the motorcycle is turned off. This route took me through the Ocala National Forest. I saw bear crossing signs and in a whole section of the forest, the trees all leaned to west from the prevailing winds blowing in from the east coast of Florida. It was definitely more leisurely than the normal interstate highway route. I didn’t hear any banjo music while cutting across Florida. I’ll be adding this ride to the GPS Files page this weekend.
Normally when we go down to Florida, we’ll take I-75 from metro Atlanta to I-475 (to go around Macon, GA) and then back on I-75 until we get to I-10 East where we head for I-295 (to go around Jacksonville, FL) and then take I-95 South to our destination. The trip home merely reverses the route. Yes, this route is all interstate highway but gets us there in a day. According to the GPS the return trip home was 478 miles, took 7 hours and 38 minutes of time in motion and 7 hours and 59 minutes that the GPS was on.
What did I learn about the routes? The route cutting across on FL HWY 40 was actually a mile shorter but sure didn’t look that way on a map. The normal, all interstate highway route took a total of 3 minutes longer as I had run into slow traffic when I got to Atlanta. The route using Ocala FL HWY 40 was 1 hour and 14 minutes longer, probably because of the traffic lights and a few stops in traffic on the morning I left.
I also noticed a few things on this trip or had a few things happen:
- I got hit on the left knee by a chunk of tire when someone in front of me ran over a piece of tire retread in the road. The chunk that hit me was about the size of a golf ball and hit me while I travelling just over 70 mph. While it hit the knee armor , I surely felt it. I cringe at how it would’ve felt if I was wearing riding pants with armor, or even worse, shorts.
- At gas stop at a “Travel Plaza” (they attract all motorists by not using the term Truck Stop) 2 tour busses pulled up one behind the other to unload the high school kids from Iowa on them. But they wanted to be right at the door and blocked about 15 cars of customers from leaving until they were finished. Someone from the Travel Plaza came out and told them they needed to move to the area posted for “Truck, RV and Bus Parking”. So much for professional drivers.
- At 2 gas stops and the Florida Welcome Center I had strangers walk up and start talking about motorcycling and asking questions about The Magic Carpet. You don’t have that happen when travelling by car in your Ford Taurus or Chevy Impala.
- While in southern Georgia near the state line I passed a car that had a laptop propped up on the dashboard and angled so the driver could see it! I had hoped she wasn’t watching a movie. She pulled into the Florida Welcome Center shortly after I did and parked just one space away. Guess what? She was watching a movie while driving at 70 mph.
- On the way home today I was passed by a Harley Davidson Road Glide Ultra in Florida whose rider was wearing a full face helmet, armored riding pants and an hi-vis orange Harley Davidson mesh jacket. He was definitely dressed more like an armadillo than a pirate!
Until next time, Ride Safe.
As I’ve posted before, I don’t like solo trips, I really like having Donna sitting behind me. Last week I thought I was going to make a solo trip to come to Florida to see my Mom in hospice for leukemia. But things took a turn and we both ended up coming down a day early at night. Mom lost her battle with leukemia last Thursday night.
Yesterday I did ride down solo to come help my Dad out with a few things. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve made this trip by car or motorcycle. This time though a friend suggested a different route. I came all the way to just about Ocala, FL to take FL Highway 40 east across to Ormond Beach. This route took me past Silver Springs and through the Ocala National Forest. According to MapSource the route was two miles shorter and 12 minutes longer than the regular all interstate way (but I think it was much more than 12 minutes longer). According to the GPS, the trip was 477 miles and took 7 hours and 35 minutes of time moving. The trip was longer with stops. I’ll write a more normal entry when I get back home. I figured I’d try making this entry with the WordPress for Windows Phone app. Read more
We’ve added a new page to the blog! It’s a page that contains some of the rides we’ve taken and they’re in GPS format so that you can download them if you like. You can download them even if you just want a closer look at the route! The files are in GPX (GPS exchange) format to make them compatible with as many GPS units as possible. You find the page by clicking on the tab for “GPS File” in the menu above and to the right or you can just follow this link.
Yesterday was Mother’s Day here in the US. Donna and her sister took their Mom to lunch and then Donna had to work later that afternoon. I called my Mom who lives in another state. But what did I do on Mother’s Day? Why I went for a motorcycle ride! Now some may think this unusual but Donna has even requested to that before on Mother’s Day and birthdays. I guess I’m one lucky guy.
My Blue Knights Chapter had to cancel a ride the day before because of a forecast of a high probability of thunderstorms. Those thunderstorms never materialized. But there’s an old aviation saying about cancelling a flight that can be compared to motorcycling, “It’s better to be down here wishing you were up there than to be up there wishing you were down here.” So on Sunday a friend, Sean, and I went for a ride. We were going to pre-ride a route for an upcoming Blue Knights ride. We met in Jasper, GA under a nearly cloudless blue sky with temperatures already warming into the mid 60′s. We took off and headed for Talking Rock before heading up over Burnt Mountain on GA HWY 136. I don’t know what it is about Burnt Mountain but it’s always significantly cooler up there. Along the top, the temperature dropped down to 51 and when Donna and I were up there about 2 months ago there was snow on the side of the road when the mountain tops in the area hadn’t seen snow for over a week! We headed on through Dahlonega passing Rider’s Hill and making the turn at the Rock Mound for Turner’s Corner and US HWY 129. Turner’s Corner wouldn’t be our lunch stop today as we were going to have BBQ in Blairsville. But now it’s time to vent. Some people shouldn’t ride motorcycles. Or if they do, they should pull over and let the line of cars and motorcycles pass them. On US 19/GA 9, between GA 60 and US 129 we got stuck behind a couple on a Kawasaki Vulcan cruiser, a “Harley-A-Like” bagger. He had highway pegs mounted high up on his crash bars. He had the pegs angled so his feet pointed to the sides of the road. This guy literally looked like he could’ve been at the gynecologist’s office for an exam! That was just to paint a picture. He would go along at 45 mph or higher; until he reached a curve. When he reached a curve his brake light would come on and he would slow dramatically. Come out of the curve and he’s speed up until the next curve and repeat it again. The entire stretch of road is probably a no passing zone and there was car between us, so I didn’t pass them. Then I noticed (because I had nothing better to do while creeping along) that when he would brake in the curves that his feet were still up on those highway pegs! He was braking hard using only his front brake in curves. When we got to US 129 to go up and over Blood Mountain, this guy on his Kawasaki sadly turned left. Great, now we were going to be behind him on a really curvy road! He started his routine all over again. But luckily, it wasn’t long before we got two lanes on our side of the road with a nice sign that reads “Keep Right Except To Pass”. So I drop to 4th gear, pull out into the left lane give the gas; good. I wanted to pass this guy as quickly as we could! Then to my amazement as I’m parallel to him, he begins changing lanes into me in a curve to the left. I saw the shock and panic on his face. I’m sure that if I had hit my horn he would’ve wrecked. But we put him in our rear view mirrors. It wasn’t until we stopped for lunch that Sean told me how close that Kawasaki had gotten to me. Since Sean and I were both riding solo, we rode a bit more “spirited” than if our wives were with us. The BMW K1200LT is an 850 pound touring motorcycle can that do a pretty good impersonation of a sport bike at times. We got to a nice sweeping, angled and sharp right curve and I was really leaning into to it, “motor officer style”. That means pushing the bike over while your body is upright. Suddenly I felt my right foot peg scraping the road! I guess I was leaning a bit far! Usually when riding 2 up and we’re leaning like that, the side stand on the left or the center stand on the right will scrape first as a warning. I didn’t get that warning being solo and it surprised me a bit. I got to thinking later and realized that those foot pegs are pretty high off the ground to begin with. In the same spot Sean drug the right floorboard of his Victory Cross County Tour through the whole curve. We had a really good time going up and over the mountain. If you’ve been in the area you know what a well maintained, curvy and fun road US 129 over Blood Mountain can be. We stopped for lunch in Blairsville before getting back on the motorcycles and taking a more sedate and leisurely route home. As we were getting ready to leave the BBQ restaurant, a group of 5 Triumph motorcycles pulled in just in time to take our parking spots as the lot was full. I even made it back home in time to kiss Donna before she headed off for work. But I did cook her a dinner she wanted when she got home. Now Donna wants to go for a ride because it’s been a while. Where should we go………..
The Roadrunner (L) and Magic Carpet (R) at our lunch stop.
The bronze colored area in the circle is where I scraped.
The foot peg I scraped is in the circle. You can see how high they are. WOOHOO!
Our route on Mother’s Day.
That’s right after a few years of thinking about doing it, I went ahead and registered our blog with its own website address right here on WordPress. Instead of searching or typing an address that was “something.wordpress.com” you can now just start visiting us at our new web address of www.2upriding.net to read the blog. If you’ve already bookmarked the old address that’s fine, you won’t have to do a thing and can continue using it because it will take you to the same place right here on WordPress and you won’t have to do a thing! Even if you use the old address you’ll see the new one in the address bar. The hardest part was picking an address that fit the blog, was short and wasn’t taken. So go ahead and visit us at the new address (same blog though), and bookmark us or add us to your favorites. Don’t forget to stop by our Facebook page too and check out our Twitter feed.
When we bought our GPS, a Garmin Zumo 220, it included Garmin’s mapping software MapSource on a DVD-ROM. Using MapSource you could create routes on your computer and then transfer them to the GPS or the MicroSD card in the GPS. It’s really a handy thing to do and I was used to it because our old GPS, a BMW NAV I (actually a Garmin Street Pilot III) used it also and I was already used to it. Like any software there was a learning curve. When we got the GPS we updated the maps as suggested and both MapSource and the GPS then had the same maps. Garmin has started using software that’s a free download called BaseCamp to replace MapSource which they were phasing out. You see, MapSource was included free only with certain GPS units but you could always buy if from Garmin for a price that they were very proud of. But BaseCamp is a free download and is said to work with any Garmin GPS that you can attach to your computer via a USB cable. I decided to download it and try it out. Again there was a learning curve but using the tutorials on the Garmin web site I learned to use it and like it. Your routes were now in collections or lists (lists were in a collection) and I could never find where they were kept on my computer, unlike the GDB or GPX files that MapSource would create. In fact I was using BaseCamp as my sole mapping software after our installation of the Windows 8 Beta and final release. BaseCamp would use the maps installed on the GPS create routes if the GPS was connected to the computer. If the GPS was not connected to the computer, you’d get a very basic map. A while back, BaseCamp decided that it didn’t want to transfer routes to the MicroSD in the GPS anymore or to the GPS. Garmin’s first attempt at trouble shooting was to blame it on Windows 8. So I re-installed MapSource and the map in the GPS to my computer. They each have their advantages and disadvantages but I sure did miss MapSource!
Advantages of BaseCamp
- It’s free and you can install it on as many computers as you like.
- Because it will use the maps installed on the GPS you can use it on any computer you wish, without having to install the maps to the computer.
- You can see all your “Collections” and “Lists” in one place.
- Easy to transfer routes to GPS (although mine stopped doing that).
- You can set it for different activities such as hiking, motorcycling, driving.
Disadvantages of BaseCamp
- It can be cumbersome to use.
- It tends to show all your lists (routes) unless you delete them or hide them
- It tended to use a business on a corner as a waypoint instead of the intersection.
- To use the same maps as the GPS, the GPS needed to be connected to the computer (although after an installation of the maps for MapSource use that’s no longer required)
Advantages of MapSource
- It’s definitely more polished.
- Will easily save routes as a GPX (GPS exchange for other GPS units) or GDB (Garmin Data Base) to your hard drive or any folder of your choosing.
- Easy to transfer routes & more to your GPS when connected to computer.
- GPS does not need to be connected to computer to create routes using the same maps as in the GPS.
- GPS need only be connected to computer to transfer data back and forth.
Disadvantages of MapSource
- Only included with certain GPS units.
- Is not free if it did not come with your GPS.
- Software and maps take up quite a bit of room on your hard drive.
- Since it’s commercial software you’re only to install it on a single computer.
Below are pictures of both MapSource and BaseCamp showing the same location at the same zoom factor (0.5 mile) and same detail level using the default setting without the GPS attached to the computer.
MapSource without GPS connected to computer.
BaseCamp without GPS connected to computer.