Rides

Two Wheeled Santas

This morning was the annual BMW Motorcycle Club of Georgia and BMW Motorcycles of Atlanta toy run for the Towns County Sheriff’s Office’s Empty Stocking Fund.  The dealership acts as a drop off point for toys from customers and people who have heard about the ride through word of mouth.  This year there were two large, motorcycle sized boxes full of toys.  I wonder where they got those big motorcycle sized boxes?  The toys are then usually loaded up in the dealership’s van and taken to the sheriff’s office by a caravan of motorcycles.  The ride is open to all motorcycles and all they ask is that you bring one unwrapped toy the day of the ride or drop one off in the toy box before the ride.  Of course the largest percentage of motorcycles are BMW but there were Ducatis, Hondas, Kawasakis, Triumph, Can Am Spyder and more.  There were 46 motorcycles this year.  There was even a family of four on a BMW with a side car!  It’s a fun day.  The owner’s of the dealership provide coffee and a light breakfast for the riders before the toys get loaded up.  The sheriff is there at the justice center waiting for us to arrive.  There are offices packed with donated toys at the justice center.  The sheriff goes out of his way to thank the riders, often thanking as many as he can individually.  The numerous ways the toys get distributed is really interesting too.  Families can come pick up the toys and even have them wrapped if they are unable to it themselves.  Deputies can meet parents to deliver toys, deputies can and do drop off toys on Christmas Eve, leaving them at a spot designated by the parents so they can retrieve them to be put under the tree and some toys are even delivered on Christmas by the deputies in person.  It’s all based on what the family wants to do.

Since it’s December the weather here can be frigid or warm.  In the past we’ve been rained on, snowed on, iced on and had freezing fog.  This was the first ride I’ve been on where it was sunny!  On my way to the dealership this morning it was a crisp 32° (F).  When we departed Marietta for Young Harris it had already warmed to 41° but when we got to Jasper the sun suddenly disappeared, it got overcast and the temperature rapidly dropped to 30°!  As we got to Ellijay, the sun came out again and it warmed into the low 40’s but when we reached our pit stop in Blue Ridge it was 32° and freezing fog again.  By the time we reached the justice center in Young Harris it was sunny again and 46°.  Talk about roller coaster weather!  But I think the cold weather and the frozen fog in the tree tops helps put you in the Christmas spirit and really does make us feel like two-wheeled Santas.  After the toys are delivered we usually break up into smaller groups and head for lunch or to go do some riding in the area.

As Sheriff Clinton told us, “It warms your heart to know that you helped make sure a child had a Christmas present under the tree.”

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I’m Really Liking This Motorcycle!

I took the R1200RT out for a short 126 mile ride this morning.  One of the things I wanted to do was familiarize myself with the BMW Navigator V GPS system using a route I already had saved in Garmin’s BaseCamp software.  There are some differences in the way the new Navigator V and the older Garmin Zumo 220 load routes and where they keep them.  I left the new Navigator V GPS set so that it would give me prompts and directions through the motorcycle’s on-board audio system through the fairing speakers.

We’re still waiting for our top case to be delivered so this was going to be a solo ride.  Donna prefers the security of the top case and its backrest behind her plus she had to work today.

I took a short and fun route that we’ve ridden a number of times and written about here.  I have the route saved in BaseCamp as “Hillbilly Drive“.  I take GA HWY 53 across to Dawsonville where I take a nice local road back out to GA HWY 183 going towards Amicalola Falls State Park.  Before getting to the park I take GA HWY 136 over Burnt Mountain and through its curves before getting to Talking Rock, GA and heading for home.

It was a cool but gorgeous day to ride!  It started out right at 50º (F) and dropped to 48 going over the mountain before rising again to the mid 50’s.  I was comfortable with the liner in my jacket, a long-sleeved shirt and a pair of riding pants.  I even wore unlined plain leather gloves but cheated and used the heated grips.  I had the SiriusXM radio tuned to the Grateful Dead station and my route in the GPS.  Whenever I had an upcoming turn, the audio system automatically muted and played the instructions from the GPS.  It was easier to hear the GPS than it was the music.  The R1200RT fell right into the curves!  I’ll admit that this was always a fun road on the K1200LT but the boxer twin R1200RT increases the fun factor exponentially.  I stopped for a short break at the scenic overlook.  There’s still just a little bit of color in the trees too.  But after last weekend’s winter weather there was already some sand and gravel spread on a few parts of Highway 136.  The boxer goes too!  There were some parts of the route that I’m used to downshifting from 5th to 4th on the K1200LT to get better power.  But with the R1200RT’s boxer twin you just open the throttle and it goes.

I even tried out BMW’s Hill Start Assist today just to see what it’s all about.  It’s like using a parking brake that automatically releases when you give the bike some throttle to start moving again.  When pulling out onto the main highway up there, GA HWY 515, I finally tried out another option, BMW’s Shift Assistant Pro.  Wow what an option!  Shift Assistant Pro allows upshifts and downshifts without the use of the clutch.  After pulling onto the highway and rolling I shifted into 3rd through 6th gears by revving and shifting and NOT using the clutch.  I remember reading somewhere that Shift Assistant Pro is better suited to a more performance oriented ride.

I did miss having Donna back there though.  I hope that top case gets here soon.

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It Made Her Giggle

We took the new R1200RT out for a ride today.  We wanted to go look at a toy hauler RV that was at an RV dealer over near Gainesville, GA.  It was a gorgeous fall day so we decided we were going to ride our new motorcycle.  Our friends, Sean and Christine were going to go with us and ride their Victory Cross Country Tour.  Time-wise the interstate was the fastest but riding motorcycles on tow lane roads is more fun!  The dealer is right off of Georgia HWY 53 in Oakwood, GA.  So we left Woodstock and headed up I-575 until it changed to GA HWY 515 just north of Ballground, GA where we picked up GA HWY53 which we would take all the way to the RV dealer.

The stretch of GA HWY 53 from Jasper to Dawsonville is a road that we have taken many, many times before.  It is a fun, curvy road as many roads are in the foothills of the Appalachian Mountains.  We also took this route so we could compare travelling it on our K1200LT and on our new R1200RT.  The best part of today’s route was after we crossed from Pickens County into Dawson County.  We’re in the nice curvy section of road when I hear Donna giggling over the intercom.  Yes she was giggling!  She said it more fun on the R1200RT than it was on the K1200LT.  Believe me, I already knew it was much more fun!  Now you have to understand that Donna has never ridden on the back of a motorcycle without a back rest or trunk behind her (or in BMW terms, a top case) until we bought this R1200RT.  We have the top case on order but it isn’t here yet.  So there was Donna perched on the back of the BMW R1200RT, with nothing behind her, giggling away on a twisty and curvy road because it was fun.  We think we made the right decision for a new motorcycle.  Oh and know what was even better?  We got to ride the same stretch of road on the way home!  To be honest, the image below from Garmin Basecamp doesn’t do the road justice.  We ended up riding 163 miles today.  The R1200RT is now overdue for its 600 mile service and that task has been scheduled.  I wanted it out of the way before our trip to the Iron Horse Motorcycle Lodge and Campground this weekend.

The stretch of road that made Donna giggle on the new R1200RT

The stretch of road that made Donna giggle on the new R1200RT

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We Didn’t Want To Waste Today’s Weather

Never pass up a great day to ride!

Today was forecast to be in the mid 60’s° F for temperatures with clear skies today.  Late in the morning we decided to go for a ride.  Then we were getting a later start than planned but I came up with an alternate plan.  We were going to head up to Talking Rock, GA using the quick route and then have lunch at Biguns BBQ.  After lunch was going to be a short ride and then head for home.  There wasn’t a cloud in the sky as we headed for Talking Rock.  But the weather wasn’t warming like we expected.  Sure we wore jackets but even after getting to Talking Rock just after 12:00 pm it was still 54° F not having warmed much since the overnight low of 48°.  Now here’s the rub.  We didn’t put the insulated liners in our jackets, counting on the sunshine to warm things up a bit better than it did.  That didn’t happen.  We really weren’t cold, it’s just that the liners would’ve made it quite comfortable.  After lunch though we headed across Burnt Mountain and towards Amicolola Falls State Park.  When we got to the turn though we didn’t head for the park because there’s also a big pumpkin patch that way and we figured it with this being the first brisk fall day the traffic near there would be horrible.  We made the right turn onto GA HWY 183 heading towards Dawsonville, towards it though and not to it.  We made the turn onto GA HWY 53 and it’s nice curves heading towards places like Marble Hill, Tate and Nelson, all in the general direction of Jasper, GA.  The road never even really warmed up enough to make the “tar snakes” and issue today where they almost feel like ice sometimes.  Today they were just small bumps in the road.  It was a great ride!  Even this far south the leaves are really starting change color and the windy day was blowing them out of the trees and onto the road.  This is what fall riding is all about in north Georgia.  The home weather station showed we got all the way up to 65° F today.  It wasn’t a long day in the saddle but at least we didn’t waste a real good riding day!

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A Cool Picture From This Week’s Ride

A few days ago I had posted that my friend Sean and I had ridden up on the Cherohala Skyway, had lunch in Robbinsville, NC and then rode The Tail Of The Dragon after lunch.  While we didn’t ride up to ride The Tail Of The Dragon, it was a spur of the moment decision; we literally decided to do it just because we were in the area.  The Tail Of The Dragon now has roadside photographers from at least FOUR different businesses out there and it was a weekday!  The one that is probably the most well known and has been there the longest is Killboy.  A few days after the ride I looked on the websites and found a photo I wanted to download from Killboy’s site.  So I was wondering if anyone wanted to see the underbelly of the Magic Carpet.  I mean everyone posts pictures of the side of their motorcycle but no one posts pictures of the bottom, especially as it’s going down the road.

Yes, that big German lady may be 12 years old now but she still likes to go out and dance.

Would you like to see the underbelly of my motorcycle?

Would you like to see the underbelly of my motorcycle?

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2 Men, 2 Motorcycles and 360 Miles

Yesterday was my friend Sean’s birthday.  His wife and my wife, Donna had dropped a hint this past weekend about him taking a birthday ride and me going along with him.  Well as Sean joked, on Monday night, “I got my hall pass.”  Since it was his birthday I told him it was up to him where to ride to and that I was just following along.  So we met Tuesday morning and headed out, me on the BMW K1200LT and Sean on his Victory Cross Country Tour.  First off this was unusual as the both of us nearly always ride with our wives.  It turns out that our main destination was to be the Cherohala Skyway that stretches from Tennessee into North Carolina.  We headed up from Holly Springs, GA until we got to Blue Ridge, GA where we then took GA Highway 5 into McCaysville, GA and Copper Hill, TN.  We enjoyed the twisting and winding roads through places like Ducktown and Turtletown before we took a short rest in Tellico Plains, TN at the Tennessee end of the Skyway.  The Cherohala Skyway is just an amazing road.  It’s a stretch of road over 40  miles long going from Tellico Plains, TN to Robbinsville, NC.  The road twists through the mountains and has altitudes ranging from 900 feet to 5,400 feet above see level.  On a clear day like it was yesterday it seems you can see forever through the openings in the trees and from the scenic overlooks.  Here it was the last day of September and there was already plenty of fall color in the trees and leaves blowing through the air.  We had already planned on having lunch at El Pacifico, a Mexican restaurant and quite possibly the only Mexican restaurant in Robbinsville.

Over lunch we discussed where to ride next.  One idea was to take U.S. Highway 129 back down to Murphy and Andrews, NC and then head back into Georgia through Brasstown before heading home.  Then Sean decided that since we were so close, literally minutes away, that we’d head up to Deal’s Gap and ride The Tail Of The Dragon.  Yes, the infamous Tail Of The Dragon and its 318 curves in 11 miles.  It’s a stretch of road that we’ve both ridden a number of times.  It can be a fun stretch of road to ride too.  We’re lucky enough that we live in an area where a trip to The Tail Of The Dragon and back home can easily be accomplished in a day.  But to be honest, the only reason we rode it on Tuesday was because we were right there.  Before we mounted back up in the parking lot of El Pacifico we experienced the only sad moment of the day.  Sean and Christine are selling their home and have a contract on it and will be moving at the end of October before settling for a while in Florida.  Sean looked up the road and said, “I guess it’ll be a while before I get to ride roads like these again.”  Now granted that we’ll both be up in the area the first weekend in November while leading a group trip to the Iron Horse Motorcycle Lodge and Campground but being in a group, while can be fun, is not as fun as just two men and two motorcycles.  We rode onto Deal’s Gap, passing up the store and its nearly empty parking lot and rode The Tail Of The Dragon.  We rode it only once through and headed for US HWY 411 which would take us back south and home to Georgia.  Along the way we commented at a traffic light that it would’ve been more fun to head back on The Dragon and head home on a more scenic route that would take just a little longer.

I’ve ridden both the Cherohala Skyway and The Tail Of The Dragon a few times.  But this is the first time that I have ridden the two of them back to back in the same day.  While The Tail Of The Dragon gets all the hype I can tell you that the Cherohala Skyway is definitely the better of the two rides.

When I got home that afternoon I had 360 more miles on my odometer from the location I had met Sean in the morning.  So, hence the title of “2 Men, 2 Motorcycles and 360 Miles”  You can’t have much more fun on a tank and half of gas!

Along the ride we had our picture taken by a roadside photographer on the Cherohala Skyway and by a number of them on The Tail Of The Dragon.  Once they all finish uploading their pictures I’ll write a post with some proofs and links to their sites and maybe even purchase a picture or two.  So look out for that post.

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A Ride To Eat (RTE)

The couple we’ll ride with, Sean & Christine were out-of-town and came back yesterday.  What’s the first thing Donna wanted to get together and do?  Well it was to go riding of course!  Sean & Christine are now in the home stretch of being full-time RV’ers with a contract on their house and had already planned to look at campers and motorhomes today.  We’re leaning in that direction ourselves so Donna came up with the idea for a short ride to lunch for some BBQ and then back towards home to look at campers.  We met later in the morning than normal since it was a lunch ride and we headed for Dawsonville and over Burnt Mountain for lunch in Talking Rock, GA at Biguns BBQ.  This is the same short lunch ride I had led some members of my Blue Knights Chapter on earlier in the week.  But it does amaze me of how much cooler it is on the top of that mountain and it’s not very high.  Today it was sunny and it was 8 degrees (F) cooler on the top of the mountain.  We headed on to Biguns before it got too crowded and it sure did get crowded today.  After lunch it was time to head down to Camping World to do some window shopping.  Donna and I even found a real nice Class C motorhome that we really liked.  It was to the point that we were looking at each other and scheming.  We were at the point that we decided that if we could right now, we’d buy it then buy a trailer for the Magic Carpet and just hit the road.  Maybe in another year or so though.

Today was also the first day that I finally got Donna to wear earplugs while riding too.  She finally gave in!  She had tried foam earplugs in the past but didn’t like them and admittedly they did loosen up and fall look like they were going to fall out.  It was time for me to replace my ETY plugs so I just ordered 2 pair this time.  She really liked them when she tried them on when they got here and then she wore them all day today and found them comfortable.

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A Hooky Ride With Friends

I’m in the Blue Knights Law Enforcement Motorcycle Club.  Today was a “Hooky Ride” that I had planned.  We started “Hooky Rides” a few years ago and they are weekday rides and the idea is to get back home before the school bus does.  The rides were also requested by members who don’t always have weekends off to ride.  I know this may come as a shock but law enforcement is not a Monday through Friday job where you work only during the day.  It was actually a good idea and sometimes we have quite a number of members show up.  It had been a while since we had a “Hooky Ride” so I scheduled one for today.  Other than myself, two other members showed up, B.C. and Steve.  We weren’t going to let that deter us and off we went for a short ride that I had planned out.  I took us on the Hillbilly Drive ride.  This ride was intentionally not long and took us on some local roads from Dawsonville, GA over to Talking Rock, GA to have lunch at Biguns Barbeque.  It was a simple route too, taking us out to GA HWY 183 before taking GA HWY 136 over Burnt Mountain and into Talking Rock.  What a great day to ride too!  When we left Dawsonville it was right at 70°F and a clear, cloudless sky.  Heading over the mountain it dropped to as low as 64ºF and B.C. later said that maybe he should’ve worn a jacket.  Once at lunch, two of B.C.’s friends came by, both retired police officers who had at one time ridden motorcycles for the Atlanta Police Department in their careers.  That meant that counting B.C. and me there were four retired Atlanta Officers who had been motor officers.  While it wasn’t an all day ride it was great day to ride and have lunch with friends!

The weather was great for riding today!

The weather was great for riding today!

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Finally, A Nice Long Ride Together

It seems like forever since Donna and I rode together.  Between her job, a stretch of either hot weather or rain and just life in general it seemed like ages since we rode.  In fact the last time we rode was when we went to Maggie Valley, NC back in July.  The other day Donna asked “What’s the weather like for Sunday?  I need a ride and I want to go to Turner’s Corner for lunch.”  We decided that there would be no errands, no chores and if anyone wanted us for anything that wasn’t a bona-fide emergency they’d just have to wait.  With an approaching cold front the forecast kept going back and forth with the forecast for rain.  It’s no fun riding in the rain and this ride was supposed to be fun. On Friday the forecast was improving and then on Saturday it was improving more (although we had already made our decision to ride).  I knew we would ride, no matter what the weather brought when Donna told me to pack her rain pants.

When we left in the morning I did just as requested and headed up to Turner’s Corner Café that sits on the corner of US HWY 19 and US HWY 129.  The Cafe’s true address is even 10 Turner’s Corner RD!  On the way up one of the first things we noticed was that there weren’t many motorcycles on the road with us as we got closer to the north Georgia mountains.  It must have been the gray clouds and temperatures in the upper 60’s in the morning!  Granted the clouds did look like they could rain on us and in fact they did, quite a few times, but never more than enough to just wet the windshield.  Some of the hill and mountain tops were shrouded in fog and clouds.  We took a pretty standard route for us to get to lunch, heading up I-575 until it became GA HWY 515 (to make up time) then GA HWY 53 to Dawsonville, GA HWY 9 on up to Dahlonega and then US HWY 19 to the restaurant.  Along the way near Marble Hill, Donna saw a baptism going on in a creek.  It is a nice curvy ride up there.  Now when I say a US Highway don’t think a multi-lane highway.  These are 2 lane roads in the mountains (Appalachian version of mountains) that are US Highways.  We had a great lunch out on the deck overlooking the river.  We nearly had the deck to ourselves!  Again, it must’ve been those gray skies that looked like rain.  There weren’t even many motorcycles heading up and down Blood Mountain.  I had planned us two rides for after lunch and both started and ended at Turner’s Corner.  I was in luck because Donna picked the long ride!

We headed south for a short distance towards Cleveland, GA but made the turn onto GA HWY 75 ALT (NOT interstate 75) and took it to its other end at GA HWY 17 just north of Helen.  We headed north on GA HWY 17 towards Hiawassee taking the nice twisting and curving part along the way.  We like to use more than just the center portion of the tires!  Once HWY 17 dead ended at GA HWY 76 in Hiawassee we made the right turn towards Clayton.  Before getting to Clayton though we turned right on GA HWY 197 for its twists and curves along Lake Burton before making our next right turn in Batesville onto GA HWY 356 passing through Unicoi State Park.  We ended back at GA HWY 17 just outside of Helen again before heading back past Turner’s Corner and heading back for home.  This whole ride today was all in Georgia but there’s a stretch along GA HWY 76 where you look into North Carolina.

We filled up with gas when we started in the morning and we put 248 miles on that tank of gas today with gas to spare!  Just before we got home the Magic Carpet’s odometer passed 84,000 miles.  But those aren’t the best things about today.  The best part was doing them with Donna sitting behind me on the motorcycle.

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Just A 228 Mile Sunday Ride

That’s right we went on a 228 mile ride today.  No it wasn’t a trip, it was a Sunday ride.  It all started the other day when I asked Donna if she wanted to go have lunch at Turner’s Corner Café at the corner of US 129 and Georgia Highway 9 today.  So we got a late morning start and headed up.  Here it is July in Georgia and the forecast was for a high temperature of 85°F, low humidity (rare) and mostly sunny skies.  I played with the GPS software, Basecamp and created a route that would take us up using some local roads we hadn’t been on before and then transferred it to the GPS.  We headed up through Canton, Ballground and Dawsonville before using Georgia Highway 400 for a short time until it ended.  After we made our turn onto Georgia Highway 115 we were only supposed to be on it for a short time before making a left turn and cutting back diagonally on some nice crooked local roads.  But the GPS showed it was 12 miles until our next turn.  I saw what I thought was our turn go past.  For some reason the GPS decided that it wanted to route us up Highway 115 to US 129 which would take us straight to Turner’s Corner Café.  No big deal, we just wanted to have lunch on the river and watch the motorcycles.  Once we got to lunch I brought the GPS in with us and reloaded the route and previewed it.  Sure enough it showed the original route.  I don’t know why the GPS didn’t use the route as planned but this is the second time this has happened.  Both Basecamp and the GPS have the same maps installed.

This was also my first day riding with a new pair of Do-It-Yourself custom molded earplugs.  I got mine from Ear Plug Superstore.  I’ve tried them before but didn’t quite get them right.  This time however I took my time and didn’t second guess the instructions and they worked.  They are harder to get in your ear but have quite a good seal.  This may sound weird but they’re both quieter and noisier.  They’re quieter in that they “muffle” sound well and I needed to turn my intercom up a bit to hear the GPS and Donna.  But they’re noisier in that I think there’s more wind noise than my ETY plugs.  But then that may be a good thing.  I suffer from tinnitus (a ringing in your ears) and if it’s too quiet, the ringing can seem louder, will be irritating and could just make you uncomfortable.  But the new self moldable plugs gave me the “white noise” effect that my hearing aids also supply and my night-time sound machine.

I figured that after lunch we’d head back home as it was just over an hour and a half ride.  But while eating Donna asked “Where are we riding after this?”  So after lunch we backtracked down US 129 a few miles to Georgia Highway 75 Alt until we made our left (northerly) turn onto Georgia Highway 348, the Richard B. Russell Scenic Highway.  This curvy stretch of mountain road only runs between Highway 75 Alt and Georgia Highway 180 and isn’t very long.  There are numerous pull-offs to view the Appalachian Mountains.  It’s a very fun and curvy road but there weren’t many motorcycles on it today.  At the RBR’s end we made the turn on to Highway 180 for a very short distance before heading up and over Blood Mountain on US 129 and then headed for Dahlonega and home.

So we had a great Sunday ride of 228 miles.  Oh, and along the way today the Magic Carpet’s odometer reached and passed 82,000 miles.

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