Sunday, January 17, 2010

Long Delay for the Savannah RR

Wow.  I apologize for my laziness.  It's just that the last days of the trip were completely unexciting and uneventful to anyone but me.  Many thoughts went skitting through my head, but not all of it is printable...

As previously commented, the day started overcast and wet.  It wasn't an active rain, just really wet fog.  I managed to make it out of town, but always wondered a little if I was on the right course because "town" never seemed to end.  I passed greasy mechanics shops, littered trailer yards, scummy shopping centers.

It was evident, eventually, that I was away from Savannah, but the route was never particularly interesting.  You have seen the pictures for Fort Morris (the entrance...).  Continuing on my way, I kept to the state route rather then the interstate.  Approaching lunchtime I started keeping an eye out for someplace interesting to eat.  I just can't emphasize enough that there wasn't much attractive.  I would pass an eye-catching eatery, thinking there would be another one just up the road.  But the next city was of questionable habitat and nothing inspiring.

I managed to take a break at a gas station just to snack on something from the saddle bags.  A couple guys drove up or walked past, stared at the bike, then at me, but nothing much else.

I road through some interesting back neighborhoods of Brunswick.  Wish I had taken the time to see the Lovers Oak in the historic district.  Supposed to be a 900 year old oak tree there.  Hindsight and all that.  I didn't feel like navigating the traffic.

Moving away from Brunswick I near a bay and bridge, that would have probably provided a couple good shots.  But the gravel and broken glass prevented me from stopping.  I eventually just jumped on the interstate because the next 60 miles of road swung way inland.  If the rest of the road looked anything like the previous, I didn't think I was going to be missing much.

One of the first things that I noticed off of the freeway was this large red/blue sign up a driveway reading Camden County High School.  If memory serves, but I won't swear on it, the extremely large block letters making up the sign were Camden County in red and High School in blue.  It might be the other way, but doesn't really matter.  The first thought to flit through my head was of the sitcom "My Name is Earl."  If you know the show you will understand my introduction to Camden County, GA.

The clock was moving along toward 3 and I decided the best plan was to get to the park, set up camp then venture forth for food!!  I was most looking forward to that and hoping the rangers would be able to point me to a good spot.

I pull up to the ranger station and begin the normal task of dismounting and disrobing enough to not look like Daft Punk.  The process can take a couple minutes just turning the bike off, getting the gloves off, unlatching and removing the helmet, unplugging the helmet if one was listening to music, unzipping the riding jacket and storing the easily removable electronics.  I am only the second vehicle in the lot, so don't think it will be too crowded.

I walk into the station and notice the two ladies behind the counter and the third in front of the counter just chatting.  I am promptly and courteously seen to, luckily they have my reservation.  But then I am asked if I have an annual park pass.  Yep!  I sure do.  But I don't have it with me.  I'm not sure where you would put it on a motorcycle that it couldn't be easily swiped.  I told her this, but it didn't seem to dawn on her.  She informed me that I would have to pay the park fee if I didn't have it with me.  Hmmm...other state parks merely looked me up in the computer system and verified my status was currently.  I explain this and she just stares at me like I am speaking a foreign language.  I guess that was asking too much of these ladies.  Ok.  I'll pay.  But apparently the price has jumped.  Whatever.  The parks need the money this year and it is only $5.

Get the pay all worked out and she hands me my vehicle pass and park map.  Going into her normal spiel:

Ranger:  "Now you can choose any site that isn't occi-pied"
Me: "Great"
Ranger: "Now let me just explain the road system.  You will enter here and this is one-way."  The park is similar to a smashed figure eight. "You enter the center section and can pick any space along here.  At the end you can go either left or right.  But these are all one-way.  If you don't see a site you want here you will have to go all the way around, back to the center here and go all the way around to the other side."
Me: "Great"
Ranger: " Now I know it don't make much sense to someone on a motorcycle why you have to do all this one way stuff.  But believe you me, if you're drivin' a 50 foot motor home ya'd understand."
Me: "Yes.  I do understand.  I also drive a truck with a 30 foot trailer, and I understand rules of the road."
Ranger: "OK.  Just place this vehicle pass in your car and you can come and go as you please."
Me: Smile is now gone, patience is nearing its end.  I just ask for places to eat.

I make it known that I am interested in someplace the locals like.  But she isn't too helpful in this department either. I do get a map with nearby places and just figure I will decide something later.

I mount back up...gearing the head and hands...again...  I appropriately enter the roadway, in the correct direction.  I ride through the campground trying to determine the best location for me to roost.  The campground is interesting in that one loop of the figure eight is open with pine trees and grass and nothing separating campsites.  The other loop has very private campsites with yuccas and shrubs separating each sight.  I do ride each loop, in the appropriate direction of course and make my way back to some sites I am interested in.  I finally settle on a site across from the bathrooms and promptly disrobe and disassemble my gear.

It was here that I realized I hadn't bothered to actually open up any of my camping equipment before I took off.  In the case of the tent, it hadn't been opened in 3 years!!  And it was now that I realized the fly was extremely sticky and horribly smelly.  It seems the polymer was breaking down.  EEwwww...  I installed the rainfly inside out and hoped it wouldn't rain tonight.  At least that was the worst of the issue.  But the smell was bad enough.

I probably took about an hour to set up and relax.  But by that time I loathed the idea of working my way back into my riding equipment and getting out.  I would only be going 10 miles down the road and having to undress again.  Ugh.  Too much to think about.  The solitude and depression was starting to set in.  Up in Atlanta everyone is excited to talk with the bikers, especially the girls.  Here I was merely stared at, whether I was riding by them or they were walking past my camp.  No amount of acknowledgment or nodding on my part would impart a smile or gleam on their face.  So strange.

So I crawled into the tent and took a nap. I woke a couple hours later still feeling lonely and sorry for myself.  I didn't want to go out.  But I hadn't really eaten anything and knew that was causing this utter apathy.  Luckily I had brought the alcohol stove and a freeze dried dinner.  Things started looking up as I let go and let muscle memory set the stove up.  It had been a long while since I had played with it and I remembered how happy it made me and fun it was.  In case you are interested, I didn't want to make the soda can stove, but opted to pay for the nice titanium one from Vargo Outdoors. Great product and great quality.  I generally choose this stove for light weight adventures over the MSR that I also enjoy.

Instead of watching the water not boil, I started collecting the pine needles around camp and lighting them in the fire pit.  Wow.  That cheered my right up.  It's been awhile since I have let my inner-pyro out. I decided that I would go buy some firewood from the campground host after dinner.

Dinner was cooked and consumed.  Nothing to write home about.  It wasn't quite the wonderful, fresh seafood that I was originally envisioning when I arrived.  Oh well.  My own fault.

I collected my wits and hiked on over to the campground host. It was only 8, but the hosts site was locked up tight...  There were cars and lights, but the doors were closed and I felt a little strange thinking of knocking on the door.  I wandered around a little to see where the firewood was before disturbing anyone.  And that was the next strange part.  There wasn't any firewood.  So it seemed that this place didn't offer firewood for sale.  Hopes dashed.  I made my way back to camp and gathered more pine needles.  I would spend the 5 minutes burn time with chin on palm just staring into the flames.  Despite the time, I was tired of listening to the bickering family two spots away and grabbed my book and light and crawled off to bed.

As you can imagine, I had slept a little too much and was wide awake at 4 AM.  After tossing and turning, I grabbed my headlamp and walked around the campground.  Sidebar: we do have a travel trailer that we do take out camping.  And yes, it isn't anything like tent camping, allowing you to lock yourself inside and away from community and nature.  And we have had discussions on "why go out in nature, then lock yourself away from it."  So I had fun passing judgment on all these so-called campers.  All their heaters were on.  I could hear their fans quietly roaring as I passed.  What appalled me most was the light pollution.  Everywhere, everyone had on some light or another.  Either it was a camper that left their driver side exterior lights on.  (You should know that trailers, motorhomes and fifth wheels all have their entrance doors on the passenger side. So driver side lights are only for set up and accessing storage areas.  I consider it quite rude when these people leave their exterior lights on to annoy their neighbors.) Or people are leaving their patio string lights on.  In one case a site had set up two external flood lamps on polls surrounding their patio...and had left them on!!  One was spotlighting the next camper.  If that had been me I would have enjoyed smashing those!!  Just in case you were wondering, that spotlit camper was not with the spotlight camper.

So that made me contemplate why all these people were coming out to spend time in nature when they all ate indoors, watched TV indoors and played games indoors.  Then they left lights on at night to compensate for that natural darkness to keep the evil of night at bay.  What dimwits our urban society has become.  I was thinking a little differently when I made it over to my sequestered loop and heard something rather large in the underbrush.  I couldn't figure out how it was moving considering how dense the undergrowth was.  Even after clapping and making some noise it continued to come closer to me.  It didn't sound graceful enough to be a deer.  So I hightailed it back to camp and cowered away in my impenetrable tent.

Oh yeah and that apathy extended to the campground.  I had intended to walk some trails and take some pictures and goof off.  It just didn't seem worth it later.  The yuccas prevented any view and the paths never quite made it to to the water.  I did find some fun ugly stuff at the campground.  So here you get to enjoy these sights.

It had been awhile since this soda machine had been properly serviced.  This sticky, black oozing mess was the sugary, rancid goo from punctured cans that must have been there since WWII.  I know.  One stuck in the machine that I was trying to get for dinner.

Along with the rangers, the other campers hadn't learned to read yet.  As evidenced by the fact that there were on EVERY time I went in there and after I had repeatedly turned them off.  And all these people have toilets in their home on wheels!!

Nice looking 'shrooms.  The best color was at night.  They appeared washed out in the daytime.

So waking up the next morning to 50 degree temps and overcast skies again wasn't filling me with cheer.  It was supposed to be clear and blue at 60 degrees.  But those darn clouds looked gray and threatening.

No.  I wasn't expecting these temps.  It was supposed to be 10 degrees warmer the entire trip.  I didn't have the clothing for any of this.  Yesterday I had donned most of my clothing just for the ride down here.  And today's temps were even cooler.  I was having my doubts about continuing on after talking with Mr Oilburner the day before and the inability for me to make a reservation at the next campground on the agenda.  They wouldn't do a one night the middle of winter...on an off week!!  My doubts were confirmed while talking with Mr Oilburner this morning and finding out that freezing rain was expected to hit Atlanta and areas south the in two days.  We don't trust these weather-persons.  Since I lacked good clothing, the tent was annoying, the next campground wasn't reserved and the sleet was coming I just decided to head home.

Once the decision was made it was time to go.  I ate the remaining freeze dried dinner from last night.  I packed up my comfortable home on version of home on wheels.  Then I hit the road.  I turned on Mr Tell-Tale so Mr Oilburner could follow my progress on all those long interstates I would be super slabbing it home on.  I didn't want to ride them, but the backroads would add 2+ hours to an 8 hr ride.  If I was going home I was just going to do it.

As I packed, I had the pleasure of encountering the morning camp hosts/caretakers.  They were swabbing out the restrooms, but one older fellow came over and wanted to check out my fire ring.  We made with a couple pleasantries on the weather and his expectation of the park seeing freezing temps next week.  I mentioned that it was cold enough last night, and I wasn't expecting it.  Then he made the insightful comment.  "You were in that tent warn't ya?"  Hmmm...   There is ONLY a motorcycle sitting here.  I don't see a truck.  I don't see a trailer.  I don't even see a trailer behind this motorcycle.  There isn't one other tent in this campground! slept in a hole in the ground. Welcome to Camden County.

You might be interested to know that the interstates are benefiting from the stimulus package.  About 40 miles of interstate around Brunswick was a wonderful bobsled shoot of two narrow lanes and concrete side barriers.  I was doing fine until the metal grates worked there way into my lane.  These things were huge, slick, running in my direction and longer then the wheel base of the bike.  I moved into the left lane and planted myself there.  What few people were actually going faster then me could go around on the right!

Ok.  Some statistics.  Ambient air temp of 59 degrees and avg mph at 75 results in a wind chill factor of 51.4F.  It was a long, cold ride home.  Air temp stayed at 59 degrees for the first half of the trip.  I skipped off the freeway before Macon to avoid the nasty traffic of Macon and the crazy drivers of I-75 north.  I jumped on wonderful Hwy 441 N.  And it was a wonderful 4 lane divided highway that no one knows of.  I wish my St. Mary's route had been this attractive.  It was lovely, quiet, lonely and fast.  I thought I was encountering yet another stimulus work area when I was routed onto the southbound lanes.  Then I saw another example of the destruction water can have.  It had undermined the northbound lanes.  And I was happy we had been diverted.  (Disclaimer: I took this picture a month later, driving past in the truck.)

I did encounter rain and temps that dropped to 49F.  (Wind chill of 37F with 49F air temp and 70 mph.)  I took a break at Eatonton to munch on some soy teriyaki jerky that was surprisingly good and a lot sticky.

Oh yeah!  Forgot to mention that at one of my fuel stops before Macon I pulled those little chemical hand warmers out and inserted them down my shirt.  I calculated that I would be off the highway in 30 or so miles and could move them by the time they were really hot.  I miscalculated a little.  Once I veered off the freeway I quickly stopped and removed them from my bra.  I think I had burned the ta-tas a little...  Ouch!  I moved them to my upper arms to combat the wind and all was well.  They had lost much of their potency by the time I arrived in Eatonton.  So it was safe to put them back next to the skin and they were promptly inserted in my gloves to combat the wind on the back of the hands.

I made it home in great time and relatively good condition.  I hadn't encountered any cops along the way.  Good since I wasn't really going 75 mph on those interstates.  I was able to stay away from most of the car clusters and all was well.  The house was dark but the fur babies greeted me warmly.  I warmed up with a shower, that didn't quite do the trick.  So hopped into a steamy bath and took another nap until Mr Oilburner showed up to warm me up with snuggles and food.

Total trip:  777 miles.  I wish I had continued on with the regular some respects.  But didn't mind not pushing the envelope with the cold, rain and lack of warm clothing.  No, I wasn't stopping at Walmart to invest in yet more layers that I already had plenty of at home.  Next time?  Ignore the damn weather-idiots and take some warm gear!!  Mysteriosos pack small...

What did I learn?
-warm gear, obviously; be prepared for conditions other then you expect
-always check your gear before embarking on a trip
-always pack a little nourishment for breaks
-caged campers use too much electricity and light
-always go a little faster then traffic  ;-)
-even after 1000 miles my front tire chicken strip is pathetically wide...

Thank you for waiting.  Thank you for reading.  Now get out there and make some of your own memories and let me know about them.  I'm not sure when my next ride will be now that I am working more hours again.  Though it isn't a hardship not going right now with the 18F temps and rain and snow!!

Keep the rubber side down and make some smiles.

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