Monday, June 22, 2009

Sunrise on Cherohala?

We had the bright idea of taking a ride to Cherohala and catching a sunrise, hoping it would make some great shots to have the sun in the background of the bikes. We were also happy to finally be riding the skyway together since we had both ridden it solo previously. However, we failed to comprehend the date of June 21 as the solstice. We went so far as to research civil twilight and sunrise times. But failed to remember that this was the absolute longest day of the year and the earliest the sun could possibly come up. Ouch.

Our research revealed that civil twilight would be around 5:53 AM, with actual sunrise at 6:23. So we made our provisions to rise early and get out the door before 3 AM. We calculated that it would take us about 3 1/2 hours to reach a suitable location and prepare to worship the rising sun. I won't mention that we took an extra half our to get suited up and out the door. Nor will I say much about riding freeways and twisty country roads in the dark. Our speed suffered a little with the darker roads since I was worried about poor woodland creatures jumping out and derailing the entire trip. And I won't mention how the temperatures continued to drop unexpectedly on some of the warmest days in the year. Of course, we weren't adequately prepared for those. And we were going to higher elevations?

We took our first rest stop about 90 minutes into the ride near Helen, GA. We needed to eat a little something for breakfast and warm up. Our break was a little longer then desired, but we had fueled and warmed ourselves well and had a little chance for a photo-op. Once we mounted the bikes again it would be to go through Helen and up the curvy pass of Hwy 76. I was in the lead to set the pace I desired. Still didn't want to hit any creatures, and my first time on this road, but we fared well and proved our theory correct of it being warmer on the other side of the mountain. It was a hop, skip and jump to get to Hiawassee where we gased the bikes up and picked up some drinks and snacks for later in the day. Rode through town and took a right, rode a couple miles and then turned left. Wow. We were in North Carolina already.

Made a few lefts and rights and we were soon able to see the road a little better beyond the scope of the headlights.  We were cheered to see the road was rain wet and that we weren't in any of the rain.  Yea!  But a few more miles took us to Hwy 19 and larger puddles on the road.  It had rained recently, and rained pretty hard.  Hmmm....  We continued on and we rode into the rain, then out of the rain, then back into the rain.  When the drops started making heavier sounds on the helmets we turned around and headed for breakfast at a Huddle House.  Not our ideal, but the only thing around.

We were a little curious about the rain as the forecasts we had seen showed clear skies and smooth sailing.  And our waitress, who lives in the area, couldn't help us at all.  We again heard the standard adage "Wait 15 minutes".  We waited 60 to be on the safe side.  We knew we weren't going to make any Cherohala sunrise this time and we were cool with that.  The continuing rain was a little daunting, but not a deal breaker. 

The clouds shrouding the mountain gave us pause.  But we continued on hoping the skyway would be above them.  The deal breaker was the lightning bolt that struck the valley floor about 10 miles in front of me when we were about 5 miles from Robbinsville, NC, near the beginning of the skyway.  I hit the very next turnout and did a 180.

Hmmm...where to go now?  We back tracked down 19 and hit the gas station in Murphy.  And unbelieveably the weather was fabulous.  The skies were nice in this direction. We just decided to hit the backroads and see where they took us.  C remembered some interesting side roads that he had taken, so we set out in search of them.

These side roads brought us to the great Hiawassee Dam in TN. One of the multitude of the TVA projects.

Continuing down the roads and C remembered someone in the office talking about "Fields of the Wood."  And it just happened to be on our so-called route.  Fields of the Wood is an interesting biblical attraction in a beautiful setting in the mountains.  Fields of the Wood has the Ten Commandments Mountain:

The Psalms of Praise:

Jesus' Garden Tomb:


We didn't spend much time walking around.  We were in our full riding gear and riding boots...and they don't lead well to hiking up mountains.  We'll have to go back someday.  There were some interesting and attractions and I'll bet some great views from the tops of the ridges.

We then turned our attentions towards home.  Following the spirit of adventure that had brought us this far, I bit the bullet and agreed to take Hwy 60 through the mountains.  In case you didn't know, some people have the belief that some of the best twisty riding in North Georgia can be had on Hwy 19 and Hwy 60.  These roads weave up, down and around the mountains, offering many hairpin turns, sharp inclination changes through curves and steep road banking...all facilitating the serious twisty adventurur.  I won't dwell on the fact that these roads are also frequented by sports cars, crotch rockets and bicyclists for all of the same reasons.  So these roads can get very crowded and dangerous during the summertime.  Some people don't care, but I prefer to ride in calmer conditions and away from the crowds.  In this case we wanted to get home and C didn't want to take the ugly, boring freeway. 

In all, the remainder of the day was completely uneventful.  I had great fun on Hwy 60, practicing my approach on left hand curves (I invariably approached them too close to the center line, making myself uncomfortable if a car approached in the other direction, possibly on my side of the line.)  Lots of practice and I picked up my tricks.  Stopped for drinks and chocolate, chatted with a few other riders and just enjoyed the absolutely beautiful and warm sunny day that it turned into.  The biggest compliment came when C started scraping his pipes on the curves.  He informed that he was confident enough in my abilities and that I was taking the turns at speeds near his desired speed that he wasn't worrying about me as much anymore.  Yea!  Just having fun and enjoying the roads.

Statistics: 327 miles, almost 11 hours, 3 states, many new sights.


  1. As I am sure you realize, if you look hard enough there are always some interesting things to see wherever you go.