Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Day Tripping to Helen

Beautiful weather, if a tad too hot, and we all jump on our bikes and head to the hills.  Personally I would prefer to avoid Helen during the summertime.  It traditionally has miles of traffic leading into town from either direction.  People walking willy-nilly across the streets.  They generally stay in the sidewalks, but it doesn't help when there are no traffic lights.  They just step off the curb and let the cars stop for them.  Which makes progress slow when they stop every single car. 

But our friends hadn't been yet and really wanted to go.  The benefit of riding a bike is that we have easier access to parking.  The biker shops have free parking while all the cars have to pay $5. 

The crowds...

Even traffic on the water...

And some interesting things to look at...

Friday, July 24, 2009

One of Five Corners

During the summer our riding group had the bright idea of planning a four corners trip of Georgia.  Not a bad idea until you consider the shape of the state and realize there could potentially be 5 corners.  But that is just me fussing over semantics.

The group never did get around to taking that trip.  It was either something about the weather or lack of interest or availability or something.  As interesting as it sounded I probably would not have attended because they wanted to accomplish it in 4 days.  It would have been doable, but not conducive to having fun, sightseeing and photography.  It would have been looking at the slab and dashed line all the way.

When it came time to figure out a new ride for us, you know, someplace we haven't been before, we thought the NE corner of Georgia might be a good destination. One of five corners.

Our route took us into some new territory across Tugaloo River defining the border between Georgia and South Carolina and into Westminster for a break.  We were disappointed at the lack of view or anything interesting at Tugaloo River.  It was a short-lived encounter with the river and lots of fishing boats.  Westminster was only interesting because of the people that loved to chat about the bikes and riding at the gas station.

So you ask why are we in South Carolina when we are heading for the NE corner of Georgia?  Fair question.  The Georgia town nearest the NE corner is Satolah.  And the easiest way to get there, on new roads, was to approach it from South Carolina.  Not to mention it looked like the road had some pretty good twisties to offer.

Heading north out of Westminster were lovely roads.  We did encounter some obnoxious riders that wanted to fly the road.  The first passed us unexpectedly in a no passing area running about 90 mph with the passenger in jeans and a tank top.  Par for the course here.  After that I was prepared for the second.  He did hang back for awhile and we passed him on when the coast was clear.  Last thing I want is to hold someone up that is itching to go faster than I am.  They get antsy and dangerous.

Once we turned onto Hwy 28 traffic disappeared and the twisties started in.  The roads were perfect with few cars and some tight roads. They were free of debris and the scenery was bright and green.  We were enjoying the ride so much we almost missed Satolah.  This was a town.  We were expecting at least a small convenience store or something.  Nothing.  There was nothing.  We pass the last mountain and spied a beautiful valley with a couple of farm houses and some nicely growing fields.  There were wire fences with growing vines and border trees.  There were a couple of dirt roads and not much time to take them.  So before we knew it we had passed Satolah and were well on our way to Highland, North Carolina.

We debated about turning around, but there wasn't much area to turn around in.  Our one chance was a gravel turnout where we stopped for a break.  Nah.  We could do it again, but enjoyed the thought of going forward and encountering more twisties on the way home.

Wow.  Looking back on it, it seems like a trip of "should have's".  Should have turned back to Satolah.  Should have stopped in Highlands (cool town, like Big Bear used to be).  Should have gone to Bridal Veil Falls right outside of Highlands.  At least we did turn around for our photo op with the Eastern Continental Divide.

We did hit previously ridden roads on the way home.  That means we rode through Dillard, again.  But we did not stop to partake of the buffet.  We wanted something a little more cozy and a lot cheaper.  So we stopped in Tallulah Gorge.  At a place we have been telling ourselves we will go to for years.  And now we finally have.  The food was great, the atmosphere was great.  We sat out on the wonderful screened in patio and listened to all the chatter.  The day ended nicely.

Stats: 247 miles, 6 hrs 46 minutes (including dinner), wonderful weather and good roads.  Yes.  I do need to ride WarWoman Rd.  And Yes, the watermelon was as good as it looks.

DIY Valve Adjustments

One thing about BMW's...the cost.  Not the initial cost.  Ok, not just the initial cost.  Maintenance is also expensive.  So many people laugh and equate BMW with "Bring Me Wallet".  Fair enough.  When you have to dismantle the bike from the engine back to replace a seal and a clutch you are talking some money here.  So when you can learn more about your bike and save some money you are doing well.

A gentlemen on one of my forums offered to teach people how to perform the valve adjustments on the beautiful little boxer engine.  So I jumped on the opportunity.  My bike did not need the adjustment yet, but there were plenty of other volunteers.  A couple gentlemen even rode from Virginia and DC for the session and easily volunteered up their bikes.

We rolled up our sleeves, opened our eyes and ears and got our fingers dirty.  We learned about removing the spark plug wires, plugs, valve covers, et. al.  We learned a few tips and tricks on adjustments.  We had  educational discussions on too tight wiring harnesses, filing the air box cover so you don't have to remove the tank to reach the filter and packing for long distance trips.

Here are a couple pictures of the innards of a boxer:


So some may call them expensive or difficult to work on.  But to me BMW just means Beautiful Mechanical Wonder.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Dillard in Dillard

Talk about some easy riding.  What better way to break up the long, vista viewing rides then with an easy jaunt to some good food.  The Dillard House in Dillard, Ga offers a chance for a great ride.  You can either take the country roads, little traveled, dodging the cows and combines or zip quickly up the straight-as-an-arrow highway.

Dillard, GA is about 2 miles from the North Carolina border. The Dillard House is steeped in traditions of honor, ethics and good food.  In the older days travelers on the road were generally expected to stop at houses for dinner, a bed and society.  And Carrie Dillard excelled at this.  A tradition in hospitality that Carrie Dillard instilled into her children and grandchildren. The house has grown over the years, of course.

I can't say much for the hotel and cottage accommodations, except that I would expect them to be nice.  Heck, I would just love to spend some time in the pool in the summer.  But the food is what we went for...  They offer wholesome Southern cooking in a family style buffet.  This means that you just sit down and they bring all the food out to you.  No menu's, just whatever is on the menu that day is brought out you.  This is generally some grilled or country fried chicken, country steak, fish, fried okra, creamed corn, summer squash with coconut and on and on and on.  The menu changes daily and they bring everything out to you.  And the plates just keep coming....if you have the room for it.

After eating requisite is sitting on the rockers on the patio.  Have to let the food settle a little before gearing back up. After rocking and snoozing a little you can take a walk through the flower garden and go visit the animals in the petting farm.




It's a simply ride with some good scenery.  Just be warned that it will be difficult to get back on the bike with a full belly.  And that the jiggle on the bike will settle the food and make you very sleepy!  Nap time afterward would be a very good idea.

Friday, July 3, 2009

Another Cherohala

Another day, another attempt to get to Cherohala. Guess what? This time we made it! We continued thinking about going but never committed ourselves. So we got up one day figuring we might try again, but weren't going to force ourselves and just go to wherever the bikes took us.

We loaded the bikes up, at the unreasonable hour of 10 AM, and hit the road. Our first stop was a little unorthodox. Our vet had left our practice and was opening her own hospital in Gainesville. We wanted to be supportive and see the new facilities. WOW!! She did a great job designing the new hospital. We oogled and toured and chatted for about an hour, then suited back up.

This little side trip wasn't too far out of the way but gave us the opportunity to ride the roads directly north of Lake Lanier. These roads have always been a little out of the way for us while traveling north. We discovered they were some beautiful, sweeping, country lanes fairly devoid of development. Guess it is too far out of the way for other people too. Yet another area we would be more then happy to purchase 40 acres in and create our retreat.

Again, we traveled through Helen and promptly were stuck in summertime traffic. This proved more then we could handle and we stopped for lunch at Wendy's. Not the best option around but it was quick, easy to get to and out of traffic!! This was our make or break time to decide if we would try for Cherohala or just have some fun on the local roads. As stated we had gotten a late start and it was almost 2 PM by this time. To attempt Cherohala was committing another 8+ hours to the road.

Why not!

We hit all the same roads as last time, but made it to Robbinsville with clear skies and without rain. We pit stopped at a gas station to fuel us and the bikes. We sat on the walkway, ate our candy bars, chatted with some locals about the roads and watched all the bikes pushing towards the Dragon. As always, any stop seems to eat up 30 minutes and this one was true to form. We were back on the road by 4 PM and hit our first Cherohala turnout and photo-op at 4:15.

Finally!  Temperatures were nice, sky was a beautiful blue, fluffy clouds skidded across the sky.  And stopped everywhere we could and enjoyed the sights. 

We started thinking of getting a move on when the gray clouds started rolling overhead.  Those and the knats that kept flitting around, even with the helmets on.

We hit the Tennessee line and the southern facing portion of the mountains and the sun shone down.

With the weather clearing up we determined we had the time to take a short side trip to Bald River Falls, off of the skyway.

Interestingly, the road for the falls crosses a bridge allowing those lazy flippin' cagers to drive by the falls, lean out the window, stretch out the arm with the attached camera take a picture and not ever bother to get out, stretch and enjoy some quiet and clean air.  It also allows for cycles to park against the siderail and take some pretty backdrop pictures.  Which we didn't do...  ;-)  Again, just means that we get to make arrangements to go back.

It was a short jaunt to Tellico Plains and coming up on 7 PM.  We needed dinner but didn't want to take the time of a sit down place with a 3 1/2 hour drive still ahead of us.  We decided to continue on with our crappy junk food options and stop at the gas station that had a little kitchen. Darn!  The kitchen was closed.  We scoured the shelves and settled on the canned and microwaveable Dinty Moore Stew type meals.  The ladies were nice enough to heat them for us and we took them outside to enjoy.  At least we did supplement it with some healthy bananas.  While eating one of the locals engaged us.  He had ridden up on a dusty and dented old Harley Dyna.  He was great to talk with, was building a house nearby, loved the region and chided me on not riding my bike to its full potential as evidenced by the chicken stripes still evident on my tires.  :-)  Can't win them all...

We broke away, deigned to take the highways home to hit higher speeds and make better time home.  We were doing well until C's helmet mike battery died.  About half way home we stopped in a parking lot and allowed him to charge it a little and take our stretch break.  After a while it was just time to get home.  So we booked it.

Statistics: 358 miles, 12 hours 50 minutes, 1 new waterfall, many interesting bikes to chat with.

WE had a wonderful day.  Now go take your own ride.