Road Trip to Georgia June 19 to June 26, 2004

Tammy and I decided upon a trip to northern Georgia and parts of North Carolina. Other than our initial destination of TWO, the motorcyclist only resort in Suches, Georgia, we had no definite plans. Our plan was to make plans on a daily basis. For me, it was a return to an area I had visited on my first motorcycle trip in 1981.

We met with club members Ken & Tina, Wayne & Anita, Tommy & Kathy, and Brad & Kim (friends of Ken amp; Tina) in Raceland early Saturday morning, June 19th. The group was to ride together to Atlanta. After a long day of traveling interstates, we stopped for the night in Douglasville, just east of Atlanta.

On Sunday morning our club friends headed to Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, while Tammy and I headed to the mountains of northern Georgia. We followed US 19 north out of Atlanta and reached Dahlonega around lunch time. Dahlonega is the site of the first major gold rush in North America. Millions of dollars worth of gold have been taken out of the area. We visited the Dahlonega Gold Museum, located in the old Lumpkin County Courthouse where we saw numerous displays of artifacts from the gold rush era.

Since it was lunchtime we decided to eat in Dahlonega. Recognizing our "Cajun" accent, a staff member of the museum recommended that we try the local Cajun cuisine at Gabee's Cajun Kitchen. Naturally, our interest was peaked and wondered if the food was really Cajun. To our surprise, the owners of Gabee's were a family from the Acadiana region of Louisiana who had moved to Georgia. All their food products were from Louisiana. It was good to eat some real Cajun food so far away from home.

After a good meal, we rode north on US 19 then GA 60 to Suches and our destination for the night, TWO. We set up our tent and decided to return to Dahlonega to do a little panning for gold. GA 60 and US 19 are great mountain roads with numerous curves. During the remainder of the week, we rode these roads many times. .

The Appalachian Trail crosses the highway about a mile south of the campground. We stopped at the scenic pullover and "hiked" a short way up the trail. This scenic pullover proved to be the best place to communicate with the outside world; it was the nearest point at which I was able to get a signal on my cell phone.

Just north of Dahlonega on US 19 is the Crisson Gold Mine, established in 1847. This mine is owned and operated by a fourth generation of gold miners around the Dahlonega area. We purchased a Zip-lock bag of "high grade ore" that was guaranteed to contain some gold. It took Tammy and I about thirty minutes to pan the ore; and true to their claims, gold was found. Between the two of us, we panned at least 20 nuggets. Of course, the value of the find wasn't enough to even think about retirement!!!

After our "big" gold find, we began a return trip to the campground. That night at supper, we met some of the other riders who were staying at TWO. Edward and Karen Denison from Odum, Georgia would become our traveling companions for the next couple of days. They were staying in one of the rooms available at the TWO lodge. As we were to soon find out, Sunday was to be one of the few dry days that we would enjoy on our trip.

Monday we woke up to cloudy skies. The first day's destination would be Brasstown Bald, the highest point in Georgia. Accompanying us were Edward and Karen. We headed northeast on GA 180, a twisty narrow two-lane highway which took us to the turn-off for Brasstown Bald.

Brasstown Bald can be recognized by the tower atop the peak, which is actually the third station to sit at the top. The original tower was built by the Civilian Conservation Corps during the depression. The current structure was completed in 1965 and sits near the location of the original tower, housing a museum that explains much of the natural and human history of the area. A 360-degree panoramic view of North Georgia and neighboring states can be seen from the observation deck. A steep, paved 1/2-mile trail leads from the parking lot to the visitor Information Center on the Bald. For those who don't want to walk, a concessionaire operates a shuttle bus from the parking area to the Visitors Information center. Tammy and I took the hike, while Edward and Karen opted to ride. Unfortunately, our panoramic view consisted of clouds!!

Leaving Brasstown Bald, we took GA 180 to GA 75 which took us to Helen. Nestled in the Blue Ridge Mountains on the Chattahoochee River, Helen is a re-creation of an alpine village, complete with cobblestone alleys and old-world towers. The area has numerous specialty and import shops that offer a variety of items. Restaurant options range from German to traditional southern country to just plain American. We arrived in Helen with the rain. After visiting some of the shops in town, we opted to sample the German food.

The rain continued as we mounted up and began our return trip to the campground. We headed north on GA 75 than west on GA 348, better known as the Richard Russell Scenic Highway. Then we retraced our route back to camp on GA 180. We encountered rain and wet roads the remainder of the ride.

For supper, we decided to return to Dahlonega to a restaurant I had visited on my first trip to the area. Besides Edward and Karen, we were joined by three other bikers staying at TWO, two who were from northern Louisiana. As luck would have it, the restaurant was closed on Mondays; and we ended up at a Pizza Hut. The ride to Dahlonega and back was fun; the road had dried off and there was very little traffic.

Back at TWO, Tammy started her own "pool tournament", playing 8-ball against some of the people who had accompanied us on our supper ride. A brief light rain fell during the night, but luckily our home away from home remained dry.

The sun was out when we awoke Tuesday morning. It looked like we might have a decent morning ride. When not riding we would check out the weather channel in the lodge, and watching that was depressing. Rain, Rain, Rain. That's all saw.

Tuesday's destination was Amicalola Falls, one of the highest falls east of the Mississippi River. Named after the Cherokee word meaning "tumbling waters," Amicalola Falls cascades 729 feet. Edward and Karen joined us again. We headed south back toward Dahlonega on what was fast becoming a favorite route, GA 60 and GA 19. We turned west at Dahlonega on GA 52 to Amicalola Falls.

At the visitors center, we inquired about hiking trails to the falls. Since Edward and Karen both have bad knees, we wanted to take the easiest trail to the bottom of the falls. The park road led to the top of the falls, and it was only a short walk to the falls overlook.

Midway down the park road was the parking area for the "short" hike to the bottom of the falls. At least, that was what we intended. Leaving the parking lot, we hit the trail, and it immediately began a fairly steep descent. If this was easy, I wouldn't want to try the more strenuous trail!! The further we walked, the more we realized we weren't on the right trail.

We finally reached an intersection, and it was at that point that we knew we were definitely on the wrong trail. As it turned out, the short three tenths of a mile trail was located at the opposite end of the parking lot; and we had taken the more strenuous one-and- one-half-mile trail. At the end of the trail was a climb of hundreds of steps to get to the observation deck. Tammy and I enjoyed the hike, but Edward and Karen had difficulty. Leaving the observation deck, we found the "easy" trail, an almost level three-tenths of a mile hike.

After a cool, relaxing break at the visitors center, we returned to GA 52 and continued west toward East Ellijay. The skies suddenly turned dark and then the rain began to fall. Not a brief shower this time; it was a deluge. We were able to find an old abandoned convenience store with a narrow covered area and were able to don our rain gear. Of course, we were already wet; but at least we weren't completely soaked. We waited a while; and when it slacked we continued our journey west. It wasn't long before there was another deluge. We found a gas station to give us protection from the rain. This time, we waited until the rain stopped before continuing. Across the road from the station; there was a dump truck and trailer that had slid down into the ditch. No one was hurt in the accident.

We finally reached East Ellijay and had lunch. Then we headed north on US 76 to near Mineral Bluff where we rejoined GA 60 for the return to the campground. The sun was out and the roads were dry when we left East Ellijay

Back at the campground, Tammy again organized another pool "tournament" with other guests at TWO. That night it rained again.

Wednesday Tammy and I were on our own. We decided to return to Helen and buy some souvenirs for the family back home. Not wanting to retrace our previous route to Helen, we headed south on GA 60, then east on US 129 than GA 75 into Helen. The town looked so much better in the sunshine.

After stocking up on souvenirs, we decided to return to the Richard Russell Scenic Highway. It was good to ride this highway without rain. Though we did briefly encounter a few "cloudy stretches", we stayed dry.At the end of the Richard Russell, we turned west on GA 180. Instead of continuing all the way to the campground on GA 180, we turned south on US 19. This ended up being a good choice as US 19 was a good road with lots of curves and passing lanes. Traffic was light and we made good time, enjoying the sweeping curves.

At the point where US 19 intersects with GA 60, there is a pile of stones that marks the grave of a Cherokee princess, Trahlyta. According to legend her tribe knew the secret of the magic springs of eternal youth on Cedar Mountain. She was kidnapped by a rejected suitor and taken far away where she lost her beauty. As she was dying, her kidnapper promised to bury her near her home and the magic springs. The custom arose among the Indians, and later the whites, to drop stones on her grave for good fortune. After placing a rock on the grave, we returned to TWO by GA 60.

Since it was still early in the day, and our friends had not returned from their trip, we decided to ride a loop back to the campground. We rode south on GA 60, then north on US 19 to GA 180 and back to the campground. US 19 was just as much fun going north as it was when we rode south.

Since we would be leaving the next morning, we wanted to make one last run into Dahlonega; but the rain returned with a vengeance. We joined other bikers on the porch of the camp store and lodge. Not wanting to miss our one "last ride" on our favorite road, we waited out the rain. Donning our rain gear, Tammy and I headed out alone. After only a few miles, we were out of the rain and by the time we got to Dahlonega, we were in sunshine. We decided to eat at Danny's, the restaurant that we had missed Monday. After a good meal, we gassed up and returned to Suches shortly after dark.

Our last night was rainy with lots of lightning and thunder interspersed with a hard drizzle. We were offered a bed in the lodge, but decided to stick it out in the tent. A night like that justified the extra expense of a good tent.

Thursday morning dawned cloudy and cool. Packing went smoothly, except the wet tent. At least everything inside was dry. We ate our last breakfast at TWO and headed north on GA 60 toward Tennessee. Once across the Tennessee state line, GA 60 became TN 68. We continued up TN 68 to Tellico Plains where we stopped for lunch at the Tellicafe. Tammy and I had eaten there on our 2001 trip to Tennessee and had enjoyed the food so much that it was worth a return.

After lunch, we visited the Tellico Plains museum and then headed for the Cherohala Skyway. This was a return trip for us as we had rode the Cherohala and camped along the Skyway at one of the park campgrounds on our last trip. There were lots of motorcycles on the Skyway, due to it's proximity to the Honda Hoot in Knoxville. The weather was perfect for riding, sunny and not too hot.

After a couple of stops at scenic overlooks for pictures, we turned on Forest Service Road 210 to Bald River Falls. This road is narrow and follows a creek to the falls.

Leaving the falls, we continued east on the Cherohalla, again meeting lots of bikes. Almost every scenic pullover had a number of bikers, some taking pictures, others just enjoying the view.

After crossing over into North Carolina, we began to see clouds and rain ahead. But, we were lucky, as every time we seemed to be headed into bad weather, the road would take us away from it. Not wanting to get caught unprepared, we rode the last portion of the Skyway with our rain coats on.

Upon leaving the Skyway, we continued on NC 143 to Robinsville, our selected stop for the night. There would not be a tent tonight, rather a nice little mom-and-pop motel. The room was nice, not fancy and there were a few other bikers staying the night. We unloaded our gear, gassed up, and decided to take another loop ride. We headed northwest on US 129 to Deals Gap. Most bikers know about Deals Gap, 318 curves in 11 miles. When we reached Crossroads of Time at the top of Deals Gap, there wasn't an empty spot in the parking lot. It was full of bikes. Having previously ridden the Dragon, as US 129 west is called, and knowing that there were going to be a lot of bikes, we decided to skip it this time. Tammy was relieved, as she wasn't too excited about repeating her experience on the Dragon last time we were there. Instead we decided to head east on NC 28, a curvy but more sedate highway. We then returned to Robinsville on NC 143.

Friday morning started out wet. We should have taken that as an omen and began our return journey, but I was able to convince Tammy that we would be out of the weather eventually and had only one more day in the area. Today's destination the Mountain Waters Byway. In the rain, we headed east on US 129.

Somewhere along the way, we made a wrong turn and ended up in Andrews. By then, the rain had gotten worse. After a brief stop, we turned around and tried to find the Byway. We did get part of it, actually it was US 19. Traffic was heavy; the rain continued, and by the time we got to the intersection of US 19 and GA 28, we decided we had had enough.

We turned west returning to Robinsville and then got on the Cherohalla for a return to Tennessee. This was to be a big mistake. Once on the Cherohalla, we were the only ones on the highway heading west. We did pass two motorcyclists heading east. The rain became torrential. We climbed up into the clouds; visibility was very poor, and the temperature dropped into the low 50's. Rain began seeping in around our necks and Tammy began shivering. We could do nothing but push on. With visibility as bad as it was and the rain falling, our speed was down to 15 to 20 MPH. We finally crossed the highest point and began our descent. Rain continued, but visibility began to improve. Two more bikes passed us, also heading east.

We finally reached Tellico Plains, and once again stopped at the Tellicafe for lunch and to warm up. We weren't the only ones sitting in the restaurant, in wet rain gear, drinking hot chocolate. Four other bikers arrived shortly after we did.

I decided to take TN 68 north until I reached I 75. We hadn't gone far out of Tellico Plains before the rain returned, and it continued, all the way to I 75. Now, we were officially heading home as we turned south on I 75. It would be nothing but interstate from here on out. Just north of Chatanooga, we came upon a 7 mile long traffic jam. There was a multi-car accident and traffic was at a standstill. Of course, as we were sitting waiting in traffic, it began to rain again!

That's how the remainder of the day's ride was. A little sunshine, another shower. We just kept the rain gear on all day. It wasn't hot enough to be uncomfortable and it beat numerous stops to put it on and take it off. Friday night we spent the night in a real nice hotel in Birmingham, the Drury Hotel, one picked out by Tammy when we had stopped at the Alabama Welcome Center.

Saturday's return home was much the same, rain and sun. In spite of all the rain, we had a good time. This trip proved to be a good father-daughter bonding experience.

This was my first trip on the K12 LT, and it was a pleasure to ride. The LT was comfortable to ride over the long boring stretches of interstate. Handling in the mountains was good, even when loaded with camping gear. I was pleasantly surprised with the way it handled the mountain roads.