When I woke up this morning I looked at the window and all I could see was fog. By the time we were up and milling on the deck it was still cloudy. We had leftovers for breakfast. After a while the guys drifted outside to clean the windshields and start the bikes. At 9:17 we headed out.
It was a short ride (~14 miles) to the Blairsville BP station for fuel. The weather was beautiful. There were lots of motorcycles out on this Sunday. Our fuel stop completed, we saddled up and headed through Blairsville and down US129.
North of Vogel State Park we turned west on GA-180. We immediately started hitting windy, sharp curves. Excellent! The road quality isn't spectacular...kind of like a county road...but you're not going fast enough with all the curves that it matters that much. One thing we did have to watch out for though...bicyclists. There were a bunch out today.
When we reached Suches the driving tour suggests turning around and backtracking. Because of all the bicyclists we turned south on GA-60. It was a better quality road and it was nice and curvy as it wound its way over Woody Gap...where we pulled off for some sightseeing. The Appalachian Trail crosses here. If I were 25 years younger the Appalachian Trail might be fun to walk. As is, I'll just admire those who do. After 23 minutes we continued south to US19. We followed some bicyclists down the hill. They were making good speed so we coasted behind them.
Upon reaching US19 we headed north eventually merging with US129. As is typical with US-xx highways the lanes are wider and in good condition, and there were plenty of passing lanes as the road wound upwards towards Neal Gap and Blood Mountain. There was the occasional crotch rocketeer blasting by. A couple were trying too hard...passing in curves where it wasn't safe. At one point we saw some people alongside the road looking into some brush down an embankment. One had ran off the road.
At the crest of Neals Gap we stopped at a 'Mountain Crossings at Walasi-Yi' store. This is another crossing point for the Appalachian Trail. The store had plenty of gear for hikers as well as normal items. They even had pins and stickers. Yes!
When we finished our exploration of the area it was 12:30'ish. One of the girls working checkout pointed us back towards Blairsville to look for places to eat. We headed north on US129 to see what we could find.
What we found was Pappy's Restaurant. It's part of a little 'Pappy mall' type of arrangement. We headed to the restaurant. By now it was in the upper 80's and the creek running behind the restaurant sounded and looked inviting. The girls were cooking pot roast tonight (mmmmmmmm) so we decided to eat lite. I had a reuben.
After lunch we checked out some of the stores. The air conditioning felt good. As we got ready to leave we could feel a cool breeze as some darker clouds started to move in. Our next stop is Lake Trahlyta Falls in Vogel Park.
The falls are visible from a roadside pulloff but you can get better views from inside the park, so that's where we headed. The park was busy. Picnic'ers. People riding paddleboats on the lake. A couple large cookouts going on. They have a park store and you know what that means...potential pins!
Trahlyta Falls is formed by the spillway runoff of the lake...at the other end of the lake. We took off for the falls.
As we neared the spillway end of the lake the wind picked up considerably. As we approached the falls via the wooded path the rain started. We took pictures of the falls then waited for a while under the canopy. After a while it was obvious the rain wasn't letting up so we started walking back to the other end of the lake.
By the time we reached the park store we were drowned rats. We went to the bathrooms to dry out. I must have wrung a quart of water out of my shirt. It would have been easy to feel miserable but...what the heck...we're on vacation. We went to the store where everyone but me bought a dry shirt to wear. They even had a pin!
The storm didn't last much longer than the time it took for us to dry out. The cool rain caused a steamy condensation to rise off the parking lot and lake. Mike looked very debonair with his wet hair. I noticed when I took a picture the LCD screen on my camera kind of 'whited out'. I hope the camera is still working.
The next chapter on today's journey is to ride the Richard B. Russell Scenic Byway. We boarded our wet bikes and headed down the steaming roads...heading north on US129, then turning northeast on GA-180. The byway begins about a mile down that road.
The byway is a nice 16 mile road. Some curves, but mostly scenic and relaxing.
The byway ends in the town of Helen. We stopped for a rest break and to lose the raingear we had put on in the park. They were having some type of festival, and there were a bunch of people moving about on foot. The kids in the picture were really looking at our bikes. We asked if they wanted to sit on them and they jumped at the chance. When their mom came along she panicked. She thought the kids had just helped themselves to the bikes. We all had a good laugh. My camera was working normally again. Just needed to dry out I guess.
Besides the foot and vehicle traffic there were quite a few buses hauling rafts and rafters back and forth. Trying not to get ran over, we headed north to our next destination...Brasstown Bald, the highest point in Georgia.
The three mile road to Brasstown Bald was very fun and twisty. The skies had cleared and the wind was nice and cool at these elevations. When we approached the toll booth I saw it closed at 5:00pm. It was now 4:47. We decided to park and hang out for a bit. I had brought a video camera and we mounted it on John's bike. At 5:00 we followed some other bikes down the mountain, and we headed towards home.
As we got close to Blairsville, in almost a repeat of yesterday, the skies darkened and it started raining. I wanted to take the side road into the BP station, but there wasn't any. Oh well...it wasn't raining bad and a good pulloff will show up soon. Wrong. The rain turned into a downpour. By the time we were on the northern outskirts of Blairsville I couldn't see anymore and we pulled over in an auto repair shop parking lot. Soaked for the second time today. We put on the raingear over wet clothes and headed out in a decreasing rain. By the time we got to our Gumlog Road turnoff the rain was gone.
When we got home everyone went their separate ways to dry out and clean up. The pot roast was wonderful. Jerri had gotten a good rain induction today. She has earned her wings. Mike hates getting rained on and John joked he could see the smoke rolling off his head when the rain started. We decided to call him 'Magnesium Mike'. The night was spent hanging out on the porch, playing pool, viewing pictures and video we'd taken, and just puttering around.
We were time barred from Brasstown Bald today. There was another leg on the Union County tour after Brasstown Bald but, for the second day in a row, we ran out of time.
Tomorrow we ride the rails....
Click here for our next day's adventure.