Mini Road Trip

3 states in 3 days - 950 Miles


Sunday, January 29’ 2012

Anytime you can explore new friends and new roads at the same time it’s a win win. Such was the plan over the next 72 hours as I departed home base (Dover, Tennessee) heading south for some meeting and greeting as well as some riding in southern Tennessee, Northern Georgia & Northern Alabama. My Wing, having survived my multiple inept maintenance attempts at fixing what I like to call “The Coolant Leak from Hell”, was finally fixed and ready to hit the open road again. It wasn’t exactly my usual road trip but hey it was winter after all … that is except for the next 72 hours. You see there was a nice little break in the South that was going to provide some moderate temps and plenty of sunshine and I wasn’t about to let it go to waste.

First stop was Harrison Bay State Park Tennessee just north of Chattanooga, TN. Thanks to the power of the internet and goldwing forums I had made the acquaintance of one Mr. Wes Billings that lives down that way. He has an 01 Wing with around 170k on it and benefited from reading and learning about my mistakes in replacing the water pump on his Wing. One conversation led to another and before long Wes threw out an invitation to stop by some time if I was down that way. I think he also mentioned something about beer so that might also have played a role in me deciding to stop by so quickly after we met :-)

This first day was still rather chilly and only reached temps into the mid 40’s so I did my best just to zip down to the Chattanooga area on the freeway. This did give me a good test of the engine running at sustained speeds in excess of 70 MPH to ensure the fixed coolant leak also took care of the overheating. All was good and I was pulling into Wes’ drive way around dusk this first day.

Wes and his wife Sheila made me feel right at home and we chatted about bikes & politics and a host of other topics right through the evening like we had been friends for years. Good times and good people. Being invited to stay at some ones home is a special honor for me and means a great deal. Thanks so much and I look forward to hooking up later this summer for some riding together.


Monday, January 30’ 2012

Up early it was time to get on the road and start exploring. I rolled with Wes at o-cold thirty and rode part of the way to work with him before heading off south to do my retirement work i.e. finding new and exciting roads to ride on and new places to see. Seeing Wes head to work on Blue Monday made me appreciate all the more that I didn’t have to. What a blessing. Temps were in the upper 30’s and the heated vest was working overtime to keep my core warm which it did. Somehow it doesn’t bother me that much when it’s that cold riding when you see the sky is crystal blue and you know it’s going to warm up as the sun rises. I figured the best and closes place to find some twisty curvy roads was to head up to the Cherokee National Forest which is what I did. I looped back up to Cleveland and headed out highway 64/74 and stopped along the Parkville Lake Dam and Ocoee Lake river. Last time I was here was during the summer and there were a thousand people lining the river doing white water rafting. Not the case on this winter day … absolutely no one around. Like having the place to yourself. Here’s a shot of the lake and dam. Check out the flag straight out from brisk winds … Nice but …Brrrrr ….
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Continue on up in elevation I soon realized there was one small flaw in my plan to find twisty good riding roads up this way. The problem was the higher I got the colder the temps got. For a while they were actually going in the opposite direction … it was getting colder. Oh well … what a man won’t do to find a twisty curvy road to ride his motorcycle on. Here’s some shots of the river next to the road.
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I finally decided to head back south down towards Blue Ridge and eventually down to Ellijay where I found a most excellent road … Highway 2. It gently climbs out of Ellijay up to an elevation of about 2,700 feet where you will find Fort Mountain State Park and some awesome views.
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Aaaaaahhhh … nothing like a clear blue sky.

Heading back down the mountain it was time to start angling my way West and get over into Alabama. As is always the case while riding things can change in a heartbeat. You just never know what’s around the next turn … good or bad. Today it was good ….today it was Bob and Doug. As I rounded a turn were there was a scenic pull out I saw 2 gentleman and 2 Goldwings parked taking in the crisp morning air. I pulled up and dismounted as we exchange knowing glances at each others. Funny how riders just know other riders and in no time we were all finishing each others sentences as we shared common experiences from the open road. Also so cool to meet other riders while traveling about.
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They were from the Chattanooga area and were out and about doing the same thing I was doing. Bob had a 2012 Wing and Doug’s was a 2008 I believe. We continued to chat and then went our separate ways. I moved on West traversing valley and ridges one after another until I reached Cloudland Canyon State Park and took a few shots there as I rode and walked through the park some.
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From there is was on to the Tennessee River below
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Once crossing the river it was up highway 117 which turned into highway 56 once I crossed back over into Tennessee. Beautiful scenery punctuated with beautiful farm land and rolling hills.
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I’m resting in Monteagle, Tennessee tonight. Tomorrow I’m going to meet up with another Goldwing buddy, Rich, that I also met over the internet when I was having my coolant problem. In fact, Rich had even ridden up to my house to help me out one day which was very nice. I told him I would stop by when I was down this way. He’s going to show me some more good roads around Winchester, Tennessee tomorrow. Looks like we are in for another fine day tomorrow with temps again in the low 60’s

Tuesday, January 31’ 2012

Waking up Tuesday to some clouds but lots of sun around and temps into the 60’s … who’s complaining … January … not me. Headed off down 41 west to Cowan, Tennessee to meet up with Rich and Cheryl for today’s ride. Plan was to explore some of the roads south of here in Northern Alabama and then loop back up west to around Columbia, Tennessee by 3:00 p.m. We immediately headed south down to Guntersville area and visited the Guntersville Lake State Park. This area had been hit pretty hard in 2011 by tornadoes and the area still shows many of the scars.
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After a quick ride through the park we grabbed some lunch and were quickly heading back Northwest toward Columbia, Tennessee. No heated gear required in the afternoon as the mild temps were a welcome relief to the winter blues. I swear if I closed my eyes it felt like it could have easily been an early spring day. We made good time up to Columbia, Tennessee arriving almost precisely as Rich had predicted around 3:00 p.m.
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Rich and Cheryl at Guntersville Lake State Park

After some final good-bye’s we departed company and retreated each to our homes each of us getting home safely around dusk. It was the end of January 2012 and also unfortunately the end of my 3 day mini road trip.

At a minimum it’s a good start to the 2012 riding season. What better way to start than a little road trip in January nurturing new friendships and breaking in new roads. It’s not McDonald’s but I’m loving it.

Donnie

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