Sunday, June 7, 2009

Now that I've got some time, an update.

I think it's been a solid week since I did a post of much substance at all, so, here goes. Many, many pictures behind the cut.

The last post I did was from some coffee house in . . . Uh, Alabama somewhere. I think. I hadn't quite made it into Georgia yet. The shop was a strange amalgamation of coffee and fancy deserts. I ended up spending like $15 there on drinks and cheesecake and a wrap thing, but it was pretty damn good. And I was there for like five hours.

After that, I pushed north, where I camped for the night at the base of that cell tower with a great view. And the giant creepy cross with all the security cameras aimed at it.

After I finished setting up the tent, I wandered off into the bushes for a pee, when I stumbled across this. Ew, gross. I guess I'm not the only one who found this place really scenic and secluded.

(used condoms,if you can't tell. Icky.)

That night, I actually got dropped in on by some local teenagers. As soon as they saw the tent they were kinda embarrassed and apologetic, it was just a couple of guys and a girl. We bullshitted for a bit, mostly joking about how shitty and boring their small town was, and how the most interesting thing they had to do that night was wander up the hill. They left after about half an hour, and I didn't get bothered again that night. So, whatever.

The next day, I pushed east into Georgia. Lots of small towns, and while the roads started to get really good, some of the gas stations had some weird personality.

(No pants is really a problem here?)

Right about this point is where the roads started to get . . . special. We started to head up (or down? Can't remember) into the mountains, and in addition to getting twisty, there were some great overlooks.

really just picked a route arbitrarily when browsing my GPS, and damn, did I make a good call. For anyone who's in the area, you HAVE to ride State Highway 60 in between the Blue Ridge Lake and Suches.

View Larger Map

Just . . . holy crap. What an awesome road this was. Rt 60 was a LOT of fun, but also very crowded. And, well, for those of you who actually watched that whole video up there, lots of police. There were an ABSURD number of bikers on there, as well as other vehicles. The upside was that by being a more major road, there was a lot of it that was two lanes in my direction. And having all that extra space gave me a bit more confidence to uh, make more liberal use of the lanes and get into the corners. And because there were so many other bikers on the road, there was a lot of tire marks and rubber residue on the road giving me hints as to what the best line was.

I knew that I was probably onto something good when I started seeing a LOT of other bikers, eventually stopping in at a motorcycle resort to grab lunch.

I was hoping I would have learned how to socialize and make friends by now, but no, I still end up being the creepy guy sitting by himself in the corner eating his burger. I think a lot of it is that I was the youngest person there by probably ten years. It's fucking weird, almost everywhere I've gone so far, the vast majority of the other riders are at least a decade my senior. Which isn't really a BAD thing, as I find young squid/stuntaz really annoying to be around, but it's still just kinda weird to be the only one there under 35.

Anyway, after lunch I headed north.

The roads were smaller, but even more twisty, smaller, and more remote. Which meant that i was mostly left alone to . . . well, ride in ways that I probably shouldn't.

Keep in mind that the vast majority of this was done in 2nd and 3rd gear, flipping around between 20 and 30mph. Not very fast at all, and you can STILL see me rubbing my feet on the ground at a couple of points because I was over so far. That's how sharp a lot of these corners were.

Truth be told, I went back and forth on most of these roads at LEAST three or four times. I could have easily spent a whole WEEK just riding around northern Georgia, but I knew that I was on a kinda tight schedule, and wanted to get into the Great Smokey Mountains by that night, so I could get on Deals Gap and the Blue Ridge Parkway the next day. I took Rt 28 up there, which in addition to being awesome and twisty and great in all ways, there were some neat things along the way.

I had a hard time finding someplace to camp that night, and eventually settled on just a vaugly flat spot on the side of a very . . . . very, very lousy gravel road. It was steep as hell getting up there, and VERY loose. There was a lot of OHSHIT moments of the bike sliding around underneath me, but by keeping it in second and a lot of fancy clutch work, I made it up and down okay.

The next day, after riding through the Great Smokey Mountains National Park (and sitting through an absurd amount of roadwork), I eventually headed over . . .

To a section of US 129 known as Deals Gap.

View Larger Map

This road is . . . very, very scary. Just sticking to the facts, this is generally regarded as THE TWISTIEST road in the lower 48. It's barely 11 miles long and in that short distance, it has 318 corners, most of them are ABSURDLY tight, and completely blind. The speed limit is 30mph, and for a large section of it, you won't even WANT to go much faster then this. I'm not kidding when I say that a lot of the corners are LITERALLY 10mph corners. And the road is essentially chiseled into the side of a cliff. So on one side of this tiny, narrow road with no shoulders, you have a giant wall of rock. And on the other side, you had air. And a lot of trees. There is really no room for error on this bit of tarmac at all . . . and the tree of shame at the end of the road serves as a memento of that.

Every time someone has a crash on this road, a bit of the bike is left on (or in) this tree. And usually, most of the parts have a description of the crash. A frightening number of the parts have RIP written on them.

Of course, me being my brilliant self . . . I didn't think to get any pictures of videos of this road. If you're really curious, toss it into Google and you'll find plenty of information on it. I went through it five times, and really, that was PLENTY. My nerves were frazzled by the end of it. The scariest things about it is that many of the turns are so blind; you can't see the exit going into them, so you have no idea how sharp it's eventually going to be, or if it's going to snap back in the other direction once you get out, or what. And that there is NO room for error. There's no run-offs, there's no shoulders, there's nothing to bring you to a slow halt if you screw up, no nice soft muddy ditches. There's only some very un-friendly looking trees and an even more un-friendly looking cliff.

At some point, I'd like to go back on a bike that's more suited to it, because this . . . this bike was just wrong for the road. And, you know, the rider was totally wrong for this road as well. Strangely, there were still a ton of full Harley baggers and Goldwings on it, in addition to the crotch rocket guys doing 90mph through it.

I camped about 30 miles down the road from the gap, and the next day, headed up the Blue Ridge Parkway.

The Blue Ridge parkway is a 470-something long mile road that . . . well it doesn't go anyplace specifically. There's very, very few entrances and exits, there's no towns along it, and the places that it does go to, there's other roads that get there much more quickly. It sort of meanders through the mountains in a vaguely northern-east direction, and was built with only one single objective.

To be a beautiful drive.

And hey, the obligitory picture of the bike next to a sign. This was actually where I made friends with that goat, and then lost my tent poles.

Up this high, it was a lot colder then you'd think. Cold enough that I was shivering under a bunch of thermal shirts, and my jacket. At one point, I pulled out my rain gear just to act as a windbreaker. I mean, there was still some of this around.

Srsly, in the Carolinas? It snows there? That kinda blew my mind (Yeah, I know I'm retarded. Who would have thought that it could snow high in the mountains?)

Because it was a BEAUTIFUL day, there were quite a few other bikers out on the road. Mostly, it was the RUB and weekend warrior army. And, as usual, the VAST majority of them had perfectly manicured Harleys or Goldwings that looked like they'd never, ever seen a spot of rain. And the riders were all wearing the usual pirate uniforms (bandana/half-helmet, leather fingerless gloves and a leather vest).

I could babble on about the BRP for an entire post. Just the fact that the road existed at all I think is awesome, that someone in government had the presence of mind to say "Hey, lets make a road that has no other function other then being great to drive on!". But it really is just . . . breathtakingly beautiful. There are scenic turn-offs every few miles, because literally ANY time to look around, the view is amazing. It's . . . you really need to drive or ride this road at some point in your life. It really is a destination in of itself.
That's actually enough for this post. I've got a lot more stuff, but I'm going to break it all up into a couple of posts so it's not such a huge assault like that last big update was. So, give me a few hours, and I'll have more stuff up.

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