Friday, May 31, 2013

I can never spell "Appalachia"

It's been an excessively long time since my last post, which I can attribute only to laziness on my part.  Who wants to spent time on the internet when I could be out motorcycling, anyway?

After spending the night at Red Top state park, we headed up into the hills north of Atlanta.  Things were starting to get good now, the roads interesting enough that I even maintained a proper riding position.

Yay heading into the hills!

You know things are going to go well when you're seeing signs like this all over.  :D

Our first route was through Fort Mountain state park, which got us up in elevation for the taking of pretty pictures.

We rode around this area all day; first on Rt 2 through the state park, than on Rt 60 through Cohutta National Forest.  This was my friend's first experience on properly twisty eastern mountain roads, his prior reference for what good twisties were was the Three Sisters in Texas.  They're fun, but . . . they don't hold a candle to these gnarled ribbons of tarmac.

Noted this passing through some little town somewhere.  They sure know how to grab my attention.

We spent that night in a forest service campground somwhere off Rt 17 (I think).  For $6/night, we got a great campsite with running water and a rushing creek ten feet away.

The next day we headed north, higher into the hills.

More magnificent views, more twisty roads. It never, ever gets old. I'll take a lifetime of this over the hell that is the midwest.

The Cherahola Skyway is a long scenic drive sometimes called "The Mile-High Legand".  The road is epic, twisty, as as the nickname implies, up there in elevation.

It was still early spring at these altitudes, not like down the hills where it was heat of summer.  Many of the trees still hadn't leafed yet, and it was much cooler than we were expecting.

Sadly it has it's moments of infamy, as well.  It's caught numerous bikers out with it's suddenly tightening curves and unpredictable sightlines; the result is that poor wrecked BMW S1000RR above (an $18,000 motorcycle).

We spent that night at the Hunts Lodge Motorcycle Campground (, a wonderful place designed specifically for riders.  It's spacious, with plenty of open areas for tent camping, free wi-fi, hot showers and laundry.

Even a nice little outdoor kitchen so you don't have to use your camp stove to make your morning oatmeal.
I spent the evening making some minor repairs to my jacket; the much-vaunted Liquid Stitch that other riders had sworn by didn't do squat for holding my patches on.

So after a quick trip to walgreens for a sewing kit, an hour spent with a needle and thread has these patches permanently attached.

Having some time to relax at this campsite gave us some time to adjust the way our luggage was riding on our bikes, when my friend noticed something on my Wee.  One of the main bolts that holds my rear sub-frame (and most my weight, and all my luggage's weight) had gone AWOL.

A quick ride into town, and I was back in my adventure-rider's natural habitat: Fixing their bike in the Auto-Zone parking lot.

Had to adjust the rear brake sensor switch as well, it had gotten itself jammed on so I effectively had no brake lights.
With my bike now back together, my friend and I both headed out for a little stretch of US Rt 129, known famously around the country as Deals Gap, or the "Tail of the Dragon".  Purported to be the twistiest paved road in the country, there are 318 corners in this little 11 mile stretch of pavement; it's a mecca for bikers everywhere.  So much so that there's a motorcycle specific resort on one end, which is filled with an even blend of the cruiser pirates and crotch-rocket power rangers.

And at one end of the parking lot, the infamous "Tree of Shame".

If you have a crash on this road, you're obligated to leave part of your now smashed up bike on this tree, often with a short description (or excuse) from the crash scrawled on it.  I spotted parts from all sorts of bikes (Including a rear-view mirror from a Ducati 1199 Panigale S, a $24,000 bike).  A disturbing number of the parts also have RIP written on them.  :(

Given that my friend was on a giant touring bike with a car tire on the rear, and I was on a squishy DS bike with slight knobbies, we focuses most of our attention on cramming biker food into our faces.  Double-bacon cheeseburger?  Well, if you insist.

We spent that night again at the Hunts motorcycle campground, and the next morning my friend and I parted ways.  I had to stay in the area as I had a job starting soon less than two hours away, and he had to get up north to see family in northern Virginia. 

Adios dude!

I didn't do much for the next couple days; mostly hung around the campground, went for a few short local rides, and enjoyed the time off.  Mostly I was trapped by the weather; we had avoided the rain on our way over from Texas, but now a bank of storms parked itself in our area for half the week and showed no signs of going anywhere.

Not that I'm unable to ride in the rain, I slogged through almost a week of it on my way to Texas the first time.  But it's not exactly fun, and at least staying at the campground I had internet and showers.

After a few days the rain mostly moved on, and I was getting a bit tired of this whole civilization nonsense.  I packed up my tent to load everyone onto my bike, and in the process saw that I'd made quite a few unintentional friends.

Free of slimy friends, I got back on the road.

Oh, local color.
I headed south into the National Forst, for tonight was to be my first proper primitive camp.

For this whole trip so far, mostly because my friend was on a giant-ass bike with smooth street tires and lots of expensive plastics to break if he dropped it, we'd stayed in developed campgrounds the whole time.  This wasn't sitting well with me; that's not what a motorcycle trip is in my mind.  Where's the desolate back roads, the overgrown fields, the little clearings in the middle of nowhere?  Tonight I would have these again.

Through the usual practice of taking a side road, then a side road off the side road, then a side road off THAT side road, I eventually found myself making my way down an overgrown double-track.

This was PERFECT!  This was what motorcycle camping is supposed to be!  I was even treated to my first water crossing.

Just give it gas, and keep your eyes looking ahead.
The farther down this path I went, the rougher and more overgrown it got.  I couldn't have been happier.

The bike was in it's element now.  Before I'd left Chicago, I'd spent the better part of two grand on suspension mods for this bike, and to be honest I wasn't convinced I'd gotten my money's worth.  On the raod the bike didn't feel brilliant; it was sometimes overly harsh, the front end has a tendancy to pogo and it never responded the way I thought it should.

But here, on this?  Skittering over big lumps of roots and mud puddles, here the bike SHONE.  It was like riding on a feather pillow but with the rear wheel wired directly into my brain; I could always feel exactly what the back of the bike was doing, exactly where it was going and how much grip it had, and I always knew what had to be done to keep it in line.  It soaked up the big bumps without a thought, letting me know they were there while still maintaining perfect ground contact, never came close to bottoming out and was all-in-all brilliant.  The front was planted, the rear was communicative, and it felt like it was half of it's nearly 600lb gross weight.  What a brilliant machine.

Eventually I came to a clearing on the side of this path, set up my tent and settled in for my first night of real motorcycle camping.

Mud!!!  I had mud on my bike again!!!  It was finally getting dirty, it finally looked like a motorcycle is supposed to look!  I was under no circumstances cleaning this off; I wear this mud with pride.

The next day was more of the same; I headed south still, back into Georgia and spend time exploring more national forest land.  I stopped at a roadside fruit stand for lunch; the lady looked at me funny when I bought one of each, and just ate them on the spot.

 I'd had far too much tarmac for this trip so far, and I needed some dirt and gravel under me.  And to keep civilization as far away as I could.

I spend that night in an idllic primitive campground that I stumbled across by accident.  It was little more than a small clearing with some flatted areas to set up on; just two tent sites, and some fire pits.  No potable water, not even a pit toilet.  But there was copious shade, a burbling creek just a few feet away, and no one around. It was all I needed to be happy.

Dinner was some instant rice goop cooked on my little stove.  Perfect.

Sadly, this was the last of the forest I'd see for a while; it was time to go to work.

A few weeks ago, purely by accident, I was put in touch with the head of the company that provides IT services to large outdoor music venues.  By dumb luck, they needed a network tech with flexibility who didn't mind working physical labor for long hours outdoors; it was right up my alley.

So today, I rode out of the forest and headed over to Manchester, Tennessee, where they're setting up for the Bonnaroo music festival later this month.  I road in, took of my gear, and was immediately tossed the keys to a truck and told to get to work.

For the next few days, this was my life:  Stringing miles of CAT-5 between buildings and up towers, digging ditches, burying cables, driving boom-lifts around and generally getting nice and dirty.

And by my estimation, making a billion ethernet cables.

I think someone once told me that I should go into computers, so I didn't have to dig ditches for a living. 
 Bonnaroo is gigantic; the grounds are over 700 acers and hundreds of thousands of people are expected to attend.  I was mostly doing the pre-setup setup; the bulk of the personnel still wouldn't arrive for another couple weeks, so most of what I was setting up was the infrastructure so they could hit the ground running.

Lots and lots of empty tents so far.
Of course I also had to make friends with all of the important locals.

He takes that stuffed duck with him everywhere he goes.
And, somewhere, buried in some little obscure warehouse somewhere . . . I found pure happiness.

Doing actual work again had resulted in numerous little cuts and scapes, and I was forced to make do with the only band-aids that I could find.

Okay, I lied.  I totally picked these out on purpose.
After four days of work, that was all that could be done until the rest of the crew shows up.  Now it was time to hit the road again for another couple weeks; I don't need to be back in Manchester until the 10th, to start working the event itself (which runs the 13th-16th.)

Packed up again and ready to go.
That's it for this long-overdue post.  I should have more soon, I'm in Shenandoah right now with another friend of mine, and I hopefully will update again soon.