We spent the night outside Macon near Gray. Day two found us continuing north on route 11. By mid-day we were back in our rain gear and would ride in steady rain the next couple days.
The Georia land begins to roll and dip as you get further north until the land eventually grows to genuine mountain status. At Clermont Hwy 11 and Hwy 129 come together, farther north a section of Hwy 129 is know as the tail of the Dragon, or sometimes just the dragon.
Beyond the town of Cleveland, 129 begins a steep and winding climb into the north Georgia mountains. Mountain passes, or gaps as they are know in the east, reach elevations above 3,500 feet. We turned east on 180 and continued to climb and wind our way to Hwy 75 were we turned south. The traffic was light, nearly non-existant, with few signs of civilization. The rain fell steadily and this added to the feeling that we were the only ones on the road. After not seeing a car or bike for miles, we rounded a bend and found ourselves in the small tourist town of Helen. Even in the rain there were people everywhere, walking the streets, shopping, and enjoying themselves. We couldn't help wondering where they all came from as we hadn't seen another car for the past half hour.
We stopped in Helen for supper. It seems Gary's rain suit had been leaking and he had been sitting in a puddle most of the afternoon. I was snug and dry and of course didn't make any comments about where he was wet. After dinner we rode Hwy 348 up and over Wildcat Mountain to reconnect with 129. We spend the night in Blairsville, Georgia.
The next norning was cool and cloudy, but not raining. We continued north on 129 to enter North Carolina. We had reservations at the Two Wheel Inn www.twowheelinn.com near Robbinsville and checked in before lunch. The Two Wheel inn is a great stop for bikers. Each room comes with a private garage that we were able to sqeeze both bikes into. There is a largish overhang out side the rooms that allows riders to sit outside, yet out of the rain. This is perfect for swapping nearly true stories with your riding buddies and other guests in the evening.
After dropping our luggage in our room, we hopped on the bikes and headed for "the Dragon" - just as a cold rain began to fall. We rode through the mountains and to the start of the dragon without seeing much traffic and almost no other bikes. The cold rain may have kept some inside, but we were there to ride and explore, so ride and explore we did.
By the time we reached the western end of the Cherohala Skyway the rain had stopped and we'd have cool clear weather the rest of the trip The western end of the Cherohala Skyway begins at Tellico Plains in Tennessee and and climbs and follows a ridge of mountains east into North Carolina. The Skyway climbs to over 5300 feet and is little travelled. The scenery is outstanding and the road is one of the best rides around.
The Cherohala Skyway is beautiful and the tail of the dragon is equally beautiful with some of the tightests twists and bends anywhere. The trouble for a backroad rides is to not get too caught up with the well known rides though as every road in the area is a good road.
The area where western North Carolina, Eastern Tennessee, and north Georgia come together offers spectacular scenery and rides for the back road rider.