Sunday, February 17, 2013

Central Florida to the Tail of the Dragon

Took a week away from work recently to travel from central Florida to North Carolina and Tennessee to ride the tail of the dragon.  This ride was with my good friend and riding buddy Gary.  We met up just north of Orlando with the idea to ride only back roads through Florida, Georgia, North Carolina, and Tennessee.  This way we could enjoy the sights and smells and meet some new friends along the way.

After a leisurely breakfast we headed for a route that took us through the Ocala National Forest.  We made our first stop for rain gear about ten miles into the ride, then made another stop in another ten miles to remove the rain gear.  Rain followed us off and on through the next several days, but as always the rain just adds to the experience.The ride through the Ocala National Forest is pleasant with the added bonus of a chance sighting of a Florida black bear.

Lunch time found us in the town of Jasper, just south of the Georgia state line.  We enjoyed a BBQ and the chance to clean the love bugs from our bikes.  For those that haven't had the enjoyable pleasure? of love bugs, they leave a nasty smear of white that has the consistancy of candle wax along with a smell that just adds to the fun.

Florida love bugs!

Back on the road we whirred and chugged our way up route 11 to Hawkinsville.  Rt. 11 parallels I-75 and travels through the small rural towns and countryside that was left behind when the interstate came through.  The towns are clean and filled with friendly and inquisitive folks that approached us for a chat at every stop.  Many of the towns have town squares with statues of heros past.  The south has a lot of history and the people are not inclined to forget their past.  There is a lot of pride in Georgia.

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 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.

Leaky rainsuit on the Tail of the Dragon

As we climbed deeper into the mountains the rain grew heavier and by the time we had completed the rollercoaster ride on the dragon, Gary was soaked from the waist down.  In an effort to cheer him up, I mentioned my socks were a little damp too.  This didn't make him feel as good as I thought it would.  Later that day we found a bike shop and picked up a new rain suit.


A dry biker is a happy biker

A dry biker is a happy biker and we could both keep the rain out, so we headed west into Tennessee.  We hit the hardest rain of the trip in Tennessee and we alternated between being stung by the cool rain and ducking behind the windshield for a little relief.
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.

No comments:

Post a Comment