The Russell-Brasstown Scenic Byway
Today was our first good, long ride of 2015. It was a day that totaled 226 miles for us. The weather was looking good to ride next week and we planned to head up to north Georgia and ride the state’s only United States Department of Transportation’s designated scenic byway, The Russell-Brasstown Scenic Byway. As luck would have it, a friend of mine, Buddy (yes it’s kind of ironic isn’t) brought up a few days ago that Saturday (today) was supposed to be sunny and near 60° (F) and wanted to know if we wanted to go riding. You see, Buddy bought a Harley Davidson Electra Glide Ultra Classic last summer and was out-of-town on business a lot. He and his girlfriend Rhonda wanted to ride, even if was going to be cool. “Cold we can deal with.” is what they’ve said in the past. Buddy wanted me show them some nice roads and I was game to do so. We met up in the morning and it was still 40° (F) after the sun had come up good. It was only 24° two hours earlier in the morning. The highest temperature we saw all day was 56° and that was while on the way home!
The Russell-Brasstown Scenic Byway is a 40 mile loop that begins on Georgia HWY 17 just north of Helen. The Appalachian Trail crosses this scenic byway twice. Yes the loop is only 40 miles but we got our other miles getting there and then also riding in the area. Oh and of course we had to ride to lunch too! But back to the byway. GA HWY 17 is a very well maintained road heading up (or down) the mountains and has some really great curves in it. If you open up the map image you’ll get an idea of them. You’ll make a left turn onto Georgia HWY 180 (which later becomes Wolf Pen Gap RD) where you’ll pass the entrance to Brasstown Bald, the highest point in Georgia. Before getting to US HWY 129, you’ll make a left turn onto Georgia HWY 348, The Richard B. Russell Scenic Highway. Highway 348 only runs between HWY 180 and HWY 75 Alt. and doesn’t meander anywhere else. There are some great curves and switchbacks on the Richard B. Russell too. It’s winter so as we approached the top of the mountain the temperature quickly dropped from 55° to 40°. Near the peak there are sheer rock walls lining the road and on a winter’s day like today they are covered in feet of ice. I know, we should’ve taken a picture but when we stopped it was too cold and we didn’t want to get off the motorcycles but wanted to keep going (and get back to the warmer temperatures). There’s also quite a number of pull-offs and scenic overlooks on the Richard B. Russell. GA HWY 348 will end at Georgia 75 Alt. where you’ll turn left and head back to GA HWY 17 and the beginning.
Today was Donna’s second ride with the new floorboards and actually her first ride of any length on them. The jury is in and she gives them 2 thumbs up. She says they’re much more comfortable than the stock foot pegs they replaced. It was good to get out and put the R1200RT to work. Wow this engine wants to run! Our old K1200LT was an inline four-cylinder engine and was actually pretty quiet. But the boxer style twin on the R1200RT hums loudly beneath you, producing an audible and muscular exhaust note. Plus the R1200RT averaged over 50 MPG today, since its fill-up when we started this morning! It was really good to get out in the sun and ride after a week of cold, overcast and fog. It did all six of us good! And by six I mean the four humans and the two motorcycles.
Tags: georgia, rides
This morning was the annual BMW Motorcycle Club of Georgia and BMW Motorcycles of Atlanta toy run for the Towns County Sheriff’s Office’s Empty Stocking Fund. The dealership acts as a drop off point for toys from customers and people who have heard about the ride through word of mouth. This year there were two large, motorcycle sized boxes full of toys. I wonder where they got those big motorcycle sized boxes? The toys are then usually loaded up in the dealership’s van and taken to the sheriff’s office by a caravan of motorcycles. The ride is open to all motorcycles and all they ask is that you bring one unwrapped toy the day of the ride or drop one off in the toy box before the ride. Of course the largest percentage of motorcycles are BMW but there were Ducatis, Hondas, Kawasakis, Triumph, Can Am Spyder and more. There were 46 motorcycles this year. There was even a family of four on a BMW with a side car! It’s a fun day. The owner’s of the dealership provide coffee and a light breakfast for the riders before the toys get loaded up. The sheriff is there at the justice center waiting for us to arrive. There are offices packed with donated toys at the justice center. The sheriff goes out of his way to thank the riders, often thanking as many as he can individually. The numerous ways the toys get distributed is really interesting too. Families can come pick up the toys and even have them wrapped if they are unable to it themselves. Deputies can meet parents to deliver toys, deputies can and do drop off toys on Christmas Eve, leaving them at a spot designated by the parents so they can retrieve them to be put under the tree and some toys are even delivered on Christmas by the deputies in person. It’s all based on what the family wants to do.
Since it’s December the weather here can be frigid or warm. In the past we’ve been rained on, snowed on, iced on and had freezing fog. This was the first ride I’ve been on where it was sunny! On my way to the dealership this morning it was a crisp 32° (F). When we departed Marietta for Young Harris it had already warmed to 41° but when we got to Jasper the sun suddenly disappeared, it got overcast and the temperature rapidly dropped to 30°! As we got to Ellijay, the sun came out again and it warmed into the low 40’s but when we reached our pit stop in Blue Ridge it was 32° and freezing fog again. By the time we reached the justice center in Young Harris it was sunny again and 46°. Talk about roller coaster weather! But I think the cold weather and the frozen fog in the tree tops helps put you in the Christmas spirit and really does make us feel like two-wheeled Santas. After the toys are delivered we usually break up into smaller groups and head for lunch or to go do some riding in the area.
As Sheriff Clinton told us, “It warms your heart to know that you helped make sure a child had a Christmas present under the tree.”
Getting close to ride time
BMW toy run
Santa rides too!
Pit stop in Clue Ridge. That’s freezing fog in the distance!
BMW toy run
The family that rides together……
Two motorcycle sized toy boxes
A clear and brisk morning at BMW Motorcycles of Atlanta
Pit stop in Blue Ridge
Never pass up a great day to ride!
Today was forecast to be in the mid 60’s° F for temperatures with clear skies today. Late in the morning we decided to go for a ride. Then we were getting a later start than planned but I came up with an alternate plan. We were going to head up to Talking Rock, GA using the quick route and then have lunch at Biguns BBQ. After lunch was going to be a short ride and then head for home. There wasn’t a cloud in the sky as we headed for Talking Rock. But the weather wasn’t warming like we expected. Sure we wore jackets but even after getting to Talking Rock just after 12:00 pm it was still 54° F not having warmed much since the overnight low of 48°. Now here’s the rub. We didn’t put the insulated liners in our jackets, counting on the sunshine to warm things up a bit better than it did. That didn’t happen. We really weren’t cold, it’s just that the liners would’ve made it quite comfortable. After lunch though we headed across Burnt Mountain and towards Amicolola Falls State Park. When we got to the turn though we didn’t head for the park because there’s also a big pumpkin patch that way and we figured it with this being the first brisk fall day the traffic near there would be horrible. We made the right turn onto GA HWY 183 heading towards Dawsonville, towards it though and not to it. We made the turn onto GA HWY 53 and it’s nice curves heading towards places like Marble Hill, Tate and Nelson, all in the general direction of Jasper, GA. The road never even really warmed up enough to make the “tar snakes” and issue today where they almost feel like ice sometimes. Today they were just small bumps in the road. It was a great ride! Even this far south the leaves are really starting change color and the windy day was blowing them out of the trees and onto the road. This is what fall riding is all about in north Georgia. The home weather station showed we got all the way up to 65° F today. It wasn’t a long day in the saddle but at least we didn’t waste a real good riding day!
A few days ago I had posted that my friend Sean and I had ridden up on the Cherohala Skyway, had lunch in Robbinsville, NC and then rode The Tail Of The Dragon after lunch. While we didn’t ride up to ride The Tail Of The Dragon, it was a spur of the moment decision; we literally decided to do it just because we were in the area. The Tail Of The Dragon now has roadside photographers from at least FOUR different businesses out there and it was a weekday! The one that is probably the most well known and has been there the longest is Killboy. A few days after the ride I looked on the websites and found a photo I wanted to download from Killboy’s site. So I was wondering if anyone wanted to see the underbelly of the Magic Carpet. I mean everyone posts pictures of the side of their motorcycle but no one posts pictures of the bottom, especially as it’s going down the road.
Yes, that big German lady may be 12 years old now but she still likes to go out and dance.
Would you like to see the underbelly of my motorcycle?
The couple we’ll ride with, Sean & Christine were out-of-town and came back yesterday. What’s the first thing Donna wanted to get together and do? Well it was to go riding of course! Sean & Christine are now in the home stretch of being full-time RV’ers with a contract on their house and had already planned to look at campers and motorhomes today. We’re leaning in that direction ourselves so Donna came up with the idea for a short ride to lunch for some BBQ and then back towards home to look at campers. We met later in the morning than normal since it was a lunch ride and we headed for Dawsonville and over Burnt Mountain for lunch in Talking Rock, GA at Biguns BBQ. This is the same short lunch ride I had led some members of my Blue Knights Chapter on earlier in the week. But it does amaze me of how much cooler it is on the top of that mountain and it’s not very high. Today it was sunny and it was 8 degrees (F) cooler on the top of the mountain. We headed on to Biguns before it got too crowded and it sure did get crowded today. After lunch it was time to head down to Camping World to do some window shopping. Donna and I even found a real nice Class C motorhome that we really liked. It was to the point that we were looking at each other and scheming. We were at the point that we decided that if we could right now, we’d buy it then buy a trailer for the Magic Carpet and just hit the road. Maybe in another year or so though.
Today was also the first day that I finally got Donna to wear earplugs while riding too. She finally gave in! She had tried foam earplugs in the past but didn’t like them and admittedly they did loosen up and fall look like they were going to fall out. It was time for me to replace my ETY plugs so I just ordered 2 pair this time. She really liked them when she tried them on when they got here and then she wore them all day today and found them comfortable.
I’m in the Blue Knights Law Enforcement Motorcycle Club. Today was a “Hooky Ride” that I had planned. We started “Hooky Rides” a few years ago and they are weekday rides and the idea is to get back home before the school bus does. The rides were also requested by members who don’t always have weekends off to ride. I know this may come as a shock but law enforcement is not a Monday through Friday job where you work only during the day. It was actually a good idea and sometimes we have quite a number of members show up. It had been a while since we had a “Hooky Ride” so I scheduled one for today. Other than myself, two other members showed up, B.C. and Steve. We weren’t going to let that deter us and off we went for a short ride that I had planned out. I took us on the Hillbilly Drive ride. This ride was intentionally not long and took us on some local roads from Dawsonville, GA over to Talking Rock, GA to have lunch at Biguns Barbeque. It was a simple route too, taking us out to GA HWY 183 before taking GA HWY 136 over Burnt Mountain and into Talking Rock. What a great day to ride too! When we left Dawsonville it was right at 70°F and a clear, cloudless sky. Heading over the mountain it dropped to as low as 64ºF and B.C. later said that maybe he should’ve worn a jacket. Once at lunch, two of B.C.’s friends came by, both retired police officers who had at one time ridden motorcycles for the Atlanta Police Department in their careers. That meant that counting B.C. and me there were four retired Atlanta Officers who had been motor officers. While it wasn’t an all day ride it was great day to ride and have lunch with friends!
The weather was great for riding today!
It seems like forever since Donna and I rode together. Between her job, a stretch of either hot weather or rain and just life in general it seemed like ages since we rode. In fact the last time we rode was when we went to Maggie Valley, NC back in July. The other day Donna asked “What’s the weather like for Sunday? I need a ride and I want to go to Turner’s Corner for lunch.” We decided that there would be no errands, no chores and if anyone wanted us for anything that wasn’t a bona-fide emergency they’d just have to wait. With an approaching cold front the forecast kept going back and forth with the forecast for rain. It’s no fun riding in the rain and this ride was supposed to be fun. On Friday the forecast was improving and then on Saturday it was improving more (although we had already made our decision to ride). I knew we would ride, no matter what the weather brought when Donna told me to pack her rain pants.
When we left in the morning I did just as requested and headed up to Turner’s Corner Café that sits on the corner of US HWY 19 and US HWY 129. The Cafe’s true address is even 10 Turner’s Corner RD! On the way up one of the first things we noticed was that there weren’t many motorcycles on the road with us as we got closer to the north Georgia mountains. It must have been the gray clouds and temperatures in the upper 60’s in the morning! Granted the clouds did look like they could rain on us and in fact they did, quite a few times, but never more than enough to just wet the windshield. Some of the hill and mountain tops were shrouded in fog and clouds. We took a pretty standard route for us to get to lunch, heading up I-575 until it became GA HWY 515 (to make up time) then GA HWY 53 to Dawsonville, GA HWY 9 on up to Dahlonega and then US HWY 19 to the restaurant. Along the way near Marble Hill, Donna saw a baptism going on in a creek. It is a nice curvy ride up there. Now when I say a US Highway don’t think a multi-lane highway. These are 2 lane roads in the mountains (Appalachian version of mountains) that are US Highways. We had a great lunch out on the deck overlooking the river. We nearly had the deck to ourselves! Again, it must’ve been those gray skies that looked like rain. There weren’t even many motorcycles heading up and down Blood Mountain. I had planned us two rides for after lunch and both started and ended at Turner’s Corner. I was in luck because Donna picked the long ride!
We headed south for a short distance towards Cleveland, GA but made the turn onto GA HWY 75 ALT (NOT interstate 75) and took it to its other end at GA HWY 17 just north of Helen. We headed north on GA HWY 17 towards Hiawassee taking the nice twisting and curving part along the way. We like to use more than just the center portion of the tires! Once HWY 17 dead ended at GA HWY 76 in Hiawassee we made the right turn towards Clayton. Before getting to Clayton though we turned right on GA HWY 197 for its twists and curves along Lake Burton before making our next right turn in Batesville onto GA HWY 356 passing through Unicoi State Park. We ended back at GA HWY 17 just outside of Helen again before heading back past Turner’s Corner and heading back for home. This whole ride today was all in Georgia but there’s a stretch along GA HWY 76 where you look into North Carolina.
We filled up with gas when we started in the morning and we put 248 miles on that tank of gas today with gas to spare! Just before we got home the Magic Carpet’s odometer passed 84,000 miles. But those aren’t the best things about today. The best part was doing them with Donna sitting behind me on the motorcycle.
It only got a few degrees warmer and stayed cloudy all day.
Our lunch stop at Turner’s Corner Café under gray skies.
Our lunch view from the deck at Turner’s Corner Café.
That’s right we went on a 228 mile ride today. No it wasn’t a trip, it was a Sunday ride. It all started the other day when I asked Donna if she wanted to go have lunch at Turner’s Corner Café at the corner of US 129 and Georgia Highway 9 today. So we got a late morning start and headed up. Here it is July in Georgia and the forecast was for a high temperature of 85°F, low humidity (rare) and mostly sunny skies. I played with the GPS software, Basecamp and created a route that would take us up using some local roads we hadn’t been on before and then transferred it to the GPS. We headed up through Canton, Ballground and Dawsonville before using Georgia Highway 400 for a short time until it ended. After we made our turn onto Georgia Highway 115 we were only supposed to be on it for a short time before making a left turn and cutting back diagonally on some nice crooked local roads. But the GPS showed it was 12 miles until our next turn. I saw what I thought was our turn go past. For some reason the GPS decided that it wanted to route us up Highway 115 to US 129 which would take us straight to Turner’s Corner Café. No big deal, we just wanted to have lunch on the river and watch the motorcycles. Once we got to lunch I brought the GPS in with us and reloaded the route and previewed it. Sure enough it showed the original route. I don’t know why the GPS didn’t use the route as planned but this is the second time this has happened. Both Basecamp and the GPS have the same maps installed.
This was also my first day riding with a new pair of Do-It-Yourself custom molded earplugs. I got mine from Ear Plug Superstore. I’ve tried them before but didn’t quite get them right. This time however I took my time and didn’t second guess the instructions and they worked. They are harder to get in your ear but have quite a good seal. This may sound weird but they’re both quieter and noisier. They’re quieter in that they “muffle” sound well and I needed to turn my intercom up a bit to hear the GPS and Donna. But they’re noisier in that I think there’s more wind noise than my ETY plugs. But then that may be a good thing. I suffer from tinnitus (a ringing in your ears) and if it’s too quiet, the ringing can seem louder, will be irritating and could just make you uncomfortable. But the new self moldable plugs gave me the “white noise” effect that my hearing aids also supply and my night-time sound machine.
I figured that after lunch we’d head back home as it was just over an hour and a half ride. But while eating Donna asked “Where are we riding after this?” So after lunch we backtracked down US 129 a few miles to Georgia Highway 75 Alt until we made our left (northerly) turn onto Georgia Highway 348, the Richard B. Russell Scenic Highway. This curvy stretch of mountain road only runs between Highway 75 Alt and Georgia Highway 180 and isn’t very long. There are numerous pull-offs to view the Appalachian Mountains. It’s a very fun and curvy road but there weren’t many motorcycles on it today. At the RBR’s end we made the turn on to Highway 180 for a very short distance before heading up and over Blood Mountain on US 129 and then headed for Dahlonega and home.
So we had a great Sunday ride of 228 miles. Oh, and along the way today the Magic Carpet’s odometer reached and passed 82,000 miles.
A while back I wrote that I was thinking of doing an Iron Butt ride with some friends, particularly the SaddleSore 1,000 which is 1,000 miles in 24 hours. Life got in the way and some other plans had fallen through. It may now be myself and one other friend who has done SaddleSore and Bunburner rides.
Following the advice of friends and the Iron Butt web site, I’ll be using the interstate highways. The interstates afford the best option for miles travelled over time. So far I’ve pretty much got it narrowed down to two different routes that would qualify.
- Home to Titusville, FL (round trip): Much of this ride will be over the very familiar roads of Interstates 75, 475, 10, 295 and 95. It’s a route I take regularly by both motorcycle and car to visit my Dad in the Daytona Beach area. The stretch from Daytona Beach to Titusville would be the part less travelled. Once in Titusville we may stop in at the American Police Hall of Fame & Museum to stretch our legs. This route also has the advantage that we can stop and rest at my Dad’s house if we choose too.
- Home to New Orleans, LA (round trip): This would be a route that I haven’t been on in many years. Again, like Titusville it would be an all interstate route. Taking this route would mean riding in two states that I haven’t ridden a motorcycle in yet; Mississippi and Louisiana. I’d get to fill in those states on the map in the “About Us” page. I know, big excitement.
As plans firm up and the date get’s closer, I’ll be posting it here.
My Blue Knights Chapter had scheduled one of its weekday “Hooky Rides” for today and had planned to ride “The Gauntlet” in northern Georgia. Well, we had only three of us show up for breakfast and to ride. The Gauntlet is a 133 mile loop showcasing some of north Georgia’s great motorcycling roads. We began the loop at the intersection of US HWY 19 and US HWY 129 at Turner’s Corner (the bottom of the attached image below, above Dahlonega, and rode it counter-clockwise). If you’re skilled enough, you can get some wear on the sides of your tires too on this ride. Two of us today are former motor officers from the Atlanta Police Department and the third is just a flat-out good rider. Part of this ride literally has North Carolina on one side of the road and Georgia on the other! For some reason this ride takes all day to complete. We could’ve easily ridden up to Deal’s Gap and ridden The Tail of the Dragon and come back in the time it took to ride this 133 mile loop. We had a cloudless blue sky and started with temperatures in the mid 60’s F and reaching 88° F in Dahlonega when we finished. It really is a fun route to ride. I wore my new Tourmaster Air Tracker mesh pants and they were great on this warm day. I also wore my River Road Laughlin jacket, from Motorcycle House, all day, opening the vents in the jacket as it warmed. The jacket got warm sitting in some traffic in Dahlonega and again in Woodstock on the way home but cooled off as expected once I got moving again. At the end of the day the Magic Carpet got parked in the garage with 81,473 miles on her odometer.
The Gauntlet is marked in red.