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Journal:
Trip to Chilhowie Park somewhere in Tennessee.

Without question it was going to be a hot day to ride. As I stepped into my riding suit, it was already 77 degrees and was still early morning. ''What am I doing; am I crazy'', was all that I could ask myself. You could feel the humidity in the air as it attaches itself to you. The beads of perspiration was forming on my top lip as I was zipping up the last zipper. Twyla, my wife soon joined me, wearing her textile pants and mesh jacket.

Our journey today is to travel North to the mountain regions of East Tennessee, North Georgia and Western North Carolina. The area is best described as where the three states converge.

The night before, I got the coordinates to our destination from Google Earth and entered them into my Garmin 176. Lets see, 35.095270 degrees North and -84.607396 degrees West. This is the way I like to navigate; one waypoint in and back. As I write this I imagine setting behind the controls of A-10 Warthog in a combat mission; ‘’make the run and bring her back home, hopefully in one piece’’. So now I just select my waypoint to our destination. Twyla climbs aboard and we jetted off.

We headed out on Ga 120 out of Marieta, Georgia. Up the road a couple of miles we stop to fill up. I pull up to the pump and cut the engine. We are thankful that there is a shade. Oh well, the comfort the shade affords doesn't last very long. Six dollars fills up my four gallon tank and we are good now for a few miles. I reset the Burgman’s trip meter as I always do after a fill-up. I turn the switch, hit the starter, rolled back on the throttle and in an instant we were slicing through the hot humid air. Motoring on with the sun at our backs, we headed west towards Dallas, Ga.

From Dallas we then turned North on 61 towards Cartersville. It is a peaceful stretch of roadway with rolling hills and gentle curves that seemed to be lost in time. There is hardly anyone out this time of day, or at least, anyone we’ve seen. We wander, as we roll through, where everyone was this late morning.

Highway 61 turns into 113 at the Cartersville Municipal Airport where we see a man preparing to takeoff in a Benson Gyrocopter, while a King Air gracefully rises off the tarmac to destinations unknown. In retrospect, I wish now I had stopped to see more.

Once in Cartersville, I begin to notice something a little strange. I wasn’t at all cognitive of the issue at first, but sure enough, something wasn’t right. It wasn’t until I grabbed a handful of brake that I understood completely. Normally, my braking process is to engage my back brakes first then, following up with my front brakes with equal pressure. My back brake simply was not there. Nada, zilch, zero, goose-egg or any other adjective you choose to use to illustrate a big fat nothing.

OK, common sense must rule the day here so I take highway 411 and guide the Burgman to the next town of Fremont, Ga. We pulled in to a gas station and I discussed very calmly with my highly excitable better half the nature of our situation. You just don’t start a conversation with words like ‘’Hey girlie girl, we don’t have brakes’’! It works but not without a lot of lingering problems thereafter. So I choose the more diplomatic approach. As we were discussing this, I noticed it was 91 degrees. It was hot. I downed a cold Dr. Pepper in a few noisy gulps. Twyla, on the other hand, was much more civilized than I. Our plans were rearranged and it was time to do something about our situation.

We decided to take a 40 mile detour to Mountain Power Sports in Ellijay, Georgia to see if they had time to help us. I thought perhaps I would call first; at least to alert them we were coming but, I found my cell phone wouldn’t work. So, taking Highway 53 we carefully took the bike on into Ellijay unannounced. The back-roads were full of twisties but the superb engine braking of the Burgman made them easy to navigate.

Drew McDonald and his mum Trish are the owners of the dealership and are new to this country from Australia. They came to this quite little mountain town of Ellijay and decided to start a Suzuki dealership. As I stand in their parking lot, I take notice that the dealership is built high on a hilltop over looking far-away valleys below. The sunlight illuminated some parts of the valleys while other parts were shielded by clouds; thus giving the impression of varying hues of emerald green forest surrounding them. I also see from this vantage point, as I turn and face the North, that low-flying transparent puffs of gray clouds are moving in briskly against a backdrop of a deep-purple looking sky. ‘’It looks like we are soon to be cooled off’’, I said. Just as the words were spoken, almost on cue, a cool breeze began to blow.

Inside, Drew greeted us kindly and listened as we told our tale of the failing brakes. He instructed us to take the bike into one of the shop bays in the back of the dealership. I took off my suit and we sat down underneath the porch that runs the length of the building. The concrete slab was hard but cool to the touch, making it somewhat formidable. Then slowly, at first, the rain started falling. The tin roof of the porch was shielding us from getting wet at the same time it responded to the heavy rainfall with a resonant explosion of sounds. The valley below us was now invisible; hidden only by clouds and steam as the earth cooled itself down; if only for a little while.

Inside an hour the rains subsided and the shop foreman was testing our Burgman. ‘’Looks like you had air in your brake-line, mate. I bled it out and you’re good as new’’, he said. He too was Australian; a friend of Drews no-doubt from the motherland. He took it for a test-ride and soon returned. I noticed how bright my caliper mounted Moto-lights looked as he approached us. You definitely can see those coming at you.

As we prepared to pay the bill, we unexpectedly had our faith in man-kind restored; or at least, faith in commerce restored. Mountain PowerSports wouldn’t accept payment of any kind. In fact they were apologizing to us for having to wait as long as we did. I couldn’t believe what I was hearing. Drew and Trish only wanted us to have a safe trip. That was it. That was their payment. It is my hope that out of their kindness will grow a great business. Their GPS coordinates are N34.619933, W84.509686. If any of your travels take you to this area, please drop in and say hello. It is truly a great place to ride but also comforting to realize that here in this remote mountain village, lives a friend to the Burgman community. We thanked them profusely for salvaging our trip.

As the Crow flies, our destination was only 100 miles away from the parking lot. Twisty mountain roads equate to a much greater distance, but as long as I have a bearing line, the distance doesn’t matter to me.

Twyla was ready to go. I quickly zipped back into my suit, put on my ear protectors, gloves and helmet; did a quick check of the sky and charted the course. It looks like another band of dark clouds were looming from the north, so we will travel west and intersect Highway 411 below Chatsworth. Once there, we will turn North again.

As soon as we left Drew’s place, we did a quick tour of the town and stopped momentarily for a bathroom break. Apparently several Harley riders had the same plan as they were all parked, back-end first, in the custom way. I think to myself, am I the only one who parks front-end first? After awhile, as I was waiting outside, one of the riders approached me. He was an incredible testament to the sport. Long white hair was tied back in a ponytail; although a few strands had worked themselves loose and fell in his face. Every inch of exposed skin, except for his face, was illustrated by some kind of tattoo faded by many years of exposure. Deep lines and crevices were formed on his forehead that moved up and down with the inflections in his voice. An un-kept beard hid all other facial features except for a snaggle-tooth grin. He asked me if I was interested in some curvy roads? And then he pointed with a crooked finger to where the highway he was referring to was located. He spoke slowly and deliberately as though the wisdom of the ages had parked itself there in his worn-out body. His eyes were bright and sparkled as he said, ’’if the road is marked at 25 you better pay attention ‘cause it means 25! A much better rider may take ‘em faster, but not me’’, he said in an almost defeated way. ‘’You know, I’m 71 years old and hadn’t ridden in over 40 years’’. ‘’Last year I decided to buy this **** motorcycle and havn’t stopped since’’. These words were as soothing as an ointment over a hurting wound. It was something I needed to hear. I am constantly chastising myself for waiting 50 years before taking up the sport. You would hear me say things like ‘’look at all the places we could have explored had we started earlier in life’’!

The words of this old sage, without his knowledge or intention, made me think about what time we had left to explore this great world and to use the time wisely. The aging Harley man went on to tell us that the road is marked with great views that are truly worth seeing. We thanked him for his information, pointed the nose of the Burgman to the west and headed for Highway 411.

It is amazing the smells you experience while riding. It is particularly true after a heavy rain through farm lands and country sides; where you experience the organic smells of nature. From the scent of Verbena and Honeysuckle to barnyards and livestock pens; these things are seldom experienced from inside an automobile. I love all of these smells, even though some of them will curl your nostrils. As we now chase the sun, the afternoon air is rich with these small rewards.

We arrived at the intersection of 411 and then headed north towards Chatsworth, Georgia. As we speed along this stretch of highway, a locomotive was traveling parallel to us sounding on his air horns. We soon parted ways and more hot and steamy miles rolled by.

Before to long, we enter into Chatsworth. This is home to Cohutta Lodge, Fort Mountain, among other places, all rich in history. Several places to stop and rest are dotted along this route. However, since we are behind our schedule for more than two hours, we stop only to refuel. I notice there still is the threat of rain in the distance, but it is in the opposite direction. (What I didn’t expect is that we would be greeting it once again when we returned in a couple of hours). With a full tank of fuel and renewed spirits, we steered the Burgman on into the direction of Tennessee.

Continuing on to Eton and beyond, we finally cross the Tennessee state line. The highway immediately changes from deep asphaltic black to a light gray in color. As we travel north along this route, the rolling hills have now changed to small mountains and the sun is low over my left shoulder. With the air getting cooler with each passing mile, I roll back on the throttle a little more to shave a few more minutes off of my arrival time.

Following 411 through Tennessee for approximately 20 miles we take Highway 64 and head in an Easterly direction. My GPS tells me we are 6.7 miles away from our destination. What an incredible road to travel. We pass over the Ocoee River, where several outfitters have set up the business of offering white water rafting trips down the river. In a few more miles we see a hang glider seemingly suspended in mid-air as we motor on through. We are, without a doubt, in the Great Smoky Mountains and it is stunning. Continuing on 64, my GPS is now alerting me that my destination is near. Sure enough, the access road to Chilhowie Park is now visible. We slowed down and made a left on to county road 177. After turning in, we stopped beneath a grove of Cedars that grow at the base of the mountain and just took in the scenery for a few minutes. This is the beginning of a seven mile road that takes you to the top of the mountain complete with wicked twists and turns. Unfortunately for us, we have run out of time. The gate closes at dark and within the shade of the Cedar trees it was truly as close as you can get.

We were at first troubled to be so close to the top and not to be able to experience it, but after thinking about it for a while, we decided we have a great excuse to come back. Perhaps in October when the leaves change? Or, in the dead of winter when the air is crystal clear? Who knows, but when ever that day comes, it will be appreciated as much as the experience we have had today.

Later that evening as I turned into my driveway, two hundred seventy seven miles reads on my GPS. We have had longer days in the saddle with many more miles. But the quality of miles traveled today was unmistakable. Many things about today will be remembered for days to come.

Perry R.
 

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Hey Perry,

Good reading. I enjoyed the trip report and I hope you make it soon to the top of the mountain. Who knows, maybe you'll find me there too.

Joe
 

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Perry,

Thanks for sharing your ride with us! It is refreshing to hear about your good experience with that Suzuki shop too! Mountain Powersports deserves a pat on the back for sure!
 

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Wow- what a trip - what a wordsmith - respect!

BTW - that old Harley rider - he's a compulsive liar - met his mum once -he is only 27! :lol:
 

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Perry,

Sounds like a wonderful ride. My brother and his wife live in downtown Cartersville on the main street, but I guess you didn't see him :wink: since the town was empty. Now I am really looking forward to visiting my brother on my Burgman :D

Thanks for the trip log.

Janine :)
 

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You make me wish I was there even though you took me with you. Thanks for telling us of your travels! :D
 
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