View Full Version : Helen Ga Trip Report

September 26th, 2006, 01:39 PM
Day 1:Sit there, Twist that

My dad and I planned a riding trip to the Smokies. He has one of those time share condos at Helen, Ga. He was to leave his house on Friday Sept. 15th and ride the 400 miles up there. I had received permission from el jefe grande to leave on vacation a day early so I could be at the condo on the 16th.

Friday Sept. 15th. Left the house at 5:20. About an hour later I was in some deep doo doo, oops make that fog from just south of Falfurrias to Riviera. It did clear up by Riviera where I stopped at a Circle K, gassed up, ate a cereal bar and had a small container of orange juice. Oh I also fed the FJR. While stopped I took the opportunity to change out the clear visor on my helmet to the dark one. In south Texas sometimes I feel like I need a welding mask to blot out the sun. Kept going up familiar roads to Edna, where I fueled up again. I could’ve gone further but my goal was to not stop again until I hit Beaumont. Houston traffic wasn’t that bad today as I boogied north of town where I hit some rain in a construction zone. The rain wasn’t as bad as the muck thrown up by the 18 wheelers. The FJR looked like it had participated in a tractor pull when I got to Beaumont. While in Beaumont I met a friend and fellow MSF Ridercoach at the Luby’s Cafeteria where I had lunch. It was about noon. Carl and I visited until about one, then I saddled up and rode east. I hit one more small rain shower as I entered Lake Charles then that was it. That would be the last rain I would ride in until the ride home. In Lake Charles traffic came to complete halt just before you cross the Lake Calcesieu Bridge. From listening to the chatter on the CB I learned there was a wreck on the bridge and we were going to be delayed quite a while. While listening on the CB I also learned of a possible detour. I got on the shoulder and rode down to the next exit made a u-turn and headed back west to I-210. I took the 210 loop around town without a hitch. This delay cost me about 30 minutes but was nothing compared to what lay ahead in Baton Rouge.
I’ve heard horror stories about the traffic in Houston and Atlanta but the place I have the most problems is in Baton Rouge (French for traffic jam). I don’t think I’ve ever been through there without coming to a full stop at least once on I-10. Sure enough right after crossing the Mississippi bridge traffic came to a stop. I creepy crawled my way through town, connection with I-12 and was unable to ride more than a few yards at a time until exit 9. This added about an hour or so. The highlight was listening to the truck driver’s elaborate descriptions of the seat covers they were scooping out on the CB. I finally rolled in to Tillman’s Corner, AL at around 7:45 that evening. The lady on duty at the motel gave me a ground floor room not far from the vending machines. Had Cracker Jacks and a diet coke for supper. Mmmmmm life is good. My odo showed 826 miles for the day. Took no pictures today either. Sorry about that. I was on this interstate last year right after Katrina and it was not a pretty site. It seems like the areas close to the interstate have been cleaned up and repaired quite nicely, however my dad tells me that just a few miles from the interstate it is still very torn up.

September 26th, 2006, 01:40 PM
Day 2: Are we there yet?

Saturday Sept. 16th. Got up about 5 a.m. hey I’m used to waking up early and being on the road I can never sleep in. So I packed the bike and headed to whole 2 blocks to Waffle House (motto: we only serve white males). Okay I’m kidding about the motto but that was all that was in there including me. I thought that maybe the wait staff was the attraction, but nope. Anyway after having a health smart meal of bacon and eggs, I passed on the grits I headed out. After turning on I-65 I noticed I was catching up with a rather loud twin cylinder motorcycle, nope not what you’re thinking. It was a Triumph and it was VERY loud, I couldn’t wait to get around him, which is what FJR’s are made to do. I noticed very heavy traffic today, with mainly cars decorated in LSU or Auburn regalia. There were magnetic signs, flags propped up in every car window and tiger tails coming out of trunk or gas tank (hey anyone remember putting a tiger in your tank?). After going through Montgomery traffic got steadily worse until we reached Auburn. Me as in Me and all the magnetic energy surrounding me. After that it was smooth sailing to Atlanta. I had heard all manner of horror stories about Atlanta traffic and I’m here to tell you they are true. Actually traffic never stopped but picture the Talledega 500, need I say more? After drafting my way north of town to I-985 I took the Gainesville exit and made my way north. My dad had ridden down to Cleveland, Ga to get some groceries and was waiting for me there. He led the way to the condo in Helen, but on the way there the road is very crowded. For those that have never been to Helen, it’s a town dressed up as a Bavarian village and this being the mid part of September, Oktoberfest was starting up and the two lane town was very busy. Pedestrians (stupid pedestrians) have the right of way so it made for very slow going to our turn off. We did get there eventually. I unloaded the bike and got a bucket full of water and did my best to get the mud off the FJR from my adventures north of Houston. We wandered around town for a bit, found the ice cream place. Went back to the condo plugged in a DVD until bedtime. About 450 miles for the day.
Dad in front of Condo

September 26th, 2006, 01:40 PM
Day 3: Fun, Fun, Fun

Sunday Sept. 17th: Woke up this morning to great weather. Temps in the 60’s with no wind. After a light breakfast fixed in the condo we headed out. I was a tag along on these day rides. Dad had mapped out where we would go and had updated both our GPS’s with all the routes. Today we rode to Dahlonega then over to Suches where the world famous Two Wheels Only Campground is located. This place had a smorgasbord of bikes to ogle.

K1200S at TWO

MV Agusta (Yummy)

Honda NSR 250 2 stroke

TWO was a highlight of the day. We continued north from TWO then made our way back over to Helen by lunchtime. After watching a couple of hours of football we suited back up and did the ride to Blood Mountain. There are just so many awesome roads in this area that they start to run together for me. Mucho technical riding.

Total Miles for the day: I don’t know, don’t care

September 26th, 2006, 01:41 PM
Day 4:In Search of Alton Brown

Monday Sept 17th: More great weather which was nice because today was a much longer ride. Dad had put some rides together where we would reach the top of a loop after about 100 miles and we could opt to add another 100 or so. A couple of hundred miles up here is quite a bit considering the roads we were on. We meandered up some great roads to Cashiers, NC where we opted to continue north on 107 for about 25 miles where we headed west over to the Blue Ridge Parkway.

Blue Ridge

One awesome machine

There is major road construction just north of Cashiers on 107, just FYI. After coming back in to Cashiers we made our way south to the Carolina Smokehouse on Hwy 64. The Carolina Smokehouse was featured on Alton Brown’s “Feastin on Asphalt”. It was some good Carolina Q.

Carolina Smokehouse

We rolled in to the Condo after a few more hours of riding, changed clothes and strolled into town for supper. It rained pretty good that night as a front blew in.
Mileage was somewhere in the 250 range for the day.

September 26th, 2006, 01:41 PM
Day 5:Soul Food and Waterfalls

Tue Sept 19th: Woke up to light rain. Turned on the Weather Channel where it showed the rain was just about to pass. So we killed some time until about 11. We’d decided to ride down to Toccoa to have lunch at Shirley’s Soul Food Café, which was also featured on “Feasting on Asphalt”. It was a pleasant 30 mile ride down to Toccoa where we had a little trouble finding the café but eventually we did. As it was noon the place was packed so we decided to go check out the Toccoa Falls and let the lunch crowd die down. A short ride over to Toccoa Falls College will get you to the falls. It cost me one dollar to see the falls. A dollar well spent.

Dad in front of Falls


In 1977 the dam above the falls broke and killed 30 people. This is an informational plaque at the falls.

After touring the dam we went to Shirley’s and had some good food. And I mean it was excellent. I heartily recommend the fried chicken. Sure enough we had the place to ourselves after 1 p.m.
Fully gorged and speaking of gorge we rode over to Tallulah Gorge.

Tallulah Gorge has numerous waterfalls and is definitely worth a visit if you’re in the area.


Dad talked me into walking down to the suspension bridge. I’m feeling the effects of that climb even today.


We headed back to the condo but along the way I found a video store and rented “The World’s Fastest Indian” as Dad hadn’t seen it yet. Needless to say he enjoyed it a lot.

Mileage today about 100.

September 26th, 2006, 01:42 PM
Day 6: Many Curves, One Crash

Wed. Sept. 20th: More great weather today so we decided to do another 250 mile loop. We wanted a short day on Thursday so we could do some laundry and pack the bikes for the Friday ride to Barber Motorsports Park Museum. We had a great ride up to the Crossroads of Time on the NC end of the Dragon where I had a dragon burger. I dunno, tasted like beef to me.

Had another FJR rider go around me like I was going backwards on the dragon. So like an idiot I tried to keep him in sight and almost got into major trouble. Front tire went of the road in one curve, I got back on the road and slowed the heck down.
Here’s the rider that blew by me.

We headed back towards Robbinsville on the Dragon where we picked up the Cherahola Skyway. Note the red ST1100 in the background

After leaving this overlook we headed down the mountain towards Tellico Plains. We hadn’t gone a mile or two and I noticed Dad wasn’t behind me so I hollered at him on the CB. No answer. No problem I thought, Dad is such a shutterbug that he probably pulled off to take more pictures. Nevertheless I was looking for a safe place to turn around which I didn’t find for another mile. I turned around and started hauling the mail back to up the mountain thinking that any minute I’d meet him. I came around a curve and there he was, his Gold Wing was on its left side pointing back up the mountain and he was sitting up behind the bike. Some passerbys had stopped and one of them had told him to stay down for a minute so he could be checked for injuries. I parked the bike in record time and went over to him. He was conscious and knew me right after off. He didn’t seem to have any leg injuries so we got him up and sat him on the guardrail. I held on to him for a few minutes. He seemed okay so some others and myself righted the wing. It was totally messed up on the left side. The left mirror/turn signal was gone along with all but about 2 inches of clutch lever. There were several of us up there with cell phones and all kinds of different carriers. No one could get a signal. I wanted to put Dad in a ambulance but didn’t want to wait. I parked my FJR at a nearby pullout

and rode Dad’s Goldwing down the mountain towards Tellico Plains while Dad rode in a car with a kind gentleman that was the first to stop after the accident. After a few miles it appeared we weren’t going to get anywhere soon. This was the first time on the trip I was cussing the curvy roads as I couldn’t make any time. I stopped the man driving my Dad and asked him where the nearest hospital was. He didn’t think Tellico Plains would have anything but a small clinic and wasn’t really sure where to take Dad. So Dad climbed on the back of the Wing. Remember the ST1100 in the picture? The rider Scott Wingo had a pair of needle nose vise grips, which I used as a clutch lever. He was also following me so he could give me a ride back to my bike. Scott, Dad and I rolled into Tellico, we found out via the GPS that the nearest hospital was in Etowah, TN, another 15 curvy miles away. Long story short, after getting to Etowah and figuring out the GPS had us going to the wrong side of town for the hospital. Scott asked a local and led the way. Big hospital in a small town made for no line to get in. Scott and I checked on Dad while he was waiting. He seemed okay and it was going to get dark soon, so Scott gave me a ride back to the FJR. I told Dad I’d be back in a couple of hours and to wait for me. The FJR was sitting there waiting for me (whew) and I hooked em back to Dad while Scott headed back to Pigeon Forge. When I pulled in the hospital parking lot Dad was at his bike waiting for me. He told me they had x-rayed him and he had 3 broken ribs and that was all. The GPS told us we had 111 miles back to the condo. Dad wanted to get back and get a bite to eat there instead of stopping on the way. All the way back I was talking to him on the CB to see how he was doing. He sounded great on the radio and told me that the bike saddle was the most comfortable place to be. No stress on his ribs that way. The temps got down in the high 40’s a couple of times on the way back. We hit the condo about 10 p.m. Dad ate a sandwich and went right to bed. He had a hard time getting comfortable but did sleep off and on. Dad doesn’t remember the accident but you can tell by the pictures that he hit the guardrail with the right side of the bike (it was a left handed corner) and it went down on the left side.

Accident Scene, dad is in the silver helmet

Bike Pics taken the next day

Kilimanjaro Jacket

HJC Helmet

My new favorite Yankee, Scott

Total miles for the day 350

September 26th, 2006, 01:43 PM
Day 7: Back to Pensacola

Thursday Sept 21st: We woke up this morning with every intention of letting Dad heal up a day and leave on Friday. I went in to check on Dad (I knew he couldn’t get comfortable laying down with 3 broken ribs) and he asked me what I thought about leaving today. I said no problem on my part but how are you? He said he thought he’d be more sore in one more day than right now, so that was it, we decided to pack up and head out. No hurry though its only 400 miles to his place in Pensacola. I needed to do some laundry and get the bikes packed. Dad pulls a Hannigan trailer and I knew he was in no shape to pack it himself. So I loaded the bikes and trailer after the laundry was done and we headed out about 11 am EST. Again Dad sounded A-Okay on the radio and said he felt great on the bike. Dropped by the video store on the way out to drop off the movie and headed straight for the rat race called Atlanta. Wow it takes forever to get through Atlanta, kind of like Houston, but south of the city we found a Cracker Barrel and some lunch. Fuel was pretty high close to Atlanta so we filled up close to the Alabama line. While there Dad called his insurance company and his dr. The dr. told Dad to come in at 9:30 the next morning. Dad wanted to hear from his own dr. that the ribs were all that were broken. Dad did have a huge bruise and knot at the left clavicle. When I first saw it I thought it was broken or he had separated his shoulder, but nope it was just really bruised. I think his handlebar hit him there.
Here’s a picture of Dad on the phone

While waiting on Dad I took this picture, I don’t know if you can see it or not but there was a Racetrac gas station having a grand opening and regular gas was 1.89 per gallon. The cops were out there directing traffic and of course there’s a nearby Waffle House. YUM!!

We got to Dad’s house in Pace, FL at 7 p.m. I unhitched the trailer from Dad’s bike and put both bikes and the trailer in the Garage. Dad’s neighbor and fellow rider came over to check on Dad and assured me that he’d be taken care of. With that info I showered and hit the sack.

Total miles: 400 ish

September 26th, 2006, 01:43 PM
Day 8: There’s no place like home

Friday Sept. 22nd. Woke up at 4, checked the tires on the FJR. The front was 6 lbs over, guess that’s the altitude and temperatures of the Smokies at work. Rear was just a lb over. I wanted to give my Dad a big hug before I left, but remembering the ribs I just gave him a small one. He seemed okay and I headed out at 4:25. It felt like it took 30 minutes to get to the interstate, but I finally made it. There was one heckuva a lightning show off to my 2 o’clock but I only got a sprinkle out of it. Stopped in Ocean Springs, MS at another Waffle House for breakfast. Man I love those places. Repeat after me “Cholesterol”. I filled up there and didn’t put my foot down for 225 miles when I got to Crowley, La. Got my best mileage of the trip, 50 mpg. I was running at an indicated 80, which the GPS showed to be 77, I was certainly not the fastest driver on the road and just moved with traffic. Oh and by the way I only had to slow down to 30 mph in Baton Rouge, never came to a complete stop. I never hit rain but I must’ve been right behind it because I rode on a lot of wet roads. After turning south at Beaumont my mileage took a hit, dropped to 46 at my stop in Winnie, TX then 41 in Victoria. I was bucking one bad headwind. I rolled into the Rio Grande Valley at 6 p.m. My wife was teaching a Rider’s Edge class at the local Harley dealership so I called my son and he met me at nearby restaurant for supper. Anyway I got home in 13 ½ hours after riding 865 miles. Total mileage for the 8 days was 3432. I had planned on riding to Big Bend with my Dad in October but that will have to be another time. I will post a few more pics on here that I can’t remember what day or where they were taken. Hope you enjoyed this trip report as much as I had riding the trip, other than the one incident. P.S. Dad has been riding on 2 wheels since he was 14, this was his first accident and he’s 67 now. Not bad, not bad at all.








September 26th, 2006, 03:07 PM
Wow....that there is a long post! Sounds like you had fun!!

Brad Felmey
September 26th, 2006, 03:13 PM
I'm glad your dad's okay. Chero has some wicked decreasing-radius turns that start out as high-speed sweepers. You get 3/4 in to a curve and then it tightens up rapidly. I just about got chummy with some of those rusty guardrails myself.

I love that road, though, more so than the Dragon even.