Thirsty­Girl and I took a break and head­ed for the coast. I had to see the ocean for at least a lit­tle bit… Our prox­im­i­ty to the oft-dis­cussed-in-motor­cy­cle-cir­cles “Tail of the Drag­on” ride on US 129 made it a log­i­cal start to the trip. The drag­on is well known around these parts, and is pop­u­lar with both auto and motor­cy­cling enthu­si­asts. There is much lore sur­round­ing the (report­ed) 318 curves on this 11 mile stretch of road, most of it sur­round­ing the num­ber of deaths this year (appar­ent­ly 8 already in 2012, but I don’t believe this to be accu­rate..).

See­ing this, I knew we were in for an incred­i­ble ride..

Road sign: Truck Advisory. US 129 South. Switchback curves ahead. Consider alternate routeRoad sign: Truck Advisory. Switchback curves ahead. Consider alternate route (US 129 South)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Post Edit:

I man­aged to get some video uploaded.. This is a fair­ly high-speed ver­sion of the footage I shot from the front of the bike.  It’s pret­ty shaky due to some vibra­tion prob­lems I hadn’t antic­i­pat­ed and the real­ly twisty-turny stuff starts about 2:40..  Don’t feel bad about fast-for­ward­ing.. Hope you enjoy..

[tube]jV-TLMZmNCo[/tube]

If you can’t watch, or per­haps can’t wait ’till the end, this is what I found at the end of my ride up the hill:  Ooops.

Busted!

Around the cor­ner from my impromp­tu stop was the Deal’s Gap store which is real­ly the tail of the tail of the drag­on, they’ve got a motel, gas sta­tion and a whole pile of sou­venirs and tchotchkes to prove  you’ve been there!

Beyond Deal’s gap, I took a break from US 129 and head­ed down High­way 82 along the spec­tac­u­lar­ly beau­ti­ful shores of Cheoah Lake. I can say with­out a doubt that this stretch of high­way was even more enjoy­able than the first sec­tion of the day. The curves were equal­ly hair-pinned and bendy, but the dri­ve was just a bit more relaxed with­out the onslaught of oncom­ing traf­fic wan­der­ing across into my lane..

At some point along its length, 28 joins up with High­way 107 and con­tin­ued to inspire awe (at least on my part)..   I shot this pho­to around 5:30 PM,  just over the South Car­oli­na bor­der.

Highway 28 and 107 in South Carolina: Road, motorcycle mirror and open road

High­way 28 and 107 in South Car­oli­na

It was get­ting near­ly time to shut down for the night, but I had a few more hours of road to get behind me to keep mov­ing east..   For some rea­son every turn I made to head in the right direc­tion head­ed me back toward Atlanta..   The most detailed Rand McNal­ly maps I could find failed to list the pletho­ra of actu­al high­ways that line this coun­try­side, sig­nif­i­cant­ly adding to the con­fus­ing nav­i­ga­tion sce­nario..  Oh, iPhone maps, yeah, they’re much more con­fus­ing. I digress, but it’s pos­si­ble you’ll hear a rant about them lat­er.

Fun­ny thing with North­ern Geor­gia, in stark con­trast to the beau­ti­ful lit­tle farms that line East Ten­nessee roads, the coun­try­side here was real­ly bar­ren.  Devoid of hous­es, farms, cities and real­ly any pop­u­la­tion at all.. I final­ly found my way to the small town of Lavo­nia GA and bed­ded down for the night.

The next day of trav­el took me through more of north­ern Geor­gia and South­west­ern South Car­oli­na.  (I know this gets con­fus­ing, have a look at the map and stick with me!). I took the oppor­tu­ni­ty to stop and take a walk through a Civ­il-War era Con­fed­er­ate ceme­tery in McCormick SC.  For those of you who haven’t had the oppor­tu­ni­ty to wan­der through old-coun­try grave­yards, I’d high­ly rec­om­mend the expe­ri­ence.   His­to­ry comes alive when you start see­ing cru­cial his­tor­i­cal dates etched in stone. The thing that struck me was how long peo­ple were liv­ing back in the late 17 and ear­ly 1800’s.. Sev­er­al of the stones I read were peo­ple that lived well into their 80’s and 90’s, and that’s through the US Civ­il War!  Who­ev­er says we’re liv­ing longer today might want to recheck their stats. ;)

Robert Bayless Dean, PVT CO E 13 BATT, SC Infantry, Confederate States Army, Apr 3, 1837, Feb 18, 1905

Robert Bay­less Dean, PVT CO E 13 BATT, SC Infantry, Con­fed­er­ate States Army, Apr 3, 1837, Feb 18, 1905

Lewis Bozeman, Died May 2, 1859, about 88 years old

Lewis Boze­man, Died May 2, 1859, about 88 years old

Elizabeth T. Dean, consort of, Thomas Dean, Born April 8th 1795, Died, October 10th, 1865, Aged 70 years, six months, and 2 days

Eliz­a­beth T. Dean, con­sort of, Thomas Dean, Born April 8th 1795, Died, Octo­ber 10th, 1865, Aged 70 years, six months, and 2 days

Confederate Cross

The whole after­noon took me through some pret­ty eco­nom­i­cal­ly depressed areas..  I saw very lit­tle in the way of indus­try, com­merce, or any oth­er viable form of income save a bit of farm­ing..

Building for Rent: Bracknell's - This BUILDING may FALL but the QUALITY of our MERCHANDISE - WILL NEVER -

Build­ing for Rent: Bracknell’s — This BUILDING may FALL but the QUALITY of our MERCHANDISEWILL NEVER -

Often, I’d come across vir­tu­al ghost towns that looked recent­ly-pros­per­ous. It was simul­ta­ne­ous­ly sur­re­al and sad­den­ing. Cross­ing the state line between South Car­oli­na and Augus­ta GA was per­haps the most stark con­trast between have and have-not..  After a half day of pass­ing run-down farms and desert­ed towns, the sub­urbs of Augus­ta were incred­i­bly posh and well devel­oped..

Augus­ta itself has seen bet­ter days..   Both of my cam­eras had giv­en up the ghost by the time I got there, but I man­aged to catch a few shots of the Augus­ta Pow­der Works build­ings where much of the Con­fed­er­ate gun­pow­der and muni­tions were made dur­ing the Civ­il War.  Much of the area around the pow­der works was incred­i­bly depressed and as I rode around I couldn’t help but think that it deserved much more explo­ration and time with a cam­era and an open ear.

ThirstyGirl at the Augusta Powder Works

Thirsty­Girl at the Augus­ta Pow­der Works (Now a cot­ton com­pa­ny)

Push­ing on, and after one more speed­ing tick­et (a lit­tle more than a hand-slap this time) I final­ly made it in to Savan­nah and got set­tled for a few days of wan­der­ing..  That, in the next post. This one is already get­ting toooo long. Read Part 2 here if you’d like to con­tin­ue!

 

– If you haven’t read it yet, you can click this link for part 1 of this post! –

Savan­nah Geor­gia turned out to be an incred­i­bly beau­ti­ful city to just walk around for  a few days (the old His­toric Dis­trict was at least!)..  Savan­nah res­i­dents seem to take great pride in the many treed squares and beau­ti­ful archi­tec­ture that fills the old dis­trict and they’re well worth an after­noon to wan­der through, or just to sit down and watch oth­ers do the same.  Those inter­est­ed in high-end antiques will delight in the pletho­ra of shops cater­ing to those with a pen­chant for ancient his­to­ry and/or mon­ey to burn.  Sad­ly, most of the books I found in the stores I vis­it­ed were writ­ten in Swedish or Ger­man lan­guage, nei­ther of which were par­tic­u­lar­ly use­ful to me.

Savannah Harbour Diptych

Scat­tered about the same dis­trict are numer­ous build­ings belong­ing to the Savan­nah Col­lege of Art and Design (SCAD) an art school with a pret­ty great sto­ry. If you spend any amount of time in the area, you’ll undoubt­ed­ly come across the pletho­ra of art stu­dents going about their dai­ly lives.  Owing to the sheer num­ber of of art­sy-types, I couldn’t help the con­tin­u­ous loop of Lydia the Tat­tooed Lady play­ing in my head as I wan­dered about town. :)

The night-life in Savan­nah is plen­ti­ful and full of choice.  One of my favourites by far is the Bay Street Blues, a good, hon­est bar with freakin-fan­tas­tic music!

[tube]O1pYyaaU0Lw[/tube]

I’m told there was a lot of real­ly great food to eat in town, and I did man­age to have a few good meals but with the way my tim­ing worked out a few snacks seemed to do me well for most of my two days here..  Paula Dean’s restau­rant did come rec­om­mend­ed, and indeed it’s pop­u­lar (so pop­u­lar in fact that it spans three floors and sports a wait­ing list).  Ms. Dean is well known for her south­ern cook­ing, and indeed the buf­fet sup­per her estab­lish­ment served was pret­ty tasty, the ser­vice and din­ing expe­ri­ence left a lot to be desired.

I try to be as pos­i­tive as pos­si­ble on this site, but my next stop at Hilton Head Island was, well, fright­en­ing (in a chil­dren of the corn sor­ta way).  I will say, that on my way out to Hilton Head, I man­aged to find a farmer’s mar­ket and food-fair in the small town of Bluffton SC.  Also found here was the posh­est choco­late chip cook­ie I’ve ever eat­en.  I mean, seri­ous­ly, who puts whipped cream on a cook­ie? Idun­no, but every­body should!

Posh Cookie in Bluffton, SC

So, yeah, Hilton Head Island. One of the odd­est (and odd­ly uncom­fort­able) places I’ve vis­it­ed in a long time.  As I drove the long park­way out to the island, I passed per­fect­ly man­i­cured medi­ans that led me to believe I’d head­ed into sub­ur­ban hell.   This was only the begin­ning.  Hilton Head, it turns out, is FULL of time-share con­dos and plan­ta­tion resorts..  I stopped in to a “tourist infor­ma­tion” cen­ter look­ing for a bed and break­fast or hos­tel with no luck.  Turns out that it was actu­al­ly a time­share sales office. Ergh.. I have to be fair though, the gal there was nice enough to send me to one place that did have hotel rooms too, and gave me some rec­om­men­da­tions for food and drink that night. I was still pret­ty exhaust­ed from an epic night out in Savan­nah, and called it quits after search­ing in vain for a place to eat some­thing healthy.  In the process, I learned that the plan­ta­tions (there are many) on Hilton Head have all banned motor­cy­cles from the prop­er­ty.  All motor­cy­cles. Huh?  Must be that only bad peo­ple ride motor­cy­cles.. Or some­thing..

Look­ing for that meal, I only man­aged to find a bar that sold food.  As I wait­ed for my burg­er (the health­i­est thing I could find), I came to the hor­ri­ble real­iza­tion that I was in some real­ly awful ’80’s sum­mer-par­ty-movie..  Real­ly. Awful.   Though my hotel was peace­ful, I was hap­py to get out of there in the morn­ing..

Head­ing north again, toward North Car­oli­na, I hap­pened across Cry­ba­bies Tav­ern (as I was search­ing for food again) in Beau­fort, SC. (not to be con­fused with Beau­fort, NC… One is pro­nounced Be-U-fort, the oth­er BO-fort to mit­i­gate any chance of mis­tak­en iden­ti­ty.. )

Cry­ba­bies is pos­si­bly the BEST lit­tle dive-bar I’ve ever had the plea­sure of drink­ing in. The bar­tender was awe­some, and the patrons were just good, hon­est, unpre­ten­tious, and hos­pitable. This place is well worth stop­ping in if you ever hap­pen to find your­self in Beau­fort (SC). High­light? The base­ball bat behind the bar.  Win!

Crybabies Tavern, Beaufort SCThreat deterrence: Crybabies Tavern, Beaufort SC

Interior photo: Crybabies Tavern, Beaufort SC

I made my way up to Charleston North Car­oli­na, the site of the first shot in the US Civ­il War and home to the high­est den­si­ty of beau­ti­ful and fit peo­ple I’ve seen in the Unit­ed States of Amer­i­ca.  Yowza!   Take your ten, add about twelve and you’ve got your­self a good aver­age for Charleston.  In all seri­ous­ness, I did see an incred­i­bly high pro­por­tion of healthy-weight peo­ple here, in com­par­isoon to many of the oth­er places I’ve down in the US.  I’m not sure how the demo­graph­ics play in to this but suf­fice it to say, if you’re look­ing to find an active and fit pop­u­la­tion, this’d be a good place to start look­ing!

In Charleston, I stayed in a dorm room at the Not­so Hos­tel which turned out to be a refresh­ing change from the hotels I’d been stay­ing in.  I got a chance to min­gle with prop­er trav­el­ers and even some rel­a­tive locals dur­ing my two day stay.. The bagels and Nutel­la for break­fast were an unex­pect­ed bonus too!  All in all, def­i­nite­ly a worth­while place to stay.

With the onset of mug­gy, rainy weath­er a few days before, I’d been on the move to try and find nice weath­er. The prospects looked kin­da dim for find­ing sun any­where in North Car­oli­na, so I made the best of it and head­ed down to Fort Sumpter, the site of the events that real­ly kicked off the Civ­il War. It may not look like much now, but in its day, Sumpter’s walls were three sto­ries tall, and it boast­ed an officer’s quar­ters that were fit for a gen­tle­man, com­plete with mar­ble fire­places, canopy beds and par­quet floors.. Unfor­tu­nate­ly for the occu­pants, it was designed to with­stand attack from the ocean with 50′ mason­ry walls and posi­tions for some 130 guns most of which weren’t actu­al­ly installed yet. Oh, and the Con­fed­er­ate attack just hap­pened to come from the land-side.  It fell, and the war was on..

Fort Sumpter NC

Fort Sumpter NC

Undaunt­ed, but grow­ing weary of the poor, driz­zly weath­er envelop­ing the east coast, I made the deci­sion to head inland and get away from the rain.  I start­ed the five hour dri­ve in a down­pour and end­ed up in Asheville NC in near freez­ing tem­per­a­tures..  As I dragged my weary and weath­er-numb body into a restau­rant for a cup of cof­fee and a minute to regroup, a local cop men­tioned to me that it was sup­posed to snow that evening.   Crrrap!   I’m down here to avoid the snow, not find it!

Luck­i­ly, that pre­dic­tion turned out to be false, and I’d found one of my favourite hos­tels of all time, Sweet Peas.  If you’ve ever won­dered how to run a hos­tel right, this is the place to see. Upon check-in, you’re pro­vid­ed with a tow­el, face cloth, and a Sweet Peas stick­er.. Noth­ing like a lit­tle free adver­tis­ing!   The build­ing is super-clean, beau­ti­ful­ly designed, and well equipped.  I opt­ed for a pri­vate room because I had a whole pile of gear to sort out, but there are open four bed dorms and semi-pri­vate “pods” avail­able as well.  The beds were rea­son­ably com­fort­able and linens were pro­vid­ed on all beds–Nice!

Asheville itself is an incred­i­ble town (city?) full of ran­dom art at every turn and this alone puts me in a hap­py place.    Top that off with a daz­zling selec­tion of phe­nom­e­nal food, and a laid-back but super­cool nightlife, Uni­ver­si­ty of North Car­oli­na and a con­cert hall that fea­tures the likes of (Cal­gary native) Leslie Feist  and you’ve got a hel­luf­va hol­i­day des­ti­na­tion, and I can imag­ine, a pret­ty great place to go to school!

Chicken Lane artwork, Asheville, SC

Ashville, NC Back Alley

Creative Addressing: Asheville, NC

Piano Garden: Asheville, NC

And even a lit­tle left­over from our afraid-of-the-Rus­sians days..

Cold War Remenants: Asheville, NC

The trip back to Ten­nessee to meet Chris­tianne is next on my update list, and was rel­a­tive­ly unevent­ful except that one time I stood Thirsty­Girl on her back tyre try­ing to merge back onto the inter­state..

Ooops.

Your map for this side-trip:

View Larg­er Map

So, a lit­tle re-cap-over-lap:   Upon Smoky Joe’s rec­om­men­da­tion, I’d trav­eled down in to the Shawnee Nation­al For­est to head up to High Knob to watch the sun­set.   As I cruised through the wind­ing for­est road, I was struck by the sheer beau­ty of the tree lined tar­mac. After hav­ing trav­eled through thou­sands of Kilo­me­ters of flat and rolling prairie, I’d arrived some­where famil­iar, serene and very at-home.

Pulling in to High Knob, which I’d thought was just a view­point, I real­ized it was actu­al­ly a camp­ground cater­ing to horse­back rid­ers, and sit­u­at­ed with prime access to some of the best horse­back rid­ing trails in all of Shawnee.  As I rolled through the grounds, I was imme­di­ate­ly impressed with the numer­ous themed out­build­ings that dot­ted the prop­er­ty and most­ly with the seren­i­ty of the whole place.  Save the inter­mit­tent whin­ny of the sta­bled hors­es, the camp­ground was silent..

It was an easy deci­sion to camp there for the night (after all, I’d hauled a tent down this far) but as I spoke with JoJo, the own­er of the camp, she offered a cou­ple of even bet­ter options.  At High Knob, in addi­tion to camp­ing, it is pos­si­ble to sleep in a com­mu­nal bunk house or even in a pri­vate cab­in.  I chose the bunk house (as it hap­pened I was the only occupant–it’s usu­al­ly used by hunters, and, well, this isn’t hunt­ing sea­son). The accom­mo­da­tion is rus­tic, but per­fect for my night’s stay and after mov­ing in I head­ed to the top of the hill to catch sun­set.

[tube]9Mso3iaraY8[/tube]

After a good night of sleep, and a rather late ten o’clock start, I wan­dered in to the gen­er­al store where I found JoJo mind­ing the shop..   Rather than just nip­ping in for a quick cof­fee and hit­ting the road, we end­ed up chat­ting for the bet­ter part of a cou­ple of hours..   After talk­ing busi­ness, mules vs. hors­es, cus­tomer ser­vice, trav­el and cul­ture among oth­er things, JoJo shared a bit more about the area, and the his­to­ry of High Knob camp­ground. I was thor­ough­ly impressed with her gen­uine con­cern for ‘her campers’  their hors­es, and the areas around High Knob.  Were I able to get here more read­i­ly, I’d seri­ous­ly con­sid­er get­ting myself on the wait­ing list for one of the few per­ma­nent camp spots that come avail­able each year.  Well, that and I don’t have hors­es..

Inci­den­tal­ly, accord­ing to JoJo, there are mule peo­ple and there are horse peo­ple (much like dog and cat peo­ple).  And, as it turns out, mules are actu­al­ly incred­i­bly intel­li­gent and have a high self preser­va­tion instinct (which is help­ful if you’re try­ing to ush­er the beast through ter­ri­to­ry that may not be best for the health of either of ya’s)..  The things you learn on the road! :)

Any­way, it’s tak­en ages to get this post up so I’ll fire a few pho­tos up and a quick video for your perusal! :)

High Knob Cemetery

Telegraph Office

High Knob Saloon

Fort Knob

High Knob Gun Shop

Used fairing-saver
Jay, you’re one of the few peo­ple that’ll appre­ci­ate the irony of this..  I man­aged to dump the bike while I was load­ing it..  Soft ground, the fair­ing-saver just dug in.. :)  Rook­ie mis­take.

JoJo sent me on my way with a can of her favourite Soda Pop (Red Fay­go), and a pack­age of mini-dough­nuts, and a direct order to vis­it the Rocks of the Gods a few miles away from the camp­ground. Which I did, and I’m pleased to have done.. It was real­ly spec­tac­u­lar scenery and I felt it fit­ting to drink my Fay­go right there with a toast to JoJo!  Thanks Lady! :)

Red Faygo

The ride to Nashville was pret­ty unevent­ful after all of this, but enjoy­able nonethe­less!

[PostE­d­it] Actu­al­ly one thing about the ride strikes me as note­wor­thy.. Some­how, the south­west­ern cor­ner of Ken­tucky smelled exact­ly like Grape Soda. I don’t know what it was that caused the deli­cious aro­ma, but I shall for­ev­er more asso­ciate Grape pop with Ken­tucky..

Your map Sirs and Madams:

View Larg­er Map

Hmm. It appears that I’m in tech­nol­o­gy hell. It’s late, Pho­to­shop won’t work, I can’t charge the GoPro (which keeps con­sum­ing its bat­tery on stand­by) and that point ‘n shoot cam­era shoots REALLY hor­ri­ble video..

With that in mind I’ll upload the last video of the day (once it’s ren­dered) to give you some­thing to appre­ci­ate the beau­ty of this place.. Prob­a­bly in the morn­ing. Because it’s late. and I’m going to bed.. G’nite!

Tagged with:
 

This morn­ing began with a frosty wind­shield and very lit­tle in the way I excite­ment which, frankly, suit­ed me just fine giv­en the inch­es of grav­el piled and spread about the city of med­i­cine hat.

Spring Roads in Saskatchewan 2

Where I’d been..

From Med Hat to Moose Jaw the sides of the road were awful­ly snowy, and the road sur­face itself was cov­ered with what I can only guess was a lay­er of salt from the last snow­fall.. It had the appear­ance of frost though and despite fan­tas­tic trac­tion from both of my tyres, each cor­ner I did ride was cause for a teen­sy bit of con­cern.. :)

Spring Roads in Saskatchewan.

Where I was head­ed..

Con­trary to what you’d might expect, rid­ing at near freez­ing tem­per­a­tures isn’t actu­al­ly that uncom­fort­able if you’re geared up right. I did tend to notice where my rid­ing gear let a bit of a draft in, but over­all, until my hands start­ed sweat­ing a bit in my win­ter rid­ing gloves, I was com­plete­ly com­fort­able.

Still try­ing to fig­ure out where my fuel stops should be for this bike I near­ly ran out of gas twice this after­noon. That this bike only drinks pre­mi­um gaso­line com­pli­cates things a bit as I’ve been accus­tomed to stop­ping at whichev­er town hap­pened to be at the end of my range. Turns out, small towns in Saskatchewan don’t actu­al­ly car­ry pre­mi­um fuel. –first world prob­lems.

Mov­ing for­ward, I’d intend­ed to cross the bor­der in to North Dako­ta (at a 24hr. bor­der check­point) how­ev­er through some colos­sal nav­i­ga­tion­al error on my part (pos­si­bly pre­cip­i­tat­ed by my over­rid­ing con­cern about being strand­ed with­out fuel on a lone­ly prairie high­way), I end­ed up back­track­ing west toward Mon­tana again. Right about the white dot south of Regi­na on the (larg­er) map below is where things all went pear shaped.


View USA Trip in a larg­er map

Though I lost sev­er­al hours in trav­el time, the dri­ve itself was beau­ti­ful.. I had a feel­ing like I should have dug out the video cam­era to cap­ture some of the real­ly beau­ti­ful ter­ri­to­ry I’d cov­ered, but I fig­ured screw-it, if you’d real­ly want­ed to see that, you’d be here with me. Right?

A few pho­tos will have to suf­fice if you’d like to have been there, but weren’t invit­ed.. ;0)

Borderlands 2

Shades of things to come

Borderlands

A good place to open ‘er up!

So, with ears ring­ing from music too loud and incred­i­ble wind noise, the end of the day found me in the town of Glas­gow MT, which bears lit­tle resem­blance to its Scot­tish name­sake. It does how­ev­er have a sim­i­lar feel to many of the small towns I’ve worked in over the past years, name­ly that it’s full of dudes in work­boots. Seri­ous­ly, I’ve only seen one pret­ty girl here the whole evening. If I need­ed an excuse to di-di on out of here in the morn­ing, that’s it!

And with that, I’m head­ing to bed to get an ear­ly start. One thing I will say for Glas­cow Mon­tana, it’s beau­ti­ful­ly qui­et at night, and the weath­er has warmed up to a point where I actu­al­ly want to sleep with my win­dow open.. So, real­ly, it ain’t all that bad. :)