Saturday, May 3rd through Sunday, May 11th, the annual KLEEK Tours Spring Ride. This ride is the Museums 2008 Tour, with stops at Barber Vintage Motorsports in Birmingham, NASCAR Hall of Fame in Talladega, Little River Canyon in Fort Payne, Roselawn, Etowah Indian Mounds, and Georgia Motorsports Hall of Fame in Dawsonville. This ride is sold out, no vacancies at the inn.
Saturday May 3rd real time update - We left the leaving place just a bit late today with absolutely perfect weather. We cruised into Homosassa and the Dinin in the Past restaurant where, despite our protests, they moved tables and put us at a tables for eight and a booth for three (the single guys got their own space). We had a good breakfast, fast service, got what we ordered and we were back on the road, heading north. The trip up US 19 was pretty uneventful except for the Albertson truck in the median being unloaded into another unwrecked Albertson truck, some new blacktop, a lot of black eagles, two stoopid U-Turners, and some yankee with nowhere to go. One fuel stop and we were heading into the panhandle. Once we reached Capps, the sky was kinda cloudy, but the weather was otherwise still cooperative. Just before we got to Georgia, we passed an FHP trooper assisting a motorist being loaded onto a flatbed after meeting a big pine tree that had falled across the roadway. When we got to Monticello, we stopped at Jakes Buffet for lunch, met some friends that used to live in Pinellas and were still ahead of schedule. After lunch, we headed through Thomasville and into Moultrie where we found our hotel. There's a big wedding party here tonight, so we may not get any sleep. More on that tomorrow. There's a Cedar River Seafood right next door for dinner and the rain waited until we checked in to start and stopped before dinner time. What a timing genius! Got a call from William during dinner - they're on their way from Kentucky on another route, stopped for the night. We'll meet up in Birmingham tomorrow. The group gathered in the lobby after dinner, watched the start of the NASCAR race, then called it a night. Bonus Nachos all!
Sunday, May 4th - we departed Moultrie at 8:00 with 94% humidity and 64 degrees. A bit cool for most, but tolerable. We headed northeast and it seemed to warm a bit, even got brighter until we stopped for a bio break. After that, the frog dropped in, the temp felt lower and the sun was nowhere to be seen. Aside from that, it was a nice ride - good roads, generally little traffic, not much roadkill, no black eagles to dodge. Nice conditions! Although we were out in the country, when we needed gas, we found it, when we needed a break, we found a town with a Golden Arches Steak House. At lunch, we didn't want to take chances, so we took the first 'restaurant' we saw. None of the group had ever been in a Zaxby's, so we were surprised. It wasn't bad, but nothing special. While we were there, I got a call from William. - bike trouble. Bike trouble on a Sunday is never good. More on that when I get an update.. The balance of the trip was also good roads. This area is rolling hills, but too many trucks. We arrived before two, thanks to the Central Time Zone. Thankfully, they had rooms ready, so thus update is before dinner. There are several restaurants close by, but the staff will shuttle us down US280 to a local BBQ joint if we want to, so when we assemble at 6:00, the group gets to vote. Tune in tomorrow, same bat time, same bat channel.
Monday, May 5th, AKA Cinco de Mayo - we lazed about the hotel this morning because the Barber Motorsports Museum doesn't open until 10:00. The chow in the lobby was good today. The ride to the museum was excellent - a twisty two-lane road with almost no traffic, 12 miles long, with some nice homes from time to time. The museum had just a couple visitors when we arrived, so parking right in front on the circle was a snap. We spent about four hours looking at a wide variety of motorcycles (and a few cars) from all over the world. There were lots more Harleys than the last time we visited Barber at the old location downtown, but there are a lot more bikes of every type on display here. The place has plans to expand to another 5 story building. After we saw all five floors, we headed for gas and returned to the hotel, stopping across the street for lunch. Right after we ordered, William and Lisa walked in to the restaurant - the repairs on their motorcycle were complete and they made it from Huntsville with no further problems. Next on the agenda is the dinner gathering. Since lunch was so late, we'll be waiting until 7:00, then walking back across the street to the sports bar. Tomorrow is the NASCAR museum at Talladega and then on to Fort Payne. Adios!
Tuesday, May 6th - We departed B'ham at 8:15 and took the same scenic road to Barber museum again, only this time past the museum and on to I-20. You know how I love my interstates!. We had 27 miles of I-20 today, including one radar trap. At the end of the Interstate was the Nascar Hall of Fame at the Talledega Speedway. We took the speedway tour (no lap of the track) in the tour bus and saw a V-ROD on the track testing - Harley tests there. Then we toured the Hall of Fame museum. They have an extensive collection of race cars, both in race trim and wrecked, plus a lot of other race related stuff, some cars used by NASCAR drivers before they were famous, lots of pictures, etc. After the museum, we headed north on some really nice Alabama back roads. We had the mandatory Chinese Buffet lunch in Gadsden., then continued on, arriving in Fort Payne before 2:00 - an early day today. It's a Hampton, so we will have our cookies tonight! Tomorrow is Little River Canyon.
Wednesday, May 7th - The morning started off overcast, but cleared up nicely before departure time. We drove through Fort Payne and 5 miles out into the hills to the scenic drive around Little River Canyon. The canyon walls are 1200 feet above sea level, the river is about 700 feet above sea level, so the canyon must be about 500 feet deep. There are several scenic overlooks with great views of the falls, river, and/or canyon - all of which are NOT motorcycle friendly. The best are almost level gravel. The worst are narrow, steep, pot-holed, or otherwise dangerous. We had to skip a couple. We could see a couple houses with great views of the canyons. At the end of the scenic drive, we took some local roads I found on MapSource that had some very friendly dogs that came out to meet us, one road that was so well travelled that it had grass growing in it, lots of loose gravel at the intersections, and other motorcycle-friendly hazards. We saw almost no traffic around the canyon or the other back roads. On the way back to town, we passed Jeff Cook's recording studio (a member of the country music group Alabama), which we later learned is also the site of his 19,000 sq ft home. When we got into town, we had lunch in an authentic mexican eatery, then went to the Depot Museum, an old railroad depot that has the history of the town and county preserved within. While we were there, a local newspaper reporter came by, snapped a few pics of our bikes, asked a few questions of Tony, Dick and Shirley, and said we'd be stars in tomorrow's paper. From there, we went to the Alabama (music group) Museum. This stop took longer than I expected because they had a movie about the band that we watched in its entirety. The museum has quite a few of the band's guitars on display, plus a drum set, lots of pictures, personal memorabilia, etc. They also have a really big gift shop. Aside from the $2 admission fee, they didn't get much $$ from this group. The remaining problem for today is dinner - this town doesn't seem to be overrun with choices. Everyone we ask for a restaurant recommendation seems to be stumped. Tomorrow, we're off to Dahlonega by way of Rose Lawn and Etowah Indian Mounds. The forecast is for afternoon rains, so we have to keep an eye on the sky.
Thursday, May 8th. Happy birthday Kristen!! Lloyd picked up the local paper - on the cover was a large artsy shot of Dick reflected in his mirror, with a caption about the motorcycle group from Clearwater that was in town at the Depot Museum - nothing else about us, no article anywhere in the paper, just a photo and caption. After breakfast, we left a bit early to stay ahead of the rain and severe weather headed our way. We have 150 miles ahead of us and two stops. The first stop was Roselawn, built for a preacher back in the 1860s or so. He also had the Ryman built in Nashville, but then it was a church. When times got better, he had the house lifted and an additional floor added below the original two. Lunch was at a mom 'n pop nearby, then on our way to Etowah mounds. The village at Etowah lasted about 600 years. That's quite a span. As the sky began to get cloudier, we headed east to Dahlonega. We arrived here a bit after 4:00, still ahead of the rain, checked into the hotel and are awaiting dinner at the local italian eatery. The numbness is wearing off, so we can probably sit through an entire meal. Even though it was cloudy, it got warm today. Tomorrow is Thunder Road - the Ga Motorsports Hall of Fame in Dawsonville. We will lose Dick and Shirley tomorrow morning - they have to head south at sun up.
Friday, May 9th - the wet weather passed through during the night and left the electrical gremlins behind. This morning we had breakfast at a nearby diner, then headed to Dawsonville and Thunder Road. On the way, I discovered my radio had no Aux input (hence no XM radio) and my cruise control didn't work. Because I decided to go off route a bit to get gas and I had a loop route in the Zumo, the GPS gods put me right back on track to get back to the hotel right after we left. Dad-burned electrical gremlins!!! Once we got close to Thunder Road, I got the GPS straightened out and we headeed right for the entrance that had the backhoe across it. More progress. One more parking lot loop and we were there. We toured the museum and stopped in the cafe for a drink when Gordon Pirkle (cafe owner, Dawsonville Pool Room owner and local celebrity) came in.. He said Bill Elliot had been in on Wednesday. He chatted with us for a while then went on to do some museum maintenance. From the museum, we headed to Amicalola Falls where the adventurous hiked up to the mid-point of the trail for a better view of the falls and the bus loads of school kids. The more sedate stayed at the bottom and watched the fishermen haul in the trout. Once that adventure was behind us, we returned to Dahlonega for lunch at a cafe on the square and some olympic level shopping. Soon it will be time for dinner, at the Smith House, just off the square. The Smith House features family style meals like the Daniel Boone Inn in Boone, NC if you've ever been there, or the Branch Ranch in Thonotosassa (now closed). Tomorrow is a tough 300 mile push to Valdosta. Post Script - Shirley called - They made it home in under 12 hours.
Saturday, May 10th - This was the day to lynch the leader. 300 miles in the heat and humidity of middle Georgia. Fortunately, it was overcast all morning, even cloudy. Some places looked like imminent rain. Back up. We, the remaining eleven gathered for breakfast around seven at the local 'just off the square cafe' for breakfast, then loaded up, posed for a group pic for Lisa, shared a few hugs and then the southbound nine headed out. It was kinda cool, felt like it could rain at any time. The route was on some off-the-beaten-path rural Georgia roads, so we made good time when we weren't slowed for 'congested areas'. This was the day that the Zumo decided to act up. It was slow to update, showed some strange intersections, etc. Let's just say we made a few corrections or off route excursions today. When we were getting close to Valdosta, I had to turn it off, abandon the route, repower, reload and hope for the best. That seemed to solve the problem. Highlights of the day include a trip to a Subway sandwich shop that took an hour, finding a neighborhood much like Sulphur Springs in Tampa where we might have been invited to the family BBQ, and ordering pizza for dinner at the Hampton because after 300 miles, no one wants to remount. (right now I'll claim that as a highlight - we haven't ordered yet) Tomorrow is the final push to home. I think it's about 240 miles, hopefully with the same rain luck that we had the past eight days.
Sunday, May 11th, day nine of nine. The weather forecast showed severe weather from Valdosta north through all of Georgia and beyond, and severe weather watches south of Valdosta into Florida. The radar showed nothing bad in our path, so we headed out a little before eight with grey skies and strong cross winds. The farther we went south, the brighter it got, but the wind stayed with us all day. We had just 240 miles to go, most of it on US 41, with lunch in Inverness at Stumpknockers on the square - along with everyone's mother from miles around. We arrived home around 3:30, still dry, still wind blown. I'd have to say that this was a successful trip; we were just hours ahead of some nasty weather several times, we saw lots of interesting museums, travelled a lot of miles on some good two and four lane scenic highways (plus a few miles of interstate), dined in some interesting places, and spent some time with some fine folks. Yeah, I'd call this a good trip. I have to add a note - William called; they were stuck at the state park in Kentucky all day Sunday because of the storm. The road out of the park was closed due to debris, US 27 was impacted too (their route home), so they had an extra day on the road, but they're safe. They did get out on Monday, arrived home around three in the afternoon, safely