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3rd/4th South'n Spine Raid 2007/08


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Thanks to all that attended SSR 2008. I had a great time hanging out and riding those great roads with you. I'm already looking forward to the next one.



I had a great time too... Sorry I had to cut out early Saturday but I paid the price on the way home during a sampler hail/lightening/HEAVY rain storm just south of Crossville AND in all that weather my bike rebadged itself...




(For you younger folks... Wikipedia Norge... )

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No one can say it better than Herr Hagan:


I'm having trouble posting this on a Guzzi site [perhaps they are blocking me out of self defense!], so I'll send around to some "selected" victims. You meet that exacting criteria. Some of you get this simply because I hurried thru the block-checking process.


We have been swamped for the last few weeks (into months) with all sorts of work-related, eldercare, and other gotta-do's and have not kept anyone informed about our activities. Our apolgies for the silence, tho some recipients may go, "Huh? Who ARE these poeple anyway?" :-)


So, if you haven't hit the delete key yet, get a beer or something cold and hang on for the ride.


If you hate words, the pix are at the end.







Short (for me, anyway) Trip Report: South’n Spine Raid 2008




For several years—four, I think—I’ve attended Dr. Phil Haynes’s “South’n Spine Raid. This, for the incognoscenti here, is a play on words. Phil (“docc” on one of the Guzzi web boards) is a chiropractor, and he rides a V11 Sport, a Guzzi with what is known as a “spine frame.” I may not have once had a farm in Africa, but I once had a spine frame, a Ballabio. Lordy, I sure miss it.




So, hang on … or leave now. You’ve been warned. And, bear in mind, too, that this is, as someone said recently of my narratives, a “curious perspective.” Make of that what you wish.




So, there I wuz. Actually, we wuz. I attended the first two raids solo. The Ballabio is not a two-up motorcycle. I kept telling Kathi that her butt looked cute perched on the tail of the Ballabio, but it took only one wheelie to moot that accurate compliment. The new Norge, however, can (almost) keep up with the V11’s in the twisties, and is a great mount for a pillion. So, Kathi went along on last year’s raid and apparently had a fine time. The others did not vote for her to take a hike—tho some suggested I do!—and that made this year’s raid with her a given.




Previous raids had the more-or-less common denominator of spine-frame Guzzis as the predominant bike, but the greatest theme was good guys who enjoy riding motorcycles, especially Guzzis, and being around other people who do, too. The other general thread was that they are headquartered in southeastern Tennessee. After four years, I think docc also takes a perverse pleasure in selecting base towns that are in dry counties! That does not, of course, slow down the consumption, but procurement is more difficult, i.e., the first B in BYOB is a long carry.




In that regard, as I had volunteered to bring along some grappa as I did last year, I decided also to bring a little espresso & cappuccino maker with cups for both and a little container to froth the milk, etc. after etc. Oh, I forgot to mention the Kentucky bourbon (Woodford Reserve for those who care), a bottle of cabernet for Kathi, the aforementioned grappa to “correct” the coffee, and various other “necessities.” As we would be in Deliverance country the whole time, I took along another fine Italian piece of steel (and plastic, it being the 21st century), a Beretta with “personal protection” rounds. By time we packed all this stuff—note I am not mentioning anything about Kathi’s various, numerous, and heavy traveling kit as that got me into some trouble once when I voiced some surprise about the need for three different kinds of hairdryers and got “the look”—I was very grateful for having the new HyperPro shock with its stout progressive spring.




As a semi-tech note, that shock was a great buy; thanks, Todd Eagan. Aside from the much-improved ride, and pronounced bettering of handling in the twisties, the safety change is remarkable. On this entire 900+ mile trip, we only had two, almost feathery touchdowns of the center stand. Anyone who knows or who can imagine the roads, and plugs in our pace and other dynamics, also knows how significant that is.




With that background, I’ll shift to present tense so you can “come along” on the ride.




Kathi is out of school now, and I am taking Friday and Monday off, so this is to be a four-day ride for us, 30 May – 2 June. The plan (as always, “plan” is a bit glorified for what happens on one of these) is to meet everyone sometime late on Friday afternoon in Vonore [pronounced, btw, “VAHN – or”] at the opulent-sounding Grand Vista Hotel & Tellico West Conference Center, http://www.tellicowest.com/pages/accomm.htm.




We finally leave the GarageMahalo and Inman Park about 9:30 a.m., but then stop at my mom’s around the block for the obligatory, but pleasant, morning rituals of an unhurried breakfast and conversation. Mom vividly remembers—tho she has no apparent recollection of how many times she has told the story!—riding pillion on her dad’s German Triumph in the early ‘30’s in the Swabian Jura in southwest Germany near the Boden See. She fell off once and just waited for her dad to come get her; she must have been a slip of a thing, because he didn’t notice for some time.




Running later than we want, we now rush up Ga. 400 to meet Wayne & Vicky Orwig in Dahlonega. As if choreographed, a dark-cherry EV with a pair in blue Aerostich suits and yellow Shoeis aboard merges onto 400 about 15 miles south of Dahlonega. Wayne and Vicky, of course. I suspect him of lying in wait for us to arrange that dramatic rendezvous, but he denies that when we stop for lunch at T.W.O., http://www.twowheelsonly.com/. There, owner Brett bemoans the rain that has hit hard (and hit his business harder) every weekend except one this spring, with gorgeous and dry weekdays teasing riders. It’s nice outside on this Friday, too, but, inside, on the TV, TWC meteorologists describe the coming weekend in the South: rain, with strong winds. It seems selfish to bemoan rain in a time of drought. We are selfish.




Then, it’s up Ga. SR 60 to Morgantown, across the line at Ducktown, to Tenn. SR 68 to Tellico Plains. This is usually a pleasant ride, but SLOW cars and SLOWER motorcycles, two of which do nothing to let us by, make it more chore than joy. Wayne is much more patient than I am. Wayne and Vicky just enjoy the scenery, loiter for the right moment, then go. If I’d had a .50 cal. on the Norge, I’d use it.




The plan is to turn east at Tellico Plains (the western end of the Cherohala Skyway, and go a mile or so to pick up SR 360 for the 30 or so miles left to Vonore. Instead, Wayne shouts, “Follow Me!”—words that fill infantrymen and me with dread—and off we roar down a barely paved cowpath. And, of course, it is all I can do to keep Wayne’s EV in sight. Kathi still does not know how close we come to spreading ourselves and red Tupperware at some of those turns, as I only admit to the two that cause her to scream, bang her helmet against mine, and pound my back. We are actually much closer to dying at one 90-degree left-hander that appears after a deceiving gentle-turning slope. AAARRGGGHHH! At bottom of the hill, now very close and getting closer, is a fence. A fence that uses railroad ties as posts and about eight strands of barbed wire strung tautly between the posts. It’s target-fixation time on a big target. The only thing that saves us is being able to stop in a straight line without even trying to make that hard-left curve. Well, that and ABS. Whew. I tell Kathi that we’ve stopped because I’ve always been interested in fencing, and this is an interesting example of agricultural salvage techniques. Kathi tells me that she loves being married to such a Renaissance man. My pulse rate slowly returns to normal and we start off again.




We reconnect with SR 360 some miles later where, of course, Wayne & Vicky wait with helmets off to reinforce the “you guys sure are slow” message. He sent me a video recently of a ride we’d taken together. He included this comment: “Notice the odd illusion? When I lean for a corner, the Norge appears to get farther away.” That’s not nice. True, maybe, but not nice!


We do, at least, arrive a few minutes later at the hotel, oddly buried in a business park. Strangely, too, we are the first to arrive, though it is already after 4 and we thought we’d taken an out-of-the-way route.




We check in and I set up the Guzzi and Italian shrine in our room. Before long, though, SSR sponsor, Dr. Phil Haynes (docc) arrives on his red-framed silver V11 Sport, along with SSR alum Josh Cables, on his ’96 Sport. Within minutes, in come Joe Edmonson (Atlanta Joe on several boards) on “my” beloved Ballabio, with work buds, Mark and Matt on EV’s. Another alumnus, Gary Sanford, appears on his beautiful unGuzzi but Italian ’74 Ducati in tricolore livery. Then the Norges take over when Rick Mathis (motowfo) shows up on his silver new-to-him Norge, still bearing the Maine tag of the prior owner. Rick has a happily-thus-far-untested theory this will help in any roadside discussions with LEO’s. The big surprise is the arrival a few moments later of Tim Hayes (phordman) with wife, Bonnie, as pillion. They roar up (he’s done some performance and sound mods to the ordinarily quiet Norge exhaust) on his red twin to mine. We thought we’d meet them the next day along the way, so it is great to see then arrive on Friday.




The “Grand Vista Hotel” is an interesting place. Not the Ritz, but that sort of high hostelry has fascisti security that would bounce us on arrival. Unlike the prior SSR venues, we are not able to pull chairs out of our rooms and sit directly on the parking lot. OTOH, the very accommodating and “look the other way” staff makes up for that. It doesn’t hurt that there were few other guests. Two “Harley guys” and their wives who are there in cages from up nawth actually get kind of excited about Guzzis and the fun we are having. One even notes that we don’t wear “uniforms,” tho he called them “club colors, chaps, and such.” For dinner, we just order pizzas, buy beer from the hotel cooler, eat poolside. After eating more than we (or at least I) should, we take the pool chairs to the registration drive-thru lane and sit in a circle under the canopy with our Guzzis. Life is good.




Before waddling to our rooms, we all agree to launch at 9 a.m.; early for the central-time-zoners, especially after this night’s pizza, beer, and conversation under the canopy.




Surprisingly, we all make it. Some look better than others. I am an “other.”




Joe, who had recent surgery, has decided he does not think he should do the ride today. Says he does not feel well enough for the long run we have in mind and thinks he’ll be better off to head back. He and his EV-riding buds, Mark and Matt, had all had a long day at Deal’s Gap, etc., on the way up. Before they head south, Joe lets me ride my … OK, his … Ballabio for old time’s sake. It is, darn it and of course, wonderful. Some rather apt but dangerous analogies come to mind, but I’ll be prudent and avoid them here. But it was the booming joy I remembered.




Ten bikes become seven. We launch with the four solo riders in the front, and the pillioners in back. I want to take pix (and not hold anyone back) so we are the caboose. Docc leads. And, of course, almost immediately he gets us lost. No harm. To be lost is fun on eastern Tennessee roads, as nearly all are good rural rollers and sweepers. Eventually, we find our way to the Cherohala and ascend it. If I could change one thing about the SSR, and this may not be logistically doable for the mid-to-west Tennesseeans, it would be to stage this gathering out of a place further to the east. This simply to have us ride to the west in the morning and return to the east in the evening. There’s a reason, after all, why World Wars I & II Allied airmen sought to “Avoid the Hun in the Sun.”




But that is wimpy whining. How many Guzzisti or riders of any marque would love to trade with us today. To ride the Cherohala Skyway and nearby roads is great joy. To ride with other Guzzisti is even sweeter. We ride in a spirited but not (entirely) stupid way. Wayne, of course, gets to the front and humbles us all ... two-up on a Cali. I don’t even bother to try. Happily, even tho a weekend, the weather is cool (too cool at altitude for our mesh jackets), overcast, and a bit windy, so there are no flying cops circling with stopwatches. In fact, we see little law enforcement out this entire weekend. When we arrive at the crossroads of SR 28 & US 129, we hear that there were wall-to-wall police in the area on Friday, perhaps to get the word out and discourage the squiddies. Still quite a crowd there now, tho. The LPSL maroons never fail to get laughs (that they can’t hear) as they roar off to their “I had to lay it down” destinies. OTOH, I do note that “the tree of shame” has more sportbike than cruiser parts hanging off it, and crosses and flowers more often are tributes to those who wore racing leathers than chaps.




But, before the “Dragon,” which we do not bother with on a Saturday, tho we do enjoy the sights (of various kinds; see pix), we stop first at the Tapoco Lodge to crash—so to speak—a Vincent rally. But those folks have left to break down elsewhere, with “Custer’s horse” remaining, a lone Vincent sans chain. The inn is a nice place on U.S. 129 and on the Cheoah River. http://www.tapocolodge.com/index.html This may be our next SSR venue. I like it, especially, as it has that sort of decayed charm that reminds me of … erm … me.




Then, after scratching, grunting, and showing our Guzzis off at the Store, Gary heads back to Nashville on his vintage Ducati, drawing more looks than … as I said, see the pix. The rest of us head to lunch at a regular stop for us in Franklin. We take a “short cut” (one of the world’s great lies, of course) over to SR 28 at Fontana Village, then to make up time, melt Norge Tupperware at warp speeds on 28, especially the 4-lane section just before it joins US 74 for a few miles. WHOA! That Tennessee unmarked black Dodge Charger would have had us (all of us) if he had not just stopped two young locals in a raggedy pickup a few moments before. You can almost see the disappointment under the ranger hat as we politely ride by.




Of course, Wayne decides that we should not take the boring SR 28 when his GPS says Licklog and Needmore Roads call hardy riders. I’ll just save time and cut some 10 miles or so to the “Pavement Ends” sign now. Undaunted, Wayne wants to go on, but the rest of us are troubled by the next place name on the map: “Shallow Ford.”




We backtrack to 28, which is not boring at all, as a lone motorcycle rubber footpeg in the middle of an s-turn (after s-turn after s-turn) and the many long straight single-track tire marks into the guard rails attest. Lunch is worth the ride, tho, in this local institution, the “Sunset Restaurant,” where parents point us out to children as what comes from living profligate lives.




Wayah Road is next, a great connector over the mountain to US 129. I am reminded along the way that one of the fastest vehicles on the road, and certainly not one to challenge on home turf, is a rural letter carrier. Whatever the vehicle looks like—minivan, rustbucket, Ford Fiesta; it doesn’t matter—it will kick your motorcycle butt. Well, all butts save one. Wayne’s. The rest of us pray the mad mailman stops soon at one of the sparse mailboxes on this pretty uninhabited and great road. We eventually do all get by before the summit, and lope along almost out of sight of each other down the mountain, around the lake, and down the Nantahala Gorge to the tee at US 129 just north of Topton.




After comparing notes on the dead snakes and other sights along the way, we regroup and launch toward Robbinsville, and the return to Vonore via a reverse ride on the Cherohala.




Rick in his fluorescent (how does he keep it clean?) Aerostich Darien leaves us at Tellico and we are down to 5 Guzzis, docc, Josh, Wayne & Vicky, Tim & Bonnie, and Kathi and I. That’s enough to party again. So we do. After pizza, I break out the espresso machine and pour some grappa to “correct” the coffee. Don’t have any Fernet-Branca, but Bonnie discovers the beneficial effect of Unterberg on an overfilled-with-pizza tummy. Docc has some fine scotch and I bourbon, but in the festiveness—or, perhaps, fog—we both miss in sharing that. Rats.




On Sunday morning, the weather is ominous. The Weather Channel confirms the worst. Rain ahead, unless one goes northish. Hmmmmmm. Docc and Josh head west toward Nashville into the worst of it. Wayne and Vicky head south in not much better “green and yellow” Doppler blobs. Tim and Bonnie take a northerly course with a plan to head east after clearing the rain. I look at Kathi who looks at me and I look at the espresso machine and wine and whiskey bottles. In other words, no room for rain suits or even jacket liners. Mesh jackets. Oh oh.




Before Wayne and Vicky leave, they give us two ponchos. But, we launch north a bit and—not that the suspense is building in you—never get rained on beyond the spitting at the start. We take the Foothills Parkway, a road I’ve passed by before, but never taken. It’s a short but pleasant ride, similar to the BRP and with a 45 mph limit. A silver Lamborghini Gallardo approaches at a very high speed and growls by. Hard to get annoyed at anything that looks that good and sounds even better. Also see numerous new Corvettes running in packs. These sound might fine, too. Later learn they are part of a rally at their Mandello, Bowling Green. Maybe the Lamborghini was out hunting?




We have also never been through the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, www.nps.gov/grsm. Around ‘em, near ‘em, but never in ‘em over the years. Cannot imagine what it must be like in peak season, because the traffic is bad enough on this dreary and cold Sunday almost to reduce the beauty around us. It is a stunningly beautiful place. And it could have been ugly. I just miss a ticket from a federal park ranger, whom we meet after rounding a curve at about 75 (in a 45). Hmmmmmm. Think this would be an excellent time to get off the road and visit that attractive picnic area and rest awhile! We wend our way into its most hidden cove and wait.




We get gas in Cherokee without feeling any need to gamble at Harrah’s, then jump the BRP to our reservation at Pisgah Inn at mile-marker 408.5. http://www.pisgahinn.com/ We are the first occupants of a newly renovated section and have—actually all rooms have—a mountain view. A wonderfully pleasant experience. All staff ultra courteous, almost obsequious. The food is grand, too. See pix. As good as supper was, the next morning’s meal may be the best breakfast I’ve ever had … and, for me, that goes a long way back (and settles in my front!).




Kathi goes on a strenuous hike, while I tend to the Norge and packing. Whew. Barely dodged that hiking bullet. Had to play the sore-knee card, too. On an almost tragic note, I may be responsible for a N.C. fishkill or, perhaps, happy trout ready for the pan with special seasoning included. I am so disturbed by the weight of Norge’s baggage, I actually pour an almost full bottle of grappa and a similarly untapped bottle of bourbon down the drain. Then the cab follows the harder stuff. I won’t let Kathi get a pic of that as I want to forget it. Maybe I just rationalized this to feel better about the dumping, but I think that the glass and bottle weight made a difference. If that’s ridiculous, I don’t want to know.




A complete opposite of yesterday, this Monday is vividly bright as we head north a bit on the BRP, then drop down to the valley floor on SR 151, a twisty little piece of pavement. After a few trafficky miles into the outskirts of Asheville, we rock and roll on SR 63 west over to SR 209, then take the latter to Hot Springs. A few young guys just off the AT look a bit worse for wear. The combo of heat today and a long cold soaking when they were up in the clouds yesterday had them looking like stunned mullets.




Then, it’s back down lilting 209 to Waynesville, a fast run along a 15-mile stretch of 4-lanes to Silva (with a tandem-wheeled pickup towing a camping trailer giving us a scare by a last second, no-look, swerve into our lane; our Stebel air horn is quite a tool), then 107 to Cashiers. From there, that short, but cruel, run of US 64 to Highlands. Always grand views, but always turtling traffic. Today proves the rule.




From Highlands, it’s down to Dillard for the final 1 ½ hour ride to Atlanta, with half of that on slab. It’s hot, really hot. The traffic thickens then almost halts on the downtown connector.




Happily, Manuel’s Tavern http://www.manuelstavern.com/ awaits, along with a feisty waitress, a McCloskeyburger, a cold draft beer, and, best, my sporty and good-sport pillion, Kathi, with whom to enjoy it all.




Thanks to all for a great South’n Spine Raid. Can’t wait for the 2009 edition.




Oh, the pix?




Go here: http://www.kodakgallery.com/I.jsp?c=9wgryy...;localeid=en_US




And, if you are hard up for entertainment, for history and pix of prior raids, see: http://snipurl.com/tscg & http://www.kodakgallery.com/I.jsp?c=9wgryy...0&y=-sllhm8

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  • 5 months later...

Sent email; awaiting call back.


Kathi is excited about this, a state I find a bit troubling, actually. ;)


Hoping to be in Italy at the end of that month, and, even better, on a Guzzi in the Dolomites and Boden See area. The Raid will be a wonderful warm-up ... and practice session for grappa. One cannot be too ready. :D


The only thing that could be better is if I can get her to see why I really need a new Griso "Tenni." :helmet:



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