(2010) Georgia

The Devil Went Down to Georgia

April 2010
Total Miles: 2,500 miles
Georgia to Northwestern New Jersey
Map Link (approximate)

The prelude to this story is this: I found a killer deal on an ’01 KLR on ADV. So killer, in fact, that I couldn’t pass it up. Yes, I already have a KLR. And so does Dan. And there’s a BMW in the garage. But… but… it was such a good deal! So I bought it. Trouble was, it was in Phoenix and I’m now in NJ. Ride it home? I’d love to, but now I have a job that actually expects me to show up once in a while and I didn’t want to fly there and then have to slab it back, 10 hours a day, on the 650. So I put out some feelers and found a motorcyclist who was driving from Phoenix to Atlanta and had an empty trailer. Bingo! He offered to pick the bike up from the gentleman who was holding it for me and bring it to his place just north of Atlanta until I could come down and get it. And even before that happened, Spencer (someone else from ADV) offered to go look the bike over before I bought it from Chris (ADV member) and not only did that, but also listed some maintenance that ought to be done before riding it up the east coast. Icing on the cake? He did all of the stuff necessary to make the bike road-worthy to give me a relatively trouble-free trip home.

While Spencer was busy wrenching on my bike, I tossed around various ways of getting to Atlanta when Dan said “Why don’t we drive down together?” Of course! He’s such a sweetheart. So we took off Friday, April 2nd and planned to be home that Sunday. More ideas were tossed around for the return trip: Blue Ridge Parkway, Williamsburg… but then Dan again had plans: why don’t we visit your sister in Tennessee? Once that came about, I added a visit to my other sister in Ohio and our trip was born! I’ve written it out below, mostly for family and friends, but I thought that the guys instrumental in making this possible would appreciate it as well. Enjoy!

Dan and I left Verona at 7pm Thursday night. We had the car stuffed, from a pillow and blanket to motorcycle gear to spare KLR parts and tools. We were ready for just about anything! It took us 16 hours to get to Woodstock, GA, which included a 2 hour nap at the TN/GA border. Ric, a motorcyclist himself who had trailered the KLR from Phoenix for me, was waiting for us with the KLR just about ready to go. He and his wife (and his cute little dog) were very friendly and offered us cold water, which we eventually accepted after standing around in the Georgia sun. Fuel sloshed around in the tank and I could see the 126 miles on the trip meter from when Spencer (the guy in Phoenix) took the bike out. Base on the MPG I got on my old KLR, I would be good for another 150 miles at minimum. I added a couple of things to the bike (fork brace, throttle rocker and a license plate conveniently borrowed from my other KLR), topped off the tire pressure and we were off. Ric offered up some suggested roads to get us to Franklin and I was looking forward to the non-interstate scenery. I followed Dan, him having the GPS and knowing which way to go. Not more than half a mile from Ric’s house the bike sputtered. I switched the petcock to “reserve” and the engine caught. I played with it for a bit and figured that the “on” position was fouled and would not work; I had to ride the bike on the “reserve” setting. Not a problem, except that now if I ran out of gas, I’d be completely out of gas.

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The bike, as it looked when I picked it up

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Dan checks the tires while Rudy watches

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Rudy’s own ride

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Rudy, me and his wife (forgive me for not remembering her name)

We passed some interesting things along the way, including three figures hanging from crosses at the side of the road near a church.. I was amazed at the beer gut that Jesus had before I realized that they were real people – it was a living recreation of the crucifixion so popular back when the Romans were keeping order in the Middle East. Dan observed that they looked very red in the hot Georgia sun, and reminded us more of ‘The Life of Brian’ than “The Good Book”. In addition, I’ve determined that Georgia is one big yard sale. I couldn’t go more than a mile before seeing someone sitting in a yard, or at a corner, or in a parking lot, with a table full of “stuff” scattered before them.

The bike sputtered to a halt at the side of a busy road. Dan saw me signal and pulled off to the side and walked back to where I had coasted to a halt. I had run out of gas. We tried a trick we’d read about but never put to the test: we leaned the bike almost on its side. The gas tank has two lobes and some small amount of gas can be trapped on the side opposite of the petcock. By tipping the bike, that gas is moved to the side where it can be used, buying a mile or two of reserve-reserve! It worked!

At this point we decided that we’d had enough of the wandering roads, primarily because they were taking us in the wrong direction. I found out later that Ric has misunderstood which Franklin we were heading for and was sending us to Franklin, NC, not Franklin TN. We hit the interstate and made time for my sister Linda’s house.

We arrived about 10 minutes before she had a veterinarian appointment scheduled. I had forgotten about the time zone crossing and had planned our arrival poorly. But it was ok: the weather was perfect and we made ourselves comfortable and stretched out in the welcoming grass to await our hosts’ return home. I checked my phone and found a voicemail from my other sister Jennifer, so I gave her a call. I got her voicemail, but as I was leaving a message she interrupted me and told me that she was on the phone with Linda – who was at home and waiting for us! I thanked Jen for the news and knocked on the door. Steve answered and had a good laugh that we had been hanging around outside for 10 minutes! Linda and Steve welcomed us with great spirits and were very accommodating of the now zombie-like travelers. We had only slept for a couple of hours in the past two days. We had a nice evening together with pizza (beer), conversation and kitties. Eventually we retired early for bed – we were asleep in seconds and slept like logs.

The next morning we awoke to the sounds of thunder and the wind lashing a hard rain against the windows. Dan was excited to experience the famous Tennessee tornadoes mentioned the night before, but I was not encouraged to get out of bed and start the ride. Eventually we did, just in time for the clouds to blow away and the sun to come out. It was a beautiful day after all.

We crossed into Kentucky and then, about halfway through the state, we left the interstate and meandered our way northeast. My goal was to surprise Dan with a ferry ride across the Ohio River at the town of Augusta, as he really enjoys them. I had researched what ferries still existed and which ones might be on our route. This was the only one for hundreds of miles and I was excited to board it. The roads through Kentucky were very pleasant, running through lush rolling hills and farmlands. The still-bare trees let me see the “bones” of the land, where stones and creeks would soon be hidden by thick leaf cover.

The ferry was closed. I have no idea why, but regardless, we were now out a ferry ride as well as an easy way across the river. Dan consulted the GPS and we found a bridge a few miles up the river. This would add about 45 minutes of extra time to our drive, but gave us a great view of a very new coal power plant on the edge of the Ohio River in the town of Ripley. With the late start that morning, traffic through Kentucky and now the detour, we were going to be very late for dinner at Jennifer’s house. We sped our way through Ohio farmland, finally reaching the interstate again near Columbus and made an effort to make up time. The last thing I wanted to do was to try and find her house in the dark, as she lives on a dirt road in the countryside and it had been years since I’d been there. With semi-perfect timing, we pulled into her driveway just at dusk and as she was about to go for a walk. Kids were hugged and dinner was reheated, and Dan finally met Paul, his new brother-in-law. The two of them discovered a shared passion for fine rum, and this directly resulted in a very late night of talking and playing music until 2am.

The geese that live across the road woke me up around 6:30, but I pretended not to hear them and stayed in bed until 8 or so. The Easter bunny had hidden baskets around the house and breakfast was cooking. Life on the farm has never been so good! I showed Jennifer some things on the KLR (she has one as well but knows very little about it) and gave Dan a quick tour of the farm while we fed the horses. The morning hours passed quickly and it was after 11am before Dan and I bid adieu and left them to hunt the Easter eggs that were hidden in the yard.

The rest of the day was quite dull, with I-80 stretched out across Pennsylvania. My butt was finally telling me that it was done with the trip and Dan was trying to keep awake in the car. I did see three Amish buggies along the way, two of them crossing over the interstate and one of them trotting along by the gas station we had stopped at. I always find them fun to look at, imagining what their lives must be like compared to mine. I also took notice of the number of deer alongside the highway. I know that Pennsylvania is known for its deer population, but when I can easily see one, two or even three dead deer in the course of a single mile… well, that’s a lot of deer and I was happy not to hit one. We also took more frequent breaks and finally crossed the NJ border around 8pm. We split up then, not bothering to keep together among the traffic and in dimming light.

All in all, it was about 2,500 miles in 72 hours. Not bad for a trip that included picking up a motorcycle, visiting two siblings and getting in a nice ride through the Kentucky countryside.

Tell me what you think! I want to know!