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..

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 MERCHANDISE – WILL 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!

 

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