The weekend of April 24-26 I rode my Ninja to Helen, GA for a Motorcycle Sport Touring Association (MSTA) rally. I departed Columbia around 9:00 on Friday morning and took secondary roads the whole way. I stopped in Toccoa, GA to visit Toccoa Falls, which turned out to be much more impressive than I was prepared for!
Closer to Helen I stopped at the Tallulah Gorge overlook where I enjoyed the scenery and a very refreshing 8oz Coke in the bottle ... nothing else like 'em. :-)
One more stop right before Helen was the Stovall Mill covered bridge in Sautee. I'm on a mission to visit all 16 of Georgia's covered bridges, and this made number 9. It's a beautiful bridge that is unfortunately severely defaced with graffiti.
I got to Helen around 5:00, right before my friend Daryl from Cincinnati arrived. Several folks were already there, and more were arriving. I got checked in and then milled around catching up with old friends and making some new ones.
One especially interesting fellow I met had ridden all sorts of long journeys and had a handful of photos showing his routes, one of which was a ride of the perimeter of the lower 48 states; he rode all the way around, staying as close to the border as he could; that sounds like a fun trip.
We broke up into small groups for dinner, and my group walked to a nearby German eatery called Hans, where I had a good meal of Bratwurst, potato salad, and sauerkraut. The rest of the evening was spent kicking tires and telling tales with the other rally attendees.
On Saturday we broke up into small groups and headed out to ride for the day; north Georgia offers very scenic as well as tight, technical roads, which are great fun to ride on a motorcycle. Daryl and I made a clockwise loop with Helen being at about the 4 o'clock position. We had planned on finding somewhere in Dahlonega for lunch, but as we got close, we realized it wasn't too far out of our way to head down to Gainesville to visit our friend Phil at the Hickory Pig. Eating there has become an annual tradition when we attend the WERA motorcycle races at Road Atlanta in October. He makes the best barbecue and sides you've ever had, and he throws in a healthy dose of entertainment to supplement it. As always, we had a wonderful meal (I had a pulled pork sandwich, Brunswick stew, and "Nanner Pudding" as spelled on his menu board) and many good laughs.
From there we headed to Amicalola Falls State Park, home to a very impressive waterfall with a walkway built right over the base which gives a stunning perspective of the power of the water. The trail leading down to it was built with ground-up discarded tires, which is a really ingenious and environmentally-friendly use of them, as well as the perfect product for a durable surface that offers good cushioning and grip.
After visiting the waterfall we rode up to the lodge at the peak and kicked back on their porch overlooking the vista below and enjoyed a nice, quiet breeze. That, combined with Phil's barbecue, caused me to nod off a bit; it was very relaxing, and I really enjoyed the break.
After that we were ready to carve up some more curvy roads (and one gravel road that we stumbled upon in the course of a shortcut.) We made it back to the hotel around 5:00 after having covered around 225 miles.
Saturday night was pretty much a repeat of Friday night - camaraderie around the hotel, then off to dinner in small groups. My group went to, of all places, a barbecue joint. :-) It's called the North Georgia Barbecue Company, and it was actually very good barbecue and a better (and less expensive) meal than Friday night's. I had a plate of pulled pork, slaw, beans, apple pie, and a good ole Barq's root beer (the only brand worth drinking, IMO.) I ate with several folks I did not previously know and had a great time getting to know them; one of them was a fellow attending the rally from Toronto, Ontario! He was quite a ways from home.
MSTA rallies always conclude with acknowledgments and door prize giveaways, and I won a big one ... a free hotel night at next year's rally!
Sunday morning we all headed home, and before I got out of the Helen area I stopped to visit Anna Ruby Falls, a double waterfall.
I next visited Tallulah Falls State Park, home of the Tallulah Gorge that I had gotten a glimpse of from the overlook on Friday. I explored it up close and personal this time. It is home to five waterfalls, which are visible from many different angles, so in my photos you will often see one later in the series that you saw earlier, just from a different angle.
I got out of my motorcycle gear and donned my shorts, hiking shoes, and Camelbak and grabbed a couple of granola bars and some grapes, all of which turned out to be very wise, as it was a pretty strenuous hike. All told it was about 3 miles including 1100 steps descending to the gorge floor; it took around 2.5 hours start to finish. All very much worth the effort; it was truly stunning! Here are some representative photos of the waterfalls, but the entire collection contains many more.
After hiking part of the north rim trail, I headed down the steps to the suspension bridge, which was cool, but a bit unnerving, as it would really get to moving when someone else would walk across it! I then descended the remainder of the steps to the floor and then climbed up the steps (all 1122 of them) to the south rim trail and hiked it to the dam, walked across the dam back to the north rim trail and finished it, ending up after a circular journey where I began.
That was enough adventure for the day, so from there it was pretty much a straight shot home with a quick meal stop. Total mileage for the weekend was about 750 miles. It was a great rally, and I look forward to attending again next year (with one night's hotel bill on the house!)Here are all of the photos I shot.