On Sunday, October 30, mere hours after racing in the Run for the Water road race, I got onto my Fat Boy and rode 3,100 miles in seven days. On this cold, crazy, trip I visited eight state highpoints and three capitols. This brings my totals to 35 and 25, respectively. Other than a relatively minor issue with the bike, some rain outside of Atlanta, and trying to keep warm when it was in the 40s, it was a fairly uneventful ride. I did run into a slight problem off the bike, but the only real harm done was a loss of time.
I left the house about 1pm on Sunday. I had a bacon cheeseburger as some recovery food from the run, and hit the highway. The first day's ride was rather uninteresting and one I've done before: TX-71 to I-10 East. It started out relatively warm- I was wearing my jacket loosely, and wearing my light gloves. After 6, when it started getting dark, I stopped to change from sunglasses to clear glasses and also put on chaps and my heavy gloves. It had already cooled off and it got progressively colder as I rode into the night. At 10 o'clock, I was quite chilled, and was satisfied to have gotten over 500 miles. I stopped for the night in Gulfport, Mississippi. It was a pretty cheap place, but I only needed a warm place for the night- it would have been too late to use the amenities a nicer place would have had.
I ate from the none-too-spectacular continental breakfast Monday morning. I killed about as much time as I would allow myself, hoping for the sun to get to work and warm the air up. I left around 9 bundled up as best as I could, but it was still quite cold. At least the sun was out, and there was a promise of the day getting warmer, which made it preferable to riding at night in the cold. I rode the interstate across the rest of Mississippi and Alabama, into Florida. I got off the interstate and actually crossed back into Alabama in order to access the Florida highpoint, Britton Hill. It was rather unimpressive- basically a small park on the side of the road. I arrived a little before noon. There were two guys sitting in a utility-type truck, but nobody else at first. A group of a few motorcyclists came later. I realized once I tried to take some pictures that I had completely neglected to charge my camera's battery before leaving, and it was totally dead. I took a bunch of pictures with the camera in my phone, and had a biker take one of me in front of the sign. The area seemed rather flat, so I walked around a little bit to try to make sure I had stood on the highest point. I ate a PBJ before getting back on the bike and heading back to the interstate to head to Tallahassee. I had previously stopped for a picture of my bike in front of the Capitol on a road trip I took in 2004, but didn't take a tour. This time I parked, walked around the grounds, and took a quick tour of the "new" and "old" Capitols. I arrived about a quarter to 4, and they closed for the day at 4:30. Let's just say I wasn't sufficiently enamored of the place to need to stick around any longer. In the 1970s, the original Capitol had become too small for the government. It already had as many wings as it could support, architecturally, and they didn't think the foundation would support building up. So, they built a giant, ugly, office tower, as was the style of the time. They were planning to demolish the old Capitol, but preservationists spoke out, and the state removed the wings and restored the old building to its 1902 state. I started my tour with the 22nd-floor observation deck/art gallery of the new Capitol. I wasn't especially impressed with the view. I went down from there to check out the Senate and House galleries, and wander around the rest of the areas open to the public. After I felt I had seen the "new" Capitol, I went across a courtyard to quickly check out the "old" Capitol. It was nice, but not that spectacular. Still, it's too bad they couldn't figure out a way to keep using it.
Tuesday morning was in the 40s again. I had my gear on, but it was still pretty cold on the bike. I rode through the rest of Georgia and into the northwestern corner of South Carolina. Just before getting to North Carolina, I went onto a nice tree-lined back road leading toward the state highpoint. The road got a lot narrower after an intersection, and ended at a parking area near the summit of Sassafras Mountain. I walked the short distance up a long disused road to the summit. The view was mostly obscured, and there wasn't much signifying the highpoint. I looked around and took a few pictures. The view was actually spectacular from a vantage point off of the parking area. The trees were a little past the peak "fall colors," but it still made a nice show. There was one car in the parking lot, and another pulled in while I was wandering around, but the first likely belonged to whomever was doing some work I could hear nearby, and the second never even really stopped. The road leading north off of the mountain into NC wasn't as well maintained as the road from the south, but it was still nice enough. I made my way to Asheville and then my GPS failed me trying to get to the Blue Ridge Parkway. It wasn't that far off, it just sent me through a residential area to go to an onramp that didn't exist. It was easy enough to make my own way onto the proper highway that lead to the BRP. While it had warmed up during the day, it cooled off quickly as I ascended into the mountains in the mid-afternoon. The view from the Parkway was quite spectacular. The road itself was well maintained and rather curvy. From the Parkway I turned into a state park with a road leading to Mount Mitchell, NC's highest peak. It got quite a bit colder as I climbed up even further. Near the top, there were spots of ice and very thin snow on the side of the road in the shadier spots. I parked and took a few pictures, then made my way up the path to the summit. It was an easy stroll, and there were several other people at the top.
Wednesday was another cold morning, but I finally wised up and put on every layer I had with me, adding long johns and a second pair of gloves and socks. I figured it would probably be overkill for the 8-mile round-trip hike to Virginia's highpoint, but it was a major help on the 40-mile bike ride to the trail head. I parked at the Massie Gap trail head and changed from riding gear to hiking gear. After about a half mile, the trail hooked up with the Appalachian Trail and followed it for about 2.5 miles before going onto a spur trail leading to the summit of Mt. Rogers. The trail got a little icy in spots in the trees. My trail running shoes weren't exactly the ideal footwear for the conditions. It was a major anticlimax once I reached the summit: I didn't realize it was the top so much because there was nowhere higher, but because the trail petered out. At first I tried to see where the trail went from there, until I realized I was at the summit. There wasn't a sign or anything, just a couple of survey markers on the two highest rock outcrops. There wasn't a view either, since it was heavily wooded. I took some pictures and ate a snack before heading back. Hiking back along the AT, I got lost at Rhododendron Gap. What happened was, I came up on a group of wild ponies that roam the area.
Thursday I again suited up with long underwear, two pairs of socks and gloves. I made my way down toward Great Smoky Mountains National Park. While the park was beautiful, it was unfortunate I had to pass through Pigeon Forge to get there. It is surely one of the tackier tourist traps I've been through. There was some construction on Clingmans Dome Road, closing one lane. Fortunately it wasn't nearly as bad as the construction in Glacier NP, and it didn't hold me up for long. As I got closer to the top, the wind picked up and clouds rolled in, obscuring the view. I stopped in to check out the gift shop and suggested they could make a killing selling hot chocolate on a day like that. Apparently I wasn't the first to suggest that, but the logistics wouldn't allow for it, they claimed. I walked up the spiraling asphalt walkway to the summit. More like jogged, actually, trying to warm up. I took some pictures from the structure at the summit, but it was pretty much just of the inside of a cloud, and some nearby trees. There were a number of people going up and down the path, but there was nobody on the tower when I got there (not really any reason to stick around, I suppose), so I used the timer on my camera to get a photo. At the bottom, I ran into some people who took a shot of me with the tower in the background. I headed from Clingmans back into North Carolina (actually, since it's so close to the state line, I may have crossed a few times getting to/from the summit). I cut the corner of NC and was back in Georgia. The highpoint, Brasstown Bald, is in the northeast corner of the state. There is a road that leads to the building at the top of the mountain, but the last section is closed to the public and the only tourist traffic is via a shuttle bus. While it wasn't quite as cold that I desperately needed to warm up, my legs work well, so I walked from the parking lot to the summit. While there were a number of cars in the lot, and several people up top, the only person I saw on the path was a guy walking his dog. It was quite windy at the summit. When I set my camera on a railing to get a picture of myself (nobody else was spending any more time than necessary outside), it blew over onto the ground and did some damage to the lens. It still works alright, but it took several power cycles. There was a nice view up there, even though it was mostly overcast.
My gear was mostly dry Friday morning, and with no rain in the forecast, it seemed likely it would be completely dry before long. After breakfast and packing up, I had an embarrassing incident while getting gas. I somehow neglected to get the kickstand down fully, and the bike flopped over into the pump. It wasn't hard to get it back upright, and it didn't seem to have been damaged, but I felt like an idiot. Safely on the road, it was a short ride to downtown Atlanta, where I parked in front of the Capitol. Other than the gold dome exterior, it was fairly plain. It's a nice building, but other than portraits there isn't much artwork. The House and Senate chambers lacked most of the modern trappings most state legislatures have added, such as computer monitors and such. That's not necessarily a detriment in my book, but I wonder if it hinders their ability to work effectively in this day and age. From Atlanta, I rode west back into Alabama. A short ways off the interstate, I picked up the Talladega Scenic Drive, one of the nicer rides of the whole trip. It dropped me off in Cheaha State Park, where I rode up right in front of the stone structure at the state highpoint.
Saturday was a pretty boring ride. The only things of any interest were Harley shops I stopped at in Lafayette, LA and Beaumont, TX because I had the time, and they more or less lined up with gas stops. I got home mid-afternoon, before dark, and because I'm probably more than a little nuts, I ran a 5k in the middle of the night, after some sleep, to take advantage of the end of Daylight Savings Time.