A GA400 Ride Report
There is precious little that I enjoy more than a well-planned ride. Except all the little things that happen along the way that make a total mockery of your plan.
That would be the theme for my ride in this year‘«÷s GA400, the second annual running of the BMW Motorcycle Owners of Georgia event, a scavenger hunt through the wilds of north Georgia and sometimes Alabama, North Carolina and Tennessee.
The brainchild of the devious Wolfgang Enneker, and this year assisted by the demented Wes McCann, this event is designed to test your planning and navigation skills as you ride your motorcycle in search of Bonus locations and the points they hold. The basic idea is that you have no more than 9 hours and 400 miles to drive yourself nuts trying to find as many of the locations that Wolfgang and Wes have laid out for the ride. All the details can be found at www.GA400.org
After (ahem) winning the inaugural event last year, and totally laying waste to Wolfgang‘«÷s carefully-laid plans by ground-pounding on my GS through the woods of Tennessee, something that the normally-fastidious Wolfy didn‘«÷t count on, my plan of attack this year was to go retro‘«™ and ride my /2 without the benefit of a GPS.
Early morning preparations for a classic day.
Noticing that this year‘«÷s event would include a ‘«£Classic‘«ō group, aimed at attracting people who don‘«÷t use a GPS, and also noting that the legendary Magellan (Mike Knowles) and his trusty sidekick Buster Moldenhauer would be riding in the GPS group, I elected to wuss-out and not risk inglorious defeat at the hands, or should I say handlebars, of these two fierce competitors.
I had a plan‘«™
However, to pad my odds I would plan my route carefully using mapping software and placing turn-by-turn printouts in my tankbag. The rules didn‘«÷t say anything about using mapping software to figure out the best way to collect bonus points. One of the best things about this event is that the bonus locations are published before the event, so you can spend time planning‘«™ and poring over maps, which is something that I find very enjoyable.
However, you don‘«÷t need mapping software to participate in the GA400. And you don‘«÷t need detailed maps to find the bonus locations, many of which are found on roads that aren‘«÷t on your everyday gas station maps. Wolfgang and Wes do a killer job of preparing a route book, complete with all the bonus locations, a detailed map of where they are, and a picture of what you‘«÷re looking for. It‘«÷s so easy! Or so I thought.
So did Wolfgang‘«™
I am positive that ever since the closing minute of last year‘«÷s event, where he was totally baffled how I scored so many points (you should have seen his face!), Wolfgang has been hard at work trying to make sure I couldn‘«÷t do it again. Well, he done good, because I wasn‘«÷t able to find a way to pull the same trick twice. Well, in honesty, I didn‘«÷t try too hard because off-roading with my R69S was out of the question.
Wolfgang (on the right) explains his evil plan to Mark.
Wolfgang did come up with a sneaky trap that suckered me in, though. Called the ‘«£Dam Combo,‘«ō it was an extra 1,002 points for visiting two dams, Nottley and Hartwell, that create two lakes that many Georgia Mountain Rally-goers see as they enter the state from the north or northeast.
So I built my plan around this bonus, and chose a sprinkling of other locations along the way. By my estimates, I would amass over 18,000 points and according to the mapping software, would take about 12 hours to ride. Given the event has a 9-hour limit, I figured that I could make up the time because the software calculates rest periods and speed limits that, well‘«™ never mind!
Plugging in my iPOD and pulling on my helmet, I made a leisurely departure from the Simply Southern Restaurant in Freehome (the rally starting point) at about 8:05 am‘«™ and headed north to the first bonus location. Heading toward the first dam, the temps were a beautiful 60 degrees, so I set the throttle at a nice 60 mph. The /2 just seems to like that speed.
Then, thinking about the event‘«÷s time limit, and with The Grateful Dead‘«÷s ‘«£Friend of the Devil‘«ō playing in my ears, I cranked it up to 70 which is about as fast as the /2 is gonna go. In the words of the song:
Set out runnin' but I take my time
A friend of the devil is a friend of mine
If I get home before daylight,
I just might get some sleep tonight.
That was my goal‘«™ get home before daylight ended. Stopping in Blue Ridge to collect two bonuses, and taking a lovely ride down Loving Road (a new road for me), I arrived at Nottley Dam and bagged the first half of my primary objective. Buster & Magellan pulled up just as I was about to head out, so I told them the answer to the question in the ride book, kick-started the bike and headed onward.
After collecting points at Track Rock Gap and Enotah Baptist Church, I headed south on 17 along those delicious twisties (dang!, I wish my bike had some semblance of brakes‘«™) through Helen and noticed that I was experiencing a Grosjean number: 11,111 miles on my R69S odometer. IBMWR Presidents know of what I speak, and I took a picture to commemorate the event.
A Grosjean number on the /2!
Is that a HOG?
The bonus location at the Stovall Mill Covered Bridge, outside of Helen, was the first of many stops in rather public surroundings. (Get Doug Peters to tell you his Commerce story‘«™) Given that the /2 is rather unusual, it always gets a bit of attention and the inevitable question: ‘«£What year is your bike?‘«ō But at this stop, someone asks me ‘«£Is that a HOG?‘«ō Without busting out laughing, I politely explained that the bike is a BMW, to which the usual answer was received: ‘«£I didn‘«÷t know BMW made motorcycles!‘«ō I would have loved to have taken the time to explain the history of the marque, but had to say ‘«£Yep‘«™ but I have to go!‘«ō
The Macon Ace, Doug Peters (left) gets a few Iron Butt tips from Greg Roberts
I would have loved to have told them that the theme of this year‘«÷s GA400 was the History of Georgia‘«™ or HOG, which made their question even funnier than it was. And I was rather enjoying the locations that Wolfgang and Wes had researched for the ride‘«™ they are to be commended for their extremely creative thinking.
Onward toward Toccoa, where I got lost. Actually, I knew where I was, I just couldn‘«÷t find the bonus location, thanks to someone who had taken down an important road sign. And I also made a major mistake‘«™ I wasted about 45 minutes trying to find the bonus. Man, I was beginning to miss my GPS, which would have had the location programmed in, missing road sign or not.
Collecting the bonus for calling-in, I asked Wolfgang ‘«£the Toccoa bonus isn‘«÷t actually in Toccoa, is it?‘«ō He said no, it was just outside of town and gave me a small clue. I was finally able to find the spot, two monuments dedicated to the 506th Parachute Infantry Regiment, wrote down the pertinent information in the ride book, and headed on my way.
At that point, way behind schedule, I thought about pulling the ripcord and bailing on the event. After all, this was a fun run for me‘«™ but then, the B52s started singing the Deadbeat Club:
‘«£Anyway we can,
We're gonna find something
We'll dance in the garden
In torn sheets in the rain‘«ō
Weird, I know, but I was going to find that second Dam any way I could‘«™ and then head back to the finish.
Along the way, I hit the Ty Cobb Museum bonus, the Hart County bonus, and headed to the Hartwell Dam to collect the Two Dam bonus. SUCCESS!
But wait, the next bonus was the Georgia Guidestones‘«™ and heck, I had come this far, and it was a big bonus, so I just had bag just that one more. It‘«÷s a compulsion.
The Guidestones are quite bizarre, an ‘«£important link to the Occult Hierarchy that dominates the world in which we live.‘«ō Or so says a website that describes them. The Guidestones anticipate ‘«£The Age of Reason‘«ō which also happens to be the title of a book written by Thomas Paine, who said:
‘«£The most formidable weapon against errors of every kind is Reason. I have never used any other, and I trust I never shall.‘«ō
Well, I decided to listen to reason and started heading back toward Freehome, the Rally start/finish location.
There was only one problem‘«™ since I was too cheap to buy a real map, I didn‘«÷t know where I was. One of the main reasons I chose to ride the route I did (there were many options) is that I had never been out in this part of the state before.
‘«£OK‘«™ Freehome is west of here‘«™ so start following the sun.‘«ō Well, I had to head south on GA77 just a bit to get to Elberton, just so that I could find a major road heading west. GA72 shows up, I take a flyer and turn right. It‘«÷s a very nice road that I haven‘«÷t ridden before, and as it turns out, it heads straight to Athens. From there I know the way.
129 north through Gainesville, 369 northwest across Lake Lanier, pass north of Cumming and then a backroad that hits GA20 just east of Freehome. I was only 25 minutes late (I should have listed to the voice of reason before I reached the Age of Reason!) and turned in my pile of receipts, along with the wildcard bonus: a birthday card for Buster.