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Welcome to official blog of the Florida West Coast Motorcycle Club. An American Motorcycle Association Historic Club (No. 165), we are a family oriented riding and social club with a history back to 1936. Our motto is "Ride and Have Fun". Learn more about us or how to join our club.

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Riding the Georgia Mountains

     We first rode up to the Georgia mountains to celebrate our wedding anniversary. I can’t recall the exact year, but it must have been around 1999 or 2000 – I’m pretty sure I had my black ’99 Road Glide back then. 
One of the rooms at Chancey Hill B&B, which was called Mountain
 Memories B&B when we first found it about a dozen years ago
   Beth says I found a bed & breakfast in Hiawassee on the Internet, a place called Mountain Memories, which turned out to be at the top of a VERY steep street not too far from Hiawassee’s main drag. The place had five guest rooms and a great view of the nearby mountains.       We planned to stay there for a couple of nights and just ride around the area during the day, checking out the local sights.
     Purely by accident, we happened to be in the area on the weekend of the local Georgia Mountain Fall Festival, which is held maybe a mile or two from the B&B. It’s at a permanent site called the GeorgiaMountain Fairgrounds, located on the shores of Lake Chatuge. We rode over for a look and really liked the festival. Instead of being out in a hot field, the festival grounds are in a heavily wooded area, which provides plenty of shade and a sense that you are walking around an old mountain village.
     I’ve always felt that most country fairs are kind of cheesy, but this one manages to be a few notches above that – there’s no carnival rides, just a little train that drags little kids through the fairgrounds. Most of the many exhibitors don’t have anything that I want, but this year I did find a cool leather cowboy hat, and a handmade leather wallet to replace the disintegrating one I’ve been carrying around for the past decade. 
View of the mountains from our room at Chancey Hill B&B
   Over the years, we’ve gone up to Hiawassee three or four times for the Fall Festival, but we hadn’t been for maybe five years, so we decided a long weekend trip was in order, and we put it on the FWCMC calendar to see if anyone would like to go along. Danny Buckley, Glo Walsh and Marie Buckley signed up right away.
     Some days before we left Pinellas County, Glo decided it might be better not to ride her Sportster such a long distance, so instead she and husband Jerry decided to drive up to Georgia in their RV. They dragged along Jerry’s dresser and got up to the mountains a day ahead of the rest of us, meeting us for lunch when we arrived at the Dillard House for lunch.
     So here is how it went: Bill, Beth, Danny and Marie left on an early Thursday morning from the club’s North departure spot at the Circle K on Tampa Road and ground out a morning’s worth of miles on I-75. We got to Lake City near the Georgia state line by around 11:30 a.m., just in time for lunch at a place called Mike’s CafĂ© and Grill, a place I had found on Yelp before we left. We never would have found Mike’s without Yelp – the place was located in a strip mall (hey, Lake City is still Florida) on a side street near the Interstate.
     After lunch, we headed east until we found Rte. 441, a mostly two-lane highway that takes you all the way to the Georgia mountains while avoiding Atlanta. We spent the rest of the day on 441 and ended up in Milledgeville for the night. Mileage for the day: About 430 miles.
Danny at Buffington's in downtown
 Milledgeville, where we had dinner
   This is where we said goodbye to Marie, who had decided before we left that she wanted to head east toward the Georgia coast and then on to Jacksonville and then Daytona to visit some friends and some H-D dealerships. We were sad to see her go because she’s such an amiable and fun traveling companion.
     So, with Marie heading east, the rest of us headed north, continuing up 441 for about a 2.5 hour leg that took us to TallulahFalls. This is a very beautiful series of waterfalls that Wikipedia describes this way:
     “Tallulah Gorge…is formed by the Tallulah River cutting through the Tallulah Dome rock formation. The gorge is approximately two miles long and features rocky cliffs up to 1,000 feet high. Through it, a series of falls known as Tallulah Falls drops a total of 490 feet in one mile. Tallulah Falls is actually composed of six separate falls… “ 
Tallulah Falls
   Danny, Beth and I paid the $5-per-vehicle parking fee and drove on to the Visitor Center before walking a hundred yards or so to the first lookout. We ended up spending about an hour there before riding on to Dillard House for lunch, about 30 minutes further up the road. 
Sorry, couldn't get all the food in the picture
      If you haven’t eaten at Dillard House, it’s an experience not to be missed. There’s always a big crowd there, but the wait for a table is very short – they’ve got plenty of seating available.

     Here is the big draw – you don’t order off a menu, you just sit down, order drinks, and the food processional starts almost immediately. Waiters and waitresses start carrying out the big platters of food that is served family-style, just like mom laying out food at Thanksgiving. Fried chicken, chicken-fried steak, country ham (hope you like salt), catfish, creamed corn, green beans with ham, two styles of potatoes, etc. etc. It just keeps coming out of the kitchen until you cry uncle.
     Everything is cooked just right and you leave with the buttons popping off your shirt. It’s truly an experience.  
The group after lunch. We got some
 poor passerby to take the photo
      Dillard House is where Jerry and Glo met us, having ridden their bike over from their campground in Hiawassee. Once we were done eating, Danny rode on to his motel in nearby Clayton while Jerry, Glo, Beth and I rode about half-hour or so to Hiawassee. Beth and I found our turn to the B&B (which is now called Chancey Hill Inn Bed & Breakfast), and we got checked in and settled for the night. After gorging on all that southern fare at the Dillard house at around 2 in the afternoon, we figured we wouldn’t need dinner, and that’s how it worked out.
     Next morning, just as we planned, the four of us met up at the local McDonald’s at around 10 a.m. for the short ride to the fairgrounds. Jerry dropped Glo off and went off for a ride while the rest of us met outside the gates.
     This was a pretty good deal cost-wise. It cost $11 per head to get in, and that INCLUDED the concerts, which on this day was going to be Ricky Skaggs and Kentucky Thunder.
     Around 2005, we rode with friends up to New England and attended the Maine Lobster Festival in Rockland, Maine. Ricky Skaggs was the headliner at that event, too. I knew who Ricky Skaggs was, but I can’t say I was all that familiar with him or the Bluegrass music he played – the last time I really listed to Bluegrass was when I was young and was sort of a fan of Flatt and Scruggs.
     That concert just blew us away, and we became fans on the spot of Ricky Skaggs and his band, Kentucky Thunder. When we saw they were playing at the Georgia Mountain Festival this year, it was a major reason for us to decide to go.
Rickey Skaggs and Kentucky Thunder
   We weren’t disappointed. A very good eight-piece house band came out and played about 40 minutes’ worth of country music, and then Ricky Skaggs took the stage with his six-piece band. The banjo, mandolin and guitar picking was just unbelievable, and the guy playing standup bass did a couple of solo riffs that were really spectacular. A GREAT concert.
     We all gathered that evening for a meal at Brothers in Young Harris, a place I recognized. I’ve eaten there before, just can’t remember exactly when. This was a fun, relaxing meal that made me realize how lucky I am to have such good friends.
     This was the last time we saw everyone. Danny was going to accompany Beth and me south the next day, but he called to say he had decided to get an earlier start Sunday morning and ride the 600+ miles home to Pinellas in one day. Beth and I were planning on making it a two-day trip with an overnight stop in Americus, in Georgia’s southwest corner.
      So Sunday morning we headed east, planning to go to Clayton and pick up 441 again for the ride south. But a few miles out of Hiawassee the Garmin told me to turn south onto Rte. 17, which we did. It was a great motorcycle road that took us to Helen,Ga., a German-like community that is definitely worth a look if you are ever up that way. We didn’t stop (it was WAY crowded, parking was at a real premium and we have been there before) but we enjoyed gawking as we passed through. 
   We got to Americus around 5 p.m. and settled in at the Windsor Hotel, a GREAT 100-year-old downtown hotel that was restored a few years back. We have stayed there may times and we never get tired of it.
     When we rode by the front of the building I noticed a good-looking blue dresser parked out front, and thought it looked a lot like Jim DeLeo’s bike, which has a rare color combination. By the time we checked in, I had forgotten about it.
     Next morning, however, we were eating breakfast in the Windsor’s beautiful dining room (we were the only customers) and who walks in but Jim, who was heading north for some riding in Kentucky and Tennessee. It
was great to see him and we enjoyed a little breakfast together before we went our separate ways.
     Monday was about what we expected – 350 miles down US19 and home.  The nice part of this day is that US19 up north, in southern Georgia and northern Florida, is a really nice ride with good scenery and little traffic.
     We thought about lunch in Perry, but there really isn’t much there in the way of restaurants, so we pressed on to Barbecue Bill's in Chiefland. That made for a late lunch but we like eating there and we ran into a couple of Harley guys who were heading home to Chicago after a week of riding through Florida.
So all-in-all this was a delightful five-day excursion with great friends through some very scenic country. Let’s do it again!
     Here are some additional pictures:

Friday, August 30, 2013

Tale of the Cobra

     Before we got to the Tail of the Dragon last weekend, we spent some quality time on the Cherohala Skyway, which winds its way through almost 40 miles of Tennessee and North Carolina back country.
     At one point Scott led us off the road and onto a scenic overlook, where we spent a little time taking pictures. While we were there, a really beautiful silver Cobra came in and parked near us. A middle-aged couple got out.
 The woman headed for the rest room, and Scott approached the man and asked him about the car, specifically whether it was an original Cobra or a reproduction. The man said it was a built from a kit.
     “I don’t own it, but I helped build it,” the man said.  “It belongs to the lady.”
     The fellow went on to tell us that the woman’s husband had purchased the kit, but he soon was diagnosed with Lou Gehig’s Disease and had to stop the construction project before it had really begun.
     “I was a friend of his,” the man said. “When Don got sick, 40 friends got together and we all pitched in and finished the car.”
     The car was completed in 2009. The owner, Don "Vorcy" Voorhis, got a chance to drive it. He died just three months after it was completed.
      The driver said that the woman, Cheryl Voorhis, didn’t drive the car, but every once in a while she liked to take a ride in it, so he would go over and they would get the car out of the garage and take it for a spin.
     A beautiful car, and a beautiful story.
     If you would like to see a step-by-step report on the build process for this car, visit:

Thursday, August 29, 2013

Riding the Dragon


     This adventure to the Tail of the Dragon got started innocently enough – Scott Tillesen happened to mention that he was going to ride by himself to Milwaukee for the 110th Harley birthday celebration, and he said he intended to ride the dragon on his way there.
     That sounded interesting to me because I had never ridden the Dragon – I’d been up and down the Blue Ridge Parkway many times, and I had ridden a bit in the Smokey Mountains, but I had never made it to the Dragon. I told Scott that if he could put up with me I might like to ride along with him as far as the Dragon, and then head back home when he continued his trip northward.
     Scott suggested that I ask other FWCMC members if they would like to come along, so I put out an e-mail inviting anyone and everyone along. That got a response from Danny Buckley and Jim Lawrence. We started making plans.
     On Saturday, Aug. 24, we headed north from Scott’s driveway.
Minor repair to Jim's bike on the way out of Florida
   Our plan was to put in a fairly long day on Saturday to get north of Atlanta, and that’s what we did – about 530 miles to an extended-stay motel, Sun Suites, in the town of Cumming, Ga. This place wasn’t exactly a disaster but my no-smoking room smelled strongly of cigarettes and Jim’s room didn’t have any pillows. It also had the world’s slowest check-in clerk – it took the better part of an hour to get all four of us checked in.
     We started off Sunday by looking around for a breakfast spot. The two places I found on Yelp were out of business. We ended up in an IHOP about 20 miles up the road.
     Our plan was to ride a couple of hours to the Dragon, spend some time doing that road, then riding on to Maggie Valley for a visit to the Wheels Through Time motorcycle museum. That didn’t even come close to working out; it took longer to get to the Dragon than we thought because of the country roads and the fact that we decided to include a tour of the Cherohala Skyway, which turned the 11-mile Dragon into a 120-mile loop. We hoped we would get to Maggie Valley by mid-afternoon; instead, we rolled into town at 8 p.m., just in time to meet ol’ pal Roger Reed for dinner.
     Anyway, back to the Cherohala Skyway and the Dragon…
Scott leads the group through a turn on the Dragon
   This is a really gorgeous set of roads, and they are crowded with motorcyclists. The Cherohala is longer and has gentle, sweeping curves. Some people we met said they really prefer the Cherohala to the Dragon because it is so scenic and easier to ride. I liked ‘em both.

Da Dragon!
     If you haven’t ridden the Dragon, it should be on your bucket list. Go back to the July newsletter and read Jim DeLeo’s story about riding up in that area, and Google up some stories and pictures. The Dragon is something like 318 curves in 11 miles, which means a lot of banking, turning and countersteering. We came upon one accident (a sport bike traveling in a group of sport bikes) and one section of construction that reduced the road to a single lane, with traffic controlled by temporary traffic lights.
     Actually, the stress level on the Dragon was less intense than I expected. It’s challenging, but not so tough that any decent experienced rider shouldn’t be able to handle it. It also was shorter than I expected – it was over pretty quickly.
     Once we got done, we rode on to Maggie Valley. As it turned out, the shortest way to Maggie Valley was going to mean a return trip on the Dragon, something that none of us really wanted to do. So we took an alternate route, north and east through the Great Smokey Mountains National Park. This was a very beautiful ride, but it added some time to our day.
     There was going to be no time for the museum in Maggie Valley, so we decided to put that off until the next morning. We got to Wheels Through Time at just about the 9 a.m. opening time. 

A 4-cylinder Henderson
   This visit was the highlight of the trip, at least for me. Wheels Through Time is, according to its own website, “the world's premier collection of rare American vintage motorycles,” and that may not be an overly-ambitious claim. The museum contains more than 300 of America's rarest and most historic classic motorcycles. There are more than 24 brands on display -- Harley-Davidson, Indian, Excelsior, Crocker, Henderson, and many more.
     Besides road bikes, there are board track racers, hill-climbers, dirt track racers, choppers, bobbers, and one-off machines of all types.
An Indian drome racer
     Owner-founder Dale Walksler was on hand, and as we were leaving he was out in the parking lot, happily giving a sidecar ride to one of his museum visitors.
     After about an hour-and-a-half visit, we were ready to go. This was Monday morning, and we wanted to make it home by Tuesday afternoon. That meant a 350-mile ride to Americus, Ga., that afternoon, and then another 350-mile ride on Tuesday. We got to Americus by about 6 p.m., and we were on the road again the next morning by 7:30. We were back in Pinellas County by around 3 p.m. after a long day down US19.
     This was a great ride. We saw a lot and did a lot in just four days. I think maybe we’ll put this back on the schedule for next year. Anybody game?

Saturday, August 3, 2013

Cigar City HOG

One of the greatest things about motorcycling is getting to meet other bikers. Today, Holly and I road out to Tampa Harley-Davidson on North Dale Mabry Highway to attend the Cigar City HOG Chapter meeting as a guest of Director Mark Freeman. Since transitioning from the Fletcher's HOG chapter to an AMA club, I've been trying to reach out to other local riding clubs and chapters to forge relationships.

The tiki bar meeting location
Unlike most club meetings I've attended, Cigar City has a Saturday morning meeting with a ride afterwards. Very fitting for Florida, the meeting was held outside a Tampa Harley's huge tiki bar. Donuts and coffee were served and I got to socialize with some really great people.

One of the main reasons for my attending was to invite them to join us on our trip to Sturgis in 2014. I gave a little of the history of our club and hopefully got a few people interested in the trip.

Me and Holly enjoying the morning meeting in the shade
Director Mark Freeman (left) conducts the ride meeting
After the meeting we joined the group for a ride planned out to New Port Richey. About twenty-five of us took of on a bright and hot sunny Florida day. Unfortunately, a mechanical problem hit ride leader Mark Freeman's bike half way through the ride. His throttle decided to stop working.

While the group waited for Mark to get a tow back the dealer the heat was getting the best of us. We said goodbye to our new friends, and headed for home.