This July I had my most enjoyable motorcycle trip to date – riding in the mountains of Georgia, North Carolina and Tennessee with my daughter Courtney. Courtney has always enjoyed riding with me, so when she turned 16, she took the Rider’s Edge course taught by the local HD dealership. She scored the highest in the class on both the written exam and the on-bike exam. I knew that she was a natural and would progress quickly. Over the next two years, we had a few opportunities to ride together, but school and work mostly kept her away from home.
This summer we decided to take the time to make our first road trip. My first bike was a Kawaski Vulcan 750 and I gave that to my oldest son when I got my Vulcan 2000. The 750 is a great starter bike – not too heavy, easy to handle, low seat and super reliable. Over the course of a few days we did a couple of local rides with me on my 2000 and Courtney on the 750 to help her get her “sea legs” back, and then took off for the mountains of GA, NC and TN on July 4th.
If it was just me, I would have left Jacksonville on I-10 West and then taken I-75 past Atlanta. But with a relatively new rider, we needed to keep to secondary roads. So we started off by heading south on State Road 13, arguably one of the prettiest rides in Northeast Florida. This parallels the St. Johns river and is a smooth two-lane road with grand oak trees forming a canopy over the road. We picked up Rt 16 in Orangedale and crossed the river on the Shands Bridge. We continued west toward Starke and just past Camp Blanding we got onto Rt 225 north.
The weather had been threatening and I debated stopping to put on our rain gear. I chose not to so of course it started to rain (this is one of the universal laws of motorcycling). We crossed US 301 at Lawtey, and pulled into a gas station to put on our rain jackets. From there it was North on Rt 125 through the Okefenokee Swamp and then Rt 2 to the FL-GA border. FL 2 becomes GA 94 and just south of Fargo, GA we picked up Rt 441 and continued north. At this point the skies cleared and we packed away the rain gear. We would not need it for the remainder of the trip.
Rt 441 pretty much parallels I-75 heading north through Georgia, but it is mostly two lanes with some sections 4-lane divided highway. The speeds were fine, the traffic was pretty light, and there were plenty of places to stop for gas and cold drinks. Ummm… except you need to know when to stop for gas. The gas guage on the 750 is very misleading. When it gets to half, you’ve got to fill up. You can just about watch the needle drop when it gets below half. I suddenly noticed that I couldn’t see Courtney in my mirrors. I stopped at a traffic light at the top of a hill and waited, but no Courtney.
Getting concerned, I did a U-turn and raced back and saw her standing on the side of the road, but I couldn’t see her bike. The highway was divided there, so I sped on to the next intersection where I could turn around and raced back to her. She was fine and the bike was parked on a side street. She said that it bucked a few times, then all of the lights came on, then it died. What a good learning opportunity! “See this valve under the gas tank? Turn it this way and you are on reserve!” LOL… The bike started right up and there was a gas station at the top of the hill where I had waited at the light. We filled up and drove off with the confidence that you feel when you have a full tank of gas.
We took the 441 loop around Athens GA and picked up Rt 129. There were cars parked everywhere along the sides of the roads. What’s up? Ah, 4th of July fireworks at the local park. People were waiting to see the show! That would have been fun to watch but we continued northwest until just before dark, stopping at a motel at I-85. 411 miles for our first day – not bad.