Three Italians, a Honda, and Two Snakes take on the North Georgia Mountains

For two weekends in a row now, moto camping has been axed by severe thunderstorms in the mountains. Whenever the weather forecast calls for severe thunderstorms, I stow my camping gear for another try on another day. Down here in the southeastern U.S., severe t-storms are no joke.

But Sunday was a gorgeous day. As the storms rolled through Saturday they pushed the triple digit temps and the ungodly humidity out and sucked in cool, dry air to take their place. A perfect day to get some big clicks on the ST’s odometer. The destination is Turner’s Corner Cafe in Cleveland, Georgia, a popular biker hangout for breakfast and lunch in preparation for the most gorgeous scenery and twisty roads in the North Georgia Mountains. Today’s ride would net us 301 fantastic miles!

I hooked up with a riding partner whom I have not seen in a while for this journey, to share the beauty of the Georgia mountains, try out Turner’s Corner Cafe, and catch up. The three Italians is not quite an accurate statement. Actually, we are two human Italiano’s and one Italiano mecchanica. Between the two of us, our last names have all the vowels in the english language covered. The Italiano mecchanica belongs to my riding partner. Today, his weapon of choice for these mountain roads was the Aprilia Mana.

EAST & WEST MEET. IT WAS A GOOD PARTNERSHIP

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Turner’s Corner Cafe was established in 1928, and started out as a gas station, then a general store for the folks living in this rural area of Georgia. Charlie Turner opened his store here, at the intersection of what is now GA state highways 129 and 19. At the time , it was dubbed Turner’s corner, and the name has stuck to this day.

Turner’s corner

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The store has had a checkered past through the years, so in the 1940’s, Charlie decided he needed to add some excitement in order to draw more folks to his store. Old timers say that Charlie adopted a pet bear, and people flocked from miles away to see Charlies bear and buy bottled drinks to give him to guzzle down. You can see Charlies bear and the history of the cafe here.

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This is not the place to be if you want to chill and enjoy scintillating conversation with other motorcyclists. Not even the place to be for a good meal (my sammich left much to be desired). The noise level is hearing loss loud, but intoxicating! The sound of all the exhausts of twins, V-4’s, in-line 4’s, triples and sixe’s coming together hear is a symphony to a motorcyclists ears (if one can still hear). Sportbikes dominated the scene here, with sport-touring and touring bikes filling in the gap. Conspicuously absent while we were there were the open pipe crowd, presumably because of the ground clearance needed to negotiate these mountains, or it just wasn’t there kind of place.

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A sound we wished not to hear came piercing through the noise of motorbike engines: sirens. Lots of sirens and the associated emergency vehicles horns and engines taching up that go with them. Never a good sign.

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A Tale of Two Snakes

 After lunch it was time to give the bikes their first dance number; GA Hwy 75. We traveled north towards Hiawassee, Georgia on some beautiful twisty tarmac. Somewhere along the way, as I was in the lead, I was told I ran over a snake, then my partner ran over it. He said as he looked in his mirror he saw a pissed off snake raise it’s head, presumably to bite whatever disturbed it’s sunning slumber. Don’t know what kind of snake it was, but it must have been damn powerful to survive two motorbikes ironing it out (inadvertently, I might add).

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I, however, had a snake encounter of a different kind, and I do know what kind of snake it was. The most dangerous and poisonous slithering reptile to a motorcyclist is the infamous tar snake.

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As we climbed toward Hiawassee, I started to wick it up a bit and have some more fun. There were a few snakes in the road, but then they started becoming more numerous. My rear wheel started getting twitchy, so I eased off the throttle and took it a bit easier. Leaning into a left hander like the photo above, my front wheel slid off a huge tar snake and went out sideways. By the time the tire regained traction, the ST was heading for the outside of the curve and into the woods. Whoa! Shiiiittt! I pushed the left grip hard and leaned the beaST way over. My left leg came out flat track style, not intentionally, but by reflex as the big Honda tracked to the middle of the road and straightened up. Whew! I slowed way down, as it took me a few curves to gather myself together again.

My buddy was running his GoPro on the ride, and when we came to a stop a few miles down the road, I asked him if he got my flat track sequence on video. NO! His GoPro batteries died! Damn! Well, no additional takes on that movie scene from me. Get a stunt double.

A great ride finished off with a few more curvaceous mountain roads before slithering back down into the heat of South Carolina.  A cold shower, colder beer, and two happy beagles await me.

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