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Day Trippin’ Through the Mountains With Karla Duncan and Friends Article & Photos By: Karla Duncan

Written by  Karla Duncan August 2, 2021

                It’s 6:00 a.m. and we’re on our way to Georgia with some of our fellow Charity Riders club members and closest friends. There are six of us headed for a weekend getaway and we couldn’t be happier! Who wouldn’t be happy to get away for some much needed wind therapy, not sure where all it will take you? There is so much beauty to be found in our great state of Alabama, and trust me, we have seen a lot, but we’re ready to see some new sights and venture upon some new long and winding roads we’ve never been before. The mountains are calling to us, and we have answered the call, so off we go!

 

            We based our trip in Dahlonega, Georgia- site of the Georgia Gold Rush in the early 1920s and home to a US Mint branch that minted gold coins from 1838 to 1861 before it closed. Our stay was at Comfort Inn and Suites where the staff was great! We arrived, unloaded our bikes, checked into our rooms and then off we went for our day one adventure to downtown Dahlonega to find some lunch.

            We ended up at Shenanigan’s Pub where we had some traditional Irish pub food. The food was great and so was the fellowship! The quaint town square in Dahlonega was so neat. Whatever you wanted, you could probably find it. From a Mexican restaurant, to a steak house, to seafood- it was all there for the choosing. There was also an ice cream shop and a candy shop for anyone who had a sweet tooth. The sidewalks were full of people and laughter- with wine tasting, antique finds and spooky ghost tours - there was something for everyone! We spent some time looking around and to take some pictures before we jumped on the bikes to head out to our next adventure.

            We rode over to Helen, Georgia to see what it was all about. It is a south- German style town that is a replica of a Bavarian Alps town in the Appalachians, instead of in the Alps. They host their own Oktoberfest each year during September, October and November. This city has a total area of 2.1 square miles, all land.

            We parked the bikes and walked through the small town that had some beautiful architecture. There were many buildings that were stylized to make the town look like an old Bavarian town, including a windmill. There were several restaurants that offered authentic Bavarian food choices and even more shops that offered giant pretzels, funnel cakes, candy and Braats. A lot of the workers from the shops wore traditional clothing that would be found in a south –German town. Besides the food and architecture, a mountain coaster could be found and also the Chattahoochee River runs through the town, so kayaking and tubing was a choice for many of the tourists we saw. We decided to have dinner in Helen, so we ate at Subs and Bubs, where several of us had Braats on buns or some other tasty treat. After dinner we rode back to our hotel in Dahlonega for some much needed rest before day two in the mountains.

            The next day we had a quick breakfast at the hotel and mapped out our day for riding and exploring the beauty around us. We opted to ride over into North Carolina and ride the Tail of the Dragon again. Last we rode it, we rode from the head (in Tennessee) to the tail (in North Carolina). This time we decided to ride the exact opposite. We started the ride at Deal’s Gap which is an internationally famous destination for motorcycle and sports car enthusiasts. Known since 1981 as “The Dragon”, it is a mountain pass along the North Carolina-Tennessee state lines, bordering the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Both motorcycles and cars alike can be found on these very dangerous curves- approximately 37 traffic fatalities alone were recorded on the Dragon from 2000 to 2017.

            At Deal’s Gap, we visited the store there to get our souvenirs and have some lunch at The Dragon’s Den Grill. The food was really good and was very affordable. As we ate, we talked and watched all the people around us that were visiting. There were people, bikes and cars from so many different places across the country. There is a special tree that is on the premises at Deal’s Gap, and it is so interesting. The tree is called the “Tree of Shame” and it has parts of all different kinds of motorcycles on it to represent those that wrecked on the Dragon and lived to tell about it, but also is a heavy reminder of those that lost their lives there as well.

            After lunch, we mounted the bikes and headed out on the Dragon. It has 318 curves in 11 miles on Highway 129. The twisty road did not disappoint and the views riding through the canopy of trees and the beautiful overlooks were absolutely breathtaking. When we reached the Tennessee side of the Dragon, we stopped at the 129 Dragon Harley Davidson store to stretch our legs and get our poker chips and other souvenirs.

            After we were refreshed, we decided we also wanted to try to ride the Cherohala Skyway, so we headed out to find those alluring curves! The Cherohala Skyway is a 43 mile National Scenic Byway and National Forest Scenic Byway that connects Tellico Plains, Tennessee to Robbinsville, North Carolina. It’s name is a portmanteau of Cherokee and Nantahala, the two National Forests through which it passes. Half of the Skyway follows Tennessee State Route 165 for nearly 25 miles and the other half follows North Carolina Highway 143 for just over 18 miles. The Skyway rises from a low point of just under 900 feet at Tellico Plains, to a high point of just over 5400 feet near the Tennessee-North Carolina state lines. Planning for the Skyway began in 1958 and it was completed on October 12, 1996, 38 years in the making!

            We began our ride from the Tennessee side of the Skyway. The curves and twisties found along this road were exhilarating! The beauty of the surrounding trees, flowers and mountain views were great! There was a lot of traffic on the Skyway- all kinds of motorcycles and other vehicles. After riding for a while, we found Cherohala (Tellico Plains) Harley Davidson and stopped there to stretch our legs and to get our poker chips and other souvenirs.

            After we had rested, we headed back out to finish our journey. When we had completed the ride through to the other side in North Carolina, we made our way back to Dahlonega, Georgia, where we went back to the historic downtown square to find some dinner. We decided on Mexican, but couldn’t find the Mexican restaurant, so we settled for seafood instead at 19° North Seafood and Grill. The food was amazing and the staff was exceptional!

            This would be our last night in the mountains, so we took our time and enjoyed ourselves. After dinner and a walk through the town square again, we headed back to the hotel to get ready for our departure the next morning.

            The morning we left, we had a quick breakfast at the hotel, loaded the bikes and casually headed back home again. Our time spent together and making memories was priceless and we enjoyed great fun with our Charity Riders brothers and sisters- our family! We loved our adventure riding through the mountains on two wheels, but it was also great to be back home in our Sweet Home Alabama! We went our separate ways, to our own homes, to get ready to be able to organize our next adventure together! Who knows where we’ll end up next time!

            Contributing photos by: Tammy Jenks & Jerald Spearman2021 Day Trippin Thur the Mountains with Karla Duncan Friends 12021 Day Trippin Thur the Mountains with Karla Duncan Friends 22021 Day Trippin Thur the Mountains with Karla Duncan Friends 32021 Day Trippin Thur the Mountains with Karla Duncan Friends 42021 Day Trippin Thur the Mountains with Karla Duncan Friends 52021 Day Trippin Thur the Mountains with Karla Duncan Friends 62021 Day Trippin Thur the Mountains with Karla Duncan Friends 72021 Day Trippin Thur the Mountains with Karla Duncan Friends 82021 Day Trippin Thur the Mountains with Karla Duncan Friends 92021 Day Trippin Thur the Mountains with Karla Duncan Friends 102021 Day Trippin Thur the Mountains with Karla Duncan Friends 112021 Day Trippin Thur the Mountains with Karla Duncan Friends 132021 Day Trippin Thur the Mountains with Karla Duncan Friends 142021 Day Trippin Thur the Mountains with Karla Duncan Friends 152021 Day Trippin Thur the Mountains with Karla Duncan Friends 162021 Day Trippin Thur the Mountains with Karla Duncan Friends 172021 Day Trippin Thur the Mountains with Karla Duncan Friends 182021 Day Trippin Thur the Mountains with Karla Duncan Friends 192021 Day Trippin Thur the Mountains with Karla Duncan Friends 202021 Day Trippin Thur the Mountains with Karla Duncan Friends 212021 Day Trippin Thur the Mountains with Karla Duncan Friends 222021 Day Trippin Thur the Mountains with Karla Duncan Friends 242021 Day Trippin Thur the Mountains with Karla Duncan Friends 232021 Day Trippin Thur the Mountains with Karla Duncan Friends 252021 Day Trippin Thur the Mountains with Karla Duncan Friends 262021 Day Trippin Thur the Mountains with Karla Duncan Friends 272021 Day Trippin Thur the Mountains with Karla Duncan Friends 282021 Day Trippin Thur the Mountains with Karla Duncan Friends 292021 Day Trippin Thur the Mountains with Karla Duncan Friends 302021 Day Trippin Thur the Mountains with Karla Duncan Friends 312021 Day Trippin Thur the Mountains with Karla Duncan Friends 322021 Day Trippin Thur the Mountains with Karla Duncan Friends 0332021 Day Trippin Thur the Mountains with Karla Duncan Friends 0342021 Day Trippin Thur the Mountains with Karla Duncan Friends 35IMG 8845IMG 8846