Right on the heels of last weekend’s Georgia Tandem Rally (GTR), our focus this week was getting ready for a quick overnight trip up to Walhalla, South Carolina where we’d be riding the Rally in the Valley on our triplet with our friend Lisa who lives in nearby Salem. We usually team up with Lisa on the triplet for GTR each May but this year her daughter Anna was graduating from college on the same weekend as GTR. I think it may have been back in March when Lisa invited us to bring the triplet up for this event if the Sun, Moon and other planets all lined up. Well, son-of-a-gun, we were able to figure out how to make it all work!
It was a full work week for me, but I planned to leave work before noon on Friday and just take some calls while we were in route to South Carolina, as traffic headed out of Atlanta would only get worse as the afternoon progressed. So, being on the road at noon Friday was the goal for the week. To make that happen I spent a few moments on Tuesday and Wednesday evenings hanging the chains back on the triplet before giving it a test ride to make sure it would be good to go on Saturday morning and then packed up all of our cycling clothes so those could go in the truck on Thursday night when the triplet went up on the roof.
Friday was a somewhat normal day at work. We’d had a milestone day on Thursday with the first flight of our commercial variant of the C-130, the LM-100J. It’s definitely a very different-looking “Herc” out on the flight line with its gloss white paint scheme and big blue tail sitting along side the dark grey military versions. We were still busy with a never-ending list of challenges, key decisions, and significant meetings ahead of us but at least my schedule would allow me to get out of the office around 10:00am. That would put me home with just enough time to cut the lawn, grab a shower and do the final packing and still have us on the road by around noon.
Thankfully, everything went off without a hitch and we were on the road at 12:10pm. Although I had some reservations about taking the Interstate, we did just that. Traffic on I75 south through our own County was abysmal… which is the norm. We by-passed a lot of it by taking secondary roads that paralleled the freeway well into Marietta and then jumped on just ahead of the I285 east exit. I285 didn’t back up until “spaghetti junction” at I85. Struggling through those constant bottlenecks pretty much made me rethink our return route for Saturday as making that trip up I85 is perhaps the biggest deterrent for us heading up to visit friends in the Carolinas.
We made one stop for lunch around 2:00pm at an Arby’s in Pendergrass, Georgia, so that we’d have that out-of-the-way before my 2:30pm teleconference. Arby’s has become just about our only alternative to Subway with their new deli fresh sandwiches and, in particular, the Italian sub: about 540 calories with 29 grams of fat and we split it. Not too bad for a tasty sandwich but with its 1,770 mg of sodium and 28 grams of fat it’s nowhere near as healthy as our Subway go-to sandwich, the Sweet Onion Chicken Teriyaki with it’s 740 calories, 770 mg of sodium & 4 grams of fat. My teleconference only lasted about 20 minutes and most of what needed to be done I’ll get to on Tuesday when we return to work from the Memorial Day holiday break.
We rolled into Lisa’s driveway around 3:15pm so pretty much on plan, even with our 10-minute lunch stop back in Pendergrass. Lisa gave us a tour of the house as she’s been busy making changes inside and out.
After discussing our dinner options we decided to make the 30 minute trip over to the town of Pickens where the Appalachian Ale House was holding an anniversary celebration: it was a GREAT place and a GREAT time! They had a gourmet burger and hotdog bar set up in the back of the restaurant (gratis) and were also serving up a huge sheet cake as part of their celebration. When we first arrived young Randall Martin was playing and at 8:00pm Lisa’s friends — Amongst the Trees — began their set. Debbie and I even managed to get in a little dancing! Just a great evening…
If you’re ever in that neck of the woods, it’s worth a look!
We were in bed fairly early by my standards which meant I was wide awake at 4:00am on Saturday morning. I did my best to not disturb Debbie, Lisa or Lisa’s Golden Retriever Woody from 4:00am until our appointed get-up time of 6:30ish. After grabbing a little breakfast we headed off to Lake Jemiki over in Walhallia around 7:30am which would put us arriving as the 60-mile route riders went off at 8:00am. We were riding the 34-mile route that began at 9:00am, as that would get Lisa back to Lake Jemiki ahead of the lion’s share of both the 60 and 34-mile riders as she was part of event staff.
The Rally in the Valley would take us out through beautiful Oconee County, South Carolina through the foothills and valleys of the Blue Ridge Mountains. Following the ride all participants are treated to live music, craft beer and a wonderful meal including locally slow cooked barbecue and fresh home cooked side dishes. Proceeds from the event are used to support Oconee Forever, an organization focused on conserving natural resources, working farms, historic sites and open spaces in Oconee County, South Carolina.
We had the truck parked and the triplet unloaded well ahead of the 9:00am departure. As always, the big bike drew a lot of looks, comments and questions… all goodness!
I want to say that it looked like the number of registered riders didn’t quite hit the organizer’s limit of 300. There appeared to be about 100 or so in the 60 mile group we saw headed out — including some tandem friends from the Carolina’s: Alan & Joanne on their Orange Co-Motion (Left) and Mark & Charlotte on the black & white daVinci (Center). Our 34-mile group looked to have maybe 70 riders, including another couple whom we’ve met at GTR: Wayne and Geri from Georgia (Right).
BTW, all three photos above are from the GTR 2017 rally photo collection: it’s one of the best resources for figuring out who you were riding with since folks look so different off the bikes and out of their cycling helmets, glasses and gear!
I think all three of us were feeling pretty good at the ride start. We made it to the front of the entire group during the first 2.5 mile climb out of Lake Jemiki then drifted back and forth with a small group of about 5 riders for the first half of the ride. However, we spent a bit more time at the 17-mile sag stop than those folks so we didn’t see them again until we pulled into the grass parking lot at Lake Jemiki. This photo was probably snapped somewhere around mile 25: we covered the 34-mile route with 2,500 feet of climbing in just about 2 hours. I’d say that was a respectable ride.
As mentioned, Lisa was a volunteer with Oconee Forever and would be staying at the post ride event for most of the day so she came in her own car as our plan was to head home straight from the event after lunch. I think we said our goodbyes and were on the road just a little past noon.
Unlike the drive up, we opted to take mostly 2-lane back roads out of Walhallia and into Georgia vs. the interstate. The interstate drive time was listed as 2.5 hour whereas the back way was showing 2.8 hours. The .3 hour difference more than paid for the angst and frustration that I experience trying to get through the I85/I285 and then the I285/I75 interchanges and, as it turned out, even with hitting a lot of red lights in Gainsville, we were home in about 2 hours and 45 minutes: I think we’ve found our new way to the Carolinas!