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Ride Review: Suches and Wolf Pen Gap

April 4, 2015
Ride Review: Suches and Wolf Pen Gap

One of the advantages of living close to Dalton, GA, is access to some of the best roads in the country for motorcycle trips. After what seems like an obnoxiously-long winter, I wake up itching to get some "wind therapy." The weather forecast is very cool, but thankfully, no rain.

I leave at 7:30 AM, it's 46 degrees, and my trip starts in earnest on Highway 2 near Varnell, GA. I make my first stop near Tennga to fill up my tank and add another layer on. Tennga is a strange name for a town. Oh, it's a town on the TN/GA border. Get it?

I turn on to Highway 411 at Tennga, and head North for Highway 64. Highway 64 follows the Ocoee River, with lots of twists and turns as it cuts through the surrounding mountains. TVA controls the water levels, and the water is not running very high today.

Being this cold and early in the morning, I don't expect to see other riders. To my surprise, I pass a couple on a trike, and we exchange greetings (aka "the wave").


When the season turns warmer, the Ocoee River will be a raging torrent of water, and full of kayaks and white water rafters. In this photo you can see the old observation walkway built for the 1996 Olympics.

At Ducktown, I get on Highway 68 and head south. I enter Copperhill, which seems to just be waking up. There are a few cars on the road, and someone is setting up a vegetable stand near the town square. Here, I get on Highway 60 going south towards Blue Ridge.

In Blue Ridge, I stop for breakfast at Dunkin' Donuts. I'm always on the lookout for bacon and caffeine, and I know I need plenty of fuel for this trip.

Bacon and CaffeineMmm... bacon and caffeine

Highway 60 from Blue Ridge to Suches

Having discovered Highway 60 on a previous trip, I was anxiously looking forward to this moment. It is one of the most beautiful and fun stretches of road I have ever ridden. Highway 60 alternates between rolling, lush valleys and thrilling switchbacks across ridges to keep you on your toes.

Twistie near Suches

Breathtaking valley

Wolf Pen Gap

At Suches, I turn left on to Highway 180, known as Wolf Pen Gap. Wolf Pen Gap reaches an elevation of over 3,200 feet. To my delight, it's not only an incredible mountain roller coaster, but the road is as smooth as butter.

I pass a lot of bikers on this road. And, by bikers, I mean people who ride those two-wheel contraptions you have to pedal. Many of them aren't obliged to return "the wave." I guess they're too busy concentrating on not having a heart attack.

Whenever I see two dudes dressed in identical tights pedaling up a mountain, I like to think they are both named "Wilfred," have a British accent, and their conversation goes something like this:

"I say! Wilfred, old chap. Do you think we may have underestimated this climb?" "Wilfred, my good man. I just blew a heart valve, and about 3 miles back I lost the ability to father children. I say we press on." "Jolly good!"

Lake Winfield ScottLake Winfield Scott on Wolf Pen Gap

Walasi-Yi Inn, Mountain Crossings

Turning south on Highway 129, I make an unexpected find: the Mountain Crossings store at Walasi-Yi Inn. I talk to a couple of hikers and learn this store and hostel is directly on the Appalachian Trail. This is the famous store that helps hikers who are just a few days into their northbound journey on the AT. After climbing Blood Mountain at an elevation of 4,400 feet, hikers have a chance to rest, get a hot shower, drop off mail, and stock up on supplies and good advice.

BootsMountain Crossing serves more than 2,000 AT hikers each year. Abandoned boots hang from the rafters.

View from Walasi-YiView from Walasi-Yi


Next up, I take Highway 19 towards Dahlonega, GA. The roads and beautiful scenery continue to roll on and on. I make a quick stop to shed a layer and check out Riders Hill bikes and gear. They carry Firstgear, which I haven't seen hands-on before. They are an EBR dealer, which I'm told are serious race bikes, if you're into that sort of thing.

I really want to stay around in Dahlonega and check out the historic downtown. But, I'm getting hungry, and I'm on a mission to eat BBQ in Elijay. So, I turn on to Highway 52 and motor on. 52 has long, gradual curves you can lean into for days. With numerous stands and stores advertising fried apple pies and boiled peanuts, I almost lose my resolve.

The pig hill of fame

At last. The moment I've been waiting for. I finally arrive at Poole's Real Pit BBQ, the self-labeled "Taj-ma-hog" of BBQ. Ever since seeing the "pig hill of fame" from Highway 515, I've wanted to try their BBQ. It did not disappoint.

The Pig Hill of FameThe Pig Hill of Fame

RibsRibs, slaw, brunswick stew, and garlic toast

I ordered pork ribs, which were smoky and juicy. Their smoking process made the ribs taste almost like bacon. Big, juicy, tender bacon. At the table there are three sauces: sweet, smoky, and hot. All three are excellent, but the sweet is amazing. The hot isn't really hot, in my opinion. It simply has a lot of ground black pepper in it.

Unfortunately, there's more food on my plate than my motorcycle pants will agree to. I have to leave some behind, which is something I rarely do.

One more mountain to cross...

After some critical adjustments to the velcro straps at my waist, I hop back on Highway 52 to cross over the Cohutta Wilderness Area to Chatsworth, GA. Near the top, I pull off for an overlook. It's a short hike, and my full belly complains, but the view is well worth the effort.


Smiles per gallon

My trip took a total of 7 hours, I covered over 200 (s)miles, and I averaged about 42 smiles per gallon (spg).

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