Northern Roads Of Georgia
So ya want that meat done regular or Intimidator style? Firestarter or mild sauce?". As the BBQ joint waiter impatiently tapped his pad, my riding buddy Kevin finally blurted out his order: Pulled pork, Intimidator style - on thick sliced garlic bread. As for me, I was going for the marquee deal - a full rack of Baby Back Ribs. After all, the menu claimed they were, "so tender, if you have to pick up a knife to eat our Ribs, we'll pick up the check!" I wasn't about to pass up that kind of succulence. Besides, when in Georgia, do as the locals do, right? So we slathered some Firestarter onto our paper plates and dug in, chugging it down with jars of sweet tea. Let the belching begin.
We'd stopped for this well-deserved chow break at the Rib Country restaurant in Blairsville after a few hours of bombing around north Georgia's backroads - most of which were just as sweet as the tea. This small mountain north of Atlanta felt like the perfect halfway point to our ride, especially with the hills popping autumn colors. Life was good.
With me on an HD Ultra Glide and Kevin on a V-Star, we had hightailed it out of Atlanta on a warm October morning, looking to explore the northern highlands we'd heard so many riders rave about. We set our sights on a place called the Kingwood Resort, outside the tiny town of Clayton (near the North Carolina border). The Kingwood's claim to fame? It was where the cast and crew of Deliverance stayed while filming the movie back in 1971. Turned out to be a pretty swank place to flop for a night, but there wasn't much going on (unless you liked golfing), so we found ourselves rolling down to the old town about a mile away for coffee at the Clayton Caf. We felt right at home in the town center, with its cool old shops and greasy spoons, and the surrounding area seemed like a biker's paradise - small towns and righteous scenery, all nestled in the southern tip of the Blue Ridge Mountains. It all felt real promising.
Our first leg out of Clayton took us west on US 76, also known as Lookout Mountain Scenic Highway. Within minutes we were catching glimpses of serpentine Lake Burton, a playground for Atlanta's upper-crust set. Swank boathouses flashed by, clueing us into the vast estates that probably lay tucked into the hills behind the water's edge. Once the lake faded away, the road evened out into smooth, wide, surfaces and gentle corners. Kudzu vines seemed to grow everywhere, swallowing everything they touched. Small towns huddled along this peaceful chunk of road.
With the claustrophobic summer humidity still settling on Georgia in mid-October, the place to be was up in these hills-1000 feet of elevation or higher. The legendary Blue Ridge Mountains begin here, but they're left pretty much alone by the crowds that hog the neighboring Great Smokies. Even though we were only a stone's throw from North Carolina and the Blue Ridge Parkway, the winding roads are all ours.
We continued our cruise along the westbound sweep of US 76, stopping to buy the occasional baggie of boiled peanuts at the roadside stands that seemed to pop up at every intersection. Just after the town of Hiawassee, the roadway pushed Lake Chatuge into our line of sight before flattening out for a fairly uneventful run to Blairsville.
By the time we rolled into Rib Country, our bellies were in full rumble - we couldn't wait to tear into the meat pile in front of us. But besides the sublime animal flesh, Blairsville also gets bonus points for hosting the highest point in Georgia, Brasstown Bald. Its place in the Wolfpen Ridge makes Brasstown Bald a great scenic destination, and the sweeping curves of its roads make it a must-ride for motorcyclists. The ride up is said to be awesome any time of year, and we planned to hit it after lunch.