I hit the road @ 8:30 Tuesday morning, took the shortest fire road to Camp Wahsega (4-H) then to (Camp Merrill (U.S. Army Rangers), then over the mountain to Cooper Gap road, and into Suches. After stopping for a drink of water at Two Wheels of Suches, I decided to take Flatland Road left off 180 to Cooper Creek Road, back to 180, and enjoy a nice paved ride home.
Unbeknownst to me, Flatland Road is anything but, and has been torn up by jeeps and other 4-wheel drive vehicles. Something not shown on my local map.
After hitting ~15 mud holes, and falling over in one, breaking the clutch lever (fortunately, at the pivot, so I could still use it, I was walking the bike up a steep rough section when I stopped to catch my breath. Went to put down the sidestand, and my foot slipped in the mud, with the bike going over to the left again — wheels higher than the gas tank. I managed to reorient it to get the gas tank higher than the wheels, but I did not have enough strength left to pull it upright. I figured I was near the intersection of FS637 (aka Flatlands) and FS33, so I hiked out, but when I got to the T where the track (doesn't deserve to be called a road) I was on ended, I found myself on a fire road that eventually turned into Suches Creek Lane, which is a few miles south of Cooper Creek, not at all where I had thought I was.
I knocked on the doors of the first 2 houses that I came to, but nobody was home other than the dogs. A quarter mile further, and I was at the highway, where I flagged down a pickup truck being driven by an elderly couple on their way to the dump. After walking for ~1 hour, I was delighted to ride in the back of the truck with a dozen or so bags of garbage.
My cell phone has no reception up there, so I borrowed the phone at the local gas station and called Pam for rescue, then bought an ice cream sandwich and a liter jug of Powerade, and walked over to TWoS to wait on the porch until Pam arrived.
When she did, we returned to the scene of the crime, parking the car at the end of Suches Creek Ln, which was as far as was prudent to go on 4 wheels. We then set off on foot to retrieve my jacket and helmet and, if possible, to get the XT upgright and off the road. The road that I had ridden had previously been traversed by a dirt bike with full knobbies, so I said to just follow the knobbie tire tracks. After a fairly pleasant walk through the forest for 70 minutes, I saw a clearing ahead, and said I thought that it was where I left my helmet and jacket. As we got closer, I saw a car, a silver car with red stripes on the antenna fin — our very own HR-V. Somehow we had walked in a circle.
At that point, with the skies clouding up, a retreat seemed the best action. In the meantime, I had to find someone, preferably someone with a dirt bike, willing to ride in and help me right the XT. Since I had the key and registration, I wasn't worried that it was going anywhere.
After returning home and showering off the mud, I e-mailed Randy that I had a proposition for him. As you may recall, Randy's truck (with 24 foot trailer containing his BMW 450X dirt bike) died at the UnRally, and I had already volunteered to drive him back to Fontana Village when it is fixed (as of Tuesday, still waiting for parts).
A few minutes later, Randy phoned and said, "I'm on my way." I tried to talk him out of it, but he insisted that he could be in Suches by 7:00, we could find the bike, pick it up, and either leave it by the side of the road, or ride it out.
Pam and I rushed to Dahlonega for a quick dinner, then up to Suches, where I showed her Flatland Road, the back to wait for Randy on the porch at TWoS. By 7:30 we were starting to discuss returning if Randy didn't show up by 8:00, as darkness would set in by 9:30.
Randy pulled in shortly thereafter, driving a Honda Odyssey minivan. 1) He had skimmed my e-mail on a cell phone, overlooking most of my story; 2) I had forgotten the 450X was in North Carolina. I told him there was no way in hell that an Odyssey cold navigate the road ahead. He said, "OK, then we'll walk in."
Randy was not to be dissuaded, so off we went, parking the Odyssey about a quarter mile past the end of the pavement, just before the first big mudhole (where, if I had any sense at all, I should have turned around that morning). As we walked up the increasingly rutted road, he realized why I had said it was impassable for anything but a rock crawling off road vehicle or a motorcycle.
After a while, we got to a section that was so terrible that neither of us could believe that I had ridden it, even if I had been on a trials bike. Half an hour later, I said the reason I couldn't believe I had ridden that section was because I hadn't. We were lost. Turning around, we tried to retrace our steps, as the sun set, and it grew increasingly dark. Did I mention that I forgot to pack a flashlight?
After walking past/through twice as many mudholes as on our way in, I said, "This isn't the way we came in. We're lost again." By this time it was pitch dark, but fortunately we had Randy's fully-charged cellphone to use as a flashlight. A half mile later, Randy said, "There's your bike." I said, "You have got to be shitting me," but there it was, right where I had left it, suspended over the abyss by handlebars on the left, wheels on the right.
Randy said, "I don't know if I have enough strength left to lift it." That made me feel much better about not having been able to lift it by myself 11 hours earlier, but having found the bike, it also meant that we were no longer lost. After resting for a few minutes, Randy got under the bike on the left and managed to push it upright, while I grabbed and pulled on the handlebar on the right, while holding the front brake lever (which had to be pumped, as brake fluid had flowed out of the caliper after so long on its side).
Pant, pause, rest 10 minutes. Turn on the ignition switch. It's in neutral! Press the starter button, cough cough. Pull the choke. The engine starts, then dies. Reach over and turn the petcock to reserve. The engine starts, runs, and Randy rides it out, with me pushing from behind for ~20 feet. Go 100 feet to the clearing where I had left my jacket and helmet at 10:30 that morning (it was now after midnight), and rest for 10-15 minutes, drinking the last of our dwindling supply of water, and watching a nearly full moon come up over the mountains.
Along the hike out, I decided to take a chance and refill our water bottles from a rapidly flowing stream. Rarely have I enjoyed water so much.
I told Randy that I didn't have the energy or skill to ride it out the road I had walked out in the morning, especially concerned about a section where the "road" was less than 3 feet ride, with a 10-foot drop off the right side. My socks and shoes were soaked after wading through many mudholes and streams, but I hoofed it, with an increasingly tender little toe on my left foot.
Around 1:00 a.m., we reached 180, and rode 2-up (but I had removed the passenger pegs last winter, so finding a perch for my feet was difficult) down to Flatland Road again. Randy wanted to ride 2-up to the end of the pavement, because it was "only a half mile." I refused, as having ridden/driven Flatland 4 times that day, I remembered the distance as more like 2 miles. I got off, took off my left boot, and napped by the side of the road while Randy went down to retrieve his minivan.
Half an hour later, Randy pulled up, I climbed in, and we headed back toward Dahlonega. Randy had called my wife to tell her that she didn't need to send out a search party. We pulled in my driveway at 2:00 a.m. sharp, Randy called his wife to assure her that all was well, and we provided Randy with some Aleve and three bottles of water, and off he went, expecting to be home by ~3:30 a.m.
I took a shower, crawled in bed, and Pam said, "I'm really pissed with you right now. Shut up!" Pam had previously said she was nervous about my riding fire roads by myself, and that she wished I would find someone to ride with. I think I will take her advice in the future. I also think I'm going to look into getting a SPOT Messenger....
Someone from TWoS called at 8:00 this morning to say they had found my note in their message box, about a down bike, needing help to extract it. I recounted my tale, in somewhat condensed form. I was reminded of a Turkish word, aptal
, which was totally appropriate to the situation.
Pam and I will drive back to Suches this afternoon, retrieve the bike, which I will ride home.
What a day/night!