Saturday, January 12, 2008

First ride of 2008

I guess this is officially the first ride of 2008 and boy did we get lucky today. Today’s forecast was calling for a high temperature of 39 degrees, partly cloudy, becoming cloudy by 2PM and rain starting at 5PM. We got up late but I wanted to ride even if it was for a bit.

Chicagoland has some weird weather. Last week when we got back to Chicago from out trip and we were welcomed with the single digits and lows below zero, but a few days later there was a warm up on the way. Last weekend it got up to 50 degrees but it was overcast and dreary. The roads were a mess with all the snow melting. Even though the temperatures were warm enough to ride and I did think about doing just that, we had too many things to do like unpack from the trip. Unfortunately, around here when you pass up a ride in the middle of winter you never know if the next time you’ll get to ride will be the following weekend or in two months.

Today there was no snow on the ground and the temperature was above freezing, so a ride was in order. Once we decided we were going riding, the rush to get ready was on. I didn’t want to waste any time since rain was on the way. Mike’s bike was pretty much ready to go. He rode a bit a few days ago when the temps got in to the low 40’s, working from home has so many advantages.

I haven’t ridden the 954RR since November 4th, so today I was going to let it out of the garage for a bit. The bike was in Winter mode though, up on the front and rear stand, with the seat completely off and the trickle charger connected to the battery which is located under the seat. It took a while to get it unplugged, back on the ground, moved out of the garage and ready to ride. I thought getting the bike ready was going to be most time consuming part of getting ready for the ride - wrong. It took me way longer just to find my all my motorcycle gear and get all layered up than to get the bike ready. Finally, just before 2PM we were off.

Taking a break in Itasca

A metra train going through the suburb of Itasca

The Canadian geese enjoying some sunshine

Looking at this pair of ducks, you'd think it was Spring already

We were just a few suburbs away in Itasca when we pulled over to take some pictures and to figure out where to go next. We should have been turning around by now, but the sun was actually out and there weren’t too many clouds around so the threat of rain was delayed at least for now. We weren’t cold either, most bank signs were displaying a balmy 42 degrees and at times I have to say that I was a bit warm. I was really bundled up today not wanting to be cold. Balaclava and wool socks, spandex leggings, liner for my Fieldsheer Adventure pants. Under my Marsee jacket I had the liner from my Marsee jacket and then the liner from my Fieldsheer jacket. Under that my Widder electric vest, a thin fleece zip up and a turtle neck. Plus the heated grips and only my regular riding gloves to let the heat though.

Bundled up like the Michelin man on a balmy January day

A nice white church in Itasca, reminds me of the one I pass on my way to work everyday in Lombard

So off we went, riding further away from home. We ended up in Barrington Hills, where I knew of a few twisty roads. Sorry Rick, had we known that we’d be up here we could have called you and possibly hooked up for a ride. It was a few degrees colder up here, so we just looped through and headed home arriving at sunset, which now a days is about 4:30PM.

Taking a break in Barrington Hills, that white stuff on the tires is salt from the roads

For as great of day it was today, we only saw 3 other bikes, two sport-tourers and one sport bike.

Bateman Road located between Penny Road and Lake Cook Road, was very wet with a lot of salt still on the road. It was hard to enjoy the 15MPH curves under these conditions. Funny, this road doesn't even look that twisty on the map. I was going to take some pictures of this curvey wonder on my way back, but we took another route back, not wanting to ride through all that salt.

Friday, January 04, 2008

Barber Motorcycle Museum - more bikes

I have a lot more pictures left, so this is the continuation of the visit to the Barber Motorcycle Museum in Birmingham, AL last week. There are way too many bikes there to be able to fit all my favorites in to one post.

Military motorcycles


Ducati 916

Ducati 1098

Aprilia 250RS & Bimota



Board Track Racing motorcycles


The Flying Merkel

Ducati 916 Senna and Triumph Daytona 600


Thursday, January 03, 2008

Talladega National Forest, Alabama

The Talladega District of the Talladega National Forest is a great place to ride a dual-sport and camp. Many camping opportunities can be found here without having to leave the national forest. There is the Chinnabee Recreation Area, Turnipseed Campground and Cheaha State Park.

The Talladega District is located at the southern edge of the Appalachian Mountains. Among the rugged mountains and hills you can find numerous rivers, streams and waterfalls. And lets not forget the abundance of dirt roads that can be found here.

This red dirt road looks like it belongs in Louisiana

644 has some nice views

Mountains in the distance

A badly paved forest road

There are places that I’ve been to in other states that had some good dirt roads, but here all the roads seemed good. We rode all day and we found no bad roads. Each road had it’s unique characteristics and scenery, so it's not like they were all the same. Some had tighter corners, some had larger and steeper hills, some were wider, some narrower.

This one was so nice, Mike rode it twice

A slow moving creek by the road

Motorcycle crossing

This was a pretty big hill

The amazing thing was, we didn’t get lost, we didn’t have any roads come to a dead end where we’d have to turn around. We did absolutely no research either, we just picked a forest road and started riding, then took another road and another road, looking at the GPS creating a big loop that would take us back to the campsite at the end of the ride.

Very nice hi-speed twisties

Wednesday, January 02, 2008

Cheaha State Park, Alabama

Well, we’re back from out trip down south, back at work and back to the sub zero temps of Chicagoland. Now it’s time to reflect. Even though I already posted about camping at the Cheaha State Park and riding in the Talladega National Forest, I feel that more needs to be said since it was really the highlight of our trip.

Cheaha State Park (red arrow) is located in the Talladega National Forest

With this post I’d like to give you more information about the park and give you a detailed tour of the primitive campsite where we camped. The Primitive camp site is such an amazing place to camp, especially if you are there to ride the many forest roads on your dual sport.

The primitive campground holds so much natural beauty

The highest point in Alabama is located at the Cheaha State Park. The Cheaha Mountain raises 2,407 feet above sea level. These are the foothills of the Appalachian Mountains. 281 is a twisty road that travels this area. The road drops about 1,200 vertical feet from the top of Cheaha Mountain to Cheaha Lake. It’s a good and twisty ride, with many nice views.

The twisty 281

Cheaha Road

According to the Cheaha State park website, there are 5 campgrounds here. The Mountain Top Campground with full hook-ups, this is the main campground. There are also cabins there, a hotel and a restaurant, all belonging to the Cheaha State Park.

Cheaha Lake's mirror like reflection

The Cheaha Lake campground is 3 miles down the mountain and also has full hookups. Then there are two semi-primitive camp sites for tents on the mountain, one is the Picnic Trail campground and the other is the Bunker Loop Campground. Those staying there can utilize the facilities at the Mountain Top Campground. Lastly, there is a primitive campsite also near the Cheaha Lake. This campground has no bathrooms or water, but one can drive a short distance and use the facilities at the Cheaha Lake Campground.

Cheaha State Park Registration office and store

The Mountain Top area has a gate, and the fee was $1 to enter the recreation day area. Located beyond the gate is a restaurant, cabins, motel and the campgrounds. Before you get to the gate, on 281 is the registration office and store. This is truly a resort state park, with all the amenities. We drove the recreational day area at night, so we just saw the numerous buildings, all were very nice.

Primitive campground entrance

Cheaha State Park is Alabama's oldest and continuously operating State Park, which opened in 1939. In its early years, the state park had stone cabins, a stone bath house, stone pavilions and the man made Cheaha Lake. The lake still exists today. The stone buildings, what remains of them today, are in ruins. You can see some of the ruins at the primitive campsite where we stayed.

Ruins at the primitive campground

I wonder what there used to be

They look like graves

In the 1970’s the hotel, restaurant and chalets were built. Renovations continue periodically, and today high-speed internet service is available at the restaurant and hotel.

A room with a view

A cozy living room with a fireplace

For $11 per day, we stayed at the primitive camp site. Since we had stayed at others parks for $12, and those were full service camp sites, the $11 seemed steep. But when you consider the setting of the campground, and the views, it’s actually a small price to pay to be able to enjoy such beauty. Of course, at the end of December we were alone at the campground, which made it even more appealing to us.

So many dirt roads at the primitive campground

After we were done riding for the day and we returned to the campground, I was compelled to ride through the entire campground, wanting to see where all the paths would take me.