Wednesday, November 2, 2016

Ford Escape

I've been kicking around in an '03 Saturn Vue for the past year or so, and on the way back from Noontootla it finally kicked it itself.

Basically the right side transmission seal blew catastrophically, relieving itself of a large volume of fluid in short order, and causing something to burn up. My dad and I thought maybe it was just super low on fluid, drained it, found it to be 2 quarts low (after having already added 2 quarts earlier, trying to get it going again), replaced the seal, filled it back up, and found it to still be shot. I skipped the part about driving all over town to buy the rare and expensive fluid and additive. That was involved too.


Well, I wasn't looking to purchase a new vehicle, but all of that work that's been keeping me inside does have an upside. Income.


New Ford Escape

It needed a front seal, and a headrest, a pair of tires, and at some point I need to fix the CD changer. But, it's in otherwise excellent condition. With a couple of new towers, I was even able to fit my rack on the roof, with all 4 trays!

Kars 4 Kids picked up the Saturn today. Made me sad to see it go, but it's for a good cause.

Escape! Wish me luck with it.


It's mid October in North Georgia, and that's generally a really good time to be in North Georgia, if you like the outdoors. It's cool but not cold yet. The leaves are changing, and there are hundreds of miles of gravel roads to suffer climbing, if you're in to that sort of thing.


I'm in to that sort of thing, and to prove it (mainly to myself, because looking at the riding I've been doing lately, it's not so obvious, even to me) I got myself up to the general Noontootla area a few weeks back.

I got a late start, but that was kind-of on purpose. I'd recently acquired a new set of those little Spok lights and I wanted to do a little night riding with them.

I parked just above Doublehead Gap, in the first turnout off of FS42, kitted up and started climbing.

I didn't see much of anyone on the road. There were a couple of folks camping, but nothing like I expected. I thought it was the opening weekend of firearms season, and I expected every campsite to be jam packed, but I could literally hear crickets everywhere I went.

Turned out opening weekend was on the 21st.

Shows what I know.

Near the top I passed some Rangers out having fun too.

Ranger Humvee

Further up I passed a few more, and then a few more after them.

It's been so long since I was up there, I'd forgotten about seeing Rangers all the time when I was more of a local.

I felt good after the climb. Good enough to push across the top, and push down off of Hightower Gap. My 1x11 is a bit limiting though. After a steep descent, I can't start pedaling again for a while. The jury is still out on whether that's better because you get rest, or whether is just sucks because you lose time. I guess I need to do some long rides in the mountains with other people to find out.

The lake was deserted. The fish hatchery, also deserted.

Fish Hatchery

I saw a small water snake ahead of me on the road and stopped to see if I could figure out what kind it was.

Water Snake of Some Kind

Dead. It was the dead kind. That's how Billy classifies snakes. Alive or dead. Those are the two kinds of snakes. He prefers dead.

Either a Banded Water Snake or a Midland Water Snake. I guess technically it could be a Northern Water Snake, but I can't tell them from Midland. Nor, it seems can I tell them from Banded. I think of Midland/Northern as having offset stripes further back on their bodies. Which this one has, but there appears to be a lot of variation in Banded Water Snakes, so I can't be sure.

I pushed kind-of hard around the north end of the route, and got a little tired. The 1x11 was definitely sufficient back in there.

Emerging back into the civilized world, I noticed new construction along Rock Creek Road. I also noticed the nearby pasture was full of cows.


As many times as I'd ridden through, I don't think I'd ever seen cows before.

Of course, that photo is so bad, I guess it would be hard to prove that I saw them that time too.

Riding back along Doublehead Gap Road, it started to get dark, and I noticed the urge to hurry up and try to beat it.

DH Gap Road

Silly though. I meant to be out in the dark. That was one of my objectives. Just knowing that doesn't quell the urge though. Funny how that works.

Oh yeah, there was no beating it. It was really getting dark.

Really Getting Dark Now

It was black before I reached the church at the bottom of Noontootla Creek Road. Headlights blinded me, but it didn't seem anyone had any trouble spotting me. Yay blinky lights.

It's only a few miles from the church up to the gap and back to the car, so I probably spent less than 10% of my ride in the dark. I guess it's a good start though. Hopefully I'll get the chance to do more of the same over the next few months.

Allatoona Creek

A spin around Allatoona Creek isn't generally worth writing about, but the spin I took a few weeks back actually was.

There's some new trail out there. I'd noticed id a few trips prior to the one I'm writing about now. According to the map on the Kiosk, the trail's called Driftwood. It was rideable, but mostly unsigned. I say mostly because there was one little hand-written sign with the word "Trailhead" on it, and an arrow pointing in the general direction of the new trail. That sign was accompanied by some yellow tape blocking one of the ways you might go if you were so inclined, but there was no tape blocking the trailhead itself. I took that to mean that I was welcome to ride, and judging from the starting-to-get-worn-in'ness of the trail, it seemed plenty of others had too.

Feeling invited to do so, I took a little spin around the loop, and encountered a gentleman on the way out asking if "this is the way to the lake?" Well, I knew the trail I'd just ridden didn't go anywhere near the lake. Nor, for that matter, did any other trail I'd ever ridden out there. They all sort of petered out along the creek. I'd never run into anything I'd call "the lake." I knew the lake was to the north, and I knew the trail he was on (the one that Driftwood lay off of) went north, but that's all I knew. I explained all of this to him, and we parted company.

That all happened a few weeks prior to the visit that I mean to write about. Though, I realize now, that I've written quite a bit about that visit as well.

Anyway, I wondered if he sort-of knew what he was talking about. Was it possible to get to "the lake" if I kept heading north?

Well, as it turns out, yes!

Lake Allatoona 1 Lake Allatoona 2

From the abundant tracks in the vicinity, it appeared to be a popular destination for the equestrian crowd, as well as locals on foot. I saw one bike track. Another explorer like myself, I guess.

To the east, I heard a ruckus a brewin' and it seemed worth investigating...

Some guys had piloted their small craft a bit too far into the shallows and gotten hung up on the bottom.

Stuck Boaters

I'd never seen anyone trying to push a boat before.

I felt kind of bad too. Helpless. I'd have lended a hand if at all possible, but there were hundreds of yards of water between us and it clearly got deep between them and me.

Poor guys. I hope they got out cause I hear the lake is much lower these days than it was that day.

There were actually several little inlets back there. One looked like it might even be a decent fishing spot. I may find my way back up in there again if it doesn't get too cold, and if we get enough rain to raise the water level a bit.

On the way out there were wildflowers blooming to my left and some of the trees in the distance were just barely starting to look less green.

Starting to be Fall

It was staring to be fall.

Fall in Georgia is something to see. Unfortunately the same work that's been keeping me from writing has been keeping me inside.

Fall is coming. I hope I don't miss it.