Day 1: December 10, 2004
Cabbages & Dragons



A straight forward start on GA-17 which passes right through Lavonia. Some portion of this route has been labeled the Veterans Memorial Way with each intersection dedicated to veterans from a different conflict. The intersection where a business GA-17 splits off to pass through Toccoa is marked for WWII vets. In Clarkesville, shortly beyond where GA-17 crosses US-23 and the current US-441, I learned that I was on the path of an older US-441.

I left GA-17 to follow GA-115 into Cleveland, GA, the home of Babyland General Hospital. BGH is filled with Cabbage Patch Kids waiting to be adopted. A sign explains that "price tags make our babies nervous" so you have to ask. An odd but still accurate twist on the theory that "If you have to ask, you can't afford it." The last picture shows Cabbage Patch Kid creator/inventor/designer/father Xavier Roberts' latest creations, the Yonah Mountain bears. That Yonah Mountain is nearby and that Xavier used to climb it were details I picked p from Joyce in the gift shop. He still lives near Cleveland and sometimes shows up at the "hospital" to do, among other things, some gardening and landscaping. Joyce told of Xavier's tendency to wear socks long after they are worn through. This year, hospital employees hoped to help a little by buying the multi-millionaire some new socks for Christmas. Early on a Friday morning, BGH was not overly crowded, unless you count the "kids", but that's not always the case. Weekends are busy and Christmas weekends busier. The Saturday before last saw over 3800 people pass through the building.

I had connected with US-129 in Cleveland and had planned on just sticking with it for quite awhile. But, when she told me about Yonah Mountain, Joyce also mentioned the town of Helen and was a little surprised that I hadn't been there or at least heard of it. I took a slight detour to see this faux Alpine village with windmill motels and a building code that even gives the local Huddle House a Bavarian flavor.

I passed Yonah Mountain as I drove toward Helen on GA-75 but waited to take this picture on the way back to Cleveland. It looks like there is room for quite a few bears up there.

Although it doesn't have the fame of the section just over the Tennessee line, US-129 north of Cleveland also offers a good supply of turns and views. Near Turners Corner, it connects with S-19 and for the next ten miles or so, things get quite interesting as the road passes through Heater Gap, Neels Gap, and Lark Gap. In the distance, the Smokies keep getting bigger.

This large and classic example of roadside marketing sits just a couple of miles south of Blairsville. Pappy's Place sells fudge, furniture, antiques, ice cream, various craft items, and, I'm certain. many other things as well. There are several good looking old cars and more than several costumed mannequins. The carrousel horses are inventory and one had a new "SOLD" sign attached.

Another shot of some Smoky Mountain peaks and, less than a mile before the US-129 - US-19 split, a section of Old US 19. The quarter mile section includes a bridge. I found no dates on it but, since it remains essentially a single lane road, I would guess the 1920s. Recent, and sometimes continuing, rain has filled area waterways and here the rushing Cheoah River runs along the road and adds to the scenic value. The Cheoah flows into the Little Tennessee River and US-129 crosses it just below the Cheoah Dam.

The popular way to run the Tail of the Dragon is north to south so I'm sort of heading the wrong way. But, I'm also in a Pontiac Vibe on a rainy day rather than a motorcycle in sunshine. Since I'm going backwards, this tree at Deal's Gap Motorcycle Resort is where most people end their ride. Bike pieces hanging from the tree indicate that some people end their ride a little early. There are plenty of pictures of the Dragon's curves around the web (check out TailOfTheDragon & KillBoy)  but here are a couple of examples. In the last picture, a section I've just covered can be seen through the trees.

The water looks really peaceful as it waits behind Chilhowee Dam. The road levels out here and it, too, becomes relatively peaceful.

The off and on rain became full time ON shortly after I checked into a motel in Gatlinburg. I know it's lousy picture but it does show the water, some Christmas lights, and you can see the lights atop the Space Needle and running along the Sky Lift.

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