Friday, May 30, 2008

Welcome to Onion Town



After a weekend playing in the mountains, it was time to get back to work. I left home around 5pm Monday. A quick stop to top off Rosie’s 4.5 gallon fuel tank and I was away. Traffic through downtown was not very heavy but the drivers seemed agitated, darting in and out of lanes, cutting each other off, and driving extremely fast. I made my way over into the HOV lane and tried to give the crazies plenty of room. By the time I was riding past the airport on the south side, I had counted no less than eight drivers who had been pulled to the right side of the road to be awarded a certificate of accomplishment for their display of driving skills by the Georgia State Patrol and a mixed assortment of county police and deputy sheriffs. One had been pulled over by a blue Harley Ultra Classic; it was the same color as the Georgia State Patrol cars. I was unaware that GSP had a mounted patrol.

Soon, I was rolling through downtown Macon on I-75, but the intense driving displays by my fellow travelers had not seemed to be subdued. More deputies and state patrolmen were dutifully handing out awards for being the biggest toolbox on the interstate. As I exited onto I-16 and began travelling eastbound, I was pleasantly surprised to notice that the majority of the erratic drivers had remained on I-75. I pray they made it to their destinations without killing each other.

I have not travelled I-16 in quite some time. In fact, it has probably been 20 years since I have ridden on I-16. As I rode along, the world around me changed from a mess of SUVs battling for title of “supreme idiot of the highway” to a calmer collection of vehicles strolling along a ribbon between woods of Georgia Pines. The longer I rode, the better I could smell the scent of pine. Between Macon and Dublin, I noticed an area that recently had been hit with severe wind damage. There was a path around 300 yards wide of trees with broken tops and debris scattered among them. The roadway was clear, but the evidence of damage that had occurred was still quite evident off both sides.

As I approached Dublin, I noted it was time for a fuel stop. I elected to use a familiar exit that we used to use a lot when I travelled I-16 during my college days. I rolled of the interstate and up the ramp for GA state route 441 and boy was I in for a surprise. The exit used to be home to a Speedway gas station and a McDonalds. Evidentially, commercial development discovered the exit somewhere in the last 20 years and every fast food chain in the world and several hotels have made their presence known. Things change even in small towns. A couple of gallons of gas and a roast beef sandwich later, I was back in the saddle and rolling down the interstate. I began to notice another bit of oddity. It seems for whatever reason; the GADOT has installed railroad crossing style arms on most of the ramps entering and exiting I-16 east of Dublin. I never was able to settle on the reasoning behind this addition, but I presume they can close an exit at will.

I soon found my way to the Vidalia exit and began meandering down a two-lane highway through the South Georgia countryside to Vidalia, Georgia (home of Vidalia Sweet Onions). The country side was a very familiar site. It could easily have been the roads that surround my South Georgia hometown. When I arrived in Vidalia, I once again was surprised to recall it had been 20 years since I had ridden through Vidalia and it too has grown. What I once remember being 4 or 5 red lights is more like 20 or more? The little quiet country town has grown substantially. Much to my delight, they even have a Hampton Inn now!

Tuesday morning I rolled into the parking lot in front of the client’s office. I quickly stashed my riding leathers and helmet and met with one of the principals of the firm. I knew I would enjoy this project when I discovered that their receptionist rode up to the office on her Harley-Davidson Sportster. Before the day was over, her husband had extended an offer to trade me straight up for his Harley-Davidson Softail which of course I politely declined.

When I started my return trip to the Atlanta area, it was hot and muggy. An overpowering all consuming heat that I recall from growing up in South Georgia. As I was heading out of town making my way to I-16, I noticed a bank displaying time and temperature. Their sign showed 100 degrees F. I wound my way through the countryside passing hog parlors, corn fields, old abandoned cars sitting under huge oak trees and was soon humming along the interstate. After a few miles the sky began to change to a dark blue, and the temperature dramatically dropped about 15-20 degrees. A few more miles and a fine mist was beginning to fall. As I had been so hot for the beginning of the ride, I elected to hold off on donning raingear and enjoy the cool. Just west of Dublin, I pulled off into the rest area and changed into raingear and the full-face helmet. Another 20 miles and the light rain had stopped and it began to get warm again. I elected not to stop and pull off the raingear as it looked like more rain was imminent.

I made my way to Macon and picked up I-75 North. A few miles north of Macon the temperature dropped again, the wind began blowing, and I rode into a pretty heavy rain storm. I smiled inside the full-face helmet – glad I did not stop again to pull of the froggtoggs. Another 30 miles and I was out of the rain and dealing with increasing traffic.

As Atlanta came into view, I made my way over to the HOV lane and away from the madness of the lane changers for the most part. As I began approaching a taxi that was in the lane to my right, he quickly changed into the HOV lane in front of me. I had to change lanes and pass him and then move back into the HOV. No idea what that was about. A couple miles later another taxi pulls the same stunt and then steps on the brake – what the heck?

I arrived home mostly dry except for some slightly damp socks just before sundown tired and ready to relax.

Total mileage 484.8 miles

8 comments:

FLHX_Dave said...

Enjoyed the read, it brought tears to my eyes...I think it was the onions. Interstates always bum my ride. I always feel like I am in a race or something. I dig that U.S. map of the places you have been. Thanks for the post.

Ronman said...

Great post. It's been many a year since I've been across I-16 myself. Seems that the Atlanta traffic never seems to change though.

Ronman

Allen Madding said...

Thanks, guys. Anyone that wants a travel map to add to their blogs can generate one from this website:
http://monarch.tamu.edu/~maps2/us.htm

they even let you play with the colors if you so desire.

"Joker" said...

Vidalia onions are unmatched. They make the best onion rings and bloomin' onions I've ever tasted.

Oh yeah, nice ride too. What did that guy want to trade you his Softail for?

Allen Madding said...

Joker,
He wanted to trade heads-up for my RoadKing. NOT! :)

AA said...

Did you think Atlanta traffic on Friday morning was unnaturally light? I wish I could say the same for that afternoon, which seemed like business as usual.

Anyway, the only places I've ever seen those style gates have been in Tennessee. They're usually reserved to block traffic from getting on the Interstate in high-fog areas. I think there are a few along I-40 near Knoxville and the surrounding highways.

Allen Madding said...

Friday morning did seem a bit easier. I don't know about Fridat afternoon at 5 as I used some comp time to head out a lil after 3...

"Joker" said...

A Heritage or Deluxe, all tricked out with bags and some nice chrome goodies might be a decent match for a stock Road King, depending on what model years and mileage we're talking.

I'm sure since you turned it down, in this case the Softail was no match for the King.