Ellijay, Georgia Shamrock® Tour

Text: Neale Bayly • Photography: Neale Bayly, Florian Neuhauser

I knew that Florian and I were in for a great Shamrock Tour® when I woke to the softly layered Appalachian mountains stretching out in front of our hotel, with a twisting two-lane highway cutting an inviting path between them. Four days later, parking our Harley-Davidsons for the last time as the sun slid toward the mountains and lit the valley with its last golden rays, I felt the satisfaction of knowing I had been right. We had once more found fantastic roads, friendly people, and an assortment of fun restaurants and coffee shops where we could fuel up or cool off along the way.

A Fun Climb Into the Mountains

With the promise of a hot, steamy day we rise before dawn and load up the Harleys with camera gear, notebooks and rain suits. We ride out after pausing to marvel at the soft-colored layers as the sun climbs over the ridgeline. Highway 52 is cool and shady as it works its way south through open farmland. Our pace is slow and relaxed as we sit back and breathe in the morning air. To our sides the open fields are blanketed with yellow weeds, striking a brilliant contrast to the rich greens and browns that color the view through the visors. Lazy farm animals wander as we roll on super-smooth tarmac.          

We arrive in the small town of Dawsonville, GA, before we turn onto Highway 53 and both realize that we have been here before. We make a couple of circuits around the historic courthouse, and we realize that we filmed part of the first RoadRUNNER travel DVD here a number of years ago. The coffee shop we had previously enjoyed is now a hair salon, as even things in small, sleepy towns change, and we must roll on in search of caffeine. As we approach Gainesville the countryside recedes and we experience some mild frenzy as people head to work. Florian’s radar soon has us settled into Steamers Coffee Co., an independently owned facility, and deep in conversation with the owner.      

Jeff Newman, 55, a corporate dropout who climbs trees for a hobby, gives us some great information about our proposed routes and suggests some additional roads. Suitably refreshed we head south as we leave the bustling town of Gainesville and work our way north onto Highway 129. On one of the most famous roads in this part of the world, as is Tail of the Dragon in North Carolina, we are soon swinging through the most incredible stretch of twisting road as we climb into the cool mountains. While the temperatures in Gainesville had not been stifling, the extra oxygen from the overhanging trees, the cool air, and the recent shot of caffeine make for a spirited run up the mountain.          

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For the complete touring article, including facts & information, map(s), and GPS files, please purchase the November/December 2011 back issue.