Monday, October 13, 2014

Gloves Gone, but Not Forgotten...and a Replacement Pair

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I noticed a couple of weeks ago that my favorite riding gloves were starting to go to pieces.  The perforated sections were tearing between the perforations.  Not good. 

So soon?  They still seem like they are my "new" gloves. 

The tears mean that they are probably not as protective as they ought to be in case of a fall. 

I bought that pair of Shift Carbine Motorcycle Gloves in 2008, based on a review by WebBikeWorld, that said they were a good value for gloves that were almost of race quality.  I paid about $88 for them, mail order. 
Fingers are not supposed to stick through.

They are comfortable and have given me good service over the years.  The loop half of the Velcro had become worn out a couple of years ago to the point where they would not stay closed, so I had some new Velcro sewn on by a local seamstress for about $20. 

It seems that Velcro does not last as long as it should.  Maybe it is counterfeit Velcro in the case of these gloves. 

I searched and searched for glove recommendations when I started looking for replacements of my old-faithful pair.  I ran across a sale at CycleGear online for the 2011 version of Alpinestars GP Plus Gloves.  Their original price was $189, but, because they are a few years old in style, they were advertised for $139.95 + local tax, and free shipping.  (I just looked, and they are now out of stock.  Sorry.  The newest version is likely just as good or better, but higher priced.) 

I carefully examined their sizing chart to make sure I sent for the right size.  You measure straight across your palm beneath the knuckles where your fingers meet your palm.  I settled on a size medium, and pressed the payment button.  (I thoroughly enjoy the research process up to that point, by the way, but not beyond.) 

After a few days waiting, the gloves arrived and I tried them on. 

They fit snugly across the hand and around the fingers, but since they are leather, they will break in and stretch a bit with use.  It does take a few extra seconds to get them on, being so tight.  They are quite comfortable, however.  The gauntlets cover my riding suit sleeves adequately, and there is a narrow strap with Velcro to secure the glove around your wrist to prevent its coming off.  Even though it has been hot, the gloves are comfortable and not oppressive. 





3rd and 4th fingers attached to one another

Alpinestars says there is dual density knuckle protection and finger sliders that offer superior impact and abrasion resistance.  The 3rd and 4th fingers are attached to one another to prevent the little finger from rolling (and breaking) if you are sliding on the outside of your hand.  They also say there is KEVLAR® in the lining.  The palms have little bumps that are supposed to allow for the palm to slide on the pavement instead of sticking.  Sticking instead of sliding can cause tumbling, and tumbling increases the probability of fractures.  There are stretch panels and perforations in the wrist area.  As might be expected, the fingers are pre-curved so you don't have to fight the gloves to grip the bars. 

So far, I like 'em. 

We'll see how long they last, and whether they remain comfortable over their life. 

Anybody have these gloves?  What do you think of them?
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Friday, September 26, 2014

Pretty Place to Visit

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There is a pretty place I have found.  In fact, it is referred to here as Pretty Place -- actually the Symmes Chapel at the YMCA Camp Greenville, whose entrance is about 2.7 miles north of Caesars Head on US-276, almost at the North Carolina state boundary line. 

You wind your way into the camp on Soloman Jones Road from 276 for about 5 miles, partly in North Carolina, but returning to South Carolina along the way.  The road gets narrow and mostly unmarked, so use some caution.  There is considerable traffic when weddings or camps are going on, especially on weekends. 

Many weddings are held in the chapel at the end of the road, but if there is one scheduled, there will be a hand-lettered sign on the right side of the road so indicating, at the lake, a bit more than 4 miles from the main road.

The chapel, built in 1941, is a pleasant spot to relax and enjoy the view while you are out on the bike.  (There are restrooms during the warm seasons.  Whew.)

View from inside the chapel. 

A much prettier picture of the view was captured by my friend Fred in the fall of 2010:
Photo courtesy of Fred
It is indeed a pretty place.  Other great pictures can be found on the 'net

On the way back home, I stop for a few minutes at Caesars Head.  The short walk to the overlook finds a sizable group of people watching for falcons, but I manage to shoot a panorama of the valley.  That mountain in the center above the lake is the back side of Table Rock Mountain.  You can see the far side very well from Table Rock State Park.


The road down the escarpment to the south of Caesars Head is very twisty, but can be fun when there isn't too much traffic.  Going up is easier, as usual

Here is the route from Caesars Head, at Pushpin A, to the camp turnoff at Soloman Jones Road, Pushpin B.  The sign for weddings will at C, and Pretty Place is at D.
Click here for an interactive map
Come visit Pretty Place and be inspired. 
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Thursday, September 11, 2014

Our Freedom - Those Who Protect It, and Those Who Want to Take It Away

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Our freedom is under attack by forces within -- at the highest levels of government, and forces outside the United States.

Remember who protects that freedom by putting their lives on the line for us.  People like these: 




Never forget who our enemies are:



...and add to it all those in our own government. 


Just so we don’t forget who the latest and potentially the most dangerous enemy is, the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS), has given us visual proof that they are butchers.  Two Americans, James W. Foley (shown below), and Steven J. Sotloff have been beheaded by them on video. 


James W. Foley
Graphic photo of his beheading.
NOT FOR CHILDREN.




They do this to belittle us.  Our leader does little or nothing effective, allowing their strength to grow. 

Many of the people of ISIS have U.S. and other passports, and can therefore travel freely into our country.  Each of us is at risk here at home

Late addition, September 27, 2014: This kind of thing has already begun and will occur more and more right here at home, as evidenced by the beheading of an Oklahoma woman by a man who was born and raised in our country, but became a radicalized Islamist.  Others who are at the least freeloaders, but at worst terrorists, are pouring across our borders. 


If you are sickened by this, then you are probably a red-blooded American patriot. 

If you are not sickened, then you would probably enjoy a nice round of golf right about now. 


The much-criticized Mr. George W. Bush predicted seven years ago the rise of Islamist militants if we withdrew troops.  How right he was.  Watch

Never forget the only ones who are really protecting us:


Further Reading:

Don't know much about ISIS?  Read this book: Rise of ISIS: A Threat We Can't Ignore.

You can buy it on :

Sunday, September 7, 2014

Still the Best Road I Know Of

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I don't have experience riding in very many places, but I do pay attention to some of the online blogs and forums, that, on occasion, speak about beautiful and challenging roads across the world. 

Some of the best roads in the eyes of a few of these posters -- and in my view -- are right in my back yard here in the Carolinas.  How opportune it was that I moved to South Carolina just a few years before starting to ride my two-wheeled machine.  I say that because I used to live in areas that were much flatter and less picturesque.  The cyclists of all kinds there don't use the sides of their tires very much. We have quite an opportunity to do so if we want, around these parts. 

All I have to do is leave my garage, and ride about 52 miles on progressively more technical roads to get to the closest point of the Blue Ridge Parkway, the subject of my tome today. 

I'm talking about a couple of other good roads, US-178 and NC-215, to get there.  I have ridden these roads many times.  The best part of US-178 starts with some mild curves just north of Pickens South Carolina.  That stretch is where the Perfect Curve lives. 

Once you reach SC-11, about nine miles north from Pickens, the road shortly becomes much more twisty.  There are two second gear turns for me, and many best handled in third gear.  The road surface is generally good except for some breaks and settling in a few of the many fills that made the road possible.  The sight distances are reasonable in many places -- but not all -- so you can look ahead as you should to properly navigate the turns. 

One especially interesting and entertaining series of S curves is just south of Rocky Bottom.  I have become a bit bolder when navigating this section over the years, and I never cease to be amazed by how sticky my Michelin Pilot Road 3 and 4 street tires can be.  I am sure, too, though, that I am not riding to the max on them.

US-178 was designed under one Charles Henry Moorefield, South Carolina state highway engineer between 1920 and 1935.  Granite markers are scattered along the right of way giving him tribute, like this one near the North Carolina state line: 

On this curve:

 
In about 26 miles from Pickens, you reach Rosman North Carolina where a gas station and food market await for a short rest.  From Rosman, you take NC-215 further north. 

This road is about as twisty as the sections of 178 between SC-11 and Rosman, and the pavement has recently been renewed with a fresh layer of uniform color and surface blacktop, so it is a smooth ride. 

As an aside, the color of the surface has a significant effect on your ability to discern hazards like loose gravel.  Some other roads, not-too-far-away SC-28 and SC-107, to the west, have stretches where chip and stone has been applied, making the surface an irregular mix of white and black that is confusing to the eye.  Some riders just ignore that and blast on through, but I slow down just in case there is a section of real loose stuff, especially in a curve. 

The remaining 10-1/2 miles to the Parkway pass in a matter of a couple of minutes it seems.  Soon enough I make the entrance turn to the left just after passing under the Parkway through this picturesque stone arch. 

On a historical note, I have traveled the Parkway some forty times since my first venture there on the bike in April of 2008, about seven months after I started riding.  [Ya' like that road, huh, Bucky?]

My latest trip on the Parkway was on August 30I had the route marked out to ride with one of the new guys, but he couldn't go because of some bike mechanical trouble.  Previously, the new guy, Chris, went with me on a ride that included SC-130, SC-107, and SC-28, and again on a ride that included the Greenville Watershed road to Saluda North Carolina.  This ride to the Parkway would have been the next step in difficulty. 

I decided to go it alone, when I learned that he could not go.  We will do it again when he gets his bike back on the road.  

Once I hit the Parkway, I turn south and travel to the highest point, about 8-1/2 miles from 215.  The requisite picture is taken in front of the highest-point sign.  The day is beautiful, with brilliant blue skys, painted artistically with occasional clouds. 

I gaze at the scenery then mount up for the trip back toward 215 and beyond.

I think the section of the Parkway between Waterrock Knob and Asheville is quite picturesque, and the road is just challenging enough to make it interesting.  

I travel along, stopping occasionally to gawk at the scenery, so my overall pace is pretty sedate. There is no commercial traffic on the Parkway, so you don't have to watch for semis hogging both lanes.  There are few cross roads, but you do have to watch for the overlook entrances that are, many times, blind around curves: Traffic crossing your lane sometimes can't see you coming. 

One thing that irritates me on the Parkway is drivers who stop to look at the scenery without pulling off the road.  This happens quite often on the Parkway.  They don't seem to realize that people can't see them from around a bend, and don't expect someone to be stopped dead in the road.  Come to think of it, they could become dead in the road, if they act like that.  This time around, it is a bicyclist who is stopped with his bike across the other lane, photographing three women standing on the berm on my side, with the mountains as backdrop.  I am sure it will make a mighty pretty picture.  They scatter with a few blasts of the horn, fortunately.  I just don't know about peoples' judgment.  Maybe his helmet is too tight. 

I pass the Mt. Pisgah Inn and other points of interest, and go through several tunnels of varying lengths.





You have to watch for bicyclists in the tunnels.  Some of them don't have reflectors or lights. 

Finally the French Broad River comes into view on the right.  I stop for a few minutes to take it all in. 

By the way, the river down below me was named by settlers centuries ago because it was one of the two broad rivers in western North Carolina. The one that flowed into land claimed by France at that time was named the French Broad River, whereas the other, which stayed in land claimed by England - the Colony of North Carolina - was named the English Broad River, later renamed simply the Broad River. 

Unfortunately, this marks the end of my travel on the Parkway today. 

I could go on for another ten miles or so to the Parkway Visitor Center, or could go much further to Black Mountain and beyond.  I have ridden as far as Boone on the bike, and there are some nice sections through there as well.
Click here for interactive map.
 Or, I could double back to, say, US-276 and go back down the Blue Ridge Escarpment that way. 
Click here for interactive map.

That route starts out very twisty, and would take me past the Cradle of Forestry where they chronicle the history of forest management, through Dupont Forest, a good place for hiking and mountain biking, and past Caesar's Head, a high point with a great view, then through another very twisty section. 

...but I don't today.  I don't have a lot more time left, so I exit the Parkway, onto NC-191, paralleling the river, then cut to over a short distance to I-26.  This is a quick (but boring) way to get home, taking I-26, US-25, SC-11, SC-8, SC-135, though those last three are a little more interesting than 26 and 25. 

This is the route I took, about 180 miles:
Click here for an interactive map.
Although I went only 46 miles including 8 miles I traveled in both directions on the Parkway today, the total length of the Parkway is 469, so there is plenty more to explore.

But I like this stretch just about best, though. 

Here is a scattering of pictures from previous trips on the Parkway:

My first trip on the Parkway. 






Linn Cove Viaduct photo by Mehmet OZ.

Photo of curve advisory sign by Ryan.
French Broad River overlook.

Very heavy fog on the way to the Rally to Ridgecrest 2011.
The road ahead.


Summit of Mount Mitchell, highest point in North Carolina.
Rally to Ridgecrest 2013.


Come and join me some time for an exceptionally good ride on one of the great roads in the United States. 

By the way, what is your favorite road? 

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Real Squid Sighted

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You know what a squid is, right?

In case, you don't, according to the motorbikelicense.com blog, it is used to describe "a motorcycle rider who lacks common sense. This will be in relation to their display of riding skills, lack of suitable motorcycle protection attire, or often both." 

Well, the other day, I saw a squid going one better [one worse??] than I have seen previously.

The guys in this picture I found on the 'net are somewhat overdressed, as a matter of fact, compared with the guy I saw. 
From motorbikelicense.com.  Used without permission. 
The fellow I saw was riding a naked sportbike, a little beat up.  As might be expected, as an aspiring squid, he was not wearing a helmet: Wouldn't want to be overdressed, now would we?  He sported a fine pair of shorts and a very protective tee shirt, however.

But what struck me was that he was wearing no shoes. 

Not even Cons in black, or the much more stylish light blue, like the guys in the picture above.

He was coming to a stop at a light, and, as he did, he downshifted from fourth gear.  How he had upshifted with a bare foot, I don't know.  Must have a calloused big toe. 

It was also a very hot day, and the pavement had to be scorching his soles as he stopped (with both feet down). 

Smart. 

Maybe the heat of the day had fried his brain.

I didn't see him take off to find out if he demonstrated further squidlike behavior, and I didn't get a picture for you before he was gone from my sight. 

Any one of us who rides can get into a situation where we are no longer sitting astride our scooters, but rather, sliding or bouncing along the tarmac.  No matter what style of rider you are, and whatever the laws say, it is just stupid to ride a motorcycle without the whole lot of protective gear.
 
Remember this about pavement:

It is just as hard,
whether you are dressed for it or not. 



I hope the guy I saw got home all right.  
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Sunday, August 17, 2014

Sassafras Mountain Gets a Haircut

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Here in South Carolina, we have some mountains.  Not  MOUNT^INS  like there are in the west, but we like them.  And where there are mountains, there must be one that is the highest.  For us, that highest is Sassafras Mountain, located up US-178 near the metropolis called Rocky Bottom.  Not all of Sassafras is contained in South Carolina, however.  About half of it is in North Carolina, but the highest point itself, we can claim, at 3,560 feet (1,085 meters) above sea level.  (Pinnacle Mountain, at 3,415 feet (1,041 meters), in Table Rock State Park, is the highest peak entirely within South Carolina.) 

US-178 is a good road in several ways.  The first is that it is twisty.  The second is that it is in reasonably good condition.  You can go all the way from Pickens South Carolina to Rosman North Carolina on it, then jog over a little and take NC-215 to the Blue Ridge Parkway and beyond.
A = Pickens, SC
B = Rosman, NC
C = Blue Ridge Parkway entrance
D = junction with US-276 near Waynesville, NC
Click here for interactive map.
A Rocky Bottom, you turn to the east onto F. Van Clayton Memorial Highway, right after the Rocky Bottom Retreat and Conference Center of the Blind sign.    You wind on up the narrow, but nicely paved road (watch for the one very tight left-hand switchback), and keep to the right where Glady Fork Road comes in on the left.  Go all the way to the end, which is the parking area for the mountaintop.
A = Pickens, SC
B = Rocky Bottom, SC
C = intersection with Glady Fork Road
D = Sassafras Mountain parking
Click here for interactive map.

You may recall that not so long ago, in 2010, there was no way to see into the distance from the mountaintop.  The trees hid the view all around.  Then, they put up a rustic and quite functional viewing platform so you could see off in the southerly direction.  This was a nice, quiet place to contemplate God's creation. 


The engineering grad students at Clemson apparently thought they could build a better platform, so they tore out the simple one and erected a new one.  It turned out to be an eyesore to my eyes, that was poorly built and is deteriorating. 
Poorly engineered and failing support beneath
the Clemson-designed platform.
Then, somebody got the bright idea that there should be a $1,000,000 observation tower on the mountain so you could see in every direction.  I think that is a very poor idea.  It is likely to turn our peaceful mountaintop into a bustling tourist attraction.  (And Duke Power pledged half of the million dollars, so my power bills could be lower if they didn't spend money on that tower.) 

Meanwhile, work has continued on the mountaintop, and I thought I heard that instead of building the tower, they are going to clear cut the trees on the mountaintop instead.  The tower would have to have en elevator for handicapped people, and that would cost a bunch more.  The vandals would have a field day with the tower, too. 

That clear cutting is a better idea, and a lot cheaper. 

I had to go and see what they have done. 


I ride up US-178 at a spirited pace, and am enjoying the alternating curves, especially between SC-11 and Rocky Bottom.  I turn off onto Van Clayton Road and climb to the top of the mountain.  There is mud in a few spots, so I am a little careful.

Sure enough, as I approach the parking area, I can see that the trees are gone on the top of the mountain.

It used to look like his:
Taken on one of the rare times when the gate was open to the top. 
Now it looks like this:

You have to walk up the grade a little further to the very top, so I squeezed around the gate (on foot) and started climbing. 

The last time I was here, a few weeks ago, they had uprooted the marker and bench that were placed at the high point itself. 
I was concerned that they would be relegated to the scrap pile.

Happily, they have been reset now that the trees are down.


They have scattered some grass and clover seed to keep the erosion down.  The remaining trees are still a little too high for an unobstructed view, however.  When the leaves fall, the big picture will really be available.  

Here is a panorama from the top. 


The views all around are promising.  Certainly I have never seen anything from here in the distance except to the south where the older viewing platform is located.

On the way down, I notice this sign.  It says this is just the beginning, and the tower is still to be built.


Rats. 


I am really surprised by something, though.  Where are the tree-hugging, liberal, bleeding hearts?  I expected that there would be an outcry from that crowd decrying the loss of the mostly second growth woods at the top here.

But there is nary a sign of them. 

That's OK with me.  I think the clearing operation allows a pretty good view of the surrounding territory.

Just don't build that ugly tower. 
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