Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Winter View from the Wigington Byway

I went for a short ride last week.  Up towards Whitewater Falls again.

It seems that I go that way a lot lately.  Mostly because the road is in good condition, having been completely replaced, top to bottom, between North Little River Road and the North Carolina state line.  The road south of Little River Road is a good condition too.

The curves are all sweepers, and you can go pretty fast, though the speed limit is only 45 miles per hour.  Almost every bike I see when I go that way is pushing that limit, some by a considerable margin.

I will admit, it is easy to do. 

That road to the falls, South Carolina 130, is a good one for beginners just starting to ride in the curves, I think, and I have fairly recently ridden it with three other guys who were just learning how to ride.  You can read about those outings here: New Guys, and here: A Really New Guy.

In fact, it is one of the first roads outside our neighborhood that I took just five months after I started riding and having bought my Ninja 650R: First Trip to Whitewater Falls.  My discovery trip that day was exciting to me, having experienced my first destination ride.

When I go the same way, even now, I remember that newness and excitement of going there for the very first time.  

I wonder how many people feel that excitement and elation when they are in their cars.  I'll bet, quite a lot lower percentage than for those who get there on two wheels. 

Well, anyway, on to the latest ride.

I check out the tires and oil, and give the bike a general looking over.  Then I mount up and take off toward the north and west. 

Today, it is overcast, so the scenery was not very colorful, but the roads are clean, and the temperature is about 50 degrees F.  I am comfortable, wearing my winter gear.  There is not even the usual draft around my neck today.  Maybe I have learned how to seal up that wind tunnel. 


I first enjoy the curves of US-178 from Pickens, then less so the nearly straight SC-11 toward the west. 

The curves of the ten miles of route 130 between SC-11 and Whitewater Falls pass quickly.  I know that the falls parking lot is closed, however due to a wildfire here not long ago.  That fire was not connected to the Pinnacle Mountain fire I wrote about recently, but also occurred during the lengthy dry spell we had last summer.

I am a year-round rider, venturing out when temperatures are above freezing, but this winter has been a good one even for fair-weather riders.  There has been a lot less cold weather and only one snowstorm so far.  Some say we are in for more cold in a month or two, but I'll look forward to this mild weather with child-like eagerness. 

Instead of going to Whitewater Falls, I turn left a mile or so before that, onto the Wigington Byway.  Actually, this is part of what is known officially as the Oscar Wigington Memorial Scenic Byway.  It is only a little over two miles long, and connects SC-130 with SC-107.  There is no development along it whatsoever.

Bikers enjoy this short stretch because it has a few steeper hills and some tighter sweepers than 130.  A few go like crazy here assuming that the radar of those Highway Patrolmen doesn't reach here.

Whatever the case, I still take it easy. 

This road does have an overlook onto Lake Jocassee and the Bad Creek pumped storage lake.  This view isn't very pretty on some overcast days, but today, it has a striking beauty, I think.

Resting bike in front of pretty view
Click image for high-resolution version.
The almost monochromatic appearance off in the distance is quite beautiful, though the photographs don't do it real justice.

I think these unexpected vistas are part of the reason I enjoy riding.  I probably wouldn't come here as often in the car, because my car isn't much fun to drive on curvy roads.  But just getting there on the bike is fun, and can be exciting. 

And seeing sights like this is frosting on that cake.

I have been able to visit many different sights in the nine years or so I have ridden the motorcycle. You can read about many of them -- and laugh at some -- if you page back in this blog.

My two-wheeled steed of some 71 horsepower has, indeed, been an eye-opener for me to the beauty of the area near where I live, and I have met many different people along the way.  

What about you?  Is there a picturesque sight you have seen or an interesting character you have met during your two-wheeled travels? 

Friday, February 3, 2017

Clouds on a Brisk Winter Day

Yesterday, I went out for a few hours of riding.  We can usually ride all winter long here because of the moderate temperatures in South Carolina.

Although we certainly get cold weather, snow, and ice, it is usually gone in a few days, and the roads are once again calling to those who ride on two wheels.

The day's temperature started out in the mid-40s, so I bundled up, started the bike, turned on the grip heaters, and took off for parts unknown.  The weather was overcast when I first went out, so I didn't go anywhere that might otherwise offer a distant view, like the highest point in South Carolina, Sassafras Mountain, or Caesar's Head.

Instead, I just meandered around in the lowlands and headed for Poinsett Bridge.  That is an old stone bridge used by stagecoaches.  I have visited there many times, and it is a picturesque sight.

As I ventured along on my meandering route, I noticed that the clouds were not as gray, and that there were patches of blue scattered about.  Some of the blue was, in fact, brilliant blue.

And the clouds became a panorama of beauty that changed as time passed and as my direction turned.

I could hardly keep my eyes on the road, in fact, for all the sights to be seen in the sky.

See what you think.

Two crescents of blue

But still mostly gray

More blue

And still more

Look at the pattern of those clouds in the center

Looks like billows of cotton

Sand on the road ahead, left over from the recent snow

And another pattern comes into view

What a display!

Following a yellow Goldwing for a while

More variations

Little clumps of clouds

Table Rock beneath the clouds

The water tower in Easley, the town where I live

Low speed practice on an empty court

 I only rode about a hundred miles, but the sky was the best part of the ride today.  

God is certainly a great artist. 

Don't you agree?

More clouds:


Wednesday, January 18, 2017

25° then 75° in the Same Week -- So Ride When You Can!

The weather this winter in South Carolina has been fickle.  We had snow and below freezing temperatures, then, by the end of the same week, we had mid-70s temperatures and sunny skies.

A man doesn't know how to dress for the weather these days! 

The cold and snow certainly did cut into our riding time, but I guess I should be glad that for most of the winter here it is possible to ride, with the right gear.

Here are some pictures taken in our yard on an obviously non-riding day:

My wife's little garden pond.

I stayed in the house most of the time when the snow was around, since most South Carolina drivers have no earthly idea how to drive in it, and they don't have much snow removal equipment because we don't get snow very often.  They do scatter some sand and road salt around, though, to their credit.  The only bad part of that is that the sand stays on the roads for weeks afterwards creating quite a hazard for two wheels. 

Once the snow melted, the weather got summer-like, so I had to go out and make sure I ran the bike enough to charge up the battery.

Naturally that meant go for a ride.  Of maybe 70 miles or so, at least.  That should do it, wouldn't you say?  Don't want to kill that expensive battery, now do we. 

I start out from home and go northward on SC-135.  This is a easy road with only a few curves.  The riding is easy, and I make good time.  There isn't much sand on the road, so that is good.

I reach SC-8 near the thriving crossroads called Pumpkintown.  Just before I reach there (at point B on the map below), I can see Table Rock to my left in the distance.  It stands in stark contrast to the tree-lined hills that surround it.

Just look at the blue sky.  It almost looks like a painting.  In a way, it is -- God's painting, though. 

I continue on until I reach SC-11 (at point C on the map), the Cherokee Foothills National Scenic Byway.  This is a nearly straight road that runs along the southern side of the Blue Ridge Escarpment about 18 miles from Easley, SC where I live.  Lots of cruisers use this road, and the sporty bike riders use it to get to the many twisty roads to the north.

Here is a view taken from SC-11 of Table Rock: 

And a closer look from the road that runs thorough Table Rock State Park (at points D, E and F on the map): 

I go a bit further south on SC-11 to US-178 and stop at the Holly Springs Country Store (at point G on the map) to stretch and see of there are any other bikers there.  As I am surveying the parking lot, I spot a fellow I know, Tommy.  He is a few years younger than I am and rides a sport-touring bike.  Today, though he is in his cage and stopped to chew the fat with the locals on the porch at the store.

When I am through chatting with Tommy, I head back toward Easley on US-178.  They have recently patched this stretch of road, and they made it worse than it was as far as lumps and bumps.  They also created some edge traps where they replaced only part of a lane width.

That's our federal government at work.  In all fairness, they are not done yet, so I will reserve final judgment until then.  (...but I am not holding my breath.) 

Anyway, I reach the town of Pickens and head toward home on SC-8.  The DMV is along here (at point H on the map) and they have a motorcycle certification test layout in the back part of their parking lot.  I stop for a few minutes and practice my low speed maneuvers and lane changes.  I find that if I don't do this periodically, I get rusty and less sure of myself on the road when I have to use one of these techniques.

Here is an aerial view of the DMV.  See the test layout at the bottom, center of the photograph:

Here is a collage at the DMV of some GoPro screen grabs:

Makes you a little dizzy, doesn't it?

After that, I went home.  I only had time for this short jaunt of 69 miles, but it was a great day to be out on the bike. ...and the battery is now fully charged, I might say. 

Here is the map of the trip, less some of the meandering I did in between points:  

Click for larger interactive map.