Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Turkey Day!

Turkey Day is upon us, a day to eat turkey and all the fixin's, 

watch the games on TV,

and maybe go out for a ride while everyone else naps after dinner! 

But there is one thing we all ought to do before we carve that turkey -- or that curvey road. 

We ought to thank God for this wonderful country we have been given. 


Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Say Thanks to a Vet Today

History of Veterans Day  
(from the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs)

World War I – known at the time as “The Great War” - officially ended when the Treaty of Versailles was signed on June 28, 1919, in the Palace of Versailles outside the town of Versailles, France. However, fighting ceased seven months earlier when an armistice, or temporary cessation of hostilities, between the Allied nations and Germany went into effect on the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month. For that reason, November 11, 1918, is generally regarded as the end of “the war to end all wars.”

Soldiers of the 353rd Infantry near a church at Stenay, Meuse in France.
Soldiers of the 353rd Infantry near a church at Stenay, Meuse in France, wait for the end of hostilities.  This photo was taken at 10:58 a.m., on November 11, 1918, two minutes before the armistice ending World War I went into effect

In November 1919, President Wilson proclaimed November 11 as the first commemoration of Armistice Day with the following words: "To us in America, the reflections of Armistice Day will be filled with solemn pride in the heroism of those who died in the country’s service and with gratitude for the victory, both because of the thing from which it has freed us and because of the opportunity it has given America to show her sympathy with peace and justice in the councils of the nations…"

The original concept for the celebration was for a day observed with parades and public meetings and a brief suspension of business beginning at 11:00 a.m.

The United States Congress officially recognized the end of World War I when it passed a concurrent resolution on June 4, 1926, with these words:

Whereas the 11th of November 1918, marked the cessation of the most destructive, sanguinary, and far reaching war in human annals and the resumption by the people of the United States of peaceful relations with other nations, which we hope may never again be severed, and

Whereas it is fitting that the recurring anniversary of this date should be commemorated with thanksgiving and prayer and exercises designed to perpetuate peace through good will and mutual understanding between nations; and

Whereas the legislatures of twenty-seven of our States have already declared November 11 to be a legal holiday: Therefore be it Resolved by the Senate (the House of Representatives concurring), that the President of the United States is requested to issue a proclamation calling upon the officials to display the flag of the United States on all Government buildings on November 11 and inviting the people of the United States to observe the day in schools and churches, or other suitable places, with appropriate ceremonies of friendly relations with all other peoples.
An Act (52 Stat. 351; 5 U. S. Code, Sec. 87a) approved May 13, 1938, made the 11th of November in each year a legal holiday—a day to be dedicated to the cause of world peace and to be thereafter celebrated and known as "Armistice Day." Armistice Day was primarily a day set aside to honor veterans of World War I, but in 1954, after World War II had required the greatest mobilization of soldiers, sailors, Marines and airmen in the Nation’s history; after American forces had fought aggression in Korea, the 83rd Congress, at the urging of the veterans service organizations, amended the Act of 1938 by striking out the word "Armistice" and inserting in its place the word "Veterans." With the approval of this legislation (Public Law 380) on June 1, 1954, November 11th became a day to honor American veterans of all wars.

Later that same year, on October 8th, President Dwight D. Eisenhower issued the first "Veterans Day Proclamation" which stated: "In order to insure proper and widespread observance of this anniversary, all veterans, all veterans' organizations, and the entire citizenry will wish to join hands in the common purpose. Toward this end, I am designating the Administrator of Veterans' Affairs as Chairman of a Veterans Day National Committee, which shall include such other persons as the Chairman may select, and which will coordinate at the national level necessary planning for the observance. I am also requesting the heads of all departments and agencies of the Executive branch of the Government to assist the National Committee in every way possible."

President Eisenhower signing HR7786, changing Armistice Day to Veterans Day.
President Eisenhower signing HR7786, changing Armistice Day to Veterans Day. From left: Alvin J. King, Wayne Richards, Arthur J. Connell, John T. Nation, Edward Rees, Richard L. Trombla, Howard W. Watts 

On that same day, President Eisenhower sent a letter to the Honorable Harvey V. Higley, Administrator of Veterans' Affairs (VA), designating him as Chairman of the Veterans Day National Committee.
In 1958, the White House advised VA's General Counsel that the 1954 designation of the VA Administrator as Chairman of the Veterans Day National Committee applied to all subsequent VA Administrators. Since March 1989 when VA was elevated to a cabinet level department, the Secretary of Veterans Affairs has served as the committee's chairman.

The Uniform Holiday Bill (Public Law 90-363 (82 Stat. 250)) was signed on June 28, 1968, and was intended to ensure three-day weekends for Federal employees by celebrating four national holidays on Mondays: Washington's Birthday, Memorial Day, Veterans Day, and Columbus Day. It was thought that these extended weekends would encourage travel, recreational and cultural activities and stimulate greater industrial and commercial production. Many states did not agree with this decision and continued to celebrate the holidays on their original dates.

The first Veterans Day under the new law was observed with much confusion on October 25, 1971. It was quite apparent that the commemoration of this day was a matter of historic and patriotic significance to a great number of our citizens, and so on September 20th, 1975, President Gerald R. Ford signed Public Law 94-97 (89 Stat. 479), which returned the annual observance of Veterans Day to its original date of November 11, beginning in 1978. This action supported the desires of the overwhelming majority of state legislatures, all major veterans service organizations and the American people.

Veterans Day continues to be observed on November 11, regardless of what day of the week on which it falls. The restoration of the observance of Veterans Day to November 11 not only preserves the historical significance of the date, but helps focus attention on the important purpose of Veterans Day: A celebration to honor America's veterans for their patriotism, love of country, and willingness to serve and sacrifice for the common good.

If you see a veteran, take a minute to thank him for his service, and for his helping preserve our freedom.  


Friday, October 30, 2015

Get Ready for the Best Fall Colors on the Blue Ridge Parkway

A couple of weeks ago, I took a day and rode up to the Blue Ridge Parkway.  As you know, it is one of my favorite places to ride, being only 55 miles from home at its closest point.  Here is my report of the scenery.  Look at the end of the post for my guess on the best time to visit for fall colors. 

I ride up US-178 to Rosman, NC, then further north on NC-215 to the Parkway entrance.  The sun dapples on the pavement and riding into the sun in places make it difficult to judge the curves and road surface, so I take it easy.  Once the sun rises a bit, that problem will go away, though by that time, I will be on the Parkway. 

Almost to the Parkway entrance on NC-215.
That's Bucky and his GoPro in the bottom, left.

The Parkway entrance is just beyond that overpass.

I turn south toward Cherokee, NC.  Since it is early in the day, it is cold -- about 45 degrees, so I am bundled up and have the heated grips turned up to high.  I move along at the speed limit of 45 for most of the way.  Going in a generally south and western direction means that the blinding sun is behind me -- a good thing. 

I follow these two guys for a while.

Hello there.

Some reds are showing amongst the yellow and green.

You have to be careful of bicycles in the tunnels.


I pass the highest point on the Parkway, then go in several more miles and turn to go up to the parking lot at Waterrock Knob.  I take in the view and the colors here.

A nice mixture of colors -- about the best along here so far.

Also pretty.

I continue on the Parkway and discover a spur that I don't know about.  It is at milepost 458, about 13 miles from the south end of the Parkway, and leads to an entrance to Great Smoky Mountains National Park.  That paved road goes to the Heintooga Overlook.  I found out later, and I wish I had know about it when I was there.  Consequently, I didn't go that far.  (See the maps later on.) 

Heintooga Overlook.  
The road is also known as Heintooga Ridge Road, and there are quite a few hiking trails off this spur.
The one-lane unpaved Heintooga Round Bottom Road begins there. Heintooga Ridge and Balsam Mountain Roads are usually open from late May through October.  - See more at:

The one-lane unpaved Heintooga Round Bottom Road begins there. Heintooga Ridge and Balsam Mountain Roads are usually open from late May through October.  - See more at:
The road continues from the overlook as Heintooga Roundbottom Road, 14 miles to Cherokee, NC.  It is one way and is dirt and gravel.  Here is a link to some overlook and road info. 

I turn back to the main Parkway road and continue toward Cherokee.   I turn right at the end of the Parkway, just to see what's there.  Great Smoky Mountains National Park starts there.  It is only about 34 miles to Gatlinburg, NC, that haven of tourist traps.  That's the direction my new friend Robert took a few months ago on his epic journey. 

I don't want to get into that much traffic, so I turn back toward the town of Cherokee.  I fuel up, in the too-busy town, then hurry back to the relative calm of the Parkway.

This time, I go further than NC-215 where I first entered.  I continue on, past Mt. Pisgah, where there is a good restaurant and hotel.   Further still, I reach the outskirts of Asheville, NC, and route NC-191.  There, I leave the Parkway and take I-26 and US-25 back home.  It is fast to come back that way, but the concrete joints are a punishment to my back.

There's my turn. 
Too many uneven slab joints on I-26!
And too much traffic.
All together I have ridden 270 miles today.  Although the leaf colors are not at their peak, the ride is still beautiful and this is still my favorite road. 

Here are some individual maps, and an interactive map of the trip from Pickens, SC to Cherokee, NC, about 89 miles.
  • Pushpin A - Pickens SC
  • Pushpin B - Rosman, NC
  • Pushpin C - Parkway entrance from NC-215
  • Pushpin D - Waterrock Knob
  • Pushpin E - Entrance to Heintooga Ridge Road
  • Pushpin F - South end of the Parkway

Here are some more individual maps, and an interactive map of the trip from Cherokee, NC: to Asheville, NC, about 77 miles. 
  • Pushpin A - South end of the Parkway
  • Pushpin B - Entrance to Heintooga Ridge Road
  • Pushpin C - Waterrock Knob
  • Pushpin D - Parkway entrance from NC-215
  • Pushpin E - Pisgah Inn
  • Pushpin F - Entrance to Parkway at NC-191

By the way, to answer your question about when is the best time to see the colors.  Well, I'm guessing that the best time to visit the Parkway for fall colors is


So get moving, or you'll miss it! 

An Alternative Destination in the Same Neighborhood:

A close-by attraction I could have gone to instead is in Maggie Valley.  The Wheels Through Time motorcycle museum.  Highly recommended. 

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Flashy, Flashy


No, no, not Will Smith's Men in Black flashy thing.

Let's talk about something else first.

Not long after I bought my Ninja 650R, I added a couple of things to it that I thought were expedient.

One thing I added was a set of frame-mounted sliders.  These are the type that were available from Kawasaki.

The slider is the round black object protruding through the bottom of the cooling air vent.
Photo taken four days after bike purchase.

The sliders have helped prevent damage to the pretty -- and expensive -- plastic cowlings several times.  Most of these times were low or no-speed tipovers when making a sharp U-turn or when balancing the bike where there is gravel or where there is a major slope to the road.

OK, now, let's talk about flashy, flashy.

The other thing I added was a headlight modulator to make the bike more conspicuous to oncoming traffic.  The Ninja has two headlights.  The low beam is on all the time, and the high beam comes on in addition to the low beam, when extra light is needed.

I bought a Comagination VisiPath sS115H7, available now for $55.98.  The unit comes with connector plugs that are supposed to go between the wiring harness and the bike's H7 headlight bulb terminals.  The Ninja has a headlight bulb adapter, however, so the plug won't mate up as intended.  Instead, the ground female spade connector had to be removed from within the connector plug on the bulb modulator so the two female spade terminals can slide onto the wider spacing of the adapter on the bike. 

Like this:

The cylindrical electronics housing is about 1-3/8" diameter by 5/8" high.

Photo shows H4 bulb connector.
It will fit easily on most bikes.  I wire tied mine to some other wiring so it doesn't flop around.  

You can connect the modulator to either the low or high beam, but not both at the same time.  (There are other models that allow you to connect two bulbs to one modulator.)

I connected the high beam lamp to it.  Now, the low beam comes on as usual, and when I turn on the high beam, it modulates.  The modulated lamp is varied between 18 and 100% brightness at about 4 times per second.  It works only with incandescent bulbs, halogen, and xenon, not with HID.

One more thing is needed to make the device functional.  There is a photocell that is mounted so it can see daylight.  I found a place between the instruments and windshield. 


The purpose of this is so the high beam does not modulate at night or when in a dark place like a garage or tunnel. 

[So, does the modulator have any effect, Bucky?  Does it ward off mishaps?]

Take a look at this video: 

Taken from a YouTube video by HuachucaGuy of a Bergman scooter with modulator.
(It sounds like he breaks the sound barrier just as he passes the camera.)
His original video is here.

What do you think?  Does it help make the bike more visible? 

There are a couple of differences between his setup and mine.  My bike has one headlight that is always on low beam.  The other headlight is high beam only and comes on in addition to the low beam and modulates.  His bike has two dual element headlights, and he modulates both headlights on high beam.  (Try as I might, I could not get my video camera to clearly show the modulation.  Thus, the borrowed video above.) 

There is no way to tell for sure whether the modulating headlight has prevented any mishaps.  I can tell you, though, that there have been many instances where a vehicle has begun to pull out, but stopped short and waited for me to pass.  I suspect that this is mostly because of the modulator setup.

If it has helped avoid even one crash or near miss, then the unit is worth its weight in gold.  But, I still ride as though no one can see me, always on the lookout for danger. 

There is an occasional side effect that I need to tell you about.  When I am following someone, and modulator is on, the driver of the car I am following sometimes seems to be seeking out a place to pull off the road.  This could be because the modulating light is annoying.  (It may be, so I usually turn it off when I am following a car closely.)   The other possibility is that they think I am John Law.  I think this is a distinct possibility.  Some drivers have actually pulled over and stopped.

I'm sure they are relieved that they weren't being stopped for some traffic violation. 

Though I have replaced the low beam lamp several times in the last 50,000 miles, I have yet to replace the high beam.  I ride with the modulator on almost all the time, so the modulator doesn't seem to reduce bulb life at all.  In fact, it may extend it, because the modulator uses electronic switching so it is a soft ramping up and down in brightness rather than an abrupt on/off. 

Comagination also sells a brake light modulator that flashes the brake light a few times, then makes it come on constantly.  I had purchased one of these, but it has a characteristic that I think is detrimental.  It delays the illumination of the brake lamp for a fraction of a second before it begins to flash.  This reduces the reaction time a following driver has when you put on the brakes.  I removed that modulator and, instead, added an LED auxiliary brake lamp beneath the license place.  The LED lights faster than the incandescent bulb, so it provides a larger margin of reaction time to the driver behind.
Safety first! 

So, what's your take on the headlight flashy, flashy thing?   Is it beneficial, like Will Smith's?  Better than his?  

Additional info:

Here is a video that shows how the photocell turns off modulation when you enter a tunnel, garage, or when it gets dark.  .

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Road of Never-Ending Curves

Look at that title again. 

Roll it around on your tongue a few times. 

Let it enter your deepest consciousness. 

Sounds like a motorcyclist's dream, huh?

Well, there is such a place, named by that fellow, Stretch on the Carolina Rider Forum.  When he was describing the Fields of the Wood Bible Park for the forum tag game back in October of 2011, he also told us about a nearby road that he called the Road of Never-Ending Curves near Murphy, NC. 

Well, when I was up there a few weeks ago, I found the road he was talking about.  Unfortunately, it was raining rather hard when I started down that road, so I had to take it slower than if it were dry and had good visibility.  I'm not too fast anyway, but that day I was especially cautious. 

Nevertheless, let me tell you about it.

After I leave Fields of the Wood, I ride few miles west, over to the Tennessee state line to say that I had been there, thus upping by a third my vast riding area (that previously had included South and North Carolina, and Georgia).  

Just about a mile east of Fields of the Wood, is Hiawassee Dam Road.  That is Location 1 at the lower left on the map below.  Turn toward the northeast there, the only way you can go from NC-294.  By the way, the name Hiawassee comes from the Cherokee word Ayuhwasi, which means "meadow".  

Click here for Bing interactive map
The road goes down hill and curves around nicely.  There is a side road to the left that leads to the powerhouse, and view of the face of the dam. 

There is small park and picnic area just off the parking lot. 

Rain begins.  Lightly.  It has only been sprinkling before. 

Once I leave the powerhouse and continue on Hiawassee Dam Road, I cross over the dam itself.  Here is a picture Stretch took of the dam from an observation point at the far end of it.

Photo by Stretch
The road continues for about 11 miles to the intersection with Joe Brown Road, to the right.  Hiawassee Dam Road continues straight, but it becomes gravel. 

It is Joe Brown Road that Stretch named Road of Never-Ending Curves.  Look again at the map between Location 2, at the top, and Location 3 in the town of Murphy on the lower right.  That is about 20 miles of nice curves -- one after the other with few straight sections.  The scale of the map doesn't do the curves justice.  Click the link beneath the map to view an interactive map that you can enlarge to better see the curvaceous details.  Even then, the real thing is curvier than the map appears. 

From what I can tell in the rain (which has become heavier) the pavement varies from fair to good.  The traffic is very light today. There are surprisingly few driveways and intersecting roads. 

Stretch says, "...this ride alone makes the trip worthwhile. There is no dirt riding on the road of never ending curves: This loop is paved the entire way back to... Murphy, NC.  When in doubt turn right."    

I'll have to go back when the weather is dry to enjoy the Road of Never-Ending Curves more.  See what you think next time you go up that way. 

Other interesting curvy routes I have taken: