Friday, March 2, 2018

The Pumpkintown Loop: Get Lost!

Back around 2007 through 2009, a local graphic artist with an interest in motorcycles by the name of Norm Blore brought out a nice glossy magazine called Motorcycle Lifestyle.  The magazine featured motorcycles and motorcycle-related events, accessories, news, and other information.  In fact, I wrote an article for the magazine about washing leather motorcycle clothing yourself at home.

The magazine was certainly not dependent on my little article, though I also don't think that is what caused its demise.   Rather, small independent publishers have a very difficult time making money in their endeavor.

One thing Mr. Blore included in many of the issues was a ride map.  These highlighted roads and attractions that are interesting to motorcyclists in the upstate of South Carolina and the bordering states of North Carolina and Georgia.  He also occasionally wrote about further-away trips, some on the other side of the globe.

One of these local ride maps was called Get Lost!, because it is a fairly complex route from which is it easy to do just that -- get lost.  Incidentally, that is one of the neat things about riding, I think.  Just go down a road that looks interesting either in person or on the map to see where it leads, and what borders it.  It is especially encouraging, nowadays, that almost no matter how lost you are, you can press the "home" button on a GPS and it will (usually) get you back to that by the shortest route.

Anyway, the Get Lost! route appeared in the Early Spring 2009 issue of the magazine, and was actually called "The Pumpkintown Loop, GREAT ROADS YOU'VE NEVER RIDDEN".  He goes on to describe the route in more detail:

56 miles of two-lane as they zigzag through our upper South Carolina rural landscape.  Some roads are pretty tight.  All have farms and old country homes and interesting sights to see.  I almost like it better in winter because I can see what is normally hidden behind the trees.  Ride slow, ride careful and have a great afternoon.  This should take about two hours if you don't get lost.  This is a complicated one.  A great route for a scavenger hunt.  
Copyright 2008, Norm Blore.

By the way, Pumpkintown is a crossroads just about in the center of this ride map, though you don't go through it while following the route.  I tried the route out with the help of my GPS.  You can download the GetLost.GPX file here, by clicking the Download button on the page the link takes you to, then selecting Save File, and entering the desired location on your hard disk or GPS.  The GPX file was created by the Harley-Davidson Ride Planner website using the Motorcycle Lifestyle magazine map.  I wrote a posting about using the Ride Planner website here in case you want to give it a try.


All information given here is thought to be correct, however, it is YOUR responsibility to make certain that it works correctly, works with your GPS, works with your computer, and so on and on. 
Routes generated in various ways may cause you to be routed in the wrong direction -- maybe the wrong way or off a cliff.  That, too, is YOUR responsibility. 

The contents, usability, accuracy, and suitability of any files referenced are not warranted in any way.  YOU must determine whether to use any information in the files or in this posting, or referenced by this posting. 
Do not fiddle with your GPS while riding. Always stop in a safe place before attempting to manipulate your GPS screen.
There are no warranties on anything here whatsoever, express or implied.

I use an earphone plugged into my GPS so I can hear its verbal directions.  That helps avoid having to study the screen while you are riding along, that being a potentially dangerous activity. 

If you use the GPS route, ignore any instructions to make a U-turn.  Those are apparently caused by slight errors in selecting the waypoints in Ride Planner.  Look at the paper map to see where it is taking you, and follow the paper map when in doubt.  You will get back onto the GPS route, usually in a minute or two. 

A letter "F" on the map indicates that fuel is available there (though there is no fuel at Pumpkintown, but there is a restaurant).

And so I start out on my way to getting lost. 

February 22, 2018
The weather is good today -- temperate, about 60 degrees, with quite a few clouds -- as I head northward on SC-135 to my starting point on the route where it crosses Earl's Bridge Road.  I plan on riding the route clockwise today.  From that starting point, the route takes me up and down, hither and yon.

Most of these roads are gently curving, but occasionally there is a tight turn -- not necessarily marked as such, I might add.  I did find that there were quite a few places where there was mud on the road, washed out of unpaved driveways onto the road by recent rains,

...and from a couple of logging operations.

Fortunately most of the mud is dry and thin, so it is easy to avoid trouble.  There is a little gravel in places, but not much, and there are a few significant pavement heaves that I take the brunt of along the way. 

I ride along, following the GPS instructions and the paper map.  I am going pretty slowly, so I can look around at the pretty scenery. There are a lot of old barns and outbuildings.

After a few trips west to east and back west, I find myself on Tater Hill Mountain Road.  I don't see much of a mountain, but it must be a place where they grew potatoes.  An old red dog lying in the road looks at me sleepily as I pass by.

I hope drivers coming from the other direction see him in time to swerve around him. 

In a few miles, I am on Carrick Creek Road.  Just north of where it intersects with Table Rock Road is the Amelia Falls Event Venue.  This is a place that is available for weddings and other gatherings.  They advertise: "Our picturesque setting provides opportunities for distinctive ceremonies, receptions, reunions, and picnics."  The main attraction is a small waterfall that is visible from the road.  There is a narrow pulloff on the road from which you can view the falls.

That's the bike parked way up there.

After I drink in the view of the falls, I continue northward on Carrick Creek Road, keeping a sharp eye out for a gargantuan St. Bernard dog that chased me the last time I rode through here.  He runs like a gazelle, and that time I was saved only by an oncoming car that the dog had to avoid before intercepting me.  I don't see him today, fortunately.  

I continue across SC-11, known as the Cherokee Foothills Scenic Highway that runs along the southern edge of the Blue Ridge Escarpment, and continue onto Back Park Road.  Table Rock State Park has an entrance just south of here on SC-11; a nice place to picnic, hike, and enjoy the views.  There is a picturesque barn with a quilt pattern on the side and an old truck peeking out the far end here.  I stop to snap its picture. 

Back Park Road comes out near Aunt Sue's Country Corner, "
Where families can still be families!"  It is a good place to stop for lunch, or a scoop of ice cream, and they have some other shops there to buy souvenirs.  They are closed in winter, unfortunately. 

From there, I go up South Saluda Road, which turns right onto Table Rock Road (not the same as the previously-mentioned road of the same name), which changes into River Road.  I pass the makeshift helicopter landing field they used during the forest fire back in November of 2016.  It is a campground in the warm season. 
Further along, the road parallels the South Saluda River with many shallow picturesque shoals.  There are a few places to stop if you want a closer look at them. 

I come out onto SC-276.  If you want, it is only about seven twisty miles to the north from here to reach Caesars Head State Park.  The road is a little rough in places, and watch for the vendor at Bald Rock selling honey and other touristy items in one place about a third of the way up along the right side of the road.  Coming back down you can't see it from around a bend, and there might be cars stopped or turning there.  I didn't go up this time because it is cloudy, but the view is excellent on a clear day.  You can walk out onto the very large, aptly named Bald Rock if you like. 

I turn to the south on SC-8 and again cross SC-11 onto Talley Bridge Road.  At the Greenville County line, there is a bridge that passes over some pretty shoals in the river on the left side. 

There are remnants of an older highway bridge on the right side, and calmer waters.

I continue on a short distance and turn sharply right onto Moody Bridge Road.  Around the first left-hand sweeper, look for a pulloff on the left side on the shore of Tall Pines Lake.  Kill a few minutes to take in the view of the miniature lighthouse on an island in the lake.

A little further still, I run across the Causey Tract public dove hunting field on the right, at 1776 Moody Bridge Road.  It is only open Saturdays after noon, and there is a limit of 50 shells or 15 birds, whichever comes first.  I don't stop to shoot.  It isn't Saturday, after all. 

Moody Bridge runs into Pleasant Grove Road, then into Liberia Road.  There is a church on the left side called Soapstone Baptist Church and cemetery.  There is a large outcropping of soapstone near the church, and they have a monthly fish fry supper that I'm told is quite good.  The cemetery just to the south has many very old gravestones. 

I finish out the route, coming back to SC-135.  I follow it back to Easley, then go a little further south, meander around the countryside some more, do some low speed practice, than go home to my garage. 

All along as I ride today, I have seen views and glimpses of the mountains, both near and far.

I got lost from the intended route a few times, but managed to recover and get home all right. 

I also am not so good about remembering to turn off my GoPro when I stop someplace.  I inadvertently got my picture taken many times during this trip.  Some examples:

Try out this route for yourself when you have a little time.  I think you'll like it. 

By the time you read this, the dogwoods, Bradford pears, redbuds, and forsythias will have begun flowering, so get out there and Get Lost!

Let me know how you liked this route in the comments section. 

Other maps from Motorcycle Lifestyle Magazine:
  • Lake Country -- Fall 2008 issue.  Explores two of the lakes in Upstate South Carolina, Keowee and northern Hartwell.  120 miles. 
  • A Two Hours Afternoon's Jaunt -- Spring 2008 issue.  Covers and area centered on Tigerville, SC.  82 miles. 
  • Spartanburg, Saluda, Rutherfordton Route -- Summer 2008 issue.  This route goes into North Carolina, and includes the twistiest road I know of.  98 miles. 

A clever ad that appeared in Motorcycle Lifestyle Magazine:   

4-bike garage!

Wednesday, February 14, 2018

Flashy, Flashy, Kerflooey! ...and Fixed

Back in 2015 I wrote about having installed a Comagination brand headlight modulator on my Ninja 650R shortly after I bought it in late 2007. It has probably protected me from some vehicles that would otherwise not have seen me coming if it had not been for the flashing of the high-beam headlight.  In other words, my conspicuity is higher with the modulator than without. 

How much higher?  Nobody knows, but I have seen several drivers who looked as though they were about to start out or turn in front of me, and who then did not after all.  That might be because of the modulator. 

On my bike, the low-beam stays on whenever the engine is running, so there is not only a constant light but the modulating light as well when it is light outside.

The other day, I had occasion to go riding and went through a tunnel.  The modulation is supposed to stop when in a tunnel or when it gets dark.  This is so you can have the high beam on continuously to see by its wider pattern of light.  The unit knows when it is dark by way of a photo sensor that points to the sky. 

I did some diagnosis, trying to figure out what had gone wrong.  The most likely failure was a faulty photo sensor or its wiring.  I examined the sensor closely, and removed the potting material around it.  I resoldered the wires running to it, and I substituted a potentiometer for the sensor to try to cause the unit to stop modulating. 

Nothing worked to stop the modulation.

Since the modulator is potted in a plastic shell, there was no way to do any diagnosis inside.  That meant that if I rode at night or went through a tunnel, I would have to use the low beam only to turn off the modulation. 

That is not a good idea, because there are times when the added light of the high beam is necessary. 

I decided to replace the unit complete.  So into the trash can it went:

After some research online, and visiting the Comagination website that doesn't work any more, I found that they are likely out of business.  I researched other brands on webBikeWorld and decided that Kisan might be a good alternative. 

The Kisan P75-W would work, is easy to install, and costs $69.95.  Another one that would work is the P115W-H3 at $109.95.  I wanted to pay less. The old one was $55.98. 

So I looked at Amazon and ebay.  I found an open box Kisan pathBlazer P115W-H3 Z option for use with BMW CAN-bus motorcycles for $50 with free shipping from ebay seller rwbmwparts (BMW Motorcycles of Seattle).  The Z option doesn't prevent its use on other electrical systems, so I placed my Buy-It-Now order.  It came in a few days, and was as described.  

Essentially, you wire it in series with the hot wire leading to the bulb you want to modulate -- in my case the high beam -- and connect the ground wire.  I tidied up the wiring with some wire ties, and Velcroed the module to the back of the meter bracket.

The photo sensor must point upwards at the sky.  It is about 3/8" diameter, so it is not easy to hide.  You can wire tie it to something, but that didn't look very good.  I settled on positioning it through the meter cowling under and near the base of the
windscreen.  Since the meter cowling slopes downward toward the front, I made an angled adapter out of an aluminum bushing so the sensor would point upward, then used silicone to hold it in place.  

Cockpit view.
Still a little dusty from the drilling.
The sensor is not obtrusive, and works fine under the slightly tinted windscreen.  The sensor cable plugs into the module. 

The sensitivity of the photo sensor is adjustable.  You turn on the high beams three times in rapid succession when the light conditions are such that you want the light to begin modulating. 

Reminds me of clicking these things together three times to get your wish: 

There is a problem with this method of changing the light sensitivity, however.  The modulator sometimes begins the programming mode when you start the bike due to changing voltage going to the headlight.  This happens even on my Ninja that does not turn on the headlight until it senses that the engine is running.  Kisan recommends that you only start the engine with the high beam turned off.  That certainly works, but I am forgetful and don't do that or I forget to turn it back onto high beam so the modulation works. 

Fortunately, the unit is easy to set back to the as-received sensitivity, but it would have been better if the circuit designers had built in a delay so the programming mode is not initiated so easily.

So, I am back to a working headlight modulator again -- day or night, it now works right. 

Flashy, Flashy! 



Wednesday, January 31, 2018

A Quick Test Ride, and A Glamour Shot

As you know if you read the last posting, the weather here in South Carolina has been cold and snowy.  That, however, made for a great time to do some wrenching on the bike.  I take it slow and follow the service manual to help ensure that I don't made a mistake, so the downtime is usually more than for a crack mechanic.  I also like to test tings after I think I am done, just in case I have committed a blooper. 

So last Thursday I ventured out in cool, clear, and dry conditions to do just that.  The roads up to Whitewater Falls are good ones with sweepers that are usually clean, so that's the way I went.  There wasn't much traffic, so I could move along at a good clip.  After a tour of the Falls parking lot, I diverted onto the Wigington Byway to the overlook on Lake Jocassee and the other lakes to its south.

Here is the view, first of the crystal clear sky as a background to the old girl that had recently undergone some internal work and some external cleanup... 

Pretty girl, eh?
...then a panorama of the view from the overlook.

Click image for a larger view. 
Everything on the bike seemed to be working fine after the surgery, so I must have done it right.  The serviced items should be good for several more miles now. 

...and I thoroughly enjoyed the test ride, too.  

Thursday, January 18, 2018

I Actually Picked a Good Week to Do It!

Yes!  I did pick a good week.

[To do what, Bucky?] 

To work on my 2006 Ninja 650R.

I had a bunch of things to do that I had been putting off because I didn't want the bike to be down and I had other things going on.  Here's the list:
  • Check and adjust valve clearance.
  • Clean and adjust chain.
  • Change spark plugs.  
  • Clean air filter and air box.
  • Change oil and filter.
  • Drain, flush and refill coolant.
  • Check brake pads.
  • Lubricate clutch and throttle cables. 
  • General cleaning and lubrication. 
The valve clearance checking takes the most time because you have to remove the windshield, meter housing, most of the cowlings, the fuel tank, and the air box to get at the top of the engine.  Then you have to get the camshaft cover off and get it out of the way. 

Further, I don't have a valve shim kit, so I have to do the measuring and calculating to determine which shims need to be changed, then send away for any shims I don't already have from the previous adjustment.

That sending away takes several days, so the bike is down for at least that period.

[OK, Bucky, why was this a good week to do all this?]  

This is why:

Recall that when we get snow in South Carolina, everything comes to a complete halt.

And this is another reason why:

Yes, it was under nineteen degrees overnight.  

So, it turned out to be a good time to work on the bike.  I dressed warmly and started to work in my garage. 

The valve clearance adjustment was last done back in January of 2012 at 30,837 miles.  The bike has almost 62,000 now.  Back then, I put together some tips on how to do the job a little easier.  The only thing I did differently this time is to bring the cam cover out the left side of the frame instead of out the top.  It was much easier that way. 

This time, three of the exhaust valves were near the tight side, though still within spec.  They almost always get tighter with use, you know.  All of the others were almost exactly where I set them previously.  That's pretty good for better than 31,000 miles of operation, though remember that I am an old guy, and never redline or go to full throttle, so the engine isn't stressed as much as it could be.  I exchanged one of the shims with another valve and replaced the other two shims to bring the three back to the center of spec. 

The spark plugs were replaced at the same time as the last valve clearance work.  They looked a little worn, but they were a nice gray-brown color as they should be.  One of them had a thin thread of something between the center and the ground electrodes.  I have never seen this before, but the cylinder did not seem to be misfiring.  I bought the replacements on Amazon. 

The rear brake pads were a little thin, so I put on another set of EBC HH sintered pads.  Last time was in May of 2013 at 37,192 miles, so these have lasted about 25,000 miles.  They have a nice, predictable grip and were an improvement over the originals. 

The clutch and throttle cables needed to be lubed, so I got out my aerosol can and my cable luber.

BikeMaster Cable Luber
I use Yamaha Performance Cable Lubricant.  It made a world of difference, especially on the clutch cable.  

As I got further into the job, I found some other things that needed attention.  For example, the throttle cable was frayed at the throttle-body end, so I replaced the cable with a nearly new one I had bought almost a decade ago to carry as a spare. 

By the way, prices on parts have really gone up.  The valve cover and spark plug gaskets are $35 all together, and the shims are $10.99 each.  With shipping, it was almost $70.  It was about $40 last time. 

The lowest price I could find for NGK CR9EIA-9 Iridium Spark Plugs is almost $10 each.  They were $7.50 last time. 

I changed the oil and filter, cleaned, lubed, and adjusted the chain, cleaned up the air box and cleaned and reoiled the air filter, drained the refilled the coolant, and a few other odds and ends. 

In case you wonder, I do try to use mostly OEM parts on the bike, and I replace seals when the manual recommends doing so.  I suppose I could get by without going by the book, but I don't want to have to tear things apart a second time for the cost of a new seal or two.  I figure that Kawasaki engineered the bike to be reliable. Gaskets, seals, spark plugs, shims, and oil filter are all OEM.  Oil is Mobil 1, racing 4T 10W-40.  Brake pads are EBC HH.  The chain cleaner is kerosene, and I use Maxima Chain Wax lube from Cycle Gear.  It is clear and doesn't fling off a much as some others. 

Anyway, I think I picked the best week of the winter to do the work.  I have a few cosmetic things to put back together, and by then the weather should be cleared up.

Ah, the beauty of living in the Carolinas.  You can ride [almost] any time of year. 

See you on the roads soon!

Friday, November 10, 2017

Remember a Vet Today -- and Always


For 98 years, Americans have remembered those who served our country in uniform on 11 November – first as Armistice Day, and then, since 1954, as Veterans Day.

Here are some pictures of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Wall that I visited on the bike today, though I couldn't get close enough for a picture of the bike and the monument together.

Lots of kids were there. 
I hope their teachers are telling them the
truth about our brave men who fought there.

Bucky reflecting on one of the panels
of names of those killed.

There were quite a few of these strange things with too
many wheels (except for the nearest one, that is). 

Actually, this is a display of the half-size version of the Wall that has been touring the country for over thirty years.  It is at the Blue Ridge Electric Coop garage on SC-123 just west of the intersection with SC-11. It will be there though November 13, 2017.

Tell a Vet today -- and every day -- that you appreciate the sacrifices they made for our freedom.

Monday, November 6, 2017

60,000 Miles and Counting

Well, it has happened.

....I have ridden my Ninja 60,000 miles!....

It has taken me since July 18, 2015 to log these last 10,000 miles.  I'm kind o' slow, I guess. 

Here's a recap, for those of you who don't know, I started riding a motorcycle (this motorcycle) in late 2007, at the then youthful age of 57.  I had been thinking about it for a long time, and a colleague at work encouraged me.  (Thank you, Jeff.)  I took the MSF Basic Riders Class, bought an almost new motorcycle, and set out to learn how to ride it.

Along the way, I have met people I would otherwise not have met, and I have gone places I otherwise might not have gone.  Some of those places are chronicled here in this blog of mine, along with the progression of learning how to ride, and a few other topics that interest me and maybe you, too. 

This momentous event -- reaching the 60,0000 mile mark, I mean -- took place on September 26, 2017, almost exactly ten years after I bought the bike.  In those ten years, I have had the bike out of the garage 728 times.  (Yes, I count.  I'm an engineer, don't you know.)

I note that I have not ridden as much since I retired from the job as I had anticipated.  It appears that I have been too busy with other things to ride as much!  I'd like to go more often, but I also can't seem to find a riding buddy who isn't working, and who wants to go to the places and at the pace I do.  (Let me know if you want to ride some time.)

I also have not written as much on these pages as I used to, because I tend to ride to many of the same places that I have already written about, so I don't want to bore you.   Sassafras Mountain (the highest point in South Carolina), Whitewater Falls, Table Rock State Park, Saluda North Carolina, the Blue Ridge Parkway, and a few other places that are beautiful and great places to ride are all frequent repeats.

One infrequent place I did go with a friend was the Wheels Through Time museum in Maggie Valley North Carolina back in July.  He rides at about my pace, and we had a great time riding up US-178, NC-215, and the Blue Ridge Parkway.  I enjoyed seeing the museum again, but my buddy had not been there before.  One of the museum's mottoes is "Our Visitors Are Like Family".  That is fitting.  Every time I have been there, each of the staff was friendly, knowledgeable, and helpful in every way. 

Unfortunately, just as we were fueling up for the return trip, it began to sprinkle, then rain, then rain hard, then downpour for a good long distance on the way back home.  Noah and his Ark would have been welcome in a few places.  It dried up not long after we entered South Carolina.  I hadn't taken my rain gear 'cause it didn't look like rain, so I was soaked to the skin by that time.  We took it slow in the rain, and arrived without mishap.  Unfortunately, another motorcyclist was not so fortunate, as we passed the scene of an accident where he went down near Balsam Grove, NC. 

I have also grabbed a few tags on the ADVRider Upstate SC Tag-O-Rama, here, here, and here, and set a few challenging new ones.  (If you are interested in playing, all of the various South Carolina tag games are listed on this page.) 

I suppose you could say that I am mostly keeping to myself when riding. 

[Come on, Bucky, tell us where this latest mileage achievement occurred.]

Well, first a little history about where some previous milestones were reached:

Now, where did I reach 60,000, you ask? 

At a cemetery.

Yes, that's right, at a cemetery.  (So what was I supposed to do, fake the record of this historical event for the purpose of being in a more interesting spot?  I think there is too much fake news these days.)

Here's where it is, on SC-288, also known as Table Rock Road after the nearby geological feature and state park of the same name.

Click here for larger, interactive map.
Notice that the twisty US-178 is to the west, Table Rock State Park is toward the northeast, and the thriving metropolis of Pumpkintown is to the east. 

Actually, it turns out that this cemetery is an interesting place after all.  It is the Chastain family cemetery, whose several generations of occupants were born in 1743 or after, and who died in 1924 or before.  There are at least nine bodies buried here.

Here are some photographs.

That last photograph is the largest monument, and is nearest the road, announcing the presence of the graveyard.  Here is a list of those buried there, along with their relatives names:

Closer photographs of the stones are here, taken from the Internet.

This John Chastain (John Jr.) lived during the Civil War, and served in the Confederate Army. 
The most interesting marker for a man buried here, I think, is for one Rev John "Ten Shilling Bell" Chastain Sr., inscribed at the top on this more modern stone, along with a history of the family. 

Reverend Chastain was born in 1743 in Manakintown, Goochland County, Province of Virginia, fought in the Revolutionary War, and was a Baptist preacher, who traveled up and down the frontier, preaching and establishing churches.  He was one of the founders and the first minister of the Oolenoy Baptist Church, now located at 201 Miracle Hill Rd, Pickens, South Carolina, and founder of Crossroads Baptist Church.  

If I counted correctly, Reverend John fathered fourteen children by two wives.  
Click here for larger, interactive map.
I am sure, by now, that you are wondering about Reverend Chastain's nickname.  Well, legend has it that John Chastain's preaching voice was so loud and so ringingly clear that he was given the nickname of "Ten Shilling Bell".  Oh, that preachers were that forceful and eloquent today as he, perhaps was.  You can read more about the Chastains by clicking the links at the end of this posting. 

Getting back to the bike, there have not been any troubles with the bike in the last 10,000 miles.  It has been a joy to operate. Since I bought the bike slightly used, the odometer showed 60,640 miles total when I reached this milestone. 

Here is the victorious rider: 

I went on a little further that day, meandering around the country roads near the historic spot.   One place I went is to Table Rock State Park, stopping at the Pinnacle Lake overlook,

That bike kept wanting to pose for the picture.

and at the lodge,

Again, posing

and to see Table Rock itself, viewed from the park road. 

The day was a short one -- only 84 miles, but quite enjoyable.  When I first started riding, I never dreamed that I would ride 60,0000 miles and more on two wheels. 

I'll keep on writing here as interesting things come to mind, especially landmarks and good roads. 

See you on the [hopefully long] road ahead. 

Bucky's Other Milestones:

Chastain Cemetery References:
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