Monday, May 30, 2016

Honor Our War Dead Today and Always


Today is Memorial Day, set aside to honor those who gave the ultimate sacrifice in defense of our nation and of other nations around the globe.

Your grandma might have called today Decoration Day, because, in the immediate aftermath of the American Civil War, it was a day when the graves of soldiers were decorated in remembrance of their ultimate sacrifice while serving their country.

Our very freedom in these United States was won by -- and is defended daily by -- the work and blood of our servicemen and women. 

Our fighting men put their lives on the line for our freedom.  They volunteer to do this.  For us.  For our freedom.

Every day.

Why not take a little ride today and decorate the grave of some soldier, known to you or not?

Western Carolina State Veterans Cemetery, Black Mountain, NC
Rally to Ridgecrest, 2010

...And, you could make it a point to visit a recruiting station or stop a military man on the street and tell him how much you appreciate what he does for you. 

This Memorial Day, remember that only two forces are willing to die for us; Jesus who died for our souls, and the American soldier, who is willing to die for our freedom.

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

This Could Have Ended It All

I survived. 

It was on US-178, north of SC-11, April 16.  About here on the map:  

Around 4.2 miles north of SC-11, at "B" on this map:

Click here for larger map.

The road was clear. The weather was good.  The curve was not too tight.  I had my GoPro recording. 

Somebody in a chocolate brown VW Vanagon must've thought his side was on the left of the double yellow line. 

Or maybe he was drunk.  Or high.  Or texting.  Or something. 

See for yourself, especially at about 1:45: 

Here are some stills taken from the video. 
Nice curve.  Going pretty slow.
Look just right and above center, peeping out from the motorcycle cowling. 
I could see him coming before the camera could. 

Oh, oh.  This doesn't look right.

Getting closer.

And closer.

Totally on the wrong side of the double yellow.
I start a little correction to better avoid him.
I had already moved a little closer to the center of my lane, as I
frequently do when there is an oncoming vehicle. 
I otherwise would have been more to the left of my lane for this curve. 

Still coming.
Completely over the center line.
Totally oblivious to the issue at hand.
He is close enough for me to read his front license
tag, though I wasn't looking at it right then.

I manage to skate by him.
Fortunately, there was room enough between the van and that guardrail.
Notice the rack on top of the van, maybe for a raft or tubes. 

My adrenaline starts pumping big time a couple of minutes later.

Looking back on the incident, I note that I didn't panic.  I didn't chop the throttle.  I didn't slam on the brakes.  I stayed away from both the van and from the guardrail. 

It could have been much worse.  I thank God that it wasn't. 

Can anybody identify this drunk
.                                                     stoner
.                                                      texter
.                                                       idiot

Tuesday, April 12, 2016

Vision: Eye Glasses or Contact Lenses for Riding?

I have been very nearsighted since around the third grade.  I was the kid in class who had those heavy plastic, dark-rimmed glasses with thick-edged lenses.

But, I could see those real slate blackboards clearly after getting them.  Modern versions and variations of those old frames have served me well for more than five decades now. 

Those old-style frames have come back into style, but they may not be the best way to see what's going on when riding a motorcycle.

Not me.
Lets look at the pros and cons. 

  • They are quick and easy to put on.  It just takes a second.   
  • They are easy to clean.  
  • Glasses do not promote eye problems like contacts might. 
  • Glasses lenses can be shaped to correct for astigmatism. 
  • For those suffering from presbyopia (literally "to see as old men"), the lens in the eye becomes stiff and cannot any longer focus on close objects.  Thus two different powers of lenses are required to be able to see at a distance as well as close up.  Such lenses are referred to as bifocals.  Bifocal lenses are readily available, so you can focus on the road ahead though the main part of the lens or focus on closer objects such as the instruments, your GPS, or a map by looking through the bifocal near the bottom of the lens. 
    I have used progressive bifocals that do not have a line between the main and close up sections for many years, and find the vision adequate both far and near. 
    Nevertheless, there are alternatives.  See the references to types of bifocals for motorcycle riding below.   
  • Of course, the glasses must fit inside your helmet.  This is sometimes a problem for large glasses and/or a tight-fitting helmet.  When you buy a helmet, take your glasses and any liner you use to keep warm along to see how well they fit inside.  When you buy glasses, take your helmet and the liner along to see about the same thing.
  • Glasses can fog up, especially in cold weather.  One way of avoiding this is to use a helmet insert like the Foggy Respro.   
  • Now, a subtle, but important issue with glasses:
    Even a correctly fitted helmet moves a bit relative to the eyes.  In fact, your scalp can move around on your skull even if the helmet does not slide on the scalp.  Usually, the glasses are, at least in part, positioned by the helmet.  So, when the helmet moves, so do the glasses.
    Therein is the problem.  The shift of the glasses moves the image your eye sees.  When you go over a bump or the helmet is otherwise shifted, the image you see also shifts.
    I have found this to be a significant problem when attempting sports where head movement is rapid.  I believe that because I have worn glasses for many years that move slightly when my head moves, I have had trouble with hand-to-eye coordination.  That causes me to be very poor at these sports.
    If only I had been fitted with glasses that wrap and had a secure back strap so that they did not move around in front of my eyes, I might have been better at sports.
    I find the same problem with motorcycling.  The slight movement of the helmet/glasses on my head changes the position of the image I see.
    I have not found any glasses that do not have this problem, and of course, a strap behind the head can't work with a helmet because you put the helmet on before the glasses.  (You do wear a helmet, right?)
  • Also, since the refraction in your glasses lens changes from center to edge, where you are looking through the lens changes the effective correction.  That is, by the way, another good reason to turn your entire head to look where you want to go, rather than moving only your eyes. 
    Contact lenses do not have this problem.   They move with the eye, and the resulting image shifts very little, even with violent head or eye movement. 

Experience for yourself how the image moves when your glasses are moved relative to your eyes: 

Put on a pair of glasses.  Look though the normal part of the lens (not looking over the top like the guy below). 

Move the glasses, first up, then down.  Like this:

See how the image moves?

Now, instead of moving them up and down, move one side down and the other side up at the same time.

That is what can happen when you wear glasses when riding.  Almost makes you dizzy, doesn't it? 

The same thing happens side to side. 

Not good. 

Contact Lenses
There are two major types of contact lenses, so we will lump some of the pros and cons for both together first.  
  • They take some time to put in, take out
  • They must be kept scrupulously clean. Cleanliness is vital to avoid eye infection and disease.  
  • They may cause the eyes to be dry and irritated.  
  • They don't fog up.   
  • They move with the eye, so the image is always in good focus no matter whether you are looking straight ahead or out of the corner of your eyes.  
  • If you need bifocals, you most commonly must use reading glasses with the contact lenses for up-close vision. 

Gas-permeable hard lenses
  • These are made of fairly rigid plastic that breathes.  
  • They provide excellent vision and correct for astigmatism by spanning the irregularities of the cornea that cause astigmatism with a film of tears under the lens.  In effect, they replace the cornea as the refracting surface of the eye.  I found this type of lens to be very good except for the fact that they made my eyes very red after wearing them for several hours.  Surprisingly, they did not cause pain. 
    Because of the redness, I did not stay with rigid lenses.  
  • These are more rugged and longer lasting.  

Soft lenses

  • These are very comfortable for up to ten hours at a time on the bike.  
  • They provide very good distance vision.  
  • These lenses can correct for astigmatism by having the appropriate spherical lens contour to correct for distance and a superimposed cylindrical contour to correct for astigmatism.   There is an orientation feature so the lens rotates to the correct position on the eye and stays there. These lenses are referred to as toric. 
  • I find that I can see my analog instruments clearly without having close vision correction. The GPS, positioned a bit closer to my eyes, is slightly out of focus, but using its audio directions in an earpiece helps to compensates for that. 
  • My eyes do not get significantly dry when wearing them.   
  • They more easily absorb pollutants than gas-permeable lenses. 

This is the soft lens I wear: 

What if you want to use contact lenses, must have bifocals to correct close vision, but don't want to use reading glasses?  There are so-called bifocal soft contact lenses.  However, I think it is better for motorcycle riding to have lenses fitted for good distance vision only.

Another method of providing close vision is to have one lens for distance vision and the other for close vision.  I think that is risky for motorcycling, since good binocular visual acuity for distance vision is vital. 

Read about these options and others with greater detail here

References to Types of Bifocals for Motorcycle Riding

What do you find best for riding?


Wednesday, March 23, 2016

Odd and Interesting Sights I've Seen

When I am out riding, I often spot odd or unusual things along the road.  Most are of interest, but, may not be worthy of a full-length posting here.  So, I accumulate them until I have several to tell you about.

Here are a few that you might want to ride to next time you are out, with directions to each. 

Jesus' Tomb
Gap Creek Baptist Church started in the 1840’s with a log structure and has gone through several reconstructions since then.  The next-to-last structure still stands, here:

The newest building, across the road from the earlier one, is about ten years old now. 

Some biker dude taking a picture of
the doors of the newer building.

The current church building was erected and finished by hundreds of volunteers from the area as well as from around the South, East, North, and Midwest.

Just across the parking lot, about where the bike is parked in the picture above, they constructed a rough replica of Jesus' tomb.  Remember that Jesus, God's Son, walked this earth as a man, was put to death by crucifixion, buried in a tomb, but then was resurrected on the third day.  By so doing, he took the burden of all believers' sins upon himself.

The tomb is not a perfect replica of the real thing, but it is a good reminder of it.  

Up the hill to the left of the tomb is a cross similar to the one used to crucify Jesus.

The congregation celebrates Easter, the day Jesus rose from the dead, with a sunrise service in front of the tomb.  And, there have been many inquiries about the tomb from passersby.  Whenever they can, the church staff describes the significance of the tomb, and why Jesus and the tomb are of central importance to believers.

Gap Creek Baptist Church
Marietta SC 29661

Another place that has a replica of Jesus' tomb is near Murphy North Carolina, at Fields of the Wood

Outdoor Baptismal Pool
There is another church I know of with something that you don't see every day.  Recall that the Bible says that we should be baptized as a symbol of our belief in Jesus as our Savior.  In fact, it says that we are to be baptized by full immersion, signifying our dying to sin and resurrection to new life.

Well, before churches had nice warm indoor baptismal pools, they used to baptize outdoors in lakes and streams.  They still do that in some parts of the world, and even in the United States.  This church built a concrete pool down the hill by some distance from their original building.  It was fed by a nearby stream, and has a series of bleachers nearby for baptism attendees to sit on.

Here you can just make out what it looks like:

In 2004, an Eagle Scout, Josh Putnam, now a South Carolina state representative, cleaned it up as his Eagle Scout project.  It is pretty grown up around it now, but it is still recognizable.  The pool is just above center in the above photo.

There are several bleachers set back 15 or 20 feet from the pool for onlookers of the baptisms. 

That is a view from the second row of bleachers, with the pool outlined in blue.

Here, you can see the steps down into the pool. 

Can you imagine how cold the water must have been, it being fed by a spring-fed stream?  You would certainly have to be committed to your faith to be immersed here.

This is a photo, probably from the early 20th century.  The edge of the concrete pool is visible at the bottom, with several people standing in the pool.

That is some crowd of people attending and rejoicing with those being baptized. 

This is a view of the church building from the rear of the cemetery across the street. 

The pool is about as far behind the photographer as the church is away from him.

This little sign was erected when the area was cleaned: 

The Pool of Siloam has great significance in the Bible. It once was the only permanent water source for the city of Jerusalem. It also was, during the time of Jesus, a place where poor and sick people would come to bathe and be healed.

These clumps of red berries were about the only bright color when I went there.  

Siloam Baptist Church
229 Siloam Road
Easley, SC 29642

Street Corner Grave of Little Leila Howell
Little Leila was buried alone on a street corner in 1859.  She was only three and a half years old.  Not much is known about this little one.

Look how close to the highway her grave is, though the road was probably little more than a dirt track back then: 

The inscription reads: In memory of little Leila, inf[ant] dau[ghter] of Dr. W.S. and S.C. Howell who departed this life Mar. 20, 1859 aged 3 yrs 8 months and 26 days

Grave of Little Leila Howell
Piedmont Highway (SC-20) at Shirley Road
Piedmont, SC 29673

St. John's Anglican Chapel near Toccoa, GA
This little church sits alone on the side of the road.  It appears to have occasional services. There is no sign identifying it on the road, and the gravel parking lot is empty. 

The sign by the door identifies it. 

Another biker dude taking a picture.
It looks old, but there is a new foundation under parts of it, and a lot of the exterior has been stuccoed over.

I see another door around to the side, so I take a picture through the glass.

It is clean, orderly, and well kept inside.  I wonder when it is used.

I notice an outbuilding near the back.

A fancy privy with running water supplied by a barrel filled with rainwater from the roof. Clever! 

St. John's Chapel
River Road (State Road S-37-68)
near Greer Creek Road, 2.6 miles from where US-123 crosses into Georgia

Little Church Near Bad Creek
I have often visited Whitewater Falls, just across the North Carolina state line.  A few hundred feet south of the line is the road to the Bad Creek Pumped Storage Power Generation Facility and the Lake Jocassee overlook. 

If you need to stop for a few minutes of prayer, this little chapel might be a good place. 

Despite that fact that it is very well kept, it is a bit off the beaten path.

Right down the road is a miniature golf course, maybe for after-church recreation.  

Both are on Fisher Knob Road near the Bad Creek Pumped Storage Facility overlook onto Lake Jocassee.  The chapel and golf course are a little beyond the overlook, on a gravel road. Don't be going too fast past the overlook -- the gravel road is on the right at the next left hander, and there is a gate across the paved road after that. The gravel is loose in places, but passable on street tires, with care. 

Itty Bitty Church Building.
There is a tiny church along the roadside where the full size Whitmire Methodist Church once stood. 

The big church is long gone, but someone built a miniature so others would know where it was. The stone marker explains it. 

Whitmire Methodist Church
Whitmire Church Road near Catfish Pond Road
Salem, SC

How about you?  Tell us about odd and interesting things you have seen when you are out riding. 

Previous "Odd and Interesting Sights" postings:

Sunday, February 7, 2016

If You Don't Read Anything Else Today, Read This

Important stuff today.  Read on....

We are in the midst of a critical time in our country.  This next election could mean either that our country survives and thrives, or that it follows the path of every failed attempt at Socialism* in the history of civilization.  

Here's why. 

But first, the basics. Conservatism is good. 

Click the start arrowhead below to find out briefly why that is:

Sen. Ben Sasse (R-Neb.) on MSNBC Defining Conservatism.  Source

As he says, “What makes America great is not some guy in Washington who says, ‘If I had more power, I could fix it all....'”

A lot of those guys in Washington want more power and they want to take away our freedoms while they do it, mostly through more oppressive government rules, regulations, and bureaucracy. 

The U.S. has fallen from the 6th freest economy in the world, when President Barack Hussein Obama took office, to 11th place in 2016. 

The declining score is closely related to rapidly rising government spending, subsidies, and bailouts.

And higher taxes on us.  Our country was built on conservative values, not on the government taxing us and giving our money away for anything they choose.  Most of the places they choose are not the places we would choose.  

There has also become a dependency on government that cannot be sustained.  Right now, at least 30% of our population gets some kind of payment from the government paid for those of us who work hard for our money.  30 percent!  And that was in 2013, the last year the data is available.  

Look here to see the alarming trend:

Dependence on government has gone up 67% in the time period shown.  

Anyway, even if you just want to have more money in your own pocket, small government and conservative leaders are the way to do it. 

[So, where does this take us, Bucky?] 

I'm glad you asked.

We need to elect the most conservative President we can find, and we need to persuade our Senators and Representatives to reduce the size of government and give our freedoms back to us where they belong.  If they won't be persuaded, then they must be replaced by those who really are conservative. 

So, who is the best presidential candidate? 

On one side, we have a lot to choose from.  The Republicans have sixteen or seventeen candidates that have been running, though a few have dropped out.  The candidates are of many races and are from many backgrounds.  Most of them want us to have as much freedom as the United States Constitution* allows.

On the Democrat side, there are only two old, worn out, white people to choose from, one dishonest -- likely treasonous* -- and the other an avowed Socialist*.  Both of them want to take away most of the freedom we have, tax all of us more heavily, and spend our money they way they want to.  Neither one is in touch with us, and especially not in touch with young people, except to act as Santa Claus to them, giving things away on the backs of the taxpayer. 

That's diversity?  I think not!   

Here's where the candidates stand, both Democrat and Republican.  (Further to the right in the graphic is more conservative):

Source: Daily Signal

This graphic was generated by researchers at Stanford University on a website called Crowdpac.  They analyze each candidate’s voting record and statements, but also their history of political donations to them and by them

That last part is important.  The candidates can say anything, but their donations and the money they receive tell where their real alliances are. 

Some candidates such as Carly Fiorina and Ben Carson have never held office and thus have no voting record to judge.  That is where the money changing hands helps us understand where they really stand. 

Donald Trump is not shown because he has not held public office, and his campaign is mostly funded by his own money.  Trump is what is called a Populist -- appealing to us with generalities that we like to hear, but without any specific action plans to speak of.  That could be a problem if we don't know what he will actually do if he becomes president.  One thing we do know is that he is not very conservative, ranking nearer the center of the graphic than near the conservative (right) end. 

Here is an updated graphic that includes Trump, and excludes those who have dropped out as of February 4, 2016:

Source: Crowdpac
The best candidate for the country is Ted Cruz.  He is the most consistently conservative, does what he says, holds fast to the Constitution, is a practicing Christian who believes in the Sovereign God, and has stood up to those in leadership, even in his own party, like Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell who is not conservative at all. 

Cruz doesn't govern for his own political advantage or to increase opinion poll numbers.  He governs as a statesman, in the best interest of the country -- for you and for me. 

Cruz being an outsider and his standing up to his own party career politicians appeals to me.  He has the right values and is likely to lead based on his values, not on what it means to his political future or power.  He won't sway with the political winds. 


Here are some major points about Cruz: 

  • Strong, principled conservative
  • Constitutionalist*, especially religious liberty and 2nd Amendment rights (the right of the people to keep and bear arms)
  • Wants smaller government 
  • Wants to again balance the federal budget.  The national debt is now $19,012,827,698,418, $58,000 for each person in the U.S.A.
  • Demonstrates good leadership
  • Clear communicator
  • Is anti-Washington establishment
  • Is in tune with the grassroots* and the current political climate
  • Is pro-life
  • Has Hispanic background, his father legally immigrating to the United States
  • Is strong on the family and marriage
  • Understands that Obamacare is expensive and provides less care than private health plans
  • Stands for Israel, our only ally in the Middle East
  • Advocates a fair, single-rate income tax instead of the present complex income tax system
  • Wants to enforce current immigration laws
  • Is a strong evangelical Christian, Southern Baptist, attends church and realizes there is a Sovereign God

We need conservatism desperately, and we need it right now

You have a chance now to change the course of history. 

Vote conservative to save our great nation from those who would subvert it for their own benefit. 

* Definitions:
  • United States Constitution -- the document that contains the fundamental laws governing the United States of America.  The only powers granted to the federal government in the constitution are as follows:
    • To collect taxes, duties, imposts and excises, to pay the debts and provide for the common defense and general welfare of the United States. 
    • To borrow money.
    • To regulate commerce with foreign nations, and among the several states. 
    • To establish a uniform rule of naturalization, and uniform laws on the subject of bankruptcies throughout the United States. 
    • To coin money.
    • To establish post offices and post roads. 
    • To provide patent protection for inventors. 
    • To constitute tribunals inferior to the Supreme Court;
    • To define and punish piracies and felonies committed on the high seas. 
    • To declare war. 
    • To raise and support armies. 
    • To provide and maintain a navy.
    • To make all laws which shall be necessary and proper for carrying into execution the foregoing powers, and all other powers vested by this Constitution. 
    • and, importantly, the powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the states, are reserved to the states respectively, or to the people.   
  • Constitutionalist -- an adherent or advocate of using the United States Constitution as the basis of all law, as it was designed to be by the founders of our country. 
  • Grassroots -- the common or ordinary people, especially as contrasted with the leadership or elite of a political party, social organization, etc.; the rank and file. In this case, the individual voter.  
  • Socialism -- a political and economic theory of social organization that advocates that the means of production, distribution, and exchange should be owned or regulated by the government.  This system has been tried repeatedly and always results in poorer people, huge inefficiency, and eventual failure.  Commonality with Marxism and Communism -- all systems of government that take freedom away from us.
    leftism, welfarism, radicalism, progressivism
  • Treason -- the high crime of betraying one's country. 
    treachery, disloyalty, betrayal, sedition

Tuesday, February 2, 2016

Riding Again After the Snow, but There Was a Suprise Waiting

We had some snow in these parts, and that kept us all in for a while.  We here in the south basically hibernate when it is snowy or icy, but the temperatures have risen enough that the nasty frozen stuff on the roads around home has disappeared.

I check tire pressure, and the oil and coolant levels as I always do before a ride, and adjust the mirrors that had gotten bumped while the bike was in the garage patiently waiting to go out into the world again.

The temperature outside is in the mid-40s -- truly balmy by recent standards -- but I bundle up with fleece underwear under my leather suit, balaclava and neck warmer for my noggin, heated grips on high, and my Hippo Hands securely affixed to the handlebars so my pinkies won't freeze.

I get the feel of the bars again after a mile or two.  It is surprising how a few weeks of not riding erodes your skills.  Not a lot, but enough to notice in the first few miles.  I would hate to live where I couldn't go out on the bike for several months in winter.

I ride through Pickens, SC and on to US-178, along a stretch that has some nice sweepers to the north until you reach SC-11.  I take it easy, because there might still be sand or salt on the road.  Fortunately, I don't see any to speak of.  I could have gone faster, but how would I know it was clear before I went there?   Maybe I should just turn around and make a couple more passes.

I decide against it, as I want to see some other places I have not recently been due to the weather.

I notice little patches of white in a few places as I near SC-11.  Snow.  Not much, but it has stuck around here in the slightly higher elevations. 

I turn right onto SC-11, the Cherokee Foothills Scenic Highway.  Very soon, I see a surprise.  There is lots of snow along the road.  It is still five or six inches deep in places, but there is none on the road itself.  Wow!  That ice and snow started almost a week ago, and it has hung around. 

Soon, I turn onto Back Park Road in Table Rock State Park...

 ...and find lots of snow still on the road, too.  See for yourself. 

Table Rock visible above road

And there are lots of broken and fallen trees.  The ice that came before the snow caused this. 

I pass the barn with the old truck in it, visible from nearby SC-11. 

The red barn, center right, viewed from SC-11. 
January 6, 2015
The truck in the barn.
April 11, 2009
After I leave Back Park Road, I venture up into the park a bit further.  The road has a few tight twists and turns, but today, there is a huge amount of sand on the road, put there by the park maintenance people to keep people from sliding off it. 

I don't try to find out how much traction there is on the sand. 

The lodge is picturesque in almost any weather. 

The overlook gives an enlarged view. 

Pretty sky today, wouldn't you say? 

I meander around the area for a while, enjoying the skies, then head south toward home on SC-8 and SC-135.  These roads are not very curvy, but they provide a quick way home. 

Just 88 miles today, but it was good to get out once again, charge the batteries (the bike's and mine), enjoy the scenery, and feel the wind pressing against me. 

Maps to orient you:

■   US-178 from Pickens to SC-11
View interactive map.
■   Back Park Road
View interactive map.
■    Table Rock State Park east entrance road.
View interactive map.