Today is expected to be clear and warm later, so I started out on my bike in the morning. On Saturdays, I usually go in to work for a few hours, then take off for a ride.
I am having the waist zipper of my usual Fieldsheer two-piece leather suit repaired, so I wore my AGV Sport Forza one-piece suit.
This suit is not as well made as the Fieldsheer it doesn't seem to me: The edges are not as well tailored, and the fit, especially in the thighs, is not as good. The suit is red and black with silver logos, so it looks good with the Ninja (an extremely important attribute, I am sure you will agree! <--tongue firmly planted in cheek).
The fit of the suit allows a little insulation under it, and the fit is much better that way. Today is expected to be cool -- about forty degrees to start -- and since this suit is perforated, I put on a layer or two of fleece insulation and thin Nylon windbreaker jacket and pants under it. As usual, I wear my Juggernaut armored shirt over the fleece and under the Nylon. The armor has been removed from the upper part of the suit to make room for the armored shirt. With that setup, I am just slightly too cool at forty degrees, but am not too hot until about 65 degrees. Should be ideal today.
There is only one problem: I cannot get myself into or out of the one-piece leather suit. Try as I might, my arms can't be in the sleeves and helping to pull them on at the same time, so I resort to asking my wife or son for help. They struggle to get everything pulled up where it needs to be and I zip myself in. Once in, the suit is quite comfortable with little or no restriction of movement.
Oh. The suit has knee pucks too. Makes me look like I might know what I'm doing anyway, though they have never touched the tarmac. Maybe I should take them to the sander so they look like they have -- not!
I put in my earplugs, pull on my thin balaclava, neck warmer, and helmet and start up the bike. I let it idle while I close the garage door and put my glove liners and gloves on. I also turn on the grip heaters to help keep the chill away. By the time I have my gloves on, the ECU has come off fast idle, and I'm ready to go. I mount up and start out.
One other problem is that I have not thought of where to ride today. Oh well, once I leave work, something will occur to me. The ride to work is only about fifteen minutes, but it is an enjoyable ride with little traffic through our small town. I pass familiar sights on the way. One is a rock house whose builder visited England several times so he could pattern his house after an authentic English cottage. It is a restaurant now.
The railroad tracks that run through the center of town parallel with the main street are usually busy, but with the economic downturn there is less freight to carry and so fewer trains. It still excites me to be only thirty feet or so from a train, pacing it along on the street.
Here are some shots taken on a rainy early spring morning.
I spend a couple of hours at work getting some things done that I did not have time for during the week. I collaborate on some of it with the fellow who encouraged me when I asked if he thought I could learn to ride a motorcycle. He would like to own one again some day, but not now. I am sure it would be a pleasure riding with him.
After I finish at work, I go out and get ready to ride again, but I have yet to decide where. Once out of the parking lot, I head to the north on SC-135. This is the road that leads to Pumpkintown, and I follow SC-8 from there to SC-11. I have noticed that the pavement is dry and there are no signs of sand or salt from the snows we had a couple of weeks ago.
I decide to go up to Caesars Head. It is only eight or nine miles up the Blue Ridge escarpment from SC-11. This is a twisty road, but the lanes are fairly wide and the vegetation is well back from the berm in most places. The views ahead on the curves are generally good, especially with the tress and brush not yet leafed out. The pavement is generally good, but with a few rough spots that seem to be just at the wrong places in the turns for me.
The skies are still overcast, but there is some sun peeking through in places. I pass about a dozen bicycle riders at various points laboring up the hill. Most of these guys are well-experienced, but are still challenged by the grade. Many local bicycle riders like this road for the challenge and enjoyment of conquering it. I must sheepishly admit that one of the previous times I came here, I started out at the top and headed down just after a bicyclist had left. He was vary fast on the downgrade, and my downhill curve inexperience and caution in passing him caused me to be slower than he was most of the way. Only when we came upon a straight section near the bottom did I feel up to passing him. His confidence in the tiny tires of his bike was certainly more than my confidence in mine.
That brings to mind a point that is very much the case with many riders including myself: The bike is capable of much more performance than the rider can extract from it. I am certain that my Ninja 650R can take the curves at a much faster pace and at much greater lean angles than I think it can. Yet, I don't want to routinely ride at my or my bike's limit: I want to leave some of the bike's capability to help get out of unexpected situations. That means that I must make sure my riding ability is up to it. A good short article about this is one by Reg Pridemore. He says about coming into a turn too hot, in essence:
- DECIDE TO MAKE IT
- LEAD WITH YOUR EYES
- BRAKE DEEP, LEAN HARD
- LEARN FROM THIS EXPERIENCE
Well, I have rambled quite a bit here, so let me get back to telling you about the ride.
Caesars Head is an easy-to-get-to spot that overlooks the lower elevations of the upstate of South Carolina. The Blue Ridge escarpment rises some 2000 feet in a short distance giving us some of the best motorcycle roads in the country, great views, challenging hikes, and a large number of interesting features such as waterfalls. I enjoy researching then visiting these places on the scooter and writing about them here.
The view from Caesars Head can be quite far, though today it is a bit overcast and hazy. The name Blue Ridge was selected because of the bluish haze that frequently blankets the area. In fact the Blue Ridge Mountains' name originated because of the bluish haze caused by hydrocarbons released by trees into the atmosphere. Aha. I knew that man wasn't the only polluter on the planet. Those darn trees are part of it. Now what will the tree huggers have to say about that? Cut them all down? I doubt it!
The Caesars Head overlook is a very short walk from the parking lot, and it is a favorite stopping point for tourists of all kinds -- bicycles, motorcycles, and cages.
The elevation back in Easley is 1079 feet above sea level, so we are 2187 feet higher here than there. This point is about thirty miles from home, so the average elevation change has been about seventy three feet per mile, though mostly concentrated in the last nine miles or so.
There is a narrow section called Devil's Kitchen in a fracture in some huge rocks. There are steps down into the fracture and a path back out the other end. Today I have left my gloves and helmet on because it is cold, and I find that I must be careful that my fat helmeted head doesn't hit the rocks as I siddle through the gap. The rocks fractured at an angle making it a bit more difficult to stand up straight and get through.
I make it fine, and go to the fenced overlooks to gaze for a few minutes.
The view takes in a lake, the Table Rock Reservoir, that serves the Greenville metropolitan area. It is near Table Rock State Park that I have visited many times.
This sign nearby details the mountains and other geological features visible from here.
This is what the profile of Caesars Head looks like in profile, taken from a Department of Geosciences at the University of Wisconsin Milwaukee webpage.
To orient you, the picture below is taken from below and to the right of the observation platform pictured previously.
Here is a better picture with some of the lower elevations included.
After I walk back to the parking area, I begin to mount up again.
Two riders on Goldwings pull in to park and we talk for a few minutes. It turns out that one of the guys is an MSF instructor in Greenwood South Carolina. He asked me if I had taken the Advanced Class. I told him that I had not, but wished to do so soon. He said that he thinks the class helps riders of about my level of experience and beyond. Greenwood is about sixty-three miles from here, so it is a possibility, though Spartanburg is closer. That is where I took the Beginner class.
I looked over the edge of the parking lot at the road leading north from Caesars head. It looked free of the sand that is used in the mountains here and abouts when there is danger of ice, so I turned left out of the parking lot and headed north. The road is slightly curvy for a short distance, then becomes mostly sweepers until the North Carolina town of Brevard.
The annual Brevard Music Festival is held here. The highbrows flock to it, and I expect that the politics is fairly liberal here. I say this because there is usually a group of 1970s-looking long-haired men and their womenfolk wielding anti-war signs on one of the downtown street corners. I wonder if they realize that their freedom to demonstrate was won by soldiers' blood shed on the battlefields of the world. Today, the protesters must have something else to do, since there is no sign of them.
I stop at the Chamber of Commerce for some local area info, and spot a scooter parked in front of the coffee shop next door. It is a Keeway Matrix 50 Racing Sport two-stroke scooter, but the thing that attracts my eye is the wooden box on the footboards. It appears to be nicely made of pine, and you will note that it shows signs of having been dragged on the street in a tight corner perhaps, though the box was likely turned end for end on the scooter floorboards when it dragged, judging form the marks on it.
It also has a nice-looking tail box with a well-worn soft knapsack slung under it. The hard box sports several SCUBA diving stickers, and a couple of stickers with a fish on it. The wooden box has mitered corners and no apparent lid. Does it stay there for helping support groceries? That doesn't seem right. It would be better to make the box with an open top so the grocery bags could snuggle down inside. Does it contain something vital and the entire box comes off when needed? Is it for someone's feet to rest on who is extremely short? That doesn't seem right either, since there are no dirty footprints on the box. Did the rider just happen to find or purchase the box and needed to get it home? I waited for some time, for the owner, but he never materialized. By the way, did you notice that he has a full-face helmet in a matching color? I wonder if he wears any other protective gear. If you see this, Brevard scooter rider, please let us know what the box is for.
I motor through the rest of the downtown area. There are many specialty shops that cater to the elite, but there are also several thrift shops. I enjoy shopping at the latter, as you never know what you might find -- maybe even some accessory for the motorcycle. I have found a nice specimen of an ICON TyMax jacket at such a store in the past. Alas, I don't take the time to stop today. I must be on my way, but where to? I could turn back the way I came, but I'd rather go somewhere I have not been recently.
I decide and head out of town toward Hendersonville North Carolina on route US-64. This road is rather plain and almost straight, and there is considerable traffic today. It is about twenty miles to Hendersonville. I feel refreshed a bit when I finally enter the downtown section after the boring road and a stretch of rather run down houses and businesses close to town. Next time, I'll try to find some more interesting roads between here and Brevard.
I cruse down the main street and see the old Henderson County courthouse. There is a nice little museum located inside. It contains displays of local heritage. They won't allow photography inside, but there are interesting displays relating to the history, culture, heritage, the story of the founding settlement, and development of Henderson County. The courthouse, built in 1905, was designed by Richard Sharp Smith, the supervising architect of Biltmore House in Asheville North Carolina. It is built of brick in a neoclassical revival style featuring six Corinthian columns on the front and four columns for each of the two side porticos. The focal point of the Courthouse is atop the copper dome -- a six-foot statue of “Lady Justice.” The statue is the Greek goddess Themis, standing for Divine Justice and Law, who is without a blindfold, holding a sword in her right hand, and scales in her left. It is believed to be only one of only three in the United States without a blindfold. Statues of Themis/Justice are blindfolded to symbolize that Justice should be impartial.
My tank bag and helmet are seen in this view.
After I leave the museum, I ride down the main street of the downtown area. It is one of those city streets where they have put in angled parking along the curbs, which causes the driving lanes to swerve from one side of the street to the other so the parking is evenly distributed on both sides of the street. That, coupled with frequent pedestrian crosswalks and stop signs at every cross street make for a maze that makes me feel a bit like a mouse searching for a hunk cheese. It is a bit artsy, like Brevard.
On my way through the maze, I see an odd sight. There is a tow truck parked with its warning lights on and a group of men hoisting something large and rectangular with its hook. Upon closer inspection, the "something" is a large two-door safe. Apparently the group is loading it up to take it away. I must say that this is the first time I have seen a tow truck being used to move such a seemingly stationary object. I watch for a few minutes as they secure the straps and drive off to places unknown. The safe was probably in the Old State Trust Co. building, on the corner of 4th and Main Street, now the Henderson County Genealogical & Historical Society.
That building has an unusual clock attached to the outside corner, the McClintock Chime Clock. This unique clock is about 65 years old, and was restored by the Western North Carolina Chapter of the National Association of Clock and Watch Collectors. Public clocks like this one were used to attract customers to businesses and served the utilitarian purpose of keeping time when not everyone carried or could afford a watch.
By the way, did you notice the spring flowers coming out in the pictures above? Here are a few pictures of a pale yellow daffodil and peach blossoms with forsythia in the background.
While I am observing the safe heist...er, hoist, I spot a scooter parked a few spaces in front of me. It is a Yamaha Morphous, with a 249cc DOHC four-stroke engine. It has, I think, a swoopy look to it.
Last year when I was in Hendersonville, I saw a similar but more unusual scooter, a Honda Helix with a sidecar. Now, a Honda Helix is a 244cc four-stroke so it is in the same class as the Morphous, but this one was different: It had a sidecar attached. It must be pretty stout to be able to handle the driver and the loaded sidecar.
After I inspect the Yamaha scooter and snap its picture, I turn and find that there is a storefront made of rather nice looking naturally finished wood. It is the of Goldcrafters of London fine jewelry store. Quite attractive, and probably appealing to the more well-heeled residents. I pass up the opportunity to go inside, since my heels are somewhat less well fixed.
It is getting to be mid-afternoon, and I need to get home to do some chores. I am still about sixty miles from there, so I head toward US-25 and go south. There is a section that is a long, relatively steep four-lane road. I am headed downhill, and it is easy to go faster than the speed limit here. The law enforcement officers of the area know this and it is a favorite place for them to take pictures of travelers with their radar guns. I don't see any today, but I ride at about the speed limit anyway.
I pass by the road that leads to Poinsett Bridge, a stone bridge built in 1820, in the days of stagecoach travel. It is named for Joel Roberts Poinsett. The road over the bridge originally extended from Columbia, South Carolina to Saluda Mountain. It is an interesting place to visit, so I will write about it in a future posting.
I also pass the little town of Travelers Rest, Furman University, and go on into the northern outskirts of Greenville. I want to stop at the Cycle Gear Store to see if they have the latest issue of Motorcycle Lifestyle Magazine.
I wrote an article about do-it-yourself leather cleaning for the magazine and I want to see if it is in the latest issue. I pull into the parking lot, and see three squids there with their bikes, Mowhawked helmets, and little in the way of protective gear. I nod to them and wonder at what would happen if they slipped off their bikes and onto the pavement. They are all quite young -- probably in their twenties -- so they likely still think they are invincible. That is a good feeling, but can get you into trouble on the likes of a motorcycle (and in other places as well).
I go into the store and look around a bit. There are quite a few people inside. I hope this means that their business is better than it has been. The economy has taken its toll on all businesses including motorcycles, since they might be viewed as playthings rather than necessities. I certainly wish our legislators would leave the free market alone and cut taxes so we can use our money the way we please and get this economy rolling again. All of us would be wealthier without their "help."
I don't see anything I want to buy today, so I go over to the wire stand with the magazines on it. Sure enough, there is the newest issue of the magazine. My palms are sweaty as I pick up a copy and peruse the cover. My article is not listed there. Did it not make the cut? I go to the table of contents and find that it is indeed in this issue. With shaking hands, I rapidly flip through the pages to find it, and there it is. The editor and publisher Norm Blore does this magazine on a shoestring, but it is slick and professional looking. My article is there for all to see, complete with before and after pictures of a suit I washed at home. It turned out well, so I wrote the article and submitted it.
I am now published...a first for me! I carefully cradle the magazine in my hands and take it to my bike where I tuck it into my tank bag for the journey home.
I put my helmet and gloves back on for the final leg to the other side of Greenville. The temperature has risen to about sixty-five degrees, so it is pleasantly warm now. The downtown main street is tree-lined and attractive, but there is some sort of a traffic jam so I bypass riding through there. A few more miles on city streets, and I enter the four lane highway toward home. I reach there in just a short time.
Now to get out of this suit....
After receiving some help, I reluctantly stow my gear, clean up the bike a little, and return to daily life.
My spur-of-the moment ride has taken me about a hundred and thirty-six miles today.
Here is a great picture taken from the Caesars Head overlook found on the Sunday Morning Rides website.
Compare this to my hazy pictures from above.
I'm standing in the same place in this one: