Saturday, March 21, 2009

Caesars Head, a Bank Safe on the Move, and Scooters on a Beautiful Day.

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:
Additional training such as Lee Parks' Total Control Advanced Riding Clinic or a track school might be in order. I may take the Motorcycle Safety Foundation [MSF] Advanced class this summer, though it does not address higher speed cornering.

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, 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:

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Good Use for an Old Motorcycle Helmet

I have a Shoei helmet that was new many years ago. I wore it a few times when I first started riding, before I bought a new helmet. The lining is worn, and the face shield is scratched, I am sure the energy absorbing materials have lost their ability, but the outside still looks presentable.

I am not inclined, by nature, to get rid of anything that has any utility left in it. So, the dilemma: What to do with this fine helmet?

I think I have found a good use for it -- as a picture frame in my office.

I took a snapshot of the bike, printed it on nice glossy paper, and attached it inside the face shield. My picture-helmet resides in my office now as a conversation piece and as a way to remind me that there may be a ride coming up in the evening or on the weekend that will take my mind off the trials of the business world.

...and it sure beats discarding a perfectly good [looking] helmet.

Saturday, March 7, 2009

Ride to Collins Ole Town, Oconee Heritage Center, Issaqueena Falls, Stumphouse Tunnel, and Oconee State Park


Well, there were snow, ice, and below-freezing temperatures earlier in the week, but today we had temperatures ranging from 55 to 76 degrees. We had had this ride planned for a week ago, but it rained all weekend, so we postponed it.

Oh, by the way, “we” is the motorcycle group we have formed at church. We’re just getting started, but have had several meetings and rides. The group is patterned after the South Carolina FaithRiders.

Anyway, we started out at 9:30 from Easley, and the three of us spent the day riding and stopping at several sights within about fifty miles. As I said, the temperature was ideal, the humidity is still low, and the roads turned out to be clear and dry. There was only a trace of sand and salt on the roads from the previous cold weather.

There were scads of motorcyclists out, along with convertibles, bicycle riders, and all other manner of vehicle. Our ride was along an easy route with few tight twisties.

The three of us ride quite different bikes. One fellow, Ken, rides a Honda Goldwing. It is quiet and smooth as silk –- a comfortable ride. Ken is the most experienced rider in the entire group, having clocked fifty one years of riding dirt, enduro, flat track, and street bikes. Another who rode is Steve who rides a Honda VTX1300. He has ridden for about thirty seven years. Of course, I am the newbie, riding my Ninja 650R for only about two years now. I led the ride this time, so I am sure we got some odd looks due to the mix of bikes. Oh well, let them look. We had fun.

We started out at 9:30 AM. The temperature was about 55 degrees. I wore my usual light gray/dark gray/black two-piece leather suit, armored vest, bicycle shorts, lightweight polypropylene-Lycra underwear, boots, and helmet, but wore my Shift Carbine summer gloves for the first time this year. My light balaclava, neck warmer, and grip heaters were enough to keep me warm enough at speed in the morning. By the way, I advocate the bike shorts to help keep the bottom padded and comfortable. They don’t have heavy seams like conventional tighty-whitey underdrawers have, so are more comfortable for the long haul, and they are most certainly better than bunching boxer briefs.

We headed west on SC-93 through the town of Liberty and toward the town of Central. Here there lives a retired man and his wife who have constructed a small 1930s-era town on their property. They call it Collins Ole Town. Mr. Roy Collins and his wife Pat welcome visitors ranging from school children to seasoned citizens. Mr. Collins was a forester working for a college nearby that you may have heard of -- Clemson -- for almost twenty years, then retired for a political appointment.

He is a very good host, spending two hours with the three of us, explaining his life, his collections, and his philosophy. He is soft-spoken and gentlemanly, but matter-of-fact. He refers to his town as a hobby gone awry, but he is pragmatic about it, saying that as a retiree, he can work on something, but if he doesn’t finish it, that’s OK. The town is situated very close to a busy railroad and several long, fast freight trains passed while we were visiting. I enjoy trains, too. A barn-side Coca-Cola sign is also shown in this view toward the tracks.

The structures include a one-room schoolhouse much like the one he was educated in. It is filled with antique desks, books, and classroom materials. The piano is in pitch, so I played a little tune – ‘Tis So Sweet to Trust in Jesus. The mimeograph reminded me of school days, being a fast low-cost way to make copies before Xerography was invented. Mr. Collins looked up all of the schoolhouses that were in existence in Pickens County in 1934 by consulting a booklet published at the time. There were dozens of schools scattered around the county.

Next, there are a couple of sheds with farm tractors and implements inside, then a blacksmith shop so filled with equipment and artifacts that you couldn’t get into it.

The General Store, further on, is packed with products and displays, mostly from the early part of the twentieth century. Mr. Collins says he collects anything that is “older than he is,” and quips that that is getting harder and harder with his advancing age. The outside of the store is encrusted with old advertising signs of all types and sizes.

He also has a working example of a product marketed by Honda, the Kick N’ Go scooter from the 1970s. I am surrounded by Hondas today, it seems! Anyway, the scooter has a spring-return chain drive and a one-way clutch that changes the force applied to the bar behind the platform into high rotational speed at the rear wheel. You can buy a Kick N’ Go at the on-line auction sites, but beware of purchasing one advertised as being in mint condition, as reproduction decals are also available. This little cousin of our motorcycles looked as though it would be fun to ride. Too bad I am so big and it is so small –- I didn’t want to risk hurting it by taking it for a spin.

Mr. Collins showed us some round wooden boxes there in the store, and asked us what we though they were for. We didn’t have a clue. They are cheese boxes. Cheese rounds came in them like the ones shown below, except smaller in diameter.

Outside the General Store is a vintage gasoline pump, Crown Silver brand. You can see our reflections in its globe.

Next up was the barber shop. It is filled with vintage equipment, though bloodletting equipment was notably absent, having been phased out of the barber’s duties several hundred years earlier.

In a back room, was a permanent wave machine for the ladies. The electrically heated clips caused the hair to become curled, but the risk of burns was multiplied many times over today’s hand-held curling iron. What women went – and go -- through to have curly hair!

There was a sorghum molasses mill and boiler, used every year, a Ford Model A pickup truck nearby, and another shed full of farm implements.

Mr. Collins also operates a sawmill, making most of the lumber used in his little town. The lumber is stacked drying in various places.

Here, he is explaining heart pine to a couple of us.

The last building is a hotel, the Collins Hill Inn. It has a wide, inviting porch with a passel of rocking chairs along with a swing suspended by chains from the ceiling. This hotel is really a banquet hall with a couple of rooms above it for guests. The Collins put on feeds for up to about sixty people. There is a small gift nook in one corner, a warming kitchen on the main floor, and a commercial kitchen in the basement. As Mr. Collins offered us an apple fritter, he said that it was his wife who prepares the deserts. Naturally, I asked if she had baked these. He said, that no, he had baked them himself. Renaissance Man, indeed! He looked thoughtfully at the one he was munching, and opined that it was a little different and especially tasty this time. I agree. I could’ve eaten the whole plate full.

Mr. Collins says that he has plans for a chapel yet, and then his town will be complete. As the visit was winding down, we looked out the window of the hotel at the other buildings we had visited and at our trusty steeds patiently waiting in the paddock for the next leg of our journey.

If you go, do note that there is a short stretch of gravel road on the way into Collins Ole Town, so use your best gravel riding techniques.

Our ride continued about fifteen miles through the towns of Central and Clemson, then following route SC-28 to Walhalla, SC.

The Oconee Heritage Center is housed in the 1892 Old Walhalla Tobacco Barn that has gone through several transformations in its life. It had been a furniture store at some point, and to make the front of the building more presentable, an addition was put on. This addition has a basement, and when excavating for it, the foundation of the main building was undermined, causing the front wall to collapse, and the second floor to fall. The main building was put back together, but with its second floor mostly removed.

The Heritage Center preserves and promotes the history of the county. Inside, the Center has interesting displays of local history, archaeology, and heritage, separated into seven time periods.
  • Era One (Prehistory - 1783)
  • Era Two (1783 - 1861)
  • Era Three (1861 - 1876)
  • Era Four (1876 - 1929)
  • Era Five (1929 - 1945)
  • Era Six (1945 - 1972)
  • Era Seven (1972 - Current)
The Director and Curator Nick Gambrell is a quiet, pony-tailed young fellow who got us started on our tour of the center. Another fellow who was working at a table in the lobby, noted that we were riding motorcycles, and related to us his tumble from his bike wearing only a tee shirt, jeans and a helmet. His ankle was just healing up from the road rash, without benefit of a skin graft, and his broken collarbone was pretty well mended as well. I told him of my “off-road” experience, and recommended ATGATT.

The center is entrusted with two dugout canoes rescued from being buried along two upstate rivers, the Chattooga and another one whose name I do not recall. One of the canoes is thirty two feet long and was dated about 1760, the other is not yet dated. The canoes are soaking in vats of preservative chemicals so that one day they may be dried out and put on display.

There is a section explaining the right-of-way of the Blue Ridge Railroad that included Stumphouse Tunnel that we are slated to visit later in the day.

After we had perused all the displays, we went a few blocks down the street to the Steak House Restaurant. This is a locally-owned place on the main street. When out on a ride, we try to patronize places that are out of the ordinary, and preferably, extraordinary. This one is definitely different –- a steak house that doesn’t specialize in serving steak.

The story here is that it was a steak house, but one day in 1973, as Gloria Yassen rode by the Seigler's Steak House, she saw that it was closed. After inquiring, she found that the restaurant was for sale. Gloria and husband Abed (new to the USA) decided to take the plunge and purchase the business and building. In April 1973, they opened for business. T-Bone steaks and grits were staples on the menu in those early days, then short-orders like fried flounder and hamburger steak were added.

They have a varied menu, much like any meat and three in the south. I had a bowl of scalloped potatoes that were tasty, and they recommended the "Arabian Rooster" fried chicken breast to me as being great, so I tried a piece. It was good fried chicken, but as they say, “If it tastes good, spit it out” to maintain a healthy heart. Therefore, I try not to eat fried foods, and peel the skin off when I do eat them. Well, I peeled off most of the skin, and ate the rest (except for the bones). I know, I should eat vegetables and fruit at every meal, but everything is à la carte and I wanted to spend less than that. All together my bill was $4.50.

The owner Abed as sitting a corner booth overseeing operations, but I didn’t have a chance to talk with him.

As we were walking back to the bikes parked a few doors down, I recalled my thoughts of more than a year ago about getting an alarm system for the bike, since motorcycles are relatively easy to steal. I got one a few months back, a Scorpio SR-i500. It is an older model, but seems to have the features of the newer ones. There is a remote that arms and disarms the alarm, and it is this remote that is different in the newer versions. The remote also receives a signal indicating that the alarm has been triggered.

The alarm sounds on the bike if someone jostles or tips it, if someone turns on the ignition, and if someone comes too near. The jostle and tip functions are triggered by accelerometers inside the alarm housing, so they work without having to pay attention to mounting transducers separately. The proximity function requires their SN-5 Perimeter Sensor. This emits microwaves that detect nearby mass and causes the unit to chirp, then alarm if the intruder persists. I also have the RID-5 remote ignition disable relay that prevents the engine from firing when the alarm is armed, but can also shut down the engine if someone grabs the motorcycle and tries to get away. You depress (Southern talk would be “mash”) a button on the remote that makes the alarm chirp, and after a delay, stops the engine.

The alarm with built-in sounder fit easily under the seat, mostly behind one of the seat cowlings of the bike, the proximity sensor attaches with Velcro to the top of the battery so it is positioned under the seat, and the cutoff relay is tucked away under a seat cross member. Almost all of the meager underseat space of the 650R remains open for packing your toothbrush (and not much else) for a trip.

All in all, I am pleased with the unit. It is built to automotive standards for circuitry protection and robust electrical connector design. The proximity feature particularly, makes my bike a little less vulnerable to a casual thief: He might be scared off before he even touches the bike if he trips it. Its range extends a bit from the bike, so even when someone comes near but doesn't touch, the alarm chirps.

One problem: I keep forgetting about the alarm when I approach the bike, so I end up triggering it myself. I expect that I’ll remember eventually…and I can always say I am just testing it when I forget.

Back to our ride.

We continued our outing by going further along SC-28 about six or seven miles to Issaqueena Falls and Stumphouse Tunnel. The two are only a few hundred yards apart, and are reached from one short stretch of tight-turned, downhill side road. The surface is good, but oncoming traffic might encroach on your lane, and you certainly don’t want to risk encroaching on their side. Low gears work well here.

The entrance to Issaqueena Falls comes first on the road. The parking lot is all gravel, so bring your kickstand pad so your bike doesn’t topple over while parked. I made mine from thin aluminum, but a 4” square electrical box cover works well, too.

The parking lot is rather randomly laid out, but we found a place along an edge to park in line. I didn’t want to carry my helmet, so I fiddled with the cables under the seat to lash it to the side of the bike. This requires unlocking and removing the seat, threading the cable through the helmet buckle, then replacing the seat – a bit of a hassle.

The above photograph shows the differences in the three bikes we are riding this day: Small, medium, and large!

That done, we walked to the falls. It had been rainy here so the falls were a bit fuller than in the other times I have come here. The winter vegetation was a bit drab, but the sunny day compensated. There is an overlook a few hundred feet downstream of the brink, so I walked down there and snapped a few pictures. Some other visitors climbed down to other vantage points beneath me. I’ll go down there some other time.

According to the Oconee County website, legend has it that the falls is named for an Indian maiden, Issaqueena, who, warning the white settlers of an Indian attack, was then chased by Indians and appeared to jump over the falls. She was actually hiding behind the falls, tricked her pursuers, and survived. The Park is open daily from 8:00 a.m. to sunset. Since I have not yet begun to make movies with my digital camera, you can see a little Flash animation of the falls on this website as well.

Stumphouse Tunnel is a short distance from the falls, but we mounted up and rode there so the bikes would be closer when parked. We made the short walk up a slight grade to the tunnel entrance. We felt the coolness of the underground space spilling down around us. It felt good to me, though I was the most heavily dressed of the three of us. The others might have been a bit chilly. We brought flashlights so we could walk into the tunnel, but their meager light was almost swallowed up by the darkness. The tunnel is incomplete because the Blue Ridge Railroad ran out of money during its construction. You can walk in as far as an expanded steel barrier that keeps visitors out of the remainder of the tunnel due to the danger of rock falls.

Again according to the Oconee County website, the tunnel is 1,617 feet long and was started in 1852 to connect Charleston to Knoxville and eventually on to Cincinnati. The Civil War and the lack of funds brought construction to a halt. While there were various efforts by the Blue Ridge Railroad to revive the tunnel, none of them came to pass and it stands today as a monument to the efforts of pre-Civil War engineering.

The tunnel measures seventeen feet wide by twenty five feet high and about mid-way in, there is a sixteen by twenty foot airshaft that extends sixty feet upwards to the surface, causing the cool breeze. The tunnel leaks from the ground above it and condensation adds to the dampness inside.

In 1951, Clemson College bought the tunnel and used it to cure the South's first bleu cheese. The tunnel's environment was later duplicated at Clemson, and the cheese making that Clemson is now famous for, was moved there. The tunnel still belongs to Clemson University, but is maintained and managed under the South Carolina State Parks System.

Though we didn’t hike there, the Blue Ridge Railroad trail leads to two other tunnels that were built for the railroad: Middle, and Saddle. Middle Tunnel is the closer and the only one of these two that can be entered. The tunnel was back filled with dirt, but a small hole has been dug that allows entry. The third and furthest tunnel, Saddle, is totally submerged in water with only the top of the entryway still exposed.

After we walked into Stumphouse as far as we could, we turned around and made our way out and downhill back to the bikes. I again forgot that I had set my alarm, so I demonstrated the chirping sound for everyone within earshot. Just testing, you know.

The exit from Issaqueena Falls/Stumphouse Tunnel requires a sharp right turn that is on a steep upgrade with a limited view of oncoming traffic. I was a bit apprehensive about this, but did fine. Perhaps more than a year of riding has improved my technique since I first exited the Whitewater Falls road.

We rode just a few miles and reached the entrance of Oconee State Park. We paid the entrance fee and motored to one of the picnic areas. Steve had left us to attend a family function later in the afternoon, so only Ken and I entered the park. The picnic area is on a small lake, so we walked down to its edge and took in the view. It was a beautiful, warm, spring afternoon, and we enjoyed the quiet and solitude of the place.

Big and small together in the parking lot.

We walked back to the parking lot, and decided that we would skip stopping at our last scheduled destination, the World of Energy at the Oconee Nuclear Station. We will pass right by it, but will save it for another time. By the way, the Oconee station has generated in excess of 425 billion kilowatt-hours of electricity so far, more than any other U.S. nuclear station. Oconee unit 1 began commercial operation in 1973; units 2 and 3 in 1974.

We rode back down SC-107 and SC-28, then turned left at SC-183 in Walhalla. We took this all the way through Pickens and picked up SC-8 to Easley.

We spent about seven leisurely hours riding and looking at the sights. We parted ways at the church and each turned toward home. It was a great day to be out in God’s creation.

Here are some photographs at Issaqueena falls taken in September of 2008 when the foliage was full.