Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Odd Sights I've Seen

Here are some more photos of a few odd and miscellaneous things I have seen along the roads of upstate South Carolina, western North Carolina, and eastern Georgia. They don't warrant a full story writeup, but a short blurb suffices.


The most recent of these is this possibly vintage Porsche. I believe it may be an RS-60 or similar, built for racing. Or it could be a kit car replica. I saw it in Hendersonville North Carolina, parked along the street just like any other mundane vehicle.

This one is not run of the mill, though. It appears pristine, and is a beautiful example of automotive art.

There is not much creature comfort for the driver and his navigator. It is all business. Note the pair of stopwatches for rally timing on brackets inside each door.

Kit car or original, it is an eye catcher.


Here is another automotive head turner, but this one is much more common, except for his vanity license tag.

This was taken at Caesars Head State Park in northern Greenville County South Carolina.

With a Manufacturer's Suggested Retail Prince of about $75,000, I won't be exchanging my Ninja for one of these very soon.


I wonder whether Tom misses those that are on sale here.

Maybe he is hobbling around somewhere nearby.

This sign is near those others I wrote of last time in Odd Sights I've Seen.


This is something you don't see every day, a large yellow arthropod with a very hard exoskeleton.

Really, it is a Volkswagen Beetle, but it looks a little squished up.

Someone sectioned it lengthwise, and set the two halves back together. The inside is filled with soil, serving as a planter, and the "driver" is this beady-eyed creature.

If you want to go see it, you will find it on East Fork Road, near Big Hill, at Pushpin "C" on this map. Big Hill itself is at Pushpin "D" on the map. I think this is an inspiring photograph of Big Hill, a winding motorcycle road right here. There are lots of them in these parts.

While we're nearby, there is a also a place called the Moon Shine Horse Farm, at Pushpin "B" on the map. Interesting name.


Here is a fellow who apparently wants to protect his ride, but doesn't have a garage to put it in, so he parks on the front porch. It must be a trick to get this big bike up there and back down safely on the narrow piece of lumber on the right edge of the porch.


And here is a warmer view of that lonesome horse from back in February on a snowy day.

He's downright friendly today, and craving attention.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Memorial Day Weekend Rally, Part IV, Sunday and the Ride Home

It is Sunday, May 30, 2010, the last day I will be at the Rally to Ridgecrest, even though it continues overnight and into Memorial Day itself. I need to get home to my bride, as she has been without me all weekend.

We have done lots of neat things here so far, but today has some special activities in store. Let me tell you about them.

I begin the day with a hearty breakfast, then prepare for the memorial ride to the Western Carolina State Veterans Cemetery over in Black Mountain.

There is to be a police escort along the route, and almost everyone who has ridden in to the rally appears to be assembling for this trip. I have not seen a count of the attendees, but there are hundreds of bikes preparing for the ride this morning.

Each of us is given an Old Glory to take with us and leave at the cemetery. Veterans go first, then everyone else.

The rumble of exhausts is loud, and reverberates off the nearby buildings.

The first of the group starts, but it is several minutes before there is enough clear space in front of me to start out. We motor slowly along. People have come out to wave their support to us in our mission to honor the vets.

After a few miles, we turn into the cemetery. The bikes wind around the graveyard roads and begin to park. Once everyone has stopped, there are bikes lined up along every road -- hundreds of them, once rumbling, now silent in respect for the dead.

The sound of a lone bagpiper is heard.

We walk quietly up a hill toward the building where some have already assembled. There is a hush kept by all.

The bagpiper ends his playing, and we are quiet. A song is begun, and everyone joins in.

The first speaker is Lieutenant Colonel Oliver North. Colonel North speaks of the dedication of those lying in graves nearby, some having given the ultimate sacrifice in their service.

He does not mince words. He says it plainly. These brave soldiers, cold in the ground, fought enemies in places far away. He speaks now of the threat we face as a nation, particularly from Islamic terrorists both afar, and in our midst on our own soil.

He speaks of the crying need for resolve and the strong, fearless leadership we must now have to fight this threat...

...and I lament silently that I do not see that leadership and resolve in our Commander in Chief.

Colonel North concludes and welcomes Lieutenant General William R. "Jerry" Boykin, who continues with a tribute to these resting soldiers, and with the parallel thought to Colonel North's; the need for a strong defense.

The assembled crowd periodically voices its agreement on the vital need for the United States to have a will of steel in resisting our very real foe.

Once the speakers have finished, we quietly make our way amongst the gravestones, picking places to leave our flags.

Then we pray individually, as we feel led, over the graves.

I linger over a section of low stones, straightening some flags that have been become bent over in the wind. I find that I have tears in my eyes, thinking of the sacrifice these soldiers made for their beloved country -- and for my freedom.

After a little while, I seek out my bike, and walk slowly to it. I contemplate these soldiers' service, and experience a pang of guilt that I have not so served. I saddle up and fall in line with the others on the way back to Ridgecrest.

We ride slowly, as though in further humble respect for the soldiers we are leaving behind.

Once there at Ridgecrest, we have just a short time until morning worship begins. Again Colonel North and General Boykin speak. Both cite time after time that they asked God for help, and that their prayers were answered, sometimes in seemingly impossible situations. They speak, too, of times when they had lost their faith, then later returned to it, it being stronger and deeper.

They emphasize that God, indeed, loves the warrior.

I am inspired, and moved by these Christian military men. We need many more like them in top positions. We would all be safer and better off.

The worship concludes and we file out of the auditorium to pack our things onto our bikes again. I find that my bags seem to have shrunk some since I rode in on Friday. Part of the reason is that I have not repacked as efficiently, and the other part is that I have accumulated some new stuff -- a couple of books from the bookstore, and lots of literature related to the rally.

There are two more guys who elect to ride the same way I have planned. We depart for a nearby southern barbecue restaurant, have lunch with some others who were at the rally, then head south.

We go down NC-9, a twisty road that starts out at Black Mountain and is fairly busy for the first few miles. We hit NC-64, and follow it to US-25. This road is mostly four lane, divided, and the miles go quickly by. When we reach SC-11, the Cherokee Foothills Scenic Highway, rain starts to fall, so we stop at the underpass there and put on our rainsuits. We continue on our way, each of us breaking off as we come nearer our homes.

The rain stops after about twenty miles, and the last ten nicely promote drying out again.

I reach home about 4:30, peel off my gear and hang it up, then put away some of the stuff I had packed. I shower and have a light supper with my wife.

Here is my route for the day.

View Larger Map

It has been an enjoyable, and inspiring long Memorial Day weekend.

I hope you enjoyed coming along on your computer.

Oh, and the next time you meet a vet, let him know that you appreciate his putting himself in harm's way for you and me.


Links to related postings:

Rally to Ridgecrest, 2013 -- Day 1
Rally to Ridgecrest, 2013 -- Day 2
Rally to Ridgecrest, 2013 -- Days 3 and 4

Freedom is Never Free! -- Rally to Ridgecrest, 2011, Part I
Freedom is Never Free! -- Rally to Ridgecrest, 2011, Part II

Rally to Ridgecrest Facebook Page

Memorial Day 2010 Weekend Rally
Memorial Day 2010 Weekend Rally, Part II, The Ride Up
Memorial Day 2010 Weekend Rally, Part III, Saturday
Memorial Day 2010 Weekend Rally, Part IV, Sunday and the Ride Home.


Oliver L. North is a combat decorated marine, a #1 best-selling author, the founder of a small business, an inventor with three U.S. patents, a syndicated columnist, and the host of War Stories on the Fox News Channel. Yet, he claims his most important accomplishment is to be "the husband of one, the father of four and the grandfather of eleven."
North was born in San Antonio, Texas, graduated from the U.S. Naval Academy in Annapolis, Maryland, and served 22 years as a U.S. Marine. His awards for service in combat include the Silver Star, the bronze star for valor and two purple hearts for wounds in combat.
Assigned to the National Security Council Staff in the Reagan administration, Lieutenant Colonel North was the United States government's counter-terrorism coordinator from 1983-1986. He was involved in planning the rescue of 804 medical students on the Island of Grenada and played a major role in the daring capture of the hijackers of the cruise ship Achille Lauro.
After helping plan the U.S. raid on Muammar Qaddafi's terrorist bases in Libya, North was targeted for assassination by Abu Nidal, the infamous terrorist found dead in Baghdad in August 2002.
President Ronald Reagan described him as "an American hero."
Since 2001, North has been the host of War Stories— the award-winning military documentary series on Fox News Channel. He has also authored eleven books — all of them New York Times bestsellers. His latest book, American Heroes, based on his extensive coverage of U.S. military units engaged in Afghanistan, Iraq and the Philippines was released in May 2008 and is yet another New York Times Best-Selling Book.
North is a life member of the National Rifle Association and a member of the NRA board of directors. He is also the founder of Freedom Alliance, a foundation that provides college scholarships for the sons and daughters of service members killed in action.

Jerry Boykin joined what would become the world's premier Special Operations unit—Delta Force—in 1978. The only promise: "a medal and a body bag." What followed was a .50 caliber round in the chest and a life spent with America's elite forces bringing down warlords and war criminals, despots and dictators.
In Colombia, his task force hunted the notorious drug lord Pablo Escobar. In Panama, he helped capture the brutal dictator Manuel Noriega, liberating a nation. From Vietnam to Iran to Mogadishu, Lt. General Jerry Boykin's life reads like an action-adventure movie.
Today he is an ordained minister with a passion for spreading the Gospel of Jesus Christ and encouraging Christians to become warriors for God's Kingdom.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Memorial Day Weekend Rally, Part III, Saturday


[From Rally to Ridgecrest]

As I have written previously, the Rally to Ridgecrest over Memorial Day weekend was a great time of riding, fellowship, learning, worship, singing, and eating, all in the pleasant surroundings of the Ridgecrest Conference Center. It is run by LifeWay, the people behind the Christian bookstores of the same name, and they are, in turn, an entity of the Southern Baptist Convention.

Aside: You might be confused by the word convention up there. Although the official name of the denomination is "Southern Baptist Convention," the convention itself is actually the annual meeting that normally takes place each June. "Denomination" more appropriately describes the daily standing of Southern Baptists, as in, "Southern Baptists are the largest evangelical denomination in the United States."Activities on Saturday have been scheduled, hour-by-hour, for us, so everything flows smoothly. The first thing in the morning is an early risers devotional. We meet at the flagpole and hear a homily, then pray for veterans, and for that weekend activities to be dedicated to the glory of God. After that, we scurry off to a hearty breakfast in the dining hall of scrambled eggs, grits, gravy on biscuits, fruit, and sausage. Yum, again (except for the grits -- I am a northern boy).

Shortly after breakfast, I start out on a ride. Many others are doing the same, but I don't like riding in large groups and with people whose riding skills and style I don't know, so I strike out by myself. Understand that I am not the greatest rider on the street, but I enjoy going at my own pace. I have picked out a possible route on the rally website and expanded it a bit. I want to go further north on the Blue Ridge Parkway than I have been before, at least to Grandfather Mountain.

The route I have worked out begins on I-40, and sweeps at high speed down hill to the east. I divert on US-70 through Old Fort, then take US-221 north near Marion. As I approach the Parkway, the road gets more curvy, but sweeping and quite manageable. I enter the Parkway and head north. Here is the first of several segments of the complete route referenced above:

View Larger Map

I have never been on this section of the Parkway, so it is all new to me, though it continues to be less scenic than further south. Nevertheless, the ride is enjoyable. I move along at a comfortable pace, stopping whenever I please. Some of the overlooks are great for just spending a few minutes relaxing, stretching from the journey, and maybe having a snack and a drink of water.

View Larger Map

There is an interesting website that has panoramic views taken at Parkway overlooks. It also has lots of other interesting Parkway information, including printable maps.

Here is some information about the origin and construction of the Parkway, taken from the Virtual Blue Ridge website:
"The Blue Ridge Parkway...resulted from a [government jobs program that needed]...trained engineers, architects and landscape architects left unemployed by the Great Depression, not to mention the thousands of mountain families already verging on poverty. In addition, the recent openings of two popular eastern parks, the Great Smoky Mountains National Park and Shenandoah National Park, were already attracting tourists to the naturally beautiful but financially poor area; and the increasing availability of the automobile foresaw a new generation of motoring vacations.

"Actual construction of the Parkway didn't begin until late in 1935, although the plan had been in the works for two years. At that time, President Franklin D. Roosevelt had visited Virginia's first Civilian Conservation Corps camp while they were working on the Skyline Drive through Shenandoah National Park. Liking what he saw, he soon approved the concept of constructing a scenic motorway linking the two new parks, Shenandoah and the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. After much wrangling in Congress over acquisition, funding, and the location of the road, it was decided that the Parkway should follow the crest of the southern Appalachian mountains through Virginia and North Carolina, and that the necessary rights-of-way should be purchased by the states and then turned over to the federal government to be administered by the National Park Service as a park. Although the Parkway differs from the usual national park in its narrow land-holdings (at times shrinking to a width of only 200 feet), it is still managed like any site in the National Park Service.

"Progress was slow at first, as CCC crews surveyed deep into the mountains and realized the enormity of the task at hand. No maps, reluctant landowners, extreme weather conditions, rocky terrain, and snakes were only a few of the obstacles encountered. Many mountain roads were little more than ruts and could not even accommodate the equipment needed for construction. Foremost in the minds of the crews was to create as little scar as possible, and great care was taken to design and build the roadway so that it blended into its natural surroundings. Construction took place in sections as land was purchased, rights-of-way approved, and contracts secured. Progress was steady until World War II when funds were diverted for the war effort. The 1950s and 1960s saw a slowdown in construction, until by 1968 the only task left was the completion of a seven-mile stretch around North Carolina's Grandfather Mountain. In order to preserve the fragile environment on the steep slopes of the mountain, the Linn Cove Viaduct, a 1,200-foot suspended section of the Parkway, was designed and built. Considered an engineering marvel, it represents one of the most successful fusions of road and landscape on the Parkway.

"Overall, some 26 tunnels were blasted through the mountain ridge, with dozens of bridges needed to make rivers and creeks passable. More than 200 parking areas, overlooks, and developed areas were incorporated into the design so that motorists could enjoy a leisurely ride through the mountains. The road itself ascends to more than 6,000 feet at Richland Balsam overlook in North Carolina, and descends to just over 600 feet at the James River in Virginia. Hundreds of easements and agricultural use permits were negotiated with Parkway neighbors in order to ensure views of rustic rail fences, livestock, and shocks of corn and wheat, with no intrusive billboards and minimal residential development. The 469-mile Blue Ridge Parkway was officially dedicated on September 11, 1987, fifty-two years after the ground breaking, although various sections had already been in use for decades. In one sense, though, the Parkway may never be completely finished. Efforts continue to acquire property near the boundaries continues in an effort to provide better protection for land and views that the park service already owns."
So it was a make-work project started during the Great Depression, and continues to this day, consuming ever more taxpayer dollars. The Parkway is nice. I enjoy it immensely. But I also know that the make-work projects that made it possible helped prolong the Great Depression by many years, since none of us, and certainly not the government, can spend itself to prosperity. FDR's dictator-like running of the government welfare programs was much like our current president, whose fiscally irresponsible actions will prolong the current recession by many years as well. We all suffer for the benefit of a few.

OK. Back to the ride, now.

I stop at Linville Falls, near milepost 316.4. It is really a series of waterfalls. This is the upper falls, a fifteen-minute walk from the parking lot.

There is a larger falls further downstream, though I did not walk there during my visit. This is it, here:

[Photo by Ken Thomas]

On the trail, I spot this tree and decide to become artistic. The sun is directly behind it, causing it to be silhouetted.

Neat effect, I think. ...and I didn't have to enhance it.

I continue my ride today on the Parkway, and next get off to visit Grandfather Mountain. It is located only a short distance off the Parkway. I find the entrance and note that the fee to go in is $15 a person. That seems a little steep. I wonder what is inside these gates that would warrant the high fee.

Here is a description from the Inn at Mill Creek blog:
"What is Grandfather Mountain, you ask? Grandfather Mountain, 5,946 feet above sea level, is a park and...nature preserve with great diversity in animal and plant life. Grandfather has hiking trails, a nature museum, environmental habitats for wildlife, great areas for picnicking, and a "Mile High Swinging Bridge" where you can take in some spectacular views."
For reference, the summit of Mount Mitchell, one of the places I went yesterday, is 6,684 feet above sea level, 738 feet higher than Grandfather.

I spot some other bikers nearby, so I idle over, take off my helmet and ask them about Grandfather.

They say that, indeed the tariff is high, but it is worth it to see the view from the top. I ask about the road condition, and they say that it is a well-paved road, but is challenging near the top. Another motorcycle joins us, his having just exited the park. The people I have been talking with look over to him and ask what took him so long to get back down here. He declares his very strong opinion of the road. I finally gather that his opinion is based mostly on negotiating tight downhill switchbacks.

It sounds as though I will get some additional practice on some downhill turns today.

I thank the group, put my gear back on, and head to the gate. The woman there asks if I have been here before. I tell her that I have not, so she starts into a detailed description of the road, including a firm admonishment that motorcycles need to be careful, and not speed. I tell her that I will be good, take the literature she hands me, and start out.

The road is in fine condition, but there is a paved ditch on one side and a dropoff of several inches on the other in many places, so it would not be good to run off the pavement in any vehicle.

About half way up, there is a parking lot for some of the other attractions here. They keep several types of wildlife in rather natural looking exhibits, and there are eleven hiking trails of greatly varying difficulty. You can also hike into the park from the outside (without having to pay the fee).

I take some pictures of the strange rocks near this parking lot. This one is called Split Rock.

That, it is.

This one is called Sphinx Rock. Can you pick out the smiling face looking to the right?

This parking lot is the place to see the animal exhibits, but the weather looks as though a storm is coming, and it will be worse at the top, so I don't take the time today.

I continue toward the summit. So far, the turns are not very sharp, but soon enough they become very tight indeed, near the upper parking lot. Of course, going up is much easier for most of us bikers, so I don't have too much trouble. In fact, I'd like to go a bit faster, but slow traffic prevents it.

Once I park in the upper lot, I find that the true summit is a further hike up, but that the trail is closed. I settle for the view from a lower point called Linville Peak, which is accessible across a pedestrian suspension bridge. Former North Carolina Tourism Director Charles J. Parker coined the name " Mile High Swinging Bridge" at the Bridge's dedication in 1952. The term "mile high" refers to the structure's elevation above sea level (5,280 feet), and "swinging" refers to the fact that suspension bridges do sway. The original cost of the bridge was $15,000. It was rebuilt in 1999 to the tune of $300,000.

Now you might think this 228-foot long bridge is quite a wonder, being a mile high. Do realize that even though we are a mile above sea level here, the local elevation difference immediately beneath the bridge is about eighty feet. Here is a view looking back from Linville Peak toward the parking lot.

And this is a 200-degree panoramic view taken by Ken Thomas looking south from Linville Peak, labeled with the other peaks visible.

[Photo by Ken Thomas]

Mr. Thomas' description of his April 30, 2008 photograph:
"To the far right (west) you can see Roan Mountain on the Tennessee border. The Black Mountain range, nearly 40 miles away, looms on the distant horizon to the center right. Grandmother Mountain, crowned by the WUNE-TV tower is to the right in the foreground. Near the center of the panorama is a small section of the Blue Ridge Parkway. To the far left (east) you can see the famous Grandfather Mountain Mile-High Swinging Bridge."
There are quite a few people climbing around Linville Peak, me amongst them, doing the best I can with my bike boots on. There is really no path, so we are indeed scrambling around on the rocks. I manage to stay on my feet, and live to see the parking lot again. I am amazed at the number of people wearing flip-flops or sandals on these rocky, uneven surfaces. Maybe they are more sure-footed than I am.

The weather is threatening, but there has been no rain. I mount up. As I begin my descent, I happen to be leaving when there are no other vehicles starting out from the parking area. I find that I am fairly confident, using the rear brake with a little throttle on the downhill switchbacks. I don't feel wobbly and out of control when using this technique, and I don't gain too much speed either. Thank you Irondad and Andrew Trevitt!

I make it to the entrance, and nod at the woman in the booth, an assurance to her that I have been good. Bye, now.

I get back on the Parkway, and travel over the Linn Cove Viaduct at milepost 304. This is a 1243 foot curved bridge over the last section of the Parkway to be completed, in 1983. By that time, the tree huggers had gotten into the act, preventing an on-grade road from being built that would have required significant cutting and filling to accomplish, but would have been much less expensive. This bridge cost ten million dollars.

Here is a picture of the viaduct:

[Photo by Mehmet OZ on Panoramio]

View Larger Map

I go a bit further north, then cut off onto US-221 and follow it south, in the general direction of Ridgecrest.

View Larger Map

This road roughly parallels the Parkway, and at one point the road has a view of the Viaduct from below. It looks like this, only not with the fall colors:

[Photo by Appalachian Encounters on Flickr]

I continue on US-221 until it crosses the Parkway again, then follow that all the way to Little Switzerland. The roads near here are the favorites of some sportbike riders down where I live. I can see why that might be, with all the twists and turns.

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I miss the turn I want and go a few extra miles, but soon realize my mistake and find the correct route, NC-226A. At the right spot to turn, I see a group of others from the rally, but they appear to be going a different direction so I don't join them.

NC-226A is a very twisty road that requires care. As usual I take it easy because of my ability and the fact that I am unfamiliar with the road. I hit US-221 to US-70 again to get back.

View Larger Map

I have not taken many pictures on the road today, riding mostly, and not expending the time to stop, double back, and make well-composed pictures. Please forgive me.

I reach the conference center about 2:15, clean up a little, and go right to the breakout sessions I had picked out that I thought might be of interest.

Here is the list of the sessions I attended through the weekend, each about an hour long:
Road Photography Randy Hughes -- LifeWay staff photographer, Honda ST1300
How to take good pictures on the road.

Planning & Organizing a Group Ride
Jeff Estes -- member of National Board of F.A.I.T.H Riders, veteran of Hillsborough County Florida Sheriff’s department, Certified Rider Coach, Harley Davidson Low Rider.
How to properly organize a group ride. There is much more to it than "Let's ride!"

Event Evangelism
Dave Burton -- preacher, Director of Evangelism for Florida Baptist Convention, writes Gospel tracts including the 'LIFE DEATH CARD' below, riding motorcycles for over 40 years: 1967 Sears Moped through current 2002 Fat Boy and Ultra Classic.
How to evangelize to the lost during your motorcycle event.

The Cycles We Ride
Danny Moats, national Chaplin of F.A.I.T.H Riders Motorcycle Ministry.
Not the cycles you are thinking of. Marriage cycle:

The two build on one another. Without both, there is trouble.

Intentional Evangelism
Sammy Gilbreath, Director of Evangelism for the Alabama State Board of Missions.
Intentional Evangelism it is meeting people where they hurt just as Jesus did. You must go out and find the lost, then maintain meaningful contact with them, in an effort to have them accept Jesus Christ as their Savior.

And some I wish I had time for:

Tire Tread and Tongues; Get A Grip!
Michelle Newsome -- Lakeland Police Department Internal Affairs
Are you glorifying God with your words when the rubber meets the road? Failure to conduct a safety check on your tires as well as on your tongue can have disastrous results on your life. Are you using your tongue to bless or to blast? Sticks and stones hurt. Words do, too.

Family to Family: Reaching and Keeping our Kids
Jerry Pipes -- leader of the Prayer and Spiritual Awakening Team at the Baptist North American Mission Board.More than 70% of kids who grow up in evangelical churches are leaving by age 18. Here is how to experience meaningful family time, true purpose, while passing on your faith in Christ.

Leading Your Friends to Christ
Larry Gilmore -- Director of Evangelism for the Tennessee Baptist Convention
Have you wanted to impact the lives of your unsaved friends for Christ, but just don't know how to begin? You already have a relationship with them. Here are some ideas on how to approach them in a way they will listen. You don't have to "make them" do anything! You have a responsibility to give them an opportunity to receive Christ.
After the sessions, there is -- wait for it -- dinner. Well, actually supper -- this is the south, you know: Dinner is the mid-day meal. See:

I am ravenous and the food is again yummy. The cafeteria here manages to make their food quite tasty. I might also say that the whole conference center is generally well maintained, clean, and the service I received from everyone I came in contact with was courteous and efficient.

I go outside to walk off my supper a bit, and notice a sportbike on a trailer. The bike is significantly damaged and there is grass in where the clutch lever used to be. Later, I meet the fellow, Clay, who owns the bike. He had overbraked for a turn, crashed, and broke his wrist. Even so, he is present in the evening worship; sore, but thankful that he was not hurt worse. I also learn that another rider, Ken, crashed and broke his neck today.

At evening worship, I am not very enthused with the music beforehand. The music is rock. I don't think you can worship God with rock music. I certainly can't. I can't even hear myself think when it is going on. Even if the words are inspirational or motivational, it is difficult to understand them and the sound level is too high. Musical preparation for worship can be upbeat, but it must get you into a receptive, contemplative mood to more effectively receive the message.

The message that follows tonight is good, however.

Overall, it has been a full day of riding, worship, learning, and fellowship. I am tired, but filled. I talk with my roommate for a while, then turn in, thank God for the day's activities, for our safety, and ask Him to comfort those who were injured. I also ask His blessing on the remainder of the weekend.

I am asleep minutes after my head hits the pillow.

Sunday activities and the ride home are coming up next.

Links to related postings:

Rally to Ridgecrest, 2013 -- Day 1
Rally to Ridgecrest, 2013 -- Day 2
Rally to Ridgecrest, 2013 -- Days 3 and 4

Freedom is Never Free! -- Rally to Ridgecrest, 2011, Part I
Freedom is Never Free! -- Rally to Ridgecrest, 2011, Part II

Rally to Ridgecrest Facebook Page

Memorial Day 2010 Weekend Rally
Memorial Day 2010 Weekend Rally, Part II, The Ride Up
Memorial Day 2010 Weekend Rally, Part III, Saturday
Memorial Day 2010 Weekend Rally, Part IV, Sunday and the Ride Home.


Thursday, June 10, 2010

Memorial Day Weekend Rally, Part II, The Ride Up

I posted a few pictures earlier from the Memorial Day Weekend I spent at the Ridgecrest Conference Center in Ridgecrest North Carolina.

The occasion for the weekend was the annual Rally to Ridgecrest, where motorcyclists from as far away as Illinois and Florida get together to honor our military veterans. There were several hundred bikers there of all shapes and sizes -- big ones, small ones, mostly men, but some women.

The bikes were all shapes and sizes, too. A couple of big scooters, lots of cruisers, many touring and sport touring bikes, a sprinkling of sportbikes, a few trikes, and one sidecar rig. Here are pictures of some of them:

The weather was spectacular. It remained partly cloudy with only occasional periods of overcast, with those mostly at the higher elevations. I didn't get into any rain until the last thirty miles from home. You couldn't ask for better conditions; an answered prayer, by the way.

As you might expect, I made a day of it riding from home to Ridgecrest. If I had wanted to get there quickly, I could have gone this way, maybe 90 miles, but I wanted to see as many things along the way as I could. I know that doesn't surprise any of you who have read previous entries in this blog of mine. I like to poke around to interesting places when I am out.

The actual route I took going up looks like this:

View Larger Map
Remember that you can explore the map by holding your mouse button down and moving it about. You can also see a larger version with routing instructions if you click on the "View Larger Map" link.

The route starts out going up US-178 from Pickens South Carolina to Rosman North Carolina. This is one of the favorite roads near here for bikers of all kinds. It is mostly well paved, most of the curves are marked, and it has many advisory speed signs. It is not a good idea to speed, however, since it is patrolled by officers in fast cars and on faster motorcycles. There isn't much traffic today, but come the weekend it will be more crowded, especially with motorcyclists. I enjoy the ride today on this familiar road.

Aside: One thing I have noticed since I first rode up US-178 to Rosman way back in February of 2008, is that it doesn't take as long for me to get there as it used to. The first time I tried this road was when I had owned the bike for only about four and a half months, and had ridden a total of four hundred miles. I am sure this quicker time today is because of somewhat higher skills. (For reference, I have now owned the bike for almost three years and have ridden it over 19,000 miles.)

At Rosman, I continue north on NC-215. This road is in the process of being repaved along almost this entire length. Unfortunately, the preparation for paving has brought with it a number of edge traps and other hazards.

First, here is the intrepid rider's steed as it takes a rest break on the way north, stopped at an overlook on NC-215 just south of the Blue Ridge Parkway. Note my luggage for the trip, Cortech Sport saddlebags and tail bag, and my usual GTmoto magnetic tank bag. This combination holds enough for three days, but it is Spartan, requiring some items to do double duty, such as Nylon pants that serve both as casual wear and for use under my suit to increase its wind resistance if necessary.

Now, here is a photo of the road at the overlook:

Note how the road crew has cut out sections of the existing deteriorated pavement in long strips and have installed new asphalt paving material into the resulting gaps. They will eventually pave over the whole thing, making the driving surface smooth, but right now, every one of the patches has the potential of an edge trap that can trip up the motorcyclist.

Here is the definition of an edge trap from the Community Christian Riders website (under "Safety," then "Road Hazards"):
"An edge trap is any raised pavement edge or groove running parallel to the lane direction. For instance, when a lane is repaved, the edge of the new paving is raised several inches higher than the old paving. That raised edge can be out in the traffic lane. If you allow your front tire to ease up to a raised edge, it’s very likely you will lose control and go down. It is called an 'edge trap' because it tends to capture your front tire and trap you into a fall.

"Once your tire is trapped by the raised edge, it’s almost impossible to avoid a spill. Crossing an edge trap can be tricky. If the surface is only 1" high you can ride over it without much concern so long as you approach it at an angle of at least 20 degrees. Anything higher than about 1" and you must put as great an angle of attack to it as possible. Ideally you want to cross over it with a 90 degree (perpendicular) angle."
At the very least, it can be unnerving to cross over the joint. At worst, it can prevent you from making a steering correction. Since you don't want to cross the edges of the patches at shallow angles just in case there is a step there, the effect is that you cannot use the full width of the lane when making curves. That should cause you to slow down a notch or two compared with an unpatched surface.

Do you also see the very significant dropoff on the pavement edge? This overlook parking area is gravel, and the drop from pavement surface to gravel surface is two or three inches. Now that is not too bad going down if you try to do so at as near ninety degrees as possible, carry a little speed, and have room beyond the dropoff to slow down and correct for any mischief it causes. (You must remember that the overlook lot is gravel, and is unforgiving of quick maneuvers.)

Going back up the edge of the pavement can be a real challenge, though. The first thing to do is look for a place where the dropoff (now a step up) is at a minimum. You must then watch for oncoming traffic, and you want to enter the roadway at as close to that ninety degrees as possible, which requires a steering correction just after getting onto the paved road again. This combination of challenges can be difficult whilst feathering the clutch and getting your feet up onto the pegs.

One more thing in the picture: They have installed steel guardrail (euphemistically referred to as "meat grinders" by the motorcycle set) along almost this entire section of NC-215. It protects the cager from running off the downhill side or into the mountainside, but it can slice and dice a motorcyclist who hits it. That is another reason for caution...and for ATGATT

After a short rest and a drink of water, I manage to get back onto the road without incident and find the entrance to the Parkway just a mile or so up the road. I enter and head north.

The ride is sweet. There is no commercial traffic here. There are few tourists, even though this is a holiday weekend. I stop at several overlooks and gawk at this little part of creation. I move along at the speed limit of 45 MPH in most places. I am enjoying myself quite a bit. Since I am alone, I can do what I please. The pace, the time and place for stops, and the activities at each stop are all up to me. I like that freedom, though it would be nice to have a like-minded rider along in case of trouble and to converse with at stops. Alas, I couldn't find anyone else going this way today.

The Parkway is currently closed between milepost 405 and milepost 399.7 (Bad Fork Valley Overlook) due to the potential for rock slides after recent heavy rains. Just before I reach milepost 405, I find that I can divert off the Parkway on NC-151. The first part of this road is known as the "Devil's Drop," a technical and very challenging road. It has about a 7% downgrade and many tight curves.

I get a chance to try out the low-gear-and-light-rear-brake downhill turn technique I wrote of in an earlier post. I am not sure I have the hang of it yet, but it seems to stabilize my descent without my eyes getting as big as saucers due to gaining too much speed. ...and I take it easy anyway.

I finish out this twelve mile stretch of NC-151, and make my way east a bit and south again, then regain the Parkway southeast of Asheville.

These next few miles pass through a portion of the Biltmore Forest. It happens that the Parkway through here also functions as a local road, so there is a bit more traffic. This forest land was once owned by Mr. George Washington Vanderbilt, who built the largest private residence in the United States, the Biltmore, completed in 1895. The house and grounds are open for tours, and it is a bit pricey, but that is because it is not government run, and relies only on entrance fees to pay the way, not on taxpayer dollars. Yea! That is the way it should be done, of course: If you want to visit, you pay your own way. What a concept!

I continue on, enjoying the road and the scenery, though the distant scenery is less available here than further south on the Parkway where I came from. That is, there are fewer overlooks and the view from most of them is less spectacular. I realize that I am, indeed, fortunate to live near the better parts of the Parkway.

I must admit to a temptation here. It is to go faster than the speed limit. The road is good, there isn't much traffic, so why not? Well, there are several good reasons. One of which is that it is against the law, and I might get a ticket. The tickets here are quite expensive, I understand around $250.

Another reason is that there are others on the road who may not be watching the road, and who may wander across the centerline. They may also be going slow or be stopped to look at something.

A third reason is that there are some of these:

[photo courtesy of Ryan]

The curves are generally well marked, but you have to be careful, because you never know what might be lurking just out of sight.

Still another reason is animals. There are lots of them around, deer being the most likely to cause trouble with passing traffic. Today, a large bird started running across the road right in front of me, and the only reason I missed him was that he got scared and flapped his wings to help get out of my way. It might have been a pheasant, but whatever it was, it scared me quite a bit, as it could have caused me to wreck.

After my heart rate slows again, I motor on to Mount Mitchell, and ride to the upper parking area. It is a short walk from there to the highest point in North Carolina, and the highest peak east of the Mississippi, at 6,684 feet above sea level. The temperature at the summit is 62 degrees F, and wind is gusty. (Down in nearby Asheville, NC, the temperature was about 78 degrees at the same time.) There are some dark clouds so the visibility is not great, and thunder is audible nearby, but there is no rain.

A view of the road up, taken from the top. It happens that the sky is clearest in this direction.

I take the obligatory proof of visit photo of the elevation benchmark. You can tell it is I by the boots, right?

I have been up here once before, and you can read about my previous trip by following this link.

I go back down the mountain. After a few more miles, it is time to leave the Parkway, and I use NC-80 and US-70 to go south and back to the west; becoming nearer to my destination. There are three more things I want to squeeze in today before I rest, however.

The first is at Old Fort. There was once a fort close to this little town, built by the colonial militia before the Declaration of Independence, and the settlement served for many years as the western-most outpost of the early United States.

From the Old Fort website.

You can see one of the places of interest in this old photograph, the 1892 railroad depot. (You know I like trains.) The depot, restored in 2005, contains railroad and area artifacts as well as the Chamber of Commerce office. It is a quick visit.

The second point of interest is the tall pointed object (appropriate, huh?) on the right side of the photograph. Back in July of 1930, they erected a nearly thirty foot tall arrowhead hand-chiseled from granite and set next to the railroad depot. It is still there.

Here is the dedication ceremony announcement:

From the Old Fort website.

The arrowhead was intended to be a symbol of the peace achieved in an earlier century between pioneers and Native Americans.

Next, I go a few miles to another point of interest on my list today. Along the way to view it, I see glimpses of the railroad right of way, on its torturous path upgrade. If you look at this section of the Google map, you see how it twists and wraps around to minimize the grade.

View Larger Map
Click on "View Larger Map" above and then enlarge and move around the general area to see the railroad right of way that roughly parallels the road. You can follow it all the way from the depot in Old Fort, Pushpin "A" on the map, to the Ridgecrest Conference center at Pushpin "D."

Do you see all the loops and curves in the railroad? Enlarge the view if you can't pick out the tracks. Starting from the Old Fort depot helps trace it. The route is about thirteen miles by railroad, but only about five as the crow flies. They certainly put in a lot of civil engineering to get it built. Mr. James W. Wilson, who lived between 1832 and 1910, was the chief engineer and president of the Western North Carolina Railroad, planned and built this section. There is a commemorative plaque to Mr. Wilson back at the depot.

The road I am on has a few turns, but soon enough I come across the desired point of interest, Andrews Geyser, at Pushpin "B" on the map. Now you may have thought that geysers only exist in Yellowstone National Park in the western United States and at a few other places in the world. Well, you would be right about that. The truth of the matter is that there are no natural geysers near here. This one is man made, and is actually better described as a fountain.

From Wikipedia:
"The fountain is named for Colonel Alexander Boyd Andrews, a North Carolina native who was the Vice President of the Southern Railway Company and one of the men responsible for the construction of the railroad between Old Fort and Asheville, North Carolina, in the late 1800s. The fountain was constructed in 1885 with a dual purpose: it was a feature of the Round Knob Hotel, and a tribute to the approximately 120 men who died building the railroad through this particularly treacherous stretch of land, that culminates with the crossing of the Eastern Continental Divide through the Swannanoa Tunnel. The fountain was said to be eye-catching for railroad passengers ascending the 13 miles of track and seven tunnels that peaks at the top of Swannanoa Gap because it could be seen several times along the route."
Here is a postcard showing the Round Knob Hotel with the geyser in its original location:

"The Round Knob Hotel burned to the ground in 1903, and the fountain fell into disrepair. In 1911, George Fisher Baker, a wealthy New York financier and philanthropist who had been friends with Colonel Andrews, funded its restoration. The Southern Railway Company did not grant continuation of the easement for the fountain at that time, so a new, five-sided basin was constructed about 70 yards across Mill Creek, and the piping and nozzle were moved (to the fountain's current location). The town of Old Fort was given rights to the basin and the pipe that carries the water, and the fountain was formally named Andrews Geyser.
"The town of Old Fort continues to use Andrews Geyser and the surrounding area as a public park. Andrews Geyser underwent extensive restoration again in the 1970s, and was rededicated on May 6, 1976. Signs at the park describe Mr. Fisher's role in the early 1900s and the role of Old Fort's private citizens in the 1970s in keeping the fountain running.
"Andrews Geyser shoots water continuously to a height of about 80 feet. Its water supply is drawn from a pond located at the current site of the Inn on Mill Creek, a local Bed & Breakfast. The Inn's property contains the original dam constructed by the railroad in the late 1800s, and the pond formed by the dam with the water of the Long Branch of Mill Creek. A 6-inch diameter cast iron pipe runs from the dam, through a hidden gate valve, then underground approximately two miles downhill to the fountain. The water comes out a half-inch nozzle pointed skyward, and the 500 feet of elevation difference creates the pressure that drives the fountain."

Here is the fountain today:

I spend a few minutes taking in the view, but I am nearing my final destination now, and I am eager to get there. The closest route takes me to the southwest on a continuation of the road I have been on.

There is only one small detail: it turns to gravel. You may know that I seem to have developed something of a habit of finding gravel roads to ride on with my bike, despite its decidedly non-off-road design. Remember these posts? Green River Road, Musterground Road, Toccoa. They all describe some escapade on gravel, or worse, on dirt roads.

This graveled section doesn't look too bad [yea, as usual, Bucky], so I gingerly continue. All goes well and I stop a few times to take pictures.

After a mile or so, I run into a steep upgrade with larger loose stone. I pick my way up, but stall out and start to roll backward a bit. I manage to stop that disconcerting trend by clamping the front brake, which is effective. It then requires deft manipulation of the front brake lever, throttle, and clutch to get started up the grade again. I manage to get rolling, and make it to the top, through a narrow railroad underpass (pictured above), and on to a flatter and more forgiving section of road.

I pass the Inn at Mill Creek where there is the lake where the water for the geyser originates, and shortly thereafter, I find myself on asphalt pavement again. Well, that stretch wasn't too bad, and I believe I am within a mile or so of Ridgecrest.

There is an interesting thing that I find here where the hard pavement starts again. Route US-70 used to run through here, but has been closed to motorized traffic. It is now called the Point Lookout Greenway Bike Trail. It runs 3.6 miles from outside Old Fort to near Ridgecrest, and is nicely paved, in contrast to the gravel road I just negotiated. It is ironic that they would close a hard-surface road, leaving only a nearby gravel road open, but I suppose that I-40/(new) US-70 is the better way around this stretch of old US-70 for those in a hurry.

Here is a video of a fellow, Peter Savage, who negotiated this same road between Old Fort and Ridegcrest in February of 2009 on his V-Strom.

Just one more reference: The Swannanoa Railroad Tunnel is here on the map, almost in front of the Conference Center. If you are a hardy soul, you can hike down to it on a path that starts near the historical marker.

This is a shot of the tunnel entrance -- and the light at the end of the tunnel -- I took November 7, 2008 when I went to a South Carolina FaithRiders Rally at Ridgecrest.

Well, my ride today is almost at an end.

I find the entrance to the Conference Center, park right in front, climb off my trusty mount, stretch and loosen up a bit, then go in to register.

The desk is busy, but the line moves reasonably fast and there are other motorcyclists to talk with while waiting. One topic of conversation that a greeter representing the rally brings up to me is that he doesn't think I have ridden in on a Harley. I can't imagine why he would say such a thing, since he hasn't seen my bike. Can you figure it out?

On the Oscar Wigginton Memorial Scenic Byway, July 3, 2009

Soon enough, I am signed in by the pleasant desk staff. I lug my bags (is that why they call it luggage?) up to my room and settle in. Supper will be served in an hour or so. Yum, I'm starved.

I am rooming with another guy who is riding in separately, but he has not arrived as yet. This has me a bit concerned, but it turns out that he was caught in rain near his home and got a late start as a result. I am glad I started out early this morning.

I have safely traveled about 195 miles today, spending time at a host of interesting and picturesque places, and riding roads that are entertaining. I am tired, but pleased with the way the day has unfolded. I was on the road for about eight hours.

More to come. Stay tuned.

Links to related postings:

Rally to Ridgecrest, 2013 -- Day 1
Rally to Ridgecrest, 2013 -- Day 2
Rally to Ridgecrest, 2013 -- Days 3 and 4

Freedom is Never Free! -- Rally to Ridgecrest, 2011, Part I
Freedom is Never Free! -- Rally to Ridgecrest, 2011, Part II

Rally to Ridgecrest Facebook Page

Memorial Day 2010 Weekend Rally
Memorial Day 2010 Weekend Rally, Part II, The Ride Up
Memorial Day 2010 Weekend Rally, Part III, Saturday
Memorial Day 2010 Weekend Rally, Part IV, Sunday and the Ride Home.