Saturday, December 31, 2011

Sweepers Galore

Sweepers are today's topic.  No, not this kind of sweeper:

This kind:
(I'll tell you where this sweeper is later.)
In particular, this is an account of a day of riding an abundance of sweeping curved roads not too far from home.

About two weeks ago, on December 17, the weather was beautiful for a near-winter day in the upstate of South Carolina.  It was about 43 degrees in the early morning, and rose to around 68 in the mid afternoon.

Almost balmy, I'd say! 

I couldn't waste this opportunity to get out on the bike, since I hadn't been for a couple of weeks: Working man, here, you know.  I selected a place that had just appeared on the ADVRider Upstate South Carolina tag game forum thread, near the Georgia state line, at the southern trailhead for the twenty-five mile long Chattooga River Trail.

Another rider had grabbed that tag the day before, but I had not recently ridden over that way, so I went there just for the fun of it.

I started out from home on SC-93, then took the four-lane US-123 all the way to Westminster, SC.  The latter is a mostly featureless road, good for getting somewhere else.  I then branched off to the northwest on US-76.

Part way along 76 is where the sweepers begin.  There are quite a few, nicely spaced, here. The pavement is also very good on this road, and the traffic is not usually heavy. 

I am confused, however, by the curve advisory signs.  Many of them advise 25 miles an hour.  After a few of these taken at 40, I begin to make that my advisory speed instead.  Some of you probably could take them at much higher speed, but I am not very familiar with the road, and don't want a surprise.  There are also a couple of places marked with a reverse turn sign like this.
That implies two tight turns in a row...but there is nary a tight reverse turn to be found.  Odd.  This could make people disregard the advisory signs all together! 

I enjoy the ride with the easy turns all the way to the border with Georgia.  There, on the right side, is the parking area for the trailhead, my destination where the tag was.  There, also, is a place to put in to the Chattooga River for paddlers.

It happens that there is a group of four who are getting ready to go onto the river when I arrive.  They say that they are going to put in above Bull Sluice, and paddle the four miles or so to Lake Tugaloo, referred to as Section IV.  I naively ask if this is rough water.  One guy looks me in the eye, pausing as he is filling in the boater registration form (which is what they use to determine how many didn't come back alive), and flatly states that there are more deaths in this section of the river than anywhere else.


A few minutes later, I strike up a conversation with another one of the group who had put in at the beach near the US-76 bridge instead of further upstream above Bull Sluice.  Seeing my biker suit, he tells me that he used to ride a motorcycle, but these days he only does things that are safe -- like kayaking in class IV rapids.

Oh, again.  Am I missing something here? 

This is a picture of the prudent one, playing in the light rapids, waiting for the others in his group to come down the river from Bull Sluice.
I watch for a few minutes, but when they don't arrive, I head back up to the parking lot.  The climb is steep and I am laboring to get there.

I don my helmet and gloves again, then turn back in the direction I came.  I go to Academy Road and turn left.  Historic Long Creek Academy is a little way down this road.  This was a Christian school established in 1914 under the Beaverdam Baptist Association and the Home Mission Board of the Southern Baptist Convention.  It was one of six "mountain mission schools" in the South including four others in South Carolina.  The Academy once owned fifty-five acres.  The stately Sullivan Building (pictured below) was completed in 1917. 

The Academy closed in 1956, and the buildings are now considered historic sites and currently house the Chattooga Ridge Adventure Center, a whitewater rafting company. 

I wind my way back to route 67, then take Chattooga Ridge Road toward the northeast.  This road, too, has some nice sweepers, and is in good condition.  I turn onto Verner Mill Road to cut off a corner and get to the intersection of SC-28 and SC-107.

Well, here.  It is easier to show you the map of my entire ride:

View Larger Map

To orient you, we are at the intersection south of Pushpin "D."  There, I turn north on 107.  More sweepers and few tighter bends here.

I think this is getting to be a trend. 

On the right, Oconee State Park provides a place to rest for a few minutes, and is a great place to go for picnics, hiking, swimming, fishing, cabins, and camping. 

I turn north again on 107.  This road is a rather steady uphill with more nice turns.  (This is a trend.)  Uphill turns are easier for most motorcycle riders than downhill turns, and I am enjoying this smooth road, too. 

I pass Cheohee Road, also known as Winding Stair Road, a twisty gravel road I took a few weeks ago, then reach the Wigington Byway cut through.  There, I turn right.  I have written before about this very short road with a nice surprise part way along it. 

Today, as the surprise comes into view, my breath is taken away by the vista of Lake Jocassee in the distance. The light is particularly good today, but my photographs don't do it justice by any means.  I walk up the road a bit to get as close to the point of my first glimpse of the lake today as possible. 

A little closer:

Closer still:

After a stop at this fine overlook, I continue on to SC-130 and head a little ways north to Whitewater Falls.  I just stop here to rest a little, then head back south on 130.  This road has some very long sweepers, and the surface is mostly very good.  A bit of extra caution is required at the intersection of Wigington Byway and at one other intersection, also on a curve, further south, since there is not much sight distance at either one. 

By the way, as long as we're talking about sweepers, SC-107 continues north to Cashiers North Carolina and beyond with varying degrees of turns, as does SC-130, which turns into NC-281. 

Alas, when I reach SC-11, I must travel on this almost-straight road for about fifteen miles, to the Holly Springs Country Store at US-178.  There, I get a chance to make a few more turns before reaching home.  I turn in a generally southerly direction on 178, and run the sixteen miles or so back to Easley.   The section between the Holly Springs Store and Pickens South Carolina being the best.

(Remember that the section of 178 north of the store is very much twistier, and much loved by bikers here and abouts.  I don't go that way today because there may be wet leaves and sand in the shadows, and I don't have any more time to be away.) 

I have gone about 156 miles today on a range of roads from straight to mostly sweeping curves, with a few tighter places thrown in.

This would be a good route for the winter to keep away from the more difficult tight twisties. 

Try it some time. 


Sunday, December 25, 2011

Christmas Message

[We] are very happy to send our warmest greetings and best wishes to all those who are celebrating Christmas. We join with Americans everywhere in recognizing the sense of renewed hope and comfort this joyous season brings to our nation and the world.
The Nativity story of nearly twenty centuries ago is known by all faiths as a hymn to the brotherhood of man. For Christians, it is the fulfillment of age-old prophecies and the reaffirmation of God's great love for all of us. Through a generous Heavenly Father's gift of His Son, hope and compassion entered a world weary with fear and despair and changed it for all time.

On Christmas, we celebrate the birth of Christ with prayer, feasting, and great merriment. But, most of all, we experience it in our hearts. For, more than just a day, Christmas is a state of mind. It is found throughout the year whenever faith overcomes doubt, hope conquers despair, and love triumphs over hate. It is present when men of any creed bring love and understanding to the hearts of their fellow man.

The feeling is seen in the wondrous faces of children and in the hopeful eyes of the aged. It overflows the hearts of cheerful givers and the souls of the caring. And it is reflected in the brilliant colors, joyful sounds, and beauty of the winter season.

Let us resolve to honor this spirit of Christmas and strive to keep it throughout the year.

[We] ask you to join us in a prayer that prudence, wisdom, and understanding might descend on the people of all nations' so that during the year ahead we may realize an ancient and wondrous dream: "peace on earth, goodwill toward men."
Ronald Reagan,
40th President of the United States,
"Christmas Message,"
December 24, 1981.

Here is a video of Mr. Reagan's television address the previous day:


Friday, December 16, 2011

Dressing for Cold Weather Riding -- Take Three

Quite a while back, I posted a couple of articles about cold weather riding.  If you missed them, you can find them under Dressing for Cold Weather Riding, and Dressing for Cold Weather Riding - Take Two

I still use those techniques for keeping warm when it is crispy cold outside, varying the number and weight of the layers as the temperatures warm.   In summer, I am down to an armored leather suit, back protector, gloves, helmet, and boots.  I never wear anything less when riding, 'cause my skin and bones are too valuable for me to risk.  I feel very uncomfortable if I mount the beast wearing anything less, and I cringe when I see others riding with little or no protection. 

In fact, I once had occasion to move my bike while at work one day so some maintenance work could be done where it had been parked.  I decided to move it to the other side of the plant -- less than a tenth of a mile -- so I wore only my helmet, but no other protective gear.  I could not believe how vulnerable and shaky I felt knowing that if I hit a pebble and dumped it, I would probably be hurt.  I certainly do not ride recklessly, but I feel much more confident if I am wearing the right gear. 

Does anyone else feel that way? 

Anyway, back to the cold weather topic.  
Found on AdV Rider Forum

I was recently browsing on e-Bay, and entered in "Hippo Hands", since that is one of the things I already have to keep my tender little hands warm when it is cold.  They, along with my heated grips, make for a comfortable combination all the way down into the low thirties. 

A few items came up including a pair of Ducks Unlimited hand warmers.  The price was only $1.00 with a $5.00 shipping charge.  Cheap enough to suit me, so I bid a few dollars.  Low and behold, I won the auction.  When they arrived, they looked much smaller than my Hippo Hands, so I was concerned that they would fit over the bars and controls.  They are constructed of Nylon with a smooth liner separated from the exterior shell by foam insulation. 

Remember that I installed a couple of metal angle brackets covered with foam pipe insulation to hold the hand warmers away from the levers while underway.
Nevertheless, with some fiddling, I fitted them over everything, and they seemed fine. 

Here is a picture of them on the bike:

And, here is a picture of the Hippo Hands: 

And the view from the saddle:

The Hippo Hands:

The Hippo hands are certainly more substantial, and are larger, covering more of your arm.  The Ducks Unlimited version looks more at home on a sporty bike though, I think. 

Once I had the Ducks installed, I backed the bike into the garage for a later test ride.  When that day arrived, I dressed as I have described (taking several minutes of time to get everything on and properly adjusted), went out to the bike...and it would not start.

Now what?  It was fine before. 

It occurred to be that the last thing I had done was install the hand warmers.  Maybe I had dislodged the wiring to the engine cutoff switch.  Well, I removed the right had muff and looked at everything wiring related, but I could find nothing.  Steamed, I shed my gear, and was ready to tear into the wiring and fuses, when I finally came to my senses. 

The engine cutoff switch was set to the off position!

I infrequently use the switch, so it did not occur to me that I might have actuated it when I was working on the muff installation.  So, I reinstall everything, get dressed yet again, and finally get rolling. 

[So, how do they work, Bucky?]

At temperatures of around 38 degrees, the Ducks Unlimited muffs keep most of the wind off my gloved hands, but there is somewhat more draft because of the looser fit around my sleeves, and because of a looser fit around the handlebars. 

When the heat from the grips was fully available, my hands were reasonably comfortable, certainly much better than being unprotected.

As the air temperature warmed to the upper fifties over the course of the day, my hands stayed comfortable and my dexterity remained very good. Even in the fifties, they were not too hot.

The openings of the Ducks stay open when your hands are not inside so you can easily get your hand back into them either when stopped or when moving. 

Certainly a good purchase, and useful.  The old Hippo Hands function a bit better, but the look of the Ducks Unlimited suits the sporty motorcycle better. 

Thursday, December 8, 2011

PARI, Placed in Perspective

Way back in April of 2009, just when I had reached 10,000 miles on my bike, I wrote about visiting the Pisgah Astronomical Research Institute, or PARI for short.  This impressive facility is located only a little over forty miles from home, but it is truly out of this world in appearance.

If you remember, as quoted from the PARI website:
"The facility, then called the Rosman Research Station, was a NASA site used during the 1960s and 1970s for tracking manned and unmanned space flights. It was the nation’s primary east coast satellite-tracking facility. In 1981, the facility was transferred to the Department of Defense for use as an intelligence gathering facility for U.S. defense and satellite communications. In 1995, the Department of Defense closed the facility, and turned the site over to the U.S. Forest Service.

"In 1999, the site was purchased from the U.S. Forest Service and given to PARI for use as an astronomical research and educational facility."
PARI hosts homeschool days, public tours on Wednesday afternoons, and Evenings at PARI held once a month to hear about and view the Heavens.

Anyway, I was riding on Saturday November 5 up NC-215 north of Rosman North Carolina on the way to somewhere else, when I turned down Macedonia Church Road toward PARI on a whim.  The facility is usually closed on Saturdays, so I really didn't expect to be able to go in.  I was surprised to see that the gates were open, so I went on in.

As it turns out, the site was hosting TEDxKatuah: The Art of Discovery.

For you who are not well informed, the TED website says that TED and Katuah are: 

...a nonprofit organization devoted to Ideas Worth Spreading.

Katuah is a name often used to reference the bioregion that includes the mountain areas of North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee, southwestern Virginia and northern Georgia.  A bioregion is defined by physical, environmental, and cultural features, which mirrors the interdisciplinary nature of this event, TEDxKatuah. 

It is said that the word “Katuah” was adopted from a Cherokee name for the mother town, Kituwah or Kituhwa. Although the exact origins surrounding the use of Katuah as a name for the bioregion are murky, the name may have been coined by Peter Berg and Raymond Dasmann in the 1970s.
Oh.   Now we know. 

The event was organized by TEDxAsheville and featured speakers, exhibits, performances and interactive events.

Well, I had blundered into the middle of it, and was rubbernecking the big dishes and other things around.  I didn't stay, though they invited me provided I register, but I did snap a couple of pictures to give you an idea of the magnitude of one of the two largest dishes on the property.

Front view.

Rear view. 
This dish has a diameter of eighty-five feet.  BIG. 

Makes me feel small.  Just think of what this dish may have seen through its electronic eye while looking heavenward.  

Go visit some time.  For five bucks, they will give you a great two-hour tour. 



Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Tail of the Dragon -- But Nearer By

I have never been to the famous Tail of the Dragon at Deal's Gap, but many bikers go there to experience what is claimed to be 318 curves in 11 miles.  I've heard that it can be very busy with auto and motorcycle traffic, with the occasional semi tractor-trailer thrown in for an element of increased danger. 

I may get there some day, but I have found a place that a few have said is better.  And it starts about one third of the distance to the Tail of the Dragoon from home.  The best-paved section is 5.6 miles long with seventy-four curves, if I have my count right, or 13.2 curves per mile.  Tail of the Dragon has 28.9 per mile. Higher density on the latter, but I made up of the lack of curves per mile by taking seven passes at it before I left.

I couldn't help myself. 

It was a bright, clear day.  The temperature was in the high fifties, and there was no traffic to speak of.  The road surface was almost spotless with only a scattering of gravel in a couple of places, and a little half-lane patching that could create an edge trap in a few places.  The sight distances around the curves are adequate in most places, too.  There were some piles of pine needles that can act as little rollers for tires to slip on, but they were easy to see and avoid. 

The route is also rather scenic, but you have to watch the road unless you are just putting along.  I did a little putting, just to see the purdy leaves and to scope out the road, but I also took a few runs at higher speeds, though not as fast as I am sure many others can go on a road like this.  By the way, the speed limit is 35 miles per hour.  The fall colors were a little beyond their peak, but there was still enough to be inspired.

A view from the road.  

Views of the road. 

The curves are nicely spaced so the rider has enough time to prepare for each as it comes, for the most part.  I had the road almost to myself for the entire time I was on it.  Only a couple of cars were seen.  What a great opportunity to practice and to enjoy the curves! 

Once I had fed my addiction to this road, and time had flown away, I reluctantly headed back to more familiar -- and much busier -- roads to get home again.  

What a great day of riding and discovery!  I will have to go back again soon.  Winter, stay away a little longer. 


Thursday, November 24, 2011

Thanksgiving Day

On October 3, 1863, President Abraham Lincoln set the precedent for America's national day of Thanksgiving.  Prior to this, each state, mainly in New England and other northern states, scheduled its own Thanksgiving holiday at different times. 

The document states that the last Thursday of November "as a day of Thanksgiving and Praise."  It was actually written by then Secretary of State William Seward.

Here is President Lincoln’s Thanksgiving Proclamation:

The year that is drawing toward its close has been filled with the blessings of fruitful fields and healthful skies. To these bounties, which are so constantly enjoyed that we are prone to forget the source from which they come, others have been added which are of so extraordinary a nature that they can not fail to penetrate and soften even the heart which is habitually insensible to the ever-watchful providence of Almighty God.
In the midst of a civil war of unequaled magnitude and severity, which has sometimes seemed to foreign states to invite and to provoke their aggression, peace has been preserved with all nations, order has been maintained, the laws have been respected and obeyed, and harmony has prevailed everywhere, except in the theater of military conflict, while that theater has been greatly contracted by the advancing armies and navies of the Union.

Needful diversions of wealth and of strength from the fields of peaceful industry to the national defense have not arrested the plow, the shuttle, or the ship; the ax has enlarged the borders of our settlements, and the mines, as well as the iron and coal as of our precious metals, have yielded even more abundantly than heretofore. Population has steadily increased notwithstanding the waste that has been made in the camp, the siege, and the battlefield, and the country, rejoicing in the consciousness of augmented strength and vigor, is permitted to expect continuance of years with large increase of freedom.

No human counsel hath devised nor hath any mortal hand worked out these great things. They are the gracious gifts of the Most High God, who, while dealing with us in anger for our sins, hath nevertheless remembered mercy.

It has seemed to me fit and proper that they should be solemnly, reverently, and gratefully acknowledged, as with one heart and one voice, by the whole American people. I do therefore invite my fellow-citizens in every part of the United States, and also those who are in foreign lands, to set apart and observe the last Thursday of November next as a day of thanksgiving and praise to our beneficent Father who dwelleth in the heavens.

And I recommend to them that while offering up the ascriptions justly due to Him for such singular deliverances and blessings they do also, with humble penitence for our national perverseness and disobedience, commend to His tender care all those who have become widows, orphans, mourners, or sufferers in the lamentable civil strife in which we are unavoidably engaged, and fervently implore the imposition of the Almighty hand to heal the wounds of the nation and to restore it, as soon as may be consistent with the divine purpose, to the full enjoyment of peace, harmony, tranquility, and union.

Take a few minutes today to thank God for our country, for our manifold blessings, and for our freedom.
Freedom from Want
Norman Rockwell, 1943

Thanksgiving at Bucky's house this year.  Yum!
(I have to go take a nap now.) 


Saturday, November 19, 2011

Well, That Never Happened Before

November 12, 2011, about a week ago, I had planned a ride up north to a road I had never been on before, NC-281.

This is the actual route:

View Larger Map


The weather is clear, and cool this morning -- starting out about 35 -- but it will rise to about 50 degrees later in the day up in the mountains.  I have bundled up, so I am comfortable, though.  

The point at which I will join NC-281 is west of Rosman North Carolina, and the most direct way to get there is up US-178.  I am getting more used to the turns on this road with each traverse, I find, with a little less trepidation and maybe a little more speed in places.  Still not fast by many measures, but a little faster than before.

Above Rosman, I turn left onto US-64, a heavily traveled road that I don't particularly care for because of that traffic. I pass by the turnoff to NC-215, an interesting road that leads to the Blue Ridge Parkway, and that has recently been paved.  It is smooth as silk.  I think about going that way for a few seconds. 

[No, Bucky, you have other plans right now, to see some new places.  Maybe later.] 

I go for a little more than seven miles until NC-281 branches off to the right.  There are several side roads for the first two or three miles, but then it gets more desolate as the terrain becomes more rugged. 

The road surface is disappointingly rough, and there is gravel scattered in some places.  That, coupled with my unfamiliarity with the road, make for a less-than-ideal ride.  To boot, two other riders pass me as though I am standing still.  Both of them make control of their bikes look so effortless.  They are out of sight in mere seconds.

That grinds on me, though I shouldn't let it.  On a curvy road, it only takes a short time for another rider to get out of sight, after all, even if he is only going a little faster than you are.   Yet, I long for more skill and to trust my machine, its tires, and the road more like they seem to.  It is mostly the latter -- the road -- that is the most concern.  A patch of sand or gravel could make for a loss of traction in a turn, so I am continually playing it very safe. 

I press on to my goal, the dam on Wolf Creek Lake, at Pushpin C on the map.  It turns out that this earthen dam is not very interesting.  The fall colors are all gone here.  A few truckloads of Christmas trees pass while I am stopped looking around -- the only traffic I have seen up here. 

I decide that I should turn back instead of going further on 281.  I had originally planned to head back east on Charley's Creek Road, to the north.  It looks very twisty on the map, and, with my luck today, will turn out to be a bust.

[Bad attitude coming out, there Bucky.]

I retrace my path a little ways to Wolf Mountain Road.  I make a left, toward the east, there.  It turns into Tamassee Creek Road, and, later, Joe House Road (or Tamassee Gap Road) before reaching NC-215.  The road is fairly well paved, and there are some sheer cliffs high above the road along one stretch.

At 215, I could turn left, to the north, ride only about eight and a half miles, and see if the Blue Ridge Parkway is open.  The Parkway is almost always a good ride, though it may be closed due to the weather here at the higher elevations today.  I have seen some icicles on the north-facing cuts in some places I have been today, so I decide not to go that way.

As I turn onto NC-215 south, I find that there is a glut of traffic.  Slow-moving traffic.  Nuts, another downer.  This recently surfaced road is wasted today.  I pull off three times to allow the cars to get ahead, but I catch up to them too soon. These nine miles are not much fun.  I ought to just slow down and enjoy the scenery

All in all, my day has not been the most inspiring.  I am bummed out by the trip thus far, in fact.  Maybe close to pouting. 

At Rosman, I retrace my route back down US-178.  The traffic has thinned out here compared to 215 for some reason.  I step up the speed a little, since I am more familiar with this road than with others I have been on today.  I feel a little better now, and there is a glimmer of hope of enjoyment for this segment of my route.  The road surface is clean, so that helps instill a bit of confidence as well. 

I am not yet in a great mood, but it is improving a little.  

Well, I get to about the same spot that photographer Patrick Welch caught me digitally back in June of 2009, rounding the S-curve here just south of Rocky Bottom.  The southern curve has a tighter radius than the northern, so your lean angle has to be greater at the same speed.

See the curves here.  The Pushpin is at the tighter of the two curves.

View Larger Map

A photo taken by Patrick:

That is when it happens.

I am doing just fine, and I'm pretty much in comfortable control.  [That's nice.]  It almost feels as though I have found a "groove" on this turn, as I am not tensed up as much as I have been in the past. 

At the tightest spot of the curve, I feel a scraping.  Whoa!  What's that?   I am still in control, not crashing, as far as I can tell.  [That is a good thing, generally speaking.] 

It dawns on me that the toe of my boot has touched the pavement! 

That has never happened before. 

A quick post-toe-touch analysis of the moment reveals that I have the arch of my boot, rather than my toe, on the peg.  It is more comfortable for my long legs that way, and even though I know putting your toes on the pegs in preparation for a turn provides more clearance, I had never had to put that into practice.  My boot is tight against the stay, so I don't think it is pointed outward very much. I have my foot positioned with the toe pointing downward somewhat, so the ground clearance is less than it would otherwise have been.

The evidence:

Let's check that.  A closeup, taken from another 2009 picture in that curve, shows me with my other boots on.  I had the ball of my foot on the peg instead of my arch then.

Looks like a few inches between the toe and the road, I'd judge.  I was probably not going as fast back then as I am today, so the lean angle was less. 

This time, the toe of my boot is positioned closer to the ground, so that is probably the reason for the scrape.  The peg feeler didn't touch, by the way. 

Once I realize that I am OK, not crashing, and that nothing has come loose from the bike, I feel a rush of  -- what?  Pride?  Accomplishment?  Amusement?  Elation?  An I-gotta-tell-all-the-guys moment? 

I don't know exactly what the feeling is, but it is a good feeling.  

I feel my mood change almost instantly for the better.  Maybe it isn't a wasted day after all.

I must note that I did not panic when the grinding began, or thereafter.  I didn't chop the throttle.  In fact, it felt like just another sensory input.



At a time I was feeling pretty sorry for myself, on a less-than-great ride, something new and interesting happened.  Maybe it wasn't such a bad day out after all.

I'll have to make it a point to ride with my boots further back on the pegs when I am riding faster from now on. 



Friday, November 11, 2011

Fall is Here

Last posting, I told about not being out riding much.  I have tried to rectify that situation.  I got out on a couple of recent Saturdays, and the colors of the trees were really coming out.  Tourists were also coming out -- in droves.

So, even though I enjoy seeing the pretty scenery, I also have to be constantly on the lookout for slow and stopped vehicles.  They are all seeking to prolong every viewing angle of each tree, it seems.  Now I am not exactly complaining, understand, since everyone has his right to the view, but it can be somewhat frustrating if you prefer to go at a faster clip, and it is occasionally dangerous as well.  The lady in the Volvo stopped in the lane, and the guy in a pickup only half-way off the road, both in curvy sections and heavy traffic, were highlights of the frustrating part. 

I have, on occasion, suggested to other riders to slow down and smell the roses, so to speak, when in tourist traffic or during the winter months when the mountain roads might be treacherous, instead of trying to rush about at top speed.  That is easy advice for me to give, since I mostly go slower than they do anyway. 

Lately, however, some of the other riders near here who post in on-line forums, say they have resigned themselves to becoming a bit more patient when in these situations -- to just relax and go at the slower pace.

Saturday 1 -- Caesar's Head and Dupont Forest

Well, October 22 is one of those days.  After working until the middle of the day, I set out toward Caesar's Head State Park, and to Dupont Forest, a ways beyond there.

This map shows the whole route. 

View Larger Map

I ride the gently curving roads to the base of the Blue Ridge Escarpment, then take twisty road, US-276, up the hill.  It is very busy -- almost bumper-to-bumper -- today.  I pass a few cars on the double-laned uphill sections, but cannot get ahead of enough of them to gain much speed, so I smell the roses instead, so to speak.

The pavement on this road is deteriorating in places, so some care is necessary, but the almost steady uphill and the fairly good sight distances make this road enjoyable to ride.  (Downhill here is not as much fun for the reasons I have written about previously, but I notice that I am less anxious about the descent that I will face later in the day than I once would have been.) 

As soon as the pack of cars -- with me in the middle -- reaches Caesar's Head (at Pushpin B), we find the parking lot to be nearly full.  I nevertheless find a place, and walk the short distance to the overlook.

This is a shot of the lake visible in front of Table Rock.  .

The colors at the lower elevations are not yet as well developed as up here, more than two thousand feet higher.

This is a glimpse of both the nearby foliage and that far below me.

The air is particularly clear today, so the view is quite good.  Remember that these mountains have always had a naturally-produced bluish haze over them -- not man-made pollution as we tend to think these days.  I tarry for a few minutes to gawk at the scenery from here before I continue onward.

The next stop is to be Symmes Chapel, also known as Pretty Place (at Pushpin C), a covered, but open-sided chapel on the YMCA Camp Greenville property.  The view is usually breathtaking, but today there is an unusually steady stream of cars going in. I eventually come upon the reason for this: There is an apparently steady stream of weddings taking place here on this fine fall day.  When that is the case, they don't want a bunch of other traffic interfering, especially someone on a motorcycle. So, I can't go all the way in to see the chapel today. 

Here is a picture from Pretty Place I took way back in August of 2008. 

The haze was heavy that day.

Here is a picture taken from here by a friend last November. 
Photo courtesy of Fred
It is indeed a pretty place. 

I settle for a quick stop for refreshment near a camp athletic field, then head back out the access road. I turn toward the north again, and stop at Dupont State Forest. This is a great place for hiking, fishing, kayaking, horseback riding, motorcycling, and bicycling (road and mountain). There are gravel roads for the dualsportsters, too, but the trails are off limits to all motorized vehicles.

I pick out Cascade Lake Road, to go a little ways on. It is gravel, and fairly well groomed. It skirts Cascade Lake, but I don't go that far today because I am limited on time.  I find this little cascade right next to the road, near Pushpin D on the map, though.

There is a large dam further on. The writer of the Life at 60 (mph) blog has a posting about kayaking on Cascade Lake, and there is a picture of the dam from both the lake side and from below.  I'll go there, and beyond, another time, perhaps. 

I turn around and head out of the forest toward Brevard North Carolina, a few miles north, at Pushpin E.   I stop at the Chamber of Commerce, where they have a huge selection of literature about the area, and a group of always-helpful volunteers.  ...and a bathroom for those with full bladders (thank goodness).

The makeshift zipper pull on my suit is behaving today, by the way. 

I motor through town and turn right at the junction of US-276 with US-64.  There are usually war protesters -- possibly left over from the Vietnam era -- on this corner, but there are none today for some reason.  The center of town is busy, as there are many little shops open, selling all manner of crafts and other merchandise and services.  Brevard is famous for the Brevard Music Center Festival, and for a species of white ground squirrel.

Where US-276 turns to the left and continues to higher elevations, including passing Looking Glass Falls and the Cradle of Forestry, I instead turn right, following US-64.  This is easy riding, and after a couple more right turns, I am back in Dupont Forest.  I pass through, hit 276, and head southward toward home.

The downhill twisties are slow because of traffic, just like on the way up.  I don't get much practice slowing to the right speed for tight turns, but there is one instance where a little braking at lean angle was necessary because of a backup of people buying apple cider from a roadside stand.  This stand is not in a good place, as it creates the potential for slow and stopped vehicles where there is only limited sight distance. 

Well, it was a nice day to be out.  I have ridden only 134 miles, and endured a lot of traffic, but the trees were pretty, and that made it worthwhile. 

Saturday 2 -- Tamassee and Some Twisty Gravel

"Where in the world is Tamassee?" you ask.  Well, right here in South Carolina, a little west of Salem, of course, not far from the road to Whitewater Falls. I have spotted some interesting roads on Google maps, so I laid out this route:

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The ride up SC-133 is easy, as is the stretch of SC-11, a good get-to-the-more-interesting-places road.  I turn right on SC-130, and cruse up this sweeping-curved route that I have taken many times before.  The road surface is mostly very good, so you are easily tempted to exceed the 45 mile per hour speed limit; to get that feeling of acceleration in the seat of your pants as you ride.

It doesn't seem to take any time at all and I arrive at the Bad Creek Pumped Storage Facility entrance.  I go to the end of the pavement there and stop at the overlook.

That is Lower Whitewater Falls at center, left, and a view of an arm of Lake Jocassee.

Another view of Lake Jocassee, taken from the same spot. 

And still another view of the lake. 

Sure is nice weather today. 

I gear up again and stop at the entrance to the Musterground Road on my way back to SC-130.  The Musterground gate is open, since it is hunting season, but I don't go further because I have another interesting road in mind for later.

I ride back to SC-130 and turn right.  It is only a short jaunt to the Whitewater Falls parking area.  The parking lot is almost full of leaf peepers who have come here on this fine fall day.  I trek up the path to the falls and snap a few pictures.

Here is a picture of a lad sitting and taking in the view of distant Lake Jocassee from the falls trail.
And a fine view it is today. 

I maneuver from the parking lot and turn right yet again and go for a few miles on NC-281 to Gorges State Park. This display of beauty stops me to snap a picture. 
Beautiful foliage (and pretty bike).
At Gorges, there is construction going on, so the best distance views are not available, but here is a glimpse of a nice section of the main park road.

There is good hiking in this park, and there is the gravel Chestnut Mountain Road that leaves from the furthest parking lot.  It links with Auger Hole Road, another gravel road, and is said to hook up to the Horsepasture Road.  This is definitely four wheel drive or off-road motorcycle territory, as the hills are steep, the gravel is loose, and the road rough.  (I know this because I tried a few hundred yards of it one day.)   

After I leave the park, I turn south, and enjoy the sweepers again on NC-281 and SC-130, until I reach SC-11.  A right for a short distance to find North Little River Road and turn right again.  I get to Pushpin D, then turn left onto Whitmire Church Road.  The Whitmire Methodist church is long gone, but this marker and the graveyard across the road indicate its location. 

Whitmire Church Road turns into Cherokee Lake Road, then I make a right on Jumping Branch Road. (The map above is far easier to understand than this mess of road descriptions.)  This skirts Lake Cherokee, a private lake. Don't think you can take a dip or launch your boat here.  There are forcefully-worded signs that forbid  it. 

Finally, I reach the road I have been looking for, Winding Stairs Road, veering off to the right from Jumping Branch.  Sure enough it is gravel.  You can't tell this from Google maps, or even very well in Google Earth, so you have to take a chance.  It looks passable, so I start along it. 

It is desolate.  There are no driveways or much of anything else along the way for the next four miles or so.  The grades are not challenging, so this is fairly easy riding for me on my street Ninja.  There are a few places of washboard, and loose gravel, but it is not bad enough to turn back.  Most of my molars remain intact, though slightly loosened by the rough spots in the road.  Maybe I should bring a football mouth guard with me for use in these situations. 

There are steep dropoffs in many places, and not a guardrail in sight.  It almost seems as though I am a thousand miles away from civilization.  The entire area is heavily wooded, so an accident here could remain undiscovered for a long time.  So Bucky's going to be extra careful through here. 

Part way along, there is a short bridge across a brook.  I park and take in the view. 

This place is set up as a campsite.  The brook toward the rear looks as though it might offer some good fishing. 

The fall colors here are beautiful.
God's paintbrush has surely been at work. 

The road ahead looks a little straighter.
And it is, but just as lonely, until I come out on SC-107.  There, I find that the road I have been riding is called Cheohee Road instead of Winding Stairs.  I think the latter describes it better.

Here is the gravel section by itself:

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SC-107 is a great road that connects Cashiers North Carolina toward the north with Walhalla South Carolina to the south.  Actually, it connects to SC-28 before you reach Walhalla in the southern direction.  Twenty-eight is called Moonshiner 28, because it was once a route used by moonshiners to deliver their goods.  It is a twisty-in-places road favored by motorcyclists, and it reaches all the way to the famous Tail of the Dragon. I'll have to go all that way some time. 

I follow 107 and 28 to Walhalla, then over to Westminster, and to SC-123 toward home.   The ride from Walhalla to home is about as boring as it can be.  The roads are straight, with almost no character.  But, it is the fastest way back, so I twist the throttle and get 'er done.

I have gone 162 miles today, and seen some great country and a few new roads.  I have had the opportunity to be utterly alone to enjoy a wild place, yet just a couple of miles off paved roads. 

Now, here are some pics of the fall color around the house. The maple tree comes first. 

This Burning Bush (Euonymus) looks like it is doing as its name states. 

Even though it looks like an evergreen, the Bald Cypress is turning brown and will lose its tiny leaves for winter. 

Pretty, but I don't know its name. 

The Magnolia keeps its leaves for the winter. 

The Chrysanthemum is in full bloom. 
And here is a great picture of Table Rock taken by a friend.
Courtesy of Fred