Tuesday, May 24, 2011

25,000 Miles Ridden -- and a New Chain

I passed a milestone today. I have ridden this motorcycle 25,000 miles since I bought it.  You may recall that back in April of 2009, I wrote about another milestone passed, 10,000 miles at that time. 

Remember that this is my first real motorcycle, not counting the old minibike I had when I was a teenager, so I have ridden only this motorcycle 25,000 miles. The milestone was passed on an evening joy ride near the house. 

Right here:
You can see that I have my saddlebags and tail bag mounted, ready for a long weekend trip coming up.

I bought the bike in September of 2007, so I have owned it about forty-four months. That is about 565 miles per month on the average, including two periods of not riding for a couple of months each.  I do ride year around though to keep my skills at their meager level of development, and maybe improve them a bit...and because it is fun to ride, after all! 

The bike has performed well over this part of its life.  It has had a couple of oil changes -- now to a synthetic (Mobil 1, Racing 4T), a coolant change, and I am working on the third set of tires (one rear was retired far too early due to a puncture).  I certainly get a lot of mileage out of the tires, especially, compared with some much more aggressive riders.

I was recently surprised, though, that I began to feel the bike acting as though it was misfiring.  There seemed to be no problem evident with the transmission in neutral, and the exhaust sound was steady under all conditions.  So what could be wrong here? 

A clue to the jerkiness came when I was checking chain tension.  I put the bike on the rear stand and rotated the rear wheel until the chain was tightest.  The tension checked good there.  The tension was, however, very much looser at other sections.  That seemed strange -- after all, the chain was fine when it was new.  What could be wrong? 

I did a little research on line, which revealed that my chain was probably past its expected life.  The tooth profile of the sprockets was still OK, so a new chain should do the trick. 

The chain I settled on as a good mix of quality and price is an EK 520SRX Quadra X-Ring with 114 Links, part number 701-520SRX-114 and a rivet-type master link, part number 520SRX-MLJ.  The prices were $57.10 and $4.80, respectively, plus about $12 shipping, from Amazon seller Powersport Superstore.  The chain arrived in just a few days and I set to work. 

I had bought a Stockton Tool Company Chain Breaker and Rivet Tool Kit (#28165) from Cycle Gear when it was on sale, and a cheap pneumatic grinder (#52847) and a pack of 2" cutoff wheels from Harbor Freight Tools, so I broke them out, deciphered the translated-into-English-from-some-foreign-language instructions for each, and began.

Since this is my first riveted chain replacement, I go slowly, learning the tricks of using the chain tool properly despite the cryptic instructions. 

The grinder neatly removes the heads of one of the chain's link pins.  The chain tool presses out the remains of the link, and I fit the new chain, rivet the master link, check the link according to the Kawasaki service manual instructions (easier to understand than the others recently read, by the way), tension the chain (nice and even, now), and clean up.  

The first ride confirms that the chain was the issue with the "missing" problem. The bike almost feels like new now -- smoooooth -- and ready for the next 25K. 

...I still wonder how far I rode that little minibike.



Monday, May 23, 2011

Not Too Far Away for an Enjoyable Quick Trip -- or More

One of the best places to see some great scenery and have an enjoyable ride in the mountains is not too far from home here in Easley South Carolina.  In fact, it is only about 51 miles from home.

And, there is no commercial traffic on this road whatsoever. 

By now you probably know I am talking about the Blue Ridge Parkway.  You can look up all of the details of this 469 mile-long road, but it is, surprisingly, not only a good place to go for an extended adventure, but also for a part-day jaunt of only a few hours. 

A couple of weekends ago, I went out on Saturday and took the following route:

View Larger Map

All together, I was out only five hours, but it was a pleasurable time of looking at the scenery, traveling winding roads, and meeting interesting people.

One thing you will note on the map is that I used twisty roads to get to the Parkway, but used mostly divided highways and other main roads to get back home.  The idea is that I can enjoy the more challenging roads when I am freshest, and the less technical roads later on.  Do any of you readers do this as well? 

OK.  Lets review the route in detail.  I start out on US-178 in Pickens, SC, and follow it to the intersection of SC-11 (Pushpin "B" on the map), where the Holly Springs Country Store is located.  That is the most popular place around here for bikers to meet, plan rides, and brag -- er, talk -- with one another.  There are about ten bikes there, but I don't recognize any of them, so I move on, staying on 178 all the way to Rosman North Carolina (at Pushpin "C"). 

This last section is very popular with bikers, sightseers, and law enforcement officers alike. If you need some excuses for riding this section, here are a few links, with plenty of other information there about places to ride and to visit:
The day is beautiful and just the right temperature in the mountains -- about 65 degrees -- and the humidity is still low -- not dripping like it will be in the summer.  The sky is clear and beautiful, with just some wispy clouds here and there. 

I gas up at the station in Rosman, and head north.  The Parkway is only eighteen miles from here on NC-215.  They have recently paved this road, so it is quite smooth.  There are scatterings of gravel left over from winter, but I am fooled by something else on the pavement that looks like gravel, but isn't.  The white spots spoofing gravel are petals off the flowering trees.  That is better than gravel any day. I am told, however, that every time they mow the berms, they scatter the clippings but also the gravel back over the road again, so watch out. 

I stop at a gravel pull-off just south of the Parkway entrance, and meet another biker.  He disappears into the brush for a while.  I suspect that I know what he is doing over there, so I also have a discrete go while he is gone.  He reappears, and I introduce myself.  It turns out that his name is Steve, an information technology guru from Dallas, working as a consultant to the Marine Corps. 

Now, Dallas is about 950 miles from the place I have met Steve, so he has some real miles under his belt.  He is combining work with a vacation:  He has ridden his bike up here on his way to the Marine Corps Base Quantico in Virginia.  His entire trip there will be about 1450 miles one way.  I note that he is also a Patriot Guard Rider

Once he finishes his work near D.C., his wife will be flying in to join him, and they will ride back home via. the Tail of the Dragon and some other good motorcycle roads.  I envy the opportunity he has to get away for a while.

I tail him leaving the pull off, then tag along on the Parkway for a spell, and finally pass by him stopped at one of the overlooks.  He waves farewell.  I hope he has a good trip. 

On the Parkway, one must still watch for some hazards.  One of them is the tendency to use excessive speed, since the road is limited access, and has no commercial traffic.  Tempting as it is, that would be inadvisable, and the fines here are in the $300 range.

You also have to be careful of motorhomes, pedestrians, gawkers, slow-moving vehicles, bicycles, animals, and tunnels.  It is easy to come upon one of these with too little warning and get into trouble quickly.  The tunnels can be wet (and icy in the cooler season), bicycle riders may be inside, and it is difficult to see well at first entry. 

There are, in fact, two ways to enjoy this road -- and you can switch from one to the other instantly!

The first way is to ride just for the sake of riding a reasonably easy, well-maintained road with some twists amongst the turns.  The second way is to poke along, stopping often to take in the view at every opportunity. 

Today, I am doing more of the first way than the second, so I don't have many pictures to show you.  The traffic is not heavy, except in a few places, so I can go along at the speed limit without too much trouble. 

This is a view of US-276 taken from an overlook just south of that entrance to the Parkway.  The Parkway is the road at the top center. Route 276 snakes down the mountain.
US-276 is also a good way to get back home.  The section just south of the Parkway is twisty, then there is a long, unchallenging ride until you get near Caesars Head where the twistiness starts again with a vengeance. 

Here you can see a map showing this alternate route.

View Larger Map

I find that the landslide that had prevented my passage going north last year when I went to the Rally to Ridgecrest has been fixed.  The Parkway was closed then just before I reached milepost 405, so I had to take NC-151 off the Parkway.  The first part of that road is known as the "Devil's Drop", a technical and very challenging road that has about a 7% downgrade and many tight curves.  It is located north of Pushpin "D" on this map of that ride. 

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. 

Today, I motor along pretty much without long stops.  Just as I come to the place I am going to leave the Parkway, I stop at the overlook of the French Broad River.
According to Wikipedia: "The French Broad River was named by white settlers centuries ago because it was one of the two broad rivers in western North Carolina. The one which flowed into land claimed by France at that time was named the 'French Broad River', whereas the other, which stayed in land claimed by England – the Colony of North Carolina – was named the 'English Broad River', later renamed simply to the 'Broad River'."

There is a good view of the Parkway bridge over the river, and there is a somewhat limited view of the river itself.  There I dismount for a swig of Gatorade and spot a delivery truck.  Now, commercial vehicles are not allowed on the Parkway, so I am curious why it is here.  I come closer and note that it belongs to the Williams Piano Service of Whitesville North Carolina.  Since I am interested in pianos, and own several player pianos, I strike up a conversation with Danny Williams, the driver.  I tell him about my pianos, and he says that as a matter of fact, the piano he has in his truck here is a player piano that he will be restoring for a customer. We talk [piano] shop for a few minutes.  (It is surprising how long a conversation can be when the topic is one you are interested in.)  Danny says that he is about to leave the Parkway, so I don't say anything about his truck being here. 

I finish my drink, and continue.  I exit the Parkway, and turn south, eventually reaching an entrance to I-26 and US-25. These are quick ways to get there, but not very interesting.  I find a rest area along the way and stop to wolf down a couple of snack bars. This little guy seems very interested in a snack.  I leave him a few crumbs, but the rest are in my stomach. 

I turn toward the east off US-25 at SC-11, the Cherokee Foothills Scenic Highway.  I want to stop in at Perdue's Mountain Fruit Farm to buy whatever is in season.  Unfortunately he is still closed -- it is too early in the season -- so I backtrack, and wend my way back home on familiar roads. 

When I reach there, I find that I have ridden 170 miles on all types of roads.  The temperature is up to 79, and has been a great day to enjoy God's creation. 

I have been out less than five hours all together, so this is a trip you can easily take in an afternoon.  Beware, though, if you dawdle along the way, you can spend a day or more! 

Come join me for a few hours next time.

If you go:

Look at this website or call the Parkway information line, 828-298-0398, to learn of any closures, which may occur in any season.  The three visitor centers are open year around.

Some good, printable-in-sections maps are available on the Blue Ridge Parkway Guide website

Other times I have ridden the Parkway are documented here. 


Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Saluda North Carolina -- a Tag Grabbed, and More

April 2, 2011, about a month ago.

I had to find it.  What?  Another tag by Stretch in the CarolinaRiders Forum Tag Game.  Recall that Stretch is a pretty good one at posting tags that are interesting and somewhat difficult to findAnd here is another one Stretch posted.  I have prided myself in finding a few of his tags, but this one looked quite interesting to me because of my engineering background.

It is an old waterwheel, and his clues were are follows: 
"Here's a tough one.  The Carolina mountains are covered with old water wheels. What makes this one unique is its proximity to the water.  Bonus points if you can tell me how it worked.
"If you ride down a road in NC with 21 hairpins in about 2 miles (there's only one), you'll find the new tag about 11 miles from the last hairpin turn."
One of the other inmates [members] on the forum posted this:
"Can I ask questions?
"For instance; can I find this road with "21 curves in about 2 miles out of Saluda, NC?"
Stretch replied:
"It may be near Saluda. I'm having a little trouble remembering just now .
"On the return trip I recommend passing the unnecessarily twisty road and taking the next right instead. I find it a more enjoyable ride and it will return you to the same town, whatever that town may be."
...and provided a couple more clues: 
"When a group of businessmen from Spartanburg, SC needed more power for their mills, they bought land in NC to build two dams. This mill wheel is near one of the two resulting lakes but predates Dam.
"Look for a road named after a famous Golfer."
Well, one cerebral part of motorcycling is to figure out clues like this.

I am sure the twisty road Stretch is referring to is the most contorted piece of civil engineering I know of around here, Green River Cove Road.  I tested out a downhill rear-braking technique here last year, but I don't like the road much because the turns are very sharp, and visibility of oncoming traffic is poor.

I carefully map out another eleven miles from the last (lowest elevation) turn on that road, and find that it is beyond the northeastern end of the road, so I must have to go one way or the other after that.  I looked up waterwheel, but found nothing close.  Well, the only golfer I know of besides Tiger Woods is Arnold Palmer (being the sportsman I am), so I try Palmer Road.  There is one up that way. We'll see if the clues will lead me to the right spot. 

I finish up a Google map, print it, slide it into my tank bag, and head out.  It is 42 degrees, so I bundle up a bit, but not too much, as it is supposed to reach about 70 later. 

I go north on SC-135, then SC-186, US-276, SC-11, US-25, and turn off on the Greenville Watershed Road.  This is a moderately twisty road that winds its way uphill through a watershed for a reservoir from which the city of Greenville gets some of its drinking water.  There is no stopping allowed along this road to help prevent water pollution in the lake.  The road is used extensively by bicyclists, so you have to be careful, since some of them ride in the middle of the lane, it is slow going for them going uphill, and there are blind curves in some places.  The pavement has become rather poor, with lots of cracks and potholes.  It is pleasant enough road nonetheless, but the posted speed limit is probably the most prudent way to travel here.

View Larger Map of the Greenville Watershed Roads

Soon enough, I reach the town of Saluda.  I park, and go right over to the M. A. Pace General Store to visit Mr. Robert Pace, son of the original owner who opened the store in 1899.  He is getting up in age now, so I want to say hello to him once again.  Each time I have come through here on the bike, I have stopped, and every time, for some unknown reason, Mr. Pace has commented on the fact that I look like I just stepped out of a spaceship.  Strange, don't you think? 

Here is a clear view of his store from my parking spot.  

I walk over to the front door.  Sadly, I find a sign that says he passed away in his sleep last October at the age of eighty-seven.

His last few years were spent meeting visitors and explaining the history of the business, the steep railroad grade that crests here, and of Saluda itself.  That seems like a good close to a life here on earth. 

Even though it has been several months since he left this world, the stock in his store is as it was.  Only the refrigerated items have been removed.  The ancient stock of dry goods remains, as do the more modern items. 
Those are boxes of new old stock shirts, and shoes on the shelves to the right. 

Mr Pace was a former insurance and real estate broker, and a 1945 graduate of Wofford College. He served on many committees and boards that were instrumental in bringing business to the area.

Here is a picture of Mr. Pace I took in April of 2010.
Although I did not know him well, I will miss him. I had hoped to be able to shake his hand just once more. 

I walk down the surprisingly busy street -- after all it is a beautiful day to be out in the mountains -- to the offices of Saluda Realty and Construction.  I find Mrs. Eargle sitting outside in a rocker with her dog leashed nearby.  I speak with both, pet one of the two on the head (guess which one), then inquire of Mr. Eargle's whereabouts.  I venture inside the office where I am directed, and find him at work at his desk.  As soon as he turns, he flashes a huge grin, and says he remembers me from my last visit.  I am flattered.  Maybe the clothes are the reason he recognized me. It had worked with Mr. Pace, didn't it?  Or maybe Mr. Eargle is just one of those fellows who remembers everyone he meets.  He seems to be genuine, not put on, in his treatment of others.

We chewed the fat for a few minutes.  Mr. Eargle told me the story of the old Thompson’s Store and Ward’s Grill (referred to in my earlier posting and pictured below).

A gentleman named Clark Thompson now owns the store and grill, and writes a blog called Saluda Memories.  Mr. Thompson was born and raised here, but went away to college and to work elsewhere.  He returned in 2010 to keep the spirit and nostalgia of the Old Store and Grill alive.  Mr. Eargle's construction company has been restoring the structures. 

After I leave Mr. Eargle's office, I give their dog a little more attention, then survey the remainder of the main street, and saddle up again.  I want to get that waterwheel tag before anyone else does.

Off I go, leaving Saluda (at Pushpin "A") toward the northeast, Interstate 26 (Pushpin "B"), and beyond.

View Larger Map

I could take the first left after 26, Green River Cove Road, the contorted one that Stretch referred to in his clues, but straight ahead, Holbert Cove Road, is more uniformly twisty, with none of those very tight turns all packed together.  And it ends up in almost the same spot.  The road has recently been tar and chip surfaced, so it exhibits a uniformly good grip with no potholes or cracks.  The work must have been done long enough ago that the loose stone has all dissipated, so I cruise along smartly.  The only thing is that there are few advisory speed signs, so it is difficult to know whether there is a decreasing-radius turn or some other hazard lurking somewhere ahead.

After about 9-1/2 miles on Holbert Cove, I reach Silver Creek Road (Pushpin "C") and make a left.  I pass this end of Green River Cove Road, then after 1.7 miles from where I turned onto Silver Creek, I see Palmer Road to the left and Lake Adger Road to the right (Pushpin "D").  I take Palmer Road and begin watching closely for my target.  I come across it, in about 1.2 miles, on the right.

Here it is, at Pushpin "E": 
35°19'42.49"N   82°15'9.72"W
The waterwheel is an example of an overshot style.
Types of waterwheels are described on this website.  

The source of the water was Bright's Creek a bit upgrade -- toward the left in the picture above.

Up a steep slope from my parking place, there is a corrugated steel pipe, shown below, that directed water from upstream to the top of the wheel, probably pouring onto the wheel from a wooden flume, now gone. 

Water exited the wheel through a cut or culvert just in front of my bike, joining the nearby creek across the little gravel driveway here.

The wheel has a large bull gear on the side that engaged a much smaller pinion, providing an increase in RPM to drive a generator.

There may have been a mechanism to govern the flow of water to maintain the correct voltage and/or frequency. (You electrical engineers: Was this likely to be a DC or AC generator?) If you want to do a few calculations on the power provided by waterwheels, here is a website to help. 

This photo shows the pipe at left-center, upstream of the wheel, at the entrance to Bright's Creek, an upscale golf development with a Tom Fazio-designed course.  (Now I know another golf-related name besides Tiger Woods and Arnold Palmer.)  
Wherever the pipe connected with the creek upstream must have been some distance away judging from the height of the pipe versus the creek bed beneath the bridge.  I couldn't follow the likely path of the pipe any further because the golf development is gated, and I'm not a resident.  That's OK, they pay just a bit more than I do for a place the live -- lots start at $200,000 each, so a little extra privacy is their privilege. 

A little waterwheel history:
The waterwheel was installed in the 1950s by Dr. Marion C. Palmer, landowner and lover of gadgets, according to an account written in 2003, found on the Tryon [NC] High School class of 1971 website. (Search for "water-wheel".) The story speaks of the lady of the household, Mrs. Palmer, having to tell the tenant farm family to turn off their lights so she could use her electric iron. That leads me to think the output of the waterwheel was around 1000 watts, or about 9 amperes at 110 volts. Commercial electricity reached this area in 1962, with telephone service following.

A view of the area.  

Well, it is pretty country here, but I have to get back, so I retrace my path back to Saluda on Palmer Road,...

...Silver Creek, and Holbert Cove Roads, then head west on US-176.  There are a couple of tight turns on this last road, one in front of a quarry entrance.  That one can be treacherous due to spilled gravel. 

I turn south on US-25, then veer off onto Gap Creek Road, hit SC-11, then SC-8, SC-135, and home to Easley.  The complete trip map is shown here:

View Larger Map

I don't rush, but I also don't tarry on my way back home.  After all, I have to post the tag grab photo before someone else does. 

By the way, if you remember, Stretch challenged the tag grabber to describe how the waterwheel worked.  I think I get the extra credit for doing so.  (Whew, I'm glad that those four years of engineering school weren't wasted after all.) 

Once at home, I rush to the computer, post my photo, and I can now lay claim to bragging rights, at least until someone finds the new tag that I have posted. 

I have ridden 147 miles today, in beautiful weather, looking at natural scenery and an engineering project not quite as old as I am.  You can't beat a day like this.  Thanks Stretch for providing an interesting tag in a beautiful part of the country.

Oh, here's the new tag I posted.  See if you can find it. 

"This bridge spans a small river.
The river has something to do with twelve miles, and it must be tired -- as it needs to lay.
The bridge is not far from woodside two.
If you go further on the road you will find Elfwing and Magic Mountain, both centrally located."

If you go: