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.