Thursday, April 26, 2012

Harangue -- Maybe Life and Death

harangue: An impassioned, disputatious public speech; A tirade or rant, whether spoken or written; To give a forceful and lengthy lecture or criticism to someone.

A few weeks ago, on March 12 to be exact, at a little after 4:00 AM, a motorcycle rider was being chased by a State Highway Patrol Trooper.  The motorcycle rider was speeding and would not stop.  Rather, he ran, at high speed.  He came near my house. 

It happened that I was lying awake, tossing and turning in my bed with the windows open that morning. I heard the bike wind up tightly several times, probably on the straights. I heard the siren of the police car following him.  The trooper's car failed to make a curve, left the road into a wooded area and down an embankment, turned over, and caught fire.  The officer was pinned in the vehicle, and had suffered two broken legs.  From a police video, I saw how close the officer came to losing his life in the burning vehicle.

WYFF News photo

View Larger Map

I drove past the crash site (at Pushpin "B" on the map above), and noticed something striking.  Just south of the place where the trooper went off the road, there are these new, and brightly-reflectorized signs. They certainly let you know there is a stop sign ahead.

Notice that the signs point STRAIGHT AHEAD, warning of the stop sign.  The fact that the road turns to the right is completely obscured by a rise in the road at the same place where the signs are. There are NO curve-ahead signs whatsoever, in either direction.

A closer view.

What would any motorist think?  That the road continues straight, of course! 

Here is what lurks just beyond the signs, however:

Note that the left side of the road is pitch black.  A gully is there about 20 feet deep, and many trees.

There are no curve warning signs here either.  Like this one:
At high speed, this curve could be a killer.  I believe the lack of proper signage contributed to the accident. The LEO probably was not familiar with the road. I'll bet the biker was, and knew to turn even before the rise.

Here are some views in the daylight:
No sign of a curve.

This shot is taken even with the stop warning signs.
Now you can see the curve in the road, but the stop signs are not yet visible.

Here is where the patrol car went off the road.  That largest tree, just right of center has a large scar on its near side.  It and the trees further down in the gully are charred from the fire. 
 I don't know how the car got through the trees to its resting place beyond the big tree.  It is a wonder the officer wasn't killed on impact. 

Now, before we get into the debate about whether the officer should have been chasing the biker, consider the following:
  • LEOs cannot and should not make it a policy not to chase bikes. If that were the case, others who currently have respect for the laws of the road would begin to have less respect -- they would take more chances, and be more likely to break the laws.
  • Many who ride find that the motorcycle is easy to ride faster than the speed limit. Doing so, especially at 100 miles per hour, does not make it right.  The biker should have stopped.
  • We do not know whether there was some infraction besides speeding that morning that caused the patrolman to take chase. 
  • The officer made a decision to continue the chase. We do not know why.  I expect, however, that he must make such decisions -- and even more weighty ones -- many times during a week of duty.  I wonder how many of us can consistently make the best -- some will, after the fact, say CORRECT -- decisions under pressure.
This is just one more example, where our government spends piles of our money, but where the practical results are lacking. 

Makes me mad as I can be. You too, I hope. 

The motorcyclist is still at large.  If you have information, contact Crime Stoppers of Pickens County at 898-KOPS (898-5677).  There is a reward for information.

Previous Harangues:


Sunday, April 1, 2012

Quick Trip to a Familiar Place

The weather and my schedule have conspired to keep me off the bike for a couple of weeks.  I ventured out on a rainy Saturday morning this weekend, however, taking a chance that the weather would be at least tolerable.

It was!  I didn't have a lot of time to spend, so around sixty miles was all I rode, but it was certainly worthwhile. 

From Easley, I go over to Pickens and up US-178, which is moderately curvy, to SC-11, the Cherokee Foothills Scenic Highway, where the Holly Springs Country Store is that bikers gather at.  No others are there, so I turn right on 11, and ride to Table Rock State Park.  There is a visitor center there. 

I take this photo of Pinnacle Mountain from the parking lot of the visitor center.  It is the highest point entirely within South Carolina.  You can hike up there if you have a strong heart and leather lungs.  It is a strenuous climb of four hours, six miles round trip, with an elevation gain of 2673 feet.
Your head might be in the clouds if you do that today, but didn't it turn out to be beautiful?

From the visitor center, I cross SC-11 and go up the road into the park.  There is a pull-off with this view of Table Rock.

 Here is a better view:

Pretty, yes?  You can also hike to the top of Table Rock mountain, a moderate four-hour, 6-1/2 mile round trip with an elevation gain of 2433 feet.   

How did it get its name, you ask?  Well, according to a sign at the pull-off:
To a giant, Table Rock could be exactly what its name suggests -- a 3124 foot [above sea level] high table made of granite.  To eat at this table, the giant would need a seat -- Stool Mountain at 2600 feet served this purpose. 

That's how the Cherokee saw the memorable landscape before you.  Their beliefs, shaped by their environment, featured an enormous spirit who loomed over this mountain range, his shadow forming the bluish haze.  Sah-ka-na-ga, meaning "Great Blue Hills of God," was the name given this place. 

Settlers, influenced by the story of the gigantic chieftain dining here, preserved the legend when naming the landmarks. 
 The blue arrow is the stool.  The red arrow is the table.  

After I leave the park, I continue on SC-11 to SC-8.  The road runs to Pumpkintown, then SC-135 runs back to Easley.

I'm glad I got a chance to get out today.  I would have missed this great scenery.  Come over some time and ride.  You won't be disappointed.