Friday, June 29, 2012

Same Route, Different Scenery

I have traveled a couple of routes that include lots of sweeping curves.  One of them was described in an earlier posting entitled "Sweepers, Galore."

Two Saturdays ago, I traveled one of the routes again, but with some new scenery thrown into the mix.  Read on.

Here is where I went:

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The first little bit is on easy roads, from Easley, through Pickens, and on to Walhalla.  I pass the Oconee Nuclear Station, halfway between Pickens and Walhalla, but don't stop today.  They usually have interesting exhibits, some permanent, about power generation and use, others temporary, usually some kind of artwork. The last time I stopped in, there was a large display of orchids grown by fanciers of that flower.  Doesn't sound like a he-man hobby, but what do I know?  Other times there have been photos (some by local photographer Patrick Welch), paintings, and crafts. By the way, this plant has generated more nuclear power than any other plant in the U.S. 

Beyond Walhalla, I start toward the northwest on SC-28, also known as Moonshiner 28.  This is the road that goes all the way to Tail of the Dragon if you want to go there.  I have not ridden there as yet, but maybe someday...  The number of interesting roads near home makes the fabled Tail less attractive to me.  It tends to be overrun with traffic, both bikes and cars. 

This little section of 28 is curvy, with mostly sweepers, but some pretty tight curves too.  I angle off to the right on SC-107.  This road, too, is mostly sweepers, but gets a little tight in places.  The road surface also has been repaired in many places with half-lane replacements that leave an edge trap in the center of the lane.  This is unnerving at times, especially in the turns.  The motley light and dark color of the pavement -- almost like a tar and chip job with some of the tar showing through -- makes it difficult to pick out any gravel on the surface. 

I am not a speed demon, so I don't run into any problems, though a few curves are taken near my comfort level.  Fortunately, there is nothing on the road to limit traction, so I come out OK.  I have tires with good grip -- Michelin Pilot Road 3 -- so I am sure the bike and its tires can handle almost anything I am likely to call upon it to do in the corners.  

As I tool along, I spot something glossy and black about twenty feet above me on the embankment on my right.  What could that be?

It is a bear!  I have never seen a bear in the wild, so this is a first.  I say, out loud to myself inside my helmet, "WOW!  Look at that!  That was a bear."  Brilliant observation, that, but it is out of the ordinary for a city boy to see an animal larger than a dog out loose.  By the way, I have not been talking to myself as much when riding lately, so this must be a real occasion! 

The bear is a sizable specimen, I'd say.  He is just standing there, looking down at the road.  Maybe waiting for a tasty morsel to come by.  As possible headlines in the local papers flash through my head, I look for a place to pull off the road and take his picture: 

"Motorcyclist Snapping Pictures Snapped Up by Black Bear,"
"Curious Biker Disappears During Day Trip, Chewed Up Leather Suit Found in Bear Den,"
           or, maybe
"Cowardly Rider Passes Right by Black Bear Peacefully Observing Mountain Highway." 
The last is closest to what I did.  Apparently black bears are quite afraid of humans, and will retreat if you stand your ground, but I wasn't going to find out.  There was no good place to stop anyway, [excuses, excuses, Bucky] so this picture from the 'net will have to do.

I recover from my fauna observing experience, and travel further, just beyond the Wigington Byway turnoff.  On the left at Pushpin "D" is the Sloan Bridge picnic area.  One feature of this place is the restroom, my immediate goal.

After that, I explore a little and find that the two picnic tables visible from the road are backed up by several more down toward a stream, the East Fork of the Chattooga River.   I venture down some steps into a glade surrounded by azaleas, I think they are.  I'll bet this is a pretty place when they are in bloom during spring. 
Looking up the steps. 
I walk as close to the water as I can, but it is quite overgrown.  The gurgling of the water makes for a restful sound while I am munching on some energy bars and swilling down my Gatorade. 

The sign at the parking area shows several trails for the hiker.  I meet a man and his son there who are going to camp overnight after a six-mile hike.  I hope Mr. Bear doesn't go that way. 

Interestingly, there are three waterfalls within a mile or so of this place.  You can read about them on the SCwaterfalls website.  I didn't walk to them since my riding boots are not very comfortable for that mode of travel, but the falls would make for a good part-day outing some time. 

I put on my helmet and gloves again and go the short distance back to the Wigington Byway.  This short road has the overlook onto Lake Jocassee that I have written about before, and it is just as scenic today as it has always been. I stop for a few minutes to take in the view.  Some elderly people eye me as if I am an alien.  I guess I have that effect on people.

Here is that picture of the alien -- er, of Bucky -- gazing off into the distant view of the lake, taken in July of 2009.

Once I hit SC-130, I turn left and, after a mile or so, enter the Whitewater Falls parking area.  I have been here many times since the first, back in February of 2008.  That was just five months after I started riding. I remember the excitement of having negotiated a somewhat curvy road to see a pretty sight. 

I hike up the paved path to the falls overlook.  It has been rainy lately, so the falls are full today, and there are quite a few people here today, enjoying the beauty of creation. 

I don't take the 154 steps down to the lower viewing platform, since there is the same number of steps to come back up, and I am a bit lazy today as far as exercise is concerned! 

I meet two Harley riders, each a long way from home.  One is from Pennsylvania, the other from Florida.  They bring their bikes to this area to enjoy the roads, sometimes for weeks at a stretch.  They are both retired, but are my age or younger.  I likely turn a shade of green as they speak, my envy showing.  One of them observes that I must be retired, too.  I am not sure whether that is a reflection of my ancient-looking countenance or what.  Anyway, I tell him that I am not retired, and may not be able to do so for a long time if our politicians keep on destroying our economy.  They agree that is the case. 

I mount up, and ride to the south on 130.  The sweeping curves are mostly clean and smooth, but a few have broken-up patches that throw the bike sideways a bit. I use SC-11 to get to SC-133 just after Keowee Toxaway State Park, which is another good place to stop for a rest break, which I do. 

Outside Pickens, I turn into the DMV and do some low speed tight turns for practice, then continue on home.

I have traveled 120 miles and I can't wait to tell my wife about the bear.

When I tell her, she is skeptical of my sighting.  I guess I'll have to go back and find that bear again so I can ask him to pose for my camera.

I really did see one....   Honest.  


Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Sound Familiar?


Does that strike a familiar chord with anybody?

Maybe describing this guy?  

It is, in fact, from a much earlier time.  

See who wrote it, and when?  

 Cicero was a wise man.  

His observations fit today perfectly.

Vote in November to stop the destruction he is wreaking on our country and our freedom.  

Drawings by:

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Straight as a String -- Almost

Back on December 31 of last year, I wrote of a route over to the west of home with lots of sweeping curves.  It made for an interesting few hours out -- not too easy and not too difficult: a good winter route. 

A couple of Saturdays ago, I picked out a route further to the west, in Georgia, my aim being to see Tallulah Gorge State Park.  Well, I mapped out a route that looked to get me there and back over some roads I have not ridden before.

Follow along on the map:

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I start out in temperatures of sixty-seven degrees, and dress lightly, but safely, as it is supposed to get much hotter today. The route to the west is on US-123, a get-there-quickly road with little of scenic interest and not much challenge except for the traffic in the towns along the way.  At Westminster South Carolina I cut off to the northwest on US-76.
Just a few miles outside of town, I run across Chau Ram County Park, at Pushpin "B" on the map.  I turn in to see what is here. Right off the parking lot is a forty-foot waterfall on Ramsey Creek.

This creek runs into the Chauga River, a favorite for rafters and kayakers. 

There are hiking trails, camping, the aforementioned water activities, swimming, picnicking, and other things to do here.  In case you are wondering, the name is a contraction of the Chauga and Ramsey river and creek here.  I walk around a little, but my riding boots are not made for walking very much.

I saddle up and get on my way toward Clayton Georgia. 

At the Georgia state line. I cross the Chattooga River, another place rafters and kayakers are addicted to, Pushpin "C."  A nice safe [NOT!] place on the river just downstream from here is Bull Sluice Rapids, class IV, I believe. 

There are a few sweeping curves along this stretch of highway, but so far, not many.  In Clayton, I turn south on US-441/US-23.  (Also here is Warwoman Road with a few miles of twisties that runs back east to GA-28 (a continuation of SC-28).   The twisty parts are nearest 28.) 

The ride south is also without much interest, but I finally get to Jane Hurt Yarn Road, named after a woman who fought to preserve this area.  There is a visitor center for the park, so I get oriented and start out on a short walk.  I am already melting in the high-eighty-degree heat, but I want to see what is here.

While prowling the parking lot for a shady place, I spot another bike.  It is a Honda Hawk, NT650, a naked sportbike sold in the U.S. between 1988 and 1991.  It is not in bad shape, but shows some road rash here and there. I left one of my cards on his seat.  There were several Harleys in the lot too, but they wouldn't pose for the camera. 

At the gorge, there are a few overlooks that are easy to get to.  The gorge is magnificently deep -- about 750 feet -- and long -- five waterfalls long, in fact. 

This view is of L'Eau d'Or Falls.  [For we unsophisticates, that is French for "water of gold."] 

Oceana Falls is way down there.
Do you notice the people playing in the water?  I didn't either until a toddler pointed them out to a group of us unobservant adults gawking over the fence. 
Now do you see them?  Just to the right of center.  If you are adventurous enough to want to get down there, you have to get one of only one hundred passes handed out free daily, and descend the 1099 steps to get there.  I could have gotten down, but I am afraid a helicopter rescue would have been necessary to hoist me out again on this hot day. 

There is a walkway on the other side of the gorge, accessible near the bridge that crosses at Tallulah Falls Dam, a quarter mile south of Jane Hurt Yarn Road.  

The town of Tallulah Falls still exists over there, but is only a remnant of its once thriving tourist days.  The first hotel here was not much more than a cabin, but opened in 1840.  There was a railroad that ran between Cornelia, Georgia and Franklin, North Carolina that stopped here, beginning in 1882.  (I rode through Cornelia back in March of 2010.)  At its peak, at least seventeen hotels and boarding houses invited guests to stay a spell here at the gorge.  

On July 24, 1886, a Professor Leon crossed the gorge on a high wire, a feat that was repeated by Karl Wallenda on July 18, 1970.   The towers used to support the latter feat are still there.  Mr. Wallenda crossed the 1000 foot long wire, doing two head stands on the way.  Braver than most, I'd say. 

In December 1921, a fire started in the town and burned for several days, destroying stores, hotels, and many homes. Most were not rebuilt. 

I am sweating heavily after my walk to the overlooks, so I make my way back to the visitor center and get a cold slurp of water.  Further down US-441, I cross the dam, and turn off on the Tallulah Gorge Scenic Loop.  This is a tourist trap area, at Pushpin "E," but at least a couple of other bikers are here today.  

I peek over the edge for a few minutes, and travel on to the power plant served by the dam, near Pushpin "F."  (Enlarge the map and move it around to see these pushpins better.)  The dam was constructed between 1911and 1914, providing power to Atlanta, at a cost of half what it was previously.  That caused a boom in the city that lasted for many years.  Our modern-day politicians ought to take a lesson from that, by clearing away unnecessary regulations!

The dam is at Pushpin "A" on this map.  The power plant is just northeast of Pushpin "B." 

View Larger Map

You can't get to the power plant, but there is an overlook and picnic area above it.  An incline railway passenger car is on display here. 
This 36 to 90% grade railway shuttled workers and supplies down 609 vertical feet to the power plant during its construction.  It remains in use today, though not from the location shown here.

Water flows through an underground passage from above the dam to near Pushpin "B" on the map above.  The power plant is at the bottom of the pipes leading down into the gorge near there. 

A garden railroad builder (who apparently rides a red scooter, judging by some of his photographs), has modeled the Tallulah Railroad.  His blog shows the incline railway in operation, and numerous photos of the prototype

After the power plant, I go back a little ways to the Gilbert Gate entrance to a school, the Tallulah Falls School, of all names, at Pushpin "E" on the first map  I follow the road across US-441, where a new entrance exits.  The school was founded in 1909 by the Georgia Federation of Women's Clubs.  Today, the school provides a college prepartory education to 300 students in grades 6 through 12.  The campus, at Pushpin "G," is quite nice, and large.  I'll bet the tuition is high.  Yep, the total cost per student is $44,000/year because there are so few students in the school.  The tuition for day students is $8,750/year, the remainder provided by private donations. 

After a look at the school campus, I get back on US-441 and head south to GA-17A.  This road, built of concrete, starts my bike bucking like a rocking horse, but smooths out soon enough.  I follow it to Toccoa, stop at the old railroad depot to cool off, then head east on US-123 again.

What few sweeping curves there are cannot be enjoyed fully due to traffic.  It is almost as though today's ride has been totally on roads straight as a string.  Well, almost that straight, anyway.  This has been disappointing, though some of the places I visited were certainly interesting and scenic. Maybe it is a good cruiser route.  What do you think? 

The temperature has climbed to ninety-three degrees today after 170 miles.

Read more about the Tallulah Gorge waterfalls at the SCwaterfalls website.