Monday, June 24, 2013

Rally to Ridgecrest, 2013 -- Days 3 and 4


The day begins with devotions and breakfast -- again a great start. 

Today, we are going to ride to the Western Carolina State Veterans Cemetery over in Black Mountain to pay respects to the dead soldiers who lie there, and to their comrades in arms who have been and are still at work defending our country.

There is light drizzle, but everyone lines up at the exit of the conference center to begin the short ride there.  
That white trailer has a peculiar emblem on it.  Hotpoint -- like the refrigerator. It certainly looks the part. 

The riders make their way to the cemetery, park along its roads, and quietly walk up to the building where a few words of dedication will be spoken. 
Photo by Rally to Ridgecrest

A bagpiper plays.  A commemorative wreath is there. 
Photo by Rally to Ridgecrest

The dead lie silently in their simply-marked graves. 
Photo by Rally to Ridgecrest

Flags have been set in place on each one. 
Photo by Rally to Ridgecrest

We hear the speaker's words, then fan out to the graves.  I am touched by the solemnity of the place, and well up with the thoughts of the sacrifices these people made for my freedom.

We head back to the Conference Center as a group for another singing and message. 

I have plans to ride solo today.  My route is back up NC-80, then onto the Parkway, to and beyond Little Switzerland, then return by way of NC-226 -- a route that is twisty in several places:  

View Larger Map of Planned Sunday Day Ride to Little Switzerland

It is only around seventy-five miles, but the rain is gone, it has turned into a beautiful day, and I am eager to set out.

When I reach NC-80, I retrace my path, now toward the north instead of the south as it was on Friday.  I am not going for a speed record, but I ride along at a good clip.  The twists become tighter nearer the Parkway, and I cruise past Blind Kenny again, and they snap a few more pictures, this being one of them.
Still a pretty good lean angle, body upright, looking through the curve.

I reach the Parkway in another couple of minutes and head north.  I am enjoying the road a lot, and there is little traffic, despite it being a holiday weekend.  When I reach NC-226A, I am tempted to take it instead of 226.  It is far more twisty, though and I want to have a little less technical ride today.  So I continue on -- but I don't turn south on 226 as planned.  Instead, I continue on the Parkway until I reach the town of Linville Falls,

View Larger Map of Actual Sunday Ride Route

That adds around twenty miles to the trip, but I just don't want to leave the Parkway.

On the way toward Linville Falls, at milepost 329, I stop at Altapass and the overlook with a sign describing the Clinchfield Railroad Loops -- another series of railroad loops to allow it to gain altitude like the Old Fort Loops.
That is the explanatory sign for an engineering feat.  This series of loops, begun in 1905, and completed in 1908, is now part of the CSX system.  There are eighteen tunnels in this 13-mile trackage section, needed to overcome the elevation change of the Blue Ridge Escarpment.  The distance is only about four miles as the crow flies.  The ridge was a formidable barrier here just as it was near Ridgecrest and Saluda.  Mostly Russian, German, and Italian immigrants provided the labor for this project. 

Here is a map of the railroad route: 
You can't see much of the route from the overlook, but the Frograil railfan website has a good description of it. (Search for "Clinchfield Loops Overview.")  That site does not have many pictures, but is intended to document the best places to view the track and the trains running on it.  You can experience a simulated a trip up the loops in this video.

There is an apple orchard here also, called the Orchard at Altapass, of all things.

There is a gravel road, Peppers Creek, that leads to one of the loops, called Camp 2, at Pushpin B below:

View Larger Map of the Clinchfield Loop on Peppers Creek Road

The orchard is at the left in the map above. (Interestingly, as I was preparing this posting, I explored the map near Altapass and there is a Wal-Mart only 2-1/2 miles from the orchard!  ...and I thought I was in the middle of nowhere.) 

The distance from the Parkway to the railroad is only about a mile, downgrade, with some washboard, and loose gravel.  The road skirts the tracks south of where they pass under the Parkway, though the underbrush conceals them from view. 

I am surprised when I reach the grade crossing.  It has electric signal lights.  I stop for a few minutes, hoping for a train to come along, but, alas, one does not.  I head back up the hill, under the Parkway, and onto it. 

After I gas up at Linville Falls, I reluctantly turn around and head toward 226, turn south, and hit some curves coming down from the Parkway.  After a few miles, the road calms down, and I cruise along in the beautiful afternoon sun. 

That evening, I go to supper and to another worship service.

I take a few minutes to survey the crowd.  Many are dressed in jeans and tee shirts, and about half have leather colors vests on.  Those vests have a variety of patches and pins on them, denoting their beliefs, and some of their activities.  Here are a few:

Afterward, I attend another seminar, this one lead by Ed Obaugh, the same guy who taught Protect Yourself in Court a couple of days ago.  This one is entitled How to Share Jesus Without Fear.  Again Ed speaks from the heart and gives ideas on how to approach others in all kinds of unusual situations about their salvation through Jesus Christ.  A key point is that you don't convict a person to believe.  Rather, the Holy Spirit prepares, and you are His voice and face.  Awesome responsibility, not to be shirked. 

I spend some time in the hamburger shop, talking with other bikers.  There are fewer people here tonight because many have already departed for home, but I plan to stay another night so I will be fresh for the ride home tomorrow.

Another couple, Johnny and Lisa, will be riding in the same direction toward home on their Harleys, so they ask to come along with me.  No problem. 

I pack up my saddle and tail bags as best I can.  I have purchased a few books from the LifeWay store, so I have a bit of a challenge to get everything in, and get the zippers closed.  I prepare my paper map for the trip home tomorrow, and zip it into the top of my tank bag where I can refer to it.  The GPS is programmed to that route as well, so I should be able to follow its lead and get there just fine. 

I hit the sack giving thanks for a safe, inspirational, and enjoyable day. 

Mileage on Sunday = 153


Today, it is breakfast, loading the bike, and a last trip to the office to check out.  Johnny and Lisa are doing the same, and I move my bike to where theirs are parked.  We start out on the superslab.  I have to remember as the leader of the group not to accelerate to cruising speed too soon, as that would require them to exceed the speed limit to catch up.  Once they are close behind, I crank it up to the speed limit. 

The route I have picked is a way to get home quickly, but with a short interlude on the Parkway to give us one last period of enjoying its beauty.  Here it is:

View Larger Map of the Trip Home

It starts out on I-40/US-70, then switches to the Parkway, then to I-26, US-25, SC-11, to Easley, and home   I reach there at about 10:30 in the morning, quite a bit earlier than I expected. 

Mileage on Monday = 97
Total mileage for the trip = 588.

It has been a great long weekend, but I am ready to be home, get reacquainted with my wife, and sleep in my own bed again. 

After I returned home, I hung up my riding suit, rested for a little while, had a lunch prepared by my sweet wife, then cleaned up the bike.  There was a considerable amount of road dirt and splatted bugs to remove.  It came out pretty well, I think, no worse for wear. 

Hope you have enjoyed the trip this year.  Next year, ride along with me to the Rally to Ridgecrest.

Links to other websites:
A Weekend in the Loops of Western North Carolina
The Clinchfield Loops from the Bridghunter website
The Clinchfield Loops from the American-Rail website 
Videos of trains at Altapass, Clicnchfield Loops

Links to related postings:

Rally to Ridgecrest, 2013 -- Day 1
Rally to Ridgecrest, 2013 -- Day 2
Rally to Ridgecrest, 2013 -- Days 3 and 4

Freedom is Never Free! -- Rally to Ridgecrest, 2011, Part I
Freedom is Never Free! -- Rally to Ridgecrest, 2011, Part II

Rally to Ridgecrest Facebook Page

Memorial Day 2010 Weekend Rally
Memorial Day 2010 Weekend Rally, Part II, The Ride Up
Memorial Day 2010 Weekend Rally, Part III, Saturday
Memorial Day 2010 Weekend Rally, Part IV, Sunday and the Ride Home.



Sunday, June 16, 2013

Rally to Ridgecrest, 2013 -- Day 2


I wake up early and go to a morning devotion lead by a fellow they call Padre.  He is a long-time employee of LifeWay, the owners of Ridgecrest.  He is a well-spoken man, who has a knack for clearly tying scripture to real life.  He urges us to tithe our time.  By this he means that we should take 10% -- the Biblical tithe -- of our time getting ready for the day's activities to devote to God.  If it takes an hour to prepare for the day, take 10% -- 6 minutes -- to study God's word in the Bible and pray.  Seems like an easy-to-do thing -- only 6 minutes before work.  We all could do that, to get the day started off right.

I wander into the main building and add a pushpin to the map to indicate where home is. 
There are folks here from as far away as Oklahoma, northern Illinois, and Florida. 

Breakfast continues the sequence of great meals, with bacon and scrambled eggs and fresh fruit.  Yum. What a way to start out a beautiful day! 

I prowl around amongst the bikes again for a little while and spot a tent set up by a guy who does pinstriping by hand, Kirby's Signs of Danville, KY. 
Like this:
and this:
Photo by Rally to Ridgecrest.
What God-given talent these artists have.

Some bikes are decked out in patriotic decor.  This one is ridden by a member of the FaithRiders.  
 This one's license plate says FTH RDR, also a member of the group. 
 This trailer is pulled by a GoldWing, so their slogan is "On a wing and a prayer." 
This must be a woodworker's bike, with this fancy rack.

I spot the cross, high on the hill behind the conference center.

The weather is cool but not cold.  I have hooked up with a group of about twelve bikes and we are headed to Hot Springs North Carolina for lunch.  That is a large group, and I don't like that, but I tag along anyway.  The route to Hot Springs is freeway and bland two lane roads. 

We stop to eat at the Smoky Mountain Diner, a pretty good place where a lot of motorcyclists stop for the same reason as we have today -- to use the bathroom...oh, and eat. Before we go in, I spot a little yellow dirt bike in the carport of the house next door to the restaurant.  While we are eating, I hear the buzz of a small engine.  Sure enough a little tyke has cranked up his bike and is touring his back yard.
He makes several laps.  I wonder if that NO TRESPASSING sign on that steep hill is aimed at him.  If he hasn't tried to climb it yet, I'll bet it has been on his mind.

Soon, he notices that I am taking his picture, and he starts hamming it up.
The look on his face is priceless.  One day he will be a good rider, having started at such an early age.

We finish up lunch, and head back to the bikes.  NC-209 and NC-63 are both very twisty in places, and the group is going slow.  We could have enjoyed a little more spirited ride, but maybe that will come on another day.

Here is the route, 134 miles:

View Larger Map of Route to Hot Springs

We return to the conference center and head to a seminar.  I have picked one put on by Dan Daugherty, a former Marine, cop, and now lawyer   His topic is Gun Safety and Motorcycle Carry Considerations.  The room is filled to capacity with standing room only.  That speaks to the interest in our second amendment right to bear arms. 

Later, after supper, we again gather for some song and to hear the speaker, Tommy Bowden, former head coach of Clemson University football.  He speaks of the acronym C.A.R.D.S., standing for Commitment, Accountability, Responsibility, Discipline, and Sacrifice.  These attributes can be used in coaching, but also apply to real life.  These are some things a Christian should do to truly become God's hands. 

Afterward, we chew the fat some more, and soon enough go back to our rooms for some rest.  The rooms are as good as any hotel, but there is one thing missing.  On purpose.  A television.  There is no sense coming to a place like this to sit in front of the tube.  There are places to go, things to see, sermons to be heard, and knees to be bent. 

My roommate, Danny isn't back by the time I have fallen asleep -- about five minutes after I hit the pillow, I estimate.  Had I known where he had gone, I would have worried -- and prayed.  He and another fellow started out toward Marion, NC and from there up NC-80 to the Parkway.  (That is the road I turned off on from the Parkway yesterday on my way here.)  In the dark of evening. 

Remember that 80 is very twisty.  Missing a curve could be serious.  At night, there is the possibility of animals on the highway.  The next morning, Danny said it was one of the most incredible evenings he had spent in his life.  The road on the way up was illuminated by the powerful driving lights of the other guy's touring bike ahead of him, but the striking thing, he says, was the incredible quiet and beauty of the sky up on the Parkway.  They had prayer at this place a little closer to God, then navigated back to the camp and to bed.  Safely. 

Thank you, God, for their safety and for the day's activities.

More to come soon.   Keep watching. 

Links to related postings:

Rally to Ridgecrest, 2013 -- Day 1
Rally to Ridgecrest, 2013 -- Day 2
Rally to Ridgecrest, 2013 -- Days 3 and 4

Freedom is Never Free! -- Rally to Ridgecrest, 2011, Part I
Freedom is Never Free! -- Rally to Ridgecrest, 2011, Part II

Rally to Ridgecrest Facebook Page

Memorial Day 2010 Weekend Rally
Memorial Day 2010 Weekend Rally, Part II, The Ride Up
Memorial Day 2010 Weekend Rally, Part III, Saturday
Memorial Day 2010 Weekend Rally, Part IV, Sunday and the Ride Home.


Monday, June 10, 2013

Rally to Ridgecrest, 2013 -- Day 1

If you have been following this blog for more than a couple of years, you know that I have traveled to Ridgecrest North Carolina over Memorial Day weekend a few times before for motorcycle rallies.  I missed last year, but wanted to get away this year to do some riding in that area, but also to be inspired by the speakers, to worship God, and honor military service veterans.  

The rooming accommodations are fairly inexpensive -- $59 a night for the room, not per person -- but I wanted to hook up with someone else to share the room to keep costs down.  [Surprise, surprise, Bucky being frugal!]  I sent out a few e-mails to see if I could find somebody else, and finally a friend of a friend, Danny, e-mailed me back and we reserved the room. Four days and three nights. 

I have previously planned out a number of routes to get to Ridgecrest and back, some via. twisty two-lane roads, and others on the superslab.  That way, if the weather isn't good, I can get there using the safest route.  The shortest route to get there is about 89 miles from home. 

A couple of years ago, I planned to take the twisty-road route to get there, but had to backtrack and go by expressway due to heavy fog at the higher elevations.  This year, the weather was superb, and the twisty route worked out almost perfectly.  That 89-mile route?  Well, my route ended up being almost exactly 200, and I took the whole day on Friday to get there. 

Here is the twisty route:

View Larger Map of the Twisty Route to Ridgecrest


I have been packing my luggage for a week now to get everything just right, and I have it whittled down to just enough for the four days, with a little room to spare in case I buy something to bring back.  
My packing list is contained in a spreadsheet, and includes several things besides the changes of clothes I don't have to take when I am riding for just a day.  On a longer trip, I take an electric tire pump, a tire repair kit, jumper cables, and spare throttle and clutch cables. 

Just before a trip like this, I am keyed up and usually don't sleep like a rock as I usually do, and this trip is no exception.  Fortunately, I can sleep in a little longer than on a work day.  

On the big day, I arise and get a good breakfast.  I dress warmly, as there is a chill in the May air and the temperature will drop as I gain elevation.  I am on the road before 8:00 with some easy riding up US-178 from Pickens South Carolina to the intersection of SC-11.  This section is all sweepers and is an enjoyable way to start the day.  That intersection of 11 is where bikers meet up to ride the challenging roads nearby -- and brag about doing so.  

Next up is US-178 to Rosman, NC.  This part is more difficult, and requires higher attention to negotiate safely.  North of Rosman, is a short stretch of US-64, then starts NC-215, a continuation of great roads to ride in this part of the country.  The turn onto 215 almost always is strewn with gravel, so I watch out and go slow.  The road surface is recently paved, so it is nice and smooth going.  It winds its way to the elevation of the Blue Ridge Parkway, about 50 miles from home, with some tight corners, and one right hander just after this bridge that also has gravel on it most of the time.

Just north of Rosman by 7-1/2 miles is the turnoff to the Pisgah Astronomical Research Institute (PARI).  This was once a top-secret satellite tracking station.  I visited there and took a tour back in 2009. It is certainly a very unusual and interesting place, but I have other goals today. 

It is getting colder as the elevation increases.  I stop just a half mile south of the Parkway at a large gravel overlook.
The sky is threatening to the west, on the left in the photo above.  Oh, no.  Is it going to be a repeat of two years ago?  The wind is fierce, also from the west.  Those black clouds are moving faster than any I have recently seen.  Could get bad. 

I turn on the grip heaters to keep my hands warm.  That has proven to be a nice addition to the bike, and helps extend the comfortable riding season greatly.  It will certainly help today. 
I get back on the road pretty quickly.  Maybe I can keep ahead of those fast-moving clouds.  

Note the GPS mounted on the bars above.  I have entered the routes I have planned for the weekend into it in the form of .GPX files generated from Google Maps.  It thereby gives turn-by-turn directions both visually and by way of an earphone that plugs into a jack on the side.  It also knows where I have been, so even my wildest wanderings are recorded for posterity in the form of tracks that can be viewed in various ways, including in Google Earth. 

As I progress to the northeast, the weather remains partly cloudy, but there is no fog today as there was in 2011, here showing the Craggy Gardens Visitor Center parking lot:
Visitor Center near Craggy Gardens, 2011
The view below is from the Craggy Gardens picnic area this year, at milepost 367.6.  It is a beautiful day for riding.  Surprisingly, there are few other visitors at this pretty place.  The wind is still very strong: At its worst so far, it blew me sideways about two feet at I passed the Pisgah Inn at milepost 408.5.   Maybe that is the reason hardly anyone is here today. 

Soon, I come across the road to Mount Mitchell, the highest point in North Carolina.  I turn in, and follow a couple on a tandem bicycle for a short way.  They are laboring mightily to climb the grade.  I pass them, and get to the top, with only one switchback along the way -- it is surprising that there are not more tight curves, being that this is a high point.  I reach the parking lot at the top, and pause for a proof-of-visit shot.
The elevation here is 6578 feet above sea level.  (The highest point in South Carolina is Sassafras Mountain at 3564 feet.)  The wind is blowing strongly, so I don't take time to hike to the overlook.  The views from here are breathtaking, I'd say.  I head back down, and wave at the couple on the tandem.  They still have a long way to go.  I am glad I have a motor helping me.

I simply enjoy the road as I continue on my day's journey, so there aren't any pictures from the next section.  The overlooks are more overgrown along the Parkway north of Asheville, so there isn't as much to see anyway.  The best part for sightseeing is between Asheville and Cherokee, the latter being the southern terminus of the Parkway.  When I ride that stretch, I stop often to gawk at creation. 

My GPS says it is time to turn right onto North Carolina route 80 toward the south.  I do so, and make it a point to stop at the Parkway exit.  There is a large parking area, there.  I want to do something to make myself more photogenic.  [A peacock, are we, Bucky?] 

Well, I have checked with the photographer Blind Kenny, who hangs out on 80 every weekend.  Actually, it is both he and his wife who hang out just south of the Parkway on a left hand curve.  I have stopped to take off my fluorescent MSF safety vest -- to make myself pretty for the camera....pretty as best I can, anyway. 

I start down the hill on 80.  It has a considerable drop -- 2000 feet in twelve miles.  It is known as the Devil's Whip, formerly the Devil's Staircase-- a marketing ploy, I am sure.

The part I am on has some serious switchbacks.  Look in the upper left corner of this map:

View Larger Map of the Devil's Whip

And here is a stylized map of the road:
From the Devil's Whip website. 
Sure enough, when I reach their spot, there are two photographers there.  I round the curve at a considerable lean angle for me, and continue on.

In fact, the toe of my left boot touches the tarmac, right about here:
Oops, I don't have my feet positioned on the pegs properly.  I should know better, as I already have some experience in this matter

Hmmmm.  I wonder, did they get a good shot?  I decide to make certain that they have the greatest opportunity.  After all, this is their livelihood we're talking about here.

Besides, I have to get my feet in the right position.  

At the first wide place in the road, I turn around and go back up the hill.  I am not traveling as fast as before, but they pan their cameras as I go by.  (At least, I suppose they are panning their cameras -- I am too busy paying attention to the road to look their way.) 

Now, since I have to go south in the end to reach my destination, I must turn around at the Parkway and make one more run. 

(Yep, they were panning.) 

I head on south.  The road is quite technical in places, and fairly easy in others.  South of Pushpin B on the map above, there are many residences, so you have to be careful of other vehicles. Where it is safe, I stop and shrug on my brightly-colored vest again, so other vehicles have a better chance of seeing me.  I am a bit disappointed when I reach US-70.  It is lined with houses and businesses and is almost straight to my next destination, Old Fort.  There won't be any more roads with curvy challenges today. 

This little town has a few points of interest, one of which is a giant arrowhead at the old railroad depot. 

The arrowhead was erected back in July of 1930, and is hand chiseled from granite.  
 Note that somebody's motorcycle helmet sneaked right into that picture.

Here is the dedication ceremony announcement:
From the Old Fort website.
The arrowhead was intended to be a symbol of the peace achieved in an earlier century between pioneers and Native Americans.

There was once a fort close to this little town, built by the colonial militia before the Declaration of Independence, and the settlement served for many years as the western-most outpost of the early United States.
From the Old Fort website
You can see one of the other places of interest in the old photograph above, the 1892 railroad depot.  The depot, restored in 2005, looks pretty much the same as it did long ago except for there being Diesel locomotives instead of steam.  It contains a sparse collection of railroad and area artifacts as well as the Chamber of Commerce office, officiated by a very nice older woman today.  I have a conversation with her about the area attractions, and about the metal roof on her house leaking because of the recent rains. I sympathized with her plight. 

Next, I go a few miles to another interesting thing on my list today. Along the way to view it, I see glimpses of the railroad right of way, on its torturous path upgrade on the so-called Old Fort Loops.  If you look at this section of the Google map, you see how the railroad twists and wraps around to minimize the grade.

View Larger Map of the Old Fort Loops

Click on "View Larger Map" above and then enlarge and move around the general area to see the railroad right of way that roughly parallels the road. You can follow it all the way from the depot in Old Fort, Pushpin A on the map, to the Ridgecrest Conference center at Pushpin "D."

The railroad route is about thirteen miles, but only about five as the crow flies. They certainly put in a lot of civil engineering to get it built.  Mr. James W. Wilson, who lived between 1832 and 1910, was the chief engineer and president of the Western North Carolina Railroad, planned and built this section.  There is a commemorative plaque to Mr. Wilson back at the depot.

The road I am on has a few turns, but soon enough I come across the desired point of interest, Andrews Geyser, at Pushpin B on the map. Now you may have thought that geysers only exist in Yellowstone National Park in the western United States and at a few other places in the world. Well, you would be right about that. The truth of the matter is that there are no natural geysers near here. This one is man made, and is actually better described as a fountain.

From Wikipedia:
The fountain is named for Colonel Alexander Boyd Andrews, a North Carolina native who was the Vice President of the Southern Railway Company and one of the men responsible for the construction of the railroad between Old Fort and Asheville, North Carolina, in the late 1800s. The fountain was constructed in 1885 with a dual purpose: it was a feature of the Round Knob Hotel, and a tribute to the approximately 120 men who died building the railroad through this particularly treacherous stretch of land, that culminates with the crossing of the Eastern Continental Divide through the Swannanoa Tunnel. The fountain was said to be eye-catching for railroad passengers ascending the 13 miles of track and seven tunnels that peaks at the top of Swannanoa Gap because it could be seen several times along the route.  The Round Knob Hotel burned to the ground in 1903, and the fountain fell into disrepair. In 1911, George Fisher Baker, a wealthy New York financier and philanthropist who had been friends with Colonel Andrews, funded its restoration. The Southern Railway Company did not grant continuation of the easement for the fountain at that time, so a new, five-sided basin was constructed about 70 yards across Mill Creek, and the piping and nozzle were moved (to the fountain's current location). The town of Old Fort was given rights to the basin and the pipe that carries the water, and the fountain was formally named Andrews Geyser.
The town of Old Fort continues to use Andrews Geyser and the surrounding area as a public park. Andrews Geyser underwent extensive restoration again in the 1970s, and was rededicated on May 6, 1976. Signs at the park describe Mr. Fisher's role in the early 1900s and the role of Old Fort's private citizens in the 1970s in keeping the fountain running.  Andrews Geyser shoots water continuously to a height of about 80 feet. Its water supply is drawn from a pond located at the current site of the Inn on Mill Creek, a local Bed and Breakfast. The Inn's property contains the original dam constructed by the railroad in the late 1800s, and the pond formed by the dam with the water of the Long Branch of Mill Creek. A 6-inch diameter cast iron pipe runs from the dam, through a hidden gate valve, then underground approximately two miles downhill to the fountain. The water comes out a half-inch nozzle pointed skyward, and the 500 feet of elevation difference creates the pressure that drives the fountain.

The Inn on Mill Creek is run by the Walters family.  I e-mailed and called them a couple of times for updates on the status of the geyser, and on road conditions.  They were very cordial and helpful. 

While I am stopped at the geyser, a train rumbles into view, making its slow way uphill toward Ridgecrest. Actually, I have heard it rumbling for a long while, since it is slow going for it in these hills. 
Three large locomotives are pulling it, and I continue to hear them on various sides as they go around the loops that are nearby.

The geyser, with the train in the background:
I spend a few minutes taking in the view, then start on my way again. 

The road just to the west of the geyser turns to mostly well-graded gravel.  I stop for a picture of what almost looks like a model railroad scene. 
The road under the tracks in the picture is the one I traversed just a few minutes ago. 

Today, at the point where the road turns to gravel, there is a sign advising that the road is closed.  Like almost any typical motorcyclist, I continue on anyway, past the Inn, until I am stopped by a power shovel whose width is just a little less than that of the road.  The gravel road had washed out in a few areas in the previous weeks of heavy rain, and they are fixing it. 

I stop to ponder my predicament.  The work crew spots me, and waves me on past the shovel, but in the ditch next to the road.  I motion that the space is too narrow.  They take another look, acknowledge that it is, and start up the giant machine to move it two feet further from the ditch -- and closer to the edge of the road they just filled in, and the steep slope down.  I had visions of the power shovel slipping down the embankment.  Fortunately, it didn't, at least not while I was there.  The space the operator opened up looks wide enough, but the men had spread some loose soil on the far side of the equipment that I will have to plow through.  I ponder that for a few seconds, then, in fine dirt-bike fashion, I give it the gas aggressively, stand on the pegs, and slither through it.  I stop for a second, a little surprised at my success, frankly.  One of the workmen says I will encounter one more machine further ahead.  Oh, joy.  Well, I've gotten this far.  Let's see what's ahead. 

Actually, I encounter five large dump trucks in line waiting to dump their loads.  They are parked in the road so there is not enough room to get by on the uphill side, but there are three or four feet of space on the downhill side.

And, boy, is it down!  A steep dropoff from the edge of the road, maybe 50 feet down.  I steel my nerves, literally say to myself "look where you want to go," and go.  I get by these obstacles all right too, but I'd rather not be so close to a recently-filled edge with no guardrail whatsoever. 

The gravel road ends at Old US-70, and it is only a very short way to the Ridgecrest Conference Center, my destination.  I park in front of the main building, take off my helmet and gloves, and go in to register. 
I have come 200 miles, and it has taken me around eight and a half hours to do it.  There have been many stops along the way, today, but I have been in no hurry.  It is pleasant to just poke along sometimes.  It helps me unwind from the workaday world. 

I decide to visit a high overlook on the campus, the Eagle's Nest, before I go to my room.  There is a narrow road all the way up, with some gravel, but the view of the adjacent valley and I-40 is very nice.

And view, I do, for a few minutes in this quiet place.

A nearby sign is a good reminder.

After a few minutes, I mount up, go back down the little road, find my room, and unload the bike. 

I notice that a few bikes are already here. 
All Harley-Davidson.  I feel like a minority already.  We'll see what else shows up. 

Well, this is different:
A Can-Am SpyderYou can get a new one for between $17,000 and about $30,000. 
And here is an old veteran:

How'd he get that leviathan in there? 

More heavy stuff. 

I am seeing triple.  Too many tail lights. 
I wonder how much weight he can safely carry in that Tag A Long papoose? 

Looks like I'm still a minority
My little Ninja amongst the Harleys and a few sport tourers. 

A trailer queen. 
Maybe they live a long way from here. What is that red thing in the background?


It is a Thoroughbred Motorsports Stallion, a three wheeled vehicle with a Ford 2.3 liter four cylinder engine, automatic transmission, a steering wheel, and heat and air conditioning.  From what I can see, you can pick one up for around $34,000 new or $30,000 used. 

And one naked sportbike:
Looks almost new.  I never did find the owner.

I change out of my riding gear, shower, and prepare for supper.  I start to spot some familiar faces from previous rallies, and the group from near home has arrived.  The food here at Ridgecrest is always tasty, and they start out proving it again this year: Pork tenderloin, seasoned green beans, and baked potatoes.  All of it is excellent.  I won't lose any weight on this trip! 

We assemble in a large room, where we hear about the coming events of the weekend, and we have a short singing and worship service.

Afterward, the seminar I choose -- one amongst a dozen or so -- is given by a former policeman, Ed Obaugh, on Protect Yourself in Court.  I hope never to be on trial in a court, but I could still be called as a witness for some reason.  It is good to know what to do, anyway.  The presenter is a devoted Christian, and it shows in his speech and actions. His descriptions of incidents in his career show, too, his Christian character. 

After the seminar, several of us sit in a row of rocking chairs outside on a porch, like a bunch of old folks.  [If the shoe fits, Bucky...]  We discuss the day's activities, and plans for the next day.  I am tired from the ride, and turn in.  Danny comes into the room a few minutes later, we chew the fat a bit, but are soon sawing down massive forests big time. 

It has been an enjoyable day, with more to come. 

Links to related postings:

Rally to Ridgecrest, 2013 -- Day 1
Rally to Ridgecrest, 2013 -- Day 2
Rally to Ridgecrest, 2013 -- Days 3 and 4

Freedom is Never Free! -- Rally to Ridgecrest, 2011, Part I
Freedom is Never Free! -- Rally to Ridgecrest, 2011, Part II

Rally to Ridgecrest Facebook Page

Memorial Day 2010 Weekend Rally
Memorial Day 2010 Weekend Rally, Part II, The Ride Up
Memorial Day 2010 Weekend Rally, Part III, Saturday
Memorial Day 2010 Weekend Rally, Part IV, Sunday and the Ride Home.