Saturday, March 29, 2014

Big Boys' Other Toys

Most who read this blog are probably interested in -- let me guess -- motorcycles.  Me, too.  But, did you know that some big boys like other kinds of toys? 

Hard to believe, I know, but there are some who are not interested in motorcycles, but have picked another kind of toy to play with.  I even found that some of these miscreants are not satisfied with just one type of toy, but rather, enjoy more than one type. 

Imagine that!  

Well, I recently explored two other types of big boy toys.  I witnessed first hand the affliction of some very big, ol' boys playing with toy trains and toy airplanes.  (Unlike he-men who ride motorcycles, which are certainly not toys like those others.  Right?) 

[Oh, yea, right, Bucky.] 

I ventured out to visit the Central Railway Model and Historical Association, located in Central South Carolina.  The little town of Central houses only about 5000 souls, but is close to both Clemson and Southern Wesleyan Universities, there are many students nearby during the school year.  Central was not named because it is near the center of our state, but rather because its geographic location is about half way between Atlanta and Charlotte, along the former Atlanta and Richmond Air-Line Railway line.  

The railroad still runs through Central, though the name has changed to the Norfolk Southern.  I happened to roll into town just as an intermodal train was passing through.  That train had previously crossed over a quite significant trestle near Toccoa Georgia that I have visited on some other rides -- 1, 2 and 3.    

I enjoy watching trains, so I hopped off the bike and ran across the street so I could get its picture.

In the process, I happened to capture myself on my video camera.  Pretty humorous, watching me dodge traffic and dart back and forth trying to get a good angle for the picture [of the train, of the train, guys].

After the train passed, I went around the block to the model railroad's building. It is in a house they have fixed up for the various layouts.  I have visited here before, in October of 2010, so we will be able to see the progress they have made in their layouts and scenery. 

I park out front, and spot this Pontiac Solstice that looks almost new.  ...and the color is nice I think.  Somebody around here must own this toy.  I have always liked the design of that little car, built between 2006 and 2009, but the recession, the government takeover of GM, and the subsequent demise of the Pontiac badge killed it.  Only 66,000 were built.

I go into the building and am greeted by some older fellows who welcome me, and ask what I was riding.  Hmmmmm.  I don't know why people ask me that all the time.  I tell them about my Ninja, then stow my helmet out of the way under a bench, and begin to look around.  They have made considerable progress on the layouts since the last time I was here, and there are probably eight or so guys working on the scenery, the rolling stock, and the electrical system, and two or three who are running the trains with handheld throttle controls.  Model railroading has certainly come a long way since my Lionel O gage days, about a hundred years ago, I think it was. 

Most of the layout is HO gage, with some HO N-3 narrow gage in places. 

Here is a turntable, but there is no roundhouse near it for some reason.  Maybe is it just for turning locomotives around. 

This fine establishment is the Suds Bucket Bar, where a biker is in the process of being thrown through the front window from inside, but I am not sure that they haven't mixed their metaphors, here.  The bikes outside are multi-colored, but certainly not sportbikes.  Maybe they represent some of the earlier standards that were painted various colors, like some of the ones I saw at the Wheels Through Time Museum in Maggie Valley North Carolina.  Anyway, serious motorcycle riders wouldn't do that kind of thing, let alone drink and ride, I hope. 

The Abattoir of Seneca, SC.   (I'm sure you know what that is, right?) 
 Inside detail:

Some parts of the layout are not completely sceniced as yet.  Like here:

A massive derailment caused by a car wheel catching a switch point, making the trailing cars derail.  If I had been a few minutes earlier, I would have had exclusive footage for the 6:00 News! 

Passenger cars and a station:

A rock quarry and processing building:

Paper mill (though there were never any real paper mills near here):

The American Flyer S-gage layout, and its overseer, are tucked away in a room of their own: 
I always wanted an S gage train set like that.  It ran on more realistic two-rail track, and the rolling stock looks more like the real thing.  Mom and Dad just couldn't swing it, though, after having funded the Lionel.  Maybe that is why these boys like playing with trains so much. They are trying to relive their childhood, or, perhaps, they want to introduce a new generation to the hobby.  Either way, that's good. 

The modeling scales, from G (I think, the largest here, at the rear) through Z (the smallest). 

At my last visit, most of the scenery looked more like this:

An important note to the modelers back then:

Lots of work has been done by these devoted boys playing with their building full of toys. 

I complete my gawking at the little railroad, and head to my next point of interest on the ride plan.  I have programmed my GPS to lead me there, so all I have to do is follow its spoken and on-screen instructions. 

I do so, and it leads me to a locked gate at the Black Sheep RC Club.  I am surprised that no one is here on a pretty Saturday. 

The day is not lost, however, because I have another point of interest programmed in, too, and it only takes me about five minutes to get there.  It is the Firetower Flyers RC Club.  Their flying field is adjacent to an old fire tower, and their slogan is "Where the Pilot Always Walks Away!"  Apt, I think.

The fire tower: 

A sign on the side of the building. 

The Hobby Connection, in Easley where I live, is a very nice store selling all kinds of hobby supplies, including trains and planes, helicopters, cars, and assorted other stuff.  You can spend hours in there.  They also have an outdoor oval racetrack, a road-race course, and a dirt course for RC cars and trucks.  You can see the courses from the viewpoint of a satellite here

As I park at the Firetower field, I have already spotted several guys with mostly large model airplanes, working on them on the field or on benches. 

As I dismount and take off my helmet, three or four of them walk over and begin to ask questions about my bike.  How fast will it go?  How old is it?  How many ccs?  How long have you been riding?  What does this thing do?  What does that thing do? 

A few of the guys make statements like "I'm glad to see you dressed properly to ride a motorcycle."  Yes, so am I, I tell them, reflecting that I have never and would never wear any less to ride.  They nod their heads in agreement.  Another continues, "I wish I could ride something like that.", and, best of all, "I wish my wife would let me ride something like that."

I carefully construct a response to that last statement to encourage them to go ahead and do it, but that wouldn't get me into too much hot water with their wives -- who, unlikely as it may seem, could be lurking on this blog. 

[Don't come after me, ladies.  I did the best I could with my wording.  Big boys do need toys, you know, and some of them need lots of toys.]

As the questions and comments subside, I walk out to the field where one of the pilots is warming up his plane.  None of the planes flying today is equipped with the little Cox .049 cubic inch glow plug engine my Baby Ringmaster control-line airplane has.  Rather, these are running 2-stroke cycle engines with as much as 50cc (3 cubic inch) displacement.  Some small motorcycles have the same size engine!  The fellows tell me that a few planes that fly here have as much as 100cc displacement. 

Here is one of the planes, in the process of being started by a swing of the prop. He had to give it several swipes before it fired off. 
Those posts in front of the wings keep the plane from taking off on its own -- which would not be a good thing.  Note the smaller plane coming in for a landing in the upper right of the photo. 

Fueling up.  His fuel supply tank has a hand-cranked pump, but some others have electric pumps -- the height of luxury. 

Electric power! 
Its performance was quite impressive, and it flies for more than ten minutes on one charge.  That doesn't seem like very long, but a flight of that length is enough to get the heart pumping with high-speed aerial thrills. The battery types that make electric model planes possible are described here

Flying on the level.
The fire tower is about a quarter mile away. 

Dragging it back after a safe landing: 

The pilots are pretty skillful, performing spins, stalls, inverted loops, rolls, etc.  As you can tell, I had trouble catching them on my camera. 

Chewing the fat.

Some of these men have quite an investment in their hobby.

After an hour of craning my neck at all angles to watch these birds in flight, I bid farewell to this group of big boys, and head on my way.  I have certainly enjoyed seeing some of their toys today.

By the way, I still have that Baby Ringmaster.
And you can still buy one from Brodak in Carmichaels Pennsylvania. 

Mine is covered with tissue paper painted with dope (a type of lacquer) to shrink it and to provide color.  The can in the lower left is the dope.  The can in the upper left is fuel.  The engine is laying beside the tail.  I have not flown the plane in many years, but it certainly could fly.  Maybe I will fix it up this summer and give it a try. 

Here is a larger version of the Ringmaster being flown.  It is possible to do several aerobatic tricks despite the limited control using only the elevator.

Well, my riding/visiting-boys'-toys day is complete.  I have ridden about 71 miles, including a detour up to SC-11 before going to Central.

What are your other big boy toys?  

Related Posts:

Apple Valley Model Railroad Club, Hendersonville, NC.

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Walkin' to Waterfalls

When I am out riding, I like to try to find some point of interest and incorporate it somehow -- and sometimes write about it here.  This might be precipitated or aided by one of the local tag games, or by a study of maps and Internet sites.  As you might expect, amongst the sights aplenty in the mountains of North and South Carolina are waterfalls. 

Now, when I ride, I always wear all the right stuff to minimize the effects of a tumble from the machine.  This, of course, includes motorcycle-specific boots.

Like the ones on this picture:
North Carolina Route 80.  May 2013.  Rally to Ridgecrest

The boots are fine for riding, and have enough flexibility to shift and brake properly, but they are certainly not very good for walking, and they don't have much tread on the bottom of them.  So, when I am looking for things like waterfalls to go and see, I also try to find some where the walk can be made in my riding boots. 

One such place is Whitewater Falls, a place I have ridden to many times.  The walk to the falls overlook is about 1200 yards, a little uphill all the way on a smooth path. 

Another very accessible waterfall is in nearby downtown Greenville.  It is called Reedy River Falls.  The walk from the on-street parking is only about 200 feet -- and you can go shopping, see a show, or dine in a fine restaurant afterward.

One other falls is so close to the road, you don't have to dismount to get a very close look.  Wildcat Branch is right off SC-11

A grand fall, also visible while sitting in the saddle, is Looking Glass Falls, not far up into North Carolina. 

A few weeks back, I wrote about finding a waterfall that I had not previously seen.  I have made a picture of it for you, but first, a little background on its location.

It is called Reedy Branch Falls (not the same as Reedy River Falls), and the parking lot for it is located right here, at Pushpin C. 

To get there from Westminster, SC, take US-76 for about 15 miles north.

The small gravel lot is just north of Chattooga Ridge Road; on the left side after a right hand curve that heads toward the northwest.

That road curve, on the left in the photo above, is the main road from the south, the way I came.  Note the flat rock wall on the right, and gate posts behind the bike.  Those are the only signs to tell you that you have arrived.  There is no written sign announcing the falls.  This makes you think it is private property, but it is actually owned by you and me through the U.S. Forest Service. 

Beyond the locked gate that forbids motorcycles and other motorized traffic, is a dirt single-lane road leading gently down hill. 
The land was to have been developed for housing, and there are a few electrical boxes along the road remaining from that time. 

Just before you get to this collapsed bridge, ...

...turn left, and walk a little further -- about 300 yards all told.  You are rewarded by the sight of this nice falls, Reedy Branch, a 30' tall cascade. 

There is no one else around today, and, the only sound is the music of the water and the birds.  There is no man-made noise at all, the highway being just far enough away that the trees and brush muffle its sound effectively.  I spend a few minutes here watching the water cascading down the rocky face of the gorge. 

I found this falls thanks to a very nice website maintained by Allen Easler.  Mr. Easler has documented most of the waterfalls, large and small, in the mountains of South Carolina, and western North Carolina. His writeup of this falls is here, on his website. 

If you are a fisherman and were to follow the road a ways beyond the collapsed bridge, you would come upon Burson Lake, visible in the lower left of the first map. I walk that way a little, but the boots are starting to aggravate my tender little toes, so I turn back. 

Surprisingly, I find myself huffing and puffing getting back up that "gentle" hill -- it must be steeper than it felt coming down here.  I make it just fine, though, and prepare to continue on my ride today. 

My complete route for the day, just 107 miles, but along some interesting roads.


Mr. Easler has provided this list of area waterfalls with short walks/hikes.
(I have visited the ones marked with * along with a link to it's blog posting):



Thursday, March 6, 2014

I Don't Understand How...


I went out for a ride a couple of weekends ago.  That is not unusual, but it occurred not long after our snow and ice storms that paralyzed us for a few days.  As you might expect here and abouts, the only retail establishments that did well then were the grocery stores, which, as usual, sold out of milk and bread just before the tumult.  

Odd, that.  Don't people have enough stock of this stuff to last a couple of days?  Ah, well.  Mine is not to question why

Anyway, I headed up US-76 from Westminster, SC to find a waterfall that I had read about.  This one. 

I obviously found it, and will advise you, kind reader, in a few days about its location and picturesque attributes, but first, I have an observation and a question. 

You see, I had occasion to travel back towards home on SC-28, also euphemistically known as Moonshiner 28.  Specifically the stretch shown here:

View Larger Map

(By the way, if you travel the other way on Moonshiner 28, toward the northwest, you can go all the way to the infamous Tail of the Dragon via. twisty roads almost all the way.  Some say 28 is the better road.)  

Along the part of 28 I rode, there are some nice sweeping curves, but some tight ones in a few places.  I was tooling along and two guys on BMWs passed me at a good clip in a straight section.  

I opened the throttle a little to keep up with them, and was doing well for a couple of curves when, alas, I noticed a change in the road surface. 

There was a considerable amount of sand in places.  I hadn’t seen much of that so far, but here it had been spread liberally to improve traction during the cold weather.  Its remains can be very slippery for two wheelers when it has dried out, and sometimes a light dusting is difficult to detect, but slick as ball bearings on banana peels. 

In particular, there is a pair of sweepers near the Stumphouse Ranger Station (named after the nearby and long unfinished Stumphouse railroad tunnel).  

View Larger Map

The curves are not very tight, but there was a lot of sand there.  True, it was not in the driving lanes, but some of it certainly could have been, especially lurking out of sight around the curve. 

See it there on the left side of the turn lane?  

At that point, I slowed down and never saw the two guys again.  I was bummed out a bit, as I had wanted to have a spirited ride too.  

Oh, well, the better part of valor is discretion, in the which better part I have sav'd my life.

Here is what I don’t understand:

The BMW guys appeared to be good riders, probably not exceeding their capabilities on this road.

Except for one thing they could not count on. 

How/why were they trusting the road surface so much so soon after the white stuff mostly melted?  A sprinkling of sand could have brought them dire consequences. 

This puzzled me.  Had they scouted the road before this run, making mental notes of hazards? 

Unlikely as it seems, were they oblivious to the risk the sand might present?  Were they simply ignoring the possible risk so as to have a spirited ride for the day? 

I like to think it was the first situation -- that they had scouted beforehand -- but who knows? 

I am certainly more cautious than most riders.  I have never dragged a hard part on a road in a curve (other than the toe of my out-of-place boot).  My chicken strips are pretty wide. 

But I cannot trust the road surface enough to do it any other way, particularly when it is very likely that there is debris on the surface like there was that day.  

What do you think?