Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Real Squid Sighted

You know what a squid is, right?

In case, you don't, according to the blog, it is used to describe "a motorcycle rider who lacks common sense. This will be in relation to their display of riding skills, lack of suitable motorcycle protection attire, or often both." 

Well, the other day, I saw a squid going one better [one worse??] than I have seen previously.

The guys in this picture I found on the 'net are somewhat overdressed, as a matter of fact, compared with the guy I saw. 
From  Used without permission. 
The fellow I saw was riding a naked sportbike, a little beat up.  As might be expected, as an aspiring squid, he was not wearing a helmet: Wouldn't want to be overdressed, now would we?  He sported a fine pair of shorts and a very protective tee shirt, however.

But what struck me was that he was wearing no shoes. 

Not even Cons in black, or the much more stylish light blue, like the guys in the picture above.

He was coming to a stop at a light, and, as he did, he downshifted from fourth gear.  How he had upshifted with a bare foot, I don't know.  Must have a calloused big toe. 

It was also a very hot day, and the pavement had to be scorching his soles as he stopped (with both feet down). 


Maybe the heat of the day had fried his brain.

I didn't see him take off to find out if he demonstrated further squidlike behavior, and I didn't get a picture for you before he was gone from my sight. 

Any one of us who rides can get into a situation where we are no longer sitting astride our scooters, but rather, sliding or bouncing along the tarmac.  No matter what style of rider you are, and whatever the laws say, it is just stupid to ride a motorcycle without the whole lot of protective gear.
Remember this about pavement:

It is just as hard,
whether you are dressed for it or not. 

I hope the guy I saw got home all right.  

Sunday, August 17, 2014

Sassafras Mountain Gets a Haircut

Here in South Carolina, we have some mountains.  Not  MOUNT^INS  like there are in the west, but we like them.  And where there are mountains, there must be one that is the highest.  For us, that highest is Sassafras Mountain, located up US-178 near the metropolis called Rocky Bottom.  Not all of Sassafras is contained in South Carolina, however.  About half of it is in North Carolina, but the highest point itself, we can claim, at 3,560 feet (1,085 meters) above sea level.  (Pinnacle Mountain, at 3,415 feet (1,041 meters), in Table Rock State Park, is the highest peak entirely within South Carolina.) 

US-178 is a good road in several ways.  The first is that it is twisty.  The second is that it is in reasonably good condition.  You can go all the way from Pickens South Carolina to Rosman North Carolina on it, then jog over a little and take NC-215 to the Blue Ridge Parkway and beyond.
A = Pickens, SC
B = Rosman, NC
C = Blue Ridge Parkway entrance
D = junction with US-276 near Waynesville, NC
Click here for interactive map.
A Rocky Bottom, you turn to the east onto F. Van Clayton Memorial Highway, right after the Rocky Bottom Retreat and Conference Center of the Blind sign.    You wind on up the narrow, but nicely paved road (watch for the one very tight left-hand switchback), and keep to the right where Glady Fork Road comes in on the left.  Go all the way to the end, which is the parking area for the mountaintop.
A = Pickens, SC
B = Rocky Bottom, SC
C = intersection with Glady Fork Road
D = Sassafras Mountain parking
Click here for interactive map.

You may recall that not so long ago, in 2010, there was no way to see into the distance from the mountaintop.  The trees hid the view all around.  Then, they put up a rustic and quite functional viewing platform so you could see off in the southerly direction.  This was a nice, quiet place to contemplate God's creation. 

The engineering grad students at Clemson apparently thought they could build a better platform, so they tore out the simple one and erected a new one.  It turned out to be an eyesore to my eyes, that was poorly built and is deteriorating. 
Poorly engineered and failing support beneath
the Clemson-designed platform.
Then, somebody got the bright idea that there should be a $1,000,000 observation tower on the mountain so you could see in every direction.  I think that is a very poor idea.  It is likely to turn our peaceful mountaintop into a bustling tourist attraction.  (And Duke Power pledged half of the million dollars, so my power bills could be lower if they didn't spend money on that tower.) 

Meanwhile, work has continued on the mountaintop, and I thought I heard that instead of building the tower, they are going to clear cut the trees on the mountaintop instead.  The tower would have to have en elevator for handicapped people, and that would cost a bunch more.  The vandals would have a field day with the tower, too. 

That clear cutting is a better idea, and a lot cheaper. 

I had to go and see what they have done. 

I ride up US-178 at a spirited pace, and am enjoying the alternating curves, especially between SC-11 and Rocky Bottom.  I turn off onto Van Clayton Road and climb to the top of the mountain.  There is mud in a few spots, so I am a little careful.

Sure enough, as I approach the parking area, I can see that the trees are gone on the top of the mountain.

It used to look like his:
Taken on one of the rare times when the gate was open to the top. 
Now it looks like this:

You have to walk up the grade a little further to the very top, so I squeezed around the gate (on foot) and started climbing. 

The last time I was here, a few weeks ago, they had uprooted the marker and bench that were placed at the high point itself. 
I was concerned that they would be relegated to the scrap pile.

Happily, they have been reset now that the trees are down.

They have scattered some grass and clover seed to keep the erosion down.  The remaining trees are still a little too high for an unobstructed view, however.  When the leaves fall, the big picture will really be available.  

Here is a panorama from the top. 

The views all around are promising.  Certainly I have never seen anything from here in the distance except to the south where the older viewing platform is located.

On the way down, I notice this sign.  It says this is just the beginning, and the tower is still to be built.


I am really surprised by something, though.  Where are the tree-hugging, liberal, bleeding hearts?  I expected that there would be an outcry from that crowd decrying the loss of the mostly second growth woods at the top here.

But there is nary a sign of them. 

That's OK with me.  I think the clearing operation allows a pretty good view of the surrounding territory.

Just don't build that ugly tower. 

Thursday, August 7, 2014

Identify Yourself!

When you are out enjoying the roads and the fellowship of riding on two wheels, there are a couple of things that you ought to have with you just in case. 

We discussed one of these a while back -- taking a coach's whistle in case you are so unfortunate as to run off the straight and narrow -- or off the twisties -- and into somewhere you can't be seen.  You might be able to give some blasts on the whistle and attract attention to your plight.  It could save your life, even. 

Another thing you should do is carry some identification.  Yes, you have to carry your license and some dinero to buy gas and lunch victuals, but I don't have room in my riding suit to carry my entire wallet.  It has too much other stuff in it -- and it is not all cash, by the way.  I do stuff the important items into a Ziploc® bag and put them into my breast pocket.

I have heard stories, though, where a rider who has met with disaster on the road has to be taken out of, or even cut out of his protective gear (you do ride in ATGATT, right?), and the gear gets separated from the rider.

That's bad.

The emergency people ask: Who is this unfortunate soul?  How do we know who to tell that we had to scoop him up and carry him off? 

So, it seems to me important to do two more things. 

This first of these is where my brilliant idea comes in: Carry a comprehensive identification tag around your neck.

Like this one: 

The tag is printed on both sides with the pertinent info, then laminated in plastic to keep my copious sweat from making it all soggy, and it is attached to a stretchy lanyard from an old pair of earplugs.  (You don't want to make the cord too substantial, lest it choke you if you get it caught on something.)  

The info on the tag should include, at minimum:

  • Your name and street address
  • Your wife's name, street address, and phone numbers
  • Your children's and/or parents' names and phone numbers
  • Your employer's name, address, and phone number
  • Your wife's employer's name, address, and phone number
  • Your medical insurance provider, identification numbers, and phone numbers
  • Your auto insurance provider, identification numbers, and phone numbers
  • Your personal physician's name and phone number
  • Your allergies
  • Your medication types and dosages
  • Your blood type
  • Any diseases or medical conditions you have
  • Names and phone numbers of emergency contacts, if different from above
Make the typeface small enough to fit all the vitals on, but make sure it is still legible.  The paper part on mine is 2-3/8" high by 2" wide.  You can buy self-stick lamination sheets if you don't have access to a heat laminator. 

The last very important thing is to make certain that the people who are listed as emergency contacts know to answer the phone, even if they don't recognize the number calling them.  I have been out on a ride where we needed to get in touch, but where the contact did not answer the unrecognized phone calling.

Also bad.  

If you ever need it, these things could save your bacon.  Make a tag today, and wear it whenever you go out riding, or do any other activity where somebody might need to have some essential information if you can't tell them yourself.