Wednesday, April 9, 2014

New Ride

I have news! 

I have ridden my old-faithful Kawasaki Ninja 650R for about six years now.  It is my first real motorcycle, and it has taken me more than 40,000 miles so far. 

I've had my eye on something more, though, and a little newer.  It may come as a surprise to you, kind reader, but here it is:

Even though it isn't new; boy, is it fast! 

It is a 2011 Kawasaki Ninja 1000, with a 1,043cc, DOHC, 16-valve inline four-cylinder engine. That's two more cylinders and a lot more displacement than my old ride.  It has 138 horsepower, compared with 71 on the 650R.  Top speed is said to be 148 mph.  (I've not tried that). 

It has a nice upright seating/handlebar position, similar to the 650R, so it isn't too hard on this old man's back. 

...and the black and silver with red accent color scheme still coordinates with my riding duds, so it all works.

Can you believe it?


Wait.  There is other news this month -- but not such good news.  On a day coming up very soon, all of us will experience Tax Freedom Day.  That is the day when the nation collectively has made enough money to pay its total tax burden for the year.  

It is three days later this year, compared with last year, occurring 111 days into 2014, on April 21.

By then, Americans will have made enough to pay the $3 trillion in federal taxes and $1.5 trillion in state taxes.  That is $3,000,000,000,000 and $1,500,000,000,000, respectively. 

How big is a trillion?  If you started spending a million dollars every single day since Jesus was born, you still wouldn’t have spend a trillion dollars.  One million seconds is about 11.5 days, 1 billion seconds is about 32 years while a trillion seconds is equal to 32,000 years.  .


Let's put this into another perspective:  That $4.5 trillion is more than Americans spend on food, clothing, and housing combined.  If you make the median household income of $43,000 (like in South Carolina), it would take the entire income of 105,000,000 families to pay the tax bill! 

Oh.  And if federal borrowing is included, Tax Freedom Day falls 15 days later, on May 6.

This is not at all good. We are working 30% of our time for the government to squander away our hard-earned cash the way they want to spend it, not the way you want to.  In 1900, when Americans paid less than 6 percent of their income to taxes Tax Freedom Day fell on Jan. 22.

BIG difference.

You remember that new motorcycle I talked about above?  Well, I kissed it goodbye, 'cause I just paid my taxes and there isn't enough left for that new toy. 
Photo source.

Doesn't this make you feel good about another notable date this month -- April 15?

Don't forget: Our President has golfed at least eight times a year during his entire presidency, and his family has taken way too many lavish vacations.   We paid every penny of it.  

Feel the same as I do about this waste?  Write your Congressmen and Representatives.  Vote the bums out of office who are doing this to us next time.

Maybe someday I can afford that new ride -- and so can you.  

Other Depressing Facts:

If you live in Connecticut, Tax Freedom Day is the latest, May 13.
In South Carolina, it is April 3.
In Louisiana, the earliest, it is March 30.

The corporate tax rate in the United States is 35 percent, while the European average is 25 percent, so we are not competitive with the rest of the world.  Our jobs go away to foreign countries. 


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?  

Sunday, February 23, 2014

I'm Not Alone After All -- a Veteran Rider Does It Too!

The other day, I was surfing the Internet and clicked on a link I had not recently visited, called Life is a Road

It is hosted by veteran rider Daniel Meyer, who is a pilot, engineer, skier, and an avid motorcyclist who has ridden over a half-million miles. He is a big guy who rides a 2001 Honda Valkyrie, the hot-rod version of the Gold Wing.

A graphic at the place I happened to find on his website was this one:
And I thought I was alone, stealing glances over my shoulder when I park my bike and occasionally sneaking out into the garage to admire it.

For me, I suppose that it is a symptom, with an underlying bit of unbelief, that I, a more-than-slightly-past-middle-aged nerd, came to do such a thing at all -- ride a motorcycle.  My friends, work associates, and wife couldn't believe it when I announced my intentions to ride, bought this bike, and began to learn to ride it. 

I have enjoyed riding it year around in the beautiful area where we live, visiting places I might not have otherwise discovered.  I have met a fair number of new people since then too, some of which helped me figure out how to ride this two-wheeled contraption. 

Although I don't keep my bike pristine, when it is cleaned up, it looks pretty good for a middle-aged girl. 

So, don't make fun of my little quirk of admiring my Ninja.  I am apparently not alone, being, for one, in the company of riders like Mr. Meyer.

By the way, he is quite a writer.  In addition to his website, he writes a blog, and has written four books about motorcycling:
  • Life is a Road, the Soul is a Motorcycle
  • Life is a Road, Get on it and Ride!
  • Life Is a Road, Ride It Hard!
  • Life Is a Road, It's About the Ride
You can get them at his website, at Amazon, and at other booksellers.

He also has some short stories posted online.  Amongst them is a favorite of mine, called "Today I Met a Man." 

It appears below, in its entirety:


Today I Met a Man

by Daniel Meyer

It only took a millisecond to register.

I hate to shop, but sometimes a man’s just gotta. Stepping out of the store with my hard-won Christmas present for my wife, a terrible scene lay before me.

My first and unbidden thought was, “Somebody’s going to die!”

My second thought was, “Somebody’s really going to die!”

The Dragon was down you see. The big cruiser was laying on her right side, a bit of gasoline running across the asphalt. Standing over her in an incriminating manner was a teenage boy.

Let me start by stating that Valkyries do not just fall over. Period. She weighs 775 pounds dry, and she has a serious lean into the kickstand to prevent falling over if both tires go flat. It would take serious winds to blow her over, and even with the stand up, she will sit on her crash bars without falling unless she is pushed.

I am a Texan, and can be absolutely ruthless when needed, but I am slow to anger and must be seriously provoked to warrant a violent response.

I step out of the store and find a baggily clad teenager fooling with my fallen bike.

This was serious.

I was provoked.

I saw stars.

Somebody was fixing to die.

Still, I have been around enough to know that everything is not always what it seems to be in this world. Very little is black and white, or even gray, and while stereotypes and statistics can be highly accurate when applied to groups, they break down with spectacular rapidity when applied to individuals. I have also been judged incorrectly by people who do not know me, or what I am about, enough so that I am wary of jumping to conclusions. Benefit of the doubt and all that.

Good thing I do not shoot first and ask questions later.

I quickened my pace, headed toward the fallen bike and her unsavory teenage boy companion. For those that do not know me, I am 6 feet and 300-plus pounds. I am strong as an ox and supremely confident, and it usually shows in my walk and my manner (see the home page of this website for my definition of “pumping iron”). I can really move when needed. In this instance I was also dressed in my heavy leathers, the jacket alone weighing in at over 40 pounds. I am a BIG guy.

I have no idea what my expression was, but I am sure it was scary. I was pissed! My Dragon was fallen, my comrade was down!

About this time he looks up and sees me coming. Trust me, the better part of valor here would be to run and never look back.

His expressions went through an interesting range of emotions. Startle-ment, disbelief, panic, and outright terror rapidly crossed his face. His mouth dropped open and he actually blanched. I have never seen anyone go so white, so fast. His tongue and lips even went white!

I could see it in his eyes, he just knew I was going to pound him flat.

Then it happened. His arms tensed, his eyes rolled back--just a bit, he swayed, and his knees buckled--just a bit. He kept to his feet and recovered quickly, but not quite fast enough. A small wet stain soaked the crotch of his baggy blue jeans.

All this was observed in a matter of seconds. He recovered quickly.

But he did not run.

I stopped an arm’s length away. I could have reached out with one hand and throttled the boy. I knew it, and he knew it. He kind of squinted, looking a bit away, a hand half raised. The posture almost involuntarily taken a split second before you get clobbered by something. I would imagine that everyone that has ever been hit by a Mac truck looked like this a split second before impact.

And still he did not run.

All was clearly not what it seemed to be here.

“Explain yourself.” It was all I trusted myself to say.

He knew he was going to die. His voice quavered, but he could look me in the eye.

Here is the story, verified by all the parties involved:

His name is Shawn, and he and two friends were shopping. When they backed out of their space, they barely bumped the Valkyrie. Bad driving, and really annoying, but nothing sinister here. She went over and sat on her right crash bar.

Shawn (who was not driving) got out of the car and asked for help righting the bike. His friends laughed, and the driver backed up a little more, and over she went. Now we are into sinister. They then drove off, leaving Shawn to fend for himself.

Shawn tried to right the big cruiser but could not, so he waited for me.

He waited for me. He did not run.

Where I had seen just a boy when I came out of the store, I now realized that standing in front of me, quivering knees and all, was a man.

I turned the wheel to its stops and put my butt into it. Up came The Dragon.

She had sat mostly on her saddlebag and crash bar on the right, and the only damage I could find anywhere was the right rear blinker lens was cracked, and the front brake lever was bent. Not too bad.

I handed him my helmet. He was under 18 after all. “Come on Shawn, let’s go for a ride.”

“Yes sir.”

A quick trip to the gas station, and a stop at the Honda dealer, then later we were at Shawn’s house. “That’s them.” Shawn said pointing to a white Honda Accord.

They had figured he would run, and were waiting for him at his house. Some friends.

I knocked on the door and things were sorted out in quick order. I can see where Shawn gets it from. His father is a man too.

He rapidly had the “friends’” parents over and we all had a little pow-wow. The driver was Terry, and his parents were furious with him. The end result was that I was given $50 cash for my expenditures ($47 or so) at the Honda shop, and then I was handed the keys to the Accord by Terry’s father.

He said, and I quote, “The car is yours. Do whatever you want with it. Give me ten minutes and I’ll have the title over here for you.”

And then, “Do you want to swear out a charge?”

I looked at him a bit surprised, “What?”

Turns out Terry’s dad is a cop. Oooooooooh, bad for Terry.

I looked him in the eye, “You’ll take care of this?”

“Oh yes.” There was no doubt at all in that tone.

I handed him the keys to his son’s car.

“Okay then. Have a good one.”

As for Shawn, I shook his hand. He is, after-all . . . a man.

Daniel Meyer


If you enjoyed this story, consider buying some of Mr. Meyer's books.