Monday, September 25, 2006

300 mile loop around Columbia

On Sunday my friend Hanna and I rode a 300 mile loop around Columbia. Shortly after leaving Columbia I realized that Hanna was no longer in my mirrors, so I looped back and found him on the side of the road with a totally flat rear tire. Quoting Anthony Hopkins in World's Fastest Indian, fortunately on the bottom was flat. :-) Ever the prepared rider, he wipped out his flat repair kit and air compressor and had it plugged and reinflated in no time, so we were back on our way.

We headed north on 215 and stopped for a while at the Monticello Reservoir. Being early on a Sunday morning, hardly anyone was out there, so it was incredibly quiet and tranquil. We visited and shot photos for a while before heading on.

From there we took various roads, finding a couple of winding ones, toward Chester, and then to Lancaster, where we stopped for lunch. We found both gas stations and restaurants to be in very limited supply up that way, but we finally found a KFC that was open.

We then headed down to Great Falls and rode 97 south along the eastern side of Lake Wateree, and took Wilderness Road from Liberty Hill. This is a fantastic hidden gem of a curvy road. Some of it is residential, so you can't take it too fast, but even at somewhat slow speeds it's still a lot of fun. We then continued down 97 to Camden, and then slabbed it home. It was a great day to be out riding!

Photos from the Monticello Reservoir

Saturday, September 23, 2006

Nickel Creek Concert in Greenville SC

This past Thursday Donna and I travelled to Greenville, SC for a Nickel Creek concert. We arrived earlier in the day to enjoy a bit of Greenville; we first visited the incredibly fun Mast General Store, where we had a blast browsing, and we found a couple of items of clothing and a couple of household items to purchase.

We then wandered around Main Street a bit, got a cup of coffee, and headed to the Reedy River Falls Park, which is an incredible place to wander around and enjoy a good book near the falls. We had dinner at a restaurant overlooking the falls and then headed over to the Peace Center for the show.

This was Donna's tenth and my eighth time to see Nickel Creek in concert; I guess we're Nickel Creek groupies! :-) As always, they put on an outstanding show. Their opening act was a bluegrass group called The Mammals, and they were very good, much better than I'm accustomed to for opening acts. The Creek played for about an hour and a half, and then played a lenghthy encore, featuring each member solo, which was a rare treat. Chris played the seventh and eighth movements from a Bach piece on his mandolin; earlier in the evening I was actually thinking I'd love to hear him play something from the classical repertoire, as when we saw him and Mike Marshall in concert they played some movements from Bach's Brandenburg Concerti on mandolins, and it was incredible! Sara sang a Mike Nesmith piece, and Sean played a Bob Dylan piece, and then they played a few pieces together as a group. Fantastic concert and great trip!

Shots from Reedy River Falls Park:

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Cumberland Gap Rally

This past weekend I participated in the annual Cumberland Gap Small Bike Rally in Middlesboro, KY, hosted by a group dedicated to 250cc motorcycles, most of which are Honda Rebels. Fifteen folks were in attendance, including several Rebels, a couple of 500cc and 750cc Shadows, a couple of bigger bikes (a Honda FJ1100 and a Yamaha Venture), and my friend Tom Frundle and I on our Ninja 250s. There were riders from Tennessee, Indiana, Ohio, South Carolina, Georgia, and Florida. I saw some old faces that I'd met at a rally a couple of years ago and met several new ones; not a bad apple in the bunch.

I got into town Friday evening in time to mosey around and meet everyone, and then we headed into the town of Cumberland Gap, TN for dinner at a little country restaurant, where I enjoyed a great meal of roast beef and veggies while listening to some good live bluegrass. We headed back to the motel and hung out in the parking lot, and Tom arrived around 10:30.

Saturday morning following a lackluster breakfast at Dairy Queen a small group of us rode to the Pinnacle Overlook at Cumberland Gap National Park. What a gorgeous view we were treated to! Upon arriving back at the hotel, the entire group embarked on a leisurely 100-mile loop over Highways 33 and 63, east of Middlesboro. When we got back to the hotel, Tom and I were thinking the same thing: we had a jones for some spirited riding, and I knew just the road: Hwy 190, known as Witch's Knuckle, which connects US25E with TN90; I had ridden it when I had gotten into the area on Friday afternoon, so I knew it was a good road. I led us down, and Tom led us back. We rode at a pretty brisk pace, thus satisfying our need for speed. :-)

We wanted some beer for the evening, which proved to be a bit of a challenge; our county in KY was dry, so we stopped at a grocery store on the other side of the tunnel in TN, but it turned out they were dry as well, but fortunately the store manager and neighborhood drunk directed us to the nearest store in VA, where we successfully found not only beer, but the good stuff; we returned to KY with Sam Adams and Guinness in tow. :-)

That evening everyone did their own thing for dinner, so Tom and I visited a Mexican restaurant. Nothing extraordinary, but pretty good. The server was a bit over-ambitious, refilling our glasses after just a sip or two. I guess that's better than no service at all.

We enjoyed a nice evening of bike talk and Sam Adams and Guinness, opened with the pliers from my Ninja toolkit, as neither of us brought a bottle opener, and no respectable beer features twistoff caps. :-)

Sunday morning most folks headed out pretty early, but Tom and I and a couple of others were in no great hurry, so we had another lackluster DQ breakfast (didn't know of anywhere else walkable), and then we all headed homeward. I took 25E/25 to Asheville, and then got on I-40 to Hwy 9 at Black Mountain; I rode that until I hit 64, then took that to Hendersonville. They were great roads, but unfortunately 9 had a lot of gravel in the corners, so I couldn't ride at a real bright pace, but it was still fun.

Me standing simultaneously in KY and VA

Yours truly at the overlook

The Pinnacle Overlook

View from the side of the road west of Middlesboro

Clinch mountain overlook off 25E

Clinch mountain overlook off 25E

Tom and me at a roadside stop

Friday, September 08, 2006

Deals Gap Ride

This past Tuesday I hit the road around 6:00am and headed to my friend Hugh's house in Toccoa, GA. It was dark and sprinkling when I left, but the rain didn't last long, and I was treated to a gorgeous sunrise. I got to Hugh's around 9:00, and our friend Brian from Wyoming had just gotten there; he and his wife were in the midst of a two week journey down to the area to visit her folks.

Brian had brought along his riding gear and used one of Hugh's Ninja 250s, so we suited up and headed off on our trio of 250s. We headed up 76, 64, and 28 to Deals Gap, where we had lunch at the Gap store, where they make a fine barbecue sandwich! We then ran the Dragon down to the overlook and back; being a weekday, there was little traffic, which was very nice. We then rode 28 down into SC, stopping at Bridal Veil Falls for a photo. From there we continued on 28, took War Woman Road to Clayton, and then 76 and 184 back to Toccoa. We covered about 300 miles and got back home around 6:00. Combined with my ride to Toccoa that morning, I covered 500 miles during the day. We had a blast, and as always, the Ninja 250s were perfect for those roads!

That evening the three of us and Brian's and Hugh's wives had dinner at an Italian restaurant in Toccoa, then headed home and enjoyed some good beer and camaraderie. Among our beers we had some Red Stripe, so we shouted the catchphrase "Hooray Beer!" from the commercial several times. :-)

Wednesday morning we arose early and enjoyed a hearty breakfast of pancakes, eggs, and fruit prepared by Hugh's wife, then Hugh and his wife headed off to work, Brian and Mandy headed off to her parents' house, and I headed home. I stopped for lunch at a place called Whiteford's Giant Burger in Clinton; I really had a jones for BBQ, so I opted not to verify the giantness of their burgers. :-) The BBQ and sides were quite tasty and filling. I hit more rain on the way home, but nothing too bad. Had a fantastic trip!

A business in Toccoa; perfect spot for a photo!

Hugh's bike collection plus mine

At Deals Gap Resort

At Deals Gap Resort

Brian adjusting the shifter to better fit his foot

Brian and Hugh

Behind Bridal Veil Falls