Sunday, April 17, 2016

Crossin' the Border

Sunday, April 17, 2016

Once again, if you have been reading and riding along, you know that my favorite riding partner and I like to ride to State Parks. One of the reasons is to check out potential camping spots. With that in mind, we decided to head south of the border, the one between North and South Carolina, to check out a potential tent setup.

We started south on this Sunday Afternoon down State Road 200, through Locust and Stanfield. We veered to the right on Morgan Academy Road. We were a little surprised the road didn't have a reference to a church in it, since it seemed all the roads around here did. We joined up with State Road just before New Salem.

In New Salem, we turned to the left, and headed down Highway 205. Not any kind of interstate or anything, just country road with a State Number to identify it. We meandered on this ribbon of asphalt until it ran us into Marshville.

We made a little jog in town, and exited heading south on White Street, which turned into Landsford Road. We followed the twist and turns until the road came to an end. We turned left, and made our way down White Store Road. Store seems to be a regular part of names down here, too.

A right turn put us on a highlight of the trip, Union Church Road. It would have been more enjoyable if we weren't on edge by the "Loose Gravel" and "Road Construction" signs that appeared every half mile. We didn't any evidence of either, but proceeded cautiously.

We joined up on State Road 742, and headed south. There was no big sign or announcement of our changing of states, or I would have stopped to get a photo. The next town to pop up was Chesterfield. It would be a left turn, and right turn, and we would leave town on State Road 102.

Along the way to Patrick, South Carolina, we made a brief stop. I was having some GPS Issues, and Kasey need a leg stretch. This was her first long ride in quite a while. We stopped in the shade of a tree at a church. 

We were only about 20 miles from the state park, so we mounted up, and headed into Patrick. We would turn east after crossing the tracks, and head toward Cheraw on State Road One. We passed several tree farms full of southern yellow pines growing in a sandy soil. We noticed about a mile from the border that the North Carolina red clay began to change, and two miles later, we were in the midst of a sandy yellow soil.

We made our way to the park, and cruised to the park office. We met the nicest lady there, and had a great conversation with her, including talking about her trip to Indiana later in the year. We let her know a couple of places she might want to visit.

Next, we took the short trip to the campgrounds, on the other side of the lake. It was up a compacted dirt road, and the grounds were small, only 17 sites, most on the water.

We were pretty happy with our visit to the campgrounds, just a little bewildered as to why there are not more campsites? The area didn't look busy, either.

We rolled back out of the campground, and then headed north up US Highway 52 into the town of Cheraw. By the way, it is pronounced Chi-raw. Part of Crossin' the Border is learning to know how to say things.

Our bellies were groaning, and it was time to grab a bite to eat. Kasey had seen a sign for Huddle House, and even though it is chain, it is not one that is Indiana, so I figured we would stop. I have learned the first hunch is always the best. We were happy with our afternoon meal. 

We continued heading north on US 52 through the rest of town, and then crossed back into our home land. This section of 52 is two lanes, and lined with trees. Just as scenic as the section we have ridden in Indiana, just different scenes, but no wind turbines.

Wadesboro, North Carolina was the next big berg that we passed through. We continued on 52, heading north, until we got to Norwood. We were already back in Stanly County.

We took South Stanly School road west to Aquadale, where the road jogs to State Road 138. These roads wind through and over the hills of Stanly County. It was a pleasant ride full of gentle rises and sweeping corners.

In Oakboro, we saw a group of other bikes taking a break in the shade of a business not open at the time. We head down Main Street, and on our way to State Highway 24/27. This also took us through Red Cross. Kasey thought most of these were areas, not really towns. There are a lot of little communities grouped close together.

We veered from the road plan here, heading on 24/27 through Locust, and to the Shell Station to the fill the tank back up. A pretty good one tank trip, crossin' the border and scoping out some place to camp in the future.

Saturday, March 12, 2016

Life Doesn't Always Have Sheltered Spans

Saturday, March 12, 2016

For those of you that have read about my rambling about Indiana, you know one of my favorite destinations are Covered Bridges. While in the Hoosier State I did a lot of visiting and research about the spans and the men who built them. I was working on a documentary about the builders, and I can remember one day that I was trying to think of other ways to say Covered Bridges. Sheltered Spans is what I came up with, I even liked the alliteration.

So today I set out on The Black Pearl to find my first Covered Bridge in North Carolina. I had really thought visiting these old passes were gone from my riding days. I didn't think North Carolina needed them since the weather conditions are not so harsh. The weathering of the wooden structures is why they were covered in the first place.

So after my favorite riding partner, Kasey, took this photo, we hit the road!

We hot the road, heading north on 200, and quickly left the town of Locust, North Carolina. We passed through the small town of Georgeville, and took a right onto Mount Pleasant Road. We wound our way to Mount Pleasant, through town, and then continued north to Highway 49.

It sounds like a highway, but it is still a pleasant way to cross the country side. The next town on the road along our way is Richfield, North Carolina. This is also our first in a series of stops. It was around 11:30, neither of us had eaten, and we needed bite. We discovered Becky's Restaurant. It looked like the kind of place you would see other two wheeled vehicles parked out in front, but ours was the only one. Usually not a good sign, but we stopped anyway. I returned to the bike while Kasey ordered drinks to get her jacket liner, as it was cool in the eatery. A trio was getting out of their car, and talking about Wile E. Coyote, my four inch plush riding partner. I told them that he had traveled with me for about 130,000 miles. They sounded impressed, and let me know their impression of the meal I was about to eat. The review was very positive.

Kasey wasn't as impressed as I was, but for lunch for two for under twenty bucks, including tip, I was very satisfied. No tenderloin sandwiches here in the Tar Heel State, so I have discovered a new benchmark, the Cheese Steak Sandwich. You might remember I have tasted the famous Pat's Steak in Philadelphia, so I do have high water mark for this new marque item. The sandwich was tasty, and the fries were satisfying. Next time we need to be at least a half hour early so Kasey can get breakfast. I'm dying to try the potato wedges.

Nest stop was the Shell to fill the belly of the beast. Another short jaunt was up the road to Select Homes. We have been home shopping the last week or so. We are still in the very early stages. This was only an outlet for the modular home builder, and these models were very has been.

We headed back on the road, going north on US 52. The tiny burg of Gold Hill marked our next turn, right on to High Rock Road. We were leaving the small urban areas behind for a while, and winding our way through saw mill country. The air was filled with fresh cut southern yellow pine and other scented woods. The gently curving asphalt was lined with the trees that would one day become boards. Then new trees would be planted, and the farming process would continue.

Near Pooletown, and after the road changed names to Wyatt's Grove Church Road, we veered onto Bringle Ferry Road. We were both surprised by the Damn and the pool of water below it. There was also good sized boat launch area. This may be a future stop for a few photos.

Along this route, we saw a few cows making their way to cool off in a roadside pool of water. Half of the small herd was already in the water. As we passed, I spoke through the intercom, "Last one in the water has a rotten udder!" I guess that is proof that with power I have add the twist of my right hand, I become a kid again!

At Healing Springs, we felt good about the day, even thought a spotted blanket of clouds blocked the sun off and on. We headed south on SR 8, then across Handy Road, and south on SR 109. We took one of the most unusual ramps I have ever been on to gain access to Highway 49 once again. This part felt more like a highway.

We turned off on Bombay School Road, jogged onto New Hope Road, and then took a left to High Pine Church Road. This would take us into the Uwharrie National Forest. There were no signs marking our entrance, we just arrived without notice.

At this point in the trip, the stops we had made were for Kasey. She had no idea what my destination for the trip was. At least not until she read the sign post for our next turn, Pisgah Covered Bridge Road. When she saw it, the surprise went away. I tried to deny it, but before we made it to the old structure, she knew.

So it is not as impressive as the bridges of Indiana, and you can only cross as a walker. No information on the original builder or the history of the area either. I guess I will have to look that up. I do have say that I was impressed with the layout of the area. Several picnic tables, a nice little hiking trail, and even easy way to get down to the water that followed beneath the structure.

As we were suiting back up, and getting ready to head out, three other bikes arrived. We greeted them, and we all wished each other well. Our route took us further east to Pisgah Road, then Bethel Lucas, and eventually SR 134 heading south.

This was one of our longest stretches on a road today. It took us into the Montgomery County town of Troy. We jogged around town, noticing that Penny's Pizza was probably the safest place in town. The parking lot had two Troy Police Cars in it. I hope when they needed the owner they knocked on the table three times as Sheldon Cooper would.

At the south end of town, we exited on SR 109 which also guides us right into 24/27 headed toward Albemarle. This fairly straight stretch of road through the National Forest must have gotten Kasey's tummy churning because she made a request for Ice Cream. I had to ask if she thought she was a Gold Wing.

We made our way into Albemarle trying to remember were we had seen a mom and pop kind of ice cream parlor. Sure enough, we would pass one, and it had a motorcycle sitting in front. See, that is a good sign, this time. We turned around, and pulled into the gravel parking lot, stopping next to the red Star Motorcycles Road Liner.

We stepped inside, and the other couple inside, obviously the ones on the bike, greeted us right away. Usually an exchange of names comes late, if at all, in these conversations, but the woman of the pair asked straight off what our names were. Kasey introduced herself, and then me. The woman replied with my full name? I was taken aback until I learned that I have known this person through Facebook and a We Ride North Carolina Page. We have commented on the same threads, and even each others.

To make a long story short, we ended up frozen treat place for over an hour I think. The four of us really hit it off, and I can see the four of us sharing some miles down the road. Just so you know, the ice cream was good, and the man serving us was a Veteran, so if you are nearby, go get your self a treat! Charley's Dairy Bar

So we headed off, saying good-bye to our new friends, going west through town. We took NC 73 out of town, and it was nice winding road. We noticed what a mix of houses line the road. Single wide mobile homes were next door neighbors to fine, and large, stick built homes.

We veered onto Hugh Road, and then NC 1228. This road had a great mix of sweepers and tighter turns. An open area showed us another beautiful North Carolina sky with the sun on its way to setting. It seems every day is started with a glorious sunrise, and ended with as spectacular sunset.

We took a short stretch on Mission Church Road, and then joined Conley Store Road. Another right turn, and our loop is almost finished with a final ride down Bethel Church Road.

The thought that I had on this trip? Life has a lot of gaps we must cross to keep living. Some are wide, some narrow, some wide open, and if we are lucky, some of the gaps we need to cross have sheltered spans.

Saturday, December 12, 2015

First Group Ride in North Carolina

Saturday, December 12th, 2015

Okay, so this is not exactly my first group ride in North Carolina since I was here about ten years ago for Gathering of Eagles, and rode with my Cruiser Club, USA Group around Greensboro. This is the first group ride since moving, and being a resident of North Carolina, as I now carry a license from the state.

This ride was set up by the Piedmont Riders Group on Meet Up. I had been following them since we moved down here, but the rides were on days we couldn't ride, or too far away. Not only was this one kind of close, but was coming back right near Locust.

Still though, the meeting spot was a good hour away, and I wanted to be on time, if not early. We headed out around 8:30 on the cool moist morning. So cool you could see it, and maybe even cut it with a knife!

We started out heading north on Central Avenue, also known as 200 North. This is a nice road that goes in and out a couple small towns, but mostly winds through trees. This also means cool, still air that had condensed. We rolled through the fog until we met up with State Highway 601.

We went north on 601 into Concord, North Carolina. Before getting to deep into town, but less fog, we veered off on Poplar Tent Road, heading west. This would take us until it Tees at State Highway 73. We headed west for a little jaunt, and just before Interstate 77, we pulled off into a shopping area, and the meeting spot. We fueled up with only spying a Gold Wing Trike in the area. Another bike showed up as we finished filling up The Black Pearl, and as we parked, another pair showed up.

We soon found out that this is a pretty laid back group, and we had plenty of time to show for the ride. There was no time posted for KSU-Kick Stands Up, so I wasn't really sure. Besides, it would give more time for the fog to burn off.

For most of the beginning of the route, we retraced the path Kasey and I had just taken. However, we stayed on 73 longer. We eventually made it out in the country, including on Mount Pleasant Road because we missed a turn. This put us on a road just a couple miles from the house.

We went back out into the back roads of Stanly County, and eventually arrived on the north edge of Ablemarle. We headed south, and pulled in, via the exit, to the Log Cabin Inn. This little BBQ Eatery had been suggested to me by several of the locals, so I was looking forward to giving it a try!

I wouldn't say that lunch was spectacular, it is certainly a place I would go back to, but I have had some pretty good BBQ Sandwiches in my life, so hard to top. Plus BBQ is different than what I have had before, so I will have to make more fair comparison later. The benchmark has been set.

After a lot of conversation at lunch, we headed back out to the bikes, and headed for Morrow Mountain. This is my third visit to the State Park, but the first to see this volume of motorcycles!

A picture is worth a thousand words, so I will let the above photos tell the story of our visit at the overlook. This great view is just about 30 minutes from our home.

We coasted down the windy road from the overlook, and headed down to the other side of the park, bordered by the PeeDee River. It is damned up to form Lake Tillery, so it is a good expanse of water.

From the lake view, we headed back out of the park, and south to State Roads 27/24, and headed back into Albemarle. The group began splitting up here, some because of traffic, others for fuel stops, and taking other routes to get home.

Kasey and I, well, we made our way through Albemarle, then into Locust, and finally to Walmart to pick up some ice cream. Our plan was to top off the Saturday Ride with Sundae Night!

Friday, October 16, 2015

Out, Out, Out, Up, Up, Up and Away!

Friday, October 16th, 2015

Carolina Balloon Fest

I had suggested the ride to the Carolina Balloon feast early in the week, and I didn't know the nostalgia and interest it would bring out in my favorite riding partner, Kasey. So we had to go! Even though the weather would be cooler, and the only chance we would have to go would be the Friday Night Kick Off, which meant we wouldn't see all the balloons take flight.

We headed north on Central Avenue, or 200 out of Locust, North Carolina. After a few miles, we took a right at Mount Pleasant Road, and the a left on Best Cut Off Road. Got to love the titles of the roads down here! The sun was out, and it felt great. We knew the clear skies would bring cooler temperatures when the sun went down. We have found that living here is kind of like the desert, warm, sunny days, and clear skied nights bring lower numbers.

The best Cut Off doesn't last long, and we made another turn onto Cold Springs Road, which at some point becomes Irish Potato Rode. I think I could write a book on the origins of these names. Eventually we rolled over I-85 on Old Beatty Road, and continued to State Roads 153 and 152.

Our next turn would be to veer onto US 21, which would take us over the other major highway around Charlotte, I-77. This brought us into Statesville, where we tried to look for a place to eat some dinner before lining up for the festival. We pulled into the parking lot of a couple of places, but neither looked like a place we wanted to eat. We decided to bite the bullet and just eat at the festival.

It wasn't long after that, on our way to the Statesville Airport, that everything would come to a grinding halt. We would find there was only one lane into the parking area for the festival, and it would receive traffic from three or four other sources before we would get there. It took us over an hour to move the less than four miles. We thought about giving up a few times and turning back, but dammit, I was going to take my girl to see hot air balloons!

Finally we made it into the parking area, and was guided along a dirt and gravel road, and then across the grass to the motorcycle parking area, right near one of the main entrances. Since I had been "walking" the bike for the past hour or two, it was nice not to have to walk too far to get in. A bathroom stop was first on the list.

We walked around the exhibits and displays, passed the stage, and then to the food court to fill our tummies. While we sat and ate, joined by a couple of families of strangers that we had more than a pleasant time with, the balloons began to rise into the sky.

The sun, Yoda and Darth Vader inflated, but did not fly off into the sky, so the photos are kind of lame. I'm trying to take more pictures, and I hope these are satisfactory, I had a few that I liked!

It was still kind of light as we headed out, but the air was getting cooler already. I had my liner in my jacket, and Kasey had the rest of the liners under her's. We tried to find the best way to exit, staying on grass instead of the rocky dirt, but a big bump bounced Kasey nearly out of her seat! Those that were watching looked concerned at first, but then laughed along with my partner.

Leaving the one lane stretch was as bad as coming in, but at least they began using both lanes as one way out. We had to take little different route back out and into Statesville. We stopped a gas station for Kasey to the bathroom, and I think we were in a bit of the hood. Everyone seemed friendly, but with it dark, and I'm ignorant of North Carolina, I felt uneasy.

We headed back out, and still was not out of the traffic yet. They really need to work on that! For the first part of the trek, US 70 would serve as our route home. We got a bit of a warm up riding through Statesville, but then back out into the country side, tree lined, and cooler roads.

Faith Road, or State Road 1006 carried us a lot of the way south to home. Each mile that ticked away was another miles that Kasey got colder. I was doing alright, but could feel the cool are roll over my legs and down the back of my neck. My left thumb was kept warm from flipping back and forth from low beam to high beam.

The road turned into Mount Pleasant, and we had returned to roads that we started the journey. Along Mount Pleasant we cross 200 North again. The rest of Mount Pleasant Road has been closed since we have been here. We headed south, and onto home. For a trip to see Hot Air, it ended pretty cool.