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Topic: Looking for the perfect curve...  (Read 2290 times)

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RBEmerson
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« on: August 31, 2016, 01:25:05 AM »

[/Revised, proofread]

This is an account of a day spent in search of the perfect curve, or even better, the perfect curve ridden perfectly. It's like looking for a diamond in a pile of coal. None of which exists, of course, but there's something to be said for trying.

Spoiler alert: although obligatory RR bike pictures (starting, gassing up, standing somewhere) are present, there is no food porn in this RR! Yes, I had lunch, no, I won't show it. I don't know you well enough to do that.   Razz

The plan was to get to PA 125, which is reputed to be a fun and challenging road to travel. A little background... Southeastern PA, where I live, is surrounded to the north and west by portion of the Appalachian Mountains called the Blue Ridge. It curves from east-west to northeast-southwest in orientation. The Blue Ridge is a series of ridges going to 1500-1700 feet above sea level. Hardly exciting but... the sides of the ridges are steep, and this is where the fun comes from. There are curves, switch-backs, and even hairpin turns, almost Alpine in flavor ( ). Once off PA 125, I thought the challenging parts would be over. Not quite.

This is BaseCamp's idea of where I went.
http://i168.photobucket.com/albums/u188/RBEmerson/PA%20125%20loop/2016-08-30%20PA125.gif

The day started with... getting ready to leave. Obligatory photo of bike ready to go:
http://i168.photobucket.com/albums/u188/RBEmerson/PA%20125%20loop/DSCN0350.jpg

Obligatory photo of bike at gas station (photographer's finger included at no extra charge):
http://i168.photobucket.com/albums/u188/RBEmerson/PA%20125%20loop/DSCN0351.jpg

After a brief argument with the GPS (guess who controls the argument by wielding the "RESET" button), I headed north on the Pennsylvania Turnpike's Northeast Extension (AKA I476). Ya seen one Interstate, ya seen 'em all. (Photographer's finger included for the last time - honest)
http://i168.photobucket.com/albums/u188/RBEmerson/PA%20125%20loop/DSCN0352.jpg
http://i168.photobucket.com/albums/u188/RBEmerson/PA%20125%20loop/DSCN0353.jpg

I turned west onto I78. Ya seen one Interstate, ya seen 'em all. (This could be I78 - it's all the same)
http://i168.photobucket.com/albums/u188/RBEmerson/PA%20125%20loop/DSCN0354.jpg
http://i168.photobucket.com/albums/u188/RBEmerson/PA%20125%20loop/DSCN0356.jpg
While I was taking these pictures, the music in my headset had the lyric "It's all the same" repeating and repeating. And then I passed a car with a NH plate reading "Realize". I get it, I get it - I realize it's all the same. Moving on...

I left I78  at lovely downtown Bethel, in lovely Bethel Township. It says so on the map. Sorta. The map says really says PA 501. After leaving the Intersate, I thought I'd be done with trucks and into lots of curves. I was only half right.
http://i168.photobucket.com/albums/u188/RBEmerson/PA%20125%20loop/DSCN0358.jpg

I think a lot of the truck traffic was coming through here because part of northbound I81 was closed (see above pictures for I81 pictures - it's all the same). Anyway, truck traffic was there, I was there, not much more to be done but ride on. The ridge in the background is part of the Blue Ridge, and gives some sense of the general terrain. Coming north on I476, I crossed the first of the ridges and rode down into Great Valley, a wide plain between the ridge I left and the first of the "true" Blue Ridge ridges. Of course the road north was filled with curves.
http://i168.photobucket.com/albums/u188/RBEmerson/PA%20125%20loop/DSCN0360.jpg

Speaking of ridges, this is more of the first ridge:
http://i168.photobucket.com/albums/u188/RBEmerson/PA%20125%20loop/DSCN0362.jpg
http://i168.photobucket.com/albums/u188/RBEmerson/PA%20125%20loop/DSCN0361.jpg

And the ridge to the south:
http://i168.photobucket.com/albums/u188/RBEmerson/PA%20125%20loop/DSCN0366.jpg

Obligatory "yes, my bike was there" photo:
http://i168.photobucket.com/albums/u188/RBEmerson/PA%20125%20loop/DSCN0367.jpg
Ignore the phone pole sticking out of the tank bag...

The road begins to get curvy and rolly:
http://i168.photobucket.com/albums/u188/RBEmerson/PA%20125%20loop/DSCN0364.jpg
Not great, but it's a start.

Look at the map - the further north I went on PA 125, the tighter the turns became. Going up the south side of the ridge was interesting but fun. Coming down the other side was a mix of steep grades (up to 11%) and the occasional switch-back (moderate radius 180 degree turn) with three real hairpin turns (short radius 180 degree turn). I wasted turns one and two with a miserable line through one, and a scary moment with two. For some reason, leaned into the turn, the bike felt as though it was dropping into a steeper lean even though road was basically flat. I've felt that once or twice before and have no idea what's going on, but it's not fun. Turn three went reasonably well but wanted some work to qualify as being "done right".

The upper end of PA 125 is Shamokin. Shamokin is part of coal country. As this pile of overburden, from open mines, shows. Why it hasn't buried the town escapes me.
http://i168.photobucket.com/albums/u188/RBEmerson/PA%20125%20loop/DSCN0368.jpg

No real excitement in Shamokin.
http://i168.photobucket.com/albums/u188/RBEmerson/PA%20125%20loop/DSCN0369.jpg

As coal towns go, Shamokin doesn't look too bad. There are closed stores, of course, and not a lot of polish on anything. But it's still not too tired as coal towns go.

The next stop is Centralia. Centralia is a town that doesn't exist except as a spot on the map and in people's memories. It was nice coal small town, according to what I've heard. Until someone set the coal on fire.

The stories vary, but my guess is whoever took the trash to the town dump and burning pit made a mistake. As did whoever was supposed to maintain the dump. The "who's to blame" parts vary with the teller. But the basic facts are simple: A small knob of coal, projecting up, through the ground, from a larger deposit was supposed to be sealed off. Maybe it was supposed to cemented over - who knows. What matters is that didn't happen. Trash was taken to the dump, lit off and... oops, the coal knob was under the bonfire. The coal did what it's expected to do: burn. And it burned down into the seam, which runs under the town. How much further it goes is anyone's guess.

There were attempts to put the fire out, but nothing worked. Nobody really knows how long the fire will burn or smolder. A couple of hundred years isn't unrealistic. The town had problems with some smoke coming out of the ground, but the real nightmare was carbon monoxide from the fire. Filling houses with colorless, odorless gas that suffocates. Ultimately, the town was evacuated, PA 61 re-routed around the part of the road that collapsed, and the town was leveled. Literally. All that's standing is the cemetery, the closed up Russian Orthodox church, and the closed up township building.

PA 61 is closed off with berms at either end. Which hasn't stopped the graffiti crowd from doing their work.
http://i168.photobucket.com/albums/u188/RBEmerson/PA%20125%20loop/DSCN0378.jpg
http://i168.photobucket.com/albums/u188/RBEmerson/PA%20125%20loop/DSCN0379.jpg

The only place in Centralia with any activity is... St. Ignatius Cemetery.
http://i168.photobucket.com/albums/u188/RBEmerson/PA%20125%20loop/DSCN0372.jpg

The Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary Russian Orthodox Church is still standing (and may be re-opened).
http://i168.photobucket.com/albums/u188/RBEmerson/PA%20125%20loop/DSCN0375.jpg
http://i168.photobucket.com/albums/u188/RBEmerson/PA%20125%20loop/DSCF2509.jpg

Nonetheless, the town is gone.
http://i168.photobucket.com/albums/u188/RBEmerson/PA%20125%20loop/DSCN0380.jpg

Yep, this is coal country.
http://i168.photobucket.com/albums/u188/RBEmerson/PA%20125%20loop/DSCN0371.jpg

The towns and villages along PA 54 heading east to Mahanoy City are tired. Even Shenandoah, a better off town than some, looks tired. But the church is decidedly not tired.
http://i168.photobucket.com/albums/u188/RBEmerson/PA%20125%20loop/DSCN0382.jpg
http://i168.photobucket.com/albums/u188/RBEmerson/PA%20125%20loop/DSCN0383.jpg

And over all of the area is a sad irony. Coal is being replaced with wind turbines.
http://i168.photobucket.com/albums/u188/RBEmerson/PA%20125%20loop/DSCN0384.jpg

An open pit mine to the right, and its replacement to the left.
http://i168.photobucket.com/albums/u188/RBEmerson/PA%20125%20loop/DSCN0390.jpg
http://i168.photobucket.com/albums/u188/RBEmerson/PA%20125%20loop/DSCN0391.jpg

Will the last person out of town turn off the lights, please?
http://i168.photobucket.com/albums/u188/RBEmerson/PA%20125%20loop/DSCN0389.jpg

If the mines and equipment aren't in sight, the overburden, removed to get to the coal, is.
http://i168.photobucket.com/albums/u188/RBEmerson/PA%20125%20loop/DSCN0387.jpg

In the middle of all of this depressing scenery, the roads go on, and the turns keep coming, some open, some more closed, a few turn back on themselves. And I'm beginning to get the feel of the "flow like water" style I saw following Markus in the Alps. It's not a slow pace, although it can be. I'm looking for the turn where I carry my speed through the turn, rolling into the turn so smoothly it's hard to know where the turn began or when it ended. It's a matter of reading the road, moving to the outside of the turn, as much as possible, to look into what's coming, and then "be the bike". It's all rather Zen and, like Zen, when you don't think about it, it's there. Look for it, it's not there.

Not everything is depressing, though. There are the town names... many of them are Indian, of course, but a few aren't: Rough and Ready (too much traffic to shoot the sign) and these two. Is one of the names ironic?
http://i168.photobucket.com/albums/u188/RBEmerson/PA%20125%20loop/DSCN0392.jpg

And some names reflect changes. This is the town of Mauch Chunk. Or is it the town of Jim Thorpe? Ironically, the Indian name was replaced by a local boy who became a hero in the Olympics, but had trouble being accepted because... he was an Indian. There's a statue and a park with Thorpe's name, and the town name will probably stay Jim Thorpe (imagine the cost of another name change).
http://i168.photobucket.com/albums/u188/RBEmerson/PA%20125%20loop/DSCN0394.jpg
http://i168.photobucket.com/albums/u188/RBEmerson/PA%20125%20loop/DSCN0395.jpg
But the land is bigger than the small name squabble.

I'd originally planned, after leaving Jim Thorpe, to wander around in the Great Valley area, in rural Berks County. However, I spent more time taking pictures, and just walking around, than I'd planned for. Instead, I grabbed US 309 for a bit, turned off onto PA 100 (which used to mark a fun ride in Chester County - the run's still there, PA 100 has gone elsewhere - no harm done), got stuck in rush hour traffic, and found one last two mile bit of road with twists, turns, and always descending. And more than one of the those turns was pretty damn good, and I 't think I didn't do too bad with them. Close enough to perfection for now...

Same pump, same bike, eight hours and 247 miles later.
http://i168.photobucket.com/albums/u188/RBEmerson/PA%20125%20loop/DSCN0397.jpg
« Last Edit: August 31, 2016, 12:03:51 PM by RBEmerson » Logged

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« Reply #1 on: September 06, 2016, 11:43:51 AM »

Growing up 8 miles south of Quakertown in the Upper Perkiomen valley I enjoyed reading your report.
spent many a saturday and sunday riding in those areas. Smile
now I#mlimited to the Schwarzwald and the alps...
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« Reply #2 on: September 06, 2016, 12:17:34 PM »

Ach du Arme! Du hast ein hartes Leben...  Razz

(Oh, you poor guy. You have a rough life)

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« Reply #3 on: September 06, 2016, 12:25:47 PM »

yeah..
off to the Rhön area (near Fulda) this weekend. If I get some decent photos I'll file a report.
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« Reply #4 on: September 06, 2016, 12:34:26 PM »

To clarify the record, services are still held at the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary Orthodox church. There were, at the time the fire began, in 1962, two Orthodox churches. The other Orthodox church, Saints Peter and Paul, and its cemetery were lost.
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« Reply #5 on: September 06, 2016, 12:37:01 PM »


yeah..
off to the Rhön area (near Fulda) this weekend. If I get some decent photos I'll file a report.


You're breaking my heart...  Razz
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« Reply #6 on: September 06, 2016, 02:00:05 PM »

Not too many pictures of perfect curves, or curves!, but if you come out here to the Four Corners area I'll take you to a couple of roads where you will get tired  riding curvy roads. With beautiful scenery as well.  

Your pictures do show some very nice countryside!
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« Reply #7 on: September 06, 2016, 03:01:48 PM »


yeah..
off to the Rhön area (near Fulda) this weekend. If I get some decent photos I'll file a report.

Have not been there since 1981, but if you go through the arch in Tann (if it still is there, the arch that is) look for a circle etched in the stone (south side, right side going north) about five inches in diameter.  It came from the flash cone of a 20mm cannon hanging off an M114 of the 14th Armored Cavalry Regiment out of Fulda playing war games.  Barrel could shoot around corners after that. LOL  I used to run along the old border from Hunfeld to south of Hilders.
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« Reply #8 on: September 06, 2016, 06:11:22 PM »


Not too many pictures of perfect curves, or curves!, but if you come out here to the Four Corners area I'll take you to a couple of roads where you will get tired  riding curvy roads. With beautiful scenery as well.  

Your pictures do show some very nice countryside!


I'm opening negotiations with SWMBO regarding an "action cam"...

Curves that never quit...  Well, yeah, I'd like to see the Four Corners area. But if you want ...um... turns that leave you knackered, consider this: (note the overtake at about 1:45)


Stilfser Joch is the German name for Passo dello Stelvio. The north road features 48 hairpin turns (look for the turn number - counting down - on the outside of each turn). Somewhere around #20 I started thinking "ah geeze, not another turn!"
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« Reply #9 on: September 08, 2016, 09:13:09 PM »

Nice RR as I do enjoy riding in the coal country and you can't beat route 125.  
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« Reply #10 on: September 08, 2016, 10:19:16 PM »

I'm already planning a reverse route through the area. The trick is avoiding I-78 on the way home.
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« Reply #11 on: September 14, 2016, 04:50:39 AM »

Do you have recommendations for particularly beautiful winding roads?
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« Reply #12 on: September 14, 2016, 10:41:57 AM »

I'm not quite sure about what you're looking for. PA125 is scenic and twisty, very twisty. Scout the maps out around the space between Pine Grove and Shamokin.
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« Reply #13 on: September 14, 2016, 02:31:44 PM »

The perfect curve is different for different riders.  I've ridden PA125 and just about every twisty from the Md border to NY up the center of PA.  PA125 is OK but there ARE better roads  When I lived there my favorite was PA144 from just south of Renovo to the top of the hill.  There were lots of good roads between St.College and for example Galeton.  There are more between St.College and Hancock, Md.   If I had the time to write them and you didn't get bored reading them, I could list all kinds of great roads in WV.  SE Ohio has some fantastic roads.  I'm just discovering KY and western VA.  TN and W. NC are just loaded with great roads, as is N.Ga.  They are all different and you may like them or not.  By that I mean, I don't like the Dragon and prefer the Cherohala Skyway.  I believe the SC/GA/NC 28's from Walhalla to Deals Gap has numerous tristies that are way more fun than either the Dragon or Skyway.  That's me.  It AIN'T you but we don't have to rate each other's curve list. Soooooo, where is the perfect curve?  Don't know, don't care.  Why?  There are lots of great curves that may not be "perfect" but they sure keep me happy.
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« Reply #14 on: September 14, 2016, 05:01:05 PM »

nice report.  i've ridden 125 so many times i sometimes feel like i know every curve.  for this are of pa it's pretty fun riding, but perfect curves, well i think there's about 100 roads in wv that are better  Bigsmile  you really saw some of the best of the area, and i'm glad you enjoyed it.  eastern pa can be beautiful.
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« Reply #15 on: September 20, 2016, 08:33:12 PM »

My list of roads to be checked expands...

At the moment we're heading to Bar Harbor, ME in our VW Westphalia (camper). I have, of course, uncovered any number of enjoyable twisties. Oddly, with the exception of a few HD's and a couple R1200GS', these roads are bike-free.  EEK!
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« Reply #16 on: October 27, 2016, 10:03:07 PM »

I went back to PA 125, this time armed with a helmet cam, two spare batteries and a nearly empty 32G chip. The trip started well. Until I got to the really good bits (hairpins). I have a lot of video of the back of The Car From Hell - fast in the straights, glacially slow in the curves. Any curve. I'll make another attempt, but no color in the trees; no leaves at all. This time I'll bring some sort of artillery to deal with any vehicle with the temerity to block my path. Only nuclear weapons are excluded from the potential arms loadout.  
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