I’ve been queuing up a series of walks – mostly about 10 km (6 miles for us colonials), and this is the first.
Dunkery Beacon is the tallest peak in Exmoor. We’d hired a house in Wootton Courtenay which is at the base of the peak, but if you’re driving there are other places to start from. I would probably park at Webber’s post where there is a large parking lot, but no post.
We managed to arrive just after a heat wave; 32-35 is no fun without aircon. It was typical English summer weather; i.e.raining and cold.
The trail proper starts in a lovely grove of trees and then ascends a moderate slope.
Of course we started in the sun, but that was not to last.
We passed the ponies several times – this shot being on the way up.
These preferred Bracken to handouts, which was a relief.
The top is marked by a cairn. We used it to shelter from the wind while eating lunch.
This shows the path up the hill.
We followed a steep descent part way down the hill and made our way through delightfully pretty woods (Rowan and Holly so we were doubly safe from the foul spirits of the undead) to Webber’s post, and back to our house. If I started from Webber’s post I’d go across the hill and up the way we did rather than the other way around.
This is a good short walk for a rainy and overcast day. Selworthy is a short distance past Minehead on the A39. Leaving from the church parking lot, we went up hill and worked our way to the Beacon. The church is worth taking a look at with original features dating back to the 1500’s. One highlight for me was a 1609 copy of “An Apology for the Church of England” by John Jewel. It laid out the case for the Church of England being more Catholic than the Church of Rome and every parish was required to have a copy. Unlike many villages, Selworthy lost nearly as many men in WW2 as WW1. However, like many small villages, Selworthy has sadly lost much of its population since then.
It’s a surprisingly steep climb, steeper than Dunkery Beacon. There’s a side trail to the castle – a neolithic settlement – that we didn’t take. The wooded parts of the path are well covered and somewhat close – even at 13C. However, when it opens up, it is windy and exposed. I valued my windshirt.
The top of Dunkery Beacon is hidden by the clouds in the distance.
Porlock Weir is in the distance (There will be another post about that). There is a herd of belted galloway cattle that grazes the heath.
This shows the trail down.
The village itself is mostly national trust property. We stopped for an excellent cream tea at the Periwinkle Tea room.
Not the semi-mythical Exmoor beast, but a pub called “the Lion” in Timberscoombe. We thought we’d have a relaxed day with a short pub walk for lunch. Good pub food, a few pints, and an easy walk home.
Unfortunately the pub – which looks a decent place – was closed for renovation. Looking in the windows suggested it needed the work. So we had a few handfuls of trail mix (hint: buy the components and mix them yourself. It’s a whole heck of a lot cheaper.) and headed back.
Rather than simply backtrack, we tried a loop with short stretches on the A396. These weren’t too bad, there being pavement for most of it. (Sidewalks for yanks.) We did have a digression because some landowner had blocked off the public footpath. You’re not supposed to do that, but they did nonetheless.
Most of the paths on the way back were sunken roadways which tends to make for ‘close’ air and hot walking.
We went through the pretty little hamlet of Ford and headed home for a beer and Stilton lunch.
Just completed my first 800 miles (850 to be more precise) on my little cbr250. I’ve learned a few things in the process.
Practice, practice, practice. The BRC gets you started, but it takes a fair bit of practice to get going with any level of real skill. There will be people who claim to have picked it up immediately. They’re either lying, fooling themselves, or unusual prodigies.
Go slow to go fast. Learn to place your bike. Then you can go faster. If you just try to go fast, you’ll be sub-optimal.
No one sees you. Really. I’ve had people blithely walk into the street in front of me and even next to me. And they weren’t even on their cell phone (mobile).
Watch out for cars. Cage drivers text, drink, smoke and do everything but pay attention to the road. Occasionally you’ll run across a really crazy one. Let them get in front – you can keep an eye on them that way.
It’s a surprising amount of exercise. Your legs will get a workout from shifting weight in turns and lifting your bum when going over bumps. There are lots of bumps on Atlanta streets. Your arms and shoulders will get a workout too.
New tires are great.
The wind at 65-70 miles an hour is ferocious. So is the noise. It will buffet you – which is why your shoulders will hurt.
Freeway driving is boring.
My CBR needs a better windshield to use on the highway. Up to about 50-55 mph the wind is not bad. Above that it’s a P.I.T.A. It could also use a few more horses if I were to ride freeways more often. On the other hand it’s a great city bike – snappy, nimble, and fast below 50 mph.
The sandhill cranes have returned. We saw the first few birds a couple of weeks ago, but now they are there in flocks. When we drove through today, they were a tad more spread out than usual. These ones (above) were hunting the early wood frogs. I could hear the frogs while I took the pictures.
These were across the street from the others. During the summer this hill is a cotton field, so I’m not sure what critters there are now.
However, there must be something because the flocks were spread out over several fields. These were the closest to the road where there was a convenient place to pull over and take pictures. I used a 600mm sigma lens. I’m not thoroughly happy about the sharpness.
This map shows where to look if you’re interested in seeing them yourselves. Remember they are protected birds. If you continue to Centre there are some half-decent places to eat and the petrol is about 30 cents cheaper than in Atlanta.
Winter is upon us, just as I’m getting better at the biking. It’s not too hard to keep warm in mid-30’s (1-2) degree weather when you’re commuting. (45-50 Mph max). If I keep my trunk warm – wind shell in my outer jacket and a layer inside seems to be enough – then I’m pretty comfortable. Although I do need slightly warmer gloves. As long as you don’t have a “death grip” on the handlebars your hands will stay warm – though your fingertips may get a tad cool. The chill begins to penetrate at the high end of those speeds so real highway riding would require more layers.
SMIDSY (sorry mate I didn’t see you) accidents seem to be the biggest hazard so far. Atlanta drivers tend to slip into tiny gaps in stopped traffic so that they can turn into the other direction. You can’t see them because the other cars are blocking your view and they aren’t looking for you. This drives me up the wall when I’m driving a car, but that would be only a fender-bender.
The roads themselves aren’t too bad. There are a few places with perennial steel plates – which are a real headache, but the drivers seem to be aware that you might need to swerve around them.
Stop and go volume delays are a royal pain. It’s not too hard to creep along, but unlike an automagic transmission, I have to use the clutch. I even managed an steepish uphill creep which is not bad. I like, scratch that, love being out in the air, but there are limits. Half an hour to go 300 metres is a bit much.
My little CBR250 looks too much like a scooter, so I have idiots trying to pass it because they seem to think I can only go 25. Usually I let them by because it isn’t exactly smart to get into an argument with 2 or more tons of steel cage. There is no point in pushing the speed to 50 just to slam into a stopped car in front of you, is there? Best to leave the game of chicken to the bird-brains. The one defensive thing I do all the time is to look quite far ahead on the road. I do that when driving and probably more when riding simply because I get a much better view.
One of my wife’s students caught a picture of me on Piedmont street on my way home. Outside of practice, practice, practice and ATGATT (All the Gear All the Time) a few thoughts on what I’ve learned in the last few weeks.
Lane position. A motorcycle has the right to be on the road. Use it. It actually increases your visibility if you weave a bit. In queues I’ll tend to be on the right where I can get out of trouble if the car behind me gets too close. (I’ll also stop further back than I would with my cage car. ) On the other hand I’ll stop in the left side of my lane when that’s where I can see what is happening. It’s also important to give yourself the room to turn. Turning right from the far right of the lane results in crappy turns.
The “cagers” don’t see you. (This youtube video, while horribly edited, is right on the spot). You will appear “out of nowhere” – get over it. It’s not malice. Defensive driving is a must – but you knew that already. It does mean I’ll give the car in front of me more distance than most. I’ve learned to hate tailgaters – even more than I do with a car. If I’m driving at 35 mph, it’s not because I’m slow, it’s the ************** speed limit and/or the speed the car in front of me is going.
Timing and rhythm are important. Think smooth. When it works, you can pop through the gears and be moving at the speed limit in no time. Leaning your bike with countersteering and acceleration is not just the right way to turn, it’s really fun. No “chicken strips” on my bike.
It is exercise. This is the one real surprise to me. Riding is physically demanding. You’re holding on to your bike with your legs, shifting weight in turns, lifting one’s bum when there are unavoidable bumps, and putting your feet down when stopping. (Though I can balance for a few seconds.) I don’t know how much of this is stopping in traffic and my “sport bike” and how much is innate to the genre.
Hearing protection. My helmet (especially when I’m going fast enough to put the visor down) muffles sound until about 45 mph. Above that speed the wind noise gets a tad loud. Use ear-plugs if you’re planning to be that fast for more than a few minutes.
Middle-aged and old white men will want to drag race you at stop lights. Ignore them. You’re already way cooler than they ever will be.
I recently joined the fellowship of motorcyclists. It’s something I’ve always wanted to do. So I finally did it. The featured image shows me in about half of my safety gear – that jacket is armoured. For what it’s worth I’m a strong believer in ATGATT (All The Gear All The Time). People worry a bit about the hazards, with good reason, but the serious accident rate in a bike is about the same as driving a 1970’s or 1980’s car. Still, I’m a highly defensive driver, and not just with my bike.
It looks a little shaky parked in my garage. I’d just finished my first ride on the roads (after training and getting my license) and was shaky myself. The clutch was different from the nighthawks on which I trained and the engine needs to be given enough gas petrol. I don’t get shaky like that now. Well, not quite, now I’m excited.
I picked out a used Honda CBR250R with ABS. It looks sportier than it is, but it moves. It’s an elegant, light, and reasonably modern bike. ABS is critical – while I’ve managed to not need it – accident rates and severity with ABS equipped bikes are much lower than with traditional brakes. (The study was done in Europe where all new bikes have ABS.)
I try to practice at least a half hour a day. Maneuvering – turns and swerves – is easy. It’s, if anything, more stable than a regular bicycle. I’ve practiced emergency stops, starting on uphills, and holding a constant speed. I’m slowly getting competent and able to ride in real traffic.
Some of the milestones:
Uphill starts, mostly mastered. Smooth starts on really steep hills will still take some work.
Turning on hills, left, right, from downhill and from uphill. In good shape.
Threading tight spaces when a parked car and a moving car take up almost the entire road. (Bikes do not have a reverse gear.)
Night driving. Not bad – there’s more visibility than with a car.
Negotiating a gas station and filling the tank.
Negotiating heavy Atlanta traffic and stop lights.
I’ve had the bike up to about 40 mph (a little fast for the 35 mph roads) and the sensation of speed has so far been exceedingly fun. Even a 250CC bike can accelerate when you push it. I’m having to watch speeds when I drive a car. It just seems so slow.
Another trail map from a visit to Golden Colorado. This is a short walk that was suitable for the morning while we waited for our flight home.
This stroll starts from a somewhat tricky to find parking lot off of South Golden Street near route 70 (Hint Kilmer Street is the entrance to the Colorado State Police school – which makes it a very safe place to park.) It’s also near the National Renewable Energy Laboratory.
It proceeds up South Table Mesa, and crosses the K-T boundary several times. We took a digression (must remember to take the map with us next time) that would have led to the top of the mesa seen below:
We saw people on top the day before, but it appears they weren’t rock climbers.
The top is rather barren and desolate. A basalt layer with Prickly Pear and
Telegraph/telephone wires. Surprisingly wild views. CSM is this way, hidden by the edge of the mesa (you can also see Lookout Mountain in the distance).
It was, on a Monday morning, mostly deserted. Most of the runners and bikers appeared to be connected with NREL.
The Elk Range Trail is a short (3.3 mile) trail in the Centennial Cone county park near Golden Colorado. Getting there is a scenic drive from the city, whether you use the twisty route 6 or the interstate 70, then cut north. Be warned, on weekends mountain biking and hiking pick alternate days (hikers on odd days, bikers on even ones).
We were doing a flying visit and so only had time to do an out and back walk, but the loop with the Travois trail would be even better.