Aaron's blog

Fort Matanzas

By aaron.axvig, 17 September, 2013

It was raining for most of the morning so I didn't get into town until 11:00. First I went south of town about 10 miles to Fort Matanzas which included a short boat ride on a big pontoon boat over to the fort itself. On the way back we saw some dolphins about 100 yards away.

Back in town I parked downtown and walked for the rest of the day. First I went to the Ripley's Believe it or Not! Museum. There were a lot of dumb African skulls and skin and carvings that I didn't really care for but a ~20 foot tall Ferris wheel built using Erector set pieces was among the things I did like.

Then I went over to Castillo de San Marco and walked around the outside of that but didn't go inside because it was about to close. I ate and then walked around town for a while, including across the lifting bridge from which I could get a good look at big boats in the marina.

St. Augustine

By aaron.axvig, 16 September, 2013

I went over to the beach for about an hour this morning to walk in the waves and enjoy the sand between my toes. The water was pretty comfortably warm. Then I packed up my campsite and headed south. My parents' friend Walter who lives in Miami had recommended that I spend some time in St. Augustine and it was about 250 miles south so that is where I am tonight. I went through some heavy rain on the way here but now the weather is nice--cool and breezy.

So I am at Anastasia State Park, where there is a very nice campground (the sand in my campsite was raked!) and a public beach area. I decided I would stay two nights here so that I can do some tours or museums in town, do some laundry, and enjoy the beach.

There are lots of nice cars and big jacked-up pickup trucks in this area which I like looking at.

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I wrote that using the Wi-Fi from the restaurant they have near the beach. Afterwards I walked ~300 yards out to the ocean and it was cool to see part of it lit up brightly by moonlight. Then the clouds moved and I was lit up and it seemed bright like daylight for a moment. Very fun.

Then I looked closer at the clouds and noticed what definitely looked like a rain cloud out over the water...straight in the direction from which the wind was strongly blowing. So I set off at a brisk walk back, threw my helmet on, and zoomed away. Of course I missed my turn
so took longer than I should have, and just barely made it into my tent before it started raining.

Edisto Beach State Park

By aaron.axvig, 15 September, 2013

The ants were mostly gone from the tent when I woke up. I headed south and stopped in Georgetown. I found the Rice Museum there and learned about South Carolina's rice days and how rice is grown and processed. It was all very interesting and they also have what's left of a 1700 boat on display. "The oldest boat built here that is on display" or something.

After realizing that I could have spent the night at Myrtle Beach State Park right on the ocean I looked further south for other state parks on the beach. I got a place at Edisto Beach State Park but unfortunately I am in the inland campground instead of the one right on the water. Still, I think I will head over in my swimming suit in the morning.

My tent is in a "rustic" site that I have to walk in to about 50 yards through a bunch of creepy overhanging live oaks and little palm trees and all sorts of other growth. This is fairly unnerving but as I know nothing about what threatening wild-life lives here I have nothing to fear...I think. 😀 The mood was brightened when I saw some cute little crabs that were in my site. Somehow one got on top of the picnic table which I don't quite understand.

After dinner I went for a walk along the beach and then sat there and wrote this. Someone launched a luminary which was cool. It rained for a little bit as I arrived in the area earlier this evening, and now it is very humid but starting to cool off a bit.

Bojangles and riding through sand

By aaron.axvig, 14 September, 2013

I surprisingly didn’t have any new sore body parts this morning and now in the evening I am pretty much feeling normal. For lunch I tried some fast food place I have been seeing often called Bojangles. They claim to be famous for their chicken and biscuits. It was like KFC pretty much. I don't think I'll be going back as big hunks of chicken aren't really my style. The biscuits were decent but nothing special.

I took state and US highways towards Myrtle Beach for most of the day. As I approached Myrtle Beach I became quite un-excited at excessive commercialization/tourism vibes I was getting from all the billboards. So I turned off and headed towards a campground in Georgetown, which is about 30 miles south from MB. The campground was at the end of a 1/2 mile gravel road, or so I thought. Actually about 200 yards in it turned to very loose sand but I was committed so on I went. It was hard work staying upright, and then when I finally got there it was more of a long-term camping place for big campers owned by people who also use the attached marina to moor their yachts. So I took the sand road back out. At least on the drive through Georgetown I saw a nice historical district that I might spend some time in tomorrow. One of these days I would like to find a big power plant or factory to tour too.

I didn't see any campgrounds reasonably close further south so I resigned to visiting MB. My searching is typically done using a phone while I sit sweating profusely on a hot machine in a heavy jacket in the sun in any handy parking lot, so there is plenty of room for error and I'm sure someone could find a campground that would have worked perfectly for me. :) Predictions were mostly true as it is indeed pretty much a long strip of intense commercialization--tons of uninteresting stuff like t-shirt shops and mini-golf amusement parks. I stopped at one of the "family campgrounds" which have beach access I think but bailed out of there after the people in line in front of me paid $110 for two nights. I found a KOA not on the beach but I could have just as well stayed at the first place since the KOA price is $45. So my tent site prices have ranged from $10 to $45, with most of them at $20-25. $25 seems steep to me but I guess supplying hot showers doesn't happen for free.

I did find some pretty cheap pizza for supper and it was really good. Also I tried Cheerwine--a cherry flavored pop out of Salisbury, NC (which is where the Bojangles I stopped at was). It's pretty good.

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I just noticed about 200 ants have found their way through a tiny seam gap in the corner. I plugged the hole with toothpaste and the ones stuck inside seem to be riled up now!

I crashed

By aaron.axvig, 13 September, 2013

I left Hot Springs and found a Waffle House a few miles down the road. Pretty cool place, and I tried grits there. They aren't really that good, just a corn-based malt-o-meal essentially. I guess if you put tasty flavoring in them they would be good.

Then I spent many minutes making wrong turns in some smallish town, trying to get to an interesting-looking road that I wanted to go on even though it headed NE while I would rather go straight east. I took a crappy loose gravel road with switchbacks but finally made it. Turns out that the road was the Blue Ridge Parkway. So I set in and had a nice cruise for a while.

But then I came around a corner and was presented with a 3" high ridge running parallel to the road for about 15 feetright in the middle of my lane. My attention was momentarily distracted as I glanced at an oncoming car, and seemingly instantly I found myself sliding on the ground. First off, I am 99% fine and healthy. It all happened very fast so here's as well as I can remember it: I hit the ridge, the handlebars whipped back and forth once or twice, I was sliding, I think I tried to lift myself up while I was still sliding (a common phenomenon reportedly), and then I rolled once and came to a stop on the side of the road about 10 feet from the bike. I think my speed was 45-50 mph as I was accelerating out of the curve (I hadn't been trying to "drag a knee" or even been doing much that would have earned me a speeding ticket, but evidently a little slower would have been safer). I slid about 30 yards. It was a really good test of my protective gear!

So the old lady who's car I had glanced at turned around and came back to check on me. By the time she got there I stood up and turned off the bike and was double-checking myself for injuries. She was pretty surprised how good of shape I was in after what she watched. A group of other riders helped me pick stuff up and make sure the bike ran fine (nothing functional was broken). The side-case on the road side had popped off but only the latch that holds it on was bent so one bungee cord worked to secure it. I rode to a nearby pull-off spot and called insurance and police (only got a warning!).

My right thumb is pretty sore but it will be fine. My left knee has a pretty shallow wound the size of a nickel, and my stomach has a 2 square-inch light abrasion. That's it, which I think is pretty good considering the speed, and a bit lucky because not much would have had to change for me to go over a guard-rail or get some impact or crushing injuries.

All-in-all, I wish I could place the blame on a crappy road but obviously thousands of other motorcycles have ridden through there safely. So it is a lesson that some more caution would be good.

I made it 60 more miles to Hickory, NC, and went with a motel for the night so I can hopefully sleep a little better as I'm sure some soreness will really start to set in tomorrow.

Also, I shit you not: the song playing on my Bluetooth headset at the time was Chumbawumba…I get knocked down, but I get up again, etc….

The Rattlesnake

By aaron.axvig, 12 September, 2013

This morning I woke up in spider paradise, but at least they were all outside my tent. The campground provided coffee so I didn't have to drink mediocre instant coffee, and I did some laundry. On the road by 10:30, my destination was Oak Ridge. Yes I drove through there yesterday, but I had priorities then!

In Oak Ridge I spent about 3 hours in the American Museum of Science and Energy. A lot of it was about how the whole city of 75,000 people then was constructed to support the workers refining uranium for the Manhattan Project--pretty cool stuff. The rest was well put together exhibits about atomic energy and atoms but I cruised through that since I already knew it all. :)

Just down the road I found some Mexican food (very similar to El Sombrero in Dickinson actually) and left at 3:00 to make some progress towards Charlotte. It was 240 miles away and I only had 5 hours of daylight so I hopped on the interstate. This interstate was not like others. It was an exciting ride through the mountains, with trucks thankfully banished from the left lane.

Then I saw an exit "Lake Junaluska Hot Springs" and thought that a nice warm soak would feel pretty good. So I pulled into the gas station at the exit and found that Hot Springs was a town about 30 miles away. I found a campground there that looked pretty legitimate so I headed north.

It turns out that the road leading there has a nickname too--The Rattlesnake. There was a sign bragging 200+ turns in 24 miles. Compared to Tail of the Dragon, it has wider turns, is over twice as long, and had a glorious 55 mph speed limit (your own fear of death will limit you to an average of probably 35 but having the headroom is nice) versus the Dragon's 30 mph. It was a beautiful drive carving down the side of one mountain and up the side of another. In the last two days it seems like any road I take is amazing. I guess that's what happens when your land isn't flat and isn't divided up into square-mile blocks.

In Hot Springs I setup my tent and then figured out the hot spring deal for later tonight. Since everything is within walking distance I parked the bike and am now chilling in a bar with some live guitar music. This is the first time I have had working Wi-Fi so I got to type this on my Surface instead of the phone. Simple luxuries! I tried some golden lager from nearby Asheville and a Yuengling (some people will appreciate that I tried different beer since I usually just turn to trusty defaults).

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I sat in a hot tub filled with hot spring water in a private shack with a rushing river in the background for an hour. It was very romantic. Pretty sure 99% of the people that go there do it with their significant other and get all cuddly in their shacks so I was definitely raising the weird level but I enjoyed it and have no regrets.

Tail of the Dragon

By aaron.axvig, 11 September, 2013

I've been cooking oatmeal every morning using a small backpacking burner and this morning I burned the bottom so it didn't taste very good.

I cruised through Oak Ridge and was at the Tail of the Dragon by 12:30. Unfortunately so was a rainstorm. My first run started out with some drizzle and then a downpour for the last five minutes. This left me soaked from the waist down but since there was no easy fix for that and the rest of me was dry I popped inside the store at that end, bought a mug, and went back the way I came. There was some thunder and lightning, a few minutes of heavy rain, and mostly drizzle again on that run. I turned around and did it one more time, and the rain was done for the rest of the day.

I still enjoyed the road, even though it was wet. Bike tires have more traction in the wet than most people assume, and the tires I have are widely reviewed to be the best you can get for rain. So given that and that I don't ever corner close to the limits anyways, I did not feel held back by the weather.

But, I did find all the tight switchbacks, poor visibility around corners, and a decent amount of oncoming traffic to be stressful. I just don't really enjoy corners at 10-20 mph as the bike is much less stable. So I had a lot more fun on other roads in the area for the rest of the afternoon. The Cherohala Skyway was one I especially enjoyed. It is 50 miles of sweeping turns up and down and around--big elevation changes, good visibility, and almost no traffic.

After that I tried to find a campground. My phone showed me this which looked pretty cool so I took off, GPS directions chattering in my ear. The roads I turned onto kept getting smaller until it was just some crappy gravel mess, and what I'm guessing used to be the sign had been painted solid white. I had to see what the deal was so in I went. I found the office but it looked dis-used. Down the hill was a gravel cul-de-sac so I walked down to talk to a guy (the only guy) who had an RV and tent setup. He was throwing logs around (weird) and had some grouchy dogs. "I guess so" he answered when I asked if this was a campground, "Mark--the owner--will be back in a while." I said I wanted laundry facilities for the night (true, but also a convenient reason to leave) and fled. A KOA twenty miles away did the trick for tonight.

I had fried okra as part of supper and it was pretty good. Overheard at dinner was a discussion about whether "grits 'er good."

Hot day to Somerset, KY

By aaron.axvig, 10 September, 2013

The heat hit me hard today although I don't think the temperatures were actually quite as high as yesterday. Slower speeds in the plentiful construction zones were definitely part of the problem. I stayed well-hydrated but as I was experiencing heat chills I took more breaks to try and stay cool. 500 miles for the day puts me just south of Somerset, KY.

Traffic on the interstates in Indianapolis and Louisville was crazy with trucks. South of Louisville I switched off the highway toggle on my GPS app and took quite delightful curvy country roads to Somerset. Now that I have reached what I consider to be my area of interest I will be leaving that switched off. While I love hauling along on the interstates in ND, it will be a relief to not deal with all the trucks that are on them here. Plus, fun roads!

Did you know the cement trucks here dump out of the cab end? It looks so funny to see a cement truck driving down the road "backwards." Saw the first example just east of Minneapolis actually.

Start of the trip

By aaron.axvig, 9 September, 2013

I put in 700 mikes today and have my tent pitched just outside of El Paso, IL. It started out pretty cold (and foggy) so I had my handwarmers on, but around Madison and Chicago it was a toasty 95 degrees. I liked the terrain around Eau Claire the most--very pronounced hills.

On pencil lead

By aaron.axvig, 6 March, 2009

A week ago I bought some new lead (graphite) for my mechanical pencil.  Looking at the rack of refills, I realized my choice would not be simple.  There are different hardness ratings, in addition to the sizes.  I use 0.5mm.  Summoning memories from my 8th-grade art class, I selected 4H as it was one of the harder options.

This selection of mechanical pencil refills has completely revolutionized my note-taking and homework-completing lives.

  • This lead writes much crisper lines.
  • I have yet to snap the end of the lead off (used to happen frequently).
  • I’m still using the first lead.  It probably lasts twice as long as regular lead
    • I have to click the end of my pencil less.
  • It does not leave dust on the paper, which used to cause smudges.
  • I don’t need to rotate my pencil as much because the edge stays sharp longer.
  • Erasing marks made with this lead leaves virtually no traces of the marks and consumes less of the eraser.

The message is clear: I love this 4H lead so much that next time I buy a mechanical pencil I will throw away the *** lead that comes with it and buy some sweet 4H lead refills.