Local morning television news programs start at five a.m.. It is a habit of mine to flip on the local channel and listen to area events and weather. There is a certain amount of comfort knowing that no matter where I am, that every new place has similar successes and failures. The details change but the themes are constant and are no different than from home. A fire burns down a home and local charities supply beds and food for the displaced family. Employment numbers for the county are positive this quarter. The local weather on the nines always peaks my attention as well. “Starting to feel like Christmas, cooler temperatures in the 40s for this morning. Sunny afternoon climbing into the 70s.”
After waiting out the rain on Tuesday I was a little edgy and left early on Wednesday morning. I left my motel room in Franklin, North Carolina at seven. Sun was just peaking through a little high level fog in the mountains. I really should have paid more attention to that phrase, ‘cooler temperatures’. Holy crap that was a cold morning ride! This is not a complaint but rather a lesson. Have some patience and leave later in the morning.
Highway 64 East climbs up into the mountains along the river canyons into Highlands. Beautiful road that twists and turns up and up and up to the high mountain lake town. I stopped here for my first cup of coffee with the local sheriff. He warned me that it might be a little chilly this morning! I could barely hold the cup and that was after riding with my grips on high heat.
The sun got stronger and it warmed up as I stopped again for another coffee just before Whitewater Falls. The falls are the longest drop in the Eastern United States. Gorges State Park straddles the state line between North and South Carolina and looks down into the southern state. Both the falls and the view are extraordinary and well worth the side trip and short hike.
As I wound my way back down out of the Smoky Mountains and into South Carolina I was feeling very grateful. Riding around in these mountains has been an awesome experience. I must come back and spend time here again. I stopped on the state line to take a few pictures and could hear wild turkeys in the woods. At least they sounded like turkeys. It seemed like a fitting touch the day before American Thanksgiving and it fit into the morning nicely.
I rode into Clemson just before noon. You could tell that this is a city that is all about the university. Tiger paws are everywhere and the campus looked perfect in the autumn colors. As I continued to ride through the county I noticed that the Clemson Tiger emblems are everywhere as football season winds down. Big game against USC tonight. Morning news again.
Stopped for lunch in a road side diner just outside of Laurens. I chose to ride down Highway 76 East and avoid the interstate. I wanted see the small towns along the way as I make my way to the coast. After lunch I was stopped by a father and son leaving the diner. Joe and his son Joe are funeral directors full of questions. We had a great talk and I got to know a lot more about South Carolina hospitality. This is exactly why I wanted to ride the roads less traveled and I am very happy to make new friends. We chatted for a long while and the conversation gave me a little more to ponder as I made my way to Columbia for the night.