Monday, March 31, 2008

"There are two kinds or riders..."

The article on the front page of the local paper started out with,

"Kristy O'Leary, of St. Louisville, has buried friends whose lives were lost in motorcycle crashes and has spent the past 12 years working to advocate motorcycle safety.
Yet, when she sets out for a ride, she does not put on a helmet."

A strange dichotomy that the article never really explains.
Granted, helmets can be hot and confining in warmer weather and the temptation to leave it at home or even strapped to one's sissy bar is strong. Ohio law states that only "novice" riders - endorsed riders with less than 1 years experience - non-endorsed riders with a learners permit, or riders under the age of 18 (I think) are required to wear a helmet.

In fact, the entire front page of the Newark Advocate was devoted to reports on motorcycle safety and an analysis of data compiled over the past several years by the Gannet News Service, the owner of several local papers in the state. (See the Motorcycle Crash Database)

Being a "novice" rider myself, I am required to wear a helmet. Having a good understanding of my riding skills (or rather a serious doubt of my abilities), I opted for what I consider to be better protection and chose a full face modular helmet. Yes, I know full face helmet doesn't fit the look of a cruiser. But hey, I figure if my safety instructor, who has 25 years of riding, admits to finding himself and his motorcycle horizontal on more than a couple of occasions, what are the odds that I will too? He liked to say that they are two kinds of riders: Those who have laid their bikes down and those who are going to.

After September, my "novice" status will convert to a standard endorsement and I'll no longer be required to wear a helmet. Will I continue to wear one? I suspect so. After all, there's only two kinds of riders.

Saturday, March 29, 2008

Late Picture Posting

This last Wednesday when I returned home from work Teresa was dressed in her gear and ready to go for a ride. We spent about an hour riding with no destination in mind, just squirreling around some of our county roads, and then headed for home. Here are some of the pics worth posting…

Teresa's self portraits... I'm pretty sure that's her in the mirror.

This house belongs to our friends, T. and Karen. It's an old 1850ish farm house that was almost completely gutted and remodeled with an addition or two. After stripping wall paper during the remodel, they found a materials list scribbled on a plaster wall for a building project for the home sometime around 1890. Instead of covering up the history, T and Karen papered around it and hinged a frame over it - Historical Artwork!

T and Karen weren't home so we motored on...

Strangely enough, we found these pines near a painted sign advertising "Landscape Trees". Perhaps in an effort to broaden his market, the owner changed the name from "Christmas" to "Landscape". After all, it's all about presentation, right?

And then we saw this lonely sight. The home owner must be a collector for there were nearly a dozen cars in various states of repair or (hopeful) restoration, mostly compiled closer to the house and away from this lonely critter.
I can't tell you anything about the car. We never dismounted the motorcycle to get any closer. Maybe some of you might recognize it.
After a while I wasn't certain what part of the county we had ended up in. Finally, a road sign.

Having found our bearings, we headed for home with just one last stop near a city park. "Closed for the Season" the sign read, so we only took a photo instead of a tour.

Friday, March 28, 2008

Tracking the White Buffalo

Balance. A key aspect of riding on two wheels. All riders and non-riders alike know that the nature of a motorcycle is to succumb to gravity and fall down and the only solution to developing good balance is practice.

I have noticed that my balance at slow speeds has improved considerable over the past several months. When I first started riding, coming to a stop sign or traffic light was always going to be a battle of indeterminate end. Oh, I never fell over like the comic character on the tricycle in the old Laugh-In television series of the 1970s, but my position in my lane was always a crap shoot depending on how many wobbles this weeble made.

Well, after 2,400 miles I can pretty much place the bike where I intend and those rare times when traffic on the outer belt is slow as molasses, I can plod along straight as an arrow at 5 mph. Yeah, baby! A minor accomplishment, you say, but I choose to celebrate every victory.

All these balancing act accomplishments aside, when my wife rides with me, things change. Of course, my head knows that the added weight of a passenger changes the balance dynamics of the bike. Combine the added weight with the fact that she is, at the moment, an inexperienced passenger, and sometimes I feel as though I'm riding through a spacial anomaly where gravity changes its constant and tries to pull us a different direction. The weeble is back!

The solution, of course, is practice and training. Practice, not necessarily on the interstate highway system, but on the back roads we like to travel. (To Teresa's credit, she has placed an incredible amount of trust in my abilities, whatever they might be, and has only rarely voiced her displeasure or apprehension of a riding situation. Grace abounds.) Training can be obtained via the Experienced Rider Course offered by the Motorcycle Safety Foundation (MSF) and Motorcycle Ohio. The overview of the course is interesting and looks to be an excellent resource for both rider and passenger. There are experience requirements that I don't meet yet, so this might be a course we take sometime this summer or fall.

Balance is an elusive beast that sometimes, like the mystical White Buffalo, doesn't want to be found. But once found and bridled is our friend.

Now, if I can only find the balance between my honey-do list and my ride time!

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Conspiracy Theory - March 26 Commute

This morning there is evidence of collusion. All of our local television weather guessers agreed with each other, who, in turn, agreed with the national online services, who, in turn, agreed with the National Weather Service. They obviously had to have met last night in the wee hours of the night and compare models and maps.

Not that I'm complaining, mind you. That is, of course, unless the beautiful spring day they have forecast is completely bogus and I am force to make my return trip home in the rain on two wheels.

So far today, I have not been disappointed. Brilliant sunshine and temps in the 50s.

The past couple of days have started out too cold (below freezing) for me to ride. And when I can't ride I find myself doing one of a couple of things in my free time: think about riding or get the Boulevard ready to ride. The Boulevard is ready and willing so I've been thinking - and reading - about two wheeled travel.

I've spent considerable time enjoying the musings and pictures posted by Conchscooter in his Key West Diary blog. His storeys about living in a tourist destination, that by all accounts in his descriptions is aptly called Paradise, are most entertaining. Its easy to understand the attraction to us snow birds longing for relief.

I have three friends and their wives that spent a week or so riding the Keys this past January. I am sure that the touring was typical for most riders/tourists, however their method of getting to Paradise was unique, to say the least.

One of the husbands owns a trucking company and he scheduled himself to take a load going to Miami. Before the trailer was loaded, two Harleys and a Suzuki M109 were strapped down in the front. The three men drove the load to Miami, off loaded the cargo and the bikes, and then picked the wives up at Miami International Airport.

When the week of recreation was up, they took the wives back to MIA, loaded the bikes back on the trailer, and waited for a load going to Ohio.

One of the Harley owners made an interesting observation: the salt air coroaded or tarnished many of the bolts on the bikes. They probably should have invested in some no rust stuff spray to put on them. Lesson learned for the next trip.

Today's commute was cool and dry, albeit dark until my arrival at the office. I took the advice of others in the online community and stayed in the hammer down lane once I reached the Interstate outer belt. The speed of that lane, while sometimes a bit excessive, is nothing compared to the number of lane changes that take place in the remaining three lanes.

Stopping or swerving into the breakdown lane because of slowed traffic is something I control. Being clipped from either side by lane changing motorists is not. So, it looks like the hammer lane is going to be my friend.

The afternoon commute still looks to be picture perfect. Perfect enough to look for a detour on the way home, maybe through the village of Granville or perhaps south towards Buckeye Lake.

Today I ride.

Monday, March 24, 2008

Sunday Afternoon Ride

Sunday morning was kinda hectic. I'm a sound tech for my church and the Easter Service was more of a production than most Sundays. But the service came off just fine and afterwards Teresa, Niki and I went to Mom's house for Easter dinner.

After eating too much and visiting for a while, we left to visit the other side of the family. In all honesty, I kept looking at the clock during the entire afternoon. The sun was out and the temp of about 46º was not going to be a hindrance to us making time for a ride.

The three of us finally got home around 4:00pm and I thought that perhaps the day might have slipped away from me. But Teresa and I left about an hour later and the Sunday afternoon adventure had begun.

Teresa started snapping pictures as soon as we left the house. Our street is paved with brick. Brick streets are very quaint and add lots of character to a neighborhood. The problem with brick paved streets is that no one knows how to repair them. At least, the people that fix or replace gas and water lines in our area sure can't figure out how. Six weeks after the pavers are replaced, they will have collapsed anywhere from 2 to 6 inches from where they originally were.

Heading out of town, we crossed the South Fork of the Licking River. This river was once part of the system that helped to regulated the level of Buckeye Lake and parts of the Ohio Canal.

This stand of sugar maples is tapped each year by The Dawes Arboretum and the sap boiled down for maple syrup. I'm not sure if enough sap is ever collected for much more than a gallon or two of syrup, but the local primary schools still have field trips here showing the kids what life used to be like.

We weren't the only ones answering the call to ride...

Central Ohio is one of the nicest areas to ride. Rolling hills, with a mix of woods and pasture.

I told Teresa that the clouds in this picture looked like a motorcycle... a Heritage Edition Softail or maybe even an Ultra. She doesn't see it. I told her it was a sign. She said, "Yeah, right."

All in all, the ride lasted about two hours and when we returned home the temp had dropped to 36º. Teresa was pretty chilled and I probably wouldn't have lasted another 30 minutes. It was good to get back into the warm. But the two hours we spent riding were exhilarating and long overdue.

Doug C

Saturday, March 22, 2008

No Riding Today - Have Some Humor

The weather is crap here again. Freezing rain went through the area last night and its a gray, cold day today.

I was cleaning up my home email account when I ran across a message forwarded by a friend.

I have no idea if this is an actual photo or if its been photoshopped, but it caught my eye and tickled my funny bone... Especially the sales pitch.

Dog For Sale

Free to good home. Excellent guard dog.

Owner cannot afford to feed him anymore as there are no more thieves, murderers, or molesters left in the neighborhood for him to eat.

Most of them knew him as "Holy %@&#"

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Happy Spring!!

I was sitting at my breakfast table drinking my coffee this morning, watching the TV weather and trying to decide whether I should ride to work today. The forecast called for sun (yeah!) and a high of 44º. Not too cold. The sunshine always makes the ride seem warmer.

After 3 days of what seemed like interminable torrential rains, it would be good to get back in the saddle again. But the temperature at the house was only 30º. There could be some icy spots on my commute. So, with great reluctance, I opted to drive the Civic. A wise choice.

As I've said before, my commute is about 50 miles one way. And the rain/sleet/snow fall we had last night had made the roads wet. In the 50 miles I travelled, I passed 4 multi-vehicle crashes and nearly found myself turned the wrong way after crossing an overpass. I cannot imagine what the ride would have been like on two wheels.

Rain moves back into the area tonight and the temps promise to be less than inviting - topping out at 45ºs. For the first day of Spring, the weather sure isn't cooperating.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Light Bulb Time - Doh!

I have seldom been called the brightest light bulb in the room but I'm no dummy, either. However, this morning as I awoke and poked the alarm clock a half dozen times trying to find the snooze button, a light bulb turned on in my head and I suddenly realized the source of my fatigue lately.

For a day or two it seems that I just can't get enough sleep and I've been really tired. Too tired to ride even. I usually get up around 4:45 and hit the hay around 10:00. I seem to manage well enough on about 6½ to 7 hours of sleep during the week. Whatever sleep I miss during the week, I try to make up for by sleeping in on Saturdays.

But this past weekend was busy with lots of errands and chores. Sunday provided no relief. Monday was a killer. And yet, when it came time for me to hit the sack last night at 10:00, I'm wired and wound up. I finally went to bed around 11:30.

So, after about 5½ hours of sleep I awake to a light bulb: It's the doggone time change!

My internal clock is still on standard time and my world is on daylight savings time. I should have seen this coming. Maybe it's because it comes so much earlier this year. Dunno.

Now, don't get me wrong, I like the fact that its daylight later. We tend to turn on less lights in the evening and there's a couple of hours of daylight after work for a short ride. But each year it seems to take me a little longer to get in sync with day light savings.

Its a two edged sword.

Friday, March 14, 2008

Rush Hour Rain

Common sense overcame my frustration today.

My frustration (in this case) is fuel cost. The common sense that prevailed was, practice rain riding in the daylight.

As I've mentioned before, my morning commute starts at 6:00am and until sometime in April 6:00am is well before sunrise. Frustration said, "Save money and ride!" The weather radar said, "Rain." I have a decision to make.

So, today I allowed common sense to win and I drove the Civic to work. Thinking back to some of the advice I've received from much more seasoned riders like Conchscooter and Dan Bateman (aka, irondad), I choose to get a few hours of rain riding under my belt during the daylight before I tackle rush hour rain in the dark.

Thursday, March 13, 2008

March 13th Evening Commute

The day started out a little cold, 27º at home, but what a fabulous day it turned out to be! Gorgeous sunshine, and temps rising to the lower 50s.

On days like today, the anticipation of heading for home at the end of the work day is heightened by the knowledge that the trip will be made on two wheels. Awesome!

March 13th Morning Commute

The temperature at home was 27º F this morning but the warm weather yesterday melted almost all of the remaining snow from my street. So I rode to work.

As I entered the expressway a mile from my home, the bike got a little squirrely on an icy glaze for about 100 feet. I eased off the throttle, put my feet down on the pavement and flat footed it until I found dry pavement again. But that was the only slippery spot during the hour long commute.

I stayed warm for most of the way but I was glad to arrive when I did. My legs got a little chilled and after an hour it was good to stretch a bit.

I look forward to when sunrise, or at least morning twilight will coincide with my departure time. Besides having some disdain for riding at night because of limits seeing road hazards, seeing the scenery is one of the benefits of riding. And ya' can't see too much when its dark.

The almanac says that won't happen for another month. That's OK. If the daylight savings time had not been changed last year, I would have to wait nearly two months.

Ride safe.

Doug C

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Stymied By A Triple Whammy

My frustration mounts and I feel a rant coming on.

I tried. I really did. But I just couldn't make myself ride to work today. I have been stymied by a triple whammy: Snow, Snow removal, and $3.45 a gallon gas!

The main routes I travel, in fact, 99% of my route is clear of snow and there shouldn't be any hazards short of potholes (which can be killers!) on the way. With just one exception... my own street.

I have to travel approximately 3/4 of a mile on a old neighborhood street paved with bricks from the early 1900s. But the snow cover is still so thick and the ruts so deep, I don't trust myself on them.

Riding has become even more a priority since yesterday when the price of gasoline in central Ohio hit $3.45 a gallon. My commute in the Civic now costs me about $12.00 a day. On the Boulevard, it will cost me about $6.00 a day. Who wouldn't choose to spend $30 a week for travel on two wheels versus $60 a week in a cage?

The monthly savings alone would pay my Cable and Internet bill, plus a couple of trips to a fast food joint! The AAA expert suggested that gas prices will hit about $3.80 a gallon this spring and then dip back to $3.00 during the summer.

I called the local street department and asked that they send a plow down our street. But by the time they arrive, I'm sure everything will have melted. It doesn't matter. I'm riding rain or shine, snow or no snow, tomorrow. Or else!

Monday, March 10, 2008

The Candy Store

Teresa and I ventured outside after the snow storm subsided on Sunday. I always love freshly fallen snow in the morning.
Sometime before the afternoon we made a trip to the candy store - AKA, Iron Pony in Westerville.

The trip there was uneventful. The roads, while not cleared of all snow, were easily passable and scenery was gorgeous!

That's a lot of snow. I'm glad that the wind wasn't as fierce as they predicted.

This stretch of highway will soon be replaced by a new 4 lane super speed way mostly north of the road.

"...paved paradise and put up a parking lot."

Once at Iron Pony, we spent the time looking for some of the items on my wish list. The place is huge, around 75,000 sqft, and spending time there is almost like time spent in the tool department at Home Depot or Lowes.

I found some winter gloves and a Tour Master rain suite for a good price. Teresa was disappointed that nothing was tailored for someone of her short stature. Whatever we find for her on the rack will need to be altered unless there is a company out there that caters to petite women.

The great weather forecast for this week changed. Again. As usual. Instead of sun and moderate temps, we're expecting precipitation, probably in the form of snow.

Well, at least since daylight savings time changed it's daylight when I get off work now. That's a plus.

Saturday, March 8, 2008

Blizzard of '08

It's Saturday, March 8th. My office closed early yesterday due to a snow emergency. It took me 3 hours to make the trek home in my Civic. The snow fall abated last night but it returned with a vengeance before dawn.

The snow depth at the moment is 10" and it's falling at a rate of about an inch an hour. And then there's the wind. I guess it is because of the wind that the national weather guys issued the BLIZZARD WARNING.

My 23 year old daughter who still lives with us has intentions of driving 40 miles to Columbus to see her beau and a concert. She spent about 30 minutes cleaning off her car and shovelling a space in front of her car, only to realize the futility of her efforts. She returned to the warmth of our living room and started crying. She can be so emotional! And stubborn.

Well, desire overcame common sense (which really isn't very common any more) and she got her car moving and has started the treacherous trek. She did take my advice and packed extra clothes, shoes, a blanket, her cell phone and her AAA card. If she makes the trip without getting stuck in a drift, I'll be surprised.

The 2 counties she needs to travel through have posted a Level 2 Snow Emergency. Roads are open but travel is strongly discouraged.

They are forecasting about 16" of snow before the storm ends tonight.

Next week they are forecasting sun for several days and a high of 55º on Thursday!!! Sounds like typical Ohio weather.

I can handle being snow bound this weekend. I'll be riding next week.

Thursday, March 6, 2008

Riding Season Wish List

If the economists are anywhere close to being right and gasoline prices continue to climb, I need to plan for riding to work a lot this year. So I started reading reviews on some rain and/or cold weather gear.

And then I started thinking about some other stuff I might need to make the the commute more enjoyable.

And then I started thinking about stuff that would make any ride more enjoyable or convenient, especially with my wife on the pillion. You can see where this is going, can't you. For a new rider, the list is long and the resource$ not so much.

Of course there are items that are a prerequisite for anytime riding. On the other end of the spectrum are those items that fit easily into the luxury column. However, I have found that given enough thought, I can almost always justify any fru fru thing as a prerequisite. Can't we all? I mean, my commute is an hour long and I need to be safe and comfortable, right?

See, I've started already.

Anyway, here's my list...

Rain Suit - probably 2 piece. I'm a pretty big guy and doing all of the necessary gyrations to get into a 1 piece doesn't become me.

Water Proof Gloves - Dry is warm. Wet is not warm.

Boots? - My riding boots said they were waterproof (well they didn't say it. It was written on the box) but only a test ride will tell the tale.

Tail or Sissy Bar Bag - The cruiser's saddle bags hold a lot but it would be handy to have a pick-up-and-go pack for an overnight stay or my laptop.

Wireless Intercom - It would be nice to actually converse with Teresa on a ride sometimes.
Note: A riding friend suggested this to his wife and she said, "If I wanted to talk to you on the ride, we would have bought a pickup truck!" Maybe Teresa thinks the same?

Engine Guards and Highway Pegs - Not sure if this is desirable or not. On a long ride, if you get stiff, maybe it's time to stop, stretch your legs and smell the roses. We'll find out.

GPS Nav System - Hmmmm.

Gel Seat Pads - The cruiser's stock seats are good but not that good.

Well there ya' have it. Certainly not complete and definitely not final. My paper list has lots more blank lines on it and of course my pencil has an eraser, too.

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

Another Great Day

69º on Monday with sun and a few clouds. Perfect weather for some therapeutic riding. In fact, we've had 2 days of great riding weather. Which is good because the forecast is pretty crappy for the next several days.

My passion for riding is quite high, right now. I suspect that I would ride in all types of weather if I knew my skill level was adequate for the challenge. I don't have any rain gear that will work for riding. I can't imagine my fishing rain suit providing much protection.

If I were to ride during inclement weather, my concerns would be:
  • Adequate skills
  • Adequate protection

The protection I can buy. The skills I can probably attain. I guess I'm just a little gun shy about the practice required for the skills.

That said, if I'm going to do it, my thinking is try to control as much of my surroundings as I can. Pick the time, the roads, and inclement weather to ride in. The time to practice (or learn) my wet road riding skills is not on my morning commute.

I think it's time for research. Others have mastered this and it's time to pick their brains.

Doug C

Monday, March 3, 2008

The Basket Building

I pass this building nearly once a week. So often, in fact, I hardly ever take a second look any more.

I realize how desensitized I've become to unique sights around home when, every once and a while, I see a motorist parked at the side of the road taking pictures. The Longaberger Company has its corporate offices in Newark and Dave Longaberger, the visionary leader of the company, had this building constructed in 1997.

The story goes that Dave walk into the architect's office with one of the company's picnic baskets, set it on his desk, and said, "I want you to design a building that looks like this." The building still sees a tour bus or two each day during the summer.

I never understood the fanaticism of Longaberger collectors. But then again, they probably don't understand our passion for travelling on two wheels.

Drive Way Cleared, Two Wheels Rolling

For once, the weekend plans worked out as planned. Saturday was spent breaking up and clearing the ice from my driveway. It took me nearly an hour to find and purchase the ice melt and when I carried it out to my car, the bag decided to open prematurely. About 2 hand fulls emptied into my trunk and I'll have to clean that out before too long. But the bulk of the ice melt was spared for my drive and after about an hour of doing its magic on the drive all I had to do was break up the slabs and shovel them to the side.

Sunday's afternoon sun was awesome and our ride lasted for about two hours. About ten minutes into the ride, I asked Teresa if she had the camera. "No", was the response. "Oh, well." was mine and we rode on. I'll try to have pictures in the future. I'll just need to remind the photographer before we take off.

One of the downfalls to early spring rides is that there are often riverletts of snow melt running across to roadways. They don't always cause a hazard but they do require caution and they can really muck the underside of the bike. Another downfall is the collection of aggregate - sand, cinders, and sometimes salt - that collects right where I want to put the bike on curves. These patches are definitely hazards and extreme caution needs to be executed.

These tend to unnerve Teresa. I don't blame her.

Another winter storm is forecast for tomorrow with rain, sleet, freezing rain, and an accumulation of snow. I'll try to get the bike cleaned up before it gets snow bound again.