Monday, July 28, 2008

Phewww! Life is too hectic, sometimes. At least this past week and weekend has been for me.

I finally got Lady's rear wheel with the new tire mounted Friday night and took her for a short spin around the neighborhood. I was prepared for the new tire to be a little slippery and it was that. I just treated the dry road surfaces like they were wet and all was fine. It took about 30 miles for the new tire nubbies (what are those needle-like pieces of rubber called, anyway?) to wear off and the rubber to start sticking to the pavement.

The new tread made a huge difference in the ride - smoother, less vibration, and a solid feel cornering. $200 well spent.

After spending a week caging it to work, I was reminded Sunday afternoon about how much one's olfactory senses are bombarded while riding. I followed a friend out to a local campground where some friends were staying and after exiting the city we turned onto a country road.

The fields were laden with freshly cut hay and the fragrance took me back to my youth spending summers on my grandpa Dill's dairy farm. My reverie was cut short when I caught a whiff not of hay but of some weed. Not weeds, but weed.

"Somebody's smoking," I thought out loud. That is one fragrance that is so distinct and so unique it can seldom be mistaken for something else.

I looked ahead and noticed that the windows of my friends SUV were rolled up tight. It was at least 90º F and he was enjoying the AC. When I smelled it 3 or 4 more times, I knew it had to be the pickup truck he was following.

Amazing that even at 40 mph and following 500 feet away that you can still detect the smell of burning marijuana.

This week looks to be less hectic. I only have commitments on Wednesday and Thursday nights that I must honor. One of the remaining evenings I think I take both ladies out for an A&W ice cream float and another ride in the country, sans weed.

Friday, July 25, 2008


My co-worker came into my office this morning anxious to tell me what she saw this morning, (yes, I came to work this morning, regrettably) and I had a hard time believing the story she told until I Googled it on the net.

This is the same co-worker that has become enchanted by scooters and all things on 2 wheels. She said she pulled into a fast food place and noticed several bikes in the parking lot, mostly touring bikes. There were a couple of Goldwings, a HD Ultra and, from her description, a Star Venture.

One of the Goldwings was pulling a steel fabricated trailer with a cooler strapped to the top. Perfect for the camping rider, I guess. But it was the Venture that caught her attention.

The Venture had training wheels, fenders included.

Knowing that this person is not given to strong drink at any hour let alone first thing in the morning, I had to verify her tale with an Internet search.
Sure enough, the additions are called Retractables. Made for riders with with "bad knees, senior citizens, and even paraplegics", they extend hydraulically and have been available for years.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Withdrawal Symptoms

The voice mail went like this:

"Mr. C,

"This is Jerry at the dealership and your wheel is ready to go. We'll be open until 6:30 tonight for you to pick it up. Have a good evening."

This was great news. Unfortunately the dealership is near my office and I had just arrived at home. I checked my watch and instantly knew that by the time I could leave to pick it up they would be closed. It would have to wait until the morning. Bummer.

Another bummer moment came to me this morning: I'm busy tonight from 6:00 to about 10:00 and won't have time to mount the wheel until Friday night.


Hey, Boss, I think I'm feeling a little under the weather (due to riding withdrawal) and might have to take tomorrow off (to replace my wheel).

I'm sure I'll be feeling better by mid morning (especially after I ride to work).

Can you get by without me for a few hours?

We'll see...

Ride Safe.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Life's Uncertantities

As the saying goes, nothing in life is certain save for death and taxes, and life tossed Teresa and me a curve ball a few days ago.

One of the cruelest of diseases has visited Teresa’s family and like a flood the bad news continues to rise unabated. Paul, my father-in-law, has been diagnosed with dementia, symptoms that the family saw demonstrated a few weeks ago. But let me back up a bit because I’m jumping into the middle of the story.

About 6 weeks ago, Paul complained about not feeling well and so a visit to the doctor was scheduled. That visit indicated some heart issues. Tests were ordered and with the miracle of modern science and technology, it was revealed that his heart was enlarged and he had fluid around it. He was prescribed meds and returned home for a “wait and see” period.

The return to the cardiologist two weeks later found him in worse condition and so he was admitted to the hospital for more tests. Those revealed a couple of leaky valves and an efficiency of about 15%. I guess normal efficiency is around 60%.

During his hospital stay while doctors examined him and decided how best to treat his heart, he would become disoriented with increasing frequency, not understanding why he was where he was and why people – “damn strangers” he called them – were poking him and bossing him around.

Dementia was the diagnosis, of course, which is just a fancy name for Thief - something that steals one’s memories at a time when that is often all one has left.

The doctors are sending Paul home today under the care of his 6 children, adults all of them, who he sometimes does not recognize. He will require 24 hour supervision and Teresa asked me if she could stay nights with him for a while. I have given my blessing as long as while keeping him safe, she will be safe doing so. We are hoping that her siblings will also assist in the care, and I’m sure they will.

So, my riding partner and photographer will take on a new role for as long as she can or as long as this production runs.

And while I feel a sense of loss, not having my partner available for evening jaunts or weekend ride-a-ways, it is miniscule compared to the loss with which Teresa will contend. And I feel guilt and shamed that the thought even crossed my mind.

I am incredibly proud of her and if by chance I take a ride in the evenings, it will be to see her and Paul and spend time with both.

Even though we know the ending of this story, the last few chapters that have yet to be written will prove that life is full of uncertainties.

Ride Safe

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Back in the cage, again

The parts guy walked the isles and looked at the shelves for 10 minutes while I stood at the counter. Finally he said, "I looks like the tube is special... has a 90º valve stem and we're out of stock on the brake shoes. But I have the tire you need."
So much for calling ahead.

Kinda kills the next day service on tire mounting, too.
So, I'm caging it again. For the next day or so.

Monday, July 21, 2008

One of these days I would like to ride into my local dealership and shop, drop off the Lady, and have a new tire mounted.
However, I suppose that a new rider (me) should at least learn how to change both front and rear tires on his bike. And, the best place to do that is in the comfort of one's own garage and not at the side of the road.

Sunday I had planned to ride at a father/daughter ride to the Zanesville area for lunch but Lady greeted me with a flat rear tire in the morning. So instead of rolling along, she was in the air on the jack.

The removal of 8 nuts, a cotter pin, and an axle bolt freed the wheel. The last time I had a puncture, a drywall screw was embedded in the front tire. The culprit this time: a pop rivet shank.

The good news about this entire saga is that the tire has nearly 12,000 miles on it. I had planned on replacing it in a couple of weeks anyway. The tire wear indicators were nearly flush and another week's worth of commuting, about 500 miles, was all the life the tread probably had left. This just force my hand a little sooner.

Depending on whether the shop has a replacement tire in stock it'll probably be Wednesday before Lady is on the road again. That will give me a couple of days to break in the new tread before a rain check ride for my daughter this weekend.

Friday, July 18, 2008

I love riding. For years I denied myself this indulgence, which really isn't an indulgence at all. Its smart eco-nomics. Riding leaves a smaller carbon footprint and saves money on gas. (I'm learning that the maintenance can sometimes negate the gas savings, though.)

I have tried to temper my riding enthusiasm while I am around my co-workers; someone that talks only about one subject is quite a bore. Still, I always seem to share any experiences I've had riding with them, and so far, they haven't moaned about my stories.

In fact, one co-worker seems to have been enticed by both my stories and the eco-nomics of riding and now she is looking at scooters. Her excitement is almost palpable and she is beginning to see herself riding on two wheels. Her conversations tend to revolve around matching color schemes between the scooter and the rider. That's OK. To envision oneself on two wheels, dreaming of the possibilities is a process. I've been there as many have before me. Its a strangely intriguing metamorphosis.

I saw this happen with my wife. About two years ago I finally let my two wheeled yearnings be known. The response was pretty much what I expected: a resounding, "NO!" that echoed throughout the neighborhood.

But over the course of the next several weeks and months, whenever I would drop a hint about riding, Teresa's objections grew softer and less vocal. It took about a year, but she finally began seeing herself as a possible passenger and the allure of leather and riding - even as a passenger - became too strong for her to resist.

I'm glad I persevered.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

I really enjoy mornings like today. The air is cool, about 60º F, perfect for my hour long commute, although anyone south of the Mason-Dixon line might argue that point. Mist covered the valleys as the sun rose and I started chasing my shadow about half way into work. Right after I stopped and snapped this photo.

I counted 14 motorcycles during my ride this morning. That's about twice as many as I usually see. I reminded the only other rider at work about the significance of today, but I only give her about a 50% chance of riding to work. I think she took up riding to please her husband rather than satisfy any inner desire and that probably has limited her riding time and her confidence.

But she gets better and more confident every time I see her on two wheels. It'll be nice to see Lady with a stablemate today.

Ride Safe.


Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Ride To Work Day

Ride to Work Day this year is Wednesday, July 16th. Tomorrow, for me, will be a lot like yesterday, and the day before. But that's me.

The central Ohio weather forecast calls for perfect riding weather, so I expect to see bunches of riders tomorrow.
Ride Safe.

Friday, July 11, 2008

Two Ladies in My Life

There are two ladies in my life. One is my wife and her name is Teresa. The other is not.

Hmmm. That didn't come out like I wanted. I'm not talking about fidelity, here. I'm talking about the Boulevard.

This Lady is an '07 Suzuki Boulevard C50T, a cruiser with a touring package. What is not black is chrome and there's quite a bit of that with room to add more (there's always more room, right?)

The "50" stands for 50 cubic inches which works out to about 800cc. Why they didn't stick with the metric measure is only known to the market gurus. I find it a mildly frustrating needing to do the mental exercises converting the the cubic inches into CCs - 50ci = 800, 90ci = 1440, 109ci = 1744 - for ball park numbers.

It falls into the mid-weight cruiser category and weighs in at about 550lbs. Personally, I think this is better classified as a light-weight cruiser since so many of the cruisers nowadays easily surpass Lady by a few hundred pounds.

The Boulevard was categorized as a great first bike by more than one reviewer or motorcycle enthusiast and I would concur. She has a low center of gravity and great low end torque. And since it was going to be my first bike with the style I wanted, I thought it was a good match. I am happy with my choice. She has been kind to me and I return the same.

Still, there are bigger, faster, flashier bikes out there. There's her big sister, the C90 and bigger still, the 109. The local crowd I ride with is a preponderance of Harleys with engine sizes and weights double that of mine. They have never implied or insinuated that Lady was small, yet there are times she has struggled to keep up during a two lane pass.

More than one HD rider encountered during my commute has looked upon her with a little disdain, barely giving a nod let alone a wave. Perhaps it is because her lineage is foreign or because her voice is softer with seldom a cackle. When they take the time to ask about her, I always sing her praises saying she's a great first bike.

They are exceptions, of course. Yesterday, as I neared my home and was stopped at a traffic light, I could see in my mirror a large HD approaching in the lane next to me. Lady and I always nod or wave at all two wheeled riders no matter the look (or not) we might get in return.

And so as we turned and prepared to be ignore by this American icon, I noticed it was an HD Screamin' Eagle. Prob'ly 900 pounds of iron that was big and black with chrome eagle claws sticking out for highway pegs. Then I looked at the rider and saw a familiar face grinning back.

Dusty, the rider, and I chatted for a few seconds until the light changed to green and he rumbled out of sight. I caught up with him at my exit where he turned right and I turned left.

I suppose that Dusty serves as a reminder to me that not all HD riders are of the snobbish persuasion and check my preconceptions at the curb.

Getting back to the ladies, yes, there are two in my life. And they both can hold their own and they both arrive in style.

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Fallingwater House, Farmington Pennsylvania

As I mentioned earlier, The ride to Pennsylvania was very wet. When we left the parking lot in Newark it was dry but we drove into the weather not 10 minutes later.

There were a total of 21 people in the group: 11 bikes and 1 car. The idea for someone to drive a car was genius. Todd and Pam, the cagers, don't ride and they acted like a support vehicle carrying drinks and extra provisions.

We traveled I-70 east until New Concord, home of Senator John Glenn, and then switched on to US-40 until we got to Wheeling. In Wheeling we stopped for gas and food. Did I mention it was wet? It was almost comical listening to every one's soggy shoes go "squish, squish" walking into fast food eatery.

Twenty minutes later we were back on the road and in the rain again. We hopped back on I-70 for about 20 miles and then headed for the secondary roads. Our leader person never explained the change in highways but I suspect that those among us with half helmets and goggles grew tired of the truck spray. Truck spray is not enjoyable even with a face shield.

We finally arrived at our hotel in Uniontown, PA and unpacked the bikes. Everyone was pretty much soaked and I'm sure that the AC and heating units in the rooms were working overtime to dry stuff out. Wet shoes are a different matter entirely and more than one rider went down the street to a WalMart and bought a new pair that were dry.

Saturday brought dryer skies and the discovery of a flat rear tire on Ralph and Diane's Electro-glide. One of the riders that had not intended to tour the Fallingwater house swapped bikes with them and tended to the tire replacement while Ralph and Diane continued on with the rest of us.

The house called Fallingwater was incredible. Built over a stream and waterfall in 1937 by Frank Lloyd Wright, it was donated to the Western Pennsylvania Conservancy in 1963. Some interesting facts:

  • The house was commissioned by the Edgar Kauffman of Pittsburgh, PA as a weekend home
  • Actual building costs for the home was 5 times the original estimate.
  • Nearly all of the furniture in the house is 'built in' meaning it can't be rearranged.
  • All of the toilets in the house sit just 10" off the floor, the owner believing it to be more healthful.
  • The house is home to several million dollars worth of artwork and furnishings by Picasso, Diego Rivera, Tiffany and others. (The original paintings are hermetically sealed in their frames.)

The conservancy no longer allows photography in the house so the photos below were copied from Internet sources.

I have to admit that I was not excited about the destination of this trip. I was excited about the ride. I am not a student of architecture although I can probably tell the difference between Georgian and Victorian styles. I am, however, curious about history and the guided tour provided glimpses into the history of Frank Lloyd Wright and the Kaufman's. I was not bored.

After the tour we hooked up with Howie and Bev (they tended to the flat tire replacement) at Ohiopyle State Park. We had sandwiches at a local no name shop and then decided our next course of action.

Few, if any of the bikes had very many shiny parts left on them after riding in the rain the previous day.

Todd and Pam, our chase car occupants, were the most comfortable but I know Todd had a longing look in his eye when he would gaze upon the row of bikes.

When Howie got the tire replaced, he learned about a large Harley Davidson dealership north of Pittsburgh that "every HD owner needs to visit." The HD visit would add about 100 miles to the trip. Four bikes decided to take that detour and the rest chose to ride the back roads home to Ohio.

And so we took off headed for home, a ragtag band of riders from all walks of life...

Going south through Uniontown and then west on US-40...

A fuel stop near Moundsville, WV where they still had Full Service gasoline for $4.79 a gallon and only 1 restroom.

And then we're off again.

Everything was going nicely for miles and miles. Ohio SR-7 south to Ohio SR-148 to Ohio SR-800. Weaving our wave through the rolling hills and country side, enjoying the sunshine and solitude of some rural roads. That is until I looked back and noticed Diana dropping back.

After about a minute of no riders behind us, myself and the three others in the front turned our bikes around to see what calamity had befallen the others. And that's when we came upon this sorry sight:

Diana, the rider behind me, rides a Sportster 1200. That's her above in the red top. The reason she dropped back was a flat tire, the second of the trip.

We were about 10 miles from anywhere, so we sent Mike, Diana's husband, to hunt down some fix-a-flat and some tools that would help get the bike into town for some tire work. After about an hour we were on our way. The fix only lasted a few miles until we could get to civilization, if you could call Barnesville, Ohio civilization. Mike called a friend and had it trailered back home from there.

We traveled 248 miles that day and got home after dark. We spent it with good friends and were able to share the joys and shoulder the burdens of riding on two wheels.

Would I do it again. In a heart beat!

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Beyond a Man's Comprehension

As I was riding into work this morning I saw something I'm sure many have seen over the years, many times before and it caused me to wonder out loud:

How is it that women can apply eyeliner and other makeup products while traveling 80 mph down the interstate, and not wreck?

As with most things dealing with the female persuasion, I'm clueless as to the answer. My advantage is the fact that I realize that this is beyond any man's comprehension. Nuf said.

Anyway, the holiday ride to Farmington, Pennsylvania went off as scheduled, if not as hoped for. We left town on Friday, July 4th and rode in the rain for 4 hours. Saturday's weather was much more hospitable.

I'm still sorting pictures and hopefully will have some to post here soon. It seems that during the longer summer days there is more that needs to get done and I never seem to have enough time to do everything I want, including keep this blog current.

Thursday, July 3, 2008

While perusing some bike blogs I happened upon this site documenting a solo Euro tour by Jacqui Van Ham. Jacqui is making the trip on a vintage BMW and her blog is interesting to say the least.

Here's one picture from her blog of a highway in Germany that caught my eye.

The line of traffic is almost as insane as the lane splitting.

Why do we ride?

Why do we ride? Here's an article from MSN that describes it pretty well.

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Special Commute

My commute today was special. The cold front that had become stationary for several days decided to move on through the night washing the air, the sidewalks and streets. The morning was clear and cool. I left the house about 15 minutes before sunrise and by the time I had travelled past Granville, the sun was just starting to crest the hills that the village hugs.

Another 5 miles and I had cleared the patchy fog that likes to form along Raccoon Creek. I rounded a long gentle curve and the road opened up before me. I noticed that I would not be riding solo this morning - my shadow kept me company for the next several miles.

It was almost mesmerizing, seeing my shadow riding the center line, following the terrain up and down like a roller coaster. When it first caught my eye, the shadow easily covered 75 feet in height. But the longer I rode the more it shrank and by the time I reached the office it's stature had decreased considerably.

Yes, today's commute was very special.