Thursday, October 30, 2008

How do you know you've been working too much? When you have unused vacation time at the end of the year!

Every couple of weeks the payroll department at my work sends out a spreadsheet with benefit hours accrued. This year I was eligible to receive 3 weeks vacation, which is very nice and generous.

The spreadsheet says I have 2 weeks available to me and I am only allowed to carry over 1 week of vacation into the new year. So, sometime between now and the end of the year I have to use up 1 week of vaca time.

I think I'll start this Friday. Maybe go to Portsmouth, Ohio in the south, or perhaps Lucas county where Micah from Lucas County Choppers calls home, way up north.

I'll fill you in when I get back.

Ride Safe!
Recently, US District Judge Edmund Sargus ruled that homeless individuals in Ohio can list their residence as a "park bench".

While I am well aware of the US history of disenfranchising voters because they were not land owners, how do we become as inclusive as possible and still maintain the integrity of the election process?

Or is unreasonable for me to use the words "election" and "integrity" in the same sentence?
Sorta like the words "politician" and "honesty".

I may have found my limit.

As far as cold weather riding goes, endurance is a calculation using temperature and time. Today's ride into work was enjoyable for about 25 minutes.

The next 15 minutes were uncomfortable.

The last 15 minutes were painful.

I think I have found my limit with the gear that I have. Its good to know where the boundaries are.

Friday, October 24, 2008

The October Ride

Several riders braved the cold temps last weekend and joined the last (organized) group ride of the year. The ride destination was Tappan and Atwood Lakes in north east Ohio and the thermometer read somewhere around 36º F when we left Newark.

There were 11 or 12 bikes in the caravan with about a dozen and a half people crazy enough - some might say driven - to venture out.

My better half wanted desperately to go, but was under the weather and spent the day in a comfy bed though she was not particularly comfortable. Since she has the photo duties on our rides, I never even bothered to take the camera. And I can kick myself for that decision because the fall colors were brilliant. You'll have to take my word for it. Sorry.

Pucker Factor I
The roads were smooth and mostly clear of any gravel except for one spot that really jacked up my pucker factor. My rear tire kicked out about a foot during a right hand curve but finally grabbed hold of solid pavement and righted herself.

It was a blind curve at the top of a hill and dropped away to the right following the contour of the terrain. I didn't see the gravel. That part of the road was in shade and I had just come out of sunlight. My speed wasn't really a factor but given the amount of aggregate on the surface, a better line into the curve would have saved me from the slide.

After the bike straightened, I looked in my rear view and saw Mike on his Road King go wide crossing the center line. Apparently, he didn't see the gravel either but he saw me slide and was able to avoid my path.

We followed the road down the hill through several shaded and sweeping curves. Near the bottom of the hill the trees cleared and I saw that after a short straight-away the road made a 90 degree turn to the left.

I looked left and followed the road with my eyes as far as I could see and then turned my attention to my immediate surroundings. There was a pasture on the left and a small farm house on the right about 30 feet from the road, very near the 90 degree left turn.

Pucker Factor II
And then I saw her. Standing at the shoulder straddling the ditch and straining her neck to reach greener grass was a jersey cow!

At first I thought to myself, "Holy Cow!" No, really.

Now, keep in mind, just 60 seconds earlier I had just escaped calamity in gravel and I was just a little hyped up, adrenalin still flowing, noticing everything and taking it all in. I looked for a possible escape route should this cow decide to wander out further into the road.

I slowed down and motioned for Mike behind me to do the same. I started to go wide, avoiding the bovine, and wondered why no one bothered to signal? There's a cow crossing the road and nobody ahead of me signaled the hazard!

What I didn't see until Bessie was about 30 feet away was the rope around her neck stretched out along the ground and tied to a stake in front yard of the farm house. The reason she was straining her neck? She was at the end of her rope!

The next 20 minutes were uneventful which let my nerves calm down. We stopped at Deersville which is really nothing more than a wide spot in the road. Several riders enjoyed a small ice cream cone (that turn out to hold about a quart of ice cream) while we stood outside the Deersville General Store and laughed about ole' Bessie.

And having hamburger for lunch.

Ride Safe!

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

It's a head thing.

Years ago a friend tried, rather unsuccessfully I must say, to teach me how to fly fish. "Its all in the wrist," he would say to me and flicked his fly just inches from some reeds or submerged tree limb sticking out of the water.

Its more than just wrist action. It also involves a connection to the head. I must not have made the connection because I never got the hang of the technique and decided focused my recreation activities in another direction.

This morning after arriving at the office and successfully doing battle with the cold, I thought to myself, "You know, when it comes to cold weather riding, "Its all in the head." And then I remembered my lesson with fly fishing and amended my thought with, "and having the right gear!"

I check the temperature around 8:00 and saw this:

By 9:00 the sun had started melting the frost from the area roofs.

I'm really impressed with my new Fieldsheer Tour Temp jacket. After an hour of riding I had just started feeling the cold in my arms.

I have yet to purchase a heated solution for my hands - not sure if I want to go with gloves and deal with the wire up my sleeve or with heated grips - but I did find a disposable product that kept all but my fingers warm.

The product's name is Hot Hands-2 and is an aggregate mixture in a tea bag that generates heat when exposed to the air. They're marketed toward outdoor recreationist and have been around for years. A package of 4 cost me about $1.50 so I thought, "Why not?"

I tucked them into the palm of my hand and donned my gloves. They were a little bulky but after a few minutes I forgot they were there. And they stayed warm for the entire ride.

The frugal person in me put them inside a Ziploc baggie at the office and sprayed some computer "Dust-Off" into the bag to remove the air. I suspect they'll be ready to activate again for the ride home this afternoon. We'll see.

Cold weather riding is a challenge, but for me, after you have the right gear, its more mental than anything. I have to psych myself into thinking that as long as there's no ice or snow, nothing is going to stop me from riding.

Besides, I get really cranky when I don't ride every day or so.

Ride Safe!

Monday, October 20, 2008

Not prepared for this. Not yet.

When I went to bed last night I knew the forecast low of 34º F was going to be higher than the actual temperature in my neck of the woods. But when I logged onto the net this morning, I was not prepared for this:

Or this:
The almanac says these are near normal temps for our area. But I'm not ready, mentally or physically, for the cold. Yet.

I got a new jacket last weekend and I never felt any cold penetration on the cold mornings I rode last week. But I need to look into either some heated grips or heated gloves, 'cause my hands got really cold.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

I paused at the bedroom door. Teresa was just finishing getting dressed for work. I was about to go downstairs and fix my morning cup of joe when she said, "Are you driving into work today?"

"Yes. I'm driving." It was raining and though I can handle the wet roads, my daughter was traveling with me and she would look like a drowned rat after the 45 minute commute to her work.

As I turned to take my leave, I asked, "Will there ever come a time when I don't have to call you when I arrive at work?"

Now before you start thinking she has me wrapped around her little finger (which she does), let me explain something. I've been riding for a little over a year now with over 18,000 miles under my belt. Not much in the grand scheme of things but certainly more than your average 2,000 to 3,000 mile, first year, fair weather rider.

And every morning that I ride to work, a trip of about 50 miles, she expects a phone call soon after I arrive. She doesn't expect a phone call when I drive the quad-cycle but if I'm riding she wants to know that I've arrived in one piece. If I were cynical, I might think she was checking up on me, verifying my travel time, calculating my speed, estimating any detours or unscheduled stops. But I'm not and she isn't.

The conversation is almost always the same:

"Hi. I'm here, upright and vertical. How about you?" Those mornings that have been a little chilly she likes to emphasise the fact that she was warm and toasty in her car for the 15 minutes it took her to get to work. But regardless of the lack of variety in the conversation, a phone call she expects and gets.

Hence, my question.

She pondered what I had asked for a second and said, "Yes. Of course."

I smiled and stepped away from the doorway, already thinking about my coffee, when I heard her say, "Just send me an email."

Ride Safe!

Monday, October 13, 2008

Things I've learned over the past year:

1) Remove suicidal bugs from your windshield as soon as possible. Even though they may not impair your vision, you may get tennis elbow trying remove them after 24 hours.

2) Ten minutes of rain riding means hours of cleaning later (not necessarily a bad thing.)

3) Jacket vents only provide cooling when your moving.

4) Looking good on your (insert your type of bike here) is no substitute for riding well and well protected.

5) The shortest distance between two points is not always preferable.

6) You still get a good feeling when you fill up your tank for $12 instead of $16

7) Riders of all ilk will stop for another rider at the side of the road.

8) Calling your car or truck a quad-cycle does not provide the same effect when you drive it.

9) Your "To Do" list does NOT always have to get done.

10) Sometimes the best reason to ride is "Because."

Ride Safe!

Cooler Temps, Fewer Riders

I am disappointed though not surprised by the dwindling number of fellow riders during my commute. There were lots of bikes out during the warm parts of the day this past weekend, but the cool mornings and cold ride really puts the kabash on the enthusiasm for riding a lot of riders have.

There is, however, one rider whose dedication to a 2 wheeled commute shames me when I start thinking about mine. We have similar work schedules although we travel in opposite directions.

I passed him every morning around 6:25 and every afternoon about 4:30. He rides a BMW with hard cases and always, during the daylight, waves as we pass. That is, when ever I'm riding.

He's ridden in weather I've chosen not to challenge. I don't know his name but I admire his dedication.

Ride Safe!

Friday, October 10, 2008

(From Google images)

Central Ohio is having some spectacular fall riding weather. Cool nights and warm sunny days will bless us for the next 4 or 5 days.

If I'm not around much I'll be out riding.

To heck with the "To do" list. That stuff can wait for a rainy day.

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Yesterday morning was mild and wet. The rains they had forecast to arrive about 2:00am actually made their appearance at about 6:00am.

I looked outside the front door at the wet sidewalk and sneered, "We ride, rain or shine!"

I turned away from the weather and started for my gear. That's when my daughter, Nicole, informs me she needs to ride with me. Her car is out of gas and she is out of money. She knows better than to ask for money, so she asks for a ride.

Being that she does not have any rain gear, I opted to take the Civic and her to work.

This morning was dry. The skies cleared over night and cooler air moved into the area. In fact, the air was a lot cooler by about 20ºF. That made it about 42ºF.

And Nicole still has no gas or money and needs a ride.

So the choices before me seemed simple: Ride, and hope she doesn't get too cold on the 45 minute ride to east side of the big city, or drive, and silently despise the fact that I'm caging it on what is promised to be a spectacular fall day.

On the way home today, I will roll down all the windows in my Civic and pretend. But it won't be the same. Not by a long shot.

Ride Safe!

Monday, October 6, 2008

The Economics of the F & E Factor

This morning, I find myself contemplating the past year of riding. I know Irondad (among others) posted a piece (one of his first, I think) about the economics of riding a motorcycle. I made the mistake that almost every first time motorcycle buyer makes and over estimated the savings of having a bike for a primary vehicle.

The first time I calculated the ownership costs I never included the fact that tires would wear out every 12,000 to 18,000 miles and replacing them would cost almost half as much as an entire set of tires for my subcompact.

Plus there is maintenance that needed done. Can't neglect that. Valve adjustments, sparks plugs, brake pads...

My original calculation were way off in favor of the motorcycle. I soon realized the error in my formula. Even though my weekly gasoline costs went from about $75 per week to $30 at $2.85 per gallon, the price of gas when I first bought Lady, maintenance costs were taking a chunk out of the fuel savings.

However, as others have pointed out, when the cost of gasoline approaches $4.00 a gallon, the savings is definitive. Even with maintenance costs, the edge definitely goes to the motorcycle.

I now realize that while my original calculations were in error because of neglecting to add maintenance costs, they were also in error because they also neglected to calculate the value of the F & E factor.

What's the F & E factor, you ask? Its not an accounting term, though it might as well be in our calculations. The F & E factor is that intangible part of motorcycle ownership often neglected. Its that part of ownership that understands why a dog always sticks their head out a window when riding in a car. The F & E factor is Fun & Enjoyment.

Lady has racked up over 17,000 miles in the past year. About 1,200 miles was a vacation to Tennessee. Another 2,500 miles were spent on shorter two-up trips. The balance can be can be attributed to my daily commute and neighborhood errands.

While I have not spent nearly as much time riding two-up as I had anticipated, the time spent was at least triple the time I'd spent with Teresa before. My passion for riding quickly became our passion for riding. When my skills improved, her passenger skills improved, too, and her F & E factor increased as well.

If I were to analyze motorcycle ownership now and compare it to automobile ownership, with the current price of gasoline (about $3.50 in central Ohio), the cost of insurance, and the cost of scheduled maintenance, my calculations would indicate a savings of about $800 this past year.

Factor in the F & E value, and the savings is immeasurable. Time two.

Ride Safe

Thursday, October 2, 2008

Here's something I found interesting happenning in Oregon...

Oregon troopers ride with truckers to catch aggressive drivers

by Kimberly A.C. Wilson, The Oregonian
October 01, 2008, 7:46 PM

A campaign targeting aggressive drivers in the Willamette Valley
snagged 38 in a two-day effort that ended today.

Officers from the Oregon State Police, Marion County Sheriff's Office and Salem Police Department worked together. Police rode in commercial trucks along Interstate 5, looking for drivers speeding, tailgating and changing lanes unsafely.

More than a third of the citations were issued for speeding, including one for a motorist clocked at 103 mph in a 65-mph zone Tuesday night. Nine went to drivers who followed too closely, six to drivers who improperly changed lanes and five for seat belt violations. Another 21 drove off with warnings, said state police Lt. Mark Cotter.

The article didn't say if any of the citations went to motorcyclist but we all know, its the cagers that cause all of our problems. Well, maybe not all of them...

Read the entire article from The Oregonian here.

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Today's ride into work was a little chilly. The temps hovered around 50º F and about half way to the office I realized my hands and feet were down right frigid. After an hour on the road I welcomed the warmth of the office and the office coffee.

It took me until about 10:00 am to get warm again. I think my internal thermostat needs a more gradual temperature change. Just last week the morning lows were in the 60s.

Maybe I'm just getting older.

Tomorrow morning's temp is supposed to be about 40º F. I may have to stop on the way and take a coffee break...