Wednesday, April 30, 2008
Tuesday, April 29, 2008
Yep, that's snow. Now, for weeks I have admired the flaming forsythia bushes blooming in the area and was reminded about the old adage, "Three snows after the forsythia blooms." But surely with the moderate temps we've been having it won't happen this year. Wrong.
This is snow number one. At least it wasn't as bad as the 9 or 10 inches that Minnesota got last week.
Welcome to spring in Ohio. 50º doesn't sound too bad right now...
Monday, April 28, 2008
For the past 7 or 8 days I've been riding nearly everyday in 60º and 70º weather with sun and a few clouds.
It has been glorious. The air rushing past my open visor and jacket. A firm grip on the handle bars through my lightweight summer gloves. This is what I was waiting for all winter long.
And then today a cold front moved through with high temps in the 50s, clouds and and threat of rain. Tonight's low is forecast for 38º and I think to myself, "Is it warm enough to ride?"
During the winter, I left the house for work when the mercury was barely 28º and now I'm shivering at 50º!
I'm so ashamed...
Friday, April 25, 2008
My first thoughts were that the drivers I encounter and the traffic I negotiate were quite benign and I was really fortunate. And then I thought about last night's ride home.
My commute takes me through an area that transforms from urban to rural and changes from a four lane divided highway to a two lane arterial. The transition at rush hour often times causes slow going - about 20 mph - for about 2 miles. You know the routine: Stop. Start. Get going about 15 to 20 mph. Then stop again. Repeat for the next 15 minutes. It's a normal, everyday event I have come to expect and cannot avoid. But last night was different.
As the string of traffic approached the slow down I fell into place behind this little green Civic. I soon realized that the driver of this Civic was intent on making it through this stretch of highway without touching his brakes. So instead of moving forward like an inch worm with start and stop motion, he plodded along at a walking pace of 3 mph.
You can see where this is going, can't you? It's pretty easy for a car to creep along a 3 mph. It's a little harder for a motorcycle to keep a straight line at the same pace. With a double yellow line and a steady stream of oncoming traffic I chose to ignore the quarter mile space between the Civic and the next vehicle and use this as a learning experience, adding to my meager set of 2 wheeled skills: balancing a 600 pound motorcycle at a snail's pace for a couple of miles.
In the end, the task was accomplished and I was victorious. I celebrated by rolling on the throttle and passing the Civic a few minutes further down the road. (I was followed by just about every vehicle that had watched my practice session.)
The wind sure felt good in the 80º temps under my leather chaps and jacket!
Thursday, April 24, 2008
Unfortunately, the daily commute has had a detour in it as I have sat with my daughter in the local hospital for a couple of hours each morning and evening; some type of infection and inflammation.
She may get out Friday or Saturday and if that happens, I'll have more time to post some pics and stories.
Monday, April 21, 2008
I had cleared all my weekend appointments and responsibilities (mowing the grass can wait!). I shared with Teresa what I had in mind. She thought for a minute and slowly nodded her head in agreement.
So, Saturday afternoon came and we packed the tail and saddle bags, put our helmets on and took off. Destination: Not sure, but probably Wheeling, West Virginia. Estimated return: Sunday evening.
We traveled US Route 40 east through Zanesville, Cambridge, and St. Clairsville. We visited the big shopping mall in St.Clairsville about 10 miles from Wheeling and then got a room at a Super 8 motel. The rain was beginning to fall and I didn't want my first rain ride to be in the dark. Road time for Saturday: about 3 hours.
The next morning it was obvious that the rain fell most of the night and was still trying hard to let loose. But we had covered the motorcycle to keep some of the elements away so the seats and saddle bags were dry.
We took off and followed US 40 another 10 miles or so until we picked up Ohio State Route 7 which parallels the Ohio River. We rode SR 7 and West Virginia State Route 2 for the next couple of hours until we got to Marietta, Ohio. In Marietta we turned north on State Route 60 which follows the Muskingum River back towards our neck of the woods. It rained on us most of Sunday morning and the first part of the afternoon. The total road time Sunday was about 6 hours and though we rode in rain and cooler temps both Teresa and I consider the trip a great success for a several reasons.
It was a success because of what we learned and what we saw and experienced
Here's what we learned:
- Maneuverability - The Boulevard is a little sluggish with the bag we packed and our weight. Compensate
- Rain riding is OK - Slow down and read the road. Watch for the shiny spots.
- Road surfaces - Tar ribbons on the road are very slippery.
- Visibility in the rain - The windshield deflects most wind away from my face and visor.
- Fatigue - Stop every 90 minutes or whenever you see something interesting, whichever comes first.
- Extra Gear – Be prepared for gear malfunctions. Add duct tape to the tools list.
- Maximum ride time BBF (Before Butt Fatigue) - about 5½ hours.
Here's what we saw and experienced:
- Downtown Cambridge - A place to stop and spend a few hours. Quaint and nostalgic, old buildings with small shops.
- Scenery - Beautiful hills and country sides. Green pastures between rocky outcrops. Reclamation areas of former coal strip mines.
- Ohio Roads – Ohio SR7 is about half 4 lane highway and half 2 lane and is in rough shape.
- West Virginia Roads - WV SR2 is mostly a 2 lane road but the road condition is far superior to OH SR7.
The Boulevard is a mess with dried road spray and water spots evident everywhere. But like Earl Thomas at Two wheels and an engine wrote to me recently, now I can “enjoy spending some quiet time detailing the bike, reflecting on past rides and daydreaming about the future ones.”
Friday, April 18, 2008
After breakfast at Bob Evans we returned home and I started cleaning and polishing the Boulevard. It had been about 2 weeks since it had received a cursory cleaning and since I had the rest of the day off, I decided to spend time with the lady.
In the two weeks since the last polish, I had riden about 600 miles. There were three or four commutes and about the same amount of pleasure trips. I am amazed at the amount of road dust that gets picked up and settles on the bike.
I started cleaning in earnest and even removed the seats to get to areas I can't normally reach. Teresa came out to keep me company but started helping, too. That might have been a mistake.
After I had washed just about everything, she started polishing chrome pieces. She did a great job and cut the polish time about in half, but afterwards she commented, "Boy, there sure is a lot of shiny stuff on here."
Well, there's much more chrome I'd like to add to this Boulevard. But in thinking about how to phrase my RFP (request for purchase) I could almost hear her say, "Yes, but only if I don't have to help you polish it!"
The task being completed, we stood back and admired our efforts for a few minutes. Which is when I came to a realization: A clean motorcycle cannot sit still for any length of time.
The Boulevard was so pretty in the afternoon sunshine it was like she was pulling at the bit saying, "Come on! Let's go!"
And so we did.
We rode about 30 miles on the old National Highway, US Route 40, to Zanesville to enjoy a coney cheese dog and a root beer at an old fashioned A&W Root Beer stand. The sunshine was abundant, the temperatures were moderate, and I spent the afternoon with two beautiful ladies.
Tuesday, April 15, 2008
I wrote about it back in February when I first started this blog and I am tempted to paste the code in for the map to display. But its a Google map and it takes a few seconds more than I have patience for, so, if you want to see the route follow this link.
This will be a good rehearsal for a trip we're planning in May. If sitting in the saddle for a few hours requires training, we can consider this part of our preparation for Pigeon Forge, TN.
More about the Tennessee trip in a later post.
Monday, April 14, 2008
The temps weren't very favorable and it rained off and on this weekend. Still, given the choice of riding or not, I had think for just moment.
Then I remembered the date. April 12th and 13th. Oh yeah. Taxes.
So, Saturday found me sitting at the computer punching in numbers and clicking buttons. Actually, the work was almost completely done and had been since about the 2nd week of February. But this year, as has happened infrequently in the past, I owed the IRS, the State of Ohio and the city fathers. Not much, really. About $500 all told, but I refuse to file early if I have to write a check.
I did go for a short ride Friday evening before the sun set and the temps cooled off. I stopped off to visit a friend who just completed the MSF Basic Rider Course and I wanted to congratulate him on his endorsement. Congrats, Ron!
Ron and his wife Donna own a couple of scooters; one's a yellow 250cc Honda that looks fast sitting still and the other is a 400cc Kawasaki, I think. Ron had unsuccessfully tried to pass the BMV test a time or two and I suggested that the best way to pass was to complete the safety course and receive an exam waiver. Learn the skills, prove your abilities, get the waiver. And in this state, usually a hefty break on you scooter (or motorcycle) insurance.
This little bumblebee caused a little bit of a stir a while back. Ron loaned it to the pastor of the church to make a special entrance into the service one Sunday in an effort to dramatize his mode of travel while he was in Vietnam recently.
This baby made a full trip around the sanctuary before coming to a stop up front and center. All the while beeping the horn. It was quite a sight and more than a little fun.
Ron uses this to commute to work on dry days. Its about a 10 to 15 minute ride for him. I've told him that we'll have to go for a ride sometime. Maybe, if I buy him a cup of coffee he'll let me take it for a spin?
What do you say, Ron?
Friday, April 11, 2008
Saturday's ride to the Ohio Amish country was an adventure. It was a day of firsts: First day of the year with *Spectacular* weather, first group ride for Teresa, and my first group ride with a passenger.
There were 9 bikes when we first left the parking lot but we picked up 4 riders within 10 miles, with a total of 20 people. The sun was as bright as I've seen it this year and temps were in the low 50s.
The first 20 miles were on state highways with gentle hills and graceful curves. But the remaining 35, although they were also on state routes, were considerably more twisties. I love curves, that's what riding is about. Granted, I'm not very good at picking the best lines. I'm a new rider and still learning. I ride within my skill and within what I can see ahead.
I didn't feel any pressure from the other riders to push myself. A good friend who knows my abilities was riding behind me and gave me plenty of space in case I needed it.
Turns out I needed it. I couldn't figure out what I was doing wrong, but I just couldn't keep my lines. I had to make corrections to my line in the middle of a curve, I was scraping floor boards, I was, in a word, challenged.
Then it dawned on me what was happening. I mentioned I like curves, what rider doesn't. Teresa, not so much. During a lean into a curve, her natural tendency is to compensate and to go vertical against the lean. Analysing it makes sense now: as soon as the weight distribution on the motorcycle changed, I needed to compensate by adjusting the lean angle. An interesting situation.
(Note: We discussed this affect later and I tried to explain some of the physics behind turning on 2 wheels. I stressed to her that it wasn't her problem; it was our problem and we would work on it together. I promised to pick less extreme lines and speeds and she promised to trust me and stay with the bike. She did great the following day! I am such a lucky man!)
As comfortable as I felt with the riders in this group - they're nearly all friends or people I at least know - I felt a little like an outcast. Of the 13 motorcycles in the group, there was 1 Vulcan, 1 Boulevard (me) and the rest were, of course, Harleys. All larger, all louder. Much louder. There was one point when we were riding through Millersburg starting out from a stop light the noise was so loud I couldn't hear my engine running. That's a little ridiculous.
When we got to Yoder's Country Kitchen in Millersburg and parked the bikes, our leader person went inside and announced that we needed a table for 20 people. He returned and said that the hostess handled the news well. But when we walked inside still with all our gear on, I thought she was going to have a coronary.
Thursday, April 10, 2008
My return commute Monday evening was highlighted with a not so slow leak in my front tire. After about 30 miles of travel, I was beginning to wonder just how nasty the wind gust were. I couldn't keep a decent line to save me. And then the turn off of the interstate proved very interesting. I quickly discovered that my front tire was going flat.
Three stops for air later I was home and was able to get the Boulevard inside the garage. It was obvious the bike wasn't going anywhere until I got the tire situation corrected.
I spent the next day gathering the tools I needed to removed the tire: a motorcycle jack and an 12mm hex wrench. The jack was easy to find but hard on my wallet. The 12mm hex wrench was the proverbial needle in the haystack but after my fifth stop I found one for just $8.00.
As soon as the wheel came off I saw it. A drywall screw stuck dead center of the tire's tread. I'll take the wheel over to the dealership today and find out the damages. The tire is a tubed tire and I don't know if those can be repaired or need replaced. We'll see.
Two, going on three, gorgeous days of sun and warm temps and the Boulevard is sitting home alone. I can only be consoled by reminding myself that at least the flat wasn't a blow out and that there will be more gorgeous days for riding.
I read where Conchscooter got nailed and now I've been screwed. The trifecta is almost complete.
Monday, April 7, 2008
Its Sunday. The sun is shining and temps all across Ohio are solidly in the mid 60s. Lunch time rolls around and Teresa and I decide to travel to Delaware, Ohio for lunch. We'll travel back roads and take our time getting there. I have the route planned but since I have a tough time remembering unfamiliar routes I hand Teresa the maps I printed and said, "You're the navigator. Here ya go!"
It'll be a lazy trek of about 75 miles one way and the weather is perfect. The only thing that's not so perfect is my leather jacket. The zipper needs replaced and although it works most of the time, I don't want it failing half way to our destination.
So I slide on my no-name polyester fill and zip up the pockets and the front placket and we're off.
And boy was it an awesome day for a ride. Teresa did an excellent job with the navigation. She was concerned that the paper maps would blow away or she would not otherwise be able to read them. But she is becoming a more comfortable passenger (this transformation is noteworthy and deserving of another post) and we found our way to this quaint, historic city.
A good indication on how long this winter has been and how anxious Ohio riders have been to get back on two wheels, is the numbers of riders we saw on they way. There had to have been at least a dozen groups that crossed out our path and many dozen more single riders. I was that perfect a day.
Our first stop for some food was at The Corner Cafe but we arrived too late for their early Sunday afternoon closing. We met this couple leaving the place and they said the food was great but they close in a few minutes. So we rode on into downtown Delaware and ate at a small Asian cuisine eatery.
While there, I discovered, or rather was reminded, of a character trait of my wife that I had forgotten about. She is a true blue, die-in-the-wool, American cuisine customer. She likes Asian food but only the Americanize versions. And since her Kung Pao Chicken didn't look like what she was used to eating she picked around the chicken and filled up on the veggies in my Szechuan Chicken dish.
That's OK. We took home the left overs and I'll have it for lunch this week. But I digress. This entry is supposed to be about keys. I'm getting there, I promise.
We took a more direct route home and upon arriving I couldn't find my house or car keys. They were in one of my zippered pockets, but the now the pocket is unzipped and empty. Bummer!
We "break" into the house easily enough (perhaps learned from a misspent youth) and started looking for both the original and backup set. After 3 hours of looking we came to the sad realization that main set was probably somewhere between Newark and Delaware and the spare key has transported to another galaxy via a one way worm hole.
It a good thing the weather is supposed to be picture perfect for the next couple of days until I can get to the car dealership and have another set made. The price for the keys? After I show them my registration they can make a key for just 4 bucks! Sweet!
Friday, April 4, 2008
I spent time at the hospital with Mom for her knee replacement surgery. I had after hours work to perform on our servers in the data center. I stopped work around 11:00 and still had to be at work early.
I spent time with Mom again today. The after hours work on the servers was completed and I was able to hit the sack around 11:30.
I was able to ride to work this day. On the way in I visited Mom, she was discharge this day. In the evening, I had a meeting that didn't end until 9:00pm and hit the hay around 10:00. On the way home I rode county roads for the last 25 miles of the commute and this time I slowed down (not much more than 45mph) and took my time, enjoying my surroundings.
I was able to ride to work again. It seemed awfully cold in the morning. It was probably fatigue. 5½ to 6 hours sleep each night for the past several nights is taking its toll. I took the same route home last night and enjoyed the country side. After work I spent about 3 hours mixing sound for the band's rehearsal. We had an fun time, but it was 10:30 before I crawled into bed.
Today - Raining cats and dogs! It smells like worms and wet concrete outside but at least its warmer. There's a dinner and fund raiser we must attend tonight. If we can get home by 10:00 it'll be a miracle.
Busy, busy week. Sometimes I burn the candle at both ends. Sometimes I just slide it into the microwave! But tomorrow is the weekend. And there are 2 things I especially am looking forward to:
1) Sleeping in... to maybe 8:00am. I just can't seem to break the 4:30am wake up habit.
2) A group ride to the Ohio Amish country in Holmes and Tuscarawas counties.
Yepper. Two events (or in the case of item number 1, a non-event) for which I am soooo ready. And to put icing on this weekend cake, the weather is going to be spectacular! Spring has finally come to this neck of the woods and the temps are forecast to be in the mid to upper 60's for the next several days with the sun deciding to join the party, too! I have grown weary of the cold temperatures.
The riding group consists of several folks from the church and a few bike enthusiasts that probably fall into the friend of a friend category. Usually not more than a dozen motorcycles. The group leader and the sweeper are both experienced riders with several years under their belts and they are careful not to out ride or push those less experienced riders. They make this neophyte feel comfortable.
There are a couple of routes that will get the group to Sugarcreek, Ohio, all of them filled with twisties, most of them in excellent condition. We'll probably see Sugarcreek, Walnut Creek, Millersburg, and Killbuck. The plan is to ride up there and, (what else?) get something to eat then ride back. An afternoon ride, at most.
Twenty years ago I worked for a company that laid natural gas transmission lines and we spent 6 weeks during the fall in and around Walnut Creek. The area was special.
There were cars and trucks, of course, but lots of horse drawn vehicles, too. The corn fields were harvested by hand and the stalks were gathered and stacked. The "English" houses that we saw in town had been there since the 1960s, if one could judge by the architecture, but the farms were Amish with windmills and horses, and no wires running from pole to pole nor television antennas.
With all of the heavy digging equipment we used to lay the gas line parked all about and crossing pastures and property lines, it seemed like we were intruding into a domain in which we didn't belong.
But at least one Amish gentleman was happy to see us working. He approached me during a lunch break one day and with a heavy German accent asked how soon we would be connecting the gas line to the public elementary school in Walnut Creek. It seems he was the custodian at the school and he was tired of shoveling coal for the school's boilers.
Unfortunately, the line we were laying was only a transmission line and the hookup to customers in the area would not happen until the following spring. Yes, he was disappointed.
Were he still above ground today, which he may very well be, I think he might be disappointed still. We visited again a couple of years ago and had a difficult time finding the quaint, nostalgic, and slightly anachronistic village of 20 years ago. Development has encroached here, too, with hotels, and eateries, and a retirement and assisted living center replete, I'm sure, with all the amenities including cable TV.
There were souvenir shops selling crafts and quilts and furniture stores selling "Amish" oak furnishings that were probably manufacture in a factory in Indiana.
I know, however, that somewhere beneath all of the commercialized exterior the Amish lifestyle still exists. It's just not found on Main Street.
I'll have pictures and a story to share after the weekend. I'm keeping the cheese and meats for myself.
Thursday, April 3, 2008
Wednesday, April 2, 2008
Tuesday, April 1, 2008
The 4 states with the most registered motorcycles are:
California - 726,096
Florida - 588,908
Texas - 355,825
Ohio - 332,275
Their ranking in motorcycle death rates is:
California - 25
Florida - 15
Texas - 14
Ohio - 35
It's nice to know that my state, Ohio, is below average. (By the way, kudos Irondad, Oregon is ranked 31, also below average.) The state with the dubious honor of highest death rate and ranked number 47 in the number of registered motorcycles is Mississippi.
The state with the best ranking in the motorcycle death rate is North Dakota, a state the falls right behind Mississippi in the number of registered motorcycles.
Surprisingly, Mississippi talleyed 80.0% helmet use in the 20 fatal motorcycle crashes and North Dakota, the safest state of all had 0% helmet usage in its motorcycle deaths.
Say, what! That's right. Statistically, in the safest state for the motorcycle death rate none of the riders fatally injured were wearing helmets. All 4 of them.
Well, now I understand all of the confussion about statistics that are thrown around during the helmet use debates!
I can toss around these numbers every which way but loose and everyone will have a different take on it. That's fine. Without additional information about the data interpretations will vary.
I'm still wearing my helmet.
Here are the rankings for highest death rate for motorcycles...
4 NORTH CAROLINA
7 SOUTH CAROLINA
13 NEW MEXICO
16 NEW YORK
17 WEST VIRGINIA
29 NEW JERSEY
33 RHODE ISLAND
41 SOUTH DAKOTA
49 NEW HAMPSHIRE
50 NORTH DAKOTA
(The data represents information collected for the year 2006.)