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Nature

Nature is a beautiful thing, and this is one reason many of us ride motorcycles.  Being able to feel the wind in our hair, the sun on our face, the bugs in our teeth, and the rain on our cheeks is pure bliss; and it is only through motorcycling that one can experience this bliss.  Of course, nature isn’t always blissful, and I am talking specifically about deer.  To a car or truck, a deer can be fatal, especially if it crashes through the window, striking the driver.  There is about a 1.3 to 2 percent chance that a collision with a deer will result in a fatality for the driver.  Usually, a collision with a deer will cause considerable damage to the vehicle, and leave the driver cursing at the now-dead animal on the side of the road.

When you remove two wheels and a protective bubble, however, deer can become extremely hazardous.  In fact, the statistic jumps to 75 percent of collisions resulting in fatalities. It is unfortunate that these animals, after dealing with a car, can’t go back and warn their friends of the dangers of crossing the road when the shiny objects come speeding towards them.  How do we combat an animal who doesn’t understand that running in front of a vehicle can be hazardous?  The only way I can think to avert a collision with a deer is through vigilance.   When riding, especially in the early morning or early evening, keep a sharp look out for deer attempting to cross the road.  I like to think that the noise coming from a Harley muffler may deter deer to run the other way, but this may be wishful thinking.  Spend the money to purchase HID for your bike to extend the range of the nighttime visibility.  Heck, add a deer whistle to your bike and maybe that will help.  Basically, it is up to you to look for deer to cross the road at any time, and since they can’t read, don’t think they will cross only at the deer crossing signs.

The rider in this video was extremely lucky.  BTW, there is some language in the video, but it is only expected.

As always, be safe and keep riding.

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I live on the east coast, specifically in the DMV  (D.C., Maryland, Virginia), so I am forced to deal with traffic of epic proportions during specific times of the day–yes, I am talking about rush hour. If you have ever been in the DMV area between 6 am to 9 am or 3 pm to 7 pm, then you, too, probably understand my frustration.  The plethora of brake lights that populate the roads during these hours is a depressing sight, to say the least, and only intensifies when it is raining or snowing.

Traffic congestion during rush hour.

Whenever I am stuck in traffic, staring at the plethora of brake lights, I often wonder what could be causing the chaos.  Did someone fail to motor from point A to point B without hitting something, or did a turn in the road cause someone to brake suddenly in anticipation of stopped vehicles?  In either case, we are left with what I like to call the centipede: a series of stops and goes in three-feet increments as the traffic inches forward.

Traffic of motorcycles, but not congested.

I often wonder, too, if all the cars were replaced with motorcycles, would we have the same traffic issues?  I like to think not. To explain, I’ve been party to many bike rallies, and if you’ve ever been to one, then you’ve seen the number of bikes that can populate a single block, and at no time were we FORCED to travel below the speed limit because we hit another bike nor were the bikers overly concerned about stopped bikes around a corner.  It is the four-wheel vehicles and the inadequacies of some drivers, however, that cause this annoying traffic problem. Have you ever witnessed a car pushing forward in an attempt to block another car from entering the lane, usually at a merge area?  Well that idiotic move affects not only the cars in the rear but also the cars attempting to merge onto the road.  Or how about those idiots who know that a lane is about to close but continue to ride to the end before merging, once again affecting all the cars who have heeded the warning early and merged at a point that doesn’t slow the lane.

Attempting to merge

Now comes the dilemma: if you are on a bike dealing with these or other traffic issues, what should you do?  I’ve seen bikes ride the lane-divide lines, which I find to be extremely dangerous, for you cannot anticipate the movement of a car, especially in a heavy traffic situation.  Drivers are going to move their cars in whichever lane appears to be moving faster, which really is just a figment of their imagination.  Aside from being illegal, riding the lane divide can cause more problems than it is worth.  Of course, many of us are riding bikes that are air cooled; and if you are in traffic, there is no air cooling your bike, and, believe me, it will start to complain. So what can you do?  I have seen, and done, the move-to-the-shoulder technique.    However, this, too, can be dangerous due to potential debris on the shoulder, that and the narrowing of the shoulder over bridges and such.  Again, this maneuver is illegal but will help you get around the CARS that are causing the reduction in speed.

Motorcyclists want to be treated like every other vehicle on the road; we want to be accounted for and respected.  If we engage in actions like those mentioned above, then we reduce the level of respect we hope to gain from car drivers.  They will likely sit in their cars, shaking their heads, probably thinking we should be sitting in traffic complaining like the rest of the bunch.  We already have to deal with people failing to turn their heads before changing lanes, so let’s not add to the problem by running the lane divides or traveling the shoulder only to increase our chances of getting knocked off the bike.  I know what some of my fellow riding buddies might say, “well I gotta do what I gotta do”; and, honestly, I can relate.  I guess my point here is to avoid traffic whenever possible, so you don’t have to make a decision to do something that might get your hurt.

Lots of bikes, no congestion. Hmmmmm!!

With my new bike, I have decided to try riding in more than fair weather, as most of my friends only ride.  The main reason is because the summer riding season felt so short this year, partially because the weather wasn’t completely cooperative, so I am going to extend it.  With my softtail, I wouldn’t have attempted anything like this.  Not sure why, I guess I didn’t have the warm and fuzzy about inclement weather as I do with my new bike.  Or maybe it is because of the grip heaters, providing the incentive to go the extra mile.  What ever it is, I can looking into ways to extend my riding season.

First, I have set some ground rules.  I will NOT ride in snow.  Oh hell no!!  If I can slip in a 4×4 truck in snow, then I know two wheels aren’t enough to stop me from going down during our snow days.  The next rule is I will not ride in thunderstorms.  Unless I can caught away from home, I don’t see this as being a problem.  I usually check the weather before I leave my house, and if thunderstorms are on the predictive list, then I’ll pass the garage and head to the truck.

If you haven’t had an opportunity to use grip heaters, it does make a world of difference.  Keeping your hand toasty warm throughout your ride, which rides up past your wrist, makes the ride a lot more enjoyable, and this is the only reason any of us actually ride motorcycles,   we enjoy it.  My grip heaters have six settings, but I haven’t been able to make it past three.  Those things get hot.  Of course, I have my polypros, chaps, and leather jacket (with a sweatshirt) to help insulate me.  These are totally worth the purchase.  However, I recently purchased something new.  Running to the hundred dollar store,  I found a heated liner.  These come in a couple of different styles, such as sleeveless or full sleeves or battery operated and wired.

Keeping your core warm can make all the difference when riding.  When you aren’t shaking and stiff while riding will keep you maneuverable and focused on what is around you.  You never want to be too stiff to react to something that is happening in front of you.  Sweatshirts and leather jackets can keep you warm, but they cannot provide additional heat to maintain your core temperature, this is where a liner is needed.  If I worked on a construction site and would be outdoors for some time, I can see getting a battery powered sleeveless vest.  They work for approximately eight hours with a single charge.  Since I won’t use mine unless I am riding, I decided to go with the full sleeves and wired in to the bike. It took only a couple of minutes to attached the wired to the battery and I was ready to do.  I confirmed that adding it didn’t affect my warranty on my bike.

I waited until the first fall morning (50 degrees) and I tried it out.  If you’ve ridden before in the cold, you know that the temperature you feel while riding is about 10 degrees cooler than the ambient temperature.  50 degrees feels more like 40 degrees, and maybe 35 in some areas depending on the landscape.  I had my polypros on, chaps, sweatshirt, liner and a leather jacket.  I even decided to run with the full face helmet just for added protected.  I couldn’t believe how warm I was the entire ride.  It maintained my core temperature at a nice 100 degrees (you know I like hot).  It was a great ride in.  With the version of heated vest that I purchased, you can  purchase additional items for the entire body.  From heated gloves, to heated chaps and socks all connected through a single source.  I am so impressed with the company, and will probably buy the heated chaps and maybe some battery operated socks.  With all the gear on and running, I know I will be comfortable in temperatures near freezing, which extends my riding welling to the fall and winter.

To contend with the east coast constant bombardment of wet weather, I decided to stop avoiding riding when the ground is a little wet.  The bike is made to deal with being wet, so should I.  Of course, like I mentioned above, I won’t do thunderstorms or try to avoid heavy downpours, but over all rain isn’t that much to deal with if you are properly outfitted with the gear.

Today is has been a moderate rain fall, and a perfect opportunity for me to test some of my wet weather gear.  I don’t plan on riding cross country on a regular basis, so I don’t need the top of the line rain suit, although if you have the money, I would get it.  I previously purchased some Frogg Toggs while on another trip and haven’t had a real chance to try them out.  Since it was raining pretty good and a chance of a downpour or two, I decided to completely protect myself.  I put on my chaps, Frogg Toggs, my fire department jacket (water resistant), and my riding boots.  My office is about 33 miles from my house, so I knew I would be in it for a while.  If you’ve had to deal with Maryland/Virginia traffic, they have a tendency to drive like there is 3 feet of snow on the ground regardless of how much it is raining, today was no exception.  It is also common that someone will have trouble driving from point A to point B without hitting something.

I would like to say that the control of the Ultra Glide Classic Limited bike was phenomenal.  It handles great in the weather, and the ABS provides a little more comfort when you have to break.  After making it all the way to work, and after the surprised looks I got from my coworkers, I get a once over to see what issues I had.  The first I had to deal with was the fogging of my facemask.  Yes, I decided to go with the fullface because raindrops hurt.  So I need to work out a method to antifog my faceshield.  The next was the Frogg Toggs was good except at areas that might hold standing water, like the seat, so my butt got a little wet.  My boots were never waterproofed, but they didn’t get too wet because of the guards on the bike, however, I would like to get some waterproofing for the next time.  Finally, the gloves, they also require some waterproofing, or a different type that resists some of the water.  All in all, I really enjoyed the ride and the shortcomings that I encountered can be easily corrected, even for the ride back home.

So I suggest to everyone, if you enjoy riding as much as I do, try to extend your riding weather by preparing yourself to deal with the elements.  Even with a bike that seems to handle the wet roads, make sure you drive carefully.  Increase the distance between your bike and the car in front of you; don’t break too hard and remember to downshift; take corners at a lower speed; and always always always remain vigilant for other drivers who probably don’t see you, especially when it is raining.

Be safe.

Pretty much all seasons are the seasons for catching the seasonal illness.  The intensity of the illness may vary based on the season, but those that come over the summer are always hardest to bare as they interrupt the outdoor activities that may be planned.  During the summer there isn’t a shot to be had that may protect you from such viruses, but on the other hand, the illness is usually a head or upper respiratory cold. Nevertheless, it still stinks to catch a cold in the summer, especially just prior to or during a vacation period.  We deal and move on.

I guess the thing that bothers me the most are the people would come to work sick, knowing they are sick, but believes that they presence is required because the company will fold, lose money, collapse, or what have you, if they don’t make an appearance.  Even the President of the United State will take a sick day.  Coming to work sick increases the risk of you sharing your virus with coworkers, contaminating equipment and areas, and all along you barely address the work because your head is pounding or you are sneezing uncontrollably. Each of us in our positions are important to the company, otherwise, they would not have hired us. We are important but not irreplaceable, if you are sick, stay home keep your sickness to yourself and allow the rest of the coworkers to breath easy without the fear of catching whatever virus your internal petri dish is cooking up.

Stop with the over-exaggerated sense of duty and if you are sick, stay home.  I don’t want your cold anymore than you want it and you bring it to the office isn’t helping your coworkers avoid the virus.  If you can work from home, then do so, if not, that is why they give you sick leave.

“Posers”

Greetings all.  I had a question pop into my mind a couple of nights ago when I was watching a movie called “Wild Hogs.”  Incidentally, if you haven’t seen or heard of this movie, it is about four guys who ride motorcycles on the weekends; and as they quickly approach their midlife, they decide to take a cross-country trip from Ohio to California.  Along the way, they run into a little trouble with some “real” bikers. Overall, I think it is a good movie, but that isn’t the reason for this blog.  During the movie, one of the main characters, the real biker bad guy, refers to the foursome as “posers,” a term used to describe people who pretend to be something they are not.

Now if we look at life and all the activities that are open to us, you have those who live certain activities and those who do them. What I mean by “live” is these people fully invest themselves into a particular lifestyle.  You see this in just about everything from motorcycling, to RVing, to firefighting, to the military.

So my question is if you don’t “live” an activity does that make you a poser? I emphatically say no! Let me explain.  

If you know me, then you know that I am in the military and have been for many years, but for most of those years I’ve been a reservist.  The definition of a reservist is a person who participates in military duties one weekend a month and two weeks a year. Okay, now if you really know me, you’ve seen my schedule and know that I am required to perform my reservist duties far more often than the minimum requirement.  Even when not on duty, I am expected to perform certain tasks due to my grade and position.  Now does that mean I am “playing” Army versus the soldiers who do it for a living? Personally, I don’t think so; to point out, I am as skilled as those who serve on active duty, and I am required to do the same job as them.  The difference between a reservist and an active duty member is I have an opportunity to obtain a commercial position while simultaneously serving my country, albeit not full-time. In addition to serving in the military, I am also a volunteer firefighter.  Does this mean, then, that I am not a professional firefighter?  Hell no it doesn’t.  It simply means that I am willing to do the same job as a paid firefighter but without financial compensation; I attend official training sessions and participate in drills to keep my skills sharp–I just don’t do it every three days.

Moreover, there are people who RV full-time and there are those who do it on the weekend or whenever it is convenient for them. They are still expected, however, to adhere to the requirements involved with operating an RV; the only difference is most of the time they live in a home that is attached to a concrete foundation.  Which brings me to motorcycles: you have people who ride all the time, others who ride seasonally, and others who ride when there is a parade.  The skills necessary to obtain a permit to ride a motorcycle legally are the same for all, regardless of how much one rides.  While each rider strives to maintain the proper skills in a manner that best fits his or her busy life, every rider is expected to control his or her bike safely at all times.  Personally speaking, I typically ride seasonally, more specifically, from March to November.  In fact, I try to ride my bike whenever the weather permits, which means I am not always looking for the ideal sunny 80-degree day; on the other hand, I won’t pull out the bike if the weatherman calls for rain all day, but I don’t mind riding in the rain if the potential for it is low (30% or lower).

To emphasize, just because someone doesn’t devote all of his or her energy to an activity doesn’t suggest that he or she is a poser. The aforementioned activities are obviously open to all, and those who opt to participate in them do so in a manner that works for them.  I don’t consider these people posers, or weekend warriors, or pretenders for that matter; instead, I consider them doers.  All doers, in my view, should be congratulated on getting out and engaging themselves in something other than sitting on the couch and watching the paint peel while simultaneously feeling the width of their ass expand.

What do you think?  Do you think people are posers because they don’t devote full measure to a particular activity, and if so, why?

Same-Sex Marriage and the Bible

Generally I don’t participate in public opinions because we all know what they say about opinions.  However, I have decided to speak out about a topic that has been plaguing my mind: same-sex marriage and the bible. Over the years we, as Americans, have been endowed with numerous rights, one being freedom of speech; we are all, in fact, entitled to say just about anything we like and that is a powerful liberty to possess.  Soldiers today continue to fight to maintain our rights and the rights of others.  If you look around the world at other countries, you can see the limitations set upon them: many are limited on what they can say, what they can watch on television and the Internet, and how many children they can have.  We, however, are not oppressed with such limitations.  Of course, we can’t just willy-nilly do whatever we want; we have our laws that define right and wrong and a constitution that outlines exactly what a government can and cannot do; but, to point out, we live virtually free of limitations.

It was only 70 or so years ago when a person of color wasn’t permitted to use a particular bathroom or drinking fountain, or attend the same schools as whites because blacks were believed to be an inferior race. The use of certain derogatory words were common place and accepted practice, and, again, this was less than a century ago.  Unfortunately, ignorance still runs rampant as intolerance is taught based on the color of one’s skin or preferred lifestyle. Not so long ago, women were told what they could or could not do with their own bodies.  They were considered second-class citizens and not even permitted to vote or to show any opposition to a particular idea, and they were prohibited to take on jobs deemed solely as men’s work.

Alas, something new has appeared on the radar of intolerance.  It appears that people will stand up and fight against something that, in many cases, doesn’t closely affect them in order to preach immorality.  I am talking about same-sex marriage and homosexuality. I can’t believe after all that we’ve fought, bled, and died for that prejudice still rears its ugly head.

Chick-fil-A’s president has publicly condemned same-sex marriage and, in turn, homosexuality as a violation of the bible.  This single act will most certainly impact the company as a whole.  I have absolutely no problem if this individual does not agree with same-sex marriage or homosexuality; for that matter, I don’t care if anyone agrees or disagrees with same-sex marriage or homosexuality.  But when one attempts to throw the bible into the mix as proof that God condemns these practices, then we have a problem.

Let’s examine this subject a little closer, shall we.  If you open your bible and turn to Leviticus 18:22, it reads “Do not practice homosexuality; it is a detestable sin.” So according to this biblical book, a book written by man, homosexuality is a bad thing. The bible also says that I have permission to sell my youngest daughter into slavery; but if I don’t want to sell my daughter, do I have to forever remain a slave after having my ear publicly pierced with an awl? (Exodus 21:6 & 21:7)  Okay, while you ponder that question, you might also consider this: my son and I have worked on the Sabbath, so am I then permitted to kill my son and then myself, or is that something that the police would handle? (Exodus 35:2)  I love football, and I have lots of friends who love football, so what is the penalty for playing with the skin of a pig, in most cases a football, or digesting pork at the dinner table? (Leviticus 11:7)  Should many farmers be publicly executed for breeding their cattle with other types of animals, or should my neighbor be sent to jail for planting two different seeds in the same field.  One last question, should the town stone my wife to death for wearing garments woven from two different fabrics?

Of course, you can’t answer those questions and, in some cases, just considering them seems absurd.  I have posed them in order to illustrate the apparent hypocrisy involved in following certain biblical orders while ignoring others.  Taking items out of context or using only those items that are convenient is an unacceptable practice. Keep your beliefs and your opinions, but understand what you are reading and saying before you proclaim that bigotry is dictated by the bible and we should all follow it.  Who determines which sections we should follow and which should be ignored? It is simply not acceptable to follow the biblical verse regarding homosexuality but to ignore the passages regarding slavery or stoning. Anyone who is arrogant enough to believe that he or she is the one true voice of God is someone who really should be taken into custody.  If you’ve ever been to church, regardless of your domination, you will hear the clergyman or clergywoman say “..we learn..” or “..from the teachings..”, meaning that we are supposed to learn from what is written, not take the words as black and white. We are supposed to take the words from the bible and the teachings that it provides and understand the true meanings, points, and reasonings and apply these ideas to our own lives and current times in the hopes of bettering ourselves and our surroundings.  It is not God’s gavel that can be thrown down every time someone or something doesn’t go in the way we think it should.

I once heard that if we allow homosexuality, then soon we will have people having sex with animals.  Well, first, people have been having sex with animals long before we labeled homosexuality.  Second, that is the most preposterous notion I’ve ever heard.  I am completely open-minded and would welcome any imperial data, fact, or documentation, any proof that hints that if we accept homosexuality, then soon people will have sex publicly with animals. There are groups that want the government to stand up and say that homosexuality or, more specifically, same-sex marriage is illegal and will NOT be accepted or tolerated in this country, thereby seeming to equate it to the heinous crimes of murder, child molestation, and rape. Although we want the government to intervene at times, it is important to realize that we risk moving the line of what is civil liberties for our convenience.  What if the government decides to take away our right to bear arms, or reverse Roe v Wade; hell, while they are at it, let’s just take away our freedom of speech.  Where will that line be drawn?  When do we say that the government is not permitted to infringe at this point?

I have friends and family who are gay.  I also have my relationship, which, until recently, wasn’t widely accepted because I am married to someone outside of my ethnicity.  I am permitted to do a lot in the privacy of my own home.  Where do we get the right to tell others that they are not permitted to do what they want because they are of the same gender.  No one can say that being gay or being in a same-sex marriage will undermine our country.  Will stocks fall, volcanos erupt, or streets turn to lava?  Probably not. Aside from naysayers preaching that homosexuality is bad, there isn’t a single reason to interfere with the natural evolution of this planet.  The Lord God DID NOT WRITE THE BIBLE!!  It is only a translation written by MAN.  

I say unless same-sex marriage poses a threat to the very fabric of our country, then people need to mind their own damn business.  This is just my opinion and, unfortunately, I will not patronize Chick-fil-A again.  (I really did like their food.)   If you agree, then good for you; if you don’t, then good for you.  We have a major deficit, high unemployment, and people losing their minds in movie theaters; and we also have people complaining about something that really has nothing to do with them and shouldn’t affect them.  Are our priorities becoming a little skewed because we believe that we are the only people on the planet that do things the right way?  We have segregated blacks, then women, followed by Latinos, and Muslims; and when those injustices have been overturned, ignored or forgotten, we look for new groups to torment; currently, it’s the homosexuals, following that it will be anyone who lives in an odd-numbered house, just because we can. So when will we stop?

Riding in the rain

Since I’ve been riding, I’ve made considerable efforts to avoid riding in the rain, and this practice isn’t without good cause.  If you’ve ever gotten caught in the rain while riding, you quickly realize that this isn’t the ideal situation to find yourself.  Depending on when the rain begins, you’ll have to deal with the oil/debris movement which occurs within minutes of the onset of rain and generally lasts about 15 minutes.  This is the point that is most treacherous for riders because as the oil/debris moves from the center of the lane to the sides, you can’t avoid riding through it.  And since we have only the two wheels, our stability can be greatly affected by this.

Along with the oil and  debris, our traction is reduced, more so in turns than in straight and level rides.  Finally, depending on the helmet you wear, you have to contend with the constant pounding of water on your face.  If you have a full-faced helmet, then you need to worry only about wiping the visor clear of water periodically.  However, if you are like me, one who wears a half-helmet, then you will feel the water hitting your face, which feels like little rocks bouncing off you.  Water is soft when it isn’t moving at a high rate of speed, so water drops aren’t your friend on a motorcycle.

To be sure, the ladder of risk rises when it rains, but you can mitigate those risks by doing just a couple of things. First, reduce your speed.  This shouldn’t be too hard since you have to deal with the spray from cars in front of you and the rain; thus, reducing your speed by 5 to 10 MPH can be very helpful.  Also, if you are wearing a half-helmet, there are items available that can cover your face to take the impact of the water drops.  This won’t always keep you dry, but it will eliminate the pain associated with it.  Finally, if it is a shower, then riding isn’t a bad thing; however, when you are threatened with thunderstorms or heavy downpours and/or lightening, you should pull over and try to wait out the storm.  At the least, stop under a bridge and take a quick break to allow the heaviest part of the rain to pass by you.  If it appears as though the rain is traveling in your direction, give it some time before you get back on the road.  Your destination will still be there, even if you get there a little late.

These are some of the tips I’ve learned over the years while riding and, more recently, by watching videos and taking classes.  Understanding where your hazards are can lower your chances of having to deal with a bad situation.  For instance, the paint or “stickers” they use to identify lane separations and crosswalks are slippery when wet, so avoid stopping or turning on them.  Bridge seams are also slippery when wet, but may be harder to avoid in turns.  Just be prepared for a slight slide to the opposite side of the turn when you cross them.

To point out, my confidence in riding has improved, and I’m not as fearful of riding in potentially bad weather.  I’m not saying if it is raining or if rain is in the forecast that I’m going to pull out the bike.  I still say if the weather forecasters, in their infinite wisdom, say there is a 30% chance of rain or less, then I will ride; and if I have to deal with rain, then I am comfortable enough to know what to do.  Usually a percentage higher than 30 will keep BB in the garage for another day.  While in riding season, I don’t want to keep her parked because just about everyday is questionable when it comes to rain.

Ultimately, each rider must make the decision to ride or not to ride in the rain.  However, being prepared is the most important element of riding; also, know your skills and limitations, and always remember to T-CLOCS (T-CLOCS_Inspection_Checklist_2012) your bike.  

Keep the rubber side down and happy riding.

Hello, fellow riders.  It seems like since I’ve started this blog, I’ve been posting like the end of the world is coming in December.  Damn, it is coming–I keep forgetting that.  Anyway, I’ve been experiencing a lot of new things, and I want to share what I’ve learned.  Today, I attended the Advanced Rider Course held at Old Glory Harley Davidson.

Let me start by saying that every rider, young and old, new or veteran, should take this course at least once every ten years.  It allows you to brush up on skills you may rarely use or discard those bad habits that we’ve all picked up as we ride.  At the very least, you may get a break on your insurance, that’s got to be worth it alone.

Anyway, we had to report to OGHD at 8:30 this morning.  We first had to do the preliminaries–you know, sign the paperwork and verify that we all had insurance and a license.  There were 11 students in my class, including myself.  All of us, except one, ride Harleys and large bikes, so this course allowed for the variants in wheel base weight, which normalized the course into acceptable ranges.  After we completed the paperwork shuffle, we headed off to the track.  Literally, we drove to Laurel Race track, which is where the rider course is held.  We had two instructors, both very knowledgeable, friendly, approachable, and comical, which is important for me.  They gave us a rundown on what we were going to do: eight exercises, a written test, and a road test.

Sample Rider

Yesterday, on the advise of one of the OGHD salesmen and course instructors, I purchased 10 feet of 1″ clear PVC tubing.  Now, I only really needed about 3 feet, but it doesn’t come that small.  I would measure a section to cover the lower portion of my engine bar and the bar that sits in front of my saddle bags.  Basically, I cut 4 8″ pieces.  Slicing them down the middle, I zip-tied them to protect my chrome, in the off-chance that I lay the bike down during one of the exercises.  Since the bike is only about a month old, it only made sense.  I ain’t too proud to realize my limitations.

The course concentrated on maneuvering the bike at slow speeds.  Overall, you never really pass a speed of 20MPH, and take it from me, you really never want to.  We had to do single weaves and offset weaves, both with two hands and one-handed.  You immediately get a feel for your bike and what you can do with it.  Following that we did some 90 degree turns and the box (dramatic music plays here).  Prior to this class, I’ve gone to a school parking lot to practice friction zone and turn my bike in two and a half parking spaces.  This was beneficial for me today.  If you remember nothing else, remember two important things about your abilities: if you practice U-turns and figure 8s, and apply the techniques of friction zone and head and eyes, there is very little you can’t accomplish with your bike, regardless of its size.  I was able to perform the maneuvers within a 24′ box with very little problems.  I was actually proud of myself.  After you completed the box, you had to do two S-curves and these appeared more challenging than the box.  Following that we had to do some quick braking, and for my bike which is loaded with ABS, this section was a breeze.  There were a couple of people who locked up their rears, but no one tipped his bike over, so we were all successful.  Usually, all of these exercises are done in one direction and then the other.  You know, you would turn to the left, then you would turn to the right.

We performed some additional cornering exercises and braking, and to this point I was feeling pretty good about my skills.  Now it is

Sample Rider

on to the quick stopping in a curve.  If you’re a rider, then you already know that slamming on your brakes, while in a lean for a curve is one of the quickest ways to lay your bike completely over.  For our training, we had to right the bike before we would begin braking.  Now this sounds easy and, in fact, it is; however, remaining detailed is important.  What I mean is that having the bike vertical isn’t all that is required, you MUST have the front forks facing straight.  Well on my first go around, I drove to the turn, switched to second gear, started the lean, identified the obstacle and righted the bike, then immediately mashed the brakes.  The bike came to a halt and I dropped my feet.  Unfortunately, I didn’t remember to switch to first gear before that and my front wheel was tilted to the left a little.  Before I knew it, the bike was getting really heavy to the left and try as I might, I couldn’t keep her up, and, allowing her to lay down, I tumbled off, doing a professional combat roll to a standing position–it was a nice move.

Anyway, the instructor explained my mistake and I started to right the bike, but I was on a supreme hill and was having trouble.  He helped me out and I had the bike back on the stand.  I did a quick inspection and the rubber on that side took the brunt of the impact.  It was totally excellent–I spilled the bike and it came out with zero damage.  Just to let you know, I performed this maneuver three additional times with no problems, in both directions.

Enough of the details.  I just want to say that this course was well worth the money.  I feel more confident about my skills handling the bike at slower speeds, which I used while going back home.  The preceding weekend helped increase my confidence when riding in rainy weather.  To echo the instructors: practice, practice, practice.  If you don’t practice, you may lose a skill which you’ll need in any given situation.  I would have added more pictures, but we were off the bikes only long enough to get the instruction for the next exercise and to discuss exactly how to execute the exercise without falling down.

My ARC card

Based on this blog, I am going to generate a poll regarding riding courses–I would love to hear your opinion on their usefulness.

July 21, 2012 – Day One – Skyline Drive Ride

As predicted, Mother Nature threw us some more clouds, rain, and cool weather; did that deter Rachel and I: I say No!!  It did make us hesitate a little, mainly on my part, because I didn’t want a ride in inclement weather to affect Rachel’s excitement in riding motorcycles, so we talked and she assured me that it wouldn’t.  So we checked the weather and recalculated a start time.  Waiting only about an hour or so, we packed, showered, changed, and we were off to Frederick.

It rained on us a little, but it wasn’t bad, and the temperature wasn’t a problem.  We arrived in Frederick in about 20 minutes and stopped off at Harley Davison of Frederick.  I wanted to buy Rachel a rain suit, but she wasn’t having it.  She is very stubborn when it comes to buying gear for herself but is willing to buy shirts in a heartbeat.  We wandered around the store, and texted a couple of friends to see if they were going to come, but the rain had changed the plan for them.  We made our purchase but had to get a meal before heading south, so we stopped off at the Double T diner.

Just after getting into the diner, the clouds opened up and dropped a lot of rain, but we sat and ate, talked about people at the restaurant, and discussed our travel plans.  We waited until the rain had come to a reasonable down pour then I got Rachel into the rain gear, and I put on the chaps and we were set.  Oh, we got her a bandana to cover her face from the rain.

It rained for the first 30 or so minutes until we were south of Washington, then it stopped.  The clouds remained ominous yet kept quiet.  We traveled along back roads and small quaint towns that looked as though time had stopped for them many decades ago.  Rachel, being the navigator, made sure we stayed on course; and just before getting on the Skyline Drive, we stopped at the visitor’s center.  We picked up a couple pamphlets pertaining to surrounding attractions and learned a little more about Skyline Drive.  There is a toll to get on the road; it is $10.00 for motorcycles ($15.00 for cars) which lasts for seven days: you can get on and off of Skyline to visit neighboring towns and cities.  So now we are on Skyline Drive, which has an average speed limit of 35 MPH, and the resort was at mile 41.5.  It would take us an hour, and in that hour we drove through some of the thickest fog I’ve ever seen.  Our resort was positioned about 3680ft above sea level, so I knew we were going to drive through clouds, but holy hell.  I didn’t think that much.  I used a leading car to help identify turns in the road.  I turned on my hazard signals through very dense fog, but we stopped at points for photo ops, if it wasn’t completely fogged out.

Just as predicted, our resort appeared on the right, and we took the turn.  You couldn’t tell what you were in for just from the outside.  City dwellers are used to viewing the gleaming steel and concrete construction of hotels and the reflections of the sun from the windows, but this isn’t what I had in mind.  I wanted a place that was different and more naturalistic…..Rachel loves nature.

We parked, stripped off the rain gear and walked to the office to check in. We got our cabin key and its location.  Rachel admitted to finally having rider’s fatigue, so she walked to the cabin while I repositioned the bike closer.  I parked, pulled out the bag given to us by HD when we purchased the new bike, locked everything up, and walked to the cabin.  I unlocked the door and walked in with Rachel immediately behind me.

“Where is the TV?” was the second sentence out of her mouth, the first being “Oh.”  I wanted to get away from technology and reintroduce her back to nature, as she keeps saying that I have deprived her.  This room has no television, no central air….well no AC of any kind, except for the windows.  We had a chill from the ride and we were looking for more heat than cooling.  There was a heat register on the far wall and I turned it on to the midpoint. Well I can’t think of a better way to warm up then a happy jaunt between the sheets, but that isn’t for this blog.  We laid about thinking what to do next.

Rachel’s addiction to the television prompted her to suggest that we go into the city to see the new batman movie, but I wasn’t as willing especially after driving through that mess, not to mention the temperature dropping because the sun is setting.  Luckily, I was able to provide other entertainment.  There is a great restaurant just a couple of doors down from our room.  We got cleaned up (she had to get rid of the helmet hair) and off we went.  It was about 9pm now and the dining hall closed at 10pm.

We walked in, asked for a table for two and were seated in a comfortable spot with a spectacular view.  This place didn’t have a huge menu, but it had a little bit of everything.  I got the beef and Rachel got the fish, and as we were waiting for our dinner, we could see the sun setting–simply beautiful.

The meal arrived and the scene was like one of those places you see on a reality TV show.  Perfect setting, and the chef was amazing.  It is funny to watch two skinny people inhaling their meal because it was so good.  We ate, and then we had dessert. I had the apple pie and Rachel had the blackberry cobbler. I think I made it half way through before I was stuffed.  Rachel placed a sizeable dent in her treat.

We paid for the meal and wanted to see what else was available.   There was live entertainment: a singer was playing songs from various artists all with a guitar.  We listened for a few minutes while walking around the gift shop, then headed back to the room.  We stopped at the office to pick up a book for Rachel to read.  I knew I wouldn’t make it through two pages in a book.  As we walked back to the room, nature has a way of appearing in the night and Rachel got a little freaked: some small animal crossed our path on his way back into the darkness.

Back in the room, we adjusted the windows and vents and heater to provide a little heat while circulating the air.  The sandman was beating me down, and before I knew it, I was asleep; I crashed into that wall and there was no coming back until morning.

July 22, 2012 – Day Two – Skyline Drive Ride

At 7 am, we both woke up and lazily laid around until about 9am just talking. We knew we had a checkout time of 11am, and I didn’t want to waste too much time not doing anything.  The sun was peeking through the trees, you could hear the birds talking and absolutely nothing else–an excellent morning.  No cars starting, no people screaming out the window, no engine revving, just quiet.  So we each got up, showered and dressed and we packed our bag.  On a side note, the bag that comes with my bike is phenomenal.  It held everything we needed, changes of clothing, toiletries, my laptop (had to blog), and a small assortment of electronic items.  The weather was playing tricks as the clouds hid the sun from view.  It would give the appearance that the weather was below average for this time of year. We loaded the bike and headed back north.  We wanted to stop off at Luray Caverns to check it out.  So headed north on Skyline Drive and took the exit for Rt 211W.  Another 10 miles down the road and we were there.  Tickets were a little pricey ($24 for an adult), but we were on a mini-vacation so screw it.  We took the tour around the caverns and saw some really nice stalagmites and stalactites.  Hell I actually learned the difference.  We got some really nice pictures.

After the tour, we ate lunch and took a tour around the Car & Carriage museum. There are some really cool vintage vehicles, dating back to the 18th century. Both tours were self-paced and self-guided within defined boundaries, but very enjoyable.  After the tours we knew we had to head back home: the kids would be getting restless at this point, and we didn’t want them to burn anything down.  So we had two options:  take 81N back home, which would be quicker, or return to Skyline Drive (which is still paid for) and ride it again, this time with far better weather.  Rachel made the decision to return to Skyline Drive, which I was very happy to do.  Back on the bike and in route, we quickly returned to Skyline Drive and turned towards the north.  The weather was absolutely perfect: sunny without a lot of heat.  It was in the low 80s, and the sun would break through the trees quiet frequently.  Since we were doing about 35-40MPH it took about 45 minutes to make it back to Front Royal.

We stopped for gas, just wanted to fill up again before we started, and we headed down 340 north.  Once again, traffic and weather played in our favor.  We rolled along at the speed limit (maybe a little above) listening to the music and talking at times.  Oh before I get to far ahead, Route 211 toward Luray was a very cool stretch of road.  It provided some extreme curves at a higher rate of speed.  Rachel did an excellent job matching my lean through the ride.  Okay, so we moved from VA to WV then got hung up in traffic from what looked like a water rescue in progress.  There was enough emergency equipment on this little two lane road that blocked up one side.  We waited so long that I actually shut off the engine for a while to allow it time to cool.  I was tempted to put down the jiffy stand and stand up, but just as I was about to have Rachel hop off, the traffic started to move, so once again we were off.

Thankfully, traffic opened up quickly, and even though I deviated and took some side roads during the ride home, we found ourselves quickly on route 270 headed south.  Close to home.  I fell in love with my bike very quickly during and after the initial purchase; however, during our ride down 270, holding steady at about 60-65MPH, the traffic came to an abrupt stop.  No warning, no hint that speeds are going to change.  I had to squeeze hard on both the rear and front brakes.  Rachel’s only reaction was to hold herself back.  Within a few hundred feet, the bike was stopped, no skidding, fishtailing, or loss of control.  The ABS system on this bike really saved us.  We stopped about a foot short of the car ahead of us, and the truck that was following us–mind you he was following too close and I couldn’t sway him to back up–stopped off to our left over the shoulder.  Quickly shifting down to first gear, we were moving again, before I could even put my feet down.  Traffic sped off as if nothing had changed.  I praised Rachel for remaining calm throughout and officially deemed her a biker chick.  Following that, I was able to move out from the other vehicles to a new lane and we made it back home without another incident.  Rachel didn’t comment about any rider’s fatigue today, but she is ready for her boots to break-in.  She walks around like she is wearing sky boots, a treat to see. We agreed that this type of trip will NOT be the last one and we will try to schedule as often as we can.  BB is extremely dirty and needs a full bath, but since I have to take my Advanced Rider Course tomorrow, and it is supposed to rain, I don’t want to go through the ordeal of cleaning her just to get her dirty the next day.  If I learn anything new at the course, I will be sure to blog it.

Blue Ridge Parkway Ride

Well the big day is just about here.  Originally scheduled to go to Williamsburg, VA, I have modified the ride to head to Big Meadows off of the Blue Ridge Parkway.  I thought it would be a nice ride and based on the weather forecast (when I initially scheduled it), I knew it would be.  I am not sure if any friends would be coming, but I still on planning to go, even though the weather hasn’t been working in our favor.

Speaking of weather, I’d like to say that weather people or meteorologists are the only group of employed people who can be wrong 60% of the time and still maintain their high paying jobs.  I mean wouldn’t it be cheaper to get a group of monkeys, some darts, and a dart board of weather options for our predictions.  Holy crap, the weather is completely inconsistent and there is always a chance of rain….which usually doesn’t pan out.

Anyway, Mother Nature has been pounding the east coast with not just rain, but serious thunderstorms.   Seems like they come in bunches as well.  I waited to the last minute to reserve a room in the area, and because of that I had to pay $60 more for the night than if I had made the reservations three days prior.  Oh well, live and learn.  Regardless of the weather, Rachel and I are going to make the trip, on the bike.  I have a set of rain gear, which I tried out while in Tennessee last year. I will make sure she is wearing it and I will just go without.  We will look into new rain gear for her later, but for this trip it shouldn’t be too bad.

Initially, I planned to meet friends at 10am at the Harley Davidson in Frederick, but not sure if anyone will want to come because of the unpredictable and rather hazardous weather that has been forecast. If I plan on taking more road trips with the bike, then I have to be prepared to ride in not so sunny weather, and this will be an experience for Rachel as it will be her first time dealing with rain using a half-helmet.  If you’ve never had to do it before, it is a treat.  Falling rain while travel at 55+ MPH feel more like pebbles hitting your face.  I can bring the full face helmet for her just so she won’t have to deal with all the “pain”.  Anyway, hopefully tomorrow we will be posting more as we trek down south, this time we pictures.

Keep safe, and happy riding