Tag Archive: motorcycle


Day 3 – 5/19/2014
Start/End Point: Valdosta, GA to Orlando, FL
Distance: 227 miles
Time: 3hr 21min

Unlike the previous night, I slept until my alarm woke me up at 9am.  I really like the Best Western in Valdosta, I was completely comfortable.  I packed my gear and ate a breakfast bar which I purchased last night.  If you remember from Saturday, I lost my BOA debt card, so the first order of business for today was to go to a local Bank of America and get a temporary card.  I found one about 4 miles away, in the direction I wanted to head.  I walked in and was immediately greeted by a teller who directed me to a gentleman in an office.  I summarized my issue and he quick sprang into action to help me out.  Within moments, I had a temporary card, activate and I withdrew a few dollars in my pocket. I was on my way.

The remainder of the ride was really uneventful because I was forced back on the main highway (75) because I wanted to reach my destination at a reasonable time.  I didn’t want to do it at dark.

Florida Sign

Florida Sign

Stop 1: 20 miles after starting, I was in Florida.  Yippie!!!  I actually stopped on the side of the road to take a picture of the Florida sign with my bike in the foreground.  I made a fuel / lunch stop in Clermont or Leesburg at around 12:30pm.  I honestly can’t remember exactly where I stopped.  I was concerned that at this point I would begin to feel sore, but nothing.  My body and the bike were hanging in there.

Stop 2: I arrived in Orlando, made a few calls and texts to get a couple of addresses.  I couldn’t meet up with one friend because he was working the evening shift, but I knew we would work that out later this week.  I hooked up with friends from my bowling league who were down here on a week of golf.  Five days of 18 holes of golf.  That is more exhausting that riding a bike 1200 miles.  I was able to grab a room with my friends because of a bailout late in the schedule, so I am extremely fortunate because without a doubt it is going to be less expensive than sitting at a hotel.  You may ask, you’re not at a hotel, the answer would be no.  These guy travel in style.  They rented a home, and actual rental home for the week.  It is like bringing your home with you to another state.  You can cook your own meals, do your laundry, and chill at the backyard pool.  Oh yes, I said backyard pool.  Cha-ching.

The house I stayed at.

The house I stayed at.

The remainder of the evening was spent talking and laughing…oh and drinking on their part.  Sometimes it is fun to watch, not so much at other times.  This day was another one of those great one, may be a little longer than planned.

I contacted my mechanic about the high RPM slipping I am experiencing on my bike.  It only shows itself in my 5th gear.  He told me that I will need to replace my clutch, but based on my information it isn’t an emergency and can wait until I return at the end of the week.  Which is good, I didn’t want to have these guys messing with my bike.

Day 3 End in Orlando, FL at a rental home at 3:15pm.  Sunny 80 degrees.  Another day of great riding.

BTW, I am going to update with pictures, but just haven’t gone through the motions of pulling them off the camera.

 

Go to Day 4,5,6 ->

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Day 2: 5/18/2014

Start / End Point: Townsend, TN to Valdosta, GA
Distance: 432 miles
Time: 7hr 32 min

Last night I was in bed around midnight after planning my elaborate route for today’s trip.  I wasn’t going to take the highways from TN to southern GA, oh no, that would be too easy, and I would miss out on some really nice roads, so I planned back roads until I was south of Atlanta.  Now, because I rode in the cold for so many hours the previous day, I had a bone chill, so I turned on the heat in my room, setting it to about 72 degrees.  Well around 6am, my mind told my body that I need to turn the heat off and throw some cool air on, but my body decided it was too early to move and ignored my mind.  Well, not totally ignoring my mind, I did shuck off the covers. Well not an hour later, I was awake again, and there was no going back to sleep.  The alarm was set for 9am, but I was up at 8am, after tossing and turning for an hour.  Did a check of the weather, and all the bad stuff was sitting south of TN, just over the GA border, and that is something I will deal with later.

Getting ready.

Getting ready.

Out the door and on the road at 9:30am, heading towards Route 129, better known as the Tail of the Dragon.  It was chilly, but not cold, and was overcast, but no prediction for rain.  This is good since the last time I did this road, I ended up in a monsoon. Would like to avoid that mess this go around.  At 10:00am, I was at the base of the “switchback”.  I took off and was completely thrilled.  Some of these “turns” were a turn in the opposite direction.  You would have been proud, I had the footboards scraping on the ground on a couple of the turns, UNTIL I caught up with some slower folks.  Was stuck behind them for a mile or three, and they pulled off at a scenic overlook.  I was off again, posing the best I could for the various cameras on the trail. I caught up with another slower group, and remained behind them until I hit Deal’s Gap.  I conquered the mountain.  I stopped and got me a t-shirt and a pin, and I was off again.  Just a note, don’t befool that this road is the only extremely curvy road in the area.  Seems that most of my way to Atlanta was spent leaning through turns, mind you doing this while it is raining, on the Smoky Mountains.  Adds a new level of difficulty, but I managed and really enjoyed the ride.

At the base of the Tail of the Dragon

At the base of the Tail of the Dragon

Riding the Tail

Riding the Tail

On another curve

On another curve

Tree of Shame - No contribution from me.

Tree of Shame – No contribution from me.

Dragon Sculpture

Dragon Sculpture

Dea's Gap

Deal’s Gap

Stop 1: Murphy, NC – It was a little after noon, and I stopped because reports say that the large front sit 5 minutes over the GA boarder, which is about 10 miles from Murphy.  Ate my Burger King lunch (yuck), chatted with another Harley riders (kewl), and donned my brand new rain suit.  An hour later I was back on the road.

Stop 2: Atlanta, GA – I pulled into Atlanta, and passed the location for the ’96 Olympics as well as the stadium.  I was planning on stopping for a little bit, but once a guy rode up on me with his bike and asked for change, I knew it was time to move on.  I mean, I just pulled to the side of the road and was still taking off my helmet when he asked.  This place is a trip.  I was going to visit my nephew, but it was still raining, and I couldn’t find a “safe” place with cover, so I decide to get out of the weather and down the road.

Stop 3: Forsyth, GA – Not much I can say, my fuel light blinked on, so I pulled off at the next fuel station.  While I was there, I watch a guy jump out his lifted 4×4 truck, shoeless, pump his gas, perform the tobacco spit, jump back in and drive off.  He drove off playing some rap music really loud.  I stood there in utter confusion, but I digress. It was still raining, and I really wanted to get out of the rain.  I’ve been driving it for over 150 miles.

Stop 4: Perry, NC – Mother Nature was throwing up clouds in my path.  Once I got out of the large storm over Atlanta, this bright yellow round thing appeared in the sky.  I was worried, but it was warm.  Unfortunately, it disappeared in a few minutes as another storm sat over the road I was on.  I mean, REALLY??!!  I drove a while longer and when I made it to Perry, the storm was gone and the temperature jumped up 20 degrees.  It was time to eat and remove this rain suit.

Hotel Stop: Because I didn’t stay in Atlanta as originally planned, I decided to get as close to the Florida border as I could before night fall.  I ended up in Valdosta, and stay in the Best Western just off Route 75.  I made a reservation while at Stop 4 and when I got there and walked into my room better known as an apartment, it was huge.  The lady behind the desk said it was the smallest room.  I was like, I hope my room in Florida can compete with this room.

Dinner is done, and I am in for the night.  OH, just a small point.  If you take a ride and carry an extra luggage bag, make sure you tie off any and all loose strap.  If not, you run the risk of them tangling up in your bike.  One of my straps was lodged in my rear brake.  I didn’t notice until I tried to take the bag off.  Thank goodness I packed my tool set, I had to loosen the brake to remove the strap.  Live and learn, at least it was corrected.

Day 2 Ended in Valdosta, GA at the Best Western at 9:30pm. Overcast, to Rain for ¾ of the ride.  Rain ended and warmed up after Macon, GA.  Another great riding day.  Riding 150 miles in the rain really improves your confidence, especially when riding on switchback roads in the rain.  Tomorrow should be arriving in Orlando, FL.

Go to Day 3 ->

Day 1: 5/17/2014

Starting / End Points: Germantown, MD (Home) to Townsend, TN
Distance: 526 Miles
Time: 8 hr 26 min

I was up at a reasonable hour, dressed and loaded my bike.  I did most of the packing last night.  Of course, no matter how hard you try, you invariably forget something essential.  Overall, I think I did a pretty good job.  I started the ride at 0930hrs on Saturday.  It was a chilly day with the temperature around 50 degrees with a slight wind.  I threw on the chaps, and I was on my way.

Stop 1: Eating up all but 30 miles of fuel in my tank, I made a pit stop for lunch around 11:30.  I covered about 200 miles, maybe a little less.  Hit the KFC, and filled up the take.  A $30.00 stop in all.  After about 45 minutes, I was back on the road.

Stop 2: My bike was complaining it wanted more fuel, so I needed to make another stop.  It is about 3:30pm and the only place near me is called Rural Retreat.  OMG!! I found a group of people who failed to keep up with the times.  This is one of those times when you wonder if you should have gone to the next exit.  Anyway, I filled up, grabbed a candy bar and Gatorade.  The temperature has been dropping, so I put on my heated jacket.  Yes, I am a wimp, who wants to be cold if they got gear to avoid it.  Packed up and on the road again, this time I turned on the music. OH YEAH!!

81 South at the start of my trip.

81 South at the start of my trip.

Stop 3: I’ve made it to Pigeon Forge.  It is about 4:40pm.  There is a lot of activity, unfortunately, my hotel seems to be on the outskirts of town, so not sure if I’ll have the energy to come back 20 miles just for some activities.  On second thought, I may.  I will get some gas before I get to the hotel.  When I stop at the pump, I realize there is a new problem. I can’t find my Bank Of America debt card.  Is it possible, I left it in Rural Retreat. This can’t be happening.  This is still the first day. OMG!! I called the bank and had the card cancelled, now I have to revert to alternate cards until Monday.  GRRRRRRRR – I hate when I do something like that.  However, if that is the bad part of the trip, then I am glad it is over with.  Just hoping.

Hotel Stop:  I found my hotel, somewhere miles away from the city.  There are good and bad about it, but the hotel is very clean, inexpensive, and filled with old people.  It will be a quiet night, except for the thin black guy on a loud Harley.  Who’s your Daddy!! Gonna unpack the bike, find a place to eat, grab dinner and plan out tomorrow.

Townsend Best Western.

Townsend Best Western.

Smokey Mountains from my room.

Smokey Mountains from my room.

Day 1 End in Townsend, Tennessee at the Best Western at 6:15pm.  No rain, great ride, except for losing my card, and it could have been a little warmer.  Tomorrow should end somewhere in Georgia after I ride the Tail of the Dragon.

 

Go to Day 2 ->

 

I’ve now had my 2012 Electra Glide Ultra for two years, and the last “major” ride I did was the Tail of the Dragon with my Softtail.  Thinking back, I haven’t taken my dresser out on any major ride since and I’ve accrued over 19,000 miles on the bike.  This year I don’t plan on making that same mistake.

What is a long-distance ride?

What do I call a long-distance ride? Well, according to some of my riding buddies, any ride that is 300 miles or more equates to a long-distance ride.  REALLY!?!  I can ride that just going to my weekend military duty.  The definition of a long-distance or cross-country ride can vary as much as riders vary.  Personally, I consider a long-distance ride to be any ride where a one-way direction is longer than 1000 miles.  I know I can ride 500+ miles in a single day, so you need a trip that requires the ride to stop at a hotel or campsite.  If you arrive back home on the same day, then that’s considered a day ride.  Mind you, I’d enjoy the ride regardless of its length as long as I am riding, which is why I have 19k on a two-year old bike.

Go it alone or with a group?

There are many factors that must be considered when planning a long-distance trip, such as where to ride, where to sleep, and where to eat as well as emergency procedures and who will accompany you on the ride.  You can plan a trip with a crew of people or choose to run it alone; no one way is better than another and both have its advantages and disadvantages.  You may have many riding buddies with a wide range of bikes from sport bikes to HOGs, but I can almost guarantee that not all of them will be able to handle a serious ride.  Once you are on the road, there is no turning back if it’s rainy or chilly.  Maybe there is a higher than expected traffic volume or the bike seat isn’t up to par.  Whatever the case, when someone isn’t comfortable, the entire group will hear about it, and the more who chime in, the louder the complaints become.  Constant complaining and whining can hamper anyone’s ride. Believe me, I’ve ridden with some low-stamina people who have resorted to crying about not being comfortable an hour into the ride. Those types of riders can make a long trip or even a day ride long and annoying. So consider very carefully who and how many friends you want to invite on your ride.

Time to pay the toll!

The toll placed on the body during a long ride can be extensive.  There will be points during the ride that you might consider stopping, getting plane tickets home, and shipping your bike back.  Don’t give in too quickly; it is the ride itself that makes the trip.  If you want to get to your destination, then taking a plane would probably be the fastest route, but if it is the ride that you want to experience just remember you will have to pay the toll with your body.  Understand that you can prepare yourself for this type of ride.  You’ll need a fair amount of stamina to avoid becoming the group whiner. Looking inwardly, you may not realize how much stamina is required to ride 1000 miles or more.  It isn’t something a monthly rider may be able to pull off.  It can be taxing for those who ride bikes geared towards short city/country riding.
If you haven’t taken a long day trip, then I suggest experiencing one of these before embarking on a trip 1000 miles or more. A warm-up trip will give you the opportunity to learn how you ride, how the people in your riding group ride, and your level of stamina for sitting in that seat for hours upon hours while being pounded by the wind and other elements.  Remember, the effect of wind on your bike translates to your arms, and your muscles have to counteract those effects.  After 8 hours of riding, this can be exhausting.  If you plan on taking your better half, it is also a good idea for them to warm up to the thought of riding long hours in the passenger seat.  They may sit a little higher than the driver and may experience a different level of wind.

Ahhhh…where are we going?

I think one of the hardest parts of any ride is deciding where to go.  One of my friends made a suggestion that we ride either northbound to Canada or southbound to Florida.  Personally, after all the snow we’ve had, I am not up to traveling anywhere the temperature is lower than 60 degrees, especially during the time period we are planning to ride (mid spring).  Choosing a destination can’t be all that difficult….is it?  When traveling as a group, there must be a consensus on the destination, as well as the potential route taken.  You must determine how many total days to take, as well as how you plan on handling the sleeping arrangements and the security of people and their equipment. One of the biggest problems is finding consecutive days that are available on everyone’s calendar.  Dealing with all of these issues can be challenging but not impossible.

As I mentioned at the outset, I am planning a ride to the south.  I’ll provide the details in my next blog.  I’ll also outline some of the steps you can take when planning a ride.  I am no expert, but by taking a little knowledge from here, there, and the Internet, I hope to have a thorough list of what to do and what to expect when embarking on a long-distance ride.
Until then, be safe.

Lane Splitting

My time spent in California gave me an opportunity to witness lane splitting done by motorcycles. If you don’t know the traffic in California at any given time is horrendous to say the least. I know we have a lot of drivers, but I can’t understand how if all the cars are going the same speed (speed limit), then why are we sitting at a stop on the highway. The only explanation I can come up with is that those few incapable drivers that plague the east coast also exist on the west coast. The urge to tap or even slam on the brakes because either a turn in the road is approaching, or better yet because they see the brake lights of a car about a mile in front of them.

It is for that reason I believe that lane splitting is legal in California. The times that I witness the technique was while sitting in heavy congestion on the highway. This is where I find it make sense. Most motorcycles are air cooled and aren’t in favor of sitting behind some four wheeled vehicle sucking up the exhaust. It is at these times, and without hesitation, that a motorcyclist can “part the metal seas” by riding the lane dividers up until the traffic moves freely again. Personally, I would rather jump on the shoulder and ride that up past the point of the stoppage. Using this technique at this time is completely feasible and should be allowed in all states.

Now the other times that I’ve seen it in on an average road. There isn’t any congestion except while waiting for the traffic signal, and even in these cases, you will first hear then see a motorcycle moving up to the front of the line, just to sit and wait like the rest of us. I don’t understand this one, and I am hoping someone can explain it to me. If you will have to sit and wait, why don’t you sit and wait exactly where you entered the signal? What is the point of moving to the front of the line (we would all like to move to the front) and have to wait anyway? I don’t know, maybe I am uncomfortable with weaving my bike through the layers of car that will never be sitting in a nice clean straight line. My bike isn’t huge, but I don’t want to take it through some of the narrowing paths that separate two vehicles.

If you have a few minutes, watch this 14 minute video regarding lane splitting, and let me know what your take on it is.

http://www.chromaplay.com/?ytid=JNGD9AAIfFU

Even after watching this video and viewing the technique in practice, I still can’t say I completely agree with what the guys are saying, but there are many good points in it and it should really be studied. Maybe because lane splitting has always been illegal since I began to ride, I don’t know what I am missing. Maybe one day, Maryland will jump on the band wagon with California and legalize lane splitting. That will probably happen just after we all legalize pot.

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.

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