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Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Taming the Twisties

Since my grandson’s arrival into the world is now five days overdue, I have had time to reflect on our Catskills adventure last weekend. There has been a considerable amount of chatter on the forum. Folks had a great time and are sharing small tid-bits about their adventures.

Before I go forward and tell you about our route home, I need to back up a bit and mention an observation my friend Dave gave me on our ride back from Americade the weekend before.
“Pat, you have to stop breaking in the turns like that. I nearly rode up your fender back there.”

I’ve heard this before of course when I rode Jade. While I loved my 650, she did have her limitations. One flaw was that her suspension was not ideal. Second, I could never find the right gear to be in when following Andy’s 1500 Vulcan. I was never in synch. With Dave’s comment I thought I might be treating Blaze yet again with my Jade mind. So I spoke with Andy and Lee about the twisties and how to manage them better. Then I spent the week practicing alone on my commutes to see where the flaws were talking place.

Fast forward to the Catskill’s Weekend. Andy and I decided to follow EasyEd home along a route he had planned out. I downloaded the route into my GPS and showed up at the departure time. Highlights included the Helderberg Pike (Route 443) in NY, the Toborton loop (NY), the Taconic Pass (NY), and the Mohawk Trail with a break for lunch at the Freightyard Pub in North Adams Massachusetts. With all the socializing between rides I never fully examined the route. The snapshot below should give you an idea of what I encountered. If you look closely, you can see the squiggly route. Can you say “twisties!”



From Catskills with NER



I was the fourth bike in the group, which is to say, not at the back where I can adjust my pace at will. When I encountered the first set of twisties I gave Blaze a pat on the tank and said, “Ok girl, here we go,” and gave her free reign. To my amazement, she obeyed each command as I looked through the turns, pushed on the grips and discovered that her suspension handled bad sections of road with much less tooth jarring than Jade. Her wider tires helped keep me from being pulled into cracks in the road surface as well. With the extra power the 1300cc provides, I was not constantly kicking from gear to gear to stay with the crowd. Hey, this was actually fun! At the lunch break, I asked Andy how I was doing. “Fine!” he said. But is was the more elaborate (and unsolicited) feedback I got from NomadBob that let me know for certain, that I am finally on my way to taming the twisties.

“Hi Pat!! :- ) Hey, I rarely ever get a chance to talk to you face to face, but I want you to know I think you're a good rider. Following you and Andy back from NY last weekend, you did a "mahvelous" job going through the twisties and corners all the way back to MA. :- )"
"You've taken well to riding and it would seem you and Blaze have been partnered up for a loooong time. When you were winging through the corners on rte. 2 after lunch, you were dead on in your groove (where you like to ride) in the road. I always look for things like that when I ride with people. Some stay right in their zone, and others are all over the lane. Swerving for road hazards doesn't count. I'd much rather see some one swerve around a bad bump in the road than hit it and kill a tire or rim."


Thanks NomadBob, you made one girl proud, and shows that practice and determination can work wonders. Not to mention keeping me out of the gutter.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

On Hold

The weather has been gloomy with only Wednesday being any good for decent riding. It’s bike week here in New Hampshire, and I would have considered a ride to Laconia yesterday, but I’m in a holding pattern waiting for the stork.

You read correctly, I am stepping away from the motorcycle for a week to spend time with my daughter as soon as the stork arrives. He is now two days overdue. With the impending arrival of my newest grandson the Pat Henderson’s Life and Motorcycle Blog will focus on the Life side of things for now.

Motorcycling is a great pastime, passion and hobby for many of us. While it is what we like to do, it does not fully define who we are. And while our kids are not us, they are from us. We love them, care for them, teach them and let them go into the world. As my children move forward into a future that is not mine, I feel privileged to be invited to share in the experience of the first week of a new life.

It is an opportunity to feel a small fist around my finger. Breathe in deeply the scent of a new born babe and find time to rock quietly in a corner and listen to new baby sounds. I intend to kiss soft smooth flesh, examine fingers and toes and look for familial resemblances in a small new face.

Then too, I have a special opportunity to bond more closely with my two-year-old granddaughter. Hear her giggle, read silly stories, chase chipmunks in the back yard, and swing as high as we can ‘til our toes touch the sky. Make Play Doh cakes, assemble picture puzzles, wipe sticky kisses from my face, and lift a tousled haired and rosy cheeked child waking from a nap. These moments in life are fleeting and I intend to cherish each and every moment.

When the blog goes quiet for a bit, don’t be concerned. I’m off chasing butterflies, drinking my juice box, eating a Cheerios snack, digging in the sandbox and watching the birds at the feeder. When that is done, I will be rocking the baby, singing lullabies and holding the moment closely before it slips away into a future I cannot follow.



Your children are not your children.
They are the sons and daughters of Life's longing for itself.
They came through you but not from you
and though they are with you yet they belong not to you.


~Kahlil Gibran~

Monday, June 15, 2009

Catskills Weekend in New York State

EasyEd spent months of his own time planning a weekend getaway for the New England Riders in the Catskills of New York. Ed did a marvelous job and I can’t imagine the hours of work he put into the event. His lovely wife Debbie (BikerTrix) must have spent many a quiet hour alone while Ed worked on routes and planning details. The hotel was ready for us with cordoned off parking just for bikes, and a banquet buffet served Friday and a Saturday night. If there was any work we needed to do, it was downloading the GPS routes we wanted to ride and packing our bags for the trip. Essentially all we had to do was show up.


From Catskills Weekend

Debbie (BikerTrix) and Ed (EasyEd)


I could write a short novel about our weekend trip, but for the sake of brevity I will focus on our Saturday ride. Andy and I selected the Catskills East 271 mile ride and hooked up with three other couples for the day. Many of the folks on this extended weekend started their riding mid-week. Warnings went out that on a certain stretch of road (Bear Ladder Road) a Bull Mastiff was on the loose and trying to take out bikers. The first and second bike, it was reported, were able to outrun the dog, but anyone after that was in jeopardy. Since the route we selected ran along this stretch I fretted about the danger of this very large breed dog taking me out as I would not the first or second bike in the group.



From Catskills Weekend




We headed out with FJGary and Diane in the lead, then Jan and Alan, me next, Andy behind me and NomadWill and MeAsWe taking up the sweep. Jan decided to ride two-up with Alan for the day which proved to be a happy turn of events for me. Jan’s arm shot out this way and that as she pointed out deer, waterfalls, gorges and other sites one should not miss. I could keep my eye on the road and Jan and not miss a single sight. It was like having my own personal tour guide! She even had us stop for a photo-op at one of the waterfalls. What a gal!


From Catskills Weekend



We stopped for lunch in Phonecia and ate with NomadWillie and MeAsWe at Brio’s. Jan, Alan, FJGary and Diane went down the street for a pancake lunch. Afterwards we decided to part ways. FJGary, Diane, Willie and WeAsMe continued on the route to enjoy the long sweeps through farm country back to the hotel. Jan, Alan, Andy and I wanted to check out the “eye” on Platts Cove Road, and look down into the gorge. Jan described the ride up this seasonal road as a “goat trail” I should be prepared for. As it turns out, the road was not much different than the ride I take home each day. Piece of cake! I even braved my fear of heights to take pictures of the gorge as I hugged a tree for dear life while suspended high above the gorge. The pictures didn’t turn out so great, but I sure did get an adrenaline rush for my efforts.



From Catskills Weekend


From Catskills Weekend



From Catskills Weekend



From Catskills Weekend




Then off we went again. While tackling a bit of technical riding, Jan twisted in the passenger seat to snap some photos behind her. Of course, I am all about my new bike, so I wave my hand each time she turns around. Finally at one point she flags me with some instance to keep my hand down. I then think “Oh! She must be taking video of me and Blaze on the twisties!” Yes, I’m afraid to say, it’s all about me. At rides end, I learn that she is trying to get both Andy and me in the photo, but with my hand up each time, I blocked off Andy’s face entirely. Poor guy, I don’t know how he puts up with me. Jan did manage to get some good shots and promises to send some my way. I will post those at a later date.

With the sky becoming threatening and because of our detour, time was running short, so we decided to make our way back to the hotel. We didn’t make it back before the rain, but Alan did point out Bear Ladder road as we passed by. I was not sorry to keep on going. Bull Mastiffs, rain slicked roads and motorcycles are not a mix I wanted to challenge. What I would like to challenge is riding every route that EasyEd has posted for the Catskills. If you have more time than we did, check the link above. Ed has done all your work. He has route files in MapSource, Streets and Trips and Google too. You have no excuses. The work is done, just pop that tour pack on the bike and go.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Blaze of Glory or What's in a Name?

On the way back from Americade, we stopped at Curtis’ BBQ on 103 in Vermont for some great ribs. I parked with the others out front, but decided before going in that I wanted to take a picture of Blaze under the sign. I climbed back on, started the bike and pulled up under the sign. True to her name; smoke started billowing up from under Blaze’s saddle. Billowing and billowing! I was momentarily confused, and then remembered that is exactly where the gas tank is too. I leaped off in a hurry. Andy quick as a wink, pulled the key from the ignition, popped the seat off, and pulled the smoking hot wires apart. My GPS was dead and so was the horn, but thankfully, the harness was intact. Blaze started right up and after the ribs I made it home safe and sound. Funny thing was that my friend Dave, who doesn’t usually have too many words to say, became lively and animated.

The next day we discovered the problem was in the 12 volt adapter I use to plug in the speaker portion of the GPS. We could see black down in the base. We tore the thing apart and the positive and negative connector covers had worn so that they were making contact. The wires overheated and just started melting. We have a dedicated fuse for the horn and a fuse in the speaker itself. Strange thing is not one fuse blew.

Andy spent most of the day rewiring and testing. I think I’m good. I want to be ready for next weekend’s trip to the Catskills with the New England Riders. A working GPS to find my way and a horn to alert all my friends of my presence are at the top of my to-do list. My pals at the New England Riders have lots of advice as you can imagine. One wanted to know if I will be changing Blaze’s name. Now why would I do that? With a name like Blaze, I’m expecting even more excitement up ahead. Not to mention, if I can live with all the nicknames Patricia can produce, any motorcycle of mine is certainly just as capable too.

Sunday, June 7, 2009

Americade, New Folks and Tasty Ribs

Saturday being the last full day of Americade, we mount up for a ride to Lake George, New York. The Tour Expo is where I want to spend my time to look for new doodads for Blaze. Dave is along for the ride. It’s his first time to Americade. Lee and Deb will find us there.

A good portion of our ride is through Vermont along route 103. This route angles northwesterly and we connect with route 7 north and then route 4 into New York. The roads here just don’t get any better than this. As we approach Lake George it is evident that there is an event in this area. There are motorcycles everywhere!

We make our way to the beach to park as close as we can to the venue. I love this large grassy area with all its motorcycles. I imagine it as a sea of bikes. Even in the midst of so many parked bikes there is a rumble in the background that never ends. It is the sound of motorcycles all around Lake George that echo off the hills. Such a sweet music to my ears.

As the day wears on my head starts pounding and I realize its well after noon. I’m parched and hungry too. We make our way to the food vendors. After we make our purchase we look for any table that has a spot to park our behinds. Even if there are folks at the table they graciously make room for others. I park my behind and chow down. My head is already feeling better.

Andy comes up from behind me as Deb is taking a photo and begins sprinkling kisses on my ear. Philadelphia Phil wants to know if there is a line. Deb and I true to form begin to giggle. Philadelphia Phil is the kind biker that gave us room at the table. He has a new ’08 Yamaha V Star 1100 that has barely 2,000 miles on the clock. We exchange notes about our bikes. I always enjoy meeting another V Star rider.

I am not having much luck in the shopping department, but we always make new friends such as Philadelphia Phil which is really part of the charm of Americade, the camaraderie. On the way home we stopped at Curtis’ BBQ on 103. Curtis’ serves up some of the best ribs around. This is a family run business and we are at the daughter’s location. Dad has the original Curtis’ further down on route 5. Both prepare ribs in the family’s tradition style and one is never disappointed.

The excitement of the day happens here at Curtis’ when I decided to pull the bike up under the sign and take a photo. I will save that little event for another day. So you will come back to find out, it involves billowing smoke and Blaze being true to her name.


Thursday, June 4, 2009

Conviction Overturned In Killing of Three Motorcyclists

I’ve tried to put aside this bit of news I read in our local paper. The more I tried, the more it tried my mind. So here I am once again with fingers to keyboard in an attempt to make sense of things that don’t. In doing so, it is my hope that we, as motorcyclists, will do more to raise public awareness, support organizations that work toward motorcyclists’ rights, and in general promote good will between riders and non-riders.

In 2006 a group of motorcyclist on their way to bike week in Laconia, were run down by a motorist on his way to work. Witnesses under sworn testimony told of following this driver and observing him drift over the center line repeatedly, until finally he traveled halfway into the next lane. Heading in the opposite direction was a motorist, the bikers, and another motorist. The first car noticed the commuter traveling into his lane and turned the wheel sharply right to avoid collision. The commuter then slammed into the first biker, causing the second to crash into the downed rider. As a result three people were killed with a fourth seriously injured.

Never at anytime did the commuter attempt to take evasive action, nor did he apply the brakes. A jury of his peers found him guilty of three negligent homicide charges for which he was serving up to 12 years in prison. However, at his appeal, the State Supreme Court overturned the verdict. In the statement prepared by the judge, he said “the majority is simply incorrect when it characterizes this case as ‘only the defendant’s violation of a traffic law due to momentary inattention’ and its fear that affirming the jury’s verdict will result in ‘criminal liability as a mater of law whenever a person dies in an accident caused by a driver who crosses the centerline, regardless of the circumstances’ is unfounded.”

The judge also made a comment about a “two second” rule which confused me to no end. Nowhere can I find documentation about a two-second rule that applies to crossing a center line, but only in reference to following distances. That is mute however as when you read the judges statement it appears he is more concerned with setting a precedent. In effect, if a person sneezes causing them to cross the line, the judge does not want to see them convicted of a criminal offense. I feel too that it is understood that the commuter is in no way protected from any civil suit.

In reading the article on line, I also continued down to section where readers can leave comments. It was distressing to me, and it seems not an uncommon assumption, that the motorcyclists were in some way to blame. In fact the reader wrote “do motorcyclists get a pass on laws?” In reading the court transcript, which this reader clearly didn’t, it was stated that the motorcyclists were traveling in staggered formation, at safe distances from the car ahead and from each other.

I will be watching this case to see how it continues to unfold. After all three people lost their lives. We need to be aware of proceedings like this and to comments made by the general public that perceives riders as scofflaws. This is where supporting our local chapters that protect our rights is so valuable. Many states have also begun campaigns on motorcycle awareness. Encourage your legislators to support these efforts at budget time. After all, what is a life worth?

Monday, June 1, 2009

Technology and Riding

The extended forecast calls for showers and thunderstorms all weekend. Andy and I decide to stay home Saturday and attend to chores. Not a drop falls from the sky all day. I have a stocked pantry and refrigerator, clean socks and underwear in the drawer and the house is vacuumed and dusted. (Long overdue I might add.) It’s not exactly how I want to spend a sunny day. As I’m preparing supper, the phone rings. It’s my good friend Dave. He tells me he has picked up his bike from the Harley dealer.

“Yippee!” I say, “Let’s ride tomorrow. I’ll send out a note and see if Lee and Deb can join us.”

In the morning the forecast seems to be more accurate in the shower and thunderstorm prediction than the day before. We study the Doppler on TV. Armed with this information, we decide to ride were the storm track is least likely to be. When we meet up with Lee and Deb, Lee takes out his Blackberry and checks the Doppler for updates. He and Andy put their heads together. So begins our day of outrunning Mother Nature.

The storm track is heading from west to east from a southwest to northeast track. We head northeast first ahead of the front then head in a more easterly direction through Bear Brook State Park. We make a grand loop to the shore. The weather is fantastic so far. From there we head south and stop for a lunch of fish and chips. What else would one eat at the shore? While we are enjoying the banter along with the fish and chips, the wind picks up. Lee consults the Doppler via his Blackberry. He teases Dave about how much rain is falling on Dave’s house at the moment.

Lee and Deb have unfinished chores of their own, so they decide to hightail it home after lunch. We aren’t ready to head home, so Andy takes us as far east as possible to keep away from the rain. We enjoy the breeze at Plum Island. Dave and I watch the shore birds while Andy gabs with the local fishermen. Then off we go again. The plan is to follow the Merrimack River west along 110. We get as far as the intersection of 97 when an ominous black cloud appears on the horizon. Andy decides a northerly heading on 97 is in order. The black cloud catches up with us in Methuen.

The rain starts as a sprinkle and quickly turns into a deluge. Andy pulls into a closed auto place that has a canopy we park beneath. The wind has really intensified and the tops of the trees are twisting and dancing in circles. While we wait for the rain to let up, Andy asks to look at the GPS to find the quickest way out. Route 93 is ahead about four miles and we decide to hightail it out of this rain. We get back on the road and just ahead a tree is down in the roadway. Our guardian angles have once again pulled us over before danger. We are safely around and by the time we reach Manchester the sun is shining. We are all dry before we reach home. Upon reflection, I realize that without such high tech toys like Lee’s Blackberry or a GPS, it would have been a very different ride. In addition, playing keep away is as much fun as playing tag.