Friday, May 30, 2008

Mount Equinox

During the past couple of riding seasons, Andy and I found ourselves climbing to mountain summits on our motorcycles. We found this activity exhilarating, not for the mere challenge, but for the reward in the views from the top. Some of our conquests include Mount Washington in New Hampshire (6288 ft), Whiteface in New York (4867 ft) and Mount Greylock in Massachusetts (3491 ft). We’ve ridden as high as you can travel for Jay Peak in Vermont, and then taken the tram to the summit (3858 ft.) All of these left us wanting more, and so began my quest for mountain peaks to visit in the Northeast.

The result of my research gave me a handful of destinations for our wish list. They are as follows: Equinox (VT) 3882 ft., Burke (VT) 3267 ft, Ludlow Mt (Okemo) (VT) 3343 ft, Bolton (VT) 3680 ft, Ascutney (VT) 3150 ft, Kearsarge (NH) 2937 ft. and last but not least Cadillac Mountain in ME. This last, although only reaching to a height of 1532 feet, boasts at being the highest point along the North Atlantic seaboard and is the first place to view the sunrise in the United States from October 7 through March 6. Cadillac ranks in the top five along with Washington, Greylock, Equinox, and Ascutney as being the best ride-to mountain tops in the Northeast.

With a long holiday weekend ahead of us, I toss Mount Equinox on the table for our group to consider as a possible destination. To my delight, it gets a nod of approval. With Mount Monadnock in our rear view mirrors we head up route 12 from Keene. The day unfolds into a delightfully sunny day, with comfortable temperatures for riding. We cross into Vermont at Bellows Falls and make our way to route 11 via route 5 then 103. The ride is pleasant and we soon find ourselves on route 7A in Sunderland and at the entrance to Skyline Drive.

Skyline Drive is a 5.2 mile road to the summit of Equinox. As with any mountain climb, there are switchbacks that challenge, overlooks with breathtaking views, and danger of on-coming cars. One must be cautious of animals such as deer that leap from the underbrush and threaten one’s safety. On this day the challenge is in the switchbacks only and soon we are at the summit. The Green Mountains, the valley of Vermont and the White Mountains of New Hampshire may be seen to the east. The Adirondack Mountains of New York provide the backdrop to the west, and the Taconic and Berkshire Mountains of Massachusetts to the south. The breeze is refreshing and we take in the 360 degree view until fully satisfied.

Each peak that we have mastered has its own unique quality. Our perceptions are challenged as we look across the tree tops below us. We step gingerly along the exposed weather beaten rocky surface and we marvel at the survival of flora between the crevasses. The hair is tousled in the breath of wind that sweeps across the summit driven by the currents of the valleys below. And yet, a creature as delicate as the Monarch butterfly lazily flutters by. It is soon evident what inspires the souls of prophets, and why they seek the mountain tops. We are keenly aware of our smallness in the scheme of life, and yet privileged to have arrived at this spot to witness the splendor of the earth.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Unsung Heroes
A Memorial Day Tribute to Veterans
Including my Dad, a Veteran of WWII

I’m a bit ashamed to admit it, but until I began motorcycling, I had never heard of Rolling Thunder. Rolling Thunder®, Inc. is a non-profit organization. Many of their members ride motorcycles but you don’t have to ride a motorcycle to be a member. Their mission statement reads:

The major function of Rolling Thunder®, Inc. is to publicize POW-MIA issues: To educate the public that many American prisoners of war were left behind after all previous wars and to help correct the past and to protect future veterans from being left behind should they become prisoners of war-missing in action.
We are also committed to helping American veterans from all wars.

My introduction to Rolling Thunder came as a direct result of my association with the New England Riders, and meeting Pat McGhie. Last June, I discovered that Pat worked right across the street from where I work. This led us to lifting our hand in a friendly wave anytime we spot each other. On many occasions, as I took my 3:30 stroll around the block, I would see Pat leaving the lot next door. At first I though he had bankers hours. I couldn’t have been further from the truth.

Pat volunteers his time each week to the veterans of this state. When I see him leaving the lot at 3:30, it’s because he’s on to phase two of his day. In addition to his work with veterans and for veterans’ issues here in NH, Pat is also a member of Rolling Thunder and continues his work here as the webmaster for the local chapter and as the NE States Director.

On May 10th, Pat took time out of his busy schedule to participate in an event in honor of two soldiers missing in action in Iraq, Byron Fouty of Michigan and Alex Jimenez of Lawrence MA. Pat works tirelessly to make sure that our POW and MIA military personnel are never forgotten. To this end, Pat is off to Washington DC with his wife Lynn and member friends, Doc and Quinn to participate in the Rolling Thunder Motorcycle Rally in Washington DC. The rally is held each year to keep the public aware our POW/MIA. You can be sure that Pat will be working at this event and not just another body in the crowd.

To Pat and all the other unsung heroes in our midst, I salute you this Memorial Day. I encourage you all to take a few moments to read some of the content at the links I’ve provided. This weekend, take time out to remember those closest to you, and if you are as blessed as I to have a veteran to hug this weekend, be sure to do so. For those who don’t I will have a moment of silence to remember their sacrifice.

Still Unaccounted For
WWI 3,350
WWII 78,753
Korea 8,170
Vietnam 1, 980
Persian Gulf 41

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Can You Hear Me Now?

One maneuver I have learned how to do well on a motorcycle is the U turn. This can be tricky for a lot of folks, especially if the area doesn’t allow much room to maneuver. My skills increased as a direct result of following my husband, whose curiosity leads us down many a dead end road. Sometimes he doesn’t notice the sign indicating it’s not a through street, other times he claims to have seen it, but is just “curious.” I think he just tries to save face.

On other occasions we might be traveling to a particular destination which neither of us has been to before. Sometimes I see the sign for a turn, sometimes he does. To prevent us from making a wrong turn, should I see that he is about to do so, he gave me instructions to “toot” my horn. This would seem the logical thing to do since we do not have bike-to-bike communications. However, I discovered two flaws with this plan. The first is that when motorcycling, a person can get into a Zen like state. The motion of the bike, the scenery flowing past, the dappling sunlight, all of it putting the soul in such a state of reverie that listening for a “toot” is far from one’s mind.

The second flaw is that Jade has a very delicate and refined “toot.” In fact, it’s more of a “beep.” We’ll be riding along and “BEEP BEEP!” Jade will exclaim just to watch us zip past our turn. This happened so often that I began to pay attention to the horn conversations taking place on the motorcycle forum. Then, when out on a ride with the group ask to listen to what their horn actually sounds like. This lead to my discovery of the air horns made by Stebel.

Last Christmas when my daughter asked me what I would like, I sent the link to the Stebel Horn website. The specific model is the Nautilus Compact Series. To my delight, I found the horn under the tree. Although I’ve had it in my possession for five months, it wasn’t until Sunday, that we were able to take the time for installation. Andy had to fabricate a bracket to relocate the horn, and we used extra patience when working out the wiring to avoid any more electrical issues. All went well, and at the end of the day, Jade had a new horn that commands attention. “Honk” and “Beep” do not define this horn. One thing is for sure however, the question “can you hear me now?” is definitely rhetorical!

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Soft Ties, Ramps and Chocks

Yesterday I was introduced to soft ties. You learn something new every day. In our planning and preparation for our motorcycle adventure to the West, there have been several small items to consider. Now that I’ve learned about soft ties, I can see their value and may purchase a few sets for myself.

At the moment we are in the investigative phase of our trailer build. That’s why I have not had an update for a while on this project. We did a trial and error test on ramps and discovered we want something more significant than what we had first planned on. I found one on-line that seems suitable, but I want to check around for pricing. The reason we feel this ramp is good for us, is that you can keep your feet planted as you ride the bike up onto the trailer.

We also need tire chocks. We saw some of the rail type, but after the ramp test, we also decided that aiming for the rails would be too difficult. You are probably thinking “what’s the big deal?” Well if you’ve never driven a motorcycle up a ramp, then you wouldn’t know. It’s not as easy as it seems. Our motorcycles are stored in an elevated shed that requires a ramp for access. I’ve been riding the bike up the ramp for five years, and it is tricky every time. You need just the right amount of throttle, don’t stall the bike, and for heaven’s sake, brake before you go through the back wall. Ask me how I know. You can see a few examples of the simple chocks we are now considering at the ramp link above. Check the right hand side bar.

Last season all I did was gripe about my GPS. Every time I used it on the bike it would lock up. When that pleasant voice would say “lost satellite reception” I would curse. I had the bike looked at and a few questionable connections were “cleaned up.” So far so good. The unit has not locked up once. I want to try it using an actually programmed route. I will have a chance to do so on the upcoming NE-Canada ride at the end of May. I will write more about that ride later.

Although each item viewed independently may seem small and trivial, as a whole they contribute to a successful trip. I now know that I need a better setup for the camera. The new riding pants are great! The riding glasses I picked up at California Bike Week are fabulous. For now, we seem to be in a lull. However, I feel it is good to step back, take a breath and see what we have, consider what’s missing, and try to cover every possible scenario. As with the soft ties, you never know when you will learn something new.

Monday, May 12, 2008

The Experiment

“You’ll need to learn how to take pictures from the bike.” That’s what our fearless leader is saying about our upcoming trip to the West. I blink a couple of times after reading this sentence in the e-mail to all. There is a whole lot of information in that one sentence. The first information being that we will be covering a lot of miles in one day. Not enough time to stop leisurely at every scenic vista we come upon. The second item is that there is plenty of stuff I will want to photograph. I look at my new camera and sigh.

I do have a new camera because my other came to a sad end while in California last November. I didn’t expect the expense just before Christmas, but I had wanted something more compact for just this reason; taking pictures while riding. I hadn’t exactly figured out how I was going to go about doing that just yet. I’ve seen the guys with the Goldwings and all their fancy equipment. Some even have cameras mounted on the bike. I look at Jade. There is no more space on the bars for any bracket. Right now, I have the GPS and the change holder for tolls. Then I remember how my previous GPS leaped to its demise from a weakened holder. I use a small bungee cord to hold this one in place. Did I really want to toss away another $400.00 worth of equipment to be run over on some highway? Not really.

I take another look at the camera. There is spot where the hand strap weaves through that I could possible use for a lanyard around the neck. This seems possible, until I try to get the lanyard though the eye. It won’t fit. So I hook the lanyard onto the strap itself, put it around my neck and test for length and weight. It’s light enough, and not too long that it bangs on the tank. I intend to test it out on a day trip Andy and I have planned.

As soon as we are on the open road, I realize the first problem. I can’t be looking down at the camera to turn it on. I need to keep my eyes on the road. After a few attempts I realize I can feel for the camera and find the “on” switch. Then I can feel for the lens as it slides out of the main camera housing. There is a lot of fumbling and not much picture taking.

At the next stop I look at what I’ve taken. The shots are blurry. I forgot to put the setting on “sport” which allows for fast action. I reset the camera. My next shots are better. Even with gloved hands, I can slide the switch to “on”, realize when the lens has extended, lift the camera up and snap the shutter. The photos are looking better when I check at the next stop. Toward the end of the day, we hit the super slabs.

Hurtling down the highway at breakneck speeds the camera is flapping in the wind under my arm. I begin to worry that the hand strap may be weaker than I imagine it to be, and that the velocity of the wind will snap it from the eye. We all make it home intact, but it’s clear, I need a better solution than this if I want peace of mind. Enjoy the slide show below of my experiment, and a few I took while actually stopped for sight seeing.

Sunday, May 4, 2008

Inside the Box

A package arrived in the mail a few weeks ago addressed to my husband and me. It came from his brother and sister-in-law in California. I didn’t want to open the box. We have had two family deaths recently, each a month apart, and my fear was that this might be someone’s ashes. Why I would even think that is a long story for another time.

A few days later, my husband finally opened the box. We both looked inside and chuckled. It was a motorcycle ornament, complete with biker Santa. On the base is a button, that when pushed, plays Let it Ride, by Bachman-Turner Overdrive, embellished with motorcycle engine sounds.

While in California, for one of the funerals, we took time out on a Saturday to attend the California Bike Week at the Pomona Fairplex, to which we dragged along Tom and Donna. I suspect they may have been a bit bitten by motorcycle fever that day.

Motorcycle Santa has joined a collection of other cherished bikes and motorcycle memorabilia, all gifts from friends and relatives. I used to display my collection proudly in my office at work; however, because of the changing times, the collection in now availably for private viewing only.

As I made room for Santa, I became awash with memories, as each piece has a story. The people fondly remembered, or the circumstance relived in each piece. I’m not sure what motivates people into gift giving without any special occasion, but I am all about personal growth, and I feel I am learning a lesson here. With Tom and Donna’s ornament gift, outside of the Christmas Season, I feel they are expressing, in their own way, the enjoyment of a day spent outside of their normal routine.

I am not going to presume what others were thinking behind their gift giving. I do know that some think I’m crazy for risking life and limb, some have admiration for those who are not afraid of a challenge, and I suspect others are living vicariously. It doesn’t matter to me at all what they think. What matters to me is that they are all an important part of my life and I cherish them as much as their thought behind the gift. The lesson...there is more inside the box than just an object.

Here is a sampling of my collection. The first piece given to me, interestingly, is also the tiniest motorcycle in the photo. This small motorcycle to the largest is a physical representation of how the collection has grown. You can see Santa to the left, still in the box. He’ll be proudly displayed next Christmas in an honored spot on the tree.


Good Bye, Hard Life
Don't Cry Would you let it ride?
Don't Cry Would you let it ride?

You can't see the mornin', but I can see the light
Ride ride ride let it ride
While you've been out runnin' I've been waitin' half the night
Ride ride ride let it ride

And would you cry if I told you that I lied and would you say goodbye Or
would you let it ride? And would you cry if I told you that I lied and
would you say goodbye Or would you let it ride?

Babe my life is not complete I never see you smile
Ride ride ride let it ride
Baby you want the forgivin' kind and that's just not my style
Ride ride ride let it ride

I've been doin' things worthwhile, you've been bookin' time
Ride ride ride let it ride