Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Vacation Plan Glitch

The plan for our motorcycle vacation is for us three couples to tow the bikes west and spend 10 days motorcycling in Colorado, Utah and Arizona. Lee has mapped out some great routes. We have our MapSource files ready for our Garmin Global Positioning Systems. Andy and I have been working since April building our trailer. Bill and Barb have a three-bike trailer. The plan is for Lee, Deb and Bill to tow their bikes on this trailer. The two couples will travel together. Andy and I will meet them in Colorado Springs with our own two motorcycles in tow.

There has been some concern about Bill’s three-bike trailer. When we all saw the trailer for the first time a few weeks back, we realized it would be a snug fit. However, if bags were removed it was believed all three would fit. It would be tight, but doable. The weeks marched on and the plans were cementing nicely into place. We all made purchases of radios, mounts and various items we wanted for the trip. Andy and I stumbled along with our mishaps, spending a bit more than we bargained for in bike repairs as a result. Some discussion was made about swapping my smaller 650 with Lee’s bigger Nomad if the fit was too tight on Bill’s trailer. We needed to do a live test and soon. We agreed to meet at Bill’s. This would be a good test for our own trailer, as we would tow the bikes there to have both trailers handy in case the swap test was needed.

We hitch the trailer to the van and set out for Bill’s. We take the long way round to get a good test of braking, twists, turns and bumps. I sit in the back seat to keep an eye on the bikes. I don’t want any more mishaps. We’ve spent enough on repairs already. The bikes look good back there with minimal bouncing or swaying. I am pleased with what I see.

The others have been at Bill’s for a while already. When we arrive they look glum. Seems, the bikes won’t all fit after all. Not only that, but the swap idea won’t work either. Serious brainstorming is in order.

I’m not sure how the resolution will unfold, but everyone is doing their part in search of a solution. There are several ideas being bounced around. I believe it will all work itself out in the end, but for now, we are in a quandary.

Monday, June 23, 2008

A Day in the Life of Wild Turkey and Mother Hen

The weekend found Andy, Lee and me on the road to Center Conway to visit Whitehorse Press as we needed a few more items for the trip to Colorado this summer. Whitehorse Press is an online catalog for motorcycle enthusiast. They open their warehouse to the public on a limited basis throughout the year. This season you can visit them on Saturdays, a direct result of popular demand. I had heard and read on the NER forum only good things about Whitehorse Press so I was pleased to hear of their Saturday hours.

The folks at Whitehorse are fabulous! You are free to wander the warehouse to your hearts content. No one trails you around, but someone is easy to find should you have a question. They have free cookies and bottled water for their guests which add to the welcoming atmosphere. We picked up and examined item after item. There is nothing like touching, feeling and inspecting before buying.

One item the whole group needs is a mount for our bike-to-bike communication radios. We found the RAM mount display. RAM is a popular name in mounts for a variety of units. They are reliable and versatile. However, Lee stumbled upon a Formotion universal mount for items that have belt clips. The folks at Whitehorse let us open the package to examine the contents. Lee had the radio with him but not the clip. His cell phone clip worked well, so we each purchased one of these for our bikes. We later discovered that our belt clip was a bit wide for this clip, but since they are plastic we easily shaved the edges to fit. Andy did a great job with this and the radios fit snug and secure in the clip mount.

While I was wandering around the warehouse, I came upon the rain gear. My eyes spied the waterproof boot covers. Despite the warm day, my feet were suddenly cold at the memory of three hours in torrential rain on a ride home from Maine last season. I have been wet before, and despite the waterproof claim of my particular boot, my feet were not only wet, but spongy soggy. Not a pleasant thing. I tried on a pair with the help of one of the staff. Because of our conversation about packing for a two week trip, the clerk pointed us to another option, which proved to be less expensive. These are rubber pull on boots that fit over your motorcycle boots. They fold up nice and small and will certainly do the trick. Andy and I bought two pair.

Lee had a selection of purchases of his own. One item he found in the “discount” room was a copy of Motorcycle Journeys Through The Rocky Mountains by Toby Ballentine. Late that evening, Lee called to say what a great book it was. When he purchased it, he didn’t realize it was only $2.50 and he wished he had purchased two more, one for each couple. Just as an example of how great the folks at Whitehorse Press are, I gave them a call and asked if there were two more copies in the “discount room.” Yes there were, and with shipping two copies came to $11.00. Now that’s service!

With the mounting question for the radios behind us, it was time for Andy and me to start practicing with them. After some quick instructions in operation and icon identification, I send him outside with one in hand. A few moments later, my radio crackles to life. “Wild Turkey to Mother Hen. Come in!” Good thing I set that privacy code.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Jott is a voice to text...

Jott is a voice to text service. It does voice transcription. I joined the service, which is free to help me blog while on my vacation to the West. This particular blogging today, is a test of this service. listen

Powered by Jott

Monday, June 16, 2008

Father’s Day

I have been working on a solution to see my Dad and get back home for company on Fathers day. I hatch a plan. A conversation with Dad is not always easy. Just arranging for a breakfast out can be an exercise. I plan my strategy. “Are you going to church on Saturday evening or Sunday morning?” I ask. The direct question is always the best approach. “Well, Saturday.” He replies. This is good, now he has no excuse for a Sunday breakfast. “I want to take you to breakfast for Father’s Day.” I tell him. “Well,” he says “I eat early.” “How early is early.” I ask. “7:30 or 8:00” he replies. This is going good. I’m getting responses. “I’ll pick you up at 7:30.” I tell him. “Really?” he says. “OK then, 7:30.”

I get up early and head out-of-town to see my Dad. Dad is looking pretty good for a man of 80. He climbs into our van without much effort and orders a good breakfast at Blake’s. He tells me he’s had another visit to the “death house”. That’s what he calls his oncologist. The oncologist says he going to live a long time. Dad wants me to make a note of the oncologist’s name in case he drops tomorrow. Dad has raised his hand for a new drug trial he tells me. He’s feeling pretty good about it. It looks as though he intends to stick around for a while. “Good” I tell him. I like having him around.

On his birthday recently, we had a nice big bash. I had him stand near this one and that while I took their photograph. As I look at the photos, I realize there is not one photo of me standing near my Dad. I take care of the little oversight this morning. Dad is pleased with the photo as his mouth isn’t open. Dad always has a wisecrack. That’s why his mouth is open in so many pictures. I’m not sure he’s aware of this, but I find it endearing that he is clueless.

Andy and I head back home and we are greeted at the door by my grandson and his mother, who have arrived ahead of us. Soon, Aiden is leading Andy down the hall. We keep a selection of toys there for him. His favorites are an electric keyboard that makes sounds like your local DJ, and a big blue ball. He stops only briefly at the toys. He then proceeds into the bathroom. “Hey”, Andy calls to our daughter, “Aiden is pulling on his pants and saying ‘poop’.” “Then help him with his pants.” our daughter calls back. They are both out of our line of vision. “I don’t know how these contraptions work!” Andy calls back. “Just pull the tabs” daughter calls back. There are a few moments of silence, and then Andy exclaims “Hey! He’s doing what he said!” He’s so impressed, that he marks the occasion on the back of a new photo he’s just received for Father’s Day. I wonder how much Aiden will appreciate that in another few years.

“Put his shoes on” Andy tells our daughter. “It’s time for the guys to go outside.” Aiden, with shoes on, holds Papo’s hand and heads outside. My daughter and I spend some time chatting. We realize after a bit that it has been a while and also way too quiet. We peer out the window and what we see has us chuckle. Andy and Aiden are both seated in lawn chairs around a flaming BBQ. Andy loves to sit there, watch the fire, keep the bugs away and have a beer. He and Aiden appear as though they do this every day. “Hot!” Aiden says. “That’s right” says Papo. Just two buds enjoying the day and each other’s company. I get the camera and record this moment too.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Trailer Project Update

The trailer project has not been without its trials and tribulations. With each step of completion, there is a level of anxious impatience to “test things out.” This assessment of course, is my own evaluation of events as they unfolded and may not reflect the view of others. With that disclaimer, I shall proceed on with the update.

With the platform complete, Andy is anxious to ride his bike onto it and test the strength and space with a three dimensional eye. He locates a make shift ramp and with cinder blocks under the corners and the ramp secure calls to me so that I can help with the assessment. As I stand on the front stoop, I question the strength of the make shift ramp and can feel my anxiety level rise. Reassured that the home made ramp is strong enough for an 800 pound motorcycle, I hold my breath as he begins the assent.

The flaw in the plan is the lack of chocks behind the wheels of the trailer. With the weight of the bike, and a slight shift in the trailer, the ramp comes down, bike, biker and all. With heart pounding, I race to assist, and we have the motorcycle righted in no time. Then we view the damage with sinking heart. The left mirror is snapped off, and there is a dent in the fork. The rider is unharmed. The dent is superficial and does not affect the shock’s operation. The mirror is toast.

I, of course, spend some time fuming, but then realize things could have been worse. We spend the next week researching ramps, and order a tri-fold variety that advertises weight capacities that fit our needs. With the new ramp delivered, we try the three dimensional project again. This time we have more success. We can see that both bikes can fit on the deck. It’s a tight squeeze but doable. We get both bikes back down safely and are on the hunt for chocks.

We spend a few weeks researching chocks, but always find possible flaws with each. The timely arrival of Americade offers us an opportunity to touch, feel and ask questions about the variety of chocks we see at the vendor booths. As we watch the demonstration at one vendor booth, we are pleased with what we see, and in the end, we select the Condor model.

The next day Andy is anxious to test the chocks. He assembles them but does not secure them to the deck. First, we must decide where they should be secured for the best weight distribution. Once again, Andy is riding the bikes up onto the trailer. Each bike is rolled into a chock. I’m uneasy as they are not bolted down. Andy gives them each the shake test and it seem OK. We inspect the location, and measure for the next step in securing the chocks. Andy moves the ramp and with the slight jarring the trailer takes along with a sudden stiff breeze, I watch in horror as Jade takes a nosedive off the trailer.

I feel like I’ve been sucker punched in the stomach. Andy is nearly sick. We are both silent the rest of the day which is spent with Andy attending to Jade. One mirror is badly scratched and the only thing he cannot fix is the windshield. I order a new one. In the days that follow, the chocks are secured, and anchors for the tie-down straps are installed. With a bit of trepidation in our hearts, we see that it is time for the next test.

Once again, the ramp is put in place. Both bikes are rolled onto the deck and locked into the chocks. Each is strapped down securely. We check all connections with the hitch, test the lights, and take the bikes for a short ride up the road. The motorcycles don’t move from their positions. Good. However, the weight distribution is not optimal. We see that we need to relocate the chocks further back than we have installed them. It is also evident, that the van will require heavy duty shocks as well. Thankfully, without incident, we return to the drive, roll the bikes down, and call it a night.

While unfortunate, these incidents point to how easily accidents can happen. We have now taken the pilots aviation checklist approach. We all get lackadaisical in our riding habits as well. How many of us follow the suggestion from our motorcycle training course each time we take out the bike? Do you check the condition of the tires and tire pressure? Are all nuts and bolts nice and tight? Have you looked closely at the throttle cable? Did you test the lights and signals? If you follow the advice in the safety course, you do this each and every time. Don’t find out the hard way, as we did, that safety is no accident.

Sunday, June 8, 2008

It’s Not Motorcycle Season Until…

Lake George, Laconia, Sturgis, it isn’t quite motorcycle season until you’ve been to a motorcycle rally held at one of these locations. Sure, Daytona happens in March, but for me, this only gives us something to do until the snow melts in the rest of the Continental US. There is something about finding myself in a sea of motorcycles that gets my adrenaline pumping.

There are a myriad of excuses I use to encourage a visit to Lake George. This year, it’s the trailer project that entices Andy to Americade. We set off on Saturday morning with a favorable weather forecast. What we encounter for the first few hours of travel is fog as thick as pea soup. Having dressed for a very warm day, I find my teeth chattering after we are in the fog a few hours. It eventually lifts and the day that unfolds if magnificent!

My favorite stretch of road on this day is route 103 through Vermont. With little traffic, it’s as though we have the state to ourselves, our own personal playground. We eventually find ourselves at route 4, and this is where you begin to have a sense that there is something going on. The motorcycles begin to outnumber the cars in each direction. This first stretch of route 4 has two lanes running in each direction. Andy takes the opportunity to open it up and get a good dose of wind therapy. I’m right behind him. It isn’t long before we encounter police monitoring the roadway. Twice we are given the flashing lights to slow it down. We think it’s decent to give us a such a warning and we don’t have to be given a third. The closer we get to Lake George the more obedient we become. We’ve read the posted warnings about the crackdown New York is taking to prevent motorcycle accidents during this week. We proceed with respect.

The Adirondack Mountains begin to rise around us. The traffic slows as soon as we reach route 9. It’s a slow crawl to the beach. I enjoy the sights but Andy hates traffic. Eventually we approach the Tour Expo parking. We are directed to our spot by many volunteers and we park the bike in the vast ocean of motorcycles. We begin the walk to the vendors. We decide to check the beach location first. The lines stretch from the parking, along the beach and walk to the entrance. Things move along and we’ve paid for, had our hand stamped and disappear in the sea of people all spending their money on motorcycle bling.

There is something about the vendors at Americade. You can find the companies that sell the popular name brands that usually you can examine only on-line. Here you can touch and feel in a way the virtual world does not allow. Today we are checking out chocks for the trailer. We have some two-way radio concerns, and Andy is thinking of a pair of riding pants. We take a quick walk through to decide where we will concentrate our efforts as we have this one day to shop.

There are a few vendors that sell chocks. I’ve already explored all the available options on line with Andy. We hold and touch and ask questions. The ones we had considered at home, no longer hold appeal once we have examined them closely. We head back toward a demonstration of another type. They are a bit more costly, but in the end we pull out the credit card.

I’m disappointed in the radio options, which is really none, unless you want some fancy deal for your Goldwing. We are looking for hand held models that we can sit in a cradle. There are plenty of satellite radio options and Bluetooth devices, but no two-way radios, only citizen band options. I’m even dismayed at the lack of headsets offered for sale. I put the radio shopping on the back burner and we continue on for clothing.

Andy is sidetracked by the leather vendors. I’m curious until he tells me he needs a wallet. He examines every wallet at every leather booth, but comes away unsatisfied. The clothing is mostly leather as well, and Andy is looking for a textile riding pant. We decide to head back to the bikes for more water bottles as it is stinking hot. The shirt vendor is on the way out and we buy two sleeveless tees. Back at the bike and in broad daylight, Andy removes his riding pants and slips into his shorts. A few women have spotted him as I witness them pointing in his direction. It’s at this point that I notice he hasn’t chosen the best pair of skivvies in the drawer. As he’s bent over to pull up the shorts, he’s giving them a fine show.

We walk up to route 9 again and visit the forum shopping area. This is located indoors and the air-conditioning is just what the doctor ordered. We find our hardware for the trailer, but are still unlucky in the wallet and riding pant department. We head back the beach to pick up our packages from our vendor. With boxes strapped to each bike, we head out from the beach around 4 o’clock. We take 9L to the junction of 149 and stop at a convenience mart for refreshments. We leave here at 5pm and make our way back home.

We make two more stops along the way, one for gas and one for ice cream. No motorcycle ride is any good without either of these. It’s a long day, but the roads have been spectacular and for the most part uneventful. At one point we found ourselves behind a very smelly animal transport vehicle. You could not only smell the excrement, but watch it run down the sides. I stayed well back as I didn’t want any of that spray on me. Our other incident was at the new rotary in Keene. I’m not sure the folks in this neck of the woods understand the concept behind rotaries. Andy and I are nearly picked off while in the rotary. The vehicles entering have no concern for right of way and take us off guard. I open up the throttle and put as much space between me and them as I can. We reach home safe and sound and I give my prayer of thanksgiving as is my habit, knowing that indeed, the angels hands were busy this day.

Monday, June 2, 2008

Riding With Others

I’m the first to admit that I can be a bit timid on rough roads. While my companions are sailing around twist and turns smoothed along by their air shocks, my teeth can be rattling out of my head riding Jade. Unlike most of my riding buddies, I do not have comfy air shock to take up the jarring that rough roadways cause. Instead, Jade is equipped with front forks and a spring under the seat. I like to compare the difference to riding today’s automotive suspension and yesterday’s buckboard. When I encounter bad road conditions, I tend to slow up, and wave ahead anyone behind me.

From the comments I get from fellow riders, my feeling is there is little awareness of what I am experiencing. I am assuming this from the helpful hints they kindly try to suggest, so that my riding skills will improve. This became evident again on Sunday. I complained about the speed on bad roads, and was then questioned about the state of my shocks. I kindly asked them to examine them for me. The eyebrows rose in what I consider a “light bulb” moment when they realize I have none.

Then there are the twisties. For the road carver, riding the twisties is Nirvana. They would be for me as well, if all twists in the road were right handed. However, for some reason, leaning left seems so much more hair-raising. OK, so my left eye is compromised by the lenses I wear. One is for reading and one is for distance. This doesn’t help my left leaning ability since the left is for near not far. Yes, I have tried wearing my eyeglasses, but they bounce around on my nose, and then both eyes are compromised. What to do?

I love riding, but with others these two handicaps can cause hazard unless all are aware. When riding alone, I’m comfortable and feel capable in my riding skills. The lessons learned in the Rider Training Course are valuable tools I use each time Jade and I are out and about. While I try to be forthright about any shortcomings I may have, others aren’t so obliging. When group riding, you can’t know the experience level of every individual, their current physical health and that of their motorcycle. There are so many variables at play. I have my own method of coping with these situations. You need to find what works for you if you want to return home alive, because, yes, shortcoming on a bike can kill.

I my opinion, it is imperative that members of a group ride take time before kickstands up to have some frank talk. Discuss the riding style such as staggered or single file, hand signals that keep all riders informed of road hazards, turns, and stops. Understand the fuel tank limits of all the riders, the length of stops and the time between. Let the group know if the ride is aggressive, or leisurely. Don’t drop out of a ride without informing the group, or join halfway into the ride, as you have missed all the instructions and could put others at risk. After all, group riding is supposed to be fun, and accidents never are.

Here are couple of links for more information on safe group riding.