Monday, January 26, 2009

That’s Firm?

I made it to the motorcycle show in Salem on Sunday, where I actually saw a motorcycle worth haggling over. “Sorry, the price is firm” the dealer tells me. Firm? Have you ever heard of such a thing? No worry, I thought, people are just looking. I’ll call them on Monday and see if they want to talk.

Before I contact the dealer, I do some homework. I use the Kelley Blue Book and investigate trade-in value and retail value. I’m generous in the accessory department. I’m trying to be fair to the dealer. Then I write a polite note about the bike. The note is brief, asking that if the bike remains unsold after the show, I’d be interested in talking price if they are open to that suggestion. The reply is short and tells me basically the same message I heard at the show, the price is firm. In addition they tell me they have already listed the price $300 below the NADA value.

I’m in shock. I’ve never heard of any dealer not willing to haggle over a price. In a soft economy it seems ridiculous not to want to talk turkey. OK, let me go the NADA listings and see if what I’m told is true. Once again, I am generous with the accessories. Still the dealer price comes out $300 over the NADA price, not under. To make matter’s even murkier; Kelley Blue Book and the NADA are about $1000 apart in value quoted.

Off I go the New England Rider forum to ask my good friends what they think. So far, the only reply I get is that when financing, registering or being taxed on a car, motorcycle etc, the NADA listing will be used. I think I will check Edmunds, but discover they only list automobiles.

Before I drafted my polite note to the dealer, I asked advice from the guy who owns our company building. He has many commercial buildings and is a shrewd business man. He suggested how I should draft the note to the dealer, and I followed his advice. When he reads their response, he instructs me to “say nothing” and wait them out. The assumption is this: If they want my money, the will get back in touch. If they find a fool to pay their price, then it isn’t the only model of its kind on the market. He also suggests that they may be playing on my “need to have it now” and warns me against weakening in my resolve to get a fair price.

I can wait. The snow still covers the ground, the arctic temperatures have once again descended on the region, and more snow is in the forecast. My “need to have it now” barometer is still manageable. I hope I possess the where-with-all to remain strong when the ice starts melting.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Hands in my Pocket

We all know the economy is in the toilet. I have also made mention of how I am trimming the household budget looking for wiggle room in dreaming about a new motorcycle. It’s a hard job trimming expenses, and ultimately doing without some nicety I may have been enjoying, but that’s the bare bone truth of what needs doing. All my efforts may be for not, however, if I can’t keep Uncle Sam and his relatives hands out of my pocketbook.

Currently I am watching the New Hampshire Legislature as they deliberate HB 95. There are parts of this bill that are completely ridiculous. (Use the new link to the right to keep tabs on your motorcycle rights in NH.) While I can understand how neighborhoods would like to enjoy a bit of piece and quiet, insisting on motorcycle equipment that typically does not come standard, shows in my humble opinion, how uninformed those drafting the bill are (House Bill 95 sponsored by representatives J. Day, Henson and Kepner.)

On another front, in watching the local news, possible sources of revenue are being considered by the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. One that has already taken place is adding a $6 annual service charge per transponder for those use this device for the fast lane (EZ Pass.) Both NH and MA are considering increases in the gas tax as well. The extra tax on gas reaches farther than you would expect. It not only affects you directly when you fill your tank, but the cost of everything that is trucked to us goes up as a result as well. Look for more increases at the grocery store in addition to delivered goods and services.

In both states, and increase in traffic patrol is being talked about to raise revenue. Be prepared for more traffic stops. This feeds directly into my first concern above, because not only will they monitor speed, equipment will be scrutinized, and if the tachometer issue passes (which I doubt) you will have officers having check points testing decibel levels during bike week.

If you are fortunate enough to have lived through a company layoff, be prepared for a pay cuts. So while you have trimmed your budget, cut back on outings with the car or bike, given up some things you used to enjoy, prepare to suffer here too. The alternative is grim. Take the cut or test the stinking job market.

The underlying point of all this is simple: Remain vigilant. Protect your rights. Vote for someone who represents you, not any one party. Ultimately, handing over too much power will mean you have fewer liberties. Watch your accounts carefully for added fees or other unsubstantiated charges, because while there are plenty who pick our pockets while hiding behind the law, there are those doing so who are not.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Traveling and Motorcycle Laws

A note went around with a link to a message from the mayor of Myrtle Beach, South Carolina. In the message the mayor delivered the news that Myrtle Beach would no longer host two long standing motorcycle events. As I read through the notice, two things came to mind. One, the mayor was delivering the message in a well written thought out manner. There were no harsh overtones, no read between the lines innuendos or suggestion that bikers were a bad lot. Number two, it was evident the residents had become weary. It’s understandable. Having a home on Cape Cod and realizing the economy depends on tourism doesn’t keep year-round residents from becoming weary of traffic jams and messy tourists.

From the letter I linked to the new rules and regulations for motorcycles in Myrtle Beach. As I read the list, all the items seemed reasonable. At first, I misread one line item as “no two motorcycles to one parking spot.” In reality, it is not MORE than two motorcycles to a parking spot. My reason for jumping to conclusion is that this is actually the case in some states and/or their local municipalities. I can not understand why two bikes can’t park in one spot. What doesn’t make sense to me obviously makes cents to the community. Revenue. It can be in the form of parking meter revenue, or ticket revenue.

If you are traveling around the country this coming season, it is a good idea to check the motorcycle laws in the areas you will be visiting. Here is a great link where you can check out any state to review the laws. Here is one to get you started.

Old Orchard Beach, Maine - they will be ticketed if parked in the wrong place.
Sec. 54-142. Parking at expired meters and overtime parking.
(b) No person shall park or stand any vehicle having fewer than four wheels at or in a metered parking space which is designated by a sign or by notice posted on or near the parking meter as restricted to parking of automobiles only. No person shall park or stand any vehicle other than a motorcycle at or in a metered parking space which is designated by a sign or by notice posted on or near the parking meter as restricted to parking of motorcycles only.
Sec. 54-160. Motorcycles.
(a) Spaces shall be designated by suitable signs and marked for motorcycle parking.
(b) This section shall be effective year round.

Traveling to Massachusetts? Did you know that helmet speakers are prohibited to use or possess? If visiting Vermont, do not ride two abreast. I personally do not like to ride abreast, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t done. Some of you like to ride “ape hangers.” If you do make sure the handlebar height is not above your shoulders in New York.

If you are traveling beyond the New England area there are other interesting laws to take into consideration. At some beach locations in California, you MUST back your vehicle into the spot. Motorcycles included. I’m sure this is to make it easy for them to check your inspection sticker. However, if the grade goes uphill it can be damn hard to back your 600 pound bike uphill.

I found other interesting reading on the Internet, which showed that just because motorcyclists are obeying the law, doesn’t mean drivers are. For example, one guy parked in a “one motorcycle per space” spot, and came back to find a ticket on his bike. Boxing him in was a small VW. The VW and piggybacked on the space, but the motorcyclist got the ticket. He was able to get it tossed out in court, because he had the foresight to photograph his bike with a time stamp. This last brings to mind the perception of non-riders and law enforcement officials that if there is a problem it has to be the motorcyclists fault. A rider is guilty before he can prove he’s innocent. But that is a story for another day.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Muscle Memory

During our recent wide spread power outage here in New Hampshire, I had the unexpected opportunity to experience first had the muscle memory phenomenon. For those not familiar with this term, there are two basic types of muscle memory, fine and gross motor skills. Fine motor skills can be described by such activity as brushing one’s teeth, writing or typing. While gross motor skills involve our large body parts. In this case we develop gross motor skills when we practice skills involving sports, playing a musical instrument, driving, and yes, riding a motorcycle.

I was mesmerized by the habits we form over time, and how practice conditions us to perform movement without conscious thought. During our days without electricity, and despite my intellectual awareness that we had no power, my arm consistently reached for the light switch each time I entered a dark room. It was then that I decided to conduct an experiment. I wanted to see how long it would take me to break this habit. While breaking the habit to reach for the light switch, I was unconsciously developing a new habit. This one was getting up in the morning, walking to the space heater and warming my legs while I waited for water to boil for coffee. My realization that I had just developed a new habit came when I stood before the space heater for warmth, despite the fact that my intellect knew it had run out of fuel and was stone cold.

This eye opening lesson gave me an acute awareness that we can develop habits good and bad through repetition. While I was trying to break one by concentrating on breaking it, I had developed another without even thinking about it. In the experiment I mentioned above, it took me five days to break the “reach for the switch” habit. This is good news to me. Practice can condition my gross motor skills in a much shorter time frame then I had imagined. The bad news is that I can develop a bad habit just as quickly.

It occurred to me that this past fall I had kept myself from serious harm because I had been consistently practicing a skill I may someday need. The skill I have been practicing, I learned in the motorcycle safety course. This is it: Do not focus on the obstacle you want to avoid, but look for the escape, a hole if you will, that will take you trough and around the obstacle. My husband and I often pull into large vacant parking lots just to “practice” motorcycling skills. I thought we were just doing this to show off to one another, although we were at times serious about a particular maneuver. What I didn’t realize was that our “fun” was training us to perfect a skill, just as playing ball with your child for fun also develops their talent for the sport, while improving their gross motor skills.

The “find the hole” practice maneuver saved my skin this past fall, if not my wallet. While traveling in the middle of a group of vehicles, the one directly ahead of me decided to hard brake and take a sudden right turn without signaling. The move was unexpected and I found myself hard braking to avoid collision. In the racing that your mind does under such times, it was in that flash of moment that I realized I did not know how close the car behind me was. To avoid hitting the car ahead, breaking too hard that would lead to going down, or becoming sandwiched between the two, I looked for the hole, accelerated and got around and through the hazard. Too bad the officer just ahead did not appreciate me exceeding the speed limit or my explanation why.

Fast forward to my court date, and the expression on the face of a very large, non-motorcycling female judge who did not understand or believe the “avoid the obstacle” maneuver taught in the motorcycle safety course. Add to that two officers who also do not ride and you have people in our court system that need some training and awareness themselves. Despite the fact that my explanation was not accepted, I still feel $100 is a small price to pay for my life. The practice I have been doing for fun saved my skin and possibly my life. The local EMT’s were spared scraping me off the pavement, while also sparing too drivers from the emotional trauma of hitting me.

I will be doing more parking lot play to cement the large motor skills required for motorcycling so that when needed, my muscle memory will take over in an emergency. I will also be watching carefully for any bad habits I may have developed over time. These are often more difficult to identify unless we make a conscience effort. As I learned this winter, bad habits have muscle memory as well. I have taken out my rider training manual. In looking it over, it is evident that this should be a regular habit too. I encourage anyone new, or returning to motorcycling to take the rider safety course. Don’t stop there, invite your friends to join you for “fun” in a large empty parking lot and challenge each other to the practice skills which can be found in the manual. The muscle memory you develop from such play can save your life.

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Winter Projects

I’m listening to the beep beep beep of the sander out in the parking lot and have resigned myself to enduring a long cold messy winter. As I do each year at this time, I preoccupy myself with winter projects. My intentions are always good, but projects do not always unfold as I would like them. For example, last year I purchased a combo VHS/DVD recorder capable of dubbing VHS tapes to DVD. The idea was to copy all the family video tapes to DVD. My first mistake was not purchasing a name brand. The thing did not work “out of the box” as it should have, and by the time all the warranty issues were resolved, it was time to go out and ride. End of winter project.

You would think I would pick up where I left off last year and this thought wouldn’t be misplaced if I were of a different personality type. However, we have just said goodbye to Ana Log and hello to Di Gital, and hence are currently enjoying satellite television. The television being preoccupied with full enjoyment by husband has left it unavailable for the time being for tape dubbing. Not a problem because a new scanner was teasing my mind and my desire grew so that I had to own a new one.

Welcome to the family HP G4050! This new baby is beautiful! When I say beautiful, I don’t only mean to the eye, but in ease of operation and user friendly capability. The old photo albums are now off the shelf and finding there way to the scanner. The capabilities of this photo digital scanner are wonderful. The quality is magnificent! Even the old faded photos can be color corrected and given renewed life. I think this project will move forward nicely.

The photograph theme continues with two other additions to the family. One 15 inch digital photo frame and one 3.5 inch digital photo frame are now being put through the paces. For the 15 inch, I loaded every digital photo I own onto an external hard drive. The hard drive is tucked behind the frame and I can view any or all photos to my hearts content. This particular frame also plays video clips and MP3 files. Have I died and gone to heaven? The 3.5 inch frame I have taken to work. So that I have plenty of photos there, I dug out every last media card I had hanging around the house and loaded them up with my favorite ride and grandbaby pix. Is the boss getting on your nerves? Just glance over at the photo frame and get a gander of Chipmunk Cheeks at 5 months old, or a view from a bike trip on Skyline Drive, and your blood pressure drops a few significant points.

In between all this fun and to crowd out dreary days is the continued search for new wheels. That dream is stronger than any desire to shield the glare of snow and ice from my view. I’m working hard on the family budget and carving it to the bone. The husband thinks I’m being frugal. HA! Do not stand between a girl and her new ride! All in all, if the plan works out, the winter will quickly fade away, and I’ll be waving a greeting from astride my new road companion, chrome glinting in the warm sunshine.

Friday, January 2, 2009

Too Impatient for Daytona?

The Northeast can be a tough place for motorcycle enthusiasts. While spring summer and autumn whiz by in the saddle, winter can drag on interminably. I’ll stand at the calendar crossing out each day until the sun’s rays are once again powerful enough to melt the snow and ice. If it’s still cool, no problem, you can always electrify your riding gear with a nice set of Gerbings.

Now I’m not saying there isn’t any cure for the winter blues. It is now January for goodness sake! The motorcycle shows are upon us. Close to home we have the Northeast Motorcycle Expos. You can select which to attend or go to all of them. Why not? On January 24-25 you can attend the show in Salem. There are also three others within driving distance taking place in the next month. Don’t wait too long to check the link, because one starts tomorrow. If driving into New York City doesn’t bother you, check out the International Motorcycle Show. I haven’t been to this one myself, but it sure looks like fun.

Have a need to hear engines roar? Smell leather? Get yourself to the Verizon Wireless Arena on January 9th or 10th for Freestyle Motocross. I found this event very enjoyable and satisfying when I attended last year. You can also head across the border into Canada and catch some racing. Yes, that’s right. Racing motorcycles on ice. Of course they have these great tires with studs. Some almost look like spikes! I would love to witness these guys racing around a track with these spike studded tires. What a trip! (Pun?) Although if you are the type that likes doing more than watching, but a set for yourself. If you do, drop me a note and I’ll come out and watch you ride by.

All these venues are a great way to gear up for Daytona, (another pun?) if you are so fortunate. Alas, I will not be among the Daytona revilers. I have a few motorcycle parties to get attend, some tire kicking to do and scratching together enough dough for the new ride I’ve been dreaming about. I’ll be kicking some of those tires at a few motorcycles shows. I you see me, tap me on the shoulder and say hello.