Thursday, May 28, 2009

High Expectations

“I wouldn’t suggest it.”

These are the words I hear over the phone after a conversation with a friend, about our final destination. My husband and I have been on vacation all week. We have taken our motorcycles along Skyline Drive of Blue Ridge Parkway fame and are heading home. The suggestion to stay clear of our final destination causes my stomach to twists in knots.

Tomorrow’s destination is Mount Greylock. This peak, rising to 3,491 feet is the highest point in all of Massachusetts. My friend begins to tell me about her climb of Greylock and what perils lie ahead for me. She is a seasoned rider and I am a greenhorn. When it comes to taking my motorcycle up mountain peaks I am even greener. I begin to second guess my motorcycle riding abilities.

Another call comes in from the friend’s spouse. Both are fun loving motorcycle enthusiast we enjoy riding with whenever the opportunity arises. We are catching up on the acquaintance who is hospitalized. He is vacationing in Colorado with two buddies, enjoying a motorcycle adventure of his own. I mention Greylock.
“I wouldn’t recommend it” is his reply.
I am now completely unsettled.

Nevertheless, the next morning we make our way to the northern entrance via route 7 in North Adams to begin our ascent. My knees are jumping and my nerves are on edge. I begin my mind game and repeat a mantra over and over that calms my nerves. The roadway is narrow and in deplorable condition! The going is slow. We meet hikers along the way, but very few other vehicles. We stop at an overlook for a break.

This section of Massachusetts is beautiful indeed and we enjoy the vista from our rest spot. Then onward and upward we go. My nerves aren’t as frayed. I think the reason is because we need to creep as the road is so poor. Before long we reach the summit and park the bikes. My joy at reaching the top is tempered by the clouds that have begun to billow up over the mountain. Our vistas are limited. I climb the War Memorial Tower just to say I did. The clouds thicken. It’s time to go. We descend via the other side to route 2 and begin our journey home.

When I recount my mountain climb story to my motorcycling friends who advised me against it, they seem surprised. Yet never missing a beat they have this to say next.
“Well, if you can do Greylock, then you can do Washington.”
Now it’s my turn to be surprised. I quickly dismiss the idea. My husband however, has heard this comment and just filed it in his memory bank.

So began my quest to ride to the top of all the mountain peaks in New England, and then some. The following year we traveled to the Adirondacks so we could ride up Whiteface. I climbed Mount Washington without incident, as well as Vermont’s Equinox, Okemo and Ascutney. The ultimate of all climbs by far has been the 14,000 feet we climbed in the Rocky Mountain National Park. Yes, I know that isn’t in New England. It may have been that all those peaks were just practice.

Greylock has just reopened the access road after being closed for two years while being repaired. We are hearing from other riders what a fantastic job they did. I have not introduced Blaze to any mountain peaks yet. I think another trip to Western Massachusetts is in order.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009


Andy and Lee do each other favors from time to time, and exchange tokens of thanks on occasion. Recently, Andy was able to help Lee out with a little problem for which Lee was appreciative. He wanted to do something for Andy in return and decided advice was in order.

“Andy,” Lee said, “you can’t be letting your wife ride around with her back end exposed like that.”

You can imagine my shock and embarrassment, as I tug on my shirt tail and wondered how much I’ve actually been exposing. Lee points in my general direction and begins a lecture on my naked license plate and how I shouldn’t be riding around like that with it “undressed.”

In the end (no pun intended) it is agreed that Lee will supply Blaze with a license plate frame to dress her up a bit and keep me from being written up the local gossip column. Not a bad deal for me. I like this bartering system where I am the beneficiary. Maybe I can barter Andy’s services (keep your mind clean) for more biker bling.

From Misc

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Accident Waiting to Happen

It is upsetting to riders as I’m sure you can imagine when the news about yet another vehicle making a left-hand turn sends a motorcyclist to intensive care or worse. This is exactly what happened to 26 year old Justin Rovitaille of Derry yesterday when a woman turned left into his path. He had little time to react. While well documented, this specific type of accident continues to happen time and again.

As I mentioned above, this scenario is unfortunately all too common. Documentation and extensive studies have been done from real life accident reconstruction sites and can be read about in the Hurt Report. This report holds evidence of the what and why motorcyclists find themselves on the pavement. Unfortunately for Justin, he falls close to two of the most common reasons for a motorcycle accident; intersections and age.

How are we to protect ourselves from serious injury while enjoying the sport we love? One way is to study the Hurt Report, take the highest percentages of occurrences and reduce them in our favor. Begin by getting motorcycle training!

• 92% of motorcyclists without training are more likely to be involved in a motorcycle accident.

• Wear eye protection as 73% of accidents occur to riders who did not protect the eyes.

• Keep away from bars and if at a party drink soda, water, coffee or tea as 50% of accidents are caused by motorcyclists under the influence of alcohol. (This goes elicit, prescription and over the counter meds as well.)

“The most frequent accident configuration is the motorcycle proceeding straight then the automobile makes a left turn in front of the oncoming motorcycle.” This is number eight in the Hurt Summary, and also what put Justin in harms way. Justin is also near the age group that is most frequently represented in motorcycle accidents.

Of the vehicle drivers who cross our paths in untimely ways, it is the young (20 to 29) and the old (65 and over) that do us the most harm. That last my friend Dave can well attest too with his recent encounter with the blue haired lady. However, while many accidents are no fault of the motorcyclist, it is the rider who pays the price. Can we protect ourselves better by understanding the statistics? I think so; because knowledge is power and the more we empower ourselves the better equipped we are to avoid accident and injury.

With all that said, we still need to protect us from ourselves. When I see sports bikes popping wheelies, bikers zipping in and out of traffic and generally putting themselves at risk, it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to know that they are an accident waiting to happen.

Monday, May 18, 2009

Whitehorse Press Open House

Saturday, five of us converged with hundreds of other motorcyclists in Center Conway, New Hampshire for the annual Whitehorse Press Open House. We had our shopping lists of course to take advantage of the 10% discount on all items for the day, but the real draw for me is the camaraderie. OK, so the donuts and coffee in the morning and the giant BBQ at lunch were a bonus too.

We meet our friends at the rest area just north of the Hooksett tolls on route 93 and head for the mountains. We drop off 93 at Meredith to loop around and up to Whitehorse Press. We stop for another break about 25 miles from our destination, where the guys take to one-upmanship banter. We girls find ourselves slinking into the background and giggling like schoolgirls when the talk about pistons turns a bit ambiguous.

Whitehorse Press treats their customers like royalty. We are met by the Whitehorse team who slip kickstand plates under each of our stands as we park our bikes. After my coffee and donut I make my way first to the discount bin. You never know what gem might have been overlooked if you dig deep enough. Deb taps my shoulder and asks if I’ve signed up for the raffle. I do so, and then head back into the warehouse. I have a few items on my list I want to check out.

It can sometimes be difficult to concentrate on the list because I keep bumping into folks I know, and of course I love to talk as much as I love to shop! Walking past the door, I notice the lunch line is beginning to snake down the drive, so I step out to get in line. I’m not there more than a minute when I hear my name called. It seems I’ve won something in the raffle! I walk away with a great magnetic tank bag. Wow, this is my lucky day.

I enjoy the BBQ and chat with a few more folk, then make my way back inside the warehouse. I need a new tool bag for Blaze. I like mine up on the windshield where I have easy access to my favorite tools. That would be a comb, lip balm, sunscreen and shades, in case you were curious. I find two that may be suitable. I’m unsure which, and one of the employees says “take it outside to see which you like.” No one takes my name, credit card or any security ID you might think of. Off I go outside and down the drive with two items I haven’t paid for and being trusted to come back and pay for the one I want. Only in NH!

The guys have started work on my horn to replace the relay switch as we have planned. Dave B. is testing out a RAM mount he thinks might work for him and his tools are laid out on the pavement beneath his feet. Here again, Whitehorse has let another customer try it out without batting an eyelash. Is this place great or what? We all make comments about which bag will work best for me and I head back and make my purchase.

We take our leave around 2:30 and head up and over the Kancamagus Highway. There are a few rough sections but Blaze handles all the twists and turns and even the hairpin without a problem. Back on 93 we head south and here is where I discover the real power in Blaze. With one car traveling in the left staggered behind another in the right, the first two bikers zip around them without a problem. I watch the two cars trying to judge the distance. I realize after a time that I am thinking with my 650 brain. I pull into the right lane roll gently on the throttle, and without the slightest hesitation Blaze pulls away from the left lane dawdler, and I’m around in an instant! This bike is a keeper! Add to that, flower sniffing, peg scrapping, wind therapy and camaraderie, and a day just doesn’t get any better!

Friday, May 15, 2009

Which Way?

On the way to the Northshore Rimby a few weekends ago, Andy’s speedometer stopped working 12 miles into our ride to the start point. We pulled over a few times, to check the cable connections, but couldn’t see anything wrong with it. We surmised that somewhere along the line, the cable had frayed or snapped. Not having your speedometer working is one thing; not having your miles recorded on the odometer is another. Andy pissed and moaned about this in ways I could not understand. It turns out he feels this will unduly affect him at the end of the season when we compete for high mileage bragging rights.

There is another down side to the speedometer trouble, his signal will not cancel. How annoying to be behind someone whose signal is blink blink blinking for miles on end down the highway. This results in people cutting you off, confused about what you are up too, and wondering when you will change lanes. It stinks for those of us who follow behind as well, because we never know what move he is going to make next, and we need to follow.

Andy picked up a new cable, installed it and went for a ride. He was not pleased to discover that the needle did not move on the face of the speedometer. That sent us on a search for other possibilities. We’ve decided he needs a new part inside the front wheel hub, called the receiver.

From Misc

The part is on order. In the meantime, I have asked Andy (until I’m blue in the face) to please remember to cancel the signal manually. A simple request right? Apparently not so. On subsequent outings, I warned him that I would use my nice Stebel Air horn to remind him each time. By the end of that outing, the horn was dead. All that honking must have killed the poor thing. I traced the wiring, checked the fuses, looked at the air horn, and then went to the forum to ask my pals if they had any idea. Some did. It seems the opinion of many is that the relay switch that comes with the Stebel horn is “crap.”

From Misc

I’m going to check this little gem next. And is typical of my friends on the forum, if they couldn’t offer technical advice, they offered sympathy.

“Gee Pat, (I was going to say) that really blows! But we're PG here;-) And besides, it doesn't anymore!” ~NomadBob~

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Tickling My Funny Bone

The New England Riders are a great bunch of folk. Not only do I enjoy riding with them, but their website is a great resource too. Linked in with the website is a Delphi Forum where we exchange banter, talk tech, and organize rides. I find that while these are all good reasons for returning to the forum regularly, it is the way my funny bone is tickled that really brings me back time and again.

One of the members parted with a long time favorite motorcycle the other day when he sold it to a gentleman from Georgia. The sentiment he expressed at having to part with an “old friend” gave me some comfort knowing that I am not odd or weird at having experienced these same emotions myself so recently.

While I try to articulate these feelings here and on the forum, taking time with this word or that, to fully express how I feel, it takes the NER folk just a few short sentences to get right to the point. With each post I found myself drawn in and empathizing with the man at the twinges in his heart at the separation.

Women will typically continue to console each other, offer advice on how to move on and put forth any kind words they think will help. Men will offer sympathy, kind words and advice, for only so long, Then wham…things take a turn and you know they are already getting over it. How do I know? Check out the exchange below:

Bikes are just big hunks of mostly metal. Why do we get attached to them? It is sad when they go but we move on. Sometimes I still do miss my old bikes. Can't say that about my ex-wife. ~snoweyowl~

I too miss some old bikes but considering that she was a lot more expensive to maintain, I am not surprised that I don't miss my ex wife She was like leasing a Yugo with a Mercedes maintenance plan LOL:) ~Magilla~

Women can learn a few lessons here I think.

Friday, May 8, 2009

How to Take Photos from a Motorcycle

My good friend Dave and I are collaborating on an article. The article is a feature about a local ride in our area that we enjoy. I’m writing the article, as I’m sure you already guessed, and Dave is going to shoot photos. Dave takes magnificent photos and has a camera outfit worth more than Blaze. We are both excited about the project.

Unfortunately, we have not been able to attend to the photo shoot as yet because of Dave’s untimely encounter with the Blue Haired Lady. His Harley is still in the shop awaiting parts and repairs. The other day I suggested we head out and take photos that may not need motorcycles in the shot. Dave had a suggestion of his own. (See the photo below.)

From Misc

If you are familiar with you know that this team takes photos of motorcyclists riding the Tail of The Dragon at Deals Gap on the Tennessee/North Carolina state line. This picture was found by Dave on their website. If you’ve ridden the Tail, you can find a picture of yourself if you can remember the date and approximate time of your visit. But this story is not about The Dragon, but the photo above that Dave found. I can only assume he is suggesting we take our photos this way. Funny guy!

Monday, May 4, 2009

Glitches and Optimism

Now that the riding season is in full swing I am riding more and writing less as you may have noticed. Not that there isn’t loads to write about, but it is sort of like washing the bike. If it’s a nice day to wash the bike, it’s also a nice day to ride. Which do you think I would choose? The same goes for writing.

The last weekend of April proved to be absolutely fantastic weather-wise as the temperatures soared into the 90’s. Andy and I took the opportunity to ride with our favorite couple on April 25th in what I like to call the Cheshire County Loop. (More about this loop in a subsequent post.) On Sunday April 26th I rode with my sister and her new/old boyfriend. There’s a story there too, but I’ll leave that to her. It is her boyfriend who rides. He has a police model Harley. The bike is gorgeous! He is also a policeman, so we obeyed all the traffic rules, although I don’t think he’s a stickler.

The weather prediction for this past weekend didn’t look so promising, but on Saturday, when we opened our eyes to sun, we jumped on the bikes and headed to Danvers Massachusetts to joint the Northshore RIMBY (Ride In My Backyard.) So many people showed up that we split into three groups. The organizer, who is new to NER, led the first group with the folks from his Meet Up group. GoldwingBob headed up the next group with all New England Rider folk. Andy and I joined Wingman with a ragtag group of Meet Up and NER folk, although the NER folk seemed to be under represented.

Since JHLPhoto who sponsored the ride is new to NER and does not own a GPS, GoldwingBob took the Streets and Trips Map and converted it to MapSource which works with Garmin. Four of us in Wingman’s group downloaded the file from the NER website, activated the route and off we went. We arrived at the first stop, Seacoast Harley, and chatted a bit with the other two groups before they were off again. Then off we went too, our destination Rye New Hampshire for lunch.

We all merrily followed the GPS route into New Hampshire, but here is where the glitch began. All of us, following the GPS route assumed the same thing. That although it didn’t seem we were heading to Rye, maybe it had something to do with the “no stoplight” feature of the ride. On we went without concern. My stomach started to tell me I’d missed lunch. Then about an hour and half past our stop time, one of the newer members finally spoke up at the next stop sign.

It appeared we were headed back to the start. One of the locals in our group turned us around and we did make it to Rye for lunch. It was now after 3:00 pm. The other two groups had come and gone. In the discussion that followed on Sunday, we surmise that because no specific way point was marked for lunch add to the fact that the route crisscrossed itself, the GPS formed a route that followed all the via points exactly. We are still a bit confused. Of the three groups we managed to have the highest mileage, so we are sticking to that for bragging rights.

Once home, I had another statistic to add to my treasure trove. My new bike is as optimistic with the speedometer as my last bike by 5 miles per hour. I tend to trust what the GPS is telling me, and the bike consistently indicated a speed that was 5 miles faster than the GPS displayed. Once again, the folks on the forum seem to agree, that most makes of motorcycles tend to be optimistic in this way. Go figure?

The GPS glitch was a good lesson for me as I am currently tweaking a route of my own. I will be sure to test the route, label the via points carefully and make clear each way points for stops. On the RIMBY ride, those of us GPS equipped were not concerned at all and happily followed the route wherever it wanted to take us. The non-equipped group knew full well we were off track. It was their shyness at being in a new group that kept them from speaking up sooner. There is another lesson here too, one I don’t find so comforting and would rather not articulate.