Monday, June 27, 2011

Pat and Andy Join Lee on the Dark Side

You won’t find anything on Wikipedia about motorcycling on the “dark side.” In fact it’s hard to find information from conventional sources about the topic. A search of the internet will turn up videos on You Tube and posted comments pro and con from two camps; those that have gone to the dark side, and those who have not. I’ve noticed that those who are against it warn of tragic endings resulting in death. They have put their faith in “all the research” the industry has done on their products. Yet we have not found one incident posted that indicates a person’s motorcycle death resulted from his moving to the dark side. There are unfortunately plenty of death notices of people riding in the conventional way, with conventional equipment.

Those who have moved to the dark side, in fact want to keep under wraps the number of people who have converted for fear of big brother regulating us through the state and federal laws, or the insurance industry taking issue; a death worse than whatever fate the naysayers believe is in store for us. Yet, despite the controversy, Andy has been watching Lee riding the dark side for a year now with a bit of awe and indeed envy. So it came to be that as we both watched our rear tires wear away all too soon, he had me place an order for two car tires for our own cruisers.

The Vulcan goes first

Blaze waits her Turn

Blaze is up next.

Our local motorcycle dealer installed them for us on a Saturday afternoon. They dutifully gave us the party line, which I noticed to be delivered without emotion or judgment. We were treated cordially by Thomas, our technician, who took each bike for a test ride and reported his honest opinion of what he experienced. That was that, and off we went to test them out for ourselves.

Andy stopped 10 miles out and needed to adjust his air pressure right away (not the recommended method I might add). He adjusted mine too, although all I had felt was a bit of stiffness. Up and down the roadways, highways and byways we went until the sun went down. Blaze, as is her custom of being dignified, found no issue with the car tire she now sports on the back. We glided smoothly along. We did not encounter the dreaded “wobble” at high speeds. The Vulcan on the other hand seemed to be demonstrating a dislike for speeds of 80 to 85 mph by which Andy discovered firsthand what this “wobble” talk was all about.

Andy’s determination at finding the “sweet spot” carried us all over a tri-state area on Sunday. We headed west blasting up 101. We then meandered south to test the tires on back roads and twisties. Off we went again, high tailing it westward on route 2. At one stop for an ice cream, we even chatted with a local cop (who it turns out rides) about the bikes. Andy was proud to point out his car tire and even mention what happens at 80 and 85 mph. The officer, didn’t bat an eyelash, but did wave a friendly goodbye and asked us to keep it under 100 mph. The end of the day had us blasting once again up 91 until we crossed the Connecticut River back into NH at Charlestown. Andy never did find that sweet spot, but Blaze remained her unruffled self, and carried me home without giving that back tire another thought; probably because she’s thinking of those new Avon’s we won and will be installed in Carlisle in a month’s time. As for me; I profess to try just about anything at least once. This little trip to the dark side is for me, turning out to be not such a big deal after all.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

The Tally Is IN

photo by Doug Carrier

“CONGRATULATIONS, you are the grand prize winner of the Ultimate Biker Makeover!” Don’t you just love emails that start that way? This was followed by some questions about what size I wear and questions about Blaze too. What’s her make, model and year, what size sneakers does she take etc. It’s all very exciting, not for the prizes alone, but the opportunity to travel to Carlisle Bike Fest, and to meet Jody and Sara too. Then there is meeting all the people in the background; those that will be taking care of Blaze. I’m not going to say that I’m not nervous about what might be in store for her. Then too, I’m sure nothing will be done to her that I don’t first approve of in advance. Just to be prepared for more questions in this regard, I’m making a wish list and thinking of what is best for Blaze.

The thought occurred to me that if Blaze and I will be the focal point of interest along with Mary Pinkerton the runner up, how will I take pictures and document what’s happening? Then it hit me. I know someone who loves taking photographs, has a love of motorcycling, and just might be interested in coming along. So I tapped my good friend David on the shoulder (so to speak) and without hesitation and indeed with enthusiasm, agreed to come along with Andy and I to Carlisle in July. The adventure is taking some nice twists and turns that I very much like. With Dave’s great talent with photography, and maybe a few words on the page from me, we can collaborate together and produce one great article about the event, experiences and people we meet.

I am especially thankful for all the people in the background who voted for me to produce the 2,526 votes that put me on top. My colleagues at Compuware and the Gomez division, friends and family, all the forums I visit and belong too, such as the New England Riders, Women Who Ride, The Rumble Sisters, VStar 1300 forum and all those connected to me in the first, second and third degree of social networking. You have all been fantastic. Thank you very much.

By now you have all read the essay that put me in the top four posted on line for public voting. I meant every word about my dream to ride into Sturgis on Blaze. Those plans are unfolding nicely too. I’ve discovered some reasonable accommodations, am working on the routes for the GPS to include our destination, and the rides we want to take in the area. Our riding buddies Lee and Debra will meet us in Spearfish and enjoy the days we have there.

In the meantime, between the planning phase and work obligations, I’m taking a weekend away from Blaze listening to the boats in the harbor, and enjoying the grandkids. That wild little bunch of rascals is building up my tolerance of energy levels, something I will surely need considering the excitement unfolding in the days ahead. I’ll be watching all of you this weekend as we pass you on the road. Ride safe and keep the rubber side down.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

How the Season’s Change

When we first found each other, there was no keeping us apart. Every moment we were not together I would be thinking about the next time we would be. I guarded every spare moment selfishly and kept at bay anything or anyone who would come between us and our time together. I shirked off household responsibility. I was sometimes “sick” on spectacular days so I could stay home and we could play together. Soon, as things usually go, the urgency faded, and we come back to reality. That’s how it is with infatuation.

While I am still very much in love with Blaze, it is becoming harder for me to shirk responsibility. My conscience nags at me when I selfishly hoard precious weekend hours just for us. There is so much that needs my attention, especially after so much neglect. So here I am, another riding season with what I consider way too few miles for my satisfaction, with Blaze in the stable more that she deserves. My options feel limited, and here is the kicker. Our options are only as limited as we believe they are.

For the past several weekends, it has been Andy, without his own knowledge of it, showing me just how many options there are for me and Blaze to spend time together. “Do you see how glorious it is out!” he’ll exclaim. This will follow a lament of wanting to get on the road and “just keep going forever.” Yet Andy finds the options where I have failed. With his coaxing, we are finding time, getting things done, and riding the roads to where we can go with the time we have.

If you listen to Andy he is preparing me for the long ride to Sturgis. Not so much in miles, but in the way two people can ride together and read each other even from bike to bike. Sure, we have headsets, but there is so much to understand that is not verbal. A twist of the head, the tandem lane change, understanding the body language of the person ahead, are all nonverbal queues we learn about each other in time spent riding.

He is also helping me balance work, home and play so that I’m getting equal doses of each, and not shortchanging any one part of our life. So it is in this way the weekends are unfolding as we investigate every nook and cranny a day’s ride will offer us. Is there really this much wonder so close to home that we haven’t investigated? Yet it’s true. And in addition to visiting these places we are preparing ourselves for the journey ahead. One country lane, one busy interstate, and a few gravel roads named Sugar Hill and Quaker Road tossed in for unexpected surprises.

Where have we been these past few weekends? We’ve found ourselves at Saugus Iron Works National Historic Park, in Saugus MA, learning more about our early beginnings than is found in my childhood textbook. Hopping over a series of highways, we find the coastal lanes that lead to Hammond Castle in Gloucester MA, then on to enjoy seafood in Manchester by the Sea. We loop around New Hampshire back roads to stop and read the historic signs where a village has been sacrificed for the Everett Flood Control Project. Yes, we even found our good friend Dave one weekend and discovered Nashoba Valley Winery, where the trees that line the lane here, appear to have been planted when King George ruled.

I see a basic truth revealed; that as all relationships must morph, mature and evolve. So too does one riding season to the next. It does not mean that Blaze means less to me than she once did, or that we should pine for the days of infatuation. It means simply, that we’ve arrived to the end of one journey and are now moving forward to the next, and it’s all good.

Hammond Castle

Saugus Iron Works

Villiage Lost to Dam

Quaker Meeting House Henniker NH

View of Monadnock from Croched Mountain

Nashoba Valley Wine

The Boys