Thursday, April 24, 2014

Bike and Hike

The term “bike and hike” typically refers to bicycles not motorcycles. Yet this is a great activity for motorcyclists as well. Andy and I have taken several hikes while motorcycling around this great country. In our own backyard, we rode to, then hiked up to a few fire towers just for the view. You have to plan this ahead of course, because you don’t want to be hiking a trail in your motorcycle boots. That has us making sure the appropriate footwear is in the saddle bag along with a light weight jacket, insect repellent, sunscreen and a bottle of water.

This week I took my pal Lee over to see Garwin Falls, which is close to home; because I know he loves waterfalls. That little trip to the falls had me thinking of the other falls in the surrounding area. On a whim, I went to investigate Tucker Brook Falls to determine if it would be suitable for a larger group of pals, some with joint and foot issues. I checked the temperature before I left the house which was 47 degrees, but the wind was gusting fiercely and when checking the wind chill factor, almost changed my mind as it indicated 37 degrees. I decided to select the Polartec Windbloc jacket and cap to keep the hair out of my face instead.

I selected an entrance point to the trail that turned out to be the long way in and certainly not suitable for people with joint and foot problems. The trail however was well maintained and easy going.  The noise of the wind and tree limbs knocking against themselves was quiet deafening and I startled when a big CRACK filled the air and a heavy limb came crashing to earth. I wondered a moment at the logic of hiking on such a day when it was so blustery, not to mention that the bears have just awakened from their slumber. Yet I saw neither man not beast during my entire hike.

Tucker Brook Town Forest has three trials, the white, blue and yellow. I kept to the white trail on my hike to the falls taking time to stop and enjoy the new spring growth or a strange rock formation. Every now and then I noticed the blue trail crossing my path. At intervals there are postings letting you know where you are and how far to any particular spot. After a considerable time hiking I was surprised to learn I was still a ½ mile from my destination. I reached the large footbridge and knew finally that my destination was not far off.

 Glacial Boulder Deposits

 Foot Bridge
With the wind so blustery, and the cacophony of sound it caused among the trees, I could not hear the waterfall until I was well upon it. Then I selected a large rock, from which I could feel the spray and sat quietly just for the joy of it. When I had my fill I turned back to the path. Not far from the falls, I spotted the sign to the other entrance. I will investigate this another day as I’m sure it’s an easy hike for others whose main purpose is to see the falls.

I began to retrace my steps along the white trail when I decided to practice my “walking meditation”.  As I focused on the here and now, being in this place, watching my footfalls and thinking only of the present moment, I realized I could hear traffic. I looked up and saw I was now on the blue trail. The traffic I assumed from the road that lead to the easy entrance. No matter, I had noticed that white and blue intersect and I continued on. Eventually I once again intersected the white trail and followed that until I saw the sign for the entrance I had used. I was tuckered out when I reached the end and chuckled to myself at the pun.

 This looked freshly fallen. No surprise considering the wind.


If you’re looking for excuses to ride, why not select themes for your trips. Waterfalls are fun, but there are other themes, like fire towers or historical signs and covered bridges. I’m sure you can think of a few, and discovering that great destinations don’t require a two week vacation is a bonus.

Sunday, April 13, 2014

Farkle Crazy

When I rolled Blaze out from her winter slumber into the spring light of day, I looked her over with love and appreciation. The first thing I noticed of course was that she needed a good polish and spit shine. I then threw a leg on over and sat admiring her from that vantage point. It was just Blaze and I having a moment together. My eyes wandered over the handlebars and I was a little surprised at how much stuff I’ve managed to find a spot for over the years. I recalled all the items that over time, I’ve attached, removed, replaced or abandoned and came to the conclusion that I have a real farkle fetish. I was compelled to pull out the smartphone and catalog in photo all of what I have on this bike. How many of these items do you also have? Or what do you have that I might want to consider? (Considering my fetish.)

I get lost in my own back yard, my sense of direction being non-existent. So this is a requirement in my book; a GPS holder for the global positioning unit. I have a Zumo 260, which suits my purpose nicely. You can use a gloved hand on the touch screen. If ever I’m lost, I just select “home” and it routes me there and saves me from panic attracts.

This item is a universal smartphone holder. I can connect my phone to my external speakers to play music, or I can connect it to my headset and then I’m the only one hearing the music. I can also take calls on the road through the Bluetooth enabled headset on my helmet. If my GPS has me confused, I can use the smartphone as a backup. I can check the weather radar, find restaurants, hotels, or answer questions about anything else that occurs to me. The GPS can find a few of these things too. I personally like calling all the motels in the area before I decide where to stay.

These are the external speakers through which I listen to music. However, I found they are only really suitable at speeds less than those you’d do on a superslab. I can’t really hear much once I pick up the pace on the highway. But they look cool don't they?

While this looks a little sad here in this photo, it’s not really that bad. I really like a small bag in front especially if you’re not an Easy Pass holder. I keep those tickets they hand you at the toll booth on highways that charge by which exit number you use at the other end. I also keep a comb, lip balm, hand sanitizer, pen and note pad, because I love to take notes and write about places I’ve traveled too. Blaze was not designed to support such a bag, but Andy constructed a piece of aluminum and fit it across the windshield on which to attach it.

Blaze didn’t come to me with engine guards and highway pegs. The engine guards I feel are a requirement, because no matter how good a rider you are, sometimes the bike falls over. The pegs I never much used until our trip to Sturgis. Those long days on the bike from New Hampshire to South Dakota found my knees aching from being in one position too long. It was a great relief to straighten out the legs on long highway stretches between stops. I recommend them for long distance touring. 

If you have a lot of electronics with you on your trips, such as GPS, Smartphone, headsets etc, you will need a way to charge on the go. Andy installed this 12 volt power outlet for me just under the seat. I’ve found it a value on long days when the phone or headset drain. We have also pumped tires. That one service is worth a gold mine if your tire runs low or you get a flat in the middle of nowhere.

Why do I never seem to have enough room on Blaze despite two roomy saddlebags, and my little window tool bag? This rear luggage rack is great on long trips. Last year on our trip to Nova Scotia, we used this for our collapsible cooler. We’d pack a lunch, strap it down here, and when we became hungry, we’d ride until there was a vista, or scenic view at which to enjoy our midday meal.

My first motorcycle didn’t have a windshield. My rider friends recommended I get one especially if I was going to do any highway riding. I read all the literature on specs for motorcycles and started with a short one I could see over. As time went on the windshields got taller. Blaze came to me with this one. It’s tall and I have found it the best windshield I’ve ever had. It saves your neck from a lot of strain on the highway and keeps a lot of those stones and bugs from hitting you. Ever have one of those June Bugs smack into you at highway speeds? Let me tell you, they hurt! 

This is a throttle rocker. This one happens to be built into this after-market handle grip. I love this! I’ve had the plastic slide over ones in years past. They work OK, but I’ve had times when my sleeve caught it and moved it. Not something you want to find out by “accident.” These handy items save your wrist on long days like those we had on our ride out to South Dakota.

This is a universal beverage holder. I keep one of those insulated cups with a build in straw in there with water. You can really get dehydrated in the wind, and if it’s a hot day, you are even more susceptible to dehydration. The straw can’t fly out as it has a stop ring near the base. If we pull up at lights, I always take the opportunity to bend over the straw and take a sip.
This is a bit blurry, but recognizable all the same. It’s a holder for items with clips. We keep a set of walkie talkies here. As we often travel with another couple, and sometimes lose sight of each other at attractions, we are always in communication via the walkie talkies. You can also use it for other items that have clips. I used to put my flip phone here before I got the Smartphone.
Now this little gadget is handy and tollbooths where you toss a few coins into a basket. No fumbling in pockets. You can access your coins without removing a glove. Then you’re on your way in no time.

This little item is looking a little sad for wear. It’s a solar powered LED flashlight. I have it attached with Velcro right behind my license plate. It always seems that motorcycle problems arise after dark, and the flashlight is always ready and handy.

   When I first started riding Andy was concerned for my safety. He’s a big horn user. So my daughter gave me this on Christmas, an air horn. I still don’t use my horn much and when I did, the person who’s attention I wanted could never hear it; Andy. 
     “How can you not hear an air horn with you are right in front of me? I’ve been blasting that thing for the last ten miles!” 
Then we’d have to backtrack for whatever item fell out of his pocket this time. I now look him over before we get on the road to make sure the zippers are all closed. With all that said, I don’t think you should count on people hearing a horn to keep you alive. Not everyone hears. I know this first hand.

I love chrome! Yet Blaze arrived with very little of it, so this little bit of fender farkle fits the bill. Not much to say about that except isn’t it pretty?

I had some very nice freehand painting done on my last motorcycle, but it took me a while to decide what fit Blaze best. I met a woman at Americade last year that did this freehand. I’ve been very happy with it and symbolizes for me the freedom I feel when riding Blaze and being in the wind.

I’d love to hear what you have on your own motorcycle! You can respond here, or join us on Facebook to share your photos.

Blaze after her spring cleaning.

Monday, April 7, 2014

Reduce Stress When Traveling

A while back I wrote some tips on preparing for motorcycle travel.  It’s always a good idea to be prepared as it reduces stress while on the road. Yet, despite your best efforts, things happen. With that in mind, I’m going to update the suggestions with kernels of wisdom I’ve accumulated along the way. Interested? Read on.

Are you planning to visit tourist attractions? Make sure to check their websites for updates. We once went out of our way to visit the La Brea Tar Pits in Los Angeles, only to find the museum was closed that Mondays. There wasn’t much for us to see walking the grounds.  Another example would be last year’s government shutdown. If your vacation fell during this time and you had any national park on your list you were out of luck. A list of alternative touring destinations in the area could keep all those traveling with you from become overly disappointed.

While we’re speaking of destinations, do you use a GPS unit? Even if you don’t have a specific unit, and use a smart phone, double check the route options on the device or app. A few years ago, I spent months creating the ideal route to tour the lighthouses in Maine. All of the lighthouses on my route were destinations reachable by motorcycle or car. Yet, we found ourselves arriving at the ferry. I was not a happy camper, and my stress levels started to climb when my husband started pointing out that motorcycles didn’t have pontoons. When it happened a second time,  it was then I realized that I hadn’t check the option “avoid ferries”. 

We often travel with another couple. Once we arrive at a destination, depending on the venue, we sometimes like to split up. One example of this was last year’s visit to the largest Cabela’s in the country. With a store that big and so much to see, it’s understandable that we each wanted to explore. This is when handheld walkie-talkies come in handy. We’ve used them at national parks and at motorcycle events such as Sturgis where there are multitudes of people and losing sight of each other happens easily.

Do you have new riding gear? This might sound silly, but have you practiced putting it on? Last year while visiting Nova Scotia, the weather began to look a bit threatening. We stopped to put on our rain gear. I had mine on in a flash.  I was already back on the motorcycle when I found my husband struggling with the gift I had given him at Christmas. Check this video out to understand more fully. Please pardon my “French” and thank you honey for letting me post this. (Can you hear my stress?)

Do you need corrective lenses? I recently went from wearing contact lenses full time to wearing my glasses full time due to an eye issue. Here are some problems I’ve encountered with both. On one fall ride, despite sunglasses and a face shield, my left eye began to itch. I wanted to take out the lens, but I had no other solution by which to see where I was going. The next morning my eye was redder than an overripe tomato.  A scratched cornea was the result of leaving the lens in.  After the switch to full time eyeglasses, the first trip out, I spent hours in agony as the pressure of the helmet pushing on them caused pain behind the ears. It was then I remembered my spare glasses in the saddlebag which I had put there after the cornea episode. These are made of a softer plastic and give under the pressure of the helmet, easing the pain. Lesson; always travel with your spare eye glasses.

Last but not least, make sure your extended family knows you are leaving on a trip, and how they can reach you.  I have had at least three incidences that happened to family members while I was away. You should also know how to reach them too in case you are the one needing help. Leave instructions on what to do if you don’t return by the date you specify.

The reason we travel for leisure is to escape the stress of daily living. We don’t need adding to our stress on vacation. I’ve kept a checklist for myself that I use each time I travel. If you’d like a copy of this brochure, all you have to do is download here, and make your next trip a bit more relaxing. And if you'd also like to visit the lighthouses of Maine, download the GPS route here.

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Luggage for safe storage

Guest Blogger Kiara Wilson

As a multiple motorcycle owner, determining which two-wheeled bike will make the perfect companion on a long journey is less about how reliable the vehicle is and more about how much luggage I can bring with me. For me personally, I've chosen a smaller, lighter set of side saddlebags for my Suzuki GSX-R, while my Triumph Speedmaster has a much bigger set of luggage gear. If I'm planning on suiting up for a long ride from the North Georgia Mountains to the northern communities of California, the Triumph Speedmaster makes much more sense. But sometimes, just sometimes, I feel more like taking the sport bike across the country, cruising the beach and having something fast for the corners. Maybe it's time I upgraded my saddlebags, but that's no longer necessary thanks to removable, adaptable saddlebags that can move from one motorcycle to the next without any extra installation. Regardless of your intentions, saddlebags help make the journey that much more enjoyable.

Luggage for Your Ride

Motorcycle luggage comes in a wide variety of sizes, shapes, designs and application purposes. Once you've strapped your bike down with the necessary side saddlebags, you can also add sissy bar bags, windshield bags and trunk luggage for a wider scale of storage needs. But be careful; sometimes you can overload your bike and it can drastically under-perform when you need the cornering, acceleration and braking. These are motorcycles, after all, and not full-size vehicles. When you're heading out on a lengthy road trip, you should always pack light and only carry the essentials. Of course, if you're only interested in the end destination, there are no limits to how you can mix and match your luggage accessories. I always choose Viking products for my bikes, no matter what I'm outfitting. I know my gear stays dry, locked away and safe throughout the ride. This makes my ride that much more enjoyable, because I can't afford to have damaged electronics and other valuables when I arrive somewhere.

Motorcycle Saddlebags Take You Further

A classic storage location for your goods, the side motorcycle saddlebags have been the go-to luggage compartments of riders for many decades. From cruiser bikes to off-road machines, there's a pair of side saddlebags waiting for every intended purpose. Saddlebags come in a variety of materials, so you can find a pair that directly relate to your needs as you see fit. For instance, lightweight, hard-plastic saddlebags become particularly useful if storage is necessary in punishing conditions, such as the cold wintry north or the hot humid of the desert.

That's why I trust my luggage with the Viking Bags brand, because I know my gear will always be protected no matter how harsh the environment may be. Built with an inner frame to reinforce the basic structuring, there is no sagging or de-shaping of these saddlebags, even while empty. Additionally, there are plenty of premium leather skin saddlebags that become highly attractive pieces of luggage when all I'm worried about is a little bit of rainfall ruining my ride.

Personal Choice

When making the personal choice, I always choose Viking Bags for my rides. They're built to withstand the harsh realities of motorcycle riding, and I know I can lock away my personal items if I need to step away. I've outfitted my Speedmaster with one of the Charger series saddlebags, a single-strapped piece of luggage that comes standard with a locking mechanism for added security. This timeless beauty instantly made my Triumph look like a king when hauling down the road. It provided a bit of extra width on the motorcycle itself, creating handling stability when it's needed most. When I'm touring, the security feature of a locking mechanism comes in very handy, because I don't have to think twice about my personal items falling into the wrong hands. I don't need to worry about losing my luggage when stopping for a meal, shopping for some new gear or simply parking my bike overnight. While the choice of a side saddlebag is certainly yours, depending on your bike model, I suggest getting something that's easy to remove and universally fit. Viking makes many of their saddlebags universal, so you can quickly dismount on one bike and mount to another.

Sissy Bar Luggage For Extra Room

Although I don't have much experience with sissy bar bags myself, there really isn't a better storage solution available. If your cruiser is outfitted with sissy bars, you can strap down your bike with luggage that doesn't interfere with any riders at all. The luggage is out of the way and conveniently placed, giving you enough room to do what you do best: cruise in style. With a variety of styles and sizes available, you'll need to measure your motorcycle's sissy bars and determine which solution will work best for the intended purposes. For shorter distance trips and daily commuting, Viking's Nylon Cruiser will work best for your needs. However, if you plan on carrying more gear and camping next to your bike (recommended for everyone at least once), Viking's Classic Sissy Bar Bag is a much more practical option. Just like their saddlebag counterparts, many sissy bar bags you'll find on the market these days are lockable and built for maximum protection.

Yes, luggage compartments, trunk bags and side saddles allow us to travel farther than across town with our motorcycles. I've managed to tour the country with enough clothing to last me a month, as well as plenty of accessories to keep me occupied on my journey, all with the help of a sturdy set of saddlebags. Cheap bags will leave you wanting a bit more, because you'll eventually need to replace due to wear and tear on the shells themselves. If you've ever considered making the leap to a real set of saddlebags, the time is now. Talk with an expert who knows what it takes to outfit a motorcycle with the proper set of luggage for any type of ride, because you'll need to fully understand how much room is needed for your luggage.