Monday, September 5, 2016

The Journey to the Journey

4:15 am, that is what time we finally pull out of the drive.  Our journey has begun. For the next three days there would be no motel rooms, no restaurants. Only gas fill ups and the occasional snooze at the truck stops. Behind us on the trailer are the motorcycles. The van, now thirteen years old is towing the trailer with bikes better than I expect.  Although Andy claims not to have had a second thought about it. He has an advantage I don't. He's spent the last month making sure the van is ready for the trip. Our destination? Arizona. One of the states on my bucket list. 

Andy being ever frugal, refused the swap out the trailer tires before we leave as they still had "meat" on them. Although not born a New Englander, he possesses the New Englander's spirit of frugality. The old saying, "use it up, wear it out, make it do or do without" could have been coined by him. We have a spare set in the van, and after the 1st thousand mile have to find someone along our route to mount them on the rims. The "spares" are actually car tires and seem to be doing a better job than any trailer tire we've ever sunk good money into.

As the country side rolls by, we find that we enjoy this part of the trip as much as we do the actually riding part. From just what crops are growing, changing accents of the locals to even what we see as road kill, all of it is interesting to us. Traveling by day and by night has its oddities too. You meet a different breed of people on the night road. At one truck stop we met a chatty trucker. He had no southern twang and it turns out he and his brother had, a few years back, gone in together on a rig, quit their jobs in their home state of Connecticut and never looked back. He just loves being on the road.

On day three we arrive at our destination of Holbrook Arizona. Tomorrow our two wheeled adventure beings.  Although I had wanted to stay in the iconic Wigwam motel, there is alas "no room at the in". So the Super 8 it is. And after a dip in the pool, we enjoy our first real meal and next, I will lay my head tired body on an actual bed for a good nights rest.

Monday, August 29, 2016

Odyssey on Two Wheels

Odysseys is defined as a long wandering voyage or journey full of adventure. Also as a series of experiences that give knowledge or understanding. That is how I feel about our upcoming two wheeled expedition. At the end of this week, we will hook up the trailer, travel more than 2,000 miles to embark on our own Arizona odyssey. Granted some of the knowledge or understanding may be learned in just the nearly nonstop drive we are planning to get there. It will be a true test of our nearly 40 year marriage. (40 years in October.) A test of endurance for sure.

I have charted out a very ambitious circuitous route of over 1,000 miles for the two wheeled portion of our odyssey. Usually, when people think Arizona, they also think Grand Canyon. There will be no major tourist stops unless you consider Sedona high on that list. So let me dissuade you from that image before it burns into your mind.

Beginning in the northeast portion of the state we will “attempt” to get a room at the iconic Wigwam motel. If not, a photo stop is on my list for sure. From there we will visit the Petrified Forest, then make a stop at the Impact Crater. Something I have only seen from a plane. Then we make our way to Flagstaff. After a small jaunt north to Sunset Crater, we will continue southerly visiting cities and towns like Sedona, Prescott, Wickenburg, and Jerome, eventually ending us in Tombstone. After Tombstone we will test or mettle on Devils Highway as we close the loop. (Check out the great blog in the link.)

The Wigwam Motel
Holbrook AZ

It’s been a long summer with a modicum of riding compared to what we typically do. We’ve spent a good portion of our time on the hunt for a replacement bike for Andy, and in dealing with insurance companies. To say I’m looking forward to this trip would be an understatement. I love traveling and there is no better way to see this great country of ours than on two wheels. And considering that this is the 100 anniversary of the National Parks system, a number of our stops will be through several. Stop back here in the next two weeks and I will post photos of our stops, and update with longer text as time permits. Don’t forget to check out my Facebook page, Motorcycle Touring and Travel Community. Like my page so you are notified when I post photos there as well.

Our planned loop.

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Déjà Vu

When all was said and done, the insurance company returned a verdict of “totaled” for Andy’s 2004 Vulcan.  The dejected look on Andy’s face said more than any words he could have expressed. He loves that motorcycle! Then began his investigation into purchasing the bike back from the insurance as salvage and rebuilding the bike to its glory.  First we discovered the true cost of rebuild which was astronomical, but that wasn’t the only problem. We would have to apply for a “salvage title” from the state at a cost of $10. Then once repaired would be subjected to the state’s approved “savage inspector” at a cost of $50. Followed by a regular state inspection, and new registration. All in all, it really wasn’t worth it, but Andy being who he is needed to see all the facts laid out.

Hence began our search for a replacement for the same price the insurance was paying us for the totaled bike. Where are you going to find a great bike for $3100? One that would be everything you had just lost. We did find a few in our price range but none of them “called” his name. His loss was too fresh and no substitute was going to fill that void.

Then on Craigslist to my amazement I saw a motorcycle twin just a 45 minute ride away. We went for a visit. The ad said “needs battery and tune up”. So Andy came prepared with the battery from the old bike. We arrived and saw the bike, body was great, mileage only 12,000. Wow, on a 2004? That’s barely broken in. And before even sitting on the thing Andy was making an offer of $3100, which the guy seemed all too quick accept.

That is when Andy decided to pop in the battery and take her around the block. Once the battery was in, the bike was hard to start. After a few backfires, she started and off he went. But on his return, having been alerted with “hard to handle steering” he had a change of heart. They guy dropped it another $100. Andy apologized and said we would be going on our way.

In the next week we saw nothing else for sale in our price range. We also spoke with a few dealers about the hard steering. With their suspicion that the bald tires would cause that, we sent the guy a note and said we’d take it for the $3000. It was a gamble.

Andy went to get it, loaded on the trailer and brought it home. Then began the stripping of chrome and bags off the old bike and transferring it to the new. Andy even swapped the tires out too. Poor old totaled Vulcan looked a sight, but new Vulcan was looking better than ever. Andy feverishly spent every spare hour at it as we weren’t sure when the salvage truck would arrive.

Once the new replacement Vulcan had all the chrome, highway bar, bags and new tires on, Andy once again tried to start it. Nothing happened. It sputtered but not even a backfire could be had. He got off the bike, removed the air filter cover and discovered a family of mice had taken up residence! Once cleared out the bike started and off to the dealer for a tune up.

I’m happy to report that the bike runs like a charm. The mechanic was impressed with the nice body and running condition after its tune-up. And just in time as we are now on schedule for our epic vacation to Arizona; the major reason for the frenetic search for a replacement.  I find it amusing that the bike is identical save the windshield, backrest and lack or light bar, but to each his own. And none too soon as the truck was in sight.

Old Bike

New Bike

Donating parts and chrome.

Getting some chrome.

Seeing double

Goodbye old friend. Such an undignified end.

Thursday, July 14, 2016

Expect the Unexpected

You’ve all heard the platitude, “expect the unexpected”, and no truer sentiment can a motorcyclist hold any time they head out on the highways and byways of this beautiful country of ours.  This, and skills training may keep you alive. On a recent motorcycling vacation through upstate New York, this tired platitude served us well.

We had just traveled the length of Skaneateles Lake, one of the Finger Lakes in Upstate NY.  Of all the Finger Lakes, this is the one with the highest altitude. And indeed we were even higher still as we could view this lake from the ridge on which we rode.

After riding down from the ridge to the lake, dipping our toes in the water to cool off and meeting some great people, we headed on our way back to the ridge, around the northern tip of Skaneateles, to the northern tip of Owasco Lake. Here our lovely two lane country road ended, and we dropped into the outer fringes of the city of Auburn. This is where we met Carol by “accident”. Carol, age 76 was parked along the curb right near the clump of trees inside the blue circle of the photo below.

As we came along, Carol pulled out. No directional, no rear lights to indicate she was about to move. Andy aggressively applied the brakes, squealing tires with the effort and attempting an evasive move into the opposite lane. But Carol wasn’t just pulling away from the curb. She was attempting a U turn. With no exit Andy’s front end met her car just behind the front driver side door.  Thankfully she stopped short and Andy in a very LOUD voice told her not to move as he was now pinned between bike and car. People appeared from every doorway, helped right the bike which was leaning at an angle against the car with Andy in between. Someone called the police. All of these people were very kind and helpful.

Andy is OK, and here is where I want to do a bit of lecturing. Andy did everything right and walked away as a result. He used the brakes. ALL of them. This slowed him down from 30 MPH to whatever it was when he made impact. He did not “lay it down” as some people claim them must do. If he had, he would not have been able to slow or reduce his impact. He had on his jacket, helmet and a pair of Kevlar riding jeans. Despite the jeans he did receive a puncture wound just above the boot where his leg met the petcock. 

After exchanging information, filing police report and calling the insurance, Andy inspected the bike. The tire rim did not seem bent and the motorcycle still rode true. The headlight was broken, but he still had the two extra lights working on the light bar. (We later discovered the headlight bulb had not broken and still worked. So we covered with a plastic sheet and protected the bulb.) We pulled the fender out with a crowbar and continued on our vacation. The motorcycle looks a bit bedraggled, and yesterday we discovered that the dealer considers it totaled. That is mostly because it’s a 2004 so the book value is low compared to what the parts cost to fix it. If Andy has his way, he will get it repaired.

Andy was determined not to let this mar his vacation and we continued on to enjoy Lake Ontario, tour Fort Ontario and more great roads around upstate NY. We ended our trip in Kinston NY where our daughter was taking part in her first ever triathlon. We are proud of her and happy we were able to witness her accomplishment.

I will close with my usual lecture. If you haven’t taken the basic rider safety course, do so. It’s never too late. Or take the experience rider course. A refresher is never a bad thing. Practice your skills in parking lots, wear your gear. Your daughter might be the next one waiting for you at her first ever event.

Wednesday, June 1, 2016

Motorcycle Safety is Everyone's Resposbility

As mentioned in a previous post, I am now writing speeches as a member of Toastmasters International. I'm going to be giving my third speech in 2 weeks. I thought I would share the content of that speech since being an advocate of motorcyclists is what I intend to do with my speaking skills.
Here is what I plan to say. Your feedback is much appreciated.

I‘m an avid motorcyclist. Motorcycling to me is a thoroughly enjoyable pastime. My philosophy is a bike on the road is worth two in the shed. Yet when people discover that I ride a motorcycle, the first thing they say to me is “that it’s so dangerous!” I never know how to respond to this.  In part because I have no idea what they know or don’t know about motorcycling. And their experience or lack thereof is the perception of motorcycling from which they make this statement. Sometimes I’m tempted to say “sure motorcycling can be dangerous, but so is barreling down the highway at 70 mph in 2 tons of metal. Yet we do it every day.”

And that is the point really. Yes, there is risk. The reality is most things we do in our life involve risk. Skiing, swimming, and boating for example. Whether we may be consciously aware or not, each of us understands, evaluates, and try to minimize those risk for ourselves. Ultimately accepting some level of the risk involved. 

When people want to talk to me about the dangers of riding I tell them “anybody can ride a motorcycle, but not everyone should.” The first thing a person contemplating riding should ask themselves is “what kind of driver am I?” A person who has had several “close calls” or is prone to fender benders should think more than twice about riding a motorcycle. The type of driver you are doesn’t change what kind of rider you will be. And a fender bender on a motorcycle is a lot more serious than in a car.

Let me asking this question. How many of you would let your teenage son or daughter driver the family car without any driver training? Not many people would. Yet every day someone gets on a motorcycle without any basic rider training and don’t think twice about it.
In truth 92% of riders involved in accidents are essentially without training, are self-taught, or learned from a family or friend.  In addition these riders were significantly without motorcycle license, without any license, or have had their license revoked. Of these riders 96% are males between the ages of 16 -24. Which brings me back to question about your teen driving the family car without training.

One of the major hazards for motorcyclists are other vehicles. Statistically, people making left hand turns are the major culprits. The experts are still out on why this is so but have offered some theories on why. It may be that people look left, right and pull out without looking left again. They may misjudge the distance the bike is from them, or the speed at which it is approaching because of its smaller profile when compared to cars. Distracted driving is another cause of many accidents and not just for motorcyclist, although for us it’s more deadly. Despite new laws about cell phone use, and texting this law continues to be violated. I have a personal risk avoidance technique of my own. Whenever I see a car with a sticker that reads “baby on board” I stay well clear even when in my car. Unfortunately busy moms picking their kids up at daycare and racing home to fix the evening meal are in my experience the most distracted.

People who are close to me know that I am risk averse. How is it you might think that I even get on a motorcycle? I practice risk management. First I pay attention to the things I can control. 

  1. I don’t drink and drive. Alcohol and substance abuse is a major contributor to motorcycle crashes. Nearly 50 % of all riders killed being under the influence. 50%! People don’t seem to understand statistic and use them to there benefit, which is probably why they buy a Powerball ticket which has a 1 in 292 million chance of winning.  
  2.  I don’t ride when I’m fatigued or drowsy.
  3.  I don’t get on the bike when I’m upset, angry, stressed or emotionally troubled.
  4.  I don’t ride beyond my limits or practice aggressive riding. If you ride like there's no tomorrow - there won't be.

Next I try to minimize the risks I have no direct control over. These are my personal 4.
  1. I’ve taken the basic rider training course. Taking this course has shown to reduces my risk by 25%.
  2.  I practice being conspicuous. Tips on how to become more conspicuous are covered in the training.
  3.  I examine the bike before each ride.
  4.  I wear safety gear.

The month of May was motorcycle awareness month. I say every day is motorcycle awareness since people are riding nearly year round. Please, the next time you are tempted to remark to a rider about how dangerous motorcycling is, instead, ask this person if they’ve taken the Basic Rider training course. If not, encourage them to do so and tell them gray-haired riders don't get that way from pure luck. Then consider if we collectively are all doing everything possible to keep from being that danger. I’m pleased to report that the state of NH has added a section about motorcycle awareness to the new driver training manual. And that is good, because motorcycle safety is everyone’s responsibility.

Friday, April 8, 2016

New Hampshire History one Marker at a Time

The State of New Hampshire just made it easier for me to plan my weekends during the coming riding season. They have just revamped their Historical Highway Markers site with mobile friendly GIS technology (geographic information system). This new site is perfect for planning day and overnight adventures. Especially if you like to plan themed rides as I do. An additional plus is that the site is sectioned off into regions, has driving directions to markers, and KML file.

When selecting a region of the state to explore, the site opens to photos of the markers in that region. As you scroll each one the location is marked in text below the photo.  Beside the photo is a Google Earth view with overlays of its exact location. You can enlarge or reduce the map size to suit your preference. Each section allows you to see how many markers are in that region as well as the marker number issued by the state. One caution, some markers are out for repair, so make sure to double check the “installed” notice.

No markers in my town so I looked in the towns of my riding buddies.
Found one!

While the interactive map is great, I’m going to want these in my Garmin. If you are looking to convert KML files to GPX or GDB try using GPS Babel. Then just load it all into the GPS. Prefer your information in a different format? Not to worry. At the NH Division of Historical Resources page you can access links to a List of Markers by Town or a List of Markers by Marker Number. These are PDF files. I’m thinking of keeping a copy in my saddlebags for reference.

If you live in New Hampshire or will be visiting soon, the state has a photo sharing campaign going on right now. They are asking folks to take photos of our favorite historical places. Use the “locate me” technology on your mobile device and add the photo to the My New Hampshire website. Mark with hashtag “Marking History. They are looking to groups such as motorcyclists to help with the campaign.

I know I’m not alone is having little vacation time during the year and needing to make the most of weekend trips. I’m going to review these locations and plan some fabulous routes to see them.  I have been amazed over the years at the places I’ve never visited in my own backyard. There is a wealth of beauty and a plethora of ideas on how to enjoy the place you call home. If one just takes the time to dig.

Monday, March 14, 2016

Sisters Centennial Motorcycle Ride

Ladies here is a great opportunity to take part in an epic ride and honor women motorcyclists.  This Sisters’ Centennial Motorcycle Ride from New York to San Francisco will take place July 3 – 24, 2016. The catalyst for this event is the 100th anniversary of Augusta and Adeline Van Buren’s courageous ride across the United States on motorcycles.  At a time when women didn’t even have the right to vote and few roads were paved, these two accomplished something unprecedented in their time.

This ride is limited to 100 women, but there are opportunities to take part all along the way.  Check out this great article in Women Riders Now and then visit the website to see how you can participate in this event.

The ride will loosely follow the route these sisters took, which is mostly along the Lincoln Highway. There are fully guided tours as well as self-guided options.  Members of Augusta and Adeline’ family will also take part in the ride. Augusta and Adeline both went on to lead exceptional lives achieving what few women of their time could, and leading the way as examples to empower us today.

We've come a long way baby and I can't think of a better way to celebrate than this event. Even if you can't get the time off work to do a cross country trip there are celebrations taking part in Springfield MA and San Francisco CA that you can join. 

For those of us who will be stuck in the office, here are some great reading suggestions. 

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Unassuming Advocate on the Loose

               Have you had unpleasant or unfortunate incidences while riding? I think we all have had and I’m no exception. Yet, when you speak to non-riders they scratch their heads at why one would continue to ride after an unpleasant event. I’m not talking here about accidents, serious or otherwise, I’m talking general everyday oops, or near misses type events. At these times I ask these people a few questions of my own, such as “have you ever had a fender bender, or been the victim of road rage. I get a lot of yeses. Then I ask them “and you continue to drive? Is that wise when there is so much that can go wrong?” They don’t have an answer for that one, or I am dismissed outright.

I’ve written here about all of my experiences. I’m not one to hold back and I speak quite frankly about all that occurs; the good, the bad and the ugly. I’m very fortunate not to have much bad or ugly. I’ve had near misses, been the victim of road rage and just plain inconsideration or ignorance of what it’s like to be on a motorcycle by those who never have.  I get angry sometimes, but my personality is such that my anger dissipates.  While I don’t tend to forget an incident I don’t go around the world holding hate or revenge in my heart. Life is too short for that. I have better things to do and better places to go than be saddled with such emotions.

               Recently I joined a Toastmasters group with a few of my colleagues as part of our work related continuing education. Toastmasters International is a world leader in communication and leadership development. What does this mean? It means I’m in training for public speaking, impromptu speaking, and leadership skills. I also find it the perfect venue to begin a public awareness series on what it’s like to ride, why we do, and the experiences we have. Why should motorcycling not be as accepted as say, boating, four wheeling, snowmobiling and the like? We’ve heard terrible stories of what has happened to some of these, yet they aren’t maligned as often as motorcyclists or as misunderstood.

               Those of you who have followed my blog since 2007 know of my passion for writing. That I write from my experiences, belong to writers groups, and have been published on several occasions. My love of writing is taking on a new twist, speech writing. My first speech will focus on lessons learned in my youth, and it sets the stage for what is to come. While this first speech won’t have a motorcycle around anywhere, it does have a sled. A sled upon which I road right through thin ice. Did I give up sledding? Did anyone ever say to me “why would you ever ride a sled knowing what can happen? No. Therein lies the crux of what I hope to convey. I hope that I will be as eloquent and persuasive in speaking about motorcycling as I try to be when writing about it.