Thursday, December 31, 2009

Seeing Less of Me

Over the course of my life my weight has gone up and down as most normal people's does over the course of a lifetime. However, about three years ago the fluctuation up and down changed into a steady upward direction. Before this gains any momentum and becomes insurmountable, I need for there to be less of me.

After reading several articles about men reaching my point in life, I now understand that a slowing metabolism is normal. Therefore, I have to take steps to counter that by first reducing my weight and then adjusting my food intake to match my new metabolism.

The only fully successful diet I've ever done was Atkins. For some reason it meshed with my body and personality almost perfectly, I am a serious meat eater. The problem with the Atkins diet (not looking for an argument, it is just my opinion) is the amount of fat and cholesterol that I intake while doing it. So, I am looking at a blend of South Beach and Atkins that will allow me to stick to less fatty meats while reducing carbohydrates. My goal is to lose about 40 pounds by May.  Achievable with effort.

Rather than posting starts and stops, I will just update the pounds lost from time to time.

Having just written this entry, I know that I probably have some confused web surfers. This blog is rated as the 36th most popular motorcycle blog by Blogrank, also Torch includes me in his Twitter list of the 500 best bikers on the web and yet this entry is talking about the dietary needs of the typical 50-year-old American male. Not seeing the relationship between the two?  Trust me, there is a connection that will become evident over time. Just accept this axiom for now: the healthier you eat, the more years you'll ride.


725

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Building a Better Me - Batteries Not Included

I have always considered myself analytical as well as introspective. Even though I've been living with myself for extremely long period of time, I'm still amazed sometimes by things I do -- -- I guess that is part of being human. So, when I reached that pinnacle point of hitting age 50; I looked for things internally that I felt could be improved or goals that I wanted to reach. This is an exercise I put myself through more or less annually and I feel it helps me become a better person and grab opportunities that might have passed me by.

So, I came up with several personal and spiritual goals, that I won't go into here, and a few objectives that I feel need to be achieved prior to me starting my writing next spring. You may share some of the same objectives in your life as they tend to be common among most human beings.
  • Lose some weight -- -- as I've gotten older my metabolism is changed but not my appetite. It is time I bring both back into line
  • Get fit -- -- important since I will be writing and I should be able to lift the bike off of me if I happen to fall.
  • Move towards completing education goals -- -- than 2007 I started working on one Masters degree, then in 2008 I started a second program. Even after all this time, I'm not quite halfway on either one. I need to be.
  • More fully embrace my Freemasonry responsibilities -- -- this year I assume a new office within my Lodge and that means new roles and functions. I need to be prepared.
This will involve a great deal of effort on my part, especially since I hope to achieve something of significance in all four of these areas prior to the start of the 2010 riding season. However, I feel that it is achievable and worthwhile to accomplish these things. My next few entries will deal with each of these areas in depth and how I plan to approach them. E-mail support is always welcome.

 

719

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Christmas Eve -- Not A Creature Stirring But I Finished The Damned Paper

Just as quickly as I leave for posting about winter coming on and promising that I would still be loyal about writing; I promptly quit making entries. The timing was unintentional.  As soon as I finished my last entry,
I started to work hard and heavy a graduate course that has been sitting on my shelf for months.  I am working on my MBA online.  Because it is an online course I can kind of do it at my own pace -- which means procrastination. I am happy to report that I completed the entire class since my last entry and I made in A.  But that's not all folks...

I also took a week long in residence course at a governmental university and completed a graduate level course there as well.  After completing the course work though, I had to return home and write a paper for the course in order to receive a grade.  Three minutes ago I completed that paper.  I won't know the results of that for a few weeks but I feel pretty good about it.

It may seem that I'm some kind of demon for education but these are actually things that I have been working on for awhile and I am just getting down to completing.  I will write about this as well as three other projects I'm working on and want to complete before spring riding season begins.

For now, I will share this picture of my dog MacBeth (1 year old, Golden Doodle) who had an opportunity to meet with Santa Claus (as you know he is a motorcyclist too). 


Merry Christmas!

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Sunday, November 29, 2009

The Winter of My Discontent

Well, the snow that was predicted on Thanksgiving failed to materialize. But, we already have had our first snowfall so the fact they were wrong this time doesn't mean they will be wrong many more times as we march headlong into winter. There has been a noticeable drop in the number of motorcycles for sale in this area. I am still looking, and if the weather works I will be test riding as well. However, it appears that for me at least the 2009 riding season is over.

My final tally for this year was just over 130 miles. Considering I don't own a motorcycle and that those miles were done five different models of motorcycle, I don't think I did that badly. As I stated in my original plan, getting the bike now or waiting until winter was over doesn't matter one way or the other -- -- what is important is that I get the kind of bike that I identified in my plan. The right bike is out there, I just haven't found it yet. In fact, I came across a Honda Shadow that had been modified to have the controls forward -- -- the way they are on a Silverwing. Called the guy, but it had already been sold.

So, does that mean that I will longer be posting to this blog? Not at all. I have had many thoughts about different aspects of riding and the ways that I plan on using the months between now and next spring to prepare myself both mentally and physically to take on the open road once the temperature cracks 50 again. Even though the primary focus of the blog up until now has been motorcycles and becoming a rider; that was not really the overall focus of the blog. It was to be a place where I would share my thoughts and mental ramblings about various topics that happen to come to my middle-aged mind.

I think that those wanderings should at least make the winter a little more interesting for those of you who are reading this blog on a regular basis. By the way, thanks to those of you have sent supportive e-mails and other comments; it is nice to know that someone is paying attention out there.
 
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Saturday, November 21, 2009

War, Meaning, Greasers, & Zen

When I was in seventh grade or so, I became a reader. That doesn't mean I didn't read before seventh grade, just that I didn't read for the sole pleasure of reading or to learn something I wanted to from it. Seventh grade was when I discovered The Outsiders by SE Hinton. It was one of the first books I could ever really relate to and one of the first that gave me a point of view that was different than my own but similar enough that I could identify with. From there I went on to the book's sequel, That Was Then, This Is Now, and eventually ended with My Darling My Hamburger -- not a sequel but it had some of the same characters. After completing all of Hinton's works, I moved on to other fare. (NOTE: When my youngest son was in Middle School, his English teacher made a  to study turned The Outsiders into a semester-long project.  He loved the book, but in a way, I wish he had discovered it on his own.)

Having seen many of Edgar Alan Poe's works as movies starring Vincent Price (whose voice still gives me chills), I read every short story Poe had written. It was my love of Poe's macabre works that eventually led me to read Stephen King, Saki, and others. When one of my teachers mentioned that we could not read the best of Mark Twain's works until college because of the adult content; I was inspired by puberty and curiosity to attempt to find those works at the local library, I also discovered that adult didn't necessarily mean sexual but controversial. During my search, I managed to read most of Twain's writings. Also, something called the Scholastic Book Club introduced me to books and titles I had never heard of and to a large degree don't recall now.

The point is that the reading itself formed a large part of who I am because I learned to mentally defend my own beliefs while discovering those of others and found curiosities that drove me to seek more knowledge. However, as I went on to college and a career, all the while being a citizen of the world, I found that there were many important books that I had missed. So, I've spent time seeking these books out and reading them. This includes works like The Art of War by Sun Tzu, Viktor Frankl's Man's Search for Meaning, and others with each of them providing me with differing points of view and giving me things to think about.

When I started on my journey into motorcycles the searches kept including a book by Robert M. Pirsig titled Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance. Most of you have heard of it, but I knew of it only peripherally. Wikipedia (and later the book's foreword ) told me that the book really had nothing to do with Zen or motorcycle maintenance but was more about one man's search for meaning while traveling cross-country motorcycle with his son. So I ordered it.

I started reading the book while at Walt Disney World, but only managed read the first chapter. That was enough to convince me that the book was one that I should read, all because of one line in the first chapter: "Plans are deliberately indefinite, more to travel than to arrive anywhere." That is my idea of the perfect journey. I love to travel and discover, and I have always found that in the traveling some discoveries are more significant than reaching the destination.

At this point in my life, I am usually reading two to three books at the same time. Usually, one is of a factual or historical nature, one is light and doesn't require much concentration, and one is for entertainment something to escape into. For now, the last category is being filled by Pirsig's work.

NOTE: As I proof-read this before publishing it, it occurred to me that the actual first book I ever read was Green Eggs and Ham by Dr. Seuss. Upon contemplation, I realize that I did walk away with a piece philosophy that can be found in Seuss' words. Throughout life, I have found that I do like them here or there, in fact, I like them most anywhere. Yes, Sam I Am, -- I do like green eggs and ham.

490

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

What Would Walt Say?

I have been off line for a week or so because I was at a family reunion at Walt Disney World (had a great time,  thanks for asking).  As the chief organizer I acted as taxi between the airport and the hotel on arrival day.  On one of my trips, my ears detected the sound of a Harley and I looked around to find a lady riding a beautiful Softail.

It was a deep, indigo blue metal flake and the sun was making the chrome sparkle like a field of stars.  To my surprise the rider was wearing a full face helmet,  very unusual given that Florida is a helmet optional state.   Also, even though it was about 80 she even had on leather riding gloves.  Wow,  she was concerned for her safety.  Well not so much: The rest of her riding outfit consisted of a bikini that matched the bike's blue and sandals.  The view was nice,  but the safety angle was shot.

420

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Do You Understand The Words That Are Coming Out of My Mouth?

Me:  So,  the bike is in good shape?

Seller:  Great shape couldn’t be better.    Won’t need anything until the end of next riding season.

Me:  Does everything work?

Seller:  Sure does, 100% functional.

Me:  And no rust or dents?

Seller:  Nope no rust at all,  and except for some minor scratches it has no marks.

Me:  Super,  I will see you in an hour to take a look and quick test ride.

I drove the hour to get there and from the second I pulled up,  I started to get the feeling I  was misunderstood .

Me:  The back tire looks a little low,  have you been riding it?

Seller:  Um no, the tire needs to be replaced so I haven’t been riding it at all that much this season to preserve it.

Me:  Uh-huh.  What is this dripping on the front tire?

Seller:  Oh,  that’s just suspension fluid the seals broke out last winter I guess,  and I was going to replace them this winter.

Me:  The rust on the chrome looks pretty bad over on this side,  accident?

Seller:  Uh,  no my brother had the bike at his house stored on his porch over the winter and the tarp blew off and he didn’t put it back on so that part was exposed all winter.

Me:  Um, why is there a hose clamp holding the brake fluid reservoir on the handlebar?

Seller:  Well, to keep it from falling off,  the original bracket is broke.

Me:  Okay,  let me get my helmet and take it for a spin. 

I have to admit there was no way at this point I was buying this bike but it was almost 70 degrees and I spent an hour getting there.  I deserved at least a quick spin on it for my troubles.  I mounted the bike and started it.

Me:  Sounds pretty rough,  when was the last time it ran?

Seller:  Oh I ran it for about 30 minutes or so before you got here.  It needs a tune up,  one cylinder is missing about half the time.

As I went to turn on the radio.

Seller:  Oh yeah,  if you have that on while you are riding it sometimes shorts out the electrics if  you hit a hard bump.

Skipped the radio and took off and the bumpiest, shakiest ride of my life.  Returned the bike 15 minutes later.

Me:  Um,  thanks for the look I will be in touch.

Seller:  Okay,  no problem. By the way I just remembered the cruise control doesn’t work so I would be willing to take of $25 for that.

Me:  I will keep that in mind,  thanks.

It is obvious he did not understand me,  when I asked if everything worked,  I meant all the stuff on the bike that was supposed to perform a particular task.  Of course,  when he said nothing needed to be done to the bike for the next riding season,  I thought that nothing needed to be done -- obviously he meant nothing bu mechanical stuff.

I thought I spoke and understood English fairly well, I guess not.  Oh well, wenigstens kann ich Deutsch sprechen.

390

Friday, November 6, 2009

I Like My Nose & Other Facial Features

Pictures like this convince me that wearing a full face helmet is the only way to go.


I understand the wearer not only survived he got back on the bike and rode home.

Nuff said.

384

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Picking the Right Motorsickle Part II


The Shadow...

By all rights the Shadow should have been a lock.  There was too many things that were too right from the get go.  It was red, it was a 500cc and a Honda,  it was well maintained and had only one minor ding on the tank with no rust and shiny chrome.  Best of all it only had 5K miles on it.  But as it often is in life:  Should’ve and was were two very different things.

The seller was proud of what he had and he should have been, it was in great shape.  He concluded with “The only thing the bike needs is to be ridden”.  Looking at it,  I had to agree.    So I jumped on it and took off.

Making a left out of his driveway I took off back towards the town.  Wide curves and slight hills.  It was noisier than the Silverwing and due to lack of fairings a little windier.  The Shadow did have a windshield but it did not seem to help much.    The ride was also a little bumpier,  but the acceleration was smooth and powerful.  When I got to the town I took a lap around the towne hall and turned to head back.  On the way back I saw the county fairgrounds which had a large parking lot.  Perfect.

Pulled in the lot and started to put the bike through a serious of turns and other maneuvers.  That was when I discovered that a hard right or left turn ended with the hand grip bumping against my leg.    Also because the seat had me so far forward, I had no way to adjust so it was not in the way.  Not good,  but I know handlebars can be adjusted.

On the rest of the ride back the sitting position started to bother me.  On the Silverwing, my leg angle from my knee to foot was more or less straight; like sitting in a chair.  On this bike,  my feet were further back so my knees were bent and it felt like I was sitting almost like a jockey on a horse.  When I got back to the seller’s house I looked closely at the handlebars which could be adjusted and the seat which could not.  I also saw no way to add highway pegs to the bike, so I could not work around it that way.  He and I were the same height and he confirmed the turn issue and the feel of sitting forward on the bike.

I was disappointed, I had a lot of hope for this bike. 

In the end, one was a cruiser and one was a touring bike.   I liked the touring bike better and felt more comfortable on it.   So,  I just need to find the right Silverwing.
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Sunday, November 1, 2009

Picking the Right Motorsickle Part I

There is no 2 seat trainer for the Air Force A-10 Thunderbolt. So, one day after spending weeks flying a T-38 trainer a new pilot walks out and jumps into an A-10 and takes his first flight. To me that has to be a little nerve wracking. I felt a lot of the same apprehension as I took off for a day of looking at and test riding bikes I had never been on. Easing myself onto the saddle of each bike was part thrill and part anxiety. Both bikes I rode were bigger and heavier than the Buells I rode in class and in both cases I took them from a short driveway straight on to a state highway with a speed limit of 55.

The Silverwing Interstate.

The first thought that ran through my mind as I walked up to it was that it was a monster. It just looked huge. As I walked around the bike the current owner pointed out minor issues and needed repairs. There were numerous. A tip for sellers: Don't point out an issue and in the same breath say that it is only a quick turn of a screwdriver to repair. If that is so, you should turn the screwdriver then it wouldn't need to be mentioned.

The bike had a seat back on the saddle which I had never ridden with before, so I had to figure out how to mount the bike because I could not use my customary way of throwing my leg around the back side of the bike with the seat back in the way. I finally my leg straight over the saddle and lowered myself onto it but doing it this way meant I could not hold the brake as I mounted. I flipped up the kick stand and took control of the weight. Heavier than what I was used to but controllable. Started the bike and got a feel for the friction zone, then took off down the gravel driveway.

A quick left turn took me back toward a small neighborhood I saw on the way in where I thought I could try some moves. In those first few minutes I decided I didn't like the bike. The fairings felt odd because they did not move when I was turning handlebars -- it felt disjointed. The bike felt heavy, bulky and ungraceful. So I decided to just turn around in the neighborhood and go right back. I turned around (in a small space actually) and headed back. Since I was not real familiar with where the seller's house was, I overshot it. Taking the first right, I had planned to just hook a quick U Turn but something told me to keep going.

I found myself on two lane hilly and curvy country road by a lake. It was a beautiful Michigan fall afternoon, a little crisp (about 50) but sunny and clear. The leaves were all sorts of colours and sun light off the lake pretty too. Soon I hit a series of S curves and the leviathan turned into a ballerina.

The handling was fantastic through all 5 gears. Not only that, the road that was chip and seal and very rough but I wasn't getting beat to death (found out later the GL650 has some sort of air suspension system). I took turns here and there at will to explore the roads and the bike. Then on a long straightaway I dropped the highway pegs, put my feet up and leaned into the seat and cruised. Awesome.

Took the bike back, but it had made an impression. Lots of fun and a comfortable ride. Let me say here that I liked the model, but not necessarily this bike. It needs work, and had some rust on the fuel tank and issues from a prior fall over where a prior owner's wife got off of the wrong side of the bike (how does that happen?). For the price it was not worth it. But I was real impressed with the ride of the Silverwing.
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
Sent from my Android phone
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332

Thursday, October 29, 2009

I Don't Want A Pickle

Getting the helmet I wanted wasn’t easy, so this part should be even more fun: choosing my first bike. Actually, since I rode before this technically isn’t the first bike, but it will be the first I choose. By nature I am very analytical and as a result I want all the facts before I choose. So, I made some decisions upfront to narrow things down:

1.  Must only cost about $1K, don’t want to blow a lot of money on something I might drop. I am a beginner and I need something cheap to learn on not something expensive to worry about.

2.  I want a standard cruiser or a mid-sized touring. Don’t need/want a dual use or sport bike at all. Just not a crotch rocket kind of guy.

3.  I want it light (under 500lbs) and of reasonable power (500cc-750cc or so). I didn’t start driving by buying a Corvette, I started with a ‘62 Ford Fairlane. Some rules are universal. Also, I want to work on and improve technique not worry about wrestling a gorilla.

4.  No more than 30,000 miles on it and no older than 1982. Don’t want to deal with major over hauls or problems getting parts.

5.  Red if possible with no weird mural on the tank. I discussed the need for red before. I gotta look at the
tank, so it needs to be something I like. Too bad Van Gogh didn’t do tank art.

6.  The first bike I rode was a Honda, it was my Dad’s and he got it because of their reliability. I picked it for the same reason.

Based on those decisions, I came up with a short list that included the Silverwing, Nighthawk and Shadow. Nighthawk has faded out because there are just not that many showing up on eBay or Craig’s List within my price range. Now, I am down to two: Silverwing and Shadow. Basic specs on the two are as follows:

                        Silverwing       Shadow

Weight              478.5Lbs         465Lbs.

Wheel Base       58.9”                60”

Seat Height        30.5”               25.7”

Gears                   5                      6

Engine              674cc               749cc

Both have V Twin engines, are liquid cooled and shaft driven, all pluses in my mind.

Silverwing




Pros:
  • The ability to be able to carry things, lots of things
  • Wind/weather protection courtesy of the front fairings
  • Radio, cruise control and other comforts
  • Comfortable seat with seat back
 Cons:
  • Looks huge
  • Has older radio system, so no CD or iPod
  • All the extra stuff could make a minor fall really bad

Shadow


 Pros:
  • Looks like a solid classic cruiser
  • Can dress it up how I want to
Cons:
  • Seat is lower, could affect visibility
  • Will need saddle bags, windshield and radio , so more $$$
Weather permitting,  this weekend I will be test riding two Silverwings.  Should give me lots more data to crunch.

303

Monday, October 26, 2009

It Ain't Just Middle Age Crazy

Why? Why after almost 3 decades of not riding would I suddenly want to pick up a dangerous hobby again having survived it the first go round? I am not the only one searching for the answer from me, but I am the only one listening to the rhetoric that I am using to try to explain it. After debating this in my mind over the past few years and with more specific focus in the last month or so, I can point to three things: Freedom, Control, and Fear.

Freedom: There is a certain feeling of complete and total freedom felt while cruising down the road on a bike --the sunshine -the beautiful scenery -the sound of the wind rushing by. It puts a smile on your face and raises your spirits like nothing else. This feeling may be one of the reason I enjoyed Alpine skiing so much. It is a similar feeling, but it only lasts as long as the ski run itself. Driving a convertible is similar, but not totally there. I think sky diving or bungee jumping might also be similar. Riding a bike is the long play version of this thrill.

Control: As I get older I realize there are fewer and fewer things I really have control over. My job, my government, my health, my destiny-- I may have influence over some of these but I am far from having any sort of control over them. In fact, I am shown daily how little control I have over any of them. On a bike the control is totally mine. From the brief movement of my body which causes the bike to act in a particular way, to the mechanisms that are activated by both feet and both hands. I become one with the bike and it an extension of me. I have ridden horses in the past but I never experienced the oneness between rider and horse that some people talk about. I feel this on a bike. Maybe this is part of what some people call middle age desperation. You realize how little influence you actually have so you reach for this things that make you truly feel like you have some sort of control to feel self actualized.

Fear: This is not fear of the bike or riding, this is fear of life and the approaching end of it without doing a few things that I have a deep desire to do. In the past two weeks, two more members of the my high school class (1977) have died. A good friend was recently diagnosed with cancer and another faced a brain tumor last year. Last year I had an event I refer to as my recent excitement that ended in me getting a heart stent. I am now just thirteen years away from the age my mother passed on. I am eight years older than Elvis was when he died and only one year younger than Michael Jackson bit the big one. Lots of stuff pointing to my mortality and the fragility of life.

Even with all that against me, I am not a fatalist. I plan on living a good long time and enjoying my grand kids and great grand kids. That is part of the reason I find this necessary, I don't want to be a embittered old man who never grabbed his dreams or was prevented from doing so - I want to be the old man with great tales from grabbing the dreams and holding on for the ride.

I had a boss once who had the following quote hanging on her wall:
"Life is not about getting to the end of it in a well preserved body, but rather to slide in sideways, thoroughly used up, totally worn out, screaming "HOLY SHIT what a ride!"

Too true.
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
Sent from my Android phone.
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Saturday, October 24, 2009

Fighting 'da Man

I have always been a rebel but a rebel within reason,  preferring to be an independent  non-conformist rather than a group non-conformist.  Also, I was somewhat resistant to “the man” but having been an Army brat and later joining the Air Force myself,  I was not Abby Hoffman either.  I usually just questioned the rules and tried to change the ones I did not like.  This attitude brought on this event happened:


In an Air Force dormitory in late 1981 located in the heart of Germany, I sat holding an ice cube against my left ear lobe. I had already had 3 shots of tequila up to that point, not as a pain killer but just because some things at that point in my life seemed to go better with tequila; I was waiting on a needle to be suitably sterilized by a Zippo. The young lady whose name escapes me now (she was the roommate of current flame and had an incredible body) was trying to reassure me as she put a towel on my shoulder to catch the blood. She carefully dried my ear, gave it a quick swipe with an alcohol soaked paper towel, and then used a felt tip pen (Sharpies had not been invented yet) to draw a dot on my ear lobe to serve as a target. 

I was handed an apple (the normal procedure actually called for a potato but we did not have one) and was told to hold it against the back of my ear.  I did so and slid down in the chair so I was slouching at an angle as if I was sitting in a recliner.  Straddling me,  my surgeon pressed herself against me which unintentionally served as a total distraction  while she drove the needle through.  The morning after I would swear that it had not been a needle but was actually a railroad spike – a dull railroad spike.

She remained straddling me while holding my earlobe to stop the flow of blood.  When the blood stopped flowing out of my ear lobe, she took the diamond stud earring from between her teeth (so much for all the sterilization efforts), removed the backing and then made several attempts to pass it through my earlobe.   She was having issues trying to find the exit hole after sliding the earring into the hole in the front of my ear.  Since she was lying on top of me at that point and squirming during her attempts,  I did not complain a whole lot during the procedure, even though it took her several tries to find the hole (yes,  I did make those jokes at the time).  Finally, she smiled and said “Voila” and stood up.  I was handed a mirror and looked at the handiwork.  Not bad.

Keep in mind this was the early 80s and having a pierced ear at that time raised questions about your sexuality; so this was a bold move.  Europe was a little more progressive about style so I felt a bit freer doing this (even though I was in uniform).  Also,  I was never one of those who wore an earring full time since I wasn’t trying to make some sort of statement.  

In the years since I got it, I have worn an earring occasionally when I felt the urge.  I guess it had been a long time since I had worn it because when I put one in last weekend  it took my son until late in the day to even notice it,  then he questioned when I had it done.  When I told him “28 years ago”,  he looked surprised.  It’s nice for the old man to able to shock the kid now and then.  

That’s me,  battling the man even though I are now he.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

The Final Showdown

After we ate it was crunch time - time to show off all the skills we had learned over the past two days. SilverWing, Blondie and I did not have to take the road or written test. I was doing it just see how I measured up, SilverWing mentioned something about better insurance rates for getting the completion card, I think Blondie was using it as a self test as well. So PreMed and my son were the only two with something riding on it.

Turns, slaloms, passing, hazard avoidance, and everything else we had learned all came into play. I was watching my son and he was doing really well. Then the dreaded Figure 8. I was the last to go and on the second left I pulled a Barney Rubble, letting my left foot drop to the ground because I thought I was going to tilt. The rest of the maneuver was flawless and inside the painted box.

The only other thing I had an issue with was the Outside-Inside-Outside maneuver on a curve. Just as I entered the curve, my left foot slipped on the peg and I could hit the gear shift correctly to complete the shift into second. So, I did not think my speed was fast enough but not much I could do about it. I had problems a few times with the pegs being a little small for my feet and my foot not being at the correct angle to break or shift. I would fix it if I owned the bike, but since these were loaners - I just dealt with it.

After the last trial we all parked our bikes and watched as PreMed and Dharma compared notes. They came and old us that we all passed. A brief moment of cheering then it was announced that my son had done one point better than I. No ego here, I was proud of him. EMT said letting the foot down on the Figure 8 cost me. We then packed up and headed back to the dealership for the written test.

Blondie skipped out on the written test, so there was just 4 of us. The test was multiple choice and the questions were very easy if you read the book. I don't think anyone missed any questions. EMT gave us our completion cards and bid us farewell.

Waking out the door, I felt comfortable with my basic skills and knowledge. I was ready to ride for real.
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
Sent from my Android phone
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Sunday, October 18, 2009

...and Now Back To Our Program, Already In Progress

Hmm movies and ballet,  I seem to have gotten a little side tracked,  so back to the tale of the Rider's Edge Course:  Sunday monring came early and it was time for our second day on the range.  My son and I grabbed coffee at McDonald’s and headed for the range. The morning was very foggy and as we pulled into the lot, it was a pretty cool view: the bikes sitting ready in formation surrounded by the fog.


Things had cooled off the night before so the fog was being caused by the temperature rising, so riding would be comfortable. When everyone got there we mounted up and pulled to the far side of the range to start the day’s exercises. I was surprised Blondie showed up, since she had bought her Harley the day before I figured she would be out riding it, but she stuck out the course with the rest of us.

Because of the cold from the night before, the bikes were cold and hard to keep running. EMT had us line up for the first exercise (tight turns, quick stops and handling down shifts for curves). My son went first and after stalling our repeatedly finally got moving, PreMed was next and had just as many problems getting the bike moving. Finally EMT called a halt and told us all to just do some laps to warm up the bikes and us. So, we did. I needed the warm up to get in the groove again, to feel the gears shifting and to get the comfort in balancing the bike. I also enjoyed just riding without worrying about new maneuvers.


After we warmed up, we all did the exercise no problems there so we took our first break. During the break Dharma showed up. Very nice lady who was a student instructor. She reminded me a Jenna Elfman, both in appearance and demeanor, hence the name. We did another exercise that had two quick stops in it. After the first run through I got it down pat. I could now stop the bike in total control and using a downshift to to start the slowdown.  Riding is a lot of fun,  but like in skiing the ability to stop without wiping out should never be under rated.

We practiced passing and obstacle avoidance. No problem there either, I was getting good at maneuvering the bike tightly and being in better control. Then came the Figure 8.

I have no idea when I will actually need to do a Figure 8 on a bike, but it was part of the course and the test so I had to learn it. We were doing this inside of a rectangular box about 30’ long by 20’ wide. My problems coming into the initial left turn was going too slow and then putting my foot down when I felt the bike leaning too far. The turn back to the right was okay, but it also took me out of the box when I did it. EMT worked with me on it, most of the problem was keeping my head up and speed. Then on the last go round I did it (keeping my head up and at speed) and I kept it in the box – in fact way inside the box. This was the hardest exercise for me and one I plan on practicing when I get on a bike again.


We practiced running over objects (2X4s) and doing more curves. Both were easy, I was surprised how easy it was running over something, I thought it would be worse than it was. My curves were golden. Inside/Outside, shifting up or down in the middle, good acceleration coming out – I was on the money. I really hated getting stuck behind PreMed since he seemed to have so many problems with stalling the bike out. It made things slower and delayed my turn – made me feel like I was kid waiting on the swings at recess… playground anxiety.

At one point Blondie was riding in front of me and I noticed that she had a cute butt. Now this is not Earth shattering information but it was interesting that it was 2 days before I noticed. Just an observation – or I guess lack of observation (to a point).

It was different having two instructors on the course, we were getting better feedback and more information on our progress. Dharma was a lot of help. She was very encouraging and gave me a lot of tips and tricks on braking and corners.

We broke for lunch and when we got back we would do the riding portion of the test.

Friday, October 16, 2009

Freedom Ballet

It is like a ballet.

Standing next to the bike,  I reach across with my right hand and place it on the handle bar and slowly squeeze the brake.  I throw my right leg over the bike and lower myself on to the bike straddling it.   I put my left hand on the handle bar and turn the front wheel to the right and using my left foot I push the kick stand  backwards and out of the way.  I can now feel the weight of the bike and know I control it.  I reach down with my left hand and turn the gas lever to the on position,  then I turn the key to the on position.  With my left hand on the handle bar I squeeze the clutch in and with my right hand I push the kill switch to the on position and then push the starter.  I feel the engine start below me,  I can feel the vibrations of it on the insides of my legs as I turn the throttle a few times with my right hand.  Using my left foot I press the gear lever down until it clicks into first gear and then I start to release the clutch while turning the throttle to rev the engine.  As I feel the bike hit the friction zone I lift my right foot up and put it on the foot peg and turn the throttle a little more gas to start forward motion.    As I start to roll,  I lift my left foot up and place it on the foot peg,  position my toe under the gear lever, and release the clutch with my left hand to fully engage the gear.  As I move faster and the timing is right,  I squeeze the clutch again with my left hand and lift my left toe to put the bike in second gear.   As soon as I feel the gear click into place I slowly release the clutch with my left hand.  I feel the stability of balance and power as I move forward more quickly and embrace the freedom that riding brings.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

B Movies, French Kissing, and 2001

I grew up on a series of Army bases as a kid.  In the early 70s, we lived on Ft. Sill, Oklahoma and our house was located about 4 blocks from the base theater.  As a result of the short distance, I was allowed to spend a lot of formative years sitting in the dark watching movies.  Then on Friday and Saturday nights at 11PM, the theatre showed B movies and Karate flicks for just $1.  What a deal!

Before too long all the kids of my age group were attending the movies en mass because our parents let us roam the base since they considered it safe.  So, even though I was not close to getting a driver’s license yet, I was taking girls to movies and had up to two hours in the dark to explore my uneasy transition into adolescence.  Because of this, a lot of my milestone memories are tied two ways.  Some memories were related to music (my first slow dance was to King Harvest’s Dancing in the Moonlight), and others were bound to movies (first French kiss during the psychedelic scene in  2001: A Space Odyssey )

As a result of the cheap late shows,  I saw all of Bruce Lee’s films (always guaranteed to have one topless scene) and a lot of B horror movies like Whoever Slew Auntie Roo? , spaghetti westerns like They Call Me Trinity and of course a few motorcycle movies like Chrome and Hot Leather.

Chrome and Hot Leather was a  good guy/bad guy movie which featured the good guys also riding bikes,  which was unusual for the time period.  It was a poorly made and badly acted exploitation movie,  no argument there -- it was B movie at its best.  But the scene that stuck with me (aside from a young Cheryl Ladd in her first movie) was the scene where the hero and his buddies were learning to ride motorcycles.   It stuck with me because it reminded me a bit of my first ride and because it was funny.  It also crossed my mind when I decided to start riding again because I didn't want my first ride to be like theirs, which is how I ended up in the Harley rider’s course.

Okay, so I took a long way around to explain one of the reasons I took the course.  It was fun reminiscing especially about my first slow dance (thanks Terri) and first French kiss (thanks Mary Ellen).

BTW I only saw Easy Rider in April of 2009,  just never seemed to get around to it before.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Last Day In The Classroom

When we got back to the dealer, Blondie was straddling a shiny Sporster. Apparently, she was going to buy it but was retaking the road part of the course to make sure she remembered how to ride from the year before.

We covered the rest of the book to include carrying passengers. EMT said it was very difficult to do until you were an experienced rider and had trained the passenger. He recommended riding for a full year alone before you tried it.

The third time I rode my Dad's Suzuki, I carried my first passenger. She was pressed tight against me and was holding on tight with arms and legs wrapped around me, so it was like being one entity instead of two. I don't recall any issues, the only thing I remembered was the bike laid into curves better due to the added weight I guess God does watch out for stupid teenagers.

We did the last of the exercises and then called it a night.

Headed home with my left forearm a little sore (from using the clutch) and feeling very good about how well I had done.
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
Sent from my Android phone
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Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Finding Joy On Two Wheels

After our slalom runs we took a break. There was a small picnic table and EMT had a cooler with drinks. Since the rain had started to subside we all stripped out of our rain gear as we grabbed drinks. I looked around and everyone except Blondie had a smile on their face. I related my feeling that the slaloms had reminded me of skiing and my son nodded in agreement. Both Silverwing and Premed agreed it was the most fun we had since the class started. Blondie gave a short nod along with a shy smile.

We were given a small riding notebook of tips and information that also included space in the back for notes. Whenever we took a break EMT would ask us a question to answer there but we were not asked to provide any of the answers later. As I thumb through the book now I wish I had written down the questions as well as the answers. I can guess at some but the only thing I can tell for sure is when I stopped being scared of dropping the bike and started enjoying the riding and learning new skills.

After our break we hit the range again doing more slaloms and something called how slow can you go. That exercise was to show you how much control you could have over the bike by just using the clutch and how slowly you could go without falling over. I could do it well, but ended up at one point getting stuck behind Premed. He may have been riding a bike on his own for awhile; but he had a lot of problem stalling out the Buells we were riding. So I ended up spending a lot or time waiting on him to get it started and moving again. Silverwing did not stall out as much but seemed to be doing everything in slow motion. Blondie was the exact opposite doing things quickly like she had somewhere to go. My son was doing a great job and seemed to be picking it all up quickly and enjoying it. Overall I felt like I learned the skills and was doing okay, I did stall out now and then, but that went away after a bit.

One of the most useful things I learned that day came at the end and that was the quick stop. You rode up with the bike in second gear, then at a point you down shifted and hit both brakes bringing the bike to a stop in about 15 feet. The first time I used too much front brake and it jerked to a stop. But then I got the balance of front and rear brakes down along with synching the down shift and was able to stop in about half of what was allowed – and it was a solid stop without skid or losing control. It felt very good to be able to do this without fear of dropping the bike or going over the handle bars.

A little after 1 we packed up and went to a late lunch, then we all headed back into the classroom for some more book learnin’

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

I Ride

The first day on the range started out drizzly.  It eventually turned to rain so we spent most of that first morning in rain gear.  I was little nervous about being on wet pavement and trying  my first maneuvers on a motorcycle on the slickness but, because we were in a parking lot and not on a road there was little to fear from dripped oil and road gunk.

There had been four of us in the classroom but when they got to the range portion of the course an additional student joined us.  There was me, my son, Premed- a med student who had been riding his Ninja for several months without a license and decided he needed a class, Silverwing - middle-aged gentleman who had just upgraded to a Harley from his Honda and got the class for free, and Blondie who had taken the course a year ago and had not ridden since and wanted a refresher before starting.  Our instructor, EMT, had been riding for a number of years and rode year-round regardless of the weather.

Our first few exercises were: inspecting the bike, safely mounting the bike, starting the bike, and figuring out where the friction zone was on the clutch.  The bike I used had a very narrow friction zone that was right at the beginning of the clutch release process.  Therefore, as soon as I started to release the clutch the bike was in the friction zone.  As a result, I had to be prepared to throttle it as soon as I released the clutch to keep from stalling it out.  The next exercise was power-walking the bike which amounted to straddling the bike and moving it forward slowly under bike power while walking along with it.  Doing all of this in raingear on a warm humid day with full safety equipment on was sweaty to say the least.

The next exercise was where it all started to come back.  We walked the bike a few steps while balancing it and then accelerated while bringing  our feet up and finally riding about 25 or 30 feet or so.  It felt like the first time I rode a bicycle.  I didn't have any problem keeping my balance and even though I was probably only going 10 miles an hour or so it felt pretty cool.

But, it was during the next exercise when I remembered what I love about riding.  For this we rode the bikes down to the opposite end of the range, made a turn, and then on the return trip slalomed the bike through a series of cones.  We ended the circuit with another turn and then got back into line for our next run.  The first run I made was kind of slow, I don't recall getting out of first gear; but the second run I shifted into second in the middle of the curve and came out of it at about 15 to 18 mph and then did the slalom.  After the slalom I downshifted again prior to going through the final turn and getting back into line.  It was a great feeling, something I haven't felt since I was on a pair of skis.  A combination of connection with the equipment I was traveling on and full control over power, lean, speed, and balance.  Freaking awesome. 

That took place at 10 AM on 26 September 2009.  I was back in the saddle again!

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Let's Start at the Beginning

Now, I need to back up and explain why this blog exists and what motivated it in a little more detail.  The motorcycle idea is all mine, my wife does not agree with it nor does she enthusiastically supported.  Basically, within reason, she is not standing in the way.  I think if I was to come home with a $20K Road King that attitude would probably change quickly to the negative, but as long as I can reasonable I can expect few ruffled feathers.

As a result of her feelings, and the fact that my son is away at college, I don't have anyone to talk with this about or to share my experiences with.  Being the kind of person I am, I like to express my feelings about things and to share with others.  This blog will provide me with that audience, even though I cannot see them or in most cases know who they are.  It is very different for me, because I'm used to some feedback about the things I say and the stories I tell.  So, if you enjoy this or have your own tale to tell please take a moment and drop me an e-mail.  It will be appreciated.

One thing I decided when I started to document this journey with a blog was that I was not going to use any real names in the blog itself, including my own.  I'm not trying to hide, I just don't want to cause any problems for anybody that I may choose to speak about.  It is my way of offering a little protection, at least on the surface, to those who cross my path.  So, I will usually give them some kind of descriptive moniker early-onset you know who I'm talking about instead of trying to use a string of pronouns that would get confusing very quickly.

As I said in my last post I thoroughly enjoyed the class that I took and as result will be proceeding to the next step of my plan which is to find an inexpensive bike to learn and gain experience on.  With winter coming on quickly I have at most a month of clear riding left before it starts to get too cold to do so without extensive equipment.  It will be a quick pick if it is going to happen before the snow falls.

I made a lot of notes during the class and since that I will be turning and entries over the next few days.  There was just simply too much going on to hope to capture it in real-time.  Stay tuned.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Fanfreakingtastik!

Simply:  The most fun I have had with my pants on, doing something solo, in a long time.  It will take me several entries to cover the rider’s course and my thoughts before, during and after.  I will get to those over the next few days.  Right now a have a big silly smile on my face that I think I want to just quietly enjoy.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Night Two

More classroom time, tonight included a tour of the dealership.  It is very easy to imagine myself on anyone of the bikes in the showroom from the simplest Sportster to the most expensive Ultra Glide.  I am excited and can;t wait to get on the range tomorrow.  Got my boots, gloves and other equipment ready to go.  I am ready to go.  Come on 8:45!

Friday, September 25, 2009

I Love It When A Plan Comes Together

An interesting turn of events.  First, I called the DSR and they were willing to exchange the helmet or just give me thinner cheek pads to make me happy with my helmet.  Then my son was able to do some time shifting so he could make the motorcycle course.  When he came home,  I had an idea and I pulled the cheek pads out of the Draco helmet and had him do the same with the Throttle;  then we compared them.   Almost 3/8" difference in thickness.  So we swapped the cheek pads between the two helmets.  Viola! Now I am in my red helmet and he is in the Draco helmet he wanted. 

Night one of class:  Done!  All in the classroom so far, the exciting part comes up this weekend when we hit the range.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Helmet Issues

Well,  the FedEx man came and went -- leaving me a big box of toys. Not full of toys,  but the two helmets I was looking for anyway.  Broke them out,  tried mine on and the damn thing is too small around the face.  I wear a 7 5/8 hat, which is the correct match up for the helmet, but the cheek pads are too fat and squish my face to the point that it is uncomfortable.  Then I took out my son's blue Draco helmet and ta-da -- it fits.  Lesson learned:  different styles of helmets fit differently, even if they are from the same company. 

So now my dilemma:  What do I do for a helmet on Saturday and beyond?  My son had something come up Sunday at school so he is dropping out of the course.  Option 1: I could just wear his helmet for the class and then replace mine later.  Option 2:  I take the blue Draco as my own, return mine, and buy him another helmet.  Now the problems with both options:  Replacing mine later assumes my son will take the class or have another need for the helmet later.  That way leads me to being stuck with an extra helmet.  Problem with Option 2:  If I just keep the blue Draco and return mine, I don't get a red helmet -- I know it sounds trivial.  You see all the sports equipment and clothes I have are red, even though my favourite colour is blue, it is a psychological thing for me.  My ski suit, golf clubs, and running stuff are all red or red accented.

One thing I have noticed at this point in life is that I compromise less.  I want what I want or I don't do it.  Calling DSR Power Sports now to arrange an exchange.  Who knows maybe at some point I will need the extra helmet for a passenger.

Here is a pix of the blue Draco:

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

I Needed A Plan

As with any great endeavor, you first need a plan.  I have already said that due to the length of time between my last ride and now that a safety course just made sense.  At least it made sense to me many of the folks I talked to about this (including the people giving the course) found it curious that I would spend the money on the course when I already had the endorsement on my license.  So  the course was a must do.

What was next in my plan?  Buy a small (700cc or so), light, cheap bike to practice on.  I was not going to finish the course and then rush into a $20K Harley-Davidson with all the bells and whistles.  What I felt I needed was something along the lines of a used Honda Shadow. The bike has a good rep for reliability and ease of handling.  Two others I may look at are the Rebel and Nighthawk,  also Honda's.

If this stage goes well, then I will rent a Harley-Davidson for a few days to get the feel for a larger cruising bike.  Then, when the deal and money is right,  I buy one.

Of course at each stage I will be evaluating how much I enjoy the experience and if it is worth what I am investing. 

In my younger days I would already have the Harley sitting in the driveway and it may have already had a scratch or two on it from laying it down.  With age comes a little wisdom.  I think I have a good plan.

Monday, September 21, 2009

A Choice Made

I decided to go with the fancy helmet versus the plain, but I did end up buying two as my 18 year old son will be joining me for the lessons. A pleasant turn of events.
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
Sent from my Android phone

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Something To Keep My Brains In

Spent time looking for a helmet.  To me it seems to be the most basic place to start.  So many options.  Finally came to the conclusion that I wanted a helmet that met both DOT and Snell certifications.  Basically,  the Snell certification means that the helmet was actually tested and to higher standards not just certified based on design.  With that decided I am now looking at lots of pictures and I am down to one model but two designs/colours.  I liked the HJC CL-SP.

This was my choice for a basic helmet:






And this one for something with a bit more pizazz



Gonna have to think on it overnight before making a final decision.  Have to order tomorrow to get it here in time for the class.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

An Umleitung, To Explain Umleitungs

Umleitung is the German word for an alternate route.  These must be taken from time to time due to road construction or some other change to your original planned route. In England, they call these diversions, in America, it is a detour. While I was living in Germany I came across the occasional Umleitung and based on several experiences I began to see these as more of a side adventure than an unexpected delay. Often, these side routes showed me something I had never seen before, and then I was able to go on with my original trip. 

Therefore, I am using this word in my blog to alert the reader that I am about to go off on a tangent.  At this point, they have a choice:  Read on with that truth in mind – – or Look further down the page and find the symbol for the end of the Umleitung and continue the original missive from there.  

I would hope that either choice will continue to entertain and delight – –

With that in mind I will be using the following markers within the blog:

This marks the start of the Umleitung.

This indicates the end of the Umleitung.





So It Begins...

Now that I am officially 50,  what do I do with it?  I still have faults, fears, and beliefs -- but how they have changed over the years.  Also at this crossroad, I continue looking for new adventures.  The one desire that has hit me stronger than any other at this point is getting back on to a motorcycle.   I will shortly dust off my skills at riding and try it again Since it has been 25 years since I have been on a bike,  I will take the time to attend a safety course and spend some time practicing before I put it up on two wheels.  In short, a lot more involved now due to my age and the caution of maturity. 

My first experience with a motorcycle was when I was 13.  A friend and I took the dirt bike that was in his garage to a nearby field and tried it out.  I got on the bike,  spun the throttle and popped the clutch which led to the most beautiful 25-yard wheelie ever.  While I had the front wheel up in the air, I could not figure out how to get it back down -- it never occurred to me to let off on the gas.  So,  I just let go of the handlebar and promptly slid off the back of the bike and onto the dirt as gravity kicked in.   I count that has my mandatory crash experience since I got a little road rash and broke a brake handle.

So as I start this and other adventures of my life at this point,  I will be documenting them here for the terminally bored and those with insomnia.  I am doing this after reading and being inspired by a man who goes by the nom de plume of "Old Guy". Unfortunately, his blog no longer exists -- I hope he is doing well. He was 61 when he started,  so, by comparison, I am just a pup.