Monday, August 22, 2016

5 years and countless miles

Tomorrow, it will be five years since I started this page.  

Five years ago I put myself out into the blogging world and let the chips fall where they may.  I've maintained other blogs, and have done some other writing before this blog of course...and I can honestly and truly say that I've been paid for my content as well (although I write strictly for fun now).

Hopefully my writing has improved when it comes to motorcycling and scootering topics.  As I reread my first piece and a few others of my early blog, I can't help but cringe.  Although the enthusiasm was there, the knowledge was not.  Over that time period I've grown in knowledge and experience at least.

I started riding a small Yamaha Zuma 125; which was wonderful for the city streets of Tampa, but not so good for the move to the rural country about a year before the blog started.  I had no one to train me, no one to ride with and I put on a lot of miles just scooting around parking lots and fields before I took the bike out into the street.  I remember often pulling over late at night to allow a car to pass me because I was paranoid about getting hit from behind.

Today I ride on highways and back roads equally with no fear, and although I still watch my mirrors, I've not as paranoid as I once was.

I have grown as a rider in many ways, but I'm still just a "scooter commuter" in that I've not ridden that far.  I've not driven across the state, I've not ridden over two hundred odd miles in one day.  In fact, I've only a couple 150 mile days under my belt.  There always seems to be some excuse, some other demand on my time and life.  Kimmie's got more than enough room for an overnight bag and that's something I want to work on during the next five years.  Going further, riding out and staying the night, even camping.

I don't see myself giving up motorcycling anytime soon.  Although when I feel I have nothing left to say, or the blog becomes more of a chore than fun, then this blog will simply disappear into the mists of internet lore.  I certainly hope it helped another rider in some small way.

Frankly though, adding mileage to my bike has been one of my goals this year.  I'm out on the bike more than I have been in some time. I'm not even watching the weather like a hawk that match anymore, since I feel that pretty confident that I can ride in almost anything.

Nor am I sure how long I'm going to have Kimmie.  I told Susan yesterday that I plan on running her into the ground...and I probably will.  She's a good bike and I've added a few farkles to her over time as well.   She's a lot like me.  Not that flashy, hard working and reliable but not to be underestimated.  She's stronger than she looks but has been scratched and dented by life.   Kymco is not a big name bike in America, but I would buy another in a heartbeat. 

Here's to another five years.  Here's to countless miles.  Here's to fun, friendship and the wonder that only cresting a hill and seeing the world spread out before you can bring.  Here's to riding.  

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Going "vintage"

It's occurred to me that to truly get into the spirit of things for the 2016 Distinguished Gentleman's ride, I should be riding an older vintage motorcycle or scooter.  While I love my 2008 Kymco Xciting scooter, it's not really "vintage."

"Vintage" according the to the Merriam Webster dictionary is defined as "used to describe something that is not new but that is valued because of its good condition, attractive design, etc."  While my beloved Kymco (or Kimmie as I like to refer to her as) fits the strict definition in my understanding of the definition.   She fails in two very important ways.

She is not that old.

Nor is her style exactly "classical."

When people think of scooters they are thinking about the lines of a Vespa.  Not the modern sleek design of my Kimmie. 

To the right is a picture of a more traditional and vintage scooter against my more modern Kimmie. 

Dressing up in vintage clothing and going out for a ride is all fun and games.  If I happen to raise some money for a good cause then so much the better.  I'm just hoping that Kimmie doesn't stick out like a sore thumb to much...I know, I'm worried about nothing and I know she can hold her own against nearly any bike on the road. 

I'm letting my social anxiety show.  Call it the curse of an introvert. 

Saturday, August 13, 2016

The 2016 Distinguished Gentleman's ride

This post all started because David, of Life on two wheels fame, posted about joining the 2016 Distinguished Gentleman's ride.  You can read his post here.

I've never met David but I do like the man and respect him.  I first learned about the Distinguished Gentleman's ride sometime last year but it was after the event itself.  At the time, I thought it might be fun to ride somewhere dressed in my best 1920's clothes.  Besides, I do have a passion for flat caps and it's one of the few times I can have my dickey out in public (Ah, that's clever).

 There are also personal reasons for this.  I have reached a certain age where Prostate Cancer enters the realm of possibility. I've set myself a rather modest goal of $500.

I'm not competing with David, because he's a lawyer and therefore most likely knows more people then little old introverted me.  Plus I don't think it's fair to ask the blogging community to choose between one or the other, as we do have a small group that regularly reads and comments on both blogs.

If your so interested in helping find a cure my personal donation page is here.  If you can't help both of us then please help one or the other.  Please spread the word.  Please feel free to share the links.  Getting the word out is just as important, if not more important then any thing you might be able to give.

If you have a motorcycle or scooter and want to join in, please do so.  The more the merrier (and the more we can all raise). 

Thanks to you gentle readers we will find a cure.  

**UPDATE**

As of 8/16/2016 I am at $146 dollars out of a $500 goal or nearly a 1/3 of the way there!  Thanks very much to the people that donated and continue to support me!!!.  I also found an interesting blog piece about last year's ride complete with pictures you can read here.   I'm really looking forward to this now. 


**UPDATE #2**

I found a vintage tux...and since I'll be riding without safety gear (except helmet and gloves) this seems the way to go.  So is orange my color?




Sunday, August 7, 2016

Two posts in one weekend! SAY WHAT???

The weather over the past week has been rainy and generally hot and humid.  The weatherman was calling for an 80% chance of rain, but the catch was it would hit after 2 PM. 


Since it had been a while since I was on my beloved Kimmie I decided to take advantage of the cooler temps and get in a ride before the rain hit.   I also wanted to go further than I have been.  Lately it seems all my rides are either commutes or shorter jaunts of under 50 miles.

I wanted to stretch her legs a bit with a longer ride.  The last time I took her out we traveled roads I knew and didn't know, we did various twists and turns and had some fun.  I was just not happy with the mileage, doing just under 50 miles.

On Saturday I left about 11 AM with every intention of putting on 100 miles minimum.  I knew the rain was coming but I had three hours to conquer my goal.  I could do this. 

So I started with no destination in mind, but a general plan to head south towards Tampa, catching some of the more interesting and twisty roads that I knew of on the way. I sort of had a big circle in mind and stick mostly to the back roads.  I also decided to go down some side roads that I've passed 1001 and one times only to find they either dead ended or took me to a familiar road.  Plus, I always head north and west for some reason...I really have not explored the east and south of Tampa that much.

Cigar City Cider and Mead
However I started to realize that their was a flaw in my plan as my stomach started to growl.  I had eaten a bagel with some hummus about 7 AM and nothing since then.  It was also national mead day.  What many people may or may not know about me is that I enjoy a good craft beer now and again, or a bottle of wine.  Mead is basically fermented honey but it's also much more than that.  

The more I thought about this the more my stomach growled and one of my favorite watering holes I knew would be jumping with my fellow cider and mead heads.  Generally speaking they don't serve food but I knew of a pizza place next door.  Should I stop?

Of course I should!  Although alcohol and bikes don't mix, I did have two droughts of the nectar of the Gods. 

About 90 minutes later I was back on my bike and looking at the sky with a bit of worry, I was still under the 50 mile halfway mark but the sky's were beginning to darken.  I could feel the temperatures drop some and I cursed at my choice to spend some time in one of my favorite places, but I didn't curse at myself to much. 

I went towards downtown Tampa some then turned Kimmie northward towards home.  Twisting the throttle a little bit as the rain started to fall so I could get ahead of it some, and generally that's what happened all the way home.  I got wet, but not as bad as it could have been.

I pulled into my spot about twenty minutes before the skies opened up, checking my mileage I put on 73. 4 miles.  Not bad, but significantly under my goal for the day.   Still though, I had good riding weather.  Good food (2 slices of pizza and a coke for $6).  Some good mead and company which warmed my heart.  I'll chalk it up to a good weekend. 


Saturday, August 6, 2016

A bit of fun research leads to a ride?

I am, at the core of my being, a researcher.  Give me something odd, something unusual and let me sink my teeth into it.  I have a deep love of learning, a deep love of history, of wanting to know something new.

An old haunted house on a old haunted road
This discussion started at work because we were talking about ghosts and ghost towns.  How a friend of mine lives within a block of the May - Stringer House in Brooksville, Florida - it also turned to the racism there but this in not the forum for that.  I've also written a bit about Brooksville in the past.

When Susan and I visited the caves in the panhandle of Florida not that long ago we drove down a side road to see what was in a small town with a funny sounding name...sadly I don't remember it now...but it was one of those "end of the road towns" where their is only one way in and out.  I remembered thinking at the time, that could be a fun experience to drive this road on Kimmie.

"What" you may ask, "is Robert on about now?"

I started researching end of the road towns and ghost towns....and I found one.  I found one within riding distance.  I found one that checked all the boxes for me.  Their was a navel raid on the city of Bayport which resulted in a Confederate victory.  The town would later play a part in the Brooksville raid as well, when it served as a loading area for retreating Union troops.  Despite being the better known of the two, the raid of Brooksville was nothing more than a skirmish, there was never a full pitched battle like their was in Bayport.
An old naval map showing ship locations
History however remembers Brooksville due to it's larger population, while Bayport faded not only from history but from the map itself.  In fact, I recovered evidence of at least five pitched navel raids and battles in Bayport as Confederate Blockade runners tried to slip by Union Navel ships.

I never really thought about it before I started researching this ride.  The South was desperate for goods and parts, the blockade runners could make a small fortune if their ships got through the blockade, and many did.  A smaller port like Bayport served their needs well. 

Today all that remains is a old park with a historic sign.

Yes, I think a ride is due soon.  You have to honor the past...even if you just learned about it.

While riding just to ride is a wonderful way to spend the day...I'm happiest when I have a destination in mind, someplace to go, to see...that is what makes riding so fun for me.   Now if only this rainy weather would break so I can actually go!

Thursday, July 28, 2016

I got your app right here!!! - must have applications for your motorcycle

With the heat and the weather being what it is, I've been sort of self limiting on the time I spend on my bike.  However I've been playing around with a few phone apps lately and thought I should write a bit about technology and how it affects the biker. 

Lets be honest, our phones are part of our lives (like it or not) and although I do not recommend staring at your phone while on the bike - there are various applications that a biker can use.  These are a few that I've used and highly recommend.

I've already wrote about the Crash Detection and Response application (CRADAR) here.  A crash application is something I highly recommend for every biker.  While I have that application installed, I have to admit that I rarely use it.  This application, indeed every phone application I'll be writing about, requires the GPS function of your phone to be turned on.  This in turn, eats into your battery life. 

Since nearly all of my riding is commuting, Susan knows where I'm at since she knows the (general) route I take.  I'll admit to mixing it up sometimes just for something different.  

I also used to use Waze as well, which I found to be much better than my phone's built in Google Maps function.  I loved that the application could be updated in real time for things like construction, letting you know where a speed trap was or a broken down car.  Although I ended up deleting this function since I could not delete the built in Google Maps.  Frankly I saw no use to having two navigational functions in my phone. 

Plus, when your on the bike it's best not to look at the screen.

Gas Buddy is another one of those applications that everyone should have downloaded into their phones.  Once again it uses crowd sourcing to provide you with the location and prices of the gas stations around you.  It even allows you to get directions to that gas station. 

If your budget conscious like I am (OK, I'm a cheap bastard) it even has a trip cost calculator.  It even gives you which gas stations you should stop at. 

Recently I've been playing around with the Pirella Diablo SBK application.  Let me state that this has absolutely nothing to do with Pirella tires (which I highly recommend by the way).  This application is designed more for the serious sport bike rider or sport bikes in general. 

It has both road and track factions (including lap times) and allows for the calculation of lean angles....even G forces.  Each route is saved to the website, in case you find that special road, and it also records mileage, time and speed.  It even has a function to allow you to send your results to friends or share it on social media. 

That being said....it has no way to download a route that you wish to take or send a crash notification to your loved ones.   At least not that I'm aware of. 

I'm still playing around with this application to a great extent and the more I learn about it the more I like it.  Although for what ever reason you have to go to the companies website to log in, which means everything is in Kilometers.  If your using English units, your data is record on the application in miles. It's not a major issue, I know how to convert from KM to miles, but it is annoying.

Really how hard is it to have that option on the website?   I can share the data to my Facebook account, but I can't login via Facebook even though that is an option?  Am I doing something wrong?  Again, more annoying than anything.   

If only there was that magical phone application that would let you do all these things and more, all in one convenient place.   You would need something like five applications in one. 

Along comes the Eat Sleep Ride application which supposedly does everything we've talked about.  In the interest of full disclosure I've not used this application yet but it seems to be getting rave reviews in the various forums I visit and on various motorcycling sites. 



In addition to everything the Pirella application does, it also allows you to track your mileage and discover routes that other bikers share with the application (I'm still not telling you where my secret road is).  For an additional cost you can by their "Crashlight" function which will send a text and voice message after 3 minutes if you go down.  It also allows you to instantly share photos. 

This application supposedly is great for setting up group rides and keeping track of everyone in said group ride.

For what ever reason however, I can not get that application to work in my android phone.  It's probably a memory issue and I'll try downloading it later once I play around with my phone.  

So I'm curious, anyone use any of these applications?   Any reviews you would like to add? 

All these applications are available via Google Play or your Apple Store. 

Saturday, July 23, 2016

Three questions asked and answered.

I rode to work today, traveling nice and cool in my car.  It was a lovely Saturday morning and I expected to see at least a dozen or so bikers out and about.  After all, we were not expecting rain in the Tampa area till after 3 PM.  There should have been bikers everywhere!

Only their were none.  I saw a grand total of three bikers out enjoying the ride on my 30+ mile trip to work...the reason was simple.  The oppressive "Heat Dome" that was covering most of the United States was causing higher than normal humidity in Florida.  That higher humidity meant that we had 85 degree (29 C) weather at 9 AM.  By 3 PM it felt like 105 degrees (40.6 C).

When I got off of work at 3 PM, the storm started and dropped the temperatures down but also caused steam to raise off the concrete and asphalt.  Not exactly ideal riding by any definition.

To get in some sort of riding related fix I've been listening to the Motorcycles and Misfits podcast.  I was introduced to this show by Norman Reedus.  It's entertaining and downright funny at times and often interesting show at least.

They also challenged me personally by asking three simple questions:

  1. How has motorcycling changed you?
  2. What was your favorite ride? 
  3. What makes an accomplished rider? 



Out of those three questions, I find the first to be the hardest answer to actually answer and explain.  I enjoy riding more than I ever thought I would, because it opens me up to nature a bit more then traveling in a car does.  I'm not talking about the wind on my face, or the fact that we are hot, cold, wet, sunburned, bug spattered bikers.  No...it's much more subtle.

I find myself watching the sky as I ride.  The other day I looked up and saw a deep blue azure that reminded me of the ocean of my youth.  The cloud's appeared to break against the sky like waves on a shore, creating a foamy froth that diluted the sun into pinks, oranges, greys, blues, reds...so much color....so much beauty.

When I'm on my bike, I notice cows.  Each one has a unique mark.  Or how the shadows interplay with the road.   The cows are still there with the markings, the shadows still dance on the pavement.  Why don't I seem to notice them or care when I'm surround by glass with the radio blaring?

While I always loved travel and seeing what was around the bend, on the bike I'm likely to go around that bend.  In the carNot so much.    



What is my favorite ride?

I'm going to have to say the one in the Bahama's is up there.  Although Sue and her mother, who traveled with us somehow managed to get lost in their rented vehicle.  They were supposed to follow us...and by us I mean her daughter (who had never ridden a motorcycle before) and me.  

I spent a lot of time worrying about her daughter and Sue....probably more than I should have, and that prevented me from truly enjoying the trip.  Although it would have been nice to have stopped here and there at some of the more interesting sites.   

It does make me desire to go back to the Bahama's however and spend more time there.   Or better yet, go scootering in other countries.     

Although my favorite ride was, and still is my little secret road.  Even though I've traveled it several times I still have yet to see another biker on it, and it still challenges me.    

I like to think though that my favorite ride is always the next one I take.  That one of these days I will have that epic adventure and end up someplace new, wondrous and beautiful.  You can do worse.




What makes an accomplished rider?  

Making it home alive on a day by day basis.   No, I'm not joking.  Nor am I completely serious.   Sure, you can travel the world, have 3 or 4 or 5 different bikes.  Ride in every type of foreseeable condition.

Are you being safe?  Are you making it home to those that love you every time?  

Miles traveled and epic adventures are one thing...but if recent history has taught me anything.  It's making it home to be with the ones that you love that make the difference.   Every other accomplishment pails in comparison to that one.