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Sunday, December 30, 2012

Resetting the Odometer

On the way home from work tonight I was thinking about my bike, riding and how many miles I put in this year.  I accomplished a few goals, I finally found the time to do some pleasure riding...traveling just to travel and hitting part of the Green Swamp Encounter; which I had been wanting to do for some time.

Maybe add a "bumper"?
At this time I don't know what my final mileage for the year was.  I am under doctors orders not to ride for a bit, and my bike is in the shop getting healed anyway.  I know I was close to a milestone.  20K?  15K?  I may call up Affordable Motorsports after the new year and find out, just to have a record.  At this time I am planning on riding, once I get my bike back, and in 2013 have several goals I want to accomplish.   It's slow baby steps...but this accident was also a wake up call.  They really are out to get me.

In a lot of ways with the coming of the new year I will be "resetting the odometer."  While I like my job at 3M, I've also reached the conclusion that it's probably a dead end for me.  BUT, that is okay for now.  It has killer medical benefits and a decent retirement program...and at this point in my life (I'll be 47 this coming year) that matters.  Plus what really interests me right now is my secondary job.  I know I'm just a glorified paper boy...but I'm my own boss.  If all goes according to plan next year I'll make about 15K.  Not great money to be sure but good money.  This job has paid for oriental rugs (a passion of mine ever since I worked at a rug store one year in college), furniture and cruises.  Now if I can only get the Goufrais Chocolates into a few stores life would be grand!

I'm also planning to purchase a second home in January for rental income.  Well neither of these little side projects will replace 3M it's nice to have options.

We have to reset the odometer in another way as well.  Due to some health reasons (not mine), our household is going on a low-glycemic diet.  It will take some getting used to...but I will cheer her on, she will cheer me on...that's what you do in successful relationships.  Lucky for us our little garden in the backyard is growing nicely.  We are using a one-pot system, meaning that one or several plants is grown in a container.  It saves time on weeding, prevents erosion and keeps bugs to a minimum. Another added benefit is bending is kept to a minimum as well!  I'm old damn it!  Right now we have two pots going but are planning on expending our garden in other ways.

I've been tempted to start a food blog about this new adventure, but I don't feel qualified.  I eat well, but if left to my own design it be mac and cheese and pizza most nights.  Lets be honest, nothing beats the taste of food grown and picked fresh out of your own backyard.  In case your wondering, we are not allowed to plant a full garden in our we are using urban gardening ideas.

Speaking of blogging, I am considering doing a political blog.  I'm a dyed in the wool Dem but don't always agree with my party.  I actually joined the Green Party a few years ago and believe that there has to be an alternative to the current sad state of affairs were in.

Or I might just take up the challenge of something I was working on years ago.  I was part of a team that was trying to edit and publish a "rough guide" to US soccer.  It fell apart due to various egos, mine included, but such a thing would be easier today...and easier to publish as well.

So lets reset the odometer, look down the road and consider the possibilities.  2012 is gone, 2013 is coming and it's going to be an interesting year.  That is a given.

Happy New Year to you where ever you may be!

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

The "Happy Holiday" edition

The Holiday Season for me always begins about mid-December.  I have recovered from the over stuffing that is Thanksgiving and have been lucky enough to have been born into a family where my brother is a trained chef.  My ex-wife was a fabulous cook who would put any Iron Chef to shame and my current girlfriend was a restaurant chef and manager for 20 years.

In other words I eat well.  Very well for two months straight.

A fair example of what's in store.
 This Holiday Season is especially important to me this year.  In the past year, I have lost two very good friends and find myself questioning my own mortality.  Tragedy's like the recent shootings at Sandy Hook and a movie theater in Denver have not changed my day to day life in any way, but it does force me to question where we, as a nation, may have gone wrong.

On Friday, the 21st of December...I was hurt in a accident.  Well banged and bruised up, my gear did exactly what it was supposed to do.  I never lost consciousness.  No bones were broke.  Until the police finish their report and the insurance company looks at my bike I can say no more at this time (there was another vehicle involved that left the scene).  I will say this, if I had questions concerning ATGATT (All The Gear, All The Time) I'm a believer now.

This also confirms my desire to take the Road Guardian class and get re-certified in basic first aid.  My getting back on the bike was never questioned.

It's Christmas, I am happy to celebrate it with the ones I love.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Sulphur Springs...a ghost town in the city

Recently I learned via the local paper that the state of Florida was going to renovate the Sulphur Springs gazebo.  The more I read about this the more curious I became.  My adopted state is not prone to preserve it's history, it's coast lines, its communities...unless it feels that there is some way to make a dollar off of the tourists.  When people speak of "Old Florida" they don't refer to 300 years ago but the Florida of the 1920's and 30's.  Some even refer to the 1950's.

You can still picture men and woman in 20's dress enjoying the grounds
It seems that nearly 100 years ago the town of Sulphur Stprings was very well known and the local spring, which was contained in the two story, columned gazebo was one of the countries "health clubs" at the time.  Elegant carved maidens and the letter "R", for the owner/developer Josiah Richardson; who may have been one of the fathers of the modern shopping mall, ringed the building.  At one time the complex he owned on the same grounds contained various cottages, a swimming pool with a slide, a dance hall, Ferris wheel, bathhouses and; this being alligator farm.  Also on the grounds was a European-style arcade with shops on the first floor and a hotel on the second floor.  Today all that remains is the water tower and gazebo.  At the time Ripley's Believe It or Not dubbed it "a city under one roof."  During the early part of the twentieth century many people believed that natural springs had medicinal value...and the strong smell of sulphur and a constant temperature of 72 degrees  made the springs a natural health club. 

All that remains from the spring today, you can still smell the Sulphur
 Richardson also catered to "tin can tourists", who traveled by camper.  "They would close in the truck, take a bed, build a little camper on it and come down to Sulphur Springs," local historian Linda Hope said. "Sometimes they would winter here. That's how some of the housing grew up."

By 1933 Richardson had gone bust, it was in the middle of the Great Depression and when the local dam on the nearby Hillsborough River burst, flooding most of Sulphur Springs, including the arcade. Richardson lost everything.  The local neighborhood continued to thrive through the 1960's.  However by the 1970's the area became crime ridden.  The springs have been closed to swimmers since 1986 due to fecal coliform bacteria.  Although the city has been slowly been investing in bringing the community back starting in 2000.  The city has established a local park around the gazebo and a 214 foot water tower that Richardson also built.  You can't help but notice the white concrete tower driving south towards Tampa.

View from the park
Local legend also tells of the time when pirate ships would use the springs to replenish their water supplies.  There are supposedly still trees in the area marked by these sailors.  Sadly however my brief research could turn up nothing substantial to back up that claim.  Still however, it's a neat story.  That's the wonderful thing about history...we just have to open our eyes to it.

Just another look at the Gazebo

Here's a modern house done in the style of the time.  I don't know about you but I can picture Jay Gatsby and Daisy living in such a house.  

Monday, December 17, 2012

Nothing to say....

It's been a few days since my last update.  I try to do at least one update - even if it's something silly or stupid  or just a time waster - once a week.

Yes, me in shorts in December.  Eat your hearts out.
This past week or two there has been little to report.  Nearly all of the riding I've done is back and forth to work, I spent one beautiful weekend on my roof cleaning out the gutters and mowing grass (Yes, even in December you can mow grass in Florida).  In other words, I've been trying to play catch up on the never ending work of being a home owner.  Being on the roof did give me an interesting advantage to observe a family of Cardinals however.   I was also considering accepting another independent job, which would have doubled my monthly income, in the end however I turned it down...sometimes mental health is more important than money.  Still it was nice to be offered the job.

Our tree 
We spent an afternoon putting up the tree and decorating it, while various holiday songs played on the computer thanks to Pandora, although I believe that Handel's Messiah was a bit over represented.  The lovely Sue will actually be leaving later today for a week meaning that I will be a free man for a change.  I might have more to write about then, as I consider finishing the Green Swamp ride or a few other places that I've been meaning to go to.

I considered posting something to the challenge laid down by Princess Scooterpie, for I've had some wonderful Christmas pasts and some not so good.  If you ever spent Christmas night eating Chinese food and going to a strip club for something to do, then you know loneliness.

Considering the events at Newtown, CT recently anything that I write seems to pale in consideration.  I can't even begin to imagine the emptiness that the parents must be feeling.  It's put a damper on the Holiday spirit here, and in a way has made the holiday all that more special as families will pull each other closer.  The memories that will be created will be all that more special for those with small children, knowing that despite your best efforts...tragedy can happen in mere seconds.

If any good can come from this, it's knowledge that life really is a wonderful, precious and amazing thing.   I'm lucky to live my life in peace.  I only hope that those who lost loved ones recently - friends and family - can find some peace.  Some hope in the coming days.

Friday, December 7, 2012

A boy and his toys.

I've a neighbor two doors down from me who, about a month ago, bought a Suzuki Boulevard GZ250S, I've seen him on it a few times and even waved at him a few times as he rolled on by.  I've not talked to him about his bike though, mostly because he is the type of neighbor that everyone calls "Mister" and is very rarely seen.

Yesterday his bike went up for sale.

Yesterday I started considering buying it.   Seriously.

It's a smaller bike of course, with less horse power than my Burgman 400.  I don't need another bike, and the Boulevard GZ250S is not going to work for me as a commuter bike - the roads I commute on require a bike capable of doing 60 - 70 MPH (96 -  113 KMH) consistently.     While the Burgman was really not designed for highway driving, it has little issue with being quick off the line and maintaining that speed.   Frankly I'm sure the Boulevard would not be capable of that.

What interesting to me about it honestly is that it's a "real bike."  Now don't get me wrong, I love the Burgie. I love scooters (after all the blog is named Scooter Revolution), but I've not ridden a "motorcycle" since my endorsement class.  Relearning the gearing, the clutch and how to operate all of them smoothly appeals to me.  It's also a good bike to learn on, being low to the ground and with lower power.  Eventually I will have to replace my Burgie, and as much as I would love a BMW, the long term girlfriend is pushing for a trike.  I will need to know that gearing unless I get a MP3 or a custom scooter trike.

I also realized, that like it or not, the fact that I'm even considering buying a second bike means only one thing.   I caught the bug.  I'm doomed.  Doomed I tell you!  Logically of course it makes no sense, it's an extra expense that I don't need.  Still though...the idea has been planted.

Tis the season for Toys for Tots bike runs.  That time of year when the biggest burliest biker shows his soft side and gives a needy child a little bit of joy, showing that Santa does in fact exist in our hearts.  A friend of ours, Craig, was planning on going to one and we were going to tag along.  Sadly due to  an illness he was unable to go and I - to be honest - felt silly going to one all by my lonesome.  Even though it's for a good cause.

That's the wonderful thing about living in Florida, the riding season never really ends and there are two more rides that I know of between now and Christmas day itself that support this fine organization.  I know that some child, either girl or boy, will get a good gift.  After all isn't that what the holidays are for?

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Road Guardians - Anyone interested in taking a class?

Somewhere, somehow I came across a review of the Road Guardians safety class.  I put out some feelers and am now thinking of actually hosting a class at the community clubhouse where I live.  Basically the Road Guardian class is designed to provide basic accident scene emergency training that is motorcycle specific.  It is not a first aid or first responder class, but a class designed to assist EMS and the police in case of a motorcycle accident.

I was surprised to learn for example that when trauma results in the use of CPR there is only a 1% chance of survival and that many EMS technicians may not know how to properly remove a bikers safety gear (such as chaps).  Or at least this is what is reported on the website.

At this point in my life I mostly ride alone.  That may change in the future, and I do see a lot of bikers and scooters on the road.  I also know that eventually I will see an accident because frankly I see a lot of idiots on many.  Being able to help in some way  in case of an accident appeals to me.  In 2007 for example, motorcyclists accounted for 13% of all traffic fatalities.  That's a ridiculous number.

This class is a one day program and I should stress it's not going to give anyone CPR or first aid certification.  If I feel there is enough interest in it, I may looking into bringing in a CPR/First aid trainer as well.  I live one hour from Tampa, one hour from St. Pete and one hour from Orlando.  So I'm centrally located and have access to a building that could be used to hold a class.

So I am going to put feelers out.  Starting with the St. Pete Scooter Club and the Orlando Scooter Society.  I figured a few other forums I belong to might spread the word as well.  If there is enough interest then I'll look into it a little further.  No harm in that is there?

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Music to scoot by......

I was thinking about what to post for this coming week.  I have a ride or two planned for the weekend with pics.  But for now:

Courtesy of Karen Giezyng - the owner and publisher of Bump Start Magazine.  The artist is Chuck Mead.

Thursday, November 22, 2012

A taste of the Green Swamp.

Way back on July 24, 2012...I wrote about how I was finally going to get around to riding the Green Swamp Trail.   Well leave it to a world class procrastinator like me to put it off till Thanksgiving day.   It was a clear, blue and cool day and since we were going out for Thanksgiving day there was no reason for me to stay around the house (well there is some yard work that needs done).

I actually live off of route 54 in Zephyrhills, Fl.  The Green Swamp is literally up the road from me, and I have to say I'm sorry I didn't do this before.  It really was a great place to ride, although today was different in that I was literally the only bike on the trail it seems.  I took the southern route, starting on 54 and heading down to 98 and then the left onto Rockridge Road.  Due to time restrictions I was only able to ride the beginning of Route 33.  I did manage to work in some side roads however.

I didn't travel exactly the way the map above, I stayed on 98 south to Rockridge road.  This is a nice, well maintained 2-lane highway and has some interesting land marks on it.  Sadly traffic was two heavy for me to pull over and get some pictures of two of the more unique houses in the area (one which I call the circus house, the other the bat house).  Hopefully another day.   But I was able to get a picture of an old county line marker that dates back to the 1930.  It's the only one that I know of in the area and was built during the Great Depression as a public works project.

 Rockridge Road is a nice cut of concrete ribbon through suburbia, then suddenly and almost without warning it starts to cut through the swap.  Frankly if I had not of been paying attention I would have missed the sign.  After that sign the road surface becomes rough in places, downright nasty in a few spots and with a foot deep culvert on the side in some spots.  Not knowing the roads well and on the look out for animals I took my time, which is not a bad thing because a few of the corners where covered in sand.  

I didn't have to ride to far to have my heart nearly stop.  Out of the corner of my eye I caught a glimpse of something, it was big and coming right at me!   It was an eagle.  It swooped down over my head and into the woods.  It was so low that ducked and fully expected it to hit me but there was not even a talon scrape on my helmet and I laughed with joy for a minute or so.  It was beautiful.

This should give you a rough idea of the road surface.  Some of the scenery you will see is in the next two pics.  

There are a lot of little twists and turns on this road.  Sweepers and S-bends, and some can be rather sharp. I rode at a nice easy pace, I did not see one other bike on the road with me and could count the numbers of cars on one hand.  If something caught my eye it was no issue going back for it or even stopping in the middle of the road for a pic.  

For example, this old cow chute caught my eye and I literally turned around in the middle of the road to take a picture of it.  Florida at one time lead the nation in beef cattle production and you can still see lots of beef cattle in the fields.  This little guy however captured my heart.    

Overall it was a great ride, I can't wait to do it again and am looking forward to seeing what lies beyond.  I took my time, explored some ride roads and still managed to get back in time to go to dinner with my family. I have to admit, I've not enjoyed a ride this much in some time, and I only rode about a quarter of the entire trail!

I can't wait to try the rest.  

Monday, November 19, 2012

Baby Steps - in response to another blog

When I first decided to ride I knew there would be some issues.  Some costs and some things to overcome. I sometimes wonder if my getting a motorcycle was purely due to economic reasons, or was it something called a "mid life crisis."  Rather a bike than a blond I suppose.

I've piled up the miles on my bike running back and forth to my job, the sometimes odd errand and occasional ride over the hill just to see what's there.  I would not say that I've become a motorcycle enthusiast but I understand why people are attracted to this sport.

For me, it's nice to not have the distractions of a modern day car, GPS blaring turn here or there.  Radio blasting some forgotten song or useless top 40 bubblegum crap.  It's me, the road and my brain and body engaged in a simple dance.  Pay attention to that turn, is that a deer?  What is that moron doing?

That fact that I am thinking about dropping $1000 dollars into a machine who's Kelly Blue Book value is about $2500, just so I can get a few more years riding out of it speaks to my commitment I think.  I am in love with my machine.

Another blogger, Doug over at Forty Years on Two Wheels, recently wrote a wonderful piece about the death of smaller cc motorcycles.   I know for me, I started off on a small Yamaha Zuma 125 before moving up to the current 400cc Burgman.

His argument, and I fully agree with it, is that one of the reasons there are so few new riders is that the market is full of bigger bikes.  Part of this I think is the American mentality of bigger is better.  Part of it, I think is that a lot of people think your going to be bored with a smaller engine and will want more speed, more power in six months (I certainly heard that argument).  That there is nothing for the inexperienced rider out there.

On that part at least I disagree.  Scooters are the fastest growing motorcycle in the US today.  They have the "twist and go" transmission.  The lower cc and lower costs along with fantastic fuel savings (80 - 100 mpg).  If you read my blog for any length of time, then you know that I consider the small 50cc scooters so common on urban streets today to be more dangerous than anything else.  For example, here in Florida all that is required for safety gear is eye protection.  No helmet (unless your under the age of 21) or other protection in needed under state law.  Hell, you don't even need a license if the scoot is under 50cc.  Which I've actually seen used as a sales pitch.

Well I'm glad to see people out and about on these things...your top speed is MAYBE 39 MPH.  Lets' be honest, no one obeys the speed limit.  So they will either not see you, or see you and go around you, or your just going to piss them off.   If your going to ride, ride something that will get you up to the speed of the traffic around you.

Sorry, I'm ranting.

Thanks go to Honda for the picture.
My point is that there are smaller bikes out there.  The problem is that they are not "motorcycles" I guess.  The only major motorcycle manufacturer that I know of that makes a smaller bike is Honda and the their iconic Rebel.  I say iconic because everyone that takes a motorcycle class seems to have learned on one.  (UPDATE - Suzuki will have several 2013 models at or under 400cc.  It remains to be seen if they will be readily available).

Hyosung, a Korean company, also makes a 250cc which is much sportier than the traditional looking Rebel. I'm not that familiar with the brand or the make but with a starting price of around 4K for a new bike it's certainly something for the new rider to consider.  All I can tell you is do your research.  SYM is a Chinese based company that makes smaller cc motorcycles as well, but I've only seen scooters imported to the states, I could be wrong.

I'm still not sure why new riders, and older traditional motorcycle riders are afraid of scooters.  No not afraid, that is the wrong word...skeptical of scooters.  I actually came across an article in some motorcycle magazine arguing that that future in the industry was going to be Trikes.  Because the population of bikers was growing older.  That attitude needs to change (says the man that would like to eventually upgrade to a trike).  The step-through would allow those with leg and back problems easy access to the bike.  A bike like the Piaggio MP3 actually does not require the rider to put a foot down when stopped due to it's design.

Right now there are a lot of riders out there on little 50 or 125cc scooters.  They are going to want to upgrade someday.  If the industry wants to grow, wants to attract the woman, the young urban professional then they need to offer something that actually works for them.   Bikes in the 400CC range would be perfect I think.  Quick enough for the freeways and nimble enough for the city.  Great for a weekend away.

I think it's slowly changing...the market will grow due to the coming pressures of higher gas prices, continued urbanization and increasing population.  It's going to be interesting to see how the industry reacts to these changes.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

The scooter commuter

"One's destination is never a place, but a new way of seeing things."  - Henry Miller

Before I knew better!
Lately I've been thinking about how I ride.  I am about to enter my 3rd year as a rider, if I include the several months that I rode my old Zuma 125 about town.  In the first year, I concentrated on keeping myself upright and alive.   In my second year, I'm entering the most dangerous year of all.   Where I know enough to be dangerous and overconfident in my ability.

My concern is backed up by the Hurt Report (the irony of a motorcycle crash study called the Hurt report is just to perfect) which does show that accidents are more likely in the first and third year of riding.  Having that knowledge will hopefully make me just a little bit safer.  If David Hough, who is universally considered the expert on Motorcycle safety, can get hurt then anyone can. The article on his accident is here.   The best safety device is still the one between your ears.

I also have to replace my clutch, and that is not a cheap option no matter how I look at it.  It has made me consider what type of rider I am and how I ride.  The good news is that I put a lot of miles on my bike.   If I just commute, which is 90% of my riding right now anyway, I put roughly 1500 miles on the bike a month...or 18K a year.  That's more than some bikes have in a lifetime of riding.  Susan and I made the decision to become a one car family do to our lifestyle, economics and simplicity.  My Burgman became my "car" by default.  I became a year round rider by default.

When I added it all up it just made sense to eventually get the better clutch.  Although it will run me some $400 to $600 after all is said and done.   That is not including labor.

My logic is simple.  I am to poor not to have quality.  My current clutch has roughly 25K on it, I plan on replacing it early next year.  I just hope I can get another 1000 or miles out of it.  A Dr Pully HIT clutch should last me at least 25K and more.  I intend to be on my bike for a while.  This clutch eventually pay for itself.  Sadly I won't be able to do anything about it till the new year.

Eventually I would like to get a new bike.   I'm not sure if I'll stick with a scooter or not.  Sue is pushing me to consider a trike and I've heard nothing but good things about the Piaaggio MP3 500.  Or a Can-Am Spyder, although I'm not a big fan of how they look.  Frankly I could see myself with a sidecar of some sort, but frankly all those options are at least three to four years down the road.  Susan and I want to do some touring eventually but due to her balance issues riding 2-Up just does not seem possible right now.

I would like to keep the Burgie if I do get another bike, but we will see at that time where we are in my life. All I know is that I enjoy riding.   I may never tour the county or join a club or even make it to a rally...and you want to know something.   I'm okay with that.

Being a scooter commuter is what I am and to quote my boy Jack Kerouac.  "There was nowhere to go but everywhere, so just keep rolling under the stars."

Thursday, November 8, 2012

An open letter to the Republicans

I have to be honest...I debated long and hard about writing this.  After all this blog is about my adventures on a scooter.  It's not meant to be political, but lucky for me its not going to be read by a lot of people.  This little article will probably going to get me a few more readers, and lose me a  few.

That's okay.  A writers job is to put ideas out there, letting the chips fall where they may and hope that someone might gain a little wisdom out of it.  I am far from a political expert.  I am a dyed in the wool Democrat that votes Green party in the local elections.  I don't even consider myself a writer (much less a good writer) but you get these ideas in your head that just won't go away and, demand to be put down on paper - even the virtual type.

So I watched the results come in, I listened to the experts and reviewed the trends.  Here are my thoughts on what the Grand Old Party needs to do to moving forward.

First though a word on responses...and I'm sure I will get a few.  If you disagree with me that is fine.  Be angry even, just be intelligent and think through your argument.  I don't agree with everything the Democrats do and say...neither should you with your party.  If your rude, ignorant or otherwise abusive then your argument will never see the light of day.  My blog, my rules.

1)  Compromise is not a bad thing:  

Anyway you slice it, the deficit needs reduced.  It's not one parties fault or the other and both parties are guilty of ridiculousness amounts of spending.  While austerity is certainly not the answer, we need to cut programs all across the board.  Taxes will need to be raised...and guess what.  Most Americans feel that the rich should pay more.  In some European countries the rich have actually asked to pay more.

Cut the Military, cut SSI, cut funding to Big Bird, raise taxes.  Believe it or not that is going to make the country stronger.  Believe or not the country was founded on compromise.  The all or nothing mentality that, from my point of view, has affected the Republican party needs to change.  You can still keep your principles but your going to have to budge.   Otherwise we on the left will continue to paint you as "a party of NO" and as "a party for the rich."

Is that a battle you want to fight?

2)  You lost the Culture Wars....accept it and move on.

This ongoing clash about the moral backbone of America is pretty much over.   In the most recent election, several more states decided to legalize gay marriage.  A couple more states legalized pot.  Here in Florida amendment to ban state funding for abortion was defeated soundly.   Abortion has been legal since 1973, and two generations of woman have grown up with it as a accepted part of their life, although I understand the moral, religious and ethical arguments against is the law of the land and many woman consider it a "right."  I think you would be better served by changing outdated adoption laws for example as a way as an alternative to abortion.

The ethical, moral and religious argument against gay marriage is going to lose.  It is basically the same argument that was used to keep blacks and whites from marriage.  The same that kept Jews from marrying Catholics.   Guess what happened?  Guess what is going to happen?

I am not a pot smoker, but I will not lie and state that I have had a few brownies in my day.  Hey, I was touring with the Dead OK?  Federal law needs to change concerning pot.  Guess what, there is a chance to compromise.  Legalize it, tax it and create a revenue stream that may save you from raising taxes.  The drug war is simply costing to much and taking up to much of our resources.  This is one small way to make some revenue and reduce the cost of that never ending war.

Religion does not play that big of a role in American day to day life anymore.    When you have 30% of Evangelical Christians voting for Obama in Ohio you know you have a split in the "Christian Right" voting block.  Americans are moving towards the practice of a "individual spirituality" and away from of any organized religious group  The party has to open up to other voices other than "Christian."

3)  Tone down the hate.  Bring the radicals back to the center.

I have a friend that I have know for over 25 years.  I've considered ending my friendship with them because of the bile and hate that he spoke in this election.   It boggles the mind how a otherwise educated and caring individual can be so....miserable

It would be easy for me to blame Fox news.  It would be easy to blame Rush Limbaugh.  The truth of the matter is this.  Right now...the Republican party has managed to alienate Woman, Hispanics, Blacks (who are admittedly hugely Democratic to begin with), Muslims, and the Homosexuals.  Is it any wonder that Democrats have won the popular vote in four out of the last five elections?

This alienation goes deep into the heart of the Republican party.  To an outsider like me, watching the Republican party's treatment of Ron Paul spoke volumes.  Here was a guy that was creating excitement in young people.  Here was a guy that spoke his version of the truth consistently for his entire career.  He was seen as having integrity by huge numbers of people (including those of us on the left).  In ignoring his voice, in ignoring the voices of his young supporters you managed to drive them away.  I've not seen any exit polling for his supports so I don't know if they voted for Romney, or even voted.  I would not be surprised if they didn't vote at all.  Why would they vote for a party that left a bad taste in their mouths?

In using such a large brush to paint all Muslims as bomb toting terrorists you managed to make reasonable voices in that community a minority.  How many of us know Muslims?  Are friends with them?  Work with them?  Same issues with Homosexuals.  There is evidence that Hispanics would have voted Republican if the party would have pushed for immigration reform and not made them into scapegoats 

Right now your party stands at a cross roads.  What your party does in the next two years, the next four years will  be interesting for a political wonk like me to watch.  I don't think your ready to go the way of the Whigs I do think your party needs to do some serious soul searching.  What does it mean to be "conservative" or "Republican."

I am waiting to see.

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Voting - Yea, it matters.

Florida allows early voting and when I finally crawled out of bed on a Saturday morning, I thought I would go vote and not have to deal with the lines on Tuesday.  What met me would have been a two hour wait in line.  So I decided to do it on Tuesday (I'll probably have a longer wait then).

Democracy in action.

If you have not yet voted.  Then go vote on Tuesday.  Because your vote does count...and sometimes your vote can be counted over and over again.

Monday, October 29, 2012

Applications for my smart phone...

Recently I finally upgraded to a smart phone.  I did this for several reasons and frankly they were all bike related.  A simple GPS device on my phone could get me home if I got lost on back country roads, and could tuck easily into my jacket pocket with some attached ear buds.  Recently I downloaded Waze which seems like an interesting idea, "crowd sourcing" traffic information.  In other words, getting real time information on accidents, slow downs, police and other things that are along my programmed route.  Even providing different options on how to avoid something.  All the information is gathered by reports supplied by different Waze users.
(credit:  Waze)
The problem of course is how crowed the screen can get, and how you might be distracted by the information coming at you.   Nor is things like a slow down in traffic and accidents mentioned while you drive, although it did warn me of a car on the side of the road...when I was on top of it.  So if your not looking at the screen, your going to miss it.  Looking at the screen while riding the bike has some disadvantages of course.

I have already sung the praises of such programs as CRADAR and Guardian Angel and have downloaded applications that let me keep track of my maintenance.  What to do if I am in an accident (complete with a separate folder for photographs of said accident).  It even includes my doctor's name and emergency contacts. I'm not in a hurry to test these applications.

There is a large part of me that likes the idea of having all that info at my fingertips when needed.  There is even a program that will let me track my route on the bike for future downloads, sadly however that program seems unstable...being designed more for hiking and biking.  I could see using a similar program to map out my rides just in case I find something interesting.  I may try it again.   I recently learned of an application for my android phone called Trip Journal which I will have to try soon.  BreadCrumbz looks interesting as well.

An application available through Best Biking Roads which gives me access to available known routes, and living more or less in the center of the state of Florida I seem to have access to various routes, is pretty cool. However at a $9.00 cost to download it I'm not sure if it's worth it to me.

Then again the big question for will I actually use this stuff?  I have owned my Burgie for a little over a year and I can count the numbers of recreational rides I've had on it using my fingers.  Well I enjoy commuting on the bike daily, it was the reason I primary bought the bike for, I also know that the Burgie is built for riding.  That I enjoy exploring back roads and mysterious places.  That getting lost is not a bad thing.

First things first however, clutch replacement and a new front tire.

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Ah Maintenance your name is money!

Someone, somewhere in my comments section said that owning a bike is like owning a boat.  There is always going to be an issue somewhere.   How does that old joke go?  "What does BOAT stand for?"  "Bring on another thousand."

Lately I've been feeling that way about the bike.  I finally got my ugly ass in gear and had a major maintenance day on the bike.  I knew going in that this would would run me some money, after all I was finally installing the new CVT belt.  While that was open I figured I would get the final drive oil replaced, after all it had been over a year since that was done and it was time.  I had to get the engine oil changed out, the brake fluid levels checked, the front tire would also need to be replaced soon.  In other words, lots of little things that add up.

My front tire showing wear and crowning
Other than these basic maintenance needs the Burgie has been running fine.  Better than I could have hoped for really.  She needed a wash too but that could wait.

Normally I would take her to the place where I bought her, Eco Green Machine, but I had issues with them ever since the rear brake issues.  When I requested they open up the CVT casing and give me an idea on the belt life during an oil change they somehow managed to take all day and still could not get the casing off.  Even though they had a air hammer and I was there when the casing was attached with a air hammer.  I am not going to use any negative words here but lets say that I could no longer trust there work.  Nor would I feel comfortable in recommending them to another.

So I took my bike to a mechanic's shop here in town.  Frankly I could not be happier with there work so far, even though it is a little pricier you get what you pay for.  My whole bill was $180 for the work done and it only took them three or four hours for everything.   Sadly though they uncovered a problem.

This picture shows some uneven wear and tear on the clutch assembly.  If you look closely you can see where it actually created some grooves into the metal.  According to the mechanic it may have been sold to me that way or may have been assembled wrong.

Additional photo of the clutch assembly.  Notice the dark lines and groves.

Chipped and broken pieces here.  Somehow the rollers and sliders however were still in good shape.

I'm in the market for a clutch.  The price that they quoted me was for the Dr Pully HIT clutch, which is a quality part but frankly its an older bike and I am thinking that the Dr Pully clutch may, in fact, outlive the bike.  So it's tempting.

I'm in the process of getting some info now.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Rally Season

Although I lived in North Carolina for years, the seasons here in Florida are different.   We still have four seasons of course.  Summer, "Snowbird Season" or Winter, "Love Bug Season" when we are surround by the mutant bugs from hell, and finally the Hurricane season.  Summer which by definition may be several 90 degree days in a row can occur at any time and can last three to nine months.

So a lot of "summertime" activities generally happen in the months traditionally occupied by "winter."  There is a logic to it of course, it's nicer to be outside when the temperatures are cooler and frankly; your taking advantage of the snowbirds as well.  Many of whom are looking for something to do.

Thus our state fair is in the middle of February for example.  With the lower temperatures come various biker and scooter rally's as well.  In a effort to get the word out I'm going to spend a few minutes talking about three upcoming rally's that I know of.  Why you should go to at least one of them, and finally introduce to a neat little smartphone app I found that might save your life.

 Sun, Sand and Scooters is the second annual rally held in St. Petersburg and is being held from November 9th through the 12th.  St. Pete is a very friendly city for scooters and motorcycles and is world famous for it's beaches.  What is really nice about this rally is that one of the sponsors is the Magnuson Hotel and Marina.  So you can literally stay at one of the nicer resorts, go riding, go swimming, go riding, sleep in comfort.  I may be mistaken but I think registration ends soon.
Sadly I did not get to attend this rally last year because I heard about it to late.  I do hope to get the time of of work for this year.

The second annual Snowbird Classic is November 16th through the 18th.  Last year I understand some 90 scooterists showed up for the event and this year promises to be even bigger.  Sadly, do to my job (I work for a GPS company so I am pretty much "on call"), I was not able to attend last year's rally.  However I am providing a special door prize for this rally (more on that below).  So I plan on taking at least two of those three days off and attending this rally come hell or high water.   Orlando is also home to various Florida institutions that are to numerous to name here.   So when not on your ride you can certainly take advantage of some magic.

Recently I learned about the Cocoa Beach Scooter Rally, which will be held from February 22nd through the 24th.  This appears to be less of a riding event and more of a social event, due to the fact that it attracts many British and other Europeans to the event.  However that means that you will have the chance to chat with people that clearly have a more defined "scooter" culture than we have in the states.  There is also a Tiki theme meaning that you will finally be able to wear that coconut bra that is taking up room in the back of your dresser drawer.  Also being this close to the Kennedy Space center it's a shame not to visit.

As some of you may know, in addition to my work in GPS, I am also self employed.  Recently my company became associated with Angelic Imports which is the exclusive importer for the wonderful Goufrais Chocolates from Germany.   I am giving the readers (all 10 or 15 of you) the chance to have this product at a discount, but only if you order through me.  If you desire to go through the website please be sure to mention Trade Specials LLC  although I can not offer you the discount then.   This would make a great door prize at rally's and with Christmas coming up....well need I say more?

OK, that was the plug.

Roughly two or three weeks ago I caved in and bought myself a smart phone.   I have been a fan of CRADAR since I first heard about it and frankly, it was one of the reasons I upgraded to a smartphone.  Riding at night and having deer running around, it just made sense to me to have something contact someone in case of an accident or injury.
Recently I found another application for a smart phone that I wanted to bring to your attention   This is also a free application and has a similar function to CRADAR.    Guardian Angel is an application designed to save your life.  If you have earphones, and who doesn't, you attach them to the phone and then to the bike; or wear them.  In case of a crash the earphones will most likely become unattached  the phone calls your contacts and uses the phone's GPS function to give your location.

Safe riding and I hope to see you at a rally!

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Falling for Pennsylvania all over again.

I was born and raised in suburban Pittsburgh.  I grew up there and in a lot of ways it will always be home.  It is over 1600 miles from me now and a lifetime away.

As I drove the back country roads of Butler and Mercer county, where my parents are "snowbirds" and my girlfriend's family still lives year round,  I looked for bikes.  Only one Burgie sighting the entire time there.  Other bikes seemed scarce, probably due to the rain and the promise of cold weather - the temperature was in the low 60's and high 50's while I was there; typical for the time of year.  Most but the most serious motorcyclists had put away their rides for another year and the promise of spring.

In another week or two and the leaves would be in full glorious color and as I drove down some of the twisty roads that make up this part of Pennsylvania all I could think was how much I wished I brought the bike.   There is always next year of course.

A simple trip to nearby McConnells Mill State Park brought back memories of college and what first sparked my interest in hiking and other "outdoor activities."

At times I do miss home and all the memories and friends that I had there.  Florida, despite it's own natural beauty and interesting people is just a different place.  In some ways my home here in West Central Florida is home but my heart belongs somewhere else.   Sometimes I think it belongs in Charlotte, NC.  Other times in Charleston, SC.  Two very different cities where I have fond and loving memories.  You never know where the road takes you, and the heart has it's own GPS.

It just calls to you don't it.

Natural springs outside of Slippery Rock, PA

The New River Gorge Bridge in W Va

Sunday, September 30, 2012

A quick one

UPDATES - I just got back from vacation    I'm tired, my ass feels like it's still in motion but overall it was a wonderful time.  It's good to be home.

Bob - my neighbor and friend is still recovering and although its unlikely he will live by himself again, considering how I was saying goodbye to a friend in the last post (and how the family was going to remove life support on Friday) I see his recovery as nothing short of a small miracle.  He was actually smiling and laughing when I saw him late tonight.  Sadly he is still not able to walk or talk but at least he's making progress.  Thank you all however for your kind thoughts and well wishes.  Let's keep that positive energy flowing.

I have some images and thoughts in the back of my head that need to settle first, bags to unpack and laundry to do before this blog can be seriously updated.  Soon I promise.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

For Bob - a memorial.

Oct 22, 2012 - A sad day.

My good friend Bob died after a long battle.  He was surrounded by friends and family and passed quietly.  I  will miss my neighbor and friend. His daughter Bonnie is now part of our family.  I think he would have wanted that.  Enjoy tuning that old 52 Chevy my friend.

Bob on the Left, me on the right
Sept 19, 2012 - UPDATE!!!

Bob's condition, while still dire, is getting better.  He's moving about and showing some signs of recovery.  It's still not know if he will make a full recovery.  But it's better than no recovery at all.  Keep the prayers and good vibes coming Y'all!


I am saying goodbye to a good friend because I don't think I am going to get the chance. Well that is not true, on Thursday I will be saying my goodbyes.  On Friday morning I am leaving on vacation and will be out of town to October 1st.  My plans can not be changed.

Bob Bushart is my neighbor and friend and I've known him for about three years now.  He's a few years older than me and suffered from a variety of ailments and issues.  Still though, he was full of life and willing to do anything, try anything and help out where ever he could.  He and I told stories of misspent youth in bars and questionable nightclubs; playing a little game of who was telling the bigger lie.     He was a car guy and very well known in his home town of Rochester, NY and often told stories about how he rebuilt this or that.  I often tried to get him to help with the Burgman.  "Your blind and I'm an mechanical moron" I tell him.  "What possibly could go wrong?"  

A little over a week ago he went into the Hospital to clear a blockage.  Something happened, the doctors are not sure what, and my friend entered a coma.  He is not expected to recover and this Friday, they will be removing him from life support.  Due to circumstances we will not be here when they do that.  I would love to provide a shoulder for his loving daughter during that time.

If any good comes from this it's the knowledge that life really is for the living.  It really is a crazy, beautiful thing and I'm glad that I got to share a all to brief piece of my life with him.

Good bye Bob.   We will miss you buddy.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

September has always been a sad month

As far back as I can remember the month of September has always been a month of transition.  It meant shorter days and longer nights, cooler weather, the leaves losing their green wholesomeness and falling, falling down. 

It meant going back to school, sweaters and football games, kissing my girlfriend to "keep warm" and running through piles of leaves the colors of stained glass and hearing that satisifying crunch.

In the back of my mind however it also meant winter was waiting just around the corner.   Snow, endless nights, cold and ice.  I hated the winter.  I hated all that it stood for.  All during college and even going back to high school I made it perfectly clear that I was moving south.  Towards the warm weather, following the sun.  Winter was death.

After college I lived outside Charleston, SC briefly and then in Charlotte, NC for ten wonderful years. A decision to take a management position took me back to Pittsburgh, PA for another ten.  I would still be there, if the economy would have held up and things had gone as planned...but life has a tendency to go all wonky when you least expect it.  So I moved to Tampa, Florida and life has been wonderful since.  I loved living in Pennsylvania, expect for the last few years where, I am not joking here, we had 36 inches of snow.  After the third year of sub zero temperatures and miserable days behind a was time to go.

I've not been home to Pittsburgh for any length of time since.  At the end of the month I'm spending ten days there.  I will not have my bike but I'm still hoping that a few friends of mine will be willing to let me ride theirs.  Three years ago the idea of riding the back roads on a bike meant using a bicycle.  It's funny how things change.   I am unsure if I'll be able to ride, but I think my gear just might find it's way into the back of my car for the drive up.
It's funny that now I am looking forward to the cool, dry air of winter.

Winter here in the south allows me to sleep with open windows, eat dinner on my lanai and ride much more comfortably.  I normally throw a light sweat shirt on under my jacket and that is all I need.  I've an old pair of orange hunting gloves that I might wear at night, it's been as low as 32 degrees (0 C for my European friends).  For once September doesn't seem to be a last gasp of warmer days.   It seems like a new beginning.

Well at home I'll be visiting old friends, visiting the Riverhounds new stadium site, drinking some Iron City well sitting at the famed Primanti Bros. Restaurant in the strip.  It will be good to be home.

Maybe September isn't such a sad month after all.

Friday, September 7, 2012


I've been giving a lot of thought to how I look at things lately. I was driving somewhere the other day in our car, down a semi-twisty road I ride my bike down sometimes and thinking about how the view changed.  On the bike I start at the outside of the curve, leaning into the apex and then accelerate out of it...trusting physics.  My view of the road changes as I start on the outside and then move in.  On the outside of the lane I have a much better view of what is ahead of me, I make slight adjustments on the brakes and throttle as I go...I am engaged.  Driving the automatic transmission car I felt none of this.  My view of the road never changed as I flew through the curves.  I don't think many people realize that just by changing your position, moving a few feet in either direction gives you a different outlook, a different perspective.

As I sit here and right this a friend of ours lies in a hospital bed awaiting open heart surgery.  Another friend of mine, who I know only online, has a 19 year old daughter with a brain tumor in the hospital.  I sit here and complain about my job and worry about money.  Things that are really not important giving their circumstances.  Perspective matters.

I have also run a small business over the last few years.  I started it because of what happened to the economic several years ago and I needed to work, to make some sort of living.  Today I make about half of what my "normal" job brings in and have the chance to expand it by becoming a wholesaler of fine German Chocolates.  Their is also talk of adding a "food cart" to the business between my partners and I, to serve the needs of a local community college who recently had it's funding cut.  If we do this then suddenly the simple part time job that I do for extra scratch now looks more and more like a full time endeavor.  My perspective changes again.

When you look at the famed picture on the side what do you see first?  The vase or the faces?  All this information is being processed, filtered and your brain determines what is most important to you at that moment.   I thought about this a few nights ago, Susan and I didn't have a fight about my riding the bike and she knows it's important to me.  My little jaunts down unknown roads when I run a errand is my way of exploring, of getting to know the place I now call home.  She would rather I go to the store and come straight home.  My ride to work is my commute.  I take no joy in it...even though I do break up the ride sometimes by taking a different route if time allows.   To her it is "my riding time" and she sees no difference between it and my barreling down twisty roads over a weekend.

Just a moment ago I read that above paragraph to her...I was wrong.  It's not that she minds me going, it's that she doesn't know where I'm at.  If I wreck on a back country road, and am taken to a Hospital in Tampa she would not know about it.   Perspective matters.  Her view of my little rides now makes sense to me in a way it didn't.  We now see both the vase and the faces!

What does this have to do my motorcycle?  With riding in general?  Two things happened to me this week that dealt with perspective.  First was an incident involving me sitting at a stop light waiting for the light to change.  I got involved in a slight altercation.  I'm not going to go into the details of it, because frankly I don't wish to worry those that love me.  Lets just say that I drove in angry to work, so angry that at one time I seriously considered pulling off the road to relax a few minutes...because I was afraid I would take out my aggression on the bike and ride faster than normal, or cut off other motorists.  I had to remind myself that in Florida we have "conceal and carry laws" and "stand your ground" laws.  If the idiot in the cage that pissed me off was as stupid as his actions where...then who knows how stupid he was?   Or what other stupidity he was capable of.

The second was I pulled into a store to treat myself to a drink.  A young man was there, surrounded by a gaggle of young teen age girls (perhaps this grouping should be called a "giggle"?) which he was obviously responsible for.   His eyes light up seeing the Burgie, and after a few minutes talking about the usual questions (gas mileage, can it do highway speeds?) - Questions that all Burgie owners are asked at one time or another he said simply.  "I need to get me a real motorcycle."  he said, with a look of longing in his eyes.

I let the comment slide as he piled his daughters and their friends into the mini van, a look of tired resignation on his face.  After all, it's all a bout Perspective.