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Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Self-Sufficiency and other things

Even though Hurricane Issac never really threatened the west coast of Florida, it did effectively kill safe riding for a few days.  That being said it did affect our fellow riders in and around New Orleans.  If you wish to donate time or money to the relief effort I highly recommend Florida's Foundation and of course the American Red Cross.

As it so happened I had a few days off and I decided to use my time effectively and catch up on my reading,  my TV watching (I watch maybe 3 shows religiously and other wise would have the TV off) and a few other odds and ends that needed done.   I even managed to do some weeding in the garden, and get bit by a few fire ants in the process.    We even found time to take in a movie at the local cineplex and wash the bike.

In other words the hurricane did something for me that I was not expecting.  It slowed time down and gave me time to do things.

I've also been reminiscing a bit lately due to one of the books I've been reading; Eric Brende's Better Off - Flipping the switch on Technology.  I am all about trying to make my life simpler and ever since watching a 70's British sitcom titled Good Neighbors on my local PBS station, a wonderful little sitcom about a family that decides to go off the the middle of London.  Imagine raising pigs, chickens and goats in the middle of a city block!   I have been in love with the ideas of self sufficiency and later permaculture.

That in turn, lead me to my explorations in gardening, canning, cooking, Taoism and reducing my carbon footprint and environmentalism.  At various times in my life I've either been without a car or lived with just one car, preferring to take the bus or bike somewhere.  I've lived in areas where this was not really a problem for most of my life.  If there has been a problem with me accepting more of this type of life is that I'm lazy.  Weeding the garden takes time, canning can be a pain in the ass.  I've not always lived in areas that were conducive to that lifestyle either.  Plus I'm more a theory guy than a actual practitioner.  It's easier for me to run to the store and buy that bland tomato even though I've eaten the ones I've grown.  There is no argument about which tastes better.

If your not familiar with Brende's book, it basically deals with his 18 months living in a "minimalist" community, where all but the most basics of technology is shunned.   So he learns about craftsmanship, community and how time actually opens up when you take a slower route.  Time to spend with friends, family and learning new skills, all without the benefit of most modern technology.  In a way this applies to bikers, as I have made new friends and learned new skills...simply because I took a different route.

It's an interesting book, and full of  interesting idea about the roles technology plays in our lives.  In becoming a one car family, we have reduced our carbon footprint; and in theory saved money as well on things like gas, insurance and other "incidentals."  At the same time I find myself looking into the idea of getting a Smart Phone with GPS and other functions.  Something I really don't need but I could see using in the future.  That's the problem with always want more of it.  Which in turn complicate's your life...and my cell phone bill.  Which is the theme of Brende's book.

Looking for a new phone, learning how to replace the belt on my CVT, installing a rain barrel to catch rain run off to reduce my water consumption and water my organic garden.   Simple machines that become complex.  Simple easy ideas that people have forgotten.     What role does technology play in my life?  Why would I gladly give up TV but not the computer for example?

I guess I just have to find my balance.

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Looking back and looking forward. 1 year over and done.

I was going to let the one year anniversary of this blog pass unnoticed and quietly.  Then I thought I might project myself 10 years into the future where the Mayans were right...but how the end of the world was basically a bunch of Vegan Zombie's just wanting grains!  And how a time travel kit installed on the Burgie made it impossible to be fashionably late.

Thanks to
Instead I've been taking stock of all that's happened in the past year to me.  How suddenly and completely expectantly I've become a "rounder", or someone that rides their bike the entire year.  How I intended to eventually replace my car with my motorcycle...I just never expected it to be so soon.

How I have to do a "big job" on the bike - the replacement of the CVT belt (which I finally ordered and have in hand), and how confident I feel that I can do that, thanks to the friendly people at Burgman USA and some video's on You Tube (Thanks Mitch!)

I would also be lying if I didn't admit that lately all I have been feeling better about riding.  Over the last three days I've been able to do some recreational riding.  Just seeing where the left hand turn goes where I normally make a right, or what lies behind that blind curve up ahead.  Commuting back and forth on my bike is good and all but frankly I want to do more with it than just run to the store or to work.  Getting out, even if just for an hour on unexplored roads with the sun beating down in a clear blue sky has done wonders for my soul.

You would not think so...but passing by a farm that was burning something brought back memories of my parents fireplace when I was a young boy.  The wood smoke so thick in the air that I'm tempted to brush it aside like a gauze curtain.  These memories are triggered by smell and is something I don't think I would have experienced in the car.  I had not thought about these things in decades...and then suddenly I'm that young 6 year old boy shivering and wrapped in a towel that want to go back into the water as I catch a whiff of chlorine from a nearby pool.

Or how good some random drops of rain feel on the skin as I ride through the hot air.

All this is part of riding.  There are some unexpected little discoveries as well.  Like an old tattered flag still flying proudly from someone's home which speaks volumes about this political season.  Or a spot I've dubbed the "worlds loneliest train depot"  which is a single chair sitting near a railway bridge which seems so out of place but somehow belongs there.   A strange house that looks like a anthill/beehive in the middle of nowhere which has to be some sort of artists abode.  I stopped to take photos of all these things only to find my batteries were a trip back is in order.  If I can find them again, some things might only exist in that moment.

All of this comes as a revelation to me.  This reconnecting to the world, what started out as a way to save some cash has turned into something more...something new.  Reminding me that not everything has to be about work and there is always a life outside my door.  Something wonderful.  That philosophic rambling is for another time

I sit here in my house, protected from the first outlaying rain bands of Hurricane Issac that promise a couple days off the bike I count my blessings, drink my hot tea and smile.   Soon, I'll be back on the road soon and seeking new adventures.  Remembering to always check the batteries in the camera and keep my eyes and ears and heart open to possibilities 

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Storm Chasing

It was one of those days where I should have paid closer attention to the weather.

Burgie in the rain, such a sad site.
The weather here in Florida seems to follow a pattern.  I enjoy my day, soaking up the sunshine and doing some odd errands and odd jobs.   It's when I get ready to go to work...and the skies do open up and it doth rain upon me!

I drove in sans rain gear about two or three days ago since the sky's were light.  However the closer to work I got the darker and darker it got.  I realized that it was going to miss me, so I kept going...pulling into work and hiding the bike under the loading eves about 10 minutes before the rain hit.  "I was lucky" I thought.

Two things happened during the day that bothered me however.   The first was that someone moved the Burgie out of the dry area and into an area of standing water.  I know they did this for a UPS truck but no one bothered to get me?  Or even look for the owner?   Would this have happened to a Harley rider?  I think not!  Hell I would not of minded so much if they would have moved it back to it's original spot.

Plus what would have happened if they caused the bike to fall?  Damaged the forks?  I felt more than a little violated here, and frankly it made my desire for a motorcycle cover all that more meaningful.  Then I had to ride home after pulling on my rain gear.

The weather has been bad all week and I know that eventually I would have to ride home in a storm at night.    It's not something I've been looking forward to, I know that my vision would be lessened due to the darkness and I could imagine that the rain would not help any.  I started my steed up after carefully checking her over to make sure nothing was damaged as the first drops started to fall.   Mumbling, I pulled away into the night taking it easy at first allowing the tires to warm up and any excess water to dry off the brakes.

Traffic was unusually heavy for this time of night and somehow I got stuck behind a tractor trailer which not only moved slower than I would have liked and no matter how far I seemed to ride behind him kicked up a nice amount of water right into my path.  A sharp wind didn't help matters.

I finally got around the tractor trailer and a few miles down the road was blocked.  "An accident, got the whole side blocked.  Your going to have to detour."

Muttering again I took the detour, I know the road well and have often ridden it into work but I know it's full of deer.  Luck was on my side again as there were no deer to be seen.  Finally I made it home, about 10 minutes later than normal and well soaked.  My rain gear was probably one of the better investment's I've made as its kept me relativity dry.

The truth be told is that the ride was not as bad as I feared.  The downpour never came.  I rode in a steady but manageable light rain the whole way home.  I did wake up with a nasty cold the next day however.

Saturday, August 18, 2012

Just a brief note!

Seat's arrived.  Belt is ordered.  I may have someone lined up to help me wrench the bike.   Everything in the world would be good....

except for it's raining.  Very, very hard.

I can't wait.

I've done some riding since picking up Proficient Motorcycling  and have been trying to apply many of the technique's that are mentioned in the book  I realize that my basic licensing class I took so long ago applies nearly everything this book does.  With one glaring exception; using the front brake in curves.  I was taught to always roll off the throttle and apply just the brake.  To apply both seems strange to me and has taken a little getting used to.  Sadly most of the turns I ride are gentle sweepers and I've not had the chance yet to apply this technique to sharper turning back roads yet.

The other thing I find interesting is my perception that the author wants us to cover the front brake at all times?  Something I was doing before and was told it's a bad I made myself brake that habit.  Now am I supposed to do that?  Again I see the logic, but it just seems a little odd that I have recieved conflicting advice.

Such is life, such is riding.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Improvements.....Some I wanted to make, and others forced upon me.

One of the wonderful things about nature is it's ability to evolve.  Life is anything but static, it's a jumbled mess of parts each somehow fitting together to make a whole.   It's a 1001 piece jigsaw puzzle where your trying to match the picture on the box but your not quite sure if all the pieces are there or even if it's the right box.

So we try...and we try....but we can't get no satisfaction.   OK, let's put the Devo away for a moment.  Truth be told I am rather happy in my life.  However that happiness may be short lived.   It's time to do maintenance on and make some general improvements to the bike.  Some of this needed done and I simply could not put it off any longer, other things I have been wanting to do but it was always low priority.  Now that the bike is my main means of transport...I did some things.

First I ordered a beaded seat from Cycle Crafts.  I have a 35 mile one way commute most days and that generally does not bother me...then some days I can't seem to find a comfortable location to park my skinny a** and that bother's me.   I'm hoping that getting some air flow in those affected areas will help with my comfort.  If not then I am only out $30 which is not really that bad.  I expect to have that in within the next day or two.  Frankly I'm not to sure about the hooks and can't help but wonder if the seat will slide on me.  I guess we will see.

Somehow something happened to one of my grips, I noticed that it was starting to slip off the bike a few days ago and that the handlebar weight holding it on was coming loose.   I tried to tighten it with a screwdriver and found that didn't work  So I put off fixing it, put off fixing it, put off fixing and then.....
I drove home last night and noticed this in the morning.  Yep, completely gone. I'm not sure where, or even if, I could get a replacement but can't imagine it being that difficult (famous last words I'm sure).  This however does give me an excuse to replace the grips.  **update - I found the handlebar weights at a local cycle shop for under $12.  They went on easy and are nice and tight now.  

I've been wanting to get some Grip Puppies for a while but haven't really bothered.  Now it seems I might be in the market for some new grips as well.  I might just get some grip glue from the good people over at Scooter West.  Speaking of Scoot West I finally got me a CVT belt.  I paid about $40 less through them than the best cost elsewhere although I still have no way to put it on my bike.   At 20K + the belt has got to be wearing thin.  I'm hoping to find a mentor to help with this project.

I may also have to redo the brakes soon as well.

Here's hoping that someone in the area is willing to help me out.  I would be glad to buy them a beer, lunch, or even a lobster dinner to assist me.  It's not that I lack the knowledge, I've watched the video's and read the instructions and feel pretty grounded in the basics of bike repair.  I just lack the tools and experience; nor am I mechanically inclined despite the fact I've a background in engineering.  Moving forward however if the bike is going to be my main ride then I need to know at least the basics.  I need to understand what is happening if I hear BANG!   CLANK!

Considering how I ride some very empty roads in the middle of the night...this is a survival strategy. 

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Random roads my thoughts go down.

It's been raining pretty steadily here in West Central Florida.  Every day it seems I need to pull out the rain gear on my way to work, it's not been a problem for the most part although I do need a new pair of waterproof riding gloves.  I have three pairs, one that actually slips over the jacket sleeve and should protect me from getting wet. However I don't care for them, they don't feel right on my hands and seem "a bit much."  The other pair I wear is lighter and more form fitting but is not as padded or protective as I would like.    Lately it seems that water is wick-ing it's way up my sleeves and coming to rest in my elbows and sleeves.  No matter how tight I think I have my zippers zipped.   A minor issue but an issue none the less.  The third pair I have only worn a few times and they are actually gloves designed for hunting in the middle of winter and are not really motorcycle gloves at all.

The gloves I have now are just not working for me.
So I need to find new gloves.

I am actually rather proud of myself.  For the last week or so I've been riding the bike to work and for errands daily.  Up until the other night that is.  I reviewed and saw a 50% chance of riding home in a storm.  At 1 AM in the morning on a super slab I wondered if that was a good idea.  I am trusting myself more in the rain, feeling a little more comfortable in less than ideal situations.  Still though, riding home in the dark is a challenge in it's own right.   Riding home in the dark in rain pushed that risk factor up more than I was willing to take.

Random thought # 2:  I've been giving some thought to upgrading my phone.  I am due for an upgrade and my company has a program in place where I can actually get a "Smart phone" for free.  While I don't really NEED a new phone the idea of having some apps for GPS and Crash Detection appeal to me.  Considering how my Burgie is now my main ride.   A cheap Bluetooth device might even allow me access to music and make phone calls while riding the bike, although I don't feel like that's a good idea at this stage in my riding career.  So my question to you gentle reader is do you use your Smart Phone in a similar manner?  Does it make sense to do so.  What type of mount do you use for it?

Some more random stuff:  I picked up a copy of David L. Hough's Proficient Motorcycling the other day.  So far I've only read about  70 pages of it and already learned one or two things.  For me at least owning any sort of two wheeled transport is about "smoothness."  I'm not out to beat land speed records, or jump over buses.   I want to learn how to ride safely and effortlessly.  I'm not sure if this book would help, and after only 70 pages I can't review it.  Maybe later.

Finally, I'm approaching 20K on my bike and will need to change out my drive belt soon.  My lack of mechanical skills is really starting to bother me, so much so that I see little ads on the sides of various sites I read to "learn how to be a motorcycle mechanic" I am very tempted to call them and learn more.  I have always been more of a theory guy than an actually nuts and bolts guy.  Now if I could only find a mentor around here that is willing to teach me how to do even the simplest of fixes I would be happy.

Finally - part two:  My Green Swamp ride is still planned.  I just need some time to do it.  Soon my friends.  Soon.

Friday, August 3, 2012

Wants and Needs

Turn on tears in 3...2...1
I've been thinking about Wants and Needs lately.  For example, I knew that eventually we were going to have to get a new car.  My old Elantra was getting to the point where it would start nickle and dime-ing me to death.  My girlfriend's Jeep, while still in good shape, had some issues.  Nothing that was major and we could have used her Jeep for the foreseeable future without problem.  The only drawback was her MPG was low, at only 15 - 18 miles per gallon, and with gas being what it is having that as our only car would have been costly.  Due to the delivery routes that I run for some extra scratch.  Well that and the Jeep went through tires like crazy.

Still though, we did not NEED a new car.  That's not buyers remorse.   So far I'm very happy with the Great Pumpkin.  However being a one car family puts me into an interesting position of trying to determine what I actually need and want to take on my daily commute.  For example, I need to take a change of clothes with me now in case of rain, and the weather in Florida is even more unpredictable lately than it normally is.  The storage in the Burgie is wonderful, but now I have extra clothes, my helmet, my jacket, a towel, rain gear and other things to worry about.  Well I did buy some good rain gear, their have been times it has failed me.

A example cover
After I arrive at work I can park under a overhang which protects the bike from the weather but I've still considered getting some sort of motorcycle cover for it, after all it's still exposed to the elements even under my car port.

But then again, where would I put that?  Which brings up the idea of a top case.  Advantage, more space to put crap...and if I got one that hooked into the electrical system a little more light during the hours I ride home from work.  Disadvantage:  Do I really need more crap?  I'm trying to simplify my life!  I don't really need that at this stage of my life, but I could see myself wanting one in the near future.  I want to replace the sliders.  I want a new Givi Windshield for the bike as well.  But again, wants vs. needs.  

What I am going to need is a new belt for the CVT soon.  My belt has roughly 20K on it and to the best of my knowledge is the original belt.  Suzuki suggests you change the belt at 12 - 15K.  The good folks over at the Burgman forums suggest 20K is more reasonable.  My front tire seems a little funky as well, so I will be replacing that soon as well.  Now...where do I find the money for all this!