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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.