Search This Blog

Sunday, May 26, 2013

The destination is worth the journey

A haunted house on a haunted road.
Susan, my long time suffering girlfriend, and I had a little disagreement the other day.  I took off for a few hours Saturday morning to ride to a few cemeteries and historical markers as part of the Equinox to Equinox rally.  She had hoped to spend some time with me.  We both have a love of history and in particular, old cemeteries.  It's interesting to walk along the stones and see how they reflect the lives of the people at the times.  For example, in Grove City, Pennsylvania,  for a brief period in the early 1800's a woman's name would not even appear on the tombstone.  All it would say was "Mother of" or "Husband of".  It is truly amazing how far woman of come in  100 years.  It's amazing how far they still have to go.  It's very interesting when you consider that other cemeteries of that same time period don't seem to reflect this particular belief.

As of late, I've been riding out to, and actively seeking, old cemeteries.  The problem is that a lot of these are private cemeteries on old roads.  More on that in a bit.

A locked gates prevents entry into the cemetery
 So we reached an agreement, we are going to start to go 2-up, because she wants to share this part of the adventure.  She has been the passenger on other people's bikes, she's actually logged more miles sitting behind someone than I have riding.  While I certainly want her to experience some of the beautiful things that I've seen on my rides...I'm also going to hate myself if something goes wrong.  She may trust me, I don't trust myself.

Riding has also became part of who I am.  It's a escape for me from the "real world".  Something that I'm not sure I want to share with Susan.  Then again when you make a new friend, as in the photo below, you want to share that experience with the one closest to you.

That's the beauty of riding, the beauty of my participation in the E2E rally.  It's gotten me out on the bike, taken me to places that I may not have gone or explored.  Showed me things, even where I live, that I would not have seen other wise.  While I was always willing to explore "around the next bend' the rally has taken me "over the hill and around that bend."  No wonder my lovely Susan wants to see what excites me so!
So the question is, for me...what's next.  Slow and steady at first around the neighborhood.  Slowly move into the side streets.  Being the worry-wort that I am I will panic if she sneezes on back.  I've no doubt we will go down at low speeds at least once.   I worry.  So to the You Tube videos and to the various forums asking for advice and help.  It may be easier to just buy a trike.  Or convince her to get her own scooter!  We will have to get her proper gear in any case.   I have a spare helmet, but she will need a jacket.    ATTGATT is no longer in question if she rides with me.

Speaking of challenges.  I'm rather happy with myself.  Many of the 100 year old cemeteries that I've been finding were originally family owned, although they are of historical importance and therefore listed on various sources.  I've had to go down some dirt roads to a few.  A few cemeteries are even supposedly haunted.  Sadly many of these have been damaged by idiots "having fun."  Kimmie has handled these roads exceptionally well, much better than I would have expected.  It's also hard for me to understand how in this day and age, that a good sized town can still have unpaved roads.  I've been impressed with my own skill, avoiding some major holes and being able to handle the bike on less than ideal roads.

Maybe this 2-up thing is not that scary after all.
Another semi-private final resting place hidden away

A barely used road leading off to parts unknown

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Battle lines - the power of the negative.

**UPDATE**  I recently learned that the manager I was dealing with previously at this company had been arrested.  His crime?  Altering VIN numbers on vehicles.  While this happened in 2007 it makes me wonder why he would be hired by a "reputable" dealer with that history.  As well as having access to credit information?  Just another nail in the coffin as far as I'm concerned.  01/05/2014**

  I have nothing to say about riding these last few days.  I've commuted back and forth to work a few times, I rode out to a old cemetery and had to take the scooter off road a bit to get the photo I wanted.  I have a small problem with my oil pan - I had the oil changed recently and it appears the drain plug nut somehow got stripped.  I tightened the nut myself but the leak continues.

All of these things are minor.   The biggest issue, the biggest problem I would have would be with West Coast Powersports, where I bought Kimmie.  My lovely girlfriend insisted that I buy the extended warranty on her.  I have to be honest, I thought it was, and still is, a waste of money.  However the previous dealership that sold me the Burgie did so knowing that the variator was bad, that it would of ran me about a grand to fix.

Because of this experience, and another bad experience we had in Florida buying a used jeep, we decided to get the warranty.  I've nearly tripled the miles that were originally on Kimmie without issue.  She actually seems to enjoy the ride as much as I do.

My issue with West Coast Powersports is this.  The company failed to process the extended warranty correctly, despite other payments going through correctly on my debit card (helmet, etc). The company failed to contact me for over 3 months in this regard. The bill, I was told by West Coast at the time, would go to collections. My bank has no record of them even attempting to collect these funds till the middle of May.

Andy, the general manager, failed to listen to me in this regard repeating that they had numerous failures trying to collect. He later admitted that the company did not have the correct authorization information. After I requested that he take one payment out and that I would pay off the balance with a money order within the week. He took two payments resulting in my account being frozen (My bank knows my history and personality. They assumed there was a problem when 2 payments came in a combined total of over $350 and froze the account as a  fraud protection measure). He then refused to release the hold. My girlfriend, whose name also appears on the account, called him only to be insulted by him. 

Not only is this extremely unprofessional but very upsetting to me. I have had nothing but warm fuzzy feelings for that dealership till this moment. I own my business and have been in the process of repairing my credit. If a payment due to me is not received in 30 days, I'm on the phone figuring out what went on. Now I will admit I was not keeping a close eye on my personal account as I do my business accounts, otherwise I would have realized there was an issue.   

Jeff, the general manager, did finally contact me after I used the only tools that are available to the consumer.  I reported him to groups like, the better business bureau, comments on the various motorcycle and scooter forums I belong to.  Frankly I hate to turn negative.  I hated to do this.  But the consumer has very few weapons available to him any more.

Jeff did state, and I intend to request this be notarized on official company letterhead to protect myself, that the bill in question would not be sent to collections.  On my end I plan to plan to pay it in full within the next few days.  I still have not received a copy of the warranty as well.  

After my dealings with Florida dealerships - only Jim Brown Chevy, where we have bought the Great Pumpkin, deserves praise - I am weary of any dealership now.  I don't believe I will be doing any business in the future with West Coast powersports.  Unless I have something under warranty that is.  

At this point I'm not sure if I will be dealing with any Florida dealership in the future.
In the end it's a situation that could have been avoid.  Something that should have been avoid.  I was acting in good faith and do not like being treated like I am some doddering old fool.  They don't like to have their name dragged through the mud.  If Andy would have listened to me in the beginning this how ugly situation could have been avoided.   

This issue appears to be resolved now.  I'm still not completely satisfied sadly.  I'm not sure if I could be at this stage of the game. 

Saturday, May 11, 2013

That every changing way....

I live an hour north of Tampa, Florida.  I never expected to be here, I never really gave much thought to living in Florida.  I like the area, the state...southern living suites me.  Except for the killer humidity.  This past Saturday I rode down to city as part of the Equinox rally.  I had planned on scoring at least 200 points and adding to my total.

Raymond James - Home of the Bucs
So I prepped for the trip wisely.  I would need water and lots of it, as the temperature would be in the mid 80's but the humidity would make it feel like it was in the high 80's, low 90's.  (high 20C to low 30's C).  I had filled my gas tank earlier and had the good people at Affordable Motorsports gave her a once over and an oil change.   I had also, on a whim, bought a new farkle - a crampbuster cruise assist - and wanted to give it a good try out.  This run would would do exactly that.  

Riding in cold weather is a challenge of course, but is solved by layering.  Hot weather is all about hydration.    So I packed a cooler with semi frozen water and off I went.  I was gone most of the day, only managed to do a little over 100 miles and fell 3 points short of my ultimate goal of 200.   I also managed to get caught out in the rain.  I missed a few things that I wanted to get due to circumstances beyond my control.  I also wanted to go eat lunch at the famed local eatery, the Taco Bus but as the day went on the heat and humidity continued to climb.  By noon I had it.

Kimmie met up with a friend.
I noticed that I had stopped sweating, never a good sign and had a slight headache.  These were sure signs the heat was getting to me.  Time to pullover, eat and drink some good food at a local restaurant   I would have preferred the Taco Bus, but Mr Empanada was right here.  I should have went with my first choice, the food was filling but less than satisfying   I sat for about three-quarters of an hour in the air conditioning, drinking water and cooling down.  I had some choices to make.

I had managed to score lots of points so far as part of the Equinox to Equinox rally; hitting most of the places I wanted to go and finding some odds and ends on the way.  I figured I was close to my goal of 200 and a quick look at the sky showed darkening skies.  Suddenly I was torn about what to do.  Did I continue down into town?  I was tempted to head over to historic Ybor City (pronounced ee'bor) and pick up at least 50 more points.  Down the main drag into Tampa proper all the way to the Air Force base picking up some odd points here and there?

Points like the giant peanut I passed earlier?  Which was a serendipitous find  Should I head home, after all the heat had me in it's grasp before?  Did I want to battle heavier then expected traffic for a online rally I really had no chance of winning?

No, I didn't.

So I turned it around, heading for home.  The sky didn't look that bad.  Then it started.  Light at first then it started to plink, plonk  plink off my helmet in a every increasing rhythm.  I pulled over, grabbing yet another picture, and slipped on my rain gear.  Just in time as the skies opened up in earnest shortly after that.  The good news was the humidity and temperature dropped drastically.  The bad news is that the rain kept up, varying in intensity but confirming that I made the right choice to turn back.  I would rather ride roads I know in the rain than roads I don't.

In the end however I was rather disappointed in the day and the ride.  Kimmie was great.  My new cruise assist required a little bit of adjustment but once I got it right I promptly forgot about it.  That is the best recommendation I can give.  I was disappointed that I would have to go back.  Deal with the heat and humidity and traffic some other day...all because I wanted to finish in the top 25.  All because I had a city to explore on a bike.

Thursday, May 9, 2013

The further adventures of Crash Bandicoot and his robot dog Flea-Flea

Okay, lets put the silliness aside for a moment.  This is a serious post after all.

"For my part, I travel not to go anywhere, but to go.  I travel for travel's sake.  The great affair is to move." - Robert Louis Stevenson.

I ride nearly every day.  I ride come rain or shine.  Heat or cold, day and night.  Sadly however I don't feel like I get much time to ride just for the joy of riding.  Most of the 6,500 miles I've placed on my scooter since buying it have been commuter or "work" miles, where I due a quick delivery on the bike to some out of the way location.  Even that does not happen very often, so normally it's just the boring old commute that puts the miles on.

Due to my work schedule or other commitments; group rides are "difficult" at best.  When the opportunity to take part in the Equinox to Equinox rally came about I could not resist entering.  I did so on a lark and quickly racked up some points simply by already knowing where some historical markers and over-sized statues were from previous meanderings.

Fuzzy Galore was nice enough to talk about her research that she did and I used a few of her links in my research.  What I found was that Florida is a much more interesting piece of land than I thought (really, haunted dolls?).  For example, one of the things that surprised me is that there is a historical marker, buried in the weeds next to a gas station.  I get gas at this station now and again, and would have never noticed the marker.  It's simple in it's eloquence and tells one of those interesting, but forgotten stories about how Florida - no, America - was built. Sadly there is a saying in Florida:  "When developer money talks, history walks."

Or things like the World's smallest police station.  Interesting to be sure but not worth the 5 hour plus ride for me to only get two points out of it?  Would I have ever known that less than 7 miles from my home is one of the few covered bridges in Florida?

Sometimes locked into a car we forgot about all the real world beauty that is just the other side of the window.  Sometimes on a bike we are concentrating so much on keeping an eye on the road, the traffic, the weather...that we let pass things by.  Oh, it certainly harder to do on a bike...but it does happen.  

I learned much about Florida that I didn't know, including the fact that the "Fountain of Youth" was a creation of European settlers that came after Juan Ponce de Leon.  They could not understand how the local Indian's live two to three times longer than Europeans (a combination of diet and lack of some disease's).  So it had to be "something in the water."  Sadly this was not to last.  Nor did I know that the Seminole tribe was more a combination of Creek Indians and runaway slaves then a distinct group.  

I learned all this because I got out on Kimmie and road to places unknown.  Seeing things and actually stopping to read the road side historical markers that I am taking pictures off.  For example, near my job is an flea market and they have some old military equipment from World War Two and the Korean Conflict, including an old MASH tent.  I stopped, and lo and behold, you could actually walk into the tent.   What surprised me was that the tent was actually fully equipped with the medical devices of that era.  That alone is worth the stop and frankly; if it wasn't for the rally, I would have never have stopped.  Just thinking that it was an old tent with a sign placed in front of it.

This Saturday I have a "big day" planned as I intend to run into Tampa itself, about an hour south of me, and gather up over 200 points.  That's if I manage to hit all the various cemeteries  stadiums, over sized statues and other odds and ends that I know of in the city.  This will also give me a chance to try out a new Farkle (but more on that later).

So a big "Thank You" goes out to the guys over at the Pace Podcast for coming up with the idea.  The whole idea was to get out and ride...and I got to broaden my mind too.  

"We live in a wonderful world that is full of beauty, charm and adventure. There is no end to the adventures we can have if only we seek them with our eyes open.” – Jawaharial Nehru

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Just video from a simple (insane) ride - no that's not me (to damn scary for moi).

Normally I don't like to watch video's of other people's rides.  I, for one, would rather ride than watch.  Sometimes however you just come across something so beautiful and crazy that you want to share it with the world.   This is one of those videos.

The world is truly a remarkable place.

Friday, May 3, 2013

Mental States

Cartoon reading "The Journey was never intended to be a straight line."
For what ever reason these past few days I've been thinking about alternative futures.  What I mean is what might have happened if I married my high school sweetheart (divorced and paying for 3 college educations). What might have been if I didn't leave Charlotte, NC (probably would still be working as a engineering technician and married to an ex-stripper).  What might have happened if I would have stayed in Pittsburgh and not lost two great jobs in a row (PNC Bank and then the IRS).  What would have happened if I never met Susan (jail or a mental institution possibly?) .

The choices I made were the right ones for me at the time.  They brought me here to Florida where I own my own home (paid in full), am more or less debt free and finally believe that I got it right.  In addition to my work with 3M I own my own company and have additional income coming in from other sources.

I'm happy.

It's with those choices in mind that I find myself wondering about choices I need to make concerning more practical matters..  It's technically still spring but here in West Central Florida the temperatures are already climbing into the mid 80's (high 20's to low 30's C).  The humidity is starting to climb as well and that means it's the dance between safety and comfort begins again.  The rain is coming as well.

Yep, seen this.
All that Florida law requires for safety is eye protection.  That is not clearly defined to my knowledge.  Does that mean just a pair of sunglasses?  Anyhow what cop would pull you over for not having eye protection?  Well, I would but then I'm a dick too.

I've been going out in sneakers and without my jacket.  Wearing a helmet for me is - pardon the pun - a no brainer.  I know what can happen to the brain and do not want to go there.  I have nothing to offer but my mind in most cases.  Intellectually I know that ATGATT is the only way to go and as such I've been looking for a light mesh jacket that I can afford.  I've found two that I really like, but just haven't bought them yet.   It's stupid and silly of me and I know that ever day I'm out without my heavy "winter" jacket on is taking a risk.  The only reason I've not purchased either yet (and they are both under $100 US) is that I also know how fast things can fall apart.  I've been to the top of the mountain, it's a quick roll downhill.  That extra $100 in the bank is part of that safety net.

I can't help but wonder if I'm a little more careful when riding not in full gear?  If my accident in December taught me anything is that things change instantly and that without my gear, it would have been a lot worse.  So it's a battle between the safe and logical vs the cheap and miserly.

I've noticed something else when I am in full ATGATT mode.  I feel safer.  I know that I'm not.  It's as if their really is a suit of amour about me.  All I'm lacking is the lance.
Does that false sense of security make me take chances?  I have gotten in the habit of always reminding myself to check things, to watch my speed.  To be safe.

To pay attention to my mental state.