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Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Year end wrap up

It's becoming a little tradition here that I look back over the past year and review some of the highlights and the low moments.

First the highlights of 2014:


Well there was

How about?   No, not that either.

I did manage to go home in April to my beloved City of Bridges but even that was a bittersweet time for me, as I realized just how much things change.

In all honestly the year was not that bad.  Sue and I did get to go to the Pumpkin Festival which ended up being one of the better memories of the year for us.

I made some new friends thanks to a slow ride, but sadly plans to ride with them again have fallen through, hopefully in the new year I'll be able to.  I'm sure I'll be able to.

Overall though the past year just seems to be wash.  I learned some lessons and had some success, at the same time the failures and mistakes I made cost me.  I'm spending the night inside, cleaning up and doing laundry.  It feels right in a way, to end the year by organizing and tidying up.  

The end of the year mileage on Kimmy was 21,736 miles (34,981 KM).  So in twelve months I only managed 6,534 miles (10,515 KM).  I know that is more miles than a lot of riders put on in year.  Still though it's about half of what I normally do.  Most of it was just commuting as well.

Well it's a new year, new challenges and adventures await.  I'm not promising anything, but I think the year is full of promise.

Happy New Year my friends.  May it be a safe one.

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Happy Holidays and an update....

First Off....Happy Holiday's from the Wilson household.  We wish you and yours a safe and happy New Year

Now on with this weeks exciting adventure:

I thought Kimmie was dead.  She had been sitting for two weeks or so, absolutely not turning over until I had to move some boxes into the nearby shed, so I had to move the bike.  Guess who turned over.

I took her out Saturday afternoon, it was a beautiful day in the low 70's (20's C), and she run fine.  The only issue I had is a persistent hacking cough which I was afraid I would aggravate if I rode to long, to far.  So I put a little under 50 miles on her and called it a day.  Sunday it rained all day, so I didn't do any riding at all.

The new battery arrived late Saturday afternoon but due to other commitments it seemed unlikely that I would be able to install it till after the Christmas holiday. Not that I expected to get that much riding in between now and the end of the year.  Partially due to weather, for example we were expecting a 90% chance of rain as I sit and type this.  Partially due to whatever illness I had still lingered in my system.

Still though I was looking forward to getting the battery installed and moving down the road.  2014 generally speaking was a long and hard year for me.  The new battery, a new heart for Kimmie represented new opportunity...and a new mechanical skill to put under my proverbial tool belt.  The next job will most likely be the CVT belt.

I did decide however to try and ride her as much as I could between now and the new year.  I'm not sure how many miles I put on her in 2014, all I do know is that they were not enough.  I will never understand how someone can let a bike sit, and this year it seemed that Kimmie did a lot of sitting.

So yes, I'm looking forward to next year.  I'm looking forward to putting a few more thousands of miles on Kimmie.  I'm looking for what ever comes our way.  :P

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

and just like that....the riding year ends.

Wrapped up and put away.
It was nothing serious.  No crash. No accident.  No fires, earthquakes or plagues of locusts.

It was something I had sensed for some time.  It started when I put my battery on a tender back on Saturday, August 9, 2014.   My battery died.  There is still enough power to turn it over, to make the lights glow...but not enough to have Kimmie roar to life in a way I've become familiar.

A few nights earlier I rode to work on the highway, something I don't like to do, because I was running late...I was late anyway.  A wreck blocked two lanes of the three lane highway and some idiot prevented me from skittering down the shoulder.  Normally I would not do such a thing or even consider it, but I was running late.

So here I am, sitting in traffic...and I stall.  I start, stall, start, stall.  Eventually I get the bike into an open enough area to maintain a speed about 2000 on the tachometer and it holds steady.  I get to work an hour late.  That night, she starts up and away I go.

A few nights where the temperatures fall into the freezing range is all it takes.  She tries, really tries but the heart, the battery, is just not up to the task anymore.  

Then comes a very bad week or two.  Two hospital visits (one involving the lovely Sue which turned out to be a minor issue).  A bout of the flu.  A temporary change for two weeks of my work location to an area of town that frankly I did not feel safe driving my car in, especially after nearly being hit twice in said car.  

No riding probably till close to the end of the year.  Maybe not till the new year.

Sure it be easy to run out and buy a battery or even have the local mechanics pop it in. I considered it, but frankly it was what I needed to push Sue's Christmas gifts into the realm of free shipping on Amazon.  By the time I receive that battery it will be the Holidays.  Another week...another delay...another few days without having my bike under me.

Not the best way to close out 2014, although generally speaking the year SUCKED.  I will not be sad to see it go.

First there was the crash in early January.  Which, while relatively harmless in it's own right, did bring about a lingering injury that kept me off the bike for months.  It also exposed an underlying non-crash medical issue that required treatment.  It was not life threatening but suddenly I find that I am very, very mortal.

It would not be till May when I finally started riding again on a regular basis.  While glad to be back on my beloved Kimmie I was tentative.  The love I used to have for riding just wasn't there.  Although I would regain that love only a few months took longer than I would have liked.

My job did not help as they had me running back and forth between Tampa and Jacksonville, Florida at least three different times for weeks at a time.  I wasn't happy however as I found others with less experience being promoted above me and other issues.  But I stayed and pushed for a better job and more responsibility.

Little did I know that I would be changing jobs in October anyway when a job offer paying 15% more annually (with bonuses) and the title of Assistant Manager fell into my lap.  I have to admit though.  I have questioned my choice to take that job ever since, as the position is stressful and I'm not sure if the job has a good support structure.  Somehow I never pictured being a cubicle farmer was in my future.

In the last month or so it's just been small things, like having to report to another site for two weeks in an area best reached by car.  After this training my shift changes again, back to a more familiar 1 PM to 10 PM, back to empty streets.

I took this job because I understood I would work days only.  Not nights, but I can not complain, I'm still the low man on the totem pole.

So here's to 2014!  May it be better than the last!

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Christmas comes early. A review of the Freeze Out jacket and gloves - part 1 of two thing

Okay, it's not THAT bad.
Do not let anyone tell you that Florida does not get cold.

While its true that we don't suffer from sub zero temperatures, or snow and ice for days and weeks on end.  It is a different type of cold.  Our high humidity and often windy conditions make it feel colder than it actually is and that is one of the reasons why hypothermia deaths are so high in Florida.

Despite being born in Pennsylvania I've never grown to like winter or the cold.  While I often joke about it, the truth of the matter is that I always knew I would go south.  The first chance I got after college away I went, and I have never looked back.

While I am no longer commuting back and forth at 1 to 2 AM in the middle of the night, I still have to commute in the dark and at night particularly this time of year.  I am also commuting further and in different types of traffic than I have before.  This is more of a "stop and go" traffic pattern followed by rural stretches at a higher speed.  When I was traveling home in the middle of the night, if I got cold I could easily pull over and add another layer (often I would pull a pair of sweat pants on to keep the legs warm).  Now, sadly, this may not be possible and or dangerous for me to do.

With that in mind Susan bought me three early Christmas presents.  We traveled down to the brick and motor Cycle Gear warehouse (which I admit I forgot was even in Tampa) and she bought me the Freeze Out jacket and gloves.  Of course the temperatures, which had been in the low 40's (5 to 7 C) during the day jumped into the mid 70's (mid 20's C) the second I bought the jacket and gloves.

So, here was the test.  I would wear my normal "summer mesh" jacket to work during the day and wear the Freeze Out jacket home.  The gloves were designed to go under my Fox riding gloves.  The lows for the coming week were predicted to be in the mid 50's (about 12 C), while this would not be much of a test it would at least give me an idea of how the new gear would feel when then temperature dropped even more in January and February.  Of course the temps this whole week were higher than that. 

So much for that idea.

Based on what I read from various forums the gear kept most of the riders warm into the high 30's without much issue.  I was looking for two things.  One:  Would I be chilled when I got home.  While the temperatures involved where not "cold", they were cool.  Would I arrive home feeling like I did not leave the office at all.  Two:  How comfortable would the gear be?  I was particularly interested in how the gloves would feel, as I don't like wearing gloves at all, but know what my hands needed protection.

I guess these things would have to wait. 

The other gift she bought me however was put to use immediately  She bought me a Bilt bike cover as well.  While the bike sits at home it is actually pretty well protected from the elements.  However when I am at work it's not.  This may come in handy when I'm parked there, however so far I've not taken it to work.  For now I believe I'll just continue to  use it at home.  

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Lending a hand

Normally I don't post things like this.  However I know this woman personally and know that she and her family are having a very rough time of it.   After all, isn't it what this time of year is all about?

Cori's GoFundme site

Sunday, November 23, 2014

Time to give Thanks

Nearly two weeks have gone by and in that time I've done very little writing.  Even less riding.

Life has been challenging for the last several months as questions concerning health (mine, the girlfriends and my father's), money (I left a good job for what I hoped was a better opportunity - frankly the jury is still out on that), family issues and business.  All has conspired to act against me but also provide me the chance for growth.  Much of these things I've kept secret.  Partly to protect the privacy of those involved and partly because, frankly, it's none of your damned business gentle reader.

I have a lot to be thankful for in this past year, and if the last few weeks have taught me anything it's to be thankful for what you have.

I've been blessed with a loving girlfriend.  A new niece, two parents that somehow found a way to raise two good upstanding kids.

In a year marred by accidents, deaths, loss of several types...we are still together.  Still finding our way down that twisting road called life.  I'm sure I'll return to this blog soon.  I'll be riding again soon and be stronger for it.

This will be the first holiday season in some time that I will not have family gathered around the table with me in several years.  I'll miss them of course, but I know that they are there in spirit.

Till December my friends!  I'll see you then!

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Living inside my helmet - the sequel

I am trying to understand something.

I ride to work nearly every day, I used to ride in what would be considered adverse weather as well (rain and cold).  Lately however, and I blame the hours of my commute now (more 9 to 5ish) I've not been riding in the rain much.

What I'm trying to understand is this.  This past weekend the streets were filled with bikes and bikers.  Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday rolls around and guess what.  Nothing.  Nada.  Zilch.

Oh there are a few lone stragglers, a lot of little 50 cc and 125 cc scooters once I hit the city streets proper; which makes some sense as the little scoots are better designed for city living than the wide open spaces that I normally ride.  Still though...why are the streets full of bikes on the weekends but not on the weekday?

Or, to put it more simply, why don't bikers ride more?  

Now I know this post will not apply for those up north or out west where the weather is nasty.  But hopefully it will give you something to think about for the next riding season.

The first thing that pops into my mind is the number of cars on the street.  All bikers have seen people putting on make-up, looking at their phones, making phone calls, fiddling with the radio and not paying attention.  I get that.  Those people are dangerous.

It's something we all have to deal with and I know that running back and forth from 9 - 5 has sharpened my senses.  I've always tried to practice good safe techniques, now I'm noticing that I push those techniques more to the front.   I also understand that yes, my risk increases riding during the "rush hours."  My risk also increases if it's raining during those hours.

I wonder if gear is not part of the problem.  Gear can be expensive, although generally it's a one time expense.  A good helmet, a good safe jacket (preferably hi-vis), boots, gloves, etc.  It can add up and once again, if your going to ride in every day safety gear is a must.  The more I look around and learn about this lifestyle the more I realize that the people that rack up thousands of miles a year are wearing the best gear they can afford.

Gear may not be sexy, but it's going to save your life.  Which is the other problem I think.  It's not sexy to commute.  No one can see your leather, your girl on back, your shiny chrome.  You have to take the time to clean your bike, your equipment, your oil.

I think we have all been brainwashed some.  Easy Rider, Sons of Anarchy, even the comedy Wild Hogs, and a thousand and one magazines and adverts that show an alternate way to live.  A one that is not mundane.  One that we can escape to during the weekend.  Riding to work every day sort of ruins that fantasy.  Commuting is boring.

Storage can sometimes be a issue.  I understand that too, having bought a top box to carry my lunch back and forth in.  This being Florida, my rain gear is always kept on the bike.  There are ways around storage issues.

Parking can be an issue.  I know at my job for example "our" spot was recently compromised to make way for a travel van turning radius.  Now the various bikers are forced to park in various places.  I've requested a single simple spot with a sign.  At least four, five, or six bikes could fit in that spot, depending on how they park.

Until that happens we are parking in front of the building in a "visitor's" spot.  Some days I'm the only bike there.  Other days there are two or three others.  No one has asked me to move yet.  Sometimes you have to fight for your rights.

As I read the various blogs and forums that I frequent the one thing that impresses me again and again is the passion that people have for their bikes and life choices.  Never in a million years did I think I would have the same love for biking that many of the people that I respect and admire do.  Hell, ten years ago if you told me I be riding a bike and writing a motorcycle blog I laugh at you.  Yet, here I am.

Thursday, November 6, 2014

Riderscan...neat idea to good not to share.

What a great and simple idea.  Frankly I will have to look into this.

Sunday, November 2, 2014


They were a little confused on the concept
Lately I've been thinking a lot about community.

Partially because of the time of year.  It's wonderful to see little kids dressed up and being super hero's, monsters, princess and fairies.  Partially because I realize that even though I grew up in the suburbs and lived in city confines most of my adult life, I've become accustomed to rural living.

I like the quiet.  The community where I live is gated but very active with the local schools and charities.  I like being out and about in the area.  I like riding in the cool evening weather.

Finally, last night I was reading the newly revised Riding the Wet Coast blog and it's various tributes that other bloggers wrote to the late Bob Leong.  I never met the man but feel proud to have been included in his little blogging family.  I feel proud to be part of this community.
How you got goods across a pond in the old days

Saturday I had the opportunity to ride with the Plant City/Lakeland crew I rode with once before and want to one day ride with again.  I felt welcome by them.  However the lovely Susan and I had already made plans and we had a bit of running around to do afterward (for example, I have new riding boots).  We attended the Antioch Pioneer Day events.  Antioch is literally a one stoplight town, and it's a blinking light.  The whole event was held on the grounds of the Baptist Church.

In a way it was a step back into time.  I was reminded of old TV shows like the Walton's and Little House on the Prairie.  Mostly because a few of the Church volunteers were dressed like character's out of that time period.  At one time the Church was the center of the community and events like this were a chance to socialize,  A chance to steal that first kiss from that special boy or girl, or smoke your first cigarette.  Oh to live on Sugar Mountain.

All the events were geared to a simpler time.  You could chase a pig about and win a free ice cream cone if you caught one, fish with your kids, ride in a covered wagon.  Everything was free expect the food and that was very reasonable.  

Honestly though the event was not for us.  We have no young children or are we church going people.  Although I was tempted to chase a pig, we decided to head on out.

After that, it was off to run errands and with no place to be or demanding time schedule we took our time wandering about and took in a few yard sales.  We ventured off to Camping World and discussed what were we would like to be in five, ten, twenty years.  Let's just say were saving up for a big tour bus.

A ride back into Zephyrhills found us at the local park for a surprising visit to an unknown event where we listened to some country music and wandered along merchants.  

For the second weekend in a row I stayed off the bike and you know what...I was happy to have not ridden in four days.  Sometimes you just need to be off the road for a bit.

One final thing, get out and vote on Tuesday!  

Saturday, October 25, 2014

Festivities of the Orange Kind

Not everything works out as planned.

I was originally planning on riding Saturday, hopefully with a group heading somewhere but by Friday afternoon I sort of gave up on that idea.  I was feeling guilty.  Guilty because there was work that needed to be done, I had yard work to do that I kept putting off because of the summer heat and humidity.  Now that the heat and humidity are gone, there is no excuses.  Today, for example, was a pleasant 84 F (28.9 C)...still warm but without the humidity it is a pleasure to work in.

My mom and dad asked me to clean the gutters of their winter home...I still needed to do that.  

Truth be told, well I enjoy riding and exploring other parts of the local world, I really didn't feel like crossing the Howard Franklin bridge into St Petersburg to meet a group of strangers to ride back into Tampa and spend all day exploring the parks of my adopted city.  Or I could meet the other group and ride out to Lake Wales on various back roads and spend all day in the saddle.

Both options appealed to me but frankly I was not looking forward to either like I originally thought I would.  .  

So when the lovely Sue mentioned the Hunsadar Farms Pumpkin Festival was having their final weekend to me this Saturday, it just seemed right.  Plus they had an air cannon you could shoot a pumpkin out of.  An AIR CANNON!  Okay, the geek was me was excited.  Maybe they let me fire it...just once PLEASE!  PRETTY PLEASE!

So Sue and I jumped into our "Great Pumpkin" and hit the road.  Hunsadar Farms is about 75 minutes south of us in Brandenton, Florida.  The Pumpkin Festival was a combination of things, merchants, musicians, a petting zoo, food stalls, entertainment and Americana.

It's not that far from the Rosa Fiorelli vineyards, which just happen to be my favorite local wine maker, so you know we had to stop there too!  Trust me, follow the link and order a bottle or three, it's worth it.  

Scarecrows provided a distraction
We walked hand in hand taking in the crowd, the event was geared to the little ones to some extent as petting zoo's and jumping frog competitions were part of the day's events.  Two girls, maybe 5 and 6, tried their hands at frog wrangling to the amusement of the crowd, the and horror of their mother.

We got to see the air cannon fire a pumpkin into a strand of trees some 300 plus yards away.  There were some monster trucks, a hay ride, corn maze.  All the normal stuff that you would expect, but a zip line?  No, that we didn't expect.

There were a few shows and demonstrations as well.  Dirt bikes going off of jumps (missed that show) and a Monster truck flattening some old car (missed that too), but we did see the "Wall of Death" where, in addition to motorcycles, they used an old go-kart and a pedal bicycle.

Overall it was a good day, and sometimes you need to do something different to get out of the rut.  I think I was in a rut, so getting out helped.

Well the bank is safe, I think

Sheriff didn't look that tough however.

Other scarecrows provided useful info.
A really old fashioned Merry-Go-Round

#pumpkinfest  #blogger  #blog  #pumpkinfestival  #hudsadar  #hudsadarfarms

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

"one is the loneliest number"

On Tuesday, I decided I wanted to go on a group ride the question was where?

So I contacted a few groups I know on Facebook, the St Petersburg Scooter Trash Group and a few others. One group had two riders going to Lake Wales. A town about 53 miles southeast of me and home of Bok Tower Gardens and Spook Hill, two attractions that I've visited before but never rode the bike to.

I also understand that the town had a lot of 1920's style buildings in the historic downtown that I may want to check out as well as the international renowned Chalet Suzanne restaurant and inn which was closing after a long and distinguished 83 years.  My brother, Gary, is a professional Chef and my Susan was a restaurant manager and chef for nearly 25 years.  My ex-wife was a fantastic cook in her own right and I've often said she could put many Iron Chef's to shame.  Yes, I love to eat and just recently learned of the Chalet.  I would have liked to have eaten there at least once, but I understand it closed on or around the forth of August.

Another group out of St Pete's was planning a ride to some of the local Tampa parks, which appealed to me for other reasons.

Frankly I am tired of riding by myself and want to get it, meet other scooterists and enjoy a day out.  One is a lonely number at times.

I'm also tired of the commute.  While I enjoy taking the bike out whenever I can, you also need a change of scenery now and again.  A ride out to Lake Wales, or into the parks of Tampa might be just what this old soul needs to feel renewed.  Even if it means riding with a bunch of strangers and being on my seat for 2 or 3 hours.

"What happens if I can't find a group to ride with this weekend?"  Honestly I don't know...but I've been meaning to explore Ybor (Ee-bor) city a bit.  The city of Lakeland is also nearby.  Getting out is the important thing...and that is what matters.

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Enveloped by fog

Perhaps I should curse out the infamous Trobairitz - who asked me the following in the comments section of my last posting.  "Curious - do you find in your commute that everyone uses their headlights in the twilight hours or fog? I've noticed lately how many people can't be bothered to turn theirs on for safety."

This morning was foggy.  Although lucky for me, half (21 miles) of my morning 40 mile commute is on a two lane road.  It's more or less straight so the bracing air in the morning keeps me more awake than coffee ever could.  Generally speaking traffic is travelling with me this time of day, by the time I hit the two and three lane roads closer to downtown Tampa the fog normally is burned off.  Some try to pass me and I let them with no complaints.  It's not the day to let Kimmie flex her muscles.

Photo Copyright Steve Williams
Cars do come out of the gray on the two lane road, usually with the lights on.  Zephyrhills is a good place to live, but the population is mostly retirees.  So they either have the newer model cars with the automatic lights or are not out at all this time of day.  Unlike my fellow Pennsylvanian Steve Williams I take no joy of riding in fog.  While I will admit to a sense of otherworldly-ness and a wonder at the beauty of nature when it's wrapped in gossamer sheaths...I still prefer the safety of seeing, and of being seen when riding my bike. 

Still though, it's lovely to ride past the open fields of Central Florida looking at trees that seem to exist in a perpetual dream like state...or listen to the low bellow of a cow barely seen.  The sun is on my left, low enough to dance between the trees but not high enough yet to burn off the fog.

Is it any wonder why so many motorcyclists seem to be philosophers, poets, writers or photographers?  How do you capture beauty?  A moment?  How does time slow down at 65 MPH?  

Traffic is a little heavier than normal as I turn towards town and my waiting job.  I shiver a bit as a truck passes me and catches me in the turbulence for a moment.  I tilt my visor up some to clear the mist off my visor and the morning air smells of exhaust...ah, life in the city.  
My ride is an interesting one.  Taking me over the Hillsborough River and past the Lowry Park Zoo and I swear I hear a lion roaring every morning as I ride past.    Around a bend that somehow always seems to surprise me even though I know it's there.  I cross over four rail tracks in total.  

Tampa and it's river.  

By the end of the day I'm mentally wasted.  My new job is challenging, interesting, difficult as I use skills and muscles I've not used in years.  I'm a lot of things to a lot of people now and not just "technical support".

I look forward on getting back on the bike although it's been windy and wet most of the day.  I debate putting on the rain gear, but in the end decide not to.  I'm not on the bike long before the day fades away.  

I look forward to passing the zoo, the river (again glancing over to see boats and docks and lights glimmering off the water), those tracks.  That stupid bend...then before you know it I'm back into the green that I love.  The sun is on the other side now, low enough to dance across the fields where cows continue to bellow and a lone tree stands in resistance to the developer.  By the time I get home Susan has dinner on, we chat about the day.  We settle in with our books, games, TV, the computer or just a talk about what ever in on our minds.

We sit out on the lanai, why Floridians use a Hawaiian word for "porch" I will never know, and drink iced tea.  Tipper and Sparky, our two rescued cats, are at our feet or looking at the birds eating at the feeders.  Night comes early this time of year.  I am content.

I think about the day, the fog and rain.  Being enveloped by bad weather just means that you have to find your way out of it.  You have to be smart, safe, careful and then, you reach your goal.  You have to pay attention to the beauty on the way there.  You have to be thankful for it.  

Friday, October 10, 2014

Updates on the download...

Can I describe the last two weeks or so in one word?  Hectic.  There is nothing really going on, This is just a brief update.

Family was visiting us during that time, the little side business I own picked up a grand total of three new customers and suddenly my business partner and I were talking about adding a new driver to the fold.  My new position geared up to fifth gear in participation of changes coming, and I had to prove myself again and again that "bringing in some outside guy" was the best decision the company made.

All the riding that I've done over the last few weeks have been commutes for work.  That is not necessary a bad thing.  I pull into work on Monday and there is one bike there.  Tuesday their are three, Thursday, five are parked into our little motorcycle lot.  Scooters, Harley's and V-stars all living in harmony.

It's still warm here in Florida, the high as I write this is expected to be 82 F (27.8 C) but the humidity has started to drop which makes it a rather pleasant day.  My ride in is becoming routine but I still remind myself about safety, routine is fine...but when something surprises you (and it will) you need to be ready.

Case in point...a trailer without break lights.  Result, Robert cursing.

The ride home makes me relax some, once I'm out of the traffic the ride opens up and I'm surrounded by deep woods and pastures.  The stress of the day melts away.  Again, although I had doubts about moving to Zephyrhills initially, I'm glad I did.

This weekend, it has already been decided, is one where my girlfriend and I do nothing.  We may have dinner with friends on Saturday night, but were catching up on "me" time.  Which means that I may decided to finally pull those weeds in the front yard, or go riding.  One guess what I'm leaning towards.  Guess which one the girlfriend will have me do?

Although I want to ride with a group somewhere.  I'm in need of that companionship.

Lastly, I'm looking for additional motorcycle and scooter blogs to add to my reading list.  I would rather have blogs concentrating on riding, visiting places and the unusual than dry "how to", or "equipment reviews".  I've done those entries myself and there is not a damn thing wrong with them...but what interests me is the adventure.  :)  So if you have anyone in mind, let me know.


Thursday, October 2, 2014

Living inside my helmet.

"It must be awfully frustrating to get a small raise at work and then have it all eaten by a higher cost of commuting." - Ben Bernanke

Actually my raise was not that small.  

I'm still commuting roughly the same distance although now it takes longer than I would like so I guess Bernanke's quote applies.  Commuting into and out of the city of Tampa every day during the height of rush hour is leading me to reconsider what it means for me to be a commuter.  I left work at approximately 5:45 PM today and didn't pull into my driveway till 7:00 PM.  My morning commute took approximately the same amount of time.  

Sitting at a red light in full safety gear for one or two lights because some moron has blocked the intersection does not make me happy.  Especially when the heat and humidity of the day start to climb.  However I try to look at it as part of the experience and keep a good alert attitude about me.

My thinking has changed.  

I always believed in safety.  I almost always do a pre-check before getting on the bike.  The helmet goes on, the jacket, gloves, boots.  ATTGAT.  It's more than a saying to me.  It's always been a way of life.  

My old position had me leaving the house during the mid afternoon; my drive from point A to point B was a simple affair, the roads were relativity clear.  At 1 AM at night the ride home was more about keeping my eyes open for deer and drunks.  Lights were often green and I was the only car on the road many a night.  

Now I pull to a stop at a light, leaving enough room and options between myself and the car in front of me in case the car behind me doesn't stop.  In case I need to pull forward to go right or left in a quarter seconds notice.  I keep my eyes on the mirrors, my ears pealed for that screeching sound.  It's only when there are two or three cars behind me at the light that I relax some.  It's something I've always done, but am slightly more conscious of it now.

I have a headlight modulator, I don't use it in traffic often but I do know that the sun is behind me.  This time of year it's low in the sky...I flip the switch and the headlight starts to modulate.  I try to manage it at times.  A brake modulator is on the "to buy" list (the video below is for example purposes only).  

Blind spots become hugely important, I think about that car and where I am in relationship to it.   Again something I've always done, but am more conscious of it now.

All the safety gear in the world only goes so far.  

 All this should be second knowledge to any driver, either in a car or a bike.  It is for me as well but I remind myself again and again.  Cocky will get you killed.  

I remember something I said to a buddy of mine at work who was having a tough time with someone.    "Control the situation."   I think about lane position, about  road surface.  I'm scanning twelve seconds ahead, four seconds ahead, two seconds ahead of me.  I check over my shoulder with the turn signals on, I switch lanes safely.  Again, something I have always done, but am more conscious of now.

It's only when I'm finally out of city that I start to relax some.  The skills I've learned from my motorcycle safety class are still there.
 They are still in use.  The road changes from heavily traveled and used to more rural, pastoral.  New dangers, new concerns.  No, I can’t let the guard down.  Not till I've reached home.

Here at least I am not so worried about the aggressive driver with road rage or the idiot fighting with someone on the cell phone.  Here the dangerous are animals, living or dead, that find themselves in the middle of the road.  Here the dangers are tree branches, flooded roads, wash-outs, loose rocks and leaves.    

My butt is numb on the seat, I'm hot and sweaty and could really use a drink. I wiggle it, trying to find a comfortable position. "Why?.  Why do I do this?  It's so much easier in my car."  

Then I look out over the fields at the baby cows romping in the fields, the beautiful blue sky, the feel of the air as it flows over my arms.   I smile and wonder if my thinking has changed that much.  

Saturday, September 27, 2014

A bit off topic (and late) but HIGHLY IMPORTANT!

A combination of having family visiting from up north, training and working with people for my new position, negations for picking up another route for the small business on the side (we won the bid thank you very much), and weather has kept me off the bike this week.

However I could not let Banned Book Week pass without a comment.  Maybe it's because I picked up a dog eared copy of the Motorcycle Diaries recently.  Maybe it's because I know a few writers (See my links page for links to their books).  Maybe it's the firmly held belief that an educated populace can decided what is best for it and that leads to greater freedom.  Maybe its because I used to teach (as well as other things)...who knows.

Banned Book Week is a celebration about the written word and the power that words have to persuaded - Friends, Roman's, Countrymen lend me your ears from Shakespeare's Julius Caesar comes to mind.  In the beginning Caesar is portrayed as a power hungry madman...yet at the end of Mark Anthony's speech in the play; the common people raise up against Caesar's assassins.

Books have the power to make us think.  Provide warnings.  Enter the public consciousness and become part of our shared, common and very human experience.    So, when I hear about censorship or that some people are pushing for a particular belief system over another the hair on the back of my neck raises and I start to snarl.

Sadly the people that raise these complaints are often doing so with the best of intentions.  I'll be the first to admit that I've read some material which I've found questionable.  One book dealt with slavery, racism, used offensive language and was determined to show youth rebelling against authority figures.  The name of that book?  The Adventures of Tom Sawyer.

Yet this book is a classic of American Literature.  Perhaps the racism was part of the time and had to be considered in context (although frankly the racism in the book is shown to be stupid and misplaced).  The issue of slavery, handled well I thought and considering how the book was published in 1876, certainly understandable.  Jim, the escaped slave, is a very honorable man.  Their are lessons to be learned here, if we open our minds to receive them.

Almost two decades ago I read The Autobiography of Malcolm X because I was looking for a way to relate with my students - I was teaching science at a mostly all black high school at the time.  I found it to be an amazing book and marveled at the journey Malcolm X took.  Here was a man that served time in jail, was a pimp and a thief, yet somehow found a way out of a thugs life to lead a people to something greater.  Something better.  Yet, all the students related to was the hatred, not the love that Malcolm eventually came to.

Interestingly enough...both these books have been banned at various times.  I can certainly understand the reasoning...radical and dangerous thinkers who promote ideas that don't suite the mainstream.  I would recommend either of these books in a heartbeat.

I don't know if I'll be on my bike much next week, or the week after (God knows I hope so!).  I hope to be, I miss riding.  But if I'm not, I'll curl up with a classic and catch up with my reading.  We can still think for ourselves, enjoy that freedom.

Saturday, September 20, 2014

Does everything have to be an adventure?

Property of Fine Art America

I like to tell stories.  For example, once upon a time I was skiing in the foothills of the Himalaya's in Kazakhstan (Yes, I've been there and yes you can ski there).  My ex wife mentions a nearby ski jump that was only 5 meters high and how my English language brain understood to be 5 feet high.  How, once I was in the air, a full 16 feet in the air, I knew that I would land badly.  How I tumbled through the snow and how my ex-wife's family rushed over to me to see if I was alright.   I was, but I said how glad I was that no one understand the colorful word I used on the way done.  "Oh Robert," they said laughing, "it means the same thing in Russian."

That story means a lot to me.  It was an adventure, the it was the first time that I really connected with the family of my ex wife.  They spoke little English and I spoke only a few words of Russian, yet in that moment we were both able to laugh and communicate.

Now I'm older, wiser supposedly and I was thinking about that event so many years ago.  In my new position, my new job I'm being asked to build rapport with people from different walks of life, different experiences.  Different goals.  It's no longer black and white.  One way to do that is through stories.

I was thinking about that as I rode my bike on a fine Saturday.  I was heading towards the Festival of Flight celebration at a small local airport.  On Friday they were going to have a night time hot air balloon glow, which I thought would have been lovely but the entire day had been cold (by Florida summer standards) and rainy, so the night's events were most likely canceled (I was later able to confirm they were).  How lovely would it have been however to capture on film the glow of hot air balloons against a clear night sky?

Does every ride tell a story?  Even the boring non-exciting ones where I travel back and forth to work?  Every turn and every mile has been an experience.  Yes, every turn and every mile I put under my wheels is another adventure, another story and as I make the turn towards the airport on a overcast and cool day; I wonder if I would have made this trip if all I had was my car.

Some roads are wet, others dry.  The chance of rain is at 40% but the air feels heavy with the promise of more rain.  The event itself is subdued.  The various ballooning events planned for that day were canceled due to weather.  I was curious to see the gyro-copters and "flying trikes" that I heard were going to be there.  However I think due to the soaking rain yesterday and 40+ percent chance of rain today, most of them were scared off.

Like many people I'm interested in flight.  However I've always been more interested in the ideas behind it.  Often I wonder what must have gone through the minds of the brothers Mongolfier when they climb aboard their hot air balloon during its initial flight in October 1783.

Or for that matter the Wright Brothers.

Did they have any idea of the adventure they were about to begin?  The industry that would form out of that simple flight on a December day in 1903? How could they?  They were learning, pushing themselves into unknown territory.

I didn't spend that much time at the Fantasy of Flight event.  Partly because of the heat, partially because there was not that much going on.  For example, there was a scheduled car show, yet only two classic cars showed up.  Again, possibly due to weather?  Certainly there had to be another reason?

While I was there I only saw one bike, and only two others on the road.  Maybe it was the time of day, I was there during the hottest part of the day, or the event really not being that advertised that well?

I rode out of the event feeling slightly disappointed.  I had hoped for more, and other than a glimpse into the rather simplistic cockpit of a old military training plane, I didn't feel like the trip was worth it.

Some adventures are disappointing.  Some stories don't have happy endings.  Am I glad I went?  Yes.  I plan on going next year too, for I have a feeling it was the weather that fouled this event.  Who knows what the next year would hold?

Additional pictures of the event can be seen on my Facebook account here.

Monday, September 15, 2014

Bob Leong - RIP Bobscoot

I recently learned of the death of Bob Leong.  For those that may not know him he wrote the Wet Coast Scooting blog since 1998 and was well known for his photography, often of his pink crocks and bare feet as he worked on his beloved bikes and cars.

I never met the man but felt I knew him through his blog and his comments on this site.  He will certainly be missed by all of us that enjoyed reading his blog.

My thoughts and prayers certainly go out to his wife and family.  I'm sure his website, or those of his close friends, will contain some information about final arrangements.

RIP Bob.

Saturday, September 13, 2014

Exploring Plant City - Part two

Once upon a time I worked on Saturday's but with the change of scenery comes certain perks.  Like weekends off, working day light and better pay.  Honestly Sue and I have been under each others toes for the past month or so.  I've spent the greater part of the month in classes and unsure of what my future held.

I have been doing longer rides as of late but when this Saturday rolled along we decided to spend it together and just do something different.  A food truck rally was discussed.  Going to a Rowdies game was discussed, but in the end we decided to check out a local train museum   Where as the panhandle and eastern seaboard of Florida were always well populated, the center and west coast owes a great debt to the railroads.  Frankly, without the rails, most of Florida would still be cattle land and swamps.

The Robert W. Willaford Railroad Museum is open to the public at no cost and sits in the historic downtown area of Plant City.  In all honestly it's small, but packed with train and railroad memorabilia, mostly from one private collector.    What is truly amazing to me is that nearly all of the equipment and other memorabilia, was at one time actually used on the railroads.  In other words, the caboose was not a replica, but one of only 7 left in the country and here I was climbing around in like a little boy with a big smile on my face.

I've often wondered what the caboose was like in side, and it contained everything that you would need for a comfortable trip, desks, beds, bathroom, a stove and sink.  Even a simple refrigerator.  A RV on rails.

Speaking of being on rails.  I've no idea if Honda actually made this or if it was somehow converted to a particular task.

Sue collects old cases and luggage, so her eyes lit up
The detail on some of the artwork was amazing.  Notice the watch and ring for example.
Sue and I had decided to drive up instead of taking the bike and I'm glad we did.  Summer in Florida tends to be sunny, hot and humid.  After looking over a bit more of the museum we decided to cross the street to visit the Whistle Stop Cafe, famed for their 5 cent cherry smash (or cherry syrup in seltzer).  It was surprisingly light and refreshing and the rest of the meal was just delightful.  Homemade soup and bread which left us licking the bowls and wanting more.  

The roof is meant to look distressed.

Every where Sue and I turned there seemed to be some interesting piece of history (and readers of this blog know I love my history) or unusual find.   A brief ride up the road and we found the Shiloh Cemeteryoriginally established in 1810 but part of the city since 1884.   Some of the stones appeared to be in disrepair but  the city seems to be reclaiming part of the cemetery and saving some of the history.  
This being Florida we were not surprised to see cows grazing not far from the tombstones.  All in all it was a good day to be out and about.  Now...about those food trucks.  "Honey?  You hungry yet?"

Saturday, September 6, 2014

Slowing it down.

Generally speaking I don't care for group rides.  I like to pull over and do some sightseeing.  I like to stop and read the history placards on the side of the road.  I know that I have to ride at my own pace and my own way, and frankly I don't like having to worry about other riders.  

When I was in the Bahama's I had to worry about Sue and her family getting lost (which they did).  When I rode to Sleepy Hollow, one of the group went down on an easy turn.  When I ride by myself, I'm responsible for only one person.  Selfish of me?  Perhaps.  

However on Thursday the 4th I came across a post in one of the Facebook groups I follow that stated a group was leaving Lakeland and traveling to nearby Plant City to pick up a few other scooterists (it ended up just being me).  From there they be riding down to Stefano's - a Greek Italian restaurant outside of Tampa for lunch.  How could I turn that down?

So I made the connections, packed up about 5 bottles of cold water and made sure I had air in the tires and a full tank of gas.  The day was going to be a hot one, 88 F (31 C) with a 40% chance of rain, and humid.  I did not want to even think about the humidity, but it's a chance for an adventure and I can't turn that down.  Even though I did think about it.

Off I went to meet the group.  First I met Rob and his wife, who were on a late 1980's model Vespa complete with sidecar.  He did tell me that exact year and model but frankly I don't remember.  I got to admit I enjoyed watching the looks from other bikers as we cruised along at about 45 MPH (72 KMH) through Plant City.   One guy spent some time adjusting his mirrors as they pulled in behind him.  I could see the smile on his face.

I had never eaten at Stefano's but the food was excellent and copious, I will be back.  If for nothing other than the flaming goat cheese and brandy appetizer.

The other scooterists joined us there and we discussed books, scooters, TV and jobs.  I actually met the owner of the infamous Barbie scooter.  It seems at one time he was a deputy sheriff who used to ride his Stella into work all the time.  Someone placed a Barbie on his bike as a joke.  Another day, another Barbie.  After awhile he figured he might as well attach them.  Eventually it became the bike it is today.  Although one story he told me brought a tear to my eye.  It seems that after two years or so of collection his sheriff asked him to ride a ten year old girl that was suffering from a brain tumor to a bikers rally in her honor.  I'm sure her smile was ear to ear.

He gives out Barbies to little girls that approach him and his bike went through the drive through at a Las Vegas drive-thur chapel when he renewed his vows to his wife as a complete surprise..  I liked him immediately.

No, he didn't ride the Barbie scooter today but a yellow GTI decorated in its own right.

The Mystery of the Barbie scooter resolved!

After lunch one of the ladies lead us through a slow ride through the surrounding neighborhoods.  It was nice to wonder through one of the more nicer parts of Tampa at a lower speed.  I got to see people smiling and waving.  Taking a moment to watch the scooters pass and hear the barking of little dogs trying to scare big machines away.

I'm not a speed demon by any means, but serving as tailgunner on the ride through the neighborhood I found myself enjoying the slower pace set by the smaller scooters.  Even though it was the hottest part of the day, I was cool.  Moving just fast enough to keep the air moving but slow enough to keep it cool.

I hope to ride with this group again.   They even invited Sue along.  So you know, I just might learn to like group riding.  I've not enjoyed the company of strangers like this for some time.  Total ride = just shy of 78 miles (125.5 KM).

**More pics to follow**

And here they are:
I think I found a new cover photo.  

Who is that masked man?

A half chicken in a lemon-garlic sauce with lentil soup!  Oh Yum!