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Friday, January 31, 2014

Stuck between stations......

She was a damn good dancer but she wasn't all that great of a girlfriend
He likes the warm feeling but he's tired of all the dehydration
Most nights are crystal clear but tonight it's like he's stuck between stations

On the radio

Okay,  I admit to it.  I'm a bit of geek.  I enjoy a good book and good food and great conversations.  Nothing makes me happier than great music and a cheap bottle of wine.  Which is why riding surprised me so.   Frankly, I never would have thought that something so simple as going from point A to point B would give me such joy.  Or perhaps it's all the Point C's, D's and E's that are in-between...and not necessary in any resemblance of order?

Due to a variety of circumstances, which some of you may know about, I've been ordered not to ride for a bit.  So here I am...reading other people's blogs, watching the odd TV show and You Tube videos and review's to keep me entertained.  Frankly I don't know how my Northern friends can put away their bikes for months at a time...I'm going nuts after just a few weeks.  I miss the physical act of riding...and until I'm released I'm "stuck between stations."

So I thought I do a little review of what I've been watching.  Most of you have probably already seen these shows but if not they are mostly available on Netflix, You Tube or Hulu. 

Alton Brown's "Feasting on Asphalt" comes to mind.  I've not seen that show in years (the show originally aired in 2006) and I enjoy Alton's little mix of silliness, interesting cinematography, good food and friends mixed with his unique take on history and travel.  Sadly this is only available to You Tube and is broken up into several pieces.  Still though, if you don't mind watching seven minutes here and ten minutes there its a good look at the diversity of the United States although I personally would have liked to have seen the whole series without interruption.  The first season he and the crew cut across the American south towards California.  In the second they traveled up the Mississippi river.  

Also available on You Tube is Billy Connolly's Route 66.  It was a four episode series done for British TV several years ago (2011) and follows the Scottish Comic as he travels the "Mother Road" from Chicago to California.  Unlike "Feasting" this series is available in full and without interruption.

It has a very relaxed feel to it and Connolly seems to be enjoying himself immensely.  One of my favorite moments is when he relates a story about a house of ill repute outside of Chicago.  It seems that the house was built on a rail spur between two counties.  When the girls and their patrons were tipped off about a possible raid, they would push the house from one county to another...a image which causes the comic to laugh so hard that he can't continue the story.

I've also been watching The Long Way Round and The Long Way Down (both of which are available to Netflix).  I have to admit that I didn't particularly care for the way this series started.  After all, there are notable examples of people that have traveled around the world on foot or by bike without the support network that Ewan McGregor and Charley Boorman have.  Yet because McGregor is a well known and famous actor they get great gear and new bikes from BMW.  They even manage to travel with their own doctor and security for part of the trip.    Yet, despite all of that....once they are left alone and off in the wilds of Siberia or Mongolia or Africa they seem to relax.  Charley Boorman seems to be a fun and entertaining guy that you want to spend a night drinking with.  Both of them really seem to enjoy being out in the world and their enthusiasm for meeting new people and seeing new things appears realistic.

  Generally speaking I enjoyed Long Way Round more than I did the second version of the series where they traveled from London to South Africa.  Plus I have been to Almaty, Kazakhstan and have been in the same spa visited in the series.  So that was pretty cool.

At this time, I'm not sure when I'll be allowed to climb back on a bike.  That choice is out of my hands and is in the hands of those that know more than I.  Until then it's just me and shows and books that remind me about why I like to ride in the first damn place.

Friday, January 24, 2014

Review of the Viking Tank Bag

When the good people at Viking Bags sent me one of their tank bags to review, I jumped at the chance.  Although not for the reasons you might think.  I love my scooter and scooters, in general, offer more storage than the traditional motorcycle.  Under the seat is enough storage space to hold a full face helmet at least, and depending on the model, maybe more.  I've written before how I feel Kymco sort of missed the boat on storage.

I added the Travel Trunk to carry my rain suit (always a requirement in Florida) and a few other things for that reason.  Still I wanted additional storage, a way to hold my GPS enabled phone, wallet and documents for example.  While there is some gear out that that is designed for scooters, there is not that much really designed for a maxi-scooter in mind.  Sure, we can can buy saddlebags and such for our bikes...but a lot of it is hit and miss and often we end up having to modify and adjust just due to the nature of our bikes.  Sometimes a scooter just looks stupid with the saddlebags as well.

Placed on my refrigerator fully packed 
So first things first.  The bag has ten magnets that should hold it firmly to a metal tank but on the plastic hump of the scooter those magnets were useless.  A couple of well placed Velcro strips would come in handy, I had used them before successfully on other projects.

The magnets are strong enough to hold a full bag in place without slipping and come off the metal easily enough, allowing you to take the bag off the tank keeping your valuables with you.  Or, with a simple twist you can remove the pouch and just take that with you.

The pouch measures 6 inches high by 8.5 inches wide and is roughly 2 inches deep.  The map pocket is 8.4 inches high by 8.25 inches wide.  It normally retails for about $69 US dollars but the good people at Viking Bags have them for $19 US. In the interest of fairness they sent me the bag in return for the review (see here for more detail on that).

This tank bag is actually two bags in one.  The first is for the map or gps/phone/etc, it is covered by a piece of plastic with Velcro on the bottom edge to keep everything in place.  The tank bag has a large zippered compartment that easily held a lot of odds and ends.  The picture is a little blurry but I managed to place a small first aid kit, comb, phone charger, flashlight, work ID, phone and a $20 bill into the bag without issue.  I didn't place anything in the clear map department yet.

 It even has two small rubber reinforced holes for ear buds and fits over the plastic bag.   It's held in place by two reinforced plastic screws, which has two eye holes.  I liked that because options are always a good thing (more on that later).  The top bag fits nicely over the map pocket and helps to protect it from the rain and weather.  All the hinge points are reinforced with plastic or leather - a nice little detail which means that the bag will not wear easily over time.  You do have to pick that bag up to see the other map however which might be a little dangerous on the fly.  I tried to arrange the bag every way I could but it only fits together one way.
My phone was easily manipulated in this map pocket as well.  The picture gives you an idea of how a map or directions might appear.  The fuzzy picture ( sorry - cheap ass camera) doesn't due it justice.
The zipper is your standard type zipper.

So for so good.  I was tempted to stick the back under a running faucet to see if it was waterproof, but thought that be a little much.

Overall I thought it was a good option and well worth the price that Viking Bags is charging.  Only one minor issue.  I could not use the bag.  No matter how I tried to manipulate it (including tying a string between the eye holes and hanging it tightly to the handlebars) I just could not make the bag fit on my scooter.  My initial idea of attaching it to the "hump" might work...but I am still thinking about that part of it.    So the search continues but I will say this.  I would buy this product - and considering I'm a cheap SOB - that is high praise indeed.

Thursday, January 16, 2014

Shutting this down for a bit.

Due to personal reasons this blog will be down for a bit.  Thank you for your time and effort reading it.  It will return (hopefully soon) but for now thank you for your friendship and loyal readership.

Saturday, January 11, 2014

A good Saturday ride ruined!

I think that bikers must have a taste of the poetic.

I don't know if it makes sense to someone that spends their life in a car.  Although I do think that the campers and hikers and (bi)cyclists would understand.  It's just that feeling you get topping that hill and seeing the valley stretched out below you.  How the sunlight reflects off a lake and the taste of the air.

Its about seeing that unexpected animal (hopefully far enough down the road where its not an issue).  How cool and wonderful a soft rain feels after a day of heat.  While I can appreciate the beauty of the world from behind a windshield, it is all the more beautiful when your fully immersed in it.

Why else would we do it?

The girlfriend let me slip out into the world.  We have been busy since the new year, making about five thousand dollars of home improvements to our old place over the last few days.  Things that needed done to our older home, such as new gutters and some work under the house.  With all that responsibility out of our hair I was able to go on a brief only requirement is that I be home by 11:30 for lunch.  She was making fish - she despises fish - so I knew to be home by 11:30 or else my lunch may have ended up elsewhere.  I love fish so it's a rare treat for me when she cooks it.

After lunch I was able to go ride again.

I purposely took back roads that I never rode before, finding a nice twisty two lane road that dropped me onto roads that my good friend Gary and I used to ride.  I had not thought about him in a while so it was good to picture his Burgman beside me for a bit.  On I rode, taking a bit of time to snap some pictures of odds and ends.

Yes, there is such a thing as a Kumquat, and they grow on trees.

So do Oranges, and these are about ready to harvest.
So I'm on this road near my house heading north, it's a road I've ridden many a time.  I was in a good mood, friends from up North were back in Florida and dinner plans were made for later that evening.  The rain that had been forecast for after noon was no where to be found.  The sun was warm and bright, the road stretched out forever, I know it well...then things went bad.  How bad?  Well I have a cast on my leg.

Nothing is broke.  Swollen and nasty yes, but not broke.  Kimmy is hurting but her heart is strong and her bones solid.  Plastics can be fixed...although I've a feeling she'll wear them as a war wound for a bit.

As the photo shows there were large rocks all over the road.  I saw them, I slowed down.  I tried, tried to keep her up.

Lucky for me there was no one following.  I was in full gear, I was traveling at a safe speed....just to many rocks on the road.  Just to many rocks.

I went down, then got right back up cursing my luck.  Then I felt something go "pop" in my left boot.   I checked out the bike shortly afterword, Kimmie is fine; banged up a bit on the left side but no major damage.  As for me, well I did a low side fall.  I never really went down, I kept my head about me.  I suffered some minor road rash.  A blister on my left hand.  My felt foot managed to get caught under the bike and dragged a little.  That resulted in some cuts and swelling and the need for new boots and gloves, as the palm of my left hand glove got ripped out.

Ave size of the rocks.
What bothers me is that I was told that earlier in the day the county was informed about the rocks and the danger they represented..  As the truckers came through that area the rocks were crushed and flung in all directions.  I know there was little I could do.  Still though, my pride is hurt.  I hurt my Kimmie.

Sometime after the accident some employees from the railroad showed up to clean up the mess.  When I asked them what happened to leave large rocks all over the road, it was explained to me that a gate got stuck open and didn't close the way it should have as they crossed the road.

At this time I'm not sure what I want to do.  I have good medical coverage.  I called the Police and got a report.  I called the insurance companies.  I am giving serious thought to quitting this whole biking thing.  If Sue would have been on back...I would have never forgave myself.  I also promised her, and myself, that the next time I went down it would be my last time.

Still it's an accident, they happen.  I did everything right...and I still managed to go down.  I know I'm going to survive be stronger and better as a rider.  Right now I want to get back on the bike.  I actually wondered how I could drive to work with a cast on.

I've some pics of the damage done but that is for another post.  Right now the medication is starting to take affect and bed, even though it is early, is sounding like a very viable option.

Friday, January 10, 2014

Heading down new paths (or why I decided to review some products).

I have to admit...when someone from Motorcycle House contacted me about doing reviews of their products I had some trepidation.  After all I ride a scooter, admittedly a big bore scooter who thinks it's a sport bike...but it is still a scooter.

However the more I thought about it the more it made sense to me.  Often I've complained that their is a lack of good reviews of products.  Motorcycle House has there products reviewed by other bloggers I respect, such as Doug at Forty Years on Two Wheels and the Road Pickle crew are two wonderful examples.  A few other bloggers, some I've known and some I didn't, have written fair reviews or produced various You Tube video's concerning their products.  Generally speaking they were positive.

It takes a certain type of company to put there product into the hands of bikers and say " your worst." and get good reviews in return.  Even before I joined the brotherhood of two wheels, I knew bikers.  They generally are a "bullshit free" type of breed.  They tell you what they think.  Still I need assurance that if I didn't care for something that I be able to say that.  They gave me that assurance in spades.

One of the items I am looking forward to reviewing.
The second reason I decided to review products is that, frankly, their is not much out there designed specifically for the big bore scooters.  Sure, you can find lots of stuff for the smaller cc bikes. When an engineer or designer gets an idea into there mind it's hard to change.  Take for example Formosa Saddlebags, here is a nice product that really can't be used in mid-sized to big bore scooters like mine.  I'm curious to know what can be. 

So what gear will work on the various maxi-scoots?  What won't?  Will something like a motorcycle tank bag work on a scooter like mine?  After all it's designed for a traditional motorcycle...not a scooter. Can it be adapted with little effort?  Or are we going to have to go back to the drawing board?  Is a product like that even reasonable to consider using?

Plus, and I've said this before, the scooter is the wave of the future.  The quicker a company moves to take advantage of that market the better off they will be.  If I know what products work well on scooters, I'm more likely to buy from that company.  

So lets see what happens.  

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

End of the year mileage and looking forward.

First things First!  Happy New Year!

Way back in February I bought Kimmie.  At the time she was not the bike that I wanted nor did I particularly think she was a good bike.  Now here I am 10 months later singing the praises of Kymco from the roof tops.

In other words, she has grown on me.  Some things I liked and didn't like have been addressed on her this year - such as adding a Top Box and a new seat.  Other things I was plain wrong on, for example the fuel tank holds 3.1 gallons of fuel and not a little over 2 as I originally thought.  The original mileage on Kimmie was 2220 and my end of the year mileage was 15,202.   So I put 12, 982 on her in 10 months.  A figure I'm rather proud of!  In fact, Sue and I actually got into a bit of a fight because I wanted to go riding Monday and she had other plans for me (she won out by the way).

In 2013 I set myself a goal just to ride more.  I managed to to that.  I rode to places I've never been and with people I never rode with before.  I managed to go further.  I started to make Kimmy my main means of transport.  I managed to get more gear.

Now in 2014 I have a similar vague goal.  I want to get out of my comfort zone.  Nearly all the riding I do is in my neighborhood and back and forth to work.  I want to try an overnight trip.  I want to ride to Jacksonville or St Augustine or Miami.  I want to try a 200 mile + day - or at least get more 150 + mile days in then I did the previous year.

I want to ride more with Sue on the back.

Breaking out of my "comfort zone" is all well and good but I also need to be safe.  I can honestly say I don't know how long I've been riding.  All I know is I don't' want to stop.