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Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Wolf Rider #3 and 4

I posted the first and second of this series here.  Now I thought you might enjoy the third and forth episodes.  I'm not sure how often they are being released but once per week seems about right.

I'm not sure what to think  They are not "HA HA" funny but it's nice to see that Honda has got a good sense of humor and it's done in conjunction with the Onion.  So the production quality is pretty good.  It's also nice to see that they are promoting ATGATT as well.  I'll settle on "cute."

I enjoy the video's because they poke fun at a lot of  "biker culture."  Notice for example how the Sepia tones above for Episode 4 remind you some of Steve McQueen.

I'll be honest...your on your own for episodes # 5 and beyond.  It's called YouTube People!

This is also my last posting for the month of July.

Sunday, July 27, 2014

Connecting the dots...

It's Sunday.  Although I should be helping the lovely Susan with one of the remaining delivery jobs we have I found myself sleeping in; and when I woke she was already gone.

So I wondered what I was going to do.  The decided I was going to ride.  Sure there were other things to do, the garden needed to be weeded.  Grass to be cut.  But, for me, the opportunity to ride someplace other than work does not come about very often.

I've let other chances slip through my hands because I am still a little gun shy, I'm still a little "iffy" about things.  Sue has not ridden with me in some time.  I don't think she will again for a long time, both of us knowing the risks all to well.  Sure I was banged up and bruised and the accident was not my fault...still though my pride took the biggest damage.  There were some other issues as well which are more of a personal nature and I will not dwell on here.  Over all my stress level has been through the roof lately.

I've been looking at riding recently as stress relief.  You can't concentrate on the road when the issues of work and family are at the forefront.  I push them down, look ahead and lean into turns.  I look out for cars, animals, road hazards...and those work and family issues fade away.  When I turn the bike off and dismount, those stress seem lessened and even a bit manageable.  I've been feeling the need to reconnect with nature like I did years ago.

How can you not reconnect with that?

I planned my route carefully...I would be revisiting an old hidden path that I knew of, and maybe hitting part of the northern part of the Green Swamp Trail.  I've ridden part of this trail before but have yet to do the entire loop.

Off I went.  I took our new Canon camera with me and was immediately stuck with how many great pictures I could have taken.  An old barn covered with signs.  A old lady in a blue gingham dress feeding an old cow.  A pasture full of mules, cows, ducks and cranes that seemed to shy away from me.   I considered stopping, considered catching these images...but I rode on.  I wanted to concentrate on the ride.

It does bring up a good question...when should one stop for photo's?  But that is for another time.

Into a light rainstorm that got worse I started to carve into the turns of my hidden gem.  I briefly considered hiding under a tree till a crack of lightening changed my mind.  Another fallen tree showed the damages of a lightening strike.  On I rode.

I could have had more points for the Equinox rally!
The rain let up, into the swamp land now...till that road turned to dirt.  I've ridden Kimmie into that before, but not today.  Instead we turned into the Withlacoochee River Park, a 610 acre park that I did not even know existed till now.  Some hiking and exploring  may be required here in the fall.

I returned about 90 minutes later.  I need to conquer that ride, this is the first time I've been back to it since "the incident" back in January.  It was where I was off to when the kaka hit the fan.  The turns on that road are sharp, hidden, parts of the road can flood easily and washout can happen in parts.

 The rains, though brief, were hard at times and made me redouble my efforts to be safe.  I made it there and back again.  It was a little demon but one that tugged at me for a while.  I'm trying to fall in love with riding all over again.  Days like this do help it.

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Finding the connections.

The world is full of such beauty, and we only get to witness but a glimpse. - Gorge Takei

When I was a younger man, when I felt down in the dumps or lonely or when the stress of the world got to me...I would go for a walk in the woods.  

Sometimes I go for an hour, or a day.  Or a few minutes in one of Pittsburgh's parks where I would unwind listening to the songs of a few wild birds or the gentle play of water in a fountain, I would close my eyes and let the city fade away.  There was just something about getting into nature, even when it was in the center of the city, that felt right.

Thanks to Citiparks of Pittsburgh
That's a little harder for me to do in Florida. and one of the reasons I love to ride my bike.  In this year alone I've seen cow pastures reduced to dusty parking lots.  Fields of flowers that used to reach for the sky now full of sky scrapers.  This is just on my daily commute.  Only the Lord knows what the future holds for the city of Tampa and it's every growing sprawl.

So when I can I get away, going down an old farm road where I can smell citrus when it's in season.  Going past gossiping cows who look at me with a passing interest, then go back to the grazing.   I look up at the sky and see pinks and grays and the far away flash of lighting.  I think about nature, about how I need to get away.  How I need a vacation.  How I need to reconnect with the world.  How I need to recharge.
Sunset by Jen Whitehawk

July has been a harsh month on me.  I consider briefly just continuing to ride.  Ride on and on and then wonder where the hell I am.  Just to get away from the stress and difficulties of modern life.  I think of Ari and Spirit, and what it must be like to be truly free...but then I remember I like the comforts of  a Candlewood Suites where i stayed in Jacksonville.  I've slept on hard ground, and prefer the softness of a hotel bed.  Of not having to cook my own food.  Of not wondering where I will be tomorrow.

Lately I've been riding back and forth just to work, but I may take the long way in.  The back roads, the odd little side streets, The quiet back streets of Zephyrhills at 1 AM when no one is about.  My confidence grows and I know that soon enough I'll be riding my hidden back road, a few other twists and turns that I found one day by accident while coming home from nearby Plant City (which is a planned ride and post in itself one day soon).  

Now if only the weather would break...I need to reconnect.  

I need to get out into the world where I can be left alone with my thoughts, where I see birds in flight or maybe a big old tortoise taking his time with a piece of apple.  I feel the need to recharge.

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Wrenching...or you can teach an old dog new tricks after all.

There comes a time in every man's life when they have to admit that they don't know something.  That they are weak, that they may not be capable of something.  Or perhaps they are capable of something...but need to prove it to no one other than themselves.

What we decide to do about that determines what type of man we are.  Do we ask for help, swallowing our pride in the process?  Learning something in the process?  Do we ignore the problem?  Do we let the women in our lives silently make the phone calls needed to get the problem resolved?  Do we curse and swear till blood oozes from the cuts on our hands and we cry out in victory as the goal is accomplished?

When it comes to anything mechanical or requires the use of my hands I'll be the first to admit that I'm the proverbial monkey with a gun.  Which really is odd, I've worked in technical fields most of my adult life...but having "book knowledge" and "field knowledge" really are two different things.  So there comes a time in a man's life...when he needs to get his hands dirty and work up a good sweat.

With that..I decided to do some maintenance on Kimmy.  She has sat barely ridden for the last two weeks or so, a combination of me being out of town, some other projects that needed done, rain and it just being to freaking hot to ride.  I noticed she seemed to be riding a little rough last time out however, so I thought I check every thing that I could, change out the air cleaner and determine if she required a little more care.  In other words, was a tune-up in order?

I knew there were some issues right off the bat, the tires were showing signs of cracking and "heat checking" which I understand is one of the issues of living in Florida.   In Florida we have near constant sunshine which, combined with heat and humidity, will break down rubber quicker than usual.  I'm a little concerned and frankly hate the idea of replacing both tires, but that is the safer move.  The treads are generally good on front and back but I'll be needing to replace them soon enough.  Based on what I learned from sites like the Kymco forum, Michelin City Grip tires looked like the best choice for me.  Two tires will be on order by the start of August.

My brakes seem to be in order but since I don't have the training or tools to replace those that's something the mechanic going have to fix.  Although at only 18850 (30,336 KM) miles I'm not to concerned...yet.

I also decided to replace the air cleaner, after all to the best of my knowledge it was the original filter and probably about due for a change.  A quick ride up to my local mechanic and the the filter was ordered for $45 - certainly I could do better than that!  TO THE INTERNET!

Seems easy enough!  Thanks Kymco!
One of the things that I love about Kymco is the ease to get to things.  A pop-out plastic panel and the removal of five screws and the new air filter was in.  For the cost of $45 dollars US.  It seems that one of the things I don't like about Kymco is the lack of after market parts.  Honestly it was a pain in the butt to get the filter out but she did come out after much cursing and the liberal application of lubricants.  It was so dirty that I actually think it was the original filter.  I should have taken a picture of it but honestly forgot to do so.

Coolant check!  Done!  I had the oil changed before I went to Jacksonville, so I was good on that.

Bingo, bang-o, bong-o done!

It sounds silly - even to me - that a 48 year old man should be happy about doing basic maintenance on his bike.  Truthfully though, I was never really taught how to do any of this as a kid, so when the dreaded zombie upbringing happens I'll be served up on toast.

Friday, July 11, 2014

Jax again...cold beer, bad food and a surprise in the middle of nowhere

The problem with business travel is that, for someone like me that likes to explore and eat and drink from the local establishments, your not always able to do that.

When I was in Jax, as the locals call it, last time I was working from 4 PM to midnight or so.  I was able to get out to the beaches, the museums, listen to live jazz music while sipping wine because I didn't have to show up to work till later.  This time I was mostly working days with small groups of two or three people teaching them the in's and out's of our difficult but important job.  This shift was really not conducive to getting out and exploring the city.  Which was a shame because I like what I've seen of Jacksonville.  I like the ocean and the history in nearby St Augustine.  I like that Jacksonville seems to be a city just on the edge of defining itself.

I like that I found a pretty cool place called King street that had some funky little restaurants and shops on it.  One place, called the Silver Cow, impressed me so much that I know I would be mentioning it to all my beer loving friends.  Beer and wine tasting has always been a passion of mine.

What is it about small hole in the wall places that attract me so? The Silver Cow had nice semi-modern art on the wall, tin type on the ceilings and an old wood bar and about 25 to 30 craft beers on tap.  Including such oddities as Barleywine.  Sadly their menu selection left a lot to be desired and by the time I reached them the kitchen appeared to have been closed.  I missed the live jam session they had the previous night with local musicians that apparently spilled into the street causing an impromptu dance party on the sidewalks.  Yea, my kind of dive.

The next night it was recommended that I try a place nearby called Kickbacks Gastropub.  I'm always up for an adventure and was told that they had a very good beer selection and  a nice menu.  I should have guessed by the hipsters hanging outside this wasn't the place for me.  I've been friends with musicians and artists for most of my life.  You develop an eye for "posers", they are generally the ones that develop a certain look but either don't have the talent or the desire to put in the hard work needed to actually develop a talent.  This place seemed to attract them like a moth to a flame.

I ordered the french dip you know how hard it is to screw up a french dip?  Somehow this place did that.  At least the beer, in this case a nice 22 oz (65 cl German Hefeweizen) beer was cold.  Yet the beer list left a lot to be desired.  I was expecting some unusual brews, not the same stuff I find in any restaurant anywhere.

At least the night was warm and I managed to find a nice little tree filled park with a bird island in the center of it.  I meandered past some good street art and gardens, past old southern homes built in the 1950's that the locals still took pride in and some interesting people.

A long time ago on  Back Road Motorcycling Riding, I read about the Yearling Restaurant located in Cross Keys, Florida.  It seems that this odd little place was influenced by Pulitzer Prize winning writer Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings, who made her fortune from the novel; The Yearling, and whose home was nearby.  The menu features local game such as venison, quail, gator, turtle and duck.  I've had all these dishes before and have been wanting to stop every since reading the original blog post.  Sadly the lunch menu only offered venison so I simply had to settle for the best blackened shrimp that I've ever had.  

Although I have to admit that the outside is a bit....daunting.  Getting there can be an adventure because frankly it's in the middle of nowhere and just to the left of bumf*ck.  However it was on my way home so stopping was never in question.
When I walked in I heard the rich baritone of an elderly blues singer that reminded me that art and a woman's love are worth selling your soul to the devil for.

Old books and antiques covered the walls and created a warm welcoming atmosphere.  Pencil art and aged yellowing photographs covered the wall.  I considered ordering a glass of wine from across the way and spending some time there and at the nearby homestead of Ms Rawlings, but time was fleeting as I had to return the company's rental car.

So I add another spot to the list, another place that I have to return to some day.  That list keeps getting longer and longer but the days keep dwindling down.  It's all part of growing up I suppose.

Book Store or Library?  No, the Yearling

Inside the Yearling
I can't help but wonder who plays here normally.

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Honda gets silly

...and creates a great new ad campaign (maybe?).  These were done in conjunction with the Onion, America's leading snarky news source.

So far there are only two in the series, but hopefully more to follow.


Honda undoubtedly gave its blessing, and even though it's done tongue in cheek, the "everyday guy" vibe hasn't been seen since Honda`s "You meet the nicest people on a Honda" campaign of 30 or so ago.  

Now I am left to wonder, is this the snarky beginning of a new ad campaign...or just a stupid comedy bit?  Personally I am hoping it's an ad campaign.  Not all motorcycle adverts have to be barely dressed girls and tight corners.  

I personally applaud something new now and again.  

Thursday, July 3, 2014

Darkness at the edge of town

The last few nights have been cool.  Kimmie and I take the long way home each time, letting the darkness envelops us.  I like to ride at night, even though my visibility is reduced and  I can see the small white tail deer grazing silently on the side of the road at times.  What should be familiar takes on odd and threatening shapes.  I think of our ancestors of million years ago, knowing that dangers stalked the night; a fear of the dark is not a bad thing.  It's a survival instinct...we really don't know what is out there.

It's late, later than I normally ride home but I've been feeling good.  Kimmie purrs like days of old and I lean easily into the turns, the only light from her and a storm gathering far off.  Heat lighting has filled the sky the last few nights.  At a stoplight I hear the noise of the night birds, soft and lilting.

Off in the distance on another night, clear of clouds, I see the red flame of a meteor as it makes it way to the glows like a cigarette tip in the sky before breaking up.  I sit and watch it in the middle of the street, partially amazed and partially quietly engaging my scientific mind.   I think about angles, about velocity and about how far and long that piece of rock must of traveled to find itself here.  Burning up so a lone biker in the middle of Florida could look up in wonder.

It's later now.  I still have some way to go. I curse myself for not pulling out my phone, so I could have caught the last moments of this glorious rock to share.  There are no other cars out, I pull out and head through town.  Past the shuttered buildings of downtown Zephyrhills.  I take a turn and the light from a building bleeds out into the street.  It's not a comforting light and somehow seems out of place here.

For several nights in a row I consider riding on.  The days have been hot and muggy but the nights are anything but, and as I flip up my visor I can sense a change in the air.  The endless possibility of summer and the open road.

This is what I love about biking.  I don't have a radio to distract me.  I don't have a phone ringing or the endless whistle of a text message.  I just have the sky to distract me.

I have to remind myself that watching the heat lightening while traveling on an empty road in the middle of the night is not a good thing.  Still though, that storm could be 100 miles away and it's power and beauty attract me like a flame attracts a moth.

I wake up early in the morning with only one desire.  To ride in the cool morning air and I try to dress without waking Susan.  Then I'm off, riding the roads that surround my house, riding with no destination or purpose.  A few hours later the heat of day grows, the thunderstorms move in again...and I wonder if I'm back to my old ways.  I hope I am.