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Sunday, August 31, 2014

Labor day weekend 2014 - Rob's lost.

Practice makes perfect, perfect is a fault and in fault lies change. - REM

I could not let a three day weekend pass without a bit of a ride.

August 2014 was a long month for me, one full of change and surprise and fear and yea, more than my fair share of wonder.  

Without going into to much detail this path month has seen a lot of changes.  Those changes are still happening, still occurring.  Generally speaking I think I don't handle change well.  You can blame that on my father and his "stuck in my ways" approach to life.  But I also thrive on and need change, to do something the same way day in and out bores me to tears.

It's been a month of phone calls and talking to lawyers.  It's been a month of uncertainty and balance.  It's been an odd time of year for me.  Concerning the lawsuits I will say this.  One lawsuit is coming to an end, another may or may not go forward.  I'm told I have a case but it's going to be balancing on a fine line.  I am not a litigious person, but having been even semi self-employed for as long as I have, you learn to keep a lawyer on retention.  

Another job awaits (with better pay and daylight hours), but only if I manage to test well on the Florida licensing exam.  Sadly this is a one shot deal.  I feel confident that I will pass it.  

Still though sometimes you just need to put down the books, the phones, and step away from the computer.  There are times when you need to go for a ride just to clear your head.  So I did.

I forgot to bring my camera.  I forgot to bring my phone (all photo's have been on this blog before then).   I just rode, taking whatever road seemed best.  If I made a left or right hand turn didn't matter.  I wanted to be lost, I wanted to just ride somewhere, anywhere for a bit.  

Florida is largely flat, but we do have some hills.  Quite by accident I found myself on Leheup Hill, and it's sister hill - Nursery hill.  

A left turn because I've never been down that road leads me off onto a single lane road with some pretty neat twisties, and then up over a bend with a view over a lake that made me long for my camera.  Their was a school or college or some educational looking building that was was reflected in the calm water sitting on a knoll above the lake.  I had to stop and drink in the view for a moment.  

A moment or two later some sandhill cranes walk out into the path requiring some quick, but not difficult braking on my part.  These are large birds and even though they only weigh about 10 pounds (4.57 Kg), I've no desire to hit a bird that is 3 or 4 foot tall ( or roughly 91 cm).  They squawk at me, taking their time to cross the road only about a meter from me, annoyed that I am making them move.  

I move on, passing a twin to the Muffler man in Zephyrhills and cursing the fact that I was unable to find him during my adventures with the Equinox to Equinox rally.  I start down another road that I don't ride very often, heading Southwest and debating if I want to head towards the coast.  Past lazy cows and horses that look at me with a smirk.  "We have the real horsepower" they seem to say.

It occurs to me that I've not been on horseback in years, and how I enjoyed that so much as a younger man.

I wave absentmindedly to other riders, I pass an old church and think about stopping just to take a look inside but I keep moving.  Leaning right, left, right, left....I'm lost and joyful and the miles tick off the odometer.  I stop for water at a convenience store and strike up a short but funny conversation with the elderly clerk.  Then I'm off again.  It's hot and my ass is uncomfortable on the seat but I keep riding.  50 miles tick off...60...70.  I stop now and again for water, it's to hot not to.  I thank God for investing in a mesh jacket.

It's afternoon now and I am really lost.  I stop, cursing myself for leaving the phone at home.  In taking the path not traveled I've somehow managed to turn myself around one to many times.  I see a sign for Brooksville, it's a town I know can lead me home but I have no clue how the hell I got here.  I'm north one county and heading away from home...I thought I was heading towards it.  I am turned around.

Brooksville actually one of those towns I've been wanting to explore.  There is history here, not all of it good as the "City of Tangerines" was once known for it's lynchings and racism.  I'm about 45 miles from home.  I turn the bike in that direction.  Susan, I know, would worry about me.  It's not like me to forget my phone.  I vow to return and soon, camera in hand.
The "Muffler man" in Z-hills
The ride home is straight, boring and at a higher speed than I like.  The scenery is mostly southern pine and knobby trees.  I know there must be a shorter way home (and there was, I looked after I got home) but I know this route.

I finally make it home, tired, hot and sweat drenched.   Kimmie and I did the longest ride we ever have, something like 130 miles and 3 to 5 hours.  I had filled the tank and reset the odometer but never bothered to look at my leave time.

My ass aches and so does my back.  Susan is chewing me out.  I'm smiling.  I'm happy to have gotten lost.  I stand in the shower and let the hot water relax my back and just think about doing that again sometime.

I've fallen in love again.

Thursday, August 21, 2014


I've been giving a lot of thought lately to fear.

Fear of riding, fear of falling, fear of failing, fear of starting something new, of losing someone and some things.  Fear matters.  It motivates and it stops us. Our fight or flight reactions sometimes guide us or fail us.  We conquer it and wonder what scared us so.  We pay to be fearful every October.  Fear excites us, it scares the living hell out of us.

When I commute I sometimes take a different route and on that road is a rather easy "S" bend that quickly turns into a hard left.  It's a busy one lane road and the turn requires you to slow down drastically, going from about 40 MPH (64.4 KPH)  to 10 MPH (16 KPH) in seconds.  It's a good lean and when down right you feel the G force and stay in the lane.  When it's not done right you are put instantly into a three lane road just like a slingshot.

For a long time I would not take that road.  That turn scared the hell out of me.

Then one day I did.  Then another day.  Then the day after that.  I overcame that fear.  That being said I still give that turn a lot of respect.    I still slow down drastically, I still fear it but it's now more of a healthy respect.

Over the last week or so I've been in class.  So my riding this past week has been drastically reduced.

This class is something new for me, I've not been in a University environment in over 20 years.  I have to learn a lot.  Like the teacher said, "You have a week to learn what normally takes a quarter to teach."  I'm fearful that I won't pass it.  That I won't be given the job promised me if I fail.  Its a lot of pressure but the payoff could be worth my weight in gold (and I'm pretty fat).

Assuming all works like I hope, I'll have to ride a little further each day but will be working daylight.  The pay would be at least 3K more a year than I make now.  It has the potential to be more, and I would be management for a change.  Good changes...but tinged with fear.  I would also have to ride the highway during rush hour...which is fearful in the relative safety of my car.

In my class I met a younger man who just bought his first motorcycle, a Suzuki S40 and I'll admit I was looking at one too some time ago.  He had taken the safety course and bought the bike used.  In the last 6 months he managed to put a little over 1,500 miles (2414 km) on it.  He stated he was fearful of it.  That he would not ride on roads that had cars or people on them.  I thought about when I first started and how, particularly at night, I would let the cars pass me on my little Zuma 125.

He told me a story about the Howard Franklin Bridge that he swore he never ride again.  I know the feeling all to well.  But we do these things and overcome our fears.

Sadly, this was fatal for the biker.

I'm not sure what drove us to motorcycling and all I know is that I don't have the love for it I once did.  I'm fearful of that.  I don't want my bike to be a garage queen and I don't want my miles to only number in the low thousands at the end of the year.  I'm fearful that he will never really develop a taste for it and just be another lost soul.

He asked me what it was like when I went down.  All I could do was stress training, riding and ATGATT.  What else could I do?  What else could I do to curtail that fear?

Then I told him something a wise rider once told me.  "Going down ain't the problem, it's what you do once you get up that matters.  Don't let that fear get to ya."

We don't have to be fearful.  We just do what we need to do.

Friday, August 15, 2014

High on Florida Politics

When I was out riding earlier today I saw a sign stating that early voting begins on August 26 here in Florida.  A whole 12 weeks (or 3 months) before the general election.  If your television is anything like mine, it is inundated with political ads even now.

Now I will admit before I even start that I'm biased.  I am a dyed in the wool Democrat (although I am a  Green Party member now).

Sadly I think about 1 out of every three ads is a political ad here in the sunshine state.  We are a political battleground state, largely because we have a very unpopular Governor in Rick "Bat Boy" Scott.   Scott masterminded one of the biggest Medicare frauds in history, then basically used his millions of ill gotten booty to buy the governorship.  He pretty much upset both parties his first 2 years and now is trying to paint himself as moderate.

Sadly his main Democratic challenger is a political opportunist who would join the American Nazi Party if he thought it would get him elected to a dog catchers position.  Personally, given these two choices, I'll vote for Cthulhu.

But my personal political leanings and beliefs are not the nature of this post.  I'm sure that many of my readers (all 5 or 6 of you) have frankly, stopped reading this by now.  So let me tell you what this post is about.

Pot.  Mary Jane, Blunt, Chronic, "the wacky weed".  Marijuana.  Cannabis Sativa.

Florida has Amendment 2 - the right for medical Marijuana on the November 4 ballot.  I've given a lot of thought to this amendment.

I also know people, both old and young, that need the medicinal benefits of Marijuana.   Who have either used it, tried it or are currently using it for the medical benefits.  I also know that most of the benefits obtained from the drug are either psychological or questionable at best.  Frankly, due to the sometimes draconian laws the US has had concerning pot, their is very little actual hard medical data.  Some of that data is questionable at best.

Personally I believe that there are some benefits to Marijuana.  I also believe that it needs to be researched more, we need to determine what these benefits are.  To take the best of it and do away with the rest.  I also know that if your give it to drug companies it will take them 30 years to develop and would cost 300 times what it takes to produce.  That is the nature of drug companies.  People need help now.

As someone that rides the roads of Florida pretty much every day I'm a little worried about loosening the states laws about Marijuana.  As a biker I have to deal with people texting, talking on their cell phones, drunk and distracted drivers, bad roads and uninsured/unlicensed drivers.  Florida  currently ranks fifth in the number of uninsured drivers   I have heard that 1 in 10 drivers in Florida is unlicensed, although I'm not sure how that number was determined.

In other words, it's scary out there.

Do I really want to add someone that is high to that long list of things I have to look out for?

So for me, Amendment 2 is tricky.  I know that it can help others.  That supposedly their will be restrictions and regulations in place to help prevent the use of medical marijuana.   I also know that some people will abuse the system.

I also know that most drivers are responsible, that most people are responsible.  It's those that are not that worry me.  Right now there are only two states that allow for legal recreational use.  However I wonder if there has been an uptick in motorized accidents due to pot in those states.  Or an increase of people driving under the influence.  Again, this data is hard to find.  Common sense would indicate there would be, at least in the beginning.

It has been decriminalized in some other states, and I expect that trend to continue.  It is widely expected that Amendment 2 will pass here in Florida and after that the laws may loosen regarding recreational use.  I'm still not sure if it's a good idea or not.  I don't like the idea of highly regulating the drug, see the part about our corrupt governor above.  Yet I don't care for no regulation, because that worked so well with our vehicle's here in Florida.

What is a happy medium?  That protects the public but allows something that might help thousands, if not millions of people, suffer less from being abused?  How can we, bikers, make sure that we are protected from those that might be under the influence?  It's scary enough out there.  Should Florida enact tougher "driving under the influence" laws?  Currently you lose your licence for anywhere from 6 months to 2 years...yet Florida does not have much in the way of alternative transportation, and you have to get to work somehow.  Suddenly that 1 in every 10 unlicensed number starts to make a little more sense.

I'm ending this here because honestly I'm not sure if I have a point.  I'm not sure how to end this, just like I'm unsure where I stand on my adopted states loosening of the current restrictions on "funny cigarettes."  All I know for sure is that after the first Tuesday in November, I'll be ever more careful on my bike than I am now.

Saturday, August 9, 2014

I turn the key and...


No click, no roaring to life.  I pop the seat and the inner light glows weakly and that indicates only one thing to me.  The battery is dead or dying.

I can't help but wonder if maybe I didn't close the seat enough and accidentally drained the battery.  Do to a lot of different reasons I'm not going to go into I've not ridden my bike since last Saturday. It was a error that I wanted to rectify this weekend.  Luckily for me it appears pretty easy to replace.

To be honest, I was not unhappy about the battery.  After all to the best of my knowledge it was the original battery and it lasted for four or five years if not longer.  If I got that long out of any battery that I bought new;  I would be happy even though I knew that the general life of a motorcycle battery was only two or three years tops.  Besides, another opportunity to grow as a mechanic!  Although my owners manual warned me that only a qualified mechanic should replace the battery.  I'm definitely not that.

First then, to the geeks favorite friend, the internet.  I was wondering about the price, would my mechanic have the battery in stock or would he over charge me for it?  How long would it take for me to receive the battery if I ordered it online?  Was there some video somewhere which would explain the correct procedure?  I have replaced various car batteries over time, this should not be to difficult...right?  There was a little corrosion on the negative terminal.

The tender in use

The Kymco forums didn't really have much for me.  I also considered getting a battery tender.  After all, if I got a rechargeable battery would this not extend the life?  Although it seemed it be a waste of money for me.  My bike generally does not sit.

In the end someone in my park had a tender that they let me borrow.  It slowly but surely charged.  Then VROOM!  Okay it's a scooter so maybe not VROOM! but she did start - so I'm happy.  I rode it briefly around the town to ensure it was working.  I decided to ride it to work later tonight.

But the question still remains.  Do I get a tender or assume that the battery is shot?  In either case for a small investment (about $35 US) I would have a tender.  I might even try to find something that I can place under the seat since I often work at night, and being stuck out in the middle of nowhere at 2 AM does not really appeal to me.  Ah...another farkle.

As always I'll update ya!

Friday, August 8, 2014

Bacon powered motorcycle

I believe in alternative fuels and have toyed with the idea of a electric bike.

Somehow this just seems wrong.

One wonders about the MPS - miles per (bacon) strip

Saturday, August 2, 2014

18 months and exploring Plant City

I received an email the other night from the dealership I bought Kimmie off of, according to the email I owned her for 18 months now.  I actually had to go back and do the math, using all my fingers and part of my toes during the process.

In some ways it feels longer than that.  In other ways, shorter.  I started this blog on August 22,2011.  I recently upgraded from a little Yamaha Zuma 125 to a Suzuki Burgman 400.  I made my first post about Kimmie way back on February 2, 2013.

In just under four years I've managed to go down twice, hurting myself pretty badly on the second one.  Travel countless miles, see lots of things that I would have never of seen otherwise, met new and interesting people.  I even got to take a brief cruise to the Bahama's and ride in a foreign country.  All of this opportunity may have been open to me in a car...but you actually need to go.

On the bike...I didn't want to stop for the longest time.  Then it took me a long time to get back on the beast, to put away demons and just fall in love all over again with the idea of riding.

So with that in mind I decided to take a Saturday morning and ride up to Plant City.  This little burg is sort of a's bigger on the inside.  It has a reputation of being a bit backward and agricultural, despite being in the same county as Tampa.  Frankly, it is.  The area surrounding the town is largely flat and the roads straight.  Farmland stretches for miles.

It's been called the Strawberry Capital of the World, a distinction shared by many cities, for a reason and is home to the Florida Strawberry Festival.  The town even has a dedicated fairground just for that event.  The strawberry's are wonderful and the festival is a lot of fun, although it involves mostly country musical acts and traditional country crafts like quilting displays.

The downtown area is like any small city in America, the population is over 34 thousand after all.  What interests me about a place is the odd, the unusual...what gives the place its soul?

To be honest other than strawberries, I'm not sure what gives this town it's soul.  It has a few beautiful homes in the historic district, a train depot and museum and....what?  .

Certainly not Dinosaur World!  I suppose if I was 5 or 6 years old this would be a neat place to be with life size statues of long dead fantastic creatures.    It sits just off the I-4 highway and you can't miss it's big mascot sitting at the gates.

There is also a small winery in town which doubles as a craft brewery.  I've not had the beer but I've tried the wine before.  Frankly I was not impressed but was willing to give them the benefit of the doubt, and I've always been a hard cider fan as well.  I stopped at their tasting room, only to find it closed.  Considering I was riding on the bike, it was probably for the best.  Perhaps when I'm up this way next.

I just might pass that Franchise opportunity to a friend of mine that sells Chocolates.

All told, it was a good day out, a nice satisfying 75 miles (120.7 KM) where I was not rushing to work or had a particular destination in mind.  I'll take it.

There's a ghost in the glass!