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Thursday, December 31, 2015

End of the year milage post - Looking back on 2015

Later on today I'll fire Kimmy up, her "change oil" light will come on (it came on earlier this week), and I'll take her for a bit of a ride.  The last of 2015.

A friend of mine shared an animated GIF to his Facebook page (which for some reason I can not make work on Blogger - I tried) that shows his how his year went.  It started well, and as he progressed down the slide it got rockier, till at the very end (now shown as December) he rockets off the slide and face plants into the dirt.

Funny...but very accurate.

It's been another year of health concerns (not so much mine but Susan's), incidents, accidents and me complaining about the heat.  A gasket that literally had to come on a slow boat from Asia didn't help matter either. Nor did various battery/electrical issues.  All these things it seemed conspired to keep me off the bike.  Or at least made me feel like I didn't ride the way I have in the past.

Even though it's the last day of December the weather outside is gorgeous.  We're predicted to have a high of 84 degrees today (29 C) with only a 20% of rain, weather I know many of my fellow bloggers would die for.  I really don't feel like riding  We have had weather like that since the start of December, yet my Kimmie has sat, lonesome in her spot in my driveway.  This has had more to do with me not wanting to ride or being willing to ride than anything.

Earlier in the year I considered trading her in, thinking that starting a new relationship with a new bike would break me out of my malaise.  Or selling her altogether.  In the end though, I've formed a special little relationship with my Kimmie and letting her go would be like losing a part of who I am.

As I look back over the last year I know that I did a bit more than I thought I did.   I drove up to Brooksville and wanted to explore there a little more (another trip soon I think, this time on Kimmie).  I went exploring in Ybor, one of my favorite neighborhoods in Tampa.  I got to ride through the very heart of central Florida.  I even got to see a tiny house.  I even visited a legendary store in the Daytona area too.

Sadly however, not all these adventures were in the saddle.  Still though, they were adventures.

I'm looking forward to the arrival of Bobscoot and plan on showing him the sites, places that I've not made it to on my bike yet have visited in the past.  Places that I want to go but haven't yet.  So yes, I guess I'm looking forward to 2016.

Kimmie and I are not done yet, we still have roads to ride and sights to see, but I need to stop being the "whiny little bitch" that I've become over the last year.  There is great potential in the coming year...and I have to take advantage of that potential.

In a bit I'll ride for an hour, maybe two.   Another fifty miles or so will be added to her speedometer.  I don't see me putting any milage on that to her.  I'll come back in and duly edit to post, so I can have a record for the coming year.

Last year I started with 21736 miles (or 34,981 KM).  For the end of the year ended up being 26900.  Or only 5,164 miles for 2015.  About 1000 less than the year before.   Not good, not good at all.

Happy New Year then to all my friends and family.   Be safe, be well and be happy.

Saturday, December 26, 2015

Speaking of the Holiday's

Copyright Sonja Mager
It's come to my attention that Scooterbob may be in my hands soon.   Which means that I have to start thinking about where to take him, and what to show him.  Some things are simple and truly make sense to me, Clearwater beach for example I'm sure he would have loved.  His trademark pink crocs would have fit in there.

When I first learned of Bob Leong's death all those years ago, I hate to admit that it did not really affect me that much.   Sure, Bob encouraged me in my riding and in my first attempts to be a moto-blogger, but I did not know that man personally.   My comments concerning his death were, I hate to say it, more out of kindness than any true sense of grief.

After all, I personally did not know the man or his family.   You never know how someone touches your life however, I've been following the adventures of this little wooden scooter around the world.  He's traveled to some 6 countries now and thousands of miles and I'm sure when the UPS box comes with that big wonderful soul in it, I'll tear up a bit.  Not at his loss but at the artifacts that make up his travels.   It's my understanding that somewhere along the way the tradition of placing a little memento began.  How many people had their lives touched by him, or a little wooden scooter, or both.

These memento's are something that defines the area that he's been to.  I wonder what treasures are from France, Germany, New Zealand and other parts of the world.   I wonder if he journey is complete yet?  Or are parts of mysterious Africa and Asia still on his list?

As some readers know my family has been having health issues.  My beloved Susan, my girlfriend for the last 10 to 12 years has been battling a plethora of illnesses.   Our combined family has lost two beloved uncles and an aunt in the last two months to heart ailments and dementia.  It has been a year of sadness.

Still though, we celebrate life.  We fight against the dying of the light to paraphrase Dylan Thomas.  We gather with family and friends this time of year to eat, drink and be merry.  To love and hope and do all that is perfectly wonderfully human.

It's a little late to being everyone a Happy Holiday Season (I have friends and family that are Jewish, Pagan and Christian so "Happy Holiday's" is more appropriate for me) but here it is.   Happy Holidays and hold on to those that mean something to you.

You never know when they are gone.

Saturday, December 19, 2015

The arrogance of some dealers (and some local vandalism)

Before I begin this week's little rant I want to state one thing.  I'm not selling Kimmie.  I'm perfectly happy with my little scoot.

It's been a hard, long and tough week as we had had to deal with some ongoing personal issues.  So with some time to kill and absolutely nothing to do I decided to wander into two different dealerships to check out some models.

The first was the local Triumph dealership.  I like Triumph, to me when you think of what a motorcycle should look like, your looking at a Triumph.  It's all sleek lines and controlled power.  The Bonnie's are considered classics for a reason.

I've already decided that when the time comes to have a new bike I'll most likely buy the Honda 700 CTX but here I am at a Triumph dealer.  I throw my leg over the Bonnie, and....wait.   I don't wait long as a rather brusque older gentleman rushes over and starts to sell me.   Maybe he was an old salesman.  I've done sales too at various times in my life.   Sometimes you know when your dealing with just a "lookie lou."  Anyhow long story short I was dealing with him for less than 10 minutes when he's already shuffling me out the door.

A new friend of mine is pushing me to buy a Harley but I've no desire for that.  She's dangerous in a lot of ways since she rides without gear and I am Mr. ATGATT.  But lets put that aside for a moment.

Compare that experience to the one I had with my local dealership, Barney's.  I walk in and start chatting, I throw my leg over a nice Honda.  Again over a nice Aprilia.  We chat about local rides, about Maine.  30 minutes pass...then 50, and I realize that they have not tried to sell me yet.  We are bike people talking about bikes.

Guess where I'm going when the time comes.

Sadly where I live suffered a rash of vandalism.  I live in a quiet and safe community (okay, older community) and bikes are pretty common.  Mostly Harley's which are used maybe 3 or 4 times a year to go to special events or rallies.  You may hear the occasional low rumble of a bike being worked on but by no means is my neighborhood Hell's Angels central.  It's more Geriatric Angels central.

Which makes the recent vandalism all that more disturbing to me.  Someone poured paint over one of my neighbor's Harley's.

There is, of course, no excuse for this.  From what I understand they have an idea of who the culprit was and are taking the appropriate legal measures.

From what I understand the paint was water based so it actually did come off the bikes with proper cleaning.   Still though you hate to see anyone damage someone else's property.  The good news is that this damage was not permanent or hard to fix.

As I look at the photo though I can't help but wonder if any paint was poured into the gas tank itself.  That would be an issue.

Saturday, December 12, 2015

Getting small - I visit a Tiny House

I've had most of this week off from work, and lately the weather has been perfect for me to get out and do some exploring.  I like the odd, I like the unusual and earlier in the week I heard about a tiny house "open house" event.  Jessica is the owner of the cute 8 by 18 foot home (325 square feet of living space). I've seen some of the programs on TV but have never seen a "tiny home" up close and personal.  So you know damn well I was going to the open house.   You can view her Facebook page here.

I'll admit there is a bit of me that likes the idea.  Paring down to almost nothing, taking things to a simpler level (I have seven different pairs of dress shoes alone) and frankly finding a way to live with less.  As one of the woman I was talking to at the open house stated; "One of the things you need to do is determine what you can't live without, and build up from that."

One guy had a 55 inch HD TV in his slightly larger home.  I could live without the TV.  I would need my PC.  I suppose that would free up some wall space.  The home actually does look spacious and once you're inside three or four people could sit comfortably.   A light paint color and lots of windows helped with the illusion of space.

Thanks to Jessica's FB page.  
The kitchen sink doubled as the bathroom sink and the shower was tight, but something my 6 foot 220 pound frame could fit into.  Although the toilet looked....complex.  I really wanted to ask about that but didn't, maybe next time.

The home was fully equipped with at small but functional kitchen and a semi-full sized fridge.  "I can't give up my ice cream." Jessica told me.

Sadly I was not able to stay longer than a hour or so, and I did have questions about life in a tiny home.  While it's probably not for me, I can still admire anyone that lives life on their own terms.  I was speaking to a guy named Will about how I lived in a 500 square foot apartment years ago and felt the walls were closing in on me.  We laughed about how the walls sometimes closed in on him in 600 square feet (his "large" home).

There were people there that already owned a tiny home, others that were curious, family and friends.  I felt welcomed there.  I'm sure that if I would have stayed I would have asked more questions, found out some information that haunted me - "How much does this home weigh?" for example.  Or, "Why does the door swing in instead of out?  Would that not give you more space?"

No matter.  It was a good day out and about.  That's all that matters.

The loft
View from the loft.

That "complex toilet", notice the levers and such on the side

Friday, December 11, 2015

A very public apology.

Due to my own stupidity...I've deleted the last two comments that Conchscooter has left on my blog.
So a very public apology to Michael.  It's nothing personal...really it's not.  :)

Thursday, December 10, 2015

December already (a life update)

I find myself in the perfect position over the next few days.   I'm temporarily off work this week due to one project ending and another beginning, and my company has furloughed me in the meantime.   It's warm, dry and sunny for the most part, perfect weather for a ride.

Sadly due to some odds and ends in the real world I've not been able to get out as much as I had hoped.  That's been the story of my life this year.  When I was growing up I used to tease my father in a loving way about the worry lines on his forehead, I used to tell him I was going to play checkers there, now I am his age then and I find myself having those same lines.

I find myself worrying less and less about Susan as the doctors generally feel that they are moving in the right direction and the cancer she has seems to waning.  Although having suffered from a chronic issue myself for years, which could have been diagnosed with a simple blood test, I don't always take doctors at their word.

As I look back on the previous eleven months, I know health factors for both of us have kept me off the bike more than I wanted to.

I've considered selling Kimmy because I've not been riding her, then all of a sudden I get a burst of energy and I'm on her again...going off somewhere, anywhere really and for a few brief moments that spark reignites.  My adventures are simple ones, going to the store for milk...or running an errand.  Later on today or tomorrow I hope to go Christmas shopping for Susan on my bike.  Or take a friend on back up to Tarpon Springs.

There are, as of the time of this writing, only three more weeks in the month of December.  In that time I hope to get in as much riding and mileage as I can.  I know that I won't ride today, as I've got to get new brakes on one of our cars, go pick up some papers and get other legal docs notarized.  I also found out that my small business partner in crime, Mike, picked up another contract for us starting next year and I've a brief meeting to attend on that.

Tomorrow....there is always time tomorrow (he types knowing that comment is dripping with sarcasm).

Sunday, November 29, 2015

Thinking about Robert Frost

So I'm riding into work the other's a warm day, the sun is shining and the traffic is light.  Kimmie and I lean into a turn and before you know it I'm laughing like a damn fool into my helmet.  We come out of the turn and I lean into another with a big smile on my face.

I feel light, I feel joyful.

Fast forward eight hours and a very good workday later and I'm driving home.  Again the traffic was light and the night cool.  A cloudless sky and a big Mourning Moon in the sky.   I stretched out and relaxed in the moonlight.  I have not enjoyed riding this much in a while.

I have Thanksgiving off.  I will be spending time with family and friends but then will have a large chunk of the afternoon off.  I have a lot to be grateful for this year, and generally speaking the last two years have been..."rough" is a good word.

As it so happened, I didn't really get a chance to go anywhere on the bike till Sunday.  It was great weather to ride in the Tampa Bay area, and yes, I understand how my Northern friends hate me at this moment.  I headed out with no destination.  No particular reason or place to go, I let Kimmie choose.

She started off in Zephyrhills, went around town then through it.  We stopped briefly in a old trailer park that is eventually going to become an Aldi's.  There is yellow tape around the old majestic oak trees and here and there some native plants are taking over, ripping up the concrete roads through root systems and time.  Up and over Fort King Road...then down into Dade City, past one of the last remaining drive in theatres.

I'm cutting down back roads that I'm not familiar with now.  Thinking about Gary B and how I really wish I had someone close to ride with on days like this.  I pass some odds and ends, pulling off to take some pictures with my phone.

I've been a city boy all my life but there is something about get out into the country, hearing the low soulful bellow of cows, or the hyperactive chatter of chickens that I love.  Wandering back country roads with no destination, no plan suits me.  I find myself looking for curves and take another road I don't know.  It does not deadend but it turns into dirt, and that is not what I have in mind today, so I turn around...stopping at an old cemetery that had to be over 100 years old.  I don't enter out of respect in case it's a family's private land, I  can see that the grass has been cut recently but the gates themselves are rusted open and I can see a orb spiders delicate web spun between the gates.

Kimmie and I agree to point our wheels and head towards home.  It's about 2:30 in the afternoon and I'm hungry for peanut butter and jelly.  For some odd reason I want a comfort food today.  Kimmie purrs a bit as I open her up as we race an old freight train running parallel to the road.  I think of Robert Frost and his famous poem.   The last stanza resonates with me right now.

I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.

Saturday, November 21, 2015

Stress and Destinations

Last Sunday I did something I've not done in some time.  I went out for Indian food.  I also rode Kimmie about with no destination in mind, and I absolutely loved it.

Why add undo stress?
So much so that in the week that followed I rode Kimmie to work on three different occasions (the other two days were rained filled) and the joy was just not there.  Which got me thinking about traffic and how it affects my mindset.

I thought about this a bit last night as I slogged through traffic in the dark, on the very same roads that I actually used to enjoy riding last year at this time.  Of course, back then it was 1 or 2 in the morning; traffic was light or non existent and I was more concerned about a rogue deer more than anything.   Now I'm coming home at 6:30 or 7 PM and although the traffic is not stop and go, it is heavier than I would like.   I have to think about passing someone safely, about keeping in the headlights of one car (to stay as visible as possible to as many people I can) yet out of the blindspot of another.  I'm worried if that car coming up behind me is looking at his phone or fiddling about with the radio and not paying attention, I'm just adding stress to an already stressful situation.

Working a stressful, but lucrative job doesn't help.

Last Sunday I had no stress, no destination.  I was riding to ride.  To be free and I know my fellow bikers will understand what I mean.  I'm beginning to understand why some bikers only take their rides out on the weekends.

An old photo but one of my favorites
Plus, in all honestly, I have nowhere to stow my gear at work, it's easier for me to wear dress shoes rather than riding boots, or not have to put on my jacket; with its bright yellow colors, on the back of my chair.   I've been teased about directing traffic at work...all in the name of ATGATT.

I do love riding though and have found motorcycling to be a unique "in" when working with clients.  I've spent hours talking to a company located in Sturgis, South Dakota about the insanity that is Sturgis.  And how after the rally it's just a dull, quiet little town.  It's given my company and theirs a connection we would not otherwise have, and a nice bonus check for me when they signed up for our services.

I've found that I'm happiest when I'm with a group riding to a destination I don't know or may have never otherwise been.  As I look back I've found I'm been happy when I'm alone, taking a road going somewhere....anywhere really.   Maybe that's the secret for getting back on the bike and riding more.

Don't have a plan.

I look at the plans for this weekend.  A Christmas bazaar that somehow I got recruited to work, and I don't remember anyone asking me to actually work it.  How Sue and I want to go visit a nearby RV dealership for a half formed nebulous idea that is in the back of our heads.   Research I'll call it.

It's supposedly going to rain this weekend and even though I've ridden in the rain, ever since my accident I've been weary of "less than ideal" riding conditions.    I used to enjoy that too, and I hate being wet.  I liked the challenge of it.  The cool air, the fresh smell...I supposed that will come in time too.

For now...I'll try to put the stress aside.  Susan's condition is improving, my job (while stressful) is secure and the company really came to my aid in October when all this shit started with Susan's health.  We're going to beat it.

She encourages me to ride, to get out and see the world.  How can you not love a woman who thinks of  her long time boyfriend first?

Saturday, November 14, 2015

Been gone

...but I'm back now.   Sadly it's a working weekend for me, once I actually get my ass off this chair.

Several weeks ago I decided to add a separate blog to the stable.  This one dealing with more regular life, politics, sports and whatever the hell I felt like putting out into the void of the internet.

You can find that blog; which I'm calling The Confused Ramblings of a Diseased Mind here.

Take it for what its worth.

Monday, November 2, 2015

Why don't I want to ride more?

This past weekend was lovely.  It was warm and sunny with a near zero chance of rain, the humidity; always a killer here in Florida, was manageable.

It's Monday morning as I write this.  The day is going to be warm, a tad humid but again something manageable.  There is a slight chance of rain (15%) around 2 PM but I'll be at work then.  Nice and safe in my office and Kimmie will be tucked into her safe parking spot that is reserved for motorcycles only.  Protected by an old oak tree with leaves as big as my open hand.

Sounds like a perfect day to ride in.

Only I don't want to.

In fact, I've toyed with the idea of selling her.

I started this blog way back on August 23rd, 2011.  I'm come a long way in that five years.  I've put on a lot of miles and have undergone two nasty accidents.  I've almost been hit, I've almost gone down when a animal committed suicide under my tires.  I've avoid a deer so close that I could have reached out and touched it.

I've also seen wonders.  Gone down country roads with a song in my heart.  I've watched sunsets and sun rises through my visor.  I've stretched out my arms on my bike and went "WHOSH" like a little child.  I've felt like a little child.  I've made new friends via riding.

So why don't I want to ride?

I used to put ten, twelve thousand miles on my bike per year.  Due to circumstances the last two years my time in the saddle has been a lot lower than that.   Lack of riding?  Could that be the cause of my apathy?  I know that most of the riding I do is simple commuting, and that doing it by car allows me to enjoy my morning Duncan Donuts and coffee while listening to NPR.  Something that is impossible on my Kimmie.

As we near the end of 2015 I look back and think about all the time lost due to Sue's ongoing medical issues...she is the primary motivator in my life and frankly I'm not sure what I would do without her.  She does and always will come first.

Thankfully things seem to be looking up on that front.  Also for most of 2014 and 2015 I've been chasing mechanical issues as many long time readers know.

So many that I've played with the idea of getting a new bike.  Still though....would I ride if I did?  Besides, now is not the time for a new bike.  Sue's health concerns come first.  Plus, I've about 3 more years to go and I'll be in a much better spot financially (both cars will be paid off in full) and then I can play with the idea of taking on new debt.

In a few minutes I'll be going to work.  I will be riding Kimmie.  I know that the highway is out of the question today as there was a nasty accident that has traffic backed up for miles.  I know that I have to leave a little earlier than usual.  I know that I will crave my Duncan Donuts coffee.  I think, feel, that if I'm going to recapture that magic that I once felt I need to get back on the bike.

I need to ride more again.  I also know that I have a long ride planned for Saturday, so we will see how that goes.

Sunday, October 25, 2015

Clearwater Beach Chalk Festival.

Sue and I got some good news last week and we managed to get over to Clearwater Beach where they were holding the last day of their Chalk Festival.

I thought I share a few pics here, for additional pics be sure to check my Facebook album here.  I didn't ride Kimmie over since Sue was with me, but it was still a good time and I tried Stone Crab for the first time (I was not impressed).

Thursday, October 22, 2015

Of course...

So how exactly did I allow this to happen?

Kimmie is slipping out from under me.  I can feel it.  I know now that I entered the turn a little fast and I'm leaning hard to get her to make the turn.  It's raining too, one of Florida's famous and brief pop up showers but it's enough to make the road a little slick.  My rain gear, of course, is at home.

Of course I had to stay late and choose to be adventurous, taking a road that I don't really know full of turns, deer and darkness.

I didn't go down.

I'm upright and in control.   I thanked a God I'm now sure exists.  Somehow...I did everything right.  I slow down to a much more manageable speed, I don't need to go through that again.

Of course, the second I slow down I've some asshole who's insisting on tailgating me.  Of course his bright lights are on.  I'm not in the mood for this crap and when he passes me, on the double yellow, I've a few choice words for him.  

I just want to get home.

I have to remind myself not to have a death grip on the handlebars.  I have to remind myself not to get fixated on any particular target.  All that training from a beginner's motorcycle class long ago starts to fill my head.  For the first time in a long time I'm miserable on the bike.

A family of small deer wander out into the road and I apply the brakes quickly, they look at me with alien eyes and move back into the woods.  I move on.

A few minutes later I come across the remains of a deer in the middle of the road and don't have a choice but to enter the other lane to avoid it.  The car behind me hits the carcass with a crunch and the slamming of brakes.

I just want to get home.  Kimmie can get me home.

I'm the only vehicle on this road now.  It's rural and there seems to be no moon or homes about.  The trees that would look like a leafy tunnel in the day now take on a more sinister view, as the branches becoming skinny arms meant to snatch the loan weary traveler.

Finally I'm near home, back on the streets I know.  I start to relax, and quickly fall into muscle memory as I lean and move around the turns that I have ridden 1001 times before.

Of course, a possum or some other strange nocturnal animal decides to commit suicide by running in front of my bike.  I, of course, hit it.

Somehow I stayed up.   Somehow Kimmie saved me.

Somehow Kimmie gets me home.

I go have a drink...

Saturday, October 10, 2015

Back to the basics (feelings)

It's been a few weeks since I've written anything.  Sue is in a odd limbo of half treatment as the doctors decided the best course of treatment for her.

I ride back and forth to work when I can and now that the humidity has broken I find myself riding more.  Just the other day I left for work in the morning shortly after 8:30 and thought to myself that I would soon be breaking out the light sweater to wear under by summer riding jacket.  Then I realized how much my blood had thinned in the last few years.   The temperature was 75 F (23 C).  

In a odd sort of way I've found riding lets me turn off the 1001 or so thoughts that bounce around my head currently.  "What if Sue's treatment does not work?"  "What if the worst does happen?"  These are not the thoughts I thought I would be having at the age of 49.  Riding, at least for a short time, shuts those thoughts down as it becomes just the road and myself.

They creep in....but I force them down.  Part of winning is to stay positive.  We need to stay positive.

"I need to work on my curves." I think as I ride home on day, it's the same road I've ridden a thousand times before but I make a couple of bad turns on it.  Nothing serious, nothing that I can not recover from but more of a nagging suspicion "I'm better than this."

Like anything in life you want to get back to the basics, practice the fundamentals and fine tune the process.  Muscle memory is a great and wonderful thing but if you're remembering the wrong things, if you're doing just the slightest thing wrong on the most basic of affects everything thereafter.  I'm far from a perfectionist but I know how much going down hurts.

I also know that if I go down again...I'm done.   I'm not done with Kimmy yet.

So it's a lovely Saturday morning, I've got nothing planned for the day.  I gear up the way I always do; my ritual of ATTGATT.  I want a challenge and consider my secret place but then decide on the Green Swamp.   It's been a long time since I've ridden those roads and I'm curious to see if anything has changed.

My only concern is cracking in the front tire, but I shake off that concern.  The tread is good and although I need to replace it eventually, I did not see any air bubble the last time I washed my bike.  I'm also a little concerned about the CVT belt, Kimmie has over 25 thousand on her now and I'm not sure how much more belt life she has left.  But I force those concerns aside and stay positive.

I sit down on the bike...and it doesn't feel right.  I've a nagging suspension, a question in the back on my mind.  Again I check the tires, the brakes and run through the list...yet I can't shake that feeling.

If riding has taught me's to listen.

I ride the bike out and about town for a bit, taking it easy.   Trying to put that unease into the back of my mind or find a rational feeling for it.   I can't.

So here I am at home going over everything with a fine tooth comb and thinking that maybe I should get that tire replaced after all because of this odd feeling.  So there is no riding, no travel, no adventure for me this day.

Perhaps tomorrow.  

Sunday, September 27, 2015

Bruce Rossmeyer's - a legend in Daytona

Ormand Beach, Florida at moonrise

Things have been a little hectic at Casa de Wilson.  Susan wants to keep things as normal as possible and I can understand why.

I've not gone riding in over a week, week and a half maybe.  The last long trip I took I knew I was low on air, and filled it up before the trip.  Then I rode to work and felt what could only be called a "wobble."  It may have been my imagination but no riding till I had the chance to look at it.  That finally came this weekend.  I was three pounds in pressure under the recommended air pressure.  I rode a bit afterward and guess wobble.  So it may have been my imagination but I still feel a new front tire is in my near future.

It's not that tacky.
Susan saw something about a Hawaiian shirt with Motorcycles on it.   I have a weakness for Hawaiian shirts, it's sort of "my brand" and started as a inside joke when I first moved to Florida.  I was told they were part of the dress code here and the rest they say is history.

So when the opportunity came to visit some of her family who had just moved into the Daytona Beach area, off we went.  Our destination was the famed Bruce Rossmeyer's Harley Davidson Dealership.

Frankly neither of us realized exactly how big this place really was.  It's a two story building with new and used bikes for sale.  Clothing and biker accessories, a tattoo parlor, a hotel, two restaurants and a cafe in the service bay.  I'm not forgetting the ice cream parlor, leather store, bike insurance kiosk, etc. In other words, if you're coming for Daytona Bike Week this is the destination.

The marketer in me has to admire their marketing strategy, and even though we did not pick up a Hawaiian shirt for myself (the cheapest was $60 and I'm a cheap bastard).  Harley does make some lovely bikes and I was impressed by more than a few.  I finally saw the 750 up close and I have to admit it's not that bad looking of a bike.

However I'm not wanting a bike because of the name.  If I did I would have bought the the BMW scooters when they first came out.   No, the next bike I buy will be well thought out and it maybe another Kymco honestly.

Harley is an American icon however, and Rossmeyer's is full of art, classic models and the history of bikes.  I actually wish I had a little more time, I would have loved to spent some more time wondering about and seeing what I could see.

Of course, by the end of that day I would have talked myself into something.  But we got away with a cute little shirt for my niece at a fair price.  I'm happy with that.

Yep, cows.  

Some of the Harley Davidson art work on Display

Only 14,513 miles on the Odometer, while it is a 51 Harley after all.

Thursday, September 17, 2015

in the blink of an eye

I'm not sure who said it, although it sounds like Douglas Adams.  "We are a small insignificant species living on a small insignificant rock orbiting a small insignificant sun in the back water of the universe."

There is also an old adage about living in the moment.  About living each day as if it was your last, About taking time to smell the roses, etc.

In the past week or so I've ridden Kimmy exactly once.  Part of this has been do to weather, part of it do to the fact that I wanted to check the pressure in the front tire since the last time I rode her their was a weird "wobble",  for lack of a better term, which seemed to affect the bike.  I made it home fine but concerned.  Due to some crazy things that have happened in my life, I've not done that.

"No riding," I promised the lovely Susan, "till I get that looked at."

In the past, Susan's had some health issues. Which, sadly, came to the forefront again.  This time however it feels different than her other health concerns.   She and I are talking about what the future holds, how to prepare for the worst possible news.  It's not a journey I've enjoyed or wanted to take.  At least not yet.

While there is hope at the end of the tunnel, it's going to be an uphill battle.  We both understand that.

The one year anniversary of my new position came and went without any celebration.  I've been part of three different projects during that year, and was just given the opportunity to be part of a fourth, an opportunity I had to turn down because I was unsure of what the future held.

All this reminded me of how old I was becoming.   How quickly things can the blink of an eye.

Riding home tonight I looked into the sunset, amazed at the blues and the greys.  A shade of pink so light it reminded me of a blush on a young girls cheek.  I thought about how we affect the lives of the people we love and cherish.  How each encounter can teach us something....change something. the blink of an eye.

For now at least this blog is going on hiatus.  Till we get a little more answers, a little more information.  Or, more likely than not, I get a bug up my ass to write again.  For now though...

Thank you for your understanding.

Thursday, September 10, 2015

Growing popularity is not a good thing at times.

Nearly everyone I know that rides does so safely.  Helmets, gloves, jackets, boots, etc.  It just seems to go hand in hand.  Of course nearly everyone I know that rides has been doing so for years, and with that experience I'm sure they have gone down, scraped skin and broken a few bones.  You learn some things doing that.   Mostly it hurts and doing it again is stupid.

Scooters are popular here in Tampa, I see them everywhere in the city.  Now that one of the top pop acts in the world - Macklemore and Ryan Lewis (whose video "Downtown" appears above) - is singing about the joys of scooter ownership.  I'm sure we are going to see a uptick in the machines around town.   

Which brings me to today's topic.   I had to deal with an accident yesterday.   I was not directly involved but I saw it happen.   I know why it happened.  Luckily the guy riding the Jonway scooter was not hurt nor was his little 50cc banged up badly.  I hate to say it...but in a way I was glad it happened, he was being an asshole.

He was riding in the bike lane avoiding traffic and that was fine.  Traffic was stop and go and at the time and he was zipping past everyone in the bike lane.   Then the bike lane ended.  No look over his shoulder, no turn signal, just over he came.  Traffic stopped, he continued to move forward on his little 50 cc.   I don't think he ever looked backed or used a signal.   Then he went to make a right turn.

The loose gravel on the side of the road bit him and I watched the rear tire slide out from under him in slow motion   He had no helmet, no jacket and was wearing shorts.   Luckily the car behind him stopped or it could have been worse.   Being a trained first responder, I pulled over and insisted on checking him out.  He was banged up and bruised, but otherwise fine.   I was tempted to admonish him for his riding and tell him to at least buy a helmet (which is not required in Florida).

I've seen stunting on the highways.  I've seen people cut in and out of traffic with out doing a shoulder check or use turn signals.  I've seen scooters with out working brake or head lights on them.  
If someone has read my blog for a bit they know how I feel about ATTGATT, how I feel about the little 50cc scooters that seem to be growing more in popularity.  Riding a scooter is a great thing of that there is no doubt.  

Lets be realistic however.  It's a deadly little thing if you don't take care, obey the laws and be smart about things.  It's a battle the rider is never going to win and frankly I've been wondering what I can do to promote safety and common sense.  I can join something like the American Motorcycle Association  but honestly there are stands they take that I disagree with (such as helmet laws - which I feel should be mandatory - and lane splitting).   

I've been guilty of that myself
Law enforcement could do a better job of enforcing the motor cycle and traffic laws that already exist but I know those guys are often overworked and stretched thin enough as it is.  I've toyed with the idea of taking a few more classes myself and  become an instructor. Following in the footsteps of  Princess Scooterpie.  However I ride a scooter, not a motorcycle and although the advanced riders classes would not hurt me in any way, I'm not ready or experienced enough to be a instructor.  Besides the classes only work if you attend the classes.  How many riders are being trained by a neighbor or a friend?

So I'm going to call out those I see behaving badly, give a friendly warning where I can.  I used to wonder why bikers always told horror stories of accidents and such.  I get it now, we are just trying to tell each other "Don't be stupid and do what I did."  

I think that's good stuff to pass on to the new riders.  

Sunday, August 30, 2015

Saturday's ride - Riding in Polk County, Florida

Their were seven of us on Saturday, various models of bikes - my Kimmy, a Honda CTX, a lovely 1978 Vespa P200 that was slowly but lovingly being restored and the other bikes.  We are somewhere on route 17 in South Central Florida heading towards a town called Frostproof.  The promise of "the best Onion Rings in Florida" and Ice Cream ahead of us.  I was looking forward to the ice cream.  We were cresting a hill.

"Oh Wow" I stated in my helmet.

Laid out before us was acres of Orange fields and a large beautiful lake.  The water glowed in the afternoon sun.  It's those moments that I love on a bike.  That was the only "Oh Wow" moment on the ride...but there were some interesting views.  We rode past old gnarled bushes that reminded me of something out a bad post-apocalypse movie.  An old water tower that was nearly eaten all the way through by rust, standing as a lonely sentential on the side of the road.

Generally all I use the bike for is commuting.  I don't get out very often to do a group ride, sure I have some adventures and I've done more than a few day trips on my own.  When I'm in a group and I see something like that lonely sentential I would love to pull over.  Maybe with this group I could of?  Who knows.    All I know for sure is...I was enjoying the trip.

There were mostly sweepers - those long easy turns - on the route.  A few twisties - which I define as a series of sharp, quick turns - but generally speaking the ride was not that challenging.  It started in Lakeland, then worked its way into Bartow...then snaked down the back roads towards Frostproof.  We didn't see to many other bikers, or cars in some areas.  I waved thanks to a farmer in a John Deere tractor that pulled aside to let our motley crew pass by.

We ended up at the Lake Arbuckle campground.  I was told it was a favorite with the local painters in the area, and as I looked at the ancient oaks and low hanging spanish moss, I could understand why. My curiosity was peaked by the signs saying "Air Force property.  Keep Out" across the road.  A chain link fence and unkempt vegetation as far as I as could see kept what ever secrets were there well hidden.

After that it was to the restaurant for lunch.  When I realized that the ice cream place did not take cards, I did have cash but not enough to pay for a milkshake and a meal, one of the other riders stepped up and payed for my meal.  He refused to take anything in return or even offer his address for me to send a check to cover it.   Thanks Ed.  I did appreciate the gesture.

I also got a taste of Lakeland, which I keep forgetting about.  It's actually a pretty big city in it's own right and is home to not only the largest collection of buildings by famed architect Frank Lloyd Wright in one location but since Polk county has a agriculture history and a lot of swamp land however, it's considered "backwater" in a lot of ways.  The town has a variety of lakes in the town and surrounding the town, and as such is home to various waterfowl.  Including the descendants of Richard the Lion Hearted Swans.  The swan has become the symbol of the city and painted swans are found everywhere.   It's a place the deserves further exploration in the future.

Over all the ride was 159 miles (256 KM) for me.  I was not that hot, the lovely Sue gave me something that you soaked in water then "snapped" to remove the excess water.  It went around my neck and kept me cool (the jugular veins help to regulate body temperature).  I was surprised by how well it worked, sadly I don't have the name of it, but will get it somewhere in the future.  Of course, moving at a good pace and staying hydrated never hurt.

Thursday, August 27, 2015

It's finally getting real (group riding, Bobscoot and updates)

I have plans for the weekend, it's a free weekend for me.  No jobs, no projects that need done.  I was speaking on Facebook with some people I know, and at long last I'll be able to go on a ride with them.

The only concern I have is the heat index.  I refuse to ride without my helmet.  Where I've ridden in the past without a proper jacket, I'm not doing that again.  I will be in jeans and boots.  I'll be riding roads I don't know and frankly I would rather be safe than sorry in case something weird happens.  The group is talking about taking the back roads to Frostproof, Florida.

That is about 70 miles from my house in Zephyrhills but that is the direct route.  When has a motorcyclist ever taken the direct route?   So I'm looking at about 150 to 200 miles (241 - 322 KM) round trip.  I can do that.   The route as it stand now is mostly US 27 and US 17; which will take us close to places like Bok Tower and  Cypress Gardens.  This is the "hill county" of Central Florida and should provide some beautiful vista's and overlooks.  I just hope I can take some photo's.

At this moment the weather is predicted to be 93 F (34 C) with a 50% chance of rain.  If the rain follows the traditional Florida summer pattern of being late afternoon/early evening storms I should be home, safe and dry, before the first raindrop falls  Tropical Storm Erika should not effect Florida at all till Monday and is most likely to skirt to the north of the Sunshine state.  So it's a long ride in the heat and humidity that bothers me, not so much the chance of rain.

The last few times I rode the bike into work I thought I would melt in the saddle as the heat index hit 105 F (40.6 C).  It's got me seriously considering buying either a cooling vest or something from the Heat Out line of gear.  I've been impressed with the Freeze out gear that I have tested.  If I buy anything it's going to have to be soon.  I've used something like what's in the picture before, but that only lasts for an hour or so, from what I understand a cooling vest can be run under cold water and keep you cool for a few hours.   The "heat out" line works by wicking the sweat away from your body.   In any case, I've bringing a few bottles of water.

I'm also thinking that in the coming month or so I should finally get a visit from Bobscoot.  For those of you that may not be familiar with Bobscoot.  He is a avatar of the late great Bob Leong.  Bob was one of the first people to comment on my blog and encouraged me to continue to write about my adventures (and misadventures) on two wheels.   The fourth anniversary of the blog just passed on the 25 of August as a matter of fact.  The little wooden scooter that serves as his proxy has been around the world now.  England, Germany, Australia and New Zealand.   Of course, several states here in the US as well.  I'm honored and scared to be part of that tribute.  I don't travel as much as others.  I'm not one to ride 100 or 200 miles in a day.  I'm simply me.  I'm actually a pretty boring guy.

But that's sort of the point of this isn't it.  To have a celebration of life and riding.   To simply...go.  So I have some things in mind for Bobscoot.  I just hope I can fit them all in with a crazy ass work schedule, weather and life in general.

In a gesture I'm sure he would have loved, I'll be riding to the Jacksonville area to pass Bobscoot on to Bill L. who writes the excellent Rocket and Me blog.  This will be my first meeting with another motoblogger.

So it's going to be nice to get out for a bit.  To meet up with new friends and old.  To my travels with Bobscoot (I've a few ideas in mind).  I'm looking forward to that change of seasons.

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Decisions....good and bad

We've been having the typical Florida summer as of late.  Hot mornings followed by even hotter afternoons, then a late afternoon or early evening thunderstorm.  The science teacher in me understands the the ground starts to cool we switch to warmer air coming in off the gulf.  That creates unstable conditions which results in rain.   Pretty simple really.

In the past my decision to ride was pretty much determined by the weather.   Fifty percent chance or higher of rain was a crap shoot and my cut off point.  Now with a commute that puts me at the end of rush hour and in heavier traffic...that percentage becomes even more important.  Suddenly forty percent of rain seems more reasonable.  More manageable.

I talk to people all day, I help them make decisions that can affect their family, their lives, their financial outcomes.  I train people to do this.  I work with everyone for 18 to 80.   I love my job at times...I hate my job at times.  Making decisions on risk, reward....opportunity.  So when I personally make a decision - for good or bad - it has a reason and it is not made lightly.

Rain....rain can not be taken lightly.  Especially in traffic.  Especially in a city like Tampa, with poor drainage, flooded roads and one of the highest incidents of uninsured motorists in the country.

A last minute decision in the morning to ride in despite a call for rain during the evening hours.  My decision to ride home tonight was a good one.   I had a little issue merging onto the highway; a road I generally don't like to ride home but with thunder booming in the distance and lightening striking the ground, I was looking for the fastest way away from the gathering doom.  I had my rain gear on, and was sweating my ass off in it.

Of course, not a drop of rain.

Yesterday however was a different tale, I left work under clear skies and took my normal way home.  On the way I had no luck and was caught at nearly every red light.   Then it started.  Light at first, actually almost enjoyable as the temperature dropped and the wind picked up.

That should have been my warning.

Before I knew it I was pulling off to the side of the road, hiding under a bank's drive thru window soaked and pissy.  That was within ten minutes after the storm started.  It continued to pour for roughy twenty minutes...and then I decided to move.  On went the rain gear even through I was soaked.

How far did I go since I left the bank...ten miles, fifeteen?  I was under the awning of a church this time thinking about why I made such a bad decision to ride to work.  I am looking out at a downpour so bad that I was unsure where the road was.  I'm cold.  I'm wet.  I'm unhappy.

Finally it lets up again, it's late and it's taking me forever to get home.  My hour commute that turned into a two hour plus ride.   When I finally do get home its a quick shower to warm up, a shot of whisky just to ensure my nerves were calm and off to bed.

Tomorrow's weather?  More of the same.  A forty percent chance which threatens me when I leave work.  A very good chance considering the pattern over the last week or so.  Maybe I'll take the car.

Sunday, August 9, 2015

Seriously...when do you buy/replace gear?

It's a rainy and sad Sunday morning.   I've got Miles Davis on in the background, his Kind of Blue is fitting my mood.

It's been an uneventful week, which I suppose as a scooter commuter is the type of week you want to have.  No close calls, no idiotic drivers (well, none that caused a problem for me at least).  Sadly no travel either do to a wet and very busy weekend.

So what to write about?  I considered writing about the weather - which has been hot, muggy and wet most of the week - and how to safely ride in it.  I've considered how the cooler weather will soon be here, how my "winter" jacket has served me well and since I'm now working only till 6 or 7 PM most nights, how my Freeze Out jacket, gloves and my current mesh jacket should work well for me most of the year.  In fact, for only a few months out of the year the mesh jacket suites me fine.

Average Tampa temperatures 
High °FLow °FHigh °CLow °C
The Jacket from Xmas - 2011

My blood has not thinned out that much when I would consider anything to be cold.  Of course your body adjusts to the climate your in.  We've had some cold snaps that reminded me of early winters back home.

My "winter" jacket is your traditional motorcycle jacket.  It was made by Vulcan and it has served me very, very well.  It's been through a couple of "incidents."  Neither of which were technically my fault, but as a realist - I could have done things better, been a better rider.  Experience helps you grow.  Unlike a helmet, which I know should be replaced when ever it's been involved in a accident, I'm not sure about the jacket.

It's been beat up sure, scratched up in a couple of places but the seams are still holding up nicely.  It's a little snug now, much more so then what I remember it but the man is growing older.  It's four years old now.

The jacket was given to me as a gift, I still would have preferred, and still prefer something in a bright neon or orange.  But beggars can not be choosers and I love that my parents bought me a good jacket.  I added some reflective tape to it and later still added a neon yellow safety vest to it.  It still works...but honestly I'm a bit worried about the armour and how that holds up over time.

Gloves are easy to know when to replace.  Frankly I used to buy a pair of riding gloves from my local Wal-mart, but after wearing through the fingers on a few of them I bit the bullet and paid for a pair of Fox gloves.  It's been a world of difference and I'm going to buy a pair of gauntlet gloves for the winter.  I just need to go get a pair.  Color don't matter, just be windproof and waterproof.

I know I'm cheap, but the older I get the more safety matters to me.  I'm okay paying a bit more for something that may be the difference between a broken hand and a bruised hand.

Then their is my helmet.   I have mixed emotions about it.  When I bought it, I thought it was fine, but here we are some two years later and I'm not happy with it at all.

It's an HJC.  The little plastic tab broke off that opens and closes the top vents, it's been open ever since, not that it matters.  The face shield had a tendency to come out of its' grooves, meaning I've had to pull over and fix it at times.  The plastic seems cheap and I've often had to resnap the padding back into place.  I'm cheap like I said and it was a closeout.

I do have a few other helmets.  Sue has one for her noggin and we bought a second full face helmet for me at that time but it never felt quite right when I wore it, hence I bought the HJC and was happy with it for a short time.  A silver half helmet I've not worn in forever rounds out the equipment.

I've fallen in love with the modular helmets - wearing glasses it would be so much easier - and frankly if I go that route, I might as well pay for the phone/GPS and radio option.  One of the things I love about riding is the quiet, NOT having the radio or GPS or people calling.  Still though, if I'm serious about wanting to go on day trips to the Atlantic or put in 150 mile + days on a more regular basis, having that equipment built in only makes sense.  It's just a shame that Nolan is so damned pricy.  So do we put that off?  Or the jacket for now?

No matter what I do, I'm looking at getting my money's worth out of this equipment.  Good gear can be the difference between "Ouchie" and "We are here to celebrate the life of..."   I'll take the ouchie in the pocketbook before the "celebration of life" any day of the week.

So gentle readers; when do you buy gear?  What would you recommend?  I'm listening.

Saturday, August 1, 2015

Exploring Brooksville - a pretty place with a racist history

It's your typical Summer weather pattern here in Florida, the rain was moving in off the Gulf coast and again I had to decide if riding was worth it.  The TV news blabbing about a 60 to 70% chance of rain. broke that chance down even further for me.  I could stay dry if I moved my ass and had a little luck.  If I was going to do this today, it would not be on Kimmie sadly.

My destination was Brooksville, Fl which lies about an hour north of me in Hernando county.  The roads in the area are twisty, the county is mostly rural which makes it one of the more popular destinations for riders in the area.  It has an annual Blueberry Festival in April that celebrates the area's agricultural roots.  I also learned that is also the geographical center of Florida although I could not find the exact spot anywhere on the map.
Confederate statue outside the courthouse.

It's a pretty city with roots dating back nearly 150 years.  It also has a violent racist history which sickened and interested me at the same time.  Brooksville was named in 1856 after Preston Brooks, a South Carolina Congressman whose claim to fame in the history books is that he beat a anti - slavery congressman with a cane on the Senate floor.  An act that may have indirectly lead to the Civil War. 
It also has a history of lynchings, of intolerance and trials.  

So here I am, riding a hour or so north to visit the courthouse.  To learn about how a deadly feud could erupt over interracial marriage (at a time when such things were simply not done), how the courthouse could "mysteriously" catch fire and destroy the evidence of the lynching that followed the death of a black Minister and former county commissioner.   How, for a brief time this county was lawless and filled with vigilantes called "regulators."
One of the old oaks dating back a few hundred years.

How a county of only 4,000 people at that time would have over 40 murders, many of which are still considered unsolved.  Many of the murders were related to race, but also included the death of a sheriff and two judges.  One of the area's sheriff's, W. D. Cobb, was even accused of killing two white men, one of whom was involved in a crime that Cobb supposedly took part in.  How and why this happened interested me although I still don't have an answer.

Two hotels were burned down during this period and house fires were common.  Even after justice was restored, Hernando county had the highest incidence of lynchings between 1900 and 1930, possibly second only to the entire state of Mississippi.  However those numbers are hard to come across, and frankly I'm not sure I want to.  

Brooksville still has racial tensions, brought to the surface recently by the Confederate flag controversy but also by the vandalization of a historic black cemetery, which according to local legend and myth; you can still see the body of a lynched man at night.  Or sometimes hear the screams of a baby.  Entering town there was a business proudly displaying Confederate items.  History they say, repeats itself.
May - Stringer House

How this town could have so many Confederate moments yet not one that even mentioned Brooksville African American community?  If they did, then I was unaware of it.  History moves on and in this pretty town it's hard to believe such things happened in the time of our great grandparents.  We have come so far in such a brief time, but at the same time we have so much further to go.  So here I am, looking for historic sites and information on this dark period of history. Then I'm reminded that I'm living in a dark time, as a Confederate flag burning was recently attempted in Brooksville.  It did not turn ugly but had the potential to, the pro flag side outnumbered the anti flag side and cooler heads prevailed.

Living in Florida it is easy to forgot that despite all the sunlight and natural beauty, that darkness still lurks.  That ugly things still hide in the shadows.  

In a way I wish the weather would have held off for me a little while longer.   The groundskeeper at the May - Stringer house was telling me about his ghost sightings.  I was hoping to visit the rail station and one room school.  The African - American cemetery was on my list.  It was to wet, to nasty...I was lucky to get the time I did to look about.  Frankly though...I'm not sure I go back.  You can't go in reverse, only forward.