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Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Reviewing the "Ride with Norman Reedus"

Thanks to
In the interest of full disclosure.  I have never seen one episode of the "Walking Dead."  I would not have known Norman Reedus if he stepped on my toe.

That being said, I have reached one hell of a conclusion.  Norman Reedus must be a very, very good actor.  He's managed to survive on a show that's been known to kill off the main characters on a regular basis for seven seasons.  When you read his biography on his official website you begin to realize just how talented this guy is.

Then why don't I like Ride with Norman Reedus?  So far I've watched the first three of the planned six episodes and I feel that is enough to get a basic of idea of what works, and doesn't work, with the show. 

I think Reedus lacks a certain gravitas.  The show is definitely modeled after Anthony Bourdain's No Reservations.  The two shows are very similar.  Reedus and a special guest riding partner travel certain roads, talking motorcycles, meeting interesting people and partaking in something odd and unusual.  To me, where the two shows differ is in gravity.

Bourdain's show always had a certain weight to it.  Even during the jokey silly parts Bourdain maintained a certain aloofness.  He realized when he was witnessing history or greatness and treated it accordingly.  Bourdain's show was never about food,  it was about culture and humanity.  Ride with Norman Reedus just doesn't seem to have that focus or power to me.

Don't misunderstand me, Reedus does a good job.  I like the guy, he seems like the guy you want to chat with at a dinner party.  He's educated, engaged and interested in talking about life.  His interactions with the fans and his friends are natural and unforced.  I just wish the show would spend a little more time on that.

I've no issue with the shots of Reedus and company riding the Pacific Coast Highway or the Blue Ridge Parkway.  It is, after all, a show about motorcycle travel.  He meets with a biker's church.  He meets the producers of a motorcycle podcast (see episode #149)  He spends some time at the Howling Moon Distillery.  He partakes in a outhouse race.

Thanks to

Where as Bourdain could have spun five minutes of good television out of an outhouse race...Reedus partakes and it's over.   "That was fun." is basically the only comment we get.  The race itself lasts about 100 feet and is over in about a minute.

As any biker will tell you though, it's about the view and the journey, and the show does a wonderful job of capturing the beauty of the Pacific Coast Highway, Death valley and the Blue Ridge Parkway.  The PCH in general was just amazing and the crew makes use of a lot of drone footage to give us an idea of the panoramic views.

What do we hear out of Reedus?  "Wow."  "That's beautiful."  "Amazing."

We also get to meet some of his friends, other bikers and builders.  He spends some time riding their creations.  This is where the show sort of bothers me.  I understand that Roland Sands is a amazing builder, and motorcyclist.   Do we really need to see him stunting on the highway?   Considering how the show has all the riders decked out in safety gear at all times and there is a cute scene in the second episode where Reedus drops his pants in the desert to adjust a out of place knee pad.  Really, what biker hasn't had to do that at least once?

Other than Sands stunting, the riders all seem to be obeying motorcycling rules - in group rides for example they ride staggered.  It's a small thing but something that I don't often see in other motorcycle related programs. 

Reedus does ride a lot of different styles of bikes in the show and that is one of the things I like.  Each rider is different and each bike he rides has it's own style and quirks.  In the Blue Ridge episode they visit the Broken Spoke motorcycle shop, his riding partner goes into full geek mode looking over the old parts and historic bikes.  It's one of the better moments on the show.  Hie enthusiasm is contagious. 

Sometimes all we can say is "wow".
At the end of each show Reedus reflects on the events he's just taken part in.   Much like Bourdain did in No Reservations, but again where Bourdain would hit you with a universal truth or shocking realization...Reedus seems to almost resort to cliches.

In the end it's not a bad show.  Norman Reedus is a fun guy who know motorcycles and biker culture.  He's able to slip in and chat with anyone anywhere...and that is what makes the show fun at times.  He is a biker and his knowledge shines through at times.  I just wish the show would have a little more weight.

Yea, I know that riding a motorcycle is not going to change the world.  It's a highly personal thing and we all do for our own reasons.  Maybe that's why it seems to be full of cliche' at times.  Because ever rider knows that moment when you crest a hill and the beauty overwhelms you....and you have to resort to a simple, gentle "Oh Wow."

Overall is the show worth an hour of your time.  Yes, in the end it is.  However it's a light weight affair and sometimes we need a distraction.    Save it for a rainy or snow filled day.

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

"Hey Idiot!!!" Or "Those lights on the dash mean something after all"

The trouble started, as trouble is prone to do, days before it actually became a issue.

The battery light on my bike came on one day, shocking me into concern.  I had not gone down the road that far before it shut off...and I put it down to just a loose wire.  Or perhaps caused by the high humidity and rain that is part of daily life in Florida.

The idiot light stayed off for a day or two, making me think that I was correct in my assumption.   It stayed off till I had to go to work on Friday.  It came on...blinked, blinked....went off, stayed off, came on....blinked.   "Great, I'll have to get that looked at."

It stayed off on my ride home on Friday, again convincing me it was nothing.

I have to go to work Saturday morning and I jump on Kimmie expecting her to purr to life as she always has.  Nothing.  Nada.  Not even a clicking noise.  Sadly I was at work all day and didn't have a chance to do any work on her.   Even when I got home after 4, my day commanded other things.

There are reasons those lights are referred to as "Idiot lights."  So here I am on Sunday, testing the fuses.  I check the cables and ensure that they are nice and tight.  Nothing.  I had replaced the battery earlier in the year, so I doubted it was that.  I would still need a load test be be sure. 

That left a gremlin in the wires.   Somewhere there was either a short, or something in the wiring harness.  I don't have the tools, or the knowledge, to go searching for something like that.

I was also leaning towards a gremlin in the wires for another reason.  I did have power from the battery to the lights for a bit.  The bike just wasn't turning over, and then those lights faded.   Which to me indicated a issue with the ground wire.

Problem to fix it.

So here I am, first thing in the morning, trying to explain to my roadside service company that sending a regular pick up truck will not work.  It needs to be a flatbed.  Also that you can not jump a motorcycle battery off of a car battery - while actually you can do this the car needs to be in the "off" position.  Why risk more damage to the bike if it's not needed?

As I sit here and write this two thoughts go through my mind.   First, I really need to look into switching insurance companies because the one I have is not serving my needs.  Two, it may be time to finally say goodby to Kimmie.  Well, three thoughts really.  I need to learn more about the mechanical workings of my bike.

I love her, I really do.  However ever since my accident back in 2014, it seems that Kimmie and I have not been on the same page.  She seems to have never really recovered.  It's been a slow litany of small annoying issues ever since then.     Tires and belts and batteries wear out, I understand that.  Things get loose, I understand that...but I try to keep up with the regular maintenance on her.  I try to keep her healthy.  It's a slow process of nickles and dimes that are starting to add up.

At this time I'm not sure what I want to do.   I am considering selling her if the repair costs to much.  Trading her in on a younger model...something in the 750 range I'm thinking, although I hate to take on another payment.   I'm three to five years away from being financially secure and I really don't wish to take on another debt.

Which leaves me two options.   Trade in for another used bike and all the possible issues that brings.  Or hold on to her for another two or three years and hope that her slide is minimal or that this electrical issue will be the end of it for a bit.  The AMA roadside assistance program would probably not be a bad thing to have in this case, and I am considering joining for that reason - and that I like the idea of putting a scooter on their Longrider program.  I've done 10,000 + miles in a year.  I can do it again but only if Kimmie wants to cooperate with me.

Saturday, June 18, 2016

My head needs replaced.

When I bought Kimmie way back in 2013 I also bought myself a full face HJC helmet.  For the most part that helmet has served me well over time.

It has however caused me some issues over time.   It's prone to fog up in rain or cold, as I suppose any helmet is.  If I keep the visor up for a bit it may pop off the track.  It's getting noisy.  The plastic and the webbing are starting to come off the helmet.  It's been an ongoing issue for me for at least the past year. 

I remember reading somewhere that a lid would only last between three to five years, so it's time for something new, and I am giving serious thought to getting a modular helmet.  I wear glasses and that would make life a little simpler.  Plus if I'm out and about I won't have to take off my gear if I want to have a drink or need to run into a store.

They tend to be pricey however and I am first and foremost a cheap bastard.  Although I also know that the most important thing for me to protect is my head.  I'm also thinking that I want Bluetooth and GPS in the helmet as well.  I'm not a fan of being on the phone while riding, or listening to music (in fact one of the things I love about riding is that their are no distractions) but I do like the idea of having GPS available to me.  Since this is Florida some sort of pinlock to prevent fogging would be nice too.

Of course, now I'm looking at dropping a cool two or three hundred on a lid.  If not more.

It's also time for me to upgrade a bit into a better helmet.  While I'm sure brands like GMAX and HJC are good helmets, I want something that I feel is going to be a little better for me.  I can not afford a Arai or a Shoei lid.

Frankly there has to be something in the middle.  For example, I am really liking the price on the Italian made Caberg Helmets but sadly they seem to not available in America.  Plus being ECE rated they are generally put through more rigorous testing than a DOT approved helmet would be. 

So a modular may be out of the picture if I want the GPS and Bluetooth function.   Or I could add that later on, but I know the way I am and I'll talk myself out of it.   No, if I get those little "additions" I have to get them now or I never will.

Saturday, June 11, 2016

The rain in zephyrhills falls mostly on the biker

It was a simple plan.

I have ridden with the Scooter Crew before, and this time they wanted to come out and explore Zephyrhills and nearby Dade City.   Generally they try to ride in the Lakeland and Orlando area where most of them live.

My part of the world is about an hour I felt honored.  The only problem is that I was not really as prepared as I would have liked to have been to lead a ride (by default, I know the area).  Originally it was going to be a group of nine people (ten with me) but a few got ill, and the weather was refusing to cooperate with us.

The weather was hot, humid and threatening rain all day...but four people showed up at a local hole in the wall called Barb's for breakfast.  Barb's is actually one of my favorite places to eat because you get good food at a good price.  Plus it's locally owned.

Because of the weather I really didn't take them anywhere or show them much.  We cut through town and then I headed up to Dade City.  We were only out for about 35 minutes when the group decided to split off and head home.  I skipped things like the airport, the train depot and where they bottle Zephyrhills water. 

Frankly I don't blame them as the sky's were darkening in parts and we had been running in and out of sprinkles all day.  I would not want to ride an hour or two in the rain if I could help it.

The only problem is that I wasn't ready to quit riding.

I started to meander towards home, only to fill up my tank and decide to head out for a bit.  I was still a little snake bit so decided to stay as near to home as possible.

The funny thing is that the promised rain never hit.  Well me at least, I don't know what it did as they headed home.

It occurs to me I have not ridden my little special road in a bit, and that I would have shared it with them in a heartbeat.  Again I'm the only bike on this loop and I enjoy it's twisted gnarled route with a smile on my face.

It also occurs to me that I need to explore Dade City more, it's only 12 miles from me, but I rarely spend any time there or know much about it.   I know there is a muffler man there and one place that makes all their food fresh and daily.  It's another one of those wonderful locally owned hole in the wall places that I love so much.  That however is for another time.

Turning down a side road I don't think I've been down before I come across a male peacock standing in the middle of it, his feathers fully open.  He ignores me as I pull off to the side and struggle to get my phone out of my pocket.

By the time I get my gloves off and my phone out, he has wandered off into a nearby yard.  I do snap a few of them and wonder why my pics are blurry.  Hopefully you'll be able to make him out in the picture below and despite my best attempts to get him to open his plumage again he refused.   I guess I just wasn't his type.

This road surprised me in another way.   Not only did it offer some twists but it was also the site of the oldest cemetery in Pasco County.   I have a love of history and would have explored this place a bit more in depth however I was not sure if this was private or public land.   As such, I would leave that another day but an interesting video is here showing some of the sites if you will.  According to the historical marker the graves date back to at least 1855.  I found it interesting that it may contain the remains of both free and slave.

Later still a family of cranes come out of the brush to greet me.

All in all I think I was only out for about 2 hours and put in roughly 66 miles.

But I had fun, and that is all that matters.

Wednesday, June 8, 2016

Expanding my evil social network

I'm the quiet sort.  I tend to be a private person.   I don't tweet, and even though I do have an Instagram account it's something that is not used very often.  If I do use it I'm more likely to post pics of food, beer and wine and odd stuff found on the road other than my motorcycling adventures.

Even though I maintain my blog, I only update it about once a week or so.  As such, world domination via social media was never really on my agenda. 

As I review some of my favorite blogs I start to realize that they have a Facebook presence as well.  Scooter in the Sticks for example has a FB page located here.  Dom Chang of Redleg Rides fame can be found here.  Even a relativity new find, Liz Ray, has a Facebook account here.

I'm sure I'm probably missing several more wonderful bloggers who have a FB page to promote their blogs.  Often I learn of a new blog or article or place I wish to go via this method.

Why shouldn't I?  As such I'm proud to announce my own entry to the already overcrowded social media world.  You can visit it here:

Currently there is not much there but over time I am planning on posting updates to the blog there, as well as sharing interesting odds and ends that I come across.   I also hope to start using my Instagram account more as well.   

Lets hope that I can somehow link all these things to blogger.  I would hate to have to convert everything over to a different format.

Saturday, June 4, 2016

close calls and blue balls (with a secret at the end)

 Close calls

I was going to enter the left lane, moving over to avoid a guy that kept stalling his souped up four cylinder stick shift car.  A quick glance in the mirror showed a black car exiting my lane and coming up fast, I stayed where I was and let him pass me then eased in behind him.

That's when the spider sense tingled.

He was moving to fast, pulling up quickly behind a slower moving car.  His brake lights glowed a angry red...I cursed and hit the brakes, the front wheel locked and the back end rose up ever so slightly...I let go of the front brake out of reflex smelling the burnt rubber of a burning brake.

The bike still moved forward and I pressed down on the front brake again as I came to an emergency stop.

I didn't panic.  I didn't curse...I didn't even think it was that scary at the time.   The event was so quick, so quick that I didn't think...I simply acted.

I didn't even think about it till afterword.   Replaying the event in my mind,  I had to smile, I was safe and the bike did not go down.  There was no accident.   Then I kicked myself for putting myself into what was a stupid situation to begin with.    I should have had a better situational awareness of the traffic around me.  I should have realized that if I was frustrated their were bound to be others being pissy as well.

The traffic was stop and go the whole day...what made me think the other lane would be open?   Why was I in such a hurry? 

Instead I was to worried about getting around a single car that was holding me back.

"Cocky," I used to say, "would get me killed."   Somehow I had violated the unwritten first rule of my motorcycle riding.  It's time I started to repeat that mantra.

And Blue Balls 

 I hate to use a off color phrase for male sexual frustration, but honestly I like the way it sounded with "close calls".  

In Florida this time of year we have pop up showers that can hit us any time of the day.  I rode into work the last two days.  Each time worried about the weather and each day the sky opened up so badly that that certain streets in the Tampa area flooded.  

I left work shortly after 8 PM both nights, I turn north, looking at darkening skies and feeling a bit worried about what I would be driving into.   I was not gone 5 minutes before I drove into the rain, it was a strong storm, and I started to count the time between lightening flashes...One Mississippi...two Mississ....crap.

That storm was moving quicker than I was and I started to seriously consider pulling over to put on my rain gear, or maybe just wait out the storm.   Then the skies opened up and I went from having a few drops on my helmet to soaked in a matter of moments.  

"No use putting on the rain gear now." I thought.  I drove gingerly though the storm for another 5 or 10 minutes....then that was it.  I was out. 

That's the frustration.   Do I pull over, dress in my rain gear and hope that I will continue to be rained on?  Or do I ride, wet, all the way home?

How many times have I driven in my frog toggs sweating my ass off?  

Summer in Florida is full of those pop up showers...riding in the rain is just part of the experience, although it can be a little frustrating at times.

(and my secret)

I'm thinking about becoming Batman.


Thursday, June 2, 2016

When NOT to ride.

"So, we begin our travels knowing nothing, least of all where we are going." - Keiichi Sigsawa

I've not done much riding over the last two weeks or so.  My job required odd hours from me and my second job - where I am a glorified paper boy - kept me busy over the last few weeks.  I rode where and when I could however, enjoying the freedom that only two wheels can give a troubled mind and soul. 

Then I noticed it.  My bike had a small oil leak which bothered me slightly, since I could not seem to find where it was coming from.  Kimmie does not require much in oil, and I was paranoid about possibly seizing the engine (even though I knew logically I wouldn't). 

I'll be the first to admit that I am not mechanically inclined - Okay, I'm a monkey with a gun when it comes to things mechanical -  but one thing that was always pounded into me is that if the machine is not working properly then you should not be riding it.   She had an oil change earlier in the week and the first thing I thought of was to make sure the drain plug was nice and tight, it that damn leak was elsewhere.

Therefore I tend to be anal to a fault when it comes to tires, lights and oil.  So far I've not had any issue with lights but I expect that day to come when I bulb will blow out or their will be a short.  Checking the lights should be part of everyone's pre-ride check.  That being said, I don't do it all the time either.

The other reason I've not been on the bike is due to a general malaise I've had over the last few days.  I just don't feel like myself.   Yesterday I  got into my gear, pulling my helmet on and then sitting down on my bike only to feel a momentary dizziness.  It's not worth riding in then. 

These things will pass, my oil leak ended up proving to be a small issue that my mechanic didn't even charge me for.  My malaise will pass.

When I started this blog all those years ago I wanted to pass on my experiences to other new riders, those that had 1001 questions like I did.  

So this post is about when it's OK not to ride.  If you have a mechanical issue that worries you, even slightly, its okay not to ride.  If your not feeling 100%, you don't have to be on the bike.  In fact, listen to your will tell you what is going on inside you. 

Kimmie, and your bike, will be there waiting.