Friday, September 29

Road to Tobermory - III

Dispatches from Lucas: September 29, 2006

It's 7:00 am on Friday morning and I have 3 hours to go before setting off on my trip to Tobermory. My bike is packed and checked out. I did that last night so I'd have plenty of time to think about what I need and to thoroughly check the bike over.

Corrina (my pet name for my F650CS) looks really good in her touring profile. I sat on the bike last night with the remaining gear and she still felt well balanced. The blue and gold F650CS luggage works well. I have camping supplies for 4 days. Clothing is mostly fleece and rain gear. I've learned fleece is the best gear to take backpacking as it dries quickly and keeps you warm with minimal bulk. I don't intend to be too sociable on this trip so my appearance will be less than appropriate for 4 star dining.

This trip is more about the journey than the destination. I don't have in my heart or mind an urge to 'get there'. I just want to get on to the open road and feel the hum of Corrina's 650cc Single-Cylinder engine. A single cylinder is also known as a thumper, but I've never really felt thumping coming out of the power plant, more of a nice buzz. I'm hoping to see some fall colors as I get farther north, not much color around here yet. There are a few light houses that I'm hoping to see.

My trip plans have changed slightly as I look at the weather forecast. Instead of going to Kincardine this afternoon, I'm going to take a central route up to Owen Sound and then move west to Sauble Falls. The reason for this alteration is that Saturday will be a rain day. Sauble Falls is only an hour away from Tobermory versus the three hours that Kincardine presented. I'll wake on Saturday and find a clearing in the weather and make way to Bruce Penninsula National Park and camp. If the weather looks ok, then I'll make my way into Tobermory and walk around and check the sites.

Sunday the weather will clear and with only a 40% chance of rain, I'll make my way to Inverhuron in Kincardine and camp. A lighthouse is in Kincardine and I would like to take a look and snap some pictures. On Monday, I'll make my way back home. Monday looks really good - warm and sunny. A perfect way to end my trip. – Lucas --

Tuesday, September 26

Rode to Tobermory - II

Dispatches from Lucas: Monday, September 25, 2006 – Introductions and Pre-flight Check.

Sharon posted my first blog entry to her Moto Tales. I’m very happy that Sharon has invited me to share her blog space with me. She is a respected, skilled and knowledgeable rider and author. Her many triumphs, travels and travails have been posted on the forums. I began my journey into motorcycling this summer and eventually found the site in my quest for information. Sharon, our other cohort Doug and the other forum members, provided so much information, help and support that I am truly honoured to be part of the forum community.

I read my first dispatch after Sharon posted it to the web site. I felt it read a bit dry and I did not add any introduction to who I am and what I’m doing on a motorcycle. How did I get into motorcycling?

Many years ago when I was a bit younger I used to ride a moped. Yes, a blue and silver moped. I don’t recall the manufacturer, just that I loved riding my moped in the high desert near Lancaster, California and up in the mountains near Lake Hughes. It had a top speed of 50 mph with a good tail wind and pointing down hill. To school, back roads and fire trails I took my moped. The moped took all of the abuse that I could offer it and asked for more. Then the thrill of the automobile took over and my interest followed that direction and I lost the feel of wind in your hair and bugs in your teeth and that just plain wide open feeling.

You look back and see that we let go so easily the toys and joys of our youth. We move on to other adventures leaving those halcyon days go as easily as we tear off the next month on the calendar. We get busy with education, pursuit of a life, raising families and just trying to stay sane in this fast paced and crazy world we live in. The veneer of life wears thin over time and we become tired, worn and scared. There is an answer, there is always an answer.

And when the broken hearted people
Living in the world agree
There will be an answer

(Let it Be, Beatles 1969)

My answer has been a culmination of events and each event has become an integral part of me and how I see the world. Motorcycling is one of those events. It combines my interest of camping, yoga, spirituality and adventure/travel. Motorcycling called me, I didn’t call motorcycling. You may find this odd and wonder how that happened. It all began with a Honda motorcycle flyer I found in my mailbox about three years ago. I never asked for this literature or even thought much about riding a motorcycle. I have no idea to this day how I got that flyer. Sometimes, it is best to not ask why.

The current TV shows about motorcycles did not enflame me with any passion to ride. I did watch them for the mechanical aspects but those aren’t my kind of bikes. I know very few people that ride and they did not provide me with any encouragement. Since that flyer, I kept getting a nudge to ride and I would troll the manufacturer’s web sites and then put it away for awhile. Finally, this summer I could take the nudging no longer and decided to ride. I first bought David Hough’s ‘Proficient Motorcycling’ – I figured that would hold me off for a while. Not a chance, I wanted more and bought more books. I’ve read over 10 titles on motorcycling and ton’s of web sites about motorcycling.

At the end of June, I made the plunge and got my rider’s permit, a BMW F650CS motorcycle and the Motorcycle Safety Foundation – Basic Rider’s course and a whole bunch of gear. It’s been 90 days since I’ve ventured into motorcycling and I have enjoyed just about every minute of it. I bought my motorcycle used with 2677km (1673 miles) and have almost doubled that mileage in 90 days. What a waste to buy a 10,000 dollar motorcycle and barely ride it.

The BMW F650CS is a very unique motorcycle unlike any other. I’ve named my bike Corrina. It’s my favourite girls name and was made legend in the song Corrina, Corrina by Muddy Waters.

Instead of boring you with all of the details on the F650CS, here are some links for more information:

If you follow the link to these web sites, notice the luggage on the back of the bike. I purchased this luggage for my motorcycle.
It’s bike-specific for the F650CS. The luggage holds 61 litres of cargo. The large pillion bag has held my tool bag, large bag of dog food and picnic supplies – not all at the same time.

The riding season is starting to wind down and I really wanted to do a moto-tour before the weather got any colder or meaner. I’ve heard that Tobermory is a nice place to visit; it’s the farthest point on the ‘Escarpment’. The escarpment is a cliff like ridge that runs north/south along the Niagara peninsula.
Riding along the Queen Elizabeth Way (QEW) from Niagara Falls, looking west this prominent landmark can be seen. A straight drive to Tobermory will take just over 6 hours. I’ve decided to break this down into 4 days and enjoy the journey more than the destination.

The weather seems to be getting worse this weekend. It looked better early on, yet as the weekend arrives rain is the main event all weekend. Precipitation is forecasted at 40% on Friday, 70% on Saturday and again 40% on Sunday. I’m definitely going to get wet and shall be prepared for it.

In my previous entry, I gave a link to Tobermory. This link was to the Tobermory Chamber of Commerce web site. This no longer seems to be working, not sure if they’ve paid their hosting bill or not. Try this link instead:

--PreFlight Shake Down.

After work today, I got on my riding gear. Looked and felt a bit nasty and cold out, justified adding my inner liner. I felt hot getting my bike out of the garage but as soon as I got moving I’m glad I did. I was very comfortable on my ride today. This inner liner adds an additional level of weather proofing. My gear is Olympia AST Tour Jacket and Olympia AirMesh pants. This is good gear for ranges between 40F up 90F. With the liners removed and the vents open, I’ve been able to ride through the summer without sacrificing my protection.

I adjusted my suspension giving it a little extra firmness. I’ve noticed if I’m riding single, setting my preload on Standard is very comfortable. I get a good ride without being too squishy. If I set it too firm then my butt goes numb after an hour of riding. I added one level of firmness to the preload to adjust for the gear load. This felt very good on today’s ride. I’ll stay with this setting on the first day of the trip and see how it goes.

None of my gear fell off on today’s run. I feel the tie down system is working. The pillion bag with the sleeping bag on top where right up to my back, that felt awkward at first but then I got used to it. I have a cup in my seat and I like to have my butt firmly in that cup – I feel I get the best comfort and control in that position. -- Lucas --

Corrina in tour profile:

Monday, September 25

Sojourner Welcomes Guest Blogger!

I've never wanted this to be an entirely Sojourner dog and pony show. On occasion, I will invite special friends to post their tales, pics and reviews. Thus, this morning I'm introducing a friend, his name is Lucas. He rides a BMW F650 (I'll let him tell you about his bike). Lucas is a newbie whose been piling on the miles and preparing for his first trip next weekend.


The Road to Tobermory: A beginning motorcyclist first moto-trip

Dispatches from Lucas: Saturday September 9, 2006 – First Day of Planning

First real day of planning commences. I’ve looked at the weather forecast for my trip and the weather seems to be looking positive for the 4 days of my trip. The trip dates are September 29th through to October 1st. I’ve allowed one extra day on Tuesday.

I went to the Canadian Automobile Association and upgraded my membership to CAA Plus to cover the motorcycle. I also picked up a map of Ontario.

A visit to the local Radio Shack (now known as The Edge by Future Shop) provided me with some parts to build a battery pack for my XM Satellite Radio. This will be used to provide campsite entertainment. An evening of Vivaldi or Berloitz or just some plain ol’ Hank will provide some relaxation after a day of riding.

Raining today. After doing my errands, came home and built my battery pack for the XM radio. Didn’t take much to build; Radio Shack has a 4 AA battery case with an on/off switch. The case had two leads coming out of it, I added some heat shrink to the wires for protection. Then I soldered the ends into a compatible power jack. It worked. Just not sure how long the batteries will last, I bought extra just in case.

My intinerary is as follows:
· Friday, September 29th
o Leave St. Catharines at approximately 10:00 am. The first leg of the trip should take 4 hours according to mapquest to reach my destination.
o By noon I should be near Cambridge, Ontario (home of Mistress K). I’ll find a resting spot, check fuel, bike and luggage. Bag some lunch.
o Between 3 and 4 pm I should be in Kincardine. This is the largest town near my final destination for the 29th, which is Invehuron Provincial Park.

· Saturday, September 30th
o From Inverhuron Provincial Park take Highway 21 north to Sauble Falls Provincial Park. This should be about 1 hour of ride time.
o Check in and get a spot. Use as base camp.
o Use Saturday to go to Tobermory.

· Sunday, September 31st
o Leave Sauble Falls Provincial Park, head south to Point Farms Provincial Park.
o Arrive Point Farms Provincial Park.
· Monday, October 1st
o Leave Point Farms Provincial Park, head south on Rt. 8 back to Hamilton and St. Catharines.

Things to do:
Get camping gear down from garage loft. Inspect sleeping bag, tent and pad. Find all of my backpack straps.
Get cooking gear out and inspect stove and check for fuel.
Make list of food supplies. I’ll buy minimal – expect to buy more on trip.
Make list of moto parts. Again, minimal. Not much I can do with the bike if it breaks down. I have a tire plug kit and the BMW tool kit. Also, I have spare bulbs and fuses. I’ll bring some duct tape, water, some extra oil.

Local Weather:
St. Catharines -
Kincardine -
Tobermory -

Camping Locations:
Inverhuron (9/29) -
Sauble Falls (9/30) -
Point Farms (9/31) -

Final Destination -
Sunday, September 24, 2006 – Revising Route Plans
I looked at the map this morning and looked at some possible route alterations that may make the trip more efficient. The main problem will be getting out of Hamilton. It’s a large older city that sits in between my starting and final destination for Friday’s leg of the trip. One way streets and flying cages will be my biggest peril in this section. There is no alternative other than taking the QEW.

Once past Hamilton, I’ll start reaching country that is lest populated and congested. Although, congested is a relative term. I’ve seen congested after living in Los Angeles for 10 years. When you see a 6 lane highway (that’s on each side) completely gridlocked – then you know congested. I’ll breathe easier once past Guelph. That’s where I’ll be able to settle into a rhythm. The road side will become more rural, fields and farm equipment will replace housing subdivisions and crowded downtowns. As I get closer to Lake Huron the air will change into that open air moist smell of the lakes. It’ hard to describe as the lakes are fresh water and don’t have that sea air smell. It’s similar but without the smell of salt. -- Lucas --

Friday, September 22

Windy City Ride...

It’s that time of season when Chicago’s weather is nothing short of schizophrenic. The last few early mornings, the temperature hovered around 40 degrees F! By mid-day things had usually improved by as much as 25 degrees. Still, given that I’ve been coming down with some kind of horrific plague, I’ve not felt highly motivated to throw a leg over the bike. But today I have an excuse for getting out there. At 60 degrees F--around 5:00 a.m.--a heat wave is brewing!

I leave before 5:30 a.m. and head into a dark, windy morning. I mean, really windy! Weather report…wind gust up to 30 mph! As I execute a right turn, I feel the bike’s rear tire slide from a sudden blast. The office is not far away but within seconds, I am cold! I use my left hand to pull up my turtle neck. It is clear that, despite wearing a textile/leather jacket, turtleneck, leather pants, helmet and gloves, I should have worn the ever-ready Firstgear jacket. Still, the quiet beauty of the downtown streets, still aglow with lights, brings solace to this zealous urbanite.

I stall at my first major intersection. I NEVER--almost never-- stall. I blame it on being sick. Really, I think it’s the bike’s payback for not riding her in days. I take my snub in stride and move on. I need to go to the office to complete paperwork before the others arrive—no sense infecting them, well…at least not all of them.

Spent enough time there that I had to return to the bike and feed the meter! Twenty-five cents per five minutes—a sin and a shame, IMHO! I can’t apply the parking receipt to the bike’s tiny windshield because I don’t have anything to stick it with. (Note to self: Always carry the duct tape under the seat). Oh, well. The sign says, “Parking laws strictly enforced.” I decide to take my receipt to court should I get a ticket.

When I leave the office, it is raining but not long enough to have scrubbed away the oil and gunk from the road. I make a mental not to be extra careful. I take off and immediately encounter a puddle at the stoplight. I skirt around it only to end up stopping bull’s eye on the fat white line—those slick spots motorcyclists should avoid. I stop right on it but am easy on the brakes and all is well. I decide to take a small detour back home—I mean, I’m already sick and I’m already out there, so it can’t hurt that much more. Within three blocks, the rain picks up. In spite of my yearning to ride, I decide to play it safe and head home.

At stops, I make that sure my feet are firmly planted, flat-footed on the ground as the bike sways vigorously. At one take off, I struggle to push through what feels like a powerful, yet invisible barricade that forces me to apply more throttle than usual. Once through that headwind, I push onward. I can take the cold. Rain, I can take too. But cold + rain + 30 mph wind gusts require you to be fully functioning. I am not. I ride the rest of the way eager to park my gal-pal and return to my sick bed.

Wednesday, September 20


Here are some of the things that keep me awake at night. Now they can keep you up too. I've read as much as one can about this woman. When I grow up, I want to be Ardys Kellerman. This 70+ year old great-grandmother still rides many thousands of miles. She's an Iron Butt Rally veteran and frequent winner of her BMW club's high mileage award. Before I draw my last breath, I'd like to do the IRB biggie--10,000 miles in ten days!

Next, this is one of those dream jobs--except it's not a dream to Carla King. I would look forward to work each day if this were my job. I swear, I wouldn't complain if I had my own daily misadventures on a motorcycle. Yes, it would probably become routine. But so what. Even routine would be fun on a bike!

This is the beauty of the Information Age! Before Al Gore discovered the Internet (haha) it would take forever to amass data that is now literally at the press of a button! Here a nice list of motorcycle relevant spots to bookmark.

For motorcycle touring, I repeatedly return to this site. It hasn't be updated in years. Still, IMHO, it is one of the best spots to learn everything you need for getting into touring. The author is humorous, sometimes stern--even grumpy-- but clearly has your best touring experience at heart. You can sense that he wants you to have an excellent adventure. So he's not messing around. You can just hear him yell in that Robert Duvall, "Great Santini" voice: "TOE THE LINE AND LISTEN UP PEOPLE!"

Okay. I'm announcing it here. Next summer, I'm doing AND completing an Iron Butt Rally ride. Planning for this will carry me through the winter doldrums--let's hope. Last year I didn't have a bike and it was tough getting through the winter thinking about riding. Thank goodness the search for a bike kept me sane. The IRB...Don't know how the little SV would do on the 10,000 miles in 10 days ride but she could handle some of the other rides in a blink. Right now, the SaddleSore (1000 miles in under 24 hours) sounds fun. This may sound like a lot or imply the need for excessive speed. Not true! These timed rides demand strategy and consistency more than speed. (sidebar: Read Against the Wind: A Rider's Account of the Incredible Iron Butt Rally--book review soon). I just need to figure out which ride and how to execute it. At minimum, I believe I could do the National Parks Tour, which requires a visit to at least 50 national parks and monuments in at least 25 states in one calendar year. Now that just might be the best one to start with. Hmmm...

Finally, I'm actually going to get into an advanced training class that I thought was closed! Turns out there was a posting glitch and the course isn't until October. Hooray! Ride Chicago (amazing teachers!) is the only school that offers the SRTT (Street Riding Technical Training) course.

You know, I think motorcycle schools could really do a needed service AND make money if they offered courses throughout the winter. For those of us who will face serious withdrawal in a few weeks (I can't be the only one), it would be a great way to keep skills sharp too. With an indoor range, how difficult can this be? The schools already have the bikes. I for one am not looking forward to the ticks, being strapped to a bed, the sweating, the heaves, the heebee-geebees...I don't need a twelve step program...I just need a year 'round riding fix!

Tuesday, September 19

More on ear plugs and teeny weeny ear canals

My quest for a pair of comfortable, well-fitting ear plugs continues. That's a picture of my latest attempt to safeguard my hearing. They’re called "SilentEars," small, cute and colorful little buds with a yellow flower-like base. They actually look like they’d be fun to wear. The Ear Plug *Super* Store website claims that the SilentEars are the “highest rated reusable ear plugs currently made anywhere in the world.”

I will never be able to test those claims. Even though I bought the smallest size available, the little blue and yellow plugs do not fit! The blue bulbous tip goes inside my ear only a little bit. I can force them in some more but could never get them in all the way—and trying to makes my ears revolt. I’m at my wit’s end. I had hoped to avoid going to an audiologist for custom plugs. Well, looks like such a visit is in store for next season.

I can make do ‘til the end of this season with the cheap, spongy/foamy things I buy at the drugstore, which come about a dozen per box. Been wondering if plain old cotton balls would work. I can’t imagine cotton balls being that effective but they have to be better than nothing and probably as effective as the spongy ones. At times, the little buggers just work their way out of my ears and land somewhere inside my helmet. I go through these plugs fast because they can also pop out like minature missiles whenever I take off my helmet. And, I don’t believe that the five second rule about food dropped on the ground applies to dropped ear plugs. When they hit the ground, I imagine microscopic germs instantly landing all over them, rendering them too gross to touch. I can replace plugs two or three times before I make it home from a 100 miler.

Persistently sore ears and ear plugs in assorted shapes, colors and sizes is all I now possess to show for my pursuit of the perfect plug. I’m open to other suggestions before I go the doctor route. Posted by Picasa

Sunday, September 17

A Hairy situation, helmet woes & the Firstgear Kilimanjaro jacket

As you read this, hum the chorus of "Hair" from the musical of the same name.

This is *the* hair, my hair, about which perfect strangers feel free to comment and ask a lot of bizaare questions (e.g., "can you wash it?"; or, "do you have to burn the ends to make it stay?"; or, my favorite, "where is it hooked on?"). I am annoyed by these intrusions at least once a day!

My hair, which has never bothered me before has now become a major part of riding Queenie, my motorcycle. I'm thinking about it way too much!

My mid-butt length hair, which is real, is clean and washable and is not hooked on but sprouted from my very own hair follicles. Lately, I've been asking myself: "Should I cut it or keep it?" To some that might be a simple question with an easy answer. If it gets in the way of riding, chop it off. But that gives in to all those who keep ordering me to cut it. That my hair seems to bother others, give me a sort of perverse pleasure in knowing that I have the power to annoy others just by being myself. Keeping it is my answer to those who feel they have a right to tell me what to do with my hair. Besides, after ten years, I've grown attached to my hair. Over time, the style has taken on a spiritual dimension that is hard to explain.

But do I need to be inconvenienced just to prove a point?

Fitting all my hair under my Sy-Max HJC helmet is impossible. So, I low pony-tail it most of the time. Still, on any ride over 30 mph it becomes a swirling tangle of tentacles that whip around me. Braid it, you say. My hair is so thick that a braid makes fitting on the helmet a tiring tug of war. It creates a huge knot at the nape so the helmet must be forced down to wear. After riding a bit, the helmet can become bothersome. Braiding it lower works some of the time so I aim for that. Most of the time, I go the low pony-tail route but wearing it blowing free in the wind makes the best helmet fit--hair whipping around me notwithstanding.

Wearing my favorite jacket + my hair takes patience. The Firstgear Kilimanjaro jacket is worth every penny. It works in hot and cold weather with a system of removable liners. It is waterproof and a sure bet every time you wear it. One of the best decisions I made was to take it on the LMCT. It served me exceedingly well. Thus, I decided to ignore the daily hair battles as a result of this jacket. The Kilimanjaro is replete with covert and overt pockets, zippers, snaps and velcro flaps that allow excellent ventilation, great padding, and in all the right places, reflective piping. What more can one ask?

Well as much as I love this jacket, now that it's become my all around favorite, I've been fighting with it a lot. I've not been completely honest about the one major design flaw it has--at least for my kind of hair. I have thick, kinky, wooly hair that I have refused to chemically straighten (don't get me started...) since I was 17, which is a lot of years ago. Until ten years ago, I wore a TWA (tiny weeny afro), which, by the way, people bugged me about too, noting my similarity to cancer patients who have undergone chemotherapy! I now wear locks--not "dread" locks--as there is nothing dreadful about it. I wear my hair in beautiful, healthy nubian locks that require the same care you'd give to extra-fine cashmere.

The Kilimanjaro jacket owes much of its versality to Velcro. My hair is the soft fuzzy female side that mates with the wiry plastic male side of Velcro. When my jacket is on, my hair becomes a super magnet for wiry parts, which seek it out and instantly adhere to it. If I'm not careful, getting my jacket on is a chore. I have to remember to gather my hair to one side and slip the jacket on. Still, parts of it often catch on its wiry mate and I have to literally rip them apart, producing that jarring skrunchy sound we're all familiar with. Taking the jacket off can be a real headache too. I can remove it and still have it hanging on me by an open Velcro pocket or the collar because my hair has wrapped itself around these sections. If I'm not watchful, this impromptu mating can prevent me from turning my head at will as grops of locks have joined in group matting along a long Velcro strip. Someone recommended putting my hair inside my jacket. I tried that. Can you say "Quasimodo"? The hump underneath my ever-present knapsack made people whisper--or so I imagined them doing. In any case, it took my mind off the ride, which is never good.

I shouldn't hold my hair issues against helmet or jacket makers. Clearly, neither makes its products with with me in mind. Of my three helmets and four jackets, these are the best. I love this particular helmet and this particular jacket but I might be forced now to look for more lock-friendly gear. Or, YIKES...cut my hair.

If your hair is unlike mine, you can't go wrong with this HJC helmet or Firstgear jacket. Posted by Picasa

Saturday, September 16

Sojourner Rides Three Presidents!

Disclaimer: I did not vote for any of them! There was no blue dress involved.

Still, I did three Presidents on a recent ride of 218 miles! It all started with a keen desire to follow a popular street in Chicago. It's Rt. 38, better known to Chicagoans as "Roosevelt Road." The eastern most tail of it is steps from my downtown start point. On a map, Rt.38 seems to stretch west forever. I take it, winding my way through diverse neighborhoods on a warm Saturday with the aroma of each ethnic group's cuisine filling the air, tempting my nostrils and brain to stop and eat, eat, eat.

As I leave familiar Chicago streets, the north side of the road is, at one point, lined with graveyard after graveyard. Passing through, I remember calling it "cemetery row." Eventually, the roads elongate, become long and flat and westward with few people out and about--contrary to the congestion back east on Chicago's Roosevelt Road. Early morning riding is simply the best!

After going through some trendy, upscale environs like Geneva, one comes to rural areas such as DeKalb. Continue west and reap the rewards of... cornfields. Miles and miles of cornfields. Nothing spectacular or challenging about the roads, they are just there--flat and occasionally slightly curvy. Crossing railroad tracks breaks the monotony now and again. However, those flat out, straight road have their own merit. They are hushed. Passing through the small towns of Ashton, Rochelle and Franklin Grove engenders a connection with nature. The sound of birds and an occasional "moo" from a cow is a far more welcoming call than a cabbie honking at you or a "traffic cop" blasting a whistle at you just because you're crossing the street while reading!

Heading west, one cannot miss the signs for "Historic Lincoln Highway," which is aka Rt. 30. This is my second nod to a President. I've taken Lincoln Highway many times but never this far west. I hop on and it snakes through some old, tiny villages that look as if they all decided to thumb their collective noses at time. Franklin Grove, IL--my personal favorite--is one town that prides itself with maintaining history. Soon after turning into the town, I see a large red, white and blue painted sign along side the building's front. It announces the Lincoln Highway Association National Headquarters. It is housed in an ancient building. A group of dedicated volunteers continues to do all they can to restore, maintain, and manage this tiny operation.

Inside the headquarters, I meet Lynn, who encourages me to sign the visitors' book and hang around to chat. Lynn is gregarious and doesn't need to hawk the items in the shop, which has tons of Lincoln Highway memorabilia, trinkets and antiques that locals place on consignment. After talking to Lynn, you just want to buy stuff. I am limited by my knapsack--and funds. Lynn knows the history of Lincoln Highway and imparts it with vitality that only a dedicated volunteer can. You'll learn everything about the bricks and mortar of the building, the volunteer efforts to keep it going, the construction of Lincoln Highway, and all the town history that only and insider can reveal. Lynn tells me about a relative, who not only rides a motorcycle but also builds them! On the spot, she calls his mother to find out if he has a website. He does. (I'm still looking for the url she gave me).

If you ever go by Franklin Grove stop in, say “hello” to Lynn, and sign in. You won't be disappointed if she's there and you'll learn a lot of regional history too.

Continuing west, I come to Dixon, IL and the childhood home of the next President: Ronald Reagan. His birthplace, Tampico, IL is still many miles west. The Reagan family rented five houses in Dixon. Two have been destroyed; two are privately occupied and not open to the public. The "museum" house stands on a street now named in honor of RR. The house is manned by enthusiastic volunteers who will tell you more than you will remember about the boyhood of Ronald Reagan and his days in Dixon. I watch a ten-minute film that was way more interesting than I thought possible; I tour the house, learn a lot of regional history, but ultimately I leave the house disappointed. NO JELLY BEANS!

Someone told that there were jellybeans on this tour, in honor of President Reagan's passion. Perhaps I misunderstood. I kept waiting for my treat. NOTHING. It's rude to ask about it. I'm thinking, I'll get my reward at the end. But when the door opens for me to leave, I do so. Nothing! Not even a "thank-you" for coming all this way to visit the house of a president I did not even vote for! Later I learned that they do not just give you the jellies, you must buy them in the gift shop! Tricked! That's how I feel. Oh, well, I only really like the red ones anyway. I won't say I wouldn't have visited had I known about the jelly beans ruse...but getting there was oh so sweet thinking a treat awaited me at the end.

I planned my return trip to follow another familiar road. I take Rt.64 all the way into downtown Chicago. Now I know that North Avenue is congested whether one is in Chicago or in the boonies! The only thing that made this an enjoyable eastward ride was going through towns like Sycamore and St. Charles. However, you must be comfortable in heavy traffic! Many malls --both small and large, line Rt.64. Where malls exist, there are far more chances for a motorcyclist to become road kill by inconsiderate, bad-driving, cell phone yakking shoppers. Construction is robust along parts of Rt.64. The best way through is patience, covering the front brake at all times, and owl-like head rotations to regularly scan for what's near you or bearing down on you! Still, the ride is worth it as there are wonderful, fun moments when one is not needing to avoid impatient drivers and only inching forward in bumper-to-bumper traffic.

Doing Presidents...a great way to have spent a recent Saturday.

Pics: Presidential Ride/Rt.38

Thursday, September 14

R.I.P. Ann Richards, EX-TX Governor and motorcyclist

Ann Richards had more class in a hair follicle than some of us have in our entire being! She was one smart and snazzy woman. Her spirit, humor and wit always made me stop to listen to her. I remember the comment she made in defense of women's abilities in a "man's world."

To paraphrase, she said, Ginger Rogers did everything Fred Astaire did, only she did it backwards and in high heels. This morning, I heard another memorable Richards quote: "I don't want my headstone to say, 'She kept a clean house.' I could just hear her releasing that famous laugh.

At 60, Richards bought herself a motorcycle and rode it!

RIP, Ann Richards.

Great American Motorcycle Tours: A Brief Review/Rant

Gary McKechnie’s book, Great American Motorcycle Tours, is a book I really wanted to eat up. I mean, what is there not to relish? It's well-written, over 500 pages of detailed, fun-sounding motorcycle adventures with maps, restaurants and shopping suggestions, and black and white photos--it even includes an opening essay by Peter Fonda, Hollywood’s bad-boy motorcyclist. The book is the winner of the Benjamin Franklin Gold Award and the Lowell Thomas Silver Award. So how could I--or anyone--not love this book?

For the longest, however, I couldn’t put my finger on what was irritating me—a lot—about the book. It hit me after I had been riding a short time. My first “long” ride was around 50 miles—not long by most motorcycle standards. Within days, my ride length had doubled. One sunny Saturday, with little planning, I did 220 easy miles. Now, I still consider myself a re-entry/newbie rider. I rode more than 20 years ago (briefly) . No doubt about it, it has felt like...well…starting over. Yet, accumulating mileage has come naturally and easily. On any given excursion, the miles seem to melt away. Were it not for time and obligations, I feel as if I could ride forever. This, from a relative newbie like me; I am not unique. Experienced riders cover far more terrain than I currently can and do. One motorcyclist I read about went to the store to retrieve items for lunch and took a 200 plus mile "jaunt" home.

Now let's look at some tours McKechnie describes: Amish Country Run, 110 miles. To cover this, McKechnie suggests three days with stops. Blue Ridge Parkway Run, 200 miles, “consider five days with stops.” Mighty Montana Run, 335 miles, “consider four days with stops.” Sawtooth Range Run, 450 miles, “consider six days with stops.” McKechnie appears to have some exceedingly low expectations for motorcyclists. These are looooooong completion times!

Why, someone tell me, would it take anyone three days to cover 110 miles?! Even on challenging roads, one should be able to cover 110 miles in less than three days—even with stops! For the average biker, 110 miles could be covered in a few hours—even with stops. McKechnie's average is approximately 36 miles a day! Come on! I can walk 110 miles in three days! This rant applies to all the distances in McKechnie's book. Even playing tourist to the max, should not turn these trips into the multiple day outings McKechnie recommends.

If you want to squeeze in a weekender or have limited vacation time, following a McKechnie tour will devour--FAST--whatever time you set aside, while not taking you very far. In six days, one would only cover about 450 miles of a McKechnie trip. The times/distances in Great American Motorcycle Tours seemed written for bicyclists rather than for motorcyclists! It’s a shame that such a good book, in terms of its tour descriptions, will annoy many motorcyclists. It will. Trust me!

Wednesday, September 13


Ok, this is what I’m talking about! Motorcyclists encounter some pretty ugly stereotypes, which are not manufactured out of thin air. I mean, there is a grain of truth inherent in any stereotype. Problem is, that grain is then categorically applied to everyone and those who don’t fit it are seen as the exceptions to the rule. Here’s an example of what fuels the stereotypes about motorcyclists being daredevils and law-breakers.

While thumbing through the latest issue of a motorcycle magazine my eyes settle on an ad. The ad is bold, red and captivating. It screams at you to “avoid costly traffic tickets!” The “s” in costly is the dollar sign. It explains how one can render a bike “invisible” to police cameras. There is a photo of a traffic signal with a red slash through it. Moreover, according to the ad, it is “100% legal.” How does this work? Well, buy a can of this stuff, spray it on your license plate and voila, your license plate becomes unreadable in a photo. The chemical creates a plate that is indecipherable when “flashed.” No surprise tickets in the mail.

I’m aware that radar detectors serve a similar purpose, if you really want to get technical. But there is a difference. With a radar detector, if you run a red light, flee the police or are seen by someone else while in the midst of committing a traffic offense, your license plate can be recorded. There is only one reason I can come up with that explains why anyone would want this product and that’s to avoid justice when braking the law. How about riding with good sense and obeying traffic laws as the best way to avoid costly tickets?

Isn’t buying a can of this saying, “I want to and I plan to break the law with impunity.” It’s designed for speed “freaks,” lane-splitters (in non-lane splitting friendly states), and tollbooth free-riders, to skirt the law. This is how many people see motorcyclists in general. The makers of this product surely feel they are providing a needed service. Seems to me that what they’ve done is capitalize on and perpetuate a negative stereotypes about motorcyclists. And, those who buy it, also feed into the outlaw stereotype. Or, am I just not getting it? Somebody, please explain to me what I’m missing here?

Sunday, September 10

Pics of Lake MI, lighthouses, roads, rain and more...

A cloudy day that continued to look like rain any minute provided the inspiration needed to post some of the LMCT photos.

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Saturday, September 9

The SV goes grocery shopping!

I detest grocery shopping. In a nutshell, that's why I do it around 3:30 a.m. and definitely before 5:00 a.m. That way, I avoid hordes of people, wailing children, playing bumper carts, express line violators, and pushers--those "cooks" that geniunely want you to eat stuff they've made on the spot in hopes that you'll eat it, take the coupon and buy the "food" they're pushing. NEVER! And, did I say the hordes of people? But the disadvantage of going in the wee hours is that I become an interloper.

The folks whose job is to stock shelves, clean floors, rearranged aisles, typically do not like to see me coming. I am in the way. I've sauntered in around 3:30 a.m. where the floors are in the midst of being shined, aisles are impassable because they are loaded with towering boxes and those mammoth metal monsters that hoist stuff. Navigating a shopping cart is a perilous eye-opener. The workers are listening to a boom-box and chatting among themselves (sometimes using un-customer-friendly language). When they look up and see me, I can tell that I've come upon something I'm not supposed to. But hey, I need food and toilet paper. Believe me, it is safer for humanity that I go at 3:30 a.m. than to go when everyone else and their mother goes.

Well, my wee hour shopping times might be over! Today, I took the SV with me. It's amazing what a cheap plastic crate will carry. Actually, it's a deterrant from buying too much, which is a good thing for someone like moi who tends to throw out more than I consume. Today is Saturday. I bought enough to last me for the next five days easy!

The really great thing about shopping on the SV is that the to and fro turned out to be a most pleasant trip. I didn't even go straight home, which was the high point! I went for a short ride! Never in my previous history of grocery shopping via car or on foot have I taken a spontaneous detour just for the fun of it. This new routine just might make me enjoy grocery shopping--no, that's not gonna happen! But!... at least I can look forward to my post-grocery shopping reward. A five mile jaunt to the store can easily turn into a 50 mile detour on the way home. Posted by Picasa

Tuesday, September 5

Book Review...sorta

My successful Lake Michigan Circle Tour is due in large part to William Murphy's Motorcycling Across Michigan (MAM). By the way, I'm defining success in two ways: first, I never got terribly lost. Whenever I was a little lost, it was my fault; I distrusted the instructions! Second, I returned home unscathed--that's the best kind of success!

Vastly more than a guide to exceptional roads, the book is a conversation with a seasoned motorcyclist whose expertise shows on every page. MAM is many books in one. It is a well-researched blueprint to the best Michigan roads, a geography, history and socio-cultural mini-course to boot. Murphy has done the difficult work for you. Yet, he provides options for those who might want to explore alternate routes.

Murphy has brilliantly anticipated a motorcyclists' needs. In addition to providing detailed, fun maps, Murphy has answered every questions a motorcyclist might ask! Need to find a motorcycle dealer or repair shop? Need to call local and state authorities? Need to report lost or stolen credit cards? Need to know MI motorcycle laws? Need to make hotel reservations on the road? Murphy has even thought to provide blank, lined paper in the back of the book to write down information you might need to refer to later.

It is a motorcyclist's book, however, motorists and bicyclists can join in the fun and pick up a copy of Murphy's book too. It is an excellent tour and resource guide for anyone on wheels.

I'm unusually careful with my books. Even after a second read, they look pristine. But Murphy's book looks like I've used it in battle. It is dog-eared, replete with margin notes, highlighted, with some pages hanging on by threads. This seeming neglect, in this case, is a sign of how much I've loved and used this book.

Murphy will be speaking on September 16th in Lansing, MI. I am tempted to bike there just to tell him how I feel about his wonderful book. If you are within 100 miles of this, go! Do not miss this talk. If Murphy in-person is half as good as he is in print, it will be a very fine evening indeed.

Monday, September 4


An industrial lake view from Sheboygan, WI A historical society and lighthouse doing business together.
This is the river walk where a helpful "senior" told me stories about her courting days along the river with her husband of over 50 years. She recalled the "fun" activities and "ice angels" they made together on the frozen river.
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Note the WI state symbol beyond the real logs and fake horses that welcome you to the state.

LMCT--final words...

Don’t know all the reasons why, but writing the final essay on the trip has been more challenging than writing the daily trip blogs combined. I think my block might pertain to my wish that the trip could have been longer, that the Door County part that I had to excise could have been completed. I thought I had accepted that I needed to cut it out to save time and that I could always do Door County as a weekend—even day trip, as it’s relatively close by. I thought I was okay with this. Then I got home and realized I was ticked that I hadn’t made the push to Door County. So I think by not writing the final entry, I avoided having to deal with just how peeved I really was to return without having completed Door County.

But all is well now. I’ve had another nice trip since the Lake Michigan Circle Tour and that has given me a fine sense of closure. Other than the sheer joy of feeling the open air, watching the world whiz by and riding two wheels, nothing extraordinary about the last 220 (approximately) miles home. I forged ahead and only stopped to fill up, eat, or flex my limbs. Given that the sky looked like rain after passing Green Bay, I didn’t mind the single-minded push to get home.

I must say that once in WI, the Lake Michigan Circle Tour takes on a different character. In MI, there are extensive stretches of road that allows one to stay close to the lakeshore. This is not the case in WI. In WI, one has to jog inland and out, which means meandering through towns and dealing with the Interstate more. At times, you can’t help ask youself if it is worth getting off the interstate to get near the lakeshore, particularly if the lakeshore stretch is relatively short. For example, I enjoyed hanging around Sheboygan but really thought there should have been more to make it worth it. Seeing a new town is always an interesting adventure but states have different level of lakefront development and MI is tops in my book. Chicago too, has maximized its lakefront and we are a city that takes full advantage of our lake. If one expects to see similar developments in IN and WI, one might be disappointed.

Therefore, while getting near the lake is the key to the tour for me, it’s not always an easy undertaking. With patience, however, one can take in a lot and come away appreciative of the diversity of environments and landscapes that are out there.

By the time I’d reached IL, I knew that rain was inevitable. On I-43 it rained near Zion, IL. Again, my gear proved its worth. No need to stop, I had prepared for rain and was ready for what was ahead. I-43 gets one to Rt.41 South/I-94 East into Chicago. Somewhere near Lake Forest, the rain was in full form, creating rain-slick roads that were not fun to ride. Most of the sane people slowed accordingly. However, enough did not and it made being out there too dangerous. By this time, the sky had darkened considerably adding to the already diminishing visibility. I had on my trusty yellow rubber cleaning gloves, which by the way, are excellent for wiping off the visor (has anyone successfully invented wipers for helmets, yet?).

I got out of the wet-madness on Tower Line Road and saw a Borders Books, where I hung out for about 3 hours, pouring over the latest motorcycle magazines and scanning Brinkley’s book on Katrina. Had to resist buying it there—not an inch of space to tote another thing. I had to remind myself that there *are* bookstores in Chicago!

When I leave the bookstore, it is after 8:30 p.m., and lightly raining. Had only to slip on my rain pants and put the rain coats on the bike, which had been sitting out in the rain for hours—still, the luggage had kept the contents relatively dry. The slick gunk on the road appears to be washed off. I ride until I reach Sheridan Road and take it southbound. Actually, to save time, I had not planned to take Sheridan Road back, figuring I’d save time by jumping on the interstate. This leg of the LMCT, from Milwaukee to Chicago, I’ve done enough times that I wouldn’t feel badly about cutting it out. But there I was; on Sheridan Road, where I felt traffic would be more manageable. The most interesting thing is that I entered Sheridan Road near a point off Linden Avenue, where The Bahai Temple House of Worship stood luminous against the black, rainy night. I couldn’t help but feel safe in the glow of its brilliance.

Sheridan Road was relatively quiet with few cars heading south. Not until I reached Chicago did I experience any heavy traffic. I decided not to take Lake Shore Drive into the city, because the gentle rain had turned heavy. I remained on Sheridan Road until Halsted Street, at which point I traveled along Halsted until North Avenue and then on to Wells St., which I took the rest of the way downtown. Again, most people slowed down. My position is that if people want me to go faster, they can go around or fly over me. Although there was a car in front of me, some stupid person evidently wanted me to fly over the car in front of me. The driver road my tail! Finally, when the person saw a chance to get to the right lane and fly when the light changed to green, he took it but not before yelling out, “Vespa,” to me. At first, what he yelled didn’t register… then it hit me that he was ordering me to get a scooter. I wanted to race him down and say, “Look crap-head, I’ve just ridden over 1000 miles without incident; I’m not going to come back home and have some jerk make me have an accident!” Instead, I just yelled, “stupid-a&*,” at him in my helmet.

I arrived home after 10pm, exhausted and filled with unbelievable memories I had created for myself. I wanted time to reflect; I’ve had a little so far and I still can’t believe that I did it, had so much fun, and can hardly wait for my next adventure.