Monday, October 30

Fall moto trip to the Kankakee River

Kankakee River State Park. My planned trip to Lake Geneva, WI didn't pan out. Instead, after staying up late reading about the Iron Butt Rally National Parks Tour , I started yearning for a visit to a park. The trip should have taken maybe 90 minutes, 2 hours max. It took me four hours to arrive at the park.

I mounted the bike and left the garage at 6:30 a.m.. The early morning cold made me want to return to bed. True to its name, "The Windy City" was kicking full force and it made the low 40s feel more like 20 degrees. After 25 miles, my fingers felt, well...I couldn't feel them, really. Stopped for hot chocolate and received a free glazed donut--a rare treat that I devoured! The hot chocolate was awful, but the cup served as an excellent hand warmer. If I aim to log another 500 miles before retiring the bike for winter, investing in heated gloves is mandatory!

The back roads heading south turned confusing in spots. I had the GPS in the tank bag but have come to rely most heavily on maps. Lack of a suitable mount for the GPS, makes it cumbersome to use. It's easier glancing down at a highlighted map in the tank bag's vinyl pocket than stopping to check the GPS. At one point, I realized I was lost--or so I thought. It seemed like I was riding around in one huge square. The roads had names like 4800 N 1200 W or something equally illogical. In some places, new construction forced me to head in an unexpected direction. I need to trust my gut more as I was often correct. Still, I had a brief weepy moment when I became so turned around and lacking understandable street signs, I caved in to my emotions.

Stopped, took out the GPS and used its compass feature to regain my bearings. It was then that I discovered that I was going in the right direction. Wide open country roads allowed the wind to do its kicking full force. At times I felt like I was riding side ways. A couple of times the bike's rear tire wagged heartily. Even though I know that counter steering works, it is still a breath-taking experience to be suddenly shoved by the wind; I can't help wonder if there have been bikes that have become airborne or flipped over due to the winds.

Finally, arrived at the park at 10:30 a.m.--four hours since leaving the apartment. The park was relatively isolated, saw a few hikers, walkers and a couple of bicycles. The ground was covered with crisp-crunchy leaves. Some trees were still in the midst of changing colors, others were naked. The four hour ride there resulted in only a 40 minute visit. Isn't there some saying that it's not the destination, it's the journey...Twas true in this case.

Scheduled to work at 3 p.m. So I pushed the ride home by taking the interstate one quarter of the way. Expressway traffic was light, which allowed me to push the little blue bike homeward, reaching ...well, I'll keep the speed to myself. Stopped for lunch in the south suburbs. Picked up Rt. 50 north and managed fairly heavy traffic to Chicago. Great practice on scanning, emergency stops, space cushion management, and self control (i.e., not acting on wanting to strangle the cellphone talking driver who wants to share a lane with you). With the exception of the lane-sharer, one vehicle weaver, the return trip was uneventful. Saw more bikes out today than I've seen in a long while.

Pulled into the garage at 2:30 p.m.. Amassed 156.6 miles. Arrived at work 2:58--two minutes early for my 3:00 meeting. Perfect timing. Perfect ride!

Kankakee River State Park pics

Sunday, October 29

Queenie’s blazing rear

The new turn signals look fabulous. Initially, I desired signals fleshed against each side of the bike. Thankfully, the shop realized this wouldn’t work because my saddlebags would conceal them. Instead, we opted for the pricier stock signals. The wait is over--everything is now in place. Here’s how the lights operate: The Priority Lights are added to the turn signals and they transform the lights into running lights. Just as the headlight is always on when riding, the rear lights are now always “on.” When I apply the brakes, the turn signals are rewired to behave as additional brake lights. Exactly how this works differs by the type of wiring done. Some systems just light up, no fancy light work, like flashing, pulsating, or rotating. On my bike, the wiring is set so that the lights flash when the brakes are applied. If I hold the brake, the flashing eventually stops and the glow remains static. A tap on the brakes will reactivate the dynamic flashing mode. Mind you, this is beyond a simple flash. It’s a bright (LED) blinking that seems to say, “Back away from the bike buster!” I realize that clueless drivers still might claim not to see me, but I have an increased sense of safety knowing that I’ve maximized rear end conspicuity.

Didn’t think to take a short video of the bike in its flashing mode and share that—perhaps later.

Now for the luxurious bar end mirrors. I love them! Looking into them puts my head and glance at a more natural angle than the original mirrors, which required a distinct head movement that had me looking up and off to the side. These are snazzy and about as much chrome as I'll ever want on a bike! Notice the different mirror positions I've set. As I've said before, one of the best features is the ability to fold down the mirrors and tuck them out of sight, behind the handlebars. Hopefully, this feature will reduce the likelihood that some pea brain will walk by and pull on the mirrors just for the sport of it. Still wanting some way to rig the bike up with electricity for just such people.

Friday, October 27

Edelweiss Bike Travel, dying and daylight saving time

It’s bad enough that I begin work and return in the dark. October 29th, at 2:00 a.m., we’ll “fall back” and end daylight saving time. That’s cruel! I already feel the doldrums taking hold… I look up doldrums to see if it really captures my pitiful mood. Doldrums... Merriam-Webster Online says..."Etymology: probably akin to Old English dol foolish

1 a spell of listlessness or despondency
2 often capitalized : a part of the ocean near the equator abounding in calms, squalls, and light shifting winds
3 a state or period of inactivity, stagnation, or slump."

One and three about does it for me! Topping it of, I'm battling a potentially lethal case of…

wanderlust. It’s painful and utterly self-absorbing, I know. Again, Merriam-Webster, “a strong longing for or impulse toward wandering. Etymology is German, from wandern to wander + Lust desire, pleasure." I got it BAD! (forgive the grammar)

Edelweiss Bike Travel. The big, boldly colorful 2007 “brochure” arrived—it transcends brochure status and is more of a travelogue of world adventures. It is more seductive than the company's website, which convinced me to send for the "brochure" in the first place. Now I'm wallowing in seasonally induced misery!

Edelweiss Bike Travel bills itself as “The World’s Leading Company in Guided Motorcycle Tours.” I don't even like group rides, which interfer with my hermetic disposition! Nonetheless, the sage folks at Edelweiss reel me in like a wet sock! I am there! I am on one of their tours, having a blast, acting like I like the other people on the trip too. Then it crosses my mind that the only people in pages of the tour "brochure" who look anything like me are the poorly dressed "natives" in Africa. Hmmm...

I finish reading the narratives by detesting the motorcycle tourists for smiling back at me, saying na na na na-nah, rubbing it in that they have enjoyed an amazing adventure. They appear to be adding an exclamation point to my recent visit to the Museum of Natural History (down the street from me) that it is about as close as I’m ever going to get to visiting any place the brochure beckons the reader. Still, it’s a mesmerizing—albeit excruciating—way to dream, that is, if you can resist sinking into self-pity and masochistic thoughts of how you’ve clearly gone into the wrong profession and seriously need to make a quick couple of mil to make this mood go away.

Wednesday, October 25

"Look Ma, NO HANDS!"

The motorcyclist in the first pic is Don H., creator, instructor of the Street Riding & Technical Training (SRTT) course I took in early October. I am thrilled I did not miss this opportunity, which I seriously might have were it not for Chris and others at Ride-Chicago, who “adjusted” my cock-eyed handlebars that were bent from the failed attempt to pilfer my motorcycle.

This is not the SRTT report I’ve been promising to post but another mini-look at some things about it. Yesterday I sent an email to a motorcyclist friend and shared with him two things we learned in the course that I’m retelling here. I’ve already written about the transforming new braking technique we learned—I swear it has made a major difference in my braking confidence. That alone is worth the course fee! But first, lest someone thinks the course was about stunt riding I need to re-emphasis that the course was foremost about safety, advanced riding skills, machine control, rider control, whole-body riding (not just riding “on” the motorcycle but “with” it), all of which leads directly to riding with more confidence.

Now that I’ve finally written the SRTT report, I realize it is far too lengthy to post and expect anyone to read and absorb. Thus, I will edit it down to more bite size morsels and post mini doses on occasion. This time, the length is not due entirely to my normal long-windedness; this time it is because I’d like the report to do justice to the fabulous things we learned over the more than six hours of instruction. But I digress…

One truly amazing thing I learned in the class was one-handed riding. Don introduced this late in the course, after we had practiced many advanced skill challenges. When I saw Don do this, I thought, I like a challenge, but this guy is finally trying to kill off the class. He expected us to do the entire range with our hand on the throttle ONLY—without using the clutch. So this is how it’s gonna end.

We mounted our bikes—a bit more tentatively than before, I must confess. With our left hand down at our side or on the tank, and keeping the bike in first gear, we rode. Straight-line riding didn’t seem difficult at all. Hmmm….But the course range is huge, really huge and marked off with miniature orange cones so that u-turns, cornering entry, figure 8s, wide sweeping curves, and sharp turns could be practiced. The course was arranged to approximate real-road situations. And this guy wanted us to do the entire range with one hand? Didn’t matter how slow we rode (thank goodness for the "Ride Like a Pro” video, where slow maneuvers are stressed). Only rule: one hand, no clutch.

Although there were eight bikes in the class, I don’t remember observing even one of them during this exercise. Mind you, they were there. I just never removed eyes from the task at hand to see how anyone else was managing. One-hand riding took ever bit of my attention and centered it entirely on riding with control. At all times, I had to think ahead. To execute the second curve correctly, I had to enter the first one on target. See, with two hands we can cheat a little, compensate for our entry errors. Come to rely on bad entry technique and cheating will catches up with you and take a chunk out of your butt! You can’t cheat with one hand.

With one hand, my head turns were earlier and precise--on point! To compensate for one hand riding, I was forced to call upon my lower half, to squeeze that tank harder than I’m accustomed to. Using my legs and thighs to move and shift my weight in the seat helps steer the bike. I know this, but do I consciously always apply it? I do now! Most important of all, one hand riding can correct bad or weak throttle control use. Think about it. There are times, rarer for me now, that I’d apply a bit too much throttle. We know what happens: you’re unprepared for the forward lurch, which on an unforgiving bike, say a Hayabusa, will kill you. Apply even a little too much and you can go zooming into outer space--or worst, into busy traffic. One hand riding demands absolute attention to smooth throttle use. I got the point, Don!

After riding around and around, the muscles in my throttle arm were crying for rest. Following hours of whole-body riding, the only part of my body that wasn’t aching was my nose. Yet, Don was no way near finished with us. I thought the one hand riding was a stunt Don was pulling on us. Turned out not to be. Don said we would now do “no-hand” riding. Ok, the one hand riding didn’t kill us; this must be his next attempt. Don, what are you, nuts? Joke’s over! What besides sure death can be gained from riding with no hands?!

Don did a no hands demonstration for us. He’s a charming fellow, very clear in his instruction, exuberant, but clearly on the nutty side if he expects us to do what we are witnessing him do. Don’s Yami FZ1 is appropriately black and yellow. As I’ve said before, he buzzes and flies around on that thing as if he’s riding a bumblebee on speed! On his bike, he reminds me of the Centaur, the half man, half horse from Greek mythology, only the motorcycle is the horse part in this case. It’s unmistakably evident that he is one with his bike. I plan to ride like that one day—assuming I survive this class.

Don rides the bike in a circle for a bit. He is talking to himself and us quietly, concentrating mostly on his bike. He’s is repeating something, almost mantra-like. It’s quiet but I think he is saying, “find you spot,” “find your spot,” all the while turning the bike in tighter and tighter circles. We focus. We watch. Eventually, the bike looks as if it is slowly spinning on an imaginary string from above. Now Don is quiet. He finds his spot and he removes both hands from the bike. I gasp. He continues his 360-degree turns with no hands; they are hanging relaxed at his sides. He just keeps going and going like a slow motion Energizer bunny. As if hypnotized, the bike spins smoothly. Then Don takes hold of the handle bars, flashes a giant grin and says something like, “that’s it, that’s what I want you to do.” Yeah, right.

Until this point, I thought Don was mostly sane, now I’m thinking he definitely inhales! The one thing I am certain about: I trust him. Everything he’s taught thus far has made an immediate improvement. Even when I haven’t fully mastered the skill, the logic and potential for improvement is unequivocal. So I cast aside suspicions of drug use and try to apply Don’s lesson. We spread out on the range so that we can “find our spot” without distraction. I head for the farthest corner possible. Again, I am not cognizant of the others in the class.
All the slow speed practice I’ve done helps in doing the slow circles—that part didn’t pose a problem. My circles got small enough to “find my spot.” But there is a great deal of psychology to riding a motorcycle. I circled, and circled, and circled. On several occasions, I lifted both hands but blink and you’d miss it. So I tried some more. Again and again and again. I will call my inability to remove my hands but for more than two seconds a minor success. I thought of one of my favorite heroes from the children’s book classic, The Little Engine that could, where the train’s lesson is to never give up. I will practice this and by next spring when I re-take the SRTT class to jumpstart the new season, I will, have found my spot, thanks to the expert tutelage of Don H.

Monday, October 23

The hospital bill for Queenie arrives...

And it's not pretty! The price tag to repair broken parts and do some other necessary improvements to heighten the bike's conspicuity is...drum roll, please nearly $700! Ouch! It's not like I have been itching to unload that amount of money on the bike. What could I do? Baby needed new shoes, so to speak. Bikes have stuff, and sometimes the stuff requires more stuff. I hope I never have to compromise the bike's looks or integrity when things need attending to by riding around on an inferior machine.

Slowly the bike is moving back to stock, if stock is an improvement over the aftermarket parts. Previous owner did a lot of things that were initially passable but really not to my liking. In general, stock items cost more than aftermarket items. While some aftermarket items are fine, some do not weather the test of time. For instance, an aftermarket rear seat compartment came apart on the bike. Somewhere between Chicago and Waukegan I lost a great new set of unused CruzTools, a tire repair kit and my Suzuki SV owner's manual. The compartment appeared made of some sort of thin board that were it not for being black and rigged would be plain old cardboard. The "screws" that held it together were cheap and plastic. That's all been replaced. The new stock compartment is a durable black, thick plastic tube thingy that is part of an entire rear tire guard system. It is sturdy and gives the bike a new sportier look.

The aftermarket turn signals got in the way more than a few times on the "long" trip. The Nelson Rigg luggage pushed against them and they became cockeyed and the plastic around them, became loose. I made it a habit to test its stability at check points. Upon closer inspection, they looked flimsy to begin with. The new tail unit has a space for inserting the stock turn signals. In it, will be new LED turn signals with "Priority Lights." The turn signal lights are always on at half power. Whenever the brakes are activated, these half powered lights illuminate brightly, they also rotate and pulse. When I signal a turn, the light's potency is increased. LEDS are unbeatable! The rear end lights are now akin to a tail light modulator but aren't specifically called that--don't know if this is a way to avoid a "tail light modulator" designation given that they are not--unlike headlight modulators--legal in every state. The new set up, combined with the LED license plate frame, gives Queenie a tail that is difficult to miss. Vocalist Beyonce, known for having a famous tail region could learn a thing or two from Queenie!

The bruised, unstable right mirror has been replaced. The bike now sports two chrome rectangular, wide angle bar end mirrors. It's a twofer: bar ends plus mirrors in one unit. These mirrors have a pliable neck that can be moved about in every direction. The mirror head can be rotated at various angles too, making it easier to find just the right viewing spot. I love two things about these mirrors: One is how well they match the new chrome stock handle bars. Two, when not in use, the mirrors can be folded down completely in front of the handlebars, out of the way--and view--of vile people who have no business near the bike. What I'll have to get accustomed to is how I see out of them. My eyes now focus down and out to the side rather than up and scrunching down, which is what the old flat, round "stock" mirrors required before. In this case, the stock wasn't the superior choice.

Two other modifications will wait until spring. The Givi windscreen to replace the Barracuda, and Givi hard luggage to replace the Nelson Rigg. We're talking another $1000--minimum--not counting brackets and labor for mounting it all. After that, I'm done (remind me of this!). At some point, I've got to cease with the add-ones and accept that I can only improve the bike so much.

Riding is not only's also expensive, especially if you don't do your own work. Hmmmm?

Pics of the gal-pal's new look soon...

Thursday, October 19

Another "Queenie"!

One of Ardys Kellerman's BMW is a K-series bike. The one in the picture is not hers but she rides one similar to it. Since first hearing about Ardys Kellerman, distance rider, great grandmother, I have admired this woman. This morning I discover that she shares the pet name, "Queenie" with my bike! How cool is that! Ardys Kellerman has become somewhat of an obsession of mine. She's a great grandmother, which I'm not, she's an "elder", which I'm not--yet--she is a woman, which I am. I know if I met her we'd like each other. We have a lot in common: motorcycles, a love of solo riding, distance riding, and a fondness for BMWs. I want to be Ardys Kellerman when I grow up.

Ardys Kellerman belongs to a select group. She has finished 4 Iron Butt Rallies (IRB) to date. This means, she has ridden multiple rides of 11,000 miles in 11 days! You read that right! She stands not just at the top of women's list of IRB finishers, she has outperformed most men who compete in the IRB too. She is someone who definitely follows the motorcycle adage: "ride your own ride."

Kudos to Ardys Kellerman, someone you should know.

Wednesday, October 18

"Beauty IS in the eyes of the beholder"

This is not a pretty bike, like Queenie. But it is a behemoth on any road! Ninety-five percent of the roads I've met, I've ridden without hesitation. That 5% that I have avoided could be savoured with this baby!

This dualsport is a work horse--it can act the fool on any road surface. Its knobby tires will trek on dirt, sand, gravel, through water, like nobody's business. I remember one road on my Lake Michigan Circle Tour that kept beckoning to me. The red, sandy trail was oh, so tempting. I rode right up to its edge and thought, "What the heck, take it?" It was definitely off the beaten path--it looked so tantalizing. Then visions of sinking in that sand filled my head (I'd already had a few traction challenges with sand). Then the voice of self-preservation seethed, "You are alone, remember, don't be an imbecile!" I hate when that happens!

Had I this beauty, I would have aimed this incredibly functional, universal road-loving, lightweight beast at that road and enjoyed all its mysteries--and loved every minute of it. I want one of these! Badly!

Read about the adventures of the indomitable Kaw KLR650

For information on KLR650 adventures join a group that now tops 7000 members.

Life and funds are way too short. Woe is me...

Monday, October 16

Brrrrr! Winter storage or what?!

Thinking aloud about needing to decide what to do with the bike for the next five months...

It is not unusual now to awaken to mornings that are 35 degrees. Until this year, I've never complained too loudly about cold weather. Jogging, hiking, and x-cross country skiing along the lakefront can keep one sanguine during the winter doldrums. Just dress properly and outdoor life can be fun. Dressing properly are the operative words. As this is my first "winter" riding a motorcycle, I'd like to see just how long I can go before the cold makes me cry uncle. All I know now is that riding at 35 degree F, at speeds of 60 mph, feels less than joyous on anything longer than 25 miles. I have gear that, so far, has kept me relatively comfortable. But allow me be clear: I have not come close to the skin-slicing, nose-hair freezing, knee-numbing, head-hurting cold that is standard fare for Chicago. I'm not a wimp. But on my last "cold" ride, I was not a happy trooper.

I could put the bike in storage now, which would render it entirely off limits on those sporadic November through April days when the weather's schizophrenia produces some amazingly warm, ride-friendly days. Like today, the early morning has reached 54 degrees F. A couple of days ago, at the same time, it was 34 degrees. That's a huge difference! At 54 degrees, I'll ride without hesitation; I'm less enthusiastic at 34 degrees. I could not store the bike and face the frequent frustration of warming it up and accepting that my pleasure shall be restricted, at best, to listening to the engine rev. I guess, I could pack up and relocate somewhere that promises year 'round motorcycling.

All of these "choices" have drawbacks that make me whine. The best solution, I think, is to select a date and put the bike in storage regardless of the temp outside at the time. I'd grumble and get over it and ache for the new riding season. For a reasonable fee, Motorworks, at 1901 S. Western Avenue, Chicago, IL, will store the bike in a climate-controlled space, change the oil, remove the battery and keep it on a battery tender. Then come Spring, the bike is given an assessment, serviced and is ready to be ridden out the door. Doing a home variant of this that may consist of occasionally firing up the bike or removing the battery and storing it in the house. No sense kidding myself, that would be agony. Sort of like baking sweet potato pie every few days, smelling the rich cinnanomy aroma and not being able to eat any of it. I am not a masochist.

I don't believe the adage, "out of sight, out of mind." I will think of the bike and my yearning to ride every day. More aptly, putting the bike in storage will be "out of sight," slightly less whine.

Coming up: SRTT Report--Finally!

Thursday, October 12

Caught cheating: Here's the "Other" Bike

I've cheated on the blue gal-pal! I recently mounted this mint condition fella, played with its throttle and rode this SV650 beauty until forced to stop. Had 4000 miles on its odometer. The owner is a suburban policeman whose wife is pregnant. The least he could do is get rid of the bike so that there's no chance of him getting killed on it and leaving her a single mother. His lost, some one's great gain! Hey, what about being a policeman? That might have some dangers they might want to think about too...but I digress.

The bike is EFI (fuel injection engine). I didn't notice any significant riding differences. I loved that getting on it seemed just like riding the gal-pal. Even the start wasn't as automatic as I thought but this could be because the owner says he allows the bike to warm to 120 degrees before riding--that took about as long as it takes for my choke to kick in and warm up my bike.

The owner is doting and meticulous--just the kind of person from whom you want to purchase a bike. He introduced the bike as his "baby." His car was his first baby, an unblemished Jeep Wrangler, which he bought off Craigslist. But now the "real" baby was on the way, forcing him to part with his fire engine red SV. Felt sorry for him, he was visibly moved at the thought of parting with it. One plus for him: He uses his garage to store an in-law's bike with the understanding that whenever he experiences post bike-sale withdrawal symptoms, he has rider-rights to the blue Kawasaki. This clever barter seemed to dull the pain of selling his bike.

He's asking $4800 for the bike, which I think is an excellent starting price. Because he's a policeman, I had to show him my "M" license to ride. He told me was "worried" about having prospective buyers ride his bike and had given this considerable thought. To date only two riders have "EVER" ridden the baby. That I rode up with my fairly clean, slightly cock-eyed blue friend, looking very much like his bike's cousin, might have helped him feel a little more comfortable about me riding it. Of course, that he went with me, leading on the blue Kaw, must have brought him the real relief.

It was a smooth ride along some nice suburban roads, approximately 25 miles outside of Chicago. Leaves covered the street making me highly conscious about where I placed those tires. We rode slowly at first, then all the way through the six gears. From 10 mph to 60 mph, we navigated the wide, tree-lined quiet streets of single family homes. I could tell that he is an excellent rider. His head always turned, his shifting, both up and down, was flawless and hardly noticeable. The V-twin is the best engine sound (IMHO).

Our ride was great; the weather was perfect, upper 60s and just enough wind to feel caressed. He told me to let him know when I wanted to end the ride--yeah, right--like that's going to happen. It was evident that he wanted to ride too. He was the first to turn back. When we pulled into his driveway, he took off his helmet and that neon grin said it all.

I'm seriously interested in this bike. Only one drawback. It's totally stock. To get the bike to my standards demands an investment that I've already made in the blue gal-pal. First thing I'd do is reaffirm the gender--it is definitely a male bike; although he said it's a "she." After that, I'd install frame sliders. Not because I fear dropping it, but because some people are major creeps and they might--like someone attempting to steal it! (I still feel murderous when I think about that!)

Here's my list of "must-add" to the bike:

Frame sliders
Center stand
Sergeant Seat
Rear Cowl
Givi windscreen

Unfortunately, these extras put this bike within a few hundred dollars of a brand new '06 SV650! So, why buy this bike? Yes, I'd have to add these features to a new bike too. Difference is...I'd be the one to put on all the miles! Hmmm?

This red hot tamale will find a home and someone will be made significantly happier, too bad it will not be me!

Sunday, October 8

Queenie will rise again!

Well, my gal-pal needs new handlebars, a new brake lever, new right mirror--eventually--and new right bar end (optional, if the scratches don't annoy me). Currently, she sports a "temporary" brake lever, making for a mismatch pair of levers, which definitely annoy me as the bike looks put together with spare parts! But it's better than being unable to ride her.

Cost? I don't know yet, but the items are relatively inexpensive. It's that dang labor that will get you every time! But this shop has been great about prices and service. I learned that a larger shop has my parts in stock, which means I could get her fixed and spiffy right away. But I try to support good, small businesses. Besides, this other shop has a tacky, strange atmosphere. I have purchased items there and have had no major problems with sales folks or the repair shop--although I think their labor charges are outrageous! The really unpleasant part about this other shop is the guy who seems to run the place. He runs hot-cold at unpredictable times. He's been both friendly and inexplicably Arctic to me. Weird bedside--or motorcycleside--manner. Truthfully, he seems off. Not slightly. But hugely! I don't pay for maltreatment. Motorworks, my shop of choice, treats you like fine silk! Their service is superior. Every time I've stepped foot in the place, I feel like I'm there to hang out with a bunch of guy-pals. And, I never leave there without learning something new. So, Queenie and I will wait for our TLC and parts from Motorworks.

When I left the shop, riding with my cock-eyed handlebars, I stopped at the range where the Ride-Chicago teachers would bound to be conducting a class. My advanced riding class, SRTT (Street Riding Technical Training),would be Sunday (today) and I wanted to know if I should even show up. I liked that they too were ticked upon learning that someone had tried to steal my bike. They had their own bitter memories.

Chris, my first safety instructor, thought I should attend the class, that the ride might be a tad awkward initially, but he felt I'd soon adjust. I hate when things I need are not up to snuff. I know if I don't do as well as I want in class, I'll always think it was the cock-eyed handlebars that sabotaged me. Chris inspected my handlebars and said he might be able to straighten them. The bend was at a stress point that could snap. He tried. Eventually, others helped him. I hated that Queenie was being manhandled by three strapping guys, but in this case the "no pain, no gain" was in effect. In running a safety school, Chris said they are experienced at straightening out handlebars. Mine seemed particularly stubborn and refused to cooperate. Later, when I prepared to leave, the ride did seem slightly less cock-eyed. It's weird that I'm riding with a countersteering sensation. But Chris assured me I should be okay in the class, which is held on a track. Getting there will be interesting.

I should get some shut eye before I ride the cock-eyed bike. Signing off...

Friday, October 6

Theft averted, parking ticket, helmet drop...

There's an old blues refrain that goes like this: "If it wasn't for bad luck I wouldn't have any luck at all!" That's how today has felt to me! So here's my whining rant.

Got up early this morning for a short ride before work. Opened the door leading to my garage and didn't see my bike. It's the first thing I see after passing through two doors. For a second, I thought I'd parked it elsewhere--haven't ridden in a few days. But as I walked in the direction of where my bike is supposed to be, I saw a huge mound of something on the ground. It was my freaking bike! It was as if she were resting--it looked too peaceful to be the result of a crash...just my gal-pal...on the ground.

Freaked, is not a strong enough word to express my reaction! I looked around as if to catch whomever could have done this. I stood there looking as if willing the bike to upright itself. I couldn't think. Then I couldn't lift her. I've lifted my bike before, but the way it was on the ground, left no space to stoop and get my butt against the seat to hoist it. I stood there puzzled, trying to think of what to do next. I think I was going into shock...

I noticed that the brake lever was broken, the bulbous end was on the ground and the right bar end was badly scratched. I couldn't tell if the body was damaged or scratched, but it didn't look like it. Thank goodness I put on those frame sliders! Finally, I asked one of the guys at my building's front desk to help me upright it. Like me, they were appalled at the nerve of some people! Once uprighted, I inspected the bike. The only problem was the disc lock. Evidently, the thief tried to roll the bike and could only get so far before the disc lock prevented further movement. The sound of the alarmed probably scared off the creep who then dropped the bike.

The disc lock was jammed pretty tightly on the disc brake. When I tried to dislodge it, the poor little yellow lock tried to scream but it must have lost much of its juice while averting the thief. It sounded weak but continued to beep and screech its heart out. Eventually, I was able to work the disc loose and unlock it.

With the exception of the broken brake lever, the bike seemed fine. Well...the handlebars seemed slightly crooked--or maybe that was my imagination. Rode to a local cafe to get some work done. Meter parking doesn't kick in until 8 o'clock so I had a couple of carefree hours yet. I worked well, despite being distracted about my bike's violation. Looked up and it was 8:03. I had a pocket full of quarters to pay for street parking. As I walked to the bike, I couldn't help but spot the large florescent, safety-orange colored parking ticket neatly tucked beneath the bungee cord on the rear seat. UGH!! The ticket was written at 8:04 a.m.! I looked at my watch: 8:05 a.m.! That one minute will cost me $30!

Loaded the meter up for a couple of hours and returned to work. When I finally left the cafe, I detoured to a computer store to buy ink. No street parking anywhere. At first I thought of parking illegally and just sticking my ticket on the bike. But knew the guilties would get to me. So, I found one of those 5 minutes spots and knew I'd be risking another ticket if I didn't get in and out of the store in a few short minutes. I raced to and fro and made it back before a new ticket appeared. Before zipping up my jacket that I had opened to keep cool while running, I sat my helmet on the bike's seat. I don't ordinarily do that--it's just plain dumb! Yes, it fell. A hard fall too! It fell with a bang and then bounced. My favorite helmet now has a gouge and I'll now wonder about the structural integrity of the helmet. Okay, I'm crying "Uncle" now!

I went home after the drop rather than go into work. I could work from home and cry openly whenever the mood struck. The work has been slow going because the whole day has been one giant distraction. I'm looking forward to the day's end so I can stop this dark cloud from following me.

Tuesday, October 3

Guest Blogger, Lucas, returns safe, sound--and happy!

I've only read half of Lucas' report so far but it sounds great! Wanted to get it posted before I finished. We'll have to wait until next summer to read more ride reports from Lucas so sit back, sip some tea and ENJOY!

Lucas, I'm glad you took the plunge--you did well!

The Road to Tobermory - IV

Final Dispatch from Lucas:

This will be the longest and final entry on my journey to Tobermory from Niagara Falls, Ontario, Canada. This is the body of the trip and is composed of four days of life on the road with a motorcycle. I am writing this entry after my successful return home in one go instead from notes I should have taken. I needed to purchase a journal but it never got in my shopping cart and pulling over to find a place that had a simple notebook was never convenient on the trip. For example in Guelph, I pulled in for my first fuel stop and there was plenty of large strip malls but it was raining and the traffic was heavy. I didn’t know my way around and felt it was better to get moving than try to find a way to navigate into a parking lot to get a notebook. The trip is fresh in my mind and I’ll capture as many facts as I can to make this an interesting read.

I pulled into my driveway yesterday after noon which was October 2nd. Corrina had almost 1000 km on her trip odometer, that’s 600 miles. I filled her up three times on this journey for a total of $30.00 CDN. With an average price of $0.85 a litre, Corrina had consumed 35 litres of gas which is approximately 8 ¾ gallons resulting in about 65 m.p.g. Corrina is a BMW F650CS motorcycle and I felt she did very well as a touring rig. I’m not an expert on motorcycles and this is the only motorcycle other than my moped that I’ve ever owned but she was very comfortable, handled the wind and the trucks confidently and had plenty of power for passing and the hills. The heated hand grips were a boon on cold and windy days.

Before I rant on much further I have to thank the universal powers that be for a safe and successful journey. For giving me strength and courage and to not let me cave in to my darkest fears. Thank you for having this opportunity to be able to have the means and facilities to ride a motorcycle. This trip opened up a whole world that I never knew existed just a few hours north of where I live. I will return plenty and often – I now have some ideal weekend get-aways that I will do much next summer.

This trip was the final trip of the season and I’m so happy to have accomplished it. The journey was a remarkable way to wrap up the riding season. This summer I dreamt about riding, researched into the possibility of riding, met some great people on line that ride, got my license and learned to ride and then took a grand tour riding. I couldn’t ask for more than that and call it a success.

Now about the trip.

On Friday morning, September 29th – I was up early with anticipation and anxieties about the trip. After feeding the dogs, getting breakfast, cleaning up and getting the spouse out the door and the dogs walked. I was ready to embark on my trip. The bike was packed from the night before and I added the final bits and secured the luggage one last time. Corrina’s chrome gleamed in the fluorescent lighting of the garage as in eager anticipation of her first journey. Her first owner only put 2677 km on her and maybe less as she was used as a loaner bike for awhile at the Toronto BMW Motorrad. I did find a receipt in her stuff bag for bagels. Maybe that is all that he wanted out of motorcycling, was to get bagels. I knew the owner was a ‘he’ as the salesman told me Corrina was traded in so the guy could get a sport bike.

I put on my riding gear, a bit too much as I felt confined and hot immediately. The fleece pants and top were too much with the winter liner of my riding gear. I let it go for awhile to see if I could take it and if it would become more comfortable. I rolled Corrina out of the garage and onto the street. This was it, I’m either going or I’m not. I was going. My neighbour Pauline was mowing another neighbour’s grass with her grandson Brody. She is the sweetest and warmest person I know. She can make a friend with anyone. Pauline has lived her entire life in this area – she knows how to be happy by enjoying the simplest things. Seeing Pauline before I left was a good thing because she has encouraged me so much to ride. Her husband Marshall an ex-RCMP motorcycle cop got me to ride down the street on my own. They are the best neighbours.

I talked to Pauline for a few moments and she wished me a safe journey. I closed the lid on my helmet, let go of the front brake and rolled on the throttle. Corrina purred to life and surged towards the stop sign at the end of the street. I checked for traffic, made a right and then a left and I was on to Glendale Boulevard pointing west bound. My first stop was at the bank just before leaving town. I needed to deposit my last ‘side-job’ check as this was going to be part of my funding for the trip. After leaving the check at the bank and taking out $100.00 Canadian, I felt the fleece had to go. I was too stiff and too hot with all of that on. At the back end of the bank’s parking lot I ditched the fleece and stuffed it into my luggage. I would need it later but not now.

The sun was shining through patchy silver and grey clouds. I looked westward and could see some ominous dark clouds, that was Guelph and from the weather report I knew rain was ahead in that area. I haven’t done much riding in rain since I learned to ride my motorcycle this summer. I did some practice in the wet but nothing long distance and this did cause me some consternation and anxiety. I didn’t let it bother me too much as the weather in my current location was fine.

I worked my way out of the bank and back on to Glendale Boulevard, past the mall and out towards the far westward end of town towards St. Paul Street which becomes Rt. 81. Rt. 81 has been a favourite ride of mine and I have been down that road several times. The road goes from suburban homes and into light industrial to farm land and vineyards. Through Balls Falls Conservation area there are some twists and turns in the road. Sitting up higher towards the Niagara Escarpment, the road provides a good view of the flat land that leads to the Lake Ontario. The flat land has provided a bounty of agriculture and viticulture over the years. The golden brown fields in autumn lead to the blue water of Ontario and on a clear day you can see Toronto from here.

This area is known as the ‘Golden Horseshoe’. I’m not sure why it’s called that, maybe the western end of Lake Ontario is horseshoe shaped and the golden part could be from all of the natural resources that have been extracted out of the land over the years. The road to Tobermory is northwest from Niagara Falls. I need to move west to get away from the lake and up into the back country to get to my destination. I started at 10:30 and by the time I left the bank it was 11:30. This included all of the final preparation and getting to the bank and then changing back out of the fleece. My destination for this day was Sauble Falls Provincial Park. The park is about an hour south of my furthest destination, Tobermory. Between St. Paul Street and Sauble Falls, I had about 5 hours of time – I road about 4 hours of that time. For now, I had a large city and a smaller city to get through and then face the open road for the first time with rain. I had to fight back all of the negative thoughts and keep positive. I knew deep down that I would be safe and that I would have a good ride with plenty of memories to share.

Riding for me is part of living my past. There were days when I didn’t have the moped and I can’t exactly remember why. I’m not sure if it wasn’t working or if I had become too embarrassed to ride it. Instead, I would hitchhike from my house in Lake Hughes to Lancaster for work. I remember a ride home that left me stranded in the desert, when my ride wanted to go right and I needed to go straight. I got let off out in the dark. I only had the heat of the road to keep me warm. I discovered that there is a power within, a deep down resource that you can tap into to find a reserve of strength and courage. I’ve used that reserve to overcome many challenges in my life since that night in the desert. Using the internal power reserve, I was able to overcome those negative thoughts of ‘can’t’, ‘what-if’, ‘loser’, etc. that can really bag your ride.

I rode through Rt. 81, enjoying the ride and the feeling of the open road. Corrina was set perfectly. Her oil was at the correct level giving good shifts and positive accelerations. The spring pre-load was comfortable and she felt confident. The camping gear was properly load and well balanced. Heading into Hamilton was going to be a new challenge; heavy city traffic. This was not as big a problem as I had imagined it would be. I found being confident in the lane, clearly signalling your intentions and keeping alert provided the necessary tools to tackle this hurdle. I remembered the directions from the map and studying, but managed to get turned around when I saw a sign to Highway 6. I missed a turn and ended up at a dead end. Turning around, eventually I found my way to a city park. At the park entrance, I found a detailed map of parks in the city and realized I was only a block away from York Road. York Road leads to Hwy 6, which is where I needed to be.

Highway 6 was my road to Tobermory and getting on that highway was a big accomplishment. This means that I fought back every negative thought and tackled the big bad city. Little did I know that I would quickly face another challenge. I misread the map and didn’t see the little red squiggle for Highway 6 meant getting on a real expressway, 401. When the sign appeared that Highway 6 meant 401 for 2 km, I hesitated at first – then checked the right turn lane for traffic and leaned Corrina onto the on-ramp of 401. I had done some expressway practice but for short distances and with slower traffic. I got on to 401 and the traffic in the slow lane was doing over 120 kmh. I had a car on my left that was block my entrance to the highway. On a motorcycle you don’t have the luxury of a car body to nudge people out of the way. I’ve learned if you signal your intentions very strongly that the cars will move. I stretched my left arm out and point to the left lane and the black Audi backed off and went into the next lane; this allowed me to get onto the expressway at 120 kmh. I was nestled in between some rather large trucks and was glad to see my exit was coming up. I was now on Highway 6 proper and moving northwest.

Made a stop in Guelph for lunch and gas. Lunch was a BumbleBee lunch pack, for $2.50 US it was quite a deal. I found them to be the right amount of food for motorcycling. I’ve read you don’t want to fill up too much and have that after-lunch-want-to-take-a-nap feeling. The lunch pack consisted of 6 crackers, a can of tuna salad, a cookie and a fruit cup. I also had some hot tea from the McDonalds, as I used their restrooms – I felt that I owed them $1.25 for the use of it. The gas station was in the same parking lot, filled the tank and I was off.

Leaving Guelph, the small towns and farmer’s fields passed my view out of my full-face helmet. Some of the towns were noteworthy and others were barely remember-able. Towns like Fergus and Arthur had some pretty streetscapes that were still maintained in this area of big block stores and strip malls. Highway 6 isn’t a great bike route and more of a get-there kind of road for automobiles. Being unfamiliar with this area and on my first run, I was inclined to stay in an area that I would be most comfortable. I had a deja’ voux in Mt Forest. I’ve had these before in the past and when you encounter a scene, it’s quite eerie. I had dreamt several years ago about a small town, as you entered the small town you saw the main street went up a hill and the road was being repaired – a detour was required to get back on to Highway 6. I dreamt all of this exactly. This tells you that more is going on in this world than we know about.

I stopped for a break outside of Mt. Forest at a little M.T.O. rest stop. The weather was a bit chilly and I put on my fleece vest for more warmth. I had purchased a BMW neck warmer and that was worth every penny ($35.00 US). Its waterproof on the outside and fleece lined on the inside. There is a zipper on the left side, so it fits snug against your neck sealing out drafts. I’m not into buying name brand apparel for the sake of the brand, but if they make the best item then I’ll buy it. My feet were cold, so I added some extra socks. With the heated handgrips on my bike, I was doing quite well in the chilly and wet climate.

I motored on to Owen Sound, arriving at about 3:30 pm. From what I could see of Owen Sound, it was a pretty town that I would like to revisit. I followed the signs for Highway 6 and soon I saw the Ontario Parks sign for Sauble Falls Provincial Park. I was close to my destination and feeling good. An hour later, I arrived at Sauble Falls Provincial Park. The park was quiet with few visitors at this time of year. The shadows were long by this time and the feelings of loneliness were great. I had just accomplished the first leg of my trip and feeling a bit overwhelmed. I wish I had someone to share the ride with. Setting up camp and searching for fire wood with no luck helped fill the time. I went to the local store for fire wood, they didn’t have it in bags – so I canned the idea. Deciding for a hike instead up to Sauble Falls, the bright warm sunlight changed my mood and it felt good basking in the suns rays.

Returning to the tent, I started my dinner routine, finished and spent the rest of the evening reading Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance. My earlier feelings I had upon arriving at the park were vindicated by reading Robert Persig’s account of his journey as he stated the same exact feelings towards the end of his day. The mornings are bright and full of hope and possibilities that everything is going to work out. By the evening as the shadows grow longer, there is less chance to make right for went wrong. You have to live with that day’s decisions and think about them through the evening.

The rain came in through the evening and I stayed dry and comfortable in my tent. I’ve had that tent for over ten years. It’s a great backpacking tent that holds two people. The tent is light-weight and roomy. For moto-camping, I’d highly recommend getting a backpacker’s tent – don’t attempt to bring your big Coleman dome tent. You want something that will pack down into a small space and is very light. I’d almost recommend a bivvy sack but you may feel claustrophobic on long raining evenings.

The next morning, Saturday was Tobermory day. The rain had stopped long enough for me to get breakfast, take a shower and pack up my gear. As I put my riding gear on, the rain drops began. Corrina didn’t want to start this morning – I think it was a combination of running the heated handgrips on high all day and being left out in the cold damp weather without a cover. I need to get a cover for the bike and remember to turn off the grip heat at least 10 miles before my destination. Corrina’s starter cranked very slowly and when I thought the battery was going to give out, she sputtered to life. I blew a sae of relief and I was driving out of the park. The park was on Rt. 13 and I followed that as the weather began to kick into full rain, wind and cold. I followed Rt. 13 back onto Highway 6. Not much to talk about Highway 6, straight as an arrow and two lanes without a divider – what joy! My destination was Parks Canada Visitor Center in Tobermory.

Arriving almost an hour later at the Visitor Center and with a sense of accomplishment. I had officially reached my goal of Tobermory. The Visitor Center was a welcome relief to the rain and cold of the road. I visitor in the parking lot had to comment about riding a motorcycle in the cold weather, I replied ‘It’s not so bad if you bundle up.’ Which is true, I really wasn’t that uncomfortable with the winter lining, the winter lining in my gloves, the fleece and of course those blessed heated grips. The visitor center had some nice displays on the history of the area and a decent video that showed some of the park highlights. I climbed the 20’ tower to view the entire peninsula and beyond. Then I followed the tower climb with a 15 minute walk to Georgian Bay. Grey and hazy, the dark forested islands beyond were enshrouded. With the grey-green water lapping the shoreline. I stayed at the visitor center awhile longer as the rain had not abated much since my arrival. Eventually, I figured it’s now or never – I walked back to the bike, put my helmet and gloves on and rode out to the village of Tobermory.

There wasn’t much to see in Tobermory – it’s mostly a village of crap-shacks (aka gift shops) and local eateries. I partook in the crap-a-thon by visiting the Purple Dog House. I had to pick up some gourmet biscuits for my pooches. They wouldn’t forgive me if I didn’t. I asked about a ‘come-as-you-are’ restaurant as I was in my motorcycle gear and wasn’t going to change out of it for pleasantries. The Lighthouse was recommended and as it was just a few doors down from the Purple Dog House – it became the obvious choice. A meal of white fish and seafood chowder, the rain finally backed off for the afternoon. I used the opportunity to cruise around the village making my way over to Big Tub Harbor and the lighthouse. After taking a few snaps, I walked back to the bike to find a man and his wife admiring my ride. They were both riders (but not that day) and really liked the look of my BMW.

I had misplaced my beanie the night before in Sauble Falls and was severely in need of a replacement. In Canada a beanie is called a Toque, why I don’t know – it’s a Canadian thing, I’ll never understand. A beanie can be a backpacker’s best friend and motorcyclist as well. On cool days, after riding several hours – your head gets used to the heat inside of the helmet. Then you get off your bike and remove your helmet. Your head is suddenly at a loss without its former insulating layer. Throwing a beanie on will help save you from a headache or worse, a cold or fever. Keep a beanie in your tank bag and put it on at every stop. The beanie helps with over night camping by providing an insulating layer for your head while you sleep. You’ll stay much warmer through the night while wearing your beanie. I found a replacement beanie in the village for $5.00 bucks, it was on sale but no journal.

My fuel light was on – first time on this trip. In need of gas and ready to move on, I found a filling station (Canadianism – Gas Bar) and motored out of town. I headed to Cypress Lake Park Canada Campgroud and got a spot. The friendly woman at the desk recommended a very nice site. After setting up the tent, went back for firewood as it was sold at the check-in in bags. I later changed into some appropriate hiking gear. The weather was holding out and I was up for a hike. I put on my fleece top and bottom, with my nylon rain pants and green rain slicker and of course, my beanie. I went on a nice hike around the lake and out to Georgian Bay. After returning to my campsite, the rain began. No chance of using that firewood tonight, it would be another night inside the tent reading. Since my lunch was at the Lighthouse Restaurant, I decide to have my lunch for dinner and forego the dinner routine due to the rain. The rain kept up through the night and finally abated in the morning.

Sunday morning I woke to blue skies and crisp temperatures. I could see storm clouds forming out over the bay – the big tall scary ones. I was hoping it would stay over the bay but no luck. I have been granted some nice spells without rain and the hike around the lake was one of them. I was truly grateful for that hike as I was for the one the night before. I got back to my campsite and found the beautiful blue skies being replaced by the stormy grey ones. One thing I really hate about camping is packing in the rain – I used my time wisely and quickly packed up while fixing breakfast. I slurped down my breakfast and just as the raindrops began to fall, I was on the road. My destination was going to be either Inverhuron or Goderich – it all depended on the weather.

Time was plentiful on Sunday as I had no stops to make. Whatever the road presented is what I planned to see. I knew I wanted to get off of Highway 6 as soon as I could and see some of the back country. Again, Highway 6 was uneventful except for the rain. A Suzuki Burgman was making its way northbound as I was going southbound. That was totally cool sight to see. The big scooters will open up motorcycling to many people that previously were restricted from it due to abilities or injuries. Making a list of places I’d like to see, I made a stop in Sauble Beach. Sauble Beach looks like one of those old timey East Coast resorts that have long been forgotten, it even has the sign to go with it. I’ll come back next summer and visit the beach and some of the interesting stores.

Following 13 down to 21 east bound, I made my way to Southhampton. Southhampton is a community with a church on every corner and being about 4 square blocks, that about covered it. They have a nice lighthouse and a decent water front. The neighbourhoods are filled with turn of the century homes – they look like a nice place to raise a family. I have found many small towns in this area where time has forgotten and the people seem to like it that way. Visiting these towns, I have left with a sense that we have lost so much in our own neighbourhoods. The Walmarts and Best-Buys will never have the sense of community and character that these places have.

After taking a few pictures of the lighthouse and the waterfront, I made my way back to where I left the bike. I had left the bike at a local museum and they opened at 1:00 pm. It was only noon. I had BumbleBee lunch roadside and waited for the museum to open. The museum is typical of this area. Here is short description; the land was formed millions of years ago and it’s made out of these rocks on display. Then some nice native people moved in and lived in harmony with nature for thousands of years (again on display). A couple of hundred years ago, some European types showed up and kicked those nice native people out and called them savages(huh?). Ok, that part was rough, and the museum is truly sorry about that part, but hey the Europeans made some really nice stuff out of all the timber and other resources they raped from the land (see display). The native people weren’t mentioned again but if you want to see them, they’re selling cheap smokes along Highway 6 and they only own 2% of their original property that was stolen from them. Moving along.

After Southhampton, I quickly made my way to Inverhuron. The time was at 3:00 and I had still plenty of day light. The skies were filled with grey and chubby fat rain clouds with day light breaking in all over. Inverhuron was filled with these and some other dark nasty clouds. I had plenty of time and Goderich was only an hour and half a way. I looked down the road and figured Goderich was among that nicer set of looking clouds. At that point, Inverhuron was bagged and Goderich became my destination and I’m glad I did. Arriving in Goderich at about 4:00 pm, the sky was autumn blue and temps were nice. Another nice lady gave me a sweet spot along the shoreline. Trees sheltered the spot from the direct winds of Lake Huron, but I was able to walk down a few yards and get a beautiful view of the lake. A campfire was successful this evening and I also got to watch the sun set on the lake – a double feature. Sunday evening was filled with the dinner routine, reading and keeping the fire going.

Monday morning and my last day on the trip. I awoke to blue skies and mild temperatures. I walked down to the lake front, among the sand and the sea grass. These beaches aren’t as nice as the ones in Michigan along Lake Michigan. But, they were enough to remind of my days as a kid living just about every weekend on the dunes of Lake Michigan. It’s a memory that I always cherish. I will come back to this camp site, again. Before heading out, I took a few snaps of the wind farm that was located across from the campsite. The wind turbines are beautiful structures that generate re-usable natural energy without any waste or contaminates. While taking my pictures a group of bikes on tour honked their horn and waved. It’s really fun being part of the biker community. I would love to tour with a larger group someday.

From the campsite, I rode south to the town of Goderich. Now this is something you got to see. It’s a town with a thriving downtown! Yeah, no kidding. You could almost see the men in their Fedora’s and the woman in their PillBox hats and white gloves. The downtown was filled with cars and people shopping. I picked up some chocolates for the spouse at a store, took some more pictures and headed out of town. I should have gotten gas and every gas station I passed I kept thinking, you should get gas. The fuel light wasn’t on and I had kind of forgotten my last fill up was in Tobermory. I pushed on and pushed my luck. Finding my way on to Highway 8 towards Kitchener, my fuel light finally came on. I had spoken to a nice man that helped me find some nice back country rodes. Highway 8 was way too busy with cars and tractor-trailers all in too much of a hurry to get somewhere and with no divider. I figured I could find gas outside of Clinton and gotten myself to a village called Kinburn. The place didn’t even deserve a dot on the map – there was nothing there but a sign that said Kinburn. In a panic and without gas, I made my way back to Clinton. I had to ride around a bit to find gas. I wasn’t out as much as I thought I was as the tank only needed $11.00 CDN to fill at 0.85 a litre. I’ve put in more before.

After the scary gas incident and beginning to lose time, I decided to bag the scenic route and just put up with Highway 8. Seaforth, Mitchell and Stratford were all nice towns that would be decent to visit again. After Stratford, the ride became a commute back home. Highway 8 turned into an expressway and I had to bring the bike up to 110 kmh. Making my way through Hamilton, and finally back home, arriving home safely at 4:30 pm.

My impressions of the trip were overwhelming positive and ecstatic. I would definitely do this again. I really liked the old churches – I’m not a religious person but they do bring back a sense of community that has long since gone away. There is a beautiful old church north of Goderich that I would like to visit. I should take up photography and take some pictures of these places. To me they represent a beacon out on the road of town nearby.

I need to investigate some more of the back roads and stay off of the red lines on the map, purchasing a GPS will help and some better maps. There is so much to see and do in my own backyard – this trip has opened up the possibilities of seeing these and many more places.


For photos of the trip follow the link below:

Sunday, October 1

Taking LSD, Sheridan Road and lessons on lost

Saturday, September 23, 2006:

(Well I'm baaack! It's me, Sojourner Rides. I delayed posting this account so that I could introduce Lucas and let him tell us about his trip plans. As we wait for Lucas to return home and hear more about his trip, here is one from me).

Rainy, cloudy and foggy. I blamed it for 83% of my funk. My riding days are numbered, I know, so I take predictions of bad weather personally. Sunday’s forecast promised brighter skies with no significant moisture. The morning, however, seemed to roll its eyes at the meteorologist’s prediction of clear skies and upper 60s. The weather looked downright rude! My early morning departure—sometime before 7:00 a.m.—looked ominous: dark, cold and yucky. Undeterred, I prepared to leave. Prior to taking off, I had one thing yet to accomplish:

The dang center stand, the bane of my life the past few months!

Good, kind, smart people have given me advice on how to get the bike on its stand. My mechanic, Steve, gave me a detailed lesson. The forum folks gave me more ideas than I could try in a month of Sundays! Still, no luck. It’s not that the bike is too heavy (weightlifting-yes!). It’s the lift and simultaneous up and pull back that seems to stump me. Before it reaches that point where it seemingly hops up, my arm would protest and I would need to stop before completing the process. My arm seemed awkwardly placed. I’d grab at the most logical spot, at the rear grab bar underneath the pillion seat. I’d make certain the front wheel was straight, the bike, in neutral. Except for an irritating strain on my formerly shattered wrist and arm, no “hops up” on the center stand!

But Sunday was going to different. The bike was going up! After three or four tries, however, I began to doubt myself, thinking that I had wasted my money listening to others sing and dance the center stand jig. So, after I stood there feeling madder than a scared puffer fish, I decided to break it down. That’s when I realized the weight of the bike wasn’t the issue. It was my hand position. Where I grabbed was awkward. Why? I couldn’t get enough leverage. The grab bar felt too far away. I decided to try holding onto the bracket that anchors the passenger foot peg. The leverage there felt solid and mighty. After three attempts, however, my hand was getting abused from the bracket’s rather scratchy edges. I decided to use my riding glove—duh? The lift was easy; the bike snapped into place almost effortlessly! Fluke? I tried it again and CA-LUNK! It popped up as if to say, “that’s all you had to do in the first place...was wear your riding glove!” I’m telling you, I mounted the bike and rode with a renewed confidence. To finally accomplish something you’ve tried hard to do over the last few months is HUGE in my book.

Given my center stand accomplishment, I refusd to grumble about the overcast sky, the mist, and the cold. Well...for the most part. Within 30 minutes, it sprinkled for about 5 minutes. The ride north along Sheridan Road was uneventful, just the way I like it. I could relax and enjoy the curvy roads and the few tight twisties that exist. I wore a turtle neck underneath my Firstgear and for the first time since I returned from my long trip, I wore my much-needed fleece lining. I’m still getting acclimated to how cold it feels when moving at 55 mph at 51 degrees. It feels dang near Artic! Saw lots of bicyclists out, all donning their mandatory black spandex thigh length biking shorts and colorful shirts and aerodynamically-styled helmets (I rarely see—no, never see—a serious bicyclist riding helmetless). Those little skinny legs pump all the heat bicyclists need to stay warm.

By the time I reached Lake Bluff, some thirty-plus miles away, the sky had cleared considerably. The air was warmer against my face every time I stopped and flipped my helmet lid to take pictures. Eventually, I retracted the mean things I said about whomever is responsible for weather. I stopped for a light lunch in Waukegan and took my riding pulse on whether I wanted to continue north or turn south back home. Decided to tour Waukegan and return home when done.

This uneventful trip doesn’t begin to capture the beauty of Sheridan Road. At times, one rides parallel to wide tree-lined streets, old train depots, and rail road tracks near Waukegan, or villages like Highland Park or Highwood with their trendy downtowns and quaint gathering spots. Glencoe with its old, well-kept, stately mansions is a reminder that I live in a very different world. But most of us do by, for example, Kenilworth’s standards.

Chew on this: Illinois has the distinction of having both the nation’s richest suburb, Kenilworth, which is situated along Sheridan Road and the poorest suburb, Ford Heights, a southeast suburb. Median income for a household in Kenilworth is $297, 585—that is not a typo. The median income for a household in Ford Height is $17, 500—that is truly not a typo! Can you even comprehend what the differences in those figures mean!

As I had wound my way through Evanston and round Northwestern University, it dawned on me just how good it felt to be out and about. The lake was kicking up a fuss but that did not spoil its majesty. With its strategically placed picture-ready cloud puffs, the sky looked almost fake. I don’t care what anyone says. Chicago’s skyline is unparalleled—and always has been. ‘Nuf said!

What shall make this LSD/Sheridan Road ride memorable is that I lost some valuables! Tucked safely—I thought—in the rear seat (car trunk-equivalent) of my bike were my Suzuki SV 650 owner’s manual, Cruz Tools kit, and a tire plugger repair kit w/CO inflation--no less! Somehow, the bottom fell out. Somewhere along my ride, a screw came loose and my hard-earned stuff were ejected. Never felt or heard a thing. Brand new tools and plugger kit, finger-snap gone! I have an extra owner’s manual. But losing those other items…that hurts. My discovery was only a few blocks from home base. Perhaps it’s best that I learned this late in the ride because the knowledge of my lost made those few blocks home distracting, trying to figure out how and when that bottom opened and where is my stuff now. My luck, I probably lost them in a place like Kenilworth, rather than in some working class neighborhood where my lost is someone’s gain. In the end, it’s all perspective. Somewhere that day a motorcyclist lost his/her life. Me? Thankfully, I lost only some replaceable, material things. Thus, "all's well that ends well."

Sheridan Road pics

Godspeed to Lucas!

Lucas should be making his way home from Tobermory. He will report on his trip--with pictures--upon his return. Sending him "good vibrations" for a safe journey.