Sunday, December 31

“…Of the big lake they call ‘Gitche Gumee.”

If you are a Gordon Lightfoot fan, you know that the blog title is the second line from the misty ballad, “The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald.” Lightfoot’s amazing voice turns this into a haunting tale set to beautiful music. For reasons not clear to me, “The Wreck…” has been circling in my brain for some time now. It led me to wondering about Gordon, what’s happened to him? I did a Google search (how did we ever live without the immediate access of search engines?) and printed out the lyrics to the song. Lightfoot's depiction of men lost in water and the mysteries of Lake Superior are profound. Interesting timeline of the ship's history.

I was surprised to learn that Lightfoot had, at one time, been near death but appears okay now. I’ve since downloaded my Lightfoot favorites on the MP3 player and the “…Edmund Fitzgerald” is now permanently etched on my brain! This led me to researching the name “Gitche Gumee,” which is an Anglicization of the Ojibwa “Gichigami,” which means “big water.” Who remembers the Wadsworth poem “The Song of Hiawatha,” where Gitche Gumee is mentioned? I think that’s the very first time I heard the term, when I had to memorize parts of the poem. Call it ocean envy, but in many ways both Lake Michigan and Lake Superior have always seemed like oceans to me: massive, deep, beautiful, and unpredictable, calm yet able to produce whipping waves, high winds, and deadly tombs. Scary sea creatures are the only thing missing in the lakes that I know of. But many other mysteries abound in lake waters.

While doing research for the Lake Michigan trip, I remember a couple of guys who endured my relentless need to go over every detail ad nauseum. They implied that I should just get on with it, go with the flow, and be more spontaneous. Given that, the preps for the Lake Superior tour are going to bug them. I’ve already started and the trip is about six month away! But in my defense, what may sound like anal retentive behavior to some, is my way of mentally preparing for the exploration, demystifying every aspect of the route, and facing whatever apprehensions may lurk beneath my skin about being out there alone. The preparation process produces a calming and anticipatory response. Remember, I’m alone out there. In my opinion, I don’t think any woman in her right mind ought to go anywhere—including—and perhaps especially on a motorcycle without having prepared a great deal. No offense, men, but some of you guys make venturing out alone difficult and sometimes dangerous for women. I wish I could throw caution to the wind, just hang loose and get out there too. Sorry, I don’t trust men that much. I’m not afraid to go anywhere, but I am going to to be smart about where I’m going. I expect the best, but prepare for the worst.

I need to know where I’m going; I need contingency plans; I need to see in my mind’s eye the curves and dips in the route--not so many as to detract from the fun--just enough to feel confident about riding my own ride. It’s when I’ve mastered my plans and reigned in my unconscious anxieties that I can comfortably and freely venture off the beaten path. I realize too that riding with someone can eliminate some of these rituals I create, but that hardly addresses the real issues, does it? We enter the world alone, and we will leave it alone. Riding solo is my mediation on being with me, myself, and I. It’s one of the few things I do now where my full and total presence is mandatory. Okay, before I get too maudlin, I’m going to close…

Thursday, December 28

Airplanes, Steve McQueen's stuff and the Zumo...

Lately, my thoughts have turned to flying. Not taking the gal-pal out and riding fast as lightening, but to thoughts of learning to fly an airplane. Not sure where this desire originates. I don’t buy the midlife crisis junk because most of the stuff I want to do now, I’ve wanted to do way before midlife. The difference is now I have the freedom to do the things I once could only think about. I’ve felt a natural association between flying and motorcycling but remain inarticulate about this. Then I received my February 2007 Cycle World magazine, which, by the way, always arrives with the cover hanging on by one staple. In it, moto-journalist Peter Egan’s “Leaning” column talks about how he’s been filling up his winter days by reclaiming his dormant flying skills. He’s become a "re-entry" flyer, so to speak. It’s an interesting piece that makes convincing parallels between riding and flying. Egan states, “You tilt the horizon and forces act through your own personal vertical axis. Bank, accelerate, zoom. Grin. Your inner ear is hard at work, as it is nowhere else. In full flight, with either bike or planes, all your senses are engaged and you become hyper-alert. Maybe that’s the link: The thing flying and motorcycling have most in common is that you simply must pay attention. Your life depends on it. Both sports, you might say, are naturally riveting.” Egan closes his article with, “I’m never really comfortable or completely awake—around people who are unacquainted with the invigorating joys of mild panic.” Yes, Peter I hear you!
The lore and lure of Steve McQueen has not abated on iota! His third wife has recently auctioned off items from his vast collection that once included 130 motorcycles and 35 cars. Here are some of the items and the extraordinary amount of money people are willing to shell out for a piece of the legend. In every case, the auctioned items far exceeded estimations.

1 sweaty tee-shirt with holes and rips, $3,250
1 baseball cap w/ sweat, $2,500
1 personalized license plate w/ McQueen Reform School ID number, estimated
to go for $100. Sold for a whopping, unbelievable $4,500!
1 waxed cotton Belstaff motorcycle jacket, $28,000.
1 folding pocket knife given to McQueen by his friend Von Dutch (famous in his own right) sold for $32,500.
1934 Indian Sport Scout went for $155,000, which one magazine said made
it more than $135,000 more than its market value.
1 pair Persol sunglasses, worn in the movie, The Thomas Crown Affair.
Estimated to bring in $2000-3000; instead, sold for $60,000.

It’s hard to believe that McQueen has been dead for more than 2 decades. No doubt about it, the man loved motorcycles.
Sunday while strolling along the Mag Mile, my head snapped at the sight of a brand new black Kawasaki sportbike, the Ninja ZX-14, sitting in a store window. The bike is considered the "fastest (zero to 60 in 2.5 seconds fast) bike ever grace the planet." As I backed up and looked up to see if a new motorcycle store had opened on Michigan Avenue, I saw the sign for Garmin, makers of what some believe are the best GPS devices around. I felt reeled in and that’s how they get you. The bike, by the way, belongs to Jay Leno, a 2007 Kaw that he supposedly has yet to ride. It’s on loan to the store as they promote their new digs. I asked to see the new Zumo, the $1000 GPS designed "by motorcyclists" with motorcyclists in mind. That’s a hefty price tag but it includes all the mounting brackets for a motorcycle and a car. It includes the North America maps and miscellaneous software.

What makes the Zumo different from, say, the Quest, the Quest II and Garmin’s other motorcycle oriented gps systems? One is design. The screen is larger for one thing. It is a touch screen and sensitive to a touch from a gloved finger (some screens are not touch sensitive and some are cumbersome to touch accurately with a gloved finger). It is also waterproof, whereas some are only water resistant. Did I say, design? It’s a sharp looking device. Not too big, not too small. It fits nicely in my hands, which are small and the controls are on the left side. Amazingly, the controls on many GPS devices are on the right side of the device. It is a better ergonomic design to have the controls on the left side. You don’t really think about this until you play around with one and experience how much better this set up is for reaching the controls.

Ok, I have a GPS. The Magellan eXplorist XL. I’m okay with it. Not thrilled about it by any stretch. I’m good with technology but it took far too long to learn how to use it. It is not intuitive at all. Even if I spend only $400 on a GPS, I expect it to work well and easily. Such has not been the case with my Magellan. I even had to buy additional software for another $125 bucks to get the map I wanted! Perhaps, I’m not being fair to it, as I never mounted it and pretty much used it as an expensive compass and supplement to the maps. But were it user-friendly, I know I would have used it more. They even made the downloads unnecessarily cumbersome. The Zumo took 2 minutes to understand and begin to use. If I purchased it, I’d get my money’s worth out of it. I want it. But do I need it? I’m so tempted, really tempted. Since I’m planning to get into distance riding, I deserve a reliable gps that I will use! I had secretly hoped Santa would bring that Zumo, but, you know, all my life I never believed that some chubby white guy would come to my neighborhood, shimmy down the chimney (did we even have one?) and leave me gifts. If nothing else, Santa has been consistent. Stay tuned for more Zumo news…

Thursday, December 21

Weather Wonders...and miscellanous bike chat...

Friday, December 22. It is nearly 1:00 a.m. and the temp is 51F. Thursday was mild, drizzly, and foggy. If my gal-pal were with me, I would have taken a nice ride today! The last few weeks have been more ride-worthy than not. Lesson: at the end of next season, if for no other reason than to squeeze in as much riding as possible, I will winterize the bike myself and keep it with me. Chicago's weather is notoriously schizophrenic. There's no certain way to ever tell when winter begins here. We can get slapped with a mammoth snow-thunder storm like the one on December 1 and endure consecutive days of below zero wind chills and the next week, bask in temps in the 60s! Oh, and learn.

Found a 1974 Honda CB360T on craigslist for $375! No title, but that's not a huge problem if the VIN is legible, I can pay to get that resolved. Supposedly, the bike is in decent condition but hasn't been ridden in a long time. It's the motorcycle I learned to ride on. So the nostalgic factor is huge plus. I think the bike would be an excellent machine on which to learn wrenching. Called the owner, spoke with him and he promised to send pics of the bike. No word from him yet. I'd love to get my hands on that bike.

The BMW F800 series bikes are calling my name! I'm looking forward to Cycle World's International Motorcycle Show here in February. I'll wait until 2008 before seriously considering purchasing this bike. Right now, it seems to be a good step up from Queenie, which I'll keep, should I move up, and turn into a track bike--she excels at being a fine track bike/racer, I'm told. My mechanic races two SV650s and swears by them.

Finally, I've been dreaming about the Kawasaki KLR650 to do the Lake Superior Circle Tour. I will check out this bike at the cycle show too. Looks like there will be plenty of opportunity to ride off road on this tour and it would be great to take advantage of such excursions, which I'd be forced to pass on if I take my little blue SV650.

Monday, December 18

1 down 4 to go: Next stop: Lake Superior Circle Tour

My plans are underway for the Lake Superior Circle Tour. If this solo journey is even half the fun as circling Lake Michigan turned out to be, I'm in for a really great adventure! Started collecting and ordering maps, magazines, and reading tales of others who have made the journey. I've not come across many solo efforts--and definitely none of women. Yet, I remain steadfast in my determination to go it alone.

I've said it before--but it bears repeating--the best book--IMHO--for anyone wanting to ride any road that includes in part or in whole the state of Michigan is, Motorcycling Across Michigan by William Murphy. He sees Lake Superior as the mother lode of all the lake tours in terms of its sheer beauty, size, and the variation in terrain. On this trip, I'll have to watch for a lot more wildlife than on the Lake Michigan trip, where I watched for: deer, moose, wolves and the same small critters I encounter in Illinois. Lake Superior, however, promises more: deer, elk, moose, caribou, bear, wolves--and someone told me, mountain lions but I've read nothing to confirm the veracity of that claim. Don't mountain lions hang out around mountains?

One thing I only now realize is that this over 3000 miles journey will only increase by 1, my goal next summer to cover as many new states as possible. That right, all that riding will only add Minnesota to my list. For a brief moment I debated the value (i.e., pay off) of the trip and considered picking something else for my "big" '07 trip. Now, I am embracing the notion that my riding should not ever be solely about how many states I can add to my list. The idea is "the ride." I hear motorcyclists talking about that all the time and after one summer riding around with my gal-pal, I'm a true believer.

So far, the Lake Superior Circle tour looks like it's going to be one heck of a ride--that's what I need to appreciate and remember.

Saturday, December 16

Warm weather...crazy motorcycle forum decision...


If I hear another weather report that tells how "unseasonably" warm our weather is, I really think I'm going to march to the nearest television station (two are near me) and stand outside with a huge "Duh" sign! It is nearly 11pm and the temp is 56F. For shoppers and retailers it's been great. Overzealous spenders pack the streets along Michigan Avenue and State Street, restaurants are replete with hungry folks with credit cards they are all too willing to plop down. For those of us who do not participate much in the seasonal rituals, it is difficult to carry on normal life, especially to simply walk down my neighborhood streets. Let me let you in on a secret: Unless you just want to walk down Michigan Avenue or State Street and battle all the people congestion, there are alternate walking routes that will make the trip so much less arduous. This is the time of year I try to avoid Michigan Avenue and State Street as much as possible. To navigate most easily along Michigan Avenue, walk one block west or one block east of Michigan Avenue,--Rush Street and St. Claire Street respectively. These streets parallel Michigan Avenue. Do this if you need to get somewhere. If you like crowds, especially those that tend to stop in the middle of the sidewalk and congregate, by all means take the major streets and prepare to go slowly. I can't hardly wait for it all to end. Bah Humbug!

Crazy moto decision:

One of the forums I frequent, one of the best, is undergoing some crazy changes. The various moderators on have been literally locked out! They have been excised out of the communities they have painstakingly forged. No real explanation to the forum from the powers that be. The only explanation--and it makes no sense to me--has come from the head guy, Walt. Who has remained respectful, diplomatic, and considerate, which is a whole lot more than the folks behind the motorcycle site. With our wonderful forum hosts denied access to the folks they've nurtured, taught, protected and cared about for many years, some forum members are scrambling for other places to regroup. I'm really ticked about this. It's just a dumb decision and to do so as if the members would stand idly by and not have a reaction is even dumber.

I have other forums I frequent, so it's not like I don't have other places to post and exchange ideas and info about motorcycles. That is hardly the point. People don't passively trade info and chat together and not eventually form relationships. When people have not posted for a long time, someone will invariably ask the whereabouts of the person. Although I never participated in the weekly chats, I often thought about it and I certainly enjoyed hearing the tales of those who had gotten together to ride and have fun at the annual motorcycle gathering. Of the forums I frequent, hands down, the About one is the best because collectively, people seem to care and care enough that they watched out for folks. I had several incidents with posters, rather trollers, who tried to disturb the peace and disrupt the lively art of communication. Not just the forum hosts, but the members in general were johnny on the spot about stepping in there to support me and let the trollers know that their comments had crossed the line of respect. Some shaped up after being given a warning, others were blocked and not allowed to attack others. I've visited other forums where flames and personal attacks are par for the course. Yet none of this seems to have mattered to the site owners of They've literally yanked the carpet from under the hosts as well as from the forum members. What a stupid, really dumb move where it seems that once again, the powers that be, value things over people and have no shame about point blank about it!.

Friday, December 15

Bound to happen...and an article on

Well, the weather the last few days has been great! Today, mid-fifties, a little wet at times but not enough to stand in the way of a great ride. Only thing is, my bike is in hibernation. Not nearly as bummed as I thought I'd be about that. This is Chicago, after all. I put her away the day before a huge snow-thunder storm.

Today might be nice, but around the corner there is you know what to pay! No sense taking the bike in and out of storage. OK, who am I trying to convince? I totally wanted to ride today. I miss my gal-pal something fierce!

I have a hastily put together ride article on . I had a couple of days to turn it in, which happened also to be smack in the middle of the National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) affair, which meant I had way too much to write in a short amount of time--I hate when that happens! If you've followed my Lake Michigan trip, the article won't add anything new. Still, it felt good posting on a site devoted to my beloved Suzuki's SV650.

Thursday, December 14

Wear a Helmet? No-Brainer--ATGATT!

This is my long-winded position on helmets. After this, the subject will be laid to rest on this site.

Fred Rau, the legendary, well-respected moto-journalist recently wrote a not too convincing article on helmets. Specifically, he wrote about his support of one’s right to wear or not wear a helmet. Rau said all the right things and was sufficiently balanced to not make most people upset with his position. In a nutshell, Rau believes in freedom, that is, the right for motorcyclists to choose protective head gear or not. Interestingly, after all his pontification about accidents, bad drivers, individual rights and freedom, he comes to the conclusion that he always wears a helmet. To me it is the only conclusion a clear thinking person could make.

I keep running into people who try to engage me in conversations about helmets and freedom. The two (helmets and freedom, that is) in the same breath really ticks me off. With nostrils aflare, they tell me how the government is encroaching on “our rights;” how motorcycle helmets do not “prevent” accidents; how a motorcycle helmet in the event of an accident can make you vulnerable to serious neck injuries; and, how, if it's “my time,” it’s “my time,” yada, yada, yada.

Frankly, I’m weary of this! So tired that I just want to upchuck when the conversation is broached. I’ve met way too many anti-helmet riders trying to convince me of the lucidity their position. Out of respect, I listen. That’s not always reciprocal however. Thus, my listening days are over. I’m saying this now: Do not talk to me about freedom and helmets in the same breath! I will no longer listen to a person on the verge of an aneursym, shrieking and screaming about a conspiracy of eroding personal freedoms and how we’d better all stand up to protect our individual’s rights (of which the right not to wear a helmet and face possible brain damage as a result of an accident, is high on their list).

Talking to me about helmets+freedom gives me the same feeeling I get in my gut when folks wax nostalgic about “the good old days” and a desire to return to a simplier time, when life was easier, the pace slower and people were kinder. While there are microscopic elements I’d like to preserve from the past, for the most part the best thing about the good old days is THAT THEY ARE GOOD AND GONE! Too many people talk like the past was some universally agreed upon idyllic, good time. It is a myth just how good these time were for anyone-- particularly for a whole bunch of people who were excluded by law, who were formerally and informally prevented from the most basic of freedoms other groups (even foreigners) could take for granted. The only freedom most folks who looked like me had was the freedom to live under an apartheid like system or die early to escape its chains. Yes, I’m being dramatic, but this is exactly how I feel on this subject.

Where was the moral outrage from the ancestors of these freedom-loving folks about the lack of freedom a whole bunch of people suffered under the Stars and Stripes? Where is their outrage today? It’s good I was born when I was because had I been born pre-Civil Rights and in the South, I’d be one dead woman. I’d either starve to death (because I’d never work as someone’s domestic help) or be lynched—oh yes, women were lynched too (because I would not take orders from anyone or kowtow to them either. And sit on the back of a bus? Never! On general principle I won’t even do that today! And slavery? I wouldn’t have lasted. I’d be one of those women whipped and beaten until dead because I would do everything to thwart that system and to hurry my demise from that cruel, peculiar institution. Thank goodness not everyone back then felt as I can only imagine I would.

I think seat belts are a good thing. Regardless of the nation’s law, I’d feel that way. I snapped up pre-law because the idea of becoming a human projectile in an accident just didn’t sit well with me. Yes, I’ve heard of people sustaining injuries caused by wearing a seat belt or being imprisoned in their car by a jammed belt after an accident. But I’ve heard far more tales of seat belts lessening the severity of injuries sustained in an accident. It makes sense to wear them.

I feel similarily about helmets. I wear a helmet for bicycling, rollerblading, and motorcycling. I have a considerable amount invested in my brain (I realize that some others might not and that might influence their decision to not wear a helmet). On a two-wheeled vehicle, I do not trust “cagers” to see me, share the road, or to drive with a higher consciousness of the presence of motorcycles. In fact, much of the tirade I hear from motorcyclists pertains to how atrocious are the skills of the average car driver, how utterly stupid many drivers are when it comes to abiding by the rules of the road—not to imply that most even understand the rules. Most motorcyclists I know and have heard on the subject would never put their safety in the hands of a “cagers” – motorcyclists learn not to trust anyone on four wheels. Period. For those reasons alone, why wouldn’t one want to don a helmet at all times? A ‘cyclist might be the most skilled, safest rider on the road, but there exists those horrifyingly awful cagers out there. As long as they drive the roads, seems to me that everyone who rides a motorcycle might want to do all that is necessary to protect his or her brain and body as much as possible from that which s/he cannot control. When I mentioned this, one person said, “Yeah, but a helmet won’t protect me from road rash.” Uh, yeah! And your point is? Bottom line: if you want to use your body to make a political statement, to go without a helmet on priniciple-- even if it means putting your self at risk and contradicting your views on trusting cages, then go right ahead. People should have the right to make their own decision about personal safety.

Still, when people rail on about helmets and freedom to me, I can’t help but laugh a little on the inside. Why all the blather? To me, the argument is not about government and freedom as much as it is about me taking as much responsibility as I can to protect myself to whatever extent my helmet permits. I think it’s entertaining that people, to prove a point, will wear the little German beanie helmets to circumvent the helmet laws. Just don’t waste your time trying to convince me that I too should think like you. Go helmetless. But leave me alone. And prepare yourself for being denied additional medical treatment when your insurance coverage runs out yet your catastrophic injuries require extended medical care. If you are mowed down by one of those careless cagers and you suffer brain injury, your complains could fall on deaf ears. Still, you should have the freedom to put yourself at maximal risk.

I just wish some of that freedom-loving talk extended beyond helmets and included a similar outrage about some real erosions of freedom, such as the inequities in public schools, communities devoid of public libraries, housing and job discrimination of all kinds, and what about how a so-called “family-values” society refuses to pass universal health care legislation for every child! We will fight to the death to bring democracy somewhere else but won’t execute it to the fullest on this soil, and on and on and on. Where is the same moral outrage from the freedom-loving folks.

Few will dispute that we need better rider and driver education and that we need more thoughtful, informed legislation on a host of issues. I, for one, will always wear a helmet. Always! Yes, I might still die in a motorcycle accident, but with one on my head (not strapped to the back of my bike—I really don’t get that?) my chances are very good for surviving both a non-life and life-threatening accident. The individual I had my recent conversation with will never read this blog response but I’ve gotten it off my chest. I hope he never goes down and is forced to put his brain where his principles are.

(All The Gear, All The Time)

Saturday, December 9

Queenie, the long distance Great-grand mother!

Whenever I come across an article about my hero, solo motorcyclist Ardys Kellerman, I have to post my findings. She is a continuing source of inspiration and at age 74 she shows no signs of slowing down. Came across this article on Kellerman and couldn't help feeling both inspired by her feats and envious of her 50,000 miles in six months! Certainly retirement permits her the time to pile up the miles but Kellerman rode long distances way before she retired. Always a BMW rider, she has completed more Iron Butt Rallies (11,000 miles in 11 days) than any other woman (three to be exact) and many Saddle Sores (1000 miles in under 24 hours), some of them done back-to-back. What a role model for all motorcyclists.

Monday, December 4

Weather and the Kawasaki Versys

I will resist the temptation to turn this motorcycle travel oriented blog into one huge rant about the weather--although that feels the natural way to go--it is currently 14 degrees F.

A friend turned me on to this new motorcycle from Kawasaki, the Versys. It's a sharp looking bike, unique visuals and smart lines. I especially love the shape of the headlight--very distinctive. I like odd looking motorcycles, like many of the BMW bikes. For example, the F800S looks like a rhino from the side view; look at the F650GS and the R1200GS Enduros... from the side they look like birds. I saw one once in sunflower yellow and it looked like "Big Bird," the Sesame Street character.

Back to the new Kawasaki Versys... The specifications/features indicate that the bike has a seat height of 37 inches! By far, that makes it the tallest bike I've heard of and I can't help wondering if that's an error. If anyone is listening/reading out there and knows something I don't, please enlighten me about this bike's features--I'd like it a whole lot more if I didn't need a ladder to mount it!

Saturday, December 2

Thursday, November 30, 2006—The Season’s End

I tucked Queenie away at Motorworks Chicago to begin the winter hibernation. Prior to taking her in, I took a mini-ride. The city was preparing for its first winter storm to hit late Thursday night. By the time I reached the shop, a light freezing drizzle had started. The temperature was around 36 degrees. I rode comfortably—even the fingertips stayed warm this time. I inserted the little air-activated hand heat warming packs inside the glove—worked exceedingly well!

Arrived at the shop and watched my bike logged in. Milan said I could come and visit her anytime. Hung around for a little and talked to the shop guys. Discussed all the upgrades/add-ons that will be done over the winter. Looks like I’ll be able to take a few private lessons maintenance classes over the winter. This is fab news. One gap in my solo riding that hovers over each long ride, is my concern that the bike will encounter a break down in a place where MoTow can’t reach me. Some of the areas in the UP of MI were remote enough that my cell phone had little or no reception. In such situations, I need to be able to get the bike back on the road on my own. Thus, I’m looking forward to expanding my woefully limited maintenance skills.

Friday’s storm did not disappoint! The lightening and thundering woke me in the wee hours. I dismissed the sounds and flashing sky as just a bad rainstorm. When I finally left bed and peeked out the window, it was snowing—horizontally blowing, fat flakes and heavy. Turned on the weather report; before 6 a.m. most of the major highways were experiencing heavy delays, spinouts, and blizzard conditions. American Airlines and United had cut their flights by 100% and 50% respectively until the afternoon. The wind, well, we have lake effect and it showed its strength. The winds were reported to be around 40 mph but the gusts were at least 45 mph and the waves were furiously whipping off the lake. From the window it all looked beautiful, but some northern suburbs already had over 8 inches of snow and with schools closing left and right, the kids were going to have fun over their long snowy weekend.

Glad I heeded the weather warnings and took the bike in Thursday. I'll try not to complain too much about the season ending. It has been a long—good—riding season. Gal-pal and I stayed upright and safe. What more can I ask?

Wednesday, November 29

Oops! “Officer, I swear, I didn’t know my license had expired!”

Linking the driver’s license expiration date to one’s birthday is a great idea for jogging the memory. Not only did I receive a couple of reminder notices, supposedly, I received some sort of “good driver’s” invitation that would permit me to do the necessary renewal work via phone or electronic submission. But did I remember? NO!

I had been riding Queenie a total of four carefree days before seeing the renewal notice on the kitchen counter. Instant panic at the through of being pulled over or worse, being involved in an accident carrying an expired license. Yikes!! It’s probably due of the expiration that I wasn’t able to renew later via phone. Took care of that yesterday. It’s all Nanowrimo’s fault!

Today’s weather will climb over 60 degrees F. I’m hoping to take a ride with one of my motorcycle safety instructors. But it’s looking and smelling a lot like rain. Unfortunately, today is predicted to be our last unseasonably warm day as a cold front is expected here by tonight and it might bring with it snow with some minor accumulation. I will not complain much; the last week has been sensational.

Saturday, November 25

Two Wheeling and Nanowrimo countdown

Rode both Thursday and Friday but still haven't completed the post. I am combining the two given that they were similar. I had very good intentions this morning, but a certain someone, who shall remain nameless, called around 6:30 a.m., right around the time I was planning to complete the post and talked for nearly two hours about, among other things, Louis Althusser, the French Marxist, and Marcel Proust. The first I know a bit about; Proust, what I know could fill a thimble. So that's my excuse for why the post will have to wait. I did learn some new things from our conversation and for that I'm a more enlightened humanoid.

Also, this is the fourth week of Nanowrimo, I am in the home stretch. I have less than 2000 words to go. I will post my final word count Sunday by midnight. I want the official verification done asap so that I can avoid any unexpected system crashes on the November 30th deadline. Now that I'm almost done, I feel like I'm just realizing what my book is really about. So, I will continue writing until November 30 to finish up what Anne Lamott calls the "shitty" draft. If I say so myself, it doesn't look bad at all, nothing a bit of tinkering, post-nanowrimo won't fix once the editing phase begins.

Last week, a woman wearing white leathers and a cabbie type hat, made an appearance in the novel. She rode up on a 1953 Indian motorcycle. I don't know where she came from or why...she just showed up. My book is a young adult novel set in the summer of 1963 on the westside of Chicago with pieces of the northside thrown in. I've been wondering how I'll get through the winter without riding. Now I'll have a completed novel draft to keep me busy until Spring--at which time I must be finished for that when I'll be shouting, "Let the riding begin."

On another note: it is already 51 degree F here. Looks like we're in for another excellent day of riding after the writing is done.

(ride reports pending)

Tuesday, November 21

Another ride on LSD!

Learned this lesson: short rides during the cold, are better than no rides. I decided to take Queenie for a short spin on Sunday. Road about 50 miles before crying "Uncle" over the cold temps. Cold weather riding takes a lot out of you--as more demands are made on the body to stay warm. The temp wavered between 41 and 43 degrees F most of the time, which felt great as long as I was standing still. At 60 mph, let's just say it's more than a little chilly. A strong wind reminded me of the city's moniker, "The Windy City." Still, it was nothing like the 40 mph winds experienced a few back, which had me fighting to keep the bike upright. Still, Sunday had its share of humbling wind gusts now and again, especially while riding along LSD. Even with my helmet visor only slightly cracked, to prevent fogging of my supposedly “anti-fog visor,” my eyes teared from the whipping the wind served up.

Although my feet typically do not get cold, I wore the battery-operated socks. My feet were noticeably toasty-warm, perhaps, a bit too warm for my taste. Still having issues with my cold fingertips but that's my fault. Too lazy to hook up the ‘lectric gloves. I wasn’t out long enough, I felt, to warrant the extra effort. At the mid-way point, I stopped at Medici’s Bakery, to warm up with a cup of hot chocolate. I couldn’t resist the carrot muffins either.

When I enter the bakery, a young woman says, “That was you on that bike.” Affirmative. “Really, that was you?” Affirmative. “Wow, that’s amazing. That’s truly amazing—is it hard.” Negative. “It’s not hard, really?” Affirmative. “Wow, I think that’s something, you being a woman and all.” Such reactions are always a little surprising in 2006. She finally remembered to take my order. I should have taken a picture of the muffin—perfect in every way. The hot chocolate was yummy too. Just the right combo to warm numb fingers and get me "on the road again." I think I hear a little Willie Nelson...

Took LSD back and encountered some oily stretches on the curves that made me sit up and take immediate notice. Oil+curves+wind gusts make for an interesting, humbling, and challenging ride. Speed limit on LSD is 45mph. No one and I do mean NO ONE obeys that! Most often folks are driving 60. I’ve tried to do the speed limit only to anger drivers who then will cut closely in front of me or ride my collar! I am forced, therefore, I really am, to keep up with traffic or suffer the consequences. So, it was 60 mph all the way in.

Supposedly, a warm up is on the way with near 60 degree F on Turkey day. I’m thankful that I haven’t yet retired the bike. I plan to take to the road and give glorious “Thanks” in my own way. All I ask upon return is a hunka Sweet Potato pie and a cup of chamomile tea.

Sunday, November 19

A little payback and a nice ride...

Saturday night I needed a ride. Badly. Probably wasn’t the best night to venture out given that the downtown was readying for the Festival of Lights procession, a huge extravaganza that draws a bunch of folks from the city and suburbs. It’s a part of the city’s winter fun festivities that run throughout the season. But I graved a fix, just a little ride on the gal-pal. Besides, I needed to replace a dying telephone.

Suited up. Uncovered the bike, which, as a friend pointed out, looks so sad standing in the corner all covered up. Bike checked. Pulled the choke forward. Pushed starter button. She sputtered and died. Pushed started again. She sputtered and belched. Pushed a third time, she sputtered, belched and coughed. Now I’m worried and sorry that I hadn’t taken a spin in a week (at least). Payback?

I know I tend toward anthropomorphism when talking about Queenie, but I think she agreed to start only after I did some negotiating and promising to ride out these cold days and buy her that new Givi windscreen. When I tried again, she started. I let her choke run a little longer than the 30 seconds recommended.

Eased the bike out of the garage. The night air was chilly but comfortable. An earlier report put the temp at 41 degrees. It felt exhilarating. The people and vehicular traffic crawled and Michigan Avenue looked like 5:00 p.m.on a Friday when everyone is rushing to leave work and jumpstart the weekend.

The ride to Staples Office store was longer than necessary. Traffic bottlenecked at Michigan Avenue. On the return trip, once on Michigan Ave., I had three lanes of traffic to cross to make my right turn. Few drivers were playing nice and allowing other to merge. No such thing as maintaining a space cushion tonight. An extra-long CTA bus tried to get into my lane, while I’m tried in vain to get into its lane. I doubt that the bus saw me. No winning against a bus; I decided to let the bus take my lane. I eased over to the newly created space. A little car, no bigger than a motorcycle, lets me merge ahead of it and into the next lane. Eased again into the next lane and made my turn at the next light and headed east, away from the crowd. Short little hectic ride. Glad I ventured out.

Thursday, November 16

The Going is tough...

Well, I said I wasn't going to be a wimp about the weather, that I was going to "just ride." Call me a wimp; I don't care. A number of things have kept me from that--the weather is but one. It's been on the cold side in the mornings, although this morning isn't too bad at 46 degrees. It's been damp and windy. Still, I could have ridden on a few of those days. But I think I deserve a pass if I'm physically depleted. It's never a good idea to ride when you're wiped out, right?

Notice the new logo to the right--Yes, I've joined the ranks of those frenzied, masochists who spend the month of November each year pumping out a minimum of 50,000 words to write a draft of a novel. Like thousands, I started penning words to paper on November 1 but didn't get around to being an official NaNoWriMo entrant until this past weekend, when I posted my two week word total.

Yesterday I reached the half-way point. My friend, Martha, from VA is also participating. In an email, she said, " is amazing what an unfettered brain can produce..." This truth has become my mantra. If you sit long enough, something will come if you get out of your way and let it happen. By 6:00 a.m., I usually am finished with my 2000 words a day goal. Actually, knocking on my wooden head, I am ahead of my goals and should post 50,000 before the month's end.

So, you see, I've not been a total slacker about riding. Been juggling a bit more than usual and by the end of the day it shows. Even on the day the winds were expected to reach 45 mph, I had good intentions and were it not for being blown home practically, I would have taken a bike ride that evening.

I do have some motorcycle news, well it's more a comment. I'm currently reading Riding with Rilke. The author, Ted Bishop, is a scholar who rides his Ducati from Edmonton, Alberta, Canada to the University of Texas at Austin. Before starting the book, I wondered if people who like books and reading about books but who don't ride a motorcycle, would like this book. Similarly, would someone who rides a motorcycle but is not a fan of literature and literary pursuits, find the book interesting? Although I'm only mid-way through the book, it's a hard questions to answer since I don't fit either camp. I loves literary pursuits and I ride a motorcycle. Did Bishop write his book in hopes of attracting that audience? Did he even have a particular audience in mind?

I don't think it's true that anyone who rides a motorcycle will like this book. That's too bad, because it's really good. Bishop is an entertaining writer and tells a great tale. I can envision someone being uninterested in the literary figures he writes about, such as Virginia Woolf and not go beyond reading the back cover. That's unfortunate too because s/he would miss the wonderful, unexpected parallels Bishop makes between motorcycle riding and unearthing the esoteric information that invade scholars' brains. The Woolf papers give Bishop a reason to leave the towers of this academy and mount his Ducati and ride some scenic and not so scenic roads to TX. It is also just as much his desire to ride his Ducati that makes him venture out to examine Woolf's papers in the lone star state. Once you settle into the ride with Bishop, you don't care why he's heading to TX, you care only that he is. You go along with him to witness his adventures and become green with envy that you are not on those roads riding your own motorcycle.

More later...

Monday, November 13

Wimp no more...

Never thought it would end like this. This is a first for me. I’ve gone an entire week without taking my gal-pal for a ride! More than anything, the torture was mental and self-imposed. Of course, having a million and one things to do helped me survive the week. Still, I thought about riding every 10 minutes. But 37-degrees mornings are not inspiring; slaving beyond my normal hours is not inspiring; juggling several time-robbing extra projects isn't inspiring. Blah, blah, blah. Excuses, excuses!

The ground is clear. That’s all I truly require. I know I’m going to regret this come January when even walking will demand super human feats--no pun intended. I could swear that the last time I passed her in the garage, all covered, standing tall and proud on her new kickstand legs, I witnessed her headlight flash and modulate in a pleadingly “come hither” holler. I did a double take and she did it again. But I ignored her cry. Then I think I heard her roar: “RIDE ME, YOU WIMPETTE!” I quickly uttered the old “sticks and stones…” retort, but I didn’t convince myself. The name-calling hurt. I thought about riding the entire week. Yeah, I know, "Action speaks louder than words"--yada, yada, yada.

Ok, let’s get logical here. My moto days are numbered and the weather will soon render riding impossible. Here and now, I vow to shelve (temporarily) some of those "million and one things," which will all be here to tackle on snow-bound days that will make venturing out insane, right? I’ve got to ride now when I can or curse myelf later when I can't. I shall not go out quietly; I will eschew wimpette ways!

My gal-pal and I will rage against the growing cold and oppressive, time-zapping wage labor system and ride this week no matter what! Mother Nature notwithstanding!

DOWN with capitalist pursuits! UP with riding ‘til the ground cracks and the cold makes you scream for your momma!

Onward and Upward!

Thursday, November 9

...and then came Joy!

Wednesday started out foggy with severely restricted visibility. I had hoped to ride to Sharon, WI but it is more than 100 miles away and I would need an early start to get there and back before dark. So the late start foiled that idea. Eventually the skies cleared and the fog burned off. Wednesday turned out to be PERFECT! By noon, the temperature had hit the mid-60s with a gentle breeze, sunny skies and everyone and their mother out and about.

I decided to visit relatives, which required riding in heavy traffic to and fro. Oh, well…I figured it would be an opportunity to practice urban street strategies, which I can read about all I want, but nothing, and I do mean “nothing” beats the real thing. It is easy to avoid these situations if one lives in the boonies and never bikes in the city. But when you reside in the city, you need to know your terrain. No matter where I venture out, I can’t avoid downtown traffic. Before reaching those desired back roads, I am guaranteed to have at least one wrestling match with a cabbie who behaves as if playing Pac Man with me.

Thus, I try to stay sharp by scheduling planned rides through my auto and people congested neighborhood. I know no better way (to hone my scanning skills, exercise good risk management and stay mindful of the zoo out there that demands keeping my head in the ride every second) than to get out there and do it in real time.

I rode 50 milesRT that demanded a lot physically and mentally. I admit that there are occasions when I can sneak a peek at a building sign along the side of the road. Not true for Wednesday. Every brain cell, every muscle fiber focused on the ride, the road, and all the death-wish pedestrians who walk around as if they have bumpers on their butts, darting into the street, chasing down greatly missed sunrays or something equally crazy.

My neck aches this morning, which I attribute to excessive head checks and perhaps a little tension in the shoulder area from the ride--I don’t know. Still, nothing diluted the unadulterated joy the glorious weather provided. If this could last another six to eight weeks, I’d promise not to whine too much about the long harsh winter that I know is coming.

Monday, November 6

“The Mother Road”--US Route 66 & another St. Park

Sunday promised to be a sunny day with some major warming up on the side and from the window, it all looked true. I left late, around 9:45 a.m. and the temp was 41 degrees. Still, I felt it not cold enough to try out my new battery operated socks, the new gloves with the micro fiber, heat-holding liner insert. Instead, I wore a less hefty pair of gloves with the new liners. I also didn’t use the heated hand warmers that slip into the knuckle pocket atop the liners. I should have stuffed these items into the tank bag just in case I needed them, which I did eventually. I did wear the ski socks I recently purchased. My feet and toes stayed warm all day even though the temp never really warmed up and maxed out around 51 degrees. The day was nippy but the only thing cold were my finger tips.

Destination: U.S. Rt. 66 and Silver Springs State Park, near Yorkville, IL. One thing this bike has done for me it heighten my appreciation for Illinois. I know we’re the “Land of Lincoln” and all, but outside of Chicago, let’s just say I’ve got a lot to learn. I’ve lived in the suburb a huge chunk of my adult life but always favored the city whee I grew up with some myopic notions about suburbs that living there reinforced and challenged all at the same time. Queenie has gotten me outside the city, into the suburbs, into small IL towns, such as Ashton, Harvard, Oswego and Somonauk. Places I’ve driven through but never desired to stop. I’m still a reluctant “visitor” but somehow riding through on a bike makes me feel less resistant and more open to such places that in the past just seemed way too Wonder Bread-ish to me. But I digress…

Lately, I have been reading about US Rt. 66, that famed route that has become legend in music, myth and TV. If you’re of a certain age, who doesn’t hear Nat King Cole's velvety voice singing, “Get your kicks on Route 66.” The tales of motorcyclists trying to ride the original route are often compelling. In fact, the list is long of riders getting confused, missing the road and never finding pieces of it because the original route has been switched, paved over, neglected in spots--you name it. Still, people come the world over to ride it. I am fortunate to live a few blocks from the start of Rt. 66. I’ve dreamed of following it to CA too but lately feel that riding it, at least, through MO would suffice as I’ve read that much of the original route along this stretch is easy to follow and quite nice. I like to explore too and experience the serendipity of a trip, but I wouldn't want to work that hard to trace the original route.

Directions: I start out on an old favorite, US Rt.34 (Ogden Avenue) which co-exists with parts of Rt. 66. You’ve got to not mind traffic going this route. You can avoid most of it by starting early and on a Sunday. I’ve driven this stretch many times and ‘cycled it a few but never desired to stop and pay much attention to its sights and sounds. A hunk of Rt. 66 is in Berwyn, IL, a town with a history that has definitely influenced my bad attitude toward it. But like things and people, Berwyn has changed and you can feel it riding through. I now have no hesitation stopping there, which I did.

Proud blue and white banners announce that you are on Rt. 66. Even a “beverage” place uses the name to advertise itself. I travel on Rt. 34 for many miles, looking for state Rt. 71 South. At that point, take it and travel to Van Emmon Road where you will take a right turn. Take it north to state Rt.47. Well, at least that’s what the map says. I never found a Rt. 47 this way (again, get that GPS mounted or what’s the point?!). I checked and rechecked the map and it looked as if I was to take Van Emmon until it ended, which I did. But take a right turn there and you end up in some dead end gravel filled abandon railroad area—scary stuff to anyone with a morbid imagination. I retraced my route a little; still no Rt.47.

While riding up and down, I happen to glance up and see "River Road." The road that Rt. 47 was to lead me to. I back tracked and realized that “Bridge Road” must be Rt. 47. So why not say: “Bridge Road (Rt. 47). See, this is one reason why I don’t like these places…insiders know this information and they must figure “why bother” making it clear to the rest of us! Outsiders, well…go away, we don’t want any!” Yes, I take this stuff personally.

Got onto River Road and it was worth the hassel, I admit. It is a rolling, tree shaded, back door to the state park—this is why these people must want to keep it to themselves! It’s sweeping and undulating in all the right places. To this point, most of the roads getting here have been great, but this is part of the reason to ride. I’m following the Fox River, a tributary that is part of the Illinois River and Wisconsin River. It is worth looking up on an IL map to see its rolling, twisting snake through this area known as the Fox River Valley.

Not many people in the park. A friendly couple walking two large dogs waved and smiled at me. I snapped a few pics and watched the river flow. Motoring through the park’s curvy grounds (20 mph speed limit) was pure joy--just what I needed to shake off the mini-hassle of finding my way here.

Return: In a word, uneventful. I abandoned the one scenic route back I mapped out and just reversed my steps and took Rt. 34 in. It looked like rain and the sky was darker. I didn’t want to be caught on dark, unfamiliar back roads with visions of lynching clouding my brain. When in doubt, go with the familiar. The warm up turned out to be a “no-show.” Besides, I was now cold and hungry— never got around to breakfast, it was now nearly 1:30 p.m. and my stomach was screaming for lunch.

Stopped at Panera’s for soup. A bike is truly a conversation piece. A woman seated behind me asked me how my riding was. That’s all I need to get started. After my overly long answer, she said, “I feel guilty not allowing my husband to ride today, listening to you…he wanted to but I had work to do so he had to watch the kids.” She seemed sincere sitting amidst a stack of papers and a laptop computer. We had a long conversation about women and riding; she told me about the bikes her husband had owned and her ever present concerns for his safety. I recommended she learn to ride too, to which she seemed open. Then, I told her to “let” him ride on Wednesday since the weather is supposed to be nearly 70 degrees and that soon we’d be forced to put away the bikes. “Then you’ll have him all to yourself.” She brightened at that and said that she would definitely get him to take a ride on Wednesday. At that, she smiled.

I hope I helped a fellow biker ‘cause I know I’m looking forward to Wednesday too.

Silver Spring State Park pics

Sunday, November 5

Winter Gear: An Introduction...

"Introduction" because I'm just dipping my toes in the vast and growing array of riding gear for outdoor, winter comfort. I'll admit to being a bit overwhelmed with the choices. For years, Gerbing and Widder set the standard for heated motorcycle wear. I've been researching their gear--as well as some of their competitors--and I've come away questioning just how much I want to invest at this point to own all that I want--particularly given the winter modifications I'm planning for Queenie. That unanticipated "almost thief" was a cost I could have done without. My mods could have had a nice head start with the dough I spent. Thus, I've started looking for alternative winter wear, gear made for x-country skiing, winter hiking, and hunting, for example. These sports offer loads of items worth a closer look as some work for motorcycling too. Some of it is cheaper, some not.

My tab for the "must" items I want total around $1000! Yes, I could do without some of it, but this price includes what I consider the basics: heated vest, heated armour pants, heated socks, heated gloves, two temperature controllers. That's it. It's a lot of money for riding on the days when the ground will be free of snow or icy conditions. In Chicago, that could mean many days or about ten total!

Here's the wear I've accumulated thus far:

Inherited 20 year old winter leather gloves. I purchased a microfiber (heat-holding) liner for them that has a pocket on top in which packs of hand warmers can be inserted. These hand warmers are environmentaly friendly, non-toxic (thanks for that!) pads that warm up and lasts for 5-7 hours. A fleece neck scarf that can double as a face mask. My favorite: battery operated socks! They definitely work, I tried them out last night and my feet warmed up almost immediately. My inherited battery operated socks didn't work, but I sure appreciated getting them from a former motorcyclist. Total thus far: $47.00. To that I should add, electric glove liners, which haven't arrived yet. They are from CozyWinters and cost $70 and the purchase includes the glove/sock harness needed to hook up to the bike at no extra charge. Thus, no need to buy a temperature controller. Total for my alternative approach: $110. I can handle that without weeping.

My Firstgear Kilimanjaro jacket has always kept me warm with its system of liners, so I'll rely on it to carry me through the winter. I have Firstgear pants, which I'll wear with its liner or, wear my leather pants and long johns underneath.

Fuller comments on winter wear later. I'm heading out for a glorious ride this beautiful crisp fall morning. It's now 40 degrees but warming up to 57 degrees. That's good enough for me.

Wednesday, November 1


These are enough to make me want to write to family and friends I usually avoid! I came upon an announcement for motorcycle stamps in a magazine. Why buy Christmas stamps? I will grace my cards with these cuties! I heard that the USPS keeps specialty stamps in circulation based on demand. So, let's get the word out to every motorcycle enthusiast and her mother to buy these stamps--reach out, send a card or letter to those embarrassing relatives and friends--just omit a return address.

Riding today? It is 31 degrees! Enough said.

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.

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.