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.