Sunday, June 29

The joys of Technology!

Well, I'm up and running, sort of. At heart, I'm a gadget geek but the recent headaches have made me question that! But now, a new computer system and a eager return to Apple just might be the healing I need. In 1984 I owned an Apple IIE computer--one of the first computers models that company made (or was that the Apple II?).  I loved it!  Then I owned an Apple G--something? Then came the brightly colored Apple IMac, the one that sported a pregnant look. In between, I've had my share of PCs. Let's just say I'm glad I've gone back to Apple--hopefully it will restore my faith in technology!  

No trips of significance this  weekend as I prepared self and bike for the upcoming Canada trip this week. Jesse sports new Givi side bags, BMW top case, frame sliders, and some pretty wonderful vario levers. I did a lot of aimless riding until the luggage felt weightless on the bike.  I'm looking forward to my first multi-day trip since getting the new bike. While away, I'm hoping to ride as much along Lake Erie as possible although I don't have time to do the full circle.  I still plan to circle Lake Huron sometime this summer. 

Gosh, it feels good to be back online. Hopefully, I'll be spared the fear of a crash with each keystroke or click...knock on wood!

Thursday, June 26

The Evils of Technology!

I have suffered a major computer disaster. A few weeks prior, I had a hard drive failure. The costs of recovering the data from the hard drive would require taking on a second job--it was my backup drive! The computer is in the shop and I won't have a diagnosis for two weeks. While I debate repairing it or just getting another one, I am forced to work with a couple of dinosaurs that are temperamental and slow. One of them treats photos as foreign objects to be routinely blocked no matter how friendly I define them. The other, handles pictures well but is so slow I can turn it on, shower, eat breakfast and it is still revving up.

A post I wrote a couple of days ago is now locked on the dying or dead computer. Bear with me as I sort out which of my remaining systems will cooperate enough to get a post out.

I am heading to Amherstburg, Ontario soon and hope to be up and running by then.

Ride safe! Ride smart!

Tuesday, June 17

Milton, WI--Site of an underground railroad station

Saturday was a perfect day for two wheel travel. Mid-seventies, gently wind and a bright blue sky with cotton ball clouds. I took the long way to Milton, which means I avoided the interstate in favor of long stretches on US 14, US 20 and Rt. 41. Riding along county roads like Y and M offered nice rolling hills and the kind of isolation that makes you think you're alone in the world. The open spaces lined with tall grasses on each side of the road tempted me to open the throttle. Effortlessly, Jesse sneaked to 90mph for a brief, exhilirating stretch of road. The ST is smooth, fast, and naughty (in a good way). The push to activate a lean requires little more than thinking about it. The ST's respond is immediate--I'm loving this ride.

Milton, WI, named after the poet, John Milton, was founded by Joseph Goodrich in the 1800s. Goodrich, who hailed from upstate New York, made his first trip to WI with two friends to find fertile land where he and his family could establish new roots. A devout Seventh Adventist Baptist, Goodrich believed that people should not own other people. Period. Goodrich espoused his anti-slavery views through bold acts of resistance by housing runaway slaves in the underbelly of his cabin.

In many ways, Goodrich was a man ahead of this time. He built the first poured grout building in 1844, the Milton House, which is now the oldest concrete building in the US. In fact, Milton WI has more standing grout buildings from this era than any other city.

Milton's population is now less than 6000. A quaint, friendly sort of town that seems more distant from Chicago than it really is. At the Milton House, the volunteers treated me well and pretty much figured out that I was there mostly for the history of the underground railroad. As one young teen lead my private tour, word traveled that I was asking questions about Milton's underground railroad history. Just as the tour got underway, the museum's director entered the room and apologized to her young docent and said, "I'll conduct this tour since it's more specialized." She did Milton proud and spent considerable time explaining the history of the Goodrich family (I asked if they were related to the B.F. Goodrich, but the director didn't know--she's new in her position).

A trap door in the floor, leading down a dark stairway must have been a scary yet welcoming sight to escaping slaves. I could feel my heart quickening as I walked sideways through the narrow, tight tunnel that runaway slaves passed through long ago. Once inside the room where the slaves would remain until safe passage out of WI, I took a deep breath and tried to think of how frightening it must have been to live with the fear of being hunted like animals and discovered by slave trackers. Listening to the zealous presenter kept me from getting angry.

The Milton House sits at the end of John Paul Road right at the intersection of Highway 26 and 59. It is a hexagonal structure that is akin to an early shopping center. It housed different specialty shops, including a hotel, train depot, horse stable and general store in strip mall style. Goodrich also founded The Milton Academy, which later became Milton College, a small liberal arts college that operated for 138 years before financial woes forced it to close in 1983. I spent so much time at the museum and on the grounds that I jettisoned my plans to make a side trip to Racine, WI.

I took the long way home and enjoyed the sights--and smells--of the WI farmlands. I saw two strange things on the way home. The first was a guy (and his friends) riding on a two lane highway doing a wheelie. They appeared to be in some sort of odd formation as if executing a well planned act. The second sighting really freaked me. On the same highway, moments later, I spotted a guy standing up!! (I couldn't tell if he was on the seat or on the pegs. I think, however, he was on the seat (is that possible?) because he was incredibly tall. His arms were outstretched like Jesus on the cross--except his head was held high--and he was balancing himself on the bike! I was heading south, he was heading north but I got a good long look at him.

What's up with that?!

Ride fun 8/10

275 miles

Thursday, June 12

Gallimaufry (aka lots of stuff, little time)

The Bike

Jesse Owens (the name of my new F800ST) continues to amaze me! While I'm still adjusting to the engine sound of this parallel twin (I don't know if they all sound like this), I love the bike! It has a low, deep-throated thunder that sounds so unlike my V-twin. It makes me think of a scooter when I'm riding it--not that there's anything wrong with that. One of the guys from MotoWorks said to me following a ride on my bike, "There is nothing scooter-like about that bike."
Jesse has a scratch! To most, it is barely noticeable. To me, it is as big as Godzilla! I don't want to talk about how it happened. Folks at MotoWorks suggest that I leave it alone, that it gives character to an otherwise perfect bike, that it is but one scratch of many to come. I've had plenty of people see Jesse, walk around him, marvel at his beauty and not see this imperfection. But my heart aches at the sight of this unavoidable mishap. The bike isn't a month old, for heaven's sake! Someone even suggested that the story makes an excellent conversation starter. Yeah, right! Repair estimate... Let me just say, I soon may be in need of a prosthesis for a missing limb.

Jesse's suspension remains one annoying thing. When I hit a road elevation--any bump, really--I am tossed out off my seat! Recently, I went over a fairly good size series of unavoidable bumps on Lake Shore Drive (Rt. 41). Not only did this jar some internal organs, I literally was hurled scary inches above seat. Seriously! Help from the F800ST riders forum confirmed that the suspension needs adjusting. You don't know what you don't know. My reference point is my SV 650, which was perfect in this regard. Someone on the forum told me that the stock suspension on the SV is set up for a more lightweight rider and that the suspension is usually one of the first adjustments riders make on the SV. Jesse is definitely set up for a heavier rider, I guess. It's like a bucking bronco! Fortunately, suspension adjustments are easy to make on the ST.

The Ride

I've read and heard this: the third riding season presents particular challenges for motorcyclists. After two successful ride seasons under one's belt an over confidence can creep in and one's guard can drop here and there, which is why it's a good idea to launch each season with a skills class. I realize that not all accident can be avoided but we can never be too skilled and there are many things we can control. The Hurt Report (still considered the best work on motorcycle statistics, investigated over 1,100 accidents over a two year period and analyzed over 90o. One third of these motorcycle accidents resulted from rider error (e.g., "...motorcyclist goes wide in a turn, ...sideswipes a car or overcooks the rear brakes trying to stop and then slides out," etc). Quoted in Hough's Proficient Motorcycling.

The majority of accidents were collisions with other vehicles. Here are some Hurt Report stats: Approximately 74% of motorcycle accidents were multiple vehicle, the rest were single vehicle accident. Of the 26% of single vehicle crashes, 17% were rider error, 2% surface hazards and about 6% resulted from animal, blowouts, etc.

Of the 74% multi-vehicle collisions, 28% were the deadly left hand turner and about the same (29%) resulted from angle collisions. If you don't read anything else, read Hough's first chapter in Proficient Motorcycling for a reader-friendly, in depth analysis of the Hurt Report.

The Rider's Guru: AKA David Hough

I met David Hough at the BMW Rally in West Bend, WI last year. Well I sort of met him. Actually, I attended his standing room only workshop. I remember him perched at the head of the room, his mammoth audience in rapt attention. He wore a denim shirt, khaki colored pants and a floppy hat. Before him was a large screen and on it was projected a variety of road situations and rider challenges. He asked his pupils questions, some of which we failed and all of which he gently corrected and elaborated. He was funny, serious, and sagacious. Long before gas hikes and motorcycle specialization, Hough was there, writing tales and instructing riders for Motorcycle Consumer News. He doesn't know me from Jane, but he's one of my ride mentors.

I recently learned that my riding school, Ride Chicago, is again offering the SRTT class. If you are in the Chicago area, this advanced street riding class is worth every penny--and more. It is many steps above the msf's experienced rider course. I plan to take it for the third time next month. But if you can't get to Chicago, read or re-read Hough's canons: Proficient Motorcycling: The Ultimate Guide to Riding Well, More Proficient Motorcycling: Mastering the Ride, and Street Strategies: A Survival Guide for Motorcyclists. Although I have many favorite motorcycle books, I am always drawn to Pat Hahn's, Ride Hard, Ride Smart: Ultimate Street Strategies for Advanced Motorcyclists. I am particularly fond of Chapter Seven. Here it is in its entirety:

Chapter 7 "Riding At Night"

The Risk

Recently, I rode at night. I started out at about 3:30 p.m., ran into horrible traffic on I-57 (I later learned that a worker had been killed) Now, I'm sorry for whining about being stuck there, literally in first gear, for more than an hour. Eventually, it turned into a two-bike riding day, with me riding Queenie about 25 miles--the SV beats the ST in friskiness IMHO. It ended up that I didn't return home until 11:00 p.m.

In general, I agree with Hahn's command. I do, however, believe it comes down to risk management, right? How much are you personally willing to assume? The need to scan, maintain a proper space cushion, watch people and cars--anticipate their every move, is heightened at night. Seeing the road is a challenge. Some of the roads around here are in wretched condition. Don't override your headlights! I know many of these roads and that night, for example, I knew that the ramp that leads off the Bishop Ford Expressway toward Stony Island is crazy-cracked and bumpy. I avoided it and just took I-94 in, which has its own challenges too but the road is new and smooth. I will on occasion go out for a purposeful night ride. My goal is to feel confident, competent and comfortable on my bike regardless of conditions. And, the only way to get practice for night riding is to ride at night. I've forgotten what Hahn says about riding in the rain. But I like that too. Were it not for having been caught in more than my share of torrential rains without a place to stop and wait it out, I might try to avoid rain riding. Now, a nice, soft and quiet ride is a non-issue.

Work continues to suck the living life out of me and now that Jesse is my sole means of transportation, I need frequent rides beyond the daily errands. Thus, I'm off this morning to find some dry, high ground in the Midwest.

Ride Smart. Ride Safe. (Sorry for sounding so preachy). As I write this, it is 2:30 a.m. and I blame the wee hours...

R.I.P. Tim Russert

Tuesday, June 3

Stopped by bicycle police! & Good-bye" to break-in rules!

I think I've said this here before but it's worth repeating...the people I work for never received the memo on the 13th Amendment! That's all I'll say about that!

Although Jesse is three weeks old today, I've not had as much time to ride as I desire. He has nearly 1000 miles on him but were it up to me that would already be well over 3000 miles. But a planned trip has been canceled for work and the fact that I still have no luggage on the bike. Even one nice day that I must watch pass me by without riding, makes me moody. Something has to give and soon. Ideally, I like to leave town each Friday and return on Sunday in time for dinner. Thus far, I'm lucky if I can fit in a day ride on Saturday or Sunday (hear a violin playing in the background).

This past Sunday I managed to do a 100 miler and it felt great--still had to be careful about putting on too many miles over the 600 miles check up, which was over due and not completed until yesterday. But freedom is now in the air!

Sunday, I headed north to Waukegan, IL. To get there I took a familiar route, following Lake Shore Drive north (part of the Lake Michigan Circle Tour). I never tire of this run. Rt. 41 North follows the lake until you must go inland a bit and then you're passing hugely swanky homes and through old monied North Shore villages.

I left early and few people were out and about. The ride was great but somewhere pass Evanston there is road construction that forced me to navigate on along gravel. By concentrating the whole time, I missed my left hand turn to get to the Bahai Temple of Chicago ( in Wilmette), a turn that would have meant making a sudden move on gravel. No thank you. I'll get it on my next trip. I want to take a pic of Jesse in front of the temple as I've done with Queenie.

I had a list of places I wanted to visit but since I had to work that afternoon, I concentrated on riding and only made a few stops. The Waukegan Historical Society was a welcome pause--nice building and the few other old structures on the site made it a pleasant picture taking opportunity.
Having missed breakfast, I was starving by the time I arrived. I swallowed a granola bar, took a swig of water and headed back to the city. I passed several restaurants where motorcycles were parked out front, obviously enjoying breakfast on a perfect mid-70 degrees F day. I saw very few bikes in route to Waukegan but there were scores out by the time I make my return trip.

I was almost home when I passed two bicycle police officers. I was not speeding (I checked the speedometer immediately upon seeing them). I breezed passed them with nary another thought until I came to the light, the one that always catches me. I either don't move until another car comes up behind me to trigger the light to change or I wait for safe passing and blow through the red light. (Do those light tripper things work?)

I'm waiting there, not daring to go through the light knowing that the police 'cyclists are somewhere behind me. I jumped when eventually the two rode up next to me and stopped. The one nearest me had pulled up rather close and seemed to be eyeing Jesse. He motioned to me with a head dip. I turned to look at him and he dipped his head again. Clearly, he wanted to talk to me. I flip up my helmet and look at him. Eyeballing the bike, he said, "So, what is that?"

"Uh?" He's now bend over peering at my bike while straddling his own. The other officer is almost perpendicular to my bike and he's looking at it too.

"Is that a...? Yeah, that's a BMW. How do you like it?"

I relax. I tell him how I feel.

Now he and his partner are chatting about bikes. The first one says, "I was going to get a BMW and I looked at that model. I ended up getting the Triumph Triple... It's a nice bike too but less money. So, you like it?" It wasn't really a question.

I tell him again that I love the bike. He and the other office say that it is a "beautiful" bike and I'm starting to like these guys.

We chat some more (the traffic light remains red) and he asks me the price of luggage for the bike and what type of luggage I am planning to buy. We chat about that. Then he pays me a nice compliment.

"You've got on the right gear, from head to toe you've got it right. Boots...gloves...You're smart. That's the way you're supposed to ride, in your gear... at all times." While he comments , his partner shakes his head affirmatively. They too are head to toe geared up on their bicycles--including bullet-proof vests and a huge gun strapped around their waists.

As if by magic, as soon as he ends his compliments-- and I say, "Thank you," a car pulls in behind me and it trips the light to turn green. I'm such a sap for compliments from teachers and certain ones in authority. I make a perfect pull off, execute a nice lean and steady line into my left hand turn. I am less than 2 minutes from reaching home but riding those last couple of minutes is sweet. This will probably be the only time I'll ever think fondly of ever being stopped by the police.

Ride: 100 miles

Fun factor 1/10 = 8