Wednesday, March 18

...Back in the saddle again...

Who was the cowboy who sang that?

Yesterday I fired up the Suzuki SV650 for my first ride since the “get off”. From my extra motorcycle cloths and equipment stash, I geared up--it pays to have extra jackets, pants, gloves, and helmets as my main boots and main jacket remain in VA. The weather Gods were looking down on me. By the time I arrived home, the temps had reached 72 degrees by mid afternoon.

The goal: a nice ride to Kankakee River State Park, which, if one goes the direct route, is reachable in about 27 miles making for a nice 50+ miles first outing. Dave had planned a back road route, which I think meant it would take about 40 ish miles to reach the park. With weather this nice, I didn’t feel taxed by the wind. It was windy and we encountered some robust gusts, which after about 25 miles Dave recommended turning around and heading back. It’s true we were being tossed around but it didn’t bother me. That I was on two wheels and loving every minute, made the wind a non-issue for me. Dave’s new bike is less than a week old. So, given that he didn’t feel comfortable forging ahead, we turned around. However, I would have continued on, blah, blah, blah…What amazes me about this ride is that it was supposed to, according to many people, be a time when I would be nervous. I can’t count the number of people who kindly warned me that the first time getting on a bike might feel a bit disorienting; I might feel nervous, or even frightened. Some said I might relieve the accident. Others told me that one “get-off”—even a minor one, was enough for him to hang it all up. I am glad I heard these warnings. I considered myself immune to these feelings. But the conversations made me give this lots of thoughts while I was home healing. I couldn’t imagine this happening to me.

Well I got on the bike and that was it. It was like meeting an old friend. I had no nervousness, no fear, no concerns and didn’t think of the accident. I thought only of David Hough and I watched everything like a hawk. I felt alert yet on guard. Going from the BMW back to the SV was interesting. One works for the SV ride. That’s not a complaint. One is forced to be far more conscious of every thing. One must think of the gear one is in. It’s even more difficult on the SV to let down the kickstand! I have to be the most vigilant—far more than on the BMW—of throttle control. The Beemer pulls out slowly and is smooth throughout. I don’t have the “wheeling waiting to happen” feeling on it. The SV is a wheelie waiting to happen every second. I love that about the bike. It has tremendous power and pull from first gear throughout. The Beemer seems tamed by comparison and catches up in the higher gears. In my opinion, the Beemer, my most favorite bike to date, has a different fun factor than the SV. If I had to pick one, it would be the Beemer. I can hear someone say, “Yes, but you weren’t on the offending bike!” Therefore, this wasn’t a true test. That’s an important point. We shall see…I just don’t scare easily. I see riding my bike home and finishing my ride as a wonderful challenge for which I feel prepared.Before we arrived home, we stopped at a German restaurant, where Dave had corn beef, cabbage and boiled potatoes—it was after all, St. Patrick’s Day. I had two bites of very bad fish, which the dog later appreciated.

Update. Today, the shoulder and back are smarting but not nearly as badly as I thought it might after nearly 50 miles. Nothing a dose of Aleve won’t settle down.

I am so back in the saddle again!

Sunday, March 15

The Big Red Bird, etc.

Saturday was all about riding (via car, unfortunately) to Savoy, IL to retrieve the new red BMW F650GS. Now that I've sold my car, being in a car for long spans of time is rather taxing. We made it and the big red bird-looking bike was sitting in the back room of Twin Cities, BMW, where a group of Saturday riding regulars were hanging around consuming Dunkin' Donuts and coffee and shooting the breeze. The bike was parked in center of the small area and with the riders sitting or standing around, it looked like they were paying their respects to a departing friend.

A woman who appeared to be around 80 was among the group. Soon she came up to me and showed much curiosity in the bike. "No, it's not mine." She wasn't sure she liked that particular Beemer. In fact, she wanted me to know that she rode BMW when they were really BMWs, when they were "not equipped with all this new fancy stuff." Although she was sweet, nice elder citizen and we chatted easily and for some time, she seemed to have some issues with change--at least in regards to BMWs. She also voiced concerned that the tank bag would prevent the rider from seeing the instrument panel--frankly I was too. It's a towering bag. With the tank bag market being what it is, I wouldn't have gone with that particular bag--but hey, it's not my bike. To each his own.You can tell from the pics that the bike is well-equipped. By the time Dave left, he had had his new Zumo hooked up, had donned his new Gerbings to handle the low 50s temp, and had made his appointment to return in April for the 600 miles service. I got a nice free black tee-shirt out of the deal. After what seemed like a long time, he was ready to hit the road. We headed out in different directions. This trip became a new test for me too as I drove the 100+ miles back. Would my collar bone or the ribs bother me? They did not. Much. I'm fine and ready to put this all behind me.

I stopped at my favorite little Thai-Japanese restaurant in Champaign, IL. I'm told there are other similar establishments there that are far better. I like this one and the two times I've be in it, there has never been over three other people there. Hmmm...Still, the crab fried rice hits the spot so well! Welcome to the garage, big red, which really isn't big at all. It's a 650 label but really is a detuned 800cc, which I was surprised to see the 798cc on the specs. Although the bike has some accessories already installed, it is definitely farkle time. Dave said the seat is "terrible" and hurt after an hour, partly due to the very upright seating and the extra demands this places on the tail.

Sunday, Dave tried the bike out on gravel. "It does better than Queenie (aka Suzuki SV650) does on gravel." Being able to ride on gravel and do a little off roading is why he wanted a more suitable bike and the reason poor Queenie will be searching for a new home. Countdown to VA: Retrieve the F800ST April 10th!

Saturday, March 7

A new Bike, the smell of Spring and the Call of the road...

There’s a new bike in the garage! Dave has purchased a red 2009 BMW F650GS. Saturday, he’ll take delivery of this accessorized dual(ish) sport two-wheeler. In addition to the new farkles he’s ordered for it, he’s don new Gerbings for cold weather motoring. Looks like Queenie will find a new home with the help of Johnny at Motoworks Chicago. Lucky is her new owner whomever that might be. If s/he has half as much fun as I’ve had on her and then Dave, they will wear a permanent smile. If I could, I would keep Queenie, but it’s not about what I want, it’s about what I need. I don’t need two bikes. Period.

Last week, Dave rode Queenie, his longest and probably last long ride on her, to Savoy, IL where he test rode the F650GS. That’s all it took for him to sign his John Henry. He arrived home exhausted form battling a strong headwind the whole way down and darkness on less than idea roads for the return trip. He clocked more than 230 miles and despite his exhaustion, he sounded quite elated that his winter of researching bikes is now over. Too bad he wasn’t able to get the bike at Chicago BMW but they didn’t have a red one in stock. Mike Abt put a call out for other dealers to send him one before his expected shipment (a “couple of months) came in. In the meantime, Dave found one on his own at Twin City BMW in Savoy, where they sell not only motorcycles but BMW automobiles too.

We are also the proud owners of The Spot—thanks, Dave. I think this is his way of keeping track of me. Now, to me, this should eliminates the need for phone calls every night and each day, right?

The date has been set: On April 9th I shall fly to VA and retrieve Jesse O. To make sure the trip can go off as planned, I’ve finally invested in heated clothing as one can never expect the weather to cooperate. I’m up a s Tour Master Synergy jacket and pants. I had to buy a BMW adapter to make it a plug and go. “Why didn’t you get Gerbings?” My simple answer is, personal choice after doing my own independent research. I also invested in some heavier gloves that are nicely lined and absent of a thick palm area in order to allow the heated grips to heat up the hands. The outer areas of the gloves are nicely thick but not so much that it interfers with the controls.My solo trip schedule is coming along fine. This ride season will be different than others, where I only concerned myself with my own schedule. Now, I “must” include Dave on some rides. I’ve agreed to go on some day rides with him. I even agreed to do an occasion weekend ride. But I’m really trying to get across the importance of my need to do 95% of all my riding solo.

I have two advanced classes set up, one for the beginning of the ride season and one near the end. I always look forward to the SRTT classes offered by Ride Chicago. This year, I have a friend who lives in Canada who might becoming just to take the class. I hope that he can make it—that would be too cool—and I’d take the class again even if I’ve already taken it.

I also have another forum pal coming to Chicago. He’s coming from England so he won’t be bringing his bike. I’m looking forward to being an ambassador from my city. I used to give tours for my alma mater (the University of Chicago) and although I’m terribly rusty, I’m looking forward to showing him places one would never see on any Chicago tour. He’s a blues fan so I’ve been checking out the best most non-touristy places.Life is good. My brother’s case continues and I have my moments of sheer anger and sadness then I remember my brother and I do what I can to enjoy the moment and then take each moment as it comes…

I can smell Spring and I can hear the road whisper my name.