Tuesday, April 14

Bringing Jesse Owens home

(Note to the reader: Sorry for the overly long, draft post. As you can see, I've been rather scant on the posts lately, so indulge me a bit as return to regular blogging). 

Part I

Thursday night

Jesse Owens, my 2008 BMW F800ST, is now in my possession! Insert the voice of Fernando Lamas here, “He looks MAA-VAH-LUSS!”

Claye, a wonderful friend whom I met at the 2008 BMW rally, met me at the airport, hosted me, and allowed me to hang out with her. Being with Claye, Sylvia and Fritz at their home is something I would gladly do even if I didn't need to retrieve my bike. I'm convinced now that my accident last summer brought us all together and for that I'm grateful. How else would I have met Sylvia and little dog Fritz? Given that this wasn’t a trip per se, more like a pick up and leave, we didn’t have much time to visit but we fit in a lot of stuff. Still, great company, excellent food, lots of motorcycle talk and sharing of news on cool gadgets, gear and travel tales. Claye and Sylvia are serious riders and it's a joy to talk to them about it and other things.

(Fritz, the guard dog)

Another thanks to Claye who picked up my bike for me on Thursday, which allowed me to check the bike out that night rather than wait until Friday when Morton's opened. Claye test rode it too, amassing about 30 miles. I was able to get a real rider’s perspective. She liked the ride although she felt the riding position was a bit “aggressive.” The bike checked out and after her ride, Claye tucked it in her garage-like shed. I'm grateful too that the Throttlemeister didn't rear its head during her ride (more on that later). Between Claye and Sylvia, six bikes bring joy and challenges to their lives. Sylvia’s newish, mint condition V-Strom is the latest addition. A bike that will surely lead to many adventures this season.

Friday morning

I was overcome with joy at seeing my bike Thursday evening. It reminded me of the day it became mine. I took a ride along Truslow street until it dead-ended. I picked up another part of Truslow and continued that until Truslow ran out again. It is a smooth road with long sweeping curves and enough rolling places to make the ride interesting. The ST is a great bike. I come alive when I ride it.

(Fritz keeps watchful guard on the ST)

Claye and I spent part of Friday hanging out in her wonderful backyard. That afternoon, before we headed to Morton’s so I could finish up the paperwork on my bike, we had a little (mis)adventure. Fritz the dog is the cutest thing on four legs. He is a hard working dog and valiantly served as my therapy dog the last time I was there. Fritz probably weighs in at 7lbs—I don’t know. . He looks like a miniature Doberman with massive ears. Before leaving for Morton’s, Fritz disappeared, which had us searching high and low for him. I prayed for his discovery—losing him while I was there would be nothing short of horrible. I’d feel like a walking black cloud. We found him. Let’s just say, to sort of quote Cyndi Lauper, “Dogs just wanna have fun.”

(Enjoying a bit of R&R)

(Claye outside Morton's)

Saturday A.M.

(Ready to hit the road, Jack)

Saturday, I donned my new TourMaster electric jacket liner (glad I didn't get the vest) the whole way, I rode comfortably without the pants and remained dry. That is, until the temps dropped at night. Add to that some pretty robust winds in West Virginia and Maryland that blew from the mountains and swirled around open spaces. I was on high alert with plenty of opportunities to practice counter-steering. Riding into the glare of the setting sun was often blinding. It's a discombobulating sensation even if momentary. Survival mode helped me focus closely on the painted lines. Still, it offered some periods of challenge that I don't recall ever being an issue before. It reminded me why I love my Nolan N 102 helmet. The sun visor, which is attached to the exterior top of the clear visor, is a smart design. I just flip the smoky color visor top down when I need it. I used to love my HJC Sy-Max helmet. But it forced extra work and a tricky installation—not want you need on an all day ride.

(A view from Sideling Hills Wildlife Management Area)

Not until nightfall Saturday did the temps drop low enough to make me think about putting on the heated pants. I never did-- not because I didn't need to. My lower extremities were off and on cold. Several times, I thanked my German motorcycle makers for the heat the ST throws off around the legs. I hugged the tank as tight as I could. I wanted to get to the hotel and stopped only for bathroom and gasoline.

(Martin Fabrication Lights)

Saturday night I tested out the new moto-like lights, by Martin Fabrication. Excellent accessory—thanks, Lucas for telling me about these. Riding in the black of night, I was able to throw considerable light across the lower front of the bike and along the side of the road—a most comforting feeling given that my arrival to Zanesville, OH took far more time that I imagined. This was due to three things: weather, physical issues, and my propensity to debate the GPS and some of Claye's directions.

Last on my list of time robbers: the directions. I selectively followed Claye’s direction, mixing them with my own and sometimes the GPS. Somewhere near or after Berkeley Springs, I lost ground. I don't recall much of US Hwy 522, which I should have taken to I-70. I wound up taking on I-68 rather than I-70. No biggie, I checked the map and kenw I would pick up I-70 later. Only later was really really late. I rode I-68 forever and a day! Eventually, I hopped on I-79 and spent time on that too. Don't ask me why or how. I just did. I started feeling as if I'd never leave West Virginia, a state that is not on my list of favorites. When I'm not pressed for time, I don’t mind venturing off track—it's actually fun, part of the whole "it's the journey" mentality. Ordinarily, I'm painstakingly meticulous about my directions—at least in the preparation phase. Then in real time, I play loose with the directions because I know my official route and I've built in some wiggle room. But this was different and by the time my own desire to get moving reached my brain, it had gotten cold enough, too dark and the anvil I felt I was carrying on my head was screaming in my ears.

I arrived at my Zanesville hotel right around midnight! For the most part, I had been riding since 9:15 a.m. that morning—from Fredericksburg, VA! When I rolled into Zanesville, I remember saying, “Where in the H-E- double hockey sticks did fifteen hours go? That's IBA territory except that I had little to show for it. That's when I forgave myself and remembered the three time robbers: the rain, an increasingly sore neck and my cavalier disposition regarding the directions. You play, you pay. It rained from Fredericksburg, VA until about 20 miles south of Berkeley Springs and heavy rains saturated at least two or three locales, which made handling the huge sweeping curves along scenic Highway 17 interesting and fun—albeit, wet fun. But it slowed travel considerably. The neck, well, I think it’s just smarting and letting me know the healing continues. The increasing inability to turn my head sans pain forced me to make many short stops. If I didn’t turn my head sideways, the discomfort wasn’t too bad. It makes sense given that I have only recently been able to return to lifting weights. Three weeks ago, I would rather have given birth than do the simple neck rolls and shoulder shrugs with weights, which used to be easy warm ups to my regular routine. What I used to do with 10lbs weights, I can only do with 3lbs now. Improvement take time. Just part of the healing process.  Nothing more, nothing less.

(Jesse Owens)

Part II  Zanesville, OH to IL via Indianapolis, IN

Sunday, April 12, 2009

It is Sunday morning and the memory of last night's cold hits me again when I open the door to retrieve my heated pants liner from the bike . Lesson learned from Saturday: wear the pants! One glance at the bike, all covered in frost, made me shiver involuntarily. As I disarmed the alarm I made a mental note to carry a bike cover with me next time. I touched the frost on the top case and thought again of last night and whispered to myself that the ride season has officially started. I don't mind riding in the rain. It's the long, bone chilling cold rain that demands all my attention and takes away a tiny part of the joy of riding. I barely noticed the farms and scenery that lined the way. My photographic memories are virtually nonexistent.

I left Zanesville with every intention of making three stops regarding my underground railroad research. After being directed to the wrong place by the hotel proprietor and looking over at the interstate, I decided to head home by way of Indianapolis for lunch at Shapiro's deli. The pain in my neck throbbed but it nothing to worry about.

The ride began with temps in the 30s. The sky was blue jay blue with huge puffy clouds—not a drop of rain predicted from OH to IL. I donned full heated gear but frankly, couldn't get the pants to fire up --totally my fault, as I learned later. The jacket was sufficient and the heat from the bike again helped the lower legs. It took me about an hour to settle down into the ride. I stopped more than usual that first hour. A brief stop is all I seemed to need to recover. Otherwise, I felt great.

(Pickerington, OH The AMA and the Motorcycle Hall of Fame Museum)

I have friends in Granville and thought of them as I passed that exit. I decided to stick to the interstate, figuring I needed to see this not as a trip per se, but a simple task to retrieve my bike. I can always return to see what I missed. The goal now was to get myself and the bike home. But when I reached Pickerington, home of the AMA and the Motorcycle Hall of Fame Museum, which I’ve visited before, I stopped. Although the hours indicate that they should have been open and a few cars were in the parking lot, they were closed. I took a few pictures and left.

After a light lunch, I decided to focus on riding. Listening to music soothed the sore neck. I wanted to get to Shapiro's Deli and indulge in real food. Some say that interstate travel is boring. It’s not my favorite travel method, but I don't find it brain numbing on a bike. I am tortured more by it in a car. I made it to Shapiro's around 3ish. I had a tuna sandwich that ought to be illegal—it's that good. I thought about a full Easter meal there but I don't like riding with a heavy meal in my belly. Lots of people evidently escaped cooking Easter dinner and ate at Shapiro's. I don't eat meat; still, the meat at Shapiro looks and smells good enough to change any vegetarian’s mind. Seriously. If you are within 100 miles of Shapiro, go there for breakfast, lunch and dinner! I found out about Shapiro's from my friend Brent Miller. His brother meets there with some BMW riders each week. I never met up with the group but I now go to Shapiro’s every chance I get to route myself through Indianapolis. It's only about 200 miles for my house, which means it's an excellent day ride choice. I must say, Chicago has some excellent delis. But they are all within a few minutes ride—what fun is that?!

Belly full from half of a tuna sandwich, ice tea and lemon cake, I was ready to roll. Except for a horrible back up in a couple of spots on I-65, the trip was uneventful. My music (which I rarely listen to while riding) ran out on Paul Simon's “Graceland,” leaving me ample time to solve the worlds problems and enjoy the rest of the ride.

One big ride issue...

Well, I wish I could say the trip was perfect. It wasn't. One major problem to report. The Throttlemeister got in the way in a big way. As I've said elsewhere on this blog, I’ve used the Throttlemeister once or twice. I got it in anticipation of problems with a severely fractured wrist (non motorcycle injury) that is held together by a titanium implant. I’ve been told it will “eventually” give me trouble. Being proactive, I thought the Throttlemeister might be a good thing to have if I was going to do a SaddleSore or other IBA ride. I did a SaddleSore and never felt the need to use it. Still, it's on the bike if and when it becomes needed. You know the saying, it’s better to have it and not need it than to need it and not have it…or something like that.

Imagine my surprise when riding Saturday when the bike started surging, unexpectedly. It was rather unsettling and more than a bit scary at times. At first, I brushed it off, thinking that my new cold-weather gloves, which are bulkier than I'm used to, had accidentally activated the Throttlemeister. But it started getting odder. When I pulled in the clutch, the engine seemed to rev loudly. Mind you, when this started happening, I just thought it was user error to which I paid closer attention. Then I noticed that downshifting was darn near impossible. Right before the down shift, I'd pull in the clutch, give the engine a blip and that blip would lock the throttle at that spot and the bike would accelerate. Whether I twisted the throttle open or closed, it would remain there. In other words, there was no, give or spring to the throttle.

I pulled over several times and adjusted the throttle. It would function well (I mean it would be deactivated and stay in the non-use mode). Then after 20 or so miles—sometimes less—it would gradually take over again. I'd pull over again and go through the same drill. Outside of Berkeley Springs, I got out my anonymous book and thought of calling for help. I thought of local dealerships. It was drizzling and rather than wait, I thought I'd try it once more to see how far I'd get. I can hear some of you say that this was dangerous and I probably should have stopped riding. I realize it wasn’t a great idea but I kept a very steady throttle hand and checked the play in the throttle at ever traffic light. For the most part, it behaved much of the rest of the way. When it didn’t, I was able to periodically check the spring in the throttle to ward off the unexpected throttle locks.

(A nice rearview, I think...)

Before leaving on Sunday, I checked the adjustment on the Throttlemeister. It appeared to be holding in place. Things changed in Indianapolis, however, where I noticed it had worked its way on again. Such things never happen at a good time. After leaving my great meal at Shapiro's, I blipped the throttle to downshifted. The throttle locked and I had to do a quick correction—I had plenty of time to make the adjustment. This was the most frustrating part of the ride, not something I want to experience again. I will have my mechanic check this out.

A Brush with a BMW Celebrity

While there, Claye got me interested in joining the BMW mileage program. Claye racked up the miles last year and placed well. Had I finished the ride season last year and been part of the mileage program, I would have been in the 13,000 miles range—not a lot but a nice start. Instead, I finished the year with only about 7519 miles after six months of owning the bike.

To join the mileage program, I need signatures of two BMW MOA members. Claye was number one. Friday, while at Morton's I forgot to get the form signed, which meant a return there on Saturday. It meant riding in the rain in the opposite direction of heading home. When I arrived, I asked the first salesman I saw. He was actually the dealership owner. He apologized for not being eligible to sign the form. He scanned the room and looked thoughtfully at those in the shop. Then he looked outside and his face had that light bulb moment appearance.

Before entering the dealership, I noticed a rather elderly gent, preparing to take off. His apparel looked ancient, like those garments favored by the super long distance riding crowd. The dealer looked outside and said, “Hey, how about a celebrity?” He was looking in the direction of the man I had noticed earlier. “How about David, he's a celebrity. He's passed the million miles and has been honored by BMW riders.” His name is David Swisher and before he could get away, we went outside and Mr. Massey, the dealer, made the introductions. Mr. Swisher was gracious, eager to oblige. He even had to dismount and disconnect himself from his bike to unearth his wallet from his top case to apply his official BMW member number. At this point, I am clueless on the identity of this man but judging from the looks of his bike, he and it have seem many places.

He signed the form and agreed to pass on the task of filling out the details to Mr. Massey. I thanked him and wished him well and followed Mr. Massey to the showroom, where he located Mr. Swisher’s info on the computer and completed the form. One word about Mr. Swisher? Amazing. Talk about pressure. I have a lot to live up to. Upon arriving home, I did a brief search on Mr. Swisher. I hit the jackpot. I'm impressed with his motorcycling feats and feel honored that he signed my form.  

The ride took 846 miles to complete: 430 miles on Saturday and 416 miles for Sunday. The season has been launched. I am eager to rack up some long, safe miles in some exciting places.