Monday, December 23, 2013

The latest in helmet cams...

I don't know what else to say...

Sunday, September 29, 2013

Another ride down Northern Neck VA

Knowing that riding opportunities become fewer this time of the year, we wanted to take advantage of predicted good weather to ride to Kilmarnock again. A bit cool because of heavy clouds, the temperature didn't get out of the 60s. We had lunch at Lee's Restaurant which claims to have been around since the 1930s.  Simple cheeseburger and fries & a slice of chocolate pie--very satisfying.

Because of my life-threatening allergy to antiques, I had to sit in a street bench while my wife did antique shopping. Because of life-threatening knocks to the head, I know not to complain about how long she takes to do said shopping.

On to Topping, VA, we stopped at Hummel Field to visit their annual Wings Wheels & Keels show. It was a nice opportunity to see some interesting classic cars...though seeing cars I grew up with now showcased as "classics" is disorienting.  

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Sunday, September 8, 2013

Biker, 85, knows you’re only as old as your wheels (From thisisoxfordshire)

You go girl!
'via Blog this'

Lightning Hits Helmet Of Motorcyclist In US

Another reason to wear a helmet when riding!
'via Blog this'

Ride to Yorktown via Northern Neck of VA

We took a (very) out of the way route to visit family in Yorktown on Sept 7th. I wanted to get some seat time on my new Moto Guzzi, so my wife and I headed south to visit her folks but we decided to go via Rte 3 which goes through that peninsula in VA known as the Northern Neck. This is the land bordered by the Potomac River on the north, the Rappahannock River on the south, and the Chesapeake Bay on the east. There's no traffic to speak of and it is a very picturesque ride through farming country. We had lunch at a small dinner along the main drag in a town named Kilmarnock--I've been informed we're going back to check out the numerous antique and craft shops. The excellent weather contributed to a great ride.

The Guzzi was great. The Norge is very comfortable and is an easy ride. The adjustable windscreen allows me to get away with wearing my half-helmet which likely causes die hard sport tourer riders to cringe. (I need to get someone to take a photo of me on the bike with the helmet to see if a half-helmet messes up the feng shui of sport tour riding.)

Moto Guzzis apparently bring out the quirkiness in riders. I've already run into a number of folks who either ride Guzzis or have owned Guzzis or their father owned Guzzis or they know someone who owns Guzzis. And they all want to tell Guzzi stories. It's great.

I commuted to work on the Norge last week on a day when I had to travel to another office building across town. Apparently, someone had scribbled a note on a 3x5 index card and stuffed it between my mirror and throttle, which of course, I didn't notice until it tried to fly away when I got on the gas on the main highway. I reached up with my left hand as it flew across my face and luckily caught it (it was much as I'd like to pretend I've got ninja reflexes, it was dumb luck that I caught the card).

It read:

Dear Norge Owner,
I've owned 3 Guzzis in the past but ride a BMW now. I need to buy another Guzzi and yours is the first 8-valve motor I've seen. I need you to call me at 703-xxx-xxxx and tell me about your experiences.
A friendly rider.

So, I called him.

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Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Must See: Giant Boulder Almost Crushes Car - Taiwan

Not really motorcycle related, but if a motorcycle had been involved, it doesn't take much imagination to know how it would have turned out...

Monday, August 19, 2013

Last ride of the Valkyrie

In August 1997, I purchased a Honda Valkyrie Tourer with 0.8 miles that has been involved in most of the personalized posts on this blog. In August 2013, 16 years later, I made a relatively uneventful 150-mile ride down to Yorktown, VA and sold it with about 145,500 miles on the odometer. Saying it was a sad day because it's gone is being a bit melodramatic and suggests an emotional bond I tend not to have with inanimate objects. But it is fair to say I am going to miss that bike.

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The Valkyrie has been one of the most reliable vehicles I've ever owned, it never left me stranded. I put 7 sets of tires on it. I changed the oil 33 times. I replaced the throttle cables twice (it used two to operate the two banks of 6 carburetors). I put on 7 sets of front brake pads--it had the original, nearly like new, rear brake pads still on the bike. I had the front forks rebuilt twice and the rear shocks replaced once. I replaced the timing belt at 97,000 miles and put a new drive shaft and u-joints on it a 115,000 miles. It had the original Lexan windshield, pitted and scratched so bad you could barely see through it, but I had cut 2" off the top about 10 years ago and looked over it so I didn't care. When it was a year old I installed a 6-into-6 exhaust system that made the Valkyrie sound like a 60s muscle car without being obnoxiously loud to neighbors and pets. 14 years ago, I jerry rigged an aftermarket automobile cruise control from J.C. Whitney that worked great providing all of the typical cruise functions including set, accelerate, decelerate, and restore and it cost only $100., versus $600. for the factory unit. The bike wasn't cheap, the parts and maintenance weren't cheap, but the memories are priceless.

The first 3 years I had the bike I averaged nearly 10,000 miles a year. Then I got serious and upped my game to over 17,500 miles per year and crossed 100,000 miles less than 4 years later in 2004 on a ride back home from BikeWeek. I can't remember precisely, but I think it was in 2002 or 2003 that I commuted to and from work nearly everyday driving a car less than 5 times that year (we had an unusually mild winter). So, before I had the Valkyrie 7 years I topped 100,000 miles. That makes it a little embarrassing to admit I didn't get half that mileage in the subsequent 9 years and saying I was also riding another motorcycle--I purchased a Ducati in late spring 2004--is not a valid excuse.

Once, I conducted an experiment to see how low the temperature would have to get before I felt it was too cold to ride. One morning it was 17o when I left for work. A few seconds down the road it felt like my eyeballs had froze. Despite using my electrically heated gloves, my hands were so cold when I got to work I had for force them off the handgrips. My feet were so cold I couldn't feel the ground as I slowly trudged to my office from the parking lot. I spent several minutes in the restroom holding my hands under warm water while I cried. It took most of the morning before I felt I had thawed and I had to admit riding that day might have been an indication I had gone insane. After that, I never rode when the temperature dipped below 32o.

The October after I had the Valkyrie for one year I rode to Daytona Biketoberfest. I was blown away by all of the motorcycles. My wife and I went back to Daytona to attend BikeWeek the coming spring and we kept going back until 2005 when she bought her trike from one of the many dealers that vends at that rally. Despite attendances of over 500,000 motorcyclists, and having to stay almost 50 miles away near Orlando because all nearby hotels were booked, we always enjoyed the bikes, riders, events, vendors, demo rides, racing, buying stuff, and, of course, the motorcycle riding. We attended other rallies over the years including several Honda Hoots, Honda Factory Homecomings, Americade, Rolling Thunder, and even a trike rally held in Sikeston, MO. 

I remember one year when my wife and I took a Saturday ride to Frederick, MD where Buell Motorcycles (Harley's experiment several years ago to lure a younger demographic by selling sport bikes with Harley engines which were noteworthy for their short wheelbase and light weight), sponsored an event where a rider rode through a timed course marked by cones consisting of numerous sharp right and left turns, tight u-turns, circles, and figure 8s. This event was designed specifically for the smaller Buell sport bikes and I was eyed suspiciously when I entered my Valkyrie. I think the sponsors thought me a fool to try that course with a full sized cruiser. I was elated to win my class. I choose to ignore the fact that I was the only entry in my class. (Even so, I was less than 8-seconds slower than the fastest rider.)

In May 2009, I entered an Iron Butt Organization endorsed Saddlesore 1000. The idea was to ride 1000 miles in 24 hours. This was sponsored by a local military affiliated support group and the plan was to leave Chantilly, VA at 5:30am and ride down to Richmond, then to Hampton through the tunnel to Norfolk around to Chesapeake, back up towards Richmond and then west to I-81, south to Bristol and then make a u-turn back to Winchester and then east returning to Chantilly. The bottom fell out in the wee hours of the morning raining so hard I had to pull off the road for fear a semi truck wouldn't see me and put an end to the whole thing. After about 30 minutes or so, I couldn't shake the feeling the clock was ticking so I got back on the highway and rode the rest of the way back to Chantilly in the rain. The ride was cold and miserable. I finished with several hours to spare and picked up my decal attesting to being one of the World's Toughest Riders!

There are many more memories to share but I'm tired of writing.

You may wonder why I didn't keep the Valkyrie. In 9 short years, the Valkyrie would have been an antique vehicle in VA by definition. But I wasn't sure if I had the time or if I could muster the energy required to keep the bike running for 9 more years. The Valkyrie was already starting to niggle me to death fixing this, repairing that, replacing the other thing. I didn't want my memories to sour because I didn't have the time or energy to keep it running reliably. I'm going to miss that bike, but I look forward to my memories taking a hyperbolic trajectory to greatness as they so often do with age. No doubt I'll have future posts of great Valkyrie memories. :)

Here are 17 photos, 1 from each year I owned the bike and a final one before I rode south to sell it.

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Motorcycle ride planning focusing more on avoiding traffic than on the ride...sad

The last two weekends, we took a trip down to Yorktown to visit ailing family members. Two Saturdays ago, we drove our car down south because of traffic issues on I-95 and the threat of rain. This last Saturday, we rode our motorcycles down south in spite of the traffic issues on I-95 and the threat of rain. (Yes, we got wet...a common occurrence this summer :)

I've lived in the Washington metro area now for 29 years. During that time, the traffic has always been bad. Initially horrible during the typical morning and evening rush hours during the weekdays, certain roads now are in a perpetual traffic jam no matter the time or day. At least one local radio station issues traffic reports every 10-min. And on any given day, somewhere in the area is a traffic jam of monumental proportions. This is such a routine occurrence, it has become the norm. Sad.

Even sadder is that there is no respite during the weekend when traffic is often as congested but going in the other direction. Routes out of the WMA are jammed beyond belief starting Friday evenings and often through Saturday morning with everyone returning Sunday. During summer weekends that promise nice beach weather, the roads appear to be so congested it is unclear to me that anyone makes it to their destination. I fully expect traffic cams to show folks sun bathing on top of their cars while puttering down the road at a blazing 1.3 mph.

I've studied maps, Google maps, Google Earth, and myriad other mapping programs to find southbound routes that allow us to avoid I-95. There are few options. None are great.

As with everything else in life, nothing is truly free and the cost of my "avoidance routes" is time or distance or both. The most straightforward route to my in-laws is south on I-95, loop around Richmond on I-295, and then head east on I-64. Door-to-door this route is 159 miles and takes 2 hours and 30 minutes observing all legal speed limits, which of course, I always do. (It's possible to make the trip in less time by traveling at the same speed as the traffic; we've made it as quick as just over 2 hours.)

A more typical route for us is to take I-95 to just south of Fredericksburg and then travel Rte 17 south to Yorktown. The distance is the same at 159 miles, but the slower posted speed limits, occasional stop lights, and travel through towns adds 30 minutes to the trip. Avoiding a majority of the interstates, even at the cost of 30 additional minutes, is worth the extra time.

I have found an alternative route that avoids the interstate route all together; the closest approach is crossing over I-95. Alas, this route adds 22 miles to the trip and a theoretical 1 hour and 15 minutes over the interstate only route. In many cases, the 3 hours and 45 minutes comes closer to 4 hours when its all over and done with. I'll never get this time back...somebody help!

Monday, July 15, 2013

2013 motorcycle trip to Laurel Bluff Cabins wrap up...there was no day we didn't get rained on

On Friday, which was theoretically to have the best weather of our 4 day trip, we headed north west through the mountains on a planned 110-mile loop that ended in Galax, VA. We stopped at a diner on Main Street to have an early dinner and as luck would have it, the Galax's July Cruisin' & Groovin' Car Show was to start at 5pm so we decided to stick around to see it. The hot rods and classic cars started to roll in at around 4pm and I got a few photos, but at about 5:01pm, the sky got dark, clouds rolled in, and the bottom fell out. We donned our rain suits and stood under a roof overhang while rain like you've never seen came down, including pea-sized hail. After the rain eased a bit (but not yet stopped), we decided to forgo the car show and get back to the cabin. We had some difficulty getting out of town as several streets became impassable due to overflowing curb drains. We rode through several "puddles" that came up over our foot pegs and though it was less than 10-miles to the cabin, it took us about 45-min to get there. We arrived safely and spent a nice quiet evening in the cabin.

Terri making friends with a ZZ Top band member (not really) next to his 1934 Chevy coupe.
Terri explaining to the owner of a clean 1964 Chevy pick up that she first learned to drive in her dad's Chevy pickup similar to their's including 3-speed manual shift on the steering column. 
Terri pondering with the owner of a 1931 Ford Model A (I think) who was keen to sell it to her for a measly $44,000.

On Saturday we packed up and hurried out of town hoping to get ahead of the rain coming up from the south. We decided "fast" made more sense than "scenic" so we got on the interstate highway and made a mad dash northward. The rain started and after 100 miles of frenetic speed, traffic, semi trailers, and one accident that slowed traffic to a crawl for about 5-miles, we got off the interstate to gas up the motorcycles and decided to stay on secondary roads. Not counting the "spritzing rain" we encountered even though the sun was trying to shine, we managed to stay ahead of the rain for the rest of the ride home.

I was glad we got off the interstate highway. The ride on the secondary roads is so much more pleasurable with its less traffic and its necessarily slower speed. Plus, I would have never had the chance to wave at the guy sitting in his front yard who waved back with his fly, I'm not sure why he was swatting flies in his front yard...

Though we got rained on every day of our 4.5 day motorcycle road trip, we had a great time. It was nice to get away. The stay at Laurel Bluff Cabins was great. The rides through the mountains were great. The rain made it hard...but it's supposed to be hard, if it wasn't hard, everyone would do it, the what makes it great.

Here are the GPS stats & track:

  • 949.8 miles
  • 31.8 mph overall avg
  • 44.9 mph moving avg
  • 77.4 mph max speed

A not so easy to read Google Earth map showing our route color coded by day. It starts out red for the evening of July 9th on I-66 west & I-81 south to Staunton where we spent the night. Then blue on the 10th where we took secondary roads to the cabin. Cyan on the 11th where we made our "eastern loop" and green on the 12th for our "western loop". Magenta for the 13th which was our route back home. Though it looks like we traveled I-81, we only did this for about 100 miles and then rode most of the time on Rte 11 which weaves back and forth across I-81 to Rte 211 through Warrenton to home. All total, nearly 1000-miles!

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Motorcycle ride today undaunted by 80% chance of rain

Mainly because the weather map is relatively clear, we hopped on our motorcycles for a day ride in the vicinity of our cabin. Many roads in this area are closed because of bridge construction and detours abound. This is impacting my preplanned routes and we're having to ad lib. That's ok, 'Let's find a road and ride' is my middle name. :)

Look what we found: 

A trestle bridge built in 1931 for the railroad, now used as a foot bridge across the New River in the vicinity of Hiwassee, VA. 

We left at about 9am and got back to the cabin a bit after 3pm. No rain...except for the last 10-min just before the bottom fell out. See weather map below. We were lucky on a day threatening 80% chance of rain!

(No more weather maps...I promise.)

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

The rains came and we kept riding...

The day started out great. We had nearly 250 miles to cover and I mapped out a route off the beaten path. At breakfast, we met a guy who had an older Royal Enfield (that's a bit of an oxymoron), sidecar and all. After breakfast, he kickstarted it and waited the obligatory 10 minutes until it would idle without the choke (no fuel injection on this motorcycle) during which time he told me a story about riding a Harley in 1932. But since he didn't look 90+ years old, I'm assuming he actually meant he rode a 1932 Harley sometime in his past. It was hard to hear him clearly and I got embarrassed asking him to repeat himself so many times that I went into 'head nodding-saying yes-smiling' mode as he talked. (I got the distinct impression he didn't get many opportunities to talk to people.) He finally waved bye and motored off which I took as a cue meaning he was done talking. 

With about 60 miles before we arrived at the cabin, the bottom fell out and we rode through some pretty fierce rain. We donned our rain gear but when it rains as hard as it did today there's no way to stay completely dry. I didn't get any photos because I didn't want to get my equipment wet, so you'll have to take my word for it.