Archive for the 'Motorcycles' Category


Motorcycle Stamp Collecting

Sunday, September 12th, 2010


It’s been almost two years since I earned membership in the Iron Butt Association by complotting a SaddleSore 1000 ride from Austin to Clovis and back

Last November I acquired my Yamaha FJR1300AE, which is made for long rides. My first ride on it was from the dealer in Tulsa to Austin.  I rode it to New Mexico last spring to visit the Trinity site and some rides to other parts of Texas. 

The bike just begs for more long rides, all I needed was an excuse. 

The excuse came during our summer (car) vacation to Utah, Arizona, and New Mexico.  For the first time in years we visited a number of National Parks, and had a great time.  We had fun getting park stamps for Parks Service Passport

I decided I’d collect Park Stamps and perhaps earn the IBA National Parks Tour award.

I decided to take a few days of vacation after Labor Day and visit several national parks.

I waited all through the super-heated days of July and August, and finally September 4 arrived.  I spent the morning packing and preparing the FJR, by 4:30 I was ready to roll. 


This first afternoon was a mere 206 miles to Woodville Texas.  It was a really pleasant ride except for perhaps for the last 30 minutes, ridden in darkness.    I tend to get a bit nervous riding in the country at night for fear of forest rats. 

I arrived at Woodville’s excellent Stagecoach Inn, an older but very clean independant motel.  I slept soundly and was up early, eager for the short ride to the Big Thicket National Preserve


I suffered through about a 40 minute delay while crews cleared an overturned 18 wheeler from the highway before arriving at the visitor’s center.


After a nice chat with with duty Ranger I got the first part stamp of this trip.  


Back in the parking lot I answered the ‘aren’t you hot’ question twice from curious onlookers. 

The next stop was the Cane River Creole National Historic site, about 150 miles away  in Louisiana. 

The ride to Cane River was in many ways the best of the whole trip. 

A few days earlier I replaced the crappy OEM Bridgestone tires on the FJR with new Michelin Pilot Road 2 dual compound tires. 

My GPS took me through some nice twisty uncrowded back roads.  The PR2 tires were dramatically better than the Bridgestones.  The FJR was much more enthusastic about leaning into the turns, I felt hugely more confident with these new tires. I had a great run into Louisiana. 

Cane River is the site of two pretty much intact Civil War Plantations.  Thanks to the delay getting in to Big Thicket I didn’t have enough time to take the tour, so I’m coming back someday. 


Walking towards the entry pavilion a lady asked me with some concern, ‘has there been a fire?”.  I assured her I was just a motorcycle rider, not a fire fighter.

I found the stamps in the ‘Plantation Store’.  Although I didn’t have time for the tour, the duty ranger gave me a nice rundown on the history of the place.

They have three stamps at Cane River.

The next stop was the Natchez National Historic Park in Natchez, Mississippi.  I arrived at about 4pm, so had an hour to explore the place. 

One really gets a ‘gone with the wind’ feeling driving on to the grounds of the magnificent Melrose Hose mansion, with its perfectly manicured grounds, brick mansion, and huge oaks with hanging moss. 

I sat on a rocking chair in the courtyard for a while, reflecting on the evil of slavery that built these beautiful homes. 

There was no excuse of slavery in a country founded on the assertion that ‘all men are created equal, and endowed by their creator with certain unalienable rights’.  How the slavers lived with themselves is beyond me.

There are three stamps available in Natchez.



I’ve learned to be more careful with my stamping!

I also bought an annual pass at Melrose.

I didn’t have time to visit the Johnson House, located in downtown Nachez.  Mr Johnson was a slave who bought his freedom, started several successful businesses, and wound up owning slaves of his own.  

In the parking lot I chatted for a while with a couple from Massachusetts touring the south on their Harleys before continuing on towards Vicksburg.


My plan after Nachez was to stop at the first local dinner or cafe that I passed on the way to Vicksburg.

I didn’t pass any.  I tell you what, if you know how to run a dinner you could do a lot worse than set up between Nachez and Vicksburg!

I wound up eating at the Cracker Barrel next to the Holiday Inn Express in Vicksburg. 

When I pulled up under the awning a pretty lady was standing there.  “That looks like fun!” she exclaimed.  Her disappointment when I took off my helmet to revel a 58 year old geezer was palatable. 

The clerk at the desk was genuinely worried that I was sick.  I wasn’t sick, just tired after a 370 mile day.

The next morning I was at the Vicksburg National Battlefield by 8:30.  I pulled up to the ticket shack and told the lady there that I had an annual pass.  ‘Can you get at it?’ she asked.  “Sure, it’s right here in my…….”.  My wallet was in my pants pocket which were well inside my Motoport riding pants. I had forgotten to move it to the riding pants pocket.  As I started to try and dig she told me ‘I trust you’ and waved me through.

I stopped at the visitor’s center and watched a short but informative movie about the siege of Vicksburg, and then I started around the long perimeter road. 

This was a very fascinating ride.  As you drive the perimeter you pass hundreds of monuments erected in honor of the various units and individuals involved in the battle.  Union locations have blue signs, Confederates have red signs.  These give you a sense of the siege because there are miles of Union positions in a horseshoe shape around a very much smaller area of Confederates.  It’s a beautiful road, but keep it slow, there are hundreds of people jogging and walking along it.  Surprisingly I saw almost no other vehicles on the perimeter that Labor Day morning.

After a while one climbs up the bluff and begins to encounter the Confederate positions. 


The physical high point and one of the emotional high points of the entire trip was the Confederate heavy artillery position overlooking the Mississippi.

September 2010 National Park Run

By 1863 the Union had control of the entire Mississippi River except for that portion of the river in range of this location.  As long as the Confederates held this bluff they denied the North use of the River for commerce and supply.  The Union fought for this position for 19 months. About 20,000 Americans died in the course of this fighting. 

Vicksburg Heavy Artillery Position

Vicksburg Artillery Position


The next stop was the fascinating U.S.S. Cairo recovered union gunboat.

September 2010 National Park Run

Cairo   was a Union gunboat which was sunk by a Confederate mine in 1862. It remained on the bottom of the Yazoo River until it was recovered in 1965.

A huge number of artifacts were recovered from the wreck, many of which are on display in the excellent museme and Visitor’s Center. 

Motorheads will be interested in the high quality tools and almost intact steam engine.

September 2010 National Park Run

I enjoyed my brief Visit to Vicksburg and want to go back.  Prior to this trip I had no idea that there was so much to see in Mississippi



About 11am I reluctantly left Mississippi for the 150 mile ride to last park of the trip in Arkansas.

This should have been a very pleasant ride up through the rural south.  The roads were not what you call twisty, but they had enough turns to keep things interesting.  The 55mph speed limits were a bit frustrating, here in Texas even small rural roads are usually 65 or 70mph.  But the big problem were painful knots that began to develop under my shoulder blades.  I’ve had these knots in the past but never enough to detract from the enjoyment of a ride.

Eventually I arrived at the Arkansas Post National Memorial.  I wasn’t sure what to expect.  What I found was almost a Zen Garden of Tranquility.

September 2010 National Park Run


The Park was almost deserted except for me and the Ranger in the Visitor Center. The Ranger showed me a movie that told the story of this location.  It turns out this site has been settled by Europeans since before the American Revolution, and by Quapaw Indians for centuries before that. 

It was in fact the site of one of only two Revolutionary War battles fought west of the Mississippi.

It was also the site of a major Civil War battle, the Battle of Fort Hindman.

In the Museum I was surprised to find a faded Texas Flag.

September 2010 National Park Run 

In the ‘small world’ department I learned that the ‘AR’ on this flag stands for ‘Austin Rifles’, also known as the ‘Travis Rangers’.  This was a Confederate unit made up of men from my home town of Austin Texas and the surrounding area.  They surrendered this flag when Fort Hindman fell. The family of the Union Officer who took it eventually donated it to the museum.

In a small corner of the museum I found a couch which faced a picture window of the beautiful park. I rested there for the best part of an hour until it was near closing time.   

Arkansas Post Park is a beautiful and peaceful place. I really enjoyed my short visit there.  There are two stamps available at this park.


Arkansas Post Part stamps


My plan was to ride the 200 or so miles from Arkansas Post to Texarkana Texas.

The first 100 miles went OK with only one unplanned event. I was riding down a country road thinking about updating my FAA pilot’s license.  I didn’t notice a 90 degree bend in the small road and thus found myself riding down the gravel trail at the top of a levy.  This scared me to death, I had to ride down the levy for about 300 yards before it got wide enough to turn around.  I shudder to think how close I came to crashing!

After about a hundred miles my shoulders began to hurt again.  By the time I reached I30 I gave up Texarkana and put in a call to my Mission Control, aka Miz Pat, aka my long suffering spouse.  I asked her to change my reservation to a Super 8 in Hope Arkansas that had billboards advertising a low nightly rate.  This turned out to be the right decision. The Super was clean and well worth the reasonable price.

The next day was a 370 mile run back to Austin.  Weather was overcast and cooler than than before.  As I approach Waco I encountered occasional light rain.

The shoulder pain was still there, but not as bad as the day before.  I’m going to have to get a handle on this shoulder pain issue so that I can continue to enjoy long multi-day trips like this one.

In Waco the rain had stopped but I could see fierce looking storm clouds to the South.  These were Tropical Storm Hermine.  These clouds were very ominous looking, I expected Martian Tripods to appear at any moment.

I was 98 miles from home, and I wasn’t going to let a few clouds keep me from going home. 

The ride from Waco to home was interesting.  Shortly after leaving Waco I rode into Hermine’s full fury.  There were high gusty winds and very heavy rains. In fact it rained 12” that day. 

I had to slow to about 40mph several times due to low visibility.  The FJR was unaffected by the excitement.  It rode down the interstate like a bullet train, ignoring the gusts, standing water, and heavy rain.  I can’t say enough about how impressed I was with the ability of the FJR and my new PR2 tires to stand up to Hermine. 

I arrived home wet but safe.  My wife said I looked like a large green drowned rat.

I am very lucky to have a super supportive spouse who gave me nothing but support and encouragement throughout the entire adventure.

Here is the SPOT track for this ride.


National Parks Tour – September 2010

Saturday, September 4th, 2010

I’m fix’n to leave on a motorcycle trip to visit several National Parks in Texas, Louisiana, Mississippi, and Arkansas.

This is the start of a year long project to earn the Iron Butt Association ‘National Parks Tour – Master Traveler’ award.

Watch this space for updates during the trip.

I bagged three parks today, Big Thicket, Cane River, and Netchez Historical site. The last two are big antebellum plantations. Beautiful, but also kind of sickening when you think about the people who did all the real work.

Michelin Pilot Road tires rule, these tires are way better than the FJR stock Bridgestones.

Good night from Vicksburg, MS

The trip is going well. You can follow my progress here.

I’m home safe now after riding through Tropical Storm Hermen. Watch this space for a full trip report.


Riding in The Rain to Meet My Son

Friday, April 3rd, 2009


Put Our Obit Where the Sun Don’t Shine!

Monday, March 30th, 2009


These are the darkest times for this country that I can remember since 1972. 

Economically we seemed destined for Carter-style stagflation at best, East German style socialist poverty at worst.

Our foreign policy, based on apologies and appeasement, has given new heart to enemies that were on the ropes just a couple of months ago.

President Obama hides his weakness and incompetence behind a veneer of self righteous anger, so transparent a child could see through it.

It would be easy to count America out.  Easy, but wrong.  We’ve had incompetent government before, and we’ve recovered.  We’ll recover from the coming dark times again, I’m certain.

I’m a motorcycle rider, but I don’t really consider myself a ‘biker’ as the term is commonly used.  Harley-Davidson motorcycles have little appeal to me.

But I’m with them 100% on this point:


Screw it. Let's Ride!


Five Answers About Motorcycles

Sunday, March 29th, 2009


A Brief Visit to Fredericksburg Texas

Thursday, February 19th, 2009


The Long Way to Clovis (and back)

Wednesday, October 22nd, 2008

A soldier will fight long and hard for a bit of colored ribbon.” – Napoleon Bonaparte

If Napoleon had rewarded heroism with Iron Butt License Plate Frames, he would have won the battle of Waterloo.  Well, at least he could have formed a battalion of long distance motorcycle riders

I get ahead of myself.

I bought my Ninja 250 (aka ‘La Niña’) back in March, after approximately 30 years since my last motorcycle ride.  When I purchased it, I really wasn’t certain what kind of riding I would like, or even if I would like riding at all.

It didn’t take long for me to figure out that when I got on my motorcycle, I didn’t want to get off anytime soon.  I found that after a few minutes of riding, especially riding in the country, that I entered a mental state something like what Zen practitioners call ‘being centered‘.  Trips that would be excruciatingly boring in a car were refreshing on my bike.  I began trying longer rides, my longest being about 450 miles.  My bike was clearly fine with these trips, and I was OK, except for a lot of butt pain in latter parts of these trips.

An inveterate web surfer, I long ago discovered the Iron Butt Association web site.  The IBA (‘World’s Toughest Riders’) is a group of riders dedicated to safe long distance motorcycle riding.  They sponsor a legendry motorcycle rally called ‘The Iron Butt Rally’, which involves riding 11,000 miles all over North American in 11 days.  

Entry to the IBR is limited to outstanding long distance riders. Many are called but few are chosen to be on the IBR starting line.

To become an IBA member and earn the highly coveted license plate frame one must accomplish one of their sanctioned rides.  The qualification ride most aspiring members choose is the Saddle Sore 1000, which requires a carefully documented ride of at least 1000 miles in less than 24 hours.

I bet over the last year I’ve read hundreds of IBA member ride reports.

Sometime over the summer I decided that in the fall I would attempt a SS1000.  I knew that I did not do well riding when the temperature gets much above 95F/35C. I would wait for fall, doing shorter cross country rides while I waited for cooler weather.

I love the fall in Texas. Often times large high pressure blobs of cool dry air park over the state, giving cool clear weather to us all.  After the fierce heat of summer it’s a great relief.

After Labor Day our weather finally started to cool off a bit.

By September I had the bike set up pretty much like I wanted it for a SS1000.  I had a good set of saddlebags, a small set of essential tools, and miniature air compressor.  I’d figured out how to use my CrampBuster as a redneck cruise control, and I’d installed bar risers. One of my last projects was hard wiring a XOG GPS power supply into my Ninja.

I was ready to go except for a problem with seat comfort. I knew that there was no way I could survive 1000 miles with the stock seat. For a while I’d had a ‘bead rider’ beaded seat cover, which helped, but I was still worried. 

About a week before my SS1000 I purchased an AMS Seatpad from New Enough.  This seat pad made the trip conceivable.  It’s a little bit of a hassle to get it positioned just right under your butt, but it makes a world of difference in comfort. 

I’d been looking at dozens of different routes for my SS1000.  The Austin Motorcycle Meetup Group recently had group ride out west on I10 roughly 500 miles then back via San Angelo, taking advantage of the 80mph speed limits on much of that route.  My Ninja will go 90mph, but I was a little concerned about 500 miles mostly at wide open throttle.  When the group decided to leave at 4:30am my decision was easy, my biorhythm absolutely prohibits starting a 24 hour day that early.  I understand that the group had a great time.

I wound up deciding to base my ride on a trip to Clovis NM.  Clovis was the last home of the EF-111, and its at the end of a good 70mph state highway that doesn’t have nearly the traffic that the big interstates have. It had been years since I’d driven in that part of the world.

Clovis is only about 480 miles from Austin, so I planned to come back via I20 to Fort Worth, thence I35W to Austin, for a total distance of around 1050 miles. I had my route.


By late September it was just a question of finding a time and weather and schedule window that would allow the attempt. Schedule and weather came together on the morning of Friday, October 17, 2008.  A huge high pressure air mass covered my route with cool crystal clear air.  My startup’s management reluctantly agreed to attempt to struggle on without me for a day.  My long suffering, wonderful spouse allowed that my attempt was alright with her. I think by now she’s accepted that she’d married a person given to occasional acts of insanity.

Thursday evening I spent several hours packing and preflighting the bike.  I got a good solid night’s sleep.

I woke up around 7:30am, feeling excited and a little apprehensive, but strong. The bike and I were as ready as we’d ever be.

Saying goodbye to my spouse, I drove around the corner to a good Exxon station, filled up, and obtained the critical start receipt with the timestamp of 8:24am.

In a few moments I was out of city traffic, heading north on US 183.  I was slightly chilly, but the day was beautiful and I really enjoyed the ride. 

I’ve always liked recorded books for fighting boredom on long trips.  I had ripped my CD audio book version of Treason’s Harbor, a favorite of mine, which would play through my XOG GPS for the next 12 hours, occasionally interrupted by the voice of the GPS reminding me to turn here or bear right there.

I remember thinking ‘this is what motorcycles are for’, just before a highway patrol car crested the hilltop ahead of me and immediately lite up all his lights and U-turned behind me. Darn.  I wasn’t speeding by much if at all, I didn’t think, but I didn’t monitor the downhills as closely as I guess I should have. 

I was unstrapping my helmet as the trooper walked up. ‘I stopped you because you were going a bit fast, but I notice your saddlebag is melting onto your pipe’. DoH!  I had not tightened up the saddlebags.  With all the stuff I had in them one had dropped down on an exhaust pipe, where it was burning a hole into the bag.  The trooper was nice enough to just give me a warning.  I did a quick emergency duct tape job on the bag, tightened its straps, and continued on, being more careful with my speed control.

My first gas stop was Coleman Texas.  I’d never been there before. Coleman turned out to be a beautiful little town, with a nice active old fashioned main street, complete with 1950’s style traffic lights.

After Coleman I rode through rolling hills, admiring the neat and tidy ranches and clever ranch gates on either side of the highway. 

Approaching Lubbock I was astonished at the huge wind power project that is going up there.  Huge windmills were everywhere.  I passed a construction facility where hundreds of the huge blades were apparently being stored, awaiting deployment.  The windmills were everywhere.

Fortunately for me, none of the blades were turning.  The forecast of light and variable winds was holding true.  Windless days are very rare in the Panhandle, I was very lucky in this respect.

The sun had been chasing me over my left shoulder, and by the time I was in Lubbock it was clear he’d pull ahead.

Overall the ride to Clovis was pretty much uneventful. I worked hard on staying hydrated. I had two water bottles in my tank bag, and I drank both between each stop.  I was pit stopping about every two hours.  The little Ninja has a big gas tank and easily go 3 hours between stops, but my bladder can’t.

I had ziplocks with cashews, jerky, and raisins which I nibbled on the road. At one stop I had some kind of power bar type thing, but no ‘sit down’ meals. 

In Farwell Texas, about 30miles from Clovis, there was a small traffic jam.  A guy in the car ahead of me stepped out of his car and started yelling at me. I couldn’t hear him at all, after a moment I pulled my helmet off and heard ‘your headlight is flashing!’.  Opps, I had left my headlight modulator on in the traffic jam.  I’m usually pretty good about remembering to turn it off when stopped in traffic, but after 450 miles I was little dazed I guess.

In Clovis I found a McDonald’s next door to a gas station, so I took my mid-tour break.  Instead of my usual quarter pounder with fries, I had just a chicken sandwich and a diet coke.  I had resolved to not overeat on this trip, I figured it would be best if I was just on the edge of hungry most of the time. I think this decision helped me when the going got tough.


As you can see, the sun is going down.  Not long after leaving Clovis it started to get dark.  As it got dark, it started to get cold.  The darker it got, the colder it got.

I thought I was prepared for the forecast  lows of 50F/10C. I was wearing silk long underwear, blue jeans, rain paints (for wind protection), a Pendleton wool shirt, plastic windbreaker, and Joe Rocket mesh jacket with zip in liner.  This wasn’t really enough, particularly since the actual temperatures dropped down to the low 40s along my route.

As the night wore on I motored south, heading for I20.  One interesting thing I observed as I approached Lubbock was the lights on the windmills.  A ridgeline on either side of Lubbock has a line of windmills extending several miles in each direction.  Each windmill has red lights on it.  All of these red lights flashed together.  For some reason I found this lighting effect to be fascinating.

The high pressure air was crystal clear, the stars were intensely bright.  It was very beautiful environment.

I stopped for fuel in Littlefield and Snyder on the leg from Clovis to I20.  At one of these stops, I forget which, there had been recent roadwork just in front of the gas station.  I hit some kind of lip in the road, and did a funky chicken on some gravel just before the driveway to the station.  I didn’t drop it, and probably the adrenalin did me good. This was the only real scare of the trip.  I was very worried about animals, but aside from two dogs I saw no critters on or near the road at any time.  No live critters, anyway.

By the time I turned on I20 the cold was a really serious issue.  There were times when I was ok, and times when I was really uncomfortable.  The limit at night on this stretch is 65mph, and there was no danger of me speeding.  I could not take the chill factor going any faster. Several times I slowed down to around 55 to warm up, or at least stop getting chilled so quickly.

I made an unplanned stop at truck stop near Abilene to warm up.  They had a funky red checkered flannel vest for twenty bucks.  I bought it on the spot.

Back on the road I was still very cold, but I think the funky vest helped just enough to make the trip tolerable.

I stopped for gas in Cisco at 2am.  I lingered a bit, but not real long.  The next leg to Fort Worth, only about 115 miles, would be the longest and hardest of the whole trip. 

I remember thinking that if I can make that Love’s Truck Stop in Fort Worth, I’m home free! Maybe. At least it will get warmer when we head south. I expected that in Fort Worth I would enter an event horizon emanating from home that would pull me the rest of the way.

I was feeling a little low for a while, but eventually the open plain gave way to an urban freeway.  There was a fair amount of traffic, and that actually helped distract me from the cold.

I really cheered up when I made the right turn from I20 to head south on I35W.  I was in familiar territory, on a road I’ve driven probably thousands of times.

I stopped at a Love’s Truck Stop for gas and a short break.  Since this was a corner post for documentation purposes I did an ATM balance check just to have a backup for the gas receipt. 

I had thought that at this point I might try an energy drink, but the fact is that I’ve never in my life had a Red Bull or anything like it.  It is in the Hall of Wisdom to avoid trying new things on a long ride, so I settled for a diet coke and a handful of cashews before pulling back out onto highway.

I35 between Dallas/Fort Worth and Austin just totally sucks.  Long stretches of it are under construction, often with only two narrow lanes.

At around 4am most of the traffic is trucks, and the trucks are very large when viewed at 4am by a rider on a little baby Ninja motorcycle. 

It was when one such truck was passing me that I had my only confirmed hallucination of the trip. I was in the right lane, going probably 60-65 mph.  I noticed the truck was pulling what appeared to be a long empty flatbed trailer.  As the truck pulled ahead it became apparent that the trailer was over a hundred feet long! I’d never seen anything so long on a highway!  Then I blinked, the ‘trailer’ disappeared, replaced by a highway guardrail, and the trailerless bobcat tractor continued pulling away from me. 

My brain had seen the indistinct guardrail and processed it as a flatbed trailer!

I was wrong about it getting warmer, it stayed cold. But I was right about the event horizon, the finish, the thought of a warm bed, was pulling me hard back towards Austin.  My rational brain started issuing stern warnings that were now on the most dangerous part of the trip, and that I was not to speed or take any chances. Between warnings my emotional brain was singing along to my music collection.

As I mentioned, I’ve driven this route many many times in the course of my life. Having a walnut sized bladder I’ve never made it non-stop, and this morning was no exception.  I had to make a quick pitstop in Waco. I almost ran in and out of the truckstop.

I had an issue when I started the bike. My XOG gps went into a continuous reboot cycle. It’s start screen would appear, then it would reboot. 

I was too tired to fool with it, so I unplugged it and continued on with no music or directions.  It was OK, I can find my house from Waco.

I was still very cold.  I wasn’t shaking, I don’t think I was turning blue, but I certainly was testing the lower bound of my total air temperature envelope with my current riding gear.

As I approached Georgetown I plugged the GPS back in, and this time it worked.  I latter determined that the battery was flat.  I think the $20 12v to 5v mini-USB power converter did not provide quite enough power to keep the GPS from drawing slowly on the battery.  After 20 hours, the battery was dead and probably the current draw required to start the gps receiver after my stop was just a little more than the converter could deliver causing the reboot.  A few minutes rest and the battery recovered just enough to limp through the startup cycle.

The horizon was glowing red and gold as I motored towards Austin.  I recall suggesting to The Almighty that it had been a while since he’d done a really neat miracle, and that if he would speed up the rotation for the earth for the next 20 minutes it would be really neat.

Well, I guess The Almighty had better things to do with his time, but I was grateful he didn’t just stop the sun in its tracks, as he’s done in the past to teach a guy a lesson. As turned off of I35 onto the new SH45 toll road the sun came over the horizon, lifting my spirits and warming my back.

I was careful not to speed, and soon I was back at my start point buying gas.  The final time stamp was 7:51am. 

It had taken me 23 hours and 33 minutes. That’s pretty slow compared to a lot of guys, but the duration is qualifying, and that was the goal.

My wife says I was pretty much a crazed babbling lunatic when I got home.  I don’t remember that real clearly, but I was very happy.  This was an important life goal achieved, and I was happy.

I slept most of Saturday.

On Sunday I obsessed over the fairly complicated IBA application paperwork.  I wanted to be sure that every t was crossed and i dotted.  I wanted my application and my logs to be neat and accurate, and my receipts, maps, and forms to be clear and legible.

It can take several months for an IBA ride be approved. Each application is carefully audited.  It is the care the IBA takes with these applications that makes the award so coveted by long distance riders.

I mailed my application on Monday, now all I have to is wait.

This was a real challenge.  It’s been a week now, and a large part of my mind is still out there on the road.

Lessons learned:

1)  The Ninja 250 is fine for a long cross country. Keeping up with Interstate traffic was no problem. I was pleasantly surprised at how little physical discomfort (other than cold) I experienced on this ride.  In order of importance, the key ergonomic elements were:

a) The AMS seat pad

b) The Motorcycle Larry handlebar risers

c) The ‘Mike’ touring windshield

d) The Crampbuster throttle rocker

2) A Mesh jacket is marginal for temperatures below 60F/18C.   A heated vest would be highly desirable.

3) I’d need a better system for drinking water on the road if I ever do a very long ride on a warm day.

4) 500 miles on a nice cool fall day is fun and easy.

5) Hard bags would rock!

6) Having an mp3 player was great.  The generic earbuds I used were marginal, I need a better system for playing audio on a ride.  The ability to make telephone calls via bluetooth would be great. Satellite radio would have been very welcome.

7) The Lowrance XOG worked well until the last leg.  I attribute the failure to the ebay power supply I was using,not the unit itself. The ability to have a custom overlay on the map view was great.  I had my speed and my destination ETA in big letters at all times, which was very helpful.

8 ) I only took a handful of pictures, I just didn’t want to spend the time. I’d like to have a second RAM mount, so I could put a small camera on the handle bars.

I can’t recommend that any other rider attempt a ride like this.  There is definitely some risk involved. Riders should engage in serious reflection before attempting a ride like this.

When I went back to my job as a computer programmer the following Monday I felt like I was Clark Kent, having spent the weekend as Super Ninja Boy!

Update: I made a YouTube slide show about this ride, it is located here.



Random thoughts for beginning riders

Sunday, August 10th, 2008

Here’s a video containing some stream-of-consciousness thoughts for beginning motorcycle riders.

I promise some non-motorcycle content real soon now.


The Long Way Back (From Lunch)

Wednesday, July 30th, 2008

My first YouTube video, in which I discuss my Ninja 250 motorcycle.

[added 7/31/2008: I’m not sure why comments are not working for this post]

[added 8/2/2008: Comments should now be working. ]


The Short Way Down (To Rockport)

Sunday, June 8th, 2008

map of Austin to Rockport route

I’m really enjoying my motorcycle, it’s kind of fun to be a N00B, learning new things on a daily basis.

I’ve learned that I like motorcycle riding a lot, almost as much as I like flying. Certainly the carbon footprint (and the footprint on my wallet) of my Ninja 250 is much smaller than that of our Cessna 177RG.

They do have some things in common. Both vehicles are considered small by a lot of operators, both are great handling machines, light on the controls, predictable, and reliable. I like them both a lot.

I’ve found that I don’t really enjoy commuting to work on my bike as much as I thought I might before I got it. I get a sense of accomplishment every time I arrive alive, but I don’t really look forward to the ride home. It’s just not fun trying to merge onto a busy highway with hundreds of tired drivers all focused on going home. The Texas summer heat in stop and go traffic doesn’t add a lot of fun either.

Still, I’ve been meeting my goal of commuting one or two days a week. Just that saves me about $40 every week.

I’ve found that when I get on my bike I want to stay on it for a while, an hour or two anyway.

I’ve found to be a useful resource for information on motorcycles. One fellow who has a Ninja 250 has posted a bunch of good video goes by the handle SfNinja. He remarked in one of them that riding is often a Zen like experience. I understand what he means. Riding really requires focus. One must integrate ones mind, body and environment into a continuous loop in order to survive. Riding really lets you brain perform a lot of mental garbage collection.

Riding is sometimes a lot like low level flying.

Before I started riding I figured one of the first things I’d want would be a complicated audio system. The Cardinal has such a system.

I figured I’d want AM/FM/iPod/cell phone/Satellite radio long with a CB/FRS/Ham transceiver and a helmet microphone and camera recorded by an onboard DVR.

If you had told me six months ago that I could ride for 9 hours with no electronic audio I’d have said you’re crazy because I’d be crazy from boredom. It turns out I was wrong. I recently road 9 hours in reality and didn’t have any problems. Just riding keeps you mind in gear.

I do want the mega audio system, but it’s a low priority now compared to things like a better seat.

Last week I decided that on Friday I’d ride the 200 miles from Austin to Rockport to visit the fishing shack I have there. When I woke up Friday morning I found light rain, the first rain we’d had in weeks. I haven’t much experience riding in rain, so I almost canceled my trip. On the other hand, I’d recently watched ‘The Long Way Round’. I figured that if two pretty boy movie stars could ride around the world I could ride to Rockport. I didn’t want to imagine hearing Charlie and Ewan calling me a ‘Nancy Boy’.

So I launched into the rain.

I’m happy to report that my little Ninja handled the wet just fine. I was very careful with painted surfaces and tar snakes, the bike never let me down. After about 45 minutes I rode into sunshine, a very happy experience. For the balance of the trip there were thunderstorms about and I did get a few minutes of fairly heavy rain. It was warm rain for the most part and I wasn’t uncomfortable. The rain and clouds kept the temperature no higher than about 90F, that was real nice.

It’s been pretty windy here in Texas lately, and wind was a factor. The day prior to this ride the wind was gusting from 20 to 45mph and swinging all over the compass. I’d had a good scare on our local superslab from a wild gust. During this ride the wind wasn’t that bad, but it was a factor that kept me on my toes. I was a little worried that I’d get slammed by a microburst, but that didn’t happen.

I stopped twice. The first time was after about an hour, at the very nice brand new Buckee’s convenience store located at the intersection of IH10 and Highway 183. There were a couple of hundred people there! All I did was get off the bike, use the restroom, and got back on. My butt, knees, and bladder just wanted a short break.

I’d planned to stop for lunch in Victoria, about two thirds of the way, but I didn’t. Instead I just pulled into a gas station, refueled, and took off again.. I wanted to knock off that last 70 miles.

The roads in the Texas coastal plain are pretty straight, and I did yield to the temptation to twist the throttle a bit more than normal.

Every time I stopped I did drink a bottle of water, but I don’t think that was enough. I could feel the early signs of dehydration, especially during the last 30 mile run from Tivoli to Rockport. If I’m going to ride like this I need some kind of system that lets me hydrate while I’m in motion, or I just need to discipline myself to stop for a drink more often.

It was a good feeling arriving in Rockport. I was pretty satisfied with the performance of my bike. My butt was (very) sore, my knees were stiff, I was hungry and thirsty, but also happy to have made the ride.

The next morning I rode back to Austin in perfect weather and was able to complete the return trip a little quicker. With less wind and no rain the ride was a little more relaxing, and I might have enjoyed some music or talk radio.

I did have the one scare of the trip getting back into Austin. A fellow in a long bed pickup turned left across highway 183 near Lockhart and crossed the lane perpendicular to my route of travel. He allowed plenty of time, and I wasn’t worried until I realized that he didn’t exit the highway, he stopped in my lane 90 degrees to my direction of travel, on a 70mph highway!!!! All I could think was SWERVE !!! So I did the MSF swerve maneuver at 70mph. I’m here to tell about it, so I guess it worked.

That will wake you up!

The rest of the ride was uneventful, thank goodness. My knees and butt were again glad the ride was over. Before the pain was gone I was already thinking about longer rides.

Watch this space for more ride reports, I’m just getting warmed up.