Archive for June, 2008

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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 YouTube.com 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.

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Power Ranger In Action

Sunday, June 1st, 2008

This weekend I rode my mighty Ninja 250 with the Austin Motorcycle Riders Group ride to Snook, Texas to eat Chicken Fried Bacon. It was great being a group where I wasn’t the oldest person.

The ride to Snook was about 110 miles each way from my house. With my new touring windshield and handlebar risers I was very comfortable for the whole time. I even had very little knee pain compared to the last long ride I took.

This picture clearly shows that with my MCL risers the Ninja 250 gives one an upright ‘standard’ or UJM riding position.

It’s 95 degrees F, but my mesh jacket is very comfortable ( as long as we never stop). This kind of getup is called ‘Power Ranger’ by the cool guys dressed like pirates.

I look dorky I know, but I ‘dress for the fall, not the ride’. So I’m embracing my inner dorkiness.