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Your Ride Reports / I Went To The Edge
« on: August 06, 2017, 12:30:00 PM »
Not too much of a ride report here, but we had good time this morning before the rain showers ran us home.  Randy, Tom, Andre, and I were game for anything this morning at the gas station.

(My camera lens was fogged up in the humid early morning air)

But the highlight for today was my nephew Jacob, who just picked up this 2003 Honda RC51.

This is Jacob’s 4th bike, as the last one, a Honda Hornet 919, was short lived after a very low speed tap from behind. The insurance company for the at fault vehicle totaled his bike, as we all know that is doesn’t take much to tally up a lot of damage expense.

Jacob wasn’t very interested in a salvage title, so he let them have the bike.  He decided that he wanted to try a sport bike, and oh my goodness did he pick one.

Jacob rides as mature as anyone his age I’ve ever seen.  But he is 22 and full of testosterone.  Uncle Pants did the only thing he could.  Off to the levee road we go.

This is a great place for some high speed fun.  Zero cross traffic, very little if any on coming traffic, and wide open road with tons of visibility.  I turned ‘em loose at the levee and told them to stop at the pontoon bridge for some photo ops.  Jacob said he passed the small turn off sign and never noticed it.  Down the road, they turned around and came back.

I grabbed my camera and told them boys to go have some fun.  I got some nice fly by shots as they ripped past me at WFO.

When this baby is coming toward you, she sounds pretty good.

Andre is only 17 years old, but he also rides very good.  His Honda CB500X is a wonderful motorcycle, and he’s done some fantastic upgrades to it, including re-worked forks and a shock swap from a GSXR750.  I really (REALLY) like this bike.

But the little CB runs out of nuts when Jacob lights the fuse on the Beast.

They made 5 or 6 runs back and forth while Tom and I watched.  Then I took a turn on the Beast.

No pictures, none worth taking anyway.  I didn’t get too squid-ish about it; I just ran her up through the gears and took a few high speed sweepers.  The RC51 is a serious sport bike with some wonderful torque and that aftermarket can sings you a song that is addictive.  One must keep his right wrist in check, and his helmet pushed forward to the fairing, or the front end is going to get very light.  The brakes on this bike are incredible, perhaps the best I’ve ever tested.  The suspension is tight and rigid.

But this bike is like a roller coaster for me.  It’s about 90 seconds of pure adrenaline, and then I’m ready to get off.  It kind of felt like I was humping a football.  I could never ride this bike more than about 50 miles in a day.

But I went to the edge and I looked down.  That will be quite enough for Uncle Pants.

Be that as it may, Jacob loves it and that’s all that really matters.  We had a good ride this morning.

Your Ride Reports / Carpe Diem!!!
« on: June 22, 2017, 11:47:14 AM »
Earlier this year, I completed the longest bike tour of my life, covering basically 1/4th of the country in 16 days.  I’ve had dreams of visiting Yosemite National Park since I was a kid, and when some FJR owners suggested a June 2017 gathering there over a year ago, I signed up immediately.  All told, we were about 75 participants from all over the country gathered for the weekend in Mariposa, California.  It was epic and something I shall not soon forget.

In review by the numbers, the tour took me over 6300 miles and 8 States throughout the American southwest.  My average fuel mileage was just under 44 mpg, and on one impressive tank, I got almost 51 mpg.  My FJR ran flawlessly and once again proved (at least to myself) that this bike is indeed the perfect mechanical companion to take me wherever I want to go.  I did burn out both high beam headlights within an hour of one another on the trip, an occurrence I’m told is common with the FJR.  I changed the bulbs on the road and otherwise, had no problems with the bike.  After one does this for a while, he learns what he likes and what he doesn’t.  Truthfully at times during this tour, I found myself just grinning with happiness and pleasure at how fun it was to ride this motorcycle.

The weather was varied, to say the least.  The temperatures I observed ranged from a low of 42 degrees F to a high one horrendous afternoon of 105.  Preparing for that range of temperature on a motorcycle takes creativity.  I choose the textile jacket and the mesh pants (with liner if necessary) and was glad I had done so.  Even though I brought the cooling vest, in the end, I found that just wetting my T-shirt with the jacket vents open was actually longer lasting and more effective than using the cooling vest.  Rain wise, we got about 1 hour of a moderate shower on about Day 5.  On Day 12-ish, I got about 15 sprinkles over 3 minutes as I was coming down a particularly high mountain.  Otherwise, dry.  And when I say dry, I mean DRY!  I found myself in a perpetual state of dehydration on this trip.  This climate was far different from the sauna in which I live.  Different, to be sure.

As seems to be the case over the past few years, my travel companions varied along the way.  My good friends Andrew and his Pops accompanied me from the start and for about 7 days until we left Yosemite.  We’ve traveled together before, and we truly enjoy each other’s company on our common bikes.  While there, we were accompanied by others in large (but manageable) groups of riders.  After the Yosemite gathering, my good friend Josh and I spent 4 days riding together in a general east and south direction, camping and touring great and wonderful places.  The last two days, I rode basically alone, and this gave me good time to think and reflect on my adventure, and to be thankful for my great and fortunate blessings.

Despite my preference to the contrary, riding a motorcycle for over 6,000 miles in two weeks takes some planning.  If you throw caution to the wind on this ride, you will miss opportunities and a chance like this doesn’t come very often.  So Andrew and I talked and visited a bit before the trip.  I was glad that he resisted the urge to make nightly reservations at exact locations, pinning us down to a strict itinerary.  And I suspect he was equally pleased that we decided generally on a route to get to Yosemite, ensuring that each of us got to see important and desirable roads, views, points of interest, etc. along the way.  In the end, it worked out just wonderfully, as I knew it would.

I believe there comes a time in every man’s (or woman’s) life when he realizes that he is not going to live forever.  I think when it happens, it is not meant to be some kind of morbid shock to the system.  People my age start to feel the reality of their mortality.  You don’t necessarily get lazy about it (although that can happen), but rather you become complacent and accepting in the realization that you only have one life and when it’s gone, it’s gone.

That time came for me a few years ago.  I can’t state the exact day, but it was definitive.  It happened on a sunny afternoon as I recall.  I don’t even remember the circumstances that prompted my revelation, but it really doesn’t matter.  What matters is that on that day, I realized in my heart that the end is closer than the beginning.  How close, I cannot say.  I don’t have any control over that, the quantitative part.

What I can control is the qualitative part.  I can do everything in my power to make sure that I enjoy every single day.  I can dismiss childish grudges and animosities and agree to disagree.  I can love my wife and my kids and my friends and support them in whatever matters most.  I can be thankful for my health and my resources and not squander or take either for granted.  And I can see the world, both literally and metaphorically for what it really is – beautiful and good.

And I can seize each day!  Carpe Diem!!  I hope you enjoy the pics.

Carpe Diem #1:  Reunion, Catfish, and Redemption

Lafayette, LA to Comanche, Tx. Approximately 525 miles

I woke up a little tired.  The excitement of leaving on this wonderful adventure had me tossing quite a bit during the night.  Andrew and Pops were coming my way, and giving them a head start meant that I could take my time in the morning.  Still, I was itching to roll and already giggling inside day dreaming about riding and discovering. 

I checked my horse twice, pulled up on the Rok straps one last time, kissed my wife tenderly goodbye, and left the neighborhood before the morning commute traffic.  Andrew and I planned to meet about 40 miles from my house, and I got there on time, which is a little unusual.  Soon thereafter, the other two arrive in perfect ground flying formation.

Pops tanked up and joined me in the shade.

Seeing him on that new bike brought warmth to my heart.  The last time we rode together, things went terrible.  Pops crashed his 2007 FJR and was air lifted from the scene to the hospital.  He spent over a month in the hospital with multiple surgeries and his recovery was painful.

That experience haunted and inspired me simultaneously.  At first, the reality and brevity of what happened scared the living 0000 out of me.  He could have died that day.  My selfish ways led to fear the consequences that could have transpired.  I would have had no chance to say goodbye.  No chance to make sure, 100% sure, that he knew how much I respected and admired him.  No chance to tell him that I’m so proud of him, proud to know him.  No chance.

But that didn’t happen.  He’s here in the flesh.  I’m looking right at him.  And he’s on a beautiful red motorcycle, just like the one I’m riding.  His son is with us and somehow right there at that mundane gas station, the world just seemed right again.

The God that, at 51 years old, I still struggle to understand and accept, the one that I only pray to only when I have no other choice – that God has rewarded me with the priceless inspiration of this reunion.  If I do nothing else over the next 2 weeks, this man is going to know how I feel about him.  And for the rest of my life, to whatever extent my foolish pride and humility can allow, so will the rest of my loved ones.

Since we are in my neck of the woods, I took lead heading generally west.  There are faster ways to get where we are going, but we’ve got plenty of time.

We ran through the piney woods of south central Louisiana and stopped at the eastern shore of Toledo Bend.  I’ve been there many times, but to my surprise, my friends had not.  All riders should embrace the concept of finding new adventure in their own backyard, and then seek it with passion.

We crossed into Texas and turned north on Hwy 87 into Milam, where we stopped for lunch at a place I like to eat where the fried catfish is especially good.

We might as well get this out of the way – there is going to be food porn on this ride report, and LOTS of it, so settle in and grab a paper towel to wipe the drool from your mouth.

There are plenty of nice roads to run in East Texas, but we have got be moving more directly in a westerly direction.  So after lunch, Andrew took the lead.  Our primary objective is to avoid Houston and Dallas/Fort Worth.  Texas is a HUGE state; this was not much of a challenge.

Somewhere in south central Texas, we stopped to pee and drink some water at a smoke house/tourist trap kind of place.  I bought a slug of some Bison jerky and shared.  I don’t think the old man cared for it much, but as is typical of his gentle nature, he wouldn’t show it.

Hydrate, my friend.  Keep drinking.

We get back on the bikes and continue on the State roads that head generally toward the west.  We find endless one horse towns to slow down for and stimulate my imagination.  I think about the Wild West days when a posse of horseman would trot into town from the wilderness on the main street.  Shopkeepers and ladies staring at them in wonder, admiring their beautiful horses.

Well, no shopkeepers or ladies stared at us, but I still felt like a nomadic cowboy at times.

At this train stop, we met a couple of bikers heading home nearby from a ride to Florida.  We told them that we were going to California for two weeks.  I can’t explain it, but my MP3 player is able to pick up communications (C/B, Sena, etc) if I am close to the transmitter.  After the train passed and we continued, I could hear those two riders talking to each other through their comm. system:

(rider 1) “Riding to California, can you believe it?”

(rider 2)  “I can’t believe they can get away for 2 weeks.”

Truthfully, they are right.  We are blessed, and we know it.  Very few people get this chance.  We got it, and we took it.  Life is good.

As we accelerate from these small towns, the road gets straight and flat, but we have it all to ourselves.  I’m content to just set my cruise control, sit back, and enjoy the experience.

All of these towns in Texas are cut from the same cloth, but they are part of Americana and beautiful in their own rite.

We pushed a bit to make miles, but the day still went by like a fart in the wind.  Late in the evening, we arrived in Comanche, TX and chose a simple motel for the night.

I really like these little independent motels because you can park the bike right by the door.

After settling in, Andrew pulled out this bottle of Scotch and poured us each a snort.

We toasted each other, but honestly, I can’t remember exactly what we said.  It’s not really important, though.  Ms. Tyler, an “internet only” friend from California, sent Andrew that bottle of Scotch after Pops’ crash.  Two years ago, she sent me a similar bottle after my own unfortunate crash.  Having crashed herself, Tyler represents the club honorably.  She gets it.  She knows the feelings that riders get when they fall.  She knows the hurt, both the physical and emotional hurt, which accompanies it.  And she knows the elation that follows when a rider gets back on the horse and conquers his demons.

The significance of that Scotch is priceless.  The accident Pops had was horrible.  The recovery was long and painful.  But the reunion was realized.  The 500 mile ride today was basically uneventful from a scenery perspective.  But the redemption of physically seeing Pop behind the handlebars, following his son’s lead to new adventures, well, that was incredible.  Washing that redemption down with a mouthful of good fermented grain, knowing from where that bottle came from was my spiritual icing on the cake. 

I felt complete.  That chapter is finished.  Tomorrow we will move onward to new things. 

Carpe Diem Day 2:  The Crow’s Nest

Comanche, Tx to Carrizozo, NM, approx. 535 miles

I slept OK, but not well.  It always takes me a couple of days to relax to the idea of sleeping in different environments every night.

We load up the bikes fairly early to take advantage of the (relatively) cooler morning.  I soaked my T-shirt and the Redfishes are ready to go.

Today picks up exactly where yesterday left off.  The roads are straight, flat, and empty.  But the speed limit is 75 and we making decent time through it.

Lunch at this place was pretty good.

Andrew caught me methodically adding crushed ice to my water bottle.  In these temperatures, every little bit counts.

Occasionally, we pass through an oil field of pumpers.

And at one point, we ran adjacent to this high wire that supported a bird nest on every pole.  Some were hawks, but most were for crows – the proverbial crow’s nest.

As an amateur birder, I found this enlightening.  There are no trees to be found.  But despite their literal bird brains, these creatures have made the very best of their situation.  Their home is only inches away from imminent danger, an electrical voltage that could vaporize them. But they fear not, and use whatever resources they can find to build a wonderful home that will protect them from predators and weather, offer them comfort when they need it, and a way to raise their babies.  I shall try to remember that in my own challenges.

By mid-afternoon, the heat is on and I’m sweating pretty good. 

But more so now than ever, I’m convinced that the textile jacket was the right choice.  The vents are flowing a little, but for the most part, I’m keeping that hot air off my skin.

After hundreds of miles, we find a hill.  It presents itself like an island oasis and I find myself staring at it in disbelief.

And shortly thereafter, we cross into New Mexico and the topography changes instantly.

I led us to Ruidoso and quickly learned that this is a Casino tourist trap.  I found no hotels available for under $150.00 on this Memorial Day weekend.  So we pressed on northward, heading toward the Interstate, where we were sure rooms would be available.

My friend, the planner in our fine organization, is wishing we had made a reservation months ago.  But to his credit, he puts up with my need for adventure and the unknowing.  I hope it brings some balance to him, but I fear in reality, it just pisses him off.

It always works out, and at the cross roads otherwise known as Carrizozo, NM, we found our stop for the evening.

Again – clean as a whistle, park the bike at the front door, and for $50.00, I’m stoked.

But I need a beer!


We walked to the local diner and dinner was very good.

After dinner, I settled into my own crows nest, content to rest and look forward to whatever comes tomorrow.

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