Archive for the ‘Motorcycling’ Category

October Ramblings

Thursday, October 8th, 2009

Summer wanes, indeed, but good days remain.  Like today.  After spending the last couple of days waiting around home for a lawyer to call and otherwise dealing with real estate stuff, late this morning I said to hell with it.  I quickly packed a few things and went out to the shed where the Harley sat waiting patiently.

My first thought was a nice ride to Brandywine, West Virginia.  Lunch at The Cabin would be a special treat.  Alas.  Punching it into my Zumo gave me an arrival time after 3pm.  Too far and too long.

No matter.  I stopped down at the bottom of our driveway and got the Post from the newspaper box.  Stowing that in my saddlebag I rolled out westward.  Out to The Plains and Halfway Road and then out towards Winchester.  A leisurely stop at McDonalds – a far cry from The Cabin, but their chocolate milkshakes go a long ways towards making up for it – and then the few extra miles to Winchester HD.  I fooled around there for awhile, studying among other things that orange XR1200 that I like so much.  They even had a demo model out on the curb and I idly considered asking to take it for a spin.  But I’m not really in the market for one yet – I have to get my new truck first – and so I let it go.

Winchester Harley-Davidson

Winchester Harley-Davidson

Then the good part.  Back east to Mt. Carmel and Frogtown and River Road.  Part of the loop that has become one of my favorite rides on the Harley.  The ride out along the river was quiet and reflective, nearly devoid of people.  No surprise there.  A weekday in October is very different from a weekend in July.

Out to 7 for a mile, then dropping down onto Snickersville Turnpike.

I love Snickersville.  I didn’t use to.  I rode it a time or two back in the mid 90’s when I was riding my K1100RS and was hell-bent on burning up the roads.  I considered it too tame back then.  Not enough hard edges.

But with time comes a different perspective.  What I missed back then was both the beauty of the countryside as well as the rolling cadence of the road itself.  Given half a chance, the road is a delight.  I marvel sometimes at how blind I was.

One of the neat things about the road is the hairpin turn at the far western end.  That turn has been the bugaboo of more than a few neophyte motorcyclists over the years – who would consider it anything other than “neat”.  Today I stopped there for the first time, taking my break there instead of a few miles further on at the little country store where I usually stop.

A lovely day.

view from the zumo

view from the zumo

snickersville hairpin

snickersville hairpin

Road Rage

Monday, June 29th, 2009

We’ve all experienced the anger and frustration which comes with driving on today’s American highways.  You can’t drive for more than a few days and not observe some upset individual spewing an obscenity or shaking their fist or laying on the horn.  It’s part of the panorama, unfortunately.

But yesterday was the first time I ever was part of the truly serious variety of road rage – that thankfully rare breed where lethal intent gets injected into the mix.

Me and a couple of new riding buddies were out doing a day-long loop on our bikes.  I’ll spare the ugly details, but the upshot is that a fellow over in West Virginia got seriously – SERIOUSLY – pissed off.  To the point where he used his truck as a weapon.

The good news is that no one got hurt.  But it was a sobering reminder that it can be an iffy world out there.  There are a lot of people who weren’t blessed with a full deck.

Be careful out there.

You can read about it in Sport Rider in a few months.

Playing Hookie

Monday, June 15th, 2009

Well, not really.  I burned a vacation day, so it was all on the up and up.  But it still feels a little bit like stolen time – enjoying a day to yourself while the rest of the world works.

Just a quick little 4-hour ride, out to my usual mountain haunts.  The air limpid.  My ears popping on the long ascent.  The river a tiny line far below, down the flat face of the mountain.  Throttling up, the Harley’s motor responding with its phlegm-laced cough.  An irritated growl, as if one had prodded a giant of the earth itself.  Beholden only to me.

Rain was coming in, the early afternoon clouds darkening.  I didn’t particularly care.  There was rain gear in the saddlebags.  But it made things interesting for the last hour.  Watching the heated, unstable air and wondering where and what it might conjure.

Alas, I was boringly dry when I got home.

With my bike back in the shed and my gear stowed, I walk inside for a late lunch.  I’m thinking I could get used to this.

Maybe I’ll take next Monday, too.

Road King at Camp Roosevelt

Road King at Camp Roosevelt

The Miracle of GPS

Saturday, June 13th, 2009

One of the articles I wrote a couple years ago for Sport Rider magazine was “A Most Amazing Thing” – a paen to the benefits of GPS.  Since then I’ve continued to tout the advantages of having a good GPS.  They’re wonderful in both cars and motorcycles for finding places.  But for bikes, for discovering good roads, they simply have no equal.  I’ve told my motorcycle buddies that I thought a good GPS was second only to electrics (that would be electric vest, electric liners, electric gloves, etc., for those of you who aren’t in the motorcycling community) in terms of its positive impact on our riding.

This morning I decided to ride down to Morton’s BMW.  My R1200GS needed a state inspection and I hadn’t been to Morton’s for awhile.  Now as nice a dealership as it is, the route from my home isn’t a particularly fun one.  You shoot down a 4-lane divided highway for 20 miles, then head east on a boring, straight 2-laner for awhile, and then make your way through the Chancellorsville Battlefield, eventually coming out at Spotsyvania.  There’s lots of traffic.

This morning I punched in “Morton’s” on my Zumo and began following the route it directed me to.  In the GPS preferences I had checked “avoid interstates, avoid toll roads, avoid highways” and anything else that might have involved a major roadway.  The result was a shockingly wonderful set of small rural roads I had never been on and never heard of.  What has always been a necessary evil was transformed into just a terrific hour of riding.  And to top it all off, the ride didn’t take any longer than that old, boring route of mine did.

Amazing things, those GPS’s.  A modern miracle that, for once, is worth the hype.

Memories of a McDonalds

Tuesday, June 9th, 2009

This past Sunday was another glorious ride on the Harley.  The weather was spectacular – low humidity, cool enough in the morning that you needed a sweatshirt, and then slowly warming into a simply wonderful day.  After skirting westward out towards Winchester and some little roads out that way, I turned back east and meandered back into suburbia.  I ended up at my favorite McDonalds.

I bought my first motorcycle – a Yamaha RD350 – at the very end of May, 1975.  Having never ridden a motorcycle before, and this being long before MSF classes, I learned to ride… by just riding it.  I’d ride it to work in the morning, taking the long, back route from Lorton to Falls Church hoping to avoid being stopped by a cop – as I didn’t yet have a drivers license endorsement for it.  At lunch I’d often go out for a quick 20-minute spin, usually stopping at the McDonalds a half mile down the road.  I’d eat outside, sitting under the shade tree at the edge of the parking lot, next to my bike.  I learned early that casting glances at a close-by motorcycle improves any meal!

And so it was for my meal Sunday.

Road King at McDonalds

Road King at McDonalds

A Motorcycle Crash, 34 Years Ago

Sunday, May 31st, 2009

Yesterday’s HOG chapter ride was so nice I decided to take the Road King out again today, albeit this time by myself.  It was a beautiful morning.  And as I rolled eastward into Fairfax County, I debated where to go.  Sometimes the answers come to you.  Sometimes you have to go find them.

Skirting Clifton on a circuitous route towards Patriot HD, I had the same thought that came to me on a similar ride seven years ago.  The one I recounted in Echoes of the Mind.  And so it was that I guided the big Harley out along Newman and Colchester, to Popes Head.

I’ve had two street crashes in the 34 years I’ve been riding.  One fifteen years ago.  And one – the first – just a handful of months after I started riding, lo those many years ago.

It’s all written up there in “Echoes”, so I won’t say much more about it here, but I did stop and take a few pictures today.


This one shows the entrance into the first of the two corners, the left-hander.  You can just see my Harley parked at the base of that turn, the same spot where I parked the Suzuki on that ride seven years ago.

Heading Towards the Left-Hander

Heading Towards the Left-Hander


The next one here is right at the base of the first turn, looking up the little hill towards the right-hander…

Heading Up the Hill

Heading Up the Hill


And, finally, here is the crest itself, where the corner breaks hard right.  It all unraveled shortly after this…

The Crest

The Crest

A Harley Afternoon

Saturday, May 30th, 2009

The sun’s lengthening shadows tell you that the day is nearing its end.  But after many hours and several hundred miles in the saddle, you don’t care.   You’ve got a cool new t-shirt in your saddlebag, your belly is full of the best pizza you’ve ever eaten, and you’re running a glorious road on a big, booming Harley.  This is the very best right here.  The lovely, verdant countryside passes like the videoscape of a movie, the air has a cutting sharpness like a knife, and the wind washes over your bare arms like the caress of an angel.  Rolling on the throttle of the machine beneath you feels both primal and bold, like a mainline hit to somewhere eternal.  As if you had turned a narrowed eye on Zeus himself.

There is a touch of immortality there.

Yes, it was a good day.

Chicken Run, Day Two

Sunday, May 24th, 2009

Another terrific day.  Well, at least for most of us.  We’ve been fortunate in not having any incidents so far this run.  But we certainly have had more than the usual share of “events”.  What’s the difference?  An incident requires the bike to be moving, and usually involves rubber losing contact with the pavement… and because of that is much to be discouraged.

The little mini-adventures started Friday, when Ed “Tomato Man” ran into stop-and-go traffic not too far south of Pittsburgh.  That led to a dead battery, a bit of interaction with a local bike-friendly fellow in a cage, and a ride to a Harley shop – who just happened to have a battery that would work in Ed’s VFR.  By the time that saga was done Ed was way behind schedule.  He limped into Snowshoe at 9:30pm.

Even as Ed’s weekend was set to improve, Scott’s was getting ready to get a little complicated.

His ride up Saturday was uneventful.  And Ashley seemed to be having a good time.

Alas.  As Kevin averred, it seems one never really gets three for three on the Chicken Run.  “The Chicken Run giveth; and the Chicken Run taketh away.”

Or said differently, when you gain that third marker, you have to cede something in return.  In Scott’s case it was two things.  First, his Zumo 550 GPS stopped working as we rolled down the mountain to breakfast.  Then, later in the afternoon, he dropped his K1100RS.  We had stopped along the side of the road to let our seven bikes re-group and Scott had a misadventure with the gravel.  His bike ended up falling into the guard rail.  That was a $1000 moment.

Rasmus had a flat tire.  In the big scheme of things, that turned out to be pretty minor.  He has a tire-pressure sensor on his K1200R and knew immediately when he started losing pressure.  It only took a few minutes to pull the roofing nail and plug the tire.  He was good for the rest of the day.

At least as far as his tire went.  Rasmus did have an interesting few minutes up on the Highland Scenic Highway.  When we left the overlook he forgot to zip up his tail trunk.  Gloves, rain gear, and assorted odds and ends began blowing out the back as we went flying down the road.  But the good luck that began with that tire plug continued.  Wes was behind him and quickly pulled up alongside to alert Rasmus of his imminent assumption of “the man with no clothes” title.  They backtracked and managed to collect everything.

And speaking of flat tires, Wes, on his way down from Pittsburgh Saturday morning, stopped for awhile to help a Goldwing pilot with a flat tire.  He burned a lot of time with that and ended up being way late for his rendezvous with Ken.  But he was good afterwards.  And hopefully the good karma he earned will come in handy some day.

Those little bumps aside, we had a very nice day two.  We ran a few new roads and some parts of West Virginia we hadn’t seen before.

All good…

Chicken Run, Day One

Saturday, May 23rd, 2009

The Potomac highlands of West Virginia, where we mostly ride during our annual Chicken Runs, is largely devoid of infrastructure.  It’s pretty remote.  So it was a bit of a surprise to arrive at our condo on the top of Snowshow Mountain – a place we’ve stayed for a couple of decades – and find a DSL connection and wireless router installed.  Welcome to the modern age!

That, and propitiously having a laptop along (so as to be able to use my GPS mapping software) allows me for the first time to post a progress report during a Chicken Run.

So… how was day one?  It was terrific.  We couldn’t have asked for better weather – one of those days the air is super clear, like an old Kodachrome slide.  The barbecue chicken in Brandywine was excellent, as usual.  And it was good seeing everyone.

Ashley followed Scott up in the family mini-van rather than riding on the back of his K1100RS.  She seems to be having fun so far.  We’ll see if she decides to do any 2-wheel travel tomorrow.

Here’s a pic of the crew, after enjoying Kevin’s sphagetti dinner.

Chicken Run Crew

Chicken Run Crew

30-Year Anniversary of the Memorial Day Chicken Run

Saturday, May 23rd, 2009

5:55AM:  One quick post before I head out on our annual Memorial Day Chicken Run.  This one is special – as it was exactly 30 years ago this weekend that John Holt and John Lyons were out on a motorcycle ride in West Virginia, stumbled across the the semi-annual barbecue chicken fundraiser in Brandywine, and thus started a tradition that has rolled along ever since.

Alas, neither John will be with us on this trip.  John L., now lives in Seattle and although he flies back to ride with us every other year or so, was not able to make this trip.  And John H., is taking care of his wife Petra, who suffered a brain aneurism six weeks ago and is still in the hospital.  Prayers go out to them.

Every trip I go on is special in some way or another.  This particular ride is nice because it rather bookmarks the beginning of the season.  Everything is still in front of you.  That contrasts with our Fall Foliage Tour in October – which, though probably being the favorite ride of the year for many of us, is nevertheless bittersweet because it marks the end of the riding season.  It’s like you lay down the baton at the end of that run; and pick it up again on this one.

Here’s a pic of Jay as we parted ways on that run last October, after the two of us finished breakfast at French’s Diner in Marlinton.  Jay was heading south to his home in Florida; while I ran east into Virginia.

Jay won’t be with us on this weekend’s run, either.  Hopefully we’ll see all these gentlemen, along with our other Chicken Run regulars, later this year.