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Monday, November 28, 2011

Fear of Twisty's???

Over the Thanksgiving weekend I had four days off, then worked a day and had an additional two days off.   Lots of time to get the Burgie out and do some riding, but it didn't work out that way as family obligations and other duties kept me off the bike till a glorious day just ripe for riding.   Warm and sunny the road called out...."Twisty's Robert....Twisty's".

Gary B and I headed out, him in the lead.   He in the lead through orange groves and country roads, for 110 miles we road a circle north and south, east and west.   Something happened somewhere in the route, I started to feel a bit more confident taking some turns.

I felt a little bad as Gary had to keep slowing down for me, going through the curves with practiced ease, but I needed to do this at my pace.  I felt that I was lacking experience taking the curves I knew Gary had planned.  Gary has about 10 years if not more of riding experience on me, and he knows the roads we were riding well.

I took my time, feeling better and more confident with each curve of the road.  Each time letting the road and the bike tell me how to move.  Leaning, slowing down, powering through each curve.

A little explanation is in order.  Since buying my bike,  I've been a commuter traveling the same tired roads day in and day out on my Burgman.  While my route to work offers a little variation; I can ride to work a few different ways...taking the highway briefly or the twisted back road....a straightaway country road...the truth is it's pretty much the same ride day in and out.  So I was feeling a little tentative then  as we started the ride.  I just don't get to do twists and turns often enough to feel comfortable with them.

Thanks to anonymous1310 on DA.
Towards the end of the ride I was feeling more and more secure.  The smile started to return to my face.

On Sunday, I went out again.  Driving into a blinding setting sun I had left early enough to hit some winding side roads I know of near work.  Again I went to get used to the twists and turns of an unfamiliar road.  In and out and powering through.

It sounds silly as I write this, that I should have a fear of twisty's.  It's not really a fear, it's more of a respect.  I have not had much chance to ride them. To practice, to simply ride the roads.   Florida is full of straight roads or a road that slightly curves, easy turns to make.   Some sharp curves are here and there and those are the roads that I want to ride, to practice on.   You don't become a better rider by riding the straight ride the twisted roads.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Fuel Mileage

OK....stop reading if you don't like math.

Still here?

Good.  Because this weeks little article involves math.  In particular, fuel milage.  Don't worry, it's not that bad.  A bit of simple basic adding and subtracting.  Multiplying and dividing, the stuff you should have learned in school if you were paying attention.

I wanted to conduct a little experiment.  I was curious about how much money it would cost me to go about 1000 miles, how much fuel it would take and a few other things.   One Thousand miles was just a nice round figure to use.

Now to be honest, this test was not conducted under strict scientific standards.  I was using the bike's odometer and not a much more accurate GPS device.  I should have filled up the tank with the same amount of and same type of gas each time as well.   I didn't do that.

In the end I went over my 1000 mile test limit as well, mostly because I was on fumes with about 30 miles to go on my test (and about 20 miles till I got home at 1 AM in the morning) and decided that it was worth extending the my test some 230.8 miles - the distance my last fill up took me - instead of the possibility of pushing the bike home.

So in the end, my experiment took 1,209.1 miles.  It cost me a total of $63.82.  My average price per gallon was $3.54 and I filled up a total of 6 times.  Again that works out to be 201.5 miles per fill up on average.  A fill up on the Burgie is 3.1 gallons.

On average then I'm getting about 65 miles per gallon of gas.  Not great mileage, but certainly better than my car, which gets an average of 30 miles per gallon.  Even being an economy model it takes anywhere between $40 - 50 dollars to fill up  and I'm not going to get anywhere close to 1000 miles on one tank.  (edited: recent experience shows me that I should be in the 70 - 75 mpg range)

If I used my bike for nothing but commuting back and forth to work 5 days a week I would put roughly 1400 miles on the bike each month.  So for another $10 - 12 dollars I have my monthly gas budget.  Let's call it $100 just to be safe.

My old Zuma 125 used to have even better gas mileage and was in the 75 to 90 mile range per gallon.  Of course it was lighter and had a smaller engine as well.  It was great for when I lived in the city, not so good for living out in the middle of no where and needing to commute 35 miles one way each day.     The smaller 50cc bikes are capable of getting 100 plus miles per gallon.  But in return for the higher mpg your sacrificing speed, and frankly in my mind at least, safety as well.  That choice however is yours to make.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Solomon's Castle

It raises out of the South Central swampland in the middle of no where.  A castle, a home, a workshop, a place of dreams and, sadly the last refuge of lovers of puns.  It literally shines in the afternoon light, covered as it is by aluminum printing plates discarded by a local newspaper publisher.  In fact, nearly everything in and about the castle started out as something different, mundane and dull.   The artist, Howard Solomon - who actually lives, owns and works on the grounds -simply sees the world in different ways.  Where are we might see a pile of wire coat hangers, he sees the beginning of a magical creature.  Were we see old baskets he sees a motorcycle.   His love of art and history are displayed everywhere as various reproductions of old Saturday Evening Post covers by Norman Rockwell.  In his highly detailed collages I see the influence of Romare Bearden although it's a completely different style.  Maybe it's there maybe it's not.

The captain charting his course.
In fact, I don't think there is much Solomon can't do.  Some of the stained glass work throughout the castle and the attached boat - which also serves as a cafe - and the lighthouse (after all how would the boat find it's way home from sea without a lighthouse) is glorious.  Look closely and you see the little details...the cannons on the ship for example.    Or that there are wasps, turtles, gators and other little animals made out of "junk" that you have to look for, but in doing so your rewarded with a pleasant surprise.  

The ride takes you through back roads and small towns, through endless orange groves and strawberry fields.  It's pretty much a straight ride, no twist's for those that might like a winding road except for one wicked "S" bend which sneaks up on you.  It took me about an hour and a half from my home to get there - your trip will vary of course.

It's a cheap attraction, parking is free and ample.  The cost to get the tour is only $10 a person although I got the feeling you could wander about for free.   In doing so you get to avoid many of the groan worthy puns the tour guide has in store for you.    Of course, that is part of the charm of this little place.

I didn't try the food at the "Boat in the Moat", which seems reasonably priced and diverse enough for even the most fickle eater to enjoy, but that just gives me an excuse to go back.  I'm not sure how often the art changes, but I got a feeling this man can't stop creating art...and the idea of spending a night in the new Bed in Breakfast or the "Blue Room" does have some appeal.

 If your curious the castle does have a website and a Facebook page.  The Facebook page has some additional pictures of the various art work and the artist himself.  Some additional photo's can  be found on my Facebook page.

So yea...ride out and enjoy your day.  Motorcycles and other bikes are welcome and in the cooler weather it's not unusual to find car clubs and musical acts at the castle.

Update:  Found this link on the Weird Florida site and had to share.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Okay....gearing up. Time to be serious.

You have to be mentally tough to ride any sort of powered two wheeled machine.

Your exposed to the elements, you know that the concrete will not give not if...but when, you go down.  I've been thinking about this a lot lately.   A close encounter with a deer the other night is why, it froze in my headlights, a quick serve to the left and I went around him...but the heart didn't stop pounding for 20 minutes.

Okay...cute but not acceptable!
In Florida, the only thing that the law requires you to wear when riding is eye protection.  I've seen riders in shorts, flip flops, shirtless, without helmets and yes, more than a few with no eye protection.   Where as I seem to be going the other way and wearing more and more protection.

I have always worn a helmet when riding.   Even a short jaunt to the local market gets a helmet (although I will admit to wearing the shorts and tee-shirt - not any more however).   My body will recover hopefully if I go down.  The brain might not so I invested in a full face helmet.

I've a bright yellow jacket I wear.  It's not really a motorcycle jacket but it's visible and warm.  At night I through a reflective work style vest over it to make me even a bit more visible.  When I first started to ride I didn't always wear the jacket, enjoying the cool air blowing around me.   Now even if I'm just running to the store a half a mile away it goes on.  I am actively looking for a good motorcycle jacket, one with the armor to protect the elbows and back, and I am to poor not to have quality.

My job requires dress shoes but I've been wearing my waterproof and oil resistant sole boots when I ride now.  I've not always done that in the past.  I can't do much about the dress pants I have to wear.

Yep, me in gear - a big canary.
My attitude is changing.   I'm becoming a bigger and bigger fan of the ATGATT (All The Gear, All The Time) philosophy.  Not that safety was always important to me, but I find myself becoming more and more serious about it.  I'm seeing morons text, talk on the phone, slam on the brakes, cut in front of cars and such without a look.

Frankly it scares the hell out of me at times.

I then have a choice.  To not ride or to ride.   I enjoy riding, I love the physicality of riding...feeling the sun on my face and the wind across my body as I ride.  My fear is manageable.  I watch, I try to make myself as visible as possible.  The best way to avoid an accident is to be ready for it.  Keeping it upright is better than going down any day of the week.

Every mile under my belt is another mile of experience.

Music and Motorcycles

My plans for Saturday were simple, sleep in a bit then go down to visit Solomon's Castle.  Sue and I were planning on spending the day, it's about a 90 minute ride south 1 way, and then come back.  Maybe check out the Zephyrhills Music and Motorcycle event afterword.

As it so happened life got in the way of Solomon's Castle (next weekend for sure!) but we did spend a little time at the event.  Some photo's if your interested follow.

3 or 4 different streets just loaded with bikes.

I was surprised there were not more motorcycle merchants or dealers at the event.  I know Z-hills is a small little town and the event was not really organized well.  I live there and didn't learn about the event till a week beforehand, and the only reason I did was because my mom gave me her Sunday paper.

Z-hills, as the local call it, has a lovely park which the bikes were allowed to drive through.  Music was provided by the Dive Bar Stalkers right off of main street itself.   The band lived up to it's name.

What I enjoyed was the diversity of the bikes and the creativity on many of the paint jobs.  One guy was doing pin stripping, and yes, I considered it for the Burgie but with some damaged plastics it be a waste of time and money.

Nice to see I'm not the only Burgie rider there!
This damage is not something I'm happy about and needs to be fixed.  This is my next project.  I'm going to work on making my bike look less beat up.  I'm planning on keeping it for years, so it needs to be cleaned up.  I would like to have my bike shining again.

Which brings me to the next photo.   While walking about I came across a restored with all original parts 1974 Triumph Bonneville 750.  It only had 6600 miles on it.  The same amount of mile that were on my Burgie originally.  What impressed me was the amount of time and love that went into that bike...and the story that bike must have.  Out of all the various bikes there, only two really brought a smile to my face....the Bonneville was one.  A true classic.

The other thing that caught my eye was truly a sight to behold.  

You gotta admit...that is pretty cool.

Monday, November 7, 2011

Random thoughts at night

I just worked a 11.5 hour day so forgive me if this is not of up to the usual level of incoherence.  First though a serious moment, the other night a buddy of mine and a friend of his, named Mark, went riding.  Mark had something jump in front of him and down he went.   At this time I'm not sure how badly hurt he is but I know it was serious enough to require a paramedic.

Here's hoping Mark recovers quickly and can return to riding soon no worse for wear.

Guess where the finger goes!
1)  I enjoy riding at night.  I often work till 12:30 or 1 AM so coming home the roads are empty, it's just me and the bike and the stars above.  It's peaceful, calming and relaxing listening to the white noise of wind across my helmet.  The deer looking up from the side of the road as they feed.  The moon bright and welcoming.

2)  It's also a little scary at night.  I fear two things.  One is that those peaceful deer will decide to jump in front of me to give me a bear hug and the other is that the roads are so empty and so devoid of civilization that the guy in the photo there will give me more to worry about than numb butt!

Special thanks to Donald Yatomi
3)  I really need a digital camera.  The more I ride the more I want to document some of the weird and wonderful things I've seen.  Hopefully we won't document any procedures given to us by the guys in the photo there.  Be kind of neat if they converted the Burgie into a hover cycle.  That be really cool.  All joking aside however there are stories behind some of the things I've seen...either true or waiting to be told.  It's those stories that interest me when I ride.  "How did that lone large tree end up in the middle of lake?"  or "Who placed this monolith in the middle of no where and for what purpose?"  These are stories to be told.

3.5)  I tend to notice things a bit more now when I ride than I think I did before.  Maybe it's because I am exposed on a very small piece of metal and plastic as compared to the cars around me.  Perhaps.  I think however that it is something more.   I am closer to the road, I feel the physics working on me through a turn, the cry of birds in the air.  The smell of a BBQ fire as I pass a rib joint.  I ride to enjoy the ride...being aware of my surroundings is part of that, and maybe a bit more.

4)  I would think sneezing while wearing a full face helmet would be a bad thing.

5)  At work their are at least two other people that ride.  Yet I seem to be the only one that shows up in all type of weather on my bike.  I'm rather proud of that fact and others have noticed as well.  It's a badge of honor for me.

6)  Who ever designed the Burgi was small.  I am 6 foot tall, and have seen many of bug fly up and over the windshield...only to smack me directly me in the middle of full face shield.

7) cold weather it's the way to go, although I still can't wrap my mind around the lower 50's being cold.  I know my blood will thin out in a year or two and the mid 70's will seem cold.