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Thursday, June 28, 2012

Sometimes the simplest solution is the best - the Drink Holder .

Tropical Storm Debby has been just sitting in the gulf for some time, which means days and days of rain and wind...making riding dangerous if not down right impossible.  Their is an old saying about being ugly but not stupid and I'm not the latter.  I've been lucky enough to avoid most of the damage caused by the storm, being inland and "in the highlands" so to speak.  Some photo's of the damage can be seen here.  My heart certainly goes out to those affected.

I figured however that I should do some work on the bike that I felt comfortable with.  Mitch has some wonderful video blog entries about simple maintenance that I could do, thus I cleaned but did not replace the air filter.  I also decided that I would add a cup holder to my Burgie.  There were a couple of ideas that I came across. offers a simple cup holder for about $20 dollars.  A very simple cup holder could be crafted together by following these directions:  

There are also various cup holders that require a mounting bracket.  I had a lot of different options before me but I decided the take the path of least resistance.  After all it get hot here in Florida and if I planned on taking longer trips, then I needed a place for water.

If I followed the directions on the video then my cost would have about $26.82 (for the cup holder + shipping costs from Wally World since the local stores don't carry that type of cupholder) then an additional $10 for the velcro from JoAnn Fabrics.  Total cost  $36.82.  I thought there has got to be a cheaper way!  No that does not include the tile.

Kwick Tech offers a drink holder for under $7 but that requires a bag hook.  Motorcycle super store had a very nice kit for $8.95 + $6.94 shipping = $15.94. Then it hit me like a bolt of lighting!

An idea is born!
I didn't need to spend any more money than I already did. The Velcro strips would come in handy. You see, I already had the solution in hand.  Once upon a time before drink holders were standard in cars you had a plastic thing that attached to your window.  I realized I could take one of these old things and attach it to the bike.  A piece of Velcro could be cut and attached to the "crook" and to the arm to keep it in place.  I wanted to take the bike out in my hood to see if the holder would interfere with my driving, my leg and if it would hold a cup, a bottle of water and a can of soda.  If they did then I would cut and attach the Velcro and be good to go. My little ride proved my idea was sound.  It didn't interfere with the bikes operation at all.  So lets begin!

First I had to cut the Velcro to fit the cup holder.  This tends to be sticky and had to be trimmed to fit the dimensions of the cup.  

Then I had to place the other side of the Velcro onto the bike.  I had a spot in mind and it worked out rather nicely.  Again some trimming was required.  My main concern was in the "crook" area where the cup holder would hang.

TADA!!!  The final product.  Total cost was under $5 for the Velcro and about 5 to 10 minutes of time to put the whole damn thing together.  Now I don't have an excuse for a longer trip.

Saturday, June 23, 2012

Martha's Road Challenge

Way back in the dark ages of June 11, 2012 a woman named Martha, who writes the Living Among Tourists blog challenged the riding community

"to photograph your usual ride, the one that most illustrates the path most taken- the drudge, the glory, whatever it is that you see all the time on your way to work or play. What's the view?"

This is not really a hard challenge but it was a little more difficult for me than I would have liked. The reason why is that I ride 5 different roads on my daily 35 mile commute. I also try to mix it up now and then by riding a freeway for a bit or riding a wooded back road (which is okay in the daylight but at night the deer come out). I also ride a road that is empty and wide open then clogged with then clogged. How do I capture that?

I leave my house and come to the center of town. Living in Florida, I deal with snowbirds. Normally I get through this light quickly during the summer, during the fall and winter it can take 10 minutes.

After the light 8 miles of easy road. A bit if a sweeping turn here and there but not two bad.

A left onto a main road. This is actually a dangerous road, it's got the passing stripes but is often to busy to try passing. There is always some idiot that tries it however. in the last year I know of at least two fatal accidents on this stretch.

A right turn puts me into a lightly populated housing development, the real estate crash meant that a lot of land was never developed or was converted back into farmland. Another left takes me on the longest part of my route, and the emptiest. Often at night I am the only bike on this section of road. During the day you may see a gator in a roadside pond, turtles trying to cross and lonely cows doing what ever cows do.

And then...their are three sections of the road where the traffic gets really heavy. A mall development is one and then two heavily traveled North - South roads. At this point I am going West. At night, East.


I make it through the traffic, then have a nice little run on a two lane highway to work. I make a left and travel less then a mile to my job. The photo below is me in the turning lane. I work for 3M Electronic Monitoring systems.

That's my trip.  35 miles pretty much every day on my bike (I took my car in since it be easier to get the photo's) in all types of weather.  Here is Florida it's either "hot and dry", "hot and wet," "hot" or "buggy."

Thursday, June 21, 2012

The passenger

Thanks to
Riding home tonight in some wet but manageable weather I look down and what do I see? 

A little green tree frog riding with me. He tucked himself in tight between the windshield and dash. I was hoping he ride all the way home with me but figured he jump before I pulled off and helped him into some grass by the road.   There is a little pond near me full of spring peepers that I'm sure he would of loved.  I just wish I had my camera.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

National Ride to Work day and Helmet laws...why the debate?

Yesterday was National Ride to Work day and although it was good to see various motorcycles out on the road, at my workplace alone there were at least 5 bikes of various types...including mine.  I was also disheartened by something I saw.

Many of the riders out on the road were not really protected.   Here in Florida the only protective gear that your required to wear is eye protection (and a helmet if under the age of 21).  Many of the riders I passed had at least that.  A few more had at least a helmet.  Most did not.

When your riding in Florida its always a battle between comfort and safety.  Normally I start work at 4 PM, which means that I ride in during the hottest part of the day.  I love my motorcycle jacket and know it's there to protect me in case of incident or accident but it's also a mobile sauna at red lights.  I unzip it some to help move the air about, I've considered removing it and only wearing it home at night were the reflective tape and stripping will make me that much more visible.  A lighter jacket is always an option but frankly this is not a priority.  I would rather suffer for a hour or so in the heat than be unsafe for I know it only takes a second for me to go down.  All the gear all the time is more than just a saying, it should be a way of life for any biker.

What I will not compromise on however is the helmet.  Lately the local news has been full of stories of how helmets save lives.  How they reduce medical costs, how they can save the state millions of dollars and how wearing a helmet is a matter of choice.

I understand that I'm still a "noob" when it comes to riding.  I don't have years of experience or thousands of miles under my belt.  What I do have is my background is in science, education and engineering.  For several years I was the technician that was actually out there testing the concrete, the asphalt, the metal that lines the roads that you drive on.   I'm here to tell you something.  Your head is much, much weaker than those materials.  To not wear a helmet strikes me not as as idiotic but also suicidal.  For these reasons I wear my gear all the time.

So when I read a quote like this - taken from the ABATE of Michigan's website - my blood boils. "ABATE's position supporting ADULT CHOICE for Michigan's mandatory motorcycle helmet law DOES NOT seek to eliminate the use of motorcycle helmets. Although ABATE questions the MANDATORY nature of a law that forces the usage of self-protection equipment with questionable benefits, it is the use of DOCTORED statistics, the misrepresentation of facts, and outright lies used by the safety-crats to support their position which is especially bothersome."
This shows an ignorance of science and a level of hypocrisy that boggles my mind.  Why hypocrisy?  Because the same organization wishes to ban the cell phone.  In fact, they cite figures from the Centers of Disease Control and the National Transportation Safety Board to support the ban. 

Guess what...that is the same group of "safety-crats" that wish to make helmets mandatory.
The CDC is not known for "outright lies" or "Doctoring" data. The fact that ABATE is using such inflammatory language indicates that their argument is not that strong to begin with. Or perhaps it says something about the divisive nature of American society as a whole.

Now I will agree with ABATE and other groups, the Helmet itself is not going to prevent the accident! The best preventive medicine is training, experience and a awareness of your surroundings. However the argument that money spent to enforce the helmet law could be better spent on training and education, to me at least, is found lacking. Training and education is going to save your life (it's help me avoid a deer for example) but accidents are and will continue to happen. For these groups to not support a mandatory helmet law seems foolish to me.

Standard helmet fall test
The argument that helmets could be made safer and better is a legitimate argument.  However the way a helmet is tested is again based on solid scientific principals.  To argue that the chin strap could somehow strangle someone in an accident is most likely a urban myth.  To argue that a helmet is somehow going to make things worse in a accident is not based on facts.  

I understand the idea of freedom.  That some people bristle at how the government interferes with our lives, etc.  I do understand it and this is not a political tract.  It's not meant to be.  This is a plea to all bikers, be smart.  Wear a lid.  Come home to what matters.  

Saturday, June 16, 2012

Weather, history, zombies and can I borrow some money?

I had hoped to put up my totally true - although made up - story of the Zombie attack for the Blog Like It's the End of the World celebration a few days ago, unfortunately for me real life kept me busy (I fear that I may be a workaholic) I guess my true story - although completely fictional account - of how I saved a school bus full of children from the Zombies using nothing but a wiffle ball bat, a can of Raid and my Burgman will have to wait for next years until the next end of the world blogging event.  That is, of course, if the Mayan's don't have it right. 

No, the real lightening
It's also been a week of strange rides as I ply the streets of Tampa.  The last few nights I've been blessed with riding home dry where all around me there is rain.  It is both magical and scary as hell as I ride into the gathering storm, watching lighting arch across the sky.  Sometimes quietly, sometimes not so much. 
Darkness does not so much as surround me as envelops me in it's grasp.  The night air is warm and inviting and calls me forward to ride more, but I keep an eye on the sky...I've been lucky so far but I know that my luck will not always hold out.  I recently learned that "Tampa" is a deviation of an old Calusa Indian word "Tanpa" meaning fire stick and spoke to the amount of lighting strikes in the area.  Or perhaps it means simply "place to gather sticks".
I've seen first hand what a lighting strike can do to a oak tree...I've no desire to become a human lighting rod. generally does not fail me, but today the 10% chance that I had to get rained on ended up having the decimal point in the wrong column.  At first it was rather pleasent to feel the cool rain, then drive again into the down with a light burst, then feel the humidity climb again.  Then I road right into the full downpour, which lasted for a full 10 minutes.   It's hard for me to resist the need to turn the throttle up and escape the rain, but I know additional speed results in additional risk and I still do not feel that comfortable on the bike in less than perfect conditions.  I rode in however knowing I would get wet for that very reason.  Learning never ceases.

In other news.  Can you loan me $2100? 

From Cycle Exchange - Tampa
I was owed a free oil change by my friendly motorcycle and scooter mechanics due to their screw up with the brake caliper a few months ago and well there fell absolutely head over heals with a Suzuki Savage.  It was not a bike I was familiar but it had the clean lines I like.  It was unusual enough due to it's  four-stroke, single-cylinder, air-cooled, single overhead cam engine, sometimes called a Thumper.  It was a 650 cc powerhouse which would give me the power I needed when I need it.  Other than the aftermarket saddle bags it could have came off the showroom floor somewhere in the early 90's.  It had only 1300 miles on it and is listed as a 5 speed.  However for a 13 year old bike I had to question the price.  The Savage is still produced today but as the S40 still though would I be able to get parts for a 13 year old bike and considering I'm a drunken monkey with a gun when it comes to anything mechanical this bike would not have been a good choice for me.  Still though, lovely looking machine. 

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Epic adventures in your backyard

A good traveler has no fixed plans, and is not intent on arriving. – Lao Tzu

A mural where you enter the city.
I decided I would have a little fun with this post.  Over the last week or two nothing really "motor scootering" has happened.  I go to work, I do some short jaunts here and there just to get weekends have been busy with work, or going out with the girlfriend (for example we spent all day Saturday with friends on their boat) and doing what ever it is that normal people do.  Sadly that has not included that much "recreational" riding.  A weeks worth of solid rain and thunderstorms have not helped my riding situation.

An hour from Tampa and Orlando
So I thought I would show you where I live in least some of the more interesting things about Zephyrhills, Florida.  After all where I live is famous for it's water, it's skydiving and an interesting; although morbid, story about a man that lived with a corpse for several years.  Z-Hills, as the locals call it, has a  full time population of roughly 13,172 people (reported in 2009) which - this being Florida - goes up to 85,000 in the fall and winter.  So it's practically a ghost town now.

With my camera tucked safely away and with a song in my heart I head out on a local epic adventure showing you the sites of a small town in Florida.  I figured I would start with what were famous for and then just stop when I was done.  Not really in any sort of an order.

a) Zephyrhills Water - part of the Nestle group of companies the limestone springs in the are produce a nearly pure bottle of water.  However much of the water the company sells comes from springs not only in Florida but other areas as well.

He may need a metric set.
b)  Muffer man  - One of several hundred similar advertising logos found in the US, what is really interesting is the website Roadside America has a tracking map of sightings.

c)  Skydive City - Z-Hills has the unofficial reputation as being the "Skydiving Capital of the World" which is due to our weird geography, we live in one of the more elevated parts of the state (in fact the 6th highest point in all of Florida is just minutes away) which creates interesting and almost constant winds.  The warm weather allows for jumping nearly all year around as well.  I understand that a mile up in the air you get to see not only the Gulf of Mexico but the Atlantic Ocean as well as the cities of Tampa, Orlando and the various surrounding lakes.  My girlfriend has jumped seven times so far.  I will stick to my two wheel thrills.

d)  Airport Museum - The local Airport has been open since 1927 and has a long history of serving the military as a paratrooper and pilot training base.  During World War Two the airport hosted heavy bombers, various fighter planes like the P-40 Warhawk and famed P-51 Mustang.  Various restoration work on these and other planes occur at the airport and a C-47 transport plane from the same era is nearly completed. 

e)  Train Depot - This restored building, dating back to 1927, now serves as a small museum focusing on local history and the importance of the railroad in the growth of the town, and Florida as a whole.

Just an old rail card that is part of the museum.

f)  Twisty Treat - I scream, you scream, we all scream for ICE CREAM!  The first time I came across this ice cream shaped building (and their seems to be several in the Tampa bay area) I thought they were pretty cool - no pun intended - and part of Florida's history.  In fact, it's part of a modern day marketing plan.   Although it is nice to ride the bike out on a hot summer night and cool down with a dollar cone on Wednesday nights.

And there you have it.  The town that I call home.  My heart will always be in my home town of Pittsburgh, PA.  My young adult life in Charlotte, NC and my soul will always reside in Charleston, SC.   But for now, my home in here and you know, it's not that bad of a place.  I guess this would be a good place to...