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Friday, July 27, 2012

Life's curve balls.

Due to circumstances beyond my control the Green Swamp ride has been postponed.  Life has a tendency to throw me curve balls.

This was curve ball # 1 - Unexpected surprise

Ever since I have moved to Florida I've had a stuffy head, watery eyes or some sort of issue.  I've never been "officially allergic" to anything in my life but since moving here some 3 years ago I've been even more miserable than I normally am.  Suddenly a doctor's appointment opened up a week earlier than expected.  I took that appointment, even though it would force the ride back into the hottest part of the day.  Whatever he gave me  however made me as dizzy as hell.  So no riding.

Curve Ball # 2 - High and inside.

My other ride is a Hyundai Elantra, which I've named "Ebony" due to her black color.   She's been a good car to me since I picked her up used back in 2004 or 05.  She only had some 10K on her at the time.   In the following years I've managed to put some 147K on her.  I've replaced the transmission twice (who ever owned her before me tore up the standard transmission the first time).   I was responsible for the second time.

This past Wednesday she died on me.  The starter would not turn over.  In addition she needed two front end CV joints, new brakes and possible rotors...and an oil change.  Since I was in the middle of the route I run two days a week and stuck in the middle of Tampa.  I had no choice but to get the starter done and little choice on the price I had to pay, so $300 dollars later my car was back on the road.  To the best of my knowledge that was the original starter so I could not really complain.

The CV joints I knew about and had to get those done soon.  That came as as no surprise.  The oil change was no surprise.  The brakes and rotors were a surprise as there was no indication they were going bad.  Well none of the work has to be done today, since it is my day off I thought I should work on this problem.

I've considered selling one or both of our cars (she drove a 2003 Jeep Liberty) in the past and on the way home from the doctor my lovely girlfriend said "Hey, lets stop at this dealer.  Just to look."

Curve Ball # 3 -

I am now the owner of a 2012 Chevy Sonic.  AKA "the Great Pumpkin."

Sue and I are now a one car family (having traded in her jeep as well).  In the back of my head it always made sense.  She does not work (due to a medical issue) and I work from 4 PM EST to 1 AM EST and normally ride the Burgman back and forth to work.  We have no kids, no one to shuffle about.  The stores are close by and the nice thing about the Burgman is it's large storage area.

My Elantra managed to be about 30 miles per gallon of gas combined highway and city.  Her jeep about half of that.  My Burgman gets twice as many miles per gallon as the Elantra.   This new car is expected to get about 35 mpg/combined.  We are saying money on gas, and insurance (1 vs 2 cars to cover) but now have a car payment.  Something we didn't have before.  The jury is still out on if the savings will be worth the car payment.

This does however mean that I will have to ride my Burgie more, sometimes in conditions that I don't currently ride in.  For example, rain.  I will be, for all practical purposes, a 1% now.  Am I up to that task?  I expected to eventually go that route, having only one car...I was not expecting it to be today. Well, at least I got a lot more room to park the bike now.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Epic Adventures in your own backyard - part 2A. Planning for the Green Swamp

I have no more excuse.  I am ready.  I have a full day to myself, a full day with no commitments…no meetings, no deadlines.  I decided that I am going to have an epic adventure and ride the Green Swamp Trail.  What excites me about this particular ride is that it ends and begins in my home base of Zephyrhills.  The ride itself is about 130 miles (so well within the Burgie’s range) and I understand the road conditions are good to excellent with lots of twisties and little side trips to enjoy.  I am planning on doing this on Thursday, my next day off.  
Thanks to
Most of the roads however are 2 lane highways and twisty.  I’ve rode parts of this with my dear departed friend Gary, so it’s a remembrance of him as well.  I figured I would get up early in the morning and proceed.  The whole ride should only take about 3 – 4 hours.  I'm leaving time for me to explore, get lost and maybe grab a bite to eat in Webster - which is about the halfway point.  I also understand the town has some great examples of 1900's architecture As well as a place to eat called the Hayseed Cafe. How could I pass that up?
My only wish is that I had someone to ride this with.  I’m not worried about riding it by myself, but I am worried about getting the dreaded numb butt and being lost.  I don’t have a programmable GPS.  I don’t have a tank bag with a plastic cover for my map.  All I have is the printed out route, my brain and my sense of direction.
I may never be seen again.
An example of a cypress pond
The Green swamp covers parts of five counties here in West Central Florida.  It is the birthplace of four different rivers and home for countless species of animals.  The swamp itself is roughly 560 thousand acres and has several distinct types of ecological systems, everything from sandhills, flat-woods, oak hammocks, river swamps and cypress ponds.  The cypress ponds that dot the landscape are characteristic of central Florida.  For an old hiker and amateur naturist like me it's fantastic  Since the ride I'm planning literally loops around and through the swamp at times I will experience each of these systems.  
The park has a nice interactive website here if you wish to learn more.  

So I'm running through a check list of things I have to do for this ride.  Pictures and details to follow!

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Caught out in the rain again....but with different results

Every week on a Wednesday I have to drive into Tampa.  As I ride around I look for scooters.  On any given day I see about ten to twelve out riding on their scooters, but since it was a rainy miserable morning I really did not expect to see anybody riding anything.

Trash bags can be fashion too!
I saw six people riding scooters - everything from a little 50cc Sunbeam to a 650 Burgie - out in the rain.  I saw maybe one or two motorcyclists.   The riders wore everything from a poncho made out of a green garbage bag to full rain gear to just a tee shirt and jeans.  "Well if they can do it," I thought, "then I can too."

The chance of rain was going to be lower than it had been but their was still a good chance I was going to be wet.  It seemed the storms started to roll in when I was ready to roll out and head to work over the past week.  This time however I was going to be smart; so I packed a change of clothes (including underwear and shoes) and put them under the Burgie's seat.  I kissed the girlfriend good bye and took off down the road.

I had gone about 10 minutes when I saw the traffic heading towards me with their wipers on which could only mean one thing.   I was heading into a storm.  So I pulled off onto the side, well off the road, and pulled my rain pants on and zipped up all the zippers on my jacket to ensure no water could get in...and hit the road again.

It started lightly at first...then harder...then reached a climax of a steady warm thumping on my helmet.  It was a summer shower that would last the rest of my ride into work.  Steady and strong but never threatening. I watched my speed, made sure I had about a 3 - second stopping distance between me and the cars ahead of me. I avoided the slick paint of lane changes and road stripes.  In other words everything that a motorcyclist should do in the rain.

I stayed dry.   I stayed warm but I never felt "hot."  I started to hum "The man that sold the world"  to myself.     In other words I was enjoying myself.    Once I got to work and took off my gear I was pleasantly surprised.  I was dry.  In fact, the only time I got we was heading from the bike to the door to the building.

Sunday, July 15, 2012


A little over one week has passed since I was caught out in the rain.  I've ridden the bike a total time of twice since then.  Once to work, and then back.  It's due to a combination of reasons...if I can make an excuse for not riding...involving weather and timing.  Other duties and distractions have kept me off the bike.

I miss it.

And then I don't.

Yesterday was the perfect day for a ride.  The temperature was low (or lower than it has been).  The sky clear and I had no excuse's not to ride.  The yard did not need mowing, their were no little projects to do.  No needs that had to be met at that very moment.

I stayed on the couch and watched TV.  I had no interest in going out at all.

I bring this up because I don't get to do much in the way of recreational riding.  I am not happy about that but it is to easy to blame my job(s) or girlfriend.  I have no one to blame but myself.

Even now I could be out riding.  The fact that I'm not makes me wonder what type of rider I want to be and what type of rider I am.  Over the last week it's been raining hard during the afternoon and at night, the times I ride to work.  Well riding in a thunderstorm is unsafe and frankly stupid, there have been days were I perhaps have ridden in without issue, but decided to stay dry and drove my car to work.   Am I just a fair weather rider?  Am I just a "scooter commuter?"

How does this bode for my eventual plan to replace one of my two cars with the bike?   What really bothers me is that I bitch that I don't get out enough on the Burgie...then when I get the chance.   I sit and watch tv. 

Saturday, July 7, 2012

Rain lessons

Thank you National Geographic!
It was bound to happen sooner or later, that moment when I would be caught out on the Burgie in a terrible storm.  I have no one to blame but myself in this case, and I learned a few things about myself.
Like never doubt my first instinct.  I had pulled off the road to make sure my jacket was zipped up tight just in case I hit rain.  I could see the storm ahead of me and watched the flashes of lighting zip between heaven and earth.  Watching the cars coming at me in the opposite lane I noticed they had their lights lit (a requirement in Florida when it rains) but the wipers were off and the cars did not seem wet.  My first instinct was to put on my rain gear, at least my pants…but I didn’t do that. 
So I headed into the maul of the beast, thinking that I would be fine; after all I was only 15 or 20 minutes away from the dry office where I work.  Then it hit.
Florida thunderstorms are like no others I’ve experienced.  Well brief they are certainly strong, as buckets of rain poured down on me again and again.   I cursed the low stock windshield that I have on the Burgie as the rain rolled up it and off, pinging off my helmet.  My jeans started to get soaked and I felt like there was a puddle forming in my crotch.  I also learned that I should zip up ALL the zippers in the jacket when I feel I might get wet.  The water was forced into my sleeves and down the vents.  “Waterproof my ass” I cursed.
I rode on, at no time did I feel like I was not in control taking it slow but traveling with traffic…then it got worse and I could not see.  “There is an overpass up ahead, I’ll take shelter there.” I thought.  I drove some more, keeping to the right lane and wondering where the overpass was…”THERE!”  I started to pull over only to find a wrecker there, holding the dry area under the bridge hostage.  So out into the rain I went, cutting across three lanes to pull into a MacDonald’s parking lot where I would wait 10 minutes or so to sit out the storm.
I dried my gloves as best I could, wringing them out and drying them underneath the hand dryer.  Letting rivulets of water pour from my sleeves.  I called my work, letting them know I might be a few minutes late and my girlfriend letting her know that although I was wet, I was safe.
A few minutes passed and I was off again, riding the last few miles in a light but steady rain.  I pulled in and walked into work, soaked from head to toe – much to the amusement of my boss – and checked in right on time. 
The most important lesson I learned however is that my girlfriend really and truly does love me.  We were fighting over stupid things, on a day that should be celebrated due to some very good news concerning her health.  So when I texted her asking her to bring me some dry clothes…she did.  Without question or complaint…she brought me cookies as well, taking time out of her day and her duties.  She was still upset, I could see it in her eyes but I know we will forgive each other and move on with our relationship.   That’s what we do.  That’s what love does. 
The ride home from work may be uneventful; as I write this the sky is clear and bright but there is a 40% chance of me riding home wet and miserable.  I know that I can get home safely and will be slipping my raingear on before leaving work tonight. 

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Risk taking and avoidance.

Canajun posted an excellent question on his blog.  I'm not going to repost it here, but basically it's about risk.  Do we take more risks if we feel somehow safer?  Do we push the bike faster if we are wearing ATGATT?  Do we take more risks if driving a car?  His take is "Yes, we do."
I'm not sure I agree.  Until this moment I never heard of the theory of Risk Homeostasis nor have I read the book. I can only give my own thoughts on the matter.  For me at least I think the amount of risk we are willing to take is based upon who our friends are and how old we are.  For example, when I was 16 I drove my car faster then I should have and did “slalom’s” around the parking lot lights.  Till I took off my driver’s side mirror, and that was enough of that.  I did these idiotic stupid things because my friends did these stupid idiotic things and to impress the girls.  At 46; I don’t bungee jump, I don’t go parachuting out of planes (although my GF does) and I always wear my helmet when I ride.  Although I will admit to going sans jacket at times; however I have not noticed any change in how I ride.   According to the theory...I should.

When I was a child I rode my Huffy 10 speed everywhere, but did not wear a helmet…despite going off of jumps and racing down the side of busy roads.  Today I wear a helmet if going anywhere…even on my “acoustic motorbike” I don’t go off jumps anymore.

The problem however is "other lifestyle choices".  According to the theory, if one level of risk decrease do to some reason then my risk level should increase in another.  For example, you may enjoy a glass of wine or a cold beer with dinner.  Your risk of drinking and driving should increase under this theory.  I know better than to drink and drive because I am aware of the penalties for doing so but I won't lie to times in my life I drove when I should not have.  I knew the risks but did that anyway.  I was in my 20's at the time.  By the time I was in my 30's I simply didn't do that.  Nor did I put myself in that situation.
Well I have certainly an experimenter with various things as I grew up; I also grew into a man with one long term girlfriend, no police record, no nasty diseases.  I do not smoke, gamble (I have but really don't see the excitement in it), or buy risky stocks.  Does that mean I'm risk adverse?  Or did I maintain control over those "risky behaviors"?  

No other “risks” have replaced the old ones that I used to take. With age comes wisdom and the knowledge that a scrape knee will heal, but it does hurt. Don't scrape your knee if you don't need to.

If you have been following this blog then you know that I'm rather new to the concept of ATGATT. The "Gearing up saga" covers those adventures. I've ridden without the proper gear. I can't imagine going without it now. For me it was more about learning and doing things the right way. To eliminate that risk as much as possible. Getting my motorcycle endorsement was all about learning how to do things correctly.
In the end I guess is that yes, I am risk adverse.  When I ride I tend to be a little more careful because I am very aware of how hard the asphalt is.  I know that no matter how much safety gear I wear the physics of the crash will not be denied.  The gear is there to dissipate the energy protecting the fragile body underneath.  When I drive my car, protected by heavy steel and seat belts, my behavior does not change.  I understand things now a hell of a lot more than I did when I was 16.  I still am friends with two of the people I knew in high school.  We are all alive and fine and laugh at the stupid shit we used to do.  Welcome to being an adult.