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Monday, July 29, 2013

Not a bad Saturday at all.

I was unsure of my plans for this last Saturday.  I wanted to stay home and do yard work, weeding and planting the garden outside to make Martha Tenney proud of me.  Friends of ours were planning a cook-out later that night and I was keeping a close eye on the weather.  All this week the weatherman was calling for a 30 - 40% chance of rain, which unfortunately for me, had been closer to 100% every time I rode out.

pretty much my week
Over the last week I had been caught out in the rain twice, raced a thunderstorm home and decided that commuting in the rain was just not a good idea twice.  So for two days in the last week I took the car, and both times stayed dry in less than idea conditions.  

I had also promised Kimmy that I would take her on a nice 100+ mile ride to stretch her legs a couple of weeks ago, and so far I had not kept that promise.  Barney's of St Petersburg was having a Vespa Open House from 9 to 5 and I liked the idea of running down there to take a look at the stock, perhaps dream a little and consider some farkles.  Yes, I ass me considering farkles.  I had been considering a LED licence plate for some time and Sue was still going to need proper riding gear.  One thing I did want to get however was a reflective flag stickers of the countries I was riding in.  The US of course, after September I could add the Bahamas' to that as well.  Canada and Mexico were still dreams for now, but they would happen one day.  It might help with safety at night too.  I expected to order those online.

Actually the main reason I wanted to go was for companionship and the idea of browsing and talking to others about scooters gave me the warm fuzzies.  I don't get the chance very often to mingle with other scooterists and the free pizza sounded good too (it wasn't).   A secondary reason was that I have been wanting to get shots of the bike by the water for some time (still don't).  After all, living in Florida means that I am surround by the sea so the idea of getting a few picks of Kimmie by the water just seemed appropriate.   Due to circumstances I had not participated much in the Equinox to Equinox rally as of late, I was not planning to go out of my way, but if something was in my path...why not take a photo of it?  That was the third reason I wanted to go out and ride.  I might even find another interesting milk shake stand to try.

Loving the paint job
Susan decided to ride down with me, so we packed what we needed and took off about 10:30 AM, the heat of the day already starting to climb.  It was a about 50 miles one way and I had planned to avoid the highways.  I also planned on avoiding the dreaded Howard Franklin Bridge.  I don't fear highways or bridges but with Susan on back I didn't want to risk a problem.  Guess what we ended up doing anyway.  The back way was jammed with traffic and the sun just kept getting hotter so we decided just to keep moving.

We finally got there, to Barney's, and was disappointed.  There were not that many people there as I had hoped.  Although they did have a nice collection of Honda's, Aprilia's, Can-Am's, Vespa's and Yamaha's.

We gone done to the event to try gear on for Susan and to hopefully test drive a few bikes.  I am not interested in buying anything at this time, but the dealership did offer a Aprilia Mana 850, which I read about but had not seen first hand.  Sue's daughter also wants to start riding, and I wanted to learn about the dual sports.  Sue's daughter is definitely a "Tom Boy" and a dual sport maybe the perfect bike for her.   I was surprised that no sales people tackled us as we looked at the Can-Am's.  I hate to admit that these things are growing on me.  I would have not minded taking one out for a test drive either.  In the hour or so we hung around, not a single person approached us.

Sue looking good on a Can-Am

It was not a total waste of time though.   There were three classic scooters there.  A solid pink one that I know belongs to one of the organizers of the Tampa Two Stroke Scooter Club, a woman I was hoping to meet actually. A lovely older blue Vespa whose year and model I could not identify but the Odometer read over 97,000 miles.  And a Stella that was....beyond words.   

It was covered with Barbies and even had a little pull along trunk that carried...well, I guess if I was strapped to an old Stella going down the road I would need a change of panties too.

We then headed back, eating lunch at a chain restaurant that served good milk shakes.  Enjoyed our cook-out with friends and swam in the community pool to cool off.   Not a bad way to spend a Saturday at all.  Oh yea, and the was just shy of 150 miles total.  Yea, not a bad way to spend a Saturday at all.
Some additional photo's can be found on my Facebook page.
Someone stole my cherry.

Saturday, July 20, 2013

Rollin' Robert's Smoothie (and Milk shake) Stand Search

Maybe it's been all the talk about blenders and smoothies lately.  Maybe it's because of the unending heat.  Maybe it was an article in the local paper about milk shakes.

I was thirsty.

Ice Cream runs in my family.  From my father's desire to have a small bowl every night before bed to the unspeakable horrors I've committed for a Klondike bar.  The idea of a "Milk shake run" held promise.

Although I really enjoy a shake from the Steak and Shake chain, I would rather support the small independent places.  I was married to a woman that loved to cook, Susan is a trained chef.  So the idea of trying new flavors or odd tastes does not scare me, in fact I seek them out.  Revolution Ice Cream - with it's "Chicken and Waffles" milk shake -  were going on the list for that very reason.  Another place that was listed as "best drinkable desert" by the Food Network was definitely on the list.  A place like Burger 21 and Evo's, although chains, are place's  I have never eaten at but were locally known for their shakes.  So they were "maybe's" for the list.  There were other places that intrigued me.  That little red barn place with the fresh picked farm fruit down the road from me offered promise of delicious smoothies for example.

I could already see a problem with this plan.  I am fat now.  I would break my poor Kimmy's back if I tried to do this all in one day.  Lucky for me there was even a low fat healthy option!  Nor did I want to grow so big that I knock poor Susan of the back seat.
Another problem is I didn't want this to become like my ill fated plan to follow Florida's wine trail.  I have simply not ridden to these places.  I'm not sure why not.

The Equinox to Equinox rally got me out and riding over hill and dale, but that to fell by the wayside of work, bad weather, home commitments and just a general lack of time.  So I am hoping something as simple as this will get me out of the house and on the road again.  A attempt to sample better milk shakes just may be the driving force I need to get out, and of course there is no time frame to any of it.  I can take my time and explore.  Of course if I happen to come across any rally items I'll be glad to take their photo.  It will give Susan and I an excuse to go out and ride, not that we should need one and with the promise of drier weather ahead we should have no reason not to go riding. 

A little bit of History at Munch's with your ice cream
For example, a ride to a home show (bathroom renovation time oh joy!) lead to an offer to buy lunch for Sue.  As we rode down the road my eye caught site of Munch's, one of the places listed in the article that inspired this little piece.  So, tires squealing, I did a quick turn and pulled in.  I'm glad we did, while my bucket of shrimp and fries was passable what I was really here for was the history.  On the walls were various photographs of elementary school classrooms.  Some of them dated back into the early 1950's.  Hair and dress styles changed in each photo, but it was not until the late 1960's before a black face was shown in the class photo's.  A sad comment on Florida's history in an unexpected place.  The milkshake however was cool and smooth and creamy.  While I'm not sure it was worth the $3 they wanted it, I was sure it was worth the stop.  


This post is not "officially finished" but I see that it's all ready showing up on some blogs that link to mine.  This was due to an "oops" on my part.  So I post it now in its 95% completed status.  

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Towards a totally 2 wheel life...

I had my tongue firmly planted in my cheek during my last post, although I did go out and buy a blender for the house on the bike.  Yes, it did occur to me to take the blender out of the box to carry it home although I didn't do that for fear of damaging the blender.

The post did prompt me to ask a question to the various forums I belong to about using the bike as your main means of transport.  I was surprised at how many people do.  Many, like me, either have one car (which may or may not be used that often) or no car at all.  Many made that choice on their own for whatever reason whereas I felt I was forced into using the bike as my main means of transportation but I have never regretted it.  My question do I use my bike more?  What should I carry to make my life on two wheels simple and better?  Bungee cords could have helped moving the blender but I didn't have any on me at the time.  Now I have them packed away.

Someone mentioned a cargo net.  Trobairitz mentioned Rok straps and these are both things I need to look into.    I also discovered that my under seat storage is bigger than I originally thought.  I now have a variety of bungee cords, my rain suit, my phone charger, a sweater, my "pack" (which contains a $20 bill, my bike's insurance info, two flashlights, a 1st aid kit and other things).  In other words a lot of crap. More crap than I probably need or use (for example I've yet to use the phone charger but have it just in case I'm stuck somewhere someday).

I am already using Kimmie for small errands.  I commute nearly every day, traveling 70 miles round trip.  Still I want to ride more, go further.  How do you give up a car?  How do you make a motorcycle your main means of transportation?  

Susan and I are slowly but surely getting used to riding 2-up but over the last month or two it's been raining, work has had me working overtime and even the second delivery job has been busier than normal as I find myself taking on new projects all the time.  This lifestyle does not lend itself to riding very well.  I hope to have mastered this 2-up thing by our trip to the Bahama's in September.  After all, her mother and daughter will be along and I'm sure they will want to climb on back too.  Convincing Susan to do more on the bike with me may be an uphill battle.  It is a different type of lifestyle that I am trying to obtain.

One, not free of the car but where I put more miles on my odometer than normal.  According to the National Highway Administration, my average miles for a guy my age should be about 18,800.  I would like to put that on the bike.  Right now nearly all of the mileage on the car is related to my side job.  Traveling my 70 miles round trip I get very close to that.  How do I put on that extra 600 to 700 miles?

I am not sure why I want to do this.  This just seems like the right thing to do.  It just "feels" right.

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Well it seemed like a good idea at the time...when the bike is the only means of transport

This blog post was started when I realized that I was really hot during the summer.  "Would not a nice fruit smoothie be nice to cool down with" I thought to myself.  "Yes, yes it would be." I said.   So I needed a few things.  I could keep the ice under my seat.  That could help keep me cool, and I could stash the fruit there too!

I thought to myself that the blender could easily fit in the top case.  So I run up to the store, buying the groceries and milk and a few other things all of which stored nicely under the seat.  Kimmie has a cell phone charger under the seat as well, it would not hard to plug the blender to it, I just have to modify the blender cord some!  There was only one slight problem.

Yep, I could not close the top case all the way.   So much for the idea of ice cold smoothies when out in the middle of an adventure on a hot Florida least until I get a bigger top case.

When I decided that my scooter was going to be main source of transportation we owned a car and a jeep.  So I always had a back up plan in case of bad weather or if I need to pick something up.  Eventually we ended up trading both vehicles in to buy a new car, meaning that my bike literally became my only means of going from point A to point B in most cases.

This has worked out extremely well.  There have been a few times I've need to borrow my parents car but for the most part using a motorcycle as my main ride has not been a problem.  Riding the few miles home from the store with the top case open wasn't a issue.  It generally has served me well running back and forth to the store for odds and ends.  I do have to consider what I'm buying however, as space is limited.

The more I ride my bike however the more I realize I would not give it up now.  It's become part and parcel of "who I am."  That's not a bad thing.

Saturday, July 6, 2013

Hipsters and their bikes (another look)

From a certain point onward there is no longer any turning back. That is the point that must be reached. - Franz Kafka

It's not that rare for me to comment on someone else's blog.  A good blog entry or article in a magazine should engage your mind, make you learn something or consider something in a new light.  Sometimes something should just piss you off enough that you need to fire off a comment just to show that moron that you know more than them.  If it does that then it is a successful piece of writing in my mind.

A dated article recently linked to the Motorcycle Obsession blog got me thinking.  The piece, which you can read here, basically dealt with Hipsters and Motorcycles.  Or what they - which I suppose is young people - are riding today.  Now I am not a hipster.  I would have no idea on how to even define such a thing.  After all I don't smoke clove cigarettes, I have never owned a beret, nor do I find the music of the Decemberists all that interesting (Hey Kids, lets do a song about dying of famine in 1860's Ireland!  Won't that be fun!)      

Now I will agree that poking non-malicious fun of a group other than your own can be enjoyable at times (for example, H-D riders).  The piece certainly has it's tongue planted firmly in it's cheek at times, but the problem is that instead of embracing this movement towards greater numbers of people riding it sort of blows them off.  The article lumps a whole lot of people into one category without understanding some of the logic behind the reason why motorized bicycles, small "cc" scoots and vintage bikes are "in."  That I'm afraid I have to take issue with.

The article starts with "hipsters love vintage" and mentions Grandad's old Goldwing.   In fact, several times "vintage" is mentioned and the term "vintage" is used to conjure a certain look or emotion.  A few of the brands mentioned, such as the Triumph Bonneville and the Royal Enfields speak to a much simpler time and, as Motorcycle Obsession points out, simply looks like a motorcycle.  

Let's be honest.  Some bikes are simply more easier to work on than others.   Today's youth, saddled with impossible student loans to pay back and a bleak job outlook, are looking to save money any way they can.  Buying a motorcycle/scooter is certainly one way to do that.  Buying an older motorcycle/scooter is certainly one way to do that.  Guess what might be easier to work on?  The newest computerized high performance engine or your simple two-stroke?  Grandad's old Goldwing might have 130,000 miles on it, but it was lovingly taken care of.  Plus Pop's would be more than willing to throw you some knowledge on it's care.

Hipsters are supposedly riding motorized bicycles as well.   I've not seen to many of these around the streets of Tampa but with top speeds of maybe 30 miles an hour and 130 mpg of gas I can certainly understand the attraction to the "hipster".  It, much like the lower 'cc' scooter, is built for city life.  You're able to ride it to work, to the bus depot or train stop.  You're able to take it inside the building and place it in your cube.  Well at least where I used to work you were able to take your (non-motorized) bike in.  

Scooters of course offer higher gas mileage and  more storage than either a motorcycle or motorized bicycle can.  Vespa's are pretty common and hold their value well and you have a lot of online sources to turn to if you have issues.  The Honda Ruckus is a do anything, go anywhere scooter which again is easy to work on. It also has a very active online presence   Do you see a pattern emerging here?

There was one bike in the article that did surprise me, till I thought about it for a moment.   The Ural however offers a lot other than a slick marketing scheme.  You can carry three people on a Ural without much difficulty.  It's sidecar offers excellent storage and frankly it's go anywhere attitude and ability to go anywhere makes it a perfect year round ride.  Sure it's got issues but if you're serious about making your life car free (and this is a growing movement) the Ural is a near perfect solution.  Is it any wonder their sales keep increasing?  I know I am slowly but surely heading that way and one of the reasons I'm attracted to the Ural is it's unusual pedigree.  There is something to be said for that as well and frankly that is one of the reasons I think "hipsters" are attracted to it as well.

What bothers me in the end is not the article.  Nor the disdain it showed, after all the audience the piece is written for is older and have ridden for years.  I guess what bothered me is that we need to grow the brotherhood of two wheels.  We need to communicate better, to rethink how we market, act and treat each other.  People buy bikes for 1001 reasons, it's up to us to make sure they buy the right bike for their needs and abilities.  

It may finally be "hip" to be on two wheels...why shoot that down?

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Escape Velocity

I've been thinking about how much I enjoy riding, and how stupid I am to take the bike to work when I know there is a 60% chance of being caught out in rain.   It's pitch black when I pull out of the parking lot at work.  I'm in full battle gear.  My rain suit fits over my jacket like a glove.  I slide on my gauntlet gloves, bought specifically to deal with rain and cold weather.  Kimmie shakes off the water like a cat and we begin the long ride home.  Dodging raindrops and looking at the lightening in our rear view mirror, praying that I can outrun the thunderstorms plaguing the area.

Lately I've not been riding much.  This is due to a combination of factors which includes weather, my self employment and my regular job (I work for 3M). I have had to take the car places.  I have had to attend meetings, classes and other events that, for whatever reason, I was not able to ride to. The fact that I've been working overtime has contributed as well.  This is a pattern that is repeated at the end of every month.  I just get to busy to go and enjoy a nice long ride somewhere, anywhere.

I am surprised at how much I miss riding.  So when the chance to ride to work presents itself.   I take it, even though I damn well know it's not a good idea.  Riding to me has become more than just a cheap way to get from point A to point B.  No, it's much more than that to me now.  It's become my escape.

My job really is not that stressful.  In fact, even during the worst moments when the board is filled with red and people are screaming, freaking out, panicking....I have an almost Zen like state.  I used to work on projects that would cost a company hundred of thousands of dollars if they didn't do it right.  My job was to make sure it was right.  I had the right to shut them down if I wasn't happy.  I did sometimes knowing that I was in the right..  Later on in my life I dealt with people's lives.  Making decisions to grant loans, to help make dreams realities based on credit. Based on deposits and ratio's and choices...based on cold, hard calculations.

I left that job when the math didn't make sense anymore.  When the logic was based on bad assumptions and greed.  We all know what happened after that.  Yes, you can blame me for the near collapse of the banks a few years ago.

So stress?  Not in the least.

So why do I escape?  Why am I feeling this desire to ride?

It's quiet for one thing.  It just the wind noise and the bike, no other noise.  My attention is on the road ahead of me.  No fiddling with the radio trying to find something I want to listen to.  No phone calls.   I've considered a cheap bluetooth for the helmet but decided against it.  I don't want the distractions.

Generally speaking I'm not a risk taker.  I may speed but not excessively.  I may ride in weather that I should not of, earlier this week being a perfect example, but have no issue pulling over and waiting.   Or even leaving Kimmie somewhere and picking her up in the morning.  There is a risk to riding.  Cars are built to protect the rider, bikes give the rider responsibility.   To pay attention, to always be aware of the surroundings.  Some argue that riding is freedom.   I understand is freedom but it also takes us back to a time when we were not as "coddled" as we are today.  I am responsible for my own safety.

For example, a giant chicken
Motorcycles are built for the back roads.  Sure I can ride on the freeway, get up to at least 100 miles per hour (161 km/h) but honestly why?  Personally for me; the freeway is designed for the car where as the bike is designed more for some back country road where I can smell the heather, listen to the spring peepers and actually see things that I would not see.

One of the reasons I was so excited about the Equinox to Equinox rally was because I know had an excuse to go out and ride.  Sadly even this fun event fallen by the wayside lately.  One day I just said, "It's to damn hot to ride!"

I know that soon enough I'll be able to ride more, I'll be going places again and not just to and through from work.   I know that soon enough I'll be packing a weekend back into the top case and Susan and I will be off somewhere.  In the meantime I just have to bide my time.  And that is the hardest part.