Search This Blog

Saturday, October 26, 2013

The winter months brings it's own challenges.

Autumn has arrived in officially in Florida.

The humidity broke, the temperature has settled into the what I used to think of as "summer" weather when I lived up north.  My mesh jacket has been confined to the closet and I slip into my heavier "winter" jacket welcoming the extra weight and warmth of it for the cold ride home at 1 AM.  I start to get my head around the fact that soon it will be very cold on the way home.

The temp gauge on my beloved Burgman (RIP)
I know that the words "cold" and "Florida" don't exactly make logical sense.  I do admit to feeling some pangs of regret that my Northern friends don't have a year round riding season like I do and always feel a little bad bringing up the topic of "cold weather riding."

Well snow is as rare as a truthful politician it can get cold here.  I have photographic proof of it.  For me it's a challenge, I have to dress warmly yet still manage to look professional and competent.  Dressing in layers is not always possible...I have to work in an area we refer to as the "fish bowl" - a glass enclosed small space full of computers.  Sweaters and hoodies can only go so far and I don't want to do a strip tease just yet.  My boots are good at keeping my feet warm but my legs?  Oh that is a different story!  In the past I've gone so far as to wear thermal underwear under my dress pants or place a pair of old sweatpants under the seat and pull those over my dress pants.

Winters are dry here, but we do get a nasty wind off the land and sea at various times of day and wind chill becomes a issue.   Layering is all well and good, but again how much gear can I wear in to work to stay warm on my 37 mile (60 KM) ride home without sweating off my skinny little butt?

The simplest solutions are always the best.

Kimmie at work.
The migration of the snowbirds also brings heavier traffic and a greater number of bikes on the road.  With that comes new dangers and challenges. I'm not knocking older drivers, who on the whole tend to be safer drivers, but they do need to remember the old adage "look twice, save a life."   Yesterday for example I had cars pull out in front of me twice, neither time was I ever in danger but that's not the point.  I have to be more vigilant in the winter months.  For example, in my little town of Zephyrhills the ave population is a little over 13,000 people.  During the winter months that number climbs to something like three or four times that.  More people equals more problems equals more danger.  That is just a sad fact.

UPDATE - In a bizarre twist, I was meeting my girlfriend at a friends about 4 PM.  They live off a rather busy road that is hard to cross during rush hours.  I decided to head down a rough washboard road and meet them at a Italian restaurant.  I too,k my helmet out of my top case and road the 3 miles or so to the bar.  By the time I got there my top case was gone.  We went back to look for it and traveled that road back and forth at least 3 times.  There was no sign of it anywhere.  Not even plastic on the road.  So I need a new top case and a new pair of gauntlet gloves (which were in the case).  Also new reflective stickers.

Robert is not happy.

Monday, October 21, 2013


In my life I've had the opportunity to travel to the Bahama's, Canada, Honduras,  Kazakhstan, Mexico, The Netherlands, Russia and several states here in the USA.  Each place has it's own distant people, customs and heartbeat.  Each place is unique, wonderful, scary and beautiful.

Each place is magical.  In the end though....I love my home country.  It's got issues, warts and problems...but it is still home.  I've been thinking a bit lately about travel.  Partially because of a possible new position at work that would require me to travel (assuming I get it) around Florida.  Part of it being the anniversary of Jack Kerouac's death (one of my favorite writers).

Partially because of some the the blogs I read and their adventures.  How you can give up nearly everything to discover that you have all you need (Road Pickle).  About traveling down the Eastern Coast of the the US (Which is what Motorcycle Addiction did this summer), or across the US and Canada (Riding the Wet Coast).  The insanity that will be the 2014 Scooter Cannonball.  

Do to circumstances I was not able to attend the AIM Expo like I had hoped.  So plan B was engaged which was a little jaunt over to the San Antonio Rattlesnake festival.  I don't know what it is about these small town festivals.  They all share some of the same things...face painting, usually bad and overpriced food and drinks, craft shows.  Low mileage and heavily chromed out Harley's taken out for show.  Pony rides and petting zoo's.  Beyond that however is the stuff that really matters; kids running about playing and smiling faces, the unexpected find in a merchants' booth that you know your someone special would love.  That "insert your favorite food that you know is not good for you here" that makes you feel like a kid again.

This is why I travel.  To experience that joy.  To have that connection and maybe see something I've not seen before, or something I need to see in a new light.
 To have that wonderful human experience.  Sometimes it's easy to forget that I live in paradise.  It's to easy to be caught up in the day to day grind and we tend to forget that the world is full of endless wonder.  I know, I sound like a new age hippy.

I have a deep and profound respect for life, history and the natural world.  I want to share that love with others which is why I write.

So I thought I would share a few things with you gentle reader from the most recent adventure.  Funny thing, for a rattlesnake festival I didn't see one snake!
I liked this little road sign we found at a mutlt-family barn sale.  Some amazing old furniture, auto's and various odds and ends.  It was also at the end of a neat little twisty road that demanded further attention at a later date.

I'm not sure of the make or year on this but loved the look of the machine.  I sometimes wonder if the cars and trucks today will be looked at as works of art in 30,40, 50 years.

Kids lining up for the "Gopher Turtle" races.  The turtles were actually wood and your pulled on the strings to get them to move forward.  

A closer look at the "Turtle"  The head moved side to side and each kid got some sort of prize even if the turtle didn't finish the race.  I am glad I did not try the turtle soup they had for sale. 

Finally a old band from Pittsburgh known as the Gathering Field.  Back about 20 years ago they had a minor hit nationally with this song.  I understand they have reformed and are starting to tour again.  I just think it suits my mood right now.  

Saturday, October 19, 2013

“Live, travel, adventure, bless, and don't be sorry.” much of a good thing(s)

This coming weekend was going to be busy.  There was a lot going on that demand my attention.  First was the AIM Expo in Orlando.  Like I mentioned in my last post; I really had no desire to go in the beginning but as the event approached the seeds of excitement grew.  The idea of looking at new farkles and trying out
Copyright TB Rowdies
new bikes appealed to me.  The event certainly peaked my interest and I had was certainly tempted to go.  I will also admit the interest in the expo would drive up my blog numbers and I want some neat swag.

My Tampa Bay Rowdies were also playing on Saturday night.  They are currently in second place in the standings and are pushing hard to defend their championship from last year.  There is frankly no room for error in the last three games and the reborn New York Cosmo's would have to collapse.  The odds are stacked against the Rowdies but soccer is a funny old sport.  I've not been able to attend as many games this year as I would have liked but with only two home games left I am running out of time!

Saturday is also the Rattlesnake Festival in nearby San Antonio, FL.  Just another of those goofy little festivals celebrated all over the United States to boost the local economy for a day or two.  I enjoy going to these little things simply because where else can I see Gopher Tortoise race?

This Saturday is also Sweethearts day and Sue and I had not been on any romantic adventures in some time.   The Bahama's cruise was more about my wanting to ride in a another country.  What romantic thing could I do that involved us riding on the bike?  Could we create our own Roman Holiday?  Two weeks ago we traveled to Tarpon Springs by bike and it had been a wonderful trip.  The last weekend we visited Strong Tower Vineyards and overall had a disappointing trip.  We drove up in the car and was disappointed in the wine and their fall festival overall.  The event was to small, there was nothing to do other than sample a rather poorly made wine.

As I write this I have a few things in my mind.  A few ideas forming.  The first was taking her down to a glass blowing workshop where she would learn to make her own pumpkin, to complete her love of Halloween.  I even went as far as ordering tickets...only to realize that the workshop I ordered the tickets for was in Corning, New York.  A red faced call to them got the issue resolved, much to their amusement.  So much for the world wide web!

Glass blowing example via the web.
At this moment I am not sure what I will do.  I know I seek adventure, but a little bit of romance is never a bad thing.  Getting out of the house to do something...anything is never a bad thing.  Even just having her wrap her arms about me and saying "Lets go." is a good thing.  A picnic on the beach, watching the sun set into the Gulf while reading poetry.  Trying new food at Veg Fest.  I want whatever life has to offer me.

Working six days a week like I do, staying at home is good too.  In the words of the immortal Jack Kerouac, who died some 44 years ago this week:  Live, travel, adventure, bless, and don't be sorry.”  Speaking of Jack, another venture starts to form in my head.

Ah endless possibilities.

Saturday, October 12, 2013

Moving forward.

Starting this week is the American International Motorcycle Expo (or AIMExpo).  It is being held in Orlando, Florida which is a mere 62 miles from my front door.  I have to be honest, I really had no intention of going.  After all I have been to Expositions before, both as a participant and a consumer.  Frankly I had no interest in looking at a bunch of stuff that may not apply to me.    I am a scooterist after all.

Now I'm thinking of going.   What changed my mind was a few things.  First was that a local scooter group I belong to was planning a ride, and although I would not be able to ride with them to the event (work) the seed was planted.  I am curious to see the new Kymco MyRoad 700i, which given the fact that I enjoy riding Kimmie (a Xciting 500 sans ABS) as much as I do just might be the bike for me in the future.  I'm also interested in looking at some of the automatic motorcycles and, what I feel will be the next step in the evolution of motorcycle safety, lighted jackets.

I am also looking at some interesting choices in my personal and business life which will affect my ability to ride.  I work for 3M and recently applied for a new position which would require me to travel about Florida to places like Miami, Orlando, Tallahassee and Jacksonville.  While I am certainly qualified for the position, there are no guarantees of course, although I like the idea of traveling to meetings via my mean motor scooter and traveling new roads.  The endless possibilities of movement.

Given this new job possibility I would need to look into either a bike better built for highway travel and bluetooth technology.  I really like this helmet for example.  This expo gives me options to consider.

The second option that will affect my riding, and probably decreasing it, is the possible expansion of my personal business.  I have successfully owned and operated a small distribution company for a few years now, and while it's never made me a mad amount of money, it's always supplemented my income by several thousand dollars a years (10 to 15K profit generally after taxes and expenses).  Less than seven years ago I was looking into a possibility of opening a bar and restaurant with my partner Sue, who has over twenty five years of experience in that business as a chef and manager.  However due to circumstances I will not go into here she was unable to pursue that dream.
That may have changed as we found a small turn key restaurant that is completely within our budget and literally is less than five miles from my front door.  At this time we are doing the research and putting our ducks in a row!  It needs to make sense for us to do it.  If we were to buy this property then my riding schedule is shot.  Any and all free time would be drastically cut in order to make this business work.  I would have to give up my route work as well.  I would not be leaving 3M  anytime soon since I receive some nice benefits from that company.

So much for trying to simplify my life.  The wheels are turning and are always moving forward.  There is no reverse on a motorcycle, you have to put effort into it to make it go backward.  It's much easier to always move forward.

Moving Forward always is an adventure.  Unknown roads are exciting because of the possibilities of what you will see and experience.  There is always risk, always danger...but that journey must always be taken.

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Tarpon Springs and Anclote Island

I've been meaning to ride over to Tarpon Springs for some time.  It has a almost European charm to it, with its brick streets and buildings dating back to the 1800's.  At one time it also supported the highest number of Greek-Americans in the United States and it's not uncommon to hear Greek still spoken on the streets.  The sponge docks are probably the best known part of Tarpon Springs, and at one time this was the "Sponge Capital of the world."  In addition the Epiphany celebration brings Greek Orthodox Christians from around the world to Tarpon Springs, literally tripling the population for the 1st week in January.

If you have been reading my little attempt of literary brilliance for any time, then you know I have a deep love and respect for history.  A place like Tarpon Springs just breaths it.  I wanted to explore the downtown a bit more, but Sue and I decided to head into town and explore the sponge docks proper.  

For some reason, and I blame the old people and tourists who never want to try something new, it's nearly impossible to get good seafood in Florida.  Sure, Talapia and Salmon are common - neither of which is native to Florida - but native and fresh finds are a rarity.  So when we decided to eat lunch at Rusty Bellies I had to order fresh fish.  Its literally caught by their own fleet of fishing vessels and then brought to the kitchens.  The shrimp I had may have been the best I ever tasted.

Tarpon Springs is full of funky little shops of course, selling natural sponges and lots of little tourist knick-knacks.  Also a insane amount of belly dancing outfits.  It was a nice day to wander around on foot or on the bike taking in the sites, including a little dog in a sidecar.  Sadly we were unable to get a pic even though we kept seeing him driving about.  The timing just never worked out.  What is it about a dog in a sidecar?

We decided to take a little boat trip out to Anclote Island, which is a state park and has a lighthouse dating back to the 1880's.  Jose Gaspar, Tampa Bay area's almost mythical pirate, supposedly buried all or part of his loot there. What's truly interesting about the island to me is the various species of birds that call it home.  We were both a little disappointed in the tour boat that took us over to the island.  We were thinking it would include a sponge diver demonstration but the ship simply took a two hour tour out to the island.  The tour guide was knowledgeable and fun but over all I didn't think it was worth the money.

Not the best pic, but the only one where they jumped
We were not even five minutes from the dock when we came across a small pod of dolphins which were in a very playful mood.  There were three or four of them (I learned that pods of dolphins are almost exclusively female) that enjoyed putting on a show, leaping and jumping just a few feet from the boat.  They also enjoyed teasing a dog on the docks.

The ride over was uneventful but noteworthy for the fact that this was the first time Sue and I have rode two up at highway speeds for extended periods of time.  Kimmie handled it very well and was able to handle the extra weight well.  It was also the first time I've handled 2-up at night, as we did come home as the day faded.  All told we put about 110 miles on Kimmie...and she even handled a sea gull pooping on her with dignity and class.  She really is a good scoot.

Overall it was a wonderful day indeed.  Working six days a week like I normally do any time I get to take off for a bit and get out into the world I'll do. This coming Saturday we hope to ride up to a Fall Festival in Spring Hill with two new friends of ours (despite the fact that they ride a Harley).    Some additional pictures follow:

Thursday, October 3, 2013

Brother's Keeper.- the incident in New York

By now we should have seen the video of the attack on an SUV driver in New York by a gang of motorcyclists.  As of my writing this one of them has been charged, another had the charges dropped against him and the investigation is ongoing.  One of them claimed that the SUV driver was acting like a manic.  In the end we have three hurt motorcyclists - one of them critically - and a badly beaten SUV driver.

The truth of the matter is that we may never know exactly what happened.  News reports state there is a 9-11 call to dispatchers to report motorcyclists driving erratically.  One of them in the video does clearly cut in front of the SUV and appear to slow down dangerously.  What happened before that I don't know.  Why would he act that way?

The driver supposedly did stop after accidentally hitting one of them but then feared for his life afterward, being surround as he was by pissed off bikers.  Many of whom supposedly slashed the tires and attacked the SUV.  Frankly I don't blame him for being afraid.  Nor do I blame many of the bikers for chasing after the diver after he clearly run over a bike badly injuring another biker (who is still in the hospital at the time of this article).  Truthfully if I felt threatened and my wife and 2-year old child where in the car...I might have done the same thing.

Sadly by the time all this comes to a conclusion the public will have moved on and all that will be left is the video of "crazy bikers."

Images matter.  I have to be honest I was unsure if I was going to comment on this.  I am unsure if I should.  I am not part of the greater motorcycling community.  I'm just a guy that enjoys riding over 10K to 15K a year.  I don't particularly like group rides but if given the chance I'll go.  I'm still new to riding (roughly 3 years now) and I don't think I'll ever stop learning something about it.

Hell, I'm scared just looking at the picture
For the most part bikers don't look like we are out of the Sons Of Anarchy casting dept.  We don't all belong to Hells Angels or rape and pillage our way across America either.  Yet why do we have that image when the term "biker" is used.

We have done it ourselves.  I understand why leather and denim became part of our "uniform".  I get that loud pipes can save a life.  I understand how the "outlaw" image is attractive.  I get that.  I even understand how Hollywood and the media will play something up.  It's given us an image that is hard to shake...that of the "badass."  But we do lots of stupid things too.  Things that make the general public question "bikers" and reinforce that image of a sex and drug crazed manic.

Not that I am without sin.  I've done stupid stuff too.  I've pushed the bike at higher speeds than I probably should and have done some lane splitting when stuck in traffic on the way to work due to construction.  But when I see morons (yes, that's the term) doing twice or three times the speed limit in traffic I have to shake my head.  One of the people I work with even carries a gun on him when he rides!

When I see lane splitting done when there is no reason for it and wheelies in traffic.   You have to wonder why?  What is the purpose?  What is the reason?  What does Mr and Mrs Jones in the mini-van think?  What do you think they will say when little Johnny wants a motorcycle?

I get it...I really do.

Motorcyclists do a ton of good deeds.  From toy runs at Christmas to poker runs for sick kids to the Patriot Guard.  Good deeds are always so much subtler than evil ones.  The video of the bikers attacking the SUV is forever out there.  Forever tainting the majority of bikers that ride safely and well.  That will reach out to help someone when they can.  The 1001 good deeds bikers do simply don't matter because of a six minute video.

fuzzy rider
So what can we can do to to change that image?  Simple.  Don't be a dick.  Ride safe.  Ride within the law, traveling at or near the speed limit.  Learn to be more accepting of others and what they ride.  There is no reason the sports bike can't ride with a scooter and a Harley.  Give a hand to that stranded motorist and smile well doing so.  In other words we need more of the fuzzy guy and less the raging psycho.  There was no need for any of that to happen in New York if the gang of motorcyclists (which supposedly have had issues with the police before) had been riding in a tight formation and as safe as possible.  If the driver of the SUV would have been paying more attention (I do truly believe something happened before the video that started that caused the incident to begin with).

At the end of the day most bikers are good people.  Most people are good people, and I would hope that this incident in New York was an abomination.  We are all tainted with it now.