Saturday, October 25, 2014

Festivities of the Orange Kind

Not everything works out as planned.

I was originally planning on riding Saturday, hopefully with a group heading somewhere but by Friday afternoon I sort of gave up on that idea.  I was feeling guilty.  Guilty because there was work that needed to be done, I had yard work to do that I kept putting off because of the summer heat and humidity.  Now that the heat and humidity are gone, there is no excuses.  Today, for example, was a pleasant 84 F (28.9 C)...still warm but without the humidity it is a pleasure to work in.

My mom and dad asked me to clean the gutters of their winter home...I still needed to do that.  

Truth be told, well I enjoy riding and exploring other parts of the local world, I really didn't feel like crossing the Howard Franklin bridge into St Petersburg to meet a group of strangers to ride back into Tampa and spend all day exploring the parks of my adopted city.  Or I could meet the other group and ride out to Lake Wales on various back roads and spend all day in the saddle.

Both options appealed to me but frankly I was not looking forward to either like I originally thought I would.  .  

So when the lovely Sue mentioned the Hunsadar Farms Pumpkin Festival was having their final weekend to me this Saturday, it just seemed right.  Plus they had an air cannon you could shoot a pumpkin out of.  An AIR CANNON!  Okay, the geek was me was excited.  Maybe they let me fire it...just once PLEASE!  PRETTY PLEASE!

So Sue and I jumped into our "Great Pumpkin" and hit the road.  Hunsadar Farms is about 75 minutes south of us in Brandenton, Florida.  The Pumpkin Festival was a combination of things, merchants, musicians, a petting zoo, food stalls, entertainment and Americana.

It's not that far from the Rosa Fiorelli vineyards, which just happen to be my favorite local wine maker, so you know we had to stop there too!  Trust me, follow the link and order a bottle or three, it's worth it.  

Scarecrows provided a distraction
We walked hand in hand taking in the crowd, the event was geared to the little ones to some extent as petting zoo's and jumping frog competitions were part of the day's events.  Two girls, maybe 5 and 6, tried their hands at frog wrangling to the amusement of the crowd, the and horror of their mother.

We got to see the air cannon fire a pumpkin into a strand of trees some 300 plus yards away.  There were some monster trucks, a hay ride, corn maze.  All the normal stuff that you would expect, but a zip line?  No, that we didn't expect.

There were a few shows and demonstrations as well.  Dirt bikes going off of jumps (missed that show) and a Monster truck flattening some old car (missed that too), but we did see the "Wall of Death" where, in addition to motorcycles, they used an old go-kart and a pedal bicycle.

Overall it was a good day, and sometimes you need to do something different to get out of the rut.  I think I was in a rut, so getting out helped.

Well the bank is safe, I think

Sheriff didn't look that tough however.

Other scarecrows provided useful info.
A really old fashioned Merry-Go-Round

#pumpkinfest  #blogger  #blog  #pumpkinfestival  #hudsadar  #hudsadarfarms

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

"one is the loneliest number"

On Tuesday, I decided I wanted to go on a group ride the question was where?

So I contacted a few groups I know on Facebook, the St Petersburg Scooter Trash Group and a few others. One group had two riders going to Lake Wales. A town about 53 miles southeast of me and home of Bok Tower Gardens and Spook Hill, two attractions that I've visited before but never rode the bike to.

I also understand that the town had a lot of 1920's style buildings in the historic downtown that I may want to check out as well as the international renowned Chalet Suzanne restaurant and inn which was closing after a long and distinguished 83 years.  My brother, Gary, is a professional Chef and my Susan was a restaurant manager and chef for nearly 25 years.  My ex-wife was a fantastic cook in her own right and I've often said she could put many Iron Chef's to shame.  Yes, I love to eat and just recently learned of the Chalet.  I would have liked to have eaten there at least once, but I understand it closed on or around the forth of August.

Another group out of St Pete's was planning a ride to some of the local Tampa parks, which appealed to me for other reasons.

Frankly I am tired of riding by myself and want to get it, meet other scooterists and enjoy a day out.  One is a lonely number at times.

I'm also tired of the commute.  While I enjoy taking the bike out whenever I can, you also need a change of scenery now and again.  A ride out to Lake Wales, or into the parks of Tampa might be just what this old soul needs to feel renewed.  Even if it means riding with a bunch of strangers and being on my seat for 2 or 3 hours.

"What happens if I can't find a group to ride with this weekend?"  Honestly I don't know...but I've been meaning to explore Ybor (Ee-bor) city a bit.  The city of Lakeland is also nearby.  Getting out is the important thing...and that is what matters.

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Enveloped by fog

Perhaps I should curse out the infamous Trobairitz - who asked me the following in the comments section of my last posting.  "Curious - do you find in your commute that everyone uses their headlights in the twilight hours or fog? I've noticed lately how many people can't be bothered to turn theirs on for safety."

This morning was foggy.  Although lucky for me, half (21 miles) of my morning 40 mile commute is on a two lane road.  It's more or less straight so the bracing air in the morning keeps me more awake than coffee ever could.  Generally speaking traffic is travelling with me this time of day, by the time I hit the two and three lane roads closer to downtown Tampa the fog normally is burned off.  Some try to pass me and I let them with no complaints.  It's not the day to let Kimmie flex her muscles.

Photo Copyright Steve Williams
Cars do come out of the gray on the two lane road, usually with the lights on.  Zephyrhills is a good place to live, but the population is mostly retirees.  So they either have the newer model cars with the automatic lights or are not out at all this time of day.  Unlike my fellow Pennsylvanian Steve Williams I take no joy of riding in fog.  While I will admit to a sense of otherworldly-ness and a wonder at the beauty of nature when it's wrapped in gossamer sheaths...I still prefer the safety of seeing, and of being seen when riding my bike. 

Still though, it's lovely to ride past the open fields of Central Florida looking at trees that seem to exist in a perpetual dream like state...or listen to the low bellow of a cow barely seen.  The sun is on my left, low enough to dance between the trees but not high enough yet to burn off the fog.

Is it any wonder why so many motorcyclists seem to be philosophers, poets, writers or photographers?  How do you capture beauty?  A moment?  How does time slow down at 65 MPH?  

Traffic is a little heavier than normal as I turn towards town and my waiting job.  I shiver a bit as a truck passes me and catches me in the turbulence for a moment.  I tilt my visor up some to clear the mist off my visor and the morning air smells of exhaust...ah, life in the city.  
My ride is an interesting one.  Taking me over the Hillsborough River and past the Lowry Park Zoo and I swear I hear a lion roaring every morning as I ride past.    Around a bend that somehow always seems to surprise me even though I know it's there.  I cross over four rail tracks in total.  

Tampa and it's river.  

By the end of the day I'm mentally wasted.  My new job is challenging, interesting, difficult as I use skills and muscles I've not used in years.  I'm a lot of things to a lot of people now and not just "technical support".

I look forward on getting back on the bike although it's been windy and wet most of the day.  I debate putting on the rain gear, but in the end decide not to.  I'm not on the bike long before the day fades away.  

I look forward to passing the zoo, the river (again glancing over to see boats and docks and lights glimmering off the water), those tracks.  That stupid bend...then before you know it I'm back into the green that I love.  The sun is on the other side now, low enough to dance across the fields where cows continue to bellow and a lone tree stands in resistance to the developer.  By the time I get home Susan has dinner on, we chat about the day.  We settle in with our books, games, TV, the computer or just a talk about what ever in on our minds.

We sit out on the lanai, why Floridians use a Hawaiian word for "porch" I will never know, and drink iced tea.  Tipper and Sparky, our two rescued cats, are at our feet or looking at the birds eating at the feeders.  Night comes early this time of year.  I am content.

I think about the day, the fog and rain.  Being enveloped by bad weather just means that you have to find your way out of it.  You have to be smart, safe, careful and then, you reach your goal.  You have to pay attention to the beauty on the way there.  You have to be thankful for it.  

Friday, October 10, 2014

Updates on the download...

Can I describe the last two weeks or so in one word?  Hectic.  There is nothing really going on, This is just a brief update.

Family was visiting us during that time, the little side business I own picked up a grand total of three new customers and suddenly my business partner and I were talking about adding a new driver to the fold.  My new position geared up to fifth gear in participation of changes coming, and I had to prove myself again and again that "bringing in some outside guy" was the best decision the company made.

All the riding that I've done over the last few weeks have been commutes for work.  That is not necessary a bad thing.  I pull into work on Monday and there is one bike there.  Tuesday their are three, Thursday, five are parked into our little motorcycle lot.  Scooters, Harley's and V-stars all living in harmony.

It's still warm here in Florida, the high as I write this is expected to be 82 F (27.8 C) but the humidity has started to drop which makes it a rather pleasant day.  My ride in is becoming routine but I still remind myself about safety, routine is fine...but when something surprises you (and it will) you need to be ready.

Case in point...a trailer without break lights.  Result, Robert cursing.

The ride home makes me relax some, once I'm out of the traffic the ride opens up and I'm surrounded by deep woods and pastures.  The stress of the day melts away.  Again, although I had doubts about moving to Zephyrhills initially, I'm glad I did.

This weekend, it has already been decided, is one where my girlfriend and I do nothing.  We may have dinner with friends on Saturday night, but were catching up on "me" time.  Which means that I may decided to finally pull those weeds in the front yard, or go riding.  One guess what I'm leaning towards.  Guess which one the girlfriend will have me do?

Although I want to ride with a group somewhere.  I'm in need of that companionship.

Lastly, I'm looking for additional motorcycle and scooter blogs to add to my reading list.  I would rather have blogs concentrating on riding, visiting places and the unusual than dry "how to", or "equipment reviews".  I've done those entries myself and there is not a damn thing wrong with them...but what interests me is the adventure.  :)  So if you have anyone in mind, let me know.


Thursday, October 2, 2014

Living inside my helmet.

"It must be awfully frustrating to get a small raise at work and then have it all eaten by a higher cost of commuting." - Ben Bernanke

Actually my raise was not that small.  

I'm still commuting roughly the same distance although now it takes longer than I would like so I guess Bernanke's quote applies.  Commuting into and out of the city of Tampa every day during the height of rush hour is leading me to reconsider what it means for me to be a commuter.  I left work at approximately 5:45 PM today and didn't pull into my driveway till 7:00 PM.  My morning commute took approximately the same amount of time.  

Sitting at a red light in full safety gear for one or two lights because some moron has blocked the intersection does not make me happy.  Especially when the heat and humidity of the day start to climb.  However I try to look at it as part of the experience and keep a good alert attitude about me.

My thinking has changed.  

I always believed in safety.  I almost always do a pre-check before getting on the bike.  The helmet goes on, the jacket, gloves, boots.  ATTGAT.  It's more than a saying to me.  It's always been a way of life.  

My old position had me leaving the house during the mid afternoon; my drive from point A to point B was a simple affair, the roads were relativity clear.  At 1 AM at night the ride home was more about keeping my eyes open for deer and drunks.  Lights were often green and I was the only car on the road many a night.  

Now I pull to a stop at a light, leaving enough room and options between myself and the car in front of me in case the car behind me doesn't stop.  In case I need to pull forward to go right or left in a quarter seconds notice.  I keep my eyes on the mirrors, my ears pealed for that screeching sound.  It's only when there are two or three cars behind me at the light that I relax some.  It's something I've always done, but am slightly more conscious of it now.

I have a headlight modulator, I don't use it in traffic often but I do know that the sun is behind me.  This time of year it's low in the sky...I flip the switch and the headlight starts to modulate.  I try to manage it at times.  A brake modulator is on the "to buy" list (the video below is for example purposes only).  

Blind spots become hugely important, I think about that car and where I am in relationship to it.   Again something I've always done, but am more conscious of it now.

All the safety gear in the world only goes so far.  

 All this should be second knowledge to any driver, either in a car or a bike.  It is for me as well but I remind myself again and again.  Cocky will get you killed.  

I remember something I said to a buddy of mine at work who was having a tough time with someone.    "Control the situation."   I think about lane position, about  road surface.  I'm scanning twelve seconds ahead, four seconds ahead, two seconds ahead of me.  I check over my shoulder with the turn signals on, I switch lanes safely.  Again, something I have always done, but am more conscious of now.

It's only when I'm finally out of city that I start to relax some.  The skills I've learned from my motorcycle safety class are still there.
 They are still in use.  The road changes from heavily traveled and used to more rural, pastoral.  New dangers, new concerns.  No, I can’t let the guard down.  Not till I've reached home.

Here at least I am not so worried about the aggressive driver with road rage or the idiot fighting with someone on the cell phone.  Here the dangerous are animals, living or dead, that find themselves in the middle of the road.  Here the dangers are tree branches, flooded roads, wash-outs, loose rocks and leaves.    

My butt is numb on the seat, I'm hot and sweaty and could really use a drink. I wiggle it, trying to find a comfortable position. "Why?.  Why do I do this?  It's so much easier in my car."  

Then I look out over the fields at the baby cows romping in the fields, the beautiful blue sky, the feel of the air as it flows over my arms.   I smile and wonder if my thinking has changed that much.  

Saturday, September 27, 2014

A bit off topic (and late) but HIGHLY IMPORTANT!

A combination of having family visiting from up north, training and working with people for my new position, negations for picking up another route for the small business on the side (we won the bid thank you very much), and weather has kept me off the bike this week.

However I could not let Banned Book Week pass without a comment.  Maybe it's because I picked up a dog eared copy of the Motorcycle Diaries recently.  Maybe it's because I know a few writers (See my links page for links to their books).  Maybe it's the firmly held belief that an educated populace can decided what is best for it and that leads to greater freedom.  Maybe its because I used to teach (as well as other things)...who knows.

Banned Book Week is a celebration about the written word and the power that words have to persuaded - Friends, Roman's, Countrymen lend me your ears from Shakespeare's Julius Caesar comes to mind.  In the beginning Caesar is portrayed as a power hungry madman...yet at the end of Mark Anthony's speech in the play; the common people raise up against Caesar's assassins.

Books have the power to make us think.  Provide warnings.  Enter the public consciousness and become part of our shared, common and very human experience.    So, when I hear about censorship or that some people are pushing for a particular belief system over another the hair on the back of my neck raises and I start to snarl.

Sadly the people that raise these complaints are often doing so with the best of intentions.  I'll be the first to admit that I've read some material which I've found questionable.  One book dealt with slavery, racism, used offensive language and was determined to show youth rebelling against authority figures.  The name of that book?  The Adventures of Tom Sawyer.

Yet this book is a classic of American Literature.  Perhaps the racism was part of the time and had to be considered in context (although frankly the racism in the book is shown to be stupid and misplaced).  The issue of slavery, handled well I thought and considering how the book was published in 1876, certainly understandable.  Jim, the escaped slave, is a very honorable man.  Their are lessons to be learned here, if we open our minds to receive them.

Almost two decades ago I read The Autobiography of Malcolm X because I was looking for a way to relate with my students - I was teaching science at a mostly all black high school at the time.  I found it to be an amazing book and marveled at the journey Malcolm X took.  Here was a man that served time in jail, was a pimp and a thief, yet somehow found a way out of a thugs life to lead a people to something greater.  Something better.  Yet, all the students related to was the hatred, not the love that Malcolm eventually came to.

Interestingly enough...both these books have been banned at various times.  I can certainly understand the reasoning...radical and dangerous thinkers who promote ideas that don't suite the mainstream.  I would recommend either of these books in a heartbeat.

I don't know if I'll be on my bike much next week, or the week after (God knows I hope so!).  I hope to be, I miss riding.  But if I'm not, I'll curl up with a classic and catch up with my reading.  We can still think for ourselves, enjoy that freedom.

Saturday, September 20, 2014

Does everything have to be an adventure?

Property of Fine Art America

I like to tell stories.  For example, once upon a time I was skiing in the foothills of the Himalaya's in Kazakhstan (Yes, I've been there and yes you can ski there).  My ex wife mentions a nearby ski jump that was only 5 meters high and how my English language brain understood to be 5 feet high.  How, once I was in the air, a full 16 feet in the air, I knew that I would land badly.  How I tumbled through the snow and how my ex-wife's family rushed over to me to see if I was alright.   I was, but I said how glad I was that no one understand the colorful word I used on the way done.  "Oh Robert," they said laughing, "it means the same thing in Russian."

That story means a lot to me.  It was an adventure, the it was the first time that I really connected with the family of my ex wife.  They spoke little English and I spoke only a few words of Russian, yet in that moment we were both able to laugh and communicate.

Now I'm older, wiser supposedly and I was thinking about that event so many years ago.  In my new position, my new job I'm being asked to build rapport with people from different walks of life, different experiences.  Different goals.  It's no longer black and white.  One way to do that is through stories.

I was thinking about that as I rode my bike on a fine Saturday.  I was heading towards the Festival of Flight celebration at a small local airport.  On Friday they were going to have a night time hot air balloon glow, which I thought would have been lovely but the entire day had been cold (by Florida summer standards) and rainy, so the night's events were most likely canceled (I was later able to confirm they were).  How lovely would it have been however to capture on film the glow of hot air balloons against a clear night sky?

Does every ride tell a story?  Even the boring non-exciting ones where I travel back and forth to work?  Every turn and every mile has been an experience.  Yes, every turn and every mile I put under my wheels is another adventure, another story and as I make the turn towards the airport on a overcast and cool day; I wonder if I would have made this trip if all I had was my car.

Some roads are wet, others dry.  The chance of rain is at 40% but the air feels heavy with the promise of more rain.  The event itself is subdued.  The various ballooning events planned for that day were canceled due to weather.  I was curious to see the gyro-copters and "flying trikes" that I heard were going to be there.  However I think due to the soaking rain yesterday and 40+ percent chance of rain today, most of them were scared off.

Like many people I'm interested in flight.  However I've always been more interested in the ideas behind it.  Often I wonder what must have gone through the minds of the brothers Mongolfier when they climb aboard their hot air balloon during its initial flight in October 1783.

Or for that matter the Wright Brothers.

Did they have any idea of the adventure they were about to begin?  The industry that would form out of that simple flight on a December day in 1903? How could they?  They were learning, pushing themselves into unknown territory.

I didn't spend that much time at the Fantasy of Flight event.  Partly because of the heat, partially because there was not that much going on.  For example, there was a scheduled car show, yet only two classic cars showed up.  Again, possibly due to weather?  Certainly there had to be another reason?

While I was there I only saw one bike, and only two others on the road.  Maybe it was the time of day, I was there during the hottest part of the day, or the event really not being that advertised that well?

I rode out of the event feeling slightly disappointed.  I had hoped for more, and other than a glimpse into the rather simplistic cockpit of a old military training plane, I didn't feel like the trip was worth it.

Some adventures are disappointing.  Some stories don't have happy endings.  Am I glad I went?  Yes.  I plan on going next year too, for I have a feeling it was the weather that fouled this event.  Who knows what the next year would hold?

Additional pictures of the event can be seen on my Facebook account here.