Tuesday, December 16, 2014

and just like that....the riding year ends.

Wrapped up and put away.
It was nothing serious.  No crash. No accident.  No fires, earthquakes or plagues of locusts.

It was something I had sensed for some time.  It started when I put my battery on a tender back on Saturday, August 9, 2014.   My battery died.  There is still enough power to turn it over, to make the lights glow...but not enough to have Kimmie roar to life in a way I've become familiar.

A few nights earlier I rode to work on the highway, something I don't like to do, because I was running late...I was late anyway.  A wreck blocked two lanes of the three lane highway and some idiot prevented me from skittering down the shoulder.  Normally I would not do such a thing or even consider it, but I was running late.

So here I am, sitting in traffic...and I stall.  I start, stall, start, stall.  Eventually I get the bike into an open enough area to maintain a speed about 2000 on the tachometer and it holds steady.  I get to work an hour late.  That night, she starts up and away I go.

A few nights where the temperatures fall into the freezing range is all it takes.  She tries, really tries but the heart, the battery, is just not up to the task anymore.  

Then comes a very bad week or two.  Two hospital visits (one involving the lovely Sue which turned out to be a minor issue).  A bout of the flu.  A temporary change for two weeks of my work location to an area of town that frankly I did not feel safe driving my car in, especially after nearly being hit twice in said car.  

No riding probably till close to the end of the year.  Maybe not till the new year.

Sure it be easy to run out and buy a battery or even have the local mechanics pop it in. I considered it, but frankly it was what I needed to push Sue's Christmas gifts into the realm of free shipping on Amazon.  By the time I receive that battery it will be the Holidays.  Another week...another delay...another few days without having my bike under me.

Not the best way to close out 2014, although generally speaking the year SUCKED.  I will not be sad to see it go.

First there was the crash in early January.  Which, while relatively harmless in it's own right, did bring about a lingering injury that kept me off the bike for months.  It also exposed an underlying non-crash medical issue that required treatment.  It was not life threatening but suddenly I find that I am very, very mortal.

It would not be till May when I finally started riding again on a regular basis.  While glad to be back on my beloved Kimmie I was tentative.  The love I used to have for riding just wasn't there.  Although I would regain that love only a few months later...it took longer than I would have liked.

My job did not help as they had me running back and forth between Tampa and Jacksonville, Florida at least three different times for weeks at a time.  I wasn't happy however as I found others with less experience being promoted above me and other issues.  But I stayed and pushed for a better job and more responsibility.

Little did I know that I would be changing jobs in October anyway when a job offer paying 15% more annually (with bonuses) and the title of Assistant Manager fell into my lap.  I have to admit though.  I have questioned my choice to take that job ever since, as the position is stressful and I'm not sure if the job has a good support structure.  Somehow I never pictured being a cubicle farmer was in my future.


In the last month or so it's just been small things, like having to report to another site for two weeks in an area best reached by car.  After this training my shift changes again, back to a more familiar 1 PM to 10 PM, back to empty streets.

I took this job because I understood I would work days only.  Not nights, but I can not complain, I'm still the low man on the totem pole.

So here's to 2014!  May it be better than the last!

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Christmas comes early. A review of the Freeze Out jacket and gloves - part 1 of two thing

Okay, it's not THAT bad.
Do not let anyone tell you that Florida does not get cold.

While its true that we don't suffer from sub zero temperatures, or snow and ice for days and weeks on end.  It is a different type of cold.  Our high humidity and often windy conditions make it feel colder than it actually is and that is one of the reasons why hypothermia deaths are so high in Florida.

Despite being born in Pennsylvania I've never grown to like winter or the cold.  While I often joke about it, the truth of the matter is that I always knew I would go south.  The first chance I got after college away I went, and I have never looked back.

While I am no longer commuting back and forth at 1 to 2 AM in the middle of the night, I still have to commute in the dark and at night particularly this time of year.  I am also commuting further and in different types of traffic than I have before.  This is more of a "stop and go" traffic pattern followed by rural stretches at a higher speed.  When I was traveling home in the middle of the night, if I got cold I could easily pull over and add another layer (often I would pull a pair of sweat pants on to keep the legs warm).  Now, sadly, this may not be possible and or dangerous for me to do.

With that in mind Susan bought me three early Christmas presents.  We traveled down to the brick and motor Cycle Gear warehouse (which I admit I forgot was even in Tampa) and she bought me the Freeze Out jacket and gloves.  Of course the temperatures, which had been in the low 40's (5 to 7 C) during the day jumped into the mid 70's (mid 20's C) the second I bought the jacket and gloves.

So, here was the test.  I would wear my normal "summer mesh" jacket to work during the day and wear the Freeze Out jacket home.  The gloves were designed to go under my Fox riding gloves.  The lows for the coming week were predicted to be in the mid 50's (about 12 C), while this would not be much of a test it would at least give me an idea of how the new gear would feel when then temperature dropped even more in January and February.  Of course the temps this whole week were higher than that. 

So much for that idea.

Based on what I read from various forums the gear kept most of the riders warm into the high 30's without much issue.  I was looking for two things.  One:  Would I be chilled when I got home.  While the temperatures involved where not "cold", they were cool.  Would I arrive home feeling like I did not leave the office at all.  Two:  How comfortable would the gear be?  I was particularly interested in how the gloves would feel, as I don't like wearing gloves at all, but know what my hands needed protection.

I guess these things would have to wait. 

The other gift she bought me however was put to use immediately  She bought me a Bilt bike cover as well.  While the bike sits at home it is actually pretty well protected from the elements.  However when I am at work it's not.  This may come in handy when I'm parked there, however so far I've not taken it to work.  For now I believe I'll just continue to  use it at home.  

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Lending a hand

Normally I don't post things like this.  However I know this woman personally and know that she and her family are having a very rough time of it.   After all, isn't it what this time of year is all about?

Cori's GoFundme site

Sunday, November 23, 2014

Time to give Thanks

Nearly two weeks have gone by and in that time I've done very little writing.  Even less riding.

Life has been challenging for the last several months as questions concerning health (mine, the girlfriends and my father's), money (I left a good job for what I hoped was a better opportunity - frankly the jury is still out on that), family issues and business.  All has conspired to act against me but also provide me the chance for growth.  Much of these things I've kept secret.  Partly to protect the privacy of those involved and partly because, frankly, it's none of your damned business gentle reader.

I have a lot to be thankful for in this past year, and if the last few weeks have taught me anything it's to be thankful for what you have.



I've been blessed with a loving girlfriend.  A new niece, two parents that somehow found a way to raise two good upstanding kids.

In a year marred by accidents, deaths, loss of several types...we are still together.  Still finding our way down that twisting road called life.  I'm sure I'll return to this blog soon.  I'll be riding again soon and be stronger for it.

This will be the first holiday season in some time that I will not have family gathered around the table with me in several years.  I'll miss them of course, but I know that they are there in spirit.

Till December my friends!  I'll see you then!


Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Living inside my helmet - the sequel

I am trying to understand something.

I ride to work nearly every day, I used to ride in what would be considered adverse weather as well (rain and cold).  Lately however, and I blame the hours of my commute now (more 9 to 5ish) I've not been riding in the rain much.

What I'm trying to understand is this.  This past weekend the streets were filled with bikes and bikers.  Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday rolls around and guess what.  Nothing.  Nada.  Zilch.

Oh there are a few lone stragglers, a lot of little 50 cc and 125 cc scooters once I hit the city streets proper; which makes some sense as the little scoots are better designed for city living than the wide open spaces that I normally ride.  Still though...why are the streets full of bikes on the weekends but not on the weekday?

Or, to put it more simply, why don't bikers ride more?  

Now I know this post will not apply for those up north or out west where the weather is nasty.  But hopefully it will give you something to think about for the next riding season.

The first thing that pops into my mind is the number of cars on the street.  All bikers have seen people putting on make-up, looking at their phones, making phone calls, fiddling with the radio and not paying attention.  I get that.  Those people are dangerous.

It's something we all have to deal with and I know that running back and forth from 9 - 5 has sharpened my senses.  I've always tried to practice good safe techniques, now I'm noticing that I push those techniques more to the front.   I also understand that yes, my risk increases riding during the "rush hours."  My risk also increases if it's raining during those hours.

I wonder if gear is not part of the problem.  Gear can be expensive, although generally it's a one time expense.  A good helmet, a good safe jacket (preferably hi-vis), boots, gloves, etc.  It can add up and once again, if your going to ride in every day safety gear is a must.  The more I look around and learn about this lifestyle the more I realize that the people that rack up thousands of miles a year are wearing the best gear they can afford.



Gear may not be sexy, but it's going to save your life.  Which is the other problem I think.  It's not sexy to commute.  No one can see your leather, your girl on back, your shiny chrome.  You have to take the time to clean your bike, your equipment, your oil.

I think we have all been brainwashed some.  Easy Rider, Sons of Anarchy, even the comedy Wild Hogs, and a thousand and one magazines and adverts that show an alternate way to live.  A one that is not mundane.  One that we can escape to during the weekend.  Riding to work every day sort of ruins that fantasy.  Commuting is boring.

Storage can sometimes be a issue.  I understand that too, having bought a top box to carry my lunch back and forth in.  This being Florida, my rain gear is always kept on the bike.  There are ways around storage issues.

Parking can be an issue.  I know at my job for example "our" spot was recently compromised to make way for a travel van turning radius.  Now the various bikers are forced to park in various places.  I've requested a single simple spot with a sign.  At least four, five, or six bikes could fit in that spot, depending on how they park.

Until that happens we are parking in front of the building in a "visitor's" spot.  Some days I'm the only bike there.  Other days there are two or three others.  No one has asked me to move yet.  Sometimes you have to fight for your rights.

As I read the various blogs and forums that I frequent the one thing that impresses me again and again is the passion that people have for their bikes and life choices.  Never in a million years did I think I would have the same love for biking that many of the people that I respect and admire do.  Hell, ten years ago if you told me I be riding a bike and writing a motorcycle blog I laugh at you.  Yet, here I am.

Thursday, November 6, 2014

Riderscan...neat idea to good not to share.

What a great and simple idea.  http://www.huntercreate.com/index.htm  Frankly I will have to look into this.


Sunday, November 2, 2014

Community.

They were a little confused on the concept
Lately I've been thinking a lot about community.

Partially because of the time of year.  It's wonderful to see little kids dressed up and being super hero's, monsters, princess and fairies.  Partially because I realize that even though I grew up in the suburbs and lived in city confines most of my adult life, I've become accustomed to rural living.

I like the quiet.  The community where I live is gated but very active with the local schools and charities.  I like being out and about in the area.  I like riding in the cool evening weather.

Finally, last night I was reading the newly revised Riding the Wet Coast blog and it's various tributes that other bloggers wrote to the late Bob Leong.  I never met the man but feel proud to have been included in his little blogging family.  I feel proud to be part of this community.
How you got goods across a pond in the old days

Saturday I had the opportunity to ride with the Plant City/Lakeland crew I rode with once before and want to one day ride with again.  I felt welcome by them.  However the lovely Susan and I had already made plans and we had a bit of running around to do afterward (for example, I have new riding boots).  We attended the Antioch Pioneer Day events.  Antioch is literally a one stoplight town, and it's a blinking light.  The whole event was held on the grounds of the Baptist Church.

In a way it was a step back into time.  I was reminded of old TV shows like the Walton's and Little House on the Prairie.  Mostly because a few of the Church volunteers were dressed like character's out of that time period.  At one time the Church was the center of the community and events like this were a chance to socialize,  A chance to steal that first kiss from that special boy or girl, or smoke your first cigarette.  Oh to live on Sugar Mountain.


All the events were geared to a simpler time.  You could chase a pig about and win a free ice cream cone if you caught one, fish with your kids, ride in a covered wagon.  Everything was free expect the food and that was very reasonable.  

Honestly though the event was not for us.  We have no young children or are we church going people.  Although I was tempted to chase a pig, we decided to head on out.

After that, it was off to run errands and with no place to be or demanding time schedule we took our time wandering about and took in a few yard sales.  We ventured off to Camping World and discussed what were we would like to be in five, ten, twenty years.  Let's just say were saving up for a big tour bus.

A ride back into Zephyrhills found us at the local park for a surprising visit to an unknown event where we listened to some country music and wandered along merchants.  

For the second weekend in a row I stayed off the bike and you know what...I was happy to have not ridden in four days.  Sometimes you just need to be off the road for a bit.

One final thing, get out and vote on Tuesday!