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.  Frankly I will have to look into this.

Sunday, November 2, 2014


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!  

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.