Sunday, September 27, 2015

Bruce Rossmeyer's - a legend in Daytona

Ormand Beach, Florida at moonrise

Things have been a little hectic at Casa de Wilson.  Susan wants to keep things as normal as possible and I can understand why.

I've not gone riding in over a week, week and a half maybe.  The last long trip I took I knew I was low on air, and filled it up before the trip.  Then I rode to work and felt what could only be called a "wobble."  It may have been my imagination but no riding till I had the chance to look at it.  That finally came this weekend.  I was three pounds in pressure under the recommended air pressure.  I rode a bit afterward and guess wobble.  So it may have been my imagination but I still feel a new front tire is in my near future.

It's not that tacky.
Susan saw something about a Hawaiian shirt with Motorcycles on it.   I have a weakness for Hawaiian shirts, it's sort of "my brand" and started as a inside joke when I first moved to Florida.  I was told they were part of the dress code here and the rest they say is history.

So when the opportunity came to visit some of her family who had just moved into the Daytona Beach area, off we went.  Our destination was the famed Bruce Rossmeyer's Harley Davidson Dealership.

Frankly neither of us realized exactly how big this place really was.  It's a two story building with new and used bikes for sale.  Clothing and biker accessories, a tattoo parlor, a hotel, two restaurants and a cafe in the service bay.  I'm not forgetting the ice cream parlor, leather store, bike insurance kiosk, etc. In other words, if you're coming for Daytona Bike Week this is the destination.

The marketer in me has to admire their marketing strategy, and even though we did not pick up a Hawaiian shirt for myself (the cheapest was $60 and I'm a cheap bastard).  Harley does make some lovely bikes and I was impressed by more than a few.  I finally saw the 750 up close and I have to admit it's not that bad looking of a bike.

However I'm not wanting a bike because of the name.  If I did I would have bought the the BMW scooters when they first came out.   No, the next bike I buy will be well thought out and it maybe another Kymco honestly.

Harley is an American icon however, and Rossmeyer's is full of art, classic models and the history of bikes.  I actually wish I had a little more time, I would have loved to spent some more time wondering about and seeing what I could see.

Of course, by the end of that day I would have talked myself into something.  But we got away with a cute little shirt for my niece at a fair price.  I'm happy with that.

Yep, cows.  

Some of the Harley Davidson art work on Display

Only 14,513 miles on the Odometer, while it is a 51 Harley after all.

Thursday, September 17, 2015

in the blink of an eye

I'm not sure who said it, although it sounds like Douglas Adams.  "We are a small insignificant species living on a small insignificant rock orbiting a small insignificant sun in the back water of the universe."

There is also an old adage about living in the moment.  About living each day as if it was your last, About taking time to smell the roses, etc.

In the past week or so I've ridden Kimmy exactly once.  Part of this has been do to weather, part of it do to the fact that I wanted to check the pressure in the front tire since the last time I rode her their was a weird "wobble",  for lack of a better term, which seemed to affect the bike.  I made it home fine but concerned.  Due to some crazy things that have happened in my life, I've not done that.

"No riding," I promised the lovely Susan, "till I get that looked at."

In the past, Susan's had some health issues. Which, sadly, came to the forefront again.  This time however it feels different than her other health concerns.   She and I are talking about what the future holds, how to prepare for the worst possible news.  It's not a journey I've enjoyed or wanted to take.  At least not yet.

While there is hope at the end of the tunnel, it's going to be an uphill battle.  We both understand that.

The one year anniversary of my new position came and went without any celebration.  I've been part of three different projects during that year, and was just given the opportunity to be part of a fourth, an opportunity I had to turn down because I was unsure of what the future held.

All this reminded me of how old I was becoming.   How quickly things can the blink of an eye.

Riding home tonight I looked into the sunset, amazed at the blues and the greys.  A shade of pink so light it reminded me of a blush on a young girls cheek.  I thought about how we affect the lives of the people we love and cherish.  How each encounter can teach us something....change something. the blink of an eye.

For now at least this blog is going on hiatus.  Till we get a little more answers, a little more information.  Or, more likely than not, I get a bug up my ass to write again.  For now though...

Thank you for your understanding.

Thursday, September 10, 2015

Growing popularity is not a good thing at times.

Nearly everyone I know that rides does so safely.  Helmets, gloves, jackets, boots, etc.  It just seems to go hand in hand.  Of course nearly everyone I know that rides has been doing so for years, and with that experience I'm sure they have gone down, scraped skin and broken a few bones.  You learn some things doing that.   Mostly it hurts and doing it again is stupid.

Scooters are popular here in Tampa, I see them everywhere in the city.  Now that one of the top pop acts in the world - Macklemore and Ryan Lewis (whose video "Downtown" appears above) - is singing about the joys of scooter ownership.  I'm sure we are going to see a uptick in the machines around town.   

Which brings me to today's topic.   I had to deal with an accident yesterday.   I was not directly involved but I saw it happen.   I know why it happened.  Luckily the guy riding the Jonway scooter was not hurt nor was his little 50cc banged up badly.  I hate to say it...but in a way I was glad it happened, he was being an asshole.

He was riding in the bike lane avoiding traffic and that was fine.  Traffic was stop and go and at the time and he was zipping past everyone in the bike lane.   Then the bike lane ended.  No look over his shoulder, no turn signal, just over he came.  Traffic stopped, he continued to move forward on his little 50 cc.   I don't think he ever looked backed or used a signal.   Then he went to make a right turn.

The loose gravel on the side of the road bit him and I watched the rear tire slide out from under him in slow motion   He had no helmet, no jacket and was wearing shorts.   Luckily the car behind him stopped or it could have been worse.   Being a trained first responder, I pulled over and insisted on checking him out.  He was banged up and bruised, but otherwise fine.   I was tempted to admonish him for his riding and tell him to at least buy a helmet (which is not required in Florida).

I've seen stunting on the highways.  I've seen people cut in and out of traffic with out doing a shoulder check or use turn signals.  I've seen scooters with out working brake or head lights on them.  
If someone has read my blog for a bit they know how I feel about ATTGATT, how I feel about the little 50cc scooters that seem to be growing more in popularity.  Riding a scooter is a great thing of that there is no doubt.  

Lets be realistic however.  It's a deadly little thing if you don't take care, obey the laws and be smart about things.  It's a battle the rider is never going to win and frankly I've been wondering what I can do to promote safety and common sense.  I can join something like the American Motorcycle Association  but honestly there are stands they take that I disagree with (such as helmet laws - which I feel should be mandatory - and lane splitting).   

I've been guilty of that myself
Law enforcement could do a better job of enforcing the motor cycle and traffic laws that already exist but I know those guys are often overworked and stretched thin enough as it is.  I've toyed with the idea of taking a few more classes myself and  become an instructor. Following in the footsteps of  Princess Scooterpie.  However I ride a scooter, not a motorcycle and although the advanced riders classes would not hurt me in any way, I'm not ready or experienced enough to be a instructor.  Besides the classes only work if you attend the classes.  How many riders are being trained by a neighbor or a friend?

So I'm going to call out those I see behaving badly, give a friendly warning where I can.  I used to wonder why bikers always told horror stories of accidents and such.  I get it now, we are just trying to tell each other "Don't be stupid and do what I did."  

I think that's good stuff to pass on to the new riders.  

Sunday, August 30, 2015

Saturday's ride - Riding in Polk County, Florida

Their were seven of us on Saturday, various models of bikes - my Kimmy, a Honda CTX, a lovely 1978 Vespa P200 that was slowly but lovingly being restored and the other bikes.  We are somewhere on route 17 in South Central Florida heading towards a town called Frostproof.  The promise of "the best Onion Rings in Florida" and Ice Cream ahead of us.  I was looking forward to the ice cream.  We were cresting a hill.

"Oh Wow" I stated in my helmet.

Laid out before us was acres of Orange fields and a large beautiful lake.  The water glowed in the afternoon sun.  It's those moments that I love on a bike.  That was the only "Oh Wow" moment on the ride...but there were some interesting views.  We rode past old gnarled bushes that reminded me of something out a bad post-apocalypse movie.  An old water tower that was nearly eaten all the way through by rust, standing as a lonely sentential on the side of the road.

Generally all I use the bike for is commuting.  I don't get out very often to do a group ride, sure I have some adventures and I've done more than a few day trips on my own.  When I'm in a group and I see something like that lonely sentential I would love to pull over.  Maybe with this group I could of?  Who knows.    All I know for sure is...I was enjoying the trip.

There were mostly sweepers - those long easy turns - on the route.  A few twisties - which I define as a series of sharp, quick turns - but generally speaking the ride was not that challenging.  It started in Lakeland, then worked its way into Bartow...then snaked down the back roads towards Frostproof.  We didn't see to many other bikers, or cars in some areas.  I waved thanks to a farmer in a John Deere tractor that pulled aside to let our motley crew pass by.

We ended up at the Lake Arbuckle campground.  I was told it was a favorite with the local painters in the area, and as I looked at the ancient oaks and low hanging spanish moss, I could understand why. My curiosity was peaked by the signs saying "Air Force property.  Keep Out" across the road.  A chain link fence and unkempt vegetation as far as I as could see kept what ever secrets were there well hidden.

After that it was to the restaurant for lunch.  When I realized that the ice cream place did not take cards, I did have cash but not enough to pay for a milkshake and a meal, one of the other riders stepped up and payed for my meal.  He refused to take anything in return or even offer his address for me to send a check to cover it.   Thanks Ed.  I did appreciate the gesture.

I also got a taste of Lakeland, which I keep forgetting about.  It's actually a pretty big city in it's own right and is home to not only the largest collection of buildings by famed architect Frank Lloyd Wright in one location but since Polk county has a agriculture history and a lot of swamp land however, it's considered "backwater" in a lot of ways.  The town has a variety of lakes in the town and surrounding the town, and as such is home to various waterfowl.  Including the descendants of Richard the Lion Hearted Swans.  The swan has become the symbol of the city and painted swans are found everywhere.   It's a place the deserves further exploration in the future.

Over all the ride was 159 miles (256 KM) for me.  I was not that hot, the lovely Sue gave me something that you soaked in water then "snapped" to remove the excess water.  It went around my neck and kept me cool (the jugular veins help to regulate body temperature).  I was surprised by how well it worked, sadly I don't have the name of it, but will get it somewhere in the future.  Of course, moving at a good pace and staying hydrated never hurt.

Thursday, August 27, 2015

It's finally getting real (group riding, Bobscoot and updates)

I have plans for the weekend, it's a free weekend for me.  No jobs, no projects that need done.  I was speaking on Facebook with some people I know, and at long last I'll be able to go on a ride with them.

The only concern I have is the heat index.  I refuse to ride without my helmet.  Where I've ridden in the past without a proper jacket, I'm not doing that again.  I will be in jeans and boots.  I'll be riding roads I don't know and frankly I would rather be safe than sorry in case something weird happens.  The group is talking about taking the back roads to Frostproof, Florida.

That is about 70 miles from my house in Zephyrhills but that is the direct route.  When has a motorcyclist ever taken the direct route?   So I'm looking at about 150 to 200 miles (241 - 322 KM) round trip.  I can do that.   The route as it stand now is mostly US 27 and US 17; which will take us close to places like Bok Tower and  Cypress Gardens.  This is the "hill county" of Central Florida and should provide some beautiful vista's and overlooks.  I just hope I can take some photo's.

At this moment the weather is predicted to be 93 F (34 C) with a 50% chance of rain.  If the rain follows the traditional Florida summer pattern of being late afternoon/early evening storms I should be home, safe and dry, before the first raindrop falls  Tropical Storm Erika should not effect Florida at all till Monday and is most likely to skirt to the north of the Sunshine state.  So it's a long ride in the heat and humidity that bothers me, not so much the chance of rain.

The last few times I rode the bike into work I thought I would melt in the saddle as the heat index hit 105 F (40.6 C).  It's got me seriously considering buying either a cooling vest or something from the Heat Out line of gear.  I've been impressed with the Freeze out gear that I have tested.  If I buy anything it's going to have to be soon.  I've used something like what's in the picture before, but that only lasts for an hour or so, from what I understand a cooling vest can be run under cold water and keep you cool for a few hours.   The "heat out" line works by wicking the sweat away from your body.   In any case, I've bringing a few bottles of water.

I'm also thinking that in the coming month or so I should finally get a visit from Bobscoot.  For those of you that may not be familiar with Bobscoot.  He is a avatar of the late great Bob Leong.  Bob was one of the first people to comment on my blog and encouraged me to continue to write about my adventures (and misadventures) on two wheels.   The fourth anniversary of the blog just passed on the 25 of August as a matter of fact.  The little wooden scooter that serves as his proxy has been around the world now.  England, Germany, Australia and New Zealand.   Of course, several states here in the US as well.  I'm honored and scared to be part of that tribute.  I don't travel as much as others.  I'm not one to ride 100 or 200 miles in a day.  I'm simply me.  I'm actually a pretty boring guy.

But that's sort of the point of this isn't it.  To have a celebration of life and riding.   To simply...go.  So I have some things in mind for Bobscoot.  I just hope I can fit them all in with a crazy ass work schedule, weather and life in general.

In a gesture I'm sure he would have loved, I'll be riding to the Jacksonville area to pass Bobscoot on to Bill L. who writes the excellent Rocket and Me blog.  This will be my first meeting with another motoblogger.

So it's going to be nice to get out for a bit.  To meet up with new friends and old.  To my travels with Bobscoot (I've a few ideas in mind).  I'm looking forward to that change of seasons.

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Decisions....good and bad

We've been having the typical Florida summer as of late.  Hot mornings followed by even hotter afternoons, then a late afternoon or early evening thunderstorm.  The science teacher in me understands the the ground starts to cool we switch to warmer air coming in off the gulf.  That creates unstable conditions which results in rain.   Pretty simple really.

In the past my decision to ride was pretty much determined by the weather.   Fifty percent chance or higher of rain was a crap shoot and my cut off point.  Now with a commute that puts me at the end of rush hour and in heavier traffic...that percentage becomes even more important.  Suddenly forty percent of rain seems more reasonable.  More manageable.

I talk to people all day, I help them make decisions that can affect their family, their lives, their financial outcomes.  I train people to do this.  I work with everyone for 18 to 80.   I love my job at times...I hate my job at times.  Making decisions on risk, reward....opportunity.  So when I personally make a decision - for good or bad - it has a reason and it is not made lightly.

Rain....rain can not be taken lightly.  Especially in traffic.  Especially in a city like Tampa, with poor drainage, flooded roads and one of the highest incidents of uninsured motorists in the country.

A last minute decision in the morning to ride in despite a call for rain during the evening hours.  My decision to ride home tonight was a good one.   I had a little issue merging onto the highway; a road I generally don't like to ride home but with thunder booming in the distance and lightening striking the ground, I was looking for the fastest way away from the gathering doom.  I had my rain gear on, and was sweating my ass off in it.

Of course, not a drop of rain.

Yesterday however was a different tale, I left work under clear skies and took my normal way home.  On the way I had no luck and was caught at nearly every red light.   Then it started.  Light at first, actually almost enjoyable as the temperature dropped and the wind picked up.

That should have been my warning.

Before I knew it I was pulling off to the side of the road, hiding under a bank's drive thru window soaked and pissy.  That was within ten minutes after the storm started.  It continued to pour for roughy twenty minutes...and then I decided to move.  On went the rain gear even through I was soaked.

How far did I go since I left the bank...ten miles, fifeteen?  I was under the awning of a church this time thinking about why I made such a bad decision to ride to work.  I am looking out at a downpour so bad that I was unsure where the road was.  I'm cold.  I'm wet.  I'm unhappy.

Finally it lets up again, it's late and it's taking me forever to get home.  My hour commute that turned into a two hour plus ride.   When I finally do get home its a quick shower to warm up, a shot of whisky just to ensure my nerves were calm and off to bed.

Tomorrow's weather?  More of the same.  A forty percent chance which threatens me when I leave work.  A very good chance considering the pattern over the last week or so.  Maybe I'll take the car.

Sunday, August 9, 2015

Seriously...when do you buy/replace gear?

It's a rainy and sad Sunday morning.   I've got Miles Davis on in the background, his Kind of Blue is fitting my mood.

It's been an uneventful week, which I suppose as a scooter commuter is the type of week you want to have.  No close calls, no idiotic drivers (well, none that caused a problem for me at least).  Sadly no travel either do to a wet and very busy weekend.

So what to write about?  I considered writing about the weather - which has been hot, muggy and wet most of the week - and how to safely ride in it.  I've considered how the cooler weather will soon be here, how my "winter" jacket has served me well and since I'm now working only till 6 or 7 PM most nights, how my Freeze Out jacket, gloves and my current mesh jacket should work well for me most of the year.  In fact, for only a few months out of the year the mesh jacket suites me fine.

Average Tampa temperatures 
High °FLow °FHigh °CLow °C
The Jacket from Xmas - 2011

My blood has not thinned out that much when I would consider anything to be cold.  Of course your body adjusts to the climate your in.  We've had some cold snaps that reminded me of early winters back home.

My "winter" jacket is your traditional motorcycle jacket.  It was made by Vulcan and it has served me very, very well.  It's been through a couple of "incidents."  Neither of which were technically my fault, but as a realist - I could have done things better, been a better rider.  Experience helps you grow.  Unlike a helmet, which I know should be replaced when ever it's been involved in a accident, I'm not sure about the jacket.

It's been beat up sure, scratched up in a couple of places but the seams are still holding up nicely.  It's a little snug now, much more so then what I remember it but the man is growing older.  It's four years old now.

The jacket was given to me as a gift, I still would have preferred, and still prefer something in a bright neon or orange.  But beggars can not be choosers and I love that my parents bought me a good jacket.  I added some reflective tape to it and later still added a neon yellow safety vest to it.  It still works...but honestly I'm a bit worried about the armour and how that holds up over time.

Gloves are easy to know when to replace.  Frankly I used to buy a pair of riding gloves from my local Wal-mart, but after wearing through the fingers on a few of them I bit the bullet and paid for a pair of Fox gloves.  It's been a world of difference and I'm going to buy a pair of gauntlet gloves for the winter.  I just need to go get a pair.  Color don't matter, just be windproof and waterproof.

I know I'm cheap, but the older I get the more safety matters to me.  I'm okay paying a bit more for something that may be the difference between a broken hand and a bruised hand.

Then their is my helmet.   I have mixed emotions about it.  When I bought it, I thought it was fine, but here we are some two years later and I'm not happy with it at all.

It's an HJC.  The little plastic tab broke off that opens and closes the top vents, it's been open ever since, not that it matters.  The face shield had a tendency to come out of its' grooves, meaning I've had to pull over and fix it at times.  The plastic seems cheap and I've often had to resnap the padding back into place.  I'm cheap like I said and it was a closeout.

I do have a few other helmets.  Sue has one for her noggin and we bought a second full face helmet for me at that time but it never felt quite right when I wore it, hence I bought the HJC and was happy with it for a short time.  A silver half helmet I've not worn in forever rounds out the equipment.

I've fallen in love with the modular helmets - wearing glasses it would be so much easier - and frankly if I go that route, I might as well pay for the phone/GPS and radio option.  One of the things I love about riding is the quiet, NOT having the radio or GPS or people calling.  Still though, if I'm serious about wanting to go on day trips to the Atlantic or put in 150 mile + days on a more regular basis, having that equipment built in only makes sense.  It's just a shame that Nolan is so damned pricy.  So do we put that off?  Or the jacket for now?

No matter what I do, I'm looking at getting my money's worth out of this equipment.  Good gear can be the difference between "Ouchie" and "We are here to celebrate the life of..."   I'll take the ouchie in the pocketbook before the "celebration of life" any day of the week.

So gentle readers; when do you buy gear?  What would you recommend?  I'm listening.