Saturday, October 31, 2009

Riding the Roads Less Traveled

Where do you want to ride?

I dunno, where do you want to go?

I dunno.

Our riding club is rather unconventional in that it doesn't have a leader. We have some founding members who make sure the club is moving in the right direction, but as far as taking care of the day-to-day, week-to-week duties of planning rides, meetings, events, it's up to anybody to step up and make something happen.

So Thursday I met up with a fellow member (see yesterday's post about running out of gas) to head out on a weekday ride. We only knew that we're going to meet up at 9:30am at our usual place.

I love these kinds of rides because there's no predetermined route or destination. We have no idea where we're going to go, how long we're going to be out, or how much money we'll end up spending.

He suggested to ride out towards Palm Springs only because it's warmer out there. But I wasn't thrilled about riding out that way, particularly because we're already talking about riding out that way this weekend.

Another idea was Palomar Mountain Rd, but while Palomar is a twisty and challenging road to ride, it seems we're always talking about Palomar.

And that got me thinking about some roads we hardly ever ride on. They're not necessarily the most twisty roads out there, but they still offer some fun turns. I'm not one who has to ride the most twisty roads out there 100% of the time. With so many great roads to choose from in Southern California, and as often as we ride, it's ironic we choose the same roads so often.

Lake Wolhford Rd, Harmony Grove Rd, Elfin Forest Rd, West Lilac Rd, Olive Hill Rd, Alvarado Rd. These are all roads in the northern part of San Diego County that offer nice scenery, a few twisties, and lots of sweepers, but we just don't ride them that often.

I think it's because some of them are rather short in length and don't necessarily connect you to interesting places.

We also explored some roads we never rode before. And the reason why we never rode them before is because they don't go anywhere. They dead end. We found a scenic little road called Jesmond Dene Rd, just north of Escondido, that takes you to N Broadway. N Broadway sounds like something in the middle of downtown, but it's not. It's actually a narrow two-lane road that meanders for a few miles through a valley surrounded by mountains, with several sweeping curves. And then it dead ends.

Too bad.

Even the place we chose to eat lunch at was a mystery. When we headed into a town, and it seemed like we were ready to get some grub, I spotted a place I had never seen before. Neither of us had ever been there in fact. It just looked like a good place.

That whole "running away" feeling that motorcycle riding can give you seems amplified when you don't have a plan on where to ride. And if you can throw in some roads you never rode on, or hardly ever ride, that feeling is amplified yet again. And then throw in a cafe you've never eaten at, and it's like being a thousand miles from home.

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Thursday, October 29, 2009

Besting the Motorcycle Demons

Had a lucky moment this morning at the gas station.

As I left home, I knew I needed to put gas in the tank really soon. As I approached the main road, the engine already started sputtering. "Come on!" I said, imploring the bike to just get me a half-mile further to make the gas station.

The night before, I left home with "161" reading on my odometer, on my way to the tavern to hang out with some friends. It's about 15 miles from my house to the tavern. So that's 30 miles round trip. I knew I usually get about 200 miles on a full tank of gas. So I knew I didn't have to stop at a gas station that evening.

But after leaving the tavern, I went to a friend's house which is just another 3 miles further away. So that technically made the whole trip 36 miles. "No problem" I thought. That'll still leave me with about 4 miles left in the tank for tomorrow, and the gas station is just 2 miles from my house.

So when I returned home last night, I chose not to stop at the gas station, and instead planned to do so the next morning.

So back to where I left off. I turned down the main road towards the gas station, the bike would find some gas and go, and then it would sputter again. I got to about 1/4 mile from the station and the bike was sputtering more than it was going. Finally, the engine stopped, and I pulled in my clutch lever to keep the momentum going.

I tried pushing the starter button to get the engine started again, but it just wouldn't start. It'd find a few drops of gas and sound like it was going to start, but it just wouldn't start. I finally lost all momentum and came to a stop on the road. I hit the starter button again, and found just enough fuel to get it running.

I was able to build up enough momentum that by the time the engine petered out again, I was able to coast into the gas station, and came to a stop right at the pump.

"Yes!" I smiled. The odometer read 199.something. I managed to calculate my mileage accurately to within one mile, and justified myself not getting gas the night before.

I reached into my pocket to retrieve the key to unlock the gas cap on my Electra Glide, only to discover that I left the key at home!

"God Damn It!" I thought.

And it's not like I could jump on the bike and ride home to get it either!

Thoughts raced through my mind on what to do. First, I was going to call up the friend whom I was going to meet that morning, and tell him I'd be late. Or better yet, just have him meet me at the gas station instead.

I thought about calling my wife, but I knew she wasn't home. She was out grocery shopping. But then I remembered that she keeps a spare key on her key ring. I called her up, but she didn't answer.

I wondered, "What the Hell, did she leave her cell phone at home, or did she leave it in the car?"

I decided to call her again.

This time she answered.

I asked her where she was. She said she was having breakfast at IHOP. "Cool!" I said. Because IHOP is right next door to the gas station where I was. I told her my predicament, and she walks outside the restaurant and waved her hand at me. Then walks over and hands me the key.

"Whew!"

I originally thought I had defeated the motorcycle demons when I coasted into the gas station. But then it seemed they had gotten the best of me when they made me forget to bring my key. However it turned out I one-upped them, and sent them home with their tails between their legs!

I filled up, and sped off to meet up with my buddy. And on the way, I kept thinking I'm going to remove that lock from the gas cap. This wasn't the first time I found myself at a gas station without the key.

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Saturday, October 24, 2009

Patience in Buying a Motorcycle

All this year I've been blogging and talking about wanting to buy another motorcycle, and yet still haven't done so.

I have my eye on a Yamaha FZ6, or some other similarly equipped and styled standard that I can throw around in the twisties.

Another guy in our riding club wants something sportier as well, and he's had his eye on the Triumph Speed Triple.

So we've been talking together about it a lot, just like little boys talking about getting a Wii versus an Xbox, and then standing in a Wal-Mart and spending all afternoon playing the demo models.

But its always about money.

For me, I'm in a better financial position now. My wife and I managed to get some debts paid off, and I managed to improve my business income this year. So I'm feeling the urge even more.

However, I look on the horizon and see things coming up that I need to prepare for. Next March is our 20th wedding anniversary, and we've been talking about going to Hawaii. And with my business income being improved, income taxes are going to be increased, and I know Obama is going to hit me pretty hard.

We also have a home equity loan we took out several years ago to make some improvements on our property. I would really like to get that paid off, now that we're better position to do so.

So in reality, it's looking like a new motorcycle is a still distant dream.

And the funny thing about the future is that you never know what's around the corner. I think that it won't be until next June that I'll be able to buy that FZ6, but I know that something unforseen will come up to set me back even further.

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Monday, October 19, 2009

Apathetic Motorcycle Riders

What does it take to get motorcycle riders to come out for a bike night?

That's the question one guy asked today.

Mike runs a motorcycle meetup group of his own, similar to the one I run, and both of our meetup groups are focused in the same town.

So last week he posted a "bike night" at a local biker hangout. This hangout started doing bike nights a few months ago. I went to the first one after hearing about how good the tri-tip was, and how passionate the owner was in trying to start a new bike night tradition.

When I went there, there were only about 20-30 bikers who showed up, which is actually a paltry number compared to the several hundred that show up certain other places around Southern California.

Well, in the week since Mike posted a meetup for this bike night, only about 7 people responded that they'd show up. And Mike, being the kind of guy he is, sent out an e-mail to everyone subscribed to his meetup group, expressing some frustration that so few people responded...

Where the hell is everyone else! Most members are not even interested enough to RSVP NO!


...that was just a sampling of what Mike wrote.

And that's a good point. It's understood that people have other things to do. But then again, if you care enough to join a group of riders, club or no club, you should still participate enough to say, "No, I can't make it". Not saying anything is apathetic.

If you're in a club, or if you're part of a group of riders, how often do you take the time to say, "No, I can't make it", or "I can't commit right now, but I'll let you know at the end of the week"?

When someone in your club or group organizes a ride or an event, and you can't make it, do you just ignore it and not say anything?

And if you don't care enough to at least issue a response, why did you even bother to join?

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Sunday, October 18, 2009

The Love Ride Died With The RUBs

The Love RideThe 26th Annual Love Ride was cancelled.

The Love Ride was probably the biggest biker event Southern California had to offer. It was an event that had always been full of hype, glamor, and organized mayhem.

It was cancelled due to lack of interest.

That's the official reason.

But the way I see it, it was a victim of itself.

I had attended the 21st Love Ride because I was told it was something I had to see to believe, and that it was the coolest biker event around. Of course, you can't always believe everything you hear. As it turned out, I was disappointed. Or rather, it was exactly as I had anticipated, a lot of hours spent waiting to get going, all freeway riding, everyone riding gangbusters, long lines to get food, and long lines to use a porta-pottie.

That was the first and last time I ever made that mistake.

As the history goes, The Love Ride started out with one Glendale Harley-Davidson wanting to organize a charity event to donate money to kids in need. It was small and simple, and it felt good and felt real. But Glendale is right next to Hollywood, and Hollywood is never satisfied with the same-old-same-old year after year. It has to get bigger, glamorous, and continually reinvent itself. It brought in movie stars and headlining acts. And as the years went by, the ticket prices went higher and higher.

There would be 20,000 motorcycles lined up in front of Glendale Harley-Davidson, waiting to get going on the ride. And when the ride started, it would still take another hour before those towards the back would get going. And the ride? Well, it was just about 20 miles up Interstate 5. That was it. That was the whole ride, all freeway.

Obviously, no motorcycle rider with a lick of sense would spend $80.00 a ticket just to wait several hours in front a Harley dealer, then ride 20 miles of freeway, and then sit and stand the rest of the day waiting in line for food.

But the RUBs would. The "rich urban bikers", who interestingly enough are not necessarily rich, and not necessarily urban, just those who bought a motorcycle to experience the lifestyle, thinking somehow that if they participated in The Love Ride, they would become a little bit more of a genuine article.

Those were the people The Love Ride thrived on.

But the money benefited charities.

Yes, that was the reason to participate. That's another thing. We live in a time now where charitable organizations have employees on the dole, and anywhere from 90 to 95% of the money you donate goes to paying employees and overhead. I don't want to donate money anymore. I want to donate goods. I'd rather do a charity run that delivers canned food to a food bank, toys to a children's hospital, or blankets to a homeless shelter.

Why couldn't The Love Ride have done that?

But as it is now, the RUBs aren't shelling out money anymore. Many of them sold their Harleys, or had them repossessed. Maybe, we just don't have RUBs anymore, I don't know. The bikers who are still carrying the torch are the ones who truly live to ride, and if you truly live to ride, you are not paying $80.00 to sit and stand around all day.

The Love Ride killed itself. It was an event that lived with the RUBs, and died with the RUBs. Without them it buckled under its own weight. It would be better for The Love Ride to go back to its roots and get real again, but it's just not the nature of Hollywood to do that.

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Saturday, October 17, 2009

Hanging With the Guys

Last night I took my Electra Glide up to my buddy Brian's house to put a new tire on the back. He has a tire changer.

It's not a hydraulic, nor motorized changer, but largely a platform with tools to make tire removal and mounting a lot easier. You still have to apply some elbow grease, and it's a lot easier if you have a second set of hands too.

This was probably the third time I had taken my bike up to his place to put a new tire on, and this time everything went so smoothly. Contrast that to the previous times when we had to learn how to use the tire changer, and when we made the mistake of leaving the brake disc on the wheel and ended up warping it.

What also made it fun is that this time we had a couple of other buddies with us as well, and the four of us took turns unbolting parts, removing the wheel, getting the old tire off, putting the new tire on, balancing the tire, and putting it all back together.

And Brian had lots of his homebrewed beer available. So we were hanging out in the garage, with beers in hand, taking turns wrenching on the bike, and having a good time.

We even got to do some evening riding too. What happened is that a torx socket we were using to remove the brake disc snapped and broke. It was a Craftsman brand tool, and fortunately the time was 8:00pm, giving us just one hour before Sears closed up for the night. So we hopped on our bikes (Brian has two bikes so I rode his other one) and off to Sears we went. The guy at the tools department gave us a free replacement, and we were in and out of there in five minutes.

And it was a perfect night for a ride too. Temps were still in the 70's at that time, and very little traffic to deal with.

Had I have taken the bike into a shop to get a new tire put on, this whole night would not have happened. Yeah, I saved money doing it this way, but honestly the thought really never occurred to me that whole night.

And I'm a city boy who grew up appreciating convenience; it would have been an involuntary neuromuscular reaction to drop the bike off at a shop, even though I had done this at Brian's a couple times before.

Of course it's easier when you have a friend with a tire changer. But the first time Brian and I tried to pull the tire off the rim, he didn't have one. We tried using pry bars, tire irons, a vice, a mallet, even jumping up and down on the tire, and couldn't break the bead. We ended up taking the wheel to a Cycle Gear store where they have a tire changer. But still, it was a couple of us guys off on an adventure, trying to change a tire.

But this night it all went well. Breaking that torx socket actually made the night more fun. Well, after we got done, we set up chairs in the back patio and drank down some more beers, ate some munchies, and enjoyed the rest of the evening.

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Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Maria Shriver Cell Phone Debate

So while Maria Shriver is getting laughed at for breaking California's law against using cell phones while driving, at least all she has to do is issue a public apology...
California first lady Maria Shriver says she's sorry for breaking a state law that requires drivers to use hands-free devices while talking on cell phones.

What this only shows is that banning cell phone use while driving is a bad law. People use their cell phones because the world is becoming increasingly mobile, and at the same time, the people are expected to be reachable 24 hours a day. Cell phones helped shape this world, just as the automobile did.

The irony I've seen is that most of my motorcycle riding friends have shown their support for this law, even going so far as to curse out a cager they see using their cell phone. Yet, all of my biker friends have used their cell phones while driving a car.

I tend to believe that all motorcycle riders, including myself, have used their cell phones while driving a car. If our cell phone rings while driving a car we answer it anyways because we know we're capable enough to use a cell phone and still drive safey. That's why we do it.

It's like speed limits. We all drive over the speed limit because we know we can handle it.

The reason why motorcyclists have supported laws against cell phone use while driving is because they hate cagers. That's all it is.

But every motorcyclist I know is a cager also.

I wonder if the state and federal DOTs can actually claim that car accidents have decreased since these laws went into effect?

I doubt it.

It's time to get rid of the cell phone law.

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About Steve

San Diego, CA-based motorcycle rider who likes long road trips, old rustic bars, craft beer, and tough women. Can often be found where there's free Wi-Fi, writing about the mysteries of life. (Read more...)