Tuesday, December 30, 2008

It Was How Cold?

An important part of motorcycling is being comfortable. As in dressing for the conditions. Living in Arizona there are only about three months when we even have to think about anything other than "God it's hot!!"

But, on occasion, like last Sunday, when riding into a possible 27 degrees having on the proper attire can make the difference between an enjoyable outing and just surviving. That little thing called Wind Chill Factor gives riders an idea of what they are really in for.

WCF is a complicated formula to tell what the temperature will feel like with the wind blowing on you. The National Weather Service has a chart on their web site that takes the guessing and math out of the equation for speeds up to 60 MPH.

So the next time you take off when it is only 40 degrees and you might not be home before dark, remember it will feel like 25 if you hold it to 60 MPH and will get colder on the return trip.

I will ride to school when we go back with early morning temperatures in the mid 30's giving WCFs of 19 or so. It might be a bit chilly, but I'll be smiling knowing those 100+ degree days aren't very far away. I'm not sure why, but the cold takes more energy from me than the heat does. Cast your vote to which you would rather ride in.

Monday, December 29, 2008

Winter Ride

Ahhhhhhhhhhh winter is here in Arizona. Sunday, December 28 and it was a pleasant 35 degrees, sunny, and a promised high of 58. Perfect for a short jaunt down to Oracle, Arizona to try out a small little Mexican restaurant named Casa Rivera. Met up at Ms Hogs pen with Shawn and Roy and off we went in search of two riders meeting us out on the turnoff to Florence. The riding was great, if not a bit chilly, with a bright sun lit sky and a small cross wind.

The mostly uneventful ride took us South on Arizona 79 up to about the 5580 foot elevation near Black Mountain. Uneventful until a cage pulled out to pass just as he topped a hill and there were five motorcycles running at him about 300 yards away. Must have been in a hurry.....to slam on the brakes and make a very quick right. Wasn't even close for me as I was in my usual position for a group ride which is at the tail end. When we turned off of 79 onto 77 we saw some funny white powder covering the ground. Those back east might not recognise it as snow, but here it makes little kids' hearts race and normal adults get crazy.

On the left is Louise, standing in the snow, outside Casa Rivera and on the right is Casa Rivera. Did I mention it was a small restaurant? But, it was also busy and people continued to show up and wait to get a seat. Six folks from Tuscon rode up to meet us there and it was a really good lunch.

After eating, visiting, and gassing up, we headed back toward Phoenix with all the Tucson bikers. The plan was to stop at the Tom Mix Memorial and then each group going on their way. Tom Mix was a famous cowboy actor from the silent movie days. I've seen this memorial on many occasions, but never really knew anything about him until today. A six million dollar man in the 1920s to 40s, a military deserter, and a circus performer added to his colorful life. He was killed in a wreck about a half mile south of the rest stop.

This nice 280 mile ride and home in time to watch the conclusion of the Arizona Cardinals game ending the season 9-7. Atlanta comes to town next Saturday at 11-5. The Cards might not have a prayer, but they made the playoffs and anything could happen. Sad that they play in a dome out here and those in the cold country won't see our great early January weather. But, maybe they will open the top for this game. That is if the temperature gets up to 55 or so. Arizona weather......just awful.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Merry Christmas To All

May your Holiday Season be filled with joy, smiles, love, and Santa taking care of all your little elves. Then, hopefully, Santa will deliver an early thaw so that riding may resume.

Happy New Year to all.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Tis The Season

The cool weather has enveloped the desert, the colorful lights are twinkling on the neighborhood houses, the traffic has increased and the drivers are impatient. That can only mean it is approaching the holiday season. Better known, to those like me that aren't politically correct, as Christmas and Christmas means it is time to think about Toy Runs. This past weekend I cleared my schedule and attended my first of the year.

This particular run was the 36th Annual Kicks 4 Kids Motorcycle Toy Run sponsored by the Star of Phoenix Chapter #113, Fraternal Order of Police, and the Army Reserve NCO Council. This is the longest running toy run in Arizona and the support is outstanding. The economy did affect this ride as it was supposed to be an escorted ride by Phoenix PD and the Arizona Highway Patrol, but due to budget issues there was no escort. The problem was they only let 30 or so bikes out at a time and we had to stop at the lights. We were in the third group out and once out on I17 South it got a bit interesting. Watching out ahead there were many brake lights and cars swerving from lane to lane dodging each other. A small group of us changed over to the HOV lane and continued. Then we saw the problem. The lead group of riders were traveling about 35 miles an hour down the freeway. That seemed to me to be inviting disaster and explained the cars braking and swerving.

The left picture is the staging area and the right is arriving at the drop off area. As you see the weather was overcast and there was a possibility of showers. But, you couldn't let a small thing like showers keep from helping out the children.

My grand daughter loves 'babies' so when choosing what gift to buy I had to get a baby in honor of her. If it makes her that happy I am hoping that other little girls will be as thrilled.

These were two of the really cool rides that were at the ride.

This was the most noteworthy paint job I saw on the ride. It was outstanding in the detail and looks.

After dropping off the toys we headed to Mesa for breakfast where we sat out on the patio. There was no sense letting all that leather go to waste.

After breakfast we headed out to Saguaro Lake just for the ride. While it was chilly, the sun did sneak out for a bit and it felt really good. All in all this was a very nice day to ride. It was cold by Arizona standards and if the sun would have shown itself more I would have been happier. But, at least Petunia doesn't have to be covered in the garage because of that funny white stuff that our friends back east are looking at.

I guess I'll just have to ride a few miles next weekend in their honor.

Monday, December 1, 2008

What is an Epic Ride?

The Alaska ride was 40 some years in the making. It was the best ride I have ever been on and I don't get tired of telling about it. But, that ride is in the past and now it is time to look to the future. The word epic comes to mind. I want to complete an Epic Ride. One that makes a statement about who I am and what I think about riding a motorcycle.

Epic is a simple word that could have grandiose implications.
Dictionary.com describes epic as follows;

ep⋅ic   /ˈɛpɪk/ Show Spelled Pronunciation [ep-ik] Show IPA Pronunciation –adjective Also, ep⋅i⋅cal.
1. noting or pertaining to a long poetic composition, usually centered upon a hero, in which a series of great achievements or events is narrated in elevated style: Homer's Iliad is an epic poem.
2. resembling or suggesting such poetry: an epic novel on the founding of the country.
3. heroic; majestic; impressively great: the epic events of the war.
4. of unusually great size or extent: a crime wave of epic proportions.

5. an epic poem.
6. epic poetry.
7. any composition resembling an epic.
8. something worthy to form the subject of an epic: The defense of the Alamo is an American epic.
9. (initial capital letter) Also called Old Ionic. the Greek dialect represented in the Iliad and the Odyssey, apparently Aeolic modified by Ionic.

1580–90; < L epicus < Gk epikós. See epos, -ic

How many miles does it take to qualify as an Epic Ride? BB over at BB's Road Trip just posted about hitting her first 1000 miles as a rider. Something she never planned to do, but it is now in her blood. How many of you remember your first 1000 miles? I know I don't and never considered it be significant at the time. What the Hell does a seventeen year old know anyway? However, reading BB's post
I have started to think about and begun to plan a ride of Epic proportions. Summer vacation is only seven months away and finding the perfect route to complete a ride of this magnitude will take some research and careful planning. The only thing I know for sure at this point is that it will have mostly two lane highways and the Interstate will be on an as needed basis only. Summer vacation lasts from June 6 until August 13, for a total of 68 days. My initial thought is to spend around 55 days out seeing this great country and where the road takes me.

Chime in and give your thoughts about what you consider a ride of epic proportions. Where would your road lead?

Sunday, November 2, 2008

Bike Show Review

Saturday found us checking out the Cycle World International Motorcycle Show at the University of Phoenix Stadium. (sponsored by Toyota?) This is the home of the Arizona Cardinals NFL football team. It is also the first time I have been inside the stadium and it is very impressive. An interesting fact of the stadium that I found surprising is the expensive seats are on the lower level. To get to the good seats you need to go down two sets of escalators, while it appears the ground level is the cheap seats.

But, on to the bike show. Cost of admission was $12 at the door or $10 if purchased on-line. However the $12 at the door was cash only and they had pay per transaction ATMs right there for folks who didn't realize they needed to pay to get in. There were at least a hundred people waiting to pay to get cash to pay to go inside. This event was advertised as a bike show with all the new 09 models under one roof. I would rate this event as a poor excuse for a bike show. There were very few vendors, and those that were there weren't hawking much in the line of bike accessories. Memphis Shades was there, as well as a company that makes a trike conversion kit for a Harley. I asked and found that an unpainted kit was a cool $10,000. Their dealer would do a complete color matched installation for, "About $16,000."

There were three different companies offering Bike Riding Training Courses and the scooter dealers were everywhere. I had a thought that with so many people just beginning to ride, scooters and bikes, one of these Rider companies should be trying to partner with all of these dealers to make rider training part of the purchase price. Pie in the sky idea? Not really. A course runs about $225 and a Show special drops it to $180, or a 20% reduction. If dealers had a captive audience, bike buyers, and "Gave" them training at a cost of say $140, or a 38% reduction of the stated cost I'm thinking that new riders would go to the "Free" course that would allow them to get their motorcycle endorsement without taking the riding and written test, an insurance discount, the rider trainer operators would have guaranteed income, and the dealers would be promoting safety and insuring their customers would be around to upgrade to a new, bigger bike in a year or two.

There were some interesting things at the Show.

This is a Ural. I had seen their web site before, but never seen one in person. This is an on/off road vehicle that I found interesting.

This is a bike produced by Johnny Pag. These are full size motorcycles that cost between 4 and $5,000.

This is a Ducati and the open engine, without apparent places to mount an engine guard, was odd. All of their bikes at this show had the engines exposed in this fashion.

This stretched, low riding machine was out in the parking lot. I'm thinking this would be a beast to ride because of the position it would require to reach the bars. It has to be a bar hopper or a trailer bike.

The bike of the Show for me was this Orange County Choppers creation for DieHard Batteries. This would be a sweet ride.

That was the day at the Cycle World International Motorcycle Show. As far as bike shows go it was a dissapointment and I don't think I would ever attend another one by this company. But, they might be coming to your area and you might want to go check it out for yourself.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

End of Fall Break Ride

It is already Saturday and the one week of Fall Break is quickly coming to a close. I knew getting only one week would make it fly by and I have been spoiled with two weeks for the last several years. So, I took the opportunity to get back to two up riding. I have given a few people rides, but for the most part I have only ridden solo for the past nine years. My friend, Louise, has ridden in the past and she was willing to take the chance and ride with me.

Well, where to go? My first thought was to dinner up in Rock Springs. A short 80 mile round trip that offers a few curves and great scenery. This is a favorite ride for me and I make it regularly. But, then I thought, and asked, why not take the more scenic route up Highway 89, or Yarnell Hill, into Prescott. That made me think about adding Highway 89A and just going all the way to Jerome. Maybe a bit ambitious after not carrying a passenger in so long, but I've ridden this road many times and Louise had never been there before.

We were off at 10 Saturday morning in bright sunlight and pleasant temperatures. I anticipated, and warned, that it would probably get cold at the higher elevations, but it was great the entire day. These pictures are from Highway 89 a few miles south of Prescott. There was a haze in the air at the higher elevations that I don't remember ever being there.

Traveling through Prescott I took a wrong turn and accidentally found my way to the road I knew would take us to 89A. Rolling closer to Jerome I was aware of just how much damage the Bark Beetle has done to the forest.

These pictures were taken about a mile from Jerome. Just around the bend shown on the left. The right picture shows the old water pipes that supplied Jerome back when it was a mining town. We found a parking spot and went to the Mile High Grill for a late lunch. My daughter and son-in-law were there earlier in the week and gave it good reviews. But, I couldn't bring myself to have the creme cheese filled hamburger. After lunch we walked all around Jerome before heading back down the hill.

We went into Prescott Valley for gas and then over to I 17 to ride to Black Canyon City and make a stop at Rock Springs Cafe. Because of the late lunch we just opted for a slice of the Jack Daniels Pecan Pie. Leaving Rock Springs we did put on jackets for the ride back into Phoenix. A couple of areas we were thankful that we did as it got a bit nippy crossing the desert out by Lake Pleasant.

Back around 8 and an enjoyable 260 mile ride was over. Riding 2 up again wasn't as hard as I thought. I did ride a bit slower than I usually do, but that was a good thing. Louise was a great passenger and her riding skill was evident as she quickly became part of Petunia. Yep, today was a great day riding, having a passenger adds to the ride, and I look forward to the next trip.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Are You Always Nuts?

I had given my students a writing assignment about a time they were scared. They asked if I was going to write one also. Of course I was, I always demonstrate the writing process for my students. As usual they wanted me to read it to them after I was finished. At the conclusion of the reading a young fellow asked, “Mr. Malone are you always nuts?” Possibly, but sometimes a person gets a life lesson that changes them forever.

It was a cold February, Monday morning in Phoenix in 1982. When I woke up I was looking forward to the ride up to Snowflake, Arizona where I was working the graveyard shift at the paper mill. It had snowed in Northern Arizona over the weekend and my family suggested that I shouldn't ride the motorcycle up there this week. But, I was always looking for adventure, and I was about to find one.

As I left Phoenix it was brisk, the sun was shining brightly, the sky was a brilliant blue, and not a cloud was in sight. I was leaving two hours earlier than usual to allow for riding slower in case the roads were bad. It was a generic ride getting to Payson except for being cold and a little snow along the highway here and there, but the roads were dry and the sun was still bright.

As I turned onto Highway 260 to Heber I noticed there was no traffic and there was more snow along the road. Ten, twenty, thirty miles and the road began to get wet from the melting snow. This was fun and I started going faster and faster, leaning farther and farther until the pegs my feet rested on were dragging the asphalt. The unmistakable grinding noise of steel wearing on asphalt, a shower of sparks flying behind me as I pushed the limits of the motorcycle and elements. Dumping into the corners, left then right and feeling invincible as the speed increased to test the limit of my abilities.

Six miles north of Kohls Ranch in a left hand sweeper, in the shadows of the pine trees, it happened. ICE! The rear end of the bike started to slide out from under me. As I let off the throttle and sat up straight, it snapped back to the right and I ran off the asphalt onto the gravel shoulder. There was a guardrail coming straight me at 60 miles an hour. On the other side a 150 foot drop. In a heartbeat I leaned as far left as I could, downshifted, and cranked as hard as I could on the throttle, while praying I wouldn’t go flying over the edge. I got lucky for an instant as the bike responded and slid around parallel to the guardrail. I let off the throttle, started to apply the brakes, and than saw it. The mountain was directly in front of me and closing at 55 miles an hour. BAM! I slammed into it and was thrown over the bars into the mountain. The mountain spit me out onto the highway where I tumbled, rolled, and kept bouncing for what seemed like forever. When I stopped I hurt and couldn't move. I was worried about the motorcycle landing on me, but couldn’t turn to see where it was. I laid there, not moving, trying to decide if I was OK. Hoping a car wouldn’t come around the corner and run over me. Hoping, though, that someone would come and stop to see if I was alive.

After a few minutes I started to move my arms. They were sore, but didn’t feel broken. Next I moved my legs and they seemed to be alright. I tried to move my head, but the pain was too great. I thought I must have broken my neck. I laid there, in the middle of the highway, for what seemed like an hour. I finally unbuckled the helmet and with that done I could move my head a little. It hurt, but I tried to sit up anyway. I had to hold the helmet in both hands, roll to the right, and push up with my arms to finally be sitting up. A few minutes later I wanted the helmet off. I slowly lifted up and the pain was terrible, but I continued until the helmet popped off. I couldn’t turn my head or look up or down. My neck was in awful pain, but I was alive and didn’t go over the cliff. It was another half an hour before a car came by. After checking me they returned to Kohls Ranch to call the Highway Patrol and a wrecker.

The motorcycle was destroyed. It was bent, twisted, and several pieces were torn off. The bags and my cloths were scattered all along the highway. By the time the Highway Patrol arrived I knew I would be OK. It turned out that I wouldn’t be able to turn my head for over three weeks. The helmet did its job and kept my brains inside my head.

I was really lucky that day and it was the scariest thing that ever happened to me. That was also the last time I have crashed on a motorcycle. It is also when I started to believe in motorcycle rider training. I started riding like an adult after this incident, but the funny thing is I still like to dump Petunia into corners and spray sparks as the floorboards scrape the asphalt.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

400 Mile Saturday

Saturday dawned to a cool 68 degrees here in the Phoenix area. A quick check of the computer showed that several groups had cancelled their rides today because of a wind advisory. The group I was going to ride with was down to three riders willing to go. A half hour before departure time and it looked like they were still up for the trip, so I was off to gas up.

The wind advisory was because of Hurricane Norbert. At 5AM Saturday it was a Category 3 Hurricane, 90 miles off of the Baja coast down in Mexico. Our forecast called for winds in the 20 - 30 mph range with gusts as high as 60 mph. It is amazing that something so far away can have that much impact here in Arizona.

I arrived at MS Hogs Pen to find that Ms Hog, Patty, and I would be joined by Gary for the first leg of our trip. The wind was already blowing and it was cool, but when you ride a motorcycle, I reasoned, you are already in 70 - 80 mph wind. We were off to meet up with Gary on the Beeline Highway.

The ride to Payson was perfect. Very little traffic for a Saturday morning and the wind wasn't noticeable. As we increased our elevation it did begin to cool off. It was at this point that I started to wonder if I still had my jacket liner in Petunia. A gas stop in Payson, a check, and no jacket liner. Well, a guy can't remember everything. We continued our assent into the high country. At 7000 feet it was down right nippy. The warmth of a nice little restaurant and hot coffee wasn't much farther up the road and would make it all better. We arrived at the Long Valley Cafe with 20 minutes to spare to still get breakfast. This place has pancakes that have to be 14 inches in diameter. When they show up at the table peoples eyes just about pop out of their heads.

The temperature in Long Valley was a brisk 56 degrees. Walking outside after breakfast it was noticeable how hard the wind was blowing. Gary was heading back to the Valley and said he wasn't sorry he wasn't going North with us. We continued with our original plan.

Heading toward Flagstaff through the Coconino National Forest we hit the 7,571 foot elevation while crossing Buck Mountain. The cross winds here felt like they would rip the helmet right off of my head. A couple of blasts pushed Petunia to the other side of the lane I was riding in. Passing Lake Mary the white caps were very noticeable and Ms Hog remarked later that she had never seen white caps on this lake.

As we turned toward Sedona the wind was blocked and while it was still chilly the riding was better. Of course the twisties of Highway 89A always make riding better. Traffic in Sedona was bad as usual and it was bursting with people. Once we got through it we had a great ride into Jerome where we had to make a candy stop for Ms Hog. Leaving Jerome our elevation was dropping and it was starting to get a little warmer. A little, not much. We headed toward Prescott, to Skull Valley, to Kirkland, to Yarnell, to Wickenburg, and into the Phoenix area.

Even when I got home I was still cold. A check of TV showed me all of the upsets in college football that I missed and that ASU died against Southern Cal. I thought Dennis Erickson's second season was the National Championship year, but I guess not at ASU. There are no pictures from this ride because all we did was ride. I did make a couple of videos, but they didn't turn out very well. I still need to work on the editing portion before I can post them.

Wind and cold included it was a terrific 400 mile Saturday. This morning in Phoenix it is 53 degrees and I hear the wind chimes on my back patio, so there will be more wind today. I need to go get that jacket liner and put it back into my jacket just in case the road calls me after while.

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Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Hamburger Review

I have been hearing about this hamburger joint called The Heart Attack Grill located at 6185 West Chandler Boulevard or the Southwest corner of Chandler Blvd and Kyrene Road. So, I went to check it out.

The menu is so simple it is painted on the wall. You can get a hamburger in any of four ways. A single, a double, a triple, or a quadruple. Each patty is a half pound of choice beef cooked to perfection and layered with American cheese. This hamburger reminds me exactly of the kind of burger my Granny fried up in a skillet back in Louisiana. Piling on the condiments of your choice completes this monster burger. But, wait, there are also the unlimited fries to accompany this meal in itself burger.

Here is a double, bad boy all dressed up with red onion, pickles, mustard, and resting on a golden toasted bun. This burger is a ten napkin, juicy, carnivores delight. You have never been to any restaurant that had a greasier burger and that is written in the good sense of the meaning. While the fries are just fries and I wouldn't eat more than a few, this burger is one of the best I have ever eaten.

I would recommend a trip to Chandler to get a burger at The Heart Attack Grill because it is that good. But, if a great burger isn't enough reason to travel across town maybe the Nurses will catch your attention. In the name of safety, real (wink, wink) nurses staff this establishment to take care of you during your stay. They were attentive, helpful, friendly, and not bad to look at.

If you're ever in the Phoenix area and find youeself hungry, tired, and needing refreshment and a bit of fun remember the Heart Attack Grill. It is worth the trip.

Saturday, October 4, 2008

Not Just Another Weekend

Friday night and I was wondering what I should do. I decided to go to my daughter's house to visit my granddaughter Keegan. We chased ducks in the park, played chase, went for mac and noodles at Burger King, played in the play room, and she had a bath. Then it was the best of times as she brought out her books and sat in my lap as I read to her. But, there was more that made this Friday special. You see, Keegan is practicing to be a big sister. My daughter, Elizabeth, gave me the great news that they are expecting a wonderful new addition.

Saturday morning found me getting some much needed chores done around the house. I also changed out the broken brake lever from last week. That project required me to go buy a set of mini snap ring pliers. Other than that it was a snap. I also swapped out the mufflers on Petunia because she seems to be running really hot and sluggish.

Needing to find out if the muffler change would do anything I set out about 2:30 to ride to the Arizona Joshua Parkway also known as the Joshua Forest Scenic Road. This is Highway 93 leading to Kingman and the fastest way to Las Vegas from Phoenix.

This is a Joshua Tree. The American Heritage Dictionary defines the Joshua Tree as - A tree like plant (Yucca brevifolia) of the southwest United States, having sword-shaped leaves and greenish-white flowers grouped in large panicles.

This was supposed to be a day when a really big storm hit Arizona. It was overcast, temperatures in the high 80's and dropping into the 70's during the ride. The really big storm produced about seven drops of rain during the 280 miles I traveled. It was perfect riding weather. I was surprised that there weren't more motorcycles out today. Even in Wickenburg, a favorite destination for bikers, there were only three going and one coming back. Maybe the threat of rain kept them in the garage. Hopefully fall will finally be upon us and the real riding will start back up.

Today I am going to change mufflers again. I'm going back to the Python slash cuts that make a bit of noise. While the bike ran cooler yesterday the gas milage wasn't very good. After this change I might have to go and let the professionals tune the Power Commander to Petunia. I just might have outsmarted myself trying to tune it on my own.

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Finally On A Ride

Life has offered a bump or two over the past few months, but it is time to shake out of the self imposed rut and get back out on the road. Yesterday it was off to the Top of Arizona to ride the Arizona Snow Bowl Ski Lift.

A weather check showed that there was a 40% chance of thunderstorms in the Flagstaff area for Saturday. But, that only meant that there was a 60% chance of no rain and off I went. The morning, in Phoenix, was clear and warm as I headed out at 7:30. Traveling north on I 17 I made a stop in Black Canyon City to have breakfast at Blyer's Amish Kitchen. I have mentioned Blyer's in a previous post and if ever in the area I recommend stopping in. These pictures were taken as I was approaching Sunset Point, or Eleven Mile Hill, on the ride up. This is a great section of highway when there is no traffic. Cagers tend to drive like a bat out of hell on the straight sections of this road, but find the need to slam on the brakes when they realise the road is about to turn to the left or right. Some that don't break tend to drift over into the other lane. I assume they believe that a motorcycle doesn't really need all that room anyway.

The ride was a pleasure getting to Flagstaff. After a stop for gas, I was back out into the late morning traffic in Flagstaff. But, all isn't always peaceful in such a beautiful setting. A squeal, a scream, and then a car out of the corner of my left eye. Turning my head to look, locking Petunia up, sliding to the right, now back to the left, quick check in the right mirror for an opening, foot slipping off the rear brake peddle, and Petunia is down. She was all the way down, completely over and standing on her crash bars. I was standing next to her still holding onto the bars, thankful that I had, again, been able to miss a wayward cage. Ten or so people came out of nowhere to help upright Petunia, an ambulance traveling in the opposite direction turned on his lights and siren while pulling across traffic to check if I was alright. The cage had slowed, but didn't stop and disappeared into the confusion of the morning. Petunia came through rather well. The stirrup on the highway bars is twisted and had to be moved so the brake would operate and the brake lever on the bars is broken.

I am fortunate, again, that this event wasn't worse. I again will take a lesson from this and I take full responsibility for having gone down. I let the slower speed and memories of when my daughter was at NAU get in the way of knowing where my escape route was. Because I wasn't aware my first instinct was to find the source of the squeal instead of a path away from it. That momentary lapse is all it took to not be able to get away and safely stopped.

A near miss isn't enough reason to abort a ride, so on to Snow Bowl. As I was approaching the entrance I began to see lightening off in the western sky. It was then that I began to worry if the ski lift might be closed. Getting to the Lodge I found they had to shut down for half an hour because of the lightening. Thirty minutes became forty-five, but they were finally able to reopen and up I went.

It takes thirty minutes to ride up to the top. As I was going up it began to get windy, dark, cloudy, and cold. The view, however, was spectacular. OK, it would have been even better if it had been a clear day, but breathtaking none the less.
This is what greets you at the top of the mountain. Then there was a hike up another 800 or so feet just because it was there. A Forest Ranger was at the top telling all about the view. It isn't true that you can see San Francisco from there. No, not even on a clear day. Yes, you can see the Grand Canyon from here even on a cloudy day.

On the way down I noticed a bra hanging in this tree about 18-20 feet off the ground. If I did it correctly it is in the red box. Hey, it is near a college town after all. It was really starting to get cold now and at the bottom I went inside and had a cup of hot apple cider. As I was drinking it the sun broke out again and it started to warm up. I left to start for home in bright sunshine.

About forty miles from Flagstaff it began to rain. Needle pricking hard, and I was wishing I had brought the full coverage helmet instead of the half helmet. But it only lasted about thirty miles and then the sun came out again. But, there was an even heavier shower about sixty miles farther down the road that required me to slow to 50 mph. The passing cars would throw sheets of water from the road onto me. I made my way to Rock Springs Cafe for a burger and a slice of their to-die-for Jack Daniels Pecan Pie. The pie alone is worth the ride. They claim their pies are world famous and folks must believe them judging by the line waiting to buy them.

Finally home about 7:00. I was gone longer than I had planned, but it was a great day all things considered. Now it is off to eBay to try and find a new brake lever. I hope I don't have to go to the dealer, but then again it is hard to operate the brake without that knob attached. But, wait, putting safety first should have me at the dealer when they open this morning and not taking any stupid chances. Didn't I just mention about learning something?

Monday, August 25, 2008

Friday Afternoon

The new school year started this week and as expected the week was long and tiring. So, Friday after school I took a ride out to Tortilla Flats. It was about 109 degrees, the traffic was congested, and I almost turned around and went home. The picture on the left was taken in January of this year and the lake was lowered for repair work on the dam. On the right is the lake today. It appears to be near full capacity because of all the snow and rain this year. The Phoenix area has had more rain this summer than the past two years combined.

At Tortilla Flats I visited with two riders from Washington, DC. They were on an American Legion ride that collects donations to help with college tuition for the children of fallen American soldiers. One of the gentlemen said he took his vacation time for the ride and his wife wasn't very happy about it, but she understood why he had to do it. I salute our military for what they do for us and am proud to fly an American flag on Petunia. I am honored to have met these gentlemen who ride in this heat to show that the sacrifice of these brave men and women isn't going to be forgotten. The American Legion is doing great work and if anyone doesn't have a charity they already support this is a worthwhile cause.

Tortilla Flats closes up at 6 most nights and I didn't feel like a burger, so I planned on stopping at the Canyon Lake Marina Restaurant for dinner. They were having their Friday pollock fish fry for $10.49. All you eat fish, coleslaw, fries, and garlic bread. It was great food and outstanding service. Plus looking out over the lake while eating was a bonus.

The Marina is also home to Dolly. Dolly is a paddle wheel boat that has tours of the lake and also dinner cruises. I have taken the dinner cruise before and it is great.

After dinner I stopped by my sister's house for a bit. Before I knew it it was 9:00 and I had almost an hour ride home still. Funny how I could be so tired at 3:15 and still be looking forward to that hour ride. Even in the heat of an Arizona afternoon and evening, there is magic in riding a motorcycle.

Sunday, July 27, 2008

No Sturgis This Year

It appears that some higher authority decided I wasn't going to Sturgis this year. A 75 MPH blowout, on the freeway, on a rear tire with only 126 miles on it will cause me to not make the trip.

The Good: I felt something odd just before the tire let go and had moved to the curb lane and was already slowing down trying to decide what that feeling was. I really thought the front tire was going down. Somehow the bike stayed up on two wheels. Or at least one wheel and a rim. HOG road service is as advertised. One phone call and a tow truck was there in 45 minutes to take Petunia to a location of my choice - free and without any hassle. Jeane and Jim came out in the rain at 11:30 to pick us up and take us to the house.

The Bad: Being called to say the bike was ready, but it wasn't ridable. It wobbled all over the road at 25 MPH. A complaint and a check showed that somehow the new tire was lopsided and had a half inch difference in the shoulder height on one side. Of course there wasn't another tire in stock and because it is Saturday it can't be ordered until Monday. Petunia won't be ready until Wednesday. I was leaving Tuesday and waiting until Thursday would only leave two days in Sturgis. That just doesn't make sense to go that far for two days and miss out on the planned side rides.

So, with mega dissapointment I won't make Sturgis this year. I will resist the urge to leave Wednesday and ride all night to get there on Thursday. That just isn't safe and I was lucky once this week already. So I will have to wait until next year to go to Sturgis. Next year is almost like tomorrow. Tomorrow - the day that is always coming, but never gets here.

Friday, July 25, 2008

Hi HO, Hi Ho, It's Off To Sturgis I Go

Yep, I've been missing in action. Life has gotten in the way of blogging after returning from Alaska. In the past three weeks I have talked myself into and out of going to Sturgis ten times. This morning I woke up to the final answer.........I leave Tuesday morning. I just can't pass on the opportunity, since it is here.

Yesterday I tracked down some ABS plastic rod and sheet plastic to make repairs to Piggy. I used a soldering iron to weld the broken part of Piggy's rear end back together. The rod was too thick, but the sheet plastic was just perfect and made the repair. The repair doesn't look bad and more importantly it seems to be stronger than the original product. The road will tell the final story.

The swivel ball that broke on the way to Alaska and was recalled still hasn't been replaced. I wrote to them Monday and they said I must not have written because they had all been sent out. Well, I did write and it never arrived. I'm waiting to hear back. In the mean time I went and purchased a 7/16 x 2 1/2 case hardened bolt, lock washer, and a nylon insert jam nut to make it usable. I will take the regular ball again just in case.

Tomorrow I will wash Petunia, have a new set of tires put on, and go on a ride to break them in. I have ridden several short, 100 mile, rides in the past three weeks. But, with the thunderstorms, school, and a mix of other excuses I didn't have anything to write about. Hopefully that will change next week as I venture into the Sturgis experience. I have heard the stories and seen how the Discovery Channel has portrayed Sturgis. I look forward to having my own experiences to tell about.

Friday, July 11, 2008

Summer Time Blahs

It is that time of the year. The summer ride to Alaska is safely in the books. Life slowly tries to return to normal. It is hot and most folks don't want any part in riding after 9:00 AM. Yea, you get a bit wet and maybe even a little stinky, but what the hell you can always shower later.

Petunia has decided that she doesn't like the heat and started acting up. The dealer checked the battery just before I left for Alaska and assured me it was OK. Maybe it was then, but it isn't now. The good news is I was home for a few days before this became a problem. So, after checking options I ordered an AGM battery online. I have to wait until Tuesday to get it, but saved $65.

Next week I get to spend four days in a classroom learning how to integrate an ActiView video screen into my classroom. This allows students to work on a 5 X 4 white board that is computer activated. Once I learn how to use it properly it really should make learning fun for the students and me.

After computer school I need to make the decision on going to Sturgis. On one hand I think I already spent too much this summer. But, on the other hand this summer might be the only opportunity I get to make the trip. There is the possibility of kicking myself if I don't go and wondering what I missed. As the death of another friend has shown life is uncertain and we don't know how many tomorrows we have. Sometimes being so damn independent isn't all that much fun.

Sunday, June 29, 2008

Alaska Ride Wrap Up


9,483 total miles
64 gas stops
148 mile average per stop
$1,065.59 spent on gas
$17.19 average cost of a fill up
$10 lowest cost to fill up
$36.33 highest cost to fill up

Observations from the Road

• You should all ways remember why you changed the height of your windshield
• You should never leave town with only a dark visor for you helmet
• Never underestimate the amount of rain you will get
• There is a reason why all those riders have electric gear on
• You will never get the gas mileage you think you will
• Caribou and cars don’t mix
• After said mixture, the road will be a mess
• After riding through said mess, the next 100 miles will stink to high heaven
• Creatures come out after it quits raining
• Creatures usually stand on the other end of a blind turn
• Not all creatures will run away
• Generally, people on the road are very friendly
• Breakfast tastes better in little, run down looking establishments
• Riding in the rain is better than stopping in the rain
• Riding in the snow is slow, cold, and crazy
• Stopping in the open, in the snow, is an even worse idea
• Always look up at your surroundings
• Black bears look bigger above you than in front of you
• Don’t miss an opportunity to gas up in unfamiliar surroundings
• Two words for mosquitoes – Bug Bam
• Two lane highways are the way to enjoy the view

This is Bug Bam. You put it on your wrist and like magic the mosquitoes just don't land on or bite you. They will fly around you, but in the entire time I was gone I had one bite and it was while stopped at a road construction site. I heard about this product and ordered it on the Internet for about $2 if I remember correctly.

The Report

The first morning back I took Petunia to the car wash to pressure wash her. It was a waste of time because not much came off. I had washed the big clumps off in Fairbanks, so it really was only half a rides worth of grime. That evening I washed her by hand for almost two hours and am still finding spots I missed. Piggy is going to need some repairs. The tongue is really too short and needs to be extended. I found that most of the items inside had been beaten up pretty badly. There needs to be carpet or something in there to cushion things. Both of the front, amber, running lights were broken and need to be replaced. I also need to find a method to repair the damaged rear corner from the Spring Break ride. It is worse now and even has a hole that I can fit two fingers into.

On Wednesday I put Petunias stock exhaust system and mufflers back on. I had been running a set of Vance & Hines True Duals with Python slash cut mufflers to get that throaty, Harley sound. On this ride the noise got to be too much and the gas mileage was just awful. The first tank after the change brought me back to 46 MPG.

On Saturday evening I met a group that I ride with for a dinner ride to Florence, Arizona. Florence is home to the Arizona State Prison. It was a 177 mile round trip and the seven of us from Phoenix met up with about a dozen from Tuscon. It was good company, great Mexican food, and perfect riding weather. It was also the longest ride I've taken since I got home. The only day I didn't ride this week was Thursday, but I'm ready to get out there and start riding again. Next week I'll pay the bills from this trip and see if I saved enough to make my anticipated trip to Sturgis. Even if I don't make it to Sturgis this year going there wouldn't diminish how great the Alaska ride was.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

The Ride Ends Successfully

I'm home! 9,483 miles, 17 days, 6 new states, and 3 Canadian Providences later I'm safely back to where I started. I survived the AlCan Highway and met the goal of riding to Alaska.

I left Winnemucca at 7 AM and headed to Eli, Nevada via I 80 for 53 miles to get to State 305 south to drop to Highway 50 known as the Loneliest Highway. State 305 is pretty desolate in its own right. At a rest stop I spoke to a trucker who remarked how lonely this road was. This entire 88 miles I only saw that one truck and two other cars. Arriving in Austin, Nevada I stopped for gas and then the fun began. Right out of town the road went up over 1,000 feet in just three miles. It was twisty in an almost bad way and slow pulling up that steep a grade. It almost leveled off, or so I thought, but continued to climb. The result was an elevation increase of almost 2,000 feet in seven miles.

The Loneliest Road is just that. There were few cars and trucks on this highway. However there were bicycles. Stretched out over many miles. I stopped at one of their vans and found out it was charity ride from San Francisco to Washington, DC to raise money for various charities. I can't imagine riding a bicycle that distance.

On I went, mile after mile, with very little change in the scenery. Flat, scrub brush with an occasional hill thrown into the mix. Then the wind picked up and made it interesting. I finally rolled into North Las Vegas at 4 PM. The Freeway was packed and slow so I got off at Lake Mead Boulevard to look for directions to the quickest way to the Hoover Dam. I knew at that point I was rolling all the way home. I stopped at a Chevron for a cold drink and those directions. A lady gave me the help I needed and after a 30 minute stop I was on surface streets to the Old Boulder Highway. Vegas sure has changed since the time 25 years ago when I went there regularly. I stopped at Harrahs Casino just before the Dam for an hour to have dinner and cool off.

I had forgotten that it is only an hour from Vegas to Kingman. The trip home only took 4 hours and I was here at 10:40. I was so glad to be here that I unpacked and even did my road laundry before going to bed.

Some of the sights from the road.

This is a cattle guard in Northern Nevada. At first I thought I was dreaming, but there are a lot of these painted cattle guards complete with attached edges. Cows must really be dumb to fall for this.

Now it is time to start the cleaning process on Petunia and Piggy. That should be a major undertaking. I know the trailer has some repairs needed and Petunia needs those new tires installed. Plus I was just notified that my swivel ball that broke has been recalled and to not use it. Seems a guy who wasn't pulling a trailer had one fall apart. Imagine what could have happened if, say, you were pulling a trailer on something like the AlCan Highway. They are going to send me a new improved version of the ball that is welded or has cotter pins on each side of it. If I could have found case hardened bolts on the ride I would have already had mine repaired. But, now I'll wait for the replacement. The guarantee that I know is a swivel is needed when pulling a trailer. A leaning motorcycle is a happy motorcycle and a happy motorcycle scrapes floorboards on some corners. With a stationary ball it was uncomfortable on many corners and not as much fun to ride.

This ride was worth the wait! It was everything I had hoped for and more. If you're thinking about making the trip you won't be disappointed.