Monday, May 26, 2008

Why Did I Run Off the Road?

Irondad over at has written two great articles in the past week. Riding is an ART! and Capping off Motorcycle Awareness Month. The greatest thing about this blog is it gives information that causes me to think about my skills as a motorcycle rider. It challenges me to think about what I know and compare it to what I practice.

Case in point. Back in March, during a Spring Break ride in the back roads of California, I had the experience of coming around a sweeping left hander and finding a cage well into my lane. I swerved, throttled down, and very gently hit the brakes. I missed the cage, but did put Petunia and Piggy off the road into a ditch. She somehow managed to pull herself out and after stopping to check for damage I was on my merry way. Then last week I checked out Piggy to prepare for this summers ride and found a crack and hole underneath in the right rear corner. The side that went into the mountain. The memory about the incident came back to me.

Then Irondad wrote about cornering skills. I ran off the road in a corner and it made me think. Not about the cage, but about what I was doing that allowed me to get off the road. Looking through the corner - yep. Traveling within the posted speed limit - yep. Kept looking where I hoped to end up and not at the mountain - yep. Then why did I run out of room? This made me stop and replay in my mind what I did wrong to see if I can prevent it from happening again.

What I found surprised me a bit. I connected the trailer to the bike on my driveway to check out the lights. It struck me that lean angle is important to a bike successfully making a corner. I leaned the bike over and well before the floorboards hit there was a binding between the bike and trailer. The bike wanted to lift the trailer wheel off the ground. I leaned it the other way with the same result.

I don't have a swivel hitch on this trailer and in my research on the topic many claim to not need one in this configuration. The truth is up to that point I didn't need to worry about lean angle. But, what happens when you must get to max lean to make a corner? If the bike stops leaning it stops turning. If it can't lean what are the options? I can't think of many other options and running off the road isn't appealing. So, I have ordered a swivel trailer ball that should allow Petunia to lean without binding.

Knowledge is power when it is put to use. I find that reading motorcycle rider blogs allows me to tap into the knowledge base of some pretty smart folks. Musings of an Intrepid Commuter is at the top of my list of blogs that offers sound advise without being preachy. Thanks Dan for writing articles that make me think and help keep me safe out on the open road. It's not just the students in Oregon that benefit from your wisdom.

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Why an Old Truck?

People always ask, "Why do you ride?" Ask a hundred riders and you will get at least 95 different answers. So, I thought about it and the reason I ride is a 1960 Ford truck. When I was about 11, Dad brought home a truck kind of like this one. Ours was red and white, six cylinder, three on the tree, and I don't think the oil was ever changed in it. All it ever did was run and get you there and back. It was the vehicle I first drove as a licensed driver.

But, that doesn't answer how does this relate to me riding a motorcycle. In the old days kids were allowed to ride in the back of trucks. Yes Virginia, before the government had to protect us from ourselves we would all jumped in the bed of a truck and our parents would offer an obligatory yell to sit down. We would hang our heads over the edge and feel the wind blowing into our faces. Or, we would fight to be the one leaning against the tailgate to have the wind blowing on us. Cold in the winter and hot in the summer, that wind helped set the seed to wanting to ride a motorcycle.

That also brings me to my summer riding plans. I read a story about a guy who rode a motorcycle to Alaska when I was 10 years old. I have never forgotten that story and have dreamed of one day myself riding to Alaska on a motorcycle. Monday, June 9Th will be the start of my one day dream ride to Alaska. These 45 years later I won't face the same obstacles that guy had because the roads are paved and maintained year round. I tend to remember the roads way back then being mostly gravel and/or mud.

My route will take me through Wyoming, Idaho, Montana, Alberta, British Columbia, Alaska, Washington, and Oregon. All states and Providences of Canada I have never ridden in. I thought about just going to Juneau, but decided that shouldn't be enough to qualify as riding to Alaska after waiting for 45 years. I will do the loop that includes Fairbanks and Anchorage. I need to research Valdez a bit more and decide if I will add that as well. My plan is to be gone about 30 days, solo, on this ride. Three weeks from tomorrow. After waiting for 45 years three weeks shouldn't be that long to wait, but I wish I was leaving tomorrow anyway.

Friday, May 9, 2008


Spring has sprung and the students can feel summer vacation. Wait.......I can feel summer vacation. Testing is over, it was a four day week, only 19 more school days, warm afternoons, and the teacher and students have things other than education on their minds.

In the heat of battle today I remembered a little trip I took January 2-4. I watched this video, again, and it reminded me of a more peaceful place and all my cares went away.

That reflection of a great trip from a few months past got me to thinking ahead a month. I am riding to Alaska. It will be written in stone that I ride all the way to Anchorage. The only thing up in the air for me is if I go to Sturgis on the way there or on the way back. My son-in-law, Jim, asked me when I would know which way I was going and I had to tell him about eight hours after I leave. I really don't know right now what option is the best. So, at that fork in the road I will choose the direction that seems right for me.

I did find it odd that by traveling to Sturgis first it only adds about 560 mile to the trip, when compared to going straight to Anchorage. But, than I thought about me not making destinations I set out to make and think I should go to Alaska first. Just in case. So, there will be planning and checking this weekend. Hopefully a bit of riding, as well as scheduling a major tune up for next week and possibly ordering a new set of tires.

Aaaahh.....the week is over and I am going to dinner and have an adult beverage. Life just can't get much sweeter.

Monday, May 5, 2008

Cinco de Mayo

Today is my grand baby's birthday! Happy Birthday Keegan as you turn 1!!!!! Her smile is really pretty, but it was her party and she didn't have to smile. In fact she had to nap during the festivities to be ready for the cupcake adventure.

No school for me today as it is mid-quarter break, so I took a ride out to Bartlett Lake. It was a great day for a ride with sunshine, 80 degrees, light traffic, and just a little wind.

This was my first trip to Bartlett since January and the water level was surprising. With all the rain and snow we have had in Arizona this year the level has risen to a level it hasn't been in a long time. I know the boaters are happy about that.

A couple of interesting things happened on the way there. First, rounding a curve, a family of four were standing in the middle of the road. As I slowed and approached they walked around and went to the edge. Nothing special there, but then I saw it. They were circling a rattlesnake and teasing it. Morons don't just drive they stop and teach their kids to be morons also. A funny sight was the rabbit that was sitting with a ground squirrel. I've never seen two such diverse creatures hanging out together.

That pretty much covers my Cinco de Mayo. Keegan turned 1 and I got in a nice 180 mile motorcycle ride. Life is sweet!!!!