Did A Shoe Just Drop?

Rider's Digest logo   Way back in May of 2022 (which seems like years ago now only 6 months later) my friend, editor, and co-conspirator from England Dave Gurman, had the crazy idea that there might be a market for a 25th anniversary coffee table book version of the Rider’s Digest magazine. He sent out a call to many of the people who had written for the magazine for pictures, articles, and art. This is the essay I submitted. Dave was hoping for enough advance subscriptions to pay, in advance, for the book but it didn’t happen and the idea, like many brilliant ideas, died from lack of finances.  

In early 2019, Ms. Day and I went on a cruise with some friends to check out the Panama Canal, a few of the Caribbean Islands, Costa Rica, and living like rich people with little-to-no responsibility and more food than we could ever hope to eat; but I gave it (the food) a good try. As it turned out, that was a high point or the tail-end of a long peak. Less than a month after we came home to –20oF Minnesota, a pickup with a frozen and dead battery, and several feet of snow in the driveway, old age landed on me like a Hulk-tossed bus. Driving through the Twin Cities to see a friend’s going-away concert, the world suddenly got really complicated when the single freeway exit lane drifted into two shifting lanes; one over the other, sometimes. I picked the right one, managed to get us off of the freeway, out of traffic and stopped, but that was the beginning of a year of instability and loss.

Over the next eight months, I went from being moderately optimistic about being able to carry on my usual physical activities to wondering how soon I’d end up like my father at the same age. At 75 he was trapped in his house, spending most of his days less than a foot from a big screen television, watching sports and trying to make out what was happening. That was the last 15 years of his life. After years of being an invalid, the culprit was found to be myasthenia gravis (MG), “ a chronic autoimmune, neuromuscular disease that causes weakness in the skeletal muscles,” according to Google and the Mayo Clinic. Supposedly, MG is not hereditary, but my father was diagnosed with MG at about the same age as me now and I’m suspicious of that theory since that’s my problem, too.

Just before the season began in 2019, when it became obvious that I wouldn’t be able to reliably perform many or most of the demonstrations for the MSF courses that I’d been teaching for 18 years, I resigned as a Minnesota state “motorcycle safety instructor.”  I put the instructor-bit in quotes, because the state/US training/testing/licensing is now so dumbed-down that it is pointless and exists solely to put butts on seats, regardless of skill or physical ability. It was a good time to quit, the money was good but the mission and purpose was nonexistent.

The previous summer, I sold my beloved and highly personalized 2004 650 V-Strom to a young man who was the perfect next owner. (Usually, I claim not to “love” any inanimate object, but my V-Strom was as close to a trusted friend as any “thing” in my long life.) Just before a 2018 trip to Canada, I’d discovered that my upper body strength was no longer up to the task of manhandling a 450 pound motorcycle. After installing new tires, I was backing the bike into my garage when I let the bike tip slightly away from me and it dropped hard against a retaining wall and the driveway. I was totally unable to slow the fall, let alone save it. I busted as much plastic (and confidence) in that no-speed incident as I did crashing at 60mph on Canada’s Dempster Highway in 2007.

It was a sad wake-up call, a reminder that, at 70, I was on the far end of the rapid downhill side of the “strength and muscle-mass loss with aging” curve. In 2018, I had some hope that I could cling to motorcycling on my 2008 Yamaha WR250X but, by early 2020, MG put an end to that. I didn’t have much faith, in the spring of 2020, that I would ever again be able to competently ride a motorcycle. Double-vision meant that there was no chance could I pass my “baseline” competency test. So, I sold the WR in April and I was motorcycle-less for the first time in 40-some years and remained without a motorcycle for the longest period in almost 60 years.

My substitute bike has been a Radpower Rover eBike that my grandson handed down to me in late 2018, after he pretty much trashed it riding through one long, road salt-saturated Minneapolis winter. Even that bike pushed my competency  in low-light situations or when I was tired. “Fortunately,” my MG symptoms are primarily ocular (my left eye involuntarily wanders and closes at inopportune times). The “fortunate” part is that my neurologist has, so far, been able to beat back the symptoms with prednisone and assorted immune system suppressants. But it took a while, more than a year in fact. As of today, I am sort-of-back and have been for a little less than a year.

[A perverted use of the word “fortunately” is something that I’ve heard a lot of in the past 3 years: “If you’re are going to suffer from myasthenia gravis, ocular symptoms are the easiest to treat” and “Fortunately, if you are going to have cancer at your age, thyroid cancer is the one to have” and so on.]

https://geezerwithagrudge.files.wordpress.com/2021/04/2012-tu250x-2.jpgIn late April, 2021, a Craig’s List search that I created six years earlier finally produced a hit: a 2012 TU250X for $2600 “practically brand new with 700 miles on it and not a scratch on it” and it was located less than 60 miles from my home. Just a few days earlier I had written a whining blog entry about selling my Aerostich and Giant Loop gear, assuming that I was not going to find a motorcycle to tempt me into testing the road and myself again. Turns out, Trump is right whining does get you what you want, at least, sometimes. I bought the bike, brought it home, immediately started farkeling it up and . . . it sat in the garage unridden for most of last summer. I put almost 2,000 miles on the eBike but barely managed to add another 700 miles to the TU’s odometer by the end of the season in 2021.

Motorcycling was all about transportation for me. I rode to work almost every day for most of 40 years, unless I was driving a company vehicle. There were a lot of Colorado and Minnesota winters where I rode most of the year, too. Fewer toward the end than in the middle, though. After I retired in 2013, I still taught a fair number of motorcycle safety classes and if you don’t ride to your own motorcycle safety classes you’re a fraud, at best. For the first 5 post-retirement years, I took advantage of my location to travel by bike, but the decline in the functional need for both my traveling and commuting started to cut into my motorcycle miles even before MG clobbered me.

Today, I’m 74, overweight but in otherwise fair physical condition, and the last three years feel more like a decade has past. Or more. If you’ve read anything from my GeezerwithAGrudge.com blog, you know I’m hyper-critical of bikers and other marginally-skilled people wobbling through the world on two wheels. That applies to me, too. After this layoff, my physical problems (especially MG), and the fact that I am freakin’ ancient, I am critical and suspicious of my capabilities and skills. My wife is just getting used to me being around the house, after 55 years of marriage to a wandering workaholic, and she’s really not interested in caring for a crippled-up old man who busted himself to bits unnecessarily on a motorcycle. I’m not anxious to become that maimed idiot, either.

At the moment, I have a nice collection of mostly-healed busted bones, torn muscles and ligaments, and scars from head-to-toe and while they often remind me of impending weather changes they don’t keep me from doing stuff. My last significant injuries took a long while to heal and they still bother me more than way worse stuff that happened 20-40 years ago. For most of my life, my planned solution for any sort of fatal illness diagnosis, overwhelming mental illness, or any kind of lingering end-of-life boredom was “buy a faster motorcycle.” Turns out, the problem with that plan is that you need to be able to ride well enough and fast enough for that to be a confident solution. Today, I’m just trying to figure out how to get myself back on the saddle.

All Rights Reserved © 2022 Thomas W. Day
Posted in aging, ebike, my motorcycles, physical therapy, rider training, rider's digest, V-Strom | Leave a comment

Before #1: Geezers on Beemers: (AKA: Steamboat Springs 1997)

All Rights Reserved © 1997 Thomas W. Day

[For the last many years, I’ve said Geezer #1 "What Are We Riding For? (The original, from whence The Geezer came from October 1999" was the first thing I ever wrote for Minnesota Motorcycle Monthly magazine. I wasn’t lying, I was just wrong. I have been working on a Wikipedia entry for the magazine and as part of that I researched as much as I could find about the magazine’s history. In the process, I read through a bunch of old MMMs, sorted my own collection by date, and discovered that in the Winter 1997 M.M.M. #14 issue there was an “On the Road” article. . . by me. This article, in fact. While I absolutely remember the trip, sort of, I absolutely did not remember even knowing about MMM before 1999. Turns out, that was wrong, too. In September 1998, I contributed “Look Ma, No Feet!” an article about the 1998 US Observed Trials event in Duluth. So, now the story I’ve been telling myself and everyone else about my history with MMM is bullshit and I do NOT know what the truth is.

The version that follows is what I submitted. Unlike lots of the stuff I wrote for MMM, this article was edited quite a bit, but I’m too lazy to pick out what was different in the magazine’s version.]

Every year, since I moved out of Colorado, my expedition to the Steamboat Springs Vintage Motorcycle Week gets a little tougher. Last year, I flew to Denver, borrowed a friend’s Honda Hawk, and nearly missed my flight home when my luggage fell off of the Hawk in the middle of traffic on I-70, spreading my belongings and plane ticket all over Colorado. This year, I decided to ride the whole 2,400 miles. Next year, I may try walking.

My bike is a ’92 Yamaha TDM, which is a weird cross between a crotch rocket and a dirt bike. It’s probably the closest thing Japan will ever come to importing a Paris-Dakar style bike to the US. Out of some weird allegiance to my dirt biking past, I put dual-purpose tires on the bike this past winter. Because of that strange heritage and hardware, I actually hoped to do some real cross-country touring this trip. Some people do not get wiser as they get older.

Because I had a few days of vacation to burn up, I left for Denver early Sunday morning, September 7th. Steamboat’s Vintage Motorcycle Week was September 10 to the 14th. The start of my planned route was diagonally across Minnesota, via highways 169 and 60, to Sioux City. Early in the day I passed the Mennonite settlement of Mountain Lake, MN, where there is a "phone museum" and other exciting attractions. I’d always thought of Mennonites as hardworking, honest types, but this place had to be their equivalent of a Florida swamp real estate scam. There is no no mountain and no lake, as far as I could see, anywhere near Mountain Lake. I have a new sort of respect for Mennonites.

I stopped in Heron Lake for my first fuel stop. I discovered, by drenching my bike and feet in gas, that the fuel shutoff was defective. With the helmet and ear plugs in place, I nearly dumped two gallons of gas on the ground before I noticed I was creating a Super Fund site. From here out, I did my trip documentation after filling the tank. It didn’t surprise the lady at the counter though. She said, "that side don’t register, this side does," when I told her about the screwed up pump. I kept an eye on the mirror, as I left town, half hoping for a mushroom cloud to compensate me for the wasted fuel.

Just south of Worthington, I tailed a yuppie in a Range Rover who showed no fear of Iowa’s CHP. He got me through that mind-numbing state in record time. I stopped at an interstate rest stop in Iowa where an old lady with a highway department uniform told me "I used to be in the bidnez worl’, that’s why I’m workin’ here." I thought she meant the business world ruined her life, but she was just working for the exercise. Go figure. Just south of Sioux City, I hooked up to highway 77 and to some even less regularly maintained roads.

I used to live in north eastern Nebraska and I mistakenly thought that gave me some ability to pick my way across the state. I ended up on a newly graveled road, about 10 miles north of North Bend, that was terminated by a large crane and a missing section of road. When I stopped to look at the construction damage, my wheels sunk past the rims. My next short cut took me though about 5 miles of really deep gravel and sand. By the time I escaped that desert riding experience, my front fender had a 3" hole pecked into the back side and my chain picked up about an inch of slack.

After relocating asphalt, I picked up 30 at North Bend and headed west. I failed the "will to live" test and stopped for a hamburger in Columbus, NE (Actually, I figured that ought to be the safest place in the US for a beef-eater, after that city’s most recent 15 minutes of fame.) Making up for lost time, I stuck with 30 to Grand Island and jumped to I-80. By the time I got to Gothenburg, NE; 630 miles from home, I was wiped out. I stayed in a truckers’ motel that night and set the alarm for a 5:00AM takeoff.

Poor road maintenance almost bit me in the butt this morning. I had a low rear tire and thought I’d developed an oil leak when I stopped in Julesburg, CO. The tire was low, but OK. I washed the engine and discovered the oil leak was just chain lube that was heating up and dripping off of the engine cases. I promised my self I would watch my oil level and temp gauge carefully for the rest of that leg of the trip, just in case. I managed to hold to that promise all the way to Denver, about 120 miles. Later in the trip, my failure to extend this pledge to the whole journey would haunt me.

By noon Monday, 372 miles later, I was in Denver. You can’t see the mountains until you are about 55 miles from the city. Mountain cloud cover suddenly becomes mountains and the air seems cooler and fresher. The last 50 miles into Denver seem to go quickly and the horizon’s view is terrific.

When I stopped, my butt hurt. My kidneys were falling out in chunks. My bike needed about 10 hours of serious maintenance. Being the high tech, serious maintenance guy I am, I lubed and re-tensioned the chain, put duct tape over the hole in the fender, washed the bike, checked for loose hardware, washed my laundry, and hung out in a bar until Wednesday morning.

Six of us left my friend’s home for Steamboat Wednesday at about 8:30AM. We were probably the weirdest collection of motorcycles on the highway that morning: a Yamaha TDM (mine), two Honda new Magnas, a ’78 Kawasaki Scepter, and an ’83 Yamaha Venture. After a few miles, we strung out across the highway in a several mile long "touring pattern."

We intended to get to Steamboat by noon so we could catch a little of the dirt track speedway racing in Hayden that afternoon. We’ve made that plan five years in a row. Like the other years, this year we didn’t get to Steamboat until 1:30PM, our trip schedule was sabotaged by several coffee, fuel, and meal beaks. Some of the group, including me, thought the lodge’s hot tub looked more interesting than another 100 miles on the bikes. Those who stayed watched the clouds cruise the mountain tops and drank beer. Those who left got to Hayden just as the last of the racers were leaving and got caught in a short rain storm on the way back. I try to make each of my millions of mistakes only once.

The next day, I went to town by myself because none of my group was all that hip on the trials event. This is the sport with which I ended my 15 year off-road competition career. In fact, the years defined as the end of "vintage" were state-of-the-art just before I quit trying to luck into a trophy. Every once in a while, Steamboat makes me reconsider my constant fear of knee injuries and I think about buying a Bultaco Sherpa T or a Yamaha TY and doing a little cherry-picking. Steamboat’s vintage traps are almost all easy enough that a good rider could zero out on a street bike.

This is also the day where the "geezers on Beemers" sub-title for Steamboat really becomes appropriate. There seem to be an incredible number of retired executives, military officers, and other non-working class types doing the vintage-bike gypsy tour. They live in 40’ luxury campers and tow bike-trailer/work-shops that make my garage look puny and unequipped. A few of them even have trophy wives in tow. Since most of these guys are pretty near my age and I don’t have any of that stuff, I try not to make too many comparisons or I’ll get discouraged.

clip_image002I really get a kick out of seeing how many ancient bikes have been modified for trials. I didn’t even know BSA or Greeves made a 125 or that anyone was riding trials pre-WWII before my first trip to Steamboat. This is like a dirty, live-action museum with some dirty, active museum caretakers riding the exhibits. It rained a little about 10:00AM, just enough to send me back to the bike for my jacket. As soon as I had two arms full of stuff to carry, the weather got hot and I spent the rest of the morning sweating and grinding dirt into all of my body parts. I don’t know who won, probably some geezer with a collection of Beemers and a Yamaha TY in like-new condition.

Friday is vintage motocross day. Another of my favorite events. Again, I was up and out before the rest of the group. I spent the early morning walking through the pits, taking pictures, listening to experts talk about the history of various, long-dead motorcycle manufacturers. It’s still hard for me to reconcile Rickman, Bultaco, Ossa, Norton, BSA, and the rest of the deceased as being not only dead, but long dead. Seeing these bikes back in their prime, sometimes much better than prime, is a lot of retrospective fun.

clip_image004Speaking of deadends, three other TDM’ers showed up for Steamboat. We belong to an Internet maillist for our bike and some of us have been writing each other for a couple of years without ever putting faces to names. I recognized a couple of the guys by their bikes. Yamaha orphaned the TDM after importing it to the U.S. for two years (1992-93). Most of us have done a lot of little things to personalize our bikes and it was fun getting to see the mods I’d been reading about. Everyone got a good laugh of the state of my front fender and the general condition of my bike compared to those whose owners, intelligently, avoid dirt roads. We experienced our "fifteen minutes of fame" when another biker recognized us as "those guys who met on the Internet." We took pictures, talked for a couple hours, and headed in four directions for the rest of the weekend.

The actual races are almost anticlimactic. It’s always a kick watching Dick Mann win. He was a Baja hero of mine when I was a kid. He’s still heroic at sixty-something. Dave Lindeman, a Denver fireman, put on a good show in the Open Twin Expert class, dueling and beating Rick Doughty’s zillion dollar Rickman/BSA on a cobbled up Yamaha XL650.

But lots of the actual races are pretty boring. There are wads of timid, over-forty wannabes who barely turn their bikes on in the straights and come to a lethargic near-stop at every corner. The race to the first turn is often more humorous than exciting. Everyone is so concerned with avoiding contact and a crash-and-burn that they barely make it to the turn, let alone work for a decent position on the other side. In the bulk of the races, there is rarely more than two half-decent racers. The other two dozen geriatric cases are nothing more than track obstacles when the fast guys start lapping them. The upside, for me, is that I regularly get pumped about buying an Elsinore and stealing a trophy. The downside is after making a couple of deep knee squats, I remember why the majority of the riders are going so slow. Getting old is hell. The body can’t even remember how to do what the brain told it to do.

Fairly late in the afternoon, the races are over. We cruise the streets of Steamboat, looking at bikes we will never own. This really is a BMW convention. I doubt there is a bike BMW ever made that isn’t represented here. Seems like there are more Harleys this year, too. Maybe that’s why the local paper doesn’t have a single word about the events. In years past, I could read about what I’d seen the previous day in the local rag. Not this year. There must be several thousand bikers in town and the only mention of motorcycles was when a local biker got smacked by local cager. It’s not like this is a pack of Outlaws, tearing up the bars and defiling local women. A pair of women, climbing out of a Jeep Cherokee on their way to lunch, asked one of my buddies if we were a "biker gang." He told them, "Yeah, after our nap, we’re gonna take this town apart!" That’s about the speed of everyone at Steamboat. Sedate. Old. Mostly intent on finding a good restaurant and a decent hotel. I guess we still found a way to scare them.

I didn’t cruise much Friday night. We really did find a great place to stay and I headed back, well before dark, to sit in the hot tub and watch the clouds and the mountains flare and fade in a crimson tinted sundown lightshow. Beer, a good book, a hot tub, and tired, old aching joints really go well together. If a local female stripped herself and jumped into my hot tub, I might have defiled her but I’d have more likely been pissed that she got my book wet. I bought my beer at the Clark Store, so I didn’t even have a chance to think about trashing a bar. I’m a pretty poor excuse for a biker, I guess.

Saturday is vintage road racing and the first opportunity we have to look at the concourse. We buy pit passes, which are $20, and head for the pits. I’m not much of a connoisseur of street bikes. In fact, I never paid any attention to street bikes at all until I’d been riding and racing for almost 15 years. I still don’t really know one cruiser or crotch-rocket from another. I don’t much care about cars either. But there are some really neat, loud noises coming from the pits and one of my friends has a great time describing all the bikes to me. I lecture on the dirt bike days, he does the street day.

About two hours into Saturday, I got bored. This is a terrible thing for a "reporter" to admit, but I’d have rather been riding than watching. When I fell asleep and lost track of where the rest of my group had gone, I decided it was time for me to hit the road. I’d planned on leaving that day, anyway, and it seemed like the time to do it. I wandered around the course for another hour, trying to find everyone, with no luck. I stuck a note on a friend’s seat and started getting ready for the long ride back to Minnesota.

Sunday is the modern road race. I have been going to Steamboat for 6 years and I’ve never stayed for the modern road race. My justification for leaving early is that I can watch modern crotch rocketing any weekend during the summer and I never do. Why blow a good day of riding watching someone else have a good day of riding? Like all the years past, I left on Saturday and missed the really fast guys. They’d just discourage me, anyway.

The real reason I wanted to leave early was that I wanted the extra riding time so I could go back the long way, through Wyoming and South Dakota. I retraced my trip into Steamboat back over Rabbit Ears Pass. About 30 miles east of Steamboat, I turned north on Colorado 14. This is one of the prettiest roads I’ve traveled in Colorado. It’s a neat combination of mountain plains and ranch land. The road isn’t particularly twisty, but it does curve its way through a beautiful section of the Rockies. The road is well maintained and completely unoccupied by cage or cop. I made good time to Walden, where I picked up 127 and continued north to Laramie, WY.

The scenery doesn’t stop when you leave Colorado. Good roads and great views all the way to Laramie, where I copped out and took the freeway (I80). After 300 miles of awesome two lanes, I80 was a complete bummer. But I stuck to it to Cheyenne, where I swapped freeways and took I25 north to Wheatland. I spent the night in Wheatland, at another truck stop. Leaving Steamboat early allowed me to knock off 250 unproductive (destination-wise) miles before I seriously head for home.

The actual route I took from Wheatland to Deadwood is up for discussion. I know I stayed on I25 for a few more miles to Wyoming 160. I know I swapped off of 160 to 270, because I had breakfast in Lusk, WY. I’m not sure I stuck with 270 all the way to Lusk, though. A good portion of that trip was on dirt roads. I mostly used the sun as a compass and tried to keep going north at every intersection. I popped out of the last section of dirt road on highway 85, just a few miles south of Lusk. I had been on reserve for about 30 miles when I filled up in Lusk. I’d like to tell you 270 to Lusk is a terrific road, well worth traveling, because it is. I’d like to tell you that I strongly recommend this route for the scenery and adventure, because I really enjoyed that aspect of the trip. The fact is, this is a route that requires a great suspension. The road (the real road, not the dirt road) is heavily traveled by farm equipment and is pretty rough. The TDM ate it up, but a crotch rocket or cruiser would deliver a severe pounding. You decide.

Leaving Lusk, I forgot to reinsert my ear plugs. Good thing. I heard several nasty noises and pulled over for a maintenance stop. You’ll probably notice that I haven’t mentioned maintenance since just before I pulled into Denver. I hadn’t done much since then. Another brain fart. The older you get, the more of them you’ll have. I discovered the front fender had a new hole, this one on the front, from poor tire-to-fender clearance and flung gravel. I pealed away pieces that were touching the tire and "fixed" that problem. I also discovered my chain was really wearing out fast, probably due to the off-road portions of the trip. It was actually hanging up at spots as they passed over the countershaft sprocket. I bought a can of WD40 and thoroughly cleaned the chain. I lubricated the chain and made some more promises to myself regarding maintenance.

The next section of the trip was sort of frightening, considering the condition of my bike. There is next to nothing between Lusk and Deadwood, 140 miles of nothing. There are some towns listed on the map, but they are barely bumps in the road. Some of them aren’t even that. But I took this route because I was bored with the trip across Nebraska and Iowa, so I figured it was worth continuing. Not that I had much of a choice.

Wyoming is a great state. I suppose every state has a motto. Nebraska blabs about some mystical "good life" that no visitor or resident has seen any sign of. Iowa yaks about "liberties" and "rights" and parks a cop on every road to make sure no one ever even dreams about freedom. Colorado’s "nothing without providence" is totally meaningless. But Wyoming is the "big country" and you don’t have to look far to find real cowboys just like the one on their license plate. Some of those cowboys drive farm trucks on highway 85. I only saw four vehicles on the road between Lusk and the South Dakota boarder. All of them were doing 90+ mph and they all waved when they went by me. I would have stayed with them, but I wanted to live through this section of the trip with chain intact. There is nothing, in any other part of this country, like the concept of "safe and reasonable" as a speed limit. It almost makes me feel like an American. Out there, Mamma Government is in short supply and nobody misses her.

The weather totally cooperated. From the beginning of this day until I hit the plains, just west of Wall, SD, the sky was clear, the temperature was in the low 70’s, and the wind was nonexistent. South Dakota’s Black Hills are a national treasure. South of Deadwood, 85 winds through the hills like the best Rocky Mountain highway. There are miles of twisty, narrow highway that parallels beautiful streams and cuts through wooded valleys and farm land. I could take a summer long vacation, traveling the roads of the Black Hills, and never grow even a little tired of it.

I made it to Deadwood in one piece. Stopped for gas, lubed the chain, washed the windshield, checked the tires, and thoroughly inspected the bike. Then I walked to the Deadwood Historical Society museum and wasted an hour looking at the coolest of western history. There are Harleys all over Deadwood. It’s only a few miles from Sturgis, which must account for all the heavy iron.

I still hadn’t eaten when I left Deadwood. I was making, and having, such good time that I couldn’t convince myself to waste any of the day in a restaurant. Slightly north of Deadwood, I struck interstate and there I stayed until Minnesota. Once you pass Wall, the home of Wall Drug, there isn’t much to say about South Dakota. Every diddly-butt town has some kind of tourist trap. None of them are worth stopping for. It’s not just that there’s nothing to see in those towns, there’s nothing to see in that part of South Dakota. It’s just miles and miles of flat, boring plains. Most of the state’s rest stops are "out of order," probably to force travelers to waste time and money in the state’s tourist traps. I stopped for gas at Wall, Chamberlain, and Sioux Falls. There isn’t much more to say about the space between any of those cities.

The wind was killer, once I passed Wall. It was 50+mph and I felt like I was making the world’s longest right turn. 420 miles of right turn. I wanted to make Sioux Falls by nightfall, but I was forced to take a stretch break every 50 miles. My arms, back, and butt were going numb and the road never seemed to end. I swear that some of the mileage signs increased the distance to Sioux Falls as I drove east.

clip_image006The only break in the monotony comes a few miles before Chamberlain, SD. The Missouri River valley almost instantly changes the scenery. It takes you from flat, barren plains to green rolling hills in only a few miles. The river is awesome, especially after 200 miles of desolation. It’s as wide as a lake and as blue as an ocean. Unfortunately, 10 miles east of Chamberlain, I’m back in a windy desert. That evening, 650 miles from where I left that morning, I pulled into Sioux Falls and headed for a Super 8.

The next morning, I tried to sight-see in Sioux Falls but failed to find any interesting sights. I left town at about nine and headed for home. I repeated the original leg of the trip by exiting I90 at Worthington and take 60 to 169, through Mankato, and on to the Twin Cities.

I got home a little after noon. I popped the cap on a beer, filled up the hot tub, and fell asleep dreaming about high mountain passes, unlimited speed limits in Wyoming, and gorgeous snaky roads in the Black Hills. I woke up, sweating, later that night when the dream turned to wind blasted, straight and boring South Dakota interstate dotted with hundreds of Iowa Highway Patrol cars.

Posted in geezer with a grudge, minnesota motorcycle monthly, motocross, observed trials, offroad, touring | Leave a comment

The Stuff We Collect

A good friend died near the end of this past August. He had been a hobby guitarist for most of his 76 years, but got “serious” about the collecting part about 20 years ago. When he retired as a waterfowl habitat Project Engineer from the federal Interior Department, he gave himself a couple of options: go back to school for a math degree or “learn to play lead guitar.” Neither of those skills come naturally to most of us, so it’s not like he was planning on slacking off in his last 20-some years of life. He also biked all of the transcontinental trails, north-south and east-west and maintained several other complicated and skilled hobbies. However, after picking the lead guitar option his approach to that skill set was to start accumulating information, instruments, equipment, and tools. In other words, he approached music as if it were an engineering project. If he had pursued the math degree with the same tactics, he’d have been on the path to a PhD. As a guitar player, he quickly stalled while he concentrated on trying different tools (guitars, amps, pedals, expensive cables and cords, books and DVDs, etc) and gathering resources.

I recently joined a Facebook group that focuses on a particularly unconventional electrical guitar design. I’m considering making one of those instruments as a winter project and started lurking on the FB group to gather information. Upfront, I discovered some of these guys are also far more collectors than guitarists or builders. I was reminded of a conversation with a friend who is an accomplished and well-paid professional musician and who also works at a busy music store as a salesperson. At a party, someone asked him about what kind of equipment professionals use and his response was something like, “I have no idea. If the music store had to rely on musicians to pay the bills, it would have closed a week after it opened. It’s the hobbyists who spend the real money.”

That isn’t the world I came from, but the people who own recording studio equipment that needs fixing and are, mostly, willing to pay for it are professionals. The hobby studio geeks (and Prince) just toss broken stuff in a closet or sell it as-is “for parts” on eBay. That doesn’t even happen with 20-year-old guitar amps in the Music Instrument (MI) world. Hobby musicians have been “the rich guys” for at least 25 years.

In the 1980s, places like L.A., New York Chicago, Austin and Dallas, and a good bit of the southeast-coast clubs stuck bands with pay-to-play gig expenses. Instead paying for entertainment, the clubs realized there were a LOT of bands hoping for a shrinking number of stages and decided to make the bands pay upfront for the privilege of being seen and heard. Usually, the band would get a package (50-100) tickets to sell or give away as “compensation,” but the damage was done. The money went out of music for most players. Obviously, the club owners were right. There are a lot more bands that desperately want to be seen and heard than there are places to be seen and heard.

About the time working musicians were getting kicked in the financial balls, analog and digital recording gear started to get cheap and lots of hobbyists discovered microphones, recording equipment, high quality studio monitors, and the internet soon provided a way for the people with excess cash to find the people who would make equipment to sell them. That also went for guitars, amplifiers, keyboards, drums and percussion, and every other instrument that could make a claim to “professional quality,” vintage value,

In the end, we all find that things are only worth what someone will pay for them and that is a hard, sad lesson to learn when you are disposing of an estate. Turns out, a lot of those cool, high-end odds and ends aren’t worth much. Even the stuff we’ve been told “holds its investment value” doesn’t. Unless you stumble on to one of those weird collector instruments owned by Charlie Christian handed down to Les Paul who gave it to Jimmy Page at a R&R Hall of Fame presentation, your money is always better spent on actual investments. Don’t believe me, do your own calculation.

I bought my first guitar, an Airline/Danelectro solid body single-pickup electric, for about $60 in 1963. If I’d have dumped that money into a S&P tracking investment and left it there compounding the interest, I’d have about $19,000 in the investment portfolio right now. Left in the bank accumulating 3% average interest, I’d have about $650. Or I’d have a beat up 80-year-old guitar that would have cost me a few hundred dollars in repairs, strings, and other parts over the years that might be worth $500; if I can find the right sucker and I’m selling at the right moment during the economic swings of instrument value and desirability. Inflation-wise, $60 in 1963 money is $550 in today’s money. For example, I gave my daughter a late-1950’s Danelectro triple-pickup shorthorn 6-string guitar 30 years ago. It has hung on the wall of her office for at least 20 years. There is one on Reverb.com selling for (asking price) of $2,400. My advice to her is “Sell it, if someone will buy it for that.”

As for boutique guitar cables, guitar pedals and effects, and all of the other farkles and toys we buy to distract ourselves from practicing and actually becoming musicians, they will end up in a discount bin at your local Goodwill or Salvation Army store. Nobody wants them and almost nobody knows what they are or why they should want them. It seems like there should be a special place for this kind of stuff to be donated, but even music schools don’t seem to want any of it. Disposing of someone else’s music equipment gives you an interesting perspective on what all that room-filling stuff is worth.

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There Are Tires and There Are Tires

Earlier this spring, a friend rode his Suzuki TU250X from Santa Fe to the west coast and back. On the way back, he got hammered by winds that were almost enough to exhaust that little single-cylinder 250 into a low gear and wore himself out keeping the bike on the road. Yesterday, I did a piddly 50-mile round-trip ride in my local area. On the way back, I experienced 30-40mph side and head winds and re-discovered the joys of skating on a motorcycle. The bike, literally, slides a foot or so across the lane when a big gust hits it strongly. It’s not that different from riding on loose gravel or even a sandy country road, but it’s a little disconcerting and definitely tiring after a few miles. And I wasn’t loaded up with a week’s worth of gear and camping gear, so my experience was a small sub-set of his on the high plains of Idaho. Still, it brought back a lot of memories about motorcycle tire evolution in my lifetime and experience.

Honda CX 500 1980When I bought my first street bike, a ‘80 Honda CX500, I got my first taste of getting hammered by the wind when I rode that bike from Omaha to California in 1983 to start a new job. Between Omaha and western Kansas on my first day of the ride, I got my ass kicked by strong winds constantly blowing that oversized, under-powered boat from one side of the highway to the other. Since that bike had barely more than 1,000 miles on the odometer, I’m fairly certain it was still wearing the stock tires when I evacuated the Midwest for California. Probably 4-ply, bias-belted, symmetrically patterned tires like the ones in the Honda ad picture to the left and above. Those tires were consistently awful on waffle-steel bridges, gravel, newly paved roads with loose grit, wet surfaces, and any irregular surface. Not that great on regular surfaces, either. And, of course, the bike was more like a sailing ship than a land vehicle in the wind.    

Dunlop EliteNot long after arriving in California, I had to reshoe my bike and the first tires I remember making a difference were Dunlop Elites. The tire in the picture to the right is the newer Dunlop Elite 3, but the treat pattern is essentially the same as I remember from the first gen Elites, more or less. The trick is increased contact patch, irregular grooves in the tire to move water away from the contact patch, and the difference in the ride and stability was revolutionary. Most of the problems I complained about in the above paragraph vanished with the Dunlop shoes. Especially wet surface stability and grated bridges became mostly non-issues. And I stuck with those tires on all of my bikes except the two dual purpose bikes I owned for the next 8 years. The last bike to wear Elites was my XTX550 Yamaha Vision. I moved from California to Indiana to Colorado with that bike and a Yamaha XT350 Enduro.

Not long after moving to Denver (Parker, actually), I stumbled on to a killer deal on an 850 Yamaha TDM and that bike, owned by a doctor who farkled up the bike to the max but rarely rode it, came with Michelin radials. They were, as I remember, tires that I’d considered out of my budget up to then, but I don’t remember what model of tire they were. What I do remember is that the TDM was the most stable, sure-footed motorcycle I had ever ridden at speed on any surface. From that bike on, every motorcycle I’ve owned that could take a tubeless tire got high-end radials: from my TDMs to my SV650 to my V-Strom. And all of those motorcycles and tires convinced me that weight, style, and the rest of the excuses motorcyclists use for “needing” a large, heavy, unwieldy motorcycle are clueless.

But yesterday, back on a small motorcycle with old-fashioned bias belted tires, I was thrown back in time to the bad-old-days when tires were designed intuitively rather than using science and engineering. I have a pair tires in the garage waiting to be installed, but the miser in me wanted to get at least enough use out of the damn 10-year-old OEM Cheng-Shin CS Marquis Chinese junk to satisfy something-or-other waste-wise. Before writing this essay, I hadn’t really looked at the OEM tires. After writing “10-year-old OEM Cheng-Shin CS Marquis” I realized how stupid that argument is. Those tires were installed on the bike to protect the rims in shipping. No rational person would be dumb enough to ride a motorcycle on public roads wearing those sad faux-tires.

Posted in maintenance, performance, suzuki, technology, tu250x | 2 Comments

Life Is A Small Window

Yesterday, I did something I haven’t done since sometime in mid-2018, I rode my TU250X about 50 miles from my small town home to the Twin Cities to meet a friend for lunch. I know that seems like a small thing and 5 years ago if someone like me described that as an “event” I’ve have worked hard to politely nod my head in acknowledgement without at least grinning a little. 10 years ago, I’d have laughed. I was/am an asshole, I know, but I did start calling myself a “geezer” (in a monthly publication and in this blog) when I was 50, so it’s not like that is some kind of sudden realization. For the most part, the 120 mile round trip was uneventful, in a good way. The TU is absolutely competent in normal city traffic and I’m still moderately competent, when my eyes are working correctly. My biggest problem yesterday was the fact that I’m definitely a lot more sensitive to light than I was pre-cataract surgery, so I’m stuck wearing glasses inside my full face helmet and face shield when the sun is out. Two sets of lenses puts some stress on my MG (myasthenia gravis) weakened left eye, which made managing double-vision symptoms difficult for a few miles. As soon as the sun went below the horizon and I could dump the glasses I was fine.

MG isn’t a curable disease. It will continue to plague me until it or something else puts me in the dirt. Yesterday was an anomaly from my last 4 years of life and, as such, it was a brief open window of freedom. People like me who have mostly skated through life without many injuries or problems that weren’t self-inflicted naturally forget that this life we enjoy and take for granted won’t last. Sooner rather than later, the window of life that we learn is “normal” when we are young begins to close and, if you are half-aware, you learn to appreciate the moments of fresh air that you still have. Yesterday’s ride was a true moment when that window opened and I was allowed to feel that “I’m not dead yet.”

In fact, riding home as the sun went down, there was a brief moment when the sun going down in a blaze of yellow, orange and red, blue and purple cloud cover on my right was spectacularly balanced by a huge, bright orange full harvest moon rising on my left. That lasted for about 5 miles and 5 minutes of when I rode along the ridge of two valleys before turning east and riding down into the Mississippi River Valley toward home. I got a glimpse of the moon just as I came down the last rise toward my home stretch, but after getting the bike parked, unwrapping myself from my ‘Stich, when I tried to show that natural wonder to my wife it was hidden behind cloud cover. Another brief window of life.

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Fuel Tests

In case you have any confusion about the quality of fuel produced by large amounts of agricultural welfare payments, check out this video on what ethanol does to aluminum and rubber parts:

This is pretty enlightening, too:

And, finally, a motorcycle guy tosses in his several cents:

With all of that said, I have been only marginally careful with my “end of season” fuel. I have used Stabil since the late 80’s, anytime my bike is likely to be unridden for more than a few weeks. In my carb days, I often disassembled those damn pieces of plumbing for various reasons, mostly altitude changes. The inside of every one of my bike’s carbs were spotless. Seriously, they shined like they’d been polished. The same goes for my snowblowers and lawnmowers. They are the only carbureted motors I own now and I do an inspection at the end of every season. I do try to keep non-ethanol, non-oxygenated fuel in those motors or run them out with Stabil in the last tank before I store them.

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Boiling the Frog

Welcome: The Boiling Frog StoryI had my own special boiled frog moment this week and it reminded me of how easily we settle into to what we’re used to and how quickly we can compromise what we think we “like” or expect from things we use. I’ve been riding my 6-year-old ebike (a late-2016/early-2017 RadPower Rover) since my grandson trashed it badly enough to give it to me in late 2018 in pretty much barely-salvageable condition. He’d commuted in Minneapolis/St. Paul for the year he owned the bike, crashing on the icy roads often, doing little-to-no maintenance, and doing the Millennial thing of ignoring problems until they become insurmountable obstacles. (If I believed in an afterlife, I’d be looking forward to seeing how that characteristic plays out in the long run. I’m still betting on robots over humans.) Over a couple of 2018 winter months, I chased down the non-functional electronic causes, repaired and replaced a lot of obvious mechanical problems and broken parts, and got the bike back to working bit-by-bit. One aspect of getting familiar with a complicated product in that manner is that I sort of reset my expectations as each bit “came on-line.”

Since that initiation, I’ve continued to upgrade the bike and maintain it, sometimes discovering problems that weren’t obvious to a newbie early on. The battery had been particularly abused by sub-zero storage and operating-temperature operation along with crash shocks. When I first started riding the bike, I was using the throttle a lot and, as a result, my range was fairly limited. Over the last 4,000 miles, I’ve learned to use the throttle sparingly and to count on the Pedal Assist System (PAS) to determine most of the bike’s power contribution. A couple of years ago, pre-Covid, I was making 40-50 mile trips on at least a monthly basis. In the last two years, a 20-25 mile trip had become my norm for a long ride, with most days in the 10-15 mile territory. Other than putting the bike chargers on a timer, I don’t do anything special to maintain the batteries.

Last week, Mrs. Day gave her 2019 MiniST a battery "test." We were about 8 miles out when she was stung by a wasp. She’s very allergic and, I thought, freaked out, turned around and went full throttle back home and to head for our local clinic. My Rover was already down to 3 bars (from 5 on the battery status indicator) just from riding at PAS2 to that point. Mrs. Day is a minimalist and always rides in PAS3 and 3rd gear on the derailleur. To try to keep her in sight, I kept the Rover in PAS3 and pedaled hard. She was clearly running full throttle (20mph) in full motorcycle mode and she vanished into the distance. I figured she was so freaked out that she wasn’t watching the battery status, but I was wrong (again). She still had 4 bars on her battery when she got home. I had been on one bar for the previous 4 miles.

I began to suspect that might need to replace my almost-6-year-old, 5,000 mile battery.

After the big wasp run, I “re-engineered" my grandson’s discarded Mini battery bracket to mount on the Rover and, now, I have a newer far more powerful battery on the Rover. The Mini battery, when new, has about 150Wh more capacity than the Rover “dolphin” battery. Over the last few years, my range has been steadily declining and shortening my range to the point that I was pretty much starting to think anything over 25 miles was risky.

I needed to do a LOT of maintenance to the Rover and the cool weather and that battery comparison experience finally motivated me to do it. I cleaned and packed the rear hub bearings and lubed the nylon gears (1st time for that in almost 5,000 miles), cleaned and packed the front bearings, swapped the worn out rear tire for one of the old originals (the front is still ok), installed new brake pads and cleaned and roughed-up the disks, cleaned and lubed the chain and derailleur bearings, repacked the bottom bracket bearings, and generally cleaned and lubricated anything that caught my eye.

For the battery installation, I had to drill mounting holes for two of the 3 battery bracket screws (harder than it sounds because the holes also needed fairly precise countersinking to allow for the Rivnut heads on the bottom side of the battery frame. I installed 45A Quick Connectors in a very tight space between the bracket and wiring entry to make battery replacement fairly simple. Time for a test ride.

It’s probably psychosomatic, but the bike feels way more powerful. That could be real because the internal series resistance of the old battery cells has been increasing, which is the actual cause of battery depletion with age. As I mentioned, the Mini battery has about 150wh more capacity than the original Rover battery and is slightly lighter. I came home, after at least 12 miles of PAS3 operation (a total of 18 miles) and a couple of block-long full power uphill runs with 3 bars remaining (while at power). I think Cannon Falls is back in my range. Over the next several days, I took on tougher rides with more big hills and longer trips. It was obvious that the old battery was on its last legs.

It is also obvious that this is another example of how we become used to what we have and if what we have degrades slowly we won’t notice the degradation until we’re either forced to compare it to something similar or we suffer an outright failure.

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Payback Is A Bitch

I’d been on the road (as a cage passenger, sadly) sans-electronics for a few days and when I came home my email inboxes were filled with the usual crap. I don’t know how people survive with cell phones and the inability to automatically screen callers, texters, and email. I flag practically everything as “spam” and I still ended up with more than 150 pieces of crap in my email accounts after 4 days and, at most, there were a half-dozen things to which I actually want or need to pay attention. And all that is after my spam filter has automatically trashed about 50% of everything sent to me. One of the things that caught my eye was from a local motorcycling (not biker) group. One of the members linked a few pages of the jury decision in the case of a truck driver who crossed into the oncoming lane and killed 7 bikers. WebBikeWorld has some additional information on the case here. where it is noted that “One of the motorcyclists had a BAC nearly double the state’s ‘too drunk to drive’ limit.” The poster speculated that the jury found Volodymyr Zhukovskyy to be innocent because “the jury was filled with idiots. Or the prosecuting attorney was an idiot and didn’t present any of this [drug use] information to the jury. Or maybe Westfield Transport is run by the mob and they threatened to harm the family members of the jury?”

Possible. But I have a different theory.

Since the trucking company has bankrupted due to civil payments to families and survivers, I think this case is pretty much done in civil court. It could be the state will bear some liability due to the driver’s past history and the fact that he shouldn’t have had any sort of commercial license. Somebody else’s problem.

However, I wonder if the real takeaway from this decision is that the jury, like most Americans, are fed up with motorcycles. The general impression of motorcycles and motorcyclists are taken from the unnecessary and arrogant noise, regular well-publicized bad behavior, and the general impression that most motorcyclists are dangerous, sub-human, psychopathic gangbangers. A more successful tactic for the prosecution might have been to spend a lot of time bringing in experts to establish that motorcyclists are sorta (at least closely related to) humans. Hardly has worked pretty hard to create the sub-human image. You’d think/hope there would be some downsides to promoting anarchy, violence, and chaos.

About 20 years ago, I was on the MN Governor’s Motorcycle Safety Council. A friend and co-worker, who was also on the Governor’s council and was an ABATE officer (most of the council was made up of ABATE gangbanger wannabes) were walking to lunch in downtown St. Paul and talking about motorcyclists’ public image. Most of the kids I knew at the school thought motorcycling was for "old people and assholes," but my friend disagreed with that general image.

His disagreement held up until a couple of noisemakers went past us and pretty much everyone on the street said something along the lines of "crash and die assholes." Once exposed to the real world, his take on many of ABATE’s positions changed enough that he quit his club office and took a back row seat in most of ABATE’s key political positions.

So, back to my take on the jury decision: Since police are clearly terrified of bikers and their gangs, maybe the jury just decided legalizing motorcycle highway carnage is the only way to get the bangers off of the street?

For calibration purposes, we got back last night about 9PM after a long vacation return trip (long for us). Went to bed about 11pm and spent the night being noise bombed by nitwits on Hardlys (and other garbage fish) on our un-policed county road well past 2AM. Personally, I keep hoping Amazon will sell a hand-held holographic projector sometime soon. People living in those noise traffic zones could project deer, moose, bears, cops, baby carriages, etc on to the streets in front of the local idiots on blubber-mobiles and entertain themselves watching the goobers try to remember where their brake levers are. My street is decorated all summer long with morons and their unmuffled, 2 hp bikes, and 4 hp sound systems. "If wishes were fishes" there’d be a whole lot of Hardlys buried in half-rotted carp.

A couple of years ago, a friend and I were talking about the herd of anti-vaxing, science-denying goobers who were (and still are) decorating hospitals with their dying breath and crazy conspiracy theories. I’m not a big fan of humans and so my take was “That just seems like the usual price for stupidity.”

His response was, “Being stupid shouldn’t be a death sentence.”

“Dude, that is always the result of being stupid,” I said. In fact, that is exactly how evolution works, it’s the whole point of the Darwin Awards.

Likewise, after 75 years of Hardly’s convincing every white male that looking like an unreconstructed off-on-bail convict on a last binge before a couple of decades behind bars is “manly,” we have a problem. Minnesota has a “road guard” law that allows a moron with a reflective vest and a paddle to stop traffic indiscriminately for any unreasonable amount of time to allow totally useless, law-breaking, and decadent bikers to parade through any street or road in the state. You don’t think that tactic creates animosity? I’d bet it generates enough hate for motorcyclists from at least 50% of the inconvenienced population that you wouldn’t want them on a jury if you wanted that jury to convict anyone of killing a motorcyclist with any kind of weapon. Sit through two of those clown parades and you’ll be running them down yourself.

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For the Well Dressed Motorcyclist

I’ve had a line of stuff available on Zazzle.com for several years and I appreciate the business many of you have sent my way through that company. I have a couple of Geezer shirts and I wear them, often, to piss off as many people as possible, whenever possible. However, as spiffy as the Zazzle stuff is, I have never thought it accurately reflected the real “Geezer attitude.” So, while I have had a good time creating this line of “irritating-wear,” I’ve kept my eyes open for something more appropriate to the intent, purpose, and style of an old guy who desperate wants to be a motorcycle hermit.

In Truth or Consequences, New Mexico, I met a kindred spirit; Jeff Ducatt. Jeff is a crazy-assed hippy artist who has colorized most of southern New Mexico with his tie-dye art, signs, and art (Believe me, without Jeff most of New Mexico would be nothing but large swathes of tan and brown with tiny spots and squiggles of blue and green.)

The shirt in the pictures is a prototype. Fortunately, every shirt Jeff makes will also be a prototype. I have to cough up some setup money for the Geezer logo, but he’s willing and planning on making every shirt an original piece of artwork (That’s bad if you want one exactly like mine, but cool if you want an original.) The text and logo on the front will be exactly like mine. The quote on the back can be any snippet of the multitudes of idiotic things I’ve said in print. For example:

  • If you can’t ride, I don’t care what you think [per prototype]
  • Go Places, Meet People, Burn Their Fuel
  • Motorcycles. Until you can ride, I don’t care what you think.
  • Some Guys Will Whine about Anything
  • Yes, I Am A Motorcycle Bigot
  • A Hermit Has No Peer Pressure
  • Loud pipes don’t save nearly as many lives as not being drunk and knowing how to ride.

Anything else you’d like printed on the back is fair game. Jeff prints the shirts in two passes, so while the front is going to be replicated, the back can say anything you like. And I mean “anything.” As for colors, you can certainly give Jeff some general directions, requests, and beg for your favorite colors, but the man is an artist and he definitely marches to the sound of his own drummer. For example, I wanted a black, brown, and grey tie-died shirt full of New Mexico petroglyph symbols. There is some black, a bit of grey, and probably some brown somewhere on that shirt, but . . .

If there is enough interest in the shirts to warrant paying for the setup charges, I’ll get back to any of you who write me with a more precise price tag. For now, I think it’s safe to assume the shirts will be around $30 shipped. The more I can order, they cheaper they will be. Price breaks come at quantities of a dozen.

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Go Places, Meet People, Burn Their Fuel

August 2022: This is another old one, from the Geezer blog (never published) in 2008. I thought enough of the title to turn it into a t-shirt and I still wear that shirt often. I sent this one in from “the field” as I was on my way back from a Canadian trip and was a little too close to worn out.

Got up early, hit the road in the wrong direction, made a u-turn, and headed back down Vermont 17. Turns out my excursion to the inn last night was actually on my GPS plan. Once I’d started looking for a place to stop, I quit looking at the GPS, which must have frustrated the electronic biddy in the box, but I’d turned where I was supposed to turn by accident. Not knowing that, I reversed directions and headed back to 100. My GPS kept telling me to make a u-turn, but I figured it was stupid, or something. Finally, I stopped, looked at the map, realized the GPS was smarter than me, and went back up the hill. Sorry, east coasters, the mountain. Yeah, that’s what it is. It’s a little, tiny, rounded top, tree-covered mountain.

Vermont 17 is a blast. The speed limits are totally cowardly, but the road is good, the scenery is tree-lined but occasionally nice, and the ride is a good morning workout. I’ll be ready for breakfast after 150 miles of this. My GPS plan kept me off of main roads and on fun backroads all the way through Vermont into New York. I am amazed at how little traffic and how few houses there are in this well developed part of the country. I went through a town called Moriah that was celebrating its 200th birthday. Amazing, 200 years and they still haven’t found the time to build a restaurant. Makes me feel much better about coming from a younger part of the country. We may be new at this business of civilization, but we’re better at it. We don’t talk funny, either.

I stumbled on a convenience store/restaurant/campground on New York country road 84. I was entertained with an incomprehensible “upstate New York” dialect that combined with my single unplugged ear turned ordering breakfast into a Laurel and Hardy routine. I could have sworn he was saying ‘have some home fries,” but he was saying “don’t have home fries.” Turned out, his wife is the official cook, but she was occupied with getting the kids sorted out. He did an ok job with the sausage (“I like sausage.”), but the pancakes were burned and a bit flat (“I don’t like pancakes, you should have ordered an omelet.”). Later, he tried to convince me that I needed ice cream to go with my breakfast, since it was a balmy 45F outside that morning. I think we entertained each other enough, so I am on the road again.

Abandoned buildings are among my favorite stops.

New York speed limits are some kind of testament to the conservative nature of old America. What New York considers to be a 25mph corner, Colorado would label 45mpg. New York 35mph corners wouldn’t be worth the trouble to label or even put up a turn sign in the west. I kept seeing twisty corner signs and being disappointed with gradual curves hardly worth pushing on the bars. I guess that goes with calling 2k bumps “mountains.”

I kept going through New York the coward’s way, I90. After slogging my way through zillions of dots on the map jokingly called “towns” with the usual 4 miles of 30mph speed limits and no buildings or residents in sight, I gave up on “seeing New York” and decided to blow through every thing from Rochester west. I missed many valuable history lessons, I’m sure, but at least I wasn’t bored. New York freeway drivers are challenging, even if the freeway is a freeway (except for the $11 toll I paid to be on the US taxpayer subsidized interstate system). I whipped though most of the tiny bit of Pennsylvania the same way. I’d lost interest.

I was aimed for the Cleveland home of an old friend and I made it to their general territory about 8PM . I’ll be there for a day or two. I have a vicious plan for the last couple of days of this tour. Stay tuned.

Posted in aging, camping, canada, motorcycle, touring | Leave a comment