Monday, February 22, 2010

Riding Motorcycles in Tampa - Part 3

I have a couple of ride stories and an answer to a question as I finish up this trilogy of posts on the Tampa adventures.

Smooth as butter

First, we had a second ride over in San Antonio, FL, but this was preceded by a great breakfast in Zephyrhills. As a side note, Z-Hills is a place near and dear to my heart since I spent several years traveling to the town and jumping out of aircraft while I was in college.

Now there is a cap and gown put to good use. Good times...good times...

Now I was back on an adventure that I would deem probably more likely to result in injury. Riding a motorbike. Yes, I believe with all my heart that riding that bike, while safe, is still more dangerous than jumping from planes with small tablecloth sized sport parachutes. When riding the motorbike around, there are just too many other idiots to pull out in front of you and too many animals to run out into the road. In my years of jumping, I was never worried about having a run in with a dog or armadillo...heh heh...Now a fuel truck on the other hand? That's a different story, but I won't blame skydiving for that little incident.

We met up with another rider that had an absolutely beautiful BMW 1200 R and drove over to BJ's Country Kitchen. In all my lost weekends in Z-hills, I never new this place existed. We ordered up a ton of eggs, coffee, and hot sauce. The Western Omelet had an interesting mix of eggs and cheese, but the cheese was the white "liqui-cheese" type product. I could have done without it, but it certainly didn't stop me from scarfing it down. The funny thing, and the only reason I mention this stop, was that when Rick's food came out, he picked up his English muffin, said something like, "check this out", and turned the muffin sideways. The amount of butter on this thing didn't make it slightly damp, or drip a couple of times, it poured off in a stream. It was like someone had dipped the thing in a warm vat of Crisco. AWESOME! There's a coronary bypass in the making. I'm totally going back there the next time I'm in town...honestly...

BMW doesn't make good tire plug kits -- all that for $40 bucks of course.

The wind was absolutely howling as we rode the loops around San Antonio again. You could see the wind whipping the sand across the road, and in open areas, bracing in anticipation of the gusts was required. It was still fun, but my tall Dual Sport bike really seemed like a sail in cross winds. The other guys, with their more sporty setups, were by far better off with their low profiles. I was blown all over the place, and it made for some really interesting riding when coming through a turn and then getting blown off line by a foot or so.

We rode around for an hour and ended up at the same gas station where Nathan had his epic battle, and tragically, was defeated by the Applebees Ruben from Hell a couple of days before. I'm sure he was just elated to see the place again. We pulled in line with quite a few other motorcyclists and parked. That's when Nathan mentioned that Rick's rear tire looked a little soft. We all looked a little closer and realized that Nathan, with better eyes than ours, had spotted the head of a screw sticking out of Ricks nearly new rear tire. Ugh... That screw had to be 3 inches long, and as soon as it was extracted, the tire hissed flat leaving us wondering how best to fix it. Tom (aka Total Tom), the better prepared BMW driver, kindly offered up his fix-a-flat patch kit, and we thought all was well. On the first try, the tire plug looked like it was going to work and then it somehow disappeared into the tire. The second attempt tore the plug. The third and final try produced a glump of rubber cement big enough to have been molded into a new tire on its own, another mangled plug, a tire that still wouldn't hold air, and a string of foul language that was really quite impressive. @!#@$^&%$%^...$%#@!@@$%...deep breath... &*%^$#$%%#!!!! I was a good thing there were Harleys around, with their owners giving themselves carpal tunnel syndrome by constantly reving their engines for no reason. That noise was enough to drown out the string of curses from the ears of any little kids. Heck, that noise could have drowned out a jet landing or the detonation of a small thermonuclear device had there been one nearby.

The next thing to do was to go and get a real tire repair kit (or 4) from the station instead of relying on some obviously shaky and overpriced German engineered tire plugs. Perhaps we would have had more success if we had read the German side of the instructions?

We bought out the entire inventory of the gas station's tire plug kits, and I kept one for my bike. I didn't want to deal with a problem like that when I was riding home for several hours the next day. The cheap kit worked like a charm, and we headed back to the house. Rick was out $200 bucks to replace a tire that had tons of life left in it. Bummer...

Now, the answer to possibly one of the least asked questions.

What do you do when you have a couple of hours and an empty parking lot?

No, He is not stopped and trying to prop the bike up with his knee.

The last day of the trip was cool and gray, but we wanted to make the most of it. Everyone wanted to get some action shots, and I had sadly neglected my duties of taking pictures of the events as I normally do, so here was a time for some fun with two hobbies at once. Motorcycles and photography. I bummed Nathan's Cannon SLR and off we went on a search for an open parking lot on a Sunday morning. All the local schools had chained up their driver education lots, which, upon reflection, was a good thing for the most part, even if it wasn't convenient for our purposes. Why would that be a good thing, you ask? Because I remember what I used to do in High School with my car's tires smoking and leaving black curly marks all over the school lot, and I doubt that kids have changed any at all since then. Well, they haven't changed much, except for the fact that they all seem to have more expensive and powerful cars than I ever saw in school. I figure that if they hadn't chained up these nice open lots, every other week the school maintenance person would be untangling some BMW or Audi from the chain link fencing due to the offending High Schooler trying to write his name using burned off tire rubber on the pavement.

We eventually happened upon an empty lot near a half vacant strip mall. It was a bit sandy but perfect for getting some fun pictures of slow speed turns from up close. I think some of the shots came out very well! Nathan is amazing, and we even had another sighting of the Ghost Rider to top it all off. It's odd that he seems to show up when we are all riding together. Strange...

Unfortunately, all good weekends must end, and the siren call of work could be heard. (I guess that's marginally better than the siren call of the local police, eh?) Nathan and I packed up after the parking lot adventures and headed north again. In Tifton I parted ways with Nathan, donned my snowman riding suit to fight against the winter that we had returned to, and drove the bike the last 5 hours to the house. It got cold. Seriously cold, and I was seriously missing my old house in FL. That would have been a much more convenient a trip to make. Of course, with the large family that I have now, the FL house would be bulging and it's occupants and furniture would have been spilling onto the lawn. Now that I think of it, had I still been living in the Florida house, my guess is that I may have avoided going home so quickly...

Thanks to Nathan, Rick, and especially Jodi for putting up with us, even though I know we bring only the highest quality wit and commentary during our visits together. I couldn't imagine how she could possibly tire of us.

I would also be remiss to leave out the Modern Warfare battle that we were introduced to by Gavin one evening. That is one of the coolest games I have ever seen from a graphics and intensity standpoint. I'm sure Rick is playing it even now...

I'll bet Jodi is thrilled by that too...heh heh...

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Riding Motorcycles in Tampa - Part 2

Ah, the saga continues! I know that you have all been just aflutter thinking about the next chapter of this adventure, and I'm sorry if you have lost sleep due to the anticipation of the post like a kid on Chistmas eve. Well, come to think of it, if you have lost sleep waiting for one of my irregular posts, you may have bigger problems and should probably seek some counseling.

Enough of that and on with the story.

Tampa Riding - Definitely warmer than home.

We headed north from Rick's house on roads that seemed covered with an unimaginable number of traffic signals. Here is my written impression of Tampa driving. Roooaaaaarrrr up through 1st and just as you hit 2nd gear, hit the brakes for the red light, sit and wait, repeat... Aren't you so lucky to have wasted your time reading that little gem...

Eventually we got to some open roads, and I noticed that motorcyclists gravitate to the same roads that bicyclists want to ride. Open, low traffic and fun with loads of twists. We warmed up our tires on a series of turns and got going on a great loop around San Antonio, FL.

View Larger Map

The turns in Florida that we enjoyed leaning through are very different than in Alabama and Georgia. At home the turns are sharp and winding around the mountains and amazingly fun to navigate. The Florida roads and turns are more sweeping and open. You can carry much more speed into and out of these big turns than at home. I found myself slowing to a good entry speed for a turn ala "mountain road style" and that was practically walking pace compared to what was actually possible to safely travel on these rides. After finding myself well behind the group because I slowed so much for the first few turns, I began to get the idea. We drove through turn after turn on all these new roads in the warm weather. It was great to explore and see new places. When I left Alabama it was 35 degrees, so I had to use my day-glow winter riding jacket, which is possibly the ugliest yet most practical piece of clothing I have ever owned. Thankfully, Nathan had packed every bit of riding gear he owned (and then some) into the truck, so he loaned me a cooler (in both the sense of insulation and looks) jacket to use while we were there. Travelling and packing everything onto a motorcycle does limit what one can carry, so had resigned myself to riding in the horrid looking and overly warm winter jacket in Florida. Nathan's loaner definitely made my days of riding more comfortable. Thanks!

We pulled into a gas station as a rest stop and ran into Bruce. He was one of the most hyper guys I have met, but that personality trait seemed to fit since he was a very good, and fast, rider. He was one of those guys you would love to sit down and listen to as he told stories, and you most likely wouldn't need to say anything to keep the conversation going! We decided to all ride a bit more after talking for a while, and that was when the "Revenge of the Ruben" occured. Perhaps, I should have noticed that Nathan had taken a prone position on top of the picnic table as we talked. He was looking more and more green by the second and after a few more minutes he sat up, dejectedly shook his head in a sign of surrender to the nausea, and went to yak behind the dumpster. The poor guy was really sick. I have no idea how he rode as well as he did while feeling that bad. We opted for a couple more sweeping turns while making a short trip home to get Nathan into bed. Bruce led us out and wow, that guy can ride. He would calmly drive through the straights so everyone could ride staggered, and then as a turn approached, I could hear the motors wind out and we would all drop into single file. One after another we all would lean into the turn and roar around it. Then everything would slow down to re-group. It was a great safe way to enjoy the roads. I learned a load about riding from watching Bruce, Rick and Nathan.

By the time we got home, Nathan was looking just exhausted and he poured himeslf into bed. We all sat around for a few mintues nervously wondering if he had the "Stomach Bug" that had been going around. That was a big worry, because if he had contracted it, we would soon all have it and the weekend would be ruined. I could imagine getting the bug and then having to ride back from Tampa while fighting back nausea the whole way.

While poor Nathan slept off the Ruben, Rick and I played with a very cool track bike. That thing sounds exactly like something I should never EVER own.

What do you mean? Of course it's totally legal to have it on the roads...

In the end, Nathan had been attacked, not by a vile stomach bug, but by the vile Ruben from the night before.

We had been asleep so little and done so much over the last 24 hours that it felt like it had been days since we had made the trip down with that fateful sandwich, but it had only been 8 hours or so. Nathan slept the whole evening and into the morning and awoke hungry and happy. Much to the relief of us all.

The next day it rained and we missed out on our planned boating and riding, among other entertaining things, but we did have loads of fun playing the worst games of pool and darts ever. I swear a game of pool took hours to finish. We couldn't hit anything, and I was the worst without question. In hopes that nobody would actually notice how miserablly we were playing pool, we did the smart thing and stopped. What to do next? Darts! We can't be that bad at that! Right? Perhaps we should have just hopped in the truck because we all looked...well...lets just say we look silly throwing darts. Rick has a nice unintentional pirouette after a throw and Nathan has a "fabulous" flair to this throws. I'm sure I looked just supremely usual. We laughed about those games for the rest of the weekend.

Next - Hanging out, Modern Warfare, and things to do with an empty parking lot. Don't lose any sleep while waiting for the next installment my loyal readers!

Friday, February 12, 2010

Riding Motorcycles in Tampa

Winter stinks. It really stinks. Riding Motorcycles in the cold stinks too, and since tropical temperatures in February are really hard to come by in Alabama and Georgia, my cousin and I decided to drive down to Tampa to meet up with another of our compatriots to go riding.

Part 1 -- The longest road:

Nathan and I agreed to meet in Columbus, GA after work, and we actually had a good plan to meet and make the trip cheaper and more fun for both of us. He was going to drop off a bike he was selling, and I would be able to load up my bike on the trailer to complete the trip to Tampa. The plan was to meet around 8:30pm EST and go from there. That would make for a late arrival, but honestly, not all that bad with both of us driving and keeping each other company. But with all good plans, stuff goes awry. The meeting time was the first thing to go. I ended up working late, and instead of leaving at 5 CST, I didn't get on the road until 6:30pm CST. That put me into Columbus at well after 9pm on a cold night of riding. Fortunately, or unfortunately, Nathan was experiencing troubles in getting away from Atlanta with the trailer, so neither of us were going to be even close to our planned departure time for the next leg of the journey.

I rode on into Columbus to get dinner and warm up. I stopped at a Waffle House in what turned out to be a not-so-good place to be, but being tired, cold, and apparently a bit thick-headed, I stayed anyway. I'm positive I broke up a drug deal in the parking lot when I pulled in. There were two people in a parked car. I pulled up, looked their way with my goofy neon yellow riding jacket, and one person hurriedly jumped from the car and sped off in their own car soon to be followed by the first car. Perhaps that should have been a clue. Bah, not to be deterred from getting my hash browns and coffee, I walked into the shop. Everyone stared at me in the most uncomfortable way. I just walked over to a table and sat down to wait on Nathan to arrive. It was a really strange experiment in human nature. You should try this some time. Put on the most ridiculous clothes you can find and then walk into a restaurant where you are obviously not the normal clientele. Very funny and awkward.

Around 10:30pm, Nathan arrived in town, and I went to meet him since I was feeling a strange urge to get away from the Waffle House where I had been encamped. The guy that was going to buy Nathan's bike was only 20 minutes away, so we decided to wait at his house after Nathan grabbed a seriously questionable Ruben sandwich from Applebees. This guy proceeded to be "Only 20 minutes away" for the next 2 hours, and there was absolutely nothing we could do about it. I was getting tired of waiting and Nathan was equally P.O.'d at this guy. I won't go into detail of how we nearly dropped my bike off the trailer in an effort to be ready for when the buyer showed up and we could get going. The lesson being, don't tie down your bike in the dark when tired. This guy told us he was leaving wherever he was and would be home in 20 minutes at least 3 times during our wait, and with each passing minute we realized it would not be a "late night" when we arrived in Tampa, it would very possibly be "Early Morning". Eventually this clown showed up and the sale was competed. We were tired yet thrilled to actually be moving. We were about 6 hours drive from Rick's house, and we decided to take shifts driving and sleeping instead of talking as we had originally planned.

In the end, we made good time and got to the house just as the sun was rising. Rick's wife was up and heading out to work when we stumbled into the house amid the barking of dogs. 6:30am was the final arrival time. We made a normally acceptable 8 hour trip into a 12 hour trip. After a very short discussion, we wisely decided to go ride our motorcycles after getting some sleep, and our adventures on the bikes will be the topic of the next post.

Nothing like a good cliff-hanger, eh?

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Faded Loves & Materialism

As most of you know from this blog, or from knowing me personally, I like to ride bikes. A lot. For long distances. With friends or on my own and in most any conditions. As of late, I have noticed a big change. This "as of late" that I speak of really refers to the entirety of the past 12 months or so.

The issue at hand is that I don't feel the drive and love of riding bikes as much as I used to, and I can't seem to fix it. It's not as if another hobby has consumed all my time or that I don't like to ride bikes. Every time I get on any bike, I find myself smiling, but I just can't get myself to go out and do it like I used to. I used to ride all the time in any weather on almost any terrain. Now, I find that have to force myself to go spin in the basement on my rusty trainer while watching a movie or something because I can't get motivated to even ride across the street to Spain park and goof off on the trails. My love of riding seems to have faded, and the true "jumping the shark" point was the Tour of Tuscaloosa. Since then, I haven't really been out with my friends riding on the roads. I have done very few loops around Oak Mountain on my beloved mountain bike. I haven't ridden more than (this is going to sound silly unless you know how much I used to ride) a thousand miles since the crash last April 1.

Now, about how materialism plays a part in this post. The question here is; can materialism serve to remedy this faded love of riding? I have had an off and on urge to purchase a new mountain bike, and I find myself trying to justify spending that money as a medium to inject some spark in my lack of riding. I look at my current mountain bike, which has been patiently sitting in my garage in a state of cleanliness than no mountain bike ever wishes to endure. I love the bike and it is absolutely a top end bike with loads of good stories and fun memories attached to it. Why the urge to replace it? If I got a new bike, would the old bike get relegated to the back of the garage to gather cobwebs instead of mud and good old trail dust and grime? I know that I have no urge to get rid of it, so that would most likely be it's fate.

When I objectively look at my thoughts of throwing money into a sport that I seem to be fading from, I feel pretty foolish. Materialism generally fixes nothing aside from things in the short term, and the short term impact is even more abbreviated when one already has one of the items being bought. The reason being is that everything gets old. Even if I bought a Ferrari and drove it a bunch, I would eventually find it was not as new and amazing and would begin to look to other cars. I guess I answered my own question. I should just ride my current bikes until they truly fall apart and then there would be some justification for upgrading or replacing a bike. Putting off this purchase also hedges against my declining drive to ride. I guess that until I can empirically show that I'm going to ride consistently again and have re-ignited the fire to compete in some fashion or another, why risk wasting money on a new bike.

I say all that when I look at this decision objectively. Oh, but a new 29r would be soooo sweet on the local trails...