Wednesday, December 28, 2005

Harleys don't pack well

I've tried it a couple of ways. Even thought about taking fewer clothes, but no matter how hard I try I cannot for the life of me, fit the Deuce in my suitcase!!

You see, the girlfriend wants to go to New York City (cue shouting cowboys sitting around the campfire from the old Picante salsa TV ad) for New Years Eve. When I say 'wants to', she's booked the plane tickets, hotel room, made arrangements with friends which nights we'll be where and what restaurants we'll eat at. So if I sound like there's any choice in the matter, its only to puff out my chest and appear manly in the whole scheme of things.

I knew I enjoyed the ride on Monday too much.

Enough of the scooter pic already...heres a real bike with the real NYPD!

One report heard how many times
The State of Florida released its holiday accident report last night and consequently its everywhere today. I'm not talking about the mainstream media, but a medium far more powerful and certainly more intrusive. Friends and family.

I've had the admittedly sad news that from midnight Christmas eve/morning to midnight Monday the Florida Highway Patrol reported that nineteen people died in accidents. The deaths occurred in sixteen different accidents and included five motorcyclists, three of which weren't wearing their helmets. Interestingly enough only three automobile fatalities weren't wearing seatbelts, a low number I thought.

Not sure why people felt the urge to call and tell me this news as I have the same access to the media they do. I guess I'm the only biker they know.

But I'm sure the other bikers I know are like me, waiting for the other shoe to drop from this report as it will most definitely re-ignite the helmet debate as well as the quest by that not-so-quiet minority to get all motorcycles off the roads.

Charity? We don't take kindly to that 'round here
Just as the full ramifications of this accident report can't be fully realized, the decision of Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott to rule poker runs fundraisers as 'illegal gambling' under that states law won't be fully felt for a few months.

Poker runs typically have a participant paying a registration fee or have the motorcycle rider purchase cards or hands at various rally points. At the end of the run, a cash prize is usually awarded for the best hand, the second-best hand and the worst hand.

Abbott ruled that a poker run with cash prizes would amount to a lottery under state law. He said an organization that kept part of the proceeds for charity would violate the state's prohibition on gambling. The sad irony is that the poker run that prompted Abbott's opinion was organized by the Blue Knights Texas XXXI chapter to raise money for Galveston County Deputy Sheriff Michel Roy, who was injured in April when his squad car collided with a drunken driver's vehicle.

However the optimistic organizers and riders in Texas feel they can come up with a work-around to the new legal decision. Read the full story in the Houston Chronicle. Sad to think that you have to be more creative to raise money for charities.

So ski jacket in hand and already practicing my layering technique to keep this thin-blooded Florida boy warm, I hope you all have a happy and safe New Years Eve. If you happen to watch the ball drop in Times Square, look for the blue, shivering guy shouting above the crowd, "Does anyone know where the nearest Harley dealership is?"

Be safe.

Monday, December 26, 2005

The best gift took about 60 miles

Another Christmas has come and gone, only the backwash of milk left in the cup and a few cookie crumbs litter Santa's special plate. And what did the big man leave behind?

Aside from the very cool sale on Harley Apparel, the only other bike related gift was a set of chrome pegs hidden in a shoebox wrapped in colorful paper on christmas morning. Wisely the girlfriend left the price tag on and reciept in the box so I can go by the dealership sometime and decide on which style will look best on the Deuce.

A very sweet nephew made his Uncle a Harley Davidson mousepad, logo taken from the internet but don't tell HD;)

The gift I wasn't expecting came from an embarrassed riding buddy having to admit that the T-shirts I bought him for christmas were too small. It seems someone moved up a size and the conversation explaining this was worth it's weight in gold.

The bow didn't need to match
But the best present came Monday morning, a leisurely ride up the coast with not only my riding buddy, but the girlfriend on the back as well. We arrived at his house around eight am, by the time we gassed up and filled the tires to the right pressure we were all sailing up Federal Highway at 8.45am.

Maybe I'm just a wimp, or it could be the thin South Florida blood, but it was frickin' freezing this morning! I knew the high was only expected to be 71 degrees and even took the leather vest, optimistically hoping to wear it. Nope. Two layers of shirts and then the leather jacket zipped up to the neck, snapped shut and still chilly. Wasn't just me either as we only occassionally came across other riders while we made out way along the beach, heading north on Ocean Blvd.

We stopped off at Bostons in Delray Beach for a late breakfast, gaining a potential new rider in the one year old boy held in his mothers arms as he looked on admiring our bikes making motorcycle noise. At least I think it was the kid, my riding buddy can do some strange things sometimes. I offered the little boy the keys and to bring it back when he was done, but for some reason the parents passed on it.

A couple of omelettes and grits later (the gf had the grits, personally I don't understand peoples facination with them) we headed north again stopping off at the Boynton Beach Inlet before making it just past Palm Beach's beach and turning around to come back.

Boynton Beach Inlet

We had ridden thirty miles by the time we'd turned around and I knew that both my buddy and girlfriend's butts would be getting a little sore and thankfully fate smiled down on them, which in turn helped me since I wouldn't hear the complaining. How did fate help? Somehow we managed to hit every green light on the ride back. Not that there are that many, but for twenty miles our ride along the coast was at an average of thirty-five miles per hour making it one of the most memorable trips along that route.

From one toy to another
By the time we arrived at my buddy's house the calm ocean had convinced everyone to take a ride in his 33' Grady White, just to see if it was as smooth as it looked. His sons came over and we all headed out into an ocean with waves a bit bigger than they looked from shore but it really didn't matter after a couple of beers. A quick dash up the intercoastal blew the hat I'd borrowed from him off my head to be lost forever. Wouldn't be such a big deal except it was the same hat I brought back from the Harley dealership in England for him.


I promised to get him another one, which is easier said than done. The dealership doesn't have a website and my mother lives about an hours drive away. Looks like I'll be calling Black Bear Harley in Newmarket to do some mailordering!

Hope you and yours had a wonderful Christmas....and maybe even managed to get a ride in!

Saturday, December 24, 2005

Screw it! Just say Merry Christmas!!

Here we are on the eve of Christmas day. The stores are full of men desperately looking for the items on a list which was probably written as long ago as early November. Hey, I'm not complaining or making fun. As matter of fact, my indecision brought me some unexpected gifts of my own!

My sister and riding buddy were the last two people I needed to get something for and it was only late Friday that I caved in and asked the brother-in-law for some ideas. His suggestion of the first season of ER had me at Best Buy today.

Side note, explaination and boast. Theres a half mile section of Federal Highway in Fort Lauderdale that has Best Buy, CompUSA, Barnes and Noble, Some nice ale houses and best of all, a Harley Davidson dealership. All the toys and needs of every man right there! What makes it sweeter is the Best Buy and Harley Dealership are either side of the ale house. God bless whoever planned this.

So as I waited to pull into Best Buy to get my sisters gifts I noticed tents, food and more than the usual collection of bikes at the Harley dealership. The girlfriend didn't even try to argue about going there after our visit to Best Buy and needless to say, we didn't meander too long after buying the needed DVD. Just as well. Harley was selling all their old apparel at ridiculously low prices. T-shirts that retailed for $23.95 - $40 were being sold for $5, jackets at 75% off and sunglasses for an equally unheard of price. Needless to say I bought 6 shirts for the cost of one at the usual prices.

Even though the t-shirts were of the sleeveless variety, the fact that we rode around in shorts, t-shirts and with the top down on the convertible will give you idea how warm our current warm spell is here in South Florida. I could wear one of the new Harley shirts as soon as our scheduled bike ride on Monday morning!

That was me...thank you, thank you
Coming out of Best Buy we were solicited by the Toys for Tots to donate money for needy children this Christmas. When I mentioned I already donated during the Toy Run we had all the volunteers crowd around and ask questions, talk about the event and some of them even told me about their own motorcycles.

You always have a friend when you ride!

This is going to be a really quick blog...parties to go to, people to see and presents to open!

I want to wish you and yours a very safe and wonderful Christmas and Holiday!

Sunday, December 18, 2005

No Harley was harmed in the typing of this blog

It was nice to have a lot of positive responses to the Toy Run Blog, from 'there was a lot of great detail' to 'You're lucky to have gone on the run, this is what riding is all about'.

Like that little blip before I've found myself doing everything but riding. Typical example, the last few days were taken up preparing for the saturday night party to watch the Fort Lauderdale Holiday Boat Parade (I sent your invitation....didn't you get it in the mail?) and of course as with any successful get together, theres the morning after clean-up. If the weather can stay nice I'll have to get my fix with an evening ride.

Isn't it interesting how the difference between riding in day and night is like night and day? Yep, had to get that one in! Seriously, daytime rides always seem more relaxing, the world is going about its own business at a fairly steady pace. Nightime rides on the other hand the world around you seems like it's hyped up on some caffine high and even at the same speeds as your daytime ride, always feels like much less time to react. Of course the difference is because your situational awareness is vastly reduced at night at depth perception much more limited. A nice side effect though is you feel much more in tune with your bike at night, enjoying the feel of the ride rather than where you're riding.

But the volume goes up to 11, yeah?
Or could be subtitled, 'Why did you really buy your bike?'

I was doing the good boyfriend thing and taking my girlfriend to a restuarant she had been aching to try for months. Brownie points, brownie points, brownie points.

Someone had parked a shiny, chromed out electric blue Fatboy near the entrance of the restaurant. I stopped to look at it, and the valet and I admired the bike briefly. I was audibly admiring it, voicing the customizations that really caught my eye with the valet seeming to take mental note and the girlfriend rolling her eyes as she anxiously waited to move on and put our names in for a table.

Later, I watched the rider go up to the bike and ride off, sans helmet, Jacket etc. When we finished dinner and I gave my ticket to the valet he excitedly told me the owner of the fatboy was saying it was unique, a limited edition because only 3000 were made. I looked back at the valet and said "All motorcycles are limited editions, by the time riders get through messing with them, there are no two alike!"

The valet just smiled, "oh yeah."

I guess personally if someone asked me about my bike, how long I've had it, how many miles I rode, what I personally put on it...all these things would come up in conversation rather than limited editions or price.

But thats just me.

From the ashes...twice
You may remember that a 9/11 tribute motorcycle was built and auctioned off earlier this year by Mid-West Choppers with the proceeds going to America's 9/11 Foundation. After the successful auction the charity commissioned a second motorcycle but when Mid-West Choppers filed bankruptcy taking $30,000 of America's 9/11 Foundations money with them, things were looking dire.

Former Mid-West Choppers employees Bob Miller and Doug Niles formed Speed Street Custom Builds, stepped up to the plate and unveiled the second Sept. 11 tribute bike for America's 9/11 Foundation Thursday. The bike, the first built by the new business, will be raffled Aug. 19, 2006, in conjunction with the foundation's fifth annual "Never Forget" ride. Proceeds from the raffle go to the foundation's education fund and scholarships are provided to children of active police, fire and rescue units across the country.

With the motorcycle costing $30,000 more than it should have the foundations hopes to sell even more tickets in this next raffle. But considering one man bought all $160,000 worth of the last raffle tickets, that may not be such a steep hill to climb.

Read the full story in the Illinois Register Mail.

For more scandalous reading there are stories here, here and here about the arrest of the owner of Mid-West Choppers and his legal woes.

Will we sing Kumbaya?
Having had the chance to participate in a charity run, the story about Crissy Jackman, owner of Crazy Crissy’s Biker T-Shirts rallying for a week nationally set aside for thousands of motorcycle rallies across the country to raise money for charities caught my eye. The rallies would be held in small towns and large cities, held by riding clubs and corporate sponsors, everyone working for the common purpose of raising money for charity.

Visit her website if you'd like to help or just learn more about it. The full press release can be read here.

New kids in town
Thunder Cycles, Orange County, and the new Speed Street Custom Builds. How many custom bike builders can the market support? Well Michigan's TBA's Career Tech Center is about to find out.

The students on the Schoolyard Motorworks build team are building their very own custom bike to be, what else, but auctioned off to raise money for the Father Fred Foundation. Aside from enjoying mini stardom and local attention, the group are also facing the tougher side of custom bike building, the ever-looming deadline.

Read about their project at the Grand Traverse Herald.

Tuesday, December 13, 2005

Post Toy Run Blues

A whole week has gone by since I rode in the toy run and I haven't managed to get out on my bike since. With the season bearing down on us, a couple of pet projects and spending time with those people that matter, you realize that riding is like anything else in our modern lives. Its needs to be scheduled in. How sad.

Not quite as sad or frustrating for that matter as the news reports about the toy run. This is an event that had an estimated 30,000 people turn up for the ride itself and an additional 30,000 for the event afterwards raising about $550,000 for a local hsopital and tons of toys for needy children. How much post event press has been out there? None.

Very sad.

On the positive side, it was nice to read that the autographed Harley Davidson used to raise money for the southeast Asia tsunami victims back in february of this year was reauctioned. Waste Management who had the winning bid on eBay earlier this year auctioned it off for $1 million dollars to raise money for the Bush Clinton Katrina Fund for hurricane survivor relief. The highest bid was made by philanthropist John O'Quinn, who is also an attorney in Houston.

You can read the full story at Louisana's KATC's news site.

How low can you go?
BMW is finally getting with the program and listing the seat heights of their motorcycles with all the other relevant information about the various models on the website as well as the brochures where the specifications would normally appear.

BMW, welcome to the information age.

It's said this is being done to help those smaller riders who have concerns about being able to have their feet comfortably reach the ground by keeping them better informed with all the information about the different models offered.

Maybe I'm reading too much into this, but doesn't this feel like BMW wants a piece of the growing female rider market share? Nothing wrong with this at all, especially since everyone considers the redesigned Harley Davidson Sportster is aimed at this valued demographic.

Lets be honest, anything the motorcycle companies can do to get more women out on the roads with their own rides is a good thing!

Just in time for Christmas
The intriguing documentary 'Long Way Round' featuring the motorcycle trip taken around the world by Ewan McGregor and his acting pal Charley Boorman is being released this week.

If you saw this on TV theres not much more to see on the DVD with the only real extra being interviews with the two men and a photo gallery.

I missed it. Wonder if its too late to thrown on the christmas list?


Who would've thought it?
Not sure how often the phrase is used, but it better be said with a little more care from now on. The courts have ruled that a lesbian San Francisco motorcycle club offically owns the Dykes on Bikes trademark.

The US patent office has reversed position and approved a request to let a lesbian San Francisco motorcycle club trademark the name "Dykes on Bikes," the office confirmed on Friday.

"The original reaction of the examiner was to reject it because he considered the term (dykes) disparaging," Brigid Quinn of the US patent office told AFP. "The applicant got lots of evidence, from everyone from lawyers to academics, that the term wasn't considered disparaging in the lesbian community."

Before the trademark was approved, Tomas Lee, a spokesman for supervisor Tom Ammiano, said Dykes on Bikes has led gay pride parades in other major world cities, such as Paris, London, Tokyo and Sydney.

The lesbian bikers want to protect the Dykes on Bikes name from being used by impostors, according to Lee.

You can't make this stuff up. Read the full report on the Political Gateway news site.

Friday, December 09, 2005

Forget about elves, Santa needs his CC

So I did it.

People warned me not to, said I'd regret it and certainly would never want to do it ever again.

I can say here and now that not only did I enjoy the Fort Lauderdale 18th Fun in the Sun Toy Run but its easy to imagine doing it again next year.

Actually, there was an air of doubt that I'd even make the run. My company holiday party was the night before with someone there mixing some great drinks and since the girlfriend was driving home I could join in the fun. She told me and everyone at the party that she didn't want to get on the back of the bike if I was too hung over and who can blame her. Personally I was more worried about being able to get myself out of the bed, forget about making it to the bike!

Popping the Toy Run Cherry
Even though everyone told me not to bother since it would get dirty anyway, I was up at 6am to give the Deuce a quick clean. I was also told that no on ever gets out of second gear, and of course wanting the bike to look it's best (i.e read looking cool) I decided to take the windshield off. At around seven when the bike was looking just right I woke up my girlfriend who didn't want to get up until everything was ready to go.

I never know how she does it, literally rolling out of bed, throwing on some clothes, just a few minutes in the bathroom and she was looking as cute as always. Even when I stopped off at the ATM to get some cash for the event, she sat on the back of the bike looking as pretty as ever.

As you can see, my suggestion that she wear a low cut leather vest, chaps and g-string were totally ignored.

Maybe next time.

I thought it was warm enough to go without the long sleeve t-shirts and was tempted to leave the leather vest at home. Without saddlebags anything I took would have to be carried around the event so the idea was to travel light. I realized being the wiser biker paid off as the cold morning wind blew around my body sans windshield and made me appreciate the vest. It was such a thrill to come across riders at every light, in groups as well as on their own. Heck, we even rode for a few miles with the local Sheriff's motorcycle deputies!

My biker virginity showed as I rode through the entrance of the starting point, the Pompano Harness Track when a seasoned biker directing traffic was yelling something at me as he hit his forearm. When I got close enough he shouted, "Don't you know what this means?"

I shook my head.

"It means move to the right!" he shouted as he rolled his eyes. Didn't even want to know what was going through his mind.

We paid, found our place, parked the bike and watched the huge parking lot fill with every kind of motorcycle you could imagine. A guy came through selling American and POW flags for donations only so I grabbed one of each and strapped them on, the whole time trying to look like I knew what I was doing.

While getting a coffee and egg sandwich we met some nice guys who rode all the way from Orlando, a 200 mile trip in itself just to ride in the Toy Run. One of them was amazed how big the event had become and talked about his first time some ten years ago with less than a thousand bikes.

Pure luck had me parked right behind the most amazing looking trike I'll probably ever see. Not for style or chrome, but for sheer humor. The owner had painted it in a southwestern style, reins hanging through the handlebars, a riding saddle for a seat, wooden crate marked 'explosives' mounted behind the seat for storage and even a real horses tail mounted on the back of the bike. He had a sound machine hooked into a speaker and could play a calvary charge, horse nieghing and a whole range of funny sounds.

Everyone was looking at it and between the crowd and the trike, no matter how many motorcycles filled the parking lot and as far away as I wandered, I could always find mine!

You can see by the last picture, the owner even dressed in the spirit of his bike.

As we walked around we saw the riders who like me, only paid $10 a person ride to one side of the racetrack while the other's who paid up to $300 rode into a parking lot that was closer to the front and allowed you into a 'special donor' area. Even though I did have the opportunity to buy those tickets, I was quite happy slumming it around the parking lot, checking out the bikes, meeting the riders and of course trying to explain the whole riding world (and why we do the things we do) to my girlfriend. She was sweet enough to pretend to understand the stranger stuff.

When I came back from standing in the long line at the portatoilets I found her sitting right next to a group of lesbian bikers, obviously doing the female thing and evesdropping on the conversation. As we walked away she explained the hiarchy of the group and what the others were doing to impress the 'main woman'.

There were of course the obligitory stuffed animals strapped on bikes.

And good looking bikes everywhere!

But I wanted to ask this guy how far he had come. Check out all the luggage and maps on the fuel tank.

At this point something had gotten on the camera lens, so what appears as artistic haze and flares is in fact most likely sunscreen!

A second and third parking lot filled up with motorcycles and it started to feel like the 30,000 riders they were expecting for the run itself. Even with that many people, the mood was bouyant, bikers making new friends, just going about business to waste away the long wait so we could all get on our bikes and do what we came to do. Ride!

The girlfriend patiently waiting.

I was greeted by an ugly sight when we got back to my bike. Somehow, someone had but a two inch scratch on my metallic paint gas tank. A quick feel told me it was deep seemingly going down to the primer. Since I appreciated my girlfriend coming along, I wanted to keep the event as fun as possible and tried not to get too upset, telling myself, it was done and there's nothing to do about it now.

A couple of false starts had everyone sitting on their motorcycle waiting as we could see the bikes pull out row by row. Somewhere in the front was Steven Tyler of Aerosmith, Richie Sambora of Bon Jovi, Dennis Rodman (insert your won joke here), Vanilla Ice (insert second joke) and Rich Supa. With the lines not being the most perfectly aligned there's ever been some last minute arranging between riders of who was going where and when was quickly settled as the marshalls approached. Something tells me this wasn't being done up front. With a wave of their red flag we found ourselves making our way out of the parking lot and onto the route.

As much as I tried to convince her that she wouldn't fall off at such slow speeds, my girlfriend wouldn't take any pictures and instead insisted on keeping her arms locked tightly around me the whole ride. It's a pity too because there where crowds everywhere who'd come out to see the convoy of motorcycles. From sitting in lawnchairs to having video cameras set up on tripods I was amazed by the numbers. They waved, some held high home made signs 'Santa rides a Harley', 'Santa loves bikers' and 'Bikers have big hearts' were just the ones I can remember. It was eiree to have the entire road to ourselves with the police every hundred yards in every form of transportation making sure no-one but our group was on what was for the moment, our road. And it belonged to all riders of all bikes. Ahead a few bikes, a goldwing with an older couple, directly in front a couple about my age on a Harley, Two latin couples on cruisers to my right and a black gentleman behind me on his Sportbike. Everyone was there.

A short trip east on Atlantic Blvd and we were heading south on I-95. Contrary to all the stories and warnings, we managed to get up to 45 mph, going fast enough to snap the thin wooden pole of the American flag I'd strapped to the bike. I gave it to the girlfriend to hold onto, but she was so intent on keeping her hands available for hanging on, she stuffed it in the pocket of my vest.

Not only was my bike looking good, but the lack of windshield allowed the now warmer and more refreshing air to hit my body giving that rush we all love about riding. The formation was two rows of riders, keeping to the most right hand lane. It was fairly consistent except for a few gaps of about a quarter of a mile that formed up ahead and as easy as it was to get annoyed with this, everyone was enjoying the ride and waving to the people who had come out to watch.
On every overpass there were about thirty or forty people, groups would spring up on the side of the highway who had obviously made a picnic of it. The couple to my right threw candy canes to the groups and watching the children scramble for them was the cutest sight. There were even bikers standing on the side of the road looking on, wishing they were with us but since they couldn't be seemed quite happy to give the rider wave of pointing to the ground.

We only slowed down to where I had to put my feet down about three times as the group made its way to I-595 where we headed west, staying at about 25mph but getting as high as 40. I was sure getting into the meeting place and all day event, Markham Park would take forever but it flowed better than I could've hoped, although my engine was starting to act up. It wasn't running as smoothly as it should and actually stalled twice. Other Harley riders have told me about this, they're real pigs when they start running hot. The downside to air-cooled I guess. I was really nursing it by the time I parked in the huge field filled with even more motorcycles that the Pompano Race course.

Even the girlfriend was impressed with the number of bikes that filled the expansive fields. I could've spent the rest of the day just walking around and taking pictures of the nice looking rides. For a second I wondered if I should leave the helmets on the bike, but figured if you couldn't leave them here among my biking brothers, where could I leave them?

The event at the end of the run billed itself with live music with headliner Blue Oyster Cult and local bands filling the stage for the rest of the day and early evening. Bike and car show, motorcycle dealers showing their latest models and various bike related venders.

Once inside the park we dropped off our gift with the volunteers holding the huge heavy duty plastic bags who couldn't keep up as they filled as soon as they were opened with present after present being brought in by the most hardened looking bikers.

The event was like any other fair and all the longer lines were for either food or the restrooms. By now it was around one the afternoon so once we bought our food and found a nice quiet piece of grass in the shade of a tree about a hundred yards behind the row of tents serving the food. It was naptime for the girlfriend so I was left to wander the show alone. Leathers, patches, skull caps and helmets, everything was for sale. Victory Motorcycle had their latest models on display. They looked nice with some beautiful curves but somehow the bikes just seemed bare. All the other major bike vendors were on show, with mostly touring and cruising models on display. There was even a luxury speedboat company showing off a few models I guess hoping to attract the affluent bikers that considered their motorcycle just a toy.

I bumped into a few friends, made some new ones and mostly window shopped. Even though I wanted to find some patches for my new leather vest nothing really caught my eye and ended up only buying a commerative 2005 Toy Run pin.

When I went back to see how my girlfriend was I found her asleep under the tree, only now she was surround by groups of riders who had the similar idea of finding a quiet spot to eat. I wish all those people who insist on stereotyping bikers as less than reputable could see this sight. A small defenseless female left undisturbed as she slept. She was out of it too!

We made our way back to the bike and on out of the park. Of course it was easier getting out than in but reality did slap the small group of riders I was with in the face as we rode out. We had to get back onto the highway without any police escort or help. Hello real world, I remember you!

As much as I enjoyed opening up my bike and taking it up to seventy miles an hour, my girlfriends tightening grip told me she wasn't as estatic about the speed. The wind was fierce at the speed and I realized how much the windshield really helped, that is when I had it on. All of a sudden I felt a big bug slam into my mouth and squeeze past my lips with only my teeth stopping it from going any further. Fortunately I'd worn my fingerless gloves was able to pick it out, but thats when I felt my lip begin to swell with something stuck in it. I just eaten a bee and he left his stinger behind!

Last time I was stung by a bee I swelled up in no time, so my doctor gave me some medication to take which was supposed to stop any severe effects. Unfortunately, that was in my car and I was on my bike. So now I'm balancing trying to not only ride safely but make it apparent to my girlfriend that we're as safe as we can be on two wheels on a Florida highway, but still get home as quickly as I can to take that medication. Fun.

Made it back okay with only slight swelling, although my girlfriend laughed as she thought it looked like I went for a collagen injection, but was so cheap I could only afford the bottom lip.

I took the bike back to my buddy's garage where my deuce normally lives and showed him the scratch on my gas tank. I was still ranting about it by the time he finished wiping it down with some Harley cleaning solution and the scratch was gone!

What a good ending to an awesome day.

Sunday, December 04, 2005

Post Thanksgiving Trip (continued)

On the last entry of Biker Diaries I was reviewing my post Thanksgiving day ride.

After filling up with gas at Tamiami Trail and Krome Ave, I watched the sky while eating my late and light breakfast of an apple, wondering if Mother Nature was preparing to drench the area I wanted to ride into.

The whole point of heading south towards the keys was to check out Alabama Jacks, a popular biker bar/restaurant and caution was about to thrown to the wind, but hopefully not to the rain. I'd never travelled on this part of Krome before and the lack of motorcycles along with the abundance of heavy trucks hauling fine grit had me wondering if this was going to be a good idea. Then the road opened up, the fields became wider and the sun fought it's way from behind the clouds. There were nurseries and farms one after the other, all of them geared towards consumers to stop and shop. This was middle America and a part of Florida I hadn't seen, re-affirming my decision to not only come this way but also risk the wrath of the rain-gods. I even didn't mind the slow, meandering drivers with the impulsive turn here and there. The traffic lights could be seen far enough away and had such a short cycle that they could be timed so I wouldn't even have to stop!

The signs for Homestead made me realize that although I knew and heard a lot about the town and even rode past it on the freeways, but had never visited it. So I was pleasantly surprised when it became everytown USA with the buildings and streets looking like something out of a Frank Capra movie. By now the clouds had completely disappeared and the day had warmed up, making each stop at the traffic lights a little toasty. Between the warmer weather, feeling I'd seen enough of Florida's very own Mayberry the anxiety was growing to get to Florida City which would lead me to the long and winding back road that went past Alabama Jacks.

Just as the weather seemed to heed my call with the lack of rain, it was only minutes into my growing concern to take this ride to that next level when the sign appeared directing me back to Hwy 1 (Federal Highway) through Florida City.

The turning for the back road which led to Alabama Jacks was exactly where expected although it wasn't as winding as I remembered. But with no cars and scenery surrounding me that can only be found as you make your way south towards Key West, there wasn't too much disappointment. Had a slight scare when an approaching car stayed in my lane a little too long while overtaking the car in front of him, otherwise a quiet and scenic ride.

Alabama Jack I presume
When I came across a few bends in the road, the final ninety degree curve had me looking at Alabama Jacks with about a dozen motorcycles parked in front.

Of course as soon as I bought the one beer I was allowing myself for this ride, my girlfriend called to tell me she was heading out for South Beach and should make our roughly pre-arranged meeting time of 1pm on Lincoln Road. I promised to finish up my beer and meet her, but no sooner had I hung up when I found myself in various conversations with other riders.

A Honda rider took three attempts to back his bike in, but bearing in mind the ground is a little steep either side of the road and the poor guy had all of us watching him, I'm sure everyone was glad it was him and not them!

On the final maneuver I started to notice that even though his motorcycle was a different make and there were fifteen years difference in age between the bikes, they looked very similar. Even the color of the paint! It's hard to see how close the color was with the bright Florida sunshine treating the two aged paints differently, but you can certainly see the other similarities. I guess classic bikes never go out of style!

It was during the various conversations that started out of this that I met a fellow Harley Rider who had all the stories and even more experiences. From riding up to Sturgis to the last time he laid down his bike, the time flew by and the little padding I'd built into my schedule was gone and there was no way to make it to Lincoln Road on time.

Made my excuses and headed out trying to visualize the maze of freeways between me and Miami Beach. As the first toll road sign passed over my head I realized that all my cash was used for the little bit of gas I put in and the apple back at Tamiami Trail. If the tolls didn't exceed two dollars before I got to the 'free' freeways, everything should be okay. I pulled off the road, called the girlfriend and told her it looked like I was going to be forty-five minutes late, 'Go shopping, that's what people go to Lincoln road for in the daytime anyway!' She liked that idea.

When I pulled away I saw the toll bridge that led to the curving road I remembered riding on to get to Alabama Jacks when I first visited it on the way back from the trip to Key West last April.

Back on the road and within twenty minutes I was down a dollar, then ten minutes later the toll booth I was approaching had signs of $1.25 everywhere. Why didn't I bring my toll pass? Why didn't I hang onto the cash? A piece of humble pie later and with some directions on where to pulloff and get some more cash, I was pulling away from the booth knowing time was working against me. The gas station/convenience store obviously didn't see a lot of motorcycles stop by and fortunately I found another customer that knew a quick route to downtown Miami. The directions would take me along the most heavily commuted freeways that would be busy from all the traffic heading in and out of Miami Airport.

Carefully made it through two freeways and three interchanges without so much as a close call and was rewarded with the beautiful view of Star Island to my left and the cruise ships docked on the right and beautiful water all around.

Downtown Miami is like most cities with the streets based in a grid system and since Lincoln Road is quite long, it's hard to miss it. Even lucked out with fairly close parking! Of course I had to pay, nothing's free in me on this.

Found the girls in just a few minutes and considering I made it to the minute that was promised (or re-promised, depending on how you look at it) it was time to finally relax, sit back and enjoy the view. And what a view! Miami has the most beautiful people in South Florida and bearing in mind South Florida has the most beautiful people in the world, thats saying something. It's really easy to find yourself sitting at a table for hours watching the different and varied crowds roaming up and down the street.

By the time we finished lunch and I rode back, my complete trip was just under two hundred miles although it seemed much longer. Definitely is up there for enjoyability.

The route?

West on I-595
South on Knob Hill Road
West on Griffin
Stop at Everglades Holiday Park
South on Hwy 27
South on Krome Ave
South on US 1
South on Coral Reef Road
Stop at Alabama Jacks
North on Coral Reef Rd
North on US 1
North(east) 827, 836 & 395 (this part was a bit of a blur)
Stop at Lincoln Road
North on I-95
East on I-595
North on Federal Hwy (US1)
End of trip!


Friday, December 02, 2005

Is it really that time of year again?

It may only be the second day of December, but already the holiday madness seems to be taking over with very little time for anything else outside of work and finishing all those 'little jobs' you have to get done this time of year.

After all, it's been days since I've had the chance to make an entry for Biker Diaries and it seems as if I'm not the only thing taking a break as news in the motorcycle world seems to have slowed down.

Finally I had time to make up a map of my most recent ride and it as well as all the more interesting details of that day are at the end of this entry

Me and 30,000 of my closest friends
This weekend looks to be hectic in my more immediate world, with my company's holiday party Saturday night and the 18th Annual SFPC Christmas Toys in the Sun Run assembling as early as 7am Sunday Morning! There are expected to be 30,000 motorcycles in the ride and this is my first one so it seems wise to watch what I drink the night before. Especially after I came across some sobering news that shows your still at risk reckless car drivers even in a police controlled parade of motorcycles. I guess its nearly impossible to prepare for stupidity.

Some of the news coverage for the Toy run was less than positive over the last few days which is sad considering that the goal is to raise $600,000 and collect toys for the less fortunate this holiday season. The Miami Herald report on December 1st was short and indifferent, 'Dennis Rodman and Rob Van Winkle, better known as Vanilla Ice, lead the motorcycle ride, which draws more than 30,000 riders annually and collects money and toys for needy children.' That was the closest they came to mentioning not only the monetary target, but also totally ignoring that the run raised over $521,000 last year.

So it was nice to read the Sun-Sentinel not only going into much more depth, but even putting a funny spin to the infamous annual event;

Planning to catch a flight Sunday morning at Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport?

Headed west to Naples?

Your trip might take a back seat to about 30,000 motorcyclists bearing gifts for a good cause during the 18th annual Toys in the Sun Run.

Big-hearted bikers from all over the country will tote toys at a leisurely 25 mph from Pompano Harness Park in Pompano Beach to Markham Park in Sunrise, closing several major roads en route.

Every rider I've met over the last week or so said they were going, with some of them even being repeat offenders which is making me think it can't be as bad as my riding buddy has been trying to make out. He's not going of course.

Too small to ride
The Post office has seemed to take notice of the growing popularity of the motorcycle, annoucing today that a set of commemorative stamps will not only be released, but on August 7th 2006 at the Bike Rally in Sturgis.

"Our 2006 program commemorates a wide range of diverse American icons with something that will appeal to everyone," said Postmaster General John E. Potter in describing stamps that will honor Baseball sluggers, comic book heroes, the world's longest bridge span, the first African-American to earn an Oscar and America's love affair with motorcycles.

The role of motorcycles in American culture will be recognized on four "American Motorcycles" stamps featuring digital illustrations of a 1918 Cleveland, a 1940 Indian Four, a 1965 Harley-Davidson Electra-Glide, and a circa 1970 chopper. The Cleveland, Indian and Harley-Davidson stamps are based on motorcycles in existence today.

These will be the first motorcycles that can be licked, sticked and sent to a friend!

Makes you want to go, eh?
I always enjoy telling my non-riding friends that my motorcycle and are allowed to ride in the HOV (High Occupancy Vehicle) Lane during rush hour. While they still have that look of puzzlement on their faces I go on to tell the story that when the the concept of HOV lanes were first being developed there was a top person in the Department of Transport who'd always considered his motorcycle more like a member of his family and used this arguement to in fact consider a biker as two people and consequently use the commuting lane.

Of course that last part is totally untrue, but you'd be surprised at what people and particularly non riders believe. The reason we get to use the HOV lane comes from the whole idea behind it is to conserve gasoline which is why two or more in a car, hybrids and of course your fifty or so miles to the gallon motorcycle have their very own lane at peak commuting times. Actually when I do get around to telling the truth on why we're allowed there humor turns to disbelief and onto mild anger. Jealousy is an ugly thing.

It seems that HOV lane rules are only just becoming standard across the country of Canada, but by omitting motorcycles from using the lanes the Minister of Transport is ruffling a few biker feathers.

Oh, you can use an HOV lane while riding, as long as you have a passenger on the back!

Mark Richardson doesn't say in his recent Toronto Star editorial whether or not her is a biker, but he certainly has the passion of one systematically ripping apart any kind of reasoning for excluding motorcycles from the HOV lanes.

The irony is that this has all been decided by the ministry at the same time as the City of Toronto declared that the use of motorcycles and scooters should be encouraged through city-wide free parking, as a way to ease urban congestion.

It's a great read and always interesting to see what battles other bikers have in different countries.

Great bike, have to ask about the name though
Ducati is turning heads and getting awards after unveiling it's new concept bike at the International Motorcycle Show in Long Beach California this week.

The motorcycle features a new air-cooled twin engine, slim front end, fuel injection and 100 horsepower with only 385 lbs of dry weight, allowing the bike to exceed speeds of 135 mph.

But the name. The Hypermotard.

I don't know. Even when you put it with the advertising tagline 'The Ducati Hypermotard, the most extreme mountain conquering, urban assaulting machine ever from Ducati' it still sounds....different.

Either way, it's being shown to the public at the International Motorcycle Show in Long Beach California between December 9th to the 11th and you can read more about it at Road Racing World.

A Sunday Morning ride
The plans were set. I would head out in the morning go wherever I wanted to go and meet my girlfriend and her out of town guest on Lincoln Road in downtown Miami.

Although the roads weren't as quiet as my Thanksgiving day ride I started early enough that there wasn't much traffic around. Made my way to I-595, out to Nob Hill Road and onto Everglades Holiday Park. I've seen it before but it was certainly nice to have another look at an older (but not antique) Indian Motorcycle and then I saw another Deuce with exactly the same paint job and I guess same year as mine.

As I checked the other Deuce from a few feet away, I noticed he's chromed nearly everything you could, added custome wheels and had to use a bag attached to the sissy bar for storage. As I looked at the rider not so good things were being noticed. He wore no helmet, but did wear a dress leather jacket, you know the blouse type that would shred up in a second if he fell off. Tennis shoes instead of boots and of course khakis instead of jeans. This was a little disappointing. Why didn't he spend a fraction of what he spent on his beautiful bike on proper riding gear? Everything about the guy riding with him seemed more experenced and seasoned. His Harley Heritage was nice but had some miles on it, as did his helmet and leathers. Couldn't this riding buddy point out what his new motorcycle owner friend should be wearing? The Deuce rider wasn't a young kid either, so you'd think he would know better.

They didn't stay long, and I followed soon after going south on Krome Ave with the intention of taking the road all the way down to Florida City which sits on the entrance to the Keys and visit a biker hangout called Alabama Jacks. I was introduced to this place on the way back from a weekend in the keys which also happened to be my first long distance ride that took place way back in April. I've been meaning to write about that ride, it was quite an adventure but other things have always seem to come up.

As I turned onto Krome from Hwy 27 the sky was starting to cloud up. This was the point the rains had soaked me way back during my trip to Naples in August. Understanding that this route was on the edge of the everglades, which are the way they are because of a lot of rain, but why does it have to get it's quota everytime I'm near?

The clouds seemed to clear up and I had cool weather with warm sunshine on an open road. What could be better? While stopped for gas at the intersection of Tamiami Trail and Krome I could see a stormfront to the south, which just happened to be the direction I was heading. I was soon keen to get out and on the bike, breakfast was skipped and with the time approaching 10.30am my stomach was starting to feel it. I watched the sky as I ate an apple, looking for a sign of what was going on since I could still change direction, head east and see what trouble was happening on the coast.

Determination kicked in. I'd wanted to go to Alabama Jacks since that last visit in April and this was a perfect opportunity.

This was going to be the day!

To be continued.........