Sunday, June 06, 2010

Please to meet you, I think you know my name

So the question has to be asked, are the journeys we take lasting if they are never shared?

A large part of me hopes so, that the memory of past adventures will live on, albeit in a smaller group of friends who may have heard the mile by mile tale over a beer or barbeque. If one doesn't update their blog in absolute years, then one can only hope this theory is true.

It has been a long time, years in fact. But as with many bloggers who appear to disappear in a cyberspace void, real life and other interests (mostly motorcycle related) took over. But if the reason to have motorcycle blog is bring the enjoyment of riding to countless others, then I've manage to do the first but obviously failed on carrying out the last, which is relay those adventures here.

And quite frankly, for the sake of a blog that is essentially the most important part.

This blog was started in August 2005, which means its quickly approaching its fifth anniversary. The blog was started because I had bought my first motorcycle (Harley-Davidson Softail Deuce) in March 2005, which means I've ridden past my five years of being in the saddle.

Although no where near many other bloggers who lay down a multitude of miles, I can proudly say that I officially have over 18,000 miles on my motorcycle. I feel I've grown up from the wide eyed kid who needed to push the handlebars on a curve to believe countersteering really did work the way they claimed in safety class to someone who will seriously buy his first touring motorcycle in the next twelve months.

As if a witness to this time, and miles in the saddle, this is the first weekend of the last three that I'm at home, with the others spent racing up to the middle of Florida trying to find some quiet open roads with little traffic.

I've kept mental notes, took the pictures, all in the hope of blazing back onto these pages in glorious fashion with pictures stories to amaze and a whole new look to the blog. Somehow, the original template was lost in the years of lying dormant, but I consider myself lucky to be able to claim back the blog address along with all the past posts.

Riding down a familiar road so to speak.

A lot has happened since the last post. The motorcycle industry has ridden on such a rough road everyone has a sneaking suspicion the asphalt may have stopped a few miles back. This can be seen locally in South Florida with Bruce Rossmeyer's empire of a chain of local dealers closing one by one. We've gone from three in Broward County to two with rumors that will soon be one.

And its not just Harley, the Triumph/Ducati dealer in Broward shut his doors and I saw the owners of the Palm Beach Ducati dealership at a local small motorcycle event in Broward County trying to drum up business.

So as I collect my thoughts, slap up some pictures, look up some old blogging buddies and share the new ones I've enjoyed but have slipped past your radar, look for some new travels and insights to make their way onto these pages.

Might even get around to the template.


Tuesday, May 16, 2006

Star Trek and motorcycles

Even if you're not a Trekkie, or the far more dignified Trekker, I'd ask you to indulge me, if not for a few paragraphs of this blog just to see how much the 1960's science fiction television landmark has so many similarities to motorcycles and the riders who love them.

Still here? Good.

How this came about.
For about a year I've been a member of Netflix and although Blockbuster is the first stop for the latest movie releases, it doesn't have the instore selection of television and documentaries the revolutionary online service has.

My journey through Star Trek: The Next Generation was made officially complete by the delivery of Star Trek :TOS (The Original Series) last week.

Before we go any further, two things;
- Are you still with me?

- I swear, I don't own any Spock ears or models from any of the TV shows. At least not anymore.

The first thing I noticed about the Star Trek :TOS DVD (it's amazing how easily you fall into the lingo...scary...right?) is that Paramount only managed to put two episodes on the disc. My $40 Seinfeld Disc has five episodes per disc and it was filmed in Stereo surround sound, requiring far more precious DVD space than a show from 1966 which just missed out from being filmed in black and white. Obviously Paramount is taking advantage of the poor Trekkers here by spreading the episodes over more discs trying to justify the $100 price tag for an entire series.

Not that I ever looked into buying it.

That's assuming the Trekkers are poor of course. Having never ever dated, they probably have more money than you and I. After all, how much can you spend on Star trek memorabilia?

Back to the point
So I started re-watching the show I grew up with, and saw far more imperfections than I ever remembered. The technology is simply silly compared to today's standards and the sets were, well, just shaky. It was obvious that pieces of plywood were thrown up, blinking lights added and a coat of paint slapped on. Big buttons pressed over and over for different functions and mock screens with pictures glued on.

But I still loved it.

The characters are cliche'd, but only because they've been overdone since the show first appeared in 1966. They were unique and deep compared to the diet of American television at the time it first appeared. Entire books have been written about the Kirk, Spock and McCoy personality triangle.

The lines seemed silly and melodramatic in relation to the current level of sophistication, but when it was running for the first time, cerebral college students were the bulk of its viewing audience. It was their petition writing campaign, the first of its kind, that kept the show on for another series in the shadow of cancellation.

Time for the word motorcycle to appear in a motorcycle blog
How does this relate to motorcycles?

I've written a few times how riding a motorcycle can change your perspective, making the most established facet of life take on a new meaning. Watching this forty year old television show brought this home. Having seen the Star Trek series more times than I'd care to count and quite frankly, more than I'd ever admit, but tonight it was through different eyes.

The science fiction classic is like the old motorcycles of yore. The bikes parents, grandparents and crazy old uncles talk about, lacking the basic technology and systems the modern rider would consider the most basic of necessities.

The episode in the DVD player was the third of the first series, The Corbomite Maneuver. Costumes were still a little rough, the standards hadn't been set yet and it was obvious that the producers and writers knew what they were trying to achieve, but it was just a path of trial and error to get there.

This sums up the motorcycle in it's various incarnations to a 'T'. Trying to find that perfect engine: is it the V-Twin or the Boxer. How to get the maximum power without all the vibration. Stumbling across and implementing counterbalancing. Is bigger better? Or can more power be had from cylinders already designed. Fuel injection, electric starter, bigger bores, all of the innovations you and I know and see walking around the dealership showroom floor was lived through by the people who rode before us.

Just as the seasoned riders we meet at bike nights, rallies and motorcycle events may seem different, and seemingly living a hackneyed stereotype, believe it or not they came to mind when I saw William Shatner.

Once again I'd ask for your indulgence.

At the time the show came out, William Shatner was the man. Sure all the actors who starred in the show knew they were in something that was revolutionizing television, science fiction or even story-telling, depending on how dramatic you'd like to go. Leonard Nimoy, DeForest Kelley, James Doohan, George Takei, Nichelle Nichols, and (later) Walter Koenig all knew the show was something special and are(were) incredible actors. But Kirk was the man who had the lines, made being in charge cool and got all the girls. Not only that, while all the other actors seemed to distance themselves from the show, he was always proud of it. Okay sometimes it may've been in a mocking way, but don't we consider a sense of humor as endearing?

This could be taken as a direct comparison to the biker of the sixties and seventies. Back then, the wave when two riders met on the road really meant something. They believed in the passion you and I know today and are allowed to enjoy with admiration from our non-riding peers rather than scorn. Like Kirk, the riders of old lived the life many men pined for but didn't have the courage or circumstances to follow. I'm sure as with the good captain, the rebellious image bikers carried in the leathers and long hair brought them their fair share of attention from the fairer sex too.

The comparison between the older riders and seasoned actor can be drawn to present day. William Shatner is still the same person and actor, just in a different time. His fame is, at least in part, from a nod to the semi-campy acting of the 1960's television show. This can make him seem different or difficult for the younger viewers to relate too. Regardless, he does what he knows, enjoys and in the case of acting, pays the bills

See the similarities here?

The older biker can seem from a different time, with no reservations or certain attitudes that may seem foreign the younger rider who never lived that life. Not to be mean and trying to be a respectful as possible, what was his life and was as unique as could be, can sometimes appear to be a tried stereotype.

Fact is, in reality, the stereotype sped past the rider's real life.

The final 'apples to apples' can come not from what happened in the past, but what was hoped for the future.

The legend of Star Trek is entrenched in Gene Roddenberry's vision, the creator of the series. He pioneered a show that had a whole list of firsts: A black woman (African- American if you so prefer) in a position of power on national TV, all types of nationalities and accents working together, a future of a united Earth (and star system) who had put war, greed and sickness behind them, living for a greater good (to go where no man has gone before) and the very first interracial kiss. Actually, it was a decade after Star trek was cancelled before the British Broadcasting Company would show the kiss on television in England.

How does this relate to our humble riding predecessors? Simply put, they stood by the freedom inherent to riding. Working against societies rush to lump all bikers into one convenient stereotype, the riders of yesterday not only went to fight a controversial war for America's freedoms, they also fought the assumptions of a country where motorcycles were not considered a thing 'normally done'.

From science fiction to sincere respect
Like you are now, I wondered as the credits of my trip down memory lane rolled by where all these similarities and parallel histories left me.

Just as those college students who crowded around the television to watch this amazingly forward looking first run show, giving dignity to science fiction it had long deserved, you and I can ride thanks to the perseverance and indignant stares our fore-riders before us had to endure and bear.

And as I put the DVD in the envelope to be returned and consequently exchanged for the next disc in the series to be delivered to my door, there was a definite thrill of excitement. Looking forward the Enterprises next adventures to bring out that feeling of wonder, the same feelings countless viewers have felt before me when they truly went 'where no one had gone before'. Although I know they didn't watch the show loyally, talk about it at every moment, lived it passionately and wrote letters to keep it around for one more season just so I could watch it years later in syndication, there's still the gratification that they did do all those things.

Do I really have to spell out the last comparison?

Monday, May 15, 2006

Riding, wardrobe and television...what a blog!

Like the riding buddy who takes his own road to head home at the end of a long ride, Donnie, the girlfriends brother recently flew back to California.

Regular readers of Biker Diaries may remember that he came out to visit nearly two weeks ago on the first vacation in a very long time. Actually it wasn't just that it's the first chance in a while to be away from home that made it special, but also that it was his first trip without his two young children. From what I understand he's a phenomenal father, but even the most doting of parents will tell you it's nice to get away sometimes. Throw in the quiet time he spent with his girlfriend who flew out for the last three days of his trip and you'll get an idea of what a good time he appeared to have.

But he's back at home now with the motorcycle ride down to Key West, crazy nights of drinking and visits to the clothing optional bar just happy memories. Actually he went back just in time. Being a lighthaired guy his skin is fair, and as well as it held up under our incredibly hot spring sun, the poor guy was getting as red as his hair!

The last time I rode the Deuce was hanging out with Donnie. He wanted to see the Everglades, I needed to get the girlfriend a birthday present and take the motorcycle back to storage....just typing that last to-do item tugs at the heart. After a suggestion from the girlfriend, we decided to have Donnie drive my car, following me as we made our way through the to-do list, of course dropping the motorcycle off last. Although it wasn't a nice long cruise on the bike, just getting out and using the Deuce as my main form of transportation made the whole day that much more special. Because I thought we'd be bopping around town, I left the windshield off. Slower rides feel better, the wind whips gently around your body and quite frankly the bike just looks that much sharper without the windshield or saddlebags. Of course these are the items that make a motorcycle more practical. Fate intervened and between a long cargo train and roadworks, I had to take us to the Everglades via I-595 which meant that it wasn't a gentle wind whipping around my body, at seventy miles per hour it was more like a wind tunnel battering my body about.

I'm sure it's just being out of practice but it was enough to put the windshield back on the bike by the third leg of the trip. I say third, because like any stubborn man a lesson had to really be taught before giving in and throwing on the windshield.

Call me a wimp.

And as a final note to the Key West weekend, nothing more will be written about it. At the risk of infringing on a certain gambling states copyright, what happened in Key West will stay in Key West.

Sorry El:)

As far as this biker is concerned, the most scandalous part of my trip was the truly painful prayers shouted at the porcelain god. As for the rest of the events, well...they're really not mine to tell.

What month is it?
Supposedly, it's Motorcycle Safety Awareness month. I say supposedly, because you wouldn't know it around the State of Florida. It's interesting to be a biker when the traffic statistics come out and paint me and my kind as reckless (no one ever takes any training), irresponsible (riding without helmets) or chasing our mid-life crisis (older biker buying motorcycles) when the powers that be let an opportunity to make other road users aware of their two wheeled friends simply pass on by.

Like the younger sibling in any family, there really has to be a limit to how much blame we as riders can take, don't you think?

Interesting perspective of it at Clutch and chrome.

Buy motorcycle, increase wardrobe!
So I'm looking through my closet for something to wear over the weekend and it's dawned on me that I have far more 'Riding' T-shirts than 'ordinary' clothes.

How did this happen?

Was it really that long ago that I rotated the only three biker looking t's I had to rack up the miles on my deuce. Between that terrible affliction known to enthusiastic Harley riders 'buying from the dealers where I travel-itis', Daytona Bike Week and Hog's Breath Saloon Key West, it seems I could ride for several weeks and never run out of attire.

This is all well and good, but in Sunny Florida I'm still trying to carry off the skull emblazoned 'Ride to live, live to Ride' with a pair of khaki shorts.

I'm sure its no coincidence that the nieghbors (read condo commando's) have never complained about the noise coming from my place or that they may not necessarily recognise my car in the girlfriends parking place.

From the land of Marmite!
Just because there hasn't been the frequent posts on Biker Diaries doesn't mean I haven't been reading the blogs. Lately an enjoyable blog comes from a country thats next on the list if I ever leave the grand US of A.


Cruisin Down Under is a fun blog written by a someone who truly loves to ride. There's even V-Twin graphics at the beginning of each post! How great is that!

Check it out!

This TV is a wonderful thing
With the Deuce coming into my life and all the recent work I've thrown into helping out over at Clutch and Chrome, television has pretty much taken a back seat over the last six months or so. Sure I had my die-hard favorite 'Lost', which looks to be an absolutely, amazingly must see show this Wednesday. But I made the mistake of tuning into Greys Anatomy over the last few weeks. This cumulated in being glued to last night's show and jumping up and down to watch tonights while typing out this blog.


Even Tivo'd the thing. Will have to watch again.

Once again, my expert opinion. Wow.

Cyperspace Real Estate
So wanting to re-focus on Biker Diaries, I plopped down the dollars on an ISP (internet service provider) and the name of!!! Don't go there yet, nothings there! I chose the option of a microsoft package, but noticed when I started looking around that a lot of the blogging software is PHP (not supported) or very intricate perl programming.

Any idea's from fellow bloggers?

Wednesday, May 03, 2006

Slow ride to paradise

I tried tapping this blog out while sitting in a hotel room at the southernmost point in America overlooking the sparkling blue/green waters that surround Key West. The various boats drifted by: sail, fishing, ferries and an occasional sport boat, all seen through the continuously open balcony doors.

But come on, I wasn't there to type, but carry on in the best possible Hemmingway tradition of drink, people watching and wasting away my time as could be achieved.

And it was definitely achieved, even with the appropriate homage being paid to the all powerful porcelain gods.

But I get ahead of myself.

Cheeseburger in Paradise
As a quick recap, the girlfriend's brother was flying in Friday, renting a Harley and we'd all head down Key Largo way humming Jimmy Buffet as we passed mile marker after mile marker. As a quick correction on the last Biker Diaries, her brother who we'll call Donnie (it is his name after all and besides, I must have less brain cells to be clever with after the Key West trip) does in fact ride a Victory in his native state of California and not a Sportsbike as I mentioned.

This made his rental of a Road King less of a leap but certainly still a thrill.

We picked up the bike from my favorite dealership, Peterson's. A quick conversation with a couple from Pittsburgh PA and short test ride later and we were heading down to the Keys by 9:45am. His Road King was a metallic golden bronze, equipped with a windshield, saddlebags and sissy bar. Don't tell the dealership, but wanting a naked look as much as possible, Donnie took off the sissy bar and threw it in the trunk of his sisters car. Since my girlfriend/his sister had to leave at 4am on Monday morning for an appointment in Fort Lauderdale, our caravan going south consisted of the two bikes as well as her car. With nearly all the luggage packed in the car, the riding was made that much more enjoyable.

Boys and their toys!

Beautiful weather made it even more so, with the temperature in the upper seventies and maybe a touch too much wind. Being a Northern California kid, Donnie was happy enough in a T-shirt, jeans, rented half-helmet and a pair of borrowed full finger gloves (he is the girlfriend's brother after all and although it's not the shirt off my back, it is my first pair of riding gloves). Personally, I'm a wimp. T-Shirt, denim long sleeve shirt as well as the jeans, fingerless gloves and of course half-helmet.

Donnie and I seemed similar with our main focus of riding to be as much time in the saddle and moving as much as possible, stopping only for the essential unloading and loading of fluids. Between the great mileage from a motorcycle and strong bladders we only stopped twice, and once was to eat at a restaurant we 'absolutely had to try'. I mentioned the girlfriend was on this trip, right?

The ride to Key West really doesn't get interesting until after Islamorada. Sure, there are tourist places to visit and some nice parks for snorkeling and scuba diving well before that, but for views and cruising, the trips just beginning as you leave Islamorada.

Just before the first of the spectacular bridges, the wind speed was pretty noticeable. With the height and their open design, the wind was even stronger on the bridges. Knowing the girlfriends tendency to overreact when it comes to motorcycles I warned her that the bikes would need to be leaned over considerably when riding over the bridges and not to panic at the potentially strange site.

Not that anyone would be looking at the motorcycles crossing the bridges. When traveling across these man-made transport arteries its three hundred and sixty degrees of breathtaking beauty. Where America meets the Caribbean, crystal clear turquoise waters sparkle for miles around with little islands dotted about near and far. Running alongside the modern roadway are large portions of the 1938 traffic system which consisted of bridges for both cars and trains. This is most famously seen in the Schwarzenegger movie 'True Lies' where he yells "The bwidge is ooouuuuuttttt" to his onscreen wife, Jamie Lee Curtis.

With so much to see and very few traffic lights the ride to Key West isn't just enjoyable but also a quick trip, albeit at a steady pace. Whether by car or motorcycle anyone who wants to go faster than 45 miles per hour will get both themselves and any other unfortunate soul who gets in the way, in trouble.

Although it wasn't a perfectly clear sky, we only suffered a few brief showers of rain with the warm air and sun drying off what little rain made into the clothes. By the time we were at Seven Mile Bridge, so named because its Seven miles long the wind had died down enough for a normal ride. Well, normal considering the bridge you're riding on curves off into the horizon.

Truly amazing.

The girlfriend really wanted to make her brothers trip special and booked us into the Hilton overlooking the water, conveniently located on Mallory Square and not even one block from Duval Street. This put us a few blocks from the famous 0 mile marker sign and just as close to the infamous Sloppy Joes. Yep, Key West is the only town where the sight-seeing hotspots have strategically placed bars to make sure you're never far from live music and the drink glass never gets empty.

Once at the hotel, the bikes were parked and not touched until it was time to leave again. Because they were kept at the furthest corner of the multistory parking lot, we both took off the windshields, I removed my saddlebags and Donnie used the metal cord lock that came with his bike. Ideally it was supposed to wrap through the spokes of the front wheel, but with the Road King not having any he had to improvise and wrap it around the frame and forks.

Since this is a biker blog and not 'What I did on my summer vacation' here are some highlights.

- World Famous Kelly's serves raw, fatty steak and girlfriend less than impressed.

- Matt Avery is one funny singer. Used to play guitar for Tiffany (I think we're alone now)

- A gay bed race is a funny thing to watch.

- Yes, there really is a rooftop bar where girls get body painted or just run around topless. Oddly enough, Garden of Eden is located on top of the rock bar that features an Elvis impersonator during the day. Only in Key West.

- A conch is a conch is a conch.

Mile Marker 0

Paradise from the water...the hotel is in the left picture to the left

Found in an alley in Key West

Maybe the girlfriend found her ride!

Sunset in Paradise

The ride back
The last night was long and the morning far too short. Because I'm dating a very smart young lady who knows her brother likes to party and that I'm obviously easily led, she set us up for a late check out time for us before heading out at 4am for her appointment. We had until noon to pack up and get out of the room and quite frankly even that was a push. A stop was made for brunch at the IHOP located on the way out of Key West, but I picked and Donnie tried to wake up. This was the first time I'd ridden feeling less than 100 percent and as much as I was worried about the noise of the wind and engine making the ride an ordeal, it actual felt better to be riding than it did any other time.

We no sooner left Key West when Donnie made some signs he needed to pull over. Once stopped, I walked towards Donnie hunched over the front of his Road King and he embarrassingly confessed that the motorcycle lock was still wrapped around the frame and forks! A smile came over my otherwise drained body. Having ridden about 10 miles from the Hotel, going through various sharp turns in traffic, obviously the lock wasn't much of a deterrent to a would be thief. Or it could just be user error.

Did someone forget to take the lock off?

The wind picked up as we headed north at about the same point it dropped when riding down a few days before, making for a gusty ride, if not a little chilly on the bridges. Once again Donnie was fine with a T-shirt and I went for the sleeveless T with my leather vest. Both had jeans, helmets, gloves and very tired faces of course.

The journey back, the route actually curves in a northeasterly fashion, was a little slower than the ride down. A few slower drivers ahead and more traffic on the road took the average speed down the thirties and forties. It could've also seem like a longer ride because I was looking for Card Sound Road, a little side route that's favored by bikers riding the Key West trip.

After I told Donnie for the third time that the turn off was only five miles ahead, we finally found it and not a minute too soon. The traffic was getting heavier and the simple light free atmosphere (both in physical traffic lights as well as attitude) was quickly disappearing behind us. As soon as you take the slip road off of US 1 onto Card Sound Road, you're immediately taken back a few decades with the road cut through the short trees that dominate this part of the keys as you gently bounce along a rolling two lane road. With hardly any traffic and some nice curves thrown into the mix, it's such a great road to ride. When going the direction we came, the twenty minute excursion is topped by going over a tall bridge which gives a bird eye view of the surrounding waters and islands. Although the area is less tropical than the lower Keyes, it's still an amazing sight to see.

Once through the toll booth at the bottom of the bridge, it's time to back the bike in and grab a drink. Alabama Jacks is a favorite place to stop for bikers cruising Card Sound Road and I've mentioned it a few times in Biker Diaries. Being a Monday afternoon it was fairly quiet with only four parked bikes and no boats tied up to it's docks.

As we walked in I tried to work out why a biker couple already sitting at a table were smiling at Donnie and I. Fly open? Drool?


It was the couple from Pittsburg PA we met while filling out the paperwork for Donnie's rental! We sat next to them comparing drinking stories and Key West experiences, all the time remarking what a coincidence this meeting was. It turned out they must've been in the same bars at about the same time the night before…..what a small world.

During the conversation I finally had a chance to catch up with the girlfriend who's heavy foot it turns out gave her a nice little meeting with the Keyes finest. Because she was heading back to Fort Lauderdale for Jury Duty the policeman let her off with a warning, but she suffered the speed limit for the rest of the trip through the Keyes.

Once out of the Keyes, the highway riding was pretty much what highway riding is. An upside was not only were we going against the flow of rush hour, we were on the road about forty-five minutes before it was really starting.

Three hundred ninety six miles from door to door, round trip. As usual, there was nothing usual about the ride. It was a unique experience that just re-enforces why I love being on a motorcycle so much. Every moment, from the most mundane to occasional frustrations make the urge to ride continue to grow and find new journeys to take.

Where is that map!

Tuesday, April 25, 2006

It happened at a traffic light

When you own a motorcycle, you have thousands of friends you've just never had the chance to meet. I experienced that very thought yet again over the weekend.

And you have to love it.

I mentioned briefly at the end of the last entry of Biker Diaries that next weekend (April 1st and 2nd) I'll be heading down to Key West. So dragging the Deuce out of it's new home, the local storage place, to get the mothballs out seemed like the perfect excuse to go riding.

The weather here is beautiful with sleeveless T-shirts the required attire to ride on our cloudless sunny days. Still, kept the saddlebags on so I could store a long sleeve T-shirt as well as the leather vest. Just in case.

Still not knowing exactly where to ride, I noticed a couple of guys on Harley Davidson StreetBobs, one on a matt black the other with a shiny black, both of which eventually pulled up beside me at a light. Neither of them wore helmets, but that's a whole other blog. As is the case with most bikers, we struck up a conversation and they asked if I was going to the Stars and Stripes event at a local bar called Sofa Kings.

To really appreciate the purpose of this bar and the owner's sense of humor, you have to say the name of the bar fast a few times and you'll understand why they bill themselves as an 'R' rated bar. Waitresses and bartenders all wear schoolgirl uniforms (and I guess we should all be happy the staff is mostly female with that uniform) and they hold MILF contests throughout the week. Throw in poles dotted around the sofa stuffed bar and you have a good idea of what they're trying to sell.

The bar tried to have a bike night on Tuesdays, but the few bikers that turned up didn't blend with the barely legal crowd and usually left after only one beer. There would only ever be three or four bikes in the parking lot at one time and even those were recycled fairly regularly throughout the night.

Bearing this in mind I was pretty cynical about the whole thing and consequently pleasantly surprised with parking lots full of motorcycles when I arrived only 10 minutes after hearing about the event at the light.

Called Stars and Stripes and the whole thing is organized by the local Wings of Gold chapters who invite all the clubs in the tricounty area, with the intentions of kicking off the summer of events leading up to the Toys for tots run in December.

Best bike, best tattoo (for both women and men) as well as a wet t-shirt contest. Yep, it was biker through and through.

I had a great time!

Which way to turn
If you were reading the news today, you'd have to wonder which way motorcycle safety was going. A report came out of Japan about a motorcycle jacket that inflates when a rider leaves the bike 'unintentionally'. Then, within a few hours news came that Tennessee is amending it's helmet law to allow anyone over the age of 21 to make a choice about wearing one.

In this case the wow factor wins out out over the natural disappointment. Not wanting to start a helmet debate and understanding the beauty of choice, I just think of the two guys I met on the road Sunday who may, unfortunately, wish they were wearing a helmet one day. As I said earlier, another blog for another time.

On the wow side, a Japanese inventor came up with the inflatable jacket after witnessing a motorcycle accident;

This was the inspiration he needed and Takeuchi's company built its first prototype jacket in 1996. Like eventual production versions, it had an airbag inside that inflated automatically when a pin connecting the jacket to the bike was forcefully pulled from its socket. To prevent an embarrassing 'biker' moment a one-touch release button allows riders to get off their bikes without inflating the bags.

The sad thing is the jacket is sold everywhere but the US thanks to our litigious (sp) society and because the manufacturer can't perfect the product liability laws to their satisfaction.


Time to dig out the Jimmy Buffet CD!
So next Saturday morning I head down to Key West with the Girlfriend and her brother. As I mentioned in the last entry of Biker Diaries, he rides a sportsbike in his home state of California. He's had it in his head to rent a Roadking during his two week vacation. It took us forever to find one within the budget and well, basically finding one period. Surprisingly, locations were short of inventory because the rally in Leesburg is going on at about the same time we wanted to rent and then the strangest part, some of the rental places down here are going out of business. Didn't expect that.

Add to the problem, once we found one the brother started worrying about riding without a windshield (all the pictures on the rental sites were sans fairings) and asked a lot of questions about the size of our bugs down here! I came as close as I could to calling him a big sissy without causing a ruckus with her family, even pointed out that not only did I ride without one for six months, but my longest trips were on a naked bike. Never naked on a bike, besides, that would be another blog.

He was very happy when we finally found out the roadking came with not only a detachable windshield but saddlebags too!! The crowds went wild!

Key West is an awesome ride which will be made better by being able to take a proper suitcase down in the girlfriends car (she has to head back early). But the beauty of the trip isn't just riding over the various bridges on the way down, but a full day of riding when we come back on Monday. With nowhere to be and just the boys on the bikes, wherever we can ride within five hours is our world.....

Time to dig out the maps and start building up that anticipation!

4/26/06 Addendum - realized some of the sentences were missing words and some of the blog didn't make sense...fixed it....sorry......

Monday, April 17, 2006

Time to get a load off my chest

It has to be worrying when any blogger just drops off the face of the internet, especially so for ones of our particular interest. Riding a motorycle has inherent dangers and when someone suddenly disappears, a nagging thought has to hang in the back of the mind.

For all the times I've wondered this, it's surprising that this blog should fall guilty of such a crime.

So I give my mea culpa, mea culpa, mea culpa and can only hope to make amends with all the gossip I have!!! So much to blog about and it's already 11pm at night!!!!

Blogging hooks another one!
It was great to read that someone else has been bitten by the blogging bug. Mr. Benjamin himself started his very own, called VrrooooomVrooomm and it's looking good. Not only does he have current rides and pics, but also some looking back to moments in his own biking history. Good stuff.

Gymi's had some good looking pics and reviews of readers' motorcycle's and what they've done to make the ride their own. Still enjoy his layout evrytime I see it. As much as I love what I managed to scrap together with limited programming skills at Biker Diaries, it creaks a little when loaded up after his!

KT threw on her pink helmet for Easter (kid you not, she even has pictures) and Christina's been throwing her bike as well as herself around some twisties in California.

I'm sure you know all of this and it's old news coming from me. This recap isn't a feeble attempt to fill some blank space because of an equally empty mind, or even the lack of inspiration.

Nope, I'm glad to point out all this good stuff not only because they're good reads, but also great examples of what a good blog should look like. Current, up to date and most of all fun.

It's not because I haven't had the will or intentions but more the lack of time. Lets go through this chronologically....

Back at the end of January I received a very nice email from an editor at Stars and Stripes commenting on the baby shower blog. Nice enough, but at the end she asked if I would consider releasing parts of my blog to be used in a competition to give away a Harley to the service personnel serving in Iraq and Afghanistan. Being an Air Force brat and with my father serving in Vietnam, I could hardly say no and proceeded to editing the various riding stories on Biker Diaries, spellchecking along the way. Isn't it amazing how many spelling and gramatical errors just sneak in there?

Although some may say you can't stop the power of the press, I'll atest that it can be slowed down. The publishing date kept getting pushed back as advertisers disagreed on rates, etc, etc. All the while, I wrote promising a big surprise in this blog. So months later, through no fault of my own, I'm proud to present what Laurence's rides would read like if he could afford a full-time editor!!! Drum roll please!

Printed with the permission of Stars and Stripes.
Understand these are big files before you click on them!!

The advertiser was so impressed with how the ads turned out as well as how popular the competition went over that another advertisement was added to the campaign!

Now the more astute readers may notice that not only is Biker Diaries mentioned in the personal Bio, but 'contributor to Clutch and Chrome' also appears. It's no coincidence that a graphic supporting the website is also proudly displayed at the top of my page to the left.

This was the other matter going on, taking away my blogging time.

I was asked to help launch a new website aimed at becoming an invaluable resource for riders of all type of motorcycles. It's been a real team effort, but even so, hours and hours were poured into the project to make as much of a quality launch as possible.

One of the idea's I'm particularly proud of was creating a directory of blogs including all the motorcycle related blogs we could find! Just looking out for my fellow bloggers and trying to find that free publicity.

The site has over 2400 bike nights and events, a motorcycle database, news updated as it happens, interesting articles and reviews. Because the motorcycle club database couldn't be completed without permission from the clubs themselves its a little smaller database, but growing. So if any of you know of any events, feel free to submit them here. Know of any clubs that would like to be included they can go here.

Everything's free and there are no pop-ups. Hopefully it'll work out.

Throw into these chaotic times moving in with the girlfriend, building wall units and everyday stuff like work, and you get the idea.

So now we have no secrets between us. Well there was the bus station incident, but my therapist tells me I don't have to talk about that anymore.

It's all about the motorcycles
The endless rainbow in life is the end of April with the girlfriends brother coming out for a two week vacation. It seems he's got the idea of renting a Harley to ride down to the Keyes while out here and would like some company. Convinced me!

What makes it more interesting is that he's a sportbike rider. He wasn't too happy thinking he would riding without a windshield. Actually nearly didn't rent the bike because of that! Finally I told him it was included in the rental package.

Saturday, March 25, 2006

Daytona Bike Week 2006 - Day Three

Firstly, I want to thank everyone for their patience regarding getting Biker Diaries updated in a more timely manner. It seems to be taking more time to get the adventures of going to Daytona Bike Week 2006 onto the blog than did to have the darn things!

While I'm struggling to get the posts more often than every seven days Gymi has had time to give his blog a whole new look! Why he's even asking for pictures of readers rides to feature every Wednesday.

If you've just dropped in or are new to Biker Diaries, it's day three of my recent trip to experience the flavor and excitement of what's billed as the largest bike rally in the country. While I'm sure Sturgis might have some questions about that claim, it's fair to say that Daytona can certainly be considered as the largest in the southern part of the USA.

Since it's never too much fun to jump into a story right at the middle, a quick read of Day One and Two might be a good idea.

Day Three Part One
Day two finished with a few hours in the middle of the biggest block party I've attended, Main Street after dark. That's not an official name or anything, but everyone and their brother wandered up and down the street, looking at the bikes, an occasional woman (rarer than the blue-speckled bellyhoo in these parts) and checking out the bands. It felt like the bars were even more crowded than the street that is if you made it through the incredibly strict security. Anything more than a t-shirt had to be lifted and waists patted down by bouncers before you could enter either a bar or the makeshift party pens set up in parking lots located between the shops.

Not sure whether it was the growing hunger, frustration from the crowds or just getting tired of hanging out with thousands of my closest friends (in quite close proximity for the most part), but finally I decided to head back to the hotel. Once parked outside my room, taking advantage of the managements understanding about putting the bike on the patio right outside my window, I headed over to Winghouse for some dinner.

I'm a red-blooded male. I like to look at pretty or even beautiful women (notice I said women, not girls. Important distinction as maturity and confidence are major brownie points). But for a combination of reasons I find going to a Hooters, or the clone Winghouse more frustrating than fun. Sure the food is great, and generally the bar is well stocked with alcohol and televisions, all key points to keep men happy. But the process of getting the food and watching some men drool over the staff can turn it into an ordeal.

The first night was just fun when I struck up a conversation with the rider from Colorado. Unfortunately, my luck didn't stay with me on the second night. Between the waitress/bartender with an attention suited to her blonde hair and the angry Canadian sitting next to me, this was a case of eat up, drink up and get out.

I lived with the order being wrong, although my tongue wasn't too happy about the hotter than requested wings and I managed to get by sipping on the remains of my drink. The angry Canadian with the big Stetson had me going from intrigued to rushing the food just to go back to the room. He didn't even ride a motorcycle, just wanted to come down here to see what all the fuss was about.

Canadian Cowboy did mention a great biker bar that I mentally made a note of considering for my last night in town. Called the Cabbage Patch, it carried a reputation with an edge of notoriety. But more about that later.

All of these circumstances had me in bed by 10.30 laying there feeling the day catching up with me as I nodded off.

The plan for my last full day in Daytona was to see hit the Speedway, visiting all the motorcycle manufacturers and then head over to a new addition to Bike Week, Bruce Rossmeyer's Destination Daytona.

A site everyone should have, a Deuce outside on the patio

Since this was the day to buy T-shirts and presents the saddlebags were a must, but because I was enjoying the 'naked' look of my Deuce too much, the windshield stayed off for another day. Even with the packing and assembling of the bike, I was backing it in a parking spot at the Speedway by 9.15am.

A lot of sights to see.
It's not clear whether or not my Harley attire kept the Sportbike Salesmen away as I wandered through the various displays. The darker side of my humor had most of them recovering from hangovers as they rested in the tall directors chairs.

It was a sedate morning with the sun filtering through the hazy skies making it not only hotter but incredibly humid, sounds of all makes of motorcycles rumbling up and down International Speedway as the PA Announcer kept the crowds both inside and outside of the stadium informed of the upcoming races.

Right picture - Sometimes just because a parking spot is close, doesn't make it a good one...

From Big to Small, Daytona had them all!!!

Soon I tracked down my bike, which wasn't as easy as it sounds and headed over to Destination Daytona. Bruce Rossmeyer is a well known name in Southern Florida with riders either indifferent about him or downright hating the man. When someone found out I bought my bike from one of his dealerships they told me "Friends don't let friends buy from Bruce." Since the person saying this just happened to be best friends with the salesperson who sold me the motorcycle, I thought the whole thing odd.

Regardless of how you feel, he's obviously done well with numerous Harley Davidson Dealerships, the largest being north of Daytona near Ormond by the Sea. I decided to ride along I-95 with no real directions, relying solely on Mr. Rossmeyer's commercial savvy and healthy ego to have billboards along I-95 to find the way. The number of motorcycles multiplied around me and soon we outnumbered the cars on the highway. It was pretty much at this point that I knew to simply follow the motorcycles, especially since you could see the line to exit the highway before the billboard telling travelers to 'exit here' for the dealership. With the line starting before the off-ramp, curving around with road and onto the entrance to the dealership, there was nearly a mile of motorcycles, two or three motorcycles astride. Just as with the police managing the heavier traffic spots in downtown Daytona, the staff at Destination Daytona kept the flow moving at a steady stream eliminating any kind of wait time at all.

The entrance was actually a service road going past the dealership and fields of tents and booths leading to a large dirt lot. Staff members directed the long line of riders into the lot with other employees walking around handing out wooden boards to put under the kickstands for better stability when parked. Say what you like about the guy, he or whoever organized this event obviously thought way ahead. When I came to back my bike in the rear wheel hit a mound of dirt and as much as I threw my body wieght into pulling the Deuce backwards, couldn't get it to go over. Eventually the biker next to me came over and gave a friendly push. Once off and while packing away assorted gear I had the opportunity to pass along the favor to the rider trying to back in the other side of me.

The dealership itself was huge and a city of tents, trucks and trailers surrounded it spreading the whole event out to the size of a large traveling fair. Going back to the insane urge to own t-shirts from the different dealerships I visit on my travels, this was one of the places on my list to look for t-shirts. The fact that the humidity had kicked into high gear rushed me into the air-conditioned store even quicker, ending a conversation with my girlfriend just so I could cool down.

His two locations in and around Fort Lauderdale are relatively new and really nice with one having a second floor for both motorcycles and attire, but they paled in comparison to this one. More spacious and finished with luxurious touches, the dealership felt like it could have a Rodeo Drive address. As I walked in the mural painter was going break from his thirty foot wide creation tracking the history of Harley and Rossmeyer's rise. Even the marble floors were inlaid with Harley related designs.

To be fair, the stuff I buy from Bruce Rossmeyer's dealerships are always of the best quality and tend to last the rigors of wind and an occasional Florida shower, even if it follows the HD acronym of 'high-dollar'. I've bought some shirts from other Harley dealerships that not only didn't withstand the test of time, but had problems within two months!

As nice as the place was though, a personal touch was definitely lacking. Although I'm sure the checkout was efficient and certainly had no line, the shirts had the tags ripped off and folding by one person, who shouted out the total price. Without looking up the cashier tapped it in then held out her hand for payment.

You have a nice day too!

Next to the dealership was another building, same paint scheme and colors which seemed to have hotel rooms above some walk-up fast food restaurants

After all the fried food I'd eaten over the last few days, I felt it was time to get something in my system that wasn't prepared by boiling fat. The closest I could come was some chicken with fries and coleslaw, but the frustration was short-lived with the older lady taking my order acting so sweet and concerned about the lack of healthy stuff behind the counter. Or it could be that I'm so used to the terrible service we have in South Florida, anything remotely human showing something resembling an emotion immediately gets classified as great customer service.

The tables were large and round, seating at least twelve people. A family of five at my table were kind enough to share the days events, upcoming plans and the grandmother gave an excellent demonstration of chewing food with the mouth open (otherwise how else can you show how it should be done) while living in obvious dementia. It wasn't surprising then that I should notice a scantily dressed blonde behind a booth at the edge of the dining area, next to the stage. It was Desiree, real name I'm sure, who was the spokesmodel for the Support our Troops booth. According to the 2006 Bike Week Tour Guide paper given out at Destination Daytona, several members of her family have or are serving in the Armed Forces. Although the group writes that she'll be representing Support our Troops at events all over the country, there's nothing on the website about her. Strange.

Desiree - She's pursuing a degree in accounting and I'm sure wishes for world peace.

There was a little bit of everything for bikers at Destination Daytona, that is if they rode cruisers. From as basic as custom frames to chrome and special designs for practically every part of a motorcycle could be bought, modified and installed. A vendor had their display built around a mini-workshop to install custom fiber-optic lighting, while a chopper builder display consisted of the different stages of the creation process with each stage being for sale, naturally.

J & P Cycles, the catalog motorcycle parts distributor had a large booth at Destination Daytona, hedging their bets and guaranteeing if they didn't catch a biker's eye with the location on Main Street, Downtown Daytona then they'd try to get you here. I've always been impressed with the knowledge and patience of the J & P staff as they seemingly walk people through what they want to the right product. Never had the experience myself, but a lot can be gathered from a little observation and maybe just a touch of eavesdropping.

A drag racing simulator - Ride your bike up on it and race a fellow biker wihtout moving an inch forwards!

One of the more interesting products catching my attention were the Kevlar and Carbon Fiber reinforced composite helmets. They looked like skullcaps but had the Snell and DOT ratings and if I heard the salesman's pitch correctly, it's taken the manufacturer years just to get the different testing bodies to even consider the new technology. Not wanting to open the whole full-face, half helmet debate the only thing stopping me from buying one was the price tag. Just at a glance, it seemed to up near the $300+ range and a little too pricey for me. Its not that I put a budget on safety, after all I wear a DOT/Snell approved helmet now, but I do put a limit on what I'll spend for vanity. Being the owner of three perfectly good helmets, this purchase would be to reduce the size of my helmet and quite frankly, look that much better. Aside from the fact that right now I can quite contently leave my helmet on my motorcycle when parked and walk away worry-free, but I couldn't imagine any of the same comfort with something that expensive.

Between the stage for live music, variety of vendors and all the other entertainment Rossmeyer had an event that strongly rivaled the goings on in Downtown Daytona. One of the better differences was the thinner crowds, which I'm sure wasn't so much to do attendance but with more room for everyone to mill around. Just the walk from the first tent to the actual dealership itself was the same distance as the length of Main Street but with three or four times the additional width, then add the additional area for vendors and displays it was more comfortable to wander around.

Slowly making my way towards the exit took me through a custom bike exhibit.

Understanding that the above pictures are just a sampling of the bikes on show and you'll have a good idea how large the exhibition was. The themes ranged from retro to unridable!

A nice display recounting the history of Harley apparel, marketing and advertisements with new motorcycles strategically placed as you made your way through the years.

Since fashion is known to go in cycles (excuse the pun) I'm sure some of these looks will come back...excuse if I don't hold my breath waiting...

The racing side of Harley wasn't only the most impressively and professionally done but also the coolest. It was set up inside a truck trailer with air-conditioning set at around 68 degrees and where most people were complaining it was too cold (according the gentleman running the show) more of a display to keep me indoors longer would've been nice. The afternoon was getting incredibly humid.

A quick walk around the Genuine Harley Accessories tent and I made my way back to the Deuce. The detour that had been set up to help the traffic flow in and out of Destination Daytona took me into the beautiful countryside, which was much needed after a morning of milling around. An amusing sight of a church with a sign stuck by the side of the road offering free coke and hamburgers to bikers made me wonder if there was anymore reason to save a bikers soul over any other or if this was simply a case of taking advantage of the situation. My mind went back to the nicely painted Harley depicting various religious scenes which always seemed to be parked in the same place along Main Street offering free bibles to visiting bikers.

Speaking of Main Street, that was the next destination with the goal of buying t-shirts and some memorabilia.

Little did I know, the day was just getting interesting.