Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Motorcycle Marshaling for Multiple Sclerosis... part 1

After our first experience being Motorcycle Marshals for the first annual Atlanta-Athens-Atlanta Multiple Sclerosis Bike Ride in April we knew we were in.  It is hard work and long hours but infinitely rewarding watching over people, helping when necessary, giving support to people who are working even harder then us by pedaling up all these darn hills in Georgia.  So we signed right up for both days when they were taking names for the 24th annual MS 150 ride at Callaway Gardens.

This time would be a little trickier since we would have to stay a couple nights down there.  The main concern was the pup and we finally broke down and found a pet sitter.  (Wonderful pet sitter by-the-way.  Wish we had found her years ago.)  So our problems were solved.

It was in our best interest to ride down on Friday night since the Saturday morning meet time was 6 AM.  I didn't want to think about what time we would have to get up to ride the 2 1/2 hours to the start time, and still put in a full day of work.  Logistics for leaving on Friday were terribly muddled with working half day, or all day if we couldn't finish work up.  I did make arrangements to work a half day, but stayed an hour later to finish explaining some issues.

We had settled on me just riding down and checking into the hotel and Mr. Oilburner would follow when he was able to escape.  But my leaving late and finishing putting the house in order for the sitter put me behind schedule.  If I left at 2:30 Mr. Oilburner expected he would only be 30 minutes behind me.  If I just relaxed at home for another few minutes I could ride downtown to Mr. Oilburner and pick him up.  So...I finally rode the streets of downtown Atlanta.

[Bad] Luck would have it that some accident had the entire freeway through downtown backed up.  The carpool lane was actually one of the slower lanes, so jumping out of it made the travel a bit more bearable.  But the prime exit for reaching Mr. Oilburner is actually from the carpool lane, so I jumped back in when necessary.  :)

A girl on a loaded bike taking to the streets of downtown as the business day is wrapping up was obviously a sight as many people were looking at me pass and I was getting thumbs up from everyone.  Then I pulled into the public parking garage to see Mr. Oilburner suited and helmeted up and sitting astride his bike ready to go.  I pulled around him forcing the guy he was talking to out of the way.  Mean of me, I know, but the only other option was to sit in the middle of the exit ramp of a public parking garage.  Wasn't gonna do that.  We headed out, professionally navigating the one-way streets to jump back on the freeways past the traffic.

The ride down was mostly uneventful.  The usual confusion of trying to get gas, huge a$$ travel trailers blocking traffic lanes, choosing the wrong exits and a four-way stop in the middle of nowhere that had our direction backed up for half a mile.  But we reached our destination in good time and good order, settled into the hotel and then took a walk into downtown Pine Mountain, GA.  Lovely little place, just not much here.

 On our way back to the motel we stopped at a little BBQ joint that has the best online reviews.

The sign is also a smokestack.

I partook of the pulled pork sandwich that was so big I made it
into two meals.
So hot you can still see the steam.

We were up dark and early the next morning at 5 AM.  Breakfast was being served at 6 and we would be having a riders meeting with our team leads at 7:15.  So you start seeing everyone packing their bikes and heading to the start line in the dark.

It's dark, but don't think for a second that it is cool and low humidity.

Even though we were there and up early there were still plenty of other volunteers there way ahead of us to man the check in booths, set up and serve food and all manner of things.  My hats off to them.  Breakfast was easy and team meetings went quickly.  We just discussed routing, plan of attack, signs of heat stroke and heat exhaustion, how to help people, who to call in what situations, etc.  Before long it was time to mount up and get in line!!  The excitement is starting to settle in.


Good omens abound with the lightening sky like this.

We line up just in front of the start line for the bicycles.  The intent is for us to leave just ahead of them and start running the route.  For this event there are three routes the cyclists can take: 35 miles, 65 miles and 100 miles.  Mr. Oilburner and I would be patrolling the 65 mile route today.  I would hope it would be obvious to everyone that we don't need to patrol the entire 65 mile route right off the bat.  There aren't going to be people at the end of it yet.  It is important to patrol the route where people are.  So our group heads to the first break point, sits for a few minutes, allowing cyclists to actually begin reaching the route and then we head back individually to start checking everything out.  I head out second and am amazed that the first group of cyclists are only a couple miles away from the break point.  

Our job: Stop and help people that may have mechanical issues, stop and help if someone has medical issues, corral loose dogs that may cause the cyclists problems, try to enforce some of the riding rules like no headphones and ride single file.  Generally, just try to protect the cyclists from others and themselves...  Small task.  :)

Since it is the beginning of the day and early into the course there aren't too many problems.  Mostly of the nature of flat tires, derailed chains and such.  It is more difficult trying to force people to ride single file when they want to chat with friends/teammates and are on small country roads.  They have a tendency to listen more when on larger roads with more vehicles on them.

Still, the start of the day/route is usually fairly quick and easy.  By the time I make it back to the break point half of our marshal group has started into the second half of our route towards the lunch break and the other portion remains looping back towards the start line.  I await instructions on where I am needed and am sent to patrol the second portion towards lunch.

It is still early and not many problems are occurring.  I do have some issues with groups of cyclists taking up the driving lane and prohibiting vehicles from passing.  This is where the fun is.  I zip around this line of cars and reach the cyclists and ask them to ride single file, at least on this busy road because the traffic back up is getting bad and the drivers are getting antsy.  They are all willing to comply and the vehicles start clearing out.

I make it to the lunch point and stop to grab my lunch for the saddle bag.  But here is where more fun kicks in.  I stop and chat with some of the cyclists that I recognized riding a triple seater.  There are quite a few tandem bikes, and apparently a couple triple seaters and one four seater!!  I've only seen the one triple seat and start chatting with the owners.  This bike has to be special made and imported.  Doesn't seem to be a large demand for them here.  But the third passenger is their 12 y/o nephew and this is his 5th MS Ride!!  Way to go!  Always fun to start talking with people and then start recognizing them along the road.

I begin taking a few nibbles from my sandwich and am approached by a gentleman I had met and had [sarcastic] words with the night before at the BBQ joint.  We were lucky enough to be on the same route and lucky enough that he recognized me.  Because I definitely wasn't going to be identifying him under his helmet.  We exchange experiences and names and joke and continue on about our business.  We even meet on the road a couple times and enjoy exchanging shouts.

I eat about half my sandwich and then head on out towards the next break point to patrol.  I'm rolling along, the riders are separating a bit now and stringing out farther.  I'm about 2 miles from the next break point when I see a hand pedal trike pulled over.  I pull into a nearby driveway and check if he needs anything.  First, water!! Second, a look at the map to find out where he is on the course.  That's another duty as the day wears on: provide water and snacks/bananas if necessary.  I grab a bottle of water and we check out the map.  The hill he is currently sitting at the bottom of looks daunting.  As a matter of fact, at the top of the hill another marshal is pulled over with someone that is sitting on the side of the road.  She is cramping and beginning to suffer from a little heat exhaustion.  Have I forgotten to mention that it is darn hot!!  (I never did envision jumping in the rivers we crossed...too difficult to climb down the hills to them.  But I did daydream of jumping into this crystal clear above ground pool on the route in all my gear.  The water was still sloshing around in those little waves that occur when someone has just gotten out and the water hasn't settled down.  The type of waves that refract and reflect the light all over, just begging you to jump in.  I might stop to take the helmet off, but I couldn't say for certain...)

I help my cyclist, he starts on his way and I get ready to continue on.  But my motorbike stalls.  Then stalls again.  Come on...this hill isn't that steep that I can't slip the clutch on.  I manage to keep it running but it just doesn't feel right and my engine light is blinking with that nasty yellow exclamation point.  I find a place to turn around at the top of the hill, restart the bike hoping it was some electronic gremlin and discover I have a problem; the engine is just running rough and feels near to stalling.  I make it down to the bottom of the hill and pull into a church parking lot and just stop in the shade of a tree.  

First I call one of my route leaders to let them know I am having a problem and will not be patrolling.  No, no need to come to me just yet, there really isn't anything that can be done yet.  I then try to call Mr. Oilburner, but he doesn't answer.  I leave a couple messages and tell him where I am.  I have a seat and help people as necessary.  It wasn't a bad location for people to take a break at.  They rounded a corner, saw this huge hill in front of them and just kinda sagged in the seat.  I gave away all my water and bananas and chatted with more marshals as they took breaks with me.

I look through my motorbike manual to discover the reason for the failure lights is that some sort of electronic fault was discovered in the engine and the engine is now running in "limp home" mode. Mr. Oilburner and I finally connect and he will come to me and see if there is anything he can do.  In the meantime I call my trusty dealership 200 miles away and have a chat.  Of course, they want me to bring it in, but I tell them it is going to be a bit difficult to do that right now.  They tell me to check the oil.  If that isn't it there is nothing to do but hook it up to the diagnostic machine.  And the nearest one is in their shop, or the other shop on the north side of Atlanta.

Have I failed to mention that my warranty expires tomorrow?? 

Mr. Oilburner arrives and even though we checked the oil in the morning and it was an appropriate level, the current level wasn't even visible in the sight glass.  The bike had been sitting about 45 minutes by this time and should have been good.  So we fill her up a little, but no dice.  Code and roughness still present.

Hoping maybe the computer just needs to be reset we stop a bicycle repair truck that just happens to be turning around in my parking lot and borrow a couple tools.  (The standard tool kit on the bike doesn't contain the appropriate tools to disconnect the battery.  But rest assured, I have ordered one of them expensive kits that I could put together for half the price if I knew exactly what I should be putting into it.)  That doesn't work either.

Now, I know you always need to check connectors.  But have you looked at the newer incarnation of R bikes lately?  There are connectors everywhere!!  And I did have it in my mind to check the one to the rear of the left head, but I was always on the right side and helping people.  I just kinda forgot.  So I had to slap my forehead and mentally kick myself when Mr. Oilburner sees that the Throttle Position Sensor is disconnected.  Somehow, somewhere, someway that little metal clip and pin that keeps that together has been lost and one of the plastic tabs is broken.  Now that had to have taken a pretty good hit or kick.  And I would have thought I would have remembered that.  But nothing in the ol' memory banks is sparking anything!

No harm, no foul.  We zip tie it back together and she starts running like a champ again.

Missing tab and clip for the Throttle Position Sensor

We all continue our work...these bikers aren't gonna save themselves.  LOL.  I finally reach the break point two miles down the road and promptly potty and tank bank up again.  I realize that I am quite dehydrated myself.  Then I grab a gallon jug of water to help the weary on the road.

I immediately stop for a couple and refill their water bottles with the ice cold stuff I have, and wet down a washcloth to cool themselves off.

The rest of the ride is uneventful for me.  The people I stop and help only need bananas or water.  No medical emergencies, no mechanical issues.  I am most of the way back to the lunch stop when I stop for gas, talk with other marshals and discover the lady we see on the road across from us is the absolute last rider.  No need to go back further.  Let's start helping the last of the riders in!

I make another circuit and head back.  I see my first couple taking a break on the side of the road.  They are just starting to head out when I pull up and we chat a few minutes.  They are good to go, are doing well and don't need anything.

You start collecting people on these rides.  You might have a one-time connection with some people that stays with you.  Other times you will have multiple connections that make you stand out for each other.  All the marshals have them.  And I hear that you start seeing each other each year if you are willing to go back and volunteer again.

I slowly start making my way back to the finish line. And remember that I can actually take a short break in the middle of the road to pull the point and shoot from my tank bag and grab a couple shots.  I just can't believe it takes me so long to remember these things sometimes.

Nice little steel bridge.  Nice paving instead of metal grating.

Quiet and clean little river.

One of many old buildings.

Sighting of more marshals.

I'm sitting at this little crossroad taking a picture of the old store above when a couple of the other marshals arrive.  We discuss how many are still out and how many are behind us.  One of the marshals happens to be a the leader from the century route and inquires if any of us have snacks.  I don't have any event sanctioned ones, but I do have my personal stash and offer it up.  He mentions that there is a riding couple up the road a few miles that needs something to eat.  I inquire as to the clothes the lady is wearing and surmise it is "my" couple.  And I am right!  I quickly put the bike into gear and break the speed limits to reach them.  They are only a couple miles from the finish line, but sometimes you need that little bit of carbohydrates to kick your body into doing the work.

I reach them in pretty good time and we set to munching on trail mix (with chocolate was her only question before "yes"!).  They finished up an apple someone gave them, and snatched the bananas a fellow marshal held out in passing.  Good to go!!

Turned out this was the longest ride the wife had been on and she was doing great.  We plotted out the route and I was able to detail how many hills between here and town.  And it was all downhill once you arrived to town.  Very happy indeed and they finished just before the 6 PM cutoff.  Yay!!

End of day and everyone is tired.  The time, distance and heat have taken there toll.  We discuss meeting at the hotel for dinner.  But Mr. Oilburner and I opt for the free food the event is giving out, catered from Johnny Carino's.  I can feel the headache coming on from the harsh sun all day. I vote for dinner here (free) and then go back to the hotel.

Dinner wasn't bad, but I started feeling exponentially worse when we started eating.  Looking back I believe it was because I still had my armored pants on and the lack of air flow (from actually riding and moving) was trapping my heat in.  Add to that my dehydration and I wasn't feeling well at all.  Finished my salad and laid down on the bench seat to wait for Mr. Oilburner.

I then did something I have never done before!  I striped off the armored pants down to my little bike shorts beneath and actually rode back to the hotel in shorts.  It was about one mile with very little traffic and I was willing to take the risk.  I rode slowly and took precautions when a car was around.  The migraine was starting to hit full force and I took to bed. The air conditioner didn't seem to help at all, the cold, wet washcloth wasn't enough, so I crawled my way into the bathtub and sat in cold water to cool my core temperature down.  That did the trick.

I promptly feel asleep for a couple hours and started feeling better.  I woke up for a little while and took one of those Emergen-C packets of vitamins.  I believe they kept me awake a little while, but it did wonders for my body.  I still slept through the night and luckily was feeling myself by morning.  Another marshal was suffering the same symptoms as I, but I couldn't get her the Emergen-C in the evening.  I caught her in the morning and gave her the last packet to help perk her up for the coming day.

Since I have rambled on enough, this is going to have to be a two-parter.  To give you an idea of route coverage you know my route was 65 miles (actually 63.5 since they had to remove the ride over the dam).  I managed to ride 160 miles on Saturday.  Even stopped for a 90 minute breakdown didn't take many miles from me as Mr. Oilburner's total mileage was 167.  We were at the event by 6 AM and stopped working at 6 PM.  It may be work, it is fun, it is difficult, but you do get to spend a lot of time on your bike and really practice your slow speed maneuvering (espcially u-turns).

Part two forthcoming.  The day was shorter and not as difficult.  But I do have a unique surprise if you are willing to come back for a read.

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Double Trouble...

...but in a good way!!  I have a couple posts that I have been waiting for the video on.  One is together, so it will be bumped into a double day with something funny that came up suddenly.  Does that make any sense?  Probably not.

"Glorious Green"

A friend read my Suburban Stoplight Hell post and informed me that he had just thing thing for me.  I didn't have a clue what he could have that would "help" me on my way through red lights.  I haven't heard of a civilian device that would allow me control over the stoplights.  But he refused to let me in on the secret and made me wait for snail mail to bring it to my door step.

Upon opening the package, I just about fell off the sofa laughing so hard it hurt my tummy.

Glorious Green by Rob R. Robinson

This is a fabulous little painting, obviously of a stoplight, with the green light this wonderful iridescent green coloring.  Yes, the title of this is "Glorious Green" and the artist wished me eternal green lights.  I just need to determine if I should hang this painting over the bike and hopefully it will absorb the good luck through osmosis.  Or if I should hang it above me to get the same??

Rob is a wonderful artist displaying his work in shows in the Portland/Albany/Corvallis (Oregon) area.  You can see his paintings at or his beginning treks along Oregon's scenic byways at Image Odysseys.  I love some of his future trips he has planned...and one day hope to ride those roads for myself.  And if any of you inmates ride these roads before me...please take pictures for me...

Thank You Rob!!  :-)

Now I can see a stoplight collection in my future.  You just had to plant the seed...

Destination: Aska Rd

Aska Rd doesn't sound very exciting.  And the way it came about being a destination isn't too exciting either.  I wanted to ride Yellow Creek Rd again.  And Aska was near one of those tag game places and just looked like a great road!

We weren't going for a tag.  It was long gone from this location.  But the road was just calling my name.  And it didn't disappoint.

The hot and humid weather broke a little and gave us reasonable temperatures in the low 90's F with a relatively low percent humidity.  I know that 90's doesn't sound too low to most, but I was quite happy to have it.

The ride out was uneventful and completely peaceful.  There wasn't much traffic for Labor Day and the fall colors are on the cusp of coming.  Yellow Creek and Aska Rd are meandering byways mainly dotted with forest coverage, farming fields, grazing areas and a few houses here and there.  The sky was a deep blue with a few clouds scattered around.  The air was still and not oppressive. 

I finally took the plunge and adhered a GoPro mount to my Pelican.  I'm venturing out and starting to look for some new angles.  There was a difference of opinion in the household concerning the look angle: he thought it should point forward more; I didn't.  We compromised on a middle ground.  But from the video, I think it needed to be pointed farther out.

We hadn't eaten breakfast and decided to lunch at a crossroads location: Forno

I decided on the Gyro.  And was surprised with my selection of Chicken or Beef.  Aren't Gyro's supposed to be Lamb?  Surprising, not quite the same, but tasty nonetheless.  Mr. Oilburner took the Philly Cheesesteak.  MMMMMmmmm.  :)

We took out the mountain map to see the best route up and back again.

I really don't have any other photographs from the ride.  It was just too pretty of a day to stop.  The curves just beckoned us forward.

Reaching the end of Aska Rd had us in a pickle.  We could continue with the plan and ride East towards cities and traffic, or head back down Aska Rd and continue in solitude for awhile.  Solitude won.

Not wanting to completely back track all of our riding grounds we hooked a shortcut we knew from our four-wheeling days.  We knew this would involve some gravel road, but would clip our time and get us closer to our side of town.  The gravel road hadn't been graded in awhile...providing tremendous washboard bounces.  Maybe that has something to do with the recent shock replacement??  :) pictures, but some video that actually did turn out...eventually.  I tried to limit you the washboard exposure.  But gave enough to let you know it was definitely there.  :)

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Gotta Love a Sheriff That Can Ride Like That

Disclaimer:  We actually attended this rodeo in June 2009.  I wasn't writing on this blog yet, so there is no history for it.  Now that I have a channel available for video hosting, and have started my hand at primitive video making, I put together a few of the video clips I had taken that day.  Please enjoy it.  I still watch these videos in awe and cringe during some of these turns.  Great idea for practicing skills.

We normally shy away from biker gatherings. Just too many people and bikes and what not. But this gathering was going to have a Sheriff's Motorcycle Rodeo!! We arrived at start time to avoid the larger crowds in the day and were able to witness the Sheriff's during the rodeo practice.

Essentials: 6 Sheriff's from Hall County, 4 from Atlanta and 3 from Forsyth County. This appeared to be timed trials for motorcycle certifications. And the poor guys had to run these every half hour for 6 hours in sweltering heat of 95 degrees and glaring sun and full dress. I give them their cudos.
This four part course was generally run at 5 mph and involved basic circles and 90 degree turns. The photo above is typical for what one saw that day. And this guy is not about to drop the bike. He has to ride between two near cones and double back to ride between the two far cones. This required very tight low speed turns and excellent balance and control. The turns were so tight that the foot boards generally were scrapping the ground around each turn. There is one section of the course where there was an imperfection in the paving and would catch most of the floorboards...dropping the bike instantly.
Our favorite part was during practice in the morning when two officers entered the course together. The second bike was generally only a couple feet behind the first. Even in the descending circles!! Very tight and synchronized. I can see how this skill is a must when navigating congested areas. This was amazing to watch.

Sunday, September 19, 2010


Öhlins!  Nothing more needs to be said...

The bike was feeling a little light in the front end on the Multiple Sclerosis ride.  Not too noticeable at slow speed.  But freeway riding was a bit nerve wracking with it feeling like it wanted to wander.  I initially figured (hoped) the front tire was responsible.  It was in need of replacement.  And the cupping that occurs on these tires can make it feel a little bouncy when its time is nearing an end.  I just happened to have one sitting in the garage, so I strapped it over the Pelican box on Tuesday to take her to the shop.

I have the equipment to change the tire myself, but wasn't really into doing that.  I would probably just have removed the front rim and dropped them off at the shop.  For $20 they would have changed it for me.  But this time I had a small wish list for the bike and couldn't see not just having them do it all at once.  The referenced wish list was repairing the broken throttle position sensor (from the MS weekend ride, but is another story), replacing the oil and filter (also from the MS ride), changing the tire and checking the front brake pads.

I waited around for the work to be done, then rode back to my place of employment.  It was pretty clear that the new tire didn't solve my problems and it was probably going to be a shock problem.  Well...if I was going to have to fork over for new shocks...why not up the performance a little?

Did a minute (as in small, not time) amount of research and weighed the options between Öhlins, Hyperpro and Wilburs.  Since I am not a patient person when my mind makes a decision to go for something, and Mr. Oilburner and I were kinda, maybe contemplating a ride on the Dragon this weekend, I wanted those shocks as soon as possible. Talked with my friendly, neighborhood supplier and he could hook me up with the Öhlins and get them in by Friday with 90% certainty.  I gave him as much of my vital statistics as was necessary, hedging on a couple of the questions, and mentally pulled the trigger on the deal.  These are not inexpensive shocks...

Friday rolled around and I had almost forgotten to expect their arrival!  Left work early to run some errands for the pup and suddenly remembered who I needed to call.  Turns out he was thinking of me too, and had left a message on the phone while I was in getting dog food.  They had arrived. 

I hightailed it to the shop, only to find Mr. Oilburner there when I arrived.  Surprise!  But he was only there to purchase another clear pinlock lens and wasn't about to carry my shocks home on his bike.  My supplier knows me well enough to know that I am not mechanically inept.  He just chooses to forget it regularly.  So it is with amusement that I listen to him ask me if Mr. Oilburner will be installing the shocks tonight, as we watch him ride away.  I turn to him and ask him why he would think that?  His mouth starts working, and you can see the look in his eye that he knows he is digging himself in deeper and deeper and just can't keep his mouth from uttering: "Well, you know, because you're.   a.    girl..."  I smirked at him because he knows he is in trouble and it is written all over his face that he knows.  He was just powerless to stop his mouth.  No harm...but I let him know that, while Mr. Oilburner will more then likely be helping, I will indeed be installing my shocks tonight.

As SonjaM says "It hurts a little to see that Beemer stripped to its entrails, even it is for the best possible reason."  But it has to be done.  And I would rather see loving hands doing the work.  Besides saving the 3+ hours in labor charges...

I have always been apprehensive about removing the fuel tank.  I've seen it done on an R1150R and was not relishing the task ahead.  Reading through the "shock removal" steps we were hoping to finagle our way around it.  Alas, no realistic way with the tools we had on hand.  However, I will say with certainty that it is supremely easy to remove the R1200R fuel tank, albeit with four hands.  The quick disconnects come standard on this model.  Unless the previous owner had changed them out prior to my owning her.  It was actually distressingly easy to remove it.  However, I am happy to say that the task no longer scares me.  And I would happily and easily do it again if necessary, especially to access the accessory light relay that someone kindly put under the damn fuel tank(!!).

Little tank looks a little lonely.

I'm not going into a step-by-step installation.  It is boring and I didn't exactly take pictures of the important steps.  Suffice it to say, it was an extremely easy job.  It does require some heavy duty tools...which we have in abundance luckily.  And Mr. Oilburner has the knowledge to use them.

The only snag came while trying to reinstall the fuel tank.  We were putting all of the connections back together and flipping it into place when we heard the dreaded little metallic tinkle of something sneaking loose and falling down through all those wires and metal engine parts.  We searched and searched. Shone flashlights in all the little nooks and crannies.  Set me to wondering how all of the sand got on top of the engine??  And why a hunk of tempered glass was sitting there too.  But we couldn't discover any parts that shouldn't be there, nor any parts that seemed to be missing.  We took a break to let our minds settled and set back in to looking.  Agreeing that we couldn't see anything we put her back together and zipped everything up.

Later, while taking measurements and moving her around a metal clip tumbled off of somewhere.  Looks like we had found the culprit.  I think it might have been a clip for the fuel pump plug/electronics.  I'll need to remove the side panels to take a look and see what can be seen.  Later...  LOL.

I took her out for a post-installation ride check and all was peachy keen.  I was only intending to go around the corner.  But I took a right instead of a left.  Then a left and another right.  I realized I didn't have my phone, if something went wrong, nor my driver's license, if something else went wrong.  It was late, I rode sanely and enjoyed the new feel.

I had sworn to Mr. Oilburner during installation that I was never going to tell him if these were good or bad because I wasn't about to let him covet mine and want to purchase some for his. So I just shrugged my shoulders and see-sawed my hand to his questions of "How are they?"  I could see the disappointment in his face and wound up spilling the truth out.  It would have been difficult hiding the truth anyway with the smile that was again plastering my face whenever I ride this beauty.

See a little yellow and gold peeking out?

Yes, we did ride the Dragon.  Yes, it was great.  :)

Saturday, September 18, 2010


Just thought I might draw you in with a little teaser...

See anything there that might make you a little excited??  :)

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Is Summer Really Over??

The depressingly hot and humid weather vacated north Georgia for Labor Day weekend.  Such a nice change from the rain that we have been experiencing on holiday weekends throughout this year.  With temperature predictions of the high 70's for Saturday and low to mid 80's for Sunday and was prime riding weather!

We were a little slow getting ready and out of the house on Saturday.  We were hoping this wouldn't mean much as half of the metro region had left last night or Thursday for the extended weekend.  We were sorely mistaken upon reaching Cleveland, the gateway to [dreaded] Helen and traffic was backed up for miles.  Unfortunately this backup is so easy to achieve when the area has one stoplight and only one lane in each direction.  We had gambled that the remaining half of the population wasn't going to Helen.  We had lost.

We were making our way to Hiawassee with the intent of striking North to run scenic Hwy 64 to Franklin, NC.  We didn't have to go through Helen, but we had to venture near it, and it was putting a crimp in our leisurely ride.  When we first discovered the backup, "Detour" on the GPS offered a left turn through a back neighborhood that would take us up to another highway/cutoff.  Even with Avoid Unpaved Roads checked, Map Source is still woefully slow on updating.  In all fairness, I don't think the detour road had ever been paved.  So I am not sure how it even received a paved designation in the database.  I was almost willing to take my bike up this gnarly, rutted, uneven dirt track...but luckily Mr. Oilburner didn't even want to attempt it.  Means the road was pretty darn bad if he wasn't game.

We headed back the way we had come and stopped into a gas station for a map check and discussion.  The discussion took the tone of being lazy and just going home to sit around the house or go four-wheeling.  But we were already this far.  This portion of Hwy 64 was actually somewhere we had never ridden.  I had driven on it once, 5 years ago, in the middle of night.  The road had stuck with me as someplace without much development and possible vistas.  From discussions with riders, we were told it was a nice area to travel.  So we decided to push on and find some very small back roads around Cleveland and Helen that wouldn't make us back track too much.

Traffic showing in the background.  No, not pawning off the bikes.

Looking over the maps we had to go West to go East/North.  And the only other option to get over the mountain was the terrifying Hwy 19 over Blood Mountain.  I have been avoiding this Hwy like the plague!  I have a mental hangup to this portion of Hwy 19 over Blood Mountain as hairpin turns with 50 foot elevation gains and no guardrails.  In the past Mr. Oilburner chuckled at my stubborn refusal to ride this section over the years because I would happily ride other roads he considered much more technically difficult.  This time I no longer cared.  Bring it on.  I would finally take the plunge and ride Blood Mountain.

Sidebar: You might be wondering how Blood Mountain was named. And this is a topic under debate. One theory references a great battle that occurred between the Creek and Cherokee Tribes for control of the territory. And that the battle was so fierce the streams ran red with the blood of those killed. The other theory believes the name comes from the red lichen and Catawba rhododendron growing near the summit.

I've hiked to the summit of Blood Mountain and find it beautiful and peaceful.
Well...that darn road wasn't anywhere near as bad as I had built it up to be in my mind.  I certainly have been on roads much more difficult.  It passed more quickly then I expected, and amused Mr. Oilburner with my surprise at being at the summit.  This will be a wonderful road in the future as it is a great distance and time saver to some of our favorite destinations.

In the spirit of continuing on back roads, we missed a turn and back tracked on a small farming lane.  The first mutt encounter was a lazy dog just laying in the road under the shade of a tree.  Mr. Oilburner never even saw him and he didn't care that we were feet away.  The second encounter wasn't nearly as friendly with this snarling beast darting towards Mr. Oilburner in the lead.  I was some distance behind and found it incredible that as soon as Mr. Oilburner passed he was ignored, and me, stopped 100 feet down the lane, became the object of his fixation.  I screamed in a manner that only Mr. Oilburner could hear (I wonder a little if GoPro recorded it), waited for the snapping teeth and stiff tail to approach me, then zipped off.  I am assured that he lost interest in me as soon as I had passed.  But I'm not convinced.

We did reach Hiawassee and found a quaint place to eat: Bledsoe's Corner Cafe, Where Friendships Begin.  :-)  We went simple and just order sandwiches: BLT with well-done bacon for me, Egg Salad for Mr. Oilburner.

Yum!  BLT and Egg Salad.  (Not on the same sandwich...)

I took this lunchtime opportunity to work on recharging the GoPro.  I know a couple people that have just purchased extra batteries.  I am reluctant to do this as the metadata (date, time, numbering, etc.)  is always reset with a battery change.  And I invariably wind up with excess batteries when technology advances.  Instead, Mr. Oilburner remembered I had a solar charger/battery from my hiking gear.  It can be charged by plugging into an electrical source, or solar charging.  I have never had luck fully charging the internal battery with just the sun, but it works fine when plugged in.  So we had charged it the night before, and it only took plugging the GoPro into it during lunch to recharge it.

Solio Solar Charger recharging the GoPro.

I might try rigging the Solio onto the bike in the future.  Or mounting other solar panels onto the Pelican case to charge this.  Either way...some fun.  I know there are people out there just shaking their heads and questioning why I don't just hook into the battery on the bike to charge something.  Well, I just don't want to put that much of a draw on the alternator and battery.  It isn't overloaded or anything, but what is wrong with a little solar power?  And this way I can store some power and recharge anything that I have an adapter for even when the bike is not under way.

Back on the road and it only takes us a few minutes to get through Hiawassee and into North Carolina onto Hwy 64.  The road is extremely wide for only 2 lanes, making technical turns a non-issue.  Though I did still practice them.

We hit the first turn out for photo ops.

Again, the road isn't too technical and the ride is over quickly.  The scenery is nice, forested hills, but not too many vistas or photogenic areas.  We did stop at the next/last overlook and took more bike posing shots.  :-)

We rode the outskirts of Franklin and decided to head on home.  We stopped for gas and were helped along by this little fellow.

While taking a snack break we chatted with Jim and Joel from Franklin (who had ridden down to Atlanta region for the day).  Great guys involved with a riding group in Franklin who offered to show us the lay of the hills in their area whenever we had some time to spend up there.  We will take you up on those offers!

And we needed to make a small back track to have a closer look at this pretty little truck sitting in a garage lot.

Looks like the one we have sitting in the back yard.  Only this one is shiny, clean, well-painted and probably runs.  In all fairness, our will probably run easily.  It just won't stop well as the brake fluid bleeds out through all of the rust holes in the brake lines.  Sorry Mr. Oilburner.  Some work needs to be done on that thing.  :-)

Monday, September 13, 2010

A Great Multiple Sclerosis Ride


I had the great pleasure of working at the Multiple Sclerosis annual bicycle event at Callaway Gardens this weekend.  I met some wonderful fellow Motorcycle Marshals.  I was able to ride with many that I had ridden with in April on the Atlanta to Athens MS Ride.  But I met many wonderful people on the actual in...riding their bicycles!  Congratulations to all those who participated!  You did a wonderful job pedaling all those damn hills in that horrid heat and unrelenting sun!  It was brutally hot and you are GREAT!

Morning clouds on Saturday burned off to brutally hot temps of 95+ F.

 Everyone lining up for the Sunday start.  Over 1000 bicycles in that lineup back there.

More information and pictures to come...after two delayed ride reports.  But I just had to give a shout out for all of the bicyclists.  Utmost respect for the job they did in these conditions.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

My 0.015 oz of Flesh

My bike took its 0.015 oz of flesh.

There is a disruptive force in the house that has thrown the gravity well around our little universe out of balance.  What was up is now down.  What was left is now right.  So dressing down the bike after our ride on Monday had me going to the left side instead of the normal right.  Having removed my armored pants left my exposed little knee a prime target for the mean exhaust can to reach out and suck the flesh from it.  Which it did quite eagerly.

The sharp scream of pain had Mr. Oilburner running to find out what had happened.  Ensuing chaos then sent my camera tumbling off of the saddle onto the floor. Luckily it was in it's padded backpack.  Though I still haven't tested if the lenses are okay, I'm sure they are.  This isn't really the first time they have taken some hard knocks.

This is the third time in my life a leg has been burned by motorcycle exhaust.  First time was age 11 while riding my mother's Honda 90.  I misjudged a u-turn and rode the bike into some ice-plant on a slope.  The bike promptly slide out and placed the back of me knee in direct contact with the pipes.  That was a painful experience and healing process.  The second time was 3 years ago with Mr. Oilburner's first Harley.  He was adamant about me sitting on it before purchasing.  I didn't want to since I had no intention of riding it.  Stupid me did it shorts.  And had a nice triangular shaped scar for 2 years on my calf.  It wasn't even my bike and it was abusing me already!  This time I can't blame my bike.  She has been very good to me.  This damn black hole in the house needs to be corrected!

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Suburban Stoplight Hell

When learning to ride, stoplights are the bane of existence.  Like there isn't enough to think about with downshifting and proper braking without the added pressure of remembering how to stop and start gracefully, so as not to make a complete ass of myself yourself.

Just yesterday I witnessed someone stall their bike in a busy intersection as the light turned green.  He sat astride it, fumbling with levers and nobs while duck walking his bike across the intersection.  Nothing more flustering!  At least the people behind him were semi-patient and weren't honking the horns yet.

One of my own experiences hearkens back to one of my first long distance trips...of 10 miles. :)  I can advise new riders not to attempt to take off on a green light in third gear.  You do not have the experience to slip the clutch that much.  I tried that and I survived the crushing embarrassment.  Ok, not so crushing or embarrassing.  I didn't care what the yahoos behind me thought...I just didn't want them to run me over.  I had enough momentum before stalling to quickly coast across the intersection and get out of the way.  

But one thing I have noticed while riding and learning to ride...I am the stoplight QUEEN!  I collect red lights.  I am a magnet for them.  Ride with me and you will experience the utter frustration and annoyance of having to stop at just about every single red light imaginable.  And I'm not talking about pulling up and having to sit behind cars because it is halfway through the intersection cycle.  I'm talking about having to make the split second decision of braking or running a red light because the light just turned yellow at that crucial moment when a decision is necessary.  So making the legal decision results in having to wait through an entire cycle at that intersection!  Now don't talk to me about "anticipating" a light change when approaching an intersection, like they teach in basic high school drivers ed.  I do that and I think that is what gets me into so much trouble: because I actually ride sanely and legally.  Crap!

Now, some intersections have a fairly quick cycle and are only taking a minute of wait time.  But start adding up a minute for every light...and how often I am waiting at each light...and we are talking some time here being spent watching other vehicles moving while I sit.  Yes, I have had some time to think about this and actually calculate wait times and light cycles.

Now add in that I live in a large metropolis.  Yes, I live outside of the "big city"...but so does everyone else out here and there still isn't much room to breath or drive.  I was jealous of my other friends learning to ride that had large, curving lanes to glide down.  My learning grounds were riddled with stoplights, stop signs, hard turns/intersections, uphills and railroad tracks.  My head had a lot to keep track of.  Sometimes it succeeded and sometimes it didn't.

One of the most frustrating occurrences that made me want to scream and just sit and cry was the day of my ERC (Experienced Riders Course).  The location was exactly across town from my house.  And start time was 8:00...with required early check-in and bike checklist/inspection.  I needed to be there by 7:30.  Through morning rush hour traffic in Atlanta??  No way!  Luckily I had some friends on that side of town that let me spend the night before.  One even rode over with me in the morning to show me the way since the new-to-me bike hadn't been outfitted with the GPS yet.

The problem wasn't to the was on the way home.  After class, I was back at my friends house to wait for traffic to die down.  They were going to follow me home and get together with Mr. Oilburner for dinner as a Thank You for letting me stay.  The 18 miles distance between our houses has (had, actually, since more have been added) 23 stoplights.  And I literally had to stop for  And this time I had witnesses!

The point was driven home again when another friend was learning to ride.  Mr. Oilburner and I would take him out, flanking him for protection.  And he had the angels on his side...because all he had to do was approach a light and it would magically turn green.  No stopping, barely slowing.  Argh.

Where is this going?  I don't know if you live in the metro, suburbia or lonely country lanes.  But I really hope you are not cursed with red lights.  Last week we decided to attend a new Bike Night a town is trying to start.  It is a mere 18 miles of side-streets away.  How hard can it be?

When riding with me?  Extremely hard!  There are stoplights here.  It is just a fact of life.  Freeway distance would have been about 33 miles in heavy rush-hour traffic.  So side-streets is really the only option.  But do you know how many stoplights can be installed within 18 miles?  You might be surprised.

To give you a guessing chance, work and home are separated by a measly 9 miles.  There are 12 14 stoplights and 3 stop signs in that distance.  My old swim club was 10 miles away and had a whopping 22 stoplights along the easiest route.

So I recorded my progression along the roads to this Bike Night for you.  18 miles...45 minutes...mainly because of stoplights.  Can you count the number of lights?  Maybe now it is easy to understand why I don't commute to work on the bike.  Note to Riepe: take a look at all those friggin minivans!!

Suburban Stoplight Hell from Love Of A Motorbike on Vimeo.

And even sped up, look at how long I'm sitting at some of those lights??  Crank up the volume.  I like the music.  Wish I had been listening to this.  Might have made the distance and time a little easier.  Nah...

Happy travels to you and may all your lights be green!

Correction: I had to add two more lights to my work commute.  Forgot a couple...  :(