Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Riding Double is For the Birds

Double 2

I do not like this riding double
I do not like this toil and trouble
I do not like this riding two up
I am here to tell you it sucks, sucks, sucks!

Double 1

I can not see through his silver lid
I can not see the road ahead
I can not see if we will go straight
I can not see if it were the Golden Gate!

I had to contort to get on that bike
My bum, it hurt, after a short, short ride
Maybe if I were thin, thin, thin
I would not cry this awful din

I have to trust, will he ride us true
I have to wonder, does he have a clue
I do not like the way he drives
I do not like that I am not the eyes

Double 4

Control I need, in my own hands
Control I need for all speed bands
I chop my fingers into his sides
Like a horseman spurs his horse's hide

 As his hand twists off the throttle
The sudden deceleration does not coddle
Our lids they knock, my body unable
To stop us acting like Newton's Cradle

I refrain from tickling to regain my pride
I really do want to make it home alive
I love him dearly, but he heard words
Riding double is for the birds.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Please Be Careful

Dear Friends, in-person, cyber, real or virtual,

As we enter into the [Northern Hemisphere's] winter season, we also enter the deer rutting season.  The statistics read that West and Northwestern states have a lower chance of deer-auto accidents, but it is still  there. 

One of my personal fears is hitting, or being hit by, a deer on the motorcycle.  I afear for myself and those around me.  Always have and always will. Reading "Face Plants" on one of my favoritists forums doesn't help when people post up pictures and discussions of deer encounters. 

However, it is a fact of life and one I hope we all take seriously.

On a recent ride (that I haven't written up yet) it was an extremely long day and we were exiting the mountains after sundown.  It was actually full dark by the time we crested the mountain and started down, still one and a half hours from home.  We were three bikes, with Mr. Oilburner leading.  I didn't mind the pace through the twisties as we had a slow moving behemoth SUV in front of us.  But he soon turned right where we headed straight.  Mr. Oilburner set a rapid, speed limit pace that I didn't care for as I envisioned him splattering through a deer.  I mentally went through my escape routes, then wondered if I had faith in the guy riding behind me to avoid either me or Mr. Oilburner.  (And the guy in the car following him as he was also part of our group.)

At first I entreated with Mr. Oilburner to slow down for darkness and deer.  He kindly scoffed and said deer weren't anything to worry about.  I remonstrated that if he hit a deer I was just going to run right over him and not care.  He slowed down...

We've had this discussion quite a few times over the years and he just feels that the chances of hitting a deer are very small.  I tend to disagree with that logic and retort with why take the risk.  Yes, deer are completely unpredictable, but you can avoid riding at night during rutting season.  And you can slow down if you have to ride at night.  I don't see how slowing down is going to break the trip.  This may be an area where he thinks I am being overly cautious, but he does allow it to me and will follow my lead/rule/commandment.

All is well and happy in the household.

On Thursday a [cyber] call comes through our local motorcycle group.  A man riding his motorcycle died on Tuesday.  Police believe it was a deer encounter based upon the skid marks.  It was a lone accident without witnesses.  This was a man who enjoyed riding, even riding two up with his wife and friends quite a bit.  They weren't involved in any specific group and the family was asking if any riders would come out to escort him from the funeral home to the cemetery.

This man was Mr. Oilburner's age.  Married about as long as we have been with two teenage boys.  We felt it would be a good thing to go and pay respects, fulfilling the family's wishes.  When we arrived, we learned that his oldest son was planning on riding his motorcycle to lead his father.  That he was going to ride even if no one showed up and he was alone.  I am glad we went.

My deepest sympathies to the family.  They seemed like a very loving group of people with a great sense of humor.  Many of us that did show up on motorbikes didn't know the family, yet we were urged to join in the ceremony and partake of the good food afterwards.  I felt like an interloper, wanting to pay my respects but not knowing how.  I hope we were able to offer some comfort and that we respectfully fulfilled a role they wanted.  (I felt like more of an interloper, knowing this was a Harley man.  Surrounded by quite a few loud and rumbling Harley's, which I do enjoy most of the time, and I buzzing away on my little sewing machine engine.)

There is nothing quite like honoring a Harley man with a twist of the throttle on a machine that has straight pipes and deafening half the crowd around it.  Half the crowd only because the people on the side opposite the pipes will be OK.  Mr. Oilburner and I joked a little if it weren't for the final drive on the BMW's we could put dual exhaust on our bikes.  Might even be able to get a muffler that will give a little rumble.  (In case you weren't aware, dual exhaust is a right of passage here in the South.  Even cars that would never benefit from dual exhaust, nor have any right to be dual exhaust, are outfitted with dual exhaust out here.  Like a Chevy Chevette. Yes, I used "dual exhaust" three times in one sentence.)

In any case, it soberly brings me back to the fact that we are all mortal.  We can't always choose where, when or how.  I will be sending this family good vibes and heartfelt wishes as they recover from this tragedy.  And I will keep in mind that we are entering the worst months for deer accidents and try to rein me and mine in a little if riding at night.  I will hope that all of you, friends well-met and friends well-met-to-be, will take this message and assess your surroundings.  I would like you to remain safe so that we can meet, share big hugs, good plates of food, imbibe on some beverages, tell tales and take that wonderful ride together.

Be Safe, My Friends.

Friday, October 22, 2010

Video on the Blue Ridge

I had the most difficult time culling through hours of video, trying to whittle something down to just a few minutes.  How do you decide what stays and what goes from hours of perfect riding representing 3 great days into just minutes??  In the end I had to close my eyes and just start deleting clips at random.  I liked them all, but they just couldnt' remain.  I hope you enjoy it as much as Mr. Oilburner and I do/did/hope to do again.  :)

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Can the Blue Ridge Parkway Be Ridden in an Extended Weekend?

It was time.  We have been putting it off for years and we had to stop making excuses.

We would be committing ourselves to our first ever motorcycle weekend together!!  The dog sitter was booked, the destination was set and we would work out sleeping arrangements on the way.

Given it is actually Autumn and the leaves here are actually changing, we thought a great destination to take a relaxing ride to enjoy the weather, season, people, scenery, location, et. al. would be the Blue Ridge Parkway.  It would have all the adventure and mind-relaxing we could handle.  It starts in Cherokee, NC and winds its way 469 miles north[-ish] to Virginia, just south of Shenandoah.

Blue Ridge Parkway
We figured that 469 miles wouldn't be too difficult, even given the avg 45 mph speed limit on the parkway.  We were thinking we could get maybe a third of the way up on the first day and could reach the end on the second.  (I was secretly hoping to ride through Shenandoah as well.)  We could then hit the interstates for a long, but satisfying, ride home on the third day.

That is what we figured...as we all know...theory and reality rarely coincide on a motorcycle. :)

We weren't in any hurry, but managed to start out an hour later then we had hoped.  (As usual.)  We were hoping to make it to Cherokee before stopping for lunch.  Instead, we stopped in Clayton because we knew the lay of the land.  Wendy's was a welcome respite from the saddle and the manager was a fellow rider that enjoyed jawing some time away.  He introduced himself by way of asking who rode that pretty little blue bike out there.  I corrected his obvious lapse in judgment and told him the pretty little bike out there was the crystal gray one...and that I rode it.  He liked Mr. Oilburner's blue RT because it reminds him of his ST.  But he definitely wanted to know what I thought of the R since his friend had recently purchased his second one. 

Back on our way, we were headed for Cherokee and the start of the relaxing portion of the ride.  Cherokee, the little one-horse town, has turned into a one-stoplight town and is the gateway to the Smokies.  Knowing the season and the weekend we figured it would be busy, but didn't anticipate the tremendous traffic caused by mis-synced lights, road construction and vehicles.  Everyone and their mother was passing that traffic light today.  (In all fairness, Cherokee has more then one-stoplight.  And other people more interested in gambling would quickly point out the casinos.  Since I am not of the casino variety it doesn't top my list of things to mention about the city.)

While everyone else moving in our direction maintained a course towards the Smokies, we hit the shunned Blue Ridge Parkway.  The parkway is gorgeous, but it's max speed is 45 mph.  Dropping to 35 mph in many key areas for long stretches.  It is definitely not a highway that many people would take for any length of time if they needed to get somewhere.  If the intent is to actually enjoy the parkway it is perfect.  As quoted in the Disney movie Cars, "Cars didn't drive on it to make great time. They drove on it to have a great time."  That was all we set out to do: Have a great time.  If we made it to the end, we made it.  If not, oh well.

First Overlook...first stop...among many.
Our destination for the night was New Switzerland, NC, 135 miles up the parkway.  Add that to the 145 already ridden and we shouldn't have a problem.  Right?  Right??

If you want to enjoy any of the scenery by stopping at overlooks and taking pictures, breathing the air, stop at museums and craft centers and information kiosks...there is going to be a problem.  In addition, it is almost impossible to maintain 45 mph looking off into the horizon and seeing row upon row of peaks fading off into a blue haze.  Cagers have an easier time gawking and driving then motorcycles.  It is difficult to recover a motorcycle from a simple 2 second delay when returning your gaze to the road.  So we weren't quite as enraptured with the scenery, though we were doing our share of gawking.  But following cages doing this had our avg speed down to 35 mph.  Sometimes they would pull off and let us pass.  Sometimes we would pull off and let them get way ahead.

Ridge upon ridge disappearing into the blue haze of the atmosphere.
Sidebar: Is it my imagination or have people forgotten the simple courtesy of pulling over when 5+ cars have fallen into a line behind them?  I remember it being drilled into my head in drivers training to pull over and let people pass if I have built up a following.  People out here either never learned it, don't care and/or aren't courteous.  Many a time we experienced long lines of vehicles because someone couldn't or wouldn't maintain the speed limit AND refused to pull over at overlooks to allow people to pass.  Rant over...thank you.

The views were spectacular.  The colors weren't quite what we had hoped for as the trees were mostly green with a few beginning to turn yellow and many others opting to go right to brown and crispy.  We also didn't have our expectations very high knowing that next weekend was supposed to be peak for autumn colors.  We just felt lucky to be getting away and see the beginning of the color changes.

The colors are starting to show.

Our time [mis]management was apparent when calculating our arrival time at 7 PM.  That broke down to 5 hours on the parkway to actually cover 135 miles...  Which, as we found out, is reasonable if you actually expect to see anything and enjoy yourself.  Again...have a great time, not make great time.  :)

And as predicted, we arrived at the Inn near 6:30, a little saddle sore and ready for some libations to ease the muscles.

Dinner is served...with drinks...


Fried Green Tomatoes

Bourbon Pecan Trout for me.  Filet Mignon for him.

We were slow starting the next morning.  It was just beautiful and relaxing to sit on the patio and watch the leaves in the slight breeze.  The predicted 45F temps were nowhere around here, and it was an enjoyable 63F.  Yes, 63 can be very enjoyable when you are expecting 45!

We relaxed over breakfast and discussed our goals.  We had hoped to ride the entire parkway.  However, given our distance to time ratio from yesterday we weren't holding our breaths for that anymore.  I was game to try and make 120 miles and at least cross the Virginia border.  (One more state that I could add to my belt.)  We calculated that out and figured 3 hours one way, without breaks.  Hmm...we would give it a shot, but I wasn't going to be disappointed if we didn't make it.

It was blatantly obvious immediately that we were not going to stick to any type of time table since we only made it 5 miles down the parkway before having to stop at the Mineral Museum.

I've always loved peeling Mica.  Good thing this one was locked up.
Mr. Oilburner learns that sugar actually starts
out as a vegetable.  See Mom?  He does eat his veggies...
Beyond the perfect temperatures and the perfect, cloudless sky, north was definitely the direction to be traveling in as more colors were coming out.  We stopped at many overlooks (some not so much overlooky as looky-into the mountains above you) and had to take the required autumn colors or motorcycle shots.  I won't bore you will all of them, but will share some of my favorites.






Hungry is as hungry does...so our next mission was Lunch!  Slightly unsuccessful as we chose a small city vs a big city of Boone, NC. The small city, Blowing Rock, was nice.  It is more of an artsy-fartsy town like Highlands, NC.  Which I normally wouldn't have any issues with.  But the wait times for even the pizza joint were 45 minutes!  We decided to order our pizza to-go and take it to the park up the street.  Half blessing, half curse because we probably would have been seated by the time we actually did receive our pizza...but at least we weren't going to have to wait another 45 minutes after being seated.  Unfortunately, I kinda pushed us into the decision because we were nearing the "full moon" phase of my hunger.  Either feed me or suffer the consequences...cuz I don't know exactly what will happen and I cannot be held responsible...

The pizza wasn't bad.  But I don't think it was worth a 45 min wait.
Discussing our options over lunch, Mr. Oilburner was leaning a little towards heading back to the Inn.  I was not game for this plan at all!  We had only made it about 40 miles down the parkway (in 3 hours!!) and I wasn't ready to turn back.  I wasn't willing to still try for the border, but didn't want to just head back.  So we agreed to continue up the road apace and just turn around when we felt like it.  Which turned out perfectly!!  We meandered up the road and passed a museum that I really wanted to stop at, but wasn't ready to stop after only 2 miles...  So we just rode and enjoyed the scenery.  It was changing a little up here in that there were houses and farm fields and horses along the road instead of the wide buffer of untouched forest.

When we felt the shadows getting a little long and thinking it was yet another 3+ hours back we decided to turn around.  And the next overlook to allow us this had these:


Though they were all beautiful, my favorites:

Edit: 1938 Chevy (Thanks Dad!)

Edit: 1931 Model A Ford with a '32 Grille Shell (Thanks Dad!)


We made it back to the Inn in decent time.  We did stop at the Moses H. Cone Park and Craft Center.  We lightened our bank account a little and took up some saddlebag space with a wonderful plate for my collection.  Now to get it home in one piece...  Otherwise the trip back was uneventful.  We did eat at a fast food joint to avoid the prices of the Chalet at the Inn.  And I tried a fish sandwich for the first time.  This trip was proving to bring out some interesting food desires in me...

Monday morning dawned perfect once again.  Mr. Oilburner stepped onto the patio a little before sun up and thought it was overcast.  Luckily it wasn't, and the stated 45F temps were still not there and we enjoyed another 63F morning.  We decided to snatch breakfast from the nearby Walmart last night and dined on Cheese Danish and bananas on the patio.  Yet again allowing us to be super messy (unintentionally...those danishes are difficult to eat without utensils, plates or napkins...) and people watch!

Breakfast of Champions.
Champions making horrible mess on the patio.
Just can't imagine drinking coffee from a pot that is
stored in a bathroom. Blech!! 

Packing up was like stuffing 10 pounds of shite into a 5 pound bag. We didn't purchase too many souvenirs...but we have never had a chance to get the packing down before. So this was a learning experience. It actually wasn't too bad, but I wanted pictures of our brightly colored stuff sacks.


Mr. Oilburner swears that bag liners will be his next purchase.  I'm not sold on them, but will see what he thinks of them.  It would be nice to just stuff it all into space bags in a bag liner and know it will fit instead of trying to determine which bags will squeeze, which won't and which ones will go together to balance the weight on each side.

All bags neatly stowed.

Required morning maintenance: check tire pressure.

Required ritual of lens cleaning.

Before shoving off, we patted ourselves on the backs for not being the last bikes out of the parking lot today.  The other couple hadn't even put in an appearance!  Yay us!  But we did take time for required safety inspections and tire pressure testing.  All good.  Even took the time to clean helmet lenses.  Usually they aren't already installed on heads...but you do it when you can.  :)

South was definitely the direction to be traveling in today!  The weather was absolutely perfect!  When we started seeing the colors we couldn't convince our selves they were hear when we came up two days ago.  We did confirm our suspicions that these hills were mostly green on Saturday by looking through the videos.  They may have been green two days ago, but they sure weren't any more.  These colors were bright and rich and just spectacular.  We wanted to stop everywhere!!




Mr. Oilburner insisted on a side trip up to Mount Mitchell, the highest peak east of the Mississippi.  I was a little skeptical thinking about the switchbacks up Grandfather Mountain I saw the day before.  Or thoughts of Brasstown Balds numerous switchbacks.  But I swallowed my fears and am glad I did.  We frittered away another couple hours with the small hike to the observation deck and just sitting with snacks and drinks soaking up the sun and surroundings.  It was totally worth it.  In so many ways it reminded us of Mt. Katahdin in Maine.  Just beautiful.












Wow.  Just wow.  We arrived just in time.  The peole started showing up as we were hiking down and the parking lot was getting busy by the time we had finished our snacks.  Time to hit the road.

We opted to ride the parkway home again.  It was a completely new experience riding towards the south with all of the autumn colors.  We knew the speed limit would delay arrival home a little, but the dog was taken care of and we weren't in a rush. 

Some leaves were starting to fall and previous cars vortices were kicking them back into the roadway.  Mr. Oilburner nicknamed me Dancing Leaves for the effect I had on them, swirling them around me when I rode through.  I enjoyed the couple of times I was able to ride through a new falling cache as a wind swept through.  A couple of leaves even managed to hitch a ride, we noticed as we stopped for a stretch break.


BRP_120 copy

We were saddened that the weekend was over.  Both wishing this trip would be so much longer and the roads would continue to unfold beneath the tires and we could continue discovering new sights.

Real life intrudes, and it isn't a bad thing...just a necessity...for the next time we can take such an adventure.  I hope your travels are good and full of beauty surrounding you.


So.  To answer that title question.  No, it is not possible to ride the Blue Ridge Parkway in an extended weekend if you want to see the sights, enjoy the culture and soak up some beauty.  We managed to ride about 400 miles of the parkway...which translates to 200 miles one-way.  But we do hope to go back soon and finish it up.  Many, many more pictures are available at Flickr in my Blue Ridge Parkway set.  Can also view them in slideshow format.

Things I learned on this trip:
-Find smaller "dress" shoes.  Not ones that take up 1/4 of a saddle bag and are inflexible
-Add eye wash and antiseptic cream/ointment to the first aid kit
-It is infinitely easier to repeatedly mount and dismount a bike in jeans instead of armored pants...but safety exponentially decreases (Thankfully nothing bad happened.)
-pack water and snacks :)
-laugh lots, lay down on picnic tables and look up

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Motorcycle Marshaling for Multiple Sclerosis... part 2

I know better and yet I still do it. I post and then relax.  Now I have lost my rhythm and train of thought.  Hopefully I haven't forgotten much of the day.  :-)  I do appreciate your patience for bearing with me as I try and get back into the feel.

Sunday dawned slightly cooler than Saturday.  But the humidity was still pretty high, made that much worse with the slightly cooler temps.  We were still on our 6 AM track for breakfast and discussed our roles for the day.  Sunday sees a reprieve for the riders (moto and free wheel) with only two routes to choose from: the 35 mile and the 65 mile.  We don't need the three separate marshaling groups, so two groups have been combined to cover the 65 mile route.

Again, we line up in front of the bicycle riders in preparation of the starting countdown.

The crowds are gathering...

My position in our posse

We're ready to go

The hiccup today comes with the double countdown for the bicyclists to start.  It seems the marshal at the front of the pack couldn't quite hear the countdown and didn't take off at the appropriate time.  So the countdown had to begin again...  The rest of us marshals, in our enthusiasm, repeatedly laid into our horns trying to spur the front motorbikes on.  It eventually worked and we were all under way.

Our group was again assigned to the 65 mile route.  So the two groups rode to the second break point together.  It seemed like an incredibly long distance even though the speedometer was showing 20 miles.  The slightly chilly temperatures promoted ground fog along sections of the route that created this illusion of moving without going anywhere.

The route was quiet and I hoped the church going crowd wouldn't give our riders too much of a problem.  While most of the roads were wide there wasn't much space beyond that white line.  I guess I needn't have worried too much considering how the pedalers took up the lanes yesterday.  :-)

Waiting for the train

 The rest of the group

We reached the break point in good order, trying to figure out how to corral two teams into one well oiled surveillance machine.  I guess we needn't have worried about that.  Our leaders were informed that 90%  of the riders were taking the short route.  One of our groups needed to be reallocated to the 35 mile route.  That was us!  Ready for the challenge...no maps, no clue, but point us in the right direction!!  :-)

Come on, that is one good looking motorbike 
(And that GQ looking guy in the background too...)

We hit the road following the actual route to reach the location where it spilled back into the shorter route.  I was amazed to see so many cyclists when we reached the merge location!  And it again turned into a "wait 5 minutes before the next person leaves" situation.  So our little posse sat at the intersection and slowly moved onto the roads to haunt the bicyclists.  

Early morning, short ride, cooler temps and there weren't too many problems on the roads.  More broken pedals, no cell coverage and the like, but the work was shorter and easier today.  No one wanted water or bananas.  It was easy!  I learned my lesson from yesterday and sat at the finish line for a couple minutes and munched some trail mix.  Then hopped onto the road to continue my duties.  Did I mention that it was an easy day?

I ran into my favorite couple a few miles from the finish line.  I kick myself every time I think about it, wishing that I had ridden them in, in a blaze of power, horn honking and blinding lights to signify what they had accomplished.  But I also carried some ice for a gentleman that was going to partake of some beverages at the finish line. 

Everything was wrapping up by 1 PM.  And we were given the choice of eating lunch in the pavilion with the riders...or going back to the last break point and enjoying some freshly barbecued hamburgers.  Seems like someone has been showing his appreciation by grilling some hamburgers for the riders at this last spot.  And boy were they delicious!!  (No pictures...too good to stop eating and fetch the camera.)

Roadkill Armadillo counting...netted two over my left shoulder...

Nothing left for us but to strike out for home.  We had offered to ride another member back into metro Atlanta and we tried to take the back roads for a majority of the distance.  It was a great weekend that was drawing to a close...

I learned a few lessons along the way this time:
  • bicyclists tend to want more water and bananas on Saturday  (and cold bananas are well received)
  • keeping yourself hydrated and nourished is extremely important - either put an hydration bladder in the back of my jacket or mount my camel back on the pelican case for easy access
  • definitely benefit from a modular helmet on this ride to communicate with bicyclists and to eat/drink  (I am not fond of modular helmets, so would only wear it on these occasions)
  • the saddle bags are handy, but having a cooler of some type strapped to the passenger seat makes access much easier.  Need a balance of size vs. internal space.
  • need my accessory pack of tape, sharpie, first aid kit put together before each ride
  • pester the leaders before the ride weekend for the break down of routes and print on small cards to laminate and put on lanyards.  (Previously we had contact phone numbers, which was invaluable!  Now it is also a good idea to put the route here too.)
  • CB or Ham radio (license) is beneficial for communicating directly with leaders or event organizers...especially when cell coverage is spotty!!
  • keep cool (in the summer) with a watered down hanky or one of those silicon beaded neckerchiefs
  • stop for 2 seconds and take more pictures!!  (if nothing else, keep the point and shoot in the tank bag to stop in the middle of the road)  (oh yeah...take tank bag!)

    Overall route:
      - green Saturday ~170 miles
      - cyan Sunday ~103 miles
      - magenta route to/from home ~200 miles

    Wondering what the lame teaser was from the last post?  


    In case you still aren't sure if this is something you would/wouldn't like to do...have a look!