Monday, December 10, 2007

I appologize. Thought I had published this to the blog from Google Docs.

James Ford's Rider's Workshop proved to be of great value to me. After being rear-ended a year ago and going through fairly extensive back surgery that was still painful, my riding had become increasingly timid. I felt like I was riding more and more like a beginner. Signing up for two days under Jim Ford's supervision, proved to be the cure.

He gave us radios with single earpieces to listen to him. We met in Thurmont Maryland then a small group of us rode, with him coaching, to Wellsboro, PA. He showed us how to find "invisible" roads: beautiful local roads that are invisible to most motorists, who take faster through-fares. My confidence came back quickly once I learned to keep my RPM's up closer to the range of maximum horsepower. After that I could concentrate on lessons and learn to ride with even more skill, smoothness, and safety. Explaining how I felt after the class may give you some insight into it's benefits.

First Day after the Rider's WorkShop:

As I rode to work this morning, gradually the lessons of the last weekend returned. Even before getting on the bike, I started it and turned the electrics on high to get seat and grips warmed. It is the first sub-50-degree day of the Fall. On the road: practice discipline, don't just ride, plan where you want the bike to go and PUT it there. I look down at the two stars on my instrument console and remember to relax and work on smoothness. Traffic is slow, but I pre-load to shift up to second and a few seconds later pre-load to shift down to first, slowing for an upcoming stop, minimizing brakes. Off again; a corner approaches and I make a point not to "bust" the "double yellows" after another pre-loaded down shift and controlled acceleration through the corner. It would have been better if I had turned my head more and LEANED even for a slow speed corner.

As the ride to work continues, I continue to re-adopt improvements. I PUT the bike in the left-hand mini-lane, look for the vanishing point, clear the view then roll. I'm in no hurry as I turn down Quackenbush and pick my line through the pot holes. Providence give me a break in the traffic and I'm quickly across 16th Street, one of DC's main ingress routes, and descending on the S-curves of Joyce Road into Rock Creek Park. I keep the rev's up in first gear, watch for the vanishing point in a tight S-curve, and my peripheral vision spots a deer standing at attention a few feet from the road. It is watching me. Intuitively I make eye contact and realize the deer knows it is safe where it is. We've met before, further down the road and even raced together side-by-side a bit. As I continue, I meditate upon the deer -- this time so serene -- having grown up on venison, I can only hope fate doesn't bring us together in less pleasant ways.

More tight S-curves below the Ranger Station that I've seldom done well are no big deal. Same for faster curves as Rock Creek Parkway approaches Georgetown.

Getting on the bike later that day, for the ride home, my trip meter says 88.0 and I remember Highway 880 during the workshop. I recall the gas station where I refilled and last set the trip meter to zero, near the completion of the rider's workshop. I have a feeling of amazement that such roads, such riding as we saw after that gas station, are less than a tankfull of gas from downtown Washington, DC. This gives me a powerful sense of my motorcycle's reach.

Two weeks later:

My cornering skills have improved further as I'm getting the habit of leaning, and not having to think about it so much. When I'm not doing anything else, I practice shifting with pre-loading while riding down the road. That will take more work to become a habit, but I'm getting better and now know what Reg Pridmore means by the "blip" that you hear when racers shift although I do not hear it as often as I would like. I've found my magnifying glass. It does make map reading easier. Now I await my Delorme Pennsylvania Atlas and wonder what maps I'll use for the upcoming Void Endurance Rally.

The Riders Workshop proved to have great value. My riding skills probably doubled, and likewise my safety margin. There was also great pleasure to be found in riding great roads under the watchful eye of a master, listening to his coaching on upcoming sections of road, and the question & answer sessions between segments. At a more practical level, since I'm keeping my engine in the range of it's optimum performance, my mileage has improved by about 20%.

I look forward to taking the Total Control class as well. I've seen them working at Frederick Community College, while I was teaching a BRC nearby. Total Control teaches different things and maybe sometimes different aspects of some of the things we learned in the Rider's Workshop. Probably most of us would do well to take both classes. Probably, I will take the Rider's Workshop again in the Spring to sharpen my skills, further perhaps, at the beginning of the next riding season.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

A quote for long distance riders.

"Coming home from very lonely places, all of us go a little mad: whether from great personal success, or just an all-night drive, we are the sole survivors of a world no one else has ever seen." - John le Carre

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Bob Dylan "Forever Young"

May God bless & keep you always,
May your wishes all come true,
May you always do for others
& let others do for you.
May you build a ladder to the stars
& climb on every rung,
May you stay forever young,

May you grow up to be righteous,
May you grow up to be true,
May you always know the truth
& see the lights surrounding you.
May you always be courageous,
Stand upright & be strong,
May you stay forever young,

May your hands always be busy,
May your feet always be swift,
May you have a strong foundation
When the winds of changes shift.
May your heart always be joyful,
May your song always be sung,
May you stay forever young,

Bob Dylan "Forever Young ('73) The Band
Last Waltz Nov. 25 '76 @ Winterland Ballroom in
San Francisco

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

A quote for an LD Rider

Paul or Voni Graves posted this quote to the LD Rider's list:

"Coming home from very lonely places, all of us go a little mad: whetherfrom great personal success, or just an all-night drive, we are the solesurvivors of a world no one else has ever seen." - John le Carre

Monday, November 05, 2007


Reminder to self: Check this link before any planned long trips.

A splendid Fall weekend

This was a most satisfactory weekend.

Friday night, my landlady who loves motorcycles, Susan, and I met motorcycling friends Todd & Christie Sudda for grog and bison burgers at Silver Spring's Piratz tavern. We made plans to ride to Deleware for Sunday's "Pumpkin Chuckin" contest. Saturday had a very slow beginning due to the grogg of the night before. Grogg, our waitress dressed like a pirate wench explained to us, is basically rum, rum... more rum and a touch of ginger beer. She explained what real grog used to be and we were glad that we were enjoying the modern-day variety.

The cats were glad to have me for a Saturday morning. By noon, however, I had to ride. So, I had been inspecting the roads around Mercersburg, PA and happened to run into a couple who lived there via the StumbleUpon (SU) social network. We ended up meeting for bugers a Murphy's tavern then went next door to Buchanan's Birthplace Restaurant for desert. I had met the owners of the restaurant on a previous ride through there and wanted to check it out. We enjoyed cheesecake with blackberry sauce that they made on-site, along with New Orleans coffee, something I acquired a taste for years ago at Adams Morgan's now defunct Franklyn's Coffee Shop and Restaurant (once the center of my universe). As we enjoyed our desert we got to spy on what was arriving at the tables of other diners, and we agreed to return soon for more visiting.

You never know what you might find, meeting strangers you've met on-line. This encounter was a testimony to the strength of being able to find some with whom I had a surprising number of things in common. Brian is a motorcycle safety instructor and has a collection of over a dozen guitars and other stringed instruments. He lived in Billings Montanna and is one of the few people I know who knew who Kris Kristopherson is. He was able to tell me some of the story of Johny Cash discovering him and bringing him to fame -- something I had not known.

Sherrie and he have been married only since last Summer and it was obvious that they had done a good job of finding each other over a long distance. An Internet success story.

Pumpkin Chuckin was pretty awesome, also. There was some drama as my bike developed some brake problems. A warning light came on and it took me a some time after pulling over to realize it was not the oil indicator and to determine that it had to do with the brakes. The rear brake light wasn't working and if I used the rear brakes, all power assisted braking would fail. It took some observation to figure out that I could get by if I only used the front brake. Inspection tells me that the culprit is an improperly routed wire from the brake switch that got too close to the cylinder heads. There are some recent graduates working at my dealer and perhaps they were in too much of a hurry when my fluids were recently refreshed.

The bike has over 76,000 miles on it, almost 77,000.

A visit to the Chromeheads web site shed more light on the problem and the likely fix. So, the bike is at the dealer's as of late last night and I'll have to get by until Wednesday without it, given my work schedule, teaching Microsoft classes Tuesday & Thursday nights, and needing to meet Todd for his initiation into the masons at lodge, tonight.

Monday, October 29, 2007

Waterproof Paper

If you need to print maps or directions for a ride that is apt to become wet. This company markets water resistant paper and special pens for writing on it.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

The Void Rally

I want to take a few moments to record my thoughts after the third annual Void endurance rally.

First, these endurance rallies are a bit like a mini-Christmas in the way that they create excitement, involve weeks of anticipation and preparation, an in the way that they bring good people together. It is fair to say that the “bar” of Christmas itself, however, has been set fairly low. Rare is the family who actually employs a critical eye reviewing the merits of those who will be rewarded. While the endurance rally system of bonus points and how they are earned results in nothing of tangible value, the emotional and psychic value is a whole different story. Whether you end up with one point or thousands of points, you pretty much know that you’ve earned every one.

At the scoring table, after a hard day of riding in pursuit of bonus points (bonii) at various bonus point locations, there can be some real disappointments and sometimes some hard feelings. It appears to me that well organized rallies anticipate this. Both rallies I attended, organized their volunteer staff in a way that permitted appeals all the way up to the main organizer, an individual thick-skinned by necessity who is referred to, not always affectionately as the "Rally Bastard" or RB for short.

Scott LaShear was the RB for the Void 3, along with Gary Stipe. In the weeks leading up to the Rally, I frequently saw Scott's name in my mail and on the signature line of e-mails of the Void's listserver clarifying one point or another. I also saw others of his volunteers, particularly Jim Bain who I had met when he was the RB at the Cape Fear Rally, my first long distance (LD) rally. Although I came in too late to be counted a finisher at the Cape Fear Rally, it did get me interested enough in endurance rallies to try it again and I endeavored greatly to finish this one, learning a thing or two about myself in the process.

The Void was really four rallies in one. There was a ten-hour rally that began and ended in Lynchburg, and three 24-hour rallies that began from different locations in the Eastern part of the U.S. (Altoona, PA; Dothan, AL; and Owensboro, KY) and ended in Lynchburg, VA. All 24-hour riders had the same set of bonus locations, but obviously had to be scored separately. The 10-hour riders had another set. I had ridden the 10-hour version at Cape Fear. Starting from Altoona, this was my first 24-hour rally.

Soon after I registered, wondering whether I was being vain, stupid, foolish, or a bit of all three to presume to do this, the first packet arrived in the mail carrying my rally flag and some guidance that hinted at other mysteries. Why was the rally flag printed on paper that would dissolve if it got wet? Some of the old-timers chatted things up on the listserv, discussing various bonus locations, creating a variety of alarms in my mind as to why I had received nothing yet concerning bonus locations. It was in good humor. Kevin Craft clued me in quickly enough as to what the game was, when I took the bait. Later I learned that Kevin was the Rally Master for the new Rendez-vous Rally in Quebec, Canada. Hint: I now want to experience the added challenge that the French language and the metric system might present.

The first packet is kind of a teaser. Once you have your flag, you can't wait to get the book of bonus locations and begin planning your route. It arrived a couple weeks later, Monday night the week of the rally. Needless to say I was up late a few nights after that. I told myself that since the rally would not actually start until one in the afternoon that I would be able to use the hotel room that I had reserved for Thursday night to sleep in and catch-up on sleep right before the start. Sure.

My uninformed approach was to key in all the bonus locations that I might remotely want to consider into my Garmin's GPS's Mapsource software. This would prove useful, but in the future I will spend five bucks for a Rand McNally regional map and plot them so that I can more easily see the big picture. Color-coding them for high-value, medium-value and low-value also makes sense. I also printed a second copy of the rally book's bonus location then cut it up so that each bonus was on a separate 3 X 8.5 inch strip of paper. Later I would organize these according to my chosen route and staple them into a kind of booklet that I could keep on the top of my tank bag and use as a reference for each bonus stop. When I remembered to use them, they kept me out of trouble.

While waiting for the packet, I speculated about possible routes between Altoona and Lynchburg. Ordinarily it is a good plan to try to plan a series of loops that have good bail-out points if one runs into time trouble and needs to just get to the finish line. When the rally book arrived with the real locations, my reading of it led me to believe that this rally would not lend itself to such a plan. Anyway, I arrived at my hotel room in Altoona, on Thursday night and still did not know for sure what I was going to do the next day. At the same time, I wanted to meet some of the other riders, if possible. Should I order pizza and work on my route or should I socialize? I decided to compromise and do a bit of both. I might gain more from what I could learn from more experience riders than struggling on in my own ignorance. I figured that other riders probably would not want to make a late-night party of it. Working late then sleeping in the next day was a possibility.

This proved to be one of the first great decisions of my weekend. From the listserver, I knew some riders were staying at Motel 6. It was already a waypoint in my GPS and only a short ride from my room at the Econo Lodge. There I met two riders just arriving on bikes with Canadian plates. They turned out to be Cameron Sanders and Peter DeLean who I learned the following week had placed first and third, respectively, in the Rendez-vous Rally. They said that they would probably have dinner at Hooters. I told them that if they did they would find me there.

When they did show up, they went through a couple of pitchers of beer -- they had been able to walk from Motel 6 -- while I stuck to diet cokes needing to ride several blocks back to the Econo Lodge. This worked to my advantage as they gave freely of their advice for the rally (not because of the beer, but because helping other riders and especially new riders is pretty much the spirit of the LD Rally sport and they the very personification) and I probably remembered much more of what they said.

The two of them instructed me to use color coding on the map so I could naturally see the highest value route, then to work backwards from the end how much time I would need to hit each stop and figure out my decision points. Following their advice, in my hotel room later, I was able to put my entire route plan on two diskette labels that I would temporarily stick to the top of my tank bag. This served me well. Despite a couple of mistakes and near mistakes, I would be able to get back before the DNF deadline because of the evaluation done for each bonus location.

We happened to meet again the next morning at Denny's. I woke up at 7, tried to get back to sleep, but gave up and got up twenty minutes later. By nine we were wondering what we might do with the remaining time until one o'clock. I put down a "lumberjack breakfast" knowing it would be my last good meal for a while. We ended up scouting out a laundromat and the Salvation Army before heading up to Home Depot, where we would each buy a 1/4" bolt. The time on the receipt would be our starting time once we called it into the Rally Masters.

I will leave the recounting of the rally for comments that I will add to the pictures as I add them. For now, I need to report that most of what I've just written was jotted into a notebook at my next good breakfast. Returning to home in Takoma Park, Maryland after the rally, I found myself riding up highway 29. I had a thought of stopping in Charlotsville, but on the way I passed through Lovingston, VA. Lovingston has a special place in my heart because of a wine that Mountain Cove Vineyard produced many years ago. I liked it enough to seek out the winery and buy more while traveling with my wife when we were married. We still travel together occasionally, but get along better together not being married. Anyway, I saw a sign directing me to a side rode and the Lovingston Cafe. It gave me time to collect a few of these thoughts.

It is also one of those funny things in life that when I arrived at the Econo Lodge, I saw that its office shared a building with a Chinese Buffet. This was the same restaurant a group of friends and I had eaten at in 2003 on our ride to Toronto. The leader of the ride, Norm, died last spring while getting ready to get on his bike one morning, in Nevada. Norm was a character who tried not care whether others liked him, but he stuck to his own principals, and he seemed to know all the roads and their numbers. It felt good to be walking again in a place he once brought me, although unlike him I had well forgotten that it was Altoona where we had stopped for lunch.

At the finish, I knew it was close. Still, I took a moment more to take a picture of my GPS's status screen. It showed an average speed overall of 61 mph and a top speed of 137 mph. Garmin's are known to get that last bit wrong. I can guarantee that my ride never reached triple digit speeds. I removed my helmet, pulled my ball cap (for the fashion bonus), grabbed my six-pack beverage bonus and headed inside the hotel. I was shocked that there was nobody to check me in in the lobby. Other riders pointed me to the arrows on the wall. Woops! I had to do some walking. How close would I be to DNF'ing again? Rats!

Down the hall... I started to trot. At the end a turn and there was Karla to log me in. Time? 2:47. I was four minutes from DNF'ing. Not bad, considering the wrong turn I had found for the last gas stop and a number of other "mistakes" I could think of. Later, at the scoring table, I met Verne Hauck who led me through my first experience at the scoring table. He went down the check list and I seemed to have everything needed.

"Proof of insurance?" he asked.

I put my hand in my left pants pocket where I had been sure to put it for scoring, but it was not there. Without proof of insurance, there would be no points. I would be disqualified. Talk about panic. Verne called Scott over and explained. I told them both that I had been careful to fold it up, like a letter, and put it in my pocket and that it just was not there. Scott was not happy. You can tell that he wants people to get it right and to have a good time.

"Stand up and take everything out of all your pockets," he instructs me.

I do so and there is not much in my pockets.

Nobody's fault but my own. No point in getting mad about it. I just should have been even more careful about that document. I put everything back into my pocket, back away from the table, push the chair back under the table, and there to the left of the chair is my insurance document lying on the floor.

From there on out I was a very happy individual. Yes, I lost points for not taking a couple of pictures with my rally flag showing in them, but I had finished and actually had a score. Hopefully I will live long enough to apply the lessons of this rally in future rallies and do better, but I had done well enough for the moment and would enjoy hearing the stories of others for the rest of the day.

At the next table, a rider is recounting... "I ran out of gas on the Blue Grass Parkway..."

That was a bind that I had been in, myself, but some road magic had saved me. More about that later.

Pictures here.

Link to the Void Web Page here.

Packing up