Wednesday, May 21, 2003

Well, it's been a fun first 600 miles on the bike.

This week, I enjoyed driving it to a contract teaching job in Roslyn. Getting to drive in the HOV lanes is pretty cool. Monday and Tuesday the weather was beautiful, also. I had a big smile on my face all day just thinking of the ride home.

Last night I drove from work up to Bob's BMW to drop the bike off for its 600-mile service. I chose to drive from Roslyn, across the Roosevelt Bridge, up Constitution Avenue, and then cut over to North Capitol on Louisiana. North capitol was as crowded as ever, but I only took it eight or ten blocks up to New York Avenue. New York took me out of town, and the instructions I got off of Microsoft's MapPoint program told me that I could merge from New York onto the Baltimore Washington Highway. Sure enough, the left lanes peeled off and got me onto the BWI parkway, very nicely. It was probably the best way to get across town and started to Baltimore during rush hour. BWI is a highway I do not often take, and I found it somehow more pleasant the I-95 even though traffic inexplicably came to a complete stop several times.

At Bob's, I checked the bike in for maintenance and they provided a loaner bike. This really impressed me, and it may have had a lot to do with being able to buy from a dealer that far away. The bike the provided was the new single-cylinder 650. It did not offer the same protection from the rain, but it did have a box for my briefcase. It was also a lot of fun, reminding me of a Yamaha 550 enduro that I had in Hawaii. It was a big improvement on the Yamaha, having good street tires. These served me well as it was raining by the time I got home.

Today, it was raining even harder. Nevertheless, I had to get the bike back to Bob's to pick up my own bike. Knowing that their service desk liked to close by six, I had little choice but to ride the 650 to work, then motor up to Bob's after work. Thanks to modern rain gear, and the watertight box on the back of the bike, this turned out to be not only manageable, but a bit of fun. However, I had to ride in rain the whole trip up to Bob's, then the whole way home. The CLC certainly was a dream, after the experience of the 650. Nevertheless, by the time I got home, I was surprised at how tired and cold I was and I was glad to have heated handlebar grips and seat. The warm shower felt real good.

Now, it occurs to me that I've not reported, well, some of my other introductory rides. One of the better explorations was inspired by my friend Cy Malloy who suggested Maryland's highway 75. One weekday morning I set out. I jetted up 270 to Germantown, then cut over to 355 N. The map showed 75 as a right turn from 355. I forgot to note, however, how far up 355 it was and somehow I drove right past the turn. Perhaps this was good. Continuing up 355, I saw a sign for Ball road and decided to see where it went.

I took Ball road for several miles, passing a greenhouse, and a new development before arriving at a cross road (Ijamsville Rd.)where I turned around and returned to 355. On the way back, I spotted a far road with an open gate. I did not consider that the bike I was riding was more than 660 lbs. before turning down the road and following it down toward a creek. Quickly, I realized the error of my way. The road was wet, almost muddy, and my front tire did not seem to be able to climb out of the rut. A few yards from a creek crossing, I decided to stop and work at turning around. Bad idea. I got I the front tire up on the side of the road, but the rear tire would not follow, out of the rut. Moreover, once I was nearly sideways in the rut, it was not clear how I could get the front tire back into it. I was nearly stuck.

I stopped for a moment and noticed a platform nailed into a tree above me. Somebody used this area for bow hunting.

I struggled and pushed and the bike shifted in a way that I could not stop. Slowly, it began to roll sideways back into the rut, and there was nothing I could do to stop it until it was firmly on its left side. Having read an article in one of the BMW usergroup magazines that I picked up at Bob's, I had learned how the group taught women to pick up big BMW motorcycles. So, at least I knew what to do next. I hit the kill switch, got on the left side, bent down, put my but into the seat, grabbed the back seat with my left hand and the left handlebar-grip with my right, then straightened up, leveraging the seat of the bike off the ground with my butt. Once it was up, and I was standing on the left side, I was able to use leverage against the seat to get it rocking. Then when it rocked backwards I used the front brake to lock in the progress. With a bit of work, the front end was finally back into the rut. But I was still pointed in the wrong direction.

There was nothing to do but to cross the stream and see whether the trail would take me to a place where I could turn around. fortunately, it eventually did, but it entailed an off-camper uphill turn and getting over a rocky patch, none of which was comforting. Once over the hill, I came upon a more level stretch or road where I could finally point the nose of the bike up-hill, off of the road to the left then let gravity help me backup in a kind of three-cornered turn.

Once turned around, I had the sense to take a break and get a drink of water from the water bottle I had wisely stowed in one of the saddlebags. Beneath the road was a wooden wagon similar to what sheepherders in Wyoming use when they are out tending the sheep. A chair was stuck to it's top. Perhaps this was another place to wait for deer. I also notices several painted targets on the side of the wagon and other nearby wreckage. This prompted me to cut the rest a bit short. Quickly, I made the return trip to the paved road. I was proud of my success, but did not take stock of how tired I was before continuing.

Back at highway 355, the intersection did not give me much visibility. I began to make a right turn, looking to my left, and just as I started a car came into view making me decide to stop. This was probably the thing to do, rather than racing to get ahead of it, except that I was already banked to the right, and once stopped could not stop the bike from falling to the right. Of course, no sooner does this happen that plenty of cars show up behind me, who have to wait while I try to get out of the way. One woman in a Jeep Cherokee was nice enough to ask if I was okay. Except for my injured pride, I was fine.

Again, I executed the maneuver, but in reverse. I should have noted, from the article, that it helps to put the kickstand down first so that the bike, when righted doesn't continue to fall to the other side. Fortunately, it did not fall over the other way. As the bike got back up, I managed to get a hand down to the kickstand to lower it. Soon it was restarted and I was on my way, but I was looking for a place to stop and take a lengthy rest. I found it soon, as the next turn was for the National Park Service's Monocacy Battlefield exhibit ( I parked the bike, went inside the museum building and learned about "the battle that saved Washington."

This provided not only a lengthy rest, but entertainment and the kind of education one likes to find in ones adventures.

After the narative of the exhibit finished, I returned to the bike, and my search for highway 75. Continuing North, I crossed the Monocacy River Bridge and remembered how soon this river comes while driving 355 South from Frederick. Sure enough, Frederick soon came into view. I knew the highway 75 turnoff was behind me. Time to pull into a nearby mall and look at the map.

Certainly, I could have found an Eastern route to 75, but I wanted to see it from its beginning, so I headed back. This time, I had no troble finding it, just above Hyattstown. Taking it North, I passed the Intersection with 80, where the drag races are held, and where an interesting tavern provided me a place to stop for water on the return trip. I took 75 all the way North, past the I-70 exchange, through New London, Libertyville, Union Bridge, a railway museum (to be visited soon), and to New Windsor. At New Windsor, I enjoyed a good meal with an especially delicious Greek salad at Beth & Kostas' before returning home by the same route.

Wednesday, May 07, 2003

New Motorcycle

I'm excited. Tomorrow, I pick up my new BMW motorcycle. Already, I'm planning cross-country trips. One of the cycle magazines at Borders had an editorial about traveling light. Only two sets of clothes? I can do that. This afternoon, I'll get a short haircut, to cut down on the need for hairbrushes and such. Probably, I'll grow my beard back so I won't have to pack a razor.

One first trip will be up to Little Portion, a Franciscan Monastary out on Long Island. I've played around with Microsoft MapPoint, picking routes. I played with the "preferred roads" setting of the route planner until it selected nearby roads that I enjoy. I figure if it picks them for getting out of town then others it chooses, for places I've yet to travel, will be more to my liking.

A best friend is getting married in Oregon, in July. So, of course I'm planning a cross-country trip from my home, here, near Washington, DC, over there, then a return route through Canada.

It would be nice to be able to make money writing about the trip and interviews with people I might meet.

I'll take my laptop, my digital camera, and chargers. At various Starbucks I'll be able to update my web and this journal. Probably I need to make sure my tape recorder is working as well.

Now, I'm going to study the roads between the dealer (Bob's BMW in Jessup, MD) and here. The first ride is going to be great!

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