Friday, March 31, 2006

Blue Ridge pictures from cell phone to blog

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Monday, March 27, 2006

Night Class

A couple nights a week I teach computer classes in Gaithersburg. Tonight, after all the students left, I packed up, got on my motorcycle and did not feel like going home. I was a bit hungry so I found myself thinking of the many possible diners I might ride to in Frederick or Baltimore or...

The result was a lone moon-lit ride from 355 traveling East on Clarksburg Road. There were many haunting thoughts, riding at night. Anywhere that there was light, it was a sign of human consiousness -- but sometimes I got faked out by a lone bulb lighting only the work yard between a ware house and a farmer's barn.

I found myself imagining the secret places that others find on such nights -- secret clubs in rural locations far enough from the road that there is no risk of any screaming being overheard and investigated. A lone lane into a darkened strand of trees: a place to elope with a rider for a night of love, or a place where an axe murder waits for those thoughtless couples?

Somehow, I eventually found my way north to 70, probably on 97. I took 70 East to the Baltimore Beltway, then South on mostly-empty freeways until I was cruising the streets closer to home. I filled the tank in a gas station where the unemployed who have no need to sleep hung out--a neighborhood where the poor were safe enough as nobody had money to buy or sell drugs, and they had fallen out of the habit of crime for any other reasons--before turning at last for home.

Sunday, March 26, 2006

Maryland Motorcycle Safety Program & Bob's Flea Market

Yesterday was a rewarding day of riding. New friends, old friends, and new roads that improved the riding of old favorites, plus an event or two to go to made for a very satisfying day.

Saturday morning began with an early wake up at 5:00 so that I could be in Gaithersburg by 7:45 for an MCSP--the Maryland MotorCycle Safety Program--class. I was to be a test student for a current class of new Instructor Prospects. It would be a great refresher to the range work for me as I have not finished the probationary period for new instructors and need to teach a few more classes. It would also be fun to make a few mistakes and see if any in the IP class would catch them.

It was probably in the low 40's. Riding in cold weather is one of my favorite pleasures. The oil-head bike seems to sound happier at lower temperatures, and of course I have Gerbings gear that keeps me comfortable... along with the heated seat and grips of my BMW. Riding north on 270 I had to slow it back down a couple of times as the bike wanted to stay ahead of other motorists who were also enjoying an unobstructed bit of freeway.

The exit for Sam Eig Highway approached. The clock was telling me that I had about an hour to kill. My favorite Starbucks at Muddy Branch was a temptation, but I had the thermos that had been a graduation present to my IP class from Phil Sause, the Maryland program manager, and it was full of coffee that I had set up to perk before going to bed the night before. It would suffice. Instead, I could get to the range early and do some practicing. If the Porta-San was locked back-tracking to a nearby McDonalds would not take much time.

I had read in e-mail that two senior instructors, Victor Ponte and Henry Winokur, had repainted the motorcycle instruction range the previous Monday, but was still pleasantly surprised by what I found upon arrival. The bright paint was a big improvement. We would spend a lot less time, this year, speculating about where to put cones for the different exercises.

For the next twenty minutes I rode the course. I worked the box for figure-eights until I began to feel a bit tired. I was able to do the larger box for the experienced rider course--larger as people in that course are riding bikes much larger than those provided for beginning riders--consistently. Most of the time I was able to ride the smaller box without going outside the lines although it meant nearly sitting at a standstill at some points while turning. Good practice.

I parked for a cup of coffee and others started showing up. Donald, first; he walked the course admiring the work. "Man, they did a good job," he kept repeating. His more experienced eye spotted some added features I had missed. Henry showed up on his civilian-ized police BMW and rode the course for many minutes before joining us. Then Paul, and Michele, and Gill and finally the IP students began showing up.

The day went well. I was grateful for the chance to see the work being done again before I would have to lead it. Listening to the guidance of the senior instructors was very enlightening as well. I could use a lot that I was observing as good examples for any future project management class that I might teach.

I got to teach one class near the end of the course, one of the easier ones: matching gears to speed. The IP students had not yet ridden that one, so they got out a few more bikes so they could ride the last few exercises under our guidance. After an emotional week at work that had put an end to daytime employment just in time for Spring, it was a very good feeling to look up, at the conclusion of the exercise, and see Maryland MVA's QA manager clapping and praising work well done.

A couple of exercises later, I was set to instruct again, set up the cones, but before it began one of the IP students, a member of the BMWBMW club, asked to teach it. He also did a great job and I enjoyed watching a new instructor taking charge, particularly as he was also a fellow BMW rider.

I noticed Paul eating a peanut butter sandwich.

"You know," I said, "I think I'm going to buy a loaf of bread and turn the whole loaf into peanut butter sandwiches."

Henry overheard me. "Why? Where you planning to go?" he asked.

I had to change gears, mentally. I had been thinking that it would be cool just to have a loaf of pre-made sandwiches in the 'fridge for every day consumption, but I was planning a trip and I had read ride stories where riders subsisted on peanut butter sandwiches while on the road.

"Well," I replied, "next weekend I'm going to Asheville, North Carolina."

Henry had a route to explore: 29 south then a diagnol to 40. "Send me an e-mail and I'll send it to you," he offered.

Paul and I then resumed the conversation about peanut butter, and how he preferred the natural food varieties. I had seen him eating his sandwiches last year. They were probably a great way of saving money compared to some of the places I might stop on the road.

"Yeah, but they're good and very nutritional, too!" he concluded with a smile.

After the training finished, we took care of time cards, and locked up. Henry had discussed, on-line, going to Bob's BMW for the flea market. We needed a quick bite to eat and decided to stop at the Old Town Gaithersburg Brewery for a hamburger. I spent $8.00 on some passable seafood gumbo. Henry's hamburger smelled pretty good.

After lunch, Henry led me on the back roads to Bob's, avoiding 108 which had become my customary back-road route. Instead, we took Brookeville Rd. until it became Brighton Dam Rd, took Brighton to a right at Scaggsville Rd., then a left onto Pindell School Rd., and right on Gorman which took us over 95 to Highway 1 about a mile south of Guilford Road.

That route provided a number of pleasant turns, narrow bridges, and single-lane roads through wooded hollows. As the trees are only beginning to blossom and do not yet have folliage, I could also admire a number of expansive estates and wonder how many people living in them had enough free time to spend a Saturday riding. Then the question, in my own mind: whether my remaining part-time work, teaching Microsoft networking in the evenings, would provide enough income to allow me to go riding? I would at least have the days before class.... For longer trips... let's see, if I put all my stuff into storage and let my landlady rent the apartment I'm in as furnished, month-to-month, so I don't have to move furniture, but could have a place to come back to in a few months....

Approaching Brighton Dam, I saw a Goldwing parked in the pull-off parking area on our side. One of these days, I'll have to pack a lunch and enjoy it there. The couple who belonged to the goldwing were in the middle of the bridge on a walkway on the opposite side looking at something in the air behind me with binoculars. I wished that I had a camera attached to my helmet to get a picture of them, in their matching riding attire, enjoying their destination.

At Bob's the flea market was in full swing. Shane and Banshee, from the BMWBMW club showed up with Shane's brother. I went inside to pick up some small parts I had ordered. The crowd at the parts and accesories counter was three-deep, but moved fast. I came back outside to see the Bar-b-que guy packing up to leave. Too late to top off that gumbo with something more substantial.

Henry looked at me funny, "What are you complaining about, we just ate? What are you turning into, a Goldwing rider?"

"Hey," he says as an afterthought, "maybe you could get a job at Bob's."

The problem with working at Bob's would be that there would be less time to ride and I would be surrounded by reminders of riding. Working for a BMW dealer would be the next best thing to riding, perhaps, but it would also be a kind of perverted torture.

"What I need is to find an editor who will pay me to travel and write about the places and people I meet."

"Good luck," he replied.

Sunday, March 19, 2006


Rick and Isabelle sponsored a Tech Day at their home in Poolesville.

Saturday, March 18, 2006

Sidecars at Bob's

Periodically, Bob's is holding open houses featuring different classes of motorcycles. I happened to catch the side-car day.

Sunday, March 12, 2006

Weekend Riding

Met former spouse & friend, Ann, in Germantown for coffee Saturday morning at Royal Bakery & Deli, an incredibly good Bakery. Then knocked around the back roads until I ran into 32. Took 32 to Bob's, then to Annapolis, then to lunch at Adams Ribs in Edgewater before returning to the DC area.

Pictures from my phone camera are not of the highest quality, but I caught John Galvan giving some advice to a customer. John was suffering through the day with back troubles that have been with him for some time and resisting the temptation to take a pain pill that would put him in La-La land.

As I was leaving, I spotted a BMWBMW club family and had to get a picture. Sometimes a spouse and a family do not have to get in the way of riding! Here, it's the husband who is in charge of two kids. Very cool.

Next day, today, got up early to meet a group of friends in the BMWBMW motorcycle club for a ride to the monthly meeting at Morton's, a BMW motorcycle dealer in Fredericksburg, VA. The plan was to meet a few people for coffee, then to ride to the Lincoln Memorial to meet up with others for the ride to Fredericksburg.

We got off to a bad start, meeting for coffee. Woodside Deli did not open until 8 and we were suppose to meet at 7. I was the first to get there and discover it. The coffee shop and bakery, Heidi's, across the street was open and I had heard many times that it was an especially good place, also. So, I waited for a break in traffic, and scooted across the street into their parking lot. I ordered coffee and began eating a great cinnamon roll, then saw a member of the club who goes by the on-line name of "Wired Cur." I ran outside, waved to him, and he rolled over. While he was parking, and I was back at my table chatting to people at the next table, I looked up to see another member and friend who was just coming to a stop in the middle left-hand turn lane, get suddenly and forcefully hit from behind by a small SUV.

The next two words out of my mouth weren't polite. Several of us ran to help him and to get the broken bike and salvageable pieces out of the road. Thankfully, he had no major injuries, but instead of eating breakfast, we ran home to get his pickup truck, a short hop, then took the bike home and got his other bike to go to the meeting.

One of the casualties of the accident was a bell that several of the club riders put on their bikes for good luck.

The day improved after that. We arrived at the Lincoln Memorial just as a group who had met on a different side of the Memorial gave up on waiting for the main group of riders. They arrived at a light, coming from our left, the same time we did. They had a green light, and we were able to negotiate the stopped traffic on our side of the intersection and fall in behind them. What timing!

On the way out of the DC area, we stopped for gas at the Glebe Road exit from 66. This taught me a great meeting and jumping off point for future use. We then agreed just to take the highways, and about ten of us made the rest of the trip in good time in light early-Sunday-morning traffic. I was impressed, by some of the skill of our leader, in negotiating lane changes for us. He had a lot more experience in club riding than me, and the trick he pulled, getting in the next right lane and motioning for us all to pass him so that we could pull in ahead of him was very cool.

It was my first visit to Morton's, and that made it worth the drive, alone. Otherwise, it had been a long time since I had seen some of the faces who were there--since the Christmas party, anyway. The meeting was fun.

I purchased replacement parts for my helmet and a "Long Way Round" DVD.

After the meeting, several of us went to lunch at the Hard Times Cafe, next door. There I had the pleasure of sitting next to Henry Winokur, who is the manager of motorcycle safety training at Montgomery Community College, in Gaithersburg, where I'll teach--one of my bosses.

It gave me a chance to ask a question that was on my mind. In MSF training, we require that all braking include the use of all four fingers of the right hand applied to the front brake lever. In dirt riding, there are plenty of articles about doing otherwise. Riding in traffic, I often find myself cheating with fingers on both the throttle and the brake, knowing it will reduce my reaction time if I need to brake.

He pointed out that the risk of not using the all four fingers is that the brake on some bikes won't be able to be fully applied if fingers are trapped between it and the throttle. Good point. Just because my bike's brake lever is adjusted so this won't happen, who knows when I might be riding a bike that is not.

I have already learned two reasons for using both front and rear brakes even though I have an integrated braking system along with ABS. One, you want to have good habits for when you ride another bike--such as a loaner from your dealer, during service. Two, it turns out that the integrated bikes do not use both the front disc brakes until you use the front brake lever. It was good to get some good advice over chili.

Then, even better, Henry got out a map and sorted out some of the back roads off of Highway 1, further North, that took us to 66, instead of slabbing 95 to the beltway. The back roads of Virginia were a nice treat, with horse ranches, and a refreshment break at Arden for more conversation between fellow BMW riders. One of whom was Frank Parisi who has a business selling motorcycle accessories on the Internet: BMW MOCS.