Sunday, December 17, 2006

The Rock (take two)

Chris Zink and I got out for a ride, today. Thurmont and then to the Rock. Anybody who hasn't made the trip up to the Rock is in need of it!

There were lots of motorcycles. Right after we got parked and dismounted, Chris spotted a Harley with a Santa and Christmas decorations. We walked over to take a look and a whole crew of riders streamed into the parking area, behind us.

Here's the Santa Clause

I took a few pictures to try to capture the effect of how the rock sits so high and overlooks so much.

Chris is helping a group of cyclists get a group photo.

Standing atop the rock and shooting down into the valley. Those are fairly big barns, down there.

There was an Aprila and two KTM's that we admired at some length. One had a great camera mount. Darned if I can remember what he called it, but I NEED one of those! He described how he could take still pictures running down the road, but because of vibration might get two or three good ones out of ten, but those were two or three he would not have had otherwise.

This sign provided me some insight into the how hang gliding is becoming a more regulated and safer activity.

A bit of the scenery before lunch.

I bought a Bob Dylan CD at the Starbucks on the way home after Chris and I parted near Emmitsburg. First song, and his guitar is out of tune. Things don't always have to be perfect to be perfect -- the opposite of my thoughts during the ride that I shared with Chris: how virtue seems to disapear if one looks at it too closely. Humility is something we appreciate in others, but as soon as we see it in ourselves and say, "Hey, I have humility!" the spell is broken. George Soros tried to interest philosophy professors in his pursuing such a notion as a course of study. They failed to appreciate the proposal, and one of his greatest disapointments, he says in his book, is not having become a philosopher.

Now, of course, he can endow a few institutions for such purposes, if he wants.

Guess we might invite him to take a motorcycling class.

Saturday, December 16, 2006

Nice Day, but no Riding

My friend, Mindy, needed a ride to the Baltimor/Washington International Airport, this morning. Well, she needed me to drop her off and bring her car back as it's cheaper than paying for parking. I had stayed up pretty late, last night, so slept in then did not get ready until just before she came by.

After dropping her off, I went to breakfast at Daniel's, a biker hangout next to Speed Cycles on Highway 1 in Elk Ridge. The Highway 1 exit was very convienient to BWI airport. I order, and open Niel Peart's "Ghost Rider" to continue reading, while sipping a diet coke and waiting for my food.

The book tells about the author's travels across Canada, and in the part I'm reading now, he is in the North-West of the United States. He describes spending a pleasant afternoon and night in Boise, then getting up the next morning, eschewing the latte places with parking lots full of pickup trucks, and heads out.

He ends up eating, and I can't believe my eyes, at a family diner in Weiser (pronounced wee-zer), Idaho.

Well, that was where I spent many years, growing up -- a hometown to me a friend who I often visit in New Jersey. He didn't name the restaurant, but he said it was just outside of town, so that narrows it down to either the Beehive on the South East, or May's Shack on the North East, at either end of the where the truck Route cuts across the eastern part of town -- East 7th, if I remember correctly from my paper route days, delivering papers in the winter on an 80cc Yamaha with knobby tires.

I have a coffee cup, purchased from the Beehive, during one of the high school reunions. May's Shack was redone, and I remember a very good meal there. It was hardly the dive roadhouse that I remembered from high school days when we use to spend hours drinking coffee, smoking cigarettes, and occasionally playing guitars to Seranade Edna, an elderly waitress who was always good-humoured and a friend to many, who in later years found themselves with bad habits and less and less oportunity.

I turned to the guy next to me, at Daniel's. "What a coincidence," I told him. Then I explained about the book and Weiser. That turned into a pleasant discussion of our own about the dream of having enough money to just go riding -- and the notion that some people get around the world on motorcycles without much money.

I dropped by Bob's BMW on the way home, bought a bulb for my rear brake light. I've read that one should always have a spare. It was a small thing -- less than $2.00 -- but a positive step toward the next time when I can go down the road with no fixed end date.

Thursday, December 14, 2006

Second trip to the doctor

Epidurals are not as bad as you might expect, but they're no fun. The second one went quicker than the first one. Afterward, I sat across the Street at the Something Special Coffee Shop, in Laurel and spent an hour observing the soreness in my back. It wasn't improving fast. Nevertheless, I made a short hop up highway-one to Bob's BMW and then West to the Four Seasons Restaurant on 70 for lunch, before heading home.

This time I remembered to take pictures of the great lunch. It came to $12, including a two-dollar tip.

There were two other riders from Baltimore who were excited to learn about Bob's BMW and the Saturday activities.

In trying to avoid high-conflict routes where there is a lot of traffic, one sometimes... well, ones GPS sometimes provides a different kind of conflict: End of pavement!

Turn around? ...or move forward hoping that it will be short and not too bad? Actually, I had driven the road many years ago and didn't remember it being that bad.

It took two days before my back started to feel better. This morning, three aspirin seemed to end the complaints.

Thursday, December 07, 2006

BMW HP2 Baja

If I hit the lottery, there will be a place in my garage for an HP2. I somehow think that I could ride the Baja even though I've not been on a dirt bike in years. Also, I envy those journalists who get paid to cover such things.

Sunday, December 03, 2006

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Army-Navy Saturday Ride

December 2nd, and the weather is absolutely beckoning! I wasted no time, after waking up, getting dressed and out for the ride. Where to go? Bob's for a donut? Going out the door, I spotted a bottle of S100 that I use for cleaning the bike, when I do wash it. The last weekend, I had finished one of Chris Zink's bottles. I could take this to her place then decide on what next.

A new member in the BMWBMW club recently posted a ride report that reminded me that one of the things I like almost as much as the ride is writing about the ride. Today, I would look for photographic opportunities.

I like to begin my weekend rides with short hop up Sligo Creak Parkway. It gets me warmed up with a few tight turns as it follows the course of Sligo Creek. It was a beautiful, crisp morning.

Sligo Creek Parkway is not a path to follow when it is or recently has been raining. The creek quickly fills and overflows, knocking down bridges and trees.

The sun was going to be bright. I needed to change my visor to the tinted one. The normal process for doing this was taught to me by Coleen, at Bob's, back when she was working in the accessories department. I remember her well because she reminded me of my great aunt and my first wife.

Meeting Coleen opened my eyes to the fact that I had first married a woman who reminded me of my Great Aunt, Clara Hatton. I had not considered the resemblance until Coleen reminded me of both of them. Coleen did not seem to appreciate knowing that she reminded me of somebody two generations older.

I actually proposed to auntie Clara, asking her if she would marry me, when I was five or six. She never married but had a very successful life as a college professor, becoming the head of Colorado State University's art department for many years. The exhibit gallery in their new art department building bears her name.

Clara taught me pottery in a studio behind her house that she had converted from a garage adding a kiln, a work bench and a pottery wheel. After much begging, she got me started on oil painting, and this is a story I remember with some humor -- her telling me, "I will teach you what I can, but if you want to know anything about modern art, I'm sorry, I can't help you. I just do not understand it." She repeated that phrase twice. I never forgot and wondered for many years why she felt it so important to say that. It was not like her to belittle the tastes of others. Years later, as I prepared to teach a particularly challenging technical class, it hit me that even though her student was only 5 or 6, her integrity required that she provide some disclaimer concerning the limits of her knowledge and ability to teach.

Well, the upshot of this is that she fought for many years for a new art building. After she retired, the department finally got one. She was invited to the opening and the dedication of the gallery. I think that I was in the Philippines and could not attend. Years later, after she passed, I was in Denver with my family for Christmas at Grandmother's: her surviving sister's. My Dad and my brothers hopped in my rental car and made a pilgrimage North to Fort Collins to visit the neighborhoods where he grew up, the house his mother (a third grade teacher) had lived in and where I had spent a semester of High School while attending Poudre, and we visited the art building. It tickled me that it was a very impressive and very functional bit of very modern architecture.

Anyway, when Coleen showed me how to change visor's, I might have detected a hint of good-humored condescension that she had to show this guy how to do something so basic. The process I repeated ever since went pretty much like she showed me. I would find a flat place to work, or get off my bike and use the seat, setting the new visor aside, and the felt holder/protector aside, then pulling the visor of the Arai helmet up so that the tabs popped out, lifting them, then removing the visor. I place it in the protective cover, then went through the gyrations of installing the replacement visor. The installation, for me was the hard part, and I had managed to break some of the plastic parts more than once, prompting another visit to the parts counter at Bob's.

More lube might have been a good idea.

Because the Winter days are so short, I need to change the visor more frequently. I'm more apt to begin and end the riding day while it is dark. Earlier, last week, I tried changing the visor without removing the helmet. Removal went well, but not the replacement. Maybe with practice...

Today, I sat in a parking area near Sligo Creek and decided to try it without dismounting. I removed the replacement from the tank bag, and took off my helmet. I faced the helmet away from me the way Coleen had taught me, removed the replacement visor from its protective sleeve and balanced the sleeve easily enough on the instrument console. Then, holding the replacement visor in one hand, I lifted the visor of the helmet until the tabs popped out with the other hand, then without setting the replacement visor down, with the free hand I lifted the tabs then lifted the visor out of the helmet. Still holding the removed visor in one hand, I found I was able to align and install its replacement from the other hand without having to set either one down and risk their falling off or becoming scratched. Big improvement.

Still, I'm going to practice changing visors with the helmet on my head.

I set the GPS to take me to Chris Zink's house by the "shortest" rather than the fastest route.

Continuing up Sligo, the GPS soon prompted me to make an unusual turn. Usually I go to Colesville Rd, Maryland Rt 29, and take it to the freeway -- avoiding Georgia, where I and another experienced friend both were rear-ended by inattentive, immigrant, middle-eastern drivers. The GPS said to take a right on Worth. Realizing it was a short cut that I had seen others darting into, I tried it. It took me to a left on Franklin and then to Colesville, giving me an easy right turn and missing the more congested light where Sligo crosses 29. Cool.

Later, on my return, I enjoyed catching a left on Franklin, while the light on Sligo held up oncoming traffic.

Don't you just love it when life presents you with ways of doing things more easily?

I figured I would find breakfast along the way. McDonald's was tempting. I continued up 29, then North on New Hampshire through Cloverly. I had never noticed the name of that neighborhood. I noted a parking lot full of police cars and was tempted to see where they were eating. As I was already moving past, I decided to save that location for a future exploration when I did not have a destination, already.

It was pretty cold. 30's? I passed a guy jogging with loose-fitting shorts over his tights. It reminded me of ladies at the Peace Corps that invited me to go running in the cold with them. I was shy about running in tights. This guy had that solution. But as I rode on I inwardly chided myself on the need for modesty.

The GPS gave me a right on Ednor -- another new turn and a new road that proved to be a real pleasure. I rode past great houses, many for sale signs (have I missed a bet, not trying Real Estate sales?), and many of the houses had garages for more than one vehicle. What else does a motorcyclist look at first?

I saw through some trees a sun-lit picture of horses grazing in a pasture. Riding a motorcycle, I had no trouble making a couple of U-turns, then pulling into the narrow grassy area next to the fence, out of traffic on the narrow two-lane, to take a picture.

The road took me over a bridge with a pretty view of Rocy Gorge Reservoir, past a bow hunting area...

"Gee," I wondered, "I should probably be alert for deer."

Rounding another curve the pavement turned red. Somebody earlier hadn't been looking out for deer, it seemed. I saw a house setting on a hill behind the bare trees -- a view that the foliage of other seasons would have hidden. Neat place to live.

The road changed it's name to Brown Bridge Road. I knew I had passed that road riding to another destination, but when? Then, a left on Scaggsville Road. I remembered my GPS telling me, more than a year before, to use Scaggsville Road on a trip to Gaithersburg from Bob's and eschewing it for 32 to 108 never dreaming there could be such a scenic route closer-in to the beltway. Scaggsville Road quickly took me to a right on 108 at the intersection where I have often enjoyed shopping in Boarman's Market, a rural grocery store with a great butcher who reminds me of the wry wit of Mr. Adams, back home in Weiser, Idaho.

108 took me North for a gas stop at the Exxon station, in Clarksville, at the Hwy 32 interchange. There, I called Chris and made sure I could drop by. I always enjoy the next two legs of the trip to her place from 32 -- North to a left on Sheppard Ln, and Sheppard to a Left at a traffic circle on Folly Quarter Rd.

My bike manages traffic circles so much better with a new shock!

I thought about visiting the grass air strip and the private single-engine planes, slowed for a car coming out of the Franciscan monastery estate. The wooden fence did a good job of blocking his view of the road. Passing a few bicyclists, I was soon at Chris's. She was packing for a noon flight to Tucson, AZ.

"I looked at the weather report. It's all 67 and sunny until Wednesday when it gets cloudy and goes up to 71," she would tell me.

She would miss her motorcycle and her doggie-family while she was gone, however.

In one of the pictures, you can see the obstacle course that Chris has set up in her back yard for agility training. It surprises me the number of motorcyclists I've met with connections to agility training or other competitive dog events.

Chris is something of an authority, having written a book or two. Never mind being selected to be the head of her veterinarian Medicine department at Johns Hopkins. She was even invited to an ocean cruise, once, as a guest lecturer for a cruise with fellow dog enthusiasts.

"What are you up to?" she asked.

"I don't know. I need to get some breakfast. Maybe McDonald's... maybe the Four Seasons."

Leaving, I continued up Folly Quarter, enjoying the scenery so much that I had to double-back for a right on Walt Ann Drive, a short cut to Tridelphia Road, then a left on Rosemary to 32. I liked getting to 32 without having to double back on my path to 108. I thought about taking 144 to the Four Seasons restaurant, but hunger was getting the better of me. It was only 10:30, but I had not had breakfast.

Perhaps 70 would be leisurely on a Saturday morning? Not!

I about got iced out by an unyielding semi (Maine plates on trailer; Frederick, MD address on its cab) at the on-ramp. Falling in, behind I found the center and left lanes full of tailgaters. I watched the semi, at 80 mph, jockeying for positions, alternating through each lane, ahead of me and decided to let some time build between us.

I couldn't remember which exit it was, but knew that I would see the Four Seasons Restaurant on the left. I did not remember that there had been advertisements for the Four Seasons on the freeway, but as I neared the exit to Highway 27, they were advertised. I noted signs that would have got me to the restaurant even if I had not remembered the location from a poker run a couple of years back and occasional return visits, since.

The parking lot was full, but I got lucky with a space in front so I could watch my bike from a window while I ate. I noted a Japanese crotch rocket parked in another space and a helmet with a BMW rondel on it, but never saw the rider.

I had a very good and reasonably-priced meal: ham, eggs over-medium, toast, homefries with onions, and coffee & orange juice that with a two-dollar tip only came to $10.00. I ate it all then wished I had taken a picture to share what a good meal it was.

After breakfast, I rode West on Penn Shop Road to a right on Kemptown and an immediate left on Clarksburg. All most pleasant roads. More horses in pastures and I could see they were wearing their heavy winter coats. I figured to find my way eventually to the Muddy Branch Starbucks, in Gaithersburg, before getting to my American Legion for the Army Navy game festivities. I took Clarksburg Road past Bethesda Church then doubled-back on a beckoning single-lane Barnes Rd. that, before it was done, brought me into some new housing. A left on Browningsville Rd. took me past a number of economical looking hilltop homes. I wondered at their winter heating bills given their exposure. A left on 75 took me to 355 which I took South until reconnection with Clarksburg Rd. Highway 270 then let me fast-forward to Sam Eig and the Starbucks.

At Starbucks, I got a cup of tea, scored a stuffed chair, read a chapter of Niel Peart's Ghost Rider, and took a short nap. After the nap and a bit more reading, I was off to the Legion and the game, where for a small donation I enjoyed the benefits of a potluck provided by the past-commanders of the Post.

I don't watch a lot of sports on television, but think that I'll make the Army/Navy game at the legion a tradition.