Saturday, January 27, 2007

Radar Detector for my wishlist

Who's Where?

This isn't cheap. I followed the last Iron Butt competition using the web interface, and my fellow students got a lot out of following the routes with me. We might have given birth to a few new riders, that week.

The advertising hints that this might be useful in helping to recover a stolen bike. I'll have to check again to see how big this thing is.

Friday, January 26, 2007

What's with the back?

Probably there are other motorcyclists who have back issues. It helped me to read in one of the magazines, a columnist who mentioned that he was going in for his fourth back operation.

My doctors have questioned whether riding the motorcycle is good for my back. My conclusion has been that it is probably better than riding in a car (that may depend upon the car), and certainly better for me than commuting by public transportation where I must walk and stand and wait a lot.

This week, as I wrote last night, I took the bike to Bob's BMW to add some new rear lighting. That was Tuesday, after work. I picked it up, last night and rode it home. Today, is Friday. I have plans in town that may involve a beer or two after work. So, I'm on public transportation, again.

I can report that while I feel the strength of muscles in my back improving, and am gaining the ability to walk further without immediate consequences, that while sitting and working, the pain is pretty much the same whether I've commuted by bus or by bike.

I will increase the use of my pain pills. Even though I have non-narcotic medicine, I prefer to limit the masking of symptoms so that I may better pay attention to what is going on. ...I meant, with my back, but realize that the pain pills do cause drowsiness as well.

As the back interferes with my sleep at night, the last thing I need, during the day, is something to make me drowsier!

Thursday, January 25, 2007


Put a rack on the top of the top box. It has lights on the back. It's kind of funny that I put so much thought into not getting hit at night from the back but got clobbered by an asshole during the day.

Anyway, it had been snowing earlier. I had to brush ice off of the seat. I thought about whether I needed to hook up my Gerbing gloves for heat. About that time it started to snow, again. That answered the question.

The clouds had been looking mighty. I kept admiring them as we rode up to get the bike. They reminded me of storms that we use to watch rolling up across the plains in Colorado. I knew they meant snow, but couldn't help relishing the reminder of places West.

By the time I got down 95 to the beltway the pine trees in the median were topped with snow, as was the grass. It doesn't take much snow to change the whole picture, and what color there is stands in dark contrast to a landscape that is almost black and white.

Snowplow crew waiting on a cut-over in the median probably figured I was some fool city kid on a new bike.

I opened up my face mask to see better, despite the bite of the cold.

"Damn, I'm glad I plugged in those gloves, but it hardly feels like they're working!"

The radio mentioned that the roads would be wet because of anti-icing chemicals laid down last Sunday. That explained it. The pavement stayed sharp, but I stayed cautious and slow on the ramps.

Sure was good to be home at last.

She's sure a good looking bike.

Sunday, January 21, 2007


Yesterday was cold. Lucky I had the Gerbing heated clothing plugged into the bike. I rode to the doctor, to Bob's, to the Dutch Farmers' Market on 29 & 198, and then to the BMWBMW club Tech Day where I stood around mostly outside, before returning home. All the time, I don't think the thermometer on my fairing rose above 30 degrees Fahrenheit.

It was a pretty day though, for riding. The clouds were fluffy and did not hide all the blue sky. My bike is big enough that the 30 and 40 mph gusting crosswinds only make it interesting. Still, when they talk about wind chill factor on the news, they are thinking about people standing still, not cruising down the freeway at 65 mph.

At Bob's I wanted to pick up a grommet that I had misplaced during my assembly after the welding a couple weeks ago. I was not disappointed that the wrong part got ordered. What they had for me was a metal insert for a grommet -- nothing I recognized for my bike. I was not disappointed as I did not really relish the idea of doing any maintenance in the cold at Tech Day. Now, I could just drop by then skidaddle.

I already have an appointment for next week to get a rack with additional rear lights added to the top of my rear top-box. They can have a grommet here by then. To be sure, I went back to the service department and set the planned maintenance back another day.

There, I mentioned to John, as I munched a chocolate iced chocolate donut along with a cup of coffee -- both provided free at Bob's BMW every Saturday -- that the doctor had just impressed upon me the need to eliminate such delicacies. He reached under the counter and produced a bag of nuts.

"Yeah, the doctor has me on medicine for high blood pressure and high cholesterol and I'm about to rebell," he said.

"My Dad had the same problem on that kind of medicine and did rebell," I allowed.

"He's not alive anymore, huh?"


Daryl, two seats down at the service counter razzed John about his eating habits.

John got a bit feisty with his reply: "I'm sitting six feet away from donuts and you don't see me eating a donut."

Daryl nodded.

John turned to me. "I switched to these nuts so I won't eat donuts."

"Interesting timing. My doctor also recommended nuts, this morning."

In fact, he had recommended unsalted peanuts after confirming that I do not suffer from diverticulitis, but I will gladly broaden that behavior just a bit.

John gave me directions to the Dutch Farmer's Market and the vendor inside who would sell me a weeks supply of "dieter's nuts" for five dollars.

Somehow in the course of the conversation John let slip that he had had a bought with cancer, recently. I had known that he had some health issues with his back, and more recently missed work due to some problem with his knee, but nobody had clued me in that it was anything to do with cancer.

I had mentioned, to Mark the welder who I had been told was a friend of John's, that he would not be able to reach John, on the day that I dropped my bike off.

"He's out sick today. He is having some trouble with his knee."

"That is the least of his troubles," Mark replied.

So, I guess I did have a clue.

I enjoyed how John and Mark told good stories about each other. At Bob's, John told me how he wanted to modify a bike so that it looked like a factory racer. He asked John to remove the brackets for the center-stand and to do what he could to disguise the fact that they had ever been there. It was something of a prestige thing among the racers. Well, the work was done so well that there was no way of telling at all.

When John asked Mark how much the bill was, Mark's response was, "You can't afford it."

"He never gave me a bill," John told me. I could tell by his smile that he still appreciated the help.

At Mark's, Mark allowed as to how John was a stranger, when he first came to the East Coast. "John had a lot of friends out in California, and everybody knew him there. Here, he had to start all over. He brought me some work. Then, later, when Bob's needed some work done and nobody else was available, he brought me some of their work. I did a good enough job that I've been getting their work ever since."

Both of them would switch gears and start describing their current interest in the hot rods. If you were to build your own hot rod, knowing a machinist who likes hot rods also could be a really good thing.

This morning, the next day, I woke up thinking about playing my guitar. My friend Susan has been after me about the fact that I've not been playing. She knows that, like the motorcycle, the guitar has a special place in my heart. Somehow she also knows that it's a matter of mental health and personal happiness to enjoy such things.

So, I woke up with the words of the easiest song I know going through my head: Kris Kristofferson's "Me and Bobby McGee."

"Freedom's just another word for nothin' left to lose"

Then I guess it was only proper that on a Sunday morning, Bob Dylan would next come to mind, singing, "I will be released."

Now, to install updates, virus protection, and all on my laptop that went South, yesterday. Better the laptop than the motorcycle.

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Watching the Back

Martin Luther King weekend, being a federal holiday would normally be a three-day weekend. It turned into a four-day weekend, for me. Friday morning I woke after a very restless night. My back was already aching and my legs feeling the kind of shooting pain that I had not felt for many weeks -- since my third epidural. So, I called in sick.

I did not get to stay home and rest all day, though. My landlady's car was in the shop, and she needed to get to the bank to cash a check to pay her mortgage. I also had a doctor's appointment at 4:00 PM. I put her on the back for the trip to the bank, brought her back home, then headed to the doctor's appointment. Still I managed to spend most of the day catching up on the sleep I had missed the night before, napping in my easy chair.

Saturday I got a short ride in, but Sunday and Monday I was not up to it. I commuted the five-or-so miles to work and back, on Tuesday. While I was not feeling comfortable at work, back pain was not unbearable. I called my doctor and asked whether they could send a prescription to a drugstore near my home, but they prevailed upon me to pick it up at 4:30 in Laurel. After the ride out there, I knew it was as short a distance to Bob's BMW as to go home. Knowing there was a Ride-to-Eat with the BMW club in Elicott City, just a short ride from there, I planned to take a long sitting break at Bob's then get to the restaurant.

On the way up Highway One, from Laurel, after stopping for the medicine and resting for many minutes in the waiting room, I noticed that electric gear was not working. I switched accessory jacks, but it still was not working. Good thing I was going to Bob's.

Indeed I had blown two fuses, one for each outlet. The first was a fifteen-amp fuse. The second was only ten amps. I had two 15-amp fuses in my tool bag in the right saddle bag, so replaced both fuses with 15-amp fuses. Next week I may upgrade them to 20 amps. I only had 10 amp fuses for back-ups left, but did not want to spend even two dollars for more fuses.

After an hour of rest and a warming cup of coffee, I headed to Elicott City by back roads. The GPS does a good job of finding them if I set it to give me the direct path instead of the fastest. I noticed, however, that my GPS kept losing power and switching to its batteries. At one point, I had to stop and replace the batteries. I had some rechargeable ones in my tank bag.

Arriving at the restaurant early, I took out my flash light and took time to investigate the trouble. The repairs to the bike, the last week, had apparently pulled the new fuse box that I installed a few months ago loose and the power wire was only making intermittent contact. I completely disconnected the power, and decided to wait until Saturday's tech day to fix it.

I had a bowl of vegetarian chili and several coffees while chatting with other riders and enjoyed some budding friendships. Then I beat feet home and went to bed. The temperature was falling and by morning was at 27.

At work, my back immediately started complaining, and the pains frequently shot down my leg. It is weird, but riding the motorcycle, I seldom notice such pains. However, there is a pain that hits me in my right hip that mostly occurs while riding.

More than one friend has speculated with me that my riding days may be numbered. I suppose that is a good excuse for being a bit grumpy, lately.

Thursday, January 11, 2007

Back together

It was one thing to get the bike to the welder's shop and take it apart so he could do the necessary welding. It was another thing to put it all back together.

I was definitely worried.

Josh, at Bob's BMW, had given me the directions to Metal Specialties, in Spencerville. The last thing he told me was, "remember to disconnect the battery." So, of course that was the foremost thing in my mind when I got there, Tuesday night at 4:30. I parked outside the shop, broke out the allen wrench and started dismantling. By the time I got the top box, seats, and tank off, and the battery disconnected, it was getting pretty dark. I tried not to think about how much harder it would be putting it back together, the next day.

To get to the battery of the R1200 CLC cruiser, you have to remove the gas tank. I had done it once before, so was a little more confident. I wondered why I had not remembered to have the tank near empty after the last time, however.

Mark Bailey, the owner, came out to see how I was doing. There was one screw I could not get out on the right-hand side saddle bag. It was stripped. The rest was done.

"I should have brought the cover for the bike," I said.

"No need," he replied. He offered to help me push it up the small rise and into his garage and work shop. Most of the the parts fit into the top box. I loaded it, the gas tank and the seats into a friend, Susan's, car so they would not be in the way at the shop, and we stopped for pizza on the way home.

The next afternoon I didn't get off work quite as early. Susan picked me up at the Metro. Traffic wasn't great. We had to stop for gas. I forced myself to stay calm and bought a bottle of water to make sure I wasn't dehydrating -- thus preventing additional irritation. On the way out I tried not to think about the task ahead and silently said a prayer. It was colder, and I would have less time.

The bike was sitting in the driveway, so I got to work. It was not easy remembering what screws went where but I organized them as best I could. Lining up the gas tank, I realized that I was missing the grommets that held its rear mounts away from the frame. This scared me. I remembered what they looked like from the last time I had removed the tank, but I did not recall seeing them this time, and they were not among my parts.

It occurred to me that before I put parts into the top box, I was using one of the saddlebags. Mark had asked me to leave him the left one so he could line things up, and the right one he still had because I could not get all the screws out. So, they were already back on the bike. I looked inside and there was one of the needed grommets. Not seeing the other and not being able to go much further without it, I finally went looking for Mark.

The sign on the side-door to his garage said "OPEN." I opened it and hollered.

No answer.

He might be in the house?

I went through the shop to the door to the house and knocked.

Again, no answer.

I checked the door knob. It wasn't locked. So, I figured I would open it and holler.

Still, no answer.

I started to to worry that he might have had a stroke. What if he was inside on the floor?

Then he hollered back. Whew!

I waited and he came out. I showed him the grommet.

"Have you seen another one of these?"

"Yes, I found one and put it in your saddle bag."

"Ah! Yes, that's where I found this one. I'll have to keep looking.

It was clearly getting dark faster than the motorcycle was going together and the temperature was dropping. The weather forecast promised low 30's. I was therefore very grateful when Mark again suggested that we push the bike into the garage.

Once I had the side stand down, I asked him where he had found the grommet. He pointed to the flat part of the rear suspension.

"It was sitting on top of the swingarm."

That made sense. I went around to the other side and looked. There the other one was! Now, I could get started.

His shop was heated and well equipped. It turns out that he had lots of experience with motorcycles as well as helping people build hot rods. While I worked on reassembling my bike, he worked on an exhaust manifold that he had create by welding together steel tubing. It would be for a '32 Ford, he told us.

He thoughtfully provided a small jack that got the bike up-right and off the ground so that I didn't have to work so hard to keep the top-box and its mounting bracket in place atop the rear fender, while screwing it down. A drop light, held by Susan, helped me line up the screw holes for the gas tank so it went back together more easily than than the last time I had to do it. This time I found a way to use a screw driver as a lever to push the tank forward and up then hold it where the holes lined up as I got the allen screw started. That held it steady and more precisely than I could have done with just my hands. Once I got both screws tightened, I realized that I had used the wrong set of screws, but swapping them out with the correct set with the larger washer went quickly.

"You sure are sweating," he pointed out.

I had taken off my riding jacket, the Garmin liner and my tie but was still sweating profusely.

"Are you okay?"

I told him that I thought so.

"Well, I sure don't want you to have a heart attack and have to haul you out of her."

Only later did I realize, with a chuckle, that I had had a similar concern about him moments earlier.

As I went to seat the bracket for the top box, I found myself missing another grommet, one that I had just seen and wondered where it went. It never did turn up. Not a major problem. It would be okay with grommet for only five of the six mounting screws until Bob's BMW could get me another. More disconcerting was discovering that I was missing four screws to hold on the side vanity flanges, under the seat. They weren't really functional except that they would keep some of the elements away from some of the wiring. I realized that I had been careful to set the flanges down on the ground with the screws still in them, during the disassembly, but had at some point turned the flanges over to use them to hold other screws coming out of the bike.

Bob's would have to provide me replacements for them as well.

I asked Mark whether I should push the bike outside the garage before connecting the fuel quick-disconnects. At times, they release a bit of gasoline.

"I'm not worried about that."

It turned out that they snapped together smartly, not leaking a drop.

That done, I turned the ignition on, put the bike in neutral, and pressed the starter as he watched. He wasn't surprised, but I was greatly relieved when my reliable bike came quickly back to life.

Susan said that she would meet me at home.

"How many girl friends might you go through before you would find another one with the patience to watch and try to help in this cold?" I wondered.

I turned the bike off, then held the bike as Mark lowered the jack.

We opened the garage door and he guided me in backing down the driveway. I thanked him again. He reminded me again about the temperature and told me to drive safely. Then he said good night and went inside to his dinner.

Alone in the dark, despite the cold, I took my time putting on my gear, then when everything felt right, again pressed the starter, turned and rode out his gravel driveway to the street.

I was almost all the way home on New Hampshire when I realized that I had hit nothing but green lights all the way.

Friday, January 05, 2007

Thinking like a Woman

The Venus and Mars book is full of concepts that have become cliche's. Fact is, the title of the book is pretty much a cliche'. You can be in a discussion with someone else and regardless of your respective genders, one of you can say, "Oh, yeah. It's like in 'Venus and Mars' and the other will more often than not nod their head in emphatic agreement.

Of course, generally, the book over generalizes. Either gender can say things like, "You never listen to me" or "Why can't you learn?" and errors of thinking occur regardless of whether one is motivated by logic or emotions. The stereotype is that men are better at logic, and women at emotions. One good thing, however, is that we can all (generally) agree that it is good to have a diversity of people with diverse skills in our communities, and that it is good to have people skilled in either logic or emotions: science and art. Not that any of us can't be in a different frame of mind on any given moment of any given day.

Pre-checking a motorcycle for the ride is important. If you relie upon your dealer's maintenance to catch everything, then you're tires may not be at the best pressure for the riding that you are doing. The book number is merely a suggested starting point. Your weight and payload, weather conditions, the type of ride planned may all call for some deviation from the recommended pressure.

I'll admit that I don't check pressure as often as I should. My goal is to do so at least once a week, and for me it is more difficult due to the permanent, hard side bags and position of the disc brake on the BMW Cruiser. So, it was probably two weeks out of the dealer's last maintenance... okay, maybe three or four, before I checked my tires and found that the front one was about six pounds high. This would make sense if you looked at my waiste-line, my most-common rider, and all that I keep in the side bags and back box. I don't doubt that a helpful technician added those extra pounds out of thoughtfullness. Problem is, what if, for this bike, the manufacturer saw people like me coming and the recommended number is THE number to use? Well, it is.

With six fewer pounds of air, handling improved considerably. This is funny because I was having all kinds of mental drama about why handling had recently been so... problematic. More on that some other time.

At the same time that I corrected the tire pressure, I noticed that the left hard bag was loose -- jiggley. I checked the right bag. "Yep," it was secure. "Jiggeliness" was not part of the manufacturer's design. Long story not-so-long, the braces that held the bottom of the bag had broken off of the frame. More acurately, the part of the frame that connected to the braces had broken. Not the best design, the way screw holes weakened the frame instead of the braces. There were screws fixing the top of the bag to the frame, higher, so there never was any danger of the bags falling off, and the fact is that I could probably of put the bag back on without the lower braces and just not used it for anything, but Bob's pointed me to a good welder whose advice I will head so that the bike will end up good as new.

Meanwhile, the cruiser is missing the left side bag and I did not feel like riding an obviously-injured friend. That is why I was riding the Metro to work, this morning and found myself thinking: "Boy, the people who run this Metro system sure don't care about the needs of people who use it," thus extrapolating a brief personal annoyance into an extreme thesis.

(more to come....)


Of course the people who run the Metro System care about some people. They probably care some about all of the people they serve. Still with millions of people riding and paying one or two dollars each going each way, I have to be critical about those many important people who sat in conference rooms a few steps from adequate rest room facilities, but fail to provide the same for residents and visitors to our nation's capitol. Anybody can become ill, get hit with a flu bug, anytime.

"How much do any of us think about each other?" I wondered.

I chuckled to myself as the cliche, "You only love me for my money," came to mind. How true that is, sometimes. Hotels that need to make a profit in a competitive market make sure there is are rest rooms available to guests and generally there is one a few steps from the entrance. Who hasn't hurried home with that the first order of business.

As the day moved on, the cliche stuck with me. I sat at my desk, looking out over the Kenedy Center with it's grand American flags to Arlington Cemetery and a lone flag on the hill. Do we only honor the memory of our veterans because their lives afford us comfortable living, a modicum of wealth? Do we only love our country for its money?

Wednesday, January 03, 2007


How many times am I going to sit down after a ride to work and feel like I just have to share the beauty of the morning's short ride? Today was no exception. Perhaps I need to note the time of sunrise and time it so that I hit the same period of the day more often. The morning light, reflecting off the awakening sky, kept pulling colors out of the barren trees and their remaining leaves. First, a range from pink to dark burnt umber; then as the morning progressed the light found resonance with orange tones in the foliage. Had a couple of nice days of Winter riding up to New Jersey and back, this last weekend. Pictures at link. Found a reasonable route past Philadelphia to the Northwest in 222 to 30 to 113 to Frenchtown, NJ then 12 North to Round Valley Rec Area.

I can't remember when there has been a winter so colorful. Perhaps it's me? They say that one of the things that many people treated for depression notice as they improve is the reappearance of color in their lives. Perhaps, if we make a point of SEEING the colors around us, it will help prevent depression from creeping up on us in the first place.