Jun 29, 2016

Closing the Loop, Heading Home

2016 Day 8-9 (9)Scott and I took a relatively long drive, yesterday: from Cottonwood Hot Springs to Pagosa Springs. We split up and took two different routes. I wanted some of the US 50 experience and he wanted to try out a barely-marked road from Cottonwood part way to Gunnison. Apparently, the two routes are pretty similar, since we arrived at the designated restaurant close to the same time. From there, we rode to Pagosa and arrived around 4PM.

2016 Day 8-9 (1)On the way, I saw some seriously decimated pine forests. I took this shot because I felt that it did a fairly good job of showing how badly damaged the southern Colorado pine forests are. We drove through almost 50 miles of this kind of scenery. Nearly, the only green on the mountains were deciduous. At least 90% of the pines are dead or dying. The Forest Service is solidly between a rock and hard place. The forests need to burn to kill off the bugs that are killing the trees. If the take burn, they will take out a lot of property and people will be whining that they’re not being protected properly.

2016 Day 8-9 (12)

I snagged a shot of Scott reloading his gear at a quick roadside stop; just toi prove that I have at least one real friend on this planet. There have been doubters out there.

After a day hiking around Pagosa Springs and hitting the hot water hard, we crashed fairly late for us and I got up early to do a full pass maintenance on my bike. About 7AM, I hit the road toward home. Two hundred miles later, I stopped for a few hours to catch up with an aunjt and uncle who live near Castle Rock. From there, I hit the road about 5PM, so instead of taking the familiar route up I76, I went straight west and followed CO 86 to I70 where I’ll turn north at Colby and head into Nebraska.

2016 Day 8-9 (18)North of my route, the weather looked fierce. Storm clouds were black and ominous to my left for 100 miles. Eventually, I wore out and the rain started to slide my direction. I found a cheap motel and unpacked quickly. Before I could get back, it was pouring. I got soaked bagging up the bike buit it was worth it. The streets were overflowing and myt rear case is not particularly water-tight.

Tomorrow, I head north in about 60 miles.

Closing the Loop, Heading Home

2016 Day 8-9 (9)Scott and I took a relatively long drive, yesterday: from Cottonwood Hot Springs to Pagosa Springs. We split up and took two different routes. I wanted some of the US 50 experience and he wanted to try out a barely-marked road from Cottonwood part way to Gunnison. Apparently, the two routes are pretty similar, since we arrived at the designated restaurant close to the same time. From there, we rode to Pagosa and arrived around 4PM.

2016 Day 8-9 (1)On the way, I saw some seriously decimated pin forests. I took this shot because I felt that it did a fairly good job of showing how badly damaged the southern Colorado pine forests are. We drove through almost 50 miles of this kind of scenery. Nearly, the only green on the mountains were deciduous. At least 90% of the pines are dead or dying. The Forest Service is solidly between a rock and hard place. The forests need to burn to kill off the bugs that are killing the trees. If the take burn, they will take out a lot of property and people will be whining that they’re not being protected properly.

2016 Day 8-9 (12)

I snagged a shot of Scott reloading his gear at a quick roadside stop; just toi prove that I have at least one real friend on this planet. There have been doubters out there.

After a day hiking around Pagosa Springs and hitting the hot water hard, we crashed fairly late for us and I got up early to do a full pass maintenance on my bike. About 7AM, I hit the road toward home. Two hundred miles later, I stopped for a few hours to catch up with an aunjt and uncle who live near Castle Rock. From there, I hit the road about 5PM, so instead of taking the familiar route up I76, I went straight west and followed CO 86 to I70 where I’ll turn north at Colby and head into Nebraska.

2016 Day 8-9 (18)North of my route, the weather looked fierce. Storm clouds were black and ominous to my left for 100 miles. Eventually, I wore out and the rain started to slide my direction. I found a cheap motel and unpacked quickly. Before I could get back, it was pouring. I got soaked bagging up the bike buit it was worth it. The streets were overflowing and myt rear case is not particularly water-tight.

Tomorrow, I head north in about 60 miles.

Jun 28, 2016

Old Colorado, New Colorado

Yesterday, I passed through Vail, never one of my favorite places in Colorado. The last 20 years have been tough on that part of Colorado. 1%’ers have cluttered up the mountains with their litterbox condos and incredibly ugly shopping centers. It’s hard to tell there are mountains around the place. My old haunt, Steamboat Springs, is similarly ratted-out with overpriced housing and trendiness. I don’t see me ever going back there again.

Scott recommended meeiting in Leadville and that turned out to be a great suggestion. Leadville hasn’t been mangled by the weirdness of our deficit economy and it is still a very traditional Colorado town. Colorado’s generally insane drive to contaminate as much of that state’s beautiful and rare assets has bothered me since I was a kid visiting the state with my family. It’s nice to see that not everyone wants to turn the mountains into New York.

2016 Day 7 (1)From there, we headed off on a huge 54 mile adventure to Buena Vista and Cottonwood Hot Springs. This is one of the nicest private hot springs I’ve experienced.  The surroundings are beautiful. The springs are hot enough to satisfy a boiled egg. It’s been a good day. In a couple of days, I’ll be pounding my way back home, so getting to hang with a friend and relax in a place that I like a lot is a gift. Tomorrow, we’re heading for Gunnison and, possibly, Pagosa Springs. After that, I’m aiming my bike toward Denver to North Platt and up into central Nebraska and home. I might take as long as three days to get back home, but I might also decided to pound some super slab and make time across the flyover territory. I think I saw the best Nebraska has to offer on the way out and it might be hard to find a return path that has anything near last week’s ride out.

2016 Day 6 (4)Scott is on a 2014 V-Strom, with ABS and all the Suzuki trimmings. My old rat bike is a decade older and a generation older technology. Hopefully, sometime this trip we’ll swap bikes and I’ll get a feel for what the new model is like.

Jun 26, 2016

Our Own Worst Enemies

steamboat_springs_coYesterday, on the way up to Steamboat Springs via CO 14, I got a taste of why the MMSC keeps publishing those silly “Start Seeing Motorcycles” stickers. The road was pretty packed with bicyclists for the first 40 miles. RVs and cages were intermittent and moving easily at the speed limits. Half way to Walden, a half-dozen squids on sportbikes wearing everything from full leathers to jeans and a jacket came blasting through the traffic, passing on both sides of the uphill lane, squeeking into spaces between cages where they barely fit, passing so that traffic in both directions had to make evasive maneuvers to keep these Darwin Award applicants from fulfilling their deathwish, and making as much noise as a poorly setup sportbike in 1st gear at 50mph can make. A dozen miles later, the clueless pack was scattered at a rest stop planning their random motions back down the hill, I imagine.

There is no shortage of reasons motorcyclists are among the world’s least popular people. Do a Google search for “I hate motorcyclists” to get a taste of opinions, reasons, and the level of anomosity. We’re loud, arrogant, incompetent, dangerous and self-destructive, expensive, selfish, and we whine a lot. We make such a small contribution to actual transportation that we probably shouldn’t be allowed on major highways or, even, public streets. We kill and maim ourselves in big numbers, barely make a noticable dent in miles-driven on public roads, and we expect more special rights than any other minority group on the road and, maybe, in society (especially considering our meager “contribution”).

IMG_7635[1]This pair of clueless squids started off my morning by making a super noisy pass through the motel parking lot, stopping at the lot’s exit to play with their cellphones (I was too late to get both of the dweebs “tweeting” or whatever it is that dorks do with their phones in such situations), exited to the right, made a u-turn in traffic, and passed back the opposite direction as noisly as possible. Clearly, motorcycle licenses are WAY too easy to get.

Jun 25, 2016

And Into the Mountains

2016 Day 3-4 (6)Yesterday, I rode from Valentine to Sterling, Colorado. I started early and stopped often. US 20 and US 83 are old stomping grounds for me. Back in the late-70’s, this was US 83 and I drove that path to death. 100,000 miles per year worth. After six years of that kind of driving in Texas and Nebraska, I learnery d to hate driving; at least 4-wheel vehicles.

However, this period really changed my two-wheel life. I went from a guy who owned a motorcycle to a motorcyclist who was part of a small-but-my-first community of off-road riders who were motocrossers, trialers, cross country and enduro riders. To be honest, this is the first community of any sort I ever belonged to; except musicians who might not qualify on several counts.

2016 Day 3-4 (1)This amazing river was a place we went for escape from our tenuious life in Nebraska. We took friends and family on river trips from Valentine to one of the many exit points downriver; usually at the Rock Barn campground. All sorts of independent tought came out of those trips. If I could pilot a canoe over Rocky Ford, I could probably take on a lot more work, responsibility, and challenges in my regular boring life.

2016 Day 3-4 (14)The ride across the Sandhills was terrific. It was greener than I’ve ever seen it. The road was well designed and scenic. Nobody was waiting for me at the end, pissed off because my employer had promised I’d be there hours earlier. At the end, an afternoon with a friend I first met when we were both kids, in 1965. Ed and I played in a couple of bands and have been near-brothers for fifty years. Unfortunately for him, we’re closer than either of us imagined. I discovered he had a moderately worn 1997 Winnebago Rialta in his driveway. So, I’ll be sending him a packet of all of the crap I learned about the Rialta and VW when I get back home.

2016 Day 3-4 (16)This morning, I headed off for the mountains, after cleaning the bike and doing a fairly intensive inspection. Cleaning your vehicle in water-starved Colorado is surprisingly expensive. I followed CO 14 all the way to the Rabbit Ears pass and Steamboat Springs. What a great road! That might be the prettiest way I’ve found, yet, to get to Steamboat.

Today is a screw-around day. I got to Steamboat about 2PM, checked into the hot springs pools and blew 2 hours mellowing out.Lucked into a nice motel room for non-holiday prices, and spent the day wandering around Steamboat. Tomorrow, a short ride to Leadville to meet Scott.

Jun 23, 2016

Trip Slideshow

I have setup this slideshow so that it runs newest to oldest. If you've seen it once, it will probably be different (at the beginning) the next time. Most likely, I won’t have the internet service on this trip to constantly update my slideshow, but as I add pictures they’ll show up on this post.

Back and Forth and In and Out

2016 Day Two (1)The back and forth bit is mostly about my tire solution this morning. After a few hours of calling dealers and repair shops, I found a dealer in Sioux City with a tire, a really good tire. After driving back about 70 miles, Midwest Honda Suzuki Kubota swapped out my dying Bridgestone for a Continental and got me back on the road by 10:30AM. By the time I got back to where I’d begun my morning, I was about 2 hours behind my original schedule since I’d have had breakfast before heading to Ashfall State Park.

2016 Day Two (2)The old but younger me would have been pissed off at having spent a premium for not adequately evaluating the failed tire. I just can’t generate much energy for that sort of self-recrimination tonight. I looked at the tire repeatedly, not to mention having just installed it right after I got back from last summer’s Nebraska trip. The tire couldn’t have more than 1,600 miles of wear and I just don’t have the kind of experience to be able to known when a tire brand is going to be worthless. Now I know and I’ll avoid Bridgestone from here out. Hopefully, the experience with the new Continental TKC 70 will be better. About 300 miles later and so far so good.

2016 Day Two (10)The “in and out” bit is about the landmarks I stopped for today. As usual, I collected a few abandoned building shots. For some reason, this route (US 20) pulls me past a lot of abandoned Nebraska school buildings. Those structures always leave me a little sad. But I take their picture anyway. Today, my usual picture stoppers (tailgaters) were mostly absent. I think I captured some of my best rotting architecture images ever.

2016 Day Two (21)My first stop was Ashfall Fossil Beds State Park. Wolf and I discovered this amazing paleontology site when we did our Rocky Mountain Tour a few years back. Not much has changed since then, but I still wanted to see the place again since my family spent a lot of time in that general area 40 years ago and the history is incredibly interesting. After asking a fairly stupid question, I ended up getting a long, detailed explaination of how you tune your eyes to find fossils from the park’s resident professor. I am probably still going to miss most, but I have a better shot at seeing some now.

2016 Day Two (34)Finally, my end target for the day was Valentine, NE and the Niobrara River. This is another place my family cherished when we lived in Nebraska. For a while, I was almost an expert at the river. Between the Niobrara and the Elkhorn, I never canoed so much in my life before or after. Even the lake in my backyard in Little Canada didn’t see nearly as much effort as those two rivers.

Again, I lucked into a decent priced room and the camping gear remains untouched.

Jun 22, 2016

One Down, Some to Go

2016 Day One (46)My first day on the road lasted about 12 hours and a little less than four hundred miles. Not much by Iron Butt standards, but pretty good considering I spent almost three hours in the National Music Museum in Vermillion, SD this afternoon. After a winter spent learning how to build an acoustic guitar, this museum means even more to me. I have a new appreciation for nlay work, binding and shaping, complicated shapes, structural bracing, finishes, and the creativity and artistry that luthiers and instrument makers have exhibited over the centuries. I’ll post the pictures I took at the museum here, but if you have any interest in wordworking, metal work, or art you should visit this national treasure yourself.

Supposedly, last year when Scott and were at the museum, the big exhibit was Bill Clinton’s sax. I don’t remember it, if I saw it. That was a cluster-fuck of a visit, since Scott was panicking over a lost master link clip on his Honda. I got drug into his deal and that pretty much turned the museum visit into a multi-tasking event and I am unable to do that dance. This time, I wallowed in endless time (3 1/2 hours before the museum closed) and mono-tracked on the museum contents. As a destination, Vermillion is pretty satisfying.

2016 Day One (47)When I came out of the museum, a couple of guys were looking at my bike as if they had something they needed to say to me. There was a nasty puddle under the bike and it sorta looked like I’d sprung a leak. I’d had the bike covered and the “leak” was my Camelbak dribbling all over my gear. No problem.

I left Red Wing about 6:30AM this morning. Taking MN 19 west until it eventually merged with MN 60, I kept at it until breakfast at Mountain Lake, MN. I’d show you a picture of what I ate, but you’ve probably seen breakfast before. If not, I recommend the only restaurant in Mountain Lake where you can eat a decent omlet and take your own picture.

On my to-do list was “take lots of abandoned building pictures.” Everytime I passed a cool looking relic, there was a cage or semi on my ass. So, not a single historic building in the camera today. My razoo Garmin Nuvi 500 routed me along mostly two lane roads except for when it tried to send me down dirt roads or when I hooked up to 60 for a while. That got me to Vermillion at about 1PM. I made a couple of laps around the museum and left Vermillion at 5PM.

Road construction and impatience sent me down a Nebraska country road that turned into about 20 miles of intermittent deep gravel and sand. Finally, I hit NE 15 south to US 20 west and I was making time again. Since tomorrow’s goal is Nebraska’s Ashfalls State Park, quitting early seemed like a good plan.

2016 Day One (48)I found a cheap motel in Randolph, NE and settled down for a quiet evening with a book and my blog. However, after pulling the gear off of the bike I did a maintenance loop around the bike. Son of a bitch if my nearly new back tire wasn’t already bald! If you look at the damn tire in the “leak” picture above, it looked good. Less than 100 miles later and the Bridgestone Trailmaster has worn to nothing. About 30 miles of that was gravel road, so if that’s what “Trailmaster” means to Dunlop, I’ll be remembering that when I replace the tire.

Jun 21, 2016

Slow to No Start

Today was supposed to be the first day of my Rocky Mountain Hot Springs tour, but yesterday was a lost cause so I put off leaving for a day. I don’t really have much of a schedule planned, so a day here or there means nothing. Tomorrow, I just want to make it to the corner of southeast South Dakota in time to visit the National Music Museum in Vermillion. I’ll probably find a motel close to there. Next stop, Ashfalls State Park in Nebraska.

Jun 18, 2016

Is This A Good Thing?

For those of you who still imagine there is such a thing as “German Quality,” the news that "Ducati Is Not For Sale" is probably a good thing. For those of us who wouldn’t consider an overpriced, overcomplicated, barely-supported Ducati as anything other than a rich guy’s toy, it’s pretty much a wash. For everyone else, it’s a serious question. If the notorious VW/Audi corporation is planning on hanging on to Ducati to the bitter end, where does that put Ducati’s customers?

Jun 15, 2016

Letter to the County

For about five years, I kept data on my local sheriff’s department “work” regarding controling noise in my neighborhood and filed a report to the sheriff’s department. Yeah, I know, cops are lazy and arrogant and don’t like citizens to tell them how to do (or not do) their barely-qualifies-as-work “jobs.” Still, my property taxes were not insignificant and I thought an occasional nudge might, eventually, get the uniformed tax collectors off of their fat asses. It had, as you would expect, exactly no effect whatsoever. Not even a polite response. Since we were leaving Little Canada last spring, my “last” letter never got mailed. This morning, I was cleaning out the Drafts folder in Outlook and found this:

Sheriff  Bostrum,

Here I am again. Although since you haven’t responded to the last several letters I’ve written your office, you may not know or remember that I’ve been here before. I have been a Ramsey County resident and tax payer for 20 years. Since the first year I moved to Little Canada the Sheriff’s office bill to my city for what passes as law enforcement has gone from $90,000 per year to $1,338,276 in 2014. In fact, for the last five years, the annual cost increases have been greater than the city’s entire 1997 “Police”  budget.

I have been keeping a log of loud motorcycle incidents and the numbers suggest to me that Ramsey County's noise ordinance isn't working very well. Since April 8, when I began the log, through June 1, I have heard 301 violations. This is an average of about six per day which is a lot for such a small section of the city, especially for a city that enacted a noise ordinance about four years ago that was intended to curb this illegal behavior.

I believe that a very conservative estimate of the average number of violations in the entire city to be at least 15 per day from May through October which means that for the first three years of having the ordinance, there have been over 8,000 violations.

As you might know, since 1983 all motorcycles sold in the United States must have an Environmental Protection Agency noise compliance label attached to the chassis at the factory and a matching label engraved on the muffler. Replacing the muffler with one that lacks the label is illegal under federal law.

In fact, the city of Denver enacted an ordinance last summer that's based on the EPA label system. So far a number of bikers have paid a fine, and one has decided to dispute his violation by questioning the constitutionality of the ordinance. That's yet to be ruled on by a court. There are more than a few laws that could be used to return some semblance of public peace and quiet, if we had a law enforcement system that worked for that purpose.

This isn't only a quality of life issue, it's also a public health problem since medical research has increasingly found that exposure to loud noise is unhealthy.

I have no problem with quiet, legal motorcycles, just the loud ones.

So for the fourth consecutive year, I'm requesting that the sheriff’s officers consistently enforce our laws and ordinances to reduce the number of loud motorcycle incidents.


Thomas Day
Little Canada, MN 55117

Appealing to an American cop’s sense of duty is a pointless exercise. This group of “public servants” is so entitled that they believe they are above laws, beyond reproach, and only bother with enforcing laws that don’t interfere with their donut breaks or make them think particularly hard. Red Wing is even less inclined to pay attention to noise laws. Oh well.

Jun 4, 2016

This May be the Last Time

Last year's MMSC training season was pretty much a bust. The first 3-4 months were a clusterfuck of mostly Century College classes that I signed up for because I assumed I'd be shuffling between our new home in Red Wing and the house we were selling in Little Canada. Instead, the Little Canada house sold in March and I ended up trying to make the 60-mile-one-way commute less miserable by checking into hotels for a day so my wife and I could pretend we were getting something out of the trips. The season ended with a foot injury that almost turned me into an invalid for the last months of that summer. Century has been my home school for almost ten years and when I tried a couple of classes closer to my new home I was reminded of my original reason for keeping it close. Unfortunately, there are some really awful instructors out there and I'd just as soon not even know them let alone work with 'em.

The sign-up process for MMSC classes has been a giant hassle since the first year the state took over the program. Each college has it's own meeting (I hate all meetings) and instructors are asked to select class dates 5-10 months into the future for the next year's season; usually sometime between November and early January. It you want to teach at four locations, four meetings at various inconvenient times. Way back in 2002, the state tried an on-line sign-up but too many of the seven or eight 90-year-old long-term instructors couldn't figure out the pipes and wires of "the new-fangled intrasnet-thing" and instructors with senility pulled rank and bawled until the system was drug back to the 1800's.

This year, I decided to give myself a break for the first time since 2001. I only went to the Red Wing sign-up. Later, I ended up volunteering for an IRC (Intermediate Rider Course) that turned into this television PSA: "Experienced motorcyclists most at risk for crashing." So far, one of my four classes has cancelled (due to low turnout). This weekend will be my only BRC of the season. Sometime in July, I'm supposed to do another IRC in Red Wing. After that, I'm free for the first summer in 15 years. The purpose of this break is to see if I miss it. If I don't, this will be my last MSF/MMSC season.

May 30, 2016

Another Brick on the Wall

I have never been a fan of “bikers”: assholes on Harleys. Since the moment I realized motorcycles could be transportation, this bunch of idiots has made motorcycling less fun, more dangerous, and their existence reflects poorly on everyone who rides a motorcycle.

This week, they pushed the limits of my intolerance off of the Monopoly board, "Donald Trump and Bikers Share Affection at Rolling Thunder Rally." Now, in their reflection and in many eyes, all motorcyclists are racist, moronic, fascist, and (still) excessively childish and noisy. What that rally always needs is an Eric Cartman to shout “Hey assholes!” And to remind them that they and 13-year-old girls are the only people that needy for attention.

“Look at all these bikers,” said the Donald. “Do we love the bikers? Yes. We love the bikers.” Just like he loves the uneducated.

“He speaks what’s on his mind and means what he says,” said Tom Christian, one of the unwashed Thunder Blunders. “And that’s what a biker does. That’s the way we are: We say what we think. If you like it, you like it. If you don’t, go the other way.” Another description for that would be “tourette syndrome.”

Of course, to actually say what you think you have to first think. None of that going on in this rally. These wannabe-patriots pretend that being racist assholes is something noble, “Just like asking Jane Fonda to show up, it’d be a very, very bad thing,” said one of the douchebags who also wore a button that read, “Hillary for Prison 2016.” Where was this idiot when Trump denigrated John McCain’s service and sacrifice when Trump said, “I like people that weren’t captured, O.K.?”

Trump was disappointed that there weren’t more assholes out to celebrate his bullshit, “I thought this would be like Dr. Martin Luther King, where the people would be lined up from here all the way to the Washington Monument.” Trump, you’re no Dr. King or Bernie Sanders. There is a shitload of idiots out there, but most of them killed themselves riding poorly on incompetent machines without helmets or brains inside their skulls worth protecting.

You want to know why I don’t like Harleys or the gangbangers who ride them? This is it. My father wasted four years of his life fighting Hitler’s gangbangers so we could grow our own. That is a grudge I will never let go of.

May 18, 2016

Precious Children?

mallory-torres-kid-bike-fbRider’s Digest ran a little piece based on a picture and some kickback from people seeing this example of child abuse on a Texas freeway (“Precious Children Revisited”). I’ve made it pretty clear how I feel about kids on motorcycles in the past—with “I Hate Racing” and “Parental Responsibility”—and I don’t feel any different today. Obviously, some folks think their right to permanently scar their children, physically and emotionally, overrides the concerns of the “nanny state,” whatever that is.

There are more things that I don’t understand than things I do, by a really big number. Putting children at risk is one of them. I don’t get the payback. I’m not in any way arguing that kids should be kept in padded rooms, prevented from playing outdoors, experimenting with their capabilities, playing sports, or even fooling around with the opposite sex. However, this picture of a small child with her heels inches from a sticky sportbike’s tires, clinging for dear life is none of that. Your mileage may vary.

May 14, 2016

Down the Drain, the Oily Drain

Back in 2009, I put in about 3,000 miles between the Twin Cities and my North Dakota ghost town tour. Having spent a couple of days in the state on the way to Alaska in 2007 and a few more on the way back and falling in love with the place, it is really painful to see how badly the state has fared with its oil wealth. Lee Klapprodt worked hard, back in 2009, to convince me that the state would do the kind of job protecting its natural resources from oil and coal that no other state or country had ever managed. I was dubious then and am really sad to see that I was right. Nobody in the history of humanity has ever forced miners to behave ethically and now that miners are wrapped in corporate protections they are even more corrupt, ruthless, and vicious.

When my wife and I took our 2013 “goodbye to our Rialta” trip to ND, Bismarck was the western limit of our visit. I’d read horror stories about the fracking and associated pollution surrounding Teddy Roosevelt National Park and didn’t have the heart to witness that desecration. I’m not sure I’d be willing to go that far today. Anyone visiting North Dakota could see that it is a fragile place with limited water resources, a large number of subsistence rural communities, and an environment that was terribly damaged by farming and would be even more easily destroyed by Big Oil.

One of the worst things about getting old is the number of places to which I can never return. I can’t go home again. I can’t swim in Southern California’s Pacific Ocean. I can never expect to see uncorrupted plains, Badlands, and wild rivers without oil scum in North Dakota.

May 13, 2016

Three A Day?

On the back page of this month's Cycle World I learned that Allstate and a few other insurance companies have joined forces with something called the "Rider Protection Project" to let us know that motorcycling is dangerous. Their "shock notice" is that "three riders die at intersections every day." My first reaction was a little surprise that there are that many riders on the road every day. I know, "shame on me."

Allstate is putting a little money into "Watch for Motorcycles" signs at particularly hazardous intersections. They've also created a Facebook page called the "Rider Risk Map" where riders can submit a vote for particularly dangerous intersections.

I honestly do not know what to think about this project.
Three motorcyclists die at intersections every day.
- See more at: http://www.allstateridernews.com/default-culture-topics/safety-initiatives#sthash.UIuK0Xmk.dpuf
Three motorcyclists die at intersections every day.
- See more at: http://www.allstateridernews.com/default-culture-topics/safety-initiatives#sthash.UIuK0Xmk.dpuf
Three motorcyclists die at intersections every day.
- See more at: http://www.allstateridernews.com/default-culture-topics/safety-initiatives#sthash.UIuK0Xmk.dpuf

Apr 24, 2016

Old Stuff, But Good

I'm a big Keith Code fan, regardless of the Scientology BS. This is an old one, but worth getting through. Twist of the Wrist was one of the most useful things I read about street riding. After 30 years off-pavement, I had a lot of bad habits to overcome and Code's theory helped with that . . . a lot. I have always wished that the MSF program was closer to the detail of the Superbike Course than the minimal training it is.

Apr 4, 2016

#125: I Hate Racing

geezerAll Rights Reserved © 2013 Thomas W. Day

That title got your attention, didn't it? Let me be more specific: I hate (as in “can't watch”) a specific sort of motorcycle racing. I love motorcycle racing, except when kids are doing it. When a stadium motocross is broken up (too often literally) with a bunch of 8-year-olds plodding around a motocross track, smashing into each other and the track obstacles, I have to be somewhere else. I can't watch. Likewise, I can't watch movie torture scenes, horror movies of any sort, much of anything by Disney or Lucasfilm, and romantic or sex scenes that last longer than a handshake. I'm a lightweight, I admit it.

This isn't a new thing for me. I have never liked any of the big three of what we call "organized sports" for little kids: Pop Warner football, Little League baseball, or youth hockey. Motorcycle racing for little kids combines everything that is dangerous and useless in all of those sports into one injury-plagued, little-league-Dad-hyped, emergency-room-filling sport. I did not encourage my kids to ride motorcycles or play any organized sports, although I have always been a sports fan. Neither of my daughters or my grandson have been inspired to ride a motorcycle (although my oldest daughter is seriously considering a scooter this summer), but they have all been involved in a variety of sports: skateboarding, cross-country and marathon running, triathlons, baseball, and archery. If they'd have expressed an interesting in motorcycle racing, I'd have recommended they get serious about bicycling and, once they were good enough on self-powered two-wheels, we'd talk about a motorcycle. So far, bicycles have been more than enough two-wheeling for all of my kids and I'm fine with that. Motorcycling is not for everyone. Motorcycle racing is for hardly anyone.

Kids find enough ways to bang themselves up without having some nutball parent urging them to do dumber, more dangerous stuff to fill in the spaces in Dad's sadly unfulfilled life. No body needs to see good-'ole-dad raging at some pimpled-up teenage kid who was foolish enough to play referee at one of those half-pint gladiator events. The only life-lesson to take away from most little kid sporting events is that most people should not be allowed to reproduce; that goes double for the infamous little league dads. They shouldn't even be allowed to watch other people reproduce.

When kids like Peter Lenz (13), Jake Wilson (5), and ,even, Darrel Davis (16) and Oscar McIntyre (17) are pushing the limits of sanity, I'm not into watching it. I'm not trying to say they shouldn't be allowed to race and risk their lives. I'm just saying I don't want to watch. I don't like seeing anyone get hurt on a race track, but I'm just not up for seeing kids hurt . . . period. I don't watch races for the crashes, I watch racing for the passes, for the battles in the corners, and for the strategy. I don't want to see anything more exciting than a low-side that results in a racer sliding harmlessly into the gravel runoff and, at most, harmlessly bumps into the air fence.

About ten years back, when I was producing a cable show called "Motorcycling Minnesota," I took my grandson to the Dome to watch a Supercross. Ricky Carmichael was on top of his game and the cast of characters who pushed him to AMA Hall of Fame status were on hand. The first heats were terrific and we were enjoying our great press booth seats and the free food and booze when the half-time "entertainment" turned out to be a couple dozen kids pretty close to my grandson's age riding tiny minibikes around part of the pro course. The whoops amounted to large hillclimbs for some of those kids and the course was excessively difficult for the majority of the kids. They high-centered at the top of the whoops and fell over, they nose-dived into the troughs and fell over, they crashed into each other and a couple of kids crawled off of the course in obvious pain and likely injuries. Dads were incensed and a couple of kids got yelled at for crying after crashing. After thirty years of loving motocross, I lost my taste for the sport. Neither I or my grandson have thought twice about going back for another Supercross event since.

Kids don't need to start early to be great at most sports. There are exceptions, like gymnastics and . . . I can't think of any others, but for every "I got into ____when I was four and went on to be world champion" story there are 10,000 "by the time I was nine I hated ____ and hung up my helmet/shoes/skates/bat/hat for the last time" sad tales. For every Valentino Rossi (his failed racer dad started him on karts and motorcycles when he was 8 and put him on a motorcycle racetrack at 11) there are a half-dozen Bob "Hurricane" Hannah's who said, "My father was against racing. He did not mind me riding, but at the same time he didn’t want me getting hurt. So I never raced until I was 18 years old and living on my own."

For more than a year, the AMA peppered me with press releases about how we motorcyclists needed to campaign Congress to overturn the 2009 ban on lead in kids' toys, which included the batteries and other components in motorcycles made for kids. I even took a little editorial heat about consistently finding "more important" things to report in All the News. Sorry, I can't give a damn about manufacturers having difficulty selling crippling "toys" to kids. I think they deserve all the political expense, legal liability, and moral suffering they experience for those products. Eventually, crazy heads won the day and kids were back on their "donor machines," but at least I didn't make a contribution.

In 1988, in an article titled "Controversies about intensive training in young athletes" a pair of British doctors argued, “Young athletes are not just smaller athletes, and they should not become sacrificial lambs to a coach’s or parent’s ego.” To put a fine point on that statement, "young athletes" are our children and should be allowed to be kids without the pressure of imagining themselves to be the future of a sport or their parents' retirement plan. Even more important, if you expect me to pay big money to attend a sporting event, do not torture me with a gladiator kids event at half-time. I'll take a gymnastic display of cheerleaders over gutted and busted-up kids anytime.

Mar 23, 2016

Reading Issues

The editor of Minnesota Motorcycle Monthly got confused last month and pulled an article from the blog (instead of the cloud folder I created for him) and published Being Customer Hostile in the March issue of MMM. For starters, this was a pretty old essay (2007), written after the disappointing turnout for the last World Round in Duluth. The month after MMM's editor pulled this one from the blog to use in my monthly "Geezer with A Grudge" column, Victor Wanchena (MMM's publisher" wrote this in his own magazine:

Letter From A Reader
Dear MMM, 

 I read Thomas Day's Geezer with a Grudge column "Being Customer Hostile" last month and was surprised by his lack of understanding of the sport of Observed Trials. For someone as "experienced" as Thomas his whining about having to walk to a section, read a map, or needing to have a basic understanding of the competition he was watching was both funny (in a sad way) and another example of his apparently faltering mind. 

In previous columns Thomas has bemoaned the laziness of the American rider, but now the one time he's asked to walk as a spectator he is outraged. He thinks the rules and set up of the events is designed to make it intentionally difficult for spectators but offers no evidence of that other than his poor understanding of the sport. And then he decends into one complaing after another for some undecipherable reason. His sweeping generazations about the sport, the riders, and the spectators only reveals his ignorance. 

 I ask the question, why is Thomas really mad at Trials. Is he intimidated by a sport he isn't competing in? Is he looking to pick a fight with the most obscure group of riders he can find so he can act tough, but doesn't get buried in hate male? Or is he just trolling becauses he knows the publisher of MMM is a long time trials rider" 

Victor Wanchena 
Concerned Reader

So, I wrote back:


 There must be something about the work you do that makes you read between the lines and misinterpret. Bruce snagged that one from my blog , which is where all of my slag stuff (and previously published stuff) goes. I'd written that bit about trials not long after the last world round in Duluth and I was really disappointed, again, at the lousy turnout and general level of confusion spectators experienced. I hadn't looked at that one since I wrote it and scheduled it, about 5 years in advance, for the blog. I have no idea why Bruce went to the blog for material. I have a slush pile of stuff specifically written in MMM on the Dropbox folder. It's nothing new, of course. In the US, observed trials can't draw flies and some of that is due to the fact that promoters, participants, and other so-called "interested parties" don't seem to give much attention to spectators, especially non-off road savy spectators.

Here's what I wrote about my experience, "I walked by more than a few frustrated spectators on the Saturday event who were patiently waiting for riders who wouldn’t come for another 24 hours. When I mentioned them to one of the checkers, he muttered something about 'fuckin’ rubes' and went back to examining his navel until the first batch of riders arrived. When I walked my dog back to the stranded spectators and told them the real section was just a couple hundred yards down the trail, they decided it would be more productive to head back to the Aerostich rally and watch a few of the presentations in the air conditioned chalet. To be honest, I had some of the same inclinations after waiting for an hour and a half for the expert and pro riders to get to sections 4 & 5. I’ve been putting up with the rock and roll star character of observed trials for 40 years and the prim donna attitude toward spectators still gets to me. (Just like waiting until 9:15 for an 8:00 show to start will remind me of why I rarely spend much money to watch a rock show in my impatient old age.)"

If that reads to you like "the one time he's asked to walk as a spectator he is outraged," I'm not going to expect you to get me at all when I'm really outraged. I was walking and riding sections when you still assumed "trials" were what put people in jail. Hell, you might have still been in diapers in 1974, when I bought my first official trials bike. At that particular event, I was lugging 40 pounds of HiDef video camera and audio recording gear with me. That won't happen again. Any day now, walking will become something I don't much because with a fake hip and another going away, a bum foot, one heart attack in the bag and lousy genetics putting more in my future, and my 70th birthday on the horizon, don't expect big miles out of me ever again. I quit backpacking, permanently, three years ago and we'll see if tent camping is still something I do this year. I don't write between the lines, so anything you think is implied in my words is self-generated. Personally, I'd have been more outraged at the attitude of the civil-servant-attituded checker who didn't give a shit that spectators couldn't figure out how to see anything but the B-team. I don't know if you paid any attention to that last world round, but it was a big money loser for the organization.

Some of the inspiration for that essay came from a video taped interview I did with Martin Belair a couple of years after Honda had withdrawn his Honda Montesa trials distributorship. I learned more about the US trials disorganization in that interview than I wanted to know. Not long after that, he left trials, supposedly, for good and asked if I'd take down the MMM interview from both my blog and MMM's site (I didn't) and that I not air his portion of the trials Motorcycling Minnesota program I was editing (I decided to can the project). In case you're still confused, I had no problem reading the map, figuring out the rules (that the observers too often ignore), or sorting out the schedule but I couldn't figure out from your "sweeping generalizations" about my essay what the hell you were talkiing about. I can not figure out why you would pretend to be a "Concerned Reader" and not actually read the magazine you own. Could it be a "faltering mind" issue?

I went to every US and World event in Duluth and when I lived in California and Colorado I saw another couple of world rounds and several US rounds. Back in the 70's I had the world's worst trials bike, a Suzuki RL250, and I was an active member of the MWTA for several years. I love the sport, but the difference between a US event and a rest-of-the-world event is night and day. Being pissed off at spectators who can't figure out the maze of weirdness that is characteristic of our events probably won't fix much of that.

Thomas Day
Minnesota Motorcycle Monthly Magazine
The Rider's Digest Magazine

Could be my last MMM article, but at my age I'm experiencing a whole lot of "lasts" this year. Every year, I think a little more about what sort of convertible I'll buy when the motorcycles are gone and I have extra garage space. Weirdly, between the MMM and Rider's Digest backlog and the dozens of weird things I've still got in the queue, I'll be posting stuff on this blog until late 2017 if I kick the bucket tomorrow.

Victor has done a weird disconnected rant about one of my articles he's picked for publication before, so maybe we've about run our course for this Geezer thing in MMM. It's been a good run, since my first article What Are We Riding For? in October of 1999. The last time he threatened to tear up my yard with his blimpmobile KTM for some damn misreading of my column. It's getting a little weird and life is weird enough without searching for it.

Likewise, this might be my last year teaching MSF classes, after last year's fascia plantar fiasco that cost me about 3/4 of my planned teaching season. The foot is better, but it's not back anywhere near good and I have no expectations that it will be ever again. My patience with the whole teaching thing is waning and pain isn't helping things. This year, I've booked 4 classes instead of my usual 16-20. We'll see if I can get through that few.

One one of the above-50F weekend days this month, I went to the Red Wing MSF range and ran through the exercises a few times. I was ok, not great but competent. The practice gave me some time to think about what would make me quit riding. Or, more to the point, a decent, reasonably safe, measure with which I can use to decide it's tine to quit. The day I flub one of the exercises in the Basic Rider Course is the day I give it up. The BRC and the state's motorcycle exam are so far from the benchmark of rider competence that those tests and exercises should be used as an absolute dead minimum cutoff for riding. If I struggle with those minimal skill requirements, I'm not competent to ride on the streets. Your mileage may vary, but mine won't.

The MMM version of the article is here, http://mnmotorcycle.com/march-2016-geezer-with-a-grudge-being-customer-hostile/. Maybe Victor's just fishing for comments?

Mar 9, 2016

The Good Old Days

New Picture

This fine piece of history appeared on MN’s Craig’s List today. I have to admit I have a soft spot in my head/heart for these old Yamaha Monoshock two-strokes. Where that hardens is illustrated by this almost-like-new motorcycle. It needed a “fresh top end” with only 2300 miles on the odometer. Those look like vintage tires, too.

Feb 25, 2016

Harbor Freight Low Profile Motorcycle Dolly

All Rights Reserved © 2015 Thomas W. Day

bike_dollyThis is my exit and the garage is 8' wide, so turning around in the garage is not possible.

Imagine that you own a near-500-pound motorcycle, that you are old and worn down and out, that the exit from your garage is uphill and covered in large gravel, and that your bike garage is barely 8' wide. You can't practically ride the bike in to the garage and turn it around on the smooth garage floor. You can't back the bike out, up the hill and through the river rock, backwards without pushing the limits of your old legs and bad heart. What would you do? In my case, there is no imagination required. The picture at left is exactly what I see every morning when I roll my bike out of the garage into a fairly high traffic county road. When we first moved to Red Wing, the bikes had to go into this garage and I practically killed myself moving the V-Strom back out in the spring so that I could get on with the garage overhaul.

bike_dolly2The Bike Dolly from the sidestand side. The V-Strom is almost long enough to force the ramps down, which would prevent the dolly from moving freely.

The solution was a bike dolly, but an early search of the options produced a collection of $250-and-up devices obviously designed for a lot more mass-movement than I needed for my 650 V-Strom. While I was working on the garage, I kept looking until the Harbor Freight "HaulMaster 1250 Lb Capacity Low Profile Motorcycle Dolly" showed up on one of the email sale flyers at $89 plus $7 shipping. I ordered it and promptly received an email telling me my early-May order had been backordered for an expected late August delivery. What the hell? I let the order ride and went back to work on the garage. Over the next couple of months, I stopped in at a couple of Harbor Freight stores and learned that none of the Cities or outlier stores had a bike dolly on the floor as a demo. When one showed up, someone always bought it before the store could get it unboxed. In early July, I discovered my backorder had self-cancelled. So, I called Harbor Freight and asked what I needed to do to get the damn thing back on order? The nice lady resubmitted my order and told me the dolly was on sale that week for $69 delivered. A nice surprise. I gave her my credit card info and less than a week later a large and very heavy box was waiting for me on the back deck when I got home from a Saturday motorcycle class.

bike_dolly3The Bike Dolly needed one modification, which this picture sort of demonstrates: the traction pad at the bottom of the ramp "foot."

It should come as no surprise that the dolly comes unassembled. The instructions are reasonably clear and the assembly is insanely simple, so in about fifteen minutes I was rolling the dolly down the driveway toward my new garage floor.  I've used it fairly often for about 6 months now and, mostly, I'm really satisfied with my purchase.

bike_dolly4The casters are probably sufficient for my 475 pound V-Strom, but I'd question their ability to wheel the rated 1250 pounds. They are dual-wheel, stamped sheetmetal frame ball-bearing casters, but they're prone to hanging up on small obstacles and I expect one or more of the casters to fail in the first year of use. The galvanized ramps tend to slide, so I put a strip of adhesive-backed hard foam rubber on each to keep them in place when I'm loading the bike. Unloading is no problem. The bike dolly is close to short on my 61 inch wheelbase V-Strom and the ramp would be stuck in the partially-down position if the bike were an three or four inches longer. Something to consider.

Piddling gripes aside, for about $75 delivered, this is one hell of a deal. All of the competition is $100 to $400 more expensive and they all do the same job the same way. If I were giving stars with my reviews, I'd give this tool 4 out of five (the casters are the lost point). 

NOTE: And right now it’s back on sale for $75.

Feb 10, 2016

Why Can't We All Just Get Along?

Motorcyclist Online just posted this rant, " Your Bike Sucks! (Or, How NOT To Enjoy Motorcycling)No tolerance for people who dislike the variety of motorcycling." There is some grist to chew on here. Motorcycling is not just a group activity and many motorcyclists are purely on two wheels for functional reasons. Some of us simply think motorcycles are excellent transportation. I can easily see why someone who bought a bike to get from point A to point B without spending a lot of money or taking up a whole traffic lane would be damn tired of all the gauntlets other motorcyclists seem to think we're supposed to put up with. I can see getting tired of reading about motorcycles that are of not interest ("articles" that are barely more than advertisements). All of that in mind, it's not a stretch to get to being “sick of taking s—t from the Harley crowd because we prefer to ride something that is going to bring us back home at the end of the ride" and cancelling a subscription and killing the online feed.
It's no stretch for me to imagine Motorcyclist's editor being an asshole about losing a subscriber and not having the grace or common sense to avoid losing a few more with his response. About a decade ago, I wrote my last article for Motorcyclist and haven't picked up a copy copy since the editor at the time fired off a similar jackass response to someone who was sick of the magazine's insistence that every test bike needed a noisier pipe and some pointless engine fiddling before it was fit to ride.
On the other hand, the fact that motorcyclists are in no way a coherent group is why here in Minnesota there are hundreds of miles of trails paralleling state and county roads open to ATVs and snowmobiles, but closed to motorcycles: licensed or not. We are exactly like Will Rogers' political affiliation, "I belong to no organized political party, I'm a Democrat." We have industry groups fighting against our best interests like the AMA and MIC and rider groups doing even more damage like ABATE, but intelligent, supportive, practical motorcycle rider organizations are non-existent. It's a mystery that I won't live long enough to solve.

Jan 25, 2016

#123 Unnecessary Evil?

All Rights Reserved © 2012 Thomas W. Day

In a recent long, sometimes emotional, occasionally irrational discussion about the superiority/inferiority of belts, drive shafts, and chains, the comments from a few of the MMM regulars illustrated how much we humans dislike maintenance. It's messy, it takes time away from riding and other more exciting activities, and it is boring. At my age, maintenance is also painful. Getting down on my garage floor to inspect low-lying components like the chain, oil-drain and filter, wheels and tires, and practically everything below the height of the seat is a gamble. After every service interval, there is a good chance that I'll be squalling, "Help! I'm a turtle and I can't get up!"

I teach a class called "Studio Maintenance I." In the class introduction, I introduce the concept of maintenance to people who have often never touched a tool and describe how that practice effects a recording engineer's performance and economic success. That discussion breaks studio owners' maintenance attitudes into three basic categories:
  • Maintenance is something I only do when things break and I can’t get out of calling a tech.
  • Maintenance is something I do to prevent equipment from failing at critical moments.
  • Maintenance is what I do to add value to my studio’s sound quality and reputation.
I think you can apply those statements to motorcycle maintenance with a little modification.
Maybe it's because my life was permanently altered when I read Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance. Maybe it's because I worked as maintenance tech, manufacturing and design engineer, manufacturing manager, and tech services manager for more than half of my life. Maybe it's because I have a mental disability that prevents me from walking by broken stuff without feeling a compulsion to fix it (Unless it's plumbing. I hate plumbing.). Whatever the reason, I can't help but think something vital is missing in a culture (or cultures) that does not feel the need to do basic maintenance. 

One of the key consumer features of all modern products is the disposability of those products. Most electronic devices are completely impractical to repair under all conditions. Car dealer service techs regularly yank an in-warranty motor and replace it with a whole assembly rather than fool with complicated diagnostics and repairs. Years ago, I discovered that motorcycle manufacturers dump their inventory of critical spares as soon as those parts cost more to store than they make from sales. When I reviewed the Honda 2011 Honda VT1300CT Custom Interstate last fall, I was astounded to see that Honda had entirely scrapped the idea of a tool kit because they considered the entire motorcycle to be "not user serviceable." Because of the market that bike was intended to "serve," their other assumption was that those users would be too incompetent and lazy to perform the most basic maintenance.

That's a pretty strong statement Honda and others are making about us. If they are right, we're not far from losing our right to claim we are a "tool using" species. No Wilbur, tapping "whr r u" on your smart phone does not mean you are either a tool user or smart. There is a pretty good chance that Honda's bet will backfire on them, too. One of the activities that has formed and inspired the best young engineers and budding scientists is learning how to maintain machines or all sorts. If motorcycles become maintenance-free, in a few years the fools who mismanage the world's manufacturing companies may find there is no one who can actually build them. If we were to wait for an MBA to build something useful, we could be stationary for centuries. In fact, just before we all starve to death, it's possible that the world might discover that scientists and engineers are the primary "job creators" worldwide.

Knowing enough about our machines to recover from the average minor breakdown is an absolute necessity for anyone hoping to make use of an "adventure touring" bike. You aren't going to suddenly develop those skills after your bike tosses off bits of your "maintenance free" drive belt after the rear tire spits a small rock into a pulley. In fact, if you aren't already in the habit of doing fairly major maintenance, you won't have the necessary tools available to repair the simplest problems on the road. One nasty side-effect of doing your own maintenance is accumulating a collection of tools. Unlike the sometimes-small odds that you'll experience headaches, birth defects, insomnia, anxiety, and/or tremors with prescription medications, you will contract tools if you do maintenance. Owning tools isn't evidence that you are a tool user, but not owning them proves you aren't one. 

I can't disagree that cleaning and lubing a chain is sometimes an unrewarding task. Checking and adjusting modern bucket-and-shim valve lifters is about as exciting as homework. Balancing injectors or carbs is mundane and uninspiring. For some of us, just cleaning a bike is painful. Carefully looking over every fastener from the footpegs to the wheels to everything holding the motor together and to the frame is the kind of work many of you would assign to the step-child you want to leave home first.

You can argue that you can't have a major mechanical problem because you never ride more than fifty miles from home. There is some truth to that. You pick your poison and you live or die with the results. Lucky for me, most days fiddling on a bike in the garage by myself is the best part of the day. Rolling out of the tent early in the morning and going through my maintenance routine is part of how I figure out how the rest of the day is going to go. When I stop for food or fuel, I go through a similar checklist while the bike is warm and the tires are hot. At night, before I settle down for the evening I have a different schedule of things to check. When all of those processes are working right, I ride almost fearlessly. I feel closer to my motorcycle and more like we're in this together. When something screws with some or all of my routine maintenance, I am clinging to the bars worrying about what is likely to fall off or blow up until I stop and do the work.

Your mileage may vary. Apparently, it likely does.