Google+ Two-Wheeled Tourist: September 2010

9.20.2010

Two-Wheeled Tourist is taking a detour...

I'm taking a quick break from this blog and riding on over to...


Two-Wheeled Wedding!


Matt and I are getting married on October 6 and are covering the whole thing online on the blog site mentioned above. I'll be resuming normal blog activity here in the middle of October. Until then, enjoy the festivities as we tie the knot in Chicago, IL!

9.13.2010

Why I miss lane splitting...

[For the definition of lane-splitting or lane sharing, click here.]

The motorcycle is one of the most agile motorized vehicles on the planet. In my home state of California I used my motorcycle to get from point A to point B with efficiency – in many cases I didn't have much of a choice thanks to the multitudes of cars at any time of the day that would, literally, sit in front of me with every place to be and no where to go. A commute that would normally take 2.5 hours in a car would be chopped in half thanks to the privilege only allowed by one state in the US: lane sharing or "splitting." It was a ballet, a dance in between lines, in a lane that fit us motorcyclists perfectly. After a year here in Ohio, I long for the opportunity to take that dance again.

Here's the problem. Lane sharing is downright illegal in all parts of the US except for California. I will admit, there aren't as many reasons to utilize this tool in a motorcyclist's kit of skills out here; “Rush Hour” only lasts an hour during the morning and late afternoon. However, the aggressive driving culture here and the occasional disregard for the safety of other motorists makes me wish it was allowed by law.

An Ohio native once told me, “There are four seasons in Ohio: Spring, Summer, Winter, and Road Construction.” At any time of the year there's a closed lane, a road being resurfaced, or a new detour that lengthens the commute significantly. The problems then arise when drivers in “cages” (cars) are forced to adjust their driving to reflect the situation. This is where they fail miserably at merging, right-of-way rules, and speed control. Before you know it traffic is gnarled due to one person trying to merge immediately or not allowing another driver to go ahead of them like it's some sort of race. The “zipper rule” (one car from each lane merging in an alternating sequence) doesn't exist out here. And here I am in the stop-and-go burning up my motorcycle's clutch and my patience. I peek through the lanes, weave in my own, and think to myself, “I could totally split past all this crap.” And then I envision the car that will get in my way to try to crunch me out of spite.

In an ideal situation in CA, my bike will pass between cars for as long as there is at least ½ a car width of an opening. I maintain my speed according to the flow of traffic – CA law calls for no faster than 10MPH above the speed of the surrounding cars. I would not want to try it here; drivers that realize you're smarter than them will try to kill you. For those moments in gridlock and my subtle attempts to squeeze into little spaces, everyone suddenly appears to be trying out for starting linebacker position at Ohio State. Then comes the unnecessary merging, opening of doors (or the threat thereof), cursing and swearing...and only because I've just placed myself a couple cars in front of you. Spiteful bastards.

On the other hand, CA folks have already admitted defeat to the traffic situation in the Golden State. They know the bikes will be the only vehicles to pass through the gridlock. In fact, many cars and buses will facilitate the motorcyclists' journey by nudging themselves over several inches to allow the bikes to squeak through. Of course, there are some bikers that take too many liberties in zooming excessively fast along these “fourth lanes.” If you've ridden outside of CA, you learn that the lane split is a privilege that should be used responsibly and not a right by virtue of a motorcycle's slim profile, at least in 49 of the 50 states and Canada.

Let's face it fellow motorcyclists, Ohio car drivers will never change. Even if lane splitting is legalized in this state, there will still be cagers with homicidal tendencies that will never admit defeat. It is only with a drastic change in motorist culture that we as motorcyclists will be free to use our bikes the way they were designed, taking advantage of their agility, power, and gracefulness in the smallest of drivable lanes. Until then I'll be looking behind me in hopes I don't get rear-ended by some cell-phone texting teenager or trucker.

Thanks to seven years of CA riding, there's always that escape route, the valley that looks like three inches between car to car yet is three feet wide to me, the motorcyclist. Until you take a ride on a bike and relish those advantages, you'll never understand.

9.12.2010

MSF Dirtbike School...because romping off-road is fun!

On September 11 I had the chance to participate in the Motorcycle Safety Foundation's Dirtbike School on the MSF's main campus in Troy, OH, about 100 miles from Columbus. It was a brisk ride there (it was about 55 degrees until about 10AM) but the mild weather was great for the five hours that I along with seven other riders would be outdoors on the dirt range.


The class began with a short classroom session explaining the parts of a dirtbike, and in our case (the class was made up of all experienced street riders) similarities and differences to on-road motorcycles. Additionally, we were introduced to the basics of off-road protective gear, their functions, and their differences from regular streetbike equipment. We suited up and headed outside; I took advantage of their stock of off-road protective gear and tried out a pair of tall dirtbike boots and a motocross helmet for the session.

When we got out on the dirtbikes (I was on a Honda CRF150 for this class), we started with several exercises that mimicked those of the Basic Rider Course such as clutch actuation, starting, stopping, and shifting gears. I realized very quickly that despite the looseness of the terrain the dirtbike had loads of traction to play with and I simply had to “allow” the thing to swish around and negotiate the unevenness on its own. The design of these bikes from the lightweight frame to the vast amount of suspension travel made riding through dirt and rocks as effortless as riding a standard motorcycle down the street. I also learned dirt-specific techniques such as counterbalancing a bike (placing your body weight opposite to the bike's path of travel while turning) and maneuvering the bike while standing up. During one of the exercises, I stalled my bike and tipped over, but I wrestled the bike back up and continued on with the drills. By the end of the course I found myself romping up and down hills, running over 2x4 pieces of wood, and sloshing through the mud without much thought at all. Yahoo!

For the longest time I have had a near-phobia of gravel because of the strange feeling I would get when those tires started sloshing around and digging into the dirt and rocks, not to mention that I had previously crashed in loose gravel during a poorly-plannned shortcut on a group ride two years ago. I feel like this class has helped me tremendously in getting over those fears and really opened up the possibilities for dual-sport and trail riding in my future. I know that with as many miles as I ride and as many strange places I visit seeing dirt will be inevitable. However, I feel more prepared when I encounter these conditions again.

If you're either a newbie thinking of getting onto a road bike for the firsts time or a seasoned street rider I recommend this class not only for the fun factor but also for the experience of running a motorcycle through uneven terrain. This class caters to riders as young as 6 years of age, and the only requirement is that you must know how to ride a bicycle. I recommend taking a day and going for it; it'll be the best $50 you'll spend in a while.

For more information about the MSF Dirtbike Course and where to take it, visit http://www.dirtbikeschool.com/.

9.07.2010

Ride Route: SE Ohio Sampler

I had today off so I decided to dabble a little bit into the roads of SE Ohio, one of the few parts of the state that isn't completely flat. Many motorcyclists I've talked to at my work have told me stories about that area of Ohio and gave me the simplest advice when traveling down there for the first time.

"Any triple-digit state route is wonderful. Just find one and go for it."

And they were right! After running down US-33 through Hocking Hills and Nelsonville and a small portion of US-50 (it leads all the way to Washington, D.C. by the way), I did a couple of those famed roads, including a short preview of the "Triple Nickel" (OH State Rte. 555). My favorite one at the moment is OH-676 that involved super curvy hill climbs through forests of trees. I closed the straight route home with OH-60 along the Muskigum River and a slab down I-70. Of course, this is just the beginning. All of these roads head right into West Virginia and North Kentucky where there's even more of the crazy twisties.

Somewhere on OH-676, I did answer the age old question, "Why did the chicken(s) cross the road?" I had to slow down to make sure the cluckers made it to the other side.

Point of advice: these roads are definitely NOT for beginners. If you're a newb at this whole motorcycle riding and cornering bit, I suggest practicing on simpler roads or taking it real easy. There's lots of gravel at intersections and where you least expect it. Additionally, you have to keep your eyes on the road and on the signs or you'll end up in a turnout and in someone's driveway. These are not the kind of roads that one can do at 70 MPH. Even after doing these types of roads for the last six years I was still on my toes, but it was definitely an entertaining experience and it gave Eleanor an excuse to his 93,000 on the odometer.

Route is below. Total miles: 243.


View Larger Map

9.03.2010

My Adventures with Josey the Sea Lion

Last month I had a visitor with me who followed me wherever me and my motorcycle traveled. Her name is Josey (a loose translation of San Jose), and she's a sea lion. She's also the 2011 Women On Wheels ® Ride-In Ambassador for next year's event in San Jose, CA. I first met her in Stratton, VT during this year's Ride-In as she was introduced during the closing ceremonies.


The Buckeye State Lady Riders received the honor of being the first shipping recipient of Josey. In the two and a half weeks she was with the chapter, she accomplished the following:

- 2430 miles on a motorcycle
- 1 Iron Butt SaddleSore 1000 from Columbus, OH to Spartanburg, SC and back covering seven states (OH, KY, TN, NC, SC, VT, WV)
- trips all over Columbus and the surrounding area
- visited the Columbus Zoo, Dublin and Easton Chiller Rinks, the Longaberger Basket, Motohio European Motorbikes, and the AMA Museum and Hall of Fame to name a few
- attended an MSF Beginner Riders Course
- visited ALL five WOW Ohio chapters (Buckeye State Lady Riders, Dayton Wright Lady Riders, Queen City Lady Riders, Ohio River Valley Vixens, and the Cleveland Rumble Pack)

So what's the deal with this traveling stuffed animal? For those new to the Ride-In Ambassador, here's a little explanation:

Every WOW Ride-In has a Ride-In Ambassador (RIA) that travels the country visiting chapters all over the United States. Chapters place their requests for the RIA after that year's Ride-In and a schedule is set up for its stopovers. Over the years, WOW RIAs (and the WOW members that accompany it) have ended up in the most interesting places, and photos taken with it are shown at the following year's Ride-In. The RIA changes every year to reflect the uniqueness of the area where the Ride-In will be held. For example, 2009's RIA was a steer (Kerville, TX) and 2010's RIA was a jersey cow (Stratton, VT). Since WOW's headed to the West Coast (San Jose, CA) in 2011, she's a sea lion.

To commemorate her trip through Ohio and a few surrounding states, I made this slideshow with some of the best photos of her stops here and there. Josey will eventually make her way back to San Jose, CA just in time for the festivities on July 5-7, 2011. Thanks, Josey, for hanging out with us in the Buckeye State!

This slideshow is dedicated in memory of Diana Thornton, our fallen BSLR founding member (and long-time San Jose, CA resident) who passed away on August 15, 2010 after a courageous battle with cancer. Josey poses with Diana's husband of 50 years, Scott, their two sons, her best friend, and grandson in the second to last photo. The slideshow closes with Josey sitting on her 2009 Honda Shadow Aero 750. Diana, you will be dearly missed...ride on, and "take the long way home."

My first [documented] Iron Butt SaddleSore 1000

On August 21 I completed my first [documented] Iron Butt SaddleSore 1000. By definition this is a journey of 1000 miles in 24 hours or less. The first time I rode a thousand miles in under 24 hours was from Roswell, NM to LAX. However, this 17-hour ride was not officially documented per the requirements of the Iron Butt Association, the governing body that sanctions these long-distance motorcycle rides. I figured I might as well make it "official" and go for it.

The route I took is below. I took a circular route starting and ending in Lewis Center, OH by way of Spartanburg, SC (Matt suggested this city because it's where the BMW Z3 roadster was manufactured - he used to have one). As with any long distance ride this one had a few obstacles to deal with, the most annoying being rain. I was in the middle of a constant downpour for three of the seven states I cross (NC, SC, WV) and as I rode into the evening hours the deluges affected my visibility to the point that getting down the highway required every ounce of willpower and concentration I could muster.


View Larger Map

Now my route for this SaddleSore 1000 was not the easiest one to ride by far. However, it was very scenic and, when combined with the light misty rains that dotted North Carolina and a couple other places, hauntingly beautiful. Of course, one easy way out was "slabbing" I-70 West toward St. Louis, MO, turning right back around and heading straight to Columbus. But I couldn't pass up the opportunity to finally add North and South Carolina to my list of crossed states, now bringing the total to 39. I look forward to the day I can return and enjoy more of these states and not be on such a severe time crunch.

But then regular riders ask, "How do you do a thousand miles in a day?" It's a lot of miles but it's not so bad with some proper riding conditioning. If you're considering attempting one of these Iron Butt runs, here are some pointers I'd suggest.

Prepping Yourself
1. Learn to manage the miles. Building up the tolerance to do those distances takes practice and time. Ride. Ride everywhere. Ride in adverse conditions and to different destinations. Did I mention ride?

2. Hydrate. Drinks lots of water before, during, and after your ride. Get a Camelback or other hydration system that's easy to access while you're tooling down the road.

3. Snack a lot, big meal later. You won't have much time to eat, but get something in you. Energy bars and bananas are great. Increase protein intake and decrease carbs - those will only make you drowsier.

4. Wear the proper riding gear. Develop a system of equipment to combat any weather or temperature situation. Try accessories such as heated gear, soakable cooling vests, and packable rain suits.

Prepping Your Bike
1. As you practice doing the miles, reflect on your personal comfort needs. Do I need a new seat, sheepskin, gel pad? Would a cruise control aid/device come in handy? Are my handlebars, foot controls, etc. ergonomically sound? Do I need to change/remove/upgrade my windshield? The list goes on and on. Multitudes of motorcycle accessories are available to adjust your motorcycle to suit your style. A little research goes a long way.

2. Complete essential and major services before you take off. Do that oil change. Lube that chain. Perform that major service interval. Change the tires if they're almost worn out. Your bike will perform at its best when it gets its necessary TLC.

3. Learn your bike's quirks. That two wheeled machine between your legs is a friend you'll learn to know intimately. Take time to do research and learn its special needs. The less you learn the hard way the better.

And finally...what kind of motorcycle should I use?
The "best" motorcycle for an Iron Butt depends on the rider and the type of roads to be crossed. For riding interstates for prolonged periods of time, a larger engine displacement bike would be ideal because of the lower revs the bike needs to maintain those higher speeds. Additionally, a heavier bike with a fairing and windshield would cut down on the fatigue caused by wind blast. Larger bikes also equate to larger gas tanks so you'll be minimizing the amount of stops to get from point to point.

In this case, my FJR1300 has been my weapon of choice as well as that of many an Iron Butt participant because of its smoothness at higher speeds, generous wind protection, luggage room, and versatility to accommodate many types of riders. There are many bikes out there that are designed to do the miles; the challenge is to find the one that's right for you.

For more tips and tricks on surviving the long haul, Iron Butt Association has a wonderful "Archive of Wisdom" @ http://www.ironbutt.com/tech/aowprintout.cfm.

A Year in Ohio: a retrospective

This week officially marks a year in Ohio, 2500 miles away from the state I called home for 24 years. It was a move that turned heads and alienated many a friend and family member from me. However, it opened many new opportunities for travel, adventure, and exploration of different career paths and social environments. Thanks to this move I have been able to venture through the Northeast and parts of the Southeast United States on my motorcycle. I have met many people that don't have the "big city" mentality and are friendlier because they can be. Perhaps I can consider that to be a good thing, however this stay in Ohio is a vacation that I would like to end.

In some cases the peace and quiet can be nerve-wracking. There are days when I do miss being in a constant state of movement and always having "something to do." To make for that I find more things to do that are more worthwhile. It was a risk to leave and a daring move to start anew in a place so far away. We left because we couldn't afford CA. We left because starting a new life together in CA would be impossible. I chose to leave to break away from 24 years of being told, "No, you cannot do this. It's not proper, and why can't you be the perfect daughter." As a result of my desire to do what I want I will be punished until I choose to conform to tradition and structure.

I know my decisions will always be criticized and torn apart by others, and with time I will be convinced that this move was well worth the gamble. At least, for the most part, I am not alone in this journey.

Someday I hope to return home to CA. By that time it'll be a different world where I am forgotten and sent to the pages of old memories and shades of the past. At the least when my two wheels touch the West Coast again, I will still have the ocean, the twisted roads that overlook it, and the flashbacks of a stage of life that has run its course. I know one thing is certain; nothing is permanent and things can be lost in an instant. You deal and move on.