The Longest 10 Miles

The Boot

It was Million Mile Monday for HOG members around the world, and day #9 in a row of 90+ degree temperatures in Delaware.  The humidity was ridiculous, and the sun was blazing!  We had cut our route a bit short due to the forecast of afternoon thunderstorms, and had just finished up lunch.  A quick check of the radar on Skip’s phone indicated that the storms had already started to pop up, and all of us who were headed north were going to be heading directly into a pretty nasty one!

It was still stiflingly hot where we were in Smyrna, so we decided not to bother with the rain gear since getting wet would be a welcome relief, and the group psyched ourselves up for the trip up US-13.

Mile #1
We were approaching the ramp to get on Rt-1 and cross the Canal Bridge, and I still hadn’t felt a single drop of rain.  There had been a few visible lightning strikes, and the sky was looking quite ominous.  As if Mother Nature had drawn a line where the asphalt switched to concrete at the base of the bridge, all hell broke loose as soon as we crossed that line.  I kept looking at the dark stains on the concrete roadway and thinking that must be oil in there just coming to the surface as the rain began to fall.  It must be incredibly slick, and the winds were pretty strong as we crested the bridge.  Going down the other side I felt like I was being pelted with paint balls, and I couldn’t really see for nothin’!  I was however very glad that I had worn my ¾ helmet with a face shield that day rather than my shorty.

Mile #2
I knew several of the riders were headed much farther north than I, but still it was a bit of a surprise when no one got off the Rt-72 exit with me.  The rains were getting harder with every foot I traveled, and the winds were picking up too.  It made it quite difficult to concentrate on the little details of riding…like exactly which gear I was in.  I pulled up to the traffic light at the end of the ramp, and put my feet down a bit abruptly because of a wind gust.  I tried to balance the bike with one foot on the ground and kick the lever down into first gear, but it wouldn’t budge…so I hoped that I had gotten it all the way down.

As I sat waiting for the light on an inclined slight bank to the left with a huge truck right behind me, I watched as the raindrops on the pavement became white water washing across the roadway and the traffic signals swung sideways in the wind.  The first thought that overwhelmed me was “I am totally alone.”  All of my friends were headed up the highway, and Jay was safe & dry at work.  If anything did happen I would have to handle it completely by myself.  I was having difficulty even holding the bike upright with both feet on the ground because the winds were so strong.  If I could make it around the corner, there was a school a block down the street where I could pull in and be safe for awhile.  There’s no real cover there, but I am already drenched so I’m not sure why that would make a difference anyway.

The traffic light finally changed, I gave it throttle and started letting out the clutch.  The bike did not move.  It was then that I determined I was surely not in first gear.  I shuffled my feet a little as the bike creeped forward about a foot or two.  There was no way on this sideways banked incline with water gushing over my toes that I would be able to pick up a foot enough to get her down to first gear, at least not until the roadway leveled out a little…so I had no choice but to finesse the clutch and practically duck walk my bike around the corner.  I thought the guy in the big truck was going to run me over, but he actually patiently drifted thru the intersection behind me.  I still don’t know if I ever kicked her down into first or if I just fought my way through until second gear could pull her weight, but somehow I actually started moving.

Mile #3
I was in the wrong lane to pull into the school, so I kept on trucking.  Slowly and steadily I rode down Rt-72 toward Red Lion Rd.  There’s a gas station there.  I can pull in and call Jay; he can check the radar for me and let me know where the storm is located, which way it’s moving, and how long until it lets up.  The gas station was on the opposite corner of the intersection from where I caught a red light.  As I sat there I realized that the rain & wind were already dying down so I may as well just keep on moving.

Mile #4
I was very careful to count each shift as I moved along so I’d know exactly what gear I was in.  I was traveling about 40 mph in a 50 mph zone, and thought that I must be a hazard.  But everyone else was going that slowly too, so I stopped worrying about it.  I thought maybe I should turn on my hazard lights, and wondered what on earth possessed me to opt out of the rain gear when I knew I was riding directly into a storm.  At least the hi-viz orange and reflective accents would be much more visible than my soaking wet dark purple mesh jacket.  I spent $175 on good quality gear, why in the world am I not using it?  I never did turn on the blinkers or stop to pull out my rain gear.

Mile #5
Still rolling down Rt-72.  Jay must be worried sick about me.  I bet he has tried to call me, and of course I am not answering.  He’s probably watching the radar at work and wondering what part of the Delmarva Peninsula I am in?  I could be anywhere from Rock Hall MD to Chincoteague VA to Dover DE…  I am actually only 5 miles from home, but I am in the worst possible location – by myself, in the middle of a huge storm!  At least it’s not windy anymore, the rain is steady but getting lighter, and I haven’t seen any lightning since we all went through Odessa.

I crossed paths with another rider caught out in the storm.  He waved, I nodded.  Somehow it seemed as though the message “I feel your pain, Ride Safe, Good luck to you” was passed between us.

Mile #6
Another traffic light.  This time at US-40.  There is one car in front of me who stopped for the yellow, so I’ll be here for awhile.  The left-turning vehicles are coming into the opposite lane now.  Oh no, they are riding through a stream across the roadway!  I am going to have to go through that…and it’s right where I’ll be shifting into 2nd gear!  Steady pace, no sudden moves, keep an even throttle, shift either before I reach it or after I clear it.  I can handle this – it’s just like that time Lem took us for an ice cream ride down Rt-9 and there was standing water all across the roadway.

I lifted my face shield so it didn’t fog up as I sat there, and made the executive decision to keep it up as a sort of visor so I had clear vision until I got through the intersection.  The light turned green, and my plan went off without a hitch.

Mile #7
I ride up and down Rt-72 to work every day.  I could do it with my eyes closed.  It’s one of my favorite roads to ride – not so much because of its excellent twisties or anything, but because its sweeping curves are so familiar.  I feel very at home on this road.  Oh crap, sweeping curves!  I’ve been going pretty much in a straight line so far, but the coefficient of friction is not as great in a curve.  I hope I don’t go sliding across the roadway.  Choose your line very carefully…

Ya know, that pickup truck behind me is staying way back even though I’m going significantly under the speed limit.  That’s pretty considerate of him.  He probably sees some psycho soaking wet chick on a bike and feels sorry for me.

The curves went OK, now for the railroad tracks.  Mikey slid out on railroad tracks in the rain when he was riding his brand new V-Rod home from the dealership the night he bought it.  Banged it up pretty bad.  Not a good thought.  Watch your line, angle it perpendicular, hold it steady.

Mile #8
Almost home – so far, so good.  It’s only drizzling now.  As I sit at the traffic light at Old Baltimore Pike, I can actually see the sky starting to clear off in the direction of my house.  I have intentionally chosen the left lane because the roadway under the I-95 overpass just a few blocks up always has standing water in the right lane every time it rains.

My bike is idling funny.  She doesn’t sound steady at all.  Please don’t stall out on me girl, please don’t stall…  I keep giving her just a little bit of throttle as I sit there, just to keep a strong rumble.

Mile #9
The pickup truck that has been behind me pulls into the right lane.  What a jerk, I think…he is going to barrel  past me through the standing water and splash it all up on me as I go under the bridge!  And I thought he was considerate before…ha!

Oh crap!  There is a whole bunch of traffic all jammed up on the other side of the overpass.  I see some flashy yellow lights up ahead, like the big lane closure arrows, but I can’t quite make them out.  Holy Noah’s Ark, Batman!  The entire road is completely flooded out – at least 4 inches deep, all 4 lanes across, and almost a block long!  that stream across US-40 had nothing on this flowing river! 

Everybody is inching through in both directions at like 5 mph.  At least that means the splashing should be kept to a minimum.  It’s too late now to do anything about it – I’m going in!  OMG, OMG, OMG…  As I got to the other side of the overpass the water just kept getting deeper.  I swear it had to be 6 inches deep at one point.  One of the cars that was coming the other way apparently didn’t get the memo about going slow and his wake splashed up to my knees as he passed me.  Somehow I managed to keep it steady all the way through…now what?  Brake lights?!!  Oh no, I cannot stop now!  I am knee deep in standing water!  Oh thank god you came to your senses…

Mile #10
I turned into the neighborhood and cruised along through a light mist.  Fourteen speed humps, 3 stop signs, around the corner into my court, and…why do people always have to park blocking my ramp up to the shed?  Now I am going to have to go down the sidewalk and around the tree.  Ugh!  And of course, the patio blocks in front of the door are completely underwater.

Well, I made it home safely, poured the water out of my boots, and took a nice hot shower (after calling Jay to let him know I was OK).  This was a Million Mile Monday adventure I will not soon forget!

CARGO Basics Tailbag – Review

The princess and the blue ridge

Two summers ago I made the difficult decision to give up my first motorcycle.  It was a bittersweet decision though, because I was letting her go in exchange for a “big girl bike” – my 2008 Harley-Davidson Super Glide!  I chose this new bike because it was elegant yet simple, pure machine.  I liked the stripped down, bare bones look of the bike…as well as the stripped down price tag!

I knew I didn’t want to add saddlebags or even a pillion seat.  One day I would like to get some fancy “swoopy” pipes and replace the boring rubber footpegs with something a little prettier, but I definitely do not want to gear it all up.  Although I enjoy using Jay’s Low Rider as my pack mule when we go on trips, I really dislike “the look”.  I don’t even like when he rides around town with the sissy-bar T-Bag as he normally does.  His bike looks sexy when he strips her down and rides her naked!  THAT’s the look I want for my bike.

Geroge Washington Crossing Park

Herein lies the problem…  “stripped down” means no place to store or bring along ANYTHING.  No rain gear, no sunscreen, no extra layer for warmth after the sun goes down.  Heck, there’s not even a place to put my wallet & cell phone!  (I’ve already lost one phone flying out of a back pocket somewhere along the North East Extension; I’m not really looking forward to that happening again!)  As the chapter photographer, I MUST have a way to bring along my camera!

So I quickly decided that I would need to put a luggage rack on my rear fender and get a bag to strap onto it.  I searched high and low and found very few choices.  Oh, there are tons of luggage choices for motorcycles, but the vast majority have a vertical design and are made to slip over a sissy bar.  My bike has a solo seat and no back rest, so that was out of the question.  Besides, I didn’t want this stupid bag sticking up and ruining the artful flow and line of my beautiful bike!  My other options for tailbags were all designed for use on a sport bike (which, if ya hadn’t noticed, has an entirely different tail end design than my Harley).  Fitment would be a logistical nightmare, not to mention that the designs were just all wrong.  It would look about as out of place as Bobby Munson wearing a designer jogging suit!

My search was fruitless and downright frustrating, until my hero came to the rescue!  Jay found a sleek yet functional tailbag for my bike at Cycle Gear.  It is the CARGO Basics Tailbag and at $49.99 it won’t break the bank. Part# 61807. The bag comes with an assortment of attachment options including wrap-around flaps with a clip, bungee cords, a set of flat ribbed rubber straps, and lots of hooks and loops to weave straps or cords through.

CARGO Basics Tailbag

After about an hour of working many different options, we cut off the flaps, removed the bungee cords, and wove the rubber straps through several loops and around the fender rack.  It made for a nice snug fit so the bag would not slip and slide from side to side or front to back.  Only problem is that it is not going anywhere, ever.  So the detachable shoulder strap for carrying the bag into your hotel room for instance is useless. 

The bag also sports a zipper around the base perimeter which allows it to expand to near double capacity.  It is supposed to be able to hold a full face helmet when fully expanded.

rain cover

Another feature of the bag is the outside pockets.  There are flat pockets the length of each side.  I keep the included rain cover (aka “shower cap”) on one side, and my chapstick and sunscreen face-stick on the other.  There is also a small compartment on what I’ll call the “front” end of the bag which is a perfect size for my camera or a pair of sunglasses.

The main compartment is just the right size to carry rain gear or a hoodie along with throwing in my wallet, cell phone, house keys, and a bottle of sunscreen.  It closes via a top flap attached at the front with zippers running down each side that are connected by a short cord.  You pull the cord, and both zippers pull closed (or open, as the case may be) easy as pie!  When expanded, I can fit in a rolled up pair of jeans, t-shirt, tank top, nightie, underwear, socks, flip-flops, and a sandwich-sized ziploc bag filled with travel-size toiletry items…in other words, enough gear for a weekend trip!

Diana’s Bike at Harriman State Park

I do really like this bag, and have gotten a LOT of use out of it.  Over the past two years I have had many people ask me about the bag and where I got it.  My only real complaint is that it has faded quite a bit.  It would be nice if I could find a way to mount it that was easy to get on and off, but I need it on the bike probably 95% of the time so I am willing to give up that luxury.

Riding with tailbag

The bottom line is that this is a very useful, attractive bag.  It suits my needs and tastes.  Even after all of the use and abuse that it has gotten, it has held up well and the only sign of wear is the faded color.  I highly recommend this tail bag as an accessory for day & overnight trips.  If you are going to do more serious touring, you are going to need more serious luggage!  For your day-to-day riding needs, this little bag does the trick!

HJC IS-33 Three Quarter Helmet – Product Review

IS-33

Our sponsor, Riders Discount, supplied me with an HJC SY-MAX 2 modular helmet to review last winter. I liked it so much I asked them to send me the IS-33 which is a three quarter helmet with similar features. By similar features, I mostly mean the integrated sunshield. Both helmets also feature removable washable SilverCool™ cheek and crown liners. Both come in a great selection of colors, I got silver.

One of my reasons for interest in these helmets is the snug fit. I shave my head and my Harley-Davidson Jet II size medium fits a little loose. If I wear it with my windshield I get blurred vision and headaches from helmet wobble. The HJC helmets fit so snug the cheek pads squish my face a little and make me look like a fish. This size medium is just a tad too snug but as I wear it more the cushioning seems to fit my head better each time. My windshield still creates helmet wobble so I prefer to ride without the windshield. Problem with riding without the windshield is air and crosswinds blow up into the face shield. I notice it more with the IS-33 than the Jet. The one air vent in my Jet does not work at all. The two air vents in the IS-33 work better.

integrated sun shield on the IS-33
I love having the integrated sunshield. It doesn’t rattle like it does in my SY-MAX. I don’t like to wear sunglasses but if I’m riding into the sun I can easily deploy the sun screen. Once the sun glare is no longer a problem I tap on the spring loaded button and it retracts back into the helmet.
  
Another feature the IS-33 has that the jet does not is speaker pockets. It’s easy to put a set of speakers behind the pockets which are part of the cheek pads. Actually it is extremely easy to install any type of headset because the crown and cheek pads are removable. They snap in and out.

removeable pads in the IS-33

Bottom line with a helmet is it has to fit comfortably before anything else matters so I recommend you try them on before buying. Assuming this helmet fit you, it is an excellent helmet. The modern high tech design makes me feel a little like a science fiction character… can you say Mighty Morphin Power Ranger?

Pack Mule and Photographer

For more information about this helmet click here.

Delaware Maryland State HOG Rally

DE MD 2010 State HOG Rally

The below article is from guest writer Barbara Kerr, Rally Secretary. Please note registration deadline is this Thursday! If are are interested in volunteering please e-mail me your contact information at Director@FirstStateHOG.org (you must be registered for the rally to volunteer). 

If it’s June, then that means that the DE/MD “Blue Ribbon H.O.G. A-Fair” State Rally is just around the corner in Dover, Delaware – July 29, 30, 31, 2010.  HAVE YOU REGISTERED YET????  OMG!  Why not??? Do it now!  It is so easy – just go to www.demdstatehogrally.com.  Make sure you look carefully at all your registration options – dinner, Dover International Speedway Tour, and rally merchandise.  You’d be smart to select your rally merchandise purchases at the time of registration, as that’s the only way you’ll be guaranteed to get what you want.  Please note on-line registration CLOSES JUNE 10th!!!   After you register, check out the Sheraton of Dover, where we have a block of rooms being held; book now before they are all gone!

Thursday night, the 29th, is the Meet ‘n Greet social.  Plan on hoot’n and holler’n through the HOG Calling and Pie Eating contests.  Oh, don’t forget to get dressed up in your best (fanciest) bib overalls (I’ve yet to figure out how I’m dressin’ mine up – but am sure there will be plenty of laughs for all).

The rally gets into full swing with an early start for breakfast on Friday morning.  This is definitely the place to be on July 30th.  After you’ve gotten your fill at breakfast, decide whether you want to do the walking and/or riding poker run rides, Destination and Blue Ribbon Passport rides, and/or the ice cream ride.  Did you remember to pre-register for the Dover International Speedway Tour? When will you get a better chance to go behind the scenes at the track AND get to lap the track on your bike??  After an awesome day of fun, make sure you head to the Sheraton for Friday’s night wild and fun Midway games, DJ and cash bar. 

Saturday morning the 31st starts with another great breakfast ride.  After a full day of poker runs and another ice cream ride, make sure your back to the Sheraton in time for the Blue Ribbon Games/Field Events.   Oh, and plan on the group photo in front of Miles at the track.  What better way to close the event than with a great dinner, prizes and hoppin’ and laughin’ with our DJ Just Kidding Around?! 
See you at the rally!

Sonny Barger on Motorcycle Safety

I am in the process of reading a proof copy of Sonny Barger’s newest book and I can’t put it down. It’s called Let’s Ride – Sonny Barger’s Guide To Motorcycling. I came across these paragraphs and wanted to quote Sonny saying that proper MSF training is the most important thing a rider can do. This is coming from the man dubbed the “baddest man on two wheels”  by Rolling Stone.

I’m going to provide you with the basics of motorcycle riding in the following pages, but first I’m going to give you the single most important piece of advice in this entire book – complete the MSF Rider Course.

And if you’re already an experienced motorcyclist who hasn’t taken the basic Rider Course, take one of the advanced training courses. If you’re self-taught, or if you learned to ride from a friend or family member, chances you’ve developed some bad habits over the years. Riding is an extremely high-risk activity and even if those bad habits haven’t caused you problems so far, sooner or later your luck will run out. It’s best to rely on luck as little as possible; one of the best ways to do that is to get formal training. It’s the most important thing you can do to avoid getting maimed or killed.

Volunteering Makes Motorcycle Events More Fun

Setting up tents

Don’t Stand on the Sidelines! I can tell you from experience that the best way to enjoy the benefits of being a HOG member is to step up to the plate and get involved. It can be daunting to commit yourself to something and intimidating to meet new people. Don’t let that stop you! Don’t stand on the sidelines! You have nothing to lose and everything to gain!

“Volunteering” sounds like a punishment or a sacrifice but nothing could be further from the truth. HOG is primarily a volunteer organization. Nothing would happen if HOG members didn’t step up to help. Showing up to an event as a participant with no responsibility sounds like fun but in most cases it makes for a hum drum experience. I’d much rather create bonds with new people, keep busy and have a good time. The other options are to stand around with your thumb up your exhaust, shop and eat. If you show up to an event as a volunteer I guarantee you’ll make new friends without even trying. Event volunteers are busy at work, have purpose and are usually laughing their butts off. Having a job makes being at the event fun.

Our fellow nutty MAV peeps

The above pictures are from the second year Diana and I volunteered to help with the MAV Foundation Bike & Blues Festival. Look how much fun the volunteers are having. You probably don’t believe me when I tell you they are drinking water.

When I joined First State Chapter I jumped in head first. I volunteered to be the Activities Officer on day one. I had no idea what I was getting into, but I knew I wanted to meet new people who liked the same things I did… and that’s not easy to do out there in the real world. I organized two trips and had the time of my life. I wish I could relive those trips! The friends I made on those first two trips will always be special because they were present and supported me when I was born into the world of traveling by motorcycle.

Immediately after joining the chapter I volunteered at our chapter poker run. You would never guess how much fun can be had doing something as simple as passing out bags of potato chips in the food line until you do it. I met so many people and we laughed and joked the whole time. When my wife, Diana, arrived to pick me up and saw me having such a great time with everyone she felt left out. Ever since then we have noticed we have more fun the more we get involved. It’s gotten to the point where we invent things to do. For example we don’t just show up to a dealer open house at Mike’s Famous Harley-Davidson. Instead we ask if we can do a breakfast fund raiser and cook breakfast… or if we can set up a membership table and try to recruit new members.

By volunteering to be the Director of the chapter I have probably made more friends than all the other friends I have ever made in my entire life. I have probably met more people through HOG in three years than most people have in their whole lives. I love showing up to an event several hours away and seeing members of other HOG chapters that I have met only because I took on this role. Every month First State attracts new members and I am usually fortunate enough to meet all of them. This past spring I attended HOG Officer Training in Reno, NV and made friends with other HOG members from Canada, Detroit, Wyoming, California and Texas.

Have I convinced you that volunteering is the best way to make an event fun? Are you are all revved up and ready to volunteer? If you live in Delaware or Maryland I have two huge events in July 2010 to tell you about and we need plenty of volunteers!

We have the Delaware and Maryland State HOG Rally right here in Dover this year. I volunteered to be the Volunteer Coordinator for the rally… go figure. I need lots of help! Please e-mail me at Director@FirstStateHOG.org with subject “volunteer” if you want to help. Send me your contact information. The only catch is you must be registered for the rally (you must be a HOG member to register). Rally registration deadline is June 10th! If you miss the deadline and still want to participate, contact me and I will see what I can do. Click here to register for the rally.

First State HOG is in a unique position to take an active part in a new annual event that could possibly become the biggest Mid Atlantic Harley-Davidson biker event. Our sponsor, Mike’s Famous Harley-Davidson New Castle, will launch Mike’s Famous Biker Weekend next month. We are on the ground level of this opportunity to help make this a spectacular success and create visibility for our chapter. We need every active First State member to step up for two hours Friday, Saturday or Sunday. The dates are July 16, 17 and 18th. We have lots of different jobs to accommodate different people. If you have special needs let us know. We understand some people can’t stand for long periods of time, others don’t like the sun, etc… We will find something you will enjoy. I’ll probably lead a ride and direct traffic because I think I look good in a bright orange vest. Come to the June meeting and select the time slot of your choice. If you can’t make it to the June meeting, contact Diana or Gladys.