Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Stupid Is... And Stupid Does

Ya. Ya. I know, but it's better when worded that way. Work with me...

So I decided that the DR is a keeper and need to register it in Texas. Insurance? Check. Texas state inspection? Hmmm... The closest Texas city to Bowling Green is Texarkana and the bike needs to be in Texarkana for this to work. No need to state the obvious, eh? Fuckin' eh. Anyway...

The DR is a different mode of transportation than what I'm accustomed. My other rides like hitting the highway and hauling ass or easing back for a few minutes and then hauling ass. I have to get over and get used to the fact that the DR just won't get on the interstate and do 80+ for hours on end. It's a more laid back adventure. And that's one of the reasons I bought the bike to begin with.

I mapped out a route that kept me off the interstate as much as possible. On the way to Texarkana I traveled about 40 miles of interstate through the Memphis area. US-79 goes all the way from Russellville (just west of Bowling Green) damn near all the way to Texarkana while only being about 20 miles longer than the interstate route. I figured that's the perfect back-road route.

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The ride to Texarkana was excellent. Longer than a typical ride, but enjoyable. I enjoyed the slower pace, the smaller towns, the kind folks along the way and not feeling like I was in a big damn hurry to get somewhere. Between the slower pace, the abundant small towns and the incredible heat, I arrived in Texarkana in about twelve and a half hours. Not too bad.

I checked into the Courtyard because it's right by the local Cracker Barrel - one of my many addictions. After getting all my gear into the room and chilling for a spell I went back outside to look over the bike and secure it for the evening.

Now stupid is locking the bars and twisting the key aaaaaaaaaalllllllll the way to the left, past LOCK and into PARK mode which essentially locks the bars and turns on the rear tail light. And stupid does exactly that. Oblivious to the eventual outcome stupid goes back to his room, orders dinner from Cracker Barrel (perhaps the sanest decision of the day), gets a little work done and falls asleep.

The next morning stupid gets up, has breakfast, takes a shower, checks out of the room, packs the bike and turns the key over. Nada. Nothing. Where's that little green light that's supposed to come on? Son-of-a-bitch! Perhaps it's a fuse or a loose battery cable? So stupid whips out the tools and removes the seat. Cables are secure and the fuses are good. Then stupid looks at and comprehends the instrument markings around the key hole. Son-of-a-bitch! Stupid put it in PARK mode yesterday and the battery is deader than a doornail.

I asked a few patrons if they had a set of jumper cables and "no" was the standard reply. I've had a AAA membership for a few years and have never had reason to use it. The wrecker-dude arrived and we attempted to jump it, but no dice. Next option... tow it to the dealer and that's exactly what we did. The folks at McKinnon Honda were great. They put the battery on a charger, inspected the bike and got me outta there by 12:30.

The original plan was to head up the interstate into Arkansas and catch some sequence of roads that would eventually put me on SR-9 which I'd take all the way to Mammoth Spring on the Missouri border. The forecast predicted a good turd-floater in the region so I decided to just haul ass back to Bowling Green instead. I stayed on the interstate until after Memphis. The DR did well on the interstate, but again, it's no speed demon. Irony defined - everyone's passing Jason because he's the turtle.

The interstate droning was damn near unbearable. A little north of Memphis I got off the interstate and back on US-79. I've found I'm able to tolerate the slower going when I'm on roads that call for, well, slower going. I figured I'd get home around midnight and the few hours of nighttime travel would give me an opportunity to evaluate the DR's stock lighting. Now stupid is purposefully not packing your night time glasses because you thought you wouldn't be riding at night. And stupid did exactly that.

When it got too dark and became unsafe to carry on, I decided to get a hotel room and finish the ride in the morning. I hated getting a hotel room so close to home, but in addition to one's body and one's pride from time to time, stupid can also hurt the wallet. What the hell. I'm home now, the DR's inspected and I'm breathing in and out. Life is good.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

MTF Founder's Feast

If you're just interested in the pics... Show me the Pics!

The Ride Up

Debbie decided that since Mitchell, Indiana was less than 200 miles from Bowling Green that she could ride her own to the Founder's Feast. That's a good thing because I'm not sure where she would have sat on the DR. I planned a route that was just over 160 miles along nothing but two-laners. Just one more game of Solitaire and we're off!

View Larger Map

Debbie's on her little Ninja 250. It's been a damn fine bike for her, but it needs some luggage. We haven't been able to find a bolt-on setup so it's still without luggage save for the ginormous tank bag with the kitchen sink in it. I've just started getting the DR setup. It has all the essentials to get it off-road, but I've yet to put any kind of luggage on the bike. I'm just not sure which direction to go. I ordered an SU rack from Happy Trails that should provide me some options and serve as a good base. For this trip it was easy enough to strap on a bag and giddyup. And that's exactly what we did.

The plan was to stop often and take our time. Rain was in the forecast, but we were prepared for it. We stopped just a little north of Roundhill. We weren't having any fun at the time. :)

In the last picture above the ol' boy has one of those support a cause ribbon stickers. You know, yellow for the war, pink for breast cancer and apparently black is for lap dancing.

The ride through Kentucky was fun and uneventful. We crossed the river at Hawesville and took the scenic route on SR-66 that runs along the river for a spell and then twists and turns it's way northward. It began raining just south of Sulphur and when we arrived at Ole Country Store we decided to stop and take a break.

While stopped we decided to get some chicken livers. Debbie would have preferred gizzards, but they didn't have any. She wasn't too keen on the livers, but your's truly was. I mean, what kind of ignoramus doesn't like chicken livers? Exactly. Debbie also learned that summer type gloves get drenched in the rain.

It wasn't long after leaving English that we arrived at the Spring Mill State Park just east of Mitchell, Indiana where we checked in and chilled for the rest of the day.

Rough Road Riding - Day One

I attended the Founder's Feast with the intention of rough road riding both days. Each day we met at the Mickey D's in Mitchell. We shot the shit, drank the coffee, geared up and giddy'd up.

There was a good mix of bikes. Some VStroms and beemers, but mostly KLRs and DRs. Dandy Don Kime led the group both days and did a fantastic job of scouting the route and escorting us all on some fine dirt/gravel, water crossings and mud for those who chose to get dirty - real dirty. Be sure and click the link at the top of this post to see all the pics. I've just selected a few to show here.

Like Father, like son. Dan and Art.

Dan almost losing it. Almost.

Dan (there was a lot of Dans and Dons on this ride) plowing through the muck.

Jon with a calm move across the mud.

John laying the bike down. It was tired.

Art loving every minute of it.

Lunch was at Trails End just outside Story, Indiana.

My DR got a little dirty. Not too bad for a noob.

Over all, a beautiful and fun day of riding.

Rough Road Riding - Day Two

Day two began much like day one - at the Mickey D's in Mitchell. Diggidy-Don (right) and Kevin decided to join us today since, to paraphrase Robert Cray with apologies, the forecast *didn't* call for rain.

We headed out in a southerly direction from Mitchell toward the French Lick area where we entered the gravel. Severe storms and hail ravaged the area the night before and it was evident with all the fresh, green leaves and limbs that covered some of the roads. We had to clear a few limbs from the road a number of times.

The first obstable was a nice, steep, muddy hill. Some chose to shimmy up the hill and some chose to go around - including your's truly.

We ate a good lunch at Marcy's Kitchen.

After lunch we traversed a few water crossings. The first one was hairy and I was close to saying f-it and going around, but then decided to hell with it - giddyup. No one tossed their bike into the water, but there were some close calls.

The reward for crossing all the water? Ice cream!

After ice cream... nappy time and the end of another great day of riding. Many thanks to everyone who scouted the roads and help organize the ride.

The Ride Home

I woke up early and looked at the radar. There was a good opening between the rain so I poked and prodded Debbie and told her that if we leave now, we may get lucky and make it home without getting wet. She was ready in no time and we were off!

We stopped again at the Ole Country Store in Sulphur, Indiana. It was time for a rest and something to chew on. Debbie smelled bacon and I went over to inspect.

mmmmmmmm... bacon... Jason likey. Jason needy.

While drooling over a bacon, egg and cheese breakfast sandwich we got to talking to the owner, Donnie. Something I didn't realize the first time through was that the Ole Country Store is the home Donnie's Famous Chili. I asked him if he could whip up a batch and he said, "No problem" to which I replied, "Giddyup on it." Minutes later there appeared a large cup of hot, steamy, spicy chili that I must admit was pretty damn good despite the presence of spaghetti. Something that would get you hanged in Texas. Even still, I'd recommend stopping in at this little joint and checking out the chili. Nice friendly folks and damn good eats.

We got home shortly afterward and capped off an excellent little vacation. Debbie rode her own and did very well. She's still learning to trust her tires, but she's doing just fine. The DR performed flawlessly and I'm very pleased with the bike. I'm glad I took the time to put a few things on the bike and get it "riding-ready." Feels like a keeper now.

It's good to be home. Life is good.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

A Ride to Remember

Almost a year ago to the day I last saw and rendered aid to my friend, Jim Cottingham. You see, a bunch of folks from the Motorcycle Tourer's Forum met at the Queen Wilhemena Lodge on the Arkansas side of the Talimena Scenic Byway for lunch and to pick up our SPOT units from Peter. Somewhere along the Talimena Jim found himself riding off-road and took a spill. His Valk faired well, but Jim... not so much apparently.

Jim didn't get to the lodge until after lunch. When I first saw him it was a typical meeting - smiles, howdys, me wondering how long it might have taken Jim to get there and an attenuated handshake. After seeing Jim's wrist it was obvious he had a mishap and needed some help. I retrieved the first aid kit from my bike and as Jim tried to explain what had happened I began cleaning and wrapping his wrist. He mentioned his ribs were hurting a bit and I urged him to head into Mena and have himself checked out. He said they didn't hurt *that* badly. He wanted to reattach the windscreen to the Valk and start heading toward home. I told him to take care of himself and if he started hurting more (and he would) to find the nearest hospital and get checked out. I bid him more smiles, a handshake and a till next time. I thought about Jim on the way back to Bowling Green and hoped my friend will make it home safely and have a fast and full recovery.

Reading about Jim's passing took me by surprise. I missed him immediately and shed tears not just for my friend, but for me and all of us who, to whatever degree, had the pleasure of knowing Jim. No longer would I rocket past Jim on the highway after leaving an RTE. He was the consummate tortoise. Slow, methodical and consistent. Whenever I passed him I always found myself wondering what he might be thinking while droning across west Texas a little shy of the speed limit. I reckon it was probably nothing in particular.

This weekend was Jim's memorial RTE in Rochester, Texas and I was unable to attend. I was, however, able to take a nice, slow, no-worries ride in his honor and that's exactly what I did.

Mostly back roads with no particular destination in mind, but just a general direction. I thought of Jim, smiled and wondered if I'd eventually pass him somewhere along the way. Perhaps next time.

The folks on the MTF put up a Memorial Page for Jim.

Sunday, February 1, 2009

i'm cured!

...cured for a few days, anyway. today's ride was precisely what i needed to shake the road-jones that's been plaguing me since late november. the cure wasn't in the length of the ride, but the variety of roads traveled. i ran some good twisties and capped off the ride with a high-speed blast back home. the twisties started from glasgow south to tompkinsville and east all the way to cumberland falls. if you're in the area and looking for good roads, they're not hard to find, but i can recommend these:

  • sr-63 from glasgow to tompkinsville
  • sr-953 through judio, stalcup and littrell
  • sr-449 between sr-61 and sr-90
  • sr-92 between monticello and stearns
  • sr-700 between marshes siding and cumberland falls state park
  • sr-90 between youngs creek in the east and us-27 in the west

just east of tompkinsville along sr-100 i picked up sr-214. i wanted to cross the ferry at mcmillins landing - a 24-hour free ferry crossing of the cumberland river. the other side of the cumberland is sr-953. i spotted the road on the map last night and found it appealing so i had to ride it.

and i'm glad i did. beautiful road that winds through the on-the-map-only towns of judio, stalcup and littrell. eventually the road dumps you out at sr-61 near littrell. just a wee bit north on sr-61 is sr-449 that allows you to bypass burkesville. another excellent road in the region.

once i was on sr-90 the ride was mostly boring all the way to monticello where i picked up sr-92 all the way to stearns. sr-92 is a sneaky road in that some of the straightaways make abrupt, sharp turns and some of those turns are decreasing radius. excellent road. just don't be a dumbass.

i was going to run 92 to williamsburg and then head north to the eastern end of sr-90 to work my way west to cumberland falls, but while looking at the map last night i saw sr-700 - a road i have never ridden, but a road the map made look goooood. another sweet road in the region that dumped me out right at cumberland falls state park. and a trip to the park wouldn't be complete without a few pics of the falls...


because of the high water level, the viewing area right in front of the falls was closed so i couldn't get a good shot, but the sound of the falls rushing over sure made up for it.

the ride along sr-90 west is fabulous. after i got back to monticello i blasted back to bowling green along the cumberland parkway. in the near future, the parkway will be i-66.

so my road-jones is cured for a while. sure felt good to hit the road. life is good. the weather-guessers were wrong, though. instead of a high of 55 we enjoyed a high of 65. it's suppose to get cold again just in time for the work week. life is damn good. ;)