Archive for December, 2011

Clearing the Ice Away

Thursday, December 29th, 2011

motorcycle in snow

Today is warm and sunny and that’s a good thing. We still have ice on our street, and more importantly, we still have ice between our driveway and the clear part of the street. I need that to be gone so I can get out on one of my motorcycles. By tomorrow it should be clear.

It’s the day after tomorrow that I’m particularly interested in. December 31 is the date for the Last Brass Monkey Run, as I’ve mentioned before. I’m planning to ride this year, and I’ll bet there are a lot of other people making similar plans. It’s not always possible but this year looks like a good one.

Of course, that also means I’ll almost certainly be out on both my bikes the following day. I make it a point to ride both bikes at least once every single month of every single year, and at this time of year you have to take advantage of the first opportunity you get. The weather can change and if you don’t ride today, tomorrow may not be an option. With good weather on January 1 you can pretty much assume I’ll be out riding.

Looking ahead to the new year, I’ve got some great trips planned. I’ve decided this is the year to expand my horizons, and to that end, I’m planning on heading to Ohio for the AMA’s Vintage Motorcycle Days. I’ve never ridden out in that part of the country, so this will be a long trip and it will be something completely new. Plus, I have a brother who lives in Ohio and he and a friend are in the process of opening a biker-oriented cafe in Michigan and of course he wants me to come out and tell the world about it. It’s a dirty job and all that. I’ve never ridden in Michigan before either.

But first we have some cold months to get through. All I ask is just a couple nice days in each of them.

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Biker Quote for Today

Yes, I have a problem — that there are 50 weeks of the year without Dakar!

Planning the Summer Motorcycle Trip

Monday, December 26th, 2011

There’s snow and ice on our street, and no getting out on either bike until there’s a clear part down to the corner and the cross street. Luckily, the forecast looks good so I’m hoping to be able to ride on the Last Brass Monkey Run this year.

The OFMC crossing the Royal Gorge bridgeStuck inside then, it’s only natural to be planning next summer’s group motorcycle trip. John is the OFMC’s maps freak and he loves nothing more than poring over maps for hours and plotting routes. There are times when I challenge his pronouncements that “this is what we’re going to do this year,” mainly because it’s not his to simply decide unilaterally, but sometimes he comes up with such good ideas that the only thing I can do is say “OK.” This is one of those years.

John has actually given us two options this time and I’m just going to paste them in here. The main deal with both is to head down to the North Rim of the Grand Canyon. The rest is just the routes there and back.

Option 1:
Friday: Denver to Grand Junction – 244 miles via I-70.
Saturday: Grand Junction to Marysvale, UT – 253 miles via I-70 & US-89.
Sunday: Marysvale to Mesquite, NV – 184 miles via US-89, UT-143, UT-14, & I-15. *thru Cedar Breaks Natl Monument.
*Monday: Stay in Mesquite. *Golf, bowling, gambling.
Tuesday: Mesquite to Jacob Lake – 141 miles via I-15, UT-9, & US-89. *thru Zion Natl. Park
*Wednesday: Stay in Jacob Lake. *Round Trip ride thru Grand Canyon Natl. Park-North Rim is 130 miles.
Thursday: Jacob Lake to Torrey, UT – 221 miles via US-89 & UT-12. *thru Bryce Canyon Natl. Park.
Friday: Torrey, UT to Moab, UT – 248 miles via UT-24, UT-95, & US-191. *thru Capital Reef Natl. Park & Glenn Canyon Natl. Rec.
Saturday: Moab to Denver, CO – 322 miles via UT-128 & I-70. *Arches Natl. Park & Colo. River canyon.

Option 2:
Friday: Denver to Meeker – 225 miles via I-70 & CO-13. *stay at the old downtown Meeker Hotel this time.
Saturday: Meeker to Moab – 224 miles via CO-64, CO-136, I-70, & UT-128. *over Douglas Pass & thru Colo. River Canyon.
Sunday: Moab to Hanksville, UT – 200 miles via US-191 south & UT-96. *thru Glenn Canyon Natl. Rec., Halls Crossing.
Monday: Hanksville to Bryce Canon, UT – 161 miles via UT-24 & UT-12 *thru Capital Reef Natl. Park.
Tuesday: Bryce Canyon to Jacob Lake, AZ – 150 miles via UT-12 & US-89. *includes a 30 mile scenic ride thru Bryce Canyon Natl. Park.
Wednesday: Stay in Jacob Lake. *scenic 130 mile RT ride into Grand Canyon Natl. Park North Rim and back to Jacob Lake.
Thursday: Jacob Lake to Panguitch, UT – 195 miles via US-89, UT-9, UT-17, I-15, UT-14, & UT-143.
*very scenic ride thru Zion Natl. Park & Cedar Breaks Natl. Mon. near Brian Head ski area.
Friday: Panguitch to Green River, UT – 212 miles via US-89, UT-62, UT-24, & I-70. *scenic ride back to the Interstate.
Saturday: Green River to Denver – 320 miles via I-70. *go home

So oh boy, we’re gonna go ride motorcycles! Is life wonderful or what?!

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Biker Quote for Today

Ride hard, you can rest when you die.

Christmas Greetings, and Other Celebrations As Well

Thursday, December 22nd, 2011

I’d like to extend best wishes to everyone celebrating whatever holiday they favor at this time of year. To that end, I’d like to pass along something Alan Baumbach put up on Facebook. I think it says it all.

I have a CHRISTMAS TREE in my living room (not a holiday tree), my kids are getting CHRISTMAS PRESENTS (not holiday gifts) and we will eat CHRISTMAS DINNER(not a holiday meal), and I will attend a CHRISTMAS PARTY (not a holiday party). I will also very cheerfully wish you a MERRY CHRISTMAS! (not… happy holidays). By the way, if you want to have a Happy Hannukah , by all means do, I respect that. If you want to have a Blessed Kwanzaa, I also respect that. I will have a Merry Christmas, so I ask YOU to respect that! Repost if you agree!!

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Biker Quote for Today

You know you’re becoming addicted to riding when you wave at motorcycles from your car and wonder why they look at you funny.

The Bikers Are Coming

Monday, December 19th, 2011

Motorcycling in western Colorado

Where are you going on your summer motorcycle trip in 2012? Are you already making plans?

A lot of people are, and many of them are coming to Colorado.

I know this because of the traffic patterns on this website. With last year being the one exception, traffic on the site reaches its lowest point in November and takes a sharp upturn in December. Then it climbs all the way through July or August before starting to decline again. Last year it actually dropped a hair in December from November, and then screamed higher in January. Who knows why.

I know the bulk of this increase in traffic is from people interested in coming here to ride because of the pages they visit and the exit links they click on. Right at this point, one of the most popular pages on the site is the Colorado Motorcycle Rentals and Tours page, and visitors click the links of numerous of the rental outfits listed there. Another popular page is Biker-Friendly Motels and Hotels. A third is Good for You to Know . . ., which discusses things like the type of clothing you should bring and other Colorado-specific riding information.

Of course, those of us who live here know how great a place Colorado is to ride. The group I ride with, the OFMC, takes a summer trip every year and some years we stay right here. It’s great to go to Montana or Idaho or Utah or any number of other states, but when you’ve got some of the very best right in your backyard, why not take advantage of it? Next year we are leaving the state, heading down to the North Rim of the Grand Canyon, but hey, we’ll have to ride through the Colorado mountains to get there. Oh, it’s a dirty job.

It’s not too early to start planning. And when winter has you cooped up and unable to ride, it’s nice to have something wonderful to look forward to. Come on summer!

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Biker Quote for Today

It’s not an adventure until someone says, “WTF are we doing here??”

Motorcycle Safety: A Good Answer to ‘Why Not?’

Thursday, December 15th, 2011

We all know those signs over the highways that alert you to problems, scheduled closures, and such. And during May, which is designated Motorcycle Safety Awareness Month, those signs typically carry the message for drivers to be aware and watch out for motorcycles on the road with them.

The CDOT logoThis past May, my wife Judy asked the question, “Why do they only have that message during May? Why don’t they put that up there all year?”

I can now answer that question, and it’s actually a good answer.

Last week I attended a meeting at the Colorado Department of Transportation and one of the people there was Heather Halpape, who works in public relations with CDOT. At one point in the meeting she spoke about messages on those signs so afterward I asked her Judy’s question. Here’s what she said.

First, they do put up that message more often than just in May. They also put it up in August during the time around the Sturgis rally because there are a lot of bikes moving through the state to or from Sturgis. She said there is one other time when they use it as well, though she couldn’t remember off hand when that is.

Second, although the message is an attempt to promote safe driving, it can actually create less-safe conditions. Those signs don’t always have messages on them, but when they do, people make a point to read them. This can lead slowdowns and congestion. We saw that just this past weekend as we were coming down I-25 past the Yale exit. The sign there was alerting people to a closure at Belleview, and we hit congestion approaching that sign. After the sign, traffic sped up and the congestion cleared.

Third, people have been trained that messages are only put on the signs if the matter is important. So they make a point to read them. If there was always a message of some kind, that would just become routine and people would start to ignore the signs. And of course, that would defeat the purpose.

So there you go. Judy had a good question but Heather had a good answer that shows the people working for the state have given real thought to the matter. Kudos to CDOT.

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Biker Quote for Today

Don’t let my motorcycle ride interfere with the safety of your phone call.

Good-Bye Rum Bum, Hello Pinky

Monday, December 12th, 2011

Rum Bum site

I know I’ve mentioned here a few times the motorcycle writing I’ve been doing for Rum Bum since September of 2009. Well, yesterday saw publication of my final piece at Rum Bum. Not because I’m leaving them, but because Rum Bum is shutting down operations. Presumably the website will stay up, and all the pieces I’ve written for them will remain accessible, but it will, as my editor said, be like an abandoned garden.

Perhaps, for me at least, it was time. Starting out I committed to doing two pieces a week for them, one a personal column and the other an article of some sort, a profile, interview, feature, whatever. Now, coming up with more than 100 topics a year, year after year, is a bit tough, especially if you have to have the idea approved by your editor first. I do more than that on Examiner, but I can choose whatever I want to write about on Examiner. And for the columns on Rum Bum I could choose, too. But the articles required Lauren’s OK.

By the middle of this summer I was running out of ideas. In September I told Lauren I could only come up with an article every other week, but I’d continue doing the column weekly. But then even that got harder to do and I wondered how long I’d be able to keep it up.

And then I got the message from Lauren that the whole thing was coming to an end.

I never really understood the deal with Rum Bum. They seem to have some connection with Rum Bum Racing, and seemed to be an attempt to build the Rum Bum brand, but beyond that I never understood their purpose. Or their funding, which now appears to have run out. What I did understand was that I got paid regularly and their checks did not bounce.

So one door closes and another opens. Writing for Examiner I have become acquainted with Mary Baker, aka “Pinky,” who writes as the Shreveport Motorcycle Travel Examiner. Last week I got a note from Mary announcing that she is starting a new motorcycle magazine, Pinky’s Motorcycle Passion, and asking me if I’d like to be a regular writer. Of course I said yes. The first issue is expected to be out in February or March.

I have a few more possibilities shaping up–maybe–and I’ll announce them when and if they happen. As we all know, the only true constant in life is change.

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Biker Quote for Today

If you haven’t crashed, you’re not riding to potential.

Rider Training Program Threatened

Thursday, December 8th, 2011

Are you aware that when you renew your plates on your motorcycle(s) each year in Colorado you pay $4 that goes into a fund to help defray the cost of rider training courses? Also, anyone renewing their driver’s license with motorcycle accreditation pays an extra $2 that goes to the same fund.

MOST logoThis is all set in place because some years ago the motorcycling community asked for it. The general idea is that it is a good thing for everybody to have the folks riding motorcycles actually get some training so they can do it competently. The accompanying concept was that such a program could help to forestall proposals that Colorado institute a mandatory helmet law. That is to say, education and better riding skills do more to prevent traffic fatalities than wearing helmets. Or, to put it differently, crash prevention is better than having safer crashes.

Regardless of how you might feel about helmet laws, I don’t see how anyone can argue that it is not better to avoid crashing than to crash and not get hurt so badly.

The vehicle for this funneling of fees to rider training is Colorado’s Motorcycle Operator Safety Training program or MOST. MOST is now under attack, in some cases from organizations that originally supported its creation.

I could go on at great length with the history and background of what is currently going on, as ABATE of Colorado’s State Coordinator Terry Howard did with me, but I’ll give you the short version.

ABATE, Riders for Justice, some of the motorcycle clubs, dealerships, and others pushed for the training approach. Over the years the program was not given sufficient oversight and some problems developed. The Colorado Legislature this past year conducted an audit of the program and identified a number of issues. Several of those issues were immediately addressed and rectified and the rest will soon have been fixed.

In the meantime, however, new people have replaced the old, and in organizations such as the Colorado Confederation of Clubs (COC) which came into existence later, there is no understanding of the history of and reasons for the fees. Some of the previous supporters are now saying, “Why should we have to pay to reduce the cost for other people to learn to ride?”

In a twist that gives fits to Terry Howard, a Republican, the legislative audit committee was divided on party lines–with the Republicans being the ones she finds herself in opposition to. In the current anti-tax atmosphere, the Republicans on the committee are in favor of eliminating MOST and letting us keep our $4 and $2 fees. It is the Democrats who are saying, “The motorcyclists asked for this program, and for these fees to be levied on them, so let’s keep the fees and keep the program they fund.”

One other thing to keep in mind: If MOST is killed there is no certainty that the fees will be eliminated. We could end up paying the fees without getting the benefit.

The committee deadlocked in this past session, but it seems likely that Republican Rep. Marsha Looper, of Colorado Springs, will introduce legislation in the next session to kill MOST. This would be a good topic for all Colorado motorcyclists to learn more about, and then do what you can to educate your legislators, whether you support MOST or oppose it. Most of them don’t know anything at all about it.

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Biker Quote for Today

Statistics show that most solo motorcycle accidents are caused by a defective nut holding the handlebars.

Rider Publishes My U.S. 6 Article

Monday, December 5th, 2011

The opening spread of the story in Rider

Hooray, hooray! It took a long time but Rider magazine has published my feature article about crossing western Colorado on old U.S. 6, in the shadow of the superslab.

I had heard from Donya Carlson that it would be in the January 2012 issue, and I knew it should be arriving in my mail any day now. But over the last several days I’ve been in communication with three people who had already received their issues of Rider and seen my piece, while my issue had yet to arrive! Well, the mailman was here about 10 minutes ago and I finally got mine. Yes!

Now I’m hard at work on my next piece for Rider. Judy and I went on vacation to Seattle and British Columbia this summer and rented a Harley out of Vancouver to go riding for a few days. It was part of the plan all along to pitch the story to Rider, so I made sure to shoot a lot of pictures and take a lot of notes.

Once we got back I sent a letter pitching the idea, and they liked it. Now I need to get it written and select the photos to go with it and send it along. If they like it and want to publish it they will tell me that, and then, if things go like they did before, the note will say I can expect to see the piece in print in 12 to 18 months.

So I’m in the middle of the first draft right now, and I’ve got the photos narrowed down to about 40 or so. The article will go through three or four revisions and I’ll winnow the photos down to about 15. Then I’ll be eagerly awaiting a note that I hope will say they like it. If they do you will probably see it in print in 2013. Meanwhile, I want to be pitching them another story idea a whole lot sooner this next time.

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Biker Quote for Today

Time spent on a motorcycle is not deducted from your lifespan.

Renewed RiderCoach Drive

Friday, December 2nd, 2011

OK, it has taken about five months but I’ve finally gotten re-energized about becoming a RiderCoach and teaching other people to ride motorcycles. You may recall that I took RiderCoach training way back in June, and I passed it successfully, but my experience was rather dismal and discouraging. There were more steps to take before I could actually become an instructor but I didn’t take any of them, until now.

MOST logoI was calling over to ABATE of Colorado a couple weeks ago to speak with Terry Howard, the state coordinator, and Ben Hochberg picked up the phone. Ben is the head of ABATE’s rider training program, and was the lead instructor in the RiderCoach class. I figured what the heck, I’ve got Ben on the line, I might as well talk to him about moving ahead.

So I did, and he told me a bit about what I need to do next, and said he would send me the paperwork they need. One thing I knew they needed was for me to get affiliated with the state’s MOST program, the Motorcycle Operator Safety Training program. I contacted Paul Peterson, the honcho over at MOST, and he emailed the materials they need back from me. So now it’s a matter of getting all this pulled together.

It has taken me till now to do all this because I ended the RiderCoach training feeling very discouraged. I didn’t feel I did very well in the class, despite passing, because I had several major screw-ups. I guess I finally worked my way through understanding and accepting those screw-ups. For one thing, the kinds of things I did wrong were things that I’m never likely to do again. Learning is a matter of trial and error. I made my errors; now I know not to do those things again. I know I can do this, I just needed some time for my confidence to return.

Additionally, though, the training was a very unpleasant experience because we were standing out on hot asphalt all day on blazing hot days. I was feeling pretty bad, which may have contributed to my poor performance. The training ended on Sunday and I went, as I always do, to the gym on Monday for a work-out. Stepping on the scale at the gym I found that I was down six pounds from my normal weight. That was odd. Then, two days later, back at the gym, having done nothing out of the ordinary, I had regained all of those six pounds.

My conclusion is that I must have become seriously dehydrated during those days out on the range, despite drinking a lot of water. And of course, that would have affected my mental performance. So OK, let’s learn from this. I figure that if when I go out on the range on hot days like that, I make sure to drink a bottle or two of GatorAde or some other drink to restore electrolytes, I’ll probably be in much, much better condition. And do a better job.

Presumably I’ll find out if I’m right about all this. I’m sure you’ll be able to read about it here in the next few months. Wish me well.

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Biker Quote for Today

Look for their eyes, that way you know if you are about to be in an accident or if they are going to do it on purpose.