Four Days and 1169 Miles

June 6, 2016

The 2016 riding season started a while ago, however I really kicked it off 2-5 June with a 1169 mile journey through Michigan. There was a STAR Touring and Riding event at Boyne Mountain Resort in Michigan which was the focal point of the ride.

Geoff and I met in Avon Lake, over breakfast, on 2 June to begin the ride which would end in Grand Rapids, MI. My sole reason to choosing this destination was to visit Devin Olson on the eve of his daughter’s high school graduation party. Of course, knowing that Devin lives in The Beer Capital was just a happy coincidence.

Because we had deadlines in Grand Rapids, we took the boring but highway method of reaching our destination. There is nothing quite like arriving on Devin’s doorstep on motorcycles; his welcome was probably one of the best I have ever received. A (rare) beer for me, a (rarer) bourbon for Geoff, and plans made to meet up later in the evening. Devin guided us to our hotel and provided an excellent dinner location in town then left us to our own devices. Used Uber to get us to dinner. Once done with dinner, we walked to The B.O.B and to Founder’s, where Devin met up with us. From there, it was Uber back to the hotel.

Friday started rather early, as we planned to ride the west coast of Michigan. We stopped at a rest area on 31, just south of Ludington to stretch. It was here that we discovered that there was an overlook. Took a very nice road to the top of the hill in order to discover . . . an overlook that overlooked tree tops. I think the word was “disappointing.” From there, we continued on 31 until we got to M-22. While on M-22, we discovered another overlook, this one was spectacular! Incredible views of Lake Michigan and coast line. Continued up M-22 and took it north into Frankfort, where took M-115 and linked up with 31 again. Then it was off to Traverse City, one of my favorite Michigan destinations. A very nice ride along the southern shore of Grand Traverse Bay.

Rode past the (now closed) Bravo Zulu Brewing Company. While it was sad to see, I was wearing my Bravo Zulu t-shirt that day, in honor of an excellent brewery. Arrived at Boyne Mountain Resort at about 5PM to register for the STAR event. Thankfully, one of the hosting Chapters opened registration for us so that we could participate in the bike parade to Boyne City (they had closed registration early). The parade, while short, was a lot of fun as it was escorted by the Boyne City Police Department and the Sheriff. They blocked off an entire city block for us, so that we had ample bike parking. Then, the local Chamber of Commerce passed out flyers with food and shopping discounts specially for us. That was a welcome surprise. After dinner, Geoff and I rode along Lake Charlevoix for picture opportunities. Then, after a 250+ mile day, it was back to the resort for some very welcome bourbon around a fire pit with other STAR members.

Saturday, the STAR Event organizers had an 85 mile route planned for the group. Well, the route, while nice, didn’t include Tunnel of Trees nor the Mackinac Bridge, both of which we really wanted to ride. Michigan STAR members provided us with the reasons they didn’t plan this ride; Tunnel of Trees can be very tricky, as the road is less than 2 lanes, there may be gravel on the road and in the curves, sand on the surface, and very limited sight line. As for Big Mac, the weather plays a very important role in the ride and if there is construction on the bridge, you may end up riding the grated surface for the entire length of the bridge. With that in mind, Geoff, Ted, and I took off to points further north.

Tunnel of Trees.

It was everything the brochures said it was. And more. Beautiful, twisty, and an absolute blast to ride. The “sandy” portions of the road were under construction, so we didn’t go down the lake shore. That was fine with us, the detour was many miles out of the way. The sight lines were, at times, extremely limited, but, as I was leading the ride, I made it work to Geoff’s and Ted’s advantage. Basically, I rode the middle the of the road and only moved over when there was traffic coming in the opposite direction. In this way, I provided Geoff and Ted with advance warning of oncoming traffic. Some parts of the road were 45 mph, but I cannot for the life of me imagine anyone actually going 45 (see “limited sight lines” and “narrow road way”). In addition to the occasional car, we saw a plethora of bikes. This is truly a Michigan “Bucket List” ride.

Mackinac Bridge.

How can you top Tunnel of Trees? Easy, continue north and ride the five miles that are “Big Mac.” The day was overcast and windy. We left I-75 before the bridge to talk to someone in the Michigan Welcome Center in Mackinaw City. Since all alerts concerning the bridge are on the radio, and I do not have a radio on my bike, I wanted to know the conditions on the bridge. Any construction? Wind advisories? The helpful staff in the Welcome Center assured us that everything was fine on the bridge. Off we went. While there were no wind advisories, on a motorcycle, it was fun handling the bike in a cross wind. Truly. And, since there was no construction, we rode the paved lane all the way to St. Ignace. That was a pleasant surprise. Stopped in St. Ignace for a Mackinac Bridge patch and pin. Then, rode to an overlook for some picture taking of the bridge. Then, because of an electrical issue with Ted’s bike, we headed back over the bridge. Unfortunately, because of the issue, we cut short our Upper Peninsula ride. We were planning to ride to Sault Ste. Marie and, depending on the time, Whitefish Point. Just have to add those to my bike “Bucket List,” even though I have visited them in the past. There was nothing of importance on the ride back to Boyne Mountain Resort.

Sunday, we missed all of the terrific storms that passed through Michigan and Ohio. However, before stopping for breakfast in Standish, MI, we did don our rain gear as we did encounter some rain, but not of the biblical proportions that were forecasted. We only rode through light rain in some areas, but it was nice to be dry. Plus, as the air temperatures were in the mid to high 60’s, we didn’t sweat in our gear. That is a very nice bonus.

Geoff and I stopped in Sandusky, OH, to see if there was anything that remained of Ohio Bike Week but were greeted with downed trees and power lines, closed roads, and, above all else, the unmistakable smell of beer.

Michigan, on a motorcycle, in a nutshell:

  1. The roads suck. Do they collect potholes, do they not know about asphalt? And when they do have money for asphalt, the job that is done on the road makes it worse. How is that possible?
  2. The drivers are assholes. Apparently, as a biker, you are responsible for every facet of traffic as we were invisible to pretty much everyone. I think that only in Michigan are turn signals optional equipment on every vehicle and most drivers decided that they wouldn’t spring the extra cash for them. Tailgating motorcycles seems to be a sport. I don’t get it, but I thought I was going to get an engagement ring from several drivers, they were so close to my ass. I also came to the realization that no where else are “speed limits” more of a “suggestion” than in Michigan. If we wanted to keep up with traffic, we would have to travel at 80+ mph on the highways. Pretty much every where. While that isn’t really a problem, see Number 1, above.
  3. On and off ramps, that are maybe 100 feet in some cases. How is this a thing? Merging traffic doesn’t give a damn about oncoming traffic and oncoming traffic doesn’t give a damn about merging traffic. This made for some really “interesting” interactions between all motorists. Oh, and once they do merge, they will stop at nothing to get into the left most lane and accelerate to maximum cruising speed. To hell with everyone and anything around them.

That said, I’ll be back. There’s too much good stuff to see and do in Michigan to let drivers and roads keep me from visiting again on my bike.

Here’s the route:

MI_2016

And here is what I saw when I finally turned the bike off in Ohio:

odometer


A Lesson From Riding New Mexico and Colorado

July 9, 2014

This past weekend, I took an opportunity to ride New Mexico and Colorado.

Let me first say that to prepare for travel, you look at the weather forecast in northwest New Mexico and see that it will be 98°F (36.6°C). You then bring the proper gear for such a temperature. This means: half helmet, sunglasses, mesh armored jacket, Kevlar and armored riding jeans, and light gloves. You allow a family member, who also rides, to decide on the route.

Through the good graces of the father-in-law-to-be, you get to ride his Kawasaki Vulcan 1500. With a windscreen. And highway pegs. This is not a naked Kawasaki in Norway. It’s properly fitted.

Now, said family member, who is a primary participant in a wedding (he brought the cash for his daughter’s grand day), provides you a map of the route, says, “Text me when you reach Silverton, and I will meet you at this spot.”

And off you go.

It is hot, Africa hot, as you make your way along the route. Alone.

Soon, however, you can’t help but notice that it is getting cooler. “Hmmm,” you think, “It must be the trees and the shade.”

And then you see a sign, at the top of the winding road, “Coal Bank Pass Summit, Elev 10640 ft.” I think I know why it is so “chilly,” now.

And then it starts to rain. Not hard, but not a drizzle, either.

Where’s my rain gear? Oh, yeah, it’s at home, because the forecast for New Mexico showed no rain.

A short time later, as you are properly dampened, you see a turnoff for a small park. Might as well stop and take in the scenery and snap a few photos. What does the sign say at this stop? “Molas Pass Summit, Elev 10910 ft.”

Oh,boy.

After a short break, and a nice chat with a fellow biker, who told me that it is not uncommon to have snow in July up here, I start the descent into Silverton, Colorado. And as the town comes into view, it starts to rain. Really rain. I think I have called this “biblical rain.” All of the bikes I saw ahead of me, have taken refuge under the awning of the only gas station in town.

Much to the disdain of those in cars.

I park under the awning, gas up, get a little food and drink in me, and look at my phone.

I have a text from the family member saying that I am to meet him at the Durango Mountain Resort back up Route 550.

The rain isn’t stopping. In fact, I think it is raining harder, which doesn’t seem possible.

I need to mention that in this part of the US, the use of concrete or asphalt seems to not have caught on. The parking lot and driveway of the gas station is gravel. With a lot of low areas. I need to navigate a 900 pound bike over gravel, up a slight rise, and onto the highway. In pouring rain.

I make it. But as I do, and I start heading south on 550, back up the mountain, it starts to hail. It’s now a combination of biblical rain and hail. Remember, I am dressed for a different climate. I can say, with first hand knowledge, getting hit by hail, as you travel along at 40-50mph, hurts. It really hurts as it hits your uncovered face. A lot.

I make it to the ski resort, where a very dry family member awaits with his Ducati.

I hate him.

But, he is soon “enjoying” the rain, too. Although, he is wearing a full face helmet, so he isn’t getting the same enjoyment as I am. At least there is no hail.

We are traveling in a normal staggered position, heading down the mountain, in the rain, when he signals for a left turn and starts to slow. I am a few seconds behind him, caught suddenly unaware of the new direction we are taking. It’s one thing to maneuver a 400-500 pound Ducati, something else entirely to do the same on a 900 pound Kawasaki. I use the back brake, it’s raining, and we are in a slight curve.

I hit the traffic paint on the asphalt, which marks the left turn lane, while braking. The back end starts to slide out from under me. I release the back brake, the bike straightens and goes upright, I roll over the painted area, and now use both brakes. Gently.

I blow right by my riding partner, but am slowing, heading into an area of the highway that is marked for no traffic.

I stop the bike about 30 feet past the turn.

Damn, that was not fun, but it ended well. Note to self, traffic marking paint, when it is wet, is very slippery.

Family member, at the next stop sign, “That turn off came up sooner than I expected.” Yeah, I got that news pretty quickly.

And then it started to hail again.

This was turning out to be quite a ride.

However, we were now rolling into Durango, Colorado, and, at about 6,000 feet, it was starting to warm up. I was happy to realize this, as I was soaked and cold. Soon, it was about 98°F (36.6°C), and what was once a relief started to make me feel like I was in a clothes dryer. The water was evaporating off of me, creating a very humid riding environment. For a short while, we were on the highway, which sped up the drying process and it got to be much more comfortable to ride.

At the end of the ride, with the exception of my socks, I was totally dry.

This was one of the strangest rides I’ve been on; pretty much every season was represented in a few short hours and within 4,000 feet of elevation change.

The route (what I can remember of it):

NMandCORide

Click on image for an interactive Google Map.

The elevation profile (thanks to this site for the image):

NMandCOElevationProfile

 

If I had known the elevation profile before starting out, I would have brought the liner to my jacket. It wouldn’t have provided a lot of cold weather protection, but I would have been a lot dryer (and a bit warmer) in the higher elevations. I’ll know for next time.


Dash4Dosh 2014: Let’s All Laugh

June 9, 2014

For your enjoyment, some random pictures from Denmark, Sweden, and Norway.

First up, Chris pitching his tent. Yes, the photo looks grainy, but that isn’t the fault of the photographer, it was raining. In an epic fashion. Doesn’t he look happy that he will be “sleeping” in a tent?

2014-05-24 21.21.05

I found Paul’s toilet in a Statoil station:

2014-05-25 09.21.12

And Paul’s bike:

2014-05-26 09.48.33

 

The Arctic Circle, Sweden:

2014-05-26 11.08.04

Chris, in his natural pose, taking photos (at the Sweden/Norway border):

2014-05-27 09.49.38

 

And photographing Paul’s bike at the Arctic Circle Center in Norway:

2014-05-28 15.23.53

 

Freshening Paul’s bike:

2014-05-29 16.01.17

Which lead to a bit of freshening of my bike (paybacks are a bitch):

2014-05-31 09.51.11

 

A Chris Harris inspired selfie:

2014-05-31 16.05.55 HDR

 

A beautiful view spoiled by freshly washed undergarments:

2014-06-01 21.07.54

 

Paul discovers that boots with holes in them make for poor waterproofing:

2014-06-02 18.53.08

 

Who would’ve known that there was no pooping in the shower?

2014-06-03 09.52.43

 

Chris, enough said:

2014-06-04 12.55.23

Chris, showing me that I am “Number One:”

2014-06-05 11.35.21

 

The bike that Chris thought he bought, but didn’t:

2014-06-04 19.47.36 HDR


Dash4Dosh 2014: An Update

April 29, 2014

We are less than a month away from riding motorcycles to the Arctic Circle, via Denmark, Sweden, Finland, and Norway. And camping. God, are we REALLY camping? We must be, I have a sleeping bag, a camping pad, and a spork. Paul Mooney bought a tent! (let that sink in for a minute).

Never before have I asked for donations to any sort of cause. Yes, I support those that ask, but fundraising just isn’t my thing. When Paul setup the Dash4Dosh 2014 JustGiving page, and I saw the £4,000 goal, I thought “We’ll never make that number.”

Today, I am totally crushed by the outpouring of support for our cause.

Dash4Dosk2014target

“Thank you,” while appropriate, doesn’t adequately convey how truly humbled/amazed/chuffed I am with the support we’ve received.  Well, it’s either that, or you’re hoping that with adequate support, you can gleefully wait for some “interesting” posts/photos on our Facebook page which will come back to haunt us for . . . decades. If that’s what it takes, so be it.

Our calls over Skype have increased in number, as we head into the final weeks of preparation. What seemed like a great idea has turned into impending reality. Yes, I have purchased a sleeping bag, camp pad, spork, proper riding boots, survival suit, and a new helmet. But now starts the race to Denmark, when I have to make sure that I have everything I will need for this adventure. I have a list, now it’s time to work through it.

Oh, and there’s a small detail about hiring a bike. It seems that the business where I was to get my bike is now bankrupt. Others offered me their bikes, but what they meant was “bicycle,” not “motorcycle.” Everyone’s a comedian.

What will we see in Norway? Here are few pictures to give you an idea of what we will be living.

Atlantic Road

Lysbotn Road – This is heaven for riders.

A fjord we will see

Thank you, again, for your support.

 

 


Dash4Dosh 2014: Riding to the Arctic Circle

March 4, 2014

I really haven’t figured out a good opening paragraph to this story. Too many thoughts going through my mind (giving back, relatives lost to cancer, father beating cancer, and so on). So, let’s cut to the chase.

I have scheduled eleven days of my corporate provided holidays to join Paul Mooney, Sean Cull, Vladimir Veletic, and Chris Harris, to meet up with some friends from Denmark, and a few support cars, and embark on a motorcycle ride that supports Macmillan Cancer Support. This isn’t just a little ride around the countryside (okay, so, technically it is). For me, it is a ride from Copenhagen, Denmark to the Arctic Circle. The others, Paul, Sean, and Chris will be riding from Ireland/Wales/UK to meet me in Copenhagen, I will be taking the “easy” route and flying into Copenhagen.

Trust me, I looked into having my bike shipped over there. While the cost was high, it was the fact that I would be without my bike during prime riding season in Ohio that made me decide to hire a bike for the adventure.

The route is a bit fluid, but in general: through Denmark heading east->the east coast of Sweden->Finland->West to North West Norway->South the west coast of Norway->back to Denmark. If I still have time to make my flight back to Cleveland, I will follow the other riders west through Denmark and bid them a fond farewall at the ferry dock. Then, back to Copenhagen and catch my flight back to Cleveland.

Total mileage for me will be around 3,600 miles. Riding about 8 hours a day. It is a long haul. On roads that are not highways. Speed is strictly enforced.

We are paying for this ourselves. However, we have setup a donations page for Macmillan Cancer Support here. Please support us, whether that is with a donation, good vibes, or sharing this page with your friends and relatives.

Paul will have a page dedicated to the trip, so you can follow along virtually with us. I will be bringing my GoPro, so that later, you can witness the trip. And the rain (Paul is coming, after all).

Hopefully, I can lobby the group to stop here.

 


Fully Dressed Harley

October 25, 2013

Wait for it . . . .


The Recognition I Didn’t Expect

September 24, 2013

A few weeks back, all of the STAR Chapters in the State of Ohio gathered at the state park in Mt. Gilead, OH, for the annual State Rally. Because I have ridden with several Ohio Chapters, it was a special time for me. Instead of simply hanging out with members of my Chapter, I was able to spend time with friends in other chapters. Riding a bike has really allowed me to travel around Ohio, meeting great people, and seeing parts of the state that others miss when they drive highways.

The State Rally allows the Ohio STAR Ambassadors to present Chapters and individuals with awards for their work throughout the year. In front of pretty much every member of every Chapter.

Not really paying attention to some of the awards; I was talking with the President of Chapter 300 about various topics, some riding, mostly personal, I heard my name being called over the PA system, along with three other members from my Chapter.

We were honored with the Good Samaritan award for helping a fallen rider on August 17. The award:

StarSamaritan

In addition, we were presented a rocker for our Chapter vests (one can never have too many patches):

SamaritanRocker

It was hard to accept that I earned this award. All I could think was “anyone in the same position would have done the same thing.” But, funny thing, a very good friend told me that no, not everyone would have acted in the same manner under the same circumstances. I have give a lot of credit to some amazing people I know, whom I saw in action earlier this year, for demonstrating what people do in somewhat similar circumstances. I will never forget what they did, they are an inspiration to me.

This award is one that I hope I never earn again. However, I need to be better prepared for whatever may happen on the road.

When I got back from Mt. Gilead, I ordered a first aid kit to put in my saddle bags. That wasn’t enough – I’ll be taking a Red Cross First Aid class soon. Next up, a satellite phone – no matter what AT&T, Sprint, or Verizon might tell you, there are some very dead cell spots in Ohio, with some of the best motorcycle roads, and coverage is extremely important. You can’t hope for the kindness of strangers to make an emergency call.

A first aid kit, a sat phone, and more training. Always, more training – the most important item. Anything else?