Tag Archives: motorcycle

The Social Catalyst

Last weekend I spent 4 1/2 days riding about 1,200 miles with about 80 motorcycle friends with Backroads motorcycle magazine.

I say 80 friends because at the end of each day everyone would congregate at the hotel, have a drink and swap stories and it always amazes me how easy it is to talk to anyone in this crowd.  Stick out your hand in introduction and you’ll be chatting like long lost buddies within minutes.

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As something of a social observer this was an excellent opportunity to watch a lot of different interactions in a very short space of time, and I started to see a pattern I had never seen before.

Certain people (who I won’t name to avoid embarrassment) have the amazing ability to liven up almost any conversation whenever they join a group.  Within minutes the level of laughter and energy will move up a notch, and the effect lasts long after they have left too.

The characteristics of these social catalysts seem to be equal part a great sense of humor, broad knowledge of a wide variety of subjects, keen observation skills which they use to tease people with, and a certain amount of irreverence where they will happily delve into subjects that polite conversation might steer clear of.

Having noticed it, it was hard not to notice, even when they joined a conversation I was in.

Sadly I don’t count myself as one of these social unicorns.  But maybe I can use these observations to help improve my future social interactions.  Either that or I’m going to end up with a bloody nose.

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900 Miles on a Motorcycle – It’s All Dolphins!

I have just spent the past few days enjoying the best scenery and back roads that the Catskills and Adirondacks have to offer with the wonderful folks from Backroads magazine.  

It’s hard to put into words how great this trip was.  The weather was perfect and the ride pace set by my good friend MB was spot on – fast enough to enjoy the roads to the full but without being a hero.  We rode through spectacular scenery and little towns with architecture straight out of a fairy tale.  I spent a good deal of time checking out the beautiful old stone churches with tall spires and thinking how great they would look photographed from the air – my current obsession.

While on the trip I finally came to realize that the bike I bought new in 2001 is now the old girl of the group. Despite that she still rides great and, even though at least 50hp down on most of the bikes we were riding with, can hold her own.  After 15 years the old girl can still fly. 

MB and I were joined by Jeff, an honest to goodness private detective sadly minus the obligatory fedora.  Hanging out with Jeff and MB was a blast.  Their irrepressible charm and quick wit turned even the mundane items such as ordering lunch into a laugh fest for all concerned.  My cheeks ached from laughing so much.

Over lunch on Friday we talked about how sad it is that so many people are afraid to enjoy life.  When I told people I was going away for several days of motorcycle riding many assumed the worse.  As Jeff put it “People are afraid to go in the water because of the one in a million possibility of being eaten by a Great White when they are far more likely to encounter Dolphins.”

This led to the catch phrase “It’s all dolphins” being used for the rest of the trip.  This caused a few raised eyebrows with the wait staff:

  • “How was dinner guys?”
  • “It’s all dolphins!”
  • “?”

Backroads motorcycle magazine

On Backroads rides most of the riding is done in your own group, and at your own pace, with everyone meeting up at the end of the day for some lively chat and a few drinks.

If this is your first time with Backroads the first thing you will notice is just how friendly people are.  Everyone is family. People will walk up to you, shake hands and start chatting as though you have known each other for years.  Brian and Shira somehow know everyone personally and have great stories of their own but, as hosts, are in much demand.

Sadly our little troop all had things to do and couldn’t stay so we headed home early on Saturday morning.  I followed MB down as far as Lake George where we ate breakfast and then went our separate ways, with him blasting home on the highways while I took a more meandering route down through the Catskills and Bear Mountain.

I arrived home mid afternoon on Saturday after about 900 miles of amazing back-road riding in near perfect weather.  My BMW performed flawlessly and now needs to be rewarded with a service and a new rear tire, which is completely shot.

It’s a shame that many people will never experience something like this because of fear of the unknown.  Yes, things can go wrong.  But more often things go right and, personally, some of the most amazing times I have started out as a disaster and ended with the making of life long friends and memories.

I once heard the quote “Everyone dies, but not everyone lives” and that resonates with me personally.  Don’t be afraid!  Get out there and enjoy life.  It’s all dolphins!

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Filed under Automobiles and motorcycles, Life - or something like it, Travel

Tail of the Dragon – Part Deux – Wheels Through Time Museum

Wheels Through TimeWhile taking in the awesome roads  in North Carolina I felt compelled to visit the Wheels Through Time Museum, and I’m so glad that I did because I’ve never experienced a museum quite like it.  

The Wheels Through Time Museum is home to the world’s premier collection of rare American Vintage Motorycles.  Located 5 miles from the Blue Ridge Parkway, in beautiful Maggie Valley, NC, this All-American motorcycle museum houses over 300 of America’s rarest and most historic classic motorcycles, with over 24 marques on display, including the likes of Harley-Davidson, Indian, Excelsior, Crocker, Henderson, and much more.  Featuring dozens of motorcycle-related exhibits, ranging from board track racers, hillclimbing, and original paint machines to American Dirt Track racing, choppers and bobbers, and one-of-a-kind motorcycles, this is a must-see place if you are a motorcyclist.  And if you are Harley Davidson fan then this must be as close to Mecca as one can find.

Riding from Deals Gap I once again found myself surrounded by amazing riding roads and the most gorgeous scenery.  This was also my first opportunity to ride a section of the Blue Ridge Parkway and riding the full length of that was immediately added to the bucket list.

From the outside the museum seemed a little disappointing.  I’m not sure why but standing in the parking lot looking at the entrance it didn’t seem that big and I was wondering whether I should bother.  I went and was immediately greeted by staff that were so genuinely happy so I paid my $12 and headed through the gap in the wall that serves as an entrance.

On the other side begins an Aladdin’s cave of motorcycle treasure and the atmosphere and attitude of the staff was beyond friendly.

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Only when heading upstairs and looking out across the whole space did I truly start to appreciate how vast the place is – truly TARDIS like.

I wandered around with no particular goal but just taking in the wonders of the place.  Every nook and cranny is filled with motorcycle memorabilia and, just when you thought you had seen it all, another aisle would appear with something new to behold.

While standing and admiring one particularly beautiful old Henderson one of the staff came by and the following conversation occurred:

  • “Beautiful machine isn’t it?”
  • “It sure is.  I’ve always loved Hendersons”
  • “Yup….Want to hear it run?”
  • “What?….Ummm…really?  SURE!”

At which point he fiddled, twiddled, tickled and twisted a few things and then spun the rear wheel.  Immediately the bike roared to life sounding both raucous and silky smooth at the same time.

I can’t think of any other auto museum that I have been at where they are happy to actually start the vehicles right in front of you, but that happened multiple times during my visit.  Sure every so often it made your eyes sting a little…but it was worth it to see and hear those amazing machine run!

All too soon I was out of time and needed to get back on the road but what an amazing experience.

This is a must-do event for any gear head that is in the area.  Just make sure that you have plenty of memory in that camera!

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The Tail of the Dragon

A few clear days gave an opportunity to ride the world-famous “Tail of the Dragon“, a road with 318 miles of curves in just 11 miles.  But did my first time on this road have to be in torrential rain with near zero visibility…?

I had just four days to get down to North Carolina, bang out some quality riding and be back by Friday evening for my son’s 13th birthday party.  Shortly after starting the 800 mile ride south I ran into rain.  Then came more rain, downpours, a deluge and then just a steady torrent which kept up until dark when I  decided that this wasn’t any fun and it was time to find a motel.

Here there be dragons...

Here there be dragons…

Finishing the ride on Wednesday morning I arrived at Deals Gap Motorcycle Resort by way of US 129 from Robbinsville wondering what all the fuss was about.  US 129 was a nice road but nothing like the challenging wild ride I had heard so much about.  I needn’t have worried – the really challenging part was yet to come.

A gaggle of T-Rexs

A gaggle of T-Rexs

Pulling into the parking lot my senses were assailed  a wild array of vehicles. Every kind of motorcycle was in evidence, plus cool sports cars and some very strange-looking machines called a T-Rex, which I originally took to be an Arial Atom.  Clearly this was a place for serious gear heads.

I checked into my room which could best be described as ‘clean but basic’ (almost barracks like in its layout) and then, hearing people talk about possible rain, I decided to waste no time hitting the Tail of the Dragon.

I’d seen video and pictures of the dragon before but they really can’t do it justice and it was immediately clear how this road obtained its name.  Not only did it contain a never-ending series of turns but the continually changing road camber really gave a feel of riding something that was undulating and alive.

This being my first run I was taking it easy and working on taking the correct line and watching my vanishing points.  Then, about 3 miles into the run out the heavens opened up with a downpour of biblical proportions.  With the curtain of rain and a rapidly fogging visor I didn’t need to worry about the vanishing point anymore…it was about 6 inches in front of my nose!  Seriously, the thought going through my head was “Here I am riding one of the most challenging roads in the world for the first time, in the pouring rain, and having to use The Force to figure out where the road goes.”  I pulled over to let a fast-moving Corvette pass (the only other vehicle on the road) and then stayed with him until near the end of the outbound run, where there was a large paved area for turning around.

Waiting for the rain to stop...

Waiting for the rain to stop…

On the reverse trip the rain was now complemented by rivers of water running across the road but the Corvette and I made it safely back and, despite the rain, I actually really enjoyed the ride and couldn’t wait to get back to it again.

I spent the time back at the resort talking to fellow gear-heads until the sun came out and the roads started to steam steadily.  Then it was back on the bike for two more runs including one that I extended around Chilhowee lake.  That last one unfortunately took longer than anticipated and I arrived back at the resort 15 minutes after the restaurant had closed.  Bummer!

There is no cell service in this area at all so any checking in with the family involved an 18 mile ride back to Robbinsville.  Fortunately even the ride to Robbinsville is on great motorcycle roads.  In fact all the roads around Deals Gap are top notch twisties and the only real problem is if you are in a hurry to get somewhere.

I spent the rest of the evening swapping jokes and moto related stories with my neighbors over a couple of beers.  Everyone had plenty of experience, interesting stories and were eager go show pictures of the other classic/fast vehicles they had at home.  I asked around and couldn’t find a single person that didn’t know how to drive a stick!

Finally it was time to hit the sack because Thursday was to be another big day taking in the roads of the area including parts of the Blue Ridge Parkway and  the Wheels Through Time motorcycle museum…

Stay tuned!

 

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Filed under Automobiles and motorcycles, Life - or something like it

An Unexpected Discovery!

Don’t you love it when a simple activity turns into an unexpected discovery?

Yesterday was such a beautiful day that I just had to take the bike out for a run and, with no particular destination, I just pointed the front wheel down the roads that looked fun.

Around noon I found myself near Greenwood Lake…and hungry.

A small triangular island with a café on it appeared and I decided to stop for a quick bite.

Little more than a kitchen with a couple of tables and a tiny parking area I wasn’t expecting much but the proprietor (Jason) was very friendly and the place clean.  I ordered bacon, egg and cheese on a roll and a coffee and was told the coffee comes with it.  Great!

While the sandwich was made I helped myself to a coffee from the nearby stand and was stunned to find that it was actually good coffee!  I didn’t see that coming.

I settled at the table and was presented with a sandwich nicely presented on a clean white china plate. No paper plates here.  I tucked in and…it was fantastic!  OK, I know we are not talking about high-end food here but it was tasty, perfectly cooked, not greasy.  Really…it was exactly what I was looking for.

I was enjoying a nice chat with my neighbor when Jason when brought over a little container of bar-b-q sauce and said to us “Try it…it has strawberries in it”.  It was delicious!  Tangy and sweet but not too much of either.  Apparently they have a smoker coming in soon and will be offering a variety of BBQ fare.  I’ll have to remember to stop in and try that once they are up and running.

My neighbor was raving about his potato salad and Jason asked if I wanted to try some of that too.  Another hit!  And it was fun to see someone so excited about the foods he was preparing.

Finally it was time to pay and the grande total for the unexpected culinary experience and friendly conversation – a whopping $4.27!  I was so impressed I even did a Facebook check-in there…which I never do.

I left with a smile on my face, refreshed and ready to hit the road again – not bad for under $5.

If you’re interested in trying them out you can find them at:

3 Corners Cafe
160 Windermere Ave
Greenwood Lake NY 10925
845-595-1664 
threecornerscafe@yahoo.com

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I’m a PC guy…should I buy a MAC?

I’m a PC guy.  Really.  I spend a lot of time on PCs.  I know how they work, how to keep them virus free, running fast, and I know all the shortcut keys so working with PCs is effortless for me.

More importantly they are cheap – my current machine came with a dual-core 2.7 GHz 64-bit CPU, Windows 7, a 1TB hard drive and 4Gb of RAM and cost just $220.  No screen, but they did throw in a mouse and a keyboard.

I’ve looked at Apple machines in the past and, while they look great, they just seem too expensive for what you get.  As a case in point a Mac Mini (the poor man’s Mac) configured to the above spec comes to $1,147!   And actually that is only a 750GB drive.

It just doesn’t seem to make sense.  And yet I keep bumping into people who are technically savvy and wouldn’t consider owning anything else.  In a conversation this week one such person said “I could never understand why people spent so much money on Apple machines, until I owned one.” and that started me thinking about a similar experience I had with motorcycles.

Case #1 – BMW vs Jap Bikes

Back in the mid-90’s I spent a huge amount of my life riding motorcycles.  I commuted into central London every day (80 mile round trip), instructed at the weekends and spent vacations riding to the south of France.   A typical year would see me rack up a minimum of 30,000 miles, and often much more.

Initially I bought nothing but Japanese motorcycles.  They were lighter, cheaper, faster and more available than BMWs and I really couldn’t understand why anyone would “spend all that money for a badge“.   But I found myself replacing my Japanese machines about every 6-9 months because they were just plain worn out and starting to become unreliable.

A work friend convinced me a try a used BMW by pointing out that he had used his trusty R80 for years and had no problems with it at all.  In the end I dropped  £2,200 on a used K75 with 25,000 miles on it, which was more than I had ever paid for a Japanese machine at any mileage.

At first it felt a little strange to ride because things were not where I expected them to be.   The indicators operated completely differently to anything else I had ridden and were downright confusing at first, and then there was the torque reaction from the shaft drive to contend with.  But it didn’t take too long for everything to feel completely normal and, dare I say it, even more logical.

I rode that bike everywhere and it was as reliable as a hammer.  After 18 months of trouble-free riding I had to sell the bike because I was leaving for the U.S.   I had put 50,000 trouble-free miles on it and it still looked great and ran the same as the day I bought it.   Selling a Japanese bike with 75,000 miles on it would have been a complete non-starter, and yet I was able to sell my little K75 for £2,000 – only £200 less than I paid for it after all of those miles.  

Case #2 – Harley vs The Rest

I know a number of people who swear by Harley Davidson motorcycles and would never consider owning anything else.  But most of those people have also never ridden anything else because that would be heresy!  I have ridden Harley’s on several occasions. My considered opinion is that they look nice but steer like a cow on roller skates and vibrate enough to make male owners sterile.

So the big question for me is…are Apple computers like BMWs or Harley’s?

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Filed under Automobiles and motorcycles, Life - or something like it, Technology

The Secrets of Women and Motorcycles

Since the beginning of time (I assume) men have a hard time understanding the way women think, particularly when it came to more ‘intimate’ matters.

But I read something recently which finally put things into terms that I could understand and allowed me a peek into the strange world of women’s desires, and here it is…

Men view sex as a goal – a destination to be reached as quickly as possible and by the shortest route.  Women, however, see sex as a journey – a set of experiences to be savored along the way.  The destination is nice, but it is the journey that counts.

As an avid motorcyclist this was something I could totally relate to.  Motorcycling is all about the journey.  The destination (be it great ribs or a classic bike show) is, more often than not, just an excuse to get out and ride.

The same split can be seen in other activities too – take shopping as an example.  Women will happily spend hours at the mall, completely immersing themselves in the entire retail experience.  Men, on the other hand, “hunt shoes” – grabbing the first pair that fit the need, and heading home triumphant.

Sadly the introduction of children often makes it difficult to spend sufficient time on the journey – which no-doubt explains why many mothers find themselves in a state of low libido, and their husbands in a state of frustration.

But the first step to solving a problem is knowing what the problem is.  Now that I finally get it I will be trying harder to focus on the journey, and I would suggest that you do the same too.

“Too often we are so preoccupied with the destination, we forget the journey.”~Unknown

Enjoy the journey!

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Filed under Children, Life - or something like it, The Human Condition, Travel