Monday, January 16, 2012
Lake Hopatcong, NJ, January 15, 2012
Polar Bear Motorcycle Blog
By: Chris Loynd
We finally got some polar bearish weather for our winter motorcycle rides. Sunday the temperature was 17 when I started out. By the end of our ride temperatures had not climbed even 10 degrees. I finished at a still frigid 24.
As I pulled up to the Dunkin' Donuts launching point, just in time, maybe even too close to just in time (had some trouble finding my really cold weather gear), Captain was holding court to determine who would lead. Since I was so close to the start time, and it was so cold, I left my bike running and my helmet on. So shouting back and forth, Captain and I had very poor communications.
We tried to goad Fonz into taking the lead. "I can get us to New Jersey," he offered. We then suggested he could sweep instead. Actually Fonz is a good sweep. He's responsive, proactive and cars move over for those funky lights of his.
I was trying to suggest that whoever was leading would take the more scenic route that I had suggested earlier in the week in my e-mail setting the time. Captain answered that Pogy and Token2 were picking us up en route. So I shouted back I would take the lead and pulled out to start our line.
Captain pulled up next to me and I wanted to confirm where we were catching Token2. My plan was to stick to I-287, crossing on the Tappan Zee bridge. Captain said yes, that was where Token2 would be waiting. As John J. pulled into the group of bikes, I took off. Only at lunch when communications were again established, and this time without helmets in our way, I found out Captain felt I stole the lead from him. He was gracious in conceding it all the same.
Looking at Google Maps the week before our ride, I had spotted a nice rural route alternative that added only a few minutes more to our ride. Instead of riding I-287 to I-80, expressway all the way, Route 23 took us up through some New Jersey woodlands.
As cold as it was Sunday, I probably should have checked the topographic or satellite view of my proposed "scenic" route. At the very least, the section riding on "Oak Ridge Road" should have tipped me.
As I led my motorcycle buddies off the Interstate, we started climbing into the New Jersey mountains, well, if not mountains, at least foothills. My GPS said we topped out near 800 feet in elevation, not all that much. Then again, we started at sea level.
Oak Ridge Road really does run on a ridge, or up on the western side of a ridge. It was scenic, but as we passed a bank, it informed us we were back down to 17 degrees. Another one warned of minus nine degrees, but that was Celsius; that's15.8 degrees Fahrenheit.
Scenery did not disappoint. We rode past some beautiful lakes and reservoirs, along steep rock falls and even had some twisty roads for one little bit. It was a nice break from the Interstates.
Another reason I should have taken a closer look is that maniac turn from Route 15 onto Route 181. You no sooner exit then cut back, almost like you're getting back onto 15. The GPS shows this curly-que which is technically accurate by mind boggling. More than a few times, we've missed or nearly missed this turn.
Fortunately Captain was on his p's and q's and made the tight right flawlessly. Me, I was trying to signal and wave with one hand, push the bars out with the other, coordinate brake and throttle. I went way wide, but I made her all the same. It musta' looked ugly in the back of our pack, but I received no disparaging comments.
Only after settling into Route 181 did I remember, "Oh yeah. That #$@*& turn gets us every time." I believe on past rides it has engendered a few U-turns.
Slower speeds of scenic secondary roads did little to alleviate my tingling-cold fingers. My Gerbing gloves are fine, up to a point. But for my long, skinny fingers, they just don't make it at these temperatures, even inside hippo hands. I should have known better. So for the ride back I switched to my down mountaineering mittens from NorthFace with a chemical heat pack in the end of each. Those are almost too hot. Almost.
Our Grand Tour hosts received their new shipment of this year's rockers. All of us on this ride have already earned the red rocker. Captain, of course, received red and gold. He is eligible for his 60-point pin too, but our flight leaders did not have them yet.
Wearhouse Grill had a special Polar Bear menu that included onion soup in a crock and chicken noodle. At first John J. ordered the chicken. But when most all the rest of us ordered onion, he caved to the peer pressure. Captain stood fast, however, when his turn to order came and resolutely ordered the chicken noodle. Maybe he knew something we did not.
As it turned out, they brought his chicken noodle right away. For the rest of us our soup came after our entrees. The soup hit the spot on such a cold day.
We missed Grumpy. He is back on night shift at his job keeping all our cables full of television shows. Fonz took over most of the photo duties. Anticipating Grumpy's absence, I packed my tripod and took the group shot. To see a version of this blog with more pictures, follow this link: http://www.influentialcom.com/polar_bear_blog.htm
Pogy surprised me by saying that this Blogspot blog was the only one he knew. He got a new computer and I e-mailed him links to save to favorites on his new browser. Guess he'll have to do some back reading. Several seasons of motorcycle polar bear blogs are posted on this other site.
Generally I post here on Blogspot first because it is easier to access from anywhere. I am also experimenting with SEO for both my blogs. The other blog site is on my former company web site. There I have more control, and room for all the photos I wish to post. I generally also use Photoshop to size and sometimes crop or adjust the photos. And that program is only on my home computer. Blogspot I can use from my small laptop or tablet.
My Blogspot blog also allows comments, but my readers rarely do.
Eventually, I will have to upgrade my company web site. New web management tools will offer much of the same functionality. All I have to do is learn a whole new program. But hey, we all know what that is like. This technology treadmill never ends.
Tuesday, January 10, 2012
Vineland, NJ, January 8, 2012
Polar Bear Motorcycles Blog
By: Chris Loynd
Vineland is a pretty long way to go for a ride to nowhere. And after a two week hiatus (the past two Sundays falling on Christmas and New Years) my back was not used to doing such miles. I was ready to get off the bike when I got home.
Fortunately the riding was easy. Anything not expressway was through some scenic towns, the Pinelands and farms. By the way, didn't it used to be called the Pine Barrens? I guess the government switched to a nicer sounding name.
We are back to North Carolina winter weather. Temperatures climbed above 50 in South Jersey. They were a bit colder for our ride start up in Connecticut, but not at all bearish. We had a long distance to ride, so we started at 8 a.m. The sun was just up. Still, it was in the high 40s for most of our miles.
A note of caution sounds in my psyche. It is a deep, far-off, disturbingly familiar tolling.
I hinted at it with my fellow Bears on Sunday. While I could not clearly recollect the time or even season, I recall a warm Polar Bear winter some time ago. I mocked Mother Nature in the blog, suggesting she had forgotten winter. And the very next week she slapped us hard with snow and subzero temperatures.
There's no making that mistake again. Let me just say we are respectfully grateful for the warm and dry weekends.
One of my Facebook friends who is also a rider, Art, took credit for the warmth. He asserts that if he had not winterized his Harley, tucking it into the back of the garage, turning on the battery tender and turning off the insurance, we all would be knee-deep in snow right now.
Connecticut experienced a 55 degree day Saturday. That brought out droves of motorcycles and even a few convertible cars. I was out front of my house doing a bit of “fall” gardening when my neighbor came home. Seeing me there with the leaf rake he called over, “Aren't you supposed to be shoveling snow about now?”
Grumpy led us over the interstates and parkways to the turnpike. He graciously allowed for a bathroom break. The others scoffed at me, but I grabbed the opportunity to top off my gas tank despite their scorn. Fonz caved too, once I took the hit, and stopped at the pumps while the other riders waited patiently. I hate riding with that fuel light winking at me. And true to form, later in the day Grumpy ran the other bikes down so close to empty that Mac broke formation and came up to insist on a gas stop. I just smiled and topped off again.
Fonz repaid the favor of me supporting his early gas fill when we got to our destination. We arrived just after 11:30 and the parking lot was already full. Grumpy pulled into a spot that would maybe fit just one more bike, but where he'd have to back out on gravel.
His wing man, I decided the gravel lot was plenty wide for a center row of bikes and so started one. Pogy and Token2 blew right by me and ended up parked helter-skelter at the driveway's mouth. Mac, well, I'm not sure what he was thinking. He just sort of found a spot and nearly blocked in some blockhead who was parked perpendicular to all the other bikes. (Maybe Mac was making a statement.) I was signaling to my fellow on-coming riders with a back and forth swish of my arm. Fonz was first to pick up on it and pulled in next to me. Captain came in too on the other side of me. And behind him was another group of bikes and soon our new row was firmly established.
The line held. As we came out of lunch it was stronger and thicker, with a double-up row forming farther down where the parking lot widened. Those of us on the line simply pulled out of the gravel lot with no foot paddling.
Fonzie did not endear himself to all our riders this day. On the way down he had what he himself described as a “momentary lapse in concentration.” It was in an area where the DOT workers had placed cautionary cones right on the edge of the highway travel lane, right on the fog line. Fonz clipped one.
He quickly corrected. But Pogy following behind had fewer options. The cone caught his highway peg and snapped it off like a twig. Highway pegs on a Goldwing stick out pretty far. And they appear to be made of some sort of cast metal; it looks like aluminum but breaks like porcelain.
Pogy was fine. And as he lamented, you can't buy just one peg. So I guess he'll replace the broken one and then have a spare. If he's like me, he'll put that spare in a special place. And when he finally, years from now, breaks another highway peg, he will have no idea where that replacement peg might reside. But then again, Pogy is likely more organized than I.
The Japanese continued to have troubles this ride. Captain had replaced his one Goldwing antenna after it broke off on an earlier run. Over this week's ride the new antenna drooped like it was made of play dough. He's headed back to the dealership too. Maybe Captain and Pogy – both now retired – can make a day of it!
Token2 even had trouble with his ST. Something not right in the harness for his electrics left him adding layers and stuffing chemical heat packs into his gloves and boots. Pogy even lent him a sweatshirt.
At sign-in I offered my thanks to Rich and Dave. They do so much as our Flight B leaders. Dave even came all the way up to Connecticut one year to attend our winter dinner.
With more Polar Bear rockers and pins on their vests than you can count, they have decided it would be fair to have someone else pick up the paperwork going forward. Thank you both for all you do and your perpetual good humor. These are some big shoes to fill.
Five Points Inn proffered a fine brunch buffet for a very fair $10. Pogy picked up the tab for us all. He retired this week and I guess he was feeling generous. Thanks!
Pogy has plenty of life left in him, by the way. His retirement was one of those take the early package or else deals. So if any blog readers know of a position open for a technically adept senior customer service or sales director with international experience and a work ethic that will scare the bejesus out of his fellow workers, send me an e-mail and I'll pass it along.
It's true that like Forrest Gump's chocolates, you never do know what you're going to get. As John Lennon said, “Life is what happens when you're busy making other plans.”
I don't know where this economy will take us. It's hard for guys like Mac and Pogy to give a whole life to a company only to be offered an “early retirement package” backed by a layoff threat.
I don't know if the Polar Bear Club will survive a change of leadership. Bob is asking for a replacement, now Rich and Dave too.
Ah, but what future is ever certain? This is the year the Mayans say it all ends, 12/26/2012. So be sure to get out and ride as much as you can. Me, I still plan to go on a Polar Bear ride 12/30/2012, if the Grand Tour folks will have me.
Happy New Year!