Thursday, November 15, 2018

Hammer Time?

CT Polar Bears in Bridgewater, NJ, from left Captain, Anonymous Ed (look hard, it's like where's Waldo) and Grumpy.
Down front, this week's reporter, Pogy.
Motorcycle Polar Bear Blog, Polar Bear Grand Tour, ride to the Eagles, Somerset Aerie #2137, Bridgewater, NJ, November 11, 2018

Report by: Pogy
Photos by: Grumpy

This was our third ride of the season – it was a late departure (0930) so it gave everyone the opportunity to eat breakfast at home and get some honey doos done before the ride.  

I got picked up at the rest stop just at 0950 – The Captain was in the lead, anonymous Ed was in second place and I fell in third position with Grumpy as sweep.  Needless to say it was an interesting ride down – it was obvious to all that the Captain really ate his Wheaties cause he was very heavy on the throttle and very anxious to get to our destination – at times he went past the 75MPH mark but in the end he got us to our destination just in time to eat a nice spread put on by the Eagles – and decompress!

Our ride back was not as exciting as going down with only a few bursts of throttle here and there – One observation during the roundtrip – I saw 11 road kills – there may have been more but it is obvious that its that time of year for the deer – 

So Captain, we still love ya and look forward to seeing the crew again next week – destination 5 points

Ride safe 

Tuesday, November 13, 2018

A Loooong Ride Strains Discipline

Connecticut Polar Bear Riders in Lewes, from left: CT Blogger, Captain, Jorge, Mac, Grumpy and Pogy down front.

Polar Bear Motorcycle Blog, Polar Bear Grand Tour, ride to Irish Eyes Pub, Lewes, Del., November 4, 2018

By: Chris Loynd, a.k.a. CT Blogger
Photos by: John Bowlan, a.k.a. Grumpy (and a couple by Chris)

Ten hours in a saddle can try anyone's nerves. It's especially hard to retain your composure when the ride back is longer than the ride down. It's even worse when these 10 hours are not spent on scenic backroads or cruising across the great plains of South Dakota. No, not us. We were pounding up and down the New Jersey Turnpike and Garden State Parkway around New York City. Winter riding is a bit more demanding too. Instead of tooling along in a light jacket and jeans, you're layered up in enough full riding gear to stay warm.

Me, I cheated. I didn't have it as bad as my compatriots, freely admitted. I spent Saturday night with my folks, north of Wilmington, Del. That meant my Sunday morning ride was just two-and-a-half hours, compared to the Connecticut departees' four-and-a-half ride down to Lewes. To top things off, they got off late.

I rode to Lewes Sunday morning, then waited an hour to meet up with Grumpy, Captain, Mac, Pogy and a new Polar Bear Jorge. Jorge is a friend of the Fonz. As he did last week, Fonz left early with Trike Mike and Anonymous Ed. We met up with them, briefly when they signed-in and headed home. The rest of us ate a nice lunch at Irish Eyes Pub before heading back. There was some speculation Irish Eyes had raised prices over the summer. I paid $15 for a grilled cheese and cup of tomato soup.

Fortunately, the weather was good. Like last week there was a stormy Saturday and beautiful Sunday. It was cool enough for the winter gear but not so cold that you're fighting to stay warm. My electric clothes were turned off most of the day. As the day got later and darker, I did dial them up a bit. In fact, toward the end of our ride I bolloxed our symmetry by forgetting to connect my riding suit to the bike. As we departed from the stop at the top (Montvale Services on the Garden State) I dove out of formation at the last possible minute. Our sweep blew right by, clueless, but in his defense I did make a quick move when the other riders were focused on speeding up for the merge into traffic. Thanks to a long traffic jam of stop-and-go traffic leading up to the Tappan Zee, now Cuomo Bridge, I easily caught back up with the group. But we were frazzled by then anyway.

Delaware was good to us. There was not much traffic, even some scenery as we motored through the downstate flat expanses of drying brown soybeans and bright green winter wheat. It didn't last, though. All too soon we were over the Delaware Memorial Bridge and working through traffic on the New Jersey Turnpike.

Still, we can do better; we have done better. Maybe it's early in the season and we're rusty at group riding. Maybe it was too many miles and our nerves were fraying. Grumpy was lead with Captain as his wingman. I was third in line. Behind me, sometimes right next to me, Jorge was on his first Polar Bear ride. Mac was behind Jorge and Pogy was sweep. Six bikes are a manageable number in most any traffic, if we ride it right.

Jorge was rubber banding a bit, and we'll work with him if he stays with us. Mac rubber bands quite a bit, always has, and seems unwilling or unable to keep tight. That's tough on the sweep who can be too far back to easily clear for lane changes. If the bikes are spaced too far apart, there's always a cager who will try to butt in. It can make communication between the lead and sweep difficult.

Grumpy got impatient. I know it's hard. I've led my share of rides. You signal the lane change then wait for the sweep. It can help if you anticipate when the sweep can cross over and secure the lane. But to keep cars out of the formation, you have to wait. Grumpy would signal, get too tight on the car or truck in front of him, and move over, whether or not Pogy had cleared the lane. Pogy would make a space in traffic, but then we had a car jammed up in our formation because Grumpy already moved.

We've seen this before. But over six hours it gets more and more frustrating. Then it go worse.

On the Garden State Parkway, in the infamous Oranges, there was an accident. Arrrg!

Captain got really impatient in the resulting stop and go. He kept running ahead of Grumpy, taking over the lead, as if there was someplace to go. At one point I thought maybe he was getting bored and playing a game to see how close he could get to the white van in front of him without actually touching it.

I just paddled along, feet up, feet down, clutch in, clutch out, walking more than riding, trying to keep my place in formation, sometimes behind Captain, sometimes behind Grumpy, sometimes Jorge way behind me, sometimes Jorge beside me, sometimes Jorge ahead of me.

Things settled after we cleared the accident. But with the hour growing ever later, we stopped for gas and a quick pit stop at the top of the Garden State. Nobody wanted to take time for a coffee. We were all just anxious to get home. Unfortunately, the big flashing sign over the Parkway predicted 56 minutes to the Cuomo Bridge.

Bad behavior continued in the pre-bridge traffic jam. Then two ambulances began working their way through traffic in the far left lane where we were riding. Pogy and Mac moved over right away. The rest of us got over quickly too, leaving cars between us. Getting our lane back behind the ambulances was impossible. Aggressive car drivers were diving over, trying to follow the ambulances to get ahead of everyone else. The upshot was we never saw Pogy and Mac again. I trust they made it home okay.

We probably could have waited for them to catch up by taking the second lane on the bridge or later on I-287. But patience was in very short supply. As soon as traffic opened, throttles did the same.

Grumpy and Jorge split off to take the Merritt home. Captain and I headed to I-95. We were lucky in that. Uncharacteristically, I-95 traffic was better than usual. Captain had the smell of the barn in his nostrils and ran for home. I did my best to keep up.

We can ride better. We have ridden better. It's up to each individual to decide. But maybe we should have a group discussion about group riding at our next group Polar Bear lunch.

Our CT Crew arrives in Lewes.

Pogy, can you hear me now?

Mac and the CT crew arrive.

Irish Eyes on street parking required; their lot is stone only and not so good for motorcycles.
Picture of Grumpy taking a picture of CT Blogger.

CT Blogger taking picture of Grumpy taking picture.

Mac signs in. Big 6-pointer for the CT crew on this long ride.

CT Blogger is also Polar Bear Newsletter Editor and here conversing with Polar Bear Grand Poohbah Bob.

Chris signs in, Flight B.

Mac contemplating lunch.

Chris and Pogy trying to decide what to order.

Trike Mike stopped by.

Captain and Anonymous Ed.

Tuesday, October 30, 2018

Season Opener 2018-2019

First ride of the 2018-2019 season. From left: Mac, CT Blogger, Captain, Grumpy and Pogy down front.

Polar Bear Motorcycle Blog, Polar Bear Grand Tour, ride to Cape May, NJ, October 28, 2018.

By: Chris Loynd, aka CT Blogger
Photos by: John Bowlan, aka Grumpy

I'm back, at least for some of the rides this season. Starting a new business, Digital Pizza, took my full attention last season. Fortunately it is more stable now and I have some wonderful clients. I will forever regret missing that anniversary patch, especially since my first Polar Bear patch was for the Polar Bear's 25th anniversary, 2002-2003. When I earn this season's patch I'll leave a space for the missing rocker to always remember my missing season.

Life sometimes trumps motorcycling. It's a shame. It happens. The only red rocker on my Polar Bear vest was for the 2008-2009 season when, in the great recession, I closed my 17-year business and joined The Maritime Aquarium.

Motorcycling also helps life go better. It was good catching up with my fellow Grand Tour staffers. Grand Poohbah Bob was too busy registering riders to do more than say hello. I was pleased to see Flight A Leader Pat Bachota there; John Bachota passed away just a week-and-a-half ago. Walter posted a nice memoriam of photos and videos on the Grand Tour site. And I trust being among her fellow Polar Bears offered Pat something valuable.

Riding from Stratford, Conn. to Cape May, N.J. for lunch is as crazy as it's ever been.

Fortunately for us the nor'easter rain storm came through Saturday. Sunday morning was dreary, damp and cold. Most of the day remained overcast and blustery. We rode in and out of a few patches of sun. I was wishing I had an extra layer. Captain said he felt the cold. He rides without electrics, always has. Me, I've gone to the full suit from Warm & Safe heated clothing. But even with electrically heated clothes, you have to figure the proper riding layers on top. My mix of electrics and insulation was a bit off. To keep my body, especially legs, warm enough I overcooked the tops of my feet.

I was joined by what has become the Connecticut Polar Bear stalwarts for the last several years: Captain, Grumpy, Pogy and Mac. At Cape May we met up, briefly, with two of our other regulars, the Polar Rican and Anonymous Ed. They were joined by Mike on a Trike. Mike is one of Fonz's Connecticut Rider Education Program, ConnREP, students.

Fonz led his separate group down earlier in the day. They went for breakfast first then sign-in so they could get back home earlier Sunday. The rest of us rode to sign-in first then enjoyed lunch. We were still able to get back before sundown. We will be especially challenged to repeat the feat this coming Sunday, though. The ride is longer, Lewes, Del., and the clock is sooner as we "fall back" an hour that morning.

Other ConnREP students have join us for Polar Bears before. The most successful of these was Token2. He's since moved to Virginia and we may not see him on too many rides anymore. Last year though, he rode up from Virginia to meet the CT Bears in Cape May.

Also from ConnREP is Thumper. Paul is still on the email list and hopefully we'll see him on a ride or two this season.

On Sunday morning I forgot how long it takes to get dressed for a Polar Bear ride. I called Captain 10 minutes before our departure time and told him I was running late but on my way. I guess the guys missed me because they waited. In years' past they would have left without me.

As I arrived they were already lined up ready to go. Captain waived me to the front. He was worried about his Goldwing's charging system and wanted me to take the lead in case he had to drop out. Fortunately, his bike was fine the whole way down and back.

I was on my restored Harley-Davidson Heritage Springer. It underwent a frame-off restoration, largely because winter riding corrosion ate the bike. The trouble all started when highway crews switched from sodium to calcium chloride. Sunday the Harley ran fine, spit some oil but I think it's because the tank is overfull. And a little oil always looks like a whole lot of oil once it spreads. Captain, my wingman, said my spray assured his Honda plastics won't rust.

Part of the Harley restoration was a change in the handlebars. I now have wider beach bars. This was the first 400+ mile day I've done on the new configuration and I have to say I felt those wider bars between my shoulder blades Sunday night, maybe more so Monday morning. But the bars look cool!

It was great catching up with my riding buddies. However it may be that I missed something last year or perhaps I'm just getting more sensitive. Our CT Bears always enjoyed busting each others' chops like we're in high school. But it seemed to me the level of snark increased. Maybe we're all just getting grumpier in our old age.

I was over cautious on my gas stops. I have a whole new tank on my Harley and the gauge must be off. It was showing dead empty at 120 miles. I'm used to getting 160 to 180 on a tank, easy. When I filled the tank it took only 3 1/2 gallons of what I assume is a standard 5-gallon capacity. I'll confirm that very important assumption with my builder before next Sunday! I'm not sure if the gauge can be recalibrated. Meanwhile I'm confident riding by the odometer, although it is hard to ignore that flashing warning light.

My restoration bike no longer has stock pipes and the replacement exhaust may be hurting gas mileage. I'll continue to be conservative, but may stretch it a bit more on the Lewes ride this Sunday. I have my siphon with me just in case. Pogy and Captain have Goldwings with bigger tanks and spare fuel to share. Of course if I do run out of gas, I'll never hear the end of it. They ragged on me for being late Sunday morning like a pack of wolves on fresh kill. And yes, I'll get up extra early this coming Sunday, 7:00 a.m. departure.

Upon arrival at Cape May with my fully-restored 2002 Harley, 150,000+ miles on the clock.




Pogy checking in with Joan, Flight B Leader.

Quartermasters Gary and Alex have new shirts for this season.

Flight A Leaders included Pat, center.

Grand Tour Grand Master Bob registering this season's Bears.

Sunday, May 6, 2018

Season Close

Last ride of 2017-2018 season. CT Bears from left: Captain, Grumpy and Mac.
Polar Bear Motorcycle Blog, Polar Bear Grand Tour, ride to Cape May, April 29, 2018

By Captain:

Another season is now history, the day started for me at 4:30 AM. I arrived at the DD at 6:30 AM it was raining and to my surprise Grumpy was already there eating breakfast. Mac arrived at 6:45 AM and Grumpy bought coffee and breakfast for us both. Pogy called to say he was on his way home early from Quantito, VA, the sky was clear no rain.

We left at 7:30 AM with me in the lead MAC as sweep and Grumpy in the cradle. We were in the rain till we reached NJTP. Headed south and arrived early at the VFW at 11:10 AM. We lunched at the hall, Grumpy's treat. At check-in Grumpy got his patch, he made his 30 points, Mac received his 60 point pin and I closed the season with 82 points. Kudos' all around.

Departed at 11:45 AM along the beach. Mac pulled over with a battery light displayed made some adjustments and we were off again heading North. Hit a lot of traffic intermittently an split at the Merrit for them as I contact to I95. I was home by 5:00 PM. The sun was bright temp at 59 deg.

Wednesday, April 25, 2018

Penultimate Ride to New Destination

Connecticut Polar Bears for the next-to-last ride of the 2017-2018 season, from left: Scott, Mac, Captain, Pogy & Grumpy.

Polar Bear Motorcycle Blog, Polar Bear Grand Tour, ride to Plumstead Grill, Cream Ridge, NJ, April 22, 2018

By Pogy:

Sunday's ride was to a new location – The Plumsted Inn in Cream Ridge NJ.  

I arrived at the pickup point at about 0910 and Scott was already there – At 0920 the group rode by consisting of Mac, Grumpy and the Captain so we joined in and rode down to Jersey as a party of 5.  MIA was Fonz and Ed – Both having other obligations for the day.

Ride down was easy with some moderate to heavy traffic till we got on the Jersey Pike – off of exit 7A onto 195 and arrived at 1125.  

What a nice place – food was good and priced right – had a good waitress – what more can you ask for !!

Don’t remember what time we got back on the rode – traffic was heavy all the way  – A few tense moments on the Garden state – I was 4th in position at 65 MPH when we came around a blind sweep to the left and traffic was dead stop – I can assure you that the pucker factor kicked in – nobody hurt but WAY TO CLOSE for comfort – skid marks in the skivvies 

Grumpy, Mac and the Captain broke off on the Hutch- Scott and I continued on to I95 – 

Till next time 

Ride safe, keep your head and ass wired and your riding tempers in check