Saturday, February 18, 2017

Better Part of Valor

East Hampton "riders" CT Bears came by car. From left: Captain, CT Blogger, Grumpy, Jim and Connor.

Motorcycle Polar Bear Blog, Polar Bear Grand Tour ride to East Hampton, NJ, February 12, 2017

By: Chris Loynd, a.k.a. CT Blogger

Our Sunday freeze line hovered somewhere over New York City. To the south our New Jersey brother bears would experience only rain. North, at departure time in Connecticut, snow was falling and accumulating. Since it would rain only in Jersey we were sure the ride would not be cancelled. Our perfect attendance was at risk.

Riding looked pretty dicey, so Captain and I decided to drive, a fairly long drive, 150 miles and 2 1/2 hours one way. Grumpy came along even though he was not going for perfect attendance. Plus we picked up Jim and his son Connor driving in their own car, a Jeep, at the Darien rest stop on I-95. We convoyed across the parkways and over the GW Bridge. Captain led and Jim did a great job as sweep, clearing lanes and keeping pace.

It's a little nuts, we all admit, to drive to New Jersey for lunch in the snow, sleet and rain. All to sign a paper proving our consistent feasance.

Truth is, the Polar Bear Grand Tour is a great excuse to get together, tell stories, rip on each other, debate politics and get out of the house. It's better on a motorcycle. But we had a great time Sunday without the bikes all the same. Driving in a car together actually gave us much more time to talk. On our motorcycles we are isolated in our full-face helmets.

Our destination, O'Connor's American Bar and Grill, had a distinctly Irish theme, despite the "American" adjective in its name. This is a great destination, new to the Polar Bear Grand Tour schedule. Hopefully they will stick with us. Turnout this year was pretty light. It rained fairly steady most of the day. Good food, plenty of space, plenty of parking, easy to get to, O'Connor's has it all.

Connor and I enjoyed the shepherd's pie. It was excellent and almost, almost, more than I could eat. Captain had the chili and pronounced it spicy.

Because we came in a car, we received only a single point at sign in. So Captain and I still need one ride more for our 60-point pins. What a difference a week makes. The coming Sunday is forecast to be sunny and near 50 degrees.

Can't really see it in the rainy, blurry photo taken through the car window, but we were fascinated by this Polar Bear's ponytail. Either the ponytail is fake and stuck on or she drilled an appropriate hole in her helmet. We'll have to see if we can find her at another Polar Bear ride to find out.
CT Bears catch up with Quartermaster Gary Rosen outside the restaurant. Photo by: Bernie Walsh.

Saturday, February 11, 2017

Baptism by Ice

Schaefferstown CT Bears, from left: Grumpy, new guy Paul, CT Blogger, Captain, Token2 and Mac.

Motorcycle Polar Bear Blog, Polar Bear Grand Tour, ride to Schaefferstown, Pa., February 5, 2017

By: Chris Loynd, a.k.a. CT Blogger

Admittedly riding interstate highways at 20 degrees Fahrenheit on a motorcycle is not for everybody. Even so, anybody can be on the Connecticut Polar Bear distribution email. So what happens is I send weekly emails about our Polar Bear departure time to many more motorcyclists than show up for any given ride. Some never show. Some ride occasionally. And every now and then an email recipient surprises us all.

Sunday may have been our coldest ride of the season so far. It is long too, a rare six-pointer. At 200+ miles and four hours' travel one-way, the cold can start to get annoying. Even Captain, who eschews electrics, admitted he was getting more than a little tired of being cold that last half hour of our morning ride to the destination. Coming back home in the afternoon we enjoyed another 10 degrees of temperature, still chilly but not biting. Believe me, it makes a difference. On the way over I cooked my toes.

People who don't ride motorcycles in winter ask me, "Well when it's that cold, what does 10 degrees really matter?" But if you think about a summer day, the difference between 80 and 90 degrees is the spread between hot and miserable.

Just because I ride in winter does not mean I like to be cold. In fact, I am fairly cold intolerant. Not like Polar Bear Grand Pooh Bah Bob who strolls around the parking lot as bikes arrive in 20 degree weather in nothing more than one of his hundred polar bear themed sweatshirts. He's like our Scott, never cold.

Last season I switched to the full electric set after years of toughing it out with just an electric jacket liner and gloves. I used to wear multiple layers of long johns and put those disposable HotHands(r) packs under my toes. On really cold days I'd put two under each foot, one for toes another under the insole. One year, early on in my Polar Bear riding experience, a couple of us went in together to buy a case of the things directly from the manufacturer. The next year they would not sell them direct. Now, every November I'm stalking sporting goods aisles, buying a full box when they first appear.

Retailers are season sensitive and you cannot find the warmers in March, sometimes neither in October. When you do find them, you must guess correctly about how many you will need to fill out the Polar Bear season, I ran out one year when my daughter was a high school cheerleader and we blew through my supply trying to stay warm at football games.

I carry them still on the bike as backup in case my electrics fail. If your electric clothing stops working, you still have to get your motorcycle home. Unless you're like Token2 on this ride. You'll have to read a bit further before I get to his drama. Right now I'm writing about, what was it, oh, cooked toes!

I have my new, full-suit, Warm and Safe gear wired with a dual thermostat. (If you don't know, the electric clothing plugs into a lead attached to your battery terminals. It runs off the alternator, electric current coursing through multitudes of special wires woven into the special clothing.) One thermostat dial controls my gloves, the other is for the rest of the suit: jacket liner, pants liner and socks all together. That way I can control the amount of heat for the suit versus the gloves.

This is helpful because I've not yet found a pair of electric gloves that truly keep my hands warm enough. For one thing, I have long, thin fingers. For another, my hands are the part of me most exposed to the wind, unprotected by windshield or fairings. So on a day like last Sunday, I have the gloves at full crank -- thermonuclear hot. If I had the suit at the same setting, my body would melt. I've yet to see a day cold enough to turn up the jacket, pants and socks full blast.

After our last few rides I tried something new last Sunday for the inadequate gloves and it seemed to work. I supplemented my electrically heated gloves with a HotHands packet in each glove. Not bad! My fellow Polar Bears tell me I need heated motorcycle grips. I am amenable, but my finances are not.

So the hands held up fairly well last Sunday. Unfortunately, I did not properly set up the rest of the getup. My heated socks were over just silk socks. Overtop both silk and heated socks I wore heavy, insulated wool socks. Whereas the pants and jacket liner were over my insulated riding onesie. Therefore my chest and legs were cold, my feet were hot, too hot, way too hot. I couldn't crank the thermostat on my riding suit enough to warm most of my body without burning my toes. And it was cold enough toward the end of our morning ride to Schaefferstown, and I was annoyed enough with being cold the past 100 miles, that I did just that.

When we got to our destination restaurant, Franklin House Tavern, as discreetly as possible, and before lunch was served, I took off my boots and socks to check for damage. There was a red circle on top of each foot from the heating element. One toe blistered on top pretty bad . . . it is blistered still almost a week later. Lesson learned. I switched my heated socks to the outside of my heavy insulated socks and rode home warm and happy.

Our new rider last Sunday, my friend Paul, picked one heck of a cold and long Polar Bear challenge for his baptism. We've known each other for years as Stratford neighbors. He was also in one of my motorcycle riding classes, where he first heard about the Polar Bears. After being on the Connecticut Polar Bear email list for something like a year-and-a-half, Paul was suddenly there Sunday at our departure Dunkin' Donuts ready to ride. Paul complained not a bit. (In contrast to me whining to everyone about my cooked feet.)

Paul fit right in, rode well in formation and seemed to like it. In fact, he's looking to do a late season signup for the Grand Tour. Chairman Bob was willing, but did not have his release forms with him. Paul will sign up on his next ride and we hope to see him earn his red rocker this season. There are plenty of rides -- and miles for Connecticut Bears -- for him to achieve it.

(If you're not familiar, the Polar Bears give you two points for showing up to the destination on a motorcycle, plus one point for every 100 round trip miles you rode to get there. Being from Connecticut, we have much longer rides than a majority of our fellow Bears from New Jersey, Pennsylvania, New York and Delaware. The Grand Tour is not really for us, but they have graciously accepted us for 15 years now, since I first discovered them in a magazine article.)

Paul rides astride a big Honda Valkyrie with lots of personality, the bike, not Paul. Paul is more quiet and mild mannered than the skeleton hand mirror mounts and gun permit saddlebag statement would have you believe. Although we did not talk much politics, I am guessing he's a conservative, so that faction of our group will be pleased.

Thumper, if you're reading this, Captain actually said he missed you. I guess I'm not strident enough a liberal to keen his conservative sparing wits. We have some shorter rides coming up. Chances are good that President Trump topics for discussion will continue to proliferate.

As I hinted earlier, there is one part more to last Sunday's story. Token2 earned his nickname for riding foreign motorcycles. At first it was just one. Then he bought another and we squared his nickname. I guess he couldn't help himself because he tumbled down the exotic bike brand slippery slope finding Moto Guzzi somewhere near the bottom. He hasn't found bottom yet. There's probably a Ural or Royal Enfield or Hyosung somewhere further down the slope in Token2's future. (Sorry Lynn, your travails may not yet be concluded.)

Owner of a rock-solid Honda and well-engineered BMW, Token2 decided to bring his Guzzer on this long and cold ride. And it operated as expected.

At least the Italian showed good manners. It stranded Token2 in the parking lot of our destination. We could have all been piled up on the shoulder of an Interstate instead. His bike rode just fine to our destination. But after sitting out in the cold parking lot while we ate lunch inside, it refused to shift into gear. Token2 is a pretty good mechanic; he was stumped. After some fits and starts around the parking lot, he gave up. The folks at Franklin House were very supportive. They gave him a place to park his wounded bike directly in the unblinking gaze of a security camera.

Logistics of getting Token2 back home without his bike were our next priority. Captain suggested I take him. Certainly I was willing, but I have the worst second seat of our crew, with the exception of Paul who has none. Our next challenge was finding some power for Token2's heated clothing. No one had the right adapter for the outlet on Captain's Goldwing. Fortunately I had a Y splitter cable that allowed Grumpy and Token2 to share the same lead on Grumpy's Harley. And we had those extra 10 degrees of warmth for the ride home.

We got to the stop at the top of the Garden State Parkway just fine. There Token2 called his wife Lynn who fortuitously was out driving nearby and she picked him up there. Token2 rode the rest of the way home in warm car with a full seat.

Grumpy offered rescue the next morning. He and Token2 drove back out to Schaefferstown in Grumpy's monster truck to retrieve the Guzzi. I will post Token2's technical explanation of his mechanical travails below.

I do not believe in jinxes, but Token2 pointed out this is the very same destination where Fonz had an issue with his bike. He, unfortunately never made it all the way there. And the broken springs fished from deep inside Token2's Moto Guzzi make the number 60 (see photo below). And the New England Patriots came from behind in an unprecedented sudden-death Superbowl win, the final score 34 to 28, added together that's 62, all made possible by a second Patriots 2-point conversion. Subtract that 2 points and the Patriots never had a chance. Take two away from 62 and you end up with . . . 60. Coincidence?

Token2's Account:

Hi All:

First of all big props to Grumpy for retrieving the bike and getting me to the dealership on Monday. Thanks Big Guy.

I spent a couple of hours in the shop with the tech yesterday trying to get to the reasons for the mechanical problem.

So here is the skinny, the starter motor was removed and yielded a steel fragment (the larger of the two in the picture) from the gear well. After examination and checking another Guzzi starter for appearance it was concluded that it did not originate from the starter. It looks like a fragment of a spring, but does not fit the shaft diameter of the starter. However it was sufficient to  wreck the starter.

After removing the starter and turning the crankshaft the clutch was locking up at certain points. The bell housing was scoped and another piece of metal was fished out from the bottom of the housing, it appears to be another piece of spring but of different diameter to the first part. Take a look at the clutch friction plate pictures from the shop manual I have attached and you will see four cush springs (which appear on pictures to be a spring within a spring), the belief is that one (or more) of them failed, or were released from the captive housing. (You are viewing the engine block looking forward).

A piece of the larger spring ended up in the housing of the starter as the clutch rotated, probably before arriving in the FH. That was jamming the first attempts to start the bike after lunch. It moved a bit allowing it to start…which is when the death rattle was heard. Thankfully the busted clutch made it to the destination and after we got it started at FH the rest of the spring was rattling around and with the difficulty changing gears it was parked.

The motor was then started in the shop, no rattling, so it was possible all the pieces were ejected. Today with better weather we pushed the bike outdoors and ran it through the gears under power with the bike on the center stand several times. At one point as it was running (low revs of course) through the gears the motor locked a bit like a stall. Then reason to run it is that those springs only serve to reduce clutch chatter, one missing would leave the bike serviceable. The other parts of the spring could have dropped through a drain port at the bottom of the bell housing.

So the conclusion is that either more bits of failed spring are in there or there is a more significant failure of the friction plate, which released the spring and is now interfering with the smooth operation of the clutch. To find out it needs to be opened up, open it up you put in a new clutch of course.

So, new starter motor and new clutch assembly required. Eye-watering repair bill as the engine has to be dropped and the back half separated to get to the clutch. Before the job is started I have asked for the tranny oil to be drained, if there is metal in there as well then even more damage has occurred at which point I will reconsider options.

Just have to shrug and be happy the problem did not reveal itself at speed within the center of the CTPB group and reflect on the fact that with 200,000 miles under my belt since getting back in the game this is the first serious pocket hitting repair event (got the money returned on the Buell thank the Lord for CT lemon laws and warranty).

Of course such a catastrophic failure should not happen on a clutch that has not been abused with only 24,000 miles, but it did. I got unlucky with the failure,  but lucky with the point the failure revealed itself.

Hope we get out on Sunday.



A bit of the local charm in this beautiful colonial town.

Our destination really is an old colonial inn.

Token2 earned his gold rocker on this run. Hmmm, maybe wrongly so. He likely reported ROUND TRIP mileage for points and I don't think riding back with your Moto Guzzi in the back of Grumpy's pickup truck counts for that. But then again, I do believe passengers get equal credit for miles and points and rockers. So Token2 is likely okay.

Grumpy to the rescue did earn his gold rocker this run.

Mac has furthest to go of our CT Bears so he earns big miles. But he misses some rides due to Caribbean vacations and other such retirement distractions. 

Newest CT Bear, Paul.

Is this thing on?

Non-CT Polar Bear proudly displays her red rocker. It's all about the patches and pins!

Flight B.

Flight A

Bob Pic of the Week

Photos of us Astride our Rides by Polar Bear Photographer Bernie Walsh:

Saturday, February 4, 2017

Mansions among Boulders & a New Take on Chicken Pot Pie

Lake Hoptacong CT Bears, from left: Token2, Mac, Anonymous Ed, Anonymous Anonymous, CT Blogger, John J., Captain. I had wife Cynthia sew this season's gold rocker on my vest and so had to wear it for the photo; 15 years riding Polar Bear for me so far.

Motorcycle Polar Bear Blog, Polar Bear Grand Tour, ride to Lake Hopatcong, NJ, January 29, 2017.

By: Chris Loynd, a.k.a. CT Blogger

Approaching our Stratford, CT, Dunkin' Donuts launch pad I had the overwhelming feeling I'd forgotten something. As I turned into the parking lot I looked down at my handlebars and noticed the GPS mount was empty. Ah, ha!

Pulling up to our group I pointed to the blank mount and told Captain I couldn't lead this week. He made me no nevermind; alternative arrangements were already made. "I'm leading until we pick up Token2, John J. is sweeping, you're in the rocking chair," Captain dictated.

John J.'s appearance means just two things: 1) there's no football on TV and 2) there's no salt on the roads. As it turned out today, only the first condition held true. Sorry John. Hopefully those small town roads were only covered in sodium chloride, not magnesium.

(Monday Cynthia and I drove down to Newtown, Penn. for a family matter. On the way down, and back, we several times got stuck behind state trucks spraying that magnesium crap onto the roadway directly in front of us, all day long, in Connecticut, New Jersey and Pennsylvania, all for a couple inches of snow predicted for Tuesday. I stayed back from the trucks as far as I could but yikes! At 10:00 that night I washed the car then soaked it in SaltAway.)

Sunday as we motorcycled south on I-95 we had another bike unexpectedly drop into line, a rider whose name cannot be publicly mentioned. Next, Token2 was on the shoulder of I-287 waiting for us. He roared, no, wait, that's a Harley metaphor. He zinged to the front of our line and took the lead.

Token2 is our champion of alongside the interstate. I don't know if he's ridden all these roads before or if he's just very adept with his GPS. He knows Harriman State Park like the back of his hand and leads us through that epic scenery on Polar Bear runs when the destination's right.

Sunday we followed Token2 as he exited I-287 early, diving into a gorgeous slice of New Jersey. We rode tight and twisty roads up and down hills. Surrounding us were huge rock outcrops and fields of boulders. Interspersed with the boulders and hanging off outcrops were mansion after mansion. I am not using that moniker recklessly. Some were California style modern architecture literally suspended out from the cliffs.

Token2 delivered some of his signature two lane twisties. Up and down hills, around tight corners and through some serious scenery, Token2 did not disappoint. But it being winter, we pressed back onto the four lane highways to get to lunch and Polar Bear sign-in in time to get home before sunset.

Our host Upstream Grille did a fabulous job. Other bears must have adopted our EDP because there was a real rush soon after 11:00. The Upstream Grille staff set up long tables family style to make maximum use of their space. In addition they had a special Polar Bear menu of a hearty half-dozen choices. This keeps the kitchen efficient and reduces wait time. They missed only on keeping the coffee urn full.

I mistakenly bought two lunches. They had an onion soup and gumbo listed, then chicken pot pie, a hamburger, pulled pork sliders and a couple others I don't remember. A couple of our guys ordered the onion soup; I figured on a cup of gumbo "soup" instead. But it wasn't a cup. I ended up with a big bowl of gumbo loaded with sausage and topped with crawfish. It was delicious. Then for my "entree" I, and several others, enjoyed a really cool chicken pot pie.

Upstream Chefs did a very interesting take on chicken pie. You got an individual cast iron skillet filled with a soupy chicken and veggies topped with a beautiful puff pastry. Especially fortunate for me, juggling two meals, the iron skillet kept the chicken hot longer. And as Mac discovered, once you cut the puff pastry into the soupy chicken and veggies, you had a chicken pot pie with an incredibly flaky and light crust. Well played, Upstream, well played.

Saturday, January 28, 2017

Riding Among Liberals

CT Polar Bears in Shamong, from left: Token2, Mac, Anonymous Ed (hands only) Grumpy, CT Blogger, Captain.
Motorcycle Polar Bear Blog, Polar Bear Grand Tour, ride to Shamong, NJ, January 22, 2017

By: Chris Loynd, a.k.a. CT Blogger

Riding home Sunday northerly, up the New Jersey Turnpike then the Garden State Parkway, we found ourselves surrounded by liberals. New Hampshire and Vermont licensed Priuses swarmed around us in numbers never before seen. Coexist and Hug a Tree and No Nukes bumper stickers adorned them. And in many ways it was a good thing.

For the most part these drivers were kind and considerate. Traffic flowed more smoothly than usual. People signaled their lane changes, did not tailgate and moved over or slowed to let us merge.

There must have been some milk of human kindness, camaraderie and belief in the better angels of our nature, as the liberals headed home from their Saturday Washington D.C. protests.

Oh there was that one d**k in a Mercedes who cut into our line of bikes, then back out again, then cut off the leader, all to get a few cars ahead. But there is always some jerk in a BMW or Mercedes or Audi on the New Jersey freeways, often sporting Connecticut plates. Not to pick entirely on the Germans, we also encountered a less than polite Maserati. (By the way I love how a pedantic detail like a car having four doors turns into the car's exotic name when spelled in Italian: Maserati Quattroporte, 0-60 in 4.8 seconds, $103 - 145,000, depending upon options.)

Not all the liberals were kind. One of my favorite bumper stickers looked to be made by hand from electrical tape. It said, "Eat the Rich." I'm not even sure what that means, but it certainly seems a less than friendly sentiment.

Connecticut Polar Bears lean both left and right. Talking politics for us is as unavoidable as it is for everyone else in the nation. Fortunately our shared motorcycle experience trumps, um, uh, overrides, any political differences we may have. Your lane discipline, following distance and speed control are much more likely to be criticized than your proclivity for republicans, democrats or tea.

Nevertheless Sunday's pastoral and happy ride dissolved at our home state border. Slogging up the Merritt Parkway we once again were confronted with cars too fast and too slow and too aggressive and half asleep and there were more of them in our short home state run than in all of New Jersey.

Our ride down to the Pic-a-lilli in Shamong (I am NOT making up those names) was pleasantly uneventful. Grumpy led, Mac swept, Anonymous Ed, Captain and I were in the middle, joined by Token2 at the bus stop. I invoked EDP (Early Departure Protocol) for this ride because rain was forecast for later in the day. It worked really well, so well in fact, we were quite nearly the first to arrive at our destination.

Unfortunately rain caught us early all the same. After lunch as we mounted up for the ride home morning fog turned into actual rain drops. Since my riding gear is old, I need to put a rainsuit on top to stay dry. I got the jacket on as my fellow bears not so patiently waited. Token2 assured me the rain was forecast to stop soon and it was only raining in this local town. Feeling the glare of a dozen eyeballs I took a chance and skipped the ordeal of threading rain pants over my already bulky outfit.

Token2 was bang-on. Two miles out of town the rain stopped and never returned until my Honda ST1100 was safe in the garage and I'd peeled all those polar bear layers.

Very nearly first to arrive. There were two New Jersey bikes ahead of us.

If you look to the left of Anonymous Ed you'll see I did not make up, nor misspell, the name of our host restaurant.

Bob photo of the week.

Gold rocker earned.

Gold Rocker earned.

So Token2 sends Pogy a text message Sunday with a picture of Captain holding his gold rocker and this sentiment: "XOXO Nah, hah, boo, boo."

Pogy responds with the photo above and the text: "My Grandson has a 1200GS. Something I can handle."

Token2 replies: "ATGATT dude, ATGATT."

Sorry you're missing the fun Pogy. Hope to get you back soon!


Movie of our still reasonable ride. Token2, on whose helmet the camera was affixed, dropped out in New York.