Sunday, May 2, 2010

Langhorne, PA; March 21, 2010

Langhorne, Penn., March 21, 2010

What do you call unusually warm days at the first of spring? Were it fall we would say Indian Summer. We were blessed with a first and second day of spring that felt nearly like summer after a long and crappy winter. And as I write this on a cold, rainy, overworked Monday, I still can destress a bit as I bask for a moment or two in Sunday's memory.

Actually I got a double treat from this past ride. Our destination is just an hour north of my folk's home in Wilmington, Del., just south of Philadelphia. So it is one where I sometimes ride down on Saturday, spend some time with the folks, and meet my pals at Brian's Harley-Davidson on Sunday for the ride home.

Typically I do a few chores for Mom and she rewards me with favorite foods. This Saturday I planted a tree, washed windows on the sunroom, small labor in exchange for steak dinner and scrapple breakfast.

As a bonus I got to chat with Mom and Dad and play with their dog Heidi. Double bonus: I get to sleep in Sunday morning.

Amazingly I pulled into Brian's Sunday morning less than two minutes after my guys. They were just making their way away from the bikes after stowing helmets, jackets, gloves and such.

It was already warm. I gladly stripped off the jacket and riding pants and joined my guys at the dealership. You can tell it's no longer Polar Bear weather; sign-up tables were set outside. Brian's H-D offered a tasty lunch on their outdoor, rooftop patio.

As we chatted over lunch, I discovered that I missed a scenic ride down to Brian's. John J., as he remembers it, was pressed into leading the pack on a moment's notice. He hastily punched in directions to his GPS and blindly followed the soulless computer deep into downtown Trenton. Well, that's one way to get out of leading future rides.

John J. was ruminating his GPS settings at lunch, thinking maybe he set it for “shortest distance” rather than “fastest time.” He seemed to withstand the good natured criticism of his fellow riders.

Your blogger was most definitely not criticizing. First of all I don't even own a GPS. So for me to lead a ride I have to prepare directions ahead of time, consult maps and write key turns on my rear view mirrors with a grease pencil.

Lately I have been getting lazy and not even glancing at a map to determine our route. I run MapQuest from my house to the destination to get the distance and estimated travel time. I never even look below the top of the page at the driving directions and maps. I always just assume one of my GPS-enabled compatriots will gladly take me to our destination and back again. And yes I have the nerve to then complain as loudly as the others when his chosen route does not meet with my satisfaction. Geeze! With friends like me . . . .

Ron joined us on his new Goldwing. This is is second ride with the Connecticut Bears. The first ride to Montgomeryville he nearly froze. Sunday's ride was perhaps more to his liking. But it sounds like he is warming to the winter riding idea, pun intended.

The new wing is blinged-out with lots of extra LEDs. Maybe because they don't carry chrome as well as a Harley, the Hondas look better with decorative lighting instead?

Ron was accompanied by a pretty lady, Blanca. She didn't say much, but smiled a lot. It can take some getting used to our crowd before you are ready to jump into the conversation. Ron and Blanca enjoyed the warm riding so much they continued on to the Connecticut Indian casinos. I'm not sure how he was figuring to get back home. Warm March days can turn pretty dang cold as soon as the sun fades.

Russ and Bart shared some of their Daytona adventures. But aside from talking about Michelle Smith, I really did not hear much about what else they did there. On the other hand, we heard a lot about what Pat and Pete did, and did not do. You're in trouble anytime Russ is telling the story and you are not present to damp-down the embellishments.

Long Valley, NJ; March 7, 2010

March 7, 2010
Long Valley, NJ

Back in the traces again, I returned to a tough work week, including going into the office on Saturday. So I was especially grateful to find a bit of solace in a beautiful motorcycle ride accompanied by the reliable warmth of friends and the unexpected warmth of pre-spring weather.

I do not ride Polar Bear season because I like to be cold. I think most motorcyclists would rather ride in warm than cold or hot. One exception may be Polar Bear Grand Tour Chairman Bob Hartpence who does not feel cold like most human beings. He was joking about wearing shorts on Sunday.

Sunday's weather was a treat. We started in 'pert near 40 degree weather and finished in the low 60s.

To boot, John Howard worked out a route that took us through a bit of scenic New Jersey so we did not have to make that very messy traffic light and attendant quick turn into Long Valley Brewery. I knew not where we were after we jumped off Route 80. Nonetheless, you have to trust your group leader. So we rode some two lane roads through hills and farms and sure enough, John H. signaled one last left turn and we were there.

We had five bikes, less than I expected. Generally, warm weather brings out more Polar Cubs who are on my e-mail alert list but rarely show for January rides. We get them at the beginning and end of the season, depending upon the weather. And that's fine, by the way. Dead of winter riding is not for everybody.

With Token2 in the lead and the Captain in sweep, there was naught for me to do but enjoy the ride. I must admit I am getting rather lazy about these Polar Bear outings. I used to print out directions and maps for every destination. Now I just show up for the ride, content to allow one of my GPS equipped compatriots lead me to and from our destination.

It is one of the luxuries of group riding.

While in California, delayed by snow, I rented a car for a couple days to go sightseeing in the sun while I waited for snow to stop falling back home. I figured I would see the shark, walk the stars, do the tourist thing.

Through Expedia I got a car from Budget, across the street from my hotel, for $16 a day. Figuring that was a good deal, I went ahead and rented the GPS for another $13 a day. I must say it was a positive experience. I am a bit old fashioned (or maybe slow, my Dad has a GPS), but it was the first time I spent any significant time with one of the contraptions.

Now I am contemplating one for the bike.

My bike is very retro. For gauges I have only gas and speed. No tachometer, I use my ears and butt to know when to shift. No radio. No temperature nor oil pressure gauges. A GPS will definitely damage the look. But I can see how it could be useful when touring.

Fortunately, as a Polar Bear I have a built in cadre of product testers. So once they read this blog, now that I have publicly admitted an interest, I will be able to learn from thousands of dollars of mistakes and product upgrades absorbed by my riding buddies. I will also likely get a raft of grief over finally coming around. If you have been a faithful blog reader, you know I have ridiculed my electronic pals.

Long Valley Brewery put out a beautiful brunch buffet. (Sorry, hon. I really will start that post vacation diet, maybe tomorrow.) Token2 had to teach their chef how to make a scrambled egg. And Captain got the last two benedictine eggs. All the same, I scored some goodies with a high brow/low brow breakfast strategy including smoked salmon and biscuits with gravy. John J. and I both took a slice of the cake. It was delicious, cream cheese and sugar with just enough flour cake to hold the frosting together. Coffee service was slow, but by the time we were ready for our second cup the joint was jumpin' and there was a line for sign-in.

Fonz earned his Polar Bear patch and red rocker on this ride. Welcome to the Polar Bear Club! You will have to get a special CTPB patch from our Sargent at Arms, Grumpy.

We walked outside and Token2 used a miniature tripod to take the group photo. Unfortunately we've lost Grumpy to night shift.

Once we were back in line and headed out, Token2 had his left turn signal on, waiting, waiting, waiting for a gap to get down the short bit to that troublesome traffic light. A word with John J. and Token reversed his signals. We took a right and snuck back out the way we came, over hills and dales to Route 80.

At Chez GSP Fonz and I had a side conversation going about the Rider Education Program. We shared some of our best teaching stories. Classes start soon. It was sort of “the blind leading the blind” because neither of us made our site manager's update meeting. Pogy called in from Korea to say we should not look for him at the Darien rest stop this Sunday.

I shared the good news with Fonz that we were switching to an all combination lock system. This will save Fonz a lot of time in doubling back to the site to return the keys he forgot to put in the briefcase when he handed it over to Pogy for the next instructor. Now if we can just figure out who disappeared the DVD!

Pogy is literally circling the world this trip. He started in Japan, was calling me from Korea and is next on to India. Hopefully we will see him again in a week or two when he's done wrangling helicopters.

Fonz and I were interrupted by a more boisterous conversation at the other end of the table. We had to throw some water on the Captain to cool him down. Seems he was watching Fox News again and talking politics.

Yeah, I know, we're never going to retire, all the money will be gone or useless, and health care is going to bankrupt the treasury one way or the other. Hey, I figure that's all the more reason to get in as many good rides as we can before it all comes crashing down.

Man has been predicting the end of the world ever since he first figured out that he, too, was going to die someday. From that wellspring all religion flows.

On I-287 on the way back I hit a serious pothole. I didn't lose any tooth fillings or wheel spokes, but my EZ Pass popped off the windshield. I saw it disappear in a flash, but did not see it skittering along the highway. It was just before we move over to exit to the Merritt Parkway. Come to think about it, right about the same place Grumpy's transponder bounced. I saw his spin off to the shoulder and recovered it for him.

No such luck for me!

I looked around me thinking maybe it was caught on a saddlebag mount or niche around the engine. Nope.

As we merge onto the Merritt Parkway there is a very tight, descending radius, on-ramp. I generally get quite a bit of lean going so I can keep my speed up to launch onto the Parkway.
We rode for home, this one and that one gradually peeling off for his own house. I pulled off in Stratford, rode down to the gas station to fill the tank to the very top to minimize gas tank condensation. As I stood up, my EZ Pass magically reappeared on my seat. I guess somehow when it popped off I unknowingly caught it in my crotch. Even more amazing to me, it stayed right there as I shifted position and leaned the bike for a half hour.

There is something amazing on most every ride. See you next Sunday . . . if the Captain and Glen Beck are wrong and Sunday comes.