Sunday, April 8, 2012

Long Valley, NJ; March 11, 2012, Motorcycle Polar Bear Blog

(Sorry, in my late postings I have this one out of sequence.)

Polar Bear Blog, March 11, 2012, Long Valley, NJ.

By: Chris Loynd

Spring has come early to the motorcycle polar bears. Not that I mind. I've always said I would rather ride on a warm day than a cold one. I ride with the polar bears because I did not want to park my motorcycle all winter. And now polar bearing has evolved into a series of enjoyable Sundays with great friends.

This Sunday the weather was gorgeous, too warm for winter. I rode over in layers, but never dialed in the electric heat until we were up high on Route 80 west. And that was only for a little while. For the ride home I was peeling layers and trying to find room to stuff them into my saddlebags.

Token2 was ride leader. Long Valley has sort of become his, ever since he found some creative and fun back roads several years ago. He did not disappoint this Sunday. Some of the roads he found challenged our riders. Captain stopped in the midst of a very steep series of very tight curves to downshift. John J. and I had to make some important and immediate corrections in our respective bikes' handling. As Token2 quipped later when we groused about it, “I thought I was traveling with experienced riders.”

He also noted that while his Internet maps may have shown the tight curves, it was tough to see the sharp rise in elevation on that particular spot. Captain said he was halfway up the hill when his heavy Honda had not enough umph to climb any further.

Token2 hosted a good ride and found us some fun and scenic roads to ride. He doubled our fun by taking secondary roads a good part of the way home. Eventually we had to get back onto the Interstate highways to grind up enough miles to our far away Connecticut homes.

Pogy agreed to sweep this ride and found himself a bit frustrated at time, trying to keep the flock together from the back end.

Group riding is not the same as riding by yourself. It demands a fair amount of concentration and vigilance. It is important to hold your place in the line of bikes as accurately and consistently as possible.

Ride too close – or even, God forbid – next to a rider in line and you've compromised the safety of both riders. But drop back too far and the group falls apart. Once a car gets into your line, you can all be separated by some very big gaps. Then the riders caught in the back have to ride doubly fast to catch up. Or the leader, if he's paying attention, has to slow the group down significantly to let the others form up again.

Cars can be bad enough, even without big gaps in the line. John J. suddenly found an SUV trying to occupy the exact same space as his motorcycle on the last leg home. He corrected quickly and appropriately. But his demeanor expressed his displeasure.

Each inconsistency in speed, especially toward the front of the line, is multiplied by each bike behind. So the sweep suddenly finds himself hard on the throttle, then hard on the brakes, to try to keep his place. When I lead, I try to keep my speed cruise control smooth, even though no such device resides on my handlebars.

We enjoyed Long Valley Pub's fabulous brunch buffet. It is the best on the Grand Tour.

They shoehorned us into a very small corner space and I sat next the fireplace, fire going. Still it was all good and we had fun catching up with each other's news.

Token2 took us out the long way as well. And we rode through the New Jersey countryside, avoiding I-287 for as long as we could.

Monday, April 2, 2012

Flemington, NJ; April 1, 2012, Motorcycle Polar Bear Blog

Polar Bear Blog, April 1, 2012, Flemington, NJ.

By: Chris Loynd

After Captain's storied ride leadership debacle last week, he adamantly refused to lead this Sunday.

Mac wasn't going to touch it and Fonz had already claimed the sweep position when I rode up to join them at the Dunkin' Donuts in Stratford.

Since it appeared I had no choice, I volunteered.

I had anticipated and prepared. The night before I loaded the destination in my GPS. Then I took a look at the location, Cheeburger, Cheeburger, on Google Maps. Ah, yes, I remember this from last year. This place is tucked deep in a shopping center located at the center of a complex of shopping centers all served by a maniacal New Jersey traffic roundabout.

Did you hear the story about the old farmer who came to town and drove his beat up old pickup truck into one of these New Jersey circular traffic controls?

Upon entering the roundabout, he made the mistake of moving to the inside lane. As his exit came up he tried to move across but a line of cars monopolized outside lane and the farmer meekly held to the center. He figured to exit the next time around, but just then a wankin' big SUV with a phone chatting driver nearly hit him.

The poor old guy figured to make it on the next go-round. As he came up the exit the car tailgating him suddenly swooped out and flipped him the bird as it powered off the farmer's exit. Leaving the poor farmer still on the inside.

Exasperated, the old guy saw his chance and pulled into a gas station that was located on the roundabout. It wasn't his exit, but he needed to gather his wits.

No sooner did he come to a stop then five guys came running out of the station. They pumped his gas, cleaned his windshield, changed his two outside tires, then one of the guys stuck his head into the truck's open window, handed the farmer a cold drink and shouted, "Get back in there old man, you're running in second place!"

I led a quiet and steady ride right up to our destination. Then I hit those roundabouts.

My GPS showed a diagram of the madness and counseled me to take the sixth roundabout exit.

Watch the traffic, the bikes behind me, the cars cutting into our line, and here we go. One, two, three, four, five, six, signal and exit. Dang!

I chose wrong.

Mr. Garmin must have meant six AFTER entering. Or was it six INCLUDING the one on which you entered? And I can't judge 200 feet if you held a gun to my head. Is it this one or the next? They both looked to be within a few hundred feet. And who puts seven or eight exits on one roundabout in the first place? Only in New Jersey where they have an absolute fear of left hand turns and thereby invented roundabouts and jug handles.

All the bikes tumbled in behind me. We were on the wrong road. Well I know we gotta be close. I was tempted to climb up on the Harley's saddle to see if I couldn't spot the dang destination. A visual bearing might have been helpful about now. Instead I was stuck with the little picture on my Garmin which was madly recalculating a fall-back route. I found myself and my five companions sitting at a stop light. Then the Garmin showed me that just to my left and slightly behind me was the road I truly wanted.

At first I figured to go right when the light turned green and recalculate again. Then I decided to make a u-turn and hard right. Yes I did! Despite my own ride leading debacle back at the Whitestone Bridge a few weeks back, I signaled and moved. This time nobody collided or fell.

Another couple jigs and jags and we found ourselves pulling into the parking lot of Cheeburger, Cheeburger.

Whew! As we dismounted I let out a sigh of relief and braced for the onslaught. My fellow riders did not disappoint and chided and teased me.

Captain thanked me for getting him off the hook for his last week's disaster. But it didn't last. He no sooner entered the restaurant 'till our Polar Bear Grand Tour leaders greeted him with pokes in the ribs, kicks to the shins and assaults on his ego.

You gotta have some thick skin to get out in front of this group and take them for a ride.