Monday, April 30, 2007

Busy, Busy, Busy

Just a quick note to let everyone know that a new entry will be online in a few days. We just completed the OBX ride on Sunday and I had to fly to Florida on business for a couple of days. Sure would be nice to have the Ultra here. Between Debbie and myself we took over 300 pictures on the OBX trip. The light houses, The Beach House, Howard's Pub and 360 miles on the odometer...there is a lot to put online!

Monday, April 23, 2007

Quiet Weekend

We have been riding quite regularly each weekend so it was decided that we had better get the yard in shape. We took the Jeep and trailer and ran down to the nursery in Pamlico county at Mesic and picked up a few things. Miniature Yaupon and some red mulch transported, planted and scattered. We spent about four hours picking up sticks and limbs that had collected on the 1 3/4 acres since last winter.

Sunday we went down to Morehead in the Xterra but the shop we wanted to visit was closed. On the way back we talked about some new helmets. We had borrowed a couple of the half helmets from Chad and Lynn and tried them out. We liked them, so on the way by the Harley shop we decided to stop. After much consideration we decided on a pair of Stock helmets in basic flat black. I liked the strap placement on the new helmet as it placed one of the straps across my ear and I thought it would help with the wind. The other thing I like is the strap end holder similar to what is on my Jet II 3/4 helmet. Debbie has similar likes for her helmet.

Late Sunday we pressure washed the concrete under the gazebo and did a few minor things. OK it's 3:30PM and we have some new helmets to try out. Let's put some miles on the Ultra. The half helmet certainly puts you "out there" with an additional feeling of freedom. The first thing we both noticed was that it is easier to hear traffic. We also are able to talk to each other fairly easily at lower speeds so we can get by without the intercom. The stereo is really easy to hear at highway speed. We did a quick run across the bridge and on to the bypass for the 70 mph zone just to check Debbie's glasses with the new helmet. The sun glasses with the foam inserts work quite well. The ones with out the foam will work with the 3/4 helmet once fall arrives. The strap placement does keep the wind noise to a minimum and the strap end holder works just like the one on my Jet II. I also think the helmets will be cooler in the summer and they are certainly lighter than the 3/4 model. It also seems that the buffeting is minimal if at all with the new helmet. Fifty six miles later and we arrived back home quite satisfied with our newest investment.

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Photography and the Motorcycle

Photography and the motorcycle are two of my favorite things and when combined it creates a most pleasurable experience. Those of you that ride know how the world seems to open up when you are astride the two wheeled beast. One drawback is we seem so concerned with the journey that we don't allow time to look around, stop and take a few shots. By nature, motorcyclist seek out some of the less traveled pathways and by doing so encounter some of the most impressive scenery to be had. A few of us were discussing some of our favorite roads a week or so ago. We talked about the Seven Springs run down Highway 55 between Kinston and Dunn. We also remembered the route to the Manteo area through Washington, Englehard and Stumpy Point. I discovered recently that those routes are listed in the North Carolina Scenic Byways publication. I wonder if a motorcyclist was on the board that developed the document. Might have saved some time and research.

I actually appreciate the guys and girls that ride the sport bikes. It looks like a blast all bent over the tank hiding behind that really low windshield. I must admit that the speed of those machines is amazing as well. But where do you put your camera? How, pray tell, do you take in the scenery at well above posted speed and while on one wheel? Beats me. I think we'll just poke along in an upright position taking in the sights and sounds offered by the back roads of eastern North Carolina.

Debbie is becoming quite a photographer-in-motion, cataloging our riding partners and routes from the back seat with her camera. Of course there is always the setting you pass through that almost forces you to stop and take a few shots. Up until now I always hesitate and just keep riding but there will come a day when I can't stop because I will be unable to ride any longer. I think I'll make a few stops along the way from now on. We can always use a few more entries in the digital scrapbook.

We are very lucky to be living in eastern North Carolina. It seems that there are always a couple of weekends you can ride even in the winter months. While each area of the state has a unique beauty I'm a little partial to the east. Being born and raised here will do that. There is just something about the mix of heavily forested areas, lakes, rivers and the coast that sets you up for a real photographic journey. Next time you're cruising along take a minute or two to stop and grab a few pictures. It will make the memories even better.

Monday, April 16, 2007

MSF Rider Course

Being aware will keep you alive. It's not a guarantee but it certainly puts the odds in your favor. I started riding in the early 70's on dual purpose bikes. I taught myself how to ride and by doing so developed both good and bad methods.

In January of 06 we bought the Sportster and a month or so later I took the Motorcycle Safety Foundation course at Craven Community College. Some have asked why I took the course if I already had my motorcycle endorsement. Quite a few of my friends that had been riding for years suggested that it was the best thing to do. There is also an insurance break when you complete the class, at least there is with H-D.

After riding a month, and before I took the class, I realized that the highways had become very unfriendly to bikes since I last rode. Then I thought that since I was in my upper 40's I was not bullet proof anymore. Maybe now things that should scare me actually do. On a bike the roadways seem a hell of a lot bigger than when you're in a car. The traffic seems more complex and little old ladies are out to kill you. The sweet old lady out for her weekly drive and making that left turn really worries me and she should worry you. This also applies to the nice old guys, the driver with the cell phone to their ear and anyone else not paying attention. From what I have experienced that would be about 50% of automobile drivers.

The MSF course was all my buddies said it would be and more. Did I learn anything? Without a doubt. The course was about a hundred bucks and the best return on investment I will ever have. It was a Friday evening and all day Saturday and Sunday class. It starts out with some written documentation, a few instructional videos and then slides right in to hands on riding. There were people that had never ridden in their life and one guy that was almost 70. And you know, everyone that tried and applied the new found knowledge passed the class.

If you have ridden and you go into this class thinking you know something, then you just wasted your money. Take the class, maintain an open mind and listen. Do everything as instructed regardless of what you think and you will have a blast. The instructors are top notch and very experienced. Their shared insights alone are worth the small fee. I think you will be pleasantly surprised at the amount of information you will learn and the bad habits you will be able to break. With the riding techniques you learn you may well prevent that next "close call" and with the education and insight you gain, the life you save may be your own.

Saturday, April 14, 2007

Quick Ride To The Beach

From the National Weather Service forecast it looks like Sunday will be rainy with high winds. Time to ride and make up for a lost day. We planned to meet Chad and Lynn at H-D of New Bern and then head out.

Gas up. $3.13 a gallon for premium gas. Almost $12.00 to fill up the Ultra and the tank's not empty! I would like to know why gas is 10 cents more a gallon in New Bern than in Morehead or Kinston. New Bern has higher fuel costs than any area in the region including Wilmington and Raleigh. We are an island of higher gas prices. Someone needs to investigate the reason for the higher prices.

Since we are at the Harley shop we decide we just have to go in for a minute. Debbie and I had talked about adding rain suits to the saddle bags for that all to frequent eastern NC rain shower. We bought two rain suits after trying a few on and determining what size works over jackets.

We rode to Havelock and stopped at Mario's for lunch. I never knew Mario's existed until Chad mentioned the place earlier this morning. The pizza is truly awesome. Our eyes were bigger than our stomachs when we ordered. Once our tanks were full we decided to head to Morehead. Leather worked pretty well today since the temperature stayed below 70.

The day was mostly cloudy but the wind was light. It seemed a little cooler as we approached Morehead. The water temperature is in the lower 60's so that explains the cooler air.

Debbie grabbed a few shots while we were on the high rise bridge between Morehead and Atlantic Beach. Lynn has a grin on her face for some reason. Is there a humorous song on her iPod or is she cooking up some trouble?

Chad cruisin' on the Bob on the Morehead-AB bridge. Even though the sun was blocked by high clouds the Street Bob's colors and chrome really stand out in this shot.

We take a right in Atlantic Beach and take Highway 58 to Emerald Isle. As usual the view from the Emerald Isle bridge is always worthwhile.

After that we headed to Maysville and then back to New Bern. A good ride and 110 more miles on the odometer.

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Why a Harley-Davidson?

Why a Harley? That question is asked of me several times a year. Without ever having actually thought it through I usually answer "I just really like the Harley's." Now I've thought about it and I have an answer.

Most of the folks that ask me that, don't ride, and maybe I just don't fit their perception of a Harley rider. In reality, and according to research by H-D, I am the average Harley rider. Maybe that's why a friend of mine refers to our Electra Glide as a Geezer Glide.

From the time I was a small boy I admired the motorcycle. The motorcycle was like my bicycle and that made me a kindred spirit with the motorcyclist. In my mind the motorcycle rider was tough, fearless and brave: three things I was not. The dual chrome pipes announced his arrival as well as his departure. The time in between with the machine leaning on it's kickstand was comparable to a James Dean swagger. The wind blown leather tassels and sunlight glinting on chrome seemed to create some unearthly dance. It was almost in motion without ever moving.

As I got older I began to realize that there were different brands of bikes and in general a given brand drew a particular crowd. My image of a biker seemed to correspond to the Harley-Davidson models. These bikes seemed more substantial with their sturdy lines framed in steel. Not something just for the local jaunt but something to point to the sunrise, something for the long haul. The rumble of the exhaust seemed like it belonged, like it was intended as part of the experience and not just an end result. All of this went well with the jeans, leather jackets, boots and attractive girls that always seemed to be in attendance. In my young mind this was the ultimate in cool.

I owned several metric motorcycles as I grew older but something just wasn't quite right. There seemed to be something elusive, something just out of my mental focus and I couldn't bring it to any amount of clarity. Fast-Forward....I stopped by the local Harley shop, with my wife, on a quiet Sunday afternoon just to have a look around. There was something vaguely familiar here. Milton showed us around and answered all of our questions. A week later we had a Harley-Davidson Sportster in the garage. One year after that we traded for an Electra Glide with that same too-cool lean.

There is something about the Harley that says heritage. What is heritage? A quick Google search delivers the following: practices that are handed down from the past by tradition; "a heritage of freedom". That search result speaks volumes on it's own. The heritage is there in the form of a machine that is recognizable by many and that has, for the most part, remained unchanged. The machine causes some to briefly relive glimpses from years past and to yearn for undiscovered roads beyond tomorrow.

I have the bike, the chrome does shine, but tassels aren't quite my style. The jacket, the jeans and the boots are second nature when I ride. The attractive girl rides with me quite regularly thank you.

Why do I ride a Harley-Davidson?

Because I am lucky enough to be living my dream.

Moving Right Along

We all know that our bikes will run over 100 mph. You know it, I know it and some of us have tried it. There is certainly a thrill to be had as you accelerate beyond 90 the first time. But once you go beyond the perceived barrier it slowly disappears and you are left wondering and wanting. What is the obsession with speed all about? It reminds me of the Molly Hatchet song Flirting With Disaster. There is a quote I like that applies here as well:

“Faster, faster, faster, until the thrill of speed overcomes the fear of death...”
– Hunter Thompson

I guess it's all about excess speed, power or ammunition and you always want more. We were on a group ride recently and the lead bike set the pace at about 70 mph on a quickly moving four lane. I heard comments later from several riders that the pace was a bit much and I would have to agree. When my wife and I ride we generally set 60 as the upper limit on local four lanes and frequently ride at 45 and 50 on many back roads. Of course the speed we ride has a lot to due with the posted speed and traffic flow and that seems to be agreeable to our regular riding friends. Have we been faster than 70? Yes, quite a bit. The t-shirt's on back order.

"As the years increase and the miles go by you tend to slow down to see what you missed."
- Ralph - And you can quote me on that.

Sunday, April 8, 2007

A Little About Me

I started riding motorcycles in 1973. The first one was a 1970 Suzuki TS185. There was a new TS185 in 1979 that I enjoyed for a little while. The Suzuki bikes were very capable off-road and I was always up for the cruise down the fire lanes in Croatan National Forest. While great off-road the on-road ability was lacking and the 2-cycle buzzing was butt numbing after 30 minutes or so. The last bike I had back-in-the-day was in 1981 and what a bike it was. A 1976 Suzuki RE5. They were only made for 3 or 4 years and had the Rotary engine. I remember that it got fairly bad mileage and had an unusual instrument panel. My uncle had a Triumph Bonneville 500 in the mid 70's and that bike is one that I will always remember. After the early 80's bikes were forgotten and things revolved around marriage, children and work.

I started working at Coastal Electronics, Inc. in 1979 and that is were I am today. I am a Senior Systems Technologist and I handle things that involve wireless and fixed data technology, networking, telemetry and microwave communication.

Debbie and I were married in 1984 and we have two sons. Both the boys are doing their own thing with the youngest nearing the end of his second year of engineering at NC State and the oldest seeming quite satisfied with life in Winston-Salem.

Photography has always been a hobby of mine. I started when I was very young by watching my grandfather compose shots with his various cameras. The capture of that one second in time has always seemed magical to me. As things evolved in and out of the 35mm arena, through the Polaroid Land cameras, back and on to digital I have constantly been involved to some extent with the technology. About half of the photographs I take are decent (in my opinion) but the excitement of that one great shot is hard to explain. Some of my personal favorites are on line at

To close this entry out here are a few of my favorite things:

Very spicy food
The color red
The ocean
Cold beer
Blue jeans and T-shirts

Friday, April 6, 2007

Eyewear and Motorcycles

If you wear glasses then you can relate to the issues involved in eye wear used for motorcycling. When we had the Sportster I wore the 3/4 helmet (H-D Jet II) and flip up face shield. My prescription glasses and sunglasses worked behind the shield quite well. With the Ultra I realized I had the protection of the standard height windshield. I decided to remove the visor and still utilize my glasses. With this setup things were good most of the time. There are the times when debris still gets by everything and there I am with something in my eye while I am running down the highway. It would be really cool if one pair of glasses could do it all. I needed a solution.

I go the the local Harley-Davidson shop and talk with Karen. This lady knows the MotorClothes department and she helps me decide on some Wiley-X Airrage frames. Off they go to the company that can make and place the prescription lens in the frames. When they come back it seems the bi-focal needs to be altered to progressive. Non-progressive might be good for reading but they severely limit your focusing on the dash. Other than that minor issue they will work out quite well. They will go from clear to darkened when needed and they have a removable foam liner that make them presentable for normal sunglasses. My vision is as good with these as with my regular glasses, I have great eye protection and the glasses are Z rated for safety compliance. With their great looks they may help my image! If you happen by New Bern H-D be sure to tell Karen hello. I am sure she can help you ride safer and more comfortably.

Click the logo to visit the site.

Sunday, April 1, 2007

Ride to Fort Fisher

What started out as an idea just to visit Mike and stretch the bike out a bit, actually turned in to a pleasing group ride.

Saturday morning we were joined by Chad and Lynn, Larry and Linda, Patrick and Heather, James, Roger and Otis. The group consisted of nine bikes total.

From 44 degrees to 58 degrees by 10:00, and from cloudy to sunny in the same time frame, we knew it would be a great day. So at 10:30 the group pointed its collective wheels to New River Harley-Davidson just south of Jacksonville.

Just inside Jacksonville we rode the bypass around and it certainly cuts down on the drive time through town. We wheeled in to New River Harley to discover an Open House under way with food and drinks. Mike called and said he would meet us at the intersection in Dixon about 10 miles further south.

With the temperature well on the way to 75 we switched from leather to nylon and headed south again.

The four lane from Jacksonville to Wilmington is a great ride and lends itself to back seat photos. Here's a few of Debbie's shots. Just remember that these shots were taken at a little better than 55 mph.

Roger on board his Honda.

Linda at the controls of her Harley-Davidson Dyna Low Rider.

Larry was leading the pack to Wilmington and is using his one handed control technique to pilot his Dyna.

James cruising the asphalt on his Ultra Classic

Brett during one of the few times he has two wheels on the ground with his Suzuki.

Patrick and Heather on board their Indian themed Kawasaki.

The Mike Bike. 2002 1200 Sportster. Mike has a lot of extras on the bike. Mike likes to ride fast. Mike plays ice hockey. Mike is crazy.

A few weeks back Mike told me about the Open House at Cape Fear H-D in Wilmington. So we had loosely planned the trip around that date with an alternate or two in case of bad weather. We hit Wilmington about 12:30 or so and stopped in for a visit.
Around 1:30 we decided to ride the beach route for a while. Unfortunately Larry, Linda and James had to head back to New Bern.

We headed to Wrightsville Beach for the first leg of the beach trip just to take in the scenery. From there it was over to Carolina Beach, through Kure Beach and to the ferry at Fort Fisher. If we had made it to the ferry 15 minutes earlier we could have made it.

It looked like it would be another hour so we opted to head back to Carolina Beach for a late lunch at the Sea Witch restaurant.

After a bite to eat and some liquid refreshments we headed north to Wilmington for the return portion of our trip. We stopped briefly in Holly Ridge at about 6:30 to switch back our leather jackets in anticipation of the cool air at sunset. We arrived back home at 8:00 and finally had the opportunity to ride at night. I will have to say that I am impressed with the lights on the Ultra Classic. This trip was one I had hoped for for quite some time. Everything worked out great, especially the weather, and 250 miles later I am ready to head that way again in the very near future.

I was impressed with several bikes and severely traumatized by one individual along the way so here are a few pictures to end this entry.

I will never sleep well again knowing this guy is in traffic somewhere. He should be locked up. This guy is crazy.