Thursday, May 31, 2007

Ride to work

I have ridden to work for the past two days since the weather is so nice and gas is so damn high. I was comparing the difference between riding to work in a car and on a motorcycle. There's one major difference, in as opposed to on.

One of the main items is the traffic. While most of our riding is done on the weekends we avoid the rush hour traffic. Rush hour is a good word to describe what goes on in the morning but stupid hour applies to the high school "children" driving way too fast in Mom's Volvo or Dad's Mustang. They certainly impress their friends but lack the experience to handle a car and watch out for others simultaneously. In general everyone is running behind and driving fast to make up lost time. It reminds me of driving on an icy roadway: slow down and leave extra space. But if you leave extra space someone just eases right in. This is the kind of thing you really notice when you're on a bike. If you don't have the heightened sense of awareness you become part of the blacktop.

It's cooler in the morning than you realize and 58 degrees is almost cold at 60 miles an hour. The medium weight Harley Screamin' Eagle jacket works out just right and by afternoon just throw it in the tour pak and enjoy the upper 80's. One thing on shirts though, a button up Oxford flaps like crazy. T-shirts are definitely better for riding.

I stop at the light this morning, left foot goes down first and then my right. I was fiddling with something and noticed my right foot wasn't solidly planted. Instead it was resting on a painted section at the head of the lane. A little slick you ask? Very much so and it wasn't wet this morning. It hasn't rained in over 3 weeks so there is an additional buildup of oil and grease from the vehicles. My normal lace up leather shoes just don't cut it compared the my motorcycle boots. You need tread on your boots to minimize slippage. It would be best to exchange shoes on the next trip. In your cage the only thing you feel is the floor mat.

One day I will go to the drive through on the Harley. Where can I find a chrome cup holder? Until then it's breakfast at home when I ride the bike.

On a bike you are always aware of your surroundings and you only need to put your foot down to reconnect to earth. Next time you're at a stop light move your foot around and notice the texture of the roadway. You will be surprised to notice that some surfaces are fairly smooth and not what you would expect for traction.

Leaving work and being able to ride a motorcycle home is well, awesome. The traffic is not as intense as in the morning and I stop at Gold's Gym for a workout. Gold's in New Bern has a great covered area in the front that works well for bike parking and there is usually a bike or two out front. Once the workout has been accomplished it's a quick ride to my Mom's and then the cruise over the high rise bridge and on to home.

Ride to work!

Ride your motorcycle on this day to demonstrate:

  • The number of motorcyclists to the general public and to politicians.
  • That motorcyclists are from all occupations and all walks of life.
  • That motorcyclists can reduce traffic and parking congestion in large cities.
  • That motorcycles are for transportation as well as recreation.
  • That motorcycling is a social good.

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Memorial Day Ride

Monday promised to be a great day and even though we thought the holiday traffic may be heavy we opted to ride to Beaufort. We started out at about 10:30 or so and headed to Beaufort down 70 East. The traffic was fairly normal and by 11:30 we were at the Beaufort waterfront.

What a surprise to see that every parking space was taken along the downtown waterfront area. Doing a slow cruise down the street we saw a wonderful sign: Motorcycle parking only. And there in one slot was a BMW 1200 GS. We decided it would improve the BMW's image to be seen in the company of a Harley-Davidson so we assumed the second slot.

Once we stowed the gear we headed to Clawson's for some lunch.

We had a brief stroll along the nearby waterfront, checked out a couple of shops and decided to ride to the public launching ramp at the far end of Front Street.

At that end of Front Street the Live Oaks create a canopy over the road way. I often wondered how many of these very trees knew of the real Blackbeard.

We enjoyed the bustle of activity while some families launched their boats and others were returning from a few hours on the water.

We headed down Lennoxville Road next just to see the sights. We were impressed with the very large homes that have been built recently with more on the way. Talk about high end real estate!

Leaving Beaufort we rode Highway 101 and decided to take a detour down Adam's Creek Road. I had not been down in this part of Craven County in more than 30 years. We followed the 12 mile winding road only to find it dead ended at a small strip of beach on the Intracoastal Waterway locally referred to as Adam's Creek.

We had the beach to ourselves and quite a few photos later we headed back to New Bern.

While we missed the majority of the traffic by running 101 instead of 70 we caught up to the mass exodus to the west when we hit Havelock. By the time we made the James City traffic lights it was stop and go through the lights.

The Ultra showed us the amount of heat she generates from her 96 cubic inch engine in that stopped traffic as the early summer temperatures were in the upper 80's. We now have 2100 miles on the odometer, not bad for four months of riding and most of that winter weather.


I really like quotes, good ones at least. You know, those words of wisdom that have multiple applications. Here are a few quotes that can apply to motorcycling:

“There are only three sports: mountain climbing, bull fighting, and motor racing. All the rest are merely games.”
– Ernest Hemingway

“Keep thy eye on the tach, thine ears on the engine, least thy whirlybits seek communion with the sun”
– John 4:50

“Insisting on perfect safety is for people who don’t have the balls to live in the real world.”
– Mary Shafer, NASA Ames Dryden

It takes more love to share the saddle than it does to share the bed.

The only good view of a thunderstorm is in your rearview mirror.

Riding faster than everyone else only guarantees you’ll ride alone.

A good rider has balance, judgment, and good timing. So does a good lover.

Two-lane blacktop isn’t a highway – it’s an attitude.

This one is for Chad and Lynn: Sometimes the best communication happens when you’re on separate bikes.

And my personal favorite: Never ride faster than your angel can fly.

Saturday, May 19, 2007

GPS on a motorcycle?

Who wants a GPS on a motorcycle? Well, me. Through work I have been involved with GPS systems for quite a few years. We started out with Garmin handhelds and their simplistic displays and worked up to laptops in the vehicles with the Earthmate USB receivers connected to the docking stations. We use GPS for tower locations, RF propagation studies and driving directions to out of the way locations. GPS is an integral part of the Motorola Canopy wireless network system.

Each GPS satellite transmits data that indicates its location and the current time. All GPS satellites synchronize operations so that these repeating signals are transmitted at the same instant. The signals, moving at the speed of light, arrive at a GPS receiver at slightly different times because some satellites are farther away than others. The distance to the GPS satellites can be determined by estimating the amount of time it takes for their signals to reach the receiver. When the receiver estimates the distance to at least four GPS satellites, it can calculate its position in three dimensions.

My task was to determine what model and style I wanted and what features were important. We bought a Magellan RoadMate for our youngest son at Christmas and he really likes it. The drawback to that model is it's a little large for a handlebar mount and it can't take direct exposure to the elements. I was also looking for a diverse mounting system so the GPS could be used in Debbie's Xterra, my Jeep Wrangler and the Ultra Classic.

I didn't like Harley's cowl mount since the GPS had to go on the right side (throttle side) and their GPS offering was about $200.00 more than I felt it was worth. I did discover that the Harley GPS was actually a Garmin Quest with the Harley logo and in a darker color.

With a little on line shopping I discovered the best pricing was actually through and they are in Ocean Isle Beach here in North Carolina. The Quest seemed to fit what I wanted and the small size allows totally hand held portable use for up to 10 hours. The folks in Ocean Isle Beach new just what accessories I needed and even with a Friday afternoon order the goodies arrived on Monday.

There was a windshield mount and a more permanent mount in the box as well as a home charger for the hand held user. The software loaded on my PC easily and allowed me to unlock the maps and transfer the ones for my area. I created a couple of routes using way points since the GPS is going to choose the most efficient route and not necessarily the most scenic. I also added the location for the boys and our home so it will be just a couple of buttons and were off to visit or return.

The assembly of the 4 piece motorcycle mount (shrimp mount) was simple and after a minute or so an acceptable angle was achieved. The audio jack in the picture allows you to connect the Quest to the Aux input so the voice prompts come through the bike audio system.

The audio is monaural on the GPS side and stereo at the Aux jack on the Ultra's radio. Solder up a mono 1/8 inch plug the standard way on one end with about 3 feet of wire. On the stereo plug end, solder the left and right pins together and you have created a mono to stereo adapter. The wiring can be routed in and out of the handlebar openings in the fairing. The included automobile mount has a self contained speaker with volume control that works quite well.

At first I thought the mount was too high but I quickly realized that it raised it out of my view of the instrument panel and reduced the amount eye travel while riding. There is a slide lock on the upper right side to secure the Quest in the holder.

I originally intended to connect the power wiring to the fuse area under the seat and on the left side of the bike. I couldn't locate a satisfactory wiring route that was away from engine heat so I opted to use the handy cigarette lighter in the lower fairing. You can get the lighter plug from Radio Shack. The excess wiring is tucked away under the fairing so if needed it can be quickly removed. There is room in the opening so the fuse can slide out for replacement.

This view is approximate for what I see in the riding position. All my gauges and controls are clear and the speaker path is unobstructed as well.

The whole setup works well and I am quite satisfied with the results. The Quest is quickly movable from vehicle to vehicle and is easy to view in direct sunlight. The mount allows location in almost any position and it works well on the Ultra. Just with one trip down to Oriental we discovered some awesome scenery we had never encountered and never would have without a GPS. It looks like many alternate routes are in our future.

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Well my cousin's friend...

If you ride you have heard it multiple times. "Well my cousin's friend got hurt real bad back in '73 on a motorcycle" or "I knew a guy that died in a motorcycle wreck years ago". It also seems that every so often I hear from a non-rider: Did you hear about that guy that wrecked, died, etc, etc on a motorcycle this weekend? This really drives me crazy. Just tell me what happened and unless you were there, leave out the details.

I don't fly planes but every Monday I go to the airport and recite a plane crash story to a pilot so I will be accepted. Damn ain't I cool. Do you see my point?

To me it means I don't ride motorcycles for whatever lame ass reason so I'm telling you a story that makes me look cool. Wrong answer. Now don't get me wrong, I understand that there are people that will never ride a motorcycle. A friend of mine in Wilmington is in that category, but he is fearless about riding off road on four wheels, sometimes two, with over 300 horse power at his beck and call. Him I understand, me, I don't like airplanes or snakes.

Now there are those few people that genuinely care for you and I think they are reminding you to be careful, like my Mom and my Mother in Law.

Those of us that ride do share and update each other on all things that occur on two wheels in the community. That is expected and appreciated because we share a common interest.

On average there are 40,000 deaths due to car accidents every year and I'm not sure if motorcycles are included in that number. Since 1974 when I started to drive I personally knew five of these unfortunate car driving souls.

About 40% of car accident fatalities occur because of a drunken driver. About 30% of the car accident fatalities can be attributed to driving above the speed limits and 33% and above because of reckless driving that causes the car to go off the road and result in an accident.

The majority of car accident victims are the drivers, then the passengers of the car, followed by pedestrians, and lastly cyclists.

Every 12 minutes, one person dies because of a car accident. Every 14 seconds, a car accident results in an injured victim.

Number of motorcycle deaths per year, U.S.:
  • —1997--2,116
  • —1998--2,294
  • —1999--2,483
  • —2000--2,897
  • —2001--3,197
  • —2002--3,244
  • —2003--3,661
  • —2004--4,008
  • —2005--4,553

    • In 2005, 4,553 people died in motorcycle crashes, up 13.0 percent from 4,028 in 2004. The 13 percent increase was the largest since 1977.

    • Motorcycle crash fatalities have increased for eight years in a row.

    • There were 5.8 million motorcycles on U.S. roads in 2004, according to latest data available, compared with 133.3 million passenger cars. Motorcycles accounted for 2.4 percent of all registered motor vehicles and 0.3 percent of vehicle miles traveled in 2004.

    • Some 88,000 motorcycles were involved in crashes in 2004.

    • Motorcyclists were 34 times more likely than passenger car occupants to die in a crash in 2005, per vehicle mile traveled, and 8 times more likely to be injured.

    • The fatality rate for motorcyclists was 4.8 times the fatality rate for passenger car occupants per registered vehicle in 2004.
The bottom line is that riders know and accept the risk. At least the intelligent ones do. Some of us act nonchalant but know that the respect is there. I know riding a motorcycle is dangerous but apparently I am safer in a plane than a car. Since I don't like planes I'll go directly to dangerous.

Friday, May 4, 2007


Ocracoke and the HOG Rally

This was my most anticipated trip to date. Chad and I checked the extended weather forecast two weeks out and then every day until Friday, the day we left. We gassed up and headed out at 7:00AM. The weather was surprisingly warm for that early at 65 degrees and the sky was partly cloudy. We need to be at the ferry by 9:00 to get the 9:30 ferry. Lynn had set up reservations a couple of weeks in advance for the round trip for all three bikes.

The first leg of our journey carried us from New Bern to Havelock and through parts of the real Down East like Williston, Smyrna, Davis, Stacy and Atlantic. This is a route less travelled but it has some wonderful scenery. The road near the Cedar Island end of the ferry is a narrow ribbon of asphalt winding through the expansive salt marshes of Down East Carteret County. The wide and deep canals on either side of the highway will make you think twice about your speed.

Glancing at the time it was about 8:35 and I thought we were right on schedule. That's when I saw one of the most feared signs on the highway: LOOSE GRAVEL ON ROAD. Sure as hell, that was the case for the next three miles. Now we're not talking about a little gravel, we're talking gravel all across both lanes. Chad's Street Bob and Lynn's Sportster were kicking up little rooster tails of the pea sized gravel. With the speed adjusted downward to 25, and sometimes much lower to take the tight curves, we finally arrive at the ferry landing.

Since we are heading to Ocracoke, which is at the southern end and well away from the rally site, we assumed that most bikes would be going the northern route. What a nice surprise to see quite a few motorcycles lined up ahead of us. The weather was absolutely perfect. The partly cloudy skies had given way to sunny conditions and about a 75 degree temperature. We have about a 30 minute wait until loading time so we chat with some of the other riders.

With the ferry underway we double checked that the bikes were in gear and firmly on their kick stands. Once we were settled in Lynn produced a picnic breakfast. It seems that Lynn was a very early riser this morning. The bacon egg and cheese biscuits along with fresh orange slices really hit the spot. How she carried everything on the Sportster, along with luggage, is a mystery to me. About now a nap would have been good but there was just too much excitement anticipating the arrival at Ocracoke Island.

After two and a half hours we arrive at Ocracoke Island and ride off the ferry and into what can only be described as a little piece of heaven. Immediately the place had a home town feel with folks walking and riding bikes everywhere. Little specialty shops scattered about with almost any food you could imagine presenting itself in one place or another. And my favorite, purveyors of adult beverages along the harbor waterfront. Well it was a wee bit early for that sort of thing so we head to The Beach House to unpack the bikes, freshen up, and settle in a bit.

Ocracoke Inlet was first put on the map when English explorers wrecked a sailing ship there in 1585. Two centuries later this was one of the busiest inlets on the East Coast. Ocracoke Inlet was the only reasonably navigable waterway for ships accessing inland ports such as Elizabeth City, New Bern, and Edenton. Ocracoke Village, then known as Pilot Town, developed as a result of the inlet's use. Pilots hired to steer ships safely through the shifting channels to mainland ports settled the village in the 1730's.

The Beach House is a very nice Bed and Breakfast situated right across the street from the Post Office. It is owned by Carol and Warren and they are two of the nicest people you will ever meet. The house was built in about 1915 and now contains 4 very nice guest rooms. The location puts it in easy walking distance of almost everything Ocracoke has to offer. The coffee and breakfast is exceptionally good each and every morning and really got us started on our two-wheel journeys.

Did I mention that Carol raises Orchids? Well she most certainly does.

Alright girls I know the swing and front porch are all that but let's get to moving! Actually we spent a few hours over the long weekend enjoying this porch.

The Ocracoke lighthouse is one of those things that you're not prepared for. We've all seen the Lookout and Hatteras lighthouses over and over on sites and in publications but this lighthouse is a special treat. The history is interesting and it is quite an accomplished lighthouse. The light is is an easy walk from the Beach House. The Ocracoke light is the second oldest operating lighthouse in the nation. With its aid, yesterday's sailing vessels safely navigated the channels. Today, fishing and pleasure boats pass within its view. Time, however, has not changed the often tricky character of the shoal-ridden inlet. The historic lighthouse still stands by to make safe the waters.

After the Ocracoke light we took a leisurely stroll all around the neighborhood. Ocracoke has something to offer everyone. There are shops for every taste from pirate hats to beach wear to upscale art shops. Walking is the easy way around but there are bike and scooter rentals at several locations.

We almost had a run in with the Harbor Patrol Friday afternoon but when they realized we were from out of town they let us off with a warning and a fish apiece.

Enough walkin' already! Chad and I arrive at SMacNally's and hook up with a couple of local gals. I wonder where Debbie and Lynn are? These two girls sure drank a lot of beer.

I guess Debbie got mad and found her some old guy who agreed to buy more drinks. I wonder where Ralph is. This guy had already drunk a lot of beer.

As if the Harbor Patrol wasn't bad enough, the Shore Patrol came along and almost charged us with being loud and disorderly. Debbie was quite taken with his southern charm.

After our afternoon excursion we headed back to the Beach House to chill for a while. We decided to have supper at Howard's Pub and boy was that a good decision. Great food with an extensive menu and the best staff you have ever seen. Yep you guessed it, walking distance to Howard's. Well it was a long day and we had quite a ride set up for tomorrow so time to retire for the evening.

We woke up an hour early Saturday morning but didn't figure it out until a little later. This picture proves that even the road takes a break in Ocracoke.

After breakfast we leave Ocracoke proper and head to the Ocracoke-Hatteras Ferry landing for the northward leg of our journey. The road here is not very busy and it appeared we basically had it to ourselves. The State has created a berm all along highway 12 to help prevent beach over wash during hurricane conditions.

Once off on the Hatteras side on our way to Kitty Hawk we encountered wave after wave of bikes. Most riders gave up on the "Wave" by Saturday. Did I mention it was OBX bike week and the State HOG Rally? The temperature dropped 15 degrees very quickly near mid day. What once was 80 degrees was now near 65. Still a great day.

Nags Head Harley Davidson had quite a few bikes in the parking lot. We checked out things for a while and of course picked up a couple of items. We grabbed a quick lunch in the shopping center that surrounds the dealership and then decided to head to the Wright Brothers Memorial.

The Wright Brothers Memorial was a treat for all of us. Debbie was the only one of us that had ever been previously. She visited with her parents when she was a little girl. That was a looong time ago.

The entire site was most impressive. The grounds are quite expansive and they have done an excellent job on recreating the feel of what it was like many many years ago. The old drawings, maps and photographs were my favorites.

This could be a Harley ad. They would call it Cool and Crazy. I will let you figure out the order.

Chad shot this one of Debbie and Ralph on board the Ultra.

Onward to Kitty Hawk Harley-Davidson....This is where the main events where held. There were a LOT of bikes on the lot. At least one thousand at our estimate and that was late in the day.
It was getting close to 4:00 so we decided to head south and back to Ocracoke. We plan to detour at Bodie Island and Hatteras lighthouses for some photo ops.

Bodie Island lighthouse. Fearing that the 80-foot tower would be used by Union forces as an observation post, retreating Confederate troops blew it up in 1861. New construction began in 1871. The new site is 156 feet tall.

Cape Hatteras lighthouse. More than 500 ships of many nations, trying to find their way around the shoals, have foundered at or near Cape Hatteras, earning for the area its sinister reputation as the "Graveyard of the Atlantic." The present brick tower, the second construction, erected in 1869 - 70 by the Lighthouse Board, cost more than $150,000. She proudly stands at 197 feet.

7:00PM Saturday. The group was tolerate enough to allow me the time to take some pictures of the lighthouses but unfortunately it cost some time. We were late making the ferry so we had until 8:00 to wait for the next one. So here is "Sunset at the ferry landing." It is available in limited numbered prints.

It was quite dark when we left the ferry but it was fun to drive the last few miles of highway 12 into Ocracoke. 9:00PM upon arrival and enough time to go to Howard's Pub one last time.

8:30AM Sunday. Even though King isn't allowed to visit like he wants we did catch him outside to bid a fond farewell and promise to return soon. King actually owns the Beach House but he does allow Carol and Warren to live there.

This is supposed to be a welcome sign but this was the last thing we saw leaving Ocracoke. We will certainly make this a annual trek from now on but we will allow a few more days.

We had a wonderful time. This was the best trip to date on two wheels. 365 miles were added to the odometer and 410 pictures added to the digital archive. There was warm weather, cool weather and even some rain. We arrived back home around 1:30 p.m. and spent a LOT of time cleaning the bikes. They were covered in salt and road residue, dust, the nightly dew and bugs! Can't wait to do it again.