Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Time to reflect

Here I sit, warming up after the walk from the train to the library in 13 degrees weather. The library is quiet, not because it is a library, but because it's New Year's Eve and the university is on break. The stillness allows the time and space to reflect the ending and beginning of another year.

Motorcycling this year had a different flavor than the two years prior. No long rides to speak of. The longest day ride of the year was 600 miles for a visit to my son in Southern Illinois. While I enjoyed teaching the MC classes, I am committed to not carrying the load of another 21 classes in a teaching season again. The faces of the students are still in my memory. I imagine that the longer that I teach, to more likely it will be that I run into people that have been in my classes.

While I continue to be a member of 2 MC groups, I feel less connected. With the schedule that I was keeping, I often missed meetings and can't think of a single group ride that I was able to attend. Admittedly, group riding has much of the initial appeal. On the other hand, I feel a stronger bond to the friendship that have developed with other instructors.

My motorcycling life for 2009 is looking fuzzy. The Concours will be ridden and I will teach motorcycle classes. Both will be in moderation, particularly as long as my granddaughters continue in my care. Spending time with the girls is helping me appreciate life more and to see the happiness. As the weather warms in early Spring, I imagine the fun that Anasia (6 year old) will have taking short rides with me to the local public library or to Starbucks. Anasia had her first rides with me this past year as she comfortably reached the passenger footrests. Before you start shaking your head, know that she will geared appropriately and the rides are short.

If free time is in short supply, I imagine that an occasional ride to work will be one way to get my MC fix.

Reading other MC blogs will continue to feed my MC needs. Thanks to all of you bloggers who share your rides and thoughts with us.

Happy New Year


Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Wishing you a Merry Christmas along with the hopes and dreams that a New Year brings.
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Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Winter dreams

The snow has continued to fall, adding more inches to the already cold crusty layers cause by the sub zero temperatures. Walking yesterday in 6 degrees temperature through Hyde Park, saw a sad looking black BMW R 65 parked on the street. The beemer didn't look like it had moved seen the wintry weather began last week. The turn signals were broken, but otherwise the ride seemed to be intact. With all of the wind, there was only a thin layer of crusty snow on the seat. I was tempted to check the speedometer, but felt to self-conscious.

Given the age of the beemer, I am sure that it has enjoyed many a road. Like seeing a stray puppy, I wanted to take her home to my heated garage, nurse it back to prime, and ride!!!!

Friday, December 12, 2008

Life upside down

As winter really settles in, the MC is coming to life less. The motorcycle classes are a distant memory. Looking forward to the next riding and teaching season, I feel unsure about it all.

One week ago, my 4 and 6 year old granddaughters were placed with my wife and I by DCFS. No words can express the emotional roller coaster that I have experienced. The girls will probably be with us for at least 6 months. From my wife's experience, it will take that long for my daughter to work with the agency to make the changes necessary for the girls return to her care. My wife is a social worker as has helped make the right connections to get services like daycare in place. The six year old started school Tuesday and the 4 year old started daycare Monday.

The girls are a blessing and as everyone adjusts, their will be a lot of love going on here. Once the winter has passed, I am imagining that late night rides after the girls are in bed and my wife is lounging will be the extent of my riding. Teaching the MC classes will not take place because it would be unfair for me to ask my wife to watch the girls while I was away. I may be able to get a few weekday classes in during the summer.

Everything will work out.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Scoot this

I had to take a picture of the snow covered scooter for the scooter blogs that I follow. The snow came and stayed in Chicago. It was followed by frigid temperatures that left the street with a nice sheet of ice making walking even hazardous. The owner of this ride needs to find someones garage.
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Saturday, November 29, 2008

If only for an hour or so

Sometimes I simply get in this overwhelming funk.  My thoughts about the lives of those I hold dear and the seemingly desperate situations that each faces drives me to a sense of nothingness. At times like this, I simply get done only what absolutely needs done.  Even so, I go with the motion but I am not experiencing life.  

However, I am so grateful for all that I get to experience.  The high today was a cloudy 43 and deep inside the desire to ride wrestled with the funkiness.  11:00, 12:00, 1:00, 2:00 but I couldn't get up and go.  3:00 came with the thought that it is so late (getting dark by 4:30) that I shouldn't even bother.  Yet, by 3:10 I put the dogs up, geared up in leather chaps, the heavy leather riding jacket, Gerbings glove but nothing connected.  I topped off the Connie and stayed on back roads south of the south suburbs of Chicago.  At one point, I purposely rode awhile on gravel.  The Connie doesn't track very well in gravel and feels cumbersome.  Yet, riding on gravel is something to challenge my sense of comfort with.

I got home around 4:45, a little chilled on the outside.  But my soul was fed by the road and the landscape.  It was a good ride. 

Monday, November 24, 2008

UI Motorcycle Rider Program Banquet

The end of the season banquet for the MRP at the U of I was held this last Saturday at the DoubleTree in Alsip, IL. I missed the banquet last year because we were experiencing raining sheets of ice on the day of the banquet which was being held 120 miles away in Champaign. This was the first banquet I have attended after only teaching for 2 seasons. This was the largest banquet for the program with over 200 people in attendance.

5-6 was the social hour with two free drink tickets. I was able to enjoy a Sam Adams and a different Honey Ale during this period. At 6:00 the feasting began. My wife was surprise how good the way. We were expecting a pasta dish, plain iceberg lettuce, etc... There was plenty of everything including Fried Chicken and Barbecued Ribs.

After everyone was stuffed, the guest speaker talked about problems with the current state of motorcycle training. He turned out to be David Hough of Proficient Motorcycling fame. He recently finished a second updated edition of Proficient Motorcycling, of which each instructor was given a copy. Now I have something to read over the winter months.

After the guest speaker, awards for all types of things were given. Button for various accumulations of students taught (100, 200, 300, .....). Much respect for those in the thousands. I was overlooked as I didn't get any buttons but have taught over 300 students in my first two seasons. This season's total for me was 212. It just gave me something to give the administrators a hard time about.

Best of all was being able to see and talk with other instructors. Yes I am going through a little withdrawal after teaching 22 classes this season. I only taught with one person twice. Each instructor provided at least one new thing for me to incorporate in my own instruction.

Customer Appreciation

I attend a customer appreciation party at my local MC shop Chicago Sports and Cycle (CSC) Friday night. Customers who spend more that a $1,000 were invited to the event. The temperature was about 30 degrees Friday evening. Since I only live 15 minutes away from the shop, I decided to ride the Connie to the event. Turns out that I was the only person who rode in, which facilitated many thumbs up from other riders that I knew.

CSC did a great job with the sustenance and really worked hard to let the customers feel like out business with them is appreciated. This goes hand in hand with what I have heard from them. You won't get the cheapest deal on there bikes compared to some other shops, but their prices are reasonable. It's there service that keeps us the customers happy. As a non-mechanic MC rider, I have had plenty of questions over the last three years. The staff have always taken the time to explain stuff to me and have built a sincere level of trust, at least with me.

My major purchase with CSC this year was a renewal of my prepaid maintenance program. In October, I paid $1,100 to cover any scheduled maintenance needs of the Connie for the next 3 years. This covers all scheduled services. The Connie gets services every 3 thousand miles with a valve adjustment every six thousand miles. The average person with this plan gets 1 service a year while I am averaging 3 a year. So for the shop it balances out. It doesn't cover wear and tear, but during the maintenance, they catch things early before they could become a problem for me on the road.

I admit that I lust over BMWs. But when I consider the level of support and prepaid maintenance plans, I will probably always buy the 4 Japanese brands that CSC sells.

Thanks to Kathi Wolf and the rest of the CSC staff.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Giving the Gerbings their first try

I recently purchased Gerbings G3 gloves and a jacket liner. After the jacket liner arrived, we had an abnormally warm stretch of weather. Now we are experiencing abnormal cold weather. Sunday afternoon was cold (31 degrees), damp, and cloudy. I donned my Gerbings and my other riding gear. The jacket liner really puts out the heat. The liner was warm around my neck and back. The way the liner fits, it was not in contact with my front side.

Lesson number #1, wear a snug vest or shirt over top of the jacket liner to get heated from the front. The jacket liner really puts out the heat. The liner was warm around my neck and back. The way the liner fits, it was not in contact with my front side.

Lesson #2, be reasonable. At 70 mph, the hand and upper body was fine. But the vents on the head allowed the wicked damp cold in. Then there was the freezing feet. Add to this was riding farther than I should have, around 70 miles. My body was starting to get confused with very warm and very cold being experienced.

Ultimate lesson is that the Gerbings will make weather that I normally would ride in for short period or even longer rides more comfortable. Say a round trip ride to Champaign in the Mid-40s. They won't make me superman.

Friday, November 7, 2008

Dreaming of Colorado

My big MC trip last year was to my Uncle's in Parker, Colorado. The day after my wife flew home to Illinois, I thought that I would take a little day ride. My uncle Chris went over the map with my to pick out a little route. He didn't realize how far the ride actual was until I got back that evening. I left around 9 and was back by 5.

View Larger Map

Quite simply one of the best rides of my life so far. Seeing the sand dunes with the mountains as a backdrop was one highlight. Yes I did get wet on the ride.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Concours 14

I have the original Concours. It was produced from 1986-2006. I got mine new in 2005 for $8000 out the door. At the time, it really was the best deal out there for my first motorcycle. The Connie will be the primary steed for at least the next 3 years. Looking forward, maybe its successor, the Concours 14 would be the likely next ride. There is a good NYTimes article on the Concours 14.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Politics and motorcycles

The ecstasy of the Obama Presidency reminds me of most motorcycle rides. Life is good on the open road riding the Concours. Eventually the ride comes to an end and I face the realities of life. The election of Obama is just as wonderful. Like the end of the ride, the election is over and now is the time to face the realities of life. Life is hard, but my own and our country life is good.

I enjoyed an evening ride home after work. Nov 4th, 8:00 p.m., 63 degrees in Chicago. Again, life is good.

Monday, November 3, 2008

Douglas Michigan

November 3rd and today's fore casted high was to be in the upper 70's. My friend Paul was at his recently purchased weekend home in Douglas through tomorrow and had already encouraged me to take a ride up to see the place. He knows that it wouldn't take much for me to burn another day vacation. How many more days will we have like this.

The 125 mile ride from Homewood, IL to Douglas, MI was perfect. The sky was clear and the traffic was moderate. The traffic thinned out as I rode around Michigan City, IN on I-94. As I-94 went east at Benton Harbor, MI, I hopped on I-196 for the rest of the ride. All of the leaves were in full bloom from Benton Harbor to Douglas. The only section of the road that was a little unnerving was a 10 mile stretch of new highway on I-196 that has substantial rain grooves. The way it causes the bike to track and float a little will take some time to be accommodated to.

Paul's weekend home is wonderful. I look forward to many rides to Paul's place. After grabbing lunch in Douglas, we walked in his neighborhood until we came to Douglas Beach. The visit ended too soon as I wanted to enjoy most of the ride in the daylight.

5 stars out of five on this days ride.
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Thursday, October 23, 2008

Quick 240 mile daytrip

My schedule originally had me attending an accessibility software training up in Mount Prospect Tuesday. The plan was to ride the motorcycle and get mileage reimbursement for the 100 mile total I would have rode to attend the workshop. A few days before the training the email came indicating the training would be postponed due to low enrollment. My work schedule was already clear so "day trip" became the plan.

Called my Dad to see if he was working Tuesday and wanted to do their lunch thing (my father, grandfather, and brother) meet for lunch once a week in Champaign. I knew I would her it again from my wife as they will only meet at Hooters, but what could I do.

Left home around 8:00 and 42 degrees. If was sunny which help added some warmed. My first pair of heated gloves were still on backorder (rats). From Homewood to Champaign is about 115 miles of pure Interstate 57. Call me boring, but I love riding the interstate once out of the big city traffic. No intersections to worry about and a constant 70 miles per hour.

I first stopped at my daughter's apartment to drop off a winter coat for her as well as some heavy sweaters. Rode of over to Hooters for lunch with the "boys." Afterwards, stopped by the Illinois Motorcycle Rider Program office to visit with the full time folks. Back to my daughter's for the important thing. My granddaughter is in Kindergarten and I wanted to surprise her. My daugher, granddaughter Paige, and I walked to Anasia's school. Seeing Anasia coming out of school wearing her backpack and a smile was the highlight of the ride.

Windows Live Spaces

Of course I needed to take care of a few things for the daughter which made me miss my planned departure time of 3:00. I didn't leave until 5:00 and rode in the dark cold dusk from around 5:45-7:15. The temperature had dropped from the 50's to back in the low 40's. Once the sun dipped below the horizon, the air definitely chilled. Then only real cold part for me were the back of the hands. I thought to ride for a while and take a break to warm up. Then it became an adventure to tough it out and ride straight through.

It was a good day.

PS. The shop called today to say my Gerbings G3 gloves are in.

Monday, October 20, 2008

It's over

Yesterday, I finished teaching my 21st Motorcycle Class of the season. While each class is 20 hours, it usually amounts to 23-24 hours per class. That would be the equivalent of working full time for 12 weeks. Of course the teaching was spread out over the months of April through October. Nonetheless, it was a lot of time doing something that I enjoy.

What on earth will I do with my time now? Two things:

1. Whatever my wife wants to do.
2. Ride as much as I can get away with.

Sounds like a plan.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Not falling too far from the tree

The teaching season is coming to a close. I had left my house by 6:15 to ride up to the Allstate site in Northbrook, IL. The sun wasn't up but the sky was displaying wonderful pre-sunrise colors. As I enjoyed the 50 mile ride up the Tri State Tollway, I began to think about my father. At least for the last 15 or so years, my father worked full time for the City of Champaign and part time as the golf pro for Blue Needles Golf Course. Beside the day job, he has consistently worked at the golf course several evenings and much of the weekend each week once the snow cleared from the fairways.

So I had a small sense of pride as teaching the motorcycle classes has made my life closer in line with my father. I know that he has been in a position to help me at times and make his own life better by supplementing his salary with the second job. A good portion of this years MC class money has went in the director of my daughter and granddaughters as well as my son. With the class money, I would have only been able to say "sorry I don't have anything to help you with."

Like my father, at least our second jobs are things that we enjoy, even if it is work.

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Riding into work

Now that the fall quarter at the University of Chicago has begun, I am back to working at the reference desk for the evening shift at the reference desk from 5-8. At least until there is danger of ice, it's the best time to ride to work. Riding into Hyde Park from Homewood at 10:30 in the morning and back home sometime after 8:00 p.m. is a breeze. There is something sweet about the ride home of an evening. The surface is smooth, the glow of the traffic around you at 65 m.p.h.. Then there is a nice s-curve at around 103rd street on Interstate 57.

I normally ride the Metra to work. Riding to work during rush hour is just an absolute pain. The bumper to bumper traffic at 5-6 m.p.h. at best is a exercise for your clutch hand. Interstate 57 is not the problem, it's the overcrowded Dan Ryan Expressway. Although the surface is new with a better flow (at least for the ride in), the ride home is always congested.

Monday, September 22, 2008

Our "daily" bread

While spending time meditating this morning, I had focused in on the "our daily bread" section of the lord's prayer. That idea of having what is necessary and being satisfied. In turn this led me to contemplate my obsessive focus on riding, riding gear, accessories, other bikes, and the list goes on. The fever has been terrible for quite some time. While there is little left that I could add to the Concours, gear and apparel options are limitless.

I needed to take an honest look for what I have in terms of the bike and gear. At this point, there is nothing that I need, even if I were to take off for a month long adventure. I am going to having to recite this to myself on a frequent basic, so that I have that gratitude to appreciate what I have and what it allows me to do. With that I may get the freedom from preoccupation with "more" much like the freedom I enjoy while tooling down the road.

Friday, September 12, 2008

Too much of a good things

With monetary needs of home and my struggling daughter, my need for additional money is apparent. During the riding season, it has meant that instead of spending a weekend riding, I have spent quite a bit of time. By the end of the teaching season, I will have taught a full 17 classes and filled in for some of the day for another 4 classes. Each class is 20 hours, but by the time you take into account the prep/set-up time and putting everything away, it's closer to 26 hours per class. I am currently at the beginning of teaching 6 classes in 6 weekends, which means I leave the house by 6:15 and return home around 7:30 both Saturday and Sunday. I will be tired and a little worn out when it is all done.

However I absolutely have to count my blessings. Even in the midst of being tired, I still enjoy teaching each of the class. I would have to make the money doing something that I wouldn't enjoy.

I will have to remember that when I will be outside in the rain for at least 8 hours tomorrow.

It's all good.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Billings MT and Yellowstone

Well it's not a motorcycle trip but...

Driving from Chicago to Billings for the State Motorcycle Safety Administrator's Conference. There will be vendors and programs for instructors. On the last night of the conference, my wife flies in for the reception. Then Sunday morning we are off to 4 nights in Yellowstone and camping our way back home.

Story and pictures to follow.

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Time for tires

I had a feeling that my front tire was a little worn. At 11,000 miles I noticed a slice on the side of the rear tire and changed both tires. At 24,500 miles the servicewoman at the shop said that I needed the front tire replaced. When I came in to pick up the bike from the service (they had to order the tire which will be in later) I asked the mechanic how was the rear tire. His response, it's past 50% worn. That was all I needed to hear, so I had them order tires for both front and rear. There is too much riding on those two wheels to risk it.

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Yippie for the step-son

A blended family with older kids can be quite a challenge. When I met my wife 7 years ago her son was 10. We married two years later. My children had left my home (I was a single parent and raise my two children alone from Kindergarten to HS) shortly before we got married. My stepson Cornelius will be a senior in HS this year. There has never been an issue between he and I to this day. He is not perfect, nor is any one of us, but he has been an absolute pleasure to help raise. When he got his permit for driving the car, I was the one who helped him accumulate the 80 hours of parental riding before he could get the drivers license. I took him for the driving test and was the one there to see the big cheesy grin when he knew he had passed.

So two weeks ago, he got into a motorcycle class that I was the assistant instructor for. There were two open slots for the 4 walk ins trying to get in the class. Luck was on his side as his number was one of the 2 tickets pulled out of the hat to get one of the seats for the class. I would not have manipulated anything to compromise my own integrity. While the other instructor knew he was my stepson, the other students didn't get it until the last day when I had him take some of my extra gear home with him.

Cornelius was apprehensive with his riding during the first 2 days of class. His only riding experience was as a passenger on my MC and on his sister's MC. He picked up the pace and I am proud to say that he was in a three way tie for the lowest riding score for the class. He will hold onto the license waiver until he turns eighteen in February. Then he will has a motorcycle license and I will have a lot a supervised road training with him.

Sunday, July 20, 2008

It only takes one

Wipe out and apprehension

Saturday was the 3rd day of a 4 day Basic Rider Course. The rain was off and on all morning. The classroom portion of the course was done and we had just begun the swerve to avoid an obstacle. One student who had not exhibited smooth controls and too much speed the entire course was next. He was going way too fast for the exercise. My co-instructor yelled for him to slow down. The student began the swerve and "grabbed" the front brake. A major low side fall ensued. The student was bruised scraped but okay enough to keep riding. His fall effected the all of the other students confidence. The rest of the day, all of the students were riding with a little apprehension. At least of them now now the consequences of braking and swerving as well as grabbing the front brake. Later in the class the speeds were back up to training levels and 8 of 11 passed the riding evaluation.

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

More on riding alone

I am into just my 3rd riding season with my Concours. After getting the license and the bike, I joined the Christian Motorcycle Association local chapter Christian Eagles and a local riding club "Shadow Riders" out of Midlothian. My good friend Dave was very involved in the Christian Eagles. He moved to St. Paul almost 2 years ago. My experience with both group have been wonderful and I will continue to associate with both groups. I have received countless mentoring about riding, motorcycles, trips, and group riding. Both groups have weekly rides.

Having settled into my own preferences now, it's hard to take time (what little time there is given work, family, teaching 15 motorcycle classes, etc) to ride with either group. My preference really is to ride alone. The social aspect of the ice cream ride isn't outweighing the internal objections to being part of a staggered formation of motorcycles. When there is time to ride, I find myself satisfyingly on the bike, alone, going wherever and however I want to go.

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Need to ride alone

I just returned from American Library Association Annual Conference. Annual was in Anaheim, CA, right next to Disney. The conference was okay and I did get to see lane splitting by motorcycles for the first time. I don't think I would try it with my wide Concours, but on a smaller bike maybe. On the flight out, I came across a nice article in Southwest Airlines Spirit Magazine. The article Why I travel solo resonated with me. When talking with my wife about bike trips I want to make, so frequently asks me wouldn't I want to have another rider along with me. The author hits a few familiar thoughts about solo travel that so appealing, the freedom and lack of consideration that solo travel entails. My daily and familial life is dictated by considering others, I don't my my motorcycle travel be a compromise too.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

One screw, one and a half hours later

Giving my Concours a much needed bath, I noticed that the rear fender assembly was loose on one side. I found the culprit screw that was completely unscrewed on the left side of the rear end. I tried to start the screw into the fastener for twenty minutes without removing anything on the bike. Then with a Clymer Manual in hand, I remove the side luggage, the side luggage posts, the side luggage bar, the top case, the top case mounting plate, the mounting plate spacers, the bungee hooks, and finally the rear fairing to reveal and give access to the screw and fairing u-nut for the rear fender. The u-nut wouldn't line up for me. Luckily, I had ordered a supply of fairing u-nuts when I ordered the black stainless steel screw set for the Connie. Once the new u-nut was in place the screw went right into place and the rear fender assembly was secure. While frustration simmered during the process, I felt a sense of accomplishment by taking so much of my motorcycle apart and back together. Far from a waste of time.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Teaching for vacation

With my wife having relatively less vacation than I do, my vacation accruals are usually on the high side. The university is going to a system that will not allow us to carry more than 247 hours and I was sitting on close to 300 hours. Therefore, I signed up to teach 2 daytime Motorcycle classes at Joliet Junior College, one in June and one in July. The daytime classes run from 9-1 M-F. Last week was the first class. The facilities and set-up are great with one minor exception. The container for the motorcycles is a good distance from the range. The students have to push the motorcycles maybe 300 yds. The real downside is that to transition from the range to the classroom takes a solid 30 minutes. The class had the best passing ratio for me yet. 11 of 12 students passed the course and will receive the license waiver.

After each class I had an opportunity to stop and see my wife at work. Since she works in Joliet and I work in the city, this never happens. We were able to go to lunch a few times last week as well.

One other bonus was that I had time to drop by Conrad's HD Buell dealership in Joliet. Their shop is new and huge. I was able to demo ride the Buell Ulysses XB12XT while I was there. I like how the bike handled and the ergonomics. This version has the 3 hard bags. The heat from the exhaust was cooking my right leg. I mentioned that to the sales guy and he said that all motorcycles are hot on the legs (not mine of course).

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Wedding Anniversary

Well it has been 5 wonderful years of marriage so far. The anniversary was celebrated with a weekend getaway to Galena, IL. So why post this on my MC blog you may ask. While we drove the Hyundai Santa Fe, I was surrounded by motorcycles all weekend. The frequency of them increased once past Rockford, IL. The terrain after Rockford begins to have gentle rolls and progresses to nice twisty hills with great views popping out here and there. The majority of motorcycles being ridden were Harleys. From the beginning of my MC riding, Harley's weren't a good fit for me. So I can't tell you what is a soft tail, electra glide, etc... Don't get me wrong, I appreciate Harley Davidson motorcycles and those who ride them, my riding style (or lack thereof) and budget will keep me in sport touring for awhile. But I digress.

My wife commented on the lack of riding gear and helmets on the great majority of riders. The exceptions were often on sportbikes, Goldwings, or European steads. Abigail saw for the first time just how many women are out on their own rides. She asked she needed to get a license and her own bike. My reply, only is that is what you are wanting to do, no pressure from me. Abigail's comfort would be the only reason that I would get a Goldwing or Yamaha Royal Star Venture. They aren't the kind of bike that I want to ride and Abigail knows it. For now, the Connie will suffice until it's paid off.

Below is a picture of a row of bikes parked at the hotel we stayed at in Galena (Ramada). They were all Harley's and giving into stereotypes when were arrived late Saturday evening, I figured the swimming pool would be full of tattooed dudes. The pool was empty. Sunday morning, I noticed a number of women in riding apparel, jeans, boots, Harley jackets, etc... Then outside it was apparent that all of these Harleys were owned and ridden by women as they were drying off the bikes from the overnight rain. It should have surprise me. In motorcycle class that I just finished teaching, 8 of the 12 riders were women. Diversity of all type is great!

Planning to get to Galena, I recommend the Galena Ramada. The hotel has a nice sized property behind the actual hotel with gardens, a pond, and large decks. This time we ate at Vinnie Vanucchis and Fried Green Tomatoes. The roast duck at Fried Green Tomatoes was the best dish all weekend.

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Passions discovered

I fathered my two eldest children while in high school, got custody of them while in college, was a single parent until after they finished high school. That situation alone limited my exposure or time available for passions. Don't get me wrong, we were active and had plenty of wonderful experiences. Two of my current passions were discovered in my late 30's. The first is that I met and married my wife Abigail. We just celebrated our 5th wedding anniversary (more about that on my next blog). The second is that my step-daughter encouraged me to take the Basic Motorcycle Class and the rest is history. I grew up riding minibikes and a small Honda standard in my teens, but no riding experience until I took the class with Ebony. Immediately after the class, Ebony bought a new Kawasaki Ninja 250. We put over 2000 miles on that bike. At the end of the first season, after much thought, I purchased my own Kawasaki Concours in October of 2005.

We sold the Ninja last summer because Ebony was in a MS program at Boston University. She will begin Medical School at Boston University this Fall. I am sure that she will have a motorcycle soon after becoming a doctor. Ebony in Boston:

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Riding on the North Side

I live in the south suburbs of Chicago. I work in Hyde Park, 6 mile short of the epicenter of Chicago. Most of my motorcycle riding is going further south with an occasional jaunt into the downtown area. Well, I had a meeting to attend at Northwestern University and decided to make it a motorcycle ride through the city. The ride reminded me why I don't enjoy riding inside of Chicago propper and why I ride Metra to work. I didn't leave home until 10:00 in order to miss any morning rush. The ride on the Dan Ryan and Lake Shore Drive was a breeze. Once LSD ended, I took Sheridan Rd all the way until NWU. This 4 lane road is extremely tight and congested. My meeting ended and I was back on the Connie for the ride home by 3:15. Sheridan Rd was even worst with congestion and the road itself is not in the best of condition. LSD was OK but you don't want to change lanes anywhere north of the Belmont exit because of the worn out canyons in between the lanes. The Dan Ryan was backed up and I worked on 1st gear and the friction zone for miles. The 50 minute ride to NWU turned into an hour and 45 minute ride home in traffic. At least I was able to spend some daytime hours riding the Connie during the week. There is always a silver lining.

Monday, May 19, 2008

Everyone passes

I taught a 3 day Basic Rider Course at Lansing Airport this past weekend. It was my fourth class of the training season and my 15th overall. This weekends class was the first class where all of the riders (10 of 10) passed the riding and written evaluation. I needed this little boost because my last class only had 4 of 8 riders pass the riding evaluation. There really is no rhyme or reason, just chance. 20 hours of instruction (12 on the bikes) is not very long for an inexperienced person to learn how to ride a motorcycle. But even if they don't pass, they have learned enough that usually with practice or by taking a class again, they might get their license.

This was my first time teaching at the Lansing Airport. The course itself inspires a little confidence (or at least doesn't add to uneasiness). The riding course is a concrete airplane parking area off of an taxi area. Most of our other sites are asphalt with cracks, loose gravel, and some small pot holes. You may say good because it's like the road. Not me, it think it makes some student nervous trying to corning for the first time and crossing a 2 inch crack every lap. But we march on, teaching and facilitating the bright eyed enthusiasts. It is a joy to teach these classes.


Walking to the train in Hyde Park, I came across my first Spyder . I would have liked to catch the rider of it on the bike because I would have liked to see the rider's riding position. Anyway, the Spyder definitely has a cool factor about it. The web sight offers a few videos to see the Spyder in action. At least with a 500W alternator, riding in winter with heated gear would be an option.

Friday, May 16, 2008

Being sensitive

One of my favorite subjects to talk about while teaching a basic motorcycle class is riding gear. The approach to this topic is really by the book with 2 pieces of nice to know information (i.e. 1/3 of head impacts during crashes are on the jaw). Inevitably, either experienced or newbie riders bring gear their the class. It's important to recognize that wearing protective gear and type of protective gear are personal choices that each rider makes. As an instructor we need to clearly distinguish the benefits of type of protective gear (for example full face vs 3/4 vs half helmets). It's then that sticking to the book is more important when distinguishing differences so that a rider doesn't feel defensive or awkward when what they have does not provide the optimum level of protection. I just respectively have the rider's discuss the features in the book. When pressed for information about my riding gear choice (i.e. full face only for me), I make it clear it is my personal choice as I manage my own exposure to risk while riding. It's our job to make sure that the riders have all of the correct information so that they make well informed choices.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Well kept

I have noticed this old Goldwing parked in front of Powells Bookstore in Hype Park this Spring. It must be running because it's not there in the morning. Besides a Sport Touring motorcycle, there is a part of me that would like to have an old standard like this Honda 750 or a KZ1000.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Night time visability

I like the following picture. It's in front of the Regenstein Library before a ride home after working the evening shift at the library. My ride is on the left and a friend's scooter is on the right. Neither bike is on and the illumination is from retro-reflective decal. The large white sections on my bad are black during the day.

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

Where did the road go?

Tuesday is my night to work at the reference desk at the library. On these days, I don't need to come into work until around 11:00, so it's the one day a week I try to ride the Connie into work. After closing the desk at 8:00, I geared up for the evening ride out to Homewood from Hyde Park. At some point on the Dan Ryan, my low beam headlight went out. Everything just seemed a little dark. I didn't realize it was my headlight for a few more miles. Scary thought that I was surrounded by 70 mph traffic riding without a headlight. Once I realized it, I tried the high beams and they worked thank goodness. Next was my worry that I would get pulled over for riding with high beams on but figured once I showed the officer my low beams were out I would be fine. While my high beam may have irritated some drivers, I think all of us are getting used to new car low beams which are brighter than in the past. It just so happened that I finally came across a police officer within a block of my house (he didn't notice me either).

Getting home was one thing, changing the headlight bulb is another whole story. With the full fairing and little room, it's a bear to get access to the headlamp assembly. There is a small panel that comes off underneath the headlamp that is supposed to give you access. With that panel off, there was minimal access, but not enough for my fat hands to maneuver the plug, boot, spring hinge, and bulb. Then I remembered an message on a list that said to remove the small right top panel that housed the glove type box. With that removed, I had manageable access and was able to change the bulb. Tonight will include a run to the MC shop for acquire another spare bulb.

Thank goodness for list serves and forums, otherwise it may have been necessary to take the bike into the shop in despair.

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Motorcycle Safety Awareness Month - Illinois

IDOT had press events promoting Motorcycle Safety Awareness Month in Illinois today. John Sudlow, Director of the UIUC MRP, sent out an email announce the events. One of the locations was the Illinois Emergency Traffic Management Center near the White Sox stadium. Since I didn't need to be at work until noon (I work late on Tuesdays) and the event was at 10:00, I decided to go. While still in the burbs, I had to execute a quick swerve to avoid a van pulling out of a side street and into my lane. One of the aspects of MC month, is the campaign to start seeing motorcycles. Too bad the woman driving the van that almost hit me didn't see me.

The press event was small and only attended by CLTV and ABC7 News. I was wearing my IL MRP Staff jacket and was ask to speak about the program, go figure as this is just my second season teaching.

Friday, April 25, 2008


Chatting with some of the motorcycle class students before class, one student said she didn't like my shirt. The shirt was a plain black button up shirt with an embroidered 1/4" by 3" Kawasaki on the pocket. "What's wrong with the shirt?" I asked. She professed to being a Suzuki fanatic, so she didn't like my shirt. I knew she was joking, but it reminded me how there is a general disrespect among riders of specific brands or styles of bike. When riding, I attempt to acknowledge other bikers. The riders for whom I received the least amount of reciprocal acknowledgements are Harley Davidson riders. Maybe that's what I get for riding a "rice burner." I do appreciate the variety of motorcycles out there to match the variety of motorcycle riders. In my book, if there is a motor and two wheels in my field of vision, I will give you either a wave or head nod. I even expanded it to the scooters out there, although many don't get it.

This frame of mind makes me appreciate the Shadow Riders Motorcycle Club based in Midlothian, IL. Unlike many clubs, members include men, women, cruiser riders, goldwingers, sport bike, whites, blacks, middle aged and senior, among. Biking groups are usually like churches, very segregated race. It's hard to find multicultural riding groups, so I appreciate Shadow Riders even more.

Pictures, pictures, and more pictures

Over that last several years, I have taken way too many pictures. That is one hazard of the digital cameras and nearly unlimited server space at the job. The easiest way for me to share them with friends and family has been through Microsoft's "Spaces" site. My live space is at The albums for last years MC trip is Denver 2007. Although not a MC trip, the Arizona Pictures are some of my favorites.

What I like about is that they give you the option to post pictures in full size or compress automatically. It's just made it easier to quickly upload and share. Here is an embedded sample of some of the photos.

Windows Live Spaces

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Freedom and captivity

The 1st long ride of the summer celebrated the freedom of the rode on the motorcycle and confinement of my son in prison. Monday was already marked off of the work calendar as I was supposed to move my daughter, but that was postponed. The forecast was perfect for riding and I hadn't seen my son for around six months. My longest ride this year was a hundred miles. Monday's ride was exactly 600 miles.

Up to this ride, the Connie's mpg was suffering from the long winter. I only keep the battery charged and Stabil in a full tank. Anytime there's no danger of ice, the Connie gets out every couple of weeks. At my first fillup, I added 1/3 of a fresh can of Sea Foam. I was down to 38 mpg prior to the fill up. From this tank I was up to 42 mpg. On the way home I road 200 miles on 4.3 gallons of gas before one last fueling at Rantoul. The Connie is roaring.

This was the first visit that I have had with my son since late last Fall. He was surprised to see me. Since it was a weekday, the visiting room was nearly empty and we were able to spend 2 1/2 hours. Anthony was the healthiest I have see him for a long time. Prior to violating his probation, he was very overweight, coughing from smoking, and drinking excessively. Still, court and detention system in the US is absolutely absurd. The was a great NYTimes article showing that we have the highest per capita incarceration rate in the world, more than 4 times the rate of European countries. He will be out on June 25th.

It's hard to fully enjoy ones blessings like the motorcycle and the open road when your child's living experiences are so different.

Saturday, April 19, 2008

Another wet motorcycle class

Saturday was the first day of the range for my current class and it rained hard off and on all day. At least this week the temperature was in the upper 50's instead of the rain with 30's degrees last weekend. The class went pretty good. One student had real problems after she witnessed a student on the other range wipe out. If mentally shook her enough that she left the class inbetween exercises.

Friday, April 18, 2008

Dreaming of riding

Weather is breaking and all I can think about is getting away on the bike. My big ride was going to be to Billings, MT to attend a motorcycle conference in August. After the conference I was going to hang out in Yellowstone for afew days then work my way home. Once I started finalizing plans, I felt that I couldn't proceed without offering an option for my wife to come along to Yellowstone. I offered to drive our Santa Fe to Billings if she want to fly out at the end of the conference and then we could drive down to Yellowstone. If she said "I'm don't need to go", I could continuing planning in good conscience for a solo trip. The evening I brought it up, she purchases a plane ticket to Billings. We will stay at a lodge for a night and camp for three. While it may not be what I had initially planned, my wife and I will have a wonderful time together.

Last year the big ride for me was a solo ride out to Denver. I flew my wife out and we stayed with family in Parker, a burb of Denver. We rode to Colorado Springs, Manitou, Air Force Academy and other places. After she left, I took a 500 mile loop into the mountain for a day ride. The ride included the Great Sand Dunes National Park and great canyon riding.

No telling where I might get to ride to this year.
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Thursday, April 17, 2008

Now that the weather has finally warmed, I wonder if this person's motorcycle will start. Took this picture walking to worked in Hyde Park back in February.
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Monday, April 14, 2008

First motorcycle class of season complete

Finished teaching the first Basic Rider Course of the training season at South Suburburn College this past Saturday. The weather stunk for the unprepared for the weather students. I was fine and toasting in my gear. It rained all day with a high temp of 39. The final day of the class ran from 8-3.

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Smoking First Aid

I bit ironic don't you think. I took a manadority first aid class taught out of someone's home. You must have Red Cross First Aid and CPR certification to teach with Illinois' Motorcycle Rider Program. So periodically, the instructor lit up her cigarette during our training session. It's the first time in over a year I have been exposed to indoor second hand smoke. Now that there is a statewide ban on indoor smoking, I am exposed to secondhand smoke for a state certification in First Aid. Go figure.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Time for first aid

I have to get my Red Cross First Aid certification. It is a requirement for the UIUC Motorcycle Rider Program. I will attend the session at someone's home in Lockport this Saturday.

Thursday, January 3, 2008

Must be a happily married couple.
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