Saturday, December 20, 2014

December 21st Winter Solstice 2014

Happy Solstice, Season's Greetings and Merry Christmas

Ring Out Solstice Bells ~ Jethro Tull

"Please accept, with no obligation, implied or implicit, our best wishes for an environmentally conscious, socially responsible, low stress, non-addictive celebration of the winter solstice holiday, practiced within the most enjoyable traditions of the religious persuasion of your choice, with respect for the religious/secular persuasions and/or traditions of others, or their choice not to practice religious or secular traditions at all.
May you also experience a fiscally successful, personally fulfilling, and medically uncomplicated recognition of the onset of the generally accepted calendar year 2015, but  with due respect for the calendars of choice of other cultures whose contributions to society have helped make America great (not to imply that America is necessarily greater than any other country, or is indeed the only “America” in the Western Hemisphere), and without regard to the race, creed, color, age, physical ability, religious faith, or choice of computer platform of the wishee.
(By accepting this greeting, you are accepting these terms: This greeting is void where prohibited by law, and is revocable at the sole discretion of the wisher. This wish is warranted to perform as expected within the usual application of good tidings for a period of one year, or until the issuance of a subsequent holiday greeting, whichever comes first, and warranty is limited to replacement of this wish or issuance of a new wish at the sole discretion of the wisher.)" 
~ Author unknown

Sunday, December 14, 2014

Back in the Saddle Again

Last summer, I had the rare opportunity to help out new instructors and play error rider for their range training session. This also gave me another rare opportunity, a brief discussion with my mentor. We talked about our lackadaisical riding as of late and how he had nothing to prove to himself or to others.

Cobwebs Dan?
I thought about this for the rest of the summer. I've ridden year round in both temperature extremes, commuting back and forth to work for the past several years and although I am not nearly as proficient a rider as Dan, my skills have improved immensely since becoming an instructor. I will continue to hone my skills and challenge myself, but I recognized that I too have nothing to prove to myself or to others for that matter.

The reason I mention this is that I was using my commute to prove myself, a 22 mile stretch of four lane highway that I absolutely detest. A half hour ride every morning at dark o'clock tends to cause one's mind to wander, to the point that I began asking myself "why the frack am I out here?!?" It is too cold, too wet, too dark, too dangerous and no fun at all to say the least. I was just as miserable commuting home in the late afternoon fighting traffic. Then when weekend came around, I had no desire whatsoever to share the road again with the same cagers that were out to kill me all week.

Motorcycle riding had become a mundane chore and I nearly lost interest in everything motorcycle related. I receive several monthly motorcycle magazine subscriptions, but they just stacked up and went unread. I skipped a couple of local bike nights and purposely missed Saturday morning coffee meetings a time or two because I wasn't feeling up to it. I was burned out...

I needed to evaluate, prioritize and revitalize. Enter the mountain bike.

I work four 10 hour days which affords me Friday off, but Trobairitz works Friday mornings, so I use that time to hop on my bicycle and ride up the secluded forest trails where I can be alone and recharge. No traffic, no people, no cell phones. I have been having a great time climbing the trails and even more so, the ride back down. I've been following mountain bike group social pages, reading articles and perusing maps. I'm discovering several great trails and parks in the area while improving and gaining confidence in my mountain bike riding ability. Adding other hobbies and activities helps me maintain a balance, rather than focusing on just motorcycling.

I haven't been on the Tiger (or my blog, sorry) since our ride to the Tillamook Air Museum in October, and our bikes have been parked in the garage since. An unexpected half day head start on the Thanksgiving weekend and sunny, dry weather presented an opportunity to "service" the bikes. I've been meaning to rotate the tires, stir the oil and replenish some of the old gas in the tanks with fresh gas. Since I was out of practice and for self preservation, I took Trobairitz's Gladius out first, I'm a much more cautious and somewhat reserved rider with her bike. I rode to the top of Marys Peak, stopping for a couple photos along the way, then rode home to swap bikes to take my Tiger out on the same route.

Marys Peak in the background.
Hoohoo, the Gladius is a blast to ride, but I forgot how much fun it was to ride the Tiger! It wasn't long before I slipped back into the familiarity of my bike, quick on the throttle and leaning through the corners. I was quickly reminded how poorly my tires gripped wet roads, especially roads littered with leaves, fir needles and moss. I also remembered how well ceramic brake pads can lock up the rear wheel. Evidently it wasn't just the bikes that needed to be run, I had a few cobwebs that needed clearing out too. I eased up a bit and just tootled along, enjoying the sunshine and adding a gravel road to my route for a thorough refresher. What a great ride.

With both bikes safely parked in the garage and a seasonal IPA in hand, I contemplated my next ride, hoping to take the dirtbikes out Thanksgiving weekend. Unfortunately it rained all weekend so we didn't go, it's one thing to be cold, it's another being cold and wet. I discovered a direct correlation between degrees of temperature (ºF) and rider's age when it comes to motorcycling, kids don't care if it's cold out but I don't much care for riding in temperatures below 39ºF. In the meantime, I am happy to go for drives instead of rides, walks and hikes or bicycle rides instead of fighting the cold and wet weather on the motorcycles.

Rough Skinned Newt found on a recent hike (warning: don't handle, salamanders are toxic)

After somewhat of a hiatus from motorcycling, I'm enjoying a renewed interest in riding and I'm looking forward to teaching bright eyed and bushy tailed students next season. Classes start in January, first with an instructor and mentor update for me, then it's boots on the ground the following weekend.

Now if Mother Nature cooperates, maybe I can get a few more practice rides in, as well as a few more hikes, bicycle rides... and blog fodder.

~ Burnout is when long term exhaustion meets diminished interest.

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Destination in Time

Every couple of weeks or six, I'll pop down to Team Oregon headquarters on my day off to interrupt the girls in the office to chat, preventing them from getting any work done. I figure that if I'm not working on a Friday, neither should they.

During one impromptu visit, I was chatting with Rhonda at the reception desk and we got on the subject of covered bridges. I mentioned to her that Brandy and I were trying to get photos of our bikes in front of every covered bridge in Oregon. I told her how we would map out a route, pack a lunch and ride to the bridges to take photos. She thought this was a great idea and asked if I would write an article for the Team Oregon newsletter...

Destination in Time

Bradley and Brandy LawrieIn the motorcycling community we often hear an adaptation of Ralph Waldo Emerson’s quote “Life is a journey, not a destination” more so as “It’s not the destination, but the ride.” This holds true for many, and it is a great mantra when applied to riding solo. But what happens when our riding partner, whether a friend or spouse, poses the question “Where do you want to go”?
Where to go? But I thought it was about the ride? Ironically, I am guilty of asking that very question, putting the focus of the ride on the destination. For the answer, we check our calendar for any local events; many of us participate in motorcycle shows, charity rides or poker runs. Some of us live to ride and ride to eat, visiting quaint little cafes, delis or tiny eateries in neighboring counties, possibly hinting at an excuse to ride out to the coast.
But what if the journey was back in time, and the destination was 1928?
Oregon boasts the largest collection of covered bridges in the West. There are fifty covered bridges throughout the Willamette Valley, Southern Oregon and the Coast, including one in Portland and another in Central Oregon.
BridgeBridgeBrad and Brandy
To travel back in time I unfold a paper map, and with pencil in hand, stitch together a route consisting of two or three covered bridges while my wife packs a tasty picnic lunch. Then, with our time machines fueled, we set off.  We’re not in a hurry; we leave the GPS at home, our cell phones are shut off and stowed down deep in our saddlebags, as not to upset or perhaps change the delicate time-space continuum. 
Arriving at our first destination, we slowly ride across the bridge, listening to the large timbers creak, feeling the planks ever so slightly stress beneath our tires. We ride out the other end of the bridge to park under a shade tree and shut off our bikes. There is a hush as we remove our helmets, and without talking we acknowledge that we are indeed back in time. No one is around, there isn’t any traffic, our bike engines “tink, tink, tink” as they cool in the shade of the trees. The birds are chirping over the burble of the creek below. Listen carefully, a horse in the distance responds to our presence. The rustling of leaves beneath our feet transports both of us to our younger days as kids playing in the woods. 
Holding hands, we stroll back under the privacy of the sheltered trusses to steal a kiss, as is customary during our visits. You see, not only were covered bridges known for protecting travelers from storms, as well as used to hold dances, parties and town hall meetings, they also protected lovers from sight and became known as "kissing bridges.”
They were built to preserve the bridge decks and trusses from the rain, preventing slippery bridge decks and lasting much longer than standard open wooden bridges. They were even designed and painted to look like barns, so as not to scare horses as they pulled wagons across.
We tote our picnic lunch down to the water, then sit and enjoy quiet conversation. Before leaving to visit the next stop on our route, we take a photo of our bikes in front of the bridge. Eventually, we hope to get photos of our bikes in front of all fifty covered bridges in Oregon.
More detail for where to find these tranquil spots can be found on my blog, Troubadour on a Tiger. And if you see our bikes parked near a covered bridge, remember to mind the paradoxes of time travel.

We still have several bridges to get, now that the weather is starting to cool off, we shall.
Hope you enjoyed the article, I certainly enjoyed writing it.

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

VTO? Okay!

Last Friday I wanted to replace the chain and sprockets on the Tiger, but I was struggling to get the counter sprocket off so I called up my bestest buddy Polar Bear and asked for help. He brought his impact driver, but my little compressor just wasn't up for the task, this was going to take brute force. With a breaker bar, an extension pipe and some muscle it came loose! Never let fear and common sense stand in your way. We fiddled and finessed the adjusters until we felt it was straight and snugged everything up. Thanks Andy, she rides like a new bike!

He mentioned he wanted to swing by the bicycle shop, I'm always up for checking out bikes so we hopped on our Tigers and rode downtown. We ambled through one bicycle shop, then another, and another and then another. I've been looking for a new bike for a couple of years now, but just couldn't find the right one... until now. The second shop we strolled into, there she was, all alone in the back storage room. Since it was the end of the day and we were in full motorcycle gear, I told the bike guy I'd come back Saturday for a test ride.

Needless to say, Trobairitz and I both took our new bikes out for a tootle on Sunday.


It is a bit slow at work, so management implemented voluntary time off (VTO). Monday morning they went through the list of employees in each department, asking if anyone wanted to take the day off. It wasn't long before half the crew went home for the day, then that afternoon they went through the rest of the list asking us if we wanted Tuesday off.

I wouldn't have to get up early, the weather forecast predicted decent weather and I have several projects at home that I could get started on.

Or...  I could go for a ride.

Guess who still has several projects at home?

Bald Hill is just out our back door, and within a half hour of heading out this morning I was texting Brandy from the top. A text was my best option as I was too out of breath to talk over the phone.

Overlooking Philomath
It was a bit cool and overcast, but I was plenty warm and I certainly appreciated the cooler temperature.

Corvallis below
Switchback on the way up

Obligatory "backsisde of handlebar" shot

Obligatory flower shot with the handlebar backside.

I met and talked with a couple of other riders who recommended some other trails to check out. 

So off I went.... then my camera battery died.

 It was a great ride and sure beats loading trucks all day, I may have to call in sick Thursday ;)

- Troubadour on a Trek

Monday, May 26, 2014

OHV Mud and a BMW

Late last week, Polar Bear invited me to go play in the mud up at Huckleberry Flats OHV area on Saturday with him and his cub. I wrote about our previous trip, to the lookout and how much I thoroughly enjoyed it, so I couldn't turn down an opportunity to go again.

Saturday morning I woke to a text message stating he was on his way to pick me up, so I jumped out of bed and downed a couple of cups of coffee and a slice of toast. I rushed to get my gear together, wheeled the little XT out of the garage and was brushing my teeth when he pulled up.

We loaded up the XT onto his trailer and with another cup of coffee in hand we were off for a day of riding. The sky was overcast and the temperature a bit cool at 59ºF, but we were headed to higher elevations and hoped to leave the worst of the weather in the valley. We arrived about 10 am, the sun was shining and the temperature was just above 60ºF... perfect! We unloaded the bikes, geared up and Andy fine tuned the cub's little CR60.

I made a couple laps around the warm up loop just to get back into dirt bike mode... loosen up my shoulders, relax my grip on the bars, weight the pegs, lean the bike. That's better! Let's go!

I led the two bears onto the first trail out of the staging area, keeping it on the green, easy trails as not to hurt ourselves early in the day. Little bear cub trotted along as cubs do, slipping and falling on occasion but picked himself up and would poke along some more. I enjoy having cub with us, he keeps us "adults" from making stupid decisions. Riding behind cub can be slow going and difficult to pass as he tends to wander aimlessly back and forth along the trail, but I learned quickly that he avoids puddles so when an opportunity presented itself in the form of a long, shallow puddle I took it. Poor kid, I wish I had a camera, I looked over my shoulder to see the wall of water cascading down, he took it broadside. I laughed out loud in my helmet and admit I felt a bit of remorse, but that soon subsided when we came upon the next puddle and dad did the same thing... to his own son! I knew if Andy was capable of soaking his own kid, I was fair game and I distanced myself from him and any other puddles the rest of the day. We stopped up ahead for a bit and cub laughed while reciting his story of his recent initiation shower, so all was good.

We rode on until we came to a fork in the road, not ready for lunch yet, Polar Bear led the way down the road less travelled. Maps? We don't need no stinking maps! Needless to say, it wasn't long before we went from novice green trails to a bit more difficult blue trails. This should be interesting.

The trails descended down to a creek and bridge, but before getting to the bottom we had to pull cub out of the weeds first. This ended up being a good thing because it gave us a chance to scope out the next portion of the trail on foot and survey the best line to ride down.

I'm not so sure cub would've had made it down safely on his own, so Dad walked his bike down for him then hiked back up to ride his trials bike down. What a beautiful day for a hike in the woods!

This is much steeper than it looks on camera.

Polar Bear made it down unscathed as did I, now all we had to do was climb back up the other side. I went first and made it up without too much trouble. I stopped at the top and started walking back down toward the sound of kick starting two strokes, catching a glimpse of a small front wheel and a small bike looping out. What a beautiful day for a hike in the woods!

Finally, with all three of us at the top, we discussed taking the well groomed gravel road back to the truck for lunch. For some reason cub hadn't had enough punishment yet and tootled off, leading us down a rabbit hole. Alrighty then, the trail again descended down to a creek, this time sans bridge. I squeezed past another one of the bears' impromptu stops, made the small creek crossing and into an immediate "oooh shit", rutted climb up the other side. I caught the rear tire in a rut and up against a tree root, which caused me to stall the bike and lean into the bank. I thumbed the magic starter button, backed out of the rut and proceeded up the hill. I knew that this was going to be much too much for cub but... what a beautiful day for a hike in the woods!

Together again at the top, we took a break and in disbelief watched a half dozen quads come up the trail we just did! These weren't wimpy sport quads however, these were big workhorse rigs with winches on the front that you normally see on farms. I wonder if there is room in the garage....
We were getting hungry, cub was done for the day, so geared up and followed the road back to the staging area for lunch.

Andy and I spent the rest of the afternoon plugging about the rocks near the staging area on his trials bike, and making laps around the warm up loop.

- - -
Cue the BMW!
- - -

The warm up loop was muddy, much more than it had been that morning. After a couple of laps we sat at the exit on our bikes, about ready to call it a day ourselves when this young man showed up on a pristine BMW F650GS, looking like he just stepped out of a BMW brochure and Rev'It gear photo shoot. I swear his uniform still had the tags attached, it was that clean.

He dismounted his Heindenmeow shod steed, made eye contact with us, then sauntered over to strike up a conversation.

One must remember that although Polar Bears look all cute, cuddly, and approachable; they are wild animals and as such can be unpredictable.

Our new friend told us that he was camping just South of Oakridge and that he just finished riding the Aufderheide highway. He followed the signs to the Huckleberry Flats OHV, then sealed his fate by mentioning to us that he had an ATV permit on his bike.

I swear polar bears can smell naivete, because without missing a beat and in a straight out, bold face lie, Andy told our new friend that the warm up loop was an easy trail and he should try it.

I looked at Andy in disbelief, waiting for him to let this poor kid off the hook.

We sat there, on our bikes, covered with mud and in complete, utter amazement that Cisco Kid couldn't put two and two together. I finally mentioned that "there might be some mud in the corners", but that didn't deter him as he walked toward his bike.

I took one last look at Andy as he was scrambling to put his helmet on to follow this poor sap down his own rabbit hole.

He did quite well, standing on the pegs, navigating his 500 pound machine around the small puddles toward the shade of the trees. I came up behind him on a particular tight left hand turn as he slowly and very gently set his brand new SW-Motech crashbars into the muddy bank side. Motioning me to go around him, I declined, assuring him that I was fine and we were there to help if need be. He hefted his bike back up and proceeded over much higher whoops and through deeper water filled ruts before exiting out back to the staging area.

"That was a bit more than I had bargained for"

"Yes, but now your bike looks like a real adventure bike"

Not wanting to stick around and chat, he quickly shook my hand, mounted his bike and rode off toward camp.... or the nearest laundromat.

"Just think of the story we just created for him" Andy said.

I laughed, "You're an asshole!"

- - -

Sunday, May 18, 2014

EZ Oil Drain Valve

I was sitting in the library the other day reading one of the many motorcycle magazines I subscribe, Sport Rider in particular, and came across an article for a simple ball valve to replace your oil pan drain plug called the EZ Oil Drain Valve ($23.95).

Remember my incident a while back of the cracked oil pan? I had to remove the pan, pressure wash and degrease it so it could be welded to repair a couple of hairline cracks that were caused by an overzealous mechanic who took the term "crush washer" from pronoun to verb.

This repair to my oil pan creates an uneasiness whenever I change my oil, for fear of stressing the welds by tightening the drain plug to the recommended torque.

Upon reading the review, my fear shifted to dreams of a one time install of the EZ Oil Drain Valve and each subsequent oil change thereafter... cake.

I jumped online, found a free shipping discount code, placed my order and cleared my schedule for the following Friday to change my oil. 

The valve arrived from California within two days, then it was just a  quick jaunt on the Tiger to Autozone for some oil and a filter. Rotella T6 synthetic was on sale so I bought 2 gallons, 2 filters hoping they would fit in my pannier.

With the oil and filter home, my Tiger warmed, I was ready to get this done. Carefully removing the drain plug and old filter was easy peasy, the installation of the new valve was somewhat unnerving; were the threads tapered and what's with this o-ring? 

I threaded the valve into position by hand, then reached for my Saskatchewan socket set and ever so gently turned the valve until the o-ring seated against the flange of the pan. So far so good. I replaced the filter and buttoned everything up. Now to add the oil, add a little and check for leaks. Add a bit more, no weeps. A little bit more, check again.... then... meh, fill 'er up.

Looks good, but does hang down too low? Not any lower than the exhaust or filter, besides, the center stand hangs lower. Sure, the sidestand bracket will protect it, right? How often do I ride the Rubicon Trail anyway?

But that handle, ohhhh pretty, I'm tempted to touch it. Then visions of my friends being led into temptation flooded my mind; four litres of motor oil pooled under my bike and running down the storm drain at the next bike night are images I cannot get out of my head. So my next stop is the hardware store, the manufacturer recommends using a 5/8" hose clip to secure the valve from "accidental" operation.

That, and if I don't tell them they won't know, right?!?