Monday, June 15, 2009

Another National Park before Returning Home

After visiting the really interesting Wright Brothers visitor centers, part of the Dayton Aviation Heritage, we spent last night in Lexington KY. Today we'll start heading southwest toward Memphis to spend the evening with Mike's mom and get a good home-cooked meal.


We left Lexington and hopped onto the Bluegrass Parkway heading toward Elizabethtown. Getting to the Parkway, we passed some gorgeous horse farms and estates and a really excellent trompe d'oeil painting on a building on the airport grounds. It was particularly realistic with life-size horse statues.

We would take a detour off the Parkway and onto a really fine KY scenic byway - US-31E, also known as the Lincoln HeritageTrail - to Hodgenville to visit Lincoln's birthplace and national park. This road took us past some old red brick factory-type buildings and as we rode by I looked toward the building on the right, where some large bay doors were opened and I could see coopers at work. This is the heart of Bourbon country, so these just had to be barrels for that purpose. That was a really neat little find!

This scenic road took us into the old downtown Hodgenville, with a "roundabout" encircling the town square and a large seated statue of Abraham Lincoln, a replica of the Lincoln Memorial in Washington D.C.

At the Lincoln birthplace national park, we took a walk up to the memorial, which encloses a log cabin of the same type and vintage as the one Abraham Lincoln was born in. We chatted with the young park ranger, a U. Kentucky student working there on a summer internship. The log beams were found near the original site, although they have been proven to not be the Lincoln logs. The man who found the logs assembled the cabin and then took it on tour around the country before it found it's home at this site at the turn of the 20th century. President Roosevelt laid the corner stone for the memorial, and President Taft presided over the opening ceremonies two years later.

This is yet another beautiful national park with knowledgeable rangers and beautifully maintained grounds. We spent a few more minutes looking at the area around the base of the memorial - the sink hole named Sinking Spring and the site of the boundary oak.


After lunch at the McDonalds in town we got back onto the West Kentucky Parkway and continued toward Memphis where we spent the night at Mike's mom's house. She had a nice spaghetti dinner waiting for us when we got there, which was most welcome after fighting heavy rains much of the afternoon. We definitely were not interested in going back out to a restaurant for dinner!


The next morning we'll get on the road and ride the 600 miles home to Houston.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

National Park stamping after Founders Feast

Sunday morning...but not too early....Mike and I checked out, packed our bikes and headed north toward Ohio to collect some national park stamps.

First on my list of stops was Howard Taft home in Cincinnati, so I led the way off the interstate and followed GPS Jill's directions onto local streets. I think she was lost. She sent me up a hill, then had me turn left, go one block, then turn right and continue to the top of the hill. At the stop sign, the directions stopped coming and I had no idea where I was. I had scouted this using Google maps (satellite view) but that was little help as I sat here in the midst of an old residential area of the city. There seemed no hope of finding it since there weren't any brown signs, either.


Back onto the interstate, we continued on to Dayton where we had better luck finding what we were after.

Huffman Prairie Field is the site of the Wright brothers' refinements to their glider that first saw "air" at Kitty Hawk, or today, Kill Devil Hill. This site is on what is now Wright-Patterson Air Force Base where flight research continues today.

We talked to the park ranger here, a retired Air Force officer, and he shared a wealth of information about the field, about the history of Wright field, and how the name Patterson came to be added to the name of this base. He sent us on our way, but not before making book recommendations and Mike and I each bought books to bring home with us. The ranger sent us on surface streets over to the other visitor center, which took us past the enormous Air Force museum. Definitely worth a return trip some day.

We skipped the movie at Huffman, choosing to see the same movie at the visitor center at the Bicycle Shop site on 3rd and Williams Streets. So much to see and so little time to see it all!! But it was really well done, as was the movie about the Wright Brothers' development of motorized flight.
The visitor center at the Wright-Dunbar Interpretive Center is nearly new, and is attached to the old Hoover block of historic buildings and the interior is restored to resemble a turn-of-the-century corner grocer's.
The old original cycle shop sits right behind the visitor center, on Williams Street, looking just as it did when Wilbur and Orville worked in the shop, designing and selling bicycles, making a successful business on the wave of popularity of these relatively new modes of transportation.

After spending a little time walking through the exhibits and watching the excellent movie, we got ready to depart and get on the road south toward Kentucky.

As we were leaving Dayton, thick black clouds were beginning to form all around us and we flirted with rain until we reached Cincinnati, where it finally caught up with us. And how!! Visibility was nearly zero and the water was rapidly accumulating on the roadway. Traffic slowed to a crawl as we crossed the bridge and up the bluffs that overlook the city from the south.

Our destination for the night would be Lexington KY where I had a "bead" on a Best Western with a Cracker Barrel right across the street. It proved to be an excellent hotel, with large new rooms, comfortable beds and...can't beat Cracker Barrel for dinner!
Tomorrow, we'll head for Memphis and spend the evening with Mike's mom before getting back on the road the next day and riding straight home to Houston.

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Founders Feast- Day 2

After a really great evening watching the hilarious murder mystery put on by Random Acts, I really wanted to just sleep in, but we needed to have part 2 of the board meeting, since we didn't get much covered yesterday afternoon...and three of our members were missing.


So it's 6:00 AM and my alarm is chiming, waking me up way too early! We began our meeting at 7:00 AM, took a break at 8:00 AM so that the photo contest participants could get signed out and sent on their way. This gave me a chance to eat breakfast before we re-convened for another hour or so.


Mike and I hung around the lodge all day, visiting and chatting with other MTF members and just generally being lazy. It was nice to just do....nothing! But that was soon changed when I was recruited to help with the photo contest scoring less than an hour before Founders Feast was to begin. Several of us were sequestered downstairs in the game room, some serving as judges and working their way through the huge number of photos, Kevin and I tallying the judges' scores.

Finished, we all dashed upstairs to join the group already seated and waiting for the buffet to open. The room was a sea of yellow event shirts. I love how the shirts came out!!

Tables on either side of the podium were groaning with door prize booty and folks were sorting through all of the donated items, making mental lists of what they might choose if their door prize number is called. I donated an LDComfort long-sleeve shirt to the door prize table. I bought it using a gift certificate, but they're unisex sizing and the size Small was much too big and too long, plus I didn't care for the thickness of the fabric. Too thick, to me.

There are some really talented photographers in the MTF and the photo contest really proved that. Wow! Some really great photos in the mix of submissions.

We ate...we board members each said a few words to the assembly, and we gave away nearly every d**n item on those tables.


Tomorrow we'll pack up and depart Spring Mill Lodge and head north into Ohio for some national park stamping.

Friday, June 12, 2009

Founders Feast!

After riding 1,000+ miles yesterday, I was in no mood to get back on the bike this morning so I waved goodbye to the flower-sniffin' riders - including Mike - and walked down to the garage to lube the chain on my FZ before heading back into the lodge to visit with those who were going to just "hang" for the day.

I hooked up with Chris, whose husband was out off-road riding, and she and I walked down to the Pioneer Village and had a light lunch at the concession stand. It took us longer than I thought it would. the Park Ranger said it was only a quarter mile by the trail in the woods, but combine the ruggedness of this trail and the fact that it was definitely more than 1/4 mile, and we didn't get to the Village until after 1:00 PM.

This is such a gorgeous state park! The Pioneer Village area had a beautiful stream passing through it and families were picnicking at the many tables set under huge shade trees. Children were playing, splashing in the water, and just having a great family weekend. At one end of the stream the water pools into a small lake, and the banks were filled with Canada Geese. We don't get these geese in far south Texas, so they are rather exotic to us, although I understand they're a nuisance to those folks who live in the north. Goose poop on patios, goose families tying up traffic as they waddle across major thoroughfares. But I think they're really cool-looking!

One of the other MTF board members would be arriving any time, bringing the event shirts with him, so reluctantly I walked back to the lodge to get registration set up. The lobby was always full with an ever-changing mix of MTF members and I enjoyed sitting in with them in between getting things ready for this evening.

Riders were arriving throughout the afternoon, as well, and folks began to filter into the registration area. We had a murder mystery planned for this evening, put on by an acting group called Random Acts. The troup promised lots of audience participation and plenty of fun and laughs. And they really delivered! What fun! The theme was modeling and runways, and improbable one for this group but it turned out to be hilarious! Audience members were singled out to be designers, two others were chosen by the actors to be judges, and the three designers were turned loose on the audience to select three "models" each. What followed was beyond funny! We had some of our biggest members dressed in skirts, another outfitted with sequined gloves and a satin mask; some wore angel wings, and all wore some sort of wild and crazy hat. All of the participants were really good sports and everyone was laughing and enjoying it.

The evening ended with several us waiting outside for our PRFH riders to return after riding the last of 5 SS1000's in a row.

A good day of relaxing, getting to know some MTF members a little better and a fun evening socializing.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Another SS1000 Completed

The alarm went off at 3:00 AM this morning. Ugh! The night before I got the bike packed and put her out in the driveway for a fast getaway. I then took a shower and hit the sack around 9:30 PM. So this morning, all I need to do (once I wake up) is splash some water on my face, brush my teeth, and get my riding gear on, before heading over to the Buc-ee's near my house for a starting receipt to begin the SS1000 to Mitchell IN and the MTF Founder's Feast.

Let's see...I've documented 3 previous SS1000's and one SS2000 (2,000 miles in 48 hours or less). So, really, I've done 5 previous SS1000's, two of them back-to-back. I've done at least 3 others that I've not documented. Every time I go to an event in FL (IBA party, FLC2C, Wizard's Wild Weekend) I end up riding at least 1,000 miles non-stop to get home afterward. Just never bothered to get the starting witness form filled out.

So here I am, getting gas at 3:15 AM and anticipating a very long day in the saddle. It was pitch dark as I headed for the 288 freeway near my house and pointed the bike north-northeast toward Texarkana. It would stay dark until I neared Nacogdoches and I was grateful for the cloud cover that kept the temps cooler than usual.

The gas stops were going well; all of the receipts through Texas and Arkansas were accurate and complete and I was thankful for that. US 59 is not conducive to making good time, thanks to all of the small towns with their 35 mph speed limits and traffic lights. But I was pleased with my time so far, when I reached my gas stop in Texarkana, which documented that "corner" on my route. 300 miles covered by 9:00 AM, and I had been on the road for just a little over 5 1/2 hours. I always put a little "cheat sheet" in my tank bag map pocket, giving me the ETAs for each of my anticipated gas stops. This lets me know how I'm doing time-wise and helps me keep track of my time at the gas stops.

Nearly 1/3 of the way through the SS1000! Now I must face the long and boring stretch up I-30 to West Memphis. I would need one gas stop before reaching I-55. At the turn north onto I-55 I stopped for gas again to mark the "corner" of my route. This is necessary to prove the route...that is, to prove that I did not short-circuit the route by cutting diagonally.

I would like to say that I saw interesting sights along the way or that I had interesting conversations with random people at the gas stops, but unfortunately I can't!

At the split for I-57 I stopped for gas at a favorite gas station, Boomland, in Charleston MO. This was the first stop, however, that didn't have a complete gas receipt. I tried getting a receipt from the cashier, but it was no better. Fortunately, it clearly says "Boomland" on it, and there are only three of these in the country, so I'm not too worried about the quality of this receipt.

Pressing on, I made it as far as West Frankfort before I learned first-hand what the electric signs that said "30 minute delay" really meant. There were several of these signs set up every few miles along I-57. As I passed each one, I wondered just how accurate that delay time was. I was about to find out. The last sign suggested an alternate route on highway 37 but not knowing where that was and where it would take me, I didn't want to find out. I had to get a crucial turn receipt at the intersection of I-57 and I-64 and couldn't afford the possibility that the alternate route would truncate the corner and therefore eliminate some miles. I stuck with it on I-57, then, and just about West Frankfort the traffic came to a stop. We crept along in the left lane as cars raced past us in the right lane, despite the warning signs that the lane was closed ahead. We'd slowly move about 100 yards, then come to a stop for about 5 minutes, long enough for me to put the bike in neutral and, many times, to shut the bike off and put the side stand down. This continued for close to an hour, as we covered a total of about 10 miles. I punched the SPOT OK button two or three times while caught in this traffic. I wanted to document the delay just in case there was a question on my SS1000 paperwork submission.

Finally we got past the worst of it: the delays were partly due to the loss of the right lane, but mostly because they were moving dump trucks in and out of the construction area as they delivered loads of asphalt. I'm now an hour behind; I'd been keeping pretty much on schedule up to this point and the GPS had been telling me my arrival time would be about 8:45 PM (EDT). It was now estimating it at 9:40 PM. I really didn't want to arrive at Spring Mill State Park after dark, but it would be unavoidable now.

The "corner" receipt at Love's in Ina IL didn't include the address and town info but an ATM receipt did. Now I'm turning east on I-64 for the long stretch across southern IL and Indiana. Much of this interstate was also down to one lane, but traffic was at least moving at around 45-50 mph and I watched the ETA on my GPS slowly creep upward toward 10:00 PM.

My last "corner" receipt would be in Georgetown, just west of Louisville. It was just starting to get dark and rain was starting to spit on me a bit. All through Indiana fog was beginning to form on the hillsides and the cooler temperature was fogging up my faceshield with condensation. I still had over 50 miles remaining, all of which would be on secondary roads. I dreaded doing this in the dark, but now I could add rain and fog to that mix. I followed a car all the way to Paoli and I was very thankful for that. I could follow his taillights and get a sense of how the road was twisting and turning over the hills.

Paoli was a really neat town and I went around the square twice before taking the turn onto highway 37 north toward Mitchell. Now I was all alone on this road with no beacon ahead of me to follow in the rainy dark. My faceshield was condensing badly on the outside despite the now-heavy rain, and swipes with my left hand every two or three seconds were not keeping up with it. The face shield eventually became hopelessly smeary and I finally flipped it up, relying on my glasses to provide eye protection. The rain was stinging my face and I'd get the occasional hit from a bug that truly hurt. I watched the distance count down slowly on my GPS, which was happening at an agonizingly slow pace since I was running a few mph below the posted speed limit.

Finally! A glow on the horizon told me I was approaching Mitchell! I went through the intersection for US-60, where I'd be turning afterward to get to the lodge. Then the McDonald's on the right, then the gas station! I pulled in, topped off the tank, and got a perfect receipt! SS1000 complete. My FZ6's first IBA LD ride. Well, not counting the national parks she's chased after with me these last couple of years.

Miles: 1045
Time: 17 hrs 48 minutes

Now the rain didn't bother me so much. I knew I only had a couple of miles ahead of me to get to the Lodge. I turned back onto 37 and rode the short distance to US 60. Just two miles to go! A car was riding my tail, so I pulled over and waved him by. I was going slowly, not wanting to miss the turn into the park, and in the rainy darkness his headlights were blinding me.

The entrance was difficult to see in the pitch blackness as I turned left into the park. Ahead was an entrance station where I paid my $7.00 and beyond that was plunged back into darkness again. I proceeded slowly, looking for the sign that would indicate my turn toward the Lodge.

With a left turn, and down a hill, I could finally see the lodge and, pulling up in front, could see Mike a couple of others sitting on the porch. When I stopped, they all stood up and headed for me - Mike, Kevin, Don. Nice welcome committee! They made quick work of unloading my bike and Mike even parked it for me!

So...not so bad. A SS1000 on the FZ6. The Corbin seat is the only flaw on this otherwise very capable bike. I had no other complaints than that, and some day I may just go ahead and ship that stock seat off to Bill Mayer for a custom job.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Is the FZ Up To The Task??

So...I got to thinking, after my little lunch ride last Saturday, that my FZ sure is a joy to ride. I find her a little more comfortable than the BMW (except for the seat) and, even though she's a little taller than the BMW, I find she's just so much easier for me to handle. She weighs almost exactly the same so why is that? Maybe it's the fact that there's less rake, or it's because of her sleek, narrow profile, or her lighter front end, or that she doesn't have those horizontal jugs hanging out either side. I don't know for may be a combination of all of those things.

But it hit me as I pulled her into the garage: I'm going to ride the FZ to Founders Feast! This means doing an IBA Saddle-Sore 1000 on her, and not on the BMW as originally planned. A Saddle-Sore is riding 1000 miles in less than 24 hours. In my case it usually means doing it in about 15-17 hours, depending on the route. It also means re-thinking the plan and doing some additional preparations.

I'd been watching the rear tire on the FZ, checking the tread more frequently as the mileage on it climbed to 15,000 miles. The top of Lincoln's head still wasn't visible (penny test) but it was getting very close. So that was on the list of things to do this week: get a new rear tire. Let's see. What else. Move the GPS cradle over to the FZ, clean and lube the chain, check the front tire pressure, put the Givi topcase on, clear out some accumulated stuff from the Givi sidecases, clean the bugs off the windscreen. And I bought some additional tools and other items to add to the onboard toolkit, something I'd been meaning to do anyway.

So Monday I took the FZ over to Discount Motorcycle Tire for a new Michelin Pilot Road. Mike drove over to meet me and we went to Jason's Deli for lunch. An hour later I was fed and the bike was ready and I hopped on and headed for home. But immediately I could feel that the chain was adjusted too tight. Now, I've had this happen before...last summer when I had routine service done. I can tell immediately because I can feel the tension through the bike's frame and handlebars particularly when going slow to moderate speeds. And when I slow down approaching a stop, I can feel as the tight spot on the chain passes around the sprocket: the bike will momentarily not roll as freely. One more thing now added to the list of things to do in the next two days to get ready.

Today is my office day and, fortunately, my favorite Yamaha dealer - the one I've purchased 5 bikes from - is nearby. I put a few hours in at the office then took the FZ over to the dealer's where they got it right in, adjusted the chain at no charge (As the Service Writer said, I'm such a good customer), and sent me on my way.

Home and fed now, bike is packed and staged in the driveway with her nose pointing to the street. My SS1000 witness has just come over to sign my starting witness form and verify the odometer reading. Plants are watered, food and water set out for the cat, mail stopped. So I guess I'm ready!

3:00 AM tomorrow morning and I'm on the road!

Saturday, June 6, 2009

Chance Encounters...

Last week I took my BMW to the local dealer's because I noticed that the gas vapor line from the gas tank to the charcoal canister was disconnected. Not a big deal, but I noticed the smell of gas whenever I had a full tank and there is some slight gas staining down the right side of the engine block. So, anyway, as I was getting ready to leave, a gal came out the dealership door and made a beeline straight for me. I noticed her pull in earlier on a purple Road King...turns out she had just started working at the dealership in the business office.

She and I chatted for a bit, and we exchanged calling cards. She leads an annual all-women ride down to Bay City for lunch and wanted to know if I'd like to join them. "Sure!" I said. It would be a nice way to spend Saturday, and I so rarely go for short local rides. I did ride out to Sealy on Memorial Day to meet someone for lunch, but that was mostly on unremarkable roads to have a first and last meet-up with a mostly unremarkable blind date.

So this morning I backed the FZ out of the garage and headed for Rosharon where I'd be meeting up with this group for a lunch ride to K-2 Steakhouse in Bay City. Departure time was to be 9:30 AM; I arrived at 9:00 AM, thinking I'd be the first one there, but there were already 3 or 4 riders there, and another good-sized group pulled in just moments behind me. The mix of bikes were all Harleys and big Yamaha cruisers and then, of course, there was my little FZ. This little darlin' is dwarfed by those long-wheelbase cruisers, but I've discovered that to riders of those low-slung machines, my FZ looks big (i.e. very tall) and one of the ladies even commented on how big my FZ is.

What a great group of ladies! We were all about the same age, nearly all of us with grown children and grandchildren. The mix of riders' backgrounds would not be known until we had a chance to share stories over lunch, but the one overriding thing we all had in common was the enjoyment of riding.

We would be heading west on FM-1462, a very pretty rural road that I always enjoy on my way to Brazos Bend State Park and to FM-762, a road with some really fine high-speed sweepers. But today our route would turn off of 1462 onto Cow Creek Road. This road has a nice little series of 90-degree curves that repeat themselves a few times over a few miles. It then straightens out a bit and passes between Eagle Nest Lake and Manor Lake before it comes into Hwy 35.

It was agreed that we'd stop briefly in West Columbia for a bathroom break...well, what should have been a brief stop. The ladies' room was closed for cleaning and when we tried to sweet-talk her into letting us in, the worker would have none of it. So we queued up to use the men's room, watching and warning when men approached the facility. With 10 ladies and only one stall, interrupted occasionally by men who wanted to use the bathroom (it was, afterall, their mensroom) things progressed a little slowly, but we did manage to get back on the road eventually.

From West Columbia we turned onto 1301, a really pretty FM road through fields of cattle and horses. The summer wildflowers were in bloom - coreopsis mostly - and the fields were knee-high with prairie grass. I love this road; it passes through Danciger with it's tiny little U.S. post office tucked under the live oak trees. As we passed through Pledger several small children stopped playing long enough to give us big waves as we rode by. We turned south onto FM-1736 at Pledger, but if we had continued on FM-1301, we would have continued to Boling. I've photographed some of the nearly pristine historic buildings - including the school - in this town.

A few miles down FM-1736, we turned right onto Ashwood Road (FM-3156) a surprisingly pleasant little road that took us past an outstanding old mansion - now a B&B. This was a very nice road, recently re-paved, and it took us to US-60 just a few miles north of our ultimate destination: K-2 Steakhouse.

They were ready for us! Our ride leader had called ahead and requested the "buffalo head" room, where the staff had our tables set up and ready. As we filed into the room, there it was: the big buffalo head mounted directly over our table. A little clowning around was in order, before we settled down with menus and greetings, with introductions and a bit more about ourselves. The staff brought in orange balloons to tie to the chairs, and coozies to hand out to each rider. Such a nice touch!

Soon it was time to settle our checks and get back on the road. But not before a group shot under the buffalo head (hope I get a copy of that photo!). Everyone headed for the nearby Shell gas station to fill up, before we headed back the same way we came. The plan was to stop one more time in West Columbia, and as we neared that town, I moved over to the left lane and slowed down so that I could wave goodbye to each of the riders as they passed me on my right.
What a nice group of ladies! I hope I have a chance to ride with them again!