Monday, December 21, 2009

100,000 Miles on BMW Motorcycles

When I first started riding a motorcycle, I had no vision of the future and where it would take me. I could only look far enough ahead to pass the MSF course, get that "M" endorsement, and screw up the courage to go shopping for my first bike. That was August 2002.

When I finally got out to the various dealers to shop for a new bike a month after getting my endorsement, I only looked at small cruiser-style bikes. Being short, I felt it was the only option available to me. And even with low, low seat heights - 24, 25, 26 inches - I was intimidated by every single bike I sat on. But I needed to just do it before I chickened out forever. And so I bought a small Yamaha cruiser.

The shortcomings of a cruiser motorcycle became obvious to me only once I outgrew the large group day rides and yearned to go beyond the 50-mile, all-day rides to a greasy spoon lunch spot 30 miles outside of Houston. This is when I realized that a 130-mile gas range was hugely inconvenient. And it's when I came to realize that the cruiser "feet forward" riding position was uncomfortable and impractical for more than 100 mile trips.

When I approached my 2-year anniversary of riding, a friend started pushing me toward a motorcycle more suited for the kind of rider I was evolving into. He convinced me I was ready for a BMW. Until this point, I never even considered what options were out there besides Harleys and Harley-clones. I had no knowledge of "standard" and "sport-touring" mounts. I only knew about cruisers and crotch rockets.

But he was right. I was ready in theory, just not ready in practice, not ready to tackle a completely different style of bike. However, a year later, a trip to Laconia - four 500-mile days strung together back to back on interstates in pouring rain - was the turning point. I'd put 31,000 miles on this Yamaha V-Star 1100 in 2 years. That sounded like an outrageous amount of miles to me and indeed it sounded like a lot of miles to prospective buyers as well.

A new BMW R1150R that summer of 2005 changed my riding forever. A short learning curve and a change in my habits and riding style, and I adapted to the radically different riding position and the much higher seating position. And then, 6 months later, I discovered and got active in a "virtual" riding group called Motorcycle Tourers Forum (MTF).

In March 2006 I did a SS1000 to become a member of the Iron Butt Association (IBA) and thus began my long-distance riding career. I put nearly 90,000 miles on this first BMW in just 3 years, crisscrossing the continent to attend MTF events, participate in IBA events, and visit every National Park within easy reach of an interstate highway.

But suddenly I had a motorcycle with almost 90,000 miles on it. 5 sets of tires; 15 oil changes and valve checks; 3 alternator well-traveled companion to adventure. And just 10,000 or so miles away from earning the BMW Motorrad USA 100,000 mileage award.

While I was accumulating these miles, I wasn't conscious of doing so; it wasn't about the miles at all. The BMW was an excellent conveyance to parts of the country I'd always wanted to visit and see: Mt. Rushmore, Acadia National Park, the great plains of the midwest, Rocky Mountains, mid-Atlantic seashore. It was about escape. And about satisfying my wanderlust and need to travel.

I found a willing buyer of this very high mileage BMW in July 2008 and ordered myself a new 2009 R1200R BMW. This new mount arrived the end of October and I took my first trip on it the first weekend of December - to Cedar Key FL. By May, 2009 I had accrued 100,000 miles combined on BMW's: My first one, the R1150R, and my second and current BMW, the R1200R.

Throughout this BMW "era" a second motorcycle has always shared garage space with her. First a Harley 883C Sportster, then a Yamaha FZ6. They accumulated their share of miles and - including those first Yamaha cruisers - another 80,000 miles' worth of rubber have been burned in the interest of riding enjoyment.

The BMW Motorrad USA 100,000 mile award was presented to me on December 19, 2009 at the Gulf Coast BMW dealership.

Back in August 2002 did I imagine I would have embraced this sport the way I did? I didn't imagine anything, truth be told, except learning to ride and getting past that scared, neophyte stage.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Holiday Things

What was I thinking???

A trip to the grocery store late this morning resulted in more than I ever imagined coming home in the trunk of my car....much more. But let me start at the beginning.

Feeling somewhat "bah humbug," I decided to get outside and put the lights up on the front bushes. It's been so dadgum cold and wet this past week, I've hated the prospect of getting out there in it. So procrastination took over ever since I returned from my trip to Hawaii over Thanksgiving.

All of the outdoor lights are stored in the garage in a cardboard box on one of the shelves. It's really quite painless to get out there and do this task...when the weather is nice. I have maybe 6 or 7 strands of outdoor lights and every year I end up replacing half of them. This year would be no different. The "plug-in" test showed three of the strands wouldn't light up; one or more circuits were dead. I've learned -finally! - after all these years of trying to find the bum bulb, that it's easier to just buy a new string. Heck! They're only $3.00 or $4.00 each at a discount store (including Walgreen's) so it's just not worth the hassle. I wrapped the front foundation plantings with what strings of lights still worked and then went inside to clean up and get ready to head to the grocery store. I added "lights" to the shopping list, since the front row of hollies were now 3/4 lit and 1/4 unlit, the working strings of lights being not quite enough to make it across the front of the house.

So here's where the trouble began. I had the usual list of groceries, needing to re-stock after being away for more than two weeks, and having depleted the fridge and pantry contents sufficiently prior to departing on that trip, not to mention that it took me a full week upon returning to finally get to the store. The list had the usual suspect items on it: fresh fruit, salad makings, bread, sandwich meat, Cheerios. But on the way to the sandwich meat and bread section of the store, after leaving the produce department, I cruised the aisles in the meat department. Boy, that turkey sure tasted good at my son's house at Thanksgiving. And I don't get turkey very often. And did I mention how good that turkey tasted? Magically, a 14-lb turkey just jumped into my shopping cart. Just like that.

Well, since there's now a turkey in my cart, I might as well back-track to the produce department for some fresh cranberries. I have a recipe for cranberry salad - it was my mom's recipe - and a turkey dinner just isn't the same without that salad. So this meant a couple of additional items just got added to my shopping list in order to complete the recipe.

Recovering lost ground, I continued on over to the cracker/cookie/cereal aisle and resumed my shopping. But wait! While I had pumpkin pie at my son's house, no holiday ever passed me by without my making my signature pear galette. So...back to the produce department to buy 3 lbs of fresh Bartlett pears. Now this has added a couple more items to my shopping list: the ingredients for my secret pie crust recipe, none of which I currently had in the house.

This was becoming a two steps forward-two steps backward shopping expedition, since the produce department is right next to the entrance to this store. Okay! Moving right along...

Next it was on to the baking goods aisle to get the remainder of the salad ingredients and some flour for the pie crust. Forward progess at last!

This is nuts! What am I doing, buying a 14 lb turkey, the ingredients for cranberry salad, and the fixings for a pear pie??? It's just going to be me, myself, and I home alone for Christmas eve/day. I will have leftovers coming out of my ears! Oh, who cares!! As I continued to work my way down my shopping list, I worked hard at convincing myself that I was doing the right thing: It might be nice to have half a leftover turkey lolling around in the freezer somewhere down the road.

I continued to work on my list and progressed through the store aisles until I came to the area set aside for "seasonal items." This would include Christmas wrapping paper, ribbon, boxes, ornaments, wrapping tape, tree stands, and the like. Four boxes of multi-color lights, 100 bulbs per indoor/outdoor strand. $2.39 per box. Perfect! I only need two of these strands to complete the outdoor lighting and will have 2 boxes of new lights for next year's inevitable off-season death of Christmas lights.

I made it nearly to the cash registers and oops!! I forgot the Cheerios! Leaving the cart, I dashed back to the cookie/cracker/cereal aisle to grab a box. Can I count this toward my weekly run mileage?? This is a giant HEB grocery store. Easily a quarter mile back there to that aisle and then another quarter mile back to my shopping cart!

Now I think I have it all and proceed to checkout. The store wasn't too crowded and I gloated at finding a register with no one ahead of me. I further gloated at having gotten my Christmas dinner shopping done a full week earlier than most others will. The interior of this store will look totally different a week from now.

Groceries put away, freezer rearranged to accomodate the turkey, I headed outside to get that last string of lights put out on the front row of hollies. That was, afterall, the start of this whole thing, wasn't it?