Sunday, December 19, 2010
Yesterday, it was close to 40 degrees, which is not that warm. But, since it followed some frigid days where high temperatures struggled to reach the 20s, it was warm enough to entice several motorcyclists to come out of hibernation. I was not one of them.
When I got my first motorcycle, I was so excited that 40-degree weather was not enough to deter me from riding. Now, don't get me wrong - I still love to ride - but I also like to be at least somewhat comfortable while I ride. And for me, any temperature below 45 degrees quickly becomes uncomfortable. My fingers are the limiting factor. Even with heavy, insulated leather gloves, my finger tips turn white and become numb. The rest of my body is fine well down into the 30s without heated gear, but until I buy heated gloves, I will limit my riding to days that are close to 50 or above.
So, for all intents and purposes, I'm done riding for this year. My last ride was four weeks ago, and even that was just a short ride to warm my bike up enough to change the engine oil and transmission oil. I added some Sea Foam fuel stabilizer to my gas tank before filling it up, and that was it. I had hoped to wash and wax my motorcycle before I parked it for the winter, but it doesn't look like that will happen because of where I am storing it.
But, if there is a silver lining to not being able to keep my bike where I am living, it's that I will not be able to look at it over the winter and wish it was warm enough to ride ... to some extent, it's out of sight, out of mind, and hopefully that will make "parked motorcycle syndrome" easier to bear.
Sunday, November 28, 2010
Friday, November 26, 2010
Continuing on Tyler Mountain, we drove up Slaughter's Drive, a steep road that led to a group of houses and trailers clustered on the side of a mountain. Anna lived there with her mother (who is now deceased) from about ages 9 to 17. A house was built over the trailer they used to live in, but the shed she used to play in still stood. Anna stopped at the house next door to her old house, "just to see who was living there," and was pleasantly surprised to see the mother of her childhood best friend, Tammy, who was living in the next house over.
Anna went to the house next door and saw Jack - Tammy's father - cooking eggs. Tammy was sleeping after hitting the early-morning after Thanksgiving sales, but woke up, excited to see Anna, as the two hugged. Tammy said she had tried to find Anna on Facebook, but now they could catch up in person on 20 years of lost time. Anna was equally happy to see Jack, who she calls Jackie. "He was like a father figure to me," Anna said. "He would always say to me, 'If you ever see me on a plane, don't say "Hi Jack!"
Jack teased Anna for losing some of her West Virginia accent. "You sound like you're from New York," he teased Anna. "Don't forget your roots, girl!"
Next, we stopped at a bar called the Wagon Wheel, where Anna's mother, uncle and grandfather used to frequent. Anna said the bar, which has been around for decades, is virtually unchanged from how she remembers it. I actually have a Wagon Wheel tee shirt that Anna's sister sent us (since mine is getting faded, we asked if they had more, but they didn't).
This blog would not be complete without a bit more about Gawnjie, the 120-lb. Bouvier, who resembled either a black bear or a poodle on steroids. The Belgian dogs are bred to herd cattle, but Tonya had to constantly herd this dog around the house, shooing it out of the way or off of the couch. The breed is known for being smelly to begin with, but this dog was also in heat, which made the odors worse. "Gawnjie, you stink!" was a constant refrain of Tonya, as she followed the dog with air freshener spray.
Thursday, November 25, 2010
After the capitol, we drove to see Jimmy's mother, Minnie, who had prepared Thankgiving dinner for us and Jimmy's sisters. Getting to Minnie's house at the top of Spring Hill Mountain meant driving up a steep, narrow curvy road, with only a metal guardrail separating the road from a steep drop-off into the woods. Minnie's street was also very steep, and neighboring houses were not only surrounded by steep hills, but all of the houses were on hilly lots themselves. But that is typical of much of West Virginia. If you are not on a hill, then you are surrounded by them.
Minnie was a gracious host and wonderful cook, and after dinner, I was too full to do anything much more strenuous than make conversation. Anna's 11-year-old son Ricky, however, was full of energy and wanted to ride a four-wheel ATV, which he flipped over, ripping his jeans in the process (he only suffered minor cuts and bruises). "Now I'm officially a redneck," Ricky joked. At one point, Little Jimmy raided a tool shed in the yard, using a golf club as a shovel, and opening a gas can. I feared he might drink gasoline, but, as Big Jimmy ran toward him, Little Jimmy said in a southern drawl, "Don't worry, it's empty!"
Wednesday, November 24, 2010
With Thanksgiving approaching, both of us had four days off again, and really wanted to go to West Virginia. This time, we did - the difference was we were on four wheels instead of two. We found out that travelling some 750 miles continuously is challenging, even in a car.
Anna and I had to work Wednesday, so by the time we left Rhode Island, it was 5:30 p.m. My car is a 17-year-old Nissan with 142,000 miles and a non-functional radio, so I brought my iPod for Anna's son, Ricky, and loaded up on snacks. A guy I work with also let me borrow his Dewalt battery-operated jobsite radio so we could have music in the car.
I had wanted to buy a GPS, but Anna said I shouldn't waste my money, since she printed directions on Mapquest (I'm not too keen on Mapquest, but, okay). Traffic on Interstate 95 was heavy, but flowed well, even when we reached New Haven, Conn. Anna said she usually goes over the George Washington Bridge to get past New York, but Mapquest put us over the Tappan Zee Bridge instead. We took Interstate 287 into New Jersey, and then got on Interstate 78 west, crossing into Pennsylvania. We stopped for gas and food at a highway service area in Shartlesville, Penn. around 10:30 p.m., continuing on 78 west until it joined Interstate 81 west, which is a lonely stretch of road through the wilderness. About the only traffic in the early-morning hours was the occasional 18-wheeler.
It was around this point that the driving became more challenging, because it began to rain and the terrain became very hilly. We were continuously climbing or descending long grades. Anna had wanted to give me a No-Doz pill to help keep me alert, but I was not feeling tired at this point (I had been relying on caffiene). The driving was, however, very stressful because of poor visibility: unlike most of Rhode Island, the highway here was unlit, and the paint on the lines in the road was very faded. Also, the rain made it harder to see. I had meant to replace my wiper blades before the trip, but I kept putting it off, so I relied on the reflectors just to stay in my lane. I had to keep my speeds between 45-50 mph. To say the miles dragged by slowly was an understatement. After crossing the West Virginia state line, we stopped at a welcome center before we tackled the longest leg of our trip, about 150 miles on Interstate 79. Like I-68, that highway is also hilly (and constantly curvy). Some hills are so steep that there is a "runaway truck" lane.
By now, I was becoming too tired to drive safely, so at the next rest area, I let Anna drive for about 50 miles. That was enough of a break for me to revive a bit, so I drove the last 50 miles or so into Charleston, the capitol city of West Virgina, as day began to break. We arrived in South Charleston, W. Va. around 7:30 a.m. and met Anna's sister, Tonya, at the hotel where she had just finished working the overnight shift. Then we followed Tonya back to her house, where we we got a few hours of sleep before we had to get ready for Thanksgiving dinner.
"Try doing that on a Harley," said Andy Beaulieu, our friend and member of the Romans 8 Riders chapter of the Christian Motorcyclists Association.
The trip up took us about 13 hours, not counting bathroom, gas and food stops. It can be done in 10-12 hours, Anna said, but between the poor visibility from the rain and the anemic hill-climbing power of my four cylinder Nissan (gettting it to go faster than 60 or 65 mph on some of the steeper hills was impossible), I was thankful we got there safely instead of quickly.
Monday, November 8, 2010
Sunday, November 7, 2010
Sunday, October 24, 2010
Breakfast was indeed hearty: pancakes, scrambled eggs, sausage and bacon, plus juice and coffee. Anna and I bought a $20 raffle ticket for a chance to win a new 2010 Harley Street Glide or $10,000, plus a few tickets for smaller raffle prizes.
As usually happens on group rides, a solo female rider inspired Anna. This time, it was an older woman named Clare from Warwick, who said she bought a new motorcycle after she survived cancer. Manny and I talked with a guy from the Elks Riders chapter in East Providence, R.I., which is Manny's hometown.
Sunday, October 3, 2010
It was also the first time Anna got to use her new digital video camera (NOTE: you can see a short video clip at the end of this blog entry), which I bought her for her birthday. "There's a million motorcycles on the highway, baby," Anna said as she aimed the video camera behind us on Interstate 295, capturing a stream of motorcycle headlights against the grey sky as far as we could see.
Actually, it only seemed like a million motorcycles.
"We'll get about 2,000 to 2,500 bikes," RIMA President Buddy Cardoso told me before the run. "When we get down there (to Russo's Trucking on Shipyard Street), there will already be a bunch of people who didn't go on the ride."
This was RIMA'S 34th annual Toys for Tots run, which is also sponsored by the U.S. Marines, who collected the toys at the end of the run. The route was changed recently, Cardoso said. "This is the third year we've done a little longer ride, to make it a little more interesting, versus just shooting right down Route 146."
Chris, a guy I used to work with, who rides a Suzuki GSX-R1000 sport bike, said he went on the run a few years back and saw some other riders take advantage of no traffic on Route 146, riding at speeds approaching 100 mph and doing wheelies.
My experience was much more sedate, however. The group we rode to CCRI with, comprised of three chapters from the Christian Motorcyclists Association, was in the second wave to be released, so we were toward the front of the pack - close enough that I could see Santa riding on the back of a motorcycle. With police or civilian motorcyclists blocking at every intersection, we never put our feet down until we reached our destination, although our average speed varied between 30 and 40 mph, and even our highway speed never broke 55 mph, as I recall. I didn't witness any shenanigans, but at the end of the ride, rumors buzzed through the crowds that there had been at least one mishap during the run, including a rumor that a rider lost control while doing a wheelie with a female passenger.
I could not confirm that rumor, and the only official account of any accident I could find online was through WPRI.com (affiliated with local news Channel 12). According to WPRI.com, an accident occurred on I-295 south, near Exit 8 (the Route 7 exit), when a motorcyclist on the toy run swerved to avoid a crash and ran into four other motorcycles. Two people were taken to a hospital; others declined treatment, according to the report, which contained no further information.
Anna and I, however, had a pleasant experience, and we felt the run was well organized. The run started with a left turn on Route 246 and then continued on routes 123, 116 and 7, before we got on Intersate 295 south. It was quite a sight to see cars held back from entering the highway as we rode by, and onlookers at many bridge overpasses. We then took Route 6 to Route 10 south, before getting on Interstate 95 briefly, exiting at Allens Avenue. There was some of the 'slinky effect,' but that is to be expected on large group rides.
We rode through the campus of Johnson & Wales University before parking our bikes along Shipyard Street, and then handed our toys to the Marines, who were putting them into their large truck. Anna had bought some Legos, and I bought a Barbie doll. I figured that since bikers tend to be macho, girls' toys might be under-represented; besides, every time I tell someone my name is Ken, there's usually a 10 percent chance they'll say, "How's Barbie?"
The day was also eventful for Richard "Pappy" Desjarlais, another CMA member from my Romans 8 Riders chapter, who spent part of the run videotaping the riders. He said he stopped at the Route 44 overpass after getting permission from a Smithfield police officer. Then, Pappy said, someone in an unmarked car told him to move out of the way, to which Pappy replied that he was almost done recording. A moment later, he felt someone grab his collar, and he was handcuffed by a state police officer, he said. "That just about ruined my day," Pappy said. But, he was quickly released, and joined us at our CMA booth at the truck yard.
Anna was amazed the sheer volume of motorcycles and bikers at the trucking yard, where there was a rock band, food vendors and clothing vendors. "I'm over-stimulated," she admitted, as she grooved on a cover of The Doors song while on a mission to find a hat. The clam chowder and clamcakes we ate warded off the chill nicely. Our CMA booth, which had literature about Jesus, Bibles and even kickstand pads, drew little attention, to Anna's dismay. "Other booths, you have to buy stuff, but everything here is free," she said.
But my fellow Romans 8 Rider, Bob Levesque, said it was a positive day, since our CMA chapters were given a reserved spot closer to the front of the pack this year, and our booth was in a prominent spot.
Wednesday, September 29, 2010
Saturday, September 25, 2010
Our small group got on Interstate 95 south, then to routes 4, 1, 102 and 2, riding past Schartner Farms, to the Oak Harbor Village plaza, where lo and behold, there was a Mobil station I'd ridden by countless times - I was thinking it was an Exxon station instead. We met the first two waves of riders, drew our next card, and waited as more riders arrived. As the sun beat down on us, Cathilee got restless and tried to prod everyone to hit the road.
"Anybody wanna go?!" she shouted. "I'm standing here sweating!" But nobody responded, even after she started and revved her motorcycle. A few minutes later, other people started their motorcycles and the group headed for the next checkpoint, Breezy Acres Mini Golf on Route 1 in Charlestown. I had to accelerate to beat a red light at West Beach Road, and then suddenly had to jam on the brakes to turn into the gravel parking lot of the mini golf, as I apologized to Anna. "It's okay, baby, I'm still on the back," she said.
We drew our third card and most of the group hung out several minutes. The next leg of the ride was down curvy back roads and there were several turns. "Nobody wanted to lead," Anna said. "There's no blockers, no road captain." Pulling out of the mini golf parking lot was dicey, to say the least. I thought I was going to collide with another motorcycle, so I couldn't concentrate on whether any cars were coming on Route 1, where motorists routinely travel at 60 mph or more. I just stayed near the breakdown lane and prayed. Many riders got into the left lane, but then had to make a last-minute lane change to turn right onto Route 216. Then, on Route 216, we had a near-collision with a bicyclist, who thought he was going to cross the road in the middle of a large pack of motorcycles. I heard him drop the F-bomb and he abruptly aborted his attempt. I swerved, and then looked over my shoulder, because I thought he was going to dump his bicycle (I couldn't tell if he did or not).
Things settled down a bit as we enjoyed some early-fall scenic riding on back roads in Charlestown and Hopkinton, and crossed the border into Connecticut, riding past some farms on Route 49, before we arrived at our next checkpoint, at Town Pizza in on Route 165 in Voluntown, Conn. Anna and I had weak poker hands, but strong thirsts by this point. After a few minutes rest, we headed out for the last leg of our ride, as a girl stood in Route 165 and blocked for us. We continued north on Route 49, through more scenic farm country, and ended up at the back of the pack, as some of the larger group got separated in traffic. "This is our road, baby," Anna said. "I like it in the back. I feel safer."
At the end of Route 49, we turned left on Route 14, heading toward Plainfield, Conn. We turned left on Route 12, and then chaos ensued. "It was like ants - everyone scattered," one of the riders said afterward. Some riders turned into a Shell gas station, so at first, I thought it was just a fuel stop, but then other riders turned right into a church parking lot, while still others just made U-turns. I decided to turn into the church parking lot, and followed others, who were cutting through the parking lot to regroup on Route 14. But soon, the group stopped at a market, and I saw one of the 'leaders' dismount to ask a local for directions. We ended up going back toward the Shell station, which was the right direction after all. (It turns out that one of the riders up front, from the Buffalo Soldiers Motorcycle Club, saw a poster with an arrow that he mistook for one of the direction markers for our ride.)
Thankfully, we soon arrived at our final desination, Motorsports Nation, a motorcycle dealer, where we ate hamburgers and hot dogs. "At least we're here," said a rider who was up front. "I kept telling Tony, everything is a left turn." The Derderians and Jody King drew and presented the raffle prizes, which consisted of gift certificates (a smarter idea than gift baskets, which are kind of hard to carry on a motorcycle). Lisa Walsh of Warwick, who had the best poker hand, won the grand prize of $500 cash. "This was my first group ride, and it exceed my expectations," she told the crowd, "so I'm donating the money to the Station Education Fund."
Jeffrey Derderian said the fund so far has helped 21 students with school expenses up through college, including tuition, books, supplies and laptop computers. When possible, the Derderians said they meet personally with the recipients.
Anna said the theme of the event was about moving forward from the tragedy that occurred in 2003. Brenda Wilmot, Jody King's sister, who said a prayer before the ride, said the purpose of the fund is to "help these kids realize their full potential." From the pre-ride prayer (which Wilmot made in Jesus' name), to our group's safety on the ride, and mentions of God during the post-ride presentations, "I felt God's presence the whole day," Anna said.
After the raffle, we were treated to a motorcycle stunt riding demonstation, with a finale ramp jump over a large dump truck by Doug Danger, who was trained by Evel Knievel and who was once in a coma for six months after a stunt accident. Even Doug Danger, with all his skill, appealed to God to calm the winds that could throw off his jump. I'm sure that I was not the only one who prayed that he would complete the jump and not get hurt. God was faithful and answered those prayers, because he nailed the jump.
Anna, Cathilee and I were among the last riders to leave, so we took mostly back roads home, riding at a nice, leisurely pace, including a stop at Dunkin' Donuts for coffee and brownies. After leading Cathilee back to Warwick, Anna and I decided to keep riding since the weather was perfect, and opportunties to ride in a tee shirt this time of year are becoming increasingly scarce. Said Anna, "I don't want to go home."