* * * * *
May 31, 2006:
About 4 a.m. this morning, Sarah hopped onto the bed to make sure I had heard the clap of thunder that had disturbed her sleep. I hadn't, but a flash of lightning followed by a deep rumble made me aware that storms were on the way. I tried to scratch Sarah back to sleep, but the storm showed no signs of going away, and Sarah showed no signs of going back to sleep. So, not being one to waste time, I got up and went to a back room to read. Maria didn't seem to be bothered by the storm, and was sleeping soundly. I decided to get up, retreat into another room and turn on a light so I could read without waking her. Which is what I did. Sarah followed me.
This was no ordinary storm. We were pelted with band after band of heavy rain. At six, I headed outside to take a read on the rain gauges. Overnight, we had received 1.5 inches of rain. Standing water was everywhere. By the time I got back inside, the skies had opened up again.
Long and short: No morning walk for Sarah and no morning ride for me.
It rained pretty much all day. Heavy at times and light at times. By late afternoon we were being pelted by another heavy band of showers. The drive home from work was a wet one. Once inside the house, I fed Sarah and got on the computer to check the radar. It didn't look good. I worked on the computer for a while, periodically checking the radar signals. In the meantime, Maria arrived home from work. When I told her of my plans to go for an afternoon ride, regardless of the weather, she mumbled something about insanity. I couldn't hear all that well above the patter of raindrops.
Around six I saw a break coming up, according to the radar. I ran upstairs to suit up. I noted that only a light rain was falling as I headed for the garage. I added air to both tires and headed out. It wasn't all that bad. Plus, I can always use practice riding in the rain.
Because of the amount of rain, there was no oil left on the streets. And, with the new tires, I didn't slip once. I headed north on Oxford, and east on 11th. I made my way south to White Oak, and did the twisties going both east and west. I could see the water level in the White Oak Bayou. It was high, but still within the banks. There was standing water in some of the low areas, but nothing serious.
I have to say that taking the twisties on White Oak with wet streets was quite an event. It's not exactly as much fun as taking it at speed, but it sure held my interest. Or, at least, my concentration. No time for extraneous thinking this afternoon. At least not about anything other than the ride.
All in all, the rain wasn't too bad. My visor got spattered, but my riding clothes weren't soaked. I'm sure they will be dry enough to use in the morning. I'm not so sure about the streets. They are predicting another round of rain by dawn.
When I pulled up to the driveway I had 13,106 miles on the bike. And some needed practice riding in the wet. And I had avoided a day without riding. Life is good. See you on the road. And hope for thinking weather.
* * * * *
May 30, 2006:
Last night, the ten o'clock news predicted rain for today. So, before the alarm went off, I flipped on the radio to check on weather conditions. 740 AM radio reported dry streets and no rain. They were still holding out the possibility of storms for this afternoon.
However, dry skies meant that Sarah would get her morning walk, and I would get my morning ride. Sarah seemed pleased. We all trooped down the stairs and out the door. Temperatures were astonishingly cool. It was only 72 degrees out. Very pleasant. And Sarah seemed to enjoy the water left in the ditches from yesterday's downpour.
When we got back, I fed Sarah, and suited up. I checked the air in the tires and headed out. Traffic was fairly light. And speeds were fast. Because of the early start, I decided I could get in a third circuit this morning, if there were no backups from morning commuters. Which is how it turned out. In fact, the morning ride was just about incident free. The only thing worth reporting happened at the North Loop exit for TC Jester.
I was in the second lane from the right. A white car was behind me. I watched it pull into the right-hand lane, which was an "exit only" lane for TC Jester. The car quickly accelerated beside and past me. Then, and without signaling, the driver changed back into my lane. There was a car length of space between us, so I didn't even have to brake. But the driver had to cross the double white lines in the exit lane. In other words, he was clearly committed to exiting when he decided he was not clearly committed to exiting. Ugh. I have no idea if he saw me. But I am extra cautious at this exit, and all worked out well. Not even an adrenaline rush.
That's it. I took the Heights exit, and headed for home. Just as I turned onto White Oak, I watched the odometer roll over to 13,100. Which is where it still was when I pulled up to the driveway. Rain is predicted for all week. We'll see. Keep dry. And don't forget to think.
* * * * *
May 29, 2006:
It started raining early this morning. I'm not sure when it started, but the streets were already wet by the time Sarah let me know it was time for breakfast. And she doesn't believe in sleeping late. Leaving Maria to enjoy the holiday morning, we went downstairs for the paper and (Sarah's) morning repast.
Because the streets were wet, and because it was a holiday, I fixed myself a cup of tea, and headed back upstairs to take a hot bath and read a book. Sarah joined me before I could close the bathroom door. It was nice to relax in the warm water. I could hear distant thunder. After an hour or so, Sarah got up and came over to the tub. She put her paw on the ledge, signaling me that it was time to get moving. I was somewhat puzzled, because there was no way she could expect a walk with the rain coming down. However, I got out of the tub and into the shower. Just as I did so, the skies opened up and a deluge hit us. Accompanied by appropriate sound effects. I guess Sarah had heard the trouble coming, and that was what she was signaling me.
Anyway, the rain cemented the decision to forego Sarah's morning walk, and my morning ride. The rain gauge showed we got 1.6 inches of wet. And it didn't let up all morning.
However, the afternoon was dry. As were the streets. I suited up and headed out. Maria asked me where I was going, and I said I thought I would pay Highway 529 a visit. She cocked her head and asked, "Half Price?"
Yes, indeed. What would a holiday be without a visit to a bookstore. And it had been bothering me since yesterday that I had been forced to ride by a Half Price without stopping--due to the earliness of the hour.
So, after checking the air in the tires, I headed out. I warmed up and stopped by the gas station to top off the tank. I then entered I-10, heading east. I like taking the long way around. I mean, after all, it's the trip, not the destination. And the seat time.
Eventually, I ended up on Highway 290. Traffic was medium. In fact, I was surprised at how many vehicles were out. I thought everyone would be home barbecuing. That's what I had done for seven pleasant hours yesterday. Well, smoking a brisquet, drinking red wine, and reading the latest Sarah Paretsky novel. What a great way to spend the day.
Anyway, I had a pleasant time on 290. Some thinking time, but mostly rubbing my brain cells in anticipation of the books awaiting me at the Half Price. Before I knew it, I was at the exit for Highway 6. Which I took.
Once on the feeder, I quickly made my way over to the far right-hand lane, and headed for the dealership. I worked my way back to Crossroads, and the Mancuso Harley Davidson dealership. I know, it's Monday, and Mancuso's is closed on Mondays. Still, they had had that big tent out on Sunday morning, and there was the chance they would be open. So I went for it.
Luck was with me. The dealership was packed with cars and motorcycles. And the tent flaps were raised, revealing scores of bright new Harleys. I parked, donned my do-rag, and headed for the action.
I entered the tent, and started looking for Dyna Glide Low Riders. There were several. I straddled one, and tried it out. Ouch. The saddle for the Harley was considerably wider than on the Honda. One had to be delicate when snuggling in, or anatomical consequences would occur.
The main reason I wanted to sit on the Low Rider was to test the lean angle. A couple of times at the end of quick stops, I have had to use my strong left leg to steady the stopped bike. That's not at all difficult with a Honda Rebel, which has a dry weight of 311 lbs. But the Low Rider comes in at 623 lbs in 2005 and 641 in 2006. Before tricking it out.
The tent turned out to be full of 2005's. The Low Rider I straddled was easily managed. I straightened the bike up, and test-leaned it to the left several times. I had no trouble keeping it from falling over. Of course, I left the kick stand down, just in case. But I felt very confident I could handle a 2005.
Next, I went inside to find a 2006 model. There have been several changes made in the Low Rider for 2006, and that's the model I have my eyes on. They had a black pearl color, but it was parked too close to the adjoinig bike to make testing safe. I spotted a nice two-tone job (maroon and black) and hopped on. The extra pounds did not make a difference. I was easily able to handle the weight. And, by gracefully lowering myself onto the saddle, I did not experience any difficulties in settling in.
The 2005 models were stickered at $16,877 each. No stickers on the 2006 models. No one said owning a Harley was cheap. But legends don't come cheap. Still, that Harley client had not walked through the door last week, so I was just looking at present.
I tore myself away from the beauties, and headed for pleasures of another sort. The Half Price bookstore was calling. I headed south on Highway 6, and west on Highway 529. The parking lot was full. Which is a good thing. I like the fact that there are plenty of readers. It is a cause for optimism.
I spend a pleasant thirty minutes browsing the shelves. I picked up a few books and headed back home. The ride back was fast and dry. Because of the rain (and attendant clouds), the temperatures were fairly cool for late May. And the traffic was well behaved. Plenty of time for philosophizing.
On the way back, I stopped for gas so I wouldn't have to take the time to top off the tank during my morning runs this week. When I pulled up to the driveway, I had 13,057 miles on the bike. I got in fifty miles on a wet day, saw some nice Harleys and got a couple of interesting books. Time for more wine and more reading. See you on the road. And don't forget to think.
* * * * *
May 28, 2006:
I got up at six this morning, but I did not immediately jump into my riding clothes. I still had not decided where to ride, so I contented myself with getting the paper--and Sarah her breakfast. I was hoping for inspiration.
I needed 75 miles on today's trip, but I also need to keep the time short. On the other hand, I didn't feel like an up and back on one of the freeways, even though I could do that in a little over an hour. So I piddled around. I checked my email, checked the air in the tires (and added a pound to the front tire) and took my shower.
By seven, no jolt of inspiration having hit me, I decided to go for the ride I had come up with last night. I told Maria to not wait breakfast, and headed out.
I warmed up, then headed for the gas station to top off the tank. My plan was to head west, by starting east. I filled the tank, then entered I-10, eastbound. I noticed that the bank of clouds that had filled the horizon yesterday was not in evidence.
When I got to the exit for I-45, I took it north. Traffic was virtually nonexistent. Speeds were fast. The fun was flowing. At the North Loop, I headed west, and merged onto Highway 290. The western horizon was dark with rain clouds, but the streets were dry. Traffic continued to be light. I guess everyone else was sleeping in.
I took the Highway 6 exit and quickly headed for the Mancuso Harley Davidson dealership. I knew they were open on Sundays, but I also knew it wasn't until much later in the day. Still, I wanted to ride by.
Their parking lot was filled with a gigantic tent. It took up most of the space. And a police car and occupant was parked right outside the tent. Must be filled with all kind of goodies for some kind of Memorial Day event. There was also a police car in the back lot. I turned in to check the opening hour. Noon. Ugh. I was pleased to see that a group of new riders was already in the far back lot, taking the Rider's Edge course. I was surprised that they had the course over Memorial weekend. It brought back memories of when I had taken the course. Today was test day. I wished them all a silent good luck, then continued on my journey.
I took Highway 6 south, heading for Memorial Drive. The plan was to get in some high speeds on Highway 290 and some nice curves on Memorial Drive. Highway 6 was also pretty deserted. In a stroke of good fortune, I hit most of the lights on "green." I gave a salute to the Half Price Books on Highway 529 as I passed. It was way too early for that store to be open.
The deserted streets made for lots of thinking time. I was so busy that I drove right past Memorial Drive. I was pretty sure I had passed it by, but I continued south all the way to Westheimer before giving up and turning around. Just as I headed north on Highway 6, the rains came.
Now, they were not heavy rains. But the drops were hitting hard, and making quite a racket on my helmet. Not to mention filling my visor with circles of distortion. But my big worry was that I was far from home, and it had not rained in Houston for a good while. That meant that the streets would be super slippery with the new water and the oil that would well up.
All the books talk about pulling over when the fresh rains come, having a cup of coffee, and waiting till that oil floats off the road. That was sensible advice. But I wanted to get back home, and the rain was light enough that I was pretty sure I could make it without slip sliding away. So long as I didn't have to do any quick stops.
Memorial Drive was as deserted as everything else. Which was a comfort to me. However, the wet conditions took all the fun out of the curves. I had to slow down sufficiently that I did not challenge the traction on the turns. And every light was a tense decision process. When the lights turned yellow (as they did with maddening frequency), I was faced with a go or brake decision that was complicated by the condition of the road. Mostly, I skipped the chance to practice quick slides, and accelerated through the intersections.
The rain continued all the way to I-10. For the last couple of miles of rain, I had a van on my tail, and no place to pull over. Memorial is two lanes on that section. The van driver was following way too close for my comfort, and it was not a pleasant time. I was glad when he finally turned off Memorial.
After I crossed I-10, the rain stopped. It looked like it had not reached that far east. I began to relax and enjoy the curves. When I got to the Shepherd exit, I took it to Allen Parkway, and did the east and west sections of that curvey stretch. Nice. I then got back on Memorial, heading east. When I reached Louisiana, I headed north, merging onto I-10.
I was about ten miles short of my goal when I reached the Heights exit. I decided to go for it, and stayed on I-10. I came up on an old Econoline van. It was going about five miles per hour under the speed limit, and it was a view block to road conditions ahead. I was traveling west again, toward the rain. The sky was darkening. I wanted a long view of the road ahead.
I was considering whether to accelerate around the van. I was following it in the driver's tire track. All of a sudden, the van swerved wildly to the right. Immediately, I saw why.
A giant piece of tire was in the driver's tire track. Just as I was. I had reacted immediately to the wild gyrations of the van, so I had no trouble edging to my right, and slipping past the road gator. All in a day's ride. And a sign to keep on my toes.
The van took the Washington exit, giving me time to see that the road ahead looked dry. I decided to go for it. Once I passed Washington, I would be stuck on the freeways until I turned back eastbound on the Loop. If it started raining, I would be facing oil and fast cars.
Luck was with me. The streets stayed dry. I continued eastbound on the North Loop, and watched the odometer roll over to mile 13,000 as I passed the Shepherd/Durham exit. All right!
I completed the rest of the ride with a smile on my face, dry roads, and 13,007 miles on the odometer as I rode up to the driveway. I lubricated the chain, and put the bike away. It had been an interesting run, if not a relaxing one. And it was barely nine o'clock. Time to return to regular life. Thirteen thousand miles of thinking, of smiling, and of having the time of my life. More to come. See you on the road. And don't forget to think.
* * * * *
May 27, 2006:
I wanted to get in my ride early this morning. So I got up, showered, fed Sarah, and suited up. I added a little air to the back tire, and off I went. A glance at my watch showed it was 6:15 a.m.
After warming up, I stopped by to top off the tank. Last night, I had tentatively planned a run to Willis, Texas, and then to Montgomery. I wanted a ride of about a hundred miles, and something new. I had pulled out my copy of The Roads of Texas, looking for a route. That was the first time I had done that since the last time John and I had gone riding. I mapped out a route, even though I wasn't sure whether I would get to use it. FM 1097 had an interesting looking bridge across Lake Conroe. It was relatively close, and might be fun. That became the focus of my run.
I got on I-10, heading east. Immediately, I spotted a big cloud bank on the horizon. I couldn't tell if there was rain in the clouds. I took the I-45 exit to the north. Skies were mostly clear in that direction. Traffic was surprisingly heavy for this early on a Saturday. I guess it was Memorial Day congestion.
Because I had to concentrate on the traffic, the run up to Conroe was not all that fun. However, once I cleared the Conroe city limits, I hit heavy piney woods. Traffic thinned out, and the ride between Conroe and Willis was very pleasant. There was a slight fog in the area, and, with the tall pine trees on both sides of the road, it made for an eerie, closed-in feeling. Sort of neat.
I took the FM 1097 exit and headed west at Willis. This is a mixed road. There is some commercial development, and lots of trees. Because the trees are shorter, and more spread apart, it felt more open than the stretch between Conroe and Willis. There are also some nice hills and a (very) few curves. Unfortunately, it looked like the highway department was working on the road. No construction this morning, but the eastbound lanes had a new coating of blacktop, and were several inches higher than the westbound lanes. I hesitate to recommend the road for bikers, because I suspect that it will soon be filled with the dreaded construction cones.
But this morning, it was free and clear. And empty. Just like I like it. Very enjoyable. And the "Rotary and Friendship" bridge was a very scenic way to cross Lake Conroe.
I took FM 1097 all the way to Montgomery. In downtown Montgomery, I caught Highway 105, and took it east to I-45. There were several interesting stores in Montgomery, and at least one restaurant serving breakfast at this early hour. It even had a motorcycle parked outside. I didn't stop, however, because circumstances didn't allow for a prolonged ride.
Highway 105 was heavily traveled. And I think I caught every light on "red." And there were quite a few of them.
When I reached the intersection with I-45, I headed back to Houston. Traffic was fast, heading south. And just about as heavy as on the way up. I watched the odometer roll over to mile 12,900 as I passed the Richey exit. Then I got behind a heavily ladened tractor-trailer rig hauling some piece of construction machinery. I was keeping my distance, when what looked like a lid from a five-gallon bucket fell off the rig and into my path. The lid was bouncing all over the freeway, and I remember having two thoughts.
First, I was trying to time my passage so I was zigging when the lid was zagging. Second, I was thinking that, if I had to hit it, please don't let that white stuff I could see on the bottom of the lid be wet paint. I never found out what the white stuff was, because I managed to just miss an encounter with the lid. That was more a matter of luck than skill, because it was impossible to predict where the lid was going to bounce.
Anyway, the rest of the ride down I-45 was uneventful. When I got to the intersection with Loop 610, I took it westbound. I like this section of the Loop because the travel is usually fast and challenging because of the traffic. This morning was true to form.
However, for some reason I was watching my speed. I was barely keeping up with the flow of traffic. Which was a good thing because, as I topped a hill, Barney Fife was parked on the inside shoulder, and he had his (radar) gun out. And he was in a perfect Weaver stance, pointing it directly at me. Caught.
But no, I guess he was looking for faster fish to fry. He didn't even acknowledge my presence. I was happy to ignore his presence too. However, I kept thinking that I should exit in case he had run to his car and was after the lone motorcycle on that section of the Loop. It was not like I could blend in with the crowds.
But, I threw caution to the wind, and continued westbound on the freeway. When I reached I-10, I headed east again, completing my ride. I exited at Studemont, did a quick u-turn under the freeway, and took the side streets on home. When I rolled up to the driveway, it was barely 8:30 a.m. and I had 12,925 miles on the bike. And breakfast was waiting. Huevos rancheros, if you must know. And Maria makes them better than any restaurant. It was a good start to a holiday weekend. I'm not sure how long of a ride I can get in tomorrow, but stay tuned to find out. I'm pretty confident I will make it to mile 13,000. See you on the road. And don't forget to think.
* * * * *
May 26, 2006:
I tried something different this morning. When the alarm went off, we all got up, and I fed Sarah her breakfast. I wanted to see what effect it would have on her walk. She ate quickly, and then stood by the drawer where we keep the leash. We took the hint, and headed out. She seemed as eager as ever to get on with her walk. I couldn't see that eating first made her slow down or cramped her style in any way.
When we got back from the walk, I suited up, added a pound and a half of air to the front tire, and headed out. I had 151 miles on the tripometer, so I filled up with gas. I then got on I-10, heading west.
Traffic was pretty light. I added the Highway 59 extension to the first circuit, then did two more regular circuits. I wanted to get in fifty miles. Which I did.
Even with the gas stop, I was back home in just a little over an hour. Like I said, traffic was fast. And, of course, I had to keep up with the flow--for safety's sake.
It was a very pleasant ride. The lack of traffic made for some nice high-speed curves, lots of great thinking time, and plenty of miles on the odometer. I watched the odometer roll over to 17,800 at the corner of Beverly and 7-1/2. That is just two blocks from the house. Watch out mile 13,000, here I come! See you on the road. Have a pleasant Memorial Day weekend. And don't forget to think.
* * * * *
May 25, 2006:
Sarah was especially insistent that we not ignore the alarm this morning. And that meant, of course, that we could not ignore her walk. Or her breakfast. After taking care of essentials, I suited up and headed for the garage. I had to add air to both tires. About a pound each.
I then warmed up and headed west on I-10. Traffic was fast and light. Riding was great. There was still a touch of coolness in the morning air.
The sun was in that position on the horizon where it causes you to squint, sunglasses or no. That extra bit of glare also makes for hazardous riding. This morning, I was following an eighteen wheeler at a discrete distance when we topped a small hill on the North Loop. We were heading directly into the sun. My eyes were closed to tiny slits to fight the glare. All of a sudden, a road gator appeared ahead of me. Fortunately, I have learned several lessons about such things. The main one this morning is that I was following in the right-hand wheel track of the truck, and the gator was in the middle of my lane. The truck passed safely over it, and I passed safely beside it. The only extra bit of hazard was the sun, which decreased the visibility at distance, and thus reaction time. Because I was in the right-hand tire track, I didn't really have to react at all. Which was a lesson learned through previous close calls.
On the second circuit, I decided to add the Highway 59 extension. There is a stretch where concrete barriers replace the shoulder. I always worry about that section, and I ride in the left-hand tire track for that part of the trek. Which was a good thing this morning, because another road gator was in the right-hand section of the road. The car ahead of me barely missed it. I pick the left-hand tire track for this section because road debris may bounce off the concrete barrier and into one's path. I was glad to get around this obstacle without incident.
In fact, the whole ride this morning was great. Really great. I'm not sure why, but I had an especially wonderful time being on two wheels. Must have been the cool temperatures.
Anyway, I took the Heights exit and logged mile 12,750 as I pulled up to the driveway. Ready to face the day, with a smile on my face. See you on the road. And don't forget to think.
* * * * *
May 24, 2006:
It was a long night, but Sarah didn't seem concerned. She was ready for her walk the instant the alarm sounded. Sooner, if the truth be known. I got up an obliged her wishes. When we got back, I got her breakfast and changed into my riding gear.
We have an 8:45 a.m. appointment this morning, and time was short. I quickly checked the air in the tires and headed out. I did not skip the warm up section of my ride. I think some turns and stops to get the juices flowing is the proper way to start any two-wheel journey.
After warming up, I entered I-10, heading west. Traffic was light. Speeds were at the limit (and beyond). I resigned myself to a single morning circuit. But I also determined to make it as fun as possible. That meant paying attention to the details. I got in some (abbreviated) thinking, some nice speed, and some smiles at being on two wheels. All in twenty minutes of riding.
When I pulled up to the driveway, I had 12,715 miles on the bike. I was on schedule, with even enough time to pen this blog entry. See you on the road. And don't forget to think.
* * * * *
May 23, 2006:
Today, I got yesterday's wish. But first, Sarah got today's wish.
When the alarm buzzed, Sarah was quick to come to full alert. We followed, more slowly. But her enthusiasm was catching, and we all trooped downstairs and out the door. There was still a touch of coolness in the morning air. Sarah was eager to explore the grass and ditches along the streets, and she did just that.
When we got back, I got her breakfast, and suited up. I added a pound of air to the front tire, and let the rear one alone, as it was only down about a quarter pound. I don't have that much finesse with the air tank.
After warming up, I entered I-10, heading west. Traffic was light and fast. Still, everyone was well behaved, and colored within the lines.
I noticed the odometer reading, and added the Highway 59 extension to both circuits. I don't know where everyone was this morning, but there wasn't even any backup at the Highway 59/I-10 interchange. The steady speeds also made for good thinking. I continued my epistemological quests, but without the success of yesterday. Oh well.
There were no incidents on today's trek. That's what I meant by saying that today I got yesterday's wish. Before I knew it, I was at the Heights exit. I rode on home, and racked up mile 12,700 as I turned into the cul-de-sac. It had been a pleasant morning, with a promising day to come. See you on the road. And don't forget to think.
* * * * *
May 22, 2006:
After yesterday's left turn incident, all I wanted this morning was a quiet ride. But first, Sarah wanted her walk. It was cool and dry outside. A very nice morning. For walking, and for riding.
After taking care of Sarah's pedestrian needs, I fed her, taking care of her gourmand needs. I then suited up. I added a pound of air to the front tire, and headed out. After warming up, I entered I-10, heading west.
I was on my normal workday route. I quickly noticed that there had been some alterations made at the intersection of I-10 and the West Loop. More lane changes. My favorite travel path was now marked with the dreaded "right lane ends" sign. And they meant it. I will have to study on the safest route through this interchange.
The first circuit went fine. Traffic was light, and I actually made some progress on an epistemological problem on which I have been working. It involves trying to make the ad hominem fallacy in reasoning more accessible to modern tastes. The fallacy involves attacking the character of the person advancing an argument instead of attacking the merits (or lack thereof) of the argument. This fallacy is commonplace, but not widely recognized. I have been trying to come up with a way of helping individuals perceive the fallacy, so as to avoid its effects. Renaming the error seems essential. I came up with "attacking the messenger" this morning. It may need more work, but progress was made.
And progress was made during the ride. I was just about ready to declare an incident free ride when I encountered backup on Highway 59. The kind that really slows you down. Everyone was creeping along at about 15 mph. Lane changing in such situations is a prevalent danger.
I was in an exit only lane as a result of merging onto Highway 59, and I needed to get over one lane to the left. I signaled my intention, checked my miror, and glided into an opening. Unfortunately, a van that was two lanes over from me also spotted the opening. And he made his way for it at the same time. I saw his move, and eased to the right, preparing to change into the right-hand lane if necessary. Fortunately, a touch of throttle solved the problem of two objects occupying the same space at the same time. I don't think the driver saw me before making his move. He sure didn't act like it. But, more importantly, I had seen him, realized the potential problem, and maneuvered to deal with the situation.
Of course, it would be better to avoid such situations entirely, but I haven't figured out how to do that. I will have to think on whether or not that is a criticism of my riding or just a fact of morning traffic. Fortunately, traffic was slow, so it made for good practice.
I finished my ride in safety. I had had fun. Yesterday's difficulties were behind me, even with the new lane changer. I am ready to hit the road again tomorrow. With a smile on my face, and a thought in my head. See you on the road. And don't forget to think.
* * * * *
May 21, 2006:
For a variety of reasons, I did not get in an "early" early morning ride today. In fact, it was 9:45 a.m. before I hit the road. On two wheels, that is. We had already taken Sarah for a nice Sunday stroll before I suited up.
Speaking of suiting up, I had some trouble with the D-ring on my helmet. I had used the helmet lock Saturday when I went in to the Half Price Books on NASA Road 1. When I was ready to leave, the D-ring felt "off," but I couldn't figure out why. And I couldn't see enough from the bike's mirrors to figure out exactly what the problem was.
This morning, it still felt off. I went to a mirror and studied things. It looked like the big D-ring was in the wrong place. It was on the "outside" instead of on the "inside." I took the helmet off and felt inside the attachment with my finger. The strap felt twisted. I moved it around until it felt smooth. I then put the helmet back on. All was well. The larger of the two D-rings was on the inside, just like it had been all year. It must have twisted when I atached it to the helmet lock on the bike. Good grief.
Although I had put 350 miles on the bike on Friday and Saturday, those miles had been on the freeways. I felt the need for some curves. For a variety of reasons, a long ride out Highway 290 was not in the cards.
I decided to take a spin on Memorial Drive and the Allen Parkway. I checked the air (it was fine), warmed up, and entered I-10, heading east. I took the downtown exit, went west on Prairie, and quickly roared through the twists of Memorial Drive. Well, roared might not be the exact word. But I went a fast as the speed limit allowed. Which was 50 mph.
It felt good to lean the bike for a change. When I got to the Shepherd exit, I pulled off Memorial and headed for Allen Parkway. I got on the Parkway and headed east. No cars were in sight. I had it all to myself. I zipped through the curves and ended up in downtown Houston. I took Bagby north, with the intention of heading back west on the other side of Allen Parkway.
I think it is Dallas Street that turns into Allen Parkway westbound. Anyway, I was at the red light, blinker on, and mind somewhere else. As I recall, I was thinking about some past blog entries when the light turned green. I instantly head out. And left. And into a car.
Well, almost "into." A small green car was heading south on Bagby as I was turning left. In effect, I was that dreaded left turner, turning directly into the path of the oncoming bike. Except the bike was a car. The car never registered in my conscious mind until it started moving. I had no idea it was there.
All that is a bad comment on my riding abilities. I should have registered the presence of the car. That said, I was pleased with what happened next. As soon as I saw the car move, I quick-stopped within one bike length. I didn't drop the bike (although it was tilted to the left because I had started my turn). I didn't pop the clutch. I didn't get more than a few feet into the intersection. I was never at risk. My reactions were perfect, once I started to react. But it was a humbling experience to have not registered the car until it moved.
Needless to say, I was distracted as I continued down Allen Parkway. That leg of the Parkway was no fun. I kept re-living the mistake. I was not coming out very well in my evaluations. I rode to the exit for Waugh, took it and doubled back. I was pretty sure I did not have a left turn arrow, but I had to make sure.
I did not have a left turn arrow. It was simple lack of attention. I didn't much feel like continuing the ride, but I decided to go ahead and do one workday circuit just to show myself that the incident was a freak event. Sort of like getting back on the horse after being thrown.
I completed a circuit on I-45/Loop 610/I-10 in short order. No incidents. I headed on home. I was dreading writing up this ride. It is no fun to have to tell the world about my stupid mistakes. But one of the reasons I keep writing this blog is in the hope that some new rider will learn from my experiences second-hand instead of first-hand. And I know that I learned a valuable lesson from today's ride. Don't get complacent. Don't forget to think. And don't forget to think about what you are about to do on those two wheels.
When I got home, I was feeling a little better. Sheepish might be the word. But I had gotten in another thirty miles (the odometer now reads 12,630) and I knew that tomorrow I will be back out on the road, confident in my abilities, and ready to have fun. See you on the road. And watch out for those left turners, especially if that left turner is you!
* * * * *
May 20, 2006:
This is the last day of my first year of riding my Honda Rebel. I picked the bike up on Saturday, May 21, 2005. Ironically, today is also a Saturday. I got up early this morning and grabbed a shower even before taking Sarah down to eat. As for her walk, it would have to wait.
You see, I planned a trip to Galveston this morning. And, as Houstonians well know, the later in the day you set out for Galveston, the more likely you will be caught in traffic. Even with all my efforts, it was 6:30 a.m. before I said goodbye to Sarah and Maria, and set out on my anniversary run. I needed 48 miles to get to my goal of 12,500 miles for the first year. I should have that easily by the time I reached Galveston. Weather was no factor, and Maria was urging me to make the run at an early hour. Sarah, on the other hand, seemed more interested in her "anniversary" walk. Make that "daily" walk.
I checked the air in the tires. The back tire was fine, but the front tire was down by half a pound. I added air, and fiddled with the air pressure until I had it right at 29 psi. I then headed out.
After warming up, I rode to the gas station for some petrol. For under $3.00, I topped off the tank. I then entered I-10, heading east. The sun was quickly in my eyes. I remembered why I liked heading to Galveston in the predawn hours.
I got on I-45, and continued on my way. The sun suddenly shifted to my left. It was brought home to me that Galveston is truly south of Houston. Well, south enough that the sun was not in my eyes for most of the trip.
I had not yet made it out of Houston when I spotted a billboard asking for a vote to re-elect Ray Nagin major. Of New Orleans. Because of the hurricanes, we have enough registered voters from New Orleans in our city to justify placement of a billboard for the election in another city in another state. At least Ray Nagin thinks so. I resolved to not let the politicians ruin my trip, so I paid no more mind to those who seek to impose their will through the force of the government gun.
Traffic was light along I-45. I made good time. And got in some quality thinking time. Early morning trips to Galveston are among the most pleasant flat and straight rides one can take on a bike. There was a touch of coolness in the air, and I could taste the ocean long before I could see it.
As I approached the exit for Tiki Island, I watched the odometer roll over to 12,500 miles. I was going about 65 mph* at the time. I had slowed down to let a pickup pass me by. I had the freeway all to myself. I stuck out both arms, and did the bird while watching the odometer roll over. At least no one was around to question my sanity.
Almost immediately, I was on the causeway, then on the Island. I took 61st Street to Seawall Boulevard. The surf was well mannered. Because of the early hour, and the cloud cover, the waves had a shimmering silver texture. A nice contrast to the tanned arms and legs of the winsome runners who were out in force.
I rode east the entire length of Seawall Boulevard. I stopped and watched the waves come in. I know their are lots of people who look out at the ocean and see proof of the insignificance of man. I don't see that. I look at the power of nature, and admire men who use all their thought processes to cope with that power, and harness it for their use. I see the vastness of the sea, and am given hope by the many ways individuals, using all their ingenuity and confidence, have managed to co-exist with that power, and prosper in its presence. Far from affirming the insignifance of man, I see the men who work the sea as proof of the power of reason. And cause for optimism as to the future.
All too soon, it was time to resume my journey. I continued down Seawall Boulevard. At the East Beach, I turned around and headed back to the Hotel Galvez. Breakfast was calling.
The main reason I headed to Galveston today was that I wanted to have breakfast at the Galvez. I had dined there on my first bike ride to Galveston, and the memories were pleasant. I was ready to try it again.
I parked on 21st Street and donned my do-rag. Thus attired, and with helmet in hand, I headed for the entrance. The lady seating the diners looked flustered when I announced I was one for breakfast. She couldn't seem to be able to decide where to seat me. This had also been a problem the first visit.
I totally sympathize with the dilemma I presented. I was in full biker gear, and it was clear that I was not bound for the beach. She finally put me in a half-circle booth with a high back. I think it was the most sheltered table she could find. It was also a table for four.
I put my helmet on one seating area, my jacket on another and my body in the middle. A server appeared instantly with Starbucks coffee.
The Galvez is the reason I now drink Starbucks at the house. I was not a coffee drinker until that first visit to the Galvez. I ordered coffee that morning, and I was immediately hooked on the House Blend. It has a wonderful aroma and taste. This morning's offering did not disappoint.
When the waiter came to take my order, I selected the Eggs Bernardo Benedict, with ham and hollandaise sauce. While I was waiting for the eggs, a lovely redhead walked by. She smiled and said hello. Ah, what a way to start a meal.
The eggs were superb. The coffee was excellent. My luck with the ladies was lacking. In fact, a whole table of redheads sat down directly across from me. And not a one so much as looked my way. Okay, I admit it was a family. Mom and Dad and two daughters. Everyone sported bright red hair. But cheery countenances were lacking. They didn't look to be having that great of a vacation. But still.
And did I mention that one of the daughters had on a t-shirt that said "Saddle Up?" I took that as a hint, and gulped a last drink of coffee, and headed out. I stopped in the lobby to phone in to Maria. She had decided to sleep in, and was just getting up. I told her I would probably stop at the Half Price Books on NASA Road 1. Like there was any doubt. She said to go for it, and thus inspired, I headed for the bike.
I did "saddle up." And headed for the Strand. I like going through the historic district. Hardly anyone was out and about. I had the street all to myself. I ran the length of the Strand, then headed back to Broadway.
The trip back was also pleasant. Temperatures were still cool. Traffic was still light. More thinking time was employed.
When I got to NASA Road 1, I took the exit and headed for the Half Price Books. Once again I donned my do-rag. This time I locked the helmet to the bike, so I would have two hands to hold my purchases. And I needed them both. I got a book for Maria, and one for Cynthia. I got a book on weather (always useful for bikers), two on philosophy, and a couple of books on tape. I had to stop when I figured I was taxing the capacity of my Vanson jacket to hold all my purchases.
I paid, then headed for the bike to arrange my goodies. Three slim volumes went in the zippered compartment that also holds the back armor. One book on tape went on the right, and the rest of the stuff went on the left. I could barely zip up the jacket. And I had to fiddle with the load to make sure I could move my arms freely.
I glanced at the odometer. Another fifty miles and I could claim 12,600 for the first year. I decided to go for it. I called Maria and left a message.
I had considered a stop at Stubbs on the way home. I would be driving right by. However, with all the books I had purchased, I figured I was sure to be arrested as a shop lifter due to the strange buldges in my jacket. So, with regret, I passed the dealership by.
I watched the odometer roll on as I neared Houston. I figured that a single trip on my normal workday circuit would put me over my goal. And it seemed appropriate to make that circuit the last ride of my first year. So, when I arrived on I-10, I kept going west. I took Loop 610 north, then east. I decided to add the Highway 59 extention, just for insurance.
As I was traveling down the north loop, I decided to go around a slow car in the right-hand lane. I put on my blinker, glanced at my left-hand mirror, did a head check, then made my move. I had seen a small black car behind me and to my left. That car sped up and tried to get into the gap I was getting in to. For a split second, it looked like we would both be sharing the lane. But I had seen the driver make his move, and I was ready. I gently slid over to my right, out of his way. He rudely honked his horn, got in my lane, then switched out of it after a couple of seconds. Of course, he failed to signal any of his lane changes. The nice things about all of this was that I was not surprised by any of the actions, and I made my lane adjustments without fuss, muss or adrenaline. And continued on my way.
Traffic was still light, but I had another problem. The freeway billboards were proclaiming that the I-10 exit off Highway 59 was closed today. Ugh. I had already passed up the I-45 exit off 610 when I read the first billboard announcing this problem. When I got on Highway 59, heading south, another billboard reminded me of the pending disaster. I took the Quitman exit, u-turned, headed north on 59, then west on Loop 610. A new freeway billboard proclaimed that there was a major accident at I-45 and 610, and to expect delays. Double ugh.
As I approached I-45, I held my breath. And covered the front brake.
There did not appear to be any backup, however. A glance to the north did not show any flashing lights. I headed south, expecting to have to come to a quick stop instantly. But the accident was gone. Or somewhere else. I had no problems maintaining my speed. I took the Heights exit, doubled back get gas (six dollars this time), and continued on home.
It had been a great ride. Just long enough. I had hit several fun stops, and had no really close calls. The odometer rolled over to 12,600 at Oxford and 7th Street. I did the bird for a tenth of a mile, until my speed was too low to maintain my balance. I then turned onto 7-1/2, and home to Mosby Circle. The odometer registered 12,600.2 as I came to a stop. I got the camera and preserved the magic moment.
I gave some thought to ending My Honda Rebel Blog with today's entry. I've been at it for a year now, and it takes more time than one might think. But, for now, I have decided to continue to ride and write. I'm still having fun recording my adventures, and that's what it's all about. And I do appreciate all of you who have let me know you enjoy the Blog. Thanks for reading.
So, I bid a fond farewell to my first year of biking. And I look forward to my second year. See you on the road. And don't forget to think.
* * * * *
May 19, 2006:
Tomorrow is the last day in the first year I have been riding the bike. Early in the week I decided to shoot for 12,500 miles for the first year. Unfortunately, the traffic jams the last two days really cut into my game plan. I needed drastic help to get back on course.
The solution came to me yesterday. I had no morning appointments on Friday. So, I would get up, take Sarah for her walk, see Maria off to work, then go on an extended ride. Which is what I did.
Saah had her walk, and her breakfast, then I fixed our breakfasts. After all that, Maria headed for her office, and I headed upstairs to change into my riding gear. A check with the tire gauge showed that all was will with the air pressure, so off I went.
After warming up, I headed for the gas station to top off my tank. I then got on I-10, heading west. I quickly worked my way over to the far left-hand lane, and took I-45 north. I wanted to put 150 miles on the bike. That meant a ride of 75 miles north, and 75 miles south.
I settled on a trip to Huntsville. The best reporter I ever knew had lived in Huntsville, and even run his own newspaper from that fair city. I decided to pay his old store a visit, in his memory. Unfortunately, Bob passed away before I got my bike, so I never got to listen to him question my sanity for taking up such an odd pastime. Or hear his evaluations of this blog. I know he would have had lots to say. As I rode north, I thought of the good times we had had debating the problems of the world. Bob was certainly someone who did not forget to think. And write. And write about what he thought. Some of the most pleasant times of my life were spent debating the problems of the world with him.
I made it to Huntsville in record time. Traffic was very light on I-45, and road conditions were perfect for a nice ride. When I hit Huntsville, I took 11th Street to Sam Houston, then I went north to his old office. New tenants occupy the space now, so I contented myself with parking on the street in front of the building and calling my office to check in.
I then rode to the Hastings Bookstore and took a break. It seemed sacrilegious to go to Huntsville without a stop at Hastings. The bookstore is eclectic, and always worth a visit. I managed to snare a book on the American revolution by James and Christopher Collier. I paid for the book, and placed it in the pocket that contains the back protector in my Vanson jacket. Thus outfitted, I took off again.
When I had called in to the office, all was well. I took this for a sign to continue my northward course. Well, "excuse" may be a better word. Bob had lived in Madisonville while he ran his Huntsville newspaper, so a trip there seemed in order. And it was only twenty-five miles farther. I got back on I-45, heading north. I had logged a little over seventy-five miles in getting to Huntsville, and another twenty-five miles put me back on track to close in on mile 12,500 tomorrow. When I reached Madisonville, I turned around at the main exit and headed back to Houston without stopping.
I saw lots of bikers on both legs of this journey. It was a beautiful day for riding, and I wasn't the only one who thought so. On the way south, I fell in behind a pickup truck that was hauling a motorboat. We were going along at about 65 mph* when I noticed a State Trooper following me. I remained calm, and continued on my way. I wasn't sure what the speed limit was along this streth of the freeway. Was it 60 or 70? Was I in trouble or not?
I kept an eye on the Trooper as we continued south. He pulled into the left-hand lane and started to accelerate. When he drew next to me, I glanced over and he made a pumping motion with his right hand, like you do to signal an eighteen wheeler trucker to blow his horn. Before I could figure out what he meant, he accelerated ahead of me. When I glanced ahead I realized the pickup with boat had taken an exit off the freeway, and I had clear sailing ahead. Except for the Trooper. Who changed into my lane.
He didn't stop there, however. He tore off into the grassy medium and entered the feeder road, with lights flashing. He was pulling over the pickup as I passed them by. I'm not sure why, but I was glad I wasn't facing his questioning. Or finding out what the hand pumping motion meant.
My next problem was that I was running low on fuel. As I hit mile 144, I felt the engine stall. I had logged a lot of 70 plus miles per hour,* and that had cut into my mpg. I switched to the reserve tank, and started looking for a gas station. I saw a Shell station at the Willis exit, and headed for the pump.
After filling up, I headed back to I-45. The turn onto the freeway was very sharp, and filled with gravel. Fortunately, I noticed it in time, and eased back on the speed. Once back on I-45, I continued my way south. When I came to the Woodlands, I took the exit for the Woodlands Harley-Davidson dealership. I wanted another look at the Dyna Glide Low Riders.
They had 'em. In beautiful colors. But without the price tags. So, after drooling for a while, I got back on the Rebel and continued to Houston. All went well until I came up on an eighteen wheeler flat bed hauling an extra wide load. And that load was some kind of crane on treads. Treads like a bulldozer has. Muddy treads. The mud didn't register until the trucker hit a bump in the freeway and a bunch of clods of mud came off the treads. The mud was headed directly toward me. Lots of it. In an idiotic motion, I ducked my head, like that would do any good.
I was glad it didn't do any bad. In motorcycling, they say your bike goes where your eye look. I had turned my head hard and down to the right. Fortunately, I realized how dangerous my reaction had been, and held the bike on path. The fact that none of the dirt clods hit me also helped.
After that bit of excitement, I continued down I-45 until I got to the North Loop, which I took to the west. I hooked around to I-10, and headed eastbound on home. I had gotten in lots of thinking time during this trip but, as was the case when Bob and I would discuss the problems of the world, conclusions were few and far between.
I took the Studemont exit, u-turned under the freeway, and headed back westbound on the feeder road. When I came to Cortlandt I headed north to White Oak. As I was turning onto Cortlandt, I noticed that a lawn service had recently cut the grass at the corner, and blown it all onto the street. I slowed down and gingerly held my breath as I picked a path through the lightest sections. I wasn't sure what a street full of freshly cut grass would do to my traction in a curve, and I didn't want to find out. Once again, I made the turn without incident.
When I got home, it was time for lunch. The odometer read 12,452. I had put 202 miles on the bike, and a great morning ride under my belt. And had lots of stories to tell. Stay tuned for tomorrow, when I decide how to celebrate the end of my first year's riding.
* * * * *
May 18, 2006:
Although Channel 11 said it was 60 degrees out, it felt a lot colder when we went for our walk. We had donned light jackets, and I could feel the cold even with the jacket zipped all the way up. On the other hand, Sarah made no complaints.
While Sarah ate, I suited up. Remembering the cold, I put the nylon windbreaker on under my Vanson Jacket. I headed out to check the air. Both tires were down a couple of pounds. I added the necessary air to bring them both to 29 psi. Thus inspired, I headed out.
After warming up, I entered I-10, heading west. I encountered heavy traffic almost immediately. Within a quarter mile, we were all creeping along at under twenty miles per hour. I saw a stalled vehicle in one of the middle lanes, but traffic didn't speed up until I was on Loop 610. Channel 11 had reported a stalled car on I-10 at Silber, but one of the freeway billboards had said that accident had just been cleared. I was hopeful that there would be no backup by the second loop.
Once I got on the West Loop, all was well. Traffic moved at the speed limit. I decided to add the Highway 59 extension to give the wreckers an extra few minutes to get Silber back to normal. Traffic was light on 59, and I even breezed through the curve onto I-10 without major slowups.
However, just past the intersection with I-45, traffic began slowing down. By the time I got to the Heights exit, it was bumper-to-bumper stopped as far as I could see. I quickly exited and headed home. I have the A/C company coming by this morning, and I couldn't affort to get caught in long traffic jams.
I was sad to get in only the single loop. I did get in some nice thinking time while on the 610 portion of the circuit, and even the Highway 59 traffic allowed for an occasional thought. Still, this makes two days in a row that traffic had been really horrible on my normal workday circuit. I now have 12,250 miles on the bike. I hope to get in a longer ride tomorrow. Stay tuned. And don't forget to think.
* * * * *
May 17, 2006:
Today dawned at 57 degrees, according to the house thermometer. So it was winter jackets again for Sarah's walk. When we got outside, it didn't seem as cold as yesterday. I decided that was because there was no wind.
The walk was pleasant, and Sarah seemed to enjoy her breakfast. I suited up for what I hoped was a nice ride. I checked the air in the tires and headed out.
I immediately discovered that a motorcycle makes its own wind. It felt cold. And I had forgotten to wear the nylon windbreaker. Oh well, time to tough it out.
After warming up, I entered I-10, heading west. Before leaving, I had heard Channel 11 report that there was a car fire on the North Loop at Ella. Just where I was heading. A glance at the sky revealed no helicopters hovering around, so I decided to chance it.
My luck did not hold. Traffic was backed up as soon as I got on the North Loop. I glanced at my watch and noted that I was stuck in the stop and go for fifteen minutes. And all of that delay was caused by the rubber neckers. Ugh.
I quickly decided to add the Highway 59 extension to my lap, in hopes that the wreckers would have the car hauled away by the time I made my way back around to Ella. There was a little backup where Highway 59 intersects I-10, but nothing terrible.
That didn't last for long. As I passed the Shepherd exit, things clogged up on I-10. I guess the car was still causing problems. I took the Washington exit and u-turned. I got back on I-10 and headed home. Mission Unaccomplished.
Well, the odometer now reads 12,230, and I got in twenty-five slow miles. But not the forty-five miles I had hoped for. Still, the day is young, and it is bound to get better. Always the optimist. See you on the road. And don't forget to think.
* * * * *
May 16, 2006:
Today dawned crisp and cool. When we took Sarah for her walk it was 57 degrees. I hauled out the winter coats. More as a token than a necessity. This is probably our last chance to wear them. Sarah must feel the same way about her coat, given the way she is shedding lately. Anyway, the walk was enjoyable. Maria commented that she smelled eggs and coffee, and that set our morning menue. I asked Maria if she wanted breakfast before or after my ride. Maria chose "after." Sarah chose "before." I accomodated both, in their turn.
As Sarah was eating, I suited up, checked the air, and headed out. In honor of the cool temperatures, I had slipped on a nylon windbreaker before putting on my Vanson jacket. I am happy to report it did its job on this morning's ride.
I had to use a touch of choke to get the bike running smoothly. By the second stop sign I thumbed it off, with no problem. I warmed up and entered I-10, heading west, as usual. My plan was to do three circuits this morning. Riding weather was perfect, and I have no morning appointments. Traffic was pretty light, and I got in great stretches of thinking time. Only two riding incidents occurred.
During the second circuit, the traffic on I-45 south slowed down to about 15 mph. It was a gradual slow down, caused by a stalled truck in the right hand emergency lane. I was in the lane that is second from the right. I had a car and a half gap between the SUV ahead of me and the nose of my bike. I could just see around the SUV. Suddenly (as suddenly as one can get at 15 mph), the SUV came to a halt. A car in the lane to our right darted into the gap between the SUV and the car ahead of the SUV. This caused the SUV to brake. This also caused me to brake (but not stop). I'm not sure what gear I was in, but when I let the clutch out to pick up speed, I found I was in the wrong gear. The motor was lugging, and nearly stalled. I downshifted a gear and tried again. The engine still lugged. I shifted down another gear. I was worried because the car that had been on my tail had done its own darting--out of my lane and into the lane on the left. That meant that there was a gap between me and the car immediately behind me, and that car might not get stopped in time. At least, that was my worry. I wanted to go forward, and all that engine lugging was not helping. I eased out the clutch a little, twisted the throttle a little, and was back in the flow of traffic. No harm done, except to my ego. I need to make sure I down shift to a gear that allows for acceleration at slow speeds instead of getting lazy about my shifting.
The other incident was more exciting. I was on the last lap of the circuit. I was cruising along on the North Loop when, all of a sudden, the eighteen wheeler that was two vehicles ahead of me started braking hard. Real hard. As in the kind of braking that produces smoke and burning rubber. I started braking too. I was pretty sure I could get stopped, but I automatically eased over to the far right edge of my lane so I could scoot into the emergency lane if things got dicey. My reactions were right on, and nothing happened. Not even an adrenaline rush. But it was the first time I had faced a burning rubber stop at high speed. I was just glad that it was the eighteen wheeler that had locked up its wheels, and not me.
That's it for today. I got in my three laps, and I now have 12,205 miles on the bike. And more thinking time under my belt. Wish I could say I have solved the problems of the world, but there is still work to do. So, be like me, and don't forget to think.
* * * * *
May 15, 2006:
It was a long night. Maria decided to sleep in. Sarah decided to go for her walk. And take me with her. Which she did.
It was a cool morning, with low humidity. We saw the heron while walking. I was excited, but Sarah just wanted her breakfast. While she ate, I suited up and headed out.
The front tire was three pounds down. I hope I don't have a leak. I added air. The back tire was one pound down. I added air there, also. Thus inflated, I headed out.
I was running about an hour behind my normal start time. That meant the freeways were full. I entered I-10, heading west. I decided to add the Highway 59 extension to both trips. I wanted to get the odometer to 12,160 so I could get to the 200 mile marker by tomorrow. There was congestion at 59 and I-10, but not too bad. I inched my way forward and worked my way in between two trucks. I was glad when traffic thinned out so I could see again.
There was not much exciting to report about this ride. I did the two workday circuits, and added forty miles to the odometer. Traffic was pretty fast, and mostly stayed in the proper lanes. Temperatures were great for riding. If I didn't have so many projects at work, I would have extended the ride even more. I am hopeful that I can get to mile 12,200 tomorrow. Today, when I pulled up to the driveway, I had 12,160 on the bike. See you on the road.
* * * * *
May 14, 2006:
Due to a variety of circumstances, I was unable to fit in a morning ride. No circumstances stopped Sarah from demanding, and getting, her morning walk. And breakfast. We, on the other hand, ate late. I then did some necessary work in the rose garden before grabbing a shower. It was approaching noon.
After my shower, we ate our lunch. While we ate, we watched the Techniques of a Champion, DVD featuring Jeremy McGrath. It was surprisingly short, but had some interesting hints on how to ride in the dirt. Some of the techniques could prove useful on the streets. I was glad I had purchased it.
After eating, Maria and I headed to the Houston Arboretum for Linda Knowles' lecture on fireflies. The skies were continuing to thicken. Rain and hail was predicted for mid-afternoon. The lecture was at 2:00 p.m. It was a well attended and enjoyable presentation. When it was over, we made a quick stop at Target, then headed home. The clouds were ominous by then. Before we could pull into the garage, the skies let loose. Once we were back inside, we could here occasional pellets of hail hit the windows. Talk about cutting it close.
The storm hit about four. We got 1.1 inches of rain in short order. It was then just a question of letting the streets dry out before trying my ride. By six, I was suited up and checking the air in the tires.
I am now the proud owner of two accurate tire gauges. One is a BikeMaster and the other is a n Accu-Gage. They are dial gauges as opposed to the plunger types. I used them both to test the tire pressure, and they were within a half a pound of each other. I had to add some air to the front tire, but the back was fine. After making peace with the tires, I warmed up and headed to the gas station to top off the tank.
I had checked Weather.Com before leaving the house. Rain was still showing on the radar. It looked worse up north. Scattered drops were hitting me as I pulled out of the gas station. Fortunately, the freeways were dry.
I decided to head out Highway 290 instead of going north on I-45. The clouds were definitely darker up north, but they were also present to the west. I figured I could ride until I hit rain, then turn around and head back. I didn't want to be gone too long, so a stop at the Half Price Books was not in the cards.
Highway 290 was pretty weird. The first incident involved a wayward cardboard box that cars kept hitting and bouncing into random lanes. I was happy to see the box go left, away from me, instead of right, into my path. I continued on.
Traffic continued to be thick. In fact, it continued to be erratic. A gray SUV changed into my lane, and would have run me down if I hadn't been aware of the situation and hit my front brake to ease back. Fortunately, my policy of never letting a car get beside me served me well in this instance. I don't think the driver ever realized how close he came. Life in the big city.
When I passed Highway 6, traffic finally began to thin out. I was able to ease back and enjoy the ride. And the thinking time. Still, I kept one eye on the odometer, one eye on the traffic and one eye on the clouds. Or something like that.
As I continued west, the clouds thickened up. I could see the sheeting pattern in the clouds that one sees when rain falls. I could also see that the feeder roads were totally wet. I wanted to get in 75 miles on this trip, and when I reached 37 miles I spotted an exit with a quick turn around, and took it. I u-turned under the Highway and headed back home. The ride continued to be dry and easy until I was well inside the city limits. Then the traffic got crazy again.
I took the exit for the North Loop, and continued east. At I-45, I went north. I was watching the time, and due to the high speeds of the flow of traffic, I was ahead of schedule. I figured I could take I-45 to the Sam Houston Freeway, then take Highway 59 back home. That would add about thirty minutes to my travel, and an equal number of miles. So off I went.
All went well for several miles. I watched the odometer roll over to 12,100. I was enjoying the ride when, as is often the case, traffic ground to a halt. Not a quick stop like yesterday, but a stop, nonetheless. An accident, or construction. I don't know which. Traffic was backed up at far as I could see. I took the very next exit, u-turned, and headed back south. Another Plan B trip.
When I got to Loop 610, I headed east to Highway 59, which I took south to I-10. I continued to roll up the miles. When I got to the Heights exit, I continued on to TC Jester. I remembered that Maria had been craving a root beer float, and we were out of root beer. A quick stop at Krogers would do the trick. And I could spread out the cans inside my jacket and get them home without much trouble. Or so I thought.
The problems arose when I walked to the soft drink aisle. I like tea. And wine. So I don't have much experience with soft drinks. I still had this image that I could buy a six-pack of root beer and haul it home. I quickly realized that Krogers didn't sell six-packs in cans. The smallest quantity they had was a twelve-pack. I figured that was taxing even my creativity in hauling stuff in my Vanson jacket.
I finally settled on a six-pack of bottles. As in glass bottles. I really studied the carton to see if it would fit inside the jacket. I couldn't experiment with the fit for fear that I would be arrested for shoplifting. My best estimate was that the carton would fit. Plan B called for putting a bottle in each of my pants pockets, one in each of the outside pockets of my jacket, and the last two inside the jacket--if my estimate was wrong. I paid for the drinks, and headed for the parking lot.
I found a quiet place where the other shoppers couldn't see me struggle with this problem. I unzipped my jacket half way, sucked in my gut, and tried the fit. I was pleased to see that the full carton fit, and that I could even zip the jacket up. However, the slim profile I have worked so hard to obtain was grotesquely spoiled. Not a beer belly, exactly. A root beer belly. With ninety degree angles here and there. And a lot of weight.
I delicately walked to the bike and saddled up. I settled myself on the bike, and made sure the root beer couldn't slip out the bottom of the jacket. Then, ever so gently, I started up the bike and made my way home.
When I pulled up to the driveway I had 12,121.3 miles on the bike. I unzipped the jacked and placed the root beer on the driveway. I was sad I had come that extra one tenth of a mile. Otherwise, I would have had 12121.2 on the odometer. Oh well, it had still been an interesting ride for my first post 12,000 mile run. I had made it home safe and dry. And it was time to surprise Maria with her treat. See you on the road. And don't forget to think.
* * * * *
May 13, 2006:
We had a long night. Maria opted to sleep in. Sarah opted for breakfast. No one asked me my opt. But I did get up and get Sarah's breakfast. And the newspaper. And a cup of freshly brewed coffee. Which I took to the bathtub and enjoyed with a good book.
Even though we all got moving by 7:30, the morning was slow. By eleven, Maria announced that she wanted pancakes for breakfast (and was willing to fix them). I was in favor, and Sarah was attentive. After we gobbled down our food, Sarah kept walking to the drawer where we keep her leash, to remind us that, however discombobulated the morning schedule had been, she wanted her walk. Which she got.
Temperatures had risen by this time. So had the humidity. Neither fact bothered Sarah. She would have walked forever. When we returned, it was about 12:20 p.m. Maria said I should go for my ride. I had used the walk to come up with a Plan B route, so I was ready.
I suited up and headed for the garage. The tire pressure was fine. After grabbing my backpack (for storage of any purchases at Half Price), I headed out. It was 12:25 p.m. My plan was to get in a quick ride. Yet, because this was the 12,000 mile ride, I wanted something memorable. Plan A had been a trip to the Galvez for breakfast. That had not been in the cards. Plan B was to do some of the fun things I had done on the Rebel during the first 12,000 miles.
I needed 45 miles to reach my goal. I figured to take Highway 59 North to the Half Price Bookstore, spend half an hour at the store and return home. Thus, I could fit everything in in about ninety minutes. Say two hours. That is the route I announced to Maria. She wished me luck, and off I went.
AFter warming up, I headed to the gas station and topped off the tank. I then entered I-10, heading east. Immediately, an eighteen wheeler bounced a soft drink can into my path. I swerved out of the way as it whizzed by. A mile or so on down the freeway, a pickup truck drove over a four foot piece of metal in the lane next to me. Fortunately, the scrap stayed put. This was looking to be an interesting ride.
I took Highway 59 north. It is one of my favorite freeways, because traffic is usually light. It wasn't light today, but the drivers were well behaved. By that I mean that all the lane changers signaled before they moved. One driver that cut into my lane even waived his thanks because I had dropped back to let him in. Talk about courtesy!
After some quality thinking time on Highway 59, I took the FM 1960 exit and rode to the Half Price Bookstore. It seemed only appropriate that I would stop there for this milestone ride. I have made it a point to visit each of the Half Price Bookstores in Houston during my many rides. This one was one of my frequent stops. As I pulled into the parking lot, I noted that I had 11,978 miles on the odometer. I had come 21 miles since zeroing the tripometer at the gas station.
I sat on the bike, taking off my gloves and helmet. A thirty-something, attractive female in a well fitting sweater walked by and said, "Hi, there." Life is good.
Suitably inspired, I donned my do-rag and headed for the store. As I was walking through the parking lot, I saw a fender bender happen right in front of me. Two cars backed into each other. Whoa. The day was getting curiousier and curiousier.
Time passed quickly at the Half Price. I found some gems, and made my way to the counter to pay. The clerk noted my motorcycle gear and asked me what I was riding. He also had a motorcycle endorsement on his license. He favored Valkyries and hemi motors. Once again, the brotherhood of two wheelers asserted a connection between two strangers.
And my purchases? I got three books on tape, a book by Peter Kreeft called Socrates Meets Machiavelli and I also found Charles Mackay's Extraordinary Popular Delusions and the Madness of Crowds. An anthology of famous philosophers rounded out my purchases. All in all, a great visit. I called Maria from the store to see what she was up to and let her know I was finished at Half Price. She said to take my time.
So I decided to expand the trip to include one more stop. I got on Highway 59, and headed south. At the Sam Houston Parkway I headed west to I-45. There, I went south to the first exit. I then u-turned and headed back north on the feeder. Oh look! Cycle Gear just popped into view.
I now had 11,993 miles on the bike. Might as well take a break and see what they had for sale. I entered the store and took the tour. I like Cycle Gear. It is geared for the meteric crowd, which means the stock is totally different from what you will find in a Harley store. I decided to buy a tire gauge I had peviously spotted in their sales catalogue. It was a BikeMaster dial gauge with hose. The extension afforded by the hose should make it easier to get in between the spokes. And I can now have a second opinion on the tire pressure. Trust, but verify. And the dial is surrounded by tire rubber, complete with tread and authentic new-tire smell. Don't laugh. It's quite intoxicating.
I also wanted to get something in honor of the 12,000 mile run. I looked over the DVD's, and decided on Techniques of a Champion, featuring Jeremy McGrath. He is a motocross rider, and I figured it was time I expanded my frame of reference.
After paying for my prizes, I headed for the parking lot. A guy walked up and started talking motorcycles. He asked me about gas mileage, and told me of the days past when he also had ridden a bike without a fuel gauge. This was the second time today (the third if you count the winsome lass) that a stranger had engaged me in conversation. I guess I just look friendly in all that black.
I again headed south on I-45. My goal had been to hit the North Loop as the mileage rolled over. To have the mileage roll over on the Loop would honor my morning rides. After all, it was all those thirty mile morning trips that really enabled me to rack up 12,000 miles in less than a year.
Unfortunately, my distance estimates were off just a shade. When I was exactly 2.1 miles away from the Loop, I watched the odometer roll from 11,999.9 to 12,000.0. I was doing 65 mph* at the time, and I was right at the Airline exit on I-45. I was tempted to do the bird in honor of the event, but I have spent way too much time visiting hospitals lately, so I kept my hands firmly on the handlebars.
Two miles later, I turned onto the North Loop. I quickly made my way over to the inside (lane, heading west. I kept up with the flow of traffic. Which was fast. It continued fast as we rounded the turn and headed south on the West Loop. As I crested a hill, I saw that the traffic in front of me had come to a crawl. I applied the rear brake with my right foot, and slowly squeezed the front brake lever. I pulled in the clutch. I'm not sure whether I down shifted right away. That's because I realized I was going to have to apply much more front brake to get stopped, so I added some squeeze to the front brake. I got stopped with room to spare. And with a great adrenaline rush. This was not on the agenda. Traffic came to a complete stop. We inched forward. I was only a quarter of a mile from my exit. I should have been home in another ten minutes.
I had checked the Chronicle before I left. The only work listed for 610 was the closure of the westbound exit to I-10 for the northbound traffic on 610. I was southbound. And I wanted the eastbound exit to I-10. I should have been in the clear. Instead, I was in a gigantic traffic snarl. Ugh. Ugh. Ugh.
A police car was blocking my exit onto I-10. All traffic was funneled westbound on I-10. So I went westbound. I noted that a quick u-turn was out of the question because the eastbound traffic for the Katy Freeway was back up to forever. I crawled to the Wirt Road/Chimney Rock exit, and took it. I went south on Chimney Rock. Traffic wasn't too bad. When I got to Memorial Drive, I took it east. That shouldn't delay me much.
Wrong. Traffic was backed up on Memorial too. So I took a u-turn and headed back to Chimney Rock. I continued south all the way to Woodway. I figured this street would surely be free of the I-10 congestion. Which it was.
I took Woodway till it turned into Memorial, and kept going east all the way to Louisiana. As I passed the Houston Arboretum, I noted a sign for the lecture on fireflies being given by Linda Knowles at 2 p.m. on Sunday. The Chronicle's Garden Calendar had listed the event, and Maria and I had resolved to attend, schedules permitting. I have a special fondness for fireflies.
All this detouring was not on the schedule. And I wasn't sure this is what Maria had had in mind when she told me to take my time. But taking time it surely was. Still, I got to make the Memorial Drive run on this milepost ride. It was certainly turning into one for the memory books.
I took Memorial all the way downtown to Louisiana, and took Louisiana north to I-10. By this time I was way over my two hour estimate, so I hoofed it on home. When I pulled up to the driveway I had 12,025 miles on the bike. That's "twelve twenty-five. Which is the same number as the time had been when I had started my ride.
I pulled the bike up to the garage door, took off my helmet and backpack and went inside for the camera. I wanted to preserve the 12,025 reading on film. Well, on digital.
After snapping a few pictures, I celebrated with a cold Sierra Nevada Pale Ale. A fitting conclusion to a great Plan B (and C) ride. Rain is predicted for tomorrow. The ride will, for a variety of reasons, have to be short. At least shorter than I would like. Which is a good thing, in a way. It means I am still loving the two-wheeler life after 12,000 miles of experiencing it. See you on the road. And don't forget to think.
* * * * *
May 12, 2006:
Today was another cold morning. Colder than yesterday. We got a late start on Sarah's walk by about half an hour. Sarah was not happy, but she calmed down as we covered some distance. And she reverted to happy (as measured by jumping and tail wagging) as I quickly served up her breakfast upon our return. While she ate, I suited up.
Tire pressure was right on in the front and a pound light on the back. It could have been the cooler temperatures. Or the fact that the rear tire is tubeless. Or something else. Just yesterday, Cynthia had asked me, "What is it about you and tires?" I'm not sure. I think having your safety depend on two pieces of rubber causes one to pay increased attention to radial matters.
Anyway, with tires properly inflated, I headed out. I was wearing a nylon windbreaker under my Vanson jacket in honor of the 55 degree temperature on the house thermometer. I can't say I was warm, but I wasn't cold either. And I didn't have to break out the winter gear.
I was immediately reminded that the temperatures had fallen. I got the bike started without trouble, but it had no power until I added a little choke. Then, everything was fine. By the second stop sign, I nudged the choke off, and continued on my way. After finishing my warm up, I entered I-10, heading west. Traffic was lighter than yesterday. When I turned east on the North Loop, the sun was suddenly in my eyes. I had to remind myself that it was in the eyes of the car drivers as well. If you are having trouble seeing, you must assume that the drivers of those traveling hunks of metal beside you are too. I proceeded with extra risk awareness. I stetched out following distances, and watched my sides.
When I turned south on I-45 on the first circuit, I spotted an old green car in the far left lane. My attention was drawn to it because it was wobbling in and out of its lane. Like the driver was drunk. Before seven a.m. I slowed down in case he hit someone. In addition to swaying outside his lane, he was hitting his brakes for no reason I could detect. I slowed down some more.
My concentration was so focused on the drunk, that I took the Quitman exit from I-45 instead of the I-10 exit. They are right next to each other, and, as I watched the green car go out of sight (with brake lights glowing), I found myself on Quitman. Oh well. I guess I was paying too much attention. To the green car, that is. It just goes to show you (and me) that you can't concentrate on any one thing to the exculsion of everything else while riding a motorcycle.
I took Quitman to Houston Avenue, then worked my way over to Taylor, where I reentered I-10. It added a few minutes to my route, but no extra distance. I did another circuit and headed home. No more drunks.
As I was riding up to my street, I spotted Sharon and a couple of the neighborhood kids on their bikes. I guess they were getting in a last ride before school. I rode up. Sharon told me they knew it was me. I asked how. They pointed to the headlight.
I run my brights during the daylight hours. I told them I wanted to increase the chances I would be seen. Sharon nodded with approval and told them, "See." I was glad I was wearing my helmet and all my protective gear. I was glad they were wearing their bike helmets.
As the kids pedaled to their car to head for school, I u-turned and went on home. I had 11,955 miles on the bike. I had had some nice thinking time, great weather, and an interesting ride. See you on the road.
* * * * *
May 11 2006:
I have a mediation this morning. So, in order to get in a ride, we got moving a little earlier than normal. Which did not upset Sarah one bit. That's because we did not eliminate her walk from the morning's activities.
It was 62 degrees out. Yes, a "cold" front had come through. Just for old times sake, we donned jackets for our walk. Sarah went "as is." With the wind, I was glad we had put on the extra protection. I began worrying about what this morning's ride would be like.
I had already put up my winter riding gear. I was unwilling to get it back out. I decided to tough it out. I considered wearing a nylon windbreaker under my Vanson jacket, but opted for the macho approach.
Sarah was unconcerned--about the temperature. She was ready for breakfast. While she ate, I suited up in my summer riding gear. I headed for the garage to check the air in the tires. The front tire had 27 psi. The back tire had 26. I air both up, even though I figured part of the loss of pressure was because of the cooler temperatures.
I headed out to the cool temperatures. After warming up, I entered I-10, heading west. Even though it was early, traffic was really heavy. And the big rigs and buses were everywhere. I felt like I was traveling down a metal canyon. And a moving canyon at that.
Early in the ride I got stuck behind a trailer full of branches and tree trunks. And lots of leaves. Lots and lots of leaves. The kind that blow off the trailer and onto motorcyclists. I was forced to accelerate faster than the normal flow of traffic to get around the trailer. All I could figure was that the load was left over from the end of yesterday's work, and the driver was on the way to a dump so they could fill it up again.
Because of the mediation, I only had time for a single loop. But because I had gotten moving early, I added the Highway 59 extension to rack up an extra five miles. Fortunately, there was no backup on 59. Still, traffic was once again heavy as I entered I-10 from Highway 59. It stayed heavy all the way to the Heights exit. I took that exit and made my way back home. It had been a cool ride. I did ok without the windbreaker, but I had been constantly reminded that a cold front had blown through. When I pulled up to the driveway I had 11,925 on the bike. And I was still on schedule.
* * * * *
May 10, 2006:
Maria announced that we were "sleeping" an additional half hour when the alarm went off at 5:30. Sarah did not seem pleased. That morning alarm is a sound that means "Let's hit the road," not the snooze button. But Maria prevailed. At least to the extent that we stayed in bed for the thirty minutes. I can't say that anyone went back to "sleep." I know I didn't. And Sarah didn't.
So it was that we got a late start on Sarah's walk. But get it in we did. And, while Sarah gobbled her food, I suited up for my morning ride.
A check of the air pressure revealed all was well. I had an errand to run this morning. But I made sure it was in addition to and not instead of my morning ride. Mother's Day is Sunday. I had already taken care of her gifts by shopping at Kokopelli.com .
I like their stuff, and it is run by a great staff. But, I still needed a card.
Last night I had looked for something. I wanted to send her a picture of a rough guy on a Harley, but I couldn't find the right card, even at the motorcycle shop. So I settled for a more traditional message. Which I needed to get in the mail. So a post office run was in the making.
But the new tires also meant that I didn't have to turn around and head home after mailing the card. In fact, I headed for I-10 and some morning speed.
Because I was getting a somewhat late start, traffic was a little heavier than usual. Lots of wreckers were out. One crash, and several stalled vehicles. No problems presented themselves to me, however.
I got in some pleasant thinking time, and didn't encounter morning congestion until the second circuit. As I approached the exit for I-45 South, the cars were backed up all the way to the exit lane. I switched over to the left-hand lane, and added the Highway 59 extension. I knew I was going to hit mile 11,900 this run, and didn't want to hit it going 5 mph.
Well, I got my wish. Sort of. As I headed south on Highway 59, traffic was light and fast. I watched the odometer move ever-closer to my goal. When I was a tenth of a mile short, all was well. But as I crested the last hill, traffic was stopped ahead. I had to slow down. I was going under twenty when I watched the odometer slowly roll over to 11,900. And I was stopped before another tenth of a mile was added to the bike. Ugh. Oh well, it was still a good run.
After crawling through the curve to I-10, things began to pick back up. By the time I reached the Heights exit, I was back doing the speed limit. I headed on home, and reached mile 11,905 as I pulled up to the driveway. A nice start to the day.
* * * * *
May 9, 2006:
Because of a long night, we elected to sleep past the 5:30 alarm this morning. Sarah was ok with that until a little after six. Then she let me know she was hungry. I stalled as long as I could, and then we went down and got the paper. And her breakfast. And I let her out the back door.
Maria wanted a little more sleep, so she suggested I go for my ride and we could walk Sarah when I got back. By this time Sarah was back upstairs, watching me suit up. She made no comment as I walked out the bedroom door.
I had checked the air in the tires while Sarah did her morning buisness. They both read 29 psi. I still haven't figured out at what pressure to keep them. Anyway, I did not add air this morning.
I headed for the freeway. It was muggy. The skies were overcast. Rain is a possibility for today, but the clouds did not look like they were willing to let go this morning.
I entered I-10, heading west. Traffic was heavy, but well behaved. I got in some good thinking time as I did the two circuits. On the second circuit, I was in the middle of a big problem at work as I approached the turnoff for I-45 south. I was weighing the alternatives of making a third circuit to allow me time to finish my mental exercises or adding the Highway 59 extension. The problem demanded the third circuit. However, traffic was really backed up on I-45, so I decided to head to the Highway 59 extension.
Traffic was really backed up on Highway 59 also. That gave me so extra thinking time. I would like to report that I came up with an elegant solution, but that would be premature. I did make progress toward an answer, however. And I made progress down Highway 59. Both routes were very slow.
It was getting a tad late as I approached the Heights exit. I decided to go ahead and take it, especially since I needed gas. I topped off the tank and headed home. By the time I pulled up to the driveway, the odometer read 11,870. Nice work. And Sarah was ready for her walk. See you on the road.
* * * * *
May 8, 2006:
Today I tried to re-establish the normal morning routine of fitting in a workday ride on the freeways. Unfortunately, mother nature interfered. The alarm went off as scheduled at 5:30 a.m. Of course, I had awakened earlier. And put on the radio. And learned that a line of thundershowers was hitting north of I-10 and east of I-45. Seemed like they would be missing us, since they were headed east.
So we all got up and took Sarah for her walk. No rain was falling. But the streets were definitely wet. I had not heard any rain come through, but the puddles in the road gave testimony to recent showers. Sarah didn't seem to mind.
We stayed dry, just as the streets stayed wet. When we got home, I fed Sarah and went out back to check the rain gauge. It showed one tenth of an inch of rain overnight. I decided to shower first, before going for my ride. That would give the commuters time to dry out the freeways for me.
After showering, I suited up and checked the air in the tires. The front tire had 30 psi. The rear tire had 32 psi. Still unsure about what air pressure I should be carrying in the new tires, I left them alone, and mounted up. It was 6:45 a.m.
The neighborhood streets were drying out, but not completely. I was careful in the turns. I headed for I-10, and entered the freeway, heading west. Traffic was a little heavy. I was glad I had gotten my sea legs back over the weekend. And I was glad to see that the roads were completely dry, so I wouldn't need the "sea" portion of those sea legs.
I made the two normal workday circuits of the freeways without incident. I took I-10 to Loop 610, then headed north till it curved around to the east. The sun would have been in my eyes, except it was partially hidden by the last of the rain clouds.
I was tempted to add the Highway 59 extension to the route, but decided to do the "normal" circuit for this first workday ride on the new tires. So I took I-45 south, then curved around to take I-10 west. I did this twice, racking up thirty quick (and wonderful) miles.
I took the Heights exit on home, also without incident. When I pulled up to the driveway, I felt refreshed. The ride had been great, I had not lost my touch, and I had gotten in some nice morning contemplative time. All on two wheels.
I now have 11,835 miles on the bike, and am ready to face the day. Stay tuned for tomorrow's adventures. And don't forget to think.
* * * * *
May 7, 2006:
This moring I slept late. Last night had been a series of three hour snatches of interrupted sleep, and I was happy to grab a few extra winks. Sarah didn't seem to mind too much--until about 6:45. Then she made it clear that, whatever else, it was time for breakfast. So I got up and fed her. I then went to the garage to check the air in the (new) tires. The front tire had 30.25 psi. The rear tire had 33 psi. And the rear tire had two somethings else.
First, the valve stem had a 90 degree turn in it. That made it a cinch to check the air. Before, with a straight valve stem, it was hard to get the tire gauge between the spokes. With the new stem, it was a breeze. Second, as I was reading the side of the tire to see what the maximum psi was supposed to be, I noted that the rear tire is tubeless. Wow. I don't think the previous rear tire was tubeless, but I don't know for sure. The front tire does have a tube.
I could not tell what the maximum psi for the rear tire was. After the ride I took down the detailed information. The front tire is a Dunlop Gold Seal F11. 3-00-18. 4PR. Max Load 175 kg (386 lbs) at 225 kPa (33 psi) cold. The rear tire is a Dunlop D404. 130/90-15 M/C. Max Load 300kg (661 lbs) at 280 kPa (41 psi) cold. Got that?
Anyway, at the time, I was having trouble reading the black raised lettering on the black tires, so I decided to leave the tire pressure as Stubbs had pumped it. By this time, Sarah had made her rounds of the back yard, and joined me in the garage. There was nothing else to check on the bike, so I went back inside.
Maria elected to sleep in. I elected to suit up and get in a quick ride before the start of the day. It was not yet 7:30 a.m.
I took my normal warmup route. It felt good. When I turned the corner at 7th and Oxford, I came on a night heron. He was "fishing" at a ditch that was full of water left over from yesterday's rain. When the heron saw me, he flew a few feet to a cedar fence, lighted on it, and began to stare. At me.
I stopped and looked back. All of a sudden, a mockingbird flew at the heron. To no effect. The mockingbird lighted on the fence, to the right of the heron. The heron kept looking at me. I kept looking at the heron. The mockingbird flew behind the heron to the left of the big bird. The heron paid no attention. The mockingbird flew behind the heron to the right. This action was repeated several times. The heron was unaffected. Next, the mockingbird changed tactics. It actually flew close enough to peck the heron. The heron was unaffected. The heron never stopped looking at me. The mockingbird flew up into a tree. A car came up behind me, and I had to leave. Is there a chance that the heron recognized my bike, jacket and helmet from my many visits to the heron tree? It that why he didn't fly away? Is that why he kept looking at me, even when attacked by a mockingbird? I don't know. Neat story, though, isn't it.
I continued my morning ride. I traveled to White Oak, then to Heights, and then to the feeder road for I-10. I headed east and entered I-10. My morning goal was to get in the sixty miles I needed to bring the odometer to mle 11,800. I picked Highway 59 as the most likely freeway to be lightly traveled on an early Sunday morning.
I was right. I headed north on Highway 59, all the way past Kingwood. I figured that was about 27 miles. I didn't see anyone I know. I continued up the freeway until I came to the Porter exit. I took that, u-turned, and headed back. I had thirty miles on the odometer.
On the way up I had passed the Aranda's Bakery. Usually, I get to experience a great smell when I pass Aranda's. Today, there was nothing. However, on the way back I got hit full blast with the smells of freshly baked goodies. Wow.
There is not much to report about this trip. Traffic was very light, and, mostly, I contented myself with just cruising down the freeway at a nice rate of speed. With the flow of traffic, of course.
On the way back, I decided to take the North Loop back home. When I first started riding the freeways in the mornings, I would take a counterclockwise circuit that included this section of Loop 610. I had to give it up because the morning traffic backup on Highway 290 clogged the route. Still, I always liked it because it was a fast ride. Since today was Sunday, and I was pretty sure there would be no Highway 290 backup, I decided to have some fun.
I got in the far left-hand lane, the fast lane. I was behind a white sedan. It was traveling fast. The cars to my right were traveling fast. I was traveling fast. Strictly to keep up with the flow of traffic, I edged the Rebel up to 75 mph.* The white sedan was still pulling away. I decided to see what new plugs and new tires could do. I twisted the grip all the way back. As the white sedan continued to pull away, the Rebel edged ever upward until I was going 80 mph.* A new record. But still not as fast as the Sunday morning traffic. I gave up, and cut my speed back. I had had my fun.
Yesterday, I had watched the odometer turn over to 11,700 as I was in the curve from Highway 59 to I-10, heading west. In a bit of symmetery, today I watched the odometer turn over to 11,800 as I was in the curve from Loop 610 to I-10, heading east. I was going about 60 mph* at the time. It was good to be getting in some high speed turns.
It was good getting in some high speed thinking. And some high speed lane changes. And some high speed straight-aways. It was good getting in some high speeds.
On the way back home, I drove by the ditch where the heron had been. Not surprisingly, it being about an hour later, there was no heron. Or mockingbird, for that matter. But there were good memories of a nice couple days of riding. And more to come.
As a fitting conclusion to the ride, I lubricated the chain upon my return. It was not quite due, but I don't want anything to stop my drive to mile 12,000 within the first year of owning the bike. I now have 11,805 miles. And, Monday morning appointment permitting, I plan to rack up the additional miles ASAP. See you on the road. And don't forget to think.
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May 6, 2006:
Last evening I dropped the Rebel off at Stubbs so they could put on the new tires, do the 12,000 mile service and do the state saftey inspection. So, this morning when the alarm sounded, I decided to take a bath and get in some reading instead of going for a ride. Sarah did not approve. But then, as if to emphasize the wisdom of my choice, lightning filled the sky, and thunder followed. And the rains came.
I think that by now, Sarah understands that rain means no morning walk. And, since I woke up at five, I put off her breakfast for an hour while I enjoyed the hot water and a good book. And the lightning. Okay, I know you're not supposed to take a bath during a thunderstorm, but I was counting the seconds between lightning and thunder, and the electrical storm wasn't all that close.
But it was constant. And Sarah is no fan of lightning. Or thunder. After a little over thirty minutes of the stuff, she put her paws on the bathtub shelf, and let me know that it was time to get out of the water and get her breakfast. Which I did.
Because the bike was at Stubbs, we had a leisurely morning, including a nice breakfast and more catching up on reading. Maria and I are in the Houston Pond Society, and we had missed the last meeting. Today, Maria voted to take the thirty minute drive to the meeting. We hold the meeting at the houses of the members. It gives us a chance to see someone else's pond, and get inspired.
Just before we went pondside at today's meeting, I called Stubbs to see if the bike was ready. It was just after noon. They told me it wasn't. But, they assured me, the new tires were already on the bike, and they were progressing with the other work. I was glad that they had put the tires on first, because I was getting my bike back today, rain or shine.
Speaking of rain, it had stopped about nine this morning. According to our rain gauge, we got 1.8
inches during the morning deluge. But the skies were dry by the time of the meeting. We had a nice visit, and were back home by three. I called Stubbs again to see where they were. They were still working. They were pretty sure the bike would be ready by four. They closed at five.
Maria and I headed for Specs to pick up some wine. Six bottles, but one was a gift. We then drove to the Stubbs dealership. They were wheeling a nice black Rebel out just as I walked up. Unfortunately, it was not mine. Still, I got good news when I got to the repair counter. The bike was all done, except for the paying. They bill was just over $500. That included $98 for the rear Dunlop, $75 for the front Dunlop, $140 for the 12,000 mile service and $140 to mount and balance both tires. Plus a charge for spark plugs and oil. Ouch.
But worth it. By the way, today I read that the first air-filled rubber tires were developed by Englishman John Boyd Dunlop. I came across this factoid in the interesting book, Born to be Wild: A History of the American Biker and Bikes, 1947-2002, by Paul Garson. Interesting read. And appropriate that I would come across this bit of history on the day I was getting my own set of new Dunlops. Or at least the Rebel was.
Anyway, after paying for the needed work, I hopped on the bike and headed back home. Maria followed in the Jeep. Because the tires were new, I contented myself with taking backroads back to the house. And, mostly, I kept the speeds to 35 mph* and under. Mostly.
When we approached the feeder road for I-10, I waived Maria on home, and I headed out for some fun. I entered I-10, heading west. I was on my normal workday run. A run I hadn't gotten to make since I spotted the worn front tire on March 29th. It felt great.
I took it easy on the first circuit. I picked this route because it was so familiar to me. I needed to get my sea legs back, and this seemed the safest way to do it.
Old memories came back fast. As I approached the exit for TC Jester, I slowed down as a silver Volvo came up on my right. Sure enough, the Volvo driver realized he was in an exit only lane, and moved into my lane at the last moment. I was ready.
And on my left was a black pickup that decided he also need to change lanes. He didn't go for the exit, but I was glad I was prepared for his maneuvers also. The rest of the first cirucuit went without incident. On the second circuit, I came up on another Honda Rebel rider. He was also wearing a full-face helmet. But, unlike me, he did not have on a motorcycle jacket. And, unlike me, he had a nice tatoo on his right bicep. Not a bar and shield, for the record.
As I completed the second circuit, I noticed rain was falling on the western horizon. The clouds looked like they were headed my way. As I entered the curved exit from I-45 to I-10, I watched the odometer roll over to 11,700. I was going over 60 mph* when this happened. All right.
My plan was to get in four circuits before heading home. Guests were coming to visit Maria, so I knew she would have company. I could afford to be a few minutes late. And I very much needed the saddle time. The thinking time. The speed time.
For the third circuit, I added the Highway 59 extension. That added five miles to the ride. I was getting low on gas. I wondered when I would empty the main tank. The clouds were getting closer. I wondered if the rains would hit before I finished. Fortunately, the third circuit went without incident.
I was half-way through the fourth circuit when the engine quit. Well, sputtered might be more accurate. The tripometer was at mile 158. I reached down and turned the fuel valve to the reserve tank. And continued on. I could smell the rain by now. As I got back on I-10 for the last leg of my journey, big drops of rain began coming down. Fortunately, the rain was sporadic. There was not enough to wet the road. And, anyway, I was riding on new tires.
I took the Heights exit, doubled back to get gas, and headed home. It was a great ride. A really great ride. And a long time coming. I had gotten in some high speeds, fun turns and wonderful thinking time. I now have 11,740 miles on the bike. And a silly grin plastered across my face. See you on the road. Really. And don't forget to think.
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May 5, 2006:
This morning they were predicting rain around lunch, and again during rush hour. Rain and hail. And me with a trip to Stubbs, if all went well.
Sarah insisted on her morning walk, so we got it in pronto, before the rains hit. I deferred my morning ride because I was positive my rear tire would be in, and I intended to ride to Stubbs, rain or snow, to get the tires replaced. I did not defer Sarah's morning meal.
A little before noon, I called Stubbs to check on the tire. Tommy let me know the tires were both in. He asked me when I wanted them installed. I told him I would be there in forty-five minutes.
Sadly, he informed me that they were already booked up for today, but that I could bring the bike in tomorrow morning and they would fix me up. That was not unexpected, it being noontime on a Friday, but not what I wanted to hear. I told him I would see him Saturday.
That left the dilemma of what to do for today's ride. I was worried that the afternoon rains would limit my fun, and that they would make tomorrow morning's ride dicey, to say the least.
Work dragged on. I thought and thought. And came up with an elegant Plan B. It depended on the rain staying away till seven p.m. And some help from Maria. All afternoon my luck held. Right after work, I changed into my riding gear and headed for Stubbs.
This Plan B called for me to slowly make my way to Stubbs, with Maria following in the Jeep. She could then take me back home, and I could leave the bike overnight, and let them get started on the job early Saturday morning, rain or shine. On Saturday, she would ferry me back to Stubbs, and I would have my ride back. No pun intended.
The trip to Stubbs was memorable. It was Friday afternoon and traffic was plentiful. And in a hurry to get home. More than once, the rush hour drivers herded me into the 30 mph speed zone. I had to work at keeping the speeds under twenty-five. I succeeded about 3/4th of the time. Sometimes I was even forced to go 35 mph to avoid unsafe conditions.
Anyway, by taking back roads, I made it to the Stubbs dealership by 6:30 p.m. I left the Rebel, with instructions to change out the tires, do the annual safety inspection and do the 12,000 mile checkup. Tommy agreed to get all this done, especially in light of the delay he had put me through because the tires took so long to get in.
I left the dealership in a great mood. I had had a nice, ten-mile run to get there. I had had about forty minutes of saddle time, and I had realized how much I had missed real riding. When I pulled up to Stubbs, the odometer read 11,662. It will be work getting the mileage to 12,000 before May 19, 2006, one year to the day I picked out the bike, but with a little effort, it is doable. And what sweet effort it will be. See you on the road. And don't forget to think.
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May 4, 2006:
Today I did not go for a morning ride. Unplanned emergencies took up the morning. Plus, I was sure my tires would be in, and I would get in my ride on the way to Stubbs. Unfortunately, I was wrong.
The day started ok--at least from Sarah's perspective. We got in a nice walk while it was still cool. And before the thunder came. Sarah ate her breakfast while I dealt with other matters. By the time things were under control, the weather wasn't. Lightning and thunder were followed by heavy rains. The first round brought four tenths of an inch. And wet streets. It rained off and on for the rest of the day. Not as hard, but often.
I did not relish the idea of heading to Stubbs on worn tires and wet roads. I did not relish the idea of another day of slow rides. But a phone call to Stubbs resolved the dilemma without a problem. Not the solution I wanted, but a solution, nonetheless.
And what was that solution? Stubbs did not get the rear tire in today. So there was no way for me to get the tires. So it was another Plan B day.
In the late afternoon, with dry streets, but to the sound of distant thunder, I suited up and headed out. Tire pressure was fine. A post office run was out of the question. So, instead, I made a Krogers run.
I grabbed my backpack, and headed for the store. I took the back roads off of 6th Street. Puddles were everywhere, but the old tires did not lose traction even once.
Skies were darkening by the time I got to Krogers. I did my shopping with the size of my backpack in mind. I got some milk, produce, six cans of various products and some tilapia for dinner. By the time I paid, I could barely zip up the backpack. In fact, I stuffed the produce in the front of my jacket, and headed back ahead of the next shower.
The trip back was as uneventful as the trip up. Until I arrived at the driveway. I noted I had 11,652 on the odometer. I slipped the right backpack strap off my shoulder. And heard a loud noise come from the rear of the bike. Not exactly mechanical, but I couldn't place it. I let the other strap slip, and the noise came back two more times. I quickly got off the bike and glanced at the rear of the Rebel. The bike was fine. Three cans of soup were rolling on the driveway.
I had not been able to completely close the zipper at Krogers. Something about a "buy four and get a dollar off" special. So a valuable riding lesson was learned. Don't let your eyes get bigger than your backpack. Or get a bigger backpack.
Stubbs said they were 99% sure the rear tire would be in tomorrow. Stay tuned.
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May 3, 2006:
When I awoke this morning I was ever hopeful that my new Dunlop tires would arrive today. So I decided on a farewell post office run.
But first, Sarah decided on a nice morning walk. So, off we went. And when we got back, off she went to eat her breakfast.
I, on the othere hand, suited up for my morning ride. The tire air was fine, so I headed out. I am totally tired of the regular post office run. So, I created variety by taking a meandering route this morning. Nothing drastic, but a little longer than normal. It was nice to get in an extra few minutes of seat time.
When I got back to the driveway, I has 11,648 miles on the bike. A fifty percent increase over yesterday's morning mileage. Sadly, I did not get good news from Stubbs today. The front tire made it in, but the back tire did not. They were ordered from different suppliers. I am to call back tomorrow around noon to see if the rear one is in. Ugh. Ugh. Ugh. And what is the sound of one wheel turning?
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May 2, 2006:
I awoke with high hopes that this would be the last of the short--and slow--rides. Sarah awoke hoping that this would not be a short walk. She got her wish; I didn't get mine.
We took a leisurely stroll this morning, Sarah in tow. Or, rather, we were in tow. Anyway, when we got back, I fed the girl and headed on a post office run. Last week Stubbs had told me the new tires would arrive after lunch on Tuesday or Wednesday. I was hoping for Tuesday.
With visions of new Dunlops in my head, I rode out on what I hoped would be a final slow speed game of tag. Everything worked perfectly. I got tagged at all the right intersections, and made my way to the post office, got the mail, and headed back.
A tag on 11th made me turn south on Arlington. I took the time to study the heron tree. I spotted three heron at home. Two were on nests. After enjoying the wildlife, I head on home. When I pulled up to the driveway I had the normal two miles on the bike. The odometer read 11,645.
Unfortunately, when I checked with Stubbs later in the afternoon, I received word that the tires won't be in until tomorrow afternoon. Looks like another short ride in the morning. Oh well, relief is on the way.
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May 1, 2006:
No eight o'clock appointments today. But, a full day at work, with five o'clock deadline on some discovery in a case. So there is no leisurely morning in store. Besides, Sarah let us know that her deadline was looming, and that it involved an immediate walk. So off we went.
The morning was cool, and the walk was pleasant. When we got back, I feed Sarah and suited up. I added a little air to the front tire, and headed out. My mother's birthday is Wednesday, and I needed to get a birthday card on the way to her. So a post office run was necessary. And time was short.
I drove directly to the post office, dropped off the card, and headed back. In short order I racked up a big two miles. I now have 11,643 miles on the big. And nothing interesting to report. More later.
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For the December, 2005, blog entries, click here.
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For the November, 2005, blog entries, click here.
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For the October, 2005, blog entries, click here.
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For the September, 2005, blog entries, click here.
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For the August, 2005, blog entries, click here.
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For the July, 2005, blog entries, click here.
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For the June, 2005, blog entries, click here.
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For the May, 2005, blog entries, click here.
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*Note to Law Enforcement:
All statements of speeds on various streets are simple estimates, and solely for novelity purposes. Actual speeds vary, but are always lower. I'm sure that legal speed limits are never exceeded, anything in this blog to the contrary nowithstanding.