* * * * *
After taking Sarah for her walk, I got her breakfast. While she ate, I suited up.
I added air to the front tire, and I was off. After warming up, I entered I-10, heading west. One of the freeway billboards flashed a warning that there was a wreck at 610 and Post Oak Boulevard. It was creating some backup for the folk entering 610 south from I-10. And, although I was entering 610 north, I had to work my way through the congestion. But, at least on the first circuit, things were still proceeding at about 40 mph.
When I headed east on the North Loop, I could see heavy clouds on the eastern horizon. Most of them had very crisp edges. In fact, one giant cloud seemed to tower up from the ground until it covered the sun, which was about forty minutes above the horizon.
I had arisen early this morning, and spent an hour reading a book. Now, with traffic on the light side, I was musing about the book as I enjoyed my morning ride. Fortunately, I was still paying attention to my riding. As I turned onto I-10 from Highway 59, I was in one of the middle lanes, behind a big pickup truck. I was following in the truck's right-hand tire path. All of a sudden, a big road gator appeared from underneath the center of the truck. The driver had positioned his pickup so he could straddle the rubber, and it appeared before me as if from nowhere. Because I had good road position, I was able to avoid the hazard with just a little swerve to my left.
I have noticed that it is harder to make sudden swerves at 60 mph* than you might imagine. The Rebel is quite agile, but reaction time is reaction time. You need to pay attention to road debris so you will have time to slip around it. And lane position in a tire track helps. Once, when I was driving Maria's Jeep, I didn't swerve enough, and I ran over a road gator. It blew out the rear tire. Those gators have steel belts, and those pieces of steel are like razors if you run over them. It was an expensive lesson.
I decided to skip the Highway 59 extension on the second circuit. I wasn't sure where that road gator (or the other tire pieces I subsequently passed by) would be by the time I made it around the track again. So I took I-45 south to avoid the whole issue.
The billboard was still advising everyone to expect delays because of the accident on Post Oak. And, on the second circuit, I was caught up in those delays. At several points, I had to come to a complete stop. Cars were using the right hand lanes to whip by the stopped cars, and then they would stop themselves to try to cut back in the flow. Ugh.
Anyway, when I came to the Heights exit on the second circuit, I went ahead and took it. I headed down the feeder road, u-turned back to the east, and stopped to top off the tanks. I then got back on the feeder, to head for home.
This weekend I noticed that they had raised the speed limit on the feeder to 45 mph. That made sense, since there are hardly any businesses, and the feeder is three lanes wide. Before, when it was 35 mph, Houston cops would sit at the u-turn area at Studewood and use their radar to give speeding tickets to drivers that were going the "natural" speed limit. That practice is over. Or so I thought.
Today, when I exited the gas station, I watched my speed as I headed down the feeder. Which turned out to be a good thing, because a motorcycle cop was on hand to give out speeding tickets. His bike was parked in a area of the westbound feeder. He gave me a wave as I passed him buy. I returned it, but I still don't like speed traps.
When I pulled up to the driveway, I had 16,418 miles on the bike. With luck, I should make 16,500 by Thursday. Stay tuned. And, wherever your travels take you, don't forget to think.
* * * * *
Sarah got her walk this morning, but my "morning" ride had to be put off until after I took Maria to the airport. Her flight was at eleven, so we could get in most of our normal morning routine except for the ride.
Even so, I was back home around 9:30 a.m. and suited up and out the door by 10:15. I added air to the front tire, and grabbed my backpack on the way out. I had twin destinations for today. First, I wanted to visit the Half Price Books on FM 1960 off I-45. Second, I wanted to take FM 1314 from Highway 59 over to I-45.
Because I had gassed up yesterday, I entered I-10 heading east, just as soon as I finished the warmup portion of my ride. Traffic was light. I worked my way over to the far left-hand lane, and took the exit for Highway 59. Traffic was even lighter once I got on Highway 59. Other than a few road gators, I had an uneventful ride all the way to FM 1314. Temperatures were cool, because rain clouds were all around. No lightning, however.
At FM 1314, I headed northwest toward Conroe. This road is pretty nice, for a major thoroughfare. It is partially rural, and partially commercial. Although it is one lane in each direction, traffic was light, and fast. There were a couple of stoplight that provided an opportunity to practice quick stops.
Just outside of Conroe, I came to the 242 Bypass, which I took to I-45. I then turned south, and headed back toward Houston. I managed to rack up quite a few miles before I came to FM 1960, which I took west toward the bookstore.
1960 is usually a crowded road. And I usually catch all the lights red. Today, traffic was pretty light, and the lights were, for the most part, green. Maybe the fact that it was still early on Sunday morning had something to do with the light traffic.
I pulled into the parking lot for the Half Price Books, locked the forks on the bike, grabbed my do-rag, and headed in. I checked my backpack and helmet, and spent a leisurely time exploring the bookstore. I found half a dozen books I couldn't live without, all for barely $30.00.
I paid for the books, loaded them into my backpack, and headed home. I got back on I-45, heading south. Once again, traffic was light (really light for I-45). When I came to Beltway 8, I took it east to Highway 59. The curved exit from Beltway 8 to Highway 59 is banked and elevated. One has a great view of the top of the world as you arc to the south. I highly recommend it.
From Highway 59,I took Loop 610 west, then south to I-10. I then headed east, back to the house. I was home just before 2:00 p.m. I now have 16,382 miles on the bike. It was good to get in a hundred mile run, and at mostly high speeds. Lots of bikers were out enjoying the morning air, and my only regret was that, due to other commitments, I had to settle for a relatively short ride. Still, I got in some great thinking time, and enjoyed several high speed curves. See you on the road. And try to get in your own thinking time.
* * * * *
Maria is getting ready for a trip, and we had to go to her office for some last minute stuff. So I had to choose between Sarah's walk and my ride. Sarah won.
When we got back from Maria's office and all our errands, it was after 4:00 p.m. And there were storm clouds all around. Lightning was flashing to the north, and we had driven through three separate storm cells just getting home. But the Heights was dry.
I suited up, added air to the front tire, and headed off. I had checked the paper for freeway closures, and most of the freeways were fine, except for I-10. It had five separate closures listed, all west of the Loop! I decided to head west on Highway 290. I could hear Half Price Books calling.
Traffic was medium. It took some juggling to make sure no one rode next to me on the freeway, but I still managed to get in some pleasant thinking time on the trip west. Yesterday, because of traffic jams, I had been unable to get on the high-speed roads. I fear I am becoming a freeway addict. I was really missing those 65+ mph speeds* when I got on the freeway. Within minutes of settling in at the speed set by the flow of traffic, I began feeling contented to be on two wheels. This is a warning to all of you just starting out. There is something magical about flying on two wheels.
I stayed on Highway 290 until the exit for Highway 6. I then headed south to FM 529. From there, it was a short couple of blocks to the Half Price Books. I spend a pleasant 45 minutes browsing in the store. I found an interesting paperback on Ethics, and a work of fiction. After I made my purchases, I gave Maria a ring, since there was no way I could make it back by my predicted time.
The ride back was also nice. Traffic was a little thicker than when I was headed west, but everyone stayed in his lane, for the most part. I took 290 to the North Loop, and headed east all the way to Highway 59, which I took south. I then took I-10 west, and exited at Heights. I had run the main tank dry on the North Loop, so I pulled in to gas up for tomorrow.
All-in-all, it was a very pleasant run. Because the surrounding drivers were well behaved, I got in a nice dose of thinking time, and some fast speeds. I felt refreshed. When I rode up to the driveway, I had 16,276 miles on the bike. Stay tuned to see where tomorrow takes me. And don't forget to think.
* * * * *
No rain this morning. Sarah enjoyed her walk. As did Maria and I, due to the little bit of coolness in the air. Sarah also enjoyed her breakfast. While she ate, I suited up and decided on which route to take. The radio and TV were both reporting traffic problems all along my route. Or at least at the intersections along my route.
A load of pipe had come off on I-10, there was some problem at 610, and a load of lumber covered the road at I-45 and 610. I go through those places. The traffic reports were not clear enough for me to tell whether the problems were along my route, or on the other side of the freeway.
I fired up the computer to check Houston Transtar for a real time traffic report. Unfortunately, most of my route was colored "gray," which signals "inactive." Inactive does not mean "stopped," but it did mean that I had no good information. I decided that the twisties on White Oak had been neglected long enough!
I checked the air in the tires and headed out. Because I was going residential on my ride this morning, I warmed up on the back roads off 6th street. I like this stretch of turns, and it adds some mileage to a run.
After the warmup, I got on Shepherd, heading north. I took 14th to Houston Avenue. As I turned south on Houston, I noted that the traffic on the portion of I-45 that I would normally take was stopped. Helicopters were doing their buzzard circle. I was glad I decided to take the slow roads this morning instead of the stopped roads.
I delighted in the twisties on White Oak. White Oak was free of any cars. I did the route I used to take all the time when I was first learning to ride. I was glad to see that I could still enjoy it.
The ride was over before I knew it. And, sadly, with all the intersections, I did not get in much thinking time. I was busy keeping a close lookout for left-turners. Still, when I rolled up to the driveway, I had 16,217 miles on the bike. May your journeys be pleasant, and free of traffic jams. Enjoy the weekend.
* * * * *
The radio reported that overnight the rain had finally stopped. The traffic report was free of accidents caused by slippery streets. But, when we headed out the door for Sarah's walk, Maria exclaimed, "It's raining." And, indeed, it was.
I informed her that it was impossible that it was raining, because the weather people had assured me for the past hour that there was no local rain. She opined that perhaps a large flock of birds was flying overhead. Sarah had no opinion on the subject.
Sarah did have an opinion on the advisibility of walking in the rain-filled ditches. She was in favor of it. And she freely excercised her choice. I used the leash to keep her out of the dirtiest ones for the last few blocks of our walk, so she wasn't too bad when we got back home. What rain there was, was gone by the time we neared the house. And the rain had been mostly drizzle. The streets were barely damp, and not at all slippery. Acceptable conditions for a nice ride.
When we got home, I fed Sarah. While she ate, I suited up.
I was pleased that, for the second day in a row, I did not have to add air to either tire. During the "warm-up" phase of my ride, there was no rain. However, when I got to the feeder of I-10, a few drops began to fall. I was disappointed, but decided to get on the freeway anyway, and exit at Shepherd if it was real rain, or if the freeway surface was wet.
Fortunately, the rain stopped immediately. And the roads were dry. I got in a great ride, with plenty of needed thinking time. The air was especially heavy this morning. And the cottony clouds were thick enough to obscure the buildings normally visible on the horizon. As the ride continued, rain seemed more and more likely.
On my first circuit, I encountered stopped traffic at the exit for I-45. As usual, I pumped the brakes to signal the quick stop to the car behind me. I also did a little weaving within my lane to further alert that driver. I am not recommending that manuever yet. I can't decide if it is sensible. But I am sure it gets their attention.
Nothing else remarkable happened during the ride. I now have 16,209 miles on the bike. The rain stayed away, but the early morning heat has returned. The weekend nears. May you have dry roads, however many wheels you travel on. And don't forget to think.
* * * * *
Yesterday, during the day, it rained in the Heights. We got half an inch. By the time I got home, however, the rain was mostly gone. I took the trash out just before ten, and did not notice any moisture. I came back in and, within five minutes, we were out the front door to take Sarah for her evening walk. When we opened the door, we were greeted with a deluge. And a hard one at that. I could not believe how suddenly the weather had changed. Nor could Sarah. But she realized it would be this morning before she would have another chance for her walk.
Rain awoke me at two this morning. And, although I drifted back to sleep, every time I awoke, it was still coming down. At six, I decided to take Sarah down for the paper and her breakfast. When we went out the front door, it was barely misting. However, before I could get back inside, the skies opened up and dumped a load of moisture.
I think Sarah realized that there would be no walk this morning. And no morning ride. When Sarah finished eating, I let her out the back door, and I went out and checked the rain gauges. We got eight tenths of an inch overnight. And it was still coming down.
I went on to work. I can't say the day went especially well, but at least the rain had stopped by the time I got home.
I had to get in a workout before I could hit the road. I have to warn you, don't be eager to hop on your bike after an intense exercise session. I noticed that my movements were wooden, and that I took several curves much wider than I otherwise do. Drained muscles are unable to make those fine motor movements that yield grace on wheels.
I also have to note that, miracle of miracles, neither tire needed air before I headed out. Because the streets were still damp, and because I was running late, I contented myself with a run to the post office. Still, I made sure I took the long way to the post office, so I got in a four mile run. And, on the way back from the post office, I even got in some much needed thinking time. I was glad the streets were mostly dry. And I was glad to get 14,179 miles on the bike. The rain is supposed to end tonight. I hope I can get in a regular ride tomorrow. Stay tuned.
* * * * *
This morning dawned cool and cloudy. But no rain. They were predicting a 70% chance of precipitation, but not until lunchtime. Sarah was happy with that prediction, because dry streets mean a nice walk.
So the three of us were off to the (dog) races. Sarah enjoyed her morning romp, and we enjoyed the extra cool temperatures.
When we returned, I fed the girl, and suited up. I had to add air to the front tire. It was down a pound yet again. The back tire was fine.
I warmed up and entered I-10, heading west. I then took Loop 610 north. On the stretch before it turns east, I saw a Chevrolet Suburban ahead of me. It was in one of the far left-hand lanes, and moving slowly. The driver was gradually working his way to the far right lane, so he could exit at 18th. He didn't have a lot of distance within which to change all those lanes, and I think that is why he slowed down.
But slow doesn't mean safe. I watched carefully as he drifted right. Each time he got in a new lane, the cars would have to slow down rapidly because of the Suburban's slow speed. There were no crashes, but it was a living illustration of the principle that slower isn't always safer. In fact, on the freeway, going slowly has its own set of dangers. Keep that in mind when you are deciding what to do on your two wheels.
As I took the I-45 exit on my second circuit, I got a chance to see another side of the dangers of slowness. I rounded the exit and saw that the traffic about 200 feet ahead of me was at a complete standstill. A quick glance in my mirrors confirmed that there were no cars immediately behind me. That was not reassuring.
My fear was that I would get stopped, and a car would come along and not notice that all the other vehicles were at a standstill. And being rearended while on a bike is not a pleasant prospect.
I immediately began to slow down, with plenty of room to spare. My slowness allowed the vehicle following me to catch up somewhat. When I saw him in my mirrors, I tapped the front brake on and off. This caused (I hoped) the rear brake lights to flash. My hope was that this would get his attention.
I tried one other thing, that I am not yet recommending. Because the road was pretty straight (and, therefore, I was not in the middle of a curve), I began weaving back and forth within my lane. This was to give further physical warning that there was trouble ahead. Of course, weaving would be difficult and dangerous if one were in the midst of a curve when doing the weaving. I am not prepared to add this move to my arsenal of techniquest for navigating the freeways, but it is definitely in the running. I came up with it earlier in today's ride, and I was astonished that I found a situtaion where I could use it on the same ride on which it jumped into my mind.
Worrying about getting rear ended may be in the nature of worrying about minimal risks, based on the findings of the Hurt Report (1981). Those statistics showed that only 5.5% of all accidents occur from a motorcyclist getting hit in the five, six or seven o'clock positions. In contrast, 77% of all accidents occur from a biker getting hit from the eleven, twelve or one o'clock positions.
Fortunately, whether from my tapping the brakes or my weaving, or something else, I got stopped without incident, as did the cars behind me. When we got going again, I got on I-10 and took the Heights exit.
The ride had been wonderful. In addition to much needed general thinking time, I had gotten the chance to think about riding techniques, before having to test them on an emergency basis. And all in cool weather. By any account that makes for a good ride.
When I pulled up to the driveway I had 16,175 miles on the bike, and the rest of the day ahead. See you on the road. And don't forget to think.
* * * * *
I went to bed early last night. As a consequence, I think, I awoke at four this morning. Six hours is six hours. Anyway, that allowed me some extra reading time. But I also had the radio on. And they were saying rain was headed our way. In fact, 740 AM was reporting rain already hitting the South Loop. Ugh.
But by six, there was still no rain in the Heights. Which made both Sarah and me happy. Maria and I took her out for a walk, and it was a dry walk at that. There were few clouds in the sky, and none of them looked threatening. So, when we got back, I fed Sarah and suited up.
As usual, I had to add air to the front tire. It was down a pound from yesterday. The back one was fine. After putting the compressed air tank away, I headed out.
The coolness in the air made "warmup" a pleasure. Which was fortunate, because the traffic on I-10, 610 and I-45 was really heavy. Lane changers were in abundance, and it was hard to enforce the rule about not letting anyone drive next to me. I was constantly speeding up or slowing down to make that one work.
I watched some wild maneuvers take place ahead of me, but no one tried to steal my lane. And no one kissed bumpers while I was watching. There were a couple of fender benders at the side of the road, but they weren't even causing the rubber neckers to slow down. All this traffic made thinking intermittent, to say the least. Oh well, I guess it was par for a Monday.
After dodging four wheelers for two circuits, I took the Heights exit and headed home. I'm not sure why Monday and Friday traffic is so much worse that other days, but I am hopeful that tomorrow's run will allow more contemplation space.
When I pulled up to the driveway, I had 16,145 miles on the bike. Stay dry. And try to find a chance to think.
* * * * *
This morning I got up at five, fed Sarah, let her out the back, then, when she returned, we headed back upstairs for a bath and book. Always a great start to the day.
When I finished the book, I got out of the tub, dressed for two wheels, and headed out.
This time, Stubbs had not messed with the tire pressure. The front tire was a couple of pounds low, and the back tire was fine. After making the needed adjustments, I headed out.
I took longer than normal on the warmup portion of my ride. The bike didn't feel right at low speeds when I rode it home yesterday, and I decided I needed some city street riding to figure out if there was a problem. I can't really describe what was wrong. It felt like metal on metal, but it occurred so seldom that I cannot say if it was brakes or transmission. I think it was the rear brake.
Anyway, all was well this morning. The bike felt "right." I rode it at slow speeds and moderate speeds. I stopped it a lot. I did all kinds of turns. After about ten minutes, I decided it was ok to try freeway speeds. I entered I-10, heading west.
I did a normal workday circuit. I got in some great thinking time, and even spent some of that thinking on listening to the bike. All was well. Even yesterday, the Rebel felt good at high speeds, so I was not really expecting trouble on the freeway. However, when I got to the Taylor street exit, I took it and drove to the new Target in our neighborhood. It is now open. Or, rather, it opens at 9:00 a.m. I rode around the parking lot, and tried more moves, both at low and moderate speeds. No problems.
I got back on I-10, and headed for Highway 290. There was a definite touch of coolness in the air this morning. That it was barely seven probably helped a lot. Anyway, I rode to the Mancuso Harley dealership on Highway 6, and toured their parking lot. A Rider's Edge class was in progress. Today is test day. I wished them all a silent "good luck," and headed back to the Heights.
The trip back was as pleasant as the trip out. The morning coolness was so refreshing that I almost blew my schedule off. I had told Maria I would be back by nine. If not for that, I would have kept going west till noon! Anyway, I checked my watch, and decided that I could get a last circuit in, which I did. I then circled around, topped off the tank, and headed home. I now have 16,115 miles on the bike, and I am confident that the Rebel is ready for the next 4000 miles. I plan to have champagne for breakfast, to celebrate being on two wheels again (I know it was only one day), so I guess this is all the riding I'll get in today. But tomorrow will be here soon enough. See you on the road. And don't forget to think.
* * * * *
Because the Rebel was in the shop when morning came, I fed Sarah, let her do her business, and fixed a pot of coffee. When Sarah was ready to come in, I headed back upstairs to my own B & B: a bath and book. It was barely 5:00 a.m.
Eleven hours later, I called Stubbs to see if I could pick up the bike. They said yes. I suited up, and Maria and I headed for the dealership. Lightning was beginning to hit in the Heights. We got To Stubbs around 4:30 p.m. Dustin told me that they decided the clicking was because the valves needed adjustment. He said they had test ridden the bike after adjusting the valves, and the sound was gone. I was relieved. The 16,000 mile checkup was $160, but it could have been far worse.
I paid and we then started our caravan home. The skies were darkening, except for the constant flash of lightning bolts. No more clicking sound, although the bike seems a little different than when I took it in. I think this happens each time. You get used to the mesh the bike has worked itself into, and, after they adjust everything, it is in a different mesh. I am sure I will get used to the new feel in short order.
The bike did fine on the freeways, clicking-wise. I was racing home to beat the heavy rain I could see in the clouds. I had a great view of the fireworks display of lightning bolts, and the temperature dropped about ten degrees as I approached downtown Houston on I-45. Wind gusts were fierce, but the roads were dry. I managed to make it all the way home without crossing a downpour.
When I got the Rebel in the garage, I checked the oil level. I do not like the oil gauge on the Rebel. It is very difficult to read, especially with new, clean oil. However, after repeated tests, I decided the oil level was fine. So was the brake fluid resevoir. I will check the tire pressure tomorrow. Right now, it is good to have the Rebel back. I now have 16,038 miles on it. And a whole weekend day left. See you on the road. And don't forget to think.
* * * * *
The bike is still in the shop. So, the only biking I got in today was during a very pleasant lunch when conversation turned to motorcycles. Although enjoyable (both the lunch and the conversation), I did miss saddling up.
I called Stubbs at 6:00 p.m., just in case the bike was ready. It was not. I will check back tomorrow. Stay tuned. And don't forget to think.
* * * * *
Today I have a full law day. Client meetings and court hearings. And I was up late last night getting ready for all the fun. Even so, when the morning arrived, I did not neglect Sarah and her walk.
My ride, on the other hand, was abbreviated. There was just no way I could fit a regular morning ride into my tight schedule, so I settled for a post office run. Two big miles. At least the air was ok in the tires.
I did not that even two miles was still some fun on the bike. I also consoled myself with the possibility that if the hearing went both well and fast, I might be able to get to Stubbs to drop off the bike. That would get me another ten miles.
The client meeting was successful, as was the hearing. I was headed home by 4:30 p.m. I quickly fed Sarah her supper. While she ate, I suited up. I had previously called Maria to meet me at Stubbs.
The trip to Stubbs was pretty uneventful. Rush hour traffic was thick. At one point, a car decided to take my lane, and me with it. I don't think the driver even knew I was there. When I saw him making his move, I hit my brakes and edged to my right. I dropped back as he took over my lane. I think that is when he finally saw me. He waved through his glass, and went on his way. As did I.
When I got to Stubbs I told them I needed the 16,000 miles service and that the bike was making a clicking sound which went away when I pulled in the clutch lever. Dustin told me that he couldn't remember what all was done on the 16,000 mile service. I said I doubted that they got that many Rebels with such mileage. Au contraire, he exclaimed. A grandmother had been in yesterday for service on a Rebel that had 34,000 miles! Wow. He said the Rebels were really well made, and could last forever.
He also said it would probably be Saturday before got my bike back, but that he would call if they had it ready on Friday.
I went across the parking lot to the Harley part of Stubbs while I waited for Maria to show up to give me a ride. I noticed that a lot of customers were at Stubbs. I quickly figured out that they were there on the first day of their Rider's Edge course. The scene of the Stubbs manager telling them about the dealership brought back fine memories. If you haven't yet taken a MSF course, get off your duff and take one. The course is very valuable and will help you in two areas. It will help you get on the road, and it will help you not forget to think. Pretty good. And, by the way, I now have 16,022 miles on the bike. Stay tuned to see if I get in a ride on Friday.
* * * * *
Today it was a little cooler than normal. Our overnight low was 74 degrees. It allowed Maria and me to share a pleasant walk with Sarah. When we got back, she ate and I did not suit up. You see, when I called the Federal Courts last night, I got the good news that I did not have to report for jury duty this morning. So, in honor of Ride to Work Day, I decided to skip my usual early morning ride, and take the Rebel to work. My plan was to do one workday circuit, then head for the office.
I had to add air to the rear tire. After that, I headed out. I was wearing a blue work shirt so I could take off my Draggin'Jeans kevlar shirt when I arrived at the office. After warming up, I stopped for gas. I then looped around and got on I-10,heading west.
There was a stalled truck in the middle of the freeway at the Washington exit, and that slowed thing up a bit. Once I was past it, however, it was smooth sailing. I took the Highway 59 extension, and then took I-10 back to the Heights exit. I u-turned, and headed east on the feeder to Studemont. I then rode the the Chase Bank at Washington.
This was my first use of a drive-up window while on a bike. Things went fine. The bank was more than happy to accept my deposit. In short order, I was on Washington, heading west. I was watching the gauge closely. My goal was to turn mile 16,000 over exactly as I rode up to the building parking lot. I needed three more miles. I meandered through the neighborhood, watching the odometer. The mileage turned over as I came up to Scotland from Jackson Hill. Two blocks later, I was in my parking spot, with the odometer reading a couple of tenths over 16,000.
They call it Ride to Work Day, and I almost made it all day without have to leave the office. But, at 4:00 p.m., an emergency came up, and I had to ride to another lawyer's office on official business. Fortunately, they all know I ride a bike, so they weren't all that astonished to see me walk up in all my gear. It did make it interesting, however, figuring out where to put the three inches of paperwork I left with. I think that next year I will make sure I bring a backpack, no matter what.
When I left for home, it was after 8:30 p.m. I was glad to finally roll up to the driveway. I now have 16,009 miles on the bike, and an early day tomorrow. I hope my hearing goes well, and I can take the bike to Stubbs on Thursday. Stay tuned. And don't forget to think.
* * * * *
When I went to bed last night, it was lightning and thundering constantly. I was worried that rain would spoil my morning run. The Federal Courts had done their part to help with my ride by letting me know I did not have to report for jury duty. Now it was up to Mr. Sun.
Sarah did not notice anything that would prevent our walk. No more thunder. And no rain is expected until lunch. So, off we went. Sarah enjoyed a dry walk, followed by her breakfast. I suited up and headed out.
I had to add a pound of air to the front tire. I then headed out for the warmup section of my ride. Today, the clicking sound was more pronounced, and at low speeds. I have decided to take the bike in to Stubbs on Wednesday evening. I hope they can find the problem, and that it is cheap to repair. I'll keep you posted.
After warming up, I entered I-10, heading west. Traffic was light and fast. Just the way I like it. Last night, I posted my Tips on Riding Your Honda Rebel on the Freeway. Today, I paid special attention to some of the techniques I wrote about last night, just to make sure I had them right. Give the article a read. I hope you will find it helpful.
My morning ride on the freeways went fine. They opened a new section of the North Loop between I-45 and highway 59. I think I am going to like it. Of course, since everyone was new to the route, I was especially aware of the surrounding vehicles. No problems, fortunately.
I only did one loop this morning. I am managing my mileage to hit mile 16,000 tomorrow, on Ride to Work Day. I am on schedule, assuming I don't have to report for jury duty. I now have 15,975 miles on the bike. See you on the road. And don't forget to think.
* * * * *
Today started out hot and muggy. But, Sarah insisted, not too hot and muggy for her walk. So, off we went. When we returned, hot and muggy, Sarah had her breakfast. I suited up and headed out.
The tire pressure was fine. Warm up was fine. I-10 was fine. Traffic was light and fast. That's my definition of fine.
I did two regular morning circuits. I am watching the mileage in hopes of reaching mile 16,000 on Ride to Work Day, which is Wednesday. I decided to put thirty miles on the bike this morning. I was able to do that without incident. That leaves 45 miles to go.
I got in some good thinking time during my ride. I am outlining (in my mind) a short page on freeway riding. Several readers have asked about taking a Rebel on the freeway. The Rebel is up to it. The page will contain some of the things I have learned about riding my Rebel on Houston's freeways. And you thought all I think about on my two wheeled trips is sex and philosophy. Stay tuned.
After the second loop, I took the Heights exit, and headed home. When I rolled up to the driveway, I had 15,955 miles on the bike. And there was still time to grab a shower and watch the Shuttle land. Life is good. See you on the road. And don't forget to think.
* * * * *
Last night I decided that I wanted to see the sun rise in Galveston. It would make a nice trip, fairly close to home, and, if I got up early enough to be there for sunrise, I would be back by shortly after eight, with most of the day ahead. Sounded ideal, except for the part about when I would have to get up. As someone once said, the problem with sunrise is that it comes way too early in the day.
Nonetheless, I got up about 4:30 a.m. so I could be out the door by five. That was the plan anyway. I showered, then took Sarah downstairs for her breakfast. I then let her out the back while I added air to the front tire. Next, I pulled up the radar on Weather.com for rain. All clear. Last night, before retiring, I had checked the Chronicle to make sure there were no road closures that would affect my route.
After Sarah finished her business, we went back upstairs, where I suited up, told Maria I would be back, and headed for the bike. Sarah remained to keep Maria company.
After warming up, I headed for gas. I topped off the tank and headed out. It was barely 5:20, but I was already behind schedule. I got on I-10, heading east. I decided to take I-10 all the way to the East Loop, so I could take the bridge across the Ship Channel. Before I could get there, two adventures awaited.
First, I was heading down I-10 at about 65 mph.* It was still dark, so I was careful to stay in one of the tire tracks of my lane. Riding in the center of a lane in the early morning is not always smart. Debris has not had time to work its way to the edges of the lane, and you might get a surprise.
The surprise I got was a giant insect that hit my visor full force, smack dap in the center of the part of my visor in front of my left eye. The bug hit so hard I feared it had cracked the visor. I could not tell for sure, because bug guts obscured my vision on the left. This was not a good start to the trip. There was no way I could continue to ride with this insect problem. From the amount of goop, I figured I must have hit a large grasshopper. No parts were left with which to identify the culprit, and I had a close up view! I had to pull over.
I took the first exit I came to. I pulled into a gas station, toed the bike into neutral (so I wouldn't have to find out the battery was on the blink), and took off my right glove and helmet and assessed the extent of the damage. No crack, but lots of innards. I was carrying a Kleenex, but I knew it would not be enough tissue for this problem. Fortunately, I was also carrying a foil pack of Sun Covers brand Lens Cleaning Tissues. I had purchased them at Cycle Gear, and I was glad to have them. Although they were "pre-moistened," that had been some time ago.
I took one of the tissues out and noted that it was only damp. I gently wiped the bug matter from the visor. The guts came off easily, but left a streak. I got another tissue and succeeded in distributing the smear equally across the front of the visor. Ugh.
Time to get the Kleenex. I spit on the visor, spit on the Kleenex, and went to work. After repeated applications of tissue and expectoration, the smear seemed to disappear. I resealed the lens cleaning tissue, placed the Kleenex back in my pocket, and redonned the helmet and glove. This delay had cost me at least five minutes. Time would tell if I missed sunrise. But at least I had my view back.
I got on I-10, and took the 610 exit, heading south. As I took the turn, surprise number two appeared. There, right in the middle of my lane, was a dead animal. Fortunately, I was not riding in the middle of my lane. So I whipped by the carcass without risk to my tires or health.
I took the Loop all the way to I-45, then headed for Galveston. Traffic up to then had been virtually non-existent. Except for the bug episode, I had gotten in some great thinking time. However, traffic on I-45 was heavy. I was surprised, given the early hour. Pickups and trailered boats dominated the scene. I had to stay alert to all the speeding vehicles.
I was also watching the eastern horizon and my odometer. I was still in the race to make it to Galveston before sunrise. And I was being helped by heavy clouds that were hugging the horizon. Mister Sun would have to rise more than usual before I would see his orange face. That might buy me a few extra minutes.
Other than dodging a turtle crossing the freeway, the rest of the trip into Galveston was without incident. As I crossed the Causeway, I could see a tint of red behind the clouds. But the sun was still not out. It looked like I would make it.
I took 61st to Seawall, cursing every red light that slowed my progress. Of course, I caught the light at 61st and Seawall on red. I waited for what seemed an eternity, then zoomed over the hill to see the ocean.
I beat the sun. Barely. The sea was totally flat. I have seen lakes with more wave action. But things were popping in Galveston. Lots of people were out. It was barely 6:30, and there were cars galore parked along the Boulevard.
I have been to Galveston lots of time when the beach was mostly deserted. But this morning was different. There were plenty of fishermen. And lots of families. Not to mention the comely lasses out for their morning runs.
I rode east on Seawall, watching for the sun. First, there appeared a small hole in the clouds that were resting on the horizon, and that window was orange. Mister Sun was coming up. As I rode east, the sun continued to rise. Within ten minutes, I could see the full rounded outline in orange, as if behind a curtain. The clouds were especially thick, but no match for the intense presence of the sun. By the time I made it to East Beach, sunrise was upon me. I enjoyed the view of five ships waiting to enter the ship channel. A view I shared with several early morning fishermen.
I then headed down the dirt road to the beach area. I passed a lagoon filled with sea gulls and a lonely pelican. I haven't noticed that many pelicans around Galveston, but this one was impressive. It certainly dwarfed the seagulls.
After taking in the sights, I headed back to Houston. I rode the Boulevard all the way to 61st, passing a couple of bikers along the way. I guess it was still early for most two wheelers to be out. When I got back on I-45, it was barely seven. I was still on schedule.
The trip back was very nice. There was little traffic headed for Houston at that hour. Plenty of time for thinking. I used it well. When I reached the exit for Loop 610, I took it north, crossing the Ship Channel one more time. I stayed on the Loop, and took it west, then south to I-10. I was watching my mileage.
Wednesday, July 19th, is the fifteenth annual "Ride to Work Day." Last year I had some lawyer thing that made it impossible to gear up for the ride. This year I may still have a problem, because of Federal Court jury duty. But I may get lucky. Each day, you call in after 6:00 p.m. to see if they need you to report for the following day. I don't have to report on Monday, and that is a good sign that this may be a light jury week. More cases start on Monday's than on any other day.
I figured that if I did one workday circuit, I would be positioned to make mile 16,000 on Ride Your Bike to Work day, assuming that I didn't have to report for jury duty. I did the circuit, and I now have 15,925 miles on the bike. I hope to get thirty miles in on Monday, and thirty miles on Tuesday. That will leave me needing only fifteen miles on Wednesday. Very doable, weather (and the courts) permitting. Stay tuned to see if I make it on the holiday day. And don't forget to think.
* * * * *
Today, they predicted rain for this afternoon. So I decided to go for a morning ride. The only thing was that we have a busy schedule, so the ride would have to be shorter than a normal weekend ride.
Sarah and I went down before six, and got the paper. I then got her breakfast and checked the air in the tires. Fortunately, it was ok in both tires. I then checked the newspaper for road closings. While Sarah finished eating, I suited up. It was about fifteen after six when I scooted out the door.
I warmed up and got on I-10, heading east. I took I-10 till it intersected Highway 59, which I took north. Traffic was very light. Speeds were very fast. The sun had not yet risen.
I rode to the exit for the Airport, then took a tour of the terminals. I'm not sure why, but I enjoy this route. Early in the morning it is quiet, except for people flying away on adventures. Or so it seems.
After circling the Terminals C, B and A, I headed for Beltway 8. I took it west to I-45, and then headed south. Traffic on I-45 was very heavy, even though it was barely seven. I much prefer Highway 59.
When I got to the Loop, I took it west, in the opposite direction from my normal morning circuits. I did a couple of loops, then headed home. The ride was pleasant, with plenty of thinking time until the heavy congestion on I-45. The clicking sound was present in about the same frequency as on Friday.
I haven't decided where I am heading tomorrow. Until the clicking is fixed, I don't want to stray too far from home. But I may head to Galveston in the morning, weather permitting. I now have 15,769 miles on the bike. Rain chances are down for tomorrow, but there is often precipitation in Galveston, even when it is dry in Houston. Still, I really like that ride. We'll see.
* * * * *
Friday mornings often seem like the beginning of the weekend. Even though you have to go to work. This Friday seemed like that. Even though I have to go to work. But, first, Sarah needed her walk. So we all tumbled out of bed to accommodate her wishes. The morning had a touch of coolness about it, at least for July. We all enjoyed her stroll.
Whle she enjoyed her breakfast, I suited up. As I suspected, I had to add air to both tires. Thus properly inflated, I headed out. The clicking sound was sometimes present during the warmup portion of my ride, even after I thumbed off the choke.
In short order, I entered I-10, heading west. There was a lot of weekend traffic, but it was moving fast. Even the drivers changing three lanes to make an exit used their blinkers. And stayed off their cell phones!
That touch of coolness we encountered on Sarah's walk was even more pronounced at 65 mph*. It made for very pleasant riding time. And great thinking time. I had special fun this morning organizing my reading matter for next week. I received a Federal Jury Summons, and I begin my "at risk" time on Monday. I have to call in the night before each day, to see if I have to report. I will propably be restricted to evening rides next week. But, more to the point, I may have long stretches in the jury assembly room. That affords an extra opportunity to read. I have been giving the subject great thought. There are considerations of size, length, and titles. Any reading matter is fair game for questioning by the lawyers, so that must also be kept in mind. It makes for fun thinking.
Anyway, before I knew it, I had completed my ride. I now have 15,685 miles on the bike, and the whole weekend ahead. Have a great one, and don't forget to think.
* * * * *
Today was a virtual repeat of yesterday morning. Sarah was again ready for her walk (like, when isn't she?), and she was also ready for her breakfast when we got back.
One difference was that I didn't have to add air to either tire. That was nice, but I expect that tomorrow will be another story. Anyway, I warmed up (remembering to cut off the choke), and entered I-10, heading west.
Traffic was pretty light, and very fast. I was making record time until the last lap, when I encountered backup from a van/pickup collision on the Highway 59 extension. Even with that delay, I was only about ten minutes behind schedule.
Other than the delay, the wreck didn't cause me any problems. In fact, I spent a happy thirty minutes or so working on the problems of the day. And some of the problems of the century. One problem I didn't have to deal with was the clicking sound. It was (mostly) absent on today's trip. No visit to Stubbs yet.
When I pulled up to the garage, I had 15,650 miles on the bike, and I was barely behind schedule. See you on the road. And don't forget to think.
* * * * *
Sarah made sure we were up on time, and that we took her on her walk. When we got back, she ate, while I suited up.
I had to add air to both tires. Ugh. After warming up (and remembering to thumb off the choke), I entered I-10, heading west. Traffic was light. It was a great morning for riding while thinking.
During the first third of the first loop, I thought the clinking sound had gotten bad enough that I could reliably call it up at will, albeit at high speeds. I need to be able to produce the noise at will if Stubbs is to fix it.
As the engine warmed up though, the sound mostly went away. Nothing I did could call it up. Oh well, it's not yet time to take the bike in for repairs.
I enjoyed the rest of the ride. No incidents, and lots of productive thinking time. When I rolled up to the driveway, I had 15,610 miles on the bike. See you on the road. And don't forget to think.
* * * * *
Another dry morning. And another walk for Sarah. She was happy with the walk, and I was happy with the dry streets. When we got back, I fixed her breakfast and suited up.
I had to add air to both tires. Afterwards, I headed out on the warmup portion of my ride. Next, I entered I-10, heading west. Traffic was pretty light, and there was lots of time for thinking. I took advantage, mulling over several problems.
I got in lots of thinking time during the first loop. On the second loop, I missed watching mile 15555.5 by three tenths of a mile. When the event came, I was easing over to the far right because a pickup truck driver decided he could pass me without completely changing out of the lane he and I were in. I figure that's when the mileage rolled over. By the time I had dealt with the crises and recollected my thoughts, the odometer read 15,555.8. Oh well. At least I didn't miss seeing the pickup!
The only other event of the morning was that the clicking sound was pretty frequent. It is almost to the point where I can call it up by a rapid roll back of the throttle. But I'm not quite there yet. I can't see the benefit of taking the bike in to Stubbs if I can't replicate the sound. So, for now, I am continuing to ride.
I did two loops this morning, adding the Highway 59 extension to the second one. I then took the Heights exit and headed home. When I came to the first stop sign, I realized the choke was still on. I had added about a quarter slide of choke when I started the bike at the beginning of the ride, and I had, once again, forgotten to thumb it off once I got going. Clearly, I need to pay more attention to this. Also, tomorrow I will find out if having the choke off lessens the frequency of the clicking/clinking sound I'm getting with rapid motor deceleration.
When I rolled up to the driveway, I had 15,570 miles on the bike. I lubricated the chain before putting the Rebel away. The day was still young. And tomorrow is supposed to be another dry morning. See you on the road. And don't forget your choke.
* * * * *
No rain overnight. So the streets were totally dry this morning. Which made Sarah happy, although she also spent time in the water-filled ditches during her walk.
When we got back, I fed her and suited up while she ate. I had to add some air to the front tire, but the back one was unchanged from yesterday morning. I was glad when the engine turned over. I headed out for my warmup route.
After warming up (and remembering to thumb off the choke), I entered I-10, heading west. Traffic was pretty light for a Monday morning. And most drivers behaved in a civilized manner. That made for good thinking time. And a pleasant ride.
With no immediate mileage goals in mind, I contented myself with two normal workday circuits. It was nice to be back on I-45. I like the extra mileage the Highway 59 extension gives, but it is not a relaxing route. I-45, on the other hand, is both familiar and predictable.
After two laps, I took the Heights exit and headed home. When I rolled up to the driveway, I had 15,535 miles on the bike. Mile 15,555.5 is coming up. I hope I don't miss it. See you on the road. And don't forget to think.
* * * * *
It had been far too long since I had headed west to Bellville for a motorcycle ride. More than three months too long. This morning, I made up that lost time.
I got up at five, and took my shower. Sarah and I then went down for the paper and her breakfast. I let her out the back door, while I checked the air in the tires. I added air to the front tire. I then returned inside to finish getting ready for my long Sunday ride. I packed maps and compass and tire inflator. When Sarah came back inside, I was at the computer, checking Weather.com. No rain on the screen.
Maria came downstairs to wish me a fun day. I told her I didn't know what time I would be back, and for her to have fun, too. Then, I was off.
I held my breath as I pushed the start button. The engine roared to life, and I headed out for the warmup portion of my ride. I then stopped and topped off the gas tank. Once again, the bike started up without hesitation. I got on I-10, heading east.
John and I had made arrangements to meet up at the Tweeters parking lot just north of FM 1960 and Highway 59. Traffic was light on both I-10, and Highway 59, and I made the rendezvous in record time. John, however, was already waiting.
We had decided that John would be in charge of getting us to Magnolia, and I would take over the route after that. I handed John a copy of my portion of the trek, and we headed north on Highway 59. It was not yet seven in the morning.
We rode to FM 242, and took that highway west, past I-45, all the way to FM 1488. We then got on FM 1488 and took that to Magnolia. The roads were pretty nice, but they were mainly urban highways. And they were mostly straight. No hills. Few curves.
By the time we got to Magnolia, I was starving. I had shorted myself on breakfast, and I was hungry. We pulled into a gas station, and I spotted the Family Dining Inn a block off the corner of FM 1488 and FM 1774. Earlier, I had told John we would be breakfasting in Hempstead. But my stomach was asking me to revise those plans. So I did.
I was pleased to note another motorcycle in the parking lot as we pulled in to the Family Dining Inn. It is an old fashioned cafe. The menue was simple, but more than adequate. Prices were reasonable, and the sour dough toast was exceptionally good. John seemed to enjoy his breakfast. He said, at its conclusion, that that should hold him till supper. I let him know that lunch was definitely on my itinerary for the day. I mean, a growing boy needs his nourishment.
By the time we were ready to leave, it was almost nine. I took the lead, and we headed north on FM 1774. We passed through Todd Mission and into Plantersville. This road is pleasant. It is tree-lined, with a few hills and curves. At Plantersville we took FM 105 west for a couple of miles. When we came to FM 362 we headed south, toward Hempstead. FM 362 is a very nice run. Lots of curves, and several hills. I highly recommend it.
Eventually, FM 362 dumps into FM 1488, which we took on in to Hempstead. We gassed up there, because I was worried about how far our next big town was. John just had to top off his tank. I had 125 miles on my tank by that time, so I was in greater need of petro.
We got on Highway 290, heading west to Chappel Hill. There, we took FM 1155 north, till it deadended into FM 2193. FM 1155 is another great section of Texas highways. Lots of curves and lots of hills. FM 2193 is also nice, but it deadends into FM 105 before too long.
At FM 105 we went north a mile or so until we came to the exit for Scenic Road 390. This is a great run. Lots of curves, lots of hills, and even some curves on hills. I love this stretch of road.
As we approached FM 50, we came upon three fellow bikers (well, two of them were "fellows"). They were going slower than the pace I was setting. So, when they continued west on 390, I turned south on FM 50 to the Antique Rose Emporium.
John and I had come this route a couple of times before, and I wasn't going to let another chance to tour the gardens go by. John (not a gardener) was a good sport, and endured my tour without complaint.
Once we finished up at the Emporium, we got back on 390, and continued west to Burton. Just before we got to Burton, we passed a restaurnat called the Cactus. It was packed with customers. John and I both agreed to put it on the list for another time.
In Burton, we got back on Highway 290, heading west. Within a few miles, we came upon FM 2502, which I took south. We had not gone more than two miles when I spotted dark clouds ahead. It was clear that rain was falling. I pulled over. John and I conferred, and John voted for trning around and taking Highway 36 in to Bellville. I agreed, and that's what we did.
Although we rode into rain on 290, it was nothing like what looked to be waiting for us on FM 2502. We gassed up in Bellville, then rode to Newman's for lunch. They now feature soup and sandwiches, and a chef salad. John, true to his prediction, passed on lunch. I, true to my word, ordered up.
I had a turkey chef's salad, ice tea and a glazed donut. I mean, how could I pass up a donut at Newmans? That would be practically sacrilegious. Newman's is a famous stopping point for bikers in this area. And, true to form, there were other bikers present when we rolled up. Donuts and ice tea are not exactly the combination I would recommend, but Newman's did both well.
When I finished eating, we saddled up for the last leg of our journey. We headed east on FM 529. This is a nice road for motorcycling. In fact, we saw lots of cyclists on our way east.
When we got to FM 359 we took that south until FM 529 turned back east. Shortly after getting on this stretch of FM 529, we encountered rain. I saw a wall of water in front of us, but it was too late or me to turn around. We rode through it, getting thoroughly soaked in the process. More rain clouds were ahead of us.
I found a dry spot to pull over, and we talked out our options. To the north, the clouds were heavy with rain. Ditto for the south and east. And the big rain cell was still behind us to the west. John agree, there was nothin to do but continue east on FM 529. I told John that I was pretty sure that my bike would turn into the parking lot when we came to the Half Price Books near Highway 6. John said he would probably continue on home, without stopping. Which is what happened.
I managed to find a logic book by David Kelly, so I was happy. And the rain left while I was "sheltering in place" at the bookstore. When I finally made my purchases, the streets were dry. I got on Highway 6, headed for 290. I gave Cynthia a couple of honks of the horn as I rode past her apartment.
I stayed dry all the way to Loop 610. I took the North Loop, all the way to Highway 59, which I took south to I-10. I headed west on home. As I passed I-45, it started pouring down rain on I-10. It continued to rain as I took the Heights exit and u-turned back for gas. In fact, it rained hard all the rest of the way home. My jacket and pants were thoroughly soaked. I was glad to be back home when I pulled up to the driveway. And I had 15,505 miles on the bike. It was 3:30 p.m. The rain gauge registered seven tenths of an inch of rain. And my odometer was registering 280 miles in the nine hours since I had left home. Not a good average, until you figure in all the pleasant time we spent on stops. It had been a great day's ride, with good company and good roads. And plenty of time to think. Time to change into dry clothes and a wet bath. See you on the road.
* * * * *
At 2:30 a.m. this morning, I was awakened by the pounding of rain against the roof and the sides of the house. I went downstairs to confirm the storm. It was pouring. This was no gentle shower. An hour later, I was still awake, and it was still raining. I finally drifted off to sleep. When I checked the rain gauge at six, we had seven tenths of an inch. But the streets were starting to dry out, at least in places. I figured the freeway would be dry by the time I got there.
I fed Sarah her breakfast. When she finished, I let her out the back, and checked the air in the tires. The front tire needed a pound, as did the back. After adding the required amounts, I went back inside to check the radar on Weather.com. All clear.
While I waited for Sarah to return from her business, I checked the Chronicle for road closures. I have a morning meeting at the Houston Garden Center, and I knew I wouldn't be able to get in a long ride before the start time of 10:00 a.m. Still, I want to get in 60 to 75 miles, just to make sure the noise problem isn't getting worse.
So, after checking the weather on the computer, I headed upstairs for a quick shower. Then, I headed for the garage. My habit is to turn on the choke, the ignition switch and the kill switch while in the driveway, and hit the start button when I reach the center of the cul-de-sac. That lessens the odds the bike will awaken any neighbors at the usual early hours I set out on my rides. After backing the bike out of the garage, I turned on the choke, the ignition switch and put the kill switch in the "run" position. I started duckwalking down the driveway. I noticed a small pebble in the front tire. I stopped, lowered the kick stand, and flicked the pebble from the treads with my gloved finger. I then raised the kickstand, duck walked the bike to the center of the cul-de-sac, and pushed the start button.
Nothing. No sound. No lights. The instrument panel was dark. The headlight was out. I went through the start sequence several times, to no effect. There was no power to the bike. Then, after the fact, it hit me that I had not noticed the instrument panel lights or headlight coming on when I turned the ignition switch the first time. The battery had probably died overnight.
Reluctantly, I put the bike back in the garage, and went back inside. Time to hit the internet to see how long Rebel batteries are supposed to last. And to determine whether I can change the battery myself or not. Not to mention the problem of whether Stubbs has a Rebel battery in stock.
I found no information on battery life on the internet. Some sites said their batteries were "long lasting," but no one said how long "long" was. Thus far, I have noticed that motorcycle batteries are not rated in months and motorcycle tires are not rated in miles. Weird. Just before I left for the meeting, I called Stubbs. Fortunately, they had a Rebel battery in stock. Thus calmed, I headed for the meeting--on four wheels.
When I returned from the meeting, I quickly changed into work clothes and headed for the garage. I removed the right side cover without problems. I then unhooked the rubber band holding the top of the battery in place. Next, grabbing a phillips head screwdriver, I undid the screw post on the negative terminal of the battery, as per the owner's manual instructions. Next, I repeated the operation for the positive terminal. I was then able to easily remove the battery from its holder. Very simple.
While at the meeting, I had reread the owner's manual. In the trouble shooting section (under the part about what to do when your engine won't start), they said to be sure and check the fuses. The fuses are also behind the right-hand side cover. But it was a puzzle to figure out how to remove them for a look. So, I decided to do the easy thing and take the battery to Stubbs and buy a new one.
When I got to Stubbs, they had the new battery ready. I also got a ten amp and a twenty amp fuse, just in case. I asked them to test the old battery, which they did. It registered in the orange range. Red means dead and green means fine. Orange means it needs a charge. They said they doubted the trouble was the battery, and that Rebel batteries should last over a year if used on a daily basis. They said the old battery was probably fine. I was glad they didn't just sell me a new battery and be done with it. (Also, I would have had to add the battery acid to the new battery, and wait an hour before caping the battery to give the solution time to become active.)
I decided to get a trickle charger instead of a new battery. Even if my battery was still good, I figured it was run down, and would need a new charge. Still, the trickle charger was only $36, and a new battery was going to cost a hundred dollars. I was happy at the good service from Stubbs. I headed home.
When I got home, I set myself the task of getting the fuses out for an inspection. Before starting, I plugged the old battery into the new trickle charge. The charger read "red," meaning the battery was charging. I then turned my attention to the fuses. The ten amp fuses came right out. The fuse cover was easy to remove, and the fuses were both okay. That left the 20 amp fuse.
I had real trouble getting the cover off to inspect the 20 amp fuse. Finally, I called my friend Bill. He is the neighborhood mechanic, and he had some ideas. First, we sprayed the area with WD 40, and waited for it to do its magic. Next, we worked the area until we figured out that the whole fuse assemble was sitting in its own little box. We removed it from the rubber holder. It was then relatively easy to rock the cover off the fuses. I then removed the 29 amp fuse for a look. It was okay. Ugh.
I was now out of easy solutions. It looked like the bike was headed for the shop. Bill had one last suggestion. He said that, sometimes, just pulling the posts apart, and putting everything back together would do the trick. I agreed to try it. I walked to the trickle charger and noted that the light was now green. The battery had charged in under half an hour. Clearly, it was not a totally dead battery. I unplugged the trickle charger, unhooked the battery from the charger and took the battery back to the bike. I put everything back in its proper place. Before getting to the result, I want to digress.
If you remove the battery on your Rebel, be careful of the two square fittings that are under the mountings for the cables and terminal screws. If you lose those fittings, you will be in a world of trouble. They are sort of like nuts for the screws. I almost lost both of them. One fell off into the cardboard box I was using to transport the battery to Stubbs, and the other fell off as I was walking out the door at Stubbs. I am lucky I heard it hit, or I would have been S.O.L.
After everything was back in its place, I thumbed on some choke, turned on the ignition, put the kill switch in "run," and pushed the start button. The engine fired right up. I don't know who was happier, Bill or me. I was glad I had asked him for his advise. Of course, I now don't know why the Rebel didn't start this morning, but Bill is of the opinion that any number of things might explain the development, and that sometimes just taking things apart and putting them back together will cure the glitch. But he also advised me to just get a new battery.
After getting the Rebel to start (and start again and again), I called John to let him know that tomorrow's long ride is still on. I then suited up and headed for my daily ride.
I was in a particular hurry because thunder was everywhere. Maria had encountered rain during her outing this afternoon, as had I when going to Stubbs. But the streets in the Heights were dry, so far.
I started up the bike, and warmed up. I entered I-10, heading west. I did the normal workday circuit. Lightning was hitting the ground on the northern horizon. Lightning was hitting the ground on the eastern horizon. But rain was not hitting the ground on my route.
On the second circuit, I added the Highway 59 extension. On the third circuit, I returned to the normal (i-45) route. All told, I put 50 quick miles on the bike. I did hear the clicking sound from time to time, but it was no worse than yesterday.
I made a stop at the hardware store, then headed home. The bike started fine after the stop. When I got to the driveway, I had 15,225 miles on the bike. I checked the oil, and repeatedly added small amounts (starting the bike after every pour), trying to get a good reading on the Rebel dip stick. I really dislike the Rebel dip stick. It is very hard to read. At least for me. After adding about a third of a quart of oil, I stopped.
I went inside and called John, to finalize our route and start time for tomorrow. My hope is to be on the road by 6:15 a.m. Time for me to get some sleep. It should be a long, wonderful day of riding tomorrow. See you on the road. And don't forget to think.
* * * * *
It was raining last night when we went to bed. I don't know how long the rain continued, but the streets were still damp when we took Sarah for her walk. And the ditches were full. Sarah enjoyed that development.
Although there was dampness in the air, there was no rain this morning. And the streets were wet only in spots. I was confident that I could get in my ride.
When we returned, I checked the rain gauge before getting Sarah her breakfast. Nine tenths of an inch of rain. Wow. Sarah was more impressed with her breakfast. I suited up while she ate.
The air in the tires was fine. It remained to be seen if the tell-tale sound of yesterday would still be present.
I thumbed on some choke, and started up the bike. This time, I remembered to take the choke off by the third stop sign. I then finished my warmup route and entered I-10, heading west.
I did three normal circuits this morning. My one goal was to try to determine the source of the sound the Rebel is making. I failed.
I cannot reproduce the sound at will by anything I do. Not by acceleration, not by deceleration. Not by braking. Not riding by bumps in the road, or hills or turns. Often, this morning, I could go for miles without hearing a thing. Then the clink would appear. Usually just a single sound. "Clink" doesn't exactly describe it. It is definitely not hard metal on hard metal. And the engine itself sounds fine. Post hoc, ergo propter hoc ruled the day. And I know enough to realize how unsound that investigative tool is.
So, I threw out my theory about the choke. And all my other theories. And I still have no explanation. I can't even reproduce the sound phonetically. Or locate its point of origin. How I will ever convey the problem to Stubbs is a mystery itself at this point. On the good side, the sound is still very intermittent, and doesn't sound like it will cause a crash when failure occurs. So, for the moment, I ride on. Day to day, but without restrictions.
For this morning's ride, the extra circuit (for investigative purposes only, of course) brought the total mileage to 15,175. And rain chances are down to 30% for the weekend. See you on the road (and, hopefully, not beside it).
* * * * *
No rain today. At least so far. Sarah was happy about that. I don't think she would appreciate another morning without her walk. And evening walks are just not enough. At least that's her attitude. So, as the alarm sounded, she jumped in bed to make sure we understood the significance of the moment.
There were still puddles of rainwater in the ditches. Sarah was happy to check them out. Fortunately, she was mostly dry by the time we got home. I checked the rain gauge, and we got another tenth of an inch since I had emptied it after work. That means we got 2.2 inches of rain yesterday.
Sarah waited impatiently while I checked the gauges, then we all went in the back door for her breakfast. While she ate, I suited up. I had to add air to the front tire. I then headed out.
As is my usual custom, I slid the choke over about one-fourth of its travel distance. In the winter, I use full choke. But in the summer, I just add a touch of choke to smooth out the morning idle. I try to remember to thumb the choke off by the third stop sign during my warmup ride. Today, I forgot.
The Honda manual discusses the problems caused by forgetting to take the choke off after the bike warms up. Mostly, they discuss the discoloration the mufflers can get. I may have another warning to issue. But more on that later.
I entered I-10, heading west. Traffic was light. Clouds were everywhere, but the streets were completely dry. I took 610 north, then east. I was trying to decide whether to add the Highway 59 entension or not. I don't have an immediate mileage goal, and I had kind of missed the I-45 trek south to I-10. When I topped the rise at the North Main exit, my mind was made up. A fast-moving fog bank was shrouding the view ahead to the east. I couldn't tell if the clouds contained rain, but they looked menacing. I turned south on I-45.
That move allowed me to avoid the fog bank, but it also showed me that the fog was covering the downtown skyscrapers. And the clouds were so low, I could still see the tops of the buildings, but not the ground floors. Weird.
I countinued with my normal workday circuit. But I didn't get in any more thinking time. At least not on matters philosophic. Instead, I began to concentrate on a funny sound the Rebel was making. It was an intermittent noise, the exact location of which was hard to pinpoint. It sort of sounded like it was coming from the chain area. The bike sounded perfect when under acceleration, but a single clang could be heard when I let off the throttle abruptly. But not every time.
I really want to take a long bike ride this weekend, and I sure don't need mechanical troubles. But I could not ignore the noise. Sadly, since I could not reliably produce it at will, I didn't know how Stubbs was going to help me with the problem.
I was concentrating on the chain as a likely suspect because the bike purred soundly at normal speeds. It was only when I let off the throttle that I could (sometimes) get the noise to appear. That could be too much slack in the chain. Or one of a thousand other problems I know nothing about. Sunday's trips began to be in doubt.
When I came to the Heights exit, I took it on home. At that point I still had around a mile and a half to go. When I pulled up to the first stop sign I had come to since getting on the freeway, I realized the choke was still on. Just that one-fourth amount I use in the summer, but "on," nonetheless. I thumbed it off. And tried and tried to get the clank back. I could not. With a little relief, I decided that maybe the sound was because the choke was still on. Tomorrow will tell. If there are no clanks at freeway speeds, I will chalk the problem up to forgetfulness. Let's hope it is that simple. If it is, I will have to confess that I was the one who forgot to think!
Oh, and yes, I got my mileage count. I now have 15,131 miles on the bike. And much to think about during tomorrow's run.
* * * * *
I was hoping to sleep a little later than normal this morning. However, a little after five, I was jolted to awakeness by thunder and lightning. Lots of thunder and lightning. Sarah was awake too. I decided we should go downstairs and get the paper before it was soaked with rain. And, since we were up, Sarah wanted her breakfast. While she ate, I checked weather.com. This was habit, not necessity, because the skies had opened up, dumping almost an inch of rain in short order. Clearly, there would be no ride this morning.
It continued to rain until noon. Then, the skies cleared. By the time I got home, the streets were dry, although the rain gauge had 2.1 inches in it. I waited until 6:30 p.m., giving rush hour traffic time to finish up. I then suited up, checked the air, and headed out.
Temperatures were cool, and the skies were overcast. There were plenty of clouds to the west and north. There was even lightning on the northern horizon. Fortunately, the streets stayed dry, and traffic was minimal. I made two workday circuits in short order, then took the Heights exit. I circled back and got gas. After topping the tank, I headed home. It had been a quick ride, with some nice high speeds. And dry roads. More rain is expected tomorrow. For now, I have 15,101 miles on the bike. Stay tuned for further adventures.
* * * * *
Happy Independence Day. And happy birthday to the country founded by individualists, who recognized that rights belong to individuals, not to the state. Who complained about interference with their lives by a distant King, and took up arms to enforce the rights they possessed because they were humans. The economic rights to engage in commerce and keep the fruits of their labors, and the liberty interests to do what they wanted in a social context, so long as they did not initiate the use of force. Classical liberals by the eighteenth century definition of that term. Libertarians by the twenty-first century definition. And, I am sure, lovers of motorcycles all, if they had only been given the chance to know our two-wheeled wonders.
On this Fourth of July I got up around five. I got in some reading, showered, and went downstairs to get the paper. The skies were clear. The radio was blessedly silent on the subject of rain. While Sarah ate, I checked Weather.com to see where the clouds were.
Things looked clear for the moment. I let Sarah out the back, and checked the air in the tires. The pressure was fine, front and back. Sarah and I then went back upstairs to check on Maria. She declared her independence by choosing to lay in bed for an extra hour. It was barely six. I promised Sarah a walk when I got back, then I headed out for my 15,000 mile run.
I needed five miles to make my goal. Thanks to the weather, that was no problem. I warmed up and headed for the gas station to top the tank. Once properly fueled, I entered I-10, heading east. I had calculated that I could make it to Memorial Drive by the time the odometer turned over, and I was right. As I pulled up to the stop sign at Prairie and Bagby, I needed a half a mile to make my goal. And Prairie changes to Memorial at Bagby. The light changed, and I was off.
I quickly accelerated to 50 mph* or so. When the moment arrived, I took a deep breath, extended both arms straight out, parallel to the ground, and coasted my way to mile 15,000, sans hands on machine. It was good to be on two wheels on one of my original set of twisties. Memorial has been a learning experience for me over the last 15,000 miles. I faced my first real risk of crashing when my front tire got caught in a gap in the slabs on this very stretch of road. I learned to pace myself and dodge the four-wheeled monsters that surround every biker. I learned the value of going the speed of the other vehicles, not too fast and not too slow. And I enjoyed the aloneness of being on Memorial early in the morning. Like this morning. I had it all to myself. It was a great time for thinking, and a day that demanded contemplative efforts. I embraced the moment.
Because of the City's Fourth of July celebration, Allen Parkway was closed. So I stuck with Memorial. Before I knew it, I was at Memorial Park. It was not yet seven o'clock, but the Park was full of runners, male and female. Especially female. Ah, America.
My original plan had been to take Memorial all the way to Beltway 8, then head back home. But, exercising my individuality, I changed my mind. When I got to the West Loop, I entered 610, heading south. It was time to circle the city.
I have taken the 610 Loop around the inner city many times. Often, the route is clogged with construction cones. Today, traffic was minimal and the orange cones were nonexistent. More great thinking time.
When I reached the Ship Channel, I looked to the west as I topped the bridge. There was downtown Houston. A low cloud was covering the bottoms of the skyscrapers, but the tops of the buildings were still showing. It was like scores of concrete edifices to the mind of man were floating above the mist.
I continued on my route. I am happy to report there were no close calls this morning. Probably because there were no close cars. It was just a pleasant ride. I took the West Loop south to the Woodway exit, then got back on Memorial to complete my loop. I headed downtown, then took Louisiana north to I-10. To finish off the ride, I did one of my workday circuits, and at very nice speeds. All the turns were deserted, which made for real fun as I arced into the banked curves. Time to accelerate out of those turns. All right.
When I came around to I-10, I took the Heights exit and headed home. As I pulled up to the driveway it was not yet eight o'clock. I had 15,071 miles on the bike. When the number hit me, I almost got back on the bike to take it to 15,076 miles in honor of 1776. But then I remembered that I had put five miles on the bike before reaching mile 15,000. So this morning's run came in at 76 miles. Appropriate to the day. And a fun 15,000 miles it has been. Thanks for reading. Ride free. And don't forget to think.
* * * * *
I awoke to mixed messages on the weather. First, no rain was hitting my windows. Second, the street outside the bedroom looked dry in places and wet in other places. Third, 740 AM radio was reporting rain all over the place. They were talking about the training kind of rain that causes flooding.
I grabbed a shower, got the paper and fed Sarah. The rain gauge showed only one tenth of an inch of rain overnight. Still, the radio said there was ponding on the freeways, rain at Hobby Airport, and an accident that may have been caused by water at the West Loop and I-10. I couldn't figure out if it was inbound or outbound, but it was not good, either way.
Channel 11 was equally pessimistic. The freeways (including the West Loop and I-10) were reportedly wet. A flood watch was in effect. Still, their radar showed most of the activity was to our east and in Galveston. The inner city had only light green on the radar.
I decided that Sarah should not give up her walk. That would give me more opportunity to assess the clouds and streets, and more time for the freeways to dry out if the media was engaging in hyperbole. About this time, Maria headed down the stairs, attired for walking. She grabbed an umbrella, and off we went.
The streets were dry under the trees, and wet in the open. A light mist must have fallen. They were especially slippery. Not good. Still, the skies didn't look particularly threatening, and the air did not smell of rain.
When we got back, I listened to Channel 11 as I suited up. That accident at the West Loop and I-10 was on the West Loop, not on I-10. So the backup would be on a part of the freeway that I would not be on. And it was not caused by rain. In fact, the reporter reported that the streets around the scene were dry. I quickly headed out.
At the second stop sign on my warmup route, I put my foot down and leaned the bike. My boot slipped a little. Residential streets were not only wet, they were slippery. The same slipperiness was present at the next stop sign. I was careful in making my turns. These were not good signs.
I entered I-10, heading west. I decided that if the freeways were dry, I would play it by ear. If they were wet, I would exit at Shepherd and tour the Heights for a few miles.
Fortunately for my schedule, the freeways were completely dry. No ponding, and little traffic. But the traffic that was present was going fast. And that's what I don't like about riding in the rain. I have confidence in the Rebel, and in my abilities. But Houstonians just won't slow down on wet roads. The ever-present risk of hydroplaning aside, you can't ignore the fact that there is not as much traction for stopping when the roads are wet. So speeds should be reduced, and distances between vehicles increased. But that never happens. So I try to avoid riding in the rain.
Today, none of this was a problem. I added the Highway 59 extension to the first loop in honor of the fact that they are predicting a 90% chance of rain all day tomorrow. If it stayed dry for my second loop, I would need only five miles tomorrow to make my goal of 15,000 miles. Even a downpour could not stop me then.
The rain stayed away. Oh, I had scattered drops on my visor a couple of times, but not enough to wipe it clear. Traffic got heavier as the ride continued, and speeds got faster. Still, it was a cool pleasant ride, and it was fun being on two wheels.
When I got home I had 14,995.5 miles on the bike. I took a picture of the odometer to preserve the moment, then went inside to get ready for work. Check back tomorrow. And don't forget to think.
* * * * *
Today I awoke at four. It was sort of like Christmas. I couldn't sleep, wondering whether or not I could get a long ride in. Last night, the weather people continued to predict massive rain for all day. At four, I came down to check Weather.com. The hour-by-hour forecast showed increasing chances of rain as the day wore on. By 7 a.m. the percentage was listed as 30%. By 9 a.m., chances were 40%. By 2 p.m. they were predicting a 70% chance of rain. The radar showed rain in Galveston and in Kingwood, with scattered clouds in other areas. I decided a long ride was not in the offing.
I went back upstairs to a B & B (bed and bath). I read till 5:30, then took my shower, got the paper, fed Sarah, checked the air (and added air to the rear tire), and rechecked the radar. The street in front of the house was dry, but the rain chances were the same. I told Maria I was going to do the normal workday circuits, so I could be close to home if the skies opened up. Her only comment was, "Was that lightning I just saw?" I headed out, watching the skies.
I quickly warmed up, then entered I-10, heading west. The western skies were dark, but not immediately threatening. There was no traffic on this part of I-10. Speeds were fast. As I turned onto Loop 610, I saw a thick lightning bolt on the northern horizon. No thunder, though. I headed east. I decided to stay on 610 all the way to the East Loop, then go south and pick up I-10 west. This would add ten miles or so to my trip, and I would still be able to head home if the rains came. Because of the lack of traffic, it was perfect conditions for extended thinking. I took advantage.
When I got on I-10, heading west, traffic suddenly appeared. Before, I had had the road pretty much to myself. Not so on the Katy Freeway. Cars were everywhere. It was almost as bad as workday traffic. I had to pay strict attention to the four wheelers. But at least the streets were dry.
I did another loop, then headed home. I have several items on my "honey-do" list for today, and lots of them require outside work. Rain will play havoc with more than just my motorcycling.
I am still on a good schedule. I now have 14,961 miles on the bike. If I get even one circuit in tomorrow morning, I will be in a good position to hit mile 15,000 by the Fourth. Unfortunately, the weather people are still predicting massive amounts of rain for Monday and Tuesday. Stay tuned to see how I manage to get in the next forty miles.
* * * * *
Given the weather forecasts for the next few days, I figured it was now or never for racking up some miles on my 15,000 quest. So, A little after five, I got up and took my shower. Sarah and I went down and got the paper. I checked for freeway closures while she ate. I then check the air in the tires. Both tires were okay.
Before leaving, I checked Weather.com for rain activity. The radar was clear. The prediction was for the moisture to hit around noon. The newspaper showed there was no construction on Highway 59 north. So, using the route I plotted last night, I headed out at 6:15 a.m.
I warmed up, then headed for the gas station to top off the tank. I then entered I-10, headed east. I continued east past the exit for I-45, and then worked my way over to the left-hand lane to take the exit for Highway 59. I took it, and curved around to the north. As I entered 59 proper, I did a head check for merging traffic. I thought I saw storm clouds behind me. That didn't make sense, given what Weather.com's radar had shown. Another head check revealed that what I had seen was the Houston skyline, not dark clouds. I continued north.
Just past Kingwood, I encountered fog. Unlike the last time I found fog in this area, today it was confined to the fields and tree tops. It never got on the highway itself. I also encountered a lot of smoke. Even at this early hour, countless men were out stoking their fires for Saturday barbeques.
Traffic was pretty heavy for a Saturday. I think lots of people were headed out for fun. I know I saw several trailered boats behind pickups. I stayed on Highway 59 past Cleveland, all the way to Shepherd. I then took FM 150 to Cold Springs. There, I pulled in at an Exxon station and got my breakfast. A pint of chocolate milk. Well, first breakfast at least.
I then took FM 156 to FM 224. I started east on FM 224, but it was under construction. At first, it was loose gravel. Then it switched to clay and gravel. Not much improvement. I stayed on the road for a couple of miles. It looked like gravel as far as I could see. I have heard tales about how easy it is to lay a bike down in loose gravel. I did not want to add my first-hand accounting to that body of lore. I turned around and, ever so slowly, headed back to FM 156. Quickly, I came to the junction of FM 945. I took that road west. It was a newly paved blacktop, and was quite pleasant. Wide, and curvey. Just what the philosopher ordered. A perfect thinking road.
FM 945 intersected with FM 150, and I took it west. This road was also pleasant. And deserted. The cool temperatures and high speeds made for a pleasant run. Lots of thinking time. Everything was fine until I came to the intersection with FM 1725. My plan was to take that highway on back to Cleveland, and then home. My map showed a left-hand turn to get on FM 1725. The map was deceiving.
It was a left-hand turn, alright. But there was no gradual arc to it. It was a sideways "V." I had been going over 60 when I came on the sign warning of the junction. There was no warning of the sharpness of the turn, however. A hard left-hand turn would be ninety degrees. This turn was easly 135 degrees. And there was traffic coming up behind me and traffic coming towards me on FM 1725. Yikes. I will remember this one.
I made it with style, albeit a a lower speed than usual. I was glad to throttle up once I was heading south. In fact, FM 1725 was blessed with nice curves, and lots of them. But, as a reminder to stay alert, I encountered a road hazard on one of the arches.
I was having fun, staying to the outside of the curves, to maximize my viewing distance of the upcoming traffic. I found out another virtue of taking the curves on the outside edge of the lane. Your view of the upcoming road is also better. Today, the hazard I faced was not an oncoming car, but a dead animal.
I rounded the last leg of a nice esse curve and faced the surprise. Not to be too graphic, but the carcass and entrails of some kind of animal, the size of a coyote, were spread out over most of my lane of travel. I had to weave around the stuff, adjusting my arc in the process. I was past it almost before it registered. That I had time to react was a function of staying on the outside of the curves. I was glad I had managed to dodge the obstruction. I have no idea what would have happened if I hadn't. Well, I have some idea.
FM 1725 intersects with FM 105 just before Cleveland. I took it east, to Highway 59. I then headed for home. The skies were still overcast, but no rain was falling. I had missed watching mile 14,800 roll over, and I also missed watching mile 14,900 come up. When that second event happened, I was in the middle of Houston traffic, with my visor getting wet. I was trying to figure out if it was rain or the tank truck ahead of me. I swithced to the lane to my left, and decided it was the tanker. I just hoped it was water that had splattered me. I could not see any caution labels on the side of the tanker, but I was glad my visor had been down.
I stayed on Highway 59 to I-10, then headed west. I took the Heights exit, then u-turned to get gas. I was running on fumes by this time. I had come over 150 miles on the single tank. I refilled the Rebel so I would be ready for another run tomorrow. I then headed home.
When I pulled up to the driveway, I had 14,915 miles on the odometer. I need 85 more miles to reach my goal, and I have three days to do it. That would be easy, except for the weather. I am writing this blog at 11:00 p.m. It has rained lightly all afternoon, starting around noon. Channel 11 is still saying there is a 70% chance of rain on Sunday, Monday and Tuesday. We will see. It should be interesting. Keep dry. And don't forget to think.
* * * * *
We got to bed at a decent hour last night, so I arose early to get in some reading before Sarah's morning rituals. She let me know when it was time to close the book on philosophy, and open the book on walking. It was good we were on time, because I have a full day. And, included in that day, was a somewhat longer than normal morning ride.
But before I could get on two wheels, I had to satisfy Ms. Four Legs. So, Maria in hand, we headed out for Sarah's morning walk. It was not especially cool, but it was very cloudy, and that helped. At least with the temperatures. The rain chances are now at 70% for all weekend, and my schedule is threatened. So is Sarah's, for than matter.
But not this morning. We completed her walk at a fast pace. Then, while she ate her breakfast, I suited up and headed out. The tire pressure was fine, as was the riding weather. After warming up, I entered I-10, heading west. I decided to try for three loops today, traffic permitting. And I decided to add the Highway 59 extension as often as backup would permit.
The first loop went fine. The clouds made the morning ride just grand. I may be of another opinion by tomorrow. But, for today, the morning air tasted good. Traffic was mostly light, and speeds were mostly 60 mph* or above.* I did see a lane changer cross three lanes of traffic to take the TC Jester exit at the last second, but I watched that maneuver in my rear views, not in front of me.
I also watched a giant plastic lid come off a truck. And that was in front of me. No problem dodging it, however.
The second loop was also taken at high speeds. Then, as I headed west on I-10 for the third loop, a situation developed. I was in the far right-hand lane. A pick up was in the lane to my left, about five car lengths behind me. I watched a big truck enter the freeway from Shepherd. It was one of those situations where the truck was clearly going to merge onto my lane, but at a very low speed. I faced the choice of really cutting my rate of travel, or of changing lanes to my left. Normally, I would just brake off some speed. But this time, I judged that the safer alternative was to change lanes. Which is what I did.
Things worked out fine. But I am usually against sudden lane changes on a bike. Mistakes are costly. Today, I balanced the alternatives, and decided there was more risk in going 15 mph down the freeway than in changing lanes with a pickup behind me. If the pickup had been any closer, I probably would have just dropped back. I know all this doesn't sound especially exciting, but it is an example of the rapid judgment calls a biker has to make constantly when traveling in Houston traffic.
I finished the third loop, and took the Heights exit on home. I met my goal. I now have 14,753 miles on the bike. Clear weather would give me clear sailing to mile 15,000. But stormy seas are ahead. Stay tuned mateys, and don't forget to think.
* * * * *
There was still a touch of cool in the air today, along with lower than normal temperatures. I got up early, got in some reading, then waited for the mechanical alarm. Our four-footed alarm was patiently impatient.
Our walk was very nice. Sarah enjoyed the cool temperatures, as did we. She also enjoyed her breakfast. While she was eating, I suited up and headed out, after checking the air in the tires, of course. And adding a pound or so to the front one.
After warming up, I entered I-10, heading west. Traffic was medium. Everyone stayed in their lanes, and cell phone talk was at a minimum. I completed two quick circuits, with the Highway 59 extension on each one. No backups to speak of. I continued to Washington, u-turned, and headed for the gas station to top off the tank for tomorrow's ride.
As I left the gas station, I headed down the feeder, going east. Cars behind me started herding me on, causing me to up my speed. Houston Police use this stretch as a speed trap. The feeder is three lanes, with no homes or businesses to speak of. They use it as a speed trap because the proper speed is way above the posted speed limit. In fact, the feeder on the westbound stretch has a 45 mph speed limit, and there are condo's and business all along that stretch.
I looked for any cop cars, and was glad the coast was clear. I was also glad when the tailgaters entered I-10, and got off my rear. I continued down the feeder, slowing as I went. All of a sudden, a police officer stepped out from the shadows. He was looking to increase the city's revenues. I guess I wasn't a big enough fish. I rolled by him, and noticed that his motorcycle was parked on the west-bound portion of the feeder, out of sight of his victims. I continued on home.
Rain is predicted for the rest of the week. By Saturday afternoon, the chances are listed as 50%. Ugh. Right now, I am on schedule to make 15,000 by the Fourth of July, weather permitting. Whether it does or not remains to be see. For now, I have 14,696 miles on the bike. And five days to go. Stay tuned. And don't forget to think.
* * * * *
Today it was a little hotter--and a little more humid--than yesterday. Made me glad I took my extended run on Tuesday. But, Sarah insisted that it was plenty fine out for walking, so we all trooped down to enjoy a morning stroll.
Now make no mistake. It was still unseasonably cool this morning. Unseasonable for Houston, that is. The low was 70 degrees. Sarah had a great time. We also enjoyed the morning air.
When we returned, I fed Sarah and suited up. The tire pressure was fine. I headed out. Traffic was especially light for most of the ride. I added the Highway 59 extension to both laps. There was no traffic jam at I-10 during the first circuit. However, when I was heading south on the second lap, a very different situation presented itself.
I was cruising along at 65 mph*, as I had been most of the trip. I noticed that the traffic ahead of me--those cars attempting to merge onto I-10 from Highway 59--was almost at a stanstill. I made a quick, hard application of my brakes to peel off some speed, then I let off the brakes and began pumping my right foot to flash the brake lights so the cars behind me would begin their braking process. I also downshifted and scooted to the far right-hand edge of the lane, so I could escape to the shoulder lane if necessary. I then applied more brake to continue the slow-down process.
Fortunately, everyone got stopped without the squeal of tires. And we were soon back on our separate ways. I got on I-10 and took it all the way to Washington before u-turning and heading back to the Studemont exit. When I pulled up to the driveway, I had 14,652 miles on the bike. I am on schedule, but rain is predicted for Saturday, Sunday and Monday. A rain day will play havoc with my mileage. Stay tuned. And don't forget to think.
* * * * *
Last night, the weather gurus were predicting low humidity for this morning. And Maria had an early appointment. And I didn't. So conditions seemed ideal for an extended run on the Rebel.
Everything started on schedule. I awoke early, as usual. I showered and took Sarah downstairs to get the paper. Maria joined us, and we all trooped out the door for Sarah's walk. Indeed, there was a touch of coolness in the air. Temperatures were below normal, as was the humidity. Sarah enjoyed her walk.
When we got back, I fed Sarah and then, instead of suiting up, I fixed breakfast for Maria and me. My goal was to be on the road by 7:30 a.m. Maria's goal was to be out the door by 7:30. Happy coincidence. But it was not to be. She ran fifteen minutes behind schedule, and it was almost eight by the time I headed out.
Before leaving, I added some air to the front tire. I then suited up, grabbed a can of compressed air and a compass, and headed out.
Last night, relying on the weather predictions, I had plotted out a complicated route through the Sam Houston National Forest. I wanted to get about 180 miles on the bike, and experience some twisties during the run.
Before hitting the super slabs, I topped off the tank. I only had 44 miles on the current fill up, but I didn't want to run short in the forest primeval. After filling the tank to the brim, I entered I-10, heading east. I worked my way over to the far left-hand lane, and took I-45 north. Even though I was going against the grain, there was lots of traffic. The coolness made the ride pleasant, but the traffic kept it from being relaxed.
A few miles before reaching Huntsville, I watched the statue of Sam Houston pop into view. A billboard had announced that it was the world's tallest statue of an American hero. If you have ever travelled north on I-45 you know what I mean by "popped." All of a sudden, there is Sam Houston. And due to a turn in the road, at first it appears like Sam is standing in the middle of the freeway.
I enjoy the statue. In reminds me of my friend Bob, who used to work in Huntsville. Bob was a big fan of Sam Houston. Sam lead an interesting life, and made decisions based on his philosophy of right and wrong instead of always doing what was popular. Maybe that's why Bob admired him. I know that's what I like about the guy.
Shortly after passing the statue, I came upon the exit for FM 19. This is one of the first exits you encounter when entering Huntsville. Before I knew it, I was at the intersection of FM 19 and FM 190. I took FM 190 east, toward Point Blank. FM 190 is a pleasant enough rural road. It suffers from being straight and level. But I wasn't on it long.
After about eight miles, I came upon an abandoned business. By the layout, I was sure it had been a gas station, although there were no pumps or buildings left. The concrete pad was consistent with such stations. I pulled in and turned off the engine. It was right at 9:00 a.m. Time to check in with the office. I told Cynthia where I was, and noted that I had just seen the exit for Dodge. After getting assurance that no emergencies were pending at the office, I continued on my way. Within another eight miles I came FM 946. I took it south.
Farm to Market 946 has some sweeping curves, and is a pleasant ride. After another eight miles or so, I came to another abandoned gas station. It was at the spot where FM 156 joins FM 946. This gas station had pumps. When I realized this, I u-turned and rode back for a look. The price on the pump (for regular) was 94.9. No brand name was evident.
Just before getting to Cold Spring, I turned west onto FM 945. This was the road that had inspired this trip. On my maps, it looked wonderfully crooked. In reality, it lived up to the maps. There were curves galore, and even a few hills. Not the big hills like you see around Bellville, but some nice ups and downs, nonetheless. And trees. Lots of trees.
The low humidity lasted until about 10:00 a.m. After that, the only coolness was when I was moving. But it was still a great ride. Right when I got on FM 945, a truck pulled onto the road just ahead of me. Some kind of a tanker. A slow tanker.
All those curves made for long stretches of double yellows in the center of the road. But, after five minutes or so, I came upon a section that allowed for passing. I whipped around the tanker, and had the road to myself for the rest of the time. It was fantastic. The trees were tall, and on both sides. But they had been cut back from the edge of the highway, so that feeling of being closed in was not present. And there were lots of ranchettes along the way. It was ideal country for putting in extended thinking time, and I did not pass up the opportunity.
Next time on this route, I will probably take FM 150 west to FM 1725 to add even more twisties. But let there be no doubt: FM 945 was a fun run. Somewhere along the way, I turned over mile 14,500. I missed watching that event. But earlier in the ride, I had watched the odometer creep up to 14,444.4. I guess it evened out.
Just outside Cleveland, FM 945 deadends into FM 2025, which I took south to Highway 59. For the rest of the trip, I cruised the super slabs. I was watching the tripometer, and I was getting close to the 140 mile marker. I begin hunting a gas station. I spotted one in a small town, and pulled up to fill the tank. It was a Shell station that catered to truckers. Each pump had diesel as one of the options. I inserted my credit card, got approval, and tried to fill the tank. The nozzle had a full length rubber shield. One designed to lessen the escape of gas fumes into the atmosphere. Unfortunately, I could not get the pump to start dispensing gasoline. A motorcycle tank does not have the set-back filler that one sees on cars. So there was nothing for the rubber shield to fit over. Or maybe it was just me. For whatever reason, I had to cancel the order, and leave without gas. A little ways away, I spotted an Exxon station. This time, everything worked. With a full tank of gas, I headed for home.
I breezed past FM 1960 without pulling in to Half Price Books. I regretted that, but I had a noon luncheon with a lawyer friend that I did not want to be late for. So I continued south on 59. I then took the North Loop west. As I approached the TC Jester exit, the odometer rolled over to mile 14,600. I did not miss that milestone. I continued on, heading south on the Loop. I then took I-10 east, all the way to the Studemont exit. When I pulled up to the driveway, I had 14,608 miles on the bike. Time to grab another shower, then head for my lunch appointment. Mile 15,000 looks possible after all. See you on the road. And don't forget to think.
* * * * *
Just over a week till July 4th. We are having some friends over, and on this morning's walk, Maria asked me if I would have mile 15,000 on the bike by then. I told her that I wasn't sure. It would be tough to put enough miles on by next Tuesday and get everything else done. Sarah wasn't interested. She just seemed content to be out before I hit the road. Because of our busy schedule, she had gotten cheated out of her morning walks on Saturday and Sunday. Not that she didn't have an active weekend keeping the backyard squirrels at bay.
Anyway, life was back to its normal workday routine. After taking Sarah for her walk, I fed her and suited up. Because I was running a tad early, I decided to add the Highway 59 extension to both laps. In fact, it is my plan to do this all week.
I had to add a little air to the front tire. I then headed out and warmed up. I entered I-10, heading west. Traffic was light and fast. A great start to the week. Sadly, the lower humidity they had been promising all weekend was not here yet. But the high speeds provided their own cooling.
As planned, I rode past the exit for I-45 and continued east on the North Loop. At the exit for Highway 59, I headed south. Almost immediately, I encountered an older dark green car. Two occupants. The driver was on the cell phone. She was also wandering out of the right-hand side of her lane. I dropped back. She wandered out of the left-hand side of her lane. At least she was off the cell phone. Then, to my amazement, as she wobbled down the road at 65 mph, she leaned over and kissed her passenger. And wandered out of her lane yet again.
I am all in favor of kissing. There is far too little of it in the world. But I question the wisdom of practicing the art while hurtling along at 65+ mph during morning rush hour. And I did my questioning at a distance. I let off my speed so as to increase the distance between the weaver and myself. I also made sure I could retreat into either the left-hand lane or the right-hand lane--or both--if the driver had a fender bender. Much to my regret, the lady took the I-10 exit off of Highway 59--the exact way I was going. So I was stuck with her until she took the downtown exit onto I-45. She made several more sashays before she exited. But she did signal her lane changes. Well, one time she did.
I was glad to see her go. The second loop was without incident. As I left the lady behind, I looked at the odometer and noted that it was at 14,399.9. I watched it roll over to 14,400. I was glad I could relax again. A sneak peak at my watch revealed that I was still ahead of schedule. I decided to add a few extra miles by going all the way to the Washington exit, u-turning, and heading back east on I-10 to the Studemont exit, then on home. Which I did.
By the time I pulled up to the driveway, my efforts had rewarded me with 14,425 miles. I'm not really on schedule to make mile 15,000 by next Tuesday, but it is still within the realm of possibility, if the weather holds. See you on the road. And don't forget to signal your lane changes.
* * * * *
It was another early morning. With the "honey-do" list I have, it was ride early or ride short. I rode early. As in 6:30 a.m. Of course, that was after getting the paper and Sarah's breakfast. Much to Sarah's chagrin, I skipped her walk so I could get an early start.
And, in honor of my "honey-do" list, I decided to make today's run part of said list. On Tuesday, Maria and I had been at the Enchanted Forest nursery in Richmond. It is a great nursery, and has many garden delights, both hardscape and landscape. One of the things we had seen was a concrete brontosaurus that was about four feet tall at the head. Unfortunately, the dinosaur had no price, and we had already spent more than expected by the time we checked out, so I forgot to ask the toll. Thus, I decided to kill two birds with one stone this morning, and get in a nice ride while checking out the stock at Fraser's Concrete Heaven in Hempstead.
As you may recall, the local road construction projects conspired to limit my access to Highway 290. But, I figured out a way to get there, and the added miles just meant more riding pleasure. But first, I needed to top off the tank.
After getting gas, I entered I-10, heading east. Way east. All the way to the East Loop, which I took north, then west. That way, I avoided the construction roadblock at I-45 North and Highway 59 North. And, twelve extra miles later, I was on Higway 290, headed west.
It has been several months since I made my way west on 290. Last night, I plotted a route that would give me the chance to have coffee and donuts in Bellville. And a chance to ride the twisties on FM 529. Unfortunately, I had forgotten how long of a ride it is to Hempstead. There was no way, given the number of items on my "to do" list, that I could afford the time necessary to breakfast in Bellville. It looked like I would have to content myself with a ride to Fraser's.
When I got to Waller, the sky began to darken. It looked like rain was on the western horizon. Maybe Brenham was getting a shower. Things were dry on Highway 290, but the temperatures droped with the cloud cover. For the first time in months, I actually felt a chill while riding. But the road remained dry.
When I got to Hempstead, I took the Highway 6 exit and headed for Fraser's. I rode slowly down the feeder road, looking for concrete dinosaurs. I saw deer, buffalo and fountains. But no dinosaur. And the gates were locked due to the early hour. There was plenty of unexplored territory, but I couldn't get a clear view of the entire stock. They may sell what I am looking for, but I didn't spot it. Oh well, any excuse for a ride. I made a u-turn on a side road, and headed back for Houston. It was a little before eight.
When I got back on Highway 290, heading east, I got a surprise. Those rain clouds I though might be in Brenham, were ahead of me. And there was definitely rain in them. On my left, I could see the sheeting pattern that clouds make when rain falls.
Just when I thought I would miss the rain, the road curved, and the clouds were on my right. They still looked too far off my course to be a problem. But, just as I was relaxing, the road curved again. The rain clouds were now straight ahead. Of course, another curve would take me out of harm's way. But the road continued straight ahead. And, in an ominous development, I noticed that the cars coming toward me all had their lights on. And it was after eight, and full daylight.
Closer examination revealed that they also had their windshield wipers on. Ugh. About thirty seconds after this thought registered, the rain hit. And hit hard. The big drops stung when they hit my unprotected neck. And they made a loud noise when they hit my helmet. I could feel my pant legs getting wet from the spray from the road. And my visor was clouded with water. This was a big storm. Fortunately, traffic was virtually non-existent, so, I was able to cut my speed to 60 mph*, all the while using the gloved index finger of my left hand to wipe the rain off my visor.
After ten miles, I rode out of the thunderstorm, and onto dry pavement. I twisted the throttle back up to 65 mph*. Traffic continued to be light. I decided to reverse my outbound route, and take the North Loop all the way to the East Loop, and that south to I-10. I would then take I-10 back home.
This was a new route for me. I could use it in the mornings, but I decided that the road was too debris-filled to be safe. The far right-hand lane was full of all kinds of stuff, and would not be safe to ride on with only two tires. Still, the extra twelve miles was woth the exploration. Better to scope out the route on a Sunday morning than during workday traffic.
When I got to Heights, I took the exit, u-turned, and stopped again for gas. That way, I would have a full tank for the start of my workday circuits. When I rode up to the driveway, I had 14,382 miles on the bike. And it was barely nine o'clock. It had been a good ride, with fast speeds, cool temperatures, and lots of thinking time, not including the stretch of rain. I had the entire day to devote to my honey-do list. But, however tired I got, I had already gotten in a very pleasant ride. It was worth the getting up early. See you on the road. And don't forget to think.
* * * * *
Today I got moving early. Real early. I had my bath and Sarah's breakfast all taken care of before six. I even had the air in the tires checked, and a pound or so added to the front tire. Sadly, there was no hint of coolness in the air.
Even so, I checked the newspaper to see about freeway closings. Highway 59 North was under construction. So was I-10 West. As was I-45 North. That particular closing prevented me from taking I-45 to Loop 610 to Highway 290. The construction on I-10 closed my other usual route to Highway 290.
So, I could not go north on 45, west on 10, west on 290 or north on 59. That left Galveston. Not a bad consolation prize. I warmed up and entered I-10, heading east. I took I-10 all the way to the East Loop. As I approached the Loop, it occurred to me that I could take the Loop north, then west to Highway 290. But my mind was already dreaming of water. So I took the Loop south, over the Ship Channel bridge. I then got on I-45, heading for the ocean.
Traffic was pretty light, and very fast. I made good time. There was plenty of time for thinking, and I enjoyed the early morning. Only one incident occurred on the way to Galveston.
I was cruising along at about 65 mph*, with no cars around. I noticed a white plastic bag dancing in the air. You know how you will sometimes bump into a person coming toward you in a hallway because you go to your right, and she goes to her left, and you meet in the middle in spite of your efforts to avoid running into each other? Well, that plastic bag and I did a similar dance at high speeds. I tried to zig zag around the floating obstacle, but the bag would have none of it. When I weaved to my left, it moved to my left. When I went to the right, it went to my right. Before I knew it, the bag hit me full-on in the middle of my helmet. Fortunately, it did not stick. It would not have been fun to be going down the freeway with my vision totally obscured by a plastic grocery bag. And, double fortunately, the bag was empty. So, when it hit, it kept right on going. As did I.
When I arrived in Galveston, I took 61st street to Seawall, then I went left (east) to East Beach. I rode Seawall all the way to its easternmost end. I then parked the bike and took a stretch while looking at the ships at sea.
After my break, I took the sideroad to East Beach, watching all the fishermen try their luck. No one was reeling anything in. But, as they say, that's why it's called "fishing" and not "catching."
On the way back, I decided to take Broadway back to I-45 instead of going back down Seawall Blvd. So, at the 8th street, I head east. I ran into UTMB. It covers a lot of territory. I wound my way around the complex, and ended up going north on Harborside. I cruised the Strand, then got on Broadway, and headed home.
Because of morning tasks, this was a quick trip. The ride home was uneventful, except for some minor route changes I had to make because of construction on I-45 North, just as it comes to I-10. Anyway, by the time I pulled up to the driveway, I had 14,246 miles on the odometer, breakfast waiting, and a long list of honey-do's. See you around the house. And don't forget to think.
* * * * *
What a difference a day makes.
Today started like most others. Sarah was ready to get up before we were. And she let us know her intentions. Because we had gone to bed at a decent hour, I was a bit more accomodating than I would have otherwise been. I got up and invited Sarah to join me in some light reading. She followed. I then showered and checked my email until Maria was ready to join us. It was still early, and Sarah was pleased to be on her walk.
I immediately noticed that yesterday's mugginess was absent. But I didn't really appreciate the morning coolness until after we returned, Sarah got her breakfast, and I was suited up for my ride.
When I entered the garage to check the air in the tires, I was pleased to note that I was not hot. "Not hot" is a good thing in June in Houston. I was also pleased to note that the air pressure was fine in both tires.
As I did my warm up ride, the "not hot" became "cool" as I generated my own breeze. By the time I entered I-10, heading west, it felt like many summer mornings in Denver, as Maria and I would head to the Colorado Railroad Museum, just east of Golden. The morning ride on the Rebel tasted just like those pleasant trips.
The cool temperatures continued for the entire ride, and the drivers were similarly cool. Travel was fast, and congestion was light, especially for a Friday morning.
There were a couple of times I felt like I was close to getting pinned in. I would have a car or truck on my left, and another one on my right. I had to jockey hard to make sure neither car was directly beside me. I wanted at least one lane to retreat into if needed. This feeling was not caused by erratic behavior by the four wheelers, but by the heavy congestion that was sporadically present this morning.
But this morning, I had no such "need." The ride was wonderful. Plenty of thinking time, plenty of speed, and plenty of sheer fun. The contrast with yesterday's prosaic trip was astonishing. I saw the odometer register 14,100.0 just as I passed the Ella exit on the second loop. I was having so much fun, I almost missed it!
To lengthen the pleasure, I added the Highway 59 extension to both circuits. And there was no backup at I-10 on either round. All too soon, I had to take the Heights exit. If I didn't have appointments today, I don't know when I would have come back home. As it was, I filled the tank with gas, and anticipated tomorrow's run. I have a lot of chores planned for Saturday, so I am planning to get on the road early. Not having to stop for gas should give me another precious ten minutes on the road.
For today, when I rolled up to the driveway, I had 14,115 miles on the bike. A great morning. See you on the road. And don't forget to think.
* * * * *
Sarah made sure we did not sleep past the alarm today. In fact, she made sure we did not sleep until the alarm today. But we got her back: we laid in bed until we were ready to get up, despite her protests.
The streets were dry, and Sarah got her walk. You could tell summer had arrived. The air was muggy, without a trace of coolness. It didn't seem to slow Sarah down.
Nor did it affect her appetite. While she ate, I suited up, added air to the front tire, and headed out. After warming up, I entered I-10, heading west.
Traffic was pretty light. I added the Highway 59 extension, and had no stop and go where it entered I-10. On the second loop, I caught heavy congestion on I-45 south. There, I did have to come to a complete stop several times. But not "quick" stops.
There was nothing exciting to report on the ride. I got in a quick 35 miles with minimal fuss. When I rolled up to the driveway, the odometer read 14,074 miles. Time for work.
* * * * *
Ah, the first day of summer. I know, the temperatures have been saying summer has been here for months, but today we celebrate the longest day of the year. And Sarah awoke ready to celebrate. Which we did. By taking her for her first walk of the new season.
Astonishingly, it was rather pleasant out. Must be because of all the rain we have received lately. Anyway, the walk was on the cool side. And Sarah seemed to enjoy her breakfast. While she ate, I suited up and headed out.
The tire pressure was fine. Because of the pleasant temperatures, so was the warmup section of my ride. I then entered I-10, heading west. No storm clouds were on the horizon this morning.
Traffic was fast paced, but well mannered. It was a perfect morning for extended thinking. I did not pass up the opportunity. To increase the thinking time, I added the Highway 59 extension to the first lap. On the second lap, I decided to take I-45 south. As I topped a rise, I noted that the traffic ahead of me was at a standstill.
A judicious application of front and rear brakes brought me from 60 mph* to 2 mph* in short order. I was more concerned about the car behind me stopping than I was about my rate of deceleration. But everybody behaved well, and then we all went on our separate ways.
That was the only exciting part of the ride this morning. Apart from the ruminations. When I called a halt to my musings, I had 14,039 miles on the bike, and a full day ahead. I took the time to grease the chain, as recommended. I do this every 500 miles. That done, I wheeled the bike into the garage, another ride under my belt. See you on the road. And don't forget to think.
* * * * *
I got up a little after five this morning. The radio was reporting rain in the area. I looked out the window, and couldn't tell. There was water in the gutter, but the driveway looked (mostly) dry. I couldn't tell about the street.
Before I could grab my shower, I heard the rumble of distant thunder. Nothing like yesterday, however. And no lightning.
It was not raining when Sarah and I went down to get the paper. But the skies were full of clouds, and it looked like it could open up at any time. We went back inside and got Sarah her breakfast. I then fired up the computer and turned on Channel 11. Both showed rain in the area, but there was a clear spot over the area inside the Loop. It was almost six by the time I decided that a ride was possible. I went out back to check the rain gauge. Yesterday, from six in the morning till six this morning, we got 4.2 inches of rain. That is on top of the four inches we got during Saturday and Sunday! As I walked out the door, I was greeted by a falling rain. Light, but steady. Still, it was falling hard enough to make me decide that a walk for Sarah was out of the question, as was a ride down the freeway for me. Thirty minutes later, it was still raining, Sarah seemed resigned to another morning without a walk, and I was sipping coffee, and making the best of a bad situation. It sure looked like mile 14,000 would have to wait for another day.
I fixed breakfast and futzed around the house. I kept close watch on the weather. I noticed that the rain was letting up. I decided to take Sarah for a walk. Maria took a pass. It rained on Sarah and me during the entire walk, but the rain was barely more than a mist. When we got back, I continued to watch the weather.
The rain stopped. Maria left for an appointment. I ran upstairs and changed into my riding gear. The middle of the street was dry. Surely the freeway was entirely dry.
I added air to both tires, and headed out. I was pleased to note that the streets I used to warm up were dry. I found my way to the I-10 feeder road. The feeder road is asphalt. It was easy to tell that it was dry because it gets visibly darker when wet. I-10 is concrete, and it was harder to tell whether it was dry. I chanced it.
I entered I-10, heading west. I made the first loop in good time. I added the Highway 59 extension, and that was the only segment that was wet. But even that wetness didn't last long. After the first loop, I decided to exit at Heights, u-turn, and top off the tank. I had 142 miles on the tripometer, and I didn't want to run out of gas just as I made mile 14,000. I was surpirsed when the gas meter showed that it took under a half a gallon to fill the tank. Something was wrong somewhere, but I still don't know where. Maybe I didn't quite zero the tripometer last fill up. But I don't think I am now getting 284 miles per gallon!
I got back on I-10, and continued my trip. When I entered the freeway, I was surprised to see a bank of dark clouds to my south and west. Those clouds looked full of rain. As I continued west, then seemed to rush toward me. The question was whether I would turn north before reaching them.
I made it to the West Loop, and headed north, then east. It was still dry out. When I turned wouth on I-45, I noted that the clouds had reached the downtown skyscrapers. I also noticed a dark cloud with more dark clouds behind it. The leading cloud had a scalloped look to it, with the scallops having sharply defined edges. I have never seen anything it.
I noted that I was five miles from my goal. That meant I needed five more minutes of dry road. As I got back on I-10, I noted I needed three more minutes of dry. I passed Heights and Shepherd. I needed one more mile. The TC Jester exit was only 3/4th of a mile away. That meant I had to make it to the Washington exit.
Unfortunately, there were two slow cars ahead of me. One took the TC Jester exit. I slowed down to get some distance between me and the car ahead of me. Then, just before I reached 14,000.0, I twisted the throttle and the bike accelerated to 70 mph* as the odometer went from 13,999.9 to 14,000.0. Quickly thereafter, I took the Washington exit and rode up to the light at Washington. The rain started. I still had to u-turn and head back home. The streets were dry enough, so that's what I did. When I rolled up to the driveway, I had 14,004 miles on the bike. And a memorable (and dry) ride behind me. It felt good to get the fourteen thousandth mile under my belt. And a dry belt at that. And I was glad I had managed to get in a nice ride before the skies opened up again. We will see what the morrow holds.
* * * * *
Just before 3:30 this morning, Sarah signalled to me that a storm was upon us. As I drifted into consciousness, I noted that we were in the midst of a gigantic electrical display. Lightning flashes were constant. Sarah demanded that we check it out. I tuned in to the radio and noted that the storm was likely to dump a lot of rain. I decided that, in the interests of science, I needed to go empty the rain gauges, just in case they might overflow.
So, as quietly as possible, Sarah and I went downstairs and out the back door. Using a flashlight, I noted 1.4 inches of rain in the gauges. That included everything since yesterday morning. I dumped both gauges and headed back inside, just as the skies opened up. Sarah was close behind, and not yet thoroughly soaked.
I poured some milk, grabbed some cookies, and headed for the computer for a look at the radar. It showed a big, slow moving storm, mostly to our east. A morning ride looked doubtful.
After finishing my "midnight" snack, I headed back upstairs, and fell asleep. At 5:30 it was still raining. I showered and got dressed. Sarah and I then headed downstairs for the second time this morning. Getting the paper was a wet affair, as the rain was a lot heavier than when the storm first hit. Sarah didn't seem to mind. She didn't even seem all that upset at the constant lightning and thunder. Maybe her mind was on other things. Like breakfast.
I fixed her food and my coffee. Both the radio and TV were reporting street flooding. Neighborhoods within ten miles of the house had received five to nine inches of rain. While my coffee brewed, I grabbed the flashlight and headed out the back door. I left the door open so Sarah could join me when she finished her breakfast. She was about two nanoseconds behind.
The back yard was covered with water, and the rain was coming down hard. Surprisingly, there was only six tenths of an inch of rain in the gauges. I use 6:00 a.m. as the rain cut off for the day. That meant we had had two inches yesterday. And it was still coming.
Channel 11 reported heavy rain hitting downtown, and that the White Oak Bayou (the one nearest the house) was getting full. Lots of flooded streets surrounding the Heights. I figured I could make a post office run, but I decided to enjoy the morning and postpone my ride until after work. That soon became a wise decision, as the rain continued to fall in ever-increasing amounts.
By the time I headed for work, many roads were impassable. Even Studewood was under water. However, I took 11th Street to Durham, and had no problem crossing White Oak Bayou. By eleven, the rain was mostly over.
At five, when I headed home, the rain was back. I had to use my wipers the entire drive home. And, of course, the streets were wet. I fed Sarah, and changed into my riding gear. I decided a ride around the neighborhood was in order. The freeways were too wet, and too full of speed demons.
I cruised over to Houston Avenue, then south to White Oak Boulevard. White Oak Bayou was really high, but it was not out of its bank. I decided to burn some additional miles checking out various routes out of the Heights. Taylor looked good. Studewood dips down too much.
I also rode over to the post office and got the mail. I then rode back to White Oak Bayou--just to make sure I had the escape route right. Before I knew it I had racked up eleven miles. As I pulled up to the driveway the odometer read 13,964 miles. One dry day will get me to mile 14,000. But more rain is predicted for in the morning. Stay tuned. And don't forget to think.
* * * * *
I got up early today, but the radio's weather forecast was not promising. Rain was expected this morning. And Sarah let me know she was not happy either, because lightning was everywhere. We went downstairs, got the paper, verified that the lightning indeed was everywhere, and fed Sarah her breakfast.
While she ate, I fired up the computer and visited Weather.com. Yes, indeed, the rain was on the way. Radar showed a wide band of red and green, already in Wharton. I couldn't get a clear idea of how long it was going to take to get here, but only I-45 was still clear of the mess, and if I started out and guessed wrong, I was certain to get thoroughly soaked.
On the other hand, I really enjoy getting in my rides before it gets too late. But, as I studied the radar, I decided that the rain was coming in too fast for me to have a ride of any length. So I fixed some tea and headed back upstairs for a leisurely morning.
The lightning continued, and was joined by the rain shortly thereafter. My decision seemed wise.
By eleven, the rain was gone, and I suited up. I had to add air to the front tire. I then warmed up, topped the tank with gas, and headed east on I-10. I took I-45 north to the Loop, then headed east on 610 to Highway 59. I took that north.
My goal was to redo the ride I tried to take last weekend when fog made me change my plans. That involved heading north on Highway 59 all the way to FM 105. Traffic was light on Highway 59, and the ride north was very pleasant. Lots of thinking time, and nice speeds to boot.
Just before I reached FM 105, I pulled over to browse the Sword shop on the side of 59. If you have headed north on 59 on the weekends, I'm sure you have seen the big tent with "SWORDS" emblazoned across the front. I am a fan of edged weapons, and I decided today would be a fine time to stop to check out the wares.
I pulled up, and a black lab (on a chain) began braking furiously as it tugged, repeatedly on its chain. The dog belonged to the sword shop. The owner told me the lab had a thing against motorcycles--and lawnmowers. Nothing against me personally. Well, okay. I studied the knives and swords. There were no price tags on any of the items. I hate that. I didn't see anything I wanted, so I got back on the bike and continued my journey north.
When I got to the exit for FM 105, I took it and headed to my left. As soon as I was pointing west, I saw dark rain clouds before me. There was the distinct possibility I was going to get wet on this trip.
FM 105 is a mixed road. It has lots of rural areas, and many commercial sections. Traffic was pretty light. Because of the clouds, the temperatures were on the cool side. I was enjoying the ride so much that I missed watching the odometer roll over to mile 13,900, which it did right outside Cut 'N Shoot. Oh well.
I continued on FM 105 all the way to the intersection with I-45. I then headed south. The roads were still dry.
I-45 has an entirely different personality from Highway 59. For one thing, one usually finds a lot more traffic on I-45. Which was the case today. And that traffic usually goes faster and closer together. Which was the case today. All this makes one concentrate on road conditions, to the exclusion of any cogitation time. At least I had no close calls.
As I rode south on I-45, I enjoyed the wonderful smells of restaurants all fired up for Father's Day. Because I had not yet had my own lunch, the smells were wonderful. Because I had not had my own lunch, I also appreciated the 75 mph* average speed the other vehicles were forcing me to travel on my way home.
I headed south all the way to I-10, and took it on home. I exited Heights, then u-turned under the freeway and headed for the gas station. I topped off the tank, ready for my work week riding. When I pulled up to the driveway I had 13,953 miles on the odometer. If the rain stays away, I should be able to rack up mile 14,000 on Tuesday. On the other hand, the rain hit less than thirty minutes after I got back from my morning ride, and it continued on and off all the rest of the day. I was lucky to get in a dry run when I did. We will see what the morning holds.
* * * * *
Because of all the rain that was forecast for today, I jumped out of bed early so I could check the radar. But first, I grabbed a shower, grabbed the paper and grabbed Sarah. Not necessarily in that order.
While Sarah ate, and Maria slept, I checked Weather.com to see where the rain was falling. The skies were pretty clear. Most importantly, Galveston was clear. The Chronicle did not show road work on I-45, south. So, afer Sarah finished her breakfast and morning romp, I headed upstairs to suit up. Maria was up and about. I told her my planned route, and how long I intended to be gone, and headed out.
I had to add air to the front and back tires. Ugh. I then warmed up, and headed for the gas station to top off the tank. I then entered I-10, heading east. I worked my way over to the second lane from the far left, and took the I-45 exit, heading south.
The sky had clouds, but not rain clouds. At least not in downtown Houston. I felt more comfortable in heading for Galveston. Yesterday, when I got back from my ride, the television was full of report of heavy rain in Galveston. But today's radar had not shown a repeat of Friday morning.
So it was that I was somewhat surprised when I encountered rain and wet roads just south of the 610 Loop exits. And this was an ugly rain. In fact, most of the problem was from cars splattering road wetness onto the front of my visor. The rain was hardly falling. It sure wasn't falling enough so that I could use my gloved finger to clear my visor.
I decided to give the rain ten miles. If, after ten miles, it was still raining, I would turn back. Fortunately, traffic was light because it was still before seven. On the other hand, at a cruising speed of 65 mph*, I was the slowest vehicle on the road. In fact, the only thing I passed was an old repainted woody that problably had antique plates. Everyone else seemed confident that they would not hydroplane at 75 to 80 mph.
Within seven miles, I was on dry pavement. Unfortunately, another five miles and I was back on wet roads. But not for too long. I decided to keep heading south. From LaMarque on south, I had dry roads. I took 61st street toward Seawall Boulevard. When I topped the rim on 61st, the ocean came into view. The whitecaps extended way out this morning. And the water was a deep blue. At Seawall, I headed to the left, toward East Beach. The sun was behind a bank of clouds. That made for a distinct glossy silver line on the horizon's waves. In fact, those waters looked like a tidal wave coming toward me. because of the distinct color.
And the sky had its own colors. Ahead of me, to the east, the sky was that washed out color that comes from a small raincloud. Behind me, the sky was a brilliant dark blue--another sign of storms coming. Tigers above, tigers below. I grabbed for a wild strawberry and savored the moment.
As I continued on east, I drove into a heavy thunderstorm, just before the end of Seawall Boulevard. I could have turned around and stayed dry, but I was bound and determined to go to the end of the road. Plus, the rain was doing a great job of washing away the road crud that had coated my visor from the trip south. Because it was pouring down, I did not tarry too long at the turnaround. I made a u-turn and headed back west. Toward that brilliant blue storm.
By the intersection with 6th Street, I was out of the eastend storm, and back on dry streets. I savored the moment, and enjoyed the view of the ocean, and athletic creatures out for their morning runs. Viewing the sights was easier, now that the sun was at my back.
Besides the femmes fatale, I could see the storm coming ever closer to the beach. The question was whether I could make it all the way to 61st Street without getting (re)drenched. I could not.
By the time I reached the San Louis Resort (37th Street?), the storm had made landfall, and was pouring over me. Once again, the rain was coming down fast enough to wash my visor clean. I also noticed that the water ran downhill from my gas tank, and tended to puddle up at the front of my seat, creating its own sensations. Oh well, I guess that is the price of not having rain gear. And, apparently, I was the only biker who didn't get the word on the rain. In fact, I only saw one motorcycle all the time I was in Galveston.
After a few blocks, I reached 61st Street, and headed toward Broadway. Once there, I headed north, and entered I-45. The trip back was totally dry. I made it all the way home without further moisture. And it was still early enough that traffic wasn't too bad.
By the time I pulled up to the driveway, I had logged 120 miles, in about two hours and fifteen minutes. The odometer read 13,840. I still had time for breakfast, and a trip to Mike's Hobby Shop to pick up my new battery powered LGB Forney steam engine. That trip, unlike my early morning run, was made in a hard driving rain. But on four wheels.
This morning, because of my early start, I had had lots of pleasant time for philosophizing. And I had taken advantage of that time, and had a great run. After I got back, we got two inches of rain. Tomorrow is supposed to be another rain day. Stay tuned to see what riding I can get in. And don't forget to think.
* * * * *
When I awoke this morning, it was to the radio telling me that there was an 80% chance of rain today. Fortunately, the traffic report had not mentioned rain-slickened streets, so I listened closely to figure out when the rain was supposed to start. It sounded like it would be after my morning ride. And after Sarah's morning walk. I stayed in bed until the clock reached 5:30.
Sarah and I got up, and were followed by Maria a while later. We all headed out the door, watching the sky. It was dark, with clouds in the south, but clear to the west. I had not paid attention to where the rain was coming from. Sarah didn't seem to care, so long as she got her walk. Which she did.
When we got back, I fed her and suited up. The air was fine in both tires. I headed out, warmed up, and entered I-10, heading west. The horizon was cloud free. The air was heavy, however. There was a breeze (not counting the two-wheel generated one), but the air still felt oppressive. Maybe it was the barometric pressure.
Whatever it was, it was slowing down the traffic. There weren't that many cars out, but I noted that speeds varied between 45 and 60 mph, for no reason I could discern. When I turned east on the Loop, I could see the buildup of clouds on the southern horizon. They looked like storm clouds. Dark and menacing. But far enough away that I was sure I could finish my morning run without moisture.
Because I was running a little ahead of schedule, I added the Highway 59 extension to both loops. And because traffic was light, there was no backup at the intersection with I-10. Still, speeds continued to be somewhat sedate. I hardly ever got above 65 mph.*
I did manage to watch the odometer roll over from 13,699.9 to 13,700, just as I passed the Washington exit on I-10. I almost missed the event, but I noticed the odometer just three tenths of a mile before it was too late. Because traffic was light, I focused my attention on watching the roll over, so I would not miss it like I had most of the roll overs in the thirteen thousand mile run.
The forboding skies cast a pall on my thinking time. The thought of rain all weekend was not a cause for joyous meditations. Still, the ride was fun, in the way it is when you are running just before a storm, and outracing it.
Anyway, I completed the two circuits in great time, and without incident. When I pulled up to the driveway, I was still dry, and I had 13,720 miles on the bike. We'll see what the weekend holds.
* * * * *
Today, the touch of coolness in the air yesterday was all but gone. The humidity was at 83%. It did not feel hot, but it did not feel especially cool either. Sarah didn't seem to mind. After we took her for her morning walk, I fixed her breakfast and, while she ate, I suited up.
The front tire pressure was fine, but I had to add a pound of air to the rear tire. I then headed out on my warm up ride. Next, I entered I-10, heading west. Traffic was very fast this morning, but well behaved. No close calls, and no stop and go. I added the Highway 59 extension to both loops, and still managed to get in my ride at a record pace. Plenty of time for thinking, and plenty of time to enjoy being on two wheels.
Before I knew it, I was taking the Heights exit on home. By the time I rode up to the driveway I had 13,678 miles on the bike. They say rain will be here for the next two days. We'll see. Either way, don't forget to think.
* * * * *
I slept a solid seven hours last night. Or, more accurately, Sarah slept a solid seven
hours last night. I like to think I can get by on six hours of sleep, but I may be
deceiving myself. It may be Sarah that gets by on six hours of sleep. Well, six hours
during the night. I also think she sleeps a lot during the day!
Anyway, I got up at five, read a little, and grabbed a shower. I then checked my email
and waited for Maria's alarm to go off. We then took Sarah for her walk. According the
Channel 11, the humidity this morning was a 73%. That may sound high for the rest of the
country, but I can assure you it was very pleasant for Houston. It felt like a morning in
the fall. The wind was from the north, and all was well.
Sarah enjoyed her walk, as did we all. She then enjoyed her breakfast, while I suited up.
I had to add air to both tires before heading out. I then warmed up and entered I-10,
Traffic was heavy this morning. Several times I felt crowded in. I noticed I was having
to accelerate or slow down constantly to prevent anyone from driving next to me. At one
point an especially persistent driver kept next to me on my right-hand side. Finally, I
had to use some brake to get away from him. As he passed me by, I noted the scarred front
fender, and scratches on the passenger side rear bumper. I was glad to be rid of him.
Even with all the traffic, there was time to devote to thinking. Yesterday, my riding
buddy, John Huval, and I had gone to lunch to relive his 475 mile ride on Saturday. John had
found a website
on a guy who blogged his way across American in the 2003 Iron Butt Rally run.
It makes for interesting reading. John decided that he wanted to see
what such a run was like, albeit on a much smaller scale. He decided to try for 500
miles in ten hours. His adventure was compelling, and you can read it in full by clicking here.
I enjoyed going over his learning experiences over lunch. Some of the valuable lessons we
gleaned included making sure you have a full charge on your cell phone before starting out
(or having a power outlet installed on your bike so you can operate the phone from a
cigarette lighter type device). It is also important to make sure you take time to eat.
And don't forget to take some bottled water in case you have an unexpected stop along
the side of the road. Speaking of which, take the telephone number for AAA or the HOG
number, carry a spare tube for each of your tires in case of a flat (that way, any
motorcycle shop with proper equipment can change out the tube, even if they don't sell
your particular type of tube), and, most importantly, stay off the shoulders and those
stripped mediums. The reason for that last warning is because John picked up a sheet
metal screw in such an area, and it changed the entire course of his ride. When you think
about it (as I had not before this event), all the debris that starts out on the road ends
up on the shoulder area as cars bounce the stuff around until it is out of the active
pathways on the road. So, if you pull over there, it is like riding into a mine field.
Ugh. Once again, I encourage readers to sample his well written narrative to get the full flavor of these findings.
But, back to this morning's ride. When I left off, I was traveling east on the North
Loop, dodging cars. Because of the especially pleasant morning temperatures, I decided to
add the Highway 59 extension. Everything went fine until about a mile and a half from
the exit for I-10. Then, cars backed up, and came to a stop. It was stop and go clear
till I-10. In fact, the backup continued as I headed west on I-10.
Sadly, I had used up so much time that I decided I would be unable to add the Highway 59
extension to the second loop. So it was that, after traveling both north and east on the
Loop, I found myself heading south on I-45, thankful for the fast speeds on that segment.
But that all changed suddenly.
I was behind a big, white pickup, heading south. Traffic was thick, but fast. I watched
a trucker try to ease one lane to the left about a hundred feet in front of me. Instead
of letting him in, the pickup truck driver panicked and hit his brakes hard. They locked
up, the pickup began swerving, and bellows of rubber smoke started pouring from both rear
I was a good four car lengths directly behind him when the squealing started. Several
things happened, all at the same time. First, I hit both the front and rear brakes.
Second, I check the lane to my right in case an escape was needed. Third, I checked my
mirrors to see what the drivers behind me were doing about this sudden development.
Fourth, I concentrated on not locking my brakes. Fifth, I squeezed in the clutch with my
left hand and started toeing down the shifter with my left foot. I didn't want to be
caught in the wrong gear if I had to accelerate away from a car coming up behind me too
fast. Sixth, I did not feel the adrenaline kick in. I'm not sure that is a good thing,
because the situation certainly warranted it. But I had not been caught off guard, and I
had a plan.
Fortunately, everyone got stopped without kissing bumpers, and the body shops (metal and
biological) had no business. I'm pretty sure, however, that the pickup driver now has two
flat spots on his rear tires from all that skidding.
I continued south till I got to I-10, then headed west. I took the Heights exit and
decided to circle around to top off the tank. To do that I have to turn left at the
intersection of Heights and the I-10 feeder road. That intersection has a double left.
It is a weird one, and I am always cautious when I use it. The far left lane is a left
turn only lane. It has its own arrow. However, the middle lane can either turn left or
go straight. Traffic hardly ever turns left from the middle lane, but it happens enough
to keep one on ones toes.
This morning, I caught the arrow. I was first in line. I made my turn, staying in the
left-hand lane of the feeder road after completing my arc. In my mirror, I saw a blue car
turning left from the middle lane. The car continued down the feeder in the right-hand
lane. I needed to get in the left hand lane to enter the gas station. After all the good
judgments I made during the quick stop on I-45, I made a bad assumption on the feeder.
I figured the blue car was going to head east in the right-hand lane for the half mile until
he could take the Studemont exit toward downtown. So, after making sure no one was behind
the blue car, I eased over into the right-hand lane. My mistake was that I was only
about a car length and a half behind the blue car when I made my move. Plenty of room if
the blue car continued on its way. But it didn't. Instead, it hit its brakes in
preparation for a hard right turn into a parking lot. Oops.
I hit my brakes hard for the second time this morning. And my reaction time was still
good enough to keep me from disaster. But I had clearly put myself in harm's way because
of my assumption that the blue car would continue down the road at its established rate of
speed. Lesson learned.
I topped off the tank and headed on home. No more excitement for this morning. Which was
fine with me. I now have 13,639 miles on the bike, and more valuable lessons learned.
Keep safe. And don't forget to think.
* * * * *
Today everything was on schedule. I got up a little early and read for a while, then we all trooped down for Sarah's walk. Temperatures were acceptable, if not cool, and Sarah had a good time. After feeding her, I suited up and headed for the garage.
I had to add a pound of air to the front tire. The back one was fine. After warming up, I entered I-10, heading west. Traffic was medium. Speeds were fine.
On the first circuit, I experienced rain around T.C. Jester. Well, "rain" may be an exaggeration. But several drops of clear liquid splattered my visor. And no trucks were nearby to explain the phenomenon. Nor did I notice a flock of birds flying overhead. Anyway, before I could resolve the source of the moisture, it evaporated away.
I continued on my journey. I decided to add the Highway 59 extension to the first lap. All went well. I did not even encounter any backup at I-10. However, as I approached the Loop, I noticed a motorcycle policeman on my tail. I was going with the flow of traffic, so I was pretty sure I was not in trouble. The cop, however, was not content with going with the flow of traffic. After a minute or so of following me, he whipped around on my left, and accelerated away. As I topped the exit onto Loop 610, I spotted him near a stopped truck. I also saw another motorcycle cop coming toward me, against the grain of the traffic. He was in a protected area where the West Loop and the I-10 merging traffic come together. The cause of the commotion became readily apparent.
The truck did not have mechanical difficulties. It had had a wardrobe malfunction. Boxes from the back of the truck were all over the freeway. Theses boxes were about the size of toasters, and they were everywhere. The truck driver was out picking them up. Cars were dodging around them. So was I.
I threaded the gauntlet without difficulty, and then I was at the exit for T.C. Jester. I watched a car behind me accelerate into the "exit only" lane and I watched a car two lanes to my left streak across the stripped triangle to squeeze into the exit. Fortunately, the first car slowed down, so I did not have a chance to test my weaving/braking skills.
Otherwise, the ride was without incident. I got in lots of nice thinking time. In fact, I missed watching the odometer roll over to mile 13,600 because I was otherwise occupied. Oh well. I took the Heights exit and headed home. When I pulled up to the driveway I had 13,604 miles on the odometer, and I was way ahead of schedule for the day's activities.
When I got back inside, Channel 11 had revised their forecast, and they were saying that there was a 20% chance of scattered rain today. I decided that the stuff on my helmet was indeed such rain. But I cleaned the visor off, nonetheless. See you on the road. And don't forget to think.
* * * * *
Today I awoke at five, but layed in bed for awhile, before Sarah let us know that it was time to get moving. Even so, we were running a little late by the time we hit the road for her walk. Still, she settled in, and had a good time. Mondays are trash days, and she especially likes all the new items to smell along the way.
Anyway, it was almost seven by the time I fed her and suited up. On the other hand, I have no appointments today, so I decided to go for a long ride. I added air to the front tire, and headed out. While I was warming up, it seemed that every woman in the neighborhood was out walking her dog. Must have been because of the late start that I saw them. The streets are usually pretty deserted when I head out. I decided I liked the dog walkers better.
Anyway, after a pleasant warm-up, I entered I-10, heading west. Traffic was not too bad, and the speeds were wonderful. Everything was flowing great. I decided to add the Highway 59 extension to the first loop. No problem, except for a pickup that decided--at the last minute--to change from the far right exit only lane for I-45, across two lanes to head for Highway 59. All right in front of me. But at least he had the courtesy to use his blinkers. I only had to let off on the throttle to keep out of his way.
Road debris was a problem this morning. Retreads were all over the freeway. At one point I saw an orangish object coming toward me. I quickly swerved to the right, and passed beside an outdoor extension cord. When I got on I-10, I saw two 8 x 2 inch pieces of lumber in my lane. The were parallel to the direction of travel and to each other. I threaded my way between them, and thought that I would face that hazard again on round two of the circuit.
Traffic continued to be fast, but mannerly. Most of today's hazards were laying on the road, not moving over it. I continued to have a pleasant ride. There was a slight coolness in the air, and everything was going smoothly enough that I had some nice cogitating time.
I had almost completed the second lap. I was going west on I-10. All of a sudden, I heard someone run over a piece of metal in the road. The sound was to my left, and behind me. No risk to me, but it did remind me that I should have come across the two planks. Had the traffic bounced them onto the side of the road? No. There they were, coming up fast. But I was ready. And the planks were now right on the lines dividing the lane, one on each side. Even a car could thread them now. I rode harmlessly between them.
I took the Heights exit and headed home, passing more dog walkers as I made my way to the house. When I pulled up to the driveway I had 13,569 miles on the odometer. I lubricated the chain and headed inside to finish getting ready for the office. It had been a great start to the week, and it wasn't even eight o'clock yet.
* * * * *
Today I actually slept till six in the morning. More to the point, Sarah slept till six in the morning. That doesn't include a trip to the refrigerator for a glass of milk around four.
Anyway, at six I got up, got the paper, fed Sarah, let her out the back door, and fixed a cup of coffee. When Sarah came back in, I headed upstairs for a bath and book. My own B & B.
Today was another day filled with honey-do's. By seven thirty I was back downstairs, and working on small items on the list. The day's routine was work, breakfast, read, work, lunch, read, work, etc. By 4:00 p.m., I was ready for a ride.
I suited up and headed for Micro Center, a local computer store. I have a new Dell Dimension, and it has been amazing the number of things I have had to buy to get back in business. Today, I needed a special cable for the printer, and another one for the old keyboard, which we wanted to use in place of the new (USB configured) one.
After checking in tires, I warmed up and headed for the station to top off the tank. I then entered I-10, heading east. I worked my way over to the far left-hand lane, and took I-45 to the North Loop, then west to the West Loop.
In short order I was at Micro Center. Three purchases later, I was headed back home, via Memorial. Traffic was pleasantly light everywhere I rode, and speeds were pleasantly fast. Even with dropping several dollars on cables and extensions, it was a nice ride, with no "close calls."
When I returned home, computer purchases under my Vanson jacket, I had 13,530 miles on the bike. Not a long weekend drive, but very pleasant, nonetheless. And I actually got in some thinking time during my short jaunt. Still, I can't wait to get in some longer rides in July. Stay tuned. And don't forget to think.
* * * * *
I managed to lay in bed until just before six. Yesterday, I hadn't gotten even six hours of sleep, so I made sure that last night I got a little over six hours in bed. I can't say I ever slept after five this morning, but I tried to be relaxed.
Anyway, I am not taking a morning ride today. I have a "honey-do" list that goes on for several pages, and I decided to pare it down some during the morning coolness. Then, in the heat of the day, I could take my ride, and generate my own wind to keep me cool.
I got up, fed Sarah, and enjoyed an hour or so in the bathtub with a good book. Or two. And a freshly brewed cup of Starbuck's House Blend. All too soon, it was time to get moving. I figured I had until eleven or so before the heat would give me a break from the honey-do list and I could go for an "afternoon" ride.
Still, out of old habit, I checked the air in the tires before breakfast. The front tire was down a pound, so I added air to it. The back tire valve stem was in an awkward position. Leaning over the seat, I could barely get the pressure gauge on the stem. To sight it in, I had to look "through" the spokes. Several attempts produced only leaking air. Finally, I gave up and went around to the right side of the bike to get a proper reading. By then, my numerous failed attempts had drained a lot of air out of the tire. I had to add pressure to bring it back to 29 pounds. Which I did. I was ready to roll, when the temperatures got hot.
Unfortunately, the list was longer than I had feared. Eleven came and went. As did noon, one, two and three. At four I called a halt to the drudgery and suited up. I was on the road by 4:15 p.m., and happy to be there.
I warmed up and headed for I-10. I entered the freeway, heading east. My plan was to go north on Highway 59. Highway 59 is a left-hand exit off I-10. That involves crossing four or five lanes of traffic. Fortunately, one has lots of time to accomplish this feat. Unfortunately, traffic was pretty heavy for a Saturday afternoon, and I had some difficulty finding breaks in the flow. I worked my way leftward, keeping a sharp lookout for fast traveling vehicles. All was well until I tried to get in the far left-hand lane.
A quick head check had revealed that there was a pickup truck about four car lengths behind me, in the lane I was angling for. I was going about 65 mph.* As I made my move, I noticed that the pickup was going real fast. It was closing the gap much more quickly than would be expected if the driver was going anywhere near the speed limit.
By necessity, head checks aren't long enough to get a clear estimate of the relative speed of upcoming traffic. But my left-hand mirror was rapidly filling up with speeding pickup. Time to react.
I quickly headed back into the second lane from the left, to let the pickup pass. However, I guess my sudden weaving spooked the driver. He cut his speed, and stayed about two car lengths back. I accelerated and got into the left hand lane, half expecting him to tailgate me in protest of my (relatively) low speed. But he didn't. He hung back for the rest of my journey down I-10. He must have thought I was a crazy biker, and wanted nothing to do with me.
I took the Highway 59 exit, and headed north. Highway 59 was pretty empty, making for an easy ride. The only noteworthy development was that there was shredded rubber tires all over the road. I swear that a half a dozen trucks must have lost their retreads. It made for an interesting ride, dodging all the road gators.
I rode about ten miles past the exit for FM 1960, then u-turned back toward downtown. As I reached the exit for 1960, I took it and headed to the Half Price Books. I parked, put on my do-rag, and headed inside. I spend a pleasant half hour surrounded by friends, old and new. I found a couple of keepers, paid for my finds, and headed back to the house.
The trip back was uneventful, allowing me plenty of time for productive thinking. It was a wonderful afternoon ride until I took the Heights exit. I had just missed watching the odometer roll over to mile 13,500.0 because of my philosophizing. I turned north on Cortlandt, just like I do every morning. At the second intersection, I watched a brownish SUV pull up to the stop sign. I was about three car lengths away. The driver started forward, stopped, started forward and finally stopped to let me go by. Which I did--at a reduced speed, and in a reduced gear and with my hand covering the brake. Of course, the SUV turned left behind me. What would life be like for bikers but for all the left turners?
When I pulled up to the driveway, I had 13,504 miles on the odometer, I wasn't too late for the rest of the night, and I still had a Sunday ride to look forward to. But, like today, I'm not sure when I will fit it in. That honey-do list isn't markedly shorter. Oh well, at least I had had a pleasant, thought-filled ride this afternoon. Stay tuned to see what the morrow holds.
* * * * *
I woke up early today. And so we got a relatively early start. Which was fine with Sarah. She enjoyed her walk, even though there was not the slightest hint of coolness in the morning air. At least she got to eat her breakfast in air conditioned comfort.
And while she ate, I suited up and headed for the garage. The air pressure was fine. I backed out of the garage and got off the bike to close the garage door. When I returned to my bike, I noticed a souvenir from the end of yesterday's ride. An envelope-sized piece of cardboard was stuck to the bike. I must not have dodged all the pieces of the box that fell apart in front of me. Pocketing the cardboard, I headed out on the warm up portion of my run. Yesterday, the first yield sign I faced had presented the first problem of the ride. Today it was a different story. I breezed through the intersection, the lone traveler.
Likewise, the rest of the warmup went fine. I entered I-10, heading west. Traffic was very light for a Friday in Houston. Speeds were predictably fast. Still, I had no difficulty gliding down the freeway. The ride was going well, so I decided to add the Highway 59 extension to both circuits, traffic permitting.
Traffic was virtually non-existent. I had no problems with other cars. Or pickups. Or eighteen wheelers. Oh, they were out alright, but not in numbers to cause concern. The morning ride was really without incident.
Which was fine with me. I am having lunch with John today, and I have enough stories to swap with him without adding any adventures from this morning's ride. In fact, the only thing worth noting about the ride was that I definitely had my rhythm back. And I had time to enjoy many pleasant thoughts. Which made for a great start to the day. And the weekend beckons. See you on the road. And don't forget to think.
* * * * *
Today I awoke at 5:30 a.m. But, for a variety of reason, we were slow in getting moving. Sarah was pleased, however, that we did not short change her on her walk. Temperatures were not cool, but she enjoyed her stroll. And, when we got back, she enjoyed her breakfast.
While she ate, I suited up. The tire pressure was fine. I headed out, following my normal warmup route. That route includes a yield sign. I pass it every day. Visibility is good, but I am always cautious. Today, a pick up truck was heading toward me from the opposite direction. Just before I got to the intersection, the driver turned left in front of me, without even slowing down. For an instance, I was tempted to breeze through the intersection, figuring that the side streets must be clear because the pickup had not hesitated to make the turn. But, almost as soon as that thought occurred to me, I rejected it. I was not about to depend on other drivers to do my thinking for me. I cut my speed, and glanced right and left. Which was a good thing, because a car was headed down the street, coming from my left. I quickly hit the brakes, and yielded the right of way.
Because I was low on gas, I headed to the station to fill up the tank. After replenishing my gas supply, I replaced the gas cap, zeroed the tripometer, and started up the bike. As I eased forward, I noticed a car coming toward me. It had just turned into the driveway, and was headed for the other side of the pumps I had just finished using. I hit both brakes, and came to a quick stop. That was the second car that had appeared suddenly this morning. In both instances, I had reacted properly, but the unexpected appearances had been disconcerting.
Vowing to be extra alert, I got on the feeder road and headed for the u-turn lane so I could enter I-10, heading west. As I was making the u-turn, I was watching over my right shoulder for traffic coming up from the eastern portion of the feeder. Somehow, although I have taken this curve scores of times before, I "felt" like I had misjudged the apex. I thought I was turning too sharply, so I had to make a mid-course corection. Which I did, without incident.
I entered the freeway, heading west. Because of the lateness of the hour, traffic was fairly heavy. There were lots of eighteen wheelers, and being caught within such metal canyons was not setting well with me this morning. And I was having trouble finding a safe slot because of all the traffic. Oh, everyone was behaving well, but I was still uneasy.
I made my way to the North Loop. I was following a small truck, which was acting as somewhat of a view block as to conditions ahead of me. I was keeping a safe distance between the truck and my bike. All of a sudden, a road gator appeared in the middle of my lane, as the truck passed harmlessly over it. Although the rubber was pretty big, I managed to escape with just the slighest bit of weaving. Not even a close call, although another surprising development.
That was the final straw for me. I had had too many startling events on this ride. Yes, I had handled all of them with correct responses, but my timing was off. My body was telling me something. I consider myself a student of reason. But reason was telling me to listen to what my body was saying. Today, things were not going easily. I was making all the right dance steps, but I was not gliding effortlessly around the floor. Or street, as it were.
I decided to head for the house. One circuit would have to do. My sense of timing seemed off by just the slightest bit. There was nothing I couldn't do tomorrow. And, because of the increased attention I was having to put into my riding, I was not enjoying the trip. Time to call it a morning.
I missed seeing the odometer turn over to 13,400 miles. When that event had come up, I was busy dodging the scattered remains of a large cardboard box that had fallen onto the freeway. It had been that kind of morning. Too many surprising events. Time to head home.
I made it to the driveway without further incidents. I noted the odometer read 13,402 miles. I was glad to be back home, and glad I had not ignored my body--or my mind. When your riding feels "off," don't ignore the message. Live to ride another day. I expect to have a nice ride in the morning. And I expect my sense of timing will have returned. Stay tuned to find out.
* * * * *
For the third day in a row, I have an early morning appointment. And, for the third day in a row, I got up at 5 a.m. so I could squeeze in a ride.
We took Sarah for her walk, then I got her breakfast. While she ate, I suited up.
I had to add a little air to both tires. I then warmed up, and entered I-10, heading west. Because of a court hearing, I could only squeeze in a single workday circuit. But, to make it more fun, I decided to add the Highway 59 extension.
As I was heading east on the North Loop, the freeway message billboard warned of debris on the road at Shepherd. This was the first time I can remember seeing such a warning. I eased into the second lane from the right so as to have extra maneuver room.
It turned out that I didn't need it. All I saw was a few pieces of a disintegrated truck tire. Nothing at the side of the road. I'm not sure what provoked the warning message, but I was glad there was nothing for me to weave around.
Otherwise, the ride was most excellent. I was in a good mood, and thinking pleasant thoughts. I can't say the temperatures were cool, but the ride was definitely so. After my twenty-mile run, I noted 13,385 miles on the odometer when I pulled up to the driveway. On schedule for this morning.
No appointments tomorrow. See you on the road. And don't forget to think.
* * * * *
I woke up extra early this morning. As in before five. I layed in bed for a while, before giving up. I got up and, followed by Sarah, headed for the shower. I guess I woke Maria up because, by the time I was finished up, she was moving about too. I felt bad about that, but Sarah did not seem the least bit upset. She was ready for her walk, regardless of the early hour.
There was a touch of coolness out this morning. If anything, it made Sarah more eager than ever to enjoy her stroll. Which she did. When we got back, I fed her and suited up.
The air was fine. I headed out. I warmed up and entered I-10, heading west. Traffic was medium. Speeds were fast. There was nothing remarkable to report about the ride. I got in two quick circuits, and was still back in time to stay on schedule.
Unfortunately, I have another appointment in the morning. And this one is in a nearby city. Tomorrow's ride will be really short. But, for today, I managed to get the odometer to 13,365 miles. And in short order. Don't blink if you want to see me on the road tomorrow.
* * * * *
I have early morning appointments today, tomorrow and Wednesday of this week. Morning rides will, by necessity, be short for the next few days. This morning, however, I got up extra early to take my shower so I could get in at least one circuit. Sarah was not all that disturbed, because she got her morning stroll. And breakfast.
When we got back from her walk, I checked the air in the tires and skipped the warmup section of my ride. Not because of the press of time. No, I had a specific goal in mind. You see, I was only 13.1 miles short of a goal. And my morning cirucuits are 15 miles. And I needed to be stopped when I reached my goal. All will become clear.
I entered I-10, heading west. Traffic was medium. As I traveled down the far right-hand lane, I "sensed" a car drifting into my lane. Its front tire was just even with my back tire. I had been watching it in my left-hand mirror as it moved up. I had the immediate sensation that the car was edging toward me. I scooted to the far right-hand portion of my lane, and slowed down so the car would pass me. I don't know if it was my compound movements or just my imagination, but the driver did not drift into my lane. Nor was she on her cell phone. I couldn't tell if she saw me or not. I continued on, a safe distance behind her, nonetheless.
When I got to the exit for Loop 610, I took it and headed north, then curved to the east. At the TC Jester exit, a car accelerated past me on my right, then whipped in front of me from the "exit only" lane. This has become standard operating procedure for this exit. It keeps me extra-alert when near it. I continued on.
I was paying close attention to the odometer. I had a camera with me, and I intended to preserve an historic mathmatical event. At the end of yesterday's ride, I realized that when I put an additional 13.1 miles on the bike, the odometer would read 13,333.3 miles.
One round of my normal workday circuit is 15 miles. My plan was to cut off at Quitman, pull over at the appropriate moment, and snap a pictue. Watching the miles roll on, I revised my plan. I took the North Main exit off I-45. I needed two more miles. I headed south on Houston Avenue.
When I got to White Oak, I was three tenths of a mile short. I turned right on Beauchamp and headed north. I thought it would be neat to stop on this street because I know folk who recently moved there. Unfortunately, I needed another tenth of a mile as I passed their house. So it was a block or so later when I pulled over to preserve the moment. Fortunately, no traffic was on Beauchamp this morning. I got out the camera and fired away at the odometer. 13,333.3
I then u-turned, headed back to White Oak, and did the twisties. When I pulled up to the driveway, I had 13,335 miles on the bike. And I was barely on schedule. Time to put away the camera, fix breakfast, and head out on four wheels.
* * * * *
This is a hard blog entry to write.
After I got back from yesterday's ride, I was glancing through the latest issue of Rider magazine. I subscribe to two motocycle magazines. One is Ride Texas. I read it because I ride in Texas. The other magazine is Rider. I subscribed to Rider because of one columnist: Larry Grodsky. Each issue has featured a column by him titled "Stayin' Safe." Those columns were full of cogent advice on how to avoid many of the perils that come with riding a motorcycle. Yesterday, I opened the magazine to learn that Larry Grodsky had died. In a motorcycle accident.
From what I know now, Larry was returning home to Pittsburg from the annual International Motorcycle Safety Conference in California. Of course, he had ridden his bike to the conference. He was on a straight stretch of rural road at night when he hit a deer. He died at the scene.
I remember reading Larry's column in the November 2005 issue of Rider about the dangers of deer. He reported that each year one out of every 200 vehicles will collide with a dear. That column really struck home because one of my reasons for taking up motorcycling is to ride in the Texas Hill Country. I have driven the Hill Country in a car just after dusk, and the out of control deer population made me resolve never to drive at night in the rural portions of that area again. It is surprising to me that we put up with these threats to safety. We hold ranchers responsible if their cows get out on the road, but because no one owns the deer, there is no incentive to keep them under control. Hunters would surely aid in population control of the deer, but government regulations work against this solution. I'm not sure what riders (and drivers) can do. Not everone can or is willing to give up night riding simply because of deer.
Anyway, Larry's death weighed heavily on me all day yesterday. I know riding is dangerous, but I do everything I can to lower the odds of injury. And I looked forward to Larry's hints on how to become a better rider. It was especially hard to know that even an expert could die doing something he loved.
But I guess, in a way, that is the point. I refuse to retreat inside a womb just because the world is harsh. You do what you can to tilt the odds, then you have to get on with life, or become a hermit. There are no guarantees, except failure if you don't try. So, when this morning came, I got on the bike and went for a ride. The ride turned out to be related to Larry in ways I could not have predicted.
After checking the air in the tires, and warming up, I headed for the gas station to top off the tank. I then entered I-10, heading east. It was barely 6:30 a.m.
My plan was to travel up Highway 59, head west on FM 105 to Conroe, then head back to Houston on I-45. I had done this route once before, but it has been some time. I figured I would enjoy the jaunt, and it wouldn't take all that long to complete.
Traffic was light on Highway 59, and I made good time. The ride was relaxed, but my thoughts kept straying to Larry and the deer. I was pretty sure I wouldn't encounter any such animals at this early hour in June, but that didn't keep the thoughts at bay.
When I rode past Kingwood, I gave a silent wave to good friends I know in the area, and continued north. Within a mile of Kingwood, a fog set in. At first, it was kind of neat. It was the type of fog I enjoy. The freeway was clear of the clouds, but the trees and surrounding countryside were shrouded in mist.
However, as I continued northward, the fog thickened up. At first, I just had to wipe my visor from time to time. But things rapidly closed in. Water drops formed on my mirrors. I'm sure the road was getting slick. I had to use my finger more often to clear the fog from the visor.
Visibility kept getting worse. I was driving into a fog bank. A thick fog bank. Suddenly, I noticed that I had unconsciously dropped my speed to 55 mph. That was not good. The visibility of a bike is problematic at best, and I have not added any extra lighting to the manufacture's array, unlike some smarter riders I know. I began to worry that someone would come up behind me at 75 mph and run me over.
I decided to turn back, even though I was only a mile or so from Highway 105. The risks had gotten out of balance. I saw a sign that there was an exit in 1/2 a mile. It seemed to take forever. I was riding with one hand. My right hand was on the throttle and my left hand was constantly wiping my visor so I could see better. I was watching ahead for stopped vehicles and behind for oncoming lights.
Finally, I saw the white line on my right indicate I was at the exit. I couldn't really see the exit that well. I did a quick head check of the feeder, and took the exit. I saw cars were coming up behind me, so I maintained as fast a speed as I could, as I took the u-turn back to Houston. I was sure glad I had new tires as I rounded that corner at a much faster speed than I would have preferred if there were no cars on my tail.
When I got on the southbound feeder, I decided to stay off the freeway so I could maintain a lower speed. I stayed on the feeder for about three miles, until I came to the junction with FM 1413. Visibility was pretty good, so I decided to take 1413 to Conroe. It was twenty miles.
As I started west, I was firm in my resolve to turn around if the fog thickened up, no matter how close to Conroe I was. I made it two miles before I took a quick left into a dirt parking area so I could turn around. The fog ahead looked as thick as any I had seen all morning.
I waited for a string of eastbound vehicles to pass, then I quickly accelerated back onto FM 1413. In less than half a mile, I was back where visibility was pretty good. When I got to I-45, I stayed on the feeder for a mile or so, until I could see that the fog was finally thinning out. I then got back on Highway 59.
I gave another salute as I passed Kingwood. By this time, the fog had rolled south enough that the freeway was still a little misty. But things soon cleared up.
On the way north, I had noticed that they were doing road construction on 59 South, and that traffic was really backed up. I hadn't paid attention to where along the freeway the construction was, however, because I had not planned to be back that way. Well, things had changed. But I could not remember how far south it would be before I was caught in the congestion.
When I came to the exit for FM 1960 I passed it by. That road takes forever to get to I-45, and there are plenty of red lights along the stretch. Farther south, I came to the Will Clayton exit for the airport. I knew I could use that and JFK Boulevard to get me to Beltway 8, and hence to I-45. I took it.
There were no more fog problems. In fact, the rest of the ride was very pleasant. Somewhere along the way, I rolled over to mile 13,300. I missed that event, just as I had missed mile 13,200 yesterday. Oh well.
When I pulled up to the driveway I had 13,320 miles on the bike. I was glad I had taken the ride, and I was pleased with the way I had dealt with the fog. Larry will be missed, but the things I learned from his columns will continue to help me stay safe. And keep riding.
* * * * *
June 3, 2006:
Sarah and I beat the alarm this morning. Actually, Sarah really beat the alarm, and I managed to stay in bed until just before it was to go off. Anyway, we trooped downstairs and out the front door to get the paper. Because it was before six, no paper had arrived. I fed Sarah and checked the air in the bike's tires. I then took another look for the paper. No paper. I needed the paper to check for road closures.
I went back upstairs and showered. When I finished, I suited up. I told Maria I was going to check again for the paper. She said she was sleeping in, but that she had heard the plop of the paper arriving while I was showering. She was right.
I checked the highway closings for two things. First, I still had not chosen my route for this morning's ride. Second, I wanted to make sure our route for the pond tours was not subject to the dreaded orange construction cones. I tore out the second page of the city/state section, and went back upstairs to deliver the paper to Maria and tell her I was off.
It was 6:45 a.m. by the time I pulled out. A later start than I had wanted. But I still had no route in mind. I warmed up and headed for the gas station to top off the tank. Thus filled, I pulled to the exit for the gas station, with no destination yet in mind. I felt the need to be near water. Maybe because of the upcoming pond tours. Galveston would take too long. I latched upon the idea of the Ship Channel bridge as an acceptable substitute. I headed out, traveling east on I-10.
There had been no traffic on the feeder road, but I-10 was another story. It took me the best part of a mile to ease my way over to the far left-hand lane so I could take I-45 north. Which I did.
During these lane changes, I was reminded that the sun was still low on the horizon. It occurred to me that it would be smart to start my trip in a westward direction, to give Mr. Sun a chance to get higher in the sky. Then it came to me. I had my morning route.
I decided to do a complete loop of the Loop. I would travel 610 all the way around Houston. I took the exit for 610 and headed west. I noted the mileage on the tripometer. I had come four miles since zeroing the tipometer at the gas station.
Traffic on the Loop was pretty light. Of course, it was right at seven on a weekend morning. Still, the lack of traffic made for a pleasant ride. I was struck, however, by another "lack." There was no hint of coolness in the morning air. The temperatures were not oppressive, and the sixty miles an hour breeze helped, but there was no sensation of coolness. I guess summer has really arrived.
All went well until I hit the eastern end of the South Loop. There, the construction cones narrowed the traffic to one lane. Lots of stop and go, even at this early hour.
Once I was through that area, all was fine until just before the Ship Channel bridge. Then, more construction. And we were down to two lanes. Traffic crept along at about five miles per hour. Which was fine with me because I got to study the goings on around the ship channel itself. I saw a lot more than I would have at sixty miles per hour.
Once atop the bridge, traffic picked up speed. I continued around the Loop. When I came to the exit for I-45 South, I noted that the tripometer read 42 miles. Subtracting the four miles it took me at the beginning of the trip, that meant that it took 38 miles to loop the Loop.
I took I-45 south towards I-10. During this stretch, I got to play dodge ball with some sheets of metal that were bouncing around on the freeway. Most of the pieces were the size of roof shingles. Some were larger. All were erratic in their paths. But I did not have an encounter of the metalic kind.
I took the Heights exit and headed home. When I pulled up to the driveway I had 13,239 miles on the bike. And it was barely eight o'clock. Time to reshower, fix breakfast, and be on our way. I hear ponds calling. I hope everyone gets in some riding time this weekend. And thinking time, too.
* * * * *
June 2, 2006:
No rain this morning. And cool temperatures. As we found out early enough when Sarah insisted on her morning walk. There was leftover rain in the ditches around the neighborhood, a fact which Sarah felt compelled to verify.
Fortunately, she was mostly dry by the time we got home. I got her breakfast, and suited up. I added a pound of air to the front tire, and headed out. After warming up, I entered I-10, heading west. Traffic was light. And fast. Tomorrow they are going to close the stretch of I-10 around the Washington exit for some road work. I just hope I remember to avoid this stretch on my weekend rides.
This morning, however, all was flowing smoothly. I decided to add the Highway 59 extension to both circuits. Everything went fine for the first round.
On the second circle, something interesting happened. I had just passed the exit for I-45 on the North Loop. I was covering that stretch of the Loop between I-45 and Highway 59, heading east. An eighteen wheeler was in front of me with a load of lumber. It had the "wide load" label, and a red flag sticking off to the passenger side where the boards stuck out a little too far. I didn't really think anything of it. I was cruising along, about six car lengths back. The truck was in the right-hand lane. There is construction going on at this stretch of highway.
All of a sudden I heard a loud noise as the part of the load that was sticking out hit some scaffolding that the construction crew was using in their repair on the side of the road. I saw the scaffolding rock from the impact. I saw men look up in astonishment at what had just happened.
Apparently, no one was hurt. The scaffolding was not knocked completely over, just moved a bit. No one was on it at the time. Which was lucky for the construction crew. And the lumber stayed on the truck. Which was lucky for me. Otherwise, I would have been facing a road-full of one by sixes while traveling at 60 mph.* The lesson I learned is to pay more attention to wide loads. You can't always count on the truck driver to remember how wide the load is. And a load hitting something on the side of the road could spell disaster for vehicles following behind the truck. Including the two-wheeled variety.
Otherwise, I had a great ride. Lots of nice thinking time, and lots of nice speed. All accompanied by cool temperatures. When I pulled up to the driveway I had 13,190 miles on the bike. Tomorrow's ride may be short, because Maria and I are doing the Houston Pond Society tour of local ponds. If you like water gardening, give it a try. You can purchase your $10.00 at any of the ponds on the tour. Details, including locations, are on their website. Enjoy the weekend. And don't forget to think.
* * * * *
June 1, 2006:
Today is Sarah's eight birthday. And she didn't even want to sleep late. In fact, she was pawing me awake way before the alarm went off. I guess she thought she should get her morning walk early, this being her birthday and all.
So, off we all went. The streets were dried out from yesterday, but the ditches were still full of rainwater. And Sarah was happy to sample a bunch of them. When we were finished, I fixed her a special breakfast. I sang happy birthday to her while she ate. All I can say is that my singing didn't seem to hurt her appetite. But I can't say she paid rapt attention either. Maybe dogs don't have the same view of time as humans do. Or maybe it was my voice.
Anyway, I suited up and headed out for my time on the roads. After warming up, I entered I-10, heading west. The freeways were totally dry. Traffic was medium, and speeds were fast. There was still a coolness in the air.
Because I had settled for a short and wet ride yesterday, I decided to add an extra circuit to this morning's trek. Nothing really exciting to report on. I got in some thinking, but no progress on any problems. No close encounters of the four-wheeled kind. Just a fast, fun ride.
When I pulled up to the driveway I had 13,150 miles on the bike. It was nice to get some extra minutes of saddle time. And it was nice to be back home. See you on the road. And don't forget to think.
* * * * *
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.
* * * * *
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.
* * * * *
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 May, 2006, blog entries, click here.
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For the April, 2006, blog entries, click here.
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For the March, 2006, blog entries, click here.
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For the February, 2006, blog entries, click here.
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For the January, 2006, blog entries, click here.
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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.