* * * * *
December 31, 2005:
Saturday. Last day of the year. My "morning" ride was delayed because we had a new flat screen TV delivered by Tweeters. They promised delivery between 8 am and 10 am on Saturday, and they were here at 8:25 a.m. I have always enjoyed doing business with Tweeters, from the time they were known as Home Entertainment. The old TV had given up the ghost the day before we left for Christmas in Florida. I did not relish spending the long New Year's weekend without a chance to watch some DVD's. So, on Thursday, Maria and I met at Tweeters on Westheimer and Mr. Ali helped us pick out a Sony Wega HD flat screen LCD monitor. When I told him the space we had available, Mr. Ali was able to take us directly to this monitor. It fit in the hole in our entertainment center with 1/8" to spare. Well, that was after I took off the sliding doors we never used anyway. The 42 inch LCD screen gives a much bigger picture than our eleven year old 35 inch Mitsubishi CRT did. And there is no glare on the flat screen, unlike the curved CRT.
I love this machine. I celebrated its arrival with a viewing of the Lord of the Rings: Fellowship of the Ring, Special Extended Edition. I watched the beginning of the movie before I went for my ride. Because I have seen it "more than a few times," I felt comfortable stopping just as Bilbo finished up his birthday speech. As he disappeared, I suited up and headed out for my own adventure.
It was about 9:15 when I checked the air in the tires. The outside temperature was in the low 60's. I was in my Polartec shirt. After warming up, I entered I-10 and head west. I would not say it was "warm" on the road, but I did not experience the sensation of cold.
Because of other tasks on the agenda for today, I had to keep my ride short, time-wise. So I decided to stick to my normal workday circuit. The freeways were pretty deserted, and it was hard to keep speeds under 75 mph.* When I got to the cut-off for I-45 I decided to keep going on 610 all the way to Highway 59, and take it south to I-10. Adding this section to my regular route increased the mileage on a loop to twenty miles, instead of the normal fifteen. Before I could finish the second loop I had turned mile 8300 on the bike. And I was having way too much fun. The new section added a bunch of mental problems, and they were fun to deal with. The curves were new, and I took them at high speed.
I knew I had to get back, but I decided that if I did two additional circuits I would have a shot at reaching mile 8400 tomorrow before I went to Robert and Sherry's house for their traditional New Year's Day party. If someone asked me how many miles I had on the bike, "8400" would sound a lot better than "8300." At least to me. And, because I was averaging a fairly high rate of speed, I could get those loops in within a reasonable time.
So I went for it. Four 20-mile loops of the freeways. All at high speed. All on fairly empty freeways. All with a silly grin on my face. It makes little sense, but this was one of the most enjoyable runs of the year. I didn't really go any place, but I had a hell of a good time getting there.
On the last circuit, I pulled into the gas station to top off the tank. I figured the station might be closed tomorrow morning when I set out to rack up the sixty miles I needed to get to mile 8400, and I would not have enough gas for that amount of mileage. After getting the fuel, I headed home. When I pulled up to the driveway I had 8340 miles on the bike, and it wasn't even eleven in the morning yet. Life is good.
That's it for this year. Have a great 2006, all you two wheelers. See you on the road.
* * * * *
December 30, 2005:
Doug and Lu were in town for the night. They are on their way back home to Roswell, New Mexico. We had a nice visit and dinner, and they hit the road a little after 7 am. Sarah, of course, demanded her morning walk at 5:30 am. Still, all the activities meant I got a late start on my ride.
It was 60 degrees out when I suited up. I checked the air in the tires. The pressure was dead on. I was almost out of gas, so I headed for the station to fill up. I then entered I-10, heading west. I did two tours of my normal workday circuit. Traffic was very light. Everything clicked. I pronounced myself back to regular riding form. Unfortunately, for a variety of reasons, I don't think I will be able to get in any long rides this weekend. But there is no doubt that I will be on two wheels for whatever time I can snatch.
I now have 8264 miles on the bike, and the smiles keep coming. One more day to ride in 2005. I should make it to mile 8300. Stay tuned.
* * * * *
December 29, 2005:
Today I resumed my regular riding schedule, albeit a little later than usual. We took Sarah for her walk, even though the outside temperature was 45 degrees. She seemed to enjoy the cool weather. I, on the other hand, decided to put off my morning ride until after Maria left for work, in hopes of warmer times.
By 8 am it was 51 degrees outside. I added air to the front tire and then, attired in winter garb, I headed out. After warming up, I entered I-10, headed west. I did my normal workday circuit of I-10, Loop 610 and I-45. I did it twice. Traffic was light, and speeds were fast. It felt pretty good. However, the traffic flow felt "off" to me. I don't know if it was the late start or the fact that I hadn't been on the loop in eight days. No close calls, but the easy flow I am used too was a little rough around the edges. Tomorrow will tell the tale.
I now have 8233 miles on the bike. When I pulled up to the driveway I greased the chain on the bike. This is a job that should be done every 500 miles. The bike is now ready for action. Stay tuned for further adventures.
* * * * *
December 28, 2005:
Today my parents left for Midland. Sarah woke up at her regular time, demanding a walk. So, at 5:30 am, we rolled out of bed and got in some needed exercise. When we got back I fed Sarah and didn't suit up and head out. Instead, I helped with breakfast with my parents, and loaded their car for their return trip. Once they were safely on their way, I grabbed my gear and headed out. The outside temperature was 64 degrees. I voted for comfort. I put on my PolarTec WindBloc shirt, left off the long johns and glove liners, and was on my way.
Today I was still in the warm up phase. I didn't want to just jump back in to freeway riding after five days off, so I decided to ride the curves on Memorial. I choose to get on I-10 and head east to the downtown exit. That was a taste of freeway riding, but a short taste. I got on Memorial and headed west. I enjoyed the 50 mph speed limits. I felt very comfortable in the saddle. I decided I am ready for a regular run tomorrow.
Today I rode Memorial to the park, then cut through, looking to see if I recognized any of the joggers. No luck. I took Washington Avenue to Shepherd, then rode north to I-10. I got on the freeway again and rode all the way to the Taylor exit. The odometer rolled over to 8200 miles as I entered the freeway from Shepherd. I made sure the bike was up to 65 mph* at the moment of the change. I u-turned at Taylor, got back on I-10 and exited Heights. It was good to see some speed. I have my sea legs back. I now have 8203 miles on the bike, and several days of warm weather ahead.
* * * * *
December 27, 2005:
I returned late Tuesday night from seven days and six nights in sunny (and cold) (and rainy) (and cloudy) (and windy) Florida. Fort Walton Beach, to be precise. The condo at which we stayed had an ocean view and a hot tub. A working hot tub. I got in three visits to the hot tub, two visits to the ocean water (allegedly 65 degrees) and three beach combing jaunts (air temperatures in the thirties. I don't know how to figure wind chill when all you are wearing is a wet bathing suit!).
Fort Walton and Destin have the whitest sand I have ever seen. And the water is an unforgettable emerald blue. I just wish the temperatures had been in the 60's instead of the 30's. And that white sand really gets cold. It was weird coming out of the ocean and stepping on the sand, and feeling cold on your feet. At least it proved to me my legs weren't numb. The cold kept reminding me of last week's early morning rides on the Loop. At least I wasn't wearing wet riding gear.
Anyway, back to my ride. After unloading the car, going to the vet to pick up Sarah, grabbing a quick bite to eat, giving Sarah her demanded walk, and making a decent start on putting away the detritus from the trip, I suited up and headed out.
It was about eleven in the evening. Maria thought I was insane, but I wanted to get in a ride before Tuesday ended. And, it had been five days without being on the bike. I checked the air in the tires, and was interested to note that they had not lost any air since the 21st. It would appear that the air losses I have experienced are dependent on moving tires. At least we know that five days of inactivity doesn't cause any air to leak out.
The temperature in Houston at eleven at night was 71 degrees. I had dressed in my summer gear. It felt neat to be not bundled up. Because I had not been on the bike for awhile, I decided to keep this ride short and easy. I warmed up on the back roads off of 6th, then took Shepherd to 19th Street. I rode past the antique shops on 19th. Traffic was very light. I had 19th all to myself. I got on 20th and worked my way to Houston Avenue, and on to the twisties on White Oak. It was good to be on familiar ground. And it was good to be back in the saddle.
The ride was uneventful, which is exactly what I wanted. No close calls. Everything clicked just like it does when I am riding every day. Which is what I intend to get back to.
When I pulled up to the driveway it was 11:25 pm. I had 8188 miles on the bike, a smile on my face, and warm fingers in my gloves. It is good to be back in Houston.
* * * * *
December 21, 2005:
Today dawned at a chilly 40 degrees. Yesterday's light rain had ended, and the streets were dry. Sarah was disappointed that we did not take her for her walk. She was somewhat mollified after I got her her breakfast, but she didn't seem all that pleased to see me suit up for my morning ride.
After checking the air in the tires, I warmed up a few extra blocks and entered I-10 on my normal workday circuit. Traffic was heavy. It was cold. The usual start to a December ride. The ride did not stay "usual" for long. Soon after I entered I-10, heading west, I came upon the flashing lights of a wrecker who was hooking up to a stalled vehicle. I continued on. After entering the West Loop I noticed a car pull up beside me on my left. I let off on the throttle so he would pass me. He didn't. In fact, I passed the car ahead of him. What was happening?
There was an accident in the lane to my left. I passed the other cars in that lane because they were at a complete stop. Fortunately, no one pulled out into my lane. But it did show that I was spending too much time watching my rear mirror instead of the road ahead.
As I approached the Ella exit on the North Loop, I saw more flashing lights. There was a big accident, and cars in all lanes were stopped. I tapped my rear brake a few times to signal the car behind me, and eased over to the exit lane. I was trying to decide what to do when a big fire truck, sirens screaming, came up behind me and herded me off the freeway onto the feeder lane. From the feeder I could see a car and a truck had collided. There was a gigantic piece of road debris just ahead of the accident. I don't know whether it was from the collision, or the cause of the collision. Anyway, I was able to reenter the freeway and finish my ride without incident.
I decided limited myself to one circuit because of previous time commitments and returned home to spend the day with Mom, Dad and Maria. I was glad to get in this ride. I now have 8179 miles on the bike. Happy holidays, two wheelers. Ride in peace.
* * * * *
December 20, 2005:
Rain is expected for today. Fortunately, no rain this morning. Still, it was 41 degrees when I got up. My mom and dad are in town, so I had to get in my ride early, before everyone started moving.
Of course, Sarah started moving the instant I sat up in bed. It was a borderline temperature for her walk. The fact that we have guests tilted the scales toward making coffee and getting breakfast ready (hers included) instead of a walk. I then suited up and headed out. I warmed up a little extra in honor of the early morning temperature, then headed east on I-10.
Although Channel 11 had reported light traffic generally, I encounter more than the usual number of cars. Speeds were high, but the roads were pretty clogged with vehicles. It made me extra alert.
As I rode east on Loop 610, I encountered a beautiful sunrise. Clouds were moving in from the west, and had not yet reached the eastern horizon. But they were almost there. The effect was a reddish/orange glow to the "blue" sky and a dark tint to the clouds. This sight was visible because I had a clear shot at the horizon from the long stretch of straightaway on the North Loop. Once I entered I-45 south, man-made obstructions conclealed the view.
Because of the cold, and because I had visitors waiting for me at the house, I had to settle for one workday circuit. I exited at Heights, and headed home. When I pulled up to the driveway I had 8163 miles on the bike. And I got a priceless look of dismay from my mom as I entered the kitchen in full motorcycle regalia. I'm pretty sure she has her doubts about my sanity. But I can live with that. And Sarah, well she got her walk, just a little later than normal. Keep riding, two wheelers.
* * * * *
December 19, 2005:
The radio reported 37 degrees when I awoke. Ugh. No walk for Sarah. But, surprise, surprise, she still wanted her breakfast. We went downstairs and got the paper. Outside, it felt every bit of 37 degrees. I fed Sarah and got on the internet to see what Weather.com predicted for temperatures around the 7 or 8 o'clock hours. They predicted 39 by 7 a.m. and 42 by 8 o'clock. I figured it would be almost 41 by 7:30. I decided to put off the ride till then. I guess all that cold weather riding on Sunday made me less than eager to brave the thirties!
By 7:30 it was still 37 degrees. Oh well. I suited up and headed out. It was cold. I warmed up the bike with an extra long route to I-10, and got on the freeway. At first it wasn't as cold as I expected. Then it was. Then it wasn't. The second "wasn't" was caused by the fact that freeway speeds fell down to about 12 mph because of a stalled car. It was bumper-to-bumper from the Shepherd exit all the way to the Loop. The good things about that were that there was no wind chill to speak of, and the cars were so close together that they provided their own heat source.
Still, the delay meant I had to content myself with one loop of the circuit. Which wasn't all that hard of a decision because of the temperatures. Once I got on the Loop, speeds increased to 65 mph,* and wind chill was present with a vengence. Double ugh.
When I came to the Heights exit, I took it. I headed home, glad to be in out of the cold. I now have 8147 miles on the bike, and more cold weather is ahead.
* * * * *
December 18, 2005:
It was 43 degrees when I got up. My brother and sister-in-law were in town, and they were staying with us. We decided to go to Taqueria Arandas on Shepherd for breakfast. Since I couldn't ride this morning, I made sure we took one of my motorcycle routes to the restaurant. Not the same, however.
After breakfast, Doug and Lu headed for Florida for a visit. Maria and I returned to the house, where Sarah was demanding a walk. The temperature was still 43 outside. Sarah was unimpressed. So we bundled up and headed out--on foot.
When we got back, I quickly showered and called John on his cell. He had come by yesterday afternoon and we had made plans for a ride to Galveston to celebrate my 8000th mile. He answered his phone, and said he would be by in a few minutes. I finished suiting up, aired up both tires, and put on some coffee.
John arrived promptly, and, after coffee, we headed out. It was 55 degrees on the house thermometer by then. I took the lead to get us to Galveston. As we got closer to the coast, the temperatures seemed to drop. We would not be warm again until we returned to inside the house at the end of the day.
We took I-45 to Galveston. We were just at the exit for Texas City when the odometer turned over to mile 8000. I had been planning a special celebration for this event. I calculated that it took approximately three seconds for the odometer to turn over a new mile from the nine-tenths mark. So, I watched 7999.9 come up. I goosed the throttle to 75 mph*, then eased back to 70*. About half way through the rollover of the "nine" I took my hands off the bike and did the bird. This was the first time I have tried this at such high speeds. Let me tell you, even though I used to ride by bicycle all the time without my hands on the handlebars, it was a long three seconds. But I made it. I gave a big thumbs up, and we continued down the road. I don't even want to know what John was thinking as he rode behind me.
Soon, we were at the exit for 61st Street. We took 61st to the Seawall, and took a left. The beach was not crowded. I found a stretch of about a dozen empty parking places in a row, and pulled in. John pulled up beside me. I told him he was in the lead for the rest of the day. We decided to go the the Bolivar Ferry, because neither of us had been on the ferry while on a motorcycle.
Unfortunately, the sign for the ferry said to expect unusually long delays. Not what either of us had in mind. The thought of sitting on our bikes in what had to be 40 to 45 degree weather was bad enough. Waiting thirty minutes for the privilege was beyond the pale. We passed.
Instead, we went to the site of Old Fort San Jacinto. It is at the far east end of the island. Not much is left of the fort except for an historic marker and an old cemented-up gun emplacement. After watching the ships and birds in the bay, we decided it was time for lunch. On a previous trip John had recommended Richard's on the Bay. I reminded him of this. He was game. He called Nadine to maked sure it was open on Sunday. On her say-so, we headed west along Seawall Boulevard and on to Richard's in Sea Isle.
On the way to Richard's, John faced a left-turner. We were approaching a light, with John in front. A pick up truck was heading toward us. The driver turned left, right in front of John. Fortunately, John was far enough away that no reaction other than a quick application of brakes was called for. I asked John about it later. He said the driver looked right at John before turning left in front of him. Either the driver looked right through John without "seeing" him, or the driver decided he could make the turn, and the rules about yielding the right-of-way be damned. It was not all that close a call, but it was a valuable lesson. Even if a driver looks right at you, that doesn't mean he will obey the rules of the road.
It was a long (and otherwise uneventful) drive to Richard's, but worth it.
I asked John what was good, and he told me Nadine always ordered the grilled flounder. That was good enough for me. John went with the crab cakes. The food was excellent. The flounder was gigantic, and very tasty. Both of our entrees came with green beans. They had been sauteed in a few bacon bits, and were done to perfection. Not overcooked and not underdone. Foolishly, we both ordered ice tea. We would have been better served with hot coffee.
When we finished our lunch, we headed back to 61st Street. We got on I-45 and headed back toward Houston. When we came to the exit for Highway 146 we took that and headed toward Highway 225. As we traveled down Highway 146, it was still cold. I noted an ironic reversal from summer. During summer, the only time I feel uncomfortably warm is at stop lights. Today, the only time I felt comfortably warm was at stop lights. Wind chill combined with Gulf air is not a combination to warm the heart--or the fingers.
As we proceeded down 146 I felt the bike stutter. That is its signal that I am out of gas in the main tank. The tripometer read 150 miles. I reached down and switched to the reserve. I then speeded up and took the lead. I pointed to my gas tank as I did so. There was a Shell station up ahead, and we pulled in. After gassing up, we went inside to get coffee. I spied one of those fancy coffee dispensers that has French Vanilla coffee. We each got a cup. It is amazing what a cup of hot coffee can do to fight off the cold. Hands were warm from holding the cup. Insides were warm from drinking the delicious brew. Being in a heated interior also helped.
When we finished our coffee, we headed out to finish our ride. We took Highway 225 toward Houston. Right before we came to the intersection for Loop 610 I turned mile 8100 on the bike. I celebrated again by doing the bird. No one was beside or behind me. I was going about 70 mph.* I was more confident this time, and lasted longer than three seconds before taking the handle bars. John was in front, so he was spared the spectacle.
We took the Loop south to I-45 and headed for the Heights. When I pulled up to the driveway, I had 8132 very cold miles on the bike. John and I had another cup of coffee, and I finally thawed out. It had been a fun, albeit cold, day on two wheels. The lure of the bike still attracts. Even in the cold. The cold-weather gear tamed most of the chill, and winter gloves will soon be ordered. Keep warm, two wheelers.
* * * * *
December 17, 2005:
This morning I was awakened by the onslaught of rain. It was a little before 5 am. A check of the temperature revealed it to be 43 wet degrees. By 9 am it was still raining, and still 43 degrees. There would be no morning ride today.
Maria and I spent most of the day finishing up our Christmas tasks. We hit several stores, and had good luck finding what we were looking for. We had lunch at Skeeters on Bissonnet. Great hamburgers. And they have Cholula sauce for the french fries. I had my first meal at a Skeeters during the Rider's Edge course at Stubbs Harley-Davidson over a year ago. I'm not sure if it is that pleasant memory or the great food, but I do enjoy this chain.
We got home just before 4 pm. I suited up and headed out. The temperature by then was a sultry 47 degrees. It had stopped raining between one and two pm. The rain gauge at the house showed we had received seven tenths of an inch of rain. The wind was stout, and that helped dry off the streets. I felt comfortable getting on the freeway.
I rode to the gas station and topped off the tank. I then decided to take the workday freeway circuit in its counterclockwise direction. During the work week I start the circuit by heading west on I-10, then head north on Loop 610, then west on 610 and south on I-45. Today I reversed my direction. I entered I-10, heading east. At I-45 I headed north. I gave momentary thought to continuing north for twenty-five to thirty miles, then turning around and heading back. I quickly rejected that plan.
Even though it was 47 degrees, I could feel the cold. If I headed out I-45, I ran the risk of finding out it was increasingly colder as I continued north, and I would be stuck riding back in that cold. I decided to stay with the freeway circuit so I could head home whenever I felt like it.
I took the 610 exit off I-45, heading west. It was along this stretch that I encountered the only other rider I saw during my ride. A guy was coming at me from the opposite direction on a black Road King. Like me, he was fully outfitted for the cold weather. I flashed him the biker wave, and he returned it. That made me smile. As did the fun I was having on the bike.
At the start of my ride I had 7925 miles on the bike. Two circuits would get me 7955 miles. A third circuit would boost my mileage to 7970. A fourth circuit would result in 7985 miles on the odometer. That wouldn't leave many miles for tomorrow's ride.
Before I had headed out, I had checked my email to see if John had written me about his plans to rent a Harley this weekend. John and I had taken the Rider's Edge course together. When I talked to him on Friday, his plans were up in the air. Still, Weather.com was predicting good weather for Sunday. I decided to end my ride after two circuits so I would have about 45 miles to ride on Sunday to get to mile 8000. That way, if John called, I would still have some nice mileage to put on for Sunday.
It turned out this was a wise decision. When I returned home I had 7956 miles on the bike. I jumped in the shower, turned the hot on full force, and thawed out. I then dressed, and headed downstairs to the library. Just as I sat down to write this blog, I heard the rumble of a Harley in the cul-de-sac. I got up and opened the door.
John was in the driveway, on a 2005 Heritage Softtail. Red and black. A very handsome bike. I invited him in, and we planned a run to Galveston for tomorrow. Warmer temperatures are on the way, at least temporarily. See you on the road.
* * * * *
December 16, 2005:
Today it was 38 degrees when I woke up. No walk for Sarah. By the time I turned on the TV it was 41. My outside thermometer said it was 46 in the backyard. Not as bad as I had expected. Rain, however, is forecast for this afternoon, and all day Saturday. Cold rain. Ugh.
Anyway, I took Sarah down and got the paper. I then fed her and suited up in full winter gear. I had aired up the tires last night while it was warmer, so that saved me some time this morning. I headed out, and added a couple of blocks to the warmup route in honor of the cold weather.
I entered I-10 and headed west. Although the mercury said it was cooler today than yesterday, my fingers begged to differ. They were not hurting. I was able to enjoy the ride. I turned mile 7900 just as I approached the exit from I-10 to the Loop. This is a dangerous intersection. Cars are always doing weird things. I try to be extra careful. Thus, I wasn't watching the odometer as closely as I sometimes get to do. And that was a good thing.
The exit ramp is elevated, and narrow. There are concrete barriers to the right. I was in the far right lane, and going about 60 mph.* The cars ahead of me began to slow down rapidly. I had about five car lengths between us. Because I noticed the slow-down immediately, I was able to maintain that gap as I decelerated. At the same time, I checked my right-hand mirror and made sure the car behind me was slowing down also. There was traffic on my left, and no shoulder on my right. My only escape hatch was to the front. That is why I was maintaining such a big gap between me and the car directly ahead of me.
Just as I thought everything was going to be ok, I heard the high squeal of brakes applied too hard. I listened for the tell tale sound of metal crushing metal, but only heard another shriek of tires. The car behind me was closing, but not in panic. I accelerated into my safety gap in the front, using up about three of the car lengths to buy me some distance from the car behind me. I watched the mirror for any sudden lurches to my rear. No sound of metal. No more skidding tires. Dodged the bullet.
It was a good dry run. The safety gap had worked, just as I had planned. I was happy with my reactions and glad I didn't have to find out whether five car lengths was enough. The rest of the ride was uneventful. Thank goodness.
When I rolled up to the driveway I could still feel my fingers. The Rebel now has 7925 miles. Mile 8000 is calling.
* * * * *
December 15, 2005:
Today dawned at 43 degrees, according to the radio. And the five-day forecase was that this was the warmest morning for a while. Ugh. Maria and I debated whether to take Sarah for a walk. Sarah's vote was yes. Especially since she missed yesterday's jaunt due to rain.
Channel 11 agreed with the radio that cooler mornings were on the way. So, reluctantly, we got up and took her for her mile. Fortunately, there was no wind, so there was no wind chill while walking. I was not looking forward to the breezes that would be present once I got up on two wheels.
When we returned, I fed Sarah and suited up. I needed to get in a thirty mile run so I could meet my Friday goal of 7900. I knew it was going to be a rough ride.
I checked the air in the tires, and headed out. Yes, it was cold. All my gear helped, but my fingers started feeling the temperatures once I was on the freeway. Going north on the Loop was especially bad. I think that's because there are no buildings to act as wind blocks or hold in the heat. Fortunately, traffic was light.
I just toughed it out. The ride itself went smoothly, and there were even a couple of times when I caught myself grinning at the sheer pleasure of being on a motorcycle. Still, I would rather it be at least twenty degrees warmer.
Through raw force of will, I completed both freeway circuits and returned home. I now have 7895 miles on the bike. And ten fingers badly in need of thawing out. But I am on my (self-imposed) schedule. Tomorrow's run should be a piece of cake.
* * * * *
December 14, 2005:
I checked Weather.com last night before I went to bed. They were predicting a 50% chance of rain overnight. Channel 11, in contrast, said the big rain would come on Wednesday afternoon. I decided I would get up at 5 a.m. and see if the streets were dry. Which is what I did.
I awoke a little before five. The radio traffic report did not mention wet streets. I looked out the window and the street in front of the house was dry, as far as I could tell. I suited up in full gear and Sarah and I went downstairs. I let her out the back (it was way too early for the paper to have arrived) and checked the air in the tires. I came back in and checked Weather.com's radar on the computer. It looked clear. Channel Two also reported dry conditions. Looking good.
Sarah came back in and looked puzzled. It was earlier than normal, and I was dressed for a ride, not a walk. When I opened the closet door where I keep my helmet (and the jacket I usually wear when taking her for a walk), she looked hopeful. When I pulled out my helmet, she went back upstairs to be with Maria. I finished suiting up and headed out.
The temperature was 66. Very nice. I left the glove liners off. I headed out, and, after warming up, I entered I-10, going west. Traffic was very light. If you want the freeways pretty much to yourself, be on the road just after five.
By the time I made it to the North Loop, a light drizzle was beginning. I turned on my wipers. Or, I should say, my wiper. I used the index finger of my left hand to wipe the rain from my visor. This was not a good sign. And the clouds were getting thicker by the minute. Still, the streets were dry and the wind cleared my visor. About a mile later I encountered some really light mist. Not enough to worry about.
But worry I did. When I started out I figured I could easily get in a third circuit and be almost to mile 7900. Then, neither rain nor cold of predawn could keep me from my appointed goal.
I started on the second circuit and all was well. No more rain. However, the clouds looked more threatening than ever. It was very dark out, and I was having trouble seeing if the streets were wet. My helmet visor was dry, but not for long. As I headed south on I-45 the mist returned. Well, what really happened was that I drove into it. The freeway on this stretch was really wet. Because it had not rained in a while, I was increasingly worried about the oil film I knew would be rising on the surface. Traffic was still light enough that I could keep my speed down, but I decided it wasn't worth the risk. I resloved to limit myself to finishing up the circuit I was on and to head directly home.
Within twenty seconds of that decision, the rain hit with full force. What traffic there was slowed down. I entered I-10 and took the Heights exit, but not before getting wet. When I pulled up to the driveway I had 7865 miles on a very wet bike. I headed in and dealt with soaked riding gear. Still, another fun ride, albeit a little shorter than I had hoped. And I'm still on schedule, just not ahead of schedule. More to come. Stay dry, two wheelers.
* * * * *
December 13, 2005:
Today it was 45 degrees at the house when we woke up. Warm enough for Sarah. So, after bundling up, we took her for her walk. There was no wind, so we were pretty warm. It might have helped that I had slipped on my silk long johns and my PolarTec Windbloc shirt. Anyway, when we got back, I fed her breakfast and suited up for my morning ride.
Technically, it was colder than yesterday. So I dressed appropriately. I included my glove liners and put on the neck warmer. I am on a schedule to make it to 7900 miles before the building party on Friday. I wanted to get in thirty miles during this morning's ride. That is two loops on the workday circuit.
I checked the air in the tires and warmed up the bike. I then entered I-10, heading west. Traffic was about normal. I made good time until the very end of the trip. I-45 backed up some, and my speed was cut to about 20 mph. Fortunately, that only lasted a mile or so, and then it was smooth sailing on home.
When I pulled up to the driveway I had 7835 miles on the bike. I was glad at the progress, because Channel 11 is predicting rain tomorrow morning. We will see. Stay dry, two wheelers.
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December 12, 2005:
Today it was 43 degrees when I woke up. No walk for Sarah. But we did go down and get the paper. Breakfast (for her) followed. I suited up, checked the air and headed out.
The house thermometer read 48 degrees. It didn't feel really cold out when we got the paper, so I decided to forego the glove liners. When I hit the road I immediately realized how much good the neck warmer really does. I had left it behind this morning, and my throat immediately felt the cold. Until today, I wouldn't have believed such a thin strip of cloth could make such a comfort difference. Thanks John, again, for turning me on to this piece of equipment.
Traffic on the workday circuit was pretty normal. I turned mile 7800 on the curve entering I-45 south from the Loop. Once I was on I-45, traffic slowed down markedly. Must have been backup from an accident somewhere downstream. Anyway, I soon came to the Heights exit, and headed home. I now have 7805 miles on the bike, and I am on schedule for mile 8000. Warmer weather is ahead.
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December 11, 2005:
More Christmas tasks on the list for today before riding time.
The day started out in the 40's. Sarah got her walk. And her breakfast. Neighborhood kids showed up for their breakfast. Then Maria and I got our breakfast. Then it was 10:30 in the morning! My how the time flies when you're having fun.
We did Christmas stuff until around 1:30 pm. Just as we returned from shopping, Cynthia, my paralegal, called for directions to an opera house in the Height. So she was in my area of the world. I was suiting up for my ride. She must have received the information she needed from Maria, because the two of them hung up before I could even get on the phone. I guess Cynthia hears enough from me during the week.
Maria and I grabbed a quick lunch, then we headed for the 17th Street Fine Arts Gallery for an art show featuring Chris Silkwood, one of my neighbors. I decided to go in "biker formal" so I could hit the road once we did the show. The Heights is eclectic, so I figured no one would notice what I was wearing.
Before leaving, I checked the air in the tires, then we headed to the gas station so I could top off the tank. By "we" I mean that Maria followed me the the Jeep. She still hasn't ventured onto the back of the bike, for whatever reason.
Attendance at the Gallery was not so large that Chris missed noticing how I was dressed. But she took it in style. We admired her mosaic work, and the other art on display. When it was time to leave, Maria asked me where I was headed and when I would be home. I told her I was going west on 290, the back home on FM 529. I figured it could take two to three hours. It was 3 pm by then. Maria wished me luck. Temperatures were in the 60's. I headed out, sans long johns and glove liners.
I took Shepherd north to Loop 610, and the Loop west to Highway 290. Traffic was medium heavy on 290. Speeds were fast. I was quickly racking up the miles. My goal was to put 100 miles on the bike during the ride. Just before Fry Road I watched the odometer turn over to mile 7700. I continued on to Prairie View. I had about 45 miles on the bike so far this trip. I decided to head to FM 529. I took FM 1098 south. It quickly ended at Highway 290 Business. I took that west to FM 359, and on south to FM 529. This is not a sexy route. Few curves, and no hills. Still, it got me to FM 529 on schedule. I took that road east, back toward Houston. I highly recommend FM 529 for a fun ride. There is seldom any traffic, and you are more likely to see biker than many cars. I got the distinct pleasure of watching the odometer roll up to mile 7777.7 while tooling down the road.
When I first started riding I was always worried about something. Like the traffic. And shifting into first. And stopping without skidding. And a hundred other things. I wondered when the time would come when I could enjoy being on the bike. That time came pretty quickly, I'm happy to say. I am at ease on two wheels, and I find I like the solitude of riding in the country. I have time to think about whatever I want, plus enjoy the countryside, the curves and the hills. Distractions are few and fleeting. The very aloneness of being on a bike makes this possible. In the "real" world, distractions pile up and quite time comes in nanoseconds. I wonder if this philosophic time is motorcycling's biggest attraction.
Anyway, I continued down FM 529 to its chief point of interest. Yes, I mean the Half Price Books that is just west of Highway 6. When I pulled up to the parking lot, I was pleased to see two other bikes parked in front of the store. Inside, I quickly spotted the owners by their do-rags.
I was pleased to find a few books to pique my interest. When I got in line to pay, one of the other bikers was directly ahead of me. He was also loading up on books. His purchases were on the civil war. Mine were more wide-ranging. Still, it seemed to support my theory that bikers like to both ride and think. Of course, books are the ammunition for that thinking, so it was not surprising to me that other bikers were frequenting the Half Price.
I stuffed my purchases in the front and back of my Vanson jacket. I got three books in the slot for the back armor, and two thick ones in the front. I'm sure all the books ruined the manly lines of my jacket, but off I went anyway.
The rest of the trip was uneventful. I tooted my horn when I passed Cynthia's apartment, but I'm not sure she was back from the opera yet. When I got back to the Heights, I topped off the tank so I would have a clean start for my morning rides during the coming week. I was back home before six, and had time for a hot bath, with a cool glass of Chardonnay, and with lots of new tomes to brouse through. And, by the way, I had racked up mile 7789 on the bike. Life is good.
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December 10, 2005:
This morning was allocated to Christmas tasks. Of course, Sarah got her morning walk, and breakfast. I got to content myself with making progress on house decorations and on stocking stuffers. We had a cookie making party scheduled for 3 pm. At least Maria did. And, just before two o'clock, as we were coming back from a last stop, the skies let loose with a heavy mist. It slicked up the streets and caused the cars to turn on their wipers. The temperature was 53 degrees. I resolved to cut my ride to a short one if the streets stayed wet.
When we got back to the house it had stopped misting, for the most part. OK, it was still wet, but you didn't need your wipers. I decided to suit up and see what the streets were like. I put on my winter gear, except for the glove liners. And those I secreted in a side pocket of my jacket, just in case.
Earlier in the afternoon I had aired up both tires, in anticipation of dry weather. So, at about 2:30, I headed for the garage. I told Maria I would be back at 4. That would make me barely an hour late for the start of festivities and allow me to make a grand entrance once the cookie making party was underway. But that also meant I would only have about ninety minutes to ride.
I headed for the gas station and topped off the tank. I then took I-10 east to Highway 59. I took that freeway north, toward FM 1960. My goal was the Half Price Books just west of the intersection of FM 1960 and Highway 59. It was very overcast. The smell of wood smoke filled the air. I think the odor was so noticeable because of the low cloud ceiling.
I missed watching the odometer turn over to mile 7600 because I was dreaming about my purchases at Half Price. I was just at the exit for Intercontinental Airport when the milestone happened. Soon thereafter I was at the exit for FM 1960. Traffic was thick on the feeder road. My plan was to continue north for a ways and then u-turn and exit 1960 on the way back home. Sadly, I noticed that the southbound exit for 1960 was even worse than the northbound one. Traffic was backed up at least half a mile. With much regret, I wrote off Half Price Books for this trip. I decided, by way of compensation, to continue north to mile 45 on the odometer. That would put me in Cleveland.
Which is how it worked out. I took the first Cleveland exit and rode to a place where I could pull over. My fingers were beginning to get cold. The temperature felt like it was dropping as I continued north, and I didn't relish the thought of another ninety minutes without heat in the digits. I saw a light with a left turn arrow, and moved into the turn lane. Of course, the light turned red before I could make the turn. As I was sitting at the intersection, waiting for my arrow, a car drove by with a small boy in the back seat. He smiled at me and I waved back in salute. Next, a very nice looking woman passed by, also giving me a smile. Which I returned. The next car was captained by a man who looked to be in his late 60's. He nodded his acknowledgment of my bike, and I nodded back. Once again, the charm of two wheels was working.
When my arrow appeared, I pulled into a strip center parking lot and slipped on the glove liners, replaced my riding gloves, and head back home. It was 3:30 p.m. My fingers were cold, but otherwise I was warm. It felt good to get in a nice trip, even in the cold. I did not regret one minute of this ride.
The ride back was uneventful. It didn't warm up until I was almost to the Loop. Traffic was light, and I made good speed. When I pulled up to the driveway, I noticed that two SUV's were already at the house. It was 4:15 pm. Not bad. When I made my grand entrance, helmet under my arm, Maria didn't seem at all upset at the hour of my return. I gave each woman a hug, accompanied by cold fingers to their necks. Always the charmer. And so ends another riding adventure. I now have 7674 miles on the bike. Keep those fingers warm, two wheelers.
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December 9, 2005:
Today dawned perversely warm. Not actually warm, but a lot warmer that had been predicted. The radio reported 34 degrees at the airport and 36 degrees downtown. My thermometer said it was 40 degrees in the back yard. I had been hoping, in the interest of this blog, to be able to ride in below freezing temperatures this morning, so I could report on what it was like.
Sarah and I went down for the paper and I noticed an overcast sky, with no wind. Due to the lack of wind, I wondered if I could fit in two freeway circuits this morning. Turned out the answer to that was "no."
I fed Sarah and suited up. I managed to check the air in both tires, even though the hibiscus were still crowding the garage. I headed out, and warmed up the bike a little more than usual. It was cold, and it felt like the low thirties. At one point I though I still had my visor up, but it was just cold air coming in from the chin area.
I entered I-10, heading west. Traffic was odd. I had to concentrate a lot today to maintain my zone of safety. No truly insane drivers, but people were not behaving in ways that made sense. For example, a driver would move one lane to the left, then immediately move back to the right. Drivers would speed up, then slow down. All for no reasons I could detect. The one good thing about the traffic was that I was concentrating so hard on the road that I was almost half way through the ride before I really felt the cold in my fingers. But feel it I did.
I was again happy to see the exit for Heights. I took it and headed home. When I rode up to the driveway I had 7579 miles on the bike. Progress lately has been slow, but cold is cold. And cold is no fun when it comes to two wheel travel. Stay warm.
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December 8, 2005:
I'm not really sure what this morning's temperature was. The radio and Channel 11 both reported that it was 34 degrees. My house thermometer said 41. I believed the radio enough to skip Sarah's morning walk. But we still went down to get the paper. It felt cold, but the wind seemed pretty mild. The radio had reported stiff winds. I was to find out they were right.
After feeding Sarah, I suited up and went to the garage to check the air in the tires. That was difficult today because the Rebel is sharing space with my collection of hibiscus plants. I had brought all of them in last night, and moving around was not easy. I could get to the front tire without much trouble. It was fine. I couldn't get to the valve stem on the rear tire. Because I had filled the tire just yesterday, I contented myself with a visual examination. It looked ok.
I headed out, and warmed up the bike a little more than usual. I could instantly feel the cold air. I headed west on I-10 and got another surprise. The winds were stout. Very stout. I could feel the sideways buffeting as I continued west. I also fought the wind when I turned north on the Loop.
Traffic was fairly light, but I was having trouble maintaining my zone of safety this morning. Cars kept pulling up next to me, causing me to have to slow down or speed up. I'm not sure why the problem was so prevalent today. Freeway speeds were on the high side until I got on I-45, where we slowed down all the way to 25 mph. I could sure tell the difference in wind chill when we slowed down. It wasn't warm, but it felt a lot warmer than at 65 mph.*
Just as yesterday, I confined myself to one freeway circuit. Still, my forehead was chilly and my fingers were especially cold. At least the pain assured me they weren't numb. But I had no interest in a second round on the loop.
So, when I got to the Heights exit, I gladly took it. I worked my way back to the house, and had logged mile 7664 when I pulled up to the driveway. My ride had taken twenty-five cold minutes. It was good to be home. Channel 11 was reporting wind chill in the low twenties. I was glad to be inside with my central heat in the high seventies.
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December 7, 2005:
At 50 degrees, this morning dawned at what is most likely the warmest temperature for a while. A cold front is due in and temperatures in the twenties are predicted for later in the week. I decided I definitely needed to get in a good ride before the cold struck again.
I decided I definitely needed to get in a good walk with Sarah, also. She was happy. I don't think she understands cold temperatures all that much. Must come from wearing a fur coat all the time. Anyway, we bundled up and took her for her walk. Even though the thermometer registered on the warm side, there was a stiff wind coming from north to south, and it felt colder than indicated.
After we got back, I fed Sarah and suited up in my winter gear. In my rush to get on the bike, I forgot to change from my regular jeans into my Draggin' Jeans, a oversight I discovered only after I had started my ride. But before starting out, I had checked the air in the tires. It was about a pound low in each tire. I aired them both up, and headed out.
What made me notice I was wearing my regular jeans (albeit with silk longjohns on underneath them) was that I could feel the cool on my knees. The Draggin' Jeans come with Kevlar on the knees. I also fitted that area with body armor. So I am not used to feeling the air on my knees.
I decided I was too far along in my ride to come back and change, so, risking life and limb (or at least unsightly road rash), I continued on. I entered I-10, headed west. When I turned north onto Loop 610, I immediately noticed the force of the wind. It was blowing hard from north to south. I was going harder from south to north. Turbulence was pronounced. At least the winter wear was the equal of the wind chill at 50 degrees.
Traffic was unexpectedly heavy this morning. But, for the most part, people stayed in their lanes, and I had no trouble navigating the circuit. And I was certainly warmer than yesterday.
I rode the route twice, and logged mile 7548 by the time I drove up to my driveway. Tomorrow promises to be an entirely different day, with much colder temperatures, and the possiblity of rain. Ugh.
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December 6, 2005:
Last night I resolved that I would ride my bike, no matter how low the morning temperature. In the interest of this blog, of course. So, when the radio reported 34 degrees this morning, I knew I would have an interesting ride.
Sarah does not have a blog. Therefore, she did not get a walk. We did go down for the paper, and I confirmed the chilly conditions. After feeding her, I checked the house thermometer. It read 37 degrees. Channel 11 reported 34 degrees. It was cold. I suited up in full winter garb and headed for the garage. I checked the air in the tires. The front tire was about half a pound low. The back tire was a pound under spec. I decided to go with those readings. I figured that any reading this morning was probably a little inaccurate, and the psi's seemed within the range of acceptability.
I added a couple of blocks to the warmup section of the ride, and left the choke on longer than normal. The bike was warming up, but I can't say the same for me.
I entered I-10, headed west. I quickly resolved to restrain the misery by only doing one loop of the normal workday circuit. This was a mentally satisfying decision. I figured the extreme cold would be self-limited to about 15 minutes. Bearable, if not pleasant.
And pleasant it was not. My winter gear did its job, where it could. My chin was cold. Oddly, so was my forehead. Traffic was light, and I had time to notice these things. In fact, I found myself thinking about the cold way more than I wanted to. I was concerned that such thoughts were distracting me from paying attention to other vehicles. I had no close calls, but it was worrisome.
And, where I was cold, I was really cold. As usual, my fingers hurt. I guess that is better than their being numb. But the surprise was how much the cold bothered my forehead. You never think of your forehead as getting cold. I think the design of my Arai full-face helmet contributed to this problem. With the shield down, the front of my face was warmer than with the visor up. But, since the chin area of the helmet is open, the air channeled up my chin and ended at the inner foam that covered my hairline. That left my forehead on the receiving end of that channeled breeze. Ouch.
Thankfully, the ride was over on schedule. I had ridden about twenty-five minutes and logged 16 miles. I now have 7518 miles on the bike, and my fingers are thawed out enough to type this entry with a minimum of misstrikes. Thank goodness for central heat. Stay warm out there.
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December 5, 2005:
The morning weather doesn't look good for this week. After today, lows in the thirties are predicted. Today dawned at 46 degrees. And I needed twenty-eight miles to reach mile 7500. And Sarah still wanted her walk. So off we went.
During Sarah's walk the temperature wasn't too bad. Of course, there was little wind. Not like on a bike. So, after feeding her, I suited up in full winter garb. And today, I added one more piece of protective gear.
One time when John and I had gone riding, he showed me a cloth band he had purchased as a neck warmer. It was designed like a knit headband, and is supposed to go over the ears. When I was hunting in Midland, I found one of these headbands I had picked up for winter use out there. It was in the same sack as my hunting vest. I had rescued it for later use.
And I decided to try it this morning. I didn't need it for my ears, but it might add some protection in the throat area. I had placed the knit piece next to my glove liners, in the garage. I keep my helmet in the hall closet, next to my jacket. I slipped on my helmet and jacket and headed for the bike. One thing John hadn't told me is that you have to put the knit piece on before you slip on your helmet. Oops. I took off my helmet, slipped the knit around my thoat and replaced the helmet. The knit piece fit loosely, because it is sized for your head, not your throat. Time would tell if it helped.
I check the air in the tires and headed out. After warming up I entered I-10 in my normal clockwise freeway circuit. Traffic was medium. As I headed down I-10, I noticed two motorcycle cops ahead of me, riding side by side. Civilians are taught to ride in a staggered formation. I'm not sure why cops ride side by side. Anyway, there they were, a good ways ahead of me and to my left. They quickly shifted into the lane I was in, and we all headed to the exit for Loop 610.
As I made the turn I noticed a motorcycle cop stopped for a stalled vehicle. The cop's lights were flashing. I expected to spot his compadre up ahead, riding alone. Imagine my surprise when I spied three motorcycle cops ahead of me! Two were side by side and one was following directly behind the right-hand rider. And I mean following closely. The new biker must have already been on Loop 610, before we merged onto it.
Then I noticed something odd about the third bike. Its lights were not on, even though it was still very dark out. I assumed the cop had just forgotten to turn on his lights. But then they all changed lanes. The first two bikes signalled their change. The third bike did not. I decided that the cop's electrical system (at least as to the lights) must be out. Then I thought about how it would be impossible for me to ride without my lights on, even in broad daylight, because my bike has an "always on" lighting system. So maybe the electrical system was really the problem. On the other hand, cops probably have tactical reasons to be able to turn their lights off if they need to, so it is still possible that it was operator error.
Anyway, I continued on my ride. And it continued to be cold. In fact, it felt a lot colder than the 46 degrees Channel 11 had reported. Especially in my fingers. It's fair to say that I rode the second circuit of this morning's trip simply to get to mile 7500. Although my neck was warm, my fingers were not. Even the glove liners weren't doing their job this morning. Ugh. At least the neck warmer had proved its worth. Thanks, John.
None to soon, I turned over mile 7500, just as I entered I-10 from I-45 south. Boy was I glad. I quickly exited at the Heights exit and looped around to the gas station to top off the tank. I figured this was as warm as it is going to get this week, and I would need gas by tomorrow anyway.
After getting gas, and zeroing the tripometer, I headed home. As I pulled up to the driveway, the odometer read 7502. And Channel 11 confirmed my suspicion that the temperature had dropped. They were now reporting a temperature of 43 degrees. It seemed even colder at 65 mph.* Oh the thrill of the wind chill. Stay warm, two wheelers.
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December 4, 2005:
Although my "honey-do" list was not exhausted (when is it ever?), I decided to get in a decent ride this morning. Rides before first light don't count against the day's tasks. So, at 5:30 a.m. I got up, checked my email, fed Sarah and suited up. The air pressure was fine. Gas was low. I headed for the station and topped off the tank. I then sat at the pump, deciding where to go.
My original plan called for a trip north on I-45. I had picked that route simply because I-45 North was one of the few freeways not under construction this weekend. Highway 290 had roadwork. So did Highway 59. And I-10 west. And even the beloved Loop 610.
But I-45 North had no appeal this morning. And, I started thinking, what about south?
The "Dickens on the Strand" celebration was taking place this weekend in Galveston, but I was fairly sure I-45 South would be empty at six-fifteen in the morning. So I made a rapid change in plans and off I went, headed for Galveston.
Traffic was indeed light. Very light. Which was fine with me. And the temperatures were temperate. By that I mean in the 70's. I had left my winter garb at home, and I was pleased with the decision.
As I tooled down the Gulf Freeway I saw a rain shower ahead. You know, one of those patches of intense rain that has a definite beginning (and, hopefully, a quick end). I also noticed that I was about to put mile 7400 on the bike. And so it happened that I was forced to give only quick glances to the odometer as I entered the storm, on a gentle curve, in early morning light. But I did see the change from 7399.9 to 7400.0. Then my attention was back on the important work of not hydroplaning.
Fortunately, the rain, which was hard enough get my jeans thoroughly wet below the knees, soon ended. And, although there were occasional bouts of mist, the rest of the ride was on the dry side.
Riding into Galveston on a bike is a unique experience. You can taste the salt air, and you can see the gulf much more vividly than you do in a car. For a short trip, nothing beats Galveston on two wheels.
When I got to 61st Street, I turned to Surfside. As I topped the crest, the entire Gulf of Mexico opened up to me. Surf was high, with whitecaps near the shoreline. The sound of the waves was clearly present. I headed toward 21st Street. It was around seven o'clock. The sun was probably up, but clouds obscured its presence. The beach was well attended, but not at all crowded. The ride along Surfside was wonderful.
Soon I was at Stewart's Beach. I turned around and headed back to 21st Street. I took 21st toward the Strand. Just as I suspected, the Strand was blocked off to vehicular traffic. I worked my way back toward Houston. At one point I saw what appeared to be a thirty-foot tall Norfolk pine. They are beautiful trees, but they don't like cold weather. It was the tallest Norfolk I have seen in this area of the country. Magnificent.
I got on Broadway, and headed for home. It was going to be after eight o'clock when I got there, but I had had a great ride.
When I pulled up to the driveway it was 8:40 a.m., and Sarah was barking for her morning walk. That is something that is a daily entry on the honey-do list. I started the coffee, and we headed out for a neighborhood stroll. The day was still young, and I had 7472 miles on the bike. Life is good.
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December 3, 2005:
Today was my Christmas Ride. By that I mean that Maria had me busy with putting up Christmas decorations and that I would have been risking life and limb to go riding before all of the outdoor lights were in place. I decided to not risk life and limb.
So it was that after getting the paper, feeding Sarah and taking her for her walk, I did not suit up and head out. Instead, I laddered up and lighted away.
Friday night we had wrapped the oak tree in front with three hundred lights. We did this in the dark. Oh, the holiday spirit. I gladly undertook this task to cut down on the time I would have to spend on Saturday. And it helped. Still, it was one o'clock when I got the last of the lights up. I then suited up for a short ride before resuming other duties.
For my ride I checked the air in the tires and warmed up on the back roads off of 6th Street. The outside temperature was in the 80's, and the sky was clear. In fact, the sun was out in full force. At one point I pulled my helmet lower so the Sunblocker strip of polarized green film I had added to my Arai visor could work. I wondered for a moment why it wasn't working. I realized that the visor visor was in it "raised" position, so the Sunblocker couldn't function. I immediately lowered the visor and everything worked fine. I highly recommend the Sunblocker if you don't want to wear sunglasses.
After getting my visor in the proper position, I headed north on Shepherd and took 11th to T.C. Jester. I took TC all the way to its northern end (or beginning). I then turned around and headed back.
It had been awhile since I had ridden this route. It has some nice curves, and traffic is light on the weekends. It was a good ride.
At one point on the return trip I pulled up to a stop light. I was in the left-hand lane. A pickup truck was in the right hand lane. I saw the driver eyeing me. He rolled down his window. He told me he liked the bike. Wanted to know the cc's. I told him. He asked about gas mileage. I told him. He said it looked like the bike handled well. I said it did. Once again, I was amazed at the effect motorcycling has on people. I doubt this guy would ever have engaged me in conversation but for the bike. The magic of two wheels!
I continued on down TC Jester until I arrived back at 11th Street. I took that east to the parking lot of an abandoned HEB grocery store. After my recent adventures with quick stops, I decided some parking lot practice was in order. I circled the lot over and over, practicing quick stops until I was comfortable with my technique. I then headed on home. When I pulled up to the driveway I had 7356 miles on the bike and it was two o'clock. Back to my honey-do lists.
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December 2, 2005:
This morning I thought I heard the radio report that the temperature was 48 degrees. When I took Sarah down to get the paper (and eat) it felt fairly warm. However, Channel 11 was reporting the 42 degrees. The thermometer here at the house read 50 degrees. Certainly those were mixed messages.
On the one hand, I don't really enjoy riding at 42 degrees. On the other hand, Cynthia and I are celebrating her birthday today (it's really tomorrow), and I wouldn't be surprised if I had a drink at lunch. So, if I wanted a ride, it needed to be this morning. I decided to go out in my winter garb, including glove liners.
I checked the air in the tires and headed out. It was not too bad at first. Traffic was medium, but there were no backups on the workday freeway circuit. Still, I quickkly began to feel the cold. First, the wind was pretty stout, and it was cold enough to make my eyes tear at high speeds. Second, Channel 11's number felt closer to the freeway temperature than the radio report did. My fingers were really cold. That usually happens only in the low forties.
I managed to finish both loops before numbness seized my fingers, but barely. When I returned I had 7337 miles on the bike. I did not take off my gear until I was in the house. I then gave Maria a taste of the cold with a loving (bare-handed) hug and got ready for work. Warmer times are on the way, at least temporarily.
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December 1, 2005:
Today it had warmed up to 53 degrees when I got up. That is a big change from yesterday. We took Sarah for her walk and I then fed her. Next, I suited up and headed for the garage. I had to add air to the tires before heading out.
I warmed up and hit the gas station to top off the tank. I then got on I-10, heading west. Traffic wasn't too bad. However, I encountered a situation on the entrance ramp to Loop 610. I was in the right-hand lane. There was a SUV ahead of me. When the SUV entered 610, he swerved to the left to change lanes. Unfortunately, another SUV was already in that lane. There was almost a collision. This is significant because I would have had to stop quickly to avoid the mishap. Thus, even though the situation didn't directly involve me, I could have had to make quick decisions to avoid trouble not of my own making.
Since nothing happened, I continued on my way on the workday circuit. On the second circuit I had another close call. I was going west on I-10. There was another motorcycle coming up behind me. I was watching it more than I should have, using my rear view mirror. At one point I was looking in my left-hand mirror. I then glanced forward and realized the traffic ahead of me was quickly slowing down. I squeezed my front brake hard. The rear tire moved left, then right. I stayed on the front brakes, and the bike straightened up without trouble. I think the wobble was from hitting just the front brake and not also hitting the back brake at the same time to settle down the bike. The situation this morning was similiar to the bike's reaction on hard braking Saturday before last when John and I were headed back to the house on 11th Street. This is worth further thought.
And, by the way, I now have 7307 miles on the bike. I missed the roll over to 7300, but I am glad to be making regular progress again. Stay tuned.
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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. Legal speed limits are never exceeded, anything in this blog to the contrary nowithstanding.