February 28, 2006:
Last night we were visited by that bane of homeowners everywhere, dripping water. From the ceiling. Above the water heater. Right before we were ready to go to bed.
I called a plumber and arranged for a morning visit. There was a pinhole leak in one of the galvanized joints outside the water heater. The heater itself seemed fine. We drained the water heater and the leak stopped. Unfortunately, the cut-off valve that controlled the flow of water into the water heater leaked when I tried to close it. That meant I could not keep water refilling the heater except by turning off the valve controlling the water to the whole house. Which I did.
This morning it was 58 degrees. Not really cold to walk around in, but pretty darn cold to take a shower in. Sarah got her walk. We plotted our morning baths.
The plumbers were set to arrive at eleven. I had water ready to heat to provide warm rinse water for our baths. Maria went first. She didn't have to wash her hair. I added the hot water to the bucket she was using, and she was able to rinse off with minimal discomfort.
Thus inspired, I decided to take a shower before my morning ride. Maria heated the rinse water. I washed my hair, then soaped off. The rinse water was acceptably warm. But I was glad the plumbers were scheduled for later this morning.
I didn't know how long the repair would take, so I decided to ride to the office and get payroll out before they arrived. That way, if it took all afternoon, the most pressing task of the day was taken care of.
Once Maria headed for work, I suited up and headed for my office. The weather was pleasantly warm. After meeting payroll, I headed back to the house, the long way.
I took Memorial Drive west toward Loop 610. I then u-turned and took it back downtown. I took Louisiana north, till I entered I-10. I did a single workday look, watching my time. The plumbers had said they would try to get to the house early, but I figured so long as I was back by 9:30 I had allowed plenty of time.
The freeway ride was largely uneventful. I did get to develop a refinement of my new theory on how to travel behind vehicles that block the view of the road surface ahead. This time the culprit was a dump truck. In keeping with my new theory, I was following in the tire tracks of the passenger-side tires. That was the wrong choice.
The dump truck was in the right-most lane. There was also a lane to the left. It was occupied, so I could not get into it. The dump truck hit a road gator (tire debris) on the shoulder of the road. The gator popped toward me. I was in a straight-away, and managed to miss the obstacle as it was thrown toward me.
Even though I successfully maneuvered through the gauntlet, I have revised my approach. The truck kicked up the debris on the shoulder because the truck was so wide that the driver had to run over stuff at the side of the concrete barrier marking the lane right-most edge of the lane. The smart move is to be behind the tire track of whichever tire set is "centermost." Here, the driver's-side was centermost. That is the set of tires I should have been following. If, on the other hand, the barrier was closer to the driver's side, I should be following the passenger-side of the tire tracks. If both tires were near barriers, I think the driver's-side is better because most drivers are better able to judge distances on the driver's-side of a vehicle. More riding will tell.
I made it back by 9:30. I now have 10,475 miles on the bike. Just as I changed out of my riding clothes, Sarah began to bark, informing me that the plumbers were here. Fortunately, the leak was easily and quickly repaired. Time to head for work.
* * * * *
February 27, 2006:
It was 43 degrees out at 5:30 this morning. Maria announced that it was too cold to take Sarah for a walk. I got up anyway, feed her, and suited up. I have not had a regular, workday morning ride for far too long. I was not going to let a little cold stop me.
Of course, I did wear full winter gear. No need in being miserable. I checked the air in the tires and headed out. It was still full dark.
As I was backing the bike out of the garage, I felt my boot brush against something. Because of the dark, it was difficult to see what I had hit. It felt like a small branch. We had been "trimming the veg" yesterday, and I assumed one of the pieces had fallen on the driveway. In fact, I found an 18 inch long twig, and made the assumption that that was what I had brushed against. When I returned from my travels, and in the full light of morning, I found out I was mistaken. There, directly in my path, was a twelve inch long piece of rose bush, complete with thorns. Tomorrow, when I check the air pressure, I will find out whether those thorns caused trouble.
Anyway, after warming up, I entered I-10, heading west. Traffic was fairly heavy. Or so it seemed to me. Maybe I have been away too long.
The ride went off without hitch. Since I had gotten an earlier start than normal, I added the Highway 59 extension onto both loops. This added an extra ten miles to the normal thirty mile circuit. Even so, the ride was over before I knew it. My fingers were quite cold but, otherwise, the ride had been fun. I topped off the gas tank at the conclusion of the ride and then headed home. When I rode up I had 10,440 miles on the bike. And the whole day ahead.
* * * * *
February 26, 2006:
Today dawned at 53 degrees. I decided to put off my ride until warmer temperatures arrived. And until Half Price Books was open.
Sarah was unwilling to put off her morning walk, however. So, since females rule, we took her for a walk. Dressed warmly, of course.
After the walk we had breakfast. Then we spent the day in the garden. Our garden is on the Houston Rose Society rose tour for April 22nd. If you want to see it, you have to join the Houston Rose Society. It's worth it.
But that event is eating into my riding time. Things have to get done on a schedule dictated by Mother Nature. Someone once said there is nothing like a deadline to make things happen. I prefer the saying: "If it weren't for the last minute, nothing would ever get done." We're not at the last minute yet, but long rides are probably a rare thing until after the tour.
That doesn't mean no riding, however. At 4:30 p.m. I headed upstairs, showered, and changed into my riding clothes. I mean, roses are fine, but I am not giving up my riding.
I checked the air in the tires, looked for oil drips (there were none), and headed out. It was 68 degrees out. I knew I would be back after dark, so I dressed in full winter gear.
I warmed up, headed for the gas station, and topped off the tank. I then got on I-10, headed east. I took that freeway to Highway 59, and headed north.
I figured I needed to get 43 miles on my northward swing to achieve today's goal of 10,400 miles on the bike. Traffic on Highway 59 was light, as is normally the case. At one point I passed a guy who was constantly wiping his face, like he was fighting off sleep. I recalled that today was still the Mardi Gras season, and that drunks could be all around me. I ramped up my awareness of the other drivers.
But I still got in some serious thinking. And some serious fun. I saw lots of other riders on the freeway. And I enjoyed the entire 43 miles of the outbound trip. Except for four things.
I was in the far right-hand lane when I came upon a cop with a radar unit. I was traveling the speed limit at the time. Within a mile I came upon cop number two. I figured they were counting on folk speeding up after the first cop. I fooled them. I kept up the 65 mph* pace. Within less than another mile, I came upon a third cop. He also had a radar unit. That seemed unfair.
Worse, by far, was the fact that within another mile I passed the fourth cop, also with a radar unit. Shouldn't they be chasing burgulars or something?
When I was at mile 43 I took an exit lane and crossed over to the southbound lanes. I was pleased that I got slowed down enough to make the hard left hand turn to head south. What I forgot was that I had to accelerate (from a dead stop) up to highway speed as I headed back south. With no acceleration lane. Ugh.
I managed to make it by quickly running through all the gears. Not a fun experience. I need to rethink my strategy for turning around to head back to Houston.
At the exit for FM 1960, I heard Half Price Books calling me. I made a quick exit and stopped by the store. I got a few neat books. And I had a good time looking at all the shelves. A kid in a candy shop. When I was signing the credit card slip, the (female) sales clerk wished me a good ride home. No one has ever wished me any kind of ride home when I was wearing regular clothes. Once again, the mystique that is motorcycling ruled the day.
After paying, I called Maria to let her know I was headed home. It was 6:35 p.m., and getting dark. I stuffed my purchases into the front of my riding jacket, and made my way back to Highway 59. The ride back was uneventful. I didn't even see another radar unit. And I made good time.
I took the Heights exit off I-10, and headed for the house. As I made the turn onto Oxford, the odometer rolled over to 10,400. When I got inside I checked the thermometer. It had already fallen to 56 degrees. I was glad I had worn all the winter gear.
It had been a good day and a good ride. It feels good to be back on schedule. Look out mile 11,000, I can taste you already.
* * * * *
February 25, 2006:
Even though it was a Saturday morning, I got up at 5:30 a.m. I had three reasons to do so. First, Sarah was ready to eat. Second, Chance, the wonderful standard poodle from next door, was having a sleep-over with Sarah, and Chance was ready to go outside for his morning break. Chance's owners are neighbors. They were "Mardi-Gras-ing" it this weekend. Chance has stayed with us before, but I wasn't as sure of how soon in the morning he had to go outside as I was with Sarah. Third, the radio reported that rain was expected to hit Houston just after dawn.
I took the dogs downstairs and let them out the back. I then checked the street in front of the house. It was dry. And no mist was falling. After feeding Sarah (Chance is a late eater), I headed back upstairs to suit up. The dogs followed. I told Maria that I would be back, and headed back downstairs. Sarah, seeing me in motorcycle gear, didn't bother to follow. Chance, taking his clue from Sarah, also stayed upstairs with Maria.
I checked for oil on the garage floor. It was clean. I checked the air in the tires. They each had 33 psi. I let some pressure out till the gauge read 29 psi. I then got out the flashlight and once again carefully checked the front tire for cuts. All was fine. I headed out.
It was 56 degrees out. I would have ridden if it was 46. I was itching to get back into the swing of riding. On the other hand, , because it had been over a week since I had tested the freeways, I took a rather longer warm up tour than normal. I used the back roads off of 6th Street to get in some practice turns and some quick stops.
After a couple of miles of easy riding, I entered I-10, headed west. Before I knew it, I was on the curved ramp to the Loop. The ramp where I had hit the block of wood. I took the ramp with my mind in high gear. I was re-living the incident, trying to figure out what I could do differently "next time."
Several theories advanced themselves. First, I had been too closely following the eighteen-wheeler that was ahead of me that day. Thus, I didn't have enough time to swerve. Second, I was on a curve, and it's very hard to swerve in the middle of the arc of a curve. I'm not sure what I can do about that. In theory, if you get in trouble in a lean, you are supposed to straighten out, apply brakes or whatever, then get back into the lean. Sounds great on paper. The problem is one of time. And time was in short supply that morning. See point one.
However, I came up with a third "solution" this morning. The curved on-ramp is a single lane of travel. No shoulders. I was in the exact middle, giving myself maximum maneuver room. Of course, I didn't have the reaction time to do much maneuvering. So I needed another approach.
Here's what I decided. In the early morning, freeway debris tends to be in the middle of the lane. That's because cars haven't had the chance to hit it enough to bounce it onto the shoulder or onto the lane divider lines where tires will miss it. Given this fact, where I was in the width of the lane was exactly wrong. I should have been following either the driver side or passenger side tire tracks of the eighteen wheeler. The trucker had simply straddled the block. So had the other cars ahead of me. If I had been in their tire tracks, I wouldn't have hit the block. This is especially important while in the arc of a curve, when it is hard to swerve. Anyway, that's my current best thought. If you, dear readers, have other ideas, send them my way.
Enough of that. The rest of the ride was great. It felt wonderful to be back on two wheels. On one level, I was enjoying the jockeying necessary to survive Houston traffic. On another level, I was enjoying the thinking time I get when riding the bike. I had not realized how much I had missed the opportunity to "contemplate." Contemplate ideas. All kinds of ideas. This is the part of riding I like the most. Problems appear and they are dealt with. Not always "solved," but always "considered." As I have said more than once, just figuring out the proper question is way over half the battle. And riding gives me lots of time to think about the proper questions. And re-engaging in that process revealed to me how much I had missed it.
I rode my normal workday circuit (with the Highway 59 extension) three times. That got me a quick sixty miles. And I was always near an exit if the predicted rain hit during my ride. In fact, the rain stayed away for a couple of more hours before it hit with a vengeance. But by then I was home, with 10,310 miles on the odometer. And my sea legs back. It felt great. See you on the road. And don't forget to think.
* * * * *
February 24, 2006:
Last night they predicted rain by dawn this morning.
At dawn it was 51 degrees--and dry. I am only reporting this out of a sense of nostalgia. The Rebel was still in the shop. Thus, no ride this morning. Fortunately the parts were winging their way to Houston, compliments of Federal Express.
Cynthia was especially happy about that. At least that's what I think. This morning she made some comment about hoping the parts arrived so I could get back to riding my bike. Something about needing the riding to even out my disposition. I think some esoteric attempt at humor on my part provoked the wish. Or maybe a comment on current state of the world.
Anyway, I called Stubbs around 5 p.m. They had just finished installing the gaskets. The bike would be ready shortly. They were open till seven p.m. Within five minutes of the time I hung up, a heavy band of rain blew through, getting everything wet. Well, wet or dry, I was retrieving the Rebel tonight!
I read a little until I heard Maria arrive. I quickly suited up in full winter gear (the house thermometer said it was in the 50's) and we headed for Stubbs in her Jeep. The rain was still falling, and the streets were very slick. We could see other cars spinning their wheels. We haven't had rain in a while, and the oil was floating to the surface.
We took the back roads to Stubbs. I was hopeful the rain would wash the oil off the roads before I had to ride back. In fact, the rain let up just as we drove up to Stubbs.
David had my bike ready to go in no time. I am continually amazed at the great service I get at Stubbs. They put auto dealers to shame. It is no fun taking your bike in, but Stubbs makes the experience as painless as possible.
After I put on my helmet and gloves, I headed for the driveway to get on Telephone Road. I had the choke on a little, since the bike hadn't seen much action in a week. When I tried to accelerate onto the street, the engine died. I was astonished I had lost my touch in just a week.
I adjusted the amount of choke and tried again. The engine started without trouble, but it died again when I tried to add some throttle. I tried a new choke position. And I wondered what Maria was thinking as she watch me kill the bike over and over again.
About the fourth attempt, it finally dawned. I looked down at the tripometer, which said I had 157 miles. That's 157 miles since the last gas fillup. I was out of gas in my main tank. I switched to the reserve tank, and all was go. The Rebel accelerated out of the parking lot, without problems.
Now, all I had to contend with was the slick streets. I took it nice and slow, especially on the turns. All went well until I came to a railroad intersection. The crossing arms were down, and a slow-moving freight was blocking my progress. Maria drove up behind me. I turned off the bike and walked up to her window.
I explained the situation with the fuel, and told her I was going to take a detour to get some gas. Which I did.
When I pulled up to the driveway I had 10,250 miles on the bike. It was good to be back in the saddle again. I have really grown addicted to my daily rides. And I was really missing them.
Maria heard me coming, and had the garage door open. I was home--safe and sound and (mostly) dry. I will definitely see you on the road.
* * * * *
February 23, 2006:
No ride this morning. The Rebel is in the shop.
Stubbs told me the three gaskets and a seal blew. They are ordering them. I offered to pay for Fed-Ex to get the parts here overnight. Stay tuned for further progress.
* * * * *
February 22, 2006:
Last night the fog moved in. It was still here this morning. Sarah got her walk, of course, but the streets were slippery. Not the kind of weather for bike riding, even without an oil leak.
John came by with his trailer around 5:30 pm. He had all the straps and gizmos left over from his days of dirt bike riding. In short order we had lifted the Rebel onto the trailer, strapped the bike down, and were headed for Stubbs.
We stopped a couple of times to check the load. Traffic was pretty light. We stuck to the back roads. Before I knew it, we were in the parking lot for Stubbs. It wasn't even 6:30 yet.
We unloaded the bike and I went inside to the service department. I told David about the leak. He took a look and said he had seen leaks like this before. Usually it was a leaking gasket. There are three of them in the area involved. A check on the computer showed one gasket in stock. I told him I wanted to pay for Fed-Ex to get the parts here overnight if the bike could be ready before the weekend. He made a notation on the service sheet. He is going to call me tomorrow when they ascertain what is needed.
I treated John to dinner at the Skeeter's Restaurant where we ate during our Rider's Edge course. Tonight we took a step up on the menu. John had the steak ranchero and I had the fajitas. Excellent.
At dinner, and on the way back home, we discussed the problems of the world. We almost had them all solved, but we pulled up to the house before we could finalize our solutions. Oh well. At least we solved the problem of the oil leak. Be happy for small victories.
* * * * *
February 21, 2006:
Today it was 48 degrees when we got up. Sarah was happy. She got her walk. I did not get in a ride because of the oil leak.
Stubbs was closed yesterday. Today is the first chance I have to take it in. Unfortunately, I have a meeting to attend right after work. John and I are scheduled to trailer the bike to Stubbs after work tomorrow.
* * * * *
February 20, 2006:
Today dawned at 36 degrees. Sarah did not get her walk. I did not get my ride. Of course, I didn't ride because of the oil leak. But I am glad I didn't have to decided how long to test the cold.
Stubbs is closed today. So the bike remains in the garage. Stay tuned.
* * * * *
February 19, 2006:
Today dawned at 41 degrees. However, a stiff wind made the day miserable for beast and biker.
For the most part, that was irrelevant to me. I still have my oil leak and the Rebel is still out of action. John came over around one in the afternoon to give it a look. We could not find the exact location of the leak, but he narrowed it down to either a loose drain plug or a leaking gasket. Either way, he did not recommend that I ride the Rebel to Stubbs. Something about oil shooting out on the back tire and traction.
In our efforts to locate the source of the leak, however, I managed to get in a short ride. I had added a quart of 10-40W oil to the bike. It brought the oil level up to the proper mark. However, John wanted to see if the oil would leak under pressure. Simply running the bike at idle was not helping. He suggested I take the bike for a short spin. That was all I needed.
I suited up in helmet, boots and jacket. I told John I was setting a standard for the neighborhood kids, and I didn't want them throwing it back in my face that I had ridden without the proper safety equipment. John agreed. So, suitably attired, I took the bike for a four block spin.
I know, that's not much to brag about. But I did practice two low-speed u-turns. And I managed to get the transmission all the way to second gear, at least for a short time. And we did get the leak flowing.
But we were still unable to conclude with confidence exactly what was causing the leak. I am convinced the block of wood I hit on Friday damaged some part of the Rebel's innerds. I just don't know which parts.
John has agreed to haul the bike to Stubbs. Because of the amount of oil, I reluctantly agreed that towing was the safest course. I don't want to skid, and I don't want the engine to seize up. And, by the way, my short ride caused the odometer to roll over to 10,239 miles. Stay tuned.
* * * * *
February 18, 2006:
Maria and I were at the American Rose Center in Shreveport today. The American Rose Center is the display garden for the American Rose Society. We had driven there Friday afternoon. We got back to Houston a little after eight this evening. It is an enjoyable trip. Rosarians from all over the country show up each year in mid-February to prune the thousands of roses at the rose garden.
The weather is always chancey. This year, it rained Friday night, and the temperatures fell into the low thirties. In fact, by Saturday morning it was 32 degrees with a light mist. And wind. Ugh.
Because I was in Shreveport (and because of the oil leak), I could not get in a motorcycle ride on Saturday. The best I could do was wear my PolorTec Wind Block shirt to stay warm. Even at 32 degrees it did the job. Because of the thorns on the roses and the wet conditions, I was reduced to wearing a nylon windbreaker over the PolarTec. I stayed warm all day--except my fingers. My left glove became quickly soaked from grabbing branches of very wet roses. And a wet glove is a cold glove. Next year I will take water-proof gloves. And the long-johns I wear when riding.
This year I had to content myself with appreciating that my motorcycle gear was helpful with my rose hobby. But is wasn't the same as being on two wheels. Oh well.
* * * * *
February 17, 2006:
It was 67 degrees this morning when I awoke at 5:30 a.m. A perfect temperature for taking Sarah for her walk. We had traveled about six blocks when the front hit. One step it was in the high sixties, and the next step it dropped at least five degrees. It was really weird to walk through the leading edge of the front. In literally one step.
It made me think what I would have done on the Rebel if I thought it was 67 (and dressed accordingly) and hit ten degrees lower during my normal workday circuit.
Sadly, I don't have to worry about that. The oil leak remains. I was out of town on a case yesterday and didn't get back until after dark. I have not yet had the time for a close examination of the bike.
John has suggested the wood may have knocked the oil drain plug loose. I am thinking the wood nicked a rubber hose. Does the oil travel in rubber hoses? I sure don't know. Stay tuned for further speculation. And maybe a few facts.
* * * * *
February 16, 2006:
I have an out-of-town appointment today, so I got up a half hour early to make sure I had time to get in my ride. And, of course, to make sure Sarah got her walk. Which she did. And which I did.
After suiting up, I checked the air in the tires. All was fine. I headed out. It was 68 degrees. I entered I-10, heading west. I added the Highway 59 extension to my circuit, and made the first twenty miles. I started the second circuit. Traffic was getting heavier.
I got caught behind an eighteen-wheeler as I took the ramp to Loop 610. We were going about thirty miles per hour. We were on a curve. All of a sudden, a block of something appeared from under the truck. It was right in my path. Because of the traffic, I was following the truck pretty closely. I had no time to swerve. Or, if I did, I didn't manage to get the job done.
I hit the block with my front tire. I think it was wood, but I didn't see it long enough to be sure. I sensed the block careening off to the right. I concentrated on feeling if the tire was damaged. All seemed fine.
Due to the configuration of the freeway, I could not exit until TC Jester. I took that exit and pulled into a gas station. I stopped the bike and did a visual inspection of both the front and rear tires. Thankfully, all appeared fine. No nicks or cuts.
I got back on the freeway and continued my ride. I took the Highway 59 extension again, in an effort to rack up some more miles on a pretty morning. Besides, I was way ahead of schedule at that point.
As often happens, traffic backed up at the merge point for I-10. I was stuck behind an old clunker. Every so often I would catch the smoke from its exhaust in my headlight. I was glad when traffic speeds picked up and I got away from the smoker.
I took the Heights exit and headed for the house. I traveled down Cortland again. No dogs. No pickups. However, at White Oak, I stopped for the stop sign and noticed smoke from the clunker. Only the clunker was my bike. I was dripping oil. The block must have bounced into something and caused a leak.
I quickly made my way home. I spread newspapers in the garage and parked the bike. I noted that the odometer had 10,238 miles. And the leak continued. Slow, but steady. Looks like I am grounded until I can get to Stubbs. Ugh. What a week. I guess I won't see you on the road.
* * * * *
February 15, 2006:
When I awoke today, I was pleased to see that the outside temperature was 62 degrees. Sarah was pleased also. We took her for a nice walk. I guess we went at a more leisurely pace than normal, because it was 6:12 by the time I was suited up and started for the garage.
I quickly checked the air and headed out. Even though I was running a little late, I decided to try for 40 miles this morning. But first, I had to get some gas.
After adding fuel, I got on I-10, headed west. Traffic wasn't too bad. I headed for Highway 59, and turned south toward I-10. As I approached the exit ramp, things clogged up. I was in stop and go long enough to realize I would not be able to add the extension to the second circuit. In fact, with my late start and the time I had spent getting gas, I gave serious consideration to calling it a ride after the first circuit. But, of course, I didn't.
The skies were full of clouds. I guess that held the smells in. On both circuits, I inhaled the wonderful odor of fresh baked bread from a nearby bakery. The second loop went without incident. I took the Heights exit and headed down the feeder road. I noted that the odometer was exactly one mile short of 10,200 when I took the exit.
When I got on the feeder, I saw a car pointed at me from my right. It was waiting to turn onto the feeder. As I approached, I thumbed on my brights to make sure the driver saw me. I then slowed down to turn right onto Cortland. All was going well.
The other day a dog had run into my path on Corltand. I took a close look at the street to see if I could figure out how that had caught me unawares. This morning, however, there were no cars parked along the side of the road. And no black dogs.
I was cruising along at around thirty miles per hour. I watched a white pickup pull up to its stop sign at 5th Street. As normal, my right hand was covering my front brake. When I was less than two car lengths from the intersection the pickup pulled out in front of me. I don't know if I had slowed down for the pickup or not. I do know that I had the right-of-way. And I also knew that doesn't count for much if a truck meets a motorcycle.
The adrenaline never rushed in. I'm not sure why. I remember thinking to myself that unless I stopped the truck was going to hit me. And I remember thinking that there was no way this truck was doing what my eyes told me it was. The truck had the stop sign. I had watched it come to a stop. I had my brights on. All should have been well.
But all wasn't well. The truck kept coming. I did a real hard quick stop. One portion of my brain was telling me that I was going to skid. Another part was saying there was no way I was going to let myself skid. All parts were yelling, "Stop, stop, stop."
The truck made it half way into the intersection before the driver realized I was there. He got stopped. I got stopped. I did not skid. But I did stop at a crazy angle. My front tire was pointed at the truck, not away from it. Was that the result of target fixation? I don't know.
I do know that I had locked the rear tire and that it had skidded. I don't even remember thinking to put on the rear brake. I also knew that the bike was starting to tilt over from the quick stop. I extended my left foot hard in a supreme effort to keep the bike from going down. I think, by that time, that it had registered that the truck had stopped. I remember being royally upset that this driver might be the cause of me dumping the bike. And I remember thinking that there was no way I was going to let that happen.
I am surprised that I didn't hurt my left leg due to the force with which I planted it. I am sure glad the Rebel is a light bike. I was able to remain upright. I still had the clutch lever squeezed in, so the bike had not stalled. Without thinking about what was behind me, I put the kick stand down, turning off the bike. I had to collect my thoughts.
The driver rolled down his window and apologized profusely. I silently pointed to his stop sign. I even check to reconfirm that I didn't have a stop sign. He was sincerely scared. He knew how close he had come to hitting me.
For the first time in my riding career, I got to hear the plaintive cry of motorists everywhere in such situations. The driver stuck his head out the window and said, "I'm sorry. I didn't see you." All I could think to say was, "I even had my brights on." He looked so distraught, I felt a little sorry for him. I raised my visor and told him no harm done. And I went on my way.
I guess it was my good luck, but for the rest of the ride I was behind a slow moving vehicle. I noted that I was only going about 10 mph. I had no desire to pass.
I headed directly home. When I rolled the odometer over to mile 12,200 I was still traveling at about ten miles per hour. It didn't even bother me.
I was glad to pull up to the driveway. I was glad to be in one piece. I was glad the Rebel had no scratches. And I knew I would have something to write about on this blog. But most of all, I was glad to still be here to write it.
A final thought: This was a close call. I am generally pleased with my reactions. And I am definitely ready to go riding again. Carefully. Thoughtfully. And with a grin on my face. See you on the road.
* * * * *
February 14, 2006:
Happy Valentine's Day! The day we celebrate the wonders of love. I declare myself an unapologetic romantic. I believe the world will be a better place when more attention is paid to the art and meaning of love.
Practicing what I preach, I put off my morning run until after Maria went to work. Oh sure, maybe the fact that it was 42 degrees out when I got up had something to do with it. But I did make her breakfast, and gave her a card and gift to celebrate the day.
And then, since I didn't want to come home from work and disappear on my bike, I went for a morning ride even though the temperature was in the forties. Yes, Sarah was wondering why my good feelings didn't extend to taking her for a walk, but Maria and I can join Sarah this afternoon.
The ride today was totally unlike yesterday's fiasco. Hardly any traffic. No crazy drivers. Not much to report. Just forty miles of good riding. In short order I got the odometer up to 10,165 miles. And yes, I am in a great mood. I hope your day is special, on and off the road.
* * * * *
February 13, 2006:
They say that spring will be here this afternoon. But it sure wasn't here this morning. The radio said the temperature was 33 degrees. Channel 11 reported 37. The house thermometer said 38. Too cold on all counts for Sarah's walk. And I even put off my morning ride until after Maria left for work.
I had hoped that this would give Mister Sun time to do his thing. He must have slept in. It was only 39 degrees when I left for my ride. After dressing in full winter gear, and checking the air in the tires, I headed out. It was cold. I could feel it within one block. That did not bode well for a pleasant ride.
I got on I-10, heading west, and immediately felt the full effects of a sixty mile an hour wind chill. Unfortunately, I did not feel them for long. Just as I passed the exit for Washington, the freeway bogged down to stop and stop. At least I was warm again.
The congestion did not let up until I was on the Loop. Then, all was well until I approached the exit for I-45 South. Once again, bumper to bumper disaster. I made a tactical decision to stay on the Loop and try my luck on Highway 59. All was fine until I topped the hill just after crossing atop I-45. Then, when it was too late to do anything about it, the traffic on the Loop also slowed to a stop. And I mean stop. It seemed that we never did faster than 10 mph and we usually did considerably less. Cars were changing lanes into oncoming traffic. Brakes and horns were blaring. Drivers were frustrated.
With much trepidation, I continued in the far right-hand lane. I was worried because the car behind me was possessed with a driver who was reading some report that was perched on top of his steering column. I had to hope he looked up often enough to stop the necessary number of times.
Finally, someone cut in between us. I was glad to have a new car on my tail. I studied the driver. Luck was with me because he wasn't even on his cell phone. I continued down the Loop in leap-frog manner. The car ahead of me would pull ahead about a car length and I would cruise into the gap. And then stop. And then watch to see if the car behind me stopped. Ugh.
This continued on until just before the exit to Highway 59. Then I saw the car that was causing all the back up. A black compact had a flat. The driver was outside the car, tire jack in hand. Two wreckers were also parked in front of the black car. At this point the freeway is five lanes wide. The compact was in the far right hand lane. Almost like a shoulder. There was no reason everyone had to slow down much, let alone stop. But such is morning traffic in Houston.
Once I cleared the flat tire, speeds picked right up. I continued the rest of the trip at the speed limit. I took the Heights exit and headed home on Cortland. Then, just to show me that 10,000 miles doesn't mean you can relax, a black dog decided to wander into my path. He came from between a line of parked cars. I take this road almost every morning. There has never been a loose dog anywhere along it.
I noticed the dog immediately, once he appeared from between the cars. I guessed from the way he mnoved that he was not out to chase me. So I braked hard. And swerved a little. Still, it was the dog's instincts that saved the day. The dog pulled up fast when he saw me. He got out of my path, to the benefit of us both. Yikes. Saved from a crash the day after completing 10,000 safe miles.
I managed to get on home without further incident. It had been an event-filled ride. One I don't want to duplicate any time soon. But I was glad to note that I have 10,125 miles on the bike. And the frozen fingers to go with temperatures in the thirties. Stay warm out there.
* * * * *
February 12, 2006:
All the weather people predicted a freeze for last night. Here, in the Heights, it got down to 35 degrees. Not a freeze, but still our coldest night yet this warm winter. Once again, Sarah demanded her morning walk. I put her off until eight. By then it was 45 degrees out. We bundled up and made brisk work of it.
By 11:30 it was 59 degrees out. Not perfect riding weather, but great for February. John showed up promptly at noon, just as he said he would. I told him I was not surprised because I figured he was riding around the neighborhood watching the time. He agreed that he was doing exactly that. I do admire punctuality.
Because I had already topped off my gas tank and added air to the rear tire, we were ready to go in short order. Except that I asked Maria to take a couple of pictures of us to preserve the record. I haven't seem them yet. And John had to show me his new digital watch on his Harley. It is designed to be glare-proof. And it is certainly several steps above the primitive belt loop watch I wear.
After John checked the air in his tires, and we posed for the photographs, we were good to go. Because it was my ride, I took the lead. It was 12:15 when we pulled out. I did my normal warmup, and we entered I-10, headed west. I noted that the odometer turned over to mile 9900 as we crossed Shepherd. The first milestone of the day.
We took the Loop to 290, and headed for Chappell Hill. The plan was to get the opening leg of our trip over as quickly as possible. There is little of interest between Houston and Waller. All straight and level. And plenty of Houston traffic.
And, as an added bonus, today the ride was on the cool and windy side. Not an auspicious start to the excursion. Still, we needed to get to Chappell Hill before the real fun could start. Not to mention eat lunch. But I repeat myself.
Anyway, we made it to Chappell Hill in record time. That fair city is about 60 miles from the house. I wanted to eat at Bever's Restaurant. However, after I pulled in to park, John pointed out that the establishment was closed on Sundays. Time for plan B.
We started up the bikes, did a u-turn, and took FM 1155 back to Highway 290. We crossed 290 and turned into a parking lot for the Chappell Hill Cafe. They had anything you might want, so long as it was fried. I ordered a hamburger and fries and John had the chicken strips and home fries. We both had ice tea, in spite of the numbness in our fingers.
We took rather longer than normal with our meal. I think the cold weather had something to do with that. We were both eager to get to the hills and curves that begin at Chappell Hill, but we both recognized that the day was young. And cold.
After I was finally able to get someone to take my money for the bill, we went out to the bikes. John showed me the helmet lock system he had purchased for his Harley. He hasn't had time to install it yet, so we had used the Rebel's helmet lock system, which will fit two helmets. So will John's, with more room to spare than on the Honda. I can't wait to try it out. On my own Harley, I mean!
We left the restaurant and headed north on FM 1155. At the intersection with FM 2193 we went west to State Highway 105. This stretch of road has fond memories for me. John and I made our first run together along this route. It is full of hills and curves. And not much traffic. It is a great run for thinking about whatever is on your mind. Yes, you have to pay attention to where on the road you position your bike for the turns. But you also have plenty of time to admire the scenery or think about anything you want. Which I did.
At State Highway 105 we turned north until it intersected with FM 390, which we took west. This stretch of road is some of the most beautiful riding in this part of the state. It is a biker's heaven of hills, curves and scenic views. We continued on 390 past Independence and Gay Hill. I was having such fun with thinking about curves that I almost missed the odometer turnover. When I looked down, I was five miles short of mile 10,000.
I decided to concentrate on the odometer for the next five miles. We were approaching Burton. I began to worry that I would turn the landmark mile at 3 mph as I rode through the city. Not to worry. We were about a mile outside Burton when the magic happened.
I was coming up on a curve. But it was far enough away for what I had planned. No cars were coming. The wind was quiet for the moment. I watched the odometer roll from 9999.9 to 10,000.0. And while watching I took my hands off the grips and extended them all the way out. Yes, I did the bird once again. It may not be the smartest thing one can do on a bike, but it felt great. It cemented the fact that I have achieved a goal I set way back in May. Ten thousand fun-filled miles on two wheels. All right!
Soon enough, we were in Burton. Not much was open. We headed west on Highway 290 for about a mile or two until we came to the exit for FM 2503. We took that all the way to Nelsonville, where we picked up Highway 159. This is another nice stretch of road. Not as many hills as on 390, but plenty enough to keep you on your toes. And plenty enough to make a memorable ride.
We were soon approaching Bellville. When we were about a mile away, the Rebel started sputtering. I looked at the tripometer. It only had 135 miles on it. I always get around 150 miles on my main tank. Maybe it was something else. But the only thing I could think to do was switch to the reserve tank.
The sputtering stopped. Everything was fine. During most of this trip I had had the throttle twisted as far as it would go. My speed was more a function of the wind than of the throttle. I guess that had eaten through a lot more gas than normal. Anyway, once the reserve tank was in play, I was able to make it to a Shell station that magically appeared within sixty seconds of the time my main tank went dry. I was never happier to see Bellville.
After John and I gassed up, we headed for the courthouse plaza. We circled downtown Bellville, and headed for Newman's Bakery. On our first trip I had promised John we would stop there for coffee and a donut. But that trip we had eaten lunch in Brenham and we weren't hungry by the time we hit Bellville about 15 minutes later. At least I wasn't. So, I had skipped Newman's. And John had ribbed me more than once about his missing donut.
I had planned lunch early this trip. And the cold weather made that coffee even more appetizing. So, this time, I made sure we made a stop at this biker's mecca. I noted that a time & temperature sign said the it was 62 degrees out. A little warmth at last.
We pulled into the parking area and parked our bikes. I took off my helmet and put on my do-rag. Appearances are important when going into Newman's. I told John that we would skip the helmet locks, and use our lids to reserve a table.
Which was no problem at 3:45 in the afternoon. Yes, there were plenty of customers in the bakery. But there were also lots of tables to choose from. We selected a suitable location and we each got a coffee and glazed donut. Wonderful donuts. And, given the cold we had experienced for most of the day, the hot coffee hit the spot.
All too soon, it was time to go. I had promised John that he would have a chance to peruse the biography section at the Half Price Books on Highway 529 if we had time. I declared that we most likely would. We headed east on Highway 529.
This stretch of road is usually wonderful. I have been over it many time. One usually see more bicycles and motorcycles than automobiles. But not this day.
The road was packed with farmers hauling equipment and ranchers hauling hay. Speeds were just under the speed limit. Because of the unusual congestion, the curves were not all that fun. I sure hope John didn't write off the route because of the unusual congestion.
As we approached Highway 6, I turned into the parking lot for the Half Price Books. We parked and entered. I estimated we had fifty minutes of light left in the day. I used the old Cherokee trick to estimate sunset. You extend your hand to arm's length. Thumb up, plam facing you. You place your fingers between the bottom of the sun and the horizon. Each finger represents ten minutes. This is a very accurate measurement. And you don't even happen to be an Indian to use it. I'm not sure John believed my estimate. I know he didn't ask to see my Cherokee Nation Blue Card. Oh well.
I went inside to check out the current non-fiction while John remained outside to call Nadine. When he came in he headed straight for the world history section. I headed for the philosophy books. I located an interesting book on fifty great ideas in philosophy. John showed up in short order with a book on Winston Churchill and one on Benjamin Franklin.
While we were in line to pay, I spotted a history book I could not live without. Two good books. A successful foray. And a successful conclusion to a great ride. John and I shook hand in the parking lot and declared the day at end. We would travel together down 290, but he would take the West Loop south, while I wanted to take the North Loop east.
I honked my horn three times as I passed Cynthia's apartment. John and I headed southeast on 290 until we came to the intersection with Loop 610. John saluted me with his (much louder) horn and headed on home. I took the North Loop east.
A glance at my odometer revealed I would be about a mile short of 10,100 if I did my normal circuit. So I threw in the Highway 59 extension, which added five miles to the distance to the house. Traffic was fine. It was still light out. As I headed east on the Loop, I could see the full moon in the distance. An incredible sight.
I watched the odometer roll over to mile 10,100 as I finished the turn from Highway 59 onto I-10, heading west. Milestone number three.
Four miles later I was in my driveway, with 10,104 miles on the odometer. It was my longest trip yet, at 206 miles in just under six hours. I was tired. But I could still see the glow of the sunset. And I could still feel the glow of one of the best rides so far. I hope you enjoyed reading about it as much as I did taking it. See you on the road.
* * * * *
February 11, 2006:
When I got up this morning it was 41 degrees. It was too cold for a morning ride. It was 5:30 am. It was time for a hot bath and a good book.
Sarah was not understanding. First, I don't think she comprehends the concept of "weekend." When I finally got out of the tub, I went down and fed her her breakfast. By her actions she made it clear that this morning she wanted her walk, regardless of whether I wanted my ride. And, before I brewed the coffee, and before Maria fixed breakfast for the two-footed residents, we bundled up and took Sarah for her stroll.
It was cold. And windy. It had rained yesterday and Sarah discovered that the waters in the ditches were not uncomfortably cool. At least I figure that was her conclusion. She certainly sampled enough of them.
After we got back--and had breakfast--we headed out to do errands. Sarah stayed at home. We went to Robertson's nursery in Pasadena to pick up some new roses. Maria picked out bushes of Neon Cowboy, Midnight Blue and Starry Night. All the plants looked very healthy. I have always been pleased with the roses from Robertson's.
Next, we went to Southwest Fertilizer and got new blades for our Felco pruners. This is the time to prune you roses in Houston, and we have around a hundred to shear. Sharp blades are important. We then grabbed lunch. I did some more birthday shopping for Maria while she visited a shoe store. We both were successful.
But, by the time we finished, it was getting late. And traffic was heavy getting back home. In fact, traffic was heavy everywhere. When we got back I quickly unloaded the Jeep and went upstairs to change into my riding gear. I added air to the front tire and headed out.
I like to have a destination for my rides. Today's goal was a visit to the Half Price Books on FM 1960 and Highway 59. I headed for I-10, east. At the intersection of Height and the I-10 feeder I saw Eric coming toward me. He is a neighbor from down the street. He also has a Honda. We exchanged silent greetings and I got on I 10, headed for Highway 59.
As I headed north on 59, I noted that the winds were especially strong. In fact, just staying in my lane was taking most of my attention. Sometimes I felt like I was leaning sideways just to keep going straight. And it wasn't just the wind. It was cold out there.
I was happy to get inside the Half Price Books. Unfortunately, I was running out of time. I had to be back home by 5 p.m. so I could get to the gym before it closed. That left me with only twenty minutes at the bookstore. Talk about pressure.
Still, I managed to find two birthday presents and a book for myself during that time. When I went to pay, the clerk asked me what I was riding. Probably had something to do with the fact that I plopped my helmet on the counter along with my purchases. Not to mention all the riding gear I was wearing. He was a fan of Triumphs. And he was sad he had sold his. Once again, a total stranger connected with me simply because I was dressed as a biker. Weird. But fun.
And so was the ride back. The wind wasn't as bad, and the traffic was light. However, it seemed colder than on the way out. The high speeds meant I had time to gas up for tomorrow's trip before heading home. Which is what I did.
After getting the gas, I rode up to the driveway. I now have 9898 miles on the bike. And I got back in time to make the gym.
In fact, by the time I got back, it was still light out. They are predicting a freeze for tonight. So, I covered the lime and orange trees. They were in bloom. So was the hibiscus. I got them inside the garage. And I even had enough light to give the Rebel a bath for the big ride tomorrow. The wind was still blowing hard, so I am not sure I really understood Maria's comments about playing in the water when it was 45 degrees out. Something about the fact that I was hazy. Or lazy. Or something like that. I do know that my fingers quickly went numb in the water. And it rapidly got so dark that I won't know until tomorrow what kind of a wash job I did.
But I am ready for tomorrow's 10,000 mile run. And I paired down the needed mileage to 102 miles. That shouldn't be a problem. John and I start out at noon. Keep reading for further adventures. See you on the road.
* * * * *
February 10, 2006:
For some reason, I awoke this morning at 4:30 a.m. The radio said it was sixty-one degrees out. And rain was expected to hit round noon, so it should not be a factor in my morning ride. Or so I figured. I got in some reading, then we got up and accompanied Sarah on her walk.
At first, there was the slightest mist out. That disappeared within a couple of blocks. The streets were dry. I was sure that freeway riding would be no problem.
When we got back from the walk, I fed Sarah and headed out. I checked the air in the tires. Everything was fine. As I entered I-10, heading west, I noted that there were a few drops of moisture on my visor. That amount increased enough that I had to use my gloved finger to wipe the visor. After I passed the Washington exit, I had to clear the visor again. But I was stuck on the freeway for a few miles. I decided to allow extra room for braking. Fortunately, traffic was very light.
As I started east on the North Loop, I had to wipe my visor for the third time. The mist was not heavy, but it was constantly present. I decided, in spite of the pleasant riding temperature, to cut my ride short. I dislike riding on slick streets, and it hadn't rained in a while. Any more moisture, and there could be trouble.
The rain increased as I turned south on I-45. I spent more time wiping my visor. In fact, I noticed some of the drivers had turned their wipers on. My earlier decision seemed correct. Time to head home. I sure didn't want to test my stability during a quick stop on these roads.
Regardless of my "wants," I did have to test my skills at a "quick slow." Traffic backed up on I-45, causing me to have to brake pretty heavily. At least we didn't come to a stop. And I had a wide margin of safety. Still, all doubts about the decision to cut the ride short were erased.
I got on I-10 and headed for the Heights exit. The rain really picked up. I could hear it hitting the top of my helmet. The visor was thick with rain drops. Finger wipes were frequent. All the cars had their wipers on.
I carefully slowed down at the Heights exit. I paced myself so that the feeder traffic was no danger. I then eased over to the far right-hand lane and took Cortland on home. By then, the side streets were totally wet. Fortunately, I did not have to find out for sure if they were also "slick." I made it home fine. I now have 9842 miles on the bike. My goal is to be about 80 to 100 miles short of 10,000 by the start of the Sunday ride John and I are taking. That means I need to get in around sixty miles on Saturday. And the high is predicted to be 52 degrees. At least the rain is supposed to be gone.
* * * * *
February 9, 2006:
Last night Maria said we would take Sarah for her morning walk as long as the temperature was 45 degrees or above. Sadly for Sarah, today dawned at 44 degrees. A deal is a deal. I let Maria sleep and Sarah and I went down for her breakfast. I then suited up and headed out. I had set no cut-off temperatures for my ride.
And I wanted to get in the normal workday thirty mile ride. I am fine tuning my mileage so John and I can go for my 10,000 mile ride on Sunday. I am doing fine. Unfortunately, Mister Sun is not doing his part. Even in the afternoon, the temperatures on Sunday are predicted for the 50's. That is borderline pleasant riding. Fifty-eight and above is great. Fifty-four and under gets dicey. Hopefully, John will show up in full winter gear!
But, back to this morning's ride. I warmed up and got on I-10, headed west. Traffic was very light. Speeds were fast. Conditions changed rapidly.
The worst kind of a quick stop is one that ends in a crash. The second scariest kind of a quick stop is one where you manage to stop fine, but your rear-view mirror reveals that the closest car behind you is a considerable distance away. You know that car is eventually going to come upon the situation that caused everyone else to stop. But it won't be a gradual slowing down of all the cars in the line. No. You will be at a complete stop, and the driver behind you will be facing an "emergency." The traditional solution is to tap your brakes to signal that driver that everyone is stopping suddenly--and that he needs to get on his brakes even though it looks like clear sailing for several car lengths ahead of him. That's what I did this morning.
Fortunately, it worked. I began tapping my brakes immediately when I saw the cars ahead of me were stopped. There are two brakes on a bike. I remembered to let off the front brake and just tap the rear brake. If you are riding one or the other of those brakes, your brake lights stay on no matter how much tapping you are doing on the other brake. Whether to "tap" the front brake or the rear brake depends on the situation before you. A really quick stop will call for front braking. I had more time this morning, so I used the rear brake to slow down, then finished off with the front brake.
Either way, it is not the most efficient system. Just this weekend I was reading about a kit you can get that makes your rear brake light "pulse" on and off when you apply it. Every time you apply it. Without thought on your part. The "pulses" rapidly increase until the brake light is constantly on. This device is definitely on my "must buy" list, especially after this morning.
Nothing else to report about the ride. My fingers were cold. Even my eyes were tearing from the cold air working its way up the inside of my visor. Still, it was an enjoyable ride--for forty-five minutes. I now have 9826 miles on the bike. Rain is expected for tomorrow. Stay tuned.
* * * * *
February 8, 2006:
I got up at 4 a.m. this morning, after another restless night. I read for awhile, then tried to go back to sleep. At six, Sarah made it clear that, walk or not, she wanted her breakfast. We went down for the paper. It was 41 degrees out. Sarah ate her food and I went back upstairs and suited up in full winter gear. Cold or not, I was getting in a ride.
The air in the front tire was about a half a pound low, but I decided to leave it alone. Sometimes, it seems that really cold mornings cause the tire pressure to be a tad low. We know that warm air expands. I guess cold air contracts enough to register on the gauge.
I warmed up and headed west on I-10. My plan was to do a single circuit. I figured I could bear the cold that long. However, once I got going, I didn't want to stop. First, I added the Highway 59 extension onto the trip. An extra five miles. Then, as I neared the Heights exit, I decided my fingers weren't completely numb, so I could go for another loop. Which I did.
The thinking time was valuable. Once again, solutions were evasive, but I was glad for the opportunity to be alone with my thoughts. As alone as one can be in the midst of rush-hour traffic.
And speaking of which, I had three incidents this morning. I don't think my "thoughts philosophical" had anything to do with them. In fact, my reactions were right on target.
First, I decided to pass a slow-moving van. The van and I were in the far right-hand lane. I signaled my change, did a head check, and started to ease over. The head check showed a pickup truck two lanes to my left had also decided to occupy the middle lane-at the same time and place I did. It was dark out. Maybe he didn't see me. Anyway, we both swerved back to our starting points and I slowed down to let him complete his lane change.
The second incident occurred while I was caught up in stop-and-go on I-10 after I exited Highway 59. Once again, I was changing lanes. I had checked behind me, and all was clear. I also had plenty of room ahead of me. Nonetheless, the car behind me must not have been paying attention. When he saw me in his lane, he hit his brakes, causing his tires to squeal. He never got close to me, and I had plenty of space ahead to accelerate into, but that sound of rubber stopping always causes the adrenaline to surge.
The third incident was another lane changer. This time I was wholly within my lane. I was proceeding along when another pickup decided to change into my lane. No signal. No looking. At least no "seeing." I was alert, however. I simple tapped the back brake and slowed down. Not a really close call. But that was because I was prepared.
All in all, the ride was excellent. It was good to get in a morning ride of thirty-five miles. I was still back at the house by seven. And I now have 9797 miles on the bike. Time to thaw out my fingers.
* * * * *
February 7, 2006:
Last night, when we took Sarah for her bedtime walk, we could feel the air getting colder. This morning, I awoke and turned on Channel 11 to check the overnight low. It was 42 degrees out. No walk for Sarah.
I took her down to get the paper. It was cold. No morning ride for me. I feed her and we went back upstairs. Although it was too cold for an enjoyable ride, it was not too cold for a hot bath. Which I took.
I sat in the warm water and mused about life. I had no better luck solving the problems of the world while in the tub than I have had when on my bike, but the temperature was much nicer. And an afternoon ride will give me a chance to try moving contemplation.
By the time I made it home after work, feed Sarah and suited up, it was a little after six. Sadly, traffic was still heavy. It was also cool out. Once I got on I-10, I headed west. Traffic seemed a tad lighter for the ramp going to Loop 610 South, so I took that one. I wanted to get in some miles, but I also wanted to pick up a birthday gift for Maria. For security's sake, I will not reveal my ultimate destination. However, I am at liberty to disclose that my mission was successful.
And the ride was fun, even with the cool temperatures. In fact, when I got back the thermometer at the house said it was 52 degrees. Maybe because I have done my share of cool weather riding, the temperature didn't seem all that cold. It was certainly bearable, at least for an hour.
I now have 9763 miles on the bike. On schedule for hitting mile 10,000 on Sunday.
* * * * *
February 6, 2006:
It was really warm this morning. As in 67 degrees warm. Sarah enjoyed her walk. So did we. After we got back I fed her and suited up. I checked the air in the tires and headed out.
My goal was to add the Highway 59 extension onto both of my normal workday circuits, if traffic permitted. I am adjusting my riding so as to have a great shot at mile 10,000 this coming weekend. Some of that depends on whether John's schedule allows him to join me. If it doesn't, I will further refine my riding.
But today, I was going for a forty mile run. Traffic was light on the first circuit, so I stayed on the North Loop, and headed for Highway 59 South. I don't regularily take this route because traffic is pretty heavy, and there are lots of lane changers and lane mergers. Today was no exception.
I was headed east on the Loop, between I-45 the Hardy Road exit. This section of road has three lanes. I was in the middle lane. The lane to my right has to take the exit ramp to the Hardy Toll Road. The lane to my left goes straight. The road is under construction in this area, and the lanes are narrow. Also, at this time of day, the bright orange flashing lights of the construction vehicles were ominously blinking. I was taking all this in when I noticed a pickup just ahead of me on my left. I also noticed vehicles behind me in the merge lane. I paced myself for maximum protection. A SUV on my right passed me, headed for the Toll ramp. I dropped far enough behind him so that, if he changed his mind and decided to stay on the Loop, he would not hit me as he swerved into my lane.
Fortunately, my concentration was not fixed on the SUV. The pickup on my left was also in my zone of awareness. Just past the last second I thought the pickup could swerve over the two lanes to his right to take the Toll ramp, he put on his signals and made his move. I hit my front brakes to give him so more room. He continued on, way too late.
When he made the ramp, he was well into the striped area. In fact, he missed the crash barrier by inches. But, thank goodness, he made it. I was congratulating myself for my excellent reactions when it occurred to me that I had put all my eggs in one basket. I had properly braked to give myself more room, but I had not taken any advantage of that room. I had concluded that he would make the ramp without crashing. He barely did. I had not planned my escape route for what I would do if he had smashed into the crash barrels, as he almost did. I should have made sure the lane to my left was a free and clear escape lane. I'm not sure how, however. A head check might take too long, and would remove my eyes from the situation ahead of me. Surely more braking was in order, but it was rush hour, and sudden slow downs have their own dangers. And I didn't know how close the nearest vehicle behind me was. Oh well, another close call that I survived to do better on next time.
Otherwise, the ride was great. I added the extension on the second circuit, and made good time. I stopped off for gas at the end of the ride, and headed on home. I now have 9744 miles on the Rebel. And an email has winged its way to John about a long ride this weekend. See you on the road.
* * * * *
February 5, 2006:
This morning, I went downstairs at 5:10 a.m. to check the temperature. As predicted, it was cool again. Forty-six degrees, to be precise. Not warm enough for an early morning ride. Sarah thought it was warm enough for her breakfast. I agreed. After waiting for her to finish up, I returned upstairs for a warm bath and to complete Spooner's Vices Are Not Crimes. In short order, I finished the Spooner tract and started on some of the books I had purchased at Half Price on yesterday's ride. At a little after seven I heard Maria stirring, so I drained the tub and returned to the land of the living.
We took Sarah for a walk, ran some errands and returned to work on the rose beds. I slaved away until one o'clock. I then went inside, suited up and headed out. I had already added air to both tires, so all I had to do was top off the tank before my trip.
I headed west on Highway 290. I had three main goal. I wanted to get to mile 9700 on the bike. I also wanted to stop by the Half Price Books on Highway 529. Lastly, I wanted some extended riding time for thinking.
I met all three goals. The most important one was the thinking time. I'm not sure there is anything like motorcycle riding for thinking about the problems of the world, or your part of the world. You have to pay attention to the road. But, at least for me, that leaves plenty of brain power for other things. At least I haven't had any close calls while philosophizing. Sadly, the world and I both still have our problems. I guess I still have lots of riding to do.
Today, I turned mile 9600 right after I got started on my trip. In fact, I was long past that marker when I first thought about looking at the odometer. Oh well. My main fear is that I will get so involved in riding that I will miss the rollover to mile 10,000. John has offered to accompany me on that voyage, so I am hopeful he can help.
I stayed on Highway 290 all the way to Waller. I then went south on FM 629. At one point the wind was so strong that full throttle was only getting me 56 mph* on the bike. Wow. And the side gusts were wicked. I stayed on 629 until it intersected with Highway 529, which I took east toward Houston. Philosophizing all the way. Goal one met.
In the midst of my revelry I noticed I was approaching a Half Price Bookstore. I decided to pay homage to the institution, so I turned in. I stowed my helmet, put on my do-rag, and headed for the current non-fiction section. Nothing caught my eye. I broused around the store, watching the titles and the time. Well, I wasn't very good at watching the time. Before I knew it my watch said it was 3:40! I had told Maria I would be back by four. I quickly paid for my books and headed home. Goal two met.
I was watching the traffic and the odometer on the way back. If I went straight home I would make good time. But I would not make goal three. So I took a slight extension of the trip and managed to watch the odometer roll from 9699.9 to 9700.0 just as I got on I-10, heading west. Goal three met.
It had been a much-needed trip. The weather was great and it was good to get in some high speeds for an extended period of time. And to visit a section of country I had been away from for too long. When I pulled up to the driveway I had 9704 miles on the bike, and Maria greeted me with a shovel and more garden work. Such is riding in the February.
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February 4, 2006:
Last night I check weather.com and they predicted temperatures in the 40's for this morning. They were right. About 5:45 I took Sarah down for the paper and her breakfast. The house thermometer showed 45 degrees. I had a speech to give at Buchanan's Nursery at ten, so, if I wanted to get in a morning ride, I would have to leave immediately to be back in time to get ready. That meant a cold ride. I opted for an afternoon ride and a hot bath with a good book for my morning fun. I am reading Lysander Spooner's classic from the 1875 called Vices Are Not Crimes. Spooner was a lawyer and a natural law philosopher in the time before the turn of the century. The particular "vice" he is addressing is drinking. But the logic is universal. I have long been impressed with his arguments on various subjects and highly recommend him to anyone interested in the application of reason to moral issues. I try to read this book every year. I got most of the way through it while soaking in the tub. I plan to finish it tomorrow.
I gave my speech at ten on "Easy to Grow Roses for Houston," and helped with rose selections until well after one p.m. There was a standing room only crowd for the speech. I had printed fifty copies of my outline, and they were all gone. It was an excellent morning.
I live close to the nursery, so I was ready to hit the road by 1:30. Maria chose not to attend my talk. I guess she had her fill of my pontificating during the week. Instead, she went to the Houston Pond Society meeting. So, when I returned, Sarah was all alone. After spending a few minutes with her, I checked the air in my tires and headed out.
I decided to top off the tank with gas before going on my journey. The weather was fine. Still, I was dressed in full winter gear. I certainly did not feel "hot" at any time.
As I approached the gas station, I raised the visor on my full-face helmet. I heard a squeak, squeak, squeak. It sounded like it was coming from the front tire. Ugh. I filled up with gas and pulled into the parking lot of the adult bookstore that is next to the gas station. I rode around to the side of the store, shut off the engine and duck-walked the bike. I used the valve stem as my guide. It seemed that almost (but not quite) every revolution of the front tire would produce a single squeak. The sound was loud enough to give me pause.
I also checked the chain and the oil. All appeared well. I decided to get on I-10, go about a mile, and take the Taylor Street exit. I did so. I worked my way over to another parking lot and listened for the squeak. I had hopes that the high speeds would warm up the oil/grease in the necessary area and silence the squeak. No such luck.
I didn't know enough about motorcycles to figure out what the problem was. I could see no obvious source for the sound, and it had not been squeaking before, to my knowledge. I decided to head for the house rather than go on a much needed ride. I was afraid a trip to Stubbs Cycles would be necessary.
The bike was still squeaking when I pulled up to the driveway. I went inside and called Bill, the neighborhood car expert. He agreed to take a look.
When he came out, the squeak was still present. I drove around the cul-de-sac several times. He smiled immediately. He told me he wanted to raise the front tire and have a listen. I said I had no way to do that. He did.
Bill owns one of those floor car jacks you usually see in garages if you have to have a flat fixed. With me sitting on the seat and balancing the bike, Bill used his jack to raise the front tire off the ground. He then gave it a whirl. The squeak was clearly present.
Bill suspected that the front brake was just the slightest bit out of adjustment, and was rubbing the rim a little. He said he could prove his theory with some water. He got a spray bottle of water and wet the disc area. Instantly, the squeak disappeared.
He offered his opinion that this was not a problem worth a visit to the repair shop, and that it presented no danger to me. That conclusion sounded reasonable. I decided to go for my originally planned ride. Sadly, it was 2:30 by this time.
Maria was still not back. I headed for the Half Price Books on 1960. The one off I-45. Traffic was pretty light. I took Highway 249 to FM1960, and on over to the bookstore. I left my helmet on attached to the helmet lock on the bike, and headed into the store, do-rag on my head.
I purchased six books. Most were thin. All fit inside my motorcycle jacket for the trip home. By the time I was finished it was 3:40 pm. I called Maria and left a message I was headed home. I really wanted to make mile 9600 on this ride. But I also wanted to get in a visit to the gym, and it closes at six on Saturdays. I cut my ride short and headed home. Maria was waiting for me when I walked in. I was only in slight trouble for being gone half the day. Well, half the day on a motorcycle. All day if you count the speech. Which I don't think you should. I'm not sure Maria agreed. Anyway, we made the gym with plenty of time to spare and I got this rather long blog done during the course of the rest of the evening. Plus, I dropped off a bottle of my favorite red wine for Bill to enjoy for saving me a trip to the repair shop. And I still have time to sample some of the books I bought.
And, for the record, I now have 9594 miles on the bike. See you on the road.
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February 3, 2006:
I have another day of seminars today. So I had to get up early to fit in Sarah's walk and my ride. I guess it worked out to my benefit that I had a restless night's sleep, and got up at 4 a.m. A hot bath and a good book put a nice start on the day. And this morning's ride was a helpful tonic.
I added a little air to the front tire and headed out. After an error-free warmup, I entered the freeway, heading west. Traffic was surprisingly heavy--and fast. By force of will, I kept my mind on freeway tactics. Lane changers had no chance. Nor did cell-phone talkers. I ran the two circuits in great form. To give the ride more of a chance to work its mental wonders, I added a five mile extension and took Highway 59 south for one of the circuits. I only caught a little stop and go as I approached I-10. In short order speeds were back to normal. I took the Heights exit and head home for a quick shower and a hurried breakfast. And, of course, to write this blog. I now have 9520 miles on the bike. I am giving a speech at Buchanan's Nursery on Saturday morning, so Saturday's ride will have to be quick. Still, I shouldn't have much traffic to contend with. See you on the road.
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February 2, 2006:
Sadly, although the day dawned at a warm 58 degrees at our house, I was unable to fit in a morning ride. I had a legal seminar that started at eight in the morning. Including the travel time, there was no way I could get in a ride and make it on time. Oh well. It looked like I would joust with evening rush hour traffic today.
I made my seminar with time to spare. The seminar was useful but it was just one of those days when some things do not go like you want them to. To say that my mind was elsewhere would be an understatement.
I was at work for a while after the seminar, but even though I didn't get home till 6:30 p.m., I could not get my mind clear. I was torn between thinking that a good ride is what I needed and my concern that I could get myself killed if my mind was elsewhere.
The scales tilted toward riding as a way to get back my equilibrium. Or at least have thirty minutes of fun. I suited up and headed out. I made no driver errors during the warmup phase of my ride. Thus reassured, I entered I-10, headed west. The ride was going great. I was getting in the grove.
Regular readers will know that evening traffic has been horrible lately. And so it was tonight. As I approached the last exit before the Loop (Washington Avenue), all I saw was stalled tail lights. I had the presence of mind to exit the freeway for greener pastures. As in I-10, eastbound. Which I took all the way to Taylor.
Then, even though I had not made a single rider error, I decided to get off the freeways and back on thirty mile per hour roads. I rode around the Heights without effect. Maybe a high speed ride would have helped, but speeds under thirty did nothing to clear my mind. Reluctantly, I decided to head back to the house.
As I pulled up to the driveway I noted 9485 miles on the bike. My ride had not been even the temporary salvation I had hoped for. Too short and too slow. I will try harder tomorrow.
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February 1, 2006:
Today it was 54 degrees when we got up. Sarah insisted on her walk. Sarah got her walk. And I got my ride. A regular, two workday circuit ride.
After feeding Sarah, I suited up and checked the air. All was fine. I headed out in full winter gear. I entered I-10, heading west. Traffic was very fast, and fairly heavy. But there were no slow-downs. Still, with the crowded conditions and the speed, I was especially alert for lane-changers.
There were such drivers, but none of them caused me any trouble. When I neared I-45 on the second circuit, I noted that traffic was really backed up on I-45. So I stayed on the Loop and headed for Highway 59. On the one hand, I was hoping for lighter traffic conditions. On the other hand, I was glad to extend the ride.
All went well on Highway 59 until about a mile before I was due to exit to I-10. Then, traffic ground to a halt. I don't know what caused the back-up, but even I-10 was thick until I passed the intersection with I-45. During one of the many stops, I had glanced at my watch and noted it was already seven o'clock. I resumed my high speeds as I raced toward the Heights exit. Because of the hour, instead of again extending my ride, I took the exit and headed home. When I pulled up to the driveway I had 9475 miles on the bike, and a good disposition toward the rest of the day.
When I got inside I took some time cleaning my helmet. During the last three rides I had noticed that the visor wasn't as clear as I am used to. I use glasses cleaner to clean the outside of the visor after each ride. I was afraid the accumulation of minor scratches was going to mean I had to get a new visor. So today, after cleaning the outside of the visor, I ran my finger over the inside of the visor. My finger came back with a layer of brown dust. Another swipe yielded another finger of dust. I soaked a tissue with the glasses cleaner and wiped the inside of the visor thoroughly. Then I put the helmet back on. Much better. Tomorrow will tell the tale if this long neglected cleaning has done the trick. Stay tuned.
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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.