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My Honda Rebel Blog for January, 2006
by Donald Ray Burger
Attorney at Law

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January 31 2006:

Today dawned at 44 degrees. Ugh. No walk for Sarah. And no morning ride for me. In addition to the cold temperature, I had an early morning speech that meant an early, early ride, or waiting until this afternoon. The fact that a high of 72 is predicted for after lunch made the decision easy.

Unfortunately, today was tax day for school and county taxes. That meant I had to prove that I surrendered my hard-earned dollars to the government or they would steal the very property they were taxing. With the government gun to my head, I made my way to the post office so I would have proof I had remitted the state imposed tribute by the state imposed deadline. I even left the office thirty minutes early so the government wouldn't totally ruin my afternoon ride. All for naught.

First, the government post office in the Heights had a line all the way out into the lobby. And only two "workers" handling the crowd. I knew there was no way I would be in the main office by five o'clock when they locked the doors. So I left and headed to the downtown post office. Not including travel time, the choice was intelligent. The line was as long, but the workers actually worked. Still, it was about six p.m. by the time I got home, fed Sarah, suited up and headed out.

I tried to clear my mind of my chargrin at the theft of my money, and I mostly managed to do so. That is a testament to the joy of being on the back of a bike. Sadly, I did more stopping than riding. As I headed west on I-10, traffic quickly backed up starting at the Washington exit. And it only got thicker. The eastbound section of the North Loop was as bad as I have ever seen it. At no time was I able to go faster than 15 mph. And most of the time I was going under five miles per hour. Finally, I gave up and took the North Main exit. I noticed that the westbound lanes were actually moving. I u-turned and got on 610, headed west. All went fine until I passed the exit for T.C. Jester. Then, things came to a stop again. It was stop and stop all the way to the exit for I-10.

Finally, I encountered open roads as I headed east on the Katy Freeway. I had three to four miles of bliss till I hit the Studemont exit. Because I had wasted most of an hour in bumper to bumper traffic, I headed on home. It was completely dark, and after seven. When I pulled up to the driveway I had 9441 miles on the bike. In the hour I had been on the road I had had less than ten minutes of fun. A fitting ride for this dark day. Oh well, tomorrow is bound to be better. And the tax man is supposed to leave me (mostly) alone till April.

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January 30 2006:

This morning it was 66 degrees when we took Sarah for her walk. A heavy blanket of clouds held in the heat. In fact, last night, when we took Sarah for her evening stroll, it was only 65 degrees. It got warmer over night. It's been a strange January.

After feeding the girl, I suited up and headed out. The air in the tires was fine. So was the weather. I had dressed in winter garb, but there was no sensation of cold. In fact, the main sensation was one of pleasure to be back on the road, taking my normal workday morning circuit.

Traffic was light and the fog was somewhere else. I made mile 9400 as I approached the Heights exit the first time. I kept going. I made another circuit, with only one adrenaline rush when traffic suddenly slowed on I-45. A timely application of front and rear brakes handled the situation. I turned west on I-10, and took the Heights exit on home. I now have 9415 miles on the bike. Sadly, the are predicting 40 degrees in the morning. Winter returns, at least for one more night.

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January 29 2006:

Maria, Sarah and I went to Laredo for the weekend. Thus, I did not get to ride my bike on Saturday. The radio said it rained all day on Saturday, anyway. We left Laredo early Sunday, and I had hopes of getting back to Houston by three in the afternoon.

My hopes were answered. We pulled up a little after three. My rain gauge showed one inch of rain. I quickly unloaded the Jeep. Maria had made it clear that we were going to the gym this afternoon. I was going to put it to her that I could go for my ride before or after the gym. But I didn't have to do that. She surprised me by suggesting, on her own, that I go for my ride because it was so nice out.

And nice it was. It was 78 degrees, and sunny. I did not need a second urging. I suited up, checked the air, and headed out. By half past three I was on I-10, heading east. I headed north on Highway 59, not sure of my destination.

The gym closes at six on Sundays. That meant I had, at most, an hour and a half of riding. I decided to go for maximum mileage. Highway 59 was pretty empty. I half expected to see John on the highway. I didn't. I did see plenty of other bikers enjoying the afternoon.

Speeds were very fast. High speeds, light traffic and great weather. Definitely a winning combination. Before I knew it I was in Splendora. There, I exited the freeway, u-turned, and headed back.

The return trip was also great. At one point I passed three Harleys. About two minutes, later they passed me back. I let them go on their way, and I went on mine. Before I knew it, I was back on I-10, heading home. I pulled put to the driveway and noted I had 9385 miles on the bike. And it was not yet 4:00 p.m. We made it to the gym, and I made it to the computer to pen this entry. A glass of red wine and ribs from Heinze's BBQ awaits. What a weekend!

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January 27 2006:

It was 45 degrees when I awoke this morning. Way too cold to take Sarah for a walk. But, lest anyone think Sarah gets cheated on a regular basis, know that we take her for a long walk on the evenings when we skip her morning outing. That doesn't stop her from giving me a dirty look when she sees me suit up on mornings when she didn't get her "ride." Like this morning.

Anyway, slinking out the door to Sarah's disapproving stares, I checked the air in the tires and headed out. Indeed, it was cold this morning. Fortunately, traffic was astonishingly light for a Friday. I quickly completed the regular workday circuit. Sadly, because Cynthia took a day of vacation today, I had to limit myself to one circuit so I could get to the office early. I did watch the odometer roll over to 9300 as I traveled east on Loop 610.

All to soon, the Heights exit presented itself. I fought the urge to continue on for another circuit. Instead, I headed home. When I pulled up to the driveway I had 9305 miles on the bike. Progress continues.

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January 26 2006:

Today it was 50 degrees when I awoke. Borderline. Except for the fact that I have missed my rides lately. So, I decided to wait a little before heading out in hopes of warmer temperatures.

By 8:00 it was 54 degrees. Warm enough. I suited up, added air to the front tire (which was fine last night!) and headed out.

Traffic was heavy, fast and erratic. Lane-changers were everywhere. So were the cell-phoners. I was extra alert. It kept my mind off the cold.

The high speeds allowed me to complete my ride in pretty good time. I even added an extra five miles to the route. And I gassed up the bike at the end of the ride. I'm all ready for tomorrow. With any luck, I should top 9300 miles then. Right now, I have 9290 miles on the bike. See you on the road.

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January 25 2006:

Yesterday, after work, John rode over on his newly tricked out Heritage Softail. He had the dealer add engine guards, a tachometer, saddlebags, a windscreen, an auxillary lighting kit and a backrest for Nadine. Everything looked really good, and a stock bike now has his individual stamp of approval. He said Nadine had already tried out the passenger seat/backrest and it got her seal of approval. Can a new helmet be far behind?

This morning I awoke to 41 degrees of cold. No walk for Sarah. And no morning ride for me. It is expected to be 69 degrees when I get home from work, and I decided to wait for those warmer temperatures.

By five o'clock it was almost seventy. I headed home, anxious to get on the road. Before I could get the garage door down, Eric, a neighbor from down the street, rode up to show me his 1974 Honda CB 350. It had seen a lot of use, but all the parts still worked. It had over 15,000 miles on the odometer. Eric told me the plugs fouled, but that was his only complaint. We traded riding stories, then I went inside, fed Sarah, and suited up.

The air in the tires was fine. So was the outside temperature. I headed for I-10, in hopes of getting in two circuits before dark. The traffic was pretty heavy. It was stop and go all the way to the Loop. After that, speeds picked up rapidly.

I did both circuits and loved every minute of it. Even the slow parts. It was dark by the time I finished, but it was good to have an extended ride for a change. And I now have 9255 miles on the bike. Back in the saddle again.

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January 24 2006:

Yesterday morning they were predicting a low of 39 degrees for today. But clouds rolled in and, by ten p.m. last night, they were waffling on this. So when I got up and discovered the temperature was fifty degrees, I was not surprised. Still, as Sarah and I discovered when we went for the paper, fifty can be cold.

Suitable warned, I bundled up in full winter gear, except for glove liners. I checked the air and headed out. I wasn't sure what I was going to do this morning. When I thought I would be facing temperatures in the thirties, I had settled on doing a quick run along the twisties of White Oak. But fifty was not the thirties.

As I started my ride, I quickly realized that fifty was still cold. I was taking it on the chin, as it were, with all the air coming up the opening on my helmet, and hitting my chin area hard. Hard and cold. Ugh.

I had slipped on a face guard John had given me for Christmas. It covered my throat and the back of my neck quite effectively. There is a section of material in the front that can pull over your chin and mouth. However, I could not get it to work on my chin with my helmet on. I could pull it up over my mouth, but when I turned to do a head-check, it would slip all the way down to my neck. Each time I pulled up to a stop sign I would reach inside the helmet and pull the cloth flap up over my chin. And each time I would turn my head it would fall back down.

In all fairness, I did not remove my helmet or gloves to try to rework the cloth. Next time (probably tomorrow!) I will try harder to get it right before I put my helmet on.

Anyway, I did the twisties going both eastward and westward. A glance at the odometer showed I had only put on three miles. Not nearly enough, even in the cold. So I headed for I-10.

I almost didn't take the on ramp because of all the brake lights I could see. But I figured I could easily exit Shepherd if traffic was really backed up. Which it wasn't--until I had passed the exit for Washington and was stuck on I-10 for the duration!

Fortunately, traffic eased up quickly once I got on the Loop. And it was smooth (but cold) sailing until I hit the traffic again on I-45.

I decided to call it a day after one loop. I now have 9220 miles on the bike, and another cold day facing me tomorrow. Stay tuned.

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January 23 2006:

First, the good news. No rain this morning. We got 1.2 inches yesterday. And a nice, soaking rain it was. The bad news was that the morning temperature today was 49 degrees, and the high is predicted to be only 56. Tomorrow morning it is supposed to be 39 degrees. Ouch. Winter is back.

Sarah did not get her morning walk. And I put off my morning ride until after Maria left for work in hopes of higher temperatures. Unfortunately, the dense cloud cover kept temperatures constant. So I suited up in full winter gear and headed out.

I had to add about a half a pound of air to each tire. I warmed up and headed for I-10. I resolved to get in one workday circuit, even in the cold. As it turned out, one was all I would get, regardless of temperatures.

Traffic was very heavy on I-10. Starting at Shepherd, I hardly went more than six miles per hour all the way to the Loop. Sometimes I went slower. That really ate up my riding time. The only good thing was that there is little wind chill at such speeds.

When I got on the Loop, speeds pick up to normal. I could feel the cold. I decided that one circuit was plenty.

I was headed east, just behind an eighteen wheeler that was in the lane to my left. All of a sudden, a milk jug bounced onto the freeway in the lane to the left of the eighteen wheeler. Because of the trailer, I could not tell what the source of the litter was. A second later a coffee can started bouncing down the same lane. Because of my position, I was safe from this debris, but it did cause concern.

That concern grew when I saw a white pick up truck pull into my lane, from just ahead of the eighteen wheeler. And in the back of the pick up was a full-sized garbage can. I immediately dropped my speed so I could put some distance between us if more debris escaped. Which it did. Fortunately, I was able to dodge the litter. And the pick up took the Airline exit, out of my life. And the adrenaline went rapidly back to normal. The rest of the ride was uneventful. I took the Heights exit off I-10, and watched the odometer roll over to mile 9200. When I pulled up to the driveway I had 9201 miles on the Rebel, and very cold fingers. Tomorrow promises to be even colder.

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January 22 2006:

Just as predicted, Sunday dawned cold and wet. The rain was light, but the streets were thoroughly damp. The thunder was very loud. Sarah was not pleased. Rain is predicted for the entire day.

On a happier note, Maria and I attended our first "house concert" last night. A couple in the neighborhood, Deb and Lindsey, hosted the event. About fifty people showed up. It was a BYOB affair, with Deb furnishing the Italian food. I brought a Carmenet Cabernet, which we managed to finish off during the course of the evening. The first hour was spent eating and visiting. We didn't know most of the people, but several of the neighbors were also in attendance. At eight o'clock the music started. Lindsey had cleared the furniture out of their rather large living room, and folding chairs were set up. It was an RSVP affair, so there were enough chairs for everyone.

The featured artist was fold singer Erik Balkey. He entertained us with a guitar, a smooth voice, and songs of his own composition. At about 9:45 we all took a break for desserts. Yikes, I will definitely have to get to the gym today, rain or shine. I bought all three of his CDs.

After desserts, we were treated to more original songs by this very accomplished artist. Most of the crowd indicated that this was their first house concert. I thought the evening was very successful, and look forward to the next one. And best of all, when everything was over, Maria and I simply walked a block to our house, to greet a Sarah who was ready for her evening walk.

But back to motorcycles. The rain stayed around all day. I spent the day reading, checking the weather, watching the rest of Pale Rider, checking the weather, watching Fellowship of the Ring, and checking the weather. Around 5 p.m., we got hit with a heavy downpour. I quickly got suited up on the theory that it was likely that we would have a period of no rain after the current band of storms passed.

And, I graciously offered to run to Krogers to get some steak for supper. Maria stuck to her opinion that I was insane, supper or no. Nonetheless, when the rain slacked up, I dashed to the garage and headed out. I had already checked the air in the tires, so I wasted no time on that.

I warmed up on the back roads off of 6th Street, and worked my way to Shepherd. I quickly turned into the Kroger parking lot and parked. It was getting dark. The rain had been very light on the way over. I was hardly wet.

I grabbed a basket, put my helmet in it, and made my purchase. I quickly headed for the checkout. Oops. Lots of folks in line. Oh well. I waited my turn, paid, and headed for the door. I had double sacked the steak so no steak blood would get on my jacket. As I steered the basket to the door, I saw a sight that I didn't want to see.

Lots of people were standing around the door, watching the rain come down in buckets. I guess there was one more band left in the storm! But what is a little rain to a dedicated motorcyclist? I put on my helmet and gloves, stuffed the steak inside my jacket, and fished out my bike key.

When I got to my ride, the seat was thoroughly soaked. I brushed off the water and hopped on. I expected a wet surprise when I sat down on the seat, but the "surprise" was that the Kevlar in the seat of my Draggin' Jeans kept the water on the "jeans" side of my pants.

I headed home in traffic that was just as heavy as the rain. I was especially careful at lights. I didn't want someone sliding in to me. And I didn't want me sliding onto the pavement as a result of a quick stop.

Everything went fine at first. However, I caught the light red at Heights, and there were impatient drivers behind me. I started out, but could not get any distance between me and the car directly behind me. The left-hand lane was also full of cars. I had to make a hard right turn to get home, and the driver behind me was way too close. Fortunately, I know the neighborhood. I whipped into a dry cleaner parking lot on a forty-five degree angle, and cut over to a side street. Hardly had to slow down at all.

When I pulled up to the driveway, Maria was standing in the garage, with the door open, to welcome me. Well, I hoped it was a "welcome." Anyway, I had our supper, a ride on a rainy day, and 9185 miles on the odometer. We'll see what tomorrow's weather will bring.

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January 21 2006:

Last night rain came. It hit between two and three a.m. When Sarah and I got up this morning (and after I got the paper and fed her), I checked the rain gauge. It showed two tenths of an inch. And it felt cold out. The house thermometer registered 55 degrees.

While I waited for Sarah to do her business, I check the paper to see which freeways were under construction. Most of them were. Loop 610, Highway 290 and I-10 all had lane closures. But a careful study showed that I could go north on I-45 and Highway 59 without encountering those orange cones.

Unfortunately, the skies were very overcast. I got on the internet and discovered that the predicted rain all morning. And, with the wind chill, the temperatures that felt like the mid 40's. Ugh.

I decided to ride in the afternoon. We did some errands in the morning, and the skies were overcast. By late afternoon the temperature had climbed to 61 degrees, and I doubted it would get higher. I had watched Chisum on DVD and part of Pale Rider, waiting for warmer weather. Around 4 pm I gave up. I suited up and headed out.

The air in the tires was still fine. Unfortunately, the skies were still overcast. And it seemed a lot colder that 61 degrees. The clouds were that dirty winter gray that seems to suck all the warmth out of the atmosphere. In Colorado, where I grew up, I would expect snow from such clouds. No chance of that today, but a long ride did not look promising.

I warmed up on the back roads off of 6th Street. I could feel the cold. I decided I would not take a long trip on the freeway, where a seventy mile an hour wind chill could do its damage. But I couldn't figure out where to ride.

I sat in the parking lot of Krogers, trying to decide. And then it came to me. I could head downtown, take Memorial to Shepherd, then go to a magazine store called Issues, and get the current issue of Ride magazine. Ride is one of my favorite motorcycle mags. It is published in England, and costs nine bucks a copy. But well worth it.

I started south on Durham. I decided to top off the gas tank because cold and rain is predicted for Sunday. After filling up, I got on I-10, heading for the downtown exit. Then the fun started.

By that I mean that the enchantment that is motorcycle riding seized me. I was no longer contented with a short ride. But I did want the magazine. So I cut over to the far left hand lane of I-10, and took the I-45 exit, headed north. I did the regular workday circuit, except in a counterclockwise direction. When I had completed a circuit, I then took the downtown exit. That extended my trip by fifteen miles.

I got on Memorial, headed west. At Shepherd I headed south to the magazine shop. Traffic was light. I made the store in record time. I picked up Ride magazine and a publication on water gardening. Thus outfitted, I headed back.

When I got to the intersection for Allen Parkway, I decided to test the twisties. I headed east, toward downtown. When I got to Louisiana, I took it north to I-10. I was still having fun.

I decided to do another loop of the freeways before heading home. That would add yet another fifteen miles to my trip. So, instead of taking the Heights exit, I continued west to the Loop. I then headed north, then west, then south on I-45, all the way back to I-10. I took that on home. It was a much nicer ride than I expected when I headed out. I did not make it to mile 9200, as I had hoped, but I did get all the way to mile 9181. And I had a great time doing it. Now, time to read.

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January 20 2006:

It was a balmy 67 when I awoke this morning. Sarah seemed to think the weather was fine. She demanded her walk. We got up, put on light jackets, and headed out. We had only walked a few blocks when a light rain hit. Not enough to get us soaked, but enough to make us step up the pace. And enough for me to delay my morning ride. Slippery streets I can do without.

I figured the streets would dry quickly in the wind. So, after breakfast for both Sarah and us, I saw Maria off to work and I suited up and headed out.

The tire pressure was still fine. I am liking this new front tube. The old one was always losing a pound of air every so often. So far, this one is holding its own.

Although it was cloudy, the streets had indeed dried off. The temperature had climbed into the 70's by the time I took off. Perfect riding weather. I headed for I-10 to do the normal workday circuit.

Traffic was fairly light. I watched the odometer roll over to mile 9100. As I was about to finish the second circuit I decided to extend my ride. I could have taken I-45 on home. But I decided to go to Highway 59 instead. I could have taken the I-10 exit on home. But I decided to stay on I-59 to the Gulf Freeway.

I could have taken I-45 on home. But I decided to take the Allen Parkway exit and do the twisties. I could have taken Shepherd on home. But I decided to take Memorial east to downtown.

I could have taken I-10 on home. But I decided to do one more workday circuit. I could have taken I-45 on home. But I decided to take Highway 59 instead. I could have taken I-10 on home. Which is what, at last, I did.

By the time I pulled up to the driveway I had 9132 miles on the bike, and a big, wide grin on my face. Seize the day.

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January 19 2006:

Winds were from the south overnight. That kept temperatures warm. It was 62 degrees on the house thermometer this morning. Warm enough. We did wear jackets when we took Sarah for her walk. And we were glad we did. The wind added just enough chill to remind us that it is still January.

When we got back, I fed Sarah, suited up and headed out. The air pressure in the tires was fine. The ride itself was also fine. After filling up with gas, I did the "normal" workday circuit. I put the word "normal" in quotes because it has been a long time between normal workday circuits. Betweeen the cold weather and the flat tire, I have missed my regular trek more often than I have made it.

But today everything went fine. Traffic was a little on the heavy side, but everyone behaved. I made the thirty miles without incident. When I pulled up to the driveway I had 9072 miles on the bike. And Friday promises to be another nice morning.

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January 18 2006:

It was 38 degrees this morning. Too cold for Sarah's walk. And too cold for a ride. Temperatures in the sixties were predicted for afternoon. And I had an out-of-the office meeting this morning.

Thus, it was after work when I got in my ride. I suited up, added air to the rear tire, and headed out. It was 62 degrees.

Usually, rush hour traffic ruins afternoon rides on the freeways. Still, it had been three days since I had been able to make the workday circuit. I wanted some miles. I wanted some speed. I wanted some progress. So I got on I-10, and did what is my "normal" workday circuit.

Traffic wasn't too bad. There was no "stop-and-go." There was "slow," but speeds were mostly on the high side. Everything clicked. I felt very at ease on the bike. The only close call came in the form of a rock.

I was riding north on 610 when a rock hit me in the helmet. I never saw it coming. But I sure felt it hit the helmet. It hit hard. I figure it would have done real damage if I had been bare headed. It might have even knocked me out. Or at least dazed me enough to cause a crash. I was glad to be wearing a helmet. As it was, I continued my way without trouble.

I did two of the workday circuits. I got in thirty miles on the bike. The odometer now reads 9042. And warm temperatures are predicted for morning.

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January 17 2006:

It started raining yesterday around 3 p.m. We certainly needed it. Unfortunately, it was still raining at 3 a.m. this morning. I know, because an intense rainstorm woke me up.

By 5:30 a.m. the rains had stopped. Thus, Sarah got her morning walk. But the streets were still very wet, so I did not take my morning ride. The rain gauge showed 3.2 inches of rain at our house when I checked it around six this morning. Water was pooled everywhere, and the streets had barely begun to dry out. I feel competent to ride on wet streets, but other Houstonians don't seem willing to adjust their speeds to wet conditions. So I try to avoid being on two wheels when traction is so chancy. I have a meeting this evening, but I hoped to get in a short ride after work.

Which is exactly what I got. A cold front blew in this afternoon. "Blew" being the operative word. Winds were strong and gusty. It made for interesting riding. I had a meeting tonight, so I only had time for a short ride.

I decided to go to the post office for the mail. Because that is a short trip, I did not suit up in all my winter gear. And boy did I notice it. The wind cut right through my jeans and gloves, reminding me that spring has not yet arrived.

The post office was extremely crowded. I guess that was because it is the day for turning in estimated taxes and because there had been no mail on Monday. For whatever reason, there was only one empty parking place. I grabbed it, got the mail, and headed home. When I rolled up to the driveway, three neighborhood kids were waiting to give me the fifth degree about where I had been, and I had 9012 miles on the bike. A nice start to the evening.

* * * * *

January 16 2006:

Last night on Channel 11 they predicted a 50% chance of rain this morning. I awoke early and gave careful attention to the radio. No rain yet. Good for my ride. Bad for my plants.

We got up at the regular time, and took Sarah for her walk. It was 65 degrees out. The skies were cloudy, but no thunderheads were present. As soon as we returned, I fed Sarah and suited up.

Both tires were properly inflated. I headed out. I did the normal workday circuit. It felt new because I hadn't taken it at all last week due to the front tire problem. Perhaps because it was the celebration of Martin Luther King Jr.'s birthday, traffic was fairly light. No problems on the roads.

I watched the odometer roll from 8999.9 to 9000 as I traveled on the West Loop on the second circuit. I then continued on to the North Loop, cut south at I-45, and took the Heights exit off of I-10. When I rolled up to the driveway I had 9010 on the odometer. It was nice to get to mile 9000 at last. More to come.

* * * * *

January 15 2006:

That honey-do list I mentioned yesterday didn't get noticably shorter on Saturday. But I came up with a great plan to get in a ride, notwithstanding.

Sunday dawned in the low 50's. Sarah didn't mind. Neither did I. But I put off the morning excursion until the sun did its business, at least as far as the Rebel was concerned. Sarah did not express any reluctance to be out in the cold. So, after getting the paper and feeding her, Maria and I grabbed our jackets and the dog leash and headed out, Sarah in tow. Well, not in tow, exactly. She was more than happy to set the pace and the direction of the route.

By the end of our rather long trek (she had been cheated out of a Saturday walk), it was hot enough that Maria and I both had our jackets unzipped. Clearly a signal that it was warm enough for a nice ride on the bike. But there was still that honey-do list.

And I want to go on record as saying that this list is much of my own making. We agreed to have our garden on the spring rose tour, and the spring pond tour. Yikes. What was I thinking? I think I was thinking that there is nothing like a deadline to make sure things get done. And I went along with both events. So I have no one to "blame" but myself. And I have no regrets. Its just that I will have to be "creative" to get in good rides in the early spring. Somehow, I figure I will manage.

And I came up with a great plan for today. We had errands to run. But nothing said we had to go in the same vehicle. So, "I" suited up and "we" headed out. I was on the Rebel and Maria was in the Jeep.

Wabash Antiques and Feed was our first stop. They sell Nature's Way compost and mulch. It is, without a doubt, the best stuff in the area. I met Maria at the feed store. Nothing says you can't load forty pound sacks of garden supplies while wearing full biker gear.

Next, we headed for Lowe's. We bought a flat of white Allysum, to go in the front bed. I don't know what the clerk thought about where a guy in biker gear would put a flat of Allysum, but she was happy to sell it, without comment. I loaded the flowers in the back of the Jeep and we headed to our next stop. Maria needed a new pair of shoes for the gym. Academy was having a sale. After I put on my helmet and gloves, we headed west on Highway 290.

Maria pulled into the Academy parking lot and found a parking place. I followed, and found one a few spaces away. As I got out of my helmet and in to my do-rag, I saw a guy standing by his pickup looking at the bike. I felt uneasy about leaving my ride, but I shrugged it off. I did, however, make sure I engage the fork lock. And I did think about the way the guy was stalling outside his truck all the time Maria was picking out her new shoes. After Maria had made her decision, I suggested we go to Panera's for lunch. She was game. We headed for the parking lot.

Fortunately, my bike was right where I left it. I put on my gloves and helmet, and we headed on down Highway 290.

Panera's was as great as always. I favor the Fandango Salad and the French Onion Soup. I was well pleased. In fact, I was in such a good mood that I suggested we head over to Half Price Books on Highway 529. We needed to buy a birthday gift for a five year old boy in the neighborhood, and I always favor books as gifts, no matter what the age. Maria asked if I could hear the bookstore calling, and I said yes. I barely had to mention to birthday gift before she gave in.

Pressing my luck, I suggested we stop at the Harley dealership on Highway 290 on the way. Mancuso's is open on Sunday, and such behavior should be rewarded. Maria agreed to follow me as I lead the way.

We arrived at Mancuso's and I ogled the 2006 Dyna Low Riders. I even hopped on a couple of them. I happily pointed out the two Black Pearl models that Mancuso had. Very pretty color for a classic bike.

All too soon, we left Mancuso's and headed to Half Price Books. As I rode past the apartments of Cynthia, my paralegal, I tooted my horn in salute. No response from her end.

At the Half Price I found a copy of the new book by Frank McCourt called Teacher Man. I also picked up a copy of the new Robert B. Parker western called Appaloosa. Parker is one of my favorite authors, and the other western by him was excellent.

With my book buying fever slaked for the moment, I headed for my bike. Maria confirmed the directions back home. I informed her that I might take the long way home, because I needed to log at least mile 8970 on the bike before garaging it for the day. She just gave me a knowing smile, and said she would see me at the house.

By the time I had my gloves and helmet on, Maria was long on her way. I headed for Highway 290. I tooted my horn a second time as I passed Cynthia's. I then entered the freeway, keeping close watch on my odometer as I traveled down the road.

I decided to take Loop 610 all the way to Highway 59 before heading back to the house. By my "on the fly" calculations, I would then have a great shot at of making mile 9000 tomorrow morning, weather permitting. And, indeed, I had the necessary miles on the bike as I pulled up to the driveway. Maria was busy planting the allysum in the front bed, and Sarah was offering her assistance. I noted that the odometer now has 8980 miles on it, and I quickly parked the bike and grabbed a garden trowel to help with the planting. See how everything works out in the end. See you in the garden.

* * * * *

January 14 2006:

Last night we hosted Myron and Suzie for dinner. We had three kinds of cheeses for appetizers, served with a 2004 La Crema Chardonnay. Next came a fresh greens salad. For the main course we had Saffron Rice, Saffron rolls, filet mignons with mushroom and red wine sauce, and green beans with almonds, served with a 1993 Robert Mondavi Cabernet Sauvignon. For dessert we had strawberries and raspberries in a vanilla flavored heavy cream sauce and Starbuck house blend coffee, along with slices of fresh red pears. The highlight of the evening was a 1998 Chateau d'Yquem that was out of this world. It made for a pleasant, but late evening. So, we did not get up at our normal time.

Sarah, however, did not partake of the evening repast, so she insisted that I feed her at six o'clock. When I went out for the paper, it was cold. The house thermometer read 41 degrees. It seemed much colder. I decided to delay the morning ride.

So, after breakfast and more Starbuck's coffee, I suited up and headed out in full winter gear. I checked the air in both tires. Stable at last. I headed for the gas station to top off the tank. I then circled around and entered I-10. I only stayed on the freeway for two exits. I was still in the "verification" stage of making sure my front tire is back to normal.

I decided to take the curves on T.C. Jester. I rode north all the way to the end of the street, turning mile 8900 on the way. I then u-turned and headed back. When I got to the North Loop I could resist no longer. I had about twenty miles of low speed riding on the tires. Time to rachet up the test.

I entered the Loop and headed east. At I-45 I headed south to I-10. I rode I-10 for a while, putting on some needed miles. The bike appears to be back to normal. When I pulled up to the driveway I had 8920 miles on the odometer. Unfortunately, the honey-do list is getting longer by the mile. I had to settle for thirty miles on the bike. But it was good to be back on track, with the flat tire behind me.

* * * * *

January 13 2006:

No morning ride this morning. Instead, I got to work early so I could take off this afternoon to take my bike in to get the tire fixed. Work permitting, of course.

It was busy at the office, but after lunch I figured I could spare the two hours necessary to get my ride back in order. I called Stubbs and confirmed that they could take me without too much delay. I headed to the house (in my car), suited up and grabbed the compressed air tank. I took the tire pressure gauge and checked the air in the back tire. It was fine. I didn't have to check the front tire because it was visually flat. As in zero psi.

It is ten miles from my house to the Stubbs dealership. I aired the front tire up to 33 psi from the normal 29 psi to give me a margin of error, even though there was a chance that the extra pressure itself would stretch the tube and make the tire more likely to blow. Life is a balancing act.

Yesterday, John had sent me an email offering his experiences with flat tubes. He thought the metal, or whatever had pierced the tube, could have broken off so it was not visible to my inspection of the tread. He also offered the opinion that I should be concerned about the tube blowing out while I was riding. Not a calming thought. But his experience was not to be discounted. He has been riding a lot longer than I have, and in all kinds of conditions. His email did cement my decision to take the back roads to Stubbs. No freeway travel until the repair was made.

I headed out, keeping my speeds under 35 mph. Fortunately, traffic was extremely light for a Friday afternoon. Because of the possibility of a blowout was never far from my mind, I kept to the right-hand lane as much as possible. The theory was that if the tire blew, and I crashed, I wouldn't be in the middle of the road. Also, I consciously willed my fingers to stay away from the front brake. I figured that the only chance I had of keeping the shiny side up if the front tire went suddenly flat was to coast to a stop. Using the front brake would surely put me on the ground.

Also, I kept close watch on what vehicles were behind me. I didn't want a tailgater to run over me in the event of a sudden laydown. I took special care to not let a truck or school bus stay behind me. I wanted at least the chance to survive a blowout.

I monitored the odometer mileage so I would know how far I had left to get to Stubbs. And I did a visual check of the tire at every stoplight. It was one trip when I was glad to catch so many lights red.

I was never happier to see the Stubbs sign. I pulled up to the repair bay in thirty minutes of riding. It was almost exactly ten miles. After checking in I went back to the bike for one last check of the tire pressure before they pulled the tire. Thirty-one psi. Not bad. Still a "slow" leak.

David, at Stubbs, had estimated one hour to change the tube. His estimate was accurate. I asked for the old tube for a souvenir. David brought out the tube with a circle around the hole. It was very tiny. He also brought out the source of all my problems. A tiny sliver of metal, about three-fourths of an inch long, had pierecd the tube. The metal (it looked like very thin wire) had a diameter smaller than a diabetic's insulin needle. I cannot figure how it got through the tire's hard rubber. What I do know is that it cost me seventy dollars of labor and seven dollars for the tube to get the problem fixed. Boy, flats are a lot more expensive on a bike.

I told David that I had momentarily considered fixing the tire myself. But when I heard it would take Stubbs an hour (with all the right tools), I figured it would take me ten hours. David said he used to fix his own tires, but the experts at Stubbs have it down to an art. The danger is pinching the tube on the rim, and the Stubbs guys avoid that issue.

The job was finished before I knew it. I headed back to work, keeping on the back roads. I wanted to make sure everything was working before testing the freeways. Any problem with a front tire is a disaster.

I had no trouble with the tire, but winds in the downtown area were especially fierce. I was buffeted about as the gales speed through skyscrapers. On one stretch I even had to slow down to about 5 mph because of the cross winds. Weird. I made it fine, however.

After work, I rode on home, glad to be back on two solid tubes. I now have 8891 miles on the bike.

* * * * *

January 12, 2006:

Today was one of those weird days that seems to make for a perfect ride. Last night, it was in the 50's when we took Sarah for her evening walk. This morning, it dawned at 61 degrees--considerably warmer than when we went to bed. Very odd for January.

Unfortunately, my front tire is still flat on the Rebel. And I have a court hearing. And fog was present, making the streets super slippery. So, although Sarah got her morning walk, there was no morning ride for me.

After work I made a pro forma ride. I am beginning to worry that the hole in the tube is getting worse for the wear with my riding. Thus, I took a two mile ride. I aired the tire up, rode around the neighborhood, then rechecked the air pressure. I lost two psi in two miles. Ugh. I am now worried about making it to Stubbs on one tireful of air. It's ten miles, and, assuming I stay off the freeway, will take about forty minutes. If I lose a pound every mile, I will only have 19 psi in the tire by arrival time. And that assumes a steady rate of decrease based on mileage, not time. Oh boy. Stay tuned.

* * * * *

January 11, 2006:

When I took my ride yesterday afternoon, it was cold. And it got colder overnight. This morning Channel 11 reported 34 degrees. I vetoed Sarah's walk. And my morning ride. Sadly for Sarah, when I finally went down to feed her, the outside thermometer reported 41 degrees at the house. Seemed colder when we went out to get the paper.

Given the problem with my front tire, and the cold temperatures, I remained firm that today's ride would have to be after work. I did, however, decide to air up the front tire. When I put the tire pressue gauge to the valve stem, I got no reading. The tire had gone completely flat overnight. I added air to bring it back to the normal 29 psi. Either the leak is getting worse, or the cold had some effect. Either way, this is a problem that needs attention.

When I got home from work, it was already dark. And the tire was completely flat. As in no reading on the tire gauge. I aired it up and took a short ride to get the mail in the post office box. Then straight back home. Total ride was two miles. I now have 8868 miles on the bike. And still have to deal with the flat tire.

* * * * *

January 10, 2006:

As I mentioned yesterday, I have a leak in the front tire. When I got home from work on Monday, I checked the pressure in the tire. It stood at 24 psi, which was down five pounds from the normal 29 psi. This morning I rechecked it and found it was at 18 psi. And I gave the tire a forceful squeeze. I could not tell that the pressure was low. The lesson learned is that one must check the tire pressure before each ride. And that check has to be with a tire pressure gauge.

I took no ride this morning. It rained overnight, and the streets were still wet. That, combined with the tire problem, made me decide to take the morning off. Later today I will call Stubbs to find out how quickly they can fix a front tire flat, and what it will cost. The rain is expected to end by noon. Even if I can't get to Stubbs until tomorrow, I should be able to sneak in a short ride this afternoon. Another low-speed adventure.

When I got to work I called Stubbs Cycles to see what it was going to cost to fix the tire. I was glad it was the front tire, but I still didn't want to tackle this project myself. Stubbs estimated it would be $70 of labor, and seven bucks for the tube. They don't repair tubes; they just replace them. Takes under an hour. I just need to find the time to ride over there.

Speaking of rides, I did get in a ride after work. By the time I got home and suited up it was 53 degrees out. I donned my full winter gear and checked the air in the tires. The back was fine. The front tire was still leaking. I added air and headed out.

I rode around the neighborhood. No place in particular. Okay, I did head for the twisties on White Oak. I rode them both eastbound and westbound. Fun, even at low speeds. But otherwise, I just tooled around, watching the miles go by on the odometer. When I had racked up ten miles, I headed home.

When I pulled up to the driveway I had 8866 miles on the bike. I tested the air pressue again. The front tire read 26 psi. That means that just riding around caused three pounds of air to leak out in eleven miles. Wow.

Sadly, my work schedule is making it difficult for me to get in to Stubbs. I need to get there quickly so I can get back to my regular rides. Maybe Wednesday, but more likely Thursday or Friday.

* * * * *

January 9, 2006:

At 5:30 a.m. Channel 11 was reporting 62 degrees out. Nice. We took Sarah for her walk and I then fed her. I suited up and went out to the bike.

As regular readers of this blog know, it is my routine to check the air pressure on my tires before each ride. Bikers are very dependent on their tires, and it is hard to imagine any skill level that can save you from a fall if a front tire goes. So I am especially diligent in checking tire pressure. Today, that habit may have saved me from a spill.

When I applied the pressure gauge to the front tire, the reading was 19 psi. I squeezed the tire and it seemed firm. It looked ok. I tried it again. Still 19 pounds. A visual check would not have revealed the problem. Yikes. I walked around and tried the back tire. It was exactly 29 psi, the same as yesterday. That confirmed that my tire gauge was working, and it meant my front tire was indeed low.

I aired up the tire and headed out. Before leaving I grabbed the aerosol can of tire inflater and my pressure gauge. I decided to stay off the freeways. I contented myself with some "under 30 mph" riding around the neighborhood.

At one point I turned right from Shepherd onto 19th Street. I felt the bike wobble. I began looking for a parking lot with a street light so I could see the gauge when I rechecked the front tire. The Penzey's Spices store had just the thing. However, the tire gauge still showed 29 psi.

I continued on my way. I tried more turns, but could not reproduce the wobble. Maybe it was something on the road. Maybe I was being overly sensitive to the bike. Naw. Extremely cautious, perhaps. But one cannot play it too safe where tires are concerned.

I rode around the neighborhood for half an hour or so, then went to the gas station and topped off the tank. I headed back to the house, without incident. On the way back home I retraced the route I had used yesterday when returning from the outing with John. At the end of that ride I had run over something that "crunched." I didn't think much about it at the time, but it obviously stuck in my mind. I rerode the route several times, but could see nothing on the road that might have been the problem.

When I pulled up to the driveway I had 8855 miles on the bike. I got off and ran my fingers over the front tire. I then inched the bike forward several times, repeating the digital examination. I could feel nothing unusual. I could see nothing unusual. A recheck of the air pressure showed it was still at 29 psi. I'll recheck it when I get home from work. I am hoping it will be at 19 psi. Otherwise I won't know what happened. If I take the bike to Stubbs when it is holding air, I don't know what they can do. I need a "leak" for them to fix. Interesting times.

* * * * *

January 8, 2006:

Today, John and I were scheduled to go riding together. He was due over at ten o'clock. Maria and I took Sarah for her walk, we all had breakfast, and I showered and got ready for John's arrival. When he had come over on Friday to show me his new Softail, I had neglected to show off our new flat screen tv. Today I had the chance to remedy that.

The plan was for John to come in for a cup of coffee, go over our route, and then for us to head out. I knew Chisum was one of John's all-time favorite movies, and I just happened to have a copy of the DVD. I cued up the DVD so the theme song would come on when I hit the play button. I adjusted the volume upward. When I heard that distinctive Harley sound I told Maria to let John in the front door. I then hit the play button.

As John walked in the words, "Chisum, John Chisum" started to play on the surround sound. He was properly appreciative. We began watching the movie. We watched through the first gun fight with rustlers when Maria pointedly reminded us that we were together to go riding, not watch John Wayne movies. So be it.

A check of the outside thermometer revealed the temperature to be 71 degrees. John wanted to check the air in his tires. He had his own tire gauge. We compared my gauge's readings with his. Mine read 30 psi. His read 32 psi. Close, but disturbing. One of the gauges is off quite a bit. Or maybe both are. Anyway, we aired his tires to the 36 psi mark, using his gauge. Then, after Maria took a couple of pictures of the rogues, we were off.

This was John's trip. He picked the route, and he lead the way. He had photocopied a section of a map that showed our intended route. He even made a copy for each of us. We headed to the gas station, topped off his tank, and headed out.

We got on I-10, heading east. We then took Highway 59 north. Traffic was pretty light. We rode to Cleveland, and took FM 2025 north to FM 945. That stretch had some nice curves, and even a few hills. We were in the heavy forests of the Sam Houston National Forest. Very pretty scenery. Very pleasant temperatures. And a very pleasant route.

Next, we hit FM 946, then FM 224, all the way to FM 156. We made our way to Point Blank, where we stopped to top off our tanks. There was not much traffic before Point Blank. We mostly had the roads to ourselves. John had picked a great route, and one worthy of another visit. We had taken FM 150 into Point Blank, and we needed FM 190 to get to our next town, Onalaska.

As we made our way there, John pulled over to consult his map. I pulled up beside him. We confirmed our plans and I pulled out to do a u-turn. I had made sure traffic was clear before doing so. However, after a few feet the engine stalled. I figured I had forgotten to downshift all the way to first, so I worked the clutch a couple of times and restarted the engine. It stalled again. I then worked the clutch a couple of more times. Because I was finally in first, the engine worked fine.

I think what happened before was that I hadn't downshifted at all when John pulled over. I was concentrating on safely getting off the road, and forgot that I needed to think about safely getting back on the road. When I first started out I was in the friction zone with the clutch partially out. That let me get the bike moving. Thinking I was in first, I let the clutch the rest of the way out, and it popped. Because I had be able to generate forward motion, I concluded I had been in second or third gear. That's why I only downshifted twice after the first stall. This all took a matter of seconds. However, I was lucky the road stayed empty. It doesn't do to stall out on a highway you are attempting to cross. Ugh.

Anwyay, after my bobble, we continued on our way without incident. We filled up our tanks at a Shell station and headed northeast on FM 190. Just outside Point Blank, there is a long bridge over part of Lake Livingston. As we rode over the water, the temperature dropped at least 15 degrees. All of a sudden, the wind over the water made the ride very cold. Fortunately, once we were back on land the temperatures quickly rose back into the seventies. Just after the bridge, we pulled over and John asked me if I was hungry. I offered the opinion that lunch would very much be in order. John asked me where I wanted to eat, and I reminded him that he was captain for this trip, and he had to pick the eatery. Goes with the territory. I did veto any fast food restaurants, however. We made our way to Onalaska, a small town on FM 190, and John turned in at Miss Jean's BBQ. It had a crowd, and looked nice. I, however, suspected he picked it because it was the last restaurant in town. Even so, it was a good choice. John had a chopped beef sandwich and I had a rib plate, with cole slaw and potato salad. Very satisfying.

We crossed another bridge, and experienced another temperature drop. We then took FM 3126 along the shore of Lake Livingston. At times we were within a block or two of the water, and at times we were up to four blocks from the shore. The cold wind from the lake chilled the roads within two blocks of the shore. Farther away and the effect waned. Once, in a heavily wooded area, we turned a corner, and the temperatures fell sharply. I could not see the lake, but I knew it had to be nearby. Sure enough, within a tenth a mile the trees cleared and I could see we were within the two block boundary. Weird.

From FM 3126 we took FM 1988 south to the spillway for Lake Livingston, where it dumps into the Trinity River. We stopped and checked out the fishermen. Only a lone heron seemed to be having luck.

Our ride was almost over. We took FM 3278 to FM 222, and on to Shepherd, Texas, where we made our last stop. I had some French Vanilla coffee, and John had a soft drink. I had figured it was too warm for coffee, but the French Vanilla hit the spot. We got on Highway 59, and headed home.

Before we left this last stop, John informed me that the foam inner liner of his Shoei helmet was not completely covering his ears, and he was going to try some earplugs he had brought along. He later emailed me that they had done a good job of quieting the ride back, and that he could still hear enough for safety. I have read of others wearing ear plugs, but I wonder exactly how one determines that one can hear everything one needs to. Even the small hearing limitation that comes from wearing a full faced helmet makes me worry. On the other hand, a steady roar of road noise in your ears cannot help the concentration. I am glad I don't have this issue with my Arai helmet. But maybe I'll try some plugs in the interest of science. We'll see.

This was a good day's ride. I had mile 8844 on the bike at the finish, and I was back by 4:30 pm. That means I put on 209 miles on the bike in about six and a half hours. Temperatures were very pleasant, there were some nice curves, and we saw lots of fellow riders. Made me feel sorry for those parts of the country where riding in January is out of the question.

I gave the bike a wash when I got home. I want it to be clean when I log mile 9000, which should be some time later this week. Has a nice ring to it. See you on the road.

* * * * *

January 7, 2006:

Yesterday afternoon John surprised me with an email letting me know that Nadine was taking him to pick up his new 2006 Heritage Softail from the Harley dealership in the Woodlands. I quickly rearranged my schedule so they could swing by the house on their way home and I could admire his new acquisition.

And a fine looking bike it is. John had rented both a 2005 Dyna Low Rider and a 2006 Softail. Because of his height, he preferred the Softail. It fit him better. I could tell, the last time we rode together, that he was inching toward that model.

Of course, he has already ordered several extras to trick it out so it will be uniquely his. He was kind enough to let me sit on it, and we made arrangements to go on a trip on Sunday.

I was glad of this, because I did not have time for a long ride today. Maria and I were meeting Nadine at a house in League City where the Houston Pond Society was holding its monthly gathering. Thus, I needed to be on the road (in four wheels) by noon. Also, we needed to make side dishes to take to the meeting. So today's ride, by necessity, had to be short. And, because of yesterday's adventures, today's ride needed to involve some parking lot time.

It was 41 degrees when I awoke this morning. However, by ten o'clock, it was considerably warmer. Still, I wore my winter gear. I checked the air in the tires and headed for I-10. I decided to get in two quick circuits before heading for the parking lot. And, because it was the weekend, I decided to do the workday circuit in a counterclockwise direction. This is only practical on weekends, because the Highway 290 traffic clogs up the path during the work week.

I entered I-10, heading east. I took I-45 north, Loop 610 west, then south, then got back on I-10, heading east again. I did this twice. The wind was blowing from the west. That meant I was headed directly into it on when I was headed west on the Loop. It was so strong that, with the throttle twisted full out, I could only get 67 mph* on the bike. It was a different story when I was on I-10, heading east. With the wind at my back, I was going 75 mph* before I knew it. I eased back on the throttle, and saw two radar units with their speed guns out. Fortunately, they were clocking west-bound traffic, so I lucked out.

I took the Studemont exit on the second circuit and pulled in for gas. I wanted to gas up today so I would not delay our departure tomorrow.

After filling up, I headed for the empty parking lot where an HEB used to be. I practiced quick-stops over and over again. I would shift into second, lay on some speed, then suddenly brake. I practiced using both hands and both feet. I did this until I was reassured that I was using good technique. I still don't have all these maneuvers in muscle memory, but you can only do so many quick-stops in one session. The key is regular practice.

When I pulled up to the driveway I had 8635 miles on the bike, and it was about 11:10. Time to grab a quick shower and head for League City. More riding tomorrow. See you on the road.

* * * * *

January 6, 2006:

Although the news had predicted 30's for this morning, it was only 45 degrees when we took Sarah for her walk. No problem for her. And no problem for us, since we were bundled up.

When we got back, I fed Sarah and suited up. Unfortunately, I forgot to put on my silk long johns. I noticed this oversight as soon as I began my ride. It was cold. I could feel a breeze coming in from my pants cuffs. I guess the long johns prevent that. And the wind brought home to me the thought that long johns provide more "complete" cold protection than chaps would.

Anyway, the first loop went fine. My goal was to get to mile 8600. Traffic was pretty light, and speeds were fast. As I completed the first circuit, I was feeling pretty confident.

That confidence was tested as I approached the West Loop for the second time this morning. For no reason that I could see, the traffic came to a near stop on I-10 as I approached the interchange with Loop 610. Fortunately, I was at least psychologically prepared for this due to past hangups (no pun intended) at this point in the ride. Anyway, I performed a very nice quick-stop. I applied the front brake with my right hand, the rear brake with my right foot, the clutch with my left hand and downshifted with my left foot. All at the same time. I also checked my right mirror in preparation for slipping to the right if needed. As I came to a stop, with room to spare, I watched my mirrors to make sure the traffic behind me also got stopped. I tapped the brake with my right foot so my brake lights were going on and off. The car behind me (and the cars behind him) stopped. Good, good, good.

As I resumed my ride, I was feeling pretty swell about my performance. I was thinking about how neat it was going to sound in my blog. But I was still paying attention to traffic. Which was a good thing, given what happened next.

I had merged onto I-45 South from the Loop (avoiding an errant pickup in the process) and was settled in for the last leg of the ride. All of a sudden, the cars ahead of me came to a stop. Traffic was not heavy. I was not expecting this to happen at this stretch of the freeway. I had not noticed any problem that would account for the sudden cessation of forward progress. Yikes!

Even now, I am not sure of my evaluation of my reactions to this crisis. It happened so quickly that I cannot be sure of everything I did--or didn't do. I have no recollection of downshifting, for instance. I do remember hitting both the front and rear brakes, and seriously slowing down. I also have a memory of the bike "wobbling" just a little, but not enough to cause concern. I also think I considered that there was at least a chance I would not get stopped in time. But I think I also thought that there was a distinct chance that the cars behind me would not get stopped in time, even if I did. I know I "felt" there were cars close behind me. Whether that was because I saw them or just because traffic is usually thick at this point on my circuit, I can't say for sure.

What I do know for sure is that I decided to weave out of trouble. I think I checked my right-hand mirror. I know I thought it was safe to change lanes. I know two other things. One, I did not signal my lane change. Two, I swerved the least amount necessary to get out of trouble. That is good because that minimized my odds of colliding with a car in my blind spot. I am pretty sure I don't have a blind spot, due to the way I have adjusted my mirrors, but the possibility that a car can sneak up on me and avoid my mirrors is a constant concern.

I have zero memory about whether I let off the brakes to make the zig zag. I think I must have, because I had no trouble making the maneuver. Still, I wish I could remember thinking that I needed to let off the brakes, or at least being pleased that I had done so instinctively. But I did not think anything about the issue of swearving while braking until after everything was over. Anyway, I made it through the incident. As I passed the line of cars, I could not see any reason for the abrupt slow-down.

As my adrenaline dropped to normal, I reflected on my performance. And found it wanting. I am not sure a weave was the proper response. I am almost positive I could have come to a complete stop in time. A quick weave, without time for a head check, is a very risky choice. On the other hand, so is depending on the car behind you to stop before squashing you. No clear candidate for the best course of action.

I was happy to see the Heights exit come up in short order. I know I was re-living the quick-stop, so I needed to get off the freeway before my divided attention got me hurt. I made mile 8600 as I worked my way home. I was glad to return in one piece. And I resolved to spend more time in an empty lot perfecting my quick-stops. This real-time practicing is for the birds. See you in the parking lot.

* * * * *

January 5, 2006:

Today dawned at 52 degrees. Not freezing, but not warm either. We bundled up and took Sarah for her walk. The fact that there was not much wind made the temperature tolerable. After feeding Sarah, I suited up and headed out. I wore full winter gear.

I did two circuits today. For the first one I took I-10 to the Loop, and continued on the Loop all the way to Highway 59. Yesterday, this route was congested with morning commuters. Today, because I had an earlier start, I was hopeful that traffic would be lighter.

For the most part, it was. Yesterday I hit bumper to bumper traffic once I got on Highway 59, going south. Today I was okay on 59, and did not hit congestion until I merged back onto I-10. There, traffic was pretty slow until I got past the exit for I-45 north and south. Then things lightened up. My conclusion: this extension is not very practical during the work week. Back to the old route.

For my second circuit I did take the regular route. It was fine. Traffic was controllable, and speeds were fast. Before I knew it (except in my cold fingers), I was at the Heights exit. I headed on home, and racked up mile 8570 by the time I pulled up to the driveway. Sadly, tomorrow's temperatures are predicted to be in the 30's. It may be a short ride.

* * * * *

January 4, 2006:

When the alarm went off this morning at 5:30 a.m., I turned on Channel 11 to check the outside temperature. Fifty-seven degrees. Good. However, they were also reporting heavy fog all over Houston. Bad.

We took Sarah for her walk, and quickly verified that the fog was especially thick. Visibility was about two blocks. Also, the fog was so thick that it was putting moisture on the streets, making them slick. I decided to put off my bike ride until after breakfast, to give the fog time to lift.

By 7:30 a.m. Channel 11 was reporting that the fog was rapidly lifting. A look out the windows confirmed this report. I got Maria on her way to work, checked the air in the tires, suited up and headed out.

As I entered I-10, heading west, I noted that the sky was still thick with clouds, although they were well above me by this time. But I soon ran into problems on the ground. A truck was stalled on the ramp to Loop 610, and traffic slowed to a crawl. Once I cleared the pickup, speeds picked up again. I decided to extend the circuit by going east all the way to Highway 59, which I would take south to I-10. I had scoped out this extension last weekend, and it seemed doable. Today I would determine how the route worked in morning traffic.

Everything went fine until I got on Highway 59. Then I encountered bumper to bumper slow-downs. I was often going below 10 mph, when I was moving at all. Traffic did not clear until I was on I-10 west of the interchange with I-45. This was not in my plans.

The only good thing about the delay was the possibility that it might give a wrecker enough time to haul off the pickup that was stalled at 610. I stayed in the right-hand lane so I could exit at Washington if I saw an array of tail lights. Fortunately, there were no tail lights, and there was no pickup. I did the regular circuit the second time, and took the Heights exit when it came up.

When I pulled up to the driveway I had 8535 miles on the bike. Not the best ride of the year, but the year is young. See you on the road.

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January 3, 2006:

Today is the real start of the work week for 2006. Time to get moving. Thus, when the alarm sounded at 5:30, I pleased Sarah by immediately rolling out of bed and getting dressed. As we took her for her morning walk, I noted that the outside temperature seemed a lot colder than the 49 degrees my house thermometer was indicating. I decided to wear full winter gear for this morning's ride.

After feeding Sarah, I suited up and checked the air in the tires. I then headed for a gas station to top off the tank. I wasn't out of gas, but nearly. After filling up, I circled over to I-10 and entered the freeway, heading west.

Traffic was very heavy this morning. And slow. I guess everyone is getting back to the normal workday routine, albeit a little reluctantly. The traffic conditions kept my mind occupied, and I didn't notice that my fingers were cold until almost the end of the trip.

When I took the Heights exit I still needed a mile to make it to 8500 on the odometer. I took the long way to the house. As I pulled up to the stop sign at Beverly and 7-1/2, the odometer gently rolled over to mile 8500. Steady progress. And constant fun.

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January 2, 2006:

Today I got up especially early. It probably had something to do with going to bed especially early Sunday night. Anyway, I was reading on the couch in the sewing room, waiting for it to get light out so I could go for a ride, but the clouds made dawn come rather late. By 7 a.m. I was on to other things, and I decided to put off the ride until stores opened.

Sarah, of course, had no problem eating breakfast before dawn. Which is what she did. Maria and I enjoyed coffee on the front porch, then a leisurely breakfast. We watched an episode of Firefly on the new TV, then I suited up and headed out. It was just ten o'clock.

I had previously checked the air in the tires, and I had plenty of gas in the tank. It was warm out, so I only did my normal warmup before entering I-10, heading east. I worked my way over to the far left-hand lane and took the exit for I-45, north. I exited at West Road, and pulled into the parking lot for Cycle Gear. I was there to pick up a copy of Kenneth Cole's DVD called A Twist of the Wrist. Unfortunately, they had sold out. I filled out a form so they could call me when the next copy arrived, and got back on the bike. I was now in need of a new place to ride.

A glance at my belt watch revealed that I had plenty of time to visit the Half Price Books on FM 1960 off Highway 59. I took West Road all the way east to Highway 59, then headed north to 1960. Traffic was a lot lighter today than the last time I had tried to get to this Half Price. In December everyone was out shopping. Today I had no trouble working my way the the bookstore. I pulled into the parking lot, locked my helmet on the bike, donned my do-rag, and head to paradise.

Five books later, I was ready to check out. Once outside the bookstore, I took off my jacket and stuffed three of the volumes into the zippered compartment in the back where the spine protector goes. The remaining two volumes went into the front of my jacket, and I was ready to head for home. Fortunately, the books did not restrict my range of motion. The ride back was uneventful. I cruised around a bit, then returned home. It had been a warm and pleasant ride. I now have 8469 miles on the bike. Weather permitting, I should have 8500 miles racked up tomorrow.

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January 1, 2006:


At around 5:30 a.m. this morning Sarah jumped into the bed and walked up to me. She placed a front paw firmly on my shoulder, signalling me that she had no concept of sleeping late, even though we were all up to after one in the morning, celebrating the New Year's arrival. She seemed content with four and a half hours of sleep, and was ready to start off the new year with breakfast and a trip outside. Ugh.

I put her off for about half an hour, then gave in to the inevitable, and headed downstairs. We got the paper, then she got her breakfast. I got the coffee ready and read the paper. Although I was fully awake, I didn't want to start today's ride too early because of my fear that some drunks could still be on the freeways. I wanted it to be at least light out when I did my jaunt. So I checked the air in the tires, suited up, and waited for first light.

A little after 7 a.m. Sarah and I trudged back upstairs for my wallet and motorcycle key. I told Maria that I would be back. Sarah jumped on the bed and proceeded to take a nap. I went downstairs and proceeded to have some fun.

The weatherman had predicted fog and a chance for rain. There had been fog last night, and that fog was still around. No rain, though. The streets were dry, but the sun was covered by clouds. I warmed up and entered I-10, headed west.

Traffic was virtually non-existent. Which was good. The day after all the New Year celebrating is not a day to test whether drunks like to sleep late. On the other hand, I needed to get in sixty miles to reach mile 8400. The solution was a "bookend" ride that duplicated yesterday's route. I could head home if traffic was fierce, and I could rack up sixty quick miles and be back for coffee and the homemade cinnamon rolls Maria was making if it wasn't. And I had an intellectual appreciation for the symmetry provided by doing the same route on the last day of one year and the first day of the next. Bookends.

The ride was great. The freeways were so empty that I got to notice things I never see during a normal ride when cars are everywhere. I noticed billboards I usually don't have time to read. I was able to study the buildings along the route. I even noticed leaves on the freeway.

Yes, leaves. I'm sure that leaves are always on the freeways in the fall. It's just that, normally, the cars are so close together that you don't notice the leaves. But today, with the streets empty, they were in plain sight. It was like riding down a country lane, with leaves gently blowing along your path. The fact that no one was zipping around you at 80 mph helped with the "country lane" illusion.

Fog covered the tops of the downtown skyscrapers. I thought I could detect the slight sheen on the road that comes from that added moisture. I did three rounds of the extended circuit I took yesterday. The extension adds five miles to my route because I continue on Loop 610 all the way to Highway 59 before cutting south. It was a fun extension, but I have my doubts as to whether it is practical during the work week. There is a lot of lane changing, and I try to minimize that hazard during full traffic. We'll see.

I rolled the odometer over to mile 8400 shortly after taking the Heights exit off I-10. It was still early, and those cinnamon rolls still called. Sarah was on the porch to greet me, and I could smell the coffee brewing. A great start to what I hope will be a great year. Travel long and safely, two wheelers.

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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.

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