* * * * *
October 31, 2006:
The temperature remained steady at 67 degrees. Barely cool enough for jackets during Sarah's walk, but too warm for winter gear during my ride. We took Sarah for her stroll, then fed her while I suited up.
I had to add air to the back tire. Thus inflated, I headed out. After warming up, I entered I-10, heading west. The morning air felt good, as did the freeway speeds. This was the second workday of standard time, but I had not gotten to enjoy the morning light yesterday. I took full advantage this morning. The only bad thing was that traffic was very heavy. And no one slowed down to leave extra space between them and the car directly ahead of them. Because speeds seemed about ten miles per hour faster than normal, I would have liked to have some extra space.
However, the rule is that if you travel the freeways, you have to go the pace set by the cars. It is way too risky to go other than with the flow. So, I went with the flow. At one point, I got trapped between two eighteen-wheelers. I will tell you, being in a metal canyon while buzzing along at 70 mph* is not my idea of a good time. In this case, I did drop my speed until I could get behind one of the trucks. I then accelerated back to the morning pace.
One thing about fast speeds, you can get in lots of miles in a short amount of time. I added the Highway 59 extension to both circuits, and still finished in short order. The only slow-down occurred during the second circuit, as I approached I-10 from Highway 59. I could tell the cars ahead of me were stopped. I began tapping my rear brake to let following vehicles know I was rapidly slowing down. I checked my side mirrors and noticed another motorcycle coming up behind me. I signaled hello with my right hand. He nodded back. He was wearing full gear, including a full-face helmet and armored jacket. Interestingly, we had both eased our way into the right-hand tire track so as to make a quick getaway onto the service lane if the cars behind us had not stopped.
When I came up to the Heights exit for the second time, I took it on home. I now have 19,472 miles on the bike. Rain is forecast for tomorrow, but I can't tell when it is going to hit. Hopefully, it will only come after tomorrow's ride. Stay tuned. And don't forget to think.
* * * * *
October 30, 2006:
Today dawned at 67 degrees. Medium humidity. Very pleasant. Maria had an out-of-town trip planned, and I had to take her to the Garden Center, where everyone was meeting. She had to be there by 7:15 a.m.
No problem. We just got up a half and hour earlier than normal, and Sarah got in her full walk. The plan was for me to fix breakfast, then for me to take Maria to the Garden Center. I would then return home for my ride--all before heading to work. The plan went astray when the bus didn't show up until eight o'clock. Which made me late getting back home. Which made me settle for a post office run in clear, warm weather. At least I managed to ride slowly. Still, two miles is two miles, at whatever speed.
I now have 19,332 miles on the bike. But no bus trips are scheduled for tomorrow. And the rain is not supposed to hit till the afternoon. Maybe I can get in some nice two-wheeled thinking in the morning. Stay tuned.
* * * * *
October 29, 2006:
It was cold this morning. And we didn't have to be at the Rose Show until afternoon. So I opted for a hot bath and book. But before that, of course, Sarah demanded--and got--her breakfast. Afterwords, Maria and I ate a leisurely breakfast of our own, and then took Sarah for a nice walk.
When we got back I read some more, then suited up for a ride. It was in the seventies by then, so I left the winter gear behind. I added air to the front tire, then I was off. I entered I-10, heading west. Traffic was fairly light, and the temperature was perfect for riding.
I took 610 to the exit for I-45, and headed north. Although 610 was civilized, I-45 was its normal, hectic self. Traffic was thick and unpredictable. Several time, things slowed down, and I had to quick brake. You would think I would have learned that it was not a day for distractions, but I hadn't.
I was riding along in the right-hand lane when I spied something on the road. Maybe it was because I had been reading the latest issue of American Iron Magazine about motorcycle camshafts, but the thing looked exactly like an extra long camshaft to me. I concentrated on the metal too long, and when I looked up, traffic was coming to a stop. I applied the front and back brakes. I wasn't especially worried about getting stopped in time, but I guess I laid on a little extra rear brake, because the back tire started to squeal slightly, and I began a slow fishtail bobble. I let off the brake, and got the bike back under control. But it was a little closer than I like. It just goes to show you that you need to pay close attention to the ever-changing traffic patterns, even on a Sunday ride.
Given how I had corrected the bobble, I was not all that displeased with my performance, so I continued on my ride without too much second guessing. When I came to the exit for the Airport, I took it to the east. I stayed on Beltway 8 until I took that magnificent exit south onto Highway 59. I enjoyed every second of the rising, arcing turn onto the southbound portion of the Highway. And I especially like the second lane that is there in the curve, because it allows one to pour on some speed in the middle of the turn, all to good effect from a fun-factor perspective.
That's really all there is to report about this ride. I took the Loop east to I-10, then headed back to the house. I missed watching mile 19,400 roll over. When I got to the Heights exit, I took it, and u-turned to the gas station to top off the tank. I then headed for the house, registering 19,430 miles on the bike by the time I pulled up to the driveway. It had been a very pleasant outing, and one that allowed some wonderful thinking time, once I got off I-45.
No rain till Tuesday, according to the weatherman. And the Texas Lone Star Rally is coming up. It should be an interesting week. See you on the road.
* * * * *
October 28, 2006:
I got up at 4 a.m. this morning. But not to go for a motorcycle ride. Instead, we got up early because of the rose show that was happening at the Reliant Center. The doors opened at six for exhibitors, and Maria and I were entering several roses in the contest.
In addition to my not getting my morning ride, Sarah did not get her morning walk. On the other hand, Maria and I had success at the rose show, winning two trophies (one for best climber and one for best polyantha). We took a break from the show around three, and came home to let Sarah take a walk in the back yard.
We had to head back to the rose show around six in the afternoon. Thus, as soon as we got home, I suited up and headed out to fit in a quick ride. I added a little air to the front tire, and headed out.
I entered I-10, heading west. Traffic was light, and speeds were fast. Once I was on the North Loop, I stayed on it all the way to the intersection with I-10. I then headed back west. This long extension added several miles to my normal circle. Because of the light traffic, I got in both nice seat time and nice thinking time.
There is really nothing to report about the ride. I must say, however, that the exhaustion that comes with entering a rose show seemed to melt away as I rolled on the miles. The ride was very enjoyable, and extremely refreshing.
When I returned home, I had 19,376 miles on the bike, and I was still on schedule to get back to the rose show for the evening crowds. Tomorrow, we don't have to return until mid-afternoon. Thus, I won't have to hit the road at dawn. Stay tuned.
* * * * *
October 27, 2006:
It rained all night. Sarah paced all night. I slept in fits all night.
At 5:30 a.m., I got up. Maria informed me that she was going to try to get a little more sleep. Sarah let me know she was ready for her walk. So, I got the leash, and off she and I went. The ditches were still full of water, but the streets were (mostly) dry. It had stopped raining around 3 a.m., so there was time for the wetness to disappear in the wind.
When Sarah got back, I fed her, then suited up. Although the outside thermometer read 64 degrees, it felt colder. I decided long johns were in order, along with the PolarTec shirt and balaclava. It made a difference.
The tire pressure was still okay, so I headed out. After warming up, I entered I-10, heading west. Traffic was light. Because I had no appointments this morning, I added the Highway 59 extension to both circuits. The freeways were dry, except for one spot (on a curve, of course) at the exit for Highway 59. There was a little stop-and-go, but mostly travel was at speed limits.
I got in lots of great thinking time, and I was happy about that. The lane changers must have slept late, along with the cell phone talkers. All-in-all, the trip was wonderously uneventful. I watched the odometer change to 19,300 as I approached the Heights exit on the first circuit. Before I knew it, I was back at the Heights exit, which I took on the second circuit. I now have 19,321 miles on the bike. I have a rose show in the morning, so my ride will have to be when I get back.
* * * * *
October 26, 2006:
We started out early today because I have "part two" of a deposition that we started yesterday afternoon. Sarah did not seem to mind, nor did Maria. Upon arising, I had looked out the window to see if the streets were dry. They were. The problem came from the fact that I then retreated to another room and read for half an hour. By 5:30 a.m., when we hit the road, the situation had changed.
When we went out the front door, I immediately noticed that the rocks around our disappearing fountain were wet. That meant that it had rained recently. Within a few steps, I realized that it was raining at our front door. And, I mean that literally, It rained in the cul-de-sac, but it stopped raining one we reached the end of the block. We did Sarah's normal walk, and the rain did not return until we got back to the cul-de-sac, whereupon it started up again.
I fed Sarah and suited up. I checked the rain gauges in the back, and they read two tenths of an inch overnight. I check the air in the tires, and they registered full. So, off I went.
I had decided that the wet streets called for a post office run. When I started out, the headlight revealed that it was raining at a moderate clip. That rain increased to a torrent as I turned west on Tenth Street. I was totally drenched by a downpour that lasted about five blocks. I mean drenched as in soaked to the bone. It happened so fast that there was no time to even turn around.
I got the mail and headed back. The rain stayed away till I got back on Oxford. Even then, it was only light showers. When I returned I had put a big two miles on the bike. The odometer now reads 19,281. Maria informed me that we had lost the satellite during the cloudburst, and the weatherman was warning of torrential bans of percipitation. Yikes. At least it is supposed to be dry by tomorrow morning, if all goes according to schedule. We will see.
* * * * *
October 25, 2006:
This morning it was a sultry 72 degrees out. It felt almost spring-like. And the only sign of the predicted rain was in the overcast skies. The high humidity and pleasant temperatures made for a nice walk with Sarah.
When we got back, I fed Sarah and suited up. The tire pressure was fine. Interestingly, yesterday morning the back tire read just over 28 psi at 52 degrees. Today, it read 29.5. I believe this is a function of the atmospheric temperature being twenty degrees warmer. Either that, or the tire gauge is temperature sensitive.
Anyway, I headed for the freeway, and enjoyed a long (and warm) ride. Traffic was pretty light, and well-behaved. I got in some nice stretches of thinking time, which I used to good effect. I also got in some nice highway speeds, although there was a little stop-and-go traffic thrown in.
Not much else to report. Because I had 145 miles on the gas tank, I swung by the gas station and topped off the tank. Rain is expected in the morning, and I didn't want to run out of gas during a downpour.
When I got back to the house, I has 19,279 miles on the bike. Stay tuned to see if tomorrow's ride is long or short, wet or dry. And, rain or shine, don't forget to think.
* * * * *
October 24, 2006:
I thought it was going to be in the forties this morning, but it turned out that it was two degrees warmer than yesterday. Still, 52 degrees is not all that warm. Especially when wind chill is figured in.
However, there was no wind chill during Sarah's walk, what with all her pauses to sniff and explore. And the temperature did not bother her one bit. When we got back, I fed her and suited up. This morning, I added the balaclava to my outfit, but I didn't have to add air to the tires.
When I entered I-10, heading west, I immidiately appreciated the difference the balaclava made. By shutting off my throat area from the cold, it made my whole upper body warmer. In fact, cold wasn't even a factor on this morning's ride. But for the fact that I had an early out-of-the-office appointment, I would have enjoyed going for a long ride.
As it was, I had to content myself with a single (twenty mile) circuit. Traffic was pretty light, and thinking time was plentiful. I-45 was really backed up, so I added the Highway 59 extension. Then, Highway 59 was backed up also. Oh well, I still had a great time. No close calls, and lots of fun.
When I got home, I had 18,239 miles on the bike. Rain is expected for tomorrow and Thursday, but it is supposed to start on Wednesday afternoon. If so, I should get in a nice ride on Wednesday morning. Stay tuned to find out.
* * * * *
October 23, 2006:
This morning was the coldest day so far this fall. It was 50 degrees out when we got up. Sarah was fine with the temperature, but I decided it would be a good idea to wear all my winter gear when riding. And I started out by slipping on the long johns for Sarah's walk!
When we got back, I fed the girl and worked on the website. Maria had a very early appointment, so I decided to go for my ride after she took off. After she left, I suited up and added air to the front tire. It was just before eight. And not a bit warmer out.
The Polartec shirt kept my body warm. The long johns kept my legs warm. I still need to order the Lee Parks gauntlet gloves to keep my fingers warm. I shut the vent on my helmet to cut down the cold air going to my face, but my eyes still watered from the wind and cold.
I quickly decided that a single circuit would be enough riding for this morning. I was enjoying myself, but I noticed that I was paying far too much attention to the cold for safe riding. Also, I wasn't sure how fast I would be able to react, if the need arose.
So, after I completed the fifteen mile version of my morning route, I took the Heights exit back to the house. I was glad to have the 19,218 miles on the bike, and glad to be back in warm country. Tomorrow it is supposed to be in the forties. We will see.
* * * * *
October 22, 2006:
Today, I decided to put off my ride until afternoon. I even stayed in bed an extra thirty minutes. We then all got up and took Sarah for her walk. It was cool, but not too bad. Sarah enjoyed every minute. When we got back, I fed her and then helped fix breakfast.
Maria had a sewing seminar this morning, and had to be headed out by 8:15. I had a free (and worth every penny) consultation with a neighbor about his landscaping problems. Plus, I have not had the time for a long bath with a good book in quite some time. With no "to do" list looming over my head, I was not about to pass up the chance for some book time. So, the ride got pushed back to this afternoon.
When I checked the temperature at noon, it was 70 degrees out. Around two, I suited up and headed out. I did not recheck the thermometer. That was a mistake.
I added air to the front tire, and did my warm up. I was surprised by the cold temperatures and high wind. Maria had only left me with one task for the day. I had to mail a letter for her. So, after filling up with gas, I headed for the downtown post office.
Sadly, when I got there I read that there was no mail pickup on Sundays. Still, the letter will be on its way by six a.m. Monday.
After dropping the letter in the box, I got on Louisiana and headed north. Once I was on I-10, I headed west to Loop 610. Traffic was medium. The wind was strong.
I took 610 to thew I-45 exit, and headed south to I-10 East. I took that to Highway 59, then headed north. My destination: Half Price Books on 1960.
I arrived at the Half Price without incident. And inside, much to my pleasure, I found a pile of books to add to my small collection. Several philosophy books and a three history tomes. A good catch, and one that would (barely) fit in the various pockets of my Vanson jacket.
As I sat on my bike, putting on my helmet and gloves, a couple pulled up into a parking spot across from me. I could not help noticing two things. First, the female driver was very attractive, and second, she was in an argument of some kind with her male companion. I was just finishing up when they got out of their car. As the dark-haired beauty walked past, she asked me, "Did I stay between the lines?" She motioned to her car. Not sure that she really meant the parking stripes, I agreed that she had. Her male compainion then remarked to me that only because the car was small, did she manage to stay between the lines, even though she had parked crookedly. Why they thought I could settle their differences is beyond me. It must have been the do-rag.
Anyway, I finished suiting up and started up the bike and headed back home. When I got to Beltway 8, I exited to the west. I then took JFK and u-turned so I was heading east on the Beltway. By that move, I got to enjoy the best exit in town: eastbound on Beltway 8 to southbound on Highway 59. The sky was striking, and downtown was clearly visible. I was glad I had taken the time to make the detour.
As I continued south, I started smelling something strange. A burning smell. I did a quick visual check of the bike, but could see nothing. The smell continued for quite a while. Due to the wind speed--and my speed--I ruled out other vehicles. As I tooled down the freeway, trying to figure out the smell, it came to me that the odor was that of cigars. I decided that nothing burning on my bike could give off that smell. But I was positive I recognized the scent. So, I rolled on the throttle and pulled up next to the window of the white SUV I had been behind. Sure enough, the driver was puffing away on a big stogie. I was surprised that the smell could survive the outside turbulence, but relieved that it wasn't coming from my bike.
When I got to the Loop, I took it westbound, then to the south. I next took the exit to I-10 East. That is a gentle curve, and I took it at speed. Unknown to me, a black car was taking a similiar exit for 610 to I-10, but from the northbound lane of 610. We both came together at the same time.
Fortunately for me, we each had our own entry lanes. Still, it was quite a shock to me to see the black car arcing toward me at a high rate of speed. I quickly accelerated so the car was not next to me. It took me longer to get my adrenaline back to normal levels.
At Studemont, I took the exit on home. When I pulled up to the driveway, I had 19,201 miles on the bike. The temperature had continued to fall, but at least the streets were dry. Stay tuned to see how cold it is on my morning run.
* * * * *
October 21, 2006:
Today I got up at 5:30 a.m. to get ready for my 19,000 mile ride. I was relieved to hear on the radio that the temperature in Galveston was 76 degrees. And it was 68 here. Plenty warm. I took Sarah down for the paper and encountered mist on my glasses. Seemed very light. However, while she ate her breakfast, I checked Weather.com. No rain on land within 600 miles of Houston. Good.
I let Sarah out the back and checked both tires. No problems there. I came back inside and suited up. Because of the promise of warm temperatures, I did not put on any winter gear. And because John had mentioned that breakfast would be "mid-morning," I took the time to partake of milk and cookies for breakfast.
I then went back upstairs, said goodbye to Maria, and headed out. I still had time to do the warmup portion of my ride. I then headed to the Shell station where we were to meet. As I headed south on Heights, I caught the light at the feeder road for I-10. I was about four car lengths away when it went to red. I had plenty of distance to stop.
What I didn't count on was the water that was on the road. There was a shallow puddle, about the width of a car, and about two and a half car lengths from the intersection. I drove through it, and then applied my brakes. It was not a hard application, but it was firm, due to the short distance to the intersection.
I felt the back tire start to fishtail. I let up on the brake, got traction back, then finished braking. I am relaying this because I was surprised at what happened. The lesson learned is that running through a puddle will cause you to be at risk for a skid for about a car length after getting back on dry pavement. Ugh. I was glad to get in another riding lesson, and at a cost to only my pride.
I continued on to the station, and rode up just as John was finished topping his tank. He gave me a copy of the route, and off we went. It was barely seven in the morning.
The skies were completely overcast. I liked that, because it meant we didn't have the sun in our eyes, even though we were headed east and south. We took I-10 to I-45, then continued on to Highway 225.
Our route was through the refinery country. There was plenty of traffic on the freeway, and plenty of activity at the refineries. Smoke stacks were blowing steam, but the air was fresh and moist.
We took Highway 146 to the Fred Hartman bridge, which connects Baytown to Laporte. The bridge is 178 feet high. It consists of a series of diamond-shaped towers that are 440 feet tall. The neat thing about taking the bridge on a motorcycle is that you get to see all 440 feet of height as you pass along the 1,250 foot length of the bridge. When driving, your car's roof cuts off the view.
We continued on up Highway 146. John was in the lead, and I was following. I tried to remember to stay in the opposite tire track from the one he was taking. That afforded me the best view of the road ahead. However, I was enjoying the ride, and I guess I fell in behind him. I was about six car lengths back. There was a SUV ahead of John.
All of a sudden, I saw John's Harley make a small up and down movement. Before I could react, my Rebel was making the same movement. We had both run over an object on the road. John quickly pulled off the highway to check our tires. He told me he recognized the object as the remains of a truck's mud flap. Fortunately, our tires were fine. After getting some French Vanilla coffee at the gas station, we continued on our way.
As we were pulling out of the parking lot, a light mist began to fall. That mist turned into a steady rain, then a torrent, as we continued on our way. A car got in behind me, and I always hate that in the rain. We were going around sixty, and I was concentrating on the car behind. That is the explanation for why I missed watching mile 19,000 roll up on the odometer.
John pulled off the road and we parleyed. The sky was full of rain where we stopped, but it was even worse in the direction we were headed. We opted to back track. Unfortunately, even that decision meant another fifteen minutes of very wet riding. That's when I realized I had missed watching mile 19,000 roll around. Nonetheless, when the rain let up a little, I did the bird in honor of the event. And, wonder of wonders, I even saw John doing the bird. Later, when I asked him about it, he claimed he was simply trying to dry out his arms from the downpour. Right.
Anyway, we ended up on the Bolivar Ferry, heading for Galveston. Because of the wet weather and early hour, there was no wait for the ferry. We mere ushered on, and watched dophins frolic in the sea during the ferry trip. I was amazed at the number of them that were cutting up.
Once back on land, we rode to Miller's Landing for breakfast. We were lucky to find a parking place in their miniscule lot. We both ordered eggs for breakfast. It was a nice break from the wet. We sat around drinking coffee until the clouds (mostly) disappeared. We then headed back toward I-45.
When we got to Highway 146, we took it north, meandering around the Keemah Boardwalk and stopping at a hamburger joint in the area. John asked me if there was any place else I wanted to go. I mentioned that there was a Half Price Books nearby on NASA Road 1. John got up to the Road, and I took over the lead. I had not approached the Half Price from that end of NASA Road One, and I was afraid I would miss it. But I needn't have worried. The landmarks immediately jumped into focus, and I made the turn easily.
We sent a pleasant half hour persuing the books and tapes. John found a history book on WWII. I did not find anything on my list of "must buys." After John paid for his purchase, we headed for Houston. The skies were getting dark, and it looked like rain might hit us once again. But what hit us was something else entirely.
We were traveling north on I-45. John was in the lead. There was a old Cadillac behind me, in the lane to my right. I noted that the Caddie changed into the lane directly behind me, then into the lane to my left. It was accelerating to pass me. I was watching it in my rear view mirror. I looked ahead and then it happened.
There was a loud roar just behind me. I flinched as I tried to figure out what was happening. I could still see the Caddie, and it seemed like it was under control. I could not place the sound, although it was very loud. In an instant, all was made clear.
Two jets had screamed directly over my head, in tight formation. They must have been part of a nearby air show. They had been flying so low that I thought a wreck was happening. Harleys make a neat sound, but their exhausts are nothing like a jet engine flying just above your head.
That's really it for this adventure. John took Highway 59 North to Kingwood, and I took I-10 to the Heights exit. When I pulled up to the driveway, I ad 19,130 miles on the bike. It had been a great run, and I had logged 205 miles. I had had a really memorable ride, with plenty of thinking time, and several free showers. Rain is expected to return tomorrow. Stay tuned to see what the day holds.
* * * * *
October 20, 2006:
It was 51 degrees out this morning. Time to break out the winter coats. Properly dressed, we headed out, Sarah in tow. She seemed to enjoy the cooler weather. I know, as fall and winter drag on, fifty degrees will begin to feel warm. But, this morning, it felt cold, cold, cold.
When we got back from Sarah's walk, I went upstairs and got dressed. I decided to add the balaclava John had given me last winter to the Polartec shirt I wear when the temperatures are in the fifties. I decided to forego the glove liners, because I was doing only one circuit.
I added air to both tires, and headed out. As soon as I entered I-10, a grin appeared on my face. Cold or not, it felt good to be heading down the road at high speeds. Trafic was pretty light, and everyone was well behaved. That made for plenty of thinking time, even if I was only doing one circuit.
When I got to the Heights exit, I took it, and headed for the gas station to top off my tank. I am meeting John in the morning, and I wanted a full tank of gas for my 19,000 mile run. When I got home, I had 18,925 miles on the bike. A quick wash for the Rebel, and I will be ready to hit the road, bright and early on Saturday morning. Stay tune. And don't forget to think.
* * * * *
October 19, 2006:
I slept right through this morning's rain. The reason I know it rained is because the streets were wet when we took Sarah for her walk. And the gutters were full. The radio warned of slick streets throughout the area. The dampness all around told the tale that the rain had hit just before the cold front made its way through the area. When we started our walk, the temperature was 71 degrees. It fell for the rest of the morning. The wet roads made me decide against a freeway run. The full ditches made Sarah decide in favor of an early morning romp through the water.
When we got home, I fed her and suited up. I checked the rain gauges and noted that we got three tenths of an inch during the downpour. I decided that a post office run was in order. The tire pressure was fine. My choice to avoid highway speeds was confirmed as I passed wet gutters and intersections full of puddles.
It was a short run. I now have 18,908 miles on the bike. But no rain is expected for tomorrow. Hopefully, I will see high speeds again. I sure miss them.
* * * * *
October 18, 2006:
No fog this morning. And no rain (yet). When we took Sarah for her walk, we discovered that summer has returned with a vengeance. It was hot and humid. Very humid. Fortunately, there was still enough water in the ditches to keep Sarah cool.
Maria and I were on a tight schedule today. Maria had an appointment in the Woodlands at 8:15 a.m. I had a probate hearing. She needed to leave by 7:15. That meant that I needed to adjust my morning routine.
When we returned from Sarah's walk, I fed the girl, and fixed breakfast while Maria got ready to leave. By the time she came downstairs, breakfast was ready. Soon after she left, I suited up for a short ride.
I had had the television on all morning. Lots of attention was paid to an accident where a couch fell off a truck going down the freeway, and several cars swerved, hit the couch, hit each other and hit a store. Ugh.
The air was fine in both tires. I warmed up and headed west on I-10. Immediately, I came upon an equivalent to the couch on the news. A full-fledged stand-alone bar had fallen off a truck, and was resting in the emergency lane. I was glad I had not been nearby when it fell. It is bad enough when a car hits a big obstruction on the freeway. A motorcycle is a whole different situation.
I passed the stand-alone bar, and settled back for a nice ride. It has been some time since I got to travel at freeway speeds. I came upon a family of road gators, and weaved my way through them. A small Volkswagon crossed two lanes immediately in front of me as it made a made dash for the TC Jester exit. It was good to be back to my normal morning routine!
I got in some good thinking time on this ride. I missed watching the odometer roll over to 18,900 by four tenths of a mile. The only other road hazard I faced was a pothole the size of a basketball as I traveled south on I-45. I hope this hole is fixed soon. I don't want to forget about it on tomorrow's ride.
When I headed back west on I-10, I noted that we really did have fog. The tops of the downtown skyscrapers were covered about half-way. Still, there was no fog on the road.
I stopped after a single circuit. I am manipulating the mileage so I have a chance for a good ride on Saturday for my 19,000th mile run. Right now, I have 18,906 miles on the bike. See you on the road. And don't forget to think.
* * * * *
October 17, 2006:
There was no sound of rain when I woke up this morning. And no reports of rain on the radio. I looked out the window, and saw that the streets weren't dry. But, I thought, the wetness could be left over from yesterday.
The radio reported fog in the area. Highway 288 was a parking lot. But that was far away from the Heights. I showered, then we took Sarah for her walk. The fog was closer than I thought.
By the end of the block, I could tell that the fog was really thick. We could only see two blocks down the street. After that, everything was white. And the wet condition of the streets was as much from the fog as left over moisture from yesterday's rains.
When we got back, Channel 11 was reporting heavy fog off Highway 290. Clearly, no freeway riding was in store this morning. I fed Sarah, and got suited up while she ate. I added a little air to the front tire, and headed out--on a post office run.
Out of habit, I took a left at the second stop light. Which was away from the post office. This was not a morning to be meandering around. I got back on track, and headed for 11th at Yale. Once at the post office, I headed directly home.
The fog was definitely thick. It clearly showed up in my brights, but not enough to cause me to switch to my dims. I made it home without incident, logging mile 18,891 in the process. I am hopeful that tomorrow will dawn clear and dry. Stay tuned.
* * * * *
October 16, 2006:
I got no restful sleep last night. Between staying up late to finish my taxes, and Sarah jumping up and down all night with the storm, it seemed that I only slept in snatches. So, when my alarm went off, I was not happy to hear the sound. Nor was I happy to hear the raindrops.
Sarah and I trooped down, looked for the paper, and got her breakfast. I then check the air in the tires (both were ok) and Sarah checked out the back yard. Next, I looked at Weather.com. More heavy rain was clearly on the way, but it seemed that we were between those angry red cells that had been hitting us lately. I decided to grab a quick shower and go exploring.
I told Maria I would be gone for about half an hour. That I was going to check out the bayou and our drive routes. And maybe stop by the post office.
First, I took Oxford all the way to the feeder for I-10, just to make sure Maria had a straight shot to work. No flooding problems. I took the feeder west, and headed south on Yale. I crossed White Oak Bayou, noting that it was very full, but not over its banks. It appeared that my work route was also open.
The rain was coming down lightly. There was not all that much traffic, but what there was did not seem to want to slow down because of a little rain. For once, I was glad to be in the school zone along Heights Boulevard. It forced everyone to slow down to twenty on the wet roads.
I weaved my way to the post office, checked the mail, and started back. Once on 11th, I noticed that if I kept riding about five more miles, I could pull into the driveway with a memorable reading on the odometer.
So I extended my explorations. I rode to Michaux, and headed south to White Oak. I then headed east to see if the bayou was over its banks. Within a couple of blocks, I could see that the water only had to rise another foot or so to be out of the banks. Yikes. I did another mileage calculation, and headed back west. As I passed Studemont, I checked out the bridge over the bayou. Still dry. I have seen that bridge under water more than once.
I headed for the house. I was paying close attention to my mileage, and to downed limbs in the road. Apparently, we had had a strong breeze overnight. Branches and tipped over garbage cans were everywhere.
When I got back to the cul de sac, I did three wide circles before pulling into the driveway. I did two more circles once in the driveway. When I stopped in front of the garage door, the odometer read 18888.8
I got the camera and snapped a couple of pictures. We'll see how they turned out. I was glad to have the miles, and it had been an interesting morning. Not much leisure time for thinking, but lots of opportunities for exploring the streets and bayous. Tomorrow the rain is supposed to be gone. Stay tuned to see what happens.
* * * * *
October 15, 2006:
I got up at an early hour this morning. Last night, they had predicted that it would rain all day Sunday. This morning, the radio was still sticking with that prediction. Sarah and I went downstairs for the paper and breakfast. My paper; her breakfast.
Because it was not yet six, the paper had not arrived. And, when we went out to look for it, the streets were still dry. I fixed her breakfast, and checked Weather.com while she ate. Rain was all around, and headed our way. When Sarah finished eating, I let her out the back, and went to check on the tire pressure.
The air in the tires was fine, but the outside air was starting to fill with rain. Sprinkles had started, but the horizon looked wet. I went inside and grabbed a shower. It was still too dark out to ride.
When I turned the shower water off, I could hear that the outside shower was coming on at full force. Ugh. I got back in bed to wait out the storm, if possible.
After about twenty minutes, the rain stopped. I quickly dressed, and headed out. It was lightly sprinkling. The streets were totally wet. I decided on a short ride around the neighborhood.
I worked my way over to Heights, then decided to gas up the bike. I made my way to the gas station, taking every corner extra carefully. At the gas station, I could see I-10. It was almost completely desserted. However, the cars that were out were kicking up a gigantic wake of mist as they cruised down the freeway. It was not a day to go sixty on two wheels.
I decided to revisit the back roads off of Sixth Street. It had been some time since I had ridden them, and today was a perfect day for it. It was still barely sprinkling when I left the gas station. However, that situation changed when I was about five blocks from Shepherd. A downpour started, and it became difficult to see. I wasn't that close to the house, and it appeared that I was due to get soaked on this ride.
Fortunately, traffic was very light at this early hour. I headed back to the house, and passed up a chance to stop by the post office. Besides, I decided to hold that trip in reserve just in case the rains really continued through Monday, as they were predicting.
When I got home, my riding clothes were soaked. The bike now has 18,881 miles on it. I had to hang my jacket and pants up to dry. I also had to wipe my helmet off with several paper towels. It could have been worse, however. I had only ridden in the early showers. The rain continued all day Sunday, just as the weather people had predicted. And it often came down in torrents. It was a good day to stay inside. Stay tuned to see what the morrow brings.
* * * * *
October 14, 2006:
It was 61 degrees again this morning. Sarah did not get her walk, due to the fact that we are hosting an apiarist meeting today, starting at noon, and many tasks remained undone when I arose.
Although she didn't seem to think that it evened things out, I didn't get a normal Saturday ride on my bike either. Because of the crush of time, I had to settle for a quick jaunt. After adding air to the front tire, I headed for Panera's for Cinnamon Crunches.
Because I-10 at the West Loop is almost always under construction on the weekends, I started out by heading east on I-10. Because of the shortage of time, I headed north on I-45, then west on 610 to Highway 290. I traveled northwest on 290 to the Panera's. When I pulled up, I had fifteen miles on the bike. I paid for two Crunches, and headed home. No "fun" detours this morning. I was home in short order.
I did get in some thinking time during the trip. And I did get to exercise some riding skills when I topped a hill on I-45 south and came upon a full-sized dolly in the middle of my lane. I whipped around it at 60 mph*. The fact that the metal was bright orange helped. The fact that it was only covering up two-thirds of my lane also helped. It certainly added a little excitment to the ride.
When I pulled up to the driveway, I had 18,875 miles on the bike. I am only 125 miles away from my 19,000th mile. Sadly, the Federal Government is certain to spoil my chances for making that goal on Sunday. Monday is the tax deadline, and I am still hard at work on my 2005 taxes. I should have them done on Sunday, but not early enough to get in a memorable ride. Plus, heavy rain is expected Sunday and Monday, further interfering with my riding plans. Stay tuned to see what I eke out.
* * * * *
October 13, 2006:
A real cold front is coming. Today dawned at 61 degrees. But the streets were dry. We took Sarah for her walk and she demonstrated that the ditches were still wet from last night's storm. We got 1.7 inches of rain yesterday. So Sarah had plenty of "wet" to explore.
When we got back, I fed her, and suited up. Sadly, because of an early out-of-the-office appointment, I could not fit in my normal forty mile ride. But I didn't want to saddle up for a simple post office run. So, after checking the air in both tires, I headed for the freeway. Because of the cold, I was wearing my Polartec shirt. And it was much needed.
I entered I-10, heading west. Traffic was light, especially for a Friday. I made good time all through my circuit. I was tempted to add the second circuit, but I was short on time. So, I contented myself with a single circle, and relished the extra thinking time the light traffic afforded.
There were few incidents on today's ride. A couple of cars performed radical lane changes to make their exits. But otherwise, everyone was well behaved.
It was an enjoyable ride, albeit only twenty-one miles long. I now have 18,843 miles on the bike. And a very busy weekend. Stay tuned to see what rides I can fit in.
* * * * *
October 12, 2006:
No fog this morning. And no rain when I got up. Sarah was happy. When we got back from her walk, I suited up while she ate. I had to add air to the rear tire. Then, choke on, I headed out.
I entered I-10, heading west. The choke was off. Traffic was medium, and fast. Thinking was fitted in between the weird drivers. At the exit for TC Jester on 610, I saw a car dive for the exit, crossing three lanes in the process. I was congratulating myself on having avoided the driver when another car made a dash for the exit. Because he had waited longer than the first driver, I was closer to him when he headed across the lanes for the exit. In fact, he was at least half a car length into the striped off triangle when he exited. Ugh.
Things lightened up until I was running the gauntlet between I-45 and Highway 59 on the North Loop. There is a section of the road where I have to cut over to the right-hand lane to head south on Highway 59. Traffic is heavy, and construction is all around. I don't have much room to make the move. Although I only have to move over one lane, I am always extra alert.
This morning, I did a head check, picked my opening, did a second head check, and made my play. I had just gotten into the line of traffic when I heard the loud thump of rock hitting rock. I felt no impact, however. My adrenaline shot all the way up. I was sure a crash had happened behind me. A quick glance revealed that the noise was from a jack hammer that had started up just as I got into the lane. Yikes.
I hit heavy traffic again just as I neared I-10 from Highway 59, south. We had lots of stop and go. Once I was on I-10, I got caught between two eighteen wheelers, one in the lane to my right, and one in the lane to my left. It was strange to be in that sheet metal canyon. I slowed down to let the trucks get ahead. I didn't want to be caught in between the behemoths any longer than necessary.
Soon, I was away from the eighteen wheelers, but caught up in regular traffic. It was backed up all the wy to Shepherd. I was deciding whether to cut the ride short, or continue on. Just before the Washington exit, traffic let up enough that I decided to go for the full secnd circuit.
I got a little more thinking time in during the second circuit, but there was still clown-action on the roads. Fortunately, I was far enough away that it presented no problems.
When I got home, I had 18,822 miles on the bike. Rain is expected for the rest of the week. How much riding I will get in is undetermined. Stay tuned. And don't forget to think.
* * * * *
October 11, 2006:
It was 66 degrees this morning when I got up. And the radio was reporting fog in the area. Channel 11 also reported fog. Even more significantly, they reported that the weather helicopters had been grounded because of the mist. Ugh.
Sarah expressed no problems with low clouds. So, off we went on her walk. The clouds were slightly visible, especially in the street lights. But more importantly, the mist was easily detectable on your face. You could feel the drops of water hitting. Not good.
I had a full plate at work. Coupled with the odds of riding in the fog, I opted for a post office run this morning. I added air to the front tire, and headed out.
The streets were very wet under the trees. We had received 1.6 inches or rain yesterday. I was glad for my decision to stay off the freeways, even though it meant little seat time on the Rebel. And even less thinking time.
I now have 18,782 miles on the bike. Tomorrow is supposed to be clear and dry. Stay tuned.
* * * * *
October 10, 2006:
Rain was expected all day today. This morning, however, the streets were dry. Sarah got cheated out of her walk, and I got cheated out of half my ride. You see, I had a probate hearing this morning, and needed to meet with my client at a very early hour.
After adding some air to the front tire, I headed out for a single circuit. I warmed up, then entered I-10, heading west. I had left the house just before six, and it was dark out. Fortunately, traffic was light. I felt comfortable on the route, because it is one I take almost every day. Freeways are like living beasts, and they have their normal rhythms. After a while you feel at one with them. Whether that "feeling" is a delusion or not, I am not prepared to say. But, rightly or wrongly, familiarity breeds content(ment). I had no trouble with the traffic, and I even got in some thinking time. Still, given the lighting conditions and my schedule, I called a halt to the ride after a single circuit.
I took the Studemont exit and headed to the gas station. To get there, I had to u-turn under the freeway. As I approached the feeder road for I-10 East, I caught the traffic light red. There was a pickup ahead of me, also stopped for the red light.
I slowed down and paced my stop so I would not put my foot down on the large, painted turn arrow that was on the road. I have learned that those paintings are very slippery. I was congratulating myself on good planning when I ran over something in the road. I was going about 1 mph at the time. When I looked back, I saw a rock about the size of a lemon. I had run over it with each tire. The point of this story is that not all the hazards of night riding are other vehicles. Today, I had had no problems with cars or trucks. What I missed was a road hazard. Fortunately, it caused no problems. But it was a reminder that the problems of night riding are everywhere.
When I got back to the house, I had 18,780 miles on the bike. I was still on schedule, and I had a successful outing at probate court. It was a good day. Stay tuned.
* * * * *
October 9, 2006:
Today it was 68 degrees when we headed out the door for Sarah's walk. And we headed out at the regular time. The extra seven degrees of temperature made all the differce in my perception of cold during my ride. But first, we had to get Sarah's requirements met.
She enjoyed her walk, as did we. She really enjoyed her breakfast. I suited up while she ate. Strangely, I did not have to add air to either tire. So, I added a little choke and headed out.
Before I entered I-10, heading west, I remembered to thumb off the choke. Traffic was light. Even though rain is predicted for today, the roads were dry. Clouds were everywhere, however. As was the humidity. The humid air added to the feeling of warmth.
Because it was above 65, I did not wear my Polartec shirt. Because the traffic was light, I got in lots of thinking time during the two circuits. And because everyone was well behaved, I have nothing interesting to report. Just a pleasant forty miles, and a great start to the week. I now have 18,762 miles on the bike. Rain is in the forecast for Tuesday through Saturday. Stay tuned, stay dry, and don't forget to think.
* * * * *
October 8, 2006:
I got up early this morning, more out of habit than anything. Even after feeding Sarah and checking the air in my tires, it was way too dark to go anywhere. I occupied myself with other matters until first light, then headed out.
The house thermometer read 61 degrees when I got up, and it was still there when I left. So I wore the Polartec Windblock shirt Maria made for me last winter. It blocks 99% of the air, and keeps me warm. It did its job today. But it doesn't cover my fingers. I am going to have to get in gear and order those Lee Parks gauntlet gloves soon.
On Friday, I had washed the bike. I guess I brushed against the knob that resets the tripometer, because it read 160 miles or so this morning. I figured that was wrong by one hundred miles, but I went ahead and stopped by to top off the gas tank. And I rezeroed the tripometer. Thus resassured, I entered I-10, heading east.
Even though the Pond Society meeting was behind us, we have another gathering on Saturday. Maria came up with the idea that we might as well have meetings back-to-back because, that way, we would only have to get ready once. I don't know about that, but I do know that the "to do" list did not evaporate, and I have several items to attend to today. So, even though it was a Sunday, a short ride was in order.
I decided to ride to Panera's to get Cinnamon Crunches for breakfast (to go with eggs, sausage, coffee, tea,and toast). And, since I was unlikely to get in more than one ride today, I decided to take the long way there. That is why I was heading east to get west.
I stayed on I-10 till I got to the East Loop. I then headed north, and west, all the way to Highway 290. Traffic was pretty light. I got in some much needed thinking time. When I got to Panera's I was very much on schedule. It was not yet 7:30 a.m. Which was a problem, given that it was Sunday.
You see, Panera's opens at seven on Saturday mornings. But they must sleep late on Sunday, because the sign said they did not open until eight. I decided to get in some more riding, while waiting for the time to pass. I got back on Highway 290, and headed for Mancuso's Harley Davidson.
They were having a Rider's Edge class in the parking lot. The class members mounted up just after I arrived to watch. I counted ten students. They had on more gear than usual, probably due to the cool temperatures. And all had helmets on. It looked like nine guys and one gal, but I could be mistaken. There could have been some slender ladies. After watching them run some circles, I headed out again.
I continued west on Highway 290, and then exited, u-turned, and headed back to Panera's. I watched the odometer roll over to 18,700 as I was near Highway Six. I continued on to Panera's. It was just after eight when I arrived. I got my Cinnamon Crunches and headed on home. The return ride was without incident. When I rolled up to the driveway, I had 18,722 miles on the bike. And it was not yet 8:30. Still time to enjoy the morning before getting back to the tasks at hand. Hope you have good rides all week long.
* * * * *
October 7, 2006:
Today I got up extra early. My goal was to be on the road by six. We had agreed to hold the regular monthly meeting of the Houston Pond Society at our house, starting at noon. I had been up late last night getting ready, and there were plenty of tasks left to do. All before eleven. A long ride was not in the cards.
Nor was a walk for Sarah. She had to content herself with breakfast and a reconnaissance trip around the back yard. While she checked for intruders, I added air to the front tire. Then, after letting Maria know I would be back soon, I headed out.
Immediately, I noticed that Mister Sun was hitting me on both ends. Of the day, I mean. At night, it has been getting dark way before I am finished with my gardening chores. And, in the morning, it is not getting light as soon as I am ready to take off on my rides. I guess those shorter winter days are coming on strong.
Anyway, riding conditions were considerably darker than I like. But, I figured, there couldn't be that much traffic out. I warmed up (and remembered to thumb off the choke), and entered I-10, heading west. My goal was two quick laps before breakfast.
Unfortunately, traffic was pretty heavy. And lighting conditions were pretty dark. Ugh. Also, it was 63 degrees out. Let me tell you, especially at the beginning of the fall season, 63 degrees can feel cold once you factor in the wind chill of going 60 mph.*
So, all things considered, I decided to settle for a single lap of my normal morning circuit. That got me home before seven, with 18,650 miles on the bike. And, for the record, I managed to get most of the "to do" list scratched off--and we even fit in a short walk with Sarah. The meeting went fine, and all the hard work paid off. But I had cut it close, and was glad I had not spent another twenty minutes on that extra circuit. So was Sarah.
* * * * *
October 6, 2006:
Fall weather is returning to Houston. Tomorrow, the morning low is supposed to be around 61 degrees. Today, we started out at 70. Not cold, be a pleasant change. Maria and I were happy. Sarah is happy at any temperature.
As we began our walk, I noticed that low humidity accompanied the low temperatures. Very pleasant. When we finished, I fed Sarah her breakfast, and suited up and headed out. The air was ok in both tires. So, I thumbed on some choke, and started out.
Given yesterday's adventures, I decided to turn the choke off as I got to the end of the block. This did not work as well as I had hoped. The engine ran roughly without the choke, and I had to keep the throttle open to keep from stalling out. It took about five blocks for things to smooth out. Clearly, this is not the "solution" to my forgetfulness.
When I entered I-10, I headed west. The odometer rolled over to 18,600 as I entered the West Loop. Unfortunately, I was dodging traffic at the time, and did not notice the mileage for three more miles.
I did the normal two circuits, with no problems. Traffic was pretty light until it backed up on the Highway 59 South segment, but I had no trouble with the Rebel. Otherwise, traffic was light enough to allow plenty of thinking time, which I put to good use.
When I rolled up to the driveway, I had 18,635 miles on the bike. Tomorrow we are having a meeting of the Houston Pond Society at our house. So there will be no long ride in the morning. Stay tuned to see what the morrow holds.
* * * * *
October 5, 2006:
Last night, during the ten o'clock news, Channel 11 predicted more fog this morning. I got up at five, ready for another early ride. Sarah seconded the motion, but substituted the idea of a walk first. So, right at six, Maria and I headed out, Sarah in tow. Well, at least at times she was in tow. At other times she was leading the way.
When we got back, I fed Sarah, and suited up while she ate. After adding air to both tires, I headed out for the warmup portion of my ride. Next, I entered I-10, heading west. There was only the slightest hint of fog. Nothing like yesterday. I was in a good mood. Traffic was already backed up on I-45 South, so I added the Highway 59 extension, figuring the "stop and go" could not be worse.
For most of my trip south on Highway 59, all was well. But, as I crested the last hill before reaching I-10, traffic was slowing down rapidly. I down shifted from fifth to fourth. Traffic continued to slow. I shifted from fourth to third. Traffic continued to slow. I pulled in the clutch and continued to slow down. But, all of a sudden, something was different. Something was missing. Even above the din of the freeway noise, it came to me. No engine sound.
I was headed downhill. I tried to restart the bike, but could not. I checked the run switch. I had not accidently thumbed it off. I switched the gas line from main to reserve, and tried again. Nothing. I was going slower and slower. I even looked at the key to see if the ignition switch had somehow vibrated off. Of course, it hadn't.
I coasted onto the emergency lane and came to a stop. I raised my visor, and tried to restart the bike. The engine would not catch. I lowered the kickstand, and began to believe I was going to have to be towed. It just didn't make sense.
Before the engine died, nothing was going wrong. The bike had been running perfectly, with no hint of trouble. I mental ran over everyting again. I decided to go through my normal startup routine. Maybe I was missing something simple.
First, I raised the kickstand. The bike won't run (except in neutral) if the stand is down. Next, I made sure the killswitch was in the run position. Then, just as I do every morning, I added a little choke. Oops. It was already on. Immediately, I knew the problem. By leaving the choke on, I flooded the engine as I slowed down. And, with the choke still on, the engine would not restart. I thumbed the choke off, and the engine fired right up.
I got back into the still slow traffic, and continued on my way. At Heights, I exited, and headed for the gas station. I turned the switch back to the main tank, and filled up. It only took 1.25 gallons, so I haed had plenty of gas.
Next, I had to decided whether to return home, or make another circuit. I decided in favor of a longer ride. I was positive that the choke had been the problem. So, I reentered I-10, and did another circuit. By the time I got to the West Loop, I was relaxed enough to think about other problems of the day. Ah, the joys of riding.
I hit "stop and go" backup again, in the same spot as before. No problems this time. The rest of the ride went fine. When I rolled up to the driveway, I had 18,595 miles on the bike, and I had my equilibrium back. Tomorrow will be another day. Another ride. Another chance to think. And, you can bet, one thing I will be thinking about is thumbing that darn choke off!
* * * * *
October 4, 2006:
Last night during the weather, Channel 11 predicted fog for this morning. And I had a nine o'clock out-of-the-office appointment, so I had to get an earlier than usual start. Which meant that there would be no time for that fog to burn off.
Sarah played her part by letting me know a full hour earlier than usual, that it was time to get moving. I grabbed a shower, fed her, and checked the air in the tires while she checked out the back yard.
The air was fine. By the time I returned from the garage, Maria was also up and about. So, off we went on Sarah's walk. The fog was barely visible, although morning TV was reporting fog "north of I-10."
When we got back, I hopped on the bike and headed out. After warming up, I entered I-10, heading west. The fog was thicker than it was inside the Heights, but it wasn't too bad. Because of the early hour, it was still dark out. The fog made it seem even darker. The clouds had descended to about the tops of the freeway lights, so no sky was visible. At ground level, one could see fine, but the effect was like being in a bowl of light, with darkness all around. Distant (and not so distant) landmarks were invisible.
Conditions got a lot worse as I exited onto the West Loop. Suddenly, the fog descended onto the freeway. I had to ride with only my right hand. I was using my left hand to keep my visor clear. Otherwise, the fog would blur everything. My mirrors were also clouded. They fogged up, and the headlights behind me became blurred stars. Estimating distances became much more difficult.
As I rounded the northwest corner of the Loop, there seemed to be no end to the fog. Traffic was not slowing down, and I began to be concerned about how slick the road might be. It seemed inevitable that I would have at least one quick stop if I did my normal circuits. And it seemed a distinct possibility, given the fog on the road, that I might be facing a "quick slide."
So, I took the first exit I could take to get me home. I was still using my gloved hand to keep the visor clear. As I headed south on Durham, I continued to have to clean my visor. The fog was even worse than on the freeway, but traffic was much lighter.
At 11th Street, I headed east. I stopped at the post office and picked up the mail. By the time I was back on Oxford, there was hardly any fog. That left me a little less than ten blocks to get in my morning thinking, and all I could do was relive this weird--and short--ride. Oh well. At least I made it home safely. I now have 18,555 miles on the bike. Let's hope tomorrow is all clear.
* * * * *
October 3, 2006:
We got up at the regular time this morning, but I did not go for a ride. Sarah, on the other hand, opted for her walk. So off we went, through the humid air. When we got back, I fed Sarah, and worked on some house projects due by noon Saturday.
The reason I did not go for my regular ride was that John and I were having lunch today. Last time, he had showed up on his bike. So this time, I decided to do likewise. It was my turn to pick the place, so I selected Amazon Grill.
Just before leaving for work, I suited up (adding a blue work shirt to wear in the office instead of my normal Kevlar knit top), checked the air and headed out--after adding a pound to the front tire.
The ride to work was short, and uneventful. When I arrived, I checked my hair in the mirror, and noted that even a short trip gives me helmet hair. I used my fingers to brush out the mop, and headed upstairs to my office. Once inside, I removed the Kevlar top, and just used the workshirt as upper wear.
Just after eleven, I headed for the restaurant. I allowed twenty minutes to reach it, but I made it in ten. Even though I was early, John was already waiting for me. He was not in his motorcycle gear, however, because he had other appointments in the afternoon.
We had a very good lunch at Amazon Grill. I had the tilapia, and John had enchiladas. The food is really outstanding. I highly recommend it.
While we ate, we talked about motorcycles. I could tell John is beginning to wonder if I will ever get around to buying my Harley. (In this he is not alone!) He was in favor of my renting a low rider and a softail, so I could compare the two. Rental runs about $200 per day, once insurance is figured in. We talked about the different personalities of different dealerships, recent rides, and the fact that John is now up to 7,000 miles on his bike. Yikes. He is moving up fast.
We ended the meal with plans to take an intermediate rider's course. Both of us would like to take the Lee Parks riding classes. But they are not offered in Houston. I want something local for my next class. Stay tuned to see what I can find.
On the way back to the office, I made a detour to check out the curves on Allen Parkway (both ways), then took Memorial Drive from Shepherd to downtown, and back again to my office. It added a few miles, and many smiles, to the trip back.
After work, I headed on home. I considered stopping for gas, but I had crammed my jacket full of legal work I needed to attend to during the evening, and I didn't feel like a stop when thus stuffed.
So, I went straight home. By the time I pulled up to the driveway, I had 18,542 miles on the bike, lots of pleasant memories, and a boatload of work to do in the yard. Such is life. See you on the road. And don't forget to think.
* * * * *
October 2, 2006:
Summer has returned. The coolness we experienced last week is gone for the forseeable future. As was evident when we took Sarah for her morning walk. It was not hot, exactly. But it sure wasn't jacket weather, either.
Sarah didn't seem to mind. When we returned, I got her her breakfast, and suited up while she ate. The air was fine in both tires. I headed out.
After warming up, I entered I-10, heading west. Traffic was pretty light for a Monday. Speeds were on the fast side. Thinking was on the good side. I turned mile 18,500 as I crossed Taylor Street on the first circuit. Traffic was still light enough that I did the bird as I turned the mileage.
Not much else to report. Just a fun forty miles. Everyone was well-behaved, and I had a good ride. When I rolled up to the driveway, I had 18,520 miles on the bike. Stay tuned. And don't forget to think.
* * * * *
October 1, 2006:
I awoke to a strange beeping sound this morning. It was the alarm clock! I had actually slept for seven hours. And so had Sarah! My excuse was that I had spent pretty much all day yesterday working on our pond. Sarah gave no indication that she needed an excuse. In fact, she seemed impatient with me. Something about her breakfast.
So, down we went. We got the paper, and I fixed her breakfast. Then, while she attended to matters in the back yard, I checked the air in the tires. I added a pound to each one. Sarah and I then went back inside. I to shower; Sarah to catch up on her sleep.
I did not depart immediately. But, after a while, I was on the road. Just before I left, the home repair guy on 740 AM related a story about how he had seen a female bike on I-10 on his way to work. It was about 6:30 a.m. The biker was off her bike, using it to "surf" down the freeway. Sounded weird. If I had been on my normal schedule, I might have had a first-hand view. As it was, I did not get on the road until about 7:30 a.m. I warmed up, made my way to the freeway, and entered I-10, heading east.
My goal this morning was to get in a nice, but quick, ride. I thought I would make my way north on Highway 59, to test what I consider the best exit in Houston. That exit is at Beltway 8, heading south on Highway 59. I rate it the "best" because of the height, and the great view one gets of the whole world, and the skyline of Houston, as one rounds the corner.
It occurred to me that the exit onto Highway 59 North might be equally as good. In the interest of scientific testing, I decided to find out for myself. To add some mileage, I first took I-10 all the way to the East Loop, then headed north, and west, to the Highway 59 exit. I took 59 north to Beltway 8. Traffic was typically light. When I got to the Beltway, I took the exit. The view was nice, but not spectacular. Once on the Beltway, I took the JFK Boulevard exit, u-turned, and headed back east.
This time, I took the exit for Highway 59 North. It was very high, and had a nice view, but it wasn't as good as the exit for 59 South. The main difference is that one sees the skyline on the southern course.
Anyway, I took the Rankin Road exit, u-turned, and took the southbound exit onto the Beltway. Nothing special. I took the JFK exit again, u-turned again, and headed for the piece de resistance. It was everything I remembered.
No one way heading south, so I was able to pour on the speed. The turn is sweeping, and very high. When you are halfway into it, you have a view for miles and miles. And, at the end of those miles, is the distinctive skyline of Houston. Don't miss this exit. It is worth a special trip.
After the panorama, I headed for the Loop. I took it back east, the south to I-10. This was a great morning ride. Because of the light traffic, I had some great thinking time, which I used to good advantage. At the end of the I-10 trek, I stopped for gas. I then headed home. When I pulled up to the driveway, I had 18,480 miles on the bike. And it was only 8:45. Plenty of time for breakfast, and a day working in the garden. Hope you have a wonderful ride on your Sunday. And don't forget to think.
* * * * *
Remembering how dark it was at 6:00 a.m. yesterday, I waited until 6:30 to head out this morning. First, Sarah and I got the paper, then I got her breakfast. After she ate, I let her out the back, and checked the air in the tires. All was well. I then checked the Chronicle to see which roads were closed for construction. I-10 and 610 were scheduled for closures. Highway 290 inbound was scheduled to be closed on Saturday night till Monday morning. I-45 and Highway 59 were both up and running. I suited up and headed out.
After warming up, I entered I-10, heading east. I rode all the way to the East Loop, then headed north. I got on the North Loop and took it to Highway 290. I had twin goals. First, I wanted to get in at least 50 miles. Second, I was on a mission to stop at Panera's to get a couple of cinnamon crunches for breakfast.
Traffic was pretty light. As I passed the exit for 43rd street, I noted fog in the field off my left (south). I also noted that a highway billboard was advising that Highway 290 at Gessner was closed until 8:00 a.m. Since it was barely seven, I decided that I was not going to continue on out Highway 290. I exited and headed for Panera's. Fortunately, they had plenty of the cinnamon crunches. I got two. I asked them to double-bag my purchase, because I had to stuff the sack inside my Vanson jacket. Thus attired, I headed back home.
On the way home, I watched the odometer. At I-10, I decided I needed one more loop to make my fifty mile goal. As I passed the Polo Grounds on I-10 near the Loop, I noted that there was fog on the freeway, and lots more on the playing field.
To make the mileage goal, I took I-45 north, then got on the Loop. I was going the opposite direction from my normal workday circuit. Speeds were fast. Thinking time was abundant. I was deep into the curve going from the West Loop onto I-10 when I watched the odometer roll over to mile 18,400. Within two tenths of a mile, I was back in the fog. It had gotten heavier since my last time through. I must say that it is unusual to find fog inside the Loop, but there it was.
In short order, I was through the fog, and heading home. When I rolled up to the driveway, I had 18,405 miles on the bike, and breakfast (or at least a part of it) in hand. Check back to see what kind of ride I get in tomorrow. And don't forget to think.
* * * * *
Last night we got in late. Don and Maggie, our neighbors, treated us to dinner and a night at the Hobby Center for the Performing Arts. At dinner I discovered a great pinot noir by La Crema. Wonderful color, smooth taste, great legs and a bouquet that wouldn't quit. What a find.
The play at the Hobby Center was also a find. It was a comedy/musical, and one of the most polished performances I have ever seen. The play was Dirty Rotten Scoundrels, and it was directed by Jack O'Brien, with choreographery by Jerry Mitchell. Tom Hewitt played the older con artist, Lawrence Jameson. Drew McVety played Andre Thibault, his associate. Norbert Leo Butz played the new kid in town, Freddy Benson. All their performances were right on. Comedy depends on a superb sense of timing. All three actors had it. The songs were well written and clearly sung. The stage direction was exceptionally well thought out. If you haven't seen this play, get yourself to the Hobby Center immediately!
Anyway, it was approaching midnight by the time I took Sarah for her evening walk, and got ready for bed. And, because I had to be downtown by eight o'clock for jury duty, I had to get moving by five in order to get in a ride. And Sarah had to be satisfied with evening walk, because there was no room in the schedule for a ride and a walk this morning.
Fortunately, the air in the tires was fine. Even after showering, getting the paper, feeding Sarah and checking the air, I was on the road before six. Because of the early start, I decided to go two complete circuits. The temperature was 64, but I could feel the coolness in my fingers. Time to buy those gauntlet gloves Lee Parks sells.
Light conditions were less than perfect. Fortunately, traffic was very light. I never felt threatened, but I couldn't shake the unease about being out in such dark conditions. Everything went fine, but I kept remembering John's night riding experiences, and how hard it is to estimate speeds and how easy it is to miss something in the dark. Little thinking off the subject of riding got done.
Still, I had a great ride, and was glad I forced myself to get up early. When I exited Studemont, I noted that there were 160 miles on the odometer since I last gassed up. I headed for the gas station and filled up the tank. Even with this extra stop, I was back home by 6:50 a.m., ready to fix breakfast and head for the courthouse. I now have 18,349 miles on the bike. Sadly, Maria has big plans for me this weekend, but they all involve pulling weeds and sprucing up the garden. Well, most of them, anyway. Stay tuned to see if I manage to sneak in any decent rides. No promises.
* * * * *
Today was ten degrees warmer than yesterday. But cloudy. Neither condition stopped Sarah from enjoying her early morning walk. When we got back, I fed her, and suited up while she ate.
Fortunately, both tires had good air pressure. I warmed up, then entered I-10, heading west. Traffic was pretty light this morning. There was great thinking time during the ride. And I took advantage of it.
On the second circuit, just as I got to the West Loop, I saw a clear drop land on my visor. A bug, I guessed. But this drop was quickly followed by another. And another. And another. My visor was covered in drops before I smelled that distinctive smell one detects when rain has fallen on hot and dry concrete. A wonderful smell, but one I was glad to ride out of in short order. The rest of the ride was dry.
I watched the odometer roll over to mile 18,300 as I headed for the Highway 59 extension. It was good to see some miles racked up. It has been far too long.
Nothing much to report on this ride. Just the fun of being on two wheels. When I rolled up to the driveway the odometer read 18,309. Tomorrow's run will be short, as I have jury duty at 8:00 a.m. Stay tuned. And don't forget to think.
* * * * *
Today it was 61 degrees when we got up. It felt more than three degrees warmer than yesterday. No wind, I guess. Anyway, Sarah was pleased to be out for her walk, and I was pleased to be back on the Rebel again.
Before I left for my ride, I told Maria I might be a tad longer than normal, just getting back in the groove. In fact, I had to add air to both the front and back tires, and more than a little air at that. It took me several tries to get it right. After I did, I headed out for the warm up portion of my ride.
I was at the second stop sign before I realized that shifting was going smoothly. No more problems with slipping into neutral. I guess the muscle memory has returned.
After warming up, I entered I-10, heading west. Boy does it feel good to say that again!
I noted that a smile fixed itself on my face the instance I accelerated into morning traffic. The boy is back in town. Traffic was medium. I didn't get much thinking in because I was concentrating on getting my freeway sea legs back. Someone I read said that the key to learning how to ride a bike safely is to ride every day. Yesterday, I could tell the effect of ten days without riding. Fortunately, today felt very natural. No mistakes while riding, and few rough spots.
On the first loop, while heading west on I-10, I was followig a pick up truck. I guess I was a little too close. The pickup ran over something. I saw the "thing" rise up as the rear wheels of the pickup passed over it. I did not react in time. I had to run over the "thing" also. Fortunately, it was simply a fiberglass strap. No tire damage. By the second loop, I had forgotten all about it. But this time, when the vehicle ahead of me ran over the strap, I reacted better. I was able to swerve around the strap. Now, I knew it was a harmless strap. But I also had time to react, and I did so, more out of practice than anything else. I was glad I was able to successfully make the maneuver. That sealed the deal that I had my reaction time back.
I am pleased to report that I made the entire forty miles without missing a shift. No problems with neutral. No problems period. Just a nice, if somewhat cool, ride. It really felt good to be back in the saddle again. I now have 18,269 miles on the bike. Stay tuned for more adventures.
* * * * *
This morning the temperature was 58 degrees. Wow. Sarah was not complaining. I, on the other hand, had to wait till this afternoon for my ride.
I called Stubbs about 11:30 a.m. The Rebel was still not ready. The Honda truck had not yet arrived. They said they would call me when it was ready. At 4:45 p.m. I called. The part had arrived, and the bike was ready. Damage: $301.69. That included an oil change, new chain, new spricket, adjustment of the headlight and a brake adjuster part (?). I headed home from the office. Maria met me there. I grabbed my riding gear, and Maria and I took the Jeep to the dealership.
After paying, I suited up and headed out. I immediately noticed that the shifting was stiffer. Not sure that is related to the new chain or not. I also noticed a tendency for the bike to drop into neutral more easily. And more unintentionally. I had to concentrate on shifting. I know it's been ten days without riding, but I was surprised at how rusty I felt. I decided to stay off the freeways on the way home. Time to get my sea legs back.
By the time we were back in the Heights, things seemed more natural. I now have 18,229 miles on the bike. I plan to take my normal ride in the morning. It's about time! Stay tuned to see how it goes.
* * * * *
Boy did I miss the Rebel this morning. It was 64 degrees on our walk. Low humidity. Low temperatures. What great riding weather. Unfortunately, even if the Rebel had been out of the shop (as I hope it is tomorrow afternoon), I would not have been able to ride too much due to a court hearing today. Oh well, better times are on the way. Stay tuned. And don't forget to think.
* * * * *
We are back from a trip to Laredo. We left Friday afternoon. The Rebel is still in the shop. So no riding this weekend. To (partially) make up for it, I made sure we stopped by the Laredo Harely Davidson dealership. As luck would have it, they were having a celebration of the new 2007 Harleys.
Because of other errands, we didn't get there till a little after five in the afternoon. Still, the parking lot was packed with Harleys, bikers and a wonderful crowd of a distaff nature.
Inside, Maria was insistent that I talk to the salesmen about the new Harleys. I was reluctant. I had already made my decision to get a Dyna Low Rider, and I was not ready to buy one anyway, so I didn't want to waste the salesmen's time. Maria had no similar concerns.
She started chatting right away. Telling Emilio the type of bike I ride, the miles under my belt, and what I was looking for in a Harley. We got tag-teamed by the salesmen. Both were great, and a credit to their calling. They answered Maria's questions with patience, let me sit on the Harleys, and even drews me into the conversation.
They did not seem impressed with my selection of a Low Rider. One of them tried to steer me toward a Softail Deluxe. I was impressed with the ease at which I was able to lift the bike from its kickstand position to an upright "ride" one. It was a lot easier than the Low Rider. I know, because I immediately went back and forth between the two bikes to note the difference.
I did not like the tractor seat on the Deluxe. Emilio took me over to a Softail Heritage Classic. Before TTL, it was going for just under $20,000. But it came with great saddlebags, a windscreen, a nice passenger seat, a sissy bar and a wonderful front light kit. Still, I wasn't sold. The seat height was great, and the bike was easy to "lift" into running position. But Emilio had a coup de grace coming. Emilio started the bike. Its smooth idle sounded great. But that was not the purpose of his action. He shut off the Heritage Classic, and then went over to the Low Rider.
I had read a review of the 2006 Low Rider in the September 2006, issue of Cruising Rider. They liked the bike. But a sentence in the review stuck in my memory. When Emilo hit the starter, it flashed into vivid recollection. As the Low Rider came to like, the vibration was unbelievable. In fact, the bike vibrated so much, it shook one of the placards right off the bike! The mirrors were jumping all over the place. It would have been impossible to use them at idle. It was awful. And the sentence in the review? It said, "Rubber-mounted Harleys have always provided a good bit of vibration in the seat at idle, and the '06 Low Rider is no exception." Nor is the '07!
Long and short: the Low Rider is no longer in first place as my bike of choice. Thanks to Emilio for that. And the new leading contender: The FLSTC Heritage Softail Classic. The fact that Maria actually asked Emilio if it was okay if she got on the passenger seat while I was sitting on the bike that sealed the deal. She has expressed exactly zero interest in riding two up on the Rebel. But the Softail was no problem. Probably has something to do with the fact that she spent eight hours in Australia on the back of a Softail. And she has been suitably vague about the physical description of the guy whose middle she clutched for those eight hours. Hmmm.
Anyway, I escaped without signing any papers. And although I really like Stubbs, I must say that, all-in-all, the salesmen at Laredo Harly Davidson/Buell are a whole lot friendlier than the two or three Harley salesmen I have talked to at Stubbs. And helpful. Kudos to Emilio for showing me the virtues of the Heritage Classic. And to Maria for making me spend time listening to them. It just goes to show you, don't stop thinking.
* * * * *
Summer is gone. Channel 11 reported a snowstorm in the Denver area of the Rockies. However, when we took Sarah for her walk, all we got was a muggy morning. Humidity was really high. And it was accompanied by equally high temperatures. It was almost twenty degrees warmer than on Tuesday morning. Ugh.
No bike today. Yesterday, I called Stubbs. The sprocket was in. They expected to have the bike ready by five. At 3:30 p.m., I called back to check on the status. Unfortunately, when putting the bike back together, they discovered that the brake adjuster was not working. And they did not have that part in stock. They ordered one on a two-day delivery. So it will be Tuesday before I can get the bike. Ugh. Ugh. Ugh.
* * * * *
Sarah enjoyed her morning walk, even thought the temperatures are starting to climb back up to seasonal ones. No ride this morning. I tried to call Stubbs yesterday during a seminar, but I couldn't get a cell from inside the building. And then I got busy. I will call today to see if the sprocket came in, although I don't know how I will be able to pick up the bike if it did. I have day two of the seminar this morning and depositions this afternoon. Stay tuned.
* * * * *
Today was even cooler than yesterday. But still no bike. Yes, Sarah got her walk.
I will check with Stubbs today to see if they located a sprocket. Stay tuned.
* * * * *
Today dawned clear and cool. Sarah enjoyed her walk. With the bike being in the shop, I did not enjoy a ride. Last night I wore my favorite black motorcycle t-shirt all night. It was not enough. I need the Rebel back.
* * * * *
The rain hit this morning about 4:00 a.m. That meant no walk for Sarah, and no ride for me. Of course, the fact that the Rebel is in the shop didn't help! Tommy at Stubbs told me they would order the sprocket on Monday (today), but they are normally closed on Monday's (at least the dealership is), so I bet it will be Tuesday. Ugh. Stay tuned.
* * * * *
No riding today. The Rebel is still in the shop. We had a great evening with frineds last night, but the fun is over. Maria has a "to do" list for me that seems without end. Where are those two wheels when I need them? As I spend the day with a shovel, I'll try to get in some thinking time. Stay tuned.
* * * * *
I took the Rebel in to Stubbs on Friday, so they could get it back to me on Saturday. I figured the valves needed adjustment, and I knew the engine had to be cold to do that. So, the plan was, they could test ride it on Friday, figure out the clicking, and still have it back to me Saturday afternoon. Friends are coming over Friday night at 5:30, so time was tight.
I called Stubbs at 3:30 to see if the bike was ready. Everything on my list was completed. The valves were adjusted, the oil changed, and the headlight adjusted. However . . .
During the final inspection, they tried to adjust the chain, and there was too much slack. Also, the sprocket teeth were worn. (The Rebel manual warns that "Under severe usuage, or when the motorcycle is ridden in unusually dusty or muddy areas, more frequent maintenance will be necessary.") Stubbs recommended both a new chain and a new sprocket. They had the chain in stock, but not the sprocket. They could put just the chain on, but they didn't recommend it. In fact, the Rebel manual warns, in italics, "Use of a new chain with worn sprockets will cause rapid chain wear."
I told them to order the sprocket. It probably won't be in until Wednesday or Thursday. Ugh. I am looking at a week without riding. Not fun. And the chain will cost around $60, the sprocket around $80, and labor will be one hour.
Now I have worn out a headlight bulb, tires, chain, sprocket and most of a battery. All in 18,000 miles. But, don't forget, 18,000 fun miles. Oh well, I guess I won't see you on the road for a week or so. Meanwhile, even though I am grounded, don't forget to think.
* * * * *
We had a normal morning until we returned home from Sarah's walk. When we got back, I fed Sarah and did not suit up. I did check the air in the tires, but I did not head out. Instead, I fixed breakfast, read my email, and puttered around at a leisurely pace.
You see, Maria agreed to follow me to Stubbs, and bring me back home after I dropped off the bike. And Stubbs does not open up until nine. That meant we had no reason to leave the house until 8:30 a.m.
Of course, I got antsy, and so we left at 8:20. I told Maria I was going to do my normal route, which involved a warm up segment, so not to worry if it seemed I was heading the wrong direction. Then I told her my plan was to take I-10 west to Loop 610, and head north, then east, then south, all the way to Telephone Road. I missed watching the odometer roll over to mile 18,200. That happened on the stretch of 610 just past the exit for Highway 59 south.
She seemed surprised that I was taking such a long path. But, to me, the normal ten mile route just had no appeal. I wanted a real ride. So, off we went, heading west on I-10.
Traffic was astonishingly light for a Friday. Still, there were lane changers and freeway debris amany. I got to demonstrate my prowess in avoiding road hazards of all kinds. I even got into some light rain around the Ship Channel.
But, before I knew it, I was taking the Telephone Road exit to Stubbs. As I rolled up, Dustin was just opening shop. He came over to talk to me. Clay also wandered over. He immediately recognized the bike ("That's the Rebel with all the miles on it."), and guessed that my clicking problem was because of a need to have the valves adjusted. I dropped off the Rebel and they promised to take it for a test run. You have to let the valves cool off before you can do a valve adjustment, so it is going to be Saturday before they have the bike finished. I told them to adjust the headlight and change the oil. Maria and I then headed back to the house so I could shower and head to my office. I glanced at the odometer and noted that the bike had 18,214 miles on it. I sure hope to see you on the road, tomorrow. And I sure hope you don't forget to think, today.
* * * * *
Today, we got started a few minutes later than normal. And it was a lot cooler than yesterday. In fact, the front has moved through, lowering the temperatures and the humidity. Usually, when we get back from Sarah's walk, the air conditioning feels really cool when we get back inside the house. Today, it felt warmer to step inside.
But neither hot nor cold can keep Sarah from her appointed meals. So, while she ate, I suited up and headed out. I added air to the front tire, and went for the warm up portion of my ride. I then entered I-10, heading west. I did two very pleasant circuits, adding the Highway 59 extension to both of them. Traffic was light, and thinking was heavy.
I had no problems--except for that the clicking sound that had plagued me about twenty-five hundred miles ago was back. In spades. I had been noticing the sound for about seven hundred miles. This week it has gotten much worse. It is more present when I let off the gas, and completely goes away if I pull in the clutch. Today, it was even present at the low speeds I travel during the cool down phase of my ride. I noticed this after gasing up at the end of my ride. The bike was thoroughly warmed up, but the clicking sound was still present. I decided to take the bike in to Stubbs on Friday morning. For now, I have 18,187 miles on the bike. Stay tuned.
* * * * *
Not much to report in this entry. The lower humidity they are promising is not scheduled to arrive until around noon. Still, this morning's walk was cool, if not dry. Sarah had no complaints. Nor did we, except for the early hour.
When we got back, I fed her, and suited up while she ate. For a change, neither tire required air. So, I headed out for the warmup portion of my ride. When I reached the feeder, I entered I-10, heading west.
Traffic was on the light side. Speeds were moderate. The ride was uneventful, except for the fact that the easy riding conditions gave me plenty of thinking time. And some great riding time. After forty miles, I was back at the driveway, with 18,147 miles on the bike. See you on the road. And don't forget to think.
* * * * *
The first thing I did this morning was check for rain. The streets were dry. Sarah was happy. I was happy. Dry streets meant she got her morning walk, and I would get my morning ride. After. As in after her walk and after her breakfast. So, off we went, and when we got back, I suited up while she wolfed down her food.
I had to add a pound of air to the rear tire. I then saddled up and headed out. After warming up, I entered I-10, heading west. Traffic was light, but slow. By that I mean we mostly proceeded at 55 mph, well below the speed limit. I rather enjoyed the change of pace. It was extra easy to spend some quality thinking time at that speed. Everything seemed like it was happening in slow motion, compared to normal mornings.
I did both circuits, and racked up mile 18,100 on the Highway 59 South extension of the second tour. Then, when I got on I-10, I watched the car to my immediate left hit a piece of metal, which bounced into the path of the car to the first car's left. It made a terrible racket as it bounced around. I was glad it was bouncing away from my bike. Ah, the joys of freeway driving in the morning.
After escaping from the errant piece of debris, I took the Heights exit and headed home. When I pulled up to the driveway I had logged 18,107 miles. It had been a most enjoyable morning jaunt. Now, to work.
* * * * *
I awoke very early this morning. I did some work on the computer till six, then Sarah let me know that we needed to get on our way for her walk. Which we did. When we got back, I fed the girl, and suited up.
I added air to the front tire, messed around with the aim of the front light, and headed out. It was first light by then, so the headlight was needed to be seen, and not to see.
I warmed up, and entered I-10, heading west. Traffic was medium, and fast moving. There was just a touch of coolness in the air, probably a result of yesterday's rain. The streets were completely dry, however.
I did two circuits, with a Highway 59 extension on each. It was a good morning for riding. It was a good morning for thinking. It was a good morning.
On my way home, I revisited the site of yesterday's stop sign running incident. This morning, I got on 8th Street, traveling east, so I could see the approach as the lady driver had seen it. I was trying to figure out why she pulled out in front of me. Visibility is good. The only thing I noticed was that there are two signs, right where you would expect stop signs for Oxford to be. Expect these are signs warning that children cross at the intersection. I'm sure we have all looked for stop signs for the other lanes of traffic. All you normally see is the plain metal back of the signs. No color. No words. Just a shape. And, at a quick glance, one might mistake these children crossing signs for stop signs. But only if you weren't looking hard. Still, it is the only explanation I can come up with for why the lady was upset that I did not stop for her. Either that, or she was just having a bad day.
Anyway, when I rolled up to the driveway, I had 18,067 miles on the bike, and a good ride under my belt. And the week has only just begun. Keep on riding. And keep on thinking.
* * * * *
I got up early again this morning, but I could not set out on my ride until first light. Yesterday, Maria and I changed the front light on the Rebel. And I was pretty sure it would not be properly aligned this morning. But that thought hadn't hit me until I awoke today, and realized that if I left at 5:30 a.m., I would really need that headlight for my 18,000 mile run.
So, I showered, got the paper, fed Sarah, checked the weather, and surfed the net while I waited for first light. Weather.com said that dawn would be here at just after seven. While waiting, I also checked the tire pressure. And suited up.
At 6:45 a.m., I decided that it was light enough that I didn't need the headlight to "see." So I headed out. Indeed, the front light was aimed a little closer to the front of the bike than it should be. At least it wasn't pointed wildly to the right or left.
I warmed up, then entered I-10, heading east. I wanted to get in a relatively short ride, but with some mileage. I needed about forty-three miles to make my goal. That wasn't the issue. The problem was that I wanted to be someplace memorable when the event rolled around.
I had decided that a ride down Memorial Drive would be appropriate. I have long enjoyed that winding road, and I could get in some high speed miles on the way if I took Highway 290. I also figured that heading east before I headed west would add just enough miles to my route to make sure that I was on Memorial when the 18,000 mile mark appeared.
I didn't have to gas up, because I had plenty of gas from yesterday's fillup. So I made my way down I-10. Traffic was very light. And temperatures were nice. Low clouds were on all the horizons, but it did not look like rain.
The lack of four wheelers made thinking easier to accomplish. Sadly, the troubles of the world evaded my logic. Oh well, at least I was moving.
The bike and I were as one. Curves were smooth and it was easy to stay in that zone of safety I like on the freeway. Before I knew it, I was on Loop 610, heading west. Next came Highway 290, and then an exit for Highway 6. I tooted my horn as I passed Cynthia's apartment, but I wasn't sure she was up. It was barely 7:30.
Usually, I don't enjoy going south on Highway 6. But today, I caught every light on green, and traffic was minimal. When I turned onto Highway 6 from 290, I was ten miles short of my goal. I knew it was about five miles to I-10, but I couldn't remember how much further south it was to Memorial. I sure didn't want to turn the big eighteen on Highway 6.
A couple of blocks before the feeder to I-10, I caught a yellow and had to brake quickly. It was good practice. Everything flowed like it should. I squeezed the front brake lever, eased my right foot down for a little rear brake, and downshifted, all in one automatic reaction. And got stopped right where I wanted. I had used up five of my ten miles.
I headed under I-10, and quickly came to Memorial Drive. I was surprised that it was only a mile or so from the Interstate. I turned east, assured that I would be on one of my favorite roads when the mileage turned over.
As I got within a tenth of a mile, I approached an "s" curve on Memorial. It was going to be hard to do the bird in the middle of a curve. But the "S" was a lazy one, with a short straight stretch between the beginning and ending curves. Which is where I was, hands free, as I watched the odometer roll over from 17,999.9 to 18,000.0.
It's been a great 18,000 miles. I am still having fun, and I can even enjoy a ride at 35 to 40 mph* if there are curves involved. Anyway, I kept the bike in fourth gear, which enhanced the turns at the relatively low speeds at which I was stuck. For the first quarter of the road, things were just great. Cars were absent, as was the sun. That made glare non-existent, and temperatures cool.
Soon, however, the sun got above the low-lying clouds and began to burn into my eyes. For about ten minutes, it was hard to read street signs or see what colors the traffic lights were.
When I got to Woodway and the West Loop, the intersection was closed for construction. I headed south on the feeder, and got back on Memorial, heading east, after a couple of blocks. I enjoyed the sight of the Sunday morning runners, and stayed on Memorial until I came to Shepherd Drive. I took that street south to Allen Parkway, where I turned east again.
Allen Parkway is even more fun than Memorial. The curves are plentiful, and, at least on weekend mornings, it is usually deserted. As was the case today. I weaved my way downtown, u-turned, and headed west on the Parkway all the way back to Shepherd. I'm sure I was grinning all the way.
At Shepherd, I headed north to Memorial, then back east. As I got into the downtown streets, I felt an itch on my right wrist. I scratched it through the Vanson jacket. The "itch" got more intense. At a stoplight I unzipped the wrist zipper and discovered that a honey bee had been scooped up while I was moving. I then realized that the intense itch was from a bee sting. A glance at the inside of my wrist revealed that the stinger was still imbedded in my skin. As an apiarist, I have been stung before (although never while riding), and I could tell this sting was not a big deal. I decided not to stop and try to get the stinger out. I would have had to take off my gloves and fish out my pocket knife to do that. The bee was gone and the stinger could wait. At Louisiana, I headed north, to get back on I-10, and head for home.
I could feel the poison in my wrist. It was a dull throb. I decided that discretion was the better part of valor, and went ahead and exited I-10 at the Heights exit. I took the time to gas up the Rebel, then headed for home.
I was in the cool down phase of my ride as I approached the intersection of Oxford and 8th street. I was going north on Oxford, and the traffic for 8th has a stop sign. I watched a lady in a van pull up to the stop sign on my left, and come to a stop. Just before I entered the intersection, she started forward. There was not room to stop, so I twisted the throttle and zipped across the intersection. I could see the look of astonishment in her face, as she threw up her hands (and, fortunately, hit her brakes). Weirdly, she honked at me. I think she thought the intersection was a four-way stop, which it wasn't. I think she felt that once she stopped, she could proceed through, and that I should have yielded.
My attitude of these situations is that it doesn't mend any of your broken bones to insist that you, the biker, have the right-of-way. Most always, I yield to idiots and preserve my unscarred skin. No need to see if all that protective equipment works.
Still, in any given situation, one has to decide between swerving (not an option here), hard braking or acceleration. It was my instant judgment that, given how close I was to entering the intersection when she came off her stop, the best option was to use the quick acceleration a bike has, and zip through the intersection. That option might not have been possible if she was not starting from a dead stop, but that's what she was doing. And, I had seen her as she approached the stop sign. If she had not stopped, I would have had time to execute a quick stop.
So, there you have it. Even though I now have a lot of miles under my belt, things can develop in the blink of an eye. Be ever watchful. But enjoy the ride.
As I had all morning. This was a great ride, one of my favorite thousand mile events. And any ride that results in something interesting to write about, is always appreciated. So long as I keep the shiny side up.
When I pulled up to the driveway, I had 18,027 miles on the bike. I lubricated the chain, and was still inside the house before nine. A great start to the day. See you on the road. And don't forget to think.
* * * * *
Today started out great. I awoke just before five, and headed for the bathtub with an interesting book. And hour later, I got out, dried off, and went downstairs to get the paper. Sarah was with me on all these outings.
When I went outside, I was surprised at the cloud cover. The skies looked like they could open up at any time. I didn't know they were the first stage in the perfect storm that was about to hit. I quickly fed the dog and went upstairs to change into my riding clothes. Maria and I were facing a full day, and she asked me to stop by the Krogers on the way home from my ride to pick up some things she needed for the dish she intented to take to the Houston Pond Society meeting. I was happy to agree. I told her that because I wanted to get to Stubbs early to see the 2007 models, my ride would be on the short side (for a Saturday).
Just before 6:30 a.m., I went to the garage and added air to the front tire. I then headed out. But I didn't get far.
My habit is to roll the bike to the center of the cul de sac so as to distribute the noise of the mufflers in an equal manner toward all the neighbors. I am especially careful to do this on weekends, when folk may be sleeping late. Today, I followed that habit. I slid on a little choke, thumbed the kill-switch on, and duck walked the bike into the street. I then turned on the ignition switch. The bike started right up. I began to head for 7-1/2 Street. I was running on fumes in the main tank, and needed to head for the gas station. But something was missing. It took me a second to figure out what.
I had no front light. I thumbed on the "bright" switch. Still nothing. I turned around and came back. I killed the engine and wheeled the bike back into the garage. The first storm had hit.
Before I dismounted, I decided to survey the extent of the problem. I wanted to see if the blinkers and brake lights were working. I tuned the ignition on and tried to start the bike again. That's when the second storm hit. The bike would not start.
The engine would turn over, but it would not catch. I played with the coke setting for a few tries, then it hit me. I might be out of gas. I had been surprised on Friday that I had made it back to the house on the main tank. I had intended to ride straight to the gas station to fill the tank. Maybe I had run out of gas just as I had returned to the garage. I turned the switch to the "reserve" setting. And tried again to start the engine. It would not catch. I could hear the battery getting weaker. I stopped before it went completely dead. I headed back inside.
I dropped off my helmet and jacket, and told Maria what was going on, and that I was going to recharge the battery. I took the battery off the bike and hooked it up to the Battery Tender. The light on the Tender glowed red, indicating that charging was in progress.
I went back inside, looking for the manual for the trickle charger to make sure I had set it up right. I did not find the book. I told Maria that we should head for the Krogers in the Jeep, to give the battery time to charge. She agreed, so long as Sarah could go. Sarah seemed pleased.
We all three headed for the garage. The trickle charger was already green, telling me that that battery had a pretty good charge before I drained it. I unhooked the tender, and we headed for the store.
As we were coming back, the third storm of my perfect storm hit, and hit hard. And this time it was a literal storm. The skies opened up and it began to pour rain. Hard rain. Riding the bike to Stubbs did not seem to be too likely. At least not without getting totally soaked.
I went ahead and put the battery back on the bike. And got the key to try to start the Rebel again. This time, all went fine. The bike started right up. I had blinkers. But I still did not have a headlight. Oh well.
It continued to rain hard. The Pond Society meeting started at noon. Time was too short to get to Stubbs before the meeting, especially since I still had to eat breakfast and shower. Plan B was in order.
We ate, showered and headed for the meeting in the Jeep. The meeting was off Clear Lake Boulevard. Which is very close to Half Price Books. So a short visit to that establishment was required. Stubbs would come after the pond meeting.
It was still raining. We had some luck at the Half Price, made the meeting and headed to Stubbs about 2:30 p.m. By then, the rain had stopped. Stubbs was crowded with people and bikes. I lucked out and found a parking place near the service center. We went inside and I explained the problem with the headlight. The parts guy thought it might just be a burned out bulb. A new one was $7.50. I bought it, and he should us on the computer how the housing worked, so we could (in theory) get the new bulb in.
We then walked over to the Harley division. The 2007 models were indeed in. I sat on several different ones, with special emphasis on the Dyna Glide Low Riders. I quickly got in a buying mood. Before I knew it, I was paying for a Harley