My Honda Rebel Blog for October, 2005
by Donald Ray Burger
Attorney at Law
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October 31, 2005:
Today was my first workday ride since we went off daylight savings time. And I guess they are spending daylight instead of saving it, because by 6:15 am it was really light out. It was weird to actually be able to see details of the route I was riding.
But first, before I hopped on the bike, we walked and fed Sarah. I suited up, added air to the front tire, and headed out. It was in the 70's this morning, and the engine did not have that rough idle I have seen when the thermometer drops into the 50's.
I warmed up and headed for I-10, which I took west. At the intersection of Loop 610 there was a stalled vehicle. I saw the two HPD Motorcycle cops pull up to the stranded driver. It slowed traffic somewhat. I did the first circuit and, when I returned to the scene, a Clear Safe tow truck was pulling up to haul the pickup away. I figure I make the circuit in right at 15 minutes, so that gives you some idea of the response time.
The freeway portion of my ride was uneventful. Traffic was pretty light, and temperatures were very nice. But the stalled pickup had slowed me down a little, so when I pulled up to 6th Street I reached for my belt watch to check the time. I couldn't find it. I knew I had taken it off the belt loop yesterday to move the time back one hour. I was beginning to think I had failed to refasten it properly when it hit me: I was wearing my regular jeans instead of my Draggin' Jeans. And the watch was on the Draggin' Jeans. Oops.
When I pulled up to the driveway I had 6155 miles on the bike. It is good to have the 6000th mile behind me. Now I am aiming at mile 7000. Sure hope the weather stays nice. Winter is for other parts of the country!
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October 30, 2005:
Dawn came one hour early this morning. And, because of the end of daylight savings time, I got to lounge in bed one hour longer. Which was good, given the hectic day I had on Saturday. As you may recall, I had to get up at 5 am to fit in my ride. Then it was off to the Houston Rose Society's Fall Rose Festival.
Friday night, after helping set up the show, I had gone out to the rose beds and selected twenty roses to enter in the show. This was a first for me. I had not had any interest in entering rose shows. But I had heard that our show was going to be small because of the hurricanes and unusually dry weather. So I decided to enter some roses to increase to number of blooms the public would see. I had my choices all over the kitchen cabinets when Maria got back from the Quilt Festival. We put them in any-which-kind of containers and placed the containers in two styrofoam coolers. It was late when we got to bed on Friday.
And it was early when we left for the Rose Festival. And Saturday was a full day at the show. I was in charge of Classification. That means looking at the entry labels and making sure they are done right. And, for the first time, I was also filling out entry labels of my own. I found a table near my Classification post, and began work about 7:30 am. I would fill out the labels, stick the roses in the show-approved vases, and hand them to Maria for final inspection and leaf cleaning. We entered fourteen roses in all. Thanks to Robin Hough, who noticed that I had called a rose now known as Pink Pet by its study name of Caldwell Pink, I even managed to correct an entry of my own before putting on my hat as Classification Chair and approving my roses for placement. And I am sure glad he notice the error. Because that very rose was the first rose in the entire universe to win the EarthKind class at an ARS sanctioned rose show. It was a spray with seven blooms and three buds. I was very proud we won this particular contest because it was, as far as we know, the first time anyone has won this category.
Remember when I told you we had never entered a rose show before? Well, I entered most of my roses in the novice section, which is open only to those who have never won a ribbon at an ARS sanction rose show. We got several blue and red ribbons for our roses in this section, and we also got on the table as Best Novice, with a rose we grow in a clay pot on our back porch. It was the last rose I cut Friday night. It is called Fairhope. We got trophies for Pink Pet and for Fairhope. And I gave two talks at the Festival. And we were all done(-in) and ready to leave by a little after 7 pm.
When we got home we fed Sarah, unpacked the car and went out to eat. Then, and only then, I got out my copy of The Roads of Texas, to figure out where I might go for my 6000th mile ride. I couldn't decide that night. So I went to bed, knowing that I had plenty of time to decide on Sunday morning.
Maria had it on tap to go to the Quilt Festival one last time. It opened on Sunday at 11 am. So we had a leisurely morning, especially with that extra hour from "Fall Back." We took Sarah for a long walk, then I made coffee while Maria made sausage and eggs. We read the paper, then, around 10:30 a.m., I suited up and headed out. I had decided, in honor of my new-found status as trophy-winning rose grower, that I would head for the Antique Rose Emporium for this momentous ride.
I checked the air in the tires, and headed out. I warmed up and made my way to the gas station to top off my tank. I did this by proceeding west on 6th Street, just as I have countless times before. My goal was to turn south on Heights Boulevard. I have ridden nearly 6000 miles without facing the left-turner threat. I kept my record, but barely. A pickup coming toward me turned left immediately after passing me. It was so close I am pretty sure the driver didn't see me. No signal, of course. The weird this was that I had no inkling of the danger. The pickup driver never varied his speed. He never vaired his position in the middle of his lane. He never signaled that he was going to turn left. I, in turn, never considered him a threat. I never guessed he was going to turn left until I saw him do it in my rearview mirrors. Egads.
Anyway, I proceeded to the gas station, topped off the tank and headed out. I took I-10 east to I-45. I took that north to Loop 610, and the Loop onto Highway 290. I took 290 all the way to Chappell Hill. I then took FM 1155 north to FM 2193. These Farm to Market roads are full of curves and hills. I then took Highway 105 till it intersected with FM 390. Farm to Market 390 is another great collection of curves and hills. I watched the odometer roll from 5999.9 to 6000.0 on the downside of a nice hill on FM 390. I highly recommend this set of roads for a fun ride.
I stayed on FM 390 till it intersected with FM 50, which I took south to the Antique Rose Emporium. I pulled in to their parking lot and noticed a couple of bikes already there. I parked next to a Honda Gold Wing and a Honda Gold Wing Trike. Talk about big bikes. It looked like the bikes were transporting bikers and passengers, but I never saw the foursome at the Emporium.
I browsed around the nursery for a while, then headed for Brenham. My plan was to eat lunch in Brehnam and take Highway 290 back to Houston. I weaved my way to downtown Brenham, but I never saw a restaurant that interested me. So I decided to head back the way I had come, so I could taste the hills and curves again. On the way I passed a store called Kellerhouse Antiques. It reminded my of a great gentleman who is recovering in a Houston hospital. I sure hope he is up and around soon.
I took Highway 105 north till it junctioned with FM 50, and took that toward the Antique Rose Emporium. On the way north I passed a sign for a winery. I took the first side road I came to so I could u-turn. I pulled off the road into a graveled area and got to experience the fun of riding a bike in thick gravel. The controls became very sluggish. I slowed down so much I stalled out. I restarted the bike and eased my way to the side of the road in first gear. I then headed back to the winery.
I followed the signs to the Windy Hill Winery. As I pulled up Linda Meitzen, one of the owners, came outside to greet me. I sat my helmet on the ground next to my bike, put on my do-rag, and went inside. I told Mrs. Meitzen that I would be unable to sample the wines since I was stuck on two wheels. She understood. About this time August Meitzen came out and gave me a tour of the winery. He showed me the fermentation vats where they are making about half a dozen different wines, including a port from Lenoir grapes.
He then took me outback to look at the vines and wine press. We discussed problems facing Texas wine growers, including the dreaded fungus, Pierce's disease. He also gave me a run-down on the wines Windy Hill has for sale. This is a very friendly winery. He reminded me that, due to recent court rulings, it is now possible to buy wine in Texas through the mail. I got a brochure and their website address of www.windyhillwinery.net.
I took the reverse route back to Chappel Hill. The hills were still hilly. The curves were still curvey. The fun was still fun. I passed through Chappell Hill and gassed up the bike at an Exxon Station. I then headed east on Highway 290.
Soon after entering the freeway, I had a close encounter of the winged kind. I saw a dead possum ahead of me on the side of the road. In a flash a giant hawk zoomed in front of me, headed for the kill. I was going 70 mph. The hawk was going at least as fast. Fortunately, at the last second, the hawk reconsidered his route, and veered to the left. I'm pretty sure that is as close to a raptor as I have come.
I continued on my way down 290. I passed a BBQ joint called Floyd Barbeque. I started looking for a left turn lane, found one, and u-turned back to the eatery. That is a neat thing about being on a bike. If I had been in my car I know I would have kept going. But riding a bike is an adventure, and side trips are the name of the game.
I pulled in to the parking area, laid my helmet on the ground next to the bike, put on my do-rag and entered the cafe. A bunch of cowboys were there with their horses. The jingle-jangle of spurs filled the cafe. As did the smell of barbeque. I ordered a chopped beef sandwich and ice tea. One sip told me they sugared their tea. Yuck. Oh well, the chopped beef sandwich was good. Floyd even made an appearance before I finished. And then, I continued on my way.
A few miles later I passed the Waller County Line Barbeque. I noticed tons of bikes were in the lot, along with a lot of cars. I will keep the place in mind for my next lunch in the area.
As I continued down Highway 290, I logged mile 6100. I missed seeing the odometer roll over by three tenths of a mile. Just wasn't paying attention to the mileage. I was around Skinner Road when it hit 6100. I continued on home without incident.
When I pulled up to the driveway I had mile 6125 on the odometer. And a horde of neighborhood boys following in my wake.
The boys all wanted to hear about my ride, try the throttle and sit on the passenger seat. I was graciously accommodating. It was a fitting end to a great day's riding. I am still having a blast, and am especially glad to have mile 6000 behind me. More good weather (and more riding) looms. See you on the road.
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October 29, 2005:
I had no time for a ride this morning. Poor Sarah didn't even get her walk. Of course, she did get fed. And I did get in a ride, albeit a short one.
I showered, fed Sarah and suited up. Only a short ride was possible. That meant the twisties on White Oak.
I took the back roads off 6th Street to 11th, and 11th to Houston Avenue. I took Houston Avenue to White Oak, and did the twisties. I am hoping that will hold me until my big ride tomorrow.
Temperatures were cool, but not unbearable. It was 45 out, but my speeds were relatively slow, so there was no unusual wind chill to contend with. No incidents to report. Just a fun, quick ride, before facing the day's activities. When I pulled up to the driveway I had 5925 miles on bike. And tomorrow I should hit mile 6000. See you on the road.
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October 28, 2005:
Today the temperature was 48 degrees when I got up. We walked and fed Sarah and I suited up, checked the air, and headed out. I did the workday circuit a couple of times. I entered I-10, heading west. There were two accidents on Highway 290/Loop 610, and they caused some delay on the first circuit.
I turned mile 5900 just as I entered I-45, going south. Unfortunately, there was a Safe-Clear wrecker at the side of the road with lights flashing. I kept a weather eye out for lane-changers and switched one lane over myself to give the wrecker clearance. In the process of concentrating on all of this, I missed the turn over by three tenths of a mile. Oh well, I just hope I don't miss the mile 6000 turn over.
All-in-all, the ride was a chilly, but pleasant thirty miles. Except for the accident back-up, traffic was light and the ride was uneventful. When I pulled up to the driveway I had 5918 on the Rebel.
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October 27, 2005:
This morning the temperature was quite a bit warmer than yesterday. According to Channel 11, it was 50 degrees out. I don't know if it's just that I am used to the colder temperatures or if it was something else, but today actually felt warm.
Anyway, we walked and fed Sarah, and I suited up. I put on the polypropylene gloves along with everything else. I checked the air in the tires and headed out. The idle was still a little rough, so I added a couple of blocks to the warm-up section. But, although rough, the idle was smoother than yesterday. A good sign.
I headed west on I-10 for the normal workday circuit. Traffic was light, and stop and go was non-existent. I made good time. My fingers weren't warm, but they weren't cold either. In fact, I didn't really think of them until about thirty minutes into the ride. Then I realized they were somewhat cool. I think the polypropylene liners work fine at temperatures above 50.
The ride went smoothly. I am on course for mile 6000. When I pulled up to the driveway I had 5856 miles on the odometer.
This afternoon I had to leave work early to meet a repairman at the house between 3 pm and 4 pm. The repairman arrived at about 3:20 pm and was finished very promptly. I decided to use this as an excuse to gas up the bike. I changed into my riding gear and headed for the gas station. After topping off the tank I decided, since I was already all dressed up, why not go for a dance on the freeway.
So I headed east on I-10 and did my workday circuit in a counter clockwise direction. This is the way I used to do it before morning traffic got so heavy at Hiwghway 290. Now I travel in a clockwise circuit. Clockwise is faster, but the counterclockwise circuit is somehow more satisfying. I guess that's because it has more challenges. The traffic is definitely faster, and you are always in the "fast" (left-hand) lane instead of always in the "slow" (right-hand) lane.
It was neat to be out in daylight. And warm daylight at that. I did the circuit a couple of times and meandered back to the house. No incidents to report. Just a fun forty minutes on the bike in great fall weather. When I pulled up to the driveway I had added enough miles to bring the odometer to 5888. That has a nice sound. Look out mile 5900. I'll get to you tomorrow!
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October 26, 2005:
Today dawned a chilly 45 degrees. Cold enough for phase two of my finger-warming experiment. We walked and fed Sarah and then I located the Patagonia polypropylene gloves left over from an earlier trip to North Dakota. They were from Wilderness Equipment. Cost: $11.00.
I suited up and went out to check the air in the tires. I don't know if it was the cold, but both tires were low. I added air, slipped on my motorcycle boots and got out the gloves. The packaging calls them gloves, not glove liners. Still, they are very thin, and they fit (albeit snugly) under my riding gloves. They weren't quite as flexible as the REI liners, but the test would be how they fared in keeping the wind out.
Just as yesterday, I had to warm up the bike a couple of extra blocks before the idle smoothed out. After that, I got on I-10, headed west. I did my normal workday circuit. It was cold. But my fingers weren't frozen. I can't say they were warm, but they definitely weren't as cold as yesterday. The polypropylene seemed to act as a decent wind block. Yesterday the temperature was reported to be 44 degrees. Today it was reported to be 45 degrees. My fingers felt a lot more than one degree warmer. On the other hand, it is still miserable to be going down the freeway at 60 mph when the temperature is in the 40's. At least my fingers are miserable. Because we don't get many days this cold, I am not sure what I am going to do about this situation. For now, its Patagonia to the rescue.
The ride was otherwise uneventful. I turned mile 5800 just after I got on I-10. I missed watching the odometer roll over. Must have been too busy watching for cars and thinking about my fingers. Anyway, by the time I pulled up to the driveway I had 5826 miles on the bike. On schedule for mile 6000 this Sunday.
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October 25, 2005:
Another cold morning. We walked and fed Sarah, and I suited up a little differently than usual. First, I put on some high tech long johns I had purchased for a trip to North Dakota. Of course, I also had the Polartec Wind Bloc shirt on. I added glove liners I had purchased at REI yesterday. I had searched the store for windblock liners, but could not find any in my size. So I settled for "Multisport Performance" glove liners. They had the twin virtues of being thin and of fitting. This morning would be a nice test because Channel 11 was reporting a temperature of 44 degrees as I headed out. Fortunately, I was easily able to fit my riding gloves over the liners. Feeling a little like an Eskimo, I headed out.
I added a few blocks to the warm up portion of my ride because the engine was sounding a little rough. Everything mechanical was working fine, but the idle was a little off. The few extra blocks heated things up, and I was ready to enter I-10 for my normal workday circuit.
Traffic was very light. I hardly ever had to go under 50 mph. The ride was largely uneventful. There was a car fire across Interstate 10, inbound. Lots of smoke pouring out of the vehicle. On a motorcycle such tragedies present additional dangers from rubber neckers who are drawn to gawk at the scenes. I kept an extra eye out (the right one, if you must know) for such wayward drivers, but everyone stayed in their lanes. The only other interesting feature of the ride was the test of the long johns and the glove liners.
First, the long johns. Apart from the weird sensation of having a silk-like fabric on my legs instead of the usual denim, I almost forgot I was wearing the leg warmers. And they did a great job of blocking the wind. My legs stayed warm the entire trip. I count the long-johns a success.
Sadly, the glove liners did not pass muster. In defense of the REI product, they did not claim to be wind blockers. And they weren't. My fingers were once again very cold. I don't think the liners did any good at all. I could feel the wind through my gloves, which is a nice thing in summer. But it was not summer-like this morning. The liners did not seem to help keep my fingers warm.
When I was looking for the long johns, I found a pair of glove liners I had purchased for the same trip to North Dakota. I had forgotten all about them. I think I will try them tomorrow, to see how they do. They look thin enough to go under my riding gloves.
I completed the ride in about forty minutes. I now have 5797 miles on the bike. Stay tuned, and keep warm.
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October 24, 2005:
This morning it was in the 40's when I awoke. And Maria had an early morning appointment. That meant I could not get in my normal ride and be back before she headed out. So I decided to shift the ride to after she left. Maybe the temperature would warm up by then.
It didn't. When I left for my ride at 8 am Channel 11 reported it was 47 degrees out. When I returned they reported it was 46! I know I felt colder as my ride progressed. And more than one degree colder, especially in my fingers.
But, back to the beginning. I suited up, added air to the tires and headed out. I warmed up a little more than usual so the bike would be at the proper running temperature when I entered the freeway. Which, it turned out, didn't matter. Traffic was bumper to bumper. And slow moving bumpers at that. I headed west on I-10, toward the Loop. I never figured out what was causing the delays, but I was grateful for them. You see, there is no wind chill when you are traveling under 5 mph.
But, by the time I hit the Loop, traffic had thinned out and was speeding up. My Polartec Wind Bloc shirt kept me mostly warm, but my fingers were really cold. I did my workweek circuit a couple of times, and stretched the second circle out by going all the way to Highway 59 before heading south to I-10. I've always wondered how the 59 traffic was when headed to downtown. This morning it was very light. And very fast moving.
My fingers were starting to become numb by then (well, at least they felt that way), so I headed on in. As I pulled up to the driveway I had 5767 miles on the Rebel. I left my helmet on and my jacket zipped up until I got inside the house. The ride was more fun than I expected at these temperatures, but I definitely prefer too hot to too cold!
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October 23, 2005:
We got back to Houston about 7:15 pm. It was already dark. After unloading the car I suited up, checked the air in the tires and headed out. I took a little longer than normal in warming up, since I had not ridden on Saturday. Then, because construction was everywhere, I headed east on I-10, worked my way over to I-45 south, and took the Allen Parkway exit. I did both sections of Allen Parkway, and then took Bagby to Memorial.
Conditions were weird. A front is coming in, and the wind was pretty fierce. I could feel the bike being blown about. Well, not literally, but I had to consciously fight to keep the bike on track. The wind had another effect. I could smell the Mrs. Baird's bread baking all the way to Allen Parkway. The bakery is on Washington Avenue, so that is quite a distance for the wonderful odor to travel.
When I reached Memorial Drive, I took it west to the park. There is something different about riding in the dark at night. I ride in the dark most mornings, but it's not the same. Dawn brings hope. Night-time darkness had a foreboding character that is absent in the morning hours.
Hardly anyone was running in the park. And, certainly, no one I knew was out there. The Astros are playing game two of the World Series tonight. I think that explains why traffic was so light. Most of Houston (not including me) is watching the game. Still, I enjoyed my evening ride. It was neat being out, even in the dark. And a ride is always exhilarating. At least to me.
A glance at my watch showed it was already after 8 pm. I decided to hurry back before Maria got concerned. Plus, the odometer showed I had gotten in a nice ride. I am on schedule to make mile 6000 on Sunday's ride. And the odometer showed I had 5733 miles on the Rebel when I pulled up to the driveway.
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October 22, 2005:
This blog is written on Sunday, October 23. That's because I was out of town on Saturday, the 22nd. And, because I was out of town, I did not go for a ride. This is the second day I have not ridden the Rebel since I picked it up. And both times I was out of town. And both times I was in Laredo. And both times I had to content myself with visiting the Harley dealership in Laredo. Which is nice, but not the same as riding.
On the other hand, I got to check out another 2006 Dyna Glide Low, at the Laredo Harley Davidson dealership. They are one of the friendliest Harley dealers I have encounted. They offered one for $17,680. That included spoked wheels, security system and two-tone paint job. I was sorely tempted. But I haven't logged my minimum six months on the Rebel, let alone twelve months. And I like the Rebel. A lot. Still, the 2006 Low Rider is singing a Siren song. How long can I resist? Stayed tuned.
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October 21, 2005:
Today dawned a sultry 68 degrees out. After walking and feeding Sarah, I suited up, checked the air, and headed out. I did the standard workday freeway circuit. Traffic was especially light for a Friday. In fact, I marveled at how steady I was able to keep my speed throughout the thirty mile run. Hardly any stop and go.
I missed watching the odometer turn over to mile 5700 by a whole four miles. The ride was so pleasant, I was thinking of other things than the odometer. In fact, the only blip on the ride was when a lane idiot crossed over three lanes, and into the striped area, to take the Yale exit on the North Loop. I was glad I wasn't all that close when he made his thoughtless move (without using his blinker, of course).
I gassed up the bike before heading home. In many ways, it was a near perfect ride. At least as close as you can get going in circles on city freeways. I now have 5712 miles on the bike. I need less than three hundred more miles to make it to mile 6000. All right!
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October 20, 2005:
I am happy to report that today I did not forget anything on my ride. Including how to brake at high speeds.
We got up at the regular time, took Sarah for her walk and then fed her. I suited up and headed for the garage. I checked the tires and headed out. And yes, I remembered to turn the choke off at the first intersection.
But before I recount the rest of the ride, let me tell you about how I spend large parts of it dreaming about the brand new 2006 Harley-Davidson Dyna Glide Low that I got to sit on at the Stubbs dealership yesterday afternoon. On Wednesday at lunch I had to go out I-45 to get some stuff from the Houston Rose Society mini-warehouse. And, on the way back, I felt my PT Cruiser inexorably drawn to the exit for Loop 610 South. I gave in and let the car have its head. And there, before I knew what was happening, was the exit for Telephone Road. Have I mentioned that Stubbs Cycles is on Telephone Road?
Well, what could I do? I took the exit and found myself in the parking lot for the Harley dealership. As long as I was there anyway, I decided to go in and pay a visit. It seemed the neighborly thing to do. And, surprise, surprise, the building was filled with brand new Harleys. I dodged one salesman but Brendan noticed the glazed look in my eyes, and told me there were more Harleys upstairs. I said that I guessed that was where the Dyna Glide Lows were. He said, no, they're over there, and pointed the way. And there they were. Three of the beauties.
We talked about bikes for a while, and the Lows in particular. He is a big fan of them. He told me about the 1983 Shovelhead he has just acquired, one that Stubbs had done all the work on, and one that doesn't leak oil. Not a drop. He swore.
He let me sit on a black pearl Low. Pointed out all the new features. Like a larger axle. And a fatter back tire. That makes for a larger contact patch, and much better cornering. He also pointed out that the clutch had been reworked to make the squeeze force about a third lighter. I have long lusted for a Dyna-Glide Low, and the 2006 is a real beaut. The bike has been basically redesigned for 2006. It still has those great looks, but it is about 10% bigger and heavier. Stop by and check it out.
Next, I wandered over to the clothing department and tried on my first pair of chaps. I thought I looked pretty good in them. They were on sale, but I was just looking. The zippers were on the side, and there was no bunching at the knees when I sat down on the black pearl Low to give the chaps a test. I think they would definitely keep my legs warm on those cold morning rides. Plus, they make quite a fashion statement. Or some kind of statement. I am still doing research on what brand of chaps to get. I'll keep you posted. But now, back to this morning's ride.
I warmed up and headed for I-10, and entered the freeway going west. Traffic was light on my chosen route. Well, at least the automobile traffic was light. I had made the circuit once, and was on the North Loop on the second go round when I got the chance to practice high speed braking.
It was still pretty dark out. All the cars had their lights on. I was rolling along at about 60 mph* when I caught a glimpse of something out of my right eye. Movement. Movement where there should not be movement. Tall movement.
Yes, what appeared to be a homeless man, in black pants and dirty undershirt, was at the side of the road, making moves like he was going to cross the freeway. I always worry about whether a driver will see me on my bike, but this morning I was worried about whether a swaying man would not only see me, but realize that he should not step out in front of me. I did a quick head check to see if I could change lanes if I had to and hit my brakes in case he made his move.
But luck was with him. And me. He didn't cross in front of me. I must say, however, that it was about a half a mile later before the adrenaline went back to normal.
The rest of the ride was uneventful. When I rolled up to the driveway I had 5682 miles on the odometer. And a great morning's ride. See you on the road.
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October 19, 2005:
This morning's schedule was all mixed up. Maria is going on a day-trip, and had to leave at six. That meant that I didn't walk Sarah until after Maria left. So, with walking the dog, feeding the dog, and my own breakfast, I didn't head for the bike until around seven.
I added a little air to the tires and headed out. My habit is to come to a complete stop at the end of our block, before turning left. I always use my blinker and I use the stop as an opportunity to turn off the choke, which I have to use to start the engine. This morning I made the stop and signaled my turn, as always. I then headed for I-10.
I entered the freeway and headed west to Loop 610. I was doing my normal morning freeway circle. Traffic was pretty light. During the whole trip, I never came to a stop, and I only slowed down to below ten mph three times.
The first two times I slowed down I noticed a loud noise, like a car in front of me had its engine racing. Both times there were older cars ahead of me, and both times I wrote the sound off as coming from other vehicles. I was wrong.
On the third occasion I had to really slow down, I heard the noise again. It was sort of like what happens when you do a quick stop and have a death grip on the throttle and the clutch. You are stopped, but the engine is racing at high speed because the clutch is in and the throttle has not been released. On the first two times, I had consciously let go of the throttle to see if the sound was coming from my engine, but the sound continued. On the third time it all clicked. The sound was coming from my engine, but not because I was holding the throttle too long. It was because I had forgotten to take the choke off. The engine was fully choked, and that caused the rpm's to go high. Ugh. You would think, after five months of riding, I would be beyond these idiotic mistakes. But no. The learning curve continues. I just hope my experience will help some other new rider avoid yet another error I have made. Fortunately, this one was just a blow to the ego.
Otherwise, the ride was lots of fun. The weather was in the low sixties, and there were no close calls. I got in a little over 45 miles and I now have 5652 miles on the odometer. Time to head to work.
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October 18, 2005:
This morning dawned at 63 degrees. We walked Sarah. I then fed her and suited up. A quick check showed the tires were good to go. I headed out to do the circle route in a clockwise direction. After warming up, I entered I-10 and headed west to Loop 610. Traffic was medium. Still, I was able to do two quick circles of the freeways without major delays.
And I rolled the odometer to 5600 miles just as I approached the North Main exit of I-45 going south. After some minor meandering, I headed for the house.
At the stop light for Studewood and White Oak, I glanced at my belt watch to check the time. I wanted to see if I had time to do the little detour at Granberry, 5-1/2 and Fraser. I did, because it was barely 7 am. But I noticed a problem with my Vanson textile jacket. The zipper had come apart at the bottom of the front, and the jacket was open for about six inches at the bottom. That would not be good in case of a crash.
I did the Granberry loop, then headed home. I had 5604 miles on the odometer by the time I pulled up to the driveway. I took off my helmet and tried to figure out what had caused the zipper problem. The jacket easily unzipped all the way. I rezipped it, and everything was fine. I did that a couple of more times. Once, I was able to duplicate the problem with the unzipping, but I could not figure out how. If I was really careful to make sure the tail of the zipper was locked into place before zipping up, everything was fine. I could not figure out how I could zip up the front of the jacket without having that tail firmly clasped. But that has happened twice this morning. I will have to be extra careful in the future. I really like the Vanson jacket, and, for now, I am willing to write the problem off as "operator error." Time will tell. For now, it's off to work.
* * * * *
October 17, 2005:
First things first. Sarah demanded her morning walk. And her breakfast. Then, and only then, I suited up, checked the air in the tires, and headed out. It was a cool morning, with an almost-full moon.
Which brings up one of the differences between riding a bike and driving a car. I had noticed the moon when we were walking Sarah. But I had not studied it seriously. In a car I would not even have seen it because the car's roof would have been in the way. But on a bike you see the whole sky before you.
And on this morning's ride I had great stretches of my run when I could really study the moon. OK, I had to study it is one second glances, given all those starry objects around me (headlights). But it was neat. As was the ride.
I made two clockwise circles of my freeway route and racked up thirty quick miles on the odometer. I considered going for mile 5600, especially since Maria and I are seeing John and Nadine tonight to try out my Glock. John and I took the Rider's Edge course together, and the subject of how many miles I have on the bike may come up. But there is much activity on a case at work, and I have to get in to the office. So I have to content myself with the new odometer reading of 5574. And with a great morning ride.
* * * * *
October 16, 2005:
The weathermen had been predicting temperatures in the 50's for this morning, but it dawned a sultry 63 degrees. I got up and fed Sarah. I then suited up, including my Polartec Wind Bloc shirt. Just because it was 63 at the airport didn't mean it was going to be that warm out west, where I was headed.
I checked the air in the tires, warmed up, and headed for the gas station. On the way over I heard something hit the right side of my helmet, in the cheek area. I couldn't figure out what it was. This happened about three times, with a single clink each time.
I filled up with gas and turned the tripometer to zero. I then headed out. My plan for this morning's ride was to take FM 1371 south to Bellville, and FM 529 back home. That would give me a nice ride and some mileage. I was hoping for some nice curves as a bonus.
As I pulled out from the gas station I again heard the clicking sound on my helmet. It happened when I turned my helmet while doing a head check for traffic behind me. Duh. I finally figured it out: I had forgotten to thread the strap through the D-Ring. I've been putting on my helmet for five months now, and this morning I forgot to attach the strap.
Unfortunately, by the time I discovered the cause of the noise, I was already on I-10, heading east. I went ahead and took the I-45 exit north, then got on Loop 610 and took the first exit I came to, which was North Main. I pulled into the parking lot for Mancuso Harley-Davidson, which was right on the corner, and threaded the band through the D-Ring. Properly strapped in, I continued my journey.
I took the Loop to Highway 290, and headed west. Traffic was medium. Although it was cool out, it did not feel "cold." Maybe I was just happy to be on a decent-length journey after all my workday trips. Anyway, I gave no thought to cutting the ride short because of the temperature.
I continued down Highway 290 and logged mile 5400 at about Beltway 8. I then passed Waller, Prairie View and Hempstead. Just before I got to Chappel Hill, I came upon the exit for FM 1371. I took it south. It had some nice curves and some "slow down to 30" curves. I encountered no other traffic on the road, except for a couple of cows that had somehow gotten out of their fence.
FM 1371 runs in to FM 1456, which is the road on in to Bellville. It was similiarly deserted. When you take FM 1456 into Bellville you end up on the west end of the courthouse square. I circled the square and took the main drag to Newman's Bakery. It was around 7:30 am. Fortunately, the bakery was open and stocked. I parked, changed into my do-rag, and entered the shop. Even though the temperatures had not been frigid, I was glad to get inside. I ordered a cake donut and a cup of coffee. And, for luck, a donut hole. The owner asked me if the highway was cold out. I am repeatedly amazed at how conversational people are with bikers. It's as if we are a special breed, and worthy of conversation, even from strangers.
I enjoyed the donut, hole and coffee, and took my time warming up. When I was ready to leave it was a little before 8 am. I put my helmet back on and headed west on FM 529.
I had not seen a biker all morning, but that soon changed when I got on FM 529. I saw lots of bikers headed west. More bikers than cars. I even passed a group of a dozen riders, all on what looked to be Harleys.
I continued east on FM 529. At about Barker-Cypress I watched the odometer roll over to 5500 miles. I continued on home, taking the long way. I figured that the trip, without detours, is a little over 140 miles. A nice jaunt for a Sunday morning. When I pulled up to the driveway it was 9:40 am and the odometer read 5544 miles. Mile 6000 looms ever closer.
* * * * *
October 15, 2005:
I overslept by ten minutes this morning. My only excuse is that I was up late dealing with PIGS (projects in plastic sacks). As in hiding them. You see, we have an apiary picnic at the house today at noon, and much remains to be done. That means a short ride for this Saturday's jaunt. Plus, reporter Dai Huynh of the Houston Chronicle had interviewed me on my Hurricane Page on my personal web site, www.burger.com . I made it a point to check the Chronicle to see if I made the paper. I had. And the whole two page article on hurricane preparedness was way above what you usually find. Ms. Huynh had interviewed a bunch of people and she presented the kind of detailed information that is so much more useful than what you get in the hurricane tracking charts from the grocery store. The article was so good that I spent the time to read it all, not just check for my part.
And, of course, Sarah still wanted to be fed, picnic or not. I took care of that duty and suited up and checked the tires while she did her business. Both tires were a tad low, so I added some compressed air. Then, after all these delays, I headed out. It was 6:10 am.
The TV said the temperature was 64 degrees. I had my Polartec Wind Bloc shirt on. It felt just fine out. Ideal riding weather. No sensation of cold, even on my knuckes and legs. Which is odd, because when they say it is 68 it usually feels really cold at highway speeds. I'm not sure what is at work here. Maybe the temperature at Intercontinental Airport is not representative of what I find on my rides. With winter coming, I will have plenty of opportunities to figure this out.
I took my old circle route since this was a weekend. I headed east on I-10, north on I-45 and west on Loop 610, all the way back to east on I-10. Traffic was light. The only problem was that the hot rodders were doing a lot of lane jockeying. When I do this route in the counterclockwise direction, as I did this morning, I am usually in the "fast" lane most of the trip, because of the way the exits are placed. Today, I had to move over a lane because the traffic was way too fast for my tastes. And no one was afraid to whip around a biker going only 70 mph*. Anyway, the trip was made without incident. I did three loops and headed back. I pulled up to the driveway right at 7 am. On schedule.
In fact, I was feeling so good that I decided to lube the chain before I put the bike away. After finishing that job, I parked the Rebel, noted the odometer read 5382, and head in to write this blog before it got too late. And to start planning tomorrow's run, which should be made at a more leisurely pace. Meet you on the road.
* * * * *
October 14, 2005:
This morning dawned at sixty-six degrees out. Not really cold, but not hot. We walked and fed Sarah and I suited up. I decided to put on the PolarTec shirt, just to see how it would do at sixty-six. I checked the air in the tires and headed out.
I have a court hearing today, so quick miles were necessary. I did the new circle route. The PolarTec shirt kept me warm, but not hot. It is supposed to be in the fifties this weekend, so a more serious test will take place.
Morning traffic was light, even on I-45 south, where there was an overturned car at the Dallas exit, according to the TV. On the first circuit there was no real slow down on I-45. On the second circuit there was backup for those going south into downtown, but nothing too serious for those headed west on I-10.
I got in my miles and was back home at an early hour. I now have 5336 miles on the bike.
* * * * *
October 13, 2005:
Today I decided to run another test of my new route. After walking and feeding Sarah, I suited up and checked the air in the tires. Both were ok, so I headed out. I entered I-10 from Oxford, and headed west. Traffic was a little heavier than yesterday, but there was no stop and go. Except for my bike, which started hesitating in the way that could only mean that I had run the main tank dry. I switched to the reserve and continued my journey. I had 167 miles on the odometer when the main tank went dry. Not bad. It's usually around 155 miles when I have to switch.
Once I was on Loop 610, it was smooth sailing all the way back to my beginning point. I decided to make another circle, but I had to stop for gas first. I filled up, then got back on I-10, westbound. After completing the second circle, I headed in. The run was very nice, as was the temperature out. Sixty-seven, according to Channel 11. When I pulled up to the driveway I had 5262 miles on the odometer. And it was only five after seven. Not bad, considering the gas stop.
After breakfast, I decided to go out again. I had no legal appointments today, so I figured I could rack up mile 5300 and still get to the office at a decent hour. Plus, this would give me a chance to see how the new route faired during the 7:30 to 8:00 am rush hour. (Any excuse to ride!) So, at 7:45 am I headed out and started westbound on I-10. I did a quick circle, and noticed that traffic was stacking up. Unbeknownst to me, Maria was out on Loop 610 and spotted my "extra" trip. She told me later that she was in the next lane on the North Loop, trying to see if the biker was actually me. She teased me later about sneaking in the second ride.
As I came back on I-10, headed west, traffic was so heavy that I exited Shepherd, u-turned, and headed east on I-10. I figured that traffic would be lighter going that direction, and I was right. I noticed that I needed twenty miles to make 5300 miles. I cruised down I-10 for ten miles, u-turned, and headed back. No traffic problems at all. I figure it took me less than twenty-five minutes to get in that last twenty miles. I watched the odometer turn over to mile 5300 just as I approached the Heights exit. When I pulled up to the driveway I had 5303 miles on the bike. On target for mile 6000.
* * * * *
October 12, 2005:
This morning's ride was dedicated to that great Western writer, Louis L'Amour. "Why" will become clear shortly.
We got up at the regular time, walked and fed Sarah, and I suited up and headed for the garage. I checked the air in the tires and headed out. Last night, in a flash of inspiration, a solution to a current problem hit me. For the past few weeks I have had a standard morning route when my goal was to add some quick miles on the bike. I would head east on I-10, north on I-45, west on Loop 610 and back east on I-10. Two circles of this loop produced a 30 mile run in fairly short order. The ride was fun, if the traffic was light to medium. The big problem lately has been that the traffic merging onto Loop 610 from Highway 290 clogged the Loop, regularily causing inordinate delays. I needed a new route.
Last Sunday I had gone exploring up I-45 to see if I could take it north against the morning inbound grain and hop on an HOV lane to come back in. Sadly, the shortest route like that was around 44 miles long. I seldom have that much time for riding during the week.
Then, last night, it hit me. Louis L'Amour, in his novels, often mentions how the route back is substantially different than the route out, even when the same path is taken. Scenery going westbound is totally different than the same scenery going eastbound. That got me thinking about reversing my standard route. I would take the same path, but instead of starting out going east on I-10, I would go west on I-10. All along the route I would be going against the grain of the morning commuters, and the only place I would hit major traffic would be on one section of I-45, headed south. And, because no traffic was merging in to I-45 at that point, that section should not present major headaches.
I tried the ride this morning. I entered I-10 from the Heights area and immediately headed west. I then took Loop 610 north, then turned eastbound on the Loop. I exited I-45 south and then headed west again on I-10 to complete the circle. No traffic snarls. I repeated the circle. Again, no traffic to speak of. I was back home about five minutes sooner than my fastest time on the old route. And I had clocked 30 miles.
Time will tell if this route is always as good as it was this morning. Stay tuned. I now have 5232 miles on the odometer. Meet you on the road.
* * * * *
October 11, 2005:
This morning dawned another warm, humid 68 degrees out. We took Sarah for a walk, then I fed her and suited up. I check the air in the tires and headed out.
I have an out-of-the-office meeting this morning. Still, I wanted to rack up some miles quickly. So I did a couple of freeway loops. It was warm enough that I thoroughly enjoyed the ride. Traffic was pretty light. No close calls. Nothing interesting to report except that I turned mile 5200 on the odometer as I passed over Shepherd on I-10. When I rolled up to the driveway I had 5203 miles on the odometer.
* * * * *
October 10, 2005:
When we took Sarah for her morning walk, I immediately noticed that it felt warmer than the 68 degrees reported on the TV. I think it was the return of the humidity. Anyway, I decided to forego the Polartec on my morning ride. I fed Sarah and suited up.
After checking the air in the tires, I headed out. My goal was to get some miles on the bike, especially in light of the relatively short ride I had Sunday.
Traffic was pretty light, and I did the freeway circles easily. There was no sensation of "cold" as I had experienced on my weekend rides. When I was about three miles from my exit, it started to rain. This was not good. It had not rained in a long time, so I knew the streets would be extra slippery. Fortunately, the traffic slowed down (to 55 mph).
I watched the traffic and the upcoming exits, and decided to continue on to my intended exit. I increased the distance between the car ahead of me and my bike so that I could minimize the chances of a quick stop if something happened. Which it did not. I made it home without incident. I pulled up to the driveway before seven, and the odometer showed 5172 miles on the Rebel.
* * * * *
October 9, 2005:
It was not as cold this morning as they were predicting. It was only in the low 60's. Still, that is plenty cold on a motorcycle at 70 mph*.
I got up, showered, fed Sarah and suited up. I added a touch of air to the back tire. I don't want anyone to think I have a big problem with the tires. Still, if they are even a half a pound low, I get them back up to spec.
I headed out around 6:30 am. I warmed up and topped off the tank at the gas station. I then headed east on I-10 and north on I-45. I had a guest appearance on Randy Lemmon's GardenLine radio show at 10 am to talk about growing roses in Houston, so the ride could not be too long. Just as well, given the cold temperatures. After yesterday's cold ride, I wasn't looking forward to more cool misery.
Instead of a long ride I decided to use the light traffic to map out some alternate rides for during the week. I decided to check out the HOV lanes on I-45 in hopes that I could come up with a route that would let me go outbound on I-45 in the morning and inbound on the HOV lanes.
As I was going east on I-10 to the exit for I-45, traffic was pretty light. Still, I was on my guard. Good thing, too. I am especially leery of exits to other freeways. I am always concerned that some clown will realize at the last moment that he needed to take an exit and then cut over at the last second. That happened this morning. As I approached the exit for I-45 there was a car ahead of me in the lane to my right. He had been there for a quarter mile. No blinker was on. I had to cut back my speed so I didn't pass him right at the exit point. Which is good, because he swerved into my lane at the last second, without seeing me, as far as I could tell. Good grief!
Anyway, the rest of the ride was without incident. I headed north on I-45 but I did not find a short HOV route. The first time I could exit from the northbound lanes, u-turn and get back on I-45 and enter the HOV lanes was twenty-two miles from my start point. And that would make a forty-four mile run. That's just too long for a weekday morning. Oh well.
On the way back I decided to take Loop 610 west to the Ella exit and visit Lowes. I have a painting project going in the back yard, and I ran out of spray paint. When I pulled into the parking lot, the store doors were wide open. I parked the bike and headed for them. Before I could get very far, a store worker informed me that they were still closed, and wouldn't open till 8 am. It was 7:35. I got back on my bike and headed for the Home Depot. I cruised by their front door and saw that they opened at 7 am on Sundays. Good. I parked the bike and headed in. Before I could get there a man came up to me to ask about my bike. He complimented me on its good looks and said that he was thinking about getting one because gas had gotten so expensive. He was going to ride it to work. We talked about bikes and gas, and I wished him luck.
I then entered the Home Depot and got my paint. When I went to pay there were no clerks operating registers. All that was open was the "check yourself out" lanes. I hate those lanes. I'm not sure I have yet gotten through one without incident. And my record remains unbroken. For whatever reason, the machine didn't like the way I swiped my credit card. An employee came up and asked me to swipe the card again. Again the machine did not give in. Nor was the third time a charm. I was about to try another card when, for no reason I can tell, the swipe worked. "One moment please. Processing. Sign here." And I was off, purchase in hand.
I rode around a little more, then headed home. My hands were cold, but the sun was up. I had 5141 miles on the bike, and time to take a really warm shower before heading to the radio station. In my PT Cruiser.
* * * * *
October 8, 2005:
At exactly 5 am Sarah jumped up on the bed to let me know it was time to get up. Sadly, there is no snooze button on a dog. I got up, went outside to see if the paper was here yet (it wasn't), then fed Sarah.
I decided to go ahead and shower before my ride. It was around 63 degrees, and pitch black out. I figured it might warm up a little if I started out later, plus I wanted to read the paper before my ride. I have learned from hard experience to check the highway construction information in the City/State section before deciding on my route. So shower I did.
When I came back downstairs again, the paper had arrived. Both I-10 west and Highway 290 west were clear. I decided to head for Waller, and south on FM 362 to Brookshire. I only needed 50 miles to make mile 5000.
I suited up, including my Polartec Wind Bloc shirt, and headed to the garage to check the air in the tires. Everything was fine. My habit is to put on my gloves just before leaving. And I sit on the bike to put them on. Which is what I did this morning. It is also my habit to have the visor of my full-face helmet in the "up" position while I do this. Which is also what I did this morning. It is not my habit to have a mosquito fly in through the opening in my helmet and buzz my ears. Which is what happened this morning. Most disconcerting. Fortunately, before I had to rip the helmet off my head to stop the noise, the mosquito involved left on its own. At peace again, I throttled up and headed to the gas station to fill up the tank.
After gassing up, I headed east on I-10 to Highway 59. I took that north to Loop 610, which I took west to Highway 290. Traffic was surprisingly heavy. According to my watch, I had pulled out of the driveway at 6:25 am. I don't know where everyone was headed so early. Still, the Rebel handled things with ease. The only problem was the wind chill produced by the highway speeds. My chest and arms were warm, but I could feel the wind and cold through my gloves and jeans. It wasn't too bad, but it was unpleasantly cool.
I watched the odometer move from 4999.9 to 5000.0 just as I reached the exit for Highway 362. All right. Mile 6000, here I come!
Farm Road 362 is pleasant enough. It has some nice curves. Sadly, there is construction along it at present, and lots of trucks. As in eighteen wheelers. As I headed south I had an eighteen wheeler ahead of me and one a little ways back. I didn't feel boxed in, or anything, but I like the roads a little lonelier. When traffic is lighter I have more time to think about things than when all my concentration is on the traffic.
On the first graceful curve, I had to cut my speed back a little because I saw the headlights of an eighteen wheeler headed toward me. It would not do to stray across the center line by mis-estimating the curve's radius. So I cut back my speed and took the turn in a more sedate manner. As I came up on the second nice curve, I saw another eighteen wheeler headed toward me. Again, I cut back on my speed before entering the curve. After that, the curves were truck-free and fun. I don't mean to say that I ever plan to cross the center line in a curve, but I do mean to say that FM 562 may not be the road to test your ability to take curves at speed.
I stayed on FM 362 to Brookshire, then headed east to Katy along Highway 90. I like Highway 90 because it is more interesting than I-10. As I headed east I came upon a sign saying Winchester, and having a rifle on it. I pulled off the road, u-turned, and headed back to investigate. Sadly, it was an industrial park, not a Winchester factory. Oh well.
I got back on Highway 90 and continued east. Just after I entered Katy, I passed the Katy ABC Country Store. I saw a banner hanging from their sign. The banner advertised KPRC Radio, 950 AM. To me, that meant only one thing: Randy Lemmon, host of GardenLine on KPRC radio, was doing a remote broadcast from the store. Once again, I pulled into a parking lot, u-turned, and headed back to see if my surmise was correct.
It was, indeed. Randy was just setting up. As I pulled up to the store, I could see him sitting at his broadcast table, testing his equipment. Randy's show starts at 8 am on Saturdays, and it was about 7:50 am when I rolled up. I took off my gloves and helmet, put on my do-rag, and dismounted to say hello. By that time he had come outside to talk to one of the store managers. He gave me a quick glance, but continued his conversation. I walked up and he gave me a second look. Puzzled recognition crossed his face. He knew he knew me from somewhere, but I guess he doesn't run with the biker crowd, so he could not place me. I introduced myself and the puzzled look changed to a smile of recognition. I am scheduled to be on his show tomorrow morning, to talk about roses. We chatted for a few minutes. He didn't know I rode a motorcycle. He promised there would be pizza during tomorrow's show. I promised we would eat it all up before Chris Tritico's show on the law (Hearsay) started. Chris and I office in the same building. It truly is a small world.
I got back on my bike, put on my helmet and gloves, and headed east again, back to Houston. The trip back on I-10 was uneventful. As I came upon the exit for Loop 610 North, I decided to take it to test it as an alternate route on my weekday morning rides. It looks like it will do nicely. I took Loop 610 to I-45 south, then I-10 west to the Heights exit. When I rolled up to the driveway I had 5066 miles on the bike. Time to get some coffee and try to warm up. And it was only 8:30 am. Plenty of day left.
* * * * *
October 7, 2005:
I was hoping for cool weather this morning, and I got my wish. According to Channel 11, it was 62 degrees out at 5:30 am. We took Sarah for a walk, then I fed her and got ready for my morning ride. I slipped on my new Polortec Wind Bloc shirt Maria made me, finished suiting up and headed for the bike. I added a bit of air to both tires and headed out. My twin goals for this ride were to further test the Polartec and to get to mile 4950.
I did the freeway loops. Traffic was light. Although I could feel the coolness in my gloves, the Polartec Wind Bloc fabric performed flawlessly. No wind sensation to my chest or arms. I did not feel miserable. Tomorrow will be another test, only that one should be about ten degrees cooler.
My hands were not really cold, but I did begin to think about glove warmers. They are thin liners you put on before gloving up. We'll see. My gloves fit so snugly that I don't know if there is room for liners. Also, unless the liners are made of a wonder fabric, I'm not sure the (necessarily) thin material will do much good. Still, a little help might make all the difference in the mild winters in Houston.
The morning ride was lots of fun. No stop and go. No close calls. Lots of smiles. I was back home in record time, and I now have mile 4952 on the bike. And the weekend calls. Meet you on the road.
* * * * *
October 6, 2005:
I had an out-of-office legal appointment this morning. That called for a short ride. And when I think of a short ride, I think of the twisties on White Oak. Which is what I opted for.
After walking and feeding Sarah, it was just past six in the morning. I suited up, warmed up and headed north on Shepherd, east on 14th and south on Houston Avenue, to White Oak. Temperatures were cool.
The days are getting longer, and night is lasting longer. Which is my way of saying it was darker than usual. This made taking the twisties a little different, because of the lack of light. Of course, it was still fun.
After the twisties, I continued on White Oak to Granberry. I usually do a three block loop of Granberry, 5- 1/2 Street and Fraser. This gives me some nice turns without stop signs. Coincidentially, I just found out that a regular reader of these blogs lives on Fraser, and is taking the Rider's Edge course soon. Oh, the wonders of the internet. I completed the loop and headed for the house.
All too soon, the ride was over. I now have 4915 miles on the bike. Look out Mile 5000!
* * * * *
October 5, 2005:
When we took Sarah for a walk this morning, I noticed that the streets were wet. No rain had awoken me during the night, but there were occassional puddles in the road, and the streets were slick. I decided to go for my ride after Maria left for work. That would allow the streets to dry out completely. It would also give me the chance for a little longer ride, because I would not have to hurry back to fix breakfast.
I suited up, added air to the front tire, and headed out at 7:35 am. I needed 40 miles to get to mile 4900. That was possible, if traffic cooperated. It didn't.
Traffic at 7:30 is a lot heavier than at 6:15. Everywhere I went it was stop and go. And I'm talking freeways. They were all clogged in at least one direction. I tried I-10, I-45, Loop 610, and Highway 59. Try as I might I could not get my average speed about 30 mph. In other words, it took twenty minutes to log ten miles. Ugh.
At one point I was stopped, so I looked at my belt watch. It was 8:35 am. I needed ten more miles to make it to 4900. I went for it.
And yes, it took twenty minutes plus to get that ten miles. I was on Loop 610 north as I approached the goal. I was going about two miles per hour. At mile 4899.8 I noticed a whole tire in the road. It looked like it had just slipped off the rim. Nothing but rubber. Not breaks or tears. It was so close I could almost touch it. A few minutes later, at mile 4899.9 I saw a red car make a ninety degree turn into my lane, a little ways ahead. There was another complete tire in the road. And this time it was in the middle of the road, blocking traffic. The tires were both used, judging from the tread. And, based on their size, they had to be truck tires. It was really weird seeing whole tires like that. I guess it was good everyone was going so slowly. I wouldn't want to top a hill and face those obstructions.
As we passed the second tire I rolled the throttle up as far as I dared. I got the Rebel to about 35 mph as I rolled over to mile 4900. Then more stop and go.
When I pulled in to the driveway I had 4907 miles on the odometer, and the clock was later than I had hoped. Time to grab a quick shower and head to the office.
* * * * *
October 4, 2005:
After walking and feeding Sarah, I suited up and checked the air in my tires. I added air to the rear tire and headed out. I add air anytime the psi is one pound low. That way I don't have to worry about the tires when I am on the freeway.
Today I intended to try out a new route. Traffic, however, had other ideas. I took I-10 east, I-45 north and Loop 610 west. The Loop clogged where it merged with Highway 290, so I abandoned my planned route and decided to take I-10 west. I figured everyone would be heading east (inbound) so I would have smooth sailing. I mean "riding."
Not so. Traffic quickly ground to a halt. I gave up, took the Wirt exit, and u-turned back onto I-10, heading east. So much for Plan B.
As I neared Loop 610 it came to me that I could take the northbound exit for 610, and go east to I-45, and then to I-10. Instant Plan C. As soon as this though entered my head, I checked my mirrors for cars. I needed to merge one lane to the right to make the exit. There were headlights back there, but I was pretty confident I could make the exit, although just barely.
I didn't try for it. I have never taken that exit, and I would be turning my head for the head check and cutting it too close to change lanes to the right then immediately veer off to the left to get to 610. And it was still dark. I decided to wait for another time. I know how I hate it when pilgrims switch lanes at the last minute. I didn't want to join that crowd. Life is too short.
So I continued on I-10, meandered a while, and returned home with 4860 miles on the odometer. Safe and sound. See you on the road.
* * * * *
October 3, 2005:
It was cool out this morning when we took Sarah out for a walk. Always a good sign. We came back, I fed Sarah, then suited up for the ride. I check the air in the tires and headed out.
Traffic was medium. Lots of lane changers. Those are the drivers that are not content in one lane, but cannot help weaving in and out of traffic to jockey for that forward position. Type A drivers. They surely keep one alert.
I did my regular freeway circle (I-10, I-45 and Loop 610) without too much delay. It was a nice morning to be on a bike. When I returned home I had 4832 miles on the odometer, and a sunny disposition for the day.
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October 2, 2005:
This morning I slept late. I got up, showered, fed Sarah, suited up and checked the air in the tires. It was 6:40 am when I pulled out. Still dark, but pre-dawn. I warmed up and headed for the gas station. I gassed up and made my way to Highway 290, headed west.
Traffic was pretty light at this time of the day. And it was a lot warmer than yesterday morning. After I left Houston, there was some light fog in the fields, but not much. I made good time to Hempstead. I took the Business exit for State Highway 6 and headed south to downtown Hempstead. I then took State Highway 159 to Bellville. It was during this pleasant stretch of road that the odometer turned from 4699.9 to 4700. In fact, it was just before a sign announcing Racoon Bend Road. Eerily enough, I saw a dead racoon on the side of the road just as I passed that sign. I swear. Nothing else unusual happened on that stretch of highway.
I pulled in to Bellville and headed downtown. One of my goals for this trip was to stop at the Phenix Blacksmith Shop in Bellville. It was closed, but I parked, walked up and peeked in the windows. You could see the forge, an anvil, and a large collection of hammers. I noted that Cowboy Szymanski, the blacksmith, opens his shop at 10:00 am on Saturdays. And that he specializes in knives. I decided to visit his website at phenixknives.com when I returned.
I started the bike and rode to the next establishment, a store offering cowboy gear, such as ropes, tack, etc. It was also closed. It was also worth a peek in the windows. Looked like a worthy stop when I come back for my visit to the smithy.
No visit to Bellville would be complete without a stop at Newman's Bakery, which is where I headed next. As I taking off my helmet so I could sample the coffee and donuts, a local pulled up in a pickup truck and commented that it was a nice day for a ride. I told he it was always a nice day for a ride. He readily agreed. Must be a fellow biker.
I entered the bakery, made my way to the bathroom, and washed some suicidal insects off my visor. I then headed for the counter to place my order. Having determined on a previous visit that their cinnamon rolls resemble donuts more than cinnamon rolls, I ordered a glazed donut and coffee. I had previously staked out a table, which I reserved by the placement of my helmet at mid-table. I doctored my coffee with a little sugar and some powered stuff they call creamer, and headed for my window seat. Just before I sat down, I noticed a newspaper rack by the front door, so I went over to check it out.
What are the odds? There, in the middle of the newspapers offering properties for sale, was the Round Top Register. The front pages was entirely taken up with a picture of Red Square in Moscow, with the headline: Government! Can't live with it, and you can't live without it. Above that, in fine print, was a quote from Ambrose Bierce that "Politics is the conduct of public affairs for private advantage." And next to that was what I assume was the editor's own opinion: "Throw the Bums Out Issue." My kind of rag. I headed back to my table, resolved to enjoy the morning sipping coffee, scarfing donuts and reading libertarian news.
The paper lived up to the headline on the front page. The main story was about the recent trip to Russia of editor Chris Travis and his observations of government gone wild. There was also an excellent column by Kurt Wilson on the differences between men and women and proper wardrobe management. Not to be forgotten was a column from the Courtjester.com with great jokes. It fit right in with other biker humor I have enjoyed. Too soon, it was time to hit the road.
I took FM 529 back to Houston. This road has nice curves, some hills, and not much traffic. It is an ideal way home from Bellville.
Just before I reached Highway 6 I turned in at the Half Price Books on 529. Sadly, it didn't open until 10 am, so I was out of luck. I took Highway 6 north to Highway 290. Just before I got to 290, I passed the apartments of Cynthia, my paralegal. I gave my horn a couple of toots, but I wasn't sure she was up yet.
The rest of the trip was uneventful. I meandered around a little, having decided to try for mile 4800 on this trip. I made that goal. The odometer rolled over just as I pulled up to the gas station to refill my tank. I went straight home, at had 4801 miles on the bike as I pulled up to the driveway. No Sarah this time. Maria was already in the garden working. I quickly changed out of my riding gear, and resumed my regular life.
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October 1, 2005:
I have long wondered what it would be like to make a quick stop from 60 mph to zero. Today I found out. And lived to tell the tale.
Last night we had a party at the neighbors. Nice wine. Nice conversation. One of the guests (a bonny lass) even asked me to take her for a ride on my bike. Ah, the benefits of owning a motorcycle. Anyway, back to reality. We left the party around nine in hopes that I could get to bed early, so I could get up extra early for my morning ride. You see, this Saturday is a busy one, and fitting in a nice ride necessitated an early start. I have a plant sale at the Museum of Natural History, a Houston Pond Society meeting, and a movie and dinner with friends. The movie we are going to is called Serenity, and it is a continuation of the sci fi series Firefly. The series was excellent, and I highly recommend the DVD. It contains episodes not shown on TV, and those episodes are among the best ones. Anyway, I have a full Saturday.
I didn't make it to sleep early, but I still got up at five in the morning. I fed Sarah, suited up, aired the tires, and headed out. I warmed up and finished filling the gas tank by 5:30 am. This was to be a ride of all freeways. That way, I figured I could be back by 7:30 am and still get in 120 miles or so.
I entered I-10 east and took Ik-45 north to Loop 610. There, instead of my usual westerly turn, I headed east to Highway 59, which I took north. I took this weird route because there was construction at I-10 and 59, so I could not get there directly. I took Highway 59 north. Traffic was light all the way to Beltway 8. Highway 59 is one of my favorite freeways, because traffic has always been light on the weekends, and the road is in good condition. Today, the road was in good condition, but the traffic was anything but light.
There was plenty of traffic. And plenty of fog. You could see it creeping up to the freeway, but the actual lanes of travel were clear. By "clear" I mean that you could see fine with your headlights. At 5:30 am it was still very dark. My goal was to go for 60 miles, turn around at the first opportunity, and come back home. Temperatures were a little on the cool side, but nothing unbearable. Everything went fine until I passed Shepherd, Texas.
Shepherd was about 58 miles into my trip. Not the place I wanted to turn around. So I continued north on Highway 59, resolving to take the first turnaround after I had 60 miles on the odometer. When that happened, I started looking for a suitable place to u-turn. This particular stretch of 59 has left turn lanes for those turning around. That seemed workable. I was watching traffic behind me and looking for a turn lane. There was a truck pretty close, so I changed into the right-hand lane and let him pass. I did a head check and pulled back into the left-hand lane. No one else was close. A turn lane appeared. I turned on my blinker and entered the turn lane.
You have to understand that at this section of Highway 59 the road is blacktop. Not concrete. Not aggregate. Blacktop. As in "black." As in jet black. A condition that was enhanced by the fact that it was still dark out. Which is my only excuse for what happened next.
I eased off the throttle and pulled into the turn lane. Boy, was I surprised when, in what seemed like was just an instance, the turn lane ended. I applied full brakes, front and back, but still was unable to stop before running out of road. Both tires where squealing as I rode onto the grassy medium. I came to a stop about three bike lengths from the end of the pavement. I sat there, thinking what I should do. I was out of the traffic, but I didn't relish the idea of using my feet to try to back up the bike onto the pavement. Plus, if a car came along that was going to use the turn lane, I would be in big trouble. So, I looked at the grass and decided it wasn't a swamp. I shifted into first (I know I was supposed to be down shifting during my quick stop, but not everything went as it was supposed to), and did a low speed u-turn in the grass. I waited for southbound traffic to clear and entered the road. Significantly, at no time did my adrenaline go through the roof. I think that is because I instantly realized that, even though I could not get stopped on the pavement, I wasn't going to hit anything.
I headed south on Highway 59, replaying the scene over and over in my head. I know it was dark, but I made the assumption that the turn lane would allow plenty of room to complete the u-turn. And the black-on-black hid the problem from me until it was too late for me to get stopped. Still, I take full responsibility for this error in judgment. It won't happen again. At least that error won't happen again.
After a few miles I decided to pull over at a convenience store for a break. I got in the turn lane for exiting to the store parking lot, and slowed down enough to complete the turn without bending grass.
When I pulled up to the store, I got off the bike, left my helmet on, and headed in. A sign on the door read, "Boil Water." I decided then and there that coffee was out. Unfortunately, they had absolutely zero diary products. More specifically, no chocolate milk, my early morning poison of choice. No other kind of milk either.
My only purchase was a copy of Cycle Trader, a magazine that lists used bikes for sale. After paying, I opened the magazine at the centerfold and stuffed it in my jacket. It made a great wind block, and helped keep cold out for the rest of the trip.
The rest of the trip was mostly uneventful. Oh, I played dodgeball with a couple of Fed Ex trucks that I would pass, and then have them pass me. And there were lots of times the traffic would slow down precipitatously, causing me to hit my brakes hard. But nothing like the earlier adventure.
As I turned into the cul-de-sac Sarah ran out to great me. It was 7:45 and I had logged mile 4637 on the bike. It was good to be home.
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For the September, 2005, blog entries, click here.
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For the August, 2005, blog entries, click here.
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For the July, 2005, blog entries, click here.
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For the June, 2005, blog entries, click here.
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For the May, 2005, blog entries, click here.
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*Note to Law Enforcement:
All statements of speeds on various streets are simple estimates, and solely for novelity purposes. Actual speeds vary, but are always lower. I'm sure that legal speed limits are never exceeded, anything in this blog to the contrary nowithstanding.