Brr-Dam

OldColoradoCityIt was 16° F (-9° Celsius) when I left Perry Park at 7:45 this morning on my way to the Pikes Peak BMW Club meeting at Mother Muff’s Kitchen in Old Colorado City.

The Gear

Base layer for my torso was a thermal turtleneck from waaaaaaay back in the day.  The thing is warm, itchy, and indestructible.  Next was a thin cashmere V-neck sweater.  Cashmere is warm, feels softer than a baby’s butt, and can be had cheap at Jos A. Bank.  The combo is surprisingly warm, but leave the pipe and David Niven accent at home.

Over the top of the sweater I zipped up another old favorite, a fleece jacket from The North Face.  Finally, my trusty Klim.

I covered by bum and netheregions in the quick-dry UnderArmor motorcycle shorts, which are, oddly enough, cozy warm.  Then a pair of Hot Chilis.  Then a pair of casual BMW riding pants with the rain liner in.  Thermal socks.  Aerostich Combat Touring boots.

Under my Arai helmet but over my Klim jacket I worse a fleece balaclava, and just about pulled my back out making sure there were no leaks around the collar.  I put on an ancient pair of Dainese winter gloves, and turned the heated grips on my R1200RS to High.

Once you get all that gear on, the only cold weather hassle left is dealing with the fogging lens on your helmet.  Easy enough to manage, though: keep helmet open until you pick up some speed, and open it each time you slow down.  The RS has the stock shield, which directs plenty of air at my helmet, so that approach worked well for me.  Dealing with fogging would be more of a hassle on a bike with a full fairing.

The Ice Cream Headache

It was a sunny morning, but the Front Range was completely frosted over.  I didn’t take a picture, but this one is pretty close to what it looked like the entire route from Larkspur to Old Colorado City.

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http://sergiophoto.photoshelter.com

It took about 5 minutes for the ice cream headache to show up.  It wasn’t the worst I’ve had, but I did have to concentrate to get past it.  My setup had no air leaks anywhere, and the heated grips kept one side of my hands warm.  The topside did get a bit chilly, but never numb.  The tips of my thumbs went numb, and my feet felt about as chilly as the top of my hands.

The only other rider I saw was a guy in jeans and a hoodie riding his 600 home along I-25.  I wonder what the story was behind that early morning ride.

Mother Muff’s Kitchen

I felt immediately comfortable with the crowd from Pike’s Peak BMW club.  Craig, Lee, and Bex were kind enough to invite me to sit with them.  It’s always nice when the locals are friendly to the new guy.  Made me glad I rode up there.

Mother Muffs is the red storefront at the upper right:

MotherMuffs

By the time I left, temps had warmed up to the low 40’s, so I stowed my gear, slipped on my flip-flips and Hawaiian shirt, and rode home singing Gypsies in the Palace.  The temps in Larkspur were only 36°F by the time I got home (around noon), but it still felt downright tropical compared to the first part of the ride.

Old Colorado City somehow manages to hang on to its low-rent charm at the foot of Pikes Peak.  I always enjoy riding down there.

OMR

Running Los Gatos

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Rocking chairs in Tropic, Utah

The morning crowd outside the Los Gatos Roasting Company gasped.  The team of bicyclists in their red and white spandex suits set down their coffees and pulled out their iphones.  While they recorded the scene, two joggers wearing headphones stopped and tried to help me up.  “He seems OK,” someone was saying to the 911 operator on their phone,

but he’s acting very strange.

I wasn’t acting strange at all.  In a sudden burst of gratitude, I had fallen down on the sidewalk and started rolling back and forth, moaning “Oh My God.  Oh My God.”  What’s strange is that other people don’t do that, the weather in Los Gatos is that beautiful.  Only a week before we’d been hit by 18 inches of snow at my place in Colorado.  I couldn’t take my eyes off the bright blue sky and the leafy trees, but the joggers hauled me up onto my feet.

“Where’s a good place to run around here,” I asked them as they slapped the dust off my back.

“Across the bridge and down the path,” the thinner one said.

Before the police, ambulance, and fire trucks that were no doubt on their way could check my vitals and haul me off to the psyche ward, I thanked the joggers and took off across the bridge.

The Chasquis were the Pony Express of the Inca Empire.  When I was young and living in Peru, some American runners theorized that training at altitude would give them an advantage because it would increase their lung capacity.  So they flew to Cuzco.  The Peruvians asked

“Peruvians, have we ever won a marathon?”

But nobody listened.

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Buster on running trail in Colorado

At home I run the mountain trails behind my house.  They go either up or down, and don’t do much in between.  Since our place is at 6800 feet, I’ve developed what a kind-hearted person might refer to as a measured pace.

Soon after leaving the coffee shop in Los Gatos I found myself jogging between a cemented-in river, the aqueduct, and Highway 17, a wide dirt trail with a slight incline heading up the Santa Cruz Mountains.  Runners wearing earbuds playing music collections from their iTunes libraries designed to help them surpass their potential went by me so fast their windblast made me feel like I was riding the Harley again through Route 160 in Northern Arizona.

A little old lady using a walker with knobbies caught up with me.

“Slowpoke!”

She said, and we both laughed.  She reminded me of my Mom.  So we got to talking.  My Mom considered conversation an art form, and loved indulging in long, meandering talks.  She told me she learned that from her father, Ricardo.  It’s how people passed the time in Lima, and no one ever asked “What’s  your point?”

My daughter Grace calls me if a week goes by without a conversation.  She likes to talk, too.  And like her grandmother, she’s irresistibly engaging.

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accoustic coupler modem

I suppose that for most of America and certainly Silicon Valley, the art of conversation is sitting in a broom closet, bubble wrapped into the box with the acoustic coupler modem.  I sometimes wonder if my blogging is an attempt to keep the door from slamming shut.

Rich Schwerin and Bjoern Rost  told me some of my blogs reminded them of Hunter S. Thompson’s writing. They probably want to borrow my Harley.  Forget about it, guys.  Hunter S. Thomson was a ground-breaking writer.  And far more committed to experiencing the limits of madness than I ever want to be.  I don’t know much about Hunter S. Thompson, but I wonder if he wasn’t searching for an identity.

Jack, Ed Norton’s character in Fight Club certainly was.  Tyler Durden gave Jack an identity that working in a soul-sucking job within a materialistic society had stolen from him.  That identify was born of a clear purpose: destruction.  Which Tyler, a born marketeer, preferred to call mayhem.  Tyler Durden also gave Jack a presence: fearlessness.  American men, we like to come across as fearless.  Much of the dumbassery in the otherwise friendly Harley culture springs from that desire.  We live under the delusion that having nothing to lose is terrifying to would-be assailants.  So we act like we have nothing to lose.

It’s a silly notion.  Reading the accounts of men who survived the Normandy landings, they were all terrified.  And none of them had to pretend they weren’t.  Is the fact that a squad car, ambulance, and fire truck can appear within minutes to protect us from the slightest risk making American men unsure of our courage?

Truth is, a man who has nothing to lose may be intimidating, but the most dangerous thing in the world is a mother defending her children. A father protecting his family. A Marine willing to give  his life for a fellow marine.  It’s always something outside of ourselves, isn’t it?  But our culture  tells us to have it our way.  To pursue our passions.  To listen to the music that makes us perform better than ourselves.  Could having nothing to live for but our own gratification, self-expression, or self-realization be another cause of our posing?

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The boys paying The Donster a visit after his surgery

When we first bought our Harleys, my friends and I were determined not to be posers.  We’d seen them at Sturgis.  Couples who trailered their Harleys on the back of air-conditioned pick-ups, then stopped one town away to unload the bike and change into their biker outfits, the rider having already grown a 5 day stubble, his passenger having already applied her temporary tattoos.

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Dear old Dad and his Harley

We refused to be posers.  So we bought the service manuals and worked on our own bikes.  Joined the forums. Called each other with questions.  Some of us tore the engine down and rebuilt it better.  We lived inside the aftermarket catalogs.  And we rode.

We rode across the country and back. Some of us rode to Alaska.  We rode through some hellish storms.  We made sure our trips included rain and a healthy dose of misery.  We were ecstatic if we got snowed on, or the temps climbed over 100 degrees.  We rode early in the Spring, and late into Fall, and rode in Winter when the roads were clear.  We bought expensive chrome to customize our bikes and embrace our freedom, just like the Motor Company told us to.  We thought we were these guys. And maybe we were.  During our 1-week vacations and on weekends.

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But I’m not one of those guys, not really.  I can’t ride where the road leads me because I have to be back at work in the morning.  I have a desk job.  Bills.  I spent 20 years raising a family, mowing my lawn, and being polite to the neighbors.  I wear a real helmet, ear plugs, and protective motorcycle gear.  And I suffer from a distinct lack of brand loyalty.

I can’t even pretend that I don’t have anything to lose.

Which leaves me wondering what gave birth to my particular Tyler Durden.  Just like Jack, NemoLester Burnham, and a lot of men earning a living in Corporate America, I am disoriented.  But I’m not searching for an identity.  I’m reluctant to accept the one I’ve got.

GiG

Against the Wind

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There I was.

Somewhere in the Southwest.

Riding into a 30 mph headwind.

Again.

My teeth grit.  The ligaments on my neck popping.  My arms gripping the bars with the desperation of a monkey losing a tug of war for a clump of bananas.  Between the wind, the engine vibration, the lumpy road, and the semis passing me, my brain was turning to mush.

Little did I know the damned wind would push and shove me the whole way to Cortez.  And then to Tropic.  And Zion.  And Death Valley.  I would get a brief tail wind on 395, and then it would be all headwinds again all the way to Los Gatos.  I wouldn’t have minded, except that I didn’t have a windshield.

MightyKIt’s not that I’m opposed to windshields on principle.  It’s that they suck.  There have been exceptions.  Like the Mighty K.  A 2004 BMW K1200RS.  My summer fling while living in New England.  I’d dropped into a BMW dealership to keep a friend company, and I was smitten.  The faster that thing went, the better the wind flowed around me.  The Mighty K would have been ideal for the West.

Since I violate the Harley uniform guidelines by wearing earplugs and a big old Arai 3/4 helmet, Harley fairings and windshields rattle my eyeballs.  On account of that acoustic effect that occurs when the kids open the window in the back seat.

You ‘re too sensitive

Tyler Durden muttered in my ear before asking the Service Manager at San Jose Harley if he had any rope.

We’d stopped there to install a new set of tires since I’d worn my old ones down to the nubs.  It took a couple of hours on account of the rear wheel on the Softail Custom is a bear to get on and off.  The first time I changed my own I threw a lot of tools around the garage before I managed to fit that 200 mm tire in between the brake caliper and everything else that’s in the way.  Ever since, I’ve allowed the dealer to enjoy that particular pleasure.

While I was waiting, I wandered into the showroom, which is why the dealerships locate it  next to the Service Department.  A dozen shiny new touring Harleys, developed as part of Project Rushmore (a nod to the rebirth of the Indian Motorcycle Company), were lined up beside each other, sparkling.  Harley claims that Project Rushmore improved the notoriously bad airflow around the new touring bikes, among other things.RoadToad

Baggers are for for babies

Tyler would know.  That’s my 2004 Road Toad.  My first attempt at improving wind and comfort on long rides.   The fairing was as big as it looks in the picture. Maybe bigger.

The salesman ignored Tyler and pointed out the appeal of the Street Glide.  It’s a bonafide touring bike, he explained, but it’s still cool, like a 1969 Lincoln with suicide doors.

Tyler tied a knot into the rope the service manager had requisitioned for him.  While he did that, I thought about telling the salesman that when I want breakfast, I pound my fists against my chest and my woman brings me breakfast.  But the truth is, I’m the one who makes the coffee in the morning, both with cream, hers without sugar.  I gently wake her with the aroma.  Then we sit on the bed and talk about our feelings.

“Why don’t you take it for a test ride?”  The salesman asked, handing me the keys.

All salesmen must die

“Oh, I couldn’t,” I said sheepishly, ” I still have to ride my bike back to Colorado.”

2014-harley-davidson-electra-glide-ultra-classic-explicit-pictures-photo-gallery_2“It wouldn’t be the first time we’ve shipped a bike back home,” the salesman said as Tyler yanked on the kickstand of the first touring bike.

It toppled onto the silver one next to it, but the second bike was so massive it managed to hold up the first one.

Undaunted, Tyler walked to the other side of the lineup, lifted the Red Sunglo and Vivid Black Ultra Glide Limited off its sidestand, and pushed it over.  This time it worked.  Like a stack of dominoes, one 900 lb Project Rushmore behemoth after another toppled onto the one beside it until they hit the first two, which almost, almost managed to hold up the pile, but in the end gave in and toppled over with a loud crash.

Now you have room to get some real motorcycles in your store

Tyler handed the keys back to the salesman, who accepted them, standing there, as stunned as the sales manager who had just run out of his office.

That day’s distance from Springdale, Utah to Stovepipe Wells, in Death Valley, was 433 miles.  Elapsed time was 8 hours, including a one hour detour into North Las Vegas to get my expense receipts scanned, on account of Tyler made me blow that off before heading out.

The picture of the Harley Davidson Ultra Limited is courtesy of www.autoevolution.com.

GiG

Of Dust Bowl Okies and Hot Biker Mommas

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That picture of me is the last time I was cool.  And I don’t mean James Dean cool.

Turns out, James Dean was killed not far from Paso Robles, where Route 46 and Route 41 intersect.  The Texaco station at the intersection of Route 46 and Route 33 has the whole story.  They say it was the last place he stopped before his wreck.  They also have a re-created Dust Bowl truck in a display among the pistachios, walnuts, and maple-covered almonds.  They found it somewhere, cleaned it up, added the utensils and other items the Okies carried, and brought it into the store.  They even had a picture of the same truck to guide their efforts.

Looking over the old truck and reading about the difficulties the people fleeing the Dust Bowl endured, I felt like a wimp for whining about the harsh suspension and non-existent wind protection of my Softail Custom.  They even had a statue of Grannie holding a plate of cookies.  She would have made a good biker Momma.

Missus Fender Bunny is a good biker Momma, too, though I’m not 100% certain that’s what she aspires to.  Why I subject her to such abuse I’ll never know.  I’ll ask my priest, if he’ll still speak to me.

It was 108 when we got to Baker, California.  When she pulled off her helmet, I could see that she was suffering from heat exhaustion.  We got in the shade and sipped a little warm water.  Wet her scarf and put it over her head.  After a while we went inside to enjoy the A/C.  You have to be judicious with the A/C, or when you walk back out, it feels like a furnace.  After a while she started looking better, so she stood up, clapped her hands, and bought a can of Red Bull.

When we got back on the bike it was 109.  Did I mention that she has relatives in Oklahoma?

We rode from San Simeon to Las Vegas in just under 12 hours.  Total mileage was 420 miles, more or less.

GiG

 

Ride to the Sun Reunion – Death Valley

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I left Stovepipe Wells at 5:50 am.  I had to cover 500 miles, so I promised myself I wouldn’t stop for pictures.

I had taken a bunch on the way in, anyway, including the one of the Devil’s Cornfield, above.  The cornfield lies at 150 feet below sea level, and the road keeps going downhill from there.

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The road from Stovepipe Wells heads more or less West, and straight up.  Stovepipe Wells is at sea level.  If you get there from the East, like I did, you’ll get to almost 300 feet below sea level.  I couldn’t stop imagining whales and schools of yellow fin swimming in the air over my head.

tollroad_smAnyway, once you leave Stovepipe Wells and head West just after the toll road in the pic, it’s straight up.  No curves.  Just up.  Until you hit 4500 feet above sea level.  At which point, if it’s 6:00 am, you realize how cold it is.  I stopped and put on some warm gear.

Turns out, Death Valley is actually two valleys.  Once you get up to the top of the West valley, you get to go down it.  It is blessed with a 9% grade.

You’re probably not that interested in the algorithm for calculating the amount of fuel left in a Harley’s gas tank, but to give you a rough idea, when I hit the top of the ridge between the valleys, my gauge indicated 72 miles left in the tank.  Five miles later, when I hit the bottom of the second valley, I magically had 113 miles worth of fuel.

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The road leading out of the second valley is a sportbiker’s dream.  Beautiful curves.  But I was distracted by the vistas.  The sun was peeking over the East ridge, lighting up just pieces of the landscape around me, leaving others dark.  To make it even more interesting for somebody who hadn’t sworn off photography for the day, the sky to the West was dark grey.  So the sun lit up the desert in front of me, making the Joshua trees pop.  It was gorgeous.

I wasn’t able to post last night because here, in Silicon Valley, the wifi is slower than in the middle of Nowhere, Utah.  The farmers in Wenatchee ship their best apples to other states, where they’re more precious.  I suppose Silicon Valley exports most of the broadband it grows, too.

Total distance 524 miles, including about 30 extra because somebody missed a turn.  Elapsed time: 11 hours.  Will post more about Zion and other parts of the trip when I can find some bandwidth.

GiG

Ride to the Sun Reunion: Tropic, Utah

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Day Two.

380 miles.

300 of it into some of the strongest headwinds I’ve faced yet.

After 6 hours my neck, shoulders, and forearms were burning.  Tough riding conditions have a way of making me reflect …

It was late afternoon and hot in Nebraska. I was baked, parched, burned, annoyed, and worn out.  I pulled off the road at an intersection of two country roads, mine going North-South, the other one East-West.  I took off my helmet and gloves, and shed my jacket.  I had one bottle of water left, and I was going to slowly pour it over my head and let it run down my chest and back, down my pants, and into my boots.  Biker air conditioning.

vulture2_smWhile I was unscrewing the bottle cap, a black chopper with a long haired biker wearing black leathers and carrying only a round day pack on the rear fender roared past me, heading West into the sun.  He cast a perfect silhouette, stretched forks, long hair trailing behind, and a slouch that would make a vulture proud.

It was a memorable motorcycle moment.

To have one, everything has to be right.  The bike, the weather, the road, you.  Mostly you.  If you’re not right, the moment goes right past you.  And you won’t even know you missed it.

It only happens to me on a Harley.

I still remember where I was sitting when they brought in the smooth talking new management guy to tell us that, henceforth, there would be no more problems at Sun.  Only opportunities.  I had to bite my lip so I wouldn’t squeak from the back of the room …

Houston, we have an opportunity.

Today’s buzzword, and I hope it’s yesterday’s buzzword soon, is passion.  Management wants us to be passionate about our work.  Sure.  Passion is a powerful motivator.  While it lasts.

Sorry boss, I lost my passion for build 12.  I’ve got a thing for ham radios, now.

I’ll leave passion for the bedroom or perhaps the garage, and take old-fashioned reliability to the office.  Which means that plenty of the time work is going to feel like anything but passion.  That’s why they called it work in the first place, in case some of you young punks were wondering.

And so it comes to pass that in a work environment, sooner or later the boss will ask me something dumb like why my performance evaluation isn’t done and all I’ll want to do deep in my soul is lift him by his lapels and growl straight into his face, “Because I don’t give a shit!”

Instead, I’ll tell him I’ll get right on it.  Like I always do.  Because I have a family.  I’ll do it day in and day out.  Week after week.  Month after month. Over the years, all that restraint?  It shrivels my soul.  After enough years, I want to scream.

Harley_fishtailsBMW’s, Hondas, Triumphs, and the others, they are fine motorcycles. But Harleys are the proverbial Middle Finger to the Man.  They are some of the slowest motorcycles made, the heaviest, the poorest handling.  Yet  with a defiance that gives me solace, they claim to be Number One.  When the industry demands performance, they deliver blinding chrome.  When the pundits vilify their 19th century engineering, they equip their bikes with hand-stitched leather seats.  And when sportbikers mock them for going too slow around corners, Harlistas drop the suspension even lower, add apes, and install fishtails.

Harleys are my scream.  That long-haired black rider on the blacked-out chopper, he’s my Tyler Durden.

Top photo: Linda Lu at Red Canyon
Middle photo: sculpture from roof of scrap metal junkyard in Cortez
Bottom photo: custom Softail Heritage Classic courtesy of hotbikeweb.

GiG

Ride to the Sun Reunion – Cortez, Colorado

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The Rockies were uncharacteristically hazy today, so I couldn’t get any clear pics.  This is the fence that runs along Route 160 on the West side of Wolfe Creek Pass.  Temps were warm, between 60-80, but there was a stiff wind coming from the Southwest.  Linda Lu did fine.  The bag-on-the-fender hack held up.

The friendly folks at the White Eagle Inn in Cortez, Colorado warned me to stay away from Monument Valley.  The big wind swept a lot of dust onto the road, and it’s deep in some spots.  I rode through a dust storm just South of the Great Sand Dunes National Monument a few years ago.  Not a lot of fun.  Neither is fishtailing on a road covered in several inches of dust.  So I’ll stick to Northern Arizona.

Here’s another pic of the San Juans.  I tried removing the telephone pole from the picture, but it was too heavy and stuck too deep in the ground.

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Total distance: 380 miles.  Elapsed time, including stops to eat and chat with the locals: 9 hours.

GiG