Monday, July 21, 2008

Thoughts from the road.

We're home once more. I ended up with 1,064 miles for the week. Not huge, granted, but when you consider it was for work and I can put in for mileage for all but about 150 miles it ain't shabby. Katie was with me for 693 of those miles. We made a little side trip to Crater Lake Friday afternoon. That was pleasure, not business.

For the next couple of posts I want to share some things I've been thinking about during all the riding time. This post will have pictures from Astoria and the next one will have photos of Crater Lake and Klamath Falls. Bryce has commented on more than one post that there should be a picture of me once in a while. Most of you are smart enough not to request to see my ugly mug. Katie took a picture of me on a small snow pile at Crater Lake. Maybe I'll include it next time. Be warned!

Passing lanes

Why is it that someone doing 15 mph under the speed limit will jam the pedal to the metal in passing lanes? They make themselves as hard to pass as possible, but then slow back to their original snail's pace when you can no longer get around them? You'd think they would be glad to let everyone go around and take the pressure off. Maybe it's something about the open space that stirs their need for speed. On the other hand, it could just be a power trip thing. I'm always amazed how far a slow driver can control the speed of everyone else. Speaking of traffic,

Those who pull out in front of others

Highway 101 is pretty crowded between Seaside and Astoria. Huge volumes of traffic are forced to share the same road. It dawned on me that perhaps the people who pull out pretty close to other traffic aren't really being rude or stupid as I prefer to believe. It could be a simple matter of having to take the bull by the horns and go for it. Nobody seems inclined to give anyone much of a break. If you don't just go, you'll never get anywhere. What a way to have to live!

Here's a ship at the Maritime Museum. It's a vehicle for a whole different type of adventurer. Some willing and some not so much, I think. Can you spell "shang-haied"? The little balcony at the back and the window you can see is the Captain's quarters. He had a lot of room compared to everyone else. It's good to be King!

Sexy bike

The FJR is a sexy bike. Women who wouldn't even send a glance my way if they passed me on the sidewalk seem to have a thing for the bike. One woman in a rest area came clear over to where I had just parked. She asked what kind of bike it was. According to her it was gorgeous! This lady wasn't the only one to make such comments! I hereby solemnly swear not to let it go to my head. My motorcycle may be too sexy for me, but I am not too sexy for my bike. In fact, I don't want to be sexy at all. I'd much rather be feared!

This is Elvira at the Astoria Column. Fortunately for me, the renovation work had the thing closed to the public. There's a spiral Stairway to Heaven inside. Ouch! Does that date me?

Ebony and Ivory

Wednesday morning at 6 AM saw me getting coffee from the hotel lobby. A woman who was probably 50 but looked 70 came up beside me. Too many hours in a tanning booth combined with a spatula applied make-up job made her look older than her years. She asked me how the pump pot worked. How does a coffee drinker live that long and not know how to work a pump pot?

Anyway, she was all decked out in Harley gear. Her husband was outside packing the bikes. There were two Harleys with Arizona plates. Maybe it was the Arizona sunshine that had turned her skin to leather. They were each on their own bike and were heading home after 10 days on the road. I told her that the black FJR over in the corner was mine. The lady said that they'd seen the bike the night before. It looked to her like I'd left my lights on. She told her husband that it would be a shame for the rider to come out to a dead battery and that they should go check the bike. Her husband said it was probably just the sun but they went and looked anyway.

I thanked her for the concern and caring. In return, I showed her how to use the pump pot to get coffee. Sort of an Ebony and Ivory thing with the Yamaha and Harley riders. Why can't we all just get along and happily enjoy motorcycling together?

This is a look back down the hill from Clatsop Community College. Hopefully, the photo shows the steepness of the hill I'd just ridden up. A lot of Astoria is built up and over a large hill.

"Break-in miles"

I developed a new mantra for riding. Repeat after me. "Break-in miles". It's amazing how much more patient I was when I reminded myself of this fact.

New bikes get a better break-in when the first miles are under varied loads. Which is exactly what back roads provide. What a perfect blend of fun and effectiveness! Elvira and I wound through the countryside towards Valley Junction. Highway 22 takes off from there and follows the Nestucca River for a while and then heads up towards Hebo on the coastal Highway 101. It's somewhere around 30 miles of pure motorcycle fun. The only down side was a big load of hay on a double flatbed truck. He chose to pull out ahead of me and acted as a rolling road block for about 9 miles. Repeat after me. "Break-in miles". Take it easy and wait. Back waaay off. Sifting straw does not make for good riding conditions.

Between Hebo and Seaside are 70 miles of coastal highway clogged with slow moving tourists and locals in no particular hurry. Repeat after me. "Break-in miles". Relax, enjoy the ride, and let the motor break in gently. By the way, the ocean looks pretty cool out there.

I'm going to try this mindset a lot more often. Despite our best intentions, even on a motorcycle, the spirit of commuting drivers everywhere can be contagious. Repeat after me. "Break-in miles". Relax, take deep breaths, and just enjoy the ride.

This is a view over Young's Bay and the river feeding it. I took it from up on the hill where the Astoria Column towers the city.


On Wednesday morning I set out for Tongue Point. My mission was to check out some perceived issues the folks at the Job Corps were having with some hardware. There were about 16 miles of morning traffic to contend with. In my mirrors I observed an Accura MDX SUV. It was such a dark green it looked almost black. The driver was pressing hard; aggressively passing in tight spots. Highway 101 is pretty much only one lane each direction for a long ways. I wouldn't have tried the passes this driver was doing on a motorcycle, much less an SUV. All too soon the Accura was on my tail.

There's a drawbridge over Young's Bay. The road is narrower here. Old bridges were only built as wide as they absolutely had to be. The lack of space combined with the volume of traffic made it a bad place to pass. Unless you are driving an Accura SUV, of course.

With marginal space in front of us, the SUV driver pulled out. I slowed down to help avoid a tragedy. As the Accura moved even with me, I took a close look at the driver. She looked to be nearly 60. The front seat was probably back as far as it would go. This lady took up all the available space. She glared at me and cut back over close in front of me. I was dismayed at her driving to say the least. You know good and well what I was tempted to do. Repeat after me. "Break-in miles". Let her go.

However, there was a complication. The right rear tire of the SUV was pretty close to flat. Yes, she was driving like a demon from Hell and just as angry with a nearly flat rear tire. She probably had no clue. I decided to point it out to her as a courtesy. Bad driver or not, this was not good for her.

So I beeped the horn to get her attention. When she looked back I emphatically pointed down to the tire. Then I made the gesture with my thumb and forefinger close together. With the weather being warmer I was wearing thinner gloves so the gesture seemed quite clear. Once more I pointed to the tire.

The lady shook her fist at me and flipped me off. Several times and quite forcefully. It was clear she thought I was telling her what a wonderful driver she was. While it was true I only had one finger extended, it was the first finger and it was clearly pointing down. Being in her own negative state, she saw what she wanted to see. Her perspective prevented her from seeing reality.

I thought how that so often affects motorcycle riders. We, out of all the roadway users, need to be aggressively gathering critical information about our surroundings. Quite often, though, we don't see the reality. We see what we expect to see depending on where our head is at the time. It's something we need to be aware of. We can't afford to be getting it wrong. Just like overly aggressive driving with a nearly flat tire the consequences can be disastrous. My turn-off wasn't much farther down the road. I don't know how the Accura driver fared. I can only wish her the best.

Well, that's it for now. Look for the next post with the second part. It probably won't be so long as this one but there's some beautiful pictures from Crater Lake. Not to mention some more Musings of an Intrepid Commuter!

Miles and smiles,


Thursday, July 17, 2008

Checking in.

I'm still on the road. I stopped home on the way from Astoria and made a bike change. Not to mention picking up a passenger! Katie wanted to go with me to Klamath Falls. Since I'm always glad of her company I made a detour. Elvira's not set up, yet, for passenger comfort. I've ordered a Givi rack so we can mount the trunk with the backrest. That's not here, yet. Once more, faithful Sophie is pressed into duty.

There's no Sharin' the Road post this week. Nobody's really got anything ready. I'll keep the thing going as long as folks are interested in sharing. If I run out of guests the post will retire. It's been so much fun that I hate to see it go! Remember, it doesn't have to be all first timers. If you have a Ride to Work Day story, a ride tale, etc., send me a line. If you're not too sure of your writing skills I'd be glad to help put a post together.

So much riding has given me a lot of time to ponder things. I've made a list of things to share. There's also a funny, but philosophical, story of a bitchy woman in an Accura MDX SUV. Look for these things on Monday.

I'll leave you with the obligatory photo that says, "Yes, I was really there with the bike!"

This one's for Lucky. It's taken in front of the Maritime Museum in Astoria. Yes, I rang the bell for you, Bro'!

Miles and smiles,


Tuesday, July 15, 2008

"I knew it!"

I have to go back and tell you a little story from July 4th.

You probably read several blogs and are familiar with Lucky's blog, The Great Motorcycle Pizza Tour. Lucky and his bride, Lady Luck, came to Oregon. You can go back and catch his post here. Look for the post from July 7. Not being one to miss an opportunity to meet up with a fellow rider and blogger, I made arrangements to meet them for lunch. There's kind of a unique place just up the gorge out of Portland. Lucky's blog post has a link to McMenamin's Edgefield. Once upon a time this acreage housed a poor farm with about 600 inhabitants. Now it's a place to stay, contemplate, and eat. I kind of like the eating part, myself.

I invited Clinton to ride up with me. He and the VFR are getting along fabulously. Elvira was my mount. Here's a photo of the two bikes down the hill from the main lodge.

When Clinton and I arrived Lucky wasn't there yet. I showed Clinton around the place, it being his first time there, and we talked about the ride up. Clinton said he saw me looking back at him in my mirrors fairly often. I told him I was just in the habit of checking on riders behind me to make sure they were doing okay.

"No you're not, you're evaluating me. That's what you do all the time!", he replied. Clinton had a smile on his face so I'm pretty sure he wasn't really upset. You know sons, they have to harrass you all the time.

I swear I wasn't but what can I say? Ok, maybe a little. The trainer reputation follows me everywhere I go.

Lucky and Lady Luck arrived soon thereafter and we had a great lunch. The only down side is that McMenamin's makes some great microbrewery beers. Being on the bike, I had to console myself with iced tea with lunch.

After a long visit, I tried to get both Lucky and Lady Luck to pose for a photo near the bikes. Lady Luck was a little camera shy, however. All of us exchanged goodbyes and headed out. It seems they followed us for a while, as Lucky has a picture in his post of our backsides! Of course, it would have to be from that angle!

Clinton and I took the old highway 99 route. When we reached Canby, I took a left into the Fred Meyer parking lot. Clinton didn't say anything, he just followed me. He probably thought I needed to lose some ice tea, or something! I actually had something quite different in mind.

Once Clinton pulled up beside me, I asked him if he wanted to ride the FJR. He was sort of puzzled at first.

"You mean, like ride on the back with you?"

"No," I said. "I mean actually ride the bike."

Clinton was reluctant. I could see he was enthused about getting his hands on the new bike but was worried about whether he could handle it. His words were more like,

"I would, but I don't want to mess it up".

I reassured him by saying I'd been watching him ride and was pretty sure he'd be able to handle it just fine.

"I knew it!" he exclaimed. "You were evaluating me!"

It's weird watching someone else ride your bike, isn't it? For the record, Clinton did just fine. I cautioned him to leave extra room since he was on a bike strange to him. We rode the rest of the way home, about 70 miles, on each other's bikes. Also for the record, I enjoyed being back on a VFR. What sweet bikes!

You know you're crazy when you take a 180 mile round trip for lunch! It was great to meet Lucky and Lady Luck. They're good people. I'd always regret missing the chance to meet them in person if we hadn't made the trip.

Miles and smiles,


Monday, July 14, 2008

Reminder about Wednesday!

This is a reminder that Wednesday is Ride to Work Day (trademarked). If you want more information feel free to click on the link to the right of the blog page. I've been on a dead run and haven't caught up on all the blogs I normally read. So if someone has written something similar, please accept my apologies. Or maybe I should say congratulations. After all, a lot of us are avid proponents of using a bike for everyday transportation. It shouldn't be surprising,then, that we think alike.

Here's some of my musings about the significance of Ride to Work Day. Bear in mind that I don't have the luxury of a lot of time to savor and pick the exact perfect words. Thoughts are spilling out as they happen. I'm pretty sure you'll get what I'm saying, though.

To my mind there's a certain genius in the fact that Andy picked riding to work as the foundation. After all, he could have organized a bunch of group rides or something else. These would have worked to show just how many motorcyclists there are out here. If you think it through, however, you can see how effective the commute to work thing can be for accomplishing his purpose.

Most people I run across have one of several reactions to motorcycles. Remember, when I say "people" I'm referring to a group that includes our bosses and co-workers. One reaction is a deep fear of bikes or those who ride them. Another view is that motorcyclists are a bunch of excessive risk takers who should be condemned. Most people have opinions that fall somewhere in the middle. They consider motorcyclists as folks who are out for recreation. Similar to those who choose to camp, golf, ski, boat, or whatever. That's okay, but it doesn't accomplish the goal because the choices of recreation are too diverse for any sort of uniting effect on a wholesale level.

Commuting to work, on the other hand, is a nearly universal human experience. Having a job and going to work are at the core of human existence. Everyone can relate to that, whether they want to or not! By putting a motorcycle into this role there's suddenly a common ground for discussion.

I share Andy's views in that motorcycles should be incorporated into everyday life as a means of transportation. Not only are bikes fun, but they have a legitimate place among cars and trucks. Going a little further with this, in today's society where there's such an emphasis on being "green", the use of vehicles that tread more lightly upon the Earth's resources should be encouraged, not just tolerated.

Now I know that a lot of us ride to work anyway. Day after day the bike shows up in the parking lot. So why have a special day?

One good thing I see is that it encourages those who might not ride on a regular basis to do so on this day. Participating in a special day gives them the incentive to give it a try. Maybe the rider will find it's easier than they thought to take the bike instead of the car and continue to ride to work. Heaven forbid, they might even find it's a lot more enjoyable than a car!! Shudder!

Another benefit is that employers often respond to the event by letting the riders have some sort of special parking section and maybe a display relating to the event. With the temporary extra lattitude regarding the workday, there's a chance to talk to co-workers about riding. I personally know of several riders who got the first spark from a Ride to Work event. There's nothing so effective at breaking down prejudice and stereotypes than realizing a rider is actually a respected co-worker. You are respected, aren't you?

That's the thing, too. We never know who we inspire and to what extent. It was a scene like this that finally moved my boss to give me full permission to ride for work as I saw fit.

You saw a similar picture in an earlier blog post. This day there were even more bikes parked at one of our large distributors. These bikes belong to project managers, buyers, and shop workers alike. The riders of these five bikes have no idea how their riding to work helped me along in the process of using my own bike as a company vehicle. They just ride to work.

By the way, guys, I really appreciate what you've done in helping me, but what the heck happened to backing the bikes into the parking spots? Jeez, do you want to be cool or not?

So I'm asking you. If you're not already planning on it, ride to work on Wednesday. You may help the cause more than you know.

Having said all that, I have no place to ride to work. I don't work for a company that has a big parking lot. I will, however, be riding FOR work all week. It's not going to be as exciting as what my pal Dean is doing this week. He's riding to Laguna Seca. I hope the Aprilia gives you a backache, my friend! Can you see the jealousy dripping from my words?

Nonetheless, it will be a lot of miles for me. I'm leaving tomorrow morning for Astoria. Lucky was just there chasing Goonies, I believe. Astoria is at the mouth of the Columbia River near the top NW corner of Oregon. It's a relatively short trip for me, being about 158 miles. After spending a couple of days there, I'm headed South to Klamath Falls. K Falls is around 365 miles South and West from Astoria. Thursday and Friday will see me doing business calls there. On Saturday I have a task for TEAM OREGON. Saturday afternoon I'm booking it up to Medford, a quick trip of around 80 miles. I'm helping with a training session for instructors Saturday evening and then spending the night in Medford. Sunday will be my first day off in 13 days. I plan to sleep in and find a long, scenic, route home.

With any luck at all, the trip will be over a thousand miles. Yee haw!

Miles and smiles,


Friday, July 11, 2008

Sharin' the Road!

It's my pleasure to introduce Steve Liu this week. If reading this doesn't put you in the mood to go for a ride and take more training ( hint, hint ) then I don't know what will! Sit back and enjoy!

I'm Steve, I'm 33 and I live in Eugene, Oregon. I was born and raised in England and moved to Oregon in 1999.

My first experience with motorcycles was at the age of 11, at a friend's house. He had a little 50cc "mini-motorbike" and we spent hours taking turns riding around his woods on that little thing. I'm sure I dropped it several times, but now I know it's because I had never learned to counter steer or how to correctly apply the brakes!

At the age of 21 I was an officer in the Royal Air Force and was stationed at Akrotiri, Cyprus for a brief stint. A group of us rented 125cc bikes and decided to ride around and do some sightseeing and then have some fun on the dunes on base. It is a wonder I am able to be here and share this with you - anyone who's ever been to Cyprus will know what the drivers are like over there. That, combined with a complete lack of skill, and an over abundance of confidence should have spelled disaster. Luckily my mishap occurred on the dunes and not on the crazy streets.

Fast forward to 2006 and I'm 30 years old, married and have two small children - a 2 year old son and a 6 month old daughter. Typically this is not the time most people decide to start taking more risks, but my wife and I had been talking about learning to ride for years.

I'm not sure what it was that brought me to take a Team Oregon course, but I think perhaps it may have been divine intervention!

I ended up signing up for the 1 day IRT on September 9 2006. In hindsight, I should have been on a basic course. I arrived, having not sat on a motorcycle for almost a decade, and my experience was a day in Cyprus and an afternoon as a child on a mini bike. As you can imagine I was thrilled to start the riding portion of the course with the offset cone weave!

I could tell my instructors (Jake and Laurie) were thinking this was going to be one of the longest days of their instructing career!

It took a little while, then something clicked. I was like a sponge, soaking up all the tips and techniques they were throwing my way, and by the end of the course I was totally 100% hooked. My poor wife had to endure several days of me talking about counter steering, head turning and emergency braking.

I found a 1986 Honda Rebel 450 in Portland and trailered it down to Eugene.

I live about 300 yards from a Bi-Mart and became very familiar with the parking lot - I put in over 50 miles of parking lot time practicing what I had learned on the course. I didn't feel comfortable on the streets until the bike operation was completely automatic. I wanted 100% of my mental capacity to be on the road and other traffic, rather than thinking about operating the clutch and shift lever. I put 600 miles on the Rebel 450 before getting the itch to look at other bikes. I'm a researcher when it comes to purchases. I did my homework and decided I wanted the lightest cruiser possible, that would keep up with my desire for more power for a while to come. The bike that fit the bill is my current bike - a 2007 Suzuki Boulevard S50. The new name for the Intruder VS 800.

My father-in-law is getting close to retirement and seeing me on my bike got his interest. He'd ridden before, before he had kids, and so took a little while to refamiliarize himself. I still had the Rebel 450 and so I spent several hours with him in the Bi-Mart parking lot running exercises similar to the ones I had gone through. He was signed up for the IRT but wanted to have a little saddle time in before going on the course.

I make sure everyone I know who rides or is thinking about riding knows about the Team Oregon courses. Some resist, but eventually they all come around!

On his 63rd birthday he bought himself a 2007 Yamaha V-Star 650 Classic - his pride and joy.

My wife, Serena, was unable to take the BRT course until April of 2007, on account of the lack of infant breast-feeding breaks on the courses! (should we put that in the course debrief?!). I did the right thing with her and refused to even show her the controls of the bike. I wanted her to learn from the experts, instead of picking up on my bad habits. She had never driven a manual transmission vehicle so had quite a steep learning curve.

After the course she practiced on a 2006 Honda Rebel 250 which I picked up in Kelso Washington. It sure was fun to ride that bike around after getting used to my S50!

We were definitely hooked. We went from having no bikes to 3 in the space of 6 months! As my wife built her confidence and skills in the parking lot, I started hitting the local roads and exploring different routes to the coast.

Here's a link to a short video from one of my favorite roads - Wolf Creek to Lorane. I have the camera mounted to my turn signals and the other rider is Walt, my father-in-law.

and a link to a photo page from the Cascade Lakes loop ride

Walt is my riding buddy. We haven't gone on group rides and probably never will. He doesn't mind if I take off and ride my own ride, then stop and wait for him. That way he gets to ride his own ride too.

He commutes daily on his VStar. It's only 6 miles, so he has to find diversions to get more of a ride in on the way home. I only really get to ride for pleasure - I work as a Technology Consultant so quite often have to carry a lot of computer equipment in my truck. Occasionally I do get to ride to client offices though.

The summer came and went and I was ready for a refresher course, so with 6000 miles under my belt, I took the RSP course exactly 1 year after my IRT. Jake and Aria were my instructors and I thoroughly enjoyed the course. It was really quite amazing to watch Aria zipping around the cones on his Bandit 600. At the end of that course, I was asked to consider the instructor program. What a compliment! I already recommend Team Oregon courses to everyone I meet who rides, so I guess the next step is to get involved with the actual preparation of those riders for the streets.

I wanted to start this riding season off on the right foot (or peg?) and signed up for the ART in Canby on June 9. What a blast!! For anyone who has never taken this course I would highly recommend it. I feel my riding has progressed so much from being able to really concentrate on the dynamics of cornering and also gaining the confidence that I'd hopefully be able to react effectively to hazards on the road.

Here's a video from the "personal evaluation" part at the end of the course to show you what the go-kart track is like.

During one of the exercises, Stan Porter suggested I speak with him after the course about the instructor program and I also spoke with Ray and Laurie about it afterwards. What better way to improve my riding skills and educate others - I think I'm going to have to pursue the instructor training.

I'm so glad I took the ART. It totally put me in the right mind set at the start of the riding season. This week, I've ridden about 400 miles this week just commuting to client sites and running errands and it has been a week of close calls!

I'm glad I just polished up my swerving, and emergency braking earlier this month.

Monday afternoon I was riding down a side street in Tualatin next to a strip mall doing about 20 mph and a truck sped out of the strip mall driveway without stopping or looking, just as I was passing.

I caught it out of the corner of my eye and had to swerve and accelerate hard to avoid being T-boned! After I passed, he slammed his brakes on!

I must have been in the blind spot behind his massive A pillars.

Tuesday evening I was riding out to the movie theater following my wife in staggered formation, about 1 second behind and to the right.

We were in the exit/merging lane on a 4 lane highway, and were not changing lanes, just came around a cloverleaf and staying in the lane to exit.

A truck merging into the lane didn't see me and cut right in right behind my wife - which was where I was. This time I had to swerve right into the shoulder and brake hard to avoid being side swiped.

I laid on the horn as I came in behind him and he freaked out and swerved back out into his lane (Stebel Air horn) and put both his hands up in an apologetic gesture.

Wednesday evening on the way to a soccer game I was in the fast lane of a 4 lane highway and just cruising in traffic and a truck merging onto the freeway came across two lanes to get around a log truck - yep you guessed it - I was right there again. I pre-empted this one so didn't have to brake too hard but the guy was totally oblivious to the fact I was there even though I was laying on the horn.

My wife is now riding confidently and is really looking like a very proficient rider. She has taken the RSP and has since upgraded to a Kawasaki Vulcan 500. We sold the two Rebels so are down to just two bikes - for now.

I have my eye on a Suzuki SV650 as my first foray out of the cruiser world. I also see a Bandit 1250 in my future!

I look forward to sharing the road, or range with you soon.



If you look at our website you can see the different courses. The IRT is a one day course we developed for returning riders and those riding unendorsed. They don't need the "learn to ride" basics. So we bring them in for a day where we work on mental skills and more advanced skills like cornering and accident avoidance skills.

The RSP is a riding clinic with no classroom. The part Steve talks about where Aria zips around the cones is the circuit ride. It's a course consisting of a tight turn, a barrel ride like the horse riders do, a corner, a swerve, and maximum braking. We do it first thing and then come back to it at the end. Students have a chance to see how much their score improves after working on their skills during the clinic.

By the way, Aria's recently sold his Bandit and purchased one of those sporty BMW boxer 1200's!

As you probably also noticed, Steve's poised to go over the edge of the precipice and become an instructor. Another one we've sucked in! Do you think I can stand to train and work with an enthusiastic person like him?

Here's a warm invitation to share your story. Drop me a line at and we'll put you in the spotlight for a bit!

Miles and smiles,


Wednesday, July 09, 2008

Meet Elvira.

To quote Mark Twain, "The rumors of my death have been greatly exaggerated"

I can't believe it's been so long between posts! Except for the holiday weekend, corporate demands have been extremely heavy. Work is the required evil to pay for the bikes, you know. I intend to keep riding for a long time so I have to be able to hold a job. My next few weeks look just as busy. On top of that the weekends will be filled with motorcycle training duties. The good news is that all three of my next assignments are out of town. More bike miles. Dang! I've had tremendous withdrawal, though, from blogging. Even if it means some late nights, I won't go so long again between entries.

There's still the second half of the Great Harley Track Adventure to finish. Hopefully enough of you remember the first part to make it still relevant. I skipped the Sharin' the Road entry last week. It didn't seem fair to make them share the spotlight with the Fourth of July weekend. There's several things bouncing around in my head that I've just got to get out. Should be some interesting, if not scary, stuff upcoming. Right now, though, we take a break from the regularly scheduled programming to introduce the newest member of the family. Her name is Elvira and she's a 2008 Yamaha FJR1300 with ABS. She's Raven Black with little silver metal flakes in her paint.

Elvira will be Sophie's replacement. We haven't decided whether to keep Sophie or find a nice home where she can live out her days. I suspect I won't have the heart to send her away. We've shared a great deal of awesome memories over the years.

Picking out a new bike was a lot of fun, I have to say. There were a few really intriguing possibilities. My first inclination was to go for the Honda ST1300. There seemed to be quite a few 2007's around, but hardly any 2008's. We didn't much care for the strange grey color of the 07's. The 08's were nearly the same color as Sophie and we liked them a lot. I didn't move soon enough, though. According to a large dealer, they got about a third of what they ordered. The only bike I could find was at a dealer in Southern California. I shuddered to think what it would have cost to get it here! There was always the option of waiting for the 2009 model to come out. Turns out that the delay proved to be blessing in disguise. Without this I probably wouldn't have explored the Yamaha.

For a while I was close to making a deal for the BMW R1200RT. This is technologically awesome bike. Heated grips and seat, cruise control, etc., etc., were pretty tempting. It felt like a rocking chair motorcycle to me. Too much creature comfort! The price was higher and a lot of riders of this bike told me the maintenance costs were higher than other bikes. I wasn't really fond of the looks. Where the R1150RT was streamlined and blended, the 1200 looks like BMW just piled fairing bits on top of each other. The thing that killed the deal for me was taking a demo bike out for half a day. I couldn't come to grips with the buzzing, clunking, and roughness of those two huge pistons and the stuff that made them work right. I guess I've gotten spoiled by the smoothness of the water cooled fours.

It happened that Katie and I were on our way to Florence for a work related thing when we pulled into a rest area. A guy was there on an '07 FJR. It was a pretty plum color. Both Katie and I loved the clean lines of the bike. It's even nicer looking than Sophie to me, and I really love the lines of the ST1100.

The guy was at the start of a nine day trip with the FJR. He wasn't in any hurry and spent a lot of time answering my questions. Katie and I spent a lot of time during the rest of our trip talking about what we wanted to do for riding in the next few years. Here's what it boiled down to.

Both bikes are sport touring types. With the Yamaha the emphasis is on the sport side. For the Honda it's the touring side. Not that the ST can't be sporty. Sophie can vouch for that. And it's not like the FJR isn't comfortable. However, the bias one way or the other is pretty clear.

My question to Katie was how much she wanted to engage in touring type riding in the near future. Were we going to do more travelling or would life keep on like now? Which means a lot of solo riding for me with her joining me now and then. At some point it's been our goal to take some really long trips by bike while cutting way back on career stuff. I'm talking about trips longer than the long weekends we do now. When we can get them, that is! It looks like the next few years will continue as they are now. I'm still deeply engrossed in training and want to stay busy with that. Katie's got her own pursuits. When the right time comes we'll pick up a real touring bike. For now, though, we both agree I'm not ready for the rockin' chair bike.

With all that in mind, we opted for the FJR. Sporty and fun while being comfortable. Besides, Dean has one and, he being my hero and all, I needed one too! I made a call to a salesman I know who told me the plum colored '07's were gone but he still had a couple of the '08 models. We took a look, decided the glossy black was awesome, too, and wrote the check.

Naming her Elvira was Katie's idea. I was toying with the idea of naming it Bandit. Don't know if you remember the movie "Smokie and the Bandit" with Burt Reynolds. Technically, it was Burt's character that was named Bandit. However, the Trans Am he drove was black and shiny. I loved those cars. Katie liked the name Elvira and the "just beneath the surface wickedness" attached to it. Hmm, what is she saying about the bike and I?

I spent the holiday weekend putting on miles. Yes, I really love the bike. It's sleek and fast. The only real creature comfort is the adjustable windscreen. My spartan Ironman image remains intact. A rack to mount the Givi trunk is next on the list. Some electrical wiring for the GPS and stuff is on the calendar.

Tomorrow will see the return of Sharin' the Road. After that I'll share some impressions of the bike as the miles add up. Some of those miles included a trip North to have lunch with Lucky and Lady Luck while they were visiting. You can get a sneak preview by cruising over to The Great Motorcycle Pizza Tour blog. Click on the link to the right. That was a 177 mile round trip for lunch that Clinton and I took. I also let Clinton ride the bike which is a funny story by itself. No, the bike didn't get damaged. He did just fine but needed a little convincing to give it a go. Stay tuned for the longer version of our visit with Lucky.

Miles and smiles,