Thursday, December 6, 2007

Remembering Evel

Legendary motorcycle daredevil Evel Knievel passed away last week, in his hometown of Butte, Montana.

My path crossed with Evel's on several occasions.

Far as I know, Evel's first visit to Boise was in the late 60s. The purpose of the trip was to promote himself (his lifelong mission), and to jump over some cars at Meridian Speedway.

(I'm not sure whether that visit was before or after his ill-fated attempt to jump the fountains at Caesar's Palace in Vegas. That stunt took place in December '67, and is arguably what made Evel a celebrity (once he awoke from a crash-induced coma).)

I was a motorcycle-loving teenager, and eagerly made plans to go see him at the Speedway. I also remember, it was early-on in his notion of jumping over a canyon.

He originally had wanted to jump over the Grand Canyon - a goal worthy of his greatness. But the National Park Service immediately said, "No Way, No How!" So his vision diminished, and he set his sights on the Twin Falls Canyon. (At the time, Idaho's bureaucrats wouldn't get in the way of progress...)

He had brought the original "Sky Cycle," and parked it in front of the old Dodge dealership, down at 16th and Main, on a trailer. If memory serves, it was a 650 Triumph. (Although it may have been a Harley - those two brands were his favorites. But always painted red, white, and blue.) It was no ordinary motorcycle - it had small rocket engines mounted on either side, behind and underneath the pilot's seat. The rockets were silver, about the size of coffee cans, with the front end rounded off, cooling fins (?) wrapped around the main body, and a rocket nozzle emerging out the back. I believe they were designed to run on hydrogen peroxide, but I don't remember the details. I do remember that I thought it was awesomely cool to be standing so close to it, and touching it. Evel was hanging around in his white leathers, emblazoned with blue stars and red stripes, and eagerly talking to reporters. (His tastes in attire were similar to Elvis'. He was not a wallflower.)

The "gig" at Meridian Speedway went flawlessly.

The guy could handle a motorcycle! Before the jump, he spent 10 or 15 minutes working the crowd into Evel-frenzy, by racing up and down the track, aiming for the ramp and then turning aside at the very last minute. He could wheelie like nobody's business... standing on the back of the seat! He wheelied all the way around the (1/4-mile, I believe) oval track, and coulda kept going!

Finally he jumped. Over a bunch of cars, lined up side-by-side. I can't remember the number, but enough to be pretty dang impressive! He left town without any more broken bones than he had when he arrived. No small feat.

He came back a couple years later, and jumped over a bunch of cars (more than the previous time), out at Firebird Raceway. I was there for that one, too. But by then he was more of a celebrity than before, and my only exposure to the guy was watching his jump.

In the summer of 1972, there was an "Evel Woodstock" in Twin Falls.

That was a year before the actual "jump" attempt on the canyon, but he was already promoting the event.

I went with a couple of motocross-racing buddies and we spent a long weekend camping down there. Besides Evil's posturing (the main event), there was a series of motocross races at the jump site. My friends raced in the amateur classes; the pro races attracted world-renowned pro racers, mostly Europeans, who were our heroes.

By '72, ol' Evel was already pretty busted up. He still wore his trademark star-spangled white leathers. But his walk looked painful, and with the aid of a jewel-encrusted cane. He didn't let his crippled state hold him back, though... he was all over the place, and was quite approachable - as long as you approached him with the deserved reverence. After all, he was Evel Knievel! I don't remember talking to him, but I remember standing five feet away from him, and listening to him talk.

Late on the night we got there, three guys pulled in to the campground. They were from Arkansas or Oklahoma, and told us they had been driving for two days to get there. Sadly, they were also under the impression that Evel was going to do the jump. They were sorely disappointed when we clarified - that Evel was onsite, but no jump was planned for a year.

The main event was rather anticlimactic. The Evel faithful gathered 'round and listened to him promote himself and his jump plan. Then he got into his "Sky Cycle" - which by then had evolved into a rocket-ship and no longer bore even a vague resemblance to a motorcycle - and fired it up. It was on the ramp, aimed in the proper direction. But it was tethered by a shiny steel cable. I was standing next to the cable, and it vibrated crazily as the "Sky Cycle" jumped about, desperately wanting to blast into the void. (I later jokingly told my buddies it's a shame we didn't have cable cutters - we could've sent him early!)

Of course, the next year he went. He never got to his destination. He blamed it on equipment failure (premature parachute ejection). But the event brought together one of the biggest crowds in Idaho history, was broadcast live on "Wide World of Sports" (is that a sport?), and put Twin Falls on the map. (I wasn't able to attend; in '73 I was serving my mission in Uruguay - but I heard about it even down there. The fact that I was from Idaho made me an authority.)

Now he's gone. I s'pose it's a miracle he lived to 69 years. Who woulda thunk? (He looked a lot older than that, toward the end. And he even promoted a line of powered wheelchairs.)

So, was Evel a modern-day gladiator, or a side-show freak? Depends on who you ask. In either case, he was a unique individual, and I can unhesitatingly say he enriched my life, in a small and strange way.

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Great Northwest Tour '07 Recap

Well, another excellent adventure is in the books.

I left Boise on 7/28, and before I returned on 8/7, I accumulated 3000+ miles, mostly in Washington and British Columbia.

The first thing I usually get asked: "Did you get rained on?"

Yep - for maybe an hour, on Day 2, in Mount Rainier National Park. (Sadly, the great mountain was obscured by clouds.) That was the only time I put on my rain gear... it sprinkled a couple other times, but not even enough to make the ground wet.

Day 2 was also the day I had a fairly significant setback... when I had a U-turn mishap and set my motorsickle down on my left leg... with my foot facing backwards. (Ouch! I hate when that happens!) That took place in the shadow of Mount Rainier, and some kindly Good Samaritans helped me get out from under my ponderous beast. (Thank goodness they came along or the bears and coyotes would've had me!)

Fortunately - amazingly - I didn't sustain any major damage, although I had a nasty ankle sprain and my foot was purple and painful for a couple days. And my motorsickle sustained ZERO damage - my foot and leg provided cushioning. (Ha!) I'm glad I decided to ride on and complete the trip.

The scenery was dominated by beautiful water - oceans, lakes, rivers, creeks - lush foliage, and snow-capped mountain peaks.





- Riding on the beach near Hoquiam.
- Hoh Rain Forest, in Olympic National Park. (I've never seen so much "moose moss"! Since the sun was shining through the trees, it didn't seem too rain-forest-like.)
- Hurricane Ridge, also in Olympic NP (just out of Port Angeles).
- Vancouver Island. I rode to Strathcona Provincial Park / Gold River one day, and Tofino the next. Awesome!
- Highway 99, from Vancouver to Lillooet. The road is narrow and twisty in places; the scenery just keeps getting better.

I carried my passport with me (which I usually don't), and left my gun at home. Crossing the border in both directions was problem-free.

Click on any of the photos to see bigger views; click HERE for more photos and/or a slide show.

Friday, July 27, 2007

Don't let this happen to you!

If Darwin was right, this may be an example of the Law of Natural Selection.

As reported in the Idaho Statesman:

A 22-year-old Meridian motorcyclist died from blunt force trauma after he collided with a car Thursday night on Star Road near Chinden Boulevard. Cody K. Anderson was pronounced dead at the scene of the accident, according to Ada County Coroner report issued this morning.

Witnesses told Ada County Sheriff's deputies that Anderson was driving the motorcycle at speeds up to 100 mph southbound on Star Road just after 7:30 p.m. Thursday when he appeared to lose control and drive into a Subaru passenger car.

A woman driving the Subaru was either in a turn lane or about to make a U-turn, when the crash occurred, sheriff’s officials said.

Anderson was not wearing a helmet at the time of the accident, according to reports.

The accident is still under investigation, according to sheriff's reports.

What's to investigate? The woman in the other car may be partly responsible, but if you're going 100mph (on a road that's 50mph, tops), you're gunnin' for trouble. I s'pose Cody died doing what he loved, huh? (I'd rather live doing what I love. And what I love isn't hanging out there on the jagged edge.)

Thursday, July 12, 2007

Great Northwest Tour 2007

This is the plan for my big annual trip, for the year 2007... leaving around the end of July.

(Click on the map if you'd like a larger view.)

Day 1 – Boise to Yakima, approx. 350 miles, stay with my friend Ben and his family.
Day 2 – Yakima, Chinook Pass, Mount Rainier flyby, Olympia, Hoquiam, approx. 215 miles, camp in Hoquiam.
Day 3 – Hoquiam, Lake Quinault, Washington Coastline, Hoh Rain Forest, Forks
Side trip to Neah Bay (what looks like the far northwest corner of the continental U.S.), approx. 240 miles, motel in Forks
Day 4 – Forks to Port Angeles, ferry across to Victoria (Vancouver Island), sightseeing in Victoria, north to Nanaimo, approx. 150 miles, camp in Nanaimo (3 nights)
Day 5 – Vancouver Island
Day 6 – Vancouver Island - Out and back - Nanaimo to Tofino (west coast of Island), approx. 107 miles each way, total 214 miles
Day 7 – ferry to Vancouver; sightseeing in Vancouver, north up 99 thru Whistler to Lilloeet, approx. 145 miles, motel
Day 8 – Lillooet to Penticton, approx. 255 miles, camp
Day 9 – Penticton to Rock Creek to Creston, approx. 330 miles, motel(?)
Day 10 – Creston to Metaline to Spokane to Lewiston, approx. 275 miles, camp
Day 11 – Lewiston to Boise (via Council), approx. 300 miles, sleep in my bed

Thursday, June 21, 2007

"Harley Lifestyle"

The new Harley shop is open, and it's time to celebrate. 54,000 square feet.

They've come a long way since Bob Blazier had a poorly-lit, greasy little Harley shop down on Chinden. (Not at the most recent location - it used to be a waterbed store.)

The new Harley shop is much more than a place to buy a motorcycle, or a part, or get your hog fixed.

According to the website, the new showroom "is a wonderland of audio/visual Harley-Davidson stimulation. The store is wired with a Boze [sic] sound-system and flat screen televisions abound. The 'Buell Experience Center' plays continuous Buell racing footage and the 'Design Center' features on-screen displays that let you see how accessories will look on your bike before you buy! 'This entire showroom is dedicated to the customer experience,' exclaims owner Dave Thomas, 'It's designed to make owning a Harley easier, more accessible, and more fun.'

"To increase the fun-factor, the new dealership also includes a customer lounge, 'The Kickstand,' that comes complete with an outdoor picnic area, fireplace, big screen TV, pool table, and customer putting green! The lounge, itself is three-times larger than Harley-Davidson recommends for a store this size."

Is that "The Harley Lifestyle" in 2007? Watching videos of people riding motorcycles on HDTV (Harley-Definition)? Billiards on the Harley pool table? Harley golf balls? Hangin' out at the 3-times-as-big-as-recommended Harley Lounge, talking about riding motorcycles?

In an article in the daily newspaper, customer Becky Godfrey says they visited the old store at least once a week. "It's more of a family thing. We'll see who is down there, if anyone wants to go for a ride. If we don't get down there once a week, we feel like we're neglecting the family."

Yep, the times they are a-changin'.

Back in the day, you went to the shop to get your bike fixed, or to get a part, so you could ride. Riding was what defined the "Harley Lifestyle." If you wanted to hang out at the shop for awhile, more likely than not you'd have to move a grease-blackened cardboard box full of pistons and rods, random bolts and washers, and maybe a carburetor or manifold off the stool before sitting down. Just set it on the grease-blackened counter, or on the pile of similar greasy parts boxes already sitting in the corner. If you had clean clothes on, it was best not to touch anything. Now that was a Harley shop!

On the local TV news, they were recently interviewing one of the local owners about their new Harley boutique. He said something like, "Harley-Davidson is the only brand logo that people have tattooed on their skin."

Which begs the question - is there a tattoo chair at the new facility?

Another question. Are you just a "poser" if you don't have the tattoo, or wear Harley bluejeans, or play Harley Pool, eat Harley barbecue, and watch Harley TV? Do you have to do all that stuff to truly embrace the "Harley Lifestyle," or can you just ride?

Idaho Statesman article
High Desert HD website

Monday, June 4, 2007

Safety - Is it on your mind?

Chuc Coulter of Boise wrote a letter to the Idaho Statesman. It appeared in print on June 3, and went like this:

"The month of May was proclaimed by Gov. Butch Otter to be Motorcycle Awareness Month ... You probably saw and heard the media messages ... Look out for motorcycles, avoid collisions, prevent injuries and deaths.

"And what happens during the month of May? We have motorcyclists going out riding and killing themselves and their passengers. What have we learned? Maybe it's not the other motorists who need to be looking out for motorcyclists. Maybe what we learned is that motorcyclists need to learn to ride responsibly and safely."

Well-said, Chuc! I agree 100%.

Chuc is doubtlessly responding to these stories:

- Driver John Patrick Brown, 42, of Boise, and passenger Andrea Louise McGuier, 24, of Nampa, both died from blunt force trauma after the motorcycle they were riding hit some construction equipment on a closed section of Cloverdale Road.

- Investigators say Jeffrey Rand [deceased], 25, was driving a 2004 Kawasaki motorcycle at a high rate of speed at 6:49 p.m. when he lost control of his motorcycle and hit a guardrail just off the eastbound lanes of I-84 near the Broadway Avenue interchange.

- A 26-year-old Nampa man died in a motorcycle accident in rural Canyon County. [He] was riding in a group of four motorcyclists on Map Rock Road about a half mile west of Highway 45 when he lost control of the vehicle and crashed at about 3:30 p.m., according to the Canyon County Sheriff's Office.

If I could talk common-sense to my fellow motorcyclists, here's what I'd say. (Unfortunately, how "common-sense oriented" is a guy who's riding a motorcycle with his do-rag instead of a helmet, or with backwards baseball-cap, shorts, and flip-flops?)

It's convenient to blame the other guy for motorcycle accidents. And indeed, we hope all roadway users are paying attention, and have the skills necessary to avoid accidents. But consider...
- Almost half (46%) of fatal motorcycle crashes are single-vehicle.
- 32% of fatally injured motorcycle operators were legally intoxicated.

Whenever the topic of motorcycle safety comes up in public, the topic of helmets invariably follows.

You might think it's nobody else's business, whether or not you wear a helmet.

WRONG! If you ride on public roads, you subject yourself to the rules and regulations governing that use, including speed limits, seat belts, and helmets.

I'm glad that here in Idaho, we adults are treated as such, and get to choose whether or not to wear a helmet. But please realize that it's not cast in stone. Us old-timers know that helmets have been required in the past... and can again be required in the future. The law can change, and if there's enough public outcry, or pressure from the Feds, the law will change. Don't become a statistic for mandatory helmets! Every unhelmeted motorcycle fatality is ammunition for the nannies.

Of course, if you go out there and mash your unhelmeted head, and it doesn't kill you but rather turns you into a Medicaid-supported, diaper-wearing vegetable, eating dinner through a tube, that's even worse. Because then the nannies can point out how you've become a burden to the state. And taxes are everybody's business.

My advice... exercise your right to choose by being responsible and choosing to wear a helmet. Furthermore, choose to devote 100% of your skilled, trained, un-distracted, un-impaired attention to riding, when engaged in that enjoyable pastime. The stakes are too high to do otherwise.

Monday, May 28, 2007

2007 Memorial Day Cemetery Tour

It's become somewhat of a tradition with me... if the weather is at all tolerable - and it usually is on Memorial Day - I like to hop on my motorsickle and go see a few cemeteries.

It may sound macabre on the surface... but why? Memorial Day is a time to celebrate and reverence those who have gone before us. And the cemeteries never look finer than on Memorial Day, what with all the flags and flowers.

Past tours have taken me from Ola to Emmett to Weiser to Ontario to Owyhee City to Marsing to Melba to Kuna. Pretty much any cemetery within a 50 or 60 mile radius is fair game.

This year I went to Morris Hill (it's 1 mile from my front door, so it gets a visit every year):

Dry Creek Cemetery / Idaho State Veterans' Cemetery:

Star Cemetery:

Middleton Cemetery:

Canyon Hill Cemetery (Caldwell):

Pleasant Ridge Cemetery (SE of Greenleaf):

Kohler Lawn Cemetery (Nampa):

Lower Fairview Cemetery (Meridian):

Sunday, May 20, 2007

LaGrande - Joseph - Hells Canyon Loop - NE Oregon

This particular trip provides a variety of nice scenery, from high desert plateaus and expansive vistas, to twisty river-carved canyons. It can be done in a long day; I recommend 2 days to allow time to stop and smell the roses along the way.





I rode it (this time) in early May; in a normal-precipitation year, even that might be too early, as there is some high country along the way. (There were some shady spots in the high country, where the snow was still right up to the edge of the highway.) It was a perfect time of year to go, however, as everything was vibrant green. (Autumn is also a nice time - although the foliage is dry, the fall colors can be spectacular.)

(I actually rode from my "home base" of Boise, but I'm dealing with the "loop" from Ontario, Oregon, on the Idaho/Oregon border.)


(Click HERE for a larger-size view of the map. You may also need to maximize the size of your window.)

Notes and recommendations:
- As you ride northwest on I-84 from Ontario toward Baker, get off the Interstate just past the big cement plant, and take "Old Highway 30" from there on into Baker. The going is a bit slower, but it is ever so much more enjoyable on a motorcycle to enjoy the slower pace, the twists and turns of the old-school 2-lane (which you'll almost certainly have to yourself), and the rural scenery along the way.
- Once you get to Baker, take State Highway 203 east out of town toward Medical Springs, and follow it on through to Union, and then LaGrande. Again, it's not as direct or quick as I-84, but the scenery is so much better and the ride more enjoyable. (A confession: I always avoid the superslab whenever possible.)
- Out of LaGrande, you take State Highway 82 northeast toward Elgin, and then toward Enterprise and Joseph. As you approach Enterprise, on the south you will enjoy views of a spectacular snow-capped mountain range.
- I'd recommend you gas up in Enterprise or Joseph before proceeding; it's a long poke before you'll get to the next gas station.
- I'd also recommend a little side trip out of Joseph down along Wallowa Lake. At the north end of the lake is the grave of Chief Joseph, the famous chief of the mighty Nez Perce Indians. (The Joseph/Enterprise area is where the tribe spent their summers. Chief Joseph's history is interesting; he did everything he could to get along with paleface; the way he was treated in return will make you embarrassed to be caucasian.) The lake is beautiful; interestingly there are some tourist-trap type attractions at the south end, pretty much a long ways from anywhere.
- Depart out of Joseph heading east on the Imnaha Highway. Watch for the "Wallowa Mountain" loop (to Copperfield); it's easy to miss. It is a narrow, twisty mountain road... don't get too distracted by the high-country scenery. From there it's high forest until you start dropping down toward Hells Canyon. (They say it's the deepest gorge in North America, and I s'pose it is when measured with an altimeter... but it's not a precipitous dropoff like Grand Canyon.) You will be amazed how much it warms up as you drop... it's downright toasty down there in the summertime.
- When you get to State Highway 86, turn left toward Copperfield, which is on the banks of the Snake River, deep in the Canyon. (There is a sweet and reasonably-priced RV park / campground down there, owned and maintained by Idaho Power.)
- From Copperfield, you head upstream (south) toward Brownlee Dam; just downstream from the dam you'll cross over into Idaho and start ascending the other side. They call it "Highway 71," but it's a mountain road... not quite as narrow as on the Oregon side. The next stop is Cambridge, a sleepy farming/logging/hunting community. If your tank is dry, you can get gas there... if you can go another 30 miles, gas up in Weiser instead.
- From Cambridge, head southwest on Highway 95 to Weiser. Full services are available in Weiser; also if you happen to pass thru in mid-June, you might find yourself in the midst of one of the most awesome fiddle festivals anywhere... Weiser's claim to fame.
- Take Highway 95 on south to Ontario to complete the loop... or if you're westbound, you can jump back over to I-84 via Highway 201.

(For photo set / slide show, click HERE.)

Friday, May 4, 2007

Motorcycle safety PSA

I was watching Leno last night and saw a VERY disturbing public service announcement. It must've just started running... at least in this area.

It's a nice, sunny day. A normal guy in his normal car (Ford Taurus, looked like), approaches an intersection. He stops at the stop sign, looks nonchalantly both ways, and then proceeds.

Suddenly... BAM!! An approaching motorcycle smashes right into the driver's side of the car, as seen from the general area of the front passenger seat.

It is VERY realistic. (Too realistic - I felt it!) I hope it was computer-generated. (What other explanation could there be?!!?) You see the car lurch... glass flying about... crumpling metal.

The message is Be Careful! Look twice! Motorcyclists are everywhere!

I like to think it might save the life of a motorcycle rider.

Friday, April 27, 2007

2007 Motorcycle Awareness Rally

The Idaho Coalition for Motorcycle Safety is sponsoring the annual "Awareness Rally" Saturday May 5. Meet at Sandy Point (just below Lucky Peak Dam, east of Boise) beginning at 11am. "Lights on the Highway" at 1pm.

It's a rare opportunity to ride with 1500 or 2000 of your best friends.

These days, the ride goes along Highway 21 to the intersection with Federal Way (near Micron), then down Federal Way and Capitol Boulevard, ending up at the Statehouse.

(I've been participating for years. Back in the good old days, we met at the park right next to Meridian Speedway, and would take I-84 and "The Connector" - it was pretty awesome that they'd block I-84 for 20 or 30 minutes while the motorcycle parade went by.)

People generally gather along the route to watch the bikes go by. If you want to see a wide variety of motorcycles, from dusty "rat bikes" to "bike show custom," to 180-mph crotch rockets, to strange "Road Warrior" trikes, etc., get there an hour or so before departure time. Once at the Statehouse, there are generally some speeches about motorcycle safety, what various organizations are doing to further motorcyclist rights, etc.

I believe the Rally has two purposes:
1) To raise awareness in the minds of the General Public, that they are sharing the roadways with motorcycle riders, who are particularly vulnerable to driver stupidity, and
2) To promote safe motorcycle riding practices.

Some personal observations:
1) For many motorcycle riders, "loud pipes" is the one safety practice they can really get behind! (What a joke!)
2) If you ride, you want to BE CAREFUL! The guy riding next to you, or in front of you, may have been riding for 40 years, or 40 minutes!
3) To me it is amazing to see a sizeable percentage of participants (at a safety rally!) who are helmetless. It's great to avoid accidents, because if you're in one, you're likely to get injured or kilt. But there's precious little you can do to mitigate the chance for injury if you're in an accident, heaven forbid... one thing you can do is HAVE A HELMET ON! (Oddly, many of the helmetless participants will be all decked out in shiny black leather... evidently they can deal with a brain injury, but that road rash stings!!) (What a joke!)
4) You'll also see the shorts-and-flip-flops wheelie-poppin' crotch-rocket riders (at a safety rally!). It's nice they hold the rally in the spring, because some of those punks won't make it thru the summer. Sadly.

Thursday, April 19, 2007

Are you a POSER?

There's a lot of "psychological baggage" that accompanies the act of owning and riding a street motorcycle.

I've even written about it before.

I s'pose it's natural.

The reasons for riding a motorcycle are endlessly varied. It's NOT always "to get from Point A to Point B." Some people ride a motorcycle to "make a statement." Some ride to be seen riding. Some ride because "it's a way of life." Some ride for the camaraderie and social interaction. Some want to see how much of their motorcycle they can rub off in the twisty-turnies. Some just ride because it's enjoyable, relatively economical transportation.

When there are so many different reasons for riding, some people like the confidence in knowing their reason for riding is more valid than the other guy's reason. (And in many cases, they're also totally hung-up on knowing that the brand, and year, and selection of aftermarket accessories, etc., is somehow superior to the other guy's.) And that's when the accusations tend to fly.

"Poser." "RUB." (That's "rich urban biker.") Etc.

I try to avoid rushing to judgment on somebody else's selection of motorcycle, why he rides, etc. (Sure, mine are the best... but not everybody has to know that - hahaha.)

This may seem like treason... but I'll even occasionally wave at somebody who's riding a different brand of motorcycle!

JUST THE SAME... I've come up with what I feel is a reasonable "Poser Gauge." One question, that will determine whether that rider is the real-deal, or a shamless pretender.

QUESTION: Have you been on a motorcycle ride where you finished up the day someplace besides where you started?

(And I don't mean at your friend's place across town, or face-down in a gutter, or in jail... I mean DIFFERENT TOWN.)

If all of your trips have been to your favorite local waterin' hole, or to the motorcycle shop, or even a day-trip to some nearby destination, with a return trip later in the afternoon... you're not a "real" motorcyclist.

From there, it's just a matter of degree. Two nights on the road. Then two days headed AWAY from home, before you set sail on the return trip. Then riding every highway within 500 miles of your home base. Maybe the Iron-Butt challenge would appeal - 1000 miles in 24 hours. At some point, you need to get the missus to put money in the bank account, so you can just keep on goin'!! (Unless she likes to tag along, of course!)

(I don't know about "biker." That's a whole 'nother story. I think you have to have to wear your leather jacket JUST RIGHT... and take a solemn secret pledge to NEVER wave at a "non-biker"... and your motorcycle has to be from Milwaukee and more than 15 years old or something... it's secret stuff that I don't know about.)

Saturday, April 7, 2007

Target Audience

I subscribe to a couple motorcyclist-oriented magazines. (Rider and American Rider, specifically.)

And on a somewhat regular basis, I shake my head in wonderment at the ads, mostly for motorcycles.

Harley-Davidson's are particularly nauseating. They seem a little on the "poetic" side. Blah-blah-blah about the open road, leaving civilization behind, being an individual, etc. (Much to-do about the "experience," very little to do with the machine they are selling.)

A Kawasaki ad most recently caught my eye. For one of their metric cruisers.

It's a streetscape, with small-town buildings. Fashion-model-looking babes are everywhere - in the crosswalks, struttin' their fashion-model stuff down the sidewalk, etc.

Their attention is involuntarily drawn to the hunk-of-a-man on his Kawasaki metric cruiser, rolling down the street.

The copy reads:

One does not earn respect with side air bags and a power moon roof.

... followed by a superlative-laden description of some of the motorcycle's features. And then...

... all the power, confidence and charisma you'll ever need.
Others can't help but worship the ground it rolls on.

So - who's the target audience?

One must assume it's aimed at men who:
- are lacking in confidence and charisma
- believe that if they ride a motorcycle, they'll finally get the respect they deserve
- are buying a motorcycle to impress people who will see them riding.

You can tell all those babes want, in the worst way, to be on the back seat of that awesome bike!

I s'pose people make purchasing decisions for many reasons.

Monday, March 26, 2007

Change your own tires ... ?

My rubber needed replacing, as it does every 10,000 miles or so. (If anybody has recommendations for higher-mileage tires, I'm VERY interested. No matter the make and model, I always seem to get about 10-11K out of a set, front and rear. And I'm not a hot-rodder!)

I ordered new tires off'n the Web, since they are SO MUCH less than in the local shop. (As I occasionaly explain, my great-great grandma Margaret McNeil was from Scotland; her blood is obviously thick in my veins because I'm a compulsive bargain-hunter.)

Then I did some checking on the cost of dismounting the old tires, and mounting the new ones.

A lot of shops won't do it any more, unless you buy tires from them. (The "reason" they give is liability, but I'm sure they also figure in the handsome profit they gain by selling the tires. Nothing wrong with that.) The ones who gave me an estimate... it ranged from $50 to $70 (that's for front and rear, and if I carry in the wheels, dismounted from the motorcycle). Ouch!

So, I decided to try something new. I went to the local Harbor Freight Tools and bought a motorcycle tire-changing stand. It was approx. $75 on sale. (You buy two pieces - the tire changer, and the motorcycle tire accessory.)

And - the experiment was successful. The old rubber is off; the new rubber is on. (The first one went less-than-perfectly. I ended up with a couple scratches and minor dings along the edge of the rim. Nothing I can't live with. The second one went MUCH more smoothly. I got the hang of it.)

Would I recommend this to others? I'm not sure. Here are some considerations:
- I've changed hundreds of bicycle tires over the years; that has given me some experience. Same concept; just everything's a lot bigger and stiffer.
- There's definitely some "grunt power" involved. (And don't make the mistake, like I did, of thinking you can do it without anchoring the stand to the floor!)
- My wheels are NOT officially balanced. Time will tell if that's a problem. I'll definitely do some "testing" before I hit the road in any serious way. (I've seen many opinions that it's not critical unless you go over 100mph a lot. If that's the case, NO PROBLEM! You can build an inexpensive balancing stand, if it's an issue, that would get the job done.)
- I like to think that I'm "mechanically inclined." Part of the reason I chose a Harley is the notion that I could do most of the maintenance... and this is just a new step in that direction.
- So, I paid just a bit more for the stand than the tire-swap would've cost at the shop... next time I need rubber, I'll be money ahead!

Here is a GREAT resource if you think you might be interested... a photo album of the stand in use.

Harbor Freight's website: (Their tools are somewhat on the junky-and-cheap side... not made for the long haul. If I were changing motorcycle tires like I do bike tires, I'd definitely want something a little better quality... but this unit is very adequate for using every 2 years or so. Maybe my little Scottish great-grandkids will wear it out someday.)

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Ride to Work Day?

Every year, an organization called "Ride to Work, Inc." declares a summer day "Ride to Work Day." In 2007, that day will be July 18. (As far as I can tell, the only reason for the group's existence is to promote the day. Their website is .)

Their mission statement says they support the use of motorcycles for transportation. Novel concept, huh? And evidently the day they promote is a "show of force," if you will. They hope a lot of people will ride, and the non-motorcycle-riders will take note and be envious, and maybe consider what losers they are to be sitting in cars, pickup trucks, and SUVs.

I only rode my motorsickle to work 2 days in 2005. One of 'em was "Ride to Work Day." I was joined by maybe 30 other riders at the office building where I work. It was actually pretty cool - we lined the scooters (of every variety) up on the tarmac, out front of the building. A bunch of us went on a lunch-time ride to the Crow Inn... a little place just far enough from the office to make the ride interesting.

The other 2005 day I rode a motorcycle was in October, when I spoke at a funeral. I had to wear a suit, and didn't want it to get all sweaty as I rode my bicycle to the church.

I rode a bicycle on the rest of the days (as I've done on most days since 1985). I also missed Ride to Work Day in 2006, and will likely skip 2007... the bicycle is my chosen ride.

Can you "make a statement" by riding a motorcycle to work one day a year, on Ride to Work Day? I'm thinking not likely. But it sure beats going to work in a car!!!

(My motorcycle is in the top photo, directly behind the lamp post.)

Friday, February 9, 2007

January - 9 miles

Pretty pathetic. 9 miles total for the month of January.

Some people "winterize" the scooter. And, I s'pose if there's snow and ice on the roads in your neck of the woods for months at a time, that makes good sense. (Insurance companies also write "winter layover" insurance policies, for people whose bikes are retired for several months each year.)

But... proper winterizing is a hassle. You should drain the gas tank, and change the oil and filter, and a bunch of other stuff. Put the battery on a trickle charger...

I'd rather ride all year 'round... at least a few times each month, to charge the battery, and circulate the fuel, etc. So I invested in an electric vest instead of a battery charger.

But still, it's hard to get up the gumption, when it's overcast and below freezing. When the sun is shining in a blue sky, a cold day somehow doesn't seem as cold. (And - it is NOT good to use the motorcycle to go on a 5-minute errand on a below-freezing day. You need to ride long enough to let the thing warm to normal operating temperature. Otherwise you end up with condensation in your crankcase, exhaust system, etc. It needs to warm up enough to evaporate all that water vapor.)

9 miles is the lowest monthly total I've had, in at least 10 years. (I started keeping track, month-by-month, in 1997, because I'm kind of obsessive about such things.) February should be better, and March better yet.

Saturday, February 3, 2007

Are Motorcycles Dangerous?

There's a general perception that motorcycles are a dangerous, daredevil pastime. In fact, I've heard that squirrels are the Hells' Angels of the animal kingdom; their motto is "Live Fast, Die Young, and Leave a Furry Patch on the Highway."

My nephew asked me that question a few months back; HERE is my reply. (Posted on my more general-interest "Idaho Spud" blog.)

Please post your own thoughts on the topic.

Click HERE for information about motorcycle rider skills training in Idaho. (HIGHLY recommended.)


Have you felt the soul-stirring that comes with aiming your packed motorsickle down the road for a multi-day adventure? There are few feelings that can compare.


I've been riding since 1966 or thereabouts; my daddy had a 120 Suzuki "scrambler" that I started on, riding the foothills north of my hometown - Boise, Idaho.

My first motorcycle was a 1973 Yamaha RD350 - a 2-stroke twin road bike. I bought it lightly used in 1975; I haven't been without a motorcycle since.

My current "main" motorcycle is a Harley-Davidson FXDX, purchased new in 2000. It's a fantastic machine; comfortable for around-town putting, but fully capable of over-the-road touring. I've averaged about 6500 miles / year since. I also have a 1978 Yamaha SR500 "thumper" in mothballs; I hope to make her once again roadworthy for her 30th birthday.

If I were a rich man, I'd have a garage full of motorcycles of various shapes and sizes, and I'd spend many a blissful day aiming 'em down a road or a trail.