Wednesday, August 16, 2017

That's Not How Uber Works

I saw something a couple of weeks ago that I had to share with my readers.

We all know certain stereotypes exist on TV and in the movies about bikes and riders. We also know that we see a lot of behaviors depicted that just aren’t realistic. Sure, they’re great for entertainment, but we don’t expect them to happen in real life.

Well, most of us don’t.

Here’s what happened.

I’m on my way to work one afternoon, and hear a bike coming up from behind on my left. Naturally, I glance over as he passed me. Cool, a Yamaha Bolt, with a spare helmet hanging from the side. Yes, the spare lid is relevant. Bear with me.

Well, he passes on by me (I was going slower than usual because I was in my car, because work uniform).  Anyway, a bit later, he makes the same left turn I was making. Right after the left turn, he shoots across both lanes of our side of the road to zoom to a stop at a bus stop. I saw him saying something to a pretty young lady waiting for the bus. He even patted the back seat and pointed at the spare helmet, all while she was (kind of disgustedly) looking him up and down from head to toe, and stepping back from the curb.

Oh. My. God.

Dude, did you just……?

Did you really think that move from Hollywood would actually get a modern woman to just hop on the back of a motorcycle with some dude she’s never even seen before and ride off into the sunset?

I shook my head and laughed the rest of the way to work.

Thanks for the afternoon entertainment, Mr. Hopeful.

Monday, July 24, 2017

No Wasted Trips

I went to the dealership looking for a bike part today. I'd totally forgotten that it's Monday and every dealership in the country is apparently required by the laws of physics to be closed.

See, some people would consider that a waste of time, but a motorcycle rider just makes a U turn in the parking lot and takes the long way home. It's not a wasted trip, it's an opportunity for a ride.

Monday, May 1, 2017

We Don't Need No Stinkin' Baggers (repost)

In the interest of making regular posts, I'm once again throwing out a repost from my original blog (

This one is actually timely, in a way, as the world just lost rider/writer Robert Pirsig in the last week. If you've never read Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance, go pick up a copy. Especially if you ride.

We Don't Need No Stinkin' Baggers

Photo taken from

In the late 1960s, Robert M. Pirsig took a motorcycle trip. He told the story of that trip, and mingled in philosophy and a bit of autobiography in the book "Zen And The Art Of Motorcycle Maintenance".

Here is a list, excerpted and compiled (and  paraphrased in places) from lists of his own in the book, telling what he carried on his trip:

  1. Two changes of underwear
  2.  Long underwear
  3.  One change of shirt and pants for each of us. I use Army-surplus fatigues. They're cheap, tough, and don't show dirt.
  4. One sweater and jacket each
  5. Gloves
  6. Cycle Boots
  7. Rain Gear
  8. Helmet and sunshade
  9. Bubble (he refers to a snap on face shield available for the helmets of the day - full face helmets weren't around yet)
  10. Goggles
  11. Shop manual for his bike
  12. Chilton's Motorcycle Troubleshooting Guide
  13. A copy of Thoreau's Walden
  14. Two sleeping bags
  15. Two ponchos and one ground cloth. These convert to a tent and protect the luggage from rain
  16. Rope
  17. Maps
  18. Machete
  19. Compass
  20. Canteen
  21. Two Army surplus mess kits with knife, fork, and spoon
  22. Collapsible Sterno stove
  23. Aluminum screw top cans for food and condiment storage
  24. Brillo
  25. Two aluminum-frame backpacks
Toolkit containing:
  1. Large adjustable wrench
  2. Machinist's hammer
  3. Cold Chisel
  4. Taper Punch
  5. Tire Irons
  6. Tire patch kit
  7. Bicycle pump
  8. Chain lube
  9. Impact Driver
  10. Point File
  11. Feeler Gauge
  12. Test Lamp
Spare Parts:
  1. Plugs
  2. Throttle, Clutch, Brake cables
  3. Points
  4. Fuses
  5. Headlight & Taillight Bulbs
  6. Chain Master Link
  7. Cotter Pins
  8. Baling Wire
  9. Spare Chain

Notice he had no cell phone, no rainsuit, was prepared to make major repairs including changing tires and/or the chain while on the side of the road. Also notice his tent was no lightweight, waterproof nylon thing with lightweight shock-corded aluminum poles that set up in five minutes.

Also notice he was traveling with his teenage son, and had all this stuff piled onto the bike. For seventeen days. No interstate travel, either - back roads and two lane highways as much as possible.

What kind of bike did he use? A Harley-Davidson Electra Glide? Nope. Indian? Nope. A Honda CB360. Including the passengers and gear, the bike was probably carrying its own weight.

And nowdays we feel we need fairings and windshields and radios and CBs and CD players and mp3 players and GPS and a big monster engine.

No. We just need two wheels and to get on 'em and RIDE.

Sunday, April 16, 2017

Reflections On a Ride Home One Spring Night.

Riding home tonight from across town.

Middle of April, around 9:00 pm. Sun’s been down an hour or so, but all I need is a light cotton long sleeve shirt for warmth at 75 mph.

Riding through a large city, yet I can still catch the occasional whiff of honeysuckle in the air, punctuated by the smell of backyard cookouts.

This is Bike Life in Atlanta. Southern riding at its best.

Monday, April 10, 2017

Black Top and Red Clay

Beautiful day for a Monday
Ah, the benefits of working retail hours. Sure, my schedule changes weekly. Different days, different shifts. However, sometimes it falls into place. While everybody else was griping and posting Facebook memes all basically saying “I hate Mondays”, I slept in, leisurely cooked and ate breakfast, and took my time sipping coffee while checking out Facebook and Instagram.

Recently, a friend gave me a route he likes to ride on occasion. Normally, I like to discover roads on my own, but then again, I’ve ridden a lot of poker runs and enjoyed the hell out of those roads, so why not?

I set out during what is most people’s lunch hour. The temperature in the low 70s, and no chance of rain. Wearing a light flannel shirt, I was just a bit cool at speed, and just a bit warm at a stop. So, you know, it balanced out just fine.

As everyone knows, freeways are great for getting from Point A to Point B in a hurry (except for I-85 in Atlanta at the moment, but I digress), but not for much else. To really enjoy your ride, you have to take surface streets and back roads. On a bike, you see things differently than in a car. You experience the trip rather than endure it. You can feel the variations in temperature and humidity, you can smell the surrounding countryside (for better or worse)

Black Top and Red Clay
Winding down rural highways and country backroads, I was struck again by the contrast between Georgia and central Texas. I’ve been used to wide open skies, and wide fields off to the side. Here there are a lot more tall trees right up near the roadside, and if there’s a field it’s most likely planted as opposed to just open country. Also, I’ve made numerous mention of kudzu on this blog, but today I saw more of another regional marker: red clay dirt. Yup. Black top roads, pine trees, kudzu, and red clay. That’s what Georgia is made of.

Monticello, GA courthouse and Civil War veteran memorial

I wound my way from Morrow/Rex through Stockbridge, switching to Hwy 138 after 42 turned off west. Turning onto 212, I continued down to Monticello, and stopped for a pic of their courthouse and a pretty neat quote on a veteran’s memorial in front of the courthouse. From there, I switched to Hwy 11 and rolled north back up through Mansfield to 278 east to Covington. Turned onto 81, and back south. 81 crossed my earlier track at Hwy 212. Coming into McDonough, I turned north onto 42 and headed back home.

Sleeping in, followed by a three hour, 122 mile ride on a Monday? Yes, please.

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Ride Her More

I’ve been in a writing slump for a while, partly because of time, partly other factors. One of which was lack of time and good riding weather coinciding. And since this a motorcycle related blog, well…

Circumstances have changed in my favor. I have more time now, and today was the second day of Spring, and it actually looked like it: sunny and warm, in the 70s mostly, with a predicted high in the low 80s.

I celebrated my day off by sleeping late and taking my time cooking breakfast at lunch time while the bike battery sat on the trickle charger (since it’d been a while since I’d ridden her). 

Suzi, ready to ride.

Suzi fired right up when I hit the start button and we were off. A couple of turns to get out of the neighborhood, and then I was on GA 54, toward Jonesboro. 54 turned off to the right, but I continued onto what became Main Street and just kind of enjoyed the historic part of town, along the railroad line. Once I ran out of town, I circled back and turned onto 54 and rode out into the Georgia countryside.

If you’ve seen the movie Smokey and the Bandit, most of it was filmed in this area. There was a scene where Jerry Reed’s character wades waist deep into a pond, chasing his dog. I rode past that pond. I know, because my family used to drive this route to church three times a week when I was a kid, and my father pointed it out back when the movie was still recent. I’d have taken a picture, but there were two ponds that could’ve been that one. I guess I’ll just have to watch the movie again to find out which one. Hmmmm…. I wonder if it's on Netflix?

Anyway, I’m rolling along, enjoying what was really a perfect day. Sunny, warm-but-not-hot. Scenic roads with just enough curve and hills to be interesting, but not enough to require strict focus, allowing my thoughts to wander. Riding along, totally in synch with the bike, feeling the engine vibration, feeling when to shift up or down, grooving along perfectly, never feeling the need to go any faster or slower than what I was doing at the moment. (Except of course stopping for traffic and signs/lights.) Perfect ride on a perfect day.

On into historic Fayetteville.  Still on Cloud Nine from this awesome day. Fayetteville has an old fashioned town square, around an old fashioned courthouse. I decided to circle back and get a photo. I parked across the street, bungee corded my jacket to the back seat (it was really too warm for the jacket), and lined up and took a picture.

Courthouse, Fayetteville, GA

Then I put the phone back in the tank bag. Turned the key. Pushed the starter button. And heard “RRRRR rrrr rr r….”


Push the button again.

“RRrrr rrrr r”

Apparently, being ridden only sporadically and being parked outside all winter will kill a motorcycle battery. But it will wait until you're 20 miles from home on a great ride on a beautiful day before it strands you.

I think Suzi may have developed some passive-aggressive issues.

Suzi, no longer ready to ride.

The parking lot had a slight slope to it, so I tried to push start her. Got rolling, clicked into second, dumped the clutch, and …. I might as well have just stepped on the brake, because that was the only effect I got.

I pushed the bike into a parking spot under a tree, pulled out the phone and called my dad to bring jumper cables*. When he got there and we connected the cables, Suzi fired to life with no hesitation.

I rode right to the bike parts store and got a new battery. Luckily I got offered a really low price, and a veteran discount on top of that. Nice way to salvage the nearly ruined perfect riding day.

I guess the moral of the story is:

Ride your damned bike!

* Before anybody tries to lecture me about jump starting a bike from a car, it’s actually fairly safe if the car isn’t running when you push the starter button. Matter of fact, before I knew better, I actually jump started one of my bikes from a running car several times with no ill effect.

Thursday, February 9, 2017

100,000 Miles

Suzi, days after I adopted her.
Back in December of 2007, I picked up a shiny, clean, blue 2003 Suzuki SV1000, with 21,555 miles on it.  Actually, I traded in my HD Sportster for it. Since I still owed on the Sporty, I had to go to the Harley dealer to get a printout of the balance of the loan to get it rolled into the Suzuki financing. When the manager wanted to know why I was switching brands, I told of the many breakdowns I’d had and the bad customer service I’d received at his and other dealers. He looked at the papers, and commented, “Well, you did buy a Sportster with nearly 12,000 miles on it.” My response was “Please! I’ll do double that in a year if the bike would run.” This isn’t meant to be a knock on the HD brand; I was bitter for a while, but I’m over it. I just encountered a terrible combination of a lemon and terrible customer service. It may be worth noting that that dealership is under new ownership since then. I mainly tell that side story as a preface to the following.

As stated, the SV had 21,555 miles on it. In the following days, I decided my goal would be to double THAT in a year. I made my goal in right around ten months. I successfully did more miles in ten months with no breakdowns than I did in three years of Sportster ownership. Granted, for a lot of that year, I was commuting 96 miles round trip, but miles are miles, and I did them trouble free.

And while I haven’t been able to duplicate the mileage of that first year, I’ve racked up the miles. As several of my club brothers and sisters are fond of saying, “mileage is knowledge”, and Suzi (yes, she developed a name) has taught me a few things about herself, bikes in general, and myself.

I put her on a dyno in 2009 at the R.O.T. Rally in Austin. She put out 101 hp and 71 lb-ft of torque. Weighs just a little over 400 pounds. Averages 42 miles per gallon. And puts out that power and gets that economy on regular old 97 octane fuel.

On Friday, January 20, 2017, I finally hit mile 121,555. 100,000 of MY miles on this bike. A personal milestone. I’ve gone through a lot of bikes in my time – mainly due to lack of funds causing me to purchase used bikes of questionable condition. Once I started racking up the miles, it became a goal of mine to hit the 100K mark. I posted milestone mileage odometer phots on Facebook and Instagram. 50K, 75K, 100K. And now, here we are, the magical “real 100K”. I even measured miles from a specific backdrop for the milestone photo I wanted to take.

Mileage is knowledge

As I look back over the last nine years (plus a couple months) and 100,000 miles, I see a lot of happy hours, miles, days, times. I have yet to have to replace any part that isn’t expected to eventually wear out. She had over 75,000 miles on the odometer before I had to do anything beyond routine maintenance. The most intrusive I’ve had to go was to replace the clutch bolts and clutch springs. At that point, the mechanic even looked at the clutch plates and pronounced them to look brand new. Now, I don’t want to sound like an ad for Suzuki, and I may have just really lucked out with this particular specimen, but let’s just say that I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend the brand, or the SV line.

I’ve ridden all over the central Texas Hill Country area west of Austin. All in and around Austin itself, too – I’m a crazy fool who actually enjoys riding in urban traffic. It’s like a big game of dodgeball. Of course, the stakes are higher, but that keeps you on your game and makes it fun. Suzi and I have been to Dallas, Del Rio, San Antonio, the Houston area, down near Corpus Christi, all the way into Mexico, and over to Louisiana. Of course, we’ve put down some miles in Georgia, too.

I’ve ridden solo, I’ve ridden with a passenger. With another rider, small groups, large groups. Suzi and I have ridden in poker runs, toy runs, parades, and far too many funerals (even running blockade for several of those).

I’ve ridden in temperatures below freezing, and sat in stop-and-go rush hour Austin traffic when the mercury was at 107 (not counting the heat index), and everything in between. Rain and shine.

Found her!
There may have been some practical jokes at her expense, taking advantage of her light weight in a culture dominated by heavy cruisers. Let’s just say that I’ve played hide and seek and found her stashed in some rather odd places, including inside a tent, inside a men’s restroom, and even with the bucket of a back hoe (or was it a front end loader?) parked on the foot of the kickstand. I knew the game was on when my brother Jim “Wingman” Hartness would walk up to me and say the magic words “Where’s Waldo?”

Worse than those "boots" the cops use

Honestly, trading in the Harley for this bike was bitterness toward the lemon combined with a touch of midlife crisis. The last couple of years have found me longing for a cruiser style bike again. Maybe a sport tourer. Maybe both? Heh. Yes, I’m getting older and looking for a bit more comfort. Maybe I also miss a certain look to my bike that I used to have, too. So once I’m in a financial place to do so, I’ll be bike shopping. But I do know this: I won’t be trading in. Suzi’s earned a permanent place in my stable. I think it’s time to start planning for the next 100,000 miles.

The Boy astride Suzi

Starting the Wee Girl out early (despite Mom's objections)


Out by Rex Mill in Rex, GA