Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Empty Roads, Wandering About...and Root Beer!

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Since I have retired from work, I have had the opportunity to go out riding on weekdays when I would previously have been hard at work in the office (possibly daydreaming of being out riding). 

These weekdays are not only a new time to ride for me, but they have an unexpected advantage: There is hardly anybody on the roads. 

All right!

As long as I avoid commuting hours and school start and end times, there is almost no one on the road once you get out of the city.  Maybe a few more heavy trucks, but certainly fewer cars. 


Since I have only about thirteen miles to escape into the mountains of the Blue Ridge Escarpment from home in the metropolis of Easley, it has been great. 

There are certain advantages of being unemployed -- err, retired -- after all. 

I thought that this low traffic situation was in part due to the cold winter weather, but I went out today when the temperature was in the 60s, and found the traffic to be light just the same.  (We're a bunch of pansies here in the south when it comes to cold weather.  Anything under around 50 degrees is downright "frigid" according to most natives.  So, they stay home to avoid the chance of dying of a chill outside.) 


I have also noticed that I am taking more rides on the scooter where I am simply wandering around looking for roads I have not ridden and scenery I have not seen.

I took notice of this as I was looking at some of the tracks saved by the GPS keeps as I ride. A few of them are downright piles of spaghetti.  Look these over:







Twisted, yes?  Actually, to be perfectly honest, some of the time I was lost, if you define that as not knowing either where you are or where you are going.  I fit that description on a lot of these. 

Thank goodness for the GPS to get me back home


[OK, but what about the root beer, Bucky?]  

Oh.  I almost forgot.  Let me explain.  I have been a drinker of root beer for some years now.  It is the only soda pop worth imbibing.  If it isn't root beer, it doesn't merit a second glance, in my view.  I turn down anything else offered.  Politely, though, you can be certain. 

Now that I have a little more time to take rides on the motorcycle, I find that I can quaff a bottle of root beer afterward as I relax in my easy chair, and gain the ultimate in satisfaction -- recollection of an enjoyable time out on the roads, and the sweet, fragrant taste of my favorite drink.


Mmmm, mmmm, good.

Come ride with me some time, and I'll offer you a fine bottle of my favorite brew.  


Root beer, of course!
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Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Retiring

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The last time I wrote about retiring, it was about a fresh new rear tire, a Michelin Pilot Road 2.  Here it is, when it was new and shiny: 


Since then, I have again replaced both the front and rear tires with new Michelin Pilot Road 4's.  I don't have many miles on them yet -- just over the first few hundred miles or so to rough them up a little.  With the conservative way I ride, they will last about 9000 miles and are probably more than I need, but still, there might be that time when a little extra grip would come in handy. 

At the same time as that previous tire change, I replaced all of the original brake pads with EBC type HH.  


They have a nice, predictable grip, and seem a little better on stopping power than the originals.  They also do not appear to be causing excessive rotor wear or warping -- a good thing. 


This posting, however, I am not going to write about that kind of retiring, but rather about the real thing. 

Retiring from the job.

Yep.  I have reached the age where I can retire.  That is somewhere between the ages of 55 and 95 for most of us these days.  I am not quite to 95, but I am well past 55 for sure.

Not ready to identify with this picture by a long shot, however.  


Anyway, I looked into my bank account and my crystal ball, both, did some calculations, and decided to call it quits from the work-a-day world.  The salt mines are behind me now.


....WooHoo!....


The people I work with threw a fine retirement party for me.  Maybe they are glad to finally get rid of me, or maybe they really will miss me.  ...possibly some of each...

Anyway, they put on quite a feast.  They invited many of my current work associates and several retirees to join us. We ate, and talked about old times, and things we have done together, and difficulties and accomplishments along the way. 

Aside:
The people I work with have been able to successfully make parts that are amongst the most challenging I have ever been involved with.  We did this by keeping our noses to the grindstone, plain and simple.  When an approach to a problem didn't work out, we went on and figured out what the next step should be.  We have made many incremental improvements that, when taken together, amount to real progress that has made our company a leader in the industry.

I will genuinely miss working with my colleagues. 

At the party, the food and the fellowship lasted into the early afternoon. 

The thoughtful folks at work also brought in a cake that was quite special. 

As you know, I ride a motorcycle, an endeavor I took up late in life.  (If I didn't ride, I wouldn't be writing about it so often in these pages, I don't suppose.) 

And, some of you also know that I play the piano, which I started at an early age. 

The clever people at work along with a creative baker came up with a cake that does justice to both.  It was the visual focal point of the whole feast.

Take a look:


Can you believe it?  There is a little sportbike on top and a spiral "road" with piano-key pavement leading down around the body of the cake, and icing sentiment, "Let the Good Times Roll."   

The little motorcycle is, indeed, a Kawasaki, the same moniker as my Ninja 650R, but it is ZX-14, a model with about twice the displacement of mine.  A real performer, that one.


They also put together a slide show of various pictures taken in the plant over the last decade or so.  Many of my associates, past and present, were pictured.  It will be a good reminder of my years with them. 

I was touched and honored.

Retirement is said by many to be a bittersweet time.  Not having to go to work with its stresses every day is the sweet part.  But, after having done that for many decades, it will be an abrupt change to NOT do that every day, and I will miss the banter and interaction with people.  That is the bitter part.  


[So, what are you going to do now, Bucky?]

Well, I plan to get out on the bike more.  Weekday riding is almost unknown to me.  I will certainly have to watch for all of you who are still working, what with your frantic rushing back and forth to work.  Maybe I can take some longer rides than my usual half days on Saturday.  Possibly an overnight trip as well.

I will have to find some people who can ride at the same time as me -- either old fogies like me or someone working 2nd or 3rd shift.  Come to think if it, I am the oldest guy I ride with.  Everybody else is younger than I am.  Hmmmm.  I wonder what that means.  That I am in my second childhood?  That I am not as old [acting] as my birth certificate might indicate? 

I hope it is more the latter. 

I also hope my wife and I can travel a bit more.  We have that old 1967 tent trailer and my wife is quite the trooper when it comes to camping like that.  She is a great cook and manages to rustle up some mighty fine grub when we are out. 


We probably won't do any exotic trips, but there are many places in the good old U.S.A. that we have yet to see.  We went to Niagara Falls just this fall -- places like that.

View from Canada.
View from U.S.A.

I think that I can ramp up the volunteer work as well.  I play the piano for old folks at nursing and assisted living homes.  They seem to enjoy it and I am fulfilled by doing it for them.  I have already made contact with a couple homes a little further from where I live. 

And, I've got lots of chores and fix-ups around the house and cars, too, so I don't think I'll run out of things to do.


Let me know what you think about what to do with my time. Any tips from you who have preceded me in retirement? 


And are you nearby and available to ride during the week?  If you are, post a comment to the blog with your phone and/or e-mail address, and I will get back to you.  (I moderate all comments, so your contact information will not appear online.) 

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Thursday, December 25, 2014

Christmas Meaning

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It is that time of year when we think of cool weather, gift giving, family time, and a few days off from the workaday world.  For those of us who live in warmer climates, it could be that we can sneak out for a few miles on the roads or in the woods on our scooters. 

All good, these things. 

There is one more thing about this season, though that is paramount.  The reason for our celebrating in the first place.  It is the birth of Jesus Christ more than 2000 years ago.  Christ is God's son and his teachings are fundamental to our lives now, and into eternity. 

It is at this special time of year, that we would do well to hear the Christmas story once again.

The prophet Isaiah wrote about the coming of Jesus to earth about seven hundred years beforehand:
For unto us a Child is born, unto us a Son is given: and The Government shall be upon His Shoulder: and His Name shall be called Wonderful, Counselor, The Mighty GOD, The Everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace.
Of the increase of His Government and peace there shall be no end, upon the Throne of David, and upon His Kingdom, to order it, and to establish it with judgment and with justice from henceforth even for ever. The zeal of the LORD of Hosts will perform this. 

The prophet Micah wrote, between 735 and 700 B.C., about where Jesus would be born, in Bethlehem:
"But you, Bethlehem Ephrathah, though you are small among the clans of Judah, out of you will come for me one who will be ruler over Israel, whose origins are from of old, from ancient times."


Luke wrote of the birth about thirty years after Jesus' death:
And it came to pass in those days, that there went out a decree from Caesar Augustus, that all the world should be taxed. (And this taxing was first made when Cyrenius was governor of Syria.) And all went to be taxed, every one into his own city. And Joseph also went up from Galilee, out of the city of Nazareth, into Judaea, unto the city of David, which is called Bethlehem; (because he was of the house and lineage of David:) To be taxed with Mary his espoused wife, being great with Child. And so it was, that, while they were there, the days were accomplished that she should be delivered.

And she brought forth her firstborn Son, and wrapped Him in swaddling clothes, and laid Him in a manger; because there was no room for them in the inn.


And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. And, lo, the angel of the LORD came upon them, and the glory of the LORD shone round about them: and they were sore afraid. And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the LORD. And this shall be a sign unto you; Ye shall find the Babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger. And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying, Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men. And it came to pass, as the angels were gone away from them into Heaven, the shepherds said one to another, Let us now go even unto Bethlehem, and see this thing which is come to pass, which the LORD hath made known unto us. And they came with haste, and found Mary, and Joseph, and the Babe lying in a manger. And when they had seen it, they made known abroad the saying which was told them concerning this Child. And all they that heard it wondered at those things which were told them by the shepherds. But Mary kept all these things, and pondered them in her heart. And the shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things that they had heard and seen, as it was told unto them. And when eight days were accomplished for the circumcising of the Child, His Name was called JESUS, which was so named of the angel before He was conceived in the womb.

Around thirty-three years after Jesus' birth, he was killed by crucifixion, laid in a borrowed tomb for three days, then arose from death.  He was seen by multitudes here on earth after that. 

If you don't know Jesus Christ as your living savior, then find a church that preaches from the Bible, and where they believe that it is the inerrant word recorded by writers inspired by God.

They can explain the wonder of the birth of Jesus Christ and what it means to you and me. All you have to do to go to heaven after you die is to believe what happened to Him, and to ask Jesus to be your savior. 

Merry Christmas to all, and happy riding in the new year.

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Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Riding Two-Up (Maybe)

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Last Saturday, I went out for a ride in the cool but sunny winter weather here in South Carolina.  The temperature was only about 31F when I started out, but climbed into the mid-50s by the time I returned.  It was only 129 miles on familiar roads, but it was good to get out on a beautiful day.  Amongst the routes was SC-130 between SC-11 and Whitewater Falls.  You can post some brisk speeds though the sweepers that populate this ten-mile stretch of road, so it can be quite enjoyable, and there is the nice waterfall and the Bad Creek overlook near Pushpin B. 
Click here for an interactive map.
I also rode two-up for the first time ever.  

At least I think I did.  Well, maybe it is possible that I could have. 

[Bucky, what are you getting at, here?  What’s with the obfuscation?  Did you ride two-up or not?] 

Let me explain. 

[Now, we’re getting somewhere….  Maybe….] 

I generally take along a bottle of water or Gatorade, and some granola bars or the like to munch on at stops.  This trip, when I wanted to take a slurp of water and eat a snack, I noticed that one of the foil packages for the energy bars was already open, and the contents half gone.  I don’t usually leave any when I start on one of the bars, but I shrugged and ate the rest, then started on my way back home, never giving it a second thought. 

Later, at home, as I was unpacking my tank bag – the place I carry my food and drink, along with some other necessary items, and I noticed little pieces of foil wrapper littering the inside of the bag.  “What is this?” I said aloud to no one in particular.  I dug further.  One of the other granola bars had some of the foil torn off it too. 

Now, I know I didn’t do that twice. 

Wait a minute.  All those shreds of foil look like teeth marks.  Mouse-size mouthfuls, in fact. 

In MY tank bag, eating MY granola bars!  And I ate the other half of one of them, to boot!  Yuck.  No telling what diseases that mouse might have.  Can a human catch mouse mung or some other malady?  I was seeing red

Then I got to thinking.  Was this little brown fellow a passenger with me?  Had he ridden pillion with me, so to speak? 

If he did, I wonder what he thought?  At least he had some snacks to eat while on his trip.  (That’s more than some airlines give you these days, and at a lot higher fare than Mr. Mouse paid.)  Or maybe he hopped out when I opened the bag to eat my snack at the waterfall.  If he did, I’ll bet he misses his family now, being out in the cold, cold world instead of in my nice cozy garage. 

I went and bought some mousetraps later in the evening. 

I’ll ride a human passenger some time, perhaps, but hopefully not another four-footed hitchhiker.  
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Thursday, November 27, 2014

Thanksgiving, Before the Turkey

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I have a scheme for Thanksgiving Day: Maybe I can slip out of the house for a quick ride early in the morning before the turkey gets to cooking, and before the sweet potatoes are peeled. There'll be nobody out on the roads, so I should be able to ride unimpeded. 

We’ll see.  I'll let you know what happens. 

See report below.

Meanwhile, it is good at this time of year to stop and give thanks to God for our country, for the bounteous blessings we have been given, and, in particular, for our freedom.  

Freedom from Want
Norman Rockwell, 1943

The documents that set down these freedoms were brilliantly written by true scholars and patriots. 

Take a minute and refresh your memory by reading these excerpts:  

The Declaration of Independence
July 4, 1776.
We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal,
that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.

That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed,

The Constitution of the United States
September 17, 1787
We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.

Enjoy your day on the bike and with the family, but remember the reasons why we can do what we do so freely.



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Ride Report:
 
Well, the day dawned cold, but clear, so I went out for a quick ride of about 97 miles before the preparation for the feast of Thanksgiving began.  [Yes, I did help my wife get the house ready, and she didn't even have to ask me!]   

There was almost no traffic, because most of the retail stores were closed.  

Way back there in the distance, the parking lot for Wal-Mart was full, however.  They were the only major retailer open.  Seems to me that they could have let their employees have the day off to be with their families.  

The ride I took went up to the foot of the mountains, but not into them.  There were constantly-changing views of the sky and the mountains like these during almost the entire ride: 


I truly give thanks for the beauty of creation I was able to see. 
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Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Ninja 650R Seat Fix Up

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My Kawasaki Ninja 650R is a 2006 model year that I have owned since September of 2007.  I bought it with about a thousand miles on it, and I have put on more than 45,000 additional miles.  The bike has been very reliable, and still looks good.

But the seat not so much.

The two-tone seat cover is made that way to simulate a rear cowl, but since it is padded, it acts as a passenger perch too, albeit having a pretty small contact patch.  The part for the operator's rump is covered in heavily-textured black vinyl, and the passenger's seat is covered in lightly-leather-grained silver vinyl.  I have never carried a passenger -- mostly because there don't seem to be many who would risk life and limb riding with me at the controls -- so I don't have any experience riding two up.

Here is the original:

The silver part of the seat was getting pretty bad looking because I frequently scuff it with my boot when I am mounting and dismounting.  Must be my old joints not being as flexible as they once were. 
Anyway, the scuffs were unsightly and nothing I used seemed to clean it of the marks. 

I came up with a scathingly brilliant idea to make it look better, that cost very little -- my kind of project!  Certainly, the cost was much less than a new seat cover from the factory or a custom cover from one of the aftermarket seat purveyors. 

I went to the local Hobby Lobby and bought a third of a yard of black vinyl in a grained pattern that matched the silver original, and applied it over the rear portion of the seat.  You staple the fabric on the underside of the plastic seat pan just like the original.  No adhesives are used. 

The front edge of the new piece is covered by the grab strap, so it looks almost like it was supposed to be that way from the factory.

Easy.  It took only about half an hour, total.  What do you think?  Is it an improvement? 
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Saturday, November 15, 2014

T'was Like Riding in a Windy Freezer Today!

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I went for a ride today, as is my usual routine for a Saturday, but boy, it was like riding in a freezer with a wind machine turned to high just for good measure.  

Here in South Carolina, it doesn't get below freezing very often, and this is awfully early to have it.

I suspected it was pretty cold, so I peeked out the back door at the thermometer, and sure enough, it was chilly.  Frosty.  Wintry.  Cold.  Frigid.  Glacial.  Arctic.  Gelid.  Hyperboreal.  Siberian. 

Look at the thermometer for yourself: 

25 degrees!  There has not been any rain, so there shouldn't be any ice spots.  Just have to watch for slippery leaves.   So, what to do? 

Ride! 

What else? 

I bundled up as I usually do when it is cold, and went up to Table Rock State Park and on some surrounding roads.  Was I cold?  After all, this is about the coldest I have ever ventured out on the bike, and the wind was quite gusty. 

My insulated gear along with my Respro Foggy helmet insert to keep my shield and glasses from fogging, my heated grips, and my handlebar muffs all served me well.  Just my neck got a little chilly, and after about the 40th mile, my toes were beginning to get cold as well.  

The leaves are about all turned brown now, but there is a little color left and the sky was crystal clear. 
View of Table Rock from the Lake Oolenoy parking lot. 

View of Table Rock from the lodge. 
That is a 1973 Volkswagen bus.


Table Rock.

I saw two sport touring guys and one little scooter out, too.  All of them waved, including the scooter guy, which is unusual.  We had a certain unity, being intrepid riders out on the coldest day yet this season.


I only rode about 65 miles, but it was good to get out, even if it was a cold day.  


How cold is too cold for you to get out?  

Reference:
  • Dressing for Cold Weather Riding, Take One
  • Dressing for Cold Weather Riding, Take Two
  • Dressing for Cold Weather Riding, Take Three
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