Monday, July 28, 2014

Free Stuff Being Given Away!

This sign is being posted at our borders: 

You must realize that if you work and pay taxes, it is your money that is going to pay for the welfare that people entering our country illegally have no right to. 

In fact, now that I think of it, those who can, but don't work, and who pay no taxes are not entitled to them either. 

Ah, but it is children who are entering, you say.  C'mon, lighten up, Bucky. 

Well, just wait until school starts this fall.  Those "children" who are being let freely into our country have little or no English speaking ability, may carry disease, and have no documentation.  Some of them are actually older than school age.  Some will have criminal intent.

Do you really want them with your children? 

What will they become? 

Our law enforcement officers will be overwhelmed by their crime.  Your life could be in greater danger because of them. 

You will be supporting them...if you work and pay taxes.  (If you are able but don't, you darn well ought to, so I don't have to pay for you, too.) 

No one is entitled to suck the life out of our economic well-being. 

How has this been allowed to happen? 

This guy...

...and other liberals (mostly Democrats, but a few Republicans) are hell-bent on destroying our nation by failing to faithfully execute our laws.  They only see letting illegals in as a way to gain future voters who will do more of the same. 

They speak of the need of "compassion" for these illegals.  That is a ruse.  It is their attempt to make us feel bad about the illegal immigrants breaking our laws. 

If we do not close the borders, there will be literally millions more who follow.  Then what? 

...and maybe you don't think this is a problem where you live.  Think again.  Our federal government is busing them to all states.  Maybe to your neighborhood. 

This is what we need now

...with plenty of well-armed Border Patrol personnel. 


What can I do, you ask? 

  • If you are not registered to vote in the upcoming election on Tuesday, November 4, go to your local Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV).  Go today on your lunch break.  They will sign you up in no time. 
  • Vote the liberals out of office.  We still have a chance to stop the destruction of our country. 

That sign up top is not really being posted, but it certainly tells the truth of the situation. 

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

New Guys

A few weekends ago, I met up with a couple of new guys.  Now, these new guys were not just new riding companions, but both of them are new to riding.  I met one of them, Chris, by following him home the previous weekend. 

That sounds a little creepy, but, in fact, I happened to be nearly home from a ride, saw him, and followed him a mile or so to his house.  I introduced myself, and offered that we could ride some time. 

We made arrangements for the next weekend, and he asked whether another friend of his, Austin, could come too. 

Well, we met up at the local Dunkin Doughnut shop.  Before you get the wrong idea based only on our meeting place, there was only one guy on a cruiser – and it was a Triumph.  Don’t y'all go stereotyping us on our food preferences, please. 

Anyway, it turns out that both of the new guys are engineers, and as you recall, so am I.  Speaking of stereotypes, I have to admit that this is one place where a stereotype might be accurate.  Here we have three engineers, all a bit introverted, so you can imagine the conversation… 

…or lack of it, to start. 



“I’m Bucky.” 

“Glad to meet you.” 

Then a pause.  You see, engineers tend to dwell on facts, not fluff.  We are models of efficiency.  We’d already gotten all the niceties out of the way, and now we were flummoxed on what to say next.  We needed some more facts. 

We finally did get the conversation cranked up, but, even so, quite a bit of it was about business, and engineering, motorcycling, and other technical topics. 

Once the appropriate number of doughnuts had been consumed, we discussed the ride route.  My engineering bent came out again, as I distributed annotated maps, and explained where we were going, the road difficulty levels, how to space ourselves, that you should look where you want to go, you should not try to keep up if you are on the edge of fear, etc. 

Here is the route we had planned: 

I don’t lead group rides very often, but I try to do a few things right when I do.  One thing is to give the basic rules of group riding, amongst them staggered lane placement, to ride your own ride, and to look where you want to go, no matter what.  

Another thing that is important for the leader to do is to start out slowly after a stop or turn so the others don’t have to go too fast to catch up.  I find that I have to keep reminding myself of this throughout the day.  Jackrabbit starter, I guess. 

After a prayer for safety and enjoyment of God's creation, we geared up and were off.

I remember when I was at the stage these guys are.  My then new friend Ryan helped me start through my learning curve on the trip he led me on to Saluda North Carolina, way back in 2009. 

I remember too, because of the sensory overload of learning to ride, I couldn’t even remember what gear I was in at first.  He verbally coached me half way through the ride when we stopped for a soda pop, gave me signals on the proper gear selection from his bike as we went, and demonstrated the correct lines though the curves that, for him, were being taken at a painfully slow pace. I didn't think so at the time.  

Note: The following account includes comments made by one of the new guys himself, in bold typeface, and prefaced by his name. 

The initial route today, leading to the north and west from the town of Pickens, SC is pretty easy, with some sweeping curves, until we hit SC-11, which is wide and almost straight.  Then we turn to the north onto SC-130 toward Whitewater Falls.  This turn is a tight right-hander that sometimes has gravel in it.  Today it doesn’t have any, but I make it a point to go a little slower than usual because of its tightness.  I watch my rear view mirrors, and the others seem to have done all right – they didn't go wide into the opposite lane. 

SC-130 has many more sweeping curves over the ten miles or so we will travel on it.  Most of them have good sight distance, so the riding is not as difficult as it could be. 

This bicyclist was stopped along the way, but not quite off the road.  We slowed down and gave him a little room as we passed.  He doesn't look like he is a hard-core rider like I saw last week -- and almost got to know too well -- on the ridiculously twisty roads I traveled then. 

There are a few places where the pavement has begun to break up, though.  One pothole in a curve catches me by surprise, and I hit the edge of it.  Chris hits it on the edge as well, and later said that it caused his front wheel to be pitched aside, and made him feel very unstable.  The edge of the pavement loomed too close, and he thought he might crash as a result.  He didn’t, though. 

That’s good. 

Chris:  One of my biggest fears while riding has been potholes (among other road condition hazards and of course, other drivers).  I’ve had friends and family members have motorcycle accidents caused by a pothole that came up too quickly.  So, upon seeing this particularly large pothole my first thought was “do I have enough time to react?”  The next thought was “No, you’re going to have to hit it.”  Unfortunately, I hit the edge, which caught the sidewall of the front tire.  With better skill, I probably could have entirely avoided the pothole without adding any unnecessary risk.  The jerking motion that it placed on the front tire was more than I had previously dealt with, so it wound up being a good learning experience. 
I am not sure why, but we arrived at the Bad Creek Pumped Storage Facility entrance (just south of Pushpin B on the map above) more quickly than I expected. 

Maybe I was paying attention to how the others were doing, so my mind was occupied with that and riding my own ride.  Maybe there is a lesson here – that I should go at a slower-than-breakneck pace [at least slower than Bucky’s breakneck pace, which is a lot slower than for most other riders] and enjoy the ride and the scenery more.  

At any rate, it was an enjoyable several miles, and I could imagine how the new guys felt, as I recall my first trip up this road.  

We turn into the Bad Creek gate and ride down the road to the overlook just above the powerplant.  The road is a little rough and has more tar snakes than any other road I have been on.  These can be quite slippery when wet or when the temperature is very high.  We don’t have either problem today, however. 

The overlook comes soon enough,...

...and we park the bikes.  I notice that the new guys are watching to see where and how I am parking.  They follow suit, and do what I do. 

I didn't realize it at first, but I think I am being a role model here too, so I’d better not teach them bad habits. After all, parking the bike in a good spot and with good technique is part of riding well.  They did fine. 

We dismount, and walk over to the view of Lower Whitewater Falls, to our left.  The light is sensational today.  The view is great.  I describe what we are looking at.  Lake Jocassee down below, the falls in the center of the frame, and, of course, the pumped storage facility powerplant location at the left end of the lake.  They eat up the details of the powerplant operation, like any engineers worth their salt would. 

The operation of the Bad Creek Pumped Storage Powerplant Facility is described in one of my earlier posts, from 2009.  (That's also when I went quite a way into the gravel Musterground Road that starts nearby.)

Hmmmm.  Discussing powerplant operation.  Now we’re talking: Technical stuff! 

Once we have glanced at the views a little more,...

...we turn to looking over the bikes.  Chris has a Suzuki SV650.  He has been riding only a month or so, and relates that in first and second gears his ride is pretty twitchy, lifting the front wheel easily.  We talk about fuel injection systems sometimes being sensitive just off idle, and how throttle hand positioning with the wrist straight might help. 

Chris:  I bought the SV650 based off recommendations from other riders and forums online.  While it was often regarded as a “good beginners bike that you won’t outgrow overnight,” I believe those regards are quite biased.  I had a difficult time learning how to ride on the SV because it is far less forgiving than the more widely-regarded beginners bikes (Ninja 250/300, Virago 250, etc).  The most difficult part was focusing on proper technique/mechanics without letting that detract from awareness.  In retrospect, learning would have been easier on an actual “beginners bike.”  

Chris’ bike had been in a spill before he bought it, so it has a few battle scars here and there, and he is figuring out where the lower cowlings are supposed to reattach.  I didn’t realize that some of the plastic was missing until he pointed it out – the naked look to it is becoming. 

He also mentions that he has noticed that the bike sounds different after he has been riding for a while.  I conjecture that this is because of the wind noise effect on hearing.  The ears become less sensitive after having been subjected to noise for a period.  I suggest earplugs as being vital to prevent this, and long-term permanent hearing loss. 

Chris:  I had noticed some riders wore earplugs and others did not.  During short rides at lower speeds (such as in my normal commute), I never noticed any hearing loss.  However, longer rides had a profound impact in my hearing after about an hour.  Earplugs seem like the perfect solution.

He asks about where I got my riding boots.  I tell him, that I find my gear wherever I can – e-bay, local friends, Amazon, CycleGear, other on-line websites, and pawnshops, to name a few.  In fact, I have been collecting gear since before I had a motorcycle.  [Closet motorcycle enthusiast, were we, Bucky?]


Well, I confess, it is true.  I have longed to do this for many years.  It just took me until most of the way through my fifth decade to get started. 

My leather riding suit was purchased many years before at a pawnshop that seemed to have collected too many such suits.  I remember making weekly payments until it was mine.  What I was going to do with it, and when, I had not the foggiest idea.  As it happens, it matches the bike I eventually purchased pretty well. 

Chris:  I purchased a decent padded riding jacket and gloves along with my first motorcycle.  I had a good Snell/DOT helmet from a previous automotive hobby.  However, I did not buy good boots and pants right away.  Jeans and sneakers are just asking for trouble - especially when there’s virtually no ankle protection.  After our trip, I started doing some research on a good set of riding pants and boots.  My attitude is “if it’s too hot for gear, it’s too hot to ride.”

Austin’s bike is a Triumph cruiser.  It is a sharp-looking bike, mostly black with a little chrome, and it is no slouch on performance.  Even though it looks as though it is equipped with carburetors, in reality, it is actually fuel injected for modern-day performance and emissions regulation compliance. 

[There you go, talking technical some more.] 

We saddle up again for the short trip to Whitewater Falls.  There, we park and walk the path to the falls overlook.  Again, the ideal lighting of the day displays the cataract beautifully. 

We linger here, and snap a few pictures, along with a small group of tourists.  We gaze at Lake Jocassee in the distance on our way back to the bikes.  

I again have Déjà vu.  I have been here to the falls many times, but my first time here was somehow special.  I remember it well. 

I shed a layer of insulation, as it is getting hot.  It is supposed to be in the mid-80s today.  The humidity is still low, however, so it is comfortable.  It is an ideal day for riding: good temperature, clean roads, not too much traffic, and extraordinarily clear views of the distant scenery. 

As we are readying ourselves to continue, I ask whether the pace so far is about right, too fast or too slow.  I make it a point to have no inflection in my voice to betray what I may be thinking.  One of the guys, his eyes getting a bit bigger, ponders about it a little, and says that he certainly doesn’t want us to go any faster. 

Chris:  I felt that our pace was safe yet still challenging.  As Bucky had stated earlier in the day, “confidence builds before skill,” and I surely didn’t want to risk harm to be convinced of that point.

OK.  Message received.  [Bucky, take it easy, today.] 

Just in case the pace really is too fast, but they’re not saying, I also tell them that if they are tightening up on the bars in the curves, to slow down a bit for the next ones. 

I describe the stopping point coming up, only a few miles from here: That nice surprise I have written about before. 

The exit from the falls parking lot onto 130 is uphill, and requires good clutch technique.  It sometimes has gravel on it, and the sight distances are not all that long.  Like our sharp turn a while ago, there isn’t any gravel today, and all three of us get it right coming out.  We are again on our way, traveling a little bit to the south now. 

We take a gentle right onto the Wigington Byway, take it easy on the downhill turns here, and in just a few minutes, we spot the surprise overlook on the left.  We have passed a few stray bicyclists along here, all with number tags pinned to them.  Must be some sort of race or organized ride. 

I pull into the overlook and use my best parking technique, but too late notice that the slope of the pavement doesn’t allow much lean onto the kickstand.  Chris’ bike won’t stand up, so he has to restart it and try again.  I suppose this is a teachable moment for him, but I should have picked a better place to park so he didn’t have to move his bike. 

Chris:  I’ll admit - I don’t get the “warm and fuzzies” with the kickstand on the SV.  To me, it doesn’t point forward enough for me to feel comfortable walking away without giving the bike a test “nudge” first.  Re-angling the bike helped ensure that it was stable on the hill.  When learning how to ride, I feel that evaluating how to park is often neglected.  I now make a point of giving my bikes a solid nudge in all direction to make sure they won’t fall over as soon as I walk away.

When Chris restarts his engine, I hear a discordant ringing sound -- like a cowbell.  I turn to see a dismayed look on Chris’ face as he looks down at his machine, wondering where this new noise is coming from.  Something has certainly come loose, big time.  Strange thing is, it continues when he switches the engine off again! 

Chris:  In my drag-racing days, I heard the lovely sound of the transmission in my race car eat several gears and snap a shaft.  Since then, you could say I’m a bit paranoid when it comes to odd mechanical sounds…

What could it be? 

The real culprit is that there is a woman with a – wait for it – cowbell, ringing the fire out of it as the bicyclists struggle up the hill.  A bicycling buddy at work says that this is fairly common, especially in Europe, to encourage the riders.  I thought it might be to let them know that there are snacks and a Porta-Potty waiting for them here.  Silly me.  They also do it for snow ski racers, I now understand. 
I need more cowbell! tee shirt

Whew.  With the sound of the cowbell, I had visions of ground-up doodads, gizmos, and thingamabobs [all engineering terms] falling onto the tarmac from the engine, and having to call for a tow. 

Aside: How in the world did they start using cowbells for this purpose?  The Internet provides the absolutely correct answer, as usual, and I will quote it for you here, from the Beginner Triathlete forum poster Sneaky Slow.

Actually, it started back in the first Ironman, back in Hawaii.  Dave Orlowski, one of the original Ironman finishers, a dairy farmer, who provided fine milk to the big cheese plant outside of Madison, was originally a Wisconsin resident.  He made the long and arduous journey to Kona to participate in this strange and wonderful race; in fact, it was his first time outside of the great state of Wisconsin.  He was awed, and in fact a little overwhelmed, the truth be told, to be so far from home, participating in such an intimidating event, the sounds, smells, and sights of the Big Island so foreign to him, a simple cow farmer from Prarie Farm, WI.

He managed to make it through the swim, but thoughts of pastures, cowchips, and cheese hats soon consumed his mind on the bike.  In the middle of the bike leg, he was struggling, feeling uncomfortable, wishing for a familiar face, a friend, something to get him through those next few long miles.  The sweat poured down his forehead... all he wished for, was a piece of cheese; something to remind him of home... comfort... alas, there was no cheese to be had in his Bento Box, as the searing heat coming off the lava fields had rendered it to mere Cheez Whiz.  And who wants Cheez Whiz at mile 60 on the bike?  Not even a Wisconsin dairy farmer.  He began entertaining thoughts of quitting...

And then he heard it.

Off in the distance, a familiar ringing.  Could it be?  The sound got louder as he pedaled on, his stroke becoming stronger, more confident with each "ring" echoing through his ears.  There was Sally Gunderson, who had made the trip, unbeknownst to our hero, all the way from Wisconsin, just to ring, ring, ring, that cowbell, and spur Dave onto the finish line.

The rest, of course, is history.  The story of Sally and her cowbell and how it rescued Dave from a certain DNF was told and retold, and now, at all levels of triathlon, the course is lined with folks just like Sally ringing, ringing, ringing, that cowbell.

Hope that helps.
Sounds like a true story, right?   Here is some more

Back to the new-guys ride now.  

That crisis, solved by luck rather than by engineering acumen, is behind us now.  Thank goodness for that.  

I note that the others' parking technique is exactly like mine: backed in, downhill at the rear, rear tire against the curb.  

Good job again. 

The two engineers, while looking at the pretty view of Lakes Jocassee, and further into the distance, Lakes Keowee and Hartwell, spot something on the furthest horizon a little to the left.  They say it is something square in shape.  I struggle to focus my tired old eyes on the object.  I go and get my map, and we figure it is the skyline of Greenville, about 38 miles as the crow flies to our east. 

It is seldom this clear up here, so this is a rare chance to view the scenery. 

I explain the next leg of the journey, which includes the very large intersection where Wigington Byway intersects SC-107.  You can’t see very far around the bend in either direction, so we have to be careful pulling out.  SC-107 is also more twisty than the other roads we have ridden today.  And it is mostly downhill, though not steeply, so the riding is more difficult than the almost-steady uphill we have had for a lot of the ride so far. 

Today I don’t describe the technique of slowing for curve entry and holding at least maintenance throttle on downhill turns, but maybe I should have so that they would feel a little more in control and comfortable along here. 

I try to set a good example of proper lines and a moderate pace, but a few times I feel that I may have entered a little hotter into some curves than I should have for them. 

They don’t have any trouble that I can spot in my mirrors, but I expect that they might be feeling a little uncomfortable through here.  There are a couple of spots with sparse gravel, too.  In a section of repeated S-curves with some on-coming traffic, it would be easy to target fixate on the wrong thing. 

We continue onto SC-28, where there are a couple of tight sections. 

They do fine, but I notice that they are falling way behind on a straight section after all the curves. 

I see what the trouble is only after I slow down to allow them to catch up.  A LEO has been on their tail.  Good reason to go slow. 

We stop for fuel, and get on our way again.  The last stop is the Oconee Nuclear Station Visitor Center.  I notice that neither guy is behind me after the left turn into the driveway.  One of them has forgotten to shift down into first gear as he stopped to allow oncoming traffic to clear.  He had trouble getting into the right gear for the turn. 

Chris:  As I approached the entrance to the nuclear station, there was no opposing traffic.  2nd gear felt like the right gear to be in.  As I got closer to the entrance, a car in the opposing lane came into view.  I kicked down into 1st (rather, thought I had), and stopped.  Once the car passed, I rolled onto the throttle and slowly released the clutch as normal.  Except, I wasn’t moving.  Unfortunately, the reactive motion of kicking into first as soon as I realized I was in neutral was enough to stall out, as I neglected to pull the clutch in before doing so.  It only took a second to start back up and move, so I’m hoping my rookie mistake wasn’t too apparent or annoying for the traffic behind me. 

I remember doing that a lot when I started.  

The nuclear plant visitor center has nice displays about power generation, including its history in the area and about generation by hydroelectric, coal, and nuclear means.  By the way, this nuclear plant has generated more power than any other in the United States. 

The engineers in us take in every detail, as you might expect. [Surprise, surprise, Bucky.]

When we have seen everything, we go back out to the bikes and say our farewells.  We will each peel off as we get closer to our homes.  It is getting to be that time, that in every good ride, we would rather it not come around. 

I had a good time today, seeing some of the many great sights we have in this area.  I hope I have helped these guys a little in their riding. 

...and I hope my mentor Ryan would agree. 


Other References:


Friday, July 4, 2014



Today is Independence Day.  This country of ours, unprecedented in the history of civilization, was established back in 1776, on July 4, 238 years ago. 

A brief history of the Declaration of Independence follows, quoted in its entirety from

On July 4, 1776, the thirteen colonies claimed their independence from England, an event which eventually led to the formation of the United States. Each year on July 4th, also known as Independence Day, Americans celebrate this historic event.

Conflict between the colonies and England was already a year old when the colonies convened a Continental Congress in Philadelphia in the summer of 1776. In a June 7 session in the Pennsylvania State House (later Independence Hall), Richard Henry Lee of Virginia presented a resolution with the famous words: "Resolved: That these United Colonies are, and of right ought to be, free and independent States, that they are absolved from all allegiance to the British Crown, and that all political connection between them and the State of Great Britain is, and ought to be, totally dissolved."

Lee's words were the impetus for the drafting of a formal Declaration of Independence, although the resolution was not followed up on immediately. On June 11, consideration of the resolution was postponed by a vote of seven colonies to five, with New York abstaining. However, a Committee of Five was appointed to draft a statement presenting to the world the colonies' case for independence. Members of the Committee included John Adams of Massachusetts, Roger Sherman of Connecticut, Benjamin Franklin of Pennsylvania, Robert R. Livingston of New York and Thomas Jefferson of Virginia. The task of drafting the actual document fell on Jefferson.

On July 1, 1776, the Continental Congress reconvened, and on the following day, the Lee Resolution for independence was adopted by 12 of the 13 colonies, New York not voting. Discussions of Jefferson's Declaration of Independence resulted in some minor changes, but the spirit of the document was unchanged. The process of revision continued through all of July 3 and into the late afternoon of July 4, when the Declaration was officially adopted. Of the 13 colonies, nine voted in favor of the Declaration, two -- Pennsylvania and South Carolina -- voted No, Delaware was undecided and New York abstained. John Hancock, President of the Continental Congress, signed the Declaration of Independence. It is said that John Hancock's signed his name "with a great flourish" so England's "King George can read that without spectacles!"

Today, the original copy of the Declaration is housed in the National Archives in Washington, D.C., and July 4 has been designated a national holiday to commemorate the day the United States laid down its claim to be a free and independent nation.

...and while you are celebrating, say thanks to a soldier you meet for his service to you and me to keep us free.

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Hardly a Harley

Now, I am not a Harley guy.  You know that already.  In fact, when I was thinking about riding at all, I assiduously stayed away from the Harley-Davidson brand.  (Don't stop reading or flame me yet, please.) 

My family, work associates, people who have not seen my bike but know I ride, and many others assume that Harley-Davidson should be or should have been the bike I ride. 

Not so. 

I just never thought of myself stepping out (riding out?) in a black leather, slant-zip motorcycle jacket and chaps, maybe with a bandana around my brow under a half helmet, and wearing fingerless gloves.

Sort of like this fellow:  
Ian Ziering, the voice of Vinnie in Biker Mice from Mars

That's not my style. 

When I started investigating what bike to get, I thought I had enough life left in me to be reasonably competent in handling a bike that has some pretty significant performance capabilities. 

So, that lead to quite a bit of research, a Motorcycle Safety Foundation class, purchase of the Kawasaki Ninja 650R, and my now having ridden almost 45,000 miles on it.

Since I am not a Harley enthusiast, I don't pay much attention to a bike that goes by with that distinctive Harley exhaust beat.  Oh, I am friendly with almost anyone on a bike, stationary or moving, and wave to any other biker that comes along in the other lane.  (Except that those riders on little scooters don't seem to wave very often.  I wonder why they don't.)

The H-Ds just don't catch my eye.  

I hear that you Harley enthusiasts now have a galvanizing situation to face. 

Harley has developed an electric motorcycle called the Livewire. 

True, they only have some prototypes going out to test the concept, and I do confess some engineering interest in it. 

But if I had a Harley, I am not sure I could look her straight in the headlight and explain such a thing to her.  No throbbing exhaust; in fact, only a vacuum cleaner-like sound is emitted from its entrails (and that sound may be electronically generated).  How could you break the news to your baby that the company that birthed her has created a sister with none of the character that has been inherent in the family?

A travesty, I'd say.  Maybe a betrayal, even.  Consider, too, that the thing looks like it was cross bred with a piece of luggage.  And, what is that bulbous silver thing down below?  The rest of the bike is at least subtlety colored, but the silver thing clashes terribly.

It has a range of a few dozen miles, and takes hours to recharge.  What good is a bike with such limited usefulness?  What if its owner wants to take a little longer ride for a change?  Take the cage, I guess. 

Harley owners, rise up and be counted.  This cannot be allowed to continue.  Stand up for your potato-potato-potato sounding breed. 

...and if you have lost all respect for the crew that designed your girl's new sister, then come on over to the other side.  We will welcome you with open arms. 

But if you keep your current ride, how about getting a good full-face helmet and a set of leathers with some protection and character to them?  Like these:
Harley-Davidson Incinerator Retractable Sun Shield Modular Helmet
Alpinestars Monza leather suit
Your chaps will never miss you. 
OK.  I've said my piece.  What do you really think of the bike?  

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Rocket Pack Jack

Last week, I had a chance to help out on something a little out of the ordinary.  It was only the second time I have done this in my life, though I probably should have been doing it more often. 

This time I got to be Rocket Pack Jack. 

[You got to be what, Bucky?]

Rocket Pack Jack. 

Don’t know who that is? 

Well, let me tell you. 

He looks like this:

A little bit of an unusual motorcycle outfit.  Right? 

Probably.  But it is a little more. 

Now, how about this guy? 

Same thing, maybe.

Let's see who these people are.

Every summer, our church holds Bible School for a week, and there is a theme each year to get the kids – ages 0 through 99 – engaged. 

Now, Rocket Pack Jack is a superhero character who stars in a save-the-day video, and in some of the materials used during the week.  Here's the video cover:

Well, I thought the character's getup looked enough like a motorcycle suit that I played Rocket Pack Jack one evening.  Incognito, of course.  Nobody would suspect that ol' Bucky's alter ego was really Jack.  


That night, I arrived on the bike, parked it square in front of the church on the sidewalk, and high-fived and shook hands with most of the kids and adults as they were coming and going. 

The kids, especially, thought that was great.  They readily engaged with Jack. Some of the adults, not so much.  They weren't really sure who I was supposed to be, but went along anyway. 

By the way, the theme this year was called Agency 3D.

It is a sort of investigator thing where the kids search for clues like a detective would do.  This time, though, it was to prove that Jesus was a real human being, that he died, and was resurrected again for our salvation: That he was the real deal. 

Here’s the way it unfolded during the week:

    Day 1 - Is Jesus really God's Son?
    Day 2 - Was Jesus more than just a good man?
    Day 3 - Was Jesus' death real?
    Day 4 - Is Jesus alive?
    Day 5 - What do I do with the evidence about Jesus?

Let’s go back to the 3Ds.  They stand for Discover, Decide, and Defend
In other words you Discover that he was a real guy – actually God’s son sent to earth to redeem sinners.  You also discover that he was unfairly tried and brutally killed, but arose from the dead again.  That last part is the important one.  No other god has ever done that. 

By so doing, he has taken the punishment that we would otherwise be subject to. 

Taking the punishment we deserve happens if you believe that he is who he is, that what happened really happened, and that the only way to get to heaven is to believe all this and accept Jesus into your heart as Lord and Savior. 

Look here:
For God so loved the world, that he gave his only-begotten Son, that whosoever believes on him may not perish, but have life eternal.  (John 3:16)
That sounds good, doesn't it? 

In our Bible School, all the evidence was presented.  Then you were invited to Decide whether to accept the evidence.  If you do, you are in. In heaven, you can be a perfect motorcycle rider – or perfect at anything else you want to. 


If not, well, that’s when only burning fires await you for all eternity after you leave your scooter behind on this earth. 

Not good. 

Once you have decided – and provided you have made the right decision; to believe that Jesus is your Savior – then it is your task to introduce that faith to others.  You Defend it, in other words. 

See how it works?  Discover, Decide, and Defend

Remember, none of us is promised another minute of life on this earth.  You could pass on into eternity before you finish reading this.  The next turn in the road could be your last. 

If you have not yet discovered and decided, what are you waiting on? 

…and, what does it hurt to do it?  Why not?  Sort of like insurance – fire insurance, in fact. 

Oh, wait a sec.  I have to go get my rocket pack back on.  Now! 

See you next time, 

Jack, Bucky

More Info:

■ "Salvation and forgiveness of sins is....about receiving Christ as Savior and recognizing that He has done all of the work for us. God [actually] requires [just] one step of us—receiving Jesus Christ as Savior and fully trusting in Him alone as the way of salvation. That is what distinguishes the Christian faith from all other world religions, each of which has a list of steps that must be followed in order for salvation to be received. The Christian faith recognizes that God has already completed the steps and simply calls on us to receive Him in faith." 

■ Agency D3 Videos: Intro, More Than Just a Good Man, We Stand, God's Son, He is King, He is Alive

■ Verse for the week – "But in your hearts revere Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect,"  (1 Peter 3:15 NIV)

■ Rocket Pack Jack and Agency 3D are Lifeway Christian Resources trademarked names. 
My alter ego with the "real" Rocket Pack Jack

Saturday, June 14, 2014

Unused Tread Width -- aka Chicken Strips!

Before we get to the topic at hand, remember that today is Flag Day, a commemoration of that symbol of the greatness of these United States.

Those of us who live here have the distinct honor and privilege of doing so.  Nowhere else on God's green earth is there as much freedom and opportunity as here.

Salute the Stars and Stripes today -- and every day -- while you are out on the scooter. 


Last Saturday, I rode up US-178, NC-215, and onto the Blue Ridge Parkway, riding all the way to its south end at Cherokee, then returned by the same route.

I am fortunate that I am so near such good roads to ride, the Parkway being just a little over fifty miles from where I live -- and the roads to get there and back are mostly challenging, too.

It was a great day to ride, with the clouds high, white and billowy.   I stopped on the way to Cherokee at Waterrock Knob, which is not the highest elevation on the Parkway, but provides a good view of the surrounding countryside, the road in and out, and of the town of Cherokee. 

Amongst the roads I traveled were US-178 and NC-215.  178 includes a series of curves near where the photographer Patrick Welch has stationed himself on occasion to snap the passing traffic.

I took those curves at a substantial speed, it felt like.  (Though I don't pay too much attention to the speedo when I am watching the road in a curve, especially a tight one.)  I also took one curve on the Parkway a little hotter than I felt comfortable with, but I held the throttle constant and there was no drama, except a little higher heart rate.

When you get into a situation where you are outside your comfort zone, the innate response is to chop the throttle and get on the binders.  Bad, bad, bad.  Somebody once said that motorcycle cycle riding is not intuitively understood -- you are not born knowing how to ride.  You have to learn it.  I believe that.

...and this advice helps a lot, too:
That's another thing you have to learn that isn't intuitive. 

Anyway, when I got home, I backed the bike into the garage and happened to notice the scuffed-up tread on my tires. 

I had not seen that before, at least not on my tires.  Only on other people's. 


I decided to look over the remaining unused tread width on my tires -- my chicken strips -- and wondered whether they are any narrower than the last time I measured.
Burger King
No, no, not that kind. 

If you don't know, motorcycle chicken strips are here defined by  on

Definition: The unworn edges of a motorcycle tire, usually used in a derogatory tone referring to the rider's unwillingness to lean a bike over.
Pronunciation: chik-uhn strips
Examples: Billy was ostracized by his riding buddies because his bike's chicken strips were so wide.
Now that we have that understood, I go to get my scale out of my shop drawer and get to measuring.  We have to be accurate in such things, you know. 

I find the following: 
Front -- Michelin Pilot Road 3, 0.45" width
on both sides of the tire. 
Rear -- Michelin Pilot Road 2, 0.5" width
on both sides of the tire
OK.  Now what do I compare them with?  

If it is other people's sportbike tires, there is no contest.  Some of these riders are aggressive enough that they have no chicken strips at all.  Their tires are worn all the way to the edge of the tread.

Now, I have heard that some squids take a sander to their tires to make it look like their chicken strips are narrow.  See below:

by Craigman on the PA Sportbikes forum.
Tools required...Belt sander, propane torch, and Nike gloves! 
Ashamed of your chicken strips? I can help!! DIY!  

First step..Sand chicken strips off!

Second step..Heat your tires so they appear to have been heat cycled..A faint blue strip will appear. DO NOT IGNITE THE TIRE!! this adds a touch of authenticity!

Put on your Nike gloves and [go to] the local hangout and impress your Squid friends with your new found..SKILLZ!

But that's cheating, don't you think?  

Back to real chicken strips.... 

The poor little Michelin Man (circled below) that is perfectly formed in the sides of my tire is scrubbed completely off of some of the tires of very aggressive riders.  

My Michelin Man is still intact, though his upraised hand is a little bit in jeopardy. 
Bibendum, commonly referred to as the Michelin Man, is the symbol of the
Michelin tire company. Introduced at the Lyon Exhibition of 1894 where the
Michelin brothers had a stand, Bibendum is one of the world's oldest trademarks. 

Here's what that rear tire looked like when it was nice and shiny.  Hadn't touched the road yet. 
That was 6100 miles ago.

I looked back on some previous measurements I took in February of 2009.  The chicken strips on my then-new Michelin Pilot Road 2s were:

Front -- Michelin Pilot Road 2, 1/2" width.  That is a tenth of an inch wider than now. 
Rear -- Michelin Pilot Road 2,  7/8" width.  That is a whopping 3/8" wider than now. 
Those strips were measured just after a 260-mile ride into Georgia, through Clayton and over Blood Mountain.  Back then, I had only ridden about 9500 miles on the Ninja 650R, my first real motorcycle. 

Well, I can see that I have been a little more aggressive lately.

Funny thing:  I don't feel myself tightening up on the bars as much as I once did.  Sometimes, but much less often.  ...and my chicken strips are narrower now.  That seems like progress to me. 

It amazes me how sticky a set of road tires can be on a road that is clean of sand and other debris.  I don't consciously try to erase my chicken strips, but I do try to control my turns.  I now see that those turns must be a little more aggressive now than before. 

Hmmmm.  Maybe a track school is in order -- the beginner class, of course.

How about you?  Are your chicken strips getting narrower?