Sunday, October 19, 2014

Panama City Beach

On Sunday, I woke up at 7 am and the sky looked stormy to the south and west of Atlanta.  The guys wanted to go out for breakfast but I had a little over 300 miles to ride and wanted to get going.  By 9 am I was on the road leaving my friends apartment and heading towards I-85 south.  I hadn't put on rain gear and within 5 minutes of entering the highway the sky opens up, light rain at first but I could see black sky ahead and knew worse was coming up.  I quickly pull off the highway and head to the first McDonald's I see for breakfast.  Soon there was torrential rain but 15 minutes later it had stopped.  I get back on the road and take I-185 towards Columbus.   The road was pretty much empty and I had the chance to take a few pictures of my new helmet.  I love taking these shots.



After Columbus I took route 431 south towards Eufaula and enter Alabama, another state scratched off my list of ridden states.  The road was good but a bit monotonous, not much to see on either side until I get to Eufaula.  As I approach Eufaula I see a VFW and a memorial with a Bell UH-1 Iroquois (Huey).  I love military equipment and had to stop to get a photo of my Super Tenere next to the Huey.


Next I enter Eufaula and start seeing some beautiful old homes.   I stop a few times to take photos and then stop for a quick lunch.  The bike needed gas too, a quick stop for gas and I was on my way south again.





A few miles down the road I start seeing lots of white, many white fields.  I had never seen cotton fields, pretty amazing to see white fields.



The next town I pass through, Dothan, seems to be struggling a bit, lots of boarded up homes, old cars and run down gas stations.  I stop at a Kangaroo Express for a bottle of water and an old guy pulls in on a beat up Kawasaki cruiser. We start chatting and he tells me he's down on luck, bike has problems and he has no money for food. I gave him a few bucks for food, he thanked me a lot and then went inside and I saw him buy food. We chatted on the way out and then parted ways. Made me sad.  Paying forward I guess.


Soon I was leaving Alabama and entering Florida but as I'm about to enter Florida I see the visitor center for Alabama on the north going side of the road and another Huey.  I quickly turn around and snap a few more photos of the bike and the Huey.
 


I turn around again and head south entering Florida and take a photo of the sign even though the sign said "Emergency Stopping Only", I'm a rebel.


I arrive in Panama City Beach and start looking for a campsite.  Lots of motels but soon I find Campers Inn, a nice little campsite on the opposite side of the main road that runs along the beach, perfect location.  I quickly setup my tent, put on a bathing suit and head to the beach with my camera.  The temperature was in the low 90's and the sun was about to set.  The beach is stunning, beautiful white sand and the water of the gulf always warm.  


I can't take sunset over water pictures in New Jersey so whenever I visit Florida I try to take as many photos as I can.  I was lucky on this day, stunning sky and sunset.



Took a few photos of the stunning sunset and then noticed people pointing at the water.   I get closer to the water and then realize what the commotion is all about.  There are stingrays swimming around close to shore.  I chat with a few people and I'm told the stingrays love to feed late in the afternoon.


I get back in the water and try to take a few more photos but it was getting dark fast.  I tried using the flash to see if it would cut through the water and managed to get a few more photos.  It was an amazing feeling knowing the stingrays were swimming all around me but don't come close to me.



I head back to the campsite, take a quick shower and then head out for dinner at a nearby place.  Two fish tacos and a beer later and I was heading back to the campsite.  Didn't even bother getting the sleeping bag out, put the self inflating mat inside the tent and laid on it.  I was quickly asleep like a baby.  
Tomorrow I will ride along the coast past Pensacola and eventually Mobile, Alabama.



Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Atlanta

I left Friday from work at 3pm trying to cover as much ground as possible so I could make it to Atlanta by Saturday afternoon.  It was 55 degrees when I left.   I missed most of the Friday traffic around the Philadelphia area and managed to cover about 320 miles before it got too dark and truck traffic was too much in Virginia.  Found a motel and called it a night in New Market Virginia.



Got up Saturday and it was raining, light rain but nonetheless annoying as I loaded my stuff on the bike.  Left the motel and within minutes of entering I81 south the rain let out again.  It got worse and pretty soon it was a deluge.  I pulled off the road and found a cute little diner.  


This blue dot is where I was


After the rain slowed enough and looked like it was going to be clear south of my location, I headed out and continued south.   I encountered pockets of rain but nothing too bad and soon I was on I77 on the way to Charlotte, North Carolina.  Made a few stops to drink water, fill up my Tenere with gas and photograph my new helmet.  It's a cool looking helmet for sure.  Buy it at Motorcycle House





My good friend Mike knew I was travelling south and had invited me to lunch.  I arrive in the Charlotte area and head straight to Lancaster's Bar-B-Que.  I had a tasty pulled pork sandwich.



My friend Martin had offered his place for me to spend the night in Atlanta.  Mike and I both know Martin very well, having done lots of rides together.  Mike decides he will accompany me to Atlanta and then return on Sunday.  After confirming with Martin that we both could come down we head out for Atlanta, about 245 miles south.  We arrive in Atlanta and quickly head out again this time on Martin's BMW car.  After dinner we make one more pit stop at an Irish Pub which I cannot remember the name now.  I was too tired having done over 540 miles, we head back to Martin's place and I quickly crash on his couch.

Tomorrow I head to Panama City

Thursday, October 9, 2014

New Helmet

The planning for the third Yamaha Super Tenere gathering started as soon as the last one ended in Ouray, Colorado.  Tabasco and Karson, the hosts, had done a great job getting everybody together in one of the most beautiful riding areas in the country and now for 2014 they have outdone themselves.  This year's get together is in Marble Falls, Arkansas, an area in the Ozarks that offers amazing roads for motorcycle enthusiasts.


After one of my earlier posts, I was contacted by a representative from Motorcycle House (www.motorcyclehouse.com) to see if I needed anything for my trip.  At first I was surprised, no one had ever contacted me about my trips, but I told them I would look into it as soon as I started putting my list of equipment together.  A few weeks ago I am making my list and realize my Scorpion helmet, the helmet with the gold shield that I have made famous in so many photos is now well over 5 years old.  The inside material is worn out badly and there are a few scratches on the outside.  Nothing major but since the rule of thumb is generally around a 5 year max life expectancy for a helmet, maybe it's time I replace it.  The five-year replacement recommendation is based on a consensus by both helmet manufacturers and the Snell Foundation.
I got in touch with Motorcycle House and was asked if I would be interested in reviewing one of their Vega helmets.  I agreed and went about searching for a helmet for my upcoming trip.
There were a few things I was looking for in a new helmet.  I was tired of the black look and wanted something with a little color, it needed to be as light as possible, as I tend to spend a lot of hours on the seat, an internal drop down sunshield is a must and lastly and more important it must look cool on my head.  The last requirement is a joke obviously, you should never buy a helmet because it looks cool.
After some research, I settled on the Vega Stealth F117 with the blue accent, the blue being Yamaha's color.


After checking the size of my Scorpion, I contacted Motorcycle House and asked to be sent a "large" F117.   I eagerly waited for the arrival and 3 days later the helmet was at my door.   I opened the box and was glad to see the helmet in a cloth bag inside a cardboard box which was in turn inside another cardboard box.  I quickly try it on and to my disappointment it felt way too tight.  I think if you pick 5 helmets from different helmet manufacturers they will all be different sizes.
I contacted Motorcycle House and after explaining my dilemma, the departure date was getting closer and Motorcycle House's offices are in Walnut, California, they quickly got to work.  They contacted the manufacturer, I was asked to ship the helmet back and a few days later I had an "Extra Large" at my door shipped directly from the manufacturer.   It was a quick turnaround.
Maybe my head got bigger as I aged, maybe the padding is a little thicker, maybe a slight variation in shape but know I have a helmet that fits and I'm ready for my trip.

I am very happy with Motorcycle House, the staff was very courteous and the service outstanding.  I promised them I will review the helmet at the end of the trip, the 16 days riding with it will give me plenty to talk about, good or bad.
Motorcycle House (www.motorcyclehouse.com) has a large selection of riding gear for all types of bikes and also manufacture and sell their own equipment for cruisers through Viking Bags (www.vikingbags.com).  If you are in need of anything give them a call, you will not be disappointed with the service.

The bike is now packed and ready for tomorrow's departure.



Thursday, September 18, 2014

Yamaha XT660Z Ténéré

If Yamaha updates and brings to the US the little brother to the Super Ténéré I will be first in line again with a deposit check like I did with my current Super Ténéré. I will order one no questions asked.

Are you listening Yamaha?



The XT660Z Ténéré has everything, it is simple, unbreakable, practical, light and has a reliable, strong single cylinder engine. At the heart of this tough cross-country explorer is a liquid-cooled, 4-valve, 4-stroke SOHC single-cylinder engine that produces plenty of power.


The 450 pound 660cc motorcycle would be perfect for travelling from Alaska to Tierra del Fuego. The 6 gallon tank gives the Ténéré an impressive reach of over 400 miles. The Ténéré was born to conquer continents.





I will take mine is "Desert" color.   I'm waiting Yamaha, the check has been written.



Thursday, August 14, 2014

Penn's Peak

Last weekend I rode with the Knights of Lusitania, a Portuguese riding club from Philadelphia.  I had seen their ride on Facebook and even though Philadelphia is an hour and a half away from my house I noticed they were riding north to Penn's Peak.  I looked at the map and realized I could ride about an hour west and meet them about an hour's ride north from Philadelphia. After a few messages to arrange a meeting point I decided to wait for them by a Starbucks near Doylestown on route 611.  The group arrives and we continue north along 611.


I'm in the back with a red jacket getting ready to join them

One of the fellow riders was riding a Honda Ruckus 250 which unfortunately had a puncture.  The whole group pulled into a Wawa and the tire was promptly fixed, the puncture hole was pretty large and required two plugs.   His helmet is pretty cool, I was told it came from a fireman in Brazil, definitely not DOT approved.




We made a stop by a river to rest and a little later ran into trouble again.  One of the guys riding a Harley stopped at a traffic light and the bike just died.  The engine would crank but not start.  We all pulled into a nearby gas station and things started coming apart.


From all the cranking the battery died too.  Soon we had jumper cables running from a van from some guy that had stopped to fill up.  Now the bike was cranking but still not starting.  Spark plugs were pulled out, there was spark but it didn't appear to be any fuel going.  The Harley is carbureted.  After closer examination someone noticed there was a rubber tube disconnected.  It turned out it was the vacuum tube running to the petcock, it had come off.  Without vacuum, petcock does not open, no fuel to the engine.  Connected the hose and the engine fired right up.


While at the gas station this old guy pulls up to see what all the commotion was about and to offer ideas to troubleshoot the problem, I suspect it might have been Fidel Castro.


After fixing the Harley issue, our next stop was at Penn's Peak, at the beautiful Roadies Restaurant & Bar on top of a mountain with great views all around.  The road leading up to the restaurant winds through the forest.   Everyone was starving since the two problems had delayed our arrival. 



The restaurant is on two levels with lots of outside tables but we were a large group, they had to sit us inside.  Music was playing on the lower level, the band playing a mixture of Blues and Blues-rock.







The view is truly magnificent and this panorama shows it pretty well.   We managed to get one of the security guys to take a photo of the group.  I'm the one with the camera around my neck.





The ride home was uneventful, I managed to pull the camera out and snap a few shots including another great helmet selfie.  The Ruckus kept up pretty well with all the cruisers, adventure and sport bikes.





We made another stop to rest and talk bike.  It was getting late in the afternoon, some guys decided to take the faster way back using the PA Turnpike, a few of us decided to continue down route 309 and once we got to I78 I split from the group and headed east to NJ.  I still had a little over 100 miles to go.


This Suzuki with its V-Twin engine sounds amazing and so does the Yamaha R1 even though this one is pre-crossplane.  The R1 with the crossplane engine is still my dream bike.



After I crossed into NJ I decided to beat the traffic and take route 31 south towards Trenton making the trip a little longer but without having to deal with weekend traffic on the I78, I287 and the Parkway.  After almost an hour on the saddle I stopped at a Wawa after having passed this guy.  A few minutes later he pulls in and I walk towards him to inspect the bike.  He was an older guy riding a 1979 Harley Davidson that I suspect had never been washed.  It was rusty, broken and with missing parts but it worked.  I laughed when he asked me how fast I was going when I passed him, he said I passed him like a rocket, I was doing about 75mph and he was doing a leisurely 55mph.  We ended up chatting for almost half an hour, I told him about my Alaska trip and he told me a little about his life, it's amazing how different we are but at the same time have a common denominator.  We parted ways and I continued on my way south.


As I approached Trenton my reserve light started flickering at a little under 200 miles and the computer starts counting up from zero to show how many miles I travel on reserve.  I know the reserve is good for another 50 or 60 miles and I was about 40 miles away.  For anyone that has watched Seinfeld, I was like Kramer when he took a dealer car for a test drive and decided to continue and see how far they could get before they ran out of fuel.  I decided to go for it and as I approached home I was counting the miles and cheering, I'm going to make it home.   245.5 miles since I last refueled, the indicator had been flashing for almost 50 miles.  It's a little disconcerting but I knew I was almost home and I suspect there's still more than a half a gallon in the tank.  I will have to see how much it takes when I refuel it.


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