Bucket list rides

With each passing day of life that goes by, the brain gets more cognizant of the mortality that we all face. It’s ironic that when in our teens and twenties, we feel invincible and the end of our existence on Earth is the furthest thing from our minds. In our thirties, we seek stability and life evolves into coexisting with the patterns that appear in our passing days. Somewhere in the forties, one starts really thinking about the fact that one’s days of existing are passing by, and each person starts thinking about the things they want to do while the body is still capable of making the imagination’s desires a reality.

The bucket list. A list of things we wish to accomplish, places we want to see, things we want to do, all before our personal clock of life stops ticking.

I feel blessed that many of the items on my bucket list are achievable by involving motorcycle riding. The asphalt journeys I take offer solace, peace, and tranquility to my soul; and in between regular rides with my wife, my friends, or by myself, I plan to tick off bucket list items as I’m able to afford both the expense and time required. My hobby of riding the roads on two wheels has turned into a passion…a love…a lifestyle. Yes, I truly feel blessed to be able to start up the Harley, pull out of the driveway, and head out into the wind.

Each year that passes seems to knock some bucket list items off the future itinerary, a new interesting adventures present them selves for consideration…and then placement. I feel that I will never catch up with all the things I want to do before my time has expired, unless I can figure out a way to retire early in life from work. Don’t see this happening any time soon, but sometimes life throws you a surprise and makes things more easily attainable. Hopefully this day comes sooner than later, which would allow for exploration more often of those things that interest me.

Some motorcycle rides that are in the forefront of interest include:

  • Ride to the Wall with the Rolling Thunder organization to offer my respects and appreciation for those that gave their lives for this country and our freedoms.
  • A trip back to the Tennessee and surrounding states which offers some of the finest riding curves in the world.
  • Having had a blast at the Harley-Davidson 105th Anniversary celebration in Milwaukee in 2008, I look forward to attending the 110th in 2013.
  • Alaska, and arriving at the Article Circle. Many Harley’s have made this grueling trip, and each rider has said it is a life changing experience that very well may be the biggest adventure they have every completed.
  • I’d love to ride a bike down south…all the way to the tip of South America. Reading the stories of those that have completed the journey only makes me envious of their experience. Maybe some day, when time and the funds available are more on the side of being unlimited.

Two of the above will be completed in May of this year, God willing. Of course, when two have been marked off, more than likely three more will soon appear on the list in their place.

 

We all want to live forever, but time is the one thing that nobody can slow down or stop. My only desire is that the mind, body, and spirit stay strong enough so that the Bucket List will eventually be completed over the course of many future years; and hopefully at times with the company of those in my life that I cherish by my side to experience such journeys along with me.


Think about upgrading your tires!

My 2008 Ultra came with stock Dunlop D402 tires on it back in 2008, and it’s a shame that a bike costing more than $20,000 has to come with inferior rubber. The design of the 402’s has a center groove tread that is supposed to channel water to the outside of the tire. For this purpose, it works well I guess…but also is a adherent design flaw for other road conditions.

Riding on a bridge with metal grating or on a road with pronounced repair tar snakes causes the 402 to aimlessly follow what fits into its center groove. If you have the 402’s on your bike, you know the feeling of having to muscle the bike out of the tracking the bike is automatically doing by itself, which may lead to a pucker factor when you notice the cycle tracking in undesired directions. To better understand the issue, take a look at the tread design of the Dunlop 402:

The center groove is offset in design around the tire…but it still catches some things in the road.
One of the first things I did when I purchased my Ultra was to try to find another brand or model of road rubber that provided me more security, and less stress at times when riding.

There are many different manufacturers of motorcycle tires. After doing weeks of research, I chose the Dunlop Elite 3 series for replacements. The E3 tires, as they are otherwise known, we’re made originally for the Honda Goldwing, and are actually rated to carry more than 200 pounds more than what comes stock on the Harley series of touring bikes. Not only do they handle more weight, which is great for when riding with a passenger and travel luggage, but feedback from others shows that they handle better on wet pavement and on road curves. The E3’s tread design is very different, and more like the type of tires found on high speed crotch rockets:

Notice no center groove above, but the tire still has a design that channels water in the middle of the tire to the outside of it.

I’ve had the Elite 3s on my bike for over 17,000 miles now. The front tire shows enough tread to go another 5,000 to 8,000 miles easy, while the back tire is showing the need to be replaced as the center of the tire shows flatness. Seeing how they last much longer than stock 402’s, and about the same price (I paid about $240 shipped for two E3’s from denniskirk.com online)…and the fact I found they handle tons better on all road surfaces with no tracking, it was a no-brainer to go with these.

The Elite 3’s proved their selves on my Blue Ridge Parkway ride I did last year, handling the Tail of the Dragon, Cherohala Skyway, and dozens of other very curvy roads at fast speeds without any issues. Today, my new E3’s arrived on the big brown UPS truck, and the Ultra is spending the night at a local independant motorcycle repair shop to have the tires swapped out first thing in the morning. I cannot recommend these tires enough, especially with those with the heavier Harleys.

Many people will say that their stock tires handle just fine, but they would be surprised how much better aftermarket tires like the Dunlop Elite 3 or Metzler 880 tires perform. When it’s time to replace your stock tires again, or for the first time, give some thought to finding a better tire…you’ll be glad that you did. Or, you can be like yours truly, and go for the better handling right now even if you aren’t in need of replacements yet.

I’ve gotten past the “need” to dress my bile in tons of chrome, and now do upgrades based off of comfort and safety. These new tires provide both of the features in one, and I’m looking forward to the way above temperatures that will arrive this coming weekend to roll the new rubber on the asphalt and break them in again.


Technology is wonderful, huh?

Today’s ride took us a little south.  The Trip Journal app I use on my iPhone showed we started in the Atlantic Ocean near Nigeria for some reason.  Gotta love technology.  Anyways, after riding the Harley across the Atlantic, we decided to continue on for the day and ride near Monroe and Brown County.

The weather today was to be a balmy 69 degrees, and all day long, we all found comfort wearing our leather jackets with some layers underneath.  I think the weather was a little cooler, as I couldn’t even shed my sweatshirt underneath…and the gloves stayed on throughout the day.  Just could not find the warm spot today to start shedding layers…but with what I wore, the day’s ride felt good.

We called up some friends of ours yesterday, John and Shiz, to see if they wanted to ride today.  Of course, as long as they aren’t babysitting grandchildren, you don’t have to ask them twice.  John offered to plan the route for the day, and when we awoke this morning, John called shortly afterwards to tell us to get out butts in gear and meet them at the Speedway on IN-67, just south of I-465.  An hour’s ride to the meeting spot found us taking a break and awaiting the two who we know always arrive a little late…so the wife and I shared a cup of warm chocolate (they should be sued for advertising it as “hot”) while we waited.  John and Shiz pulled into the gas station…her on the Nightster, he on his Street Glide.  Both arrived with big smiles, warm hugs, and friendly verbal hellos.

John routed us around heading south towards Bloomington, which had us riding part of the route on old IN-37.  This has turned into a very nice country road, and continues into a large park area in Bloomington that I’ve never ridden before.  I have to say that this city does have a nice park system, and many family’s were already out enjoying the day together.  It had been awhile since any of us had rode around Bloomington, and after having to turn around, we found our way to a nice restaurant overlooking Lake Monroe, known as the Scenic View Restaurant.

The Scenic View overlooks a distant Lake Monroe through a natural cutout of the trees in the forest floor below, and offers both indoor and outdoor tables.  We chose an indoor table, and promptly ordered.  While I hate sweet potato french fries, I would have to recommend them as a great appetizer…I couldn’t keep my hands out of the bowl full my wife and Shiz had ordered.  John also found them delicious, and we definitely ate more of them than the ladies.  Everybody seemed pleased with their lunch entries, but I can’t recommend the biscuits and gravy.  Due to the fact it was a little after lunch time when we ordered, it just didn’t taste like it was freshly made; having probably being the morning’s left overs.  Oh well, the scenery, other food, and the company was great.

After eating, we headed back north to catch the highway eastward to Nashville, Indiana.  Finding a parking space is always difficult in this town due to the fact it is near Brown County State Park, and is a wonderful destination for bikers and regular families alike due to their food offerings and many stores with antiques, collectibles, and novelties.  We got lucky after only searching two blocks, and found a spot that two cars were vacating.

After doing some quick sightseeing and stopping at the local ice cream parlor for our delayed dessert, John again led the way up Sweetwater Trail that I had been on a couple of weeks ago.  Shiz followed her husband closely on her Nightster, while we brought up the rear.  Jumping into our procession was a county police officer driving a Ford Explorer, who made it a point to take the curves less than two car lengths behind me for around 4-to-5 miles.  Most officers have seen their share of motorcycle accidents, and usually have some kind of soft spot for motorcycle riders that ride a Harley and obey the speed limits.  This officer was the exception.  After dealing with the idiot for a few miles, he apparently got bored with the game and turned off.

Sweetwater Trail ends near IN-135 Northbound, and a few miles later, we separated ways with John and Shiz.  Another great ride, with no accidents, good food, and wonderful friends to share the day with.

Both Bonnie and I noticed that it was time to get new tires, as after nearly 18,000 miles on the Dunlop E3 tires, the back is getting a noticeable flat spot in the middle.  This flatness makes cornering on the curves more noticeable as the bike edges over to the “lip” where the tire becomes rounded on the sides, and the feeling of it is unnerving both for rider and passenger.  I’ll be calling one of my favorite tire places (jackwilson.com or denniskirk.com) to order a new set this week, and will get the local independent repair shop or the local Harley dealership to install them for me.


Ride a little south


To helmet or not to helmet

One of the questions every motorcycle rider has to answer for their self is whether or not to wear a helmet when riding. Every person has their own reasons as to whether or not to wear a hard shell on their head. For every reason somebody says they should be worn, others will list reasons not to. Most states in the US have left the choice to the individual, while others mandate the wearing of such gear to either all riders on their roads or require them of people under a certain age.

The positives for wearing a helmet is first of all: safety. Numerous studies have shown that the wearing of one can significantly reduce the risk of severe or life threatening injuries. An accident that would kill a helmet-less rider may allow the helmeted person to walk away from the accident, or reduce the injuries enough to allow them to live life another day. Come to think of it, safety is the primary and unique reason for protecting the noggin. Helmets with face shields also allow safer passage through a rainstorm.

Negatives are plenty. First, comfort is greatly increased from the lack of wearing one. When it’s 90 degrees or warmer out, a helmet makes it nearly unbearable to ride on asphalt. A helmet also reduces the feel of “wind in the hair”, which provides cooling, and a feel of freedom. Some helmets actually reduce a rider’s field of vision, which could be a detriment to safety.

Personally, for most of my riding years, I’ve ridden without one. Over the past year, a number of riding friends have been hit by vehicles who turned in front of the riders. Stories abound on the news at least weekly of people being hit. With people using cell phones, applying makeup, eating, and generally not paying attention while drivIng their four-wheeled machines, I’ve been more apt to wear a helmet. The issue is trying to find the right one for me…which is turning into an expensive new hobby. What feels good in a store doesn’t necessarily feel good while riding on the roads. Each person’s head is slightly different in size and shape as well, which makes it hard to find the “perfect” one to acquire.

So each person must make their own decision on this. Hopefully I’ll be able to find a helmet soon that is something that will be comfortable to wear, and allow the final decision to be a “no-brainier” going forward. Currently I’m using a Vega XTS Naked half helmet when the weather is good, and a HKC IS-33 3/4 helmet when the weather is forecasted to be poor. I don’t find comfort in either when wearing for long periods of time. so the search continues.