The Piggybacker XL

A few people have asked me what kind of trailer I ended up getting for my surprise present from my wife.  It is a Piggybacker XL motorcycle pull-behind trailer.  It is a pretty basic trailer, but has enough features like a swivel coupler, LED lighting, and an external cooler basket.  My wife purchased it from a friend, who had completed a number of additional modifications to it, including increasing the rear lighting and adding more waterproofing components to it.

Having to work this morning, and coming home to a cold, windy, and rainy day, I delayed my test ride and decided to double-check the wiring and connections that were installed on my bike.  The wiring was good, and just required some fine tuning of tie-wrapping to the bike to keep incidental damages from occurring while out in the elements.  Inside the trailer, I found a present of a 4-ping wiring harness adapter, that allowed all the wiring to be permanently mounted to a special chrome adapter.  This provided the “finished” look, so when the trailer was connected, all the wiring was permanently hidden.  The trailer was then connected to the motorcycle, and the turn signals and brake lights were checked both on the bike and trailer.  Good to go, all the wiring was correct.  The last step was to tie-wrap the loose wiring harness to the bike’s bumper, and the bike is ready to go.  Perhaps tomorrow I will connect everything up, and take it out on the asphalt.

The trailer is simple in design.  Its got a cargo box top, much like what used to be found at Sears and other stores and mounted to the top of a mini-van for traveling storage.  This box is bolted to a frame with independent torsion axle, and the frame.  Our friend had used this trailer for a number of trips in the past, and it’s performed flawlessly.  I have every confidence it shall continue to work as designed.  We’ll be using the trailer on our 10-day trip to Washington DC for the Ride to the Wall, and during our adventures into Virginia, North Carolina, and Tennessee afterwards.  Holding a couple of hundred pounds, and with plenty of room, I won’t have to keep the wife for “overpacking” as she’s been inclined to do in the past.

Sorry for the crappy pictures.  If I get everything connected and outside tomorrow, I’ll take a few more that’s a little more clear.  Anyways, I’m excited to taking it out on the road and seeing how it changes the handling of the Ultra.

On a side note, my wife completed her first day of riding in ABATE’s Beginner’s Riders Course today.  Her class was completely filled up with members of HOG Chapter #1.  She loved it, and had a blast learning how to ride a motorcycle on her own.  While a couple of other attendees dropped out of the class, Bonnie persisted and said she was full of excitement even though they did most of their learning in the cold rainy weather today.  She goes back tomorrow to finish up the class, and to take her rider’s test.  I have every confidence in her doing well, and know that sometime soon, I’ll be motorcycle hunting for a motorcycle that she can ride on her own.

An early birthday present

If you work a lot of hours, you know how welcome the feeling is of pulling into your driveway, getting a quick meal, and putting your feet up in the recliner and watching TV until you are ready to go to bed.  Sometimes though, life doesn’t allow for this.  And sometimes, life just reaches out and smacks you hard across the face.

My wife had asked me the previous weekend to reserve Tuesday, April 24th, as a official date night.  You know what this means…coming home from working, getting changed, and going right back out to stand in a line someplace at a restaurant until a table comes available with the other dozens of people out for the evening.  Eat some steak or whatever while spending time concentrating on the better half, followed by a movie before heading back home.  We hadn’t had a night out together alone in a while, so I obliged her request and was actually looking forward to something different for a change.  My boss had asked me to be available for a conference call on Tuesday, and the wife understood that it would mean I’d get home later than usual.  She was fine with this, as long as I called her on the way home so she could get ready.

Before I continue, this is a good place to insert a comment.  Don’t trust people you work with…and when the wife asks for something out of the ordinary, something is going on.  Read on…

I enter my boss’s office later in the afternoon, to participate in the scheduled conference call.  Needless to say, after sitting there for 45 minutes waiting for the other party to call, they never did.  In the meantime, my boss used the opportunity to clean out her purse, arrange her desk papers, and step out for a few minutes to talk to other office employees.  My boss finally came back into her office, sat down, looked at her watch, and announced that we just need to reschedule the call for another day as she had to go pick up her kids.  So, after hanging around at work for a couple of hours, then sitting in her office for a period of time, I grudgingly arose out of the chair, turned off my office light, and headed out to the car to get home.

In the back of my mind, on the drive home, I’m thinking about the evening.  What should I order at her favorite restaurant?  No since arguing or making a suggestion of a place to go…she loves Texas Roadhouse for their steaks and their sweet potato, so I knew this is where she wanted to go.  Going through the menu in my mind as I crawled through rush hour traffic for 45 minutes, I decided on ordering the sirloin, some mashed potatoes with white gravy, and nice fresh side salad with ranch dressing.  Maybe a couple of Coor’s Lights to sip throughout the evening, and could actually taste in my mind the peanuts that would be in the large pan on the table for us to munch on while the food was being prepared.  Yes…I was prepared for a nice meal, some good conversation, and promised myself not to complain out loud when we were in line waiting for a table for who knows how long.  It’s all in the mental preparation to make things easier…but of course, when you plan too hard, nothing turns out the way it should.

I’m the type that “bee-bops” in the car while driving on the interstate.  Love my music loud, and I’ve got a very nice sound system in the Altima.  It makes rush hour driving bearable for me, and the miles flew by quicker than expected.  Pulling into my driveway, I looked out the window to my next door neighbor’s house, where I saw him “cheesing”.  I call it cheesing.  It’s when you got a big shit-eating grin, arms cross in front of you, and you know something nobody else know.  My next door neighbor was cheesing alright that evening.  I waved through the closed window, hit the garage door opener, and reached around the car to get my iPad and coat.  Never looked forward into the garage, just got out of the car, shut the door, and turned to walk into the garage.

“SURPRISE!”  This shout was blasted at me by a dozen people, who were standing in the back of my garage.  Why were they yelling at me?  It wasn’t a birthday, anniversary, and I was pretty sure that the lottery tickets my office chips in on together hadn’t won that day.  Somehow, my eyes had not focused towards the front of the garage, and I had missed the present that awaited me.

For over a year, I’ve been hinting that I wanted something…something expensive, something a pain to install, and something that would make life easier.  Being cheap and frugal in nature, I always put it off.  I put it off enough, and kept saying I wanted it enough, that the wife decided to surprise me a whole month before my birthday with the one item that I kept desiring.

A pull-behind motorcycle trailer.

There in the garage, between my family and friends, and myself out in the driveway standing there looking totally surprised, was my motorcycle parked facing sideways across the garage…with a pull-behind motorcycle trailer connected to a hitch that had been installed on the motorcycle.  My wife told me later that night that I just stared for minutes…and the expression on my face was one of near-anger…she couldn’t read it well, and though that I was angry.  Wasn’t angry…not at all…in the twelve years we have been together, she’s never been able to surprise me with anything.  What she saw was the look of me being totally hoodwinked by everybody I know.

My wife had planned this since January,  My closest friends were in on it.  My family was in on it.  My boss was in on it.  My co-workers were in on it.  My neighbor was in on it.  Everybody was in on it.  Everybody except me.

My wife had prepared for work as usual that morning, and even followed me and turned off where she always does…then went back home to get things ready for the day. Bill, a good riding friend (and saved our butts on the four-day Kentucky ride we went on last year when the Ultra became dead 25 miles from civilization), had spent the entire day at my house installing the hitch to my bike frame.  He made numerous trips to a nearby town to get hardware, wiring, and tools that he kept finding eluded him.  My closest riding friends had traveled a long way to our house, to be there when I got home.  My boss had made up the conference call, to keep me at work until she received a call from my wife that everything was installed and built.

The evening was spent with great family and friends.  Coronas and lime were emptied out of the cooler inside the house, a bottle of wine was found empty the next morning, and everybody stuffed their selves on one of my wife’s best meals…beef tips and noodles with a type of homemade stroganoff sauce.  Followed up with a dessert of carrot cake cupcakes that was brought by a friend that everybody simply loved (from Costco, believe it or not).

It was my birthday present come a month early, and totally unexpected.  Absolutely a wonderful night, one that could not have been more fun.  The friends that attended wrote on Facebook the next day that they were so glad to have been invited by my wife.  I am the one who is most appreciative of my wife.  I found out she was stressing the last couple of weeks really bad, but she did a great job with this, and I’m glad to have her in my life.  Her smiling the rest of Tuesday evening, and the next day, was only icing on the cake so to speak…it feels good when everything comes out right for a change, doesn’t it?

At least once a year, I pull a surprise stunt on her and get her good and earn all kinds of brownie points.  I think though that this pretty much puts her on top with surprises in our family, which only pushes me to out-do her in the future  ๐Ÿ™‚

Needless to say, I didn’t get my sirloin, mashed potatoes, or salad that night.  Guess that means a real date night will need to get scheduled soon.  Who knows…I may not even suggest Burger King or White Castle at that time like I usually do.  ๐Ÿ™‚

Love ya honey.

Another cold Sunday

Finding time to ride during the week is hard during the spring months, as this is the busiest time at work for me; requiring lots of long days, and not many chances to play hooky in order to get the Ultra out on the asphalt.  So, this past Saturday, I put out word to my riding friends that I’d be up for a jaunt on the open road the following day, and invited any and all to join along if they like.  The weather forecast called for temps in the 50s, with moderate winds and overcast skies.

Sunday morning appeared, and the forecast of a high in the fifties seemed doubtful after a quick watch of the local weather.  The wife and I left the house at 9:30 in the morning to rendezvous with any interested party at Indianapolis Northside Harley-Davidson at 10:30.  Pulling out the driveway found a light breeze, but temps still in the upper 30s at best.  Having donned our leathers, heavier gloves, and helmets, we took the interstate at a brisk pace in order to get off of it as quickly as possible.

Our arrival at Indy HD was welcomed by Glenn, who was already there waiting to see who appeared.  I’ve not had the opportunity to talk to Glenn in the past, but used this occasion to make small talk while warming up in the parking lot.  Shortly after, a few others appeared…Aaron and his wife Etta; and their close friends Phil and Diana.  While waiting for any others that appeared, Phil and Aaron used the time to get me acquainted with the operation of the CB module I had installed back into the Ultra Classic.

I had it taken the CB out 3 years ago to install an audio amp to power my Arc Audio speaker system, and didn’t really have the need for it previously.  However, with much of the riding we do in groups over the last couple of years, I had decided to re-install it. The problem was that there was no place under the fairing to place it, since the amp now took its previous spot on top of the stereo.  After months of searching for a solution, I did find a guy on that made a special bracket that holds the CB under the stereo.  That was the solution I was looking for, and it has been working great since I installed in about a month ago.

10:30 finally arrived, but no other riders appeared.  Seven of us were going to make the day out of it, and head to Upland, Indiana to Ivanhoe’s…a legendary restaurant in that part of the state famous for their ice cream dishes.  Literally over 100 types of sundaes and other delicious treats on the menu, and their sandwiches are top notch as well.  After convincing Aaron to lead the way (he always tries to get somebody else to do this function, but he does a great job, and always caves in with a little prodding), we all started up our Hogs and headed out eastward on 96th Street.

Our route took us out of Indianapolis and into the Geist Reservoir area.  Going over the large body of water lowered the air temps a good ten degrees, and we all putted along to the other side.  Not many people out on the water, but there appeared to be a sailing competition going on off in the distance.  The route continued to Fortville, where we turned north on IN-13 until catching IN-37 about 20 miles later.  37 was the new path, and  at the intersection of IN-28, Aaron led us into a gas station where a few people used the facilities, and more than one found a steaming cup of coffee or hot chocolate to warm up the insides again.  The temperature had been slowly increasing, but not enough to shed even one item of warm clothing yet.

Climbing back on the bikes, we continued north on IN-37 and tuned east onto IN-26.  Crossing I-69, several miles later found us heading north on IN-22 into Upland.  Pulling into Ivanhoe’s, we were dismayed to find that we were the only ones in the parking lot.  The establishment opens at 2PM, and it was barely 12:30PM when we had arrived.  Surveying each other, we found all of us to be hungry having skipped breakfast, and the decision was made to find another eatery and to possibly return afterwards for dessert.

IN-22 takes you back to I-69, where a number of restaurants are located.  It seemed that everybody on the interstate had chosen this time to stop for lunch, as everything was packed with either travelers or students from the nearby Taylor University.  Not wanting to stand in line at Cracker Barrel for an hour waiting for a table, we spied a nearby diner, and decided to ride over and give it a try.  We pulled into Payne’s Custard and Coffee, which appeared to be a “hole in the wall” eatery from the outside, but a unique experience inside.

Payne’s is like a bistro, and with plenty of neat decorations on the tables and the walls.  Remember the old hard cover books you found in your elementary school library, that covered locations like Eastern Europe or Africa?  They inserted menus inside these books, which made for the opportunity to read a little while waiting for the waiter.  The menu was unique as well…no “traditional” fare to eat…everything had a bistro feel to it.  You could get a goat grilled cheese sandwich…with tomato soup that was served cold.  I opted for their club…which was a turkey sandwich, that had several exotic cheeses, spinach, and a special sauce (sorry, not like McDonald’s).  I’m not into health foods or unique types of foods, but this sandwich was very tasty, and humongous in size.  Service was pretty bad though…but that’s because every seat was filled, and they didn’t have enough staff for the onslaught of hungry visitors.  I imagine that once the rush had passed, their service returned to be excellent in nature.

We warmed ourselves with coffee and our food, and after about ninety minutes, we set back out into the cold air and headed back to Ivanhoe’s.  Thoughts of hot chocolate sundaes filled our heads, must like presents the night before Christmas fills the heads of kids.  We reappeared in Ivanhoe’s parking lot thirty minutes after they had opened…to find it was completely packed.  The ice cream line wound its way through the interior of the restaurant, and being happy to be back in warmth, we gladly took our places and slowly shuffled to the register to place our order.  The wife and I had #37, the mint chocolate sundae, and even with the cold temperatures outside, we found that it was delicious.  Their regular sized sundae was about $4, and it was the perfect size for both of us to share.

The ride back towards Indianapolis was still cold, and the wind had picked up sharply.  The temperature may have hit 50 that day, but the windchill made it feel much cooler.  Reaching Noblesville, we all split off in our own directions home, in search of another warm place to go relax.  Seven us rode over 150 miles, couldn’t find much sunshine, and never got the chance to shed any clothing on the ride.  But even then, this day was much more fun and interesting than another day at work.  It can be pouring rain, windier than all get out, and colder than ever desired…but the warmth of riding with friends seems to make all of that worth it.

Captain James Michael Lyon – “Lest we forget”

The blog entry yesterday mentioned that I will be carrying symbolic dog tags for Captain James Michael Lyon to the Vietnam Memorial in Washington, D.C. In May. A pair of these tags were provided by Rolling Thunder; one to leave at a special private ceremony, and one to keep in honor of this fallen and missing soldier who was never brought back home after the war was over. I’ve spent the last couple of days researching this pilot of a UH1H helicopter that crashed on February 5, 1970 with three other soldiers on board. All were captured immediately by The North Vietnamese Army.

Capt. Lyon was born March 8, 1948; and listed Indianapolis, Indiana as his home of record. He was a member of HHC, 2nd Brigade, 101st Airborne Division. In this outstanding Army unit, Capt. Lyon was the pilot of a UH1H helicopter and was flying a maintenance mission when the helicopter caught fired and crashed behind enemy lines. The impact of the crash caused Capt. Lyon to be thrown clear of the wreckage, where he was found by the other of his crew. Capt. Lyon suffered extensive burns on his body, and his leg was severed inches below his knee. All members of the crew suffered serious injuries and were unable to take evasive action. Approximately one hour after the crash of the aircraft, all were captured by NVA troops. The location of the crash site is estimated to be near the coordinates of 163045N 1072824E (YD494093).

The enemy decided to spend the night near the crash site, and kept the prisoners closely guarded. Capt. Lyon was in extreme pain and discomfort from his injuries according to his crew, and at approximately 6am the next morning, his fellow soldiers heard a gunshot and no longer heard Capt. Lyon’s moans of pain. None of the crew saw Capt. Lyon again, neither alive or dead. The remaining three crew members were taken to a POW camp, and three years later, we’re released by the NVA.

The consensus of the crew was that Capt. Lyon was killed by the guard as a form of mercy killing, as even the crew doubted that their pilot would be able to survive his injuries. Two weeks after being taken prisoner, one of the crew was told by a NVA POW camp commander that Capt. Lyon died from his wounds and was buried at the crash site. The prisoners were given Capt. Lyon’s personal effects, which were brought back by the crew when they were released by the NVA three years later.

Even today, the Vietnamese government has not returned the body of Capt. Lyon, nor have they provided any information concerning the pilot. Due to the before stated circumstances, it is possible that Capt. Lyon did in fact die and is buried near the crash site…but the question becomes why does this foreign government refuse to assist in the recovery of his remains? There is a chance that Capt. Lyon was not executed after the crash, and was removed from the presence of his men as nobody can be certain of what actually happened. Either way, until Capt. Lyon comes home, he remains unaccounted for and MIA.

I of course never met James Michael Lyon. I do know that he left behind a wife in the United States, who was never afforded knowledge or closure regarding her husband. Thousands of soldiers that have served our country in wars never made it back home, for many different reasons. Having served in our armed forces myself, I’ve always felt a kinship to any person that has also served; and have the greatest respect for those that have sacrificed so much to guarantee our freedoms that so many don’t even think about.

Needless to say, I feel honored to be able to symbolically honor Capt. James Michael Lyon during my trip to The Wall; and hope that someday, the entire truth is revealed so that his family may find complete closure, and so that he may return to the land of the country he so valiantly fought for.

Captain James Michael Lyon

Rolling Thunder orientation completed

This past Sunday’s weather was warm and breezy, the wind requiring concentrating on keeping the motorcycle in the correct direction of travel, especially while on the interstate. A number of our riding friends planned on participating in the 1st Annual Buffalo Chip Ride, which had been postponed from Saturday due to the heavy rains that covered the state on its original date. As much as we wanted to ride along, Sunday was one of the required orientation dates that the Rolling Thunder organization had planned for those riders that would participate in the 2012 Ride to the Wall in May…so we spent the day listening to their ride plan.

Rolling Thunder rides to Washington, DC every year over the Memorial Day weekend, and demonstrates to the U.S. government that the citizens will no longer accept our soldiers being left behind in a POW or MIA status when sent overseas to fight in actions of war. Thousands did not come home from past wars in Korea and Vietnam and other police actions and from areas of conflict; what drives the Rolling Thunder organization is making sure that our soldiers are returned to our country…either safely or so that they can find their permanent resting location on the soil of their beloved land.

This year is the 25th anniversary of the Rolling Thunder Ride to the Wall. Around one million motorcyclists will be participating this year, and we are honored to join. The official ride once in DC on that Sunday will me from the Pentagon, riding through the city to the Vietnam War Memorial. Hundreds of thousands of non-riding citizens will line the street in support of the demonstration, in which our motorcycles speak for every one of us not only by their massive combined exhaust tone, but by the sheer volume of all of our presence united as one voice. This is an active demonstration, not a parade, in which we remind all governments of the world, as well as our own, that we will never forgot our brothers and sisters who never made it back home.

The meeting with the members of Rolling Thunder was informative, and allowed us the chance to meet the members of the group at their monthly meeting. Orientation covered their rules of the road; reminding everybody of common sense riding expectations on the journey to DC as well as what the plans are for the demonstration ride. The two and a half hours to cover the meeting agenda passed quickly, and only added more excitement to the building anticipation of what occurs in a little over five weeks.

One of the privileges bestowed on those that are interested is the carrying of dog tags of those soldiers from Indiana that never came back home. My wife and I jumped at the chance to be involved at carrying these symbols of those that shall not be forgotten. On the Friday night of our arrival to DC, we will be making a special ride to the Vietnam War Memorial to privately honor the fallen and the missing, leaving behind one of the dog tags at the Wall, and holding the other in remembrance until that particular soldier finally comes back home. We learned information about the lives of those that did not return, and the circumstances of their being lost on the battlefield.

I will be carrying James Michael Lyon’s symbolic dog tags on this journey, and I will post another entry in the near future regarding his story.

It’s without saying that we are really looking forward to this journey, which will spiritual, emotional, and fulfilling.