Yes Emily

Yes Emily, girls can ride motorcycles!

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

You've Come A Long Way Baby ...

Just for fun I thought you'd like to see my very first bike - A Honda 175 (Get a look at the rusty chain, didn't anybody ever tell me about chain maintainance? Guess not!) I bought her used, in the early 80s and I called her "Flame". She was my pride and joy. Thanks Mom for saving the picture all these years.

"THEY" Say ...

You know "THEY," the nameless experts or givers of wisdom. Well, they say, 'there are no motorcycles that haven't gone down, only those that haven't gone down yet' and they say, 'when you're riding a motorcycle, where you look is where you go' ... well on Monday I proved them both right. Yes, I put the bike down. Luckily it was very gently and with only injury to a tailpipe and my pride. The ride from the Muskokas to Port Perry was smooth sailing until the incident, and I won't call it an accident, accidents can't be avoided. This was totally avoidable, so it was an incident and totally rider error. Now I know this because of the excellent rider skills training session I had taken at Deerhurst as part of the International Women Riders Congress and Festival.
I have to thank Aliki Karayan my instructor. She's a professional riding instructor with Honda and a gal who really knows her stuff. She's the first riding instructor who has been able to, or took the time to explain some of the physics of breaking - what's happening when you drag the back break and where the weight goes when you clamp the front break (although this is easily felt, I just never thought of it in the total 'performance' picture before.). I have to admit I can't understand how I managed to have Aliki to myself on the tarmac for two hours out of the total three hour training session. She should have had a line up of riders waiting for instruction. She was encouraging, could spot my errors in an instant giving corrective feedback immediately. She put me through my paces over and over - round and round (close to 100km). I rode away that day feeling much more confident in my skills and my understanding.
Now back to my incident - I went down because, though I was nearly at a full stand still (when I should have been totally dragging my rear break, stretching the frame of the bike making it want to stay up right), for some reason, I think, because I felt that I had come in too close to the curb and for a nano second panicked or should I say, didn't think (mistake #2), I squeezed the front break abruptly (should be slow and easy) - this transferred the weight of the bike to the front wheel suddenly, the handle bars were already turning, then (fatal error #3) I glanced down to see how close to the curb I actually was. Weight abruptly shifting to turned handle bars and looking down at the same time - that's when, to quote my friend Ron, "Gravity Won," and down I went, at the stop sign, (If I had to learn the hard way at least I was safely out of traffic!). Now when I explained this to my friend Barbara she asked me if it made me feel any better to know why I went down. At first I said "no," but really the answer is yes. I know the why so I can avoid the mistake in the future (thanks Aliki), the scar on "Prissy's" shiny chrome tail pipe a constant reminder.
At the end of Clinton Smout's defensive Riding seminar (another excellent presentation all riders should participate in) he demonstrated, using a Yamaha model (this does not apply to all bikes, so check the information on your particular bike) that once it goes over, becomes horizontal that is, there is a safety feature that automatically shuts off the flow of gas and the bike stalls out. And, since I was thinking and alert again, I didn't panic and my Yamaha VStar did shut off. Now, Clinton also demonstrated how to pick up your bike from a horizontal position. I should have, perhaps, been paying a bit more attention to the details. He said there were three ways. The first is the 'back up to it, grab under, and lift by backing up with baby steps' (I couldn't do this as I had tucked it neatly into a 6" concrete curb and couldn't get a hand hold). Method two was the 'open handle bar "throw" up'. A lady (no bigger than me) stopped to help so I thought, okay, we'll give that a try (my advice - don't unless you've really had lots of practice) When I heard a crack coming from my back I quickly decided to use method number three (which will remain my #1) 'take the helmet off, look helpless (a pretty easy look to accomplish in that situation) and hope a big strong man or two stops to help'. This is definitely my preferred method. It worked, and I'd like to thank that man and the good hearted lady for stopping to help and make sure I was okay. They got me back on the rubber and off I went to meet Ron and tour the countryside, Port Perry to the "County" (Prince Edward County that is).

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Just An Excuse

It did rain, really it did though I know I could have dodged the raindrops and made it back today but...the rain was a really good excuse to stay in the Muskokas for one more day that and the fact that my friend Ron said he felt like a ride on Monday and would ride part way home with me.
I think I may have found the balance between camping and hoteling for all those who can't understand how one can enjoy living in a tent and for the times when tenting just seems too wet an idea. Because of the threat of rain I decided to move from a tent to a cabin in the campground (a slightly more expensive option, but far less expensive than a hotel). It offers a roof, a bed, a front porch with a bench, electricity and room enough to stand to change your clothes. You still have to walk to the showers and the toilets but it's luxury. One can sit and gaze upon the pond from the front porch and wonder what the rest of the world is doing? Whatever it is, it can't be as good as this.
Yes, because of the threat of rain and thunderstorms today and under a for boding sky, I decided to stay one more day. I moved my gear to my new home for the night then headed to Gravenhurst to a spot on the bank that served all day breakfast. I was enjoying my enormous breakfast overlooking Lake Muskoka from under the canopy when the sky opened up for a downpour. I sat there quite pleased with myself that I had moved to the cabin until I remembered leaving my helmet hanging from my handlebars, open end up. Genius one moment, dufus the next. I figured the helmet had already filled with water so there was no point rushing breakfast. By the time breakfast was over the rain had stopped and it was hot,steamy hot and humid. I headed for the bike, flipped the helmet over in case it rained again and decided it was the perfect opportunity to visit the air conditioned steamship museum on the waterfront. The area certainly has a unique history catering to luxury of a bygone era.
It's been nice to be on vacation again - The Muskokas, you'd like it here.

Saturday, August 14, 2010

International Women Riders Congress and Festival

I spent the day at Deerhurst Resort, the beautiful venue for the International Women Riders Congress and Festival - Cheers to the organizers. It was a well thought out event with advanced rider skills training, demo rides, seminars and workshops by a number of talented and enthusiastic presenters plus a market place of vendors. Unfortunately it was poorly attended, barely 100 (men and women) participants there today - but all on bikes and enthusiastic about riding. I have to say the limited attendance was great for me as it meant I had my own personal Honda sponsored, advanced skills trainer for two of the three hours I participated in the training- learning slow speed riding and emergency breaking. BMW also offered rider skills training. Plus I made it to the defensive riding seminar for great tips on staying safe on the road plus demons on how to pick up your bike should it fall. I met a number of folks and can say I've never attended a conference where organizers were so personable and welcoming. After the event I toured some of the scenic cottage roads and headed back to camp.
The weather fairies - true to their word, kept the rain away once again. I fear, as I feel a few raindrops falling on me now that I won't be so lucky for tomorrow. Perhaps I should just snuggle down inside my little tent and take a "napping" day.

Friday, August 13, 2010

North of 7 - Not really north at all.

It's funny how we folks who live on the shores or near the shores of Lake Ontario think that anything north of Hwy 7 must be "northern" Ontario. I'm sure it's the moose and the bear that get us confused. Lots of folks must get confused about where they are when they hit "cottage country" though. It's obviously been such a problem that the government has felt the need to post "Ontario" signs ever fifty kilometers or so - I don't see a single "Ontario" sign on my way to work each day - I guess us "southerners" just remember what province we're in.
It might be north of 7 but it's not really the north, it's just beautiful country from Madoc to Bancroft to Gravenhurst and the heart of the Muskokas.
The sky was iffy this morning, dreary and overcast and filled with the scent of rain. I thought the weather fairies were going to betray me, but by 10 the sky had cleared and was that beautiful azure blue that riders appreciate - dotted with vanilla cotton candy clouds. I left under a level one heat advisory but the dampness kept it cool on the road and I didn't feel the need to shed my fleece liner until well after noon.
351 kilometers today on roads meant for tourists. Traffic was light going my way and it was a dream ride with two stops for gas, and several stops at Tims (both to input and output). It's nice not to be in a hurry. I noticed most today that the fresh greens of the July scenery are gone - replaced by the tired leaves and grasses of August. I swear I saw trees already beginning to turn - already putting on their Autumn browns and reds. How could that be? Dinner was in Gravenhurst on the shore of Muskoka Lake with a view of the steamship Segwun pulling out for it's nightly cruise. Could life get any better?
My little paprika tent is home once again. (Note to self, every time you plan a trip check the batteries in your flashlight - for even the brightest light from last week might have been left on in your bag and might now be dead, and pack your flip flops!)
Am looking forward to tomorrow's event. Hope the weather fairies continue to shine good weather.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

On the road again...

My "prissy" little VStar is packed and ready to go for one last, long distance summer ride (man, packing this time was so much easier). I'm heading off to check out the first "International Women Riders Congress and Festival." It's a much shorter ride this time, just under(or over, if I can stretch it) 1,000 kilometers. It looks like the weather fairies are on my side once again - they've changed their minds - who once were calling for rain are now saying hot and sunny tomorrow. As my favorite blue jeans finish drying I'm hoping that the weather fairies at the "festival" end are changing their forecast from 15 cm of rain on Saturday to hot and sunny as too.
The festival sounds like a great time and learning experience as well - with skills training, defensive riding training - to packing for the long haul. Lots of exciting things for all. I can't wait. Hopefully my campsite is WIFI equipped and I can tell you all about it!
(PS I'm not taking the cooler bag this time, the smell of melted cheese still lingering in it's fabric would be just too tempting for those Ontario Bears. I guess it's canned beans again - I love beans!)

Saturday, August 7, 2010

Living with Garmin Dan

I promised to write about living with Garmin Dan and here it is ... I met him just shortly before my trip and am truly in love with him. I can't imagine not riding with Garmin Dan now that we've travelled together. I remember how he patiently navigated me through many a busy city never getting angry when I made a wrong turn or just chose to ignore him. I realize we had our differences en route but I do love travelling with Garmin Dan. I have made a lifetime commitment to him but at the same time I know I won't be faithful. I don't trust him 100% and I will still be meeting with Rand McNally every now and then.
I have the Garmin Zumo 660. It's meant to be mounted on the handlebars of a motorcycle. I chose to mount it in the center of the bars rather than on one side or the other. Installing the mount was simple - a U mount on the handle bars and a ram mount for the Garmin unit. I had it hard wired professionally at K-Tec. The headphone, microphone and usb wires are conveniently located inside the locking toolbox on the VStar Custom. For my purposes, travelling alone, I only used the headphone wire and it easily reaches (when connected to my headphones) from the tool box to my ear. I did find that I needed to tuck the slack under my magnetic tank bag, but that posed no problems.
I tried several different models of headphones before I found one that fit comfortably under my helmet. I chose the "Skull Candy" ear bud. It had several different ear piece covers, in various sizes so I was able to find one that fit my ear - a big plus. It is a stereo set and I prefer to have just one ear busy with sound when riding so it did mean having the second ear piece dangle. I did break one ear piece so was thankful that I had the second that I could use. The sound quality was fine for Garmin Dan's voice in mono however it was less than optimal for listening to music in stereo. I think that this is more a problem with the Garmin than the earbud system. The Garmin has the capacity to be an MP3 player but sound quality is definitely lacking - whether on the bike or using it with it's alternate mount in the car. And did I mention that the Skull Candy ear bud comes in white with pink?
I love the fact that Garmin Dan recognizes immediately whether I have it mounted on the bike or in the car and that I can set the options to match the vehicle that I am driving. On the bike I ask for no dirt roads, no highways and I'm not so fussy in the car. The Garmin Zumo 660 is waterproof and stood up to that promise though, if you have been following me, you might remember the slight issue it had with heat. It did recover.
My Garmin unit was new and came with current maps. I had no problems (getting lost or misdirected) travelling in the US but did have two places where the maps seemed inconsistent on the Canadian side.
I found it extemely useful that I could choose what information to display on the screen with the map. I choose the speed, direction, kilometers to destination and the time of day. The speed is a particular favorite of mine as it compensated for the instruments on the Vstar. I could check my speed with just a glance rather than having to look way down the tank for the speedometor. Another feature I was thrilled with was the automatic translation from miles per hour to kilometers per hour. I had my Garmin set for kilometers and all the while I travelled in the US a little conversion sign automatically appeared at the bottom of the screen that translated the speed limit on the road I was travelling from miles per hour to kilometers per hour.
Garmin claims that the screen of the Zumon 660 is "glove friendly" - sometimes it is, sometimes not so much. I'd say, it's okay, not great, depending on your gloves.
As for finding points of interest - food etc. Garmin Dan doesn't always seem to be that reliable. Sometimes the onscreen key board gets a mind of it's own and trying to type in a specific name is impossible. I found the same thing when trying to type in the name of a specific location especially in Canada.
I never left Garmin Dan alone on the bike and appreciated the quick release feature and the compact size of the unit. It fit neatly into my tank bag when I needed to take it with me.
Garmin Dan has his flaws, but then so do I. We make a great pair and will, I'm sure, be travelling together for many more miles to come.