Saturday, May 31, 2014

It didn't matter whether I was teaching SCUBA diving, or deep sea diving, or rock climbing, or winter mountaineering: at some point my students started calling me....

Mother T.

Now, I ask you, what kind of macho image is that?

Okay, so I'm "fussy" about safety.  But, you know, at eighteen below and ten-thousand feet, or three-hundred feet down on standard air, you really need to be fussy -  or you get hurt, or even worse too.  But, like I told my students, I'm still here and in one piece.

Okay, so I was bent once, but I did have a spastic student, eighty-feet down, who flailed and flailed and even got his spearhead stuck in my hood (now that was a funny scene), so I think I can say "extenuating circumstances".

But enough about me.... how do you like my suit?  Just kidding....

Here's the question: Why do so many scooterists ride with so little protection?

Like, helmets that will protect you - provided you only bounce along on your head.  And, little, if any leg protection, topped off with sneakers, or even Flip Flops. And finally, thin gloves.  I don't understand.

Think about this.....

At 30 mph (and who - even 50cc's doesn't travel at 30) you're doing 44 feet a second.  If you hit the pavement and skid for 3 little seconds, you've scraped along 132 feet of hard unyielding ground.

At 40 it's 177 feet.

Most of us haven't a clue about distances, so here's a help.  132 feet is a bit more than the distance between telephone polls; 177 feet is just a shade less than 1 1/2 times the distance between the two poles.

Next time you're out take a look at that space.... it's a looooong way.... especially long if you're contributing skin along the way.

Okay.  Done.  My question is: Why not be as protected as you can?

I Await your response.

Oh, a bit back someone posted a chart on head injuries, and someone else questioned the validity of the chart.... The report is entitled "The Hurt Report".  It is fantastic reading.  The original chart is on page 277, 278.  But, don't jump straight there.  Read the report.  It can't hurt, might help. (No pun intended.)

Download it.  It is good reading.  While you are at it, grab and download these two....

Traffic Fatalities
by State Governors Highway Safety Association

Lower-Extremity Injuries in Motorcycle Crashes US DOT

Let me know what you think.  Until then, Hi Yo Piaggio, Away!

Saturday, May 24, 2014

And now, for the final tally...

The statistics, if you will....

Round Trip Mileage Totals:  3,805.6 Statute Miles, or, 6,124.5 Kilometers.

If you run a map route via highways, you get 2,837 miles: 3,013 via no highways.  So, the backroad routes are not much longer, and are certainly more enjoyable.

My average daily mileage was 543.6 miles, 874.9 kilometers, which may have been a bit on the heavy side.

I averaged 53.8 miles to the gallon, and consumed 65.2 gallons, at a cost of $235.95, which breaks down to a per gallon cost of $3.62.

But these are just numbers.... figures that cannot convey the fun, excitement, fear, enjoyment an sheer fun of being on the road on two wheels.

 Gear Up!  It's Time To Go!

Monday, May 19, 2014

Mineral may only have 400 some-odd folks, but it sure has one killer of a Mexican Restaurant.

Tienes cerveza? No? Bueno, entonces por favor, trĂ¡eme agua y para la cena, voy a tener Pollo Con Mole De Jefe, gracias...

Neat. In the south, and not an y'all to be found.

Alla en el rancho grande, alla donde viva

Habia una rancherita, que allegre me decia

Que allegre me decia... 

Then, like everything under the Sun, time spent fails to equal time desired, and zoom! It was time to go.

 So, off we go - south to Georgia, via (grab your maps) 522, to Powhatan (due west of Richmond), onto 609, which runs and blends into 360, which, in turn, runs south and west almost to the North Carolina border, where you peal south onto 119, which gets you into North Carolina before dumping you onto 158 then 150 which slides you down to Gaffney, South Carolina - at which point I threw in the towel and got onto I-85, which screams South and West right to my next stop: 547 miles from Mineral.

There are good people, there are nice people, there are great people, there are wonderful people, then there is Lori and Chris.  They'd been following me via an app on my phone and when they saw I was headed for I-85, they called me, told me where to stop and said they would grab me at that stop.  So they rode their bikes 1 1/2 hours north, picked me up, shoveled energy in the form of a large Dairy Queen Sundae into my tired body, then sandwiched me between the two of them and led me to their house.  Can it get any nicer than that?

I call the two The Beemer Twins – although not to their face.  They both ride l a r g e BMWs (and very well too, thank you) and had ridden up to Maine last summer spending  some fun time with us.

This year I was in their territory and we had much fun chasing down BBQ places and eating about every two minutes.

Two days – much too short days later, Chris and Lori, took me out for a fantastic pancake breakfast, then, leading the way, they started me on my final leg: South to Florida.

Sunday, May 18, 2014

It's not always fun and games in the Sun.  Sometimes it's doom and gloom, fear and uncertainty, worry and concern...

Mineral, Virginia.  One-hundred nineteen miles south.  It's 5:30 in the evening.  I've been on the road since 4:45 this morning, during which time I've gone from upstate New York, through Pennsylvania and into Maryland – about 262 tiring miles.  If I can hold 50 mph, I'm looking at an 11:00 PM arrival.


Back roads are cute.  Okay, poor word choice. Nice.  Interesting.  Fun.  All of the above.  None of the above.  As my father always said, whenever I asked a particularly difficult question: It all depends.  At night they're dark. No, make that Black.  They have a penchant for making tight sweeping turns; right angle turns, and – in small towns, two "U" turns: one u-turn to get you going back from whence you came, then just fooling, one u-turn to once again head you in the right direction.

And there's nothing out there beyond the feeble beam of your brights.  Even less than nothing if you are foolish enough to lower your hi-beams: just two lanes, one in each direction with a painted line down the center.

When you're tired, hungry and chilled from lack of bodily fuel, the road becomes, if not hostile, at the very least, indifferent.  "If you make it, fine.  If you don't fine.  Makes no difference to me", bounces back at you from the glare of your lights.

So you stare into the lighted roadway, watch fearfully as the trees at the edge of your beams grow closer together until there exists nothing but a solid wall of thick menacing entities, whispering to you words that stop just short of your hearing them.  Are they words of encouragement, or portends of dangers yet to come, just ever so slightly, ahead.

Deers are nocturnal.  Well, really, they're Moon-turnal: up with the Moonrise.  Where is the Moon now?  Is it up, and thus, so are the deers? Or is it and its horned friends resting?

You stare even more diligently, waiting for that instant when you are not alone on the road, but hurtling at warp speed toward two red circles that hover at eye's height, just at the edge of your beams reach.

Suddenly, on the right side beyond the trees, in the middle of the woods, there appears a huge light. Big, round, brilliantly white.  And it's coming at you.

How can that be?  It's the forest.... Your tired hands scramble for those levers that read "Stop", and you frantically start squeezing, your body pitching forward violently, yet still the light moves toward you, faster and faster and then....

It's a train, running on tracks that parallel the road, separated only by the thick line of trees that decide which is road and which is track.  The eye swishes by, its body following madly behind, "ca clack, clackidy clack, clack, clack and clack.  And gone.

And so it goes, minute after minute, hour after hour.  At 12:20 AM, I turn the key, kill the engine, kick the kickstand down, and slowly unwind from the seat.

Mineral, VA.

Thursday, May 15, 2014

There was no oasis....

I couldn't get there from here....

All I did was stop at a Dunkin' Donuts....

I twisted that right handle as visions of billowing tents, undulating slowly, embracing and sheltering me from the blazing sun, danced joyously in my mind, where I, languidly reclined, slowly sipped frothy Turkish coffee.

I was on my way to meet Denny at the Sheik's.

It's Sheetz, Not Sheik's!  And while they do have espresso, there are no tents, no soft rugs, no blazing Sun, and although their motto has a tinge of Arabia in it, still my dreams just "poof" disappeared.

"Sheetz is a mecca for people on the go. If you need to refuel your car or refresh your body, we have what you need to keep you moving on to whatever comes next."

There I stood, glazed-eyed in the center of a bustling convenience store, and probably would still be there had not Denny, understanding my dilemma, packed me up and brought me to his house, where his charming and gracious wife sat me down and served coffee in the most genteel manner.  It was a life-saver.

Renewed in body and spirit, I followed Denny through the wilds of Harrisburg and onto my next southbound road, where with a salute and well wishes, he headed back to his castle, while I stared at the road ahead.

Well Mike, I don't know how you did it.  Or, rather, I'm not sure how you made it happen,  but, straightforward and truthfully, Here's another nice mess you've gotten me into!

I said that to myself because from Harrisburg, PA to Mineral, VA, is supposed to be a snap.  Once Denny had me on Route 15, it's simply 15 all the way down to Culpeper, then 522 straight to Mineral.  A snap, I tell you.  A snap.  Now, riding 15 is not bad at all.  It's a mix of country road and no nonsense highway riding.  It's got some nice side road slip-offs, like "Old Route 15" and things like that which allow you to wander off yet stay more or less parallel with your road.  Neat.  And, for the most part it's a pretty ride.  What more could you want?  "However" as Professor Irwin Corey says, (If you don't know who he is, you should look him up.  There are some YouTube skits that are really funny.)  somewhere around Fredrick and Urbana, MD, the roads made funny turns, I got fershimmeled, and the next thing I knew I was on I-270 headed south, some 20 miles east of Route 15, heading straight for Bethesda, MD.  Not a good thing, so... when I saw the sign about what lay ahead, I perked up, peeled off and headed straight for Dunkin' Donuts.  Anyway, it was time for a stop.

I finished my coffee and coffeecake muffin, ambled out to the machine and cranked her over.  Nothing doing.  Cranking but not starting was the theme of the day, and after three attempts it smelled like she was flooded, so I sat for a while, watched the crowd wander in and out of the shops in the mall, then tried it again.... and again..... and again.  Nothing doing.

A rapid search on the web found a motorcycle place, and a frantic plea via phone got them to "Try to get you in if you get here within the hour." Called AAA begged for a quick arrival tow, then sat down and drowned my sorrow in another cup of DD coffee.

Have you ever had your machine towed?  It's a hilarious sight – even under a stressful situation: The Piaggio is what? Maybe six feet long?, and here comes this 30-some-odd-foot-long flatbed, ready to take you into its clutches and deliver you safe and sound.  A very funny sight.

Twenty minutes later, the Piaggio is safe on the ground at the dealer's, and I've off-loaded the ton of travel stuff.  We stand ready to be disassembled.

"Unfortunately," says the service manager, "it's too late for anyone to look at it, so you'll need to find a motel, spend the night and come on back in the morning.  In the meanwhile, please sign this service sheet".  So I stand poised, pen in hand, about to sign the service sheet, when I spot the numbers on the bottom of the page: $116.95.  It's going to cost me $117 just to have it looked at?

I stood there, ready to sign my life's savings away, when a mechanic walks over to us and says, "What's wrong with your bike?  It's running fine. I figured before I started to push it around the building to the service area, I'd give it a try.  It started right up and is running fine."

It took about 12-point-three-seconds for me to thank them all, repack my ton of luggage and zoom out of there: saved by someone's desire to find an easy way of doing something.  So, North on I-270; quickly onto North on I-70; now South on I-70, followed almost immediately by North onto Route 15 and finally, a quick turn South onto Route 15 – all these turns occurring within 30-seconds of each other.  Perhaps it wasn't quite my fault that I went the wrong way.

Now, it's hellbent for Mineral, VA, 119 miles away.

Saturday, May 10, 2014

Are you still on Day Two?

For those of you who have never done so, let me tell you about driving in Pennsylvania.  The official minimum speed limit, irrespective of location, is 65 mph. If the posted speed limit is 65, then one is expected to do no less than 70 - and preferably 75 mph: a 70 posting gives you the option of no less than 80, and up to 85 mph. In addition, one is expected to stay no more than 20 feet from the vehicle in front of you.

Now, if you have not travelled on PA Route 209 from say, Milford, down through Dingman's Ferry and on passed Bushkill, then stop reading, jump on your ride and get going.  It is a fantastic road: Narrow, single lane in each direction, with a painted double yellow line down the center and no room to stop on the shoulder, not to mention any side roads.  Just you, and the forest and the sunlight filtering down, and the occasional opposite going traffic.  Ideal.

With a speed limit of 55 mph, it is the quintessential two-wheel go-way.  Of course, some folks clearly use 209 as a means of getting to work, and their rubbernecking days have long gone by the board, which resulted – as I did a swivel-necked 55 mph down the road, in my developing a convoy.  Indeed, at first it was just one car behind me - at the requisite 20-feet.  But, within 10 minutes I had me a convoy of at least 3,000 cars.  (Okay, maybe it was only 15 or so, but it sure FELT like there were 3,000 cars all strung-out behind and all looking for my scalp.  So, I cranked in the throttle and brought her up to 65 or so).

Now, I've always noticed that Pennsylvania has been blessed with an abundance of wild life.  Especially deer: dead deer, and that morning PA Route 209 seemed to be exceptionally blessed.

To paraphrase...  Dead deer to the right of me, Dead deer to the left, so into the jaws, and the mouth of, I rode at 65 – followed by at least 3,000 cars, all of whom are waiting to see who blinks first: me, or the deer.

Now, one could be forgiven if one was not quite at ease hurtling, wild-eyed and swivel-headed  down a no-shoulder, no-escape single-lane highway which is festooned with hoofed legs, here, and antlers there – along with enough body parts to make Macbeth's witches jump for joy.

Suddenly, up ahead there appeared a huge yellow sign, replete with big traffic-light size lights.  The sign read: Caution! Deer area!  I remembered reading about them.  Theoretically, they are geared to deer movement and are designed to help reduce animal strikes, which brought a very unsettling thought to mind: If the surrounding area was an indication of the light's success, then the lights weren't working very well.

Suddenly, the lights began to flash frantically, and with bulging eyes and swiveling head, I searched for the little beastie.  Nothing.  Ahead was another light, and I could see yet a third far ahead.  As I approached the second light, it too began flashing violently.  Again, I swiveled and scanned and again... nothing.  So now the thought occurred to me that perhaps the lights flashed when I approached, rather than if deer were encroaching upon my territory.  But that made no sense: Deer can't read signs, and surely they can't comprehend what flashing yellow lights mean.  On the other hand, why flash lights at me as I near?  I know there are deers in the area.  What I want to know is where in the area are they hiding out?  As I sat there muddling through this conundrum, the woodlands suddenly fell away, the road opened up, the threat of instant annihilation disappeared, and it was time to call my friend, Denny Madule.

Denny lives in PA and graciously offered to guide me through Harrisburg and onto the correct southbound road.  He answered the phone promptly, immediately knew where I was located, and gave me directions on how to reach our meeting place.  Now, one of the aftereffects of my Cancer Treatment is that I have a constant ringing in my ears, so sometimes I'm not sure if what I heard, is what I heard, so I asked Denny to repeat the name of the meeting place.  Which he did, and I felt a great weight lift off my chest.  I was not only out of the wilderness, I was heading to the top of the heap.

"I'll meet you at the Sheik's."  At the Sheik's?  How upscale can you get?  "You can't miss it.  It's right after the Harley-Davidson dealership."  After the what?  Wow!  Harley-Davidson and the Sheik's place right next door to each other.  How good can it get?

I twisted that right hand.  Can't wait to relax under a canopy at the Sheik's sipping some Turkish coffee while looking over at the H-D joint watching the wheels roll by.

Thursday, May 8, 2014


and Tigers

and Deers

Oh, My.

Rules For Prospective (and current) Gas Station Owners:

ONE: Under no circumstances are you to consider hiring anyone with even the slightest knowledge of Geography, or any concept of direction, distance or spacial relationships.

Rules For Town, City and County Employees:

ONE: Any street, road or highway that crosses a single route-intersection and that continues straight ahead, shall have a route designation sign on BOTH sides of the intersection, AND shall have an additional route sign placed at least 45-feet after the intersection.

TWO: Any street, road or highway that crosses a multiple-route-intersection, shall have no more than one route designation sign no less than 45-feet before the intersection, regardless of the direction the street, road or highway shall take after the intersection.

Day Two:

Departed 4:35 AM.  Went to main road, turned right and continued until my southerly route intersected.  "You can't miss it."

5:15 AM.  Still wandering around city, following various gas station attendants directions.

5:45 AM.  Locate 211, which quickly became 17M, which almost instantly became 11 before finally settling in and becoming route 24 - oops, it became 35 then crossed under I-84 and then...... became route 6, made a U-turn and crossed under I-84 until we were almost in Port Jervis at which point my road turned left, became 521, sending me into New York as well as hurtling along River Road.  Confused?  Me too.  Onward.

The last bit of craziness was when 521 made a hard right turn, became 206 and tossed me over the Delaware River into Pennsylvania.  Over the Delaware into Pennsylvania?  Why isn't it Delaware?

Craziness aside, at least the ride is beautiful.  Surprisingly, there was so much green, and the land just goes up and up and up.  Quickly.

To be continued...... the deer are coming, the deer are coming.....

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

So.  Let me tell you about the trucks.

No.  Let me tell you about how dark it is on a country road at midnight.

Naw.  How about how many Italians does it take to change a burned-out brake light bulb?

Wait! Wait! How about first the machine goes, then it stops running, then it starts up and roars away, then it stops, no!, it's running, no!, it's stopped again.  60 MPH, 45, 62, 27, 55.  Will this never end?

I know, how about "Just how hot can a muffler get and what can it do to a camera case?"

Or, perhaps I should do what the King told the White Rabbit: Begin at the beginning, and go on till you come to the end: then stop.

I was born in New York City in Nineteen Thirty..... perhaps this is too much of a beginning.

I ride a Piaggio BV 250, that gets off the mark like a screaming banshee and doesn't flatten out until about 72: topping off at 82 to 87 depending upon how she feels (since I have no other explanation for the five-mile-an-hour difference).  Not that I normally go much over 40, but there are times when necessity is the driving force.

The aim of my trip was 1) to visit my family - scattered all over the lot (as the expression goes), and 2) to do it by riding the backroads of our wonderful country.

My first day ended in Montgomery, NY which I reached via Route One, Nine and Four in Maine into Rollinsford, NH and the Black Bean Cafe.  (I never pass up an opportunity to eat at this wonderful small jewel).

From there is was 202 and Nine through NH into Brattleboro, VT.  Riding Nine through Vermont along the rivers and through the National Forest was worth the trip all by its self.

From there it was 22 south, sliding over to Nine again and crossing into NY at Kingston.  Once in New York, it was 32 down to 208 and on to Montgomery: and a well deserved rest (along with a fabulous Easter Dinner).

End Day One, and other than me dropping my machine by slipping on sand while making a U-turn, it was a bee-yout-tea-full ride.