Ride to Davis Ferry – a motorcycle ferry tale, or How to Service a Battery

David Haynes (WRBS) has been talking about the Davis Ferry since the first time I met him over a year ago.  From the first time we talked about it, I expressed an interest – I always enjoy unique and interesting rides and destinations.  I believe there are only 3 ferries left operating in Alabama.  The stars aligned and we set out early on Wednesday morning, headed down south for our first stop in Thomaston – at the Alabama Rural Heritage Center .  David had set up an interview with a board member to discuss the Center and the upcoming Pepper Jelly Festival for an upcoming article in Alabama Living.  After sitting in on the interview, we had a quick visit to the gift shop at the center, where they displayed a wall of pepper jelly, and rows of folk art from Alabama artisans, a few of which David had met and interviewed.  After awarding us with some pepper jelly, we were on our way south to the ferry.

Arriving at the end of the pavement, we encountered what looked like a controlled-burn of the woods, as we entered the dirt section leading to the Alabama River and Davis Ferry.  At the end of the road, a family had setup a fishing spot in front of our bikes, but reported no bites “due to wind”.  We munched on “lunch” and waited for the ferrymen to get back from their lunch break.  We saw Bart (Bartab) roll up on the other side, as we noticed some activity and the other side of the river spring to life.  A few minutes later, the ferry cranked up, and a plume of water came up on the side of the craft – they were under way.  They more than half way across when I realized the water-plume was formed from a paddle-wheel, just like the steam boats.  One, thinly-constructed paddle-wheel was moving that large craft across the swift Alabama River.  It was worth the trip just to see that antique in operation, a bonus to get to ride across.

As the craft landed, Bart rode his Triumph Tiger onto the ramp like a Marine landing on the beach on D-Day.  He was the only traveler, and quickly turned around to board the craft again with us.  On board, we hardly felt movement, but the craft moved us to the other side quite quickly, maybe 200 yards across.  Upon landing on the other side, the operators hustled us off, and we wandered through the park that ran along the side of the river.

This is where our trouble began.

 

Bart had explained why his engine was running the whole time we were crossing – he was having issues with his motorcycle battery .  He commented he had another battery just in case, but did not want to fool with it if he did not have to.  So we rolled to the end of the park, and as we were leaving Bart stalled the bike.  No big deal, he has another battery, right?  He quickly installs the battery, hits the start button and we hear the whine starter, but no engine spinning.

 

So after 45 minutes of troubleshooting, an attempt to pull the engine case loose, and more bump-starting-by-tow-rope, we decide to pull it to the top of the hill.  Well that turned into let’s-tow-it-30-miles to the first mechanic we can find, or sign of civilization, or whichever comes first.  Pretty hairy stuff pulling any bike, with a bike.  Hairy for the puller AND the skier, pulling uphill, on a dirt road, then almost 30 more miles up and down hills and twisty roads, we were experts by the time we arrived at M&S Auto in Camden.

Bart strolled in, asked if we could simply leave the bike inside his shop until tomorrow.  Certainly no hayseed from Camden would know anything about a sophisticated European adventure machine.  How could he know anything more than 5 grown men, probably with a combined 100+ years of riding and mechanical skills, that were unable to diagnose a complex electrical problem?  He insisted he might be able to solve the problem, and have us back on the road.  So instead of insulting the hayseed, Bart removed seat, and pointed towards the battery.  In less than 2 minutes, the hayseed expert mechanic pointed out the problem – the battery was spun around and the terminals were crossed.  Within 15 minutes, the hayseed engine surgeon had changed the fuse, charged the battery, and had the bike running again, with all of our tails between our legs – how did we miss that?  How did the starter turn (albeit backwards)?  Lights came on?

Glad we got it back running, I should have tipped the guy – it was worth $20 not to have Bart riding BITCH all the way back to Hoover.

Motorcycle Flattrack Racing in Alabama – it’s back

Is it for real?  C’mon, this can’t be for real, unless it is a bunch of old rednecks in a

 

cornfield?  Dirt track racing died out in the 70’s did it not?  I picture the old-timers drifting sideways on the old Harleys and Triumphs, smacking into those old wooden fences and tumbling into the crowd.  So I always assumed it died out because all the riders died out, from crashing or old age.  Sanity prevents newer riders from engaging in this activity – right?

For the last year or so I have been hearing rumors, seeing pictures and even had a few invitations to attend some flat track events in Alabama.  Well the stars aligned Saturday – it was an amazing, cool spring day – prefect for the ride to Toney Al, to attend my FIRST ever dirttrack event at Beaver Creek Speedway.

As I roll into the gate, the kid’s cart racers are coming out, just having finished their events.  I see the bikes are already lined up under ease-ups, and it looks like a smaller version of the Barber Vintage Festival paddock, sans oil-drip-pans.  I feel I am flashing back to an earlier time.  I hear The Stones, and Led Zep playing in my head, a cloud of Turkish drifts in the air.  Then I park the bi ke, and snap back into reality.

The crowd seems very laid back, and after talking to the guy with the microphone, it seems even cooler than ever.  Just a bunch of cool guys that like to race, they are all friends, that miss the days of racing around a banked oval track.  Pat Bedford, President of Tennessee Valley Flattrackers, gave me a short history of the revival of the sport, after a decade or more of absence.  He and some friends just decided to put something back together, and made it happen.

 

The Vintage racers

vintage motorcycle racing in alabama

Lucky for me, we also were treated to the vintage machines with AHRMA racing on the same day.  It was great to see the modified machines, singles, twins, 4 stroke, 2-smoke, all fun to watch.  Talk about a flash back.  Even got to experienc

 

e legendary racer Dave Aldana show everyone how it was and is done in the hard-packed dirt.  Truly a cool experience, and a great way to spend an evening, and I highly recommend to anyone into any kind of racing.  Also a cool event if you just like bikes.

Accessible racing

One thing Pat stressed is how simple and affordable it is to get started in FT racing.  Drop the suspension, cheap road tires, and $20, and you can race too.  Besides the vintage bikes that were there, most others were dirtbike/motards that looked mostly stock – not a single $10k race bike in the mix.  In fact, he also stress

 

ed that it is SO affordable that even kids can race, XR100s with knobbies can run out there.  I really like the idea of accessible racing, and even better racing with your buddies.

 

This might also be the experience that all of our motard-crowd is looking for.  With cheap trackdays typically starting around $150, and don’t even get me started about WERA – this is accessible racing for just about everyone in the family.  Leave the GIXXER at home, pick up a cheap motard/dirtbike and get out there.  Man that looks like fun.

My year of living carefully, dangerously

OK, so it’s been a while since I’ve posted and shared, and I’m sorry about that.  Thought I’d do a little sharing here today, when I can make myself sit still at the computer.

Since December 15, 2013, I’ve done 17 track-days.  This November alone, I did 3 track-days, one of which coincided with a race school (my first of many, I hope).  These numbers should show you what niche I’ve settled in to…although I am by no means giving up the street (as many on the track pipe do)!

As some of you may remember, I started riding a motorcycle in late June/early July of 2013.  That’s a year and a half ago.  A few things I’ve learned about myself:  damn, am I a determined, overthinking stubborn ass!  Thanks to a wonderful crew of guys (one of whom is on Bama Rides too: Lostinbama), we’ve all helped each other help each other, on our path toward becoming racers and better sportbike riders.  We each have varying years of experience and different natures when attacking this extremely challenging sport, but we are all highly motivated and very determined to get there.

Anyways, more about me   I’m sure some of you know that I’m eager to learn, but I am no risk taker; I take things slow, always taking care not to push my mental and physical limits.  At the same time, my head is the one thing holding me back.

I have good mental days and bad mental days at the track, and more often, I have a day with good and bad sessions back to back.  Now what does that say about how much influence your head has on your riding??!!    More recently, I’ve had more good days than bad, or more good sessions than bad sessions, and at this last trackday, I learned that I can have a bad mental session and still do well lap time-wise, which means I’m getting faster.

Earlier in the year, I would write down a few tangible goals before each trackday, of things to work on to improve.  For example, I’d say “1. Get my head lower,” or “2. let off the throttle and brake later,” etc.  That stuff should be easy; just follow the instructions, right?  No.  Until I get my head straight, until I let most of the fears go, my mind will only let me go so fast.  I must work on my head first, and then I can work on those other things.  Since the realization of this (the crew may have had something to do with that epiphany), my goals have since changed before a trackday.  They are now to relax, have fun and trust my bike/tires.  Some of you naturals or those who’ve been riding since before you left the womb may think those goals are silly or too easy, but that is not the case for everyone.

The bump up

I got my bump from Novice to Intermediate after an evaluation by SportBike Track Time (“STT,” the track-day organizer) at Little Tally in July.  At that point, I had already purchased a Novice slot at Road Atlanta in August, but decided to stay in Novice because I had never been to that track…and thank God that I did!  I intimidated myself about the unfamiliar track.  People joke that it’s a few drag strips with some turns in between them, making for a fast track.  It has an extremely long back straight, (in which you can literally top out your bike), that ends in a 90* left turn.  The turns are mostly 90* and tight chicanes, unlike the sweeping curves of Barber.  In the first few sessions, I didn’t like it, and it showed in my pace.  Finally, the rain came!     Why was I so happy about this?  Well, me and one of the guys went out in this pouring rain (we were the only two to brave the track while it was raining) and cruised around the track at a no-pressure speed (as you can imagine).  I was finally able to see the track, instead of trying to fly through it.  It calmed my mind and my perceived “this is too fast!” diminished.  After that session, the track had mostly dried (love the South!) and I had two decent sessions: I felt good, looked good, and did well.  I’ll be forever grateful to the rain for salvaging my day at a track that I was ready to write-off.

I did my first track-day in Intermediate at Barber in late September, and damn was it 180* to the end of the Road Atlanta day in August.  I overwhelmed myself with the idea of now being the slow person in the faster group.  I was tense, and it showed.  I don’t like thinking about this day much…

Next up, Intermediate at Little Tally.  I don’t remember much from this day, so it wasn’t a standout, but I think I did OK, meaning I had some good and some bad sessions.

Then, Barber on October 19th.  I redeemed myself from the awful day back in September!  I was more relaxed, mentally and physically.  My times were more on par.  I had more good sessions than I had been having at previous track-days.

Three Track-days, one month

Now, November:  the month where I did three track-days at three different tracks, and one of them was a race school.
November 2nd:  Little Tally.  And it was a good day!  I had several good sessions, and my times were consistent, which is a good sign.

Then, November 9th.  I did the Jason DiSalvo Speed Academy (JDSA) at Road Atlanta.  When JDSA does a single-day school that coincides with a STT day, you have to have earned your Intermediate or Advanced bump.  As you can imagine, I was a little nervous about riding Intermediate there as my first and last day at Road Atlanta was in Novice, and I didn’t do well for much of it.  For the first session of the day, we did a lead-follow, where one or two of us at a time follow one of the JDSA control riders.  It was brisk that morning, and JDSA students were the only ones braving the cold track initially in that first session, so that forced us to take it slow and ease our tires up to temp.  I followed AMA Daytona Sportbike racer #21, Elena Meyers, and she is tough lol.  There were a couple times when I unknowningly deviated from her line, and she waved me back behind her.  She eased us around the track, and although it was pretty fast for me, it seemed too easy for her (well, it was, let’s be honest), and I guess I felt the lack of pressure, so I rode calmly and felt great.  That was the start I needed to the day!  It sealed my attitude for the remainder of the day, as I questioned my ability to comfortably ride in Intermediate at such a new track at the beginning of the day.  In the county that Road Atlanta is in, they have a 2-hour quiet time on Sundays from 10am-12pm, so after that initial session, we had an almost 2-hour classroom session, taught by none other than AMA Daytona Sportbike racer #40 and co-founder of the school, Jason DiSalvo.  His biggest thing is body position (Google a picture of him, and you’ll understand why), and although I knew that body position is important in safely going faster, I didn’t realize that it could make me mentally and physically relaxed!  He tweaked some things about my body position throughout the day, and well, the rest is glorified fun history!

That day, I had a f’ing great session every time I went out, and I never pitted in from being tired because I was so relaxed (and not tense from my fingertips to my toes like I often am) and because his body position is so efficient (this last weekend at Barber, I learned that you can still get tired, as Barber’s long-ass sweepers take a toll on you no matter how efficient your body position is).  I was smiling every time I rode in from a session, and couldn’t stop grinning even after the day was over.  That was a fucking great day!!!!!   I’m grinning just thinking about it…

Jason DiSalvo to the left (I’m taller than him btw, even if by just a little bit) and Brian Stokes to the right (the other co-founder of JDSA):

 

 

Lap Times

Road Atlanta is 2.54 miles long, and Barber is 2.38 miles long, but because Road Atlanta is much faster, mph-wise, the lap times are actually very similar.  I pulled times off my video, and I did a consistent lap time, andit was faster than my fastest recorded time at Barber.  Remember, this was my second day at this track, and I had ridden Barber 5 times previous to this day, so it goes to show the improvement that I made in Jason’s school.  The improvements I experienced, speed-wise and mentally, made it worth every penny!

This last weekend at Barber, I was a little tense throughout much of the day, yet I still managed to knock over 5 seconds off of my fastest recorded time!

Got all my important stickers on my new plastics:

 

 

I have improved a lot since I first started doing track-days, and even more since I first started riding period.  What’s more hopeful is that I am just getting started:  I see huge improvements still in my future.  I am nowhere near my highest ability, and I can’t wait to experience it when I get there.  I do have plans to race a little next year, so I’ve got lots to work on and many monies to save lol.

My last track visit of the year will be where it a

 

ll started:  Jennings GP in Jennings, FL, next weekend, December 6-7.  It’s going to be a great finish to my first 365 days of track riding, where I’ll get to see my improvement from Day 1 to Day 357 (8 days to the one-year anniversary of my first trackday).

I have improved a lot since I first started doing trackdays, and even more since I first started riding period.  What’s more hopeful is that I am just getting started:  I see huge improvements still in my future.  I am nowhere near my highest ability, and I can’t wait to experience it when I get there.  I do have plans to race a little next year, so I’ve got lots to work on and many monies to save lol.

Custom Motorcycles or Why To Tear Down A Perfectly Good Bike

I have had my ’08 Sportster for a few years now. Though it was not exactly stock when I bought it and had even been modified further once I got my hands on it, it just wasn’t the bike I wanted it to be. It was high time I tore it apart, changed and replaced some parts and put it all back together again. On the day I started this project a friend was there to drink with me, provide extra hands and, as it would turn out, inspire some pretty thought provoking questions.
There were two things that started the wheels turning. Number one was my swap from wide glide ape hangers to narrow glide ape hangers. If you are reading this, I surmise that you know what ape hanger handlebars are. In case you do not, they are more or less just very tall handlebars. Most aftermarket manufacturers offer both wide and narrow glide apes to accommodate two popular Harley-Davidson front end types.
My bike had wide glide apes on it when I bought it. Since my bike has a narrow glide front end, this mismatch created (to my eyes at least) an unsightly overhang. When I put the new bars up against the old bars, my friend shook his head. To him, the difference was negligible. To me it demanded attention. Changing out handlebars usually isn’t a big deal. It is slightly more painful if your electrical wiring is run through them which, of course, mine was. After attempting to free the pins from their factory quick-disconnects, I decided to cut the wiring harness which seemed to distress my friend even more.
Next up was the paint issue. My bike was black and I repainted it…black. Granted, it is a different shade of black and furthermore a specialty black but still, I went from black to black. Much like changing handlebars, painting a bike is not a huge deal. At least for my DIY “ride not polish” style of bike it isn’t. My friend chuckled at me again shaking his head.
To him, all of these efforts were unnecessary. As he explained, he was happy to tear his bike apart when it needed attention. Around the same time, his bike was suffering from electrical gremlins and it seemed it was coming apart on a daily basis. This type of necessary wrench-turning was acceptable whereas my elective, unnecessary variety was lost on him. I joked that “awesome isn’t for everyone” and we got a laugh out of it but in the end it was clear we did not see eye to eye.
After he finished his Bloody Mary and was on his way, I was left to my own devices and the goal of furthering my customization efforts. I started thinking…why was I doing this? What was my motivation to take something that worked perfectly well and change it? Why did I go about in some way or another modifying every motorcycle I have ever had? Why was stock unacceptable?
I am obviously not alone on this front. Harley-Davidson riders in particular are fond of changing up their bikes. From simple chrome farkles to full-blown one-off choppers and customs, outside of the dealership it is rare to see a factory stock motorcycle. If the part and accessory aftermarket is any indication, Harley is the most modified motorcycle on the market. Why is this? The company would probably sell you a line about their owners being rugged individualists and that change and customization is freedom or some other drivel like that.
I cannot say why most riders change their bikes. I do know that for me, it begins with the idea that a motorcycle is not only transportation. It is fun and excitement. Otherwise, all motorcyclists would all be driving cars. A bike should look just as good in a parking space as it does going down the road. Even at rest it should look sleek, sexy and capable. I feel that the bike should be an extension of the rider. In my case, I would not be caught dead on a yellow bike. One of my friend’s bikes is painted with orange and black tiger stripes. It fits him very well. I like my bikes to look different. I want to look at it and know that it is unique and that it is mine.
I guess since I feel that motorcycles are awesome, I want my bike to fit the best possible vision I have in my head for it. Other people would obviously disagree with how awesome it is or is not and that is a moot point. It is my bike and therein lies the beauty. A lot of custom builders and shops will sacrifice functionality for cool and that is where I draw the line. If a bike’s tank, for example, looks great but doesn’t carry enough fuel to get you down the road, it wouldn’t work on my bike. There are a lot of things in the custom scene that fit into this category but I digress. Besides, it is their bike, not mine.
As long as their have been motorcycles the guys who ride them have been taking them apart to make them, better, worse and most importantly theirs. I just cannot see myself on a stock bike and I think that will be the case until I’m old and have a hip replacement and end up on a factory styled bagger. Even then, if I am too old and tired to turn a wrench or stencil my initials on the hard bags, maybe it is time to hang up the helmet. Until then, they are all coming apart and God willing, when they go back together they will not be the same. They will be custom. They will be awesome. They will be mine.

 

Want to hear a sad story without anyone dying?

Very soon after I got out of high school, I joined the USAF. I was only 17, so my mommy had to sign consent for me :). The next training class for the job I chose did not start until the following year so I was on delayed enlistment and had about 9 months to have some fun. I knew just how I wanted to do it. I had my eye on the prettiest candy-apple red, white, and blue 1984 VF750 Interceptor I had ever seen.
But I was poor as dirt and had no money. At the same time, I was going on 5 years without a bike. So, I got me a job in a medical supply company warehouse in Decatur and borrowed the money for the bike from the only person in the family that had money….good ole uncle Joe. Desperate times / Desperate measures….and so forth.

Score!:

 

FZRatneedles_zpsdb11f9d6I rode as much as I could until the day I had to leave for basic training. Then it was off to tech school…..looonng training program. And by the time I finished the program, I had already been reading the cycle mags about Yamaha’s new attempt to compete in the “Big” sport bike market. I had already made up my mind by the time I got to Ellsworth AFB…Ima’ get me a FZR(1000….Genesis..oooh….Pure Sports….oooh oooh). The timing could not have worked out better. Uncle Sam was picking up and delivering my Interceptor. The local Yamaha dealer was due to get the FZR any day. And, before my Interceptor made it to the base, I had it sold to my best good buddy JT. I was living large on my $750.00/month and had saved up some money. And with the money from the Interceptor, plus what I had saved, I walked in the day they assembled it and laid down a whoppin’ $5400.00 cash and rode out on my brand new red, white, and blue 1987 FZR 1000.

 

My other buddies on base had already been talking smack about their Ninjas and GSXRs. And, while JT was putting around town and the base on his new (to him) Interceptor, I was out in the Black Hills getting acclimated to my new ride. In just a short time, I was teaching them Ninja and GSXR boys some fine lessons in humility….not that teaching lessons was the goal….it was just the inevitable playing out. The FZR was a superior machine and I was just barely lucky enough a rider to prove it. I gotta’ admit, it was a little fun to stiffle some of them cocky pie-holes. I was a Yamaha fan from 6 years old.

Within a few weeks, JT was ready to hit the Black Hills with the rest of us. We hit the Black Hills on a Saturday and burned up some twisties….waiting at every turn for JT. He was doing real good, we all thought, for his first time out on a fast ride.

Way too soon, it was time to head back home. It was a (mostly) casual ride back….but JT saw it as his chance to keep with the pack. Considering what we’d been doing all day, we didn’t think twice about it. We were so pumped up on adrenaline and young men’s (kids actually) general stupidity, we were out of the Black Hills and half way through Rapid City before we realized JT was missing.

d1427095-3793-45d0-8f40-3d4dde988bef_zpsb419a3c4Dead-gum….my heart went from Cloud 9 to hundred pound brick in about 2 seconds. There was a couple ways to get back into town so we split up. We had no idea, but JT was long on his way to the base hospital, and his beautiful candy-apple red, white, and blue Interceptor was back up in the hills at house where the folks that found him lived:

There were a few slick spots on Sheridan Lake Road and I just knew he must have went outside in one of the slippery curves….that’s where I’m headed!!!
Well, I was zippin’ back out of town, scanning side to side like a Cylon Raider, hoping to see JT in a parking lot or gas station or anything besides flat on the road. Still scanning left and right, feeling worse and worse by the minute. I looked ahead just in time to see two cars racing to the left turn signal (one already in the turn lane and one in my lane) then the loser of the race stop full in the road right in front of me. Holy crap!!! I’ll never stop that quick. I locked the rear and made my way to the ground….as I had done previously on many a dirt bike rides. I slid a short distance and tried to stand up….but I was still sliding and my shoes got good traction….and boy did I do a hard forward faceplant. Had a dang good helmet (even if it was a BMW flip-up). It held together fine and I got right back up…just lightly rattled. The FZR continued to slide on its shiny (realatively) new plastic, all the way underneath the stupid punk car. I was a stupid punk too so I’m not uncomfortable saying it like that.

 

FZR_wrecked2_zps5a3ca078All things considered, it could have easily been a lot worse. Just paint, stickers, and plastic. No frame damage at all…the FZR was just about perfectly parallel with the back end of the car when it impacted.

But what about JT….we still didn’t know. Well, the Po-Po that came to my crash told us he heard about JT and that he was OK and probably back at Ellsworth by now. Busted leg and maybe a crack in the sternum.

We were jubilant with relief. Eventually, the whole gang got caught up again and everyone was OK and happy that JT was not dead. We were no less stupid than when it all started and thought it would be cool to sneak in a get well soon present to our fallen pal.

FZR_wrecked_zps46b9636e

I think JT learned the most that day, although we never called it “Ride Your Own Ride”….we all kinda’ absorbed the spirit of that message and toned it down a little. And the competitiveness evolved more into who could sneak up and hit the other guy’s kill switch more than who could get to the waterfall at the end of Spearfish Canyon first. I used that old Beemer helmet as a teaching aid later on….it was eat up pretty good with road rash. There was no helmet law in SD and whenever a new riding buddy came along that was too cool to wear a helmet, I’d eventually drag it out and show ‘em. Most of the time it worked. –By kdtrull

JTinhospital_zpsdd2bcd57

All bikers are guilty until proven innocent

A few of you might remember I got a ticket July 3rd for “weaving” – No signal, a mile from my house, got it on video, and it was bullshit, I changed lanes 2x in 5 miles, but I wonder what the judge will say?  After talking to a few people, it appeared I had a good case.  The video showed there was a slim chance any video could have even seen my signals, since I could NOT see the Trooper’s signals in MY video.  So I decided to fight.  I put together a compelling case of the entire video, and some scree captures, with annotations and position of the vehicles in question.

 

What I was not really excited for the judge to see was the video of me passing the car in the left lane. It was fast. It was close. It was questionable. A judge might think it was reckless, and add another charge. That was my ONLY fear. But I decided to go for it anyway. I was charged with a crime I did not commit.

I showed for the date on the ticket. I told the judge I have video evidence I would like to present.

He set the date, and told me driving class would not be an option if convicted.
I told him yes sir.

While walking out of the courtroom, I mumbled “I would rather have my eyes gouged out than spend another Saturday listening to a driving professor again”

I hope he did not hear me.

I was in the courtroom for less than 2 minutes – I am looking forward to my day in court.

I like the judge.

 

I hate motorcycles

September 30 – my final appearance.
I got a nice parking spot. Confirmed bad form by B’ham’s Finest – I turn in and park on the sidewalk after receiving the thumbs up.

 

As I walk towards the courthouse, I notice my nemesis parked beside the building.  He is fiddling with something while he sits in AC comfort.

Maybe I should not have snapped this picture?

 

I walked thru the metal detectors and found myself inside the courtroom.

As I sat down I heard

 “Someone just rode in on a motorcycle……I HATE those things. Get you killed pretty quick.”

The statement roared from the bench. the judge noticed me, and he was NOT happy.

There were only 10 defendants in the courtroom so a giant clothed in moto-gear, carrying a back pack and a helmet stands out a bit. Yes, I guess he was talking to me – or at me.

I knew I was in trouble.

About 3 minutes later, the Trooper walks in. He looks at me, I give a head nod, and a big grin. The game begins.

Then as he walks past, I notice he is carrying a laptop….. A LAPTOP? You mean he actually has video footage?

What can it be? Is it any better than mine? I can’t see HIS signals in my video, how can he have any better evidence than mine?

The Trooper opens the laptop, and pulls up video. From what I can see at the back of the courtroom, the video is not any better than mine. But I am still worried. I did not expect him to have ANY video?

After 3 more minutes the judge says “You…. in the green shirt…..come on up!”

I grab the backpack and laptop, as I walk to the bench, the Trooper moves over towards me. The judge looks to him and says “Begin”

Trooper: Blah, blah blah….Mr Redman this, blah blah that.  He changed lanes and failed to signal.
Me: But I did signal, and I have video evidence.
Judge: Trooper, can you see him not signaling?
Trooper: Judge I zoomed in and out, but I could not see him signaling.
Me: He is 200 yards in front of me when I make the lane change, he can’t even see my bike, as I cannot see his car in my video.
Judge: How do you have video?
Me; I was filming while riding
Judge; What? How were you filming while riding?
Me: I always film while I am riding.
Judge: But HOW do you film while riding?
Me: I have a camera attached to my helmet, and it films automatically while I am riding…always.
Judge: {Confused}

So I pull up the laptop and present it to the judge to illustrate the distance.

Judge: Does your video show you signaling?
Me: No sir, you cannot see the signals from the rear
Judge: {pause}
Judge: {pause}
Judge: {pause}
Judge: {looks me in the eye}

I realize things are not going well………………..

But I also realize the Trooper has not shown HIS video…………..

What to do? Think fast Redman!

The judge looks back at me, then the Trooper……

Uhoh, pull something out – QUICK!!

ME: I do NOT fight tickets. I would not be here if I was guilty. I take my punishment when I am wrong, but I am not guilty your honor, and that is the only reason I am here.
Judge: {Looks at his computers, mouses, as if to look at my driving record}
Judge: Well, today is your lucky day, I am gonna give you the benefit of the doubt
Me: {mumbling something that I do not remember}
DA: You should be quiet now, you WON!
Trooper: I was not even gonna write you till you started arguing with me. {grinning}
Judge: Today you get the benefit of the doubt
Me: Thank you your honor

Then I start talking to the Trooper like we were old pals, and reliving the day, when the DA tells me to be quiet and leave.

JUSTICE SERVED in Birmingham Alabama – 9:15am Sept. 30, 2014
As I walk to the back of the courtroom to collect my gear, the judge roared:

” I hate motorcycles!”

Shelby Springs Alabama – another Alabama Ghost town

A few years back I visited Shelby Springs as part of the Alabama Ghost Town Project, but I never really found much information, or ruins, so I decided to go back and do it right this time.  The Shelby Springs Resort existed in 1839.  By 1855, a two story hotel was built.  During the Civil War, the facilities were used as a training center for the young Confederate soldiers.  Later it was converted to a hospital for wounded soldiers.  Many of the soldiers died at  the hospital, and were buried on the ridge overlooking the Springs.

The training facility was known as Camp Winn.  After being used to train Confederate soldiers, the hotel was turned into a 300 bed hospital.  From an account in Haunted Shelby County, the author describes the Sisters of Mercy having “turned the ballroom into a surgical ward.”  Over 900 soldiers were sent to the hospital at Shelby Springs and few spend eternity on the hilside above.  The next discovery I made was the Shelby Springs Confederate Cemetery.

 

The cemetery, just a few hundred yards above the springs on the hillside is very impressive.  Not as many headstones as you might think, but all are well taken care of an the grounds are manicured.  Most of the headstones I saw were “unknown”, but there were several granite markers that told the story.  In addition, it appears the graveyard may be haunted.  Certainly worth a trip.

 

 

Why and how I started riding a scooter

I think my situation is a little unique. Growing up, my brother and I were not allowed to own a motorcycle. A family member had died in a bike accident, so we were highly discouraged. We weren’t discouraged from motorized adventure though, we raced boats and cars (drag and circle tracks) and loved speed and thrills. My total motorcycle experience was a few rides on friends bikes. In the early 1980’s I was a service member stationed in Germany. I was in a rural area, so I did not see a lot of it, but I did notice that scooters (not motorcycles) were a big part of the transportation system. Over the past couple of years I have vacationed in London, Paris and Berlin. I was amazed at the efficiency of the transportation systems in those cities. At the same time debate rages on about 280, I-65, and the transportation problems in Birmingham (Atlanta, Nashville …). In the major European cities public transportation and scooters dominate travel. Cars are limited to the very rich or commercial travel. The laws favor scooters and encourage two wheelers (filtering city law makers!) to solve congestion and parking problems while maintaining some individual freedom.
So although my travel and pocket expense were not prohibitive to me here in Alabama, I started looking at what I would do if gas prices started to climb. I looked at bus routes to see if I could drive to the closest station and bus back and forth to work. It might be feasible if you work 8 to 5 in the city center, but I work 7 to 7 in Hoover. With Birmingham’s pathetic bus schedule it was not possible.
Next was riding a motorcycle or scooter. I was 51 years old and had never ridden. I had seen middle age guys find the romance in a bike, go out and buy a Goldwing, get scared the first time they pulled up the kick stand and never ride again. I decided to start small. In September 2013 I bought a Roketa 150 (Chinese scooter) that needed work for $400. I played around with it, learned to ride, played with performance parts and had some fun. However, it topped out at 52 mph by GPS. Anywhere I travel requires riding on Interstate or 2 lane roads with 55 mph speed limits. There was always someone on my rear fender. Travel time to work was 1 1/2 hours by the roads I had to take (45 minutes by Interstate in my truck). I did learn about scooters and found that I enjoyed the ride. It was worth the money spent for the experience and education.

I started looking for a 250. While searching I came across a Kymco People 200S. It was a great deal on a low mileage clean scooter, but it wasn’t running right. I little wire work and carb cleaner (a $5 investment and a few hours) and I had a great running bike. Now I really enjoyed the ride. It topped out at 62 mph (by GPS) so the 55 mph roads were no problem. The ride to work was down to a little over an hour and more places were available to ride. From mid November 2013 to Mid February 2014 I put 1000 miles on her, even though weather was not very cooperative! Since it was not fast enough to safely drive on the Interstate, Also, I was pushing the 164cc so hard that my gas mileage was only in the low to mid 50’s mpg. it would not help me achieve my goal of averaging riding to work 2 days a week. I started looking for a 250 (Reflex, Rebel) or larger again.

I came across a nice deal on a Suzuki Burgman 400. I have had it less than two weeks and have put 500 miles on it. There would be a few hundred more if it would stop raining! Interstate speeds are no problem. Back roads are fun. It is comfortable in a 1 hour ride. My commute to work is 454 minutes if I want it to be, a little longer if I want to have some fun or feel more safe on the back roads. My gas mileage is in the mid 50’s.

I am new at this, so only time will tell if I get bored commuting on it and go to just enjoying weekend rides. So far, riding the scooter has been adventurous and fun.

For those inexperienced or first time older riders, I highly recommend starting small and light, having a CVT helps a lot too, so that your first two wheel experiences are something you can grow with!

Yep, I really did run someone over with a motorcycle.

As some of you know, I was sort-of a police officer for a few years (15+ actually). I was a precocious little snot in my career…a surprise to some of you, I know. I wrecked 7 police cars and 1 police motorcycle…totaling 2 of the cars and the motor. One time, I managed to put the lights out in a fair-sized city, total a police car, total another car, AND set a building on fire all in about 5 seconds. One year, I nearly snatched an Alabama Army National Guard helicopter out of the sky during a marihuana eradication program, causing hundreds of thousands of dollars in damage to the bird and nearly got the program summarily cancelled nationwide…and those are just the beginnings of the highlight reels.

It wouldn’t be unfair to say that I was rather assertive in my policing style and I was used as a counter-balance to the overly ‘Officer Friendly’ types. The trick was figuring out the balance and knowing when Officer Friendly was the right officer to send, or when it was time to send in the cavalry on a slash-n-burn campaign when the bad guys didn’t get the message or thought they had figured-out the system. It was one of the latter assignments were I really did run-over a guy with a motorcycle.

 

In the late 1980s, some of our citizens thought it a grand idea to shoot ‘craps’ against the curbs in the street-side parking bays within one of our many government-assisted housing ‘projects’. We Officers knew these were nickel, dime and quarter games…solidly in no-harm/no-foul territory and as long as the folk showed enough respect to at least get off their knee as we patrolled by, we would conspicuously ignore them and go about our business so they could get back to theirs.

Unfortunately, our least civilized project straddled one of the major streets that all of the self-declared Pretty-People who lived up on “the Mountain” used as a short-cut going to-n-fro between their homes and downtown. Being ‘Pretty People’ they didn’t understand that a casual game of pick-up craps was not the final sign of the Apocalypse, and even if it was, we had it under control. One thing they DID know was that we had NO problem arresting them and their kids for any of numerous violations ranging from DUI to pederasty, and …well…that just wasn’t ‘fair’ in their view of things so they complained to the Powers.

In any conflict between the Pretty People and the Little Folk, the Powers always align themselves with who they believe themselves to be…the Pretty People. Sure enough, it weren’t long before orders came down from the Powers to their resident “fixer”: ‘Sgt Nessler, make it stop.’. One of the qualities of being a good ‘fixer’ is being able to discern the true intent of the Powers without having to ask inconvenient questions. I knew that I wasn’t being told to make the Little Folk stop shooting craps against the curbs…that would be potentially inconvenient should the Little Folk complain to, say, the ACLU, NAACP, or the wrong Justice Department. What I WAS being told was to make the Pretty People stop complaining to the Powers about the Little People shooting craps against the curbs. That is a subtle but significant difference and being able to discern that difference is what made me such a good ‘Fixer of Inconvenient Things’.

My plan was simple, get a couple of my trusted tac team members in on the act and gently nudge the games off the main street and onto the side-streets where the Pretty People would NEVER go (unless they were picking up a ‘friend’ for a ‘date’ based on a to-be-negotiated cash transaction or they were craving their favorite illicit narcotic du’jour). Our negative reinforcement for the relocation program was simply seizing the money in the pot, which we would immediately and gleefully redistribute to the kids in the area. That way, we were achieving the goal, making lots of new friends, plus even the players knew we weren’t pocketing their meager amounts of money (which they would have believed if we went ‘by the book’ and turned the ‘abandoned property’ into the property room).

Two or three times a day, if I wasn’t already on one of our PD motors I’d go get one and meet my teammates near the targeted project. We were on some of the first mid-80‘s Honda Gold Wing Police-specific bikes. They were naked, except for a clear plexi-windshield, A MONSTER round headlight, and we hacked some of the saddlebags off of our old H-Ds onto them to hold our crap when we rode them. We were offered the opportunity to run the bikes for a couple of years as a test PD and jumped at the chance. We didn’t even have enough stickers, logos, and radios to befarkle all of them and the one I usually used was, basically, an unmarked bike and I could roll right up on just about anyone. We usually called it the ‘sneaker bike’, and it was good for just that.

On the day of all days, I had gone to get the sneaker bike, met my partners, rolled into the projects and sure enough, there was a game right where it didn’t need to be. I eased along, knowing that in just a few moments they’d figure out what I was up to, run, and I’d just roll-up get the money and hand it out to the kids who’d always gather around (they knew how it worked and were always close by when we grabbed a pot).

Except, they were REALLY focused on the game and weren’t looking around…

As I rolled closer, I could see that there was something odd about the pot…there were bills in it and I had NEVER seen that before! Closer yet and I still hadn’t been seen so I double-clicked my lapel-mic, the signal for my back-up to come-on-in. Closer…still not seen…LOTS of bills on the ground…lots of folk in the game…interesting…

I picked my opening and slowly turned off the road just as the player rolls the dice. As everyone in the game focuses on the numbers, I slip my front wheel between two gamers and stop with the pot trapped under my front wheel…and all hell breaks loose when someone screams ‘FIVE OH!-FIVE OH!-FIVE OH!”

Those that are already standing run-off in different directions, those on their knees scramble to get on their feet, grabbing and pulling on each other to get moving. In the scrimmage, a couple of them end up rolling-around on the ground trying to figure-out which way to go, and I see the guy that had rolled the dice grab them and run off-toward my left, which was in the direction I was facing.

For some reason he’s looking back at me and I’m looking right at his face so I can ID and grab him later when we both notice the $20 bill falling out of the sky like a leaf between us. First, I was awestruck…I didn’t know there was a $20 bill anywhere in those projects…but here it was! Everyone else had run away but Dice Guy and he had stopped, watching the $20 fall to the ground. When it hit the ground, I looked back up to see where he was, only then realizing he had stopped running away. Then I saw that smile spread across his face…

He had realized what I already knew…I was stuck on the motorcycle and he could make a grab at the pot and go before I could even flinch…and that is EXACTLY what the SOB did!

WHOOSH! he reached down and WHOOSH! He was headed away again and all I saw was a HUGE wad of bills in his hand as he ran off laughing…right up the sidewalk…in the direction I was already pointed.

‘F’k that, You F’king, F’ker’ I remember thinking as I eased-out the clutch, bumped the curb, and headed down the sidewalk after him. He had a little distance on me, but the way was clear between us so I gassed it a little. I knew my back-up was rolling in behind me and would follow me to the fun but I wanted one of them to stay with the pot…there was still plenty of cash in it…and I reached for my mic clipped to my uniform.

Police lapel-mics are not meant for use on a moving motorcycle and you have to get your mouth as close as you can to the mic to be heard. To do that, you develop a habit of turning your head to toward the mic (for me that was to my right) and leaning down toward the mic as far as you can while you pull the mic as far up as you can.  Well, when I did that, the little sunshade on the half-helmets we wore would block my peripheral vision to the front. In 99 & 44/100ths percent of the time, not a problem…but this wasn’t one of those times.

Unbeknownst to me, Dice Guy had realized the futility of his actions and he decided to surrender…which he did by stopping, turning to face me, and standing spread-eagle in the middle of the sidewalk.

Unfortunately, I did not know he had done that soonly enough…

Something caught my eye to the front and I looked-up just in time to see my front wheel passing between his spread legs…and….it…..all……slowed…….way……..way………down.

Somehow I got my left hand off my mic, back on the bar, and clamped-down on the bars and with my knees against the tank just as that monster headlight hit him right in the belly. The momentum of the bike drove his midsection backward while his legs and arms extended straight toward the back of the bike along each side of the shield as the air just blasted out of him in a loud ‘HUUUUuuuuuuhhhhhh’.

I saw that his face had planted hard against the center of the plexi-windscreen and was turned to my left side. His mouth was open and something pink had spritzed across the screen…then there was his eye…

It was plastered flat against the upper part of the screen…right in the center…looking like a big, flat fish-eye…and it was staring right at me! I’m here to tell you…that freaked me out a little!

I grabbed the brakes and he began to peel-off the front of the bike…almost like he was sitting on the front fender and was slowly falling over backwards…but the bike began to wiggle a little (I didn’t know it at the time, but I was on some sand that was on the sidewalk, probably from rain run-off). I could see that he was still peeling-off the front of the bike, falling away faster than I was going, but I instinctively released the brakes to regain control of the bike.

Just as I let go of the brakes, he landed on the sidewalk…HARD! It seemed like I could feel his head hit the concrete and he skidded a little ways before he stopped.

Then it got bad…

He was still spread-eagle, lying on his back on the sidewalk, the wide end of the “V” of his legs toward me with his head away from me.

By that point it had devolved into the surreal and I was just along for the ride…

The bike was still moving forward at a fair speed and from the wiggles, it was slightly leaning and turning to the left as it rolled between his legs again. The front tire rolled up the inside of his right leg, forcing the front of the bike to the right. The front tire rolled across the top of his right thigh, tracked to the right of his crotch, across his abdomen from his right-to-left, to where it dropped off his left shoulder about halfway between his head and point of his shoulder.

The rear tire rolled up high on the inside of his left thigh, bursting his thigh with a loud “POP!”, then it tracked across his hips, abdomen and chest angled slightly from his left-to-right. His face was turned to his right and the rear tire tracked across the left side of his face, leaving an imprint of the tire tread in the skin on his forehead (that lasted for several days) before it dropped off his head back onto the sidewalk.

Once back on solid ground, I was able to get the bike stopped pretty quickly and all I could do was sit there trying to figure-out what had just happened. In no time, the screech of tires, people running, kids screaming, high-pitched radio calls for the fire medics snapped me back to reality.

Yeah…it really happened…I had just run over a man with a motorcycle…and the world saw me do it.

The medics were there in just a few moments and they were working on him furiously. I knew there was a lot of concern about his left thigh. From prior training and a previous incident I was involved in, I knew there were a large artery and vein in there and that if either of those were ruptured it’d be difficult for him to survive.

I’d worked on him a little before the medics arrived and believed that both were intact…I kept trying to tell the medics if they’d just look they were right there and they could see they were fine (I was being more wishful than knowing, but I could tell from the amount of blood on the ground that as bad as it looked, he still had plenty in him). They finally bundled him up and got him on the road to the ER just in as my command staff started arriving.

In the whirlwind of Very Important People Trying to Appear Important, I ended up stuffed in the rear seat of a marked unit and unceremoniously sent-off to the hospital for the blood alcohol and drug screenings I had requested. I ended-up in the station next to the Dice Guy…both fortunately and unfortunately. Fortunately because I learned that, other than the thigh, he was remarkably uninjured and the thigh, while gruesome looking, was still pretty intact and could probably be repaired with minimal risk of extended impairment. Unfortunate because it was rather disheartening to hear people say how truly and sincerely screwed I was…as in, please tell me something I DIDN’T know already!

…and that, as weaving and drifting a story as it is, is how I ran-over someone with a motorcycle to the best of my recollection and memory.

When I share this story, people usually have two basic questions: “What happened to him?” and “What happened to you?”

He recovered fine. Last I knew he is alive & well, and STILL living in the same projects but that has been many years ago. He has some nasty-looking scarring on the inside of his thigh but suffered no particular impairment despite being run-over by a solid half-ton of motorcycle and me. While he could have easily sued for a gabazillion dollars and certainly have received some substantial money, he never did. After the statutory period to initiate a suit passed we spoke about it and he said that he realized that he was wrong and he knew I would never have done anything like that on purpose.

I was both in a predicament and was A predicament for the City.

Yeah, accidents happen and people that don’t deserve to get hurt, do…but the ‘optics’ of it were bad for me (if it hasn’t been accurately inferred, he was black and I am obviously not), Crack cocaine was really hammering the black community in our city hard and we…as a PD and as a Tac Team I was the Commander of…were pounding the dealers harder. Sometimes our tactics were harsh and I was one of the ‘faces’ of those tactics. I was honestly concerned that I’d be sold for scrap just as an example. Fortunately, I discovered I had some very surprising friends within the black community and the few people that barked were silenced pretty quickly from within.

From the City’s perspective, there was always the innate motivation to ‘do something’ when the optics are as they were, but their predicament was whatever they did would, for all intents and purposes, be seen as admitting culpability and risk opening-up the city treasury to the victim’s cash vacuum (in a cost-saving measure, the City had self-insured and would be completely exposed in case of a lawsuit). So, as many large organizations are prone to, they found themselves with a self-inflicted case of ‘analysis induced paralysis’ until it was too late to act against me without appearing to be acting in an unnecessarily retaliatory manner, thereby handing ME the cash vacuum (and they KNEW very well what I’d do with it).

I worked for that PD a few more years and I’d see the Dice Guy regularly. The standing joke between us when he’d show his ass while drinking was that I’d tell him to go inside or I’d run him over again…and in he’d go without another peep. I will admit that he got special consideration from me and there were many, many times he may should have gone to jail for Public Intoxication. Instead, he and I walked back to his place, me carrying him more than him walking, and his family would come-out to get him and they were always gracious and thankful.  I just figured he had earned that privilege the hard way.

Michael J. Nessler

Why My First Charity Ride Will Be My Last

 

Back in September I decided to take part in a charity ride. It was my first and though I have been told never to say never, it will likely be my last. I had listened to several folks tell of their issues on rides like this and they gently cautioned me against participation. Looking back, I really wish I had listened.

I am no stranger to riding in groups. My BuRP group has been riding together for over 10 years now. At our peak year, we h

 

ad close to 50 bikes in our pack. The crowd at this charity ride easily dwarfed our group when I arrived and there were still tons of bikes to come. I’ve learned over the years that I prefer smaller groups and this solidified my feelings on group riding: less is more. This was way more that I cared to ride with but I had hoped my apprehension would ease once we got moving.

Now, I am not saying that I am the best rider out there. My limitations are clear to me and I ride within my ability. There were a lot of riders in this group who had no business on a ride of this size. I saw people who did not understand staggering, pace, safe distance, etc. Frankly, there were several moments on this ride that were downright scary. Constantly looking out behind and in front of me, I quickly got nervous and it effected my enjoyment.

This is where things get really interesting and honestly, there are a couple ways to interpret what happened. In retrospect I cou

 

ld have handled the situation differently and as I am not familiar with protocol for group rides like this, I may be completely in the wrong. At one point in the ride, I realized the route would be going right through my neighborhood. I pulled off to text my wife so she could bring our kids to see all the bikes. Once I was done, I looked for an opening and pulled back into the pack.

Half a mile up the road another rider pulled up next to me and told me I wasn’t part of this ride and I needed to get out of the pack. Certain he was joking and trying to figure out how I knew him, I asked if he was serious. He assured me that he was and told me again to pull off. I explained I had left from the dealership and I was going to continue the ride. He then admonished me for jeopardizing the safety of other riders by pulling back into the pack like I did.

 

A little taken aback and angry, I kept my cool and told him I thought he was making a mountain out of mole hill. He assured me he wasn’t and sped up to get in front of me. I was not happy with how it had played out so I pulled up to him again. Do not worry, the fact that all of this is more dangerous than my original transgression is not lost on me but I digress. I asked him if he really wanted to talk about this which opened the can of worms. He shouted, with nodding approval from his wife, that I was a dangerous rider and inconsiderate and had jeopardized the lives of everyone on the ride. Going on, he explained that the group was in formation and I had made everyone shift. My response was that this was normal on a group ride and I had to do it all the time to which he disagreed.

At this point, I felt like I might be dealing with an individual who had ulterior motives of some sort so I just let him get in front of me and didn’t think about it again. Pulling in to park at the halfway point, he rode up to me again and explained that he saw my registration wrist band and I had a right to be on the ride but he still thought my actions were reckless. I told him at this point, seeing that trying to talk while trying to park in a group of hundreds of bikes was a bad idea, that I would come find him once I stopped.

As I approached he immediately started in on me, in a much calmer and less accusatory tone, about all the things he had previously stated. Before it got too far, I stopped him and introduced myself and shook his hand. He continued on and I let him without interruption. My rebuttal was simply to state that I disagreed with his position and that my intention was to have fun and and a good ride and not to hurt anyone. I apologized if my actions upset him and we parted ways.

I’ve talked to several people about this incident. I have a general consensus about what most folks seem to think but I’ll let you form you own opinion. What do you think? Leave a comment below, I’d like to hear all the takes on it I can. Regardless, it is enough for me not to throw myself into another obscenely large ride with a group of complete strangers. I am certain I would feel this way even if not for this incident but if ever there was something that drove a point home, it was this.

Back on the bikes, I found the route and the pace to be boring. It just wasn’t the type of riding I enjoy. Being in an big, escorted group kept us from really opening up or being able to set the pace faster and therefore more enjoyable. If I were organizing the ride, I would have considered having different groups based on riding style, experience level, etc. The route was mostly through parts of the city and though we did hit some rural areas and great views, I felt like it could have been more interesting. The organizers mentioned construction kept them from using other, more scenic routes. I still feel like there were better options. Again, I’ve never done a ride like this much less organized one myself so perhaps the voices of experience dictated a lot of why these things did or did not happen.

If you are considering doing a ride like this, be ready to stop and go a lot. Don’t expect to be killing it in terms of speed. The slinky effect is even more present in groups of this size so you need to be on your toes. Stay focused on the group in front of you and keep an eye on your rear view. While my ideas on my enjoyment of big group rides were confirmed, do not let me me discourage you if you are interested in doing one. There are tons of ways to ride and a multitude of bikes to ride on. Just because it was not for me doesn’t mean you might not enjoy it.