Alabama Motorcycle rides
There is a retired man who hangs out at a grill not far from my house. I met him one night outside the neighborhood grocery when I was getting onto my bike. Talking motorcycles, he remarked that it was a sharp ride and that he had a bike of his own, a big Harley dresser. He told me to come find him sometime and we’d go for a ride so I did.
Some time later I found him at the grill, as promised, enjoying coffee early one morning with some other retired men from the neighborhood. His bike was there that day and we had more time to talk about riding. Over a couple cups of joe we talked about bikes and eventually about rides. The most recent he had done was less than two hundred miles with a couple riding buddies.
Now, I’m not Round the World Doug but I’ve been on some great road trips. I talked to him about riding to California and to Canada. Based on his reaction, you would have thought I rode to the moon. This is not the first time I have gotten a reaction from other riders about long trips. The prevailing theme is always “I could never do that” followed by a single or list of excuses as to why they couldn’t.
Admittedly, it took me some time before I took my first out of state trip. I don’t remember the year but I rode from Hoover to see my cousins in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. I caught up with them, drank and we tailgated at an LSU game. I know it was in July because their friends made a really big deal about my birthday. Looking back, an awesome trip could have been so much cooler but I was green and did not know what I was missing.
Some time later on the first of my trips to Maggie Valley, NC I was stopped for gas when approached by another rider. I had been riding the interstate the whole day and when he found that out he almost seemed disgusted. He offered the unsolicited advice to take a right out of the gas station and ride over the interstate and just keep going until I made it to my destination. I asked him how I would get there without knowing where I was going. Laughing, he told me not to worry, I would make it. I took his advice and I mark this as the ride that really opened my eyes. All these years later I’m not sure how I made it to Maggie Valley but it was some of the greatest riding I have ever done. I would never plan a trip with interstates ever again.
A motorcycle is a means of transport so why do some riders seem afraid to let it do just that: transport them? I am not against rides around town, day rides or rides to eat but most riders I know desire more, they want to go further and see what is over the hill and the hill after that. Big mileage days, camping, going off the beaten path…why are these things so appealing to some riders yet so scary to others?
Maybe it all has to do with comfort zones. If you won’t camp in town, chances are you won’t camp on your bike out of town. If you get uneasy in places that aren’t familiar to you, it won’t matter if you are on a bike or in a car. If you get uncomfortable after a little saddle time, you really won’t like a full day. These are, of course, all just more excuses. You could always skip camp and get a hotel. Familiarity, or lack thereof, if part of any vacation, bike or not. In terms of saddles, there are countless products on the market that can get you to the point where you will be comfortable all day.
So where do you fall? If you’ve never taken that big trip you’ve always dreamed of, what is stopping you? How many excuses will you make this year not to ride your bike across the state if not the country? When your casual bike buddy asks to go for a ride are you going up the street for ice cream or are you going to surprise him and keep him on the trail until the sun goes down? If you have always been afraid, stop letting that fear keep you from a ride you’ll tell the grand-kids about. The old Southwest Airlines ad was right, “You are now free to move about the country” and you should. Get on your bike and ride and let it transport you wherever you want to go.
I have heard the phrase many times - “I am not a biker, I am a motorcyclist!”, mostly spoken with an air of indignation, as not to be associated with “those fools”. Most others are excited to be labeled “biker”. I use the term to describe everyone that rides a bike, as “motorcyclist” seems so unnatural, uptight, and rigid. So maybe we should have another alternative to motorcyclist – a rider. The term “rider” implies more than just enthusiasm for motorcycles, and moto-culture, it implies enthusiasm for riding motorcycles, a hobby mostly overlooked in the age of OCC and chopper build-offs. So for the purpose of this article, rather than labeling everyone motorcyclists, I will label all enthusiasts – BIKERS, and all others, that in addition to having a love for the machines and culture, also love to ride – we will call them RIDERS.
For the rest of you bikers, I will say the purpose of this article is to outline most of what I think are the primary reasons people ride on two wheels, and sometimes simply own motorcycles. I think it important to talk about these ideas for several reasons: a. for self-reflection, hopefully a realization of the reason YOU ride, b. identification of new reasons why others may ride c. most importantly, in hopes you may find an additional reason to ride.
With the explosion of motorcycle ownership in the last decade, there has been a tremendous rise in the number of bikers seen on the road. Surprisingly, outside of the warmest perfect weather days, two-thirds of all motorcycles in Alabama remain garaged year round. The few that do get ridden usually see less than 1K miles/year. Why is this? Why do most riders not understand the fundamental element of being a biker? Riding. I think this question is more easily answered when we understand the reasons why people become bikers.
Motivations to own a motorcycle include:
- social status
- respect/fear(from others)
- group belonging/peer pressure
Most people will admit to at least one or more of the above as motivation, while others are clearly motivated by non-riding factors. The proof is almost always on the odometer. While you may ride for transportation and economy, it is easy to rack up thousands of mile per year, even if you do not enjoy riding. If you do enjoy riding, the only limiting factors for mileage would be time, money, and level of interest. The last six of the eight factors tend to produce the least mileage, and overall satisfaction from owning a motorcycle. And that is what I would like to focus on, how we can convert the masses of folks riding for the wrong reason, into riders that can actually get real enjoyment out of those amazing, trans-formative machines.
It is clear that you can buy your motorcycle for the wrong reason and find a really good reason after becoming bored and disappointed. Many riders buy a bike to be a biker, for social reasons etc., and find out along the way that riding is actually fun too. The biggest obstacle for most riders is the lack of information, and the group they identify with, giving off the wrong signals. In other words, most riders pick the identity of the group they will belong to long before they even purchase their first bike, or any many cases the first “middle-aged bike”, since the kids have left home. The identity comes from a fantasy about some lifestyle they imagine from seeing pictures on a co-worker’s desk, or a Facebook page from a buddy that is “living the dream”. An image that is created by a marketing department, that inspires dreams of freedom, the open road, and young women throwing themselves at you after hearing the sex oozing from the rumbling pipes.
Which tribe do YOU belong to?
So most choose an identity based on how they see themselves, and what tribe they desire to belong to. They may actually initiate the conversation before hand, “Hey, nice bike. What kind is that?” “Where did you buy that?” They study the habits and style of the tribe, in hopes that one day they can join, and experience the same freedoms, lifestyle, and culture that can only be found by arriving on a bike. The study of the culture, in my mind, is the biggest problem with the lack of true fulfillment from riding. All the effort and study goes into studying style, behavior, attitude and language, rather than simply riding. The primary effort becomes – How do I fit in? or – How can I appear to be more like THEM? rather than – Where can I ride to, and what can I see along the way? The effort is wasted on belonging and appearance, rather than riding and the experience of wind in your face.
As a result, many bikers are disappointed in the results of their investment in bikes, apparel, farkles, and additions that have been fruitless in providing the fantasy they had expected. So after 4-5 years of the bike sitting in the garage 350 days/year, and having to spend $600+ every spring to revive the bike from disuse, they finally wind up selling, or not, after finding the bike has not increased in value as expected. So maybe one day Junior picks up that old rotting bike that only has 4,163 miles on it, and crashes it half way home, because he thought an 800 lb. bike was still just a bike. The shame of it all was nobody that ever rode that machine was ever able to realize the potential of it to transform your life. Never was the magic revealed as anything more than an object ridden to the pub with your buddies for wings, and promptly washed for storage during the 350 day off-season. If only the owners would have looked in another direction.
Looking in a new direction
I believe the primary obstacle for bikers old and new becoming riders are the boundaries setup by themselves and others. What you do and how you enjoy your bike is largely determined by your peers – friends, neighbors, coworkers, and how they enjoy their bike is relayed to you in stories, images, and conversations. Your picture of the moto-world is most likely determined by who you associate with, read about, and ride with. If all your peers determine that the essence of biker-life is experienced by bike nights, beer and wings on Thursday nights, culminating in trailering down to ThunderBeach, then odds are, that is what you will value as the pinnacle also. I have no illusions that we can convert all of you into riders, I just hope that maybe we can shine some light on a new, unseen world that most will never experience. You will ultimately choose your path.
Choose your path
Continue down the road you are on, with little reward, same friends, bumping down the same roads, to the same places – OR, trying something new with new friends, riding to new places. Take the old friends along if you can, but sometimes, THEY are the problem. Don’t let them hold you back, it is time to ride.
“If you always do what you’ve always done, you’ll always get what you’ve always got.” – Henry Ford
The key to success is stepping outside of your comfort zone. For instance, most folks rarely ride more than 200 miles in a day, and some rarely more than 200 miles in a month. Whatever your daily range is – double or triple it. Find a point on a map that is further than you have ever ridden and go there. Make a friend or two go with you, expand their horizons too. The way to find your boundaries is to push them.
Boundaries and your comfort zone
We all have boundaries. Most riding boundaries are the result of fear – fear of the unknown, fear of pain and discomfort, fear of loss.
- Fear of the unknown-I have never traveled outside of the state, so I don’t know what to expect, what if wild Indians attack
- Fear of pain and discomfort- my butt might hurt if I ride more than 30 minutes
- Fear of loss-what if I get a flat, or my bike breaks down, or a party breaks out while I am gone
Sure they seem silly when you print them out, but what are the REAL reasons for your fear of riding? They are probably just as silly.
You need to write them down, all the reasons why you are afraid, and read them. Then laugh, then wad the paper up, throw it away. Pick a point on a map, push your limit, extend your boundaries, find out what motorcycling is all about.
You don’t have to ride naked across the Salt Flats, simply ride somewhere new, interesting, and far away. If it does not change you in some way, you did not ride far enough. Rinse. Repeat. Often.
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 —————— Discuss
The event known as Dual Sportin’ the Free State started on a Friday, and ran thru Sunday, a fairly large gathering of DS riders from across the state, and outside. Originating from ADV Rider, most of the guys came from there. Interesting to meet some new faces, and ride with some guys that I have known of. We came in Friday afternoon, in the rain and promptly set up a tent to have a dry spot to sleep. We had a good chance to share some spirits and stories with the Goodwin boys and their families. Brushy Lake is a nice spot to start from.
Plenty of time to gear up in the morning, as most of the riders only showed up a few minutes before departure time. A nice comfortable pace started the ride, gradually gathering speed until we ran across a group of horses with riders enjoying the forest. Well maintained FS roads allowed us to maintain 45 MPH thru most sections. Until we took a section with a ROAD CLOSED sign moved to the side, we kept a good pace. This road was composed of sticky, slick, OSFH (owl-shit from hell) that dumped at least 2 bikes at very low speeds – as turning your bars had very little effect on which direction your bike went.
After the adventure through 2 miles of the OSFH road, we stopped at the local market to regroup, refuel, and repair a broken brake lever from mud-falls. Then off we went, back into the woods to find other unique spots. Most of the moisture on the roads did not cause any real problems, but rather kept the dust to a minimum as a large group as this could make a real mess on a dry day.
Although there were several other “crashes”, the others were low-speed, made in some really slick mud.
The details of our crash (the bad ones) are more a tale of what not to do:
We (me and Jeep8) had just passed another member of the ride (doing a reasonable speed) and turned it up about 6 notches, just before a downhill turn. The rider in front locked his rear and went sliding off the bluff – about 15 feet down. I did the same, just to his right, and my bike was stopped by the tree to my right – luckily it did not follow me down the hill. I remember 3 very loud thuds, and recovered 30 feet from the road, and 15 feet below…….. minus my breath, helmet screen, sunglasses, and tank bag – all were recovered in a few minutes. Injured both shoulders, left knee, ribs/abdomen, right hip and ankle. I also discovered a bruise to my forehead after returning home, and it looks like the helmet took a pretty good lick. 4,000 mg. of Ibuprofen, and 24 hours later, and I am walking like and 80 year-old man, but at least I am walking. Given the circumstances I fell pretty lucky to not have severe and crippling injuries. I heard Jeep8 had 3 cracked ribs. I hope he heals up soon. I hope to be riding next weekend.
Well it was like any other morning….except where there was supposed to be traffic, there was only open highway. Where there was supposed to be tall buildings, farmland passing by. Smog…replaced by sunlight breaking through fog. I actually got to keep my visor open to breath in clean air on the way to meet the first group of BamaRiders I would meet.
Funny what things go through your mind when you think you’re going to feel one way about something and instead a situation changes everything about everything and from there…nothing is the same.
Also funny was the Bubba and Jeb in the truck hanging out the window yelling “WHOOOooooo OOOOOOooo LIKE THAT TAIL!!!” and hanging the cell phone out the window to take pics of me on the highway….funny….they don’t get a lot of gal sport-bike riders in cullman I guess.
No problems finding my way on a strange highway in a strange state to meet up with Pruitt, Mark, Michelle, Suzanne, Scott and Clark. (Thank you Mark and Michelle for that one)Pruitt rolled up first with a twinkle in his giddy eye. He was just as excited as I was without the reservations of meeting new people I sometimes have. WHAT A bike that boy has!! While he is new to riding, my 12 yrs of experience and beat up bandit took a backseat in eye appeal for sure! Next to roll up was Mark and Scott Parker. Called them on the cell phone and like superheros they swooped in on Pruitt and I in a heartbeat. Just when I was looking for a pair of capes, in rides Michelle on her Harley beauty, complete with pretty spiked helmet to “de-cute” any and all girlyness that might lead you to thinking this chick can't ride. Then again, ask her about that cute pink fuzzy thing she keeps on the tail bag that one MAY not notice right away….
Next up was Captain America on the Red, White and Blue Trike! What a crack up that cool thing is and was!! My first inspiration to whip out the camera! Will provide photos via Photobucket link later today. By the way, I'm down for kicking in for a gas gauge as a b'day present for Clark if he has to get pushed to the gas station ONE MORE TIME !! (And what a pair of buddies Pruitt and Mark are for being willing to push it on through to the station!
Last but not least was our virgin group rider Suzanne. Our infant of the group in a leather halter..go baby GO! Insecure about showing off her new bikerbitchness, t'was I that told her “if you have boobs, you can wear it” and wear it she did!
Off to 29 Dreams behind Scott who wound up making a KILLER ride leader allllllll day long - sans the dam trip later that day….that's dam not damn…
Now I have ridden – AND I DO MEAN RIDDEN. Anyone that has read or knows about my 12 years in Hollywood/LA knows…and the scars on the 5th bike I have owned will show…I HAVE RIDDEN. I have ridden mostly alone, and a LOT in the mountains..through cities, and through the gates of hell in traffic. I have ridden through the black hills of S. Dakota with Daddy and the uncles, I have ridden in group rides with many a sport-biker. But what I had NEVER ridden ..was with a group of incredibly CARING people…people who will NOT abandon you. Will NOT ditch you. Will NOT try to impress you and lead you into something you may not be equipped or experienced enough to handle. People who make the riding fun (with the exception of my family that I have already stated I rode with) Complete strangers that become instant friends. Friends one can suspect you will have likely for a very long time if not for the rest of your life.
Riding to 29 Dreams was amazing. It was eye opening to see what Alabama looks like…if only a small part of it. I have never seen so much green. I have never seen so many bikers wave. I have never seen so much space and so few people..and when you DO see people..they often wave! I have never seen lush foliage and space between the houses and so many tractors, horses, (poor dead one on the side of the road..that was new too!) I'm sure these things are not a big deal to most of you ..heck..maybe ALL of you..but to a citified gal like myself?? Someone who has had almost NO fun and all drama and fear on a a bike….it was pure magic my friends. I never worried about dying. That has NEVER happened to me on any ride ever in 12 yrs. NEVER. There is always something waiting to get you around every corner where I come from. Out riding with this group through the towns, and literally over the river and through the woods…while I was totally aware that the same dangers of cars, road hazards, animals, people and mechanical failure existed…and yet I was able to RELAX for the FIRST TIME and enjoy the ride. I am usually hyper when I get off of the bike…ask anyone who hung with me..I was cool as a cucumber when we got there. Normally when I meet lots of new people I keep them at arms length…yesterday…I couldn’t get enough hugs. What a blast we all had at 29 Dreams. How great everyone was to take care of Suzanne being new, Pruitt too, though you wouldn’t know it, me being totally unable to find my way home if I had to, and to Shannon and Tanya who went down and became everyone's concern. I have seen bikers go down several times in front of me, but not all the riders stuck around..most didn’t want their ride ruined and left. That was NOT the case here at ALL.
I know I was a stranger in a strange place, but all day long and through the ride and even back home again, all I could think of was what the license plates around here all say…..Sweet Home Alabama.
Well today was the Breast Cancer awareness ride here.
I had beat my brains into a jelly like mass going over and pounding problems out of he world famous Flaming Screaming Kawasaki of Death. But the crazy part of it was I had beat this deadline and was 99.99% confident that the bike would have no problem making this run.
Mistake #1. I am way too mathematically illiterate to possibly figure out the statistics involved in calculating the survivability of a 26 year old bike with a few thousands parts (that really don’t like each other sometimes) and a ride of 100 miles in a pack of 40 other riders. I forgot to move some decimals and factor in the Voodoo curse placed on me years ago.
Chapter 2: A New Hope
After spending the last couple of days in the grips of allergies that were quite possibly the cause of the swine flu and having to go and watch the local high school baseball team win their 2nd round state playoff game last night (GO CHOCTAWS!!! ) I was still feeling pretty beat down and tired when 7:00 rolled around and the alarm went off.
I got up and left She Who Must Be Obeyed (the beautiful Mitzi Elliott for those of you who were not aware I was married) snoring in a blissfull slumber…dreaming contentedly about projects and jobs she NEEDED me to be doing on a beautiful and glorious Saturday. A bowl of cereal and a glass of sweet tea (I’m an action man and I don’t have time for coffee in my life) after a quick trip online for the hour by hour local forecast on weather.com and a quick check of Bamarides.com it was time to get the all important two Wal-mart bags from the kitchen and go out to the garage to start the bike.
Now I know what you are thinking “What do Wal-mart bags have to do with starting a motorcycle? ” Well there is a story there too. Let me digress back acouple of days.
As most of you are aware I’ve been having carb issues with this bike. It is a Kawasaki with standard Mikuni B-34s or 6′s on it. A popular manufacturer, a huge carb company and a fairly popular size and style.
Try and find a rebuild kit for it.
If you are riding or repairing 76-79 model then there are tons of rebuild kits available because as we all know it is so much easier to get parts things the older they are. Try and find a rebuild kit for an 80-83 model,,, they don’t exist. So I’m running a homemade set that are made from the best surviving parts from 3 different sets and 2 different motorcycle manufacturers. Not the best answer for this problem but hey its an answer.
So now back to the Walmart bags… A couple of days ago I stopped by one of Tuscaloosa.. no West Alabama’s finer motorcyle repair, rebuild and wrecked bike recovery operations “Primitive Cycles” where Primitive and Booty Hunter welcomed me with the $10.00 tour of their fine establishment. After Primitive and I talked over my carb situation and he explained that he had not yet found the rebuild kits I needed he asked me how I started the bike. I told him that the carbs did not have a choke rather using an enrichiner circuit. After a few moments discussion he pointed out that I needed to manually choke the carbs by hand. Shane must have told Kerry a funny joke just as I was pulling out of their parking lot the way they were laughing and pointing it had to be a good one. Yall have to tell me later guys.
Well I wasn’t going to put my hand down there since this bike has on regular occaisions decided to backfire….I have the singed eyebrows to prove it. So I stuff plastic Walmart bags in the carb throats and turn the motor over for a few seconds with out the power to the coil basically choking the patookie out of it. I then flip the switch and push the starter button and it rolls over for a while then coughs, gags, farts, backfires and starts.
Its not exactly the ideal way to start it up but hey if it works it works. After the bike is warm then it fires instantly just by bumping the starter. Where is the fun in that?
So after bagging the carbs and firing it off I headed out into one of the prettiest Saturday mornings I had seen in some time.
Today was going to be great, beautiful weather, a smooth running bike, and helping to ensure the health of women.
I was a force of nature, one with universe, that old Suzuki sales pitch line “…Like a single moving part…” going through my head I snicked smartly through the gears leaving my cares behind.
Chapter 3: Something smells strange
I stopped and topped off the tank and made it to the registration site, naturally I had miss read the flyer and instead of an 8:30 start and back home by lunch it was a 10:30 start with a late lunch.
No problem. I signed up and went to CVS to see my buddy Eric the manager (Harley Davidson Heritage owner btw) and get something to try and make these allergies a little more manageable. After talking with him I decided a private ride to West Blocton and back ought to sooth any fears I had of the bike not being 100%. I pulled back up to the church at 10:15 and ths lot was a whole lot fuller than I thought it would be. I guesstimated 35+ bikes which is a good draw in a small town on Talledega weekend. I parked and hustled over to the preride briefing and prayer. After the opening festivities I made my way back to the only KZ still in operation with this carb setup for roughly 10 parsecs in any direction. There was a couple of people there looking it over. Now I’m used to that at any event where a sizable group of riders are present there is always someone who had one, their dad, uncle grampa etc had one or they are just confused since its not a V-twin and decked out in chrome. The lady was nice enough she wanted to know where my gremlin bell was. Now I’m not a superstitious person so don’t have one. But being the natural born smart ass I am I replied that the gremlins stole it from me but I didn’t want one since it would probably be a dinner bell for all gremlins withing 10 miles. The man looked me in the eye and said the magic phrase “I had one of these once…The damn thing was cursed, I think it is a Mopar design or something.” Then they got on their shiny Honda land yacht and pulled toward the front making sure that therewere many bikes between him and the cursed Kawi.
The first leg of the trip went with no fanfare from Centreville down to Maplesville over to Clanton then hang a left to Calera. The bike was running like it hasn’t since I owned it. For a cursed ride it sure was acting like the demons were all just in my head. Then we made a left and took 31 towards Calera. About 1/2 way between Clanton and Calera there was a pop like a .22 going off. A quick glance at the tach showed no variance in the readings a glance down and back showed no oil or smoke and the pulsing of the engine hadn’t changed its note. So the only option was to ignore it and motor on. after about 5 minutes or so there came a noticible wobble in the back. I pulled beside my friend Mike and pointed down to the tire. He looked down and hollerd back FLAT!!. We were coming up on Calera and that BP across from the Super Wal-mart (Remember the damned bags that got this day started?) I rolled in and dropped the kickstand. I naturally carry a can of Fix a Flat, some tire plugs, an assortment of wrenche, pliers screw drivers, extra plugs electrical and duct tape with me (I used to race 4 wheelers cross-country and learned real early that trailside repairs are easier done if you have tools with you).
But there was not a spare tire in my bag. A good chunk of the tread had chosen to leave the rest of the tire making this a replace instead of a repair issue. The tools were of no use. I sat there and cursed my luck then I realised that my luck was not the factor here. I am probably one of the luckiest S.O.B.s your ever going to run across. I have a bike with zero payments a great family waiting at the house (to laugh at my stupidity for going riding on a 26 yr old bike) I’m 45 and in great health and I managed to break down at an air conditioned store located next to a Waffle House. The only thing to do was pull the sacred cell out and call one of my friends with a trailer.
So the day wasn’t what I had envisioned it to be But it was far far from a loss. Now the only thing to do is to order a tire and track down the elusive carb kit and get ready for the Barbers Superbike races.
Just to observe, not ride in.
The pro riders would protest the old Kaw showing them up.
Best Alabama roads and rides – the place to find the best roads in Alabama for motorcycling. We are compiling a map of the best roads and rides in the state, in an easy to read link based system for videos, pictures and ride reports for residents and tourists alike. If you would like to contribute or find out more about these rides, please join our community and speak your mind.
I could not resist getting out into the snowy abyss, because of boredom or just a photo op. The roads were not icy, but simply wet, and just a little bit colder than the day before. Surprisingly, the fluffy snowflakes were stinging my eyes even at around 20 MPH. A bit too uncomfortable for a long ride, but very nice for a short loop around the neighborhood. A nice, strange day overall.
Enjoy the video.
I decided to ride from New Hope to Frog’s Inkhouse in Moody on Saturday December the 6th. This ride is 102 miles each way from my house from which I left at 11 am on Saturday and did not make it back until 2:30pm on Sunday December the 7th. How can this be you ask ?
The original plan was to meet a couple other BamaRides members in Gadsden and continue on to Moody. Somehow our wires got crossed and that did not play out. Though this cost a little time it was not the problem. The problems started in my driveway and should have served as an omen of things to come. You have to keep in mind I had invited folks to go with me on the forum so my mind set was not open to not going to Moody. As I pulled on my gloves my nose itched and I reached up to scratch the itch with the back of my right thumb forgetting about the hard rubber shield cleaner attached to my gloves. You guessed it. I cut myself right where my nose meets my upper lip. Nothing to do now but stop the bleeding. Delay number one. Mounted up and moving now I get out to Hwy 431 South and go a few miles and stop to get gas. The call made to the guys goes straight to voice mail so, I leave a message that I’m running a little late but am on the way.
Riding down the highway I can’t help but notice it seems a little colder than I thought it was going to be. I’m wearing long johns, jeans, two sweat shirts, chaps, leather jacket, thick socks, my supposed winter riding gloves, my neoprene skull print face mask, boots and helmet, I think to myself, no problem. By the time I get to Guntersville my finger tips are a little more than uncomfortable. Reaching Boaz the pain in them forces a stop. I try another phone call with the same result as before. Riding on I am now on Hwy 411 South in Gadsden and stop at the first gas station I come to to warm these again aching hands. I try to make contact with my guys again with the same result as before. After warming up for about 30 minutes and trying the phone one more time I now am deciding whether to go on or go back. I should probably explain that getting a mild case of frost bite on my hands and feet, compliments of Uncle Sam, in Germany in 1983 is the cause of the pain once they get cold. So I really am not a wimp you see.
I decide to go on to Moody, which speakes for my hard head. Again, just before reaching Odenville I have to stop for the hands only this time I have trouble squeezing the clutch and front brake levers. Warm again I ride on and get to Frog’s Inkhouse in Moody. It is now a little past 3pm. I meet Frog and we try to find something that will work for my cover up tattoo.
Not able to find the exact thing yet I notice its getting on toward sundown. It’s now close to 430 pm. The return ride in falling temps and the approaching darkness now dominates my thought process so I bid my farewells and hit the asphalt on the way back. My hands are now reaching the painful stage at a faster rate and the cold is beginning to start the shivers. I arrive in Asheville around 530pm with my mind made up to get a motel room for the night which I do. I realized the feeling was beginning to come back to my feet around 10pm and I think how strange I didn’t realize they were that cold. My hands probably kept me from recognizing it I suppose.
The next day I check out of my room and am on the way in ernest about 11am. It’s cold again but the sun is shining and I only have about 75 or so miles remaining of the 102 mile return trip. Both routes are virtually the same mileage. I pass through Oneonta and stop at a small gas station just before reaching Cleveland to warm my again throbbing and burning hands. The lady at the station has these Chihuaha’s and the male is wanting to play and acting real friendly. After a few minutes of petting the dog, he runs off for awhile and returns, rears up on my leg wagging his tail just the way he did the previous time he wanted to be petted. This time as I petted him, just like before, he suddenly bites me on the palm of my left hand between the thumb and the wrist. Great, now I’m stopping the bleeding again. The lady is apologetic and I tell her aw he’s just being a dog. Now I’m thinking why did you say that since, had the last dog that bit you not gotten away you were going to use the knife you retrieved from your pocket to gut it alive and now your not even upset, how strange.
After a little more time spent warming up, smoking one more cigarette I gear up, mount up and ride on. I make another thawing stop at the intersection of Hwy 79 and Hwy 278 and continue on to and through Guntersville and stop at the Shell station after crossing the river on Hwy 431. After warming up again I cover the last 15 miles or so and alas at 230pm on Sunday I’ve made it, I’m home.
As I rode this weekend with my mind running in countless directions, cleaning the laundry so to speak, I suppose it began to creep in at some point. I think it finally arrived as I sat around warming up at home. Over the course of the weekend a lot of things happened that would normally have had me operating at varying degrees of frustration yet none of it phased me in the least. I pondered this fact and wondered why is that? Some would consider this an ordeal but I didn’t. I was completely content with things the way they turned out including being bitten, Why is that I questioned. The answer to the question at the end is found by looking at the beginning. It is simply the ride. The ride on it’s own dominates all the other circumstances encountered.
Circumstances which are unpleasant, irritating and even at times painful are so overshadowed by the ride itself that they are willingly endured for the sake of the ride. I think this can only come from a true love or passion for riding and can only be understood by those who share in it. I am thankful that in my life I have been fortunate enough to encounter both, the passion for riding and people who share that passion.
Ride On and Ride Safe
Once again we find ourselves approaching the largest biker event held in Alabama, the Trail of Tears. Each year the estimate range from 90,000 to 150,000 motorcycles participating in the 30-50 mile long parade of bikes, commemorating the historical Trail of Tears, the 1838 removal of native Americans from the territory.
The interesting development this year is the the split of the ride into two separate rides. For the past few years a storm has been brewing between organizers of the ride until a split was made, and two separate groups were formed, conducting two separate rides, down different roads, with different stops and destinations. There is certainly a large amount of confusion about where the rides will start, and where they will end. The two groups each have their own website to find out more about details of where the rides start and finish, check out:
Lots of confusion for everyone this year. Let’s hope it does not spoil the amazing spectacle this has become. If you want to find out more about riding in Alabama, don’t forget to check out the real source of information about what is happening in Alabama, where everyone is riding, and the cool spot to hang out at Bama Rides videos and descriptions of great roads, rides, and stops in Alabama to make your life better. Sign up for the free motorcycle forum to share your opinions about the Trail of Tears, and any other topic concerning motorcycling in Alabama.