Thursday, December 25, 2008

Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays!

Just wanted to wish everyone a very Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays! Here's to many great riding adventures in the New Year.

For all those who live in warmer climates, I hope you have a chance to get out and ride today to celebrate the holiday!

Till next year!

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Tis the Season to Dream of Riding

Well with 12 inches of snow last night and more on the way tomorrow it looks like our riding days are over for awhile. We held out as long as we could though, we didn't winterize the bike until a week ago! It could also be that we were so busy we just didn't have time.

Already getting ready for some great rides for next year. I just picked up an early Christmas present to make documenting our rides much easier next year. It's a new video camera. It was hard to decide which model to get as there are so many choicesto consider. I wanted one that was under $200 but took decent video, had removable memory, plenty of battery life, useful zoom and was compact. That's no too much to ask right.

I first considered the Flip cameras. While nice and compact, affordable and very popular I didn't like 2 things, it has a built in batter that can only be charged via USB port and it had a fixed amount of memory. If you're shooting more than 6o minutes you need to go to a computer and download the videos and recharge the battery. Normally our rides last much more than 60 min. and I don't want to have to lug the laptop along. That kind of defeats the purpose of small and compact.

I next considered the Kodak version of the Flip the Zi6. I really like this camera and really wanted to buy it since Kodak is a local company and I like to support them, but it just didn't have all the features I wanted. It does have some advantages over the Flip in that it used rechargable AA batteries and in a pinch you can substitute standard AA's, it used standard SD cards for memory so you are not limited as to how much video you can shoot. It offers HD video, although not true HD it higher quality that standard video. What I didn't like is that most of the reviewers commented on the fact that it has no image stabilization (neither does the Flip) and the videos tend to come out a little shakey. Alot of the video we are going to shoot is on the bike and image stabilization will be important.

So as much as I liked the KodaK Zi6, I finally decided to go with the Samsung Mx20. It offered all of the features I was looking for and although not quite as small as the Flip or Zi6 it does fit in the palm of your hand and it has a rotating LED screen to allow shooting videos from any angle.
This camera has alot of other nice features as well.
  • Used Standard and HC SD cards for memory
  • Has a rechargable 4 hour battery which is replaceable so you can have a spare
  • Incredible 32X Optical zoom that really works well
  • Macro mode for closeups
  • Rotating LED screen
  • Sliding lense cover
This only thing I don't like about the camera is the software that comes with it. It's called Cyberlink Media Show and it simply doesn't work. I installed the software, shot some test video and uploaded it into the software and when I hit play all I got was sound, no video. I went to their website and found a couple of updates and a patch so I downloaded them and now the software won't even load on my computer!

I've pretty much given up on the software it really only did simple editing and allowed you to easily upload to YouTube. I'll probably get something like Adobe Premiere Elements so I can do alittle more with the video. It was disappointing though that Samsung would include such inferior software to an otherwise excellent product.

I took some video of the snowstorm yesterday just to play around with it. This is on the lowest quality, what they call the "YouTube" setting. There are 3 higher quality settings above this one.

As you can see the video is pretty good at this setting. Oh, sorry about the "chilling" images but it's all I had to work with!

I think this will make a great addition to our riding season next year I can't wait to get out and give it a try. I'll comback and give it a more thorough review after we've taken it on a couple of rides and give it a real world test.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

A fall ride in the Finger Lakes

You don't get many sunny, warm weekends in Upstate, New York, in mid October, at least not high 70's warm. So we just couldn't let the awesome weather pass but without doing some riding. The big question was where to go.

We always try to pick a new destination that we haven't been to yet and I must say they are getting harder and harder to find within a few hours drive.

We finally settled on Filmore Glen State Park. Filmore Glen is located south of Auburn off of Rt 38 South. It features a hiking trail along a narrow glen lined with high shale walls carved for century's by the steady flow of water over the five waterfalls along the trail.

It looked like as good a place as any so we headed out. It was a beautiful fall day the temperature when we left was in the mid 60's so we donned our leather jackets for the 2 hour ride out.

We headed out of the city and on to the back roads heading south east. We could have taken the Thruway and cut the trip in half, but that would just take all the fun out of it.

As we got closer to Auburn the colors on the trees became more brilliant and the ride down Rt 38 was absolutely gorgeous with spectacular shades of red, orange, yellow and gold painting the hillsides along the east side of Owasco Lake. Owasco Lake is the 6th largest of the Finger Lakes of New York State and is 11 miles long and 177ft deep at it's deepest. The lake sinks into the surrounding hills vibrant with the fall colors making it a perfectly gorgeous view from the back of our Goldwing.

We finally entered the park about 2 hours after we left the house. Not a bad ride. The weather had warmed considerably now so we ditched the leather jackets, grabbed some water and headed out for the gorge.

As you head to the trail head you pass the natural stone swimming pool which I imagine is very refreshing in the summer since it's fed by the mountain stream but it was closed for the season and pretty much empty this time of year, although Jeff just had to check out the view from the lifegard chair, I just know he was dying to dive in from their, luckily there was no water!

We made our way the the beginning of the gorge trail and right at the start is large set of very uneven steps leading nearly straight up! I don't know how many steps there are but there are more than it looks! We started up the steps and about 1/2 way we had to take a break, now I'm not in the best of shape (living a sedentary lifestyle will do that to you!) but gimme a break! As we sat there gasping for air, these 2 really annoying teenage girls in their cute little shorts came JOGGING up the steps past us, snickering as they ran by. "Yea, laugh now," I thought to myself, "come back in 20 years and lets see you run up these stairs...darn kids!"

More and more people wandered past us so we decided we better get moving before they called an ambulance for us. After catching our breath, we continued to the top and stopped to gasp for air again, I began to rethink this whole "hey let's go hiking in the gorge plan" I mean really it was Sunday afternoon in October, and even if the Bills weren't playing there had to be a football game on somewhere right? The couch and remote were looking pretty good right about now!

Ok, enough lolly gagging time to hit the trail. From here on out the walk wasn't bad at all some up some down but nothing too drastic, at least until the end, but we'll get to that later.

Once in the gorge the scenery is really awesome. The shaded path is cool and damp with sunlight filtering through the trees in spots along the way. The path is narrow in spots and there 8 bridged that criss cross their way along the gorge. There is a steady flow of water meandering lazily over the rocks and leaves at times falling several feet to create waterfalls of various heights.

In all the walk along the gorge is a fairly easy one with plenty to take in along the way. At the end of the path you have a couple of options, you can head back the way you came or head out the South Rim Trail. We opted to head out the South Rim Trail because it was a little shorter and besides we'd already seen where we've just been.

Once again, we choose poorly because the south trail heads UPHILL, way up hill, no steps this time just the side of a mountain. I haven't had this much exercise in 20 years and I gotta say I wasn't missing it! After stopping several times on the way up we finally made it. I took a look around and breathed a sign of relief that we appeared to be at the highest point so there was no where to go but down, thankfully, anymore steps or uphill climbs and I was gonna scream.

We made our way down the path and to the parking lot where the bike was. There was one more thing to see and that was the dam, but we decided we'd had enough walking for one day so we jumped on the bike for the ride up. The road to the water fall is paved, well was at one time, apparently they aren't big on upkeep because most of the ride up we zig zagged from one side of the road to the other avoiding crater sized potholes, the occasional on coming car and pedestrians. There was a couple on a Harley headed towards us performing the same "pothole dance" as we were, we exchanged knowing smiles, and continued on our way. It was quite the ride but we made it to the top. We parked the bike and headed down the short trail to a beautiful scene.

On one side of the dam was a pristine, crystal clear lake reflecting the brilliant fall colors with mirror like clarity. You can walk out onto the dam and get a great view of the waterfall. Be careful walking on the dam as there are railings only on one side so falling in the lake is definitely an option if you are not careful.

Ok, we'd had enough nature for one day so we headed back to the bike and, well yea you guessed it...the path was uphill all the way!

On the way out of the park we decided to head up the east side of Owasco Lake to get the view from the other side so we headed up 38 North to Rockefeller Road a nice route that gently winds it's way through the are farmland and provides some great views of Owasco Lake. It was a fun little road with very little traffic and make for a fun ride back to Auburn.

Once in Auburn we headed west on Rt 5&20 and wandered home. In all it was a perfect fall day, great scenery, comfortable temperatures and some nice roads. You can't ask for much more than that.

Until next time, ride save and more importantly have fun!

Sunday, August 17, 2008

30 Mile Point Lighthouse

In a normal summer we ride every weekend. We get up in the on a Saturday or Sunday morning have our30 Mile Point "where do we want to go today" discussion over our morning coffee gear up and go. It's been a great way to see all there is to see in our corner of Upstate New York and beyond and has led to some great adventures over the years.

Unfortunately this has been anything but a normal summer between work and weather. It seems like every weekend has featured a threat of rain, hail and just downright nasty weather, not exactly the best weather for a leisurely ride around the countryside. I don't mind riding in the rain if I have somewhere I have to be, but I'm not going to choose to do it for no reason.

So when Saturday dawned bright and sunny with nary a drop of rain in the forecast, well we knew what we had to do. So we put the household chores on hold, piled on the bike, picked a direction and we were on our way.

It felt so good to get out riding again! Bright blue skies, with a few fluffy fair weather clouds just to break up the monotony and temps in the mid 70's....just about perfect! We decided to head west down the Lake Ontario State Parkway. The Parkway is the closest continuous roadway to the southern shore of Lake Ontario and is a nice ride because it runs through open country with many views of Lake Ontario. It's also nice because it's closed to commercial traffic so there are no big trucks to deal with and traffic for the most part is pretty light. The parkway also connects several state parks so you can stop off and enjoy a picnic or just take a break and enjoy some nice views of the Lake Ontario.

The only bad part about the parkway that the harsh Western New York winters has turned the western most portion into a "washboard". It's a pretty bouncy ride from Hamlin to the end of the Parkway!

At the end of the Parkway you jump on Rt 18 to continue your journey West. Cruising down Rt 18 we meander our way through the beautiful Western New York country side surrounded by corn fields, farm markets loaded with fresh produce and fragrant cow pastures. 30 Mile PointIf you stay on 18 you can head into Niagara Falls we didn't want to go quite that far so we headed for Golden Hill State Park and check out the historic 30 Mile Point Lighthouse that's located in the park.

As we worked our way east down Rt 18 a brown sign announces our arrival at Golden Hill State park. The first entrance is the boat launch, so unless you want to test the amphibious characteristics of your bike, continue on for 100 yards or so to the campground entrance. Upon entering the part we stopped at the main office to pay our $6 entrance fee. It's actually a day pass that will get you into any other state park that same day. We've never been able to make it to more than 1 state park in a day, but if you're feeling ambitious you can make the most out of your $6.

The park features a nicely appointed campground that was pretty full this weekend and bustling with families riding bikes, playing softball and just enjoying a summer day together. If you're into camping this would be a nice place to spend a few days and explore the area. From here it's an easy ride to Niagara Falls, and you can get away from all the hustle and bustle of the falls at the end of the day and relax by the shores of Lake Ontario

After paying our fee we goThe Viewt back on the bike and we could see the lighthouse towering above the park just to our right. We made our way to the parking lot and started to explore the grounds. As we entered the light house we were greeted by a very enthusiastic tour guide who let us know that a tour was about to start shortly. The fee for the tour is a whopping $1 per person and is well worth every penny.

The tour guide gave a brief history of the building including a few anecdotal stories of what life was like for the lighthouse keepers who used to live on the premises and take care of the light house. After seeing the living quarters which have been meticulously restored to their original condition we were then led up the dark winding staircase 60 feet to the top of the tower where the light used to be. The view from up here is breathtaking. On a clear, low humidity day you can even see the CN Tower in Toronto, Canada almost directly across the lake.

During our visit the wind was howling briskly out of the west kicking up the lake and almost making you hang on for dear life a the top of the catwalk. If you had a hat on, there's a good bet it would have taken wind and not touched down till it landed in Kingston, Ontario at the far east end of the lake!

OK, now a little history lesson: The Thirty Mile Point lighthouse was named for the fact that it is 30 miles from the mouth of the Niagara river. The lighthouse was constructed in 1875 as a marker to warn boats of a hazard to navigation as there was a large sandbar jutting The Lightout from the coast at this point which had caused many a ship to go down. The lighthouse is 70 feet high and constructed of limestone which was shipped in from the Thousand Island region at the eastern end of the lake. The lighthouse used to house a Third Order Fresnel Lens which cost over $3500. and housed a kerosene flame could be seen for over 16 miles.

In 1935, the Coast Guard assumed control of the light house, and finally after the sandbar eventually eroded away, the lighthouse was decommissioned in 1959. It is now the showpiece of Golden Hill State Park and an interesting place to check out if you're ever in the area.
After our tour we walk the grounds for a while exploring the buildings taking some pictures and just enjoying a beautiful day on the shores of Lake Ontario. Finally we got on the bike and headed back home, but now before stopping for the obligatory ice cream along the way.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Great rides demand great photos

Riding on the back of a motorcycle presents many photo opportunities, but they are easy to miss if you don't have a camera handy. For years I used a basic Sony point-and-shoot camera by this year I decided to upgrade my equipment to something that would provide some better quality images.

I opted for a DSLR (Digital Single Lens Reflex) Camera as opposed to a standard "point and shoot". The DSLR allows me to be more creative with shutter speeds and aperature settings so that I can create more compelling photos. The 10 mega pixel resolution, though not the highest available allows me to get great high resolution photos. And of course being digital as opposed to film, I can shoot hundreds of pictures and just delete the bad ones and keep only the ones I like.

The camera I choose, after much research is an Olympus E-510. It's a great entry level DLSR that has alot of features and as far as I was concerned, gave me the most bang for the buck. The e-510 is lightweight and fits comfortably in your hand with the controls right at your fingertips. There are 2 features I found on the Olympus that the other models didn't offer when I bought mine. The first was image stabilization, other manufacturers build it into their lenses, Olympus built it into the camera. I really helps when you're shooting from the back of a moving motorcycle! The other feature that stood out was "live view" this means that you can see exactly what you're shooting on the LED screen. Now I know what you're thinking, what's the big deal, I can do that with my cheap camera phone or point and shoot camera well yes you can, but that feature is not usually found on DSLR's because there is a mirror in front of the sensor so displaying a live image on the LED screen required temporarily lifting the mirror. Olympus is one of the first manufacturers to offer this feature on a DSLR, others are now catching up.

So now that I have a nice camera, I really needed a way to hold it securely while shooting on the bike, I certainly didn't want my $700+ camera and lens making a impact with the pavement. I had tried using a neck strap, but I found it cumbersome, and it's hard to get on and off with a helmet on! I needed something better. I finally came across the ProStrap. The ProStrap is a comfortable leather wrist strap that attaches to the right (or left) side of your camera and cinches securely to your wrist. The ProStrap helps make a comfortable secure grip on your camera so that if the camera were to slip from your hand, it will only dangle harmlessly from your wrist.

My final investment was to get a camera bag big enough to carry just the camera with a lense but small enough to wear without getting in the way. I choose the Lowepro Cirrus TLZ 25. It's a holster style camera bag that you can wear around your neck or on your belt. I personally think it's a little big for a belt, I wear it with the strap diagonally across my chest and with the case sitting on my left hip. The camera is protected from weather and debris and is readily available when I need it. The camera rests in the bag with the lens pointed down so that retrieving the camera from the bag and being ready to shoot takes only seconds. I simply unzip the top of the bag, slide my wrist through the strap cinch it up tight, pull out the camera, and I'm ready to shoot. It doesn't require alot of movement or wiggling which is very important when riding on the back of a bike.

Now that I've got an awesome system, I can't wait for our next ride so I can share some great pictures with you.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

A Trip Through The Shenandoah Valley

Recently, we make a trip down to Winchester, VA to visit with 200+ Goldwing friends of ours. While there we had a chance to do some exploring. A group of us rode down to Coleen, VA to visit the California Sidecar Company. They build trike conversion kits for all types of motorcycles as well as Escapade Trailers and of course Side Cars.

The ride down to the factory was very nice, there’s nothing like the site of 30+ Goldwings riding down the road, sort of like an open bag of M&M’s spilling on the floor and flowing down the stairs.

We arrived at the factory around noon. The factory is in a beautiful location nestled in the heart of the Shenandoah Valley with an absolutely gorgeous view of the mountains from their parking lot. Who wouldn’t want to work there? Of course it might be tough to work inside with that view begging from outdoors.

The people at the factory couldn’t have been nicer or more accommodating. They provided guided tours of the factory and afterward, a complete barbeque lunch with all the fixin’s. Now that’s what I call customer service.

After the tours and lunch the entire group was scheduled to go for a ride on Skyline Drive on the way back to the hotel.

Well, hubby and I didn’t feel like waiting around, for the rest of the group to be ready to go so we decided to head off on our own, besides we had our GPS so we were confident we could get back to the hotel. We were also getting tired of the group thing and wanted to go off exploring on our own for awhile. It was a great group of people but I can only take group rides for so long.

We headed out of the factory and made our way onto the Blue Ridge Parkway. We got to Skyline Drive and paid the $10 fee to enter, if you have an annual national parks pass that will get you in too.

We’d heard a lot of good things about Skyline Drive and were excited to finally be able to ride it and see what all the fuss was about. It wasn’t long before we were winding our way along the road enjoying view after fabulous view of the Shenandoah Valley. Pictures just don’t do it justice. There are Scenic overlooks all along the way where you can stop and enjoy the view because if you try to enjoy the view while riding you’ll probably end up off road. I had to constantly remind my husband to watch the road and not the view! I told him I would enjoy the view for both of us and take plenty of pictures so he could enjoy it later.

As beautiful as Skyline Drive is, you certainly can’t be in a hurry to get anywhere. The speed limit is 35 mph the whole way, and it is strictly enforced. 104 mi at 35 mph takes quite a while to complete. We were very happy we had left the big group behind and went off on our own. It was much more relaxing and enjoyable to go at our own pace. Although the pace is slow, the weather was perfect and it was a beautiful, enjoyable ride. Skyline Drive is a fairly technical road that features a lot of sweeping curves both up hill and down with a few switchbacks thrown in just to keep you honest. We don’t have many roads like that in our part of New York so my husband was a little out of practice, but by the time we were done, he had gotten a rhythm and we were humming along. It’s a great road to practice your riding skills. It’s a perfect road for the co-rider because there’s lots of scenery to enjoy along the way.

About halfway through, there is a place to stop with a snack bar and souvenir shop as well as a gas pump. We were happy to see it because we forgot to bring extra water with us and ours had run out. We also got a couple of commemorative pins to add to our collection.

The rest of the ride was fairly uneventful, more beautiful scenery and windy roads. The trip was not unlike my trip to the Grand Canyon a couple of years ago. When you first see the Grand Canyon it’s absolutely breath taking, but after you’re there for an hour or so it gets old. For anyone who hasn’t been there Skyline Drive is one of those “must do” roads on a motorcycle, it’s a great way to just kick back and take a nice leisurely ride through some of the most beautiful scenery in the country.

By the time we headed back to the hotel, it was after 5:00 so we decided to stop for dinner along the way since there wasn’t much right by the hotel. Once we got back into Winchester, we were beginning to wonder if we’d find anyplace to stop, when we say a Goldwing trike parked on the street below a sign that said “Cork Street Tavern”. We both decided right then and there, that’s the place for dinner.

So we parked the bike and headed in. It was a quaint dimly lit tavern, with a pretty good dinner crown and a busy wait staff. We elected to sit out on the patio which was surrounded by 10 ft walls all the way around so it was nearly enclosed but there was no roof. It would have been nice to have a view of the street to watch the world go by as we dined but it was nice just as well.

The menu was fairly standard tavern fare, a few dinners and some pub sandwiches and traditional sides. My husband had a ruben and I decided on the grilled salmon on croissant (my lame attempt at eating healthy). The food was excellent, the service was great. We’re definitely going back next time we’re in town, and we’re bringing friends with us.

All in all we had a great trip to Virginia. It’s always nice to add states to your “States I’ve visited list” and to make some new friends along the way.

Sunday, June 1, 2008

Cruisin & Snoozin the Skill of Moto-Napping

So there we were, making our way home from our latest adventure exploring the great roadways of Virginia. It had been a busy couple of days, late nights, early mornings, lots of great roads to ride, but all good things must come to an end and we were now on our way home. The riding conditions were perfect, clear blue skies, temperatures in the mid 70's, a nice long boring stretch of road, I was comfortably settled into my seat on the back of the Goldwing, awesome music on the XM radio streaming through my headset, the bike humming along, I was in a state of complete relaxation and before I knew it... my eye lids started to get heavy, I leaned my head back and just like that, I was napping or more appropriately -- moto-napping.

Now this isn't the first time I've caught a few z's on the back of the wing, I do it a lot actually and I've talked to other Goldwing passengers who regularly nap on the back of their motorcycles. It's so common in fact that I decided it needed a name, hence, moto-napping. Yes, that's a word, or it is now that I made it up. Have fun with it, use it in a sentence as often as you can, amaze your friends and neighbors, before you know it, moto-napping will be a household word and you can say you heard it here first!

So what exactly is moto-napping. First of all moto-napping isn't deep, long lasting sleeping, we're talking about light, restful, napping, similar to power napping. Studies show that power napping has many benefits including reduced stress, increased productivity and improved memory just to name a few. All good benefits right, so it's possible moto-napping can provide similar benefits, although there are no studies to prove so don't hold me to it.

The right motorcycle and proper technique, allow moto-napping to be accomplished successfully and without injury. I should know, I do it all the time, and most of the time, my husband, the driver, doesn't even know I'm napping. That's the key to successful moto-napping, never let your rider know you're catching a few winks! If you do they will probably try to keep you awake, the theory being if they can't sleep, why should you. I never did agree with that theory.

Moto-napping is more than simply a matter of closing your eyes and snoozing. There is a real skill to successful napping on a motorcycle, at least if you want to do it properly and more importantly safely. Several things need to be take into consideration. In the wrong hands, moto-napping can lead to injury or at the very least the pain of a bruised ego, from an unplanned extrication from said motorcycle.

"Yea but if you're napping, you'll miss all the great scenery."

Let's face it, not everywhere you ride on a motorcycle involves breath taking scenery and windy, curvy roads. More often than not you're riding long, boring stretches of road. You know the ones I mean like anywhere on the New York Thruway, b-o-o-o-o-ring or The Ohio Turnpike between Cleveland and Toledo, "wake me when we get there" doesn't begin to describe it. You simply can't wait to get to your destination and off that "Godforsaken flatter than a pancake" stretch of road. The only thing that makes it even remotely exciting is the occasional mindless cager veering into your lane for no reason because they "didn't see you" on your bright red 900 lb motorcycle. That kind of excitement I can do without, thank-you.

Now, if you live in Ohio or New York (I live in NY), don't get mad at me, you know as well as I do those stretches of road are anything but interesting. They do serve a purpose, as they make it quick and easy to get from point A to point B. A lot of you may be saying "you're on a motorcycle, you shouldn't be on the superslab anyway". Well, that's true, but sometimes you just gotta get there so you do what you have to do. The sad part is that both states actually make you pay to enjoy the boredom. We paid to ride Skyline Drive but at least that had entertainment value and gorgeous scenery.

Moto-napping is the perfect way to counteract the boredom of such roads, and helps you reach your destination rested and ready to go. Let's face it, you probably don't want to waste your time sleeping when you get to your destination that would just be wrong. Why not be rested when you get there.

Choosing the right bike.

Obviously, not every motorcycle is suited to napping, but then not every motorcycle is suited to long distance riding either. The best motorcycles for moto-napping are those with large cushioned seats, nice large, comfortable backrest. Arm rests are optional, they do make napping easier but are not necessary for successful resting. The Honda Goldwing is of course the king of "napping bikes" but other good choices are Harley Davidson Ultra Classic, BMW 1200LT and the Yamaha Venture to name a few, I'm sure there are more, I just can't think of any. If you can think of other ones, post a comment and let me know. It also helps to have an intercom system with a radio or MP3 player to listen to your favorite tunes, an Ipod or other pocket MP3 player with ear buds will also do. Moto-napping is virtually impossible on something like a sport bike or any V-Twin with a passenger seat the size of a postage stamp, and if there's no back rest, forget it, you'll be on the pavement in no time. That may lead to a more permanent nap than you were originally planning. Not to mention, gaggles of laughter from your rider and those around you.

Ok, you have the right bike now what?

There are 2 requirements that lend themselves to moto-napping. You should be on a long trip 200-300 miles at least, after all what's the sense of napping if you're just going down the street for ice cream. The second requirement is that you are on a long, straight boring stretch of roadway. No one wants to be napping when there's great scenery to look at. That would defeat the purpose of riding a bike in the first place. If you're on the road to simply nap, then just take the car, it's easier.

So you're settled into the nice comfy pillion seat of your bike, awesome tunes streaming through your headset, you're on a long boring stretch of road, the bike just humming along down the road, looks like you're ready to start your nap. First, lean back in your seat so you're comfortable and gently close your eyes. It helps if you have a tinted shield or tinted glasses on so that you're rider won't know what you're up to, plus the tint will help keep the sun out of your eyes.

It's very important that you not fall in to a deep R.E.M. sleep, just a simple light catnap to take the edge off. If you fall into a deep you may run the risk of the dreaded "helmet smack". Helmet smack is when your helmet and that of your rider unexpectedly "smack" together when the motorcycle comes to a stop or makes another sudden move you're not prepared for. This may cause your rider to exclaim "what the f***!" and then you'll have some explaining to do. Trust me they just won't understand moto-napping so you're better off avoiding it altogether.

The secret to moto-napping is quietly drifting in and out of a gentle, restful totally relaxed state. No deep sleep, no dreams, and definitely no snoring! You will find that in this state you can still control your movements such as keeping your head from flopping around or slouching from side to side in turns. And you won't be in deep enough sleep that you can't instantly wake up if your rider asks you a question. They tend to get a little anxious if they ask you a question and you don't answer, they think you have fallen off or something.

So that, in a nutshell is the fine art of moto-napping. It's definitely a developed skill, but it's handy to have so go out and practice, practice, practice and before you know it, you'll be moto-napping like a pro and when you arrive at your destination, everyone will wonder why you're not exhausted from the long trip. Go ahead and try it, then come back and let me know about your moto-napping adventures. Recommend it to your co-rider friends and send them here to learn the basics. Come on all you professional co-riders, let's start a new trend, after all why should the riders have all the fun. If you can think of any additional tips to help make moto-napping easier and safer, post a comment here so that we can all benefit from your experience.

Monday, May 26, 2008

Rain or no rain, we're outta here!

Outside temperature was 38 degrees, wind gusts: 20-30MPH, "passing showers", perfect riding weather right? Not exactly, but this is Upstate New York, if we waited for "perfect" riding weather we'd never ride! Besides we had places to go and people to see.

Our destination was Winchester, VA to meet up with a few (200+) Goldwing riders and do some riding and socializing. The first big trip of the season and we were packed and ready to ride, the weather be damned!

We bundled up, saddled up and hit the road around 10am. Our theory was, if we don our raingear, it won't rain. Ok, it was only a theory, but it was worth a shot. And it worked for the most part, besides the raingear served double duty in that it helped keep us warm too.

The weathermen actually got this forecast right for a change when they said passing showers, they weren't kidding. One minute we'd be riding under blue skies and sunshine, but we could see large black clouds on either side threatening to get us wet, then we'd make a turn and head into the showers for a brief instant then ride out of them. If I didn't know better I'd say our GPS, the Lowrance IWAY 500c was heading us right into the showers on purpose! I will say though, after having ridding in torrential downpours and thunderstorms, the rain we saw on this trip was nothing more than an inconvenience.

Our route took us on the due south, Rt 390 south to Rt 15 winding our way through the hills of Pennsylvania and picking up Rt 81 in Harrisburg and right into Winchester. I'd forgotten what a pretty ride Rt 15 is from just south of the NY state line to Williamsport, PA. It's a nice 4 lane divided highway with graceful sweeping curves winding their way through the rolling hills of Northern Pennsylvania. We definately have to take this ride in the fall, it has to be absolutely gorgeous when the colors are in bloom.

As we got further south the wind picked up and boy was that fun, especially driving around the big trucks on Rt81. One minute you're riding along minding your own business and the next a blast of wind grabs the bike and sends it sliding into the next lane which is usually already occupied by some sort of traffic. It's nerve racking enough for the rider but as a passenger it's very unsettling because you're totally helpless to do anything. I can see my husband leaning the bike into the wind, trying desperately to bring the bike back into the lane, soI just hold my breath and fight every urge I have to "help" lean the bike! It makes for quite an interesting ride and really cuts into my nap time.

By the time we got to Winchester, the rain was gone and the sun was out and stayed out for the rest of the weekend, to our great delight. It was still a little gusty but that wasn't much of an issue. We were staying a the Courtyard by Marriott in Winchester, Va. Great hotel, great service and our discounted room rates included breakfast every morning. At most hotels that usually means bagels and sweet rolls, but not here. Breakfast included everything, waffles, hot and cold cereal, fruit, scrambles eggs, bacon, sausage, home fries, biscuits and gravy and an omelet station, all at no extra charge. What a deal!

The manager even provided a water hose out back so we could wash our bikes. Goldwingers are very particular about keeping their wings clean when they ride. I'm not sure why, they just get dirty again. Personally I think it's a guy thing, it gives them a chance to hang out and discuss oil changes and crush washers.

After checking into the hotel and unpacking, it was time to relax and socialize with old friends and meet new ones as groups continued to arrive from all over the region as the night wore on. We even had one rider all the way from Hawaii!!

Later, we ventured out for some dinner. We headed into town in search of a place to eat. We stumbled across a Texas Steakhouse, now normally we try to stay away from chain restaurants when we're traveling, but since we don't have any Texas Steakhouse's in New York we thought we'd give it a try. It turned out to be an excellent choice, I'll post a review later.

After dinner we headed back to the hotel for an evening of socializing and story telling. It's become a tradition at these events that we all gather in the parking lot in the evening, enjoy some adult beverages and socialize. It's alot of fun and we've made some great friends over the years.

Next: Our trip to California SideCar company and Skyline Drive

Friday, May 16, 2008

What's motorcycle touring without a great trailer!

So we're busy getting ready for our first motorcycle trip of the season. 4 fun filled days in Winchester, VA with 150 or so of our Goldwing friends. I thought I'd show you what has quickly become our favorite travel accessory our Aluma MCT Trailer. In fact, we just finished lining it with carpet to give it a more finished look. First the story behind this little gem.

Back in 2003, when we first got our Goldwing, my husband was looking for a utility trailer for his business, we were out for a ride and stopped into a local trailer dealership. After looking at the utility trailers we were on our way back to the bike when we spotted a small motorcycle trailer in front of the showroom. We went over to take a look. It was white with aluminum trim, it was boxy and clunky looking and not very aerodynamic at all.

We both decided that it was probably the ugliest thing we had ever seen compared to other trailers we had looked at. It was nothing like the sleek, low profile, "painted to match the bike" trailers we'd previously looked at by companies like Bushtec , Hannigan and Tailwind. We left thinking "who in their right mind would own one of those." You know what they say, never say never!

Fast forward 3 years and we're now the proud owner of one of those "ugly" Aluma trailers (also affectionately referred to as a hot dog cart for obvious reasons), go figure! After seeing them in use up close and personal, and talking to the very happy owners, we decided it fit our needs and budget. Besides the look actually grows on you. Aluma trailers have developed almost a cult following in the Goldwing community and after owning one I can see why. They are a great value for the money, for around $1700 you get 13.4 cu. ft. of cargo room which may not sound like much but you can get quite a bit of stuff in this little gem.

The trailer is very customizable to fit your needs, plus, you can easily also strap some items to the top for extra storage. It pulls easily down the road and it's completely waterproof (don't ask how I know, that's a whole other story!). Having a trailer has changed the way we travel. For the first 3 years we had the bike we it was always quite a ritual to get everything we needed in the bike especially if the trip was more than a couple of days. The limited space on a motorcycle, yes even on a Goldwing, really teaches you how to travel light and pack only the bare necessities. You quickly realize that one pair of jeans really can last you more than 1 day so you decide that "wear a pair and pack a pair" goes a long way. No matter how light you pack, it seems there's always something you end up leaving behind...ok, maybe I just forgot it!

Now we have plenty of room for all of our necessities, not that we over-pack, but we take what we need, plus folding chairs for post ride BS sessions in the parking lot, rain gear, covers for the bike, extra helmets and a cooler for cold beverages and snacks. We never have to worry about getting everything to fit. We even have room for souveniors. Here are some things we've learned in the 2 years we've been pulling a trailer behind our Goldwing:
  • If it's pouring rain and you need to turn right at a steeply inclined intersection, don't stop on the incline, continue around the corner until you can safely stop on a level surface.
  • A swivel hitch will allow the bike to lay down with out affecting the trailer (don't ask!).
  • When traveling with others who do not have a trailer and swear they will never pull a trailer, always leave room for some of their stuff it'll end up in your trailer.
  • Always pack the Corona and Captain Morgan(for above mentioned parking lot BS sessions) first and be sure it is secured before anything else.
  • Just because it will if in the trailer, doesn't mean you have to take it.
  • The flat surface on top makes a great serving area for cocktails, snacks, and yes even hot dogs!
As an added bonus, my husband has even found a way to use the trailer in our home heating & cooling business. During air conditioning season he hitches the trailer up loaded with his service tools and performs air conditioning cleanings on the bike. It's quite a conversation piece and gets much better gas mileage than his service van!

Monday, May 12, 2008

Parks, lakes and of course ice cream!

It was a beautiful, sunny, warmer than usual for this time of year, day. Perfect for a nice leisurely ride around the countryside. You didn't have to ask me twice, let's go!

First stop, Mendon Ponds Park, this is the largest park in Monroe County, NY and nice place to ride or picnic and take in the local "wild life" which usually consists of several large herds of deer. If you cruise through the park at dusk, keep your eyes open because you never know when you're going to round a corner only to be met by Bambi and her entourage! The park was just awakening from it's winter slumber. The picnic tables were still stacked neatly near the pavillions and the last shaded mounds of snow were finally giving way to the matted grass below. Not alot of activity in the park a few joggers and some picnicers but mostly pretty quiet.

After a nice ride through the park, we decided to head out to take a ride around one of the Finger Lakes, we weren't sure which one but we'd know it when we got there. That's pretty much how most of our rides go. Head out the driveway, pick a direction and go. Fortunately the GPS is usually pretty good a helping us find our way home.

It really was a beautiful spring day, the sun shining brightly, warming the air just enough to make me comfortable in my leather jacket. We ended up riding around Conesus Lake. Conesus is one of the smaller of the FingerLakes it's located at the western end of the Finger Lakes region in Lakeville, NY. The lake is 8 Mi long and 66 feet deep at it's deepest point.

We always enjoy riding around the Finger Lakes Region, the roads are nice and curvy, and the scenery especially in the fall is breathtaking.

As we made our way around the lake, all around us were signs that spring was here. People were out in their yards clearing away the last vestiges of winter, and preparing their cottages for what I'm sure everyone hopes is a nice, long hot summer. Winter around here is just too long!

We know several people who live on the lake but none were home so we rode on planning our next destination, which was a no brainer, we simply can't take a ride around Conesus Lake with out visiting one of our favorite stops Minnehan's.

Minnehan's is a nice little restaurant that also offers, an arcade, mini golf, a go cart track and the main reason we cream. You see, as Goldwing owners, required that after every ride we must stop for ice cream. The owners manual specifies Dairy Queen, but since those are practically non existent around here, we've received an exclusion to include any establishment that serves the sweet, frozen treat. So Minnehan's it was. If you're ever in the area check it out, it's a great place to take the kids too!

By the time we finished the ice cream, I was sufficiently chilled from the inside out. I didn't care though it was worth it! But it was getting late and time to head home, the back way of course!

What a great day and a perfect way to start the season.

See ya all next time!

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Riding weather is finally here, well almost!

There are times when I envy those who live in a climate that allows them to ride year round, especially in the darkest days of winter, when I've about had enough of the grey skies and frigid temperatures. But then, the weather finally breaks and it's time to ride again and I think we're the lucky ones.

Yea, I know, when there's 3 feet of snow on the ground and the wind is howling at 20 MPH and the wind chill is some minus a billion degrees, we sure don't feel very lucky, but stay with me here.

We're lucky because every year around this time we rediscover the joy of motorcycling again. Sure, we've got over 50,000 miles on our 2003 Goldwing, and my husband has been riding his whole life, so it's not even close to "new" but for me, that first really nice day of spring, when we roll the bike out of the garage, go through the annual ritual of finding all of our gear (somehow it never gets put away in the same place every year!) throw on the jacket and helmet and ease on out of the driveway, it's all new again and there's a renewed excitement to riding.

The sounds, the smells, the freedom of riding in the open air is an awesome feeling. I just think if we could ride 365 days a year, we may be tempted to take riding for granted and miss that one moment of every year that I look forward to most. It's a rite of spring. The robins come back, the tulips start to bloom, the snow melts away and the bike comes out of hibernation ready to provide another season of riding pleasure.

Here's to another great riding season. Hope to see you on the road.