Category Archives: Motorcycling

2014-09-24 11.02.16

Luggage FUBAR riding a motorcycle

Had a great trip to the Algarve recently and rented a Honda Shadow motorcycle for a week. On one of the last few days of my stay there I planned a trip to the south-western tip of Portugal – Cabo de São Vicente and Sagres. However all did not go well from my start in Albufeira. As I knew I was going to be on the road for at least an hour, perhaps 1.5hours I decided to strap my rucksack to the back of the bike and I used bungees to secure it. As my rucksack as well as other rucksacks have lots of dangling bits I decided to use a waterproof cover to wrap around it and make it more streamlined.

broken_sgs3

This is what my Samsung looked like afterwards

I checked several times during the trip that the luggage was secured. However then I didn’t for a while as I was confident everything was fine. Just as I crossed the Portimao bridge I checked again and with my horror only found my bungees where the rest of my rucksack was. I few chosen words were well placed at this point and I was horrified to think what all I had inside: my Samsung Galaxy S3 smart-phone, my Nokia C2, Canon EOS 450D, my spare glasses, contact lens case, wallet, passport, a small pump-spray and an insect lotion. Needless to say there was a few things in it that would a) break and b) get stolen and would be VERY missed. I was able to turn around at the next exit and was surprised to find my bag in the middle of the opposite lane just coming out of one of the Lagoa roundabouts, 7.5 km up from where I realized my luggage was missing. I the Portuguese police are reading this I promise I didn’t break any land speed records.

Well, the damage was sort of suspected. While I was quickly going through the sorry content of my rucksack a guy pulled up claiming he was (at least) one of the drivers who failed to avoid this unexpected obstacle in the middle of the road. He was driving a Mercedes so I know my bag was driven over at least once.

broken_nokia

This was the state of the Nokia phone. The LCD was out but the phone sort-off still worked.

Basically the insect lotion exploded and smeared itself equally over the inside of the main compartment. The chemicals in the lotion was apparently not very nice as it somehow discoloured the fabric of the rucksack. Of course the smart-phone was FUBAR. The screen as seen here and not turning on.

I was quite surprised about the Nokia. The screen was cracked and basically unusable but the phone still worked. The problem is that nowadays I call people by selecting them from a list in my phone-book so I don’t know any numbers by heart. My surprise cam when I saw my spare glasses. The plastic case they were in was COMPLETELY shattered – it was in lots and lots of tiny bits but the glasses them self were fine. A little smudged – nothing a quick clean didn’t fix. The frame was not bent and the lenses were intact. The only thing that was off was that one of the little plastic pads that sit against your nose had fallen off. I just popped it right back on. I am wearing them right now as I am writing this. Well done Silhouette for the frames and Essilor for the lenses :-)

 

Honda GL1800 Goldwing

Riding the Honda GL1800 Goldwing

As the year has been coming to an end and winter seems just round the corner I decided to fill some of my inter-locuming days with a bit of biking. Hired a bike but this time something a little more comfy for the longer journeys – a proper touring bike with heated arm rests and seats would you believe it!! This time I rented a touring bike from the same Manchester rental company I used before. The bike was the marvellous Honda GL1800 Goldwing.

Started off in Manchester and then headed into a not very nice drenching storm. The rain was so bad I had to get off the road as I had problems seeing the road and other cars. Luckily there was a handy Asda carpark in Queensferry where I took refuge. The rest of the trip towards Pembrokeshire was fine, but I would still say it wasn’t really a good biking day. After stopping in Haverfordwest I travelled down the M4 and A34 to Hampshire to see relatives and then up to Northampton to meet a friend. Stayed in a local Travelodge there that I would definitely not recommend. Very dirt as seen from the photos below…

The next day on to the M1 and M6 towards Manchester.

The bike itself was great and much more comfortable than the Pan European. It also had loads more of mod-cons like heated seats, radio and it even had an air-bag. I didn’t know motorcycles even had that! One of the serous problems I had was with the windshield. It was positioned to high and once it got wet I had lots of problems seeing the road in front of me. I couldn’t get it to lowered and I thing Honda should have made it motorized like on the Pan European.

Dodging storm clouds

I guess a lot of seasoned bikers are familiar this skill but I had to develop olit completely from scratch and it was up to necessity rather than fancying myself taking on a skill I might not use ever again.

During my few weeks biking in the US this June I got quite good at it.
What it basically is that as a motorcyclist you try avoiding getting wet by avoiding rainy clouds as they intercept your route. You do however have another choice which is to bd a fatalist and give in to nature and … well … get soaked. I preferred to stay nice and dry so I tried my best.
I basically learnt the hard way of what it felt like to drive through a cold front and come out the other side looking like something my mother would drag out if the washing machine after a good hours soak. I knew the storm was coming but really had no way to properly avoid it. I could either stay put in a nice warm and cosy (and pricey) hotel, I could try to outrun it or could try riding straight into it and shorten the suffering. I though at the time it was to panzy to stay in the hotel, I didn’t want to turn back and you really can’t outrun a cold front just to let you know. I have also already been to Wisconsin and I didn’t particularly want to go back.

So this is what it all looked like on my phone using a weather app showing the rainfall radar.

wpid-Screenshot_2013-06-09-08-17-59.png The red dot is where I was at the time so I could see that there wasn’t much weather on the other side of that wave of rain.

But I didn’t realize at the time that I was in for some good soaking that would last about half a day. I remember at one point stopping more out of desperation at this diner next to the interstate to get myself warm on a all-you-can-drink coffee and lots of yummy egg-soaked calories with some peanut butter on the side.
Seriously, I thought I was going to have to give up and find a hotel nearby and warm up for a week. But then it started to ease off the rain. Just a little at first. Far in the distance you could see the clouds getting brighter. Then half an hour later or so … a ray of sunshine here and there. After that it cleared up big time and once I arrived in Bismarck in North Dakota the skies were blue and the the air was hot.

Once I came close to the finish line of my trip I seemed to improve my wetness avoidance skills tremendously.
I was riding towards a small town west of Chicago and I had managed quite skilfully to avoid a few storm clouds in my path. At one point I had to leave the interstate I was on and to my surprise ended on the famous Route 66. A few friends asked me before I left on the trip whether I was going to do the ’66’, however this never in my plans. Well, did managed to get on it completely by chance.

hero-retail-service-station

The Oregon petrol station madness

I would admit the headline is a little sensational but at the time of driving through Oregon I did think there was something odd about the Beaver state. In my many years of driving round Europe and now the USA I have found that all petrol stations have turned into self-service affairs. You get there, you you fill up your tank, you pay and then you drive off.

But in Oregon – oh nooooo. I even saw some other fellow Americans drivers puzzled by what they we and were not expected to do at the petrol stations. I definitely wasn’t the only one. As soon as I crossed the border from Washington going south and pulled-in the first filling station I got told off by some petrol station worker that I am not allowed to fill-up petrol myself.

By the time I pulled-in my second Oregon petrol station I have almost but forgot what I was told the first time – my mother will concur that I was not always known for doing as I was told. Anyway, I was told again that I was not allowed to fill-up my motorbike myself. My disobedience was encouraged by the fact there was nobody at hand at the station to actually do the filling-up for me so I just went ahead and did it.

What also amazed me was the reasoning for this and the reasons were not exactly consistent. The first petrol attendant-guy told me this was to stimulate employment which in my opinion is one of the most idiotic ways of going about this. Forcing petrol stations to employ people to do something that everywhere they can do themselves.

The second reason at the second gas station was even more crazy – that its all because health and bloody safety. Now the reason why this seems crazy to me and will probably to everyone reading this is what happens in an Oregon petrol station once you pull-up with your motorcycle: first you have to patiently wait for somebody to appear at your vehicle. This person than has to take your payment card and swipe it for you through the card reader at the pump. you then have to tell the attendant the security code which is the US is not the card’s PIN number but your ZIP – code. Then he or she lifts the filling nozzle and instead of starting to fill your precious bike with gasoline he/she hands it over to you!
So if there ever was a ‘dangerous’ part of the whole filling-up process I think swiping your card in a card reader and pressing some buttons certainly wouldn’t be that and filling your tank definitely would be, wouldn’t you think? Oh no, they leave the use of combustible fluid to you – you know, because of health and safety.

By the time I came to my third and fourth Oregon petrol station I had more or less given up on being shocked by this bureau-stupidity and let them do their own thing. However I did refuse to pay gratuity. As far as I am concerned they can go to Salem (Oregon’s capital) and ask the governor for all I care.

One of the attendants even threatened that he and I could get a fine if we didn’t comply with this rule but I did not see one signs, not even one on any of the petrol stations I stopped in Oregon. I was also quite surprised that New Jersey has similar laws in place.

Oh, and yes, in case you think I am making this up, here is the legislature – http://www.leg.state.or.us/ors/480.html

They lost me after slick surfaces and “Self-service dispensing at retail contributes to unemployment, particularly among young people;”.

The list of excuses why this has ended up and still remains a legislation is not short at all. The excuses are actually listed in the legislature text. I have sifted through it for your entertainment:

  • safety standards often are unenforceable at retail self-service stations in other states because cashiers are often unable to maintain a clear view of and give undivided attention to the dispensing of Class 1 flammable liquids by customers.
    When I arrived at one of the Oregon stations I had to wait a while to get the attention of the attendant.
  • higher liability insurance rates as people can hurt themselves at these petrol stations: increased risk of crime and the increased risk of personal injury resulting from slipping on slick surfaces.
    Damn those those slick surfaces.
  • the dangers of crime and slick surfaces described before are enhanced because Oregon’s weather is uniquely adverse, causing wet pavement and reduced visibility
    Ohh fu** – now they are blaming the weather. Are they taking the piss?!
  • the law is here for senior citizins and the disabled
    In the rest of the world the senior citizens and disabled just have to remain without petrol then?
  • senior citizens and persons with disabilities must pay the higher costs of full service
    Oh really!? Never heard that happen but I think the US has to blame itself for all that gratuity-culture.
  • Self-service dispensing at retail in other states does not provide a sustained reduction in fuel prices charged to customers;
    So their reasoning is because self-service is not cheaper lets just ban it all-together.
  • prohibition of self-service petrol stations promotes public welfare by providing increased safety and convenience without causing economic harm to the public in general;
    Now they are just making shit up.
  • Self-service dispensing at retail contributes to unemployment, particularly among young people;
    Already covered it but I had to write it down again, just for laughs.
  • Small children left unattended when customers leave to make payment at retail self-service stations creates a dangerous situation
    And that is one of the reasons we have invented ‘Pay at pump’, not that Oregon lawmakers have noticed

Avenue of the Giants

Redwood forest

Redwood forest (photo taken from the internet)

The name sounds like something from a children’s adventure book, perhaps depicting an overgrown legume, but this was an actually road-sign I saw in northern California that was inviting me to leave the route 101 and explore its mysteries.

This is actually the name of a byway, a road that runs close to the Route 101 but is much MUCH nicer. The roads twists and rolls round enormous Redwood trees, which are really sequoia trees. The oldest one there called “Immortal Tree” is about 950 years old which has survived logging, a direct lightning strike and attempts to cut it down by loggers.