Saturday, May 27, 2006

Nice 250 mile ride, not too far outside of Columbia

There are curvy roads near Columbia; they're just not all that easy to find. :-) I left home around 1:00 with the intention of not riding all that far or long. It was a pretty toasty 92 degrees, so it was a good day to try the faux Wal-Mart version of Under Armor shirt I bought to wear under my leathers at the Code school next weekend. I also opted to go with the mesh jacket. I tell you, that shirt is simply amazing! Several buddies of mine have spoken highly of that type of gear, and it really does work wonders. I stayed cool, and I didn't get all wet, like I would with a cotton t-shirt. It felt very good.

I rode up Hwy 215 past the Monticello Reservoir, and passed this quaint church en route:

Just beyond the reservoir I turned onto a 5-mile gravel road, which was pretty loosely packed and had some pretty large rocks; I averaged about 15mph over its length. Wasn't too bad, but I was glad to finally make it back to pavement. :-)

I travelled to Blair and rode some good roads in that general area. I didn't see the Blair Witch, but maybe a Blair ghost or two, as Blair is pretty dead. ;-)

Woods Ferry Road from Hwy 72 north to Hwy 9, then Mt. Pleasant Church Rd., left on 97, left on 49, back to 9, were both excellent. I enjoyed Woods Ferry so much I took it again back to 72, which I took west over to 176 and meandered back to Columbia. All this good riding only about 50 miles north of Columbia. I'll definitely have to ride this route again.

On my way home I stopped at a tiny little gas station to get some Gatorade, and I struck up a conversation with Bruce, the resident drunk, who was working on a big can of Busch. :-) He was actually a very nice individual. He kept asking where I was from, and I kept saying Columbia, and he kept asking. He was wondering if I raced and why I wasn't at bike week in Myrtle Beach. :-) He was a pretty funny cat; I enjoyed talking with him.

I ended up covering 250 miles and was out for about 5 hours. Much more than I intially planned on, but it was an absolutely wonderful day of riding!

Saturday, May 20, 2006

Trip to Knoxville

This wasn't a motorcycle journey, though that was the original plan. My buddy Daryl from Cincinnati and I planned to meet for lunch at Spooky Frasier's Barbecue in Knoxville, a good halfway point for us. It turned out that my girlfriend Donna had Friday and Saturday off from work, which is a rarity for her, so we decided to make it an overnight trip.

We left Friday morning and arrived at the Knoxville Zoo around noon and enjoyed it until they closed at 4:30. It was a nice zoo, but I personally like ours here in Columbia a lot better. It was a perfect day for spending outdoors - around 80 degrees with a light breeze.

We left the zoo and headed to a pair of adjacent cemeteries, a regular one and a national one. We found some really cool tombstones there.

After the cemetery we headed over to the campus of the University of Tennessee. We visited the war dog memorial at the vet school, dedicated to the dogs used by the marine corps in WWII.

Also at UT we visited their amazing rose garden; it was such a serene place; I could spend hours there with a good book. They had the most amazing wind chimes; the tubes were about 2" in diameter, 1/4" thick, and 4' long; they made the most incredible resonant tones.

Couple more shots from UT:

We concluded Friday evening with dinner and a lazy evening at the hotel.

Saturday morning I visited a Yamaha/Honda motorcycle dealership while Donna went and ate breakfast. They had lots of bikes with plenty of room to sit on them, but as is not uncommon, they didn't have much at all in the way of gear, and hardly anything was priced. Thumbs down.

We then headed into downtown and knocked around there for awhile. As I've seen in some other cities, they have animals painted by local artists around town; in this case, it was bears and dogs. Here's one of the dogs, next to a cowboy sculpture:

We caught a bluegrass band jamming; they were really good, especially the young fellow on the banjo.

We then met Daryl for lunch at Smokehouse BBQ. Any place that has their smokers out front promises to be good! And they were. The meat was nice and smoky and would have been fine without sauce. We had a good time visiting for a couple of hours, and then Daryl hit the road to head back to Cincinnati. Donna and I went and enjoyed a couple of hours at the riverwalk before heading homeward.

The drive home went pretty well, though it got a bit rainy and foggy in mountainous regions of I-40.

Thursday, May 18, 2006

Rode my VFR to Wilmington NC for business

I love riding to business meetings. Obviously, it's a chance to ride, plus the mileage reimbursement far exceeds the consumables used, so I end up pocketing a decent amount. :-)

Wilmington is about 225 miles from me, and it takes about 3.5 hours to get there, so I left home at 6:00am to be there for a 10:00am meeting. It was just barely getting daylight when I left, and it was a bit chilly, in the low 50's. Hardly any traffic was out yet, so it was an absolutely wonderful ride up there. It was really awesome watching the sun rise as I rode. I thought my electric gear was put away for the summer, but I was very glad I took my vest; I ran it nearly the whole way up. 50 degrees at 80mph is pretty cold (at least for this southern boy :-) ).

The meeting went well, and I was done by around 1:00pm. I began heading out toward Wrightsville Beach, but traffic was terribly thick; there were tons of cars and even more Harleys; I later learned that it was bike week in Wilmington. I aborted those plans and rode through downtown Wilmington and enjoyed the architecture, and then got headed back home.

I stopped for a photo in front of the USS North Carolina

I had barbecue on my mind, but I didn't see a single barbecue restaurant in Wilmington. My GPS indicated one about 50 miles west along my route, so off I went; unfortunately it was no longer there. I was starving and really didn't feel like hunting for anything else, so I settled for Hardee's. It turned out to be a good place to stop, as the food and coffee were good, and I struck up a conversation with a nice lady in here 50's who rides a Suzuki GS550 and has been riding for years. She said a VFR might have to be her next bike. :-)

Stopped at South of the Border at the SC-NC state line for a photo:

Got home around 6:00pm and covered about 500 miles. Superb day.

Sunday, May 14, 2006

Ninja modification weekend

This weekend I made several modifications to my Ninja: I converted the front turn signals to daytime running lights, I added flasher capabilities to the turn signals, I added grip heaters, and I installed new grips.

To make the DRLs I installed relays to invert how the signals operate - instead of normally being off and flashing on, they are now always on and flash off. This will help make the bike a bit more noticeable from the front.

To make the flashers, I found that simply jumpering the left and right wires coming out of the turn signal switch causes all four to flash, so I just tapped into each line and ran them to a switch. There have been several occasions when I'm riding in heavy rain or fog when I would have felt a lot safer with flashers, so I'm glad to have them now.

Grip heaters are the last thing I need right now, but they'll sure be nice come winter. I used the Symtec units that sell for about $25. I cut off my old, worn-out grips, wrapped the mylar films around the handlebars, and installed a new set of Oury grips on top. I carefully routed the wires over to the new relays and switches; there are three relays, one each for the two front turn signals, and one to provide power to the heated grips, and two switches, which I mounted on the fairing near the left handlebar.

Saturday, May 06, 2006

Maintenance Day Today

Today I rode my Ninja over to my buddy Hanna's house for a day of maintenance. We started off by pulling his two wheels and my rear and hauling them out to the Triumph dealership in Batesburg to have some new tires mounted. They were pretty busy and short-staffed, so we had a bit of a wait that we partially filled by enjoying some of Shealy's fine barbecue just down the road. The dealership had two of the much-discussed new 675's on the floor. They looked nice, but the ergonomics certainly weren't all that great. Definitely not a touring machine, at least not without modifications.

Got back to Hanna's, and I got to work on dropping my swingarm. The owners manual calls for servicing it every 6,500 miles, but I'm now at 45,000 miles and am just getting around to doing it for the first time. I found the pivot area to be dry and in need of lubrication, but I also fortunately found very little signs of wear. While I had everything apart and had good access to that whole area I gave everything a much-needed cleaning with kerosene. Looks like a new bike, and I can tell a noticeable improvement in the swingarm movement.

Meanwhile Hanna got started on his first valve adjustment on his Katana 600. It was a pretty involved task getting to the valves, but once all that was done I was impressed at how easy they are to measure and adjust. Good day. Almost as fun as riding. :-)