In the Beginning

Driving a car, your relationship with the road is like that with a friend. Bumps are softened. On a motorcycle, the relationship is much more intimate, like that with a lover. You feel every small bump and dip.

Me, November 2011

This is the unfolding story of motorcycling and me. While I'd toyed with the idea of riding for several years, I'd never thrown a leg over a motorcycle until I was 51. Then the time seemed right. My youngest kid had finished high school so I considered myself expendable. I'd just spent two years with every waking moment was consumed writing a book. With it completed, I again owned my life and was looking for a new obsession.

My driving force in life has always been pushing myself, taking on new challenges and mastering new skills. I thrive on exploring new places and always prefer to be outside with the wind on me as much as possible. So I gravitated to riding.

As I contemplated this big plunge, I made several assumptions. One was that riding a motorcycle would save money given that gasoline prices had just spiked. A second was that royalties from the book would pay for a motorcycle. But most of all, I assumed that having put in thousands of miles on road racing and mountain bicycles, and manual transmission cars for years, I'd pick up motorcycle riding easily.

These assumptions all turned out to be wrong. What I spent on motorcycling far exceeded any savings from higher gas mileage. I didn't sell enough books to cover the costs. And learning to ride was much, much more difficult than I expected. But it was also much more fulfilling. In life, I've always wanted to be where I'm not. And I'm rushing to get there.

In the few years since I began riding, I've fallen passionately in love with it. The average American motorcyclist rides 1800 miles per year. I did 16,000 my first year, 18,000 the second, and over 20,000 in the third. I've continued to average 15,000 to 16,000 miles per year even when I began writing a weekly column that eats up much of my Sundays. At night I often dream of squiggly lines on a map. Seriously.

When everything is clicking--I'm alone on a winding country road, I've got my "A" game, the music is in a groove--I sometimes forget the motorcycle is there and feel like I'm simply flying. If you don't want to take my word for it, trust Alton Brown.

Luckily, I live close to some fine riding, with twisty roads over mountain ridges, large state forests, miles of farmland (which often requires dodging Amish buggies), charming little towns (each different from all the others), and lots of historic sites. There's always somewhere new to see. (Here's a map of my favorite routes and road food). I particularly like combining riding with photography--one of my other passions.

When I began this blog I was riding a 2010 BMW R1200R. In BMW jargon, this bike was a "hexhead" (named because the engine cylinder covers are hexagonal). So these are the "Hexhead Diaries." I'll update them regularly with stories and pictures. Stay tuned!

Monday, July 1, 2013

Asshat Riders and Garmin's Incompetence

The past few weeks--and the coming one--have seen almost daily thunderstorms so it's been hard to get a ride in.  I did try to do a medium one--173 miles--last Saturday.  The weather was nice but storms in the preceding days had blown gravel into the road in unexpected places.  I hit a pile of it coming down off a mountain and nearly dumped the bike at high speed.  That made me a little tentative for the rest of the ride.

Then I was on Route 125 south of Shamokin.  This road, which has a couple of twisty mountain crossings, is popular with the sports bike crowd.  I was tooling around and checked the mirrors and
saw one behind me, so I stepped up the pace to my comfort level so as to not steal any more fun from the guy than I had to.  Then I was leaning hard in a curve nearly scraping a peg and one of the asshats in the group passed me on the right, in my lane.  He was inches from me.  We were both moving fast and leaning so even if our mirrors had made contact, it would have been disaster.  The other two then passed me on the left.  It was a double yellow line but I didn't care so much about that.

As I thought about it, I was angry at myself for not flipping off the first moron.  At least I can be satisfied that his single digit IQ will probably be out of the gene pool relatively soon.

Then the other annoyance.  For like the fifth time in a row, my Garmin Zumo 220 corrupted my route.  I had put in a help ticket to Garmin after the previous episode and they had me reset the unit to the factory configuration.  But this didn't resolve the problem.  So now they're telling me that they'll replace it for "only" $60.  Well, this would be the fifth replacement in three years (including one that cost me $120) so I don't think so.   I cannot believe that Garmin stays in business with such abysmal quality control.  Unfortunately though, there aren't any other motorcycle specific GPS units out there, so I don't know what to do now.

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