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Monday, December 28, 2009

You need a good battery

I have found that there are certain times paying more is well worth it.  Peanut Butter, riding gloves, tires, and batteries to name a few.

When it comes to batteries I am an avid fan/consumer of Interstate Batteries (ISB).  In order to provide complete disclosure I must confess that I know an ISB employee, but I have no other connection other than that.

Whenever I replace the OEM battery on my bike or any of the family vehicles I purchase ISB batteries.  I have found that the ISB batteries last long, provide great cranking power, and are extremely reliable.

Only recently did I start using ISB dry-cell batteries for my flashlights, camera, toys,... and I have  found that the higher cost translates to longer battery life and more power.

When it comes to my VStar I rely on the ISB battery and it has not disappointed even when my starter clutch was going out and I had to strain the battery to start the bike.  The bike also fires up easily even when it is cold and the bike has been sitting a while.  I have had to let the bike go upstarted for over a month, with NO battery tender attached, and when the time came to start, it fired up!

When you need a battery I recommend you pay a little extra and purchase a battery from Interstate Batteries. You will not be disappointed.

Friday, December 18, 2009

Jacket for those colder days.

The following review is from a friend of mine who rides a lot and has for many years.  He has plenty of experiences with motorcycles and accessories.  I highly respect his recommendation and want to share his review with you.

Now that winter is actually settling in, I am really enjoying my new FirstGear TPG Ranier jacket. Apparently, this is an outgoing model because they are on sale at both Cycle Gear ($180) and NewEnough.com ($149) – MSRP was $400!

This jacket is stout – it weighs almost 6 pounds with the liner and armor in. The outside layer is heavy nylon, with Kevlar reinforcing at the shoulders and elbows. The nylon full-sleeve liner is removable, and can actually serve as a separate windbreaker. The front closure is a stout two-way zipper (so you can unzip the bottom parially for more freedom of movement) plus a snapped storm flap with rain gutter. It keeps the wind out quite well.

There are plenty of pockets, including four waterproof ones on the front: two large ones with inner and outer compartments below, a smaller one above on one side and a cell phone pocket on the other side. The cell phone pocket includes a clever strap with which you can lift your phone out without having to dig down into the narrow pocket. There are other pockets on the arms, inside the liner, inside the outer shell and a large pouch on the back. The front left inner pocket even has a grommeted opening in the inside at the bottom so you can route your MP3 player headphone cord with the zipper fully closed.

The fit is adjustable, with zippered gussets at the waist and cuffs The cuffs also have a velcro strap for additional trimming. This makes it easy to fit the sleeves inside your glove gauntlets. There are two waist adjustment straps and a stretch cord adjuster around the bottom edge. The jacket fits my fairly narrow build very nicely, with a couple of layers of shirts and sweaters under it.

The neck is covered with a comfortable fleece lining, and has a small flap that protects your neck from the zipper. There is a velcro closure on the neck band. A very nice touch is a nylon rain hood that fits under your helmet and stores into the collar when not needed. This should do a good job of keeping water from dripping down your neck.

Knox CE-approved armor (good stuff) is included at the elbows and shoulders. There is a thin foam back pad, which can be replaced with a more substantial one (not included). There are strips of reflective material on the back, arms and front of the shoulders.

While I have not yet tested this jacket in a full monsoon, I can verify that it is truly waterproof while riding in a moderate rain, for about 45 minutes. In addition, I find that my cold-natured body stays comfortable down to freezing temperature, with the afore-mentioned extra layers under the jacket. (My fingers, on the other hand, are another issue…!) (Pun intended J )

There are large zippered vents on the front and rear of the shoulders, which should help with ventilation in warmer temperatures. Nonethless, I don’t see this as a warm-weather jacket, because it is so substantial.

If the cold days are causing you to miss some riding, I recommend this jacket as a good cure.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Motorcycles - the ultimate classroom

During the last 4 summers (06-09) I have taken my son, who will be 13 in Feb 2009, on long motorcycle trips with friends.  Each trip has been filled with great roads, good food, amazing vistas, and superb educational opportunities.  We have greatly enjoyed each trip and each year I have worked to increase the educational aspect of the trip.  It is one thing to study about geographical landforms and another to see and touch them. Reading about the Civil War is fine, but standing on a battle site, beside a cannon, or behind a bulwark deepens the understanding and reality of the conflict.  Many more examples could be given.

Two historic sites we visited are the Fort Donelson National Battlefield and Fort Donelson National Cemetery in Dover Tennessee (83 miles NW of Nashville - Map).  Fort Donelson was located on the south side of the Cumberland River and was fortified with earthworks, a natural bluff, and a lot of cannons.

The visitor center is located on Hwy 79. The center has several displays with many artifacts from the Civil War as well as exhibit about the Underground Railroad.  We picked up a self guided tour map before starting out on the six mile tour.

We stopped several times to walk around and view the earthworks confederate soldiers had erected.  We visited a one room log cabin that is a replica of the type of shelter that some of the soldiers would have lived in.

At the far end of the tour we viewed the Cumberland River bluff fortifications and cannons.  It was easy to see why this location was chosen; a clear view of the river in both directions.
After touring the battleground we stopped by the National Cemetery. This is a humbling site.  Headstones lined up row after row.  The big trees and dense forest around the cemetery made this a quite and solemn place.  There are soldiers from various wars and conflicts buried here.  We took time to stop and talk about the sacrifice of those buried and those currently serving our country.
Both the battlefield and the cemetery were educational, beautiful, and thought provoking.  There is no entrance fee at either location.  The battlefield has over 5 miles of hiking trails and is open 8am - 4:30pm.  The cemetery is open 8am - 5 pm.

We really enjoyed tour both sites and I think you would find it worth a ride up to Dover to see the battlefield and the cemetery.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

The Feedlot in Leakey, TX

The Hill Country of Texas is an awesome place to ride and work up a good appetite.  If you take the time to ride the famous "Three Twisted Sisters" (FM 335, FM 336, & FM 337) you ride through Leakey and past The Leakey Feed Lot (547 US 83).

The three FM roads make up "Sisters" along with the north connecting Hwy - TX 41 and a short stretch of TX 55 between Camp Wood and Barksdale make up a 100 mile loop through some great Texas landscape.  The roads a full of twisties, hills, and a variety of Texas scenery.  (Photo take on FM 335)

This is not a loop for inexperienced riders.  The roads follow canyons and at times there are some steep drop offs which little or no guardrails.

There are several exotic ranches along the way.  One ranch on FM 335 even had giraffes.

On two separate occasions I have ridden the "Sisters" in the morning and returned to Leakey for lunch at the Leakey Feed Lot.  At first glance I did not think the place was open and if you get after 2pm and before 5pm it is closed!  Actually it is open only on Monday, Thursday, Friday, Saturday 11-2 & 5-9 and on Sunday 11-2.  (Photo from www.leakeyfeedlot.com)



On both occasions we sat outside in the front of the restaurant and watch the bikes go by.  I ordered the cheeseburger and fries.  The order came out hot, fresh, and on a paper plate - kind of surprising, but did not damage the burger.  The fries were hot and cooked just right (for me).  The veggies on the burger all seemed fresh.  The meat was lean and seasoned well.

The burger hit the spot and filled me up.  Although I did not have the chicken fried steak I have heard it is really good.

So go enjoying the Three Twisted Sisters and then fill your stomach with some good food at the Leakey Feed Lot.  You will greatly enjoy both uniquely Texas experiences.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

"Will Not Post A Review" list

You may have noticed that all of my reviews have been positive.  Not all are “glowing,” but none are negative.  I don’t really like ragging someone, but I do think I should communicate about places and items that I did not find worthy of writing about.

With that in mind I have decided to periodically post a “Will Not Post A Review” list.  I hope my silence communicates appropriately.

In no particular order here is my first:

                  Will Not Post A Review
1) True Grit Restaurant - Alamosa, CO
2) Chama Trails Inn - Chama, NM
3) Bar B Que Junction - Bowling Green, KY
4) Idaho Springs Motel - Idaho Springs, CO
5) Lea's Restaurant - Leonard, TX
6)Lewie's Burgers and Brew - Lead, SD
7) Maxima Spray and Shine Spray-On Detailer

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Keep those hands warm

Here in Texas the riding season never really ends, although there are short stretches of cold or ice.  For the most part the majority of Texans can ride year round.  Rarely do we have more than 5 or 6 days consecutively that would make riding impossible.  Certainly the Panhandle of Texas has a lot more days that make riding not likely.

We do get some cooler weather that makes us bundle up before starting the bikes and riding.  On those days I want a good pair of gloves to keep my fingers warm and operational.


There are numerous choices of good quality gloves on the market.  I have actually chosen a glove that is not motorcycle specific.  I wear the Black Diamond Gore-Tex Renegade gloves.  The Gore-Tex fabric keeps my hands dry even in the heaviest of rains.  The wool lining is soft and warm and yet the gloves are light and my fingers stay movable.  The shell is made of a durable 120d twill and the palms and fingers are reinforced with leather.  Black Diamond claims a temperature range of up to 0 degrees Fahrenheit!  I personally know they work great to at least 29 degrees.

I have found the gloves very warm, dry, comfortable, and functional.  The only negative is the short and tight gauntlet.  I really have to be careful to make sure my coat sleeve gets tucked in to the glove so that it does not slide up on my arm.

The real question is, "Would I buy this glove again?"  The answer is yes.  It it difficult to beat the quality of Gore-Tex and the quality of this glove.  If you are looking for a good warm, waterproof glove for riding or any outdoor activity give this glove a try.


Disclosure: I test some products for Gore.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Nice loop NE of Dallas, TX

Here is a nice loop to ride NE of Dallas. It will take you through some little known communities in North Texas and on some fun Farm to Market roads. The loop from McKinney and back is about 113 miles. There are plenty of curves and some great hills. Traffic is very light once you get a few miles away from McKinney. (There is a link to map at the end of the post.)  TX 5 and US 380 intersects on the east side of McKinney. There are several service stations in the area so riders can fill up the gas tank.

Heading east on US 380 the road is divided and multi-laned. About 2 miles you will turn left on FM 1824 which will take you through New Hope and then to the even smaller community of Altoga. Just after you pass the Altoga Baptist Church FM1824 will turn left (if you continue straight the road become CR 465). Three miles later you intersect FM 545. Turn right and you will pass Valdasta (which is where the picture of my grandfather on his Harley was taken in 1908 – see earlier post and pictures).

FM 545 East will take you to Blue Ridge. Turn left on Business TX 78, ride ½ mile and then turn right on FM 981. This will cross TX 78 and then procedure to Frognot, TX. The S curve in Frognot is pretty sharp so be ready. About three miles east of Frognot FM 981 turns north – the road continues straight, but becomes FM 1582 (this will take you to Celeste). Turn north on FM 981 and enjoy some more curves.

FM 981 intersects TX 78, turn right and ride into Leonard. You will go under a bridge for the train and you will be on the SW corner of the downtown Leonard square. Turn left when you first get to the square on Connett Street. Connett Street will end at Cottonwood Street, turn left and then take the first right on Oak Street.

Oak Street intersects US 69, which is a busy road. Ride across 69 and you will be on FM 896 or what locals call Randolph Hills road. This is a really fun road. After a big S curve you will come to a series of hills and some curves. Watch for farm equipment on the road, but have fun, this is a great stretch. Towards the end of this 12 mile stretch you will top a hill and you can see 2+miles of the road ahead, a great place to “air it out.”

At the end of FM 896 you will intersect TX 11. Turn left (west) and ride to Whitewright. TX 11 and US 69 merge just east of Whitewright. At the 4-way stop turn right on US 69. There is a DQ and a large Exxon on the corner – both good places to stop if you need to.

Once heading north on US 69 you will ride about 1.3 miles. Turn left on FM 697 (Ida Road). This 14-mile road is one of the best in the area. Numerous times Ride Texas Magazine readers have voted it one of the top 10 in Texas. During the first 1.5-2 miles watch for some road cracks. After that the road is nice. There are curves and a lot of elevation changes.

At the end of FM 697 turn left on TX 11 and ride to Tom Bean. At Tom Bean turn right on FM 902 and then left on FM 2729 (follow the signs carefully). A little over 6 miles later FM 2729 intersects FM 121 (not to be confused with TX 121). Turn right on FM 121 and ride to Van Alstyne. Turn left on TX 5 and ride south for about 1.6 miles. Turn left on FM 3133 and enjoy this road. You will come to a stop sign in Westminster and the road becomes FM 2862/ Houston Street. Go straight, the road will curve right and you will come to downtown Westminster. Park and enjoy a burger at Big Slicks and shop at the Motorcycle Outpost (see earlier post).

Proceed west on FM 2862 for 6 miles and you will ride into Anna. FM 2862 intersects FM 455 (another great road for another post). Turn right, cross the railroad tracks, and you will intersect TX 5.

At this time you could go north on TX 5 for about a mile and stop at the Malt Shop for a great shake or malt, or ride south into Melissa and back to McKinney, or you can ride straight and FM 455 crosses over US 75 and you can head home from there (or ride 455 west).

I have ridden these roads a lot. They are some of the more curvy ones in the area. You can enjoy some great NT countryside.

My suggestions is to begin the day with a great breakfast at Bill Smith’s CafĂ© in McKinney, drag some pegs while on the loop, and then enjoy lunch at Big Slick’s in Westminster. Sounds like a great day!

Map

Monday, November 30, 2009

Eating in Pagosa Springs



On the east side of Pagosa Springs where  US 180 & US 84 intersect you will find the appropriately named Junction Restaurant.  The Junction is very biker friendly, although the parking lot is not paved.  The scenery and ride to get there is awesome, especially if you ride over Wolf Creek Pass (10,857 ft) east of town.

The Junction is both a restaurant and a gift store.  The gift store had a good selection of t-shirts and collectibles.

The Junction serves up country cooking with a little southwest flair.  Standard country food was on the menu, i.e. burgers, chili, chicken fried steak...

We were greeted with smile and quickly seated (11:30 am).  The waitress filled our drink order and answered our questions about the menu and struck back at the joking around by members of our party.  She did a great job.

I had the green chili.  This is not a normal menu choice from me, but I am glad I ordered it.  The chili was served hot and it smelled great.  It was very flavorful and had some "kick" to it, but it was not too spicy.  The ground meet was good and I did not notice any gristle.  My son and other ordered the hamburger.  The burgers looked good - nothing great, but were good and satisfying burgers.  No one in the group complained about the meal, actually everyone enjoyed it and would stop by again.

The price was very reasonable for a tourist town and we found the service good.  The facilities were clean and decorated nicely in  country/mountain decor.

If you are in Pagosa Springs stop by the Junction Restaurant for a meal.  Try the green chili, I think you will enjoy it.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Luggage for the long trips

I have been blessed to be able to take my son and go on some really long trips on the bike over the last 5 summers.  Packing for these trips has proven challenging, but having good luggage really helps.  I have had the same brand and type of luggage now for 5 years.  I moved from the large to X-large in the same model before the 2009 summer trip because my son's clothes keep getting bigger.

I chose the TourMaster Nylon Sissybar Bag with Barrelbag in 2005.   The system allows three different setups of luggage (sissybar bag only, barrelbag only, sissybar bag & barrelbag).  The barrelbag sits on top of the sissybar bag and stays secure with a length wise zipper and latches on both ends of the luggage.  The tops of both bags secure shut with a large area of hook & loop closures.  (Picture from http://www.tourmaster.com/)
Both bags are constructed of water-resistant heavy-duty nylon and synthetic leather, but Tourmaster includes a waterproof rain cover.  The rain cover fits tight and can completely cover a tightly packed unit and includes a drawstring so that the bottom opening of the cover can be minimized and slack in the cover removed. 

The sissybar bag has two large side pockets and a front pocket that has a zippered pocket to store the rain cover and other small and thin items.  The barrelbag has a pocket at both ends for smaller items.  The barrelbag also comes with a rigid internal support to help maintain the shape of the bag even when lightly packed.  The mounting system is adjustable so that the bag can be used on any bike.

I have used the bag a lot and I have been very please with the durability.  The combination is a good value and will last a long time.  I am looking forward to using it on many more trips.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

International Motorcycle Show

I went to the Cycle World International Motorcycle Show (IMS) in Dallas this past weekend. The IMS is a good show that allows bikers to see most make and models for the upcoming year.


Tickets at the door were $15, but if you rode your bike parking was free. The event was held in the Dallas Convention Center, which allows for plenty of room and parking. The facilities are nice and the layout allows for enough room so that visitors are not cramped, except at some of the very popular vendors. The only real negative is the ride to downtown or as many call it the “metromess.”


I did hear some riders comment that they felt there were not as many vendors this year, but I did not notice any particular category of accessories missing.


All of the major manufacturers were there i.e. Honda, Harley, Suzuki, & Yamaha, Kawasaki. Ducati was the only European company with bikes in the show. Some nontraditional motorcycles were present, namely the Can Am & the GG Quad.


Rick Fairless of Strokers Dallas was present with some of his custom bikes and some Victory bikes. There were some other custom builders who also had booths.
Various dealerships and stores had booths where one could buy a wide range of accessories.

The Marine Reserves Toy for Tots organization was present and they displayed the custom chopper that they will raffle off on Nov. 21, 2009 at the Dallas Stars game. This is a great organization raising money for a worthy cause.


The IMS is worth attending. I plan on being there next year even if it is still in downtown Dallas.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Little known places are often the best places.

I love those places that only the locals know about. A local diner, the country road traveled by farmers, or an area attraction, these are the places I enjoy visiting. Not only do I avoid the crowd, but I get a touch of personal service and some local flair.
One such place I stumbled across is the Delta Music Museum in Ferriday, Louisiana. This small museum honors individual from the music industry that have direct ties to the Mississippi Delta geographical area. When I stopped by in July of 2009 there were 17 individuals in the "Hall of Fame", including the three famous cousins from Ferriday, Jerry Lee Lewis, Mickey Gilley, and Jimmy Swaggart. Other inductees include Aaron Neville, Fats Domino, Irma Thomas, and Percy Sledge.

Outside the museum is the Walk of Fame where each inductee has his/her own star. The museum was once the Ferriday Post Office.  The grounds are nicely kept and landscaped.  Admission is free, but donations are welcomed.
When I entered the museum two long-time residences of Ferriday enthusiastically welcomed me. One sweet lady (sorry I do not remember her name) walked with me through the exhibits and gave me an informative personal tour. She was a wealth of knowledge and had experienced personal contact to many in the Hall of Fame.

The exhibits were informative and displayed original personal items of the inductees. Each exhibit was carefully and tastefully arranged. There was a family like atmosphere in the entire museum.


I will go back to Ferriday and visit the Delta Music Museum, but I will take my son so he can see some of the great influences in music. It is a great place to visit and as a bonus it is just across the Mississippi River from Neches and the southern end of the Neches Trace.   MAP

Friday, November 6, 2009

You just got to love a good hangout and accessory store.

North of Dallas is a little community named Westminster. This tiny town actually has boast of being the home of Westminster College at one time and was a cotton market and retail center for the area in the 1920's. The Great Depression caused a lot of people to move and the decline continued for many years.

With around 390 residences you would not expect to find a hotbed of biker activity, but that is what you will find on a nice weekend. 


Photo from Big Slick's website
Big Slick's Bar and Grill and the Motorcycle Outpost team up to provide a great watering hole and biker accessory shop.  Housed in the old bank and attached building Big Slick's grill will serve up a great hamburger and fries.  The order of nachos is big and there is plenty to share with your friends.  Both indoor and outdoor sitting is available so riders can take advantage of those nice days of sunshine.

The Outpost is upstairs and the owner Jerry will welcome with a big smile.  You will find a good assortment of patches, shirts, leathers, sunglasses, and other accessories at the best prices around.  On site sewing is also offered for your patches.

Take US 75 north from Dallas or south from Sherman and then exit FM 455 and go east into Anna.  Ride over the railroad tracks once FM 455 intersects TX 5 then turn left on FM 2862.  FM 2862 is a great road and it will take you directly to downtown Westminster and to the front of Big Slicks and the Outpost.

You can also turn left on FM 2862 from TX 121.  Check out a good Texas map and you can find several good ways to get there.

Big Slicks and the Outpost are open Friday 11am - midnight,  Saturday 11am - 1am, and Sunday Noon - 10pm.

Plan a ride out to Westminister if you have never been.  You will enjoy it.   MAP

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Teddy Bear Run

I have been told that bikers are the most generous demographic in the USA. When think about the numerous charity events and how many bikers participate I can believe that statement.
One such event is the Annual Collin County Children’s Advocacy Center Teddy Bear Run. This event was held again on November 1, 2009. My son and I attended the run. This was my third time to participate.

Teddy Bears on the bike above were donated by Bill Smith's Cafe, McKinney, TX.

The CCCAC Teddy Bear Run is a well-organized event with a very worthy cause. This annual event is one of the bigger toy/teddy bear runs in the north Texas area (maybe in the state, but I don’t know about all the runs). 

Registration and the starting point are in the McKinney High School parking lot. $10 or a Teddy Bear is all that is required. Many riders bring multiple teddy bears. Ride pins and t-shirts are also available to purchase. From 9 am to 11:45 am bike roll in and are directed to line up for the ride. The organization for the line up is great and this keeps things safe in the parking lot. Plenty of room is allowed between rows for people to walk, examine bikes, and visit.

The organizers arrange each year for police escort and for traffic to be stop on one of the busiest highways in the metroplex, US 75. There are also a large number of volunteer bikers who help block traffic (after law-enforcement secures the intersection or on ramp). The controlling of the “cages” really makes the ride pleasant and safe.
The 20-mile ride travels down US 75 to East on Plano Parkway to north on Los Rios, which runs directly in front of the Advocacy Center. Food, drinks, entertainment, and raffle tickets are available at the center with proceeds benefiting the CCCAC.
This is a great ride. If you have not attended the ride make plans to next year. The ride is always on the first Sunday of November. You will have a great time.   (Awesome gold trike ridden by G.E. and Janis Vaughn of Greenville)

Friday, October 30, 2009

Rafting the San Juan River!

Customer service at times seems to be a forgotten aspect of business; however, the customer service at Pagosa Outside Adventures is awesome!

While on our summer trip (June 2009) to Colorado seven of us went rafting.  We decided on a 1/2 day trip.  I found Pagosa Outside Adventures (POA) while searching online for rafting in the Pagosa Springs area.  I took a chance and booked our trip.

When we arrived at 12:30 we were met with smiles, laughter, and energy.  The entire staff seemed excited about the trip, a trip I am sure by then they had already taken many times.  Since none of us had ever been rafting we had questions and each question was enthusiastically answered.

After everyone had the appropriate gear, we loaded the POA van and head to the launching point which was directly behind the Malt Shoppe (great place - maybe discuss in a later post).  The rules and procedures were given in a humorus yet understandable way (Photo by "Birdcage"). 

Six rafts were launch and the fun began.  The river began smooth and cold.  The trip took us through parts of the town and right by the Springs Resort & Spa, a luxury hotel that features natual hot springs.  We continued down the river and out of the town where we got to experience some level 2-3 rapids. 

We difted beside steep granite walls and mountain forests.  We saw bald eagles looking for food and we rafted by a site used during the filming of the John Wayne classic The Cowboys.  At about the 1/2 way point the rafts pulled over and we had time for a snack and necessary break.

Once back on the river the speed picked up.  We experience some whitewater, but it was never too big or too rough.  The scenery was great and there was some fun-loving splashing wars between the rafts. Our guide was very experienced and knowledgeble.  He added a lot to the experience with his commentary and humor.  (Photo by "Loose Wheel" Grant)

When we landed we all helped load the equipment back on the trailers.  On our ride back into town we saw a black bear, but none of us got a picture.  The bear ran once the vans got close.

This was a great experience and has motivated me to go rafting again.  Next time I am in the Pagosa Springs area I will be planning a full day trip with POA.  Give it a try, you will have a blast.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Willow City Loop - Be careful!

Willow City is a very small community in Gillespie County in the Hill Country of Texas.  Willow City is located about 13 miles north of Fredericksburg and two miles east on FM 1232.  The loop can be accessed from either Willow City or from TX 16 (19 miles north of Fredericksburg on TX 16 or 19 miles south from Llano on TX 16).

This popular road is county maintained and is barely wide enough for two cars.  The 20-mile or so back road is a great place to see some beautiful country and wildlife.  Gillespie County has the highest concentration of whitetail deer in all of the US so be careful, especially in the morning or evening.  There is also a good chance you will see wild turkey or wild boar.  There are several cattle guard crossings, which mean there are some free ranging cows, be watchful.

During the spring the Texas wildflowers are plentiful (and so are the cars full of bluebonnet seekers - so be alert for stopped traffic).  There are some low water crossings that after some heavy rains might be a problem, but most of the time they are fine.  Stay on the main road and do not go on to private property.

This is not a road for great curves and speed.  This Texas gem is for a relaxing ride in the pretty hill country.  If you are in the area I highly recommend that you take "the loop."  You will not regret it.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

One of the most beautiful caverns and awesome roads to get there!

I love caverns.  Over the past three years my son (he is 12 currently) and I have visited six caverns.  Each cavern has it own special characteristics.  We have visited three of the five largest caverns in the world. 
[1) Mammoth - Kentucky, 2) Jewel Cave - South Dakota, 4) Wind Cave - South Dakota] and three smaller caverns.  In the past, before getting married, I visited Carlsbad Cavern in New Mexico.

The cavern that has the most beautiful and colorful formations is Blanchard  Springs Cavern outside of Mountian View, Arkansas and a great "plus" to the deal is that the roads to and from are full of twisties and elevation changes!

Life magazine once stated that Blanchard Springs Cavern was "one of the most extraordinary finds of the century" and I would tend to agree.  The cave has two paved routes.  Both routes take you into a living cave with slow changing stalactites, stalagmites, columns, and flowstones.  The cavern stays at a constant 58 degress Farenheit with  97-100% humitity.  The size of the cavern is not what it is known for, but the beauty of the formations is. 

My picture does not show the colors well at all, but you can see the formations are spectacular.  The colors are amazing.  The tour guide provided us with some great information about the discovery and preservation of the cavern.


Now the ride to get there is awesome.  We took AR 16/9 from Clinton, AR to Mt. View and greatly enjoyed the 35 miles of scenic windy roads.  When we left the caverns we were riding back to Mena, AR.  We rode west on AR 14 to Harrier then west on AR 27 to Marshall.  At Marshall we took AR 74/16 west to AR 7.  AR 16 is awesome - see picture below. We head south on AR 7 to Russellville and on to Mena.

If you get the chance to ride up to Mt. View you will greatly enjoy the ride, but make time to visit one of the most beautiful caverns in America - Blanchard Springs Caverns.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Swamp Tour in Louisiana

One of the great aspects of a motorcycle trip is that I enjoy getting off the beaten path and seeing new things. So, while on the way back from Florida in July 2008 my son and I stopped in Baton Rouge to go on a swamp tour.

After some Internet research I chose the Alligator Bayou Eco-Swamp Tour.

Alligator Bayou lies south of Baton Rouge, a few miles off of I-10. Even though you are not many miles away from the constant flow of traffic, you feel like you are out in the “boonies.” Once you pull into the gravel parking lot you can see that the owners take great care to have minimal impact on the environment.

We were heartily welcomed by the staff and owner. There was a small shop where one could purchase a drink, a snack, and/or souvenirs. We walked up to the swamp/bayou and looked in front of the pontoon boat that we would later be riding and we saw a big alligator waiting for a snack.

The tour began with a short walk to a man-made pond where the tour-guide waded in with small gators and snapping turtles. He gave a talk about the animals and fed a few of them. He even handed one of the visitors a gator, showed him how to hold it, and then allowed him to walk around so that all of us could pet the gator.

After the presentation we walked to a larger area where the guide called up “Goliath” – a huge alligator that crawled out of the pond knowing that he would be feed. The guide fed Goliath and continued telling us about alligators. We also walked out on a deck above some more ponds with a lot more gators.

After the walking tour we boarded the boat and headed out for about an hour tour. We saw more gators as well as other wildlife. The guide brought out a nutria (large rodent) and a possum that he had on board. He explained a lot about the animal and allowed visitors to pet it. At one point we docked on the side of the bayou and viewed some of the oldest know Cypress trees in America. He also presented the visitors with the opportunity to hold an alligator.

We enjoyed the sunset on the bayou as we made our way back to the dock and the tour headquarters.

The guides were informative and fun. They love nature and strive to preserve it.

My son and I loved the tour. We hope to go again.

I highly recommend you stop by Alligator Bayou for a tour.

Monday, October 12, 2009

It gets HOT in Texas- stay cool while riding

It can get really hot in Texas and in a lot of other states during the months of July and August. Just because the temperature gets 100+ does not mean that I am going to stop riding, especially now that I have a Hyperkewl vest.
Hyperkewl vests use a Polymer Embedded Fabric, which absorbs water into the polymer crystals. During use, the water evaporates slowly helping cool the wearer. 1-2 minutes of soaking the vest will provide 6-12 hours of cooling. The amount of time seems to vary based on air circulation. For example, if you wear it over your shirt as the outer layer, it will evaporate quicker than if you have a vest or mesh jacket on top of it.

The inner portion is water repellent and does a good job of keeping water from the user. You naturally feel some moisture due to the evaporation and if you do not press the excess water off the outside and dry of the inside you will get a little wet. As you ride you will get your jeans a little wet, but it dries quickly.

I used my several times this summer and I like it. I wore it during a 4th of July parade and I am glad I did. I did not feel like I was in air-conditioning, but I did feel the coolness. I later bought another one for my wife or son, whichever was riding with me.

During my trip to Florida I carried the vest in a big zip-lock bag so that I could pour some water in the bag and let it soak. I also could keep it from getting other items wet.

If you ride much in the hot weather I would recommend a Hyperkewl vest. It is worth keeping yourself from getting over heated. No one needs to get over heated when out riding.

Yes, I would buy it again and I will be using mine in the hot weather.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

UT 128 - A great ride!

I realize there are a lot of great roads in the US and each has its own special aspects.  State Road Utah 128 is one of those great roads.  The road is designated the Upper Colorado River Scenic Byway & is part of the Dinosaur Diamond Prehistoric Highway which is a National Scenic Byway.  Due to the blind curves and no shoulder large vehicles (55,000+ pounds) are prohibited from using it.

UT 128 connects US 191 on the north end of Moab to I-70 west of Grand Junction, Colorado.  UT 128 runs beside the Arkansas River for about 28 of the 43 miles.  The road has sweeping curves, some tight curves and a good number of small hills that can make your stomach drop if you moving a long at a good pace.   Link to map

We started on the west end of UT 128 after we left Arches National Park.  We filled up and I sure am glad we did, as it was about 90 miles before we passed a gas station or store.  Make sure you and the bike are ready before you take off.

We started off following the curves of the river with steep sandstone walls on both sides.  The road was in great shape and at 3:30pm there was not a lot of traffic.  There are several camping sites along the road so one must watch for traffic.  As we traveled east the road leaves the canyon and rises from 4000 feet to 6000 feet above sea level and crosses the arid desert area until UT 128 intersects with I-70.

This was a fun and scenic road.  I would love to ride it both directions in the same day.  Is it the type of road to make sure you ride, even if it means adding miles to your trip?  Yes!

Friday, October 2, 2009

I love a good breakfast

Starting a day of riding with a good big breakfast is my idea of "fueling up," especially since most days I grab a bowl of cereal before heading to work. Over the years I have tried many places for breakfast and I have found four (two in Texas and two in Colorado) that stand above the others.

Bill Smith's Cafe in McKinney, Texas has been open for over 50 years and they cook up good food 365 days a year! Bill's is serve only breakfast and lunch. Doors close at 2pm M-S and 12noon on Sunday. The hash brown casserole is very good and a great departure from the common hash brown. The pancakes are fluffy and flavorful. The "Papa Smith's Special" consist of eggs, sausage, bacon, or ham, and pancakes or French toast. All of the food is fresh and is cooked to order. They also serve great omelets and big breakfast burritos. You will not be disappointed, but you will be fueled up for a great ride.

The second Texas cafe with top-notched breakfasts is Lucy's in Celina. Lucy's breakfast burrito is the best around. Filled with eggs, sausage or bacon, & cheese the big burrito covers the plate. Service is great and the atmosphere is country friendly. The renowned FM 455 runs right past downtown Celina and Lucy's so the ride to Lucy's is a great warm-up ride before breakfast. Drop by and you are most likely going to see bikes in the parking lot as this is a popular place for bikers and we all know that bikers enjoy eating, so it must be good!

Estes Park, Colorado lies nestled among the Rocky Mountains and is the gateway to the Rocky Mountain National Park. There are numerous eateries to choose from, but for breakfast the Bighorn Restaurant is the place to eat. The sizeable portions, fresh ingredients, and fresh mountain air makes this an awesome place to fill up before a day of riding and/or hiking.  The pancakes, homemade waffles, and huge omelettes will make you glad to stopped by.  This is a great place and you will enjoy it.

The Hungry Bear is my all time favorite breakfast place. Located west of Colorado Springs in the town of Woodland Park (8437 ft above see level and only a few miles from Pikes Peak) the Hungry Bear serves up fruit-filled crapes, awesome pancakes, fresh eggs, and many other tasty treats. The 4X4 will fill you up with 4 pancakes, 4 eggs cooked to order, 4 pieces of bacon, and 4 sausage patties. The crapes are a departure from the normal breakfast and when filled with fruit are very refreshing. This is one place I would without a doubt ride many extra miles to enjoy their food and atmosphere. Give it a try.

Monday, September 28, 2009

US 129 - Tail of the Dragon

I realize that you can find thousands if not tens of thousands reviews on “The Tail of the Dragon”/ US 129. It may be the most famous motorcycle road in America if not the world and has been photographed and written about for years.

However, I figure I might as well add my 2-cents about the “Dragon.”

In order to make the statement “318 curves in eleven miles” every bend (no matter how slight) in the road must be counted and they each add to the mystique of the ride in small ways. The aspect of the road that sets it apart is that there are no access roads on the official 11 miles of the Dragon.  When one does not have to worry about exits and entrances to the road the ride becomes more enjoyable.
Just east of beginning of the Dragon is Deals Gap where you can find the Deals Gap store. At the store you can pick up a t-shirt and/or patch, grab lunch or a snack, and fill up the bike.  If you are so inclined you can even spend a night in one of the rooms.  Be ready to ride carefully through the full parking lot.

If you are riding a cruiser or tourer do not expect to get above 3rd gear very often. Many of the curves are very sharp and can cause some anxiety if a commercial vehicle or RV is approaching, but are great if the road is not clogged up. 

One should really pay attention for the inexperienced rider also.  There are enough sharp curves that many bikers end up crossing the center stripe which has the potential for problems.  I know that the biker in front of me crossed over at least 10 times, which made me back off.  One should be versed in proper riding techniques before riding the Dragon.


On the western 1/4 of the Dragon there is an overlook where you can view Calderwood Dam (picture to the right). It is a great view and well worth stopping for a few moments

I did find that the NC 28 that runs from Almond, NC to Deals Gap is a great road! Many of the roads in the Smoky Mountains area have plenty of twisties and great scenery. Getting to the Dragon was a great ride and worth noting.

Would I ride the Dragon again? Yes, but I would enjoy getting there as much as the official 11-miles. Every rider needs to experience the Dragon. It is too fun to bypass and of course it is fun to tell others that you road the Dragon. The next time I go to that area I plan on staying a few days so that I can enjoy several of the other roads in the area.


Thursday, September 24, 2009

Average is not bad.

I have eaten twice at La Mesa Mexican Restaurant (2124 Texoma Parkway) in Sherman, Texas. Both times I have left feeling OK about my meal.

La Mesa is a nice average Mexican restaurant. They are very generous with the cheese. One rider ordered the Taco Dinner and the tacos were covered with lettuce and cheese. The salad that another rider ordered came with a good amount of cheese and my Tortilla Soup could have easily been named Cheese Tortilla Soup. So if you like cheese you will like La Mesa.

The chips and salsa were fine. Service was appropriate and atmosphere was pleasant.

La Mesa is good non-chain Mexican restaurant.

Would I eat there again? Yes, if I was already in Sherman and I was in the mood for Mexican food. It is not the type of place that I would plan to ride out of my way to eat there.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Anybody recognize the bike?






This is really not a review, but a request for help. These pictures are of my grandfather and were taken in 1918. You can see the HD on one photo and the words Harley Davidson on the other. I was hoping someone could tell me the exact model of the bike.






I recently got the pictures from one of my aunts and then had a shop restore and enlarge them. After I got my first bike in 2004 my dad informed me that my grandfather had a motorcycle - before he got married. Apparently it was his first and last bike.




Click on the picture for a larger image.

Any and all info will be greatly appreciated.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Protect those feet & ankles.

The Motorcycle Safety Foundation recommends over-the-ankle leather boots when riding motorcycles. A good pair of boots is a worthy investment.

I have owned two different pairs of boots. The first were the Side-Zip Highway Boots ($80-$90) by River Road. They were comfortable and durable. The side zipper was very convenient and aided in keeping a snug fit. Once I had tied my laces with the exact amount of tightness that I wanted I never had to mess with them again. The zipper let me put my boots on or remove them comfortably and without disrupting the laces.

The sole was a durable slip-resistant rubber and had another year or so worth of wear when I replaced them after 3+ years of use. I wore them all year in all four seasons. The only reason I replaced them was that one of the zippers broke.

The boots were water-resistant, but not waterproof. I used waterproof boot covers when I had to ride in the rain. Otherwise they were great boots.

I replaced the River Road boots with the Harley Davidson FXRG-2 boots ($125-$180) with Gore-Tex. These boots cost about twice as much as the River Road boots, but I no longer needed to wear boot covers during the rain. In the summer the Gore-Tex fabric allows the feet to breath and yet are totally waterproof (I have ridden is some hard rain and walked t
hrough ankle high water).

The soles are slip-resistant, but do not seem quite as durable as the River Road. The boots lace up and the laces must be loosened to remove the boots. The boots fit great and are very comfortable. I can wear the boots all day, even when I spend a great deal of time walking and not just riding.


Would I buy either pair of boots again? Yes. If I had to pick one it would be the FXRG-2 boots. I really like that the Gore-Tex fabric is breathable and waterproof. As far a style and looks both boots are great. So, if you don’t ride in the rain you can save some money if you buy the River Road boots.

Good German Food & good ride to get there!

Northwest of Dallas, TX is a small German community called Muenster. There are numerous ways to get there from the DFW metromess and most of them are really good. I personally stay off of US 82 and I-35 as much as possible. There will be a later post about my favorite route to get there, but for now lets talk about food!

On the north side of 82 sets The Center Restaurant (603 East Division St.), a family owned German restaurant. They serve a variety of schnitzel (a German favorite), chicken, steak, and seafood. They also have a nice salad bar.

The Center features a one of a kind Pagel Sausage that is awesome! It is an exclusive Pagel Family recipe and is my favorite! The German potato salad and sauerkraut make the Pagel Sausage plate an incredible meal. Other riders I have been with have tried other dishes and no one has ever been disappointed.

The dessert choices are top-notch. Of course they offer a variety of strudels along with pies and a great German Chocolate cake! My favorite is the coconut cream pie.

This is a great place to stop and eat after a great ride (or not so great ride - the food will make up for it).

How would rate this place? I would ride out of my way to eat at The Center. Y0u will not be disappointed.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

V Star 1100 Review

I ride a 2003 Yamaha V Star 1100 Silverado. I bought it used in March 2005 and it had less than 14,000 miles. Well, as of today (September 16, 2009) it has just over 92,000 miles. The picture above was taken July 17, 2009 in Vicksburg, MS near the Mississippi River Bridge. I was on my way home from Florida.

I have greatly enjoyed the bike. The ride is smooth and the handling is awesome. Due to the low center of gravity and quality engineering making tight U-turns, quick swerves, or riding aggressively in the twisties is smooth and very comfortable. I never feel like the bike is going to fall over or get away from me.

The engine is good, although I rejetted it and put pod air filters on it in order to increase the power. I am not for sure why Yamaha designed the engine in such a way that there is a lot of untapped power, but they did. The power is still good and I can roll on the throttle to pass when I need to. I even have a trailer that I pull with the bike. I pulled it on a 12-day trip from Texas to Colorado and through the mountains. The bike never faltered.

I currently have a Mustang seat and pillion, but in all honesty I wish I still had my stock seat. I loved the way it felt. The position of the floorboards are very comfortable and allow a lot of foot movement and placement options, which is nice on those long rides.

Overall the question is, "Would I buy a V Star 1100 again?" I answer with a resounding "Yes!"

The bike is great and is an incredible good value for the price!

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Introduction

I am just an average guy. I have a regular job, a family, and a bunch of bills. However; I love to ride my motorcycle. I ride about 15,000 miles a year. I ride my bike to work more often than I drive my truck. I take short day trips, quick dinner runs, and multi-day trips.

I read several motorcycle magazines and websites. I especially like the product reviews, except for the unique descriptions (which are often silly) that journalist sometimes use to try to sound clever.

So, part of this blog is to give straightforward reviews of items that I have personally used, places I have eaten, roads I have traveled, and/or bikes I have ridden. At times I will use the reviews of close friends that I ride with and respect. All reviews will be based on more than just a couple of days of use.  I hope you find this useful.