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Sunday, December 25, 2011

Big Christmas surprise for my son.

I have greatly enjoyed my son riding with me on the bike for the past 7+ years.  We have ridden a lot of miles to and from school, around town. and with friends.  We have enjoyed some great summer trips to Colorado, Yellowstone National Park, Deals Gap, Mount Rushmore, and more.

He is now taller than me and riding as a passenger have become less comfortable for him.  We saw this day approaching and have been planning on the next course of action.  My wife and I decided to let him get a bike when he was old enough.

He turns 15 at the end of February and will be eligible to get licensed.  During the summer he told me he wanted to start with a Ninja 250.  I told him to start saving because I would pay 1/2 when the time came.  He thought we would start shopping this coming spring.

I started looking a few months ago without his knowledge.  I found some poor overpriced Ninjas.  I kept looking and came across a 2005 Ninja 250 in great condition.  A friend and I looked it over and I took it on a test spin.  I liked it and we came to agreeable terms.  Since it was six weeks before Christmas I stored it at a friend's house (Thanks Mac).  We cleaned it, added a Bad Boy air horn, and some additional lights.
Wrapped with a bow - just like the commercials
This morning we surprised Richard with the bike. I told him to wait a minute and then bring mom to the garage for a special gift, he thought it would be for him mom.  We rendered him speechless.
He realizes that I did not really have a gift for him mom, but for him
After breakfast he was ready to start it up and sit on it for a while.
We visited my parents and some sisters so we have not take the bike out for a ride yet.  We will visit a local school parking lot this week and let him ride his first street bike.

I am looking forward to this new chapter in our riding stories.  I am sure there will be future posts concerning our new arrangement.

Merry Christmas!

Friday, December 16, 2011

Best trip not on a bike!

I really don't think I have ever complained about a trip that involved riding.  Even if the destination, accommodations, or food were sub par, if I was riding it was "all good."  There were trips that I enjoyed but wished I was on the bike for all or part of the trip.  Our recent trip over Thanksgiving to DC was a great trip and I did not even miss my FJR!

We arrived in DC on Saturday November 19, 2011.  It was a nice mostly sunny day with temperatures in the mid-50's.  Congress was not in session.  The 435 Representatives and 100 Senators, as well as their staff members, had left town for the holidays.  Lobbyists, reporters, protesters, and pages had also abandoned the Capitol leaving the area much less crowded and we were very thankful.
Capitol dome seen from the front walk of our hotel
Due to the absence of so many people we were able to stay in a nice hotel very close to the Capitol Building at a very good price.  The absence of the "regulars" made a lot of things easier and quicker than what I expected; i.e., public transportation, restaurants, museums, coffee shops, and attractions.

Day 1:
After checking our bags with the doorman (rooms were not ready) we walked to the Supreme Court Building (did not get to go in) and the Capitol Building Visitor Center.  On the way spent some time at The Japanese-American Memorial to Patriotism in World War II.  This is a very moving memorial with great symbolism.  I can not image what the families suffered and the devastation they endured.  I had a great opportunity to educate my son about our history and how it applies to him today.

 After taking some photos of the Supreme Court building we made our way to the Capitol Visitor Center and toured the Congress and the Civil War exhibit and Emancipation Hall.  The Congress and the Civil War and the E Pluribus Unum - Out of Many One exhibits was very interesting and had many artifacts from previous presidents and early Capitol Buildings.

We continued around the outside of the Capitol. The building is so massive and so pretty.  I took a lot of photos, but none really justice to the building.
East view of the US Capitol Building
It was beginning to get dark and it was time for dinner so we made our way to My Brother's Place just one block off Constitution Ave on 2nd St. (I will post about some of the restaurants later) We saw our first motorcycle of the trip and my son figured I should share the photo he took.
Nice Triumph
Day 2:
We were up early and prepared to do a lot of walking.  The forecast called for a cloudy, but dry day.  We planned to visit one museum and then the monuments/memorials throughout the national mall area.  We walked 2 miles to the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum.  My son and I have visited the Holocaust museums in Dallas, TX and Maitland, FL, but nothing prepares you for the overwhelming volume of photos, artifacts, shoes (taken from the prisoners of the concentration camps), and evidence of such deliberate and calculated hatred and evil.  We had more conversations and life lessons with our son.  No photography allowed inside the museum, visit the museums website to see photos.

Upon leaving the museum we made our way to the National Mall to see the monuments/memorials.  The Washington Monument is visible for miles in all directions so we had "seen" it, but we wanted a closer look.  Tours have been suspended due to damage sustained during the August 23, 2011 5.8 earthquake.  We were able to get close. It is an impressive monument.  From the Washington Monument we could see across the mall to the Lincoln Memorial with the World War II Memorial between them.  The famous reflection pool was being repaired, it has been leaking for several years.  The view was still awesome.
Lincoln Memorial with WWII memorial
We spent some time at the WWII memorial and talked about my dad and the men and women of that generation, The Greatest Generation.  On our way to the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial we viewed the District of Columbus War Memorial.  The memorial had recently been renovated and it looked great.  Before it got dark we visited the MLK Memorial (where we looked across the Tidal Basin and saw the Thomas Jefferson Memorial), the Lincoln Memorial, the Vietnam Veterans Memorial, the Korean War Veterans Memorial, and the Vietnam Women's Memorial.
District of Columbus World War Memorial

The Korean War Veterans Memorial
The Wall in the evening with Washington Monument
By the time we visited the solemn Vietnam Wall it was beginning to get dark.  The Vietnam Memorial invokes strong feelings and is one of the most moving of the memorials. We walked down the long walkway to the center.  A sense of the vastness of the fallen was overwhelming.  The early darkness added to the solemness of the surroundings.

There was one more memorial close by that we wanted to visit.  The Albert Einstein Memorial is just north of the Vietnam Wall across Constitution Ave.  Martha and I hold teaching certificates in Mathematics and we encourage Richard in the disciplines of math and science (and I encourage the discipline of motorcycling :) ), so the Einstein memorial was a must-see for us.  Richard engaged in the recent fad of "planking" while at the memorial before going to dinner and back to the hotel for some much needed rest.
The theory of relative planking 
Day 3:
The helpful people at the office our Texas Senator, John Cornyn, scheduled our tour of U.S. Capitol and the White House (not on the same day).  Our tour guide was very knowledgeable and shared a great amount of information.  We learned that a tomb for George Washington was build in the U.S. Capitol, but only because he had specified in his will, he was buried at Mount Vernon instead.
The Apotheosis of Washington - top of the rotunda
The famous rotunda was the highlight of the tour.  Getting to see the historic paintings of the Signing of the Declaration of Independence, The Surrender of Lord Cornwallis, George Washington Resigning his Commission, and others was inspiring.  Eleven statues of great American leaders encircle the rotunda.  I really liked the one of Ronald Reagan.  
Texan Sam Houston in U.S. Capitol
 John Trumbull's Declaration of Independence 
Our next stop was the Library of Congress.  As with all the government building the architectural design and detail was magnificent.  Every figure, quote, bust, statue, and painting had significance.  Being avid readers and educators, Martha and I were looking at every book and reading all the exhibit information.  I loved seeing books of great historic importance, especially the Gutenburg Bible (photo above).

Being the largest library in the world, in terms of number of books, the Library of Congress was very impressive and a great source of information.  It is amazing what all the library catalogs and maintains.

After lunch we made our way to the National Air and Space Museum.  It would be easy to spend an entire day in this one museum.  My favorite exhibit was The Wright Brothers and the Invention of the Aerial Age.  It was so cool to see the original  1903 Flyer (the canvas covering has been replaced).
The original flying machine
It was simply amazing to see the advancement in flight.  We saw the first airplane, the Spirit of St. Louis (first non-stop flight from New York to Paris), rockets, jets, and so much more.
Charles Lindbergh's Spirit of St. Louis
Last stop before dinner for the day 3 was the National Museum of Natural History.  Dinosaur bones, wildlife exhibits, stuffed animals, The Hope Diamond, and so much more.  
 T-Rex
 Scary looking dinosaur
 That is one large shark!
 Statue from Easter Island
Another packed day was completed and it was time for dinner and then some "down time" at the hotel.

My post about days 4-6 will be next.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

How and Why I got into motorcycling

One of my favorite bloggers is Gary France (Flies in your Teeth).  He recently posted the question for fellow bloggers - "How and why did you get into motorbikes?  (He is from England hence the term motorbikes instead of the US term motorcycles).  He provided an interesting answer about his journey- Link.

Here is my story.
How I got to where I am now.
I had limited exposure to motorcycles when I was young.  A neighbor's grandson had a small dirtbike that he would allow me to ride when he visited.  I road less than 4 hours total over the years he owned the bike.  A classmate had a small Honda when I was in high school that I rode once by myself and several times as a passenger to another small town where we would visit some girls.

One of my brothers owned a 500CC bike for about a year, but after he had an accident in a parking lot (a lot of road rash) he sold the bike.  About 20 years later I worked with a fellow coach who rode.  It was about that time (2003) my stepmom's boyfriend bought a Harley Elctra-glide and they started riding (they live in Orlando Florida).

I had harbored a desire to have a motorcycle, but never expressed it.  In the early days of February 2004 I discussed taking the safety course and getting my licence with my wife.  We decided to take the course together.  Four weeks later we took the class and got our licenses and within 10 days I had my first motorcycle, a new 2004 Suzuki Savage!
2004 Suzuki Savage - single cylinder 650cc
Once I started riding I was hooked!  I loved it.  Most Saturdays that spring and summer I would leave the house by 7am and let my wife and son sleep.  Around 10:30 I would call home and let Martha know where I was.  I explored country roads throughout North Texas.  I began riding with my co-worker and other friends.

In June of that year two friends and I loaded up the truck and trailer and traveled to Red River, NM where we rode the Enchanted Circle and took a loop up through part of southern Colorado.  For four days my son (7yrs old at the time) rode with me.  That trip whet my appetite more more motorcycle trips.

In July of 2004 I joined the local chapter of the Christian Motorcyclists Association (CMA) and rode a lot with the chapter.  My wife rode a little with me and rode the bike by herself some, but she preferred to be a passenger.

By February, 2005 and 8,000+ miles I knew I wanted a bigger bike and Martha wanted a more passenger friendly bike.  After some research and looking I purchased a pre-owned 2003 Yamaha V-Star 1100 with 13,700 miles.
Two-toned V-Star - great handling, good power, comfortable, and reliable
I loved the V-Star immediately and beginning commuting to work on it. (My thoughts on the V-Star)  I rode as much I could get away with.  It was at this time I decided I would ride to Orlando, Florida instead of flying there with my son and wife.  In June I took Martha and Richard to the airport and then left the next morning on a very indirect route to my family and in-laws in Orlando.  I visited family in Arkansas, rode through the Mississippi Delta (stopping at some historic Blues sites and museums along the way), cut through Alabama and Southern Georgia before heading south to Orlando.  After a week in Orlando I headed home.  It was a great trip that solidified my desire to take long summer trips on the bike.

Over the next four summers the V-Star made trips to Colorado, South Dakota, Arkansas, and two more to Orlando.  In the Spring of 2010 the odometer hit 100,000.  With a trip planned for Yellowstone coming up and a couple of small mechanical issues Martha wanted me to get a new bike.  She did not like the idea of our son on a bike with that many miles touring around Wyoming. (Who is going to argue when the wife wants you to get a new bike? :)  )

April 24, 2010 I purchased my third bike - a new 2010 Yamaha Venture.  This bike had all the extras - CB, stereo, fairing, warranty, and great comfort.  The trip to Yellowstone was great.  The bike performed great and was very comfortable.
My wife and son really liked the comfort of the Venture.  I like the performance.
By August 17 I had ridden over 10,000 miles on the Venture - then a Tahoe hit the Venture with me on it.  Read about the accident.

While recuperating I had time to reconsider my choices of bikes.  I had wondered about the sport-touring bikes so I did some researching.  I had ridden a friend's Buell a few occasions and really like it.  I thought I could enjoy the twisties even more on a non-cruiser.

After researching, talking to friends, and a few test rides I decided to go with something completely different.  I chose the Yamaha FJR. (I really like Yamaha bikes).  I found a 2010 FJR with only 750 miles and about $4K less than new.  I grabbed it.
FJR without the saddlebags or trunk
Wow!  What a bike!  I love it.  My favorite of the four bikes I have owned, actually favorite of all the bikes I have ridden.

During my 2010 summer trip I gained new admiration for the bike as I rode some great roads in the Smoky Mountains.

Why do I ride? 
It is fun and relaxing.  I get to experience nature and the road more intimately.  Riding is exhilarating and liberating.  Truth is - it is difficult to explain to a non-rider.  But, I know I will ride as long as I can and as often as I can.

What about you?

Friday, November 18, 2011

2011 Thanksgiving Trip

Tomorrow my wife, son, and I depart on a highly anticipated and long planned trip.  Although, there will be no motorcycling involved I having be looking forward to our trip.  We are heading to Washington DC for 7 days/6 nights.  We will attempt to see as much as possible in and around the Capitol.

I have booked tours of the White House, the Capitol, and the Pentagon.  I was unable to secure a tour of the US Treasury Building.  {I was hoping to arrange a "summit" in the Rose Garden, but my conservative views disqualified me. :)  }  We will visit the Supreme Court Building, the Library of Congress, the National Archives Building, and the congressional chambers.  Neither House of Congress will be in session.
National Archives Building - photo take Oct. 2011 - Honor Flight trip
I will take my wife and son to the see many of the same sights my dad and I enjoyed during the Honor Flight in October 2010.  We will visit the well-known Lincoln Memorial, The Vietnam Veterans Memorial, The Korean War Veterans Memorial, The Jefferson Memorial, The Washington Monument, and of course the World War II Memorial.
WWII Memorial - photo take Oct. 2011 - Honor Flight trip
Lincoln Memorial - photo take Oct. 2011 - Honor Flight trip
There are too many memorials and monuments we plan on visiting to list all of them.  We will make a special trip across the Potomac River to visit the Arlington National Cemetery.   While there we will visit the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier and watch the changing of the guard ceremony.  The Marines Corps War Memorial a.k.a Iwo Jima Memorial is located in the National Cemetery which we will also visit.
USMC War Memorial - - photo take Oct. 2011 - Honor Flight trip
Many of the Smithsonian museums are on our agenda.  Top on the list is the US Holocaust Memorial Museum, Air and Space Museum, Museum of American History, and the Museum of Natural History.  If time permits we will other museums of the Smithsonian.  We also plan to tour the National Cathedral.
The Washington National Cathedral - photo take Oct. 2011 - Honor Flight trip
We have been planning this trip for a long time.  We were waiting for Richard to get old enough to understand and appreciate the trip.  He is now a freshman in high school and the time is right.

I will be posting about the trip, the sights, and the restaurants.  Of course I will post plenty of photos.  I know this nation is not perfect and our government needs some housecleaning, but I am proud to be an American and I am looking forward to visiting the Capitol of the United States of America.
Washington Monument rises above the soundings - photo take Oct. 2011 - Honor Flight trip


Happy Thanksgiving!

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Texas BBQ in Ouaticha Mountains

A good ride and a good meal is hard to beat.  Mountain roads make for good rides.  Combine the Ouaticha Mountains with a transplanted Texan who know bbq and you have great potential.

The Ouaticha Mountains stretch from Oklahoma into Arkansas (or I guess you could say they stretch from AR to OK) and there are numerous great roads in and around the mountains.  The most well-known is the 50+ mile Talimena Scenic Byway.  There are other lesser known roads that provide great views and an ample amount of twists and turns.

US 259 bisects Oklahoma SR 1 a.k.a Talimena Drive and runs north ending at US 59.  US 59 parallels the Talimena Drive on the north side of the mountains from Arkansas until the US 259 intersection and then it turns north towards Poteau, OK.
Everyone is welcomed at the End of the Trail
Just about 3 miles north from the US 59/259 intersection sits the End of the Trail Saloon where Steve and Genise serve up great hospitality and awesome bbq.    Less than 15 miles from the OK/AR state line and less than 10 miles off the Talimena Drive the End of the Trail  Saloon is in the middle of some great riding.
Steve and Genise gave up wrenching on bikes in Texas for living the dream of 
owning a biker establishment - good decision
The word on the streets is that the ribs are awesome!  When I was there I tried the sliced bbq sandwich.  The sandwich was great.  The brisket was tender, flavorful, and juicy.  I am ready to return and try the ribs.
True southern goodness!
In the short couple of years they have been running the place the reputation has grown. 
Bikes fill up the parking area on the weekends
Treat yourself with a great ride through the Ouaticha Mountains and an awesome meal at the End of the Trail. You will be happy all the way home.

Tomorrow is 11-11-11, Veterans Day for us in the USA.  I will not post tomorrow because I am taking my WWII veteran dad to the Dallas Veterans Day Parade.  He and other Honor Flight vets are being honored with a Corvette ride in the parade and a luncheon at the Omni Hotel.  So, I want to say "Thank You" to all the brave men and women who have served or are currently serving in the United States Armed Forces.  I enjoy the freedoms that so many have fought and are fighting to preserve.  These brave patriots have provided freedom and security for all of us.  No words can adequately express my gratitude.
May God bless all of you who have served, are serving, and will serve this great nation.  Happy Veterans Day!

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Add a scenic loop to your Talimena Drive ride.

Anyone that has been riding motorcycles for long in North Texas, Oklahoma, or Arkansas has been asked "Have you ridden the Talimena Drive?"  The national scenic byway is a well known road stretching along the top of the Ouachita Mountain in Eastern Oklahoma and Western Arkansas for 50+ miles and is a favorite destination for bikers throughout the region.

I have ridden the byway several times, but until recently I had not ridden many of the roads north of SH 1 a.k.a Talimena Drive (in Oklahoma).  On a nice Sunday afternoon I found myself with enough time to add some miles to my trip to Mena, Arkansas.  The map I had showed two roads with the little dots denoting "scenic" roads that would take me over the Ouachita Mountains and back, putting me in Talihina, the town just west of the entrance to the Talimena Drive.
Running on top of the mountains the Talimena Scenic Byway is spectacular (photo take from Rich Mountain Fire Tower, one of the stops on the byway)
I approached Talihina, OK from the west on SH 43.  20 miles west of Talihina SH 43 merges with SH 2 for about six miles and runs across the Sardis Lake dam.  Instead of turning right on SH 63/SH 1 towards Talihina I continued straight on SH 2 towards Wilburton, OK, 19 miles away.  The road quickly begin to ascend up the mountain range.  We all know that mountain roads are never straight so I was able to use the outer portion of my tires' tread. :)
Other bikers enjoying crossing the Ouachita Mountains
At Wilburton, OK I turned east on US 270 and rode to Red Oak, OK (14 miles) where I turned back south on SH 82 and crossed the range again.  SH 82 is being repaved in small stages.  The new pavement is in great shape, the older portions are in good to fair shape (average road quality).  I passed a lot of bikes while on the road, they were also enjoying the ride.
Twisties on SH 82
Once again the fun mountain road allowed me to lean the bike through some nice curves.  17.5 miles later SH 82 intersects SH 63 at the northern edge of Talihina, OK.

Although sadly closed on Sunday I stopped and took a picture at Treats and Treasures - one of my favorite spots in the area.  It is an antique shop with an old fashion soda fountain.  I was really hoping to get a shake or coke float, but the shop was closed so I had to settle for a snack and drink at a gas station in town.
Great place to treat yourself to an old fashion shake or ice cream -
at the intersection of SH 1 and SH 63 in Talihina
The loop from the SH 1/SH 63 intersecton to Wilburton, Red Oak, ending in Talihina is 50 miles.  I am really glad I added the loop to my route.  I enjoyed the roads and the scenery.  If you are in the area plan on riding the loop before or after you ride the Talimena Drive.  You will enjoy it.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Stoney Hallow - great lodging for a group of bikers

Making lodging arrangements for a group can be challenging.   Balancing expense, convenience, needs, wants, and preferences is tricky and can lead to difficulties if not handled well.  While planning the summer 2011 trip to North Carolina/Tennessee finding a place for a big group was very important.  There were 12 adults and 3 kids.
We stopped at an overlook on the Cherohala Skyway - day 2 on our way to Robbinsville
After a lot of looking I settled on renting a couple of houses for seven days in Robbinsville, NC.  Robbinsville is in a great area for awesome rides including the Tail of the Dragon, Wayah Road, Cherohala Skyway, and the Moonshiner 28 just to name a few.

Using the Vacation Rental By Owner (VBRO) website I found two great houses.  I had booked houses before through the website and I highly recommend the site.  Both houses were clean, roomy, and comfortable.  Stoney Hallow was exceptionally nice for many reasons.
Looking at the house from the parking area.
The porch wraps around the house and has rocking chairs to enjoy while watching the sunset.
The ride to get to the house is a great country ride.  Passing houses, farms, and old barns the road twists and curves as it gently ascends toward the hallow.
One of the barns on Ollies Creek Road on the way to Stoney Hallow
The road literally ends at the driveway to Stoney Hallow.  The driveway climbs slightly and ends at a paved parking area and a slab of concrete that could serve as a small basketball court.  The wrap around porch gives an immediate "down home" and welcoming feeling.  The kitchen, dining room, and living room are configured in an "open" arrangement providing for a very comfortable and relaxed atmosphere.
The fireplace accents the roomy living area
The kitchen and breakfast bar are open to the living area
The house has four bedrooms, four bathrooms, and futons in the upstairs den.  There is a great supply of extra blankets, sheets, and towels.  The house sits on several acres and has a fire ring and picnic table out back away from the house.  We enjoyed sitting around the fire in the evenings.
Comfortable upstairs den
The donkey are more like pets than livestock
View from the backporch
Stoney Hallow is part of a working farm.  Two donkeys were in the pen behind the house.  They were friendly and enjoyed the attention.  Less than a quarter mile before getting to the house there is a "pick and pay" orchard/garden with blackberries, raspberries, blueberries, and more.  The three boys got a lesson in old fashion honesty by picking, weighting, and paying while the owners were not there.  We enjoyed fresh berries as part of our meals.
Up pick it orchard near the house

I really can not say enough about the Stoney Hallow.  We all loved it and will stay there again in the future.  The place met and exceeded all of our expectations as well as being located near some great roads!  If you are needing lodging for a group in the Robbinsville area I highly recommend you consider Stoney Hallow.  You will love it.