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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?