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Friday, January 28, 2011

Keeping the chill away from the neck and face

Living in North Texas affords me the opportunity to ride year-round.  We do have occasional stretches of icy roads or really cold wet weather that will keep us off the road for a short period of time.  We do have to gear up with some warm clothing quite often during the winter months but, we can still ride.

Early on in my riding experience I figured out even if I did not have great gear I could always layer up.  Through the years I have acquire some quality gear for those colder days like a jacket, gloves, boots, and lined riding pants.  After a few rides I noticed that my neck would really get cold.  The air would find it's way down my jacket making the ride less than optimum.

I visited a few local motorcycle shops and decided to invest in a facemask (at that time I was wearing a 1/2 helmet and riding a VStar 1100).  I chose a simple fleece facemask by Schampa.  The Schampa facemask wraps around the face and fastens in the back with velcro, which allows uses to custom fit the mask.  There is a slit for the nostrils which helps prevent moisture buildup on the inside of the mask.
Schampa Fleece Facemask
The fleece does a great job of keeping wind off the face and front of the neck while keeping body heat in.  I really like the facemask but, certain movements would pull the mask and cause a break between the mask and the jacket.  The break would allow the cold air in.  I had to very careful with my head movements so as to reduce the size of the gap.

During the 2009 International Motorcycle Show I stopped by the Schampa booth to see what they had.  I started looking at items that might help my problem with the gaps.  I came across the Schampa turleneck fleece dickie.  They make several different "models."  I tried on several and decided to purchase the Zip D'Zip.  The Zip D'Zip has a zipper (go figure) in the front making it easy to put it on and take it off.
Zip D'Zip is convenient and warm 
The dickie is very effective.  The long neck can be pulled up over the chin and the lower portion is held securely under the jacket.  The extra layer on the chest holds in body heat extremely well.  When I went riding  I still needed to use my facemask to keep the air off my nose and cheeks.  The combination is great!
A warm combination
Once the dickie is zipped, facemask secured, and jacket zipped up I am a warm rider.  I have used the combination during below freezing temperature and felt great.  No nagging gaps allowing cold air in.  A small investment with great warm dividends.  

If you are going to do much riding in cold weather I would recommend Schampa gear to keep the face & neck nice and warm so that you can enjoy the ride.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Pinnacle Overlook - worth the detour

I am sure there are numerous great overlooks throughout the Smoky Mountains.  I have had spent limited time in the Smokies but, during that time one of my favorite spots to view the mountains is Pinnacle Overlook near Cumberland Gap Tennesse and Middlesboro, Kentucky.  The ride up Pinnacle Road to the overlook is also a really good motorcycle ride even though it is only 4 miles.  The road and the Overlook are part of the Cumberland Gap National Historic Park.

We accessed Pinnacle Road from US 25E on the south side of Middlesboro, KY.  and stopped at the Cumberland Gap National Historic Park visitor center.  The visitor center provides information about the park and the overlook.
Good area for hiking
Pinnacle Road has several tight curves and some steep inclines rising to and elevation of 2,440 feet (visitor center is at about 1,200 feet).  The road is closed to vehicles 20 feet or longer and that is a good thing.  The road was in good shape but, it is a park road so there is no shoulder.

The views from the overlook were great.  We could see three states, Virginia, Tennessee, and Kentucky.  It was incredible how far we could see.
Looking towards Virginia
If I remember correctly that is Fern Lake near Cumberland Gap, TN
It was a clear day when we visited the overlook.  We could see for miles.  There a location on the short trail at the overlook where we could put one foot in Virginia and one in Kentucky.  The boys loved that.

When we left the overlook we headed south out of Middlesboro and rode through the historic Cumberland Gap Tunnel.  My son (11 at the time) tried his hand at filming while we rode through the tunnel.  See video below - remember it was an 11 year old filming. :)
If you get a change to visit that area of the Smoky Mountains make plans to ride up to Pinnacle Overlook.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Zip Line fun in Florida

I love speed and I love the open air.  I suspect most of us that ride motorcycles share those qualities.  I recently enjoyed a new experience that furnished open air, adventure, and some speed (relatively speaking) while visiting family in Orlando, Florida.

It is actually quite interested in that while planning our upcoming summer trip in July to North Carolina my son and I had decided we would try a zip line.  Well, at Christmas my mother-in-law gave my son, me, and her other son-in-law passes to the Zoomair zip line at the Central Florida Zoo.  We decided to go the day after Christmas before my brother-in-law had to return to his home.
Entry to zoo. Photo from http://www.orlandotourism.us - I accidently deleted the one my son took.
The day started off cold and wet.  We weren't sure if they would be open or if we would be able to stand the cold.  Luckily the rain stopped and the temperature went up.  We called and they were open so off we went.
Oz, Richard, and Bo - ready for fun!
The Central Florida Zoo is north of Orlando in the city of Sanford.  We were directed to the equipment house where we were greeted enthusiastically.  We were fitted with a harness and gloves.  Our "guide" proceeded to instruct us and educate us on proper technique and safety procedures.  After we passed the zip line "test" we were taken to the starting point and then released on the self-guided zip line tour.
 One of the early bridges.
The first "games", obstacles, or air bridges (whatever you want to call them) were not too hard or very long.  We moved from tree to tree at about eight to ten feet above the ground.  The first zip was only about 45 feet long and started at a height of about 12 feet and went to the ground.  As we continued the obstacles became more challenging and the zips were longer and from greater heights and ended at above ground tree platforms.
Slowing going.
 Each air bridge was different.  There were wide planks, poles, spiderweb ropes, tightropes, etc.  Each had it's own challenge.
Sure glad we had the harnesses attached to the red safety cable.
 Spider web rope
 Over, up, and back over as the course got higher.
The highlight came in the last 1/3 of the course with the 512 foot zip that started around 50 feet above the ground.  Wind gusts were common that day and a big gust came when I was at the top of the tree trying to hook up to the zip line.  The tree swayed, it was pretty wild!  Once hooked up I shoved off.  It was great.  The other two followed.
512 foot zip line - across the road and pond!
Bo coming across the long zip line.
The second to the last zip is a 300+ zip that was about 25 feet above the ground.  There were a total of 9 zips and over 40 obstacles/air bridges.  We spent about 2.5 hours on the course.  It was well worth facing the colder temperatures, especially since after a little while you get warmed up from all the activity.

If you get the chance I suggest you try a zip line and if you are in Central Florida check out Zoomair Adventure Park.