I am an ordinary guy who enjoys riding motorcycles. I love riding all makes and models. I love short rides, long rides, and multi-day road trips. I post reviews about motorcycle gear, motorcycles, roads, restaurants, sights, gadgets and more. The Motorcycle Facts,Trivia and History page has a lot of good info. Be safe and enjoy the ride, Oz.

Friday, October 29, 2010

Honor Flight

This post is not motorcycle specific, but I believe most motorcyclists will find it very interesting.

Honor Flight program started by Earl Morse in Ohio in 2005 for the purpose of flying World War II veterans to Washington DC to see the WWII Memorial that was not completed until 2004. Link to history of Honor Flight

The Honor Flight website states that in 2008 WWII vets were passing away at the rate of 1000+ per day and most had never seen the memorial to the brave men and women that freed Europe from the clutches of Nazi Germany and secured freedom in the Pacific from Japan.

The program provides the trip, all accommodations, and extras to the veterans at no cost to them.  The volunteers that accompany and assist the vets (many need assistance with walkers, wheelchairs, medical equipment, etc) pay for their own expenses.

The program has grown quickly and is now in several states and cities.  The waiting list of veterans is long and growing as more hear about the program.  Please visit the Honor Flight website for more info.
In the spring of 2010 my father, a WWII vet  and a Purple Heart recipient who served in Europe, was notified by Honor Flight that he was chosen for one of the trips with Honor Flight of Dallas.  (One of my nieces had sent in an application for him).  Dad asked if I would consider going with him - I was so honored and answered yes almost before he finished the question.  (I had heard about Honor Flight so I knew what he was talking about).

Our trip to see the memorial was October 18 - 19, 2010.  It was awesome!

Prior to departure the USO at the Dallas-Ft.Worth (DFW) airport served breakfast for the veterans in the Admirals Lounge.  It was very nice and the veterans were treated great and will so much respect.  As they boarded the plane the USO volunteers & passengers from other flights clapped and waved flags. Each vet was given an Honor Flight shirt, windbreaker, cap, bag of snacks, and a blanket made by one of the USO volunteers.  There were many misty eyes.

As the plane taxied out the DFW firefighters gave a water cannon salute - one truck on each side of the plane.  The firefighters at Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport gave another water cannon salute after the plane landed.
My dad as he arrives in DC
When the veterans arrived a crowd was waiting for them with signs, flags, and a lot of cheering.  One of our brave men in the Navy had asked if the Honor Flight vets would witness his reenlistment.  The reenlistment ceremony took place at the terminal after the vets were situated.  It was a moving moment for the vets, the crowd, and the navy solider.
The swearing in at the reenlistment ceremony
We loaded up on the two chartered buses and rode to our first stop, the WWII Memorial.  The men (no female veterans on this particular Honor Flight) toured the memorial in reverence while memories of friends and loved ones came to them.  The memorial pays tribute to the men and women who lost their lives, the families back home, the factory workers, the women who entered the work force for the first time, and all of the Americans who contributed to the ultimate victory.  There is too much in the memorial to try to describe in a single post.
I was honored to visit the memorial with my dad PFC Wendell Osburn
The inscription is so fitting.
The 40 veterans on the trip at their memorial
The red shirt volunteers admiring the heroes.
The second stop on the trip was in Arlington Cemetery at the Tomb of the Unknown Solider.  We witnessed the guard making his "rounds" as he guarded the tomb.  Four of the vets were randomly chosen to place a wreath at the tomb.  After the wreath was placed we were able to watch the changing of the guards.
Arlington Cemetery is a solemn reminder of the price of Freedom
Tomb of the Unknown Solider
An honored duty - guarding the tomb
Heroes of WWII placing a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknown Solider
Walkway in Arlington National Cemetery
Prior to loading the buses most of the vet walked to the nearby grave of Audie Murphy, the most decorated soldier of WWII.  Many left quarters on the tombstone in honor of his nickname, Two-bits.

That night a banquet was held at the hotel for the veterans and volunteers.  A color guard from Ft. Myers presented the colors and led us in the singing of the national anthem.  If you have never heard a room full of vets sign our national anthem you should!  The pride and reverence of the vets is inspiring.
Honor Guard at the banquet for the WWII vets
The second day Honor Flight visited Walter Reed Army Hospital where they spoke to wounded soldiers, medical staff, and had a surprise visit by Senator Bob Dole.  The senator, the staff, and current soldiers showed a lot of respect and admiration towards the vets, shaking their hands and telling them "thank you for your service."
WWII Vets visited with staff and soliders at Walter Reed Army Hospital
We then visited the Marine Corps War Memorial a.k.a the Iwo Jima memorial.  The bronze statue is the largest cast bronze statue in the world.  It is very impressive and inspiring.
Marine Corps War Memorial - depicting the raising of the flag on Iwo Jima
Veterans and volunteers viewing the memorial
The final scheduled stop on the trip was the area where the vets could visit the Vietnam Veterans Memorial, the Lincoln Memorial National Monument. and the Korean War Veterans Memorial.
The sobering walkway into the Vietnam War Veterans Memorial
So many names
Three soldiers looking at the wall as if looking for their friends
Lincoln Memorial as seen from the WWII Memorial
Korean War Memorial 
The weather was great and there were no complications so we were able to make two unscheduled stops before heading for home.  We stopped by the United States Navy Memorial and the Air Force Memorial.

The Lone Sailor at the Navy Memorial
Just one part of the Air Force Memorial that overlooks the Pentagon
The inscriptions at the Air Force Memorial seem so appropriate with the veterans in the foreground

While on the bus the vets were able to see the White House, the WWI Memorial, The SeaBees Memorial, the Pentagon, the Jefferson Memorial, the Washington Monument (the Washington Monument can be seen from a lot of locations), and various other historical sites.  The bus driver also took us down "Embassy Row" where all the worlds embassies are located - that was interesting.

Once on the flight back to Dallas it was discovered that an Admiral from the USS Nimitz was on the flight heading back to San Diego and the USS Nimitz.  He addressed the veterans and communicated his deep respect and admiration for them.  The vets were very honored.

There is really no way to adequately describe the emotion, the atmosphere, the scene... as these heroes toured all of these memorials.  They are such humble men and women with a heart for our country. If you know a WWII vet please tell them about the program.  They deserve the honor and recognition.
Vets touring the WWII Memorial
If you see a veteran or current member of our armed forces please show them your appreciation.  Every time I start my bike and I get to enjoy a ride I am reminded that this freedom was gained, protected, and continues to be protected at a great cost.
Everyone sacrificed and worked for victory and lasting freedom
The Washington Monument viewed from the WWII Memorial
The Capitol Building as seen from the bus (sorry about the glare)

I respectfully salute the Armed Forces of America - past, present, and future defenders of freedom.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

TA Ranch a great place to park your bike.

Go west young man.  So west we went, actually from Texas we went more north than west as we rode to Yellowstone National Park.  On the way we stayed most night in KOA Kabins, which we enjoyed, however; on our 2010 trip we spent one night at a historic ranch in Wyoming.
Ranch sign welcomes visitors
The TA Ranch has a rich history that goes back to the struggles between the landowners and the cowboys in the late 1800's.  The TA Ranch is now a working Dude Ranch with lodging, horse riding, fishing, horseshoes, hiking, and a swing in a big tree.
The tree swing is a guest favorite.
The Ranch is west of I-25 on scenic WY 196, about 14 miles south of Buffalo, WY and east of the Big Horn Mountains.  Along the way Pronghorn antelope can be seen near the roadside.  Antelope are very common Wyoming and they are very quick - be careful when riding around these animals.  Herds of pronghorn and deer roam the TA Ranch.  In the evening we saw more antelope and several deer.  Rick, our host, even saw a rattlesnake, but it got away before he could stop the truck to let us see it.
Antelope on the driveway to the ranch complex.
The ranch house, stables, and bunkhouse sit below a small ridge east of WY 196 about 1/5 mile off the highway.  The buildings are shaded by large oak trees.  The cool breeze and shade were welcomed by all of us after a day of riding.
The ranch houses sit below the ridge in a grove of Oak trees.
Guest can arrange to ride the horses (fees apply), petting is free.
The kitchen and dining house is on the left and the ranch hand house is on the right.
Our host and hostess made us feel right at home.  The five bedroom bunkhouse that some of us stayed in had a living room, kitchenette, laundry facilities, and private bathrooms for each bedroom.  The western decor was charming and not overstated.  Each building is original from the 1880's and has been restored to the original design.  The beds were comfortable and the quite country setting provided a great opportunity to rest and relax.
The dining room has multiple tables and room for a lot of guest
All of the guest gathered for dinner in the chow house.  There were guest from France and Japan staying at the ranch when we arrived.  Dinner was served buffet style - vegetables, corn on the cob, rolls, and brisket.  The brisket was cooked with secret seasonings and it was awesome!  
A great dinner with TA Ranch brisket was served and it was awesome!
After dinner we toured the ranch while a couple of the guys in our group went horse riding.  Our hostess, Kirsten, told the history of the ranch.  The ranch welcomes a lot of school field trips because of the ranch's regional and state significance.  The stables, tack room, and barn were really interesting. 
One can see the bullet holes from the 1892 standoff at the ranch in the original part of the barn.
After the tour we sat on the porch and visited with other guests and the family of our host and hostess (Rick and Kirsten have two sons, Cody and Tucker and a daughter Katie) .

The youngest son, Tucker, treated us to his version of Jeff Dunham's Achmed the dead terrorist routine. Talk about a surprise treat!  Make sure to ask Tucker for a performance - you will love it.  Also, ask him "Why did the lady cross the road?"  He will give you the answer, but for some reason his elementary teacher last year did not like the joke.

After laughing so hard and for so long it was time for bed and a good night's rest.  In the morning we all awoke revived, but wishing we had scheduled two nights at the ranch.  We were served a great breakfast casserole, fruit, bagels, toast, and coffee before we headed out on the next leg of our trip.
Another great meal.
Second and third from the left is our hosts - Rick and Kirsten Giles.
R-L Giles family members - Clarence (Rick's dad), Rick, Kirsten, Cody, Bryant (Rick's nephew), Katie, and Tucker
If you are traveling in Wyoming make plans to stay at least one night if not more at the TA Ranch.  You will enjoy the accommodations, the food, the conversation, and if you are lucky a performance of an up and coming comedian :).

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Four Season Riding Pants

I ran into a dilemma a few years ago when planning my summer trip to Colorado.  I knew we would start some mornings in the mountains with temperatures in the 30's and by afternoon I could be at riding at lower elevations with temps pushing the high 80's.  I also knew that rain was a certainty.  It rains every afternoon somewhere in the Colorado Rockies and I would end up riding in the rain at some point.

The dilemma was how to pack for the varying weather and temperatures within the capacity of my luggage (I also had to pack for my son who was 8 at the time).  On that particular trip I ended up pulling a trailer behind the  VStar 1100.
Waiting on construction on US 24 south of Leadville
The next two summers our trips took us to South Dakota and Kentucky/North Carolina respectfully.  I did not need to pack for colder temperatures on those two trips.
Sunny day at Mt. Rushmore, 2007
About to ride the Dragon - July 2008
The summer of '09 we rode to Colorado and Utah.  I once again had to figure out how to be prepared for the temperatures and rain/sleet/snow.  I decided to leave the chaps at home and take thermal underpants, thermal undershirts, and rain gear.  I would layer as needed.  That worked OK, but was still a little bulky and it required stopping in locations where I could either take the thermals off or put them on and this method added to my laundry.
40 degrees on top of the Grand Mesa in Colorado - June 2009
Last October, at the recommendation of a friend,  I decided to put up the money and purchase a pair of Tourmaster Flex Pants.  I found out during the winter months that the 4 layers will keep you very warm.

Four layers?!  Yes,  The Flex pants has a rainproof liner, a insulated liner, a mesh shell, and zip-on rainproof material.  Reflexive piping on increases night time visibility, thigh high zippers on the outside of the pants makes dressing easy, and adjustable waist belts and elastic waistband makes fitting customizable.
The pants come with removable knee and hip armor.  The knee pad pocket allows for three different heights for the armor so that a rider can adjust the pad to fit his/her knee.  There is also stretch material in the knees, inseam, and calf that provides a comfortable fit.  You can read more about the features on the Riders Discount page
Reflective piping works extremely well.
My favorite feature is the zip on/off rainproof material.  The crotch area is made with the rainproof material so only the leg portion of the pants zip on/off, but when off there is sufficient airflow.
The rainproof zip on/off portion of the Flex pants
 The rainproof shell is secured with three zippers.  After removing the rainproof zip-on/off and putting it back on a couple of times it all makes sense and is easy to use.  The pants with the rainproof shell provides a great deal of wind protection and is warm enough for late spring and early fall riding.

Insulated lining
Rainproof lining (note the different colored snap loops on the bottom on the pants.)
Adding the thermal liner made the pants plenty warm for 98% of the North Texas winter.  It would need to be very cold (25 degrees or lower) to warrant adding the rain liner with the thermal liner.  The first time I rode in the colder weather I had both liners in and the rainproof zip-on/off - I was quite toasty!

The rainproof liner and the insulated liner are easy to add to the shell.  Both have a white snap loop on the bottom of the left pant leg and a gray snap loop on the bottom of the right leg.   The snaps are used to secure the bottom of the pants and the color of the loop matches the loop on the inside of the shell - this is to help those of us that have difficulty putting things together.  :)

I took the pants with the rainproof zip-ons on my 2010 trip to Yellowstone and had all the weather protection I needed.  When crossing the Powder River Pass (9,666ft)  in Wyoming, riding the Beartooth Pass 10,947  in Montana & Wyoming, or when sleet got us on Mt. Evans (14,264) the pants worked perfectly.
July 2010 and it is sleeting on Mt. Evans! (Tourmaster pants 2nd from the left)
The pants rolled up and packed easily.  I used a small strap to keep the roll tight which made it packable and accessible. The pants are sturdy, well-made, versatile, and usable year round. I highly recommend the Tourmaster Flex Pants for riders that enjoy riding year-round.
Beartooth Highway - looking west.