Saturday, December 22, 2012

What Happened to Global Warming?!

A year ago, I walked out into my garage, sat on my BMW RT, played with the controls, started it is up.... played with the electric windscreen, turned on the electric seat, and, after warming up a bit, revved the throttle a few times... My blues were starting to fade just a bit... and then, the inevitable.... I killed the engine, turned off the ignition, and went back in the house to get out of the freezing cold.

It was at that point that I opened my laptop and did something I'd been thinking about for a while, I signed up with "Blogger" and launched "Through the Visor".   Although I had never "published" anything, except scientific research articles, I had an urge to express some of my thoughts, and observations, that come from several years of riding.  And since winter had set in, and it was going to be weeks, if not months before I would out riding again, blogging about motorcycles and motorcycling was going to be my new-found "outlet".    In retrospect this was one of the best things I had ever done.  Not only did Through the Visor fulfill the short-term goal of getting my mind off the fact that the bikes were sitting idle in the garage, blogging about motorcycling has opened a surprisingly satisfying outlet.

So, when I went into the garage on Thursday morning, opened the door and saw this:

I knew it was going to be a while before I enjoyed riding one of these:

Has all this talk about global warming been just that, a whole lot of talk?!

But you know... I don't feel as badly about the weather-imposed riding hiatus as I did a year ago.  Sure, I'll be missing riding to work whenever I feel like it, heading off with a friend to discover a new small town cafe, heading out for several days on the road, or just scratching the itch on a Sunday afternoon.   But, Through the Visor has done its part to help fill the void associated with parked bikes connected to battery tenders.

This coming year, in addition to all things moto,  I hope to publish more ride reports, perhaps some gear reviews and as always, reflections from the road.  I am excited for the New Year ahead and looking forward to more tales to tell.  I hope you are as well!


Sunday, September 30, 2012

My "Roads" Scholarship

 Over the course of thousands of motorcycle miles one cannot help but learn a few things about riding, about the road, and, most certainly, about oneself.  My "roads" scholarship (my sincere apologies to Cecil J. Rhodes!) began in earnest about 10 years ago.  At that time I was coming off of a self-imposed hiatus from riding that spanned the years when my children were young and my time was gladly spent on family matters and a new career.   Moreover, owning the “type” of motorcycle that would  take me where I wanted to go was clearly out of my reach at that time.  You see, I didn’t just want to ride, I wanted to cover some serious miles.  I wanted to "see the country" (at least as much as I could) from the perspective of a motorcycle.  I wanted to see the road and the country, and in a metaphoric sense, my life, through the visor.    

I can't say that I have seen everything I'd like to see or been everywhere I'd like to be  on my motorcycle, but I am making strides to get there.  I have been fortunate enough to ride some of the most beautiful and classic motorcycle roads in the country (Deals Gap, Tail of the Dragon, Cherohala Skyway, Needles Highway though the Black Hills, Talimena Scenic Byway,  and the Arkansas Pig Tail Highway, to name a few) but the Pacific Coast Highway, Alaska's Dalton Highway, and ALL of New England are still on my list.  Despite the incomplete list, I have come to some important realizations along the way.

About Bikes...
  • Motorcycles are modern day magic carpets that don't simply take you from A to B, they transport you through space and time in a transcendental fashion; and, riding one never gets old.
  • There is no one perfect motorcycle for all the possibilities, but some like the BMW 1200 RT or the BMW 1200 GS (or even the 800 GS) come very close.
  • Bikes are a lot like tattoos, you say you'll only get one... well, you know the rest!
  • Each bike has it's own personality and character, much like your children.  Treat them with love and respect and you will get the same in return, but each one responds differently.
  • Motorcycles evoke strong emotional and visceral responses, often,  just by looking at them.

  • Accident can happen and they will...  Murphy's Law!  This begs the adage "expect the best but prepare for the worst".
  • Wear as much protective gear as you can bear!  When you hit the pavement, you'll be glad you did!    "ATGATT"
  • Ride like everyone else is out to hit you!  And don't think they aren't!!
  • Accidents happen in the blink of an eye and ofter after a hasty miscalculation.  Give yourself plenty of space and time for error and work at eliminating miscalculations!
  • Never assume that motorists "see" you.  Most of them are texting (arg!!!) so assume that they have no clue that you are right beside, in front or behind them.
  • Every time you ride, use it as an opportunity to sharpen your skills.  Time invested this way pays huge dividends!


The Road... 

  • The road has an allure that draws you like an unrelenting Siren's song.
  •  Whether the road is beautifully scenic twisting curves through mountain passes or long desolate god-forsaken stretches across an endless horizon, the thrill lies in the the moment.... man and machine, totally open to the elements, vulnerable yet safe at home in the saddle.
  •  Long distance riding is the perfect way to clear your mind of clutter and untie all the knots that work their way in over time.
  •  One of the best feeling for me is heading off in the dark, bike fully loaded, days away from a destination and an adventure in the making.
  •  The second best feeling is pulling into my driveway 5 days later and really ready for a hug, a shower and a soft warm bed!

The Rider...
  • I am a changed person after a decade of purposeful riding.
  • At the very least, I am a better rider than I was 10 years ago.  I'm actually a better rider now at 60 than I ever was.
  • I'd like to think that I am also a better person than I was 10 years ago (at the beginning of my Road Scholarship) and that riding has contributed to that personal growth.
  • That may be a stretch but consider the fact that I have covered about 70,000 miles over that time frame and, at an average of ~50 mph = 1400 hours of riding... that's a long time to be alone with your thoughts, and considering that for the vast majority of those 1400 hours I an smiling... that must have an impact on on my soul!


Saturday, June 9, 2012


I am continually self-amused by the variety of topics that cross my "inner visor" while riding, especially while commuting since this well-traveled Interstate slab is made for daydreaming.  

The inner conversation can be anything and everything and often, that's exactly what it is... a constant stream of cerebro-babble.  But then, just as often, something of substance dances across my brain waves. 

One constant source of entertainment is the dashboard of my BMW RT.  In addition to standard data such as speed, engine rpm, ambient temperature, total miles, trip miles, time of day, etc., with the BMW you also get suspension set-up indicators (with on the fly adjustment capability), heated grip indicators, heated seat indicator, as on-board computer outputs of miles per gallon, average miles per hour, and distance remaining on available fuel - And there in lies the fun!

It is these last few computational features that stimulates that part of my brain that can sometimes obsess over numbers and calculations.

Some background is in order... My career has been such that I have dabbled in numbers for the last 40 years in one way or another.  At the zenith of my research career it was all about calculating the thermodynamics of molecular interactions; today, the calculations are more about academic unit costs, student credt hour generation, revenue streams, and projecting budget trends.

But, back in the day, my research often had me using ultra-speed centrifuges, those household washing machine-sized instruments capable attaining sufficient g-force to physically sediment macromolecuales, usually DNA and protein.

Since I love all things that move (!!), I was thrilled to use these incredible machines that will spin a 20 pound titanium rotor at speed of 60,000+ rpm.

SW Ti-41 Rotor

Typical Swinging Bucket Rotor Application

Maintenance schedules for these delicate machines track total revolutions rather than hours of operation, or as in a motor vehicle, miles ridden. This mode of service tracking seems a bit foreign to internal combustion engines, but quite frankly, it should not.  In fact, I would argue, ALL motors that perform rotational work should have maintenance schedules that track total revolutions rather than miles, as is the case of motorcycles and automobiles.  Doesn't it make more sense that the lifetime, or the maintenance schedule for a motor center on the number of times it completes its work cycle rather than how far it propelled the object that it sits in?

My motor of choice: The BMW 1200 CC Boxer twin!

This (finally) brings us to Moto-Math!  Checking my dash while riding I notice that my average miles per hour (for the entire lifetime of my bike since I have never reset this function) is 47.8.  Now, this fluctuates a bit depending upon whether I am on a trip of do lots of in-town riding.  But 47.8 is a good place to start.
  • Couple my average miles per hour with the total number of miles ridden (31,175) and you easily determine that I have ridden my 2012 BMW R1200RT for 652.2 hours. 
  • In 4th gear I am traveling 48 miles per hour at 3200 rpm (my overall average speed).
  • 3200 rpm x 60 minutes per hour = 192,000 revolutions per hour (rph)
  • 192,000 rph x 652.2 hr ridden = 125,222,400 total revolution
  • With 6000 mile service intervals (recommended), my bike has spanned 5.2 service intervals
  •  A revolutions-based service interval would thus be: 125,222,400/5.2 = 24,081,231 
  • Therefore: 25,000,000 (25 M) revolutions would be the revolutions-based service interval (RBSI)
Now, we simply need to entice BMW to install an RBSI indicator function on-board computer!  I'm sure they will get right on this! :-)   If anything, the Germans like numbers, no?!!

A few more things to consider.... I've been on my bike for 652.2 hours over the last 28 months of ownership.
  • 652.2 hours = 27.18 days of riding 24 hours a day!  Almost a month of 24 hour days!
  • Or... 81.5 eight-hour days in 28 months (~820 days)
  •  81.5 riding days/820 total days = 9.9%
  • Therefore ~10%  of my total daytime activity over the span of 28 months has been riding! Sweet!!

What do I have to show for all that riding time:
    • 4 sets of tires
    • 6 fluid changes (oil, gear, & rear-end)
    • Two flat tires  :-((
    • 13 states visited
    • Immense joy, pleasure, relaxation, reflection, excitement, and adventure!
    • and... Significant improvement in my cognitive capacity!!*

Not to mention an improvement in my capacity to do math in my head while riding!!


Monday, May 28, 2012


I recently had the opportunity to take advantage of the use of a "loaner" bike due totally to the generosity and unparallelled customer service of my motorcycle dealer, Engle Motors of Kansas City, MO.  I was hoping to get my BMW R1200 RT in and out of routine service on a Friday so that I'd have the bike for the weekend, but such was not the case.  An unexpected rear brake issue required that the bike remain at the shop until a part could be shipped and installed.  What immediately seemed like a a hassle leaving me uncertain of how I would get home (50 miles away) late on a Friday afternoon turned into a a memorable experience!

Given the circumstances, without the slightest of a speed-bump, the shop turned me loose with a brand new 2012 Triumph Tiger 800 off the showroom floor to keep as long as it took to get my bike fixed.  Unheard of??  In most cases yes, but not at Engle Motors (You guys are the best!)

The Tiger 800 is a terrific bike!  The super-smooth, inline triple, motor (94 hp at 9300 rpm & 69 ft-lb torque at 7850 rpm) pulls extremely well throughout the entire 6-speed gear box and has more than enough power to pull the 470 lb bike, plus this 210 lb rider, with ease.  I was especially impressed when cruising at 40 mph in 6th gear, a twist of the throttle pulls the bike effortlessly without the slightest bit of hesitation.

Setup as a dual-sport bike (although the standard version, i.e. not the XC, is much more adept on road than off), the upright seating, wide bars, and tall seat give this bike a much bigger feel that you might first imagine.  However, the relatively light weight and good balance coupled with solid ergonomics provides and overall light and responsive feel.  And riding it is just that - light and responsive!

I rode the Tiger the 50 miles home and choosing US 24 west out of KC to get some nice curves and beautiful northeast KS scenery.  The ride was great.  The Tiger put plenty of smiles on my face!

The Tiger looked really good in my garage and several times I played with the financing numbers to see just what it might take to provide the bike a permanent home with the RT and Guzzi V11.  Very doable AND tempting!! 

So, Saturday morning I headed off for a ride and coffee.  Undaunted by a brief rain shower, I put about 35 miles on the bike, mostly city streets with a bit of county road tossed in.  It was a great ride.  The bike is a dream in the city and would make an excellent commuter!  Knowing I was needed at home, I cut my ride a bit short and headed back to the house. 

It's funny how riding goes... You can be having the very best of days with ear-to-ear grins and in an instant, everything can change.  And that's exactly what happened.  Turning left from a stop light onto a wide major thoroughfare still wet from the brief rain shower, I was deep into the long wide turn when all of a sudden I felt the rear wheel spinning and I knew I was loosing it.  I tried a quick reverse counter steer to save, but in a blink of the eye I hit the pavement and hit it hard!  After a brief moment of daze, disgust and disbelief... I quickly jumped to my feet, lifted the bike upright and walked it to a close by parking lot.  My first thought was for the Tiger!  How am I going to explain this to my friends at Engle Motors?  How stupid of me!!  How stupid!!  How's the bike???

I took a few moments to sit and collect myself.  I had hit the pavement HARD.  I landed square on the ball of my left shoulder and hip and felt some pain in both of those parts, as well as my right side rib cage.  I examined the bike carefully and surprisingly, it was in great shape for having just hit the pavement!  A few protective body panels would need to be replaced as well as realignment of the forks, but that was it!  What a machine!!

After the fall
I rode the Tiger home and re-examined it.  I was really impressed with how well it took the fall.  My shoulder was really sore and my hip took a pretty good soft tissue blow, but aside from some deep bruising I was physically OK.  Fortunately, the only thing that was seriously hurt was my pride! 

What really eats me up is that  I am a better rider than this!! But that's how it happens.  It only takes an instant to lose your concentration, misjudge a situation, make one simple rider input mistake and the bike is down!

 And that brings me to ATGATT: "All The Gear, All The Time"An acronym not unknown to most riders, but based on the frequency that I see riders without helmet, gloves, boots, jackets, etc.  some riding in shorts, tee shirts, their wife or girlfriend riding two up in bikini and flip-flops.. you would think that the concept of riding with protective gear was as foreign to them as the capitol of Djibouti!  And it can't all be blamed on the indiscretions of youth since many of these riders are adult men and women.  Moreover, the bike owner sets the tone for safety.  How many wives, daughters, sisters, brothers, etc. were severely injured because they chose to ride with an irresponsible biker who dismissed the need and importance for riding in complete riding gear, ALL OF THE TIME.  As an avid motorcyclist, I just don't get it!

I went down and suffered nothing more than bruising to my shoulder and hip but not a single bit of road rash, no broken bones, no impact to my head.  But then, I was riding in head-to-toe gear.  Based on the scuffs on my jacket, left pant leg, boot heel cap, and the deep abrasions to the palms of my gloves, the outcome would have been much different had I been "cruising" in my shorts and tee shirt without gloves, boots and helmet.  I consider myself very lucky to have come away from my accident with only an injury to my pride.  I wish the same could be said for gear-less riders!

  • Passing Note: I rode by the accident scene on my BMW today to see if I could detect any abrasions to the pavement.  I could see none, but what I did see that gave my pride a boost was the fact that the accident scene had recently (from the look of the pavement, in the last few days or weeks prior to my fall) been repaved with fresh asphalt.  I hadn't noticed this the day of the accident due to the wet pavement and a slight rise in the area that blocked my line of sight.  Given fresh oil and light rain, it's no wonder my tire started spinning.  Another lesson filed away.  The pavement TRULY is extra slippery when lightly wet after a long dry spell.... and in this case after fresh asphalt!

This was one of those unfortunate incidents that sometimes happens, but it was also a healthy reminder to stay focused, expect the unexpected, and use each day of riding not only as a source of enjoyment, but also an opportunity to improve your riding skill.  And above all, become a fervent practitioner of ATTATT!


Monday, May 14, 2012

Colorado Road Trip

My friend Valek and I had been planning a road trip to Colorado for the last several weeks.  We typically take two or three road trips each year and for the last few years one of those trips is usually in May after my busy work schedule lightens up a bit.  We've ridden to Colorado together once before and vowed that we would do it again as soon as possible.  The beauty of Colorado needs no description, but in addition to the mountains and breathtaking vistas, Colorado has great motorcycle roads.  And for those of us living in Kansas, it is one of the closest destinations for great riding and camping.

We only had three days to complete this trip so that meant one to get there, one day to ride as many canyons and mountain passes as possible, and one day back home.  Since mid-May can still bring frozen precipitation to the higher elevations, we decided to use the Pueblo, CO area as our initial destination.

Getting to Pueblo form north eastern Kansas would take us diagonally across the state, northeast to southwest and passing through some areas of our state that I have never before visited.  For me, this is always an adventure in itself.

Dodge City, Kansas was a first for me and definitely someplace I would like to spend a little time soaking in some Wild West history.  We really didn't have time to explore, but we were able to snap a few shots of the historic district.

El Capitan

One of the things I didn't appreciate about southwestern Kansas was the number of feedlots that exist in this part of the state.  There are hundreds of them.  They are officially referred to by the U.S. EPA and USDA as Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations (CAFOs).  You can see them from miles away due in part to the color of the ground, normally sandy in this part of the state, the CAFO has a much darker ground due to the high concentration of manure, also the presence of large grain storage and deliver structures, and, if the wind is in the right direction, the smell.  I've always had the opinion that cattle manure is not an unpleasant odor, but the smell coming from a cattle CAFO is something altogether different and unpleasant would be an understatement!

The number of CAFOs, or CDROs (Cattle Death Row Operations, as I call them) would confirm the fact that there are more cows in Kansas than people and in Ford County (Dodge City) the ratio is well over 100:1!!

I thought that Dodge City was somewhat remote, in part because it took us half a day to get there, but also the fact that there is just a whole lot of nothing in that part of the state.  I said "thought" because by the time we got to Garden City, I had already formulated a new definition of remote!  But then, I had yet to see Bethune, CO and a dozen other small towns in the high plains area of eastern Colorado (but I am getting ahead of myself).

Our first night was spent at the Pueblo County Reservoir and State Park, just west of Pueblo, CO.  What a great find!  The lake was beautiful and being early in the season, there were plenty of open camp sites close to the lake.
Bikes at the campsite

Sunset over the Lake Pueblo
As beautiful and tranquil as the lake setting was, we were hit in the middle of the night with 30 mph winds and 50 mpg gusts!  Our tents were almost blowing away and the deafening sound of wind-blown rain flies and pelting sand ensured that we hardly slept at all that night.

At dawn we broke camp early, loaded the bikes and headed west on US50 for Royal Gorge still in windy conditions.  Leaving the outskirts of west Pueblo we were hit by 40 mph cross winds for the first 15-20 miles.  I thought if we had to ride in that all the way to the Gorge we would be in serious trouble.  But as soon as we hit the foothills west of Pueblo, the wind subsided and the remaining ride was relaxing and beautiful, especially the approach to Can~on City  (con un enye and pronounced Canyon).  Despite being the "Penitentiary Capitol" of Colorado, Can~on City was beautiful, in fact, I have decided that if I ever have to be incarcerated, I am putting my bid in for Can~on City!

Royal Gorge Junction is just a little west of Can~on City, CO and well worth the price of admission for the park.

Valek on Royal Gorge Bridge

Continuing on US50 west we headed for Salida, CO.  This was one of the best decisions we made since this stretch of US50 was absolutely spectacular!  For the most part, the road followed the deep canyon carved over millions of years by the Arkansas River.  The tight twisty curves and sweeping high speed turns made the next 50 miles the highlight of the trip!  Moreover, this has inspired me to make a return trip and follow US50 all the way to Gunnison, Cimarron and finally Montrose before heading to Grand Junction, circling back on I-70 though Glenwood Springs, Vail and Golden.  We considered this route for our trip but decided that we would be too far west by the end of the day to make it back to the eastern side of the state before nightfall (in retrospect, our decision to head north at Salida to Leadville turned our leisurely trip into a near nightmare!

LD Out on the highway

Heading north at Salida we rode along CO291, US285 and US24 to Leadville.  I've been through Leadville before but I forgot how cool this 19th century mining town is, what beautiful historic buildings that this little town has and also the elevation (10,152 ft.).  We were going to pull over to snap a few pictures but as soon as we pulled into town we were hit by a pretty severe thunderstorm that at 10,000 ft translates to hail, sleet and snow.  And we got it all!

We headed south as quickly as we could trying to get to lower elevation but we were followed by pretty heavy snow.  We ended up riding almost 100 miles (Leadville to Woodland Park) in the snow.  We were forced to stop several times due to lack of visibility.  Fortunately the air temperature never dropped below 32 F so despite accumulation of snow on the surrounding countryside, the road was only wet with some slush as we crossed Trout Creek Pass (9,345 ft).

By the time we got to Florissant (population 110) we were pretty exhausted from the ride.  We pulled into a service station/cafe for fuel, a bite to eat and a chance to thaw out.  After a couple of pulled pork sandwiches and coffee we were feeling better and the snow had stopped!!

We were planning to spend the night in a motel in Colorado Springs and at this point in the road we were only about 35 miles out!  I could already feel the hot shower and motel bed!

About 3 miles outside of Florissant, I was riding along, feeling really good that we were out of the snow, and within and hour of a warm dry spot for the night, when I checked my rearview mirror and did not see Valek.  I kept staring into my mirror as I rode, but still no riding buddy.  I pulled to the shoulder put on my flashers and stared into my rearview mirror hoping to see Valek at any second.  Instead a woman in a minivan pulls beside me and asks if I am riding with a friend, I said yes, to which she replied "Well, he's completely out on the highway"... (my heart stopped!)... then she continued... "pushing his bike across the road"... I breathed a sigh of relief!  At least he hadn't gone down as the woman's first words might have indicated.    I turned around and sped back up the road to find Valek standing beside his Goldwing.  Diagnosis, an electrical malfunction, probably an alternator issue.  After some discussion, I rode on into Woodland Park (~15 miles) looking for a battery.  I found one after a few stops, but none that was charged and charging was going to take several hours.  I then got the numbers for several tow companies and a local motel.

We had the Goldwing towed to a local motel and planned our strategy.  Valek rode my RT to the local Wallmart to get a battery charger to charge his battery overnight.  We decided that we would test the charging system in the morning but be prepared to truck the bike back to Lawrence if the bike's alternator failed to keep the battery charging.  

Come morning we discovered that the battery would start the bike but without a functioning charging system, disconnection of the battery resulted in the bike dying.

We located a UHaul truck in Colorado Springs (20 miles east) so we road 2-up on the RT to get it.  When we got there we discovered that the 10 ft truck does not have a ramp to load the bike!  So, we headed back to Woodland Park and while Valek made another stop at Wallmart to get tie downs, I headed to a local ATV shop to see about borrowing a ramp.

Getting the half-ton Goldwing into the truck was a bit sketchy, but we were successful!  Once loaded, we immediately left for the 600 mile, 11-hour ride home.  We had gotten all all our running around completed by 10:30 a.m.

The ride home was uneventful, cold for most of the ride, but at lease dry despite threatening weather the entire way.  I pulled into my garage at 9:30 p.m., really ready for a shower, a shave and a hug from Elise!

Woodland Park, CO... My new favorite city!

For a trip that seemed to be dominated by the aftermath of bike trouble, there were several bright spots that made this a wonderfully memorable trip. Not in any particular order:

  • Woodland Park is a beautiful city and several of its residents expressed their help and concern for two stranded motorcyclist in a number of thoughtful ways.
  • The road from Woodland Park to Colorado Springs is an awesome, beautifully scenic 20 mile ride that I have done before and on this particular trip we made it 3 times!
  • The 50-mile ride from Royal Gorge to Salida that follows the Arkansas River canyon is worth a repeat trip all by itself!
  • The next trip to Colorado is going to include an extended ride along US50.  What a beautiful  road!
  • The number of CAFOs (CDROs) in southwestern Kansas is alarming, not only because corn-fed beef is unhealthy for human consumption but the practice is toxic to the cattle themselves and in part, responsible for the emergence of E. coli O:157H:7, the life-threatening "hamburger-borne" variety of E. coli.
  • Unlike the cities in most states that are proud of their residents and celebrate them by citing their population statistics on their city limit signs (Elgin KS, population 71), Colorado cities seem to take greater pride in their elevation (Leadville, CO Elevation 10,152).  Perhaps it's an economic issue for the citizens to not feel compelled to replace the signs each decade when new census data is reported.  The geologic timetable for elevation changes is such that those signs will never have to be replaced by the citizens of Leadville, or any other CO city!
  • The long and lonesome ride across the high plains of eastern Colorado and western Kansas has a simple and quiet, yet compelling beauty that must be ridden by motorcycle to completely appreciate.
  • The Worlds Largest Prairie Dog in Oakley, KS was somewhat disappointing.  If that critter is SO big, why isn't he visible from the highway??
  • Hardships make friendships grow deeper and stronger.  I am extremely thankful for, and blessed by, my friendship with my riding buddy Valek Voronin.  Love you Valek... and get a new Goldwing... better yet, get a BMW!!
  • As always with road trips, as great as they are... there is nothing like getting back to loved ones and sleeping in your own bed!

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Cafe-Quest Volume 1: Because Man Does Not Live by Mile-Munching Alone

One of the things I have missed of late is having a breakfast cafe located about 30-40 miles away down some great motorcycling road.  You know, that destination cafe where bikers meet for a belt-busting breakfast and fellowship with the moto-breathern (and sistern).  I previously had two such locations close at hand, one in De Soto, KS - Marie's Cafe, right on Kansas Highway 10 about 15 miles east of Lawrence.  The food was great (best biscuits I've ever eaten!) and bikers from several miles around would show early every Sunday morning and hang out before a mid-day ride south to the Flint Hills or north to Leavenworth County for some of the best roads in North East Kansas.  Marie's served great breakfast classics and had some of the nicest wait staff who, after only a few visits and overly generous tips, would greet you with a genuine "Hi hun, coffee while you decide"?  I was crushed when they closed.   The second spot was in beautiful Parkville, MO, about 30 miles north and east along the banks of the Missouri River.  The food and atmosphere of the cafe were just OK, but the ride was beautiful, the town picturesque, and the bikes that appeared on any given Sunday were nothing short of spectacular!  Early and late model BMWs, Triumphs, Norton Comandos, several Ducati models and Moto Guzzi's galore!  I fell in love with a 1994 1100 Sport that stoked and unquenchable passion for all things MG!  I'll always remember the Parkville Cafe for my first Moto Guzzi love affair!  But, now, they are gone!   Although I can still ride to those locations, its just not the same without the gathering! I feel lost in the wilderness without my biker-fellowship!

Our town is blessed with numerous outstanding breakfast eateries - Places such as  Milton's, Global Cafe, and Myrth are just a few, not to mention great local coffee shops, The Bourgeois Pig, La Prima Taza, and Z's Espresso, to name a few.  They would be great moto gathering spots but for me they are too close to home.  I need some distance between my domicile and my Sunday moto-gathering spot of choice.  There needs to be a great ride between my garage and great food!  Plus, I need other riders to show up too!  Am I asking too much? I don't think so!

So, today I begin the quest the moto-cafe-quest!  Volume 1: Elle's Diner in Tonganoxie, KS.

The Farmer's Platter
I pass by Elle's on days I commute by bike to work along US 24/40 East to Kansas City.  The place is not much to speak of from the outside but the large sign above the door "Breakfast All Day" was a sufficient Siren's song to snag me from the highway.  From the parking lot, Elle's has the appearance of a double double-wide mobile structure, inside however, is a down-homey feel that is comfortable, inviting, and appetizing.  I got a friendly greeting when I entered and chose to sit near a window to be able to keep an eye on my RT while I ate.

The Farmer's Platter was a thing of beauty and a culinary delight as well! - it will definitely bring me back to Elle's!  The one thing missing however, and this was a big one...  was the absence of moto-brethern.  The dining room I chose had a long table that seated a dozen or so Tongi good-ole-boys deep in their morning chatterThe room silenced as the stranger clad in riding gear conspicuously entered their domain.  I tried making eye contact thinking I'd get a "hi" a "howdy" a "nice bike" , or even the overly obvious "you 'aint from 'round here are ya"... but sadly no.   It had more the feel of a verse from Bob Segar's "Turn the Page" ... you know the one. Too bad...

 As I stood to leave I grabbed my riding jacket made one last attempt at eye-contact with the group.  I was able to force a smile upon one once cold set of eyes giving me a sense of real accomplishment!  Finally, some acknowledgement of my existence.  Baby steps...

Aside from the cold cafe reception by the locals, the ride was beautiful... Any day riding is a good day!
Despite the fact that I ride this road often, I still love US 24/40 between Lawrence and Kansas City.  The fast sweeping curves, the beautiful N.E. Kansas rolling farm-landscape, and the occasional spotting of wild turkey, deer, flights of geese low overhead, and bald eagles make this stretch of road a joy to ride.  Plus, it is a major thoroughfare for east-west US travel.  Route 40 is one of the classic "decade" roads of the US highway system that, when completed it ran 3,157 miles linking Atlantic City, NJ to San Francisco, CA. This particular stretch runs coincident with US Route 24, another classic US highway that linked Pontiac, MI to Independence, Kansas City and points further West including Topeka, KS.

My moto cafe-quest this morning was a success.  It was a great morning for a ride and I don't think I will eat another thing the rest of the day!  At least that's my story for now!!
Downtown Tonganoxie, KS
 The success of the day was not so much the experience at Elle's Diner but more so the fact that it taught me something.  Good food, a nice diner, and quaint small-town America is all fine and good - and, if that's the point of the ride... perfect!  But I was looking for more.  I was looking for the place where my tribe comes to gather.   The place where we share mutual admiration each others' machines, make friends, and set plans to ride.  And whether that ever happens or not, that's OK too.  Its the fellowship that counts.  I need that.  I think we all do!  -LD

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Motorcycing for MENSA

I ride because I love to ride,  it's as simple as that!  .... Well, OK... full disclosure:  I do also love the mechanical esthetic of a motorcycle.  Some bikes don't even need to be ridden to be enjoyed - they are fine works of art and industrial design.  The mere sight (or sound) of them is not only pleasurable, it evokes a sense of well being, brotherly love, and.... yes,  even world peace!  OK, OK, maybe not the latter, but lets just say there is much more to the motorcycle than the inanimate object that it is.

So, imagine my excitement when I read a synopsis of a study conducted at the University of Tokyo demonstrating a significant improvement in the cognitive functioning of motorcyclists that commuted every day to work relative to a control group of individuals that commuted in cars.

The study also revealed that the use of motorcycles in daily life improved cognitive faculties related to memory and spatial reasoning capacity.  Participants in the study reported that their stress levels were reduced and their mental state had improved over the course of the study.

I don't think these findings would shock or surprise any avid motorcyclist.  We all experience the benefit of the release of endorphins while riding and with all of the mental inputs involved in safely maneuvering a bike through traffic or on seriously twisty roads, it's no wonder that there is a temporal physiochemical boost or perhaps even a lasting cerebral benefit from riding.  If nothing else, we are engaging in an activity that we love and extract immeasurable pleasure from.  And sometimes, for long periods of time -  8-10 hours a day for multiple consecutive days.

In a related study involving the Yamaha Motorcycle Corp. researchers also observed that the architecture of the brain was remodeled in that the brain devoted more cortical volume to the activity while riding.  Moreover,  the mental benefits of riding were extended beyond the ride to merely thinking about riding!

NOW we're talking!   Not only do we get a gray matter benefit while riding, we get a similar boost in cognitive function by simply thinking about riding.  Ohmmmmm ...

So, think of it this way the next time you are out for a ride... you're not just riding to get from point A to point B... you're not just commuting... you're not out just for the enjoyment of it... you are out building brain power!

So, don't be surprised if in households all across the globe you hear...."Honey, I'm off to dramatically improve my cognitive reasoning skills, develop my memory and spatial reasoning capacity .... and maybe just find world peace in the process!"  -LD