27 July 2020
Weekend update: On Friday I took a short ride to Manassas for lunch and just to get out on the Harley; one of my "Better than Nothing" rides. We were supposed to get thunderstorms but didn't. It was pretty hot so I spent the day in the air conditioning.
22 July 2020
The July weather here in the D.C. suburbs has been severe. Last night Doug Kammerer, a local meteorologist, gave the ten day forecast - all in the 90s. If this holds up, 30 days out of 31 in July will have been with highs at least 90 degrees; this is unprecedented.
Lunch was at Clifton yesterday, but we are now in a situation where it's almost too hot to ride. My route to Clifton from where I live has a lot of shady roads, but, geez.
20 June 2020
Weekend recap... On Friday, despite the heat, I did indeed go out for a motorcycle ride. Me and my riding pal Tom rode out to Clark Brothers shooting range just south of Warrenton and used a couple of their loaner guns to blow through two boxes of ammo.
We fired a Springfield Armory XDs chambered in .45 ACP and a Glock 19 chambered in 9mm. I liked the Springfield a lot. The recoil isn't as wild as I thought it might be, and I like the superior stopping power of the round. One hit is all it ever takes with a .45. The Glock 19 misfed at one point (Clark's loaner guns get a lot of use). I liked the Glock 19 just fine - it has an great reputation - but preferred the Springfield. We also fired my father-in-law's Ruger Mark One .22; no recoil at all. That evening I watched gun test videos.... I like the Springfield XDs. Clark Brothers sells them for $549, a good price. Hm. Maybe this is all the testing I need to do.
We had lunch at a new place just outside of Remington, VA and then took the long way home. By then it was really too hot to ride - despite the breeze. (Stop lights were a real bear.) I got home a bit early. Saturday, Sunday, Monday and Tuesday are all supposed to be dangerously hot days in the D.C. area.
13 July 2020
Here's my video. And then I did something I've always wanted to do: I test rode a Harley-Davidson Livewire, their electric bike. Video here. The Livewire is amazing! Text from a write-up I'm doing for the HOGs newsletter:
Mounting it and starting it is unremarkable. Unlike the roar of a big v-twin engine with a gasoline-powered Harley there is nothing that suggests what a rocket this thing is. But, wow, can it ever accelerate! On my test ride I kept fading back from the fellow who took me out only to catch up in an incredibly short amount of time. If the 0 to 60 time is short, the 35 to 60 mph time is astonishing. The uncanny thing is that it does it with so little fanfare. During my ride I kept thinking of those racers in Tron. The way you go from slow coast to very fast is so silent as to be otherworldly. All you hear is the sound of wind on your helmet. The Livewire weighs 549 pounds but it feels far lighter than that. It is very nimble and agile, traits that are entirely lost upon poky, slow, scenery-observing, touring bike saddle-wanting me. Someone who knows a thing or two about taking curves on two wheels at high speeds can provide a much better assessment of this bike’s capabilities.
On Saturday I did a HOGs ride to Colonial Beach, VA. As it was the first big ride of the season it was well-attended: 22 bikes! There's a video for that as well. It was fun despite getting hot in the afternoon. I've never been to Colonial Beach before; the "beach" there is on the Potomac River. It seems nice. Zillow says that home prices are definitely in our range for a retirement home. It's 73 miles away from where we are now, and an hour and 20 minute drive down I-95. (When I-95 is accommodating, of course, which isn't often.) Westmoreland County. Wikipedia: "In 2019, Colonial Beach was named The Nicest Place in Virginia and a finalist for Nicest Places in America by Reader's Digest." Hmmmmm.
On Sunday I stayed indoors and mostly recovered from the prior two days of being out in the heat.
9 July 2020
I went to my HOGs meeting last night. Nothing to report there save that HOGs group rides begin again this month. It's about time!
8 July 2020
I did the primary oil change in my Harley yesterday. I thought I had the necessary T27 Torx bit but as it turned out, I didn't. Well - not that I was sure about, anyway. I had a bit that probably was a T27 but I didn't want to risk stripping any screws (it's a difficult recovery if you do that) so I bought a Torx socket set. Nice thing to have. I also justified the purchase of my digital torque wrench by appropriately torquing down the various bolts and screws to the specified levels. A motorcyclist once told me that he found working on his bike relaxing. At the time I thought it a strange comment - working on cars has never really been what I call fun - but I see now he has a point.
So - will my Harley perform any better, smoother or quieter running Redline dedicated-use transmission and primary oils instead of the Harley-specified Syn3 that's specified for all three uses? I shall determine that over the next 10,000 miles. My bike turned over 20,000 miles yesterday. (I put 18,000 of those miles on it over the last 18 months.) Out of curiosity I stopped by the local bike shop and asked just how long I can expect my Harley with the 103 Twin Cam engine to run. 100,000 miles or more, I was told, as long as I maintain it. And when it comes time to rebuild the engine, shall I? Possibly!
7 July 2020
I changed the transmission and motor oil in my Harley yesterday - a hot job in my uninsulated garage. You can remove a Harley oil plug two ways: by using a 5/8ths socket wrench or a hex wrench into the hole in the plug. The plug fits into place with no more than about 20 foot-pounds of force, but my crappy Harbor Freight hex tool snapped off. I suspected that using the socket was a better idea...
There is still the primary oil left to change. That one's a little trickier so I put it off.
6 July 2020
Weekend recap... starting with Thursday: We got off early so I did a ride to Gainesville and Front Royal. Riding out there was fine - coming back was HOT (my thermometer was reading between 98 and 100 degrees). I wore a tee shirt and forgot to put on sun block. Yes, I do have motorcyclist tans on my arms now. My Harley is now at 19,990 miles - I've put 17,800 of those miles on it. Time to do what is called a "three hole" (primary, transmission, motor oil) oil change this week. Fortunately there are YouTube videos and websites describing torque specifications (so I can use my new digital torque wrench).
I got the July Harley Owners Group (HOG) newsletter out last night. At the advice of my wife it is 28 pages rather than 33. It's that long because, it being a newsletter, I feel the necessity of including the Powerpoint slides describing upcoming rides in detail. But these can also be found on the HOGs website and social media sites. Perhaps I ought to simply list them and refer readers to the other sources of information which are much more easily updated. (The newsletter is a .pdf, so I can also merely supply HTML links.) Make the newsletter more of a journal, in other words.
I switched to 10 point font in these newsletters... my graphical artist son, who teleworks in the room near me (due to the impossibility of working at home with little boys), convinced me that 12 point was unnecessarily big. So when I received the HOGs Director's article and formatted it, it was only a half page: "I told you about my sarcastic graphic artist son in the makeshift teleworking office with me. After I finished editing Ray’s piece I wondered aloud, 'I have half a page left. What do I do?' He cheerfully replied, 'Put in a crossword puzzle!' Believe it or not I actually once came up with one for my Civil War reenactment group’s newsletter, but, no. They’re a pain to assemble. But, hold! My son tells me that there are websites that assemble them for you. So be warned: You may very well see a Harley-Davidson-inspired crossword puzzle appearing in these pages at some point."
Last night I found a site that allows users to generate crossword puzzles and came up with a good one in about 15 minutes. Ha! That'll be a feature of the August newsletter. I sent one of the other officers a copy of it to see how long it takes to work out.
29 June 2020
It's a very dated but somehow still fun and engaging look at motorcycling in America in the Fifties. Anne Neyland is the hotsy-totsy girl in the tight sweater, Steven Terrell is the blond, all-American type and, fortunately for us all, Alfalfa doesn’t sing. He does eat a lot, however, wisecracks, and introduces us to his own hip jargon like “miger” (“mad tiger”) and “sholl” (“sharp doll”). Everyone also pronounces “cycle” like “sickle.”
1957 was clearly a long time ago. I didn’t see any Harleys; it looks like everyone in this is riding British bikes, Triumphs and BSAs.
26 June 2020
The plot: An Army veteran character played by Samuel "Major Dad" McRamey wants to get his somewhat slatternly wife and reckless sixteen year-old daughter safely from Texas to California. He's a cautious, quiet fellow who doesn't look for trouble. Unfortunately, it's what looks like the late Fifties and there's a murderous and psychopathic four man drug-running gang of motorcycle hoodlums who have targeted his family; they are led by Jake Busey, who sports blond, greasy hair, a toothy grin and a black leather jacket. He is especially murderous. They ride what look like vintage Harleys - one has a springer front end - but it's somewhat hard to tell as the bikes all appear to be flat black and are not really shown much. At one point three of the bikers surround the wife left in a locked car after Busey abducts the daughter. Why didn't she fire up that tank-like vintage Ford and simply mow them and their bikes down? Because we have to get to the bloody and violent conclusion, where McRaney and wife display hidden grit and fighting skills to rescue the daughter, that's why.
This film is no masterpiece, but it's fun. And I am happy to report that, by and large, bikers have learned to behave themselves somewhat better than they did in the late Fifties when they were the scourge of the roads. This movie is available via Netflix DVD.
(And yes, I'm using the above text in my next Harley Owners Group newsletter, so it serves double duty.)
23 June 2020
I installed my self-given Father's Day present yesterday: a chrome Harley-Davidson passenger footpad cover. It's the chrome piece in back in this photo. (It's hinged and flops down.) As my son said, "Yeah, just what you needed: Another thing that says 'Harley-Davidson.'" Hahahaha! But I like chrome... That piece was originally flat black and boring - the bike needed a bit of shine there. It also needs a wash.
My only complaint about my bike's styling is that bundle of wires that appears between the frame and the fork; you can see it to the right of the H-D label on the tank. Couldn't they have hidden that somehow?
22 June 2020
In between thunderstorms I took a ride out to Clifton and had lunch with a friend who also rides. We were planning to visit a Manassas gun shop when we heard thunder - we headed back to our homes. Good thing. I was power washing the ladder in my swim trunks when the rain came down.
15 June 2020
Friday: I did a ride with my friend Tom, 208 miles. We rode out to Strasburg to meet his cousin and a bunch of guys who ride for the Sons of Confederate Veterans Mechanized Cavalry. Interesting bikes, interesting bunch. They are not at all in vogue right now and they don't care.
We rode out to the New Market battlefield, but it was closed, the road past the battlefield as well as the museum. Then we rode back north on the old historic Valley Pike (Route 11) - a beautiful day in the Shenandoah Valley. No video, sorry. I have now taken the valley pike from Strasburg to New Market. It appears that Roanoke is at the southern tip of the valley, so there's another 128 miles to explore sometime. I found a remarkable plaque along the Valley Pike: Post-Appomattox Tragedy. And here's the creep himself, Lt. Col Cyrus Hussey - who apparently couldn't get enough of death and killing after a war that took more than 600,000 American lives.
Sunday: In the morning I rode to the Bikes and Breakfast event in Clifton and bumped into a HOG I had last seen earlier in the week. (VIDEO) More exterior masonry painting. I also replaced the vapor canister purge valve on Big Red and made an annoying Check Engine light go away.
12 June 2020
Beautiful day forecast; I'm going out on a bike ride with my pard Tom to Strasburg and the environs.
11 June 2020
I attended the first physical, in-person HOGs chapter meeting last night. The table centerpiece featured a large stack of individual toilet paper rolls, which I re-arranged into an "HD" (for Harley-Davidson, of course). Our seats were placed the mandatory distance apart, but most people didn't wear face masks. I suppose there's some government scold who would disapprove, but my sense of it is that people are pretty much over Covid Fear. (It's arguable whether or not motorcyclists - a segment of society who very much deal with risk of bodily harm - really had it in the first place.)
10 June 2020
Tonight we have our first in-person, physical, not virtual HOGs (Harley Owner's Group) meeting since March. Better yet, it's being held here in Springfield, VA. I'm bringing a laptop that's doing a looped video of recently newsletter pages as a table display; I'm also talking briefly.
8 June 2020
Friday: My riding pal Tom and I did a short ride to a barbecue joint outside of Aldie. Good but somewhat overpriced. I bought my ABS sensor for Big Red. Our ride was cut short due to threats of thundershowers - which were some hours late in arriving.
Sunday: A ride to the Wilderness Battlefield on a really nice day. I'm almost done with Bullet and Shell - The Civil War as the Soldier Saw It by George F. Williams; it was unexpectedly good. Dated, but entertaining. So I wanted to visit a Civil War battlefield. I found a historical bronze plaque I've never read before from 1927. It has a grammar problem; do you see it?
2 June 2020
Last night I had my first HOGs ride since the last day of last year! It was a short ride from Patriot Harley in Fairfax to the Reston park pavilion where we had an officer's meeting - but it was still nice to be out again! I got the June newsletter out yesterday. I asked if everyone was okay with the length of my newsletters (they are running at 33 pages a month) or if they are too tediously long. One fellow said he'd like to see them a bit shorter, so I think I'll do a 10% reduction and make them 30 pages. That also has the effect of stretching out my stock of filler articles.
1 June 2020
On Friday Tom and I did a ride out to a few Civil War sites that I was not acquainted with, VIDEO. Since getting on a motorcycle I'm finding a bunch of these. I'm not sure why. I guess I'm going down a lot more odd little roads than I ever did in a car.
28 May 2020
I spent some quality time on the garage floor with my Harley yesterday, cleaning the dirt and grime from the metal wheels and cleaning the bug splatter from other surfaces; my Road King is all nice and clean and shiny again. But it's raining today and I have to work, so it's a case of being all dressed up with nowhere to go.
I ordered some oils and a filter for what's known as a "three hole" oil change job on my Harley: motor oil, transmission oil and primary oil. I'm coming up on a 20,000 mile maintenance. Normally Harley recommends using their "Syn3" oil - same oil for each use. (It's synthetic and used in all three cases, hence "Syn3.") This time I plan to use Redline special purpose oils for the primary and transmission. I've heard mechanics rave about how this stuff helps you find neutral a lot better and quiets shifting noises, so I'll see for myself. I'll probably be doing the oil change next week.
27 May 2020
I'm nearly done with the June issue of Stars and Pipes, the local chapter Harley Owners Group newsletter. These things kind of write themselves, to be honest. For instance, I got word of this yesterday via a friend: Motorcyclist hits bear crossing Route 29. “Witnesses observed the bear run away from the crash scene..." As much as I'd like to include the phrase "hit and run" in the newsletter, I cannot until we find out what the medical condition of the motorcyclist is.
...which brings me to a consideration. I spent decades doing Civil War reenactment unit newsletters and a website, and years managing a website for a rugby club. I could joke about injuries and include cartoons with those hobbies - for the most part. Motorcycling is different! I have one rather funny cartoon about a tombstone of a motorcyclist that I cannot use because people have had spouses and friends die in motorcycle accidents. It would be a horrible joke. "Clumsy jesting is no joke," as Aesop once said.
It's a little like when I used to take photos during rugby matches. Some guy would come off the pitch bleeding profusely from a head or face wound and I'd wonder, "Should I shoot this?" Turns out, yeah, I should. In rugby a bloody face is a badge of honor - and it got to the point where some guy would get injured and call for me to get pictures!
Except for one time when our polite Japanese scrumhalf broke his collarbone during a match. As he was painfully easing himself into the car for a trip to the hospital he whispered, "No photo."
25 May 2020
Monday: I took a 203 mile motorcycle ride to Luray, VA (a very Confederate place) and other places. Nice weather! VIDEO.
21 May 2020
No motorcycle ride tomorrow. 90% chance of thunderstorms. Hmf.
18 May 2020
I had a nice motorcycle ride on a warm, then very warm, day on Friday. I rode to Berryville and Boyce, VA because I have never visited those two places. VIDEO. Could we retire out there? Yes... I think so.
I also stopped by the Winchester Harley-Davidson dealership and, on a whim, test rode a Suzuki Burgman 650. VIDEO. Test riding a scooter at a Harley dealership? Yep. I've always wanted to test ride one of those. It's in a class of its own: a touring scooter - a scooter than can maintain freeway speeds.
15 May 2020
I just got back from walking the dog - it's warm out there! And it's supposed to be sunny. Which means motorcycle ride!
This time I plan to head out to Berryville, in Clarke Country, VA. I don't think I've ever really visited there. There was a Civil War battle that took place there. I'm also interested in this "battle town" aspect with Daniel Morgan. I'll get there by taking the parkway to route 50 east, then take the ever-scenic Snickersville Turnpike to Bluemont, then head west on business route 7. Getting back will be via some other route. Maybe I'll just follow promising-looking country roads until I come to some recognizable point. I will take the GoPro, so there will be a Monday video.
Gee - I've got 127 videos in my motorcycle playlist. Not bad for just over two years of riding.
12 May 2020
2021 Harley-Davidsons Delayed!│3 Discontinued Models│Pan America and Bronx on Hold - Big announcements, so this is another video to be linked in the next HOGs newsletter. It's no secret that Harley-Davidson hasn't been doing well coming into the pandemic; the pandemic itself has further slammed the company. They have a new guy in charge - a German! - and they are discontinuing models and delaying new bikes right now.
4 May 2020
I took two motorcycle rides this weekend - to the very same place! I rode out to the Snickersville Turnpike on Friday - then returned there the next day to show my wife. 108 miles on the bike is our longest two-up ride so far. When we completed the ride I asked Cari if she wanted to ride across the country on a motorcycle doing a few hundred miles a day and got a hasty "No!" I think we'd want a Road Glide Limited with the really plush passenger seating for that.
30 April 2020
It didn't rain yesterday and the temps went into the 70s, so I took a ride into Clifton for a "grab and go" lunch - except I didn't go. I sat outside on a picnic bench. While I was there I saw a striking '65 Caddy. Man, those things were long! VIDEO. Later on in the day I took a ride down to Quantico Cemetery and back home. It's expected to rain today and tomorrow so that will be it for rides for a while.
29 April 2020
On Monday I rode my Harley through the little town of Hillsboro, VA on Route 9, and saw many homemade banners and plaques - all relating to the Covid-19 pandemic. It occurred to me that what we are are in now is a sort of first cousin to Stockholm Syndrome (the state of mind when a captive begins to entertain positive thoughts about his or her captor). I call it Covid Culture. Characteristics of it are as follows... (and then I elected to not describe this).
28 April 2020
My birthday yesterday was fun! I did a ride into Harpers Ferry, which was closed. I knew that the Park Service attractions would be shut, but I didn't expect that the businesses (eateries, stores) would be closed as well. But they were.
I rode past the stanchion and into the town, which was deserted like the proverbial ghost town. Very strange. The only sound was my Harley - and then the Catholic Church bell started tolling. Weird! I caught it on video.
After that I rode into Charles Town, and then Bolivar Heights and then took a mountain road I've never been on before to a mountain pass I've never been to, and then rode through the quiet, quaint little towns of Purcellville and Hamilton, VA along old Route 7. It was a 160 mile ride.
24 April 2020
Rain today - no motorcycle ride. It looks like I'm going to be painting the master bathroom cabinets today and tomorrow.
20 April 2020
On Friday I took a long ride out to visit Flint Hill and some other spots along the Zachary Taylor Highway. I stumbled across two especially interesting plaques: VIDEO. Albert Gallatin Willis... I know he was a seminary student, but what kind of a background prepares a person to lay down his life for his friend in such a dramatic and unambiguous way?
And I've always found John Brown Raider Dangerfield Newby an interesting and tragic character, but I never knew there was such a place as "Newby's Crossroads." I came across it quite by accident.
17 April 2020
Yes, I'm taking a ride today, solo. I'm heading out to Flint Hill to investigate the Civil War plaques I saw there. It's supposed to be cloudy and cooler. Phooey on that. Where's Spring?
16 April 2020
I also did a couple of pages I call "Weird Harleys" - here are two: Hamburger Harley, Mobile Booking Cage Harley (1921 - seen above). I like the gigantic padlock.
14 April 2020
A ton of rain during most of the day led to pleasant riding weather in the late afternoon, so I did just that for an hour or so.
13 April 2020
On Friday I took the Not-Diggin'-It Ride. VIDEO. The winds were pretty intense, and it was cold and usually cloudy. Normally I don't mind being out on a bright gusty day - but the combination of the three things caused me to truncate my ride. I stopped by the Harley-Davidson dealership to buy a small compressor to fix flats while out on the road and also some new mesh gloves.
10 April 2020
OUT ON THE HARLEY AGAIN TODAY! Where to? Flint Hill, VA. There might be a video and there might not.
9 April 2020
I'm still coming up with interesting filler for HOGs newsletters. The other day I did a page on the Batcycles ridden by the 1966 Batman and Batgirl. Batman's was created by a couple of Burbankers. Batgirl's actually has a frilly lace along the edges of the fairing - geez. Not only does it look stupid but good luck trying to keep that clean...
It being in the high 70s yesterday I took a short ride on my Harley. Yesterday I tried something I've never tried before: riding with earplugs connected to an iPod. I didn't like it at all. First of all, I don't need the extra noise. If I want to listen to music I'd rather do it in a quieter car. Secondly, I prefer my custom earplugs which largely removes the wind noise and allows me to hear the exhaust note about 30 dB down. Being on a bike is my time to remove distractions and simply be on the bike. So it's as I suspected: I really don't need or want a sound system on a bike.
6 April 2020
I did indeed take a motorcycle ride into the Shenandoah Valley on Friday; I rode with Dave, a guy who lives just down the street who owns a loud orange Harley-Davidson Ultra Classic (you can hear whenever he goes by) and his friend, who rides a BMW. (VIDEO.) I model my new H-D warm weather mesh jacket at the end.
Friday! Nice day today - sunny and 60 or so. (Leather jacket weather.) 0% rain in the forecast. Motorcycle ride! I'm riding out with Dave, the guy who lives down the street from me with the loud orange and black Ultra Classic. You can hear his pipes a block or two away. He and some others are headed to the Shenandoah Valley - I think. I'll find out later today. I'll bring the GoPro to do a video.
My new Harley-Davidson mesh jacket arrived in the mail; it looks great and fits very well, being a tall. It doesn't ride up in the back like my other jackets - hooray! I tested it out yesterday; it's a bit too cool to wear it just yet but perhaps I will anyway.
I spent an hour or so washing and waxing my Harley. It looks great - but then, it always does.
2 April 2020
One of the many articles I'm doing for future HOGs newsletter is a survey of past Harley-Davidson advertising; so far I've done them for the 30s, 40s, 50s and 60s. (I'm saving the 70s - the most fun - for last.) These are easy - I just find attractive images and provide comments. By 1950 the Harley Advertising Guy was well defined: military style crush cap with a H-D pin in front, long sleeved shirt with tie (why?!?), tie clasp or chain, an H-D pin on the shirt and jackboots. I guess in 1950 that's what you wore when you took your Hydra-Glide out for a ride. No gloves, no glasses, no helmet - yikes! By the way, those olde-tymey H-D pins go for over $100 on e-Bay these days.
The other day, inspired by a 1976 Happy Days metal school lunch box, I came up with an article about Hollywood motorcycles: the Fonz's Triumph, Marlon Brando's The Wild One Triumph and Schwarzenegger's Terminator 2 Harley Fat Boy.
Harley-Davidson is a company that has been around since 1903 with a lot of lore; I don't see running out of interesting bits of history to explore anytime soon.
1 April 2020
Today marks the start of my third year motorcycling! Some stats: I rode 8,840 miles on two bikes (my Suzuki starter bike and my Harley) at the end of my first year. Today, at the end of my second year I've ridden 20,320 total on two bikes (this does not count test rides at dealerships). That means I have ridden 11,480 miles in my second year. I have put 14,869 miles on my Harley Road King; still love it! Best of all, so far no drops or accidents! (Knock on wood.)
This is the year to start being especially safety-minded; one must never let up on that. According to the Hurt Report, "More than half of the accident-involved motorcycle riders had less than 5 months experience on the accident motorcycle, although the total street riding experience was almost 3 years." I'm not entirely sure how to interpret this. Am I clear of this statistic because I've had almost a year and a half riding my Harley or does it apply because I have less than 3 years experience? I recall reading somewhere about two spikes in accidents: one within a rider's first six months (inexperience) and another between 3 to 5 years of experience (over-confidence).
The other day I was riding in Clifton, VA and decided to widen out my ride by going down streets I haven't been down before. I came across what looked like an old cemetery with gravel paths. I took the Harley down these and found myself going uphill on a path that had some especially uneven surfaces. The path ended unexpectedly on a grade - drat. So I had to turn around. (It was either that or motor around across graves, which I didn't want to do.) It was very tricky and I did this carefully, telling myself, "I am NOT going to drop this 820 pound bike!" I didn't. But I reprimanded myself for being cocky and resolved to keep the bike on solid pavement.