Monday, May 4, 2009

Riding Home

After the race ended on Sunday, we started riding home. We rode from Leeds, AL (track location) to just north of Atlanta. It was a good ride, with no rain, moderate traffic, and great riding conditions. We got to the hotel about 10pm (one hour time change).me

Monday morning dawned with light rain. I didn't want to see the rain, but it's a part of serious riding. So, we got into the mindset that we would ride a long way in the rain.

After getting dressed, we went to a McDonalds for breakfast. The rain had stopped, so our spirits improved; maybe the rain was over.

WRONG! About the time we went out to get on the bikes, the bottom dropped out. It was raining frogs! The wind was blowing like a gale, and the rain was falling sideways. Not a fun way to start a 400 mile ride home.

But we got on the bikes and started north on I-85. It rained HARD for a long time. About 100 miles of hard rain. We rode faster than almost all the cars and trucks, trying to make time and not take unnecessary risks. Fortunately, it was not cold, so it could have been a lot worse. But it was definitely a not-fun ride.

The Bumblebee let water in around the front of the collar, and my chest got wet. But that was all that got wet. It did it's job very well. I also wore the 3 finger gloves, which are designed for wet weather conditions, and they kept my hands dry. So, all in all, I fared pretty well.

After about 100 miles, the rain pretty much went away (we outran it), and the rest of the ride home was fine. Got home about 4pm on Monday.

The trip was good. We had no significant problems, and overall, the weather was good (with some exceptions). No injuries. No breakdowns (unless you count the dead battery). In spite of the few anomolies (above), it was a very good ride. Total mileage was 2,469 miles.

Superbike Races

I'm going to combine the two days of motorcycle races into one post. There were 3 races on Saturday and Sunday. Each race was good. Weather played a role, especially on Sunday.

Ok, enough said about the races.

But I will write a little about the weather, especially on Sunday. On Saturday, it rained hard on the way to the track, delaying the start of the first races due to oil and water on the track. After about an hour's delay, the races were run, and they were more competitive than usual.

On Sunday, it did not rain before we got to the track. Weather was very threatening, with severe thunderstorm watches and occasional tornado watches being announced. Just before the first race was to begin, a very dark cloud came from the direction of Birmingham (the track is about 15 miles due east of Birmingham). The wind got up a little, and a track announcer told everyone to find shelter in a permanent structure.

Well, the only permanent structure available to most fans is the museum. So, we headed for the museum. Even though the outside walls are glass, it has a basement to provide safety from the storm.

We went into the lobby to wait out the storm. It got darker and darker outside, and I was a bit dismayed to see the cashiers charging people to go inside the museum. I felt that under the circumstances, safety was more important than a dollar.

In a few minutes, over the intercom it was announced that a tornado had been spotted near the track and for everyone to head to the basement to safety. So, we did! Free! Got to see some bikes not on display in a garage area of the basement. So, it was neat.

After about a half hour in the basement, it was announced that the storm had passed and for everyone to leave. So, we did, not sure if the races would be run because it was getting late.

We walked back over to our bikes to see that they were safe (they were). After a little more waiting, the races were run. Each had fewer laps than normal, but they got all races run.

When the races were over, we rode back into Birmingham, had dinner, and went back to the motel.

52 miles each day.

Saturday, May 2, 2009

Blog on Hold

Hello out there. My computer died last night, so I may not finish the blog until I get home. All is well; going to the races today and Sunday. Home sweet home on Monday.

Check in again next week....

Friday, May 1, 2009

Barber Motorsports Museum

Sorry about the delay in finishing the blog; the laptop I was using on the road died. And, while I could have used the computer at the hotel, I hate to tie the hotel computer up as long as it usually takes me to write and post nightly. So, I waited until I got home to finish. I'll start looking for a new laptop to use on the road.

I guess today, there were two significant events: Headlight repairs, and Barber Motorcycle Museum. I'll talk about the headlight repairs first.

We got up and went outside to the bikes, each with a burned-out right headlight bulb. Changing that bulb is a royal pain... We removed the right mirror so we could see under the dash a little. It's covered by a cup that makes the assembly waterproof. That was easy to remove. Then the wiring harness needs to be taken off the bulb. That was a little more difficult because where it's located, you can't see any part of the bulb. And the space through which you have to pass your hand is just larger than your hand. And, to make it even more difficult, it has to be done with the left hand.

After the wiring harness is removed from the bulb, there are two wire springs that hold the bulb in place. They have to be pushed to the front and to the outside to remove them. Then the bulb can be removed from it's place. Removing is not the hard part. Installing the new one is the hard part.

The bulb has to be oriented in a specific way in order to fit properly in its socket. And once the bulb is in its socket properly, you have to swing the springs down and pushed in to the front and then bent to the inside. Hard to do when you can't see what you're doing and can barely reach it with your bad hand!

While Gary was working on his, I started working on mine, which was made even more difficult due to the fact that the wiring harness had broken during an earlier bulb replacement. After fooling with it a while, I decided that I had to get more room and visibility, so I removed one of the fairings on the right side. That made it possible to see the area where the bulb was located AND to work on it at the same time. I also opened my tool kit to get some long needle nose vise grip pliers, thinking that maybe I could pull the wires off the bulb terminals. It worked!! And the pliers made it possible to put the bulb in place and to bend the springs to hold the bulb in place at the same time. I actually got mine done in about 20 minutes!

When I finished mine, I helped Gary to do the same with his.

I tested mine to see that the bulb burned properly; it did. Gary tested his, and the bulb-out light stayed on his dash. He thought it did not burn. Instead, the LEFT bulb burned out!! I don't know why, but the RTs are famous for blowing both bulb s at the same time. (It happened to me once).

So, another trip to Autozone to get anther bulb. We installed it in the parking lot; it worked pretty easy because you can see and reach it. That concluded our headlight work, a task that I don't want to deal with for a long time.

If there is a heaven for motorcycles, the Barber Motorsports Museum has to be it! I can't begin to describe the museum and how well done it is. A couple of statistics might help to explain: over 1,400 motorcycles from 1903 to today's newest. 700 on display. Buys 2 motorcycles and one car a week on average. Museum is 5 stories; all open-air and highly visible. Each machine is said to be able to run within 2 hours of the decision to run it. Machine shop in basement to die for. Clean. Bright. Every display is perfect!

I've seen it twice; the first time 4 years ago, when about 500 machines were on display. At the time, I thought it couldn't get better; yet, it is better today. If you're into motorcycles at all, this place is worth whatever trip you have to make to see it.

I'll post several pics on this post to give just a tiny taste of what's there. No matter how good I say it is, it's much better!

In addition to the motorcycles, Mr. Barber has a great collection of cars. Mostly race cars--Corvette, Porsche, Lotus, Ford, and other cars like Formula I and Indy cars. Quite a nice collection of neat cars as well.

One interesting thing they do is about once an hour, they start some machine (car or motorcycle) and rev the engine to make noise. Today they started a Harley drag bike and ran the engine about 2 minutes or so, pretty much wide-open. It was LOUD! The crowd loved it and clapped to show appreciation when the motor was shut down. The museum lives!

Rode 60 miles today. Also watched some bikes qualify, but the real show was the museum.

Tomorrow-day 1 of the Superbike races.

Thursday, April 30, 2009

New Orleans to Birnimgham

Today was a fairly long haul. We got up, lazily got ready to leave, and headed out to the north. We had decided to ride across Lake Pontchartrain just north of New Orleans. It is a long causeway (although it's truly a bridge in my nomenclature--all is above water) about 28 miles long running due north across the middle of the river.

The sky was very overcast and it sprinkled from time to time all day. Temperatures were very reasonable; high 70s to low 80s. Some wind, but from the south. So, it was a very good day, weather-wise. It was a neat ride, the furtherest I had ever ridden on one continuous bridge. Nothing but water in every direction as far as I could see.

After crossing the lake.we looked at maps to see how we wanted to go to Birmingham. After some looking, we decided on a plan of smaller roads that step-staired across Louisiana, Mississippi, and Alabama. They went east and then another one north, then east, then north. Very little traffic, so the riding was easy.

Hit several decent rain showers, but they did not last long enough to be a problem. The Bumblebee did it's job in keeping me dry.

Late afternoon, Montezomas Revenge hit me, in the middle of nowhere. Needed a bathroom bad, but we were close to nothing. After what seemed like an eternity, a welcome sight was seen; a gas station/convenience store/restaurant appeared on the horizon. A welcome sight! We stopped, and I made it to the necessary room in time. Was glad I didn't mess up my pants. It hit me one additional time along the way, but I think it's now over. I imagine it's from some of the very unusual diet I've had over the past few days.

I saw one very disturbing sight along the way today. We were on Hwy 45 not too far from I-59, when we came upon a wreck that had happened not too long before we got there. Hwy is a 4 lane road, 65 mph limit, with side roads that opened directly into the Highway. At one of those intersections a car and a tanker truck collided. The car was flattened, and debris was all over the road, so I had to focus on the road to miss the glass and metal pieces on the road. What I did see were paramedics working on someone, giving CPR.very violently on someone. I've just never seen it actually being given to someone, and it was not a pretty sight. Very unnerving, to say the least. I could also see more bodies on the side of the road. Couldn't tell what condition they were in.

We were running a little late, so we decided to get on the Interstate and run on to Birmingham.

The ride on the Interstate was uneventful. Got to the hotel just before 7 pm,rested a few minutes, walked, and went to dinner.

Total mileage for the day was 399 miles.

Tomorrow--Barber Motorcycle Museum!

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Natchez to Nawlings

Today's ride was fun. I'll sum it up by saying that we followed the mighty Mississippi River for about 175 miles. We looked at maps and considered following LA 1 to a small island in the Gulf of Mexico, or going to New Orleans. In either case, we had to travel south and east, the same direction the river flows.

So, we discovered that all along the river runs a network of roads running parallel to the river and right against the dikes built to hold the river in during flooding. The roads go on and on and on, all 2 lanes, and almost no traffic along the way. Great riding. Speed limits were usually 55mph, with some lower, and good road surfaces. A great ride.

With the dikes beside the road, you can't see the river anywhere; the dikes are probably 18 feet higher than the road. But it was worth it to ride at an easy pace and having no traffic to deal with.

Occasionally, the main road (LA 1) and a town crowded the dike roads, and you had to leave them for a mile or so. But always, the river roads came back. I guess they exist to provide maintenance to the dikes whenever needed.

We saw 2 or 3 ferry locations along the way, taking vehicles across the river. We tried to take the first one we came to, but it was closed. So, we didn't get to do a ferry ride.

At one point along the way, I spotted a crop duster airplane dusting crops in huge fields along the dike. It would come over the dike, low and immediately dip to a few feet off the ground and spew the mist for whatever agricultural reason needed. WE watched him make 5 or 6 runs, with me wondering each time, how he knew where he had sprayed and what needed spraying next. GPS? Sight? I just wonder how he knows where to drop his load each time.

Oh, the nail in the tire. I decided that I had to deal with it in Natchez before we left civilization. So, after breakfast, I got the pliers out and gave it a slow, agonizing pull, hoping to not hear the hiss of air escaping the puncture. YES! It did not penetrate the lining of the tire, so there was no need to plug it. Made my day!

And, during the day, Gary's right headlight bulb burned out, too. So, each of our bikes has the right bulb burned out. We both bought replacements, and might have a bulb-installation party before we leave for home. I dread it; they are very difficult to install. The left one is a piece of cake, so, of course, the right one burns out! Oh well....

Had lunch at an interesting place in Baton Rouge, Deep South Barbecue. I know the sanitation grade would have been lower than what I'm used to eating at, but we decided to try it anyway. Gary had a BBQ sandwich. I gambled on a Rib sandwich, thinking that no one would sell a sandwich with the bone in it. I was wrong! Two ribs between two slices of grilled bread! Tasty, I must say, but very different. We survived!

After lunch, we continued our track down the river roads to a point where we had to decide where we were going for the night. On the side of the road, we talked about the pros and cons of going to the island at the end of Hwy 1 vs. New Orleans. Nawlings won!

So, we headed east into New Orleans, found a hotel, and went to the room.

After a shower and a brief rest, we walked to Bourbon Street, about a mile from the hotel. Drank a couple beers, listened to the pianos at Pat O'Brien's Bar, had dinner, and walked back to the hotel for the night. A long day, but a good one.

While I'm thinking about it, we ended up crossing the Mississippi 6 times total. It's a BIG river!

Mileage for the day was 257-not far, but given that we piddled along, a long day.

Tomorrow--North to Birmingham.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Riding the Trace

I'm going to combine two days of riding into one blog tonight.

On Monday morning, we left Franklin and headed northeast to the northern terminus of the Natchez Trace. We got a reasonable start, about 8:30am, and got onto the Trace about 5 miles south of the terminus. So, we rode north, got off, and got gas at a gas station beside the Loveless Cafe, an old, famous restaurant at the end of the Trace.

When I went inside to get some water, I asked the attendant if there was a welcome station nearby. She told me no, but handed me a map, her last one. She said there was a place about 7 miles south, and that there were lots of places along the way that had maps.

When I went to the bike, folded the map, and attempted to slide it under the map pocket on the tank bag, the bottom came unfolded. For those of you who don't ride, there must be an art to sliding a folded piece of paper (maps) under a clear plastic window. I never learned it! When I tried to refold it, and to slide it into the pocket, I simply pushed a big hole in the map. That made me so mad that I ripped it out of the pocket, wadded it up and threw it into a garbage can. I knew that there were plenty more along the way, so I'd just get another one down the road after I'd cooled off. WRONG!!

We stopped at every place along the way for the firs hundred miles or so, and NONE of them had a map! Oh well, the best plans of mice and men...

The Natchez Trace Parkway (it's official name), is a very neat road. It's 442 miles long, running from Natchez, MS, to Nashville, TN. It was first created by the Indians, and then later by settlers and traders. It was the Interstate of it's day. When it was learned that ships could sail all that way, it lost it's importance, and gradually fell into disuse. It has been obtained by the National Park Service, in the late 1930s, who now maintains it.

In the northern end, it's fairly mountainous, winding and climbing and falling along the landscape. Devoid of commercialization, it is a very quiet place, without all of the hustle and bustle of most roads today. There are a lot of turnouts and overlooks, but IMO, they are nowhere as nice or as pretty as those on the Blue Ridge Parkway. But there are lots of neat things along the way.

I think the most unusual feature is the number and variety of Indian mounds found along the way. Some are very huge (Emerald in the south), and some are fairly small. Some were apparently burial grounds, and some were places of ceremony. The largest, Emerald, is probably 40 feet high, and 200 feet long. Huge! Some are so low that they are almost indiscernible. Neat!

The weather was great both days. Low to mid 80s, with some breeze. With a speed limit of 50 mph or less, it was so nice to set the cruise control on 50 and just sit back and enjoy the scenery and listen to satellite radio. A very relaxing ride. I was worried that I'd get bored riding at that speed, but it was very nice for a change. No rush!

We rode 243 miles on Monday, staying in Tupelo, MS, at Tombigbee State Camp. We set up the tents, hoping threatening showers would hold off. They did!. Before going to the campground, we went to the Elvis Presley Park, to the house in which he grew up. It was after 5pm, so it was closed. But I got to see it and take pics.

We had been at the Presley Park and Gary noticed that the lights were on at my bike. I walked over to turn them off and thought no more about it. A little later, we got on the bikes and started off. I needed to turn mine off and restart it, so I did. When I tried to restart it, it would do nothing but click! The battery was dead! I tried rolling it to start, but it would not budge. So, I called Gary (who had ridden off without me) on the radio, and he came back. I got out the jumper cables, and after a few minutes, it started. I guess there's always some adventure with bikes!

The campground was okay; we had good campsites with neighbors on one side. The next morning, our neighbors offered us coffee, which was a great treat.

We broke camp and were out on the road by about 8am. Got back on the Trace and rode south.

We stopped at a number of sights along the way. Places where the original Trace ran. We actually rode on about a mile of the old road at one place. Stopped at French Camp and went to a museum and talked with one of the ladies who managed the museum. Pretty interesting things, and what impressed me the most was the pride the lady exhibited in showing us things in the museum.

Today's bike issues include one headlight bulb that burned out (there are 3, so I'm okay even if I don't change it), and my rear tire has a nail showing. I hope to pull out the nail and not lose air tomorrow morning. We'll see. If it leaks, maybe I can plug it successfully.

Stopped in Natchez at the beginning of the Trace and took some pics. Then rode across the Mississippi River into Louisiana, took some pics, and then back to Natchez and the motel for the night. Washed some clothes, had dinner, and am finishing the night with this post.

Rode 309 miles today and had only one rain shower.

Tomorrow: Louisiana.