Saturday, May 20, 2017

Nothing and everything

Mrs. North: "What do you think about all day with no music in your helmet?"
Mr. North: "You guys. Nothing. Everything. Oh but there IS music, just not a radio."

This was the conversation just prior to setting off for three days in the saddle, two solo days and a ride with my Dad and brother (on his new Honda NC700X).

St Paul to Milwaukee.
Milwaukee to Pine Bluff to Leland to Milwaukee.
Milwaukee to St Paul.

t-5 days

The trip started the Monday before when I rolled the Triumph out only to find a nail in my tire, the first in many years. I was able to plug it and ride into the nearest shop for a replacement. Amid the chaos that is spring time at a dealership, Tousley Motorsports was able to source a RoadSmart II for a good price and install it. I quickly filed that expense under "dues paid" and moved on, happy with my new tire.

Day 1

Saturday started out with a quick mountain bike ride and some grocery shopping with the family. The birds were chirping and the leaves were just starting to pop. The plum trees were in full bloom, standing out against the grey forest. By Monday, the leaves had fully popped and the white blossoms were lost in a sea of fresh green.

On the road by 1:00. 70 degrees and sunny.
First stop, a quick view of lake Pepin and cotton ball clouds. 

Selfie with limestone. 
An ancient sea bed in the middle of the continent.

Alma, WI.

More Mississippi River backwaters.
I met a fellow rider and owner of a new Yamaha from Eau Claire. 
Motorcycle people are good folks.

The Elroy - Sparta trail head.

A pair of proper English gents.

From Alma, I took some of my favorite county roads down to Sparta. County roads E - EE - N - D. That little detour up N is worth every second. I didn't have a ton of time to explore county roads so the remainder of the trip was spent on state highways (71 -33 - 60).

1:00pm - 9:00pm (7h 05m of go time)
352 miles

Day 2.

The sun was starting to shine through the windows when I woke up on my brother's couch. A small dog and child came to visit me in the wee hours of the morning, a rare morning that I get to spend with my nephews. I love those little buggers. Each one is cool and interesting in their own way. After some coffee and catch in the backyard the boys and their mom were off to church.

It was a sunny 45 degrees when my dad pulled up on the Tiger, ready to ride. I think we were all excited to spend the day bombing around Wisconsin together. I'm trying to remember the last time the three of us rode together.

There is a "young family" stage of life were nobody is really sleeping, you're just getting going in your career, and money and time are both tight. It's a special time but being Atlas is both rewarding and relentless. (and let us not forget Mrs. Atlas, the true pillar of our world)  This doesn't leave much in the tank for hobbies or long stints away from home.

The work is good and the ride, triumphant.

I think the new bike had bout 100 miles on it when we set off. My brother has had a handful of bikes over the years and I think he really enjoyed being on two wheels again. His job kept him working crazy shifts and most weekends. Now he's getting three out of every four weekends off and I think he's just starting to figure out what that means. (It's amazing what you can get use to, or not.)

I don't think my dad ever gets off his bike but he's retired and can do things like fly to Texas and rent a BMW. (does anyone have an R1200GT for sale?) He's a great pack leader and it was fun to ride behind him and my brother. He's been riding these roads for decades and took us on great little county  two lane roads. It's good to know a local.

It was a real treat to spend the day chasing my dad and brother around some of their old haunts. We rode at a relaxed pace and the ride was uneventful. All the riders and machines preformed excellently, navigating a small handful of technically challenging curves but mostly state highways and flowing back roads.


The justification for this ride was to participate in the Slimey Crud Run outside of Madison, Wisconsin. The ride's motto is ride fast, ride short. (or something like that) We did neither but had fun just the same. It's a loosely organized ride with a start and an end but no route. This year was well attended with bikes from all walks of life. The real treat for me is seeing all the old bikes and the characters that keep them going. There's a real chance that you could get behind an old Norton or Guzzi on a twisty back road.

Crud Run gem #1 at Pine Bluff

The Ride North Crew at Leland, a happy bunch.

Norton Atlas 650
(Has there ever been a better name for a motorcycle?)

CB 750 or 900F 

Something about this bike says, "ride me"

What happened to Connie?!? She's changed.

Leland, WI 
There's a fun little road hiding behind that barn.

Ferry crossing on the Wisconsin river.
You're never too old for your dad to buy you ice cream at the Merrimac ferry crossing.

If this goes south, we have a john boat and some duck decoys.

More ferry.

A rest stop on 60 along the Craw Fish River. 
This is an artesian well and runs 24/7.

We stopped at On The Rocks in Neosho, WI for dinner and to congratulate ourselves on a job well done. The "dining room" hangs out over the Neosho Mill Pond and the Ruben came with a slab of corned beef. It's good to know a local.

6h25m of saddle time 248 miles
Day 3

I spent a little less time with my folks than I'd like but there was a child who would be waiting for me to pick him up from daycare. If I had all day to get there I would have made my way back to The River, but this trip would be made at speed and in a straight line. (41 - 33- 94)

Stopped in at Moe's Dinner for lunch and a rest.

I can ride all day and feel great but four hours on the interstate is exhausting. It's deceptively difficult, things can get monotonous while you're cruising at 75 miles an hour. So, you need to come up with games to keep you on the ball. Now that the limit is 70, you'll have some people driving 85 and others doing 65. (plus wind and trucks and the possibility of deer) It's good to take breaks.

5h00m 320 miles

I made it home safely and with plenty of time for pickup. A full fifteen minutes before I had to be anywhere. 


- Ride North

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Good morning Saint Paul!

7:45 AM, 52F
Pre-rain atmosphere changing over to light rain.
Fresh rain smell.
Short cruise through Lillydale.
Triumph ran well.
Legs and arms stayed dry.

- Ride North

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

Asking a lot and expecting too much

More than just the carrot at the end of a long slog, looking towards a ride for restoration and clarity. Please wipe the slate clean and let me proceed with a clear mind and sharp sense of reality brought forth from being thrust into a world of twist, go, wind, cold, cars, trucks, gravel, trees, lakes, and air. To move forward with the force of many cylinders. Without motion there is no stability. Without thrust there is no maneuvering. There is no motorcycle without forward motion. It can not stand on its own. It can not go backwards. A rolling stone is not a stone. It is proto-soil, in moving forth from the mountain it becomes life.

Focused and obsessive, transportation is allowed to compete with loved ones for our attention and affection. Resting on the idea that salvation is at gloved hand. The helmet is a bucket for our thoughts, intervening in the process of appreciating the sharp edges and soft earth of our worlds.

The complexities of life make us do silly things and think silly thoughts, all very real and imposing in their time. A moving body seeks to stay grounded. A grounded body longs to move.

Thus concludes our creative writing session for today. May the wind rise to meet you and bring with it balance and perspective.

- Ride North

Sunday, April 9, 2017

One fine February day

Sixty degrees in February! (remember February?)

If I had half a mind, I'd put the battery in the Triumph and go for a ride. Being the half-brained biker that I am, that's just what I did. The roads north of Stillwater have been on my mind ever since taking the scenic route home from the Pumpkin Express train ride in Osceola, Wisconsin.

That guy was carrying a hockey stick. Love Minnesota.

The Ice Road at Bay Port, MN

Making tracks in February!

The cat likes the way I smell after a ride.

Found an unpublished post from this winter. I'm publishing to a.) brag about riding in winter and b.) remind my self why the Triumph is so filthy. It really needs a bath.

- Ride North

Thursday, April 6, 2017

Good morning Saint Paul!

It's been a wile since the Yamaha has stretched its legs, maybe five months. It eagerly fired up this morning, ready for a foggy ride into work. It was a damp 38 degrees and the mist was dancing off Pickerel Lake in little wisps of fog. I stopped at the canoe launch to get a better look and take in this quiet little St Paul spot. There were geese honking from the far edge, wood ducks and mallards overhead, and a little muskrat hopped in after I got too close.

An all together excellent start to the day, made better by a hot cup of coffee as I sat down to work.

Riding season is back!

- Ride North

Time to take down the thin ice sign. 

I was greeted to a little extra smoke while the bike warmed up. 

A couple turns of the wrench on the crossover's clamp had it mostly taken care of. I can still get the muffler gaskets but the mufflers have been screwed onto the headers for almost 40 years and I'd rather not break that streak.

Thursday, March 23, 2017

Motorcycle maintenance, knowing when to stop

The Ice Road in Bay Port Minnesota.

Like riding, simple maintenance can be made more difficult by any  number of circumstances. While there's no excuse for spillt oil, oil changes are not always performed on a full stomach. ( after breakfast, and coffee, on a sunny day with no other obligations ) To avoid making a simple task into Homer’s tale of woe you have to know when to stop and regroup.

In addition to experience, the professional mechanic has an unfair advantage, time. Not necessarily endless time but quality time. They are not working in a dim garage, after a full day of work and wrangling the kids into their beds, or late into the night on the evening of a big ride, although some do god bless em.

I like to split jobs into chunks and see how I’m doing along the way. Take installing a new chain. There is cleaning up the work space, preparing the new part ( degreasing and applying chain wax ) and getting the tools together. This can all be done the night before, or whenever you get a few minutes. It's always better to start with a clean work shop. Next there is chain removal and sprocket removal if you’re doing that too. Then the installation, which may involve cutting the new chain to length, installing a master link and riveting or clipping it in place. Measure twice cut once! Finally adjust the chain and get everything road ready. 

In the case of adjusting the chain, this is a super simple task but it is made much more difficult by your full work week, sick kids, and the work you just put into the bike. It’s something that can be left until tomorrow. Do it as part of the prep for your next ride. You’ll be amazed by how much more clear your head is and you’ll be more confident that the job was done correctly. 

Like riding, there are any number of risk factors that increase your odds of making a mistake while performing a simple task. Pushing through them, or ignoring them completely is not going to lead to success. You don’t want to catch yourself thinking, “did I tighten that axle bolt?”

- Ride North

Monday, February 27, 2017

BBBC Feb 27th - Nature trail or city street for walking?

Jr. North: Dad, can I be an outdoors man?

Mr. North: You bet bud.

Lucky for the both of us, Grandpa is always scheming out-of-doors trips. Friday night, he asked if I wanted to bring Jr. North on an ice fishing trip up to Lake Mille Lacs. I asked Jr. what he thought and he responded with, "can we fish until the sun goes down?" 

The next morning we were in the car on our way up to the big lake. Snacks were packed, plenty of dry clothes, lunches, tackle, ice house, auger, and minnows. We were and hour and a half from home with a little kid on the the ice all day, it's best to be over prepared in these situations. Mom threw in the tablet (with cartoons downloaded on it) which turned out to be clutch.

Jr. is not much for fishing, what kid is, but he loves drilling holes in the ice and scooping the slush out, throwing snow balls, playing with the minnows, eating junk food, and everything else that goes along with being an outdoors man. We couldn't get him to come into the fish house because, in his words, you couldn't be outdoors if you're in a house. It was 20 degrees F and sunny out with no wind, perfect ice fishing weather. It was cold but we were dressed for it and Jr. didn't complain once.

It was the Perch Extravaganza so we stopped at Johnson's Portside for buttons and Girl Scout cookies before heading out in the ice. The buttons got us into a raffle for fishing gear, a side-by-side quad, or one of three Ice Castles (Google it.) Jr was the only one to win, a bucket full of goodies. Beginners luck.

Over two feet of ice on the lake, any more and we would have needed a longer auger. Most of my day was spent watching Jr. clear ice out of the holes. (and bobbers that never really did much)

Sun shine is good for you!

Our little bay out of Isle, MN. As we were packing up, the puddle in my arms was genuinely disappointed that we were leaving before the sun went down. 

Mrs. North had some out-of-doors plans of her own. On Sunday we drove over to the local nature center and did some hiking. I think we were all really into being outside in the sunshine this weekend. We poked some holes in the ice with our walking sticks (to help spring get here), tackled the summit of mud mountain (a hill in the woods), found a turtle shell, followed deer tracks, and talked about the different plants in the slough (reed canary grass, bulrush, and cattails).

Worthy of note: he wanted to sit on all the benches. All of them. 

Hot chocolate mustache in the ice house. It's good to be an outdoors man.

Thank you for all the excellent prompts all month!

- Ride North

Friday, February 24, 2017

BBBC Feb 17th - Simple pleasure

Friday, February 17th:

Emerging from the office, the smell of warm air fills my face; it's 50 degrees out.

February has been dry, the streets are clean, and the sun is shining. I fully intended to go for a walk over lunch but instead I walked straight to my car and took off. I needed to get some work done that afternoon but I had an hour or so to myself.

Back in my garage, I put the battery in the Triumph, aired up the tires, gave it a quick walk around, and hit the go button. It fired up without delay, charger to charging down the road in under ten minutes. This is the first time I have ever ridden in February. Saint Paul is typically 20 to -15 degrees Fahrenheit this time of year. How or why this miraculous weather occurred doesn't concern me at the moment.

It was a simple pleasure to be out again.

This post (a week late) is part of the Brave Bold Blogger Challenge put on by

- Ride North

Thursday, February 23, 2017

BBBC Feb 22nd - Grey days

The grey days of winter abound with missed opportunities. Heavy doors shut out the wonders of a frozen world, secrets that no one cares to hear. Thawing eyelashes are treated to deep blue grey color fields occasionally organizing themselves into familiar shapes but sometimes not.


This post is part of the Brave Bold Blogger Challenge put on by The goal is to write everyday during the month of February

- Ride North