Thursday, December 20, 2018

Out on two wheels

I've been out on two wheels enjoying the winter weather. Commuting, as usual. I picked up some fenders and put them to work the past couple weeks. They are amazing, it's been sloppy, snow-covered-street riding for the first half of December but the temps were perfect (10-28F). With the fenders I was able to ride to work in my shoes with just some over pants, light coat, bacalava, and heavy gloves. And helmet of course. I'll have to put together a write up on winter biking soon. So far, it's the only time of year that I bike to work. because, you know, I have a motorcycle.

I made the trek to DePere for the family Christmas party this year. It was great to see all the Steinhofers, my how the kids have grown! (I didn't say that out loud, at least not to the pre-teens and teenagers.)

Some road worthy reporting: there was hoar frost covering all the land form St Paul to Wausau, even my six year old thought it was a beautiful winter wonderland. I love getting out and seeing the world with nothing more to do than drive.

We did some exploring on the way back, stopped just south of Wausau to do some hiking at Big Eau Pleine county park. It sits on a peninsula that sticks out into an impoundement on the Wisconsin River. (It's actually the Bige Eau Pleine River and the dam is at the confluence.) Google Maps had us driving down all kinds of questionable roads as we worked our way up from highway 10. (We stayed the night in Neenah, of man-hole cover fame, which is why were on 10 and not 29. Thanks Jane and Todd!) One of the roads, County O, cut straight across the Big Eau Pleine reservoir. It was a cool little detour.

Big Eau Pleine Co. Park has hiking, horse back riding trails, mountain biking trails (important to our family), and camping. This was mostly a scouting trip for next summer. :)

It's been a good December, busy but in a good way.

- Ride North

Thursday, November 29, 2018

the bringer of joy

A quiet morning.
The sun eases over the pines.
Finally, it is cool.
The dawn’s humidity is felt.
I am open.
I move in long, straight, determined lines towards the promised end of the rainbow.
Somewhere in the distance a rendezvous awaits.
The day’s labors come and go effortlessly.
This lump of metal spins freely as it is want to do.
Its fiery hum will push out anxiety.
A soul will rest.
The light shines in.

"Hear me, dear friends. This is the motorcycle, the bringer of joy." - Fuzzygalore

Inspired by Fuzzy's post "Be an evangelist for the church of the motorcycle".

Thanks Fuzz, I love your blog!

- Ride North

Wednesday, October 24, 2018

Time for goals, decisions, plans.

Looking of opportunities. Setting goals.

Evening rides 
5:00 – 9:00 when sun is out until 8 or so. Head out from work. Stop for dinner. 4 hours on the bike is a real win. Maybe I should see how far I can get in two hours, north, south, east, and west. Now there's  a goal! Get out, unwind. Explore. Decompress. Reset and be ready for the weekend. Take “me time” so I’m ready for all the “not me time”.

Limited weekend excursions.

Time with Dad, Russ, Todd. Time alone/ away to reflect, get perspective, regroup. Opportunity to explore. Need to do some planning for the spring ride, the group is itching to go new places, and see new things. Also, a weekend ride to the kettles is doable and works well with schedules.

Just a great way to start the day. Stay connected to the outside world/ seasons/ elements/ weather. Practice. Practice. Practice. Keep my skills sharp/ head in the game. I think it’s more dangerous to be an occasional rider, always fighting through the rust, never improving.

Parking lot drills. Find a lot, get to work.
Training, MSF refresher/ expert. Dakota Tech classes.
Get out and do this.

Test runs.
Fix, make adjustments and do some testing. With the new FI bike I should have less of this but, it has been a big part of my riding. Like trying to figure out my fuel issue that only happens on hot days w/ steady throttle and a ¼ tank. Had to put in the wrenching hours and test miles for that one! (It’s hard to be me)

Buying and selling. Urgh.
Almost as bad as a mechanical issue that you can’t pin down. I just don’t enjoy the transition. I prefer to know a bike really well and focus on the other aspects of riding, like road strategy and planning adventures. I’ll be doing some selling in the spring. Hopefully it will be quick and I can move on.

Physical health
Bicycle commuting and hitting the gym. I sit at a desk most days and it's just not a healthy thing to do. One of the biggest factors in my mental and physical health is setting aside some time to put in some real physical effort several times a week. It just changes you outlook on the world. Cary over goal form last winter: cycle to work 2x per week. (Yes, I said winter.)

Just a quick brainstorm of possibilities, goals maybe. The core of my goals are to stay sharp on the bike and to stay (get really) fit off the bike. To be present and prepared.

- Ride North

Wednesday, October 17, 2018

Finding direction

It's time to reassess and refocus. What do I need? What do I want out of motorcycling? We've transitioned  form an infant/ toddler household to something considerably easier, or maybe I'm just enjoying this stage of parenting more.

The family circus act has changed and my motorcycling needs have changed with it. I'm not necessarily free to roam the planet on 2 wheels, but I do have considerably more opportunities to spend days in the saddle. Opportunities I don't always take.

Back when the kid was really little I was tied to the homestead. I kept my head in the game by undertaking some shop projects in the garage, a 1978 Yamaha and a 1996 Triumph. I learned a lot about working on old bikes but I also learned that I get too emotionally involved in the process. Something difficult becomes frustrating, failures can become battles. That's not something I need to drag back into the house with me. Although I did find some Zen and Art along the way. Maturity? Maybe but, it's a process you need to be open to.

"If you're going to sit, sit. If you're going to stand, stand. But never wobble." - a Zen saying

Are the stakes too high now? The kid needs a dad, and I need to be there for him as he grows. Mrs. North need Mr. North and I need her. The weight of this has never felt heaver, the stakes are the same but served with a deeper appreciation.

What am I getting from motorcycling? Challenge and triumph. Questions and answers. Transportation.

Whenever I'm gone on the bike I develop a better appreciation for being back. I think that's the core of why I do it. To better love and understand what it means to be home with my family and routines. And that has real value. It's something I don't bring into my relationships otherwise. (I'm a miserable grump when I get trapped into a routine for too long.)

As a Geezer with a Grudge once wrote, "If you're not asking yourself these questions, you have no business on a motorcycle." (or something to that affect)

"If you are going to ride, ride. But never wobble." - Mark Richardson

- Ride North

Richardson, M. (2008). Zen and now: On the trail of Robert Pirsig and Zen and the art of motorcycle maintenance. New York: Alfred A. Knopf.

Friday, August 31, 2018

Maine again

I've been neglecting my blog again.

Mrs. North and I made our annual pilgrimage to Maine in August. Almost four weeks ago now.

A handful of photos, taken on my phone, turned out like paintings. It must have been a combination of the heat and the water, and the way the phone compressed and resampled the images. Or maybe Maine just looks like a painting.

One of these days I'll get back to documenting all the mischief I've been up to. Sooner than later, summer is slipping away.

- Ride North

Friday, July 20, 2018

Ode to Triumph

I ride an 885cc, 550 lb.Triumph Trophy triple, built in 1996, and I love it!

 Recently an opportunity to replace it came up which sent me on a bit of a scavenger hunt. I was confident that many bikes would tick all my sport touring boxes. The progress made in twenty years is truly outstanding. But I hit a snag when I crossed two classes of bikes off my list. I’m not looking for a roomier sport bike like a VFR and I’m really not that interested in a bike over 600 pounds or 120 hp. I just don’t need either of those things in my life. What I do need is some weather protection, a lump that’s easy to use around town, and confidence inspiring handling. In those regards, the Trophy finds itself in an elite class.

The old Trophys were much more comfortable than the Sprints that followed them. It will knock out a 5 hour stint on the freeway no problem and can be ridden all day without fatigue. (the Corbin saddle helps) And it’s far less mass than a modern Trophy, which competes more with BMWs K bikes than their RT twin. It’s a cushy sport bike that can truly tour, a combination that seems to be missing from many manufacturers’ lineups.

That’s not to say it has no modern peers, I just expected to find more. So what’s on my radar? First of all, the Moto Guzzi Norge ticks all my boxes and comes with ABS, fuel injection, plenty of torque, and easy going handling that doesn’t mind playing a sport bike on the weekends. The FJR1300 is a proven platform if not a little bigger than I’d like. From what I can tell, it can be a perfectly good commuter. A Versys 1000 would be an absolute blast, upright yet sporty with long legs for soaking up St Paul’s crumbling infrastructure. And of course BMW’s R1200RT or ST if you can find one. 

I believe the BMW RT has been a consistent favorite because of its friendly power plant, excellent handling, comfort, and reasonable size. It’s just an effortless bike to use day-to-day that will tour and carve corners. It’s not the fastest bike out there and has its issues (ABS). There’s a reason people put so many miles on them, the bike just makes riding easy. These qualities have been a winning combination for decades.

I really didn’t expect a 20 year old Triumph to keep such good company until I set out on a search to replace it. There are surprisingly few motorbikes out there that inspire me to go through the hassle of selling, buying, and dialing in a new bike. Don’t get me wrong, it has 20 year old bike problems: some of the rubber components needed replacement, it has carburetors (which is a non-issue for me), no ABS or traction control, and the bodywork is no longer available from Triumph (most other parts are still available). 

I rode the Trophy to work this morning, cool temps and a light drizzle. A proper English commute. It felt right at home.

No new bike for me yet but you never know when inspiration will strike.

- Ride North

Thursday, June 7, 2018

Friday, May 25, 2018

Taking in the scene

Rockers Spring Social 2018
by Ton Up Minneapolis

Rockabilly and recycling. 

El Toro lento

a Ural Soloist gets cafed

Flake for days.

This is a new to the U.S. Genuine G400C available at Scooterville.
It's a 400 "Honda" single that makes about 30 hp. 

Triumph Sprints and V11 Guzzis belong together.

best friends, circa 2009 

After the show and some coffee, I took the XS500 down River Road from the Mill City Museum to lower town St Paul. It was a gloriously beautiful ride under a canopy of trees with very little traffic.

Sunday, May 20th
70 and sunny - perfect
20ish miles but who's counting

- Ride North

Tuesday, May 15, 2018

South east Minnesota, Iowa, and Wisconsin

Got out for a quick 28 hours last Friday and Saturday.

After work on Friday I rode down to Preston Minnesota to meet Todd and my dad at the Country Trails Inn & Suites. This is a great place to stay if you're in the Preston/ Lanesboro area. It has a pool and hot tub, and is conveniently located next to a bowling alley, liquor store, gas station, and supper club. The area is popular for its trout streams, turkey hunting, paved bicycle paths, camping, and motorcycle roads. Expect to run into all sorts of happy folks eager to share stories of their adventures. 

After a beverage on the hotel “patio” we walked up the hill to the Branding Iron super club for old fashions and steak dinners. Neither the view nor the cocktails disappoint, and the food is good too. Afterwards, we stopped in at the bowling alley bar to check out the local scene. Turns out that WE were the local scene. After one round we called it an early night and pointed our boots back towards the hotel.

the Branding Iron, Preston Minnesota

I had a route planned for the next morning that would take us on a tour of south east Minnesota and spit us out in Lansing Iowa around lunch time. Todd and my dad brought their adventure bikes so a little gravel was in order. The lack of paved roads differentiates the Minnesota and Iowa Driftless area from Wisconsin. Gota keep those milk trucks clean! If you want to explore the valleys of Minnesota, you’ll have to get dirty. 

The usual cast of characters.

First on my list was Ox Cart Trail. It’s the back way into Lanesboro and goes up and over a limestone ridge. The highlight is a one lane section that hugs the cliff face on one side and provides views of downtown Lanesboro on the other. It was also a good warm up for what turned out to be reasonably loose gravel roads. 

From there we hopped on highway 16, a blue ribbon road, and found our way over to highway 43. Forty three winds down into the Root River valley (south branch) following the contours of the land as it goes. In the town of Choice we head east on Fillmore County 13/Huston County15, following the river downstream. 

an "abandoned" church on CR 13, 
tents were pitched on the grounds this weekend

Minnesota 76  from CR 4 to CR 22 is a little piece of heaven which was discussed over coffee at a the Farmhouse Eatery & Gifts in Caledonia. I recommend  the coffee cake. Heading out we found another gravel road (CR 249) that would take us to the big river. The closer you get to the Mississippi the grander the views get, towering bluffs and broad valleys. We even caught two eagles with their talons locked as they fell into the valley below us. 

Bob Ross clouds over 76

We picked up lunch in Lansing before traversing the river and taking Wisconsin 82 over to 131 and Wildcat Mountain, roads we are all very familiar with.

Normal spring water levels in Lansing Iowa, 
time to fetch the trailer.

Todd and my dad were staying in the Dells Saturday night before heading to the Slimy Crud run in the morning, I needed to be back in St Paul that evening. We parted ways in Ontario and I set out to find a nice place for a nap before making the journey home. The park at lake Neshonoc, just east of La Crosse, worked out just fine. 

I took mostly straight roads back to highway 35 (108 to Mindoro is under construction) and followed the river back to Prescott. Around Pepin a powerful front came through blowing leaves and branches all over the road. Rain gear on, I watched the storm and lightning roll across lake Pepin. It was beautiful, if not a little damp. As quickly as the storm came it rolled out again leaving a spectacular sunset in its wake. 

At the bird / drawn bow effigy. Hwy 35 north of Pepin.
Even the rain was good on Saturday.

Hwy 52. St Paul to Preston

Preston to Lansing

Lansing to Ontario and back to St Paul
Friday May 4th 
112 mi. 1:48
5:00 - 7:00 PM
60 and sunny

Saturday May 5th
363 mi. 8:11
9:30 AM - 8:30 PM
70s and sunny with a popup storm in the evening

- Ride North

Rooster's rules of the road
The closer you get to your destination, the harder the rain falls.

Different Rooster.
I need to track one of these down.