Road Trip#1: Day 2

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Today I road from Hollister to Los Banos, by way of Coalinga. The ride down Ca 25 was as spectacular as I remembered from when a Barbara and I drove it north to avoid traffic on US 101. Except this time it was a lot more green, courtesy of our winter rains. 

The last leg into Coalinga I did on Coalinga Road, which is a not terribly well maintained, fairly narrow bit of pavement. Which runs thru some beautiful, off the beaten track scenery. 

I was accompanied on that segment by Houston, a rider a bit older than me who lives in the Central Valley and was out exploring. We met at the Coalinga Road jump off, because the turn off isn’t labeled and his GPS had stopped working, so he wanted confirmation he was on the right route, which I was able to supply. It was nice having company, because there’s no cell coverage there, so if I’d had an accident, my iPhone-based crash detector would’ve been kinda useless. 

I also got to meet his rubber chicken squeak toy, Nasa. Because if he runs into difficulties, “Houston, we have a problem” 😀. I need to get a mascot of my own. 

From Coalinga to Los Banos I stayed off I-5, because I wanted to see a part of California most coastal denizens zoom by. It was both rewarding, to see one after another long established community exercising its creativity, and poignant, because many of them are struggling, or at least feel passed by. 

They all showed quite a bit of bustle, though. We’d all be better off, I think, if we figured out a way to link all that energy to the big pillars of the modern economy. Just think what it would be like to have a dozen Silicon Valleys and Biotech Gulches, all in California. Starting with the fact that mere mortals might be able to aspire to owning a home near where they work.

Road Trip #1: Day 1

  • Okay, on with the trip,

Day 1 was a brief hop from Santa Cruz to Hollister, getting ready to cruise thru the mountains behind the Pinnacles tomorrow. Assuming no one steals my bike overnight at the motel; even a sport tourer only weighs 650 pounds, and can be picked up by a few guys, even while locked (I’m not worried; besides, if you want to tour, you’ve gotta park somewhere). 

Hollister is a neat little city, mostly based on agribusiness I think. 

A few observations from the ride…

  • there’s a lot of beautiful landscape in California, which you don’t appreciate all that much when you travel by freeway;
  • there appears to be a significant Filipino-American population around here — I came across several signs announcing organizations and events focused on them;
  • the most impressive building in Hollister that I came across was a huge one dedicated to local veterans, which was nice to see;
  • there was a lot of traffic, even on the backroads…which was interesting, because the population density doesn’t seem all that high (it is an agricultural area, after all)

Road Trip #1: Day 0

My first official motorcycle road trip…meaning a multi day ride only being undertaken to sightsee from the saddle :).

This sequence should start with day 1…but since the adventure almost ended before it began, I thought starting with day 0 was appropriate. 

I’ve only laid a bike down three times, once on the road (thanx, Stanford, for putting me back together almost as good as new!) and twice in my driveway. The first time came on my first (unintentional) trip in the rain shortly after I started riding, when I was so relieved to get home in one piece that I forgot to put down the kickstand when I got off the bike. Turns out bikes can’t balance by themselves. 

Getting ready for this trip led to the second. It was drilled into me, in the CHP sponsored class I took to get my license, that you always, always check the lights, brake lights, turn signals, etc, before you get on a bike. 

My new Yamaha FJR, though, doesn’t turn on the headlight when you turn it on. The engine has to be running. So I adapted my training to include putting the bike in neutral and starting the engine. That let me check the headlights. 

But I forgot to shut it down and put it back into gear before mounting the luggage carriers. So, when torquing the luggage carriers to ensure they were securely mounted…I caused the bike to slide forward a fraction of an inch. Which was enough to destabilize the kickstand, and cause it to fold back into riding position. 

Bikes don’t balance well when their kickstands are up. You’d think I would’ve learned that. 

Sigh. Mucho $$$ damage to repair on a brand new bike, including a jittery left side mirror. But the dealer assured me the mirror wouldn’t come off, so I’m going on the long-planned trip anyway (turns out this kind of damage is not uncommon on FJRs). 

Memo to file: always leave the bike in gear when it’s parked and you’re not in the saddle. 

Meet the New Guy

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After thoroughly enjoying my Honda CB500X for years, I decided to upgrade. In part, I wanted more comfort, and some convenience features useful on longer trips. I also wanted to move beyond a chain-driven bike (most motorcycles transfer power from the engine to the rear wheel via what amounts to an amped-up bicycle chain…and those have to be maintained every 500 miles or so, at least on my Honda CB500X). Since most bike manufacturers don’t make drive-shaft bikes with small engines, I looked into buying a touring bike.

But then I found the Yamaha FJR-1300, a “sport touring” bike. Meaning it does touring just fine, looks sporty, and handles like a dream.

I experienced some trepidation about riding it home from the dealership. Would I be able to adapt to a slightly different shift lever location and a different handle bar configuration? How hard would it be to suddenly be operating a 1300cc/135 horsepower engine when all my experience was on a 500cc/45 horsepower engine? Would I blow myself off the saddle the first time I opened the throttle?

In the end, the transition was almost totally a non-event. The throttle is responsive, but not overly so, and you can leave it only a bit above “idle” for most city streets. My clutch work will probably suffer, because Yamaha rigged the clutch so when you start to engage it, the engine throttles up a bit. No more feathering the throttle when shifting, in most situations!

I ran into only three minor situations I have to work on:

  • the turn signal and horn controls are reversed from how Honda configures them. It’s embarrassing to blow the horn when you mean to signal a lane change.
  • the left foot rest moves more easily than on the Honda, so you can accidentally raise it when you don’t mean to. Disconcerting to put your shifting foot down and encounter nothing but air.
  • while the extra 200 pounds the bike sports is generally not noticeable, it sneakily shows up when making right turns from a stop on inclines. Oh, and pushing the heavier bike back into the garage, by foot, is much harder. Have to increase the weights I use on knee presses at the gym!

But, all in all, it’s a beautiful machine, and a dream to ride. Absolutely rock solid and stable when in motion (that’s the plus side of that extra weight).

Farewell, Faithful Steed!

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You were a great introduction to a pastime that I’ve grown to love more and more each year. And I don’t hold my one accident against you — it was clearly human error.

Fare the well…

A Good and Caring Man

Ray McHugh, Barbara’s dad, passed away, peacefully, on December 27, 2017.

He lived a long life, offering and finding much joy along the way. Always curious, he never stopped learning. Always gracious, he never missed a chance to share even just a few words with passersby. Always kind, he looked for the best in people.

His daughter Katie once asked him if there was any place in the world he wanted to visit, but hadn’t been able to. After thinking about it for a few moments, he answered, “Nope.” And that was not from a lack of adventurousness; over the course of his life, he visited all the places he wanted to see.

Born in Ohio, he not only survived a difficult youth during the Great Depression, but rose to take on the role of parent to his younger siblings when his dad was unable to. Moving to California, he completed his undergraduate and graduate work at Stanford University, and raised his family here, training many new teachers at Cal State Northridge.

He is survived by six children, six sons- and daughters-in-law, and eight grandchildren. He was a good man, and will be missed.

2nd Amendment Brainstorming

The latest round of gun-fueled insanity in Las Vegas has prompted, once again, calls for more rational gun control in these United States. Including by me.

But it occurred to me today that draconian shifts — which is what those of us appalled by the slaughter of little kids and concert goers keep pushing for — are, based on empirical evidence, probably unachievable.

Put another way, if the murder of screaming, terrified kindergartners and primary school students isn’t going to motivate us to take action, it’s likely nothing will. At least for that kind of contemplated action.

But that’s not the total universe of possible actions. In fact, when you remember “politics is the art of the possible”, maybe we can aim lower, and, if not eliminate this insanity, at least put a leash on it.

So here’s an idea. What if we amended the 2nd Amendment from this:

A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.

To something like this:

A well regulated Militia being helpful to the security of a free State, the right of individuals of sound mind to keep and bear a modest number of Arms for personal use and protection, subject to reasonable regulation to maintain public safety, shall not be infringed.

This wouldn’t prevent gun ownership, for whatever reason, provided you can demonstrate you’re not a maniac, or nuts, or a risk to the rest of us.

It would clarify that this is a personal right, not associated with being part of a militia…which also opens the door to regulating groups of individuals organizing themselves with firearms.

And it explicitly acknowledges that this right of ownership, which exists, in part, to help maintain public safety (i.e., as a free State), must be balanced against the negative consequences that indiscriminate firearm ownership poses to public safety (i.e., the carnage we keep witnessing, and which we’d all like to reduce or eliminate).

Not being a Constitutional scholar, or lawyer, I won’t claim this as the last word. But I’m interested in hearing people’s reactions to it, and thoughts on how to improve it or redraft it.

The Old Truths Must Be Preserved!

My brother Art & my sister-in-law Diane recently got back from a trip to western Germany, where, among other things, they were digging into the Olbert family tree (Diane’s been doing a lot of research into family history over the last few years).

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Baboon Butts

Years ago I read about an interesting aspect of baboon social behavior.

The males have a variety of rituals they go through when they are trying to assert dominance…but if one male baboon moons another, it always ends up in a teeth-and-claws fight.

Now, I’m not sure of the provenance of this information, so it may be inaccurate (I tried searching online, but while I turned up a lot of interesting information about baboon butts, I didn’t find a reference to this particular assertion).

But the author who made this observation in a novel was making a point that goes beyond our hairy primate cousins: sometimes you have to use training, intelligence and adaptability to overcome one’s built-in wiring. You can’t always operate on instinct. Which should be obvious…but often isn’t.

This all came back to me as I watched what’s developing between the US and North Korea. Here’s hoping the Glorious Leaders involved in this pas-de-deux think about the Lesson of the Baboon’s Butt.

But I’m not sanguine about their doing so. Because I have my doubts about their collective training, intelligence and adaptability.

Sigh

One of the odder things about getting older is the unexpected — and unanticipated — systems failures you get to experience along the way.

For the past few years I’ve been pretty diligent about going to the gym, at least four times a week and often every day except Sunday. That’s kept me in reasonably good shape, and, in fact, made it easier to do stupid things, like weeding the garden from a stooped position. In fact, I didn’t even think about what I was risking by doing that. At least up until something would give out in my back.

Even with being a slow learner about such things, I eventually realized it’d be better to go back to the “old ways” and sit on the ground while weeding. Problem solved!

So you can imagine my consternation yesterday when, while sitting on the ground weeding, I pulled some grass out and did something so awful to my lower back that even today I’m having trouble with walking, let alone anything more strenuous. And it wasn’t even a deeply-rooted clump of grass!

Sheesh. Where’s the warranty on this thing??? 🙂