Women’s Freedom Ride 2018

Women’s Freedom Ride, 2018, Part 1

I was only able to participate for a few days in this year’s Women’s Freedom Ride (WFR), but it was a wonderful experience. Last year’s ride transformed me from a timid beginner rider to an experienced, confident rider.

I was able to ride to Garden City, Kansas on Tuesday to meet up with the WFR coming in from Colorado. I was so excited to get started that I got up at 2am, took care of my kittens, packed my stuff and put my bike in gear at 5:30 am. It was a cool morning at 60 degrees, so I had to wear a heavy leather jacket and gloves.

I headed west on Interstate 80 and set my cruise control at 78 mph, so as not to meet Nebraska Trooper Friendly. I’d filled the tank the day before and can generally ride 150 miles before stopping for gas. The time went quickly, as it was a beautiful morning to travel. There were a LOT of deer carcasses on the road and I counted on the Goddess of Safe Biking to protect me and she did a great job. I never saw any live animals on the roadway and was able to safely dodge those on the road who weren’t. Hitting a possum in the road can put a bike down, it’s not the same as in a car.

I was only underway about an hour when I saw “Nebraska Mountains” on the horizon. We don’t have anything close to mountains, but we have serious threatening weather fronts with dark clouds that certainly look like mountains. As this front approached like the giant alien space craft from a sci-fi movie, I could see that the impending darkness went all the way to the ground. Oh, boy, a serious frog strangler rain storm approaches. After all my past experiences, rain doesn’t intimidate me. Hail does, but not rain.

The best way to deal with rain is to make it go away and remain dry. That’s done by stopping at a rest stop and putting on your rain suit. You never stop on the side of the road, that’s a good way to get killed and you never wait until it’s raining to do so, either. It takes a good 5 minutes, possibly 10, to put on all your rain gear. By then, you’d be soaked to the skin and the rain suit would keep you wet. I have pants, jacket (brilliant florescent pink for visibility), boots and waterproof gloves. So, I lay on the ground and wrestle the pants up over my huge motorcycle boots and get ready to rumble, as Michael Buffer would say. I look up at the clouds and say, “You want a piece of me?”. Bring it on, Barbie.

It worked like a charm. The huge front enveloped me like the blob. There was no rain, just darkness. I rode on. It circled around me, trying to intimidate me, but never actually produced any water. As I rode, it seemed to lose it’s interest in me and finally just left me alone.

I stopped for gas, used the rest room, drank a bottle of water and changed to lighter clothing. Once again, I wrestled around on the ground to remove the rain suit, then rolled it up and put it back in the saddle bag.

The clouds blew away and the sun kissed my bike, which was still sparkling clean. Good thing, as I always tell people it won’t start if it’s dirty. She loves to run, so now we leave the Interstate and take off to the south on 2-lane asphalt. I’d put the address of that night’s motel into my bike’s navigation system and she did a great job of guiding my travels.

I was moving into Western Kansas, wheat country. It’s amazing how flat these high plains are. Through the “miracle” of genetic engineering, wheat today is nothing like our parent and grand parents grew. The song describes “amber waves of grain” and I remember seeing those waves in the wind just like waves moving on the ocean. Not any more. Genetics changed the wheat to increase the yield by adding more grains to the stalk. The problem was that the stalk couldn’t hold the added weight and it fell over easily, ruining the crop. No problem, we’ll just shorten the stalk. Boy, did they ever.

The wheat was so short that I had trouble telling if it was really wheat or just brown grass. This is harvest time for wheat. The stalks were only about a foot tall. I wondered if they needed to build new combines to harvest this short stuff. Even in the fairly windy conditions, there were no waves, just solid, unmoving brown crops. We may have to change the song. At least we still have purple mountain majesties.

Next in Part 2. Finding gas can be a real challenge in the vast prairie of Western Kansas.

Biker adventure in OK City 2018

ADAS is “Advanced Driver Assistance Systems”, the new technology to keep drivers safe. This is the collision avoidance system, lane departure warning and so on. You get it. It pays attention so you don’t have to.

It doesn’t have a nose. (?)   Yes, a nose. This is a serious safety system when riding a motorcycle.

 

I’m in the center lane of 3 lanes of dense traffic moving through Oklahoma City. Traffic is heavy and I’m on my motorcycle, feeling a little vulnerable. I smelled something hot. It’s a hot day and we’re in the city, so what?

 

It’s a stronger smell now, burning rubber. I shook the handlebars of my bike. I’ve had a flat tire at 75 mph before, so I knew how a bike reacts when that happens. My bike is apparently fine so far.

 

I’ve also witnessed a number of high speed blowouts, which scatter hazardous rubber and steel chunks like a grenade. Each chunk of rubber can be fist sized or larger and have razor sharp wires protruding in all directions. These will puncture a tire with ease and I don’t care to know what they’d do to skin.

 

It’s a hot day and I’ve seen evidence of blowouts dozens of times just in today’s travel. One of the drills learned in the Motorcycle Safety Course is steering around debris in the road. I’ve been doing a lot of that to avoid these little roadway land mines.

 

The burning rubber smell is pronounced now and my senses are at their peak. I know someone is about to blow a tire, I just don’t know who or where. I scan rapidly back and forth. I see smoke from the right rear of a Mercedes, in the left lane about 2 car lengths ahead of me.

 

I ease up on the throttle, to put a little distance between me and the Mercedes. The car doesn’t slow down and shows no reaction. A part of me wants to get beside them and signal them. Another part of me says they won’t understand or, worse yet, will think I mean to harm them. So I wait.  I can’t get too far back, traffic is dense and I don’t want to introduce other vehicles in front of me who might get tangled up and involve me. I also don’t want to get rear ended by a texting driver behind me.

 

Smoke is now pouring off the right rear, just like a NASCAR racer heading for the pits to change a tire. Amazingly, still no reaction. They’ve got to smell it. Does no one ever check their mirrors?  I see the rubber part of the wheel wobbling now. It won’t be long. Little rubber bits are now flaking off. I move over to the far right lane, the smoking car stays where it is in the far left lane. It hasn’t slowed down or anything. Geeze.

 

Now, the rubber is flailing and finally, the tire lets go. The entire tread, completely round and intact, slips off the wheel and heads directly to the right, straight for a semi tanker truck. Rolling like a hula hoop, it rolls right into the truck. I figure the truck will take it out. I was wrong. The tire slipped unharmed right under the truck, directly into my line of travel. It quickly crossed the right lane, bounced off the outside barrier and headed straight for me.

 

I’ve learned to stay cool under fire and my brain immediately went into all sorts of mathematical calculations regarding speed and direction to help me decide what to do. I hit the brakes and steered to the right edge of the road, right where the tire was. It was heading left, I was heading right. It had just exited my lane as we passed. Holy jeepers. I exhaled a sigh of relief.

 

This is another very important skill to learn, called “target fixation”. Most drivers will fix their gaze on the sudden obstacle in the road. The bike will go where you look, so if you look at an obstacle, you’ll run right into it. It’s important to look where you want to go. I wanted to go to the right side of the moving tire, so I fixated on the area behind the moving tire.

 

My sense of smell told me this was coming. That enabled me to see the whole thing unfold like it was in slow motion. Had I not been paying attention, I’d have impacted the tire. There is no current technology that would have advised me this was coming like my nose. A substantial amount of rider training gave me the rider skills to deal with the situation. Nose, training, experience, practice. Riding a motorcycle has made me a much better driver.

 

The Mercedes continued on like nothing had happened, riding on the metal wheel, like some chase scene out of COPS. I hit the gas and rode on.

Lunch Ride to the One-Eyed Cricket Saloon

 

I’m working on longer rides and Wichita, Kansas is about 550 miles round trip from my home in Lincoln, Nebraska. The road is good and it’s a nice ride.

 

A friend said I should try the One-Eyed Cricket Saloon. It’s a great little dive bar with good food. So, it has been decreed as the goal for this ride. We looked it up online and had trouble getting it to come up. Finally, we found its address and checked the Google street view, which shows its front door.

 

I put the address into my bike’s navigation system and it registered. Enjoying a nice 550 mile bike ride in a single day involves some planning and having a distinct destination isn’t necessarily one of the prime objectives. I mean, I often change directions on a whim, however, it’s no fun to get lost and have great difficulty actually locating the place you want.

 

I’ve already checked the weather and, while Lincoln was supposed to be cold, Wichita’s forecast was 90 degrees and sunny.  I planned to leave at 6 am the next morning.

 

I awoke to the sounds of thunder. How far off, I sat and wondered. No need, as I could hear pouring rain right outside my window. Terrific. While I CAN ride in the rain, I wanted to enter my bike in the Women’s Bike Show at Frontier Harley Davidson the next day. My Harley has more nooks and crannies to clean after being ridden in the rain than a fine china shop has after a heavy dust storm. I can clean and detail a 35 foot bus in less time than it takes to wash my bike.

 

I waited until the pavement was dry, which was around 8:30am. It was 53 degrees, windy and cold. The lure of sunny skies spurred me to action. I jumped on and hit it. As I was heading out of town, I could see a very nasty black cloud directly in my path that extended to the ground. Fine, I’ll just head south and drive around it. After another mile, it seemed that the cloud had moved south and another had popped up back to the west in its place.

 

There’s only one way I know to prevent rain. Stop and spend 5 minutes putting on a rain suit. I’ve seen bikers riding in the rain before and they always looked cold and wet to me.  After doing this, I found that with the right gear, I can ride all day at 80 mph in the rain and arrive as dry as a cheap piece of truck stop toast.

 

Step one is to sit on the ground and put on rain boots. They extend nearly up to your knees. Then, you slip on the rain pants over your existing clothes and draw the elastic waist band well above your natural waist. The bottom of the pants has 4 velcro fasteners to make the legs nice and snug to reduce flapping in the wind. Finally, the outer top rain jacket goes on. It has Velcro at the end of the sleeves for a snug fit. More Velcro secures the full length flap covering the zipper and it seals tight around the neck. Waterproof gauntlet cloves slip over the ends of the sleeves.

 

While I said 5 minutes, it’s more like 10 minutes. This particular outfit is a brilliant fluorescent pink that makes me highly visible a quarter mile away. The only problem is, now I have to pee.

 

I set off once again to conquer the storm, weather the elements and show mother nature that I’m not easily deterred. It was cold at 53 degrees with high humidity. A rain suit does a lot to keep you warm and I’m moving right along I-80 at 78 mph. The clouds seemed to dissipate a little. I never got a drop of rain and soon it was time to turn south on Highway 81.  That goes right through Wichita and if you keep going, it will take you 1200 miles straight south to McAllen, Texas and across the border to Mexico.

 

The black clouds seemed to come and go, as if to tease me into dropping the suit. I’m not falling for that old gag and the bike and I were still untouched by water. The weather gradually warmed up and the stiff north wind started to die down. Halfway to Wichita is Concordia, Kansas, 147 miles from my start. I stopped for my only gas stop on the trip down. I like to get gas from 140 to 180 miles and not waste time or run out of fuel.

 

When I pulled into the gas station, the sun was out, sky was blue and the temperature was 73 degrees. Wooooohooo. I took off my rain gear and packed it away. I took off my heavy black leather jacket and my also heavy inner liner jacket. Those and my very heavy gloves went into the rear touring pack (trunk) of the bike and out comes my lightweight, highly vented leather jacket for mild and hot weather. I filled up, used the facilities and drank a bottle of water. Water is a necessity at every fuel stop and those are about 2 hours apart. It’s important to take a break then, as well. 10 minutes is all I need, but I have to remember that 550 miles in one day is not a sprint, it’s closer to a long distance run, so pacing is important.

 

I get back on the road and can now just enjoy the ride. It’s lovely to see the little cowlets and horselets close to their moms. Spring is a great time to ride. Everything was very green and all the ponds were full. Life is good.

 

In seemingly no time at all, I’m getting low on gas again and pulling into Wichita. I follow my route and stop to get gas, so that’s out of the way. As I get off the freeway and start into the residential territory of the One-Eyed Cricket, I’m noticing a little graffiti, then fences around businesses and parking lots. Soon, bars guard the windows and doors. Oh, my. I’m a little concerned about my element. Sigh of relief, I’ve arrived at the address. However, the One-Eyed Cricket has passed on to oblivion and no longer exists. It now has a different name and even THAT isn’t open right now. I was relieved.  I dodged the broken glass in the parking lot and hit the gas.

 

I got quickly got back on the freeway and headed for home. I began my search for lunch, as it’s now 3 pm and I haven’t eaten yet. I was saving myself for the Cricket. I rode about an hour and saw a sign for a sports bar. As I was exiting, there was another sign for a different brew pub. Oh, boy.

 

The first place had 2 cars in the parking lot, so I continued on past. The next place didn’t have many more. My Dad was a travel expert and sage seeker of quality diners and dives. He had several rules for food. The first one is to never stop at any diner that doesn’t have cars in the parking lot. He said if the place is empty, the food is usually the reason. Although 4 in the afternoon isn’t exactly prime dining time, it was Friday afternoon and these were sports bars.

 

I found one of my reliables, Applebee’s. I ordered my favorite, cedar-planked grilled salmon. From a nutrition standpoint, salmon is at the top, as evidenced by the size of the bears that catch them in the river.

 

It was 91 degrees and sunny, with a stiff tail wind out of the south. Flat level ground and a tail wind meant I could use 6th gear on the Harley. At 78 mph, the engine seems to be barely into operating range and the low rumble indicates it’s not working hard at all.

 

The route home was just the flip side of the trip down. I had to stop and put on my heavy clothes. The forecast said no rain, but there soon was heavy overcast and the sun went on break. The cold north wind checked back into weather’s tag team match against me.  I’m not getting into the rainsuit again. I kept thinking I felt a drop of rain, but I never had any visual verification.

 

I arrived home with a clean bike and a full stomach. Final miles: 573 for the day. I felt good. This was the most I’ve ever ridden in one day on a motorcycle. I gain more confidence as a biker chick.

 

This was an exercise in preparedness as a biker. I started with cold weather, switched to rain gear and wet, cold weather. As the temperature went up, I switched to mild weather, then to serious hot weather. Each of these changes requires different clothing and equipment. The very reason I ended up riding a touring bike is to enable me to carry the gear I needed for each of these situations. I had 4 different jackets, 2 pair of pants, 2 options for boots and 3 different pairs of riding gloves.

I’m worn out just thinking about it. Having all this and being the ultimate prepared Girl Scout made this ride extremely enjoyable.  This is today’s lesson for bikers. Be ready for weather and safe in your travels.

 

Many more great biker stories and tips can be found right here. Just poke around, there’s over 100 pages of great biker stories with plenty of entertaining humor.

 

Spring rides in Nebraska 2018

     
Having battled PMS (Parked Motorcycle Syndrome) for months, I finally broke out for EWT (Extreme Wind Therapy) last week. This has been a very long winter in Nebraska. When the forecast called for 2 days in a row with temps in the 70’s, I had to act.
 
I called in sick for 2 days in advance. (cough, cough), arranged for emergency feedings for my kittens and made a motel reservation in North Platte, 220 miles away.
 
It was a warm and sunny day when I left Lincoln. Well, warm is relative, it was 48 degrees, but it’s been icy and cold recently. I can ride very comfortably at 45 deg. F and up. I had my heated jacket liner, another liner for insulation and a very heavy leather Harley jacket. I added heated gloves, used the heated grips on the bike and wore a full-face helmet. I looked like the bride of Darth Vader. 🙂 Those who know me will say that my voice sounds like her, too. No offense to the real wife of DV. 🙂
 
I got onto Interstate 80 easily and navigated urban traffic until the sign said I could open it up a bit. Speed limit is 75. To those who travel through our wonderful Cornhusker state, our friendly local Nebraska State Troopers will nail you hard if you do 80 or faster. Every other state in which I’ve ever driven will leave you alone at 8 over the limit, but don’t even think about that in our fair land. Word to the wise.
 
But, I digress. I ran up to 78 mph, checked speed according to GPS to verify accuracy of speedometer and it was right on. Either that, or both devices are in error. I set the cruise control and waved at the Sheriff vehicle parked in the median. They let me go with a head start to the county line. This was going to be a wonderful day.
 
Traffic was fairly light for this stretch of road and most of the drivers were courteous and careful. I love that when on two wheels. A woman traveling alone must always be cautious and alert. An old lady must be even more so, as they present an easy target.
 
A great many women bikers relate great insecurity to travel solo on a bike. After all, you can’t exactly roll up the windows and lock the doors when feeling threatened. After many miles riding alone, I can say that I have great confidence in my personal safety. There appears to be considerable respect for anyone riding in full leathers on a Harley. I don’t know if others think this person might be armed or 300 of their closest friends are just over the next hill or what. I’m always treated with kindness and dignity by others, either in person or other vehicles.
 
I do my best driving on my bike. I let others in, I never forcibly insist on the right of way and quickly relinquish my position if required. When I see an 18 wheeler needing to change lanes, I quickly let off the gas and flash my lights to let them know it’s clear for them to move over. This is a universal trucker signal that everyone should know. After making their move, they’ll blink their tail lights as a thank you. Watching truckers operate will help reinforce this lesson. Always be kind to truckers, they are your best friend. However, if they have a sign on the back that says, “bikes flattened, while-u-wait”, you may assume otherwise. 🙂
 
Back to riding. The medians and ditches are just starting to turn green. The fields are barren, with only a few short stalks left from last year. The popularity of “no-till” farming has reduced airborne dust a lot. Quite a few farmers could be seen in tractors tending to their fields. This is an exciting time here in farmland.
 
As I approached Grand Island, 90 miles due west, I began to see Sandhill Cranes in the fields. They migrate from Central America, Mexico and even Florida on their way to their summer condos near the Arctic circle. They stop here along the Platte river to rest up and feed for several weeks before resuming their flights. This has gone on for thousands of years and it’s exciting to view these magnificent birds.
 
I turned off the Interstate and headed north through Grand Island. I stopped for gas so I’d have enough to complete my day’s ride. I was headed into some pretty lonesome territory from here.
 
I got on to U.S. Highway 2, the Sandhills Scenic Byway. This was native Nebraska prairie country. It is breathtakingly beautiful. I love riding out here.
13 miles down the road was Cairo, Nebraska. One of the great joys of open road bike riding is the fine dining opportunities afforded by small town bars. Small towns seldom have cafes or diners, but almost all of them have a bar. Dinner time in small town bars finds families gathered and often kids are present. This is the town gathering place.
 
I rolled up to “The Watering Hole” bar, which is featured on www.beckysbikerblog.com as one of “Becky’s Best Biker Bars and Cafes”. Their burgers are delightful.
 
Today’s special was Prime Rib Sandwich for $8.95. Are you kidding me? You’re lucky to get a bad burger and fries at a fast food place for that. This was real meat, unprocessed, from a real cow.
 
The great taste told me that the grill marks weren’t just painted on, they came off a real grill. It was great and so were the fries. I don’t eat many fries, but the prime rib was consumed in it’s entirety. It was so good. This is the way travel was meant to be.
 
I made conversation with the bartender, who is the proud owner of the other bike in the photo. He had just purchased it and said it needed a lot of work. He was extremely happy to own it and was learning to ride. I gave him 2 important riding tips and got back on the road.
 
I decided to take State Highway 11 straight south out of town to get back on the Interstate. I need to get to North Platte for a visit with friends.
 
The highway was classic rural Nebraska flatland. The road was nice and straight and flat as it could be. This was the Platte river valley. Every spring, the snow melt from the Rocky Mountains causes the Platte river to flood and over millions of years, a wide, flat valley has developed.
 
I was really enjoying this part of the ride and thinking to myself how remote and peaceful was this part of the trip. Suddenly, my inner joy was shattered at the sight of a sign that said “License and Registration Check Ahead”. Are you serious? This *is* the middle of nowhere. I should be able to ride in my underwear out here. Not that I would, I scare the cows. 🙂
 
I could see 2 State Patrol Cars parked off to the side of the road and several State Troopers were giving the car in front of me a real going over. They were inspecting the car and checking lights. Oh, my.
 
Part 2

 

My dream of being totally alone in the Universe was shattered by 2 State Troopers manning a “License and Registration Inspection” sign. They had 2 Trooper cars and were working over a sedan in front of me.

As we all do, I briefly considered running from the law and escaping in a hail of bullets. Not really, that would be incredibly stupid.

I pulled up a respectable distance behind the car getting the attention, put down the kickstand, turned off the engine and removed my gloves. I was approached by a Trooper, who was so big he blotted out the sun.

Staying seated, I held up open palms and said “If you don’t shoot, I won’t either” with a smile. He laughed loudly and said it’s a deal. I always treat law enforcement with complete respect and never question their actions or motives. I would never do what they do. Their job is to protect me and I want them to know that I appreciate them.

He looked over my bike and said, “I’m pretty sure you’ve got this thing insured, so all we need to see is your driver’s license”. My fear of a complete search involving disassembly of the bike dissipated. I got my license out of my pocket. It’s in a little case with a few credit cards and some spare cash. I held it out for him to see. I’ve never had this happen, but he simply looked at it from a slight distance, he never reached out for it.

He said I was good to go and told me to ride safely. I replied that I would and told him again of my respect for him and the job they do.

Well, that was fun. I motored on, trying to figure out what it was that they really were doing in the middle of nowhere unless they felt the need to just goof off for a little while and take a break from trying to bust drug runners on nearby Interstate 80. Maybe that was their true mission, to check for those running the backroads.

If you’re going to run drugs on I-80, watch the speed limit, signal your lane changes, don’t follow too closely and consider getting a job with far less risk, like selling shoes or something.

So, back on the Interstate, I’m right in the middle of Sandhill Crane country during rush season. Every spring and fall, thousands of cranes stop over at the Platte river between Grand Island and Kearney to rest up for a few weeks. The river has wide and flat and has many sand bars. The cranes can get the protection from predators (think Wile E. Coyote) by gathering overnight on the sand bars. They make a super loud racket each morning and night as they leave and return to the safety of the river.

Each day, they graze on the fugitive seeds that escaped the fall harvest, mostly corn, millet and soybeans. The cranes come from Mexico, Central America and Florida. After resting up here, they fly on to the far north, near the Arctic Circle. The journey has been going on for thousands of years, maybe longer.

Being on an open road motorcycle enables one to ride under flying cranes and see things that are invisible to those in cars and trucks. Positively awe inspiring.

Much of my younger life involved deadlines and rush trips and a focus on minimizing stops to shorten travel time or lengthen the distance traveled in a given time. I pulled into drive-thrus that were close to gas stops and ate while driving.

Traveling by open rode bike for me now involves no particular time lines and often no particular destinations. I can just cruise along and see things that I’d never noticed before. How something as noisy as a big Harley Davidson can be considered peaceful and tranquil requires tossing a leg over one and heading out on the highway.

All too soon I arrive at my destination for this evening, North Platte, Nebraska. I’d ridden 240 miles and was here to visit some dear friends from long ago in my life.

The visit was heartwarming and over too soon. I returned to the hotel and prepared for tomorrow’s adventure.

Part 3

 

I filled up with gas and headed out. North Platte, Nebraska is pretty remote, but not nearly as remote as my next destination, Imperial, Nebraska. Its 91 miles south and a little west. I rode west on I-80 for 30 miles, then turned south. The weather was clear and sunny with very light winds. Perfect for riding.

 

This was true country, with not a sign of city life anywhere. The steady drone of the Harley engine told me the bike was enjoying this trip as much as I. I thanked engineering for adding a cruise control unit that worked instantly and flawlessly. There was no lag time when engaged and it seldom deviated one mile per hour, even up or down steep hills. The raw torque of this monster engine was quite capable of holding any speed you wished, under any conditions.

 

There were some wide, sweeping curves that make motorcyclists smile. It’s fun to lean a bike in curves and have it lift itself back up on completion, like some kind of magic. Highway curves cause beginner bikers to get apprehensive on approach to the curve. It’s normal to tense up and see the curve thinking you’re going too fast to make it. This is further complicated by a phenomenon known as “target fixation”, where you stare at a fixed object. The bike will go where you look, so if you fix your gaze on something, such as a place in the ditch, guard rail or a tree, you’ll drive right off the road into that spot. It takes experience to learn exactly where to look. Speed makes it vary, but once you figure it out, riding curves is easier. However, like learning to ride a unicycle, it’s simpler to talk about it than to do it. It seems like the ideal distance on which to focus your vision is about 2 seconds ahead of you. This is the same distance that’s considered to be safe following distance.

 

The next problem is road surface. You can’t always see the pavement around a curve and often it contains surprises. Cracks in the road that have been sealed by hot tar can be slicker than the pavement. If the cracks are at right angles, no problem. However, cracks that run parallel to traffic can put a bike down quickly. Those are referred to as “tar snakes”. It’s important to steer around those for obvious reasons.

 

An even worse situation is what I call the “Oregon Trail effect”, in which traffic has worn two ruts in the pavement and the center and far edges of the lane are raised. If you enter the curve in the center of the lane, you might find yourself just to the left of center, where it’s downhill. Tires don’t grip there. It’s important to use the positive banking of the Oregon Trail effect to your advantage. This is not often easy, as the pavement is not uniformly shaped.

 

For riders to develop these skills, it’s important to learn to ride a line. There is the left line in a lane, the right line and the center line. Riding a line means you can keep your cycle within a few inches of the road curve as you travel. If you’re alone, it’s always best to take the far right side of a curve in order to protect yourself from unseen oncoming traffic. They just might drift over to your side of the road. Taking the far right means you don’t need the space they want to hog from you should they drift across the center line.

 

Riding good lines lets you use the banking in your lane on Oregon Trail roads like a race track. The banked corners become your friends, rather than a treacherous condition. As you ride with other bikers, start paying attention to how they ride their lines. I first noticed this on the curves in the Black Hills at the Sturgis motorcycle rally. I’d learned how to do it on the Women’s Freedom Ride. This gives you a clue as to the abilities of others, which is crucial to your own safety.

 

But, I digress. Back to the back roads in far southwest Nebraska. The road wound back and forth, over dams and around reservoirs, uphill and down. The wind was light, the sun warm and it was a glorious day to be on a bike. Traffic was very light and the drivers watchful and courteous. Folks out here are good people and if you have trouble, most will stop to help if they can. Feeling safe and secure is easy here.

 

I had to make several road changes in order to get to Imperial and it was somewhat of a challenge to remember exactly where to turn. It was interesting to ride through small towns along the way. I always followed Dad’s advice on small towns—don’t you DARE speed in a small town. First off, it’s a safety hazard, but there’s always the chance you’ll encounter a speed trap. When Sheriff Taylor’s brother-in-law is the Judge is a worst nightmare and one which I seek to avoid.

 

So, I’m enjoying the ride, hugging the curves, smelling the smells and seeing all the sights. Oh, was that my turn back there? Ah, yes, I believe it was. Phooey!  I just passed it and now I have to turn around. One thing I just refuse to do is to come to a complete stop on a highway in order to execute a turn on a motorcycle that involves stopping and backing up. So, I have to look for a wide spot in the road. After a few miles, I find one and get turned back to find my route once again. That done, I’m now on a new road.

 

The land now is flat as a pancake for as far as the eye can see. This is the high plains and it’s lovely. It’s amazing to see how straight the farmers can plow a field. They now use satellite navigation for GPS to keep the tractor pulling exactly straight. When looking down the furrows as you travel, the fields are plowed with military precision.  Far too many people will say that this flat land is boring and deprived of any beauty. I’ll reply that they just aren’t looking. I pass a male ringneck pheasant, one of the most beautiful birds in North America. Wow, just wow is all I can say. My Dad used to hunt them and I remember eating pheasant as a little girl. I recall that there was no white meat on them, as white meat was muscle seldom used on a chicken. Pheasants can fly for real, so all their muscles are well toned.

 

Now, back to the bike. I rode through some small towns and made my final turn to reach Imperial. The land was beautiful, flat and the soil very rich, as it was all in use producing crops. I made the turn off the highway into the town. I rode along a few blocks and turned off onto the road where my friends live. Life in a small town is all about peace and quiet. There are times when it is dead still and no sounds can be heard. Yeah, well too bad when a biker chick rides into town. The deep throaty roar of the Harley shattered the silence. I didn’t need to ring the doorbell, they heard me coming. I missed the house on the first pass, I had to make a U-turn and come by again. I love this.

 

I met my friends, Leonard and Julie. We had a great visit and I got to eat some cookies Julie had baked that went well with her specially brewed coffee. They admired my heavy leather coat. I’ll say one thing for Harley Davidson. Everything they make is first class and engineered for riding and doing it safely. My jacket weighs a ton when lifted.  The two photos show the jacket as it appears normally and then what it looks like when lights shine on it. I learned this in motorcycle class as a means to select clothing for being seen easily at night. Take a normal photo, then turn on the flash and take another photo. You can easily see the difference. Very good information. The jacket will make me visible and protect me well in the event of a slide on pavement. I have severe allergies to asphalt and concrete, so I always wear protective leather jackets when riding.

 

We say our goodbyes and I don all my safety gear and fire up the bike. Love that sound.

Part 4.

This is the fun part of any trip that I love the most. I have no idea where I’m going next. I know I need to be heading home, but the route that I travel is not planned, nor has it been studied. I thought that perhaps I could head south into Kansas and visit Atwood, where my mother grew up and claimed as her hometown. Since this is really the middle of nowhere, I think it might be wise to first get some gasoline. My range is about 160 miles and I’ve already ridden 90 miles. I find a nice station on the edge of town, but they have regular 86 octane and my high compression hot rod only wants premium 91 octane.

I swallow and head out of town. This is the meaning of adventure and confidence. The map tells me there’s another town down the road. The bike can use regular if necessary, but so far, it’s not absolutely necessary. I enjoy music when I travel and in this part of the country, even the hog report sounds good on the radio. You might find a station that invites you to attend the middle school recital this Friday gives a shout out to Hilda, who’s celebrating a birthday today. Fortunately, I’ve planned for this situation. I’ve got 465 of my favorite songs for riding programmed into my phone and my bike has blue tooth capability, so I switch over to “Becky’s Phone” for entertainment while I ride.

For many of us, music becomes part of our lives. As we hear old songs, we are taken back to experiences in our lives that correspond with certain tunes. I’ve been a widow now for 2 years, so my mission in life is to not only look forward to new experiences, but also to re-program my brain for new pleasures in life. I’ve succeeded in programming a few songs now to motorcycle memories when I hear those tunes. Gradually, over time, I’ll relate music to pleasures experienced on my bike. I like that and it’s been a tremendous help to me. I crank up the tunes, twist the throttle and it’s one down and five up (that’s the shift pattern for the bike). From neutral, you first push the shift lever down with your foot for first gear. The rest of the gears involve lifting the lever with your foot. We’re cruising now.

The road is straight, the sun is out and the temperature is nearly ideal for biking. I’m in gently rolling hills and the vegetation is becoming more sparse on the high plains. The speed limit is 60 and I’m riding the maximum safe speed of 68. My experience is that law enforcement will generally leave you alone if you’re less than 10 mph over the speed limit, unless you’re on I80 in Nebraska, then it’s 5 mph and you WILL get stopped if you’re over that. At any rate, at 68 mph and very little traffic, the bike does fairly well on gas. This is a good thing. I’m starting to run short of time and realizing that a trip to Atwood just isn’t in the cards for today. Next town is coming up, maybe I can get gas.

Here it is, Benkelman, Nebraska, the last town before the state line. There’s a gas station right here, so I pull in. Darn, nothing but regular grade here, too. I’d just crossed over U.S. Highway 34. The sign said McCook, Nebraska was within my fuel range if I was careful. My bike tells me how many miles of fuel I’ve got left, based on how much I’ve been using. The bike says I can make McCook. I’m hoping the bike is right, because I thought Imperial was remote, at least they have streets. Benkelman is a third the size. So, I get on Hwy 34 heading east toward McCook, which will also take me home.

Highway 34 is a former major east west highway that travels along the southern part of Nebraska. It connects Lincoln with Denver. This road has truck traffic and more. Even though I’m in pretty remote country, I don’t feel so remote. I was on a State Highway, this is Federal. The hilly terrain lends itself to reservoirs used for flood control, irrigation and recreation. It’s starting to look less desolate. I travel through some very interesting small towns. The business districts are off the highway. This was probably the first major change in transportation, routing major highways around towns. The very early days of cross country travel didn’t have much for roads. The roads meandered all over to avoid geographic obstacles, such as tall hills or stream crossings. They also might have passed the County Commissioner’s house.

Construction of major paved highways straightened the roads and took them out of the little towns proper and moved them around for safety. I’m totally enjoying this part of the trip. The scenery is interesting, the little towns take me back to days gone by and the miles seem to fly along. Oh, Holy Mother, there is a God and she just helped me find a gas station that has 91 octane, the real deal, fresh gasoline. Wow, and the pumps even take credit cards. I am saved. I filled her up and exhaled a sigh of relief. By coincidence, maybe not, the sign at this intersection told me that Atwood was within an hour down another road. I smiled.

Part 5 Conclusion

 

Back on Hwy 34, I continued east. Soon, I was taken back 50 years. When highway 34 was a real artery of transportation, before Eisenhower decreed the construction of the Interstate Highway system, you could tell you were nearing a town because you started seeing all manner of small signs. First, the sign for the Catholic Church, then the sign for a funeral home, then Louie’s Hardware and Red’s Barbeque. Like a string of beacons, the signs alerted motorists to an upcoming town and pointed the way. The only thing missing were the “Burma Shave” signs. They were a fun string of rhyming signs.

It’s best for

One who hits

The bottle

To let another

Use the throttle

Burma Shave.

 

The Burma Shave signs were all over the place and were both entertaining and provided a nice lesson.  Everybody knew Burma Shave.

 

Oh, boy. The bike was full, but I was hungry. I was looking for a good place to eat. This was another adventure that I relished, looking for a biker bar or café. I never eat fast food. It’s not good for you, it’s not flavorful and it’s just no fun. Half the adventure is finding great local places to eat. I cruised down Main Street, but didn’t see anything. I did spot some interesting places off on side roads. The terrain here is extremely hilly. Parking a car on a hill is no big deal, but parking a big bike can be a serious challenge. First off, every road is crowned, so rain water can run off. This means every parking place is downhill into the curb. Pull straight into one of those and you’ll never push a large bike back uphill out of it. The bike has to be carefully backed in. Fire that mother up and head out when you’re done.  The problem is due to angle parking being at the wrong way for backing into it. It requires several forward and rearward movements. On the side of a steep hill, not so easy for a chick to maneuver a 1,000 pound Electra Glide.

 

I turned off a block and back tracked along that road. No restaurants with parking for my bike, so I moved a block the other side of Main St. Eureka! I found a little bar on a corner with a parking place right in front. It was 1:00, so I’d just missed the main lunch rush. As I entered, I saw that the place was huge, with a back room that had several pool tables. The place was also empty, with only one table of 6 people. They were all staring at their palms, ignoring each other. This is a sad commentary on our current society. When I see this, I always wonder if they’re texting each other.  J

 

I sat at the bar and was greeted cheerfully by the lady bartender. She asked what I wanted and I said the first thing was a restroom. She said they had two, one in front and another in back. She went on to say that I’d probably want the one in front. I asked why and she said that one had a urinal….   I grinned and said I don’t know what I’d do with a urinal if I had one. OMG!  She turned beet red and realized that I’d been mis-gendered. She started gushing apologies. I told her she wasn’t the first and it was simply my own misfortune that, with my black helmet and leathers, I not only looked like the bride of Darth Vader, I sounded the part, as well. LOL

 

That out of the way, I used the one in back. I asked what they had on tap and she said the taps were out of CO2, but they had bottled beer. I didn’t think anything of it at the time, although I’ve never been into any bar that was “out of draft beer”.

 

I ordered a burger and we had a nice conversation. Life in a small town can be challenging, particularly for women. She was very nice and we related well. In fact, we seemed to talk at length. Like a lot of young people, she was trying to establish a positive life direction and I worked to help her with some words of encouragement.

 

Soon, another woman came out of the back with a handful of bills and told her she needed to go to the bank right now.  She excused herself and told me she’d be back soon. I’ve owned a small business for many years and suddenly, the lights came on in my head. There wasn’t that much money. It was meal time, the place was empty and they were out of CO2. A bottle of CO2 can’t cost all that much and for a bar to be out was a serious deal. She had to go to the bank right now. I wished her the best as she left.

 

Funny thing, I’d been carrying a gold colored coin, good for a dollar, for quite some time. It’s a regular U.S. coin that was intended to replace the paper dollar. These didn’t catch on because there’s no place for them in a cash register. As I left, I called over another woman and gave her that coin. I said it was for the first girl. Tell her it’s a good luck piece that I brought for her. I hope it gets to her and I hope it provides some inspiration and good luck. I laid a good sized tip on the bar.

 

I got on my bike, thanked my own incredible luck and my wonderful life and headed for home. I’m very sympathetic to working people. I have vivid memories of those times in my own life long ago, where I couldn’t afford to go to the laundromat (that’s a washateria for those in Texas) to do laundry. I had to wash my clothes in the sink and I was all too familiar with ramen noodles.

 

The rest of the ride home was enjoyable and the songs seemed to click by in about 3 seconds each, just like the miles. My two day total was 700 miles, 260 the first day and 440 the second. I’m slowly getting over my severe case of PMS (Parked Motorcycle Syndrome).  WARNING: Prolonged exposure to a parked motorcycle may have severe and persistent symptoms. For best results: Ride often and share your joy with others. Bugs are an excellent source of protein.

 

Ride on.

 

 

 

Storing a motorcycle for the winter

 

 

There are 4 aspects to storing a bike. They are fuel, oil, battery and tires. First will be presented the short version of each (what time is it?). Following that will be the highly technical explanations of each, for those who want to know why (how to build a watch).

 

Fuel.  There are 2 different methods. First is to fill the tank with non-ethanol fuel and add a fuel preservative, such as “Stabil” or “Sea Foam”. Add the chemical at the gas pump, then ride the bike home to be certain the fuel in the rest of the system has the preservatives in it. Ride it to be sure it’s warmed up and then give it some hard acceleration to clean the spark plugs before parking it for the winter.

 

The second method is to drain the gas tank when the engine is hot, (see above on cleaning the spark plugs) then start and run the bike until it quits. This removes all fuel from the system, preventing damage from deteriorated fuel over the storage period.

 

Oil.  Park the bike and leave it. Whatever bad that will happen to the oil over the winter won’t matter, because you’ll change the oil in the spring and start the riding season with new oil. If you’re going to ride it periodically, then stick with your normal oil change schedule.

 

Note: Whatever you do, DON’T START THE BIKE AND LET IT SIT AND IDLE PERIODICALLY OVER THE WINTER. Park it or ride it, but don’t start it as a means of storage.

 

Battery. The best thing for a motorcycle battery is to be connected to a device designed to maintain the battery. The brand “Battery Tender” is generally recognized as the standard of the industry and the one sold by most motorcycle dealers. It’s designed to charge the battery periodically. Don’t use a battery charger, as that will simply slow cook the battery until its dead.

 

Even if you remove the battery from the bike and bring it in the house, it’s still advisable to use a battery tender on it occasionally to keep it fully charged.

 

Do NOT start the bike and run it to “recharge” the battery. This won’t help the battery and can be very hard on the engine.

 

Tires.  Don’t let the tires stand on concrete while in storage. Roll the tires onto some thin plywood pieces or plastic to prevent contact with rubber and concrete. Be sure the tires are properly inflated before storage. Re-check inflation before riding it in the spring.

 

Attention—Since our motorcycles are members of the family, it’s encouraged to pay attention to the bike from time to time. Cleaning, waxing and admiring will help keep the bike’s spirit up until the spring thaw. Remember, it’s OK to just sit and stare at your bike. That bitch is sexy.

 

Technical explanations (How to build a watch)

 

     Fuel.  Fuel degrades rapidly. It’s actually only “fresh” for days after you buy it. Storing the bike with a full tank will reduce the contact it has with air, which can aid in fuel preservation. Adding products like Stabil or Sea Foam will help prevent degradation of the fuel and subsequent damage to the motorcycle fuel system. Likewise, draining the entire system will also do the trick. If there’s no fuel, there’s less chance of damage.

 

Auto repair shops have reported substantial damage to fuel pumps from vehicles stored long term with ethanol fuel in the system. Ethanol can be corrosive and result in damage.

 

Oil.  Oil gets worn out from 4 things. The first is acid that develops when super-heated combustion gases from “blow-by” contact cold air in the crankcase. Blow-by is pressure that “blows by” the seal of  the piston rings. The metals in the engine change dimensions with temperature. Cold engine parts don’t work properly until full operating temperature is reached. The entire engine was designed to run at a specified temperature range. Cold parts are smaller.

 

Motor oils have to have additives to neutralize these acids. The more cold starts, the more additives that get used up. At some point, this causes the oil to become acidic and attack the seals and gaskets. This is where oil leaks come from.

 

The second thing is unburned gasoline that also gets past the piston rings and into the oil, diluting it with liquid fuel. An engine that’s had repeated short run times can actually be seen to have oil level that’s too high. I’ve seen a 4 quart system that was 2 quarts over full from this condition. This meant that the oil was too thin to lubricate and it turned on the oil light as a result.

 

The third thing is water from condensation on a cold start. Much water is formed when an engine is cold started. This can cause rust and corrosion, in addition to diluting the oil.

 

The fourth thing is running the engine for extended periods with oil temperatures below normal operating specifications. Getting the oil “up to temperature” means that the moisture and unburned fuel get evaporated away. Water boils at 212 degrees F. at sea level. The normal operating temperature of motorcycle oil is 180 to 220 degrees. It’s important to understand the most motorcycle engines are air cooled. They don’t have a thermostat to regulate temperature like a car. I used a dipstick that doubled as a thermometer to monitor oil temperature on my Harley Fat Boy over thousands of miles to better understand this. It took 10 to 20 miles of riding in cold weather just to begin to get the oil temperature close to specifications in winter temperatures. Idling never got it even close if the outside temp was cold.

 

For all these reasons, it’s just unwise to think that you can start the engine and run it from time to time and expect good things to happen. Let it sit, it’s far better for the oil and the engine.

 

Battery—It takes a long time (maybe several hours or more) of slow charging to bring a battery to a full state of charge. When a battery sits in less than a full charge, it sulfates and ages prematurely. Vehicle charging systems were not designed to perform this job in short operational periods.

 

This is the reason to use a solid state device designed to preserve a battery on your bike. Modern bikes have many drains on the battery. Security systems, the computers that run the ignition and fuel injection, the memory on the radio and more all use electricity to retain memory. This little draw is called “parasitic draw”.  Think of driving across the desert with a very small leak in the radiator of a car. It doesn’t matter how small the leak, sooner or later the system runs out of water and you’re done.

 

Even sitting on a shelf in a nice warm place in your home results in some current loss. This is why the battery needs to be connected to a tender from time to time even if you take it out and bring it inside.

 

This is the second reason you don’t start the bike from time to time to “recharge the battery”. It doesn’t really recharge the battery properly, anyway. This will only shorten the life of the battery and cause you to think that the brand of battery you have just isn’t a very good brand. The reality is, it was mistreated.

 

Tires.  When tires sit for extended periods on concrete, the chemicals within the tire that preserve the rubber get leached out into the concrete. Riding the bike and flexing the tires restores those chemicals back into the surface of the tire. For daily driving or regular use, this leaching process is negligible and not worthy of attention.

 

However, for long term storage, it’s best to prevent the rubber from contact with concrete. Anything will do, such as plywood, tile, plastic or hair.

 

Bikes aren’t heavy enough to really flat spot tires, so that’s no concern.

 

Fast Summary:  Fill the gas tank, add some chemicals, air the tires. Roll the bike onto plywood, hook up a battery tender, then cry your eyes out. Wine has been reported to be helpful to deal with PMS (Parked Motorcycle Syndrome).

 

—Becky Witt is an ASE Certified Master Automobile Technician (ASE CMAT). She is a nationally recognized expert on motor oils and has presented classes on motor oils for shop owners and professional technicians at several International Events. She produced a DVD on motor oils and sold 200 copies to a major oil company. She owns an auto repair shop and has also taught many classes on repair shop management.

Becky’s Best Biker Bars and Cafes

One of the great rewards for riding a motorcycle is discovering the very neat places in small towns that welcome bikers. These often hard-to-find places offer great small town atmosphere, wonderful people and some really good american food.

 

If you’re traveling anywhere in or through Nebraska, check out Becky’s reviews and directory of fine biking experiences.

Fight Fatigue, Drink Water

Quick note:  You can now register on my site. On the right side, click on the link that says, “Register”.   Soon, I’ll get this figured out and be able to notify you when new material goes up. Thanks and Ride Safe.

Looking at my black draggin brand jeans, it’s plain to see white stains all over them. What are those from, you might ask?  Those are salt deposits from sweating like a hash cook over a hot grill in a kitchen with no windows.

 

Or, in this case, riding a motorcycle sitting on a very hot engine long enough to bring buns to a nice toasty finish.

It was stressed over and over on the Women’s Freedom Ride the need to drink lots of water. I’m not one to drink much water and I returned from a 3 day ride earlier this year and felt awful the day after. All day long, I felt drug out and run over. I now think it was dehydration.

 

At every fuel stop, which is roughly every 2 hours on a road bike, I made it a point to drink a bottle of water and the same at lunch. I never did feel poorly even after 14 days of riding, even in high heat. This is now part of my regimen and I keep bottles of water in my saddlebags.

 

I also feel free to salt my food liberally. I can see I’m getting rid of it, so my main worry is having enough of it in my body.

 

Ride on, Wind Sisters.

Believe you can ride a motorcycle

New, Part 11 in My Experiences With the Women’s Freedom Ride. See the Freedom Ride tab, lower right on this page.

One of the most difficult aspects of being a woman who wants to ride a motorcycle is all the doubt placed in your head by others. We expect this from men, but women can play this, as well. If everyone you meet all day says, “Gee, you look tired”, pretty soon you’re going to feel tired. This is simple auto suggestion.

 

When people suggest that you can’t learn to ride a motorcycle, it sinks deep into your subconscious and eventually, you may come to believe that you can’t. I’ve met too many women who commented on thinking they couldn’t because (pick one), too old, too heavy, too light, too short, I’m over 35, 40, 50, 60, 70. 70? Yes, women can still learn to ride a big bike at 70. We had a woman on the Women’s Freedom Ride at age 76 and another at 70.

 

Here’s my point. If you want to do something, you must first believe that you can do it. If you want to learn to ride a motorcycle, create a paper ride permit for yourself. Carry a copy with you and look at it often. Put another copy on the bathroom mirror. Look at it every day. Tell yourself that you WILL have a real one, with your name on it.

 

If you want to own a motorcycle, or a certain one, do the same thing. Take a picture of it and carry it with you. See yourself, through your own eyes, riding that bike. Close your eyes every night feeling the wind in your hair and enjoy the smells of the country, believing you’ll soon be riding that bike.

 

Next, take action. Resolve to save up the money to do it. Begin to make a meal planning list for all the meals you’ll serve in the next week. Then go through the kitchen and make a list of the ingredients you’ll need to cook those meals. Write the meals out on the fridge and cross them off as you cook them. This will save you so much money on groceries, you won’t believe it. Take the extra money and stash it. You’ll not only accumulate the down payment, you’ll soon be able to make the payments.

 

Fix coffee at home, give up that $5 latte every day. Same with lunches. Believe, understand and make it happen. I’ve seen far too many people tell me they have no money, while holding a large Starbucks cup and wearing all designer label clothes with a Coach purse. Truth is, they let money control them.

 

Finally, when some guy puts you down because you’re riding a “small bike”, ask what he rides. Most of the time these losers only have a Schwinn.

 

I hope this messages helps some of you achieve a dream, whether it’s being able to ride, buy a bike or go on a long biker trip. If you can believe it, you can really do it. One year ago today, I didn’t own a bike.  Let that sink in for a minute.

 

Now, get out and ride.