Saturday, April 17, 2010


Two quick thoughts about taxes:

1. We need to change the dates of election day and tax day so that they fall on the SAME DAY. Maybe this is the only way we can get people to act upon the anger feel when they have to do through this ridiculous exercise every year. Politicians are forever trying to de-couple what they do in Washington as opposed to what they tell their constituents at home. That is, they want to pretend to be fiscally responsible without actually doing it. We need to compare their promises to the reality while that memory is still fresh in our minds. What better way to do that than to put these two events (paying taxes and voting) on the very same day?

2. Tax withholding is one of the most insidious creations mankind has ever devised. If you've ever run your own business and had to write quarterly checks to the government (I have) or if you bother to read your pay checks (which I do, too, although I suspect I am in the minority) you are acutely aware of just how much the government takes from us. Thanks to withholding few people are aware of how much government takes, not to mention the vast sums of money we involuntarily loan to the government on an interest-free basis. Milton Friedman, who helped create withholding later said: "I have no apologies for it, but I really wish we hadn't found it necessary and I wish there were some way of abolishing withholding now."

Friday, April 16, 2010

Blue Ridge Parkway, GA, NC, VA, WV, TN - Trip Report

Enough with the links to others' content. Time for some content of my own.

This is nominally a story of a motorcycle ride with friends. More importantly, it's about my uncle. And on another level, it's about motorcycling in general, why it's so fun for some people. Read it through, and read the attachments, and maybe you'll understand why I ride.

I originally wrote this in the form of an e-mail to friends and family on September 28, 2007.


Here are some thoughts based on the notes I took. I'll speak in the first person. Mileages given may vary slightly from what others did. I've copied some family members on this e-mail due to the nature of my dedication.

Vic Hoye ('99 Honda VFR800)
Jeff Whitford ('?? Moto Guzzi V11)
Simon and Hanni Janman ('99 Honda VFR800)
Jim Bear ('?? Aprilia Futura)
Leon Begeman ('?? Suzuki DL1000 V-Strom)
Tom Blooming ('94 Honda VFR750)

Jeff rode with us on Days 1 and 2, then headed back to Atlanta on the morning of Day 3. Jim joined us in Asheville on the night of Day 1 (morning of Day 2, actually!), then rode with us the rest of the way. Leon joined us the night of Day 2 in Roanoke, then rode with us the rest of the way. We all scattered with different departure plans on Day 6.

I dedicated this trip to my uncle, Chad Blooming. Chad was on my mind a lot during the trip, especially during the riding. You might say he was on my mind literally because I wore his Shoei helmet, that he gave to me when he stopped riding, on this trip. When I mentioned to some of you that I wanted to ride separately at times to clear my head, that is why. Chad died in May at the age of 52 from ALS (Lou Gehrig's disease). More information about Chad is here:

Chad was a lifelong motorcyclist, and a big fan of motorcycle camping and the long rides that go along with that. If not for his influence I might not be a rider today. One of the first bikes I learned to ride on was an old Honda 125 that he had sold to my father. He owned many motorcycles in his life. Gold Wings (long before they had plastic), multiple other Hondas (I specifically remember his Magna), Yamahas, etc. (I don't seem to remember a Suzuki). Even a Harley at one point (Sportster). He was in a BMW phase (R1100RT) when he was diagnosed. When I bought my SV, Chad mentioned that he was thinking about a 650 V-Strom as his next bike. As his motor skills deteriorated he downsized to a Honda Reflex 250 scooter.

You (my riding cohorts) are probably wondering why I'm writing all of this. My uncle and I, while we talked motorcycles all the time, never got a chance to take a ride together. As I type this, I still can't believe it. Sure, we took each other's bikes for a spin when one of us visited the other, but we never had our bikes together in the same place (when visiting with the families we'd take a car). And we didn't have multiple bikes.

Well, a couple years ago I got that situation fixed. When I moved to Asheville a few years ago I bought the SV in addition to having the VFR. Chad and his family could visit, he could bring his gear, and we'd break away for a while, most likely on the Parkway and surrounding roads, head over to the Cherohala Skyway, etc. Swap bikes along the way for variety. What a ride it would have been! Just when the situation was ripe for such a ride, Chad noticed his motor skills deteriorating, was diagnosed with ALS ... and the ride never happened.

ALS is a horrible disease, but its one redeeming quality is that you have time to say the things you always wanted to. The mind remains sharp until the end. I told Chad (in a letter) that I felt bad for him that this wouldn't happen. Worse yet, I was embarrassed because I had to admit that I felt bad for myself for not getting this chance, as if my inconvenience mattered at all compared to his ALS.

I told Chad: "For what it's worth, in the future I plan to ride the length of the Blue Ridge Parkway, over the course of a few days, and dedicate the ride to you. Riding the length of the Parkway is something I've wanted to do for a while. Whenever I think about doing that, though, I can't help but think of the fact that you never got that chance. So when I do ride it, I'll be thinking of you. And I'm confident that you'll be along with me on the ride in spirit."

Chad's response was, "I'm hoping that someday in some dimension we can take that ride on our bikes. We will also have to check out the roads on the Pacific Coast and the Pacific Northwest. I honestly believe that someday we will be able to do that." So I think he liked the idea.

LT Snyder wrote a great piece in Motorcycle Consumer News magazine a while back (Chad also subscribed to MCN, so I know he saw it, too). I contacted him and he sent me the attached draft. It captures the spirit that I'm trying to capture in this dedication.

Not long after Chad passed away, Vic starts talking about a ride that includes the whole Parkway. The timing of it was almost eerie, but it was very fortunate.

DAY 1, Tuesday, September 18th - "Fatass"
Today was Vic's 62nd birthday. Happy Birthday to Vic!

Around 8:30a I rode up to Vic's place in Roswell and arrived 9:10 or 9:15. Naturally Atlanta traffic sucked, but there's no way around it. I figured that as long as I could get through this traffic the rest of the trip would be easy. It took me almost 25 minutes to even get from my house to I-285--and I live very close to 285! People in Atlanta love their traffic. And the politicians and/or engineers aren't even trying.

Little did I know that we'd later have to ride through Gatlinburg (cough--tourist trap--cough), Tennessee on a busy Saturday. I believe it was Simon who, later in the trip, (accurately) pointed out that riding southbound through Gatlinburg and then Smoky Mountains National Park is like seeing the very worst of America followed by the very best of America. Ah, but that was Day 5--looks like I'm getting ahead of myself already.

Vic and I took his car to Burger King so Vic could grab some breakfast. Apparently Vic is addicted to Burger King for breakfast. Jeff arrived at Vic's shortly after that. After chatting for a bit, we were on our way northbound on Hwy 400. We met Simon and Hanni at the Starbucks at the Hwy 20 exit off of 400 north of Alpharetta. Apparently Simon and Hanni are addicted to Starbucks. Ironically, while Vic kept searching for a Burger King for breakfast and Simon and Hanni kept searching for a Starbucks later in the trip, we never stopped at either. I don't believe we even saw a Starbucks (at least I didn't). And while we saw Burger King, of course, it was never close to the hotel where it would have been a good place to stop for breakfast. The rest of us weren't terribly torn up about that! ;)

At this point we proceeded up to the North Georgia mountains. I was on my '94 VFR, Vic on a '99 VFR, Simon and Hanni two-up also on a '99 VFR, and Jeff on a Moto Guzzi V11 (can't remember the year). We did get into a "tractor beam" situation on the ride up 400. Cop was getting on the highway, but some of us up front slipped past and kept rolling at, say, 70 mph. But Simon, in position 4, was too close to the cop to keep up that speed. So he had to slow--he got caught in the tractor beam.

We enjoyed the ride up Hwy 60 up to Suches, Georgia. A little before noon we pulled over near Hwy 180 (Wolf Pen Gap). Simon made the unfortunate mistake of telling us that, while the curves on Hwy 60 were great, they're tough with extra weight on the bike. It's harder to slow the bike down for the turns, especially with downhill approaches. He's right, of course, but there was no way we were going to pass up the opportunity to let Hanni know that Simon just commented about her weight! No one reading this will believe it, but I wasn't planning on including this in the journal at first. But then Vic said, "I'll bet you're gonna put that in there." So I did. We didn't know it at the time but this was the start of a trip-long joke. In fact, it came up at the very next stop, and many others after that.

Our route took us north out of Georgia into Tennessee. As we then headed east into North Carolina I saw a sign that said "Manteo 563." Manteo is, of course, on the Outer Banks, on the Atlantic Ocean. North Carolina is a long state.

And the joke continued. In the Nantahala Gorge (watching all the rafters) Simon had to pull over for gas before the rest of us did. Naturally, he ran out of gas because of all the extra weight he was carrying. Forget about the fact that Vic, Jeff, and I had gassed up at the same time, across the street from Starbucks before joining Simon and Hanni, while they had already put on 30 miles (?) to get from Woodstock to that point.

We finally got out of Cherokee, NC and onto the Blue Ridge Parkway at about 4:40p. We rode as a group in the beginning. After a while I got alone in front and rode ahead of the group. Nothing against the rest of the group but when I was with the group I was thinking more about the bikes in front of me and behind me, and many other trivial things. But when I got out in front and ran at a faster pace it cleared my mind, and I thought about Chad. In fact, the higher speeds required more focus and really pushed all the extraneous stuff right out of my mind--just what I was looking for on this ride.

Thanks to Simon and Hanni working for Intercontinental Hotels (chain that owns Crowne Plaza and Holiday Inn) we got great rates at a very nice Crowne Plaza in Asheville. And I managed to remember enough about Asheville to get us there.

Doug Pippen (in Asheville) was not only able to join us for dinner but also graciously drove us all (Jeff and Vic seemed to enjoy sitting in the back). It was great to see Doug again. It so happens that both Doug and Vic used to ride enduros (although Doug was in Michigan and Vic was in Louisiana). And Doug knew Jim Bear back when both lived in Michigan (Jim still does). Unfortunately, Jim didn't get to Asheville until about 2a so he and Doug didn't cross paths on this trip. It sounded like Jim had a very rough start to his trip, with many different factors contributing to lengthy delays.

At some point in the trip we ended up talking about the Parkway, and discussing what our favorite part is. I have to say that my favorite part is just west of Asheville, riding up to Mount Pisgah and further west (the part we rode in Day 1). This is the part I rode most often when I lived in Asheville, and is the part that connects to some of the very best roads in the region (276, 215, 151, etc.). I also think it's the part that feels most like "home" to me, the part I got to know best.

On Day 1 I covered 307 miles. I started at 8:20a in Smyrna, GA and we arrived at the hotel in Asheville, NC around 6:50p.

DAY 2, Wednesday, September 19th - "Deer"
After promising that we'd get a 10a start (so those who wanted breakfast should be at Denny's at 9-something), we started another of our dubious trends. I skipped breakfast, and pulled into the Denny's lot at 10a, fully gassed up. Service at Denny's was slow, though, and they hadn't even gotten their food yet! After that they needed to gas up. We ended up rolling at 11a (!).

At breakfast we got the ongoing gag started early. Vic noticed that he can now out-accelerate Simon ... (wait for it) ... because of all the extra weight Simon is carrying! Somehow the subject of mileage came up again, and once again someone pointed out that the extra weight may adversely be affecting Simon's mileage. I think Hanni asked who started it. We had to point out that it was Simon who had originally started it. Hanni: "But you guys were happy to continue!" Guilty as charged.

We rode up to Mount Mitchell, but unfortunately the peak is closed because they're building a new observation tower. We took our time there. In fact, it was at least a two cigarette stop for Vic. Hanni and I noticed this. At one point Hanni said, "Let's go before Vic smokes another [3rd] cigarette." Vic gently (!) responded, "Quit giving me shit, you fatass!" And the joke continues. But we have now added an ongoing cigarette topic and Vic also started referring to Hanni as the "Queen Bee" around this time, and he would continue this for the rest of the trip.

Have I mentioned yet that the weather has been perfect, and would continue to be all trip? And up to this point in the trip there was very little traffic. We did pass one cop but when we did we weren't going terribly fast and he had already pulled someone over, so we were fortunate in that regard, too. We really picked a great time, after the summer vacation traffic (kids already in school) but before the leaves changed color. That reminds me, when I told some people at work that I was going on this trip I was asked whether I was going "leaf peeping." I said, no, I know what leaves look like. That is so NOT what the trip was about. Sure, it's beautiful when the leaves change color but I'm not going to make a special trip just for that. And I'm certainly not going to put up with all the rolling chicanes that clog the roads at that time of year.

Riding on the Parkway and up to Mount Mitchell I again thought of Chad. This is exactly the kind of ride we would have taken.

We stopped later, around milepost 310 on the Parkway. Hanni was so exhausted that she lay right down on the asphalt of the pullout. I said "Do gravel angels." She did, Vic took pictures.

Amazingly, we were running short on time to get to our hotel in Roanoke while it was still light out (remember, we started at 11). This was increasingly important because we saw at least 15-20 deer, plus a suicidal squirrel, a groundhog, some wild turkeys (or turkey buzzards, a very similar looking bird). Lots of wildlife.

So we put the hammer down. Jim was in front and set a very nice pace. I followed him as he and I left the pack behind. That was some GREAT riding, very challenging at times as we took some fast, bumpy, downhill turns--but very rewarding. Jim is a fast, smooth rider and I had to be at the top of my game to keep pace, which is exactly what I was looking for. Riding behind Jim forced me to do the fundamentals right or I wouldn't have been able to keep up. I envy those riders who do all this naturally--I have to force myself to do things properly at times. But riding behind Jim made it easier. Again, there's nothing to clear your head quite like needing to focus entirely on the task at hand.

Leon arrived at the hotel in Roanoke and hour or two after we did, and it was clear that he was a great addition to the group. Of course, Vic knew he would be so that's why he was invited! Leon is an Iron Butt rider (, and finished 12th in the Iron Butt Rally in 2003 on a Ninja 250! That is simply amazing. I surfed around and found the following pages that mentioned Leon's exploits during the 2003 Rally:
I love this quote about Leon in the above link: "If you put him on an armadillo, he might lose a few places, but he'd still be scratching his way down the road."

On Day 2 my odometer showed that we covered 301 miles. We started at 11a in Asheville, NC and arrived at the hotel in Roanoke, VA around 7:45p.

DAY 3, Thursday, September 20th - "Queen Bee"
Today was my 37th birthday. Happy Birthday to me!

Jeff got an early start and headed back down the Parkway towards Asheville before we got rolling. We said we'd get rolling by 9:30a, but didn't actually roll until 10a--pretty good for us!

We took our time finishing off the Parkway, starting Day 3 with a more relaxed pace. People seemed to want to ride at different speeds today and/or stop at different intervals so we agreed to meet at the end of the Parkway. I rolled to the end (start, actually, as the mileposts are numbered) of the Parkway on my own without stopping (after the initial stop). Another good time to get in a rhythm and think. I also kept riding on up to the entrance to Skyline drive (continuation of the Parkway, or maybe the Parkway is a continuation of it) but didn't go in because there is a fee. I also rode a local road along the Parkway while I waited for the others to arrive.

We stopped for some nice pictures in front of the sign at the beginning of the Parkway. Simon took a nice picture of me, along with Chad's helmet, that I'll have to share with Ellen, Chad's wife.

At one point Hanni pointed out that our stops can be pretty short, "if we don't smoke!" Vic started to respond, but Hanni predicted he was going to say: "I might take a cigarette every so often but when everyone is ready to go I flick it away and don't hold anyone up!" Vic had started referring to Hanni as Queen Bee--but sometimes reverted to Fatass, depending on his mood. When Vic asked which she preferred, not surprisingly she chose Queen Bee!

We had a very strange waitress at Chili's for lunch today. Everything was just a bit off about her. I had been eating a lot so I just had a Slimfast for lunch. Before I opened the can, the waitress walked by and asked if I needed help opening it. I think she was trying to be funny. Then there was a lot of trouble when splitting up the check at the end, very confusing. I'm glad I wasn't part of it. The bartender/waiter at the hotel last night was also very strange. He kept acting like he was a good buddy of ours and giving us a hard time. It was funny for five minutes, but not for the whole damn night, dude.

As we headed west towards Summersville, WV on part of this leg we did run into a lot of gravel. We really had to be on our toes. Leon and I did fine on our own out front. The rest of the pack got a nice escort from a local rider on a Buell who appeared to know the roads pretty well and helped point out the gravel.

At the hotel another recurring theme developed. Somehow the topic of cars came up and Hanni was gushing about how she just got a new BMW 328i. She managed to mention that a few more times (actually many more times!) during the trip.

In subsequent conversation we learned the Simon drives a Chrysler Crossfire (basically a Mercedes SLK) and Jim drives a Suburu WRX. I know Vic drives a Honda Accord. And I drive an Acura Integra and Dodge Charger (company car). I don't recall what Leon drives, or if he even said. But I'm guessing he drives a '79 Toyota pickup, one of those small ones that's all rusted out by now! ;)

On Day 3 my odometer showed that I had covered 336 miles, which is probably a little more than the rest of the group. We started at 10a in Roanoke, VA and arrived fairly late at the hotel in Summersville, WV, probably around 7:30p but I didn't record the precise time.

DAY 4, Friday, September 21st - "Dumptrucks"
Leon was up early again, this time to change front brake pads. I believe he said he knew the pads were on their way out but he didn't have time to change them before the trip. Most of the rest of us would have found time to change them before starting on the trip. But, hey, Leon carries a bunch of tools with him (along with a tumor on his gas tank that bumps fuel capacity to 10 or 11 gallons) so no reason not to do the work at any old time. Those Iron Butt guys are different, in a good way.

We rolled about 10:20a today. Not bad by our standards! ;)

West Virginia calls themselves the Mountaineers. As we rode through the state, though, I thought that they should change their state name to the Dumptrucks. Maybe change their state color to a dusty brown or black. I've never seen so many dumptrucks in my life. If I lived in West Virginia I'd probably name my kid Dusty. My dog, too. Certainly my car. I take it back, if my kid was really big, like my nephew, I'd probably call him Dumptruck.

We did run into some traffic in West Virginia, and spent a lot of time in parades. But there were also some fast drivers in cars. Seems like the fastest drivers are in some of the crummiest cars (a white Taurus, a maroon Camaro, and a red Cavalier come to mind). When they knew the roads it was difficult to get around them--until they caught up with other traffic and then we, on bikes, were able to pass both at once. Motorcycles sure can accelerate a lot faster than cars! The driver of the red Cavalier, to give credit where it's due, deliberately slowed when two lanes merged into one to let me pass. It's always nice to see polite people out there.

We did see a CRAZY pass today. A Geo Storm just couldn't wait and passed about seven cars across the double yellow approaching a blind turn. Look, it was a situation where we didn't even feel safe to pass, which tells you something about a car trying this particular pass. Well, sure enough, a big dumptruck rounds the corner and panic ensues. I was at or near the back of our pack of 5 bikes, and behind the 7 or so cars (far away from the action is my point) and even I put on my brakes figuring that the road was going to be completely blocked and covered in flames and debris shortly--might as well begin slowing down now. The Geo driver slams on the brakes, locking them and painting a huge black streak down the road. The last car being passed also slowed to let him slip by. And the dumptruck lumbered about 4 feet off to its right, but that was as far as it could go because there was a mountain on the side--nowhere to go. The combination of it all let the Geo slip through but it was a close call!

Simon probably had our most aggressive pass today, as a white Dodge Charger was bearing down on him. Not nearly as close a call as the pass described above, though.

Simon and Hanni probably picked the nicest lunch spot of the trip, a diner alongside the road overlooking a river where ate outside on a picnic table. I think we snapped a few pictures, so check those out when they become available.

We did see just a few drops of rain today. Not enough to really get the roads too wet, just slowed us down a bit in some of the faster sweepers as we got closer to Bluefield. Not nearly enough to complain about, considering this is all the rain we saw all week.

From an electrical engineering perspective it was an interesting day. I saw voltage regulators all over the place. Plenty of pole-mounted capacitors. And lots of big substations--although many were mostly empty now, not carrying nearly the power they once did. Nice transmission lines, too!

The topics of Burger King and Starbucks came up again. Sorry, no luck for Vic on the BK or for Simon and Hanni on the coffee.

Our waitress in Bluefield was interesting. She said that she was originally from California but moved when her husband left her. Of all places, she picked Bluefield, WV to live. Crime was low and houses were cheap, she said. We asked where else she had considered and she said Idaho! Anyway, she said she bought a house for about $10k, but she's disappointed because she said that some houses sell for less than $1000--just pay back taxes and it's yours! It's true that there were a lot of abandoned houses and storefronts along the way. Lots of places that have seen much better days. Very depressing.

On the other hand, the people were very friendly, in an odd sort of way. They'd walk right up and start chatting. One example: At a gas stop a kid, maybe early 20s, said, "If I had me one a' those I'd probably kill myself w' it." In a very friendly way--seriously. As I re-read this it sounds like I'm writing negatively but I don't mean to. Just a glimpse of a different world.

On Day 4 we covered 228 miles. We left at 10:20a from Summersville, WV and arrived about 7p at the hotel in Bluefield, WV.

DAY 5, Saturday, September 22nd - "'Tired' Day"
Apparently some wanted to call this my day because I was the reason for much of our delays today.

Jim and Leon didn't get a chance to look over our route and develop simplified directions last night so they did so in the morning. Knowing this, I slept late. We had talked about a 9:30a departure but I figured there's no way we'd be ready for that. At around 9a I told Jim that I could sleep to 9:15 and still make the 9:30 departure. Jim replied that I could probably sleep until 9:15 for a 9:00 departure in this group!

Ultimately we left around 10:05a, and I was the last one out in the parking lot. Kind of an unusual experience that I was not out in the parking lot champing at the bit.

Jim noticed that his Aprilia was a little low on fuel. He said he'd get oil and catch up with us. Turned out to be a good decision on his part. Without us impatiently looking over his shoulder he found some good synthetic oil (didn't just grab the first stuff he would have seen at the first place). And, while we got caught behind traffic on some of the roads in Virginia, Jim said that he had relatively clear sailing.

Vic was the first to notice that my rear tire was becoming excessively worn. The Metzeler Z6 is a nice tire, but it has no tread grooves in the very center of the rear tire. Consequently, when it wears it can sneak up on you rather suddenly--and it did. We kept a close eye on the tire and considered options to replace it (could have ridden down to Boone, NC at one point). But I decided to forge ahead. The tire eventually wore through to the cords later in the trip but not so much that it prevented me from getting home safely.

In Mountain City, TN a kid at a gas station told me, "I like your bikes. My daddy don't like them kind, though." Turns out the kid's father owned the gas station, and was very helpful when we looking at options to get my rear tire replaced--regardless of what bikes he likes.

I've completely forgotten to mention Jim's lunch habits. Jim "Two-Lunch" Bear apparently has a very high metabolism rate. He can eat endlessly without getting fat. It was not uncommon for Jim to order two lunches, or many side dishes, to satisfy his appetite. Science needs to study this guy.

In the heavy traffic of Gatlinburg (tourist trap), TN, complete stop-and-go, idle your engines until they overheat, Leon's Suzuki overheated a little and blew the top off of the coolant reservoir. Leon calmly picked the cap off the ground as hot coolant spilled all over the road. Then he topped off with water at the next gas station. This guy is as cool as a cucumber. I later found out that his radiator fans are not connected or not working--there's just no need if you never stop and idle. Clearly Leon is not accustomed to sitting still for so long, nor are his bikes.

Continuing our good luck on the trip, I passed a cop going in the other direction as I was heading southbound out of Smoky Mountains Park. Luckily I was going fairly slowly at the time. Leon wasn't so lucky as the cop later stopped him, but the cop was a rider too and we weren't doing anything outrageous so they let him off with a warning.

At, and after, dinner on Day 5 we had some of our best conversation. The trip was basically over and we were in full-blown story-telling mode. Hanni gave us an etiquette lesson: "In Austria you can't pick up your glass without drinking [when you toast to something]." Then she looked at Jim and pointed out that he had done that last night! Did I mention that Hanni is Austrian? And Simon is British?

Leon told of an "arrangement" he had with a fast car he was following. The car was able to pass slower traffic in the passing zones. But these passing zones don't come along very often in some of the mountains. So Lean would subsequently pass that same slower traffic during the no-passing zones! Together they moved through traffic very well. If that sounds dangerous to any non-motorcycle-riders reading this, don't be troubled. It's very easy on a bike.

We talked about my tire some more. They told me about all the stuff I'd need if I had to change tires along the side of the road. Jim said to Leon (who has changed a tire by the side of the road--Iron Butt rider, remember?), if you change the tire by the side of the road you can't be worried about scratching your rims, right? Leon replied: "You've seen my bike, right?" The pictures won't do it justice, but let's just say that Leon is not overly concerned about the looks of his bikes...

The fuel injection on Jim's Aprilia was not spot-on, and that is something Jim is looking into improving. It appeared his mileage was not as good as it should have been, leading to a shorter range before needing refueling, and when he would accelerate hard you could see puffs of smoke (burning some oil?). Given these small issues, I wondered whether an Aprilia was a good enough sport touring bike (Japanese reliability does spoil you). Hanni immediately countered, "At least it doesn't chew up its tires!" Touché.

Leon made this point after dinner: "Hmmm, seems like we like to ride when it's light out for good visibility, we like to ride when it's cool, and we don't like to have to rush to get into the hotel before night fall..." Clear implication was that we should really leave earlier than we did. Vic's reply was short and sweet, something like, "Count me out, it's a vacation!" Jim agreed with Vic. I can't recall where Simon and Hanni stood on the issue. I agree with Leon.

Someone, maybe Vic, pointed out that the problem was not that we left too late but that we need better lights on our bikes! And deer whistles, I said. Hanni suggested that Vic not smoke the 100s, but go with shorter cigarettes. That alone would save us some time!

At various times on the trip Hanni had talked about getting a bike of her own. Leon told Hanni that she was welcome to come along on this ride next year once she has her own bike. And she could even bring Simon, too! Then we can blame Hanni for being slow.

During this time I had been drinking "girlie drinks". For example, I shared a six pack of Smirnoff Ice one night and a six pack of Bacardi Silver (orange flavor) tonight. Just felt like that more than beer. Vic said that he thought I was tough. I said I was, way back when I started the trip!

It was such a long trip, and a good one, that time just seemed to fly by. I think it was the second night that I caught myself saying something like, "Remember back when we started this trip..." only to be reminded that we had just started the day before!

On Day 5 we started at a little after 10a in Bluefield, WV and I rolled into Bryson City, NC at around 9p after covering 336 miles on the day.

DAY 6, Sunday, September 23rd - "Heading Home"
I got up early (for me) and left on my own about 8:15a. In fact, Leon, Simon and Hanni, and I all had talked about leaving early today. But everything is relative. Early for Leon meant that he was long gone by the time I got up. And Simon and Hanni hadn't left yet.

Early part of the ride was tough because there was a lot of fog in the mountains, and visibility was very low. Still a good ride though, very quite in the morning.

Normally when heading home I would think "closer to contest the ticket" whenever I would cross a county line. But now my rear tire was heavy on my mind, and all I could as I think as I crossed county lines was: closer to summon help. I had to take it very easy on the way back and couldn't enjoy the ride as much.

As I was heading south through North Georgia there were literally hundreds of bikes heading north, most of them Harleys. In certain pockets (Hwy 129 near Wolf Pen Gap--the other side from where we passed Hwy 180 on the way up) there were a lot of sportbikes tearing it up. I was jealous. I didn't have time and didn't have a good tire so I couldn't play.

By now the tire was making noise. It had worn through to the cords in one part, and the worn part was expanding. But since it hadn't worn through all the way around it was making a rhythmic noise as it alternated rubber and steel on the pavement. By the time I got home I noticed my rear brakes squawking at me--they need changing, too. Looks like I barely made it!

On Day 6 I left Bryson City, NC at 8:15 and got back to Smyrna around 12:15, about 202 miles. Then I had to hustle to the rink to skate at 2p, where we smoked the second place team in our league 10-4 (they had beaten us 7-6 the previous week and we wanted revenge).

Total trip mileage for me was 1691 miles over 6 days. The VFR performed flawlessly--it really is the perfect bike, in my opinion, for this mix of distance and technical riding. Gotta be comfortable enough to get there and sporty enough to have fun once you do get there.

I've already got the rear wheel pulled and rear brake pads replaced (I had extras ready and waiting, and a new tire ready and waiting). New tire is ready to get changed whenever I get the green light from Vic. I'm sure he'll take pictures and you can have a laugh at my expense.

We all agreed that this was a great trip. On a personal level, I think it was exactly the kind of trip Chad would have liked. We had a great mix of people. The riding was great. The weather was great. No crashes, no tickets, virtually no rain.

We agreed that we should do it again next year, perhaps in a different location. We agreed that we shouldn't add to the list of people because the larger the group, the tougher the logistics and the longer all the stops would be. Leon said that he'd bring his Ninja 250. I might ride my SV. If we make home base in West Virginia maybe we could just buy a house for the week...

The conversation at dinner and at stops was also great. I've wondered about why that is. Perhaps the attached Peter Egan article explains part of it.

Stop me if I can
Great video on this site, too.

It's Stanley Cup Playoff time!

So, to kick off the playoffs, here is a fun story about the greatest trophy in sports, the Stanley Cup.

John Cusack: "I just love the Cup. It's such a deterrent. Earlier in the day Eddie Vedder and I were walking along the concourse at Wrigley Field, and the Cup's ten feet in front of us, and no one even recognizes us. I'm in a house with a bunch of people, and no one notices me for twenty minutes. It was great. The Stanley Cup draws everybody's attention."

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

How to use the data in Google Maps

If real life were more like the Internet

Song of the Day: Allison Crowe - Throw Your Arms Around Me v2

Throw Your Arms Around Me v2 - Allison Crowe - Spiral

Okay, that's a good start

Just started the Blog. Uploaded a lot of things that I have shared via GMail status message (and Buzz), but that stuff gets lost too quickly. I won't be updating as frequently in the future. This will be a record of things that catch my eye as time goes on.

Vic's Fall Ride, 2007

Pictures from a great ride.

Google Voice!

Are you kidding?  You don't have Google Voice yet?

How To: Totally Overhaul Your Phones With Google Voice, from Gizmodo

Detroit is Dying

Government mismanagement at its finest? Implications for health care?

Web Search Nuances

Contrasts in How Google Suggests Searches

This is a fascinating article.

"Someone once told me that there is nowhere we are more honest than the search box. We don't lie to Google. Period. We type in what we're thinking -- good, bad, and ugly. There's probably no piece of information that would better show what's on someone's mind than their stream of searches."

Web Trends, 2010

10 Web trends to watch in 2010

Apple is Closed

Be rational...

Things I've Learned at Google

Great post about working at Google.

"Is it always this chaotic?" The response I got was, "Yes! Isn't it wonderful?"

Google Addresses Privacy Concerns (kind of)

Remember, don't be evil...,16891/

Hockey in Canada

This tells the story of how important hockey is in some parts of the world. Information from the Vancouver gold medal game...


Is there any comic funnier than XKCD???

Devotion to Duty

Okay, here is a great hockey story

1989 cancelled hockey championship gets do-over in Morris Twp.

Venn Diagrams (not just something to forget from grade school)

15 Venn Diagrams To Explain The Internet’s Fascination With Venn Diagrams

Car Drivers Suck

Almost got killed on the ride into work today.

I was riding my motorcycle to work this morning, about 9:05 or 9:10a. I-20 westbound, just west of I-285 and east of the river (before reaching Six Flags). I was in the second lane from the left.

Guy in a charcoal Nissan Maxima (Georgia plate 519 NHZ) decides he's going to change lanes. He was in the lane directly to my right. Just came left without ever looking.

When I hit my horn and basically panicked, he just kept coming. Looked right at me and kept coming. I had to gas it to squirt ahead.

Now directly behind me, he continues into the far left lane, pulls up alongside me, and gives me the finger. As if it were my fault for being in his way.

I have NEVER seen enforcement of truly dangerous driving practices. Sure, sit on the side of the road and ticket speeders. But not a care in the world for really dangerous driving.


Facebook passing Google?

From Friedman

If you put the federal government in charge of the Sahara desert in five years there’d be a shortage of sand. - Milton Friedman

You can't argue with this

If you're not part of the solution, you're part of the precipitate.

Global Warming?

“The fact is that we can’t account for the lack of warming at the moment and it is a travesty that we can’t.” - Dr. Kevin Trenberth, IPCC climatologist

This is the main reason why I am very skeptical about global warming. I'm an engineer, and the first thing I do when doing a computer model is VERIFY THE MODEL. For example, we took power system harmonic measurements at key load points within a plant. We also took measurements at the main incoming service. When we built our power system model, to analyze the harmonics, we checked to see that our model matched the actual measurements we took at the incoming service. We did not proceed with "what if" scenarios until our model matched the actual real-world conditions.

I have seen no evidence that the "climatologists" have ever taken this very basic first step. In their case, they could take conditions from, say, 1990, run their models to see what they think should happen by 2000, and then compare to what was actually measured in 2000. Why don't they do it? Are they scientists or politicians?

More from our Founders

I think we have more machinery of government than is necessary, too many parasites living on the labor of the industrious. - Thomas Jefferson, letter to William Ludlow, 1824

From our Founders

It will be of little avail to the people that the laws are made by men of their own choice, if the laws be so voluminous that they cannot be read, or so incoherent that they cannot be understood; if they be repealed or revised before they are promulgated, or undergo such incessant changes that no man who knows what the law is today can guess what it will be to-morrow. - Federalist No. 62


No time to work out? Check out the stair work around 3:44 of this video:

Occasionally they tell the truth

"We have to pass the bill so that you can find out what is in it."

Back to the Future?

Wisdom from Warren Buffet

I think there are quite a few companies that could learn this lesson:

We would rather suffer the visible costs of a few bad decisions than incur the many invisible costs that come from decisions made too slowly – or not at all – because of a stifling bureaucracy. - Warren Buffet, Berkshire Hathaway 2009 Annual Report

This is who we elect in Georgia

Pay attention around 1:16 of the video:

Karma's a Bitch

This couldn't happen to a "nicer" guy. I got to see this in person.

And a close-up of the punch:

A physician's take on health care

A better way?