Thursday, August 28, 2008

One Year Review -Tour Master Transition Motorcycle Jacket

I've evolved in some ways over the years and have slowly but surely replaced my riding gear from no helmet, to 3/4 helmet, to full face helmet. From shorts to jeans, from tennis shoes to boots, from tank top to leather jacket to the textile "Tourmaster Transition" motorcycle jacket I'm going to discuss today.

Have I become paranoid or just plain ol'wiser? I would vote for the latter rather than the former.

It's been a little more than a year ago since I bought my motorcycle jacket. So it has endured nearly daily riding through all four Pacific Northwest seasons from stifling 100 degree heat, to below freezing and all points in-between. Rain, snow and hail put my new jacket to the test.

I'm happy to report that one test wasn't carried out however and that would be the crash test.

In warm weather, I removed the zip-out liner and opened all the vents. The air circulation was better than my leather jacket but I still found it pretty toasty at temperatures above 80. But then wouldn't any jacket be the same?

With cold weather, I added the liner and it kept my torso warm enough down to about 40 degrees. Adding another layer of clothing like a sweatshirt kept me comfortable enough down to about 29 degrees on short rides. If I had cold weather long distance riding in mind however, I might look for a warmer jacket or add more layers of clothing.

Rain was not a problem for the jacket. It retained water-tightness and everything in my pockets stayed dry.

The zippers still work flawlessly.

So, I've found the Transition jacket to be high quality for the $150.00 price tag and expect it to last many more years to come.

Do you have a particularly good riding jacket? Or one that is so bad that you wouldn't even recommend it to Bin Laden?

Previous Post: "My New Motorcycle Jacket"


Tourmaster Transition Series 2 Silver Motorcycle Jacket


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Friday, August 22, 2008

Why I Ride Motorcycles plus an Update on Losing "Liberty"

For those who didn't read my recent post concerning selling my motorcycle, the short of it is: I’m planning on selling my bike which I’ve named “Liberty” because I can’t afford the payments right now. I’ve held on to it as long as I could.

Today I’m going to address some of the reactions I’ve heard:

“Are you going to give up riding, or are you going to get another bike?”

No, I’m not giving up riding and yes I will get another bike and just as soon as I possibly can.

“You ride your bike to work, isn't it cheaper (on gas) to just keep it instead of driving a car?”

Yes, but I will be getting another motorcycle or scooter to use for commuting. In the mean time I’ll be riding my bicycle on most days. That’s not a bad thing either. There will be no cost for fuel and I’ll get some much needed exercise too. I’ll also be saving the planet of some carbon emissions and helping reduce our dependence on foreign oil. (Hmm, I wonder if Al Gore gets around on a bicycle)

“What kind of bike do you want to get?” My leanings are toward the pure and the practical. A “KLR650” would be nice, or a scooter would be fine too. I think even if I had an unlimited amount of money to spend, I still wouldn't be getting a “Boss Hoss” or a “Goldwing” or even $25,000 worth of “Harley” chrome.

“Are you going to quit your motorcycle blog?” (Motorcycle & Scooter Talk)

Heck no, I enjoy it too much. It doesn't cost me anything except for time. Writing is something I love to do and so it’s time well spent. I’m not going to let the temporary condition of not owning a motorcycle stop me from writing about motorcycling. My philosophy is this: If a brick wall stands in my path, then I’ll go over or around it.

When my spiritually minded wife read the post lamenting my upcoming loss she had perhaps the most thought provoking reaction of them all. She laughed hysterically like it was the funniest thing she ever heard. I told her that I thought it odd that she found it funny, the one saddest post in a year’s worth of motorcycle blogging. Not to mention that this is the second bike I’ve lost in the past five years due to economic circumstances and she knows how much motorcycles mean to me.

She explained her reaction something like this: "Material things don’t matter, they come and they go." And she said, "be saddened by the loss of persons not things."

That is her way and she is right. Maybe I was overly sensitive to what seemed like her making light of my feelings and my writing. Her reaction served as a reminder that attachment to things is frivolous, even laughable. Maybe I taught her a little something too. Once she realized that I didn't think my post was intended to be funny, she lovingly straightened the hood on my jacket and said that she would pray for a miracle, so that I could keep the bike. I told her that if a miracle is coming it had better be soon, I've got a payment coming up in a couple of weeks! In her wisdom, she reminded me that the very nature of miracles is that they are not restricted by time.

I've come around to thinking about attachment to material things the same way she does, and increasingly so as I get older. Attachment to things is a proportional loss of freedom. With the one exception: motorcycles. For me Liberty is more than just an inanimate chunk of metal and rubber. She is the symbol and the means of my freedom. None of us, not one, are truly free however. We have responsibilities to our God (or Goddess), our families, our friends, our communities, the planet, our jobs, our pets, the list goes on and on. And that’s not a bad thing either. Complete freedom is an abstract goal that is unattainable and even undesirable. A certain measure of freedom however is life affirming and even re-creational.

When I’m on my motorcycle an ecstatic feeling overcomes me. It’s not just the wind, the motion, the adrenaline rush or the unobstructed view. It’s not only the focused consciousness, or the heightened awareness born of a sense of danger. Nor is it only the feeling of being in total control of a force much more powerful than I. It’s not just the feeling of synchronicity between man and machine. It’s all those things along with the sense of freedom I get while in the saddle.

And there is one more thing:

My brother the Mathematician once said to me, “riding motorcycles is tempting fate, the odds are that eventually you’re going to crash.”

Mathematically he is right of course. But I ride safe, minimize risk and play the odds to win. And riding a motorcycle straight towards “The Reaper” in an odd sort of way is riding away from him at the same time. For me riding allows living in the moment, and any given moment is the only moment that really exists. The past is memory and the future uncertain. The moment, this moment, is life eternal.

And so that’s why I ride and that’s why every day I will be expecting a miracle to come along so that I can keep my "Liberty", and if not, then that will be a lesson in detachment. I will take that lesson with my head held high and a smile on my face. Then my attention will turn towards my next bike and her name will be “Liberty 2”...

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Friday, August 15, 2008

Motorcycle Ride. Re-Visiting & Re-Thinking a Gunfight

My bike "Liberty" parked at "Spong's Landing"

Today's post is about my ride out to the scene of a shooting. No need to worry though, the gun-smoke cleared away some 140 years ago and time the great eraser had done it's work, rendering the incident all but forgotten.

One of the cool things about going for a motorcycle ride is the added benefit of being able to pursue secondary interests. In my case, I'm a bit of a history buff.

The other day I had an opportunity to take the bike out for a spin and spend some time at a place along the Willamette River with some little known history behind it. I grew up nearby and spent countless hours there swimming, picking wild blackberries, catching crawdads, skipping rocks and exploring. Sometimes with only the ghosts of the early day pioneers to keep me company. Often I would sit on the river bank and try to visualize the scene as it would have been a hundred years ago and more, -imaginary steamboats rounding the bend.

Back in the nineteenth and early twentieth century the Willamette River was the main means of transporting goods and people up and down the valley. Riverboats navigated these waters with regularity. I have heard it said that in the old days if you sat on the bank of the river one could see at least one steamboat at any given time.

Towns and river boat landings along the river were alive with human activity. Towns sprang up along the banks of the Willamette almost overnight and many disappeared just as fast when the river lost out to improved wagon roads, bridges being built, the laying of train track and the final swan song of the river boat was the advent of the internal combustion engine and the building of highways.

Now the river sits mostly silent except when it passes through towns like Eugene, Corvallis, Independence, Salem, Oregon City and Portland. The rest of the river is protected by a “greenway” where no development of any kind is allowed near its banks. So mostly there is only the gentle ripple of the waters, the wind blowing through the trees, the rustle of dry leaves racing to wherever dry leaves go, and the occasional call of a Blue Heron.

A once busy ferry landing was here.

About 10 miles north of Salem and 4 miles west of the present day life blood of the Willamette Valley which is Interstate 5, is a lightly used and out of the way rural park called “Spong's Landing.” It was named for Alexander Spong who came to Oregon on a wagon train in 1851 with his wife and child. He took up a donation land claim in 1853 along the Willamette River and began to farm. His land was heavily wooded and a natural place for steam boats to stop and load up wood to burn in their boilers. He started a ferry service as well to move people and crops from one side of the river to the other.

Looking west from Spong's Landing toward the Ghost Town of Lincoln.

Across the river from Spong's Landing is the site of the once bustling town of Lincoln.

The town was fairly large for the time, it consisted of about a half mile of riverfront warehouses and wharves. It was platted by an earlier emigrant to the area in the 1840s, a man named Andrew Jackson Doake. He also was running a ferry service across the river from that location which apparently caused some bad blood between Misters Doake and Spong. Local lore has it that the two even exchanged gun fire on at least one occasion, luckily nobody was hurt.

The town of Lincoln along with steamboats lost their usefulness when bridges, railroads and eventually improved roads and highways came. Lincoln has long since disappeared from the western bank of the Willamette. Reclaimed by Mother Nature, a riparian woods thrive as though the town never was. Mr. Spong's farm, his boat docks and ferry landing are all long gone too.

Steps down to the landing and back in time.

"The Grandfather Tree"

This magnificent old oak tree sits on the side of a trail that must have been the original wagon road leading down to the river and to the place where steam boats once sat at dock and the ferry landing used to be.

Too small to feed the hungry boilers of the steamboats of the 1800s it was spared the axe. The tree now big and grand watches silently over those who pass. Some even notice the tree, mostly old folks, small children and the like. Those in-between often seem too pre-occupied to see the beauty and wonder that lies all around. Once in awhile I bring my kids over to the landing and my girls don't pass the tree without giving it a hug. They call it the "Grandfather Tree".

Eventually Mr. Spong won out and his family operated the ferry business for many years after the shooting. Mr. Doake at some point in time ceased ferry operations and sold his Lincoln land in 1860. Eventually Lincoln the town was gone too.

Did Mr. Spong and Mr. Doake resolve their differences peacefully and become friends? Or was it an uneasy truce? History does a poor job of recording thoughts and feelings. One can only guess, given the facts what we would think, feel and do under the same circumstances.

War and peace, conflict and cooperation, human nature is capable of going either way. Hopefully Mr. Doake and Mr. Spong came to a mutual agreement for the common good and chose to live out their days in peace. Life being too short to let ambition and selfish interests get in the way. I wonder.

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Garmin Zumo 450 Portable GPS Motorcycle Navigator

Saturday, August 9, 2008

"Liberty's" Last Ride? Motorcycling to Silver Falls Park -Oregon

I rode my motorcycle to our campsite in the middle of a rainforest with my 14 year old son on the back, my wife followed in a van with the rest of the kids. The twisties up the canyon were invigorating, the scenery breathtaking. The Sportster rumbled along flawlessly as always. Would this be the last time I took to this saddle as Captain?

Though this was to be a fun family adventure, it was a "bittersweet" one. The thought of it being the last run for my old friend, the motorcycle I've named "Liberty" weighed heavily on my mind. Economic circumstances being as they are, make it impossible to hold on any longer. The payments too large for my low-income job. With a family of 5 to feed the struggle has become no longer sustainable. I recently lost my opportunity to work overtime and when monthly expenses exceed monthly income, well, somethings got to give. The only thing I have left to give is my Liberty, who has given me so much of the very same.

I will continue to commute to work and with luck get in a few more side trips until I sell the bike. After that the commute will still be on 2 wheels, -a bicycle that is. Hopefully I will find a way to get another motorcycle sooner rather than later.

We went to Silver Creek Falls State Park in Oregon. Not more than 30 miles from our driveway in Salem put us right in the middle of a temperate rain forest and the campground we would be staying in.

The weather held up, it was nice and sunny and it didn't rain until after we had everything packed up and were leaving for home.

The park holds 9,000 acres of forest, meadows and a steep basaltic canyon holding 10 waterfalls, all connected by an 8.7 mile National Recreation Trail.

My son and I with my Sportster in the foreground and North Falls in the background.

Looking at the falls had the effect of washing away motorcycle problems from my mind and to see something bigger, something timeless. The cycle of water, which in the grand scheme of things makes one man's small troubles seem insignificant and temporary.

"Roughing It Easy"

The campground we stayed in was completely full. Filled with a lot of fancy RVs of all sorts, tents being in the minority. This particular RV caught my eye. No it wasn't the $300.000? price tag, it was the satellite dish, custom painted with a nature scene.

I've been practicing being non-judgemental lately which is really against my nature and a hard lesson to learn. So with that in mind, I'm not going to hold judgment on my fellow campers, especially if I don't know their story. The couple staying in the rig with the satellite dish had to be quite well to do. For all I know they may have funded an orphanage in Cameroon or helped feed and shelter children digging through the trash heaps of Mexico City looking for leftover food. Maybe they own a company and treat their employees well and give them good medical insurance and a living wage. Maybe they used some of their apparently plentiful supply of money for altruistic purposes -before having their satellite dish custom painted. -Maybe. Not for me to judge.

Still, it strikes me as a funny way of experiencing nature. I wondered as I walked past their self-contained resort on wheels, appointed with every known luxury and convenience known to man, if they were sitting inside making good use of that satellite dish. With 472 channels, hopefully they found a good nature program to watch.

South Falls

South Falls is a big one by any standard. Silver Creek plummets 177 feet down before landing in the pool below. This picture just shows the lower portion of the awe inspiring waterfall. In 1928 a Pacific Northwest legendary hero and daredevil named Al Faussett went over the falls in a homemade contraption of canvas and tire tubes. He survived with only a few broken ribs, a broken wrist and both ankles sprained. Others that have gone over, not so lucky.

A view from behind South Falls

A ponderous trail leads down into the canyon and around the side passing behind the falls. For the feint hearted and vertigo prone the railings are small comfort, being the only thing between oneself and sudden death, serious hurt, or at the very least embarrassment having to be rescued by means of rope and basket.

Mia Familia

This is a shot of my family perching on the side of the cliff behind South Falls. From the left my daughter turning 9 this week, my wife, my 10 year old daughter and 14 year old son. This 2 night camping trip is the highlight of their summer. God bless them for being patient with my inability to give them more.

And so was this to be Liberty's last ride? Perhaps. How long will it be once it's sold before I can get another bike? Questions that don't stray too far from my mind. I wax and wane between optimism and pessimism. Time will tell...

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Sunday, August 3, 2008

Motorcycle Ride -The Oregon Coast, Barns, Bridges & Biscuits

I was really fortunate to be able to take my motorcycle last week on a business (camping) trip out to the Oregon Coast and stayed 2 nights.

I traveled from Salem on Highways 22 and 18 to Lincoln City on the coast, a distance of about 50 miles and then South down U.S. Route 101 to Newport, a ride of only about 83 miles from home. I feel fortunate to be living where I do because I have an amazing backyard.

My bike "Liberty" overlooking the Pacific Ocean at Depoe Bay, Oregon

Depoe bay is where the fishing trip sequence was shot in the 1975 film One Flew Over The Cuckoos Nest starring Jack Nicholson. The 6 acre harbor is the smallest in the world according to the Guinness Book of World Records.

Yaquina Bay Bridge as seen from where I was camping at South Beach State Park

The Yaquina Bay Bridge just South of Newport on U.S. Hwy. 101 was built in 1936. It must have been difficult getting around on the rugged Oregon Coast before the bridges were built.

"The World's Best Biscuits & Gravy"

On the last day I packed up and left camp early and hungry. Finding good biscuits & gravy in this world is a rarity indeed. The breakfast at the "end of the rainbow" is "The Pines Restaurant" in Newport off Highway 101. They had the best ever. Perfectly done biscuits with sausage patties, scrambled eggs and gravy on top. Oh Man!

Drift Creek Covered Bridge

On my way back home I made a stop off Highway 18 at Rose Lodge to see the Drift Creek Covered Bridge. Oregon has the largest collection of covered bridges in the west and one of the biggest in the nation. They were built around here from the 1850s up until the 1950s. 50 remain from an estimated peak of 450. Drift Creek is the oldest one left which was built in 1914. They were built because the roofs protected the huge truss timbers from the damp Western Oregon climate. A covered wooden bridge could last upwards of 80 years whereas an unprotected one could be expected to last only 9.

"This Old Barn"

Next stop was Ft. Yamhill, a new Oregon State Heritage Area. It's open to the public but still under construction and being excavated near Grand Ronde off Highway 22. The fort was built in 1856 and was abandoned in 1866. Its purpose: to ensure the Indians and white settlers didn't get into each others hair. The fort was built adjacent to the newly created Grand Ronde Indian Reservation on a strategic hilltop overlooking an encampment.

Which really must have sucked for the Indians at the time.

Being prevented from roaming their own land freely and having to live in one place couldn't have been a whole lot of fun.

Their revenge? A large and hugely profitable tribal casino just down the road a piece.

Small in stature, big in ambition, young Lt. Phil Sheridan reportedly used to sit in the mornings and look out for couriers bringing him a much anticipated call to action in the Civil War raging back east. Lt. Sheridan got his orders and in 1861 he left Ft. Yamhill. By war's end he had become a hero and a 4 star General.

I took a picture of this barn because first of all it was a good subject to photograph and secondly I was thinking of Lt. Sheridan, he fixed his gaze in the same direction some 148 years ago. I have a theory as well, about the barn that is.

This barn is obviously very old. It wasn't standing during the days the fort was occupied. There would have been an Indian village or encampment there. Most of the buildings at the Ft. are gone. Only the Blockhouse (moved to Dayton) and an officers house remain. What happened to all the other buildings? I think locals may have tore them down and carted off the wood to build their own structures, like maybe this old barn...

Living where I do in the central part of the Willamette Valley of Western Oregon puts me within an hour or so ride to seemingly endless curiosities. As I said before, I have an amazing backyard. I've been living around here most of my life and have seen all the main attractions, it's the small and lesser known wonders I now seek out. Like where to find a great breakfast, or places to ponder history and my place in it...

Tomorrow I'm going camping again. This time to Silver Creek Falls. One of the most scenic places anywhere. It's a common tourist stop, my assignment: Find the uncommon, stuff that won't be found on a brochure.

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Dreaming of Jupiter
In 1974 Ted Simon travels "round the world' on his Triumph Tiger 100 and then writes the bestseller Jupiter's Travels. In 2001 he does it again, this time on a BMW GS and he's 70. The world and his perspective have changed and he writes about it in a sequel: Dreaming of Jupiter: In Search of the World--Thirty Years On This is your chance to get a copy through this amazon link: