It Takes Pictures

Today’s was one of those furtive winter rides – the kind where you nip out for half an hour just to run the engine up to temperature because the roads are momentarily free of ice, the battery needs charging, and because you wonder if you’ve forgotten how to ride a motorcycle.
Only two things of note happened. I was asked a stupid question at the gas station, and I went faster than the law allows on the freeway.

Off on a Winter's ride

First the gas station: The fuel gauge on the Kawasaki reads a bar lower when the bike is on the side stand. Consequently, when you start the bike with a quarter tank, it flashes “FUEL” on the dash like it’s going to run dry any second. Knowing I only had a 30 minutes of riding before my tenders would freeze, I rode to the gas station.

Feeding the Z an energy drink

It was a busy place this afternoon – As I was selecting my fuel grade from the pump, the gentleman refueling from the other side of the island got my attention with an “Excuse me…”
I turned and said “Hi”.
He said “If you don’t mind my asking, is that some kind of camera on your helmet?”
I said “Yes, it is.”
He asked “What does it do?”

Ask a silly question...

I said “It takes pictures.”

“Oh,” he said, “I just hadn’t seen anything like that before.”

I left the conversation at that.

Once gassed up, I jumped on the freeway and followed some truck or another to about the next exit. I was getting cold. So when I had an opportunity, I passed, saw some open road, and covered the next mile in something less than thirty seconds. Then I got off the freeway, and rode home.

Getting on the freeway


American Motorcyclist Association – Kids Just Want to Ride Act to be Introduced!

American Motorcyclist Association – Kids Just Want to Ride Act to be Introduced!.

I contacted my congressman’s office by phone this afternoon to express my hope that he would support this legislation. I got the number by using the AMA’s rights watch portion of their website.

Please contact your congressperson to ask for their support on this issue as soon as possible.

Jones-Bass annual Winter ride

After last week’s blog posting, I asked my facebook friends if anyone was up for a Sunday ride. My little brother John, and my first racing rival (and dear friend) Walter Bass accepted the invitation.

The weather report was dismal; up to 3 inches of new fallen snow, on top of several inches from earlier in the week. Highs in the low twenties. I did not blink. Nor did my riding partners. Neither John nor Walter called with the inevitable “Have you seen the forecast” call that I always get before a planned ride. The day before, and the morning, of, both were gung-ho on the phone, perhaps waiting to see if I would wuss out for them. Ha ha! No dice! They were playing bad weather chicken with a mad man. It was on.

I picked up John and Walter in the city with a light snow just beginning to fall. We stocked up at Quick Trip with breakfast sandwiches and bargain basement energy drinks. We hit the freeway, headed South, just as the snow really got going.

Bill and John and Walter embark on a snowy Winter ride

When we arrived, the bikes, trailer, and tiedowns were coated in frozen road grime. We chipped it all off and tried to start the bikes. Not a one of them would fire. We were prepared. We jumped them all from my car, and soon we had a chorus of uncorked playbikes, running at high idle in the State Park loading area.

John makes ready to unload some bikes

John and Walter unload the bikes

The bikes were coated with road slush

Once we were all suited up, we hit the lead tailings – in the case of my brother and I, we quite literally hit them. I made it about 100 yards before I spun out on the hidden frozen river that bisected the sandy vestibule of the riding area. I was on the ground so fast it was amazing. I heard my brother laugh, and when I looked around, he was on the deck too, sliding and tumbling, his bike spinning on the ice. Apparently, he saw me fall, and he took his hand off the bar to point at me while he laughed, and karma bit him almost instantaneously. We both struggled to right our bikes, finding no decent footing on the ice.

Everything just got better from there. Mostly. We rode and rode, climbing and descending the rocky trails, burning donuts in the snow covered sand, and basically fooling around. It was great. I somehow dislodged my chain from my rear sprocket at one point on a steep rocky hill climb, but fixed it quickly. John spun himself dizzy on the sand flats, and then found the toughest hill of the day – attacked it, and failed repeatedly, eventually draining his already suspect battery while trying to start his flooded bike. We rallied around the stricken bike and got it started again with some elevation and a long, drawn out bump start.

Bill fixes his chain, which has jumped the sprocket

Racing to catch up with John

John has a professional interest in donuts

John rips it up

a donut ends badly

The aftermath

After that, we cruised the major trails at St. Joe, and found that they got slicker and slicker as we went North. John was feeling in his element. I struggled, and did some very ungraceful riding. Finally, on the long way back to the loading area, deep in the woods, John’s throttle cable snapped. Walter had the pragmatic solution – he turned John’s idle up to around 4,000 rpm and instructed him to ride it with just the clutch. John did, hopping off on steep hills to run along side his bike to keep it from stalling.

Walter helps John bump start his stricken bike

TTR in the snow

My brother, John

My buddy Walter

Me! (self portrait... is this thing on?)

We finished the day at John’s place, reviewing the pictures and laughing. His wonderful wife, Gina made us hot ham and cheese melts and Irish coffee. It was a very good day.

Bonus crash footage!

Coulterville, Jan 17

I went by myself to Coyote Trails ATV Riders in Coulterville today for my first ride of the year. I bought a year pass for me and my daughter – $120.

The trails looked really good. Graded, and dry. I was excited.

I got the TTR off the trailer and suited up. I ran around the practice track, and was immediately surprised at how little traction there was. What appeared to be dry dirt was an ultra fine layer of dry earth on top of recently thawed sopping wet clay. The tires were coated. Imagine, if you will, slathering several inches of Vaseline on bald tires, and then going for a ride on an ice rink. This was almost that slippery.

Bill's muddy TTR

Bill's muddy TTR, after the first few minutes of riding at Coulterville

I raced around in the gravel parking lot for a few minutes, accelerating, and broad sliding in swoopy turns to throw some of the clay off my tires. Then I went for a ride in the woods. It was slippery there too, but not uniformly treacherous like the practice track. This was a little better.

I'm not cranked over because I'm railing the turn. I'm saving a front end wash-out.

slippin on the TTR

Slipping and sliding on the wet clay

Looks fun, doesn't it?

I fell once. With the camera on. Just pushed the front in the wet mud and lost my balance. I was startled by how heavy the bike was when I tried to pick it up. I felt bad for my clutch. I abused it mightily to keep my momentum up in the sticky, slippery goo.

A low speed squish into the earth

After about 90 minutes of riding in the slop, I packed up. My filthy, mud laden bike became the problem of the people who own the DIY car wash in Mascoutah IL.

The TTR was noticeably heavier when I loaded it back on the trailer


I ride. I talk about riding. Some of my friends ride, most don’t. The ones who don’t get tired of me talking about riding. So this will be my new outlet. Every ride of 2011, with pictures.