Saturday, October 27, 2007

Terra Nova, Snake Road and a fine group of fellas

I've had to work this week so this is the first chance I've had to post about the ride I went on last Sunday with a new group of fellas from
We started out from a parking lot in front of a Tim Horton's on Woodbine south of 16th Avenue in Markham. That's Bernard on the far left in the blue jacket, the fella with the serious back protection in the middle is Errol, while the person standing to the right of Errol is Ray. And that's Chris on the far right. The other fellas are going to have to write me to identify themselves because I can't remember their names.

I didn't do a count of bikes, but there had to be more than 30 who came on the first leg of the trip down to Snake Road in Burlington. We broke up into several groups.
I asked to be in the slowpoke group and a guy named Tibor, in the beige jacket in this photo, volunteered to ride lead for us.

I think Tibor was the only person there not on a sport bike of some sort -- the next pic features his bike in the foreground when we stopped to connect with the other groups in the parking lot of a church at the corner of No15 Sideroad.

Correct me if I'm wrong, but I think it's a Vulcan Classic (probably an 800). Tibor lamented not being able to ride as fast as the sport bikes, but believe me, he can really ride. I had to work to keep up with him.

This is Tim with his Kawi at the church stop. Tim and I have been comparing notes on camcorders and camcorder mounts. He's taken some pretty nice footage of his rides.

And this is Cleemore with his Gixxer at that stop.

I'm afraid I can't remember the names of the red duo, taken in the parking lot of the church, in this photo. Perhaps they'll email me to remind me and I'll add their names later. The route we took to Snake Road from there included some interesting roads with a couple of nice curves.

The beginning of the ride didn't bode well, since two bikes went down before we even got to Snake Road.

Here's a sad Mike and his bike, which he took into grass once he figured out he was going down whether he liked it or not. The fairing took a hit, but his sliders protected most of it so the damage wasn't too bad. The other pix is a closeup of the damage to the fairing.

I didn't get the full story on what happened to this Ducati, but it clearly took a fall to the right because the brake lever lost its knobby bit on the end. The Duc belongs to Chris, who's in the group shot on the top of this page.

This was my first time on Snake Road: it has a lovely rhythm to it, although it's way too short -- maybe about 10 minutes worth of riding. There are a lot more curves in it than is apparent when you click through to this Google map. But it was a long ride on the 401 to get there.

The number of bikes thinned considerably after Snake Road, and by the time we finished lunch and set off for Terra Nova there were only eight of us left. The rate at which we kept losing people was somewhat disconcerting on this last leg of the ride. Bob and Tibor got caught at a red light when six of us got through to get onto a ramp onto the 401. Here we are waiting on the side of the road to see if Bob and Tibor were coming along behind us. It turned out they didn't follow us because they thought we were taking a different exit.

We later lost two more people and then there were only four of us. But Tim was texting Bob and eventually we hooked up with Bob and Tibor near Airport Road before the turn to Terra Nova, so six of us ended up on Terra Nova.

Although Snake Road was a nicely technically challenging, Terra Nova provided lots more turns for a greater distance, and some really nice hills. Here's a link to the route Bob said we took from River Road to Terra Nova.

There was one sweeping curve that felt like it was almost 180 degrees. Part of the pavement was pretty rough and patched at the beginning, but the surface improved after that.

I was struggling to keep up with everybody. There were a lot of hills and it was almost sunset so every time I topped a hill the sun was in my eyes. I'd slow way down until I could be sure what was on the other side of the hill. I booted it a bit on a straight after that 180 to try to make up time and ... at the last minute saw the fellas waiting at the side of an intersection. Belatedly realized there was a stop sign. I braked immediately, but was going too fast to make the stop. A quick look left and right showed there was no one coming, fortunately, so I skidded to a halt and turned around on the other side of the intersection.

Bob commented that I'd just used up one of my nine lives. Heh. It's that horseshoe up my ... I mean, my lucky horseshoe that keeps following me around. Was relieved to know it's still working, though. This final shot is our last gas stop before heading home. Although we did a fair amount of slab riding to get to the curvy bits, it was a gloriously warm day and they were all within an hour of downtown. That's good to know when you don't have half a day to get up to Elephant Road or the 507.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

A souvenir from the Dragon

I just ordered one last souvenir.

A website called sends out photographers to take pix of people on Highway 129 and you can buy a copy of yourself riding the Tail of the Dragon for $5US. Cool!

They put it on a CD and mail it to you, with delivery estimated in two weeks. I took a screenshot of the low-res thumbnail to put here as a placeholder until it arrives.

Monday, October 8, 2007

Fog bound, tired, but home

After staying two days with my cousins Karen and Kathy (that's Karen on the left and Kathy on the right -- and the pix below are the really cool view from the patio at Kathy's condo), left Clarksville in Indiana yesterday morning for Ann Arbor.

The ride was a scorcher. The high in the Louisville area (Clarksville is just across the river from Louisville) for the day was 91F -- almost 33C.

Had to stop about every 150 kilometres to hydrate. It was so hot that after I parked Baby in Toledo her sidestand had sunk into the asphalt by the time I came back.

Every time I stopped I had to strip off my jacket immediately. Perforated leather isn't too hot as long as I'm moving but the minute I stopped I was baking. Every time I met up with another biker he'd ask me "Aren't you hot?" My standard response? "Well, yeah. But showers are faster, cheaper, and less painful than skin grafts."

Was too hot to eat, so by the time I got to Toledo around 5 I was starved. Spent an hour refueling Baby and myself and rolled into Ann Arbor about an hour after that. Filled Baby's tank, checked the tire pressure, lubed her chain, packed her to be ready to go, and crashed until midnight. Wanted to leave for Toronto at 1 a.m. to miss a thunderstorm that was forecast to be rolling through the city around 10.

Turned out I didn't have to -- while I was travelling the forecast had changed for the storm to hit late afternoon.

Still, I managed to get here without getting soaked -- although the fog was so bad on the 403 just west of Hamilton I had to stop by the side of the road for an hour and a half. Took that long to wait for the sun to rise to burn it off. Couldn't just follow the tail-lights of a truck or car because a fine mist from the fog kept condensing in a so quickly on my face shield I couldn't see ANYTHING.

I crashed for a couple of hours and am now catching up with friends. Brought back some bourbon balls -- every time I stopped to hydrate I grabbed a cup of ice to put in ziplock bags to keep them from melting!

A weird thing: almost every time I stopped for gas in Kentucky people kept proudly telling me that you don't have to wear a helmet in Kentucky. I always asked: "Why wouldn't you want to?" I just don't understand opponents of helmet laws. I'm kind of attached to *MY* head.

Saturday, October 6, 2007

Baby's got a brand-new tire

Marc went on to Ann Arbor yesterday and I swung west to visit my cousins in Louisville and Clarksville, Indiana. After staying the night at my cousin Kathy's condo and having breakfast this morning with Kevin, Karen, Krista and Kim (four of my six K cousins) got packed to go and noticed there was a rivet sticking out of Baby's rear tire.

Don't know how long it was there -- could have been just a slow leak yesterday, but the tire was flat this morning. Glad it didn't give out on the highway. When you're not rolling is the best way to find out about a flat.

I don't believe in fixing tires -- the consequence of tire failure when rolling is too extreme. So took her over to SNS Motorsports here in Clarksville to get a new one. Got one of the soft compound ones this time. Like it so much I'm gonna get her a matching front one when we get back to Toronto.

Karen went to SNS Motorsports with me. While waiting for them to change the tire I amused myself sitting on all the bikes in the showroom. Have yet to find a Honda sport bike that even lets me get my toes down -- and the ZX-6Rs are even higher than Baby. Oy. I kind of liked how the Suzuki GS500 fit. But they don't have as good a reputation for reliability and handling.

So... got to spend another day visiting with my cousins.

Hope to get an early start in the morning!

Thursday, October 4, 2007

Dog-tired in Kentucky

Have only a few minutes of borrowed time on a clandestine WiFi connection tonight, so this is going to be brief.

I wanted to do the Dragon again today, but Marc talked me into trying the Cherahola Skyway instead, and I'm glad he did. It was AWESOME! Not especially challenging, but just challenging enough to be fun and because much of it is on top of a low mountain range the vistas were amazing. I turned on the camcorder and think I captured the whole ride on video. Haven't recharged the battery yet to view it.

I went first since Marc always rides faster than I do, and he'd be sure to pass me. He somehow managed to pass me without seeing me and when he didn't see me at our appointed meeting place where the Skyway ended at Highway 68, he turned up 68 ... and to make a long story short for the next two hours we kept missing each other and didn't get back together until after 2.

At which point it started raining, so... by the time we headed back north to Louisville so we could spend the night across the river in Indiana and visit with my cousins, it was after 3.

After booting it up the I-75 for almost five hours, we were dog tired by the time we reached Berea Kentucky, about 40 miles south of Lexington. Decided not to ride tired.

So I missed seeing all my cousins tonight and they must be getting pretty tired of plans changing. We'd already changed the time we'd arrive twice because of weather. I hope I get to see some of them tomorrow.

Sigh. Weather is a taxing travel companion.

I wish I'd had time to do the Dragon one more time, but I'll be back. After I get lots more practice at decreasing radius turns!

Postscript: Click here to see the route we took from Maryville to Robbinsville to Tellico Plains, from the beginning of the Dragon to the end of the Cherahola Skyway.

The video I shot on the camcorder turned out to be an excellent view of the road surface for the whole of the Cherahola Skyway -- but can't see much else. Gotta work on best position for the lens...

Wednesday, October 3, 2007

I'm not dead yet

Although I probably should be. That Dragon has TEETH. I managed to navigate every curve today, but I'd be lying if I didn't admit I was afraid for my life.

I never came close to going into a ditch, but that's because I never got out of third gear -- and some of the tightest curves I did in second. I'm sure I rode the Dragon much more slowly than anyone else there today. Everyone there was clearly a better rider than I am.

But my goal was to make it to the end alive, and that I did. Didn't go into a ditch. Didn't drop Baby. On the Dragon, anyway...

The top pic is of me standing at the north and south US Highway 129 sign at Deal's Gap, where you can refuel and buy Dragon souvenirs and snacks. The two below that are Baby getting fueled at a Dragon pump at Deal's Gap and the Gap souvenir shop. The next two are of the crossroads in front of the Gap -- the second one of the crossroads shows the road leading down to Robbinsville, North Carolina. Farther down still you'll see Google map and satellite photos of the Dragon.

The day hadn't started out completely auspiciously.

We'd arrived in Knoxville fairly late the night before -- getting to Harrodsburg to get the new shifter lever installed on Tuesday took longer than anticipated, and we got off the highway around Knoxville a couple of times before finding a motel in a neighbourhood we felt comfortable in. One of the places we stopped I was panhandled twice while I was trying to fill Baby's gas tank. Another woman approached me and tried to sell me a pocket knife. Oy.

Anyway, after checking late into the motel, I stayed up late to do some research, because I had an interview to do in the morning (this is a bit of a working holiday). Then I woke up early to do the interview. That was fine; I got enough sleep and was really pumped for both the interview and the ride.

We stopped by a motorcycle accessory shop near our motel on our way out of Knoxville. Bought a second disk lock for Baby's rear disk -- saw a scary video on YouTube that showed how easy it was to steal a bike when only the front disk is locked. A security camera caught two guys stealing a bike off a busy downtown street -- with a disk lock on the front disk -- by rolling it on its back wheel directly into a van. Took all of 30 SECONDS. Anyway, we shouldn't have stopped to look at bike bling... but we did.

So we were late heading out for US 129.
We got off the highway before reaching the Dragon to pick up some double-sided tape because I was going to try to attach the lens of the camcorder to the top of my helmet.

Marc took off without waiting to see if I was behind him when we left the store, though, and it took half an hour for me to find him. I finally got a call from him saying he was lost and ... where was I? So, he told me the corner where he was and I went and found him.

When I did, I rolled Baby into the gas station where he was waiting and proceeded to drop her on her right side. The entrance was canted badly, my tailbag was stuffed to the brim (laptop included), and she was top-heavy ... leaned too far and couldn't hold her up. At least it was her right side and I didn't have to buy another shifter.

But that made twice in two days I'd dropped her and this time I didn't have gravel to blame. But clearly I was carrying too much ballast, so Marc traded his (somewhat smaller and lighter) tailbag for mine.

Anyway, we lost another hour and got down to US 129 much later than planned.

But Baby felt much better without all the extra weight.

A good thing, because when we got on US 129 there was no where to stop before we got to where the Dragon waited. We'd originally intended to dump our luggage before riding her.

Ended up doing it fully loaded. Ho boy.

I've seen videos of people riding the Dragon.

The night before I left I looked at Google's satellite photos close up and joked to my friend Terry: I'm gonna die.

But I thought I was prepared. I'd taken the Turn2 course. I'd been on a few technically challenging rides in the last few weeks. By riding those at my own pace (admittedly a SLOW pace) I thought I was gonna lose it only twice: once because I was really, really tired (that's when I jumped the curb on Lil red bird's ride ) and once because I ran into gravel (on the ride heading up to meet the big ride to Aminal and Fozzy's barbecue).

Gravel is my enemy.

I thought "I'll just go REALLY slow."

Well, even REALLY SLOW... holey moley...

I WAS NOT -- I repeat -- I WAS NOT prepared for this. I don't know that anything could have.

John Reed had warned me about radically decreasing radius curves -- and he wasn't kidding. I'll ride it like a grandma, I said, laughing. Sheesh. I had no idea what I was saying. I had no idea of the reality represented by the Google map and Google satellite maps. See views further above of the especially challenging section of the Dragon approaching Deal's Gap.

By the time I finished -- by the time we got to Deal's Gap, where the technically challenging part ended -- so much adrenalin was pumping through my veins that you could have injected me into someone whose heart had stopped and got them going again.

There were at least a dozen of those 318 curves where I had to go so slow that the slowness itself was a problem. I had to push myself past my fear to goose the throttle.

Because we headed straight in, I hadn't had time to hook up my camcorder to record the ride. I finally hooked it up at Deal's Gap for the ride down to Robbinsville, but that section was really tame compared to the part we'd just finished. We decided to turn around and do it again, going north and uphill (which should be easier. Put the camcorder on Marc's bike for the ride back to the Gap. He zoomed ahead of me and when I arrived he announced he was too tired to try to do the technically challenging part again. I realized then that I was kind of tired, too. And it was 4:30 and we hadn't eaten since breakfast.

We decided to be reasonable and head to Robbinsville to find a motel. The pic on the right is a view of the river next to the Dragon on the lower leg on the way to Robbinsville. The next is of Baby waiting patiently while I take that photo. It started to drizzle as we got to Robbinsville, and we both were glad we weren't still on the Dragon when that happened. No way I wanna be on a WET Dragon.

If it doesn't rain in the morning, we'll try her again. If it does rain ... NOT A CHANCE. It would be a shame to come all this way and ride it only once, but my goal was to reach the end of it alive, and that I did.

If the weather doesn't cooperate in the morning ... I'll be back.

Tuesday, October 2, 2007


OK, it could have been a lot worse. Used duct tape to attach a carbiner to the end of the shifter lever and that got me 65 miles to a Kawasaki dealer in Harrodsburg, Ky, where they installed a new one. Actually, it only got me 63 of the 65 miles there -- it fell off right before I got there -- had to change gears by tucking my toe under the broken shifter for the last two miles. C'est la vie. Really scored -- the lever was only $34 and they refused to charge labour for installing it. Did I mention that the guys at Lee's Kawasaki in Harrodsburg are really awesome?!!!!!!

The ride there from Sparta (where the Ramada Inn parking lot ate my shifter lever) was on some of the best winding roads Kentucky has to offer. Took the 127 South most of the way and it was beautiful. I got a little verklempt -- this is the part of the country where my dad grew up. He used to ride his Electraglide on some of these very same roads (before he almost rode it up the back of a semi with my mother on the back and my mother made him get rid of it). All of a sudden I was really missing my dad and wishing he were on the ride. He died more than 20 years ago but as we slalomed amid those Kentucky hills I felt a re-connection.

We had lunch after Baby was fixed and were on our way to Knoxville by 2:30. Marc insisted we stop at Colonel Sanders' birthplace. Kitschy, I know. He's a nut. I think I have a pic but am too tired to download it. Gotta get up early tomorrow because I have to do an interview first thing in the morning for an article that's due when I get back to Toronto. And then ... we're off to meet the Dragon!

Monday, October 1, 2007

Aye carumba

OK, this really stinks. Haven't even gotten to the Dragon yet and dumped the bike. Marc got his oil light thing sorted out -- the oil *WAS* too full and by draining a little out that solved the problem. After spending the night in Louisville at a friend's house I rode up to join him at the Ramada Inn off Hwy 71 in Sparta, Ky., where he stayed the night.

The Ramada is on top a steep hill overlooking the Kentucky Speedway. As I topped the hill I hit some gravel, tried to turn into the parking lot and went over, landing on the bike's left side. Broke the end off the shifter when she fell. Marc just went to get some instant weld glue while I call around for Kawasaki dealers to see if they have a shifter in stock.

The left signal light popped out of its mount in the fairing, but everything else is OK, including the clutch lever (whew!)

But ... man. Do I ever need to learn how to deal with gravel.

Sunday, September 30, 2007

Half way there!

Spending the night in Louisville with my friend Michele -- this is the mid-point to the Dragon. Unfortunately had to leave my friend Marc about half way between Cincinnati and Louisville because his oil light kept coming on ... we couldn't figure out why. His oil level did seem a little *high* -- but his bike (a K1200R) wasn't overheating or anything. He decided to stop and call BMW in the morning, rather than continuing with me to Louisville, just in case.

Will connect with him in the morning after he finds out more. Hope it's not too serious. He looked seriously bummed when I left him.

Weather was perfect for today's ride -- just warm enough not to fill chilled in perfed leather and just cool enough to be refreshing. I have also finally figured out how to pack everything I need for a week into one tail bag and a tank bag. That's no mean feat, considering that includes a laptop, a digital camera, a camcorder and a *large* bag of crudites (that's raw veggies to you non-Quebecers) for snacks.

Oh, and a trickle charger. After allowing leaving my parking light on all night last week at Marc's and letting the battery die, I intended to be prepared.

The camcorder comes with a separate lens that I have to figure out how to attach to my helmet so I can record our rides on the Dragon.

One more day and we're there!

Saturday, September 29, 2007

Sleepless in Ann Arbor

Can't sleep tonight -- and couldn't sleep last night, either -- too excited because I'm finally heading south to ride the Tail of the Dragon -- a section of US I 129 that has 318 curves in only 11 miles (almost 18 kilometres).

I've wanted to ride it for years and was finally supposed to go down in August with my friend Marc but he had to bail because of a family emergency. But I rode to his place today (Saturday) -- just arrived an hour ago. And we're heading down tomorrow.

I've been looking at a Google map of the Dragon and it's really scary-looking. That's the southern leg in this Google map. The Cherahola Skyway (the east-west leg on the map) isn't shabby, either. I'm going to be a total grandma during the first run.

I'm testing a camcorder that has a separate lens that can be used as a helmet cam -- so we're going to try to record each other riding it.

We're doing the ride down in easy stages -- stopping Sunday night to stay with my friend Michelle and her partner Sherry's house in Louisville. On the way back, we're crashing at my cousin Kathy's place in Clarksville Indiana -- just across the river from Louisville.

Come on, sleep... join me now -- so I'll be fresh for tomorrow's ride to Louisville.

Sunday, September 23, 2007

Aminal & Fozzy's annual BBQ

Another first for me yesterday: went on a ride with a VERY large group -- 54 bikes! Yikes! I know some of the charity rides are larger and I've not joined them because I found the idea of riding with that many other bikes somewhat intimidating.

We didn't have to go very far as a group -- from the Elmvale Jungle Zoo on Highway 27 (about 20 kilometres north of Barrie) to a private residence in Midland -- less than 25 kilometres in total, by my estimate.

Here is a shot another rider (djltoronto is his nickname, or screen name, on took of the group parked outside the zoo. After taking some shots myself, I spotted Ron (aka Fiji, his nickname on GTAM), whom I'd met on the ride to Ottawa the last weekend in August and again on lil red bird's ride the first weekend in September. And Bambata, whom I'd met on lil red bird's ride -- and who rode with me down to the 401 after the ride was over. I was so excited to catch up with fellas I'd enjoyed riding with that I didn't think to take pictures of the zoo animals we could see through the fence while we chatted. We spotted flamingos and some kind of horned beast with very pointy things poking straight up from their heads. Gazelles, maybe?

In this photo that djltoronto also took, I'm talking to Ron and Bambata. We're almost all the way to the far right corner of the shot. I'm the short one.

Because many of us had come so far that getting to Elmvale had emptied our tanks, the group stopped for everyone who needed to to fill up. Finding a gas station with enough parking for 54 bikes must have been a challenge! Here's a shot of the group waiting for everyone to fill up.

This is Trina Scott (TS on GTAM) and John Reed (JohnCBR) talking at the gas stop. I'd met up with them earlier for a ride. More on that below.

Here's Ron (aka Fiji) in the middle, and Bambata (with his helmet on) on the far left.

A fellow rider (who has now identified himself as XLOR8T) is checking out Baby at the gas stop.

And here's Rodel (RVA 1), with his R6 at the gas stop. When I first filed this entry I'd tentatively identified him as Rob (G60), who'd introduced himself to me later and actually rides a grey GSXR. Rodel was kind enough to email the correction to me.

The tops of some of the trees are already starting to change colour that far north of Toronto. I guess summer really is over.

The route was pretty, tree-lined, twisty in spots and, if memory serves, had to cross only one intersection. The latter was fortunate, because the group was so large that we had to stop traffic (see shot above, also by djltoronto) to cross that intersection in order not to split up the group. Whoever planned the route (Aminal, I suspect -- more on him below) did a good job.

What made it particularly outstanding was that the purpose of the ride was to end up at a barbecue hosted by a couple with the nicknames Aminal (yes, Aminal, not Animal) and Fozzy. Aminal, a long-time member of the GTA boards and (I can now attest personally to this) a fantastic chef, had extended the invitation to anyone who was a registered member in good standing of

That's incredibly brave, considering there are more than 15,000 registered GTAM members. Aminal told me this is the 8th year he's done this.

Look at the fantastic food Aminal and Fozzy prepared. Note how the salad is sitting in a specially crafted gas tank in the middle! And there was lots of food for vegetarians, which is quite rare at barbecues.

Here are some of the fellas at the barbecue. In the rear of the shot, on the far right end of the tent, is Bambata and Ron (Fiji), in that order.

And I found a shot that captured Lynn, the elusive lil red bird -- that's him, the tallest one in the middle in the background ('lil bird, indeed!), talking to the host and hostess (in the foreground), with his husband Shawn sitting beside him. Don't know the details, but Shawn's still recuperating from a car/bike accident three years ago. He was on the bike. When lil red bird saw me taking snaps with my Nikon Coolpix 995 he grinned, nodded and pointed to his camera -- identical!

I'd had to miss the annual ride and barbecue with my Southern Cruisers chapter while I was in Oregon visiting my friend Kevin for the first two weeks of September, so this was a treat.

Here's our host, hard at work at his barbecue, feeding a lot of hungry boys (and gals -- there were eight women with bikes on the ride).

This next one is of Fozzy, Aminal's bride, giving out "Fozzy prizes" to guests with the oldest bike, the smallest bike, the bike that had to come the farthest to get to the barbecue, etc. Fozzy was a very generous and enthusiastic hostess.

When we got to Aminal's house in Midland, all the bikes -- even tightly packed at a diagonal to the curb -- took up every parking spot on his side of the street for an entire block. The space had to have been reserved -- Aminal and Fozzy must be incredibly good friends with their neighbours! If you click on the image (as with most of them on this blog) you'll get a bigger picture that shows more detail. Some very nice bikes here.

You can see Baby better in this lineup -- to the right of the driveway.

While we were taking pictures of all the bikes, Ron (aka Fiji) told me that an event such as this could never be held in his neighbourhood. His neighbours once called the police to complain when he came home with two of his friends and his friends parked their bikes on the street. Ron had already moved his bike into his garage when the cops arrived. There's nothing illegal about parking on the street (although some streets have postings limiting how long you can park), so it's interesting that the police would have responded to such a call, I said. Ron shrugged. I wonder if his neighbours equate bikes (even sport bikes?) with some kind of gang activity? Kind of odd, I thought.

I came close to forgetting the Aminal and Fozzy barbecue was coming up because I had a lot of work to catch up on this week after getting back from Oregon and hadn't checked in on the board, but John Reed (whom I met on Facebook and is CBRJohn on GTAM) reminded me and invited me to join him on a ride to the Elmvale zoo with Trina Scott (TS on GTAM) and Paul Rogers. Paul is the co-founder of GTAM with a gal nicknamed Cutiekill, who asked that her real name not be used.

I met Trina, Paul and Rob (aka d00dz on GTAM), along with another fella named Dave, one named Vic and a guy on a brand new red Ducati (I *think* his name was Steve -- but he's called Sticker on GTAM) at the Tim Hortons near Mayfield in Brampton. In the photo above, there's Trina and Paul facing Sticker in the middle of a shot, with Vic standing on the right.

Left to right, here's Rob (d00dz), Dave, Vic, and Trina at the Timmie's meetup in Brampton. Trina led us on a lovely ride up to Orangeville, where John then led us on the next leg up to Elmvale.

John warned us before we took off that one of the legs of his ride would include twisties that had gravel spilled onto the road, so I was riding somewhat conservatively. Nonetheless, I almost went into a ditch. On one curve, gravel was far enough out into the road that I didn't want to lean into that turn. I've been given to understand there is a way of doing that *without* going down but I don't know how. So I straightened up halfway through, which sent me wide into the other lane. I leaned again soon enough to not go into the ditch on the other side of the road, but that was close. I rode even *SLOWER* the rest of that road. I really do need to take a dirt-biking course.

At the barbecue, I lobbied Paul for an interview (that's him on the right, fueling up at the buffet), and Cutiekill laughed and joked that he's not allowed to talk to anyone without supervision. Starting in 1997 with just a few hundred members, GTAM now boasts of more than 15,000 members, a healthy growth for an online community. The number of active users who post every day is smaller -- Cutiekill estimated that number at about 1,500.

She also says the demographic has changed considerably since the early days, when the largest age group on the boards was mid-20s to early 40s. Now it's 16 to mid-20s, which would explain why there seems to be more sport-bike riders on GTAM than cruiser riders. Entry-level sport bikes start around $6,000 new, and used ones can be picked up for as little as $1,500, which makes them attainable for cash-strapped young people trying to finish school and get their first jobs.

Not to mention the heart-stopping capabilities of some sport bikes, which makes them particularly attractive to young men who are at the point in their lives when they have to battle surges of testosterone to live long enough to acquire some common sense. But then, I started riding in my 20s and didn't acknowledge I was mortal until I hit 29. So the phenomenon affects both genders.

My son Shawn, who's a sport rider who's far too wise for his years, warned me when I bought Baby that it was going to require discipline to keep my licence, and he was right. She doesn't start to purr until she hits 140 kph (no point in even nudging her into 6th gear before then) and it *IS* a temptation not to reserve that for track days.

I'm a fairly conservative rider on twisties. I know I'm a newbie on this kind of bike and try to ride within my ability. The thought of ending up in a ditch is sobering.

But I have to restrain her on highways.

The topic of which brings up a curious incident on the way home from Aminal and Fozzy's barbecue. John and Trina planned to go for another ride after the BBQ and after getting up at 6 am with only four hours of sleep to meet Trina and Paul in Brampton at 8:15, I was starting to fade. I didn't think it would be a good idea to do any technically challenging roads while tired. My long day with lil red bird reinforced that wisdom with me, since I was so tired I'd jumped a curb exiting one of our last gas stops.

So, when a young fella named Mo (Harley_in_TO on GTAM) volunteered to navigate me back to the 400 (thanks, Mo!) so I could get back downtown, I gratefully accepted.

Mo rode lead and led us down Hwy 27 to the 400, and once there set a pace that matched the speed of the middle lane of traffic. We pulled out to pass only a couple of times; I think we averaged about 110 kph. Which was above the posted speed limit, but there were lots of cars passing us, moving much faster.

About three-quarters of the way to Toronto I noticed an Ontario Provincial Police car keeping pace next to my position in the traffic in the passing lane. I couldn't tell if Mo saw it, but he didn't change his speed. That's when I looked down at my speedometer and made a mental note that we were going about 110.

The OPP car passed both of us, merged into the middle lane, and changed lanes until it was driving on the shoulder. There it kept pace with with Mo's traffic position for several kilometres. I think -- not sure if I remember this part exactly -- it then dropped back into the slow lane behind us.

Before taking off I had told Mo I probably had enough gas in my tank to go about 150 kilometres, and we were approaching that distance at this point. He pointed to a sign indicating a gas stop coming up, and we got off at the next exit. As we did, we noticed two other bikes had taken the same exit, as had the OPP car. As Mo and I pulled up to the pumps, we saw a female officer get out of the OPP car to talk to one of the other bikers at his pump. I filled my tank as the OPP gal finished her conversation with the other biker, and told Mo I was gonna pull up in front of the store because I had to use the washroom. He nodded and said he was going to do that, too.

The other biker entered the store at the same time I did, and I asked him what the conversation with the OPP officer had been about. He said she'd asked if he knew the other bikers (us, I guess), and he'd said no and he thought that because we'd all pulled into the same gas stop she seemed to be testing him to see if he was lying. (????)

When I got out of the washroom there were four bikes close to mine in front of the store, one of them Mo's. When Mo came out he said the OPP gal had come over to talk to him and, pointing at my bike, had said that I was the only one who wasn't speeding. Hunh? Since I was following Mo, if one of us was speeding, the other had to be, too.

The owner of one of the other bikes (who, as it turned out, had been at the barbecue but hadn't left with Mo and I) exited the store then and joined us. He said he'd been three or four cars behind us when the OPP officer was keeping pace with us on the highway and she had come over to him at the gas stop and told him he was speeding, too. Is there some kind of interesting OPP math that requires input for whether the rider has ovaries?

This was all very strange. Although we weren't going any faster than the pace of the rest of the traffic, if she wanted to stop us for speeding and had evidence of it, she would have (should have?) just given us all tickets. As the courts are fond of pointing out, even one kilometre over the speed limit is speeding. But giving warnings to the boys (and trying to put us all together in a group when only Mo and I were traveling together) -- while holding me up as an exemplary example -- struck me as just plain weird.

She may not have had equipment to record whether or not anyone was speeding. But for the life of me, I can't figure out what her intent was.

From a law enforcement perspective, which has a mandate to increase safety on the roads, there might be strategic value in warning bikers not to speed, for sure. It is true that there are lots of bikers who push it on the highways. My friend Steve told that, me one night as he was travelling home from his Wednesday night baseball game, a guy on a sport bike zipped past him at what had to be close to 200 kph -- one second he was there, the next he was gone. Steve said it was just after he'd signalled an intent to change lanes, but before he did. If he'd moved into that lane even one second earlier, Steve said, that rider would have been a dead man.

But almost everyone drives faster than the 100 kph speed limit posted on major highways. If you drive the speed limit you end up with people tailgating you or honking at you. It's "common wisdom" that as long as you're traveling only 10 kilometres over the speed limit, the OPP doesn't bother with you. Whether or not that is true (I once had a Surete Quebec officer tell me that *IS* unofficial policy in Quebec), I personally have never been stopped for going only 10 kilometres over the speed limit on the highway -- and don't know anyone who has.

But it was a very strange end to a wonderful day.

Postscript: Apparently two of the people who went on a ride after the barbecue ended up in a ditch. One of them was Sticker, the fella with the brand new red Ducati who rode up to the barbecue with my group. Cutiekill and Isis, two of the GTAM moderators, had warned me off going on that ride because it was on Southdown 13, which is a rough road with lots of sand, gravel and broken asphalt.

In his post on GTAM today, Sticker said he was glad he was wearing full gear when he lowsided into the ditch because he'd been hurt worse falling off his mountain bike. The Duc, on the other hand, netted a destroyed rim and a flat tire. Had to be towed.

Apparently the other rider who went down in a separate incident on that same road ended up at a Bracebridge hospital, but from what I gathered from the board discussion his injuries weren't serious.

Correction, as of Wednesday, Sept. 26: Riceburner just informed me that the Duc didn't go down on Southdown 13. Never made it that far.

Nonetheless, be warned. Southdown 13 eats motorcycles. And isn't particularly kind to their riders.

PPS -- this just in: fellow rider djltoronto also took individual photos of *EVERY* bike on the ride (wow - thanks!) and posted them online. Click this link to see a pix of *ALL* the rides. He said he thought he missed a few that left early, but there are 54 photos there, so I think he got 'em all.

An Oregon interlude

The day after lil red bird's marathon ride I was supposed to ride Baby to Ann Arbor so I could get in a ride on Labour Day with my friend Marc before he drove me to Detroit, where I was hopping a plane to visit my friend Kevin in Oregon. That morning, I wasn't sure I was going to be able to climb into the saddle, because I every muscle in my body ached and I still had no feeling in either of my thumbs.

But I ate some naproxen sodium (generic Aleve), cleaned and lubed my chain, checked the tire pressure, and took off. By the time I got there I was zonked, but we had a wonderful ride around Ann Arbor the next day. Michigan really has some nice twisties. Marc turned me onto a massage therapist at his athletic's club, so I got some work done on that fire between my shoulder blades left over from lilredbird's ride.

Got on the plane the next day (Wednesday), and took my gear because I planned to take Kevin's Silverwing out for a ride while I was there. But was still so sore when I arrived (and my thumbs were still numb) that I took it easy for the first week. Took three days to get any feeling back in my left thumb and two more after that for my right thumb to stop being numb. The massage therapist in Ann Arbor told me I must have compressed the nerve for too long on the ride and it got inflamed. Only thing I could do was to take an anti-inflammatory and give it a rest.

We did some travelling to the coast, and visited the sea lion caves. The sea lions must have all been out to lunch when we arrived, because we didn't see any. But got a couple of great pix of the caves. and nearby beaches -- see the pix all along this entry. The first one is inside the sea lion cave, reportedly the largest sea cave i the world. The second is a lookout from the top of the cave, and the other three are beaches a bit south of the cave.

By the time I got the feeling back in my right thumb (although there's still a patch about a centimetre and a half square that is still numb) the weather wouldn't cooperate, so I never got to ride while there. I at least wanted to get a pic of Kevin on the bike, but weather didn't cooperate for that on the day we thought of it, either. So he said he'd take one and send it to me. I'll post in this entry later after he sends it.

Since I'd brought my running shoes to Oregon, instead of riding I took the opportunity to take some great runs on the dirt roads around Kevin's place. He lives about 40 miles west of Eugene in Walton, population 350 -- so I could run for miles without seeing or hearing a single car. The disadvantage of this remote location was that it was so far from the nearest phone line routing station that Kev can get only dialup Web access that is SO slow it took up to 20 minutes to load a Web page. Even grabbing email from Yahoo was painful. So I was almost completely off line for 10 days. I was going through withdrawal.

Flew back to Ann Arbor last Saturday night and Marc and I went on one last ride around rural Michigan. I was supposed to ride back to Toronto last Monday but left my parking light on all night (that snick on the ignition is TOO damn close to the parking lock snick) and even a boost couldn't get her started the next day, so I bought a trickle charger small enough to travel with (figured I needed one in case I did something this stupid again) and hooked her up. Took 18 hours to recharge the battery! So I didn't ride back to Toronto until Tuesday.