Friday, December 31, 2010

Last Day of the Year

Today was a great day to carry the Christmas tree to the chipper, take down all the outside lights and wreaths and pack away all of the Christmas decorations for next year. Then there was the task of vacuuming up all of the fallen needles from carrying the tree out of the house. Several other chores popped in my mind as I worked. And I did not mind working outside because after weeks of 20 degree weather, it hit 61F.

But at the same time, the 61F weather made me wanna go for a motorcycle ride. I really did not care where or for how long, just to get a little time in on such a beautiful day. So, I took a break for lunch, fired up Rosie and set course for Dawsonville via two lane twisty blacktop. Mind you it was just a 15 mile trip to Burger King, but it was therapy to my soul after enduring cold winter weather with wind for the last several weeks. I donned the half helmet intentionally so I could enjoy the smells of chicken houses, cow pastures, pig pens, and all the other things that nature provided.

The burger was good, the ride was better, and when I got back to the house to knock out a few more errands, I was in an even better mood that when I awoke to a 60 degree day in the middle of winter.

In years gone by, I would have wanted to plow through the chores in my mind and try to get as much work done while the sun was up without considering any time to enjoy life. But one thing I have learned through the lives of others in the last few years, is to make time in my schedule however hectic it is, for a few minutes of enjoying life. That has a lot to do with why I commute on the bike as much as I do.

I managed to get everything accomplished that I wanted to do today and had time for an enjoyable time on the North Georgia two lane roads. And, I am really glad I made the time.

Ride Safe!

Happy New Year!


Monday, December 27, 2010

I Want to get my Motorcycle License

First day back at work after the Christmas Holiday. Probably one-third of our staff was on hand, the rest were using vacation time to lengthen their holiday. So there was a little less hussle and a little more time for conversation. One conversation with a co-worker started something like this, "I want to get my motorcycle license, so I guess I need to buy a motorcycle first."

It dawned on me that I have been in a conversation that started like this several different times over the last few years. I am somewhat surprised every time I hear this thought and am always quick to alter the thinking slightly.

"No, I would recommend getting your license first", is my typical response. This usually is met with wide eyes. I then explain that I would recommend doing what I did. Attend a Riders Edge course or a MSF RiderCourse. Many rider training courses provide the motorcycles for the students. So, first time riders can learn to ride without a significant investment. The cost of the course runs around $275 and the student is responsible for supplying their own helmet.

Why do I suggest taking the rider's course before buying a motorcycle? If you buy a motorcycle before you have a license, you are going to ride it. Without sound instruction, chances are, you are going to pickup some bad habits, and even more likely, you are going to ride it on public streets and roadways (in violation of the law). And in the chance that you wreck it while riding without a license, most insurance providers will not pay a cent for damage caused by an unlicensed rider.

So why not get that initial exposure to a street bike in a controlled environment with someone coaching you through the right and safe way to ride while at the same time getting prepared for the written and riding exam. At the end of the course, you get to sit for the written exam (which you have been properly prepared for) and then you get to take the riding exam (which you have been practising for).

The course I took was painless, two week nights, a Saturday, and a Sunday and you were done. Advanced courses are available to fine-tune your riding skills and are always a good idea.

Just my two cents, but it sure seems like the best approach to me.


Friday, December 24, 2010


About that time Caesar Augustus ordered a census to be taken throughout the Empire. This was the first census when Quirinius was governor of Syria. Everyone had to travel to his own ancestral hometown to be accounted for. So Joseph went from the Galilean town of Nazareth up to Bethlehem in Judah, David's town, for the census. As a descendant of David, he had to go there. He went with Mary, his fiancée, who was pregnant.

While they were there, the time came for her to give birth. She gave birth to a son, her firstborn. She wrapped him in a blanket and laid him in a manger, because there was no room in the hostel.

There were sheepherders camping in the neighborhood. They had set night watches over their sheep. Suddenly, God's angel stood among them and God's glory blazed around them. They were terrified. The angel said, "Don't be afraid. I'm here to announce a great and joyful event that is meant for everybody, worldwide: A Savior has just been born in David's town, a Savior who is Messiah and Master. This is what you're to look for: a baby wrapped in a blanket and lying in a manger."

At once the angel was joined by a huge angelic choir singing God's praises:

Glory to God in the heavenly heights,
Peace to all men and women on earth who please him.

As the angel choir withdrew into heaven, the sheepherders talked it over. "Let's get over to Bethlehem as fast as we can and see for ourselves what God has revealed to us." They left, running, and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby lying in the manger. Seeing was believing. They told everyone they met what the angels had said about this child. All who heard the sheepherders were impressed.

Mary kept all these things to herself, holding them dear, deep within herself. The sheepherders returned and let loose, glorifying and praising God for everything they had heard and seen. It turned out exactly the way they'd been told!

Luke 2 (The Message)

Merry Christmas!

Friday, December 17, 2010

A Word From my Nerd Side

For those of you own, utilize, depend on, or are responsible for an Uninterruptible Power Supply (UPS), let me strongly recommend that you either have a vendor check the internal batteries at least once a year.

Why ,you ask? Well despite looking at the indicator lights on the outside of the UPS and seeing that it is properly charging, there is a lot about batteries that you cannot easily detect without visually inspecting the batteries. Most, if not all, UPS systems have the batteries mounted inside a metal housing preventing a casual glance.

Ever paid much attention to a car battery? UPS batteries have a lot in common with automotive batteries in that after many charge cycles, they will begin to fail. One of the external signs you can detect just by looking is that the plastic casing of the battery swells and becomes deformed.

Sorry the picture is not my best, but yes, that battery has a big lump on the top side. And yes, that is one of several the service technician found while performing a visual inspection of the internal batteries in a moderate sized UPS system. A battery that has deformed like that has become unstable and undependable. A more dramatic failure is on the way.

Another item of concern that only a visual inspection will provide is corroded terminals.

Yes, that is one of about 16 batteries inside one external battery cabinet for a UPS system, and that is what the service technician found when he opened the cabinet to visually inspect the batteries. The corrosion was so severe that the battery post had separated from the battery itself but was still bolted tightly to the battery cable.

How much power would that provide in the event utility power was lost and your computer room or dispatch center were to flip over to the UPS system for power?

Leaking battery acid is another item that can be found during a visual inspection of internal batteries. Most UPS systems have a drip tray under the battery racks to prevent battery acid from reaching the floor of an equipment room or computer room, so you will not see it if the cover stays in place.

UPS battery maintenance has to be one of the most overlooked items in the technology arena. For some reason a lot of people have a mistaken notion that they can purchase the UPS, have it installed, and forget about it. We all know that does not work with car batteries. They usually die somewhere between 3 and 5 years. Well, guess what? Yup, UPS batteries have a 3 to 5 yr expected life span as well.

Over the years, I have observed some of the pitfalls of overlooking UPS battery maintenance. A few years ago, I was working in a work room just outside a computer center in a large company's IT department and noticed a strong "rotten egg" smell. I followed the smell to its source, the UPS system. I ran my hand along the metal enclosure and half way along the side found a very warm spot. I called the situation to the attention of the computer room operations staff. They called the UPS service provider who quickly dispatched a technician. When the technician opened the enclosure, he found a battery that had swollen, then cracked its plastic housing and was boiling battery acid across the battery rack where it was located.

I have also heard about a 30-story building that was evacuated because of a very bad "rotten egg" smell on all floors. Another UPS system with some swollen and leaking batteries was really close to an HVAC system's return. The "rotten egg" smell was sucked into the HVAC and pumped to every floor of the building. The Fire Department and Emergency Services were in full force when the UPS technician opened the enclosure to see what he had to clean up.

So, avoid the potential hazards that can result from leaking batteries and avoid the hazard of your UPS system not being ready to keep your equipment up and running should utility power fail. Annual battery inspection/maintenance is the only answer.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

A Good Reason to Stand Out in the Cold

A cold breeze blew across a huddled group of people standing in the driveway of a town home in Milton, GA. Hushed conversations were held over mugs of gas station coffee cups held by gloved hands. The quiet was soon pierced by giggling of small children bundled warmly running to the park area in the center of the homes where they descended onto the swing set.

The children's laughter and joy suddenly transformed the circle of 29 town homes into a neighborhood. One that any parent or family would be overjoyed to be apart.

Soon the huddled group in the driveway became so large it spilled out onto the road in front of the home and into the edge of the park. This was a day of celebration marking the completion of the final four of the 29 town homes that make up Centennial Village, a community designed and built by Habitat for Humanity.

Habitat for Humanity of North Central Georgia started construction of this community in 2007. The new home owners purchased the homes with zero percent mortgages financed by Habitat for Humanity. Make no mistake, these are not give away homes. These are affordable homes with no interest loans. The home owners are responsible for making their down payment and making their monthly mortgage payments. As Habitat explains it, "It's a hand UP, not a hand out", and "Decent, affordable housing transforms a family's life, breaking the cycle of poverty and improving health and educational outcomes."

Additionally, the homeowners invest "sweat equity" in the construction of their home along side volunteers, and sponsors of their home. They typically also work on the construction of a neighbor's home.

The stories from the new homeowners during the home dedication are a testimony of the impact Habitat has on families and communities. Today one of the homeowners shared that a few years ago she would have never dreamed of owning her own home after living in a homeless shelter for a period of time. But, now her and her children have a home of their own and are a part of a community where her children were playing and laughing on a cold breezy morning with several of their neighbors' children.

For more information on Habitat for Humanity, how it works and how to get involved, visit:

Tuesday, December 07, 2010

A Christmas Story

Well, it was 23F this morning with a 15 mph wind making it feel much colder than 23 even. So, it would be safe to say it is feeling a lot like Christmas in North Georgia. And of course when the Christmas season rolls around, all of the talk about NASCAR kind of simmers as they won't wage battle again until February. And for most, it is just too darn cold to enjoy riding their motorcycle. So, conversations seem to head towards Christmas legends and of course the origin of the Christmas Moose always comes up.

For those of you who have followed this blog for years, you are probably very familiar with the story. For others, this may be your first introduction. Whatever the case, here is the link to the story from last year's posting. Enjoy!

The Legend of the Christmas Moose

Sunday, November 14, 2010

What is That Noise

For a couple of weeks I had been noticing an exhaust leak on Rosie during my one hour commute into the city in the mornings while the world is still dark and again on my one hour (or more) commute home in the evenings. When I first started hearing it, I checked all the flanges where the bolt on the cylinder heads and all of the clamps the length of both exhaust pipes. But again the next day, I swore I could hear an exhaust leak. Kinda like hearing a piece of paper rattling over the edge of a can. Slowly I started noticing the bike's mellow rumblings controlled by the tuned muffler system seemed more raw, gutty, and loud. I checked the mufflers to find no fault as well.

But with all of the heat shielding strapped over the exhaust pipes, one can only see the underside of most of the exhaust system. But what could I be missing? As time rolled on, I kept thinking it seemed louder and back fired a bit when rolling out of the throttle like an old pickup with a burned out muffler. I also noticed that the engine's torque seemed a little flatter than normal. All of these symptoms pointed to an exhaust leak to me.

Finally, one afternoon, I started the bike on its side stand to let it warm while I put on my riding leathers before my commute home. I thought I might as well wave my hand around the exhaust work closest to both heads while it was running to detect where the leak could be. I waved my hand around the front cylinders exhaust system and could not detect any warm air escaping. I checked the rear cylinder from the left side of the bike, same findings. I then checked the rear cylinder from the right side of the bike and whoa! there is hot compressed air belching out there. I leaned over and squinted my eyes to see if I could see anything. And, in the narrow space where two heat shields come together, there was just enough of a gap to see a crack in the exhaust pipe below it and occasional sparks coming from the crack.

Harley-Davidson had designed a crossover pipe between the front and rear exhaust systems. This crossover looks like a large horseshoe running from the left side exhaust to the right side exhaust, and the top of the upside down "U" has a short piece of pipe that connects to the rear cylinder. Where that short piece of pipe connected to the top of the upside down "U" is where the exhaust had cracked. The crack looked more like a small rupture which explained why it sounded louder and produced backfire when rolling out of the throttle. This leak was right under the front edge of the seat.

So, I spent Saturday removing all of the heat shields to take a better look at the exhaust system. I soon found that the crossover had indeed failed and appeared beyond repairing by welding. New exhaust would have to be installed. Fortunately, the bike was equipped with slip-on mufflers that could be retained.

I located proper replacement parts and put them on order and returned to the garage to remove the old exhaust pipes. Once having them removed, it was apparent the crossover pipe was no more, worms food, pushing up the daisies, it had shuffled off its mortal coil, it was the ex-crossover pipe. And as a side note, a considerable amount of WD-40 is required when removing "slip-on" mufflers from exhaust pipes that have seen 35,000 miles of riding before said mufflers just slip right off.

This evening, the new Sampson pipes were delivered, so I set down and installed them. They definately look a lot better than the old pipes, less confusion and no more crossover. Nice one piece pipe on both sides.

No more exhaust leak under the seat either. All the exhaust is going thru the mufflers again. The nice refined sound she used to have is back and the throttle response seems much better.

We now resume this normal commute...

Monday, October 11, 2010

Baby's Got New Shoes!

Just North of Dahlonega, Georgia on GA HWY 9 sits a very convenient group of motorcycle shops. The group of shops sit on "Rider's Hill". Riders Hill includes: European Motorsports, Black Mountain Cycles, Six Gap Cafe, and Tire Technicians Inc.

Black Mountain Cycles provides a dealership atmosphere for owners to put their bikes up for sale and potential buyers an incredible inventory of pre-owned bikes for sale. They also carry a full line of riding gear, helmets, and boots.

European Motorsports is a dealer of Aprilia, Moto Guzzi, MV Agusta, and Royal Enfield motorcycles and has an impressive inventory of all of their lines.

If you have been reading by blog lately, you have a good idea why I am headed to Rider's Hill. That's right - tires for Rosie.

I had visited Rider's Hill before just to see what all the buzz in the motorcycle groups was all about. So, when I started shopping to replace the tires on my Road King, I gave them a call and was surprised to find they had the same Dunlop/Harley Davidson tires the Harley dealer sells in stock for my bike as well as Michelin, Metzler, and Pirelli in stock for my bike. The price quote they provided was not only better than what the local dealerships were doing, but were in line with the super discount tire sites in the Internet without the expense of shipping.

So, I dropped Rosie off for a new pair of shoes this weekend and then headed to Ellijay, Georgia for our annual apple run. Nothing eases the pain of being without your bike on a nice autumn day when you live at the foot of the North Georgia mountains than a hot apple dumpling with soft vanilla ice cream slowly melting on top of it.

After church Sunday, we drove back to Rider's Hill and Rosie was sitting out front modelling her new shoes. The Tire Technician gang was busy mounting tires for customers and a few riders mingling around checking things out.

They did a great job and a great price and will be getting more of my business in the future. The ride home provided gorgeous weather and an enjoyable amount of twisty two lane for 45 minutes to cap off a good day.


Sunday, September 26, 2010

What's Up?

For those wondering why I haven't had much to say as of late, I am fine no need to send out the cadaver dogs. After returning from Bristol, I commuted a full week to my office downtown. That Friday, I remembered that I had estimated that Rosie would probably be needing a back tire by the time we got home from Bristol. Because the Road King's have really long rear fenders, one doesn't happen to see the tread depth of the rear tires with a casual walk around. One has get on one's knees or lie on the concrete to check it.

If there is any question to the tread depth in the center of the tires, double click the picture to enlarge the image. My finding is there is a three inch area in the center of the rear tire where the tread design barely is visible. It it less than 2/32s. In fact if one rubs their hand across the area, it feels smooth.

So, Rosie has spent most of the month sleeping in the garage. I checked the front tire tread depth and its around 3/32 in the center, so I plan to replace both front and rear when I take it in to the shop.

So why is it taking me so long to get tires on Rosie? I spent a great deal of time in August with the medical community running tests on my lower back and left knee. So, I have been busy paying all the deductible and out of pocket expenses involved. Good news is that I only have arthritis in my lower back and my knee problems were resolved with 6 weeks of physical torture therapy.

So for the month of September, I've been caging it, driving my pickup. I have a clear perspective of why I enjoy commuting on two wheels. Traffic leaves a lot of holes that motorcycles fit comfortably in that pickups will not.

So all is good here, don't be fretting. Back to Harley in the City soon.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

A little trip to Bristol

As many of you may know, one of the sports I have enjoyed following over the last 28 yrs is NASCAR. As some of you may know, I drove short track dirt stock cars and short track asphalt stock cars 8 years. Over the last 9 years, while no longer racing stock cars, I have stayed involved by writing editorial articles and covering NASCAR racing.

Every since the first year I began following NASCAR racing, I have always wanted to go to the night race at Bristol. For years, there was a two year waiting list for tickets to the night race at Bristol, Tennessee. People handed down their seats at the legendary track in their wills and the track sold out year after year. So as time went by, I had all but given of hope of ever attending what I consider the best race on the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series schedule.

Earlier this year, my editor asked me if I wanted to cover the night race at Bristol of I think I answered him so fast that it stunned him. I immediately went to work to locate a hotel room, because I had heard they went fast and the hotels closest to the track jacked their prices up for the weekend. They were not kidding when the budget hotel chain that advertises $19.99 a night rooms is getting $350 a night and is booked, something is rotten in Denmark.

After working my way down the list of area hotels, I found one with a vacancy "conveniently" 78 miles away in Virginia and it was not $350.

When the weekend came, I loaded up "Rosie" with everything I needed and headed out that Thursday morning for ride to the hotel in Virginia. The ride was a mixture of beautiful roads through North Georgia, North Carolina, and Tennessee - perfect for a motorcycle ride. The day was unseasonably cool and enjoyable while overcast. Four and a half hours into the ride, I was enjoying the scenery around me as the road curved its way through the Great Smokey Mountains. With about an hour of riding left before reaching my hotel, I encountered a slow drizzle which did not cause me to want to pull over and don my rain gear. 10 minutes later the bottom fell out, so I located a convenient overpass and pulled on the rain gear.

Back rolling and the rain picked up its pace, and I increased my following distance even more. At this point I was very thankful that my cellphone has a navigation system that I was utilizing for the trip with an earbud under my helmet. Concentrating on traffic and rain was taking all of my attention, so not having to worry about trying to keep up with a map or notes was a definite gain.

Within 30 minutes of checking in my home away from home for the weekend, the rain stopped. Go figure. I got a good night's rest knowing the day's events on Friday would start early at Bristol Motor Speedway and I was 78 miles away, so I would need to be up early.

Arriving at Bristol Friday morning, the track was busy with cars, trucks, golf carts, race haulers, and a couple motorcycles. The track staff made picking up my credentials and making my way to the infield media center painless. Coffee was brewed and waiting and the media center was alive with activity.

Friday on a race weekend is filled with practice sessions on the track for both the NASCAR Nationwide Series and the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series, qualifying for both series, as well as scheduled media events with drivers from both series. I spent the day bouncing between what was happening trackside and being in the media center for the scheduled drivers appearances for announcements and interviews.

The day goes by pretty fast and soon qualifying is underway and before you know it, the grandstands are filling and the NASCAR Nationwide Series Food City 250 is preparing for a start.

I was amazed at the crowd that turned out for the Nationwide Series event - estimated at 100,000. The race lived up to my expectations with side by side racing all night long and the lead in the closing laps ended up with two guys leaning on each other, bouncing each other off the wall, and finally one guy spinning into the fence and the other winning.

By the time the parking lots emptied, and I made my 78 mile trip to the hotel, it was late and I did not require being rocked to sleep.

Saturday the track events were not scheduled to begin as early as Friday. With qualifying and all the practice sessions for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series completed on Friday, the infield was not scheduled to open until noon. I was there waiting when they opened access.

At 1pm, I caught up with a NASCAR PR representative that had contacted me prior to the weekend to schedule a few laps riding in the pace car to give the media a feel for the track. Former racer and NASCAR Research and Development Engineer, Brett Bodine serves as the pace car driver in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series.

Brett shoe-horned three of us into the Ford Mustang pace car and blistered off three laps utilizing all the racing grooves in the turns of Bristol Motor Speedway. It was probably good that the ride was over as quickly as it was - any longer and I would have started wanting to get back in racing again.

The prior to the green flag,the stands were packed. The economy has had a severe impact on attendance over the last two years at a lot of race tracks. Bristol did not sell out this year, but it was within 8,000 seats of pulling it off. There are a lot of tracks on the NASCAR circuit that wish they only had 8,000 empty seats. From pit road, it was hard for me to locate the 8,000 seats considering there were 155,000 seats filled.

Driver introductions were scheduled to have driver selected theme music much like pro-wrestling has utilized for years. The introductions started and it began to get a little monotonous about ten drivers into it. But remember the two drivers that got into it in the closing laps the night before? Well, they were both Cup drivers and apparently everything did not get settled at the nights end.

The driver on the losing end of the crash into the fence on Friday night still had a bone to pick with the driver that won last night's race. When he came out for his driver introduction, he rattled off his name, car number, team name, and car manufacturer like the prior ten drivers. But then he had one item to add, he named the driver that crashed him Friday night and called him a donkey. Up until that point the crowd in the grandstands had been somewhat subdued. Instantly the entire grandstands surrounding the half-mile speedway was standing on their feet and roaring their approval. Inside the media center, reporters clamored to write something while others questioned the NASCAR spokesman if a fine would result for the comment.

The NASCAR Spokesman quickly responded that he did not see a fine or punishment fitting since the Bible has several references to donkeys. Truth be told, the television network did not air the driver introductions to avoid having to pay rights for broadcast purposes on all the music used.

Driver introductions followed with one driver saying he hoped he would not be behind these two when the wreck happens, another saying he would like to be behind them to watch a big wreck.

Finally they dropped the green flag and 43 cars went barreling two-wide around the 23-degree banked concrete of Bristol. I spent time standing in the infield watching the cars flash by and feeling the earth tremble, and I spent time watching the monitors inside the media center while listening to race teams radio communication on my scanner.

By the time 500 laps had been completed, Kyle Busch had won all the events of the week at Bristol - something that had never been done in the history of the track. The team waved brooms in Victory Circle as the celebrated their driver sweeping the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series event on Wednesday, the NASCAR Nationwide Series race on Friday, and the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race on Saturday night.

While that was going on, 155,000 people were trying to drive out of the parking lots, drivers were running over to a helicopter pad outside the track that had a helicopter shuttling them from the track to the nearby airport. With traffic what it was, the helicopter was the quickest ticket out.

I wrote a couple articles while the crowds were funneling out on any road or path leaving the track and finally put on my leathers and set out for my 78 mile ride to the hotel.

About 25 miles from the hotel, on a winding four-lane divided highway in what seemed like the darkest night on the year, it started raining again. The visual field was reduced by the darkness and by the rain, so I slowed my speed to compensate for riding on a road that I was not very familiar and trusted the voice in my ear that provided directions. Several cars flew by in the left hand lane providing a nice spray to add to what I was already receiving. Even an semi passed me moving at a pretty good clip and a heavy wall of water.

By the time I reached the hotel, it had stopped raining and the clock in the lobby showed 2am. I grabbed a quick shower, hung up all my wet clothes and fell face first into the bed. I must of fell asleep within seconds because the next thing I remember was hearing a couple of kids in the hall playing paddy-cake and talking loudly at 8:30am.

The ride home was quite enjoyable. I discovered the four days in the mountains had made be more confident in leaning the bike into the curves of the road and rolling out of the throttle less.

A short stop for some southern fried chicken and a glass of sweet tea, and I soon found myself rolling into the driveway of our home. The odometer showed I was 41 miles short of logging 1,000 miles total on the trip. Despite the two rains, I enjoyed the entire weekend and was glad I rode the bike.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Heels and Scooters

A co-worker stopped me today to share an experience from the night before. On her way home she had stopped at QuickTrip (perhaps one of the greatest creations in the world). While she was shopping for a cold beverage, she heard a disturbance. She looked up to see most of the patrons in the store running out into the parking lot. She made her way to the door to see what the cause of all the commotion.

When she got to the front doors, she saw a woman wearing high heels lying on the ground with abrasions on her forearm and a split lip. The woman lying on the ground was also wearing a silver half-helmet. Not far from where she was lying was a little silver scooter lying on it's side. The woman stood up and began trying to right the scooter and the friendly patrons were more than happy to assist the lovely damsel in distress. A few minutes later, the little scooter, which was paint matched to the woman's helmet, was back upright and all was well in the world.

I know that scooters do not go very fast and they are low to the ground. But the woman in the QuickTrip parking lot has a lip and a forearm that will attest that AGATT (All the Gear All The Time) is still a good idea. And as sexy as a pair of high heels are on the feet of a woman with long gorgeous legs, I would venture to say they are not the ideal footwear for scooters or motorcycles and very well could have been a contributor to her lipstick getting smeared that evening. I understand that everyone wants to turn heads when they are riding, and I will not knock that.

But, before you run out and jump on your scooter or motorcycle this summer, even if it is for a quick trip down to the local QuickTrip for milk or a lottery ticket, consider that the parking lot of a QuickTrip is as busy or busier than the parking lot of Wall World. Cars are coming out of the eight lanes of gas pumps. Cars are coming out of the parking spaces in front of the store. And, cars are coming in both driveways from the surround roads. It only takes one of those to not see you for a sudden braking maneuver to be required.

Sudden braking always has the potential of going bad if the rider locks the back tire or if the front wheel is in a turn and the rider gets on the front brake hard. With the front wheel turned and the front brake almost locked, the bike will transfer its weight forward and because the front wheel is not in line, it will cause the bike to try to fall down.

Not being there to see what happened, I can only speculate on what caused the spill. But being a patron of many a QuickTrip and observing the madness of the traffic at times, I would guess she was turning into a parking spot and someone made a quick move towards her. She probably made a quick grab of the front brake and things were headed South. Trying to stab a foot down at this point might possibly keep things upright, but could lead to a Tib/Fib fracture if the rider stomps the ground too hard trying to save it. And, if rider is wearing high heels, the rider runs the risk of the heel breaking and dumping them or dislocating their ankle.

Enjoy the riding weather but consider the footwear and gear you are wearing before you take off.


Monday, July 05, 2010

A Good Morning

Bleary-eyed and ready for my first cup of coffee, I rolled into the motorcycle parking area of our office building's parking garage. As I approached my usual parking spot, I observed a behemoth two wheeled machine sitting in the space next to me. As I backed Rosie neatly in her usual spot, my eye wandered up and down and end to end of the Victory Vision Tour with its 106cc air-cooled 50 degree V-Twin four stroke engine sitting quietly in the next spot.

This was a work of art resting neatly on two wheels and a side stand. Much like a priceless oil painting created by the hands of a master, the beauty of this machine could not be taken in with a casual observation or a single glance.

As I began to unstrap my helmet, I saw a hardhat approaching. It seems there is always a floor being remodeled in these two buildings. He approached and unlocked the rear case on the Vision and retrieved an item previously forgotten upon initial disembark.

"That is one gorgeous motorcycle", I said.

His eyes lit up and a smile broke out upon his face.

"I am still getting use to it", he replied. "I rode a Honda Goldwing (aka hondapottimus) for several years before trading for this one. I still haven't figured out all the gizmos. It has an electric adjustable windshield and an electric butt warmer. I figure as long as I remember where the key goes and where the start button is, I'm good", he joked.

He inquired where I rode in from, how many miles, and did I ride to work(tm) everyday. And then we traded a few riding stories before I had to make my way to my appointed destination - the coffee shop before reporting to work.

It's always a good start to a day's morning to meet another rider and get to chatter a bit before starting work.

Ride on!


Saturday, July 03, 2010

Happy Fourth of July - Independence Day

Declaration of Independence

Adopted by Congress on July 4, 1776

The Unanimous Declaration of the Thirteen United States of America

When, in the course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another, and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the laws of nature and of nature's God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. That to secure these rights, governments are instituted among men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed. That whenever any form of government becomes destructive to these ends, it is the right of the people to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their safety and happiness.

Prudence, indeed, will dictate that governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shown that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable, than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed. But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such government, and to provide new guards for their future security. --Such has been the patient sufferance of these colonies; and such is now the necessity which constrains them to alter their former systems of government. The history of the present King of Great Britain is a history of repeated injuries and usurpations, all having in direct object the establishment of an absolute tyranny over these states. To prove this, let facts be submitted to a candid world.
He has refused his assent to laws, the most wholesome and necessary for the public good.

He has forbidden his governors to pass laws of immediate and pressing importance, unless suspended in their operation till his assent should be obtained; and when so suspended, he has utterly neglected to attend to them.

He has refused to pass other laws for the accommodation of large districts of people, unless those people would relinquish the right of representation in the legislature, a right inestimable to them and formidable to tyrants only.

He has called together legislative bodies at places unusual, uncomfortable, and distant from the depository of their public records, for the sole purpose of fatiguing them into compliance with his measures.

He has dissolved representative houses repeatedly, for opposing with manly firmness his invasions on the rights of the people.

He has refused for a long time, after such dissolutions, to cause others to be elected; whereby the legislative powers, incapable of annihilation, have returned to the people at large for their exercise; the state remaining in the meantime exposed to all the dangers of invasion from without, and convulsions within.

He has endeavored to prevent the population of these states; for that purpose obstructing the laws for naturalization of foreigners; refusing to pass others to encourage their migration hither, and raising the conditions of new appropriations of lands.

He has obstructed the administration of justice, by refusing his assent to laws for establishing judiciary powers.

He has made judges dependent on his will alone, for the tenure of their offices, and the amount and payment of their salaries.

He has erected a multitude of new offices, and sent hither swarms of officers to harass our people, and eat out their substance.

He has kept among us, in times of peace, standing armies without the consent of our legislature.

He has affected to render the military independent of and superior to civil power.
He has combined with others to subject us to a jurisdiction foreign to our constitution, and unacknowledged by our laws; giving his assent to their acts of pretended legislation:

For quartering large bodies of armed troops among us:
For protecting them, by mock trial, from punishment for any murders which they should commit on the inhabitants of these states:
For cutting off our trade with all parts of the world:
For imposing taxes on us without our consent:
For depriving us in many cases, of the benefits of trial by jury:
For transporting us beyond seas to be tried for pretended offenses:
For abolishing the free system of English laws in a neighboring province, establishing therein an arbitrary government, and enlarging its boundaries so as to render it at once an example and fit instrument for introducing the same absolute rule in these colonies:
For taking away our charters, abolishing our most valuable laws, and altering fundamentally the forms of our governments:

For suspending our own legislatures, and declaring themselves invested with power to legislate for us in all cases whatsoever.

He has abdicated government here, by declaring us out of his protection and waging war against us.

He has plundered our seas, ravaged our coasts, burned our towns, and destroyed the lives of our people.

He is at this time transporting large armies of foreign mercenaries to complete the works of death, desolation and tyranny, already begun with circumstances of cruelty and perfidy scarcely paralleled in the most barbarous ages, and totally unworthy the head of a civilized nation.

He has constrained our fellow citizens taken captive on the high seas to bear arms against their country, to become the executioners of their friends and brethren, or to fall themselves by their hands.

He has excited domestic insurrections amongst us, and has endeavored to bring on the inhabitants of our frontiers, the merciless Indian savages, whose known rule of warfare, is undistinguished destruction of all ages, sexes and conditions.

In every stage of these oppressions we have petitioned for redress in the most humble terms: our repeated petitions have been answered only by repeated injury. A prince, whose character is thus marked by every act which may define a tyrant, is unfit to be the ruler of a free people.

Nor have we been wanting in attention to our British brethren. We have warned them from time to time of attempts by their legislature to extend an unwarrantable jurisdiction over us. We have reminded them of the circumstances of our emigration and settlement here. We have appealed to their native justice and magnanimity, and we have conjured them by the ties of our common kindred to disavow these usurpations, which, would inevitably interrupt our connections and correspondence. They too have been deaf to the voice of justice and of consanguinity. We must, therefore, acquiesce in the necessity, which denounces our separation, and hold them, as we hold the rest of mankind, enemies in war, in peace friends.

We, therefore, the representatives of the United States of America, in General Congress, assembled, appealing to the Supreme Judge of the world for the rectitude of our intentions, do, in the name, and by the authority of the good people of these colonies, solemnly publish and declare, that these united colonies are, and of right ought to be free and independent states; that they are absolved from all allegiance to the British Crown, and that all political connection between them and the state of Great Britain, is and ought to be totally dissolved; and that as free and independent states, they have full power to levy war, conclude peace, contract alliances, establish commerce, and to do all other acts and things which independent states may of right do. And for the support of this declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of Divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our lives, our fortunes and our sacred honor.

New Hampshire: Josiah Bartlett, William Whipple, Matthew Thornton
Massachusetts: John Hancock, Samual Adams, John Adams, Robert Treat Paine, Elbridge Gerry
Rhode Island: Stephen Hopkins, William Ellery
Connecticut: Roger Sherman, Samuel Huntington, William Williams, Oliver Wolcott
New York: William Floyd, Philip Livingston, Francis Lewis, Lewis Morris
New Jersey: Richard Stockton, John Witherspoon, Francis Hopkinson, John Hart, Abraham Clark
Pennsylvania: Robert Morris, Benjamin Rush, Benjamin Franklin, John Morton, George Clymer, James Smith, George Taylor, James Wilson, George Ross
Delaware: Caesar Rodney, George Read, Thomas McKean
Maryland: Samuel Chase, William Paca, Thomas Stone, Charles Carroll of Carrollton
Virginia: George Wythe, Richard Henry Lee, Thomas Jefferson, Benjamin Harrison, Thomas Nelson, Jr., Francis Lightfoot Lee, Carter Braxton
North Carolina: William Hooper, Joseph Hewes, John Penn
South Carolina: Edward Rutledge, Thomas Heyward, Jr., Thomas Lynch, Jr., Arthur Middleton
Georgia: Button Gwinnett, Lyman Hall, George Walton

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Across America on a Motorcycle - Then and Now

No idea how I missed the post on Lucky's blog Monday, but IF you like motorcycles, you have got to check this out.

In 1919, following World War I, a British Royal Air Force Captain by the name of R. K. Shepherd decided to ride a brand new Henderson 4-cylinder motorcycle (Henderson Motorcycle Co. of Detroit, Michigan) from New York City to San Fransico. Consider that there was no interstate system at this point in time and in fact, roads were not the greatest in that time period. The trip ended up amounting to 4,950 miles in three months. He had numerous engine overhauls and noted that he fell off 142 times.

He published a book documenting the trip, Across America by Motor-cycle which seems like a worthy read.

Fast forward to May of this year, and a fellow named Chris set out to roughly ride the approximately same trip on a 2007 KLR 650 and document it on blogger! You can read Chris' documentary of his experience to date at:

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Commute on Two Wheels

Monday was Ride to Work Day(tm). I thought I would give kudos to the folks that work in my building that commute on two wheels(not tm) all the other days without prompting. On some days this area is even fuller with half a dozen more scooters in the 50cc range. I always enjoy walking down after work and seeing what a menagerie of two wheel transportation has collected for the day.

In the picture above you see a Kawasaki Vulcan 900, a scooter, and a Harley-Davidson Road King. The Vulcan has been there everyday I have ridden since going to work here, though I have not had the opportunity to meet the owner/rider.

The scooter belongs to a lady in the 40-50 age range who seems to be as regular a two wheel commuter as the Vulcan rider. We have spoken severl times. She seems to be an avid scooter fan. You quickly sense that she loves riding when you talk to her.

This BMW seems to be a pretty regular two wheel commuter as well. And older model but sitting here almost everyday, so it must be providing good service. I have to wonder if they could make those mirrors sit any higher.

This BMW shows up at times, other times there is another model BMW sitting in this space. So, I am guessing it is the same guy with a collection going on of sorts. These particular side boxes are the ones I call chemistry experiment boxes. The German engineers do not care much for looks it seems. They just designed a storage box, boom, done. I cannot help but think they should be transporting a high priced microscope everytime I see these boxes.

In any event, Kudos to the owners/riders of these machines and everyone else who commutes on two wheels as much as the weather in their area of the world allows. Enjoy and watch out for oblivious cage drivers making left hand turns.

I was thinking maybe we should make this Ride to Work Week(not tm) or Ride to Work Month(not tm) or even Ride to Work Quarter(not tm).

Friday, June 18, 2010

The Hard Hat

I ride into the parking deck just before 7am another headache starting. I get off the bike and see a hard hat making a beeline toward me. My head hurts, its too early, and I just don't feel like it but here it comes anyhow.

"You know what the ugliest thing in the world is?", he asks.

I can feel the dig coming.

"Honda Goldwing?", I reply.

Without missing a beat he finishes his punchline, "a Harley rider without his helmet."

"Oh", I say, "BMW RS1000 would a been my second guess."

His face twists and he responds, "Don't be ugly now. Don't be ugly." Then he shows me a cell phone pic of his BMW RS1200.

My bad. Its the headache. I meant 1200.

Had to drive the truck today for the air conditioner I guess.

Have a good one!


Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Summer Time, Summer Time

OK so Summer is here. 94f and humidity so high that it feels like walking through a vat of hot tapioca pudding. The temptation is to ride motorcycles in the least amount of protective gear as possible. I see lots of riders in a t-shirt, gym shorts, and tennis shoes or flip flops with a full face helmet.

I find this bewildering. So it is hot enough to forgo hand, arm, chest, leg and foot protection, but they still are going to protect that face? Someone explain this to me. They are really intent on the safest helmet but the rest is elective? +1 for wearing a helmet. +1 for a full face helmet. -5 for omitting the rest of the gear.

photo by author, all rights reserved

I followed this guy on my commute home in his summer "riding gear" the other afternoon. As we approached 65mph, his t-shirt amounted to a scarf flapping from his neck in the breeze. At the same time, I observed many distracted drivers on the crowded highway. One lady was filing her nails driving with her knee. While several were lost in cellphone and text message conversations. One errant move by one of these distracted drivers could cause a bad situation. Such a situation would be acerbated by his lack of gear.

Yes, I still believe All the Gear All the Time (AGATT) even during Georgia Summer heat. "But leathers are hot!" True that, so maybe its time to look at textile riding gear designed for this weather.

Several manufacturers offer Textile chap, pants, and jackets with built in armor while also providing vents. Some will argue that textile gear with mesh sleeves provide little protection. I would argue it is significantly better than a t-shirt. I have slid across asphalt in a mesh jacket with armor and walked away with no bodily scars under the jacket. So tell me about the success of a t-shirt opposed to mesh riding jackets.

My point is simple. Do not completely disregard protective riding gear due to the heat. Find suitable hot weather gear. Because you cannot prepare for everything you might encounter out there - uneven asphalt in the dark, flying aluminum ladders, fuel spilled in the roadway, deer or dogs running across the road, distracted cage drivers, etc.

Today, in 94f weather, I dodged a fiberglass ladder in the highway and observed more distracted drivers that I care to think about. So, be prepared.

Gear up!

Monday, June 07, 2010

More Aluminum Ladders

It was another gorgeous afternoon as I walked out of work and into the parking garage. I pulled on my leather chaps and my textile riding jacket, strapped my helmet on my head, pulled my gloves on tight. I was soon in the multilane commuter traffic of downtown traffic trying to sneak North out of the city.

My route takes me on a two lane highway with a concrete divider wall, narrow shoulders, and traffic merging into the right lane. I am in the left hand lane running highway speeds 3-4 car lengths behind a car positioned to the passenger side of the car I am behind so that I can see the brake lights of the cas further ahead. A few miles into the ride, I see the right hand lane suddenly braking hard, smoke rolling off tires, and cars darting to the narrow shoulder on the right hand side. I begin to squeeze some brake to provide more space between Rosie and the cars ahead in my lane of traffic. Soon my lane is slowing as well.

And then I see it, an aluminum omlete stretching across from the edge of the right hand shoulder, across the entire right hand lane, and just protruding into the left lane. I point my left knee towards the left side shoulder and push on the left grip on the handlebars. Rosie makes a nice smooth lean as we point towards the dew line on the left side of the road. As we approach the line, I stand her back up straight and continue to ease by the pile of debris leaving a safe distance to avoid any aluminum shards that might puncture a tire or fly up and cause a scar to exposed flesh.

We escape without issue, no harm, no foul.

I ride another couple of miles and take a off ramp to the left and pull up to a stop light. I am in the right hand lane of two lanes turning left monitoring approaching traffic to the rear in my mirrors when I notice a pickup truck pull up on my right.

I glance over at the truck, back to the mirrors, back to the traffic crossing in front of me, back to the stop light and then back to the truck. In the back of a pickup is a walk-behind lawn mower and an aluminum step ladder. The mower has a web cargo strap running thru the handles securing it to the bed of the truck. The ladder - nothing.

So, someone loaded up the pickup and had a choice to make. What to secure? The 30lb lawnmower with the low center of gravity or the 10lb aluminum ladder with a propensity for flight. Delbert chose the mower. Genius!

My mind begins to process what I have just seen in the last five miles as I merge onto one of Atlanta's busiest highways.

What happens to a motorcylists following the pickup if the ladder becomes airborne?

What happens if the ladder becomes airborne and a car hits it?

What happens if a motorcyclist is riding behind a car that hits an aluminum ladder?

None of the scenarios sound like they have a happy ending.

I made sure the pickup did not get in front of me. I encountered a couple of pickups on the remainder of the ride home that were carrying vast assundry of building materials and tools, and I elected to not ride behind them. And, I found means to pass them when safely possible.

As I think about it further, we need an aluminum ladder safety advocay group. Since the general population cannot figure it out on their own, aluminum ladders need to carry labels warning of their propensity for flight and their need to be secured when carried in pickup trucks.

Watch out when you are riding. Nobody else is!


Saturday, May 29, 2010

R.I.P Dennis Hopper

That's him on the right.

Dennis Hopper died this morning at the age of 74 at his home in Venice, California from complications caused by prostate cancer.

He co-wrote, directed, and starred with Peter Fonda in the 1969 movie Easy Rider which was nominated for a best screenplay Academy Award.

He also performed in Rebel Without a Cause, Giant Apocalypse Now and Blue Velvet. Recently, he portrayed Ben Cendars on the television series Crash.

Memorial Day

photo source: author

Memorial Day is a day for honoring military personnel who died in battle or as a result of wounds sustained in battle in the line of duty while serving the United States of America.

In 1966, President Lyndon Johnson and the United States Congress declared Waterloo, N.Y., the “birthplace” of Memorial Day. A ceremony was held there on May 5, 1866, one hundered years earlier honoring local veterans who had died while serving in the Civil War. Businesses closed for the day and residents flew flags at half-staff.

At the end of World War I, the day was expanded to include all those who had given their life in a war or conflict while defending the United States of America.

Finally, in 1971, Memorial Day was declared a national holiday by the National Holiday Act of 1971 (P.L. 90 - 363) of the United States Congress.

Vietnam Monument - Washington, DC
(photo by author)

While enjoying a three day weekend, grilling ribs, going to the beach, taking that long beautiful ride through the mountains, please pause for a moment and give honor to those who have put themselves in harms way and paid the ultimate sacrifice to provide you the freedoms that we all take for granted.

WWII Monument - Washington, DC
(photo by author)

God Bless America!

Monday, May 17, 2010

Anytime, Anywhere. They are there!

This week is National EMS (Emergency Medial Services) Week.

Kudos to the men and women around this country serving countless sleepless hours to respond in moments of crisis - some paid and some volunteer putting themselves in harms way to bring medical aid and save lives.

It is an underpaid career that is often times thankless. And many of the providers are either volunteers giving up time with their families to provide for their community or underpaid providers working two jobs to try to make ends meet so that their community has emergency health care. Many take advantage of the service and use it as a hospital taxi service, but when the real emergency arises, these folks make haste to provide the ultimate level of medical care to you, your friends, and your loved ones.

When you are traveling on the roadways and highways of our country and an Ambulance or Rescue vehicle is approaching you from the rear with lights blazing and siren screaming, pull to the right and give them room to get by. It could be someone you know and love in dire need of their services. Never tailgate an emergency vehicle as a way to get thru traffic.

Thanks to those of you serving our communities in the EMS. We appreciate your dedication.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Motorcycles are Everywhere! Be Aware!

If you drive an automobile, please take four minutes to view this video:
Intersection Video

Look Out for Motorcyclists - Use your eyes and mirrors to see what’s around.

Don't Be Distracted - Hang up and drive, put down the food, the pet, the personal grooming gear, the CD, and the reading material and save it for later.

Give Two-Wheelers Some Room - Don't tailgate or get too close side-by-side.

Use Your Turn Signals - Signal your intentions. It's also the law.

Keep it in the Car - Don’t throw trash and cigarettes out the window, and securely lash down cargo that can fall out on the road and be a deadly hazard.


Wednesday, May 12, 2010

In Harm's Way

Photo Source:

In Harm's Way
The Sinking of the U.S.S. Indianapolis and the Extraordinary Story of Its Survivors
Doug Stanton


Anyone who has a love for the Sea,Naval interest, or interest in World War II will probably enjoy this 354 page read. I think I consumed it in three evenings.

The Navy cruiser USS Indianapolis CA-35, a Portland-class cruiser of the United States Navy, played a very strategic role in ending the war by transporting the components of the first Atomic Bomb to the island of Tinian on July 26, 1945. The bomb was later dropped on Hiroshima, Japan by the B-29, Eola Gay.

After delivery this highly secret cargo, the Indianapolis was ordered to sail to Leyte Gulf, on the East Coast of the Philippines, to take part in "gunnery practice". Captain Charles Butler McVay III and a crew of 1,197 men began the 1,500 nautical mile journey.

At 12:14 am on July 30, 1945, the Indianapolis was struck by a torpedo which tore away the bow. A second torpedo struck seconds later. An SOS was quickly sent out on a backup radio system as the main radio was destroyed in the damage as was the ship's intercom system. The Captain ordered an abandon ship by word of mouth. The ship sank within 12 minutes according to survivors leaving 880 men suffering from burns to try and survive at Sea.

Because the ships fuel and oil tanks were ruptured in the attack, the survivors were left to swim in a huge oil slick. To make matters worse, the SOS message sent out by the Indianapolis was ignored and the men responsible for keeping track with the ship's arrival in Leyte did not elect to report its lack of arrival.

The surviving 880 men were left to fend for themselves without food or drinking water adrift in the South Pacific with regular attacks by sharks. Five days later, 317 of the original 880 men were able to signal Lieutenant Chuck Gwinn, flying a Lockheed Navy Ventura PV-1 bomber and a rescue effort began.

This book chronicals the story of the Indianapolis during this tragic experience. I found it to be a very good read and hope you do too.

Additional Sources:

Saturday, May 08, 2010

I'm on a Boat

Having never been on a cruise in my life, the thought of it was intriguing. So when we began to consider ideas for a vacation getaway, the thought of going on a cruise was one I gladly entertained.

We finally opted for four nights on Royal Caribbean's Majesty of the Seas. While the smallest ship in the RC fleet, it held 2,600 people - half the population in the town where I grew up.

Monday we awoke to rain and radio reports of every paved roadway near Atlanta in total upheaval. The typical 30 minute ride to the MARTA station took two hours which severely impacted our chances of making the airport on time. But with the traffic in its current state, driving through or around Atlanta to reach the airport were also out of the question. Once on the train, I began to receive email updates from the airline informing that the flight was delayed. This was both good and bad news. The good news, we would be able to make the flight. The bad news, we might miss the boat.

photo source:

Once the plane landed at Miami, we had 45 minutes left before the cruise line would not accept passengers. A nice taxi driver understood the pinch we were in and did his best to get us to the Port of Miami with a few minutes to spare. Apparently the weather had delayed a couple of flights and our flight had contained numerous fellow cruisers. So, the port quickly filled behind us. The ladies checking people in commented they had been bored for the last two to three hours.

As both breakfast and lunch had been missed in the mayhem of trying to reach the Port of Miami before sailing time, once onboard we headed straight to the buffet with suitcases in tow. As I ate, images of "Lord of the Flies" ran through my head. My pulse rate and blood pressure began to slowly return to a normal range as we located our stateroom and tried to forget the events of the day.

The ship pulled out of Miami Monday evening at an amazing 15 knots (17.262 mph) to make the 160 mile journey to the Southernmost City. We awoke Tuesday morning to the sight of channel markers from our balcony. And finally, the outline of Key West appeared in the distance.

We made our way to the gangway while our shipmates who had partied all night long beside the pool slept and made our way to Two Friends Patio Restaurant where we arrived as they were opening their doors for breakfast. Our previous visit to Key West had both taught us that this was an excellent choice for breakfast and that if you arrived at the door at 8am, you would be the first customer of the day.

We then ventured a few blocks to the Audubon House with its gorgeous garden and the restored 19th century home of Captain John H. Geiger. The house itself is worth the $12 admission price. The tropical gardens that surround it are icing on the cake.

The rest of the afternoon was spent wandering the streets of our favorite city before making the "all aboard" mid-afternoon.

The following morning following breakfast, we walked out on our balcony to see the pilot boat from the port of Nassau.

We went ashore and wandered the streets of Nassau. We found a "Harley" store selling shirts but no motorcycles, although they had one softtail sitting in the window. In the United States this would be impossible as a merchant cannot get official Harley-Davidson clothing to sell unless they are a full fledged dealer selling and servicing motorcycles. Apparently the rules are different in the Bahamas.

The streets of the downtown area are dirty, small and crowded. Every block you walk you have three different people asking if you want to rent a scooter or want a taxi to "Atlantis", the fancy resort built on the other side of the bay. And every block is a girl wanting to braid hair. Every automobile imaginable has the word "Taxi" handpainted on the door. The streets are the equivalent of a narrow alleyway with cars parked down one side and scooters and cars fighting for the remaining space. Most of the stores are unairconditioned, dimly lit, with sand covered concrete floors. In all of this apparent poverty stands a Burger King and a Starbucks. One block over from the waterfront are stores selling Cartier, Boliva, and Rolex in bright white painted buildings that resemble American jewelry stores but who can say if the products are authentic.

While many piled into taxis and stretch limosines and headed to Atlantis, underwhelmend by the 8-10 blocks of downtown, we headed back to the Majesty of the Seas and enjoyed the pools and hottubs that were scarcely populated and the attentive staff.

We had planned to spend a very relaxed and informal week and had not visited the ships dining room, but our cabin steward pointed out that with the exception of formal night, the dining room was open to informal dress. So, we made the dining room for our appointed time at our appointed table and were quite impressed with the service and the quality of the food. Lesson #1 of dining, even if you do not plan to pack a jacket and tie for formal night, enjoy the dining room onboard every evening that it is open.

The next morning we arrived at Little Stirrup Cay in the Berry Islands which Royal Caribbean leases and renamed Coco Cay. A tender met us to take us ashore where a fleet of jet skis awaited our arrival. After a rivetting video on the operations of a jet ski and U.S. Cost Guard guided saftey procedures, we set out for one and a half hour rop around the island.

We returned to the Cay and wandered the crystal clear waters and the pristine beaches until the cruise line opened the chow lines serving burgers, hot dogs, ribs, and chicken.

After a little more wandering the one mile island, we hopped a tender back to the ship and relaxed before hitting the dining room for the evening.

Another night at cruising speed, 9 knots and we were pulling into the Port of Miami at sunrise.