2016.08.09Buzzfeed News: Skully Founders Sued for Alleged Abuse of Company Funds

Skully, Inc., was back in the news this week. But not in a good way.

Buzzfeed reported on a lawsuit alleging the cofounders of the San Francisco-based company routinely abused the crowdfunded and investor capital raised to produce the AR-1, a revolutionary augmented reality helmet expected to ship this summer. The suit was filed by a former assistant to the brothers, who were ousted last month.

The company filed for bankruptcy earlier this week.

Personally, news like this makes me mourn. I've long been excited about the AR-1, although the price point was out of my range. The article sure made it sound as though the Weller brothers found huge demand for a luxury item and may not have cared too much about delivering on their promises.


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2016.06.18Catching Up: New Bike Still in the Old Garage

Well, here it is, mid-June 2016 and I've put next to no miles on our bike so far this year.

2015 was dismal for riding after the HOG rally. We found out that Laurel broke her foot during the rally, and guilt about her inability to ride and my work kept me off the bike for the majority of the year from June onward.

After the close of the 2015 riding season, we decided we'd sell both of the bikes and pick them up again later on. In mid-February of 2016, we traded in our two bikes on a 2016 Road Glide Special — an absolutely gorgeous machine.

My work schedule and my health have kept the bike in the garage so far this year, with exception of a few small rides "around the block."

I continue as the webmaster for my local H.O.G. chapter, and I've done some work there that I'm really proud of.

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2015.05.312015 Kansas H.O.G. Rally - Group Photo

Did everyone have a good time? It sure looks like it to me!

Group Photo at the Capitol
© 2015 Velveteen Photography

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2015.05.27Getting Ready for the Rally

The 2015 Kansas State Harley Owners Group (HOG) Rally kicks off tomorrow.

Today we moved all of the goods into the hotel and got the registration area all set up. Various last-minute details were considered and resolved. There's been so much energy put into this over the past several months that I'm almost afraid the event will seem anticlimactic by comparison.

I'm also quite nervous. This is entirely new for me — I've never done anything like this before. I want this to be an exceptionally good rally — I want our rally to wreck the curve for future HOG rallies. I just wish I had more experience to offer.

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2014.12.102015 State HOG Rally: Artwork Approved!

I'm way behind on my posts. A lot has been going on over these past few months. Specific to HOG, our city (and, by extension, our Harley-Davidson dealership) is slated to host the state's annual HOG rally next year. I was asked to participate on the committee, and I volunteered to develop the artwork for the event.

The rally artwork becomes the symbol for the rally. The artwork will be featured on pretty much all of the clothing, pins, patches and so forth available for sale. I am proud of the finished product!

Official Logo of the 2015 Kansas HOG Rally

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2014.04.14Not Okay

What crazy weather.

On Saturday, we rode our motorcycles just wearing T-shirts and jeans because the temperature was in the mid-80s.

This morning I'm scraping snow off of my car.

This is not okay.

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Wanted to wish Laurel a very happy "Harleyversary" — one year ago this weekend we completed our RIDERS EDGE course, and we've been having great fun since!!!

2014.03.11Our Longest Ride Yet!

FINALLY! Some decent weather!

On Sunday did a lot of riding. The weather was gorgeous, although there were still a few spots in the road that were still a bit sandy. By Laurel's estimate, we put on about 45 miles — it's the longest ride we've done so far. Perhaps especially, the longest ride the three of us have done so far.

March 9, 2014

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2013.12.31Nobody Puts Baby in a Corner

Laurel has a new bike!!

2014 Heritage Softail Classic

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2013.12.18Yes I did

Here's the deal.

It's December eigh-freaking-teenth, and the temperature outside is nearly 60 degrees.

Who wouldn't take the bike out for one last spin for the year?

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2013.12.16Maybe One More Spin

About that "riding season is over" thing...

We put the "pigtail" on the battery yesterday... in weather requiring only a light jacket.

On Wednesday the temps should head north of 60 degrees...

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2013.12.12Riding Season is Over

What a fantastic first year.

The bike — that lovely Fat Boy — is parked in the garage and waiting for me to attach the "pig tail" to trickle-charge the battery through the winter.

Last weekend was the chapter Christmas Party. It was a lovely evening up at a nearby casino. We spent dinner with Harley friends and wasted a little money at the poker table.

A fine close to a year of growth and new experiences. (Of course, it'd have been better had we done better at the poker table. ;-)

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2013.10.22So Long, FXSTI

We'll always remember our first.

I rode to the local Harley shop yesterday with a backpack containing the bell (which hung from the footbrake pedal), a zip tie and needlenose pliers, my license plate, phone, and folder with all of the administrivia I had on the bike.

And as I pulled into the lower lot I started to reflect on the experience — the whole experience — of riding this bike over the year. I'm so very thankful for everything about it. For the excitement of learning to ride. For the excitement of buying the bike. For the excitement of riding. For the complete surprise and thrill of the Miller High Life and Harley-Davidson Corp. visit. For the new dimension in our lives.

But the time had come to say goodbye to our lovely first motorcycle. It wasn't a function of having outgrown it; it's not a small bike. It's a lovely, comfortable bike and has been a wonderful companion for seven months and 1,200 miles.

The moment I brought our first bike home: A 2006 FXSTI — March 30, 2013.

But the time has come for a more comfortable and feature-rich ride; for the footboards that Laurel has been so nuts about; for a more classic look with beach bars and a motor that sounds like a boat engine.

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I took this bike out for a spin last night:

2005 Harley-Davidson Softail "Fat Boy" CVO, Screamin' Eagle edition (FLSTFSE).

I'd been just DROOLING to get one of these more classic-looking softails out on the street. I've been wanting to know how the "beach bar" handlebars feel, and how it feels to ride with footboards. The local shop has had more than a few of them available. What set this bike apart for me was the custom paint — the frame is fire engine red, not black like so many are — and the sound.  


This bike is loud as HELL. It turns heads when you ride. I love the sound of our bike, but THIS...

I do believe that loud pipes help keep riders safe. I'm pretty sure I'd be pretty safe!


But the biggest thing about it that I completely love is the hydraulic clutch.

Say it with me now: hy-drau-lic-clu-tch. When you let out a standard clutch, the bike's engine starts to engage. It pulls the bike forward. It's something we practiced in class — letting out the clutch to make the bike roll forward. With a hydraulic clutch, the operation is, well, Boolean (forgive me): it's either engaged or it's not. The clutch becomes more like a light switch than something you do "by feel." In my brief experience, the biggest problem I still have with riding is letting out the clutch too fast when stopped at an intersection. The hydraulic clutch makes that a thing of the past.  

Heck, that ALONE seems worth an upgrade!  

The bike seemed low. Perhaps it was the footboards, perhaps it was the beach bar... probably both. I almost felt like I was riding a lawn tractor. An incredibly sexy lawn tractor, mind you.

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2013.09.05Epic Surprise: Letter from the OZ HOG Chapter President

What a lovely letter!

Whether you are an active member going on every ride or just occasional rides or riding along in spirit due to other demands on your time, all of you make this chapter what it is and are part of that fabric that ties us together with the simple common bond of loving to ride. Because of you, new members have found friends, camaraderie and support. Active or not, all know that support is here for them. We never know all the ways our actions affect others, but we do know the ripples go out farther than we can ever imagine.

Thank you all for being part of this chapter, for the time you are willing to share, for the wonderful mix of personalities, ideas, talents, eyes, ears, voices, styles and of course, bikes that make us all part of this big Harley family.

Tony & Laurel, a couple that are brand new to our Chapter were so moved by their experience with Topeka Harley and the new “family” they found in our Chapter that they entered an Epic Ride contest. Their story of sharing a Harley, both learning to ride, finding something bigger than themselves….that “other”….. that bond that makes them stronger and makes all of us stronger by association, that is what touched the folks at Miller and at Harley and made their story the winner. It so moved Harley Davidson National they wanted to surprise them! It was in fact a big last minute secret and sadly, not everyone could be invited. Please see the letter below from Randy with the Motor Company:
Hey Charlie,

Sorry for the delay on getting back to you since the very successful visit we had a few weeks back.

I wanted to thank you for the warm welcome and participation in our video. It is soon to be out on the Harley Web site.

I also want to thank the entire OZ Chapter for their understanding that we could only utilize a small group of members. If we could have, I would have had every one of them join us! Thank Eli and Mike as well.

Hope our paths cross in the future.

Thank you for all the hospitality,


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2013.09.05Epic Surprise: The Post that Started it All

Here's how it started:


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2013.09.04Epic Surprise: Harley-Davidson & Miller High Life

The first video!

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2013.08.28Thousand Mile Plan: Awesome x 1,000


With kiddo as my passenger, we crossed the 1,000 mile threshold this morning.

Epic ride? Hardly. It was a prime example of my everyday life — I was simply taking kiddo to school.

(Although, I might have done an extra lap around the block and a couple of spins around the parking lot to help advance the odometer. With kiddo onboard, why not include her in the celebration?)

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2013.08.14Thousand Mile Plan: At 900 By the End of the Week

Just an FYI here.

We are having incredible and amazing weather this week — it's mid-August and we've got temps around 80 degrees, and we're FINALLY out of our drought. I don't know what the atmospheric magic is that has brought us this beauty, but I want it to stick around!!

So there's no way I'm missing out on opportunities to ride — especially with rain seeming to be holding off. Assuming I'll keep riding the bike into work each day, we ought to cross our 900-mile mark sometime late tomorrow or on Friday.

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2013.08.07"Is This Heaven?"

Mind: Blown.

Laurel and I had just finished up peeling and cutting up peaches for a cobbler we were preparing for dinner — we were expecting TWO people — one from Harley-Davidson and one from MillerCoors — to stop by to drop off a case of beer and perhaps a tee shirt or a jacket.

That's not exactly how things turned out.

Harley-Davidson and MillerCoors flew Karen Davidson, the great-granddaughter of Harley-Davidson's co-founder William A. Davidson, and Windell Middlebrooks, known to America as "The Miller High Life Delivery Guy", out to Topeka from Los Angeles yesterday morning. Together they, with a film and PR crew, spent the morning filming footage at Topeka Harley-Davidson — ALL to surprise Laurel and me at our home later in the afternoon.

Laurel and I pose for a photo with Harley-Davidson royalty: Karen Davidson!

Promptly at 4:00 PM, a PARADE of Harley bikes, ridden by our friends in the HOG chapter and from Topeka Harley-Davidson, rumbled down our street... followed by a giant Miller High Life beer truck, laden with a palette of Miller High Life beer.

Here's what happened next:


...so much for having a couple of people over for dinner.

We later learned that we were the second of two recipients of this honor in the country — and that we'd likely be the last.

The crew shot video and still images of us for about two hours, and we retold our story a few times against the backdrop of our bike and the lovely jackets we received. The entire event was absolutely incredible, and we feel so fortunate and loved by our new Harley friends and all of the amazing people who brought us this incredible surprise. It was an absolutely fantastic experience and we simply cannot thank everyone enough!!!

Other photos (credit: Ann Marie Bush/The Capital-Journal, and © Topeka Capital-Journal):

Pictured at left is Windell Middlebrooks ("The Miller High Life Delivery Guy"); at center-left is the representative from Harley-Davidson Motor Company who first contacted me about the article. At center-right is Karen Davidson, founder of the Harley-Davidson MotorClothes division and great-granddaughter of Willie Davidson. We lucky winners are at right.

I'm so happy this photo captures a few of our friends from the local Harley community: The two men in black shirts at left and center background are the general manager and owner of Topeka Harley-Davidson. The two men at right are senior members of the OZ HOG.

Sorry, everybody, but I didn't actually get to keep that beer. Made for a great show, though!!

P.S. - I should explain what happened at the start of that third video. You'll notice that we emerged from the house with kiddo, and then had to shuffle her back inside. Miller is extremely sensitive to underage drinking — so much so that they had to stop the show until kiddo was no longer in any shot. This became very noticeable later on. After "the shoot" at our place, we were invited to visit a local restaurant/bar and hang out while Windell did an appearance. We had neighborhood friends with us who brought their teen kids. Windell would gladly pose for photos with them, but always in such a way that the Miller High Life logo on his shirt was obscured. Crazy smart, IMHO — the guy can reach out to his younger fan base (he's a regular on a Disney Channel program, I think) and do it in a way that caters to the fans while side-stepping any inappropriate perceptions. Brilliantly handled.

"Topeka Man wins Year Supply of Beer and Motorcycle Gear" (Kansas First News)
"Is this heaven? Biking tale earns beer for a year" (CJOnline.com)

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2013.08.05Harley-Davidson and Miller Beer in the House!

I mean, MY house.

I've been sitting on this story for quite some time. Honestly, I began to believe it was a hoax.

Some time back in June, I was playing around on the Harley-Davidson website and saw an invitation to share with H-D my story of an "epic ride."

So mine went like this:

Last fall my wife and I pondered an activity we could learn and do together for 2013. We decided we'd learn to ride motorcycles. We took Riders Edge training in March and bought a Softail from {local Harley dealership} and joined the local HOG chapter — and couldn't be happier. I try to ride every day; we have been riding progressively busier streets. For us, the epic ride isn't a single ride; it is the journey, enriched by new friends and new experiences — a journey made sweeter ON A HARLEY.
Kinda touching, sorta meh, but the reader gets the point — we're new riders and we wanted to do this together and we feel richer for the experience.

Fast-forward to early July:

Hello {you},

My name is {me} and I wanted to let you know we read your EPIC RIDE submission on the H-D.com/110 site and loved it.

Not sure if you know, but we have partnered with Miller High Life this year as we both celebrate our 110th anniversaries and they too saw your submission and thought it really encapsulated the beer’s essence of celebrating everyday occasions.
Why, no. No I didn't!
So we were wondering if you would be interested in having a Harley-Davidson employee (A.K.A. possibly an executive) drop by to deliver some Miller High Life/Harley-Davidson commemorative cans for you and your legal drinking age friends to enjoy?
Let us know if you would be interested in the beer.... we’d be happy to give you a call to discuss further.

If you want to verify or call me, I can be reached at Corporate headquarters at {phone number}.

Hope to hear from you soon,

So of COURSE I checked out the phone number — yep, that's a Milwaukee area code alright. Dialed it. Yep, that's Harley-Davidson alright. Dialed zero, got an operator, who put me in touch with, eh, {me}. Yep, he's a Harley corporate guy alright. I left him a voicemail with my telephone number.

We've been in touch a few times since then. The plan is for the man who contacted me and his counterpart from Miller to ride down from Milwaukee and meet us at my place tomorrow afternoon. We'll sign some waivers, take some photos, tell some stories. I invited them to stay for dinner.

Stay tuned — hopefully I'll have some pics to post tomorrow!

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2013.08.02Thousand Mile Plan: No Sense of Urgency

My Thousand Mile Plan OCD has vaporized.

Since crossing the 800-mile threshold last week, my entire sense of urgency over reaching 1,000 miles has left me. I guess it just seems completely obvious to me that we’ll have no problem with these last miles.

A few weeks ago I could have told you probably exactly where I stood on the goal. Today, I only vaguely know the number… like I think I’m at about 830.

To me, that’s pretty telling.

I mean, it’s the start of August for goodness’ sake. We could WALK the bike for the last 200 miles at this point and still get it done before November.

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2013.07.29Thousand Mile Plan: At 800 Miles

Finally crossed the 800 mark.

The weather hasn't been fantastic lately, and that seemed to have slowed our progress a bit. Managed this last hundred miles in about two weeks.

So now the race is really on. Only two hundred miles remain until we reach our goal. It doesn't seem unreasonable to expect we'd have it all done by the close of August, which is still WELL ahead of the season end.

Considering the pace over the last few hundred miles, we might actually get 1,500 on before time runs out if we really push it — but 1,000 is the only real goal here: tangible proof to the group that I have been riding, even if not yet with the group.

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2013.07.29Two-Up is Hard!

What a difference another rider makes!

— and I'm not talking about our kid, either. If she hangs onto the seat, you can't even tell she's aboard.

Laurel and I practiced riding "two-up" around the parking lot at my office on Friday night. The difference it makes in terms of balancing and turning (wow — especially turning) is pretty significant. As the driver, you really have to lean and push to get it to turn. That second rider gives the bike a completely different feel.

I need much more practice before I'd feel confident taking Laurel out on the street.

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2013.07.26Caught in the Rain

It was only a matter of time.

Yesterday was another in a seemingly endless stream of days with rain chances of 20%.

Despite the giant glob of rain way to our west, the forecasters were telling us we'd have a mostly cloudy day with 10 MPH winds... so, I rode the bike in.

It was a wet ride going home... but I learned something important. I now completely get why some of the nicer bikes have fairings that shield the lower legs. TOTALLY get it now. Because everything from my knees to my ankles were drenched in a hurry. It's also partly why chaps are a very good idea.

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2013.07.23"Organized Chaos II" MDA Ride

What a fun time.

This past weekend, Laurel and I volunteered to help with a fundraiser our local Harley dealer organized for the Muscular Dystrophy Association. The event, which was cosponsored by several local companies, featured a charity ride and a mixed martial arts fight.

We were assigned to help with the first leg of the ride. I really wish we could have ridden at least that part, because the riders enjoyed a full police escort for the trip from the Harley shop out to a speedway on the south side of town.

Specifically, we ran the first leg of the dice run (it was a poker run in the past). Each rider was assigned a number. They queued up to toss three die, and their total was recorded by their number. The riders went to several locations around town to do this. The riders with the highest and lowest cumulative totals won a prize.

The volunteer work was super easy, and we were done very quickly. Plus, we were located under a large pavillion. We enjoyed shade and even some breeze; the weather was hot and humid, and storms approached from the north as we left.

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2013.07.17Thousand Mile Plan: At 700 Today

Make that Seven Zero Zero.

I'll likely hit the 700 mile mark when I leave the office at lunchtime.

This last hundred miles went down pretty easily — less than one week ("Thousand Mile Plan: At 600 Today", 7/11/2013), which is roughly apace with the hundred that went before that.

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2013.07.11Thousand Mile Plan: At 600 Today

Six Zero Zero.

This morning when I pulled into work my odometer read exactly 600 miles beyond its mileage on the date I bought it.

I'm pretty excited about this, because we've put 100 miles on it since last Friday ("Thousand Mile Plan: At 500 Today", 7/5/2013). (And yes, we've done it in less than one week.)

Of course, the Fourth of July holiday gave us a nice advantage we wouldn't ordinarily have, plus I've ridden the bike to and from work twice this week so far — normally I'd only do it on a Friday.

The new reading puts us squarely at 400 miles to go between now and mid-October. If I slice-and-dice it this way, we have 40 10-mile rides to do over three months. Even if we only do 20 of these (or somehow just hit 200 miles) over an entire month, we've still hit our goal by mid-September.

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2013.07.07Thousand Mile Plan: 570 and This Week

110 miles last week!

I couldn't be happier with that. Only 430 to go!

Another plus is the riding opportunities over the coming week: It's "jeans week" at work. Good thing I gassed up the bike tonight!

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2013.07.05Thousand Mile Plan: At 500 Today

Half-way point, here we are!

Thanks to lovely weather yesterday morning, I’ll have hit the halfway point by the time I pull into my driveway this evening.

Of course, the best part about this is it’s only FRIDAY — so I’m going to be way ahead after this weekend, I expect.

You know, the silly thing is, the goal is a function of a reward from the owners group — a patch I can wear on my vest.

Kinda dumb, huh? I think it’s important to me because I’ve only done one group ride function — and that was a short one here in town. I guess I feel the need for evidence (to the rest of the group) that I have been riding — just not with the rest of the group yet.

I met with the president of the group at the VA event a couple of weeks ago and explained to him that we've been taking it slow, and he seemed to appreciate the approach. Most of these guys have been riding forever.

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2013.07.03Thousand Mile Plan

I want to log 1,000 miles before November.

It’s now the start of July, and we’ve logged a combined total of 460 miles on it over the past three months. 540 to go by, let’s say, the end of October. So we’re basically mid-way there both in time and miles.

Let’s arbitrarily say we have 15 weeks left (which will put us in mid-October). That requires us to put between 35 and 40 miles on the bike each week.

I think that’s doable. 4 10-miles rides over 7 days doesn’t seem out of the question. And that assumes my level of riding remains constant — by that I mean doing primarily weekday evening and weekend morning rides around town. Venturing out on longer rides would certainly help!

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2013.06.27Pushing 50 Again

... this time, on purpose!

I wrote some time ago about how I found myself accidentally going 50MPH on my motorcycle, thanks to my new windshield ("Pushing 50", 6/3/2013).

On rides for the past couple of nights I’ve been pushing into fourth gear and goosing the bike up to 50 on a particular stretch of road on purpose.

The first night I did it, I felt really comfortable with it. When I did it last night, I freaked myself out a little. Kinda funny.

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2013.06.17Bike Show at the VA Hospital

FINALLY! An event I can do!

I was super excited to be able to volunteer some time for some of the veterans at the local VA Hospital with others from the HOG chapter.

Unfortunately, we didn't really know a lot about the opportunity. I initially thought we were helping the local Harley shop set up for a show there. Turned out, we were the show.

It was completely worth it, though — we drove there in formation, parked our bikes, shined them up a little, and let the veterans browse. I was happy to be a part of it!

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2013.06.03Pushing 50

Rolling with a windshield now.

It's weird. I guess I'm just used to feeling the force of wind against my upper body, and to the engine noise disappearing at around 40 MPH (which is good, because the roads I tend to travel have a 40 MPH speed limit).

But with a windshield, the motor noise doesn't disappear. In fact, it has a slightly higher pitch. And it sounds more metallic. I think that's partly because the high-pitched whine (the sound you hear when you hit the start button, but before you actually fire the motor) doesn't disappear like it used to.

In some ways, it's like getting used to the bike all over again.

It also seems the windshield makes one go faster. I mean, aside from the aerodynamic properties: because I can still hear the engine and am not feeling the force of the wind on my body, I can't tell whether I've hit 40 or not. While out riding yesterday, I found I was actually doing nearly 50 when I looked down at my speedometer.


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2013.06.03250 Miles, a Half-Hour at a Time

It's a little hard to believe.

Yesterday morning I looked up the odometer reading on the motorcycle on the bill of sale. I was stunned to find that we've already ridden it 250 miles this year — and June has just begun!!

We've put 250 miles on it doing short rides on city streets. With exception of trips back and forth to work, I pretty much take it out for half-hour rides. And I think Laurel's rides are similar in kind and duration. So I was surprised to discover we've put that many miles on it already.

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2013.05.21Motorcycle Laws by State

This is a super-handy discovery.

The American Motorcyclist Association (AMA) has published a collection of state motorcycle laws in an easy-to-use format. If you have questions about what your state requires, consider using their handy tool.

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2013.05.13Big Boy Rides and Helmet Differences

This weekend I took the bike out a few times.

Most importantly, I took it out into traffic, away from the local neighborhoods and onto well-traveled main streets.

I found myself grinning this morning as I drove into work, because most of the roads I drove to get into the office I rode on the bike last night.

Each time I ride them, my confidence builds. And I'm enjoying riding at higher speeds.

Also when I rode last night, Laurel tracked me via my phone. She took to the busier streets faster than I; I have been enjoying my time cruising the quiet neighborhoods and really working on using all of the controls and integrating their use into riding.

Riding the main streets at 35 and 40 is a lot different than cruising the neighborhoods at 25. Choice of helmet makes a big difference, too.

Last night I did "big boy" rides a couple of times — very specifically, I did the first wearing my modular helmet, and the second, wearing my half-helmet.

The modular helmet looks like the northernmost piece of a fighter pilot's gear. It is a full-face helmet (so your entire head is protected) with a mechanism that lets you basically slide the entire face — including the chin bar — up above your forehead, kind of converting it into a 3/4 helmet. It fits snugly over the ears.

The half-helmet is the helmet I usually wear. Instead of coming down over the ears, it sits above the ears, leaving them and your face exposed.

What I learned from the two rides place the pro's and con's of each helmet into sharper relief. As I approach 40 miles per hour, the sound of the wind is strong enough to actually drown out the motor noise — that's pretty impressive considering the lovely loud sound of that engine. Also, the face ends up feeling a little chilly (it was in the mid-60's when I rode last night, but at speed the effective wind chill gives a relative temperature of around 45°). BUT, wearing the half-helmet, you can simply glance down at your controls. Wearing the modular helmet, the wind effect on your ears is completely cancelled out. You can hear the engine consistently, even though it is a bit muffled. The face stays warm, though the eyes get a little dry if you leave the face shield cracked open a bit for airflow — even with the integrated sun visor down. And, in that full-face helmet, I have to move my head to look down to see my controls.

Everybody I've spoken to about my approach to learning to ride has met with endorsement after endorsement. I've spent the last month just learning the bike, tooling around in neighborhoods around mine at about 20 miles per hour. I feel really good about moving up onto roads with greater traffic and higher speeds, and feel like much of the area around where I live is open to me now. I believe that continued practice at this higher level will enhance the pleasure that riding the bike already brings.

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2013.05.06Progress Report

I've been getting out on the bike as often as I can!

I've tried to ride it just about every day when the weather hasn't been bad.

Until last week, I spent my time riding it around the neighborhood streets — just sort of getting the machanics of things down. I wanted to stay as free of traffic as possible, and particularly work on the process of approaching and downshifting at stops.

Last week, something changed: I took the bike out on a pretty busy street, and got the speed up to the legal limit of 45. It really was a game-changer. The next time I took it out I got right onto a moderately traveled avenue. I think I'm outgrowing my usual neighborhood "box."

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2013.04.02Official HOGs

It just so happened that on the day we brought the bike home (last Friday), a packet arrived in the mail.

The packet was from the Harley Owners Group. It contained some useful information like a trip planning guide and some fun stuff like a small patch and a pin.

The standard Harley Owners Group pin

We had been told that the dealership would submit for us (read: "pay for") memberships in the group for the first year. We had also been told that Laurel's membership would be at the associate level because the bike is in my name. Fine.

On Saturday, after having gone for a few rides, I came home to find another packet at our door. This one bore Laurel's name. Hers welcomed her has a FULL member AND a member of the Ladies of Harley — complete with special patch and pin.

The Ladies of Harley patch

I can't be certain, but I'm pretty sure she's stoked about this.

Harley-Davidson seems to place a premium on attracting female riders. They even have Riders Edge classes set aside for women only. Of the women I've met in our chapter, it seems that some prefer to just ride "two up" (meaning, sit in the back) while others clearly like to drive. I really hope Laurel stays interested in driving — she seems to be doing a great job at it already!

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2013.04.02Gratuitous Photos of the First Rides

Some photos from our first weekend of riding!

2013.04.01First Rides!

I took last Friday off so we could FINALLY get the motorcycle home. The weather was as beautiful as it was supposed to be. Perfect day for get-acquainted riding!

All didn't go without wrinkles, though.

There is an events center located just behind the Harley dealership. One of the events center parking lot areas was the site for our training classes. Our plan was to drive the bike from the Harley dealership to a nearby events center, and spend some time driving the empty lot getting familiar with the bike before getting on the street and driving it home.

Unfortunately, the events center was hosting a major event on Friday. People were parking in the GRASS because their copious parking lot was completely full.

Our solution was to use a parking lot at the local college instead. The college is closer to our home, and we could get the bike home on residential roads.

The rub there was getting the bike from the dealership to the college. I felt like a complete child for asking the dealership to drive it there for us — and they were immensely generous for acquiescing to do so — but the street between the two is probably one of the busiest in town. NOT the place to be for a novice motorcyclist on a bike he's never ridden.

About twenty minutes later, I'm FINALLY sitting on our actual bike, and about to drive it for my very first time.

Photo of me seated on our motorcycle
Poised to ride for the first time!

I ran through the checklist in my mind. As soon as I switched the ignition to "on" and flipped the engine cut-off switch to "start", I heard a high-pitched whine as the electronics powered up.

This is going to be powerful.

With a click of the electric start the bike roared to life. And I mean ROARED.

I put the bike into 1st gear with a soft but definitive "click". I readied myself and slowly eased off of the clutch.

I was STUNNED. The clutch was incredibly smooth. The shifting was equally and amazingly obvious. This bike DRIVES LIKE A DREAM!!!

Such a difference between the trainers we'd ridden a couple of weeks before and this lovely machine. Everything just glides on it. It's also much, much, MUCH larger and wider: You HAVE to turn like you mean it; you HAVE to lean. You're sitting on a TON of metal and you HAVE to command it.

As Laurel left the parking lot with the Harley guy, I was flashing thumbs-ups and wore a GIANT grin. I took it for several trips across the parking lot and back, and had it ready for Laurel when she returned.

As exciting as it was to gear up and ride it, it was just as exciting to watch Laurel ready to ride it for the first time. She returned from her laps looking like this:

Photo of Laurel driving the motorcycle
Look at that smile!

... and saying this:

"Now THAT was FUN!"

Clearly, the bike was a hit.

It was on me to drive it home. I continued to learn about the machine as I progressed from block to block (residential area — lots of stop signs). Probably the biggest adjustment about it at this point was getting my legs up to the foot pegs, which are forward — actually extending a few inches past the frame. The trainer bikes have the footpegs square beneath the body. In terms of a face of a clock, the trainers' pegs are at 6:00, but the harley's pegs are up at 4:00. I had to keep reminding myself to lift my legs up and forward.

At times I felt a little like this:

Photo of a man on a motorcycle with his body stretched flat on the seat, legs straight out behind him
Photo credit: failblog.cheezburger.com/poorlydressed
... just without the pink sleepers.

Kiddo got in on the fun, too. After picking her up from school (no, we didn't take the bike), we made sure she was a part of the first-day funfest.

Photo of me and my daughter riding the motorcycle
Dad and Kiddo

Photo of Laurel and kiddo riding the motorcycle
Kiddo and Mommy

Kiddo is a huge fan of the bike. She took direction on how to ride with us very, very well — even (and especially) the part about staying away from the pipes.

(Yeah, about those pipes. They weren't kidding about the pipes getting hot... YIKES!! It didn't take me long to learn that, when leaning the bike on its stand, get that right leg as wide as you can because as the bike leans to the left, the pipes rise up and out. Still think leather chaps are silly?)

We rode into Friday evening, again on Saturday afternoon when the weather cleared up, and again through a lovely Easter Sunday.

On Sunday we rode the bike over to Laurel's parents' home to show it off. I drove the car behind Laurel and kiddo as they drove the bike there; we seemed to weave up and down hills through residential streets away from traffic. The girls had a BLAST.

It was my turn to drive it home. I was nervous about the hills, plus I had no idea where I was. By the way, when a 700-pound motorcycle decides it wants to lay on its side, you can't change its mind. I was stopped beside the curb on one of those curvy, hilly roads. The bike fell over onto its pipes. At first I struggled to keep it upright, then decided I'd better get outta there. I can remember thinking that I had to get clear of it, and I rolled onto the grass beside it. Together, Laurel and I righted the bike and found it hadn't a scratch. My confidence was a little shaken, though, but I was fine once I got back onto a street that I recognized and got it home.

I didn't let myself stay off of it for very long. I got back aboard and took it out for more practice driving — I've made a square of several blocks near our home and use it to work on my basics — downshifting as I approach a stop, checking mirrors and controls (the trainers didn't have mirrors!) and so on.

I want to get confident enough to drive it around town in traffic without a second thought. I'm working toward that, but I've enough sense not to rush things, either. For now, tooling around the area where I live is a safe way to build up some miles and good habits.

I'm sore today, and it's much colder outside. I have a feeling the bike's staying put away for tonight. It should be warmer tomorrow...

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2013.03.25Bad Timing

Took last Friday afternoon off so we could go to the DMV to get our driver licenses amended with the new designation.

It was a bad idea. Turned out that Friday was the last day of the local schools' spring break, and as such the place was PACKED with teens cramming for driver tests.

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2013.03.20Riders Edge: DONE

On to the DMV!

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2013.03.17The Golden Ticket

We spent this weekend re-doing the range exercises for our motorcycle course. This time around, things were VERY different.

First and foremost, we stayed dry. And WOW were we bundled up — it wasn't the sunny and 70° we had been expecting — it was more like cloudy and 50° — but it wasn't cloudy, rainy, windy and 50°.

Photo of me wearing black helmet, black sunglasses and a black face warmer. 
			One can see almost no skin at all.

People in the class were calling me
"Darth Vader" and "Ghost Rider."

Secondly, and at least partly as a function of the above, WE HAD A BLAST. Laurel and I got WAAAY more out of this weekend than last. We performed the skills far more competently and had fun in the exercises.

Thirdly, there were only six of us on the range this week. Last weekend the number was double. It made a HUGE difference, because people weren't bunching up, and we could actually perform the exercises at their intended speeds. A number of the techniques they were teaching simply are ineffective at 10 MPH (and honestly, I felt a bit like a monkey on a motorbike just riding in circles. At points I could hear a calliope playing circus music in my head. But maybe it was the hypothermia.)

All-in-all, I got WORLDS MORE out of this last weekend than I did the previous weekend. For as much as I didn't want to have to repeat the range work, I am FAR happier having ridden over the weekend, despite the cold weather.

"Ghost Rider"... whatever.

As a bonus, I'm not nearly as sore this morning as I was after the first weekend. However, I should mention that after we finished our exercises on Saturday, Laurel and I visited a massage place in our local mall, where a muscular couple beat on our legs and backs for a half-hour. (And yeah, I'd go back.)

So now we're at the "Golden Ticket" part. "Golden Ticket" is the nickname for the golden-colored remainder of the state DMV form that gets filled out when a person has successfully completed their driver education course (which, technically, the motorcycle safety course is ) and is having the endorsement placed on their driver license.

As new graduates, we take the "Golden Ticket" to the driver license office and get new licenses done with the motorcycle endorsement. With THAT out of the way, we can bring the bike home!

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2013.03.07Class starts tonight!!

Riders Edge class starts tonight! I CAN'T WAIT! I really hope they teach us a lot about the machines themselves in addition to riding skills.

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2013.03.06Title is in, but that doesn't mean I can register it yet

Had a little bit of a shock when I went to the dealership to pick up the bike title this afternoon. They handed me the title, another slip of paper, and $12.

What was the $12 for? For the inspection I have to get.

Why? Because it's titled out-of-state.

Why does it have an out-of-state title? Well, Here's what I imagine happened.

I have to say, it makes me a little sad. I guess I felt better with the assumption that somebody sold the bike. But this is a bike that was taken from someone. Now, I get why this happens — and I shouldn't have to care. It's legally mine now — it was resold to me by the bank. But still...

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2013.03.02Ready for Test Ride!

WOW is that lovely!

The new grips and stock mirrors look absolutely awesome — I'm so happy that the old diamond mirrors are gone. And I'm surprised that the backrest looks so good. The helmet lock is tucked away nicely, too.

I saw it when I stopped by to return some merchandise. I was browsing the bikes in the garage when I looked up and saw it sitting there. I thought the clouds parted and I heard the angels sing!

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2013.02.28Checkin' Out the Bars

You'd think with the giant picture of a motorcycle engine at left, one wouldn't immediately assume I was talking about places to drink and shoot pool.

So OF COURSE I stopped by the dealership today — I got a call that my helmet came in! While I was there, I thought I'd visit the bike. Happily, it was up on the stand and getting some love when I walked up.

It's going to look a lot nicer with stock mirrors instead of those bat wings. The bike could be done by tomorrow!

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2013.02.27110th Anniversary Image

I'm such a fanboy.

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2013.02.25Bike Progress

The paperwork is signed!

Also, the "un-customization" work has begun — and WOW what a difference it makes. The first task is swapping out that straight bar for something more classic and curved. I got a chance to see it and sit on the bike and it changes the feel of the machine completely. The softail now has a more classic feel, with a lower riser (yes, we had to swap out the riser) and bars that come to you. Brake cables will also be replaced in the process.

Insurance is sorted out as well — once the dealership has the insurance data, they'll send everything off for the loan underwriter.

In the accountrements department, we're nearly completely sorted: Laurel now has all of her kit, and I'm one helmet away from being done... then there's the not-so-essential stuff — I was naughty and bought (was willingly talked into) a leather vest, and patches for the national and local HOG chapter. The dealership also hooked me up with a HOG member who could sew the patches onto the leather for me.

Everything seems to be coming together rather neatly, allowing us to ride our new bike home once class is over.

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2013.02.21Going Ahead with the Purchase

When we first started talking about buying a bike, we knew that we didn't want the bike before we were finished with the Riders' Edge classes, but we didn't know when they'd start, or which class we'd make it into. Just like any other vehicle dealership, when you sign the papers the clock starts ticking on your 60-day temporary tag.

So had we signed the papers back in January, we would have left ourselves very little, if any, of that 60 days once we completed whatever class we'd join.

Fast forward a month and a half — we're scheduled to start the classes in just a couple of weeks, and I've spoken with our insurance agent. I think it's a good time to pull the trigger and get this deal finished.

So I spoke with a manager about it yesterday afternoon. We should be able to find a time in the next couple of days to close the deal.

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We continue to check off items on our shopping list.

On Saturday, we ordered helmets and gloves. We'll pick them up probably at the close of the week. Laurel also ordered her boots — those should be in today.

I *think* we're left with rain gear. On the days we ride for the class, we do so "rain or shine". If there's a good chance of rain that week, we'll prolly have to spring for the gear.

By the way, we're also "officially" members of the local HOG chapter (where "officially" = "paid in full").

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2013.02.14Say It With Body Armor

Over the past couple of weeks, my wife and I have been assembling our gear for the Riders' Edge class: Boots, jackets, helmets, gloves and so forth — we have to have all of the gear needed to ride by the start of the course.

A few weeks ago I tried on an HD "classic functional jacket" and really liked it right from the start. It has a tough exterior nylon shell and has body armor inside of it at the elbows and shoulders. My plan has been to buy that jacket.

Yesterday, my bride bought it for me, and I got to open it last night as a St. Valentine's Day present!

Forget flowers and candy. Show that you care with nylon and body armor!

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2013.02.10"SALE PENDING"

I'd noticed that when other bikes at the Harley dealership are spoken for, the dealership puts a sign on the seat that asks visitors to simply appreciate the bike without touching it.

We're becoming friends with some of the people at the dealership. One of the folks in the office, who was sweet enough to introduce us to her husband yesterday, mentioned that when people from the club get new bikes, it's always a kind of a big gag to get photos of everybody sitting on the bike in turn.

This seems to suggest that customers are very possessive about their bikes, and that sitting on another's bike could be construed as insulting or demeaning. Perhaps it's akin to the idea of sitting in the driver's seat in someone else's car — Do you want some random person to come sit in your car? No! So, perhaps this is a useful analog.

So I get the sense that the sign is for two things:

  • It tells others that the bike has been purchased.
  • It asks others to keep their hairy asses off of a bike that's no longer available.
Buying a used bike as we are, I'm not entirely concerned about the latter premise. I mean, by definition, somebody else drove it before us. But I am a little concerned about the former — I wouldn't want someone to think the bike's available when it's been spoken for.

Last week I spent a little time perusing the dealer's website, and I found the bike listed in their online inventory (that's where the pics I posted came from). I noticed that inventory that isn't wholly available (like my bike) has a flag over the profile picture that reads, "SALE PENDING."

But that wasn't on the listing for my bike. And they've had my deposit for a couple of weeks.

Now I'm a little worried. What if the dealership doesn't consider it as spoken for? Would they sell it if they had the chance, and not wait for me? Shouldn't the downpayment have been sufficient?

Happily, after asking our salesman about it yesterday afternoon, a little sign was posted on the seat — and this morning, the "SALE PENDING" flag appears on the inventory listing.

Yes, I DO feel better.

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2013.02.06Better Bike Photos

Duh. Here I've been scouring the Interwebs for pics of bikes similar to mine, when all I had to do was check the dealership site!

My 2006 Harley-Davidson FXST/I Softail Standard

As you can see, the bike has been customized. The controls have been extended forward, and the bike has custom pipes (NICE!), a "suicide bar", and custom mirrors.

Some of these customizations will be replaced by stock parts. My wife and I aren't so tall that the extenders are necessary, and the bar makes us reach a bit. Plus we're going to put a small back on the seat for when we ride together — or take kiddo for a little spin.

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2013.02.05All Signed Up for Riders' Edge

I'm happy to report that our Riders' Edge classes are scheduled. Though I have to say I'm a little bummed to have to wait for another month, I'm excited to be registered. The class will run for three evenings and through two full weekend days — but we'll have our "hog" home by St. Patty's day!

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2013.02.04Pics of My Bike

This past weekend I stopped by the Harley dealership to visit my bike. Thought I'd share a photo or two!
My 2006 Harley-Davidson FXST/I Softail Standard
Honestly, I can't stop thinking about riding. I'm REALLY excited about this — we both are!!

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2013.01.27The Compromise

We started looking at other used bikes at the shop and found two that we really liked. The first was a 2012 Sportster Custom that I really, really liked. The price was a few thousand dollars less than the Dyna Superglide.

But the winner was an older Softail Standard. Behold:
2006 Harley-Davidson FXST/I Softail Standard
We're slated for the first motorcycle class of the season. The plan is to bring the bike home once the classes are completed.

It's fair to say this bike was not my first choice — I really wanted that Sportster Custom — but the Softail is widely viewed to be a better bike for two people and to have a more comfortable ride. The controls are a bit more forward than I think I'd like — but I just have to have faith at this point that we've made a good decision.

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2013.01.22Second Offer

My wife just texted that she'd heard from the dealership. They're now offering to change out the purple/flames tank and rear wheel cover to a merlot and cherry red.

My wife really, really wants this bike.

They're also pitching a Sportster that I actually like a little better simply because it seems to fit me more comfortably.

2012 Harley-Davidson Sportster 883
The sales associate at the dealership cautioned that we could be sorry if we bought this bike because in six months we'd probably want to move up to a bigger bike — and we'd likely be in a worse position financially if we asked the dealership to take it on trade. I have to say that I respect that he speaks from experience — but have to also recognize that the Dyna is a $6000 upgrade.

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2013.01.15Wait... What?

It started innocently enough.

My wife and I thought it would be fun if this year we learned how to ride a motorcycle. We learned of a great class taught by the local Harley-Davidson dealership, and decided this would our gift to ourselves this year.

After having put the idea on ice for several months (the goal was to do this sometime in 2013), we decided on Saturday to stop by the Harley dealership to look around. Besides, she knew of a restaurant there, and thought we might try something new for lunch.

Predictably, the restaurant served pork ribs — unpredictably, they were by far the best ribs I've had. EVAR.

So, after some pig, we thought we'd check out some hogs. Long story short, they have a 2012 Dyna that they can't WAIT to unload. You can see why:
2012 Harley-Davidson Dyna Superglide,
in Flaming You-gotta-be-kidding-me
No. It's not pretty. But it's nothing that a paint job can't take care of. The important thing here is that the bike is comfortable for both of us — well, it will be once I swap out the seat for something narrower in the front) and has an upright riding position — feet under center instead of forward.

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2013.01.15Gordon Calder's Engine Gallery

The image I'm using to represent the motorcycle topic and the Interests section comes with kind permission of Gordon Calder.

I requested permission to use this image because it closely resembles the engine on a motorcycle I'm considering for purchase.

NO. 16: Harley Davidson 'Twin-Cam' Engine
by Gordon Calder
Please explore more of Gordon's impressive work in his photo gallery on Flickr.

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