Archive for July, 2011

Ride Day: Sunday July 31

Total Distance: 245 miles (10 hours)

Went for a great ride today with three great couples. We left Stafford, CT around 10:00 a.m. and headed North on Route 32 as two Yamahas and 2 Harley Davidsons (a Dyna Glide and a Road Glide Ultra) but came back as one Yamaha and 2 HDs.  Shortly after Athol, MA we took our first break at the Tully Dam. While stretching I was able to snap a few pics for documentation’s sake, so I can remember where the hell I’ve been, and of course for all you.

(from what I was told, there is a disc golf course to the right of this picture)

Our lunch destination was Curtis’ Bar-B-Q in Putney, VT (look for a review in the near future). We arrived around 1:00 and stayed for nearly two hours. The ride home took us through the back roads of New Hampshire, and back down 32 into Mass and eventually ended at our starting point in Stafford, CT around 8:00 pm. (Route to Curtis’: 32 North to 119 West to Rt. 5 in VT)

Trip Highlights:

* Monson, MA… Seeing the damage from the tornado that ripped through in June was awe inspiring to the say the least. Riding down Main St. was a definite eye opener to the destruction mother nature can cause with one quick hit.

* With Bells On… Our stop at the Tully Dam brought attention to the fact that my bike was the only one without a bell keeping the road Gremlins away. Is riding with a bell superstition or necessity?  Depends who you ask.  I fought long and hard telling the other riders that I “ride with the dead” [I keep prayer cards from funerals in all the vehicles in/on which I travel]. “Ride with the dead” may sound great, but it’s not a bell. I was surprised to be given my very own bell when we stopped at Monadnock Harley-Davidson. Special thanks to Kim M. for giving me my first bell. I guess it’s safe to say from now on I will be “riding with bells on.” [Click here for more information on the legend of the bell]


And here’s an extra special helpful hint for you… when riding without a jacket (or anything long sleeved for that matter), remember the sunscreen!  My arms should be peeling in about 4 days.

Ride hard, ride safe, and enjoy every mile.

Anyone who has ever lived with an optimist knows the expression that which doesn’t kill you only makes you stronger. Likewise, anyone who has ever ridden a motorcycle knows that which doesn’t kill you usually leaves you pulled over on the side of the road trying to catch your breath and looking for the right time to saddle up and proceed on your way.

Living in New England, we have a plethora of roads that are twisty, scenic, and chock full of sweeping turns. There are plenty of quaint stops along the way for the history buff, the food connoisseur, and the antique shopper (take it as you will). We have hills, wooded areas, beaches and farmland.  Although it’s a small state, there is pleasure to be found regardless of your finicky riding palate.

On a Sunday in late June, after chores and shopping had been completed, I saddled up and met Todd and Kim at their home in Somers. Todd and I had buzzed the backwoods and windy Somers streets once before, but this was our first extended ride with a purpose – ice-cream!  OK, the purpose was riding but the ice-cream was a nice plus. He knew the roads better than I did so he took the lead on the roughly hour-long jaunt to the UCONN Dairy Bar.

We started on RT 190 in Somers, taking a left at the big white church towards Crystal Lake (that’s how I always remember the turn, but it’s a right onto RT 30).  This was an eventful stretch from paranoia’s perspective.

The turn on RT 30 isn’t very sharp, it’s a little more than a 90 degree turn, but the cut of the turn is uphill. Normally when one scrapes floorboards the springs pop them up under your feet; the motion combined with the sound cause that “oh shit” moment when you know you’re safe but your wits were scared out of you nonetheless. It’s a good wake up call that’s for sure. Being my first extended ride with the new bags, I feared the worse.  For the next few miles or so I was too busy worry about whether or not I hit a stick that ripped a hole in my bags. To be honest, the thought of scraping boards never occurred to me because they never popped back when they hit.

And then no more than a mile or two later I had to stop.  There was this really obnoxious popping sound. It was LOUD! It sounded like someone was firing a gun the woods right next to me.  I hit the brake, the sound continued.  I accelerated some more, the sound continued. Then it occurred to me, the visor on my helmet (which had been raised) came loose on right side and was slapping against the top of the helmet.  That was scare number two.

After stopping for a quick ATM break in Mansfield/Storrs, we decided to take a look at the Eagleville Dam on South Eagleville Rd. It provided a great photo opportunity for the shots below.

Phee (left); Todd and Kim (right)

Then it was on to the UCONN Dairy Bar on RT 195 for that much anticipated ice cream cone.  It was my first time there and it was the perfect place to beat the summer heat. After enjoying a banana chip ice cream cone, it was back to the ride.

(yes, there were chips in it!!!)

The ride back was filled with twists and turns – and of course the near death experience that earned this post its name.

Somewhere along RT 171, after the sweeping turns that lean you left and immediately follow by leaning you right, and somewhere along the same 171 that blessed riders with freshly paved road and cursed them in spots with frost heaves and ruts came “the turn.”

As riders, we love to lean and we love to accelerate. For many riders, “rolling the throttle” half way through a turn is the best part of any riding day. Imagine a turn positioned in a heavily wooded area with trees lining both sides of the road and a turn slightly tighter than a sweep. It is a truly beautiful turn as far as riding goes.  In the northbound direction this beauty of a turn even boats a slight uphill ride as you lean into the turn.

A picturesque canopy of trees covers you as the sun fights its way through the leaves. You accelerate a little, lean right, roll the throttle and realize the road makes an immediate 90 turn to the left. There’s no way to make the turn without advance warning. There is a tiny road directly in front of me. I try the turn.  I’m leaning left and make the quick decision to bail. I straighten out the bike, hit the brakes and stop 20 feet down the tiny road.

Then, like screaming banshee comes Todd and Kim. I hear them and see the tail lights no in front of me. The conversation went something like this – but who said what I can’t remember.  But the gist is there.



“There were no warnings.”

“I know.”


“Good thing that road was here or we would have been in that guys yard.”

“You would have been double fucked. You’d be in the woods and two seconds later I would have been right up your ass.”

It became a smoke break for Todd and Kim, and breath catcher for me.  Upon further investigation there was a sign.  Of course, any rider paying attention to the turn will never see the sign. If you’re looking through the turn and into the next, the sign is out of your peripheral vision.  Needless to say, we need photographic proof it was there.

(If you look really closely, you can see our bikes.)

The rest of the ride was uneventful.  You know, the occasional cage veering into your lane around a turn, the random left hand turner who doesn’t yield to motorcycles; but it was all ok because that one turn sucked the life out of us, and forced it right back in. That which didn’t kill us….


190 East to Rt 30, left on 74, RT on 195

Right on 32

Right on 275

Crossed 32 to stay on 275

Cut across to 195

Rt. 195 to Rt. 44

Rt. 44 to Rt. 198

Rt. 198 to Rt. 171 (left onto 171)

Rt. 171 to Rt. 190

Ride hard, ride safe, and enjoy every mile.

Part of Phee’s transformation includes a luggage makeover.  Although in the past I have always been against dressing the bike for long distance travel, I recognize that things change.  It is necessary to have ample luggage space if serious about taking long distance motorcycle trips.  Usually I am not too worried about aesthetics, but when it comes to Phee, looks are, well, not everything, but they’re a lot.

In mid-June I ordered the matching OEM hard bags, mounting brackets, guards, and duffel inserts. I placed my order through accessories4bikes and by doing so I was able to save more than $500 by not going through my local dealer (these savings were calculated after I paid for shipping). Within 24 hours accessories4bikes emailed me to let me know the mouting brackets were on back order through Yamaha until August 5th… of course, this was unacceptable as it was the first part necessary to installation.  There was no use having the other pieces without the brackets. Of course, I also wasn’t about to pass up the savings. I canceled the mounting bracket order and quickly started calling bike shops nationwide until I found one that had the part in stock. A few credit card numbers and two days later the mounting brackets were sitting in my kitchen.

The only downfall to ordering online rather than through the local store is time.  If ordered locally I would have had the bags in 4 days time – 1 day to place the order and three to ship from Yamaha to the dealer.  My total wait time online was about 10 business days, as the parts were ordered, shipped to the web site, and then shipped my way.

The middle of June was extremely wet here in the Northeast. When everything arrived I could do nothing but stare at the boxes in my living room.  I was anxious to get them installed, but I was also trying to stay dry.  So they sat… and sat… and sat… and about 4 days later there was finally a break in the weather.

(Yes, my buddy Gus Man is as sad as I am about the rain)

The installation proved to be a rather smooth process, and I learned a few things about my bike during that time as well.  First, the previous owner had installed the passenger floorboards on the bike backwards.  Because of this, the floorboard on the pipe side would leave a mark on the top of my pipes.  A positive side note of the luggage installation is the fixing of the floorboard. Of course, after careful examination of the right passenger floorboard, I learned it had a fairly severe stress crack. The board broke completely with a little additional pressure.  I am very grateful this pressure was applied with my hands in a driveway rather than a passengers foot on the highway.  The pics below show the broken board.

The removal of the floor boards is the first step in the luggage installation process, as the mounting bracket shares a bolt hole with the floorboard. I left the right floorboard off the bike for the remainder of the install, which made sense considering it was broken anyway. In addition to sharing a hole with the floorboards, the mounting bracket also used the sissybar/side rail bolt holes as seen in the picture below.  Also visible in that picture are the luggage guards and the left passenger floorboard – after it had been placed in the proper position.  The only draw back I see to the floorboards in their proper position is that they cover the Yamaha logo on either side of the bike (but I’m over it already!)

(mounting brackets, guards, floor board left side)

(mounting bracket, guards right side – no floorboard)

After all the hardware was installed, the luggage needed to be mounted.  It was very easy to do, however extreme caution had to be taken as to not damage the bag – if feasible, I recommend using two people to mount the luggage, one to hold and one to attach them… they are too expensive to risk careless damage.

Rather than wait and order my floorboards online, I wanted (foolishly) chose to pay full price at the local dealer.  Unfortunately one board was fine but I still needed to buy them in pairs.  All of my old mounting hardware was still in good shape and I was able to reuse it. With new boards in hand it took no more than 45 seconds to snap each into place and complete the job. I had a smile on my face when I finished, but the smile had little to do with the extra $150 I had to shell out to fix the boards, and it had everything to do with the rain being gone and the sun finally shining.

Ride hard, ride safe, and enjoy every mile.