St Paddy’s Day 2016

Normally I work on St Patrick’s day,  but this year I saw that it fell on a Thursday and that makes for a nice four day weekend.  I asked for a couple of vacation days, and here I am. My first pick for a destination was Knoxville, but a big rocks lie on I-75 has traffic slowed until about the end of the month. Cincinnati was a close second, but a bit far. So I zeroed in on Lexington.

I took off this morning in search of the Blarney stone , or some other Irish sounding ploy. My green Harley T-shirt had disappeared in the laundry, so I took out last year’s Uke of the Irish T-shirt , and my shamrock do-rag and hit the pavement.

I took US25 North for the most part. I get on I -75 for a coup,e of miles at Mount Vernon,  and again at Richmond. US25 follows along the Rockcastle River for a while, and is very scenic, and just a bit curvy.

My first stop was at the trucks top at the Boonsboro exit, just a pitstop before arriving at Lexington. I had chosen the Liquor Barn as my  first destination due to the email they sent me yesterday. I was tempted to buy a fancy bottle of Tullamore DEW, but I held myself back. I did buy a 5th of Flannery’s Irish Cream Liquor. Which was actually on the sales flier, and in my budget. I also got one of those pre-measure pouring spouts.

On my way to the Liquor Barn I saw a gentleman riding a Harley with the saddle bag flapping. I rode up to his side and told him as much. He thanked me and mentioned he was on a test ride. This made me remember there is a Harley Davidson shop nearby. Once I concluded the Blarney stone wasn’t at the Liquor store I rode over to the Harley Shop. On my way I saw the Outback is getting a facelift, and their neighbor, a place once known as “Show Me’s” is open again under new management. I went to the Harley shop, bought my normal T-shirt  and poker chip. I also bought a get well card from a FB cousin. I glanced at the bikes, but in all honesty, Lil’ Red is probably the last bike I’ll ever have… unless I downsize, which isn’t in the forseeable future.

Next stop, O’niels Irish Pub. Recommended by a friend. I stopped for the green beer and stayed for the Patty Melt. I could have had the green beer, but that was just Bud Light with food coloring. I opted for  the Sam Adams. I got a Patty melt burger, and it was good. After about 45 minutes of hanging with the Irish, the semi-Irish, and the wanna – be Irish. It was time to move on.

I took a little ride through downtown Lexington and got on US27
South. I stopped at the Guitar and after fighting with myself for a half hour, I left without a purchase. I resumed travel on US27S. I stopped at Lancaster to put my leather jacket back on. Then I hit Hwy 39, which is a nice winding road through Amish country. I’ve been that way a hundred times while working. It’s so much better on a bike.

On Hwy 39 I had an interesting adventure. My bike fishtailed in a curve. I crossed the centerline before I straightened it out. The bad thing a bought these learn able events, is that when you are in them, instead of figuring out why this happened… the mind is pretty much occupied with how to recover from the situation. It happens.

Riding through Amish country does have its ups and downs. There were quite a few road apples and a few potholes. All in all it is a very pretty and challenging ride.

After that it was pretty much just riding home. I never found the Blarney stone, but like any bike ride. The destination was never the point. Happy St Patrick’s day.

Dad and the Suzuki

I had an amazing dream last night. I don’t keep a dream journal, perhaps I should, but this one was worthy of writing down. Dreams are quickly forgotten, even those worth remembering.

I was travelling with my Granddaughter. I was driving a car, probably my Jeep, but the car wasn’t prominent in the dream. We were following my Dad, who was riding my Suzuki which I no longer have, but for the purposes of the dream, apparently I did. We were following my Dad along some straight highway at twilight, and before long it became dark. It started to rain and I thought, “My rain gear is in the saddlebag of the Harley.” So I’m wondering what the old man might do. He just hunkered down and kept riding through the darkness and rain. The the most amazing thing happened, the bike started weaving, I worried at first and then I saw that it was controlled and intentional. He was having fun. He then went through a series of tricks more appropriate for a crotch rocket than a cruiser. I turned to my grand daughter and said “Grandpa’s crazy!” and we laughed. Then he took a turn. I’m not sure where he went, only that I couldn’t follow him.

My Dad passed away in 99. He would have been 93 this month. During my lifetime he never had a motorcycle, but I know that he used to ride at one time. His favorite motorcycle story was about the time he dumped a scooter on a cobblestone street in Tokyo Japan. I don’t know if the dream meant anything, but it was sure nice to visit with my Dad, and the Suzuki.

Spring is around the bend

Today it is 57 degrees outside. After dealing with the winter storms, snow and ice, cold weather, and all the other anti-motorcycle activity mother nature tosses at us in wintertime, I finally got to go for a ride. My first challenge was to get out of the driveway. This is still the softened gravel driveway that swallowed my daughter’s front tire two weeks ago. I got out in to the street with only a little bit of back wheel sliding, but once I was on pavement I had it made. I rode to the gas station and topped off the tank.The weather is still a bit cool. I think smart Tom might have layered up a little better and put on the chaps. But this wasn’t smart Tom. This was ride deprived biker Tom, so I threw on a Leather jacket, gloves, and a helmet and away I went.

I wasn’t sure where to ride to, but the destination was never the issue to begin with. I rode out to the east end of London and decided to head west towards Somerset. I traded my Suzuki back in November and now I have this big old Harley. In a way it’s like learning to ride all over again. Except this time I actually know what to do, it’s just a matter of doing it super-size. My Suzuki had a 652 cc motor, the Heritage has a 1451 cc motor. This is like two Suzuki’s and a really big moped. At highway speeds the larger bike handles at least as well as the smaller one. There are some differences. The Harley is a lot lower to the ground and will scrape the floorboards in a tight turn. The engine is obviously more powerful, but most of the power, I think is swallowed up by carrying the extra 300 lbs of bike. While the Suzuki weighed in at 375 lbs, The Harley is an easy 750 lbs. This makes a big difference at low speeds, not to mention, the Suzuki was a lot easier to pick up if it tipped over. The Harley will cruise like a dream at 80 mph, but the Suzuki would get to 80 mph twice as fast. On the highway the heritage is a dream come true. I still have some getting used to it before I try something challenging like the Pinnacle at the Cumberland Gap. I don’t think I would have any problem on a mild twisty like the tail of the Dragon at deals gap.

I got to Somerset and rode up to the parking lot of Hobby Lobby, laughed at myself for forgetting they were closed on Sunday, and pointed the bike east and back to London. It was a nice day for a ride, tomorrow is supposed to be nice as well, but that is another day.

Welcome to the Heritage

Last Saturday I said Goodbye to my thumper, a Suzuki Boulevard S-40, or the updated version of the LS-650 Savage.  With a tear in my eye, and a new monthly payment, I listened carefully as the Harley service guy told me about the features of my new bike a 2005 Harley-Davidson Heritage Softail.   So I threw a leg over the new hog and started the motor.  I rode away from the Harley shop and down the road to the leather shop. My cousin James had come up to visit, and to greet the new Harley and he needed some gloves because, quite frankly, it was cold as shit. Especially riding over the mountains near Jellico, TN.

At the leather shop, we were greeted by one of the other shop owners.  The owner of Crossroads Motorsports, the bike shop at Dogpatch asked me if I had just got the bike (temp tags). When I answered, it took about a second and he said “Tom! Is that you?!” I’ve always bough parts for the thumper at Crossroads. He always like the thumper, but he was really impressed with the Heritage. I can tell I have the support of the local bike community.

This Saturday, I spent some time getting to know the Heritage. I have always told people when moving form a smaller bike to a larger, that they already know what do do, it’s just a matter of adjustment.  I have to admit that at speeds above 30 mph, the Heritage handles at least as well as the thumper. At speeds below that, well there is a difference.  The Heritage has a lot more weight. At 70 mph while competing with semi’s for turbulence rights, the Heritage is a dream.  the thumper , at 654 cc’s (40 ci), wasn’t difficult to drive around semi’s, but to ride behind one was getting slapped around in the wind. The Heritage had no such issues. At 88 ci (1442 cc’s) the Heritage was like a rock, albeit a quickly moving rock.  At highway speeds the Heritage is a dream.

At lower speeds, there is more of a learning curve. The bike is a lot heavier.  the Thumper weighs in at about 375 lbs, but the Heritage weighs about 750 lbs. A bike at speed, believe it or not, is one of the most stable things that you will ever experience. But when the speed is gone, you are left to manhandle a mass of steel and chrome. Reverse gear, ala Fred Flintstone, is a lot easier with the lighter Thumper. I have also heard that the braking is a bit different with the Harley and I must say it is, there was a time today when one of my wheels locked, I fishtailed a bit and it was scary, but I kept the rubber side down and all ended well. My other faux paux , I stopped at a local retail establishment in Corbin, after completing my purchase I tried to start the bike and nothing happened. Harley has a security feature built in to the Heritage. If it is turned on, the bike will not start.  I notice the security key flashing. After about twenty minutes i was able to figure out how to turn it off. I’m still not clear on how it got turned on. I made it home. Over all, I’m very happy with the Heritage.

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The End of an Era

In August of 2008, while driving home from my therapist, I stopped in to a Suzuki dealership and accidentally bought an S-40 Boulevard.  I had a rough time, I was scared to death, after all, you ride a motorcycle you die, right. At least that was the unconventional wisdom I was raised with.  this was not my first bike,. Back in 1978 I had a Kawasaki E185 that had some of the street legal parts stolen leaving me with essentially a dirt bike.  I did have the good fortune of one of my Army buddies loaning me his bike fairly frequently, it was a KZ-400.  I really didn’t learn to ride well during that period and between then and 2008 I rode a bike maybe  twice, dragging my feet the whole time.

In about 2006 I was talking bike smack with a coworker.  My coworker recommended a specific bike.  A Boulevard S-40, previously known as the Savaged LS-650. I don’t know for sure why he recommended the thumper, but at the time it turned out to be the perfect bike. I really wanted a bike and the only thing me standing between and my prize was the wife. She left in 2007, by the time 2008 had passed in to memory, I had my bike.

Today, I said good bye. I would have kept the thumper but I got a good deal for the trade. I picked up a Harley 2005 Heritage Softail.  I must digress, but when I quit smoking back in 1996 I promised myself I would never be one of those “Annoying former smokers”, and  as a new Harley Owner, I promise not to become a Harley snob.

But… Today isn’t about the Softail, it is about the Boulevard. Not to brag, but I only went back to my therapist one more time, and that was to say goodbye. The Suzuki Boulevard was a solid bike, it turned out to be easy to ride. maybe not so much at first. I took an MSF course.  then I started the slow process from being a non biker, to being an obsessive biker.  When I moved to Knoxville I brought my bike to town with the assistance of my cousin James.

When I was in Knoxville, I usually got off one time and generally hit the streets and rode for an hour or two every evening.  It was a magical time.

The Boulevard S-40,  which is about the same bike as the Savage 650, has been a staple of the Suzuki line since  about the 80’s. If you are a beginner, this is a great bike. Especially if you aren’t a really big person. I’m a little over 5’6″ and I had no problem  with the Suzuki. It is an easy bike to learn on, it is an easy bike to ride, very nimble and easy to maneuver.  the bike is great, I would never encourage anyone not to buy one of these great bikes.  At 650 cc, the bike had plenty of power, doing 80… or even 90, down the interstate was never an issue.  i rode the bike all through the Smokie’s.  I rode the Dragon and the Cherahola skyway. i took it to Ohio and went from Hamilton, to the Miamisburg mound, to Ft Ancient, and Portsmouth, and back to Cincinnati.  I’ve spent a lot of quality riding time on the Thumper.  I’m hoping she finds a good home.

Now I’ve joined the dark side, but just as I never chastised the smokers after I quit. I’m never going to chastise anyone for owning a metric bike. I think every biker, whether he rides a Harley, or a Vespa, has an unalienable right to be awesome.  I will continue to defend that right. meanwhile, I will be missing my thumper for a while.



Cumberland Falls revisited and the road from Jellico

I had some personal business to take care of in Jellico, about 40 miles south of here, just across the Tennessee border. The weather was nice, if a bit cool, so I bundled up, leather from head to foot. I got on the thumper and took off for Tennessee. I took the interstate, I-75, south to Jellico. When I was done, I took the back roads on the way home. There are actually two ways back, US25W and KY26, both lead in to Corbin. I normally take Hwy 26 which is more direct. this time I opted for US25W. This road intersects with Hwy 90, which is the road that leads to Cumberland Falls. So I took a left. I’ve been to the falls a thousand times, or so it seems; but I’ve always wanted to go when the leaves have changed to their fall colors, and for some reason I just never made it. I have to be honest, the road to the falls, Hwy 90, was pretty awesome. The falls were pretty, but they weren’t nearly as awesome as I had anticipated. The water was up, and the spray was hitting me on the back side of the barricade. Still, the falls are beautiful and always worth the trip, but just not the fall wonderland I was looking for. I picked up a souvenir Cumberland Falls butler’s tool, and a block of fudge from the gift shop. It was a good day.

Uncle Bob’s Tribute Ride

Not long ago my uncle Bob passed away.  My cousin, Jeff, took a few of us on a ride as a tribute to his father. I asked him to share it with us in his own words.

Dad’s Funeral & Tribute Ride,  by Jeff Sturgill

We saddled up, a mixed bag of Goldwings, a Vmax, Vulcans, a Springer, and others. All to escort the funeral procession of my dad. Some knew him well while others were there to honor the friendships they had with my son & I.

About 300 people showed up for the visitation but this group of about a dozen bikes was a reassuring way to remember the love of motorcycling Dad passed down to even his great grandkids. I’ve been with other funeral rides but this one was different, it was for MY father. Later, after the final words were spoken, a more intimate group of us went for an hour long ride. It was the same ride I had taken the day Dad died of Alzheimer’s.

Dad had battled the disease for about 10 years but the last three were really hard. Mom & us 5 kids had taken turns & shifts providing care for him & we had managed to keep it at home. Friends, relatives & Church members had all pitched in to make that possible & I can’t thank them all enough. On the day he died my brother had relieved me of my shift & feeling the time was near I wanted to stay close, yet needed to get away, so I took this short one hour ride.

It’s a simple, interesting yet quiet ride, some fun twistys, pretty scenery from hill sides & along the Miami River. At mid point we stopped for gas & a UDF ice-cream, made it back to the East River Road where near the end we stopped and watched the deer at the Southern Ohio Dog and Game Protective Association 10630 East Miami River Road
Sometime back Dad & I had stopped here as the club has a very large fenced area that holds well over 18 deer in a natural atmosphere. He always enjoyed being out in nature & enjoyed watching the deer challenge each other & clack their antlers together. Dad enjoyed watching them strut or laze around. Sometimes you can feed them potato chips & get close enough to pet them

While we watched the deer, we made small talk & shared memories of my dad, his love for the outdoors always made him talk of his creator. Dad’s favorite hymn was “This is My Fathers World”

This is my Father’s world,
And to my listening ears,
All nature sings,
And round me sings,
The music of the spheres,
This is my Father’s world
I rest me in the thought
Of Rocks and trees
Of skies and seas
His hand the wonders wrought

Riding with my son, a couple of friends & two of my closest cousins was a great comfort. Dad would always say, “I want to be a better man tomorrow than I am today” In the “Then Came Bronson Pilot” Bronson said, “I just want to see my way clear.” Riding for me always has a spiritual aspect to it, seeing the birds, the deer, the sky & all the wonder leaves me thinking only a fool says “there is no God.” Church doesn’t always provide the solace or answers one needs. Perhaps neither does riding, but for me it always helps me launch my day with hope & wonder in my soul thankful there is a creator who cared enough to enter my life.

Dad’s mom was 1/8 Cherokee, something he took pride in & two Cherokee sayings he impressed upon us were also Biblical truths,
“Never judge any one until you’ve walked a mile in their shoes”
“Bad behavior brings dishonor upon you, your family, and your people”

Whenever things like this happen, you can always beat yourself up over woulda, coulda & shoulda, but in the end Dad knew he was loved & we knew he loved us. What more can a father/son ask for. our bikes Deer on River Road the riding party Tom trail_tears_painting[1]

Cumberland Falls

I go to the falls so often that it doesn’t seem worth writing about. Then again, why not? This is my go-to ride when I have an afternoon without a lot of time to spare. I live about 33 miles from the falls and I can be there in 45 minutes. The road is twisty, but nothing in comparison to the Pinnacle at Cumberland Gap, or the Chained Rock. A fairly new rider could navigate the road to the falls. I like to go down Hwy 192 from my house. Then I bear left on KY 1193 which takes me over Laurel River Dam. KY 1193 butts in to US 25W and it is only a short distance to Hwy 90 which runs all the way to the falls. You can also take I-75 exit 25, which is US 25W. Take this road to Hwy 90.

Midland XTC260VP3

I have had my camera for a couple of weeks now and can give a better appraisal of how it works. The camera came with a mount that sticks to the side of the helmet. The mount can go on either side of the helmet. It can also be mounted on any standard tripod mount, and other mounts are available.  I decided to put it on the right side so I can operate the controls (on/off) with my left hand which is free when I’m not using the clutch.Operation is easy. Just reach up and move the switch forward for on, and to the back for off. It took a time or two before it stopped being awkward.  I finally figured out if you just put your hand on the front of the camera and switch it it is quite easy.  The mount has held secure for several hundred miles so far.  The video quality is good. The audio quality is mostly noise. The waterproof case mutes the microphone. If you are wanting to talk over the video, you will need another audio source.  I recommend deleting the audio track and dubbing in a soundtrack.  for the price, about $75, this is a great deal. I’m considering getting a handle bar mount so that it will more accurately record
what the bike is doing, and not moving around with my head.

helmet camera 002

helmet camera 001

Midland XTC260VP3 High Definition 720p Wearable Action Camera with 2 Mounts (Black)

Pine Mountain and the Chained Rock

Pine mountain is a very large ridge traveling over 100 miles with a top elevation of 3273 ft above sea level. If you have ever went from Kentucky to Tennessee on I-75 you have  been on Pine Mountain. About 125 mile to the northeast at Elkhorn City you can find the other end. Pine mountain has been a barrier to travel since the region was settled. There are several roads over the mountain, and each is a great ride on a motorcycle. There is only one river that crosses Pine Mountain. One fork of the Cumberland River crosses through Pine Gap as it meets its southern fork in Pineville.

Pineville is a nice little town on US 25E, one of the main attractions is a large rock that sits above the city, held in place by a chain.  Kentucky has a really nice park built around the chained rock.  The story has it that the good people of Pineville lived in fer of the large rock falling on their town. In order to protect the town, the rock was fastened to the mountain with a large chain.

I have been in Pineville, and I have passed through it. I can say that you can see the rock from US 25E, but you have to know where to look.  I have never been able to see the rock from any place in the town itself. Not to cast doubt on the legend but a few , things come to mind. The rock has been there for thousands, if not millions of years and isn’t likely to fall anytime soon, chain or not. Also, given the location, if the rock were to fall, it would roll down the side of the mountain, cross over US 25E, and maybe take out the Medical Clinic in the building that used to be an off track betting facility. From there it would roll on in to the Cumberland River where it would stay until the end of time. I also have issues believing the chain could hold the rock if it did fall. From what I have gathered, the chain was a depression era WPA project and its purpose was to put people to work, and to give tourists a reason to visit the park, a job it has done well since 1933.

That being said, this is a great destination or way point on a comprehensive tour of Southeast Kentucky, and the chained rock overlook is worth the visit if only for the twisty mountain road that leads to the parking lot. If you intend to see the rock you will need to bring along some hiking shoes. On my visit I parked the bike and found the trail. It is about a half mile from the parking lot to the overlook and I looked at the trail, looked at my boots, looked at the trail again, and turned around and got back on my bike.

There are lots of places to go from here, not the least of which is the Pinnacle at the Cumberland Gap, just about fifteen miles down the road. You can also take US 119 north to Harlan, or take KY 382 straight from the Chained Rock into the hills.


Pineville from up on the mountain

I stand corrected. I stated in this entry that the chained rock was not visible from the town. Friday afternoon I stopped at KFC for lunch and to my amazement. I could see the rock clearly from the parking lot. It is early spring and the trees do not have the leaves they will have in a few months, yet I believe now, knowing where the rock is, that one will be able to see it from the town even with leaves on the trees. I still believe that if the rock were to fall it would either block the highway, or roll into the river.

Chained Rock Chained Rock