We couldn’t order enough Christmas cards for everyone on the internet so some of you will have to settle for the electronic version of this year’s Christmas card. Donna and I want to wish all of you a Merry Christmas and a Happy and Safe New Year. May your rides in the coming year take you to new and fun places and even familiar ones, safely. Enjoy the holiday season and the coming year!
LET IT SNOW! No, there’s noting wrong with your monitor, your computer or your eyes. That’s snow you see drifting around the pages on the blog. It’s WordPress’ way of providing holiday spirit with a little optional Christmas decoration. Let it snow!
Every month the magazine of the BMW Motorcycles of America, BMW ON (BMW Owner’s News) runs a section of member submitted photographs. The section is called “Picture This”. The magazine releases a subject on the web site, member’s submit photos, photos are then selected and published 2 – 3 months later. The December issue’s subject is “Kickstand”. I had a picture that could’ve fit the description so I sent it in. Yesterday, the magazine came and there was my picture on page 17, picture number 13. I’d say it qualified as a kickstand picture!
Seriously though you do need to preserve your hearing. For quite a few years I’ve suffered from tinnitus (ringing in the ears). It started out as something I’d occasionally hear. But during the past couple of years it has gotten increasingly worse; even to the point that I wouldn’t hear things at time. That, coupled with a hearing loss made for some very frustrating times. In some restaurants, I couldn’t follow or even hear conversations.
So what caused my tinnitus and hearing loss? Well you really can’t put a finger on it. It could’ve been an injury, disease or illness or prolonged exposure to loud noises. Could it have been working on and around steam engines, yes real steam engines when I was young? Probably. Concerts? Sure. Working in a mechanic’s machine shop when I was young? Sure. Riding a motorcycle even with a full face or open face helmet? Sure. Working as a police officer riding a motorcycle with one of those “half or shorty” helmets (most of it on a Harley Davidson that the muffler baffles somehow got punched through)? Probably. Riding my own motorcycle with a half helmet? Probably.
But we get older and want to preserve what he have. Just over a year ago I started wearing ear plugs when I rode the motorcycle even though now we wear modular helmets. I experimented with 3 kinds. I tried the roll up foam ones but the always felt like they were coming out. I tried the home kit where you mold them into your ear but those seemed like they muffled everything except wind noise. Then I tried some thing called ETY Plugs from Etymotic. The ETY plugs were comfortable and blocked a good bit of wind noise and due to their design they allowed for intercom use and even conversation off the motorcycle at fuel stops. They’re reusable and about $13.00 a pair. I’ve using and cleaning the same pair for a year now. They do pull some “stuff” out when you remove them but just clean them with a damp cloth. The funny part is that the audiologist I go to has brochures for these ear plugs and recommends them. She actually discourages the use of foam plugs but admits that “they’re better than nothing.”
Fast forward to this summer when my primary care doctor referred me for a hearing test. They told me that they might be able to help with my tinnitus through something called Tinnitus Retraining Therapy or TRT. Here’s the simple explanation: you don’t hear the hum of the refrigerator because it’s benign and you’re used to it. But you hear it now because I mentioned it. TRT tries to get your brain to ignore the tinnitus by using other sounds, usually “white noise” of some type. Silence is your enemy with tinnitus too. TRT wants some sort of low sound to used all the time (tv, music, etc). There’s sound apps for smart phones and tablets you can use too along with headphones or ear buds. I found that even listening to a low white noise with ear buds, I could hear more conversation. But you can’t always do that. I even used an inexpensive sound machine at night but was told to get one you could play all night. That sucker really helped at night!
But in the long run I ended up getting hearing aids that have sound generators in them also. Luckily my hearing loss is not that bad so they (and I) hope these will work. The hearing part on mine are only 8 channel and mainly enhance voice sounds. But the sound generator gives me a low, constant white noise to merge with the tinnitus. Believe me that the white noise is almost un-noticeable as compared to the tinnitus. I’ve now worn my new hearing aids for a day and a half. During the tuning process in the audiologist’s office I noticed an immediate difference. For me they seem to be a worthwhile investment and Donna thinks so too. But no you can’t wear them while riding! Think of it, they may only make the damaging sounds louder! The audiologist says that’s when you put in the ETY plugs.
The morale of the story here is to do something to protect your hearing. It’s not that hard to do. At minimum wear ear plugs when riding or mowing the lawn (I wear the old-fashioned ear muff style phones from the pistol range when mowing the lawn). Once your hearing starts going away, it does not normally come back and there is no cure for tinnitus.
If this article helps just one person on the way to hearing loss prevention or gets them to use ear plugs then it’s a successful article!
Today is our wedding anniversary. We hadn’t planned anything extravagant. But last night we were discussing what we could do. Donna then comes up with her plan; a motorcycle ride and lunch. You can’t beat that idea with a stick! It was forecast to be cool but sunny. But we got up this morning and the leaves along with the branches they used to be on were blowing all over. Throughout the morning and well into the afternoon the home weather station was showing sustained winds that were flirting with 20 mph. We ride for fun and that wouldn’t have been all that fun so we decided to ride another day. But I’m lucky that I have a wife that not only rides with me but wants to ride. There are a number of times that’s she’s the instigator of the ride, telling (not asking) that we’re riding a certain day and having me come up with where. Now I know I’m not the only husband with a wife like that but it sure does seem like I’m in the minority.
I rode back home from Florida today. Not long after I got on Interstate 95 I was presented with two examples of “biker or motorcyclist”. A biker can ride any kind of motorcycle and so can a motorcyclist so this has nothing to do with what kind of motorcycles they ride. In fact, today both the biker and the motorcyclist were on the same make of motorcycle.
Biker: I was in the center lane and could see a motorcycle slowly coming up in the left lane. As he pulled alongside I noticed right away it was one of the Harley Davidson Hard Candy Customs and had the bobbed rear end, forward controls and mini ape bars. It was actually a gorgeous motorcycle. The rider had on a “pudding bowl” helmet and his feet splayed out. He just had a look that made me think I’d smell his cologne as he passed by. I gave him a wave and he looked over, didn’t wave or acknowledge in any other way than looking. Then he opened up his throttle and pulled away, apparently wanting to let me know that he was a member of the Volusia County Loud Pipes Riding Club. Oh the bars or poker runs that bike has been too!
Motorcyclist: It was less than 10 minutes later another motorcycle slowly came up in the left lane. The rider of this motorcycle had on one of those “Captain America” helmets and a worn leather jacket. The bike was an older Harley Davidson Electra Glide. This motorcycle had been ridden hard and put up wet many times. You could tell this motorcycle had some miles on it. It looked worn but not abused. It had what looked like a sleeping bag and other luggage lashed to the back seat between its rider and a king tour pack that looked like it was on crooked. Then it happened. As we rode along side by side for just a few seconds, we both waved at each other at the same time and he nodded his head at me. He slowly kept pulling away, maintaining his speed. Oh the stories from the road and travels that Electra Glide could likely tell.
Yesterday I left for a solo trip to the Daytona Beach area of Florida to visit my Dad and help him out with a few house projects. It was a brisk 27 degrees (F) when I left home in Acworth, Georgia and headed for Florida. The heated seat and the heated grips got a real workout on this trip. It never warmed any higher than the mid 30′s until I stopped for breakfast in Forsyth, Georgia. After breakfast though it was a balmy 45 degrees as I continued south. When I stopped for gas in Tifton, Georgia I shed a layer of clothing and even switched to unlined leather gloves (but still enjoyed the heated hand grips). I pulled in at the Florida Welcome Center and even removed the insulated liner of my jacket then. It was Florida after all! It had also warmed into the mid 60′s. But I did leave my long johns on. Once I left the Welcome Center, the winds picked up and got gusty too. Between St. Augustine and Daytona Beach I found a rain shower or two. Not enough to wet the road, but enough to wet the windshield. By the time I had reached Daytona Beach it had warmed to 72 degrees! I’ll be here for a few days before heading back home to Donna.
It wasn’t so much the cold that was the problem because I had dressed for it. It was the traffic getting Atlanta! I thought I had left early enough to get ahead of most of the traffic, especially since to Atlanta I was taking a route I had commuted on for many years. Boy was I wrong. A few minor interstate highway “incidents” made it difficult. It took me an hour and half to get to the exit where I used to get off at to go to work. In rush hour, it used to take an hour or less to get all the way to the office. In fact if there is no traffic, my planned breakfast stop in Forsyth, Georgia is just over an hour and half from the house. I’m glad I no longer have to make that drive everyday!
Today was a good day to get out to ride and see the fall colors one more time before the rest of the leaves fall of the trees. Our friend Sean had planned today’s route so we’d be following him and his wife Christine on their Victory Cross Country Tour. Today we’d be riding on the west side of I-575 and its farm lands before crossing over to the east side and the mountain roads. Georgia HWY 108 (Fincher RD) south of Waleska, GA should really be renamed “Tar Snake Highway”. The black caulking used to fill cracks, referred to as “tar snakes” were all over the place. It almost seemed in some spots that there was more caulk than asphalt! It was a good day to ride as there were few if any clouds and the temperatures warmed in the upper 60′s (F) along the way. Sean planned a good route that did take us along some nice roads, through some nice farmland and then on some curvy mountain roads before we had lunch and headed for home. But I swear that on one small road I heard banjo music playing!
Now about the title of this post. It seems we rode past way more chicken ranches or farms than usual. If you’re not familiar with chicken farms there’s only two words to describe them: THEY STINK. No make that three words: THEY REALLY STINK. They are putrid smelling places, even driving past them. When people ask you to eat strange foods and tell you “It tastes like chicken.” it’s a whole lot better than telling you “It smells like chicken.” Now in fairness to Sean, he probably had no idea we’d be riding past those kinds of farms.
But it was still a great day to ride!
Really, have you ever really heard your motorcycle? Usually there are too many other sounds like traffic or the wind rushing around your helmet to property hear your motorcycle. Here’s what a BMW K1200LT, like ours, sounds like. The YouTube video is courtesy of German rider on his K1200LT when he mounted a microphone under the seat and out of the wind while recording this video. I love the way the engine “growls” and sounds like a sports car, especially at about one minute and eleven seconds as he’s getting on the autobahn. Look at his tachometer on the right too. The engine doesn’t red line until 8,000 rpm! Enjoy it, we do!
This past weekend we rode with my Blue Knights Chapter up to the Iron Horse Motorcycle Lodge & Campground in Stecoah, NC. It’s turned into an annual overnight ride up there on the last operating weekend of the lodge for the season. Donna and I led our group up there again on a route that got us up there about 2:00 in the afternoon, right at check in time.
We met our group in Jasper on Saturday morning where it was a crisp 30 degrees (F) under a cloudless blue sky. The group had opted for a combination of scenic roads and faster major roads. In the past we took our time and arrived later in the afternoon. Our route took us up Georgia HWY 515 to Young Harris where we took GA HWY 66 into North Carolina and eventually came out on US129 in Murphy, NC before heading for our lunch stop in Robbinsville, NC. After lunch it was just a quick 20 minute ride to the Iron Horse. Along the way I had built in a “pit stop” in Blairsville, GA and it was a good thing I did. One of our members was having problems with her heated gloves and needed a quick repair. The problem was a blown fuse, which she had extras of and one member even had a multi tester in his motorcycle! The leaves on the way up are just about peaking in their colors. When we arrived at the Iron Horse it had warmed into the mid 50′s for temperatures and actually felt nice. It’s always fun to gather on the porch, have a few drinks and talk about the ride. We also noticed that there were a few hearty souls who were tent camping! We say hearty as the temperature had gone down to 25 degrees (F) the night before. We were glad we were staying in cabin rooms with heat! On Saturday’s the dinner choices at the lodge are either prime rib or salmon, so this is no rustic campground! After dinner the group outside had formed a tight circle around the campfire so we opted to stay in the lodge to chat and have drinks.
Although the forecast was for 35 degrees (F) overnight it only got down to 40 but there had been an overnight shower. We never noticed it as we were tucked in our bed in the cabin with the heat on. It was time to head down for our “Biker’s Breakfast” before packing up and heading for home. For the trip back I had planned for us to ride through the Nantahala Gorge along the Nantahala River, one of the venues for the 1996 Sumer Olympics. From there it was down US 64 through western North Carolina and into Tennessee. We rode through such exotic places as Copperhill and rode past McCaysville Drug and Gun Store in McCaysville, Georgia before coming back out on GA HWY 515 in Blue Ridge and heading south for home.
Even thought it was cold in the beginning of the first day, it was still a great weekend to ride and spend time with friends. And after all, that’s what’s all about.