Friday, January 23, 2009

Still here...

It's been awhile since my last post. I have been around, but just haven't gotten around to posting. The past year has been a hectic one around our home. My job keeps me away from home for several months a year. I work in the insurance industry and I work in the catastrophe division of a very large insurance company. Anytime a natural disaster hits, we basically go in and handle the resulting large volume of claims. Our normal work week is 6 days X 12 hours/day. On the flipside, when I am not deployed to a storm site, I do not have to report to an office and I can work remotely via laptop and cell phone. So, this gives me the opportunity to spend a lot of time with my wife and two boys.

Anyway, this past year was an extremely busy year for us. We had a record hail and tornado season, and then we all know about Hurricane Ike hitting the Houston/Galveston area. All this activity translated into me working an above average number of days and being away from the family a lot. My beautiful wife is probably the strongest and most understanding person I know, she balances 2 wild and crazy boys, one is 2 years old, the other is 11 months. She also manages to juggle a full course load of college classes (and get a 4.0 gpa) and a part time job. So, when I get home, I try to give her as much help as possible while getting some R&R myself.

Of course, I also try to get out on the Harley as much as I can as well. It has been 70 - 80 degrees here the last several days. I actually got to go riding in short sleeves yesterday. However it's back to 30's and 40's tomorrow. I also got to do a minor modification to the bike this week.

I removed the cheap looking plastic mudguard and replaced it with a polished stainless steel panel that really opens up the rear wheel area of the bike. See pics below:

It's nothing complicated, but did give me the opportunity to turn a wrench and add some more shiny stuff to the Fatty.
So, the reason my posts have been few, is because I am soaking up as much "family time" as possible. Soon the phone will ring and the road will beckon and back to work I'll go. God has blessed my family abundantly. Although, I am away from home a lot, I am thankful for my job and even more thankful for my family.

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Bikes, Blues, and Barbeque 2008

2008 provided me the opportunity to head out on a road trip with my buddies (minus one black pearl Road King) to the beautiful land of Northwest Arkansas. For anyone who has never journeyed to this enchanted place, it is absolutely beautiful. We made the 1000 mile round trip back in September for the annual Bike, Blues, and Barbecue Rally, which is the largest charitable bike rally in the country. No tickets needed, but a portion of all proceeds from vendor and food sales goes to charity. The usual suspects were in tow, Mike and his "very popular" Honda ACE, Chris and his "hmmm, twenty-somethingth Harley (this one is Dyna Wideglide), and Javier on his Suzuki Boulevard.

We left on Friday morning after breakfast at What-A-Burger. For those of you who don't have the privilege of eating at What-A-Burger, you are missing out. We got on the road about 9am.
The ride out was uneventful. We took a roundabout route through northeast Texas and into west Arkansas. We headed straight north up to Fort Smith, AR and then hit the home stretch. We pulled into Fayetteville, AR around 5pm and headed straight for the rally grounds. Here are some shots of the parking lot.

We walked around to all the vendor boothes and saw a lot of cool bikes. I saw a Fatboy with a wide tire kit on it that I loved, and then I got to stradle this beast.
Not sure I would want to invest $40K of my hard earned cash into one of these, but it would be fun to rip open that V8 going down the interstate. The bikes sat really well for their size. Friday night was the public voting for the barbecue contest, so we paid $10 which got us a paper plate, a post-it note, and two drink coupons. We took the plates around to about 30 different trailers and was served sample-sized portions of anything from ribs to chicken to brisket. I probably had the best ribs I've ever had from the XXX Barbecue team. On the way out, you jotted down your vote on the post-it and turned it in.

So with our bellys full and our butts soar, we decided to head to the hotel. I bought my first pair of chaps (now I'm a real biker) that night, so like a kid at Christmas, I had to wear them to the hotel! I didn't mention before that coming through Ft. Smith, we erroneously decided to take the business route which funneled us through a lot of traffic and stop lights, instead of the interstate which would have saved us about 45 minutes. Well, since we were staying in Bentonville, AR (about 30 miles north of Fayetteville) we had a short ride to the hotel. However, we decided (erroneously, again!) to take the business route. So we got a steady of diet of stop lights and traffic. We finally get to the hotel, and crashed out. It had been a good day of brotherhood, barbecue, and of course, chasin white lines.

Next morning, Mike (owner of the lovely ACE), headed to the Yamaha dealership to get a new rear tire, since he noticed that his was down to the threads. The rest of us slept in until he called to say he was ready. Chris slept in more than the rest of us due to his wearing ear plugs. He had to due to the fact that Javier snores like a mountain lion with a head cold. Here's a pic of Mike and my handsome self at the Yamaha dealership.

Once we were all up and running, we headed back down to the rally grounds, then over to Dickson Street where the real party was going on. This is the original location of the rally but it has grown so much, it has been expanded to the fair grounds as well. There were bikes for miles, it was great. I saw some of the nicest bikes I'd ever seen, and some rather strange ones too. The one that sticks out the most was Harley Night Train someone had tricked out, but it still looked very much like a Harley. I guess, given all the glamour and prestige of the customs, I am still partial to the Harley design. Here's a shot of Dickson Street.
I thought this sign was great!!!

After lunch, we met up with a friend of Mike's who lives locally. He rides a sport bike and he lead us through the twisties between Bentonville and Eureka Springs. This is some of the most beautiful country I have ever ridden through. Here are some pics of the roads we traversed.

Notice the sign in this picture.

After the afternoon ride, we all headed back to the hotel for some chill time, and then we went to a restaurant that Mike recommended for a steak. The restaurant was very local, evidenced by the fact that there were only about 6 bikes in the parking lot and ours were 4 of them. The food was great and the conversation was good too. Back to the hotel and fast asleep (I know, we're a boring bunch).

Sunday morning we hit the breakfast bar hard and packed up all our gear. We posed for a picture at the hotel to commemorate the occasion and of course, I wore the chaps.
On the way home, we took the direct route. We headed out of west Arkansas and into eastern Oklahoma. We put the hammer down and was making great time when it happened. You know what I'm talking about, someones bike broke down. So, we ended up spending an hour trying to get the bolt replaced which held Mike's rear brake linkage to the rear brake peddle. Now, of course, the bolt hole was located somewhere only a small child could fit their hand, and it had to be located directly between the hot exhaust pipes and the hot crankcase.

We got back on the road and pointed our headlights south, for the last leg of the trip...we thought. Riding in the following order, Chris, Me, Mike, Javier, we were making good time through southern Oklahoma when a very odd thing happened. Chris has a habit of directing the oncoming traffic if he thinks they are intruding on his riding space. He not-so-discretely waves his hand in the direction that he wants the car to move. Well, he was in the act of doing this when an oncoming tractor trailer clipped his hand with his side-view mirror. It was wild, I heard a pop, and the mirror flew off the truck and almost hit Mike riding behind me. We immediately pulled over, not knowing what exactly had happened. The truck never looked back. There was no serious damage done, just heavy bruising and an immediate need for Advil. Here's a pic of Chris's hand.
The latest string of events prompted us to stop for lunch. We stopped at a little diner that had a full parking lot, assuming the place must be good if everyone in town was eating there. It did not disappoint. I polished off a hamburger and we let Chris gather his wits and let the Advil kick in. Back on the road, we crossed the Red River back into Texas and had an uneventful ride home. All in all, I would say the trip was fantastic. I had a great time hanging with the boys for a weekend, and it made coming home that much sweeter.

The most memorable thing about the trip for me, was when we pulled into a gas station upon arriving in Fayetteville. I stood their in the parking lot and all I heard was motorcycles. No traffic, even though we were 100 yards from an interstate, nothing but the rumble of exhaust pipes. It was amazing, and I had a grin on my face from ear to ear.

I am really looking forward to wherever 2009 takes me, as long as it is on the back of a motorcycle.

Sunday, January 4, 2009

Pics of the bike, with a twist.

I decided to try my hand at some amature photography. Since my kids won't sit still long enough, I opted for the Harley. Here are some of the end results. I really like the different angles and how the individual parts have character of their own. Of course, a little help from Photoshop doesn't hurt.