Summertime is Riding Time

So a few weeks back I finally dusted off Doc and took my venerable F650GS Dakar out for a long deserved cruise. Southern California isn’t the most favorable environment to be riding a dual-sport motorcycle—the urban areas, that is. But just a short hour or two ride and you can find great mountain riding, beautiful desert (though better in the winter, spring and fall).

So I rolled Doc out of the garage and chuckled as I looked at the speedometer; there are nearly 75,000 miles on my bike and I’ll bet less than 5% are on freeways. Don’t get me wrong. Doc gets started up and a quick ride down to the coffee shop or gas station. Sometimes I’ll just blast up and down route 1 for a spin by the beach. But that’s not riding, is it?

To be sure, we got a good ride in and instead of parking Doc back in the garage, I parked my trusty steed on the side of my cottage. After a few more days I decided it was time to go for another short cruise. This time instead of brushing the dust off my BMW, I had to brush the purple blossoms of the Jacaranda tree that hangs wistfully above. I thought I’d share with you the photo of Doc in peace under that stunning tree. I especially like the way the blossoms create a lavender blanket over the tarmac. Nice.


Heading To Mexico – World Rally Championship

Sitting at gate 27 in the San Diego International Airport, I will soon board a flight to Dallas/Fort Worth where I’ll connect with a small jet aircraft and head to Guanajuato/Leon airport in the Guanajuato state of Mexico. Yes. I’m flying and Doc, my fabled bike sits home alone.

With more time, I’d make the trip on two-wheels. But this trip to Mexico is for a special reason. My friend Robb Rill is racing in the World Rally Championship (WRC), Rally Guanajuato Mexico – a three day rally made up of multiple stages that runs through the historic city of Guanajuato and through both the Sierra de Lobos and Sierra de Guanajuato mountains including a number high-altitude tests with a mixture of mountain peaks and flat open valleys. The altitude has its downside, however, as the engines struggle to breathe in the thin air and suffer a drop in power of approximately 20 per cent. The road surface is dry and sandy, but with rocks getting pulled onto the road the race can be very dangerous.


Darkcyd Racing’s 2005 Subaru WRX STi – driven by Robb Rill, co-driver Ben Slocum.

Robb and co-driver Ben Slocum are driving Darkcyd Racing’s 2005 Subaru WRX STi. I’ve been asked to join the 5-person crew to support as needed, serve as the team photographer, translator and blogger. For the last several month’s Robb and his team have been coordinating and managing the painstaking details of not only preparing a race car for a Rally, but dealing with the logistics necessary to transport a vehicle to a foreign country. Co-driver Ben Slocum has consolidated the details of this event into a 20-page ‘movement’ plan.

While I have been a fan of motorsports my entire life, I’ve never been to a true European-style road rally race. I’ve always dreamed of one day perhaps racing in the infamous Dakar, but like most Americans, my understanding of the actual rally format, rules and scoring is very basic. Helping Robb by participating on his crew in Mexico will change that.

For those of you interested, Rally Racing involves using street-legal cars on both normal streets and roads in towns, cities and country as well as off-road on gravel, mud, dirt and such. So there is no set track, instead, there is a course. The course may change from year-to-year, and it is usually done in stages. Often these stages take place over several days. The Mexico WRC rally takes place in 13 stages over 3 days. All but one of the stages are on dirt and gravel roads. Of course, during the actual stages, the roads are closed to the public.

These stage rally races are huge in Europe, perhaps in teh top 2 sports. In the USA, there are rally circuits, but they don’t get much visiblity beyond the local communities where they are staged, or in the close-knit group of fans, racers and crew. The Mexico Rally will be broadcast live throughout Europe. In the USA it will be broadcast slightly delayed on the HD Theater channel, so if you’re interested in seeing the action, tune in.

I will bring more information on the Rally, the rules and stages and how our team, Darkcyd Racing is faring over the next week. There are two days of preparation and pre-running and more logistics that I’m just beginning to understand. Many Rallys feature different classes of vehicles, and sometimes motorcycles—think Baja 1,000 and Dakar.

More to follow.

Feeling Part of the Family With Friends Old & New in Rochester, New York.

Since July of this year, I’d been in contact via phone and e-mail with Lyn Elting, who along with her husband Art own the Rochester are BMW dealership, Country Rode Motowerks. Eager to host a presentation for their customers, she was surprised that I had decided to ride my bike, given the unpredictable weather in the Great Lakes region. And with my propensity to ride the tiny backroads to wherever I travel, it would be hard to estimate my arrival time in Fairport, a smaller town just southeast of Rochester. With my presentation scheduled for 2pm, I thought I’d be there by noon. But the slow roads and occasional traffic, when I finally rode in around 12:45pm I could see the look of relief on Lyn’s face—I made it!

Country Rode is a family-run dealership where customers make up a loyal community, many choosing to have coffee, use the WIFI and hang out with the regular gang and share stories of travel, bikes and dreams–better here than the local coffee shop. More modest in size than the two Max dealerships I presented weeks earlier, but equally professional and with an alluring energy where locals make you feel welcome, regardless of your bike or background.

One customer who showed up to see my presentation actually spends more time in Chile, than in New York. I was able to practice my spanish and share stories of my Patagonian escapades in southern Chile. The crew helped wheel my bike into the showroom so customers could gawk at Doc, my the hard ridden, if not abused, motorcycle that exhibits more than its fair share of scars.

The presentation this Saturday afternoon at Country Rode Motowerks was perhaps the best attended presentation of this tour. With more than 75 guests, I was amazed to see three French men show up in a Citroën Deaux Chevaux (2CV) which they’ve been traveling around the world. I remembered seeing many of these odd looking cars in Buenos Aires. Citroën stopped producing the cars in 1990 after 42 years of production. which was powered by a simple air-cooled 375cc engine—quite a bit smaller than the 650cc water cooled Rotax power-plant on Doc.

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As the crowd gathers for my 2pm presentation, many check out the bike that took me around the world — and to chilly Rochester in late October.

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Country Rode is a gathering place and caters to a passionate and strong community of riders of all types.

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Lyn and Art took me in and share their home, cats and delicious cookies!

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I’d like to say these guys rode from France via Kabul and Saigon to come see me speak at Country7 Rode, but alas it was merely a serendipitous coincidence that they were visiting a Country Rode customer who happen to also own a a Citroën Deaux Chevaux (2CV) as well as a BMW. So he brought them to see my presentation.

As usual, the question and answer portion of my talk was quite lively and at the end a lucky Canadian female motorcycle rider won the AirHawk Seat Cushion which we give away at each of my presentations. Many customers wanted to hear more, so we agreed to host another presentation sometime in the next year or so—ideally after my book, Tasting Adventure, is published and available.

Lyn & Art were kind to offer me dinner, homemade cookies, the company of great cats, including Murphy and Curly, and a warm bed in their 19th century ‘cobblestone ‘home a few minutes from the dealership. Cobblestone masonry is a regional technique of of using regional building materials and set in what appears to be a linear manner and probably painstaking style. Homes between Syracuse and Buffalo were built by local artisans between about 1820 and 1850. The stones were brought by glaciers to shores of Lake Ontario. Stones gathered when clearing fields for farming were used to build homes, barns, churches and other buildings. Art and I stayed up and talked about old classic bikes, travel and the motorcycle business, while Lyn packed up some of her infamous cookies, some for me and some, at his special request, for Bob Henig, the owner of Bob’s BMW in Jessup, Maryland outside Washington DC and the last location for my WorldRider east coast presentation tour.

As I noted earlier, another bonus of this east coast mini-tour has been the connections and reconnections made with friends old and new. So in the spirit of taking advantage of every opportunity to reach out, I arranged for friends to join us early Sunday (Halloween) morning for breakfast. Elizabeth Lane (Liz) Lawley is a fellow tech blogger (check out my other blog The Digital Tavern) and Rochester Institute of Technology professor. We’ve known each other since 2002 in the early days of blogs and over the years have met at tech-related conferences after we discovered we shared similar passions like blogging, Macintosh, technology, travel and even friends and acquaintances like Doc Searls and Joi Ito, sadly she was in San Francisco the day before so she couldn’t see my presentation. But her husband Gerald, who also followed my WorldRider journey, was able to make the trip to Country Rode and check out the presentation. This morning Liz showed up with the entire family including Gerald and their two sons Alex and Lane.

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Art stands outside his cobblestone home near Rochester, New York.

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Notice the cobblestone construction, a popular masonry technique used by early settlers to the region from the early to mid-1800’s. And below he tries to convince Murphy, the cat, to perhaps join us for a morning ride?

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The Lawley Family joined us for breakfast on Halloween Sunday. (l to r) Alex, Liz, Gerald and Lane.

With the clock ticking and more weather advisories, I packed up Doc, reviewed maps and potential routes with Art and after a bit of nudging, convinced him to join me for a ride at least to the Finger Lakes, if not further. Later, Country Rode Motowerks sales manager, Ron showed up and rode with us until about the snow started falling. Art and I took cover and a warm cup of coffee near Keuka Lake in Hammondsport at the Crooked Lake Ice Cream Parlor. With the temperature dropping and clock ticking, Art headed back home while I make my way toward Watkins Glen and ultimately south toward New York City.

By the time I rode into Binghamton, the skies were dark and my body appropriately chilled, so I took cover at a local motel.

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Ron took off after we stopped high on the western bank of Keuka lake, while Art led me into Hammondsport for a cup of coffee and fresh apple pie.

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Art and Ron outside Keuka Lake near Hammondsport, New York

PodCast #19 – Breaking Out of Bolivia: Welcome To Chile.

Podcast IconFinally after enduring a broken leg, badly sprained ankle and ligament strained and twisted knee, WorldRider, Allan Karl, finally takes the road out of Bolivia. From the largest and highest in altitude salt lake in the world, Allan takes a dirt road out of Bolivia. In search of better roads, Allan is quite suprised to learn that in this part of Chile the roads are more challenging yet the vistas and the isolate desolation taxes his riding skills and mental acuity. (Total Time: 26:28)

Podcast Breaking Out of Bolivia: Welcome To Chile – WorldRider PodCast #19 (Time: 26:28)

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