Looking back at 2004
My dear ol' dad passed away in January and that was surely the lowest low of the year. I do wish we'd have gotten some sort of chance to ride motorcycles together over the years but it wasn't meant to be. I am grateful that my dad and I got along well and that I at least got a few small riding stories out of him.
Former co-worker and occasional riding buddy Dennis Holsen passed away rather unexpectedly in February. I expected my dad to die; Dad was 85 and in poor health. Dennis should have had a few more years left. We had plans to ride places. I wish I could tell you the whole story about Dennis and his funeral but I couldn't possibly do it justice here. Suffice to say that Dennis was buried on the Gila Indian Reservation here in Arizona and attending his funeral was like a trip a hundred years back in time all except for his 1500cc Kawasaki with the straight pipes. Dennis had pipes at his funeral and they weren't bagpipes.
There were other lows too but they didn't amount to much compared to losing friends and loved ones.
Good stuff abounded during the year and that helps offset the crud.
I seem to have averaged buying one bike a year for 38 years now. This year I bought two although one didn't stay long. One of the big plusses this year in terms of motorcycling was discovering the True Light of Aprilia. I did a shade over 300 miles today on my Caponord including about 30 miles of winding dirt road and the bike was a delight during every mile. To be able to blast through pavement twisties, then motor down miles of desert dirt road, then hop back on the highway and ride 80 mph home is truly a wonderous thing. Doing it with Italian style is doubly so. Here's hoping that in 2005 the Aprilia company will prosper under it's new owners and the most under recognized sporting bikes in America will once again start to flourish.
Blogging turned into one of the pleasant surprises of 2004. I could ramble on here a bit about favorite blogs but Dylan at Twisting Asphalt covered all the bases for me in his New Years Eve entry. It seems that we share nearly identical tastes in our blog reading, at least as far as bike sites go. Take a peek at Dylan's favorites and then say an "amen" for me. He's done me a nice honor in recognizing my efforts here and I appreciate it greatly.
I've noodled around with personal web pages for several years including one covering motorcycles but the format of a blog didn't catch my attention until this year. Thanks to Mike Werner at Bikes in the Fast Lane and Dylan Weiss at Twisting Asphalt for the inspiration to start my own blog. Corresponding with Dylan, a bit with Dusty Davis (A Long Ride), Travis (Motorcycle-Blog), and Jeff (Goon Blog) has been great fun, insightful, and encouraging.
Like most folks who set out to write a blog, you don't really expect anyone to read it, you just feel like you have to do it. Any sort of success generally comes as a complete surprise. A bit of recognition and encouragement by fellow bloggers is a highlight of 2004. Speaking of Dusty and Jeff, they have a serious problem with their blogs: They don't write enough. Get to work, guys!
Okay, a short ramble because I think it's important. BluepoofBikes Motorcycle Adventures and Cecilie's Motorcycle Journal are easily the best of the motorcycle blogs written by women riders. That so many women are not only into riding but some are writing so accurately about the experience and enthusiastically about it is, for me, one of the highlights of 2004. The downer, of course, is that both those charming lady riders already have boyfriends.
The blog world is growing, new blogs are showing up, and soon the 'net will be awash in them. If the folks noted above keep writing, I predict they will surely become...or remain...the core of the best.
Stuff I liked a lot in 2004
None of these goodies are new to the motorcycle world or hi-tech but anything that works well deserves a plug:
Number 1 on the list...dare I say it again? Aprilia. I feel 10 years younger and 10 mph faster any time I'm on an Aprilia. I also feel noticeably poorer in the wallet any time the bike gets near a shop. No one said riding the best was cheap.
Less exciting but still useful and now a regular part of my little motorcycling world:
CrampBuster throttle assist. Man, does this little piece of plastic make long rides easier.
Vista-Cruise throttle lock. A recent addition and already well known in the bike world but a wonder goodie when you just HAVE TO take your hand off the throttle but don't want to slow down or stop. The Universal Fit model is like most universal fit stuff. It fits if you cut and tweak things a little. Looks clunky, like some sort of Rube Goldberg device but works super and is way less expensive than most of it's competition.
Draggin' Jeans. Kevlar reinforced britches. Bought a pair because I wanted something better than regular jeans but not all the way to leathers. The quality and comfort is first rate and somehow they are warmer than regular jeans. I may regret that come summer in Arizona but they will still be cooler than leathers. I bought the black Draggin Jeans and they fade kind of funny but I can live with it. I just hope I never have to test them beyond that.
Nelson-Rigg tank bag and tail pack. I've not used my new stuff much but the sewing, features, and general construction of the $60 N-R tank bag is waaay better than Aprilia's $140 unit.
Alaska Leather Sheepskin Butt Pad. Terrible name, great product. Sheepskin seat covers look dufus on a bike but the Alaska Leather Butt Pad has turned the Aprilia's saddle from a 75 mile seat to a 200 mile seat.
Battery Tender. You plug it in and it does what they say it will. What a concept. More companies should try that.
Nikon Coolpix 8700 camera. 8.0 megpixels of excellence. I don't care what anyone says, it's a better camera than the D70. I had the D70 and was happy to only loose a few hundred bucks when I sold that turkey.
A Dishonorable Mention for 2004 goes to:
Givi for their lackadaisical quality control. I replaced the stock Caponord windscreen with a Givi unit. It was cheaper by about a third than the stock Aprilia unit and cheaper in quality by half. Poorly trimmed, loads of distortion, and delivered with a large scratch on it despite all the packing. And that was the second one they sent me. There's more to the story but I won't bore you with the details. I've had some Givi luggage in the past. Their windscreen department isn't making the same effort. I finally told them I'd just live with it because I had better things to do than ship windscreens back and forth across America.
Mustang Saddles. I replaced the stock saddle on my '03 Kawasaki 1600 Classic with a Mustang part. The fit of the passenger seat and cut of the rider's seat was way off. I make my living inspecting and testing the fit and finish of vehicle trim parts and interiors. I know what I'm talking about. I sent them a nice note with pictures and their response was that those uh... design features... were as planned. OK. The Mustang went back and was replaced with a Corbin. The Corbin wasn't perfect in some respects but at least it fit on the bike correctly and is comfortable.
I promised myself when I start this blog several months back that I would write only about motorcycles and the sport. No ramblings about politics, sex, drugs, teenagers, or about being single again at 53 years of age (soon to be 54) except as they might concern bikes. That means it's time to break my own rule:
It's not about bikes or even sex and drugs but I have to toss it in here. Part of what I do at work is thermal imaging of cars and parts. Some of my images this year were made for Skoda Germany during a German automotive press trip to Death Valley and subsequently were used in a variety of German automotive publications including magazine of the ADAC (German Auto Club) which has a readership of about 10 million people. Also here. Sadly, our company policy kept my name off the images but they are mine and it was kinda cool (not thermally speaking, of course) to see them out in the real world instead of just buried in engineering reports.
Happy New Year to my all my new found blogging friends out there and to all three of my regular readers who are not bloggers!