Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Biker Break-In Period: Public Streets and Out of the 'Hood



Monday morning I woke up feeling half stoned. And not the sort that has led to profit for Taco Bell with ingenius concepts like "4th Meal" and Mountain Dew slushies... more like several people stood around and threw rocks at me.

I should have taken some Ibuprofen before I went to bed on Sunday.

The thing with a TW200 (I refer to mine as "the Wombat") is that they don't go fast. And by not fast, I mean slow. It likes to cruise between 30-35 mph. If that's all it did, it'd be happy.

But we live in a wide open, flat, rural landscape with long, straight, country roads. Roads that stay straight and reasonably traffic free  for miles at a stretch. Roads where most people open it up and regularly hit 70 between stop signs.

Between the Wombat's red line at 55mph and my beginning-rider-feels-like-light-speed-at- 20, leaving the womb-like comfort of the neighborhood or private roads (and I did put 40 miles on the odo a few weekends ago on some forest roads, of which I have no pictures) took an act of bravery I wasn't sure I posessed.
At some point, I have to cross the road, right?

So the BF and I saddled up the ponies and made a basic plan.

First, the Wombat was going to need gas. The TW is reported to get about 80 mpg. Great mileage but still doesn't get you far when you only have a 1.8 gallon tank. With 97 miles on the odometer, the Wombat had yet to see a gas station in real life. (The Wombat's been living in the BF's parents' barn. We've put plenty of miles on it on their private road.)

$7.15 later, we'd topped up the tank in both the TW and the BF's DR650 and did some serious damage to a 32 oz Pepsi before heading through our downtown district on our way out of town.


Matt checks the Wombat before we leave the driveway
We planned our course to avoid sensored traffic lights that don't know we're there, and as much traffic as possible. Naturally, that landed us on a senseless traffic light sensor in the midst of going-home traffic right next to a popular church. Unfortunately, none of that church traffic was going to help us out by needing to make a left turn at the signal where we were stuck. So after 3 full cycles of the signal, I got to legally run my first stop light.

Much to the dismay of the nearby traffic.

So, on that note, Yes. California vehicle code 21800 does specify that when a traffic signal sensor fails to sense traffic, it is permissable to procede through the light after determining it's safe to do so. California vehicle code also says that all traffic lights are supposed to be equipped with sensors that will sense traffic such as motorcycles and bicycles-- but in the meantime, at least someone in Sacramento has the good sense to realize it's not a good idea to leave motorcyclists and bicyclists stuck at stubborn traffic lights for weeks on end.

Our route took us through some lazy neighorhood roads and almost-deserted-on-a-weekend streets that didn't mind our comfortable 35 mile an hour gait. And then, there I was, at the stop sign of a tiny cross street, staring at the Big Road.

This was the one that had to be done. This was the one that was going to test just how fast the Wombat and I can go. (For the locals, it was Houston/Visalia Road heading east.)

After a couple of deep breaths, and several checks for traffic, I turned onto the road and got up to speed as fast as I could. Holding the throttle at 50 took some effort, but the Wombat and I were good.

I didn't worry about traffic, I kept my head up and my eyes on the horizon and we just went for it. Passed Cutler Park, around the big curve, and over the river till we made the turn on to El Rio.

At this point, we're out of the town we live in (Visalia) and pretty much in the town I grew up in (Ivanhoe) albeit, out in the boonies. I've travelled El Rio many a time by car and bicycle and never been impressed with the quality of the road.


TW at Charter Oak
On the motorcycle? Damn glad I spent a weekend on those forest roads learning to stand on the pegs and just throttle over whatever gaping holes might suddenly appear beneath me.

So once I was relatively certain that what should be a lazy, shady country road that peacefully winds along the river bed, wasn't going to kill me, I settled into it and and relaxed a little... ok. I wasn't relaxed, I was on the watch for psychotic, feral dogs that might run after me from any number of directions.

But we made it to the next intersection unscatched and proceded out to Charter Oak. That's the Wombat parked in front of the plaque that explains that this was the spot where our county was formed. Yes, there's a giant oak tree too, just not in the picture, hence "Charter Oak." By this time I was feeling pretty good.

 All was going well and I was feeling like I might not suck at riding a motorcycle afterall. It's even kinda fun!

the Tipsay Wombat and Dr. Feelgood east of Venice Hill, Ivanhoe, CA.

 Our continued route took us further into the countryside, riding along stretches of country roads lined with citrus orchards with the wind in our... well, not hair. We wear our helmets-- and not just because there's a law that says we have to. But I have great Olympia Airglide gear and the wind just vents right through it. It was a beautiful day to be outdoors doing pretty much anything really.

We tried to remember to snap lots of pics of the bikes out and about since we don't have many photos yet.

We stopped by this pond and took some pics. The cow that was there was camera shy and moved away. It's already pretty hot and dry down in our valley, so there aren't many wild flowers to stop next to. I found some little yellow ones growing on a bush that looked very angry-- lots of spikey,pointy things growing on it.

A few laps around the country roads and we stopped for a bit beside a cornfield in the shade of some oak trees.

Got a great shot of Dr. Feelgood (The BF claims his bike's full name is Dr. James "Jigsaw" Feelgood) taking a break in front of the cornfield.

It was a nice spot to rest for a bit and discuss further plans and the impending need for lunch.

We have friends in Exeter, so I sent off a text message and we headed in that direction. Which meant another road where 50 mph wasn't going win me many friend with the rest of the traffic.

Nevertheless, and despite the BF's irritation at my lagging behind him on the open road, I managed to keep the throttle open and not be in too many peoples' way as we made our way to downtown Exeter. Where following the BF proved to be an exercise in staying calm and zenlike.

Exeter, CA
He never cancels his turn signals so I never knew for sure which way we were turning. I finally put the bike in a parking space. Exeter is a tiny little town, there is absolutely no just cause for circling it 20 times on the bikes.

We had lunch at VIP pizza without hearing back from our friend.

It was only after we were done with lunch that it occurred to either of us to have actually used the helmet locks on the bikes. Which would save us some table space in restaurants, but our jackets are still a bulky burden when off the bikes. Oh well, we'll adjust.

Not much going on in Exeter, CA on a Sunday afternoon. So we set a homeward course and got back on our bikes.


Pulled into the driveway with 60.1 miles on the trip odometer. Not to bad for my first time on the open road.

But I wish I'd known how sore I was going to be in the morning. It's gonna be awhile before I'm ready to ride around the world.