Monthly Archives: April 2014

Splitting the lanes

Ralph and I just spent a week in southern California, which has to be — weather-wise — motorcycle heaven, especially when you get away from stinky, exhaust fume-ridden I-5 (“The 5”, as it’s called locally). Getting off the  freeway allows you to follow the coast, drive along citrus orchards and make you feel like you own the world.

Fresh ocean breezes notwithstanding, California has a law that scares the hell out of me. The Golden State allows motorcyclists to “split” the traffic lanes.  Maybe it’s because I’m still relatively new to motorcyclng, but I find it unnerving to have a biker come up from behind me, swerve to the white line between the lanes of stopped or slow-moving vehciles and zip to the head of the line. I worry about their safety, especially when traffic moves a little faster. It would be so easy to get a little too close, bounce off a  car  and end up on the pavement. Whitelining is allowed in Texas, too, and in England, where motorcyclists sneak up on you from the left. In Minnesota, the freeways have designated motorcycle lanes, for which I am grateful.

I’ll be doing some “splitting” of a different kind this weekend.  I’ll be at the Fury Motorcycle open house tomorrow morning from 10:00-1:00, promoting Ride Minnesota. Then I’ll move up to East Bethel for the open house at Northway Sports from 2:00-4:00. Yesterday afternoon, I heard back-to-back commercials for both on KQRS. Let’s hope the weather is better than predicted!

Changing seasons, changing attitudes

The road to Mesa Verde, Colorado.

The road to Mesa Verde, Colorado.

Just when you think riding season can really begin, ol’ Mother Nature comes and gives you an unkind gesture once again. Who said it could be 20 degrees and snowing (tomorrow) this late in April? Spring is always an uphill battle in Minnesota. On the upside, the unseasonable cold has given me time to do a little more vacation planning.

I received a package of tourism info from Wisconsin yesterday. There’s a lot of unexplored motorcycle country in our neighbor to the east. And the Badger State is beginning to promote it. (C’mon, Minnesota, get your tourism act together!) In fact, many states are realizing that motorcycle tourism is a good thing.

According to the Rider Friendly Business Association (a Canadian group), there are more than 11 million potential motorcyclist/tourists in the U.S. and Canada, and  they spend an average of $3,100 per vacation trip. That’s roughly $34 billion spent in the form of gas, hotels, food, entertainment and stops at tourist attractions. Motorcycle tourists can be big economic stimulators!

Of course, we’ll have to get the non-motorcycling public to change its perception of bikers. A few years ago, Ralph and I stopped in Durango, Colorado, for the night. We pulled into the Holiday Inn, which had a Green Mill restaurant attached to it. I went to the front desk to inquire about the availablility of a room. I was still in my full leathers, my hair cropped super-short to avoid having to deal with helmet hair. The sole was coming off of my old steel-toed work boots and I probably looked pretty travel-worn since leaving Arizona that morning.  The young woman at the desk informed me that the hotel was full. “By the way,” she said as I thanked her and turned to leave, “for your future reference, rooms are $150 per night.”  As if I couldn’t afford it.  I felt as angry and misunderstood as Marlon Brando in “The Wild One.”

We drove down the street to the Travelodge, where the rooms were cheaper and ate at a fantastic Italian restaurant across the street. And had a far better time than we would have at the Green Mill.

Motorcycle Fever

“Got your Harley out yet, Karen?” I asked my neighbor yesterday afternoon. She has a beautiful blue Softail.  “No. The snow has to be completely gone and all the sand swept up before I ride,” she replied.

Mother Nature put the damper on the start of the motorcycle season here in Minnesota last week.  On Thursday, she dumped 8 inches of wet, heavy snow on the Twin Cities and more in rural areas. It’s enough to make you scream. By suppertime yesterday, the temperature had climbed to 62 degrees and there were only a few humps of snow left around the neighborhood — if you don’t count the shady sides of houses and the hard, black-crusted mountains stacked in parking lots, vacant lots and just about anywhere anyone can think of to pile large quantities of unwanted snow.

My neighbor is not alone in her caution. Yet there are motorcyclists out on the streets and highways, dodging potholes and braving sandy intersections because they just. can’t. wait. any. longer. Motorcycle fever has set in. The desire to feel the sun on your face and the wind in your hair (or across your helmet) is irresistable, urgent. On weekends, the dealerships are crowded with people checking out new bikes, buying new clothing. Some are even picking up copies of Ride Minnesota.

I am anxiously awaiting the arrival of tourism materials from Wisconsin so Ralph and I can plan some summer rides.  In the meantime, our great-niece in California has sent us a Flat Stanley. After reading the book in school, she has sent him to us so that we can bring him along on some adventures. If he’s lucky, Flat Stanley will get to ride on Uncle Ralph’s Victory some time this week.