He was SSNJ in my Autocross post, but I am informed that he prefers S#. Scheduled to take the MSF course in September, so it is now open season to shop for bikes.
See if you can name the modles…
He was SSNJ in my Autocross post, but I am informed that he prefers S#. Scheduled to take the MSF course in September, so it is now open season to shop for bikes.
See if you can name the modles…
I asked Bing and Zig to accompany me to the 6th Autocross run by the Northern New Jersey Region (NNJR) SCCA at Giants Stadium this past weekend. Sure, it was short notice and Bing was unable to swing a kitchen pass. Zig lives locally, but since President Trump was in Bedminster they had declared a 50-mile radius no-drone zone, and Zig won’t do no race event if he can’t get aerial footage.
So I asked a friend from town (the father of one of my younger daughter’s friends). He immediately upgraded me from “friend” to “good friend” and agreed to drive with me. We don’t use real names on this site, so I was planning to use his initials: SS. But we already have an SS so I was figuring that he could be “The Other SS”. But that produces the acronym “TOSS” and this guy has roots in the British Commonwealth, so that would be rude. So let’s go with NJSS to distinguish him from Maryland SS.
And so after helmet fitting from my spare lid supply, a shot trianing drive on Friday to make sure he was OK with the quirks of my car, and minimal preparation (mostly consisting of charging the batteries on my GoPro), we were ready.
NNJR tech opens at 8:30 and we live about 25 minutes from Giants Stadium, so I was at NJSS’s house at the crack of 7:30 AM. His last Lotus training was to drive to the “track” so that I could nap. Weather report was perfect: 0% chance of rain and a high of 78 degrees, so I didn’t even bother to bring the roof. Nothing but a baseball cap and sunscreen between me and the burning orb of the sun today!
Our confirmation email had said that we hit the Autocross jackpot. There would be 3 heats, we would race in heat #1 and do corner work in heat #2. That meant that we would be able to head home early and appease our wives. Upon checking the race officials revoked the joy. Too many corner workers in heat #2, so they moved us to 3. We would have to stay until the bitter end. A True Racer is happy to suffer for his speed.
Tech was a breeze (they don’t even make me open the trunk/engine lid on the Lotus – they just took my word for it that my battery was tightly affixed). Pumped an extra 10 PSI into the tyres and it was time to walk the course.
NJSS is resourceful and had a runner’s GPS app on his phone, so he was able to record a GPX file of the track. Here it is for your edification
Normally I would walk the course 3 times or more, but for some reason time got tight. I blame NJSS for spending too much time ogling the course as a first-time Autocrosser. The course itself was pretty large, and seemed like it should be easy to follow; no crossovers, no double-baks. Mostly a series of 3 slaloms connected by 180-degree turns and gates. It seemed like it would be pretty fast, but pretty easy to follow.
Or so I thought…
When it came time to run our heat (which is to say immediately after the obligatory driver meeting), I learned differently. I took my first THREE runs with an instructor because I discovered that the simplicity of the track was deceptive. There were several gates near the end of the course which just did not compute in my mind. I expect an Autocross to be made of twisty little turns, and so the last 180 kept fooling me. I would run inside or outside of the entry gate and DNF. Bastardos!
But I was right… it was a very fast course. Here are our first two runs:
My first run
NJSS’s first run:
My second run:
NJSS’s second run… sort of. Watch what happens in the first 10 seconds:
I spend a lot of energy telling friends that Autocross is safe. Nobody ever gets hurt. There is almost (almost) nothing to hit. Why, I have only every personally witnessed ONE car get damaged (err… ummm… totalled) at an autocross event. I had to go through this speech twice with NJSS.
Now I have witnessed TWO cars get totalled racing Autocross.
If you watch that video closely, when NJSS pulls back into the grid you can see the carnage. Just to the right there is a vehicle wrapped around the concrete base of the light pole. An, light poles… nemesis of overconfident Autocrossers. I don’t think I’m violating the “no social media” rules of Autocross accidents because A) I am not mentioning the car or date, and B) nobody reads this blog. But I saw it happen, and it was just like two years ago. The driver lost control, and instead of just giving up and going “two feet in” (slam the clutch and brake hard), he tried to control it and recover. The result was the same: he drove straight into the only object in 100 yards that could damage his car.
The car was nice one too. A particular model that is very rare and in huge demand. Shockingly, there were FIVE of them at this event. Well, now there were four.
Oh, also this crash cannot be a secret because a fire truck, two ambulances, and an NJ State Police car all attended to the crash.
If this was the Potomac Area PCA (Porsche Club of America), they would have hurried to pack up the cones and run like the cur that they are. But this is New-fookin’-Jersey. Rare car totalled in a crash? Just pour the goddamned kitty litter, sweep it up, and continue racing!
…but it still took 90 minutes to clear the course. That meant that they reduced us from 8 runs to 6, and we were going to be there very, very late even with the truncated schedule. (for non-Autocrossers: 6 runs is normal, 7 is good, and 8 runs in a day a phenomenal).
And so we went on to finish the rest of our six runs.
NJSS’s re-run of his second run:
NJSS run 4:
My 4th run:
NJSS run 5:
My run 5:
NJSS 6th and final run:
My 6th and final:
What happened to our third runs? I blame the user interface on GoPro cameras. It sucks, and it’s easy to get out of sync. So for those runs I got the talky-talk part with our instructors, not the actual racing. For an idea of what that looks like, you can watch it if you have a high tolerance for boredom:
After that we had heat #2 free. NJSS had packed some sandwiches, and I had packed Gatorade. That amused us for 15 minutes. Then we watched the other racers and… oh my God! Heat 2 was packed with Pros! In fact, one of the racers was the USA National SCCA Solo Champion from 2015! The big Kahuna. And he didn’t even come in first! There were a half dozen nationally-ranked pros racing that day!
So of course NJSS had to pester them until one of them let him ride along as a passenger 🙂
This is him in grid, waiting for the run to start:
And this is the pro on the course, with NJSS holding on for dear life:
And Perry (the Pro driver) was kind enough to share his video from that lap:
Here is the RX7 of the 2015 National Champion (heavily modified! Look at that intercooler!):
And here is what he puts in the gas tank along with 5 gallons of race fuel. Yes, that is two gallons of Xylene:
The rest of the day? Corner work. The course was huge, so there was the potential for a lot of running to reset cones. Also, because of the delays they are running on a very tight 20-second interval between cars. It made for great spectating, but when a cone did get punted, you had to move fast if you didn’t want to cause a red flag or get run over. Luckily, the section I was working on was a loose slalom and 180-degree turn, so drivers mostly kept the cones in place (except for these three Mustangs who did what Mustangs do and got a bit sideways on almost every run).
We did not finish until 5:30 PM. Very late for an Autocross. Luckily our wives are understanding (and we treated them to dinner at Arthur’s for being so generous).
If we are ever to get the larval maggot Josh elevated to full biker status, he is going to have to get more comfortable in the saddle. As his mentor, I have been very busy this Spring and thus delinquent in forcing his training regimen.
Both Josh and I were free this past Saturday morning, so during the week we locked in a plan to do some ride coaching from 9:30 to 11:00. I did not look at the weather report.
On Saturday morning, I got up and prepped the Buell to meet josh. I did look at the weather report, and it showed a slight chance of rain (10%) up until Noon, then a Very Serious Chance of rain after that (like 80%).
So I says to myself “If I get there by 9:30 and we ride for an hour, I’ll be able to make it home before the deluge.”
I did not look at the weather radar.
Got to Josh’s garage early, maybe 9:10. This time, the bike had a fresh battery and his Sena helmet communicator was fully charged. We were set to go with no delays.
There was something funny with the self-storage garage unit where he keeps the bike. The roll-up door seemed stuck, and once it was up it was not stowing properly. It was flopping down inside the garage unit.
Being brilliant engineers, we decided to go inside the garage and pull the door down so we could get a look at the mechanism. We did not bother to remember whether this door had an automatic latch which would lock in place once the door was closed.
So we close the door, using the headlight of the running Moto-Guzzi for illumination. “I see yer problem right here… the coil spring which is used to operate the spool that helps lift and store the roll-up door is broken.”
Okay, let’s open the door and tell the storage company they need to fix it.
Grrrr, *strain* *grunt*… no budge.
Is… this… door… latched now? Neither Josh nor I can recall.
Are we locked in a garage with a running motorcycle breathing carbon monoxide? Ummmm, yes.
Shut the bike. Pitch darkness.
Well, at least we have cellphones and we can use Google to get the phone number of the office for the storage company so they can walk 50 yards to let us out.
But one last try to lift the door, with both of us this time. THIS time it budges. Of course! No recoil spring = no assistance lifting the door, so it only felt like it was latched.
We breathe the outdoor air as Free Men once again.
Now, what to do for a training ride? This storage unit is on the corner of a pretty nasty pair of roads in Metuchen, just across from Cross Country BMW. I suggest we start by going there and doing some parking lot practice. Josh is not so keen on that. Uh-oh. That’s like 100 yards away, with a traffic light. If that is too scary, then where else can we go?
I suggest an alternative: we can make a right turn out of the storage lot, head to Route 287, ride for 5 minutes on the highway and then hit the extremely large parking lot of Telcordia on Centennial Road in Piscataway. I figure this will also be vetoed because it is much farther and involves highway riding.
However, with minimal encouragement, Josh agrees. So I coach him through the turns and de-rusting his clutch skills, and we make it to Telcordia lickity-split.
This turns out to be a brilliant plan. The Telcordia parking lot is MASSIVE and empty, and has a private ring road connecting the front and the back of the building. We practice clutch work first, then move to left and right turns withing the markings of the parking spaces, then circulating the ring road to run up and down the gears, and finally figure 8’s and tighter turns.
we do not look at our watches
We do not look at the sky.
In our defense, Josh was having a huge amount of fun. This was working out well.
Until the first drops of rain hit. Then we decide to head back. Before we even get half way to 287 is is coming down like Bangkok in September (or whenever it rains like a mofo in Southeast Asia). In 30 seconds everything not warded by Gore-Tex is soaked through. For me that means my pants and gloves. For Josh, that means everything except his helmet and boots, but they fill up from water dripping off his pants.
We looked for a parking lot to stop in, found a company lot and then discovered they had absolutely zero awnings or overhangs, so we took partial refuge under a tree.
THEN we checked our watches and the weather radar. The storm had not come early; we had lost track of time while riding, and it was in fact 11:45, right up against the predicted deluge. Weather radar shows no mercy, so we Cowboy Up and ride in blinding rain back to the storage unit. It’s only about 10 minutes, and even the cars on the highway were creeping along at under 40 mph so while I would not do this for fun, it was not life-threatening.
Of course we were super drenched by the time we parked. Weather radar showed that the downpour would be over in maybe an hour, so we decided to go grab lunch. After checking out some places, we settled on a Taiwanese street food place in Edison. This area is very asian, and you can count on Chinese restaurants that cater to real immigrant Chinese people. Places where they don’t even speak much English. In this one, the waitresses were accent free, but the food was absolutely native. Meaning not a single item you’ve ever seen on your local Chinese restaurant menu. Good stuff, but best not to think about the ingredients too much.
By the time we were done, the rain was over. My ride home was saved by the heated grips which kept my hands from seizing up from the wind blast on soaking wet gloves. My torso was fine (thanks, Aerostitch!) but my legs were also coated in sopping-wet denim exposed to 70 mph wind. I’ve had worse rides, and I’ve had better rides.
But the key thing is Josh got in some major practice. If we can do this again (minus soaking) next Saturday, I think he should be able to do it alone without and escort. A little bit more after that and he should be safe to ride in a Maggot palaton.
June 2, 2017
Bing put out the call. Since many of the car maggots complain about having to get up early and go racing at Speed Week Classic (the one that happens in the fall), he was going to host a Speed Week Lite for the express purpose of going racing at the Chesapeake Region Porsche Club of America (PCA) Autocross event in Easton MD on June 3, 2017. This was originally to be held at the Easton municipal airport, but it got moved to a disused Black & Decker factory parking lot when someone forgot to file the paperwork with the FAA.
The course was to look like this:Easton Industrial Info
Turnout for SW Lite was… lite. Scott, Josh, and I met up at Noon-ish on Friday to drive down., Scott in his MB SLK, me in my Lotus Elise, and Josh in the passenger seat of the Elise. This arrangement made for some significant cargo problems. We all packed extremely lite, but there were still 2 full face helmets, plus camera gear, plus duffels, plus gifts of liquor and tobacco for our host. The weather was perfect, and I wanted to take off my roof, but on the Lotus that comes completely off and stows in the area that Lotus jokingly calls a “boot,” leaving no room for any other luggage. So normally I put any cargo on the passenger seat. Except that would be occupied by Josh. Luckily, Scott is a good sport and offered to take some of the gear so Josh would not have to sit with it on his lap for the four hour ride from NJ to MD.
Oh, and why was Josh a passenger and not a driver? Was it because Josh drives a car that sucks for Autocross?
No, that is Scrounger‘s excuse.
Is it because Josh can’t read cones and is afraid he will DNF?
No, that is Zig’s excuse.
Is it because he flew in from Florida and has no vehicle?
No, Andy does that and just rents a Hertz V6 Camaro and drives it anyway, and devil take the rental agreement.
It was because Josh’s perfect-for-autocross Volkswagen GTI was overdue for an oil change and he didn’t want to risk damage.
Fine. We accept your excuse. Take your passenger seat and prepare to be our errand boy and valet for the rest of this trip.
For me the ride was a bit nerve wracking because I was technically still “at work” in the afternoon and had 2 hours of conference calls to take. I used Josh as my phone valet because there is no hands-free kit in the Lotus. He would dial the numbers and operate the mute button while I used a headset and kept two hands on the wheel. Still, the Lotus is a twitchy little beast on the highway, and microphone management sent us wobbling in our lane every once in a while.
we were fully fueled up from the start, so we only made one stop on 95 in Delawhere for caffeine (both in and out). At the same time we hit a spot of traffic which is torture on a roofless manual transmission no-compromises sports car. 20 minutes of stop-and-go had me cursing my decision not to cut the corner onto Route 13.
We arrived by 4:15 PM, greeted by Bing, Brenda, Kayla, SHelby, and Olive. Bing informed us that there was only one other potential SW Lite attendee: Carl Spackler, and we weren’t even confirmed on that. Fine. Who cares. Fewer whiners to bitch about the early start or the fact that we would have to drive cars fast.
Pizza was ordered and consumed with drink valet Josh’s newly created drink on Bing’s brand-new dock bar. BTW, the as-yet-unnamed drink is constructed thusly:
Yeah, that sounds kind of gurlie but it’s basically pure alcohol at about 75 proof. It drinks like a silk rope hangman’s noose. A few of those helped us agree on a respectable yet sane bedtime of midnite, with alarms set for 6:45 AM to allow a 7:15 departure for Easton.
In the morning we found that Carl Spackler was waiting for us in the driveway as we pulled on our pilotis and fireproof suits. So at least ONE other car maggot has some guts.
the following pictures courtesy of photo valet Josh:
Note the dude with the epic beard on the left… he was driving an MGB with a Chevy V8 motor, but he never once actually finished the course. He missed the last cone just before the right turn into the skidpad every single time. While we were walking the course he commented several times that he would never remember the proper path. I guess he was right on that!
Here are four of my five runs:
Run #1, with an instructor because of all the DNFs we witnessed during Heat One. I wanted to be abso-fucking-lutely sure I knew the course
Run #2, putting in the real speed
Third run, experimenting with the tricky upshift in the slow first box-turn
Fifth and final run
Full race results found here, in case you want to know who among us was fastest:
The racing was over by about 1:00 PM and we were hungry and thirsty, so we voted to accept Bing’s suggestion that we go to the “best Chili’s in the state” just down the street. To this I must note that the very concept of “best Chilis” of any type seemed weird, but it turns out that maybe this chain joint has gotten just a smidge better since the last time I set foot in one over 15 years ago.
After lunch I got ambitious and decided to rig the GoPro on the roof arch of my car and set it to time lapse mode. With shots spaced one second apart, the 30 minute drive back to Bing’s house should take just over a minute on video. This has always worked well as part or Mr. Furious‘ highlight reels from motorcycle trips, so I figured I’d give it a shot. But the car had been sitting in the sun for over an hour. And it is black. So it was hot, too hot to touch, and I felt the GoPro suction cup mount go kinda squishy as I affixed it to the car. This worried me enough to have me reach up and check that the camera was still in place every few minutes.
Like an old gypsy woman, my premonition was correct. About 15 minutes into the drive on Route 50 I reached up to check and found nothing but bare metal. FUUUUUUUUUuUuUuUuUuuuuuuuck! $300 of camera and mount were surely crushed on the road behind us. I had flashbacks to Mr. Furious earning his nickname on the ride back from Deal’s Gap in 2008. I was last in line behind Bing, Scott, and Carl, and I pulled over to the shoulder to decide whether I should circle back and look for the wreckage.
But Josh looked back first, and… Miracle of Miracles, the camera and suction cup mount had hooked themselves on the louvers of the Lotus’ engine cover! So I asked my camera retrieval valet to grab it toute de suite, which he did. This kind of thing could have ruined my SW, but instead I was giddy. But the Camera Gods were not to let me off that easily. It turns out that I hadn’t set the GoPro up correctly, and it was not in time lapse mode. It was in normal video mode, and I will post the final 20 seconds of the huge 15 minute file here, once I get a round tuit.
Surprisingly, I caught up with the rest of the SW crew in short order even in the heavy-ish Route 50 traffic. It’s good to have a small car that can zip in and out of traffic gaps. It’s also good for making left turns across highways with feet… no YARDS to spare before oncoming death. I really don’t see what all the fuss and horn blaring was about. Ignore Bing if he claims I did that with only inches of safety margin.
Since we were back by around 4:00 and there was nobody to bitch about it, we declared a 45 minute siesta and set smartphone alarms. After a refreshing power nap, we hit the Pontoon Boat to meet Brenda at the Redeye Dock Bar where she was holding a raffle for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society. I once again tried to set the camera up for time lapse to capture the boat ride, and once again it failed me.
Drinks… live music… sunset over Kent Island… really the best kind of finish to a day of racing.
Bing captained the pontoon boat back to his house and fed us home grilled wings, and we emptied bottles of rye and bourbon that I had left at his house on previous trips. And we burned the gifts of tobacco, sending aromatic smoke rings up to the Gods of Motorsports, who had smiled upon us well that day.
Sunday morning we got up fairly early again, around 7:00 for some of us. 8:00 for others. We were in no hurry, and somehow the discussion came to questions about the Alfa Romeo Giulia Quattrofoglio. Someone remembered that they had reviewed it on The Grand Tour, so we fired up Netflix and watched that episode on Bing’s massive 78-inch TV. After the show we were feeling peckish, so we fired up the pontoon boat again, collected Olive in her doggie life vest (she’s a sinker) and headed to The Jetty near Kent Narrows for Bloody Marys and brunch.
After boating back to Bing’s house, we bid farewell and headed for home ourselves. One last motorsports experience was listening to the NASCAR race being held in nearby Dover Speedway on the local country music station. The weather continued to be almost perfect, with only a small bit of drizzle hitting us around halfway up the NJ Turnpike. Josh was dropped off back at his apartment, and I made it home just after my wife & kids got back from a weekend at the Alpine Club (famed location of the Catskillcades).
If you were not there, you should be very jealous and have a heightened sense of FOMO for next time.
The biggest Cars & Croissants event of the year is the one hosted at Paul Miller Porsche in mid-Spring. I went there alone this year to take some pictures for your perusal. Note that at this point I barely bother to take pictures of Ferraris and Lamborghinis… there are just so many of them! And Porsches… there are several hundred 911 derivatives so only the most modified or unique are worth a picture.
Here they are:
The owner of this car was pretty friendly and willing to chat about his rare non-Federal Elise… until we saw contrails in the sky. Then he immediately went full tinfoil-hat crazy telling me about chemtrails. It was very awkward and difficult for me to escape. Proves that Lotus owners all have one form of mental problem or another 🙂
There was at least one more AMG GT, but I can’t find the picture I took
That’s all for now.
Picking up my brand new 2016 BMW R1200GS Triple Black at MAX BMW on 4th of July weekend. After selling my beloved Triumph Tiger 800XC, and taking a brief detour on a sport touring bike, I am back where I belong, on and adventure bike. Best bike I’ve ever owned! But then again they’ve all been the best bike I’ve ever owned, when I owned them 🙂
I was wrong. He got rid of it in three months.
Why? The Guzzi V7 is a great machine, but it’s only 55 HP… at the crank. Probably closer to 40 HP after the shaft drive takes it’s power tax. Furious needs triple-digit horsepower to be satisfied. Meanwhile, Konrad Urban put a crowbar to his wallet and bought a new BMW R1200GS, which made his Triumph Sprint redundant. Furious had rode on the Sprint and pronounced it Full of Goodness, but Furious also has no garage to keep two bikes.
Along comes Surrealchemist, with his freshly-minted motorcycle license. He was looking at the usual suspects – Suzuki SV650, Kawasaki EX500, maybe even a Ducati Monster 620. Knowing that he was in need of a forgiving bike but tempted by more enticing machines, Furious made Surrealchemist an offer he couldn’t refuse: $500 off the public asking price of the V7.
Test rides were taken
And so a deal was struck.
Clown rule number one was triggered.
The Ducati 916 was my dream bike when it came out. When it was introduced in 1994, it was unbelievable. The design alone was stunning, groundbreaking. It took the motorcycle world by storm and other manufacturers eventually copied it for their open class sportbikes. It was Massimo Tamburini’s magnum opus, and sealed his position as the greatest motorcycle designer in the world.
At the time the 916 was out of reach for me. It cost something like $17,000 in 1994, about twice what other liter bikes cost. Absolutely out of my reach. But I bided my time and in 2008 I acquired a 2001 996, and my dream bike was in my garage.
But as Spock said: “After a time, you may find that having is not so pleasing a thing after all as wanting. It is not logical, but it is often true.” What i found was that the 996 was exactly what the motorcycle press said it was: a pure track machine with a horrifically punishing riding position. Aggressive almost to the point of being useless on the street. It was my second bike, my garage sculpture that I took out on occasional Sundays for a half day ride (even though I did do a 1,500 mile long weekend tour on it… once).
Maybe I came to feel that it was becoming a bit too much of an object of art and less of a riding bike. But I planned to keep it, maybe forever, as an icon to the purest sportbike ever made.
And then Surrealchemist passed his MSF course and started looking for a bike, And i went to help him pick a model. And so I visited a used bike dealer. And they had my OTHER dream bike sitting there, in pristine condition. Right there on the floor was a 2010 Ducati Streetfighter S. Essentially a naked version of the Ducati 1098S, the direct descendant of the 916/996/998, but set up for street use rather than track use. This was one of the bikes that I fantasized in my ideal 5-bike garage. It too was prohibitively expensive when new ($18K for this “S” version), just not quite as bad as the original 916. Also, it had been discontinued for 2016, so now it was a potential endangered species.
The model in the used bike shop had 3,200 miles on it and not a scratch. The asking price was about $500 below the blue book value, and they made me a decent trade-in offer on the 996. And so I pulled the trigger on the trade.
And there it is, in my driveway, with my standard daughter for scale. Here are some of the details:
Carbon fiber EVERYTHING!
Brembo Radial Monobloc brakes. Currently the best brakes in the world.
Slim profile as only a Ducati twin can have. Note the bar-end mirrors, installed by the previous owner (the only mod he did).
Other items not shown:
I will be adding some of my own mods Real Soon Now. Look for further posts.
Konrad Urban. Thynk3r, Gary Miller, an I went for a jaunt through the black earth of Pine Island NY today. The theme was “show me yours and I’ll show you mine.” New bike, that is.
The Weather Gods had mercy on us.
I have a three day rule: Don’t start getting freaked out about the weather report for a motorcycle ride more than three days ahead of the event. The accuracy of the weather report is *still* not worth having a panic attack over until you get within the three day forecast timeframe.
With the ride planned for Friday, I looked on Tuesday… or I was going to when Bota beat me to it. The outlook was grim. 90% chance of rain Friday in NJ and MD. 20% on Saturday (small consolation), 80% on Sunnday. In other words: potential drenching on the days when we would have no choice but to do a 4 hour ride down and up. The “travel days,” where the motorcycling is potentially more of a chore than a joy. I am a bit weird in that I like the ride to and from the main event, as long as I am riding with friends. Especially the ride out. The anticipation builds and if things are right you are not in a hurry and can enjoy a simple ride. But if it is a monsoon, that sucks the fun out of it. Then it is a task that needs to be done to get you to the event, and I will deal with that, but it loses the magic.
Then again, this ride might have some maggot magic regardless of the weather. Mr. Furious had just acquired a Sena bluetooth helmet intercom, and he had convinced me to do the same. Konrad and Marcus already had them, and put them to good use a few years back on the Banjo Run. Later on we found that MJ and Thynk3r also had compatible units. So if the blurb on the box for my brand-spankin’-new Sena 20s was to be believed, we would be able to set up an intercom group between up to 8 riders!
I made sure my bike was fully packed and ready to roll on Thursday night. On Friday morning I would need to dial in to a meeting for work. I was on vacation, and I had a co-worker acting as my backup, but I’m a tool that way and I wanted to hear what was going on for at least the first few hours of the meeting. So I was ready to roll as soon as the maggots started arriving at my house.
First up was Marcus at 9:45. That was fifteen minutes early from the planned time. It had been raining hard all morning, but I was checking the weather radar. We were under a band of rain that was just about to peter out. After that was clear air out to Pittsburgh. More important, the next band of rain was a blobbly line running from the Southeast to the Northwest. My eyeball forecast told me that if we got into that rain gap, the further South we went, the further away the rain got. In other words, if we got moving SOON we could ride in a patch of dry weather!
I was starting to get antsy by 10:15, fearing that we would miss our gap. But Mr. Furious and Konrad showed up around 10:20 and so I calmed down. The plan might just work!
But the Equipment Gods were not going to let the Weather Gods show too much mercy. Just as he dismounted from his bike at the end of my driveway, Mr. Furious experienced a freak mishap: He dropped his helmet. Onto the pavement. Hard. Snapped off one of the visor retainer panels. Feck! He called for the box ‘o repair materials that he had given me as a gift last year, plus some packing tape. Jerry-rigged driveway repairs ensued and the visor was temporarily re-attached.and we were on our way. Next stop: Molly Pitcher Service Area on the NJ Turnpike, to meet Bota, Annie, MJ, and Thynker.
Before we even made it to the highway, mishap #2. At a traffic light (corner of E. Hanover Ave and Ridgedale), Konrad told me we had to pull in to the gas station. I vetoed that (wrong side of the street) and we pulled into the Agway. Mr. Furious had dropped his (prescription, transitions) glasses in the street. He and Konrad went back to search for them, while Marcus and I fiddled with the Sena headsets to set up communications. After maybe 20 minutes Konrad and Furious returned. The glasses had been found… crushed 🙁
Since we were there we took the time to set up the Senas for bike-to-bike intercom. Remember the promise that you could connect up to 8 headsets into an intercom group? We were never able to get more than 4. Pairing two was dead simple. Adding in a third also easy. Getting the 4th to connect? Well… we did it. Several times. But nobocy NOBODY could figure out what dance we did to get it to work. We would just tap in the first three, then everyone would randomly hit buttons until the 4th joined. Very frustrating. Maybe we should spend some quality time with the manuals but I suspect the issue is version compatiblity. Konrad and I were the only ones with the most recent 10s/20s models. Furious had a 10u which was a special one designed to integrate with Arai helmets. MJ and Marcus had older models, and Thynk3r was from another manufacturer. I have a sneaking suspicion that more than 4 headsets in an intercom group requires A) the latest firmware on all headsets, B) only recent Sena headsets, and C) a more complicated dance of buttons, since it is only the Sena 20s that supports that. The 20s has 2 full Bluetooth chipsets wired together, and apparently must act as the hub for 2 groups of 4 somehow.
Regardless, we departed once again, now about an hour late. Weather was holding at “overcast” but not raining.
With the communicators working, Furious called for a stop to make further helmet repairs. We were on Route 287 close enough to the NJ Turnpike that I asked if it could wait for 10 minutes. Furious said yes, so we stopped at the toll plaza at the entrance to the NJTP. Helmet communicators do indeed have a great deal of utility. Text messages were sent and received. If I recall, other maggots were already at Molly Pitcher and we were still more than 30 minutes away.
The stop lasted maybe 15 minutes while Furious adjusted his packing tape repair. We were off again and onto the Turnpike. The weather worsened slightly and we had some light drizzle. Not enough to harm us in our rain gear. Mr. Furious started his signature battle cry for this trip, shouting “PENIS” into the intercom whenever asked for a check in.
Bota, Annie, MJ, and Thynk3r were all waiting for us at Molly Pitcher. I started my tradition of blowing my stack for the weekend whenever someone asked me why we were late, or why we hadn’t left yet, or why we weren’t taking a different route. In fact, I was on edge for some reason the whole weekend. It did not take much to set me off. I blame work stress.
Most of the bikes in the group had large gas tanks, and we were slated to meet Scrounger about 60 miles away so only Marcus filled up at Molly Pitcher. So of course when we got on the road, ten minutes later Mr. Furious calls out that his reserve light just came on and we need to stop for gas.
The Moto Guzzi V7 Sport is a gorgeous bike. I love it. I respect it. I want to have sex with it. Mr. Furious is a FUCKING HERO for riding this beautiful Italian lady on a maggot ride. Dark grey with a fabulous red frame (not just ubiquitous Ferrari/Ducati Italian red… a deep rich red like arterial blood). The engine on the Guzzi is out and on display for everyone to see, and it is a mechanical sculpture representing purpose and simplicity. Did I say I love this bike?
Oh, it also has a tiny gas tank. From this point on Mr. Furious was careful to fill up whenever the opportunity presented itself, and there were no more low fuel lights.
But it did mean that we made another unscheduled stop at the next rest area. Those who had not fueled up at Molly Pitcher all did so here because… why not? Since the NJTP rest area gas stops are notoriously congested we ended up close to 90 minutes late at the end of the stop. Also, at this gas stop Bota asked if there was a Harley dealer nearby. My answer was A) Why are you asking me? B) There is ALWAYS a harley dealer nearby, and C) Okay, yes. I happen to know that there is Famous Mike’s HD in Newark DE right on our route. So a stop was planned. At the same time MJ asked what we were planning for dinner. Wut? Why do you ask? Because there is a BBQ joint near Famous Mike’s and she wants us to pick up food for tonight. I am watching my schedule sink rapidly to the bottom of the ocean, drowning.
At the end of the NJTP we lose track of Thynk3r. It is assumed that he has no EZPass. Knowing that EZPass is needed again in 5 miles to cross the Delaware Memorial Bridge, we use the helmet communicators to plan our stop. We pull over and wait for Thynk3r after the bridge tolls. It turns out that he thought that WE were behind him, and had stopped to wait for us. Another 15 minutes delay added to the schedule.
Famous Mike’s (now Rommel’s) HD is only 3 miles past the bridge. We pull in and Bota goes in to get… A snap chain for his leather vest. THAT’S the crucial part we had to stop for. To save time, MJ heads off to the Sunset BBQ and Crab house to place our order. By the time Bota is done, Thynk3r decides he needs fingerless gloves and just as we are getting ready to saddle up to join MJ he goes into the store.
How do you spell “conniption?” Is it “kenipschen?” Whatever it is, that’s what I have. We are now well past 2 hours behind schedule. Scrounger texted us that he got sick of waiting for us and went on to Bing’s. By the time I calm down enough to ride, Thynk3r is back out of the shop (no gloves purchased… never asked why but that problem got fixed later). We head over to meet MJ.
The Sunset BBQ and Crab Shack is indeed just over the overpass from the HD dealer. it’s also a garden center. From seeing the proprietors, I think it’s also a Blues Heritage Site. The place and the owners look like they belong in Mississippi. Or at least South Carolina. Which is to say it is a really heavyset black woman and her silent but friendly husband. MJ has ordered a few dozen crabs, a few racks of ribs, and some sides. The crabs take some time to steam, so we settle in and wait. While waiting, Konrad and I decide we also need pulled port after the woman behind the counter came out and gave us all samples. We ask for hot sauce, and she insists that we have to taste it before she will put it on the pork. Hah! I scoff. I have survived Tincture of Flashbang. No so-called “hot” sauce can bother me. But to humor her I taste it. HOLY SHEEP DIP! It’s not flashbang, but it’s too hot for general consumption. Mild sauce, please!
Schedule completely thrown to the wolves, our next problem is where to put all the food. Nobody expected to need to take on extra items, so everyone was pretty much void of extra luggage space. MJ was able to consolidate and clear one saddlebag, and I was able to squish my sleeping bag. Others did likewise and we fit the food.
Under ideal conditions we would have gone overland and found our way to Route 13 so as to save time and avoid the building Route 95 pre-rush hour traffic. But after getting directions from BBQ lady and the Blues Man, I decide discretion is the better part of valor and put the maggots back onto 95. The alternative route from the BBQ folks was too full of “turn Left at the building where the old Dairy Queen used to be.”
Did I mention the weather? Other than slight drizzle at Molly Pitcher we had no rain. Weather radar showed our gap between showers continued.
And so we made it to Bing’s by around 6 PM. About 3 hours later than planned. Bikes were parked. Rooms and couches were claimed (it was a BIG crowd, even for Bing’s house). Ccarl arrives. Bottles are cracked open. A crab & BBQ feast is laid out. Bing and Brenda’s new French Boxer dog (Olive) is adored and petted. You know, the usual.
The Weather Gods had smiled upon us. Probably because Mr. Furious made multiple sacrifices to the Gear Gods.
Bing was the voice of reason and forced us to bed by 12:30 AM. Unlike the normal maggot trip, we had a hard schedule to keep to on Saturday. We had to be at the LLS Charity ride by 8:30 AM, or else. So we had to be awake by 7. So beddy-bye for all.
…Only to be awaken at 7 AM by Bing blaring the full-house audio system. Yesyesyesyes Dad. I’m awake. I have a “level 3” hangover (moderate headache, mouth like a toxic waste landfill, but no nausea) which is taken care of with some Advil. We saddle up, get breakfast at the former Holly’s (now a boring Royal Farms gas station/convenience store with the worlds slowest service). Then we head to the Poker Run meetup site.
This is where we see the magic of Scrounger’s borrowed Polasis Slingshot in action. It draws an instant crowd wherever it parks. Custom Chopper? Nobody interested. Boss Hoss? (the former king of drawing a crowd) ignored. Wherever it goes, people ask to take PICTURES of it.
The Poker run? It’s a poker run on the Eastern Shore of MD. Which is to say the roads are straight but scenic. The weather is perfect in the morning. Cool, dry, partly cloudy. As part of a Poker Run we move at a… measured pace. Some maggots might complain that it was too sedate. I say that a motorcyclist should be able to enjoy the ride without an adrenaline hit sometimes.
There is a beer stop on the Chesapeake Bay at Noon. For the last 30 minutes leading up to that we are apparently riding in the middle of some major Triathlon. There are runners, bikers, and probably swimmers everywhere. Police directing things too. The Poker Run gets separated into two groups and mine ends up at the wrong bar. So we go off-road to cut across fields, through people’s back yards, and over tiny foot bridges to get to the right place.
It’s a good stop, right on the bay. I’d go here to hang out on a Saturday in the summer. Watched Cigarette boats pull in and fuel up. Pitchers of Fat Tire are shared. I have that and some kind of Shandy because I don’t want to get wrekt.
Then it is off to lunch which is at a marina on the C&D Canal. That was nice. But I’m getting tired of typing and making up shit.
The final stop on the Poker Run is The Jetty near Bing’s house. Another nice dock bar on the bay. By now there is live music and a big crowd. We have some traditional MD bay drinks (Orange and Lemon Crushes). Listen to music, and find out that Mr. Furious won the Poker Run raffle! A lesser man would say that this was righteous payback for all his gear troubles the day before. But Mr. Furious is by no means a normal man. Instead, he donates his winnings back to the LLS charity and adds ANOTHER few hundred dollars of his own. The rest of the maggots bask in the reflected glow of his magnanimity!
But the weather has changed. Normal people would say “for the better,” but 90 degrees and bright sunshine can be bad for people in ATGATT motorcycle gear. It’s getting uncomfortably hot and so the maggots want to head back to Bing’s to switch into shorts and drink.
Annie had different ideas. She wanted to go to the supermarket to get food to make for dinner (Annie demands the formalities be observed regarding the entertainment of a party of 12 bikers) and the liquor store for Bloody Mary and Sangria fixins. Since I know where the supermarket and liquor store are, I am drafted to lead. Also because Bota is… in a state. A state of dubious fitness to ride. Konrad and Furious come along because… reasons.
It quickly becomes clear that the reasons for Konrad and Furious coming along are insufficient. So they leave after a few minutes hanging out in the supermarket parking lot. Meanwhile Annie is stocking up and Bota is shopping like a 3 year old. He is grabbing random stuff and throwing it in the cart, which Annie has to put back. When they come out, Annie sees me all alone and has a minor freakout. Because she has a full banquet of food and was counting on 4 bikes for transport. My bike has full saddlebags BUT I had half of them filled up with gear from other Poker Run riders (rain gear, cameras, etc). We were so short of storage that Annie had to carry some bags in her arms on the ride back.
The rest of the evening is another great party night at Club Bing. The only abnormal event worth noting was the giant hissy fit that I threw. The less said about this, the better. Suffice to know that it involved me screaming “FUCK YOU” over and over, and stomping my way out on the porch to be alone and stew. But by the end of the night I had calmed down.
MJ and I win the “stayed up latest” award. For me, that award was also the “sleep on the small couch” award. Bing’s house was FULL. Bota and Annie in the bedroom with the full size bed. Scrounger and son Ben in the twin bed room, and MJ in the other bedroom. Konrad and Marcus on the full couches in the basement. Furious in the full couch in the office. Bota fell asleep early and claimed the big couch in the rec room (That’s MY coudh!). So I got one of the 4 foot couches. So did Thynk3r so I guess I shouldn’t complain.
I had nightmares because I looked at the weather report. 100% chance of rain on Sunday. Crap.
In the morning we got up and I checked the weather report. Still crap. Check radar… Hmmmm… There is another one of those gap-in-the-showers things. So we plan our travel around it. And I’ll be damned… it works again! Marcus left early, but Bota, Scrounger, MJ, Thynk3r, Konrad, Furious and me all head out at the same time. Maggots peel off as necessary to get to their own homes. But other than a slight mist on the Delaware Memorial Bridge, it is dry all the way to the last split off. I head on 287 while the NY/CT riders stay on the NJTP.
For my final leg, around Piscataway NJ (30 minutes from home) it turns foggy and cold. It had been hot and muggy at the last gas stop, but now it was zip-the-vents-closed chilly. And foggy, which sucks for keeping the vizor clear. Ten miles later it is pissing drizzle in the cold fog, which is a visibility nightmare on a motorcycle. It does that all the rest of the way home for me. A whole 20 more minutes 🙂