A new book and new tires

A new book and new tires
The Taesian Chronicles, paperback

In personal news, I recently published my trilogy of fantasy novels in a single paperback volume. It is entitled The Taesian Chronicles and is available for sale from Amazon.com or directly from me if you want an autographed copy.

In other news, I just put a new set of Shinko 011-Verge tires on my 2012 Suzuki GSX-R750. I got a little over 6,000 miles on the previous set. Their chicken strips were less than 1/4″ wide and the wear pattern was very uniform and round; no squared-off center strip at all. I am very impressed with the Shinko’s.

As the previous set lost tread, their traction degraded gradually. I backed it into a few corners and was impressed with how gracefully it happened. There were no sudden losses of traction or pucker moments.

When I got the new set put on, and properly broken in, I was amazed at how much grip the new tires have. I’ve been focusing on building up my skills in fast cornering situations, and despite increasing my cornering speed, the tires have responded reliably and with great confidence. It’s as if the Shinkos are saying, “Is that all you got? Bring it, Rossi-wannabe! We can handle a lot more!”

I’ve had several fast runs to Detroit lately, and have really upped my riding game. I still have a ways to go, however, and am always working to improve my skills.

320 miles on a GSX-R750

I seldom need an excuse to ride a motorcycle, but having a specific destination can provide the motivation to tackle a tougher route or longer duration than would otherwise be the norm. Last weekend was a good example of this.

My good buddy, Mike, recently moved to Albany and wanted me to visit him at his new home. I was already planning on taking the Gixxer for a spin, so I decided to give my ride a destination. Of course, I wasn’t just going to buzz down I-5 (ick!) and back. I chose the long way ’round.

I left Gresham at 9 AM and rode due south to Deep Creek Road, which connected to Highway 211 just west of Barton. I followed 211 east into Estacada and veered left onto Highway 224 and familiar ground. There were numerous rafters on the Clackamas River and many cars headed in both directions between Estacada and Ripplebrook Ranger Station.

I stopped at the ranger station for a quick bio break, then headed south on NF46. I rode to Detroit without stopping, and maintained a spirited yet controlled pace. The temperature was warming up and by the time I got to Detroit it was already in the upper 70s. I ate a snack, filled up my tank with ethanol-free premium, and turned west on Highway 22.

This stretch of road, from Stayton, up over the Cascades to Sisters and Redmond, is busy and this warm late Spring day was no exception. I had to pass several slower cars, but kept my speed moderated for safety and economic sake — tickets are expensive.

In Mehama, I crossed the Santiam River into the the community of Lyons. It was my first time in that tiny town. Highway 226 west was my new route and I was impressed with how lush it was. This is a beautiful drive, and it exemplifies the beauty of western Oregon. The next town I came to was Scio. I continued south then west again on 226, past the community of Crabtree, and into Albany.

I got turned around in Albany and had to backtrack a few blocks to get onto the correct street to Mike’s house. I don’t have a GPS on my Gixxer and on the ride back I spent some time wondering where I could mount one in the cramped dash space of the sport bike.

Mike and I drove in his car to a nearby brewpub for burgers and BLTs and ice water. We were the only customers until a middle-aged guy showed up solo on his Harley-Davidson. He ordered a beer and Mike and I talked behind his back at how foolish we think drinking and riding is. That guy has his freedom to do what he chooses, of course, including the freedom to make poor choices.

I decided to backtrack the way I came, so I said my goodbyes to Mike and made it back onto 226 east bound. The weather had warmed up into the low 80s and was a bit muggy. The armpit and back vents on my Aerostich Roadcrafter did a surprising job of helping me stay relatively cool. I stopped for gas again in Detroit, before heading north on NF46.

There were many motorcyclists heading toward me and the waves were enthusiastic on both sides at how great of a day it was to ride. When I stopped in Ripplebrook for another bio break and to chug more water, there were a half dozen other riders doing the same thing. I saw a couple of Forest Service law enforcement vehicles parked at a boat launch on the way back on 224 into Estacada, but they paid me no mind.

I got back into Gresham at 4:20 in the afternoon, after riding 320 miles. I was hot, thirsty, and my helmet — which I had already cleaned three times during the day — was covered in bugs. The front of my Gixxer was even worse. It needs a thorough cleaning.

Highway 224 to Ripplebrook is open

On Saturday I went for a Gixxer ride and discovered the roadblock on Highway 224 just east of Estacada has been lifted. It was in place since late September of last year due to landslides after the 36 Pit Fire near Memaloose Bridge.

I rode up to Ripplebrook Ranger Station and noticed that the road was in normal condition, with rocks on the pavement in only two spots — which is typical for that highway. There was a sign in Estacada just as you leave town and head up 224 that said the road to Detroit was closed due to snow. They lie like a rug. Unless we get a freak low-elevation snow storm, it should be snow-free for the remainder of the season.

At Ripplebrook, I headed south on NF46. Again, the road condition was fine and normal and suffered no damage over the anemic winter.

I was in for a shock when I got to Detroit. The lake level is normally full this time of year, but instead the northeast reach, fed by the Breitenbush River, was at a record low. The docks were high and dry and only a 10′ wide creek flowed at the bottom of the lake channel. In the half dozen years I’ve been riding to Detroit, I’ve never seen the water that low, even late in the season.

I gassed up, ate a snack, and headed back. Despite not riding that route since last year, I still have the route and curves memorized. My bike and I were in the zone and it was a flowing, fast ride. There were many other riders on the route, too, so people were taking advantage of the road opening.

Writing instead of Riding

Lately I’ve been pushing to finish my second book, Ohlen’s Bane, the sequel to Ohlen’s Arrow. My goal is to get it published and available for purchase by Thanksgiving. Because of this, I haven’t had many opportunities to ride lately. To further complicate matters, highway 224 between Estacada and Ripplebrook Ranger Station has been closed because of the 36 Pit Fire back in September. It burned on both sides of the highway and ODOT is concerned about landslides. This effectively eliminated rides to Detroit as a possibility.

Speaking of landslides, there was a bad one on 224 recently, further complicating matters. It is possible 224 won’t be available for riders like me until spring of next year.

In the meantime, I have been taking short maintenance rides on both my V-Strom 650 and GSX-R750 just to keep them running. Having my bikes stabled in a storage unit a half mile from my apartment makes it that much more of a hassle to hop on and go for a ride.

$8.90 in Detroit

Over the holiday weekend I rode each of my bikes to Detroit and back, the V-Strom on Friday and the Gixxer on Saturday. There were a lot of vehicles on the road and a fair number of bikes as well, and Detroit itself was hopping.

Something interesting happened. I gassed up my V-Strom on regular unleaded at the small store in Detroit on Friday and paid $8.90 for the fuel bill. On Saturday I rode my Gixxer to Detroit and filled up the tank on premium unleaded. The bill?

$8.90.