GTR 2015, Macon, Georgia

Note: As photos from GTR begin to appear we will update accordingly.  Our apologies for the thin collection of organic photos from our own camera…

THURSDAY:

We were on the fence several times with regard to this year’s Georgia Tandem Rally for a number of reasons, but when May 21st rolled around the truck was loaded with the tandem in the bed and the triplet on top.

However, I had a small crisis at the house before we left involving a motorcycle with delicate parts that fell-over after being parked a bit off-center in a wheel chock resulting in an unusual amount of damage to the aforementioned delicate parts. The idiot who is to blame appears in my mirror every morning: doh! Adding insult to injury, given how the bike fell and noting that fuel was spilling out of the just topped-off tank, I had to use an unusual technique to stand the 600 lb beast up which caused something in my back to “crack” at one point: yes, it was a gift that kept on giving throughout the weekend.

Despite the back pain, I was able to load the triplet on the truck as noted above and we hit the road at 7:00pm sharp after having dinner at home. The hope was we’d miss the afternoon rush hour traffic going through and south of Atlanta. We had a brief delay about 20 minutes from home due to an accident in I75 south in Marietta and then hit another traffic delay in Atlanta where I75 and I85 merge, but generally made good time and arrived in Macon shortly after 9:00pm. Of course, we both noted that we enjoyed making the trip from Atlanta to Macon more on the motorcycle than we did in the truck: just something about being on a bike!

marriottAs we arrived at the hotel we began to see tandem friends coming back from the 7:00pm to 9:30pm social that was held at The Mill in Macon. After getting settled into our room we returned to the lobby / lobby bar to greet more friends, our riding partner for the weekend, Lisa, and have a night-cap with Stephanie & Denny before heading up for the night.

FRIDAY:

The day began with breakfast in a conference room set aside for the tandem rally with it’s own buffet line. The buffet left a bit to be desired for our tastes and pre-ride needs: no meat, very few carb-rich items aside from cereal and sweet breads, and the center piece — hard scrambled eggs — that  just didn’t rock our world. We both made do with the scrambled eggs topped with cheddar cheese and catsup as well as some of the breads.  Oh well, some hotels do better than others, especially when trying to come up with the right choices for cyclists with a wide variety of eating preferences.

Photo by Jeff Sammons

Photo by Jeff Sammons

The ride was a remote start 18 miles from the hotel out in Tripp County. It was an easy drive to the starting point at the Old Marion Baptist Church. After sorting out the triplet’s setups for Debbie and Lisa we rolled up to the rider’s meeting and were off shortly there after.

Friday’s route was billed as the flattest of the three days and it was a great route. Like most triplets, quads and quints, our triplet did a little complaining with drive train noises that didn’t exist the last time we rode it and that eluded diagnosis. Early in the ride it also threw the chain into the granny ring on a hard-to-execute shift from the big to the middle chain ring (most likely being held-up by mega-stoker power) that put us off the side of the road for a few minutes. We quickly made up lost time with a brisk bridge back to our group. True to form, the aforementioned noises disappeared throughout the day such that by the end of the ride the bike was pretty quiet.

Screen Shot 2015-05-24 at 2.39.19 PMWe opted to do the 51-mile route given it was billed as having only 1,600’ of climbing. We spent most of our time riding with our friends Eric & Linda and a number of other long-time friends from previous Georgia & Southern Tandem Rallies, often times with a different mix throughout the day. I think we may have over stayed at the first store stop and ended up riding with just Linda & Eric until we hit the second store stop across from the Twigg County Court House where we found most of our riding companions from earlier in the day. I’m pretty sure Debbie was gassed on the last two climbs coming into the second store stop and she confirmed that her legs had turned to rubber once we arrived at the store. We made some adjustments to her saddle – a new Selle Anatomica Titanico – which for some reason had lost tension and was sagging at least a ½ “ lower than it should have been to give Debbie the proper riding position.

lee_eddiesAfter finishing our ride the five of us – me, Debbie, Lisa along with Eric and Linda – headed to lunch at Lou & Eddies BBQ in downtown Macon, a division of and adjacent to the Cherry Street Bike Show. Wow, what a great place. The BBQ was tender and moist, the sauce was a delicious South Carolina mustard sauce that was as good or better than anything like it I’ve ever had. Then there was the shop, which was as much of a museum dedicated to 70’s – 90’s era European racing bikes.

20150522_134736The owner, Damon Allen, served up our pulled pork sandwiches and then gave me a wonderful tour of the shop. Damon and his wife clearly have put their heart and soul into the shop and BBQ restaurant that has a bittersweet history. You can read about it here: http://www.macon.com/2015/05/11/3744448/the-story-of-lee-and-eddies-bbq.html

bikestorageAfter lunch we headed back to the Marriott to cleanup and relax a bit before heading off in search of dinner. We socialized with friends in the lobby and the hospitality suite that doubled as Ric & Marcia Becker’s “House of Tandems East” tandem shop, as they had an endless line of tandems that were in need of their attention or new wheels. It was a nice, relaxing afternoon.

doughboybgFor dinner, our group of 18 headed down to Doughboy’s Pizza on Cherry Street. We were split into a table for 10 and another for 8, but that worked out fine. We had time to catch up with Christian & Ryan, which was really nice, and polished off a little Caesar salad and a couple of slices of pizza: it’s so nice to find a place that sells pizza by the slice! Debbie had the lasagna and I had the buffalo: yummy!

After dinner and on our way to the ice cream social at the Douglas Theater we ran into Ric & Marcia who were having dinner on the patio at the Market City Café. It looks like a great place and one that we’d like to visit.

douglassThe ice cream social was nice and the theater was interesting. The special showing of a video history of the Douglass called, “They Played the Douglass” with still photos and video that captured some of the entertainers who performed at the Douglass from the 1920’s to 1972 was a wonderful blast from the past with greats like Cab Callaway, Duke Ellington, Little Richard, James Brown, etc.  It was somewhat curious that the introduction still photo showed the Macon Opera House with its three distinctive boxes flanking the stage, whereas the Douglass only has two on each flank.

We retired to the Marriott for the evening where we once again visited with friends in the lobby and spent some time keeping company with Ric & Marcia who ended up working on tandems until 12:30am; yikes! Talk about going above and beyond the call of duty.

ric_marciaFor those who aren’t aware, Ric and Marcia attend these rallies on their own dime and donate their time and talents to support riders at the event. Yes, they do a little business – selling wheels and parts as needed to bring tandems that have fallen into mechanical distress back to their full potential – but do a ton of pro-bono work, often times when it’s really not pro-bono, i.e., hey folks, if they put a new tube in your tire out on the road, you really should be paying for at least the tube! Seriously, I think some folks who attend the rallies assume that Ric & Marcia have been brought in by the organizers and are somehow compensated for their efforts. Uh, no… that’s not how it works. So, next time you see them at a rally say thanks! If they fix your tandem, ask ‘em, “How much do we owe you?” or if nothing else, by them a cocktail or perhaps dinner if they’ve make your weekend possible by an unplanned overhaul of your tandem.

SATURDAY:

After seeing that breakfast was basically the same as Friday – albeit with some fresh fruit added – we opted to visit the Marriott’s restaurant. Debbie did the buffet with a nice assortment of egg specialties, bacon, grits, fruit and breads and I had a wonderful stack of buttermilk pancakes with sausage. It definitely hit the spot and gave us the kids of calories we were in need of. The wait staff was also really a pleasure, which is what we found of everyone who worked at the Marriott or in the businesses we visited in Macon. Really, they were just the nicest folks who really understood customer service and Southern hospitality.

Today’s ride would start at the Marriott and be led out by the Bibb County Sheriffs and Macon Police; they did a great job of shepherding us through the city to the more rural roads where traffic was no longer an issue. The ride out-of-town had a bit of climbing to it; something we’d get to enjoy throughout the day.

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Photo by Christen Hunter and, yes, I blurred out the GoPro camera mounted on my helmet.

My original plan for the day was a 39-mile ride with about 2,000’ of climbing, just based on how we rode on Friday. However, somewhere along the way Miss Debbie got it in her mind that we needed to join our friends for the 52-mile ride with 2,500’ of climbing. As we hit the 15-mile point where the 39 & 52 mile routes split off from each other I suggested that I didn’t “feel a 52-mile ride” in the triplet during the first 15 miles and recommended the 39-mile. However, I was overruled. I predicted that it would be an “I told you so” ride as we pressed ahead on the 52.

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No doubt, Bibb & Twigg Counties were great places to ride; just lovely roads many covered by trees through lightly traveled roads. We had very few if any motorists that gave us any concern, notwithstanding one Chevy Silverado that blasted by us on a two-lane road a bit too fast to be prudent. The store stops were a long time in coming and very much-needed by the time we got there.

We captured Saturday’s ride on one of two GoPro cameras, noting that I may have  inadvertently wiped the video off one of the cameras before verifying that it downloaded correctly.  However, we were saved in that Linda Wood & Eric Osgood shared the video they shot with their GoPro off the front of their tandem.  So, between their footage and ours, I was able to come up with a one-minute and 43 second-long collection of clips that gives viewers a pretty good idea of what Saturday’s ride looked like.  As a bonus for us, Linda & Eric’s camera caught us riding from a 3rd person perspective, something we’ve not seen except in still photos:

However, and as I feared, we had to throttle way back around 44-miles into the ride and make our way into town at a touring pace. Saddle fatigue, some nasty sore spots and the heat and combined to wear down my sweetie and our ride was bordering on “not fun” for a short while. The touring pace did a lot to help with some recovery, as did the generally downhill nature of the last 6 miles that put us into downtown Macon on Cherry Street as our final home stretch to the Georgia Sports Hall of Fame where the catered lunch was being served.

20150523_123129After rolling up to the Hall of Fame and taking a look inside at the buffet offerings and indoor seating, we decided that it was just too nice of a day to not take advantage of the patio at Market City Café so we hopped back on the triplet and rode the three blocks back west to the Café; it was the right call!

20150523_124753We had a nice table for three in the shade on the patio where a wonderful breeze was blowing. Our hostess server did a great job of getting us watered and fed and the food was wonderful! I had a California burger and Caesar salad that I washed down with some beer, Debbie had tuna salad on fresh bakery croissants with fresh-made chips, and Lisa had a lovely Asian salad. Again, it was just too nice of a day not to be outside and Macon truly is blessed with a lot of great restaurants.

We had a somewhat subdued afternoon back at the Marriott. Debbie’s tookus had a couple of nasty abrasions and a pulled muscle in her left leg so a visit to the whirlpool bath was a must. I did a little editing of the GoPro videos while she soaked, unfortunately somewhere along the way I lost all of the data from one of the cameras: that’ll teach me to do editing next to a pool instead of a more quiet place with fewer distractions, i.e., I’m always distracted by my sweetie: can’t take my eyes off of her!!!

We cleaned up and then headed down to the lobby to visit with friends a bit before the Saturday evening banquet at the adjacent convention center. It really is a nice when the host hotel and banquet facilities are within walking distance!   We had a great time visiting with long-time friends Ron & Shari, Heidi, Margaret and others before taking the short walk – all indoors – to the banquet room. We shared out table with Denny & Stephanie, Ryan & Christian and another couple whose names escape me: very nice folks to be sure. The meal offerings – themed around Tuscany – were outstanding. Some of the presentations were a bit odd, such as the Caesar and pasta salads being served in Martini glasses: really? But, the quality and selection of foods was outstanding, a great meal!

We were pretty tired and didn’t spend much time socializing back in the hotel lobby bar before heading up to bed around 9:30… 9:30, really!   Yeah, I knew that would be trouble as I only sleep about 4 hours a night. Sure enough, I was wide awake by 12:30 and saw the clock click-through 2am, 3am, 4am and 5am before finally giving in and getting up around 6am.

SUNDAY:

Given how “chewed-up” Debbie’s saddle contact points were, there was no way that she’d be able to ride today. So, I had two options:

  • Set up the tandem for Lisa and leave Debbie back at the hotel to relax while we did the Sunday ride, something we did last fall at the Southern Tandem Rally in Columbus, Georgia.
  • Find out if Eric and Linda might be interested in teaming up with Lisa on her Mango triplet for Sunday, noting they’d ridden together on Thursday and would be doing so again on Monday.

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After talking through the options at the breakfast room, putting Lisa with Eric & Linda seemed like the best choice. Debbie really needed to get back home where she could truly relax and tend to her sore bits.

With the days riding partnerships sorted out, we opted to head for the hills before the riders went out with the mass start. We had the truck loaded and were on the road by 7:45am that put us home by 9:30am.

Again, it was the right call.

POST SCRIPT:

If you thought my write-up was a bit lacking compared to others, you’re not imagining things. This was a very strange-feeling Georgia Tandem Rally for us. We normally can relax and decompress at tandem rallies, but I believe we may have had a few too many mental distractions to ever “get in the zone” for this weekend.

We’re both struggling with a decision on when to make a major lifestyle change, Debbie has a close family member who is in hospice care which has been weighing heavy on her mind for the past two weeks, and as noted in the intro to this blog I hurt my back on Thursday afternoon after finding a motorcycle on its side in our garage with some expensive parts damaged. While I tried to wear my best game face and treat the pain with Advil, my back was killing me all weekend long… and still is.

Our time on the tandem has also been far less than we’d like over the past year, a continuing trend. Between bad weather, other demands for our time and our motorcycling hobby, we’re just not getting in the miles that we need do, and when we do get in miles they’re not high-quality workouts, just fitness rides. The less than stellar cycling fitness and stress combined to create a few rare moments of tension between Debbie and me as well. Add to all of that her saddle sores and, well, it just wasn’t a great weekend for us.

Being back at home early today was a very good thing for us, as being “back on home turf” and able to fall back into some familiar routines served us well. It’s also really a blessing that we will have one more day to compose ourselves and recover before facing work on Tuesday.

But, in retrospect, it was great getting out on the tandem (er, triplet) with Lisa and all of our tandem cycling friends. Those are always great times. So, looking forward, we’ll make a point of getting more miles under our belt and may begin to look to the local bicycle charity rides as an outlet for cycling. After all, early on when we were at our best it was chasing the single bikes at local cycling events that kept us working hard all the time. Riding alone and at the occasional tandem group ride just doesn’t work to fill that void.

In closing, we would be remiss if we didn’t thank our long-time friends and co-organizers of the Georgia Tandem Rally, Roger Strauss & Eve Kofsky. Year-after-Year since 1999 they have endeavored to provide tandem enthusiasts with “the perfect tandem rally,” covering all of the bases from catered meals, to local eating tips, porta-potty’s for stops that don’t have adequate facilities, and on-and-on.  They truly outdo themselves every year and this year was no exception.  Macon, who knew!?  We really didn’t get to experience downtown Macon when we first visited in 2011 and were blown away by all that the city has to offer.  The riding was exceptional, the residents were bike-friendly and when you factor in beautiful weather it made for an exceptional weekend.

Posted in Events, Tandem Folks, Tandem Rallies | 2 Comments

Wow, What a Week That Was!

We had a bit of a whirlwind week that bears some documentation, if only so I can one day read this after my memory begins to fail.  After all, that’s really why we do these blogs, as a back-up copy of our memories!  No, really… you’d be amazed how often I go back to find out where we went, who we were with, etc. when I’m a little bit fuzzy on the details or even when something occurred.

Anyway, this past week was one of those weeks that really does require a little documentation as it was jam-packed with highlights.  It all began last weekend:

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Friday, May 8th:  Every other Friday Debbie and I meet for lunch at the Red Eye Mule and the 8th was no exception. However, what cracked my sweetie up in this photo was her realization after sitting with me for 10 minutes that I was clean-shaven again.  Yeah, I’m guessing I’ve been struggling a bit with managing the appearance I’d like to have with the one my employer expects me to have.  I pushed the boundaries for two years with hair down past my collar and a bushy goatee.  But, more recently went high & tight + clean-shaven.  Of course, as soon as I’d cut my hair I wished I hadn’t so I’ve had a few fits and starts with the facial hair.  So, over the course of two to three weeks I’d gone from fuzzy to spit-polished. As I write, I’m headed back to fuzzy… fuzzy is good.  The clean-cut corporate look might give folks the wrong idea!

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The rest of Friday was consumed by “stuff at the house” plus a nice ride on the Wide Glide (yes, I still have it) and then ‘Finally a Friday’ at Loco Willy’s with Miss Debbie and our friends David & Deb.

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20150509_171427Saturday, May 9th:
We started off the day thinking that it was “our day” where we could do whatever we wanted. So, the first thing we did was to go out for a nice ride on the tandem.  Without the tailwinds that we were treated to a few weeks back — going out and coming back — our average speed was more in line with our usual expectation for the relatively low number of miles we’ve been racking up.  Once we returned home Debbie figured out that she’d gotten the dates for our granddaughters piano recitals confused with another weekend (which almost caused us to cancel out on the Georgia Tandem Rally) and we had to do a quick-turn-around at the house to get ourselves up to Reinhardt College for the recital.

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Of course, being with the family for the recital also meant that Nama got to have some quality time with Wesley & Julie’s little-one, Vivian Rose.  It’s amazing how the right stimulus can bring us back from the brink of exhaustion, noting that neither of us had eaten lunch after our tandem ride and were in dire need of sustenance.

After getting back home we changed clothes and headed off to dinner at Loco Willy’s and followed that up with a movie: The Avengers: Age of Ultron.  We’re both huge fans of the Marvel Studios productions, but both of the Avengers movies have struck us as a bit too ambitious. I personally believe they’ve figured out how to make sure as many Marvel fans go back and see the movie again to pump up box office receipts because there’s no way to catch everything that’s going on in these movies in just one viewing.  Once you know the storyline you can pay more attention to the lines and other things going on in the background which makes the movie a bit different on a second viewing.  Anyway, we’ll wait until it comes out on Blue Ray to watch it again.

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tandem2Sunday, May 10th:  We started off with a quiet morning around the house doing that ‘weekend stuff”.   We planned to meet Wesley & the three granddaughters for lunch around 11:30am at Loco Willy’s.  After confirming that they opened at 11:00am per their Facebook page, and given how nice the weather was, we hopped on Blue for the ride over.  Imagine our surprise when we arrived to what appeared to be a very much still not open Loco’s.  We stuck our heads in the door and saw Christian behind the bar who informed us that they didn’t really open until 12:00 / 12:30.  Whoops!  We sent a note off to Rex who manages their social media suggesting an update to the hours of operation for Sunday were in order, and then redirected Wesley and the girls to Olde Towne Grille who we knew would be open.

20150510_114929We decided to sit outside on the patio since it was a bit too early for the smokers to be out having lunch so that we could enjoy the fresh air and sunshine.  Debbie loves being with her little granddaughters and had a great time helping Caroline & Charlotte with their project books and coddling Vivian for a while.

After lunch we headed back home to enjoy Mother’s Day afternoon with a tandem ride that I covered in detail in a previous blog entry, so no need to revisit that: just watch the video!

We got back on Blue for a return ride over to Loco Willy’s in the late afternoon for our weekly wing fix and ran into our friend Gator: always a pleasure to visit with him.  There’s a guy who either needs to write a book or be the subject of a biography.

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Monday, May 11th & Tuesday, May 12th:  Work days and nothing special about that; however, I should probably note that Debbie’s dad has been waging a battle with health issues for a few years and is now receiving hospice care at home.  So, Debbie has been spending time visiting with her dad.  It’s put a lot of stress on her, both physical and emotional… which is true of the entire family.  We’re scheduled to attend the Georgia Tandem Rally next Thursday through Sunday; however, that’s all subject to change if her dad should happen to make his transition to whatever’s next between now and then.  Yes, life is filled with all kinds of challenges. We try to take them all in stride and give them the proper context.

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ArthurMurray_horilogo_darkWednesday, May 13th: Wednesday was special because it was our 2nd scheduled dance lesson at Arthur Murray’s in Kennesaw.  Our instructor last week had been Mr. Edwards who had us brush up on the rumba & waltz that we’d learned in our introductory lesson and he then introduced us to the swing dance steps.   So, on Wednesday Mr. Q had us do a few rumba & waltz steps to see if we had committed them to memory — we did pretty good — and then he introduced us to some new turns with the swing dances.  I struggled a bit as I’m more of a visual learner and just couldn’t seem to make the connections between what I was seeing and trying to do: I was trying to add steps where they didn’t exist.  All-in-all, we learned a lot — although we’re still robot dancing — and had a good time keeping it lighthearted but still learning.

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Thursday, May 14th: The Geek turned 55 today!  My co-workers were kind enough to surprise me with a birthday celebration in the afternoon that I almost derailed when I had to run off and get my cell phone fixed.  Thankfully, I was only gone an hour which left a few minutes between meetings to slip in the surprise, some cake and a little social banter before diving back into work.

Debbie had asked me what I wanted to do to celebrate and my druthers were a nice dinner for two vs. having the entire family around, etc.  As for where to go, I offered up Capers, Henry’s, Aspens and Fish Thyme and we decided to give Fish Thyme a second try because Debbie saw where they offered charbroiled oysters on Thursday nights!  Sadly, the chef had to go over to their other restaurant (Capers) so no oysters!  However, the ahi tuna & crab stuffed salmon that we had instead were excellent!  It wasn’t as quiet as we’d hoped (probably need to stick to Capers for quiet), but it was just so nice having dinner at a table across from my sweetie!

We’ll do dinner with the family at some other time in the future, as the weekend ahead was already booked and we’ll be out-of-town the following weekend.

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f851031113839ed8baabc87ceed5c455Friday, May 15th: Friday was a normal Friday right up and until we hit the front door at Loco Willy’s for our usual Finally a Friday / Fajita Friday celebration.  I had a pretty good idea that Debbie was up to something, but wasn’t sure what she had planned: lots of text messages (and she rarely texts), phone calls made from upstairs, etc…  Hey, it doesn’t take a federal agent to figure out when someone’s making plans and, well, I was a federal agent so it’s all pretty obvious.  Of course, when I got home and saw what she was planning to wear — a killer dress with killer high heel shoes — it was clear that we’d be doing something special at some point that night.  My guess was, we’d do dinner at Loco’s and then she’d suggest going over to Jimmy Mac’s where friends were already celebrating another birthday for Robyn, one of the gals who took care of our needs on Friday nights, or perhaps to Brewsters, where most of our motorcycling friends congregated on Friday nights.

Loco’s was packed when we arrived and I was anxiously surveying the bar to see where our friends David & Deb were sitting in the hope that they’d been able save seats for us.  As I kept scanning the bar David finally caught my eye and pointed down to a table where our friends Ryan, Chuck & Kim were seated along with David’s wife Deb: you could have knocked me over with a feather, as I was truly surprised.  I was also a bit peeved since I don’t like surprises, especially when they disrupt my routine!  I also don’t like sitting at tables when we go to Loco’s because it takes too long to get served and, well, other things tend to get screwed-up.  However, the gal taking care of us got up to speed, got me my soft drink and side-car and I finally started to relax and other friends kept arriving.  I think we had 11 at the table by the time all was said and done: Jeff & Sharon and Bobby & Carrie Ann rounded out the crew.  Kim, Chuck & Ryan were all stag, which made for a lot of fun at our end of the table.  Given how chaotic things were I decided to pick up the tab for everyone — hey, it’s my birthday and that means I get to do what I want — and that made getting checked-out very easy for all concerned.  Out next destination was Brewsters.

David & Deb rode along with us in the truck and we carved out our own piece of real estate near the back of the place and had a good time listening to the live music and enjoying each other’s company until around 11:00pm.  Nothing all that obnoxious; I drank a ton of Diet Coke and sipped on a single shot of Patron and Debbie nursed a Fireball shot: pretty sure that was the smallest tab we ever had at Brewsters!  Debbie signaled it was time to leave since she had to be up at her folks house by 8:30 so we headed off before Ryan arrived with Jeanette who he’d had to go to the airport to collect.

It was a great evening and I’m ever thankful for our friends taking time out to help celebrate!  And, of course, a huge thank you to my sweetie for pulling it all together!

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Saturday, May 16th:  As mentioned, Debbie had to be up early so she could go and visit with her dad while her mother went and had her hair done on Saturday morning.  I spent most of the day working around the house: bleached & power washed the porch columns and other “white” trim, power washed the breezeway and veranda furniture, walls, rugs, etc., to flush away the pollen that had been collecting all spring and then hit the yard: trimming hedges and cutting the lawn before calling it a day.

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Debbie had been signed-up to sit with the grandkids from 3:30 until midnight while the kids hosted a retirement party for Julie’s mother. So, I was going strong doing much-needed yard work up and until 7:00pm.  I did my best to stay awake until Debbie came home just so she’d have someone to come home to: it had been a long day for my sweetie.

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Sadly, where I really wanted to be most of the afternoon and evening was the Shaky Boots Country Music festival at Kennesaw State University’s Soccer Stadium.  Most of our motorcycling friends were there and, well, it was honky-tonk music to the max. Yeah, no wooden floors to dance on, but good friends & good music make for a good time.  Maybe next year!  It was a two-day festival, but Sunday would also be a non-starter since Debbie would be in recovery mode most of the day while I did pull-ahead honey-dos to get us ready for being out-of-town from the coming Thursday through Sunday.

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20150517_092519Sunday, May 17th: Priority #1 for Sunday was a tandem ride, since Saturday had been a bust due to other commitments. We targeted 9:00am for our ride start, but were keeping an eye on the weather as local radar suggested rain squalls were popping up all around us. Sure enough, about the same time that Debbie came down ready to ride the skies opened up for a good 20 minutes.  However, looking at the radar and the sky seemed to suggest that while the roads might be wet for the next hour or so, the skies would open back up and give us some sun.

With that being our biggest opportunity, I quickly threw-on the mud guards so that we’d be able to ride on the rain-soaked roads without getting soaked or covered with road grime: gotta love the SKS quick release mud guards!

20150517_101456We were able to enjoy a nice 25-mile / 1+ hour ride with lots of blue skies and increasingly dry roads, which made it all worthwhile.  I’d also rotated the timing rings front to back / back to front on the Calfee and that eliminated the lingering chain noise I’d mentioned in some prior blog entries.

mark@debbieAfter finishing our ride we jumped on Blue and rode over to Loco Willy’s for our weekly hot wing fix.  I’d stashed the rain gear in the saddlebags as the weather forecast called for more showers in the early afternoon.  The wings were hot and the drinks frozen, so it was a good lunch date to be sure.  After lunch we headed over to see if we couldn’t catch our friend Doc at the new Indian Motorcycle dealership in Marietta.

The new Indian dealership had moved into the store space just vacated by Atlanta BMW Ducati, a place where I’d spent way too much time and money over the past five years.  Doc wasn’t on hand, but his buddy and former co-worker at the local H-D dealer who had also come over to Indian was on hand and showed us around the fairly sparse showroom and back shops.  It was hard to believe it was the same space formerly occupied by BMW, as the BMW dealership had every square inch of floor space filled with fixtures and merchandise.  The one Indian that continues to catch my attention — the Classic in the green & cream color scheme — was only to be found in the back shop where it was being assembled for display.  Just looking at their Facebook page, it would appear that color scheme is a very popular choice, which is to say, perhaps not as desirable as I originally thought.  Anyway, it was good to see a familiar face at the dealership even though we missed Doc.

After that we stopped by to visit with our friend Nick at Hellbender Harley Davidson. It’s always good to see him, they don’t come any better than Nick!  After taking a stroll through the store — it’s definitely not the same place it was a year ago — we said our goodbyes and headed for home, hoping to avoid the rain.

20150517_153152Yeah, well… no such luck.  We made it to the Kennesaw Mountain National Battlefield Park and surrendered to the fact that we weren’t going to end-run the rain. We threw on the rain gear and were rewarded with a warm, dry ride home in a pretty good rain storm.  About the time we arrived home the skies really opened up with a vengeance: thunder, lightning and a pretty good driving rain.  However, it was all gone about as quickly as it blew through, which was good news for our friends over at the Shaky Boots festival.

I spent the better part of the afternoon working on our tandem (swapping out Debbie’s saddle and doing some derailleur adjustments) and then turned my attention to our three-seat / triplet which we’d be riding on Friday – Sunday at the Georgia Tandem Rally with our friend Lisa Davis.  We only ride the bike about two to three times a year at the regional rallies or when heading up to ride with friends in Tennessee. The rest of the time it’s stored up in the “rafters” between two garage doors, collecting dust as it were.  So, today was the day it got pulled-down, cleaned and prepped for some serious riding.

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I always get a bit more excited about the cycling events as they draw near. Fingers crossed, we’ll be able to attend most if not all of this event!

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Buyers Beware: Internet Tandem Scams Are Running Rampant….

It would appear that the internet-based rip-off artists are targeting tandem buyers / sellers with a bit more zeal than they have in the past. I say this in that during the past few weeks I’m aware of at least two members of the tandem community who have been victimized by criminals who have posted fake ads on tandem classified ad sites.  Both of these trusting members of the tandem community were taken for several thousand dollars after they wired funds in the belief that they were dealing with real people who were selling real tandems.

So, here’s the deal….  if the deal seems too good to be true, it probably is.

In one of the two instances that I’m aware of, someone found what they thought was a great deal on a travel tandem at the Tandem Club of America’s free classified ads.  The other was a classified ad that appeared on a free ad on a website hosted by Tandems East.  In both instances, after the would-be buyers realized they’d been had and contacted the classified ad site owners, it became pretty clear that there several fraudulent classified ads on those sites which were removed.  Both of the classified ad sites are attempting to pay closer attention to what is being posted and/or adding administrative “firewalls” (refundable, up-front ad fees, personal ID requirements) to dissuade criminals from posting ads on those sites, but at the end of the day it is the buyer who must decide if a seller (or buyer) is legitimate.

The ads typically look legitimate because they started off as legitimate ads. However, in most cases the criminals have simply replicated real ads and use photos that real sellers have posted to build their scam ads.  In fact, you can often times plug-in a copy of a tandem that’s up for sale to Google’s picture search engine and find either the original photos & ad, or other versions of the scam ad.

Therefore, here are some tips and resources that we have shared with the folks who run these sites and at least one of the tandem discussion forums where the topic came up.

Again, the biggest clue that an ad for a used tandem is probably a scam is an asking or offering price that is just out of line with the market, i.e., a used travel tandem for hundreds or thousands less than you’ve seen advertised / asked for elsewhere. Sorry folks, no one gives away high-end tandems for pennies on the dollar via the internet. Those “deal of the century” tandems tend to get sold to friends based on word of mouth advertising, not Craigslist, ebay or tandem classified ad sites.  Same thing goes for sellers, if someone offers you a full price (or above full price) on your tandem, they’re probably not a legitimate buyer: if someone has that kind of money to throw around they’ll simply buy a new tandem.  The really experienced scammers are a bit more savvy and tend to use prices that aren’t all that far off the fair market value, but still noticeably less than anyone else would be wanting for a similar bike.

So, how can you ferret out criminals?  Actually, it’s not all that hard… trust but verify.

#1:  Buyers – Always get the seller on the phone and find out where they bought the bike or had it last serviced and request the name/phone number of a local bike shop where someone could look it over for you and possibly arrange shipping, etc. If they waffle and can’t provide names/numbers that actually pan-out, move on.  They had to buy that tandem somewhere… and I’ll bet that you as a legitimate tandem owner still know exactly who you bought your tandem from and where a local shop is.

#2: Sellers – Same thing works in reverse. If someone offers to pay you full price for a tandem without asking a bunch of really good questions, by all means, don’t ship the tandem until the funds are in the hands of an escrow firm or your bank account… preferably via a check that clears or PayPal.  If someone doesn’t want to use PayPal or an escrow service there’s a reason: they’re criminals. Criminals don’t use services that protect buyers or sellers and pursue criminals.

With regard to the free on-line classified ad services, they are ALL “use at your own risk”.  None of the folks who offer these classified ad services  can truly guarantee the accuracy or authenticity of any ad placed on their websites without adding layers of security and cost that would drive cost into the system, a lot of cost. Therefore, buyers should be mindful that internet-based transactions — long distance, or in person, have certain inherent risks. Buyers and Sellers are both at risk for theft by fraud and any face-to-face meetings also present risks related to theft as well as personal safety.

As you might suspect, tandems are not the only thing that’s used as a lure by criminals. However, tandem buyers and sellers do seem to be attractive to criminals, most likely because they tend to be trusting and have money.  So, in addition to some of the safeguards we have suggested, before becoming a buyer or seller please take time to do some research about buying and selling from one of the many articles that you’ll find on line, such as one of these:

The following is something I wrote for TheTandemLink.com many years back to assist used tandem buyers with long-distance transactions that also work well to ferret-out scams; again, criminals don’t like to talk with buyers they want to do everything on-line via Email and wire transfers.

Ideally, most buyers and sellers prefer to find one another in close enough proximity to permit a face-to-face meeting, a physical inspection of the tandem and, of course, a test ride; perhaps even an extended test ride. Fortunately, at least in all my dealings with private sellers, buyers and tandem-specialty dealers or builders, long distance transactions have always been quite pleasant and ended up with no surprises. So, while there is some degree of risk, if you’re willing to trust your “gut” on a long distance transaction neither you nor the other party should end up being any worse for wear if everyone keeps their cards on the table throughout the transaction.

NOTE: A detailed sales contract should be drawn up for all long distance transactions. Language should be included that spells out all provisions regarding who has responsibility for the tandems shipment, under what conditions the buyer may decline to accept the tandem at the time of delivery and who will bear the responsibility for shipping costs. As an example, sales agreements should plainly state if the seller clearly mis-represented the condition or features of the tandem, or it was damaged in route, they bear the burden for a remedy subject to approval by the buyer. If the buyer simply changes their mind for any reason and no longer wants the tandem, they bear the burden for all shipping costs. In some cases, buyers and sellers may want to use a trusted, local bike shop as an agent for receiving and inspecting the tandem to protect their mutual interests.

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Sunday’s Ride Videos: Fun Stuff & Being Cut-Off Three Times

tandem2Warm & sunny on a weekend: how cool is that! We actually got in two days of riding on what were picture perfect days. Well, OK: to be honest it actually felt a bit on the warm side but that’s probably because it was the first time in nearly 6 months when the temps shot up into the high-80’s / low-90’s. Or, at least it seems like it’s been that long.

In addition to getting out on the tandem for two days I also collected a bit of video on the second day which I’ve edited down into a 1 minute & 44 second .mpg movie with the usual upbeat canned soundtrack: it’s really better than listening to the actual audio, trust me on this.

While I don’t normally hang the cameras on me or the bike when we go out for a loop ride from the house since the scenery never changes all that much, I would note that we recently did a motorcycle trip to Panama City Beach and during the trip I had some issues with my GoPro cameras. With the Georgia Tandem Rally (GTR) coming up, I figured it would be a good time to make sure I got the GoPro issues sorted out and also do some experimenting with different camera mounting positions before the rally. I also like to catch at least one day of GTR on video for posterity, vanity, whatever. What I ended up with were two videos.

The first one is the usual, somewhat upbeat video that attempts to capture the spirit and fun of tandem cycling. Without a doubt, the clips I’ve condensed into the 1’44” video are higher energy / speed than the lion’s share of the 90-minute ride that was captured on two cameras, i.e., I had 3 hours of material to work with. You can bet that there was a lot of not nearly as visually interesting stuff left on the cutting room floor. I wouldn’t recommend watching it more than once, as the sound track can definitely become annoying after repeated plays: ask me how I know!

Anyway, here’s video #1

Video #2 is a little bit more edgy in that I finally decided to “out” a few motorists who peeved-me-off during today’s ride, noting this is a regular occurrence on most rides.

In addition to being worried to death (no pun intended) about someone texting & running us down, we also have a huge issue with motorists not being able to judge speed and distance who — whether they intend to or not — routinely cut-off cyclists by making hasty passes immediately ahead of intersections or turns. I’m not sure if these motorists are just challenged when it comes to being able to manage the visual perspective of how fast a bicycle is travelling and how much distance it will cover in a certain amount of time, or if they’re simply acting on animal reflex like a dog chasing a moving vehicle or barking at passers-by for no real reason and fear being caught behind a bicycle under any conditions.

To any of my non-cycling friends who happen upon this blog and video, you may or may not see the actions of these three motorists as being all that worrisome or imprudent because it looks like there’s plenty of room for everyone. Well, yes and no: the wide angle lens of a GoPro tends to distort reality so “objects in the video are closer than they appear.” And, when you’re on a 30lb bicycle with the most important person in your life, a little to close becomes a lot too close when you’re not quite sure just how good the rest of a motorist’s driving skills and judgment may be.

So, here now are my three candidates for “Worst Judgment of the Day” from May 10th, noting that it isn’t all that unusual to have several motorists get a bit too close or otherwise use bad judgment during one of our rides. This just happened to be the first time that I let the cameras roll for an entire ride, including along sections of road where I would not normally capture video for a ‘vanity vignette’.

I’m sure our cycling friends can all relate to these types of situations. They just leave you shaking your head and wondering, “what the heck were they thinking and what did they accomplish by taking those risks?” And, yes… passing at a high rate of speed as you approach intersections where an on-coming vehicle could suddenly appear, etc. to avoid being momentarily delayed by a few seconds is risky behavior, risky to us!

If capturing and retrieving the video didn’t take as much effort I could definitely see having a pair of cameras on the bike at all times.  However, as you can see with these three video shorts, you really do need to have both the forward and rear perspectives to get the entire picture: single lens perspectives just don’t capture enough context or, at least in Georgia, the license plate if you’re using a reward facing camera.

Note: No verbal or non-verbal “gestures” were issued to the motorists in question; it only serves to satisfy the motorist’s instincts that all cyclists are idiots.  No, I’ll usually just shake my head or throw out an upturned palm, i.e., “what’s the deal?”  I’ve learned that there is nothing to be gained from picking a fight with someone wielding a 4,000 lb blunt instrument in a justice system that repeatedly demonstrates that motorists are rarely held accountable when they run down pedestrians, cyclists or motorcyclists.

Posted in Advocacy & Access, Bloggishnish, Editorials & Rants | 3 Comments

The Unambiguous Tread Wear Indicator….

This is why you check your tires before every ride…

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…especially if you’re someone like me who likes to get the full life out of a set of tires!   Yes, I knew it was getting close to the end of the line given how squared-off the rear tire tread had become.  So, a post or pre-ride spin of the rear wheel to look for that tell-tale “tread wear indicator” that signals when it’s time to replace the tire becomes standard operating procedure (SOP).

DSCN1269So, it really wasn’t a major surprise when I found the tire’s casing peeking out from a gap when the tread had been worn through this morning while attending to a few other minor tandem maintenance tasks.  Fortunately, I’ve always got plenty of spare tires on hand since I tend to stock up when I find the tires I like on sale and given the kind of money they’re asking for tires these days you need to shop the sales!

As for the other maintenance, turns out that I left that sync chain on a little too long and found that the pulling teeth on the timing rings were a bit worn to the point where the new chain’s pitch was just a little too short for the elongated teeth and making a “grinding” noise on hard climbs: that would be the chain catching the tips of the teeth as the chain exited the front chain ring.  So, a quarter turn of the timing rings should present the chain with some un-worn teeth and eliminate the noise.  If not, then the front timing ring goes to the rear and the rear timing ring goes to the front.  Yeah, well…  25k miles on those rings so no complaints for that kind of 1/2 life.

The other tweak was to the front White Industry hub. For some reason I find that the White Industry hubs tend to develop a ticking that seems to be related to the axle end-cap & grub screw retaining system.  I had the same noise on our Rolf’s (whose hubs were made by White Ind) and on two other wheelsets with White Ind hubs.  The temporary fix is to remove the end caps, clean and then reassemble with a little bit of Loctite which keeps them quiet for a few months.  Once the clicking returns, remove and repeat.

Looking forward to a nice Mothers Day ride with my sweetie here in a few! Hope everyone else was able to enjoy some time with their loved ones today!

 

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Tandem Hauler Update: I Think She’s All Better

20150308_163152Back in early April I wrote about some maintenance woes we were having with our trusty tandem hauler, the ’06 Toyota Tundra now with about 118k miles on the clock.

At the time I knew we had a transmi$$ion issue and the rear differential was in need of some $erious attention as well.  Those were both addressed, but not without some added drama. In addition to discovering a bad left front wheel bearing the ball joints, tie rods and connecting rod ends were also in need of replacement. It was also thought that the lower control arm had a worn bearing, but the shop that did the front end work didn’t find any issue there. Not sure I’m thrilled about that as I will not be a happy camper if a lingering clunk on hard stops isn’t addressed by a transmission bracket replacement that I need to replace.  $o, after those were fixed the only remaining thing to address is the aforementioned replacement of a faulty transmission support bracket and cross member.

20150420_201435The transmission support bracket and cross member arrived from Boston last week, but I deferred the repair job until Debbie’s little red car came back from the body shop. As noted in our Debbie Fest 2015 update, we had a pretty close call with some tornadic episodes that left Debbie’s Honda S2000 dimpled by hail. Oh yeah, we gave her the nickname dimples after that.  Thank goodness for comprehensive coverage and a $100 deductable: $2k later her little car is looking a lot less like a golf ball and more like its former self.

DSCN1263 With Debbie back on the road in her car, I could now climb under the truck to do the TSB repair that Toyota neglected to do back in 2009.  It was a pretty straight-forward remove and replace operation: the transmission gets supported while the old bracket and supporting cross member get removed.  The assumption is, the frame of the truck has remained properly aligned so that everything will come off and go back in without a fight.

DSCN1262The TSB called out new part numbers for the support and bolts that tie it to the cross member, but the cross member was still the same part number.  Hmmm. That’s interesting. Upon inspecting the new and old support, it looked nearly identical; however, the bolts had a different part number.  Turns out, the original bolts that tied the cross member were undersized and eventually lost torque and fell out leaving the transmission support bracket simply resting on the cross member.  The new part simply had larger diameter holes and bigger bolts that would handle a much higher torque spec (48nm).  This peeved-me off a bit, as what I really needed was about $3 worth of bolts, a drill and a tap to increase the size of the holes in the transmission support.  But, the OEM TSB had to eliminate all of the limited life issues that would come from a make-shift repair so their solution was bomb-proof: New mount designed with larger holes and a new cross member in the event the original one had been weakened by a different type of loading vs. what the cross member was designed for.

DSCN1265 DSCN1264There was a bit of a fight getting the cross member bolt holes to align, but leverage in the right places brought it all together.  So, the Tandem Hauler now has a shiny-new cross member and transmission support that’s actually bolted to the cross member!  Hell, the piece of mind was worth the cost of the parts if this eliminates all of the clunks we’ve been hearing for 60k miles when stopping or turning at slow speeds.

Oh the joys of vehicle ownership.  Machines are wonderful things when the work well, not so much when they don’t.

Post Script:  Well, it would appear that the new cross member and transmission mount — or more accurately, having the transmission mount attached to the cross member — has eliminated the clunk on hard stops.  Probably need to take a close look at those engine mounts!  Oh well, at least for the time being the truck is now running tight without any clunks and without the rear differential bearing whine that drove me nuts at highway speeds.  Fingers crossed, the truck will be “good to go” for the rest of the year.

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New Entries At Riding Two-Up

369252Recently posted at Riding Two-Up: Not a lot of riding between Bike Week in Daytona this past March and last weekend’s Thunder Beach Spring Edition in Panama City Beach.  But, hey… 1,100 sunny miles in March and 920 sunny miles in May made for some great riding.

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