Yes Emily

Yes Emily, girls can ride motorcycles!

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Are you wearing EAR PLUGS?

There is a hint of white stuff on the ground this morning. Winter is here. Canadian weather - it's a real problem when you've decided to write a blog about touring on a motorcycle. It's getting harder to come up with new blog post ideas - one of the reasons I'm blogging less often. But, today, I've decided to write about my mother, more specifically about her hearing aids, and I promise it does have something to do with motorcycles.

I've talked about my mother before, she was one of my biggest blog fans over the summer when I was on my little tour. She is 93 and has never ridden a motorcycle but tends to tell everyone she knows that I do and then she pulls out the photos. Mother's and grandmothers - they never change, wanna see my pictures of my granddaughter ... whoops, did I say that? Back to my mother. Yesterday I picked her up (from her aqua fit class - don't we all wish we could be doing aqua fit at 93) to take her to the grocery store. It wasn't until we had nearly arrived at her apartment (yes, she still lives on her own) that I noticed I was having a 'normal' conversation with her. That is, I wasn't being asked to repeat myself - repeatedly. I wasn't feeling like I had to raise my voice or speak "unnaturally distinctly"and I wasn't giving up trying to communicate in frustration. That's when I asked, "Are you wearing your new hearing aids, by any chance?"

My mother has worn a hearing aid for several years now but has just recently been given a new, high tech set to "test drive." Like all technology the newest versions are so sophisticated they can be fine tuned like never before. I really don't know the how of this technology and for now it doesn't matter. What does matter is that my mother could finally, actually hear me. The down side of this conversation was that this technology comes with a hefty price and she was considering that perhaps they weren't really worth it. To me they were priceless ... but that leads me to the reason I'm blogging today.

Are you wearing EAR PLUGS? The evidence of hearing damage related to riding a motorcycle is overwhelming. Don't think that because you're not riding one of those (you know the kind) loud bikes that you're not at risk. It's not the sound of the bike it's the wind noise, the so called "silent killer" that's doing most of the damage. Wind noise or the amount of noise turbulence created around the head as the motorcycle rider is in motion, reaches well over 100 db (comparable to a chainsaw) at highway speeds. Two hours exposure to 110 db noise results in hearing damage. Damage that is irreversible and cumulative. It takes only 15 minutes to damage hearing with noise levels of 115 db. Stopped at a stop sign at a busy intersection you are still being exposed to 90db of noise inside your full face helmet. Windscreens, fairings, helmet fit and style can all affect the noise levels in a plus or minus way. Many folks believe that wearing a helmet reduces the risk of hearing damage but in fact some helmets can actually increase that risk. Some researchers believe there are only two types of helmets "loud and louder." Have a listen to some of the different helmet noise levels tested by You might think you're getting use to the noise, well, to quote the ohcow "Ears do not get used to noise - they get deaf!" Think about it!

Now there is one way to prevent hearing damage caused by riding a motorcycle - Wear EAR PLUGS. And no, wearing ear plugs is not going to impair your ability to hear traffic or the sound of your engine. In fact ear plugs lower the overall volume of noise, they don't block it out entirely - the frequency of wind noise is muted, but lower frequency sounds are still audible. "When the ear is hit by many loud sounds it overloads and changes the sounds making it harder to interpret individual sounds. Wearing hearing protection cuts down on the overall sound levels so that the ear can work better" (OHCOW) In other words, wearing proper fitting ear plugs can actually improve your ability to hear important sounds.

Hearing protection or ear plugs come in many varieties and types from the cheapest foam pair at about $2./pair to very pricey, blue tooth containing, custom mouldeds for $500 to $700. Research shows that any kind of hearing protection is better than no hearing protection, but only if it fits well. My problem was trying to get the foam ear plugs inserted into my "dainty" ears and get my helmet on before they popped out again. I opted for custom fitted silicone ear plugs by BigEarInc. They had a booth set up at the International SuperShow in Toronto. The process was simple. I sat on a stool (okay I did feel a bit ridiculous for the 5 minutes I had to sit in the midst of a crowd of thousands with what I felt looked like purple cauliflower growing out of both ears), they asked me what colour I wanted (purple of course), the technician put a little plug attached to a 'string" into my ear. Then he injected the polyvinylsiloxane into my ear and the world went silent. A couple minutes later the silicone had set and he popped them out and told me to come back in an hour. An hour later he was checking the fit, fine tuning it and teaching me how to insert them. Since they are custom fitted there is a left and right and with practice it was easy to get them in and out. They fit the twists and turns of my ear canals specifically so they are comfortable, fit flush to my ear and don't fall out. They are washable, reusable and come with a handy carrying case. They cost under $100. Well worth it to protect my hearing.

There are several companies that do custom fitted ear plugs. I just happened to pick BigEar inc because they were there and the price was reasonable. The hearing society or workman's safety supply store in your city may even be able to fit you with or tell you where to get fitted with custom ear plugs.

Being exposed to high levels of noise for long periods of time (eg. touring on a motorcycle) has also been proven to be stressful causing physical fatigue and reduced concentration. When you're on a motorcycle you can't afford to loose your concentration because of fatigue - you'd be surprised at the difference a simple set of ear plugs can make. Even if you have never worn hearing protection before - if you start now you will prevent further damage to your hearing. Enjoy the ride!

Friday, November 19, 2010

Why Don't You Say Something and Other Thoughts From the Big Smoke?

Today was a record day. I checked my blog stats and saw a real, genuine spike - so I know you're out there, why don't you say something? Leave me a comment or complaint or something.
I'm in the "Big Smoke." That's Toronto in case you were wondering. Toronto, to quote my friend Tina, is just like New York, but with less stuff. Today, I swear it had more traffic though.(Note to self, when heading to Toronto, on a Friday, during rush hour traffic rethink stopping on the way for coffee - or any liquid refreshments!) Now I don't want to give away Too Much Information but there is nothing worse than being trapped, bumper to bumper in more traffic than you can imagine, cars and tractor trailers as far as the eye can see, traffic to your left, traffic to your right - and you 'gotta' go pee. Well okay, there is something almost worse and that is seeing your hotel on the opposite side of the street and there is no way to cross the median. Man, when am I going to listen to Garmin Dan. He told me to be in the right hand lane, turn right and go round the block. He knew, but I didn't believe him so there I was, trapped with no escape for a full, fifteen minutes. My hotel was no more than one median and two lanes of traffic away - I could see it, I could almost touch it, I longed for it.(For a minute or two I considered just jumping out - abandoning the SUV in the middle of traffic and running across the street). Dan, I promise I will listen to you from now on.

The hotel, well that's another story. Have you seen the Travelocity commercial with the construction and the little gnome guy falling through the ceiling? Hey, he was at my hotel. They are actually jack hammering out the lobby and lucky me, the lobby is directly under my room. If this was summertime, I'd get even! I'd just use their white towels to clean my motorcycle. Alas, it's not, so I think I will just leave an encrypted note with the word "GNOMES" on the desk. By the way, who makes a bed and leaves the remote under the bottom sheet?

I saw only one brave biker this afternoon and I didn't envy him in the traffic or the cold.

Here I am in T.O.and it's the weekend and I do love the chance to get away for a little peace and quiet - did I mention my hotel is pretty much at the end of the Pearson Internationl Airport runway? There goes another 747 - Good Night!

Monday, November 15, 2010

A Meeting of the 'Boys' and their Bikes!

Saturday afternoon was a perfect day for the boys to meet - to lift a glass and tell a few tales from the road. It was a meeting of the, let's call them the Kingston Motorcycle Club. They're a pretty casual group with no real name, no membership fees and no real agenda for their meeting except to talk a little motorcycle and enjoy the company. They didn't seem to mind at all when Barbara and I showed up to crash their party at the Creekside where they meet - every now and then.

Most of the group has known each other for years, their pasts tied to British motorcycles. New member or old, they all have something in common, they all appreciate vintage British motorcycles. Some have been involved with British bikes as racers or connoisseurs for many years while others have more recently taken up the passion. Some still ride their classic bikes, some ride more modern bikes and others just remember when. Several are collectors some restorers and on Saturday they met just because - because every once in a while on a Saturday they do that.

Mother Nature was on the 'clubs' side on Saturday and a lot of the boys took advantage of her gift - a rare, mid November, perfect riding day. Who would believe 15 degrees C. Barbara and I walked the 3 km just to soak up the sunshine. When we arrived I was thrilled to see that not everybody was riding British and my favorite picks in the parking lot - the 70's something Yamaha 650 and the pristine vintage Virago (Okay, the others were 'nice' too).

The topic at the table where I sat seemed to be of modern,'ethanol' containing gasolines and whether all modern grades of gasoline include ethanol and how ethanol contributes to rust inside a tank (think I'll coin that 'tank-rot' talk). There were a few tales of crashes and talk of where to buy vintage parts and who was the best painter when it came to bikes and gas tanks especially. My friend Ron's name came up as a fine 'craftsman' in the bike restoration world (Ron's restorations took a first and second place in the vintage show at the 2010 North American International Motorcycle Super Show). All in all - it was a pleasant afternoon, well worth the walk there and back.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

On Sock Hops and Other Questionable Descisions

I've been invited to a real, genuine time warp, out of the fifties sock hop tonight. It promises to be complete with food, beverages, dress code and music from the era and worse than that it's pot luck. I've got to take food! Authentic fifties, freakin' food. Don't get me wrong, but what do I know about fifties food? Of course I was around in the 50s (whoops did I just say that out loud) but I'm pretty sure I was drinking formula made with 'Carnation' and eating fork-mushed puree of something or other, though I do clearly remember humongous bags of puffed rice cereal and my mother's famous creamed ham and peas on toast. Ah, the things that stick with us. Wonder if my foodie friends will go for the puffed rice thing? Now ask me about the late sixties and seventies - I clearly remember go-go boots and disco balls.

The idea for this party is not a surprise to me. I was there when the scheme was hatched. We happened to be admiring the recently purchased, authentic, put your quarter in, watch the vinyl turning, lights flashing juke box. Inspired by several glasses of good wine, twinkling lights and The Everly Brothers somebody shouted (it may have even been me,)"You should have a sock hop party!" Now looking back on that decision, though it will probably not affect my longevity unless of course I happen to get a toe caught in one of my bobby socks, trip and crack my pony-tailed head on the antique music machine I think it may cause me some embarrassment. A sock hop is for dancing. Somewhere back in the 70s I was convinced I could learn to gyrate on the dance floor without humiliating myself so I took Disco Dancing lessons. Well folks, it couldn't be done, I just can't dance. John Travolta is still my dancing hero and I was and still am uncoordinated and will have to live with the humiliation ... sigh - I can only hope for darkness.
The point is some decisions sound fun while under the influence. A sock hop isn't going to kill me (I may actually have fun) but if I happened to be under the influence while riding a motorcycle and make a poor decision it most likely can and will mean my death. If you are driving your vehicle under the influence and make a poor decision while I'm riding beside you - your decision can kill me. Making the decision to drink and drive is not an option in any season! As the holiday season approaches, go ahead embarrass yourself at the sock hop but get a designated driver for the ride home ... and let's choose to make the norm "0%" blood alcohol level for riding. Ride Smart!

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Somebody forgot to tell the dogs and cat...

This is usually one of my favorite days of the year. Not only is it fall, my favorite season, but it's the day I get to sleep in and not feel guilty, because it feels like sleeping in, but it really isn't. It's the day that I often find myself sitting, doing something, whatever it is, and all of a sudden realize hey, it's a lot earlier than I thought. Unfortunately, today, somebody forgot to tell the dogs and the cat to turn their clocks back and they were adamant that I get up to feed them on the old time which turned out to be ridiculously early on the new time. That being said I still managed to experience that "Hey, I've got a whole extra hour feeling" just the same.
Today I took my mom shopping. My mom is 93 years old and a real go-getter. She lives on her own, cooks (for the most part) for herself, reads several books a week, walks, with a 'walker,' several kilometers daily, swims once week and has an opinion on most everything, including her older sister who still drives her own car. Today as I loaded her 'walker' into the back of my SUV I started thinking about aging. I started to wonder what my 'baby boomer' generation will think of the 'walker.' I'm convinced I should get BMW and Mercedes to design 'sporty,'high end walkers in anticipation. Just remember, when you see granny running down the street pushing her 'Ferrari' walker, it was my idea.
By the way, my mom has always hated that I ride a motorcycle yet she can't wait to show the pictures of me and my VStar to all her friends. My biggest fan!

Thursday, November 4, 2010

It Was Time

The first snow has fallen, Halloween has past and though there are threats of beautiful weather, mid week, next week, it was time to put the VStar away. The 35 km ride didn't seem as cold as I thought it would, but it felt strange for sure. The VStar complained about the temperature and was reluctant, almost like she knew it was our last ride for the season. I arrived at the shop shortly after 5 pm, number 7 for the day according to Ross and while I was standing there it looked like numbers 8 and 9 pulled into the parking lot behind me. Last week's snow seems to have given many of us a reality check. The spring plans for an oil change and installation of heated grips were made made - I swiped the debit card, punched in the code and walked away. I met Ken at the end of my driveway. I was still dressed in riding gear. He knew!
So Ken, what will I blog about for the next 6 months? Well, I'll definitely whine about the weather, I may possibly talk about the neighbours. I might go to a bike show or two and I'll keep planning next summer. I have a dream and I hope I can make it happen if I follow my star. But for today - Here's to you...all the folks I met on the road and on the net ...
Kingston (my Mom's friends and my home townies);
Peace River (I've never been, perhaps I should);
Regina (my biggest fans so glad we met);
Saskatoon (think I've ridden by);
Edmunston (can't count the times I've stopped in your town);
New York (gotta luv NY);
Missouri (hoping to pass through again);
Quebec (memories of this summer);
New Hampshire (great place to ride);
Gatineau (to ride and hike);
Nebraska (the pathway west);
Montana (big sky, ranch gates and cowboys, I love it)
British Columbia (Going to the Sun and the most beautiful mountain rivers I've ever seen)
United Kingdom (I'll get there one day)
And to every body I missed ...
Thanks for being with me over the past few months. The bike is away but it "ain't" the end of the story.
Dream on....Are you on Twitter? Give me a tweet! Check out who I'm following.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

What do the VStar and the Discovery Have in Common?

I heard on the radio this morning that tomorrow will mark the final launch of the space shuttle Discovery. NASA predicts the weather will be spot on for the launch and I'm going to trust NASA - what's good for Discovery has to be good for the VStar. Yup, tomorrow's the day I'll ride her to the storage barn/shed/shop - call it what you want, I'm calling it depressing. Actually, I'm calling it - "face the fact," the season is over for motorcycles, well, at least for my motorcycle. Let the "Slush Creeper" season begin! {News flash, just in - Discovery's launch has been postponed!} Unlike Discovery however, the VStar will still be going to storage. I heard that after this launch Discovery will be retired, traded in, so to speak - after 26 years in service. Wow, NASA keeps their vehicles longer than I do. I wonder if Discovery has been outfitted with "Historic Vehicle" plates?
I cannot believe how fast the time is going, seems like school just started a couple of weeks ago and already it has been a couple of months. Before I (or you) know it, it will be spring and motorcycle season once again. I think winter was invented to give motorcycle riders a chance to plan the next season's ride. Garmin Dan (Oh, yeah, he's back in my life) and I have been formulating a plan for next summer. We're putting together our Top 10 list of places to ride/see or see again and I'm wondering how it compares to your list. Let me know.