Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Mid-West Adventure

It was the end of June 2007. My wife Anne & I were sitting in our backyard feeling kind of down. Our good friends in South Carolina had just called and cancelled their two week visit with us due to uncontrollable circumstances

We decided not to waste our two weeks doing nothing, but to get on our Harley and go discover what some of the mid-west U.S.A. was like. We set Sturgis, South Dakota as our target. We live in Ontario, Canada, so it was going to be quite a long ride.

After quite a packing job, we set out on our incredible journey, or at least it was incredible to us.

We first headed up into Northern Ontario, which is truly hot and beautiful in early July. We made it to Sault Ste. Marie Canada, and crossed the border into Sault Ste. Marie, Michigan. Sault Michigan was great, as it is at the locks where the "lakers" (the huge great lakes freighters), as well as ocean going boats go up into Lake Superior, or down into Lake Huron. It is a sight to be seen at least once in a lifetime.

As we rode on through beautiful Michigan, we were about to learn a valuable lesson. As we were approaching the city of Marquette we had gone from tank tops and jeans to sweaters and denim jackets, and we were still cold. Apparently the south shore of Lake Superior can have quite a cooling effect when it wants to. We ended up stopping at Marquette Harley Davidson to buy leather motorcycle jackets. Leather motorcycle jackets we have lots of at home in Canada. Unfortunately that's where they were safe and warm in Ontario.

Eventually we ended up in Duluth Minnesota, where the wind and the drivers were terrible. It seemed as if four wheel or more vehicles would get bonus points for hitting motorcyclists.

When we awoke in the motel in the morning it was pouring rain. It had been our plan to head west for Fargo North Dakota, but after hearing of severe weather out there, and talking to some truckers we decided to blast down highway 35 to highway 90 and then head west. Believe me when I say there was still a whole lot of west left to go. I would like to mention here that even before we got to highway 90 our new motorcycle leathers jackets were put away in the bottom of our saddlebags, never to be seen again until unpacking at home in Ontario.

One thing I liked about Minnesota and some other states it the 70mph speed limit. We just don't have that in Canada. So when we were traveling west on highway 90 and saw "Welcome to South Dakota, speed limit patrolled by aircraft" I thought, here we go, better slow down. How wrong I was, a mile or so down the road was the sign, Speed Limit 75, away we wnt.

It's quite a long trek across South Dakota for Minnesota to Sturgis, but Interstate 90 is in pretty good shape. We set the cruise control at 80mph and just enjoyed the rolling hills and some flatland. I must advise you that I don't think the wind ever stops.

I remember one slow curve in the road where suddenly there was a large body of water. It was the Franklin Basin on the Missouri River.

We stayed a night in Sioux Falls which surprisingly has a population of over 150,000.

To try to shorten an already long story, we finally got to Sturgis. It was a small, quaint and quiet little town, largely tuned to bikers. Every day there were things to discover even though it wasn't bike week. A must see is Badlands National Park. The town of Keystone and Mount Rushmore (never show up there on July 4th expecting to see fireworks they were July 3rd). There is Custer State Park, Needles Highway, the Black Hills of South Dakota and the Crazy Horse Memorial. If you go a little farther you can see Devils Tower National Monument in Wyoming. That's as far as we got before heading back to reality. It kept us busy and riding for 16 days and 5,000 miles approx. altogether. We would do it again ad probably will one day. Hope I haven't bored you to death, but I would love to have you get out there and see what's out there to discover. There is so much more out there to discover.

Motorcycle Deaths and Cycle Involved Accidents - An Upward Trend, But Why?

Indeed, I've noticed a number of pedestrian, bicycle, moped, and motorcycle accidents in our local paper in the last year or so. But the question is why? That is to say; why is this happening in our nice suburban city with big cross walks, golf cart sized bike lanes, and ultra wide driving lanes? Why would this be happening when everyone is driving a newer model car with better brakes, good visibility, and at a time when there are fewer cars on the road perhaps due to increased fuel costs? Well, let's talk about that shall we?

You see, it's not just happening here but throughout the country. There was an interesting feature on ABC News in Los Angeles (KABC 7) on October 29, 2012 "Motorcyclist deaths in California on the rise," which stated that out in CA there has been a 20% increase, most of which in intersections, and that this ends a previous four year decrease until now.

In my opinion this is due to high fuel prices + too many people text messaging while driving, a deadly combo. Some might say that my summation is to generalized, but consider that people are too stressed, easily distracted by their personal tech devices, and more and more people are using alternative transportation strategies due to the high cost of gasoline. Somewhat of a perfect storm, kind of like Hurricane Sandy which by the way helped to increase the price of fuel on the East Coast even more.

It seems even though there are laws against using your cell phone or text messaging while driving, people still do. I can tell you I haven't gone even across town without seeing at least two people violating those rules in the last year. We want people to ride their bikes more to prevent diabetes, that saves us money on health care, but not if they get run over, smushed, scraped off the pavement, and are taken to the hospital in an ambulance.

In many regards this gets back to why people don't want to drive a small car. If they do they save gasoline, but they might also get creamed by a 6000 lb. SUV. As a motorcyclist and bicyclist these things really concern me. I wish people would pay more attention and we could all pay less in insurance costs. I feel sorry for all those folks who commute now on bicycles and motorcycles to save money, as now they are risking their lives every time they get onto the road. Okay so, please consider all this and think on it and drive responsibly.

Lance Winslow has launched a new series of eBooks on the Mobile Auto Services Business. Lance Winslow is a retired Founder of a The Oil Change Guys, a Nationwide Franchise Chain, and now runs the Online.