Wednesday, July 29

Clutchless shifting,downshifting, and trail braking: SRTT, Part 2

Now that I've had some time to consciously apply some of the skills learned and relearned in the SRTT class, I wanted to share a few more things from the SRTT advanced strategies class. Now, these skills may be old hat to the experienced riders-readers of this blog. To me, they were not new skills per se but they were skills I either don't regularly employ or need to improve.

First, is clutchless shifting.To be perfectly honest, I've done such shifting more times than I can count. But until my SRTT class, I had never done it purposefully! No, I clutchless shifted before out of error and it was something I tried to avoid doing. I recall once when doing it badly, it freaked me a tad. Not knowing what I was doing made me think I was screwing up something.

Now, I've learned how to clutchless shift and when it is appropriate to use clutchless shifting. I am now a conscious clutchless shifter. I am judicious in my use. And, before anyone thinks clutchless shifting messes up the transmission, let me tell you, you are wrong! Proper clutchless shifting does not. Improper shifting does. You pre-load the clutch, just as you would do in ordinary shifting. There is a moment, a brief moment when the engine has a space where it is perfect for snapping the shifter up (of course, you're off the throttle for that brief time) and the gear, Voila, changes quickly, smoothly and easily.

Here's when I've used it: I enter lots of fast traveling Interstates where allowing mergers in is like asking a driver to surrender a kidney. Sometimes it takes much time to get up to speed, merge smoothly and watch out for those vehicles resistant to letting you in. Traditional shifting can consume valuable micro seconds. By having one less thing to think about, that is, pulling in the clutch, one can get on with the business of getting quickly on the expressway. I love this new skill, which I've gotten really smooth at executing since the class. I see it as my method for getting on aggressive, fast moving, Interstates.

Second, is downshifting. This is a technique I consciously have always used. I've owned my share of automobiles. I've never owned an automatic transmission. I learned to properly downshift with years of handling a stick shift. I understand this technique. Bottom line, if you simply downshifted without slowing down your engine speed, it can freak out your machine, hurl your body forward, throw the back end out of line--it could upset the bike and cause rider injury. Downshifting badly in a car is no huge deal--you've got four wheels to keep you grounded. Bad downshifting on two wheels can be ugly.

If you're in fourth gear, moving at a fast clip and you need to get to first quickly you listen to your engine revs. You want to match that. You want to give the throttle enough blip--not too much and not too little. This is learned. You will blip the throttle (blipping is by definition a quick jolt to the throttle) and then downshift. You'll know if you've given it just the right amount because the bike will smoothly change to the lower gear without pulling you forward, or yanking your body backward or disturbing the back end of your bike. Just right, means the bike continues in its forward line of travel without showing signs of being disturbed. Here's what the sport riders say about it.

Third, is trail braking. Another one of those skills that I've done because it makes sense. But I didn't remember the theory behind it. Here is the theory. All I know is, it works and it gives the rider a high level of comfort in curves or when the bike is leaned over and you need to use/keep brakes applied. To know this is to increase one's comfort level when the bike is not perfectly upright. I don't ride mountain road enough to have yet feel entirely fluid. I do well, but I don't have the skills yet to blast through. I do the speed limit, perhaps 5-10 over. Now, long sweeping curves, no problem. To me, trail braking adds to the bag of strategies one can used when traveling in less than an upright position.

So, that's it. I've had some time to practice and you know what they say about's what we should say: Practice makes improvement."

Tuesday, July 28

Introducing: The Scorpion EXO-900 Transformer

The BMW rally was a great place to check out vendors and spend a little cash. With a budget firmly in mind, I was receptive to being convinced to acquire a few "must-have" farkles. My own list included a new helmet. My friend, Lucas, wears a full-face Scorpion. He's not the kind to push his favs on others but he'll answer all your questions about a product he's been impressed with. He's likes his Scorpion and says it's quiet. Like me, he does a lot of research before parting with his dollars. So, the Scorpion was on my radar as a possible alternative to buying a fourth Nolan helmet. I've loved my Nolans. Obviously. Although some say, "if it's not broken, don't fix it," I say, change is good sometimes.

My friend, Claye, was also looking for a new helmet--the result of a theft in Johnson City, which I'll talk about in the rally blog that I'm working on. We knew that Nolan was having a big sale. I missed the Nolan vendor booth upon first search. Then Claye and I found the Scorpion booth. The helmets looked sleek and aerodynamic, almost space age to me. We checked out the full face, which I keep saying I'm going to purchase to add to my modular collection (helmets to me are like shoes are to some women--one can't have too many IMHO).

I shared with Claye, my friend's comments about his Scorpion. After much consideration and a return to the Scorpion booth, we both bought the Scorpion EXO-900 Transfomer helmet. It gets its "Transformer" name because the modular system that surrounds the front of the helmet is removable. This removable piece can be replaced with another, similar piece that surrounds the top part of the helmet, making a sort of external top guard. This operation opens the helmet's face and turns it into a 3/4 helmet. I'd never wear such a helmet--now; although I own a Nolan 3/4 helmet that I unfortunately bought in my first year of riding and wore about three times before shelving it in favor of a Nolan modular. Because of this, the helmet is also referred to a 3 in 1 helmet (modular, full face, and 3/4).

Claye and I thought the separate transformer feature so unimpressive that we each gave it back to the vendor for recycling. So, what is it I like about this helmet. Many things. Compared to my beloved Nolan N102, the Scorpion is significantly quieter. Since I didn't have a reference point, I didn't realize that my Nolan was noisy until I heard something different. My HJC Sy-Max seemed quiet until I experienced the Nolan. Wearing ear plugs also makes the noise less of an issue. But with or without ear plugs (I wear the Etymotic er6i noise isolating plugs) the EXO-900 is significantly more quiet.
The helmet has some interesting features. I like its internal visor system. On the left side of the helmet is a glove friendly slider that can be raised to releases a sun visor inside the helmet. It is not a deeply dark visor but it is certainly enough to block the sun from one's eyes. Both the internal and external visors are coated with an anti fog solution, which worked as I went through fog in VA on my way home from the rally. My Nolan's visor is external to the helmet. I've had no problem with this style but others have complained about it being caught in the wind and rattling. My problems started only after dropping the helmet, which I did several times. After that, the visor was randomly loose and occasionally giggled. The internal Scorpion visor can also be lowered fully or part way. It fits nicely over my eyeglasses. Speaking of which, if you wear glasses, to me, the modular is the way to go. Initially, I had trouble getting the new helmet over the glasses and had to remove them to get the helmet on. This didn't make me happy but I correctly attributed it to the helmet being new. After more than 2500 miles, I'm able to get it on and removed without removing my glasses.

The helmet has two top vents and one at chin level. I've not tested the venting system in 90 plus degrees Fahrenheit weather, but the air flow seems adequate. The helmet is a snug fit, which demands that I take care in inserting my ear plugs. If not, any protuberance will hurt, given the helmet's snug fit, after a few miles. On the back, bottom of the helmet is a small rubber bubble that is part of the "Airfit" system. If the bubble is pushed, it adds snuggness to the cheek and lower neck area. The more it's pushed, the more snug the fit and the more air is prevented from getting inside the helmet--pretty cool. This allows one to tweak the helmet for more snuggness around the checks and helps secure the helmet around the neck. I've pressed the bubble and frankly I don't notice much difference as it is already rather snug fitting in those two areas.

On the lower left side of the helmet is a doorway of sorts that looks as if it is the portal to a communication system. The Nolan has one in the same place that allows one to hook up a communication unit. I made one modification on the helmet. I loved the ratchet system on the Nolan for securing the helmet at the neck. It's a cool feature that allows easy opening and closing. The Scorpion has--or had--the old D-ring system, which I don't like. So for $10, Claye made the D-ring superfluous. We had installed a two-part slide and click system. It required minor surgery to remove the snap and replace it with the two part slide and click. Unfortunately, this doesn't remove the D-ring, so I'm left to tuck it away, which isn't a problem. So, I've had to tuck the D-ring behind the strap. This may seem complicated but it isn't and now that I've tucked the D-ring a few times, it sort of stays put.

Overall, an excellent investment. Selecting the new helmet was easy. The hardest part will be keeping the dang helmet from hard drops on hard surfaces!

Scale: 1 -- 10 (from weakest to strongest)

Performance: 10
Style: 9
Design: 9
Colors (available) 2
Cost: 10

Sunday, July 26

Saturday: Street Riding Technical Training (SRTT) class!

I try not to allow a season to pass without taking an advanced riding class. The only one I've ever taken is the SRTT class offered by Ride Chicago, the private motorcycle school where I re-entered the world of motorcycle riding and to whom I credit my ever-evolving skills. I've written extensively about this class before so I'll be briefer here. I don't know about the ERC given by the MSF team, but this one is superior and one I'll keep taking.

It was a gorgeous day to spend with a small group of motorcyclists. The class was small, six students (I can't remember if that includes me or not). In any case, the first thing I couldn't help notice is that the other bikes looked mean! They were bikes that made asking if they were fast, a ridiculous inquiry. They reeked speed. It showed in their hiked up tail and fierce headlights angles. For the first time, I felt my bike somewhat anemic. Jessie Owens looks downright docile standing next to those sportbikes. The riders of those aggressive looking bikes were all young men (emphasis on "young") dressed in varying styles of street bike riding jackets. One came in full leathers that reminded me of an astronaut ready to take off. One of my first thought was: I'm old enough to be the mother of every single rider here--and that includes the two instructors, Chris and Rocky! That I was the only female added to my initial sense of both bike and personal anemia.

I felt a tiny edge in that I've taken this course before and knew, more or less, what was in store. Everyone else was new to the course. The class was a half day rather than the full day program I've taken before. Still, I knew the course would be challenging, especially at first and would seem manageable at the half way point. I knew the skills that would be introduced and some are now second nature habits of my own. For example, braking. It is taught very differently than one encounters in a basic course. I can't remember the wrong way to brake anymore. In this course, braking is taught by leaving the clutch alone until the last minute. So imagine, you're riding along. You see the need to apply brakes, you do so. You apply the front and back brake in a progressive fashion. You apply pressure and then squeeze on greater presssure. Before you feel the bike chug, you then pull in the clutch. First, with this method, you're thinking of one less thing but more importantly you allow the bike to do its work easiest. It's also how racers brake and I can only say, it makes more sense and feels more logical to me.

The other huge thing one learns in this class has definitely changed my riding since first taking this class. That is, hugging/squeezing the tank as one rides and using the lower body to facilitate steering. The stress is on the lower body while the rider consciously keeps the upper body loose and light.

The course is a vast lot on the grounds of Toyota Park in Bridgeview, IL where the Chicago Fire holds its soccer games. The course is set up with the expected challenges of weaving, emergency braking, curves that stress entry angle that demand you slow down, look where you want to go, lean and roll through. I especially liked working on this skill. There is a rhythmic beauty to these steps. Think about it: Ride at a brisk pace toward a curve. You slow down, which can almost look like stoppingl brake before entering the curve if you must. You turn your head in the direction you want to move in, lean and roll through the curve. It's that rolling through that I enjoy. Some curves were long sweeping, some were tight and sharp. The most challenging were the multiple curves (the back to back ones) that required you to make certain that the first curve you entered you did so with spot on entry angle (the old outside inside). If not, you could (and often did) conceivably throw off all the subsequent entries! This meant making sure that you not only looked at the curve right before you, but that you also were looking way ahead, far beyond curve #1 to make sure that you, your brain and your bike are also preparing for the next curve. It reinforced what we all know or should: don't allow a road situation to surprise you; to ride well requires technical skill; look far ahead too; and, practice makes improvement.

Our first taks is to learn the course. We rode around multiple times and still I would occasional space out. I'd be concentrating so hard on the skill that my brain would suddenly switch back to reality and I'd not know where I was. I counted. This happened four times. Once it happened during the time Rocky was taking pictures/video of the class. Fortunately, I stopped and was called over by the other instructor, with whom I chatted while the gang of guys sped around the course.

The half day flew by. One highlight for me was having both instructors try out my bike. Thumbs up from both of them. I was surprised at how undramatic my bike seem when standing next to a group of overtly fast bikes. I'm not a fast rider but I do believe that in the hands of either of my instructors, Jesse Owens, my bike, could run with the best of them.

Saturday wasn't about what kind of bike one has or how good a rider one already is. It was about taking one's riding to another level--no matter where it was currently. It was about developing mastery over machine and the many road situation that exist. It was about riding efficiently and effectively. It was also about getting a glimpse of two instructors riding with skills and talents most of us can only dream about. It was interesting to see the two instructors ride students' bikes--they could hop on and ride as it they knew the bike. In reality, they know how to ride and the bike doesn't matter in the end.

The class ends with each rider completing the course while riding with one hand. Not only is this possible, it is actually rather enjoyable once you get over the fact that you'll have to make all those curves and complete the weaving with one hand! Like nothing else, one hand riding forces one to use their lower body to steer the bike. If you hadn't gotten it before, you get at this point just how important using your lower body IS--a wonderful test of how much this lesson has been internalized in the class. To manage the curves, to complete the cone weaving, and ride around the course multiple times with only the throttle hand on the bike makes you feel in control of your machine!

(Me and Jesse Owens!)

I don't have a lot of pictures of the day--after all the time was spent riding. It has yet to fail that after this class I always ride home a little differently, more in control, more confident, more straight up in the saddle, so to speak. It was a day well spent--even if I am old enough to be every one's mother!

Wednesday, July 22

Images from the BMW MOA Rally, Johnson City, TN

I arrived home Monday night around 11:30pm after riding 680 miles that day from Wytheville, VA. My goal was to get to Indianapolis to have dinner at Shapiro's, which readers here know by now is one of my most favorite places to stop for a meal. I arrived at 6:30pm, plenty of time for dinner--or so I thought. It really was 7:30 EST and I had only 30 minutes before Shapiro's closed. Had I gotten there and found it closed, I would have wailed like a hungry infant! I ordered my usual tuna sandwich, side of vegetables, slice of cake and a tumbler of sweet tea. It's that meal combo that always gets me back to Chicago in a flash.

(Welcome to the 37th Annual BMW MOA Rally!)

I left for Knoxville, TN on Wednesday morning and arrived before dark at my friend's house where I spent the night with her and her husband, cousin and granddaughter. For ten years I've been promising to visit. Well, I did it and my friends laid out a welcome mat I will never forget.

(These bikes were calling my name!)

Early Thursday morning I headed out to the Appalachian Fairground in Johnson City, TN for the 37th annual BMW International Rally. The ride along I-81 is far more scenic than many interstates I've traveled and the beautiful landscape and long sweeping curves on the road kept me entertained. At every gas stop beyond Indianapolis, I spotted one or more Beemers. We didn't speak but shared a dip of the head in recognition of our mission. The rally call had been sounded and heard around the globe and the pilgrimage to Johnson City was on. When I'd see two or more Beemers motoring down interstate I'd feel my heart swell with pride. It felt great to belong to a group that seems to take wearing head to toe gear seriously. The riders looked sharp, focused and determined. I like my people.

(This Frenchman loved his K-bike. He got a ticket in Johnson City. He said the officer
was nice and gave him a "break" on the ticket)

(Tents and shelters of all kinds provided respite for weary bikers)

The rally was spectacular, filled with people passionate about bikes and riding. You could see it in their faces, in the gear they wore and in the ongoing wipe downs of their bikes. I didn't see all the people I needed to see, people I had truly wanted to connect with. But all those I did see, I enjoyed spending time with. I had one ongoing issue that nagged me throughout the rally but I'll write about that later. It was almost enough to make the rally really annoying but I went there mentally prepared to ignore the annoying... Still, it is worth exploring in the next blog. Overall, I had a grand time with friends and appreciated my alone times in the evening. Unlike the majority of folks, I did not camp. After a long ride, I need a bed, a hot shower, and quiet.

(A constant parade of bikes made for interesting bike and people watching)

The rally ended on Saturday evening. Sunday morning, I visited dear friends in Durham, NC. Getting there from Johnson City required travel on some very twisty roads through mountains that dipped, tipped, banked and switched back. In several places roade changes snatched my breath away. I kept within five or six miles above the speed limit, which one car and several motorcycles behind me clearly didn't appreciate. When they all zipped past me I loudly called them "speed demons" inside my new Scorpion helmet I bought at the rally. After that, there was never a two or four wheel vehicle behind me and I could, in peace, allow state highway 321 to swiftly move me into highway 421 with its dips and twists. Without shoulders to pull off the road to catch my breath I could only focus on good riding skills. Even when I think back on it now, I wonder how I managed it all as some of those tight descending curves made my brain vibrate! As I sailed by, I recall only the blurring of trees and rocks as I seemed to float up and down and around bends in the road. I reached Durham in four hours and spend far too little time with friends who don't live in the mountains but still lack level ground. Before leaving, I dropped my bike and again appreciate the pricey frame sliders I have to protect that beautiful blue frame. I have more to say about the rally but it must wait for the next blog.

I've had a challenging day and looking at the photos from the rally rekindled good memories of a few days ago. Until I can steal away some real writing time, I am sharing these photos in hopes that you'll get a feel for the bikes, the event, the weather and the folks who ventured there. One of the highlights for me was learning at the closing ceremony that the oldest BMW rider to Johnson City won not only that age category but also won for the oldest combined age category. He was 92 years old and his wife-passenger, who came along in a sidecar, was 87. Pretty impressive.

Enjoy some photos.

(If you didn't want to walk the vast fair grounds, you could hop a ride on one
of the many omnipresent truck driven carts)

("Teach" does things with a motorcycle that defy gravity and logic)

(This "Mac Pac" photo is proof of my tireless search for Jack of Twisted Roads)

(At the closing ceremony, we all hoped we'd win one of the two GS bikes that were raffled off)

(This little doohickey allows the motorcyclist to see what is behind him.
Power it on and the camera shows you "live" what's behind you)

(Etched on this plate is a USA map with gems adhered to the states that the rider
(young man on the left) has visited. Very cool!)

(The guys above (I hope they don't mind me using the photo) really made me feel welcomed.
I first met the one on the left and right at the BMW Rally in West Bend, WI)

(I'd like a bike with a side car. In it, I'd ride with a highly trained German Sheperd dog).

(Time to head home along the long and winding roads...)

(Homeward Bound!)

Looking forward to Redmond, Oregon, site of the 38th BMW Rally in 2010.

Monday, July 13

Two Wheelin' it on The Pony Express Trail

I know that some of you, like me, are history buffs. My pal, Brent Miller at Sojourn Chronicles recently returned from a fascinating motorcycle journey (over 6000 miles in three weeks) that followed the Pony Express Trail. His tale, however, extends beyond the trail to include some other interesting side adventures. Read about his encounters with weather and wind. You'll enjoy his insightful comments on solo riding, friendship and self. I think I remember a few words regarding butt issues too.

No matter the trail or trial, Brent's V-Strom handled superbly under his piloting. Before selecting the F800ST, the "Wee" was high on my list. It's a great bike--has to be--it has the same engine as my beloved and wildly popular, SV650.

Anyway...hop on over to read and enjoy Brent's full account. Brent is a professional photographer/journalist so you'll be gifted with spectacular scenes and wise words. Dang, I should have led you there as the events were unfolding...didn't think of it then.


Sunday, July 12

The countdown begins…flower sniffing on the horizon!

Early Saturday morning as I was motoring southbound on the Dan Ryan Expressway, I saw the familiar lights of motorcycles in my mirrors. Three of them, to be exact, and they were moving fast. My speedometer showed me at 6 miles above the speed limit. They rode in the staggered, multiple rider motorcycle formation. They were blasting down the left lane. When the first one zipped by me, I saw the familiar circular blue and white BMW rondel. The rider looked back as he passed me and nodded his head. I dipped my head in his direction. The second rider, looked back and gave his head an upward lift. I was thrilled to see them. Then the third one rode by and we exchanged the same the familiar motorcycle greeting.

Then it hit me! They had to be heading for the BMW MOA International Rally in Johnson City, TN. It made sense. Each bike towered with luggage. Each rider was totally ATGATT (all the gear, all the time). Each looked smooth, sharp and serious. My heart leaped. I felt such pride and elation. I wanted to fall in step with my people and be on my way too! I watched them fade into the distance and felt that leap in my heart dropped with a palpable thud. Eventually, they disappeared without a trace. I started humming some old "Freedom Songs."

The rally starts on July 16th.

Clearly, these guys were heading out early probably planning to take in some of the riding in the area, where there is no lack of magnificent roads. To name just a few, one can ride the Blue Ridge Parkway, The Cherohala Skyway, the roads around the Great Smokey Mountains, Fort Knox, The Dragon, and many scenic byways and squiggly roads off the beaten path. Like nothing else before, spotting these riders got me pumped!

It will be days before I leave. I will need to make a straight shot ride there given that I’m leaving at the last minute (work issues). I’ll still have plenty of time to enjoy the workshops and meet up with friends from the BMW F800 forum and some fellow bloggers. Just about everyone I know is leaving this weekend.

Dave is planning to attend. He’s probably leaving Monday or Tuesday. For good reasons, we will make separate journeys. First, we have different riding styles. I prefer long days and distance with a good ride day being around 500 miles and if necessary, 700 miles, and not feel drained. A good day for him is around 250 miles max. Different strokes for different folks. No one should ride beyond what they are comfortable doing. He will take his time getting there; I will get there in the time I have. We will meet up in TN probably on the same day.

Jesse’s oil has been changed, loose things all tightened up. I’m poking around with maps and drooling over scenic roads I’ll not have time to take in route to Johnson City. I will, however, make some stops in hopes of accumulating a few stamps along the way.

I’m also hoping for a detour in route home. I have friends in Knoxville, TN and in Durham, NC and I want to stop by even if it’s only to say, “Hey.”

The countdown begins…

Monday, July 6

Happy Belated Fourth and Four Easy Stamps, yeah right!

A long four day holiday found me working mostly--at least that's my story and I'm sticking to it. Consequently, I missed amassing another huge chunk of miles. I had planned a weekend ride that would have added 1200 miles to the odo. As they say, "this too shall pass." I am attempting to finish up overdue work so that when I leave for the BMW MOA International Rally in TN, the work will not be among my luggage.

Still, I could not NOT ride (forgive the bad grammar). So, I decided to compromise and hunt for local stamps. For those who don't know, the National Park Service, to encourage visits to national parks, battlefields, historic sites, National Memorials, National Parks, Wild Rivers, National Seashores--and a host of other historically important places, sells a "Passport To Your National Parks" booklet that allows you to collect stamps and amass ink stamp (imprints) to mark your visits. The Iron Butt Association, those obsessive-compulsive long distance riders (I'm a wannabe) has a National Parks ride that requires a visit to 25 different states and proof of those visits with 50 stamps. Sounds easy enough, right? Well, even when you're out hunting for local stamps, stuff happens that adds a degree of challenge to acquiring the stamps. My ride on July 3 is a perfect example.

Because of work I decided to get up early make four stops and pick up four Illinois stamps. The whole thing should have taken a couple of hours if I took a direct route--I did not. Still, I had things fairly well planned. I would hit Willow Springs to pick up the stamp at the Little Red School House Nature Center. Then on to Lockport, IL, where the Gaylord Building stands at Lincoln Landing. Zip on over to Joliet, IL where a stamp awaited at the Joliet Area Historical Museum. Last stop, a nice ride to Morris, IL for a stop at Gebhard Woods State Park that would allow me to follow a bit of Rt. 66 too. A quick lunch and home to get back to work. This entire ride is familiar to me as each stop travels through part of the Illinois & Michigan Canal National Heritage Corridor, which I've done before. It is never boring with its parks and canals, dams and nature preserves along the way.'s the deal. The Little Red School house was closed.

I had asked if they were open but what I didn't ask is whether the Visitors Center was open. The trails were open but not the office! So, no stamp! I did enjoy the message printed on the red sign about loud noises, like that coming from a radio, annoy both people and animals.

On to Lockport. The Gaylord Building stood proudly in the distance as I motored along Lockort's main drag.

The GPS led me to a street that I couldn't turn into but a quick ride over the bridge and a turn around in a swanky country club put me back on track. The Gaylord Building, which is not in its original location is a beautiful old place made of "cream-colored dolomite limestone." If you've seen Chicago's Water Tower, you'll see the same bumpy stone popular of that era (1800s).

I spent a lot of time in the building, viewing a video, touring the exhibits where there was also a special exhibit on Lincoln.

On the first floor of the building is a nice looking, upscale restaurant, The Landing, that I definitely want to check out in the future. The women at this center were amazingly helpful and cheery. First successful stamp capture of the day! At their suggestion, I made a quick stop at the Will County Historical Society across the street but they didn't have any stamps so I moved
on to Joliet.

Joliet Area Historical Museum (JAHM) is an excellent stop.

Incredibly helpful folks. There is the kind of reception that always makes me want to tour a place, watch the video(s) and leave a donation! I had a grand time there--gave my brain lots of new information. I;m very familiar with this geographical area but I never appreciated the role that Joliet played in the industrial period. I enjoyed the exhibits here immensely.

I will return to do it more justice as Joliet has some amazing architecture that I didn't have time to capture. In hindsight, I should have at least taken a photo of the Rialto Square Theatre, called "The Jewel of Joliet."

When I ask for the cancellation stamp, the woman is eager and excited. She pulls out the ink pad and her stamp. She looks curiously at the stamp. She searches and searches and says, "I guess the '09 hasn't come in yet. I called them back in May and I guess they haven't sent it yet--oh darn." Had she not be such a sweet, helpful woman I would have been a bit upset. So I had her sign and date my Passport. I don't think it will count, but she and I both felt good about walking away with something. I shall return to the Old Joliet Prison--it is an interesting place. And here's something I just learned: The prison may be turned into a tourist center to
capitalize on the Rt. 66 mania.

It would make for an interesting site if they don't over commercialize it and teach the history of the place and the prison system in this area. I plan to return to the site to exploit the photo opportunities. The place is now dilapidated and desolate, which should make for some dramatic early morning or near nightfall pictures.

The helpful folks at the JAHM told me to take Rt. 6 to Morris. It added to the length of the trip but it was worth it. The ride took me through the hugely industrial areas and backyards of Joliet. I passed but did not stop at the Brandon Road Lock and Dam, built in 1923 and opened to barge traffic in 1933.

So far, three stops and only one legitimate stamp.

Gebhard Woods State Park is a lovely and inviting place where fishing, hiking, biking along the canal, or just hanging out is an excellent way to spent some time.

I called the park from the JAHM because the clerk thought the office might not be open given that it was July 3rd? I called and the automated voice said they were open, the the trails were open and to "come on over." As I pulled in, I noticed that the sign in the park window said, "Open." Good.

After parking the bike and watching some families fishing, I walk to the window. The large "Open" is the only bright thing in the window. The place is dark and obviously closed. Now, I am ticked. Adjacent to the building is a garage and I see a man without a shirt and low hanging pants walk in the garage. I watch him. He is talking loudly to someone on the inside. They are talking about cars. I wait. And wait. And wait. When the shirtless man goes back to fishing, I walk toward the garage. I ask if the office is open as the sign indicates. The young man looks puzzled and hesitantly says it is. I tell him why I am there and he continues looking befuddled but tells me to follow him. The garage is big and dark in its deepest interior. I hesitate about following him. "Do you mean literally follow you?" He says, "Yes." We walk through a very black hallway that leads into the closed office.

He searches for the stamp and ink pad and find them quickly. He rotates the stamp. He keeps rotating it. Then he searches more. Then he says, "I don't have a stamp with 2009 on it. We just have the one that goes up to 2008." I am incredulous. I gently plead for him to search again. He does. His stamp goes up to 2008. For the second time I ask someone to stamp with a '08 stamp. After stamping with the old stamp, I ask for him to legitimate it. He apologetically complies. He initials the book and writes in the current date.

Four stops and only one legitimate stamp to show for it.

Oh well, the ride and roads were great; the weather could not have been more perfect. Lots of motorcycle sightings. And the privilege of riding a motorcycle that I love more and more with each passing mile. Just priceless.

Whether you celebrate the holiday or not, hope your weekend was a great and safe one!

Stamp total = 1 & 2 that probably won't count.