Old Barn in January Fog

The temperature is an unseasonal 56 degrees in January. The result of warm air over cold ground has produced one very foggy day. This scene appeared as I was traveling home from a visit with friends.

Old barn in January fog
Highway US22/SR3 near Clarksville, OH.

See you on the highway.

Brent

 

My First Motorcycle

From the old box of photos.

Finding that old box of photos was like discovering presents under the Christmas Tree. I thought these images of my early motorcycles, horses and cars were gone, lost to history. Merry Christmas in June!

My senior year of high school (Class of 1968), I tried to buy a motorcycle that I saw for sale along the street I took to go to work. As far as I could tell, it needed a little TLC. I told the guy I would buy it. I don’t remember how much. When I arrived home, my mom told me that the guy had called to see if it was okay to sell me the bike. Her response to him was, “He is still in high school and he is not buying a motorcycle!” I was mad. Very mad. Not destructive mad, just mad.

1963 Harley-Davidson Sprint 250cc Scrambler

I had always understood that us boys were not allowed to own a car while we were in high school, but this was a motorcycle and I had been riding the Lambretta scooter that Dad bought. After I graduated, I went back to see if the bike was still was available. It was, and I bought it! It was a 1963 Harley-Davidson Sprint 250cc Scrambler. It was made in Italy by Aermacchi for Harley-Davidson. Yes, one of those. It had a kick start on the left and gear selector on the right–a four speed transmission. 

I don’t think mom was very happy with that, but I had a part-time job, and paid with my own money. So, it was now acceptable. Dad was okay with it, I think, but I am sure there were discussions.

Immediately, I started giving that bike a little TLC, but it needed more than that. It needed a mechanic. Off it went to the Harley dealer. Upon its return, I gave it a paint job–cans of automotive spray paint from the hardware store. It looked reasonably good. 

Even after “fixing it up,” the bike was still a piece of junk. Over the years, and after numerous purchases of motorcycles, I still think of that Sprint as the worst motorcycle I ever owned. Eventually, I traded it for a car, a 1965 Pontiac Lemans four-door sedan with a three-speed on the column. 

Today, that Sprint is a collector’s item. I wish I still had it. 

See you on the highway.

Brent

 

What? A Flat Tire!

I have been very fortunate over my 57 years of motorcycling to never have a flat tire while traveling. All my previous flats were discovered in my garage. But, this flat happened 35 miles from home while returning from a Kentucky campout with friends. 

Packed and ready to head home. Just put on the panniers.

I was monitoring my fuel. The computer indicated I had 90 miles before requiring fuel, and I was about 60 miles from home. As I traveled north, I decided there was no need to push it, and I pulled into a Kroger fuel station in Mount Orab, Ohio. I was tired and ready to be home.

Fueled up, I lifted the bike off the kickstand and fired it up. Rolling, the bike just felt different. Was it me, tired, or the bike. I looked at the front wheel, and kept going pulling into traffic. Now, I’m in traffic, and I realize it is the bike–most likely a flat, and safety is about 300 yards away. I cross the overpass of Ohio Route 32, see a Tire Discounters store and plenty of parking lot next to it. Stop. Get off the bike. Check the tires, and the rear is definitely flat. Thank god I have my tire repair kit with me.

That is one long screw. Unfortunately, I am not!

I empty the tire repair kit onto the ground, and commence to removing the screw and plugging the tire with one of those “mushroom” type pieces. I have used them before, and they work perfectly. Next, plug in the portable air compressor and air up. Unfortunately, this compressor, which has never been used before, failed to inflate. It failed to even start. *(^$(^))^%$%$&$@***

You get the picture. But, wait! I pulled into this parking lot just in case because right next door is the tire store, and they are busy putting new tires on cars. I walk over, and explain my predicament. Will they air me up? “Yes.” So, I walk back to the bike, start it up and gently paddle-walk it next door where I nearly drop the bike. I am so tired, I forgot to put the kickstand down. It was a muscular save, and I haven’t got much of that at age 72. 

“How much air?” “41 psi, please.” Filled up, and very thankful. No funds exchanged hands, even though it was offered. 

Off I went. Headed home for the final 35 miles. Full tank, and patched tire. 

Frankly, even though I had a flat tire on the road, I felt lucky. I was prepared, and saw the possibility of a Plan B. What I should have done was get off the bike back at the gas station, discover the flat right there, and roll it over to the air hose. But, lesson learned, and I am very thankful.

A new air compressor (different brand) was ordered the next day. 

Be well. Ride safe. See you on the highway or on the side of the road.

Brent

 

 

Learning about Our Highways

I have been somewhat of a history buff when it comes to motorcycling, travel and highways. I love to ride historic highways and trails, to see the history. So, it makes plenty of sense to me that I would love to read about the history of highways. I find it fascinating.

Americas First HighwaysWhen I found a book recently published, I had to have it. America’s First Highways, by Stephen H. Provost, is a great read for understanding how our country arrived at our highway system.

I understood how many of our roads were originally Native American Trails, and one can see that from early 1700 and 1800 maps, but I discovered a few things about how our highways were developed.

In the late 1800s, as towns and cities began to grow, it was the bicycle industry that called for better roads, although mainly in urban settings. By 1900, there were “321 bicycle companies churning out an astonishing 1.2 million a year.”

City streets began to improve, but the roads between cities were still primarily dirt, and as automobile manufacturing began and started to grow, the need for better roads between towns grew with it. That gave rise to the automobile and highway associations, and efforts to improve the rural roads. Building better roads gave rise to the real idea of “If you build it, they will come.” Tourism and commerce demanded better roads with the rise of automobile manufacturing.

Early on, the Federal government had no part in the development of highways. It was all local and regional. But there was a need for major roads from border to border and coast to coast. Hence, the idea of national highways like the Lincoln Highway, Yellowstone Trail, Dixie Highway, Old Spanish Trail, and the Lee Highway, just to name a few, grew in popularity but not without easy consensus. Which towns would these highways go through? What would be the final route?

Finally, in 1917, the Federal government created the Bureau of Public Roads, but its efforts were minimal. It was not until 1926 when the Feds designed a numbered highway system to replace all the named highways. For interstate highways, there were to be 10 east-west routes ending in zero (10, 20, 30, 40, etc.) and 11 north-south highways ending in the number 1 (1, 11, etc. to 101). The numbering system brought an end to the named highways, but many of those names still exist, and a few are marked, like the Lincoln Highway and the National Road.

I have touched on a few key points of this book, but there is so much more detail. If you are interested, read the book.

20160720_075831

That’s what is exciting about finding a book like this. The richness of these early highways, and the development of towns and the road are all waiting to be discovered.

See you on the highway.

Brent

Dreaming of the Oregon Trail

For some strange reason, I awoke this morning dreaming of my 2012 ride on the Oregon Trail. It was a 6,000-mile, 21 day adventure. But, why this morning? Maybe I’m just dreaming of another motorcycle adventure. 

OrTrail-60
Chimney Rock in Nebraska, a landmark for travelers on the Oregon Trail.

See you on the highway. 

Brent