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.

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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

My Motorcycling Year in Review; Now What?

The weather forecast for the last couple of days of 2021 are a disappointment. Not good for riding. So, the mileage numbers are pretty much complete for the year, and that is somewhat disappointing also.

I decided to analyze my riding to see if a pattern emerged.

MG 12-02-2021

The first thing I noticed is that I rode my 2020 Moto Guzzi V7iii Rough twice as many miles as my 2017 Suzuki V-Strom 650. Really? Yes, really. The V-Strom is my third DL650, and I have loved each of them, but the Guzzi has overtaken the mileage. It is so easy to ride, to throw a leg over. And frankly, it is soulful.

I decided to look back to 2008 for motorcycling mileage. That’s when I bought the first V-Strom 650, and really started to really travel on two wheels. I put 66,386 miles on that yellow bike before trading it on a new 2015 V-Strom 650. That first one took me to many places and most of my 48-state rides.

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In 2013, a distinct change occurred. I had one long tour to the southeast to work on my fill-in-the-states map, and that was one of my worst travels. I rode 2,400 miles round trip, five of the six days in rain. I was charged by a pit bull while taking a picture of crossing into the Georgia state line. Missed being involved in a multiple car accident by split seconds in Augusta, Georgia, because I was in the right lane and could take to shift to the highway shoulder. Took a bee sting in the face while traveling at 75 MPH next to a semi-truck and trailer on I-75. There were other incidents, but by the time I arrived home, I told my wife, “It was horrible. I’m selling that bike.” In her wisdom, she told me to wait a while. Smart woman.

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Aug-ride-0028

In 2012, I started volunteering with an organization that serves disabled Veterans. Project Healing Waters Fly Fishing, Inc., is an incredible asset. The program teaches disabled Veterans all aspects of fly fishing—fly tying, casting techniques, rod building, and takes them fishing. As a Vietnam Veteran myself, I could relate. I got involved serving others. Sometimes, I would ride the motorcycle to events. It’s clear in my analysis that PHWFF was more important than long-distance motorcycling. I served for nine years, six as the program lead for Cincinnati.

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Then there was covid and the pandemic. We hunkered down, and got our vaccinations as soon as we could, but we still practiced caution and did little traveling or socializing. Thank God for Zoom to stay in touch with motorcycling friends.

Campfire Chat 07-22-2020

I started riding at the age of 15 in 1965 on a Lambretta scooter that my dad bought. More than 50 years of motorcycle ownership, and one at a time. There were a few years of non-ownership. I owned a 2004 Honda Shadow when I wrote a few articles for Road Runner Magazine. Since purchasing that 2008 V-Strom, I have owned a total of nine motorcycles, but never owned more than two at a time. Here is the list in the order of purchase and the miles I put on them:

  • 2008 Suzuki V-Strom 650 (66,386 miles) (traded)
  • 2014.5 Kawasaki KLR 650 (2,117 miles) (traded)
  • 2015 Suzuki V-Strom 650 (12,303 miles) (traded)
  • 2017 Suzuki SV650 (2,626 miles) (traded)
  • 2017 Suzuki V-Strom 650 (7,059 miles)
  • 2018 Kawasaki KLR 650 (4,600 miles) (regretted trading)
  • 2014 Suzuki V-Strom 1000 (3,509 miles) (traded)
  • 2019 Moto Guzzi V7iii Special (2,296 miles) (traded)
  • 2020 Moto Guzzi V7iii Rough (3,001 miles)

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My current rides, the 2017 V-Strom and 2020 Moto Guzzi V7iii.

Guzzi-Strom 9-23-2021

So, here are the numbers. Since 2008, I have ridden 103,897 miles on two wheels. The years 2008-2012 totaled 57,434 for an average of 11,487 miles per year. The years 2013-2021 totaled 46,463 for an average of 5,162 miles per year. The year with the most miles was 2010 with 13,637 miles and the worst was 2015 with 3,551 miles, the year my Mom passed away.

Clearly, something or life choices made a huge difference in my motorcycling starting in 2013. Was it that horrible tour to the southeast? Or, was it refocused interest. For the most part, I think it was life choices and the opportunity to serve others that replaced my long-distance two-wheeled travel.

Now What?

Good question. Now what? At age 71, I am not ready to quit riding. I have ridden to and through all 48 states—all on V-Stroms. Looking at the numbers, it does not make sense to buy a third motorcycle when I would just be splitting miles with three bikes. And now that my PHWFF duties have changed, I have more time to get away. The easy decision is to make smaller two and three day rides and fishing trips, and that would be perfect for either of the bikes currently in the garage, the V-Strom and the Guzzi. In fact, I really want to take the Guzzi for a tour. It’s the perfect bike for two-lane highways. 

Grog Run Rd 12-23-2020

See you on the highway.

Brent

The Total Freedom Machine

Ed. Note: March 21, 2021 is International Poetry Day.

MC Ride 03-21-2021

Spring air coaxes me on as I lean  into the curves.
The park is filled with families, kids in the playgrounds.
Overhead, an airplane tows a glider, ready to be released
to near total freedom, but it must return to earth.
The motorcycle awaits. It is the total freedom machine.

See you on the highway.

Brent

Thinking about fishing and motorcycles

It’s January—cold with a mix of rain and snow. Coronavirus has required us to stay inside. So, what’s a fella to do?

Planning. Getting ready for a fishing season along with a little motorcycling. That’s what a fella is to do!

KLR Fishing

Over the years, I have built fly rods and bought rods that would make it easier to carry them on a motorcycle. Then, I discovered Tenkara in 2013, and that changed my motorcycle/fishing world completely. However, I still like to use a conventional fly rod from time to time. It all depends upon the water to be fished. The minimalist approach to Tenkara just makes perfect sense with the motorcycle. So, for 2021, here is my list of gear for fly fishing with the motorcycle as transportation.

The rods:

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Any one of these will fit into the bags on my motorcycle. From top to bottom:

  1. Tiny Tenkara. 8.5” collapsed, 54” extended
  2. Tiny Tenkara 2. It is 14.5” in rod tube, 8’ extended
  3. Tenkara USA Hane’. 17” in rod tube, 10’10” extended
  4. 7-piece, 9’ 5wt travel fly rod. 18” in rod sock
  5. 5-piece, 7.5’ 4wt fly rod. 20” in rod sock

Of course, there are a lot of other manufacturers and options out there. Find one you like, and get to fishing.

The packs:

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I do not use a fishing vest preferring a pack instead. I have three in different sizes. They can carry an assortment of fly boxes. It just depends upon how much you want to carry, or more importantly, how much room on the motorcycle is available. L to R above: 

  1. Simms small sling pack. Plenty of room for fly boxes and gear, including space for a water bottle on the bottom.
  2. Fishpond small waist pack. Less room, but will hold one fly reel as well as fly boxes.
  3. Fishpond small chest pack. Minimal gear. One small fly box.

With the minimalist approach of Tenkara, the small Fishpond chest pack is perfect, and it takes up less room in the motorcycle bags.

A net?:

I think a net is a luxury for motorcycle fly fishing, especially if you are also hauling camping gear. But I recently discovered a net manufacturer who has been in business since 1955, and I think his net will be just the ticket for saving space.

Gear 01-07-2021-3

The top net is one I built. It is 21” long, and will fit in a bag if you tilt it a little. It’s a nice net, and there have been plenty of fish in it. The little one is an expandable net from Handy Pak Net Company in Pennsylvania. It has a spring steel rim, folds up to fit in that pouch, AND it is a bigger net than my homebuilt. The Handy Pak Net is going with me on the motorcycle.

Waders?

What about waders? Waders take up too much space, and if you’re going motorcycle camping, they are left behind. You either wet wade or fish from shore. If you’re just going fishing near where you live, there is probably room for waders. I prefer waist sock-foot waders with a separate boot. The waist waders fold up into a smaller package for transportation. Plan on some kind of plastic bag for carrying wet waders and boots home.

That’s all folks!

I am so ready to get on the motorcycle and go fishing.

See you on the highway (or maybe on the water … or both).

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. 

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

See you on the highway. 

Brent

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