Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Tim "Snake" Acree V~7376 R.I.P.

Those of you who aren't in VROC but read my blog may have gotten the idea, correctly, that this is like an extended family to us. The people we have met here, converse with daily and visit with as often as possible are more than friends.

Tim "Snake" Acree, of Nashville Indiana, was one of these. Tim, 51, left us early this morning. After discovering his house on fire, he evacuated his family and then went back in to retrieve some possessions. The fire didn't get him, but he suffered a heart attack. A neighbor provided CPR until the Paramedics arrived, but it was too late.

We lost Kegs last September and Fred on New Years Day, but they were both fighting cancer and we knew it was coming. This time, it was a bolt out of the blue and I am stunned. All that Tim did for VROCers and VROC will live on in our lore and those of us who knew him will keep a part of him in our hearts.

Snake, KT, Sandy and Sue Bader
Custer, South Dakota - June, 2006

Monday, March 19, 2007

Tribute Blog About Fred, Mo and KSL

My Blog post of January 2nd told of Fred's passing. Sundial has done a very nice Blog entry on Fred with Mo's blessing.


Joker also authored a great piece in the Riders of Kawasaki magazine, Accelerate, on KSL.


Tuesday, March 13, 2007

The Florida Trip In Retrospect

It was quite the trip. We covered 1,600 miles in just over 24 hours each way so that we could spend three days with friends. That's quite an effort and one might ask whether it was worth it. Considering the nature of the friends, of course it was. I don't know if I'd do the straight shot again, since we are all getting older and it beat us up quite a bit, but travelling that far for a few days with the VROC family was what this is all about.

It amazes me how Scott and Margot organize this twice a year. Their hospitality, along with Lisa and Dallas as well as Sumo and Shannon, is beyond compare. Thanks to each and every one of them for giving us this opportunity to visit and hang out. Thanks, too, to all the VROCers who showed up and made this a weekend to remember.

Now we will settle in and get serious about planning for the upcoming season. There is bike maintenance and upgrading to schedule, reservations to be made and budgeting to be worked out. I will be busy for a while.

Our travel schedule for 2007 has been updated. We will be cutting back a little from the last three years to conserve a little cash and allow me to get some golf in, but we will still get to a lot of places. More details will be posted later after I get them worked out.

The Road Home

Yesterday, we were up at 6:30 AM. As I loaded the van in the dark, I could see a ring around the moon. Scott and Margot were up and about and we shared a coffee and goodbyes before pulling out and heading northbound. There was a brief stop at the WalMart so Sandy could get some flavoured coffee creamers in individual packages (not found in Canada). Gary picked up some Cherry Coke for Norm and Leo and I got new road atlases. My old one was both out of date and falling apart.

We hit the I-95 North on-ramp at about 8:00 AM. There was a quick stop at a Mickey D's in Melbourne to grab some breakfast to go. They had my favourite steak bagel, but I passed on that because of the long drive ahead of us.

Near Cocoa, I was in the left lane when something went across the road from left to right ahead of me. As it plastered itself across the grill of a silver Lexus in the right lane, we saw it was a thin piece of sheet metal about three feet by two feet. The Lexus driver either didn't notice or didn't care, because he kept on driving. A ways north, as we were back in the right lane, the Lexus came by us with the metal still in place. Without thinking too clearly, I pulled out to follow him around a transport. This was the precise moment that the air turbulence dislodged the metal and sent it back towards us. A hard swerve left and then right put us around it but it felt like we were within a hairs breadth of rolling over. Lucky I didn't touch the brakes.

Progressive had a billboard up as we approached Daytona Beach. It said "Daytona Beach Welcomes Bikers. All others, it's not too late to turn back." I liked it. There were also highway signs saying JAX xxx miles. I wondered how my friend Jax McGuigan rated a sign and then I realized they meant Jacksonville.

I couldn't believe the number of drivers, usually with Florida plates, hogging the left lane. Is this some plan to piss off northern drivers or are people to lazy or unaware to get out of the road? It wasn't just women or old drivers, either. Makes me wish I had a push bumper on the van.

We stopped in Hardeeville, SC for gas and had a quick lunch at Wendy's. Gary or Leo (I can't remember which) took over the driving and we motored up I-96 to I-26, across to I-77 and north to Wytheville. On I-26, the left lane hogs were now logging trucks. Very annoying. We hit Charlotte about rush hour but weren't held up too badly because we were able to use the HOV diamond lane. Most of the cars had only one occupant, so we zipped along with little traffic in front of us. Outside Wytheville, near where we stayed at the KOA in June, we stopped for fuel and more McDonalds food to go.

I took over driving again and took us north to Beckley, up US19 and onto I-77. At the next gas stop in Canonsburg Pennsylvania (where the Visa machine was screwed up and I paid cash), Gary took over and drove until he wore out near Mercer. At a rest area, Leo took over and got us through Erie, onto I-90 and to the service centre at Angola NY. One interesting thing was that, on the way down, the snow line was part way through WV. On the way back, we didn't see snow until Mercer, evidence that it had been a mild week in the north.

I resumed driving at Angola since we were all burning out and driving shifts were getting shorter. I had my toll money for I-190 but the booths were closed for upgrading. The young lady in the only open Canadian customs booth asked a couple of questions and waved us through without checking our ID. Still better than 50% not requiring any ID over the last twelve months. We ran up a quiet QEW, 403 and 401 to Toronto where we helped Leo find his car, which had been left on the way down.

Breakfast and coffee were acquired at the TH on the 400 in King City. I drove until about Moonstone, where we got off so that Gary could take over the wheel, and then fueled in Parry Sound where I took over again. Leo had pulled off somewhere to take a nap and we were getting pretty tired. The last 100 miles were a blur, but we finally pulled into Gary's place about 9:30 AM. Then it was home to unpack and flake out for the rest of the day.

Sunday, March 11, 2007

The Hacienda - Sunday

The time changed overnight. Spring ahead, so we lost an hour. The laptop running XP Home made the change so I guess the Microsoft Updates worked. Gary wasn't feeling well this morning. It looks like he was hit by some version of the Corona Flu. Breakfast was more biscuits and gravy, a waker upper I could easily get used to. I wonder if these would be a hit at Timmy's?

The people bunking at the Hacienda started heading out early, going singly and in pairs as the morning progressed. This was a good trip as I got to put more than a few faces to names I already knew. Jennifer, whose old posting name I never understood until now and who has the best 1/3rd of the Vulcan world. Billy G, who I (sort of) met in New Hampsire but now know much better. Zabrina, Sweet Tooth, whose posts I have been following for some time. Aldo, who has been a regular on the board and at Florida gatherings, thanks for the real estate talk. Patman, who I was remiss in not spending time getting to know with all the crowd around. This is what my VROC world is all about, meeting and hanging with the fine people that populate our newsgroup and our VROC family.

I spent a little time blogging and then went to update my expenses. Wouldn't you know that the one thing I didn't test on this laptop was Excel. It wanted to update the program and requested the CD. The CD, of course, is at home in Sudbury. Once again my best intentions to stay up to date have been stymied, so I sorted the receipts and stuck them in an envelope to deal with when I get home.

We ended up sitting out in the driveway in the shade of the garage as the gentle breezes caressed our winter chapped Canuck hides. Scott, Margot, Judge, Cindy, Jennifer, Leo, Gary, Sandy and I. Bike and cop stories got swapped for quite some time. Mid afternoon, Gary, Scott and I adjourned to the large screen HD TV to watch the NASCAR race from Las Vegas. Unfortunately, the night before caught up with me and I missed much of the race while I napped on the couch. We fund out later that Gary won the week in our VROC NASCAR Fantasy League and vaulted to second place in the standings. I had a different A driver and didn't do as well, but I did make it into the Top Ten.

For supper, we went around the corner to Dallas and Lisa's house where Judge and Cindy were in residence. The house a gorgeous, and fits my total conception of what a dream home would be. Dallas is a painter and did some beautiful work in there. The highlight of the dinner was excellent fried chicken, and the other dishes were just as good. For dessert, we had baked apples, something new to me.

Back at The Hacienda, I checked the tire pressures and attended to a few pre-departure chores. We were in bed by midnight.

Saturday, March 10, 2007

The Hacienda - Saturday

I woke up about 8:30 and found most of the others bunking here already up and about. Margot made biscuits and sausage gravy for breakfast. The sausage and gravy came out of a Campbell's can the likes of which I have never (unfortunately) seen at home. She augments this with another half pound of sausage per can that she fries up. It was an excellent start to the day.

I spent some time updating the blog and photos and then Gary, Sandy and I went over to the grocery store to get some ice. When we got there, we saw a yellow Suzuki V-Strom in the parking lot. As I suspected, there was a Texas plate on it so we knew that Coyote character from Dallas/Fort Worth had arrived. We tracked him down in the beer section.

Back at the house, I called Gator up in the hospital in Titusville. I hadn't been able to reach him yesterday, but he did answer today. He said he was up for company, so Leo, Sandy, Coyote and I motored up to see him. He was in good spirits and figured he might be sprung as soon as tomorrow since his system was behaving. The Docs didn't have a firm diagnosis but were leaning towards lactose intolerance. We had a good visit and then I got lost trying to get back to I-95. Checking the map, it appears I described a large figure 8 pattern through town and, fifteen miles later, I ended up back where I started. The GPS continues to look better and better.

We finally arrived back at The Hacienda about 4:00 and found many people and bikes in the yard. There was even an inflatable male doll sitting on one of the scoots. The Women of VROC had taken charge. Soon after we returned, the beef ribs, roast and pork loin which had been smoking all day were ready. Along with salads, veggies and other sides, we chowed down on some excellent food until everyone was full. Thanks to Scott and Sumo for some fine cooking.

As everyone returned to the garage and driveway, they finally got the webcam working. Here, Cargo watches Kudzu tinker with the settings while Stewey laughs at something Scott is saying. The women were doing things to the doll (now named Snubs the lover of musicals) that Sandy says I can't post pictures of. Among other things, ring toss was involved. You had to be here. We also did a bit of drunk dialing and caught a few people at home.

Everybody was having a good time. Kopperhed and his wife Kelly (Flash) dropped by. They are from Oklahoma and had been here all week in Daytona. Finally, as the evening wore on, people started to wander off towards home or hotel. Stewey and Coyote left since they were riding out for Illinois and Texas, respectively, early the next morning.

At the very end, about 1:00 AM, the denizens of The Hacienda decided to turn in. There were beds, couches and air mattresses spread throughout the house and people settled in for a good sleep. This photo shows Brad and Billy G. already down for the count as Dooley and Scott look on

We decided to delay our departure until Monday since we figure that none of the team will be on top of our game tomorrow.

More Party Photos

Courtesy of Stewey.


Saturday Party Photos

The biker soon the be known as Snubs, lover of musicals

The women are in charge

Joker, Judge and Thrillseeker

Sandy and Thrillseeker

Judge and Coyote

These ones aren't fluff

Dogskin rug

The Garage

kopperhed waxes eloquent

Sandy, Leo and Cargo kick back

Friday, March 09, 2007

The Hacienda - Friday

I woke up about 8:00 after a good night's sleep, but Sandy said I must have been tired since I was snoring. I guess I am still getting over the 60 hour period that I only slept five hours.

I grabbed a coffee and joined the crew at the table working on their various computers. I spent some time streamlining the start-up process and then got to work on the Blogs for the trip down. Scott and Cargo were working on a way to get the webcam on line so others could vicariously share the party with us. They achieved limited success. Then they got to work preparing some of the ribs for tomorrow's meal.

Cargo, Bayman and I spent a little time talking politics, a favourite VROC pastime. The discussion wasn't to contentious since we seem to be pretty much on the same page.

I was sitting outside when Judge and Cindy arrived from Georgia towing their bike. He pulled into the driveway next door and everyone headed over to say Hi. I walked across the yard barefoot and got a first hand lesson on sand spurs. These spiny little pods embedded themselves in the soles of my feet and, when I pulled out the full ones, they stuck to my fingers. Then we spent fifteen minutes with tweezers, a hemostat and Judge using a box cutter to get out the spines that had broken off. I will always wear shoes after this.

Inside, Cindy was checking the cabinet and found a jar of Peter Pan peanut butter. A quick Google and we found it was one of the recalled salmonella jars so no one had a peanut butter sandwich.

Skeeze pulled in from Georgia, bringing the total green/green Nomad complement to three. We sat around visiting as more people arrived. Slammer, Barb and their dog arrived by car from North Carolina and Steve from Chicago, resplendent in yellow, dropped by for a while. More people kept coming all the time and I lost track. One I did note was Billy G. from Florida because, although I didn't remember, we met up in New England in 2004 at both Laconia and Bethel Maine. Kudzu also arrived with a gang from Boca on his new (to him) 2005 GoldWing.

About 8:00 PM, we mounted up and headed down the road to Beef O'Brady's, a local popular sports bar. Kudzu asked if I wanted to ride his Wing and I took him up on it. They were busy so we waited outside until they had room for 25 people, but it was a perfect night and we didn't mind (see picture). Finally inside, we ate and a few people threw chicken bones and other odds and ends from table to table.

As we were coming out of the restaurant, another bike pulled in. It was Stewey, who rode in from Peoria Illinois. That was a real accomplishment at this time of year. Back at the Hacienda, Stewey enjoyed a celebratory beer while Kudzu looked on. The webcam, which had been up and down all day, we reconnected via Yahoo Messenger. The pictures were much better, but people needed to install YM to see them. As the evening progressed, people started to wander off to bed. Sandy turned in just before midnight, while Scott, Leo and I were the last to lay down about 1:30.

It was a good day in Florida.

The Hacienda - Thursday

Scott and Margot were home when we got to the Hacienda. Their new dog, Taz, is an Australian Cattle Dog. Very intelligent, he had me trained to throw his favourite ball for him in no time. Since we arrived first, we staked out a bedroom and avoided having to set the tent up for this evening. Shortly after we got there, Cargo rolled in with his Nomad on a trailer.

Scott has WiFi, so we configured the laptops with his security codes and got on line to check the mail. Various people were on line in various places and scenes like the one here, out front in the driveway, were common. We posted about our arrival in the Newsgroup and had multiple replies shortly thereafter.

The four of us skipped over to the shopping center where we grabbed sandwiches at Subway. Sherri, the girl behind the counter, was the friendliest Subway person I ever met. I will be calling their HQ to commend here. Then we hit the grocery store for beer, pop and ice. Maybe tomorrow, we'll head for a car wash to clean the filthy van.

Jennifer, who lives in Palm Bay, dropped by on her 500 Vulcan. She's a school teacher and this is her first bike. She was concerned that people would say she had a 1/2 a Vulcan. I pointed out that the 800's were 1/2 Vulcans and hers was actually a 1/3 Vulcan. She now has an appropriately low opinion of me:-) Brad, who is testing a new Spyder vehicle for Bombardier Recreational Product, brought it by for us to look at. He had one of the optional seat covers with it. Her name was Amanda. We'll get a chance to try a demo out when we get home.

I phoned Sherm to say Hi. he's ready to roll out to Arizona for their gathering. This started a round of drunk phoning to a number of people. Luckily, nobody was really drunk since Scott and Cargo limited themselves to one beer apiece. Before it was done, we even had an incoming call from New Zealand.

A Nashua New Hamshire transplant named Brian stopped by with his son Brian Jr., visiting from up north, and their ladies. It was a good thing they came by because they alerted us that NASA was shortly going to be launching an Atlas V booster with five satellites on board. We waited as they held several times and then, about 10:00, they fired it off. Expert watchers say it wasn't nearly as spectacular as the shuttle, but seeing the bright light go up (considering it was about 50 miles away) was pretty cool. This was the best picture I could get.

After the launch, people started to drift off to bed. In the end, Scott and I were putting away the chairs and marveling at the wonders of the VROC family.

Thursday, March 08, 2007

Sudbury to Florida

The journey began yesterday morning bright and early. It was -21, which was a great improvement from the -30 the day before. Sandy shook me awake about 5:30 AM and we finished stowing our gear in the van. Gary was waiting at 6:55 when we pulled into his driveway and we hooked up with Leo and Diane, in their own car, at 7:15 at the south end of town. Leo was driving Diane to Toronto to catch a flight to Mexico, and then he would leave the car there in the Park and Fly. He'll pick it up on the way home.

The road was wet and sloppy but, other than using a lot of washer fluid, the trip to Toronto was pretty good. We stopped at the new Tim Hortons south of Parry Sound for the first time. In Toronto, we went directly to the Quality Inn on Islington and waited while Leo and Diane took the short drive to check out the long term parking. Then we waved good-bye to Di and immediately found there was no westbound on ramp to the 401 from Islington. Lost in the first quarter mile. After wandering around the ground level, the third interchange we stumbled on had a westbound ramp and we were underway.

Traffic was light as we took the 401/403/QEW route to Fort Erie and the Peace Bridge. The US Border Guard took all four ID's. It was a little confusing because Sandy and Gary were in the back seat and, when I told him my wife was with me, he asked if Leo and I were married. I pointed to Sandy and he said with a smile that, since we had legalized gay marriage, they were never sure any more. Then he laughed and sent us on our way.

I drove to Erie on I-90, stopping for the first time at the new Pennsylvania welcome center in Notheast, and then south on I-79 past Pittsburgh to West (By God) Virginia. We were through Pittsburgh at 5:00 PM but didn't encounter much traffic at all. In southern Pa and northern WV, as the sun got lower, Leo kept counting herds of deer in the fields and on the hills. They stood out against the snow cover and I slowed a bit as it got darker.

I called Jim 'Wrong Turn' Ayers on the way down to WV and found he wasn't going to make it to Florida. About 9:00 PM, we stopped at his place in Fayetteville WV to say Hi. He lives on Nickelville Road, so we felt right at home. Jim put coffee on and offered us muffins while his cat brutalized me every time I stopped rubbing his head. We talked about how he is going to cure his motorcycle infestation (four of them at the moment) and summer plans. There may be a West Virginia Wander in the cards. In the picture, Jim is relaxed in his computing chair.

We were within 12 miles of the half way point as we set out again with Leo at the wheel. Charlotte North Carolina is very pretty at 3:00 AM. Leo got us down to Columbia SC on I-77, over to I-95 on I-26 and then south the the Georgia line before sunrise. Gary took over the driving there. We stopped north of Jacksonville for breakfast. The Mickey D's was virtually inaccessible due to morning traffic, so we went to the Waffle House. It looks like we won't be doing that again.

At Daytona Beach, we cruised down International Speedway Drive to Highway 1 amidst a pack of motorcycles. South on 1, we stopped at a DQ for ice cream and phoned Terry back home to tell him we had arrived. Going south, we followed a Harley with training wheels. Unlike the Voyager kit, this one still leaned. Gary got some video of it. The number of motels with vacancy signs out during bike week surprised me. We turned into the Merritt Island National Wildlife Preserve and stopped to see the Manatees. There was only one hanging out as, in the picture, the gang watched from the deck.

I phoned Gator and found he was in the hospital in Titusville for tests, so we stopped by for a brief visit. They're not sure what is wrong right now, but he was still a cheerful as usual. Here's hoping they get this sorted out because he's too good a man to keep down. We'll drop back up to see him again tomorrow.

Heading south from Titusville on I-95, we rolled into the Hot Sauce Hacienda about 2:00 PM.

One thing that annoyed me on this trip was the number of gas stations now requiring a Zip Code when paying at the pump. This makes it awkward for Canadians since our Postal Codes won't work and we must then prepay. That whole concept sucks.