Riding Blog

This weblog at mikeuhl.com is the personal web site of Michael "Mike" Uhl. Entries to this weblog and web site represent my personal opinions. The site is not owned, operated, or affiliated with my employer or any organizations other than those owned and operated by Mike Uhl.

Photo (right): That's Lisa and me stopped along US 550, "The Million Dollar Highway," in southwest Colorado on our way north into Silverton, July 2017. 

Entries are copyright (c) Michael A. Uhl, as of date of posting.

You are welcome and encouraged to participate in the discussion on this site. Comments are owned by the poster. I reserve the right to remove any irrelevant, inflammatory, or otherwise inappropriate comments. Questions may be directed to me using the "Post a Comment" feature available on every blog page.

FYI: I ride a 2015 Harley-Davidson FLHTK Ultra Limited Special Edition.

Thank you and please enjoy my site!


Chrome or lights? I could have only one.

(October 6, 2015) I'm not one to add a lot of extras to my bike, primarily for budget reasons and because I prefer to spend any extra money on gas and hotels so I can actually ride my bike places. On the other hand, I do appreciate a nice piece of chromed steel.

This weekend, I installed Harley-Davidson's Saddlebag Guard Rail Kit (part number 90200561) and they look great. I am of the opinion that the bike should have come with these already installed. However, given that they were not, adding them was a high priority for me, for at least two reasons:

  1. In the event of the cam/mounting bolts failing, the bag(s) will not fall to the ground, and
  2. The rails protect the saddle bags from dings and scratches.

I happened to notice in the October issue of Motorcycle Consumer News that there is a recall on Harley touring models because of a defect in some of the saddlebag "mounting receptacles" that may prevent the saddlebags from being adequately secured to the motorcycle. (NHTSA Campaign Number 15V42700) Worrying about the bags coming loose is not merely a product of my paranoid mind.

When I ordered these guard rails from House of Harley-Davidson, I also happened to text Kevin Albritton at Jockeys Cycle to order me a set of FillerZ LED lights from Custom Dynamics. At $250 a pair, they cost almost as much as the saddlebag guard rails. But a video on YouTube convinced me these were exactly what I wanted for more visible turn signals.

As soon as I installed the guard rails, I got a pit in my stomach when I realized that the FillerZ lights weren't going to work any longer. The guard rails run right through the opening where the lights mount.

Lights or rails? Given that I had just spent an hour carefully installing these shiny objects and managed to do so without damaging my fenders or anything else; and given that I already have a bright LED tail light, I opted to go with the now-installed guard rails.

Damn! Now I was gonna own some expensive lights I couldn't use. Fortunately, Kevin let me pay a 10% restocking fee ($25) and I was off the hook. One more reason for me to keep going to those guys for my bike needs.

We had sunshine here for the first time in almost two weeks and I got to ride in it. Man I forgot how good it feels!

Keep the shiny side up.

-The Long Rider



Rain, rain, and more rain

(October 5, 2015) Well, we did it; or rather Mother Nature did it: we tied the record for consecutive days of rain here in the Raleigh, North Carolina area. Today was the 12th straight day of rain. It's been painful for me with a new Harley in the garage.

A cyclonic system has been sitting off the cost of Georgia and then South Carolina for way too long, drawing moisture off the ocean and blowing it out of the northeast, giving us an unseasonably cool and damp start to our autumn.

The nasty weather put a big hurt on the Capital City Bikefest (Raleigh) last weekend. As far as I could tell, only about 20% of the usual attendance showed. And then this weekend, Raleigh hosted for the second year in a row the Wide Open Blue Grass Festival. The rain dampened attendance at that too.

But tomorrow, the weather man says we'll see blue skies and sunshine. It's been way too long. Time to get that bike out again.

I'm already plannng my 2016 ride calendar!

Keep the shiny side up.

-The Long Rider


The Crooked Road - US 58 in Western Virginia

(September 21, 2015) Saturday, the 12th of this month, my brother-in-law sent me a text and asked if I wanted to go for a day-long ride on NC 16 & VA 16 to Tazewell, Virginia. He knew this was a ride I had planned for someday but decided we could make "someday" Sunday, September 13. I stayed overnight at his place and we got an early start on Sunday morning.

Our goal for the morning was to get into NC 16 as quickly as possible. So, we rode out NC540 (toll road) to US 64 west to Siler City. There we got on US 421 north and took that all the way to Wilkesboro. At Wilkesboro we got on NC 16 and soon found oursleves a gently twisting road...a warm up for what we expected later in the day.

As we climbed up tp cross the Blue Ridge Parkway, the temperature dropped from the mid 60s to the mid 50s. It was 55°F for the next several hours as we rode north on 16.

We were soon across the Virgina state line and on Virginia route 16. It was beautiful and our expectations for the ride rose. However, as pass through the hamlet of Volney, VA and not quite to Troutdale, VA, the roads became wet and the sky ahead appeared very dark. I waived us over for a conference. We agreed that a rainy 55° ride would be no fun; and so we decided to call an audible and change the ride plan.

We turned around and headed back and turned east on US 58. We passed through the Mouth of Wilson, VA and began to notice an unusually colorful road sign labeling our route "The Crooked Road: Virginia's Heritage Music Trail." This segment of US 58 is part of the ~300-mile Heritage Music Trail of Virginia.

We were overdue for lunch and I suggested we look for a barbecue place in Galax. The clouds were still thick in the sky, but not nearly as ominous as what we were leaving behind us. We were optimistic that we could take our time heading back east and that we'd still get home dry (and we did).

In Galax, I spotted ahead on the left a barbecue joint. As we got closer, we could see it was a winner: Aunt Bea's Barbecue. With a name like that, it had to be good, right? In fact, the spicy, vinegar-based sauce was so good, Mark bought a bottle to take home with him.

In addition to the quality of the food and friendliness of the staff, I appreciated that they gave me a reasonably-sized portion, one which I could actually eat without feeliing guilty of obese.

On the eastern end of Galax, we decided to stop for a few more photos, such as the one of The Crooked Road at the beginning of this log post.

Lover's Leap

After we crossed I-77 and passed through Hillsville, we crossed the Blue Ridge Parkway at the Meadows of Dan, VA. Soon thereafter, we encountered a "Lover's Leap," which was really just a scenic overlook that offered drivers a convenient place to pull over and take a break with a view.

This spot was especially popular with bikers; and Mark and I ended up chatting with a couple. Fortunately, I had packed a couple of substantial stogies and we lit those bad boys up. They were gonna take a good 30 minutes to smoke, so we were in a relaxed social state of mind.

The first guy we met had one one of the Yamaha V-Star bikes. It was a 2015 model and looked good. I told him it reminded me of the Harley V-Rod. This guy was funny. One of the first things he said was a question: "Are you guys jumping? 'cause if you are, I want your bikes." Turns out he's from Martinville and rides up that way pretty regularly.

The second fellow got my attention right away when he pulled up because of the incongruity of his appearance. He wore an Aerostitch RoadCrafter one-piece riding suit, which I immediately recognized and made him in my mind to be a serious long-distance rider. That impression lasted about five seconds, as he soon began to wander around with his full-face helmet on.

I walked up to his bike and noticed it was Harley-Davidson 1200 Sportster. He had stickers on his windshield from Yellowstone, the Tetons, etc. If the bike had been a BMW, I could have understood it all. Finally, the guy took off his helmet. He looked like he belonged on a Gold Wing, not a Sportser. He was a 70+ year old, pale white male. He was a really nice guy and was on a cross-country ride. I just had trouble reconciling all the variables. I'll admit, the problem lies with me, not him.

Home in Time for Dinner

It turns out that our early turnaround on the original route was a good thing as Mark got home in time to grill us dinner. He had told his wife we'd back by 6:30 p.m. and as it was, we made it by 6:00 p.m. Had we gone to Tazewell, we would have been lucky to make it home by 8:00 p.m. Lesson learned here: be very careful when using Google to estimate how long a route will take time-wise.

As always, keep the shiny side up!

-The Long Rider


Video at "Lover's Leap"

Listen as Mark and I misundertand each other about the date: he's referring to the day of the month and I thnnk he's talking about what year it is. Makes you wonder how we managed to stay together on the ride. :-) 




Allegany or Allegheny?

(September 18, 2015) As I wrote earlier, I rode to southwest New York State over the Labor Day weekend to camp with my sister, her family, and their friends. I enjoyed the break from my hectic professional life. The late-night fires and tasty alcohol ensured a good night's sleep the three nights I was there.

As I put together the photos for this blog post and began writing, I became confused--even more than normal--about the spelling of the park's name where I camped. I doublechecked and sure enough, it's spelled Allegany State Park. However, I am familiar with the Allegheny River, which is more famous and flows into Pittsburgh, PA where it joins the Monongahela to form the Ohio River.

Allegheny National Forest

Just to the south of Allegany State Park, across the state line in Pennsylvania, lies the much larger Allegheny National Forest. My sister has camped here as well, near the Kinzua Dam in the Allegheny National Recreation Area. I hope to camp there with her someday.

Access to Allegany State Park

The park is divided broadly into a north section, called the Red House Area, and a southern section, referred to as the Quaker Run Area. My sister was camped in the Red House Area. I arrived from the south on US 219. After a stop in Salamanca, NY and a call to my sister for directions*, I got on I-86/NY 17 west and got off at exit 19, Red House.

After almost 14 hours on the road, I arrived in the park at 8:00 p.m. It was dark, very dark. I found myself dodging possum and racoons on the road. Fortunately, the deer were content to sit off to the side and simply watch me attempt to read the signs and find my way to my sister.

I arrived late not by design but as a result of US 219 being closed in Pennsylvania due to a very bad auto accident and my having to take two different detours, which added an hour to my ride. The stop at the Flight 93 National Memorial earlier in the day also took more time than I had anticipated.

Keep the shiny side up!

-The Long Rider


*There is little--and for some none--cell phone service in the park. My sister had to use her girlfriend's phone, and even that got a weak, intermittent signal. Depending on how you look at it, this lack of cell service was a blessing. That's how I saw it. :-)


Flight 93 National Memorial

(September 11, 2015) It's appropriate that today of all days this year I should write about my recent visit to the Flight 93 National Memorial near Shanksville, Pennsylvania. Almost fourteen years to the day after Al Queda terrorists attacked the US and killed thousands of civilians, I was able to see where that symbolic flight went down.

What took place on that plane is such an inspiration and makes me proud to be an American. The passengers who fought back on the plane and ultimately gave their lives to protect others are the highest order of heroes. Their courage and sacrifice certainly justify this memorial.

Today, the National Park Service opened a new visitor center at the memorial. Unfortunately for me, I was a week too early to see it. I plan to return and see this new addition and explore the facility more systematically.

Thunderstorms accelerated my schedule...

It was last Friday, September 4, that I got to visit this hallowed ground. I came into the memorial from US 30, even though I had approached from the south. (US 30 runs east-west along the north side of the grounds.) I didn't see any entrances coming from that way, though I believe there is at least one. My visit was cut short because strong thunderstorms approached from the south as I arrived. After about 15 minutes of walking around and looking at the different elements of the memorial, I put on my rain suit and helmet faceshield and headed out onto US 30 west.

After less than a mile, a thunderstorm began pounding me: heavy rain, lightning, 30+ mph winds; it was a little scary. To make matters worse, I was stuck behind a tractor trailer, which was was limited by law to a speed of 35 mph on an otherwise 55 mph road. I could see that to the north--the direction I was soon to head on US 219--there was no rain. I simply couldn't get to that northerly turn as quickly as I would have liked.

After a good soaking and scare from a close lightning strike and accompanying boom of thunder, I finally reached US 219 and passed the truck as soon as we reached the end of the on-ramp. Of course, the trucker also wanted to take US 219 north, slowing me down for an additional aggravating minute or two. After just a few miles on 219 I was out of the rain. Amen.

Planning a visit to the memorial

If you would like to visit this memorial, I urge you to plan at least a little. This important crash site is remote from population centers, compared to the overall population density of northeastern states. The nearest town with a typical selection of hotel accommodations is Somerset, and it's about 45 minutes away.

I haven't seen the visitor center, but the rest of the memorial is all out door. There is very little shade. Like the D-Day Memorial, you'll want to pick comfortable weather for a visit to the Flight 93 National Memorial.

I've included below links to a couple of short videos I recorded with my iPhone.

Keep the shiny side up!

-The Long Rider







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