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!

Entries by Michael A. Uhl (122)


Moto-Skiveez are well worth the price

(May 15, 2016) Last October, I ordered a pair of Moto-Skiveez riding shorts (shown in the photo to the left*). This is the third brand I've tried in the way of padded riding shorts. I won't name the others, but will say that the first brand I tried helped only a little and the second brand made me feel like I took a dump in my pants.

The Moto-Skiveez shorts work great! I have worn them on multiple multi-hundred-mile rides this spring and can say definitively that they greatly reduce the pressure on the base of my spine.

At almost $60 per pair, they ain't cheap; but I ordered a second pair today so I have two pairs for my 7,200+ mile ride scheduled for next month. (I also ordered two pairs of compression socks.)

If you decide to give these shorts a try, be sure to read the information on the Moto-Skiveez web site carefully. The company has designed several different variations of the shorts to best fit your style/posture of riding.

The key to the way these shorts work is the padding and the great fit, which in part results from the comfortable material they use. In the photo at right, you can see the padding. For my backside, it creates a well-positioned comfort-zone for the base of my spine.

I recently purchased a custom Corbin saddle for my bike and up until yesterday, I had always worn these shorts on my long rides in combination with the new saddle, so I couldn't gauge the relative contribition of the Moto-Skiveez to my comfort. Yesterday, I found out! After only about 50 miles, my tail bone (coccyx) began to hurt. I instantly appreciated that targeted padding.

Moto-Skiveez shorts are a great investment for those who ride hundreds of miles in a day. I highly recommend them.

Keep the shiny side up! - The Long Rider


*Please ignore the little dots of lint on the shorts. I made the mistake tossing them in the dryer with other laundry. My advice is to air dry these shorts; it will make them last longer and keep them nice looking.


Received My HOG 175,000-mile Patch

(May 12, 2016) Since July 2000, I've ridden more than 175,000 documented miles.* Today, I received in the mail from the Harley Owners Group (HOG) my 175,000 mile patch (shown in the photo at left).

If I complete my ride to the West Coast next month and am able to continue riding at my usual pace through the end of 2017, I expect to earn my 200,000-mile patch by the end of 2017.

It's been a great joy and privilege to ride so many miles to many wonderful and interesting places.

Peace. -The Long Rider

*Before 2000, I had ridden approximately 45,000 undocumented miles: 2,000 on a 1967 Harley-Davidson Sprint; 35,000 on a 1981 (or was it a 1982?) Honda CM450-C; and another 8,000 miles on a 1987 Honda Magna. 


Andy Page Memorial Ride to Little Switzerland

(May 11, 2016) Last weekend, three friends and I rode to Little Switzerland, North Carolina and stayed at the Little Switzerland Inn (LSI), which sits right off route NC 226A (“Diamondback”) and about 100 yards from an entrance to the Blue Ridge Parkway (BRP).  Two years ago, a bunch of us rode there, among them Mr. Andy Page. Andy died a year ago and we dedicated this ride as our “Andy Page Memorial Ride.” Only four of us could make it this time, but we had a really good time and plan to make this a regular trip on our ride schedules.

Photo above right: That's me lighting up a fine cigar and enjoying a little Jack Daniels Honey. I cropped the photo to protect the identity of my compatriot. (Cutter took the photo.)

Who Thought This Was a Good Idea?

When we woke up on Friday morning around 0600, a steady rain was coming down and we all immediately questioned whether we wanted to do this. I organized this ride and had what was by then a non-refundable deposit down on a room and my bros were not going to leave me hanging.

One of the guys, Cutter, texted us all and asked if we could meet at the gas station at 0900 rather than 0800, as we originally planned. There was unanimous agreement; nine it was. By the time we assembled at the Citgo gas station on US 64 near Little Bar in Cary, the rain had stopped. The skies still looked threatening and the temperature was only in the 50s, but the forecast called for clearing skies, so we left without hesitation.

Photo above left: That's me about roll out of the Citgo gas station to start our weekend. I was an optimist and went with leathers rather than rain gear. (Cutter took the photo.)

Woodlands Barbeque in Blowing Rock

Since Cutter and Gerry Z. wanted to get back on Saturday—Mitch and I planned to stay in Little Switzerland two nights—we rode to Boone, NC rather than straight to Little Switzerland as we might otherwise have done. The idea was to get to some of the scenic riding sooner rather than later as Cutter and Z planned to hit the road early on Saturday morning.

I led us on US 64 west to US 421 north to Boone. Z wanted to eat lunch in Blowing Rock, NC. I saw a billboard for a barbecue joint called Woodlands Barbeque in Blowing Rock. When we stopped for gas, Mitch encouraged me to ask a gas station employee for a lunch recommendation and when he said "Woodlands” we took that as our own sign. So we headed south on US 221. After a quick stop at an ABC Store (state run liquor store), we proceeded another half mile down the road and found Woodlands.

Photo above right: That's me about to head into Woodlands. The owners of the bikes, left to right, are mine, Cutter, Z, and Mitch. Mitch changes bikes about every other year and expects to have this BMW only for a few more months. (Cutter took the photo.)

Photo above left: That's Gerry "Z" Zoucha, Jeff "Cutter" Northcutt, and Clayton "Mitch" Mitchell, going from left to right, in Woodlands Barbeque--Blowing Rock, NC. (I took the photo with my iPhone.)

Mount Mitchell

After lunch, we got on the BRP at Blowing Rock. It was chilly up there on the Parkway with the temperatures only in the upper 50s. I was quite comfortable, however, with heated grips, a new heated Corbin saddle, and a great Tour Master heated jacket liner. :-)

After we checked in at the Inn and unpacked the bikes, the other three guys headed to the bar while I did a solo ride to Mount Mitchell. I correctly suspected that I would not have another opportunity to have my mountain-top experience up there on this trip. A bunch of us made this ride when Andy was still with us--though Andy himself passed on the ride to Mount Mitchell.

I arrived at the summit around 6:30 p.m. It was sunny, but only 37°F at the top with a very stiff wind--as usual. The wind chill factor was thus in the 20s, easily. Fortunately, I was in leathers, which blocked the wind very well and I removed my helmet only for a short time.

The good news was that there was almost no traffic; the bad news was that there was a reason so few people were up there: besides being cold and windy, there was ice on the road. It had snowed up there the night before, and while the snow on the asphalt had melted, the wind was blowing snow out of the trees onto the road. A few times I was riding in a snowfall. There was even slush on the road. It made for an extra wary descent.

I was motivated to ride in the cold to the top of Mount Mitchell because something about being on the highest point in the eastern part of the country appeals to me. Maybe it's pure ego, but nonetheless, I braved the cold and icy road to be up where the clouds are and it felt great.

Learning to Take Selfies

These Mount Mitchell photos and the ones of me at the Green Knob Overlook on the BRP are my first "selfies" using my iPhone camera mounted on a selfie stick. When I returned home and processed the images I learned two lessons immediately: (1) the resolution of the camera that faces the camera holder is significantly less than the camera that faces away; and (2) the angle of the sun or other light sources is even more important than I thought.

This experience is good motivation for me to learn to use my new GoPro camera, which I can also mount on a selfie stick. I plan to get going on that this weekend after I purchse a new helmet, on which I shall mount the GoPro Hero 4 Silver camera.   

By the way, one of the benefits of riding solo is that I feel much freer to stop and take photos whenever I so desire. If one of my fellow riders had been with me on the Mount Mitchell trek, I almost certainly would not have stopped for a series of selfies at Green Knob Overlook.

In fact, this ride once more demonstrated how I too often let self-induced reluctance to delay others compel me to pass up sometimes great photo opportunities. I must learn to change that behavior, for my sake and that of my fellow riders. They almost always appreciate having the photos after the ride. (I am grateful that Cutter tends to take a lot of pictures and is careful to stage them well.)

The Fun of Getting Lost

Friday evening before we went to sleep, Mitch and I talked over our ride plan for Saturday. He asked me how far West Jefferson was from our location and if we could ride there. I was happy to tell him yes we could; that I had visited there when I did the 100 Counties Ride, and that I had a fun route in mind.

After Cutter and Z headed home, Mitch and I headed north on the BRP to Boone. At Boone, I had us get on NC 194 north, whichwe then took to West Jefferson. Mitch had read anout the Ashe County Cheese Factory in an issue of Southern Living magazine. We parked our bikes across the street and he purchased some of their products in the company store.

After cigars and great conversation we stopped at a cigar shop in West Jefferson. We asked for directions to Lansing, NC, which we wanted to visit because we have a mutual friend whose family is from there. We received erroneous directions or we simply misunderstood what we were told. Mitch led and we rode north on Old NC 16. After about 20 minutes, the road surface turned to gravel, and soon we found ourselves in Virginia.

We found our way over to NC 16 and then we stopped, laughed, and I consulted my map of Western North Carolina. I wanted to get us to NC 194 into Lansing and saw that Old Creek Field Road would do that for us. I made one comment as I closed up my map: "I hope it's not dirt."

Not only was the road dirt, but when we finally got to a paved road, Landmark Church Road, it included a ridicuously steep climb and we encountered a closed road and had to take a detour. We did finally manage to make our way to Lansing, but we were grateful to have full tanks of gas and good weather. It was good practice for our planned ride to Alaska.

Valle Crucis, NC

I told Mitch when we planned our Saturday ride that after West Jefferson and Lansing, I wanted to ride back through Boone to Vilas, NC and then south on NC 194 to Valle Crucis and take a photo of him on his bike under an old sign. As you can see, I got the photo I wanted.

While we were there, a female biker ran across the road and asked me to assist her friend whose clutch had failed. Mitch and I moved our bikes across the road to a gravel parking lot where these lady bikers were parked. I arrived first and investigated the situation. The rider whose clutch failed told me she thought she had a broken clutch cable. However, I quickly determined that she had a hydraulic-actuated clutch and told her I suspected she was low on hydraulic fluid. Her friend lookd at the master cylinder and said it looked full, as she looked through the small window in the side of the reservoir. "Don't trust that." I was surprised to find that none of the six thought they had tools with them--one did find a tool kit as we were leaving--and I got a screwdriver and removed the cap. Sure enough, no fluid. Mitch lifted a gasket and we could see it was as empty as far as we could see. 

Fortunately, the general store had some brake fluid they could use and Mitch and I were soon on our way. Mitch gave them one of his Phillips head screw drivers to use.

Two Nights is the Way to Go

Mitch is right, on a ride like this, it's a great idea to do two nights. It was much warmer on Saturday evening and Mitch and I enjoyed a very tasty dinner in the Inn's dining room, what they call their "chalet." After dinner, we enjoyed drinks and cigars on the deck overlooking the mountains. It was a great ending to a fun day.

Photo left: That's Mitch, Gerry Z., Cutter, and Yours Truly taking a selfie outside the Inn.

Keep the shiny side up and make the most of every day! -The Long Rider


Nothing quite like a ferry ride

(October 29, 2015) Last weekend I invited my brother-in-law Mark on a ride to his sister's home in Bolivia, NC. When he agreed to join me, he had one stipulation: plan a route I'd never taken before. Given that I've ridden through every county in the state at least once, and to the coast many times, that was a bigger challenge than he probably realized when he asked.

I accepted the challege after studying one of my many North Carolina maps and decided we would take NC 210 most of the way. By 8:15 a.m. on Saturday, we were rolling. We took the toll road, NC 540, to NC 55 in Holly Springs. We rode NC 55 into Angier and there turned right onto NC 210.

Even I was surprised by how much we saw and how long that stretch was. Among the highlights were a giant rooster statue next to somone's driveway and the largest blueberry farm we'd ever seen.

On the downside, we had to pass right through the middle of Fayetteville. A stretch of 210 was closed due to a football game. No alternate routes were indicated. Finding our way on our own around the closed section and back onto 210 added at least 30 minutes to our trip.

I was reminded once more that Fayetteville ain't big on scenery or other interesting features. I was relieved when we finally crossed the town line on the way out. I did think to myself that it could have been worse: it could have been a hundred degrees out, like the last time I was on my bike in Fayetteville.

After a while...after the giant rooster and near the blueberry farm(s), we passed another interesting place: the Moores Creek National Battlefield. That might be worth a visit some day. It's the kind of place you only discover when riding the back roads.

We took NC 210 to US 117 south to NC 133 south. From there we worked our way through downtown Wilmington to US 421 to Fort Fisher. No matter how many times I do it,  I still marvel at the ocean as I ride along the coast with those constant waves and an infinite horizon. As we passed through Carolina Beach and Kure Beach, the peninsula narrowed and we could see water on both sides of us: the Atlantic Ocean to the left and the Intracoastal Waterway to the right.

A key part of my route was riding the ferry from Ft. Fisher to Southport, NC. And our arrival time turned out to be excellent: we arrived there at 1:00 p.m and the next ferry was scheduled to depart at 1:45 p.m. There was already a large number of vehicles in line to get on. Fortunately, motorcycles get special treatment, as we are asked to pull aside and then fit onto the boat near the end of the loading process. 

Under some circumstances, having to wait 45 minutes for a ferry might be a real pain. In our case, it was great because it takes about that long to smoke one of the several cigars I brought along. My brother-in-law was pleasantly surprised when I informed him that I had brought some stogies along for just such an opportunity.

The weather was perfect and the ride across the water was better than usual. One of the great things about riding a motorcycle, but especially a shiny Harley-Davidson, is that it invites people to walk up to you and start a conversation. Soon after the boat departed the dock, an older gentleman who worked on the boat walked up to us.

I expected him to ask me to toss my cigar overboard. (As a courtesy to other passengers, I was letting it go out.) But instead, he asked us about our bikes. It turns out he's been riding for more than 50 years. He told us his name was Gary and he lived part time in Burlington, NC and the rest of the time at his new house on the coast. He owns a couple of old BMW bikes. After a brief exhange about bikes, Gary then started pointing out the various highlights along the shore.

First up, we passed the Military Ocean Terminal Sunny Point (MOTSU). Gary told us that is one place you do not want to go near, not in a boat, or a car, or walking. Armed guards will greet you in force. Next up, and next door to MOTSU, is the Duke Energy Brunswick Nuclear Power Plant. Is it just us, or do you all think it's bad idea to put one of the world's largest ammo dumps next to a nuclear power plant? I'm just saying...

In front of the power plant, Gary pointed out a very small, very old lighthouse. He told us that during the Civil War, the Confederates disabled it to prevent the Union soldiers from using it to guide ships in. (See photo to the right.)

I've ridden the Canton Ferry from Meyer, IL to a rural coastline in  Missouri--the smallest ferry I've been on--to the ferry across Lake Champlaign. No matter the size or water body, they've all been fun. It's nice to park the bike and still keep both you and it moving. It's an unusual experience, and I've almost always met interesting people.

When you plan a ride that crosses a large lake, river, or even along the ocean coastlines, try to include a ferry ride. I'm confident you will be glad you did.

Keep the shiny side up and pray for a short winter.

-The Long Rider




Sharing the experience

(October 22, 2015) Last weekend I rode to Hendersonville and spent some time with my daughter and her husband. My daughter, Meg, wanted to ride to Maggie Valley and I came up with a route plan almost immediately. As I've already written about, we'd take one of my favorite scenic byways: US 64 to US 276 through the Pisgah National Forest. We'd ride that beautiful twisting road across the Blue Ridge Parkway (BRP) northwest into Waynesville and then onto Maggie Valley.

I rode out to Hendersonville Friday evening. The weather was clear and cool and the traffic was heavy, which actually turned out to be a blessing as all of those headlights illuminated the otherwise dark highway.

After a good night's sleep and a tasty breakfast at Joey's New York Bagels, we were on the road by 11:00 a.m. on Saturday. Just as planned, we rode through the Pisgah and into Waynesville. As the weather was great--sunny and in the upper fifties--the Apple Harvest Festival in Waynesville had the downtown area packed with people. That slowed us a bit as we worked some alternate routes through town. The navigation system on my new Harley proved very useful as it allowed me to consult a map without having to get off the bike.

When we got to Maggie Valley, it looked like there was a bike rally in progress. There wasn't, but it became clear very quickly that Maggie Valley, NC (and Cherokee, NC) are very popular with bikers. Motorcycles almost outnumbered cages in both towns that afternoon.

The Wheels Through Time Museum is in Maggie Valley and I decided on this trip that that is someplace I need to see, soon.

Since we were in Maggie Valley, I suggested to Meg that we ride US 19 southwest into Cherokee and she agreed. It helped that I told her it's a beautiful ride into the Cherokee Nation (Eastern Cherokee Reservation).

We took a much-needed butt break in Cherokee. I enjoyed a stogie and Meg ate a banana, and we both got some essential water into our systems. After a great daddy-daughter conversation, I suggested to her that we get on the Blue Ridge Parkway, as it starts in Cherokee. She had never been on this lower section, so we headed over to US 441 and the start of the Parkway.

As we crossed the Oconaluftee River, we encountered a large crowd on the bridge. As we were on the bike and could see over the walls of the bridge, we were able to see what the fuss was about: a family of elk was enjoying the river. There was a male, female, and two young. Given the size of the crowd, we chose to not stop for pictures and worked our way slowly through the humanity and onto the Parkway.

It was remarkable how quickly the temperature dropped as we climbed the Blue Ridge Parkway and lost the sunshine behind the trees and mountains. Soon we had to pull over to bundle up a bit. The temperature was down into the upper 40s to low 50s. I was certainly enjoying my heated grips.

Meg came prepared but also benefitted from a high-tech balaclava I brought. After that stop, we were both comfortable once again. However, Meg slowly lost body heat as we worked our way toward Asheville and by the time we exited the Parkway at NC 191 (at the French Broad River and I-26), Meg was quite chilled and ready for some indoor heat. We were back to her place by 5:30, making it about a 6-hour ride, if you subtract our stop in Cherokee.

Sharing this ride with my daughter made all the difference in how memorable and enjoyable it was for me...and her. I do a lot of solo rides, but it's when I get to share the experience with friends or family that I realize just how precious these times are. Seeing the joy on the others' faces serves as a reflection at how I much I appreciate the ride too.

Flat Rock Wood Room

Before I conclude, I feel the need to comment on the dinner we had that night, after we returned from our ride. We ate at what I fondly refer to as the meat palace. It's the Flat Rock Wood Room restaurant on NC 225 in Flat Rock, NC. I wrote about it last year. The 45-minute wait was well worth it. The food was awesome and plentiful. That picture of Memphis-style ribs I've included is what was left after I had eaten as many as I could off my plate. Next time, I'm ordering only a half rack!

Keep the shiny side and pray for a short winter!

-The Long Rider

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