Sunday, June 20, 2010

Ride to Work Day

Tomorrow marks the 19th annual Ride to Work Day. During any given day of the week, motorcycles and mopeds comprise only 200,000 of the over eighty million vehicles people use to commute to work. On the third Monday of June, however, the number of motorized two-wheeled transport used during the commute rises remarkably. Considering that over eight million motorcycles and mopeds are registered in the United States, we have a lot of room to make a sound impression.

We illustrate that we can conserve energy and space. Most motorcycles consume far less fuel and produce fewer harmful emissions than even conservative compact cars. Commuting by motorcycle demonstrates efficiency in the way motorcycles convert that fuel to usable power. Only the world's fastest cars--and expensive, might I add--can produce the range of power available even to motorcycles in the 600cc bracket, and few of those cars, if any, claim the fuel consumption rates of their two-wheeled counterparts. Motorcycles can be parked just about anywhere. In the parking garage where I house the Ninja during my time at work, it shares a small out of the way corner with a Honda Helix. The space these two vehicles occupy isn't really a space, but rather, one of those lost corners completely unusable by even the smallest cars. Though only two of us have recently used this space, practice a little judiciousness and the space could easily manage two additional machines.

With the spill in the Gulf of Mexico pouring tens of thousands of gallons of oil into the sea each week, I can think of no finer demonstration of outrage than to utilize a method of transportation that has the potential to hit Big Oil where it can do the most damage. We can hit them in their pocket books. Granted, one day will do little to alter the grand scheme. My hope remains that if a fraction of riders taking to the asphalt tomorrow commute again the following day and then the day after that, the slow trickle toward a more permanent shift begins. While we're a long way from being free of the consumption of fossil fuel, we can find cleaner and more responsible methods of consumption.

There has been much finger pointing lately regarding just who is to blame for the Gulf spill catastrophe. Protesters call for President Obama to take action and Tony Hayward's head on a silver platter. Truth be told, if we really want to see who's to blame, we should all take a hard look at ourselves in the mirror before slipping our helmets over our heads in the morning. We create the demand and only we have the power to do anything about it. Ride safe. Ride free. Ride wisely.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Twist and Shout

The Kentucky Highlands, as they're known in these parts, contain roads that appeal to many appetites. Along any given stretch, one can find complex curves, rolling hills, and long, smooth expanse of unblemished asphalt. Referred to as the golden triangle by those who live within it, my favorite stretches of road run through country bordered by three interstate systems bridging the cities of Louisville, Lexington, and Cincinnati. It's easy for me to disappear for a day into the hills and loose track of time.

Just this past Tuesday, adding an extra day off to the holiday weekend, I decided I'd make a run to two out to a particular spot of roadway that I appreciate for the view and the turns. Rt. 22 pierces west into the very heart of Louisville, but the section that particularly concerned me lies just about a mile to the east of the hamlet of Gratz, positioned on the banks of the Kentucky River. 22 can be scenic once the city and suburbs are left behind, winding through farm country on it's way toward Owenton. While the road holds few surprises other than the scenery and can be ridden at a brisk pace, one particular section deserves closer inspection and a higher level of skill.

One or two miles after exiting Gratz, Rt. 22 makes a scenic but hard left out of the valley and begins twisting it's way up the hillside in a series of tight coils. It's as if a crew of road engineers were transplanted for a few days from the Appalachians and then whisked away once road construction crested the hill. This short section, perhaps only a half-mile long, nevertheless is worth a few passes. Due to the incline, descending the hill offers challenges not encountered in the ascent. The corners along the upward side will sharpen a sport bike's foot pegs during a spirited run. Guardrails and cattle fences line both sides of the road and missing a corner will result in fast descent down the gravel roadbed into barbed wire. I encourage keeping an eye peeled for rambunctious cagers crossing the center line in the turns, gravel trucks speeding to the nearby quarry, and patient clopping of Amish horse and buggy.