Timmy visiting Town part 2

Well, after visiting with Matt, Timmy wanted to see more of Birmingham! One of the historic sites in town is Sloss Furnaces. With the iron ore available in Red Mountain smelting furnaces helped create town. Sloss is a landmark here, and we drove by to visit. Unfortunately they use the grounds for a haunted house in October, and we don’t really have access to it to visit. So we drove to one side to see part of it. Timmy beside Sloss
Timmy at Sloss 2 Timmy beside Sloss 3 After we were done beside Sloss, we headed elsewhere.

Part of the downtown city landscape is the railroad tracks that divide the north side of town from the south side of town. The railroad was the lifeline for the new city, taking smelted iron out and bringing in people and other supplies. We stopped on one of the overpasses and showed Timmy this part of our home. Timmy and the viaduct

Then we got to one of the higher points in town. Vulcan is one of the largest cast iron statues in the world, and debuted at the 1904 World’s Fair.
Timmy at Vulcan's parking lot
While we were there, Timmy wanted to check out DH’s Ural. Timmy checking out the Ural He thought he might want to drive it some time. Then we headed up to the observation platform so Timmy could see the entire valley. Vulcan Once up at the top, Timmy got the layout of here! Timmy looking east northeast
Timmy looking North northwest Timmy looking up! After spending some time way up in the air, we came back to earth. Back on the ground And headed to the house to get bite to eat and let Timmy recover from his adventures around town.

Timmy visiting town

Well, while he’s been here, Timmy decided he wanted to see a bit more of Birmingham than just our house.

Since it was so nice this weekend, we took a bit of a ride with him! He stayed with me on my scooter.
Timmy getting ready to go

We had to fuel up the Ural first. Then we visited Matt at Magic City Motor Scooters. Timmy at MCMS Timmy got his picture made on the scooter frame that Matt puchased from the American Pickers guys when they came through last year. Timmy on Pickers scooter He tried on a few scooters for size while he was there. Timmy on scooter Timmy on scoot 2 Then he hung out with with us there for a while! Timmy hanging out at MCMS

Wordcamp Birmingham 2010 part 2

Back now. On to more Wordcamp recap!

After Jen’s lightning talk, Tollie Wiliams addressed using Gravity Forms. He makes it do stuff that it wasn’t necessarily intended to. In spite of some technical problems with the laptop to projector connection cutting out and leaving the screen blank, he did a good job.

Next was the panel discussion with Wade Kwon as moderator, Karla Porter, Rebecca Morrow, and Lisa Isbell as panel participants. A good bit of my notes from this panel ended up on twitter. There was lots of good information that was shared. Between this panel and the next one I got lots of good things to do to help my biz web site out.

Brandon Eley’s presentation, “Tips for bloggers from online marketers” had lots of really good things to look at and see and check and alter. My biz web site is very elementary, and needs to be re-worked. I have to get it updated and keep it better updated, as well as track the things that matter. Its time to do it!

Brandon’s was the last presentation of the day. Dinner and then after party at Aloft Hotel in Homewood. A good number of folks came out and chatted and played.

Today’s Wordcamp festivities took place at Railroad Park, even though their wifi access was down. I was able to get there after 12:30, so I missed the folks who were there early but had to get out and get home. The camaraderie was very evident, and in spite of the heat it was a very pleasant place to be spending the afternoon. It was around 3:30 when the last of us there broke up and headed home.

All in all, it was a good camp. Many thanks to Andre, Henry, Wade, and all the other volunteers who worked very hard on Wordcamp Birmingham!

Fun day at work and Wordcamp Birmingham 2010, pt 1

This morning started out early at a breakfast where I was an invited speaker. It was for women entrepreneurs and women who are interested in possibly becoming one themselves. I was part of a panel of successful business women. The other ladies on the panel all were wonderful and The folks who held the conference made us all feel very welcome there at church. It didn’t end until noon, and by the time I got finished speaking to those ladies who wanted to speak to me and packed up my little display to head to UAB for Wordcamp it was almost 1:00 PM.

I took the scooter today because it was such a lovely day for a ride. Some folks were amazed, some were probably not pleased, but in the end, I got the opportunity to ride a bit.

I missed out on the BBQ last year because I had a paying gig, and was hoping not to miss this year’s BBQ too! Fortunately for me, not so much for everybody else, everything was running a little bit late and there was still food left for me to get! Yay!

Then sessions started back. I would have liked to see Syed Balkhi’s session on speeding up WordPress, but that was one of the morning ones. The slides from his session are on slideshare. The afternoon started with a full group presentation by Andrew Nacin with new stuff coming up in WordPress!

Then Jennifer West spoke about blogging for accountability and her use of her blog, www.thejenwestquest.com, to keep her on track with achieving her weight loss and fitness goals. Jennifer was posting pictures of herself in her bikini, and pictures of the scale to the blog. One of the things that scare me about posting pictures of myself online and posting too much in for about me is stalkers. I’ve had folks get too intense too fast before, and it really freaked me out. So posting pictures of me online here isn’t really something I do. But Jen hasn’t had a problem with folks being abusive to her about her pictures. And I’m really glad that she hasn’t because I wouldn’t wish that on anyone.

I alternated between taking notes in a document and taking notes on twitter. I’m about to be a weasel and say goodnight. I’m about to fall over now, so I’ll catch up with you later!

Ride for Kids Birmingham 2010

This is a charity ride that DH has done since he got his Ural. The Ride for Kids raises money for the Pediatric Brain Tumor Foundation. It is one of 40 rides across the USA that raises money fr the foundation as well as serves the families of children with brain tumors. The first year DH heard on the Ural board that they needed sidecar rigs for the Ride for Kids here in town. He showed up, and his motorcycle was one carrying a small child who was too sick to ride on the back of a bike. The little boy who he gave a ride to that year looked about half of his age and was in his own world. It really touched DH’s heart, and he vowed that he would always do this ride. Continue reading

Happy belated birthday, scooter

Well, I didn’t mark it at the time, but I’ve had my scooter for 2 years now! Hooray! I’ve put over 7000 miles on it in the time since I got it. I’m pleased that in spite of the way I scared myself on that second trip home from work that I have keep on riding and will now get on my scooter even if it is raining. Now storming is a different matter entirely! If it is storming, I won’t get out on the scoot unless I absolutely have to.

Last October I rode in the Revvin 4 Research charity ride for the Breast Cancer Research Foundation. They raised over $12,000 for their inaugural ride. I kept up with bikes on the ride, except when they went on the interstate. I keep my 10 inch wheels off the interstate. But I still managed to surprise the motorcycle riders on the big bikes who thought I’d be holding them back. 🙂

One of the scooter friends I’ve made on Twitter is Arlene Battishill, @lascootergirls, who is the CEO of GoGo Gear, a line of protective riding wear designed specifically for women. Arlene was the one who when she saw that all the protective gear was basically cut down men’s gear, got up and re-envisioned it and re-designed gear specifically for us! I’m so proud to be able to call her a friend, and to have been able to cheer lead for her while she was producing her jackets for us! I have the trench coat in grey and the cafe jacket in red to wear. Both are fantastic jackets!

I didn’t realize that when I was getting a scooter I would be changing my life. But in the course of the two years since I got it, it has. Like when I was learning to fly, I pay more attention to the weather conditions. I also pay attention to my health and the status of the rest I’ve gotten before I get onto the scooter. If I’m not able to pay good attention to my surroundings, I don’t need to be on it. But being able to see the sky more clearly in the mornings or feeling the temperature change as the terrain I ride in changes is amazing. I was out riding Sunday and came upon either an older faun or a young doe in the middle of the road. As I approached, the deer’s head rose and watched me, then it bounded off to the side and through the woods. It was a lovely example of what I see on the scooter and what I miss while in the car.

Took the motorcycle safety class

I was able to take the motorcycle safety class that I wanted. 2 days on a motorcycle when you aren’t used to it will wear you out! The class I took was from the RIDE instructors. Its a variation of the MSF basic riders course, and I took the class at the Harley dealership in Pelham.

It was raining as I drove to the class location, and continued to rain on and off until 10:30 or so. The rain wasn’t heavy, and didn’t stop us from doing anything. There were 5 men and 3 women in the class, and the instructors weren’t being jerks to folks. They knew I have a scooter, and are cool with it. One of the other ladies has a Honda Reflex that she rides regularly, and had just gotten a Harley Softtail. We were riding Honda Rebels, little 250cc bikes. We were schooled not only on the maneuvers they wanted us to do, but on proper mounting and dismounting of the bikes. We spent a good chunk of time on the bike, learning where the clutch engaged and disengaged, as well as the slow speed maneuvers, the straight weave, 90 degree turns and offset turns. We even managed to start working on shifting gears. I managed to get the bike into 3rd gear and back down!

We had one person go down late the first day in the class, as we were coming back from a break and doing offset weaves. I was a bit disconcerted by it, but the rider picked up the bike and got back on it and kept going with the exercise. After class was over, and most everyone else had gone, one of the instructors was riding his Harley RoadKing through some of the cones for the course, doing the offset weaves on it. I was impressed.

After fighting the clutch and not finding neutral the first day, I was able to find neutral much more often on the second day. I still was fighting the clutch all day long. The instructors knew I was a scooter rider with an automatic transmission, so I have a feeling they gave me more latitude on my clutch handling – say rather my gear shifting skills than they gave the folks who had just bought motorcycles. If I am going to be doing any regular MC riding, I think I’ll be getting a pair of MC boots that are made more for that and don’t have quite so distinct a tread pattern as my hiking boots. They work well for me with the scooter footboard, but fighting the foot pegs on a regular basis is not on my list of things to do.

Nobody had an attitude about what we were learning, so everyone in class was open to actually learn something. Most folks, if they’ve ridden, either hadn’t ridden recently or were there to see about learning something new. Some were very new to it. Nobody was flunked, and everybody seemed to be willing to listen and adjust what they were doing within the limits of what they were physically capable of. I noticed that I was starting out much more tired on the second day, and that I was having problems with fatigue in some exercises in the morning. This afternoon as we were working on swerves and emergency braking at the end of the day I saw that I was making some stupid mistakes from fatigue. Nothing horrid in itself, but not something I would do if I was fresh and sharp. And I was recognizing that it was not right. I was semi joking around with folks about learning the clutch and now needing a couple hundred hours to get good and comfortable with shifting gears.

The nice thing about this particular class is that the instructors make themselves available by phone and email afterward and you have the option of riding another class in the future for no charge when there is an empty seat.

I really would like to take my scooter and ride the course of cones they had. I’ll be taking some of the ones I have and setting up a course in a parking lot and practicing the weaves and obstacle avoidance swerves, as well as emergency braking for sure. I got up to 25 MPH on the last day. I was joking with DH about it, and saying that now I was a real MC rider. I could shift gears up and down. If nothing else, I feel confident now that if we were out riding on DH’s Ural and something happened to him, I could get us home without any major mishap.

Of course everyone asked if I was planning on moving up to a MC. I told most folks that I wasn’t planning on getting anything now. After the entire class was over when I was asked that, I told them that I really wanted to get proficient with my scooter first. I couldn’t say for the future, but that option is open for me. And that DH is looking at possibly getting either a trail bike or a dual sport bike, and that would be one I would be happy to pick up and ride more than the Ural.

My shoulders, forearms and wrists ached and hurt after the class. I spent more time working the clutch than I’ve done with my left hand in a very long time.

More scootering this weekend

DH and I went out riding Saturday morning. I had to put gas in the scooter, so we went to one of the closest stations. I put in 2/3 of a gallon. It filled the tank up. 😀 I love it! Then we went putt putting around. The plan was to go to the Pepper Place market, then to ride as we wanted. The overall goal of the day was to get me more comfortable on the scooter. It went pretty well.

After filling up the scooter we drove around to Crestwood Boulevard and down it into town to Pepper Place. After getting the windshield on the scooter, one of the mirrors was working loose. So we stopped, DH puled out his handy dandy toolkit including 13mm wrench and blue loctite. We got it gooped and tightened up, then off we went. The other mirror appears to be staying together. I think I want to have a 13mm wrench in the seat with my standard stuff.

We got to Pepper Place, and we parked in a T, with the scooter at the head of the space and the Ural at the foot. 😀 It tickles me to no end to have this wild flexibility in parking. As we were approaching the stalls, DH found a set of what we assumed wer car keys. After turning them into the information booth, we wandered through the market. We saw booth for Artwalk and visited with Joy. We picked up some peaches and a gift for my brother’s girlfriend’s birthday. 🙂 Then DH had his fill of walking around so we went back to the bike and scooter and headed out.

We took 29th Street up to Highland Avenue, the Highland back east to Clairmont Avenue, then Clairmont to Crestwood. It was a a very nice ride. Twisty enough that I was pleased to have the turn work and not busy enough to feel bad about possibly holding up traffic in a hurry to get somewhere.

I find that I need some sort of destination to get out and ride. Having some idea of where I want to go is good incentive for me to get there. I still need to take the Motorcycle Safety Class, and I wouldn’t mind taking a scooter safety class either, if I could find one relatively close by.

Rode my scooter to work. Again.

This past Tuesday. For the second time.

I’m slowly building my skill and confidence on the scooter. I’ve been riding around the neighborhood and seeing how the scooter handles as I make my way on turns and hills. I’m getting better as I spend more time on it. There are times when I’m still not comfortable doing things and in traffic, but its getting more familiar.

I’ve already driven the scooter to work one day before. So Monday night I checked the weather forecast for the week and it looked like Tuesday was going to be the best day to ride to work. I’ve been very fortunate, DH is willing to follow me to work and back in a car, since I end up traveling on a major thoroughfare. I’m really glad he does have experience riding motorcycles. He’s been a big help to me as I learn to ride this scooter. I am treating it as a major opportunity to ramp up my situational awareness. 🙂 DH’s philosophy on motorcycles is to treat them as if all other drivers are out to run you over. As I explore some other motorcycle web sites, I find that they all echo that over and over again.

So I got up and drove out to work, having left my house at 7 AM and then arriving at work at 7:30. I avoided the majority of rush hour here. I wore a backpack with my lunch and a change of shoes. That was cool. Driving out worked out well. I was fairly comfortable with the trip out. So that was good and I had a good day at work.

DH came out in the afternoon to follow me home. It was still clear when he got in to my workplace, but he had said that there was a big cloud building up near the house. The prevailing weather patterns take most weather east and south as they pass our house, so I thought that it might do the same again. Since I work north and west of my house, that should have been ok. I finished up and took my stuff out to the scooter to get ready to ride home. DH told me that he would back up whatever I wanted with the ride home. So I put my purse under the seat, got my jacket on, put on the gloves and the helmet, and wheeled my scooter on the way. As I was starting the ride, I saw that there were some nasty clouds off to the south. I drove back down Carson Road and noticed that the wind was creating more resistance than I was used to, and I got beaned with more small debris that had been picked up off the side of the road. I saw lightning off in the distance toward my destination. I was not a happy camper. But I kept on riding home. Five Mile Road was not busy, so I was going the fastest speed I was safe on it. As I was coming up to First Avenue North, I keep seeing lightning flashes in the clouds. And it was the ground to cloud lightning. It was pretty spectacular. It looked like I might hit a break in the rain showers, so I kept on riding down the road.

I had resolved to get as far down the road as I felt I could go safely. I’m a newbie rider, with just over 100 miles ridden at all. I know there’s an awful lot I have no clue how to handle. I was nervous, but I figured that without going on, I wouldn’t have the experience to deal with the situation in the future. I got past East Lake Park and Oporto Madrid Blvd, and it actually started raining. So I pulled to the side of the road, DH stopped, and we traded places. This was actually already set up. DH had said that he would ride the scooter if it started to rain. I was having trouble opening the seat to get my purse, but I finally got the seat up and my purse out. I kept the jacket and backpack on, but took off the gloves and helmet. We caught a break in traffic, DH pulled out onto the road, and I followed. As he was pulling out into the road, the rain really started falling, and a bolt of lightning struck the power lines on the other side of the road. The wind really started driving the rain down in sheets. I was staying behind DH as he drove the scooter down the main road. It was nerve wracking for me in the car. I couldn’t imagine what it was like for DH on the scooter. I would have been a mess on the scooter. When we got to 64th street, DH turned left to go over to 1st Avenue South. He continued home on 1st Ave. South. There’s a place on 1st Ave. South that has a small substation. As DH approached it, it was struck by lightning. I saw the ball of plasma that the lightning strike creaked as it blew. Then DH turned left on 56th Street to get over to our neighborhood. He crossed over the big railroad tracks and I lost sight of him. As I followed, I saw some large tree branches at the side of the road. That was in addition to all the little branches that were out there all over the place. There were major branches down up 56th. As I crossed Crestwood Blvd, I heard the hail start. It hailed the rest of the way home. AS I pulled up to the house, it started hailing heavily, and the lights were out. I parked the car, and stayed in it. In a few minutes, DH called me. He had gotten the scooter in the garage with the automatic garage door opener, and gotten the door closed, then the power failed. He was soaked to the skin.

In another 5 or 10 minutes, the rain and hail slacked off and I ran into the house with my helmet and gloves. DH informed me that I really owed him for that. The power didn’t come back on until 2:30 in the morning. And our phone line is trashed. So the DSL we have at the house is useless. But hopefully we’ll have the phone lines replaced by the end of the week.

We found out later that there were wind gusts reported at the airport of 70 miles per hour. That’s almost hurricane force winds! No wonder DH was being knocked around on the scooter as he drove it.

Now, for when I have no backup driving along behind me, I do have a plan. I would find someplace with some overhead cover and stop until the rain passes. I probably should have stopped a couple of miles earlier, but that falls into the area of not knowing any better. Doh!