Apr 28

Jefferson Texas will host what is billed as the largest Civil War reenactment in Texas this weekend. While not technically a “biker” event, one could argue that any event in Jefferson is a biker event. The town is so biker friendly that a least a couple of hundred bikes will be there on any given weekend.
And while we’re arguing technicalities, the event this weekend is not actually a reenactment. There never was a Battle of Port Jefferson. Union troops, under the command of General Nathaniel Banks, were on the way to burn the port town of Jefferson when they met defeat at Mansfield Louisiana on April 8, 1864. But the boys in Jefferson are still spoiling for a fight and by golly they’re going to have one. So every year year about this time Jefferson hosts a reenactment of the battle that would have been if the Yankees had just made it this far.
Jefferson is always a good biking destination, and this weekend it will offer a lot of additional entertainment. And even though the battle itself never took place, the re-enactors are serious about period authenticity. It will be 1864 again in Jefferson.

— Guy Wheatley

Historic downtown Jefferson

Historic downtown Jefferson

Apr 24

Bikes

Motorcycles waiting on worshipers


It’s the same every Sunday Morning. The roar of heavy metal, and the “potato potato” of Hogs pulling into the parking lot. Leather clad legs swing over the seat as bikers and their babes head for the door. And sometimes, they don’t even wait until they’re inside before they start in with their rituals.
Prayer Circle

Prayer circle


There’s praying and singing and worshiping. The First Bikers Church at 12th and Walnut is probably not what many typically think of as a gathering for bikers. But make no mistake, many of theses folks are bikers. They’re just Christians first.
Things will start a little earlier next week as they begin a Revival. It kicks off Friday night, May 1st at 6:00 p.m. Weather permitting, they will be in the parking lot. Members will bring food and feed as many as they can. No word on the menu, but I’m expecting more than loaves and fishes.
The Saturday activities will start at 10 a.m. and include games for the kids, motorcycle games, food, music, and testimonies. There will also be a night service. Again, weather permitting, in the parking lot.
All of this leads into the Sunday morning worship service. Sunday school starts at 9:30. A prayer circle meets outside at 10:45 and the church service is at 11.

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Church Sign

Chruch Sign

Apr 23

I took the Motorcycle Safety Foundation Basic Rider Course (MSFBRC) course here in Texas about 3 years ago. It was only $180 in Texas at that time. As a new bike owner with a couple of hundred miles under the tires, it was a big help. Part of the positive experience for me was that my instructor belabored the fact the this was rudimentary instruction, and that we were not experienced bikers based on our attendance of an MSFBRC course. At the end of the course he said, “You are now qualified to ride a 125cc motorcycle around a closed parking lot!”
The single most important thing I took took away from this class was how much I still didn’t know. Looking back, I think I thought of the little 250 Nighthawk as a bicycle with a motor when I bought it. That instructor took pains to make me understand that the MSFBRC class was just a beginning of my motorcycle education. He insisted that we, his class, continue our education, ride with experienced riders, and ease ourselves into more complex riding. He also pointed out that the painted lines would still be on the parking lot after he left and encouraged us to came back and practice the skills he taught us. This is referred to as PLP (Parking Lot Practice) on some forums.
Knocking around several bike forums I see a lot of diverse opinions on the MSF program. One of the biggest complaints is that taking the MSFBRC allows riders in many states to forego the riding test for receiving a license. There is the feeling that the State is abdicating it’s responsibility of ensuring a license holder is truly skilled enough to operate the vehicle safely, and is not a danger to himself and others.
I must say that was the case with me. Fortunately I had an instructor who convinced me to look for more training. I haunted Internet sites dedicated to motorcycle safety, faithfully engaged in PLP, and sought out experienced riders for advice and instruction.
I was sitting next to a grizzled old biker in downtown Hot Springs a couple of years ago. We watched a guy drop a big shiny Harley trying to park it. That was the first time I head the famous, “$30,000 and 30 miles don’t make you a biker!”
There is nothing wrong with the MSFBRC course in itself. Taking it as a magic pill to alleviate inexperience and lack of skill can be deadly.

— Guy Wheatley

Apr 23
The last ride
icon1 Guy | icon2 The Last Ride | icon4 04 23rd, 2009| icon33 Comments »

There seems to be a rash of motorcycle accidents lately. Two fatalities were reported in the Texarkana Gazette. A third death is reported in the Daily Tribune from Morris County. In the two wrecks reported in the Gazette, it appears that the bikers had very little opportunity to avoid the crash.
Many non-riders are quick to tell us how dangerous motorcycles are. There are some added dangers, being on two wheels and not surrounded by metal. Are we taking foolish risks with our lives by riding? Of course not. Recreational activities are often more dangerous than sitting at home reading a book. Consider hunting, swimming, water or snow skiing, or any other physically demanding sport. Nothing worth doing is 100% risk free. With reasonable precautions, the rewards are well worth the risks.
I hope that if I’m called home earlier than expected, that my friends will go on the rides we used to take and take me with them in their thoughts and memories. I hope they go to some of the places where I did something silly, or had a little accident where nothing was hurt, and have a good laugh. And I hope they’re only a little sad, knowing that they made my life richer and that I loved them as much as they loved me. And I’ll be waiting for them on roads they haven’t ridden, with a bike gassed up and ready.

— Guy Wheatley

Apr 21
dad

GB Wheatley. Jump school, Ft Bragg North Carolina

My son Brandon bought his first bike about a year ago. It was a used bike we got for a little of nothing from a friend who has helped us keep it running. The seller also offered to paint it for us. This turned into a custom job including adding fabricated saddle bags.
My father died three months before my son’s birth. Brandon has always been fascinated with his paternal grandfather, especially his military career. He decided to turn the bike into a tribute to Dad.

When our friend Charles saw the olive drab paint Brandon had picked out, he turned pea green himself.  He groused and complained about the color, but dutifully got to work. He helped us get decals and did the fabricating required to mount the ammo cans as saddle bags. He spent days sanding out imperfections I couldn’t see, feel, or imagine. I can still see him holding out the fender asking apologetically, “Do you think this is good enough?”
“I’d have had paint on that thing three days ago.” I told him.
The bike came together and Brandon finally got to take it on a ride. Everywhere we go people come up to us and ask about it. The pipe that was on it was just that. A straight pipe coming off the exhaust port on the cylinder head. Brandon replaced that with something like a glass pack. It’s still LOUD, and it is going to backfire every time you kill the engine. Wow, an army bike that sounds like a howitzer.
Bikes with one cylinder like this are often referred to as “Thumpers.” Brandon took that moniker and ran with it designing a logo he wants to put on as a decal.
Most bikers I’ve talked too have fond memories of their first bike. There’s little doubt that Brandon will never forget Thumper. He’s says he’ll never sell it. You know, I don’t think he ever will.

— Guy Wheatley

Thumper logo for Brandon's bike.

Thumper logo for Brandon's bike.

Brandon's Suzuki Savage

Brandon's Suzuki Savage

Apr 20
Poker run in Camden
icon1 Guy | icon2 Events | icon4 04 20th, 2009| icon3No Comments »

This is the time of year when bikers find themselves with an embarrassment of riches. Many just like to ride and don’t need, or want, a particular destination. Others love riding their bikes, but like to have someplace to go to. If you’re looking for a motorcycle related event, then this is the time of year for you. In the spring and fall I often discover that two or more events I’d like to attend are at the same time but in different towns.
Next weekend, April 25 Ouachita County Medical Center in Camden will host their 2nd annual Poker Run.
healthware-poker-run1Any ride to Camden is a good use of gas. Downtown Camden is as full of southern Arkansas Charm as one might hope. Work has taken me over there several times in the last few years, and I always looked forward to the trips I was able to make on the bike. The poker run looks like a fun event and supports a good cause.

— Guy Wheatley

OCMCRegistrationForm

Apr 17

prayforcureGrowing up in farm country, I learned quickly to not complain about rain. No matter that it and been dry all week and was now raining out my weekend, there was some big gruff farmer ready to take a shovel to my head for complaining about the rain his field so desperately needed. But I’m going to have to lament just a little about this weekend. The Pray For A Cure Rally is tomorrow from 9 to 3 at Hooters. This is a good cause and it’d be a real shame to see it rained out.
Listening to Neal Jones on the phone telling me about it, I get the impression he’ll be there short of a second Noah’s flood. Maybe even then. If you’re in town this weekend, drop by and see how they’re doing. You can call Neal for infomation at 903-547-6720, or got to the Ark-La-Tex Star Rider website. ArkLaTex Star Riders
They are also sponsering a Talimena run in May. You can get an application here. Talimena Run Application
The application says the deadline was April 15, but Mr Jones assures me they will take them until the end of April.
If you’re not doing anything on a Friday night, check out the crew at Texarkana Bike Night. www.texarkanabikenight.com
We’ve been meeting at Dixie Diner in Nash, but wanted to tryout the Green Tomato on Lake Drive tonight. I will be out of town this weekend so there will be an empty seat. I hope somebody will go and fill it for me.

— Guy Wheatley

Apr 16

I’ve used this line before, but it’s a good one so I’ll use it again.
People ask me, “Are you a good mechanic, do you work on your own vehicles?”
The answers are, “No,” and “Yes.” I’m not such a good mechanic, but I do work on my on vehicles. Years ago it was pure financial necessity. Now, while the finances part helps, a lot of my motivation is pride and the confidence I gain from understanding my bike mechanically. In June of 2008 I was riding the Talimena scenic drive with a group when my regulator/rectifier blew the top off my battery. I’d been smelling rotten eggs for the last hour, but didn’t understand the warning sign. I coasted to the side of the road with the group and took stock.
I wound up getting a ride back to camp as a passenger on another bike, then went back with a trailer to get my motorcycle. Back home I faced a decision. Parts and labor were going to cost about $500 at a dealership. A riding friend assured me that this was an easy repair and he had a good lead on used parts.
With his encouragement and assurance that he’d bail me out if I couldn’t handle it myself, I grabbed some wrenches and started to work. $25 and a few skint knuckles later, I was back on the road enjoying the wind in my face, a feeling of accomplishment, and the knowledge that if something similar happened again I could handle it.
Now I don’t worry as much about breakdowns when I ride long distances. I carry enough tools, parts, and knowledge to get the bike going again under most circumstances. If the bike feels funny or makes a strange noise, I can usually identify it and make an informed decision about whether to stop immediately or keep rolling and fix it later.

— Guy Wheatley

Replacing a stator on a 94 Honda Magna

Replacing a stator on a 94 Honda Magna

Apr 14

I read in the paper this morning that a man was killed on a motorcycle. It happened on a road I frequent. It’s one of the routes I could have taken last Saturday on my ride to Jefferson. Instead I elected to take a slower, but more scenic route.
For a biker, route selection is not merely a matter of connivence or speed over scenery. It’s also a matter of safety. I try to avoid multi lane highways and Interstate highways when I’m on the magna. Oh don’t misunderstand. With the racing engine inspired V-4, Maggie’s 750 cc engine can move me over the road at 145 mph. Speed isn’t the issue. It’s the dry weight of just over 500 lbs. that keeps me on smaller roads. There’s just not enough mass there to handle the buffeting caused by larger, fast moving vehicles.
Even so I must still take other factors into account when making the decision on which roads to ride. Last Saturday’s ride was a case in point. As we were getting ready to leave Jefferson I was weighing the relative advantages of two routes. I could either go back the way we came using the small scenic roads we’d taken on the way down, or hop on 59.
The smaller roads offered the chance to travel at lower speed without someone driving up my back. There would be less traffic, and almost no large trucks. On the minus side, as it got dark it would be harder to see and there would be a greater risk of collision with wildlife. I did see a deer grazing on the shoulder before I got back to Atlanta. That’s the one I saw. How many were there that I didn’t see?
If I took 59, I’d have to go at least 70 MPH to keep up with traffic. There would be more traffic and some of that would be large vehicles producing at lot of turbulence. On the plus side, the road would be more well lighted. The wider shoulders, multiple lanes, and increased traffic would greatly reduce the chance of hitting something.
I choose the smaller roads, hoping to be in Atlanta before dark. We didn’t quite make it before dark, but we did get home safely. Was it the right choice?
No. The right choice was to leave in time to get home before dark.

– Guy Wheatley

Small east Texas roads offer scenic rides with less traffic

Small east Texas roads offer scenic rides with less traffic

Apr 13
Historic downtown Jefferson

Historic downtown Jefferson

We took another “short” ride Saturday.  It was going to be short because Sharon and I were both worn out. We’ve been tearing up the roads for the last few weekends and we’re going to be in Dallas next weekend. This was supposed to be a relaxing and getting a few chores done at the house weekend.
Our son was home for a few days though and we haven’t taken a ride with him in a long time. So about 2 O-clock we decided to take a quick ride. This was to be a ride of about 40 miles round trip, and last no more than two hours. We jumped on the bikes and took off in no particular direction.
About 60 miles later we pulled into Jefferson. Brandon had never been there on a bike before, and somehow as we were aimlessly burning gas I just never got around to turning around.
We had to take Brandon to Annie Skinner’s. I mean, you can’t go to Jefferson without sticking you nose in Annie Skinner’s can you ? Turns out you can. There was something going on there that night and there was a $5.00 door charge. We were already committed to eating at another restaurant, and I wasn’t  dropping $15.00 just to say we’d been. We’ll catch them another time.
The reason we wanted to go to the other place is because Sharon and I had been there once and hadn’t put a dollar on the wall. That’s a tradition at this little place, but on my first trip it felt more like a scam. Funny how stuff like that can bug you. I couldn’t wait to get back down there and staple by buck to the woodwork.
By the time we finished eating, and roaming through a couple of antique shops, it was 7:30. We took hwy. 49 out of Jefferson, then hwy. 43 up to Atlanta. We like the smaller roads, but it was dark by the time we got to Atlanta, and I saw one deer grazing on the shoulder.
We managed to get home without hitting one and had an enjoyable weekend. One of these days I’ll try a short ride that’s less than 100 miles.

– Guy Wheatley

Brandon and Sharon wave enthusiastically at the camera

Brandon and Sharon wave enthusiastically at the camera

Stapling my dollar to the wall.

Stapling my dollar to the wall.

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