The 20$ trick

20$ trickNo, not that kind of trick.

Have you heard about it? Supposedly, when you check in to a Vega$ hotel

  • you present your credit card wrapped in a twenty;
  • you then ask if there are upgrades available;
  • if there are, you get the upgrade and the clerk will keep the twenty;
  • if not, you get your twenty back.

Apparently, it also works for car rental upgrades.

If you try it, and it works, let me know in the comments.

Here’s the site.

There’s a FAQ too.

Rain rules

This summer, I was riding wet for many of the miles I traveled. I own a good Gore-Tex rainsuit, so I stayed dry. Being the lazy SOB that I am, however, I let my feet get wet because I never put on my gaiters. Fortunately, it wasn’t cold.

  • Looking for some rain gloves? Visit a grocery store and buy dishwasher gloves. The price can’t be beat. Added bonus: they come in two colors — blue and yellow.
  • Green or orange garbage bags make good covers for anything that’s held on with a net. The net will keep the plastic bag from shredding.

On the rainy highway, traction is a major consideration at speed, and hydroplaning is never far away on two wheels if your speed is high. Hydroplaning can occur any time one rides through the puddles that collect in the lowest part of the roadway, primarily the two tire tracks running the length of each lane. It can be avoided by riding on the high spots and by keeping tire pressure on the high side. Running on bald tires isn’t good either.

In built-up areas, anything metal such as manhole covers and bridge gratings, painted lines, and places where oil and grease have not washed off become a lot more slippery when first wet.

Railroad tracks are a sleeper, and can bite hard when being crossed at anything other that parallel or almost-parallel, especially in the wet. If your tire slips into the groove running alongside the track, it will ruin your day.

Thunderstorms are scary when you’re in the middle of one out on the prairie. Being the highest point on a flat plain or at the top of a bald hill when the lightning comes crashing down is not a smart place to be. Avoid it, at all costs, or one day you’ll be sorry. Take a break at one of those fancy Canadian rest areas.

Last, but not least, don’t delay when putting on the rain suit. Riding just a little farther to see if it will clear is not always a good thing if you want to stay warm and dry. Ask me how I know.

To sum up, in the wet:

  • Painted lines are slippery. Keep that in mind when turning or braking at crosswalks or any time you cross them.
  • Ditto for manhole covers, grated bridges, and bridge expansion joints.
  • Railroad tracks require a careful crossing so as not to slip into the groove.
  • Hydroplaning is a real possibility with excessive speed and under-inflated or bald tires.
  • Botts’ dots* or any other raised lane indicators are slippery and could cause tires to slip off of them.
  • Gas stations are particularly slippery in pump areas. All the clunkers get parked there, leaking and weeping.
  • Avoid riding during a thunderstorm when you’re going to be the height of land that the lightning will be searching for.
  • Put the suit on early if you want to stay warm and dry.
  • Slow down.

* Botts’ Dots are used on California multi-lane freeways. They come colored, round and square. Most are white; center markers are amber; wrong-way markers are red; fire hydrant markers are blue. They are being used on the highways of other states as well.

Roadside assistance for the distressed

I’m still on the north shore of Lake Superior.

It was cloudy and cool this morning.

Having only 140 miles to go, I took my time and got on the road by 0900. Unfortunately, I had to stop to put on the rain pants since the highway was wet. There was only the occasional drop of water on the windshield, so it must have rained much earlier.

At about the 20 minute mark I was flagged down by a kid out of Manitoba on an ’84 Yamaha two-banger. He was heading south also, but his engine died. Without tools, he couldn’t do much. I loaned him some of mine (the ones he could use, since I don’t carry metric) and he drained his two fuel bowls.

Clear and bright.

The plugs were good. The plug leads were a tad sketchy (thanks for that word, Kayla) and broke off in my hand.

That’s normal, sez the kid.

Well, okay, I guess. It’s his bike.

He’s done all the work on it to date. He’s got a nice hand-made spiderweb lower fairing. It’s not actually a fairing, but if it were covered, it would be.

Eventually, he manages to get to the fuel filter. It has fuel in it, so he thinks it’s okay.

Not necessarily, I tell him. Why not pull it, drain some into that empty Tim Horton’s cup and see what it looks like?

I’ll do that, sez the kid.

Hmm. Grass. How did green lawn grass get into the fuel filter, I ask?

Dunno, sez the kid.

The fuel line gets reconnected, the kid engages the starter, and away we go.

Problem solved.

During this series of events, an interested OPP (Ontario Provincial Police) officer drives by a couple of times, passing in both directions and obviously on his highway patrol, giving us the eye. Finally, he can stand it no longer and pulls in behind us to see what the hell is going on.

He turned out to be a pretty nice guy, actually, giving helpful advice and offering clean gas to the kid.

I don’t know if the kid accepted or not, because once the motorcycle turned over, I collected my tools and got back on the road.

It poured for the remainder of my 100 mile ride.

My thanks to Aerostich and their Darien rain gear. It’s kept my ass dry for decades now.

*     *     *

Not too many riders stop for a motorcycle by the side of the road any more. There are too many RUBs out there who think a cell phone and a trailer can solve all the problems one might encounter.

Even if one of those guys were to stop, his assistance would be limited to going for gas, or to make a phone call. Mechanical help wouldn’t be an option, I’m certain. Tools? Why carry tools? I have a five-year warranty.

Unfortunately, in the boondocks (believe me, the north shore of Lake Superior is the boondock nation), a rider stopping to offer help and support is a welcome relief. The look of gratitude on the kid’s face when I pulled over was all that I needed to see, even without his immediately knowing whether I could help or not.

Fortunately, this time, I could.

Lights and siren behind you?

It’s winter up here, and although we’ve been in the midst of chinook weather for weeks now, it’s still not rideable, and won’t be for the foreseeable future. Thus I am inclined to be riding the web in search of diversions. I came across this article in Car and Driver:

What to do during a traffic stop:

  • Pull to the right at the first safe opportunity, then turn off your engine.
  • Stay in your car with your seat belt fastened. Roll down your window. Turn off the radio. Don’t even think about touching your cell phone.
  • Place your hands on top of the steering wheel and sit quietly. Ask passengers to remain silent.
  • Retrieve license, registration, and proof of insurance only when asked to do so.
  • Answer questions succinctly. Avoid arguing, cursing, or interrupting when the officer speaks to you.

That all sounds about right to me.

Dumbing down

I must admit that I’ve been pulled over numerous times, but I’ve (almost) never received a ticket*.

Lucky? Perhaps. But smart too. (I hope.)

I keep my hands in plain view. I talk nice. I act nice.

When the officer asks for my license, I tell him where I’m going to put my hands to retrieve it.

If  my wallet is in my saddle bag, I tell  him, thus giving him an opportunity to place himself where he can see what I’m doing.

If I’ve been in the saddle for the better part of the day when the stop occurs, I try to treat it as a break from riding, and after the business is done, I attempt to engage the officer in conversation removed from his job. I call that de-stressing — for both of us. I’ll ask him about a decent place to eat or an inexpensive place to stay down the road. Usually he’ll take the time to engage in the banter, sometimes not.

By then, of course, it doesn’t matter.

I can get back on the road with no ticket.


*Except for that one time north of Valentine, Nebraska back in ’72 while on my way to Vegas. I talked myself into that one. Story to follow.

Taking care of business

Here, prime riding season is probably six to eight months guaranteed steady riding, with the rest of it being chancy, to say the least – and it’s probably more like five good months of winter. Given the foregoing, were I a motorcycle dealership, I’d be giving her all I could for that six months and pray for at least another two months of sunshine.

I wouldn’t close for lunch and put a sign on the door saying, “Back in a hour.” Back in an hour from when? Now? Fifteen minutes ago? Forty-five minutes ago? Is there some reason that out of all the employees on the payroll, one or two can’t keep the doors open to satisfy the people who come by at lunchtime?

I’d try to get my customers their parts in a timely fashion. I wouldn’t make them wait six months for an order that had been prepaid. (See the first paragraph, above.)

When a customer buys a brand-new motorcycle with a promise that accessories purchased within 30 days are guaranteed a discount, only to have that customer find out that what he wants to buy isn’t available, I wouldn’t be telling the customer, “We’ll talk about the discount on unavailable parts when the parts become available.” We all know what that means.

Being in business isn’t easy. Being in a multi-million dollar business is even more difficult. However, if one wants to survive in that multi-million dollar business, one had better strive to satisfy their customers and keep them coming back, one at a time. Finding new customers is much more difficult than keeping the ones you have.

There’s always somewhere else to go, whether it’s OEM or aftermarket.

Is that so hard to understand?