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Old 08-18-2012   #1
The Buckeye Rider
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The Continuing Adventures of The Buckeye Rider

(press on regardless)

The Continuing Adventures of The Buckeye Rider

As always it started out as a simple idea, just a dream really, another scrap to throw into the bucket list. It seemed so easy when I daydreamed about it while sitting on the front porch on a summer evening, drink in hand. Like all other ideas or dreams once you commit, once you say it out loud and some one hears you, once you ask someone to share the experience it loses its simplicity rather quickly.

Just a simple idea, very feasible, quite doable really; Let’s take ‘Pa’, my trusty Norton and run a few hot laps at the legendary Mid-Ohio Race Track. I’ve been to this track many times over the years for all sorts of racing events, even drove BMW 3 & 5 sedans at speed with David Hobbs as my in car tutor but always in the back of my mind was the yearning to ride the Norton around this very challenging road course at speed.

I proposed the idea to my favorite riding partners, my sons Drew and Chris who simultaneously exclaimed “I’m in” and that set the simple idea in motion. Just like that it got a little more complicated, more people, more bikes, more equipment, more logistics and more work.

Then came the homework, setting the date between the three of us, filling out the on-line forms and hitting the “buy now” button. At that point we are committed. That was just the beginning of the long hours of preparation. ‘Pa’ my 1975 Norton Commando was in need of a “go faster” suspension part and a thorough maintenance inspection. The Ducati needed a good looking over and an oil change and the R6 Yamaha needed a once over. Drew who does his own maintenance took care of his BMW r1100s.

My good friend Steve M was gracious enough to offer his m/c trailer before I could even ask him about it and included tie downs, ratchet straps, cable locks and ramps. That attached to Drew’s big Ford extended cab pick-up made a rig that was ready for the task……or so we thought!

We had started the preparations well in advance so as not to be rushed or flustered at the deadline and our planning worked perfectly. The day of departure left us only with the task of loading the truck and trailer and we were ready to go.

That was the plan, four bikes for three riders, one in the bed of the truck three on the trailer, one day at the track and three Mathers boys smiling so hard it would hurt.

We left late Sunday afternoon for Monday’s riding session with plans to have nice relaxed dinner north of Columbus Ohio and arrive at our hotel about 10 pm.

Somewhere just north of mile marker 84 on I-71 Chris, riding shotgun, sounds the alarm “PULL OVER, SOME THINGS WRONG WITH THE TRAILER”. The right trailer tire had lost the center tread all the way around the circumference. The tire still held air pressure but the entire center section of tread was missing with the sidewalls and an inch of tread on both sides all that were left. So on a busy highway at dusk on a Sunday night we were stuck out in the middle of nowhere without a spare tire. We unloaded the BMW from the right side of the trailer to ease the load and Chris rode ahead to the next exit about twelve miles up the road. Drew and I limped the wounded rig in the emergency lane at five miles per hour to the exit to get off the freeway. I tried for the next two and a half hours to contact AMA Roadside Assistance only to hear the same message over and over; “please hold the line until the next coordinator can assist you”. That was not a working game plan for sure.

With the help of modern technology we tried to locate some help and a tire. To make a very, very long story shorter we drove slowly for about thirty miles on back-country roads, often in the opposite direction, ditched the trailer at a truck stop, minus the bad tire, with Chris standing guard and drove off to have a used tire installed in a ramshackle hillbilly tire shop out in the middle of a corn field at 10:30 at night. Cost to have a used tire mounted and balanced and an “opening fee” for an employee to come after hours $100. Cost to get back on the road again $@%#~&#. Somewhere between the tire shop and the wounded trailer we stopped and picked up dinner. We had a quick late night picnic on the tailgate of the truck as we all ate with one hand and put the tire back on the trailer with the other.

We stopped several times to check the tires on the way north and found our new-used tire running very cool across the tread but the other trailer tire warmer than I would like down the center of the tread. Ride On indeed!

It was after 1am when we finally had a short Makers Mark toast and crawled into bed. We were tired and stressed out but also proud that we had worked through so many obstacles that evening and never gave up trying and had persevered to reach our goal.

The trailer was parked outside our window and we could finally settle down and get some much needed rest. What a day! It started so right and went so wrong for so long we were just glad to have it behind us.

Five hours later after a fitful nights sleep dreaming of flat tires it was time to get up. Our plan was a quick getaway with a traveling breakfast of bananas and yogurt on the way to the track. The gates opened at 7 and we wanted to be early, ready and relaxed.

As I was packing to leave I took a look out the window at our rig and thought the right rear tire on the truck looked like it was flat….no it’s probably just the morning light. I looked again three minutes later, grabbed my gear and flew out to the parking lot for a closer look.

Another*&%#@ FLAT TIRE!!! The right rear tire on the truck was flat. Not low, flat.
No big deal right!? We have a spare! The spare even has air in it! No big deal, I’ve changed more tires in my lifetime then Bob Sumerel. Except Bob has the proper tools required for the job. All we have in the truck is a Fisher-Price Scissor jack. No lug wrench, no extension tool to lower the spare from its hiding place and no key to unlock the access port to the spare. No problem we have three very smart problem solvers working this project and my tool box. I crawl under the truck and disassemble the lock tumbler from the bumper, assemble all the 3/8th extension from my tool box and lower the spare. Home free? No of course not. It seems those powers in charge of good Karma have overlooked us this trip! We broke all three of my sockets that fit the lug nuts and one ratchet leaving three nuts still firmly holding our flat tire to the axle. It’ 7:15am.

I finally get hold of AMA Roadside Assistance, maybe no Harleys are out this early, they locate a local garage that will help us but it will be an hour before they get to us.

A new game plan comes into action; we disconnected the trailer from the truck so we could unload the R6 from the bed, unloaded the Norton from the trailer and Chris and I ride the 15 minutes out to the track leaving Drew to wait it out and come as soon as possible. We took only the bare essentials that would fit in our backpacks. We left behind Drew, and all of our other stuff, the cooler with drinks and snacks, extra clothes, my tool box, lawn chairs, two motorcycles, spare parts, extra oil and the gas can.

Chris and I arrived only a little late. We registered, found our garage and made the drivers meeting just as it was starting. We had our bikes rushed through tech inspection as our first classroom period started and still Drew was nowhere to be seen. I explained our situation to Todd the man in charge and Mike the head instructor and they both did a great job in calming us down and explained to us that no matter when Drew arrived they would help in every way possible to get him out on the track as soon as he was ready.

After the first class we had twenty minutes before we went out on the track. That’s when Drew arrived with a freshly installed spare tire and the trailer in tow. In those twenty minutes we got the BMW unloaded and Drew into his leathers along with giving him a very condensed version of the drivers meeting and classroom exercise. We skipped the part about registering the bike because I already had a sticker for the Ducati that we stuck on his bike and rushed about to find someone to do a quickie tech inspection and sign off on it.

Somehow, someway the three of us managed to make the starting grid for the first session together side by side. Twice in less than twelve hours we had to work through several obstacles just to get here, we never gave up trying and persevered to reach our goal. We were tired, annoyed and a little distraught at this point wondering if the Gods were trying to keep us away for a reason. But we were sitting astride our motorcycles on the starting grid at a world famous race track waiting to take our first lap and smiling so hard it hurt!

We couldn’t help but wonder as we waited for the start whether we should even be out here. We were not of a clear mind; we were exhausted mentally and physically and wondered what the Gods had in store for us next. There was only one way to find out; ease out the clutch and roll on the throttle.

Seven twenty-minute session of pushing the physical and mental limits of the rider while pushing the bikes as hard as we could turned out to be well worth the effort we put in to get there.

There were 26 riders in the Novice class divided into groups of four or five riders, each with a lead instructor who showed the way around the 2.4 mile course and pinpointing the tip in points and the correct lines through the very tricky turns. It looked so much easier from the other side of the fence!

On the first lap by the time we got to the back straightaway my group was out of sight leaving ‘Pa’ and I to figure out our own way around. It seemed we had the track all to ourselves. The Norton was in perfect tune and with the new “Taylor head steady” go fast part installed he felt like a million dollar ride. Here I was my favorite motorcycle and I turning hot laps around this famous race track. The instructor had warned the other riders about me; “he has no motor, no brakes and no suspension but will be riding as hard as he can, riding closer to the limits of his bike then the rest of you will so give him some respect and some space”. So we spent each session trying to put into practice the lessons taught. Sometimes a whole session seemed disjointed with me unable to put a smooth lap together, getting one or two corners right and blowing the rest.

After each session I sought out the instructor who raced these old bike back when they were new and he helped me find my way around. At one point we went to the garage together and I sat on the Norton while we talked about different body positions and strategies for each corner. Slowly my confidence went up and then so did the speed. A few of the corners I never did quite conquer but some of them just got better and better. My favorite; the downhill off camber right hander at the end of the back straight that leads to an uphill left turn that has its apex at the crest of the hill. What a thrill just to get that combination right! The turn after that is a flat right turn that got ‘Pa’s rear end a little loose twice and I never seemed to gain my confidence through there the rest of the day. ‘Pa’ and I managed to get the carrousel corner right a few times and would came out of it tuck down and roll the throttle wide open all the way down the back straight through the kink and see 100+mph on the speedo. Not bad for the old boy who breathes through a single carburetor. What a thrill the time spent on the track was. I rode the Norton hard all day keeping the tach needle close to redline, the foot pegs close to the ground (too close a few times) ,the tires near the edge and pushing myself to the brink of my comfort zone. Ride On indeed! The boys had just as much fun as me chasing each other around, passing their old man a few times, pushing themselves further than ever before and becoming more confident with themselves and their bikes with each lap.

All the while as we smiled till it hurt we kept thinking about our bad karma. That’s why the Ducati never left the trailer. Feen-X the red Ducati has a history of bad vibes. I have been knocked off of this machine twice. First by a friend who rear-ended me at speed and then by a dog that ran out and attacked my front wheel and sent me to the hospital. With the luck we had in the last twenty-four hours we l decided it would be best to leave the things the way they were.

At the end of the day we had done about a hundred miles at speed on the track without any incidents. That in itself was quit a relief. In the back of our minds we just couldn’t shake the idea that something else was going to happen.

We packed up our rig happy with ourselves and very content with the day, so far. We were quiet though as we worked realizing that we still had a three hour ride with four out of six very sketchy tires on the ground.

Besides an hour and a half traffic jam in Columbus for an overturned truck and a fourteen mile detour trying to get south-bound after our dinner stop the trip home was uneventful. Stressful to say the least, waiting for the next shoe to drop but uneventful.

Close to home we passed an older motor home with a large trailer pulled off onto the emergency lane with the four-way flashers blinking helplessly. The left trailer wheel had broken off and was stuffed up under the fender and the damaged axle was imbedded into the pavement. As we drove by Drew looked at the trailer, then looked at me and said “we didn’t have it so bad did we dad!?!?”

I kissed the sidewalk when we got home!

Standing in the driveway at the end of it all we exchanged handshakes, high fives and hugs. I told the boys how proud I was of them for not giving up either on Sunday night or Monday morning, for sticking it out and working to resolve each problem as it came about, for looking out for each other and having the faith in ourselves to get there and back. Chris remarked “were just three really stubborn, grumpy guys.” My retort “we are Mathers boys and we don’t give up!”

I spent the next day unloading our rig, putting everything away and returning the borrowed trailer.

My professional diagnosis on the tires; the trailer tires tread was separating from the cord making it unable for the tread to dissipate its own heat and destroying itself. Several times on the way home I felt the old trailer tire and it was very hot down the center of the tread much hotter than it should have been and we only had the trailer loaded to 2/3rd capacity, the used tire was as cool as could be all the way across the tread. The Ford tires; just plain worn out! The leak was coming from cracks in the tread between the sidewall and what was left of the tread. They were worn way passed the wear indicators and dry rotted.

Closing the barn door after the horses were out Drew put new tires on the Ford two days later and Steve M promised the next time I borrow the trailer it would be shod with the best tires available and a spare.

It wasn’t funny while it was happening but it gets more amusing each time I tell the story. The boys still don’t think it’s even amusing at this point but they will come around. Maybe in six months or a year their perspective will change. I can’t wait to see the look in their eyes when I asked them next summer if they want to go to Mid-Ohio again.

Ride On(whatever it takes)
Dave Mathers /The Buckeye Rider/ Cincinnati, Ohio 8/17/2012
Ride On

'75 Norton Commando
'95 Triumph Sprint
'02 Ducati St4s
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Old 08-19-2012   #2
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Re: The Continuing Adventures of The Buckeye Rider

Glad to hear it all came together for you in the end and yous guys had a safe and enjoyable (although expensive ) trip to the track.

I think overcoming adversities is one of the most important things that makes life "real". I think it would be boring if everything was smooth ALL the time
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Old 08-19-2012   #3
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Re: The Continuing Adventures of The Buckeye Rider

That's some great story telling that came from a wonderful experience....at least looking back with 20/20 hindsight. I'm not sure I would have had the courage--what with all the sh-t hitting the fan on the trip up--to tempt fate one more time and throw a leg over my precious vintage scoot the way you did. More power to you for having the balls to go thru with your dream!

If you ever want to try something like that again (on a smaller 2-bike scale) I'll gladly lend you my Haulmark box trailer. It even comes with a brand new spare!
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Old 08-19-2012   #4
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Re: The Continuing Adventures of The Buckeye Rider

Dave--that's simply an amazing story! Glad it had such a happy ending! Thanks for sharing!

Ride on (Indeed!)

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Old 08-22-2012   #5
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Re: The Continuing Adventures of The Buckeye Rider

Dave, if you haven't had a chance to get "Pa" out since then, you will be amazed at how different it is. You'll find our confidence (and ability) level has gone up more than a few points
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Old 08-22-2012   #6
Dave Bannister
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Re: The Continuing Adventures of The Buckeye Rider

Dave, You Drew and Chris sounds like the perfect endurance race team! Great story about never giving up and making it to the track, that's what's is all about, the bonus is you get to do it with your family!

RIDE ON!!!!!!
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