Bringing home the Ducati, part 2

Well, I sure slept well Sunday night and I earned it with a 700 mile day. Today’s ride would be about 300 miles or so, much shorter and pleasantly, the final stretch for home. I lingered around the place, packing slowly for the trip, checking the bike over thoroughly as I strapped on the tailbag. Everything was fine except for a loose screw in the left rear turn signal assembly. I used some blue painters tape to ensure the turn signal wouldn’t depart the bike, and stopped at a small used car lot to borrow an allen wrench. Ah, the wonderfully complete Ducati tool kit strikes again. They were very accomodating and in about 5 minutes had tightened the screw and was on my way north.

The wind had picked up considerably, something I didn’t notice at the woods before I left. Now, thinking about it, of course not. I was at ground level, the wind very well blocked by the forest of trees in every direction. Riding north, out in the open, the wind was merciless. All of my other bikes have a windshield, and of course the Goldwing has a full fairing out front. The Ducati can’t be bothered with any of that, so you are left to face the wind on your own. I began to feel like a bobble-head doll, expecially when passing big trucks. After several hours of this, my neck began to complain about it. Looking over my shoulder before moving into the passing lane became somewhat painful, but necessary.

One thing I will have to address quickly is the mirrors. They provide a great view of my shoulders and not much more. Sure, you can lean right or left to actually see behind you, but since I do my best to keep a good scan going I was moving around a lot. I’m going with bar-end mirrors to solve this problem. Yes, they will widen the bike but more importantly they will provide a clear view to the rear – absolutely essential when riding in any traffic at all. The brand I will probably purchase is CRG, they have a ball and detent to fold them inward when parking or covering the bike – a handy feature. Review to follow.

When I was riding the final few miles home, it got cold. The thermometer said 50 degrees, but when you’re moving at 70+ mph with no wind protection it seems a good bit cooler than that. It was good to see home, and better still to have a nice hot shower and cup of coffee. A long ride, on a reliable machine, is fun all by itself. But, being home is good too. I can see a few changes to the bike – I had plenty of time to think about what they might be and with some miles on it I think I can prioritize the changes pretty well. The mods and accessories phase is underway.

Bringing home the Ducati, part 1

I sold the Shadow ACE and made a deal for the Ducati Monster 695 on the same day. That’s the easy part. Now the somewhat more complicated logistics of getting a motorcycle from Tallahassee, Florida to northern Illinois in the (usually damp and rainy) springtime.

First, I needed to get to Tallahassee. Looking at the calendar, the first opportunity looked to be the weekend of April 4th, and I confirmed with Gabe that the 4th was OK with him. Then I found a reasonably priced one-way ticket on Northwest that connected through Memphis that was scheduled to arrive just before noon on Friday. Now to handle the clothing/gear for the trip. I did some additional reading and found that the Mini-Beta Tailbag by Wolfman Luggage was highly recommended by others on so I ordered one. It arrived in plenty of time and has plenty of room for the necessities of the road. Since the flight was connecting and was a close connection at that, I decided to box up my riding gear (jacket, gloves, kevlar jeans, boots, and jacket) and ship them to Gabe’s house so they would be waiting for me. The box arrived on Wednesday, so the gear was there. Spoke with my insurance company, gave them the VIN, and they faxed proof of insurance for the trip home. The logistics were under control.

Now the uncontrollable and unpredictable reared it’s head – the weather. According to the weather forecasts the thunderstorms and rain would be in Tallahassee Friday and would make my trip home completely damp and more than a little miserable. Yes, I’ve ridden in the rain before and will again. I was just not enthused about starting a 1000+ mile trip in the rain. The forecasts started to improve as Friday got closer, but they all still contained possibilities of rain. They were correct.

I landed, a bit late as the flight crew came from Montgomery, Alabama on the east side of a fairly active cold front. Not a good omen, to my way of thinking. Gabe picked me up at the airport, a pleasure to meet him. The bike was exactly as he had described it, clean, well-maintained, and ready to go. We grabbed a bite to eat and I changed into my riding gear, packed the tailbag and strapped it on, and I headed out. I left Tallahassee heading west, thinking I might be able to skip around the southern edge of the front or maybe find a way through. Nope. I got about 70 miles or so west of Tallahassee and ran into rain with the guarantee of drenching rain further ahead. I turned around and found a room at the Hampton Inn in Marianna, Florida. The people were nice and I found a good dry spot for the bike. I hadn’t planned on staying unti Sunday, but the weather on Saturday was miserable with tornadoes in Mississippi and Alabama. Sunday looked a lot better and I was ready to be moving north so I planned a 6am departure. It was very foggy and damp so it was cool on the bike, but soon the miles were rolling up and I was north of Montgomery and catching occasional glimpses of the sun. By the Tennessee line the sun was out and blue sky was the rule. The throb of the motor and the sun on my face and the miles rolling by made for a very enjoyable ride.

The Ducati has a small gas tank. On the Goldwing, the tank is 7+ gallons and the Ducati is half that. Not knowing how accurate the reserve light was and also not knowing where the open gas stations were I was conservative until I did some math and figured I was getting 46+ mpg and could go 120 miles and still have a comfortable reserve. Actually, stopping and stretching is good for you and helps keep your attention focused on the road and the other drivers.

I pulled into a gas station just north of Louisville for my last stretch before I got to my destination for the day – my place in southern Indiana. There were a couple of other bikes parked so I stopped by them and we started talking. They had been out riding and were heading for home. The remarked about their 120 mile day and asked me how far I’d ridden. I told them I left Florida early that morning and I had ridden over 600 miles that day. I guess they decided that I had the mileage crown all to myself so we said goodbye and ride safely and were on our individual ways. I made it to my place, brought the bike inside, took a hot shower, made popcorn, and went to bed.

A long day’s ride on a bike that isn’t really made for interstate distances was over. The bike can handle it easily, and it did – the bike ran great all day. The hard part for me was the riding position – considerably more aggressive than the Goldwing or VTX, it places much more weight on your wrists and shoulders. Handlebar risers will help that situation, and I had a set with me just for that eventuality, but had no tools to install them. Oh, well, the long day is done and tomorrow’s ride home is easy compared to today – or so I thought…

Hint: bobble-head doll.