Guest Post by Willis Eschenbach

Today was all about motor sports. Mike and I started by taking the bikes for a spin. Unfortunately, in my haste to go riding I didn’t check the tires on the BMW, and the front tire was quite low. As a result, the sucker didn’t steer at all correctly. It wanted to wander all around the lane, and it pushed back against the turns. It was a nightmare to drive, and I couldn’t see what was wrong. The only way I could control it was by diving into the turns with my shoulders and letting the bike stay roughly upright … it was ugly and scary.

moto bmwSo when we got to Sweetheart’s Cafe (not the one sung about by Cold Chisel) we swapped bikes. His bike, the Triumph, rode like a dream. On the way home, Mike diagnosed the problem, and we got the tire pumped up. I’ll tell you … I won’t make that mistake again …

moto triumphBy then it was mid-morning. We decided to break out the various wheels and ride the “Dragon’s Back”, which is a couple of long mounds of dirt in the neighborhood. Here’s the armory we were riding:

moto the armoryIn the front is a Segway X2. The middle is a Honda four-wheeler ATV, and in the back is a dirt bike. Now, I’d never ridden either a Segway or an ATV, so that part was really interesting for me. Always something new to learn. The Segway was a huge surprise. It had those giant tires, and it went up and along the Dragon’s Back no problem …

moto dragons backI was surprised at how powerful it was, and how fast it would go. After about a half hour, I was burning up and over the top of the hill. It was huge amounts of fun. I could see that it could be practical for urban commuting.  However, I was also cognizant that the guy who bought Segway from the original investors died by going over an oceanside cliff … driving a Segway …

The four-wheeler, on the other hand, scared the excrement out of me. It felt like it was always on the verge of tipping over, and it had a thumb-throttle that was hard to hold steady when going up and down the Dragon’s Back. Not at all comfortable. But just to put me in my place, Mike’s ten-year-old grandson Mendoza lives full-time with Mike and his wife, and that kid is the acknowledged king of the four-wheeler. He blazed over the course, catching air on the jumps, and viewed my pathetic attempts with poorly concealed contempt … sigh. Dang kids anyways, get off my lawn!

Then in the afternoon we went for a drive in the hills, but not just any old drive. Did I mention to you that Mike drives race cars? Of course he does, every good man has to feed the rat, and the rat lives on adrenaline. Anyhow, through some racing friends he’d arranged for us to use a 2006 Shelby Cobra 450 horsepower (336 kW) concept car for the day … it’s what’s called an “open top roadster”, or an “OTR” in the trade. No roof, out in the sunshine.

moto shelbyI don’t think I’ve ever gone through corners as fast as I did today. I had no desire to drive the car, I was so happy to be a passenger. I don’t think we broke any speed laws or went over the middle white line … but we went on tight, windy roads and did 80 kph through corners marked “35 kph” as though the car were held to the ground by suction. And of course, at 100 kph the Cobra is only in second gear …

It would have been embarrassing if you had seen me in the car. I was bouncing up and down in my seat, and laughing, and clapping my hands. The raw unbridled power was astonishing. Before the ride, Mike had said the engine was naturally aspirated (no turbocharger). I said “So there’s no lag when you hit the gas?” He said no, no turbo windup, wait and see. So we’re blasting down a straightaway at maybe 80 kph, and he punches it. You’ve heard the expression “The engine roared”? This was a Bengal Tiger letting loose, my head slammed back against the headrest, and the car rocketed forwards.

And I was laughing and screaming, “I see want you mean about responsive” I managed in between my laughter. I clapped my hands and said “Do it again, Dad, do it again!” like I was six years old …

We ended up on a hill overlooking the coast … what a gorgeous part of the world this is.

moto coastHowever, all too soon the ride was over. The Cobra has gone back to its owner unscathed, it’s back in its cage until it’s let out to roar again, and I’m back at home. Mike’s shooting pool with his grandson, his granddaughter is waddling in and out of my room with her diaper sagging. She’s a gorgeous little girl, 1/4 Choiseul, 1/4 Iowa, 1/2 i-Kiribati … all’s well with the world.

Tomorrow, it’s the big bikes again, this time with full tires. I look at all of this fossil fuel consumption as doing my part to stave off the next ice age … and as insurance, to expiate my sins of commission, sins of omission, and sins of emission, as penance for my eco-crimes  I rode the Segway for an extra ten minutes to balance everything out.

So let me invite you all to keep rolling, dear friends, in whatever way and at whatever speed you prefer … life only comes once,


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May 13, 2016 2:43 am

Rolling up The Falkirk Wheel today.

Steve Fraser
Reply to  Oldseadog
May 13, 2016 5:39 am

View from the top is very nice. Fascinating to see how the whole thing works.

May 13, 2016 3:18 am

Fantastic. I shall have to invite you to my home one day Willis. Sadly the brigantine Baltic trader is in dry dock after sinking at berth. But there are some cars and bikes to be played with 🙂
enjoy the rest of your trip 🙂

Pat Heuvel
Reply to  Craig (@Zoot_C)
May 23, 2016 9:11 pm

He has not one, but TWO Desmosedicis.

May 13, 2016 3:30 am

Oldseadog May 13, 2016 at 2:43 am
Rolling up The Falkirk Wheel today.

Somewhat boring ride – BUT an amazing engineering simple solution to moving boats 35metres vertically
Remember the Kelpies the other side of town

More exciting is the Pontcysyllte Aqueduct from a different era. Looking down the outer edge you see the thinness of the iron (original1805 cast iron) holding the water and narrow boat over a 38m drop.

Reply to  sergeiMK
May 14, 2016 2:06 am

Scraped across the Pontcysyllte Aquaduct Back in the 60’s .
When they let you cross in a good wind.
We moored up at the top, by the Dee feed into the canal.
Could see the Perch Swimming in the flowing clear water.
Walked down the bank to the town and the Eisteddfod.
Oh! happy day.

May 13, 2016 3:55 am

Here in Finland (northern europe), I drive an old Jeep Cherokee, here any kind of cars are expensive, and a Jeep costs a fortune, and the gasoline for an 4 litre inline six -engine even more, but, oh boy, it’s fun to drive!
And yes, I’m also doing my best to at least delay the next ice age with a couple of years 🙂

Steve (Paris)
May 13, 2016 3:57 am

That dirt bike looks like a Honda XL 500 to me. Best ever. Some badass stole mine years ago. I need another one now!

Reply to  Steve (Paris)
May 13, 2016 9:12 am

Nah, that’s not the half liter man eater. Looks like a CF-230 or 250 to me. Still a ton of fun. Did a 116 mile adventure ride through slop and rain on the CF and a Yamaha WR-250 just a couple weekends ago. Great fun, but I’m still finding bits of mud in the oddest places…

May 13, 2016 4:27 am

Once again Willis graces these pages with astonishing tales of a real world out there begging to be explored, with such sensory sun-splashed wonders as we in these dusty caverns tended and watched over by Machines of Loving Grace can scarcely comprehend.
I grew up in the Caribbean and long to see the ocean again… and grow weary of waiting for these tiny earthquakes in Oklahoma to bring the ocean to me. The other day I pushed open the heavy vault door just a bit, and the dust motes swirling in a blinding beam of sunlight so unnerved me I had to shut it again. Perhaps I will try again in the moonlight, and climb to a rise around the hollow in which our subterranean Internet civilization is buried… and attend the rising of the sun.
Did you know… that the rising and setting sun are the same object, viewed at different times? I have just figured this out,and it fills me with ideas.

Roads go ever ever on, Over rock and under tree, By caves where never sun has shone, By streams that never find the sea; Over snow by winter sown, And through the merry flowers of June, Over grass and over stone, And under mountains in the moon.
Roads go ever ever on, Under cloud and under star. Yet feet that wandering have gone Turn at last to home afar. Eyes that fire and sword have seen, And horror in the halls of stone Look at last on meadows green, And trees and hills they long have known.
The Road goes ever on and on Down from the door where it began. Now far ahead the Road has gone, And I must follow, if I can, Pursuing it with eager feet, Until it joins some larger way, Where many paths and errands meet.
The Road goes ever on and on Down from the door where it began. Now far ahead the Road has gone, And I must follow, if I can, Pursuing it with weary feet, Until it joins some larger way, Where many paths and errands meet. And whither then? I cannot say…

~J. R. R. Tolkien

May 13, 2016 5:11 am

Great story, Willis! ….. I’m on board with ya to save the planet. My 346kW econo car gets 29-30mpg hwy at 70mph (112kph), and looks fairly pretty too! It’s a 2015 Z51 Stingray, and it helps inspire me to pay myself carbon credits every time we go out to play!

May 13, 2016 5:42 am

For anyone visiting New Hampshire this summer/fall, Clark’s Trading Post is a family attraction (kids not needed to enjoy the place) that offers Segway riding, see . It’s a good introduction to the off-road Segways (no cliffs nearby) and takes trails into the Wolfman’s domain.
The Wolfman has what we regard as the most important job in the state. Adults who were terrified by the Wolfman when they were children now bring their children to be terrified by the Wolfman. Somehow, we consider this normal.

May 13, 2016 5:49 am

The Segway is fun. Road one for two hours in Bermuda. The problem is you are standing for two hours. Try standing in place for two hours. After one hour we got off and rested. Then got back up for another hour.
Walking is easier than standing for that length of time.
That was my first and last time I’ll use a Segway. A fad that will soon fade.

Reply to  Marty
May 13, 2016 7:52 am

Walking is easier than standing for that length of time.
What about “for that distance covered”?

Reply to  Nylo
May 13, 2016 10:58 am

And at that speed – much faster than walking. Less work than bicycling, quieter than dirt bike.
Probably not a good commuter tool for rain and snow, though weather rarely stopped me from commuting by bicycle back when work was a couple miles away.

May 13, 2016 6:29 am

It’s spring time in Indiana and that means racing. Though I’ve gone to a lot of Indianapolis 500s and a couple of Brickyard 400s, these day I find myself going to watch the sprint cars on dirt more than anything else. It is a more up close and personal experience. One can go down and walk in the pits before the racing starts and talk to the drivers for little cost. One can see the whole track and the action is nearly constant. All in all with 15 to 30 cars running abut 850 hp on a 1/4 to 1/3rd mile dirt oval banging tires and hanging the rear end out one just gets far more bang for their buck than they do at the larger events.
Take a ride on a qualifying run:
For my own personal enjoyment I have my go kart that I run on slicks on my grassy back field and my Suzuki 800 Intruder.

South River Independent
May 13, 2016 7:17 am

You are making good progress on my request for you to try as many different modes of transportation as possible on this adventure, Willis. The pictures are great, too, but try to capture more clouds, weather permitting.
Meanwhile, I have to settle with driving my old 1999 Subaru Outback while our rainy weather continues. I want to get out on my Specialized Roubaix. I do not ride it in the rain or on wet roads because of the road grit that gets into the works. Call me a fair weather biker. (On my bike, I am the South River Rider.)

South River Independent
Reply to  Willis Eschenbach
May 13, 2016 10:11 pm

Well I am not going to wish any bad weather on you. Enjoy the sunshine, but do not get too warm.

Andy Pattullo
May 13, 2016 7:58 am

Great read Willis. Thanks for this. I’ve had the same experience on bikes with the same mental lag in figuring out a soft tire was the source of poor handling. Those bike tires are made to stay functional at low pressure but steering becomes a real challenge. How could anyone sane think the end of the world would be this much fun.

May 13, 2016 8:55 am

Hardest thing about driving the East coast of Australia is whether the coast is better or the hills behind it. Both great. Once you figure that out Willis then try the SW corner Western Australia. Even prettier and less people. Long ways from anywhere though which is probably why it’s still nice.

May 13, 2016 9:01 am

I’m pretty sure that’s a Yamaha logo on the four wheeler…

Reply to  TomB
May 13, 2016 9:49 am

It is. Poetic license 😉

May 13, 2016 10:53 am

Willis, your inner child is not a green global warmist that mush is clear

Reply to  fossilsage
May 13, 2016 10:54 am

much….way too early for liquor here

James at 48
May 13, 2016 11:27 am

ATVs are squirrely beasts. I used to get into that at the Pismo Dunes. Doing an endo or overturn in one ain’t too much fun. I was young and crazy. No helmet. I survived to write this tale!

May 13, 2016 12:14 pm

Tweeking some ancient engrams . Might have gotten thru life without being reminded of the squishy feel of a low front tire .
I called my transportation when I lived in Manhattan a MotorBoard ( a higher power GoPed ) :
Lots of times it was the fastest thing around .
I’ve always considered the Segway overkill : a helicopter where a simple inline “bike” will do — and be safer . Because no matter how sophisticated the negative feedback may be , if you catch a Segway wheel on a curb , you will cross a tipping point . ( Not that that can’t happen on the motorboard too , but the safety margin is much greater )
Of course , because the Segway cost thousands and a 30cc 2stroke motorboard was getting down to a few hundred on Canal Street , The city bought bunches of the Segways and outlawed the motorboards . Can’t have the ghetto kids running around on those . No reason to have one unless you’re a drug courier .

Reply to  Bob Armstrong
May 13, 2016 12:16 pm

That MotorBoard link should be .

May 13, 2016 1:15 pm

“I look at all of this fossil fuel consumption as doing my part to stave off the next ice age”
So Willis admits that man-made CO2 does cause global warming…

May 13, 2016 2:57 pm

to a gearhead there is no substitute for horsepower.

May 13, 2016 3:13 pm

Serious toys for serious boys.
What is missing in Brisbane is not my 3 motorcycles (one dirt at the farm, one medium windy twisty in Georgia Mountains (formerly in the Bavarian Alps), and one long distance big CC double up cruiser with hard sidebags based in Chicago), nor my Great Lakes boats and windsurfer, nor my mobile 15 HP fishing skiff and canoe). What is missing in Brisbane is my 4 farm Yamaha snomobiles, three singles and one double with sled hitch and sled. And a two snomo trailer just in cae we get the urge to go northern Wisconsin snomo trail riding for hundreds of miles.Of course, we use them mostly for winter farm work. Just a little fun blasting over the upper 80 acre pasture snowdrifts in January on the way to minding fences and such. All work, no play, makes Jack a dull boy. Even on a Wisconsin dairy farm. Even at minus 10F. At midday. Highest regards.

May 13, 2016 4:20 pm

I love bikes, problem is I can’t keep the things upright. After a series of scrapes, finally decided I’d do everything right. Got Kangaroo leather bike outfit from Mars Leathers in Melbourne (well worth a visit – best leathers in the world), proper boots and gloves.
Rode perfectly for a few months, then one evening braking into a turn, doing 10 MPH – someone had left some dark stained plywood on the road, didn’t see it until I hit it. Front wheel slipped out, bike flipped, full weight of the bike came down on my right elbow.
The leathers worked, not a mark on my skin – but I broke my shoulder.
Me and bikes just aren’t meant to be :-(.

Reply to  Eric Worrall
May 13, 2016 7:13 pm

Too bad, but I completely understand. I have to agree about the Kangaroo skin leathers. I’m not quite sure how many times I’ve fallen off at triple digit speeds and walked away (sanctioned closed course competition). But my worst hurts came from street riding. My personal experience is that a race track is by far the safest place to ride. We’re all going the same way, there are corner marshals to warn of any trouble ahead, and you’re never more than 2 minutes away from an ambulance should it all go wrong anyway.

May 14, 2016 9:45 am

You said it ristvan sledding can be one of the most exhilarating motorsports there is. In beautiful mountainous B.C. I have two long track Skidoo 800 XMs, on a bluebird day riding snow capped mountains it is hard to imagine anything more beautiful or thrilling, the machines are so powerful now you can go almost anywhere. The main advantage to sledding over the summer motorsports is that one is riding on 14’+ snow and are well above the forest floor needing no trails, just weaving through the trees until you are above treeline. Downside is needing to be ever vigilant of avalanche risk and being ready for an impromptu camp out should the weather suddenly make travel impossible.

May 14, 2016 10:58 pm

I just had to look it up to find out that ‘Shelby’ is the description used in the States.
A friend used to collect vintage AC’s and i agree the acceleration is amazing!

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