Sunday, June 29, 2008

Choosing Boots

Since I am an out an open Bootman, I have received a number of email messages asking me questions about buying boots. Over the past several months, I have been writing, on-and-off, my own "tutorial" version of things I consider when buying boots for my personal use.

You can find this information by clicking here.

Remember now, this is my own personal opinion. Every man who wears boots has different likes, dislikes, and preferences. For example, I don't really like lace-up boots because I'm just too lazy to take the time to lace them properly. (And I guess it reminds me too much of shoes; yuck.) I wear cowboy boots primarily at my place of employment and for knockin' around in my community at meetings and such. I wear motorcycle boots, of course, when riding my Harley.

I only wear boots, without a pair of sneakers or dress shoes to be found in MY closet (I won't say what's in my partner's closet, but I love him anyway.) I change boots two to five times a day, depending on what I'm doing and where I am going. But to me, boots are functional footwear, as well as an avocation. They are, however, not a fetish. These sentences have links to past blog posts of mine that explain why. Visit them if you're curious.

Meanwhile, visit my website page about choosing boots and let me know what you think. Stay booted!

Saturday, June 28, 2008

Our County's Finest

Lined up, ready to escort us on a ride to raise funds for C.O.P.S. (Concerns of Police Survivors), here are my county's finest motor officers. They're great men, easy to talk to, hard workers, and among the best at what they do.

I enjoyed the ride along Maryland's byways, non-stop along the way. An officer would block traffic at stoplights and major intersections so the 1,200 or so bikers on the ride could just roll through non-stop.

Man, what a great ride. I kinda wish the officers would take some pride in their boots, because most of the boots were dirty and scuffy. A nice shine would look good on those Dehners and Chippewas. But other than that, their graceful style of riding those big Police Harleys was quite a sight to behold, and enjoy.

One wonders about how such a big bike is handled so well. If you look closely at this officer, he is looking where he wants the bike to go -- not looking at the bike or its controls. His body is upright, over the center of gravity of the bike. He is countersteering -- pushing against the bar as he enters his turn. This method of operating a motorcycle takes lots of practice, skill, and training. When done correctly, it looks quite graceful. Such training for us regular bikers (in the U.S.) is available by taking the Motorcycle Safety Foundation's Experienced Rider's Course, offered periodically. I continue to learn a lot while watching our officers ride, and enjoy the opportunity to ride with the best.

Friday, June 27, 2008

Motor Officer Boots: Alternatives

Continuing this week's series on motor officer boots, I begin by exploring alternatives to the boots I blogged about on earlier days:
  • Chippewa Motor Patrol Boots

  • Dehner Patrol Boots

  • and
  • Chippewa Hi-Shine Engineer Boots

  • There are several alternatives available. Shown here are patrol boots
    offered by Intapol Industries of New Jersey. One of the interesting features of these boots is a zipper along the seam of the boot shaft to facilitate putting them on and taking them off. They also offer various widths from stock, but do not offer custom sizing. They insert a plastic back stay to ensure the boot doesn't "break bad" at the ankles. The "Amazonas" sole is about as goofy as the sole found on the Chippewa Motor Patrol Boot, in that it must have a low melting temperature and leaves black marks on hot motorcycle pipes. The boots shown here were made in Brazil. The current boot in production (with soft lug soles) is made in India. My opinion: a nice affordable alternative for a bal-laced boot but not really good for regular duty wear on a motorcycle. Quality is questionable. Fine for BLUF events when used with leather breeches.

    Another nice alternative bal-laced boot is the H-D Police Enforcer Boot which is made by Wolverine under the Harley brand. These boots were discontinued probably because motor officers wouldn't think of going to a Harley store to buy boots. Also, the boots are made in China and it's unfortunate but true: Chinese-made boots lack a lot in quality. However, these are the most comfortable of all the patrol boots I own. The insole that comes with the boots is outstanding. They are also a bit wider naturally, so they accommodate a larger calf size well, including being able to have leather tucked inside them comfortably. The soles are somewhat soft, but haven't left black marks on my bike's pipes. I really like these boots, but since they were discontinued, they're not available any more.

    Another beautiful boot is the Hartt Strathcona. It was made in
    Canada, but the manufacturer, the Hartt Shoe and Boot Company, went out of business. This boot is also exceptionally comfortable, and has a rugged, durable, lug sole. I got these boots in Vancouver, Canada, back in the '90s and still enjoy wearing them. They have the widest calf of all of my motor officer boots, so I can wear them with the thickest of leathers. I am considering now looking at boots made by Rino of Toronto. However, because the U.S. economy is such a shambles due to mismanagement by this Administration, I'll have to wait. Canadian prices for their products haven't come down just because the value of the U.S. dollar declined by half in the last few years.

    The last boot I'll blog about in this series is the Wesco Motor Patrol Boot. A photo of the boot from the Wesco website is shown here. I have a pair of boots that is sort of a hybrid between the Motor Patrol Boot and the Wesco Boss. That is, it has the design of a motor patrol boot but the sole of the Boss boot. These U.S.-made boots are rugged and work exceptionally well as designed. There are absolutely no flaws in construction. The leather is thicker than all other patrol boots I have seen, which is why the few cops I have seen wearing them have complained that they get hot while worn on duty. They are expensive, as well, competing in price with Dehners.

    There are other manufacturers of boots, too. I have yet to see a pair of All American Boots or some others, and I'll keep looking.

    Hope you enjoyed this series on motor officer boots. I'm not sure what's next. Tune in....

    Thursday, June 26, 2008

    Chippewa Hi-Shine Engineer Boots

    Continuing the series of blog posts about boots worn by motor officers on duty, here is a photo of a pair of Chippewa Hi-Shine Engineer Boots with a (new) lug sole that I just had applied to them.

    Chippewa Boots have been around for years, and are now part of the Justin Brands group (a company owned by Berkshire Hathaway, whose owner Warren Buffet continues to profit from the diversity of his empire.)

    "Chip Shines" as they're often called are 17" tall and are made in the traditional Engineer Boot style, with a strap and buckle across the instep, and another strap/buckle on the top of the shaft to adjust the width

    Some cops I know and ride with have been skeptical about adopting Engineer Boots for wear with a duty uniform. The old perception of "bad-ass bikers in boots" aka Jimmy Dean style goes along with it. A couple cops told me recently (blogged about here) that their old-school sergeant didn't like Engineer Boots. The boots weren't considered "traditional" or "appropriate."

    But nowadays, if you closely inspect the galleries on my website featuring motor officers, you will see that many more than half of today's motor officers (at least on the East Coast) wear Chip Hi-Shines.

    Why? Well, first of all, the boots are inexpensive (especially compared with Dehners). They have a leather lining. They are durable boots, and are very comfortable. Best thing (from my perspective) is that they have a naturally wide calf, so guys with a muscular calf can wear them over
    pants or breeches (even leather breeches) without a problem. These boots can not be custom-made, so perhaps that's why they make the boots with a wider calf to begin with. It's always easier to tighten the top strap to make them tighter than to have a cobbler do major work on someone else's product to make them fit.

    These boots also break in well, and don't tend to sag or "break badly" at the ankle like calf-leather Dehners and similar boots do. The boots maintain their shine easily, with just a damp cloth every now and then bringing them back to their shiny appearance. And while these boots have a patent leather plastic top coat, they just don't get hot like their brothers (Chippewa Motor Patrol Boots) about which I blogged the other day.

    Many cops like these boots, and more cops are having lug soles applied to them (according to my cobbler). While the Vibram® rubber sole that is supplied on the boots by Chippewa is quite good, a lug sole provides even better traction and durability.

    While one opinionated person who posted a message on "Boots on Line" didn't like the soles I had applied to these boots, the majority of opinion rules: real cops and real bikers do.

    Wednesday, June 25, 2008

    Pros and Cons of Dehner Patrol Boots

    Bootmen around the world visit my website and look at the photos of my Dehner Patrol boots. I'm not surprised, but if guys really knew more about these boots, they might choose alternatives.

    My first priorities for boots are that they function as designed. A patrol boot is supposed to provide protection to a motorcycle operator, be comfortable for all-day wear, sustain regular hard use, and have a good appearance.

    The good things about Dehner Boots, in my opinion, is that they do function as designed, and they have a striking and commanding appearance. No wonder many bike cops from years ago (and today, like CHP officers) bought and wore them. If broken in properly, they are comfortable for all-day wear. And when fitted properly, they feel good on the legs.

    The bad things about these boots, though, override the good. Today, like all companies, Dehner looks for ways to save money when making boots. They use a material called "Dehcord" made by Clarino on the boot shaft of stock boots. Beware: Dehcord is not leather; it is plastic! It cracks and breaks easily with normal wear in a relatively short time. More than a crease, those cracks cause white crevasses to appear starting at the ankle and then work their way up. Also, Dehcord can't take the heat -- a hot motorcycle engine will cause a Dehcord boot shaft to become discolored (causes it to turn gray) and the discolored areas can not be returned to their black and shiny appearance. A cop buddy of mine told me that he saw that as a "badge of honor." Well, that's one way to look at it; to me, a damaged boot is a damaged boot.

    And worse, the stock boots made of this plastic stuff are still very pricey -- going for about US$400 MSRP.

    Then it gets worse, price-wise, from there. Dehner offers upgraded real leather for their patrol boots, either "Voyager" which has a matte appearance, or European Calf leather. The calf leather is excellent, looks great, doesn't discolor, takes a great shine, and holds up well. The major issue I have with a pair of boots made from this leather is that they currently retail for well over US$700. What cop with a limited uniform allowance or Bootman on a budget can afford that? Especially cops who wear their boots every day and the boots are subjected to daily stresses of walking, running, and frequent stops >> foot down>> starts >> foot up motorcycle operation.

    One other consideration of Dehners is that the boots come in a fairly narrow calf width, made for spindly-legged guys. If you are like me, with muscular calves, you require a larger calf circumference. Dehner now offers a 1" larger calf circumference option at no additional charge, as this had been a problem for many years.

    I'm all for supporting U.S.-based companies, which Dehner remains, still based in Omaha, Nebraska. But boot buyers also have to consider the affordability. That's why, today, you will see so many cops wearing Chippewa Hi-Shine Engineer Boots. They're much less expensive, all-leather, and made in the USA as well. The major difference is that they are an Engineer Boot, which is quite a departure from the patrol boot style.

    UPDATE OCTOBER 2008: Click here for a Guide to Motorcycle Patrol Boots.

    UPDATE JULY 2009: Click here for instructions on how to break in a new pair of Dehner boots.

    Tuesday, June 24, 2008

    Chippewa Motor Patrol Boots

    I have a number of motorcycle cop boots. I like their appearance, style, and design. And I must admit that I was definitely influenced by "CHiPs" when it was on TV while I was in my teens.

    Over the years, I have bought or received one dozen pairs of tall black cop boots. Not being a fetishist (as some might think), I got these boots for the purpose for which they were made: to wear (preferably with breeches) while riding my Harley.

    One of the p
    airs of boots like this that I got more than a decade ago were Chippewa Motor Patrol Boots. They look nice, and even after all these years, are easy to keep shiny. That's because they are made of patent leather. That is leather with a plastic coating on it. Instead of using shoe polish, all you need to do is use a damp cloth or perhaps Armorall Leather Wipes and the boots resume their shine.

    But that's the downfall of these boots, too. Because they are patent leather, they don't breathe. Thus, they get hot. I mean really hot, and cause my feet to sweat if I wear them in the sun. Because they're black, they absorb heat from the sun, and then become ovens for my feet.

    Second, the sole that is used on these boots is just awful. It is called an "Alpha" sole -- that's the name of the manufacturer. The sole is a type of rubber, but I don't think it is vulcanized. That is, the rubber is soft and seems to get close to the melting point when used on a motorcycle and gets anywhere near hot pipes or the engine. The soles have left black marks on my bike's pipes. The marks have been the devil to remove.

    Also, if you look really closely at the side of the boot in the photo with this blog, you will see that the patent leather looks like it has something on it. No, guys, it's not what you think -- it is damage from rubbing against a hot motorcycle engine while riding.

    As I have attended a number of motor officer events over the years and have seen the boots real cops wear, I just don't see these boots on their feet. Probably for reasons described here. Nice looking boots, but not a good choice for wearing by a real cop or a real biker on a motorcycle.

    Monday, June 23, 2008

    Return to "Things Boots"

    It's been an interesting time this last week or so when I have blogged about some stuff I was doing in my professional life. While I don't want to frighten any readers, I can tell generally where people are coming from and where they find this blog. Please be reassured, I can't determine identity of individuals or anything like that. But for example, when I noticed that I had a number of visitors from Europe and Australia, I put measurements in Metric equivalents. (Frankly, I wish the U.S. weren't so insistently backward in retaining its old-fashioned system of measurements, instead of adopting the system the rest of the world uses. Oh well, there I go again... off topic!)

    My stats were showing that Google searches were causing many people who were looking for information related to the field or locality of what I had been doing and where I was to end up on this blog. Well, this is a Gay Man's "Boot & Leather Life" Blog, and it's not likely that people who were using search engines about one thing wanted to end up here.

    So, I have deleted those blog posts from last week. If you read them, that's great... thanks for your understanding and support. If you didn't, well they're gone, so let's get back to the basics: Boots, Leather, and living life with gusto as an out and open monogamously partnered Gay Man and who's involve a bit in local civic life -- respected for who I am, not discriminated against for "what" I am.

    Tomorrow and hereafter I'll return to my cowboy-and-biker booted Harley-ridin' roots on this blog. Meanwhile, this message explains where some of the past messages went, and why they were deleted. I also chalk this up to experience in the blogging world, which is relatively new to me, having only been blogging since late January, 2008.

    BTW, not all boots have to be tall and black, but man-oh-man, they sure catch my eye when they are! See 'ya booted, later!

    Sunday, June 22, 2008

    Home Safe, Sound, and Sleepy

    I finished my work out-of-town last week, and rather than be in people's way of important work they have to do, I came home. My return flights were uneventful, though I had several cowboy boot sightings at my departure airport, which was nice to see. At least boot watching kept me awake until the plane left.

    My partner met me at my home airport with a bouquet of flowers. That was unexpected, and joyful. I scared him a bit when tears rolled down my cheeks. No worries, tears of exhausted happiness.

    If I went to bed to try to take an nap, I would not awaken... until after midnight, and then I couldn't go back to sleep. So I am catching up on things around the house, email, and beginning to plow through stuff that I'll have to deal with on Tuesday night during a public hearing. No rest for the weary... though this stuff is so incredibly boring, I'm surprised that it hasn't put me to sleep. I called my family (including my eighth brother -- you know who you are!) and caught up a little bit. I found out that we even have a new little one on the way. Life goes on, a day at a time. But life is short. I told each and every one of those with whom I have communicated that I love them very much.

    My sweetie is really trying to be nice. He said not to worry about a thing, he has dinner all thought out and he will prepare it shortly. Usually the way we divide labor in our household is that he does all the laundry and I do all the cooking, which I enjoy doing. But today, well, a respite. He has my muddy, dirty, smelly, mildewey clothes in the wash, dinner ready to cook, and the flowers in a beautiful vase that my Mom gave me years ago. How incredibly sweet, thoughtful, and wonderful.

    Meanwhile, I'm glowing with love; my partner, my best friend, my lover: what a treasure. I'm eating it up, and if I weren't so tired... (well, this is a public blog).

    Thursday, June 12, 2008

    Cop Boots: Ankle Breaking Decides It

    Yesterday, I had the pleasure of continuing the ongoing, in-person conversation with a group of motor officers who are considering recommending that they change the boots they purchase and wear on duty. I blogged about this before.

    Currently, these officers wear Dehner Patrol B
    oots with a dress instep. The boots look great. However, the stock boots use cheap plastic "Dehcord" (made by Clarino) which cracks and breaks. So most of these officers opt to buy the more expensive but much more durable European calf leather Dehner Boots. The problem is that the boots are very expensive and their uniform allowance doesn't cover the expense of the uniform (breeches, shirts, belts, etc.) AND these very expensive boots as quickly as they go through them with duty wear-and-tear.

    Yesterday, they booted up in different boots offered by Chippewa, Intapol, as well as Dehner. The rode their Police Harle
    y motorcycles on a skills course and put their bikes and their boots through the paces.

    I could describe a lot more, but what it all boiled down to was what began as a side discussion, but became the major issue: boots that "break" (or bend) at the ankle badly are unacceptable (see photo above). Un
    fortunately, calf leather boots tend to do that. So it's not only the expense, but also how the boots break in that make a difference, and these guys are so busy that they're not all that interested in taking the time to "train" their boots to break a certain way. They just want to pull 'em on and ride!

    Some of the cops wearing Intapol Boots thought that they had the same "breaking" problem that they had with Dehne
    rs. Those who tested the tall Chippewa Hi-Shine boots didn't seem to have the same problem. Besides the cost, this is also probably why so many other motor units around the country use these boots for duty wear.

    They will make their recommendation to their superiors: Chippewa Hi-Shine Boots it is. The discussions and the chance to observe yesterday's trials was interesting. (I didn't bring my camera to take pics yesterday. It just wasn't something I could do in this particular situation.)

    Wednesday, June 11, 2008

    Boots On My Feet

    Someone asked me what boots I've been wearing lately. Here goes....

    Friday, June 6: my partner drove me to Metro which he usually does on Fridays. Not being on the Harley, I wore my Lucchese Black Cherry Ostrich cowboy boots.

    When I got home later that evening, I switched to my Nocona Rattlesnake cowboy boots with jeans to go to a regular family dinner.

    Saturday, June 7, I went skydiving. I enjoy wearing Corcoran Jump Boots, and selected the Field Boot style, since this boot is light, flexible, and comfortable as heck. These boots also work real well on my Harley.

    When I got home later, I kicked back in my good ol' comfortable Chippewa Engineer Boots.

    Sunday morning June 8, I had some chores to do around the house, so I put on my Thorogood Station Boots which are very light and comfortable, and good to wear as an all-around work boot.

    After the chores were done, I took my elderly aunt and a few of her neighbors grocery shopping. For that trip, I switched to my Nocona Bullhide cowboy boots which are comfortable and look great with jeans.

    After the fun of grocery shopping with a bunch of old ladies wore off, I changed to biker duds and put on my Chippewa Firefighter Boots which are comfortable, don't get hot, and provide excellent traction while riding my Harley on a short ride.

    When I returned, I took off my sweaty clothes and socks, and put on jeans and my Justin distressed tan cowboy boots. They're beat-up ol' cowboy boots that have taken a lot of gaff over the years and still keep kickin'. They're comfortably well broken in, and best of all: don't get hot -- even if it's 99°F (37°C).

    Monday, June 9, dawned very hot and humid. I rode my Harley to the Metro, so I wanted to wear boots with a rubber sole that would also look good with clothes I wear to work. What was most important was that the boots not get hot. I chose my Ariat Cowboy Biker Boots.

    When I got home, I took off all of my clothes since it was so blasted hot. Soon thereafter, the Postal Carrier brought me a large box. My buddy Bamaboy's tall Wesco harness boots that I bought from him had arrived. After dinner, I put on some clothes and these boots to take a few pics. Nice boots!

    Tuesday June 10 was also exceptionally warm and sticky. I chose my Champion Attitude harness boots to wear -- since I rode my Harley to Metro again and they look good with clothes I wear at work.

    When I got home, I "went cowboy" and put on jeans and my Dan Post roughout cowboy boots while I went around the neighborhood to talk to neighbors about disruption in our community caused by the installation of fiber optic lines by Verizon. These boots are cool (looking and temperature-wise).

    After dinner, I changed again and put on my Lucchese Caiman Alligator cowboy boots with black jeans which I wore while presiding over a public hearing. Since storms were brewing, I could wear smooth-soled cowboy boots since I had to drive my truck instead of my Harley.

    And finally today, June 11, I am wearing my H-D Police Enforcer Boots since I'm headin' out after a while to go do some more consulting with my bike cop buddies about boot choices they are making, and about which I have blogged before. We'll see various boots being modeled and worn while riding in some skills tests to see how the various boots handle real-life stress conditions. It should be an interesting show!

    Monday, June 9, 2008

    Bama's Boots Now a Biker's Boots

    This 18" Wesco Harness Boot and its right mate just arrived today, sent to me by a buddy whose photographic skill and wit have become legend on "Boots on Line" -- the infamous "Bamaboy."

    "Bama" has taken these boots on lots of "adventures," mostly in dirt, clay, and mud. One of Bama's photos of these boots enjoying one of those "adventures" is below. But he cleaned up the boots well, didn't he? I'll have to go play in them sometime, so they won't think they've missed much. But these boots will also go riding on my Harley, as well.

    I have enjoyed getting to know Bama. He is a smart, down-to-earth, and fun man with an engaging wit. I am honored to call him a friend, and appreciate that he gave me "first dibs" on purchasing a pair of his boots as he will be thinning his collection to make room for more that suit his current tastes and interests.

    Bama, I know you'll read this, so let me say, publicly, thanks a lot! Your boots will live on long on this Biker's feet.

    Saturday, June 7, 2008

    Hangin' in the Heat

    I went skydiving with friends today on Maryland's Eastern Shore. The photo shown here is of me taken years ago. Unfortunately, today in my haste to get out of the house to ride over to meet my buddies, I forgot my camera! I'm waiting for a bud to send me some of the pics that he took.

    I used to go skydiving almost every weekend from May - October for years. As I have aged, and have a partner who can't enjoy this sport, I don't go skydiving as often. It's a young man's activity. Also, it's just darned expensive. Fuel for airplanes is more expensive than fuel for cars.

    It was so hot today -- about 95°F (35°C) -- that the heat rising from the land was rising faster than my rate of descent after I deployed my 'chute to its full extension, so I rose in altitude for a while, and just "hung around" enjoying the view (what I could see of it through the haze). When I was over my DZ (drop zone), I pulled in the flaps, and slowly drifted down. I landed right on the spot I intended, each and every time.

    I had an enjoyable day, hangin' out in the cloudless sky.

    Friday, June 6, 2008

    Sixth & Cruise

    I am remiss in taking more pictures of my new Harley, but I'm going to blog about a wonderful experience with it yesterday.

    I was an invited speaker at a conference held at one of our federal government's major training centers. This center is located about 65 miles north of where I live, in Emmitsburg, Maryland. Once I get on the highway, it's a steady cruise "up the road" to get there.

    And man oh man, does this bike love to cruise. Harleys in this class now come with six gears instead of five. When you're up in sixth and cruising at 66mph (105kph), it's only revving at about 2500 rpm, so it's smooth, fairly quiet, and produces no vibration at all.

    The bike came with factory-installed cruise control. I never thought I would want it or use it, but I thought since it had the feature, I would try it out. Traffic was light, the road was wide open. I got up to the posted speed limit (perhaps a couple mph over), engaged the cruise control, sat back, put my boots up on the highway pegs, and just cruised.... sweet!

    This bike is so heavy that it practically rides itself while cruisin' along. The stock seat is comfortable, too. And the best thing of all is that my right hand didn't get tingly. What I mean is that in the past, when I had to keep constant pressure on the grip to maintain a steady speed, my hand would get tingly and sometimes even go numb. Now on a long cruise, I can let the cruise control keep the speed steady, and relax my hand so it doesn't restrict blood flow and cause the tingly feeling and numbness. I'm gonna really like going on longer trips with this bike! Just kick it up to sixth and cruise....

    Thursday, June 5, 2008

    Preparedness Pays Off

    The area where I live in the Maryland suburbs of Washington, DC, experienced exceptionally strong storms yesterday. I had no sooner arrived at home when the second wave of the storms struck, dropping hail and lots of rain, sideways. Since the forecast was calling for such storms, I didn't ride my Harley. There's no sense in taking chances.

    When I got home, I discovered the power was out. I reached in the bottom of our pantry and pulled out our Disaster Supplies Kit. From that I took out two flashlights and inserted fresh batteries. I also got out the battery-powered radio. Since we heard in advance that the storms were coming, we had already taken things like our picnic table umbrella and hanging plants that were outside to the garage, so they would not become missiles in strong winds and damage our house or the neighbor's.

    Then the NOAA Weather Radio began sounding an alert. I listened... a tornado watch was just issued. The radio stores previous alerts in memory, and I scrolled through them... all for severe thunderstorms. The phone rang, and I told the caller that I don't take calls during storms with lightning, and hung up. Lightning can easily travel through telephone lines and zap someone on the phone, or cause a fire, or worse.

    I put our personal disaster plan into action. I drew the blinds and shades, so that if a branch broke off a tree and hit a window, we wouldn't have glass flying around to hurt us. I turned on the portable radio and tuned it to an all-news station to listen for updates. Because the power was out, I knew that my partner wouldn't be able to open the garage door with his remote. I kept an eye out for him and then opened the door manually when he arrived.

    The rain had stopped, but more storms were coming. We grilled our dinner outside, and only opened the refrigerator once to get everything out that we needed. The news reports were ominous, with stories about funnel cloud sightings, downed trees and power lines. Someone in a neighboring county was killed while driving by a large tree that fell on his car.

    Since the news reports indicated that the power outage was very widespread, our experience indicated that we probably would not have power restored for at least a day, if not longer. So we put our "power option" of our disaster plan into action.

    Years ago, we bought a generator. I built a special pad for it and protective housing out in our woods, about 100m away from the house. I had a licensed electrician install a transfer switch, which disconnects our household power on four circuits from the main power coming into the house. I connected the wire from the generator to the special outlet for it at the back of the house. I then carefully turned the generator on and followed the instructions to energize the four circuits that are in the subpanel connected to the transfer switch.

    Note: unfortunately, a lot of people die from using a generator incorrectly, such as by placing it inside a garage or basement, or outside the house but near an open window. Carbon monoxide from the generator kills silently and quickly. If you use a generator, operate it away from the house in a well-ventilated area. Connect it according to local ordinances and codes. If you want to power circuits in a house, have a transfer switch installed by a licensed electrician. That's important to do because power from a generator plugged into household circuits that are not cut off from the main power system can energize (backfeed) electrical lines and hurt repair workers attempting to restore power for everyone.

    Our refrigerator, freezers, sump pumps, and other essentials came back to life. We had power for some lighting so we could see after dark. Considering it was so warm out, and since there were still tornado watches in our area, we decided to sleep in our basement, since it is our designated safe place for such storms and was cooler. I brought the flashlights, the portable regular radio, the NOAA Weather Radio (which would sound an alert if a Tornado Warning were issued even in the middle of the night), pillows and blankets, and we were all set.

    We slept soundly. The power remained out this morning. Not wanting to leave a generator running completely unattended, I turned it off. My partner went to work and I went to a speaking engagement. When I returned home, the power was still out. Since it had cooled, I refueled it, and turned it back on. Power was restored about 5pm. I turned the generator off to let it cool and put other things away, including taking the batteries out of the flashlights (so they won't drain when not in use).

    We were safe, sound, and okay. Our food didn't spoil, and water that entered the sump wells drained, so we didn't have any flooding in our basement.

    Preparedness pays. You never know when. Get ready ... now... this is your warning time. Be safe!

    Wednesday, June 4, 2008

    Get in gear!

    It is not well known, but motorcycle helmets do not have an infinite life. With time, the protective qualities in a helmet degrade with exposure to the elements, sweat, and wear. Helmet manufacturers and the Motorcycle Safety Foundation suggest that helmets must be replaced about every three to five years, depending on use, or immediately if the helmet absorbed the shock of a crash. A helmet will distribute the shock throughout to protect the rider, but then it is non-functional for protection after that.

    Something else not well-known: helmet linings and the interior shell are very subject to damage from gasoline fumes. A helmet should not be stored in a garage, nor placed near the gas tank while refueling. I keep my helmets inside the house so gas fumes in the garage, which you really can't smell but are there, don't prematurely degrade my helmet.

    I had my most recent helmet for five years. With a new bike, it was time to get a new helmet. Here's my new Shoei full-face, well-ventilated, RF-1000 helmet. The color matches my bike. Pretty cool in function, style, and design. I look forward to wearing it each and every time I ride.

    And I also ride with leathers when possible, and always, always, boots designed to provide both comfort and safety while riding. If I'm not in leather, I at least wear long pants. Get in gear, guys! It is the other fools on the road who claim not to see us bikers who can do you great harm, especially if you're not geared properly.

    And let me make a special shout-out to my dear friend AZ, who lives in a state where helmets are not required. He went on a ride with a buddy and insisted that both he and his buddy wear a helmet while riding. He went to a motorcycle shop with his friend to have him buy a new helmet. Way to go, AZ! You're the man! Your caring concern shows in all that you do. As I've often said, he's like my eighth brother. Luv 'ya, bro'!

    Tuesday, June 3, 2008

    Wesco Boots on the Harley

    I didn't have to leave this morning at my usual early hour because I was going to a meeting that started later, but I arose at my usual 4:30am. Fixed my partner lunch, then kissed him goodbye, wishing him a good day. Turned around and leathered up, including my tall Wesco Harness Boots.

    I sat on my bike, contemplating what type of shot would look good. I took several. However, after looking at them just now, I realized how much junk I have in the garage! Political campaign signs, gardening stuff, trash and recycling containers, motorcycle gear, etc., etc. It was all in the background of all the photos I took, and was very distracting. If there's one thing I've learned from my good friend Bamaboy who is an excellent photographer, it's to ensure the subject of your photo is the only thing your eye will focus on. So this cropped image is about the best I can do, for now.

    Actually, I'm "boot-ticipating" again. Bama has sent me a pair of his boots to wear while riding my Harley. He offered me "first dibs" on boots he is thinning from his collection. I really like the Wesco Harness Boots, especially to have some fun in 'em akin' to Bama. The boots will arrive soon, and I'll wear 'em with pride on this bike. Photos to follow. Stay tuned...

    Monday, June 2, 2008

    Going leather-less on the new bike?

    My new Harley Road King comes with a rather large windscreen. My old bike didn't have one, so I was accustomed riding full-bore into the wind. Even on a warm day, I could wear a leather vest and full-face helmet and everything would feel just fine.

    When I took my first real long ride yesterday, it was about 84°F (29°C), which is comfortably warm. As I was riding, I found that I was getting uncomfortably hot while wearing my thick leather vest over my t-shirt. I had to ditch the vest or sweat to death. (I tend to sweat a great deal when even slightly overheated.)

    Hmmm... I wonder... now that I have this windscreen, I may have to ride "leather-less" when it's warm out. I am as comfortable in leather as my own skin. I have always worn some leather while riding my old bike. I guess this is another adjustment I will need to make. Well, perhaps just wear the vest and no shirt. That would be a hoot. But for now, I guess I'll just be well-booted and wear a t-shirt. No gloves, either. They make me sweat like crazy, which is a clammy feeling I detest. I'll just have to be extra careful and be comfortable.

    Sunday, June 1, 2008

    Dehner Booted Ride!

    Saturday was a washout with chores to do around the house and some strong thunderstorms punctuating the afternoon with heavy rain and winds. Fortunately, there was no damage around our place, but it confined my activities to indoor stuff. I spent several hours doing genealogy work for my huge family, and updating our family website.

    Sunday was another story. We awoke to a bright and sunny morning, and a warm one at that. I pulled on my CHP breeches and tall Dress instep calf leather custom Dehner Boots. I especially like the big Vibram soles, which give me good traction. After preparing home-made waffles for Sunday breakfast for my partner and me, I set off to b
    reak in my new Harley-Davidson Road King.

    Man, that machine is big, and heavy. It's quite a bit of work to maneuver at slow speeds and around corners. I'm sure I'll get used to it. I rode on backroads and byways of my beautiful home State of Maryland. I saw a lot of other bikers out there. And a state cop directing traffic at an intersection where the stoplights were out looked at me, then at the boots and breeches, then back up at my face and gave me a salute! He was cute, and the gesture was unexpected.

    I stopped along the way to have some water and ju
    st take a break. A Harley group was on a ride, and they stopped at the same place I did. I had a nice conversation with those guys. Several asked me about my boots, where I got them (through Stompers, of course), and how they felt on the bike. If these guys weren't just beginning their ride, planning to ride for many more hours, I might have joined them. But I was getting tired and a bit sunburned (I forgot the sunscreen). I shook hands goodbye and took a gentle ride home.

    I put on about 100 miles on the new bike, learning how it operates and handles. It practically rides itself when on the open road. It is
    very comfortable. I look forward to many more rides on this beautiful machine, booted all the way. (Hmmm, what boots will be next? Stay tuned...).