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Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Is it dumb to use a smart phone on a vintage motorcycle?

If it hadn't been for Google Maps I never would have discovered Royal Palm Way in Boca Raton, Fla.
The Malle Mile vintage motorcycle rally/party in the UK this coming weekend has issued a warning:

"Bring battery boosters as charging on site will be limited."

I'm sure they're not referring to battery boosters for your cafe racer or creaking old sidecar outfit.

They mean extra juice for your smart phone — of course.

The Malle Mile promises "350 vintage and custom motorcycles racing over the weekend in the four events, at the ever beautiful Kefington Hall."

It also promises "a lot of gorgeous, passionate people riding motorcycles."

As the Malle Mile organizers surely know, most of those gorgeous young people will have their noses stuck in their smart phones a good bit of the time.

My admiration is reserved for the rider or two who sees the value in recreating not only the appearance of the past, but the circumstances of a world before smart phones.

It's harder and harder to do, because the things are just so darn useful.

"I Ride Alone" could be my motto. No smart phone (I do have a dumb cell phone — my wife insists I carry it).

If I get lost I will just have to:

A. Look at a map; which means stopping, getting off, ripping off the helmet and finding and unfolding the right map. Or...

B. Ask directions, which so many people now find painful. Or...

C. Just guess which way to turn, with the consequences good or bad to be determined by fate.

In practice, of course, I cheat by planning my route on Google Maps and memorizing it. I have to give Google credit: it often suggests routes that would not have occurred to me to try, sometimes making for pleasant discoveries.

Using Google Maps I "pre-rode" Royal Palm Way.
This was the case recently when I rode to meet friends for lunch in a nearby town. Normally I'd have just motored up U.S. 1, but Google suggested I take Royal Palm Way. This turned out to be a shaded little road with a 30 mph speed limit and few stop lights or stop signs. Instead of dead-ending at the first expressway, the little road crossed it on a small bridge.

Advantage: Google.

When I reached the Big Intersection my memory failed me. I turned left, away from the restaurant. When the place didn't appear I guessed my error and turned around. I wasn't late, but there you have it. A glance at a smart phone would have saved me a couple miles.

Advantage: Google.

At lunch, my friends Doug and Robyn Kalajian of TheArmenianKitchen.com told me how, on vacation, they'd encountered a traffic jam on an expressway and had stopped at a roadside store where a clerk suggested an alternate route. It turned out to be a great side-trip.

Advantage: Human contact.

Their experience was something that could have happened in the 1950s or, indeed, at any time since the invention of the motor vehicle.

I think that's the experience that vintage motorcyclists should prefer. But I understand that the temptation to cheat is enormous.

Tree-shaded Royal Palm Way, with a median and Royal Enfield style speed limit.
Thank you, Google Maps.

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