Bridge over not-so-troubled waters at Redinger Lake.A little over a month ago, I broke down and bought a new bike – a BMW R1200R Classic – yeah, that one. The Gentleman’s Hooligan Bike. I’ve had it just over five weeks, and it’s already got almost 2,500 miles on it. I put about 1,000 miles of that on it in the last 4 days.

My route was something like this:

Day 1: South out of San Francisco to San Jose, over to Mount Hamilton and across the valley through Patterson to the covered bridge in Knight’s Landing, through Chinese Camp and across Don Pedro Reservoir, through Tuolumne City and into the mountains headed towards Strawberry via Deadwood. Yes, there’s a Deadwood in California too, or at least there’s the word “Deadwood” on a map. Turns out there’s nothing there – as I found out after miles of dirt fire trails. Video to come. After about ten more miles of gnarly fire roads, I headed up through Strawberry and over Sonora Pass in time to see some beautiful sunset scenery, down 395 and into Lee Vining/Mono Lake. I made camp (got a hotel room) in Lee Vining and crashed out for the night.

Day 2: I grabbed breakfast at Nicely’s (who weren’t especially nice to me) and headed out for an early walk around Mono Lake. No, not all the way around. I then saddled up and headed up and over Tioga Pass, and down through Yosemite where they were doing a maintenance burn – lots of smoke. Video of that to come, too. From there, I rode down 41 out of Yosemite to Fish camp and Sugar Pine and then along Bass Lake. I then headed down Italian Bar Road, which turned out to be a crazy goat trail descending to Redinger Lake and then rode back up the other side. I had routed another hundred plus miles of this goat trail stuff but when the roads started turning to dirt trails again I gave up and made my way back out to some pavement and rode down out of the hills towards Visalia where I crashed for the night.

Day 3: I was exhausted from all the hairball goaty stuff, so I slept in and then relaxed a bit and sipped coffee. Once I got rolling, I headed across the valley, up through Atascadero and into Los Osos where I met the nice folks from Elemental Herbs (and scored some awesome lip balm!) and enjoyed the best damn roasted veggie sammich I’ve ever had at the BeLoved Cafe. From Los Osos, I headed up through Morro Bay and on up Highway 1, hoping to make Monterey before the rain hit. No such luck – I had to suit up in my raingear a couple hours from Monterey and ended up riding up the last leg of Highway 1 through Big Sur after dark, in the rain. Not so much fun.

Day 4: While reviewing my maps in the breakfast room at my hotel, I discovered that Wunderlich’s US office is in Watsonville – gotta stop there. In the parking lot of the hotel, I met some of the folks from MCi Tours – they were just wrapping up three weeks on the road. And here I thought I was pretty bad ass with my four days of riding. Eventually I got enough coffee in me and the roads had started drying out, so I headed for Watsonville to check out the Wunderlich shop. After that I stopped in La Selva Beach for a surprise visit with my Grandma. After hanging with Grams for a bit, I headed through Santa Cruz and up the last leg of Highway 1, home to San Francisco. Thankfully, I only ran into a light rain here and there and made it home nice and dry.

More to come, but a few things to note:

  1. The R1200R is the greatest bike that has ever existed. Solid, predictable handling and plenty of guts – it handled everything I threw at it with impeccable composure, including 15 miles or so of off-roading. Fabulous bike!
  2. I ran a GoPro Hero video camera on my handlebars and captured about 60 gigs of video. I’ll post the tasty bits once I’ve dredged through it all – including my visit to legendary Deadwood.
  3. I need to plan more of these long rides. I want to ride the Cal 24 in 2013, and I need to do lots of “training” for that. ;)
  4. The R1200R is the greatest motorcycle that has ever existed.

Headed out to my favorite San Francisco motorbike event today – the Dirtbag Challenge. If you’re not familiar, basically it’s a loosely “organized” annual contest where folks build crazy-ridiculous bikes for less than $1000 (including the cost of the bike) in thirty days or less. Good clean American fun, in a “Wow, I can’t believe the cops still haven’t shown up” kind of way.

The entries are always very interesting, and the bonus is all the cool bikes people ride to the event. Pretty sure that I lost the last remaining bits of hearing I had during a particular smokey burnout session. Never mind the chunks of burned-up tires in my lungs.

Quote of the day that pretty much sums up the event : while waiting for the bikes to come in from the required ride – the bikes have to be rideable – we overheard two dudes talking. “Oh, maybe this is them coming in now… no, wait – those don’t sound sketchy enough.” Someone else pointed out that the headlights seemed too bright, to which I responded “That, and they have headlights.” Seriously, some of these bikes are amazing pieces of work and some of them are just plain dangerous.

Anyways… super fun as always. Check out the pics – maybe by next year I’ll learn how to use my camera. Or maybe I’ll build a bike instead.

Headed out yesterday morning on my VFR800 to scrub in my new tires and get my new front suspension dialed in. Rode north out of SF and ended up riding the hills around Dillon Beach / Tomales Bay, then came back down Highway 1 to Stinson Beach and headed back to the Golden Gate via Panoramic Highway. There were a lot of folks out for the holiday weekend, but in spite of the high number of SUV drivers unable to stay on their side of the double yellow in the twisties, I managed to survive and even had a great time.

After arriving back home, I managed to convince Angelica we should ride down the coast somewhere for dinner. So we headed down Highway 1 through Pacifica to a little seafood joint called Ketch Joanne just north of Half Moon Bay. We chowed down on cioppino and calamari steaks before riding back to San Francisco. Most of the Sunday drivers had disappeared by this time, and the ride back was much more fun.

Total ride time about six hours – a good day. I’m thinking of riding the Cal24 in the next year or two, so I’m trying to get in more long days. Honestly, given the insanely long moto-commutes I’ve done in the past, 6 hours doesn’t feel like all that much.

I’m happy to report that my new Bridgestone BT023s are awesome. Smooth, super easy to lean into turns and very predictable in the twisties. Even better – I’ve heard of guys getting 12,000 miles or more out of them – awesome! And the RaceTech setup Dave over at O’Hanlon set me up with is great – it’s like a new bike!

Here are a few pics from the day’s riding:

One of these days, I’ll make it out to the Isle of Man to watch the most amazing motorbike race in the world. Until then, I’ll make do with videos like this.

I’m really not a racing fan, but the history and sheer awesomeness of the Isle of Man TT coupled with the beauty of the island make for a pretty compelling “Hey darlin’, we really need to make a vacation of this” story.  The Catalina Grand Prix (on again for 2012!) is another. I’m mostly interested in motorbike races on beautiful islands. ;)

I really enjoy listening to Guy Martin – he’s an interesting cat.

I drove out to the country yesterday to visit my dad for Father’s Day, and he showed me his latest project – a ’65 Corvair Monza. Now, I’m really a Ford guy, having owned cars like a ’62 Galaxie 500 XL and a ’62 Fairlane 2-door, but I have a particular thing for American cars of the early sixties. Also, I think the Corvair is one of the more interesting Chevy vehicles. The rear engine, pancake six drivetrain was a substantial departure from American car design of the time, and the car was at the center of a PR nightmare.

This is a true barn find – the Corvair belonged to a friend of my dad who died recently. It’s been sitting, unregistered and pretty much ignored for something like 20 years. It’s in remarkably good shape – most of the interior is intact, and the body is super clean. I think it’s missing one of the original hubcaps or something ridiculous – about as complete as you can get. It even has the original “180 HP” turbo stickers! Awesome.

One of my amazing colleagues at ROI DNA, Mark Chasse, recently introduced me to Red Fang by sending me a link to the video for “Wires.”

First, I really dig this band – I downloaded the album (yes, album) “Murder The Mountains” almost immediately and have been bobbing my head to it quite a bit during my walk to work. Red Fang sounds to me like (stealing a bit from Blaine Cartwright here) Fu Manchu making out with Badmotorfinger-era Soundgarden while Black Sabbath watches. Maybe Helmet shows up later to get in on the fun.

OK, never mind the crazy-ridiculous attempts at describing Red Fang’s sound. I like it. A lot.

I gave up on music videos about the same time music videos started existing. It’s true that videos can occasionally add something that the song cant’ do on its own, but I think that videos are mostly just really bad marketing of really bad bands. I go out of my way to avoid them, as I do with most things that I find to be offensively stupid.

The gentlemen in Red Fang, however, make some awesome videos. Rockin’, fun, and hilarious – right up my alley. Check out “Wires” and “Prehistoric Dog” below.



So I’m out for a walk with my special ladyfriend this evening, and as we’re heading up Vermont into Potrero Hill we come across this Honda XR650L hanging from a tree.

I have to admire this person’s resourcefulness – I don’t have a good place to work on my bike either, but I also don’t have a tree. I do have to wonder, though – what will the neighbors say!?!?

It’s well known that I’m a big fan of stripped-down, old school rock ‘n’ roll. So when I heard Wanda Jackson was coming to the Great American Music Hall here in SF, I bought tickets immediately.

The show was last night. Wow. Seriously – wow. What an incredible show. Wanda kicked ass. Her voice was on. Red Meat did a great job of backing her up, too.

The awesomeness of this show is certainly a commentary on the simmering cauldron of weaksauce that is modern “rock ‘n’ roll” but that could de-emphasize how much she rocked. Let me say it again – Wanda Jackson rocks. I’ve seen a LOT of shows, and two things stood out for me:

  1. Wanda is in her mid-seventies now, and I believed her rockin’. She was totally into it – the real deal.
  2. The audience loves Wanda. The constant screaming and cheering reminded me of the old tapes of crowds going nuts for rock stars when rock ‘n’ roll was still new.

It turns out I’m not immune to a bit of nostalgia, either. I almost teared up when she talked about how Elvis inspired and encouraged her (a young country-western singer at the time) to try this new kind of music that they didn’t even have a name for yet.

So here are some crappy iPhone pictures from the show. I wish they were better, and I hope they convey at least a little of the awesomeness of Wanda. Angelica and I had a hell of a time.

Soon, like this week – less than two weeks since AdAge revealed Facebook was testing real-time targeting for Facebook Ads. I received an email from my friendly neighborhood Facebook Ads rep today, telling me:

Happy Monday,

In the coming week, we will expand our Real-Time Targeting test for Facebook Ads on Marketplace to 100% of users worldwide. This targeting feature can speed up the delivery of ads in real-time based on a set of qualified actions a person takes on the site. We’re using the same data that we already use to serve ads to our users, but this enhancement will allow users to see ads updated in real-time based on their activity. We’re excited about this test, because we think it makes your ads more relevant to users by allowing you to reach users at a prime point in the purchase cycle – right when they are indicating intent. There is no change in the ad product itself or to user privacy, and no action is necessary on your current Marketplace Ad campaigns—real-time targeting will happen automatically for people who become a part of your target audience.

How it works:

A user takes one of the following actions:

  1. Updates their status on Facebook
  2. Posts content on a person/Page/Event Wall
  3. Likes a Page from the Search Results page

In real-time, we can target specific keywords from the text the user entered or the Page they liked and update the 1-5 Marketplace Ads they see that is relevant to the keyword/concept.
For more info on real-time commenting, please refer to the following article:

https://www.facebook.com/note.php?note_id=496077348919

Happy Monday, indeed. Seriously – this is big stuff.

On one hand, I’ve talked to some folks who are freaked out and think there’s some new privacy issue here. It’s the usual “OMG! They’re watching me! I’m quitting Facebook!” News flash: they’ve been watching you all along.

On the other hand – for advertisers, this is huge – we can engage Facebook users in the moment. TONS of potential.

But the jaded side of me thinks we’ll keep seeing more of the same poorly targeted ads. The tools have always been there, but lots of advertisers still do a really bad job with their Facebook campaigns. Poor strategy is poor strategy – making it faster doesn’t make it any better. AT&T  will still show me their “Sign up for AT&T” ads every time I post in frustration about the “network quality” in San Francisco- they’ll just be quicker about it. And I’ll get more of this ridiculousness, in real-time!

One of the most useful pieces of feedback I’ve gotten from my mentors is “You rock. Don’t be so uncomfortable calling yourself an expert.” I hate talking about myself – it always feels like an exercise in self-aggrandizement, even if I’m just saying “Yeah, I guess I make a pretty good cup of coffee.” So every time I have to come up with any sort of bio, I agonize over it way more than I should, worrying that I’m not quite dialing the mixture of  my skills, knowledge and expertise with my punk/rock ‘n’ roll/DIY/gearhead roots and attitude.

Anyway, I had to write a new bio this week. Here’s my rough draft:

“Surj is a seasoned, passionate ecommerce devotee with experience in many industries. An online marketing generalist with deep experience in all forms of customer acquisition and retention, he’s most passionate about email marketing, search marketing, and affiliate programs. A die-hard gearhead, if he’s not contemplating his latest world domination perfect customer acquisition plan, Surj is most likely riding his motorbike in search of good rock ‘n’ roll or coffee.”

Aw crap, I forgot “Likes to play poker, but not very well.”

© 2013 Surj's House of Awesome

Surj's House of Awesome

Surj Gish – eCommerce & Online Marketing Expert / Gearhead / Musician