Saturday, 12 October 2019

It never gets old

Enjoying the fall colours, that is.

I’ve circled the sun more times than I care to count and every year I am still awed by the wonderful show Mother Nature puts on for us in the fall.

This year the colours have seemed especially vivid and, given a 13-degree, sunny day, there was nothing to do but take a ride to enjoy them before the inevitable autumn winds and rain turn this particular palette to drab gray.

With no destination in mind I simply followed my nose and explored an area I don’t know too well, west and north of Calabogie.

The little jog south to Ompah took me to a dead-end at Norcan Lake and the Mountain Chute hydro dam.

On that stretch I came upon a coyote, just standing on the edge of the road eating a sandwich. True. I expect some workers in the area must have tossed the remains of a lunch out the window and he found it. I watched him eat while I slowly tried to get my camera out, but before I could an oncoming car spooked him and off he went, sandwich and all, into the woods. You’ll have to settle for this image instead.

After that interesting little interlude I backtracked and swung west and then north to Griffith on  Centennial Lake Road. The roads in that area are narrow and twisty as they meander through and around dozens of lakes and swamps. And although they are rough in places it was a good opportunity to let the horses out and enjoy some spirited riding.  Fortunately I encountered very few other vehicles so it was a great run for 30 or 40 kilometers.

However, once I hit Hwy 41 that all changed. From there it was pretty much a straight shot into Renfrew and very busy. Few places to pass and lots of traffic demanded a more sedate pace. Which wasn’t entirely a bad thing as I had a chance to sightsee and enjoy the views as the highway skirted Mount St. Patrick and the highlands.

It was a great day, and I now have a nice little 215 km loop that I can do again, although next time I’ll skip the Mountain Chute dead-end.

Friday, 4 October 2019


I suppose back in the early 80s these bikes were considered cool with their pullback bars and sit-up-and-beg stepped seats, but in truth they’re an ergonomic nightmare in stock trim – especially for a 6-footer.

So flat bars were the first change but I had trouble finding a seat option that didn’t involve cutting and welding a new frame loop in place for a different type seat - and I hate the idea of chopping up old motorcycles. But I finally found one that uses the stock seat pan but a different shaped foam and replacement cover.

Fortunately the seat pan was still in great shape and all it needed was a shot of paint.

Then I put on the new foam and cover.

And voila. It’s been too cold to ride (7C is too cold – I’m a wimp.) so I’ve only had a chance to sit on it in the drive, but it’s sure a lot more comfortable and doesn’t feel nearly as cramped. And I think it looks better too.

Tuesday, 1 October 2019

Back at 'er

I know I haven’t been spending much time online lately, (with one exception: but I have excuses.

We had some nuptials in the family in September and they happened at our house. So many, many hours were spent trying to pretty up the joint for the big event. And we were away for a while on an Alaska cruise out of Vancouver, visiting Sitka, Juneau, and Ketchikan. Then there’s golf, riding, and … etc. Let’s just say I was busy enjoying our all-too-brief summer.

But now with the cooler weather and turning leaves it’s time to refocus on projects that have been neglected for the past few months, the main one being the second Kawasaki.

Since I last posted an update the new bearing and seals arrived and were installed with minimal fuss. The engine was put back in the frame, with maximum fuss (!). And then all the odd bits like carbs, battery box, starter, exhaust system, etc., etc. were reinstalled. Much to my surprise I remembered how most of it fit together and had to refer to the shop manual only rarely. (When all else fails, RTFM - it’s a guy thing.) Even more surprising, I had no random parts left over.

It seems to run fine just up and down our lane, but a proper road test is still required. Since I have neither license nor insurance for it the logistics have still to be worked out. But I’m optimistic!

It’ll be nice to get it done.

Tuesday, 17 September 2019

A Woman of No Importance - a review

I first came across this book last year, and the subtitle, “The Untold Story of the American Spy Who Helped Win World War II”, caught my eye. It took a while but I finally got to read it last week. And what a story!

Born in 1906, Virginia Hall was a Baltimore socialite who travelled the world extensively and looked forward to a career in the Foreign Service. An unfortunate hunting accident in Turkey in 1932 resulted in her losing part of her left leg and dashed her prospects with the Foreign Service. Undeterred, she continued to travel and found herself in Paris at the start of the Second World War.

During the early months of the war she volunteered as an ambulance driver in France and then in 1940 she made her way back to England. Her love of France, however, made her want to return to be part of the fight. And so, after many roadblocks and rejections because she was a woman – and a handicapped one at that – she finally accomplished her objective, to join the British Special Operations Executive (SOE) and return to Vichy France to assist in the war effort.

For the next 15 months she gathered intelligence and recruited and coordinated resistance efforts in Vichy France. When Germany seized all of France in 1942 she narrowly escaped by walking (wooden leg and all) across the Pyrenees to Spain, where she was promptly arrested. Eventually released, she returned to London in 1943 and then back to the USA.

Once in the States, she joined the US Office of Strategic Services (OSS) and requested to be sent back to France. From March 1944 until Allied forces arrived in September, she identified drop zones for weapons and allied commandos, trained Resistance forces in tactics and guerrilla warfare, found safe houses, and maintained radio links with the UK, providing valuable intelligence to assist in the Normandy landings.

This is the story of those harrowing years, the constant fear and expectation of being caught and tortured, the challenges she faced as a woman in a man’s world (France, 1940s), and her incredible bravery throughout. Virginia Hall was a true hero and her contribution to the allied war effort can never be fully appreciated.

It’s an excellent read and highly recommended for anyone with an interest in WW II.

Wednesday, 17 July 2019

Well that explains it.

Way back in April ( I posted about a final drive issue with the Kawasaki motor I’m currently working on. I removed the engine (lots of twisting, wiggling, and cursing involved – along with a beer or two) but then it sat on my bench for a long time whilst other priorities took precedence. I finally got back to it the other day.

With the crankcase removed the problem became evident. One of the cages in the caged bearing had split and the balls were loose in the race. It’s not clear to me how long it had been like that but fortunately it seems the only damage was to the oil seal which was torn by the broken cage. Everything else in there looks good.

So now, with a new bearing and oil seal on order, it still sits on the bench until I can start reassembly – hopefully in a couple of weeks.