Monday, September 14, 2009

Thump, thump

A fellow blogger periodically waxes philosophical about the meaning of time and space and our particular place therein. Some theorists suggest that time and space are more flexible, possibly involving multiple parallel universes in which we simultaneously exist, yet in which our actions (at any point in time) vary minutely thus offering an infinite number of life scenarios, endlessly repeated.
Personally I like to think there’s only one of me, occupying my own little corner of space and time, all by myself. And I expect my friends and relatives would likely agree that one of me is just fine, thank you. Or to put it another way, I am unlikely to be near the top of the list as they create perfect clones of perfect people to some day send to inhabit  Mars, or undertake some other such futuristic endeavour of heroic proportions.
And I like it that way because when someone else enters my space, bad things sometimes happen.
We needed a few grocery items – small stuff that would easily fit in my saddle bags and not get vibrated to mush on the way home like fresh picked strawberries would (trust me on this one). And since it was another nice day I decided to forgo the nearest store (20 miles away) in favour of one that is about twice as far, figuring that if you have to go out anyway you might as well make the most of it.
Thus was set the stage for today’s tragedy.
I wouldn’t normally have been on the road between Burnstown and Renfrew today. That’s not to disparage the route as it’s part of one of my favourite riding loops. With little traffic, a few hills, sweeping curves, and well-tended farms and orchards on both sides of the road it’s a great escape from the major highway and a perfect place to practice the art of Zen riding, of being one with your bike.
Squirrels are curious creatures. I don’t think I have ever seen a squirrel not running. Sure they sit still when they’re emptying the just-filled bird feeder, or digging up the freshly planted spring bulbs in the garden, but when they move they run. They don’t walk. They run. Flat out. And they’re about as unpredictable as Microsoft Vista running on a machine with 256Mb of main memory – that little pea-sized brain quickly overloads causing the squirrel equivalent of the dreaded blue screen.
Today I saw this particular squirrel dart out of the ditch ahead of me, flying full tilt across the road. I immediately snapped out of my Zen trance and did the appropriate space-time calculation determining that he would safely cross well ahead of my front wheel. Which he did. Whew. But no sooner was he clear that he had his own blue screen moment and turned back. Thump..Thump.
That’s the kind of bad thing that can happen when you get into someone else’s space and time. Which proves… something, but I’m not sure what. Perhaps it’s that one person’s great riding day may turn out to be not so great for everyone involved.
squirrel-street-outlines

Sunday, September 6, 2009

Small town attractions

After a summer that can best be described as “shitty”, September burst upon us with spectacular weather  - mid- to low-70s during the day, clear skies, no wind. In other words the weather we’ve been waiting for since May, perfect for riding… and golf. Which causes a bit of a dilemma, but I deal with it by hitting the links in the morning and the back roads in the afternoon.
Today was no different. After golfing this morning I had to make a trip into the city. And since I was in no rush I decided to go the long way, or at least one of the long ways, which would take me through the hamlet of Galetta (about 20 miles in the opposite direction).
Now I’ve passed through Galetta on numerous occasions but for some reason I had never noticed this before. Right on the main street, some guy built a replica of the CN Tower to use as a flagpole, complete with observation deck. It is kind of interesting, and quite well done as these things go, but you really have to wonder why, of all the things he could make, did he choose to model Toronto’s CN Tower?
CN Tower in Galetta                CN Tower

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Review – Biker Rain Chaps

BRC LogoWell the jury is in and these Biker Rain Chaps now have a permanent place in my saddlebags. (See initial review here.)
Over the past couple of weeks I have worn them riding in the rain, on wet roads, in the cool dampness of the evening, and even walking in the rain. And except for riding through a heavy downpour they worked flawlessly. Obviously, since they are chaps, they did not keep my crotch dry when it was raining heavily, but my lower legs were well protected and nice and dry. And  to be fair, the manufacturer specifically advises that they are NOT a replacement for a full set of rain gear.
But in a light drizzle, or just riding on wet roads after a rain, they kept me dry and clean. No more muddy cuffs and wet shins on my pants. Great from a comfort point of view but also especially helpful when reaching your destination clean is important.
Where I really liked them though was for the protection they offered against cool evening temperatures and chilly damp riding conditions. We are now into the swing season where a ride can start in the afternoon with the temperature in the 70-80 degree range, but quickly fall to 50 or lower once the sun sets. Probably not unlike the desert except for the dampness caused as the dew condenses out of the air. The chaps offered a great deal of protection and additional comfort when riding in these conditions. I expect early morning commuters encountering fog or morning mists would also benefit, and for similar reasons.
Also, my original concerns about the chaps riding up in the wind were totally unfounded. That was not a problem at all. Like a rain suit, they do flap around a bit in the wind but the Velcro straps on the cuffs were quite capable of holding the chaps in place at any reasonable highway speed.
So for price, quality, and utility I would definitely give this product two thumbs up.
And thanks again to the good folks at Biker Rain Chaps for giving me the opportunity to test and report on their product.
Stay dry on the inside high res

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Thrill of a lifetime

This post has absolutely nothing to do with motorcycles or any other two-wheeled vehicles, but I just had to share how I spent my Friday morning.
We were down visiting family in Kitchener when my brother told us that we all had to be out of the house and on the road at 7:00 Friday morning. And that’s all he would say.
So dutifully at 7 AM (!) our little two car convoy was heading down the 401 to Tillsonburg. (Stompin’ Tom fans… in unison now… “My back still aches when I hear that word”.)
Turns out that Tillsonburg is more than just tobacco country – it’s also home to the Canadian Harvard Aircraft Association. Now the secret was out. I had just celebrated a major milestone birthday (don’t ask) and my brothers, sister, nieces and nephews all chipped in to get me a ride in a 1942 AT-6 Harvard Mk II (which is even older than me!).  And not just a 10-minute fly-around-the-countryside ride either. This was an honest-to-goodness half hour aerobatic ride. Whoeee!
Unfortunately I didn’t get any pictures when we were inside out, upside down, flying straight down with the ground filling the front windscreen, or in the process of falling out of the sky in a hammerhead stall. Truth be told, I was too busy just hanging on … and hanging on to my breakfast …  to even think about getting the camera out. I had NO idea the Harvard could fly like that.
Here are a few pics taken of the day.
P1040010
Yes, that’s a parachute which I was assured I would NOT have to use.
DSCN0274
All the stuff I wasn’t supposed to touch. Can’t imagine why.
DSCN1510
Winding her up.
DSCN1508
Last check to make sure the canopy is locked before takeoff.
DSCN0281
A quick pass over the airport at 4,000 feet, and then……
DSCN1538   Holy s**t! Where’d the sky go?
DSCN1524
Followed by a little hammerhead action.
 P1040016
Straight and level … for now…
Repeat above photos several times for effect…..
P1040022
1/2 hour later with the pilot. Legs still wobbly but with breakfast intact.
After the ride, and with both feet firmly planted on solid ground, I had a chance to talk with the pilot. Turns out he’s a bona fide astronaut who just happens to like flying Harvards. Bjarni Tryggvason was one of the original 6 Canadian astronauts selected in 1983 and he flew as payload specialist on STS-85, Discovery, in 1997. That was an unexpected bonus.
So I have to ask, was that a great gift or what? And a big hearty thanks to the whole gang who made it possible.