Thursday, July 26, 2012

Well it’s been a helluva week!

The week started out normally enough. I was playing golf with some friends a few miles east of here when we were called off the course due to electrical storms in the area. So not wanting to waste a perfectly good afternoon we headed over to the Ashton Brew Pub (their Harvest Brown is delicious!) for a pint or two. Then the storm hit – golf-ball sized hail and winds that shook the old mill building.
After an hour or so it subsided enough to get in the car and head home, to be met by a roadblock set up by the police, blocking the only access into our community. With power lines and trees down all over the road, no one was getting in (or out) for the next 3 hours. Reports were of major storm damage and possible tornado activity (very rare in these parts). Of course we were worried.

When we finally did get through, here’s what greeted us as we came up our roadway.

Storm for web (13)The fire department had been in and cut a path down our road as they were checking residents.

Storm for web (7)Under all those trees on the right is where we normally park our cars.

Storm for web (9) Garage took some abuse, but bikes and tools inside are all okay, although a bit wet from the rain coming in through the roof.

Storm for web (10)Deck furniture rearranged somewhat.

Storm for web (11)
Buried under those trees is what was our vegetable garden. So far I’ve salvaged 6 beans and 2 cucumbers. We might yet get a couple of hardy tomatoes.

Fortunately damage to the house was limited to a broken window and some siding damage, but the garage didn’t fare so well with 2 trees on (and in) it. The bikes were okay though. (Whew!)

The next day, about 1/2 hour into what promises to be a months-long clean-up  I managed to do something stupid and fell, about 6 feet, landing on my back on a log. An ambulance trip into town followed (a first for me) along with a day spent in emergency while they determined that the only(!) problem I had was that I had broken 5 ribs (another first).

XRaysI know, I can’t make any sense of these things either, but I am assured that there are 5 fractures in there somewhere.

So now I’m sitting here listening to the generator going (probably won’t have power back on before the weekend), using my cell phone for internet access (even longer before we get wireless back), looking at a minimum of 3 to 4 weeks before I can ride again, at least a month before I can golf again, and having to pay someone else to clean up the mess because I did something dumb.
And to top it all off, the insurance company is giving me grief over some of the claim.
Can we please go back to Monday and start over?

P.S. The storm hit hard over a very large area and many homes and outbuildings were totally destroyed. And even though it had all the makings of a true disaster there was no loss of life, and no injuries reported. So while I chew pain killers by the handful and look out over a sea of destruction I have to think of how much worse it could have been and how truly lucky all of us were.

Monday, July 16, 2012

PD13

PD13Last week I took a bit of a holiday and rode to Waterloo, ON to visit family and take in the Friday the 13th celebrations at Port Dover. Total mileage was about 1,000 miles (1,600 kilometres) there and back and, thanks to the blisteringly hot dry summer we’re enjoying, done without ever having to pull out the rain suit, although some thunderstorms came perilously close.
Port Dover route
So on Friday the 13th we (me, two of my brothers, and two friends) met bright and early at Tim Horton’s to ride to Port Dover together. When we arrived at about 9:30 the temperatures were already in the 30-degree range (86F) and still climbing. Fortunately we carried some water with us and there was plenty on sale at streetside.
We spent a few hours strolling (actually more like shuffling the crowds were so heavy) the streets, checking out the bikes, visiting the various vendor booths, and buying tee-shirts (As I keep explaining to the spousal unit, one can never have too many Friday the 13th tee-shirts.)
Get Your Official Shirts
By 2:30 we’d had enough of the heat and the crowds, and with a BBQ to go to in Kitchener that evening decided to call it a day and head home. But even as we left Port Dover we met a steady stream of bikers still arriving most of whom, I expect, were planning to partake of the evening’s festivities (i.e. warming bar stools). And in anticipation of that exact eventuality, the OPP were busy setting up RIDE stops along the route as we rode by. (Incidentally, the OPP were out in force for this event and did a great job of managing and directing traffic flows in and around Port Dover. I heard of no heavy-handedness, as is sometimes reported, by the police, so kudos to them for a job well done.)
It’s always difficult to get an accurate measure of crowd size, but published reports placed it at about 140,000 people and about 100,000 bikes converging on this small lakeshore town. Having said that though, I thought there were more bikes and people this year than the last time I went when the estimate was 175,000 attendees. But who’s going to quibble over +/-35,000 of one’s closest biking buddies – best to just say there were a helluva lot of people and a helluva lot of bikes in a very small area. 
I had my GoPro recording much of the ride in and out of town, but it will take me some time to edit the hour or so of video down to something manageable. In the meantime, here are a few snaps I took while wandering the streets ogling all the fine equipment on display.
Here’s a sign we’d like to see more often:

Every street and side street had bikes parked along both sides and sometimes down the middle. And more were arriving every minute, all day long:
Web DSCN4815 Web DSCN4816
This year there seemed to be a lot of really fine tank art (here are some of my favourites):
        
There were some outstanding (and unique bizarre) customizations:
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And people who wanted to be noticed, including the Horny Tattooed Guy, Zebra Woman, and Thong Man, back for his 23th successive Friday the 13th Rally:
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If you want to go out in style, there were even a couple of options for you to consider:
 
Since this was the 3rd Friday the 13th in 2012, and they were each exactly 13 weeks apart, some were trying to determine whether that was an omen of some sort. Perhaps it was because we had a fine day of riding and people (and motorcycle) watching along with many, many other like-minded individuals. And you can’t beat that.
Now we just have to wait 14 months for the next one (September 13, 2013).

Sunday, July 8, 2012

Nice day, good ride, hot cars

Between work, golf, other commitments, and social engagements it often seems the missus and I are the proverbial ships passing in the night. It’s rare that we both have a day free, and even more rare that said day happens to be a day when the sun is shining and it’s perfect conditions for riding.
As if we needed any more encouragement there was also a vintage car show happening in Merrickville, a picturesque little town on the banks of the Rideau Canal, about 60 miles away. So we decided to ride over for lunch and a look at the cars (more accurately, I would look at the cars; Miz Liz would go shopping).
Merrickvile
Merrickville is an artist’s community with many galleries and shops selling unique handcrafted items and a couple of good pubs and restaurants. On any summer Sunday you can expect lots of people out visiting for the day, but today it was really crowded! It was 1:00 when we got there so we headed straight for lunch and after checking the line-ups at several restaurants found a couple of seats at Gad’s Hill Place. After an excellent lunch (sorry Bob, no food photos) and a pint it was time to check out the cars.
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And the requisite motorcycle photo.
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(There are more pictures over at Picasa if you’re interested.)
A nice 200 kilometre ride, a great lunch, and a couple of hours drooling over some awesome machinery – life is good!
And tomorrow it’s on the road again for points west – Waterloo and then Port Dover on Friday the 13th.

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Monday, July 2, 2012

Risk homeostasis

Risk homeostatis is the theory that everyone has his or her own personal risk threshold which is more or less fixed.  So, the theory says, when we reduce risk in one area we tend to increase risk in another in order to maintain the overall level of risk we want/need in our lives.
There is a lot of debate about the hypothesis, partly because the degree of risk associated with an individual activity is itself so difficult to measure, but also because there’s no easy way to baseline an individual’s risk threshold with any certainty or clarity. But I believe the theory has merit.
To use my own behaviour as an example, we’ve been having some significant temperature swings here recently that have resulted in me wearing different riding gear. On a couple of really hot (90+ degrees) days I was riding in a tee shirt and vest as my riding jacket was just too hot. Then I got a mesh jacket. With the exact same riding conditions and all else being equal I found myself riding harder when wearing the armoured mesh jacket than when all I was wearing was a tee shirt. So I traded a reduction in risk in one area (bad road rash if I fell) for an increase in risk in another (riding harder and faster increased the chance of a spill). Then it got cooler for a few days and I went to a fully armoured jacket and a full-face helmet. Guess what happened? I found myself accelerating harder, pushing into those curves a few kph faster, and braking a few metres shorter than I was doing wearing the mesh jacked and 3/4 helmet.
Now I’m not doing this consciously. In fact it was while in the middle of one of those fast sweepers that it occurred to me that I was riding it as quickly as I probably ever had, and the only explanation was that I was ATGATT and therefore subconsciously felt better protected and less concerned about my physical wellbeing if I did go down. That’s when I recalled hearing this theory and started giving it some thought.
Gerald Wilde, the theory’s developer, also claims it applies to larger populations as a whole. For example, not that long ago living was itself a risky proposition with industrial and farm accidents, disease, limited or poor medical care, and so on. People were used to a high level of risk in their daily lives and so didn’t need any external stimuli. Today we mostly sit in offices, so it’s no surprise that bungee jumping, sky diving, hang gliding and other adventure sports, even sports motorcycling (as opposed to simply commuting) have become so popular. http://bibiscus.files.wordpress.com/2012/05/risk.jpgWilde’s theory says that we need those pastimes to offset our relatively risk-free modern day-to-day lives (at least in advanced Western countries) which, if true, means that every nanny-state safety regulation is so much wasted effort because we’ll just find some other way to put ourselves in danger. It simply becomes a moving target.
So what do you say? Does your riding behaviour change based on what you’re wearing? Did you give up hang-gliding and then take up motorcycling just to keep the adrenalin flowing? I’m interested in your thoughts on this.

Sunday, July 1, 2012

My ride to work

A few weeks ago Martha (over at Living Among Tourists) posted a challenge to photo-document one’s commute. Well being a firm believer that procrastination is something best left until tomorrow, I finally got around to responding some 3 weeks later. And also, since I don’t follow directions very well, I decided to do a brief video rather than a series of still photos. (Actually that’s the part that took longer than I’d expected due to some technical difficulties!)
Since I work from home I didn’t think anyone would be interested in the 30’ of hallway between the breakfast table and my office, so instead I decided to document the trip I make almost as often (or, if you were to believe the spousal unit, at least twice as often) which is the route I ride to the golf course. With the way I’ve been playing lately it really does seem like work sometimes, so I guess it kind of counts anyway.
Here’s a map of the route – 20 kilometres of mostly curvy road.
Ride to golf
And my ‘commuting’ video:
A word about Charlie.
Did you notice Charlie in the video? Right near the start, at the 19 second mark, a ruffed grouse flies out in front of the bike as I’m heading down the driveway. That’s Charlie. For some strange reason he has adopted us. I don’t know if he thinks he’s human, or if he thinks we’re birds, but either way Charlie has become a fixture around here this summer. Not only does he chase the bike going down the drive, he’ll also supervise (from about 2 feet away) whenever we’re working in the yard. If I’m barbequing on the deck I’ll often hear a flutter of wings and there he’ll be, perched on the railing, checking out our dinner. Very strange creature, but kind of neat to have around.