Wednesday 30 December 2009

One Week – Movie Review

Author, teacher, and engaged to be married, Ben Tyler had a great future all planned out. But when he is told that he has an extremely aggressive type of cancer and a less than 10% chance of surviving for more than two years, Ben re-evaluates his life.
On impulse he buys an early-70s Norton Commando and drops out of his conservative, predictable, and frankly boring life in search of “an adventure”. Heading west on two wheels from Toronto, Ben eventually ends up in Tofino on Vancouver Island with a bucket full of experiences and a better understanding of what’s really important in life. 
Joshua Jackson as Ben, with a supporting cast consisting of a Norton Commando and the beauty of Canada’s wide open spaces, make for a very enjoyable movie. Suitable for all ages, this is a film you’d be quite comfortable watching with your Granny – and she would probably enjoy it too. Highly recommended.

Tuesday 29 December 2009

What every motorcyclist needs

I’ve long been a firm believer in the adage that procrastination is something best left until tomorrow. Or it could have had something to do with the fact that it’s –20C outside with a –40C wind chill (same as –40F). And while that’s the temperature at which Canadians typically put on a sweater before going outdoors, trying to slide a 700 pound motorcycle around on roads covered with ice and snow isn’t anything I’m about to voluntarily do. All of which is to say I decided it was time to winterize my bike today.
bug splatterThe first job was to get the last ride’s crud off the windshield – you know – the bright yellow splotches of some sort of moth, the red splashes of now defunct blood-filled mosquitoes, and those great gobs of the stickiest substance in nature that respond to any cleaning attempt by simply smearing in every direction. And then, of course, it all had a couple of months to ensure a full and complete curing and hardening, so after a few swipes with a wet rag I was seriously considering that a new windshield might be the simplest solution.
But before placing the order I tried the spousal unit’s home-made window cleaner in a last-ditch attempt at a clean windscreen. Eureka! Cleaned it like nothing I’d ever used before. Spray it on, let it soak for a few seconds, and wipe off with a paper towel. Had to do a couple of spots twice, but the bugs were gone, the sticky stuff was gone, and no windscreen-scratching hard rubbing was required.
So as a public service, here’s the recipe:
  • 1/3 teaspoon liquid vegetable based soap (Murphy Soap for cleaning wood is the one we use but any will do)
  • 3 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
  • 2 cups water
Put in a spray bottle and shake well before using. Simple.
It also works well on your house windows, but real bikers don’t do windows so that last bit of information is not based on personal experience.

Thursday 24 December 2009

‘Tis the season….

Biker Santa
Wherever you are, and however you celebrate, may your Christmas be full of friendship and good tidings. And if you’re lucky enough to be able to get out on two wheels, well then you have an extra special day ahead.
And while certainly not traditional, here are a couple of my favourite Christmas tunes to enjoy – Christmas Eve in Sarajevo by The Trans-Siberian Orchestra (apparently a preferred choice of house decorators), and Fairy Tale of New York by The Pogues.
Merry Christmas to all and best wishes for the holiday season!

Friday 11 December 2009

Weird bikes

Harley PalangchaoThis image recently arrived in my inbox, courtesy of a friend who apparently lives at his computer, forwarding anything and everything that catches his eye. And among all the dross, periodically something of interest surfaces.
When I first looked at the picture and saw the “Harley Palangchao” watermark, I interpreted it to mean this was the Palangchao’s concept of a Harley. (The Palangchaos apparently being some lost tribe who were introduced to western culture through Flintstones comic books.) But a little research uncovered an amazing Philippine sub-culture called the Cordillerans, or Igorot, and an even more amazing photographer – Harley Palangchao. Yup – that’s the photographer’s name and you can check out some of his work here.  It’s well worth a click over.
But back to the scooters. They race these rejects from the woodpile down a 4.5 kilometre mountain road course. It is a top event of the Imbayah Festival held every three years in Banaue Igugao. I expect the winner’s prize consists of bragging rights for the next three years and not having to spend the next several months recovering from road rash or worse.
Note the steering geometry and rubber-mounted front end for enhanced directional control and improved stability. image
And lest you think these things are for show only …..
This festival may just get added to the destinations bucket list. Looks like a blast!

Tuesday 8 December 2009

Wasted opportunities

GolfI had the luxury of spending last week golfing and ‘gator-dodging in and around Orlando. It was a too-good-to-be-true deal that I just could not pass up – especially as the snow was already starting to fly in these parts.
Over the course of 7 days we drove nearly 700 miles to and from various golf courses and just around the area itself, and during that entire time I don’t think I saw more than a couple of dozen motorcyclists on the road. I couldn’t believe it. Here we were in 75-80 degree temperatures, dry conditions, and I saw fewer bikes in an entire week than I would see here in Ottawa on a nice day in October when the temperatures might creep up to 55 or 60 degrees. Now it did seem that every second corner – the one that didn’t have a Starbuck’s on it – had a Harley dealership or clothing outlet, so money is clearly being spent on the industry, but where were the riders?
And this isn’t the only time I’ve remarked on this in the US. I used to spend quite a bit of time in Phoenix and there too I noticed a dearth of bikes on the highways. Now in Arizona there’s at least an excuse, sort of, as 100-plus degrees in ATGATT makes an air-conditioned cage seem pretty attractive. But for those of us who measure our riding season in weeks this all seems like such a wasted opportunity to get out and enjoy two wheels.
Can anyone explain it?

Wednesday 25 November 2009

To my American friends

Happy Thanksgiving!
Wishing you all a great Thanksgiving weekend with friends and loved ones, and - weather permitting – some time on two wheels. Enjoy.

Monday 16 November 2009

“The ladies’ is broken”: A tale from the road.

It had been a long, hot day on the road through the southern Prairies – mile after mile of absolutely nothing on the horizon, with only the odd tree or ramshackle homestead to break the monotony. It was harvest time and the dust was everywhere, in every crevice and pore even under the eyelids… especially under the eyelids. I felt like I’d just done 300 miles in a sand blaster and when we finally pulled into a campground for the night all I wanted was a nice long shower, and a beer. In that order.
After registering and getting our tent set up and our gear unpacked, Miz Liz headed off in search of a couple of cold beers and I headed to the bathrooms.
The hut was typical campground chic – cement floor with peeling green paint, urinals and toilets down one side, sinks on the other, and 2 shower stalls at the end, both of which were occupied.
I didn’t expect the wait to be very long, so I started getting ready. And that’s how it happened that I was wearing only a towel – around my neck – when the first stall opened and this absolutely stunning brunette stepped out.  Not being the first time in my life I’d stumbled into the wrong bathroom, my first reaction was to make sure I was in the right place. Yup – those were definitely urinals on the wall.
HotShower“The ladies’ is broken” she said as she nonchalantly reached past me for her towel.
“Uh… Yeah… No problem…” I stammered as I tried not to stare too obviously at the best (and only) scenery I’d seen all day. Slowly gathering my wits I was just about to offer to help her dry her back when she said, “Hurry up hon” and out of the second shower stepped Hulk Hogan’s lost twin brother. All of six-feet-and-a-bunch he was huge; even his muscles had muscles, all covered with fine renderings of skulls, knives and assorted other examples of the tattooist’s art.
So discretion (and self-preservation) being the better part of valour I shut my mouth, averted my eyes and darted behind the curtain before he got any ideas about any ideas that I’d already got.
Later, when I returned to the campsite Miz Liz asked how the shower was. “Fine” I said, “but the ladies’ is broken” as I reached for a cold one.

Monday 9 November 2009

A bonus day!

Just when you’re beginning to think your riding season is over for a few months, Mother Nature tosses you a bone.
This morning’s forecast called for a high of 17 degrees (54F) and sunny, so nothing else for it but to make myself unavailable for a few hours and ride.
So with no place to go and no rush to get there I headed out, randomly picking a new direction at each major crossroads. Probably never more than 50 miles from home, I still managed to find a few roads that were new to me – some scenic with beautiful homes and farms, some nearly impassable with potholes and broken pavement, and most somewhere in the middle.
milkweedThere’s no doubt that autumn is a beautiful time to be in the countryside. The trees have lost all their leaves and are now showing us their bones, the corn is ripened, and the milkweed seeds float lazily on the breeze. Everywhere the farmers are bringing in the last of the harvest and are putting their fields to bed for the winter. Overhead, flocks of geese are making their noisy way south. It’s a busy time of the year, but also kind of peaceful and calming.
It was all good.
Corn field

Friday 30 October 2009

On balance, I’d rather have 2 wheels.

Someone recently sent me this picture of an MV Agusta 60cc  Monomoto Superleggera, reportedly built for the little-known sport of Italian monocycle racing in the 1950’s. So I did a bit of research to get the story behind this creation.Monocycle
Unsurprisingly, there are two stories. The “official” story is this:
“This MV Augusta 60cc Monomoto Superleggera is the experimental machine ridden by a wealthy young Italian by the name of Luiggi Bandini. During practice for the 1954 Milano-Taranto road race, Bandini tragically lost control in a misty mountain section while waving to a pretty spectator. His grief-stricken father, Count Enzio Bandini (also known as “The Falcon”), never again permitted anyone to ride or even view this advanced design. Knowledge of its whereabouts faded. Eventually, rumors of this fascinating machine reached the motorcycling bon vivant Todd Fell. On a trip to Naples, his quest to find it was rewarded at the Bandini country villa, where in 2004, fifty years after the tragic accident, the late Count’s family was persuaded to part with the treasure."
Second story:
The bike was recently built in Mexico out of spare parts and was never intended to be ridden.
I’d like to believe the first story as it has a certain class that just isn’t present with a junk-yard build, no matter how pretty the outcome. But, sadly, I expect the latter story is closer to the truth as the bike predates all the necessary electronics needed to maintain balance a la Segway when starting, stopping, etc. Also the inevitable oil leak from an old Italian engine would spell certain disaster.
But regardless whether it is actually rideable or not, someone thought enough of it to pay $17,500 for this objet d’art at a Daytona auction in 2007.

Baby’s got new shoes.

Those of you who follow this blog know I just recently acquired a new toy – a dual purpose Honda XL. The bike is a 1981 model, so spare parts are a bit difficult to come by. However I have been able to locate new rubber.
New shoes
The only problem is that I made the mistake of mounting all lefts on the rear and all rights on the front. On the first ride I just about spun into the ground so I had to re-shoe her so that they are alternating front and rear. She now tracks straight – or I should say straighter.
As an added bonus, with a wife who’s a marathon runner there is no shortage of slightly used replacements.

Monday 26 October 2009

Canadian Police Chase

This has absolutely nothing to do with 2 wheels, but it’s too good not to share, especially with winter coming on.


A Strange and Terrible Saga

Hells AngelsThat’s the sub-title of Hunter S. Thompson’s Hell’s Angels. Originally published in 1966, I probably first read it in the late 60s when I was enamoured of such celluloid heavyweights as The Wild Angels (I desperately wanted to be like Peter Fonda if for no other reason than to bag Nancy Sinatra!) and thought listening to Blues Theme by Davie Allan and the Arrows at ear-drum-imploding volumes on my stereo turntable was the ultimate musical experience. A practice, incidentally, that nearly ended up with me being kicked out of residence. Through the window. By the other guys on the floor who didn’t share my cultural aesthetic.

Seeing that clip now I cringe, but to paraphrase George Lucas, that was in a different time in a place far, far away – a  sentiment surely shared by Fonda, Sinatra, et al as they look back at their early careers.

However, back to the book.

Still in print, I recently came across a copy of Thompson’s Hell’s Angels on the shelf at the local Chapters so I thought I’d give it a re-read, for old time’s sake as it were. And I’m glad I did.
While very dated, the book is actually quite a good read. It takes the reader back to a simpler time in America when a gathering of a few dozen bikers made the national news, when  being a member of a motorcycle “gang” was more about riding, partying, fighting, and drinking – all hard, and not necessarily in that order – than being part of an organised criminal enterprise, and when a six-pack could be had for under $1!

Thompson’s narrative of his time with the Angels (about a year) is both entertaining and informative. He pulls no punches in his descriptions of individuals and their strengths – or more commonly their weaknesses. He doesn’t try to make them heroes, nor does he try to excuse their behaviour. He simply reports. But what’s most interesting is his take on the Angels’ transition from being a few dozen rowdy California-based bikers and petty criminals to national status, a transition he attributes primarily to the media at the time. Life, Time, Newsweek all played a part, as did the daily newspapers and the popular men’s magazine’s,  in making the Angels bigger than life and a whole lot more threatening to the general public than warranted. While boosting the egos of the outlaw leaders the publicity likely accelerated the clubs growth and helped fuel the eastward expansion beyond the California border.

In the 40+ years since Hell’s Angels was written much has changed but many of Thompson’s observations still ring true today. The mass media still thrives on sensationalism at the frequent expense of the truth. Politicians and police forces at all levels still manipulate events to their (and their budget’s) advantage. Perception is made to be reality. And fear sells.

A worthy addition to any bookshelf of American motorcycle history or pop culture of the 60’s.

Sunday 25 October 2009

It’s done

XL500 And now the hunt for parts can begin. Anyone have a spare 1981 XL500S exhaust system lying about?

Thursday 22 October 2009

Am I nuts?

Recently I read somewhere that while you only had a 1% chance of finding a gravel road in the US, you had a 70% chance of finding one in Canada.

As anyone who has travelled in parts of Canada more than a hundred miles north of the US-Canada border can attest, the vast majority of those roads are not paved. So while I don’t know how accurate that statistic is, it wouldn’t surprise me if the real figures were pretty close.

Now living close to the capital  and in that narrow strip of Canada that’s most heavily populated, most of our roads here are paved. But even at that I can probably find 300 or 400 miles of gravel roads all within an hour of home. In fact one starts right at my back door.

Gravel road

And while I love my Dyna, the one thing a 700-pound Harley is not is a dirt bike.

All of which is to say that I’ve been looking for a dual-purpose bike to play in the gravel with, that can get muddy up to the handlebars and stay that way, that can get get dropped on the road, picked up, and ridden off without worrying about scratching the chrome. My ideal bike would be a 500 or 600 cc single, heavy enough not to get blown all over the highway but not so heavy it’s hard to handle, and cheap! Actually truth be told, cheap is probably the number one consideration.

Anyway while killing time last night I came across this find on Kijiji. A 1981 Honda XL  500 single for $500 (cheap). And just down the road.

Honda XL 500
While it isn’t much to look at the owner says it runs well but “it smokes a bit when you start it up”. But I figure if the power train is reasonably sound other than needing rings and perhaps a top end job, the rest is just cosmetics that can be fixed over time as replacement parts can be found.

It will likely never look like this -

Honda XL 500 new

- but it could turn out to be an interesting project and a fun play bike.  I’m going to check it out this weekend so perhaps by Monday the stable will contain one more toy. Just what I need – one more thing to fix!

Tuesday 20 October 2009

Sun’s out!

Long johns (top and bottom) …… check.
Biker Rain Chaps …… check.
Leather jacket with liner …… check.
Lined gauntlets…… check.
Full face helmet …… check.
Windshield on …… check.
I couldn’t pass up a temperature of 45F and no rain. Besides I had to make a quick run into town to pick up a neat little gadget that kill a wattmeasures “hidden” power consumption. Lee Valley Tools  is a top notch and world-renowned supplier of quality tools for general craftsmen, woodworkers, and gardeners. They had acquired a boat load of these little devices and were selling them at bargain-basement prices. I just had to have one. I mean who can resist a bit of electronics that will tell you how much energy you’re wasting with instant-on TVs, computer monitors in energy-saving mode, and other home appliances that suck power 7/24?
But I digress.
Since my last ride the farmers had been busy. Most of the crops were in and the corn stalks had been mowed down. Farm stands lined the roadway selling pumpkins of all shapes and sizes in anticipation of Halloween. Every second house seemed to have a load of firewood – usually in 8 or 10 foot lengths – in the driveway waiting to be cut, split and stacked for winter.
Sadly, Scoops, my favourite ice cream stand, was closed for the season.
It wasn’t a long ride, about 100 miles, and by the time I got back it had cooled off considerably to about 40F. So as I pulled into the garage I was feeling distinctly chilled, even with all the layers, but still with a big grin. It was a good ride.

Thursday 15 October 2009

Autumn colours

Every October we look forward to enjoying a ride or two through the countryside to view the changes as the trees get ready for winter’s cold blast. October temperatures are getting cooler, but on a nice cloudless day there’s still lots of heat in the sun, so riding conditions can be quite comfortable. We’ll head off to one of the nearby artist communities, browse the handiwork of some excellent craftsmen – or I should say craftspersons - stop for lunch and perhaps a pint or two at a local pub, and come home – the long way – enjoying the ride and the scenery.
But this year our plans were foiled. The spectacular September weather morphed directly into late November-like conditions with grey overcast days, lots of rain, and daily high temperatures in the 30–40F range. (October norms for this area are 50-55 degrees.) So the bike (I really need to give it a name) sits in the garage as I try to decide whether to give it it’s winter conditioning and put it away, or hope for that one glorious riding day that will cap off the season. Hope springs eternal, so I expect I’ll wait a little longer. Besides I’ve always felt that procrastination was something best left until next week.
Although it was too cold to ride without an electric suit or so much alcoholic antifreeze as to be dangerous, it wasn’t too cold to shoot a couple of pictures on our local road to show you what early October looks like here.  Enjoy.

DSC_4835 web 2 DSC_4840 web 2 DSC_4834 web 2

Friday 9 October 2009

Looking for trouble?

In the latest issue of American Iron Magazine, columnist Genevieve Schmitt has a piece entitled Packing Protection in which she talks about carrying a weapon of some sort while riding. Recently, a fellow blogger described a day trip for which his riding gear included two handguns and a knife. And as anyone who’s been to Sturgis can attest sheath knives, the longer (i.e. more bad-assed) the better, are a common fashion accessory.
Has riding really become a blood sport?
Over many, many thousands of miles I have mingled freely with bikers of all sorts, and with strangers in campgrounds, some of whom were heavily armed. I have ridden most Canadian provinces and many of the more northern states. I have ridden major cities and rural byways. I have ridden alone and with others. And through all of that I have never felt threatened or otherwise unsafe while on the road (aside from traffic hazards) or even while camping in some pretty remote locations.
Now I will state that I don’t go looking for trouble – never have and never will – so that has a lot to do with it. But I also firmly believe that carrying a weapon – especially one that’s  exposed – can just as easily invite trouble as defuse it. It seems to me that wearing a 10-inch Bowie knife on your belt is an open invitation to the guy with a 12-inch model to prove how those extra 2 inches make him tougher than you. No thanks. And let’s be honest, carrying a knife does not make you a knife-fighter any more than wearing a black belt makes you a karate expert.
Perhaps I’m just a simple, naive Canadian, but if I had to arm myself to the teeth to enjoy my sport, I’d take up fishing.

Monday 14 September 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.


Sunday 6 September 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 3 September 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 2 September 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.
Yes, that’s a parachute which I was assured I would NOT have to use.
All the stuff I wasn’t supposed to touch. Can’t imagine why.
Winding her up.
Last check to make sure the canopy is locked before takeoff.
A quick pass over the airport at 4,000 feet, and then……
DSCN1538   Holy s**t! Where’d the sky go?
Followed by a little hammerhead action.
Straight and level … for now…
Repeat above photos several times for effect…..
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.

Monday 24 August 2009

Someone at Google was having a little fun

Discovered a broken crank handle on one of our windows today. No big deal; it takes 30 seconds to fix if you have the part. Fortunately the dealer is located about 30 miles away so it was a good excuse for a ride.

I suited up and headed over there, taking a gravel road shortcut (I wouldn’t normally, but I drove it in the car last week and it was in good condition) because it’s just more interesting that way. And to be sure, I came across this bad boy walking beside the road. I had a much better view of him than this, but by the time I stopped, got the camera out, yada, yada, yada, this was all that was to be seen. He was a big ‘un and I wasn’t about to follow him into the woods in hope of a better shot!

Black bear

The rest of the ride over was uneventful yielding nothing more than a couple of deer, a flock of wild turkeys, and a recently deceased skunk(!).

I got the part I needed, paying an outrageous sum for a bit of cast white metal, and decided to take the long way home as it was still early, the sun was shining, I had a full tank of gas, and nothing better to do. (A point which would be rather forcefully argued by the spousal unit, but she wasn’t there!)
I headed down through Perth, across to Lanark, Brightside and Calabogie on Highway 511 (one of the best riding roads in the area), then Burnstown, White Lake and home again. All told about 3 hours of good riding, great conditions, and virtually no traffic.

I forgot to set the trip odometer, so I thought I’d check in with Google Maps to get the distance travelled. Unfortunately I neglected to specify Perth ONTARIO when I entered the information, and so Google, quite understandably, provided driving directions from White Lake Ontario to Perth… Australia.
White Lake to Perth

The directions started out okay, but when I got to Step 50, I knew this was more than just the long way ‘round to my Perth – the one in Ontario.

White Lake to Perth Directions Part 2

Yes, Step 50 says, “Kayak across the Pacific Ocean – 4,436 km”, followed by “Entering Hawaii”. A few kilometres later, presumably still dripping wet, we’ve crossed Hawaii and now we are back in the water. Step 64: “Kayak across the Pacific Ocean – 6,243 km” before “Entering Japan”, the land of unintelligible street names (at least to an English speaker).

Why travel across the Pacific by kayak and not steamer, or sail boat, or airplane? Only Google knows for sure, and they aren’t telling.

By the way, here’s the proper route – 185 kilometres or about 120 miles. No kayaking involved, although the route does parallel some great canoeing rivers. That will be another trip.

White Lake Perth loop

Friday 21 August 2009

Just for the smell of it….

It was the ultimate summer day – hot and humid and perfect for lazing in the lake.
After dinner the temperatures started to moderate as the sun, fat and heavy, began to settle in the western sky.
This called for an evening ride. Not too long, perhaps a couple of hours. Maybe one of the more usual routes – White Lake, Arnprior, Galletta, Kinburn, Pakenham (for an ice cream), and home.
The fact it was a well-known route meant that the scenery would be old hat, but I wasn’t riding to satisfy that sense tonight; I was riding to enjoy the various smells of the country when the air is still and the dew is starting to settle out.
Smell is the most powerful sense we have, with the average human being able to recognise thousands of different odours – perhaps not to give a name to all of them, but certainly to be able to state whether the smell is familiar or not, and maybe even place it in context of a place and time. And it need not be the dapper dude in the elevator who apparently bathed in cologne that triggers the sense; we can detect odours in dilutions as weak as 1 part  per several billion parts of air. Powerful indeed.
And so with the promise of an ice cream in mind, I rode the loop, delighting in the cool pockets of sweetness of goldenrod in bloom, the freshness of new-mown hay drying in the fields, the lingering whiff of a passing skunk, the sharpness of barnyards and fields recently fertilized, and other familiar country scents denied to my fellow travellers ensconced in their air-conditioned cages.
It was a great night for smells … and motorcycling.

Biker Rain Chaps

BRC LogoEvery so often one gets an opportunity that seems too good to be true. Such was the case when I got a note from the good folks at Biker Rain Chaps asking me if I’d mind them sending me a free pair to review.
Why would I mind? It’s free stuff, which is always good, and I’m riding and blogging anyway, so sure, send them along.
Well my Biker Rain Chaps arrived today. Ironically it was pouring rain when I walked out to get the mail and while my raincoat kept the top half of me nice and dry, by the time I got back (it’s 1/2 mile to my mailbox) I looked like this guy.Wet legsIf only the Rain Chaps had arrived yesterday!
I’ll do a more detailed review once I’ve had a chance to really try them out on the road in wet conditions, but at first glance I will make the following observations.
  • They come in a small polyester pouch (waterproof, roughly 10” by 5”) that has it’s own Velco loop so it can be attached external to your bags or back rest for quick access if needed. You don’t have to expose all your gear to the elements to get at the chaps.
  • The quality seems quite good with double seams where needed and waterproofing sealant on all the seams.
  • The Velcro attachment straps are good and solid and allow for lots of adjustment. (The straps loop over your belt, or through a belt loop.)
  • Easy to put on and easy to get off, which is a joy after having to do the one-legged hop as you try to get your second foot into – or your first foot out of - regular rain pants at the side of the road.
  • Lots of sizes to fit pretty much any rider or passenger out there.
  • $19.99.  Hard to go wrong at that price.
On the negative side – or shall we just say possible opportunities for improvement.
  • There is no heat shield on the inside of the leg, raising a concern about burning a hole in them through accidental contact with hot pipes. (I don’t intend to test this.)
  • While there is a strap to tighten them at the bottom cuff, it remains to be seen how well they stay down at speed. An adjustable stirrup loop might be more secure, but we’ll see how this works first.
In the meantime there are also quite a few non-motorcycling uses for these, so check them out at Biker rain chaps

Friday 14 August 2009

Is this really wrong?

When you first look at this picture your immediate reaction is “Oh my gawd!”. Then you shake your head and chuckle, probably a bit condescendingly. Right?
But if you go beyond the image, this picture offers a great metaphor for the clash of values that results in the all too frequent failure of our paternalistic attempts to impose “western values” on developing, or third world, countries.
For this family, the motorcycle is at its most basic – a means of transportation.  It’s a way to get to work, to market, or a nearby family gathering. Gasoline is expensive, so you carry as much as you can every trip. It’s cheap, somewhat reliable, will run on almost any kind of gas, and can be repaired (frequently) with three wrenches, a hammer and a screwdriver. It’s not expected to carry one to Sturgis in comfort, or Daytona Beach, or even a day trip into the mountains. It is what it is, and even at that it’s a luxury in their circumstances and environment.
Now transplant this motorcycling family into LA or Toronto. All of a sudden their mode of travel is inadequate, dangerous, and illegal, starting with having more than 1 passenger, no helmets, and passengers riding in front of the driver. In some jurisdictions they’d also be cited for carrying passengers under the age of 8 (or 14 under proposed legislation in Ontario) and lack of protective eyewear. I would guarantee that the motorcycle will not meet any North American emission standards, and would probably fail a basic safety check. The tires are quite possibly bald.
And the lawyers would be lined up a mile deep waiting for something to go wrong.
To western eyes it’s dangerous and unwise, but does that mean we should be trying to impose our standards, from our privileged vantage point, and say this is wrong? I don’t think so.

Sunday 9 August 2009

Garden art

The sacroiliac is something that you don’t even know you have until you bugger it up, which I did a few weeks ago while cutting wood for the winter. I thought it had healed, but after the last couple of rides, it’s delivered a not-so-gentle reminder that it’s not yet ready for prime time. Which is another way of saying I’m moving a bit slowly today, and only with the aid of a few extra-strength Tylenols.
As it turned out, not being able to ride or golf (my other summer habit) gave me an opportunity to get into the shop and finish a project that’s been on the go for a couple of weeks.
I’d seen a stylized heron in a garden a while back and thought it would be a nice addition to our own little green patch. But as I’m inclined to do, I looked at it and decided I could make my own version. I already had the metal I needed (leftovers from the local scrap yard from another project), so the cost was nil except my time – which I now had a lot of.
So after a few hours in the garage cutting, welding, and grinding, here it is awaiting placement by the head gardener as soon as she comes home from work.

Saturday 8 August 2009

Carp Garlic Festival

Carp Farmers marketToday the sun, the moon and all the important stars aligned just so. The weather was perfect for riding, Miz Liz wasn’t working, and the Garlic Festival was on at the Carp Farmer’s Market. Ride time!
It’s not a very long ride – about an hour each way – but it’s through some of the nicest countryside around Ottawa, especially if you stay off the 4-lane highway. So we took the back roads, one of which, unpaved, leads to this beautiful tree tunnel that has yet to be discovered by developers or city road planners. About a 1/4 mile long, with very little traffic, it’s a great place to stop for a few minutes, cool down out of the sun on a hot day, and take a couple of pics.Tree tunnelCarp FairThen it was back on the road and in to the Carp Agricultural Market.  While there has been an agricultural fair at the Carp Fairgrounds since 1863, the Farmer’s Market is new (established 1990). It has been a huge success, attracting thousands of visitors every summer weekend with its fresh local produce, plants, crafts, etc.  But this weekend the specialty of the house was garlic, and soon we were well stocked up with garlic powder, garlic dipping oil, garlic jelly (with red chilli peppers – yummmm), garlic laden elk sausage, a garlic braid, and a litre of maple syrup (because one cannot live on garlic alone).
Cheshire CatSoon it was lunch time, and notwithstanding the serious grazing we did at the vendor’s stalls, we were pretty hungry (and thirsty – the market is “dry”) so the next stop was The Cheshire Cat for a pub lunch. As it’s only 5 miles or so down the road, it was a popular spot with Festival goers today and quite busy. Because of that, the service was slow, but that’s just time to relax and have another pint, right? And as an added plus, there was nary a vampire in sight as we enjoyed our leisurely lunch.
Carp cornBack on the road, we retraced our route back home through the acres and acres of corn fields (How did we end up in Iowa?) and stopped again at the tree tunnel. This time we weren’t alone. A local resident out jogging with her dog stopped to chat about bikes (“My husband bought me a Sportster for Christmas."), running (“I do it to exercise the dog.”), and living in the country (“I don’t want to ever live on anything but a gravel road.”)  Pretty hard to argue with any of that. Except the 883 for Christmas might be a bit of a stretch. I mean, how big a chimney would you need for Santa to drop one of those in your living room Christmas Eve?
A great day and a great ride, but now I have to go. There’s some garlic elk sausage waiting for me in the kitchen.


All The Gear All The Time. I know it’s the safety wallah’s mantra, but realistically, how many of us pay attention and follow that rule consistently – or ever?
I sure don’t. There hasn’t been much chance this year with temperatures hovering at slightly above hypothermia levels all summer, but in the past I have been known to ride in jeans and a tee-shirt on a hot day (but always with gloves, for some reason). Of course helmets are the law here, and I wear one anyway because I just feel way too vulnerable without my trusty brain bucket.
And it’s not like I don’t know better. I have been down that road before, and road rash is not a pleasant experience - picking the pebbles out of a skinned part of the anatomy is no fun. But I have never experienced anything like this lady – and hope I never will.
Brittany Morrow was literally blown off the back of her boyfriend’s sports bike at some unspecified but obviously very high speed. Wearing only a sweatshirt and jeans for protection, she skidded some 522 feet down the highway. This is her story, a chilling reminder of the abrasive power of asphalt on unprotected skin.
h/t to Cyril Huze Blog for the link.

Wednesday 29 July 2009


To everyone heading off to the 69th Annual Sturgis Rally have fun and ride safe. I wish I was going to be there with you!

Thursday 23 July 2009