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.