Monday 30 May 2011

The Long Way Home

I won’t complain about the weather – that’s been done to death – but I will say that when water cooler conversations about the weather displace the Stanley Cup playoffs – Go, Canucks, Go, eh? – in Canada, it’s been pretty bad. So let’s just say I haven’t logged very many miles kilometres this year. In fact it’s been almost as bad as 2008. (link)

But tonight turned out to be a perfect night for a ride, with temperatures hovering around 24C (75F), a clear sky, and no wind. The missus was working, and the place where she works has a Starbuck’s, so after dinner I decided to go grab a coffee. Of course it’s about 70 kilometres from here, but who cares, I’m on two wheels! Soon enough I had my beverage of choice in hand and was perusing the Chapter’s bookshelves looking for anything interesting that wasn’t already on my own bookshelf back home. This time I came away empty-handed, but with a few more items to add to my growing list of must-reads. (I mean, how could one not want to read Here’s Looking at Euclid, or Periodic Tales: The Curious Lives of the Elements?)

Now how often does it happen, while driving your car or truck, that you decide to go the long way home for a change? Not often I’d guess. I know it’s rare for me to not take the fastest, most direct route. But when you’re on two wheels that dynamic changes and it becomes all about the trip and not the destination. So I came the long way home, logging another 100 kilometres or so looping around through Stittsville, Carleton Place, Almonte, Pakenham (with the requisite stop at Scoops for a pralines and cream cone), Waba and finally White Lake  before the last few kilometres back to the garage.

By the time I got home I’d had about 3 hours of country riding, a nose full of spring smells including a dead skunk and freshly fertilised fields, an extended period of riding straight into a gorgeous sunset, and a bike, jacket, and riding glasses smeared with the corpses of thousands of mosquitoes. What a great ride!

Monday 16 May 2011

Today I said my last goodbyes to an old friend

David was the first person I met when I came to Ottawa in 1972. I was wheeling my Honda CB350 into the apartment garage on moving day only to find my new parking garage neighbour working on his Ducati 250 single. With the bikes being the catalyst we struck up a conversation that signalled the beginning of friendship that lasted nearly 40 years.

Through births, deaths, good times and bad times, we remained friends, not always seeing each other that often but never really being far apart either. And when we did drift it always seemed that common two-wheel interest would soon draw us back together whether it was participating in a local trials event, meeting up at a mutual friend’s place, or just dropping in while out for a ride.

It was David who sold me my first Norton, which began a love affair which has lasted to this day and which has involved at least 5 or 6 of the marque occupying my garage at various times. And it was through him that I learned to ride trials, taking my Honda TL125 places where no motorcycle should be able to go, and earning many, many bruises and scrapes in the process. We taught motorcycle safety courses together and logged thousands of miles on back roads, seeking out new riding loops with the requisite number of curves (i.e. lots).  David and his wife Judy stood up for us when we got married, and he would later share the blame when the missus came home to find us rebuilding an engine on the kitchen table using the dishwasher to clean parts and the oven and freezer to heat and cool parts that needed to be press-fit together.  He was always there to provide mechanical advice or information on the history of pretty much any vintage motorcycle in the Ottawa area as he knew most of them and/or their owners.

Then, a few years ago, David contacted the big C. The treatments were hard and the recovery slow but eventually he was back into the Ottawa motorcycling scene, riding as much and as often as he could and being actively involved with the BMW Owners Club, the Canadian Vintage Motorcycle Group, and others. But, sadly, the disease returned with a vengeance and this time he would not prevail.

So today I prayed that he is now in a place where the roads are paved, the curves are many, and his faithful BMW will never run out of gas.

Goodbye my friend.

Thursday 5 May 2011

The future just got a little closer

mid_uno3_1This is the story of a boy, an idea, and a uni/motorcycle.
The following clip from the BPG website describes the genesis of this machine.
Four years ago, a then 17-year-old Benjamin Gulak traveled to China with his father on a business trip. When he saw the incredible pollution in Beijing, Shanghai and Hong Kong, much of it produced by smoky two-stroke scooters and motorcycles, he knew that electrics would make ideal substitutes—if they were cool. He set out to create a practical, non-polluting vehicle with style.
Working with an inherited set of tools from his grandfather, he built an angle-iron frame, attached wheelchair motors, batteries and gyroscopes and arrived at the moment of truth – the test ride.
Since then, the now named Uno has accelerated at an incredible rate. After winning a Grand Award at the 2007 Intel International Science and Engineering Fair, the Uno was awarded one of the Top 10 Inventions of the Year by Popular Science magazine. Gulak’s Uno started to appear in newspapers and magazines around the world – leading to the start of BPG Motors.
With investor funding raised from an appearance on Canada’s CBC’s Dragon’s Den Gulak has been able to take his idea from rough prototype to near production and pre-orders are  now being accepted.
Check out the video:
As my crystal ball has been malfunctioning of late I have no idea whether this is the start of something big or not. But regardless, it’s damned impressive for a high school science project, and beats the hell out of my erupting volcanoes.

Monday 2 May 2011

ABCD – Epic fail!

I was all set to go out and find a centre (properly spelled) line and take a picture. On May 1 as the rules stipulated. Except somewhere along the way I slipped a cog, thinking today was May 1 and yesterday April 31. “30 days has September, April… aw crap!”
So instead of capturing a suitable image for posterity I enjoyed a rare nice day on the golf course (and I did ride there – quite exhilarating at 35F in the early morning) followed by some very necessary yard work after all the wind damage of last week. It was only when I was reminded to go and vote today that the penny dropped and those tired old brain cells woke up to the fact that if this was May 2, then yesterday must have been… right.
To all of you who are not so Gregorianly challenged and who posted your pictures, kudos. I am slowly working my way through the posts and enjoying all the creativity, albeit with a fair degree of discomfiture. And as for posting my own (non-compliant) centre line photo, I was only able to find one with a centre line, and here it is.
ABCDTaken many years ago, it’s a photo of yours truly reattaching the exhaust system to his trusty(?) Norton Commando at the side of the road while a group of riding buddies look on in admiration disgust pity. One person working and seven looking on, offering helpful and not so helpful advice. Did I mention they were mostly government employees? Note the centre line.

Two Wheels Through Terror – book review

by Glen Heggstad.
Two Wheels Through Terror“The time I spent in the vengeful hands of a terrorist organization was like holding my finger in a light socket for five weeks. That brain-frazzling experience taught me as much about myself as well as the world around me. There is a lesson in everything – often the greater the pain, the greater the lesson.”
Three weeks after 9/11 ex-biker, martial arts expert, judo instructor and adventure tourist Glen Heggstad embarked on a planned 25,000 mile, 8-month motorcycle journey from his home in Southern California to the tip of South America.
A few weeks into the trip, having crossed Mexico and Central America without incident, Heggstad’s decision to take a run up to MedellĂ­n from Bogotá, Columbia will change his life forever. Four hours into the jungle ride his spidey sense kicks in telling him something is not right. However he keeps going, right into the hands of the ELN, one of Columbia’s most brutal terrorist groups. Five weeks of beatings, mistreatment and malnourishment follow before he is eventually released. Only to continue his trip to Tierra del Fuego and Ushuaia.
This is a story of a man who, even as he fights the demons arising from his captivity, continues to reach out to the common person, finding the best in men and women struggling to survive in extreme poverty and despair. Cities offer some security and opportunities to recharge mentally and do needed repairs to his motorcycle, but Heggstad is happiest on the road braving extreme weather conditions, questionable roads and, wherever possible, engaging with the locals.
Based on previous books I’d read I had low expectations for a motorcycling book written by an “outlaw motorcyclist” and “international martial arts champion” but fortunately that turned out to not only be unfair, but incorrect. Two Wheels Through Terror is a well written and engaging narrative. Heggstad brings the reader along on his journey, a pillion passenger feeling the same freezing rain, the pot-holed roads, the terror of the known, the fear of the unknown, and the joys of riding hard on empty highways.
A recommended read for inclusion in any motorcycle library.