Tuesday 27 November 2012

It’s that time of year again

Well it’s that time again where one’s thoughts change from tomorrow’s ride destination to next year’s ride changes. With 5 months or so of miserable (and impossible) riding conditions ahead of us we in “the north” (pretty much anything above the Mason-Dixon line) have to satisfy our motorcycling passions and amuse ourselves by some combination of heading south for the winter, day-dreaming, or modifying our bikes so they will be even more unique and amazing come the springtime.
And so last night found me with the 2012 versions of the Harley-Davidson and J&P Cycles catalogues and my latest bank statement studying all the upgrades and farkles that I could get with the modest amount of “mad money” I have available. Of course the danger with this sort of activity is that once you get started it pretty quickly spins out of control and it took but a few minutes before the list of “must have” appearance items and an equally long list of “must have” performance items had driven me deep into the red.
Now the truth is my bike is probably 99% where I want it to be but I would feel that I’d wasted a perfectly good winter if I didn’t take the opportunity to at least upgrade something! So further analysis is going to be required. Would I rather upgrade the air cleaner for better performance or swap out the tank console for better looks? Should I put on a True-Track system for better handling and cornering or spend the money on enhanced lighting for night time driving? So far I have no answers, only questions.
But with endless possibilities I can foresee many evenings of thumbing catalogues and on-line searching before I decide what to do which, in its own way, is as good a prescription for the winter riding blues as anything because, as William Inge said, “Nobody is bored when he is trying to make something that is beautiful, or to discover something that is true.”

038 web

Wednesday 21 November 2012

Dutchies –Just for Martha.

In my last post I mentioned stopping for a coffee and a dutchie. Well this triggered a comment from Martha of Living Among Tourists bemoaning the fact that she couldn’t find a picture of said treat. Well Martha, this is for you:
When the first Tim Horton’s opened in 1964 there were 2 items on the menu – apple fritters and dutchies. Both are still around and still popular with the sugar-fix set (of which I consider myself a lifetime member).
According to Wikipedia, the dutchie “is a square, yeast lifted doughnut containing raisins that is coated with a sugary glaze”. I’m not really sure it qualifies as a doughnut if it’s square and has no hole but regardless, that description is way too clinical; you need to taste one to get the full measure of 250 calories of mmmm-good.
So if you ever get to visit a Timmy’s (I understand there are a few in the US now, but they are on every Canadian streetcorner) be sure to try one of these delicious iconic treats with your double-double.

Monday 12 November 2012

A bonus day!

lets_rideThe sun was hanging low in the Southern sky and the naked tree branches, shed of their leaves for a few weeks now, were bowing before the strong easterly winds. The mostly cloudy sky held a promise of rain, but perhaps not for a couple of hours yet. Meanwhile, below patches of blue, the temperature had risen to a November 12th record of  20 degrees C or 68F.
I had lots to do around home, but since a day like this doesn’t come around that often I decided, as the H-D marketing folks would say, “Screw it, let’s ride”.
I didn’t have anywhere special to go (although I was under instructions to pick up a litre of milk) so I just followed my nose.
No matter what my destination the first 6 km is a given. We’re on a dead-end road and that’s how far it is to the first turn.  It was also along that stretch of road that some of the worst damage from the July 23 storm occurred. With the leafy veil lifted I could now see further into the woods at the carnage. Much like the ‘98 ice storm we’ll be seeing the remnants of this one for decades to come.
By the time I hit that first decision point I had decided to head towards Burnstown, some 20 km northwest. But just before I got to the village I came to a side road that I had never been down before. No time like the present, eh? While an interesting diversion the road unfortunately just looped back to White Lake, which I had passed 10 km back, so I got to ride the Burnstown road twice.
At Burnstown I hung a right, heading north-east towards the Ottawa River with the intent to follow the river back into Arnprior where I knew there was a Tim Horton’s coffee and a dutchie waiting. I could also pick up some milk there. (See, You’ve forgotten about the milk already, haven’t you?). The winds had really picked up by this time and I was getting hit with strong crosswinds. Fortunately there was little traffic because I was being moved around a lot by sudden gusts coming from my right, trying to force me into the oncoming lane.
Made my way into Arnprior (the ‘Prior), stopped at the bank, the grocery store, and Timmies for my coffee and dutchie. By now it was starting to cool down as the sun was near setting and the promised cold front started to move in. Filled the tank for the winter and from there it was a straight shot home.
All told, 100 km on the bike, and 2 hours of riding, on a freakishly warm November 12. Can’t beat that.
Burnstown loop

Friday 9 November 2012

A boy and his toys

Ever since I can remember I have had a fascination for all things mechanical. In that regard I was probably not unlike most small boys who are awed by anything that makes clanking or rumbling sounds and spews out great gobs of dirt and dust. But I also had an advantage. My father was the head mechanic for a lumber company and I would often get to “help” him in the garage if he was working in the evening or on a weekend. And when I was very, very lucky I would climb into the cab of one of these monsters (at least to a 10-year-old) and actually start it while Dad checked something or other “under the hood”. In hindsight I think that was likely a ruse, an excuse to give me a special thrill, which it invariably did. So I grew up with the smell and feel of engine oil and grease and it was with pride that I would come home with Dad, the sweet scent of degreasing hand cleaners preannouncing our arrival.

When I got older (all of 15) I began working summers for that lumber company and as gofer and jack-of-all-trades was often required to drive some of that equipment. And so, over the course of the next 4 or 5 summers I became somewhat proficient with tractors, skidders, bulldozers, trucks of all sizes, and other specialised machinery. It was a dream job for a teenager and served to cement my passion for heavy equipment.

Of course I, like many others, eventually grew up and pursued a career that didn’t give me the summers off to play silly-bugger with 10-ton trucks or tree skidders! For constructionmost of my working life the only thing I drove for work was a cheap, battered desk with a PC on top, but I would never miss a chance to be around machinery of some sort, even if it was just watching the latest round of road construction in front of the office or gazing out the window as the lot next door was transformed first into a 60-foot pit and then a 30-story office tower.

All of which is to explain why I periodically purchase Truck Trader, Heavy Equipment Trader or any one of the similar magazines available on the local bookseller’s magazine Case-590SM-3-Plusrack. Once on the table beside my chair these “wish books” get well thumbed as I dream and compare technical specs and prices while the spousal unit looks on bemused, somewhat worried about what may show up in the driveway one day.

But while there are times I could sure use some mechanical help on the property, the reality is I’ll never own a “2008 CASE 590SM PLUS III, 3011 hours, 4WD, 24” tooth bucket, 8’ front bucket, plumbed in front end” loader or a “09 KW T800, C15 CAT 475HP, 18spd trans” dump truck, but it sure is fun (and a lot cheaper) to dream - at least until that big lottery win comes through.

Wednesday 7 November 2012

Is technology just another black hole?

Some time ago I blogged about digital imaging and what it might mean for the sharing of information about our lives with future generations. You can check out the blog post here, but basically I was saying that with the advent of digital photography we now store our photographic life stories on hard drives or other electronic storage devices that will not get passed on to future generations in the way the ubiquitous shoebox full of old family photos is now.
I was reminded of this the other day when listening to a radio discussion about the growing popularity of e-readers and the projected demise of the physical book as we know it. When that happens (and it’s already well on the way to becoming reality) what will become of the family Bible, passed on from generation to generation and carefully annotated with important dates and life events? And what about the collections of significant, or even rare, books so carefully built up over a lifetime that provide an insight into the person who valued the ideas communicated by the authors? They will simply no longer exist.
When you add letters (replaced by email) and postcards (replaced by texting, messaging, or tweeting) to the list it becomes apparent that we will be leaving less and less to our children and grandchildren by way of artefacts that can be used to understand our time and how we lived as individuals, couples, and families.
It’s not the same at the societal level. Technology has long since outstripped Gutenberg when it comes to the collection and sharing of information. Entire libraries, art collections, music collections are now online, stored forever in some great repository in the sky for us and future generations to study and enjoy. Those collections are maintained by corporations and trusts with the financial and technical wherewithal to do so. But they don’t include the technological equivalent of the family photo shoebox or letters traded between your parents during the war. Those and their equivalents will be lost forever to future generations, having been seized by the vortex only to disappear into the electronic black hole.
Perhaps for future generations the most highly anticipated and sought after bequest will be a master password that will open up the vault containing our electronic lives. (Everything but Facebook one would hope.)  But until then I’m afraid that the pickings will be quite slim for the next couple of generations. Too bad really.