Friday 25 January 2013

In search of the perfect camera mount

First one must ask, does such a thing even exist? I have been looking for a good camera mount for a couple of years now (for past posts on this topic just search this blog for “mount”). My needs were, I thought, simple. All I wanted was something that was both solid and yet flexible enough to allow clamping on various spots on my bike. I tried the GoPro mounts (poor vibration characteristics), RAM mounts (better) and most recently built a fixed bracket that is attached to the lower triple tree (best). But none of them had the mounting flexibility I was looking for so I contacted someone with lots of experience making motorcycling videos – Gary France of Flies in Your Teeth fame. Having enjoyed watching countless videos he had posted from his US trip and others I was sure he had the answer. And he did: rough-guide-to-camera-mounts-2.html
So I decided to try the Cardellini setup he recommended. I found a mini-ball head on eBay (not a Manfrotto but good enough, I hope) that was tapped for the 3/8”-16 tpi thread on a Mini Cardellini clamp. And I ordered the clamp from Cinema Gadgets in California. The ball head arrived a week or so ago and the Mini Cardellini clamp arrived today. (The ball head was coming from China so it was here in a week whereas USPS and Canada Post managed to store the clamp for an extra week before delivering. Go figure.)

I will still use my fabricated bracket mount (the design of which I am changing to incorporate a rubber grommet that should further reduce vibration) for simple forward-facing videography but this new setup will give me the ability to mount my camera in all sorts of unusual places for, hopefully, more interesting videos.
And of course, as with all winter motorcycling acquisitions a waiting period is involved before the items can be put to use. In my case I expect it will be another 10 weeks before the ice and snow are off the roads and riding is once again possible here in the frozen north.

Wednesday 23 January 2013

Bad roads?

Gary France, who many of you know from his blog Flies in Your Teeth, has posted a picture of his favourite “worst road” along with a challenge. Well compared to my favourite worst road his looks like a dual carriageway with a central reservation (for Gary’s benefit).
The California Road runs from the southwest corner of White Lake to what was a small subsistence farming community called California, Ontario (not to be confused with Ontario, California). As optimistic as the original settlers must have been to name their newfound paradise California, I imagine that enthusiasm was quickly beaten out of them by harsh winters, bad soil, and a rocky, hilly geography leading to little more than a lot of blood, sweat and hungry times. And that’s not to mention the mosquitos and black flies that have been known to drive people insane in these woods. Nothing is left of the original settlement except for one or two old log cabins now used as hunt camps and the plots of land once wrested from the Canadian Shield through back-breaking labour have long since reverted to natural forest. Even today very little of this general area known as Lanark Highlands is farmed.
But the road stayed, eventually being extended at both ends to create a more direct route, a shortcut if you will, between the White Lake area and the local seat of government in Lanark.  And it is maintained by the township, sort of.
The seven or eight kilometres comprising the original California Road will take 25 or 30 minutes to drive, and that’s if the road hasn’t been washed out, closed by fallen trees, or covered in 2 feet or more of fresh snow.
So without further prattling on my part here are a few snapshots of the California Road, first in the autumn and then in spring time.

DSC_4840 web 2
California Road
California Road 2

Thursday 10 January 2013

The Highway 1 (Trans-Canada) Campground

As some of you who have followed my blog for a while know I used to do a lot of long distance riding back in the day. And as anyone who has done so can attest a road trip never fails to generate a lot of stories – some good, some bad, and some even real. One of my earliest posts after I started this blog described a small part of one such trip – a detour to Manyberries Alberta that didn’t turn out quite like we’d hoped when we got up that morning. I ended that post with a promise to tell the rest of the story about our experiences that day.
Well it’s taken 4 years, but here it is.
web CB 550 loadedWe left the Honda dealership in Medicine Hat still covered in now-dried mud and still with the left handlebar end pointing to the sky. (Check out the original post to find out why.) But now I at least had a new set of bars lashed to the top of our luggage, waiting for us to find a campground for the night and do some much-needed repairs.
Given that we both looked like Pig-Pen of Peanuts fame, leaving clumps of dirt everywhere we went we were hoping to find a pigpendecent campground with laundry facilities. That was the plan. Unfortunately it also seemed to be the plan of a lot of people on that road that day. We passed campground after campground, all with the “No Vacancy” sign lit up. It was getting dark quickly so when we finally spotted a provincial campground located right beside the highway we pulled in. It was primitive – some tent sites and a toilet seemed to be the extent of the facilities - but at that point we didn’t care any more. There wasn’t even an attendant; later on a provincial employee would come by and collect the fee.
As we pitched the tent by flashlight I noticed a group of about a dozen riders gathered at a site just a few yards away, so once we were organized I walked over to say hi. They had some beer (the great ice breaker) and we got talking and sharing stories.  Since they were all riding Harleys I took some ribbing about riding jap crap, but got some respect back when describing the accident in infinite detail and what a death-defying feat it was to ride the crippled beast through hell and high water just to get to the campground. I felt a bit like Arlo must have, sitting on the Group W bench. But it was all good.
Before I knew it an hour or so had passed and the Missus was at my shoulder. “Don’t you think you should fix the bike while you’re still sober?”
Subtlety was is not her strong suit, besides she was right. Changing the CB 550 bars was a pain in the ass. The wiring was internal and it all fed into the headlight nacelle where it entangled with several yards of wiring harness in a very precise yet totally arcane way else nothing worked. And getting that wiring back into the headlight without accidentally breaking a connection or two was a feat best left to those who are proficient at putting 10 pounds of shit into a 5 pound bag.  And being in the bag oneself would not help.
That’s when the flashlight batteries died.
I asked my new-found friends if anyone had a flashlight I could borrow or some batteries. Of course no one did but one fellow offered to bring his bike over so I could work by the light of his headlight. When he started his Harley I think he woke everyone up in a 5 county radius but that was too bad for them; I had light and that’s all that mattered. I also now had an audience as I worked. But the job, for once, went smoothly and a half-hour later I had it all buttoned up, the old bars were in the trash bin, and I was thanking my neighbours for the light and their enthusiastic ‘encouragement’ as I  worked.
By now it was nearly midnight. We’d had a long day and so we wished them all a good night and crawled into our tent.
At 12:01 the first freight train came by, so close the pulsating headlamp danced images on the walls of the tent while the horn’s blast for a nearby level crossing dopplered as it went by. An hour later, another one. And then another one. Every hour. On the hour. All night. Competing with the endless stream of semis roaring by on the highway as trains and trucks raced to their final destinations.
No wonder the campground wasn’t full. The main Canadian Pacific rail line was about the same distance from us to the south as the highway was to the north. It would seem the Province of Alberta had this scrap of useless land and designated it a campground for the unwary – or those who only wanted to party all night anyway so who cared?
Peace seemed to descend finally just as dawn was breaking, or perhaps it was utter medicine hat alberta highway sign trans canadaexhaustion, but whatever, we were finally getting some much needed rest when the earth shook and the skies were rent by the sound of a dozen straight-piped Harley-Davidsons starting up. Bleary-eyed, I looked out the tent flap just in time to see our neighbours and mechanics’ helpers turn onto Highway 1 heading West back towards Medicine Hat.
And that’s when I saw the patches prominently displayed on the backs of their jackets. Fortunately I hadn’t noticed the night before else I probably would have kept a respectful distance and missed out on another good story from the road.

Tuesday 8 January 2013

The Devil Can Ride – A Book Review

The Devil Can RideChristmas morning I found this gem of a read under the tree. Yay!
Subtitled The World’s Best Motorcycle Writing, The Devil Can Ride is a fine collection of short stories, magazine articles, and book excerpts from some of the best writers of motorcycle prose.
As you’d expect Pirsig’s Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance is represented, as is a piece by Hunter S. Thompson entitled Song of the Sausage Creature. But there are lots of other fine writers whose material is also in this book. Adele Kubin’s Grease Under the Angel’s Wings was a particularly satisfying  read, albeit much too short, as was You’re Only Crazy Once, an excerpt from Tom Cotter’s The Vincent in the Barn. And I’m still only half way through the book.
In all there are some 28 stories told, each one unique, each one offering a different perspective on this passion we all share. Is it truly “The World’s Best Motorcycle Writing”? Well that’s arguable given the breadth of the genre, but it is certainly a collection of some great motorcycle writing.
Highly recommended.

Saturday 5 January 2013

eBay find of the month

When I’m a bit at loose ends or just have some time to kill I’ll often head over to eBay just to see what’s selling. Arguably I spend way too much time (and  money) there (see eBay addiction) but for pure entertainment value it can be hard to beat.

$T2eC16ZHJGwE9n)yUZE1BQ4MJIPIZw~~60_57For example I just found this must-have Harley accessory. Compared to the usual offerings of left-side-saddlebag-with-no-lid-and-some-scratches it’s a steal at a mere $450. There can be little doubt it’s one-of-a-kind.
Apparently it only comes in one side (right) and one size (9-10). And may not be suitable for – how can I be delicate here – anyone of colour. But assuming you’re okay with a white foot of that shoe size this may be just the item you need if you found your peg leg was becoming a bother.
Or it could just be a helluva conversation piece sitting in the corner of your living room. Think of the tales you could tell. “Well we wuz in this bar, see? And so I ripped the leg right off’n the dude and whacked him a good ’un upside the head. That’s how come it got scratched. See the scratches right here? And then…”.

But somehow I expect no manufactured story would be quite as good as the one that this leg could tell, right up to the time it got posted for sale on eBay.