Sunday 25 August 2013

Things that make us old before our time.

When leaving the Muskokas last week to come home my brother noted that my front brake light wasn’t working. Since the rear brake light was still working fine I left it until I got home to check it out.
My suspicion was that it was the switch that had failed again. This would be the second one I’d replaced and working in and around all the wiring in the handlebar switch housing is a prime example of a pain in the ass, or PITA for short. I pulled it all apart and, sure enough, the switch housing had, for some reason, cracked.
So off to the H-D dealer for a new switch. This is a simple plastic momentary on-off switch, brake switchthe kind a hobbyist would buy from China for $0.50 or 10 for $3.00. Which is probably where H-D gets them, and probably twice what they pay for them. But put it in a plastic bag with a couple of tie-straps and print the H-D logo on it and it is now an $84.00 part. (Yes, that’s 84 dollars! The tribe of ancient alchemists who failed to turn lead into gold in the middle ages has survived and are now all H-D product managers.)
At any rate I get this rare and extremely valuable artifact home and with much cursing and a few beers get it installed in its tiny little awkward spot in the switch housing. A quick test and it works, so I put it all back together again. I start the bike and … no brake light. In fact no front brake light, no rear brake light, no signal lights, and no horn. Crap, now it’s worse!
They are all on the same circuit so I figure I’ve just blown a fuse. I check the manual and the fuse box labels and pull the appropriate fuse. It looks okay. To be sure switch_housingI replace it with a spare “just in case”. Still nothing. So now I think I screwed up the installation somehow, possibly broke a wire or something jamming everything back into the switch housing. So I pull it all apart again and double check my work. Nothing – everything looks fine.
Okay. Time to approach this logically before taking anything else apart. The obvious place for a break in the circuit is the fuse panel. That’s what it’s there for. So I started checking every fuse. And I found the 15th fuse I pulled (of 15 in the panel) had blown. This fuse was labeled “Spare” so I assumed someone had simply replaced a blown fuse and stuck the old one in the spare slot rather than toss it on the street. But just to be sure I put a brand new fuse in the “spare” slot and eureka! I now had brake lights, signal lights, and a horn. So once again everything gets bundled back up and tests out fine but I’ve wasted another riding day.
So to the person or persons unknown who either didn’t wire according to the wiring diagram, or who didn’t update the manuals to reflect a wiring change, there’s a special place reserved for you out behind my shed.

Saturday 24 August 2013

Note to self: check tires more often!

In preparation for a short 4-day trip over to the Muskokas I did a complete once-over to make sure everything was working as it should. That’s when I found this:
From the wear on the screw it had been in the tire for some time, but fortunately only in the outer tread and had not punctured the inner cording. But who knows how it might have shifted as we headed down the road at speed, fully loaded and two-up. 

Friday 23 August 2013

Overexposure: A tale from the road

With more than four decades and many thousands of two-wheel miles behind me I have accumulated quite a number of tales from the road, some of which, to paraphrase a fellow moto-blogger, might even be true. This is one such story.

We’d got an early start and by this particular hot July mid-afternoon we had already logged a few hundred miles. We were road weary and ready to stop for the day and pitch camp, preferably where there was at least a pool to cool down in.  So when I saw the sign for Sunny Glen Resort Park, advertised as offering a beach, showers, and a licensed restaurant, it seemed like a gift from above.
It seemed a rather long way down a rather rutted gravel road but soon enough we came to the gate and turned in to the office. It was then, after entering a somewhat ramshackle building, that I first learned the difference between a “naturalist park”, which is what I *thought* the road-side sign said, and a “naturist park”, which is what the sign over the office door said. Yep, the middle-aged lady behind the counter was absolutely starkers save for a bit of jewellery and a big smile.

“I… um… ah… we…”.

“First time?” she said, as my crimson face and inability to string two words together belied any attempt to be sophisticated in the face of such casual nudity.

“Uh, yes”, I gasped.

“Not a problem.” And she began to list all the rules and regulations that governed the behaviour of guests in what is really a natural, albeit societally unnatural, state. Undaunted by the lack of any intelligible response she continued. “The rate is $25 a day and we have a really nice tent site available right by the beach.”

By this time I had managed to recover a small degree of composure and I turned to my travelling companion who seemed much more nonchalant than I.

“Well,” she said, “it’ll be an experience. Why not?”

Why not indeed, I thought, as I gazed through the window at the south end of a comely lass heading north. So we paid, registered, and rode over to where our designated tent site was located.

Now if you’ve ever felt overdressed wearing full ATGATT on main street in Sturgis during bike week I can say with certainty that’s nothing compared to full ATGATT among people whose dress of the day consists of flip-flops and possibly a tattoo. But, distractions aside, we did find our camp site and it was perfect, just as advertised – steps from the beach and away from the noise of the activity center and the screaming kids in the pool. We pitched our tent, disrobed (Rule no. 1) and went for a swim.

We were fully comfortable in no time and for the rest of the afternoon and evening we swam, relaxed on the beach, ate a fine meal, and socialised with some good folks over drinks at the bar. In short, we had such a great time we stayed another day, which was when I found the par 3 golf “course” consisting of 3 very short holes surrounding a shallow pond. Clubs and balls were available to borrow and apart from the obvious logistical issues of how to carry tees, extra balls, etc. with no pockets (a small bag did the trick) it was a lot of fun. And putting a ball in the pond was no big deal – you simply walked in and picked it up. (A suggestion to management that they replace the pond with a bed of thistles to make the course more challenging was not appreciated.)

But mostly we just spent our time on the beach, socializing and enjoying another very fine summer day.

The next morning when we left it was with some reluctance but we’d had a great experience, made some new friends, and had a good story to tell. And I had one other souvenir – a very sunburned ass between me and my saddle.

Tuesday 13 August 2013

On no wheels.

We consider ourselves extremely fortunate to live on a few acres on a pristine lake in a gorgeous part of Canada.  And while country living has its challenges (wind storms and cutting winter wood are two that come to mind) there is also a quiet beauty and sense of peace that comes from the solitude and proximity to nature.
One of our summertime pleasures is to get out on the lake in our kayaks in the evenings when the lake is still and the daytime heat is waning. I decided to mount the GoPro on the front of my boat so I could share a bit of that experience with you.
So here is a *very* brief tour of our lake – no wheels involved.

Saturday 10 August 2013

For want of a little charge.

cell-phone-battery-dead2Phone manufacturers have come up with these marvelous new ‘smart’ devices that do everything from checking your email while on the road (like anything is EVER that important), to allow you to listen to tunes or the radio, or sometimes even actually phone someone and talk person to person. But the one thing they haven’t been able to do is create a battery that will last a full day of texting, chatting, emailing, picture taking, and GPS’ing. And a cell phone with a dead battery is just excess baggage.
dead-batteryDitto for cameras. Whether it’s your new GoPro or your older point-and-shoot, it’s no good without power and, if you’re like me, that’s the state my cameras are usually in when I want to take that once-in-a-lifetime shot – dead battery, AGAIN!
So it was with some interest that I listened to Bobscoot (Wet Coast Scootin) as he showed me how he stays powered up and connected even after several weeks on the road. Then, on my way home from meeting him in Perth (post here), I stopped at the Canadian Tire in Smith’s Falls and picked up the few bits I’d need to give myself similar self-sufficiency, even when only out on a day trip.
The key to the whole thing is that I use a battery tender and have the plug permanently connected to my battery and easily accessible. It’s a standard two-pronged plug which gives me 12 volts – more than enough to keep everything I own fully charged.
The other key factor is that virtually all portable devices now from tablets to cameras have a USB connector for data transfer and charging.
So here are the parts I started with:
2 prong pin connector
Two prong pin connector
cigarette lighter socket
Female cigarette lighter outlet
The first thing I did was wire the cigarette lighter socket and the 2-prong plug together. I cut and re-soldered the wires making sure thatcigarette lighter socket 2 the ground terminal from the battery was connected to the inside walls of the socket. The ground should be the exposed pin on the battery tender connector if it was installed correctly. If not, fix that first. You can also buy these connectors ready made (see photo) but I was in a hurry, besides I wanted a specific length of cable to reach into my saddlebag from the battery tender pins.
Slide in your USB plug and you now have a 12 volt USB power source. Note that some of the cigarette lighter sockets can be quite deep and sometimes (as in my case) the USB plug wouldn’t actually reach the pin at the bottom and so couldn’t make the connection. A few minutes with a hacksaw to trim 1/8” off the top of the socket fixed that problem.
USB plug for cigarette lighter
So far so good. You can now try your various connector cables with your phone, tablet, or camera to test the system. In most cases it will work fine, but in some, not so much.
Apparently there are some devices out there, notably Android based, that are just a bit too smart. These devices send a signal of some sort to the power source to see if it is suitable or not, and if not they simply won’t charge with a standard data cable. It turns out I have 2 of those devices. There are charging-only cables available but they can be hard to find and it’s quite easy to modify one of the countless cables you probably already have lying about.
extra USB-micro connecting cable
Every USB connecting cable has 4 wires: red and black for power and white and green for data. All you need to do is short out the data cables by connecting them together at the device end of the cable (not the USB end). To do this carefully cut open the plastic coating to expose the wires inside. Cut the white and green wires. Strip 1/8” or so off the device end wires and twist the wires together. (Solder is better if you have a soldering iron, but twisting will work.) Then wrap the join with plastic electrician’s tape, wrap the cut ends from the USB side to prevent shorting, and wrap the whole thing with electrical tape. You now have a charging-only cable that will work with everything.
So for about $15 in bits and pieces and a few minutes work I now no longer have to worry about a dead battery in my cell phone or camera. If it’s getting low I simply plug it in, toss the whole thing into my saddlebag and let it charge while I ride. Thanks Bob!

Monday 5 August 2013

Mini-moto-blogger Lollapalooza East … aka ‘lunch’

It was a cool and blustery morning when I left to meet up with Bob (Bobskoot: Wet Coast Skootin) and Karen (Motorcycle Touring – Riding on my V Star) in Perth. At 14 degrees with dark grey clouds scudding across the sky there was a distinct autumn-y feel to the day. The weather guessers weren’t calling for rain but with their recent batting average being .019 I wasn’t going to take any chances and packed my rain gear just in case. And I dressed in layers in anticipation (hope) that the day would warm up eventually and I’d be able to strip one or two off.

The ride over through Almonte (the home of James Naismith, the inventor of basketball) and Carleton Place (nothing ever happened here) was uneventful, although I did see a couple of sandhill cranes in a field and so had to stop to take a picture or two.

It took a little more than an hour to reach our proposed meeting point in Perth and I was still a bit early so I drove around town for a while until I saw Karen had arrived. And Bob? Well Bob was lost in Perth. I had seen someone on a luggage-laden bike on a side street a few blocks away and, assuming it was Bob, went out in search of him. Success. With Bob in tow I headed back to the meeting place and we made our introductions, which almost seemed redundant since we’d been following and commenting on each others’ blogs for months. However, formalities must be observed.

And then it was down to business, which meant lunch. As a major tourist destination there is no shortage of good eating places in Perth. We were parked right beside the Tay River across from a nice Mexican food place with a waterfront patio so the choice was an easy one.

After a good meal (during which Bob took the requisite food porn photos) we walked about Perth for a bit taking shelter from scattered rain showers under convenient store awnings. Then, when the last of the rain had passed (we thought), we headed out towards Westport.

We weren’t even out of town before the rain hit again. My rain gear was still packed away but I could see blue skies ahead so I pressed on. Soon enough I was soaking wet (Bob and Karen, both smarter than me and suitably attired, stayed dry) but once the rain stopped and the sun came out I dried pretty quickly.

In Westport we stopped for a coffee. We chatted some more and Bob demonstrated the very impressive collection of wires, cables, adapters, various electronic devices and miscellaneous gadgetry needed to keep a dedicated moto-blogger plugged in and fully charged while on the road – all of which was useful information for my upcoming September trip.

Then all too soon it was time to move on. Bob and Karen saddled up and rode south to Kingston while I headed back north. I had 2 more rinse/dry cycles by the time I got to Carleton Place but then the rains finally stopped, the skies cleared, and except for riding into a very strong north-westerly wind the rest of the trip was quite a nice ride.

All in all a great day, a good 230-km ride, and a couple more electronic friends met in the flesh.

Perth loop Aug 4 2013