Sunday, December 28, 2008

One second rule...

You hear about the two second rule all the time, but are we aware of the one second rule? We all have to wait just a little bit longer for spring, evidently 2008 is a year of the "Leap Second".

I chuckled when a forum member called it global slowing.

News article: 2009 to Arrive Not a Second Too Soon

Happy New Year !!!


Sunday, December 21, 2008

Seasons Greetings...

For today is Winter Solstice, the shortest day of the year.

A few years ago, I mentioned to a friend that I wanted to secede from of a certain holiday that occurs at this time of year, the commercialism and reciprocity. She invited us to participate in one of her traditions of celebrating Winter Solstice, gathering with friends to tell stories and anoint a mighty oak. Needless to say, this piqued my interest and we now have joined her in this tradition for the last three years. We quip painting ourselves blue and dancing naked in the forest but have yet to find one of us hale and hearty. Instead we eat, drink and merrily begin our quest for a mighty oak to anoint with what red wine we have remaining. Fun is had by all, in the rain or snow and every year since, the days get longer and the sun more prominent.

We stopped celebrating Christmas all together, no tree, no gifts, no shopping and went back to the basics, to truly contemplate what was important.
Friends and family still wish us a Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays, sending gifts and cards in the mail and all arrive without caveat. Their traditions are respected and they all acknowledge ours, and in hopes that we may adopt traditional customs again, unique rituals merit distinction.

Happy Solstice, everyone.


Saturday, December 20, 2008

Winter driving...

We have had some snow in the area this past week, and by some snow I mean enough to close schools and businesses. I think the most accumulation we've had is 2 inches. It is not unusual to get a couple of inches for a week once a year but it is enough to shut this town down. It has taken me many years to accept the fact that the majority of the local population does not know how to drive in the snow and ice and that studded tires and mandatory tire chain requirements are normal.
I learned to drive in the snow, my birth date is in January so I took my driving test in the snow and I am familiar with driving through the deepest snow in some of the highest mountain passes of British Columbia and Alberta. I've lived in Rossland and Nelson, B.C. so I know snow and I consider myself an experienced driver in snow and ice.
Unfortunately, the other day a driver in the left lane of Highway 34 doing 20 mph believes it is his civic duty, based on his personal winter driving experience, to police everyone behind him. He drove for miles pacing the car in the right lane beside him. We finally got by him but had to go around him on the right as he refused to move over. He is unsure of his driving ability in the snow so he is cautious and drives 20 mph. I understand and support him completely except that he should be in the right lane as he is impeding traffic and creating a greater hazard. Everyone behind him was driving bumper to bumper, door to door, like Irondad describes, a school of fish.
What bothers me is that I am being policed by those who don't know me. This isn't new to anyone who rides motorcycles, we are seen as squids, bikers, hooligans and just plain irresponsible. The only reason to ride a motorcycle is to go fast, and the public perception is exactly that. We ride slightly faster than the flow of traffic, so of course we are labelled as speeders, regardless that it is safer for us.
What people don't understand is that motorcyclists make better drivers, especially in snow and ice. We are attentive and just like we do on our bikes everyday, we practice the physics of momentum, centrifugal force, friction and traction. We don't stiff arm, white knuckle, death grip the steering wheel and drive with one foot on the brake. We ease off the throttle and ease on the brake in one fluid motion, keeping our heads up, our eyes forward, anticipating the SUV, five cars ahead of us, sliding 360º into the guardrail. We don't panic, but assess the situation, survey the traffic behind us in our mirrors and choose our escape plan, execute and get away from the pile up about to ensue. Of course being motorcyclists, we try to never put ourselves in that situation to begin with, we ride in the open, and are constantly scanning our mirrors.

Unless some inexperienced driver blocks the left lane to teach us all how to the school of fish.


Monday, December 8, 2008

More product reviews and shameless plugs...

I finally made it to my favorite motorcycle accessory shop recently, Discount Motorcycle Parts in Eugene.

Steve and Annette have run the shop for over 15 years and are helpful, knowledgeable and always friendly. We wander in there to look around, try stuff on and Annette will check up on us to see if we have any questions and then leaves us alone, but is always available when needed. I think that is why I like the shop so much, I am not jumped on as soon as I walk in the door and we are not followed or badgered around the store and out the door like other shops. I don't alway purchase something when I visit but I do more often than not. They stock a wide variety of accessories, pretty much everything you'd need and they will order whatever they don't stock which arrives within days.

As a bonus, there is a great bagel shop a few doors down in the same strip, The Daily Bagel. This is a great little shop and whom I assume is the owner makes it a point to greet you when you walk in the door and his service is above and beyond. I haven't had a chance to chat with him as he is busy, but I will make a point to at least get his name next time I'm in. Great sandwiches, service and staff.
Sure beats the fast food joints.

Anyway, the cold, dark months of fall and winter have me looking for ways to extend or improve the riding season. I wrote a little while back about riding in the rain and how I managed with this challenge but I never overcame the visibility issue. Until now. I talked to Steve about the Pinlock visor system to eliminate fogging and found out that a universal kit it is unavailable but he recommended the FogCity pro Shield instead.

While Steve was actually showing me how to install it, a customer came in with his visor in hand to buy another FogCity insert to replace his old one. I asked him how he liked it and I interrupted myself with "duh, you're in here to buy another one".
I got home, installed it and couldn't wait to try it the next morning. I can't believe how well it worked, I can breathe again! I used to wear glasses behind my visor because I had to ride with my visor open for venting, but this only created another surface to fog up. I tossed the glasses in my saddlebags and now just use the visor, closed. I do open it to vent while stopped at traffic lights as condensation will form inside the visor but it quickly clears up when on the move again. The insert creates a pocket of air between the visor and insert and creates a minor halo effect with oncoming lights but not nearly as bad as fogging does. For less than $20 bucks, I highly recommend it.

The next problem to deal with was lighting, I can't see anything in the dark and rain with just the stock headlight, so driving lights were in order. I researched lighting and found positive reviews on the Optronics QH-7CC Competition Series Round Driving Lights and I didn't want to spend a small fortune on lighting that didn't mount or wouldn't work, so to ebay I went.
These lights are also available through JCWhitney but CarParts accepts Paypal, are a wee bit cheaper and are quicker to ship.

These lights are great, I've mounted them under my headlight and they light up the road very well.

I haven't had oncoming cars flash their lights at me for being too bright, but the guys at work tell me they are bright. I wired them direct to the distribution block and relay for my horn and heated grips without a switch, but I may have to install a courtesy switch for group rides.

I'll do that when I wire my new LED signal/running lights this week. More reviews and plugs to come.


Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Back to work...

Monday was back to work after a four day weekend. I didn't get out and ride this weekend like I had wanted to, but opted to stay home and work on a project we started Thursday. We have been planning to replace the original aluminum sliding door in our house for months and I have been procrastinating just as long. I waited for a four day weekend to tackle the project in case we ran into the usual difficulties such as dry rot or unconventional rough opening measurements. We had taken up the old linoleum and floor underlayment on Thursday so we could fit the door on Friday (when the stores were open in case I needed something).

A future project on the to-do list is hardwood/engineered floors and this requires the floor transition from livingroom to diningroom to be equal in height. Why is it one project can't be completed without another started? It's all about logistics.
Fortunately, it was a clean removal of the old door and the new French door went in without incident, leaving the rest of the weekend to ride...or not.

Well, just because the door is installed doesn't mean the project is complete. So Saturday morning, down went new underlayment, just leaving door trim to be installed. I seriously considered leaving the trim for another day, but I felt my procrastination would come back to bite me. Besides I was already dusty and all my tools were strewn about. Riding would wait until Sunday.

I had the new trim around the new door by dark, but the old trim around the other two doors in the room didn't match and needed updating which meant replacement.
And there went Sunday...but on the bright side, the job is done and I really wouldn't have enjoyed a ride anyway knowing I left the job unfinished.

Friday, November 28, 2008

Boycott Black Friday

Black Friday has a new meaning when a young man is trampled to death opening the store front doors to a crowd of shoppers.

"Wal-Mart worker dies after shoppers knock him down"

Will the store still turn a profit after the lawsuit and insurance payout? Probably. Will people still rush stores to save $48.88 on a brand new, state of the art, next big ticket item next year? Probably. Will this tragedy be forgotten and commercialism still shine? Probably.

But all it would take is for this one store to lead the way in stopping this senseless madness. Offer specials all weekend or a week and provide a 30 day raincheck for any item not available. Stop people from camping out for two days on their doorstep to be the first in line. And prevent another tragedy in the name of profit.

We all need to stop and think, think about Jdimytai Damourand and his family, not just this year, but next year and every year.


Thursday, November 27, 2008

Happy Thanksgiving...

I hope everyone had a great Thanksgiving.

This weekend looks like we are in for some nice weather and I think I'll go for a ride Saturday, just to get away and enjoy the silence of my helmet. Where the radio and television advertisements can't get me.

This is the busiest travel weekend of the year, be careful out there, ride safe.


Friday, November 21, 2008


I was sitting in the car, in a grocery store parking lot the other day while Brandy ran in to grab a few things. I sat there with the window down, ignition off and radio off. I hate the radio, the commercials, morning shock jocks that think they're funny and the same number one bubble gum pop song of the week played over and over and over again.
I like to sit quietly and people watch. I find it interesting to observe what most call human nature and I refer to as human habit. Cars and SUVs would pull up, families would pile out, pick wedgies, scratch, adjust and the herd would move toward the store. Can you tell I don't like large crowds of people either? That's why I sit in the car, and to think, as a child that was punishment. But what was most interesting about a lot of these people was the beep, honk and chirp from their cars as they walked away. Not a glance back for a visual check or knowing that the vehicle is locked when they close the door, but an annoying audio cue confirming that everything is locked up, safe and secure. It was starting to become irritating, as it was a pleasant day, the birds were singing and from across the parking lot you could hear this noise pollution that nobody else even noticed. We deactivated that feature on our car just for that reason.
What came to my mind was how many bells, whistles, doodads and thingamajigs we need on our cars that we don't ask for or come as standard equipment that we don't know how to use, activate or deactivate. I sat in our modest hatchback and took inventory, automatic transmission, cruise control, air conditioning, power windows, power door locks and 6 disc in dash CD player with auxiliary input. All the the standard equipment available in most cars, right? Then I started to look closer, driver and passenger SRS and side curtain airbags, front and rear variable speed window wipers, vanity mirror on the drivers visor, tilt steering wheel, height adjustable seating and height adjustable seat belts. I looked closer at the dash, a tach (for an automatic) and then turned the key on and got lost in all the pretty lights. Battery, temperature, brake, cruise, set, tire pressure monitor, and a "PS" light, what the heck is a "PS" and what does it do? Post Script? Power steering? Do I need a light to tell me my power steering is failing, wouldn't the stiff response to a turn input signal power steering?
We take for granted what a cars do for us. Did we ask for it or is it just what consumers have demanded or have manufacturers told us this is what we want, to make their brand more appealing over the competition?

Riding a motorcycle and running errands requires trust in mankind. We leave our bikes, sometimes with our helmets locked to the bike, sometimes not. Our bikes can be moved, hit, pushed, tipped or stolen, but I feel that is a part of what makes motorcycling what it is. A simpler time when we didn't need as much. I don't need a radio, let alone a 6 disc in dash CD player with iPod capabilities. I don't have an alarm, nor do I need one, motorcycles come with an unwritten law of do not touch. I don't even have a clock, nor do I want one. I have a key, a manual choke, a neutral indicator light, headlight high beam light, oil pressure warning light and a tach, that I installed by choice. That's it, pretty simple. I read the manual, I know what my tire pressure is, what my oil level is, I check my brake fluid regularly and I know how to operate my reserve fuel switch. And the drivers vanity mirror, is the mirrored windows of the bank on Main Street.

P.S. - I'll let you know how the story turns out with the novel I'm reading titled "Owners Manual".

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Thanks Ma...

Mother Nature gave us a break today from the week of rain.

It was a beautiful morning ride into work. The roads were nearly clear of all debris from the heavy rains the night before. The temperature was in the mid 50ºs and the wind had calmed to a dull roar. I wished I could ride all day.

But not today, instead I sat in the boss's cage as we drove to Woodburn to tour one of our customer distribution centers. I gazed out the window of the car, watching the sun dry the asphalt as we passed over it and longing to smell autumn's warm radiant welcome after a heavy rain. I was thinking about the sun on the back of my gloves warming my hands from the exposed handlebars then up my out-stretched arms. My jacket absorbing the sun's rays, tempting me to unzip a vent to let the fall air billow though my shirt. If only I could be on my bike.

It was nice to get out of the office and enjoy the sun during the brief moments made available. The tour was informative, the three of us all took mental notes of their daily operation and discussed how we could implement even just a fraction of their system into our own warehouse. I am sure many have seen these distribution centers from the outside, they are huge warehouses with what seems to be of very little activity. I've seen many from afar and could only wonder what went on inside. These places are the equivalent of beehives, the happenings inside is the epitome of efficiency. As a logistics coordinator I nearly scratched out a resume on a passing cardboard carton...until I looked up.

Just like a beehive there are no windows or skylights. There is the orange glow of mercury vapor lighting and row upon row of racking and product stacked to the ceiling. It wasn't depressing in the least, the staff was busy working, everyone was polite and courteous, happy bees, a proud lot...but it was not for me. I've worked outside too long to not see the sun or feel the rain on my face, even if just for a moment between answering emails and returning phone calls at my desk. I do appreciate the view my office affords me, I can see my bike from my desk and I can survey the valley sky along my route home.

The sun dropped to the horizon all to quickly today but the sunset was absolutely gorgeous for my ride home.

The forecasters predict a dry and sunny weekend and into next week. I can feel the autumn breeze through my shirt already.

Sunday, November 9, 2008

Lest we forget...

Veterans Day, I understand, is a day of remembrance to all of those men and women who have served in the military. Not only those who have died but to those who have served and to those who are still serving their country. I am disheartened to learn that November 11th is much less recognized or not as strongly observed in the U.S. as it is in other countries. Veterans Day parades were held today and not on Tuesday, November 11th. Most of us work on Tuesday, as our employers insist on conducting business as usual. Veterans Day Sales are kicking off the Christmas shopping season early instead of waiting until after Thanksgiving. Maybe November 11th is just another day, nothing special, symbolizing something that happened so long ago, nobody speaks of it anymore. I mean no disrespect at all, I am just saddened that another holiday, especially an important one as this has succumb to commercialism.

To me November 11th is Remembrance Day, also known as Armistice Day and I am also familiar with reference to Poppy Day. A day commemorating the end of World War I on November 11, 1918. I grew up observing November 11th by wearing a poppy, reciting In Flanders Fields in school, honoring 2 minutes of silence to remember the fallen soldiers of World War I, World War II and the too many wars that have followed.
November 11th is a respectful, solemn, an almost somber day. A day when every business closed and parades were held on the 11th day, regardless of what day of the week it occurred.

We wore our poppies, we stood out in the rain and snow, the bagpipes played and we hung our heads.

Just two remember.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Riding in the rain...

Riding in the rain is easy, add darkness and things get a little more complicated. Fallen leaves on the road mashed into a paste creates another hazard and adds to the challenge. The most difficult factor for me in this equation has to be headlights of oncoming traffic. The reflection of light in the raindrops on my visor creates a kaleidoscope of wonder.

Here are a few things I've tried in an attempt to alleviate much of the wonder and make riding in the rain a little more comfortable. Another product review if you will.

I use NIKWAX Visor Proof to shed rain from my visor. It works well but needs to be applied often. A quick turn of the head or tuck behind a windscreen at speed will clear the rain from my visor and reduce the need to use my wiper fingered glove. It also seems to prevent bugs from sticking to my shield, a simple wipe cleans up insect residue nicely.

My Teknic winter gloves have a wiper on both index fingers. At first, I thought this to be a hokey gimmick but it works surprisingly well. They are waterproof and do a great job of keeping my hands dry. They were stiff and warm during the first season and the leather has broken in but the insulation is now somewhat lacking in their second year. The wipers do limit dexterity of the index fingers due to the long wiper surface. These gloves are relatively inexpensive at $49 compared to others on the market for $100 or more and I feel that they perform well considering their cost. I am glad I added heated grips to my bike this year compensating for any shortcomings of these gloves.

HotGrips heated grips are a wonderful addition to my bike. I have been told that once you try heated grips you'll wonder why you didn't try them sooner. I agree, I will not own another bike without heated grips. I went with the actual heated grips rather than the element tape that fit under stock grips. I would imagine that each have their pros and cons, but I cannot speak for the element tape. Stacy at wrote up a great review and install for the element tape and aftermarket gel grips. I would not hesitate to try the tape on my next bike.
I went with the HotGrips based on webBikeWorld review and felt that HotGrips were the original designers for the motorcycle industry. The grips do feel rugged and should stand up to heavy winter use and over time. They do a great job of warming my hands through my gloves and are sometimes too warm on high to where I have to turn them down to the low setting. Cost was a little high at $109, but only because Radio Shack nickel and dimed me out of $38 for a micro switch, connectors, distribution block, fuses and additional wire. Installation was a full afternoon project and required that I not only sand down my throttle sleeve to accommodate the grip, but I had to use a file to remove enough material. Although I took my time sanding and filing I still managed to 'oval' my throttle sleeve causing my throttle to stick ever so slightly. This is my only serious gripe, had they made the inside diameter of the throttle grip larger I am sure the adhesive would have taken up any slack. The other issue, I am not sure if it is the grip or me but the throttle/right grip, seems to be ever so slightly warmer than the left. I imagine this is due to again, the difference of diameter between the two grips. This may be the advantage that the element tape has over the HotGrips.

I have also switched to glasses with yellow lenses, they brighten things up on foggy, overcast days. They do offer additional eye protection but also create another surface to fog up. I've tried anti fog product CatCrap and don't recommend it. It works, but it needs to be applied daily and creates a halo effect with oncoming lights. It is time consuming to apply and remove. I keep it to use in a pinch until I find something better. I am open to suggestions.

The search is on for my next two purchases, one, a Pinlock visor insert, I've heard good things about Pinlock from one of the guys at bike night.
And two, auxiliary lighting. For some odd reason Oregon doesn't use reflective glass beads in their road marking paint and it is just plain hard to see the center line and fog line in the dark and the rain. I am hoping some low mounted driving lights will help alleviate this problem.

Fortunately the heavy rains seem to have diminished, but they will be back, and hopefully I'll be ready.

Let's be careful out there, drivers don't expect us to be on motorcycles in the rain, and their vision is reduced in this weather too.

Sunday, November 2, 2008

I am...

...a motorcyclist.

I took the car into work on Friday, but not because of the rain, I had to take some items into the office that would not fit on the bike. I have stuff at home "things to bring into work when I have the car" and I have stuff in my office "things to bring home when I have the car". I try to coordinate several errands together to accommodate one trip. This was just one of those times.

I am...a motorcyclist.

On the rare occasion I do take the car to work, I usually take a ribbing from coworkers, "what, is it too wet to ride?" or "don't feel well, are you sick?"
This time Brandy caught the flak from her boss and coworkers. She is usually the first one to work, so when they came in and she was working but her car wasn't in her spot, they started in with "Brad wuss out because of the rain?"

I am...a motorcyclist.

I drive the car all the time on errands about town and for out of town trips with Brandy. But I very rarely take the car to work and I guess I was out of my element when I pulled into work. I had to find a parking spot, I couldn't park next to the building as I do on the bike. I pulled into a spot, I did a complete inventory check of accessories that I needed to turn off before shutting the car off. Wipers, check. Headlights, check. Ignition, check. I turn on and off all of these switches all the time without thinking about it, as second nature. It was disconcerting, I actually had to talk my way through it.

I am...a motorcyclist.

After 'dismounting', I started to walk away from the car and in my peripheral vision caught the driver door, wide open.

I am...a motorcyclist.

I normally go for a walk on my lunch break to get out of the office, get some fresh air and a little exercise. Upon my return to the office, my heart skipped a beat when my bike was gone.

I am...a motorcyclist.

I survived the day and no one was hurt, but when I got home I did steal a quick peak in the garage.

I am...a motorcyclist.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Food for thought...

There are road hazards and then there are road hazards. Motorcyclists are always dodging potholes, manhole covers, roadkill, rocks, mattresses, plywood, shoes, truck tire remnants, miscellaneous car parts and unidentifiable liquids which may or may not be water and oil. This time of year we have to be cautious of seasonal or less familiar road hazards not so common during the summer. Wet leaves, fallen trees branches, sand, gravel and two hazards that lurk in the shadows waiting to getcha, moss (it does grow on roads around here) and the inevitable black ice.

It is getting near that time of year when every chilly morning, I stroll out to the street in front of my house, with hot coffee in hand, to test the pavement for frost, assess the skies above and gauge the density of the fog before suiting up, rolling the bike out of the garage and heading off to work. I am confident in my decisions but I have on occasion been forced to change my route to work due to an error in judgement. My usual route to work consists of using the less travelled back roads and avoiding the dreaded Highway 34. But the higher traffic and congestion drying the road and the lack of tree shadowing curves actually makes it a somewhat safer alternative than my more pleasant summer route.

But road hazards and debris can also come in many flavors and one example is pumpkin. Yes, a seasonal road hazard we tend to forget is the great pumpkin.

Across the country these fruit are swiped from front porches only to be found the next morning in a horrific jack o' lantern massacre of pumpkin strewn across the pavement, they litter highway and byways this time of year and it is slipperier than snot. My last encounter with this destined pie filling was last year when I rode my bike through what I thought was wet sawdust.

The Willamette Valley is known for farming and a local food processing company transport their goods along rural routes. Unfortunately, every stop, turn and bump in the road causes the trucks to spill their contents, creating just one more obstacle in our path best to avoid. Imagine an open top semi trailer filled to the brim with processed pumpkin sloshing about, this promotes a lot of spillage on the road. Last night during my ride home past the main entrance to the food processing plant, I was reminded of the deceptive pumpkin, along side of the road was a prelude to what was to come as harvest loomed closer.

Beware the Great Pumpkin and have a happy and safe Halloween!!!

Friday, October 24, 2008

Calendar pics

Here are some pics I submitted for a 2009 calendar that a forum member was putting together. These are just quick shots of stops by the side of the road, I am not a professional photographer nor did I use a professional camera.

I could use a little more practice with shadows, lighting, et cetera, but not too bad for being self taught.

And for my 15 minutes of fame, the last two did make the calendar, for the months of January and June.

à tout à l'heure!

Friday, October 17, 2008

Dense Fog Advisory

The local weather forecasters warned us of a dense fog advisory this morning. Sure enough, when it started to get light out just before 7:00 the fog was evident. I chose to wear the high-vis jacket today and take the direct route into work.

This route consists of about 3 miles of in town riding and 8 miles of highway, Highway 34, a four lane highway crammed with cell phone toting, SUV aiming, double latte drinking....well, you get the idea.

However, it was this same driver mentality that got me thinking about the dense fog advisory.

These drivers are in a dense fog, be advised.

I made the effort this morning to wear a high-vis jacket, I turned my headlight onto high beam to ensure I could be seen. What I don't understand is how people can make no effort whatsoever to perform the simplest task of just turning their headlights on. How hard can it be? Is it that long 2-1/2 foot uphill hike to the headlight switch on the dash or that even shorter two foot stretch to the switch left of the steering wheel? Even more lazy is those who do make that exhausting trek only muster just enough strength to turn the switch one notch, illuminating just the parking lights. Wow.

The only reasonable assumption I can come up for this phenomena is that headlight switches are located on the left of the steering wheel and 95% of the general population is right handed. This switch location is opposite the gear shift, opposite the climate control, opposite the radio and opposite the wiper control. However, all of these switches, dials and controls necessary to operate the vehicle are located on the right side of the driver and requires using the left side of the brain. The left side of the brain controls the right side of the body and vice versa. So what is the right side of the brain doing that the left side of the body can't operate a simple headlight switch (and signal light switch)? The right side of the brain must be preoccupied or busy performing some other task. The right temporal lobe deals with hearing. However, its job is to process musical information or help in the identification of noises.

Noises, like a cell phone conversation perhaps?

The day did clear up, but I think the dense fog advisory may be in effect for some time yet.

à tout à l'heure!

Saturday, October 11, 2008

It's not too late...

My two favorite past time interests are seasonal and both of them, motorcycling and gardening, are of the same season. I spent the afternoon today tending to plants in the yard, transplanting some plants to make room for others waiting to be put into the ground for the winter. While down on my hands and knees, playing in the dirt and appreciating the warm sun on my back, I realized how much one hobby can be neglected for another.

I spent all summer putting miles on my bike and completely missed my Hibiscus bloom, although I did manage to catch a glimpse of the Clematis flowering. Foolishly I had abandoned my early morning walkabouts through the yard with coffee in hand. I would take mental notes of which plants were doing what and plan my evening tending accordingly. I would watch and wait with anticipation to see which plant was about to burst open with color and fragrance. I sat briefly on the garden swing this summer breathing the aroma of the Clethra, but not nearly long enough.

Not all is lost, the Clerodendrum is still blooming, the roses are hanging in there and the Guara are as colorful as ever. This is a beautiful season to spend in the garden, the grasses are at their very best, many of the Viburnums are about to take the stage with their orange, red and purple leaves and the winged euonymus divulge their more common name of burning bush.

Trees are about to change, Maples are turning red and orange, the Gingko casts golden yellow fans and the Raywood Ash is a favorite of mine for their intense purple foliage this season. I am eagerly awaiting photo opportunities and to be able to show this seasons stunning colors in future posts.

Autumn is an end to the riding season for many in the motorcycling community, hibernation sets in, but for those who hang in there a little while longer will experience the most beautiful scenery nature has to offer. There is nothing more fun than riding your bike down a country road and watching the dry fallen leaves swirl behind you while you catch yourself grinning in the reflection of your own mirrors.

Sunday, October 5, 2008

Here comes the rain again...

It was a long dry summer and Friday was our first decent autumn rain. It now looks and feels as if fall is here.

I rinsed the dust off my rain gear during my ride home and I'm transitioning from warm weather gear to cold weather gear. It had been getting chilly in the mornings on my ride to work, around 38º and then warming up to mid 70ºs for the ride home. I am thankful for liners and layering, but I was packing my saddlebags full for my evening commute. The fall rains bring more consistent temperatures and I am able to wear the same gear for each commute.

The other two motorcyclists at my work stopped commuting on their bikes a month ago, leaving me to battle Mother Nature alone.

I am getting the same comments from them I receive every year, 'you're crazy, why put yourself in danger, the roads are slippery and it can't be fun to ride in the rain'. I can't hold it against them, some riders are just of the fair weather breed. I welcome the challenge and the opportunity to hone my skills required to ride a motorcycle in the cold and rain.

One challenge I encountered Friday night was a stalled motorcycle on the side of the road. My bike lost power and left me temporarily stranded on my way home. Now this is not something you really want to experience with a new bike at the beginning of the rainy season. Fortunately it wasn't dark yet, but I was dead in the water so to speak. I never used my truck so I sold it last year and our car doesn't have a hitch, nor do we own a trailer if it did. I am looking into roadside assistance for motorcycles, but this is not an easy task, some companies won't cover bikes and some towing companies won't touch bikes. I was lucky this time, I remember reading about this situation regarding our bikes on a forum, but couldn't recall the precise remedy. I waited a couple of minutes, fiddled with the petcock and she fired right up and took me home without further incident. Later I logged onto the forum and read that the fuel tank vent line runs under the bike in front of the rear tire and water will block this vent hose. The immediate solution is to open the gas cap relieving the pressure, the short term solution is to cut the end of the hose at a 45º angle which prevents water from forming at the end of the hose and blocking ventilation. The permanent solution is to install a vented gas cap.

Isn't it funny how a little gremlin can ruin your ride and further distance you from the car driving public. We can't just leave our vehicle on the side of the road, lock the doors and hike into town. We have got to be resourceful, mechanically inclined and maybe just a little bit humble, but I still wouldn't trade it for a cage.

Now to find AAA's phone number.

Monday, September 29, 2008

Baffles, or the lack of...

We kept busy this weekend and our minds occupied by doing some long overdo projects around the house. And Brandy helped me in the garage to remove some baffles from my bike. I've been reading the BonnevilleAmerica forum for months on how to make the Triumph America a little bit louder without a spending a lot of money. This appeals to me not only money wise but too many after market pipes are too loud. I didn't want to spent several hundred dollars on an expensive set of pipes that would wake the neighbors, and I love the look of the tapered stock pipes. I just wanted a little bit deeper growl from the exhaust. The stock pipes don't have a simple removable baffle set screw, they are fixed/welded. A fellow America rider and forum member designed a hole saw that would fit down the pipe to cut the inner baffle and offered it to fellow forum members, nice guy eh?

I used a smaller hole saw first to allow the inner dimension of the extended hole saw to pass over the inner pipe of the exhaust.

Then I used a larger hole saw to remove the rest of the material at the end of the pipe.

And then the "debaffler" or extended hole saw to finish it up

The result is a nice, modest rumble at idle, more authoritative growl during acceleration and still fairly quiet at cruising speed. I am happy with it. I can hear the bike now over the wind noise but it's not the loud droning roar of most HDs. I did notice a little more vibration in the bars and pegs but I don't think it is anything that would bother me too bad. I haven't noticed any performance gain but I still need to adjust the A/F mixture as all my mods have had to do with breathing. AI removed, snorkel removed, baffles removed and soon a K&N filter.

Everything you wanted to know about your exhaust but were afraid to ask:


Sunday, September 28, 2008

We'll miss you Baxter

We lost the older one of our two cats this weekend. He failed to come home Thursday night which was odd, but nothing to get worried about, until he didn't show up by Friday morning. Saturday morning I discovered that Baxter had been accidently hit by a car while trying to cross a busy road close to our house. We had Baxter for 5 years and the first three were spent at our old house with a very small yard and was under constant surveillance whenever he went outside. We now live in a smaller house but our yard is almost three times the size with an expansive green area behind us.

Cats are funny, with that much room and freedom, he still needed just a little bit more.

He just loved to be outside and to explore. Kinda sounds like us doesn't it?

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

These are the people in your neighborhood...

in your neighborhood, in your neigh...bor...hood.

One advantage to riding a motorcycle to work everday is the opportunity to wave at people in your neighborhood. The lady down the street who walks her dog every morning but struggles to keep him under control as I do my best not to aggrevate the situation. There are two people that walk along the country road I use to commute and every time I pass I always get a wave from both of them. I don't know who they are and they don't know me, but a friendly wave does make for a more pleasant morning. The joggers, walkers and bicycle commuters you see everyday. I find that everyone is more apt to wave when you are on a bike instead of in a car. "You meet the nicest people on a...."

I am on a schedule, I have to be at work at a certain time, I leave the house the same time everyday and I take the same route to work everyday. You get to learn everyone else's schedule as well and I can usually tell if I am running a little bit late or not. I refuse to put a clock on my bike but I know that if I pass and wave to the rider on the BMW DualSport on a certain part of my route and not on another, I know I need to either hustle or I am able to slow down a little bit. I can usually count on a couple of other bikes too, the Gixxer and the unknown bike behind the Vetter fairing, but that BMW rides rain or shine, my constant. It's funny because I am somewhat disappointed when I don't see him. Funny, even strange I know, but I wonder if I am part someone's schedule, routine or clock.

Corvallis is a college town and the students are back in town for orientation. I believe the city population increases by 17,000 or more when school is in and you can sure tell by the traffic congestion, it is as if someone opened a gate or something. New students, lost in an unfamiliar town, all trying to find their way to class or wherever kids need to be. But, I get used to it and I adjust my schedule by leaving a little bit earlier, arriving home a little bit later and being a whole lot more patient. The students will coordinate their schedules, find their rhythm and eventually become part of the neighborhood and part of my daily routine for another year.

We'll see how my positive mental attitude is after my commute home Thursday evening with the OSU game day traffic backing up both major arteries into town.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Bye bye, summer, bye bye...

....and with it comes the fall equinox or autumnal equinox.

Wednesday afternoon the winds picked up and it got cold. Sunday we have awaken to a little bit of rain, not enough to help the fire fighters with the area forest fires though.
It has not been terribly cold but it sure has me considering pulling out the warmer gear sooner than expected. We are preparing for winter by tackling the usual chores, we have our supply of pellets for our stove, I'll be buttoning up the house with weatherstripping and covering the foundation vents. The yard will need fall preparation of mulch, rose pruning, overseeding the lawn and coiling up all the hoses and rounding up the sprinklers soon.

This will be my first winter on the America, last year I had some protection from the cold with the fairing of the Sprint.

I've considered buying a winter commuter bike, possibly a KLR250 or KLR650, something that would handle a little rain, sleet or snow. Something that if I dropped it and broke a clutch lever or brake lever off I wouldn't be too upset.
Then I thought, how's that for setting myself up, actually expecting to drop it, mentally telling crash.
Fortunately, a sense of reason set in when Brandy saw the photo of the KLR250 I was looking at online and said "looks like you have to kick it". I already have a bike I have to kick that I never ride, my kz, which I have also considered riding through the winter.

Riding a 32 year old bike in the rain, cold and dark just does not appeal to me at all. Besides, the lights are poor, tires are bald and it is a torque monster, not something you want to be riding when frost forms on the highway. Steady as she goes.

The early models of the Yamaha FJR1300 that cooked the rider in the summer would make a great winter bike. A little out of my budget and too big for Brandy to practice. I could use something with a fairing, yet light and nimble to build confidence in a new rider. Oh yeah, with electric start, kick starting is soooo 20th century. Sounds like a Ninja 250 to me, how much trouble can I get into with one of these?

Of course, I could always put some frame sliders on it, you know, just in case 'somebody' drops it.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Product humble opinion

I take my time when making a purchase, whether it be for a couple of bucks or several hundred dollars. I research most products online, checking reviews and forums before I even walk into a store or commit to the online checkout, which may be days, weeks and even months later. Brandy can attest to this as a widow to what we both call motorcycle porn. I have spent many an hour, wee into the night reading reviews on motorcycle products, gadgets, gizmos, whatever.

I have also spent funds on products that didn't work, or were not as expected or were just a general disappointment. I wonder how many review sites, magazines and forum entries are really just an avenue for marketing new products.

Working out in the garage last night, on my bike, installing my latest purchase had me singing the praises of this new product and thoughts about spreading the word. Not only this time, with this product, but a continuing segment revealing the good, bad or ugly of many products I've either used or are collecting dust in the rafters of my garage.

I'll start with last night's project, the Turn Signal Conversion Kit from Electrical Connection. I found this on one of the forums I read and from members I trust. With the days getting shorter and many of us soon to be riding in the dark I thought $49 was more than reasonable for this bit of safety. It utilizes the normally 'dead' rear signal lights as running lights as well as additional brake lights. All the original wiring and lighting stays intact and a circuit board ring of LED lights are added around the bulb. This is not a double filament conversion you see on some bikes, these do emit red light at night through the amber lens, keeping everything legal.

Difficult to see in the daylight....

but nighttime is when this product shines...

First, what an easy install, I think I put about 2 hours into this and that included reading the instructions. I did cheat and use the quick connects that came with the kit, but to keep them all dry I made all the connections under the seat as opposed to out in the elements,(elements, bulbs, get it?). There was not a lot of room to accommodate splicing, soldering and shrink tube nor was I comfortable cutting my factory wiring. I ran the wires along side the existing wiring and zip tied them together inside my rear fender. I'll see how they hold up this winter through the rain and cold.

Another 'safety feature' (terminology I learned when I sold cars) is the LEDs light up a fraction of a second faster than the incandescent brake light bulb.

I would have to argue that now I'm in the market for an LED brake light. LEDs can be addicting, just look at any owner operator of a long haul truck on the road.

I am very happy with the look, the results and I recommend this product and the company. Components required to fulfill my order were back ordered but I was informed immediately and I still received the product within 2 weeks of placing the order.

Monday, September 8, 2008

Chowdah Run

I posted, on a local forum, a time and a place to meet for a ride to the coast for clam chowder. We had just been there the week before on the same route but I am always looking for an excuse to ride. We met at a coffee shop and we had six bikes show up and then met another along the way. Now I was a little concerned to be the only one riding a cruiser and the only one riding two up. However, I don't think I was nearly as concerned as Brandy was, her being the 2 up-ee.

I set up the ride so I was the leader and we kept a brisk pace down to the coast to try and keep it interesting for the others. It was a bit of a daunting task watching 6 sport bikes in your mirrors through the twisties. I met most of these guys when I rode my Sprint ST but they have accepted the cruiser and my passenger as part of the group, they are a great bunch of guys. Jim even tipped his hat to any woman that'll ride on the back of a bike doing 45 into a 25 mph corner.

The great thing about riding with other riders is having them reveal their secret back roads, shortcuts and routes. It was a pleasant day to the coast but North of Waldport around Seal Rock, the fog rolled in and it got downright chilly. It makes for better tasting chowder but not something you want to ride through again after you just warmed up.

Paul took the lead on his VFR eager to show us his back road to our next fuel stop. It was a great road that headed inland and ended up back onto Hwy 101. As soon as we turned off you could feel the temperature rise and the sunshine warming the ribbon of asphalt welcoming us to ride. What a pleasure to follow a fellow rider through an unfamiliar road, Paul set the perfect pace and never touched the brake, the sweeping corners opening up to vast stretches. The road presenting another corner, gracefully arching into the next.

Brandy is a great passenger and knows I would never push harder than I feel comfortable, it's just that my comfort level is alot faster than hers, especially following a sport bike. I guess I confirmed Jim's earlier tip of his hat when my boot and left pipe scraped through a 20 mph corner. Some couples go to trust building workshops where they fall backward and trust their spouse catch them. I take my wife on a motorcycle ride and try to outrun 6 sport bikes through the twisties.

I ride a cruiser, but I don't think anyone has told my bike yet. I think I'll keep it a secret and let her wear the scar on her pipe as a distinguishing badge of honor.

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Age of Aquarium...

Brandy and I watched the skies Sunday morning and Googled weather maps trying to decide if we should take the bike to Newport. What's a little rain?
We had planned weeks ago to meet her brother Tiger and his fiance Tanisha in Newport to visit the Oregon Coast Aquarium. Tiger lives in Coos Bay and rides a Harley Davidson Softail Deluxe, I don't hold it against him, he's family. We all planned to meet on the bikes and after texting and referring to web cams and weather reports we suited up and headed out.
I am not a big fan of Hwy 20 to Newport as it is the main route for lumbering motorhomes towing boats or testosterone trucks trailering quads to the beach. Not to mention the OSP presence, not that I would ever speed, but the one time I'd pull out to pass some tourist traffic they'd be waiting. The other highway is so much less populated, you can keep a safe rhythmic pace and the scenery is worth slowing down to appreciate.
We were expecting the rain but not the cold. It wasn't unbearable but surprisingly chilly for the end of August, a beautiful road for an Augtober day nonetheless. It warmed up as we approached the bay headed into Waldport and the clouds burned off to let the sun shine.
Brandy and I joked before we left how funny it would be if we saw 'TnT' ride by as we approached 101. Well, sure enough the bright white flash of his Harley streaked by, I couldn't have timed it better if I tried. The signal light turned green upon my descent and traffic cleared allowing me to seamlessly roll a right turn and come up behind them on the bridge. It isn't everyday I get to roll up on a Harley rider, flip them off and live to tell the tale.

Coffee and chowdah for lunch at the Rogue Brewery warmed us back up and offered us an opportunity to visit and chat before going over to the aquarium. The Rogue may not be the best chowdah but it is consistent and it beats the tourist trap of Mo's on a holiday weekend. The Oregon Coast chowdah debate is a blog for another day.

We came upon a car show being held in the aquarium parking lot which allowed us premium parking. We were told it was held every Labor Day weekend and an invite was extended to us for next year as there are never any motorcycles that stick around all day for a car show. A capricious bunch, aren't we? Ride or show? Ride or show? Ummmmm....I choose ride, but first the aquarium.

The new Odd Water feature is pretty interesting, there is a lot to learn and plenty to see and even touch.

It made for a great ride, a great visit and a great day at the coast. Stop by if you get a chance, we are all a little odd.

Sunday, August 31, 2008

All British Field Meet

We drove up to Portland on Saturday to check out the 2008 All British Field Meet at the Portland International Raceway.

It was my first time to the P.I.R. and what a great opportunity to check it out, admission was reasonable and there was plenty to see. Vintage car racing, a car show and even a few bikes were on hand to represent. It would have been nice to see a few more bikes, gear and parts vendors and some food vendors (at least a fish and chip truck) but maybe next year. We took the car as I am not fond of PDX traffic on a bike anytime, let alone on Labour Day weekend, but I may have to register and enter the bike in the 2009 show. We spent a few hours there wandering around checking out the cars and bikes.

The threat of rain hung over the event while we were there but it was still sunny enough that Brandy brought home a sunburn as a souvenir. I fared much better as I am never shy about wearing my old man straw hat.

There were several different makes and models of cars present but I am partial to the Mini, probably because of the simplicity, functionality of design and that my mom owned a Leyland Mini when I was a kid.

I do like the Triumph TR3, TR4, TR5 and TR6s as well, but it has always struck me as odd that not only one, but several British car manufacturers would design, build and sell so many convertibles for such a wet climate.

We even saw a couple of Ford Cortinas, another car my parents owned when I was just a wee little lad. It was funny to hear, as we wandered around, the good old boys tell stories of "I used to have a..."

I said to Brandy, I wonder if in twenty years I'll stand around talking about my 1974 Vega wagon I owned when I was a teen?
Well, I didn't have to wait 20 years, as we stumbled upon a car show in Newport today and a 1976 Vega wagon. I fell right into reminiscing and it was too late...I said it to the owner..."I used to have a '74"

Sunday, August 24, 2008


"When you're right, no one remembers. When you're wrong, no one forgets." This must to be the life motto of a meteorologist.

I must say that last Thursday the weather forecast was not only right but right on the nose. Rain showers were predicted for the morning and expected to clear up by noon opening up to sunshine and warmer temperatures. I had my doubts as I rode into work that morning in the rain and then watched it through my office window drown my bike for the rest of the morning.
But, you could have set your watch by it, because at 12:00 noon the rain stopped, the sunshine came out and I thought how the local meteorologists never get the recognition they deserve when they do get it right. I would suspect that they are right more often than not, it is just not the outcome we want to hear and we have a tendency to blame them for the bad news. They don't produce the weather, they study it and report their findings. I have to congratulate them on a job well done, they are under appreciated. Keep up the great work!

My signature on many of the forums in which I participate, is a quote from Mark Twain: "Climate is what we expect, weather is what we get".

A mild storm is expected to arrive this evening bringing a chance of rain. Of course, I just washed my bike...again.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Rain, rain, go away...

We've been experiencing some midsummer rain this past week, somewhat out of the ordinary for Oregon summer and how it came was odd. Last Saturday was a do nothing, too hot to ride, stay in air conditioned comfort kind of day. But by 2:00am Sunday morning were gathered outside in the backyard hunkered down under the gazebo watching the lightning and listening to thunder while Mother Nature watered our dusty, moisture deprived....lawn? We definitely needed the rain to revive the local vegetation as the threat of forest fires increased throughout the summer. Ironically, the lightning that accompanied the rains had our firefighters on alert.

My plans for a ride Sunday were thwarted but a brief sunny break about mid-afternoon offered an opportunity to wash the bike, change the oil and to complete a thorough inspection beyond my daily once over. I rolled the dice, betting that the rain would stop and that Monday's ride into work would be warm and dry. Good thing I am not a betting man, as it has rained for the past 3 1/2 days. I've pulled out the hi-vis rain gear and I've been cautious of all the oil the rain has pulled up from the roads.

Riding into work this week I shake my head at drivers who do not drive with their lights on in overcast or rainy weather. I am required by law to have my headlight on all the time so that I may be seen. I'll say, that grey Buick in the shadows of the grove of rain laden tree boughs approaching my left turn ahead is sure hard to see.

And when did that Ford truck sneak up behind me? We do what we can to make ourselves seen and ride like we are invisible, but shouldn't this be a two way street? Daytime running lights have been required on all cars produced for Canada since 1989, I guess it still strikes me as odd to see a car operated with it's lights off.

Same theory for hi-vis vest and jackets, only I have discovered a flaw with wearing this attire. Last Spring I would come home daily complaining to Brandy how someone cut me off or didn't see me. I even had one guy pull out in front of me, meet me at the next light, get out of his car and apologize to me and that "he did not see" me. Ummm, I am wearing bright green! Anyway, this summer with warmer temperatures I've switched to my grey mesh jacket and surprisingly my daily rants diminished. No problems all summer, until yesterday, while wearing my hi-vis jacket a driver breezed through a stop to crowd me in my lane. This morning, with no one behind me, a truck pulled out in front of me headed in the same direction I was, failing to wait two Mississippi to let me by. Every motorcycle and scooter forum and blog you read has these same stories, all too often the topic of discussion. But my discovery is that of target fixation, drivers do it too!! The only difference between us and them is that we are aware of the how and whys of target fixation and we train ourselves to look ahead, look beyond, avert our stare. Drivers just merrily continue with their day, oblivious to their very own psychological event they just experienced. They see us, they just don't see us. I will continue to wear hi-vis during rainy, inclement weather, but I am reluctant to make myself a target. Maybe a two tone red/ does mean stop, doesn't it?

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Where did it go?

Where did summer go, wow time flies, I realized I hadn't written in the blog for a while. I've been busy in the yard with honey do projects. Except when it comes to the yard I am my own worst enemy.

We went for a ride on Sunday 8/3 to Metolius/Sisters and discovered a few things along the way. Before heading up the hill we pulled over at Short Bridge just East of Sweet Home. I've been through here many times before in a delivery truck but I never knew this covered bridge was there.

I am learning to actually take time to pull over and stop for pictures. But a slow learner, the only other picture I took that day was along Peoria Road, a spot I pass twice a day to and from work. Can you blame me? This is a pretty nice garden.

Over the Cascades I managed 50 mpg, two up to 4200 feet above sea level and down the other side. I normally average 40 - 42mpg riding solo back and forth to work on a daily basis and was surprised to calculate such a significant difference on this particular ride. I can only attribute it to the elevation. Does the bike run lean at a higher altitude or was she just happy with the two of us saddled up, bopping along, through the curves enjoying the cool mountain air and the ribbon of asphalt laid before us? I don't know for sure, maybe it is me, with Brandy on the back of the bike I ease up a little on the acceleration, shifts are considerably smoother and cruising speed is a little more modest. I still think it's the altitude.

We rode into Camp Sherman looking for a bite to eat. Turning off of highway 20 and pulling into a little roadside turnout, we dismounted and removed the inner linings of our jackets to welcome the sun's warmth after a cool morning ride over the top of the pass. I love the Willamette Valley, but it is nice to enjoy the dry heat of the desert every once in a while. We stretched and headed into camp for some grub only to find the lodges closed and an overcrowed market cafe. Both of us are not fans of populated gatherings so we were off to Sisters for lunch. Talk about going from the frying pan into the fire. I've been to Sisters before and I understand it is a tourist town that boasts antique shops, fairs and numerous shops of trinkets and treasures. It is evident that my memory fades, as this weekend was just as busy as ever, but one block off the main drag revealed a quiet little bakery with about three tables, perfect! We had a bite to eat then got out of Dodge.

It was a shame to ride over here and not stop at the head of the Metolius River so back up we went. Everyone I've talked to about the Metolius has raved about the camping and how beautiful the river is and how it comes from a spring in the rock hillside. I enjoy an awe inspiring moment as much as the next guy but where was this beautiful sight everyone speaks so highly. A 1/4 mile walk down to the head of the river reveals... a pond? A small quiet stream down in the shadows of the wild blackberries and woodland shrubbery. To the right, through the brush and bramble, a river and a mountain backdrop, it's pretty I admit, but nothing to rave about, even a little disappointing. Meh, a whole lot disappointing, to us, to me.

As we left, to head home without any other photos, I pulled up behind a car with Crater Lake Plates and chuckled to Brandy, "Crater Lake better be awe inspiring, it warrants a license plate and it's on the Oregon quarter"