Wednesday, November 30, 2016

The Last Pay Phone

Well, maybe not, but they are getting hard to find.

This one makes total sense, however.  The place is the Holly River State Park in West Virginia.  The park is at the bottom of a narrow river valley where you would have trouble getting cell phone reception.  More than that, it is close to, possibly in, the shadow of the Green Bank National Radio Telescope.  This is a region of central West Virginia where cell phone transmission is not allowed because it would interfere with the radio telescope.

I like how the phone seems to be attached to a tree.  If you look carefully between the trees, you can see water of a small river flowing right by the pay phone.  At least the camera on my phone still worked so I could take this picture.

Sunday, November 27, 2016

Making Do

Parked next to me at the grocery store.

What I like most is the fact that it's been this way long enough for the Vise Grips to rust.

Makes sense.  It's only the passenger door.

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

A Family Tradition

I am having trouble setting the tone for this post.  Death is always a touchy subject, so a post about family funerary tradition is definitely a little unusual.  The hard part about writing this is setting a tone that is positive and reflective without people assuming I am sad.  Actually, I'm in a good place as I write this, but its hard to get that across and respect the topic at the same time. 

When I was a kid, our family took a vacation to New England.  One day, near Boston, my father took us all to a cove with a fishing port.  He said, "This cove is a place your grandmother loved and was close to where she grew up.  At her request, her ashes were spread on the waters of the cove after she died."  From then on, this beautiful place is how I remember her.

That was my first introduction to our family tradition, where a family member's ashes are spread at a place that they loved and later members of the family visit and keep the memory of that place with the memory of their ancestor.  If you think about it, it is really quite different than burial beneath a stone in some cemetery.  Of course, cemeteries can be beautiful and genealogist certainly prefer the record of a stone, but I prefer the scattered ashes approach because it is both more memorable and can be very personal.

The tradition continues.  In his retirement, my grandfather traveled all over the US, Canada, and Mexico.  In the end, he settled down at Sanibel Island, Florida and his ashes are scattered at the place he loved.

A friend of mine chose something a little different.  He loved car racing and racing at Waterford in particular.  He chose to have his ashes placed on the wings and bodywork of race cars at Waterford so that his ashes would be spread around the track on a memorial parade lap.  Pretty neat.

About 20 years ago, I borrowed a Jeep and my father and I toured all over the Rocky Mountains.  After bouncing over rocky passes and relaxing in lush valleys, my father decided on a quiet mountain valley where he scattered my mothers ashes.  Both of my mother and father loved these mountains and he was fulfilling her wishes.  This year, we traveled back to that valley for a visit.  And so, the tradition continues.

 My mother loved the mountain wild flowers and we were lucky to visit the valley when the flowers were in bloom.  Above is the state flower, Colorado Blue Columbine.

A few Indian Paintbrush.

When my time comes, I want my family to continue this fine tradition.  As I am getting older, I guess I better decide on a good place that means something to me.  I guess they could put me in that same mountain valley unless I come up with a better idea.

Enjoy all the good memories of your family and friends and think thoughts of beautiful places.

Thursday, July 21, 2016

My Town's Motorcycle History - The Flanders Motorcycle Company

Recently, I've been involved with a project to bring a Flanders motorcycle back to Chelsea, Michigan where it was built and donate it to the local Historical Society.

Every winter, a few of us local motorcycle folks get together once a month in a local pub to eat, drink, and talk motorcycles.  These occasions were named Barley Therapy by the gent that started it all and felt we all needed a little therapy during the months we couldn't ride motorcycles.  Things like the history of the Flanders come up for discussion.

The Flanders motorcycle was built in Chelsea from 1911 through 1913.  It was intended to be a motorcycle for everyman and was sold for $175.  At the time, the advertising propaganda claimed that Flanders had the largest motorcycle factory in the country, but that is probably stretching things a bit.  The pictures above are historical pictures of the building where the motorcycles were built.  Note the line of bikes being assembled and the engines sitting on the floor across the isle.  The factory is empty, but still stands.  It is part of a larger factory complex that is now in use as retail and office space.  A test track used to be behind the assembly building.

One of our number, Elliott Andrews, spent part of his winter in California and found a 1911 Flanders motorcycle in a private museum.  A long story short, with donations from local businesses and residents, we were able to raise most of the money to buy the Flanders.  Some additional funds were lent to the project to complete the sale and we now have the motorcycle at home, where it was built.

For now, we are learning everything we can about the bike, raising money to complete the purchase and for the changes needed to make it safe to ride.  We are also showing the bike in the area.  The pictures and video are from an antique motorcycle meet at Wauseon, Ohio.
These engines are very interesting.  It is a 4 stroke, 500 cc single that makes 4 Hp.  It has what is known as an atmospheric intake which means that the intake valve isn't operated mechanically.  The intake valve opens when the pressure in the cylinder is low enough to compress the valve spring.  There is a cam to operate the exhaust valve, but the valve and spring are visible on the outside of the engine.

The big U shape thing on the front of the engine is the magneto.  The right side twist grip controls the ignition timing, while the left controls the throttle.

The engine is started by having the rear wheel up on a stand.  The rider turns the pedals which turn the rear wheel.  The big leather belt on the left side of the rear wheel connects the engine to the rear wheel.  No kick start, no electric starter, just pedal like mad and hope the engine starts.

The only brake is a bicycle style, coaster brake.  Better plan your stopping well in advance.

It's Alive!

The YouTube video is the first engine start, complete with oil smoke.  We definitely need to get control of the oiling system.  Lubrication is by a total loss oil system.  You have to set the oil flow out of the tank at 15 drops per minute. Too much oil and it builds up inside the engine, robbing horsepower.  Too little oil and you are stuck on the side of the road with a broken engine.

 I hope you enjoy our little project and the idea of bringing an important chapter in the history of our town back to our little museum.  Naturally, we would be grateful if anyone feels moved to donate, although we don't expect anything.  Those so moved should send donations to the Chelsea, Michigan Historical Society, specifically the 1911 Flanders motorcycle fund.  I'm sure I can find more detailed information if someone is interested.

My little joke - "The Flanders on an IV"
In reality, the 100+ year old gas tank is made of copper and has a leak or two at present.  The plastic bottle feeding the carb is very much like a hospital IV.

Monday, July 4, 2016

Fireworks and a Drone

For the last several years, I've been lucky with a very convenient fireworks display.  Folks at the little lake that is about 3/4 mile north of me have been putting on a nice fireworks display and I can see most of it by just looking out the 2nd story windows on the front of my house.  I miss some of the low fireworks, but most are well above the trees and make a nice free show.

This year, something different.  While I was watching, I noticed a small light fly in above the trees from the right, then hover there as if watching the fireworks too.  Out of curiosity, I got my binoculars.  I couldn't see any shape, but I could see 1 red light and two white lights on whatever was hovering.

Once the show was finished, they little lights hung there for a minute, then moved quite quickly to the right, and finally slowly descended toward the ground.  In the no so distant past, an observer would have thought "flying saucer", but these days we know that kind of behavior means a drone, probably a quadrocopter.

This morning, I went online searching to see if they put up the video of the fireworks display.  I couldn't find that specific one, but was surprised to find that many others have used drones to video fireworks, even flying into the fireworks.  To me, that is a more interesting use of a drone than spying on my neighbors or delivering packages.

The link below is to a drone fireworks video where the drone flies into the fireworks.

Happy 4th to everyone.

Thursday, June 23, 2016

Riding with a Smile

It seems like a long time since I got away from home, enjoyed some exploring, and some riding twisty roads.  My last attempt was a ride to the Smokies in May.  Unfortunately, my bike had other ideas.  You see, the day I left it was 35 deg F with horizontal rain.  I made it into Ohio and south of Columbus before so many things on the bike stopped working that I ended up renting a Uhaul and towing it home.  I admit that I was cold, wet, and miserable during the ride.  Apparently, so was the bike and it had sense enough to say STOP!

This trip went much better with only one minor issue to remind me that my bike is getting old.  I was trying to learn the proper way to travel when retired.  Although I could have gone interstates and gotten to the ride base hotel in about 8 hours, instead I took two and half days of nothing but back roads to get there.  I figure that I added 300 miles to a 500 mile freeway trip.

Along the way, I found little towns with interesting names and a few minor adventures.  For example, south of Arabia, Ohio, I found this sign.  My favorite caption is "Caution, Expensive Curves Ahead".

In West Virginia, after riding through the Cabwaylingo State Forest, I found that the road was following an old railroad bed and went through a railroad tunnel.  Normally, a tunnel is no big thing, but this tunnel was a very narrow lane wide, about 1 mile long, and had no lights at all.  My poor headlight did almost nothing to illuminate the black walls, ceiling, and roadbed.  In the middle, I was so far underground that my glasses and visor started to fog up.  You might say that I crawled through that tunnel, first gear, engine at idle, both feet out trying to sense the road.  Boy am I glad no one was coming from the other direction.  Somehow, riding in a car doesn't do the situation justice, but this video from YouTube gives you a small idea of the experience.

Dingess Tunnel

Along the way, I rode through little villages with funny names.  How about Wolfpit, Krypton, or Busy.  I guess it's not surprising that Cutshin is down the road from Smilax.  Along the way, I climbed a tall mountain on a little road that was sometimes paved, sometimes gravel and never wider than 10 feet.  It was an amazing view of the valley from the top, but I couldn't find a place to take a picture between the trees, so I am left with a cute little waterfall to remember the mountain by.

I have to say that I really enjoy these rides.  The coordinated action of leaning and balancing the bike through a range of corners and, frankly, riding a bit quickly, gives great satisfaction.  I recently saw a story about a guy who is 90 and still riding his motorcycle.  I get why.

Thursday, June 2, 2016

Analog Distraction

I mean well.  I try to keep myself focused on the project list and do it in order.  It's just that I am easily distracted.

The phono preamp sounds so good, that I have been listening to vinyl a fair bit.  That got me curious about the differences between turntables and planning some experiments for a future DIY turntable.  The problem is that the DIY turntable is way down the list.

So, I found myself buying a 25 year old turntable that has been modified by it's first owner.  That is a step up from my 35 year old turntable I have been using.

It's an AR ES-1, a very simple manual turntable, but with good bones.  Also, in very good shape for it's age.  I did a few modifications of my own.  I added dampening material to the base and fine tuned the tonearm and suspension.

The modifications done by the previous owner included a better motor and a Merrill platter.  The platter is made from acrylic with lead glued on top for dampening.

He also made up some very interesting feet.  Kind of a layer cake of two layers of cork,  two kinds of rubber, and double sided foam tape between each layer.  Actually, they remind me of some cookies my mother used to make.  Gram crackers with frosting in between.  MMMnnn.

Now I just need to fix the motorcycle and get back to that project list.