Wednesday, October 28, 2009

The Amish Way of Life as a Sustainable Lifestyle

Eastern Ohio has the largest Amish community in the country. As a result, I cross paths with Amish in my travels. Although I respect their privacy and don't try to take their picture, I can't help notice something of the way they live. Naturally, these photos came from the web.

The Amish I see aren't old fashioned as we might imagine. For example, the local WalMart has about 30% Amish and Mennonite shoppers when I was there. I stopped at a convenience store near Wooster to use the conveniences. There I saw a young Amish man buying one of those pre-packaged salads and a drink for his lunch. His horse and buggy were "parked" in the grass outside of the gas pumps.

On another occasion, a young family of Amish pulled up in their buggy and stopped in a parking lot. The young father brought out a bucket and sponge to wash and cool off the horse while the kids played in the buggy. A charming scene that was finished up by the father going to the Chase bank ATM to get some cash.

Actually, from what I read on the Internet, the Amish are selectively adopting technology where it fits within their lifestyle. For example, its said that 80% of Amish homes have photovoltaic panels.

If you forget about their conservative religion and their closed community and just think about their local foods, their renewable agriculture, their living in a small area with a small carbon footprint, and even their adoption of solar, it would be easy to imagine the Amish as a perfect example of a sustainable lifestyle.

Now these last pics don't have anything to do with this post, other than they popped up while I was looking for Amish images and I thought they were fun.

The logical extension of the big wheel, skinny tire trend. Now, if I could just find some chrome paint.

Titled, "Amish Speedwagon"

Friday, October 23, 2009

Even More People You Meet on a Motorcycle

Not everyone you meet on a motorcycle trip is interested in motorcycles. For example, my innkeeper for two nights in Davis, W. Va. was Susan. After a career as a Creative Director at a marketing company, raising a family, and finally a divorce, she decided to move to Davis and buy an inn. Davis is a quirky little town that was settled on lumber in the 1800's but has had a rough time until tourists started coming in the last few years. Susan likes to explore the outdoors in much the same way I do, except she does it driving her Outback and hiking. Talk about local knowledge, she was happy to sit down at breakfast and share exploration stories. That, plus loaning me her own detail maps for my day's exploration.

I was lucky enough to be there while the fall color was changing.

The panhandle is full of small, quiet places. Its always worthwhile to slow down and follow that lane to see where it leads.

Lounge Chair on an old bridge support where Location Road crosses the Cheat River. A new twist on the old swimin' hole.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Run, Bight, Bottom, and Tickle

When I travel, I like to meet local people and understand local language. Sometimes its an unusual pronunciation, other times a special usage, but it always adds some personality to a countryside that is new to me.

A good example of uneven pronunciation comes from northeastern W. Va. Place names Jordan's Run, Canaan, Job, and Onego are all around the panhandle. I assumed that the first three would be pronounced like in the bible and the forth would be something like "on-a-go". That's true for Jordan's Run and Job, but it turns out that Canaan rhymes with insane. Onego is pronounced as one-go.

Jordan's Run highlights another local language twist. Run, creek, hollow or hollar, and bottom are common names in the Appalachians. Based on conversations with locals, a run is a whole watershed, typically made up of several creeks. A bottom is the flat land alongside the creek and a hollar is the narrow valley with steep hills on either side and a bottom in the middle.

Up in Newfoundland, everything is focused around fishing and boats. There are several different types of harbors, but my favorites are the bight and the tickle. As a local explained it to me, a bight is a broad bay that looks like a giant took a bite out of the coast. A tickle is a harbor with long, narrow entrance that opens into larger harbor. Of course, a tickle is a safer harbor if you can into it before the storm starts, but more challenging to sail into during a blow.

Friday, October 16, 2009

More People You Meet....

On a suggestion from John Chamberlin, I headed to southern W. Va. and Hawks Nest, the "Grand Canyon of the East" on my second day out. After a day filled with all kinds of interesting roads, the run from Gauley Bridge up to the Hawks Nest Lodge was great. The climb from the river to the top was a series of S turns and hairpins, each curve a perfect cereal bowl of banking. As you popped out of one and into the next bowl going the opposite direction, it felt like those shots of MotoGP racers snaking through the corkscrew at Laguna Seca. Excellent!

I arrived at the Lodge at about the same time as another biker on an Aprilia. We introduced ourselves (Keith from Wisconsin), exchanged pleasantries on the weather and the roads, and agreed to meet for dinner at the hotel restaurant.

It turns out Keith and I had roughly the same concept, that is, a last motorcycle trip of the season, made after school started to reduce traffic, and solo this time keep our options open.

I certainly liked Keith's Aprilia Futura, but you have to be careful with these Aprilia owners. They remind me of Ferrari owners that seem to worship the perceived technology and the style. In Keith's case, he not only had this nicely maintained Futura, but he had searched the world to own an Aprilia Moto 650. The Moto 650 is an artistic piece that was featured as part of the Guggenheim Museum motorcycle show. The interesting thing is that both the normal Aprilia's like the Futura and the Moto 650 are powered by Rotax engines from Austria. I guess that an Italian motorcycle is still art, even if its powered by an Austrian engine.

Having said that, there are now two Aprilia's on my short list of used motorcycles I would like to own. Both the Futura and the Caponord are available used in the $3000 to $5000 range. Both share the Rotax 1 liter twin, similar touring geometry, and look to be a heck of a value when compared to other sports touring machines.

So the short list is down to Tiger 1050, Caponord, and Futura. Ah heck, maybe I'll just build something.

Monday, October 12, 2009

The People You Meet on a Motorcycle

On my recent trip around Ohio and W. Virginia, I found out again that my motorcycle is an introduction to some very nice people.

On my second day out, it started raining mid-afternoon, and since I had already had a full morning and partial afternoon of fun exploring, I decided to head more or less straight to my hotel. That hotel was a strange little historical hotel in the little town of Pennsboro, W. Va. Kind of a combination hotel and ministry center.

After cleaning up a bit (both the bike and me), I walked down to the only restaurant in town. As I'm walking out of the restaurant, up pulls a pickup truck with a couple of KLRs in the back. They guys in the truck had noticed my bike parked in front of the hotel, gone inside to ask about the bike, then come down to the restaurant to find me. Mike and Doug (I think it was Doug) just wanted to talk bikes and I ended up being invited out to Mike's house, about 10 miles out in the country, to "hang out".

Mike is an interesting guy and so is his wife, Kay. First of all, their home. To get there, you take a narrow country highway, 2 one lane paved roads, and a narrow gravel road about 10 miles out of town to get to their driveway, which is itself more than a mile long and winds alongside a run (creek). At one point, you splash through a tributary creek before getting to their 215 acres of ridge and bottom. By the time we got there, it was getting kind of dark, so these cabins, which don't do their home justice, are simply internet shots appropriate to their home.

To build their house, they found two, 19th century, 2 story log homes and put them together into a modern home of, my guess, about 2500 square feet. Imagine two houses something like the first picture put together in a 'T' shape. The construction was 'v' notched logs like the 2nd picture with a traditional root cellar and barn as separate out buildings. The rest of the evening was spent in Kay's warm kitchen sitting around a rustic cooking island telling stories. Kay is an artist with a little studio above the root cellar.

Of course, they built all this themselves. Some of the stories were about the land and building the house. Some were about ice dams and floods on the creek. And some were about motorcycles and trips. Mike is a true rider. He came back to motorcycles in 2004. He bought a brand new KLR and between his trips and commuting 80 miles a day to work, he has more than 70,000 miles on it in 5 years. Kay has a KLR too, just with fewer miles. Mike also rides a Triumph Tiger 955 and says its fast but not as good on the dirt roads as the KLR since it only has a 19 inch front wheel.

Mike's most recent trip was this summer. To get to the Taiga Road, you ride north up the east side of James Bay. Then you turn North East on a dirt road that goes for about 300 miles of deep gravel to a massive hydro electric dam. Mike even talked the workers from Hydro Quebec into letting him ride on top of the dam and, thereby, getting as far north as you can go by road on a motorcycle. Of course, once you've done that, there is nothing to do but turn around and ride back.

Mike wasn't done though. After he got back to pavement, he rode south for a while and then turned east until he could ride across the Labrador Highway to Goose Bay, another 500 km of gravel road. By that time, he was running short on time off from work, so he turned around and rode back across the Labrador Highway and home to W. Virginia. The whole trip was, 5 weeks, more than 1000 miles of dirt road, and probably about 6000 miles total. Mike said that he liked to travel light. Just a change of clothes, a small tent, sleeping bag, and an air mattress. Oh, and a few tools, just in case.

As I said, you meet some pretty interesting people on a motorcycle trip. And see some nice old cabins along the way.