Saturday, November 26, 2011

Occupy Ducati

Just a bit of silliness. Every time I hear them talk about "Occupy Wall Street, my ears hear them say that the demonstration is in 'Ducati Park'. Of course, it really Zuccotti Park, but I can't help the way my mind works.

So here are a couple of versions, the original "Occupy Wall Street" advertisement and a tank walker doing his version of riding the bull.

The irony is that Ducati is a passionate, but rather high price motorcycle. More likely to be part of the 1% than the 99% in Zuccotti Park.

Some might say that the demonstrators are just wasting time and are likely to end up like this guy above, going up in flames.

That got me thinking though. If there were a Ducati for the 'Occupy' crowd, which model would it be. Based on both the attitude and the name, my pick is the Streetfighter. Now all we need is enough Ducati Streetfighters to form the perfect "people's microphone". It would be loud enough, maybe just not saying the right things.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

That Sinking Feeling

I had been riding for about 3 hours in a steady rain. The temperature was about 50 deg F, but I was wearing all my gear. The new overboots were nicely tucked under by rain pants and my feet were warm and dry. The rain liner of my jacket was well sealed and the insulation keeping me warm. My rain overgloves kept my hands dry.

As I rode around State College, it was raining really hard. Even the cagers were going slow. Earlier, I had stopped for a drink in a little town surrounded by Amish farms. When I walked into the store, I left my helmet on at first, just to keep my head from getting wet, but I had to apologize to the store clerk for the puddle that formed around me on their nice clean floor.

As I picked up speed south of State College, I had that sinking feeling. There was something cold down in my crotch. Slowly, the feeling spread, first deeper into my crotch, then through out the seat of my pants. Cold, wet, uncomfortable.

If you can remember back to when you were in diapers, it's kind of the opposite feeling. Or rather, in the case of the diaper the spreading feeling was the same, but everything was warm instead of cold.

If you look at the photo, you can see a little gap, high up on my left leg. This picture is looking down while seated on the bike and was taken after I got home and with only my rain liner over my jeans. It turns out that rain was hitting the front of my jacket, flowing down into my lap and building up in the folds until it found a way through the gap and inside to make me cold and wet.

Trust me to find a problem in any product. The manufacturer has already acknowledged and fixed the issue for free. He said it was the first leak in the long history of their rain liner.

As for me, I spent several hours drying out in a restaurant and rode with a plastic grocery bag over the gap for the rest of the trip. I'm thinking that I finally have my gear safe from the rain. I sure hope so.

Monday, November 14, 2011

The Dream

Have you ever woken in the morning remembering a dream that was so vivid, so real, that is almost like an actual experience?

I had such a dream last night, and since it was about a motorcycle, I decided to write it down here.

In my dream, I was at a motorcycle gathering of some sort. Part of this event were people riding out from the display area and up a curvy mountain road.

In the display area, I met the owner of an excellent cafe' racer built from a 70's era Triumph Tiger. The bike was low and stretched out with drooped handlebars and strangely reversed handlebar levers that you operated with your thumbs. The bike and fenders were a dark blue-gray flat paint that made it look like old original paint.

Neither of the bikes in the pictures is an accurate representation of the Tiger, but the proportions and concept are right. Both of these photos were copied from, an excellent website documenting unique bikes in wonderful photography.

After talking to the owner for a while, I was invited to take the bike for a ride up the mountain road. Naturally, I accepted. After all, it's my dream. The bike started up on the first kick and the exhaust snapped and thrummed. Out on the road, the bike was stable and responsive. The engine provided smooth and torquey response to the throttle with just a hint torque pulse from the engine. For the whole length of the run up and down the mountain, I felt at one with the bike and woke with a smile on my face.

Not bad detail for a dream, eh? I just wish I could find a photo of a real bike that is closer to the dream bike.

Friday, November 11, 2011

An Imperfect Vacation

Part of the fun of wandering around the countryside on my vacations are the unexpected things that happen, interesting people I meet, new places to explore, surprises along the way. Most times, bad weather is just part of the adventure. Sometimes it gets in the way and is just plain uncomfortable.

This fall's little wander started with a forecast of 6 1/2 days of good temps and little rain. It turned into cold temps and rain every day but one. That, and some unfriendly people, made this an unusual trip.

Once in a while, the clouds would part as in this shot. I was crossing a ridge on Fairview Mountain when I got above the clouds. All the colors were washed clean and the view to the next ridge made it worth digging out of all the rain gear and finding the camera.

Included in this trip where experiments with the new video camera. I found that its hard to both take pictures and video at the same time. The mind set is just different. So while, I don't claim that any of the video I recorded on those few dry hours was worthy, it did mean that I didn't take my usual number of photos. And as any budding photographer knows, it takes a lot of bad photos to find a few good ones.

In this post, I decided to throw in a few pictures together with a few observations along the way.

Based on town names, I'm guessing that the settlers of eastern Ohio were pretty well read. After visiting, Gnadenhutten, the site of a late 17th century massacre of native people, I passed by Cadiz, Calcutta, Liverpool, Lisbon, and Palestine. Most of these were 19th century industrial towns with buildings like this old mill in Liverpool.

Two results from the helmet paint job. The fluorescent colors seemed to work as far as other drivers noticing me, but there is a down side. Apparently, the helmet looks like a nice bright flower to an insect. I had so many bug splats that I had to clean the visor multiple times during the worst days, just to see out safely.

I don't understand western Pennsylvania. It's really pretty empty. It's not even that curvy. But everytime there is a hint of a turn, a suggestion of a fun road, the speed limit comes crashing down. There were enough cops around that I was good boy, even on the devil's highway (666).

One interesting thing in Penn. are the junkyards. Most places these days, they dismantle the cars and store the valuable parts in a warehouse. Car bodies are often stripped and stacked or cubed and shipped to China. In Pennsylvania, the junkyards appear to be the classic rows of partially disassembled cars. If you want a part, you find the car and take it off. Ah, Tradition.

On my way through the thin part of Maryland, I stayed in Deep Gap. Leaving Deep Gap, I had to take Break Neck Road. It's like a challenge, a moral imperative. If you are a real man, you must take Break Neck Road and see if you survive. Since it rained about 7 inches of rain the previous day and night and locals were talking about washed out roads everywhere, I felt like I was taking on a real challenge. No big deal actually, just a cool name.

In the skinny part of Maryland, the southern border is a branch of the Potomac River. I came down to Old Town where the map said there was a bridge.

First of all, its a toll bridge. An old lady sat in an old toll booth waiting for her $0.25 toll. Of course, with all the rain gear, it took me some work and some time to dig out the money. Apparently, she was worried that I might pull out a weapon or something, because when I looked up, she had a large wooden mallet in her hand, poise to wack me if I did something wrong. As soon as she saw the coin, she relaxed, but I never did feel welcome.

As you can see in the photo, the bridge isn't any more welcoming to a motorcyclist. Very narrow, no guard rails, a wooden deck with gaps, and longitudinal planks laid unevenly along the tire tracks for cars. The track planks were 10 to 12" wide with warped ends sometimes sticking up and broken corners and knots making gaps of several inches. I did my best compromise between slow for the rough surface and faster for better balance. I never did feel welcome.

In West Virginia, I wandered back toward the Allegany mountains, an area I had enjoyed a few years before. Along the way, I wandered into Jordan's Run, a valley north of Seneca Rocks. The only advantage of rain is the light that comes after the rain. It took me 2 miles to find a place to turn around and come back for this picture.

I'll try to pull a video together, and maybe one more story of motorcycles in the rain.

Monday, November 7, 2011

Bicentennial Man, er Fiat

I pulled the facia on the 500 and just had to take a picture.

In this shot, Guido reminds me of the movie "Bicentennial Man". In the movie, the Robin Williams character is a robot who, when they remove his plastic face (facia) and he looks in the mirror, screams at the site of the mechanical components underneath the face. "What's wrong?," says his colleague. "I saw the inner me.", says Robin.

I pulled the facia to try to find a place for louder horns. There they are, the red discs under the bumper.

This little car is amazingly tightly packaged. Hardly any wasted space at all. The new horns just barely squeeze in between the AC condenser and the fog lights in the facia. It reminds me of a line I will paraphrase from Monte Python. Petting a rabbit, "So small, so firm, so fully packed."

The other thing I often do with a new car this time of year is to install a stronger headlight bulb. Guido's lights are OK, but I always want more. At least until I'm melting the snow off the road in front of me.

So I pulled one of the headlight bulbs to figure out what to buy. To my surprise, Fiat had already put the best available bulb in the car, one that put out more than twice the lumens of any other available bulb. These little touches always surprise me.

Naturally, I broke the bulb by dropping when trying to remove it. That way I learned that it is not only the brightest, but also rather expensive at nearly $50 per bulb.

My bad.