Saturday, January 28, 2012

Along the Way in Texas, Mostly

I called this last test trip, "The Twelve Tire Tour". Its OK to sing along with the Gilligan's Island theme song. In the end, I did almost 3600 miles in 9 days. Still managed to get some testing done in there too.

There were interesting things along the way, but I made a special list of things I saw in Texas. The first thing was a chain of gas stations/convenience stores in Missouri, Oklahoma, and Texas. I wonder how it got it's name.

Of course, in Texas, they have to tell you to drive friendly. One version said, "Drive friendly. I've got a gun."

All over Texas, I saw a church that was new to me, the Texas Cowboy Church.

Driving through central Texas, in the little town of Breckenridge, I came across this loan company.

When I got up in the hill country, I found what Texan's call a "hunting ranch". This is a large plot of land, often with a tall fence around it, that is stocked with wildlife and used for private hunting. At one of these I saw 3 albino deer, 2 does and a buck with a rack that was wider than he was tall. I suspect that rancher is growing these deer as a hobby.

In Uvalde, I found the "Bottle in a Bag" store. Here you could buy two of Texans favorite things, guns and liquor.

The hill country is an interesting place, worthy of exploration. The river's have some cool names too. How about the Nueces and Devils rivers. I especially liked the sign I saw but didn't take a picture of, "East Fork of the South Devils River".

Finally, when I got to New Mexico, I found proof that they see things from an existential point of view in New Mexico.

This remains travel season at work, so I'm not sure when I'll post again, but be assured that it will be trivial as its hard to be deep or creative when you're on the move.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Along the Way

I've been touring the country with 12 tires. Most of the time, its just long days of driving. But sometimes, I see something along the road to comment on.

My first day driving south out of Houghton, Mi. crossed Wisconsin and Minnesota. My earlier impression of northern Wisconsin was of a flat forest, but I was surprised how hilly much of it is. For example, Wausau is the insurance capital of Wisconsin and is bordered on the south side by a really big hill. Dare I say mountain? The name for the hill is Rib Mountain. This shot is from Wausau, complete with ski area in view. The next shot is from the ski area. Definitely not flat.

I passed through Eagle River and that is one snowmobile obsessed town. They were holding the World Championship snowmobile races a few days after I passed through and you could just smell the excitement, mixed in with two stroke oil. Think a Nascar oval track covered in ice and snow very fast snowmobiles on it.

Wisconsin labels its county roads with letters, so there are lots of signs for Hwy N or Z as you drive along. Smaller roads were labeled with multiple letters like Hwy HH.

There were also quite a few big billboards for "Chubby's North, a Gentleman's Club" When I finally saw "Chubby's" along the side of the road it was a small building with a very large parking lot. Unfortunately, Chubby wasn't able to pull off the ideal combination of having his "Gentleman's Club" located on Hwy XXX.

Finally, near Owatonna, MN, there was the sign for "The Guggenham, Spam Museum". A vacation destination for each and everyone of you, I'm sure.

Sunday, January 15, 2012

When I travel, the experience is the part countryside, part people, and part the character of the road itself. Its always been a challenge to communicate the feeling of interesting road with a still camera.

Last summer, I got one of those video cameras that you can mount to your helmet or bike with the idea of communicating the my travels in moving pictures. My first public attempt is below.

As mentioned before, last fall's trip was splashed by a lot of rain. This 4+ minute video is a mash up of clips taken from one afternoon of riding in West Virginia on a day when the rain relented and the roads dried up enough to make it worth getting the video camera out.

Taking videos is a very different animal than still photography. I've mastered neither, but have a ton more to learn about video. The shoulder mount in this video is OK, but my helmet is in the way. I would love to mount the camera on the bike so the viewer could experience the bike's lean angle but vibration is a challenge, especially on a thumper like the KLR.

I wasted a lot of time try to fix some blurry spots in the shadows that turned out to be the relatively slow processor of my computer. Shown in HD on a flat screen TV and shown in 1080p, the videos look their best and the blurry shadows are gone.

I've been trying the various video websites. This Vimeo link allows you to see it in 720p in "HD" or smaller. The HD file pretty big, so you may want to click HD off if you don't have a fast connection.

Please pass along any comments or criticism. I'm still learning in every way. In the meantime, I hope the video gives a sense of my backroads travels. The roads in this video are around Pancake, Williamsport, and Greenland, WV.

Saturday, January 7, 2012

Motorcycle Show

This weekend, we Detroit types got a look at the traveling motorcycle show that many of you may have already seen. I went along to throw my leg over things I don't usually see and to try on helmets and such.

Part of the fun is the old and custom bikes on display. My favorite was the Scott Flying Squirrel, an early water cooled motorcycle and just a really cool look.

The variety of bikes was much better than seen over the last few years. I got the chance to sit on a Buell Racing 1190RS Carbon, a Ducati Diavel, an MV Augusta F3, an Aprilia RSV4, a Moto Guzzi V7 cafe racer, and a Norton Commando 961 Sport. Naturally, I forgot my real camera and found myself fighting the limits of a cell phone camera in poor lighting conditions. The Buell is a very purposeful and pretty bike. Too bad the picture of the whole bike turned out blurry. Nice carbon fiber, though.

Those bikes may be more exotic than most, but of course, I didn't fit on any of them. Just like I don't fit on the vast majority of normal bikes at the show. I'm always disappointed that Honda never has any bike that is both interesting and a reasonable fit. Of course, I have leg room on many Harley's, but am not comfortable with the leg forward riding position of the Harley group.

I wanted the Triumph Thruxton to fit, because I think it's a very pretty bike, but no go. The air cooled Triumphs are interesting, however. They have a really minimal approach to what is in front of you. The handlebars are low and so are the headlights. It seems like the only thing in front of you is the speedo and I felt like I could see the ground in front at about a foot in front of my toes. It must be an interesting feeling when riding at speed.

In the end, there were only 4 bikes that fit and moved me. Not surprisingly, they were a lot like my KLR. The practical ones are the V Strom (either 650 or 1000) and the updated Versys. Both are very capable, nice quality bikes for a very good price. They are also a slightly aquired taste in appearance.

Opps, how did that girl get in there? The update on the Versys is better than the old one, but still a little strange.

I keep thinking back to the Yamaha TDM 850 (1991 - 2001) that I saw out in Arizona and how it is the same class of bike but with a better look.

I have to admit that I am enamored of the Triumphs. The Triumph Explorer 1200 is a new "heavy" competitor for the BMW GS. It fits nicely and has a real good look. Also appears to be quite a bit lighter than the Bimmer. A very nice "big" bike potential. Big price, of course. The bike in the picture is probably the bike I played with. Apparently, there is only one in the country and it's traveling with the show.

The Triumph Tiger XC 800 is more my speed and would be just about perfect if I could raise the seat an inch. I talked to a couple of Triumph owners at the show and they talk about how nice it handles and how reliable the Triumph's are. One of these guys had previously owned a GS and now had a Tiger 1050. He considered the Triumph to be both a better and more reliable bike. I think he said he had 60k miles without any trouble at all.

Beyond that, I got to try on Schuberth C3 helmets. Also Arai, Nexx, and current Shoei. The Schuberth is nice and the Nexx is very light, but I suspect I'll end up with Arai when it's time for a new helmet again.

Overall, a nice Saturday afternoon. Now it's time to get serious about work.


Here is an image for your imagination.

At the health club, finishing up a workout, I walk into the locker room. A fat, older, naked man is standing with his back to me and leaning on an open locker while talking on his cell phone. As I walk up, I hear him say, "and give me a couple of egg rolls with that...."

Now I understand the real reason why there is a rule against using cell phones in the locker room.