Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Stamping My Way

Yesterday I was reading an interesting ride report posted on the New England Riders forum. Nomad Willie was telling about his visits in and around New Jersey. One place in particular was Morristown. We took the family there once and visited the place where George Washington slept. This is what first caught my attention, so I read through the ride report to see what he had to say about it. I was soon curious about something else the further I read down through the report. It appeared to me that Nomad Willie was on a quest of some sort. A mission he was determined to complete. He was talking about “stamps.” Because curious minds want to know, I posted a note for NW asking to educate me about this mysterious “stamp” collecting he was doing.

It seems there is a popular practice of visiting National Parks and getting rubber stamped. Collectors stop in at the visitor centers and ask the park ranger to “stamp” their collector book, or whatever it is they use. I was amazed at the network of people who collect National Park Stamps. You can even belong to a club, the National Park Travelers Club. The 6th Annual Passport Stampers Convention will be held August 2, 2008 at Lowell National Historical Park. Who knew?

Now, believe it or not, Andy and I visited the Lowell National Historical Park last year after the Mother’s Day Flood. We wanted to ride the entire length of the Merrimack River to Plum Island. Plum Island had recently been in the news as some recycle bins from Goffstown New Hampshire had washed up on the shore, having been carried there by the flood waters. Andy took the occasion to stop in at the old mills along the canal. During his machine shop days, the company he worked for at the time had restored an old hydro generator at the site. These turbines were what generated the electricity for all the mills along the Merrimack in Lowell, the blueprints of which had long since been lost. Visits to the site had been made to make more accurate measurements for machining the replacement parts. Andy was taking me on a guided tour to see these turbines. Both of us were surprised to see it had turned into a National Park. We roamed around for a bit, and even met a Park Ranger. We had a friendly chat, with Andy telling the Park Ranger about the new gears and his part in their construction. But I digress.

All this was interesting but I still didn’t know why Willie was chasing stamps? For the past few years the NER has had treasure hunts. To participate, you work out the riddle provided, find the landmark, ride to it, and take a photo of your bike parked near the landmark. You get points for each one, and at the end of the season, the person with the most points wins a prize, and bragging rights. Willie is a treasure hunt junkie, and this year, there is no treasure hunt planned. So to satisfy his addiction, Willie is placing himself on a National Park Stamp pursuit. The IBA (Iron Butt Association) will give you a certificate if you visit 50 parks in 25 different states within 1 year’s time. All the elements of a great treasure hunt including a prize at the end to boot if you are successful. All the elements fit right in with Nomad Willie.

I started reading through the list of National Parks and was astonished at how many I have visited in my lifetime. Many of them are recent history as well. With the trip to the West coming up in July, and a number of National Parks on our list, I began to think of the stamps as more a souvenir. I used to collect pins. With pins, however, you don’t have the date imprinted like with the stamp. The stamps look like this:

Each region of the country is color coded.
• North Atlantic Region — brown
• Mid-Atlantic Region — light blue
• National Capital Region — red
• Midwest Region — orange
• Southeast Region — purple
• Southwest Region — gray
• Western Region — green
• Rocky Mountain Region — gold
• Pacific Northwest and Alaska Region — blue

I’m thinking this is a great idea to make the vacation my own, so I put my order in for the book. At the end of the trip, I hope to have stamps from Bryce Canyon, Rocky Mountain National Park, Zion National Park, the Grand Canyon and Gunnison.

Since there is also plenty of riding to do before late July, Nomad Willie may even see Jade pulling up at a ranger station closer to home.


Monday, April 28, 2008

Trailer Project: The Power of Intention

Let me wax philosophically here for just a few moments before I proceed with the trailer update. In the past few years, I have been doing some serious reading. A lot of it would be considered “self help” by some. However, the books I have been reading have mostly to do with understanding how we think, our inner self talk, and understanding our true intentions. One of the concepts that have captured my imagination is the power of intention. All that you see in the world or that we use daily was just a thought of someone’s at one time. Through the power of intention it was manifested into the real world.

Fast forward to the present day and our desire to travel to Colorado. In order to take part in a motorcycle adventure of a lifetime we would need a few things we didn’t currently own nor have access too. Hence the Trailer Project was born. With a solid intention of moving forward with our plan, the word went out in the search of a trailer. The results of our intention is manifesting nicely into the real world as you can see in the photos below.

We are declaring the metal frame work complete. In this photo, you can see the frame completely sanded and primed. We put a gloss finish on the outsides only. The wheels and extended axel are seen in the second photo. We have options here, in that should we decide it’s needed, an extra set of springs is waiting on the side lines. Andy wanted some touches of color, so he painted the trailer jack, axle, and coupler ball lock, red. Just for good measure, he painted the ball red too.

Andy picked up a couple of sheets of plywood for the decking. We placed them on top so our imaginations can revel a bit in the concept of the finished product. Then those were removed, and the lights installed. I have to say, I’m impressed with Andy’s handiwork. We do want to install amber lights toward the front. Those have yet to be purchased.

Andy came across a donated can of oil based brown paint. Not my selection for deck color, but the price was right; free. This works nicely into our budget. First he said it was just for the underside, but when he saw how much was available, the decking became all brown.

With the trailer hitched to the car, we bumped it up and down the dirt road and over a few pot holes for a test. We identified a few rattles and will attend to those soon. I chuckle at being admonished that we “have plenty of time” to complete the project, only to find that Andy is the one who needs reminding. In the heat of the day or cold wind blowing, black flies buzzing, and sprinkles of rain, you can find the man working or pondering his next step. Now that’s the power of intention!

Sunday, April 27, 2008

A Teaser

Saturday, we had the pleasure of riding with the vacation group. Three couples, in the wind, dreaming of the vacation to come. While we were enjoying New England roads, my mind’s eye was envisioning the roads to the west.

In a recent post from Lee, the itinerary was laid out before us for review. He did a great job of plotting the route with Garmin attachment included for our GPS units. Below is a short overview of each day of riding we are planning to do. There are 2,537 riding miles for the 7 days of motorcycling bliss. When you read the short overviews below, you will understand our excitement in looking forward to this trip.

(I’ve borrowed the photos from the web. The credits are listed below.)

Day 1:
Overview : 371 miles ; Superslab riding; Cuchara Mountain Pass; a taste of scenic roads; Royal Gorge Bridge; Highway-of-Legends.

Day 2
Overview : 285 miles; Garden-of-the-Gods; Tennessee Pass; Rt. 24; Aspen; extremely scenic back roads; leisure, relaxing riding; Independence Pass.

Day 3
Overview: 334 miles; Superslab riding; extreme, continuous twisties; Rt. 72; Rocky Mountain National Park; Trail Ridge Road.

Trail Ridge Road, Rocky Mountain National Park
The highest continuous paved road in the world
More than 10 miles of highway above 12,000 ft.

Day 4
Overview: 360 miles; Gunnison National Park; Black Canyon Dam; National Scenic Byway award winning roads.

Day 5
Overview: 408 miles; an ambitious day with an early start; Grand Canyon; Arizona; Lake Powell Dam.

Day 6
Overview: 400 miles; Lake Powell; Zion National Park; Fantastic superslab riding; Utah; Spotted Wolf Canyon.

Day 7
Overview: 398 miles; I-70 Superslab; high-speed trip back to Colorado Springs; Scenic roads toward Colorado Springs.


Royal Gorge Bridge

Garden of the Gods:

Trail Ridge Road:


Black Canyon Dam:

South Rim:

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Riding Boots

Back when I took the rider course, I needed a pair of boots pronto. Someone had canceled and a slot had opened up in the class. I bought a pair of boots off the shelf at the local mall. They were a pair of Lugz on sale for twenty bucks. After a few years of riding and buying boots, I’ve come to realize those are the best darn boots I’ve ever owned. I still wear them on occasion although they have seen better days. I like that they are insulated, thus offering warmth on cold riding days.

The next pair of boots I owned was better suited for looking at than for riding. The soles were nonskid which was good, but they let in the rain and cold. I’m not sure they offered much in the way of ankle protection either. Considering the price of boots, I stuck with them and wore the soles smooth. Then I was on the hunt for another pair.

One of my pet peeves is wearing clothing with logos or brand names splashed all over the place. I really don’t like being a walking billboard. I take this into consideration with boots as well. In my hunt for a new pair, I saw some Harley styles that appeared suitable. Unfortunately, I don’t want to be free advertising for Harley or any brand and the name was emblazoned across most of the styles I considered. I wasn’t having any luck. Then I stumbled upon a boot I felt would do. It zipped at the inside, was high enough to protect the ankle and although it was a Harley brand it wasn’t obviously labeled. I plunked down some big bucks and went home with the new boots.

After a short while, the defects of the boot were soon evident. My feet were as wet in these as in any. In addition, the 1 ½ inch heels were killing my feet. Now 1 ½ inches might not sound bad to some, but with bad feet like mine, the flatter the better. It felt as if I were walking on the balls of my feet, the precise location of my foot trouble. They ended up in the closet, and out came the Lugs, worn soles and all.

I started asking around and a riding acquaintance mentioned Cruiserworks boots. Expensive, he said, but waterproof, and a good solid boot. I visited their website. To my dismay, they only had three women’s styles. All had heel height unacceptable to me. The men had a selection that went on into infinity. This was certainly an inequitable situation.

I remembered that a woman I ride with has feet issues too, and that she had found a pair of boots that suited her. She selected a men’s boot, as there were no women’s sizes available. I checked these out. They were not that high, but covered the ankle bone, water resistant, and a flap that covered up the laces. This is a nice feature to keep out the water, and also keep the laces from dragging down and snagging on something. I found a pair at a local shop, but my feet would not fit right in any of the sizes. Either they were too snug or too loose. At $119.00 I hesitated in taking a chance with these only to have them end up in the closet.

Then I remembered my Lugz. They were a perfectly good boot although advertised as a “work boot.” Waterproof, steel toed, and slip resistant, everything you look for in a motorcycle boot. I went to the local department store and scoured the work boots. There were few options for women, and plenty of men’s styles. I inspected the men’s department more closely and with the help of a friendly and sympathetic clerk came away with a boot I’m going to try. They are waterproof with an absorbent lining, steel toed, slip resistant, all leather and the price was right. Although they don’t protect the ankle as much as I’d like, they at least cover the ankle bone. No boot will save your foot from harm, not matter how good they proclaim themselves to be. I have a friend who knows this all too well. Even if they last only one season, offer a good amount of protection, if not the maximum, it will be well worth the comfort.

Monday, April 21, 2008

Project Continues

The trailer project continued this weekend with considerable progress made with the frame. With Jade still in the shop, it was only a mild consolation that we were working on a motorcycle project. We took advantage of the great weather to do as much work on the frame as possible. Andy and I spent the day Saturday sanding. We did not spare attention to detail as even the bolts that hold the tire rims were sanded and painted.

Our plan is to extend the axle so the tires will be on the outside of the frame. This will afford us more real estate on the decking for two motorcycles and simplify the job should we have a flat on the road. We each cleaned one end of the wheel shaft of grease and grime, then sanded, primed and set aside for later.

Sunday found us sanding the rest of the bottom of the frame. Currently we have the frame upside down to work on the bottom first. The frame is in great shape. We found only surface rust and nothing serious that would compromise the strength of the metal. It was a labor intensive effort. Thankfully, Sunday was not as hot as Saturday so our flesh was spared a repeat of the scorching it took on Saturday. This does not mean we didn’t run into a bit of trouble. Andy had a blade break while cutting metal and shaving off bits of old bolts etc. The blade gouged a chunk out of his knee, and you can see him wearing his home made tourniquet in some of the photos. Then I sanded off a bit of knuckle flesh on my index finger. Not too bad, and it seems the heat of the rotating blade cauterized it a bit too. We were both more careful afterward. Andy took a break, had a few hot dogs on his makeshift grill and was good to go.

When it was decided that the sanding was the best it would get, we even had some daylight left to begin the priming. We ran out of paint before we ran out of sunlight. That was OK as we were tired and called it a day. Andy will pick up more primer on Monday and finish the job. Then we will proceed with the top coat before we flip it over to work on the top. We also need to consider decking. Metal has skyrocketed in price, so we were contemplating the composite material they use for decks these days. It’s durable and lasts forever. However, someone at work suggested this warps and sags. I’ll have to investigate this further. If anyone has ideas for decking, feedback is welcomed.

Friday, April 18, 2008

The Elevator Phone

My desk is near the elevator at work. The elevator doesn’t get much use anymore because the second floor is vacant at the moment. However, since my desk was moved to its new location last summer, I have discovered that the elevator phone gets more calls than I do. On slow days to amuse myself, I answer it. Here is what I have discovered.

A lot of people want the town branch of the Department of Motor Vehicles. One conversation evolved this way:

Me: Hello?

Woman: Yes, I need to register my car, are you still located in the strip mall?

Me: I’m sorry but this isn’t the department of motor vehicles.

Woman: Oh, can you transfer me?

Me: No, I’m sorry I can’t.

Woman: Can you give me the correct number?

Me: I would, bit I don’t see it listed here in the elevator.

At other times, all I discover is that someone is desperately trying to fax the elevator a document. I’m not sure where I would file it in the elevator.

There are times when I just enjoy playing with people’s heads.

One lady was soliciting donations. I mentioned that it was an elevator phone and I could pass the receiver around if she liked?

Another time, someone asked for “Frank.” I mentioned to the caller that she had called an elevator phone. I then pretended to ask "people" in the elevator if there was anyone here named "Frank". Just for good measure, I mumbled something about big brother. The woman cracked up and we ended up having a pleasant conversation.

What can I say? It’s all in a days work.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Riding Gear

Last season I purchased a new textile jacket for riding. The jacket I selected is a Rev’It Brand. It’s European, and you can find them at dealerships such as BMW. Unlike many women’s jackets, this one does not end abruptly at the waist but comes down below the belt line. A pleasant feature when you are riding as it doesn’t creep up the back exposing flesh.

I’ve been enjoying the new textile jacket and wanted to add the textile pant as well. It turns out European women’s sizes end a size smaller than what I am. This is disappointing to say the least. I’d have to go into a men’s pant, which is not suitable in my opinion. I spent all of last season trying to find a decent summer riding pant. With the Colorado trip coming I plan to bring two jackets, the new Rev’It and my summer weight which is a PowerTrip brand. It’s a great jacket, offering protection, while giving you the feeling of being air conditioned during the heat of the day.

In considering the gear I want to bring on this trip, I took a look at the leather pant. This is a good pant for early spring and late fall, but because they are hot in summer, I tend to ride in only jeans. Most of my riding is done with jacket and jeans, but I always am a bit uncomfortable. My last two vacations on the bike were with jeans only, but I feel the need for a decent riding pant.

The other day, I came across Tour Master Venture Air Pant for Women. I scrolled through the features. I liked what I read. With a few more question in mind, I called a local Tour Master Dealer for more details. Then I ordered a pair on line. I selected the “silver” color. My thinking here is that I can avoid black, which can be hot and also that its light enough not to clash with the white summer weight jacket, and also look OK with the black and gray Rev’It. I will have to wait and see how they look and feel when they arrive.

Sunday, April 13, 2008

Preparation Begins

Our Colorado trip is getting closer to reality thanks to the fine members of the New England Riders, and their generosity. With the acquisition of a trailer frame, once used as a base for a camper, we will build our two-bike trailer.

The price was right, a few hours travel time and a couple of gallons of gas and we had her home in the yard. Before sunset on Saturday, we had time enough to examine the frame closely, talk about our options, and leave it for the next day.

Sunday greeted us with overcast skies, and a slight wind chill, unlike the spring warmth of the day before. Such is life in New England. We had just enough time before the sprinkles began, to trim away the old bolts and give it a rough sanding,

I was put to work banging off a bit of unwanted angle iron that most likely once held up a now nonexistent bumper.

Then we devised a ramp. This was done mostly to feed my imagination, which is insatiable. I enjoyed every bit of the play acting as I walk the ramp, picturing Jade rolling up for the big trip ahead.

The rumor is that another couple may join us on the trip. If the rumor is true, and the other couple can manage it, that will put me on the road with three former colleagues. A thought that gives me much pleasure, as you couldn’t find a better crew, equaled only to the NER.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Public Speaking

My kneecaps were jumping and my armpits pricked as if I were wearing woolens in mid-summer, but I survived reading aloud in public. For the past several weeks, I practiced reading to the walls, an excerpt from one of my short stories, in preparation for the Peterborough Library’s 175 anniversary. Peterborough Town Library 175th Anniversary, 1833-2008

The Library had a published schedule of activities for the day. When I arrived, I requested of the librarian a printed program. There wasn’t any printed program I was informed. I introduced myself as a member of the Monadnock Writers’ Group, and explained that we wanted to know where we were in the schedule for the public reading of our material. I was then introduced to the coordinator of events, who assured me she would be along shortly with the Library Director to answer our questions.

I returned to my group, and delivered the message about the printed program being nonexistent. The coordinator and director arrived shortly, and mistook me for the spokesperson of the group! In the confusion that followed, we discovered that although we were expected, the library had not received our bio’s as requested, and we would need to introduce ourselves. Thankfully, another member of long standing was in attendance and took over duties as spokesperson, much to my relief.

My relief soon turned to dismay when we discovered that we would follow the local authors (including Edie Clark, Alice Fogel, Lita Judge, Beth Krommes, Howard Mansfield, Vicki Stiefel, and William Tapply) who were scheduled to read excerpts of their works first. This was intimidating to say the least! However, as I listened, I felt that I had as much credibility for putting pen to paper as any and that thought helped to assuage a portion of my anxiety.

It was soon my turn at the podium. With jumping knees, pounding heart, and prickling arm pits, I made it through. The audience made expressive sounds at all the right places as I read along. I developed a respect for them that surprised me. They were not critics, but regular folk who enjoy reading and have an appreciation for the written word. Maybe I’ll do this again.

Saturday, April 5, 2008

Out of Hibernation

The spring sun brakes through the cloud cover and warmes our faces by midday. That is all the encouragement we need. With fully charged battery in hand, I make my way to the shed. I slide back the door, and with care, remove the shroud that has protected Jade through the long cold winter.

First, a visual inspection is in order. Poor Jade is in dire need of a bath. Due to our difficulty last November she was put to bed for the winter without a decent wash. Other than the grime, she seems intact. I slide the battery in, and connected the terminals. With only a bit of apprehension, I flip the kill switch to on, twist the key in the ignition, press the start button and give the throttle a twist. The engine groans only a bit, but you can tell Jade is nearly awake from her sleep. A bit more coaxing and a little more choke and she roars to life. My heart leaps with joy, and my skin prickles with excitement just to hear the sound of that engine.

We roll out, and down the ramp and in the bright sunlight, begin a more thorough inspection. A twist of the nuts and bolts reveals that all is tight and secure. All fluid levels are still OK. Andy and I speak about a few concerns we had last season. With our summer vacation to Colorado on our minds, we talk about the suspension and the loads we will carry. Jade’s suspension isn’t as superior as that of the Vulcan, but there are options available to us. We remove the seat once more and inspect the shock for the preload adjustment. We discover that the shock is at the manufacture preset or 3. We test a few of the other settings, and I decide to move from 3 to 5, which stiffens the suspension just a bit. I’ll be testing this setting on the road in the months to come and adjust as needed to my satisfaction. Here are a few photos I got from this great website that helps us wrench our own 650. VSTAR Custom

With tools stored, we both survey our environment. Mud, snow, and puddles surround us. Andy and I look at each other and without another word; he slides the Vulcan out too. Then we mount, twist the throttles for effect, and slip and slide our way to solid pavement. A short one mile ride gets our “engines” fired too, and we roll home with the firm belief that with this symbolic ride, winter’s grip has just been broken.

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

What Most Women Find out the Hard Way

My name was pulled at a recent writers’ meeting, and I walked away with a new book to read, the title of which is, If You Want to Write, by Brenda Ueland. Of all the helpful advice I gleaned from this book, it was the following excerpt that gave me the greatest pleasure.

...the lives of most women are so vaguely unsatisfactory. They are always doing secondary and menial things (that do not require all their gifts and ability) for others and never anything for themselves. Society and husbands praise them for it (when they get too miserable or have nervous breakdowns) though always a little perplexedly and half-heartedly and just to be consoling. The poor wives are reminded that that is just why women are so splendid – because they are so unselfish and self-sacrificing and that is the wonderful thing about them!
But inwardly women know that something is wrong. Menial work at the expense of all true, ardent, creative work is a sin against the Holy Ghost.

“How wonderful!” I thought, at being absolved of an untidy house.