A Distinguished Gentleman’s Ride


Back from Canada and the weather in the Midwest was wonderful. On the Milwaukee Vintage Motorcycle (MilVinMoto) there was talk of this all-around-the-world event called the Distinguished Gentleman Ride, or DGR. I don’t know how anyone had heard of it, but apparently on a certain calendar day, people dress in nice clothes and go for motorcycle rides.

MilVin does several themed rides a year, from Evel Kneival to Nuns. A couple of my friends were always interested in these rides, but since they were currently motorcycleless they usually just appeared at some of the stops and missed the actual ride. I’ve always felt a little bad about this, so decided Blue and I would do something about it. You see, along with Curiosity I have a Ural.

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Blue, always the well-dressed bear, was very excited about the event.

My friends, Mary and Jillian, lived near the start of the ride, and planned to meet me there, so I headed to The Fuel Café.

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The Fuel is a common starting point for MilVin rides, so the locals barely noticed a bunch of well dressed people riding up.

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The ride was through the city, with regular stops for talking and eating (and rehydrating. It was pretty warm). The route was the same for each of these themed rides (MilVin also helps co-ordinate the M2M, which uses a different route every year), so if riders get separated it’s usually easy to catch up.

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Mary and Jillian managed to fit into the sidecar together, mostly, though I think they were glad it was warm and the rides were generally short legs.

We started by riding through a couple parkways, then along the lake and some twisting roads. There are some twisting roads in Milwaukee’s urban landscape, if you have ever going looking for them. After this first, longest, leg of the ride we stopped at Iron Horse’s outdoor bar.

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Blue wanted a Bloody, but I made him stick with water. He’s unbearable when he’s drunk.

After an hour or so at Iron Horse we rode south to Café Lulu, the planned lunch stop. They had some tables set aside for us, and some riders joined up there.

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Yeah, a food pic. Those are ‘home’ made potato chips, blue cheese dipping sauce and a half pound burger with bacon. Delicious.

There was more ride planned after this, but some of the riders (myself included) had to peal off at this point for other obligations, so we headed to a train yard for a photo op.

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Phone by Cormac Kehoe

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Phone by Cormac Kehoe – See more of Cormac’s much better photography than mine on his Flickr page

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I can’t blame my camera – Cormac is just better at pictures than I am. That’s him in the blue tie. Most of these rides are his doing, and I think MilVin would be a much duller place without his input.

The group wandered off into different directions, and I am pretty sure this was the last ride of the year. Writing this in January when it’s –9f outside, I don’t think the annual New Years Day Ride drew much of a crowd either (I was working). Even though winter closed it’s clawed hand around the Midwest with more than a usual vengeance, I still managed a road trip to Ohio. I, um, might have cheated a little.

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Horizon’s Unlimited Ontario – Part Four


I slept pretty well in the cabin. There were no sheets, so I was just in my sleeping bag on the mattress. Morning had the small disappointment of no hot water, but I hadn’t really been expecting it. Apparently, there was supposed to be hot water, but some of the cabins had their water heaters turned off for the season.

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I’m not going to say it wasn’t chilly in the morning. I could see my breath once I left the cabin, and Curiosity had a heavy coat of dew that was probably frost earlier. But it was already warming up. Breakfast was in the food lodge, with a mass of sleepy high schoolers who were leaving in a couple hours. There were a line of buses for them by the time they were done eating, and by noon they were gone.

Grant and Susan had those of us where were there at work before then, so I actually missed the buses leaving. I wanted to walk around the camp and see where things were, so I signed up for posting signs. Grant had a map –

 

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and laminated signs and posts. It took a bit over an hour to get everything labels, trying to make things clear and wondering where people would actually wander. With a group of wanderers arriving this was a tall order.

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Riders were arriving before we were finished setting up (of course, why shouldn’t they? I had). Lunch was just us, and the quality of the food jumped several notches over what the high schoolers had been getting. In fact, the food for the whole weekend was simply amazing. I had been concerned over it, and still had food incase I felt like I was on my own, but in the end I think I gained weight.

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I had also scoped out a spot for the hammock while I was out and about in the morning. Susan pointed out they had way, way more cabins than they were going to need and offered me one, but by then I was excited about my spot and passed.

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I would have a view of the lake every morning when I woke up.

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By evening there was a pretty large crowd. I had a presentation that night, getting to help trouble shoot the sound (which I still don’t think I needed) to a packed out. I think most of them were there because it was warmer inside, or waiting for Emily (who was after me).

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It got cold that night, but I was perfectly comfortable in my sleeping bag. Getting out of the bag in the morning was – difficult.

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The dining hall had coffee, cocoa, and hot water available all weekend. It was nice for first thing in the morning, but by afternoon it warmed up considerably. There was hot breakfast too, and they knew to always include bacon. Not Canadian Bacon – the regular kind.

It was Friday the 13th, and I was at a campground with a lake, but no one seemed to notice so I played it cool. There were presentations to watch and give, and people to talk to. I am always impressed with some of the stories I hear from other people at these events. I wonder why they aren’t talking in front of a crowd with me listening along with. I’ve slowly (very slowly) come to accept that my travels have a certain degree of coolness, but I’m not the only one with stories to tell.

Other riders drifted in as Friday went on, then a large group in the early evening as people who’d had to work arrived. The camping areas filled up and Friday night’s dinner had a lot of people. The food was still excellent and plentiful.

It was colder on Friday night than it had been on Thursday, and it was harder to get out of the sleeping bag. The frost was heavy on the ground and motorcycles.

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I resolved to get actual insulation for my hammock over the winter. I used a sleeping pad, which I carried for when I had to set the hammock up on the ground. It provided some insulation from the cold on the bottom on the hammock, but not as much as a proper underquilt would. Still, I was okay until I had to get out of the sleeping bag.

Seriously – if you are going to buy something expensive for your trip – get the best sleeping bag/pad you can. It’s the most expensive stuff I travel with.

Saturday had a full schedule of presentations, since it was the day with the largest attendance. There were a lot of people at lunch, breakfast they kind of wandered in and out.

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It was the warmest afternoon as well, really a beautiful day. People are concerned about the overnight lows, since it was also going to be  the coldest of the nights.

I didn’t take that many pictures, since I was listening to people, or talking myself, hanging out at the massive fire pit. That night I ‘cheated’ and slept in one of the lounges, which was heated and had couches. Yeah, I probably could have slept in the hammock and been okay, but I don’t have anything to prove.

I had one of the last presentations on Sunday, a writer’s round table. Around that I helped with taking down the signs I’d put up at the start of the weekend. Riders were packing up and leaving as well, the last few classes had only a few people. Some had a long way to go and work the next day, so it there wasn’t anything to feel bad over.

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I had wanted to leave around 1230, but stayed for lunch and vague planning for next years event. I don’t think I helped much, but there was lunch.

Once I was on the road and headed south I was suddenly very, very tired. I’d wanted to reach the USA on Sunday, but with the late start I had decided just to get through Toronto (since it was Sunday and I didn’t know what traffic was like there on Mondays). At a fuel stop in Barrie I realized I was just being dumb and found somewhere to stay. Five minutes after checking into a hotel the skies opened, a massive downpour that would have blinded me on Curiosity.

I ordered a pizza and updates some social media I’d neglected over the weekend, and went to sleep early. I set an alarm and was up and through Toronto by 8am. After that it was just driving home, the weather getting sunnier and warmer as I headed for the southern end of Lake Michigan, already planning on which route I was going to take to Ontario in 2014. I was thinking something from the Southeast.

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Horizons Unlimited–Ontario Part Three


I woke in Sault St Marie, comfortable in my motel room. I know it had rained off and on all night, and when I stepped outside I could still see my breath, so I was content with sleeping inside.

I hadn’t unpacked anything, but I took the time to shave and shower before leaving. When I had shared where I was on Facebook the night before, a friend had clued me in to a museum just over the border. I am not one to pass on a museum, but first I had to get across the border.

First I had to get through the border. Okay, Canada isn’t Afghanistan or anything, but it is still a different country with different laws and people responsible for border security. When asked why I was visiting I told them about the HU meet, and that I was presenting. They asked if I was getting paid, and I said no. I should have stopped there, but I mentioned the camping fee being waved, and that was enough for me to get waved over to a building where perhaps the sternest looking Canadian I had ever seen took my passport and went into a back office for a while.

He came back out, gave me a form, and waved me on my way. I still don’t know what, precisely, he did while I waited. It was probably pretty technical.

The form was collected by a smiling woman in uniform in the parking area. She said it was just so I could prove I had actually spoken to someone inside, and gave me directions to the museum.

Oh, what museum was I trying to get to? Why the Bushplane Museum of course.

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The had dedicated motorcycle parking too, but it was pretty far from the door and I seemed to be the only visitor. I was there just after it opened, and more people (including large tour group as I was leaving) would trickle in during the day.

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Since I am really nothing more than an overgrown boy child, I love planes. In Canada, apparently, a bushplane is a very specific sort of craft – something I would have called water planes. there were some ski attachments, for when lakes are frozen, but a plane that was even capable of landing on, well, land, was rare in the museum. A plane that could only land on land was non-existant. I guess that explained the “landing area” I’d seen outside.

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There were a couple dozen planes (and, oddly, a few old cars) on display. Some were open so you could climb in and around, others had open doors so you could look in, but were kept out by ropes. I had the impression all the planes were working models – nothing there was just for show.

There were also some cool displays on things like early aviation and a huge on firefighting, including a long movie about it. I’m guessing that was a major task for the planes, and given how empty a lot of Canada is I could see fires getting pretty out of control

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I left the museum in late morning. It had free wifi, and since I wasn’t sure when I would be able to again I updated everyone with my location and plans, in case I was eaten by a bear or gored by a moose (my CDMA phone being too expensive to use in Canada). Then, I headed out into the wilderness for a while before the HU meet.

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Okay, what I really did was stop a Tim Horton’s for some TimBits. I mean, how can you resist? Actually, resisting wouldn’t be that hard, but when I go to the Southeast I stop at a Waffle House, and when I;m in Texas I find brisket. When I got to Canada I eat some Tim Horton’s. Maybe it helps keep me from catching any local illnesses, or something.

Once I was on the road for real and out of Sault St Marie, I stayed on the pavement and made my way generally east and south. The HU Meet was in Camp Manitou, near Perry Sound. It was an area I’d been through before, but I didn’t remember if I’d ever stopped or looked for camping there. There was a Provincial Park nearby, and since I wasn’t supposed to be at the campground until the next day I thought about making my way there.

I rode along the coast of Lake Huron, though most of the time all I could see were trees. Canada has a lot of trees, which is good since I was camping in a hammock. I was south of Sudbury when I stopped for a early afternoon lunch, and realized I was already very close to the Camp Manitou. I had known Grant and Susan mentioned they would be there earlier to start setting up, and I decided to stop and see if there were actually there.

The closest “town” to Camp Manitou is Mckellar, which was on my map. It was pretty small, but had a gas station and small grocery store. Perry Sound was larger, if a bit further away. I still had lots of food along with, so I was ready to stay put for a few days if needed, so long as I could get water.

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Grant and Susan Johnson were there, along with a couple other travelers and 3.4 million highschoolers from Toronto. Okay, actually it was the entire 10th grade class from one urban Toronto school – they did this trip annually as a bonding experience for the students and (some of the) teachers. I was impressed by the apparent fitness of the kids, and that none of them, not once that I saw, ever pulled out a phone or tablet or anything. I asked one of the teachers if they’d banned them for the camping week, but he said no. The kids just didn’t use them.

Crazy.

Anyway, I ended up staying at Camp Manitou that night, but in a cabin since we weren’t allowed to camp. We were also placed away from the kids, which was fine with me. Susan showed me the cabin – a simple with thing with one lightbulb and no sheets and seemed generally concerned I wouldn’t like it. It had an attached bathroom and running water – honestly what more could you really want?

I tossed my sleeping bag on the bed, plugged in everything I had that charged, and slept well. In the morning I was going to help set up, once the kids left, and riders were expected in the early afternoon.

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Horizon’s Unlimited–Ontario Part Two


I slept well. In the morning I placed to cool breakfast, but the mosquitoes had patiently waited for me to reappear and I decided to flee to clearer air.20130910_103024

I remember going to Big Boy all the time when I was little. They aren’t around much anymore, so when I can I like to stop. I had the breakfast buffet and snuck some bits out for lunch later.

Upper Michigan has a couple really good waterfalls, but the big one for tourist is Tahquamenon (rhymes with phenomenon). It has an attached park and several paths to see the waterfalls in the area. I’d actually been there before, back in 2007, but hadn’t remembered until I was already there. Since I was there, and Blue hadn’t been, I went for a walk.

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There was a Model A tour group I would see off and on while in Upper Michigan. It seemed like a cool idea, though later in the day at Whitefish Point I would find myself annoyed with some of the people.

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There are wheelchair friendly paths, but to get right down to the water you have to take the stairs. 94 down, 347 back up. It is worth it, though.

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There are four or five waterfalls, upper and lower sections. You can actually get to most of them on paths of various quality.

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I did spent a few hours there. Even though there was a crowd, once I got away from the large viewing areas it was peaceful. Just wind and water. Well, mostly water, but there weren’t any bugs and that was good.

Before leaving the falls I made lunch. There was a large visitor center with a restaurant, but I had food along with and some leftovers from breakfast, those were filling. Then I was back on the road headed further north.

Whitefish Point is this little knob of land, jutting into Lake Superior. It’s the last turn before the locks at Sault St Marie, a natural place for shipping to congregate. In the tumultuous waters of the northern Great Lakes, It’s also a common place for ships to sink.

The lifeguard, then light house, station at Whitefish Point has been preserved as a reminder of a time when ships went down regularly, and navigation didn’t have the aid of satellites and GPS.

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I have wanted to visit Whitefish Point since 2005 or 2006, when I’d heard about it. It seemed like every time I was headed that way, something would happen to prevent it. This time everything went as smoothly as it could, though it did rain. A little. And it was much colder there, on the lake.

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I heard about Whitefish Point on a show, documenting the loss of the Edmund Fitzgerald. As part of a salvage project, the bell from the wreck was recovered and placed at Whitefish Point as part of a memorial.

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There was a lot of stuff about the Fitz in the various buildings, but there are (actually) hundreds of wrecks off Whitefish Point, and many of them famous for one thing or another. One of the staff said it was hard to look down into the water and not see a piece of shipwreck. Maybe for him it was, he’d found more than 20.

The keeper’s house was open, with period furnishings and slightly creepy manikins.

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There was also a small movie theater showing a (short) film about the sinking of the Fitz and the recovery of the bell. Before the film one of the salvage divers from the museum’s recovery team gave a brief talk. This was where I ran into the people who were on the Model A tour. Older, affluent looking. They were – amazingly disrespectful to the speak, the displays, the…the everything. I was a little surprised at their behavior, it was juvenile. The speaker was taken aback at first, but he quickly switched to irritation. I think he would’ve asked them to leave, if he could’ve.

There was also a boat house, complete with boat –

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and other equipment used to rescue sailors. I liked the idea of a cannon-fired-rope.

I wanted to camp above the Sault St Marie locks, and headed that way. It had clouded over, but I was blaming the lake for that. Okay, I didn’t really think about the fact the locks were also on the lake.

I reached Sault St Marie just as it started to rain. It was a cold, driving rain and I found somewhere to stop and check the weather. I also wasn’t really sure where the camping was, and needed to sort that out. The rain, as it turned out, was supposed to last for about an hour, then pause for a bit, then return all night. I found the camping, but decided I would check a couple motels along with way. If I could find something with about the same cost, I would stay indoors. I will camp in the rain, but urban or niche campgrounds can cost as much as a motel, and in the rain I’d rather have the motel.

The first place I stopped gave me a price that was way out of budget, and I passed. He looked at me, dripping in his lobby, and asked what I was looking to spend. I told him the cost of the campground I had found online. He shrugged and said he could match that, and I had a room. He even let me park Curiosity under some shelter, though the rain wasn’t going to hurt it.

Next, I was headed into Canada.

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Hennessy Hammock–Gear Review


One thing I am looking to do more over in the upcoming year is some reviews of gear – so you up and coming small bike (or light-packing) travelers have a sense of where you spend your hard earned gas money (on non-gas things).

The two most expensive things I have with me when I travel are my sleeping bag, and my Hennessy Hammock. It didn’t used to be that way, and I used a normal, set-up-on-the-ground tent for years and years without complaint. In fact, if I could find a replacement for about what I paid for it (About $20) I would and the hammock might be left behind. Lucky for me (and the quality of my night’s sleep while camping), Ozark Trail (the Walmart company who made that old tent of mine) changed the design of their small tent and the new one I find uninspiring.

So, the hammock. I got it because it packed up very, very small. There are tents that pack smaller, but they are usually bivy bags, and I wanted something comfortable enough to stay in, if I was somewhere with poor weather. I read someone on ADVRider.com singing the praises of their hammock, and I found one on the shelf in Anchorage and bought it more on less on impulse. It saw use immediately as I went camping in the Kenai for a  few days.

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I have always been a restless sleeper, and when camping am usually awake by 630 or 7, simply unable to sleep any longer. In the hammock, in the Kenai, I was rarely awake before 8 and woke rested. It was a dramatic change.

I used my Hennessy (the Expedition Classic – which I picked because it was the one available) all the way south. When there weren’t trees and I needed shelter I learned how to set it up on the ground as a bivy, but whenever possible I hung it. Despite sleeping on my side or stomach on the ground, I slept on my back in the hammock (I could lay on my side, the hammock allowed for a relatively flat surface) both comfortably and well.

I will say that hammocks sleep cold, and to stay warm you need something under you, even when hanging. I’ve used a sleeping pad, the same one I used on the ground and convenient for when I have to set the tent up on the ground. I am probably going to invest in a more traditional piece of hammock insulation called an underquilt. Hennessy makes one for their hammocks, which I will probably purchase. I am also considering a replacement hammock from Eagle’s Nest Outfitters (ENO). I love my Hennessy, but the ENO hammocks offer a little more flexibility.

Packed, the hammock is about the side of two 20oz soda bottles, and weighs (with straps and stakes) just under 3lbs. It cost $160, just under what my sleeping bag cost, and I consider it money well spent.

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Horizons Unlimited Ontario, Part One


I have been a fan of Horizons Unlimited for years before my trip. There is something empowering about that website that ADVRider lacks. Perhaps it’s the steady undercurrent of “You need to stop reading ride reports and get on the road already.” It’s a bit of a dangerous site to hang out on.

One of the things HU does is host meets all over the world. There are, now, five in North America (California, British Columbia, Colorado, North Carolina, Ontario), and I signed up to give presentations and otherwise talk at the Ontario meet in September.

Now, I went to the same event in 2012, when it was cold and snowy. We camped in a field with a couple porta-potties, and a single (unheated) tent for presenters. Since there were generally more than one presentation going on at a time, that meant others got to be outside. It wasn’t the best, but there were a lot of people there anyway and a good time was had.

This year the venue changed, though it was still in September so weather was going to be a factor. I am unashamed to admit being a little nervous about venturing north so late in the year, but like I said – I like to support HU.

In 2012 I went along the north shore of Lake Superior. It was pretty, but cold and the waterfalls along that coast were strangled by a year of drought. There wasn’t a drought this time, but I opted to stay south of Superior this time and head for Whitefish Point. The Shipwreck Museum was something I’ve wanted to see for years, and something always happens to make me miss it. I was dedicated this time, and figured heading there right away would help.

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I started north, taking the highway through Green Bay, much the same route I had taken earlier in the year to visit friends on the other side of Lake Michigan. Since I left in the morning this time, I had more time on the first day, reaching the Upper Penisula of Michigan (the state) in the evening. I found a camp site in a nice rustic area, setting up the hammock as the sky was filled with clouds and mosquitoes. It was a nice site, but I had missed the stagnent pool off in the woods.

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I made dinner, some how ending up with more than I can eat. That happens sometimes, though I had only had a light lunch.

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It had cooled off some as well, and I quickly got tired of fighting the mozzies for my food and fled into the hammock. It rained some, during the night, which I knew from things being wet in the morning. I slept very well.

Whitefish Point was within easy reach, so I decided to make another stop on the way, to see some waterfalls.

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Wrecking on Purpose


I’ve worked a lot as an EMT-Paramedic. Since 1997, except for when I was full time traveling and full time writing. Both those periods were entirely too brief, but that is for another time.

On a nice summer day I wouldn’t mind going to a car crash (Called MVA or MVC in the technical parlance), but people rarely crash when it’s nice out. Inside I would frequently get to stand in biting, cold, snowy condition trying to drag someone out of a car, rear ended at all over 3 mph while they screamed how their back hurt and listing off the people they planned to sue. Okay, it wasn’t like that very often but even once it too much.

Somehow, in the course of all this, I had never once attended a demolition derby. I don’t know how that happened, looking back. Clearly I just failed to attend enough county fairs, which are probably the last, best, place to encounter the retro Americana people go on about. This past summer a motorcycling friend of mine actually entered a demo derby (not for the first time), and I decided to go and watch. The event was actually on the last full day of the 110th, and Rania was leaving the next day. I invited them all along with, but they passed and I found myself at the Walworth County Fairgrounds on Curiosity. They had motorcycle parking, but street parking would’ve been a better choice. On the (very) long walk in I saw my friend’s weapon of choice for his event.

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No, that’s not him.

There were three events, the first two were qualifiers and the last was the finals. I had to work early the next morning so I got tickets to the first two, assuming that he would appear in one or the other of them.

Once I had my tickets, actually a couple of wrist bands, I found a few friends who were also there for the carnage that was to follow. There was some confusing over where were going to sit. Supposedly an area had been marked off for us, but once we got into the bleachers they were packed and it was everyone for themselves. I still managed to find a small open area where I could sit with a couple friends and see the field of play.

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As I had mentioned, I hadn’t ever been to a demolition derby before, so I wasn’t aware of the potential dangers of sitting so close.

These preliminary rounds were broke up by the relative size of the vehicles involved, and by how much they had been modified for the purpose of crashing into each other. All the vehicles – I can’t saw cars since there were vans and trucks – did have minimum safety features, roll cages and the like.

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Listening to the annoucer drone on and then watching the cars line up wasn’t all that impressive. Loud, but I’d just spent a couple nights looking at Harleys. Noise did not impress me. Once they started the slaughter, though, I was hooked.

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Cars were eliminated when they could no longer move. Drivers signaled they were out but pulling down little flags attached to their windows, though sometimes one of the refs would have to point out to a driver that they were, in fact, done. There was money to be won in the finals, and I had the impression that money really mattered to some of those drivers. The last two from each group was allowed through, and the second show had consolation runs, where repaired cars could try again.

In between each episode of violence, small front end loaders would come out to push cars out of the arena and fix any damage to the concrete blocks. Some of those drivers showed far more skill than the guys in the cars.

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While I freely admit it was the crashing of cars together that caught and held my attention, some of the drivers brought a sense of humor to the event as well, which made a difference.

 

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The bigwheel stayed attached for a while. The monkey, sadly, did not.

In the end, I didn’t get to see my friend destroy his minivan. Since there were so few mini-van entries, everyone was promoted to the finals, and I didn’t want to stay that late. Of course, I probably would have changed my mind about that if I had known in advance how cool it was going to be, but I didn’t know and didn’t change my plans.

I rode home on Curiosity as the sun set, and vowed next year I would try and see more demo derby. Also tractor pulls, a friend told me those are cool too.

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The Rumble of Freedom


For the last year or so I’ve been living in Milwaukee, Wi. This is where I was living before my year on the road, and it was easy to settle back into. Too easy, perhaps, but here I am.

Milwaukee, apart from being the land of beer and cheese, is the home of Harley Davidson. Now, I have done my fair bit of Harley-bashing over the years, but it’s been generally targeted at a certain segment of their riding population. The ones who bought the bike as an investment, planning to sell it for almost what they paid (or more) in a couple years. The ones who worry about their miles building up, or who only ride from one bar to another, or who never ride anywhere at all, except so people can look at their bike and be impressed.

Okay, some of the bikes are impressive and not particularly rideable, but at some point they change from a motorcycle to some sort of rolling art – something which is definitely not a motorcycle.

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(I met the owners. They just rode it in parades and such, trailering it every where. I asked how it handled and the man just shook his head and said “About how you’d expect.”)

I don’t have a problem with motorcycles as art, but my real love of motorcycles and motorcycle culture is the travel – the going of places. Of how being on a motorcycle immerses you in the world in a way other travel just doesn’t. On the whole, while Harley promotes that sort of thing in their commercials, there are few riders who really embrace that sort of thing. The lifestyle seems all most want, and that I just don’t understand.

So, It was with more an a few mixed feelings I agreed to go and hang out at the Harley Davidson 110th anniversary with a friend who was returning to Milwaukee just for the event.

I opted to grab the Ural to meet my friend at the ferry, and to head over to the Harley Davidson Museum for the first night. Others of her friends would be meeting us there, and at it turned out some of mine were there too. Blue got to ride in the sidecar, something he hadn’t done in literally years.

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He said he liked it a lot better than being stuffed into the daypack, so maybe we’ll have to take a couple sidecar trips next year.

Rania – that would be my friend – was taking the Lake Express Ferry into Milwaukee. I admit to liking the Badger more, but the Lake Express is faster and arrives a short distance from the museum we were all headed too. I told her I’d meet her at the ferry, rather than trying to find her at the party.

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There were a lot of bikes coming off the ferry, but I found her and someone she had ridden to the ferry with from Philly (where is lives). The three of us headed to the museum, me trying to avoid the chaotic parade that was already developing from the dock. Lucky for me, Milwaukee is on a grid and there are almost always other roads, at least until right before the museum.

Parking was – interesting. The city had closed down part of the street so bikes could park down the middle, but that area was full when we got there. There might have been room on the grass of the museum, but the Ural isn’t a small rig, even for a sidecar, and Rania and I parked up the road a bit.

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The museum had vendors selling HD shirts (for the 110th), some food, some beer. A couple bands. A lot, a whole lot, of bikes. Most were people there for the party, but some looked like displays. One, which I apparently didn’t take a picture of, had a lot frame with each of the different engines Harley had used over the years. It was probably the coolest bike I saw the whole night, though I’m pretty sure it wasn’t running. The new models were there too, where people could sit on them or look at the various new features. I was amused by the iPhone holder in one of the fairings, complete with power cord. I wondered if that was stock or something extra. It wasn’t listed on the price sheet.

I handled the crowd better than I thought I would, staying until after dark. There was talk of going for a ride the next day, and Rania said she would get in touch with me.

She did, in the late morning, to let me know they were already out and about, and where I could meet them for lunch. It was going to be her, Mary, and Sue, there weren’t a whole lot of other details, and I met them at one of Sue’s favorite lunch spots. It was actually pretty good.

The four of us, Blue hadn’t come with and I was on Curiosity, then headed south on the Kettle Moraine Trail – a scenic route through South Eastern Wisconsin. The whole thing is only a couple hundred miles, but we were about at the midpoint.

As we rode south the sky clouded over then turned dark – and then darker.

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I suggested a couple times that we should stop, preferably somewhere with frozen custard, but instead we found ourselves in a small diner when the skies opened up.

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Rain is rain, and it happens on the road. When it started hailing I was extra glad we’d stopped when we did. Hail sucks.

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The power went out in the diner, after we’d eaten, and offers to help save the ice cream (by consuming it) fell on deaf ears. After about 45 minutes the rain stopped and we headed back outside. Getting back on the road we saw lots and lot of branches on the ground, and there were some road closures for whole trees and live powerlines that had been knocked over.

I had waterproof riding gear, and the ladies worked out how to get home on their bikes, since it was now much colder. We just took the freeway home, me following the others and wondering if they were going slow because they didn’t think Curiosity could go faster, or because they were uncomfortable. I never asked.

Apparently the next morning the three of them hit the party early, and I didn’t meet up with them until later at night. Rania was no where to be found, apparently she was still recovering from the morning, so I went for walk along Brady Street. The street had been closed off for the party, but instead of using the area for parking (parking is always an issue there) it was some sort of, well I don’t really know what to call it.

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People stood along the sides of the road and other people rode up and down. It was perhaps 8 or 9 blocks. There was a lot of engine reving and cheers from the sidewalks. There was also the occasional burnout, impressive since a lot of police were in the area. I don’t think anyone got arrested for that, but I did see people getting arrested, as well as a lot of bikes being worked on.

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Over the course of the four day weekend I saw about a dozen bikes on the side of the road. most of them were talking about needing to get their primary covers off, which made me joke on Twitter “I guess it’s called the primary because it’s primarily where things break.”

It was a late night on Brady, and then at Mary’s house where Rania reappeared. And, while there was a lot of the stereotypical things that Harley is both known for a resents, I can’t say it was a bad time.

Of course, the best news is that it’s a long time until the next one.

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And I’m back. Probably.


Sorry for the lack of recent posts. I have all kinds of excuses, but the simple truth is I was having fun doing things and just did a terrible job sharing. this means that we all have some catching up to do, now that there is a bunch of snow outside my windows and temps occasionally reach double digits.

First things first, Volume 3 of Pain, Curiosity and a Bear is now available on Amazon both as an ebook and in print. This volume is color only, since no one seems to be buying the black and white editions. It has just under 200 color pictures from my time in Central and South America with Curiosity and Blue the Bear, and even if you don’t want to read what I have to say I like to think the pictures would be worth it.

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In other news, I’ve sent an application in to present at Overland Expo 2014. I don’t know yet if they are interested in having me back, since they don’t usually announce anything until early 2014, but even if I’m not on the instructor list you should go. I’ll be there regardless so you can say hello to me and Blue, and there is a ton of information there.

I am also hoping to attend both the east coast Horizon’s Unlimited events in 2014. There is one in North Carolina, and one in Ontario. This year, well in 2014, they are going to be on following weekends (NC first), so I get a nice east coast road trip out of it. There are several people and places I’d like to visit over there, so I get to send emails. Yay emails.

For non-riding things I have a new book in the Tales of Super City storyline coming out next year. Under the Radar is a much larger story, more characters and a new super team – Team Justice. It takes place after the events in The Fall of Awesome, and I’m hoping to writing another Super City story next year, perhaps the forming of the Super Squad, or something. I haven’t decided. I am also researching another motorcycle book – on money. I like money, though I might to too attached to the sound it makes as I spend it. This has been a struggle for me ever since I had money to spend, and the book will cover many of the little (and big) things I’ve done to try and afford my travel habit.

Well, that’s it for this update. Next will be the Rumble of Freedom.

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Grounded Hammock


Sorry for the lack of posts, truth is I’ve been busy trying to get Pain, Curiosity and a Bear Part 3 done, working too much, and both my last trips were on the big bike, mostly due to time restrictions. It’s not the best way to travel, but Curiosity just can’t do 900 miles in a day. Not at the moment, anyway. I might have to work on that.

Despite this, I have been doing things with minimalist motorcycling in general. Going Small 2.0 is outselling Going Small, which I like, and Curiosity is getting prepped for the ride to Canada and the Horizon’s Unlimited meet in Ontario.

You should all go.

In the mean time, I thought I would type about hammocks.

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I got a hammock in Alaska when I bought a new sleeping bag. It was something of an impulse purchase. I’d been using the Nomad Tenere tent, which was comfortable but huge. The REI had a Hennessy Hammock on the shelf and I picked it up. As a tent, it’s lacking, but by the time I left Central American it was my main tent. In fact, I didn’t even set up the Nomad in South American once.

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I’ve never had one of those fancy, expensive, backpacking tents, so the hammock is much smaller than I’m used too. It was also less expensive, though I think the one I bought was marked down some.

While I have been singing the praises of the hammock (I don’t think I’ve ever spelt as well on the ground), a frequent question is what I do where there aren’t trees. While I was sleeping Chile’s beaches I didn’t usually pitch any sort of shelter. It wasn’t like it was going to rain there. But I do see the problem in some areas, such as the great plains, where storms are common and trees can be scare.

Alternative hanging options are around if you go looking. I’ve used shelters in campgrounds and the bases of power lines, but if there really is no where to set up, you can still use a hammock as a simple shelter.

I use a Hennessy Expedition Hammock, and have always used a sleeping pad inside. This isn’t the best method of preventing the convective cooling hammocks are known for, but it does mean when I sleep on the ground I have a pad.

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Find a level spot. I put Curiosity on the side-stand, and set the hammock up on the “down” side. I’ve never had anyone convince me the center-stand was more stable than the side-stand, and I use a puck for most surfaces. The bike hasn’t fallen on me yet.

Since most hammocks aren’t meant to be on the ground, a tarp or something underneath is a good idea (DD Travel hammocks claim to have waterproof bottoms).

The Hennessy has a bottom entry, which is at the foot of the hammock when it’s hung, but is the head end when it’s on the ground. I take the rope on that end, loop it over the handlebars, then stake it down on the other side of Curiosity.

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I should also point out that, while I normally use small, lightweight stakes, I’m using larger ones this time. I’m thinking about carrying a couple for times the lightweight stakes can’t cut it, or just switching to them permanently.

With that end staked down I stretch the ridgeline reasonable snug and stake the other end.

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You should try to take care and make sure there’s enough room for the rain fly, as you can see I cut it kind of close.

With both ends staked, I pulled out the guide ropes the Hennessy has to open up the inside. It’s not exactly roomy, but there’s room enough.

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Looking towards the foot end. The rain fly isn’t on in this picture, to let some light in.

Set up takes only a couple minutes, and tear down not much longer. It might be even faster if I had those fancy skins to wrap everything up in, but I don’t yet.

Obviously, there were lots of trees in this park, so I could have hung the hammock, but I hope you get the idea of how it can be used as a bivy. Now, it might not be as comfortable on the ground as a ‘real’ bivy would be, but no bivy is going to compare to a hammock when you can hang it from something. And, really, usually you can find somewhere.

I also have a video showing all this. Go multi-media.

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