Thursday, October 8, 2015

All hyped up and nowhere to go

Earlier today I read an article decrying the stupidity of the Hydrogen car. Of course, the article had many kind things to say about electric cars, while ignoring that many of the issues they had with hydrogen vehicles are also problems facing owners of electric vehicles. Let's face it, both plug-in electric and hydrogen electric vehicles rely heavily on fossil fuels at some point to obtain their energy.

Either way, buying a car is not a truly "green" thing to do. Think about it: to build any car, resources must be mined or extracted, processed, and formed into the various parts. The larger the car, the more resources are needed. Certainly, recycled items are now being used for plastic parts in some cars, but that's just a small piece of the pie. Even the smallest cars available here in the states require more resources than any scooter.

Scooters and small bikes, like the Honda Grom pictured above, use fewer resources to make, not to mention the resources needed for operation and maintenance. Thinking that you're doing a favor to the environment by buying a car, is a delusion. Frankly, thinking you're doing a favor to the environment by buying a bike is only marginally less deluded, but still has less impact in the long run simply by nature of the substantially smaller amount of resources needed.

Scooters and small bikes are versatile, inexpensive, and practical transportation. Most passenger cars carry one person most of the time. This just does not seem practical to me, which is why I personally rely on my scooter far more than my car. It just doesn't make sense to run a five passenger vehicle that gets 20ish mpg when a scoot will get me (and sometimes the dog too), to whichever destination is needful. Certainly, there are times that a car is preferred, such as blizzard and monsoon conditions, but even then (as previously discussed in my Nissan Leaf overview), an electric or hydrogen car would cost more in the long run than I could easily justify.

Hydrogen vehicles may eventually get less expensive, but for now, they cost about as much as electric cars which makes them little more than a political fashion statement. I'm a simple guy and can't make that kind of statement on my income, so I'll stick to my 14 year old Jag (she turns 14 this month), and my lovely Honda PCX.

Sure, scooters aren't the equivalent of the popular kid in school. Some might even think them to be the geek or nerd, but in the end, geeks and nerds tend to have a future past highschool. Electric and hydrogen cars are popular with people who want us to think we should be "saving the planet." I know, as do my many bikey friends, that those of us on two wheels can stifle a laugh when the pious Prius driver's pass with their cages festooned in earthy-crunchy-save-the-planet bumper stickers. We know that their "carbon footprint" is a sasquatch's compared to the tiny rabbit trail we leave.

Saturday, September 26, 2015

The invisible man

It's how we feel when we ride sometimes. It doesn't really make any sense either. We're bigger than bicycles, but people seem to see them most of the time. We're louder than pedestrians, but still, they don't seem to get hit nearly as often as we do. What gives?

The normal response is: "I didn't see the motorcycle."

That's right folks, we're invisible. This past May, I was on a ride with seven others. The lead bike was a cherry red Goldwing, and all the other bikes but mine were big and loud. Even so, a lady in a Volvo pulled out right in front of the group. I'm sure, had she hit us, the response would have been the same tired answer...but the truth is, she didn't look. I watched her as we neared the corner. She never looked left and just pulled out across traffic. Thankfully, we were all able to stop since we were slowing to take a corner, but it was close.

The only thing I can figure to do is to make them look. I try to be so visible that there is no way the "I didn't see him" excuse can hold any water. We've just crossed the threshold into autumn, so warmer clothing is coming out. This means that many will see me wearing my blaze orange coverall. It cost 29.99 at Cabela's a few years back and may be the single best $30 scootering item I've ever bought. Yes, I do use it for hunting as well, so I'm really getting my money's worth out of it. I've noticed that people do seem to look twice when I'm wearing it. I've only had one person pull out in front of me while wearing this suit.

On warmer days, I have a vest, but it doesn't seem to grab the eyes as much as full body orange. It's cooler, which is nice, but I've still had plenty of close calls while wearing it, so it really doesn't seem to help all that much.

Then there's the helmet. Mohawks, horns, crazy helmets, and helmet covers seem to be eye catching. Rowlf certainly gets plenty of attention and Maggie seems to enjoy having another dog to ride with. It's funny to watch as people who were not at all tuned in go from a look of boredom, to recognition, to grinning. While traveling north on I-84 in New York, I chuckled as a mini-van pulled alongside then ahead, then fell back, then passed me completely, all while the passenger filmed the spectacle of a muppet on a motorscooter. Hey, they saw me. That's something at least.

It's a bit of a trade-off though. One afternoon, on my way to work, I arrived at a four way stop. The woman crossing the intersection in front of me was so intent upon waving, she nearly hit the stop sign to my right. At least she didn't hit me. That's a win right there.

It's not foolproof since there will always be people who just aren't tuned in while driving, but there are certainly ways we can try to catch their attention.

Friday, September 25, 2015

Hay Creek Festival

So here I am, laying on the couch with my head pounding. I know, writing is probably not recommended, abut I despise doing nothing. Being hyperactive (or hyper-aware, as I prefer to call it), even when my head feels like Uncle Fester got to it, my mind still runs a mile a minute.

Sometimes, when the brain won't stop churning, I remember things I've done and places I've been, the beautiful things I've seen and other bits of trivia. While browsing through my pictures, I found some of the Hay Creek Festival from a couple weeks back. My lovely wife and I decided to finish my week off on a high note and went to Hay creek for the day.  

For starters, the setting is Beautiful. Add to that the sound of the clacking and clicking and brapping and fizzing and popping of hit-or-miss engines, and it's a lot of fun for those of us with a more mechanical bent who just like old stuff.

Many of the engines on display were working scale models.

Others were the real thing and were running anything from water pumps to corn grinders. My friend and pastor, Kevin, always attends the festival and takes his own engines along. One of the engines at his tent was interesting. I has a bronze lion's head on the flapper for the water pump. 

It's a bit hard to see in the photo but te nose of the lion can just be seen poking out of the water behind the red hose. The craftsmanship that went into making a lot of these things just doesn't seem to happen these days. No one wants to pay for the amount of time and work that goes into making thngs by hand and doing it well. That so much of this old stuff still runs is a testament to the dedication and pride of those who made it.

 There were also plenty of old cars, including this lovely T-bird with a "tomato soup" paint job. The car selection seemed thinner this year than previously. 

The festival also includes food of course, which we were too busy eating to take photos of. Just the same, the apple cobbler was a little slice of heaven. 

Up the hill a ways there are artisans selling anything from honey to flintlock rifles to hand-made sauerkraut. There are also vendors selling crafts and jewelry. 

If you're ever near Morgantown PA on the second weekend of September, Hay Creek is a great place to spend a day. . 

Thursday, September 24, 2015

Like buttah!

There are many things that are good with lumps in them such as: Chunky peanut butter, gravy, tea (with sugar), ice cream. There are other things that aren't good lumpy including: mattresses, carpets, milk (unless you want to make cheese), and roads. Yes, no one likes a lumpy and bumpy road.

On my recent trip north, I found a back road in rural New Jersey that was so full of potholes I thought the Swiss had been by for a visit. In south-western Massachusetts, route 57 through Granville was so torn up for road work, it made me question whether World War III had started in the Berkshires. Then there's Lemon street here in little old East Pete.

Bumpity bump bump bump

About two years ago, there was a water main break on Lemon Street. Understandably, this kind of thing happens with older infrastructure; however, the road has since been torn up multiple times and the road surface is so bad, those times I can't avoid going north on Lemon Street, I ride in the opposite lane when I can, just to save my suspension. 

Things changed for the worse last week. There was more digging on Lemon Street, and they didn't patch it, just filled it in and topped it with gravel. There are no signs, no warning, not even a bit of orange paint to mark the spot. Late last week, I didn't realize this and nearly wiped out. Thankfully the patch is short enough that I was able to recover. Then today, I tried to go around the gravel and instead hit the northward edge of the poorly patched tunnel to China. The jolt of hitting the front wheel on the edge of the abyss nearly took me off my scooter and sent everything in my crate flying, including a $10 can of waterproofing spray for my rain gear, which quickly got squashed by an oncoming car (thankfully it was the can, not me). There was no obvious damage to the scoot, but I was doing less than the speed limit, which probably prevented such a thing.

The abyss by the light of day

I went to the borough office and explained the situation to the young lady behind the counter. She took my info and my number, and said she'd give it to whomever is responsible for the roads. This was around 10 am this morning. As of 8:00 pm this evening, there is still no warning, no sign, and the road is still unsafe for those of us on two wheels.

After visiting the borough office, I returned home, took a nap, then went to work to discover a delightful surprise: Fresh asphalt on route 897 just south of Lebanon. Oh, it was beautiful. Yes, I had to wait to be allowed through on the single open lane, but it was a smooth slice of road-heaven.

Upon arrival at work, there was another surprise. Yes, more fresh asphalt. At the time, it was still being laid down and smooshed into place by rollers, but oh, the finished product is smooth like buttah! So, despite a migraine and having to go home from work a bit early, at least the road home was pleasant to ride on.

Even more, when I got home, a lovely sunset was bidding farewell to the day. So, even with nearly wrecking my scoot, the roads improved and the ride goes on...tomorrow, after the migraine passes.

Monday, September 14, 2015

On the hunt

It's that time of year again. The time where everything is starting to change from green to shades of red, purple, orange, gold and brown. Here in Pennsylvania, mourning dove and goose seasons have opened. This means long walks around fields of corn, alfalfa, or soybeans. It doesn't necessarily mean any dove or goose meat on the table though.

Some will call me cruel for hunting doves. I don't look at it that way. They are an animal like any other and are perfect game for someone like myself who doesn't have the ability to stand or sit still for very long. To be honest, the doves are nearly as safe with me hunting them as they would be without. I used to be a much better shot, but it seems time has changed that.

I put my Remington 870 Wingmaster 20 gauge in its travel bag, which was then strapped in front of the crate, and headed to the farm I normally hunt.

It was a lovely day for a walk. The fields of soybeans stretched away as I strode around the outer edge. There were dragonflies flitting this way and that above the green and brown plants, but the only birds to be seen were sparrows and a few raptors overhead. This was fine since I don't really go hunting for the wild game, but rather for the joy of being outdoors, besides, not shooting anything means I don't have to clean it.

Going hunting on a scooter requires a bit of minimalism. It also helps not to forget that there's a gun strapped to the bike. I kinda forgot until the the gun case knocked into my neighbor's truck. There was no damage to either the truck or the shotgun, but it threw me off balance which nearly made me dump the scoot. Even so, scooters are a perfect way to get out for small game. One doesn't need much to hunt small animals; just a firearm, some ammo, and a place to put the results of the day's hunt. Scooters or other small bikes can easily provide this.

The small things in life seem to have a healing power. Being alone has its own catharsis. The beauty of nature, time with one's thoughts, time with God, all alone with no one else around. It's a beautiful thing.