Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Good News and bad news

First, the good news, Earlier this month, Pennsylvania's House Transportation Commitee approved legislation (House Bill 2070), to ban cell phone texting while operating a motor vehicle. When this will actually become law, I am uncertain.

This is good news as it has the potential to enhance safety for those of us who might otherwise be unseen by some idiot texting while they drive.

On the other hand, this is also bad news since it means one more law and one more opportunity for the commonwealth to stick their collective noses into the business of private citizens. Unfortunately, I'm convinced that this might be one of the times that legislation is necessary, but that does not mean I have to like it.

On the whole, I will admit that I will feel a little safer once this new regulation goes into effect, but then, I believe it was Ben Franklin who said:

"Those who would give up essential Liberty, to purchase a little temporary Safety, deserve neither Liberty nor Safety."

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Photographic experimentation and More barns

I had to work today, as I do every two Sundays. I love my work, and today was a shining example of why. I took my camera to work in anticipation of going barn-hunting afterward. I also took my tripod, which I recently rediscovered in a box in my basement. Since I had these tools along, I decided to let the residents at the home take a crack at some photography.

Here are two samples from the two gentlemen who showed interest.

After work, I did as I had planned and went hunting for barns. Having my tripod along allowed me better stability and more options for standing off the road since I could set it up and be less wobbly.

The first barn I came upon was one I had passed many times before, and I think I may have photographed it previously, but I wanted to get another shot of it. The chipping paint around the windows give it a sense of character.

The second had a nifty little courtyard in front with a concrete rail around it. The upper windows really caught my fancy.

The final barn I photographed today was actually a pair of buildings. They had been recently painted, but still caught my eye.

All in all, this was a great day!

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Old Timers and Old Barns

I love talking to folks who have lived many years. When I was a boy, one of my favorite things to do was to go upstairs to the apartment above us where lived a man named Mr. MacDonald. He would play checkers and tell me stories about the days when the decaying New England village I lived in was a bustling town, back when the paper mill was in full swing and provided housing for all its employees. The area of Woronoco where the Strathmore paper mills were used to be called "The beehive" due to the buzz of activity. There was a butcher shop, a general store, a community building which at one point was used by a small college, and all sorts of other things one would expect to find in a mill town during the early 1900's through the 1950's. Hearing his stories expanded my imagination and I could picture myself in the black and white photos he showed me.

Mr. Macdonald has been dead for 25 years now, but today, I had the pleasure of speaking to a gentleman who reminded me a lot of him, and he was telling me about his Cushman scooter. I think I can safely call him Mr. Stoltzfus without violating any privacy morees, since that name is more common than Smith in this part of the country. In any event, Mr. Stoltzfus had seen my scooter and we got to talking about motorcycles and scooters. Mr. Stoltfus has to be at least in his 80's and hearing him talk about riding his old Cushman and the Honda's and Yamaha's he'd had brought pictures to my mind, just like listening to Mr. Macdonald.

This evening, I had opportunity to go for a dusk ride. The main roads were busier than I like, but the back roads were pleasantly empty. The color of the sky was breathtaking, but unfortunately my photographs don't do it justice.

I saw several old barns, most of which were on the main road, so I was uncomfortable with stopping to photograph them, but one was off the beaten path and I was able to get a few nice shots of it. There were Alpacas in a fenced area adjacent to it and they seemed very interested in what I was doing.

It's been a nice autumn for riding. The weather is cooling some, especially in the evenings, but it has been better riding weather than I expected so far.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Suited up for cold weather.

I am not an ATGATT (All The Gear, All The Time) rider, but I wear what I can to protect myself while riding.

With winter on our doorstep, there are other protections to consider, aside from crash protection. While a crash is a possibility, frostbite from improper wind protection is a near certainty. So, wearing appropriate gear for the weather is a must.

For those among you who have ridden for many years, you are aware that leather provides excellent protection from the elements. Since I am not able to afford an expensive leather jacket (there's no such thing as a cheap one), I settle for my heavy canvas coat (pictured). This, coupled with my windshield, protects my torso from the wind.

It is also important to wear appropriate leg and crotch protection. Experienced riders will be nodding their heads at the mention of the latter. Even with the full fairing on the scooter, I found I was doubling up on jeans or wearing longjohns so that my knees would not get so cold. This also helped protect my...uh...inner thighs from freezing as well. On a scooter, even when your legs are only slightly apart, the wind channels right in between them, and it becomes quite chilly down under. A suggestion I've heard given by an experienced rider was to forget chaps since they only protect your legs. Instead, he suggested a pair of worker's winter coveralls. The thick canvas helps block the wind and keeps everything underneath nice and toasty.

During the summer, I may periodically wear my half helmet or 3/4 due to the heat, but I am very thankful that I was able to get a full helmet when I purchased the Sabre. By itself, it's good to about 40 degrees (fahrenheit), but with my fleece cowl underneathe (pictured on right shoulder of coat), it's basically blizzard proof.

My mother was kind enough to buy me a pair of heavy work boots when I was in Massachusetts in October. They don't have armor on them, but I am confident that the sides of the ankles will be superior protection to what I would recieve if I were wearing sneakers. The toes are lined, so I do not feel the cold through them. It also helps that they are waterproof, meaning no more soggy toes after a rain ride.

The last piece of gear is gloves. I have two pairs that I wear. The first is my Joe rocket waterproof gloves. They are only good to about 40 degrees, so I have a pair of suede leather driving gloves that do well to about 20 degrees. An older rider made the suggestion of wearing a pair of lady's gloves underneath as a liner. I haven't tried that yet, but it follows the good sense of layering.

This is what I do for the colder months and it works well for my short commute to work (four miles). I generally avoid pleasure riding in the cold since cold weather riding just isn't all that pleasant once your fingers, toes, and other things...start to fall off.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Biodiesel boondoggle

I'm not certain I can write this without screaming my head off. Lucky for you, you can't hear screaming through text.

Let me start off by stating that I am all for taking care of my little corner of the universe. I don't litter, I drive economically sensible vehicles (my scooter and motorcycle are my primary transportation), I'm careful to dispose of used motor oil properly when I change my vehicles' oil, I turn off my lights and electronics when they are not in use, and so on.

I can see the point in trying to find renewable sources of energy. It makes a lot of sense to me, but from a cost perspective since I don't subscribe to the idea of global warming. I remember hearing from many of the earthy-crunchy types that bio-diesel was supposed to be this wonderful cure for hydrocarbon consumption. Several folks made their own Fry-oil using Volkswagons, and just last year, the biodiesel consuming Jetta was proclaimed "green Vehicle of the year"

But wait, Biodiesel is made from, among other things, the oil of the oil palm. Where does the oil palm grow? It grows in warm climates in places such as Indonesia. So, now we have the green movement up in arms because millions of acres of rainforest have been leveled to plant oil palm plantations.

The destruction of the rain forest means loss of habitat for all the little critters the greenies want to protect.

The whole thing is morbidly hilarious. First biodiesel is the most wonderful thing in the world, but now, it's horrible, and the greenies brought this upon themselves!

Perhaps clean drilling for good old fashioned dino oil isn't so bad after all?

I'll stick to my scooter and motorbike, thanks just the same.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

The American Family...

In these United States, we have a unique idea of family.

When my wife and I were first married, we had our first child within three weeks of our wedding. No, it wasn't a shotgun wedding, and the "child" was actually a cat. He was a black and white bi-color who chewed through phone cables and bit my toes through the blankets.

Within a week, he had a sister, and they were our kids. We lived in a small apartment in Columbia, PA, at the time, but soon moved to a single-wide trailer in Leola, PA. Madeline and Willie Nillie (those are their names), settled in with us, and within a year of our move, my wife suspected she might be pregnant with our first human child. Unfortunately, that was not to be. We lost the child, but soon gained another cat.

Frankie joined our family in 2003, and Annie came into our lives in July of 2004. Each of these cats were adopted soon after the death of a beloved relative. Frankie was a stray we found under our oil tank, and Annie came from the Humane League.

At this point we were up to four cats, but we didn't care, they were a nice addition to our family and it was comforting to come home to a cat purring on the arm of the couch, just waiting to be scratched under the chin. and at least one other rubbing on our ankles.

In September of 2004, our lives changed dramatically when we took a foster child into our home. Luis was adopted in 2006, and we are very proud of him. But with the adoption of one child, we soon had another in our family.

In August of 2007, Luis came home with a little ball of fur in his hands. A pair of kittens of no more than two weeks old had been abandoned on a neighbor's farm, and we inherited the calico. After two sleepless nights, she finally took to bottle-feeding. Her "mother" was a heat pack wrapped in a tea towel. Lizzie soon grew to be as playful as any kitten will be, and was welcomed as our fifth cat.

Then, insanity truly set in. We went to the Humane League, "just to look" and came home with our sixth cat last winter. Jo-Jo made himself at home and regularly sleeps on our bed with us at night.

For those of us who have them, pets are an integral part of our homes and families. We share our lives with them and they return our affection (at least the warm blooded ones do). Certainly, they are not the same as the human members of our families, but they are family just the same.

I watched "Marley and Me" with my son tonight and this seemed to be the overall theme of the film. Dogs and cats affect us in ways that we cannot easily put into words. Even if we sometimes find their behaviors annoying, they are a part of our lives and we love them.

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Chilly days are upon us

But I'm still riding, are you?

This morning when I went out to my scooter, it was covered by a thick layer of frost. Thankfully my windshield is low enough that its height does not require it to be defrosted.

My ride in to work this morning was very cold and the scooter was a bit hesitant at first. After warming up for a bit, she did just fine.

I went out on the Sabre after I arrived at home and while it was brisk, it was very enjoyable. The leaves have all turned and many are no longer on the trees. It was all I could do to restrain myself from blasting through the piles of leaves on the roadside.

Winter will soon be here. It is shaping up to be long and cold.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Autumn doldrums

First off, I would like to apologize to my readers for not posting in a while. With my wife's illness I had retreated into a bit of a personal funk. It has been hard for me to do anything due to feelings of depression and outright hopelessness.

I have been riding though, and from time to time I still stop to take a picture of the scoot. The bushes in the photo above were so stunning I could not help myself.

I'm a little irritated that this picture didn't come out so well. The sky behind me was striking, but I think I should have turned off the scoot to eliminate mirror vibration prior to taking the pic.

To add more to my busy life, the home I work for moved to a new facility on Tuesday. The gentlemen in the home seem to be settling in, but it has been stressful for all of the staff, myself included.

I'm still waiting for a call from the local Honda dealer about the Elite 11o. They are running into issues with PennDOT since the scoots are apparently made in China and have an "L" vin. I've read conflicting reports about the quality of the scoots from different sources. I'm itching to see one for myself so I can make my own assessment.