Wednesday, December 31, 2014

A Motorcycle Lullaby

Anyone who's paced around a nursery for nights on end will understand how poems like these are written. It seems like such a long time ago but I also feel like I'm still catching up on my sleep.

Enjoy the ride!

Hush little baby don't say a word,
Dady's going to buy you a Thunderbird.
And if that Thunderbird don't start,
it only takes an hour to tear apart.
And if we lose a piece or two,
we'll strip it down and paint it blue.
We'll paint it blue out in the shack,
then we'll paint the chrome parts black.
If the bike still doesn't start,
we're going to take the carb apart.
We'll clean it up and put in bigger jets,
and make sure that the idle's set.
Then it will be faster than a BSA,
and you can be a hero for a day.

-Ride North

Sunday, December 21, 2014

The Christmas list

Dear Santa,

I've been very good this year and... who am I kidding, this is just an excuse to post pictures of motorcycles. Enjoy.

Happy holidays!

Thursday, December 18, 2014

All in

There comes a time in a relationship when you decide to go all in. The brief excursions are going really well. Things are new and exciting, easy and enjoyable. You mesh. You may have spent some quality time out on the town or just hanging out in the garage. And then it happens, an opportunity crops up that you just can't pass on, an opportunity that may lead to new possibilities or leave you stranded and alone.

Taking possession of a 34 year old new-to-you motorcycle can involve a prolonged getting to know you period. I spent a year sorting out little issues, taking consecutively longer and faster rides. First on my maintenance list was the brakes, then: tires, chains, oil, valves and miscellaneous bolt tightening. A good degreasing will keep an air-cooled bike cool, although there's a theory that the grease holds things together.

I ran into some possible overheating issues on a test run at a sustained 65-70  mph. After I cleaned up the gunk that has accumulated over the years, I opened up the valve cover to see what I was dealing with. To my surprise the XS500 has rocker arms with a screw and lock-nut style valve adjustments. I got out the feeler gauge and found that the valve clearances were way too tight. While loose valves are noisy, tight valves break things.

I got back into test and fix cycle over the next few weeks. It was all going fine until I got the call from my old man.

Pops, "I'm doing this M2M thing, want to meet me in La Crosse? I'm taking the Honda [CB550]."

Me, "I'm in."

It was a humid 90 degrees when I set out for La Crosse. The first leg of the trip crossed the same stretch of pavement where I encountered the overheating problems. It was sink or swim time for the little XS and I. Thirty minutes of Talladega, Three wide. Hammer down. With the little crank spinning at 5000 RPM, the balance shaft did it's job, keeping things smooth and confident. A quick roll on the throttle sent me forward with out hesitation. "All is well good buddy."

I had three hours to get from St Paul to La Crosse where I would be meeting my dad on his way up from Milwaukee. This didn't leave much time for stopping or mechanical issues. Our plan was either going to work, putting us both on the X at the same time, or we would be playing phone tag in the land of poor service. 

At the hour and a half mark I found myself cursing down the east side of the Mississippi at a leisurely 60 miles per hour. This was going to work.

My first stop was a Lake Pepin. A quick walk around told me that the chain was tight and I had air in the tires. In a moment, pushing the starter button would tell me just how much the heat and pace had affected things. We shared a silent moment, took a few snapshots and set out on our way. Push. Spin. Combustion. Idle. "What's next boss?"

The thing about the M2M route is that nobody knows what it is until the day of the event. The two most popular riding roads in Wisconsin are just north and just south of La Crosse. I put my money on highway 108, just north of town. A quick check of my phone told me I was a winner. From Lake Pepin I rode directly to the Mindoro cut.

I arrived at the turnout a half hour later than I wanted and saw no sign of pops. I knew my phone was useless because he'd be riding. All I could count on was Pops coming over this pass at some point in the ride. If I missed him he would have stopped at the bar for lunch, but I didn't see anyone there.  So I took a walk, knowing that he would see my bike.

All kinds of thing go through your head while you’re waiting for a riding partner. You have to be practical. Give it fifteen or twenty minutes before you start assessing the possibilities. He’s an experienced rider riding familiar roads so the worst case scenario gets kicked to the end of the line. He is riding a 37 year old motorcycle so a mechanical issue could be a real possibility, another is that the route is long and he still riding. No call and no M2M groups told me that he’s probably still riding.  

Getting tired of waiting, I rode back to the bar to see if anyone was there. Not seeing anyone I set off for the south side of the cut, figuring that I may pass him as I rode south. Also, there’s a park on the south side where I could wait. A change of scenery would be good.

I made it to the park without seeing anyone. Dozing on a shady picnic table, I watched the clouds and kept an eye or an ear on the road. It was after one o’clock when I started to hear them. The unbaffled engine braking of European and Japanese two and four cylinder motorcycles. First a group of three, then four, the one. And just like that, Pops rolled by and there I was on the M2M.

We stopped in Mondoro for lunch and I learned this was the first break he took since heading out at 9:00. Both the CB and XS were holding up well although the CB's rearsets and thinly padded seat would start causing issues later in the day.

Another fine example of on XS500, in Porsche grey

I had the privilege of following this Guzzi through the Wisconsin countryside.

To be continued...

Rooster's rules of the road -

The odds of encountering farm equipment and large trucks increase in direct proportion to the speed of travel on winding country roads

Sunday, December 14, 2014

Collisions of will

I met my doppelganger at a four way intersection the other day. We saw each other. For a moment, neither of us knew what to do. We stopped, inched forward and stopped again in unison, caught in a loop of mutual indecision.Then someone in a Tahoe cut through the tension and we continued on our separate ways. He's still out there somewhere just driving around.

Monday, December 8, 2014

New tools for making maps on the web

To know a motorcyclist is to know someone who can stare at maps for what may seem like an unhealthy duration. Those who become afflicted with the map bug may choose to seek a map fix in their professional lives as well, if you’re not careful map making can turn into a full time gig.

People pay me to make maps. It’s not always as fun as it sounds, but sometimes it is.

ArcGIS Online is a suite of tools used by cartographers to make maps on the web, it does what Google Maps has been doing for a while. While Google excels at giving you directions, ArcGIS Online excels at making pretty maps. 

Once you have your pretty map you can wrap it in a pretty application, share it on social media or embed it in a webpage. All of this map making goodness and 2GB of storage can be yours for free by signing up for a public account.

Wind direction, wind speed and the daily high temp. 

My co-worker and I put together a 4 hour class on creating web maps titled “ArcGIS Online: Mapping in the Cloud.” While the class is sure to be captivating, the nuts and bolts of it are covered in the exercises (click to download the MS Word document). 

These tools can be used to add maps to your blogs, documents or presentations. While Google does not allow you to embed code (the dynamic map) in Blogger, you can simply add a screenshot and a link to your map. (this is also true for a Google Maps map as far as I can tell)

My Lake Superior circle tour 2006ish?

ArcGIS Online maps (the points, lines, polygons, pictures and basemap information) can be wrapped in a number of different web map applications. Simple applications add buttons for zooming, printing and sharing on social media. More complex applications let you tell a story using text and a map. 

Someday I'll use the story map application template for a ride report, at the moment the only example I have involves the construction of a new bridge over the St. Croix River.

Building a bridge over a National Scenic Waterway

Please feel free to leave a comment if you're interested in using ArcGIS Online or have any questions. I'm happy to help out.

About ArcGIS by Esri:

The ArcGIS suite of products are used by cartographers, urban planners, geologists, utilities managers and natural resource managers to create maps and perform complex analysis of spatial patterns. For example I could calculate the ratio of road’s length to distance traveled, a number known as sinuosity. I haven’t, but I could build a map where straight roads are pale pink and Deals Gap is dark maroon.

[arc - a unit of angular measurement e.g. 1 arc minute = 1/60th of a degree]
[GIS - geographic information systems or science]
[Esri - formerly known as Environmental Science Research Institute]

Friday, November 21, 2014

Required reading - Jill Outside: Iditarod again

Several years ago I started reading a blog by Jill Homer about life in Alaska and endurance racing. It was the first blog I read religiously and it opened my eyes to this crazy literary format. Her writing is as captivating as the context in which it is set.

Jill is taking on the Iditarod Invitational, a race accross Alaska in winter; this time she's on foot. So, set aside some time to read Iditarod again, part seven.

"Everything — duffle, shoes, sleeping bag, sled, harness and feedbag, everything — was either damp or soaked and smeared with mud." (Jill Homer, 2014)

"I felt strongly I should go back, but my phobia wouldn’t let me take a single step back onto the river. When I looked down I could see ankle-deep water flowing over impossibly black ice, cracked like an ancient mirror." (Jill Homer, 2014)

Photo by Beat Jegerlehner (Jill Homer, 2014)
Jill Homer. (2014, November 16). Iditarod again, part seven. Jill Outside.
Retrieved from

Sunday, October 26, 2014

Things that don't bother me.

I've lived at my current residence for seven years. I know every river road within one hundred miles but not where the yard waste compost site is. I know where all the little bluff roads are and a hand full of coffee shops but not the Trader Joe's (trendy grocery store). I think it's a few blocks north of my house, no more than a mile. I do know where the city's oil recycling and household hazardous waste site is, although I don't get there as often as I should.

Rooster's rules of the road.

Dogs love to spend their winter evenings swapping near-catch motorcycle stories.

More rules of the road and a proper introduction to come.

- Ride North

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Squirrel cheeks

Fall can make a man cagey and hurried. Unwilling to accept the end of a season, unable to embrace the beginning of another, we seek opportunity wherever it can be found. Another nugget for our cache. Soon they will all be gone.  

Mississippi River, Monday 7:00 AM

The St. Paul Boat Club

Light returns to the city.

Looking west as the sun comes up behind me.

Bridges and band-shells.

For now, anxiety gives way to wholesome satisfaction. 

Friday, October 10, 2014

Thursday, October 9, 2014

The end of summer getaway

Fall is a busy time of the year around my house. With temps in the 50's (10 Celsius)  the race is on to get outside projects wrapped up. Waterfowl hunting seasons are in full swing by mid October. Trips to the park, apple orchard and pumpkin patch must be made. For some this is canning season, I make beer: stouts and porters for the upcoming holiday season, and hard cider. Fall is truly the most wonderful time of the year.

The only way to properly prepare for this self induced tail spin is to take an end of summer trip. Five days of running around the north woods, 200 miles away from the nearest to-do list. And that's just what we did.

My wife is a natural instigator of good times, a trait which she inherits from her father. When she sets her mind to something, it's going to happen. (fly fishing lessons, Garth Brooks tickets, a campsite at a casino) This is how we ended up at a cabin on Lake Superior's Madeline Island.

the port of Bayfield, Wisconsin

Who doesn't love a ferry boat ride?

The boy and I watching the "sun pop-up" from our back yard.

Hiking at Big Bay State Park

9:00 AM snacks at the town park beach, we're prepared for anything.

We had rain on our last evening but it cleared up just in time for a double rainbow!

The scene from our fire pit.

The town park overlook.

The boy's first canoe ride, I think he's hooked.

The Apostle Islands off Wisconsin's north coast.

If this was the extent of my travels, I would not get board. (I would however miss North Dakota)

Monday, September 22, 2014

Sport utility

I added a little utility to my sport utility vehicle. These babies can swallow a lunch box, some mail, the top half of a helmet...

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

The Doldrums

From the people’s encyclopedia: “The word is derived from dold (an archaic term meaning "stupid") and -rum(s), a noun suffix found in such words as tantrum.” Yep that seems about right.  A low pressure zone caused by the centrifugal force from the rotational movement of the Earth.” Thus you are invited to relinquish responsibility for you own personal doldrums.  The world turns, as they say.

Fisherman know the doldrums of summer well. Signs can be seen in my blog roll, although some folks continue to crank out excellent shorts well into August. For me, it’s a combination of an intense desire to strap a bedroll to the sissy bar and bomb around the south shore for a week and the knowledge that the really good weather is just around the corner.

I recently put in a 28% effort, two sevenths, agitation for an ailment that simply requires time. But man it felt good. From the cities, I took back roads up to Lake Mille lacs to spend a weekend fishing and drinking with the boys.

My wife stepped it up and took kid duty for the weekend, something we try to do for each other. Our battle cry is “we’re a team!” Which can be loosely translated into “ I thought we were a team damit” or on occasion “ F it, you deal with this mess.” But, more often than not, we've got each other’s backs. Five years this week and we still know how to have fun. (In two weeks we’ll be taking that south shore trip, more on that later.)

ready to roll

thanks be to Google 

Highway 47 out of Anoka is a great ride up to Saint Francis. From there my goal was to work my way over to Princeton and follow the Rum river north to Mille Lacs. The ride around the big lake is also excellent if you can catch it when traffic is light.

from Anoka to I-94
If you're not in a hurry, West River Road will get you from Anoka to I-94, avoiding the battle field that is highway 10. The road is really a series of roads that makeup a section of the Great River Road. Follow the Great River Road signs and you'll stay on track. The Coon Rapids dam on the Mississippi River is a good spot to stretch your legs. If you bring a stout fishing rod and a can of corn (and lunch and a book), there are some big carp to be had below the dam.

Mille Lacs WMA/ Rum River State Forest.

state highway 19/100th Ave  runs along the west side of  the Rum River State Forest to Isle 

nothing better than cold beer and bare feet after riding all morning

Fisherman's Wharf (the view from the bar)

We rented a pontoon and managed to boat a fish or two but for the most part the doldrums lived up to their namesake. Some of our time on the water was dedicated to wearing a life jacket like a diaper and bobbing around in the big pond. (I assure you this is a tradition in Minnesota.)

One more shot of the big lake before we part ways.