Sunday, 23 August 2015

Chasing the Ace and Other Adventures

So as August makes a valiant attempt to bring some semblance of summer to our little rock in the north Atlantic, in an effort to erase the truly dreadful July we had, I have been venturing a little further afield on the bike. I have to say, the more frequent appearance of the sun, along with significantly warmer temps into the high teens and mid 20s (compared to frequent 10-12 in July) has helped brighten my mood. The chance to ride a bit more is also a plus.

Our two daughters left for NYC and a One Direction concert on August 3rd, and with only our son at home, we ventured westward, hoping there'd be a house to return to with the boy left in charge. I enjoy riding the central and western parts of the island more so than the Avalon Peninsula and the east coast. I'm not sure why, but it seems the roads are more wide open there. The Avalon with its moonscape terrain and rolling topography makes for roads that don't stretch out for any great length. Plus, there is a greater abundance of and variety of forest out toward central and west and this makes for a more scenic drive. One thing that doesn't change is the state of the roads, which is pretty rough; with potholes, dips and sections where the top surface of the asphalt has just disintegrated.

Sherry and I headed to Grand Falls, about 400 kms west of St. John's. We stayed overnight at my sister's place there and so enjoyed sitting out on the deck until 10:00 PM in shirtsleeves; something we can rarely do in St. John's this summer. The next day we drove about 300 kms west, then north to Rocky Harbour and the gateway to Gros Morne National Park and World Heritage site. I was really looking forward to the ride north because one gets to experience Newfoundland's version of mountainous terrain with climbs and drop offs and some pretty cool turns that one can lean the bike into. We were riding the Sport Tourer and this bike was made for that kind of ride. Unfortunately, literally every bridge ( and there are several over the 60 km stretch from the TCH to Rocky Harbour) was under construction so traffic was backed up and moving at a crawl with limited spots to pass. Still on the couple of occasions the road did open up and I could open up the bike and scraped the pegs where I could. My wife was less than enthusiastic on the back and kept breaking my concentration with knees jammed into my ribs. Rocky Harbour itself is a picturesque little outport on the coast. We ate at a colourful place call the Treasure Box where the proprietor was in fine form giving his best impression of a  Newfoundland Bayman, complete with a genuine example of our unique dialect and accent. Food and ambiance were great. We did plan a hike as the park is full of beautiful nature trails, but the thunder & lightening forecast for later in the evening threatened as we ate lunch with the skies darkening ominously. We decided to skip the hike and head back for Grand Falls. Thankfully the rain held off, or we stayed ahead of it and had another nice night of warm temps and drinks sitting on the deck until well into the really felt like summer. It was Wednesday morning when we headed east for St. John's and again under sunny skies; always makes for a more pleasant and uplifting ride.

We did run into a bit of a crisis later that evening as we received one of those middle of the night phone calls (2:15 AM on Thursday morning) with our youngest daughter distraught reporting that her sister had been struck by a car as they walked through Time Square. After that experience I now fully understand the concept of surreal. Our youngest was naturally frightened as she didn't know how badly injured her sister was, but thank God for the kindness of strangers, even in NYC. The girls had exhausted their cell batteries taking video at the One Direction concert so a young man gave Erin his phone to call us ( he'll have a heck of a roaming charges bill) and Erin was so distraught that she was almost incoherent, so a woman at the scene took the phone and explained to Sherry what was happening. I was a wreck but Sherry kept it together as we could hear police and ambulance sirens in the background. The worst part of the night was the hour or so where Erin had to wait outside the examining room while the doctors assessed Emily's injuries. Thankfully, they were limited to road rash, bruising and swelling, along with a nasty concussion. The girls were due to fly home the next day and again, ran into helpful airport and airline staff, especially with West Jet, that allowed them to make connections passing all the line ups and making it home safe and sound. Emily looked pretty horrible when she got off the plane and the concussion will heal in its own time but we are grateful considering the other more drastic outcomes that could have occurred, Oh, and I didn't mention it was a hit & run. There is a special place in hell for that Bastard.

Life is slowly returning to normal after the drama of the accident, though we continue to monitor both girls closely. Erin was quite traumatized by the experience. We can only visualize what it must have been like but she lived it and then had to take the lead in getting them home. Both Sherry and I stuck close to home and the girls. The next couple of weeks between that and these past few days was hit and miss weather wise, though I did get in a few day trips on the bike.

On Sunday, the 16th I was comfortable enough to go off for a couple of days with a couple of friends who were again heading over to the province's west coast. It was just meant to be a chance for a nice road trip, taking advantage of a rare string of three or four forecast sunny days. However, since we were going to be in the neighbourhood, we decided to head for a small outport community called Lourdes, on the provinces Port Au Port peninsula. This was the location for Chase the Ace. My two riding partners, Ed, & Chris left on Saturday and over-nighted in Grand Falls. I met up with them on Sunday and we drove the additional 350 kms to Lourdes. It was a different kind of ride for me as the boys tend to cruise around 110 and like to take in the scenery and stop for a break now and then. My typical ride experience is at a higher rate of speed and I'm more focused on the sensation of the ride, opening up on the straight aways, leaning into the curves. However, I really did enjoy this ride too. I took in more of the scenery than I usually do and stopping for a chat and a coffee now and then was good too. There are a lot of different ways to appreciate a motorcycle ride.

Ed & Chris on a cigar break

Ed recently went from two wheels to three

At Deer Lake Big Stop Irving, home of the best coconut  cream pie in the province

Enjoying Ed's Cuban cigars in Stephenville

The actual Chase the Ace experience was  a bit wild. Lourdes is a small community of perhaps a few hundred people. On this night the sides of the roads as well as all the parking lots around the church, school & community centre were filled with cars and the people numbered in the thousands, all vying for an opportunity to split the deck of cards and draw the ace of spades, which would entitle one to the jack pot. Basically what started as a fundraiser for the parish turned into a gold mine, going on for over 40 weeks as each week, another card was drawn from the deck and then discarded. By the time we arrived there were only nine cards left in the deck. We bought 180 tickets between the three of us and these went into a drum. One ticket would be drawn with that ticket holder gaining the right to split the deck. We didn't win but the jackpot, which had grown to nearly $400,000, did go that night. Someone's life was changed.

By the time the day was done I'd ridden over 800 kms.  and was looking forward to a relaxing night at the hotel. We sat in the church parking lot for close to an hour just waiting for the traffic to clear out and then headed back to our hotel in Stephenville, about 50 kms away. The traffic on the single two-lane road was bumper to bumper and it took well over an hour to get back. Unfortunately, in this small town hotel the bar closed at 11:00 PM and by the time we checked in it was too late to have that relaxing rum & coke there. Fortunately I did have a flask on board and Ed went to a corner store for beer & munchies. We'd just settled into the room when the fire alarm sounded sending all guests into the parking lot. Ah well, good fortune was smiling on us still as it was a warm night so we just sat on the bikes and enjoyed our drinks. Thankfully the hotel didn't burn down.

For me it was a quick turn-around as next morning we hit the road heading back to Grand Falls. It was an incredibly hot day, well over 30 degrees, and Chris decided to pull off and take a dip in a river along the highway. The trip back was uneventful and we spent a relaxing evening on the deck of my sister's house having a few sociables, smoking some of Ed's Cuban cigars and eating a pretty good pizza from a local pizza joint. If you're in Grand Falls I can recommend Donini's pizza.

Ed & I at my sister's place in Grand Falls

Donini's...great pizza

Chris taking a dip in Barachois Brook near Stephenville

Three Amigos

Had to get in a pic of the bikes

Ed & Chris left in the morning an hour or two ahead of me, with Chris having to cover the 400 kms to St John's before 3:00 to make an appointment. I left around 10:00 again under brilliant, sunny, warm skies and cruised along at my more familiar 130 km/h. There is something about the sun that infuses one with positive energy.  I often refer to my motorcycle rides as rolling therapy. It's like a switch is flipped and for the period of time I ride a sense of tranquillity sets in. I wish I could figure out how to maintain that after the ride is over. The sunshine stayed with me all the way back home to St. John's with, of course, the exception of an area of 30 kms or so around Placentia Bay which has to hold the record for the most foggy days in the province. No matter how beautiful a day it is anywhere else you're just as likely as not to run into pea soup fog driving through there. It didn't last long, though, and by the time I reached Whitbourne, about 75 kms west of St. John's I'd broken out into sun again. I did enjoy the couple of days of riding but after travelling over 1600 kms in a little over two days I was happy enough to get off the bike. Indeed, the Magna, my cruiser which I had chosen to ride this particular trip, was in bad need of a rear tire after this trip as well as being overdue for it's oil change.  I actually dropped it off at the ToyBox, where I have all my servicing done. They had me ready to roll for the next afternoon, when it was back on the road again, this time with my wife Sherry tagging along, as we headed north east to Trinity on the Bonavista peninsula, about 250 kms northeast. That's a story for another blog perhaps.

So August has been a much better month than July and afforded me the opportunity for some extended road trips. As I write this I'm at over 13,000 kms for the season, including the 1200 kms or so I rode in April & early May when the winter bike was still out. Until next time then, See You Out There...Ride On!

Thursday, 30 July 2015

2015 24 Marathons Motorcycle Ride for Terry Fox Complete

Each year for the past five or six years now, I actually forget, I have done a fund raising ride in support  of the Terry Fox Foundation. I call it 24 Marathons in 24 Hours as I ride the equivalent distance of 24 marathons ( 1032 kms) in a 24 hour period. I always do it on July 28th, the anniversary of Terry Fox's birthday. He'd have been 57 this year. Actually I usually do it in 12 hours, gas and food stops included, so it makes for a pretty gruelling day. I enjoy riding but even for me that much time in the saddle in that space of time is pushing it.

In actuality, calling it a fundraisng ride isn't entirely accurate. I ride because I believe the legacy of Terry Fox needs to be supported and promoted. To me he represents the best of what we can be as Canadians and as people. I do believe that had he not put himself through the rigours of the Marathon of Hope he probably wouldn't be dead, so he paid a huge price so that others could benefit. The actual initial inspiration for the ride was a meeting with a little girl, Allison Hapgood, niece of a couple of riding buddies.She at that time also had osteosarcoma (she was 12 when I met  her) but  refused to let the diagnosis dull her spirit. I'd been involved with the Terry Fox Run for years, at one point co-ordinating the event for St. John's, so it all just came together and the ride was born. The money is nice because it helps the cause but I try not to get too caught up in that piece. Most years I reach my goal, This year so far I haven't. I puzzle at why people would not support an undertaking honouring Terry Fox, especially when this foundation gives a greater percentage of funds collected to front line research than any of the other bigger,  more well publicised events. However, I have to let that go because everyone has their reasons for supporting or not, so I'm just grateful for the support I do get. I've had supporters who always come through year after year and some who support one or two years and then don't. I'm at the point now where I do the ride and the money raised is the money raised. I feel I've done my part to honor Terry and remember the spirit of a brave little girl who lost her battle.

I left at 8:00 am from the Terry Fox Monument at the harbour side, where Terry began his Marathon of Hope on a chilly April day in 1980.

Most years it's pretty routine. I ride, stop for gas as needed, eat at the turn around point in central NL, and head home. This year's ride did have an unfortunate glitch as I was within sight of the finish line, so to speak, having reached Whitbourne on the return leg and pulled in for my last gas stop. However, when I went to start the bike to head for home, within 100 kms of finishing the ride, the bike wouldn't respond. Turns out an electrical gremlin had caused a short and I was dead in the water... or on the parking  lot. So, the last leg of the ride was done with me sitting in the cab of a tow truck and the bike on the flat bed behind. The guys at Toy Box who always do my servicing figured things out fairly quickly and had me back on the road the following day. I did ride out to the gas station in Whitbourne and ride the last leg "officially" but it was very disappointing to have gotten so far and have the goal of completing the ride in 24 hours snatched from me. I guess when you're riding a 15 year old bike with over a 100,000 kms on it there is always the potential for problems. However, I can't bring myself to part with the Magna, even though I do have two other bikes to ride, including the big tourer, Honda ST 1300, that is probably better suited for such a run. However, the Magna and I have been through a lot together since I bought it seven yeas ago with only 18,000 kms on it.

Weather wise, it ain't been much of what one can call a summer here in NL and I left under overcast skies, with cool temps. I rode in those conditions all the way, even had some rain for good measure. To add to my frustration with the breakdown, the only bit of sun and warmer temps I did encounter occurred when I got in to Whitbourne on that return leg. I was looking forward to riding home under blue skies and relative warmth, but c'est la vie. Terry Fox ran 143 days straight, averaging a marathon a day, often under a lot worse weather!

So this year's ride is done. I do have over $1100.00 committed or pledged, and that is good. My fund raising page is open until the actual Terry Fox Run day on the third Sunday of September, so if anyone wants to support the initiative the opportunity is still there. Here's the link:  I am grateful I was able to do the ride again this year and am very appreciative of the support I did receive.

Until my next adventure, See Ya Out There.... Ride One!

Monday, 13 July 2015

The summer that summer forgot.

Oh my, it's been unseasonably cold and dreary this summer, even for Newfoundland and that is saying something. I put the winter bike into storage on the long weekend in May and took the ST tourer out along with the Magna at the same time. There have been many days with temps in the single digits even in July, which is usually our warmest month. Still between the bit of riding I managed on the winter bike when I got it on the road in late March, and taking advantage of the few sunny days we've had, or the overcast ones where it wasn't three degrees, I have managed to put about 5000 kms under my arse so far this season. It's got to warm up sometime....we hope.

This weekend was a perfect example of our summer. Sherry and I left St. John's for Trinity, on the Bonavista Peninsula on Friday under warm sunny skies and had a great ride. By the time we reached Trinity the wind direction had changed and was blowing from the north in off the ocean and it was cold enough to skin ya, not to mention too high to even dress up and try and sit around a fire without risk of burning the place down. Saturday opened with misty rain, but cleared to a dull 12-13 for the day. We did enjoy a wonderful performance by a Newfoundland band, The Once, on Saturday night at an intimate theatre of a couple of hundred in Bonavista, The Garroch,. Cold or not, we got home, bundled up and since the wind was down we set up a roaring fire in the pit in the backyard of my brother's place, where we were staying. We set up 'til 4:00 AM chatting, listening to music, and having a few swallys.

Sunday greeted us with sun and 12 degrees to start, that got up to maybe 15 as we travelled further south & east on the bike, heading back home to St. John's.

Still the weekend was a wonderful time. We sat up on Friday night and had a mini-kitchen party with our friends Kev & Loretta Toope at Trinity, sans fire. Earlier in the evening we enjoyed a delicious meal at the Dock Marina restaurant. It's known for its seafood but I had chicken & ribs and all enjoyed our meals. Saturday in Bonavista we ate a great meal at Skipper's restaurant before the show and then had a fire that we stoked enough to keep it comfortable as long as we sat close. The Once, as I mentioned, put on a fabulous show and we felt fortunate to see this up-&-coming band in such an intimate setting.

The drive back Sunday was mostly sunny and, anticipating the temps, we'd dressed accordingly, so we were comfortable. I'm afraid though I'm going to have to put the ST on the market. While it is everything one could want in a powerful touring bike, with plenty of storage, it does have the sport component and even the slight lean over is tough on my back, which has been hampered by injuries from a couple of car accidents in the last few years. The cruiser style is the only bike I can ride with any comfort over extended distances. Too bad because, as I said the ST meets all our needs and I got it at a good deal, and even right now it has barely 25000 kms on it.

Despite the weather life goes on on our little piece of granite & slate in the North Atlantic. We occupy ourselves with reading, Netflix, nights on the deck with the propane heater , when it's not too, too cold and getting out and about at various errands and tasks. I've also got my songwriting that I go back to sporadically to occupy my time. One real positive of this riding season is I finally found a set of in-ear head phone that isolate the wind noise of the open road, so I can hear my music reasonably well and that does make the longer rides I do get in more enjoyable. All my bikes are four cylinders and I miss the beautiful rumble of the pipes that ones gets from a V-twin, so the music is a must.

I'll close with a plug for my upcoming charity ride. I do a fundraiser ride for the Terry Fox Foundation annually on Terry's birthday, July 28th.  I ride over 1000 kms in 12 hours. My page is:    and if you are so inclined to support the cause, I can assure you the money goes where you want it to. They keep admin costs low by being volunteer driven and 84 cents of every dollar goes directly to front line research. I can assure you none of the more heavily advertised charitable events can boast anything close to that.

Thanks for dropping by. Hopefully summer will evetualluy find us and I'll have a few more tales of the open road to relay. Until next time, see ya Out there...Ride On!

Sunday, 3 May 2015

How To be Good

Of the many strategies I have employed in an attempt to maintain a healthy mind and keep the demons of darkness at bay, I have become much more of a reader in the past couple of years. I really do enjoy a good book. My favourite so far in recent months has been the Stig Larsen "Girl with..." series. Apparently the po0r son-of-a-bitch dies at a youngish age before ever really getting a chance to enjoy the fruits of his labour. Sad. Life sometime is not fair...Big revelation, there...Huh! That being said, I understand he was working on a 4th manuscript when he passed on to that great writer's circle in the sky and a close associate who was tuned into his vibe is planning to finish it. I', looking forward to it.

When I do find an author I like I devour there books. My latest focus has been on the works of Nick Hornby. I didn't read "About a Boy" or "Hi- Fidelity" because I saw the movies. I have this thing where if I saw the movies then I know the story, so what's the point. people do tell me I ought to read the books anyway a soften Hollywood doesn't do the author's original work justice...although about a boy was British made and is one of my favourite movies. I do know lots of people who will reread books or watch movies multiple times. I typically don't. I do make an exception for certain types of book, those with a powerful spiritual message. I have read and reread Mitch Albon's Tuesday's with Morry and Have a Little Faith because the story evokes something more powerful for me. Same thing with some of Malcolm Gladwell`s stuff and Lee Strobel's "the Case for Christ" and The Case for Faith". But that's more the exception than the rule, at least so far. But, getting back to Nick Hornby, I mentioned the books I didn't read. I did read recently "Long way Down" and "Juliette,Naked" and enjoyed them both immensely. That is why my latest foray into his work, called "How to be Good" left me unfulfilled and actually disappointed. The title suggested this would be an enriching read. For me it was not. the book meandered and, in my opinion missed the point... a point I don't think is really hard to make i.e. How to be good. I did see it through to the end, though it was a chore and that isn't good for me and defeats the purpose of what reading is to me. reading makes me feel productive without having to do a lot of work and I take a lot of refuelling from it. I only finished this one because I kept hoping, based on his other works, that's he'd eventually get around to where I though he was going to go or at least offer me some new insight I could take and ponder. Didn't happen!

That being said, like a restaurant one has enjoyed, only to have a surprisingly bad experiennce for one meal, I will  revisit some of Hornby's other work based on the overall body of his writing, which I have liked. I may even read the ones I saw the movies for. Hi-Fidelity wasn't a great movie but Springsteen had a spoken cameo part in it ,so that bumped it way up on my like list.

But, on the topic of how to be it really that hard? The character's in Hornby's story struggled and seemed to lose there way and it puzzled me as too why. I won't get into some long diatribe here on how one should live one's life but I don't think figuring out how to be good is all that hard. My perspective is obviously going to be coloured by my immersion in my Christian i.e. recovering Catholic, upbringing but I'm sure many Jews, Hindu's, Muslim's, etc as well as atheists or agnostics have a reasonable sense of what it takes. One of my favourite quotes is by the Dalai Lama who said:“Be kind whenever possible. It is always possible.” Another one of his is "“If  you can, help others; if you cannot do that, at least do not harm them.” Then there is AesopNo act of kindness, no matter how small, is ever wasted. Of course, I cannot leave out Jesus: John 13:34-35 “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you..." So there you go: how to be good is about love and kindness.Maybe it's the defining  of love and kindness that had Hornby and unfortunately millions of others kinda bewildered. If I may be so bold as to offer an interpretation, not too far from the Dalai Lama's word's live your life productively, try to make the planet a better place for your having been here. There is nothing wrong with working hard and creating a comfortable life for oneself and enjoying those comforts. Just don't forget that not everyone was born into a family or culture or country that afforded them the same opportunity, so when the opportunity presents itself, and it will (See Nepal), give a little (or a lot) it financially or with acts of kindness. It doesn't hurt and it actually does feel good. At the very least don't seek to hurt. I mean, how does that help you?

Anyway, that's what's been on my mind after reading Hornby's book. Hope I haven't come across as preachy, or worse, boring, but it is these types of activities, this blogging I mean, along with my reading, motorcycling, songwriting etc. that keep my mind out of the dark places it sometimes tends to wander that bring me down. I will add, that giving of oneself to another persone, i.e formal strong personal relationships, even marriage (or partnerships nowadays), can really help one along the way in this being good thing. I know for me, what I take from my own relationship with Sherry is greatly enriching and I am sure give sme some of the fuel I need to live that life I tried to describe above. It's easier to love and be kind, when you receive it...another reason to do it; you might start a fucking epidemic of reciprocal loving and kindness and who knows where that will lead!

Since I mentioned Sherry and the strength she gives me, and also my songwriting and the fuel I get from that, I'll leave you with a couple of more videos. See, I'm even warning you in advance so you can stop here if you want. How kind is that? One is a tune about Sherry and one is a tune about what music is for me. So, until next time,See Ya out There... Ride On!

This first video is Sycamore. I wrote it about my wife ( sorry 'bout camera position and my rather wordy intro :p )

This second tune is about the power of song and singing t help me keep my head straight, The apology I must offer again in advance of this video isn't about camera positioning but rather being somewhat verbose before actually getting to the singing. Songwriters are natural story tellers and I think I got a bit caught up in telling the story, sorry! But hey, that's what fast forward is for! Here is "Overnight Sensation"

If the video cuts off unexpectedly, click this link:

Saturday, 11 April 2015

Escape to NYC

For those who drop in to read and are not native Newfoundlanders, I need to explain that St. John's, our capital city, doesn't have spring in the traditional sense. Oh we get March, April & May but the sleet, ice fog, snow and bitingly cold temperatures that characterize January are easily as likely to be quite prevalent in the latter months too. Certainly, it's late May to early June before the last clumps of snow have surrendered to the power of the sun. As for temperatures. The odd 10-12 degree will start coming around in May ( occasionally too in April) but generally spring isn't the spirit lifting season that gives one that sense summer is just around the corner ( I won't start of our version of summer). So with the school's break for Easter holiday Sherry and I decided an escape a bit further south was in order. We could have opted for Florida or Vegas but we like NYC. We'd been watching the temps for the weeks  leading up to our visit and they were consistently in the double digits. Regrettably, we didn't have the good fortune to get that great weather but we did OK. Day one was 14 and sunny and let me tell you  that is spirit lifting compared to five degrees (which feels like minus three with the wind chill). Even the seven to eight degree temps we did have most of the trip were a welcomed respite. In NYC the qualifier "feels like" isn't attached to the temperatures. Eight is, well, eight. A light weigh jacket and hat was quite comfortable.

We did the typical NYC stuff like go to shows (The Carole Kings Story "Beautiful" & "Mama Mia"). We ate at nice restaurants, a couple of which have come to be favourite stops based on our one previous excursion to the Big Apple.The Brooklyn Diner has something on the menu to make any meal of the day a fantastic culinary experience but the Tony Bennett French toast for breakfast has to be the topper. Oh and each time I have eaten there, I see a celebrity; Jerry Seinfeld this time'round.
We discovered new places. I have always found it difficult to find my favourite rum in NYC but the Maitre'd of Joe Allen's, really god Italian place, recommended the Rum House and if one is a rum connoisseur then this is the place for you. I'm partial to El Dorado rum from Guyana(even wrote a song about it) and they had seven different kinds in dark, white and amber, as well as several other varieties. It was a real genuine pub atmosphere with live music (sadly mostly 1920's jazz, but that didn't dampen my "spirits"). The waitress was a bit sullen but everything can't be perfect can it. Still, it was a  treasure of a find and we spent two great nights relaxing there.

We did a great walking tour of downtown with Sandeman tours, a company we discovered last summer in Dublin. They do free tours for tips so you give what you feel the tour guides performance was worth. We had a nice enough guy named Nick. Very knowledgeable, though not as funny as he seems to think he is. Still, we saw and learnt a lot about that particular area of NYC and that was the point. Another of my pass times is to find streets mentioned in my favourite songs, or just famous streets and get my picture taken here's a couple:

Positively 4th Street ( not sure why it's tilted)

Then there's Bleeker Street, home of several famous bars according to Wikipedia and also made famous in an early Simon & Garfunkel song


Again with the tilting??? 

 After the walking tour and since we were in that part of town near the Hudson, we took a stroll across the Brooklyn Bridge. If you look in the background of some of the pics you'll catch a glimpse of the Statue of Liberty. It was cool to see but I didn't have the urge to spend $20.00 for a ferry ride to float past it for a closer look. 

We ate out for all meals and certainly more than we would in a typical day at home, but it was a vacation after all. But we tried to counter it by walking. There were a couple of days we walked over 100 blocks, including a stroll through Central Park West and up to the infamous Strawberry Fields, across from the Dakota, where John Lennon was killed and Yoko Ono still resides.

Yeah I know Sherry is upside down, but this program has some gremlins that I can't figure out.

 The Beacon Theatre is also in this neck of the NYC woods and it was here we saw a great band, the Decemberists (with opening act Avvas) on our first night in town.

Also, on Central Park West at 79th Street is the Museum of Natural History. It passed away a day but there was so much information it was overwhelming. We had a couple of hours and my ADHD kicked in so the rest of that day was spend strolling through Central Park as we made our way south back to Time Square and our hotel with the amazingly tiny homeroom. It was so small it was hilarious. There was room for one bed, a nightstand and a small desk. We put our luggage on the rack on one side of the bed, so both of us had to get into and out of bed on the same size. I know Time Square hotels are not known for being as spacious as their prices would suggest they ought to be but this was on the ridiculous side. Still, it was just a place to sleep and as such it served its purpose just fine and Time Square really was just a 1/2 block away. Speaking of Time Square, I'm sure you've heard of the odd sights one is likely to encounter in that locale but the topper had to be the three young women wearing only thongs and body paint offering to take their picture with you (for a price of course). I know it was sunny and 14 but still, there's gotta be a better (warmer) way to make a buck. A couple of days later when it was just seven or eight we saw that cowboy guy with the guitar who hangs out in his tighty whities. I don't care, he had to be freakin' freezing.

So how was our attempt at escapism? A smashing success from my perspective, and I think Sherry's too. Each time we go we learn a bit more about the city and plan as to how we'd do it a little differently  next time. For example, though we walked all the way down Broadway to Greenwich Village & then on to Soho, I don't think we really truly saw what those districts had to offer. Also, I discovered a walking tour of rock & roll pilgrimage sites where Blondie, The Ramones, Springsteen and the like cut their teeth, which I didn't get to take in.

All it all, it was a welcomed respite from the dreary NL weather and a nice restful four days (can't really count Friday as most of it was spent travelling). We'll be back for sure.

So until next time, see ya Out There! Ride On....

Tuesday, 31 March 2015

First Highway Ride on Winter Bike

Today I rode my latest motorcycle; I have three now. It wasn't just a little scoot around the neighbourhood because it's not licensed; nope, this was a full fledged out the highway to Salmonier line ride in March when it's pretty freakin' chilly...not typical motorcycle riding weather. But, I rode and it was pure tranquillity...albeit cold tranquillity. For anyone who read my last post they will know I have purchased an old beater for beating the winter blahs when the colder months rob me of my greatest therapeutic relief, riding my motorcycle. The bike had been in storage for a while so it did need the attention of my bike guru, Keith at Toy Box. However, with not to much mechanical fuss, he got her rollin' within a few days. 

The bike is an old Yamaha FJ 600, an early version of the crotch rocket but really not resembling anything like today's sleek highway burners. It's got an inline 4 with 4 carbs and cleaning and syncing those proved to be the greatest task after the bike came out of storage where it had been for over a year. The only alterations I made to it were to put aggressive tread tires on it in case I do run in to some snow on one of my jaunts...or a clump/patch of salt or sand for that matter. Anything is possible this time of year. 

So, I suited up with my lined snow pants and as many layers of shirts as would fit under my bike jacket. I was kinda bulky but comfortable enough and relatively warm. It was my first ride and so I learned a few things. Definitely need to wear extra socks and maybe even those little shake-up heating pads in my boots. I bought a set of handlebar muffs (yup that's what they're called) and you slide your hands (with gloves on) into these. It takes a couple of minutes to feel around for the switches and levers but I got the hang of it and my hands were fine. Indeed, other than fixing the cool tootsies thing and maybe wearing something warmer around my neck, I was actually pretty comfortable;The continuous drip of snot not withstanding. After a while you just ignore it, plus my face mask soaked most of it up.

Keith did warn me in that stern Keith way he gets when he is dead serious, this is no joking matter, that I was not to ride over 100kms because of the nature of the tires. They are not high speed highway tires, more suited to off-roading but great for what I need. This does have it's advantages. At 100kms/h I could hear my music, which sometimes is a strain at 140 +, and also, at the slower speed, no risk of attracting the local law enforcement, something I have unfortunately done on past excursions. It did irk me somewhat at being passed continuoulsy, but I kept my pride in check. I was a bit concerned about insurance because with my ticket history, my insurance company is a bit sticky about the type of bike I ride. I pay a nasty premium for the ST1300 because it is classed as a sport bike and thus considered a higher risk...for what I'm not sure. Anyways, this sucker is so old it didn't even show up on their charts, so sport bike designation.

Anyways, after years of talking about it, I finally have my winter bike. I call it middle digit because it's my way of flipping the bird at old man winter who hangs around these parts far too long for my liking.

Anyway, no more waiting for spring rains to wash away the salt residue from the roads, so I can bring out the Magna or the ST. I expect to get a couple of good months of riding yet out of the FJ before more civilised conditions are upon us here on the rock.

That's all for now. Until Next Time, see ya out there! Ride One....

Sunday, 22 March 2015

Marching on....

Not much of note to post since I haven't done any riding and am pretty much in survival mode waiting for this hellish winter to end. I hate winter. It has meant for me the end of the riding season and riding is my greatest therapy, the one thing that refuels me and takes nothing from me. I have spent the morning reading blogs by other riders living in places where you can ride all year round (something I'll be able to do next year), or where they have actual seasons and spring comes when it's supposed to. One blog I looked at this morning from Oregon had pics from a ride the bloggers did this past week and trees were already flowerings and temps were in double digits Celsius. I'm sitting here with several feet of snow still on the ground outside and listening to freezing rain hit the windows.

Before this blog becomes too bleak I do have a light of hope in the near winter bike. Although winter is slowly, I hope, coming to an end, I have purchased and old beater that I can ride with no worry about salt dust rusting my sprockets and chrome etc. It's still at Toy Box getting tuned as it was in storage for over a year, so right now it needs a bit of elbow grease to get running. The boys tell me I should be able to be on two wheels sometime this week if I get the right day. I don't mind the cold as I can dress for that, so it's just a matter of dry roads and no precipitation. It's and old '89 Yamaha FJ 600 with an inline four and four carbs ( that makes the tune up a bit trickier), but I can't wait to get out on the highway. November seems like a lifetime ago. Here's a couple of pics.

Apart from hunting down this winter ride I've used every tool at my disposal to keep the demon winter blahs at bay. My wife  and I have enjoyed several British series on NetFlix ( I really prefer the British shows to the American  ones) Currently watching Silk of which there are three seasons on NetFlix. We also watched Happy Valley, Scott & Bailey and Broad Church. I recommend them all. I finsihed reading Wild Truth and moved on to Wild by Chery Strayed after seeing the movie in Toronto, when I went up for the Segar show. I'm finding books about peole taking on significant physically demanding journeys strike a chord with me. I'm not much of a hiker but Sherry and I do walk a lot to try and keep the lbs down and stay fit. But these stories are more than just about the physical journey. They detail the emotional and mental journey the writers are on too, and I really connect with that. In year 28 of what has become a tiring teaching career, I feel I'm on a survival journey to retirement and the possibility of a new life travelling and riding and what that will bring. My lateest literary venture is entitled The 100 Year Old dman Who Climbed Out The Window and Disappeared.

I've also started writing and recording songs again, something I haven't done with any consistency for four or five years. Again, the catalyst for this was surviving the winter and expressing the emotions that I'm feeling right now. I'm not sure what prompted me to pick up the guitar again, but I was chagrined to find both my voice and playing had deteriorated notably in the intervening years since I played more regularly. The voice is coming back, though hot lemon water is a must; the playing still a bit mediocre, though the writing not the musicianship was always my strength. To keep things light I'll include a video here I did of a song I wrote about rum. I've discovered a wonderful sipping rum, El Dorado, to add to my repertoire of nightcaps and decided to go all Jimmy Buffett and write a tune about it. 

Well, that's about enough for now. I haven't blogged in over a month so for those who are following, thanks for dropping by. I did have the oddest experience a few days ago when my most recent blog  had 90+ hits in one day. I don't think I have a single post that has had that many page views.

Anyways, thanks for dropping by. Let's pray that April will bring something more weather approximating spring, as I think March may have actually been the worst month in what had been shaping up as a relatively mild winter bt Newfoundland standards.

Until Next Time, See Ya Out There! Ride On....