I did a 360km-ish kilometre ride on Saturday.  All back roads and as twisty as I can find in the farm-desert we live in.  I was gone shortly after 8am and had a coffee at Higher Ground before ripping up and down the Forks of the Credit.  I was then up past Orangeville to Hockley Valley Road, back through Mono Hills and up to River Road into Terra Nova before coming back down to Horning’s Mills and north to Noisy River Road into Creemore.  All in all I crossed the escarpment half a dozen times on my way north.

By now it was well past noon and into the high thirties with humidity.  After a great lunch at The Old Mill House Pub in Creemore I was out to Cashtown Corners to fill up and then past Glen Huron and over the escarpment one more time before heading north to Thornbury Cidery and the cooler shores of Georgian Bay.

Nothing Cools you down like the shore of a great lake on a hot, summer day.

From Creemore on I was soaking wet and sweating freely, monkey butt (red and sore on my backside from wet, aggravated skin) was soon to follow.  It wasn’t so bad by the lake, but inland it was sweltering.  I was standing frequently to try and get wind under me, but by this point my big ride was just uncomfortable.  The Macna vented pants did ok on my legs, but where I needed it the most they were just trapping heat and leaving me dripping.

I bombed south down Beaver Valley, stopping once at an overlook to finish the Gatorade I had and then on to Flesherton for a stop at Highland Grounds before dodging and weaving south on back roads towards Elora and air conditioned nirvana.

Before I left that morning I learned that Wolfe and Robyn, the founders of Lobo Loco long distance motorcycle rallies, had already started the monumentally difficult Bun Burner Gold, the seemingly impossible fifteen hundred miles (2400kms!!!) in twenty-four hours – yes, that’s a 100km/hr average for a whole turn of the earth.  You’d need to be making time every hour so you’d have time to get gas, eat, drink and toilet; it’s madness!

By the time I’d seen what these two superheroes were going to attempt that morning they had already done more miles than I was going to do all day (monkey butt and all), and they still had the better part of two thousand kilometres to go… in a day!

Part of this is making sure you’ve got the right gear for the job.  I’m going to address that in another post, but the other side of this is do I think I can actually pull something like that off.  I’m months away from turning fifty and I’m starting to get a sense of what getting older is going to feel like.  Doubt is what starts you thinking that you have to act your age.

The two doing that epic bun burner are fifteen plus years younger than I am and much more experienced riders.  My starting to ride late grates on my nerves.  Despite numerous opportunities, events beyond my control conspired to prevent me from finding my way back to a hereditary hobby.  Those lost years still haunt me.

No point in moping about it.  I’ve gotta grab the opportunities as I find them and not let doubt weaken my resolve.  If I want to get an Iron Butt done then I need to get it done.  You don’t get shit done by moaning about it.  But first I’ve got to get my seat and kit sorted.  No point in trying to do a job without the right tools.

from Blogger

A Summer Jaunt into the Adirondacks

I’m getting a bit stir crazy riding to the same places over and over.  Reading about Wolfe’s run at the Iron Butt Rally this year makes me want to raise my own long distance game with an eye to eventually taking a run at that event.  Who wouldn’t want to pass out in a graveyard for half an hour before hitting the never ending road again?

The Water is Life rally helps provide some alternatives, but what I really want to do is an overnight trip to roads both interesting and new.  The Adirondacks are the nearest thing I have to mountain roads anywhere near me beyond Southern Ontario’s flat, industrial farming desert.

Operating out of the Hotel Crittenden, I’d be able to leave luggage behind and travel light on the two loop days designed to explore the twisting roads of the Adirondack Mountains.  Hotel prices tend to spike on peak times like weekends, so a mid-week trip should keep costs minimal.  It’s a couple of hundred miles south and east, over the US border into New York State and south through the old mountains of eastern North America to Coudersport on the Allegheny River.

Day 1:  Ride to Coudersport:  352kms

Hotel Crittenden:

Interesting Adirondacks roads:

Day 2:  Snow Shoe Haneyville Loop:  352kms

Day 3:  Hollerback Loop:  384kms

Day 4:  Ride Home:  409kms

1497kms (930 miles) in 4 days / 3 nights.
Monday – Thursday (cheapest hotel room rates)
Hotel nights:  Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday
August 19-22:  USD $238.50 / CAD $313 Single King Room /3 nights

Our King suite is large, nearly 450 square feet. Each of our rooms is uniquely decorated and appointed with a classic theme. Relax on our premium quality king sized mattress and enjoy the historic surroundings. All rooms include a flat screen television, Coffee maker, and free WI-FI. The Bathroom features a Stand up shower with complimentary toiletries and a hair dryer.

Amenities on site (restaurant, bar) and a great downtown location near many other eating options means no need to ride at the end of a long day exploring twisty mountain roads.

The same area is great for autumn colours:

from Blogger

9 Days in March: Exploring The Ozarks

Next week is on or about freezing up here in the never ending winter.  Friday is looking like it might be a possibility with a current suggestion of seven degrees Celsius.  I can handle seven degrees.

In a more perfect world I’d be heading out of work today, jumping in the van and driving south to where things get yellow and orange on the map.

If I was on the road by 3:30pm, I think I could manage the eleven hour drive to St Louis by just past 2am.  I’d park up the van and have a sleep and aim for a morning departure from St Louis aiming South West into the Ozarks.

Seven days of following the twisting roads of the Ozarks would make for a brilliant March Break.  I’d aim to get back up to the hotel in St. Louis the next Saturday and spend one more night there before making the drive back into the frozen north on the Sunday before we’re back at work again.  A day of driving, 7 days on the bike, a day driving back.

Yes, please!

Them’s some nice March temperatures, especially compared to ours…

Ozarks Resources:

from Blogger

ECOO15 1: Making Frustrations

Back from ECOO15 and, as usually, my head is full.  After a rough year of politics around Ontario Education it’s nice to attend a conference made by teachers for teachers about… teaching!  Not a politician in sight, though attendance was wounded at this volunteer run conference by them.

ECOO may have been the site
of the first ever 3d photobomb!

I spent Wednesday with my robotics teacher showing people how to make 3d models using a Structure Sensor – a 3d laser scanner that is cheaper than the ipad it connects to.  It’s one of those game changing bits of engineering that suddenly opens up the complex world of 3d modelling to pretty much anyone.

We put the scanner into hundreds of hands and Katy was on there to show them how our 3d printers took those models and made them tangible.  For many who have heard of the maker movement, 3d modelling and printing but had never seen it in action, it was a seminal moment.  I’m hoping it also means people start considering how we can move toward a maker mentality, because it’s about as far removed from what we do in formal education as you can get.

Buddha Tim by tking on Sketchfab – @banana29‘s first 3d model, nicely done!

The next day, the opening keynote by Silvia Martinez was an overview of makerspaces and how they create a genuine learning environment.  Unfortunately, and like so many other educational books capitalizing on a trend, the keynote sold the concept of Making based on the fantastic contraptions shown at world class Maker Faires.  This is akin to saying everyone should play soccer like this, and then showing them the World Cup.

Education teaches students to expect success if they do what
they’re told.  Engineering demands mastery, creativity and
resilience; reality is a demanding teacher.

As I said in the conference, making involves frustration and failure.  More often than not it results in a prototype that doesn’t work.  I find that the grade nine students I am introducing this process to are greatly aggravated by the inflexible demands of reality.  They are quick to blame and even quicker to give up.  The most common comment is, “just tell me how to do it.”  The sub-text is, ‘I’ve learned to do what I’m told in order to show I’m learning.  Why aren’t you doing that?’

Students are used to the education system jigging things to ensure success.  The process of invention doesn’t do this and reality has no interest in modifying how it works so that students can feel good about their effort.  I don’t teach ‘I tried real hard’ or ‘guaranteed success’.  What I do teach is how computers and electronics work, and I expect students to develop skills sufficient to be able to work this these inflexible devices.  Once the mastery is managed, play can begin.  Shakespeare wasn’t writing plays while he was still learning to write.

This was posted by Bre Pettis way back in 2009.
This kind of radical engagement isn’t the managed

and directed engagement teachers are looking for.

If you want to build with electronics and digital technology (which are what are empowering much of the maker movement), you need to have something more than boundless enthusiasm.  Using digital technology isn’t effortless despite the marketing.  There is mastery learning required before you are cranking out 3d prints of gears and building your own robot out of garbage.  Many of the people creating the things you see at a maker faire are trained engineers.  I’ll bet that the kids shown at these Maker Faires are relying on some engineering expertise at home as well.  It’s nice to see their creativity, but it isn’t the only thing, or even the main thing, that is enabling these builds.  It’s like watching the child of a scientist presenting a surprisingly fantastic science fair project.

My concern is that Ontario Education will rush into this exciting and trendy fad, buying stacks of Arduinos, Raspberry Pis and 3d printers which will then gather dust when teachers realize that this equipment isn’t Lego, it doesn’t build itself with enthusiasm.  Your code has to be flawless and your wiring exact for even basic things to happen, and even when you’ve done everything right it might not work anyway because the LED you used happens to be defective.  You can’t simply lower expectations and then see results.  These are complex systems being created.

I struggle each year to get high school students to develop resiliency and master skills in electronics and digital technology so I would ABSOLUTELY LOVE to see the maker movement and its attendant philosophies infect Ontario’s classrooms.  The kids are more than capable of developing this resiliency and expertise, but I suspect that the vast majority of educators (many of which I help to plug in their desktops each day) aren’t.

The maker movement pushes back against vapid consumerism.  I’m a big fan of intimately knowing the machines I use.  The motorcycle I ride I restored after finding it in a field, the computers I use I build from scratch, but it took me years to build my mechanical and digital skills to this level.  Most people aren’t that patient, or curious.  Most people want immediate satisfaction, which is why they drive their cookie cutter SUVs to shopping malls.

Most teachers are no different.  If it isn’t their curriculum, it’s of no interest. Trying to push maker tools into that kind of classroom is a disaster waiting to happen.  If you’ve never used Linux, let alone installed an OS onto an SD card, what makes you think you will make magical use of Raspberry Pis?

Sabbatical Rides: Following Grandad On The British Expeditionary Force

I’ve previously written about and done a fair bit of digging into my Grandad Bill Morris’s World War 2 service in the RAF.  His time spent in France with the British Expeditionary Force before the Nazis invaded in 1940 highlights a forgotten piece of history.  Weeks after Dunkirk had pulled most of the troops out, Bill’s RAF squadron was still flying a fighting retreat against overwhelming odds.

By comparing various historical documents I’ve managed to cobble together the strange course Bill’s squadron took during this desperate retreat.  Spending a year following in his footsteps would be a pretty magical experience and a brilliant way to spend a sabbatical away from work.

Conveniently, from a sabbatical time-off scheduling point of view, Bill landed in France in September, 1939 in Octeville and proceeded north to set up an air base in Norrent-Fontes near the Belgian border.  They then wintered in Rouvres and as battle commenced were fighting out of Reims before retreating south and then west around Paris, quickly setting up  aerodromes for his squadron’s Hurricanes and then breaking them down and moving on while under constant fire.  They were supposed to get out on the Lancastria in Saint-Nazaire (another forgotten piece of World War 2 history), but Bill was late getting there (operating heavy equipment means you’re not at the front of the line).  He saw the ship get dive bombed and sunk – the biggest maritime disaster in British history, with most of his squadron on it.  He spent the next two weeks working his way up the coast before getting out on a small fishing vessel and back to the UK at the end of June, just in time to get seconded to another unit for the Battle of Britain.  Being able to trace Bill’s steps would be a powerful journey.

Bill was an RAF military policeman who worked in base security, but his handiest skill was his ability to drive anything from a motorbike to a fuel bowser.  It’d be cool to use the period technology Bill used to retrace his steps through France.

This sabbatical ride would have to happen between July of one year and the August of the next.  Following Bill’s time in France I would be landing in Octeville from the UK in September, hopefully on a period bike.  My preferred ride would be a 1939 Triumph Speed Twin, though an RAF standard Norton 16H would be equally cool.

If I couldn’t find a period bike I’d try and source a modern descendent of the Triumph or Norton.  Triumph is actually coming out with a new Speed Twin shortly, so that’s an option.  Meanwhile, Norton is coming out with the Atlas, which would be a modern take on the do everything 16H.

I’d arrange to stay in the places Bill did at the same times he did over the winter and spring.  With many days at various locations in rural France, I’d have a chance to find the old aerodromes and make drone aerial imagery of each location, hopefully finding evidence of the his war history hidden in the landscape.  I wonder if I’d be able to see evidence of the Lancastria’s resting place from the air.  With time to get a feel for the place, I’d write and record the experience as I moved slowly at first and then with greater urgency in the spring around Paris, through Ruaudin, Nantes and Saint-Nazaire before ending the trip in Brest at the end of June when Bill left, almost three weeks after Dunkirk.

The research so far on Bill’s World War 2 service in France, the Battle of Britain in the UK and then into Africa!

Living in France for most of a year would offer a cornucopia of travel writing opportunities and the historical narrative I’m following would let me experience a lot of local colour in order to research a fictional novel I’ve been thinking about writing based on Bill’s World War 2 experience.

To get ready for this I’d get Bill’s full service record and research the whens and wheres of his experience on the continent during the Phoney War and through the Fall of France.  

When all was said and done I’d pack up the bike and ship it back home to Canada where it would always be a reminder of the year I walked in my Grandad’s footsteps.

Research Links to date:

Bill’s service record research:
Map of Bill’s Squadron movements in France:
RAF squadron research:

from Blogger

Sanding Concours

One small heater does the job now that I have
garage door insulation installed.

A good couple of hours were spent in the garage today getting the scratches and dents out of various Concours panels.  The previous owner had used some kind of plastic filler to put back together the lower right fairing after it had been dropped.  With some hand sanding today I’ve gotten it close enough to prime and prep for a round of painting.  If it isn’t perfect it’ll be much closer than it was.

I’m trying to find the Tremclad metallic red similar to the blue I used on the Ninja, but I’m having trouble finding it.  Home Depot seems to have dried up on it.  That paint with the gloss clear coat comes very close to looking like it came from a body shop.

I’ll keep looking.

The small heater did a good job of heating up the room to 18°C (it was -8°C outside).  The garage door blanket is doing its job nicely.

Got the rear fairing piece around the seat off and prepped for painting.

Everything sanded and cleaned, ready for some primer.

Connie stripped down to the tank.

Stealing One From The Icy Teeth of Winter

The days are getting darker, damper and distinctly not rider friendly.  One day this week was into the double digits Celsius, so we jumped at the chance to do a big Max & Dad ride, maybe our last one of 2017.

That night it was going to bucket down with a cold, pre-winter rain storm, but the day promised sun and clouds and a chance to ride, so we took it.  We waited until the numbers got well above zero and then got the Tiger out of the garage and put on leathers and layers of fleece; this was going to be a cold one.

There is nothing more ragged and beautiful than a pre-winter sky over Georgian Bay.  We pushed north across the barren farm tundra that we live in.  Miles upon miles of mechanically tilled and industrially fertilized fields rolled by as we headed toward a first warm-up stop at Highland Grounds in Flesherton on the edge of the Niagara Escarpment.

We staggered into the coffee shop just past eleven.  The weather wasn’t anywhere near where the Weather Network promised it would be.  Our low teens, sunny morning had turned into a six degree, overcast slog north along your typical, boring, straight Southern Ontario roads.  Fortunately, nothing cheers us up more than warming up in an independent coffee shop and then heading onto Escarpment twisties.  Highland Grounds was as good as I remembered and we left with warm grins after a vanilla milkshake, a cookie the size of a pizza and a big, piping hot coffee in a ceramic mug.  It was a lot of calories, but we’d shivered those off on the way up.

North past Lake Eugenia where I spend a lot of summers at a friend’s cottage, we wound our way into Beaver Valley and the twisties and views we’d been looking for – so much so that we stopped at the scenic look out on our way into the valley.


Of course, as soon as we stopped an elderly couple pulled in behind us and the driver immediately wandered up to find out who made our Triumph.

“Triumph?” I replied, somewhat confused by his question.
“Where are they made then?” he asked.  He has (of course) owned old Meriden Triumphs from the pre-80’s collapse of the Motor Company and had assumed they were long gone.  He had no idea John Bloor had saved the brand in the early 90s and it was now one of the biggest European motorcycle manufacturers.  He’d assumed it was an Asian built Triumph branded thing.  When I told him it was built in the UK at a state of the art factory in Hinckley he was gobsmacked.  I always enjoy telling the story of Triumph’s phoenix like rise from the ashes.  We left him thinking about dropping by the factory next time he’s back in the old country.

We hopped back on the trusty Tiger and headed on through Beaver Valley and out to the choppy shores of Georgian Bay where the sky looked torn and the waves smashed against the rocks, splashing us with spray.

We hung out on the lonely shore for a little while, watching the hyperthermic fisherman standing in the mouth of the Beaver River amidst the surf, casting into the grey water over and over.  Georgian Bay skies always look like they are about to shatter, even in the summer, but with a Canadian winter imminent they looked positively daunting.  Time for another warm up.

We rode back up the hill onto the main street of Thornbury and got ourselves another warm drink.  The goal was to strike south east across the Escarpment toward Creemore for lunch.  The sporadic sun had managed to get it up to about ten degrees, but it was only better compared to the frozen morning.  We headed south behind Blue Mountain and through the glacial remains of Singhampton before turning onto the positively serpentine Glen Huron road for a ride down the hill into Creemore.  Shaggy highland cattle watched us ride by, much to my passenger’s delight.

A hot lunch of philly steak and poutine refueled us at The Old Mill House Pub in Creemore.  When we came back out mid afternoon the temperature was as good as it was going to get, eleven degrees.  With warm stomachs we saddled up for the ride home through the wind fields of Dufferin County, but not before walking down the street to the ever popular Creemore brewery for a photo op and some brown ale.

When it comes to the end of October in Ontario, Canada, you take what you can get, and I’m glad we did.  Soon enough the snow will fall, the roads will salt up and the Tiger will have to hibernate, dreaming of the far off spring.

All on bike photos courtesy of the very easy to operate Ricoh Theta 360 camera – with simple physical controls and an ergonomic shape that is easy to grip, it’s my go-to 360 camera.  No worries about framing a shot or focusing, it takes a photo of everything!
Georgian Bay 2017 end of season ride #triumph #roofhelmet #theta360 – Spherical Image – RICOH THETA

Our last big ride of the year?  Perhaps – it was hot baths and fireplaces when we got home.

Leather, fleece and armoured trousers, and it was still a cold one.

from Blogger

The End is Nigh

I rode in to work this morning in near zero temperatures.  It was sunny but cool.  The ride home was in the mid-single digits and sunny.  Winter gloves handled 8°C with ease, they were streteched a near zero.  Tomorrow might be my last 2 wheeled commute of the season.  I threw the 360Fly on the front for the ride, these are screen grabs of the video:

It’s amazing what you can get away with thanks to grip heaters and an extendable windshield.  -5°C might be a bit more than I’m willing to put up with on the ride in to work, but if it’s clear I might just steal one more before the snows fly.

There are still some autumn colours hanging on, but the trees are starting to look skeletal.

For these shots the camera was suction cupped near the bottom of the windshield and aimed forward.