Across the Halliburton Highlands

411kms across the Highlands

After a few days of R&R recovering from our ride out to the 1000 Islands and seeing the sights, it was time to pack up and prepare for our return home.  The plan was to travel through the Halliburton Highlands, where it is claimed that Ontario’s best roads reside.

The Tiger morphed from light weight, single rider mode to two-up, full luggage touring mode in about ten minutes.  The rear suspension was tightened up for the extra weight and we were ready to go.

The plan was to cut north west from the Thousand Islands and get onto the twisties as soon as possible.  It worked well.  We soon found ourselves leaning into corners more than we were upright (a rarity in Ontario).  When I’m in corners like that i don’t stiffen up in the saddle and I can ride for hours without fatigue.

Regional Road 15 got interesting almost immediately, weaving around lakes and pieces of the Canadian Shield peaking through the earth.  As we travelled north those rock outcroppings became the norm rather than the exception and the roads only got better.  38 up to Highway 7 was a lovely ride with constant bends and big elevation changes as we bounced in and out of river valleys that had cut their way through the rock.  If this road was a sign of things to come, then the riding the highlands was going to be special.

We stopped at Fall River Restaurant on  Highway 7 because I figured it would be the last place with a busy enough road to warrant an open business, except it didn’t.  This turned into a theme on this ride:  don’t depend on the tourist trade to keep a business open, instead look to a stable community to keep a business open.

The lady from the post office came out and told us only the post office is open, the general store, ice cream and restaurant are all closed and only open on the weekend.  There wasn’t even a toilet available.  Three vehicles pulled in looking for a stop while we were there, but were turned away.  We drank our own water and stretched in the empty parking lot before hoping on the bike and continuing up the winding country road 38.

In Elphin the plan was to turn with the 38 and continue west, and even though Elphin is a tiny place with only one major turn, we missed it.  This spoke to another thing we learned on this ride; you’ll see signs for corners and bumps everywhere even though these things are self evident, but navigational signs are small, missing or incorrect.  I guess most people follow a screen telling them what to do nowadays, but for the rest of us, some accurate navigational signage would be appreciated.

When I saw a second sign for regional road 12 which we weren’t supposed to be on, I pulled over at the Mississippi River (when I take a wrong turn, I don’t mess around!).  It was a beautiful, shady spot and we had a good stretch and watched the kingfishers getting their breakfast before saddling up again and u-turning back to Elphin.

Back on the 38 again, we wound around lakes before finding the 509 I turned left toward Ompah, but it turns out that should have been a right (turning signs around is fun!).  When we arrived back at Highway 7 I just shook my head and made a right turn, figuring I could angle north again on either Kaladar or Madoc.  By now the heat was back and moving at speed down Highway 7 was a nice way to cool off.  This was the prettiest part of 7, with few towns and no reduced speeds, so everyone was clipping along nicely.  We stopped in Kaladar for gas even though we didn’t really need it and got sports drinks.  By the time we got to Madoc it was wicked hot and we sought air conditioning in the only open restaurant we’d seen so far – a McDonalds.  I was beginning to despair for local food in the Highlands.

Coe Hill Cafe – cool ceiling, good
bakery and coffee.

After a much needed cool down and hydration we hopped back on the bike and hiked up highway 62 to Coe Hill, which is where we learned that you’ll find local businesses, but only in small towns where people live year round.  The cottage crowd and travellers are too fickle and passing to support a business up here.

The ride up 62 had us stopping at various bridges for up to five minutes at a time due to construction, so we got into Coe Hill ready to get out of the sun for a few minutes again.  Fortunately, the Coe Hill Cafe was open and got us sorted out even though we were looking a bit ragged.  It’s amazing what a good cup of coffee in a cool shady place can do to get you back on your feet.

I missed the poor signage for Lower Faraday Road (the reason we’d come this way in the first place), and then missed another turn thirty seconds later.  I cannot over state how random the road signage is up this way.  I really wish the MoT would take the money put into redundant cornering signage and apply it to identifying the roads themselves.

They show a couple of sports bikes riding down Lower Faraday on the website, but the section they’re showing is the last mile up to Ontario 28.  While this road is indeed twisty, much of the surface is atrocious with big pot holes and gravel everywhere from the many driveways that feed onto it.  You’d find it frustrating trying to explore any section of this road on a sports bike.

Even with the big shocks on the Tiger it was a rough, perilous ride.  You couldn’t push any corners because of the debris, quality of the road and traffic.  Lower Faraday has no centre line for much of it and every vehicle coming the other way was the largest possible pickup truck you’ve ever seen moving well above the speed limit in the middle of the road, and this was on a Tuesday afternoon.  We road out of our way to see this ‘ten best’ road, and it wasn’t.

We headed in to Bancroft after the disappointing Faraday experience and stopped at the information tourism building.  They have an excellent little mineral exhibit showing the various mining that goes on in the area, as well as being a cooling centre.  Half an hour in the air conditioning with cold water and some cool rocks got us ready to ride again.

Some of the best roads of the day were ahead of us.  We took 62 north out of Bancroft and then cut across toward Highland Grove.  This roller-coaster of a road was well marked, clean and had a consistent surface.  Corners varied from tight switchbacks to long sweepers with big elevation changes, what a joy!  We followed the 648 around to the 118, passing Old Ridge Authentic BBQ (closed) where I’d hoped to have dinner.

The bike looks fine, we were

We quickly discovered that the 118 is no boring connecting road, with beautiful scenery and engaging corners all the way in to Haliburton.  Even though it was heading towards evening the air temperature was still well in the thirties and humidity was high.  We’d done over 400kms entirely on twisty back roads and were wiped.  We limped in to Pinestone Resort just south of Haliburton and parked it up.

The Pinestone offered a quiet room with good beds for a reasonable price.  We went for a swim (salt water indoor and outdoor pools) and then had an excellent dinner at Stone 21, the onsite restaurant.  By the end of the evening we were back on our feet again.

I had us up early the next morning, hoping to beat the heat.  I’d looked up good local breakfasts and found The Millpond Restaurant in Carnarvon, right on our way to Bracebridge.  It was a short hop over there on very windy, but rough backroad for an excellent breakfast.  Great price, great food, great service.  If you’re anywhere around Haliburton, give the Millpond a go, you won’t be disappointed.

The most perfect 100kms of the trip.

Outside afterwards the hydro line-men who were there for breakfast were curious about the bike.  For the fifth time this trip I explained the resurrection of Triumph and how they are building new bikes.  The general public seems to recognize the brand as historical, but our post-modern/art-deco Tiger raises a lot of questions.

It was only just past 9am at this point, we were well fed, well rested and it was a perfect 20°C under a cloudless sky.  We pulled on to an empty 118 and rode the weaving, smooth pavement in bliss.  No sweat, no traffic, beautiful scenery, this was the moment we’d been searching for.

We passed through Bracebridge and got into Port Carling about 10:30am.  Traffic had picked up once we were into the Muskokas, so we pulled over at the information/tourism place for a stretch and a heads up on where to get a coffee.  Stopping at the info/tourism spots on this trip was never a disappointment.

 Port Carling is a pretty little place.  We were told it was a short walk to the Camp Muskoka Coffeehouse which helps support a camp that teaches leadership to students.  The coffee was excellent and the walk into town offered a good stretch.

Back up at the info-stop we bumped into a fellow from Barbados who was puzzled at our very modern looking Triumph.  He said there are lots of old Triumphs on the island, but they’re very expensive.  Once again I told the phoenix like story of Hinckley Triumph and how they are building some of the most modern bikes on the planet.  He had no idea, but thought there would be a huge market for a modern, small Triumph (they have cc limits in Barbados).  Perhaps he’ll contact Hinckley and see about the 250cc little Triumph that hasn’t happened yet.

We saddled up and left the shade of the info stop.  The sun was blistering now, but we were nearing the end of our Highlands road ride.  We quickly got to Bala, but I missed the poorly marked turn out to the 400 (surprise, surprise).  No worries, we just stayed on the 169 down the Gravenhurst.  A couple of ten minute stops at bridge construction had us both sweating heavily by the time we got into Gravenhurst.  I’d only ever seen the highway side of Gravenhurst, so I was surprised that it took us 15 minutes of traffic lights to get through it.

Ahhh…. air conditioning!

Once clear I hopped on 11 South and made time.  We pushed through the heat and steady but fast moving traffic all the way past Barrie before stopping at an ONroute for gas, lunch and a cool down.  I’d been getting over 49mpg solo without luggage.  The astonishing Tiger was still getting 47.2mpg two up with luggage.  We’d done over 430kms since our last fill up the day before in Madoc.

I used every trick in the book to cool off, soaking my head and arms to let the water evaporate and drinking a lot of fluids.  We took our time before stepping back out into the oven.  It was over 40°C with humidity when we finally left.

We bombed down the 400 and turned toward Orangeville on Highway 9, which was chockablock with traffic on a Wednesday afternoon.  Aggressive drivers on the highway were lane changing without indicating around typically poor Canadian lane discipline (you’re supposed to pass on the left).  We got cut off a couple of times, once badly enough to prompt a salute from me.  On Highway 9 with eighteen wheelers spitting hot gravel at us and cars sitting at green lights while staring at their smartphones, I was at the end of my patience.  We finally got around Orangeville only to almost get hit by a car passing a line of traffic coming right at us on the Fergus Road.  This was as far from the 118 on a cool, quiet morning as we could possibly get.

We rolled in to Elora mid-afternoon.  Once parked I pulled out the laser temperature tester from the garage.  The driveway was over 50°C.  A cold shower and feet up on the couch ended our 750+km ride through the Haliburton Highlands.  The last leg back into Southern Ontario was the most dangerous part of the whole trip, and made me wish those sublime Ontario Highland roads weren’t so far away on the other side of these overcrowded, frustrating and tedious Southern Ontario roads.

The whole shebang – including the boring straight bits at the end.
Top of the tower in 1000 Islands
Canadian rider…

Riding through the Canadian Shield… literally!

The beginning of the big bake-off to get home

Data Exhaust

At a recent educational technology conference in Phoenix Constance Steinkuehler mentioned the term ‘data exhaust’ in passing to describe the numbers pouring out of testing.  The idea of data as pollution has been with me for a while.  The statistics I’ve seen derived from data in education have often been farcical attempts at justifying questionable programming.  It’s gotten to the point that when someone starts throwing charts and graphs up in a presentation I assume they are hiding something.

Constance’s term ‘data exhaust’ had me tumbling through metaphorical implications.  If the data we generate out of education is the exhaust, what are we doing when we turn the education system toward producing data exhaust for its own sake?  No student will ever face a standardized test in the working world, it’s a completely unrealistic and limited way in which to measure learning let alone prepare students for the rest of their lives.  Using standardized testing to measure learning has us revving the education vehicle at high rpm in neutral; we’re making a lot of smoke and not going anywhere.

Is data always useless?  Not at all, but the tendency to find patterns and turn data in statistics takes something already abstract and abstracts it even further.  That people then take these inferences and limited slices of information as gospel points to the crux of the crisis in American education.  We end up with what we think are facts when they are really fictions that use math of lend an air of credibility.

Even with statistics and data metrics off the table, the idea of looking at the data exhaust pouring out of education as a way of directing future action demonstrates staggering shortsightedness.  Education is not a data driven, linear or binary enterprise, it is a complex human one.  We are not producing expert test takers, we should be producing well rounded human beings that can thrive in a complex, competitive, data rich century.  No standardized test can measure that.

If you took your poorly running car into a mechanic and they just kept revving the engine harder and harder while watching smoke billow out of the back you’d think something was wrong with them, yet that is how American education is tuning itself.  They then wonder why they aren’t scoring well in world rankings.  If we want the education vehicle to take us somewhere we need to crack open the hood and take a look at the engine, but what is that engine?  What actually makes the engine of education run well?  It isn’t fixating on the data exhaust.

Canada has performed very well in world education rankings.  We find ourselves able to keep up with some of the world’s best education systems, like Finland, and we do it at a much lower cost per student than the US has managed to.  It looks like all that testing and data exhaust fixation costs a lot more than your students’ well being, it’s also hugely inefficient.

A well running education system focuses on pedagogy.  It is what fuels it, it is what makes the system serve its students using the best possible learning practices.  Pedagogy is a tricky concept, and it doesn’t offer simplistic solutions that digital technology companies can app-up, but it does give everyone, no matter how much they may disagree on the details, a common goal.

There was a lot of talk about coming together and pulling in the same direction over the Common Curriculum at this conference.  We aren’t all on the same page in Canada when it comes to processes or how the system should run, but pedagogy is on everyone’s mind.  Best practices have to drive education.  Having standards isn’t a bad thing, but when you’re so fixated on the data exhaust you’re producing that you forget fundamental pedagogical practice, you’ve lost sight of what education should be in the data smog you’ve created.


In Canada we pay less and produce more by focusing on pedagogy rather than empty data gathering (aka: standardized testing).

via USC Rossier’s online Doctor of Education

Archetypal Emotional Response In High Stress Learning

An editorial piece I read in Bike Magazine a while back has stayed with me.  In it the author (a veteran motorcycle trainer) was describing how a rider’s emotional response to high stress situations limits their ability to learn from them.  It struck me because I still catch myself falling into both of the archetypal mind traps he describes.  I now struggle to get beyond them and adopt the clinical approach of a master learner that he suggests.

In a high-stakes, emotional environment like riding you can’t be trowing tantrums or assigning blame (though many do), you need to be calm and aware in order to both assess a situation as its happening and accurately recall and learn from it later.  Emotion is a natural response to high stress situations but it often gets in the way of attaining mastery.

The author of the piece (I’m still looking for it but I think I lent the magazine out) suggests that people fall into archetypal behaviors when they are stressed and emotional. These behaviours prevent you from making coherent decisions in the moment as well as preventing progress by hiding memory details behind ego and emotion.  The two archetypes we fall back into are child and parent.  Since we’re all familiar with these roles it only makes sense that we’d revert to them when we are under pressure.

The child throws tantrums and reacts selfishly, aggressively and emotionally.  People falling into this mind-set shout and cry at the circumstances and focus on blaming others.   The child is emotional and blind to just about everything around them except the perceived slight.  This approach tends to be dangerously over-reactive.  Have you ever seen a student blow up in an asymmetrical way over a minor issue?  They have fallen into the child archetype emotional trap.

The parent mind-set seems like an improvement but it is just as effective at blocking learning.  The parent shakes their head disapprovingly and focuses on passing judgement.  You’ll see someone in this mind-set tutting and rolling their eyes at people.  The parent is focused on passing judgement loudly and publicly.  You can probably see how easy it is for teachers to fall into this one.

The child is selfish, emotional and immediate.  The parent wraps themselves in a false sense of superiority that makes the user feel empowered when they might otherwise feel helpless.  Both archetypes attempt to mitigate frustration and ineffectiveness behind emotion and ego.

I’ve seen students stressed out by exams or other high-stakes learning situations fall into these traps but it took that motorbike instructor to clarify how students can lose their ability to internalize learning by falling into these archetypes.  He describes riders who shout and yell at someone cutting them off.  They are responding to their own poor judgement and lack of attention with the emotional outburst.  Suddenly finding themselves in danger, they lash out emotionally in order to cover up their own inadequacies.  That emotional blanket effectively hides any chance of reviewing and learning from a situation objectively.  

The parent adopts that judgmental stance.  Last summer I had a senior student who rides a motorcycle get involved in an accident.  He had bad road rash and was bruised all over.  He went with the parent approach.  The woman who hit him was panicked and frightened because she hadn’t seen him.  Her own mother had been hurt in a similar motorcycle accident and she felt a lot of guilt over being the cause of this one.  The student said ‘she came out of no-where’.  I said, ‘that’s odd, cars weight thousands of pounds.  I’ve never seen one appear out of nowhere before.’  Rather than review his own actions and perhaps learn to develop better 360° awareness, the student was happy to piggy-back on the driver’s emotional response and pass judgement.  He never felt any responsibility for that accident and still believes that cars can come out of nowhere.

I enjoy riding because it is a difficult, dangerous craft that it is very important to do well.  In pressurized learning situations you need an alert, open mind.  I’ve never once seen this the focus of consideration in school (except perhaps in extracurricular sports).  What we do instead is try and remove any pressure and cater to emotionality rather than teaching students to master it.

Other Links:
Comparing Teacher PD to Motorcycle Training
Training Fear and Ignorance out of Bikecraft
Archetypal Pedagogy

Busy Winter Garage & Kawasaki Industrial Art

I never intended to become hooked on Kawasakis.  The motorcycle fixation of my younger self was always Hondas, but when I finally got into motorcycling it was Kawasakis that kept appearing in the right place at the right time, and they’ve generally been good to me.  To date I’ve owned three Kawasakis, two Yamahas and a Triumph; not a Honda in sight.

After selling the Yamaha XS1100 custom project bike last summer I decided to double down on the wounded Concours which, in spite of a lot of work and money spent, wasn’t sellable.  When I can ride I ride but when the snow flies I tend to get busy in the garage, and this winter is no different.

The winter garage is a busy garage.  The Tiger’s having a rest while I work on the Concours custom.  Before the spring season begins the Tiger’ll have new fork oil, spark plugs and a coolant flush.

The Concours is in an unprecedented state of undress.  With the rear end removed and the plastics off it looks like a completely different machine.  Yesterday I removed the coolant reservoir located under the oil cooler behind the front wheel.  It’s going to get relocated to the back of the battery box so it’s out of the way of rocks being kicked up from the road.  There are a lot of after market options for a coolant reservoir, so finding an alternative that fits well in the new location shouldn’t be hard.

The 7 inch round headlight with built in LED indicators showed up from Amazon but I’m still waiting on the tail light.  I’d initially thought of doing some kind of front fairing but now I’m going bare bones with only metal framing to mount the light and minimal instruments.  

I purchased some stainless steel framing and I’ve been cutting it into muffler mounts and the rear light fairing bracket.  That rear fairing piece is going to be as minimal as possible as well.  Perhaps even a box for the rear light in bare frame.  Visible girder frame pieces are going to become a part of what this will look like when it’s finished.


I took the instrument cluster apart to see if any of it was salvageable (it wasn’t), but the insides look like something out of the DaVinci Code!






Some 90° brackets on the upper fork clamps has me ready to try some headlight mounting ideas.


via Blogger

Experimenting with Geometry on 360° On-Motorbike Photography

My 360 degree on-motorcycle photography experiment continues.  The process has evolved over time from handheld, manually shot photos to automatic, bike mounted shots.  I’ve tried half a dozen different cameras and mounts on locations all over the bike, most recently on the tail rack.

I’ve always wanted to be able to catch the front of the bike while in motion.  Mounted to the windscreen the Ricoh Theta doesn’t quite reach.  This time I purchased a 1/4 inch threaded rod and cut it to size (about a foot long) and used it to extend the camera out front of the bike.  Double fastening the camera at one end and the tripod at the other with extra nuts meant I had no trouble with the rig moving.

The results speak for themselves…

Early shots are using the extension rig mounted on the upper windshield.  It clears the camera from the fairing and gives clear shots of the whole machine and rider while in motion.  The rig is stable and holds the camera for steady shots.  It never budged on a variety of roads at various speeds.

From the windshield I moved the camera rig to the right rearview mirror.  There was a bit of flex in the windshield with the rig attached, but none from the mirror.  The shots were once again very stable and steady at a variety of speeds on a variety of different road conditions.  This one is at about on a country back road.  This angle still shows the front of the bike, but gives more of a 3/4 view of the back of the machine.

The distance further off the fairing means a wider view of corners.  Even with energetic riding on the twisty bits the rig was problem free.

Further along I angled the rig up higher for a more top down view.  The tripod ball joint that lets you easily angle it.  If kept tight you can do this on the fly with ease.

One of the benefits of this on-bike camera rig is that it gives a good sense of speed and captures the intimacy of riding because the camera is doing everything the bike and rider are.  Here I’m up to triple digits on a highway.


For the last angle I put the camera as far up and out to the side as I could angle it off the rearview mirror.  This catches the whole side of the bike and rider well, as well as offering a good sight lines up and down the road.




That worked.  All images are screen captures in the Ricoh imaging software cleaned up in Adobe Lightroom.

from Blogger

The New Efficiency

This African proverb passed me on the
internet last week, and left me thinking.

Originally published on Dusty World in June of 2015:

Last semester I had an energetic grade 9 suddenly stop his interaction with the internet and wonder out loud (and it was asked in all seriousness):  “why is it in video games and movies old people are so cool, with hidden knowledge and special powers, but in real life they just suck?”

He received an avalanche of ‘how could you say that?!’, but then everyone went on to say how wonderful their grandparents were.  Everyone loves their grandparents, but no one was willing to defend age and by extension experience in and of itself.

When this African proverb popped up I immediately felt the pinch of that class discussion (yes, I know, we were talking about the value of age and experience in a class where I was supposed to be teaching computer engineering, I guess my kids won’t be ready for whatever standardized test they invent for it).

What role does age and experience have in the information age?  This proverb also refers to libraries, which have been facing their own test of relevance thanks to the Googliable nature of information.

Information technology has made personal knowledge irrelevant.  The life experiences of human beings have become meaningless, replaced by internet searches.  Why would you bother to ask your grandfather how to change the brakes on your car when you can just Google it?  Once a useful source of information, the elders around you are now objects of affection and little more, they serve no function.  You can get the information you need without any of the static (anecdotal stories that accompany the information).  This sanitized, machine driven version of knowledge has many benefits.

You can reduce complex human knowledge (for example, the development of literacy) into simplistic, easy to quantify standards and then make sweeping suppositions about the results.  Banal opinion based on internet ‘fact’ is the new intelligence.  Like any opinion you hear online, carefully crafted grading schemes end up becoming the truth, which fits nicely into the antiseptic version of knowledge the information age peddles.

Another benefit is the downward social pressure on human communities.  When you plug people into a centralized source of information you wean them from the social necessities of family, community and even nation.  When no one needs anyone else (but they do need an ISP), you have removed all the social static and laid the groundwork for a kind of hypercapitalism that will make past look like the middle ages!

When we try and argue for meaningful learning (in anything other than a poster), we are met with educational administration making sad faces and saying it’s not viable.  The reasonable provision of caps on class sizes is just such an attempt, which is why the meme on the right goes straight to the heart of this issue.

Tangible data that grossly oversimplify human endeavour are how we roll nowadays.  As the poster states, class caps mean nothing, but fail to hand out a piece of paper with grades so abstract that they are meaningless along with computer generated comments, and ‘everyone loses their minds!’

There is some push back against the dimensionless facts that drive the information age.  You find it in the physical world in grass roots movements like slow food or maker spaces where you see individuals trying to wrest control of production from the hands of remote systems.  In these places the idea of human interaction is key to the process of learning.  They are trying to build communities in an arid digital landscape that is bereft complex human interaction… unless they are under a corporate banner; communities designed for marketing purposes.  What would be the economic sense in creating a community solely for the benefit its members?

Ironically, human interaction is less and less a factor in human education.  The push to integrate technology into pedagogy without considering its implications has infected education systems with the same efficiency that we now enjoy everywhere else.  We can hardly expect the personally demeaned yet highly efficient funployees in the private sector to demand anything other than consistent menial labour, it’s what they do.  Developing complex personal relationships in order to effectively mentor and teach aren’t very efficient/economically viable.  They are certainly discouraged in the brave new world of 21st Century education where teachers are now facilitators, reduced to getting out of the way of learning and making sure the #edtech is working.

One of my students from many years ago is now out in the world.  She was sitting in a restaurant a few weeks ago watching two employees, a teenage girl and an older woman on their break.  The older woman kept trying to start a conversation.  The teen ignored her, buried in her phone until she finally snapped, ‘What? What do you want?”  She was incensed that this woman had interrupted her texting time.  She was probably in withdrawal because they don’t let her have the phone while working.  I can bet which one of those two employees gets better performance reviews, though she sounds like an ass.

Maybe human experience is meaningless nowadays.  Maybe old people are useless and libraries are a waste of space (great idea: replace every one in school with franchise coffee shops to balance the books!).  Maybe we don’t need each other to learn any more, it’s certainly not as efficient.


Watch the new efficiency infect the UK’s Labour Party
“In 2015 we are living in a cold, cruel, and desolate country in which benefit sanctions, foodbanks, poverty wages, and ignorance reign, governed by a clutch of rich, privately educated sociopaths whose conception of society has been ripped straight from the pages of a dystopian novel.”