Biking Family History Part 2

Since seeing pictures of my granddad on a motorbike I’ve been curious about my family history with bikes.  Knowing that bikes have been in my family for generations is kinda cool.  When home in August I got to see some more bike-related family history.  My Uncle had a couple of albums I hadn’t seen before that had some fantastic pictures in them.  It’s always nice to see pictures of Granddad, and seeing him working on his bike was wonderful.  I guess if you rode a bike in the 1940s and 50s you spent some time making sure it was running right, or it wasn’t running at all.

There were also some pictures of my Granddad Bill in his RAF uniform on a bike.  With war-time scarcity, getting around on two wheels was the way to go.  I imagine the RAF used bikes extensively as personal transport. Granddad rode in their motorbike tatoo – doing stunts and coordinated high speed riding in huge groups.
I love the poses; the bikes, the suits, and some rural Norfolk scenery!  No doubt that Granddad Bill loved his motorbikes!  I can remember him letting me sit behind the wheel of his lorry and steer when I was four or five.  I wish I’d been around him longer.

The bit of family history I didn’t know revolved around my great Aunt who rode a bike too!  She was a single woman who was a serious rider at a time when women didn’t really remain single, let alone bomb around the countryside on motorcycles.

I loved hearing about her, and even when I discovered that she died in the saddle in a motor accident I was glad to have learned about her.  I wish I’d have known her.  I feel like the family I have who are into bikes are far from me.  I also talked to my cousin who owns a Fireblade and a BMW R1200.  It was nice to have a bike talk with family members, though I feel like the ones I most wanted to chat with aren’t with us any more.

It’s Editing All The Way Down: Creating a 360 Little Planet Stop Motion Video

This is one of those things that is probably more trouble than it’s worth, but since I have some time on my hands, why not give it a go?


Creating a ‘Little Planet‘ wrapped image out of a panorama or 360 photograph is something you can do directly in Ricoh’s online editing tool…







This is the image embedded in the online uploading tool that you can use with all Ricoh Theta 360 cameras:

theta360.com/s/dNyfH8RrBTIGWWf5WGXS8OYzo



Post from RICOH THETA. – Spherical Image – RICOH THETA



The problem with this process is that it’s quite clunky.  You have to upload each photo to the site, then set it to Little Planet, then, if you want to keep photo editing, screen grab it and bring it back down to the desktop.  If I’m trying to make a stop motion film out of over 300 photos, making Little Planets this way isn’t going to scale.


The solution was to find a way to create similar appearance in Adobe Photoshop and then batch process all the photos into a little planet format.  Instructables has a just such a tutorial.  The long and the short of the process is: stretch the photos into a square, flip them and the use a polar coordinates distortion tool to ‘wrap’ the square photo around the centre of the image.  The end result isn’t quite as nuanced as Ricoh’s online little planet geometry, which is specifically designed for the details of the Theta camera.  It’d be nice if Ricoh shared that geometry so people could duplicate the process in other software.




Lots of batch processed little planets!


I recorded those Instructable actions using the Photoshop script recording tool and then ran the batch ran the script on 384 photos auto-taken on a recent motorcycle ride (the 360 camera is attached to the windscreen).  The end result was 384 modified photos outputted to another directory.  I then took the photos and dropped them into Adobe Premier Pro, where I set the intro and outro pictures to slightly longer times and the main body to 0.02 seconds per photo, creating the stop motion video effect.


I threw in the intro to Rush’s Red Barchetta as some dystopian future background music (we’re in the middle of social distancing due to COVID19).  I fear it’s just a matter of time until travel itself becomes illegal, as it is in the song.


Here is the end result, a 26 second video containing over 380 individual photos batch processed in Photoshop and then edited into a short stop motion video:






The original footage was shrunk from 5376 x 5376 pixels (the ThetaV takes 5376 pixel wide panoramas and I made them square, remember?) to 1000×1000 pixels.  My logic there was a 1080p video is 1920×1080 pixels, so 1000×1000 pixels is almost 1080 wide.


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It’s Editing All The Way Down: Creating a 360 Little Planet Stop Motion Video

This is one of those things that is probably more trouble than it’s worth, but since I have some time on my hands, why not give it a go?


Creating a ‘Little Planet‘ wrapped image out of a panorama or 360 photograph is something you can do directly in Ricoh’s online editing tool…







This is the image embedded in the online uploading tool that you can use with all Ricoh Theta 360 cameras:

theta360.com/s/dNyfH8RrBTIGWWf5WGXS8OYzo



Post from RICOH THETA. – Spherical Image – RICOH THETA



The problem with this process is that it’s quite clunky.  You have to upload each photo to the site, then set it to Little Planet, then, if you want to keep photo editing, screen grab it and bring it back down to the desktop.  If I’m trying to make a stop motion film out of over 300 photos, making Little Planets this way isn’t going to scale.


The solution was to find a way to create similar appearance in Adobe Photoshop and then batch process all the photos into a little planet format.  Instructables has a just such a tutorial.  The long and the short of the process is: stretch the photos into a square, flip them and the use a polar coordinates distortion tool to ‘wrap’ the square photo around the centre of the image.  The end result isn’t quite as nuanced as Ricoh’s online little planet geometry, which is specifically designed for the details of the Theta camera.  It’d be nice if Ricoh shared that geometry so people could duplicate the process in other software.




Lots of batch processed little planets!


I recorded those Instructable actions using the Photoshop script recording tool and then ran the batch ran the script on 384 photos auto-taken on a recent motorcycle ride (the 360 camera is attached to the windscreen).  The end result was 384 modified photos outputted to another directory.  I then took the photos and dropped them into Adobe Premier Pro, where I set the intro and outro pictures to slightly longer times and the main body to 0.02 seconds per photo, creating the stop motion video effect.


I threw in the intro to Rush’s Red Barchetta as some dystopian future background music (we’re in the middle of social distancing due to COVID19).  I fear it’s just a matter of time until travel itself becomes illegal, as it is in the song.


Here is the end result, a 26 second video containing over 380 individual photos batch processed in Photoshop and then edited into a short stop motion video:






The original footage was shrunk from 5376 x 5376 pixels (the ThetaV takes 5376 pixel wide panoramas and I made them square, remember?) to 1000×1000 pixels.  My logic there was a 1080p video is 1920×1080 pixels, so 1000×1000 pixels is almost 1080 wide.


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Enhanced Self Awareness

At ECOO last year, digital footprints were the focus of many sessions.  The concern revolved around students (and teachers) showing anything of themselves online.  The fear was clear and present, as was the suggestion that we MUST craft a meaningful online presence.  Many were surprised at this year’s conference when our keynote speaker talked about how digitization has gone beyond self presentation and become interactive as a means of self improvement.  Tech doesn’t want to be passive, it wants to interact with us, become a part of us!

At the Educational Computing Organization of Ontario’s conference this week we had Nora Young from CBC Spark talking about how digitization and the proliferation of data is creating a kind of self awareness that is entirely new.  She used examples of bio-metric tools and productivity time assessment software to present examples of this digital mirror.

This is a world that our students are immersed in 18 out of every 24 hours (when school is in session) – and it leaks into classrooms constantly on smartphones.  Trying to address that tide by telliing students to bring their own devices, or go on generic, years behind the times school computers is one of the many places you can see education failing.

Words like relevance and engagement are thrown around in panic.  People start flipping class rooms and attempting to engage students by offering the same un-directed over empowerment that kids receive through digital devices; that’s an arms race that no one wins.  The resulting habitual usage at best offers minimum educational gains, at worst it actually impedes student abilities in other areas.  If you’ve ever watched a digital serf mindlessly copy an essay from the internet to submit, you’re watching undirected digital empowerment in action.

Where Nora was talking about a kind of enhanced self awareness through digital tools, many ‘digital natives’ are blissfully unaware of how public their digital presence is, or where their data goes.  It’s merely a part of their lives, and they don’t think twice about posting material that makes them unemployable because in their minds it is the equivalent of talking to friends.  They haven’t thought twice about publicity settings, it doesn’t occur to them.

On top of that, the data that they might use to become more efficient, or digitally empower their learning, or self-organize are often out of reach because students, as digital natives, are unaware of anything but their self-taught habitual usage.  We certainly aren’t doing much to address habitual usage in schools (a digital continuum would be a start), even going to far as to encourage it with BYO-device BYO-technology initiatives.

It’s a nice idea to imagine digital tools offering us data that helps to make us better people (Wired did a cool article on this a while back).  The digerati will do this to great effect, once again empowering themselves in ways that Luddites will lack.  As a teacher my concern is that the digital native is as incapable of grasping these tools as the tech-hater.  It takes technological fluency to grasp these kinds of digital self-awareness opportunities.  Unless we’re developing those fluencies, this is just another 21st Century opportunity lost to on our students.

Surviving First Contact With The Enemy


The wise, Jedi-like Colin Jagoe posted a link about how the COVID19 pandemic is very much like being at war.  This got me thinking about how our behind-closed-doors / business-as-usual approach to managing this crisis has been… minimalist.  This shouldn’t be about maintaining the organizational status quo, it should be about building a resilient, transparent and responsive approach to dealing with an unprecedented social engineering challenge.


The following reflection highlights how a transparent, communicative, engaged leadership approach helps mitigate one of the truths of fighting a war:  “No battle plan survives first contact with the enemy.”     In the fluid and rapidly changing situation we find ourselves in, it might be wise to lean on some military wisdom in our response.


***


I was an air cadet in the 1980s in Mississauga.  One of the major pillars of that program is teaching leadership.  I took summer courses on it and spent at least dozen hours over and above school each week working through cadet syllabus on it.  It’s safe to say air cadets was a seminal experience for me in that it not only showed me how I can best fit into an operational structure, but also how to run one effectively in a changeable environment.


When I was halfway through my cadet career we went up to Base Borden for a March Break training exercise.  Pete Rudin was my flight sergeant and as experienced as a cadet can get being only a couple of months away from retiring.  I was a very keen new corporal.  Our flight consisted of about 35 kids ranging in age from brand new 13 year old recruits up to savvy 18 year old veterans like Pete.  We got put into a capture the flag game against other flights, but Pete did something no one else did.


While all the other flight sergeants split their groups up into the standard squads (one experienced NCO leading 4-5 very excited and inexperienced younger cadets) and ran things top down, Pete differentiated his leadership approach based on the human resources he had at hand.  His plan was to create a massive group of all the new recruits who were anxious and a bit freaked out and move into the exercise with this slow moving but unstoppable unit.  He knew he had a few experienced and gung-ho junior NCOs who wanted to run, so rather than hold them back in the big group he told us to recon where the other teams were and report back.


You can imagine how that felt.  When your flight sergeant acknowledges your esprit de corps and gifts you with a special assignment, your already gung-ho approach steps up another gear.  Things went as you might imagine.  The other junior NCOs and I ran off into the woods full of adrenaline and immediately began finding those little homogeneous squads.  As soon as we made contact we’d run back to the hive, usually with that squad chasing us thinking we were an easy kill… then they’d come over a hill and find dozens of excited youngsters swarming around our flight sergeant, and get retired from the game.

We began hoovering up squads and about an hour in I stumbled across the other team’s flag – the one we had to capture that would end the game.  I barely got out of there alive (if they pulled the flag off your arm you’re considered retired), they had two of their most experienced squads on defence.  I managed to get away and ran back breathless to tell Rudin where the flag was.  Ten minutes later it was all over as our hive swarmed over the hill into the dell where their flag was hidden.  The two squads they’d put on defence couldn’t believe what was coming at them.  Our youngest, tiniest new cadet took the flag and ended the game (I think Pete made a point of that).



Afterwards, I asked Flight Sergeant Rudin how he came up with this bizarre approach.  He said something I’ve never forgotten: “I figured if I tried to keep you guys back with the big group you’d be hard to manage and it wouldn’t help things.  We’d perform better if I didn’t have to micromanage when you wanted to be doing something else that would produce better results for all of us anyway.  The little ones looked terrified, so I wanted to keep them with me and build their confidence.”


We were the  younger team in that capture the flag, with less experienced NCOs – the other team was cocky and confident because they had many ringers.  Rather than open up the rule-book and follow homogeneous protocols designed around top-down control that would have ended up with us losing, Pete differentiated his leadership approach and gave each of his people just what they needed to succeed.  He also arranged things so that everyone was in contact with everyone else and made communication easier by giving us a clear focus to return to, it really was a brilliant piece of planning beautifully executed.


I never forgot that lesson.  In retrospect, it was the centralization of resources, clarity of the planning (it was all done out loud with us all standing around Pete as he elicited ideas and worked out what we were going to do), and the focus on communication that allowed it to succeed like it did.  Everyone knew what we were doing, why we were doing it and how to let the group know if it was or wasn’t working.  When we caught the fourth squad who had no idea that three others had been caught by our big hive, I began to realize what that lack of communication was doing to the other teams.  No battle plan may survive first contact with the enemy, but designing a plan transparently and reflexively with clear communications channels allows your organization to respond to surprises quickly and effectively.



I ended up retiring a sergeant in cadets.  Others have suggested that only making it half way up the command structure is somehow a failure, but I don’t see it that way.  I finished my career as Rifle Guard Commander and Colour Party Commander and occupied a specialist role in our large organization.  The metacognitive awareness of how I can operate most effectively in a large organizational structure was another invaluable result of my time in cadets.  I’m very much a sergeant – good at dealing with tangible, immediate issues in small groups collaboratively and imaginatively (handy classroom teacher skills, eh?).  Given latitude I liked to exercise initiative and move quickly – did this sometimes get me into trouble?  Yep, but the leaders I had recognized those skills and made a point of leveraging them.  That made me feel like a valued member of the organization, rank wasn’t the only thing that defined me.

I was good friends with many of the younger cadets who ended up in charge of our squadron – many of them attended my 50th birthday party last year (we’re all old now, so those year or two differences don’t matter any more – but then they didn’t back then either).  They didn’t make rank about exclusion, privilege and control and they acknowledged their cadets’ expertise and experience by making productive use of them by differentiating the roles they assigned.


This collegial and transparent approach to leadership allowed us to execute the cadet syllabus with precision and flair.  It also allowed us to revise and respond to the unknown quickly and effectively when on exercises, contact with the enemy be damned.  I’m really proud of the things we learned and work we did.  This experience has aided us all in our professional lives as adults.  This transparent, communicative approach has informed much of my teaching practice.  If you asked my students what they find most compelling about my classes, I think many would say that sense of agency – I acknowledge their strengths and honour them by differentiating their work.


I’m missing that transparency, clarity of purpose and engagement now, even though not one of the teens I just described had a post graduate degree in leadership.  If we are indeed at war as Colin suggests, then we need to quickly engage and develop effective communications and a clarity of common purpose, or all of those secret plans being developed behind closed doors won’t survive first contact with an enemy we’ve too often underestimated.  Initiative is lost, but it’s never too late to try and get it back.

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More Traditional Bike Gear for Season 2

My first year of bike gear had a certain style to it, it also happened to be the least expensive stuff I could lay hands on.  After the no-name boots and pants I did a second round of gear buying as the summer began.  The Alpinestar boots and Macna pants I got were next level, but this year I want to expand my kit to include a more traditional biker look; it’s time for the leather jacket and an alternate helmet.  

Since everything else is technicolour, textile and sport-bikey, I’m going for more traditional looking gear this time around.  When I’ve eventually got more than one bike I’m hoping that a range of gear lets throw a leg over anything and go.




This time round I’m looking for an open faced helmet for the short commute to work and a leather jacket.  My current choices were found on Canada’s MotorcycleMotorcycle Superstore and Leatherup.ca.

I’ve been looking for a classic motorcycle jacket that does the vertical stripe thing.  That look is surprisingly hard to find.  Short of going to a Pakistani garment manufacturer directly (along with the perils of ordering that way), they are surprisingly unavailable.


The flat black G-Max helmet is inexpensive and simple.  The Shark Soviet looking helmet is cool and expensive.  I’ve got gauntlet gloves and mesh gloves, but a pair of black leather gloves would be nice.

Since I started riding I’ve been finding that jeans are handy if I suddenly want to take the bike out.  A leather jacket would be a causal but convenient way to quickly get out on two wheels.  The full-on textile armoured jacket and pants still do the job for intentional longer rides, but for quick jaunts the leather and denim thing would mean just throwing a leg over a bike, not to mention not looking out of place on a more classic ride.  Getting on a Bonneville with the textile race wear looks a bit out of place.


 LLeatherup.ca‘s prices look reasonable too.  If they get back to me about the weird sizing on that jacket, I’ll be ordering shortly.




The Money Trap

I know it’s hard to imagine, but there was a time when money did not dictate your self-value. This seems a foreign concept in the twenty-first Century, but prior to the neo-liberal ideas that we now take for granted, humans valued themselves in very different ways.

Bucky’s quote popped up the other day and got me thinking about self-value. Can you imagine a world where the purpose of people was to push the boundaries of their thinking instead of being forced into servitude to an economic system that reduces them to drudgery?


Rather than battle this kind of reductionist and inhuman economic thinking, education has been struggling to get on board with it (there is nothing worse than looking like you’re out of step with society – it’s never wrong).  Pathways to employment is modern education’s reason for being, and it plays nicely into 1% thinking that earning money is all that matters, all that makes you worthwhile.

The rich want you to self-identify with your earning potential, then they own your means of happiness. When your self-worth is tied to your ability to earn a trivial income you are drip-fed your reason for being by people who (according to your own core belief that money is what makes you valuable) will happily starve you for their own ends.

Asking a 21st Century person to believe that their income does not dictate their self value is impossible. This kind of viral capitalism is every bit as limiting to human potential as medieval serfdom, dogmatic church states or god-kings.


People are fond of criticizing history for ideas that seem silly in retrospect.  These are the very same people who argue for and justify our current woeful state of being.  Our unsuccessful students aren’t high earners.  Our successful students go to work for those oil companies.  It’s a difficult thing to see past the myths, misinformation and indoctrination of our own culture, but I suspect you’ll never find happiness if you don’t, especially in the early twenty-first Century.


***

It’s the day before classes start again and I’m up at 6am after too many tedious work anxiety dreams (not of being in the classroom, but of being in school.  Teaching doesn’t freak me out, the systemic nature of modern education does).

I had a good break, but now I’m back to seeing how far I can encourage free thinking before I crash into The System again.  I’m a 20%er at heart.  I always tend toward the more difficult road, I get more out of travelling on it but it’s tiring being a minority all the time.

This isn’t the first time I’ve been away from the classroom for a few days, found some perspective and wondered if I’m in the best place to learn.  The irony isn’t lost on me.

Pushing 360° Video Quality on a Motorcycle

I’ve been messing around with 360° immersive video at work.  One of the best ways to quickly get familiar with the technology is to use it in a difficult circumstance so you can find its limitations.  At work we’re building immersive video to show a virtual walk-through of our school.  If the gimbal and camera we have will work on a motorbike, it’ll work stuck to a kid’s head as they walk through the school.

There are a number of barriers to admission with 4k video and image stabilization.  Fortunately, the 360Fly4k windshield mount I have is so over engineered that it easily handles the weight and motion of the gimbal and camera rig.

I’ve previously done 4k video with the 360Fly4k, but it has a big blind spot on it, so this would be my first true 360 4k video.  The Fly is a tough thing that takes great footage, but I’d describe it more as a 300° camera than a true 360 one.

This 4k 360 camera is the Samsung Gear 360.  I’m running it off the camera because the app won’t run on my Android non-Samsung phone because I guess Samsung don’t want to sell many of these cameras – it’s kind of a jerk move on their part so if these things don’t sell (because you have to have a Samsung phone to access it remotely), then they’re getting what they deserve.

The Gear 360 has a small screen so you can see settings and using the buttons is fairly straightforward, though you’ll find yourself constantly accidentally pressing buttons while you’re handling it.  The Ricoh Theta 360 is still my ergonomic favourite in terms of control and handling, and they just came out with a 4k version of the Theta – perhaps they’ll lend me one to test.

The gimbal is a Moza Guru 360°Camera stabilizer.  The typical gimbal design has weights to the left or right of the camera to keep things balanced, but on a 360 camera that means you’re blocking all sorts of sight lines.  The Moza gimbal is vertically stacked with the weights hanging below, mostly out of sight.  It has a power button and a push button joystick that lets you set shooting modes and centre your camera so it’s looking where you’re going rather that looking down the ‘seams’ between the two cameras.

Most 360 cameras are actually two or more cameras working together.  The resulting footage is then stitched together in software to make an every direction video.  The raw footage from the Samsung looks like this (on left).  A front and back facing fish-eye camera capturing separate footage.

Because both cameras are capturing different scenes, you can often see where they are stitched together because of a difference in ISO which shows up as a clear line of brightness difference (on the right).  They all tend to be identical, fixed-lens cameras, so the aperture and shutter speed tend to be identical.

The first test video has the Samsung camera set at highest resolution (4096×2048 pixels in video) and 24FPS.  The gimbal is in locked mode, so it’s always looking in the same direction even if I go around the corner.  The gimbal provides smooth video by taking the bike’s motion out of the video (it’s always looking in the same direction as the bike and I rotate around the shot), but a bike’s motion is one of the best parts of riding, so for the second shot I set it in tracking mode so it followed the bike’s motions.



Uploading it to YouTube out of the Gear 360 Action Director resulted in a flattened video that doesn’t allow you to pan.  In order to produce that kind of video in the G360-AD (what a ridiculous name), you need to PRODUCE the video in the software and then share it to YouTube from within the program.  My issue with this is that when you bring the program in it takes an Intel i7 VR ready laptop the better part of twenty minutes (for less than ten minutes of footage) to process it before you can do anything with it.  When you produce it (again) for YouTube you end up waiting another twenty minutes.  The Ricoh Theta saves the video (albeit 1080p equivalent) in a fraction of the time and the resulting saved version is 360 ready for YouTube; the 360Fly software is likewise efficient at 4k.  I’m not sure why I have to wait forty minutes to produce less than ten minutes of footage on the Samsung.  I know it’s a lot of data to work through, but it isn’t a very streamlined process.

So, after a lot of post processing, the 4096×2048 360° video out of the camera shows up on YouTube at 1440s (s stands for spherical rather than p – pixels – spherical footage is stretched across a wider area and tends to look less sharp).  I’m not sure where my 2048s footage went – I imagine part of that big post processing was to shrink the footage to fit on YouTube more easily?

 If you click on the YouTube logo you can watch it in YouTube and adjust the resolution (bottom right) to see how it looks (make sure to do it full screen to use all your pixels).  If you’re lucky enough to be watching it on a 4k display, this will come close to filling it.


The quality is excellent, the microphone remarkably good (they get beaten up pretty badly on motorcycles), but the awkwardness of post processing and the ergonomics of the thing don’t make it my first choice.  Trying to manage it with gloves on would be even more frustrating.  What you’ve got here is a good piece of hardware let down by some weak product design and software.


The software does offer some interesting post processing options in terms of wacky arts filters, but if you’re shooting at 4k all this does is drastically reduce the quality of your video.  If you’re going to use those filters film at way lower resolution so you don’t have to wait for hours while they process.


I’m aiming to go for a ride tomorrow to look at the fall colours after our first frost.  I’ll bring the Samsung along and see how well it photographs.  It’s promising 15 megapixel 360 images and high dynamic range landscapes, so I’m optimistic.  Photography is timeless and my preferred visual medium anyway, I find video too trapped by the continuity of time.  Maybe the Samsung will be a good photography tool.  Of course, I won’t be able to fire the thing remotely because I don’t have a Samsung phone…


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A Nice Way to Turn 50…

Thanks to the Ontario Government ignoring the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms and illegally forcing a contract on us, I had my 50th birthday off.  I had an entire year of saved up sick days stripped away, but hey, I got a day off for it.  So much for Charter rights.


I figured the Forks of the Credit would be silly over the long weekend, so I thought I’d head over there on the Friday afternoon.  Still lots of people about, but I got to have a couple of clean runs up and down the twisty bits where I wasn’t on the bumper of a duffer in a cage.  I’m not leaving rubber doing this, and I’m usually within 10km/hr of the limit, but cars through this twisty, technical road are a bit of a disaster.  It was nice to get a couple of runs without worrying about the processing capacity of the driver in front of me.


Photos are taken with a Ricoh Theta V on a custom built mount attached to the wing mirror.  Screen captured in the Ricoh software and modified in Adobe Lightroom:

The switchbacks at The Forks…

The little guy on the side of the road said, ‘woah!!!” so loud I could here him on the bike.  🙂

Always look where you want to go – sometimes that’s over your shoulder!

In the moment on one of the frew curves between me at the Niagara Escarpment.  If I lived in California I would be a regular canyon carver on the weekends.



Beautiful weather, minimal traffic and a frisky Tiger.  It was a good 50th birthday ride.

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