Thursday, January 31, 2008

Motorcycle camping

I've been a backpacker since I was 15, so moving into the realm of motorcycle camping is an easy thing to consider. So far my multi-day trips have been 100% motels for overnight stays. This year I plan to mix some tent camping with motels perhaps every other night or every third night (for showers and laundry).

I pulled my backpacking gear down from storage and investigated where things stood. My single burner camp stove and mess kit are good to go but my water filter got nasty so that either needs to be replaced or eliminated from the list. I'll probably replace it because I find them handy in many different situations.

My tent needs help. It's a two person dome tent but doesn't pack very small and the poles are far too long to pack on the bike. Plus a couple of them are broken, so a new tent is needed. I ordered the Eureka Backcountry I personal backpacking tent. It's 3' wide, 3' tall, and 8' long and packs very small, into a roll that's about 15" long and 6" thick including the poles.

I have three different sleeping bags, for three different temperature ranges, plus the necessary stuff sacks that go with them so that's taken care of. My sleeping pad arrangement leaves a bit to be desired, however. I currently have a standard ThermaRest with a half-length model that includes a blow-up pillow. Together they're okay but I've never been able to get a decent night's rest on them. Further, when rolled up they're fairly wide. Doing some research I came across the Big Agnes (that's a brand name) Insulated Air Core air mattress.

It's plenty long enough and wide enough, and gives me a good 2" of insulated and comfy loft above the ground. It came yesterday via FedEx and I inflated it as soon as I got home and tested it out. Very nice! It's not cheap, at $75 not including shipping, but definitely seems to be worth it. The biggest benefit, however, is that it rolls up into a 9" x 5" package, so space savings is a huge plus.

The next step is to find a 12v compact air compressor that will not only fill my tires in case of a flat, but has a nozzle that will inflate my air mattress. It's got a 1/2" nozzle that requires you to put your mouth around it, unlike most where it's a tube you blow into.

Monday, January 21, 2008

Coldest ride yet

When I rode to work today it was 26 degrees outside with a slight cross wind. The calculated windchill was approximately 1 degree, give or take. At that temperature frostbite can begin setting in within 30 minutes.

The only part of my body that felt cold was my eyebrows. Yes, my eyebrows. My HJC modular helmet lets a sliver of air come in from the top of my face shield and it hits me right above my eyes. My Aerostich Darien jacket, Fieldsheer pants, and Alpinestar boots did a great job keeping their relative body parts comfortably warm, as did my generic Gore-tex ski gloves for my hands.

Monday, January 14, 2008

Ride: Back roads to Silverton

I was able to get on the bike and ride this weekend. For those that live out of the area, the Portland metro area has two kinds of weather in January. It's either gray, gray, gray and raining, or it's clear blue skies with a bitterly cold east wind.

Except Sunday.

Where I live in Sandy, we had clear blue skies but no wind, and the temps were in the upper 40's. I left the house and headed south through Estacada and through the hills toward Molalla. Just as I reached Colton, a dozen miles outside of Molalla, I rode under clouds. Once I hit Molalla, I was in a cold fog that formed a mist on my bike's windshield. I even had a few rain drops on my face shield.

I made it Silverton with cold fingers (I was wearing my medium gloves, not the cold-weather kind) and was pleased to see the Silver Creek Coffee House was open. Once my belly was full of ham sandwich and Tuscan white bean and chicken soup -- plus the requisite mocha -- I remounted and headed back the way I came.

The only frustrating part of the trip, other than some cold fingers, were the obliviots that think it's okay to drive their Buicks 35 mph in a 55 mph zone. They probably think they're being safe. Ha! If they only realized just how disruptive they actually are.

Friday, January 11, 2008

To video or not to video

As some of my readers know, I have a history of creating videos. My repertoire includes videos of sports teams, life retrospectives of the bride and groom played at wedding receptions, family reunions, hunting expeditions, and my biggest production of all, an original short film that I wrote, directed, and produced ("A Cup of Joe", link).

Despite being paid for most of my work, I would still consider myself an amateur videographer if for no other reason than the fact that I don't currently make a living doing it. Still, it's something I enjoy and I frequently look for ways to combine my love of video with other passions.

Take motorcycling for instance. I love to ride my V-Strom, especially on multi-day solo trips around the Pacific Northwest. It was a natural thing to think, "How can I make a video of a motorcycle trip?" I thought about producing a video a la Warren Miller's ski films, complete with narration and amazing scenery. When I added up the production costs and level of effort involved I quickly realized it would be far too expensive and time consuming.

The next thought was to go minimalist and simply tape myself talking into the camera, sort of like The Blair Witch Project sans spooky plot lines. That would certainly be easy to make but who would want to watch it?

Do I want to be a videographer first and a motorcyclist second? Will the focus be on the scenery and locations, the riders, or the riding itself (lots of rolling on-bike shots)? Will I need a chase car with a cameraman plus driver?

So many questions, so many options.

Friday, January 4, 2008

What does Microsoft Vista have to do with motorcycling?

Nothing. Except that I'm a motorcycle rider and I use computers for a living. Also, if you're reading this blog you're also using a computer, and the odds are you're using a flavor of Microsoft Windows to do it.

Here's the scoop. I've been using computers since 1983 including numerous flavors of Windows, Linux, OS/2, and now Mac. This web site is hosted on a Linux server and I use a Mac in my daily computing life. Suffice to say I can make a rational and informed comparison between the various operating systems available today.

I had my first opportunity to use Microsoft Vista the other day. I have read countless review about Microsoft's latest OS and was anticipating a similar but slightly less satisfactory experience to Windows XP. I was amazed at how much I disliked Vista once I had a chance to actually use it. To put it another way, I hated it.

The incessant "Are you sure?" prompts felt like I was trying to have a conversation with someone afflicted with an acute stutter. Just moving my way around Control Panel was an unnecessarily complex rats maze.

Talk about a huge step backward in productivity!

It seemed that everything was a subtle invasion of my privacy, whether it was the incessant personal questions or the large volume of bloat-ware and crap-ware and trial-ware that comes with it. The overall experience felt like I was being molested by a well-dressed car salesman.

Not one part of that operating system felt like it was there to serve me but instead was there to serve some corporate power.

I found the interface to be very confusing and none of it made sense. Despite the fact that I'd never seen Vista before, I've used many operating systems and nothing in Vista looked like it made sense to me. It was very counter-intuitive.

I was surprised at how much I disliked Vista. I expected it to be only marginally worse than XP (based on previous reviews). It was drastically worse.

If you recently switched to Vista, either from XP or from other operating system, what's your opinion? If Vista is your first computing experience, you not only have my sympathy but also my consolation that there are other alternatives. Downgrade to XP or better yet, take your computer back for a refund and go buy a Mac instead.

Thursday, January 3, 2008

9 things NOT to carry on your motorcycle

There are as many opinions of what to carry on your motorcycle as there are people riding. From tire repair kits to lip balm to more bizarre things like dog goggles and hair spray (no one likes helmet hair!) But what about things not to carry?

Here's a list of 9 things not to carry on your bike:

A frown.
Worries about your daily life.
A tow rope.
A life preserver.
A note from your mother.
An attitude.
Misconceptions about your mortality.
An eagerness to return to the daily grind.

In an effort to be positive and not just negative, here's a list of things that I suggest you do carry every time you're out and about on two wheels:

An appreciation for how lucky you are.
Respect for the risks you are undertaking.
A focus on the moment.
A willingness to enjoy the experience, regardless of the weather.
A sense of honor to all others on two wheels, no matter what brand they ride.
A sense of accomplishment for making this dream of riding come true in your life.