20/20 Racing Academy

Oh look, more moto training (and, let’s be honest, general goofing around) with some friends from GPMX. This time, our instruction came from the excellent Ike De Jager of 20/20 Racing Academy, who led drills and trail riding at Outback ATV park in NC.

Dirt bikes are fun :)

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Horizons Unlimited Travelers Meeting VA 2019

I’m not sure why we waited so long to finally attend a Horizons Unlimited (HU) travelers meeting; Kevin and I enjoyed the heck out of this year’s event. The VA meeting is only a half day’s ride from home. The four day round trip involved riding and camping in beautiful April spring weather, and a nice venue full of interesting and smart people who don’t mind talking endlessly about motorcycles and moto travel.  Motorcycle overlanders might be our tribe, rarely do either of us feel like we “fit in” so easily.

We didn’t take very many of our own photos this trip. Three of the above are courtesy of professional photographer and moto enthusiast Chris Smith.

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Kittens

Easter weekend provided a bit of random adventure this year.

Dogs do what dogs do, and that weekend my parents dog was really excited to discover where a mama cat and her two approximately two week old kittens were hiding. After said dog chased mama cat off, it became apparent that mama and her kittens were not going to be reunited while the dog was still around. The kittens options were grim at this point; if left alone, they would definitely starve or freeze to death, or the dog would eventually find a way to get them. Being unable to leave them to any of those cruel fates, we thus reluctantly ended up with  the care of two feral two week old kittens. Great.

Did you know that kittens that age have to be fed every four hours? I’ve decided they seem much less cute at four in the morning. Fortunately, we were able to locate and deliver the kittens to some other fool (I mean foster) the next day. Whew. Kittens saved, and will probably live happily ever after. The End.

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Two each

I feel compelled to document that we are down to being a four motorcycle household. Two bikes each is the fewest motorcycles we’ve had in…many years. Look how nicely they fit in the garage; the garage is so neat, and has so much space:

A couple of weeks ago, Kevin sold his 1996 Ducati 900SS SP, which he had owned for nearly 16 years, thus ending possession of the last of our sport bikes. (I sold my 2012 Ducati Monster 696 in June 2018). I also sold my 2009 Honda CRF230L last week, which has been replaced by my new to me 2018 Yamaha WR250R.

Goodbye motos:

Two bikes each was the goal. Let’s see how long this lasts:) (I may or may not be dirt bike shopping. By which I mean I am currently dirt bike shopping. Which means when I buy one, we’ll have sustained our goal of two bikes each for approximately four seconds. Thus I am noting that we did in fact, succeed, if only briefly.)

Posted in 2009 Honda CRF230L, 2012 Ducati Monster 696, 2018 Yamaha WR250R, Motorcycles | 2 Comments

Ruts to Racelines GPMX dirt class (South at NC Bike)

Well this was a fun weekend:

Ruts to Racelines puts on a great moto training class.

Initially, I signed up for the GPMX girls only class on Friday. Then a friend said she was going to Sundays co-ed class as well. Ok sure, why not, I can use the practice. So I signed up for the second day and made a three day weekend of  the experience.

And it was SO MUCH FUN. I also learned a lot. There was everything from gravel parking lot body positioning drills, to cone weaves in the dirt, logs, berms, washouts, intentionally getting stuck on a hill, burnouts, to my favorite, the see-saw. I left with a lot of skills to practice, which was the goal.

I’m not usually a fan of women’s only events, but I would go back to this event in a heartbeat. The camaraderie was amazing. The classes had riders of varying skill levels from beginners, to those of us somewhere in the middle, to some pretty skilled riders. Everyone learned from the class, both on Friday, and in the co-ed class on Sunday. I don’t get to spend time with very many women moto enthusiasts, and it was surprisingly encouraging and inspirational to see so many talented women riders. (I’ll be happy if I’m ever half as good as some of the women I saw ride this weekend).

I even had a great time being a track day groupie hanging out at the track on Saturday afternoon between classes. (I did not participate in the track day, two days in the dirt left me plenty worn out). The weather did not cooperate, but the track was still full of all these amazing women out there absolutely killing it riding in the rain (or “liquid sunshine” as they try to frame it).

Marika Pamart (MK), founder of Ruts to Racelines, is the reason these events happen. She was inspired to start her track day events to make a friendlier environment for women starting out. Your first track day can be pretty intimidating, and she’s created an event that helps other women in the way a good female friend helped her to get started. MK’s track days/moto events have evolved into an incredible moto extravaganza that’s fun for everyone. She says the dirt class was inspired after her skill plateaued on track. Her coaches told her she would only improve by riding a dirt bike. After trying it, she became a believer, and I think she’s 100% correct. I think everyone should learn to ride on a small dirt bike, no matter type of motorcycling you want to do. I wish I had started on a small dirt bike as a kid. Marika’s husband Greg teaches the dirt classes, and he has the perfect temperament for coaching. His enthusiasm for teaching anyone who wants to learn, no matter their skill level, is refreshing. Not only did I learn a lot, but had a great time doing it.

Two thumbs up for this class, I won’t be surprised if I sign up for this one again.

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Riding season is almost here…

*does happy dance:)*

Sometimes, its the little things in life. Like the fact that my new WR250R has an alternator big enough to power my heated jacket and grips. Today would have been too cold for me to enjoy riding without heat. I would not have gone riding on my CRF. Instead, I went for a delightful 200 mi dual sport day ride in VA that was full of rural dirt roads, and included everything from highway, to two track trails, and I was happy and comfortably warm the entire time.

 

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Skiing Snowshoe Mountain WV

I’d never skied at Snowshow Mountain in WV before. Exploring a new ski resort is always fun, even if the weather didn’t cooperate until the second day (when it also got really cold!):

 

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Hello Moto! (Also Happy New Year 2019)

Look what followed me home!

Wait, you say, isn’t that just Kevin’s Yamaha WR250R? To which I respond, no, its not! He likes his 2016 WR so much, he convinced me I should upgrade to my own (it wasn’t a hard sell:) The above is my new (to me) 2018 Yamaha WR250R, that I found with just 1100 mi on the odometer.

While my 2009 Honda CRF230L is a great bike that has served me well in my introduction to dual sport motorcycle riding, it has a long list of minor shortcomings that make it ill suited as the mini-adventure bike that seems to be my actual use case. We have aspirations of longer adventure moto trips, and as so many have already proven, the WR is an excellent platform to create a light weight adventure moto.

One advantage of the WR is that aftermarket support for doing exactly what I want with this bike is nearly endless. Christmas has definitely extended into January this year with the boxes of moto parts that have already arrived in my garage. I officially have my winter project bike. Let the farkling commence:)

P.S. I didn’t do my sometimes traditional Happy New Year post on this blog. We actually went for our first ride of the year on new years day with a small local riding group on the street bikes, and with some unseasonably warm weather.

We’re cautiously looking forward to 2019. As has been the case for the last few years, our lives are largely dominated by work, and Kevin’s chronic health issues. In 2019, we are optimistic on both fronts: we expect to have a good work year, both in terms of business success, and with our work-life balance trend continuing to move in the right direction. We are also on a treatment path for Kevin that we hope will yield improvement for the first time since he got sick in 2016. Regardless, he often feels well enough that we think we can take a couple of weeks off to go riding later this year. That’s the plan anyway, as always, we’ll see what happens.

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First Snow

Another first snow of the season post, almost exactly a year to the day from the last one. This time, it’s more snow than we sometimes get in an entire season, all in one day.

It’s lovely to enjoy a cozy winter day like this on occasion:)

 

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2018 Labor Day at the Lake House

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An afternoon in Chicago

Museum of Science and Industry and Skydeck edition:

The Chicago MOSI is excellent, and very large. The main attraction for us was the U-505, a German U-boat captured in WWII, and the only ship captured by the US Navy in the last 100+ years.  The exhibit told the remarkable story of the sub’s capture, and we learned quite a bit about the use of U-boats during the war.

I think my favorite bit of information about the U-505 has to do with its restoration. After its capture in 1944, the u-boat was essentially stripped of most of its original components by the US military in the effort to learn about German technology.  After moving to Chicago, the u-boat sat outside for about 50 years before the $33 mil project was undertaken to restore and incorporate the boat into the museum. Kevin read that the gist German response to this memorial was something along the lines of: “We don’t like that you have our boat, but if you are going to keep it, then it should be a good U-boat, and a showcase of German technology.” The Germans then proceeded to send over replacement parts from the original manufacturers so that the museum exhibit would show the most accurate restoration possible. The tour is highly recommended.

Chicago’s famous Skydeck:

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Lake House Fun

An old dog with deteriorating rear legs gets to keep playing in the lake with the help of a doggie life vest:

 

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A little hike

Look who came to visit us from FL! If you are going to hike at Hanging Rock State Park in July, its definitely a good idea to go for a swim in the lake afterwards.

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MABDR – PA north to the end at the NY border

Sections 5-9 go north on mostly unpaved forest roads through PA to the end of the route at the NY border.

Early on in PA, we found this closed road on the route:

This was easy enough to route around to the west, and we joined right back up with the BDR at a closed gate on the other end.

Continue reading

Posted in 2009 Honda CRF230L, 2018 MABDR, Dualsport, Moto Ride Reports, Motorcycles | 2 Comments

MABDR – MD, WV, and north through PA

Just south of the much touted Oldtown Low Water Toll Bridge, we found this little community park with a much welcome covered pavilion. This little town unexpectedly had all the amenities we could want to wait out the passing rain.

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MABDR- Headed north through VA , WV, and MD

Starting the BDR:

Its spring here in NC, which often means its wet. While we were fortunate to have multi-day stretches of great weather that weren’t too hot, riding this route in the fall definitely improves the chances for having dry weather. We delayed our trip start by half a week, avoiding a weather system that would have had us riding in the rain all day for several days. This meant we had a smaller window of opportunity to make the trip before we had to be back home, and meant we ended our trip by riding during the dreaded Memorial Day holiday weekend (dreaded if you are trying to enjoy the outdoors with the rest of the country at the same time and would like to a place to stay (including camping) without needing reservations).

We spent the morning of Day 1 on a lovely ride to the start of the BDR:

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MABDR – Moto Adventure Time

Guess what? Its moto trip time!

Those who know us know that we’ve had some obstacles in recent years that have prevented us from taking our beloved extended motorcycle trips.  As of spring 2018, however, we were able to dip our toe back in to our favorite mode of travel with a most excellent week long adventure on the MABDR.

First, some definition: MABDR stands for Mid Atlantic Back Country Discovery Route. The BDR group is a non profit organization “whose mission is to establish and preserve off-highway routes for dual-sport and adventure motorcycles. Through education, advocacy, and promotion of responsible motorcycle travel, BDR seeks to preserve backcountry motorcycling opportunities for generations to come.” (BDR website here: https://ridebdr.com/About-Backcountry-Discovery-Routes)

The Mid-Atlantic BDR (MABDR) is the eighth BDR route developed for dual-sport and adventure motorcycle travel.

MABDR is a scenic ride for dual-sport and adventure motorcycles that uses dirt, gravel and paved roads to wind through remote parts of Virginia, West Virginia, Maryland, and Pennsylvania. Starting in Damascus Virginia, and ending in Lawrenceville, Tioga County, PA, this 1,080-mile route, primarily uses forest roads and rural country lanes, to lead riders through the Appalachian mountains, majestic forests, bucolic farming landscapes, Amish country, and locations that played pivotal roles in early American history.”

The mid atlantic route is their most recently developed route, and their first in the eastern part of the US (where it is admittedly much more difficult to develop off-pavement routes due to an older, denser road network that is largely paved, and much less public land).  We’ve had our eye on some of their western routes for a while, but being residents of NC, making the trip to the western states to go ride has been more of a commitment than we’ve been able to make yet. The effort to develop “adventure” routes in the eastern US was undertaken specifically for people like us, which we think is just fantastic. The route was officially made public in March of this year, so we clearly jumped at the chance to take a trip so close to home, and we’re probably among the first wave of people to ride this particular route.

The overall BDR looks like this:

To follow the route, its essential to use the GPS tracks downloaded from the BDR website. We also had the physical Bulter map, and think the trip would have suffered without it. The Butler map is incredibly well done and very useful, but there is simply no way to make a paper map with enough detail required to follow the route by that alone. It would take a stack of very detailed maps, and even then, you’d have to stop to navigate at every turn, which are sometimes in very close sequence in close proximity with many other (wrong) options to choose from. There are hundreds of turns, many on undistinguished and unlabeled forest roads. Sometimes there are only one or two roads to choose from, and the way is clear, other times, more than two roads diverged in the wood, some paralleling each other for awhile, and its not a matter of picking the one less traveled. Even with the GPS tracks, we made many a u-turn trying to stay on course (which sometimes is part of the fun).

Ok, introductory context out of the way, time to get started. Sort of. First, we needed to drop the dog off with my parents. Geographically, since we had to go there to drop the dog off anyway, it made sense to start the trip from their house. This meant we had to get both motorcycles (and all the gear), plus the (85lb) dog to their house. So, our obligatory start of the trip photo looked like this:

Kevin rode in the rain for a couple of hours, while I trucked my bike, the dog, and a bunch of stuff. Wearing my helmet while driving meant we could use the SENA radios to talk during the trip, just to make the whole affair that much more eccentric.

After all the prep and trying to make work go away long enough to take a vacation, it felt great to start riding in mostly dry weather the next morning.

 

 

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Wool Sower Gall

Nature’s classroom is right outside our door (in this case, practically in the front yard).  On one of our regular evening walks through the woods, Kevin spotted the curious white, fuzzy growth in the picture below on a small branch of an oak tree.  I encouraged him to take a picture so I could try to figure out what it was.

Google image search was a bust, (it thought it was a mushroom), but it turns out googling a phrase similar to “white fuzzy ball red spots tree” or something equally ridiculous gets you unexpectedly good results.

I found the answer halfway down this page, about 30 seconds after typing my absurd query: http://www.backyardnature.net/galls.htm

Thank you, google, for identifying that white, fuzzy, roughly golf ball size ball with reds spots on the tree branch as a wool-sower gall.  Well into my third decade on this planet, and I had no idea galls even existed until now. Its at this point I promptly fell down the rabbit hole of learning about galls.

What is a gall?, you might ask. Galls are any outgrowth on the surface of a living organism, often caused by a parasite, disease, or genetic mutation, and on plants alone, they can range in form from aesthetically pleasing to disgusting. Oaks are susceptible to a variety of galls, and if you’ve been hiking around an oak forest in the fall, it’s not uncommon to find papery brown balls on the forest floor called oak-apple galls. These galls are caused by a wasp that lays its eggs in the oak’s living tissue, as are many oak galls. ” – http://www.the-understory.com/2012/06/07/the-incredible-emergence-of-the-wool-sower-gall-wasp/

Th wool sower gall –

“…it is a gall specific to white oak trees and only found in spring. According the North Carolina Cooperative Extension, Department of Entomology, this wool sower gall (sometimes called the oak seed gall) is caused by secretions of grubs of a small gall wasp, Callirhytis seminator. They lay their eggs in winter and the eggs hatch as new leaves appear on the tree in spring. Chemical secretions from the young grubs stimulate the plant to develop the gall tissue which provides protection to the developing larva and nourishing food.

If one pulls the gall apart…it would reveal seed-like structures. The gall wasps develop inside these structures. Apparently they are never enough numbers to do any harm to the oak trees. We only found two galls on one of our trees. …parasitic wasps are so incredibly fascinating. They often have pretty complex life-cycles and have co-evolved with their hosts.” – http://gardeningsoul.blogspot.com/2014/04/wool-sower-gall.html

Like many oak gall wasps, it doesn’t cause major damage nor pose a major threat to the trees on which they grow. Parasitic wasps are often very specific to their hosts, and have co-evolved all sorts of weird traits in response to their hosts, such as amazingly and creepily changing their host’s growth, behavior (if it’s another animal), and tissue. Incredible.” – http://www.the-understory.com/2012/06/07/the-incredible-emergence-of-the-wool-sower-gall-wasp/

Incredible indeed.

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Wanderers

I love this:

Found here: https://apod.nasa.gov/apod/ap180429.html

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Birds in the Wood Stove

File this under: Home Ownership Problems I Did Not Anticipate

As of last Friday, for the fourth time this season, a bird has flown/fallen down our chimney and gotten stuck in our wood stove.

Yes, really. Each time the bird has been unharmed, but also naturally does not appreciate finding itself stuck inside our wood stove, unable to get back out. The first time was somewhat alarming, and a bit amusing. It took a few minutes to consider how we might get the bird out of the wood stove and put it back outside, unharmed, without letting the now very sooty bird loose into the house. Its a bit of a trick, but we’re 4 for 4 so far. Once outside, its nice to see the bird fly away from out front porch where we let it loose, and land in a tree to shake itself off.

We’re also getting some really bizarre photos. Its difficult to take photos through the glass on the front of the wood stove:

I’ve called our wood stove installer to see about replacing the chimney cap. They generally don’t like to use screens on the chimney caps, because if you don’t have good burning practices, a screen can clog up and require more frequent chimney cleaning. However, given our bird problem, the installer seemed to think a screen was a good idea. He was surprised too; he said he’s maybe gotten four calls about birds in 20 years in the business, but this year he’s had that many this season alone. Who knew.

 

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Last snow of the season? and Links

Not much posting around these parts lately.

First, its supposedly spring, but we are getting some awfully late season snow flurries. Its not sticking today, so here are some prettier pics with a sunset, and some deer visible from my office window from earlier this month:

(Edit: the snow stuck around for one very pretty evening, and we went for a morning walk the next day before it all melted and made a muddy mess. Pic from our walk added above).

Some links that have caught my attention recently:

Why the Culture Wins: An Appreciation of Iain M. Banks

Iain M. Banks is probably my favorite science fiction author. Maybe my favorite author period. This link does a great job explaining some of the reasons why, and is a really excellent discussion on the relationship between society/culture and technology. This article finally put into words my frustration with so much sci-fi (technologically advanced societies with inexplicably archaic social structures).

Falcon Heavy Test Launch

Success! SpaceX Launches Falcon Heavy Rocket on Historic Maiden Voyage

In case you missed it (do you live under a rock?), Space X had their first test launch of the Falcon Heavy on 2/6/2018. We watched the live stream of the launch, and audibly cheered at their success. Watching the two first stage boosters land was almost unreal – like watching a science-fiction movie, only they’ve actually made it happen. The future is happening now.

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First snow of the season

Therefore, snow pictures:

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A Day in Chicago

A little sightseeing in Chicago on a day off from work:

The leaves are already starting to change. Our day included a walk in Millenium Park, which has the Cloud Gate (aka “the bean”), and the very strange crown fountain (its a giant display of faces (that change every 10 minutes or so) that appear to spit water out (its amazing). We rented bicycles on rode up and down the lakeside trail to ride the ferris wheel at the navy pier, and to spend the afternoon in the impressive Field Museum.

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White House West Wing

Here are a few pics from our visit to the White House a few weeks ago. A friend who just happens to be an officer in the Navy had a very special promotion ceremony that was held in the Vice Presidential Ceremonial Office, and we were fortunate enough to be invited to attend. He also took us on a West Wing tour of the White House the next day, which is not something just anyone has access to.

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House 2.0 – moved in!

Well, somehow its been nearly five months since I’ve posted an update about the new house. (The house we’ve now been living in for nearly that long.) We’ve been so busy (mostly with work) I might not have noticed, except that the lack of posting about my life on the internet has been pointed out to me by several people:) Ahem. So, by request, here are some highlights of house related activity since we received the CO at the end of March:

  • We’re all moved in, and loving it. The actual move happened mostly in the middle of April, although even five months later I wouldn’t say we’re all settled in. There are still many projects on the to-do list to really set up the new house properly. We’ve managed to complete a few, some of which are described below. Also, I can’t say that I recommend the moving process.
  • Water treatment – it turns out that the well at the new house has much worse water quality than the old one. It was a bit of a project to have the water tested, research and determine what water treatment systems(s) to use, source said system, and then install it. Mainly, we had hard water, and enough of an iron problem that all our white sinks, toilets, and showers were turning orange. The water softener we installed seems to have solved both the hard water scaling and iron staining problems, although we may need yet more treatment for other issues.
  • Hardscaping/driveway – lots of rain this spring and early summer caused many delays in the scheduled outdoor work around the house. Our retaining walls are now finished, and we finally have a concrete driveway, which was only poured at the end of May/beginning of June. We are both extremely relieved to be out of the mud.  For six weeks we lived a relentless battle with the mud and dirt, especially with the dog. I will be forever grateful for that giant slab of concrete out in front of our house.
  • landscaping and lawn – we now have gravel beds around the foundation, plantings in front, and the lawn has finally been seeded and covered in straw.  We are (finally!) no longer surrounded by bare dirt/mud (hallelujah!).
  • crawlspace dehumidification – Our crawlspace is a sealed space, but we knew we were likely going to need a dehumidifier down there. Getting that installed during this humid summer means we will avoid any moisture related problems. Space conditioning in general is going really well in the new house, we are able to control both temperature and humidity throughout the house at very low energy cost.
  • kitchen backsplash – the bullnose edge pieces were on back order, and only came back in stock in July. After picking up the material and selecting the grout, I was able to have that installed in early September. I’m happy to check this one off the to-do list:)
  • loft ladder handrails – this is a small project that Kevin squeezed in for me. When first making notes about what we wanted in our “dream” house, I had a category called “whimsy” with things that would be fun to include if it they could be reasonably worked into the design. One of those items was a space accessed by a ships ladder. With the completion of some handrails fabricated from iron plumbing pipe, I now have my rustic ships ladder to the loft. For such a small detail, it seems to be a highlight of the house. Almost everyone who visits, especially male people young and old alike, are drawn immediately to climbing that ladder and peering out of the small windows from on high in the loft. That part is just as we imagined:)
Posted in Home Improvement, House 2.0 | 1 Comment