Thursday, July 17, 2014

Western Motorcycle tour

I'm still running, but with a little more horespower these days. A leaky heart valve demoralized my efforts to run better so I moved on.

Many of the images in this post are marred by the cover getting in the way of the camera on the new tablet I bought for the trip. I'm sorry they aren't better.

It was quite the trip, thanks. I set out to find some areas I hadn't seen before, cross into the mountains in a novel way and to ride as many of the finest twisty roads the world has to offer, as I could.

6458 km @ 5.19 l/100km over nine days of of travel. I was gone for two weeks. I ate giant, perfectly fresh and healthy oysters, sockeye, crab and washed them down with some fine wine and a few pints of hand crafted ale. What's not to like?

Me on the ST and a friend on the KLR.

On the home front, there were 27.3 kilos of saskatoon's that came into our house in the last few days. I see pie in my future. Life is too short! It's good to be home.

Went Southwest from our Manitoba home through some intense prairie weather to Southern Montana and Northern Wyoming and on to climb the 11,000 foot Bear Tooth pass. It was plenty dramatic there. The road way provided many tight switch backs and the scenery was all about the theatrical. Then out through Yellowstone. American tourists there invoked a very strong flight response in me.

Then a long day took us North through the first of the twisty roads in the Helena state forest. My throttle hand got away on me a bit there. We continued on up the Western side of Glacier park and  I finished the day in Cranbrook BC.

It was the wild west out there.

At that point I went farther West and my partner went off into Alberta to see some relations.

The following day, I had another huge ride, making Qualicum Beach on Vancouver Island from Cranbrook.

I had confirmed directions to the ferry the night before, but South Langley was a jumble of construction when I got there. I wasn't sure which way was up with the rush hour traffic making things even more challenging than they already were.

Stuck in traffic with the bike heating hard and the sun beating down on my tired self, a Harley pulled up on my wing. I yanked my helmet down and yelled "Tell me this goes to the ferry!" He laughed and said he grew up in Ladner and he'd take me right there.

Off we went among the tidal ditches and narrow roads of rural delta land. Every time we stopped for a turn we added a little more to our collective story and both of us had a few laughs along the way. That guy made my day.

He lead me to the terminal and went on with his day with a honk and a wave. I like bike culture. As it turned out I was headed in the right direction, it just wouldn't have been as fast that way.

There was no one in line ahead of me at the toll booth so I rolled up and paid my money down. Bikes get loaded first and I went to the head of the line with the other bikes then didn't have time to get my helmet off before we were waving us on to load. Brilliant timing.

Then it was a couple hours of welcome down time smelling the salt air again.

I bought this bike for its aptitude with long travel days and I'm thrilled these distances are still possible for me, thanks to this fine Honda classic, a 1998 ST1100 Pan American. I am a proud, and grateful owner. I looked for four years for a bike that reflects me now. I resist nostalgia.

I gave it a good cleaning at M&P's. I think that's the first time I've washed it.

Four days at my folks place in Qualicum provided some welcome soft living. Cleaned up the hedge trimmings and made a run to the dump, but it was a soft landing there regardless. I also got caught up with some of the relations that faciliated my journey into the world of bikes many years ago. I like bike culture. They are still riding and are still just as much fun as ever.

Heading home I was on my steed at 5:20 Tuesday morning to make the 6:20 ferry from Naniamo's Departure Bay headed to Horseshoe Bay.

From there I headed North up the Sea to Sky highway toward Whistler.

Not my image:

I headed off onto new territory for me in Pemberton and Lilooet. I put 14 hours in the saddle that day through some very challenging roadways. Just what I was after. I angled down through Cache Creek, through Kamloops and then South through Vernon.

The temperatures were pushing 40C for a lot of the day and I was determined to wear ATGATT (all the gear all the time) and managed it well enough, but fluid intake took on a much higher level of priority as a consequence.

Tuesday wound down with a short cable ferry ride across Lower Arrow Lake at Needles. I ran up to yet another beautiful BC provincial campground named McDonald Creek and called an end to a very demanding and tremendously satisfying day on the bike.

The inland ferries are part of the highway system and are free for all.

The fellow collecting the camp fees at McDonald Creek was a rider and a lot of fun in his enthusiasm with what I had done that day. His laughter was attractive and it lead to a camp fire invitation with some bright lights from the U of A, some very welcome cold beer and more stimulating company. Bed was welcome, even if it was on the ground in a tent.

I had a very lazy Wednesday morning taking time to luxuriate with some great coffee, savoured in spectacular mountain surroundings.

What lay ahead were well documented world class motorcycle riding twisties.

Around and down from Nakusp and the famous little run from New Denver to Kaslo and then onto Balfour, was nothing short of a living fantasy. Good pavement and non-stop curves.

I came out at Kaslo with virtually all the tire edges used and some new scuffs on my boots where I had neglected to keep my toes tucked in on the pegs. Brilliant! By this time in the trip I had become quite smooth on the controls, so it was very rewarding as well as more than a little thrilling to ride those roads.

After Kaslo, I headed South down 35A which was busier than the New Denver run, but otherwise it is another amazing road to ride down on a bike.  The day went on by catching a stunning 35 minute ferry ride in the brilliant sun, across Kootney Lake at Balfour and down to Creston then on to camp at Kikomun Creek. Not a great vibe there. Insecure Albertans in abundance, unfortunately. I won't labour the point.

After two big days of travel, fighting the slippery slope toward heat stroke, I was fatigued through and through. Thursday was a welcome cool day and I didn't take my warm layer out of my jacket until after 13:00.

I had wanted to stay off the #1 across the prairie altogether, but with all the flooding, I decided against and told myself that if I had it in me to make Swift Current Thursday night I would push for home on Friday.

I took a cheap motel that night in Swift Current and enjoyed as much hot water and hoppy ale as I thought wise and headed to a dreamless sleep.

A long dreary run to Winnipeg on the #1 is punishing, even in a car and worse on a bike. South to the welcome at home.

The road always calls.

I've had bikes since I was coming out of my teens. It's been about 30 years since I thought I could dedicate much time to one, but since 2009 I've been shopping for a bike. I thought my days of biking were over because I couldn't find a bike that reflected me now. I looked at all the popular brands and models, but came up short.

The remaining choices seemed surrounded by nostalgia which I deliberately run from. Then I found this classic bit of sport touring magic I have now and I was in with both feet, purchasing one in early 2013.

I put on 13000 km last year and have been wholly hooked back into the biking life since.

I grew up in BC so I knew and missed winding mountain roads and was anxious to re-learn my riding skill-set there.

The ergonomics on this bike are very deliberately utilitarian. Everything about the ST1100 is about the function defining the form, it seems. I bought the best long distance saddle available, to help with my aging bods tolerance for long days in the saddle and it made it possible for me to do what I did. Electrically heated handle bar grips were a great help on the cooler mornings too, as was all the high tech gear I'm using.

When I had the suspension adjusted for hard cornering, my lower back tightened up over the course of a long day, but otherwise I experienced only general fatigue and nothing specific. I thought this was a good sign that I had the bike set up just about right and that my riding position and technique was appropriate. Sure was knackered at the end of a few of those days though!

There is something especially attractive about long days on a bike travelling like I did. The combination of fresh air, the intimacy and vagaries of what Mother Nature dishes out and the changing scenery, is at the very least, addictive. I got more big smiles from good looking women than I've had in ages. It must the right thing to be doing.

Friday, July 6, 2012

A little garlic tutorial

I thought I posted something along these lines last year, but I can't find it so you may be getting this again. How can too much garlic talk be a bad thing?

I speak here about prairie hard neck garlic. I believe this stock I have came from the Morden Manitoba research station many years ago. Where ever it came from, it is superbly adapted to this area. This stock I have yields only a few cloves in a bulb so that makes for less peeling which I appreciate.


Garlic likes rich loam.  The addition of bone meal may help promote large bulb development.  Bone meal is gentle so it's not going to hurt your seed stock if you put some of it right into the hole when your clove is pushed into the dirt when planting.

I cull the largest and most uniform bulbs as I harvest and cure it so that I can use the very best of the crop for seed in the fall.

I till the soil very well so it's quite light before planting.  I plant as late as possible. Preferably I plant on the day before the ground freezes in the fall.

I break up the bulbs into the individual cloves and plant them with the pointed end up by simply pushing them deeply into the soft earth.  My soil is rich so I plant a double row, 18cm between the two rows and about 10cm between each clove in the row. I off set the rows so the plants are not directly ajacent in those double rows.

I've never lost any of my seed to the Manitoba winter freeze when my seed bed is light and fluffy.  In the spring it will emerge early, well before I can get into the garden shortly after the snow is off and be ready to harvest often by the middle of July and before.  As it grows, it will sprout flower heads (scape).  I cut these off as early as I can to force the plant to put more energy into making big bulbs. Using the scape for cooking can be good if you enjoy garlic.  Cutting the flowers off early is an important key to having larger bulbs.

If you want to increase your stock you can let these scape mature and plant the resulting bulblets in the fall. They will grow into small bulbs in their first year that can be planted again to yield full bulbs. It's a lengthy process, but you sure can bulk up your seed stock in a few short years by planting this way.

Harvest should be done in the heat of the summer so the bulbs can dry out well.  I haul mine out onto the driveway every sunny day until the tops are very dry and brittle.  Setting up blockades is critical. I lost a third of my harvest one year to a driver not looking where he was going. My bad! Once they are ready to put away, I cut the tops off and rub some of the outer skin off to make a clean head.  If you want your stock to adapt and get stronger don't eat all the best stuff! Save that for seed, as painful as that is to let go of.

Seed stock!


Curing is like scaring the garlic to death. When curing, I aim to frighten it into thinking it's going to dry up and blow away if it doesn't conserve every bit of moisture it can. As the skins are still moist from harvest it will shrink up tightly around the bulb and neck if I carefully dry it out in the hot summer days. It takes a while to do this and I've spent a couple of weeks in attendance to dragging the stock in and out of shelter to keep it dry and or get it back out into the sun. It varies from year to year just how long it takes. Everything on the outside should be brittle. Testing it is tough to nail down, but when I break a clove from a cured bulb, I expect it to be very sticky with sugars and the cloves very tightly bound by the bulb skin while the clove skins are on the thick side and brittle.

I leave the bulb skins intact until it's fully cured and only then do I determine how much of the skin I remove to make it look pretty and uniform. It's that bag of tight skin that works to retain moisture and discourage pests and disease. I trim up the roots with tough sizzors and chop off the necks and leaves with a heavy board and cleaver when I'm ready to pack it up in mesh bags and hang it in the kitchen. I usually leave a cm or two of neck.

Hard neck is not impossible to braid, but I'm not a braider. Soft neck garlic is very easy to make good looking braids with.

I hang mine where it's dry. The cool dark basement cellar type places seem to work against a good cure. Besides it's way easier to show it off by the wood stove in the kitchen right?

I went too far one year and cured up my garlic on the tables in the green house, but my green house was too hot and many of the bulbs were damaged. It didn't seem to be all that vulnerable afterward, but it didn't look right so be careful to have very good circulation.

I've had years when the growing season was wet and the summer stock never really did cure up well even with a careful curing effort.

Another benefit from a good hard curing is that mold and disease doesn't seem to take hold well. Last year I got a very good cure and as I'm havesting today, I still have good useable garlic from last year on hand. It's lost a lot of it's weight, but much of it is still quite formant and very edible. Onions require much the same treatment. Potatoes and carrots beneift from this type of thing too although that's not as lengthy a process.

Carrots made dormant and stacked in bins of peat are brilliant keepers.

Our cellar is nearly perfect for potatoes so we don't have to try very hard to preserve them which is really wonderful. There is enough work to do!

I harvested 22kg of beautiful garlic last year and friends and family were very flattering. This year the crop looks bulky and full. I'm looking forward to weighing the results this year too.


Saturday, June 30, 2012

Morpheus writes home

This is Morpheus. When I last saw him he was but a pencil. He was from a hatch of corn snakes (anerythristic) that I hatched in 2008. At 1.65 meters, he's grown well. The images are from Ted View of Saskatoon who is the owner of this beauty. It was very good of Ted to keep me in the loop on this guys progress. Thanks Ted.



Pyro on the prairie

What a spectacular evening and a perfect venue for a fireworks display. To say it was a pleasant evening to be outside setting up and shooting a small town prairie fireworks show would be to fall woefully short of the mark.

It was a long drive from home and took us about four hours to drive out to this little park that lies between Minto and Elgin Manitoba. It's a little prairie jewel of a place. Tucked away where it can't be seen from the highway, it typified, for me, the elegance of prairie life. It is a humble place where, at it's best, values can be more universal that maybe happens in more urban areas.

Many years ago someone had the forethought to dam a small creek and in doing so, create a small lake, maybe three to five hectares in area. There were goats in a low fenced pasture for kids to talk to. There was a small boat launch for people to get human powered water craft into the pond. The lake was stocked with fish. There was a small beach and a dock to jump into the drink.

A small band played many hours from a repertoire of standards my Mum would have appreciated. I appreciated them too. There were a few short holes of golf available that the kids seemed to play endlessly. There were camping places filled. The air was speckled with the clatter of a vibrant community filled with joy and ease. I doubt whether the participants would have seen it as anything out of the ordinary. Relaxed, laid back and easy summed up the tone.

Ray was the supervisor on the show and he's not very excitable under normal circumstances so there was plenty of time to set up and there were no surprises which is ideal when dealing with explosives yes? We began the set up at 16:30 and finished up at 21:30. It took us 18 minutes to shoot the show and forty to break it down and load it all back in the truck. The show seemed to have the same easy pace that the grounds seemed to encourage. I didn't see much of the show at all. I usually see more, but this time I was keenly focused on the pace of the hand lighting to maintain the rhythm Ray set. I watched as Ray lit the finale electrically.

The crowd was very appreciative and their enthusiastic response to the display was kind of moving. I'm not sure why I'm all soft about this little show, but it was a deep pleasure to be among like minded folk. Kids doing more running and playing than I've seen in ages. Teen couples heading off to secluded corners to "fish." Parents not tense with corrections as well as appearing to be so very confident in their children's ability to function well with those around them.

Here's to "have not" provinces everywhere and simple country pleasures. Thanks too to Ray for cajoling me into this ancient game of pyrotechnics.


Thursday, January 12, 2012


I've been withdrawing. That's never a good sign. Here's to the increasing light on the other side of the winter solstice.

Here's to more writing, more social time, more life.

Monday, October 3, 2011

Double bass lives

The repairs were just about as structurally sound as they could have been. Clean, clear wood to bond to on all surfaces and good mechanical fits where required. Elmer's yellow was deemed the proper adhesive.

I took a couple of hours with sharp chisels to clean up the factory glue and casual fit. I used ratcheting tie down straps to clamp the neck in place until it was set and a more conventional metal clamps to secure the scroll back into place as the glue set there. I felt it all went swimmingly.

I used to be very impatient with wood. Now I'm a little better at taking the time to work with it and enjoy the ride. That same thing could be said for a few other tasks too actually. This repair felt luxuriously rewarding.

There remains a gazillion things to learn about this instrument, not the least of which is how to play it. As always, I'm at least as interested in the set up as I am about the music. I'll continue to dial it in and be grateful for such adventures coming my way.

It tuned up reasonably well and I'm gaining some sense of the scale, but it's very different than anything else I've ever played. The strings are huge and it seems to have a demanding physicality that is unique. This will be another strength training exercise, I think, as I get up to speed with this one.