Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Clean Up: Duc and Water

And, because it's nearly 60 degrees in December, I thought why not clean the bike up? There is something really gratifying about getting into a dirty drive train and adding a little sparkle. Before:

The Grunge Brush makes a huge difference, making cleaning the chain a LOT easier.

It's so nice to be able to pull the bike OUTSIDE and clean her up.

A clean bike? She's a happy bike! After:

Repair Project: Battery Replacement

The battery on the Ducati died. I tried reviving it with a trickle charger, but to no avail. So, I started my battery replacement project.

Step ONE: remove the seat and expose the battery area. This is easy enough on the Duc.

Step TWO: Grab the tools that are going to get the job done.

Step THREE: disconnect the battery cables, being careful to remove the NEGATIVE cable FIRST. This is apparently quite important, because if you do it in reverse, and then touch the ground to the frame of the bike, all kinds of pyrotechnics occur. And, none of them good.

NOTE: I always have the parts bin, just to keep track of things. My father always insisted on this. Also, I was surprised at how many tools I needed to get this simple job done.

Step FOUR: Out with the old...

Step FIVE: And in with the new....

Here was an interesting conversation I had at the battery store.
Kid: That's it. Just don't lean it or drop it or roll it.
Me: Well, I am putting it in a motorcycle.
Kid: Oh. Sorry. I meant for the next hour.
Me: And, just to be clear, I should reconnect the positive first, THEN the negative, correct?
Kid: Oh, I don't think that matters.
Me: Oh, I think it matters VERY much.
Kid: Really?
Me: Yes. Really.
Kid: Oh. Well, I am new here, so I don't know everything.
Me: Okay, so who is the expert?
Kid: That guy. (Points to the fat guy sitting in the back). ______ can you come out here? This guy wants to ask you something? (Fat guy looks pissed off, gets up slowly and ambles over).
Me: Your guy here tells me I should keep the battery level for an hour. Anything else I should know? Like, should I reconnect the positive terminal first?
Guy: Yes. Keep the battery level, don't connect it for at least an hour (good to know), definitely reconnect the positive first (that's kind of important), and if you don't start it, put it on a slow charger/tender.

So, had I not sought clarification, I would have taken advice from some kid who was brand new and really had no idea what he was talking about, dispensing his advice ostensibly because some other idiot was too lazy to get off his ass and make sure the kid is trained right?

Jeez. I'm really glad I asked.

Saturday, November 14, 2015

Last of the Fall Riding?

I went out for what will probably be the last of the Fall rides, a briskly-paced jaunt up PA 944 and to the top of Waggoner's Gap. This is one of the better rides in the Central PA area, with the asphalt in great shape for when you want to "bump it up a notch". Or two.

You will also see a lot of bikes out here. One of the things I do like about this area is that there seems to be a higher awareness of cyclists. It might be that there are more of us. Or the proximity of Harley-Davidson. But whatever it is, I am glad we have it, especially in light of the stories I hear from other areas of the country.

There are a lot of decaying structures near me, barns and buildings that have long outlived their usefulness. If you look, you can still see how remarkable they once were. I love the metal roofs that still inhabit the landscape.

Yogi Berra once said, "You can see a lot just by watching". As I cruised past a field, I looked out and saw half a dozen turkey hens, and a big gobbler, who seemed blissfully unaware that it is November, and it might be a good time to be less obtrusive. RUN! FLY! Get AWAY!

After the zip through a good section of 944, I took a turn up to the top of Waggoner's Gap.

There is a pull off at the top, and a short hike brings you to the overlook, looking south over the Cumberland Valley. There is a similarly dazzling view from Pole Steeple in Michaux State Park.

I spent some time chatting with these birding chappies. There is a significant hawk and eagle migration that occurs in this area of the state, with the birds rising on the natural thermals and looking for the plentiful rodents that make up their diet. Birders from all over come to count hawks and eagles; these guys saw a bald eagle and several golden eagles, with a total of nearly 125 birds.

And this is why it's worth the trip.

There is something special, something important that happens when we journey to the high places. There is room for contemplation, and space for our souls to expand. I am always grateful for these moments.

Monday, November 02, 2015

Mail Call: Maggard Shaving!

This is cool! I ordered a dozen new shaving soap samples from Maggard Razors, and they arrived today in a nice, tight package. Maggard does a great job of packaging their stuff.

It was a lot of fun opening each of them and smelling away, sharing them with Mrs. Fish. My favorite so far is Seville from Barrister & Mann, while Mrs. Fish is a fan of Chiseled Face's Summer Storm, a mixture of grass (the kind on your lawn, not the kind in your basement) and rain. I also picked up a synthetic brush, which dries more quickly and is ideal for traveling as well as the gym bag.

Let the shaving begin! I will try to review each of them as I go through the ranks.

Saturday, October 31, 2015

Another Fall Ride

Left from home near Harrisburg, PA...

...and noodled down some twisty back roads to York, PA, America's first Capital. From there, we cut across Route 30 toward Lancaster, PA, then up toward Elizabethtown, PA. My buddy B. and I stopped in to see and old friend and blast away a little.

'Murica FTW!


After annihilating paper bad guys, we circled around and headed for home. I am wondering when the last good ride of the year will come, but I am thinking it's going to be soon. The chill is defintely in the air. 


I'm really glad this Fall has lasted so long...

Friday, October 30, 2015

Fall Commute - Beauty in Pennsylvania

Scenes from my work commute, today. It was a little chilly heading in today (the mercury dipped down to 39 degrees and I was surprised to see an "ICE" warning on my dash. I was glad to have layered in a fleece lined windbreaker, but it might be getting time to break out the heated liner. I realize I also need to find some good cold-weather gloves. Even with the handguards and heated grips, the outsides of my hands felt cold by the time I arrived at work.

The ride home was a little warmer in the low-to-mid 50s. The sun came out, and it was absolutely amazing to be outside.

At one point, I just got off the bike and shuffled around in the leaves. It doesn't have that hard crunch of late Fall; the leaves are still soft and wet. But, you can smell the decay of the season under the leaves when you disturb the surface. One of my favorite things about riding is just what a multisensory experience it is, and I realized that I noticed the change to Fall this year through smell and feel before my eyes saw it.

Just messing around a little with point-of-focus.

Yes, it really is this beautiful in Pennsylvania right now.

One last shot...

Sunday, October 25, 2015

Fall Ride

I took a ride today on what might have been the most beautiful day I have ever ridden. It was 65 degrees and the sun was shining, with fall in full effect here in South Central PA.

The beginning, into the mountains...

I love the sky at this time of year. It always speaks to me of football, wood fire smells, sweatshirts, and apple cider.

The first rule of Italian riding? What's behind you doesn't matter.

So much beauty. Everywhere, just beauty.

The road before me, and the road behind.

Back country roads...

Main Street USA.

The road winds, ever onward.

Perfect day.

Saturday, October 24, 2015

Climbing - Bucket List

I have always wanted to climb. When I got sick with cancer, I read a lot of books about climbing and survival (Into Thin Air, Touching the Void, and the like) and fell in love with it even more. Or, at least, the idea of it. Then I saw THIS PHOTO on National Geographic's Instagram feed and posted it up on Facebook, saying I didn't think it was nuts to want to try this.

What I didn't know was that my best friend from high school, E., would see it and suggest we do some top-roping. It seems he is a certified climbing instructor. We suggested meeting in nearby Columbia at Chickies Rock, Lancaster County, PA as it seemed to have some decent climbing and was somewhere relatively equidistant between the two of us.

Since it was such a beautiful day, I decided to ride the bike down. Chickies Rock rises above the beautiful Susquehanna, and the fall colors were just begininng to make their appearance. While it was a little chilly, the sunshine warmed what could have been a tough day.

Absolutely gorgeous day....

The mighty Susquehanna, as it gently flows through south-central Pennsylvania...

To the left is York County home of the White Rose City, and America's first capital. This shot is taken from the Lancaster County side, home of the Red Rose City, Lancaster, PA.

We arrived at the top of Chickies Rock and E. took the first rappel down. It was good to know the route was safe and the knots secure. I actually enjoyed learning and practicing the various knots associated with climbing. After the adventure, E. gave me a section to continue my practice - cool.

E. brought his son, Li'l J, too. It was tough getting him started on the rappelling because he is so tiny the rope didn't want to flow through the "figure 8". It's the flow through this device that attaches the climber through the harness and guides the descent. However, once we got him over the edge, he was on his way. And then it was my turn...

Let's start by saying it was far from the graceful descent of my buddy, E. Or even the slow descent of his son. No, mine was a little...different. They will tell you the first step of the rock into thin air is the most difficult. They are correct. Standing at the top of a thirty foot drop and stepping off just doesn't make sense. I don't care who you are.

I imagine skydiving has the same mindset, the first time one tries it."The plane is working. We are airborne. I don't think jumping is in my best interests here..."

But, I did step out. And that's where it got...complicated. What E. didn't tell me is that my legs should have been pointed out in front of me and slightly downward. That downward is kind of key. For those of you who didn't pass physics class, or are a little hazy on the mechanics of what happens when the ballast of one's ass is no longer in a position to keep one upright, allow me to explain. The second step I took threw me into an inverted position (yes, that means upside down) and the rope was taut, trapping my left leg between it and the granite rock face. So, there I was, suspended 30 feet above the floor of the cliff, hanging upside down, with my left left pinned.

No. There are no pics. Don't even ask.

"Um...Hey! E! Any suggestions?" It seems the thing to do in my situation was to let myself down slightly, then walk my feet back under me, then rappel down with my feet pointed slightly downward. "Well, thankfully this can't get worse." Then, as I let myself, I heard the ripping sound. My pants had caught on the rock, and with each lowering movement, I could feel an influx of chilly air where I was certain there should be none.

And then I heard E. yelling, "I see lobsters! I see LOBSTERS!" Li'l J. joined in, adding, "Oh no - they're getting BIGGER!!!" I realized the tear was even bigger than I thought. They say the first casualty in war is innocence. Apparently, the first casualty in climbing is my pants.

We spent the rest of the day climbing, which I LOVED! Trying to figure out routes up the face was a great mind exercise. In some ways it was like fly fishing (though infinitely more strenuous), in that when you are doing it, it is impossible to think about anything else. It was this aspect that I enjoyed the most. Each of us took turns, including Li'l J. who was a climbing machine.

It was a fantastic day, and I cannot wait to try it again. A huge thanks to my friend E. for teaching me the ropes, so to speak. I'm really loooking forward to the next time out! But, for now, a moment to relax...