Saturday, May 23, 2015

Motorcycle camping refinements


This is how Maria and I loaded my bike for two-up riding and camping in October, 1996 at the Return to Shiloh BMW Rally.

The silver stuff sack holds my Eureka! Special Edition tent, then there are two Thermarest air mattresses, all lashed down with a couple of tie-down straps. And on top we secured a couple of sleeping bags with a cargo net.

We haven’t done much two-up touring in recent years, but my camping gear has gone through several refinements in the nearly two decades since this photo was made.

The Eureka! Special Edition died in a storm at the 1998 BMW MOA Rally in Missoula, Mont. It was temporarily replaced by a gigantic 10x10 tent from a Missoula sporting goods store, followed by a dome tent from REI in Portland, Ore., and a Galyan’s Special Edition tent by Eureka! in 2005 that I used up through last OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOctober when it became apparent that the floor was no longer completely waterproof. I replaced it with a Eureka! Tetragon 5.

I retired my Thermarests in 2012 and switched to a much smaller, yet much more comfortable Big Agnes Q-Core that is small enough to fit into my saddlebag along with a battery powered inflator. Before the Big Agnes and the inflator, I’m pretty sure my Thermarests could not pass a breathalyzer test when I deflated them at the end of each rally.

Last weekend was the first trial run of my newest version of camping gear, the big improvement being the Tetragon 5 (the 5 indicates a capacity of 5 people) tent with a 9x9 footprint and a ceiling high enough for me to stand, even with my little LED chandelier dangling from the peak and expansive enough to tent and chairaccommodate my camp chair.

The other first-time refinement was indoor plumbing, something I resisted for years even though several of my contemporaries now carry a bottle to pee into. I have to admit, not having to pull on pants and boots and hike to a port-o-let when nature calls at 2 a.m. is far more luxurious than I had imagined.

I finally worked out a way to use criss-crossed ROK Straps to firmly attach a $10 Walmart canvas chair to the luggage rack so it doesn’t flop around en route.

I’m sure things will evolve further, but last weekend’s camping experience in Burkesville, Ky. was the most comfortable and hassle-free ever and my bike looks less like an overloaded pack mule than it did 20 years ago.

And I neither want nor need a trailer.

packed tightly

Friday, May 22, 2015

Stupid Vine request

pedestal fanIt’s been a few weeks since the Amazon Vine Program offered me anything that piqued (not peaked or peeked) my interest.

But when I checked a few minutes ago I found my offerings included this 30” commercial/industrial pedestal fan that lists for $199.

Why in the world would I want to add a big-assed fan to the clutter in my garage?

I guess it’s the Vine version of an impulse buy.

It gets beastly hot here in the summer months and the ceiling fan on the screened back porch has limited cooling power. I envision pointing this bad boy out on one end of the porch and drawing huge volumes of air through the area on those oppressive days when there is no breeze. I only hope it’s not so loud that we can’t carry on a conversation.

It would also be handy for drawing fresh air through the house, since we almost never open our windows.

And it could speed the drying process after I pressure wash the back porch.

I’m sure Maria will think I’ve lost my mind when this thing shows up, but what the hell? Why not?

Thursday, May 21, 2015

Motorcycle Rally Pin of the day

err IMG_7169

17th Annual European Riders Rally, held May 15-17 in Burkesville, Ky. by the BMW Motorcycle Club of Nashville.

Fun with electricity

chilling saturday afternoon

Hanging out under Rick Nelson’s canopy at the European Riders Rally on Saturday afternoon, Wayne Garrison introduced me to the miniscule but mighty TENS (Transcutaneous Electrical Nerve Stimulation) unit he carries with him on motorcycle trips.

tens unitHe let me try a 20-minute session on my right shoulder, placing the electrode pads in the same spots that my chiropractor does, and the results were impressive. The discomfort was gone and, since I could control the intensity of the current, I was able to step it up gradually to levels heretofore not experienced.

I found one just like Wayne’s on Ebay for $49.99 and five pairs of pads on for $10.99. Both orders arrived this morning and I just completed a 30-minute treatment on my shoulder with excellent results.

It comes with a manual and chart detailing Chinese acupressure points for pad placement that I may explore later.

But for now, I’m enjoying how good my shoulder feels.

tens unit

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Another problem solved

zumo mounted

My weekend travels revealed a glitch in my Garmin Zumo 550’s mapping software.

The first clue came Thursday morning as I approached Interstate 55 on U.S. 412 just south of Hayti, Mo. U.S. 412 becomes I-155 east of I-55 which is where I knew to go. But the Garmin mapping software insisted I should go south on I-55 then take a non-existent exit to I-155 eastbound.

I stayed the course and presently the Zumo recalculated and acknowledged that I was, indeed, on I-155.

Then, on Sunday afternoon as I crossed the Mississippi River on U.S. 412 I asked Garmin to give me the distances to Hayti and Kennett, Mo. as possible gas stops. I got routes that made no sense.

A few minutes later, I re-entered Home as a destination at a time when my ETA was under an hour. It gave me some ridiculous route that took me all the way to Walnut Ridge and back over a period of more than two hours.


At first, I thought water from the heavy rain I rode through an hour earlier had corrupted the circuitry.

I took the GPS off of the bike this afternoon and fiddled with it, coming up with crazy routes and distances from my house to Kennett and Hayti.

Since I’m contemplating a ride west, I downloaded and installed the current maps for the central and western U.S. and now I get routes that make sense.

Much relieved, I’m going downstairs now to return the Zumo to its mount on my K1200GT.

Expensive morning

fridge repair

This morning was expensive, but it could have been a whole lot worse.

Our dishwasher crapped out last Wednesday. The owner’s manual said the flashing green light meant trouble with the heating element. Since I was going to be out of town from Thursday morning until Sunday afternoon, we resolved to put off the service call until Monday.

In the meantime, the temperature monitor in the garage freezer began pestering me via my iPhone that the temperature had risen above freezing and was steadily climbing, eventually topping out in the upper 60s.

I called the appliance repair folks Monday morning and they finally showed up this morning.

But in the meantime, the kitchen refrigerator stopped cooling and freezing.

Our first thought was that a power surge from one or more of the recent storms was the cause of the cascade of appliance failures.

But when the two technicians – yes, they sent two guys – dug into things they found:

  • The freezer was iced up because the automatic defrost timer failed. As far as I can tell, it never worked in the first place.
  • The starter relay failed on the refrigerator, probably because of a buildup of dog hair and other stuff under the fridge that went unnoticed until today.
  • The dishwasher heating element, was indeed the problem.

They got the freezer and refrigerator working again in time to save a few hundred dollars worth of meat and other frozen food, but they didn’t have a heater unit for the dishwasher and said they’d come back as soon as they got one – maybe later today or maybe Friday if they had to get one from Little Rock.

Total cost: $686.16. It was painful, but at least we’re not shopping for new appliances and replacing lost food.

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

On the “climate change” hoax

Ross McKitrick, Special to Financial Post | May 11, 2015 7:22 PM ET

Not only is there no 97 per cent consensus among climate scientists; many misunderstand core issues

In the lead-up to the Paris climate summit, massive activist pressure is on all governments, especially Canada’s, to fall in line with the global warming agenda and accept emission targets that could seriously harm our economy. One of the most powerful rhetorical weapons being deployed is the claim that 97 per cent of the world’s scientists agree what the problem is and what we have to do about it. In the face of such near-unanimity, it would be understandable if Prime Minister Harper and the Canadian government were simply to capitulate and throw Canada’s economy under the climate change bandwagon. But it would be a tragedy because the 97 per cent claim is a fabrication.

Like so much else in the climate change debate, one needs to check the numbers. First of all, on what exactly are 97 per cent of experts supposed to agree? In 2013 President Obama sent out a tweet claiming 97 per cent of climate experts believe global warming is “real, man-made and dangerous.” As it turns out the survey he was referring to didn’t ask that question, so he was basically making it up. At a recent debate in New Orleans I heard climate activist Bill McKibben claim there was a consensus that greenhouse gases are “a grave danger.” But when challenged for the source of his claim, he promptly withdrew it.

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change asserts the conclusion that most (more than 50 per cent) of the post-1950 global warming is due to human activity, chiefly greenhouse gas emissions and land use change. But it does not survey its own contributors, let alone anyone else, so we do not know how many experts agree with it. And the statement, even if true, does not imply that we face a crisis requiring massive restructuring of the worldwide economy. In fact it is consistent with the view that the benefits of fossil fuel use greatly outweigh the climate-related costs.

One commonly-cited survey asked if carbon dioxide is a greenhouse gas and human activities contribute to climate change. But these are trivial statements that even many IPCC skeptics agree with. And again, both statements are consistent with the view that climate change is harmless. So there are no policy implications of such surveys, regardless of the level of agreement.

More than half acknowledge that their profession is split on the issue

The most highly-cited paper supposedly found 97 per cent of published scientific studies support man-made global warming. But in addition to poor survey methodology, that tabulation is often misrepresented. Most papers (66 per cent) actually took no position. Of the remaining 34 per cent, 33 per cent supported at least a weak human contribution to global warming. So divide 33 by 34 and you get 97 per cent, but this is unremarkable since the 33 per cent includes many papers that critique key elements of the IPCC position.

Two recent surveys shed more light on what atmospheric scientists actually think. Bear in mind that on a topic as complex as climate change, a survey is hardly a reliable guide to scientific truth, but if you want to know how many people agree with your view, a survey is the only way to find out.

In 2012 the American Meteorological Society (AMS) surveyed its 7,000 members, receiving 1,862 responses. Of those, only 52 per cent said they think global warming over the 20th century has happened and is mostly manmade (the IPCC position). The remaining 48 per cent either think it happened but natural causes explain at least half of it, or it didn’t happen, or they don’t know. Furthermore, 53 per cent agree that there is conflict among AMS members on the question.

So no sign of a 97 per cent consensus. Not only do about half reject the IPCC conclusion, more than half acknowledge that their profession is split on the issue.

The Netherlands Environmental Agency recently published a survey of international climate experts. 6550 questionnaires were sent out, and 1868 responses were received, a similar sample and response rate to the AMS survey. In this case the questions referred only to the post-1950 period. 66 per cent agreed with the IPCC that global warming has happened and humans are mostly responsible. The rest either don’t know or think human influence was not dominant. So again, no 97 per cent consensus behind the IPCC.

But the Dutch survey is even more interesting because of the questions it raises about the level of knowledge of the respondents. Although all were described as “climate experts,” a large fraction only work in connected fields such as policy analysis, health and engineering, and may not follow the primary physical science literature.

But in addition to poor survey methodology, that tabulation is often misrepresented

Regarding the recent slowdown in warming, here is what the IPCC said: “The observed global mean surface temperature (GMST) has shown a much smaller increasing linear trend over the past 15 years than over the past 30 to 60 years.” Yet 46 per cent of the Dutch survey respondents – nearly half – believe the warming trend has stayed the same or increased. And only 25 per cent agreed that global warming has been less than projected over the past 15 to 20 years, even though the IPCC reported that 111 out of 114 model projections overestimated warming since 1998.

Three quarters of respondents disagreed or strongly disagreed with the statement “Climate is chaotic and cannot be predicted.” Here is what the IPCC said in its 2003 report: “In climate research and modelling, we should recognize that we are dealing with a coupled non-linear chaotic system, and therefore that the long-term prediction of future climate states is not possible.”

Looking into further detail there are other interesting ways in which the so-called experts are unaware of unresolved discrepancies between models and observations regarding issues like warming in the tropical troposphere and overall climate sensitivity.

What can we take away from all this? First, lots of people get called “climate experts” and contribute to the appearance of consensus, without necessarily being knowledgeable about core issues. A consensus among the misinformed is not worth much.

Second, it is obvious that the “97 per cent” mantra is untrue. The underlying issues are so complex it is ludicrous to expect unanimity. The near 50/50 split among AMS members on the role of greenhouse gases is a much more accurate picture of the situation. The phony claim of 97 per cent consensus is mere political rhetoric aimed at stifling debate and intimidating people into silence.

The Canadian government has the unenviable task of defending the interest of the energy producers and consumers of a cold, thinly-populated country, in the face of furious, deafening global warming alarmism. Some of the worst of it is now emanating from the highest places. Barack Obama’s website ( says “97 per cent of climate scientists agree that climate change is real and man-made…Find the deniers near you — and call them out today.” How nice. But what we really need to call out is the use of false propaganda and demagoguery to derail factual debate and careful consideration of all facets of the most complex scientific and policy issue of our time.

Ross McKitrick is a professor of economics at the University of Guelph, a senior fellow at the Fraser Institute and an adjunct scholar of the Cato Institute.

Monday, May 18, 2015

My first rally of the year


I haven’t posted anything since last Tuesday because I was preparing for the 17th Annual European Riders Rally in Burkesville, Ky., then attending the rally in a location that Sprint doesn’t care much about.

The Indianapolis BMW Club handily won the award for the club with the most members present (I think there were 38 of us). The rally chairwoman opined that they couldn’t even have a rally if the Indy Club didn’t show up in strength.

rokstrapsAttendance was sparse – fewer than 200 people, compared with more than 600 last year – because of the threat of rain, much of which failed to materialize. The rain finally appeared Saturday afternoon and continued off and on through that day and overnight.

A light turnout meant enhanced opportunities to win doorprizes. I put all of my tickets in the running for a set of ROK Straps (brilliantly designed tie-down straps that I’ve been using since 2003) and I actually was a winner. I think it’s the first rally doorprize I’ve won since the BMW MOA rally in Monterey in 1986. That was a dumb-looking t-shirt that was too small for me. I just realized that’s almost a 30-year dry spell.

It was the debut of my Eureka! Tetragon 5 tent – a voluminous thing that has room for me to stand up and also have a camp chair next to my air mattress with space to spare. It was wonderfully luxurious and handled the rain flawlessly. I packed it wet yesterday morning, so I must remember to pull it out to dry in the garage to avoid mold and mildew.

Burkesville is a little under 400 road miles from home. I left home at 7:23 a.m. on Thursday, which was accurately forecast to be rain-free and was the first club member to arrive, dropping my sidestand about 2:40 p.m. Several of us arrived a day before the Friday start of the rally to assure that we could set up our tents before Friday’s predicted rain, which ended up holding off for a day.

Yesterday’s ride home started out about 9:30 a.m. sunny and humid, but things started to go downhill when I ran into rain on the west side of Nashville, Tenn. The rain slacked off until about 20 miles east of Jackson, Tenn. when it turned into the most intense deluge I’ve ridden in for several years. The Olympus gloves I had attempted to waterproof with Nixwax quickly became saturated and I soon noticed that I forgot to close the vents in my waterproof pants.

canadiansI finally exited and took shelter at a truckstop on the north side of I-40 about 10 miles east of Jackson, making the acquaintance of a French Canadian couple from Montreal touring the U.S. on a Harley-Davidson.

My GPS wanted to take me through Memphis to catch I-55 northbound to home, but the weather radar showed more storms in that direction and I didn’t relish getting stuck in traffic should some hapless driver crash in Memphis.

Happily, U.S. 412 which goes to Paragould crosses I-40 at Jackson, so I left the interstate and headed northwest on 412, finding myself in sunshine after about 5 miles. I gassed for the last time at Hayti and pulled into my garage a little after 5 p.m.

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Kathmandu at last

kathmandu pants on me

My Kathmandu riding pants arrived today, just in time for what may be a rainy weekend. Good thing they’re waterproof.

As you may or may not remember, I returned the brilliant hi-viz Icon Patrol riding pants because there was no way I could adjust the legs so as not to be clownish and prone to snag on footpegs.

I was chagrined over the weekend to receive an email from acknowledging receipt of the Icons and giving me a store credit for $231.01 instead of a cash refund.

So I phoned them this afternoon and the customer service guy cheerfully canceled the store credit and refunded the money to my debit card. I love dealing with those guys. Every experience I’ve had with them has been a good one.

Checking tire pressures

gt tire pressure

The mechanic’s creeper and Craftsman air compressor have proven to be very useful over the years.

I checked both tires in anticipation of the season’s first rally and found they were both about 5 psi low. Now they’re back up to the recommended 36 psi front and 42 psi rear.

My Nazi sports eagles are looking for a new nest

flag front72[4]flagrear72[5]These two eagles once comprised the front and back of a banner for the Nationalsozialistischer Reichsbund für Leibesübungen (NSRL), meaning: National Socialist League of the Reich for Physical Exercise.

It was the official sports governing body of Nazi Germany and organized the 1936 Berlin Olympics.

The eagles are metal (aluminum or silver) bullion on black wool with a canvas-like backing and they measure 18¼” tall and 13½ wide. I bought them in an online auction 14 years ago, but I have no recollection of how much I paid.

The craftsmanship, as with most Third Reich items, is exquisite. I don’t have any emotional attachment to the pair and our cash flow would benefit from their sale, so I’m offering them on a WWII militaria site for $500. I put them up for sale a couple of years ago and had a prospective buyer, but he was apparently not serious because he stopped answering emails.

Why so much? Well, in my nearly 40 years of Third Reich collecting, this is the only such NSRL banner I’ve ever seen and NSRL stuff is very rare.

I took them to a local precious metals dealer in the hope of getting a definitive answer on whether it’s aluminum or silver bullion, but he said he had no way to determine it. Since silver is down to $15.69 an ounce at the moment, its historical value trumps any value in terms of silver content.

Here’s a detail shot of the front eagle’s swastika:flag z detail 72