Thursday, July 24, 2014

Thursday morning

clarion breakfast

I slept soundly last night and woke up at 4:30 a.m. feeling reasonably refreshed.

The Clarion Inn has a passable free breakfast built around scrambled eggs and hash browns.

The breakfast room was full of old (older than me) and infirm people, which struck me as odd until I heard the PA system announcing a shuttle bus to the Mayo Clinic. Oh, yeah. Rochester. Mayo’s.

I’m taking my time about packing and loading, since I want to avoid as much of the Minneapolis-St. Paul morning rush hour traffic as possible.

It’s only a 90-minute-or-so ride, so it should be a pleasant morning jaunt.

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Arkansas to Minnesota in 12 hours

clarion rochester

I had hoped to make it all the way to the BMW MOA rally in St. Paul today, but a half-hour construction delay late in the day killed my enthusiasm and I bagged it at Rochester, Minn.

Still, 659.4 miles is the longest day I’ve done in a few years and that leaves me with only 87 miles to ride tomorrow morning to get to the rally.

Wayne Garrison has our club campsite set up and texted me the GPS coordinates while I wolfed down a BLT and a very tall beer in the Clarion Inn lounge a few minutes ago.

Now I think I’m going to watch a little TV and crash early, since I got up at 4:45 a.m.. today.

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Another use for the iPhone


I keep a log of every fuel stop, service, and tire change for my bikes, using a program called For Two Wheels Only.

Normally, I make a notation on the gas station receipt as to the odometer reading, then transcribe the mileage, location, volume of gas and amount paid into the software.

But there is the occasional poorly run station that doesn’t properly maintain their pumps and instead of a receipt I get a flashing message saying “clerk has receipt.”

I’m not about to hike into the station to get my receipt. That’s why I only buy gas where I can pay at the pump. So in those cases, I use my iPhone camera to snap a picture of the dollars and gallons on the pump and the odometer on the bike.

That’s what happened this morning when I topped off the tank on my ‘03 BMW K1200GT in anticipation of an early start tomorrow morning, bound for the BMW MOA rally in St. Paul, Minn. Now, with tire pressures adjusted and oil level checked, all I have to do is load the bike and I’ll be ready to roll at or a little before sunrise.

I’d like to do the whole thing in one day – I’ve done 800-mile days before, but it’s been a few years and the weather is uncertain. The sun doesn’t set in St. Paul until 8:48 p.m., so I’m not likely to run out of daylight before I run out of stamina. With more than 300,000 BMW miles in my rear view mirrors, I don’t have much left to prove to myself or anyone else, and I’ll know when it’s time to get a motel.

Monday, July 21, 2014



I pulled the SD memory card from my new Moultrie trail cam just now to see what kind of wildlife it photographed since I last checked it Saturday morning.

Something triggered it at 9:52 a.m. yesterday but a thorough examination of the photo failed to show what set it off.

I had dumped a bunch of birdseed in front of the camera for bait, but I may have aimed it too high to catch squirrels or other critters feeding.

So this self-portrait is all I have to show so far.

Saturday, July 19, 2014

Operator error

08_bmw_k1200gt_detail06Riding home from the post office this morning, I found I couldn’t get the cruise control to work on my 2003 BMW K1200GT.

Oh, shit, I thought. I don’t need this kind of problem on the eve of a 750-mile ride to the BMW MOA rally in St. Paul, Minn.

This is the third or fourth time the cruise control has crapped out since I bought the bike in early 2003. It always came back on its own after I stopped, shut off the engine and restarted it. So I rode on home and parked in the garage in the hope that all would be well when I rode again.

Fast forward to 1:20 p.m. when I set out for a free dark roast coffee at Starbucks, cashing in an empty coffee bag. I turned south on U.S. 49, got up to 60mph and flipped the SET button on the cruise control (it’s that gray thing on top of the left control cluster that looks kinda like a little tongue sticking out of a larger gray plastic piece). The gold cruise control indicator light stayed dark and cruise control failed to engage.


I switched the cruise control off and on and off and on to no avail. It occurred to me that the problem might be a blown fuse, but the little red LED next to the gray tongue was glowing, signifying cruise was definitely getting electricity. WTF?

Then I noticed that the toe of my right boot was resting on the rear brake pedal. Application of the front or rear brake cancels cruise control.

I scooted my foot a couple of inches off of the pedal, thumbed the SET/RES tongue and… sonofabitch! The cruise control engaged and the gold indicator light came on.

Feeling like an imbecile, it dawned on me that the previous cruise control “failures” were also due to the same kind of operator error.

So now I don’t have to worry about a malfunctioning cruise control. But there is the matter of having to stab the starter button repeatedly to fire a cold engine. It took 7 pushes to start the bike this morning. The good news is that it eventually starts and almost always starts on the first push whenever I try it later in the day.

And there’s also the matter of managing our cash flow to accommodate the cost of the upcoming trip. I calculate it will cost about $140 for gas. I can eat cheaply – maybe cheaper than I could at home. The rally fee is already paid, so the only remaining expense is maybe $120 or so for lodging to and from the rally. It’s a 13-hour ride, so it’s theoretically possible for me to leave at dawn coming and going and ride the whole distance in daylight. That assumes no delays from traffic, fatigue or weather.

We shall see.

BTW, the Starbucks baristas and their noisy grab-ass behavior is very annoying this afternoon. The only time they shut up is when a customer orders.

St. Joseph’s Roman Catholic Church–Lebanon, Ind.


Click on the image to see it full size.

Another look at Automatic

bunker hill

Automatic is a module that plugs into a car’s data port and monitors driving behaviors and routes and sends the information to your smartphone.

I got mine from the Vine Program. You can get yours for $99.95 at

It logs each trip separately and gives you week-by-week tallies. I use it all the time in my 2004 Lexus RX330, including July 7-12 when we drove to Indiana to spend time with Maria’s family.

We drove to the rural Amboy home of Maria’s brother Kerstan on July 8 and the map above shows our route from his house back to her parents’ house in Thorntown.

The usual route involves taking two-lane Ind. 47 east from Thorntown to four-lane U.S. 31, then north to Kokomo where it’s two-lane state and county roads to Kerstan’s farm.

Wanting to minimize nighttime driving on two-lane roads, I chose a somewhat longer route back to Thorntown. I gassed at the intersection of Ind. 18 and U.S. 31 at Bunker Hill, then drove north to Peru where I picked up the new four-lane Ind. 24 southwest to Logansport where it connects with the even newer four-lane Ind. 25 continuing southwest to I-65 at Lafayette. From there it was a quick hop over to four-lane U.S. 52 down to Thorntown.

I was pleased to see the Lexus averaged 29 miles per gallon on this drive, compared with the EPA estimate for the RX330 of 26 mpg.

The Automatic device is touted as a fuel economy coach because it scolds you if you brake or accelerate hard or drive over 70 mph. I ignore the device’s preference for a 70 mph speed limit because it’s not practical for Interstate driving.

Friday, July 18, 2014

No Chinese chicken for my dogs!


Dog food and dog treats from China have earned a bad reputation in recent years, sickening and killing hundreds of dogs.

Purina’s Waggin’ Train is among the brands cited and Purina claims to have tightened its quality controls on chicken jerky tenders from Chinese sources.

Even so, I was shocked to find the product in the pet food aisle of Sam’s Club today. No matter what their claims, I will never feed my dogs any pet product that comes from China.

Even if it is 100% real, whatever the hell that means.


Thursday, July 17, 2014

The trump card was dealt 69 years ago yesterday

I subscribe to a few World War II-related Facebook groups and every now and then someone posits a scenario they think could have altered the outcome of the war in Europe and let the Germans win.

Sometimes it’s the failure of the D-Day invasion, or a German victory in the Battle of the Bulge or some other pivotal battle. More frequently it involves the earlier appearance of the Me 262 jet fighter in greater numbers, countering the Allied air offensive.

None of these would have prevented an Allied victory.

Want to know why?

It involves something that happened 69 years ago yesterday. The detonation of the world’s first atomic bomb in the New Mexico desert.

Depending on who you believe, the Germans failed to appreciate the potential of an atom bomb and devoted insufficient resources to it or – more improbably, reached the point of a couple of nuclear tests but were far behind us in developing an operational nuclear weapon.

Either way, as of July 16, 1945 the United States held the trump card that could defeat any enemy on earth almost instantly.

Hiroshima and Nagasaki were designated as potential atomic bomb targets in advance, but I have never read of any such designation for German cities. Maybe that’s because British Bomber Command did such a thorough job of flattening German cities that by May, 1945, they were out of significant targets.

But my point is that, given the Manhattan Project and the absence of Axis nuclear weapons, Allied victory was assured no matter what the Germans and Japanese did.

New Trail Cam!

moultrie trailcam

I bought a Bushnell trail cam in the spring of 2011 and mounted it on a tree in our side yard.

It worked OK, but I thought the functions were needlessly complex and the on-off switch was wonky. So wonky that it only lasted a few months before I sent the camera back to Bushnell for a replacement.

The replacement only lasted a year or so too before its on-off switch quit working.

So I put this Moultrie MCG-12589 5 megapixel trail cam into my wish list.

And, thanks to my son Steve’s generosity, it showed up on my doorstep yesterday as a birthday gift.

Thanks, Steve!